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3. The S.A.N.T.A. Conspiracy - Chapter 2

by Graeme Fielden

Time: 6:00a.m.

Date: 24th December.

Location: The Workshop, North Pole.

Nicholas A Claus sat heavily into the rich leather chair, selecting his finest port tobacco, which he rolled into a ball and pushed into his red wooden pipe. He reclined, placing his heavy leather boots onto the desk then he flicked his thumb, which caused a steady yellow flame to appear. He placed his thumb to the pipe and drew back slowly until puffs of sweet smelling smoke filled the room.

It had been another busy year. According to the census the population had increased eight-per-cent worldwide with growth rates increasing in Asia and Africa. They’d slowed in the United States and Australia; plateaued in Europe. Better than the ten-per-cent increase last year, still, eight per cent meant twenty-four million more people, twenty-four million more presents. A challenge indeed!

Nicholas puffed gently at his pipe as he synchronised the palm-pilot. He downloaded The List, prodding the screen to ensure the hyper-links were working. The tracking systems were the first to come on-line, followed by the GPS. He waited for temporal distortion monitor, which flashed as it ran a self-diagnostic. It pinged in unison with the cloaking device, which meant everything was in order. Nick ran one more systems check, just to be sure, before switching it off and placing it back into its cradle. Nick sighed as he stood before a mirror. He slapped his rosy red cheeks and adjusted his shiny leather belt. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" he bellowed as he placed his hat to his head. He pressed the switch to the intercom. "Malakai, Is everything ready?"

"It’s Norbert Sir."

"Where’s Malakai?"

"I don’t know Sir, haven’t seen him all day."

"Hmm," sighed Nicholas, shaking his head. "He wanted to talk to me before the meeting. He’s made me late!"

* * *

Nicholas walked through the ice-covered corridor, into the boardroom, which quieted as he entered. The directors at the main table stood as he took his seat. A polite applause started following the announcement: "The 1023rd annual general meeting of S.A.N.T.A. Inc. will commence in five minutes."

The boardroom was impressive. For most of the year it was crimson, filled with chandeliers, mirrors and serious portraits that stared down from its walls. Christmas Eve and the room transformed. A wall was removed, which linked it to a high roofed auditorium with seating for two thousand. Spotlights blazed over the stage, illuminating it, then leaking light over the eager audience.

They were a mixed bunch, shareholders and members of the press mostly, although at the rear a group of workshop elves made the most of the complimentary drinks. They sang carols in barbershop harmony while Norbert shot annoyed glances at their manager to quiet them.

Nicholas chuckled softly as he leaned over to Norbert. "‘Tis the season to be jolly," Nick whispered.

The members of the Board sat impatiently under the bright lights. They shuffled papers while they played with microphones, tapping and adjusting them to their correct height. In the centre sat Nick. He fanned himself with a card, waving and winking whenever anyone from the audience called for a smile. Flash. Flash went the cameras each time this happened. The seats to either side of Nick were empty. They bore silver embossed nameplates declaring their owners to be Malakai and Norbert; beyond them sat the remaining S.A.N.T.A. Inc directors: ten wizened elves with sparse silver hair, wrinkled and regal: sombre and sober, like judges at a bench. At the rostrum stood Norbert, Nick’s personal assistant: his right-hand-man.

Norbert’s large, pointed ears wiggled with anticipation as he ordered his papers into a neat stack. Running his long thin fingers through his thin silver hair, he adjusted his gold monocle and cleared his throat to gain everyone’s attention. "Hmmm hmm…if there are no objections, I will call this meeting to order. Is everyone present and accounted for?"

"Malakai sends his apologies," said a voice.

 

Norbert’s head turned to Daniel, a silver-haired elf with a twitch. He waved sheet of paper in his hands. "He says he’s running later although he’s given me his proxy, and something else."

"Noted in the minutes," said Norbert, whose wrinkled hands scribbled as he spoke. "If there are no objections, I will announce this meeting open. The first item on the agenda is the Chairman’s report. Mr. Claus, would you do us the honour?"

Nicholas rose from his seat. He walked slowly across the stage and adjusted the microphone to match his height. Despite the bright red suit and the jolly laughter Nick was an imposing figure. Standing well over six feet tall with a wide-heavy frame, he dominated the rostrum, which barely reached his waist. The stage lights dimmed and the spotlights converged upon him. Small television cameras flitted through the air, surrounding him like moths about a flame; they captured his image, beaming it to billions of households throughout the worlds. Nick’s rosy red cheeks glistened under the lights. A happy tear appeared in his eyes and Nick began to shake. It was just a little to begin with, but it grew so that his whole body became like jelly as he shook with laughter and he held his stomach as happy tears rolled down his cheeks. "Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!" Nick bellowed.

The audience was silent. Stunned. They had seen it all before yet each time this happened it never ceased to amaze them. Gradually the audience began to chuckle. One by one their stunned eyes softened and their silence turned to a polite guffaw; then into a roar of laughter. Moments later the entire audience was doubled over with hysterics, writhing in their seats. The workshop elves began a chorus. "We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year," which echoed through the auditorium.

Nick looked into the audience. He had them where he wanted them, under his control. He took a notebook from beneath his robe then licked his thumb as he turned the page to read his speech, which was written in a neat cursive style. He bent over to the microphone, and tapped it twice before speaking. "Welcome dear friends. Welcome, to the 1023rd annual general meeting of Santa Inc. I am Nicholas Augustus Claus, your humble Chairman, " said Nick’s soft, husky voice.

Behind Nick, unseen within the darkness, Daniel reached into a pocket and retrieved a small intricately carved crystal, which he pushed onto the table. Deep shades of emerald green, ruby red and sapphire blue reflected from its tiny surfaces, making it glisten under the bright lights.

The audience stared at Nick, listening to his speech, so they didn’t notice the slight hum as the crystal started to spin. Narrow beams of light scattered as its speed increased. Slowly, inch-by-inch, it began to levitate: beams of light spread through the auditorium. One by one, the spotlights fizzed then popped, leaving the stage in a progressive state of blackness except for the crystal, which hung in mid-air. A luminescent cloud gathered around it and the audience gasped as one as a shape began to appear...

"It’s been another successful year at S.A.N.T.A. Inc." Nick stuttered, his eyes darted around the room as the light faded and the audience’s restlessness became too much. He turned about as the cloud was starting to dissipate. At its centre the crystal spun furiously, projecting a bright light upward toward the roof. An object began to materialise within the light: something small and wrinkled, with sharp pointed ears and large, saucer-like eyes.

"What is the meaning of this?" Nick whispered.

"Humbug," said a familiar voice

06/22/2004

Author's Note: A novel, work in progress, written for the young adult market.

Posted on 06/22/2004
Copyright © 2021 Graeme Fielden

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 06/29/04 at 02:59 PM

Amazing continuation of story Graeme, especially the part about the rise in population; something I've never stopped to consider, that would definitely have an impact on Santa's job.

Posted by Max Bouillet on 08/16/04 at 11:24 AM

Not only does this sound like a good novel but also an excellent mini-series or new movie at the yuletime. Your visuals are absolutely perfect. I see everything as they transpire.

Posted by Alex Smyth on 08/18/04 at 12:07 AM

OMG!! This isn't fiction, it is REAL! Pinging the palm pilot? I have to do that when our credit card processor looses it's connection. The board room that has walls moved for the once a year big meeting? I have been in those! The attention getting opening by Nick? Who hasn't seen a good one of those. You have absolutely, without a doubt created a living entity here, with the story set to play out around the personalities created. I cannot wait to see what effect they have on each other......

Posted by Michelle Angelini on 06/18/05 at 03:57 AM

The story gets better and better, yeah I laughed too at Santa with a Palm Pilot!
~Chelle~

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