The first things Tessa felt were a comfy mattress and pillow below her as well as an unbelievably soft sheet covering her. The crackling of a fireplace sounded in her ears and the smell of chocolate filled her nose as she slowly opened her eyes. Tessa was in a peculiar looking room. The structure itself and the furniture seemed to be made out of fine wood. On the nightstand next to her was a plate with chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. The scanners in her eyes assured her that the looks weren’t deceiving; there was no poison or the like at play.
She slowly lifted herself up, her head complaining about the still too rapid movement. With sudden panic she lifted the bed sheet but was relieved to see that she still had her own clothes on. Tessa stood up and checked the rest of the room. A fireplace made out of stone offered some warmth. A highly decorated tree did all it could to use the colours of the rainbow to dress itself. The carpet beneath her feet seemed to be made out of some sort of fluffy wool. She grabbed one of the cookies and walked over to the window.
An ice tundra greeted her. Whiteness as far as her mechanically enhanced vision could see.
“Where the hell am I? What happened?" she silently whispered to herself while holding her head that still hurt quite a bit.
She jumped up, almost losing her cookie when three soft knocks sounded through the room. A piece of paper was slid under the door followed by the sound of some light-footed, fast steps going away. Tessa relaxed a bit once the quiet took over again. Hesitantly, she picked up the note and moved away from the door.
“What have I gotten myself into?" she asked herself, shaking her head. Tessa checked the room once more. She had everything on her except her weapons. She grabbed the big, cozy coat hanging at the side of the door and stepped outside.
For a second, cold and bitter wind blew against her, making her feel as if she was breathing ice. But then a reassuring warmth emitted from her coat, creating some sort of reddish force field around her. Tessa inspected the coat again, baffled. It didn’t seem to have any technology imbued to it. Dumbfounded, she closed the door behind her and followed the trail of tinsel and glitter on the snowy ground.
What was once a blank, empty Tundra soon began to form a village. House after house plopped up into view, even though they should have been visible to her from her own room. She concluded some cloaking devices at play.
Most of the buildings seemed to be made for people half her size. She tried to ignore the over decorated, glistening and shining portraits of a spirit she was unfamiliar with and focussed on the trail she followed.
It didn’t take long before an immense structure stretched into the sky in front of her. A castle with red bricks, white linings and many fir branches decorating it.
The main entrance opened its double doors once she had stepped closer. She entered into the bright light and the doors slowly closed behind her. The moment her vision attuned to the brightness, she took a step back. Before her a world on its own unveiled. Brightly clothed small humanoid creatures hurried around, working at tables and conveyors at what seemed to be toys and other goods.
“Ah, there you are!" proclaimed a jolly voice and Tessa looked around.
A man twice her size, almost in height and definitely in width, sauntered to her. He wore an outfit consisting of lots of red and white accents, accompanying his bushy beard and hair. Something told her that for this place, he had an immaculate sense of style.
“Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Kris Kringle, but please, call me Kris.”
She pulled down the hood of her coat: “So by all means, ‘Kris’, tell me where I am and what the phoenix actually happened.”
He replied with a refreshing laugh and put his hands on his hips. “You have been through a mighty lot and unfortunately, it’s my fault - at least indirectly. So please, follow me and let me explain, dear Tessa.”
The whole scene was so unreal that she just decided to go with it. Although she didn’t miss her chance to grab a pointy looking red-white striped small cane looking object on their way. Just for self-defense, naturally.
“First of all, thank you for bringing back one of my helpers. He has been lost for quite a while and I was terribly afraid of what had happened to him.”
“The android? Yeah, about that, what did he do to my ship?”
“Your ship has been destroyed, unfortunately.”
“My ship has been what?!" Tessa stopped and looked blankly at her new host.
“Oh, don’t you worry. I have something cooking up for you that should reimburse your troubles," Kris tried to appease her.
Tessa slowly continued their walk, shaking her head. She tried to remember the destination that the android set in her ship. “Are we on Earth, in the Sol-System?”
“Correct! It got a little bit quiet here when the remaining people set out to colonize the stars because of all this snowy business. But I still find it quite comfortable here and it would have been impossible to move my workshop anyway.”
“Oh, hi Tessa!" a now familiar voice echoed as they had entered a new section of the workshop. The android version of Santa sat on a work-bench being taken care of by several of those small creatures clad in mechanic outfits.
Tessa thought about charging that mad bot with her Christmas shiv but thought better of it. “Hello, Santa-Bot. You apparently broke my ship?" she questioned with a gritted smile.
“Yes, my bad! Also sorry about almost killing you. Who would have thought that breaking the laws of physics were so taxing on a human body? Crazy, right?”
Her knuckles whitened as she looked up to Mr. Kringle: “What did he just say?”
“Oh, boi. You see, I had developed him some time ago to help me on my mission to spread cheer and love throughout the universe. I thought a bot could handle the interstellar travels better than this old man here. Seems like I forgot to teach him that organic lifeforms aren’t exactly made for his mode of travel.”
Tessa stood there with an open mouth.
“You have some exceptional tech that helped you survive the trip. That is also the reason your ship didn’t make it. It was simply not equipped for these kinds of jumps.”
“So, I brought back your bot that killed my ship and me almost with it. A ship, as I might say, I spent countless hours fixing up and modifying. A ship where I poured my heart and soul into and that is the source of my income.” Tessa suddenly froze up: “That had plenty of irreplaceable items from my family in it.”
“Oh, no, don’t you worry! Those I was able to fix," Kris tried to soften the blow.
Tessa narrowed her eyes: “Are you telling me that my ship was destroyed during the landing on this icicle in space but the porcelain owl from my mother survived?”
“Absolutely! You see, it’s easier to fix items given as a sign of love.”
“Sure, whatever. This is neat and all but please just show me the ship and the way out of here," Tessa resigned and looked questioningly around.
Santa smiled and pointed at a door to their left.
As the mechanic walked closer to the door, it opened with a gentle swing outward. A hangar bay stretched in front of her, presenting various ships of different sizes and forms. One of the helpers rushed past her, signing her to follow it. Tessa shrugged and did exactly that.
As they walked past several ships, Tessa couldn’t do anything else but wonder. They all were very unique.
One looked just like an ancient sled with fixtures for some pulling devices that were missing.
Another one looked more like a proper spaceship, but it had that same aggressive red and colourfulness that was present all over this place. Tessa's heart dropped a bit thinking of how this new ship would look.
She didn’t have to fantasise for long as they took a corner and the little guy in front jumped in excitement and pointed at a landing pad that had her name written on it.
With eyes opened wide and her mouth agape, she scanned the beauty in front of her.
A massive length of 38 meters. It’s sleek beam being stretched to 36 meters on the back part because of some massive thrusters on both sides. It towered before her with 9.5 meters height. In front of those thrusters, on each side of the ship massive ballistic cannons showed everyone near and far that this wasn’t an easy target.
The otherwise black hull had several dark blue accents to emphasize the styling of this ship.
“You are going to love the quantum drive and jump module on this bad boy," Kris added to her amazement.
“Are you for real? This is for me?!" Tessa tried to grasp the situation.
“The galaxy gave you plenty of options to reflect the darkness. To be just as cruel as everybody else. To show no mercy. To take what you want. But you decided against that. And I am here to show you that no good deed goes by unnoticed.”
Tessa wiped tears from her eyes: “Thank you! I can’t …”
“Come on, go inside. We all know you want to," Kris grinned.
Tessa slowly walked up to the ship, touching the cold, durable metal and quickly finding the opening mechanism. The door above opened and a ladder glided down to her.
She entered the ship, approached the cockpit and studied all the bits and bobs with glassy eyes.
Once she fully realised what this ship was capable of, she stared out the window, looking at the crazy bunch standing outside. Kris Kringle smiled knowingly. Santa-Bot was also shoved there on a pushcart handled by three little helpers. All waved to her and she sat down in the pilot seat with a smile as big as a mile. She put the Christmas candy cane on the side of her dashboard and gently stroked her mother’s porcelain owl.
“Looks like I will be home for Christmas this year.”
The ship carefully lifted off and went through the open hangar door. The Christmas crew followed the ship as it disappeared into the stratosphere.
“Alrighty then. Now that this is settled, please tell me what had happened to you, friend," Kris focused on the android beside him.
“Oh, you won’t believe it! There was this big explosion just as I was placing this gift, you see? But before all of that …”
The merry bunch returned to the workshop. A fantastic story richer and with a strengthened desire to bring joy and peace to the whole galaxy.