The arctic terrain appeared pure and undisturbed. The flat, frozen expanse of the Arctic Ocean was disrupted only by an occasional spur of jagged ice that would usually jut straight into the air for several meters. The only life appearing here would be a rare arctic fox taking a shortcut from one frozen shoreline to another, but even that only took place in the summer months when the shore was closer.
A sudden disturbance took place on the surface of the ice, as it broke and a new jagged spur began to grow and lift upward. As it grew, a few chunks of ice fell aside revealing a rising tower of black metal. In a few seconds, most of the ice had fallen away leaving the long and thin tower to finally stop and take a position looking over the ice.
“I want an equipment check,” Squad Leader Ivan Turev told his men. “We’re disembarking in five minutes.”
Ivan stood at the base of a steel ladder that led to the exit hatch on the tower of the Soviet Akula nuclear-powered attack submarine. The seven other men in his elite squad were lined up in the grated walkway behind him. Most of them were drinking fluids. Once they were outside, drinking would be troublesome in the extreme temperatures. Several of the sub’s crewmen were present, being assigned to help lower down the equipment of their Spetsnaz comrades once they were afoot. Corporal Vadim Sokolov stood directly behind his squad leader.
“The temperature outside is about fifty below zero Fahrenheit,” he informed his commander.
“I’ve been out in worse,” Ivan responded. “Still, let’s get back to the ship before nightfall.” He dropped his goggles down over his eyes, brought up the fur-lined hood, but paused before covering his face with the heavy veil. “Button up – let’s go.”
His men all quickly responded by following his actions.
Three minutes later eight Soviet Spetsnaz commandos climbed down the rung ladder on the side of the sub’s tower and plopped down one by one onto the ice. They all had to avoid one section of ice cracked by their submarine, or it tended to tilt, potentially sliding the soldier on it into a strip of open water next to the sub’s hull. With the exception of the fur lining of their hoods, and a very small red patch on each right arm depicting a Soviet flag, the heavy uniforms they wore were completely white.
Once the commandos were all down, some crewmen lowered the gear that was too cumbersome to climb down with. Eight sets of skis and stocks, and a weapon for every member of the squad, consisting mostly of AK 47 assault rifles. Soon, the entire squad was lined up single-file with their skis on and weapons on their backs. Squad leader Turev was in front holding a set of binoculars.
Corporal Sokolov stood behind him, holding a compass. “When we have moved eight kilometers in that direction, we should be able to see the lights of their outpost.”
“No good intelligence, and not a single good satellite photo,” Turev complained. “We can’t be sure what we’re getting into.”
“I would wager on a weather station ran by the U.S. and Canadian air forces,” Sokolov boasted. “I am though surprised they would set up so close to Soviet waters.”
“I’m confident that Rudolf Island shows up on their satellite photos,” Turev said. “I’m equally sure that they know they are pushing their luck building their base so close to a Soviet island.” Turev made a gesture and began to ski forward – his men followed in single file.
It was snowing gently as Santa Claus strode across the main cobblestone street of his tiny village to one of the smaller toy factories. He nearly slipped on the thin coating of ice on the stones. The two married elves running this shop specialized in complex toys with a lot of moving parts. The problem was the toys were so popular with good boys and girls, and yet so few elves had the skills to handle this level of toy-making. The demand had exceeded their capabilities of production.
As Santa walked in through the fancy, wooden double-doors, he spotted two elves sitting at a work table, while putting the finishing touches on a revolving dart gun made to fire suction darts. Ginger raised her head to give Santa a warm, welcoming smile, while Tinsel suddenly fired several darts from his gun. All three darts stuck to the brick wall on the other side of the room.
“..And just how many units of that particular toy do you have ready Tinsel,” Santa asked in a mildly stern voice.
“We’re up to sixty units now,” Tinsel replied.
“We have over a hundred orders for them, and only three weeks until Christmas,” Santa countered. “Every since I presided over the wedding for the two of two, you seem to have slowed down a bit. Are you two over here making these fantastic toys, or are you….”
“You can’t rush perfection,” Ginger interrupted Santa, giving her husband a quick wink.
“The quality is outstanding as usual,” Santa admitted, seeming oblivious to any possible double meaning in Ginger’s comment. “I just wish I could spare some elves from the other factories to lend you a hand.”
“It would help to have an extra set of hands and feet,” Tinsel said, examining his completed dart gun with pride.
Santa sighed, “Some of the other factories need help as well. I don’t think I can move any of the workers. It may be necessary again this year for me and Mrs. Claus to lend a hand in some of the shops.”
“It’s concerning,” Ginger said. “I think you might be losing a little weight.”
“Alas,” Santa sighed, grabbing at his stomach through his bright red coat as he strode back out into the cold.
Ivan Turev could barely believe what he was seeing through his binoculars. At first glance, the objective didn’t appear to be a military installation, but a quaint village with over twenty handsome structures of wood and stone. He could even see lit lamps that ran along little cobblestone streets that should have been covered with ice in this environment.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Ivan said, handing off his binoculars to Corporal Sokolov.
“Hmmm,” Sokolov mumbled, looking through the lenses himself. “This is very unusual indeed – wait… I think I see children crossing the street. They are wearing colorful little outfits with silly hats. They certainly don’t have enough clothing for this kind of cold.”
“Well, you’re the man who thinks he knows everything,” Ivan stated. “What do you think?”
“Finnish laplanders,” Corporal Sokolov stated flatly. “It would explain the gaudy clothing, and the parked reindeer sleigh I’m looking at right now.”
One of the soldiers had removed his skis and laid down on an icy bluff that rose a few meters higher than the surrounding ice. He was looking through the sight on his Dragonov sniper rifle at the village. The weapon’s barrel rested on it’s bipods.
“What do you think comrade Artur?” Ivan asked him.
“The corporal is full of shit,” Private Artur Mendev stated. “Laplanders don’t have houses that nice, even if they aren’t living on the Arctic Ocean. God knows what these people are doing here.”
“God knows, and in a little while we will know,” Ivan claimed. He removed the white sheath from the barrel of his AKS-74U assault rifle, planted his stocks into the ice, and moved forward with his weapon in hand, still skiing with great skill. “Fan out and move in, but no shooting unless you see a weapon.”
“Cover us!” Corporal Sokolov ordered Private Mendev.
“That’s a great idea,” Mendev droned. “I think I’ll do it.”
Corporal Sokolov shook his head as he began to move out following his squad leader.
Seven men skied towards the village with several meters between them. With the exception of Private Mendev, they would all enter the village at the same moment.
“It seems to be getting warmer,” Ivan said as they skied up to some of the outlying buildings. “I don’t think it’s much below freezing at the moment.”
“Of course it’s warmer,” Corproal Sokolov stated, his voice sounding suddenly high pitched. “How are we supposed to help the elves with the toys if we are miserable?”
Ivan immediately understood the joke, and would have laughed, but his weapon suddenly grew heavy and his own arctic uniform seemed to expand and engulf him. He fell to the ground, caught in a net of his own heavy clothing.
Private Mendev looked through the barrel of his Dragonov sniper rifle at the astonishing events. His entire team entered the outskirts of the village and seemed to be overtaken with confusion, many of them collapsing to the ground; stranger still, they appeared to shrink into their uniforms, and moved about as if they were small children playing in the uniforms of grown men.
“What the hell!” Mendev breathed. “They are Americans. What kind of weapon does tha…” Suddenly, a couple of village children in the gaudy laplander clothing drew near his squad leader and Vadim.
“Get away from them,” Mendev whispered. He fired a few shots near the feet of one of the small villagers. They both immediately bolted for cover.
His team members began to waddle into the village themselves, almost as if they also were getting to cover. Vadim partially came out of his uniform, revealing that he had indeed changed into a tiny man. He still looked like Vadim, but his pointy ears and nose revealed his new form to be something other than human. It was then that Vadim realized that he had actually seen no children in this village.
Private Mendev could no longer keep his composure. “What the hell are you doing comrades!” he shouted loudly.
In a few minutes, there was no one in sight. He could hear the sound of doors slamming shut and the sound of many little jabbering voices.
“That’s great,” Artur said to himself. “Now what am I supposed to do?”
Artur had been motionless for more than five minutes, and began to get very cold. He needed to quickly decide if he should enter the strange village to rescue his comrades, or head back to the submarine to report the events. The squad’s radio was now in the village.
After he got to his feet and put on his skis, he was still undecided about what he should do. At this time he noticed something very large moving in the village. It was white, had a roughly humanoid form, and stood over twelve feet tall. It was walking in Artur’s direction very quickly.
“Hey there!” Artur commanded. “You’d better stay away from me.” He raised his Dragonov to fire. He knew he could easily hit it without his scope.
The thing drew closer, quickly picking up speed. It’s arms and legs appeared to be made of stacked balls of snow that were kneaded together to give them a more streamlined shape. It’s head was one big snowball, while it’s chest was made of several. The thing had a fearsome, menacing look, and didn’t appear to be any child’s creation. Painted wooden attachments to the head of the creature created it’s face, and explained it’s aggressive look.
“Haaa!” Artur screamed, ineffectively emptying half the magazine of his Dragonov sniper rifle at the snowman before it picked him up like an old sack of potatoes and carried him toward the village.
Several hours after Artur joined his comrades in Santa’s village, a delighted Santa Claus hosted a worker’s meeting where all the elves formed a schedule to get the Christmas work orders done. With the arrival of new helpers, the situation looked much better. Even though they were untrained in toy-making, the Spetsnaz elves knew how to work as a team, and the extra hands and feet would do much to speed up production.
More than one of the Spetsnaz elves would remark on the strange Socialist model the village seemed to work on. Santa gave the orders, while the elves did all the work without pay. The elves seemed ingrained with a natural desire to make the toys for Christmas. The newcomers were instilled with this as well.They only needed to work three months out of the year, and took great joy in the wonderful meals prepared by Mrs. Claus.
As it turned out, Vadim and Artur were assigned to help in Tinsel and Ginger’s shop. In the course of working in the shop a few nights after their arrival, Tinsel remarked to Vadim and Artur that he once was a human as well.
“Where did you come from?” Vadim asked him.
“I once was a Norwegian Laplander,” Tinsel said. “I was a greedy man who came out onto the Arctic Ocean to poach seals for money. Most Laplanders only worked to feed their families. This was a long time ago.”
“You see,” Artur said. “Norwegian Laplanders. Maybe next time you’ll think before you run your mouth.”
Vadim playfully tackled Artur to the ground, sending his silly hat flying across the room.
Three years later on January 7, when Russia has it’s Christmas day, a very human Ivan Turev came home to his wife Olga in Saint Petersburg. She had long before come to believe that he was dead. Much to both Ivan and Olga’s delight, she had been too busy with their four year old daughter Lena, and working to pay the bills to ever find another man. The Soviet Union had collapsed, and so the appearance of a long missing special forces soldier didn’t draw much attention. Their daughter didn’t recognize her own father since she was only a baby when he vanished, but the three of them had all the time in the world to catch up.