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Christmas Time On Hope V I

COT Short Story Contest Sci Fi Christmas Short Story

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#1 Online xccj

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Posted Dec 21 2011 - 04:38 AM

Christmas Time on Hope VISyrena gathered the children in the atrium facing the planet. Their space station, Hope VI, was orbiting on the sunny side, and the planet below was brightly lit up. As she sat down next to the children, she asked, “Who wants to hear the story of Santa again?”Many of the younger children chimed in excitedly. It was nearing the holiday of Christmas, and they always enjoyed hearing the story. Syrena smiled at their enthusiasm, and began her tale.“Now we know that once every Earth-year, on Christmas Eve, Santa comes to visit all good little boys and girls in the galaxy. He spends most of the year in his workshop on the planet Northern Polaris, making new toys with his little helpers. On Christmas Eve, he loads up all the toys onto his bright red rocket ship. He then visits all the space stations in the galaxy, and leaves a pile of presents in the loading bay for all the good boys and girls.”“But what if you’re not good?” one of the younger girls asked, giggling.“Santa doesn’t give bad children any gifts,” Syrena explained. “And he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so there’s no way to fool him into giving you presents you don’t deserve. So you’ve got to be good all year for him to bring you something.”Some of the children gasped at this, but others who remembered the tale from previous years giggled at the idea. Syrena continued, much to the enjoyment of the children. “You can always tell that Santa has been here because he’ll stop to eat some of the cookies we leave out for him. But he can’t stay long, because he has other presents to deliver.”Syrena’s story was interrupted by a loud, sarcastic, “Ha.” It came from a kid sitting in the back. His name was Greg, and he was one of the oldest children in the group, being roughly seven Earth-years old.“We all know there’s no such thing as Santa,” he said.This caused all the other children to gasp in horror at the very idea. Syrena gave Greg a hard look. “Now why would you say that, Greg?”“It just doesn’t make sense,” Greg continued. “Nobody could fly across the galaxy and deliver presents to every space station in just one night.”“But then who delivers the presents every year?” one little girl asked.“And who eats the cookies?” a younger boy asked.Greg was about to answer, but Syrena quickly interrupted him. “Of course it’s Santa,” she said. “Who else would it be?”“Then how can he do all this impossible stuff?” Greg questioned. “And how does he even know if we’re being good or bad? Nobody can keep track of that for everybody.”Syrena already had the answer for that. “It’s Christmas magic.”“There’s no such thing as magic,” Greg countered, but he sounded less sure of himself.“It’s a special kind of Christmas magic, and we all have it,” Syrena explained. “It’s all about the spirit of the holiday. We have to be nice to each other and show goodwill to all men and women. It’s the one time of year where we put aside our disagreements and come together as a community. We all contribute to this magic, and it’s what powers Santa.”This excited the other children, who started chatting enthusiastically about Christmas. Even Greg seemed slightly cheerier. Syrena knew that Greg wasn’t the most optimistic of kids; he was an orphan, and he was often a loner on the space station. Although he was much older than the rest of the children, Syrena thought it would be good for him to hang around with them.Deciding that story time was over, Syrena got to her feet. It was then that she noticed Bryce at the entryway, where he had been listening in on the whole discussion. She left the kids to play together and walked over to speak with Bryce.“That’s some story you told,” Bryce said.“Well, it keeps them happy,” Syrena answered.“Is it really a good idea to keep telling them this fable?” Bryce asked. “When they get older, they’ll learn that it’s all just a lie anyway. Greg is already catching on to that, it seems.”“It’s a tradition, and one I think we should keep,” Syrena said. “Not all of us want to spend the holidays moping around like you.”“I don’t mope,” Bryce countered. “Besides, if Nick doesn’t make it back soon, we won’t even be able to provide them with the pile of presents.”“I’m sure we’ll manage to keep the holiday spirit alive.”Bryce grinned slyly. “You do know that Christmas was originally about some religious thing back on Earth That Was.”“Yes, I know the history of Christmas,” Syrena shot back. “And while it has lost the original religious meanings to it, the basic premise has stayed the same. It’s about being kind to one another, even if just for one day.”“Well, back on the main planets, it’s just about commercialization,” Bryce pointed out. “I’m glad we managed to get away from that out here.”Both Syrena and Bryce were part of the community that lived upon the space station Hope VI. They were part of a settlement initiative promoted by the United Government of Earth, or the UGE, which was the largest of three space age human nations in the galaxy. Back in the beginning, humans had spread from Earth and began to settle upon other habitable worlds across the galaxy. However, as the populations grew, it became harder to find habitable planets. There were hundreds of planets within the habitable zones of many stars, but few of them had water and oxygen levels that could support human life. Thus the UGE started the process of terraforming these worlds to provide space for future settlements.Yet the process of terraforming was not simple. Various mechanical devices, placed across the planet, had to spend many years chemically developing water and a breathable atmosphere. The process could take up to a decade to complete, and humans had to be on hand to analyze the transformation and make tweaks as time went on. That was what the Hope VI was for. Many of the crew members were responsible for the terraforming process on the planet below them. But the UGE wanted to create vibrant communities that could easily settle upon the planets when they became habitable. Thus, Hope VI was also home to the worker’s families, as well as other members who could support the community.Syrena was in the latter group. She had studied many histories of the various human societies of the past, and was an expert in sociology. She had volunteered to work on Hope VI as a community organizer, and one of her tasks was to help take care of the children when their families were at work. It wasn’t the most glamorous of positions, but Syrena enjoyed it.Bryce was a technician. He specialized in working on equipment planet-side. If something was broke or needed to be manually tweaked, he would fly down and don a space suit and get to work. Bryce was quite a strong man, partially due to his work, and also due to the fact that he had formerly been in the military.Syrena decided to switch topics, and asked, “So has there been any word from Nick? He’s been gone for a long time, and it’s never taken him this long to get supplies before.”Nick was one of the expert pilots from Hope VI, and had trained alongside Bryce in the military. He was currently flying to one of the colonized planets to gather supplies that the space station couldn’t produce on its own. Since Hope VI was orbiting around a distant star, a voyage to the nearest UGE planet could take days. But even then, Nick had been gone for far too long.Bryce shrugged off the question. “He’s is probably having to deal with more bureaucratic nonsense in getting our supplies. Let’s just hope he remembers to get the toys, or else the kids here will be very upset come Christmas morning.”Their conversation was quickly interrupted by the appearance of Jess, the station’s main technician. Jess was a shorter than average woman, but what she lacked in height she made up for in energy and intelligence. She rushed up to both Syrena and Bryce and grabbed their arms. “Come quickly. Anya wants to speak with you.”“Anya?” Syrena repeated. Anya was the overseer on Hope VI, and was a well respected leader. She didn’t summon people unless there was some sort of emergency.“She thinks you two should see this,” Jess said, pulling them along. “Now come!”Syrena and Bryce followed Jess to the control room of Hope VI. There were usually a few people working the computers here at all times, but as they entered, Syrena spied technicians in every chair. As Jess settled down next to a computer, Syrena and Bryce walked up to Anya, who was an older woman.“About time you two got here,” Anya said. “We have a situation.”She pointed out the main window. In the distance, they could make out another spacecraft orbiting the planet at the same level as their space station. Syrena felt her blood chill. The spacecraft was not human, and there had been incidents where alien races had attacked human settlers.“We’ve done an analysis, and we’ve determined that they’re Erpetos,” Anya explained. “They showed up roughly an hour ago, and they’ve maintained their position since then.”Syrena and Bryce both reacted differently to the mention of Erpetos. “We’re lucky,” Syrena said. “Erpetos are peaceful.”Bryce growled and shook his head. “No way. There have been reports about Erpeto attacks all across this system. I’ve had to fight them before, and they’re tough stuff.”Syrena and Anya gave Bryce a look, and he quickly explained, “Okay, so it was during military training exercises, but they’re still hard to beat.”“But our two species are close enough that they train together,” Syrena pointed out. “That means we shouldn’t have to worry too much.”“Maybe, maybe not,” Anya said. “You are both right; there have been instances where the Erpetos have cooperated with humans and instances where they’ve provoked hostilities. The unexpected appearance of their ship does not invite warm feelings in me, so we might be dealing with Erpetos of the latter category.”“Wait, Boss, I’m getting something,” Jess said suddenly. “It’s a message from their ship. Here, take a listen.”Jess played the recording, and a garbled series of grunts sounded over the speakers. Bryce frowned. “That sounds like the native tongue of the Erpetos, but I don’t know what it means.”“It’s actually a regional dialect common in the eastern quadrant of their territories,” Syrena explained. As she got the weird looks this time, she explained, “I studied their language when I was in school, and I can somewhat speak it. I believe they were asking to meet with a representative, to come over to their ship.”“So they’re willing to open communications,” Anya mused. “Alright, Syrena, we’ll send you over, and you can see what they want.”“Wait, me?” Syrena asked, surprised. “But I am not trained to handle cross-species negotiations.”“Well, you understand them better than we do, so that’s a start,” Anya said. “Plus, you have all sorts of sociology training, so I think you’ll do fine.”“You can’t send her in alone,” Bryce protested. “What if their intentions are unfriendly?”“Then you go with her,” Anya said. “But keep your mouth shut. You have a tendency to bring out the hostility in people.”“Just because it says that in my file doesn’t mean that it’s true,” Bryce started.Anya interrupted him. “Now get to our shuttle and fly over. The sooner we get this settled, the better.”Bryce nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” He grabbed Syrena, and the two of them left for the space station’s hanger, which was located next to the loading bay. As they reached it, Bryce selected one of two small shuttles docked in the hanger. Syrena entered in after him. The interior of the shuttle was small; it was even smaller than Syrena’s sleeping quarters, and she began to feel claustrophobic.“Let’s get a move on,” Bryce said. He rolled the shuttle out into the airlock, and a minute later they were out in empty space. Bryce fired the pulse engines, and they headed towards the Erpeto ship.Bryce fidgeted as they approached the alien craft, and then grabbed something from the shuttle’s storage unit and clipped it to his belt. Syrena gasped as she saw what it was. “You’re bringing a laser gun!”“It’s not technically a laser gun,” Bryce explained. “It fires a plasma beam instead of an actual laser ray, which delivers an effective blast while only using a fraction of the energy…”“It’s a weapon!” Syrena said. “It’s surely going to provoke hostilities!”“It’s a precaution,” Bryce said. “I’m sure if they’re peaceful, they’ll understand. Besides, it’ll be clearly visible, so there will be no surprises. Anyway, I’ve worked with Erpetos before; they understand military deterrence, same as we do.”Syrena decided not to comment further, as they had reached the Erpeto ship. Bryce maneuvered the shuttle to a docking bay, where a connection tube extended out and latched on to the shuttle’s door. Hesitantly, Bryce opened the door, and they were greeted by three Erpetos.The Erpetos were reptilian in nature. Their human name was actually diverged from the Greek word for reptile. They had segmented bodies with six legs, and they could raise the front portion of their body up and use their fore legs as arms. They had very lizard-like heads, with a third eye in their foreheads and toothless mouths.However, the most interesting feature of the Erpetos was their green skin. This was not their natural color; instead, they had a bacteria growing on them. Their species had formed a unique symbiosis with the bacteria; it was photosynthetic, and provided them with energy, whereas they provided the bacteria with basic nutrients that were absorbed through their skin. As such, the Erpetos rarely had to eat, and instead relied on the bacteria’s photosynthesis for energy. For this reason, the bulk of their spacecraft was transparent, which allowed them to absorb sunlight even in the dead of space.The three Erpetos hissed a greeting, and Syrena replied in their language. They gave her instructions, and turned to leave. “They want us to follow them to the bridge,” Syrena explained to Bryce.“Sure they do,” Bryce murmured, but he followed Syrena all the same. He found it quite unnerving to walk through a transparent hallway; it was almost like he was out in space on his own. Additionally, it made it difficult to navigate through the maze of hallways, since it was sometimes hard to make out the doors from the walls.Eventually, they were led to the bridge, which was a half domed area at the top of the ship. Many Erpetos were working away at the computer consuls, but they stopped to glare at the two humans in their midst. Syrena and Bryce were led to a single Erpeto, and he was introduced as the ship’s captain. Syrena greeted him in his language, and attempted to ask him what he wanted. It was much to her surprise when he responded in English.“Your accent is very thick,” he said in a raspy voice. “Yet I am surprised to hear it from a human.”“I have studied many alien cultures, including the Erpetos,” Syrena responded. “I am glad that my language skills could be put to use.”“Good, so you speak English,” Bryce said. “Now we can understand each other.”Syrena nudged Bryce with her elbow, in an effort to silence him, and then asked, “We would like to know why you asked for this meeting.”“I wanted you to understand first,” the Erpeto said. “My name, translated into your tongue, would be Star Gazer. I was an astronomer on one of our settlements in the Orion system. In time, I have taken upon this leadership position to help me people after the incident.”“What incident?” Syrena asked.Star Gazer looked hard at Syrena, and she could’ve sworn she saw flames blazing in his three eyes. “Our settlement was a peaceful one, used for scientific advancements,” he explained. “But then we were visited by humans. They attacked without warning, and destroyed our settlement and our way of life. I lost many friends that day, killed mercilessly in the surprise attack.”Syrena’s eyes went wide. “But that was horrible of them.”Star Gazer nodded. “We were forced to flee, and yet the humans still followed us. But we were not to be toyed with; we led them into a trap and destroyed them all.”Bryce tensed up, and even Syrena had to fight back a sudden panic. “But what has this got to do with us?” she asked.“Ever since that faithful day, we have desired revenge,” Star Gazer said. “We destroyed the initial aggressors, but honor drives us to avenge the deaths of our comrades. More human blood must be spilt.”“But we were never part of any attack!” Syrena protested.“Yeah, we’re not the ones you want,” Bryce said. “You’re after the Human Elite Federation. They’re a separate nation of humans who believe they are superior to all. Our nation is technically at war with them, and we aren’t responsible for their horrific actions!”“Nonsense!” Star Gazer said, his voice rising. “All humans are the same. They’re violent prone; always trying to conquer rather than compromise. Even you are no different, as your tone provokes hostility.”“We’re not like the humans who attacked you,” Syrena said, trying to preserve the peace. She was becoming aware of how more of the Erpetos were surrounding them. “Not all humans are the same. Just like not all Erpetos are the same. Your kind knows about war too. But your kind has also allied with us before. Why can we not reach some sort of agreement?”“That would be to dishonor the lives were lost,” Star Gazer said. “But we could not kill you in ignorance. We wanted some of you to know why you had to die, so you could make peace with it. Now this we have done.” He backed up, and started speaking rapidly in his own language. Syrena went pale as the Erpetos around her raised their own plasma guns.“Duck!” Bryce yelled. He grabbed Syrena and brought her to the ground as plasma blasts scorched the air above them. Seconds later, he leapt to his feet, with his own gun in hand, and fired back. The Erpetos quickly dispersed; they were not military trained, and their natural instinct was to duck for cover. This gave Bryce the time he needed. He pulled Syrena up and then started running for the exit.Syrena sprinted after him, even as the Erpetos behind them began to get organized. Luckily, Erpetos weren’t quite as fast as humans, and Syrena and Bryce were able to gain on them.“Why did you have to fire at them?” Syrena asked as she ran. “You’re just justifying their perception of humans by doing that.”“Hey, they fired first,” Bryce said. “Besides, there’s a difference between provoking hostilities and defending oneself. Now, how do we get out of here?”Unfortunately, the style of the very ship started to turn against them. Bryce glanced around, trying to make sense of the transparent hallways. “I can see our shuttle down there, but how do we get to it?” he wondered.“I think we came from this way,” Syrena offered.“No good,” Bryce said. He pointed through a couple of transparent walls, where he could already see a patrol of Erpetos gathering. “Come on, let’s go this way instead.”The two of them rushed through the maze of nearly invisible hallways. Bryce kept them moving as a fast pace, and make quick turns whenever they sighted opposition up ahead. Finally, they had a clear shot to their shuttle, but a small group of Erpetos was currently blocking their way.“We’re going to have to fight them,” Bryce said, ignoring Syrena’s protests. “Just leave this to me; I know what I’m doing.”They turned around a corner, and the Erpetos now had a clear shot at them. However, Bryce was already taking aim, and fired first. The Erpetos dodged around his blast and returned fire. Luckily, their aim was off, and Bryce rushed forward. He charged the first Erpeto and leapt into a jump, and kicked it in the chest. The Erpeto fell over, and the other two charged forward to apprehend Bryce. Bryce ducked beneath their outstretched armed and swung his fists, punching a second Erpeto in the snout. However, as the first two fell back, the third Erpeto managed to get behind Bryce and pushed him to the floor. Bryce tried to get back up, but the Erpeto used its six legs to keep him pinned down.Syrena uttered a loud cry, and charged forward herself. She didn’t know exactly how to fight back, so she just tackled the Erpeto with all she had. She knocked it down, but the collision stunned her. As her vision cleared, she saw the Erpeto rise up, ready to attack her now. Only before it could, Bryce leapt up and jabbed it in the back. The Erpeto unexpectedly fell over, motionless.“Did you just…” Syrena stuttered.“Stunned him, yes,” Bryce replied. “The Erpetos I trained with taught me how they could be taken down. Don’t worry; they also learned the best ways to subdue humans, so it was a fair trade.” He pulled Syrena up and quickly dragged her back to the shuttle. As Bryce leapt in and started on the controls, Syrena looked out through the window. She could see other ships moving around the main Erpeto ship. They were Erpeto sails; small ships that had massive sails which caught solar radiation and used it for power and movement. It was much like the sail boat designs Syrena had seen on ocean worlds, only these sails utilized solar radiation instead of wind. Plus, the Erpeto sails were far more agile. And to her horror, she also realized that they were armed with plasma weapons too.“Brace yourself,” Bryce said, as he accelerated the shuttle. Despite the warning, Syrena was thrown to the back of the ship. Yet even as Bryce tried to make a break for the space station, the Erpeto sails intercepted him, and fired. Bryce was forced to alter his course.“We’ve not going to be able to get past them!” Syrena exclaimed.“Maybe not, but I have an idea,” Bryce said. He spun the shuttle around and headed directly towards the Erpeto sails.“What are you doing?” Syrena asked. “We don’t have weapons on this ship, and they do!”“Yes, but I happen to know about these Erpeto sails,” Bryce said. “They’re great for maneuvering in space and coming in for surprise attacks. But they can be sent spiraling with even the slightest disturbance.”“What kind of disturbance?”“Like a blast from a pulse engine.”The Erpeto sails fired at them, but Bryce dodged the plasma blasts. As they were about to collide with the sails, he turned sharply, swinging the shuttle’s engine around. The radiation from the pulse engine caught the two Erpeto sails, causing them to spin out of control. Before they could right themselves and continue the attack, Bryce turned back towards the Hope VI.Syrena, meanwhile, activated the communications equipment. After a few moments, she got Anya on speakers. “What are you two doing over there?” she demanded. “We’re seeing plasma blasts from over here.”“The Erpetos have proven to be… hostile,” Syrena reported.“What did Bryce do over there?”“Hey, they fired first,” Bryce put in.“They’re intending to destroy us because they had a bad encounter with humans before,” Syrena quickly explained. “We need to set up our defenses.” Hope VI, like all space stations, had an advanced force field. Hostile alien attacks were not uncommon, and the UGE did not sent the space station out on its own without providing it with a way to defend itself.However, there was a complication. “We need to be within range before they activate the force field, or else we’ll be trapped out here,” Bryce explained.“Hurry back,” Anya said. “We’ll turn it on once you’re safely inside.”Suddenly, there was a bright streak through the sky, and Syrena saw a plasma blast shoot past them and strike the space station. She heard cries and curses over the speaker, and then heard Anya as she said, “Those creatures just fired on us!”“And they’re going to fire again before we’re within range,” Bryce said. “If we keep moving at this speed.”“What do you mean…” Syrena started.“Hold on to something,” Bryce said. He turned the pulse engines to full power, and their speed increased exponentially. He shut down the engine seconds later, but they had already reached a high velocity. Even as Syrena was thrown back, she knew that Bryce had doomed them. At this speed, they wouldn’t be able to slow down in time, and they would surely crash into Hope VI.However, Bryce had a trick up his sleeve. At the last minute, he spun the shuttle around one hundred and eighty degrees. Then he increased the engines to full power again. This countered their forward velocity much faster than the breaking thrusters, and soon they were within range of their space station.But the Erpetos weren’t done with them yet. Bryce watched as another plasma blast was fired right for them from the main Erpeto ship. However, it suddenly dispersed, and the energy was radiated outwards. The force field had been activated, and it could block the plasma blasts.“Oh yeah!” Bryce said. “Now that’s what I call flying!”He glanced over at Syrena, who was crumpled on the floor. She had been tossed around during the whole ordeal, and could feel bruises all across her body. However, she was still alive, so she couldn’t complain too much.Bryce quickly brought the shuttle into the airlock, and then into the hanger. He and Syrena quickly exited, and could instantly tell something was wrong. The floor was covered in debris, and alarms were ringing. The two of them ducked into the hallway, and nearly ran into Jess, who was running through the station with a toolkit in hand.“Jess, what’s happening?” Bryce asked.“We took damage when we were hit,” Jess explained. “The air processing unit was down this hallway, and I’m going to try and fix whatever I can.”“We’ll help,” Bryce said. The three of them raced down the hallway, towards the air processing unit. However, as they arrived, they found the contraption in shambles. Jess instantly started assessing the damage, and Bryce and Syrena helped where they could.Syrena’s heart fell as she saw all the damage. This was all essential equipment, and without it the space station couldn’t remain operable. But if anybody could fix it, it would be Jess.A slight hissing reached her ears, and Syrena glanced around. “Do you hear that?”Bryce looked up, worried. “That sounds like air… escaping.” A fearful look crossed his face. “We need to get out of here!”Understanding dawned on Syrena, and she raced for the hallway. Bryce had to grab Jess away from the damaged equipment, and dragged her into the hallway. But he was only part way through when there was a loud snap. A crack in the station’s hull had burst, and now the air was being sucked out.The three of them struggled to resist the pull of the suction. Jess managed to grasp a control panel on the wall, and a blast door snapped down, cutting off the leak. However, the look on her face was not a good one.Jess activated her communicator and called to Anya. “We’ve got a leak over here. We need to start sealing off sections of the station.”“There are two other leaks we’re also aware of,” Anya replied. “We’re working on sealing them all off.”“Its worst than that,” Jess said. “The air processing unit is inoperable. We’re breathing stale air now, and we’ve only got a few hours before we run out.”There was silence on the line, as the fact sunk in. “I understand,” Anya said. “We’ll gather people into smaller areas, where we can filter in the last of the breathable air. In the meantime, can you fix the processor?”“No,” Jess replied. “There were some parts in there that were already deteriorating, and we don’t have replacements for them. Nick was supposed to bring them back, but he’s not here yet.”“Very well,” Anya said. “Return to the control room. We can review our options here.”Somberly, Syrena and Bryce followed Jess back to the control room. As they passed through the empty hallways, more blast doors were lowered, in an attempt to conserve the last of the air. The control room was even fuller than last time, as other civilians had been brought inside. Jess immediately went to her seat, and shooed out the other technician who currently resided in it. Then she started typing furiously on the computer, as she worked out a system for filtering the last of the air into the few rooms that were still occupied.Meanwhile, Syrena told Anya about their little adventure with the Erpetos. Anya shook her head solemnly as she heard this. “This is very bad.”“So what options do we have?” Bryce asked. “Can we fight back?”“None of our shuttles are equipped with weapons,” Anya pointed out. “Only Nick’s ship could have fought back, but he’s not here. I don’t even know if our force field can hold against their barrage of plasma blasts for long.”“Then can we evacuate?” Syrena asked.“We only have the two shuttles,” Anya said. “Even if we could pack everybody into them, we wouldn’t be able to carry enough supplies for us to reach the closest UGE outpost.”“So we just sit here until we suffocate or get blown to pieces?” Bryce asked.“Whichever comes first,” Anya said sadly. “I need to contact the other rooms where people have gathered. They deserve to know how and why we’re going to die. We’ll try to last as long as possible, but we can’t keep this up indefinitely.”As Anya activated the intercom and started delivering the bad news, Syrena looked around. All she saw was solemn faces. She spotted Greg standing on his own off to the side. She walked over to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.“You okay?” she asked the child kindly.“I don’t know,” Greg replied. “Are we going to make it?”Syrena wanted to give a positive answer, but couldn’t find one. Greg correctly interpreted her silence, and sighed. “It’s too bad this had to happen at Christmas time.”“Yes, it is too bad,” Syrena agreed.Suddenly, Jess yelped out. “I’m getting new readings! There’s a ship heading in our direction!”“More Erpetos?” Bryce asked.“I don’t know,” Jess said. “It’s coming from behind the planet, so I didn’t notice its approach until now. It’ll be coming up behind the Erpetos ship soon, and its traveling fast.”Syrena turned her gaze out into the window, where she could see the Erpetos ship still firing at them. But then a new ship appeared behind it. It was sleek and red, and it opened fire on the Erpetos.There was a rustle throughout the room as people moved to get a better look out the window.“Who’s ship is that?” Bryce asked. “Is it from the UGE?” Others were asking similar questions.Greg pushed his way forward towards the window and sighted the ship. “Don’t you realize who that is?” he asked excitedly.“Who?” Syrena asked.“It’s Santa!” Greg shouted, his voice carrying even over those of the adults in the room. “Santa’s coming to our rescue!”The red ship flew around the Erpeto ship, firing upon it. However, the Erpetos managed to activate their own force fields, and many of the blasts did no damage. The two small Erpeto sails moved in to intercept the ship. However, the ship caught sight of them and fired, burning holes in the sensitive sails. The Erpeto sails were not destroyed, but they were rendered helpless.The main Erpeto ship turned its plasma weapons on the red ship, but this forced them to drop their force fields. The red ship took advantage of this; it expertly ducked beneath the plasma shots and fired directly at the Erpeto’s engines.“Wait a second,” Bryce whispered. “That’s not Santa. That’s Nick!”“What?” Syrena asked.“I didn’t recognize it at first, because of the color, but that’s Nick’s ship,” Bryce said. “And I recognize his maneuvers. Nick’s taking down the Erpetos for us!”Greg, however, didn’t hear Bryce’s comments. “Yay, go Santa!” he exclaimed.Nick finally struck a weak point. There was a blast as one of the Erpeto engines exploded. The Erpeto ship’s orbit suddenly shifted, as their ship was now off center.“He crippled it,” Jess exclaimed, scanning the computer readings. “I’m reading high levels of gases escaping from their engines, so he must’ve ruptured the ship’s hull.”With the Erpetos now distracted by their disabled engines, it was easy for Nick to fly in and destroy the last of their weapons. Once the whole Erpeto ship was helpless, Nick shifted course and headed towards the Hope VI.Jess quickly opened communications, and Nick’s voice rang out over the speakers. “I can’t leave you guys alone for a minute, can I?” he said.“It’s good to see you, Nick,” Anya said, greatly relieved. “Thank you.”“You got the parts I told you to pick up, right?” Jess demanded.“Of course I did,” Nick said. “When have I ever let you down, Jess?”“Good,” Jess said. “Now get back here immediately. Our air processing unit is down, and I need the replacement parts you picked up to fix it.”“Sure thing,” Nick said. “I’m on my way in now.”Everybody breathed a sigh of relief. Not only were their enemies vanquished, but they would soon be able to recycle their air again.“I guess things are going to be okay after all,” Syrena said, placing a hand on Greg’s shoulder.Greg, however, was staring at the crippled Erpeto ship. “But what about the aliens?” he asked.“They’re going to suffer the fate they tried to inflict on us,” Bryce said darkly.“But why can’t we help them?” Greg protested.“I’m not sure if that would be a wise thing to do,” Anya said.“But it’s Christmas time,” Greg said. “We’re supposed to be nice and helpful to each other this time of year. Shouldn’t that include the aliens?”Syrena shared a glance with her companions. “He does have a point,” she said.“What could we do?” Bryce asked.Syrena smiled. “I think I might have a plan.”They quickly went down to the hanger, where Nick had just pulled in. Jess immediately started pulling out supplies to fix the air processor, and Bryce clasped hands with Nick. “You’re late,” he said. “You nearly missed all the action. What took you so long?”“I was forced to work some kinks out of the contract,” Nick said. “It turns out that the parts Jess wanted aren’t exactly covered under our plan, but I managed to talk them into providing them. Good thing I did so.”“Why is your ship red?” Syrena asked.“It’s from lots of red dust from the planet’s atmosphere,” Nick explained. “It really stained the ship’s skin. It can be washed off, but I was in a hurry to get back, so I didn’t bother.”“Well, don’t wash it off yet,” Syrena said. “Once we get everything unloaded, we need you to make one more trip.”A half hour later, Nick docked his ship with the Erpetos ship. As the doors opened, they faced a group of Erpetos, all with weapons raised. However, Bryce and Nick already had their guns leveled. Only Syrena, who stood between the two of them, was unarmed.One Erpeto stepped forward. It was Star Gazer. “Why do you come back to dishonor us?” he asked in English.“To offer you a deal,” Syrena said. “Your ship is too damaged for you to survive on it. You will not last for another day until you run out of air. We know; our technicians were able to gather enough readings to tell that you’re in peril.”“So you come to gloat?”“No, to offer sanctuary,” Syrena said. “Our space station is also damaged, but we have the means to fix it. We will offer you refuge with us until you can fix your own ship. All that we ask is that we put our hostilities aside.”Star Gazer was silent for a moment as he took in her words. Then his three eyes focused up on Syrena’s face. “Why would you humans offer to help us?”“Because not all humans are the same,” Syrena said. “We want peace, and we are willing to extend a helpful hand when needed.” Ignoring the various plasma guns pointed at her, Syrena held her hand out towards Star Gazer. He hesitated for a moment, and then extended his own hand as per her custom. The truce was arranged.The following days were hectic aboard the Hope VI. The Erpeto crew was relatively small, but it was still difficult to find enough space for all of them on the station. Jess and Nick quickly managed to fix up the air processing unit, and then they began to assist the Erpetos in repairing the damage to their ship. Meanwhile, the humans and Erpetos shared stories of their experiences. Over time, Syrena and Star Gazer became good friends. Syrena learned more about the Erpetos from listening to Star Gazer’s tales than she had from any human textbook.On Christmas Day, all the children rushed into the loading bay to find their presents waiting for them. Greg had told all the others about how Santa had saved them, and now the children all believed in him. The Erpetos stood beside the human adults as the children opened their presents, slightly confused by this tradition.“It is one of our more important holidays,” Syrena explained to Star Gazer.“You simply give away possessions?” Star Gazer asked.“No, they are gifts. And they allow us to show compassion to one another.”Greg walked over to Star Gazer, and held up a small toy puzzle. “Here, this is for you. It’s one of my older toys. You see, it’s a puzzle, and you try to solve the patterns here.”Star Gazer hesitated, but then accepted the gift. “Thank you,” he said.“Merry Christmas to you too,” Greg said happily, and then he returned to join the other children as they played with their own gifts.The End
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#2 Offline Zaxvo

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Posted Jan 17 2013 - 12:15 AM

Hey, it's Zaxvo, from the SSCC! Your short story has been randomly selected for a free review!I liked the scifi adaptation of the classic Santa Claus story, however see the seeds of what could be a brilliant origin story here. It's obvious -- to me at least -- that you've set up the pilot Nick as a symbol of sort, representing, obviously, Saint Nick. However, to me, I feel the story would actually be better served if he was the inspiration of the classic myth. IT could be set up similar to Star Wars -- A long long time ago, there was a man named Nick who presents for all of the children on December 25th.I suppose my main issue with the tale as it's told -- and this is no fault of your work in any way, shape, ro form, it's more of an issue with the genre as a whole -- is the sheer overabundance of a reliance on "Christmas magic", as you put it. There's a sense that everything must turn out right in the end, merely because it's christmas. And, many times, things turn out ok when they have no right to do so when the protagonist has failed, or got outsmarted, or died, or whatever, and then poof! Magic! They have succeeded! And the hostiles, who previously wanted to kill you, are now friends, for pretty much no good reason whatsoever!Here's an example:
Finally, they had a clear shot to their shuttle, but a small group of Erpetos was currently blocking their way.Were going to have to fight them, Bryce said, ignoring Syrenas protests. Just leave this to me; I know what Im doing.They turned around a corner, and the Erpetos now had a clear shot at them. However, Bryce was already taking aim, and fired first. The Erpetos dodged around his blast and returned fire. Luckily, their aim was off, and Bryce rushed forward. He charged the first Erpeto and leapt into a jump, and kicked it in the chest. The Erpeto fell over, and the other two charged forward to apprehend Bryce. Bryce ducked beneath their outstretched armed and swung his fists, punching a second Erpeto in the snout.
They run into a small group of hostiles, at close range, and their enemies' aim was off? That's even worse than the stormtroopers :PYou started off not going this way; Nick was late, the Erpetos arrived and attacked for pretty much no reason at all, the space station was damaged, and things were going badly. Then out of the blue Nick returns, with a red spaceship, and he saves the day! Syrena, your protagonist, spends most of her time talking to people or watching others do the anything. At one part she clumsily tackles an Erpeto, but that's about it.Your dialogue, as a whole, is actually very good. There were one or two lines where it felt a bit forced, the easiest way to work that out is to read aloud your dialogue and figure out if it sounds corny or not.The world you've created, and described, is brilliant. It's my favorite part of the story. The Erpetos, with their glass spaceships and sail-style transport, just sound so intriguing. The characters are well written and very diverse.And your grammar was great.Before I go I want to apologize. Looking back over the review, I feel like I've attacked your story a bit too harshly, so please know this: I really did enjoy it, it was a good piece of writing, but I just wanted to point out the inherent issue I have with the christmas story genre. If that's what you were aiming for, well, well done. If not, well, awareness of a problem is the first step. I value a consistent and believable plot over anything else and so this issue irks me to no end.Overall, well done.

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