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Synopsis

Santa Claus is kidnapped and the Super Special Sensationally Stupendous Secret Agents, Tiny Underweir, Zack Ass and Mortimer J. Monster must find him before Christmas is cancelled. Along the way, not only do they uncover unusual clues and confront colorful suspects and witnesses, but they also discover surprising aspects of the life and times of Santa and the Elves.


Chapter 1

NEVER DREAM WITHOUT UNDERWEIR

Tommy Underweir is not a big boy. He has a tiny head, a tiny tummy, tiny arms, tiny fingers, tiny legs and tiny toes. While Tommy might be tiny compared to you, compared to me, compared to the few and compared to the many, his imagination is anything but tiny.

At night fall, when the bedroom curtains are drawn and Tommy’s parents have withdrawn to their chambers, Tommy checks the corridor to make sure no lurking perpetrator remains, and, if none still linger, secures the door and assembles his constituency of toys, puppets and dolls for the levy that lies ahead. He does this now with zeal and diligence, exactly the way he did it the night before and the night before that, and exactly the way he will do it again at day’s end on the morrow, and on the morrow after that.

Once carefully arranged around the bedstead, Tommy stands at the head of the bed facing the assembly, his arms raised in victory, and tells them of the day’s events and of the night to come. “I have seen wondrous things today,” he exclaims, “with my eyes, with my heart and with my mind, that foreshadow certain ends, to which, if recurred in dream, they must lead.

“Although compelling indeed, these ends remain vague and elusive; and no waking force may command them into form; only the onset of the realm of dreams—my dreams—can be the conduit towards their resolution. I shall therefore sleep as I have never slept before. It will be a good sleep no doubt but a sleep best enjoyed in the company of allies whose bravery, surely, shall stem from the hearts of those who stand before me. And if projection be indeed my footing, then who of you shall prove me right and accompany me to the far shores of dreamful slumber?”

“I shall not,” whispers the wind.

“You are not of my kin, begone,” answers Tommy who shuts his eyes tight and waits in suspense for the tingling of an “I”; and waits and waits, and waits, but not a sound, however faint and wispy, goes by.

“Perhaps the invincible legions of Rome will consent,” he ventures a guess after reopening his eyes and spotting a box full of neatly stacked miniature toy soldiers brightly painted in red, blue and gold, stationed at the foot of the bed. Not one soldier says a word.

“You are many while I am but one,” he points out; “surely in great numbers we would succeed; do you not agree?” Still not one soldier says a word. “You know I lie in wait yet you say nothing. At least honour me with an answer.” But no answer comes and no answer will no matter how much he implores. The Roman soldiers have simply had their fill of adventure.

“There must be some,” insistently thinks Tommy as he scours his troops for volunteers, now expecting nothing from many but much from at least one or two. But the result is the same: he’s greeted by dead silence. “Are there no suitors to my cause?” he pleads earnestly. “Am I not a good ruler who restores you to full functionality when you are in a state of disrepair? Is that not worth some degree of allegiance?”

The reactions to his plea for companionship, although delayed, soon begin to tumble in telltale fashion: the Potato Head throws away his eyes and alleges total blindness; the Tyrannosaurus Rex smiles falsely and plods away in fear of extinction; the Funny-face mobile Phone spins its wheels and claims an important incoming call; and the Samurai Robot from planet Wot cries ‘Danger! Danger!’ and shuts itself off; even Tommy’s posse of plastic cowboys and plastic horses balks at the invitation and rides off into the sunset.

As for the rest, they carry on mindlessly as though no appeal was ever filed and no one ever filed it. “Regrettable indeed,” thinks Tommy as he observes the desertion en masse, instantiating the toy-folk’s unremitting fear of the unknowns dwelling beyond the bedroom walls. Most other little boys’ or little girls’ toys would react the same, many would pretend, but these are not just any toys, these are the toys of Lord Tommy, the fairest king in all of Toyland, who deserves unwavering devotion from his subjects.

Alas for King Tommy, his thankless subjects seem to think him deserving of very little. They consider his immaculate tenure as very unsatisfactory if not grossly inadequate, and will only adhere to a modular form of loyalty—omnipresent during the daytime when all except play is held at bay, and absent at night when phantom foes are poised to bite.

However, two brave little toys—a donkey and a monster—who do not think like the rest, swayed by their King’s inspiring plea and truly grateful for his beneficence, finally jostle through their fears and emerge sufficiently fearless to stand their ground in patriotic preparedness.

“I am Zack Ass, asinine Knight of Equus,” declares the donkey, “and this is Mortimer J. Monster, Templar of the ghastly grim. We are at your service. Command us and we shall obey.”

Proud and touched by their display of devotion amid a sea of defection, Tommy salutes these two loyal soldiers of plush and marshals them in preparation for the exciting adventure that lies ahead.

He places Zack under his right arm and places Mortimer under his left, settles in, and shuts his eyes. Now only the eyes of his mind can see and they see only darkness. But soon a door appears in his mind—it’s the door to his boundless imagination—and he approaches it and inserts a key in the keyhole and unlocks the door. He pulls out the key from the keyhole, intent on putting it back in his pocket, but it slips between his tiny fingers and drops to the ground, whose surface, made of concrete recollections and easily excitable neurons, welcomes it with a most resounding sound.

Whether a dingkaboing, a patingpatang, a pidingdaling or a kingcaclang, the sound, more concerned with amplitude than correctitude, traverses Tommy’s fanciful psyche at thought speed, unhinging its occupants in its passage.

Its dirty work proves beyond simple irritation as retaliatory denizens of the subconscious, angered into shape, approach the door like clockwork. The doorknob suddenly begins to rattle and turn, and turn, and turn some more, until it can turn no more. What manner of creature commands the knob, none can fathom, but all know the knob, sooner than not, shall be relinquished in favour of its neighbour, the doorframe.

Indeed, seconds later, powerful hands bear down on the heavy frame and push and push and push with all their might. The door, unsecured, unprepared and unable to fend off its oppressor, forfeits its close position and screeches open to reveal the ethereal thing who hath pushed it so mightily, its brethren in tow all ready for flight. They fill the air in haste, soaring about hither and thither, slowly spiralling towards Tommy’s location, with intent and designs on him and his companions.

The phantom creature that bettered the door, born of and famished for little boys’ phantasmagorical conjurations, strikes first. Bearing boots on its feet, booty on its back and resoluteness in excess, it breaks spiral course and makes a beeline for the left side of Tommy’s bedstead, firmly entrenching itself before trading intent for incursion and enshrouding the oblivious trio in an out worldly mist.

As its lascivious tentacles entwine their earthly bodies, the spectre raises a cry for help, “Christmas is in grave danger,” it laments; “its spirit has failed to reach the heart of one—one who, if left unchecked, will dismiss it from the hearts of all. Only you, tiny Tommy, can prevail over such devilry; only you can negate its might; only you can reverse its course. But fret not, little man; while you may be tiny indeed, by any and all accounts, your affirmative attitude and your unfaltering fortitude are anything but tiny.”

Tommy looks at the phantom creature and finds it looks quite familiar and quite reassuring despite its alarming but very intriguing words.

“Your words sound like a mystery in need of solving—a mystery I shall solve in no time,” announces Tommy; but before he can even attend to the task of unravelling the implications of the ghostly proclamation, he and his companions are swept away to an eerie realm of intrigue, trials and treachery—the realm of Tommy’s dreams where the tale of a jolly legend in distress will hit the headlines in force and make the biggest of mess.

CHAPTER FIVE: KIDS AND CONUNDRUMS

12:55 P.M. Greenwich Mean Time, November 24th, 2008, District of Demre, Turkey, Eurasia

A cool breeze blows very pleasantly in between the glazed walls of hundreds of glass houses scoring Demre’s plantations . In each one grows year round a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables that complement the seasonal harvest of pomegranates and citrus fruit.

The farmers of Demre who labor strenuously on those plantations welcome all the crops equally, but some farmers remain partial to the harvest of pomegranates; they claim their ancestors grew them in great quantities because Saint Nicholas, the bishop of their town, who sometimes subsidized a portion of their farming operations. enjoyed pomegranates immensly.

One such farmer, working in a glass house a stone’s throw from the coast, and bored by the tediousness of his work, recollects some of the stories about Saint Nicholas’ boundless generosity.

“Those stories are good stories,” he ponders while he now and then throws a glance at the partly sunken ruins ornamenting the northern side of the nearby island of Kekova. ‘And they’re old stories too. Perhaps the ruins of Kekova are as old as them,” he conjectures as he glances anew at the ruins.

Perhaps they were older; and perhaps they were as old as the colossal edifice standing at the island’s highest elevation, near its center, and known to all of Turkey as the Embassy of Terra Polaris.

Originally built as a theater by a famous Greek town planner named Hippodamus of Miletus, during the fifth century BC, the edifice once bustled with thousands of patrons; but, following its appropriation by the Romans centuries later, it was abandoned and left to decay until it was salvaged in 1558 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, a good and generous ruler, who donated it to his very kind friend Santa Claus.

With the donation of the derelict building came a promise to restore it to its original splendor; and to complete the work, the Sultan called upon the audacious Italian architect Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, a man whose brilliance was inspired by many a Christmas morning when he would find toy building blocks under the tree.

To this day, the theater turned embassy stands eternally magnificent and timeless before its stupefied beholders, and continues to warrant a lingering gaze if not a long visit.

The bored farmer in the glass house, currently fondling a tomato to verify its ripeness, knows something of its allure as he moves his next glance from the ruins to the Embassy, just in time to notice a flying object darting towards the building and disappearing from sight into the thick brushwood surrounding its grounds.

“A strange manner of bird, you are,” he mumbles to himself for the five-hundred-and-fiftieth time; “and if history be my guide,” he adds, “My eyes shall glance you anew upon your next visitation.”

And indeed the object would visit his sight again in the future as it did so many times in the past, but in the present, it has urgent matters to attend to such as landing by the gated door of the Embassy and releasing its passengers who are fully armed with intent to storm in and procure a rabbit. The first passenger to disembark is a tiny little boy totally dressed in blue and sporting a rather skeptical look.

“A fascinating piece of history,” he says to the pilot in reference to the latter’s tale of a fourth-century bishop turned Christmas legend, “nicely peppered, I might add, with elements of fiction, such as your incredible age, let alone Santa’s, and the fourth century magical craft that not only allowed you to travel from the North Pole to Myra, pick up Santa, and then travel back to the Pole, but also protected you from the harsh Arctic conditions during the course of its travel. It’s doubtful you or any civilization of the time possessed the means to perform such a feat.”

“I assure you, my dear Tiny, all of it is true,” asserts Maurice as the doubting boy helps him off the sleigh.

“By your own account,” pursues Tiny, “the powerful Roman legionnaires—the greatest prevailing force of the time—not only failed to seize the skies, but also failed to live up to their Ruler of the Sea reputation by sinking their own cutting-edge warships into the frozen waters of the Arctic.

“In light of such resounding failure, it begs the question of how a bunch of Elves could surpass the Romans in competency and in resolve. Quite frankly, if the Romans didn’t make it to the Pole, you should not have made it as well.”

“Firstly, I’m not a Roman as you are well cognizant; secondly, I’m not even a…” rebuts Maurice before being cut off by the Captain of the Clausian Guard standing sentinel at the gate entrance of the Terra Polaris Embassy. “Who goes there, friend or foe? State you name and your intentions.”

“It’s me, Gaston,” swears Maurice. “You know it’s me; why do you ask every time I come?”

“Why do you come every time I ask?” replies Gaston with an impish chuckle. “But I quip as I always do when I find myself in your cheerful hue. What brings you here, mister director of toy affairs?”

“My friends and I are here on Santa’s behalf,” replies Maurice, “to seek an urgent audience with Boniface. He’s here, isn’t he?”

“Boniface is here as you presumed,” confirms Gaston, “but Santa is not; that is strange indeed. Has something happened to him?”

“I cannot say as of yet,” cryptically answers Maurice, unwilling to divulge any details, in fear of setting off a wave of panic across the populace of the Embassy; “and there’s much to learn before I can determine what exactly is to be said; and Boniface may well assist in that determination.”

“The House session is about to convene,” announces Gaston; “you’ll have to wait until it adjourns to talk to Boniface; but if you wish, you and the boy can attend the conference in the visitor wing located at the top of the staircase next to the amphitheatre entrance. As for the monster and the ass, the lobby is the place for them—only little people are allowed in the House when it’s in session.”

While Zack complies without a fuss and Mortimer dissents with intent to cuss, Tiny and Maurice go up the stairs in time contiguous to the chamber of the ages, where myriad gatherings have transpired throughout the passage of time. Somberness pervades the amphitheatre as hundreds of beeswax candlesticks adorn its stained walls of stone, burning ever so slowly and sweetening the air with a soothing aroma reminiscent of freshly collected maple sap boiling in a sugar shack.

A massive antiquated marble table, cracked along its edge by the onslaughts of time, and heavily worn by forearms weighted down by the fate of children, hulks in the center of the amphitheatre, surrounded by five ascending seating levels in the process of being filled with children of the Earth.

One-hundred-and-ninety-three seats are finally taken—one for each Junior Representative of the one-hundred-and-ninety-four countries of the world, minus one: the State of the Vatican City, whose representation is none since the clergy and the Swiss Guard—adults through and through—are its sole citizens.

“This chamber with its stodginess and its relics is rather intimidating,” concedes Tiny, “but quite inspiring in return. I suspect many a covenant has been stricken within its walls.”

“Many indeed!” proudly responds Maurice. “The House upholds the timeless values of childhood wonder and fun. Its prime directive is the pursuit of happiness for all children of the world. To that end, the House Representatives and the members of the Legislative Game Committee assemble here once a month to make and pass motions on new activities and new games designed to titillate the souls and tickle the hearts of children.”

“So when the Representatives agree on a new game, all the children of the world will be allowed to play that game?” asks Tiny.

“Not just yet,” answers Maurice. “When a majority of Representatives endorse a motion, the distinguished and oh so brilliant Elf Conan Drum, known to all Elves as the Wizard of Think, must intervene to determine whether or not the motion serves the common good. If he decides it does, it becomes Game Law; if he decides otherwise, it becomes null and void and is never spoken of again.

“Since the proceedings sometimes elicit simmering passions among the Representatives, especially when they entail the quashing of a popular motion, an officer is assigned the task of Speaker to maintain as best he can a semblance of procedural order. Speaking of the Speaker, look at the podium over yonder; there he stands in readiness.”

“The five-thousand and three-hundredth session of the Fun First Forever Fun House of Junior Representatives is now open,” declares a fat regally attired Elf as he strikes an ivory gavel against a sound block affixed to a short lectern next to a carved oak castle armchair. Evidently worn out by multitudinous sittings, the chair, resting on an equally old podium made of birch, almost seems to cringe as the Speaker maneuvers his overflowing royal derriere for a landing.

“Please acknowledge the honorable members of the Legislative Game Committee,” he shouts, pointing towards a hardwood double door opposite the main entrance. Two Clausian guards, standing by the sides, motionless and as rigid as steel rods, suddenly come alive and unlock the doors, unleashing an eclectic procession of characters.

Boniface Bunny of Easter emerges first, pushing a wicker carriage loaded with brightly colored chocolate eggs, destined for the children’s mouths at session close. He’s immediately followed by Tooth Fairy, wings a’flapping and wand in hand; then Cupid, buns a’shaking and bow drawn tight; Jack Frost, winds a’blowing from ice cold breath; Gingerbread Man, feet a’striding with pompous gait; Sandman; bag a’brimming with sweet slumber; and finally Jack O’Lantern, head a’flaming and fiery eyes.

The only member missing is Santa Claus who, to the children’s delight, never makes an appearance without bearing trinkets, gizmos, doodads and thingamajigs. Always pleasant in his demeanor and endearing in his ways, he has been the high point of all past sessions. Unfortunately, this session will have to make due without his antics and his Ho Ho Ho’s.

While the one-man-short fairy-tale aristocracy struts over to a full complement of monolithic gothic chairs besieging the marble table, the Speaker orders the audience to rise and join in for the singing of the Terra Polaris anthem, which was originally composed by Santa and inspired by the enthralling Jingle Bells score:

“Jumping to and fro
And a game or two we play
O’er the bed we go
Laughing all the way
Pillow fights we bring
Swinging arms away
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A Fun First song today

Oh, funny times, funny times
Fun is here to stay
Oh, what fun it is to laugh
In a childhood full of play
Oh, funny times, funny times
Fun is here to stay
Oh, what fun it is to laugh
In a childhood full of play

A day or two ago
I grew up really fast
And wondered yes or no
If all the fun would last
Although my trunk was long
My heart was filled with sun
I hopped and skipped and sang a song
Forever I had fun

Oh, funny times, funny times
Fun is here to stay
Oh, what fun it is to laugh
In a childhood full of play
Oh, funny times, funny times
Fun is here to stay
Oh, what fun it is to laugh
In a childhood full of play”

“Well done, children, well done indeed” whoops the Speaker; “you may now sit and, by all means, act your age. As for you, mister Chairman, unless there is some old business still lingering between your furry ears or tinkering within your hare brain, you may present the first motion of the session.”

“Thank you, mister Speaker for your witty introduction,” replies the Easter Bunny. “The first motion shall be addressed by Gingivita, the Tooth Fairy.”

“Merci, Boniface,” acknowledges Gingivita. “Recently, the marketing department of my Tooth Retirement Home business, Sink Your Teeth Into Retirement, informed me of a general decline in the placement of fallen teeth under the pillow because of faltering brand appeal among the 9-to-12 year-old market segment.

“It would seem that the lack of luster of the Tooth Fairy phenomenon stems primarily from our premiums, which haven’t kept up with inflation for the last 20 years. As a case in point, consider if you will the price of candy, ice cream and other assorted goodies that have increased threefold over the last two decades while the price of a fallen tooth has stagnated at a paltry one-dollar. The comparison is indeed compelling if not alarming.

“Given these sobering facts, I am goaded by my conscience to make a motion to set the price of a retired tooth at a compensatory five-dollars in order to revitalize our image and rekindle interest in the Tooth Fairy tradition. I believe the distinguished House Representatives present here today can fairly represent the will of the child population and can be burdened accordingly with such a motion.”

“Goednieuws!” yells the Speaker. “A motion has been submitted to the House. Please vote now by putting on either your Yea hat or your Nay hat to convey your decision. You may twirl the windmill atop your cap at your convenience.”

As the Representatives assent, the Speaker begins to count the responses in a counterclockwise heading, graduating from the lowest seating level onto the higher ones.

At the end of the tally, he records 172 in favor of the motion and 21 against. “The motion has passed the House,” he cries with impersonal stolidity; “it has transmuted into Game Proffer. I now relegate the Proffer to the great Wizard of Think so that he may mull, ponder, colligate, ruminate, cerebrate, cogitate and think.”

“Indeed I think,” wails the Wizard as he leaves his box, “and I think and I think and I think until I mean to say what I mean, and I say what I mean to think. Do you say what you mean, and do you mean what you say? Do you think? Do you think about what you need and not what you want? Do you know the difference? I do. That’s why I’m the Wizard of Think who thinks and thinks and thinks, and when he’s done, all that’s left is the Wizard of Thunk.

“But I’ve just begun; by the solemn and lucid decorum of the countenance I wear, I conceal my thoughts leaving the safety of their cranium abode to burn in my bosom’s core, just enough to divine an answer born as much of heart as of mind. My answers may be divine but I am no divinity; I am but a Wizard supernatural only in think. So I do what I do, children, not to hobble your fun but to insure that fun is not all you reckon and relish and reek.

“Look towards the activity of study as well, and look towards cognition, and reason, and deduction, and induction, and knowledge, and sapience; these are all things of grave import. Heed my words; fun without these powers soon becomes fun at one’s expense. So expend some time in them, between your times of fun, and come of age one day, master of your happiness and of those who would extort it from you.

“These things I have just said, I will test you on them, test you now, and see if at least one of you is as good a pupil of think as he is a pupil of fun. Pop goes the quiz says the Wiz so sharpen your pencils and ready your mind ‘cause the one I choose the answer he better find; otherwise the Proffer you passed I shall unbind, nevermore ahead always behind.”

While his implacable words of consequence resonate throughout the amphitheatre, the Wizard of Think scans the children’s young faces, many of them smacking of apprehension over the looming calamity, if not of dread over being chosen as the stooge of the Wizard’s legendary conundrums.

“You there,” thunders the Wizard as he points to a contender; “yes, you there, young lady from Rwanda. Your impeccable posture and your deadpan expression are tributes to your mental indomitability. I shall challenge you then with a riddle that you can fiddle and you can twiddle but only logic can solve right through the middle.

“Prepare yourself; there are no second chances—not for you and not for the brave knight in my riddle.

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scott morris

Lachine, canada

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