The IM from Valentino she found when she logged in was disconcerting:
“Call me. What the hell have you got me into?”
She called him.
“Look, I can’t explain, you’re just gonna have to see this with your own eyes and then make up your own mind. I’m gonna send you a TP – it’s gonna be freaky, but stick with it – and Haven, remind me to punch myself in the mouth for listening to you!”
The TP request followed almost immediately, she took it, but it wasn’t like any other TP she’d experienced before. Messages flashed up on her screen she’d not seen before: ‘Disconnecting Agni…. Contacting Asmi’; ‘Secure verification in progress’; ‘Single use token exchanged’; then, ‘Loading alt world’… and she arrived.
Her surroundings were disorientating, she found it hard to discern any particular direction, and the there was little of substance from which to get her bearings. If anything, it was like floating in an endless space, only a space that shimmered with ever-changing colours and light, and where distance seemed to have little meaning. Panicking somewhat, she swung her camera around wildly, until to her profound relief, she spotted the familiar figure of Valentino, beckoning to her.
“Where the hell are we?” she asked him, and immediately regretted it, as the words lazily floated away from her into the ether in a way that was completely alien. As she watched them slowly cartwheeling away from her, she almost found herself wishing for good old fashioned chat lag, rather than this weird phenomenon.
“Use private”, came the terse instruction, “local is freaky as hell!”
She asked him again, and was surprised by his unexpected answer.
“No idea, hun. As far as I can make out this is a secret Grid that nobody, not even me, knows about – but our guy is around here somewhere. I did some digging behind the scenes and managed to figure out that he was definitely logged in, but somehow blocked – a bit like back in the good old days when we used to sling people into the Cornfield for mucking about. After that, it was just a matter of tracking him down… To this, frankly odd, place.”
She called up her radar: Sure enough there were three green dots, herself, Valentino, and the third, when she hovered over it, SantaClaus Resident. The only trouble was, all three green dots kept shifting and there was no way of knowing where exactly any of them were in relation to each other. All they could do was stick within eyesight of each other and search, as methodically as they could, which really was not very methodically at all!
It was difficult but they persevered, and after some time, the world around them began to behave in a more normal fashion. It was still colourful and surreal, but it no longer felt as if they were inhabiting some sort of 3-dimensional Escher painting – the words ‘up’ and ‘down’ once more assumed a meaning and they no longer felt nauseous just from being there. Then. quite suddenly and without warning, they found him.
Santa Claus looked exactly as she’d expected, but his current situation wasn’t at all what might have been expected. He hung, suspended in mid-air by a tracery of light beams, immobile and silent. They tried speaking to him, pushing him and sending him TPs home, but he remained insensitive to all their efforts – he was clearly AFK in every possible sense. They debated, for some time, how they might release him from his unfortunate condition, but even Valentino, with his extensive range of hacker’s tools, was unable to come up with anything. Conscious of the looming deadline of Christmas Eve, they tried everything they could think of, but their efforts came to nothing.
They did not, however, go unnoticed.
So engrossed had they been with their efforts to raise Santa, they had completely failed to notice the single blue dot that had appeared on the radar. It was only when a stream of blue text appeared on the screen that they realised they were no longer alone.
“Can I be of assistance?”
Demonaria Linden towered over them – an impressive, and somewhat frightening avatar, a full 9 feet in height, with impressive wings and glowing red eyes. It was clear that, despite the nature of the question, assistance was the last thing they should expect from him. She decided to bareface it out.
“Er, yeah. Hi! Umm, we were just passing and happened to notice our friend – Mr Claus – was, er… hanging around here, and we were kinda hoping you might be able to help us out with getting him back home?”
When no response was forthcoming, she added: “Mr Linden, please sir.”
It didn’t work.
Instead, the reply, when it came, was pretty much what she expected.
“What? You invade my own private grid, trespass on my land and then have the audacity to make demands of me? How dare you?”
“Let me just put you straight on a couple of things. First, you won’t be leaving here with your friend, or at all; second, Christmas this year and for as long as I care to make it so, is cancelled! And thirdly, once I’ve sorted you pair out, things are going to change around here – I’m fed up with residents and all their demands: ‘fix this, fix that, improve this, change the other, we want Skyrim graphics, we want no lag, blah, blah, blah!’ – you lot have had it way too easy, and now it’s my turn!”
“So, Demonaria Linden is going to give everyone inworld a very special Christmas present this year – higher tier, fewer prims, less privileges and a new Linden tax to keep me living in the fashion to which I hope to become accustomed. And none of the other Lindens are going to be able to stop me, because I locked all their accounts when they were off enjoying themselves at the office party!”
“Now, before I consign you to everlasting silence, I want you to bow down and worship me! BOW DOWN BEFORE THE GREAT AND ALMIGHTY DEMONA…”
The Linden stopped dead, frozen in mid-flow.
“Well, that’s quite enough of that nonsense”, said Valentino.
“What did you do to him?”
“Well, I may only be an ex-Linden, but I can still play around with the old God Powers”, he winked, “I muted and froze him, and that’s the way he’s going to stay, especially after I ban his ass and block his login! And… that give’s me a crazy idea about how we’re going to get out of this mess, and take old Santa with us.”
Valentino quickly explained his plan. Using his God Powers he’d restart the region, which even on this weird Grid, would hopefully log them all out and send them all back to RL. Santa would be released, and all he would have to do is log back in again to his home location. Just to be on the safe side, Valentino would send him an IM explaining the situation – hoping that Santa would have his IMs sent to email, although it stood to reason that being Santa Claus, it was inevitable that would be the case, and then, all being well, everything would be sorted.
It sounded like a plan that might just work, apart from one small detail…
“What about all the other Lindens?”, she asked; “He said he’s locked all their accounts – what are they going to do?”
Valentino smiled. “Oh, I think we can do without them for a while, after all what was it they used to say? – ‘Your world, your imagination’ – I think it’s high time we had a bit more of that in SL! Besides, when you’ve got a cool, friendly, ex-Linden on your side… And who it seems is now in charge of everything, who needs them?”
“All right, you old charmer, looks like everything’s worked out just fine. You’ve got your own back on the Lab, I’ve got my paycheck, and the elves have their boss back. All’s well with the world… So, something was mentioned a while back about getting nekkid?…”
“Bugger off, Haven!”
“Lol. Merry Christmas to you too, V!”
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the virtual office, the only thing stirring was a lonely private investigator pouring a shot of Jack Daniels’
She smirked, and the clock began chiming midnight. Some minutes later there was a commotion in the hallway and a tentative knock on the door.
“Come in, it’s open”
Santa Claus, puffing slightly, bustled through the doorway and sank gratefully into the chair in front of her desk. She poured another glass and pushed it across to him.
“Rupert said I’d find you here”, said Santa, “Sorry I’m a bit late, damn chimney was blocked up!”
Mentally, she noted the fact down – another reason never to light the fire.
“I just wanted to say thank you’, he continued, “and give you this.”
He handed her a small, gaily wrapped, parcel; “Merry Christmas, Seren.”
“And a very merry Christmas to you too, Santa. And, if you ever need a good PI… I’d go elsewhere, if I were you!”
It’s Christmas time again
It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year
I’m growing tired of all this Christmas cheer
You people scare me
Please stay away from my home
Blink 182 – I Won’t Be Home For Christmas