[ASH] ASH Holiday Special #1

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at eyrie.org
Tue Dec 30 22:41:30 PST 2008

     The cover is a cross-era jam piece that is obviously not meant to
literally represent the goings-on inside.  Lady Lawful is tied to a Christmas
tree with strings of lights while Doctor Developer directs the movements of
presents that seem to be moving on their own.  The original Brightsword is
looking skeptically at a plush penguin he has unwrapped, while several
teenagers with Academy ID badges make merry around the room.

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES 
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||                           HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2008 by Dave Van Domelen et al

                              Table of Contents
          Opening Remarks by Dave Van Domelen
          "How Brightsword Saved Christmas" by Dave Van Domelen
          "A Good Start" by Andrew Burton
          "Eight Tiny...Reindeer?" by rapfic
          "Snow Place Like Home For The Holidays" by Brian Freesh
          "Twas The Night Before GIMF..." by Saxon Brenton


Opening Remarks
by Dave Van Domelen

     ASH has certainly seen holiday stories before, but this is the first
time we're doing it as an anthology, in the tradition of the DCU Holiday Bash
specials or the Marvel Holiday Specials.  In fact, one bit of ASH lore owes
its existence to a Marvel Holiday Special: Peter David's story about Doc
Samson relating the Hannukah story cast Antiochus IV (the Syrian king who was
the heavy in Maccabees) as Ultron, inspiring Antiochus V.
     Anyway, holiday specials from the Big Two tend to be a little...shall we
say "continuity-iffy".  They generally will fit into the existing continuity
(i.e. no major anachronisms or out of character behavior), but the stories
themselves contain elements that later writers may not want to acknowledge.
Such as guest appearances by Santa Claus, or heroes caroling alongside their
deadliest foes in a spirit of Christmas Cheer.
     In the spirit of those, I present a series of tales by various authors
that *might* work in ASH canon, but reserve the right to cheerfully deny that
any or all of them ever happened should it later prove inconvenient.  The
LL&DD stories probably won't need later disavowal, but the Brightsword one,
well...you'll see.
     For lack of any overall theme or plan, these stories will be presented
in more or less chronological order.  Not all of them are Christmas stories,
mind you.  Just holiday stories.


Story: How Brightsword Saved Christmas
Author: Dave Van Domelen

     "It's headed for the atomic pile!" a parka-clad scientist shouted as
Brightsword did his best to fend off the giant penguin's glowing green
flippers.  The energy surrounding the bird's vestigal wings seemed capable of
slicing through any matter, but so far his blazing sword had been able to
resist the effect.
     "How long can McMurdo hold out without the reactor?" Brightsword shouted
over his shoulder.
     "Well, it's the middle of summer...so maybe a day or two?"
     "Right.  Letting the penguin trash the reactor's not an option, then.
Sorry, big guy, but as cute as you might be, you're definitely NOT cuddly!"
     With that, Brightsword vaulted over a swipe of a glowing flipper and
rammed his laser blade up through the bottom of the titanic bird's jaw,
seeking its radiation-hungry brain!     
     "WAK!" it protested, its eyes lighting up with an unstable red glow.
     "Brightsword, get away!  That penguin's gonna blow!" another scientist
     "How do you kn...never mind," Brightsword turned off the energy weapon
and leapt for the snow trench that the scientists had retreated to.  He made
it just in time, as a rainbow of energies washed over the ice when the giant
penguin detonated!
     "Is everyone okay?" Brightsword asked once he could see clearly again. 
     "Yeah...man, that's the worst one yet," a female voice noted.  They were
all so bundled up it was hard to tell who was who until they spoke.
     "You've had these before?" Brightsword asked.
     The woman nodded with her whole body, since the parka kept her neck in
one position.  "They seem to be attracted to the reactor.  We've got a diesel
unit on the way, but it won't be here until next month."
     "Well, good to know.  And good thing I was here," Brightsword carefully
hooked his sword hilt to his belt.
     "Say, that's a good point," one of the male scientists mused.  "Why
*were* you down here in Antarctica?  I'd read you'd started traveling around
after things got quiet in San Francisco, but McMurdo's a little off the
beaten path."
     "Well," the hero seemed a little embarrassed to be admitting this, "I
was deputized by Santa Claus.  But I can't go into too much detail...."

               *              *              *              *

Diary of Jim Jackson - December 26, 1971

     Even if I hadn't agreed not to tell the people here at McMurdo the
details, I don't think the world's ready to know them anyway.  Good gravy, I
know I'm not ready to know the details, and I KNOW them!
     It all started just after lunch, alone, on the 24th.
     I was just sitting around trying to decide how to spend my Christmas
Eve, maybe look up the local orphanage and give the kids a treat, or join
some carolers.  Then there was a knock on the hotel door.
     "Mr. Jackson, may I come in?" a resonant, jolly voice asked.  I figured
it was room service or something, since villains rarely knock and ask to come
in.  So I said sure.
     Suddenly, this huge guy with really pale blond hair and a thick beard,
like some sort of viking, is standing in front of me wearing a fur-trimmed
red coat.  Even though I was in civvies, I almost pulled out the sword.
     "Ho, ho!  Relax, Mr. Jackson," he chuckled.  "Or should I say
Brightsword?  My name is Klaus, and I need your help."
     Now, I'm not known for my brainpower, but between the laugh, the beard
and the red coat...not to mention the name...I managed to put two and two
together.  "Don't you have elves for that sort of thing?"
     "Well, that's the problem," he said, suddenly coldly serious.  "There
are places neither I nor my elves can go, which is why we need your help."
     Then he explained the details.  I don't remember all of it, I think I
was in shock for part of the time.  Wouldn't YOU be in shock if you found out
Santa Claus was a vampire?
     Yeah.  Fangs and everything.  Turns out the movies are pretty much right
about what vampires can and can't do, except they got the running water thing
wrong.  That's why Klaus could just pop in once I invited him.
     Klaus had converted to Christianity around 978 AD, and had been turned
into a vampire a few years after that.  His faith let him resist the worst of
the curse, though, and he tried to be a good guy bloodsucker.  He even
started gathering a group of like-minded vampires to help him out, but they
had a big problem.  Resources.  It's kinda hard to convince people to let you
take a little blood, no matter how much you swear you're not "that kind" of
vampire.  But the badguys WERE "that kind."
     So they hit upon the whole Santa Claus thing, cobbling together bits of
existing Christian and Germanic legend.  They get invited into homes one
night a year, while people are sleeping, and take just a little blood from
each person, leaving gifts in exchange.  Okay, more than a little creepy, but
for a good cause.
     And it worked, too.  Klaus said they eliminated the last evil vampire
centuries ago, although they keep an eye out for any spontaneous resurgences
when they're not making holiday preps.  He moved the operation to the North
Pole (well, near it, anyway) so they'd have a solid six months of night in
which to operate, followed by almost everyone going into hibernation during
the six months of daylight.  They use modern medical equipment these days to
extract and store the blood, so it lasts longer, too.
     It's a pretty clever operation, really.  On Halloween, they scout out
all the wannabe vampire types.  Any with some magical talent are recruited as
"elves", any who look like they might become evil vampires are...dealt with.
So be good for goodness sake!  
     Then, they spend the next few months training up the recruits and
preparing the rituals for the big spells they use to travel all around the
world in one night, teleporting into any home where a kid believes in Santa
Claus (and has therefore "invited" them in), leaving larger gifts created by
those with the talent for that, and using spells to transmute the milk and
cookies into stocking stuffers.
     Yeah, I thought that was a pretty clever way around the whole "vampires
can't eat cookies" thing.  Not to mention no one could eat THAT many cookies
     Then, magically making sure the parents are asleep, they draw out a
little blood from each and store it in their bloodbanks.
     Once any given "elf" has decided they've done enough good to redeem any
sins they committed in life...and this takes a long time for any who were
recruited after becoming vampires...they just wait for a sunrise and pray
that they've earned their way into heaven through good works.  Klaus himself
has decided it's simply his eternal calling, and he's okay with that.
     "So, what's the problem?  I don't have vampire powers," I pointed out
after Klaus finished explaining things.
     "Exactly," the big German vampire nodded.  "You see, we only deliver to
those who believe in Santa Claus.  Any other children have to hope their
parents can afford gifts.  But once in a while, there's an adult who still
honestly believes in me, and in the things I stand for.  This is usually not
a problem, but this year one such person got assigned to McMurdo Base."
     "In the Antarctic Circle.  Where it's always day right now."
     "Exactly.  We'd been hoping for clouds, but it looks like it'll be a
sunny day there for the next week," Klaus sadly shook his head.  "Daylight
and vampires don't mix well, as you may have heard."
     "I, however, don't have a problem with it.  So, what...you teleport me
in, I deliver the gifts, you teleport me out?  I'm guessing you'll let me
forgo the bloodbanking."
     Klaus shook his head.  "We can't get you inside.  Our teleportation
spells are linked to the 'enter freely and of your own will' part of our
curse, so we'd have to make you a permanent 'elf' to get you inside.
Otherwise, you're not covered under the belief-in-Santa loophole we exploit.
The best we can do is drop you at the border of the base, in unclaimed
territory where no invitation is needed.  That's another reason I'm asking
you, and not some other good-hearted person.  You can survive the hike."
     "True, although I'd always thought of my 'burning courage' as being more
of a metaphor than something to actually keep me warm," I replied.  
     "Do you accept?" Klaus asked.  "If not, time is growing short, and I'll
need to find someone else.  It may only be one person's Christmas, but I take
my duty very seriously."
     "Sure, I didn't really have any plans," I replied.  I wonder if I
sounded wistful?  I guess if Santa knows if you've been bad or good, he also
knows if you've been lonely.
     "Jolly good," he beamed, suddenly looking every inch the greeting card
icon, if not as fat.  He pulled a small bead from his belt and handed it to
me.  "This is the present.  When you're inside the station and alone with
Doctor Adams, simply press down on it and it will unfurl.  A bit of space-
saving magic one of my elves devised a few centuries ago."
     "Explains how everything fits into the bag," I nodded."
     "The bag's also larger on the inside than on the outside," he winked.
     So that's how I became Santa's Helper.  On a purely temporary basis, of
course.  Little did I suspect what ol' Saint Nick really had up his sleeve
for me, though.  And I don't mean the penguin....

               *              *              *              *

     "Anyway, I'm starting to feel the chill," Brightsword rubbed his gloved
hands together, "maybe we could get inside?  I've been walking for about an
hour, then fighting a giant penguin, if you've got space at the table for one
extra, I'd definitely appreciate Christmas dinner."
     "Of course, of course," one of the scientists bobbed his head.  "This
way," he led the group into the scientific station.
     Once inside, it was much warmer, and everyone started removing parkas
and other cold weather gear, stowing it carefully for later use.
     "Oh, and I need to see Doctor Adams," Brightsword looked around,
realizing no one was wearing nametags.
     "That's me," the one woman in the group replied.  "What, you have a
present for me from Santa Claus?" she asked, a glint of humor in her eyes.
But behind it there was also honest hope, hope that she'd been right all
along to believe.
     Brightsword nodded.  "He told me to give it to you in private, though.
Might be part of the magic."
     The other scientists chuckled, some kindly, some not.  Apparently it was
an open secret that Doctor Adams believed in Santa Claus, and not everyone
found it appropriate for an adult, much less a scientist.  On the other hand,
in recent years it had become really hard to dismiss the idea of magic out of
     "Let's go to my quarters," Adams nodded, ignoring the snide looks.
"McMurdo's a small place, there's not a lot of privacy to be had otherwise."
     A few minutes later, the two stood in a small room that reminded
Brightsword of junior officers' quarters back when he'd still been in the
military.  Cramped, packed with essentials, but it had a door and only a
single bunk, making it a pearl of great price.
     Brightsword pulled the bead out of his beltpouch and looked at it.
"Well, here goes," he pressed down.
     Suddenly, his hands were forced apart as the bead grew into a brightly
wrapped box the maybe the size of his palm, with a single rose atop it.
     "Why, you clever old vampire," Brightsword muttered to himself.  Holding
out the rose, he asked aloud, he asked, "So, Doctor Adams...I don't suppose
you're free for a dinner date?"

               *              *              *              *

     At his secret Arctic base, Klaus the millennium-old vampire watched the
scene play out on his scrying pool, just as he'd planned.  "Ho ho ho...merry
Christmas, everyone!" he guffawed.
     Then he looked out at the reader.  "And a very merry Christmas to you,
as well!"


Story: A Pretty Good Start
Author: Andrew Burton

[December 31, 1994 - Chicago, IL]

     Doctor Developer was bored.
     Such boredom was why he disliked the kinds of crimes that hinged on some
sort of timed component.  Specifically, in this case, waiting until midnight
for Chicago officials to give in to Florakyll's demands, lest she release a
poisonous spore that turned those who inhaled it into savages.  Once you
started a ticking clock, you had to lie super-low to make sure your plan
wasn't undone.  In this case, lying low meant hanging out in Florakyll's
secret hideout with her and her goons.
     Her, her goons and Lady Lawful.
     Before they'd even begun lying super-low, Lady Lawful had discovered
Florakyll and her goons installing one of the spore bombs.  The spore bombs
were created by Doctor Developer to be both sensor- and Anchor-proof, which
was why he was currently cooped up with Florakyll.
     Florakyll may have been a better than decent botanist and chemist, but
she had no clue when it came to mechanical devices.  When she approached him
about constructing the bombs, she had not been too ashamed of that fact
either.  As far as she was concerned using a mechanical release was a
necessary evil to further her plans.
     This was fine by Doctor Developer.  Building the bombs was something to
do.  Florakyll was going to pay him with some of her super plant seeds, which
he wanted to study.  It was theoretically better than doing nothing on New
Year's Eve anyway.
     It *had* been theoretically better, anyway.
     Now that he was stuck with nothing to do but wait until midnight, he was
starting to doubt the wisdom of accepting Florakyll's offer.  Not that he
could do anything about it.  Florakyll had made it clear that until her
demands were met, the bombs went off, or both: no one left the hideout.  And
that would have been fine now that Lady Lawful was here, she was always a fun
hostage to talk with, but ever since the goons had brought Lady Lawful in,
Florakyll hadn't left her side.

               *              *              *              *

     Lady Lawful wanted nothing more than to rub the bridge of her nose, dry
swallow a couple of aspirin, and take a nap.
     As Jennifer Blair, she had barely been two hours into her New Year's Eve
festivities when she caught a glimpse of motion atop a rooftop across from
the party.  Her time as Lady Lawful had honed her senses to never take
mysterious movement on rooftops lightly, which had been reason enough to slip
away from the party, don her costume, and check across the street.
     Things had not gone well from there for her.  Two hours of partying had
left her a little buzzed.  Normally buzzed wasn't a problem when she was
wearing the Enhancement Belt.  Heightened strength, speed, and endurance when
you already, naturally had heightened strength, speed, and endurance could
burn through alcohol, knock-out gas, and the like within a few minutes.
Unfortunately the time it took her to get up to see Florakyll and her men
working had been slightly less than "a few minutes."
     So, getting knocked out by some concoction of Florakyll's was
embarrassing enough, but without her belt, the combination of knock-out junk
and alcohol had not left her in a pleasant state.  Which of course meant it
was the perfect time for Florakyll to ignore any decent notion of personal
     "You know," Florakyll purred, "it's tradition that people kiss at
midnight, Ms. Lawful."  She rested her arms on Lady Lawful's shoulders and
leaned her forehead forward so that it was touching Lady Lawful's.  "What do
you say we take each of our tulips and make four?"
     Being entangled in a mesh of mutant kudzu held up against by an equally
mutated evergreen tree didn't leave much in the way of a decent bargaining
posture for Lady Lawful, but it didn't matter to her.  As soon as Florakyll
posed her question, Lady Lawful replied:
     "Look, I can see that 'tulips' line working on some guy, but do you
honestly think it's going to work on me?" she asked.  She snorted and nodded
toward Doctor Developer.  "I'd rather kiss him at midnight than swap spit
with you."
     Florakyll stepped away from Lady Lawful, crossed her arms under her
chest, and glared thorns at the hero.  Lady Lawful's expression didn't change
from bored irritation.  After a moment, Florakyll pointed her finger at Lady
Lawful.  "Just wait.  We'll see who you're willing to kiss when midnight gets
     With no other words to say Florakyll marched off, leaving Lady Lawful
with a perplexed look on her face.  "What does that even mean?" she asked.

               *              *              *              *

     Doctor Developer waited a few minutes after Florakyll stormed off before
approaching Lady Lawful.  He could tell she was trying to find some weak
point in the vines, possibly gain enough slack to use the rough bark to saw
through one and escape.  It wasn't likely to work, though.  With her belt
Lady Lawful could get loose, but without it the vines were too strong.
     As he stepped closer to Lady Lawful, Doctor Developer checked his watch.
     Three minutes to midnight.  Even if Lady Lawful got free now, she
wouldn't be able to stop Florakyll and her goons before the spores were
scheduled to be released.  At best, she could get the antitoxin from them.
     "Hey," Doctor Developer said.  Lady Lawful ceased trying to snap the
vines.  Lady Lawful's expression softened when she saw who the speaker was.
     "Hey, Deedee," she replied.  The two stood in silence for a pregnant
moment, neither sure what to say.  Finally, Lady Lawful spoke, "Look, don't
get any ideas about what I said to Florakyll.  Nothing personal."
     Doctor Developer nodded.  "I understand."
     "I guess those bombs are about to go off," Lady Lawful hemmed.
     "They're set for midnight," he replied.  Doctor Developer checked his
watch again.  "And that's in about a minute."  He looked over his shoulder,
and Lady Lawful followed his gaze.  Across the warehouse, Florakyll was
standing in front of a camera, making her final threats to the Chicago city
officials.  They would give into her demands or everyone celebrating the New
Year in Navy Pier would get poisoned.
     Doctor Developer turned back to Lady Lawful.  "Look, I know what you
said, but...I'm sorry."
     Then Doctor Developer kissed Lady Lawful.

               *              *              *              *

     Lady Lawful's eyes went wide the second Doctor Developer's lips met
hers.  She would have slapped him for being so forward if not for the vines.
She would have backed out of reach if not for the tree behind her.  As it
was, she could do anything except feel her face turn red with rage.
     Bad enough he was kissing her, but shortly thereafter, Lady Lawful felt
Doctor Developer's hands at her waist.  Then the small of her back.  She
growled as best she could behind the kiss, and was about to head-butt Deedee
when she felt something else.  There was suddenly familiar sensation around
her waist and she felt her strength returning as Doctor Developer leaned away
from her.
     Before Lady Lawful could do more than look stunned, Doctor Developer
smiled an awkward smile at her.  He didn't have time to say any more before
Florakyll let out a shriek.  "Why haven't my bombs gone off?" she bellowed.
"Doctor Developer, what are you...?"
     Doctor Developer stepped away from Lady Lawful, keeping her out of
Florakyll's view as long as possible.  Long enough anyway for her to snap the
vines holding her to the tree.  As the kudzu shackles were still falling
limp, Lady Lawful burst past Doctor Developer.  Her target was Florakyll, and
she struck the villainess like a red-and-blue missile.  Florakyll spun around
a half circle before falling to the ground, unconscious.
     This was enough to get the goons' attention.  The began to step toward
Lady Lawful, ready to defend their leader with loyalty that can only be
bought with a strain of hyperactive pheromone dust.  They were still a few
steps away from attack range, far enough that Lady Lawful glanced over her
shoulder to thank Deedee for the belt.
     Only he was no where to be seen.
     Lady Lawful shook off her surprise and returned her concentration to the
impending fight.  One super-villain down, one missing, and only a handful of
lovesick goons to finish off.  That wasn't too bad of a way to ring in the
New Year.

               *              *              *              *

[January 1, 1995 - Chicago, IL]

     Doctor Developer hummed to himself as he began to dismantle the last of
Florakyll's bombs.  There wasn't much to dismantle; really, it was mostly a
matter of making sure the seal to the spore container didn't break.
Everything else about the bomb, from the detonator to the release mechanism,
was just for show.  It looked threatening enough for Florakyll to think it
was a bomb, but as far as Doctor Developer was concerned, neither Florakyll
nor her minions had any idea what a bomb looked like.
     "Too much television," he guessed.  Anything black with flashing lights
must be a bomb...or a computer, or a tracking device.  He shook his head and
grinned.  He *had* been telling the truth about them being sensor-proof and
Anchor-proof, though.  No sensor would pick them up as bombs, and no Anchor
could make them behave any differently.
     Not his problem, though, thanks to Lady Lawful.  He guessed that by now
she already had Florakyll in police custody.  Soon the bomb squad would swarm
the area looking for the spores, which they wouldn't find no matter how much
they looked and how much Florakyll insisted on their locations.
     Not cooperating with the bomb squad would probably mean no deals with
the district attorney.  No deals with the district attorney mean a longer
sentence.  And a longer sentence meant a longer time for Doctor Developer to
study her spores and come up with some way to counter whatever revenge he was
sure she would swear against him.
     Doctor Developer put the spore container in his jacket, along with the
other components of his so-called bomb.  He stood up and took a moment to
look out at his new home, Chicago.  Nineteen ninety-four hadn't been his best
year, but so far nineteen ninety-five was off to a pretty good start.
     In the first few minutes, he already eliminated one competitor and
acquired some lethal ordinance from them.  Not to mention...he smiled to
himself...he got to make out with Lady Lawful.
     Maybe nineteen ninety-five and Chicago weren't going to be so bad.


Story: Eight Tiny...Reindeer?
Author: Rapfic

     [Editor's Note: this was written as a gift to Andy Burton, but the
author has graciously consented to have it included in the Holiday Special.
This story is rated PG for some sexual suggestiveness.  A LL&DD story with
sexual suggestiveness?  I know, such a departure from the norm....  Oh, and
to the extent any of these stories take place in continuity, this probably
happened in December 1997.]

     The problem, Cameron thought as he looked at the interesting technical
reference books that Jennifer had so carefully wrapped for him, was that it
just didn't feel right.  It was a thoughtful gift, a gift that he would
     It was an *easy* gift.  Jennifer never went for the easy gift.  It
offended her Lady Lawful superhero sensibilities.  She went for the
meaningful, for things that would delight....  That was why he was trying to
figure out what she had gotten him, because she always seemed to one up him,
and this year, he wanted to do better than giving her a coupon book for a
variety of sexual scenarios of his own unique design.
     He carefully rewrapped the books, compared the wrapping to the photos he
had taken of the original wrap and put them back in the clever hiding place
that Jennifer had chosen.  She's up to something, he decided, a grin crossing
his features.  She wants to make it hard.
     But his increased observation of her just made him more confused.  Sure,
by night she was out and about, saving women from would be rapists and
stopping bank heists, that was still the same.  But...something seemed off.
Especially when she abruptly detoured to a small storage facility.  She went
inside, stayed for an hour, and then left.
     Ah ha, he thought as he carefully crossed the dirty parking lot, you
*are* up to something.  He was even more certain when he noticed the
extensive system of magnetic locks all over the storage locker door.  "What
are you hiding, Lady Lawful?" he asked in an amused tone as he began to pick
the locks.
     Suddenly he was spun around, almost off his feet, and viciously kissed.
"This is why we can't have nice things at the house, Deedee," Lady Lawful
hissed playfully as she swatted him on the head.
     "You know you can't lock a door and not expect me to try it..." he said
it playfully as well.  "Besides, its Christmastime.  I already found the
decoy presents.  I assumed all the cloak and dagger stuff here was part of
the present."  He smiled winningly.
     "Yeah, that's not going to work.  Not cute, Dee," Jennifer crossed her
arms.  "Now go home."
     "Come on...can't I have a peek?  You know you want to let me see,"
Cameron said plaintively, enjoying the game immensely.  "You know I'll just
come back here later...."
     Jennifer sighed.  "This isn't your Christmas present.  It was...but it
got a little screwed up.  So come on.  Let's go home."
     "No no no," Cameron said, grinning wickedly.  "Now I have to see it.
You so rarely screw up."
     Jennifer rolled her eyes.  "Fine.  But remember I was trying to get you
something unique and original."  She undid the locks with a wave of her hand,
and gestured for him to enter.
     His nose wrinkled at the scent of sawdust.  The room seemed to be filled
with a series of multicolored plastic tubes and plastic boxes. A maze, he
realized with just a glance, with various devices and sawdust in the boxes.
Little traps and pitfalls, and the makings for other traps were on the small
worktable set up near the side.  Suddenly the closest large plastic seemed
filled with scurrying little furry bodies that...were wearing little
     "You got me hamsters?"
     "Sort of."  Jennifer crossed her arms and frowned at the little rodents.
The hamsters all lined up and bowed.  It was quite impressive.  And creepy.
"These are actually hyperintelligent hamsters.  I thought you might enjoy
having little pets that you could put in little traps.  And then I thought
that regular hamsters might be a little boring for you..."
     "Well, they certainly wouldn't respond to more difficult death traps,
the motivation for a rodent is frankly too simplistic to really need a lot of
thought but if they're hyperintelligent...."  He stopped.  It was a
delightful gift.  He could already see himself having fun playing with them.
"What's the problem?"
     She frowned darkly and pressed a button.  One of the hamster, wearing a
jaunty blue and yellow cape, leapt to a small podium.  It screeched into a
microphone and a small speaker whirred to life.  "Mistress Lawful has
returned!  How may we serve your gracious?"
     "They...can talk?  Where did you get hyperintelligent hamsters anyway?
This can't be legal."  Not that he was such a stickler for legalities of
     "Yes, they talk.  Sort of.  The problem," she said swiftly, ignoring his
other questions, "is that they have bonded with me and consider me their god.
They won't accept you as their new master unless we do something...to
transfer their loyalty."
     "This is what you want as our new master?"  The hamsters all chattered
angrily at the one at the loudspeaker. "Mistress, it does not look virile!
Not worthy of mating the dominant!"  The row of hamsters nodded as one.
     "I'm sorry?" Cameron looked at Jennifer who grinned wickedly.
     "Apparently in hamster society, I'm the dominant female.  They don't
think you can perform well enough to please me, so they refuse to let you be
their caretaker until they have proof you're worthy."  Taking in his confused
look.  "They want to watch us having sex."
     That was interesting.  And surprisingly arousing.  "You didn't think I'd
be okay with that?"
     She sniffed.  "You get uptight when the cat is in the same room."
     "Cats are evil, evil creatures, Lady Lawful."  He shuddered
dramatically.  "You know they are just lying in wait, until you fall asleep
and then they leap onto your chest and suck out your breath."
     "So...you're fine with proving your manhood to my adoring minions?"
Jennifer asked, her eyes suddenly amused.  "Because there is a cot here...but
I warn you, Marcutio and Lazarunti in particular will be judging you so the
little doctor better be ready to rise to the occasion if you really want to
have them as pets."
     "Marcutio and Lazarunti?"
     "They're the girls.  You'll note there's eight hamsters total...
apparently hyper intelligent hamster women keep harems for their needs."
     "He's weak, Mistress!" chimed the hamsters.
     "Oh give him a break, guys," Jennifer said to the cage.  "Trust me,
he'll do fine."  She winked at him.  "Won't you, DeeDee?"

               *              *              *              *

     He was surprised at how good it had been.  "I think they were cheering,"
he said, just a little breathlessly, as he rolled off her.
     "Don't get too impressed with yourself.  They also cheer when I bring
hamster chow."  Jennifer said lazily as she curled into his body. "I'm glad
you like your present...."
     "I do...but where did you get hyper intelligent hamsters anyway?"  It
*did* puzzle him.
     "Here and there...."
     "Ok...why do the hamsters have costumes?"  It was a little overly cute.
     "Well, you know how I'm...I was...their alpha?  I have a costume, they
wanted costumes so they could be as much like me as possible.  You know,
other than the species thing.  You may need to start looking for tiny ties
and labcoats, they're your minions now...."


Story: Snow Place Like Home For The Holidays
Author: Brian Freesh

[December, 21, 2023 - Phoenix, Arizona Sector]

     Sam loved Christmas!  It wasn't the tree or the decorations, or even the
presents that got him excited, Christmas at his house was always a bit
lackluster compared to most.  Living in Phoenix was particularly difficult
since the turn of the century.  They got by, but Christmas decorations tended
to be on the sparse side, mainly decorations older than Sam was, carefully
stored between Decembers.  Sam had been to his friends' homes and knew he was
missing out, but he had an understanding and quietly accepted his lack of
     The reason Sam got so excited about Christmas was because it meant he
got to see his cousin Aaron, and Aaron was training to be a super hero!  Sam
used to see Aaron and his family several times a year, but ever since Aaron
had enrolled at the Academy the only time he came to visit was Christmas!

               *              *              *              *

     Aaron hated Christmas!  In the past year he'd finally been able to start
figuring out he was and what he was doing with his life.  The Academy was
more of a home to him than the place he was raised.  But now every Christmas
he was forced to leave the Academy and spend the time off at his Aunt's house
instead.  Wisconsin had had a fresh blanket of beautiful white snow before he
left, and now he was in the driest city in the Combine.  The last time
Phoenix had seen even a wisp of snow had been in 2012!
     As he stepped out of the car and felt the local air on his face, he was
reminded how much he really detested arid climates.  He glanced with
disapproving eyes at the ugly brown landscape before him, before helping his
parents get the bags.  So much for a white Christmas.

               *              *              *              *

     Having waited at the window for the past hour, Sam had the door open
before Aaron and his parents were halfway up the walk.
     "Hi, Aaron!"
     "Hey."  Aaron paused, uncertain what else to say.  "Uh, Merry
     "Sam, take these presents and put them under the tree would you?"  She
handed Sam one of her large bags full of wrapped gifts.  His eyes lit up and
he ran it into the house, stopping briefly at the door.
     "C'mon Aaron, I'll show you where they go!"  And then he was inside.
Aaron's mom smiled and handed him the other bag.
     Aaron took the bag but looked at his mother as if she'd asked him to
clean the toilets.  With his tongue.

               *              *              *              *

     Upstairs in Sam's room Aaron groaned to himself.  He'd be here for the
next week and his closest peer was a ten-year-old boy he barely knew.
     "Show me a trick Aaron!  What can you do?"
     "You saw me doing tricks last year, haven't you seen it all already?"
     "I don't know, you can do other stuff now, right?"
     Aaron almost laughed.  That was the understatement of the year.
Breathing a deep sigh, he looked around.  Sam had a fish tank, inside was a
male Beta.  Last year he wouldn't have dared think about what he was about to
try.  He pointed to the fish tank and Sam looked, excitement in his eyes.
     At first it looked like the fish was swimming to the top of the tank of
it's own power.  But then a softball sized bubble of water began to emerge
from the surface, taking the fish with it.  The sphere floated gently across
the room, past Sam's wide eyes and stopped in front of the wall mirror.  The
previously unconcerned Beta saw its reflection and flared its fins out and
deepened in color, ready to fight the intruder behind the glass.  Aaron
quickly floated the sphere back to the tank and let the water flow back in.
As simple as it looked, fine control still took a lot of concentration for
     "Wow!  That was SOOO COOL!" Sam exclaimed.  "Do it again!"
     "Maybe later," Aaron smiled.  "That's not easy stuff."  Hopefully he
had appeased the kid for now, he really wasn't in the mood to be a personal
clown for the next seven days.
     "Oh man, I wish I could do that, then I could go be a superhero too!"
     "I'm no superhero, and it's really not all that great.  It's a lot of
responsibility, and you don't get to have an outside life."  Well, maybe you
did.  There weren't a lot of examples right now to compare to, and maybe it
was a career you could balance with having a life, but he was trying to
deglamorize it.
     "No way!  Having powers would be the best!  Maybe I could do something
for Mom and Dad so they we could have more stuff like all my friends!  Then
we could decorate the house more at Christmas and go on vacation in the
     Aaron was taken aback.  Sam's exuberance hadn't let down, but what he
said kinda stuck.  Aaron had never really thought about it, as much as he
wished he had been raised differently, poor Sam was truly missing out on all
the simple pleasures in life.  Heck, he'd probably never even seen snow, much
less had a white Christmas!
     "Hey Sam, your parents still have a back up water tank out back?"

               *              *              *              *

[December 25, 2023 - Phoenix, Arizona Sector]

     Sam woke up first.  He thought he's heard something on the roof.
"Santa?"  He was well past the age of believing in the jolly fat man, but who
else would be on the roof?  His excitement rose.  He sat up and with blurry
eyes looked at the window.  There was bright light streaming through.  His
vision was still too blurred to make out what was different from a normal
morning.  He ran out of the room to wake everyone up.
     "Mom, Dad, wake up, it's Christmas!"  Once his parents were awake he ran
to the living room to wake up Aaron, but he wasn't there.  He looked around
but didn't see his older cousin anywhere.  As his gaze fell upon the picture
window, his vision had finally cleared.  He completely froze.  As he stood
there, mouth agape, his parents and Aaron's walked into the room behind him,
staring in awe through the window.
     It was snowing.  Perfect, white, gentle flakes drifted softly to the
ground where a light blanket of sparkling powder had formed. All around the
house it was snowing, the entire yard was covered.  At the center of it all,
sitting on top of the roof, Aaron sat, eyes closed in deep concentration,
struggling intensely.  And smiling.

Story: Twas The Night Before GIMF...
Author: Saxon Brenton
[December 24, 2025 - The Academy, Wisconsin Sector]
     His student nickname was Bishie Boy, and he was currently sitting on the
roof of one of the administration buildings of the School for the Paranormal
at Northwoods.  After the recent snow the night was bitterly cold but for the
moment the sky was clear and he was gazing up at the stars.
     "Don't you ever get cold?" complained a familiar voice.  He half turned
to glance at Rebecca Maurstein..."Bash Girl"...who was floating just above
the roof.  She was bundled up against the weather and her hair was loose to
billow in the chilly breeze.
     "I thought you had a soup kitchen to help run," he countered.
     "My shift ended at 8pm, and I only hung around afterwards to help with a
bit more cleaning up after the fight.  And don't change the subject."
     He settled back against the roof again.  By the light of his sparkles
the sharp, vulpine features of his face were clearly visible.  "You know
perfectly well I don't need to feel cold if I don't want to."
     "I was thinking about wind chill, Adam."
     "Wind chill too," he said mildly.  "Here, look, I'll show you my new
trick."  He leaned out beyond the bare spot in the snow that his powers had
created as well as the slush melting at the edge.  With an ungloved hand he
scooped up some of the powerdery dry snow, then held it up in front of his
face and gently sprinkled it into his lap.  It fell straight down, oblivious
to the wind.
     "Some type of weather manipulation?" she speculated.
     "It would fit with the temperature control," he agreed, wiping his
hands.  "I'm going to talk with my tutor about it first day back after the
holidays.  In the meantime I've been thinking of simple experiments that
don't need any equipment that needs to be booked out."
     "Well crank up the heat and let me share some of it.  I've just flown
back from town and I'm freezing," she said, dropping down beside him, close
but not too close.
     "So, how did it go?" he asked, and of course she knew what he was asking
     "Pretty good.  Things got back to normal after the Marshals had taken
statements and the mess had been cleared up."  While never a major population
center, Rheinlander's proximity to the Academy warranted it a pair of
full-time Marshals just because of the students.  Just in case.  And with the
Academy's latest growth spurt over, there were a lot of unemployed
construction workers hanging around and waiting for the spring, despite
official efforts to get them to move on.  
     For now, a lot of them were living in a temporary shelter, and Academy
students were earning brownie points volunteering at the "soup kitchen," as
they'd nicknamed the shelter.  A disproportionate number of the volunteers
were Tymmytes, like Rebecca, something that surprised people who thought of
the Chyrch of Tym as just a bunch of goofballs.
     "And Irreverend Jackson wanted me to pass on her thanks for helping out
like that," she added.
     He gave her a droll look.  "We're training to be superheroes.  We're
*supposed* to pitch in when emergencies crop up."
     "I said much the same thing.  Her take on the matter was that just
because we're doing our jobs doesn't mean people should take it for granted."
     He nodded.  It was a fine sentiment, and from what he knew of Irma
Jackson she was wise enough not to get dispirited when people didn't always
behave in such an upstanding manner.  He changed the subject.  "Did you find
out why that paranormal attacked?"
     Rebecca shook her head.  "I expect Irma will get told when the Marshals
actually figure it out for themselves.  That guy was...not exactly
     "Truuue..." Adam drawled in agreement, remembering the way the bellowing
super-strong paranormal had attacked.  He hadn't exactly been responsive to
attempts to talk him down, or even goad information out of him.  In the end
all that Bishie Boy could do was use light flashes to distract and blind the
proverbial bull in the soup kitchen until Bash Girl could hit him enough
times to take him down and make him stay down.  It had taken quite a few
punches, which was impressive considering how strong Bash Girl was.  "I'll
take a guess at someone whose powers suddenly manifested and who was confused
and lashing out in pain.  But you'll no doubt hear all the other theories
when you go downstairs."
     She looked at him blankly.
     "You know how it made it onto the news?"
     "Yeah.  Slow news day," she said.  "That's normal for holiday season.
Throw in a few bystanders taking video on their palmtops and I don't see how
it couldn't have not made the news.  What of it?"
     "Turns out that speculation back here at school went wild.  You'll hear
everything about the Scytharian combat unit gone rogue, to the cats-paw test
by Khadamite gene-whackers to see what the Academy's response time is to an
emergency on a nearby target, to something caused by the Venusian weirdness,
through to a conservative Christian deciding to take the Church of Tym down a
peg for calling Christmas the Generic Interdenominational Midwinter Festival
and starting all their holiday rituals by swiping a credit card through an
EFTPOS terminal."
     "It wasn't an EFTPOS terminal.  It was a receipt imprinter.  And it got
busted anyway," she griped.  She glared at him.  "What are you doing up here,
anyway?  Shouldn't you be, oh, I don't know, soaking up adoration for being
one of the students who managed to take down a big bad super villain in the
fight that made it onto the evening news?"
     "Not me," he said forthrightly.  "I'm hiding from all that.  It all got
a bit much for me."  Then he took on a mischievous look.  "Actually, that's
why I'm glad you're back.  You're more gregarious than I am, and can better
handle all the attention.  I plan to throw you to the wolves as a handy
     "Oh hardy har har," she said.  Adam ignored this and the latest sour
look she gave him as he stood up and stepped off the roof.  She followed him
out into the airspace over the school grounds, albeit without the nimbus of
     They flew in silence for a moment, before Adam said, "Can I ask you a
     She shrugged.  "I guess."
     "What's your Rant?"
     "Your Rant," he repeated patiently.  "When you first got to be an
Irreverend, how did you phrase your rejection of unthinking obedience to
authority?  What did you say you'd do if you ever met the Tym on the road?"
     "Oh, uh....  It's not what you'd call a classic Rant."
     "It's not?"
     "No.  Not as such."
     "So?" he prompted.
     She sighed.  "If you meet the Tym on the road, buy him a drink and get
him to tell you the secrets of the universe.  Some of them may be true."
     Bishie Boy considered this.
     "I put a lot of thought into that," said Rebecca, a touch defensively.
She was obviously still rankled about the speculations on the attack at the
soup kitchen.
     "I can see that.  It's got poetry in it."
     "You think so?"
     "Yeah.  Why not?  Just because it doesn't have any 'whap him upside the
head with a rubber chicken' threat of humorous violence?"
     She looked at him suspiciously.  "You're not just saying that because I
let out that most of the students thought you were trying to emulate Dan
Tracey every time you locked yourself in your room to study, are you?"
     Adam laughed at that, as he always did at the memory.  "Aw, man.  And
you were all *so* wrong about that, too.  But it's still the coolest things
anybody's ever said about me.  No, really.  I'm not just repaying a favour by
being nice."
     "Well.  Thank you."
     He inclined his head.  "You're most welcome."
     She gave him a peck on the cheek.  "Merry Christmas, Mr. Nguyen."
     "Merry Generic Interdenominational Midwinter Festival, Ms. Maurstein."


End Notes:

     Not every author provided notes, but here's the ones that did.

"How Brightsword Saved Christmas" by Dave Van Domelen

     This partially came from a discussion on the Yahoo group of whether
there were vampires in ASH.  The rest is just my twisted imagination.  The
giant penguin is Pengonn, the Planet Eater, a Monsterpocalypse figure I made
up (http://www.dvandom.com/kaiju/pengonn.JPG).
     My original version of the first paragraph had Brightsword getting out
of lunch with his girlfriend, who he wasn't serious enough with yet to come
meet the parents.  But about halfway through the diary scene I realized that
the as-yet-unnamed female scientist would make a better pick, letting me tie
it all together in the end even better, while giving Klaus an ulterior motive
in sending Brightsword and not someone else.  And yes, Doctor Adams is the
future mother of Gloria Jackson, aka Brightsword II.  (There's a Presidential
name gag in there too.)
     In real life, McMurdo really did have a nuclear reactor, and it was
decommissioned in 1972.  As far as I know, however, it was not done because
of space penguins.

"Twas The Night Before GIMF..." by Saxon Brenton

     When Dvandom asked for submissions to the Holiday Special focusing on
different faiths I felt mischievous and asked for dibs on the Church of Tym.
After much revising I managed a story which I don't think fully centres on
the Tymmytes...since if it did it would probably be a lot weirder.  
     Truth be known even the holiday aspect of it is secondary to the story
of two young people doing what passes for 'slice of life' among trainee
superhumans at the Academy.  
     That said...my original story idea was how the Tymmytes would react with
the notion of the 'War On Christmas'...and among the background ideas that I
toyed with and which never made it to print was the principle that they see
themselves as inheritors of the purview of medieval court jester to utter
truths that no one else would dare.  This may seem archaic and redundant in
light of modern freedom of speech...but it also fits when you recall that a
lot of those freedoms were curtailed in the early 21st century of the ASH
setting in the anarchy post False Rapture.


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and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

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