Getting put back meant I didn’t get to skip last month’s full moon, even though I’m only getting around to talking about it now. It ended up giving me plenty of spare time to design something else to help out my heroic were-deer alter ego. Changing things up a bit is all. Controlling the Platinum Hind armor felt too much like being a full-on sidekick. I guess after my most recent adventures, it might seem weird to suggest I don’t want to do that. Well, it’s my life, I can be weird and irrational if I want.
Now, the secret to me helping Reindeer out at all is that when I connect my mind to armor or what-not before my body changes, we can both be awake at the same time. That way, Reindeer can’t get my body eviscerated. It’s also easier to figure out where I am and what I did the next morning, even though I’ve got body cams on her costume. For her part, Reindeer isn’t one of those girl scouts who have a special badge for following and upholding all the rules.
When she woke up and emerged from the basement in her costume, she found me waiting in a helpful device I’d built and left for her in the living room. “Is this a Thor thing?” she asked.
It was indeed a hammer. It was not any version of Mjolnir, not even the movie one. For one thing, the handle was longer than that, as befitting a proper warhammer. Instead of a huge rectangular block, which is a choice that looks very hammer-y but doesn’t fit warhammers at all, I went with a rounded shape. If you hollowed out the big side, it would have made a good pot. The smaller side was more like a cup’s size, but both had flattened metal alloy instead of hollowed interiors. It looked solid, but there was cushioning and gadgetry inside to give it more tricks than it would seem. The base of the handle had a round orb containing the power source and CPU.
“This looks nothing like Thor’s hammer,” I said through the speakers on the handle. “If anything, he’d be jealous of the power of this hammer.”
“Can I use it to shoot lightning?” Reindeer asked.
“No, of course not. I have a built in flamethrower, fire extinguisher, and force field generator instead,” I told her. She should already know all this.
“And you can fly,” Reindeer knew the answer because I knew the answer. She walked over and lifted me up. “Lighter than I expected.”
“It’s about time I applied the antigrav technology I stole from my original dimension. They provided useful techniques for hiding so much in this, as well. But then, the guard orbs weren’t used to bash people, either.”
“I’ll take it easy on you, or try to,” Reindeer said. She looked at the hammer, then laughed. “I should get some of that bronze paint and call you Bellringer.”
“It’s a hard knock life for a hammer,” I mused. Reindeer laughed too. I added, “It’s not even Christmas time.”
“Maybe, but it’s winter somewhere,” Reindeer said. “I can feel him.”
Right on cue, the cold air drifted out of the fireplace, accompanied by sleigh bells. Reindeer walked over with me in hand and jumped up. We popped out in Johannesburg, South Africa. The afternoon was chilly. On a nearby lounger lay Black man with a long white beard and a big belly that jiggled when he laughed like a bowl filled with jelly. “Nice to see you both again,” he called, sitting up and setting aside a book called Pig Perfect.
It was the Spirit of the Season, or at least the Spirit of the Winter Season. I should have figured he’d hang out in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year.
“Howdy, Santa,” Reindeer asked. “What’s with calling me up? You know I’m not one of your sleigh deer.”
He nodded, and I wondered how much of his form was just my perception and expectations of the thing. “True, no you aren’t. You are a part of my domain, and I have a favor to ask of you.” He reached up and adjusted these small, round spectacles on his nose.
“I remember part of the reason I’m a were in the first place is you taking revenge on someone acting outside of the appropriate season,” I reminded him. “It’s not the holiday season down here.”
Ol’ Saint Nick smiled at the hammer I inhabited. “No, but it is winter down here. My actions are in line with the agreement between the seasons. What do you say to one quick night’s favor in exchange for my guarantee that you will be left alone this holiday season?”
“Sold!” I said.
Reindeer held a hand over the head of the hammer. “Allow me to have a moment alone with her while we talk this out.” She leaned in to talk to me, hand hiding her face from Santa. “Maybe we should try to get more.”
“He does gifts, not negotiations. And he can almost certainly hear this,” I pointed out.
Reindeer looked up at Santa. “And by you leaving us alone, that includes Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or anything else there right?”
“That is the deal!” the happy fat man proclaimed.
“What do we get if you break your end of it?” I asked.
“Then you will have more power than you know what to do with,” he said.
“You’re not going to turn us into a djinn, are you?” Reindeer asked. It’s a legitimate question. I don’t know if djinn are real, but the thought of having all that power and being cooped up in some tiny object like a lamp or a ring, ugh. It would have given me the shivers if my mind wasn’t inhabiting a warhammer at the time.
“Alright, who’s bells are we whackin’?” I asked.
“If that’s amenable to your better half, you mean. And it is, I’m in,” Reindeer agreed.
“You aren’t whacking anybody,” Santa Claus told us. He waved his hand, leaving behind a shower of snowflakes. Even in Johannesburg, that was out of place this time of year. The snowflakes joined together to form an icy lens hanging in the air, which isn’t how snowflakes work either. But he’s magic.
“There is a man in this city who is teetering on the edge of a decision. He doesn’t know it yet, but it is the decision that will send his life down an inescapable decline.” An image of a man with a decent comb-over and a thin mustache appeared on the ice lens.
Reindeer put her hand on her hip, tossing me up and down in the air. “And?”
“Yeah, where were you when I was growing up?” I asked.
“That would have been for your Spirit to see to. The reason this is important to me is that I received a letter from his son this past Christmas urging me to help Daddy out and keep him on a decent path. There was nothing to be done that December, and next December will be too far. The December after that… is best not discussed.”
Talk about a red flag. “Uh, why? What’s happening then?”
Santa shook his head. “It doesn’t concern you. Focus. You must aid the man, Walter Schawly, tonight.”
“Aid with what? This briefing’s taking forever?” Reindeer wondered.
“Walter owes money to a man you don’t want to owe money to. Through a series of unfortunate and humorous events, he has failed to pay off this debt every time he was given the chance and it has accumulated interest. The loan shark is pissed at Walter, whose attempts have brought unwanted attention to his business. This job is death or glory. Stealing a weapons shipment smuggled through a food company on behalf of the mercenaries. Either he succeeds and pays off far more than he owes, he’s arrested, or he dies.”
“Let me guess, he fails and gets arrested,” I jumped in.
“Bet you he dies,” Reindeer said. Neither of us was going to go with him succeeding.
“Actually, he’s meant to succeed,” Santa ruined everything once again. “He goes on to become a vicious crime lord, toppling all organized crime in Southern Africa in a bloody war that sees his wife and son die before he hooks up with a big-tittied gold digger who kills him when he’s fifty years old and has a heart attack having sex.”
“Oh no,” I said in a monotone, “Being rich, powerful, and having so much sex you die from it. Sounds like a horrible fate.”
“Death, destruction, and his child dies the December after that. In the end, a man who has love to give will be turned into a jaded, homicidal crime lord with nothing to show for his life but a bodycount.”
“Is this supposed to be personal? It feels personal,” I said.
“That’s part of the reason we should be more willing to help, but we’ll take the deal. You leave us alone later, Santa,” Reindeer declared.
No matter what he was destined to become, Walter wasn’t a hardened criminal yet. According to Santa, he had a part-time job working breakfast at a hotel. Business wasn’t going well for him during the pandemic. It did mean he knew a guy who had some access to the depot where they stored the food boxes, which happened to be the same one the mercenaries were shipping their shit through. The box says bananas, the inside is bazookas. Another crate is labeled for coffee; instead it holds maser rifles. That sort of thing.
Reinder and I flew across Johannesburg to a neighborhood where people keep warehouses for food and so on. Not next to the really important stuff, but close enough where the little people can fetch it easily. Place looked a little full to me. Hospitality and service industry not exactly rebounding yet.
They’d have had to hire a deaf man to miss Walter’s approach. He came around a stack of boxes toward the section with the smuggled guns. He had a crumpled piece of paper in hand and looked up to see Reindeer there. “Who are you?!”
Alert the whole place, why don’t you? He risked waking up the guards we’d knocked out. “I’m your fairy godmother,” Reindeer answered.
Walter tried to back away but bumped into the hammer hanging in the air. He turned around and almost gave himself a concussion he almost hit me. “Bippity boppity boo!”
Walter tried to run to the side, but Reindeer used the sonic boosters near her hooves to knock his legs out from under him. He was a little banged up, but unharmed. Reindeer hopped off the box she sat on and walked over to Walter. She held out her hand and I flew the hammer over to her palm. “You’re in trouble, Walter. We’ve been sent to set you straight. Keep you from getting into anymore trouble. It’s tough. I don’t know how…” she shook her head. I know what she meant. How the hell was he supposed to have pulled this off?
“They’re going to kill me if I don’t do this,” Walter groaned, pushing himself up and taking a seat on the floor. He was watering up already. Clearly, this guy was an amateur when it came to people trying to kill him. Most people are. The ones who survive end up professionals.
“No, we won’t let them kill you. We won’t let you be arrested, either, but we can’t let you steal those weapons,” I said.
“Why is your hammer talking?” he asked, sniffling.
“You know how a picture is worth a thousand words?” Reindeer asked. “She figured that if a photo can do it, a hammer can too.”
“I’m pretty good at making things stay in one place,” I mentioned. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
We got Walter up and toward the door, where he poked his head out, then pressed himself against the wall next to the door. Reindeer nearly poked her head out, then thought better and held the head of the hammer out so I could spy for her. “That’s a lot of cops and a lot of guns.”
“I’m beginning to understand how this was supposed to turn out,” Reindeer said. My guess: Walter was supposed to get caught, somehow get his hands on some of the firepower he was sneaking out and fire it in a blind panic that thrashed the police.
“I wish you could call down lightning,” Reindeer said to me.
“This might be a good time to avoid fighting, for their sake. And for his.”
Reindeer turned to Walter, who had gotten a faraway, determined look in his eyes. “Catch!” she called out.
Startled, he almost didn’t catch the hammer. I made it easy and hovered so he could handle the weight.
Reindeer started in on a little poem I’d heard once, “A flea and a fly in a flue were trapped so what could they do? ‘Let us fly,’ said the flea. ‘Let us flee,” said the fly. And they flew through a flaw in the flue.”
Reindeer jumped into the air, being a flying reindeer who didn’t actually need the hammer to fly.
“But I can’t fly!” Walter called up.
“Stop whining!” I ordered. “Hammertime!”
I encased him in a force bubble and raised him up into the air after Reindeer. Reindeer slowed and let me go first, since I had the bubble to protect Walter. We burst through the skylight with Reindeer maing her way out more carefully to avoid the shards of glass.
I was spiriting Walter away when Reindeer stopped and turned back to the warehouse. Her antlers lit up with a pale light that stabbed through the air toward the warehouse. An explosion set the warehouse ablaze. I’m guessing those weapons won’t be a factor anymore.
“Did you really have to barf in here?” I asked Walter.
“I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die…” he kept repeating in between dry heaves. The wet heaves already happened. Just sloshing around down there. Really tempted to use that flamethrower, but I promised Santa Claus.
Reindeer also promised Santa, but not so much when it came to someone letting off a stray shot at her. I should really find out what sort of energy beam those antlers fire that they can blow shit up, too. It shouldn’t be that easy to blow up a car. When she caught up, she just looked at me and said, “Nobody died.”
That covers a lot of things. Torture. Broken bones. The Rise of Skywalker.
We set down at one point to let me empty out the bubble and so Reindeer could get some whiskey for Walter. That way, we could ease his nerves and slip that lottery ticket into his pocket. It’ll be an outright pitiful win. Santa says they might even investigate the anomaly in the lottery, but people will get the money. It’s safe and sound tucked into a Christmas card that says “Pay what you owe and have a Merry Christmas.”
It was hard, but I used the hammer to add an additional note. “And don’t get too hammered!”
“You can’t be allowed to stay in anything with that much pun potential,” Reindeer told me before we lifted off.
“I don’t know, I think I nailed it.”