Anthem hung up the phone, clearly irritated. It was a gorgeous day outside. It had been nearly sixty degrees outside this morning, and with the sun shining exuberantly down on Titan City, the high was expected to get up into the upper seventies. It would be an excellent day to visit Rhinehart Park – maybe even in shorts – and relax. It would be a great day to hit the museums. It would be an excellent day to get out on the Skywalk and maybe visit one of the tiny open air bistros there.
The only problem is that it was two days before Christmas, and today was scheduled to be the Fourteenth Annual Titan City Superhero Snowball Fight. Naturally, that couldn't happen without snow, and on a day like this snow was going to be hard to find.
In the past this had never been a problem, Titan City being far enough to the north that it usually had a white Christmas. Barring that, there were usually a handful of people with powers who could make it snow – if it were cold enough, and it certainly wasn't today. There were two of those who could make piles of temporary snow even on a day like this, but she'd just finished contacting them and both were out of town visiting relatives for the holidays.
She turned to her teammate Codebreaker with a sigh. “And Zastruga is visiting extended family in Korea over the break. Don't suppose you've had better luck?”
“No,” said Codebreaker. “All the local machines for making snow in large quantities are booked. Most of them by a ski resort in upstate New York that's trying hard not to shut down despite the weather.” After a pause she added “I don't think that's going to be a smart move for them, really.”
The phone rang, and the older heroine answered it. “Hi, Anthem!” said Particle, another of the Paragons. Anthem noted that his speech sounded a little slurred. Apparently he and his friends were already into the holiday spirits. “I'm glad you called! Me an' the boys here have got somethin' great we're building, and I think you should come take a look!”
Anthem and Codebreaker stared at the marvelous machine for a moment, although they weren't as impressed as Particle would've liked. To be sure, it was an incredible sight; a vast rear compartment seemingly converted from an old railroad caboose was floating in mid-air, and hooked up before it was a team of truly bizarre robot creatures looking like nothing so much as bladeless, glowing jet engines with antlers and little prop hooves sprouting out of them. There were seven in total, with the lead unit's tip being painted red. Atop the caboose rode a robotic figure in a suit of red velvet with fur trim, whose arm was bizarrely constructed and currently being operated on by a team of mad scientists.
“You're building a robot Santa,” declared Anthem, her tone dubious and questioning.
“Well,” said Particle, “Me an' the boys figured that since Santa Claus isn't real, it's necessary to invent him.” Anthem bit back a response on that subject, reminding herself that she was sworn to secrecy before Particle continued. “Frank's, ah, special eggnog may have had something to do with the decision as well.”
“It's going well!” Said one of the other scientists, “Although we haven't quite gotten to the 83000-chimneys-per-second threshold we would need in order to guarantee proper saturation of presents over whichever hemisphere is experiencing night.”
“This is stupid,” said Anthem. “This is incredibly brilliant thinking applied to stupid.”
“Isn't mixing brilliant and stupid volatile?” wondered Codebreaker out loud from across the room, where she was toying with a device prominently labeled 'Santa Radar'. One of the other scientists was somewhat close to her, trying to work up the courage to either ask her to stop, or else to ask her out.
“So. I guess you guys don’t have time to build a snow machine or something?” asked Anthem. “We need one for the snowball fight, but if you’re so set on making… this?” She kind of trailed off there, not entirely sure how to finish the sentence.
“I really am sorry,” said Particle, “But we gotta finish this soon. And we need to have at least one test flight before Christmas, y’know?”
“...so you can save Christmas?” asked the heroine acerbically.
“Uh, somethin’ like that.”
Codebreaker turned and left before Anthem did, figuring that was what she would do next. Sure enough, the two were soon exiting the lab, Anthem grumbling under her breath, Codebreaker fiddling with her smartphone.
“I saw a snow cone stand open not far from here,” offered Codebreaker. “It’s apparently warm enough for it. We could go get some of those. Throw them at each other.”
“Or we could just eat them,” Anthem said with a sigh. “That’d be nice, I guess.” She turned her head to Codebreaker as the two started walking. She didn’t always understand her teammate, but sometimes it was easy. For instance, from the way Codebreaker was staring at her right now it was pretty clear that she expected Anthem to get something off her chest.
“Alright, fine. I was really looking forward to the snowball fight. I always look forward to the snowball fight. We put on a show, we raise money for charity… and we have a lot of fun, too. I admit it. It’s about the only frivolous thing I allow myself anymore.”
The younger heroine nodded. “I thought you were more jagged than usual lately. I think snow cones will help.” As they spotted the stand and made their way towards it, Anthem wondered if she really meant it or was just trying to comfort her. Or maybe something else. With a sigh she pushed these thoughts aside, since she would have her answer soon anyway.
The entrepreneur selling the snow cones in December looked over at the two and smiled. “Ah! Famous superheroes come to get a treat? Wonderful! What flavors would you like, ladies?”
Anthem mulled the choices and opted for grape. Codebreaker asked for hers unflavored, and the vendor shrugged. “Suit yourself, ma’am. Tell ya what I’ll give you half off. The syrup’s the good part anyway.”
Anthem began gingerly eating hers, wondering if it would really help her mood. Maybe so. Codebreaker eyed the flavored ice and muttered “So purple” under her breath before frowning and glancing at her own unflavored cone. She held it up to be level with her eyes and very carefully watched it for about a minute. “Purple,” she said again.
Anthem frowned. Codebreaker had her own private vocabulary, it sometimes seemed. While nobody but her could know what all of it meant, Anthem had made sure to memorize what she could, and this little bit - ‘purple’ - was familiar. “You think something’s up?”
Codebreaker nodded. “The ice is melting too fast. It’s been like this for days. I think I know why. Whenever the radar gets back to me--” Just then her phone started beeping. She checked it and smiled. “And there we go. I’m glad Particle builds his sensors like he does.”
Anthem looked over the other heroine’s shoulder. “...you really mean to tell me there’s a supervillain using a satellite to screw with the weather?”
Codebreaker nodded. “Purple. Just like I thought.”
Anthem frowned, thinking about how to solve the newfound problem. “I can’t make orbit under my own power.” Then the two grinned simultaneously. “But I bet I know what can.”
About eighteen minutes later, Robot Santa 1 was inserting itself into high orbit. It had only taken five minutes to make the flight itself; the other ten was to convince the mad scientist party that the trip was necessary, and to close the parts that were open. The unit wasn’t up to doing Santa’s job yet, but it could certainly do this.
Robot Santa 1 turned its ‘head’ towards the malicious satellite found in orbit - and indeed, this satellite was apparently designed to look the part of something intended to lessen the enjoyment of a holiday. It even had a big malicious grinning green face painted on the side.
“We have confirmed naughtiness,” said Particle. “And I think we’ve found where its commands are coming from, too. So we’ll be paying them a visit after we get this thing inoperable.” Flipping a switch, he solemnly intoned the words, “We are ready to deploy coal at your command, ma’am.”
“Fire,” said Anthem grimly.
There was a repeated flash of light on the display, and several highly compressed charcoal briquettes impacted against the dastardly satellite at extreme velocity, knocking it for a loop and damaging it severely. “And we have confirmed stop-function on the satellite.”
There was some applause at that, and Anthem nodded in satisfaction. “That’s one problem taken care of,” she said. “Now, let’s go find the ones who did this and explain to them why you don’t mess with Christmas.”
The weather returned to normal over the next few days. It wasn’t instant, obviously, and so the snowball fight never happened that year. The Paragons all gathered for a meal together as they usually did, and despite not having the annual tradition, they were all in good spirits.
“That was a weird one,” said Codebreaker. Anthem nodded.
“I’m glad he didn’t try resisting arrest.” Another nod.
After an awkward pause, Codebreaker asked, “Did you really have to put a snowball down the back of his shirt?”
Anthem grinned. “He earned it.”
Wishing you Happy Holidays and an awesome New Year from all of us at Missing Worlds Media! And as always, beware the Tannenbomb!
Written by - William 'Robin' Strickland