Christmas, Christmas time is here
Time for Toys and time for Cheer
Paul Foster caught himself humming the old child hood Christmas song as he walked along the corridors of Harlington-Straker studios. He wasn’t entirely certain why the cheery and somewhat cheesy Christmas song in the in the squeaky falsetto cheered him, but it did. Now he caught himself humming the song a few days after the annual Thanksgiving dinner SHADO gave so that the Yanks on board could feel at home. Foster always felt a trifle odd helping the US contingent celebrate running away from the Empire. But his boss was a Yank, so he never mentioned the feeling. There was always the nagging thought in the back of his head that Jackson might find his quibbling of interest.
So, he continued on to his office with the foolish but uplifting song wandering through his head.
We’ve been good but we can’t wait
Please Christmas don’t be late!
Greta Schleiss looked out the window of the dreary three-room flat her adoptive parents occupied during the concert season. Other flats shown with twinkling lights at the windows, the occupants preparing for Christmas celebrations. Even the Staubs across the courtyard, devout Jews, had a softly glowing menorah in their front window. But the Bertrands showed no sign of holiday indulgence. Even when they retreated to the shabby house they owned in the countryside, there would be no sign of Christmas.
“All that money going to waste, really. There’s children starving in Africa,” Mariel would point out scornfully, not that she cared about starving children anywhere. There was a child starving in their own home, such as it was.
True, Greta never went hungry or dirty or without clean clothing. Her nimble fingers on the piano brought in the money that supported them all in concerts once a week during the “season”. Greta was a piano prodigy who hated the very instrument that brought her fame and a modicum of fortune. Three measured out meals a day with nutrients to keep her healthy and practice, so much practice until she wept herself to sleep at night.
She thought longingly of the small orphanage run by the nuns, the one where the Bertrands found her, and where the food was not so rich, but there was always more than enough and there was never a hungry soul, however little there might be to eat now and again.
“Greta!” her new mother called sharply, yanking the child out of her thoughts. “Piano. Now.”
The girl stood, smoothed the wool skirt she wore. She hated the piano in spite of her skill on it.
Want a plane that loops the loop
Gee, I want a hoola hoop! (Alvin!)
Ed Straker’s brow furrowed as he watched the extravagant figure cross the distance between them. The area was beginning to show signs of Christmas spirit and decorations, but the man sort of mincing toward him was a true eccentric from his worn leather tricorn had set on his head at a rakish angle atop the dreadlocks framing his face, the early seventeenth century garb down to the well-worn leather boots. Ed recognized the actor from one of the pirate movies that had turned out to be far more successful than anyone predicted. The studio was hosting the newest movie for background in England.
The flamboyant figure came to a halt about three feet away, the smell of run wafting forward as he looked at Ed. “You’re this Straker, fella I’ve heard so much about. I’ve been looking for you.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. …”
“Captain,” he was quickly corrected. “Captain Jack Sparrow,” the oddly velvety gravelly voice corrected him.
Ed nodded. He had heard the actor tended to get deeply into whatever character he was focused on at the moment. “Captain,” he acknowledged. If the actor wanted to stay in character Ed had time to play along. It was actually somewhat amusing and relaxing in an odd way. “What can I do for you?”
“I’ve a bone to pick with the writers of the tales ye be telling about me. I am not a rum soaked sot.” He held an elegant, if dirty hand up to forestall Straker’s response. “I’m not saying I don’t drink. I enjoy rum. It’s probably saved me life a time or two,” he added with a reminiscent grin before sobering and staring directly into Ed’s eyes with a liquid dark but remarkably alert look of his own. “But ye can’t captain a ship as a sot, savvy? Not properly.”
“I see what you’re saying,” Ed told him, recognizing the justice of the remark while marveling at the actor’s concern and apparent dedication to his role.
“Good. Good. Ye’ll be talking to the director about this then.” Sparrow concluded with a nod. “I think we’ve arrived at a good place,” he continued, his eye roving over a trio of lightly clad ladies dressed as some sort of fantasy characters. An engaging smile curved his lips as he turned slightly with the apparent intent of following the charming triad. One hand stroked his braided beard as he took a step away, then he turned back. “Ah, I was forgetting. Merry Christmas. I’m looking forward to the snow this year.” A touch to his hat brim and he sashayed off on the trail of the quickly disappearing ladies.
“And to you,” Ed caught himself responding to the good wishes. Shaking his head, he turned in the opposite direction and stopped short. About ten feet away, the actor he’d just spoken to was in deep conversation with his director and a Production Assistant, his long dreadlocked wig tucked under one arm as he used his hands to describe something round. The PA held the dark red coat, his full attention on the actor. He fought the urge to look over his shoulder and seek out the other figure, continuing on his own path which took him close to the trio in conversation.
“If it’s a bomb, it’s got to be round,” the actor was saying. “I don’t know why they settled on round, but it’s historically accurate.”
All three looked at Straker as he moved to pass them, the actor and director nodding in acknowledgement. He stopped and returned the nods. “How’s the shoot progressing?” It was always good to check in on these things, even if there were more pressing matters to occupy his attention at other times.
“Excellent. The facilities are all we could ask for,” the director answered him, the actor nodding his own confirmation.
“Good. Glad to hear it.” Ed started to move on, then stopped and looked at the three of them. “I’ve heard a couple of comments that your lead character seems a bit more boozy this time than previously. Is that a part of his development?”
Was that a startled look?
“Well, he is getting on and the lure of immortality is eluding him,” the actor chimed in. “Given his character and background, relying on the rum seems like a way to go.”
“On the other hand, it is a movie aimed at a family audience and Jack … “
“Captain Jack,” the actor inserted with a cheeky grin. “Sorry, it’s a theme in the character,” he half apologized, continuing to smile warmly. “He’s always been a bit boozy, but not … what’s the word?”
“Sot?” Ed supplied.
“Exactly!” the actor agreed. “If it’s getting comments you’ve overheard I may have to rethink some of what I’m doing,” he continued thoughtfully. He looked up and met Straker’s gaze in an identical direct manner. “Thank you.”
Ed nodded and took his leave. What had possessed him to … “In case I don’t see you before, Merry Christmas, gentlemen.”
They returned the sentiment and moved off themselves.
Alec caught up to him just outside the door to his office. “You look … hmm, not quite sure how to put it.”
“More concerned. Something up?”
“Good question. Maybe it’s just the spirit of the season,” Ed punned without Alec having a clue that he’d just heard one.
We’ve been good but we can’t last
Please Christmas hurry fast
Keith Ford blinked at his console. An explosion of tinsel garland and glittering pine cones obscured his computer screen and keyboard. ‘Merry Christmas!’ he read the small glitter-sprinkled card attached to the garland.
Who in the world?
“Lt. Ford.” Ed Straker’s voice wasn’t loud, but Ford started all the same.
He looked at his commanding officer with a sinking feeling. “Yes, sir?”
Ed looked over the display and refrained from smiling. He knew Ford had not done the decorating. “Clear the screen and keyboard. You can leave the rest of it, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your duties. Carry on.”
Keith sat down with a quick nod and set about clearing some of the decorations away. A glance at Lt. Johnson’s usual station showed it bare of festive items and a mischievous gleam entered his usually soft brown eyes. He grinned to himself as he alleviated the bare space with some of his overflow. His friend’s smile and laugh when she saw what he’d done was his reward.
Want a plane that loops the loop
I still want a hoola hoop! (Alvin!)
The thunder of gunfire sent Greta tumbling from her bed to the floor where she hurriedly scrambled under the heavy frame, her breath coming in terrified gasps. No. No! No! Not again!
She huddled there listening. Silence. Perhaps it was a dream, a nightmare from her past. She certainly had them from time to time. That was it. The destruction could not follow her here. This was England. There was no war. No cleansing. No terrorist attacks in the middle of the night.
Cautiously she crept out of her hiding place, tiptoed to the door and looked out into the threadbare hall. There. She heard a sound. It was an odd sound, a small crunching wet sound. She followed the silence to the living room of the old house. The piano was there, her hated nemesis. She knew she was bad for asking that something happen to keep her from ever having to play the piano again, but she had asked Father Christmas to take the piano to a deserving child and bring her a bicycle instead so she could go to school instead of playing the piano all day.
Greta held her breath as she peeped around the edge of the doorway. Her new mother and father lay on the floor, sightless eyes staring at nothing. The piano stood muted, the seat shattered by the man’s fall. Out the window behind the musical device she saw the gleam of red and silver.
“Santa!” she whispered the new name for Father Christmas, the one the few children she’d been let associate with spoke of in awe. No. He had to take the piano. Please! She rushed to the door and out into the cold night, snow falling lightly and piled on the ground. Bright lights shone on a silver cone of sorts and two figures in red and silver. Elves? Santa’s helpers? Not Santa?
Oh, no! No, no, no, no, no. She sank into the snow with a moan. Please Santa. The roar of munitions filled the night aro0und her, the two figures falling to lie as silent as her parents inside. The silver cone exploded, raining hot debris over the area.
Men rushed around gathering the debris until one nearly tripped over her. She flinched away from his feet.
“Ed! We’ve got a survivor!” the male voice over her was urgent as large gentle hands touched her, warmth penetrating through her thin pajamas. As he pulled her into his arms, she saw a clean shaven face framed by white hair. A white fur collar topped his equally white coat.
Wasn’t he supposed to have a beard? And a red coat? “You came,” she sighed and fainted in Alec’s arms. She didn’t see the look the two men exchanged over her.
Christmas, Christmas time is here
Time for Toys and Time for Cheer
Ed and Alec observed their survivor through the one way glass in medical. Greta Schleiss reacted to the presents of clothes and toys, including the much wanted bicycle, like any bemused eleven year old. Under Doug Jackson’s gentle manipulations she forgot the aliens and most of her equally traumatic adoption.
The orphanage she’d been in for two years was gone, the two sisters and remaining children evacuated from the small town after an alien attack decimated the local area. It had been a very small town, now designated as a victim of ethnic cleansing.
“I can’t believe she survived twice,” Alec muttered. “Poor kid.”
“Henderson’s found a place for her.”
Alec snorted in response to that. “Useful of him.”
Ed looked thoughtful. “He’s not unsympathetic, Alec. But we’re not the only project on his plate, even if it was his pet one originally. I try to remember that even when he’s being his worst.”
Alec nodded. Straker had known the irascible old man far longer than he had. “Still, it was an unlooked for kindness.”
“Here’s hoping the rest of her Christmases are joyous and unattended by further incursions.”
“Amen to that!” Alec agreed wholeheartedly as he watched the middle aged couple enter the room and be introduced to the child. A good loving home and a Merry Christmas, just what the doctor ordered.
Once more with feeling! …. ALVIN!!!!!