Genre: Sapphire and Steel
Prompt: Sapphire and Steel are off to save Christmas and Santa!
Bonnie - thanks for a fun prompt. I hope you like what I've put together for you.
It was so small at first that no one really noticed. A second here, a second there, barely adding up to a minute by the end of the week. Then a few more seconds becoming minutes, then Time got greedy, as Time is wont to be. It wasn’t long before its escapades were noticed.
I feel ridiculous. Steel could barely be seen in the down parka. The fake fur boots came up to his knees and the extra-long scarf was wrapped about his face and neck. Heavy gloves hid his hands and the only thing that could be seen of his face were his blue eyes, which were smoldering.
You look rather ridiculous Sapphire answered him as she was doing up her own jacket. Hers was more fitted, less cumbersome. But you will be warm and that’s the important thing. You know how you freeze up when you get cold.
It was true that the cold was not Steel’s friend, although he frequently used it as a weapon against their enemy, Time. It had served him well in the past, but there were consequences, often unpleasant consequences and it could take hours, even days for him to rewarm himself. Why can’t Lead come with us? He can insulate me.
It’s not that sort of cold, Steel. Are you ready?
There wasn’t actually time for him to respond. There was a swirl of air and he closed his eyes against it. It tugged at his clothes, as if testing him for a response. He’d long since learned to be patient. The wind took on a cold edge and Steel opened his eyes.
They were standing in a snowy field. The air was so cold that it froze the mucus in his nose and made him gasp. Sapphire pulled up the muffler, so that he was breathing through the thick cloth.
Where are we?
The North Pole.
This is our mission. Sapphire started toward a glowing light. They weren’t all that far away, but Steel felt as if he lost two steps for every one he gained. There were times being comprised of steel was convenient. Trying to cross a snowy field wasn’t one of them.
By the time they reached the brightly colored building, sweat was trickling down his temple and his breath was coming in short pants. He pulled the wool from his face and sighed as the cold wind dried the sweat. “Would you like to give me a bit more of a hint as to why we are here?”
“An old friend of ours needs our help.”
“An old friend? I have no old friends who would dwell in such a spot.”
“Ah, well, perhaps you aren’t as cognizant of him. You were unconscious at the time. Sapphire walked quickly through the snow-lined streets. All the small houses were covered with strings of lights, although there seemed to be many burnt out lamps. Some of the colorful decorations, upon closer inspection, were damaged and worn.
“I didn’t realize it was this bad,” Sapphire murmured and she picked up the pace and Steel found himself struggled to keep up with her.
“What’s wrong, Sapphire?”
“I don’t know, Steel,” she called back to him as the wind picked up.
They came to a large factory, its sign dangling from one sorry looking chain. Shaking her head sadly, she pushed up the door and moved inside. Instantly their attire switched to something more befitting. Sapphire donned one of her many soft blue dresses and Steel was back in a gray suit.
“Finally,” Steel muttered. “What’s happened here? It looks like something horrific occurred.”
The usual busy toy factory was quiet. The few elves there were walking slowly, as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders. Heads turned, but no one seemed to even register their presence. They never paused in their task of shuffling from one point to another.
Sapphire walked past benches stacked with poorly constructed toys, some half-finished, other a disaster of mis-matched parts. She picked up a cloth doll with a teddy bear head, while Steel examined a toy train with square wheels.
At the end of a long table was a man, sitting hunched over, his shoulders shaking. Sapphire walked up to him and placed a hand on his back. “Santa?”
“Santa?” Steel repeated. A half remembered thought came back to him of being stranded in a horrible storm, unable to save Sapphire or himself and then waking up safe and warm.
“You came.” The man’s voice was hoarse and the skin under his eyes was stained black with fatigue. He embraced her and she rocked him gently back and forth.
“As soon as we heard. What has happened?”
Santa released her. “We’re not sure, but we seem to be caught in a time loop. The sleigh should be loaded by now, but when we try to do that, all the toys vanish.” He looked at his exhausted elves. “We keep building and they keep vanishing. Most of my elves have collapsed from exhaustion. It’s as if something is preventng Christmas from coming.”
“Sounds like something we know.” Steel looked around the area. “Have you noticed anything odd lately?”
“Isn’t what I just said enough?” Santa snapped and then he covered his mouth with a mittened hand. “I’m sorry. I know you are trying to help.”
“For Time to be pulling something like that, it has to be near. A loop of this magnitude takes an incredible amount of energy.” Steel paused. “Santa, do you have a watch?”
“I do, but it won’t help you.” He passed it over to Steel. The watch was unconventional at best. The snowman twig arms pointed to Almost Time and the second hand hopped from one second back to one second forward again and again. “It’s been stuck like that for days.”
Steel walked to a large frosted window and looked out into the night. “Sapphire?”
“Is snow in the habit of drifting up?”
“I don’t understand.” She came to stand by his side.
“Look by the Christmas tree.” Steel pointed to a large tree in the center of the square. Many of its lights were either burned out of hidden beneath a thick coat of snow. “All around it, the snow is falling down, except that one spot.”
Sapphire nodded and pressed her hand against the glass. Her eyes glowed an eerie blue. “It’s there.” Her voice was harsh. “It’s clever, hiding in the snow, thinking no one would see.”
“No one living here would.” Steel pursed his lips. “But what is the trigger? What gave it the opportunity to sneak in and what does it want?”
“What does it want?” Sapphire’s eyes faded back to normal. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“No, at least not to me.”
“Preventing Santa from coming, disappointing millions upon millions of children all over the world.” She laughed, a sad hollow sounding thing. “Imagine the energy from that.”
Steel’s eyes narrowed and he spun on his heel. “Santa, when did all of this start?”
The man looked up, shaken from his stupor by Steel’s sharp tone. “Start? Who knows? It’s been like this for weeks.”
The woman walked to the work bench and touched her fingers to it. Seven weeks, three days, four hours.”
“Take us back.” At her look of disbelief, Steel walked to her and took her hand. “I know you can.”
“Not that much.”
“Then do it a bit at a time.”
When they finally arrived, Steel felt as if he’d been run through the wringer. Sapphire looked worse, ashen and exhausted.
Santa looked up in surprise. He was robust, fat and his beard and hair snowy white. “Why my old friends, Sapphire and Steel. What brings you here? Coming to let me know what you would like for Christmas this year.”
“Hardly.” Steel turned and headed out into the storm. Sapphire’s attempt to prepare him was only half successful. She managed a coat and hat, but he escaped the gloves and scarf.
Steel walked to the tree in the square. It was bright, its lights shining cheerfully. Then one popped and the elf responsible for maintaining the bulbs hurried over. He was about to replace it when another elf ran up to him and touched his arm, whispering something. Looking alarmed, the elf dropped the packet of lamps and hurried away, leaving the burned out bulb untouched.
“Ah, Perry’s little wife must be bringing a new elf to us,” Santa said as he and Sapphire approached. “Ah, Perry’s little wife must be bringing a new elf to us. Good for them.”
Did you? Steel asked. She nodded.
I did. That lamp is the break?
Let’s find out. Steel reached down and picked up the package. He replaced the bulb and nothing happened.
Perhaps you used the wrong color? Sapphire suggested
“No, I didn’t.” Steel watched the snow start to drift up. “It’s starting again. How do we stop it? Take it back again, Sapphire.””
Steel replayed the scene a dozen times, but nothing he did matters.
“I can’t,” Sapphire murmured as she sank into a chair. “I have to rest.”
Steel grasped her shoulder, more a caress than anything else. “Rest now.” He turned to walk away and stumbled into the work bench. He was more than a little exhausted himself. Instinct made him put his hands out to catch himself and he cried out as his hands were pierced by a dozen small nails.
“Steel, are you all right?” Santa rushed to his side. “Let me get our first aid kit.”
He looked down at his hands and a light dawned. “Of course, I was blind not to see it.” Steel could see the elf approaching the tree. “No, there isn’t time.”
He raced out of the workshop and ran to the tree. He got there with a few seconds to spare and grabbed the light strand. The jolt of electricity threatened to melt him to his core, but he held on as long as he could.
Suddenly he was on the ground, a dozen elves, Santa and Sapphire were clustered around him.
“Sapphire, change the bulb now.”
Without pausing, Sapphire scooped up the necessary lamp and carefully replaced the still lit bulb, using her gloves as protection from its heat.
“Steel, are you all right, my boy?”
I’m fine, Sapphire. I just forgot that while steel is a good conductor of electricity, its skin isn’t. I was able to take the jolt of electricity that would have burned out that bulb. Time never had a chance to sneak in this time.
Steel took a breath and stood, then looked at his hands. They were unmarred. He held them up. “Yes, I am fine. May I see your watch?”
“Certainly.” Santa extended his wrist. “It was a gift from my missus.” The hands of the snowman were resting in, Time to get ready and the second hand happily tripped along.
An elf rushed up and found Perry in the group and they hurried left.
“Ah, Perry’s little wife must be bringing a new elf to us. We can always use another elf. Now, if you are quite all right, I think there work to be done.”
Everyone left him except Sapphire. “Look at the snow, Steel” She lifted her hands to it. “Have you ever seen such a beautiful sight?”
He gave her a half smirk. “Lovely.”
Sapphire and Steel - Snow by Marker-Mistress ...