On the First day of Christmas, 87 Gave to me…
Tristan Bailey, putting up a Christmas tree. He had drawn the short straw, and was tasked with putting up the tree this year, which had been bought from a new tree farm in town.
"Eya Bailey!" Agent Ewell walked in, stepping aside from the mistletoe cautiously. "Merry X-Mas!"
"Same to you, Ewell." Tristan awkwardly stood the tree up and frowned; despite the fact that it was fifteen feet tall, it neatly fit into the commons he had set it up in, which had only a ten-foot ceiling. "…remind me to get Sinclair or someone in botany to look at this."
"Noted," Ewell said, sipping on some eggnog. "What all's happening in Multi-U?"
"Not much. We found a universe where… you know the Christmas Truce?"
"Yeah, that thing in World War 1 that made people stop fighting for an entire day because of the power of Christmas. Why?"
"We found a universe where it's a global holiday," Tristan explained. As he did so, a light flickered on the Christmas Tree, despite the fact that none had been put on. "Every year, across the world, wars stop being fought in honor of Christmas, or at least, a solstice celebration."
"And let me guess: the U.S. of A uses it to gank enemies from behind?"
"Actually, no. Here's what makes it amazing." Tristan grinned as he explained, ignorant as to what was happening on the tree behind him. "The League of Nations- U.N. never formed in this universe- has very strict rules about it. Nazi Germany tried violating it in 1943. Hitler was dead by New Years."
"Merry friggin' Christmas, eh?" Ewell chuckled and sipped at his drink, nearly dropping it as he saw what had happened to the tree.
"Yeah! And this year is the centennial of it, just like in this universe. They're throwing a big shebang; Director Weiss has given a few people permission to- Ewell you're getting Eggnog on the carpet!"
"…look at the tree, Bailey."
Tristan spun around and stared at the tree. It had changed from a plain pine to a marvelous spruce, hung with garlands and candles and various colors of berries, and popcorn strings, and at the very top, an angel. Not one of the wimpy ones you saw on the top of normal Christmas trees, either; this was a many-winged angel with inhuman form, and if it were real and not simply a wood and metal reconstruction, it would have burned out the eyes of everyone in Site 87.
"…get someone from botany. Now."
On the second day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Two magic tomes are what Dr. Sinclair pored over come December 15th. Everyone else was distracted with something about a tree in a common room. She had work to do, dammit.
So, she looked over the two books before her, scratching her head. "No, that's not right… the translation should be direct… why mistletoe…" She sighed, and looked around the dark, empty lab, lit only by a single candle by her side. She preferred to work in the dark; it helped her concentrate.
She rubbed her face and sighed. Monty- Montgomery- was gone for the holidays; he was visiting family back home. So, she was in her lab, alone, with Christmas only 9 days away. The second day of Christmas, as her mother called it; she counted Christmas as the 12th.
Either way, she was alone, in her lab. She didn't much care for Christmas, anyway, at least, not the American version; now, the Germanic version with the Krampus, That was an amazing celebration.
She reached into her wallet, and looked at a picture she had taken with her mother in Austria, during a Krampusnacht celebration she had been a part of when she was… what, 10? She was in on the act, of course, but that didn't make it any less exciting.
Katherine Sinclair, at this point, looked back at her tomes. One of them was a book written by St. Nicholas. Because of course it was; things in Sloth's Pit always seemed to line up with the times. In Thanksgiving 2013, for instance, coincided with Hanukkah, so the turkeys in the cafeteria had become golems animated by a disgruntled employee.
Katherine looked into this book and frowned. There was a ritual here for summoning the Krampus, or at the very least, a Krampus. A Christmas demon for 87. It seemed like a simple ritual, easy to contain… and could provide valuable insight into Krampusnacht and magic used by Saints.
What the heck? She clapped her hands, turning on the lights in the lab, and started looking for test approval forms.
On the third day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Three baffled botanists looked over the Christmas tree in Common Room 3, who, in turn, were being watched by various Foundation staff who were taking time off from guard duty or experimenting to look at the researchers doing it. They had been taking samples of the tree for days on end, but so far, it seemed like a completely normal tree. Of note, however, was that all the mistletoe in the site, real and fake, seemed to be vanishing, and started disappearing the previous night, forty-four in all.
One researcher in particular, Chris Hastings, was looking over one of the candles that had appeared on the tree, squeezing it in his hand, smelling it, and licking it. "Beeswax."
"Of course it is, Hastings. What else would a candle be made out of?" Dr. Partridge, head of Botany at Site 87, rolled his eyes at the annoyance of an assistant.
"No, I mean… this just formed on the tree. And look." He broke it open, revealing a honeycombed pattern inside. "Looks like it came right from the hive, but it's smooth on the outside. Maybe it's something in the tree?"
"We'll have entomology look into it," Dr. Partridge assured him."Dr. Grant's been rather bored lately; Christmas Bees would be exciting to him."
"Why bees? Pine trees don't flower…" Chris took out a notepad filled with several possibilities, including "Christmas curse", "fair folk", "enchanted tree" "Krampus (?)" and "Just plain fucking weird". "I've been meaning to talk to Sinclair in occult studies about it-"
"If Dr. Sinclair were a medical doctor, I'd be inclined to call her a quack. But, she's not, so I can only call her insane." Dr. Partridge sneered at Hastings. "Now, let's get this back to the lab-"
"Uh, we can't, sir. If you were here yesterday, you would have known that." Chris nodded to a couple of grunts, who attempted to lift the tree; it stayed in place like it weighed as much as a dump truck, and one of the agents yelped as he strained his shoulder. "It appears to be locked in place."
"…very well. We'll set up the commons as a containment area, for the time being."
All of the watching Foundation researchers protested; some booed like the disgruntled ghosts of Christmas. A few actually glared at Chris, despite it not being his fault.
This was going to be a long week.
On the fourth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Four and forty sprigs of mistletoe, both real and fake, lay in the center of a circle set up by Dr. Sinclair in the testing chamber. A very nervous-looking man from the cryptozoology department was assisting her, monitoring her through the chambers.
"You know, Researcher…" Dr. Hendricks swallowed. "I'm not equipped to do this. I honestly don't know what to do with half of this-"
"From left to right, EMF reader, Kant counter- though that's unreliable, at best- emergency Scranton activation switch, thermal camera, infra-red camera, regular camera, alarm button, and redundant recording devices."
Jason Hendricks stared trough the glass. "…you know, you could be monitoring this… have a D-Class do the actual… test…"
"Yes, let's have a barely sentient clone with organs that will fail in 30 days do a complex ritual that requires speaking in at least two languages." Sinclair rolled her eyes. "Anyway. This requires someone else to read the spell, so when I start burning the sprigs, read the highlighted section on the paper."
"Right…" Dr. Hendricks looked at the paper and frowned. "Didn't think Saint Nicholas would be involved in this…"
"Ol' Nick's the patron saint of thieves— repentant thieves, granted, but he was involved in some shit." She muttered a prayer and began burning the mistletoe. "Any time now, Jason."
Dr. Hendricks sighed, and read, feeling like a fool. "O'o'o yon mistl'to, hung on yonder tree… the ol' witch-god awaits you, kiss his lips for me…"
Dr. Sinclair expected the smell of burning plastic to meet her lips as she lit the fake mistletoe, but instead, all she smelled was crisp pine needles and Yule Logs. She gave a satisfied sigh, and produced a pumpkin, carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. "Herbst abgeschlossen ist, die Flüsse fließen nicht, Krampus, Krampus, Krampus, Kommen Sie…" She threw the pumpkin into the fire; it conflagrated instantly, and from it, emerged a being with the face of a man, the horns of some bizarre dear, and white, stark hair all over. It growled at Katherine.
"Wer ruft mich? Es ist meine Zeit vorbei." The Krampus had a cold voice, like freezing to death on Christmas Eve.
Katherine swallowed at the sound of his voice. "Ich heiße K. Sinclair," She was careful not to give it her full name. "Ich bin ein Forscher für eine Organisation, die ein Interesse an Ihnen. Sprechen Sie Englisch?"
"I speak English, yes," The Krampus grinned. "Your German is poor, Fraulein."
"I have called upon you to ask you questions," Katherine swallowed. "What do you know of Saint Nicholas of Myra?"
"That is not why you had your pet call me, K. Sinclair. You and I both know it."
She repeated her question, in more detail. "What do you know of Saint Nicholas, Defender of Orthodoxy, Wonderworker, Holy Hierarch, Bishop of Myra-"
"…he really calls himself Wonder-Worker now?" The Krampus snorted. "Very well. I shall tell you some information of him. I am bound by your wo-"
"Dr. Sinclair?" An unfamiliar voice entered the laboratory from behind Dr. Hendricks.
Hendricks looked behind him, and groaned as he saw who it was. Christopher Hastings, Botany, the great conspiracy theorist. The worst part is that he was right nine times out of ten, but nobody wanted to admit it. "Yes, Researcher Hastings?"
"…what are you doing here, Dr. Hendricks? Wha- ohmygod!" He dropped a stack of papers he was carrying as he saw what was in the testing chamber. "Y-you've summoned a Christmas Demon! You're intending to spread Christmas joy by force because we aren't celebrating hard enough! You're conspiring with the tree-people!"
"Tree- Hastings, what are you on about now?" He rubbed his face and sighed. "It's an experiment. We're seeing what information we can get out of him about Saint Nicholas, or something— it's Sinclair's doing. What did you need?"
Without another word, Christopher fled the room.
On the fifth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Five mugs of eggnog later, Christopher Hastings woke up in a daze in the common room where E-2512 ("The Christmas Tree") was, with Dr. Partridge having just come in. Not noticing the scattered mugs lying about, he nodded at Hastings and looked up at the angel on top. "Have we heard back from Theology about that?"
"Not yet, sir," Chris said, rubbing his face. "I tried to talk to Dr. Sinclair last night, but-" They were trying to summon a demon to take over the site "-she was in the middle of an experiment, so I said I'd be back later." No, you idiot!
"Very well," Dr. Partridge sighed. "Have we tried destruction testing yet?"
"Sir," Agent Ewell stepped into the room, looking distinctly yellow and frustrated, "I'd prefer if you didn't try to burn down an anomaly in the middle of a public common room."
"Who said anything about fire? We need acid-"
"I agree with Agent Ewell, sir."
Dr. Partridge looked at Hastings. "Christopher, you do realize the scientific value of this, correct?"
"Scientific value? It's a Christmas tree with lights that appeared when people got into the Christmas spirit. Unless we're planning to research whether or not trees can be living mood rings, I fail to see the value." He crossed his arms. "Besides, Bailey's the one who brought it in. Maybe we should ask him about it?"
"He's "out of town"," Ewell said, Christopher instantly picking up on the innuendo there. Dr. Partridge did not.
"…right." Dr. Partridge frowned. "I'll go talk to Father Plum in theology. Hastings, you try to talk to Sinclair again."
"A-all right." Chris swallowed and started to head down to the occult studies laboratory. On the way down, he avoided Dr. Hendricks, and knocked on the laboratory door. Maybe they had banished it?
Dr. Sinclair opened the door and frowned. "Ah. Hastings. What do you want?"
"I-I want to consult you about E-2512. I believe some magical activity might be taking place in it."
"I suppose I could be of some help," She shrugged. "Well, come in. We've made cookies."
"…we? Don't tell me…"
Sinclair held up her hands. "I haven't let him out of the testing chamber! I'm not an idiot! But he just conjured an oven out of nowhere and started making gingerbread men!"
"…so you actually did summon a Krampus…"
"Yes! And he's provided a fair bit of information about Jolly Old Saint Nick. Absolutely fascinating— did you know he could speak five different languages? And he might be affiliated with Doctor Won-"
A crackle came on from the testing chamber's communication as the Krampus pressed the button. "Fraulein, either let him in or don't. You're, as you say, waffling."
Christopher frowned and entered the room, Dr. Sinclair letting him in. She looked him over. "So, you… wanted to talk about the tree?"
Christopher nodded. "You found my notes on the floor, I take it?"
"Yes, they were out of order and nonsensical. Something about a "Christmas curse"? Just because weird shit happens around here on holidays doesn't mean this place is cursed; it just means that it's a Nexus."
"B-but the candles…"
"Ah, yes, the beeswax candles. What about them?"
"Right here-" Chris dug into his pocket to take out the sample bag containing single candle he had broken in two- only to find two full-size ones in there. "…oh dear."
"Right…" Dr. Sinclair took the bag, and took out a candle, and broke it. Over the course of about a minute, two new candles formed. "Hydration magic, then."
Hastings raised an eyebrow. "What does this have to do with water?"
"Hydration in the sense that if you cut one, two more grow in its place." She made a mock salute. "Hail Hydrate!" She then let out a laugh, leaning against a table so she didn't fall over; as she did, she made the scars on her forearms noticeable.
Christopher groaned and failed to suppress a laugh. "…one: that was a horrible pun. Two: that was completely unprofessional. Three: I am ashamed that I found that funny and got the reference, and four… what does this mean?"
"I don't know. Several forms of fae, mainly leprechauns, use it to trick humans. And no, it's not really called 'hydration', but it's a much better name than 'duplication', don't you think?"
Christopher sighed. "It sucks being right, you know that? But fairies? Why?"
"I dunno. We could ask Bailey when he comes back from out of town. Until then…" She offered a plate of cookies. "Ginger snap?"
On the sixth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Six hours was all the sleep Tristan Bailey got that night, and with good reason. For one, he wasn't in his quarters at Site 87; instead, he was in middling-quality inn in Sloth's Pit, known as The Elk's Horn. For another, someone was next to him in bed. The head of the Department of Multi-Universal Affairs, Dr. Claire Hennessy. The somewhat pudgy, red-headed woman smiled at him as he woke up, dazzling green eyes meeting his plain brown ones.
"Hello there, gorgeous." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "How are ya?"
"Don't call me that, Claire…" Tristan smiled at his girlfriend as he sat up in bed. "And I couldn't be better."
Claire sat up with him. "So," she said. "Apparently, that tree you brought in is causing a real stir back at the site."
"Which is exactly why I wanted to get away from there. Among other reasons."
"Oh, so I'm 'other reasons' now, am I?" Claire stuck out her tongue and got out of bed, going over to get her bathrobe on. "Seriously though, botany's got their head up their ass about it. Partridge is convinced there's scientific value in it."
"Which is why I'm avoiding the site. Partridge is gonna grill me about it endlessly."
"Partridge would grill someone about a pea pod if he was convinced it had "scientific value"," Claire agreed, putting on her robe. "Anyway. Shall we head up to the site? We need to sign the paperwork for the Truce universe."
"Yeah, I guess." Tristan got out of bed and began looking for his clothing "…why do my trousers have blood on them?"
A few hours later, the two of them drove back up to the site in separate cars, half an hour apart from one another. Tristan paid for the room with a civilian credit card, as opposed to the Foundation one he was issued; he had lost it anyway. When he got to the site, he used an entrance different from the one Claire had used, and met her down in Multi-Universal affairs.
"Dr. Bailey," she said. "You're late."
"Overslept, madam," Tristan said, adjusting his tie. "What's going on?"
"Well, for one thing…" Claire smirked at him. "You have visitors."
"Boo!" said a voice from behind. Tristan turned around and there were two copies of him standing by, one well-tanned and wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat, the other having a rather well-groomed goatee.
Tristan grinned and laughed. "Tom! Trev! What the heck are you doing here?!" He held out his arms, and the three brothers hugged.
"I gave myself time off for family," Tom said, "And Bright gave Trevor some vacation time over Christmas to visit here."
"Wait, wait, wait." Tristan said to Trevor. "Bright the Bastardized actually gave someone time off?"
"You'd be surprised what being related to our dad can do," Trevor said. "Anyway. Less than a week to Christmas. We got stuff to prepare for."
"Yeah," Tom said. "Like… we heard you found something out regarding the Christmas Truce?"
"Oh, we've got a lot to discuss," Tristan said, grinning and heading off with his brothers in tow. "I've got so much new data to show you!"
On the seventh day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Seven days after the tree had manifested its anomaly, Dr. Partridge was grasping at straws. He was trying to think of reasons to keep it contained.
"It's a good alternative to cheap Christmas decorations… no… Oh, I know! It's… no…" He paced back and forth in the greenhouse, while Chris took notes on how E-28198 was developing.
"Sir, with all due respect," Chris said, chewing on his pen, "It's not even a safe-class anomaly. At best, it's an anomalous item with connections to the fair folk."
"Don't call them that, Hastings. They're Unclassed Anomalous Entity-Jakob-892."
"Well, UAE-Jakob-892 has a tangential connection with it, at best, according to Sinclair. If I were you, I'd give it up for the time being. Wait until after the Holiday is done to study it."
"…very well," Dr. Partridge sighed. "I'll announce that Common Area 3 is to be re-opened to the rest of the site."
"Right," Chris stood up. "I'm going to talk with Dr. Sinclair and Hendricks again. See if they've made any progress."
Dr. Partridge replied with a noncommittal "mmm", and Chris headed out of the greenhouse, into the abnormally warm December day. He made his way to basement level five, where he knocked on the door to Occult Studies.
Dr. Hendricks peeked out of the door, timidly. "Oh, Hastings. Come in…" He opened the door, and revealed that the entire lab was decorated with candles just like the ones Chris had brought in the other day.
Hastings stared. "What the hell…"
"I don't know!" Sinclair said, taking down a candle. "Every time I try to remove them, new ones just pop up! I was kidding about the Hydra thing!" She took one down and doused it in water; two more popped up in its place.
"Is the Krampus being of any help with this?" asked Chris. "Hell, he worked with the big guy in red. He must know something."
"Actually, Mein Herr," said the Krampus from a seat near the entrance to the lab, "The Wonder-Worker wore brown more than red."
"Oh," said Chris, before doing a double-take. "He's out of his cell?!"
"He can't leave the lab," Hendricks assured him. "Sinclair made sure of that. Put some kind of a… bondage spell on him?"
"Binding enchantment," said Sinclair, twitching slightly. "I've bound him to something in this room that he doesn't know about, and he can't be more than ten feet away from it at any time."
"…right," Chris edged away from the Krampus. "So, endlessly-replicating candles, a tree that can fit inside a room smaller than it… but what does it all mean?"
"We've been trying to find the source of the tree," Sinclair said. "But Bailey's been of no help; he's been spending all day with his brothers."
"Perhaps I can talk to him," Hendricks said. "Comedy night is tonight. You're welcome to come if you want, Sinclair."
"And leave this magnificent specimen-" she indicated the Krampus- "Unobserved? I'd rather go Fahrenheit 451 on the Library of Alexandria!"
"…right," Hendricks sighed. "Well, at least it'll be good to see the Baileys together again."
On the eighth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Eight wrong addresses later, they came upon the proper tree farm. Tristan Bailey, Christopher Hastings and Katherine Sinclair all stood before the Terra Incognita Tree Farm- or at least, that's what the sign out front claimed it was.
The only problem is that there appeared to be no trees, nor a farm, and there seemed to be a distinct lack of anything incognita as well. Tristan frowned. "I don't get it. I know I bought it from here."
"Looks like you got duped," Katherine sighed. "God damn it. Why can't we have any normal holidays in this town?"
"We live in Sloth's Pit, Dr. Sinclair," Christopher said, breathing into his gloved hands. "Normal is relative, and in this town, it's a distant cousin five times removed that lives on Pluto."
"…that metaphor really got away from you, Hastings." Tristan frowned, and stepped over the threshold to the farm, past the sign-and vanished.
Sinclair started. "Shit!"
Christopher's jaw hit the ground. "…did we just lose one of the sons of Tyler Bailey? Weiss is going to have our asses on a platter!"
Tristan's head poked out of thin air; his body didn't follow. "Uh… you guys okay?"
Sinclair regained her composure. "Right, just as I suspected… illusory magics. Well, lets… proceed!"
Christopher coughed, which, by sheer coincidence, sounded like the word "bullshit".
Tristan nodded, and vanished again. Chris and Katherine followed, and found themselves in a very different place from Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin.
It was colder, for one, and there was actually snow. There were trees everywhere, ranging from five-foot-tall Douglas firs to over 100 foot tall spruces, all of which had price tags on them. The largest pine tree was the size of a skyscraper, so big that the entire place was in the shade of it. Sinclair gaped at it.
"You bought a Christmas tree from a magic tree farm, and you didn't notice?"
"…I may have been slightly drunk at the time."
"Ah, welcome!" a voice from nearby greeted them; turning, Chris saw that it was a tall, white-haired being with pointed ears. He looked at Tristan. The being spoke in a soft, sweet-sounding voice. "Ah, hello. You left your credit card here, you know."
Sinclair and Chris stared at Tristan, who looked ashamed. "All right, I was plastered. I had just lost a bet with that gambling addict in memetics. Gimme a break!"
"…you bet against Breaker. And lost. That… should be impossible." Chris rubbed his face. "That's beside the point." He looked over towards the elf, resisting the urge to ask if his name was Legolas. "…sorry, but… who are you?"
"I am one of Alfheimr. Your friend here purchased a tree from us for the solstice celebration." He nodded to Tristan. "He seemed quite happy with the purchase, but, as he said, he was intoxicated." He held out a credit card to Tristan, who took it sheepishly.
"Er, thanks. Listen, there have been some… complications with the tree."
"Oh?" asked the one of Alfheimr. "Are you unhappy with the root? Is its enchantment not working?"
"If by "enchantment", you mean "making its own decorations", then it's working perfectly fine," said Sinclair.
"Excellent!" The elf clapped its hands together. "Then I presume you only returned for the credit card? Or do you wish to purchase more?"
"…we're just wondering if it's safe, honestly," Chris said. "We've been… studying it, and…"
"Studying?" The elf frowned. "Ah. You're one of the Foundation, then. And before you ask, yes, we know about you. You aren't terribly well-liked, you know."
Dr. Sinclair's hand balled up, and she rubbed at the scars on her arm. "Look. We just want to know if something's gonna happen to the tree that might hurt us."
"Nothing at all!" the elf smiled. "Unless, of course, it was within the vicinity of a Krampus,. We don't terribly like those things."
Tristan and Chris stared at Katherine, who stared rubbing the back of her neck."Er. About that…"
The elf stared back. "Oh by the all-father… are you serious? Well, at least you didn't damage it."
"…define "damage"," Chris said, looking nervous.
"Well, so long as you didn't break an ornament… it should be- you broke an ornament, didn't you?"
Chris nodded. "I wanted to see what the inside of one of those candles looked like."
"For Wotan's sake!" The elf threw up his arms. "This is why my kind don't deal with your organization! You always mess up everything!"
"…how bad is it going to be?"
The elf thought for a moment, and simply said, "Do you have the means to escape a universe at your disposal?"
Tristan spoke up. "…as a matter of fact, yes."
"Then I suggest you all run into there and escape this one." With that, the elf walked off.
Tristan stared. "…did I just instigate an XK scenario?"
"He was probably exaggerating. I'll ask the Krampus about it tomorrow," Katherine said, smiling nervously.
On the ninth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Nine minutes of swearing and cursing in German later, the Krampus stared at Katherine. "The tree is from Alfheim?!"
"And you broke its ornamentation?! Around me! Oh for the love of…" He rubbed his face. "You need to banish me. Now. It might help."
"What's going to happen?" Katherine said. "Tell me. What is going to happen if we don't?"
"Oh, nothing much. Just a Christmas tree coming to life and trying to kill me."
Katherine's expression went flat. "…I believe you."
"Really? No flat "what" reaction?"
"This is Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin. Last Thanksgiving, we had animate turkey corpses attack the site. At this point, nothing surprises me."
"Right…" The Krampus rubbed his face. "All-father isn't exactly pleased with the Wonder-Maker intruding upon his territory."
"…how is Santa Claus intruding on Odin's territory?"
"Think about it. Leader of an important organization in the north, all sorts of servants of lower class than him, great flowing beard…"
Katherine sighed and dug some aspirin out of her pocket, rubbing her scars as she swallowed it. "Right, so. Either we watch you duel to the death with a Christmas tree from Valhalla, or we banish you and let said Christmas tree tear us apart."
"That's the long and short of it," said the Krampus, biting the head off of a gingerbread man.
"…in all honesty, I'd rather have you here. We stand a better chance if we have something to fight against it."
"I was afraid you'd say that." The Krampus sighed. "I'm willing to bet that spirits of other holidays don't have to put up with this."
Katherine shrugged, and was about to respond, when there was a knock on the door of the lab. She peeked outside, and saw all three of the Bailey brothers outside. "…what do you want?"
"We hear our brother screwed up," Trevor said, poking Tristan in the side.
Tom nodded, giving Tristan a noogie. "We wanted to see if there was any way we can help un-screw it up."
"…right, okay… this is going to need some planning…"
On the tenth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
"That's at least ten sprigs of mistletoe I've seen you hang today, all of which are from my greenhouse.." Dr. Partridge frowned at Tom Bailey. 'What exactly are you playing at? Do you want the entire site to start gluing their faces together?"
"Quite frankly, we're trying to prevent the site from being destroyed by a psychotic Christmas tree." Tom started to hang the mistletoe from the door to the entomology wing.
"Hush," Tom frowned as he hung the mistletoe from a strand of red string."The Christmas of 2008 never happened. We all agreed on it."
"There was Christmas in 2008?" Snarked Tristan as he passed by, putting up sacrificial gingerbread men along the hallway. Tom pointed at Tristan, Tristan pointed at Tom, and they both went "aaaaay!"
"…I will never understand how Tyler Bailey could produce sons like you…" Dr. Partridge shook his head, and started walking off.
As he went, Tom shouted after, "Y'know, our mom might have had something to do with that!"
Tristan laughed, and continued pinning the cookies to the walls. Tom looked over at him. "So, Weiss is still… relatively lenient, I see."
"Anything for the good of the site, Tom." Tristan smiled.
"Not exactly what I meant." Tom shook his head. "By the way, point of interest: Trevor hung some mistletoe over Dr. Hennessy's office."
Tristan frowned. "…and this is relevant to me how, Thomas?"
"And I know you're bullshitting me! You only call me Thomas when you're bullshitting me."
Tristan sighed. "Is it that obvious?"
"Tristan, the stain on your collar is the same color as her lipstick. On a related note, wash your fucking shirt once in a while."
"…look, if anyone at the Site finds out, Claire will be ruined. Think about it, the head of Multi-U sleeping with the kid of the person who invented the MUTA…"
"Could be worse," Tom said. "You could be a chick."Tristan threw a gingerbread cookie at the back of Tom's head; he winced as it collided. "What was that for?!"
"For reminding me there's a universe where we're the Bailey sisters." Tristan shivered.
Trevor walked by at this point. "…I dunno. I thought that I was kind of hot in that universe."
"Of course you would think that," Tom said, going on to the next doorway to put up some mistletoe. "Right, so, we have less than a day until that tree wakes up. Is the site going to be evacuated?"
"Probably," Trevor said. "It's the safest thing to do."
"And we're going to miss an all-out brawl between two holiday spirits?" Tom frowned. "Dang it."
"I'll see if we can at least get the security footage of it after the fact," Tristan said. "Has Hastings figured out how to move the tree yet, by the way?"
"He's working on it." Tom paused meaningfully as he heard a chainsaw rev up from the direction of Common Area 3, followed by the scream of a D-Class as the kickback of said saw made him lose an arm.
"…well, at least this Christmas won't be green," Tristan said, pinning another Gingerbread man to the wall.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
At 11:00 in the morning, all hell broke loose at Site 87.
The majority of the site had evacuated the night before, but a few had stayed behind, all by choice, in order to study the events. From botany, Dr. Partridge and Christopher Hastings were there to observe the tree's behavior; from Occult Studies, Dr. Sinclair and (reluctantly) Dr. Hendricks, to keep the Krampus in check; and from Multi-Universal Affairs, the Bailey Brothers, ready to shove both the Krampus and the Tree in the Multi-Universal Transit Array if the need arose.
"Right," Dr. Partridge said. "Explain to me how this all works again."
"The gingerbread cookies will act as sacrifices for the Krampus in place of blood sacrifices," Sinclair explained, "and will empower it to fight E-2512. The mistletoe acts as a mechanism to contain E-2512, (in theory, at least), the bottles of Coca-Cola will act as the spiced wine for the banishing ritual for the tree-"
"Magic, got it."
Katherine frowned. He wasn't incorrect, but why bother asking in the first place?
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe that actually had facilities to contain a psychotic Christmas tree and had done so before, Tristan Bailey was meeting with his counterpart. Or at least, he thought it was his counterpart.
"God, that goatee looks ugly," Tristan said to his other self.
"Yeah, I know," said Tristan-2. "I'm thinking of shaving it off."
"Oy!" Trevor said, having an identical goatee to Tristan-2.
"But it looks good on you!" Both Tristan and Tristan-2 said, blatantly lying.
«Are you jackasses ready to contain this thing,» Asked Dr. Hendricks over their earpieces, «Or is this going to be 2008 all over again?»
"What happened in 2008?" asked Tom-2, pushing up his glasses.
"Do you have a paleontology department at 87 in this universe?" Tom asked, adjusting his hat.
"We don't have one in our universe anymore."
"…yikes," Trevor-2 said, fiddling with his own straw hat.
Meanwhile, in our universe, the Krampus stepped into Common Area 3, nostrils flaring as it bit the head off of a gingerbread man. The tree simply stood there, taunting him.
No response from the tree.
"Come on, I know that you want to do this. I'm a spirit of a Holiday, you're a Christmas Tree. Just get it over with already."
More silence. Dr. Partridge coughed from behind. "See if you can get a sample of its needles."
The Krampus turned its head to say something along the lines of "piss off", and got blindsided by a sucker punch from the Christmas Tree, which had grown arms and legs and had leaped forward to attack the creature.
It was at this point that Christopher Hastings finally began to question the choices in his life that had led him up to this point. He would have questioned it more, had a blast of energy not come from the tree topper and hit Dr. Partridge in the chest, sending him sprawling.
At that point, Chris started running away. The Krampus stayed behind to fight, peppermint-scented blood dripping from the wounds as he was pushed back to the first mistletoe barrier. The tree let out a screech and attempted to muscle through the wall created by the sprigs of berries, and fired a ball of green energy through it, obliterating the barrier.
The Krampus dove out of the way in time, and the ball hit the ceiling, causing it to sprout pine needles, which then started to rain down on the Krampus, impaling the creature and pinning it to the ground.
He would recover, but not before the Christmas Tree tore apart the entire site looking for the one who damaged it.
Chris ran all the way down to Multi-U, leaving the doors to the stairwells open on every level so that the tree would search the entire facility until it found him. He just hoped Dr. Sinclair was right about the tree wanting to get him after it took out Krampus, and as it turned out, she was.
He just didn't count on the tree being able to use the elevator. He gawked as the doors to the one on the Multi-U level opened, and a fifteen-foot-tall tree thing stepped out, the topper glowing bright red and green.
"…I hate this job."
He started running, but he was out of breath from going down about a dozen flights of stairs. Arcs of red and green light went over his head, impacting on the walls and turning into pine needles, holly, myrrh, frankincense, and it occurred to Chris that he should stop identifying the various Christmas-related plants and run for his life.
As he ran down the corridor, panting loudly, he drew a sprig of mistletoe from his pocket and held it in front of him like Van Helsing would hold a cross to Dracula. Unfortunately, at the moment, the tree was acting more like Alucard. It simply kept lumbering towards him, and the entrance to the MUTA was over fifty yards away. He could run for it…
But it was too late. Christopher was knocked to the ground by a blast of green light hitting the hand with mistletoe in it. He yelped in pain as he felt pine needles grow through his hand. The mistletoe sprig was thrown to the ceiling above the tree, where it clung.
An entire bush of mistletoe burst from the modular ceiling, toppling the tree to the ground where it flailed about, unable to regain its footing. Christopher Hastings was somewhat aware of this as he blacked out.
Christopher was awoken by a slap to the face. Dr. Sinclair stood in front of him, smiling. "Oh thank God! We thought you were dead!"
Christopher blinked awake, looking around. The Christmas Tree was flailing about on the ground, and as being loaded up onto a small cart by six Bailey triplets, with Dr. Hendricks assisting, lining the cart with mistletoe just to make sure. Chris as he looked at his arm; it was bloody, covered with pine needles which had burst outwards from under the skin. 'Son of a bitch!"
"We're getting you to surgery." Katherine looked up at the mistletoe bush sprouting from the ceiling. "Fascinating… The blasts appear to have transfigured parts of the site into holiday-related plants, including mistletoe. It hoisted itself by its own petard."
Christopher blanched as he realized something, standing up slowly. "…Dr. Partridge got hit…"
They ran (or, in Chris's case, hobbled) off to where Dr. Partridge had fallen, only to find an odd, small shrub where his body was. Christopher stepped over to inspect the plant. "…small tree of the genus pyrus."
"Dr. Partridge is a pear tree."
Katherine wanted to laugh, but all she could do was scream impotently.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, 87 gave to me…
Twelve piles of paperwork stood before the various members of various departments. One for incident reports, one for casualties sustained, one for property damage, and so on. There was only two casualties for the whole thing, thank god, and even then, Dr. Partridge had already regained sapience and the ability to talk, but was excused from doing paperwork for the time being.
"Because of course he is," muttered Chris, doing two piles worth of paperwork at the same time.
"What do you expect, Hastings?" Tom sighed, filling out Containment Form 281-C while Tristan next to him filled out Multi-Universal Negotiation Form 88-B. "He got turned into a fucking tree. He has an excuse."
"My subdermis got turned into a conifer!" Chris held up his arm, which was in a sling, wincing as he did so. "Ffffffff….."
Dr. Sinclair sighed at him, getting up from a finished pile of paperwork regarding cross-contamination of anomalous objects. "I can take care of a few sheets, if you want. Just expect calls from me when it comes to requisitioning stuff."
"Egh…. thanks, Sinclair. You're a lifesaver." He sighed. "Merry Christmas, eh?"
"Oh, by the way," Trevor said, filling out the paperwork he had oh his tablet. "You might want to come down to Multi-U tonight. We've got a present for you all."
"How'd you feel about going to an alternate universe for Christmas?" asked Tristan.
"…I've had enough Christmas anomalies for one year," Christopher said, heading out.
The three brothers snickered as Chris exited the room, limping slightly as he headed down to the occult studies laboratory, just to check on something related to Christmas. When he arrived there, he found the Krampus, as he expected, but also someone else.
Standing with the Krampus, talking to it, was a young woman with bright red hair and green eyes, wearing the ugliest Christmas sweater that Chris had ever seen, along with a hat that had a fake set of elf ears on it. She grinned manically as she talked. "…good thing we had Emma to fill in for you; we nearly made a botch of the whole thing!"
"My apologies, mein chef," the Krampus said, bowing to her. "I was indisposed."
"Did you really fight a Christmas tr-" she blinked as she noticed Christopher standing in the doorway. "Why, hello! Merry Christmas to you!"
"Uh," Christopher blinked. "Are you… authorized to be in here?"
"Well, this place has Christmas decorations all around, and my friend is here." She grinned. "I don't see why I wouldn't be allowed in here."
Chris laughed for no good reason. He didn't know why he laughed, something about the woman just filled him with an odd kind of joy. "Right, okay, uh. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to- haha- leave."
"Fair enough. I'm just here to collect my friend." She rummaged around the lab. "Let's see…. where'd she put that…. ah-ha!" She reached into a drawer and picked up a beaker, which had an odd glow about it. She took it in her hands and motioned the Krampus closer. "Not a half-bad binding spell, if I do say so myself. This doctor has some potential." She gave a grin to Chris. "Right, we must be off. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
With that, the woman and the Krampus disappeared behind one of the lab counters like they were walking down a set of stairs. When he came to look at it, they were both gone entirely.
At this point, Christopher decided that, even though it was only 1:00 in the afternoon, he needed a drink.
That evening, everyone at Site 87 wore Christmas sweaters that were almost as ugly as the one worn by the odd woman in occult studies. There was even a contest for who had the ugliest one (which the Baileys won), and the whole site drank several mugs of eggnog.
As he was drinking his seventh (or was it eighth?) mug of eggnog, Christopher Hastings passed by a new Christmas tree which had hastily been erected in Common Area 3, and noticed something. Under the Christmas tree was a present, which had a tag that read as such:
To: Christopher Hastings
From: Dr. W. and Herr K.
Raising an eyebrow, he took the present out from under the tree, noticing that there was a present like this for Sinclair, the three Baileys, and Dr. Hennessy, oddly enough. He shrugged, and unwrapped his gift.
Inside was a framed picture that he swore was never taken, of himself, the three Baileys, Dr. Sinclair, and several other Site-87 staff members, all in Christmas attire. He saw the message at the bottom of the frame:
"May your Christmas Spirit be Uncontained."
He laughed, and walked out of the room, picture under his arm.