New Year’s Resolutions II: The Annual Fictional Resolutions

This past year has been strange. I have been so far from home for so long, I have forgotten what home was like. Many of us fled from earth and the Solar System at the collapse of the social order. Thank God we had the technology to do so. As war enveloped the earth, and spread to the other colonies, We decided to abandon all hope of peace there and find ourselves a new home. But was it worth it? Only time will tell.

On with my resolutions.

1. To find my diary. It contains all my memories of home. I want to remember it as it was, before the fall.

2. To find that special someone. Mom says it isn’t good to be a single woman in the colony. But no one has struck my fancy yet. Besides. I have a few years before I am too old to marry and have children.

3. To find true happiness. New Earth is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It just lacks something sincere.

4. To find true peace. Whatever form it might take.

5. To return to Earth and see what has become of those we left behind. I left behind so many friends and loved ones. My Billy was left behind, fighting for Earth’s survival. I wonder what he looks like now. Or if he is even still alive.

6. To wander the universe, alone, for a while. Everyone needs a little time away.

7. Answers to all my questions. I know this is being unrealistic, but it would be nice.

8. To experience everything to its fullest.

9. To live each day to its fullest.

10. To be the best I can be to everyone, every day.

11. To get back into shape. This year, I have been lax in exercising. I have put off going to the gym, jogging in the park, and just taking daily walks. No more. I want to fit into my size five dress again when I get married.

12. To quit eating so much chocolate. Oh, and all other candy. Mom says I am sweet enough.

13. To eat more nutritiously.

14. To give more to others. Generosity is key to success.

15. To expect less out of others.

16. To lower my standards where possible suitors are concerned. No one will ever live up to Billy. Why must I continue to make them?

17. To seek out every opportunity to gaze at the stars. They are so beautiful here on New Earth. And much clearer and closer. So wonderful.

18. To explore beyond the bubble. The wilds beyond are so inviting.

19. To finish my biology and meta-science degrees. I am in my last year as a student. Next year, I will be able to accompany the teams out into the field.

20. And finally, I resolve to quit resolving to do things on every New Year. It is unbecoming of a young lady, or so papa says, to promise herself to do things and never actually do them.

These are my New Year’s resolutions for this coming year. May all happiness and peace descend upon New Earth. And may both find you, wherever you are.

***

Final note: word was received from Earth upon the New Year. Civilization had fallen finally. Billy had been tried and convicted, long ago (three centuries), of war crimes and executed. Wars raged on for a century or two until all semblance of culture and civility were gone, leaving savages to roam the Earth. Seems I will not be going back to Earth. Home no longer exists.

The message received, had been sent at the very end of the wars. It had been sent by the only ones left who knew how to operate the communication equipment. Then, when power failed, all messages ceased. I can’t believe that I have been away from Earth for three hundred years! Of course, We were all in stasis until just a year from our destination.

Finis

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Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Twenty

I was awake early on Christmas Day. As I entered the rec-room, I noticed that she had found my father’s old plastic Christmas tree and decorations. I had to smile, because she had even stocked the spot underneath with a lot of presents. Or had she? I hadn’t seen the tree when I came back to the apartment the night before. But, then again, I wasn’t really paying attention to whether she had decorated the apartment.

I went and looked under the tree. The presents were addressed to both of us. That meant that she had not been the one to set the tree up. So who had?

Then, I found the note.
Dear Sir:

We, the soldiers who serve under your command wanted to give back to you for all that you have done for us. We are grateful for the boosts you give us in morale, first with serving as one of us in the field, and also with the reinstatement of all the old traditions. You do not know how much it means to us to be shown that you truly care for every man, woman and child under your care.

We are so blessed and proud to serve under you. Please accept our thanks and these gifts.

The men and women in your command.

P.S. Simi told us the story of how your father used to set this tree and all the ornaments up for every Christmas, even after it had been outlawed. It was her idea to set it up for you this year in thanks for all that you have done. May God bless and keep you.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and fought back the urge to break down and cry. Margot would be surprised when she saw it. I knew she would. And she would probably think that I had set it up.

I sat down, dumbstruck. There were no words that could describe the pride and joy I now felt for my troops. They were truly special. I only hoped we would never lose any of them.

As I sat there, Margot came to the bedroom door. “Oh, Honey, it’s lovely! When–?”

I handed her the note. “I didn’t. They did.”

She smiled. “They love you, Soldier. And well they should. No one else could lead them as well as you. You have fought to keep them safe and casualties down.”

I looked at her. “But this is unexpected.”

She took my head in her arms and pressed herself against it in an awkward embrace. “I know, baby. But they felt you deserved it. Just as you felt that they deserved everything you did for them and their families last night. Including getting Merv to play Santa.”

I breathed in her scent. “He made a damn good one too, if you ask me.”

She began giggling. “I have to admit, he did fit the part. A lot better than you. But you made a wonderful helper and storyteller. You made those children’s night. I bet you they’ll call you Papa Noel for years to come. And that is what counts.” She released my head from her embrace.

I looked up at her. “Yes, I suppose it is.” I rose to my feet. “Well? Should we see what surprises the troops packaged up for us?”

She nodded. “Yes, and then we can go-as a couple-and join them for the festivities of the day. After all, it is a holiday.”

I grinned. “Yes it is. And what a holiday!”

***

It must have taken us at least two hours to unwrap all the presents the troops had left for us. Of course, it must have taken another couple just to clean up afterward. But it was all worth it. It was odd, though. I had not noticed presents such as the ones we had been given in any of the storerooms. Where had they come up with them?

All were unique. All were one-of-a-kind. And all were apparently made just for us. I kind of felt bad about giving them all nearly the same things as gifts. But, there was no do-overs, so we would have to try to do better next year.

It was amazing, though. Even though we were not related, we were still a family. All of us. We had become so close knit that there were no lines. No boundaries.

After cleanup, Margot and I headed down to the Christmas Day feast that awaited us. Today, I was no one’s commander. Today, I was just one of the guys. I stepped to the catwalk, Margot by my side.

All eyes turned to us. “Santa sits at the head of the table today. He is our honored guest. I am just one of the guys today. Today, I am so proud of all here. We have fought long and hard for the right to have our freedoms back. You all have shown me that we are a family, even though not by blood. I make a toast to you all.”

A single cry rang out. “Cheers!”

A place of honor had been set up in the middle of one of the tables for us, and we graciously accepted. Today was their day. Tomorrow, there would be war. But today, we had peace on earth and good will toward all. Today, we were just men and women enjoying a holiday long overdue.

Merv’s delights filled every table. Duck. Goose. Turkey. Beef. Ham.

Vegetables of every description. Soups. Salads. Pastas. And the deserts!

I couldn’t believe how much food he had prepared in such short time! I would have to see to it that he and his staff had some well deserved time off. They had done well. No one would go hungry today. Many would probably stuff themselves, but it was permitted.

I rose. “Men, I was humbled this morning when I woke to find that you had set up a Christmas tree in my apartment. Remind me to thank Simi for helping you by giving her a little time off.” a rumble of laughter rippled through the troops. “What has me stymied, though, is how you remained so quiet as not to wake us from our sleep. As you know, I am a light sleeper and usually wake early. I want to thank you for bringing back old happy memories for me and to promise that we will have a community Christmas tree next year so that all can decorate it and share in the happiness.”

Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Nineteen

After clean-up. I took my bag of goodies and made my rounds. I stopped at each apartment and dropped off presents for all in each family. When I ran out in one bag, I returned to the storeroom and filled it back up and went with a new bag to the next apartments. After at least a hundred bags of goodies, I finished my rounds.

I returned to the storeroom and picked up the ring I had stashed there for Margot. I knew she would be surprised. I had been holding it back for over a month, and now I was presenting it to her. I felt like a million bucks.

Still in my Santa suit, I made my way to our apartment. The halls seemed unusually empty, but it was Christmas Eve and all were in bed by now. All but me. And the sentries that had been posted as security.

Most who’d opted for security detail were mech-tech warriors or cyborgs, neither of which were capable of having families due to their enhancements. I felt bad for them. They had been stripped, in most cases, of their manhood or womanhood. Many no longer had the internal organs that allowed such. Or even resembled either gender, post operation. They were neutrals.

In many cases, they had even been deprived of their ability to enjoy life. Their purpose had become a singular one: to wage war. The mental capacity to feel emotion, retain any memory other than directive, or experience humanness had been completely obliterated by the machinations that had become a part of them. Their reason for being born, negated by their corporate sponsor’s wish for the perfect soldier. But even these were not as perfect as their makers thought.

What little humanity they had left, gave them the power to reason right versus wrong. And it made them prone to mutiny under the right conditions. This had made both obsolete and had driven the corporations to create the robo-warriors, in all their evil forms. But even the robo-warriors had their limitations. Faulty programming. Faulty construction. Human interface of any kind made them just as faulty as the cyber-men had proven to be.

I couldn’t help wondering what would become of these relics once the war was over. Would they remain and help us set up our new government? Would they leave and give earth over fully to mankind? Or would they request executions through being deprogrammed and shutdown?

I continued to ponder this as I walked to the apartment where Margot waited for me. It would have to be answered soon. But I was not the one who had to answer. They would have to. I wanted it to be their wish, not mine or anyone else’s.

I arrived at the apartment door and it swung open, Margot falling into my arms. “Oh, Santa, baby! Kiss your loving elf!”

I kissed her lips, slipping my arms around her waist. “Mmmm. I have a present for you, baby.”

She grinned as she kept her lips pressed against mine. “Mmmm. You mean unwrapping you isn’t my present?” She tried to feign disappointment. “Now, baby. I have waited all day for you. What can be better than getting naked with you and sharing the rest of the night together?”

I smiled back at her and pulled away gently. “I have a very special present for you. Santa just delivered it, and it means a whole lot to both of us. It signifies something important.” I reached into the coat to the pocket of my shirt where I had stashed her present and produced the package, handing it to her. “Open it, my love.”

She took it and greedily unwrapped it. Opening the small box beneath the wrapping, she released an audible gasp of surprise. she looked over at me. “For me?” She inquired knowing full well that it was, but unable to come up with anything else appropriate to say.

I chuckled. “Yes, my love. It is for you. I have been waiting for this night so I could surprise you with it. and almost on our one month anniversary too. Want me to place it on your finger?”

She was ecstatic. “Yes! But how’d you know? Ring size, I mean.”

I smiled. “My cyber-eye has more functions than simply judging distance and seeing targets, baby. I can also gauge size of objects, in this instance–your ring size.” I took the ring from her and slipped it onto her ring finger.

She smiled “It’s beautiful! Just gorgeous! Baby, however can I thank you?”

I took her in my arms. “Don’t worry about it. You are the only gift I need. You make my life complete in so many ways. The ring just lets all know that we are a couple. I produced a second ring and handed it to her. “This is the ring that goes with it. A sort of wedding set. That one is yours and this one is mine. Would you do the honors?”

She took the ring with a squeal and slipped it onto my finger. Now, all would know our joy. I kissed her on the lips, a long passionate kiss.

I pulled my lips away. “Now, baby. About that unwrapping party. Are you ready?

She smiled seductively. “Of course, my love.”

I grinned, excited. “Then let’s get to it, shall we?”

She playfully grabbed the lapel of my coat and led me to our bedroom. “Of course, Darling.”

***

a couple hours later, we lay drifting off to sleep. It had been an amazing day. Tomorrow was going to be even better. I knew it.

I drifted off into dreams of what the future held. For Margot and I, it would lead to our first child, our first years as husband and wife, and as the first leaders of a brave new world beyond the bleak one we now lived in. for others, things were still in limbo. The only certainty was that all were headed for a future free of fear and oppression. All were headed for better things.

Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Eighteen

Margot let go. “It’s show time, Santa Baby. Go get ’em, Tiger.”

Tim and Simi appeared to usher me to the makeshift “Santa throne” so that the children would not see me until I was sitting down and ready to take wish lists and give presents. We swiftly, silently, made our way to the big, overstuffed chair sitting on a raised platform to the back of the commons. I mounted the steps, laid down the big red bag I had carried down, and sat down in the chair.

I was suddenly ready to put on a show. “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!”

Every head turned to look at me. A cheer went up from those old enough to remember who I was portraying. Whispers filtered through the crowd as well. Simi stepped out from behind the chair, dressed in a homemade elf costume, complete with fake ears. Frank and Tim did the same.

Simi curtseyed. “Ladies and gentlemen, Santa sent his helper tonight to gather all your holiday wishes so that he can bring them to you in the night. He will be making a personal appearance tomorrow to share in the final festivities with us. Tonight, though, he is loading up his sleigh and rechecking his lists.” She turned sideways to open the way for the children. “So, children. If you will. Please make your way over and form a line. Santa’s helper will be happy to listen to your wishes and to tell you tales of Christmases past.”

The parents walked their children over to where I was. Each smiled as they recognized me beneath the disguise. But not one attempted to ruin the illusion. They knew what I was trying to do for the children. And they knew that I was doing it as much for them as I was for the children. It was for their morale.

***

I took my leave and went in search of Merv. I found that all I had to do was follow the “Ho, ho, ho” coming from the commissary. I stepped in to find the hilariously realistic sight of him as Santa, dancing as he prepped the feast for the next day. He turned to find me standing there trying not to laugh. I smiled at him. “Is Santa ready to go and make an appearance?”

He touched his nose and smiled. “Ho! Ho! Ho! Let’s go!”

Trying not to laugh, I led him from the commissary into the commons. “Hey kids! Look who decided to make a last minute appearance! It’s the real Santa!”

A cheer rose from the children, who flocked to him for hugs. Merv, a natural with the kids, was an amazing Santa. And none of the soldiers actually knew who he really was, which made it seem all the more real. To all, he was Santa. The big man himself. And his beard was real! As was his girth! And both made him a natural choice for Santa.

“Did you give my helper here your list of wishes?” He was playing the crowd well.

As if of one mind, the children answered him in unison. “Yes!”

He smiled at their exuberance. “How about your wishes for next year?”

Again, they answered of one accord. “Yes!”

He chuckled. “Ho! Ho! Ho! Then I should have a pretty good idea of what you all want for Christmas next year! Very good! And remember. You’ll want to begin sending me your letters again if you want to see me every year!” He winked at them. “Now. I must go back to my workshop and get my sleigh! I will return once you are all in bed and asleep. Now don’t try to stay up and see if I come back. I will know. and you won’t get any presents.”

Still of a single mind, they replied as a single voice. “Ok, Santa! We promise to go to bed and go right to sleep!”

He smiled, winked, then shuffled back to the commissary. He had put in the first of his two appearances. Tomorrow, he would make one more appearance as Santa. But, for tonight, he was done. He could go back to his comfy kitchen and sing and dance around his cooking tables. I smiled as I watched him go.

I went back to the chair I had taken wishes in and sat down. “Who wants to hear the first tales of Christmas?”

They all surrounded me and sat on the floor, waiting for me to begin. After they quieted down, I began. I started out with the stories on how it was given its name. then, I went into the stories about Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Frosty The Snowman, Rudolph, and nearly every legend and children’s story about the holiday.

I, then, read other Christmas stories. I followed this up with a movie time where I showed a dozen or so Christmas movies. By the time it was all over, it was time for the children to go to bed. I made a mental note that the next Christmas would include a tree. It only seemed right. But we couldn’t risk it this time. Too risky. And the trees were all the wrong kind.

Still, I had begun a new tradition. I had also revived an old tradition or two. And I had done it all for the people. I smiled. I was finally feeling as if I had begun to accomplish something.

I stayed long enough to help Simi and the others clean up. During cleanup, Demoria came up and shook my hand. “Truly amazing. I was truly entertained by your little show for the children.”

I looked at her. “It was for everyone, young and old. It has been decades since they have had any holidays to celebrate. Many of the younger adults know nothing of the old traditions. Only the hell that has been. I am lucky enough to remember all the holidays. And the fanfare that used to accompany each one.”

She smiled. “So am I. We celebrate all the holidays as well. But this was the first time I have witnessed such revelry. And such uniqueness. Congratulations. I am impressed. You really do know how to boost morale.”

Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Seventeen

The first convening of the tribunal court went quick. I did not wish to witness the executions, but sat in on the sentencing. Thirty-four CEOs went through the system in record time. Thirty were sentenced to death.

The bodies of the executed were brought before me to show that they were truly dead. Each was marked off the list of the world’s most dangerous, and then summarily disintegrated. Their names were marked in the history books as having been among the most evil people of all time. Their fates were recorded so as to dissuade any who might want to resurrect their evil.

All had to be finished before Christmas eve. And that was approaching rather quickly. For the next eight days, we held the tribunal. Each day, several were executed, the recorded.

By the middle of the eighth day, our brig was finally empty. Over that same period of time, we were able to reprogram the soldiers we had taken prisoner. Those who’d been implanted with loyalty chips were executed, as were those who were programmed to sabotage. The rest were debriefed, then reassigned to several regiments of our own army to train and become a part of.

By Christmas Eve, I was ready for a little merriment. Our many cooks had spent the whole month planning and preparing the meals for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It would be quite a feast. One that our soldiers had earned.

I watched as they filed in and took their places. Once they had all seated themselves, I stepped forward. “For the last ten or twenty years, it has been illegal to celebrate this night. But tonight, we are about to break that law and begin celebrating hope. Our chefs have prepared quite a feast for tonight and tomorrow. Be sure to thank them for sparing no expense.”

A cheer rose from the men and women below me. Once again, we were breaking the law. But this time, there was less chance of getting arrested for it. But was it still the law now that we were taking down the old dominion? Or was it now nothing more than reestablishing an old tradition while adding a new meaning?

The families came in and joined their fathers and mothers, husbands and wives. I knew that the presents had already been distributed for the most part…except for those which I planned on delivering myself, taking on the guise of Santa Claus. I had presents to give all. Practical things for the parents. Toys and games for the children. special gifts that were for the whole family.

Tim appeared beside me. “Is Lil around?”

I looked at him. “I haven’t seen her. Is Simi anywhere around?”

He chuckled. “I don’t know that one either. Have you found a Santa suit for tonight?”

I shook my head. “Not yet. But not everyone who was hunting for one is back. I can’t believe they would destroy all the suits. After all, the corporatization of the holidays was one of the first things that gained them their power.”

He looked over at me. “Ah, but it is a reminder of all that they tried to get rid of. Centuries of joy and generosity. Something they could not stand.”

I gave a lopsided smile. “True. But we must hold out hope.”

***

Simi appeared three hours later with a handmade Santa suit in her arms. “Sorry. No one could find a premade one, so Matti sewed one using a picture from one of the books in the library. Margot had a hand in it as well. And the boots are also handmade. As is the belt. And hat.”

I chuckled. “Thank you. Time to go change and rehearse.”

She reached up and put old fashioned spectacles on my face, along with a fake beard and mustache. “Might as well look the part.”

I put my hand on my stomach. “Ho, ho, ho.”

She laughed. “You need to work on it. More gusto.”

I chuckled. “I’ll try.”

I gave her a hug, then slipped away from the festivities to get into costume. I also had to go to the “toy room” and gather a bag full of goodies for the children. Both young and old.

It felt odd, slipping into a Santa suit after ten or twenty years of not being able to. But it also felt good. Better than good. It felt great!

I knew, from this point on, Christmas and other holidays would have more meaning. Deeper. More powerful. Not only would Christmas be about hope, it would also be about triumph over oppression.

I knew that my act tonight would be a hit with the kids. They had never been taught about the ancient tradition. Now, they would not only get to see their first Santa, but I would give them a rendition of all my favorite Christmas stories and legends. I knew the tradition would catch quickly, and the children would want it every year.

Margot appeared as I rehearsed. “What does Santa have in his bag for this good little girl?” She grinned mischievously.

I smiled behind the fake beard and mustache. “You will have to wait for your present until after Santa makes his appearance and gives toys to all the good little boys and girls.”

She gave me a fake pout. “Oh, alright. But it better be good, Santa.”

I kissed her. “Only the best for Mrs. Claus.”

We laughed together. I took her in my arms and kissed her again. Lord how I loved her! She made life worth living. I only hoped that I was showing her how much I loved her often enough.

With the war, it was difficult. I had a revolution to run. Finding time to show her what she meant to me was hard. Sometimes almost impossible. I often had too much on my mind. Too many worries.

But I believe she knew how I felt. I hoped she knew without me having to tell her. But telling someone how much you love them is important at all times. Not just in times of peace. And so, I continued to struggle with keeping her covered in my love.

Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmans Tale, Chapter Sixteen

I led Demoria to the brig. As we walked, we discussed which prisoners were to be seen as higher priority than the rest. Her idea was that first were the CEOs. Then, the pharmas followed by the corporate “medicals” and the corrupt corporate law. The boards were less important to her.

I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what lay in store for those convicted of crimes against humanity. I knew they were to be executed, but in what way? Would it be humane? Or would it be horrible and inhumane?

She never once looked over at me. “Do not worry yourself about their punishments. Each punishment will fit their crime and will make them serve as an example to any who would desire to do this in the future. We will be fair and humane. I assure you.”

I looked over at her, mystified. “How–?”

She smiled. “Yes, we are telepathic. It comes from having mixed with other…races other than human. You might say that I can hear your thoughts almost as if you are speaking to me.” She turned to me. ‘Can you hear me?’

I nodded, dumbfounded. “Loud and clear. But how–?”

She laughed. “All I have to do is look at you and project my thoughts. In that way, you can hear me as if I was speaking to you. We are your future, if you continue with the path you have chosen. The path to a utopian social structure. Other races will seek you out, join with you, and create a new race. We have been intermarrying with other races since we severed contact with earth.”

I was still in awe. “Oh.”

She shook her head. “Oh, don’t worry. I am not interested in you. At least not that way. Your relationship with your wife is safe. I was speaking in general terms. It all will take a little time. It won’t happen overnight. You have a lot to prove.”

I now understood. “I see. We’ll have to prove that we are ready to become part of the universe.”

She nodded. “Yes. And to take responsibility for all actions.” Her attention shifted. “Do you have a space big enough to serve as a judgment hall?”

I smiled. “Sure. We were using it as staging and parade grounds. Right now, it isn’t much of anything except an empty chamber several floors down below us.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Good. Once we have divided the cases up, we will go and investigate this area and get it ready for use as the courtroom.”

I nodded in agreement. “Ok.”

She stopped. “It is wonderful, really, this thing you have begun. I mean, taking this world back from those who would have destroyed it eventually just for ratings. And the way you did it. first through ‘rescuing’ films, books, television shows, and artwork-all those things they banned-and setting up this ‘corporation’ as a sanctuary for those who truly sought the enjoy those past pleasures. Then, by starting this revolution. and finally by reinstituting banned holidays. Ingenious. Really.”

I stopped dead. “How did you know about–?”

She looked at me intensely. “Just because we stopped communicating with earth doesn’t mean we quit observing. Oh yes, we have watched every move you have made. Waited for you to realize exactly what you had started, and then hoped that you would take the initiative to follow through the rest of the way.

“We stopped communicating because the corporations came after us. In their arrogance, they sent their warships to conquer us. But we proved too strong. Too determined to remain free. And we have never forgiven them for their arrogance. Or their ignorance.”

I stood in awe of her. She looked at me and smiled. I looked down. “I haven’t either.”

She laughed. “Of course not. They took half of your body in a war that benefitted no one. They turned you into a cybernetically enhanced man. They stripped you of some of your humanness. Your humanity. Why should you forgive them?”

I looked back up. “War for profit is very unprofitable, but they still believed the old lies. Make war. It’s good for the economy. Their economy. No one else’s.”

She looked over at me admiringly. “And war really doesn’t solve any differences. Not the way they thought. It only drove the wedge in deeper. Am I not right?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“But a conflict with a worthy cause always benefits the future.” She looked away. “Which is why you began this revolution. It was a cause worth fighting for.”

I grinned. “Yes. And one worth dying for.”

We spent the next few hours separating the prisoners into individual cells to await their sentencing. The CEOs were herded into cells toward the front, the corporate doctors into the next set, the corporate law in the next…until all were separate and unable to talk to each other. The isolation would do them all good.

The soldiers awaiting debriefing and deprogramming were all moved to an upper holding area, away from the rest. There, they would wait for their retraining and then be sent into the field as part of our own army. I counted at least 150,000 more soldiers from each defeated unit, maybe more. My heart soared.

Once the sorting and separating was complete, I took her deeper into the base to what had served as our parade grounds while we were underground. Her eyes lit up. “This is good, but is there anything not out in the open?”

I took her to a bunker across from where the com room had been. “This has never been used for much of anything. It was storage until recently.”

As the door slid open, she gasped in amazement. “It’s perfect! And is there anything deeper down?”

I looked at her suspiciously. “No, why?”

She looked at me. “Can you add to this subterranean fortress? We will want the execution platforms beyond here, but also below. Away from the rest of the facility.”

I suddenly realized her motive. “it is best to not go any deeper, but we have some unfinished tunnels leading away from here. We had meant to use them to get to the next towns, but they were never finished. We could turn one of the staging areas in them into the execution chamber.”

She smiled sadly. “Very good. have it done. We will want to begin the trials as soon as possible. After the next holidays.”

I nodded. “Agreed.”

Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Fifteen

So there it was. Delgoro had been taken over by a cold-hearted killer. Now that killer was dead, but the board had to be removed. Browning had said that, shortly after his removal, the board he had assembled had slowly vanished.

Karnak Wilson had been the first to disappear. Then Meldon Mercon. And Safi ibn-Yalawa. King Moruo. Fendra Macks. And finally, Mort Vandeer.

With these six gone, the other five could be easily control. But not for long. As each began to inquire about their “late” colleagues, They too were removed. But not as violently. Instead, they were sent to the prisons.

And even the outposts had their prisons. These had grown out of the county and local municipal jails to become high security corporate prisons that would house, as was the case with the larger state and federal prisons, poor and homeless people. But they also housed those considered dangerous to whoever held power.

I figured that this would be where most, if not all, of the original board could be found. All we had to do was to take over these smaller prisons, absorbing their prisoners into our ranks, and we would hold the power. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Yet, we had to do it.

But, first, we had to take down Drobzetti. And his compatriots in Ballantyne. We had already wiped out most of his army, but we had to take him the rest of the way down. We had to remove him from power.

Our attack would spread out in all four directions: east, west, north and south. Of course, we also had regiments heading in the directions of north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west. In this way, we would take every outpost in every direction possible. Every small town was now ours for the taking.

Some would surrender, not having a standing corporate army or a strong corporate overlord from some large corporate board. Others, like Ballantyne, would put up a fight. Our jumper teams went on ahead, as they had done during our taking of our city. Their mission had not changed. They would still remove the boards who stood in our way, placing them in the brig back at HQ.

It was nice that we still had cells that were empty. each group of prisoners were housed in their own cells, cutting down on the chances that they would band together and try to overtake the guards. Each cell was separated from the others in such a way that no messages could be passed, or talking done between prisoners. They were completely isolated. And soundproof.

I, keeping my promise, stayed at HQ. I now had to rely on a few select spies to relay information back to me. Not being physically involved made me bored. I thought best when in the field, not behind a desk. My battle plans might look immaculate, but would they work in the field? I could only hope. I tended to paste a message onto each reminding my field Lieutenants to make them workable any way they could, even if it meant changing them.

But there was never any word that the plans were ever changed. But the attacks hadn’t begun yet. Or had they? I would just have to wait and wonder until they returned. If they returned.

Maybe I worried too much. But it was my lead they had followed. I had a lot to worry about. What if it all went wrong?

The sound of someone unfamiliar clearing their throat at my side drew me out of my thoughts. I looked up to find a robed figure. “Yes? May I help you?”

He/she smiled. “Dan Hargis?”

I looked quizzically at the figure. “Yes?”

She/he stretched out their hand. “I am Minister Demoria Lensch.” A woman? Or a man? “I am the colonial Minister of Justice. Our governing body sent me to help you with the task of setting up and conducting a war tribunal.”

I shook the hand offered. “When should we start?”

Another smile crept upon the otherwise emotionless effeminate face. “Right away. Why do you look at me that way? Have you never seen a female judge?”

I smiled back. “No. They executed the last female judge, CEO, and enforcement officer ten years ago.” I turned the conversation back to the task at hand. “How will we deal with these criminals, once they are convicted?”

Her countenance grew stern. “Though I usually do not advocate it, execution will be our only option. We do not need anyone from the old system left to pose a threat to the new government that is to be set up.”

I nodded. “I figured that. But I wanted to make sure. You have any special method?”

She smiled again. “Each of the judges I picked has their own execution team. These teams use only the most humane methods of execution. These teams are also qualified judges. If you wish, they can remain after all is done and you have your new government in place.”

I looked away. “How many–?”

She was still smiling. “One for each of the cities you took. They will remain in the main city to help hand down judgments and enact whatever executions need to be made. Their teams consist of six individuals each, not counting the main judge.”

I looked back at her. “Then, let’s get started.” I began to lead her down to the brig. “Right now, we have quite a few in the cells, but some are captives from the siege.”

She was unmoved. “The soldiers were only following orders. They should be released and reprogrammed. They are really no threat to the system once it is in place.”

I stopped. “I had intended to release all the soldiers. I only have them here in the brig until we can take the time to examine and retrain them all. The corporations have a tendency to implant obedience chips or program for sabotage. We cannot reprogram these threats. they are permanent, and many prefer death to the alternative.”

She nodded. “I see. Then we will begin by taking out the CEOs.”