I quietly crept toward the garbage disposal, clutching a tiny bundle in my hand. I held it as closely and inconspicuously to my body as possible, and my fingers were wrapped around its throat in a death grip. My eyes shifted to the left, then to the right as I neared the disposal. 10 feet from the disposal… 5 feet… all my problems would soon be over… 3 feet…
“Oriole, what are you doing?” a voice prompted behind me.
I paused and held my breath, cringing just slightly.
“What do you have there?”
I turned around, quickly moving my hands behind my back, and smiled at my friend. “Hey, Sade! I was just about to dispose of something. I’m not late for our lunch date, am I?”
Sade narrowed her brown eyes at me and put her hands on her hips. “You’re a terrible schemer and a worse liar, girl. Now, answer the question: what are you doing?”
I backed up a step. I was so close to the disposal. I could not fail now. “I wasn’t lying, and I’m not scheming anything dreadful. I’m doing this space ship and her crew a favor,” I took another step backward “I am just disposing of some garbage.”
Sade raised her dark eyebrows, her eyes widening just before she lunged for me and grabbed my arms.
“Hey!” I yelled as she yanked the object free of my hands.
“Oriole,” she exclaimed as she held it up “This is Mervin’s Elf on the Shelf!”
I planted my face into my right hand. “Yes. Sade. I know.”
“You can’t throw this away!”
I looked up at the taller girl and narrowed my eyes, setting my teeth firmly. “Sade, you know how I have always feared that I might wake up to find one of these creepy things in my room?”
Sade raised an eyebrow.
“Well, IT HAPPENED!” I shook my fists and stomped my feet, making my short brown hair bounce in all directions “My alarm went off, the sound of sweet singing birds filled my room, I heard the computer croon “It is now 6:00 AM earth time” and when I opened my eyes, BAM! There it was! It was staring into my soul, smiling with evil intent, hanging right above my head on a string!”
The expression on Sade’s ebony face was the perfect definition of “unimpressed”. She looked at the doll, then back at me. “Girl, you have issues. It’s just a doll. It don’t got no evil intentions.”
I twisted my face into the look of crazed horror. “You’ve never had one staring at you in your sleep!”
She rolled her eyes and turned around, walking away. “Mervin’s Elf was passed down from his great grandma. It’s an antique, an old family heirloom. You ain’t throwing this doll away.”
I jumped up and down like an irritated little kid, then I followed after her. “Sade, I can’t live on this ship knowing there is an Elf on the Shelf that could come sneaking into my room at any time! It’s an heirloom that needs to DIE.”
Sade shook her thick, dark, curly hair. “Oriole, what are the horrors you have faced during your time in Starfleet? A little doll ain’t nothing compared to Ferengi interrogation or Romulan death threats.”
Desperate for an excuse, I quickly interrupted her. “That’s it! That’s why I can’t stand it! It looks like an evil little Ferengi! The horrors! The memories!”
“Psh! Don’t give me that malarkey. I know you better than that,” she said, waggling a finger at me “Besides, this is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, the evil little doll will be put away and that will be the end of it.”
“Are you kidding me!? I have next year to look forward to.” I squeaked in agony.
“Then, next year you might be able to get away with trashing it, because I won’t be here to catch you.”
I quickly stepped in front of her, stopping her, my mood instantly changing to a much more somber one. “Whoa… so, it’s official? You’re being transferred?”
She looked down and nodded, her lips turning up in a forced smile. “Yeah. And I’m being promoted.”
I blinked in shock. “Promoted? Really?”
Her smile grew slightly. “Second class Petty Officer!”
I blinked again, trying to force myself to be happy. I should be happy. I was happy for her. But my joy in her promotion was overshadowed by the fact that she was leaving. We were practically sisters. We had grown up together, gone to school together, roomed together at the academy, and blasted into space together. But we weren’t being transferred or promoted together. It was hard to take. Finally, I forced a smile to my face and wrapped my arms around her, grabbing her in a big hug. “I’m so excited for you!” I managed to say in a sincere voice “Moving on to new horizons! Making your mark on the world- er, universe!”
She pulled her arms out from under mine and wrapped them around me, giving me a gentle squeeze. “Yeah, I know. Quit pretending, dum, dum. The pretender’s face looks awful on you.”
I pulled back and brushed my short hair behind my ears. “Well, I am happy for you. I just… I’d hoped…”
She shrugged. “I know, but we can’t win them all,” she laughed lightly “Hey, it gives us a great excuse to party like crazy, wild Sehlats this Christmas.”
I pulled my shoulders up in a mopey shrug. “I guess so.”
She spiked an eyebrow. “You guess so? Girl, there ain’t no guessing in this game. It is gonna be a fact!” she snapped her fingers.
I grinned, deciding to go along with her. “We will rock this ship with our party style.”
She nodded and winked. “That’s the spirit.” she walked past me, but as she did, I snatched the Elf from her.
“We shall start the partying by sending this evil creature into the underworld.” I made a mad dash for the garbage disposal as I spoke.
“No murdering of heirlooms, especially before Christmas!” she whirled around, her long legs quickly catching up with me before I had made it even half way to the disposal.
Several hours later, the ship was abuzz with every crew member preparing for the ship to dock at space station Triumph. This space station was where we would spend Christmas.
I looked up from my tablet and turned around to see Sade hurrying towards me, flashing her pearly white smile at me. “Talk and walk, girlfriend. I’m on my way down to engineering.” I said as I turned back around and continued walking, averting my eyes back down to my tablet. I suddenly staggered to the side, nearly crumpling to my knees when something was smashed onto my head, ruffling my hair.
Sade laughed. “You make a cute little elf!”
My mouth dropped open and I yanked a hat off my head. “You stinker. I’m not wearing this!” I declared as I looked at the elf hat, complete with elf ears, sparkles, and all.
“Yes you are. You lost the bet. You promised.” Sade insisted.
I shook my head in confusion. “Whoa. I lost a bet? When?”
Her brown eyes sparkled. “Thomas Axton’s wedding party.”
I planted my face into the palm of my hand as I remembered. “Oh. That. Great.”
She laughed again. “Don’t worry, you look adorable.”
I cleared my throat and slapped the hat back on my head, straightening it as I started walking again. I was acutely aware of the sniggers and grins from the other people passing us by, but I was determined to fall for Sade’s lie and believe that I was cute.
“And look, I’m a reindeer!” she said as she slipped a pair of antlers on and giggled.
I shook my head. “Where you come up with this antiquated garbage for us to wear is certainly beyond my understanding.” I said.
“Oh, don’t be so grumpy,” she poked me in the elbow “It’s fun!”
I narrowed my eyes and looked up at her. “You realize that one of our superiors will probably make us take these off, right?”
She shrugged dismissively. “You, they might. You’re an officer. But I doubt anyone will care. It’s Christmas, and we’re all about to get shore leave.”
I shrugged in turn. She did have a point. However, I seriously wondered if I wanted to step off this ship with this ridicules hat on my head. Pushing the thought aside, I looked back down at my tablet and frowned. “Have you noticed that it seems like a lot of personnel are being transferred?”
“Uh, no. I don’t keep up with that. Not my problem.” Sade replied.
“Well, I thought I would look, because you failed to mention where you were being transferred to. It looks like over half the crew is being reassigned or transferred.” I passed her the tablet to look at.
Her dark eyes scanned it for a moment, her ebony face growing more somber. “You ain’t pulling my leg, girl. That is most of the crew,” she flipped through the list a moment longer then passed it back to me “And most of them have been reassigned just within the last several hours. What’s up with that?”
I sighed and looked around. “I don’t know. I would ask, but everyone is kind of busy right now.”
Sade tilted her head. “Well, if it’s important, the Captain will certainly let us know.”
I looked back at my tablet and prepared to exit the listing of personnel, when a new name suddenly popped up. My name. I stumbled into a passer-by, apologized to them, and then grabbed my friend’s arm. “What… Sade, look!” I showed her the tablet and poked my name. My picture and information came up, along with a new title under my name.
Sade’s eyes grew wide. “Promotion to lieutenant!” she declared in surprised, yanking the tablet away from me “Wait a moment! Some monkey has gotten to the computer and is punching buttons! This can’t be right.”
I grabbed the tablet back from her and looked at it to make sure there was no mistake.
“I mean, don’t take me wrong, you totally deserve it, girl. You’ve worked hard! But that just don’t happen to first-year-of-active-duty kids. And definitely not ordinary kids, like us.”
I looked up and squinted at her, shifting my eyes between her face and the stupid antlers on her head. “Ordinary?”
She rolled her eyes and flicked her hair over her shoulder. “You know what I mean.”
A whistle blew and the shipwide intercom clicked on. “Attention crew, this is the Captain speaking,” the Captain’s voice echoed through the hall “I would like to commend each of you for your fine service aboard this vessel over the past year. You have been a wonderful crew, one of the best that a Captain could ask for. Unfortunately, all good things do come to an end.” he sighed “The USS Auriga is being decommissioned. I and a small complement of crew are to return the ship to Earth the day after Christmas, which means we will have to travel through Christmas day. I’m sorry. The rest of you will be staying at the Space Station Triumph where you will be reassigned to new ships and stations.” again, he sighed “This is as sudden and unexpected for me as it is for you. I’m sorry that this could not have happened at a better time, but then, when is a good time to break a family apart? My only expectation of you now is to keep your heads high and to complete your service aboard this ship with excellence, honor, and dignity, and then carry that same level of excellence with you to your next assignments,” there was a slight pause “Once we have docked at Triumph, you will have 6 hours to pack and say your goodbyes. Captain out.”
Sade and I exchanged stunned looks before I looked down at my tablet. “I’m one of the personnel stationed to stay aboard and return to Earth,” I mumbled “No wonder I was promoted. Only 20 crew members will be returning with the Auriga.”
There was silence between us for a moment, then Sade silently slipped the reindeer antlers from her head, losing her festive spirit. “Well… don’t that beat all. I didn’t think a ship could run on so little.”
I looked up and blinked, trying to wrap my head around the shocking news. “I- I have duties to attend to, and I imagine that I need to report to the Captain for my new station.”
Sade nodded sadly.
I took a deep breath and straightened the dumb hat on my head. “Hey, Rudolf. I’ll see you as soon as we dock. I’ll help you pack, then we will have a few hours of party time to kill,” I slapped her on the arm “Forget rocking this ship with our party style. We are going to rock the entire space station with it!”
She looked at me and forced a small smile to her face.
“No one can take us down, at least, not without a big, big bang,” I put on as big a smile as I could muster, before taking the antlers from her and slipping them back onto her head “And if I am going to wear this crazy hat, then you have to wear these ridicules antlers.”
Seven hours later, Sade and I stood together at the airlock that would soon separate us.
“Well, we always knew it would come down to this at some point.” she said with a heavy sigh as the two of us stared at the line that separated the Auriga from Triumph.
I took a deep breath. “Yep,” was all I could find to reply with.
The two of us simply stared at the door until a feminine voice echoed in the hall. “USS Auriga preparing for departure. Separation in t-minus 30 minutes.”
I sighed and turned to Sade. “Well, kid, here is where the road separates.”
Sade sniffled and I frowned. “Oh, shut up. You promised you wouldn’t do that.” I snapped.
“I can’t help it. I thought I had cried it all out in my quarters when no one was around. I cried enough to draw a bath with!” she sobbed.
“Lieutenant Zayne?” a voice drew my attention to a tall Vulcan man walking up to the two of us. His uniform indicated that he was a Commander, which instantly made me stiffen my posture out of respect for his rank.
“Yes sir, I’m Lt. Zayne.” I replied.
He regarded Sade, who was loudly sobbing without shame, then he looked at me, his dark eyes showing careful calculation as he considered the situation I was in. “I wished to congratulate you on your promotion and to say that you and I will be at the helm for this ship’s final journey. I look forward to observing your skills as a navigator.”
“Thank you, Commander Davak. I’m honored.” I said haltingly, glad that I was able to recall his name.
With that, he walked past us and down the hall into the Auriga.
Sade sniffed and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. “That was his nice Vulcan way of telling you to hurry up and get your booty on that blasted ship.”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed her in a hug. “Are you going to be all right?”
“Yes. I’ll be fine. But I already miss you.” she said, grabbing me tight.
“I know. I do too.”
“If you get a chance to go on world, tell the folks “Hi” for me, won’t you?”
I hugged her tightly. “You know I will.”
The sound of boots coming down the hall made the two of us break apart and watch as a young man approached us. “What? The two of you are still here?” he asked with a smirk.
“It’s about time you showed up, Mervin.” I said, nodding toward Sade “Take care of her.”
He threw his arms open. “Hey, what is a boyfriend for?” he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and thrust a hand out to me “Just take good care of yourself, huh?”
I shook his hand and winked. “I’ll do my best.”
Sade sniffled again. “Wave to me, before you go into warp.”
I widened my eyes and looked at her in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
She nodded, her lip quivering. “Yes, I’m serious.”
“But, Commander Davak said he’s going to be “observing” me. Remember?”
Mervin coughed, choking his own laughter, but Sade narrowed her eyes at me. “Just do it, please? And I’ll wave at you.”
“We won’t see each other waving, silly.” I put my hands on my hips. She gave me “the look” and I sighed, dropping my hands to my sides. “Fine. I’ll wave.”
She grabbed me into a hug once more, and only let me go when Mervin separated us. “Come on, you two. It’s not the end of the universe, and she needs to get to her station.”
I took a deep breath and turned, quickly stepping across onto the Auriga. I turned back around and smiled at her “Merry Christmas,” I said fondly with a wave.
She smiled and returned the wave “Merry Christmas,” she replied. With that, the airlock door closed and locked, blocking us from each other’s view.
“Lt. Zayne?” I turned to find Commander Davak staring at me at the end of the hall, which did very little to settle my nerves. He dipped his chin, inviting me to join him. I quickly accepted his invitation, and we walked down the quiet hall together. “We have some preparations to make, if you are going to keep your promise to your friend.” he said.
“Promise, sir?” I asked, wondering how much of our conversation he had overheard.
“Yes. To wave goodbye. Vulcans, and some humans, believe promises are meant to be kept.”
I nodded. “Thank you, sir. I believe they are meant to be as well.”
We stepped onto the turbolift together and he ordered it to the bridge. “What does Christmas symbolize in your culture?” he asked.
His question took me by surprise, so I hesitated until I could find the right answer. “For most people, Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. In my family, and Sade’s as well, we believe the Christian God sent His son to us as a free gift to be accepted, or not, according to one’s preferences.”
He nodded lightly. “And, according to the Bible, God’s Son came to earth specifically to die for the sins of man, thereby giving man the gift of eternal life, correct?” he looked at me.
I briefly wondered where he was going with this conversation before I replied. “Yes. That is correct.”
“For something good to come of his birth, he had to die in order to bring about something new.” he noted. The turbolift door slid open to the bridge, but neither of us moved to leave it. “Therefore, by his example, one can learn that change, even hard change, often leads to good.”
I blinked, finally figuring out what he was doing. I smiled sheepishly and looked down at my feet. “Yeah. I get it,” I looked back up at him and smiled “Good analogy.”
He spiked an eyebrow and tilted his head to the side just slightly. “I’ve learned that humans often need a “pep talk” when they have experiences such as this.”
My smile grew. “Well, thanks. You’re pretty good at it – the pep talk, that is. You shifted my mind to thinking about what really matters.”
He dipped his chin and stepped out of the lift. I followed him and we both took our stations. “Do not forget your promise.” he reminded softly as we both began to input the proper calculations for separation from the space station and a jump into warp.
I nodded with a smile. “Yes sir. How could I? It is my gift to her, after all.”
Kathryn Fogleman is a self published Amazon author of clean, family friendly Fantasy and good humor. She also happens to be a Science Fiction nerd with a dash of crazy fangirl. She focuses her writing around the one thing in her life that is a constant: the Creator of the Universe.
Kathryn's website: http://www.kathrynjfogleman.com/
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Kathryn's website: http://www.kathrynjfogleman.com/
Kathryn on Amazon: amazon.com/author/kathrynfogleman
Her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynjfogleman