Commander Goorecs covered his scaly hide with his thick imperial cloak as he suffered though his first Earth winter. He wished he were home relaxing in warm swamp water beneath the bright midday sun, not overseeing this backward planet’s occupation. He looked out the ancient Earth mansion’s window as snow fell on the space fleet that had so easily conquered this world. He hated the frozen precipitation. It stung if it hit his bare scales.

In the distance the human work camp’s massive smoke stacks belched out gray clouds. Even with dozens of such camps scattered across this primitive world, it was still taking an intolerably long time to extract and process all the metals and resources that a Galactic Empire needed. The trouble was that no matter how many of the lazy humans the Empire shot, those remaining were still not very efficient.

The puny humans were slow and plodding, but seemed to like the cold. Some had spent hours fashioning a crude man out of snow. Despite his orders to all Empire troops to beat any unproductive humans, many had actually been singing songs the past week or so. They had been preparing for some tribal feast. He had ordered soldiers to shoot a dozen for decorating a tree.

A snow-blurred object burst through the grimy industrial clouds and shot across the sky towards the mansion that served as Goorecs’ headquarters and disappeared overhead. Goorecs heard a clatter on the roof. Then muffled sounds like a stampede of swamp cattle back home. A scraping and clawing noise came from the chimney.

A loud thump. Two black boots poked into the hearth.

Goorecs drew his ion disrupter.

A short squat human squeezed through the fireplace. He brushed soot and ashes off his red fur suit and dropped a bulging sack on the floor.

Goorecs bared his fangs. “Why aren’t you in the work camp, human?”

The intruder held his sizable stomach and laughed loudly. “Because it’s Christmas!”

Goorecs aimed the disrupter at the old man’s belly. “All humans not in the work camps will be shot on sight.”

The man stroked his long white beard. “Now, Commander Goorecs, I’ve checked my list at least twice and you’ve been very naughty. I have a special gift for you.”

Goorecs fired. The red beam hit the old man’s chest, but the man did not vaporize.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the human laughed. “Alakazam! Hum bug!”

With a flash of red and green light, a hooked, striped object replaced Goorecs’ gun. It was warm and sticky. “Sentries!” Goorecs yelled.

“Christmas magic,” said the man. “It’s a candy cane.” He smacked his lips. “Delicious. A gift from St. Nick.”

“I should order this quadrant disintegrated,” Goorecs snarled.

Four uniformed sentries burst into the room. All brandished candy canes. In disbelief they looked to Goorecs as if he might have an explanation for the loss of their weapons.

“Abracadabra! Jacob Marley! Hocus Pocus!” St. Nick winked at Goorecs. “Christmas magic has transformed your ships into sleighs. But no reindeer for your kind.”

Goorecs dashed to the window. The armada was gone. Tiny specks on the ground stood where the ships had been only moments before. Unarmed soldiers stared at the sleighs.

Goorecs reached for his radio to alert the troops, but instead a green leafy object with red berries was tied with a red bow to his desk.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” St. Nick chuckled. His eyes almost seemed to twinkle. “Holly is so much more festive, don’t you think?” He reached into his bag. “And, Commander, for all the good humans toiling in your slave camps and hiding in the mountains, I have thousands and thousands of these.”

He held an ion disrupter, bright red instead of the Empire’s standard issue gray.

St. Nick touched his nose and rose up the chimney.

Goorecs and the sentries raced to the window and threw up the sash. They watched helplessly as a sleigh pulled by eight beasts flew towards the work camp.

Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has had stories published in “Bull Spec”, “Encounters” and “Ray Gun Revival”.

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