I hope you all enjoy it! It was a lot of fun to write^^
Yes, I went under for a month and a half, that happens when I’m writing^^ And now is the time to say the stuff that I always forget to say while I’m in Cape High world.
My love and my prayers go out to the teens and teachers in Florida, who went through such a horrible experience. I know that a lot of people feel helpless and hopeless right now, especially students. You might be thinking, regardless of where you are, “What if this happens at my school? What if the person I just walked past is thinking thoughts like that?” And all I can say is that if you have those thoughts, it’s even more reason to reach out, to talk to the adults, and to talk to your fellow students. I would also strongly suggest going to a preacher, or priest, or any other leader who you trust, and just speaking with them. Ask them your questions, tell them your fears. They want to help you get through this. God loves you, I love you, and I know that there are more all around you that love you, as well, and strongly desire to protect you.
Now, for a higher point, the next Cape High book! Some of you might have guessed, some might not have, but our next book is another Sunny book. (Yes, I know, I want to do a Kaden book, or a Ward book, or a dozen others, as well, but for this one I needed Sunny.) The rough draft is finished as of today! The title will be Rise and Shine, and we’ll get to see Sunny awake for over ninety percent of the book! So exciting! Of course that means I’ve got more stuff to do. I need to print, read-through, edit, send to my betas, get a cover made, fix the edits that my betas send me, and so on. All of this could take a while, I’m afraid, but we’re on the downward slope! Please be patient, since the rough draft is already at 85k words, and I haven’t done bonus chapters yet.
And for the final note, Super Villain Dad has been nominated for a writing competition! I haven’t done writing competitions for years. (Did you know that Cape High turns five years old this October? Yeah, I’m stunned, too!) Unfortunately I don’t know if there’s actual voting involved (I don’t think there is,) but I got a nifty little badge to post! So you get to admire it, at least! It’s sortta shiny<3
Did you know that Advent Calendars usually stop on the 24th? Right now you should be spending time with family! (Just kidding, this only takes a few minutes to read, you can do it while they’re breaking their new toys^_~)
Cape High Christmas Elf
It got worse. The deeper we got into the U.S. the more people started chasing me. I’ve been running ever since we reached South Dakota. We’re in Nebraska, now. Sure, Ace has offered to help me out, but I already had him help me twice. I’m determined to do this on my own. The only good thing about this route is that, according to Ace, there are less people living around here. If that’s true, I’m NEVER going to places where there are a lot of them. Personally, I think he just told me that to make me feel better.
“We’re going to reach the Missouri border, soon,” Ace says. “We could say that you’ve officially reached your goal, then, since it’s the same state, right?”
“Worry about that AFTER I lose the ‘escort’ please?” I say, looking over my shoulder at the line of cars following me. They wanted to make it all slow and important, but somehow it’s turned into a bit of a car chase situation. I COULD speed up, sure, but it’s dangerous for them to be driving that fast! They might get in a wreck. And with all the Christmas decorations they’ve placed on their cars, it just seems mean, you know?
“We can go invisible, again,” he offers, sounding far too amused.
“You ARE invisible, again,” I point out, glancing over my shoulder and seeing the people wave excitedly at me. “I’m going to have to do a show, or something, aren’t I?”
“Or ask kids what they want for Christmas,” he says. “Face it, Bear, you represent a happy thing, and people want to be a part of it. Well, unless they’re Jewish, or Muslim, or another religion that traditionally doesn’t celebrate–“
“I get it, I get it,” I say, snorting. “But we can’t lead them straight to Cape High, right? So you’re right about the border. Once we see a place large enough for them all to pull into, we’ll do it.”
“Over there might work?” he says, pointing to a parking lot of a store.
“Fine, let’s go,” I say, motioning to the cars behind me and veering to the right. I look around. It appears to be an abandoned store, and it looks a bit shabby, but that might be a good thing. It’s better if no one’s inconvenienced by this. They willingly pull into the lot, honking their horns and hopping out of the cars as soon as they’ve parked. Soon I’m surrounded by little kids, all lined up to hug me. Before I can explain that I’m not a big hugger, a little girl about three throws her arms around my legs, hugging me tightly. “Dragon!” she says, and then jumps up and down, trying to touch Snowy D.
“I’ll let you pet him, if you calm down,” I say. She stops, looking up at me expectantly, and I bring Snowy D down to let her touch him. Soon I’m surrounded by kids petting my puppet dragon, almost reverently. “I made him. This fur part comes off,” I explain, taking the fur off to show the wood.
“So how does he move?” an older kid asks. “I don’t see any strings.”
“He doesn’t have any,” I say. “My super power is to manipulate non-living things. Wood is perfect for that.”
“Cool,” he says, reaching out to touch the wood part.
“Are you going to Cape High?” a girl asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “So you guys know about Cape High?”
“Everybody knows about Cape High,” she says. “I wish I was a super. I would love to go there; I bet it’s a lot more fun than my school is.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I admit. “Can we let some new people pet the dragon, now?” I ask, motioning for those closest to move out of the way. “Thanks, everyone.” Another wave of people step forward, along with more questions, and so on for an hour, until I feel someone place a hand on my shoulder. I look up, not seeing anyone. “Ah,” I say, “thanks for coming, everyone, but I really need to go, now. So… Merry Christmas?”
And I disappear, amidst a loud rumble of cheers and applause. I think they think I’m the one that made me disappear. Oh well, can’t explain it now. I jump onto the invisible surfboard and we race away. I yawn, and sit down on the board. “Food bag?” I ask him. The fluffy bag is dropped in my lap and I start digging through it. Soon I’ve eaten my fill and am watching the world pass below us. It doesn’t seem like long at all before we pull to a stop over a gigantic canyon with yellow tape around it.
“Welcome to your home away from home for the next four years,” Ace says as we become visible again. He drops to the ground in front of the yellow tape and I almost fall over as the board disappears. He looks around, a hint of confusion on his face.
“What?” I ask.
“I expected a bigger welcome,” he admits. He stops at a rock, which shoots up and reveals a screen. “Can I get someone to input Bear into the system?”
“Have him place his hand on the screen,” a female says. I head forward, doing as she says, and see glowing footprints appear in front of me. “Bear, step on the footprints—“
“WAAAIIIIT!” someone yells from above. I look up, my eyes widening in surprise as I see Dolly being carried by Voltdrain. She drops down, right into my arms. “BEAR! Oh, I’m so proud of you! I have so much to tell you! How are Mom and Dad? How’s Santa? Did you eat properly on your way down?” she blasts me with questions, only to stop and smile brilliantly at me. “I’ve missed you so much!”
I wrap my arms around my sister, holding her tightly. Usually I would avoid something like this, but it seems like forever since I saw her. “I’m fine. They’re fine,” I say. “I’ve missed you, too.”
“Zoe, we will need permission for Dollface, as well,” Voltdrain says to the panel.
“Of course! She’s more than welcome,” she says. Soon we’re all heading into the canyon, where I stop at the top, staring down at the base. A group of kids are there, and they start cheering as they see me.
“Welcome to Cape High,” a man says, flying up to meet us. “We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve spoken before, but I’m Nico, your new principal.”
“Are we early?” I ask, suddenly realizing. “The open house was supposed to be this weekend, right?”
“We’ll do the full tour when Jules gets here. For now, we figured we’d welcome you to the school with a little party.” I nod, heading down the steps. I can’t help but search through the group, looking for her… for Piper. She’s nowhere to be seen. I feel disappointed, even though I know it’s ridiculous. This is a completely one sided crush. She doesn’t even know who I am.
“Hi!” a girl says, appearing in front of me. “The party’s actually going to be inside. So if you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the dorms.”
“You’re Zoe?” I ask.
“Recognize my voice already?” she asks.
“Hey, Bear! Welcome to Cape High!” Aubrey calls, waving.
“Thanks,” I say. I glance over my shoulder at Dolly, who’s looking around with wonder. She seems excited. I feel… worried, I decide as all the kids group around me. They start introducing themselves, so fast that I only have a vague idea of who is who. I yawn, again, realizing that I’m exhausted. This trip has been a very long one. It’d be rude to go to my dorm instead of going to the party, right? And I promised myself I would try and fit in better this time around.
The others lead me to the rec room, and I feel someone push me through the crowd. “Go sit down, I’ll get you something to eat,” he says, disappearing before I can find out who he is. I turn to the rec room, and stop, staring blankly at the massive teddy bear in the middle of the room.
“She’s asleep, again, huh?” someone says with a laugh. “Well, knowing her, she’ll sleep through this whole thing.”
I barely hear it, since I’ve seen that teddy before. I walk into the room, as silently as I can, and finally see the girl sound asleep on top of her teddy throne. Before I can look for another place to sit, the room is full of people.
“Sit down,” Zoe urges me, “make yourself comfortable.” I do as she says, sitting down right next to the bear, only to blush a bit as they all start laughing. I have no idea what they’re laughing about. “I’ll get your new phone set up, if you would hand me your old one?”
I hesitate. “Can you, um, keep Jingle?” I ask, pulling it out and handing it over. “That’s the North Pole’s system. She’s really useful…”
“I’ll see what I can do,” she says, walking away with it.
“You don’t mind me sleeping over, do you?” Dolly asks as she walks in. “I’d like to be with Bear for the open house. I know Dad would have come, but… actually, I’m not sure why Dad didn’t come.”
“I didn’t let him,” I say, quietly. “I had a bet with Santa.” I lean against the bear when I’m sure it won’t move with my weight, relaxing. “It’s been a very long couple of days…”
“I bet,” Cold Steel says.
“We have an apartment you could stay in, or we can set up a dorm room, if you want to be close to your brother,” Nico says to Dolly. I lean a little more heavily against the bear, feeling my eyes get heavy. The next thing I know, I’m asleep.
There’s snow, Piper realizes. It’s not her dream, because she doesn’t dream, really. She’s completely out of it until she wakes. No, this is someone else’s dream. She should have never turned her bracelet down. She freezes, terrified that something is going to happen that she won’t be able to handle, but… in the distance, she hears Christmas music.
She cautiously looks around, and stops as she sees a person in a white fur outfit sitting on a hill. Slowly she walks over, waiting until he looks up. “Hi,” he says. “Take a seat.”
She sits where he motions, and tugs her knees up to her chest. “This… what are we doing?” she asks.
“Watching the snowflakes,” he says, falling silent. The snow starts to grow larger, until gigantic, perfect snowflakes are falling all around them. Above them, the Aurora Borealis lights the sky, the colors reflect on the ice of the snowflakes. A fluffy dragon flies through the sky.
“Is it… is this a memory?” she asks.
“Yeah,” he says.
“Yeah,” he says, giving her a shy little smile, “it is.”
And here we are, at the end of the 2017 Advent Calendar. But don’t worry, you’ll get more Bear in the future. Like I’ve mentioned before, this is going to be turned into a full-length book when I can fit it into the main story. Until then, enjoy a cute moment between him and the girl of his dreams. (Oh, man, that one was even too cheesy for Snowy D OTL.)
Merry Christmas, and a happy new year, my friends, and in the words of Tiny Tim, God bless us, every one<3
Cape High Christmas Elf
“Hey,” Snowy D says, climbing down to the floor and looking around. “How’s everyone doing? I’m the Stringless Puppeteer.” The people stare at him, and then look at me, and I can almost see them wondering if it’s demon possessed. “My kid, here, is a super. He’s making his way down to Cape High.”
The room relaxes slightly, even laughing a bit as he takes to the air. There are news reporters and camera men flooding the back of the room, but they stop there, aiming the camera on Snowy D and me.
“While on this trip,” Snowy D goes on, “we hit a few bumps and snags. I got stolen, for one, and the guy whose truck we were riding on had a heart attack. It was pretty scary, actually. And then we started getting put on television. Hi, yeah, we see you back there, news people.” They start smiling, but thankfully don’t rush forward. It looks like Mack had a talk with them.
“But not all of it has been bad. We made our first real friend, you know, other than family and Santa. We got to see a healer heal someone, and we got to talk to a man that needed a hand. Maybe if we hadn’t been on television, we wouldn’t have met him, or maybe it was a destined meeting. And then we got here, where they welcomed us, and anyone else that came, with open arms and a plate of food.”
He shuts up, dropping into my arms, and I take a deep breath, looking around the room. “I…” I say quietly, trying to work up my nerve. “I’ve always been… separate from people. There aren’t many people up where I live, for one, but I’m also really… introverted. I’m not good at dealing with people. My best friend is a puppet. I didn’t know what to expect when I started across half a country on my own. And yeah, a few bad things happened, but more… so many more… good things happened. I met people that were kind, and accepting, and a lot of kids that treated Snowy D like he was a super star.”
They’re smiling, nodding as encouragement for me to go on. “I guess, what I’m trying to say is… there’s so much good in this world. There are so many people that step forward, holding out a hand, or a plate, or whatever, and that is… it’s why I’m more proud to be a Christmas Elf than I ever have been before. And you know what’s most awesome? You don’t have to live up in the North Pole to be one. All you have to do is take a little time to help. So… thank you,” I say, looking at Mack. “What you do here matters, so much,” and then I whisper, “Ace?”
I feel a hand on my wrist and Snowy D and I go invisible. We make a run for it, leaving the norms freaking out, except for Mack, who starts to laugh.
“Well, he DID say he had an invisible friend,” I hear him say as we leave the church behind.
Silent tears are streaming down Dolly’s face as she hugs a decorative pillow to her chest. “That was SO BEAUTIFUL!” she says, squirming with excitement. “Oh, I’m so proud of him! I can’t believe he did that! Did we record that? TELL me we recorded it! I want to send it home for Mom and Dad to watch!”
“Your brother’s adorable,” Jimmi says, smiling. She’s been trying to visit the two on a regular basis, to get a feel of how their teamwork will be. She likes them, but she also sees why they’re having so many problems. “And this is a Technico, so it should be easy to find it. Here, I’ll show you how.” She pulls her phone out, and then frowns. “Ah, it looks like I need to get permission.”
“Aren’t you good at computer stuff?” Ruckus asks, lounging on the chair next to the couch.
“Normal computers, yeah, a Technico computer, no. For now, can I borrow your phone?” she asks, taking Dolly’s phone and pointing out what to do. “So… would you like to go to Cape High?” she asks.
“Right now?” Dolly asks.
“For the open house,” Jimmi says. “I can ask Papa to arrange something. He could use a guardian with him for that, don’t you think?”
“I want to go! I would love to–oh… oh no,” Dolly says, frowning. “Now I know what he’s giving me for Christmas. This is terrible. Maybe Rochester can wipe it from my memory?”
“Is it really that big of a deal?” Ruckus asks, looking at her phone and tapping on it. “You just have to pretend like you don’t know.”
“No, you don’t understand, the Christmas present secret is… is sacred! It’s not to be known! If we go to Central, maybe I should stop by the Hall, first, and ask Mastermental to wipe it for me. Would he do that for someone from another branch?”
“Well, if you feel that strongly about it, we can ask,” Jimmi says. “I’m sure he might consider it, at least.”
“Oh, good, I definitely need to do that.”
“Elves are strange,” Ruckus says. “So… will they work? Those wings he’s planning?”
“I don’t know, actually,” Dolly says. “It might be too much work, since I’m sure I’ll be tired from using the Dollhouse…”
“Oh, I can fix that,” Jimmi says, opening her purse and digging out some clear, hollow jewelry. “For Ruckus, we have wrist cuffs, and for Dolly, some earrings and a necklace,” she says as she hands them out.
“What?” Ruckus says, taking the cuffs, only to stare at them.
“I have a little trick,” Jimmi says with a wicked smile, “something that should give us a better advantage when dealing with the Deadly Darlin’s.” Her eyes glow bright orange.
Cape High Christmas Elf
The church is tiny, but the paintings are beautiful. I keep looking at them as I follow Mack (he’s talking a mile a minute, telling me about things as we go) down a hall. I stop as I see a picture of Jesus with angels all around him. I don’t think Mack even notices until he’s at the end of the hall. He turns, looking at me curiously.
“Um…” I say, slinging Snowy D off of my back and digging through the stuff inside of him. “Do you have any other pictures of angels? Like one I could look at?”
“Well, this IS a church,” he says. “I’m sure I can find you something.”
I give him a grin and catch up with him, an art pad and a box of pencils in my free hand. He looks at them curiously. “You want to draw angels?” he asks.
“I want to draw up plans for wings,” I explain. “It should be a good Christmas present.”
“Well, you can do it after you eat,” he says, opening a door and revealing a large room, where people are crowded inside, eating hotdogs and chips. I feel their eyes turn to me, and I suddenly realize just what type of meal this is. They’re feeding homeless people. “We’re going to watch a movie, afterwards, if you’d like to stick around.”
I head over to the kitchen part of the room, joining a line of people waiting to get food. “That’s a very nice puppet,” the woman standing in front of me says. “Are you good at ventriloquism?”
“It’s my hobby,” I say. A plate is handed to me and I hold it out when I’m supposed to, wondering if I shouldn’t. It’s not like I’m starving—well, I AM, actually, but I bought food.
“Can you show me?” the woman asks. “I wish my grandchild was here to see it. He would love it.”
“Um… sure,” I say. “After we eat?”
She laughs. “Of course, after we eat!” she says, heading on to the next part of the line. Soon I have a plate full of food and am heading for the nearest table. I sit down in an empty chair, feeling the person next to me staring. Mack brings a Christmas card featuring an angel over, placing it to the side before patting me on the shoulder and walking away.
“Hey… aren’t you that Christmas Elf everyone’s talking about?” he asks, abruptly. I look over, my mouth full, and nod. “You really an elf?”
“Uh huh,” I say, after swallowing.
“Do you believe in God?” he asks.
“Yes, sir,” I say.
“Good,” he says, going back to eat. I practically inhale my food and start sketching the wings. To my surprise, when the person sitting next to me finishes and leaves, “Chase” sits down next to me, carrying his own plate of food.
“Did you say that just to avoid being lectured?” he asks.
“No, I’m a Christian. I was saved when I was eight. It makes being a Christmas Elf even more important to me,” I say. “If I wasn’t one, I’d probably just call myself an elf, or a holiday elf. We have several of those, back home. Oh, they still join the parties, but they don’t join the church services.” He looks at me, and then at my drawing.
“So who’s the gift for? Piper?”
“Dolly,” I say. “She can manipulate and levitate objects. And she should be getting stronger.”
“Really? So why the wings?”
“If I can make them light enough, and strong enough, she can manipulate them like toys, lifting herself as well. It’d only work when she’s not using her toy box abilities, though… if it works at all.”
“Would they work for you?” he asks.
“Maybe when I’m older,” I say. “It’d be easiest to use if starting from a high place… like a hang glider that can be manipulated. I don’t know if wood is what should be used, though.”
“Couldn’t she just levitate herself?” he asks.
“We don’t do well manipulating human beings, even our own bodies,” I admit. “Dolly can shrink people, but only as long as she keeps them contained in the dollhouse. Outside of it, it’s a lot harder. The last Toy Box that could shrink people outside of a dollhouse was… almost two-hundred-years old at the time, I think. She passed away a while after that.”
“Old age?” he asks.
“She got tired of Christmas music.” He looks away, his shoulders shaking as he tries to hide his laughter. “I have a LOT of headphones back home,” I add. The laughter escapes.
“I bet,” he says. He stops, though, looking towards the door we’d come through. “We’ve got reporters,” he says silently. “Should we make a run for it?”
I think about it, and look around for a moment before getting up and heading for Mack. “Hey,” I say.
“We’re trying to get rid of them, now,” he says, looking worried.
“That’s not very Christian, though,” I say, grinning. “Being interviewed isn’t something I’m interested in… but having them see something like this, is.” I motion to the people eating. “Can I do a little puppet show before you watch your movie?”
He grins, broadly. “I was thinking you’d never ask!” He jogs to the front of the room, raising his hands. “Hello, everyone! I know you’re all looking forward to the movie, but we have a special guest, today, and he’s willing to entertain us for a little bit, first. So put your hands together for the Christmas Elf that everyone’s talking about, the Stringless Puppeteer!”
I get a bit of clapping, but most of them are still too busy eating to spare the time. I don’t mind. I’ve never been one for applause, anyway. I head to where Mack’s standing, and lift Snowy D off of my shoulder.
Cape High Christmas Elf
I’m still hungry, so I head for the nearest store, wondering if I made the right choice. I can help people. This is just for a short period of time, too, so it’s not like it’s going to kill me to be in the public eye, right? Except all the people in the little gas station are watching me or the camera screen mounted to the wall. I feel a bit hunted, actually.
I head for the pre-packaged food, grabbing a couple of sandwich packs and then to the drinks to grab a couple bottles of water. I twitch slightly as a bag of candy drops onto my pile of food, seemingly out of nowhere. “You get paid, don’t you?” I ask silently.
“Can’t buy things when I’m invisible,” Ace whispers back, sounding a bit amused. I hear cameras snapping pictures and I fight the urge to groan. I’m almost positive that they think the candy appearing thing is magic. I can’t even explain it to them, because having an “invisible friend” is probably worse than having a “puppet friend.” I’m actually not sure on that one, though. It could go either way.
I head to the counter, dropping the pile of food on top and hesitating for a moment before sticking my hand down Snowy D’s throat to pull out some cash. The people that had been trying to act discreet give up, watching openly as I do so.
“That’ll be fifteen dollars and fifty cents,” the man behind the counter says.
“Got it,” I say, pulling out a wallet and digging through the various types of money. “Here,” I say, paying him.
“Does that… hurt the dragon?” he asks as he gets my change.
“Does what?” I ask, blankly.
“Sticking your arm down his throat like that?”
“He’s wood,” I say. “I made him. He’s not alive, I promise.”
“Oh,” he says, dropping the change in my hand a bit reluctantly. “Hey, thanks.”
“Coming here,” he says. “It’ll be a great advertisement, you know, with all the news reporters outside.”
“News reporters?” I repeat, turning and looking out the window. I groan, seeing at least three news vans in the parking lot. I take five seconds to debate before saying, “Do you have a way out in the back?”
“Well, I guess…” he says a bit reluctantly.
“If I leave, they’ll have no choice but to interview you, right?” I say. “Then you can use it to advertise. And if you’re hiring, there’s a guy out on a bench outside that’s looking for a job. He’s got a family to support. And I talked to him, too.” He’s sold, I can see it on his face.
“It’s down that hall and through the door,” he tells me, pointing.
I make a run for it.
“If you were just going to run, you should have taken Nico up on his offer,” Ace says as I race through the woods behind the gas station.
“I was thinking of the normal people,” I say, “like the ones that need some help for Christmas. I wasn’t talking about being interviewed every ten feet.”
“You haven’t been interviewed at all,” he says.
“Hey! There! I see him!” I hear someone say from behind us. My stomach grumbles, reminding me of just how hungry I am. I can’t stop to eat, I didn’t even have time to put away the bag of food and drinks I just bought.
“Find someplace to duck into,” Ace suggests. I nod as I speed up, hoping to at least take advantage of the trees. They can’t drive their vans through this area. As if to mock me, I hear a motor and glance over to my right, seeing a road about twenty feet from me.
“Dang it,” I mutter, veering to the left to go deeper into the woods. I see a building in the distance, and head for it. I need to at least stop for long enough to eat. As I get closer, I see a cross on the roof and a little sign in front. It’s a church. I breathe out a sigh of relief and run through the front door, closing it behind me and leaning on it with a sigh of relief. A mask appears on my face, but I barely notice it.
“Can I help you?” a man asks, heading for me.
“Is there a room that I can eat in?” I ask. I left Ace outside, I think. Oh well, they won’t notice him, anyway. “And, ah, I have some people following me. Sorry about that.”
“People? Like police?” he asks.
“News reporters,” I say. “I’m the Christmas Elf.”
He looks at Snowy D, and then at me, a bright smile crossing his face. “Well, Christmas Elf, welcome to church. I’ll show you to the kitchen. We’re getting ready for the Wednesday meal, right now, and you’re welcome to join us, if you want.”
“Wednesday meal?” I ask, following behind him. I glance back as the door opens, almost freaking out until it closes again with “no one” entering. He looks back, as well, a strange expression on his face. “Ah, that’s, um… my invisible friend?”
“I see,” he says.
“He’s a super,” I add, since I can only look so crazy before they might toss me out.
“Oh! I see,” he says. “Well, he’s welcome, as well.”
Cape High Christmas Elf
“It’s the biggest sensation since last year’s Santa Cam!” the news reporter says. Piper frowns slightly as a window showing the news opens up in the corner of the screen. She looks over at the other kids, but they’re frowning as well. “The newly famous Christmas Elf is making his way across the country. His first show has already gone viral, and everyone is hoping that he’ll come to their town! We’re following this story all the way from Canada.”
Someone enlarges the report, so that the Bear Cam is in the corner and the news is front and center. On the news, a reporter is interviewing the owner of the restaurant where Bear and Ace had eaten. “Oh, he was a great kid, eh? He was very polite and funny!”
“So he told you that he was an actual Christmas Elf?” the reporter asks.
“Oh, yes, he told everyone,” the owner says with a smile.
“I bet kids all over the world are excited by that,” the reporter says, grinning like it’s an inside joke.
“They don’t believe he’s an elf, do they?” Piper says. “Well, at least that’s a good thing…”
The screen goes back to the anchors, who are smiling, as well. “There’s also been a report of him reaching the U.S. and stopping at our very own North Hall.”
“So… that means this Christmas Elf has super powers?” the other reporter asks. “How fun!”
“Or magic,” the first reporter says with a wink. Every single kid in the rec room groans.
“Magic,” Jack repeats.
“Christmas Magic!” Sandra says, laughing. “Well, whatever. How closely do you think they’re following him?”
“This just in, our sister station in Montana has found the elf!” the reporter says, showing a clip of Bear running below. “We’ll keep you updated on which way he’s going!”
The group goes silent, looking at each other with worried expressions. “He’s going to run, isn’t he?” Malina says, in a tiny little voice.
“As far away from the cameras as possible, I bet,” Jack agrees.
“They’re treating him like a Christmas special,” Piper says. “We should call Nico, and have him stop it.”
The screen flickers and Nico’s face appears on the wall. “Right now, he’s out of my jurisdiction,” he admits. “I’ll call Isotonic.”
“Nico, this is bull!” Jack says. “It was one thing for us to be filming him, but he’s not even a working cape. They’ve got no right to be following him like this. And if it goes too far…”
“I realize that,” Nico says. “What they think is a cute little Christmas act might lose us an interesting kid.”
“Exactly,” Jack says.
Something’s wrong. I reached a little town, where I didn’t expect many people to be, and suddenly everyone’s turning to watch me, their phones out. I try not to look in their direction, speed walking towards the nearest store. I need to restock on food. With both Ace and me eating, we’ve gone through the vast majority of the food that Superior gave me. I don’t like starving.
“Hey… kid,” a man calls out to me. I look over, seeing him sitting on a bench on the corner. He’s bundled up, since it’s cold, so why is he sitting out here?
“Yeah?” I ask.
I hesitate for a moment before heading over to him. “What can I help you with?” I ask.
“You’re that elf kid, right? The one on television,” he says. “Can you… man, I don’t even believe in Santa, so this is stupid…” he stops, running a hand over his face. “I just don’t know what else to do.”
Television? I knew about the internet, but when did I get put on television? No, now’s not the time to ask that. Something’s going on here. “Can I what?” I ask him.
“I was laid off,” he says quietly, not looking at me. “This close to Christmas, I was laid off. We don’t have money for gifts. We barely have money for food. I…” He takes a deep breath, looking up. “And here I am telling a boy that doesn’t look much older than my own kids to fix it. Some kind of father, I am,” he scoffs.
“Did you… are you out here, waiting for me?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s all over the news, that there’s a real live Christmas Elf runnin’ around. Stupid, huh? They’re just doin’ it to make kids excited about the holidays. They know as well as I do that there’s no such thing as Santa.”
“What are your kids’ names?” I ask him, ignoring his skepticism.
“Billy and Mary,” he says, a hint of hope showing as I pull out my phone, “Billy and Mary Hobbs.”
I nod and turn away from him, calling Santa. I get his answering machine, so I leave a message. “Hey, Santa? Can you make sure that Billy and Mary Hobbs have a good Christmas? I’m in… Montana, still, I think.” I hang up and see his face. “He’s pretty busy around this time of year, but don’t worry, his assistant is really good about checking his mailbox.”
I run, before he can even figure out how to reply. I still have my phone out, and I’m about to put it away when the screen blinks. “Bear,” someone says, “this is Nico. Can you find a place to talk for a bit?”
I look at my phone, surprised. “How’d you get my number?” I ask, slowing down and looking for a place to hide.
“Technopath, remember? But Ace is still with you, right?”
“I think so? He’s invisible right now.” By the time I’m finished saying that, Ace shimmers back into sight.
“Good. Bear, I want you to go with Ace, who will bring you both down here, under the radar. I was fine with you doing your own thing before, but the norms are getting too nosy. I’m going to shut it down, but that’ll be easier if you’re nowhere to be seen.”
I hesitate, the look on the man’s face flashing through my mind. He hadn’t been sitting out there just to get a glimpse at an elf. He’d been there for a very important reason. If the news hadn’t let him know about me… would he still be desperately trying to figure out how to make Christmas good for his two kids?
“I think…” I say, slowly, “maybe… maybe if it gets to be too much, I’ll do that, but… I can help people, this way. It might only be a few of them, but… even just one person is worth it, right?”
He hesitates before nodding. “Ace, if it gets to be too much, you’ve got your orders.”
“Got it,” Ace says before disappearing again.