“That’s going to take some getting used to.” Eugene stared at Santa as the big guy strapped his skinny frame into the only seat on the Sled that fit him.
“What is?” Santa fought with the straps, taking forever to get his too-long arms in the right spots for things to snap together.
“The time compression field. Take a few steps away from the shuttle and we’re outside of it until you come back. On Earth, Santa would still be gone all night but I didn’t have time to blink in the time you were gone, Chief.” He held out his hand. “Here, I need to get the data into the computer. Were you seen?”
“On the last delivery. A little girl named Sasha. I think she was five.” Santa pulled off his gold belt buckle, just a cover for the real one, and dropped it in Eugene’s hand. The elf immediately plugged it into a special port in the panel next to him and a screen full of numbers appeared.
“We’re good to go, Falco.” The Sled’s pilot nodded and Santa felt the shuttle lift off the surface. Eugene smiled at the screen. “That’s good, Chief.”
“Sure. Look here.” He pointed at a section of the screen where the numbers were bigger. “Deliberate effect of the magic. See, the field expanded just exactly the distance needed to reach a restless child. Happens to Santa, Earth’s Santa, a few times every year. The magic helps the legend along. Kids have to believe or there’s no point. I’m glad it translated to you, too.”
“Hmm. I am too, I suppose.” Without belief, he was, well, just a guy in a funny suit with strange friends.
Santa looked out the window to watch the Moon base get smaller. Not much to look at from the outside, a few domes and a couple of hangars, the rest deep underground. The Christmas facility at the North Pole couldn’t be seen from the surface, but below them lay the concealed future of human space exploration, the first few people leaving the cradle to live on another world. They brought the spirit of Christmas with them, and Santa came along for the ride.
The Sled sliced through a turn and Santa watched the lunar surface whip past at a disturbing speed only a hundred metres or so below them. He took his eyes from the window just as a yawn escaped. Leaning back, Santa closed his eyes and let his mind wander.
On Earth, Santa wouldn’t finish until just before dawn real time but for the Lunar crew Christmas Eve was more or less over. Things could find a less frenzied pace for a few months. Short as the night had been, it took years of work and sweat to give him his first taste of what it really meant to be Santa, the joy on Sasha’s face.
He sighed. Years had a way of racing past. How many more before they needed a Martian Santa? Probably fewer than they thought, a lot fewer. Putting a Christmas Town on Mars wouldn’t be nearly as easy as the Moon. He’d ask Eugene and Jan to look into the idea, but not until after they’d had a little time off.
He wondered if Santa, the first Santa, had mentioned the idea to them already. They probably had a basic presentation cooked up and ready to go.
(Note: Branch Santa is released on https://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