Bewildering Stories

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The List

by Thomas R.

It was the time of year when the elves had to go meet SANTA and discuss the list. He dreaded this time of year. He always did. His name is 238, one of the many elves who help SANTA. Some do the workshop jazz, but his job had always been to help SANTA on the list. Make it real for the "kids".

He got to the room and SANTA was already there. He really did it up this time of year. The avatar was fat jolly the whole nine. Some dumb human custom which made them find that funny. He never got it, nor did he care. He knew what SANTA was and didn't like the pretense.

"Ho ho ho 238. I have some special work for you this year" SANTA said.

"Cut it, let's get to the naughty and nice" said 238.

"Why you are such a rascally little ELF. Still I like your industrious spirit. Okay, first there are the cybernetics in Triangulum. They've been rather naughty don't you think?" SANTA

"I suppose"

"You suppose? Why you saw how they beat up the kids at home and stole lunches from the neighbor kids at school"

Translation they purged biological beings in their dominion and had begun starving their enemies

"I'm on it, the stick treatment right?" 238 began devising a virus which would weaken their rule and aid rebellion of their subjects.

"Oh yes, you know the kind of stick they need. I can see it on your face you little imp" SANTA smiled as much as a multi-galactic AI's avatar can smile.


"Oh right. Well there is a world in Andromeda called Mehkada. They have been real good. They've worked real hard on their studies, clean their room good, and are so kind. They are on the nice list of course"

Translation -- the planet's at peace and is ecologically stable while maintaining a high level of technological advancement. 238 liked it when he heard this kind of report. The nice ones almost made the job worth it. Well, almost.

"What kind of gift for them?" 238 asked.

"Oh she's real lonely. Andromeda is kind of a lonely town. She needs to find some kids to play with and she'd also like a robot doll"

Oh sheesh this was a bad sign. When it calls a planet "she" and Andromeda a town this early in the meeting it isn't good. Anyway Translation: The society had reached the point of First Contact, but needed some more advanced AI tech.

"SANTA is there something you need to tell me? Something odd about the list this year?"

"Oh yes there is. I'm so sorry my little elf, but one of the kids you have to deal with is very bad. I wanted to wait, but I admit the cruelty of this kid is bothering me"

238 swallowed hard. He knew what this could mean, he just barely choked out "No"

"Oh I'm afraid so. I've had the other elves work with him over the years, but he's only gotten worse. I'm afraid you're going to have to take him off SANTA's list for good"

The tears started to flow. He couldn't help it, and maybe he didn't want to. He just couldn't do this again. "Please, is there another way"

"I tried everything my little elf, but...." Suddenly it paused, when it returned it sounded different "The society on Origin III has gone beyond rehabilitation. The Statistical Analysis Network for Termination or Advancement has declared it at termination stage. The odds are 99.87% that if allowed to reach an interstellar age this society will have an overall destructive influence on the Universe. This must not occur"

"I can't, so just get someone else"

"Oh I'm sorry my little elf" back to that jazz "If I could've I would've. The season is so busy though, well you know how it as the peak times. Still I remembered how sad it made you the last time you had to take a kid off the list so I haven't made you do it for a long time have I?"

"This isn't some damn candy cane fantasy, we're talking about genocide here!"

"Now don't use that language with SANTA. I know this is hard, but it's for the best."

"Language, language! You cryptic human created sons of..." he started to break down.

"There, there, I know it's hard. Look on the bright side though, we scratch kids off the list much less than we used to." then he added "However if you can't do it then I'm afraid SANTA can't give you Christmas this year."

He choked harder "Damn you, and your threats. Maybe we'd have been better if you never gave us Christmas"

"Look that's enough self pity. You know without humanity you'd still be living in trees like lemurs, don't you? Do you want your people isolated, primitive, and starving? Well that's what you are without Christmas. That's what all you elf species would be. We made you, and we can unmake you. So no more guff you hear?!"

"Can I in least know something about them, maybe it'll make the job easier. I mean you haven't even told me their name for themselves"

"All you need is their coordinates, we've made our judgement" then he became jolly again "Well that wasn't so bad was it? Now for the rest of the list"

"No. I can't do it SANTA, I can't. My people will survive without you, maybe we'll do better. I don't know. I just know I can't do this again. I can't"

"It will be done anyway" He sighed "Still I see by your face you are telling the truth. I'll miss you Helicarax, and despite what you think I am sorry about what must happen to your world now"

His name, his actual name. He hadn't heard it in so long he almost didn't hear what came after. He was no longer 238, he was Halicarnax. Third of the litter, born of a potter in the Southern Highlands. Doing what he must for his people, becoming what he must for them. The implants, the training, and the killing. It hadn't been all bad, but joy swept through him on knowing it was finally over. He started to cry again. He was glad no actual humans were here, he knew how they hated the smell of wet Durica fur.

He also knew a hard road lay ahead. His own clan would accept him maybe, but what of the rest? Because of him all technological aid would end, but worse yet his people would be under quarantine for his failure. Would they hate him for that? Fear him for his role in the Eternal Liberty Force? Shun him as no longer one of them?

* * *

In the Eastern Spiral arm of the Milky Way you may find a forest filled world. On that Planet a child is returning. Not really a child, indeed a being far older than that world had ever known, but a child in all ways that matter. I wish I could say all will be happy for him there, but it won't. Pain, fear, hatred, and ostracism will be his companions for many centuries. Someday though he will find joy again, and peace. Even a family to love. In short the true elements of Christmas, the things that SANTA can never bring.


Copyright © 2002 by Thomas R.