Jan and Eugene went back to R&D, arguing some technical point about orbital mechanics. Howard slipped away at the same time, back to the media centre and his four assistants. Frank stayed in his chair and Santa sat down to wait for the explosion.
The door clicked shut.
“A branch Santa!” Frank sprung out of the chair as if something had bitten him. “You’ve got to be kidding. There’s only one Santa. There’s only ever been one Santa. That’s how it works! What are we going to do, clone you?” He paced in front of Santa’s desk.
“Of course not. Cloning is all well and good for sheep and cows and maybe even the occasional human or two when they finally figure things out, but you can’t clone Santa Claus!”
“A branch office is brilliant, but isn’t it going to create an elf power shortage here in the short term? As if I didn’t have enough labour problems already!”
“We pay the elves in R&D to come up with stuff this crazy? They need to spend a few hours a week in the workshop to keep their shoes on straight.”
“What the hell were they thinking? A branch Santa! How could they come up with something so ludicrous?”
Frank stopped. After a moment, so did the bells on his shoes. He faced his boss, beard quivering. “Yes, Chief?”
Santa fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Relax.” He held up his right hand, index finger pointing to the ceiling. “First, it’s going to be a long time before we need a big staff on the Moon. All we really need for the first few years is a few full time elves to monitor things up there and a construction crew to work on the on-site production capacity. We’ll just keep a few more of the seasonal staff than we usually do.”
The middle finger joined its fellow. “Second, we’ll treat the lunar jobs like any other opening. HR will take the job specifications and do most of the interviewing.
“Third. Of course we need a branch Santa. R&D didn’t come up with that, I told them. It’s impossible for one Santa to do two worlds so there has to be two. We’ll probably need more within a few decades. The Moon colony is on the way, but now that things are rolling, Mars can’t be too far off. Humans have been dreaming about Mars for as long as they’ve known it was a planet. Think about orbital habitats. They’re coming. Face it, Frank. We’re entering a period of unprecedented growth.
One more finger made four. “If you could clone Santa, you’d get a physical copy of the person my DNA says should be there. You wouldn’t get any of the magic, personality, or memories, any of the me.” Lowering his fingers, Santa rested his elbows on the polished mahogany surface and leaned across the desk to stare at Frank. “But there is very definitely a way to get a new Santa.”
“Ah.” Business instincts taking over, understanding glimmered in Frank’s eyes and he nodded, hat slipping forward almost to his eyebrows. “You promote someone.”
(Note: Branch Santa is released on http://lanceschonberg.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License. It can be shared, copied and distributed, but not changed or sold.)by