"The Penguin Protocol"
White-gloved fingers tossed Deer Chow into the snow. Warmed by his hand, the pellets melted tiny holes in the drifts. Eight busy mouths snorted steamy breath and nibbled in, bumping antlers. “A knicker, a neigh, a day off the sleigh, eh boys?” Silver bells jingled and one nose, poking into the frozen crust, glowed crimson.
“Big Red?” The radio crackled, intruding on the silent night. “What's your twenty?”
“At the stable, Elf-One. I'm spreading feed tonight, so don't send Hermey.”
Above his iced beard, he caught a familiar whiff of ozone and electricity. The cold air crackled and hissed. “Do you hear what I hear?” he asked Blitzen, whose ears were pricked. As Santa turned, he saw a tiny crackle of light dissipating over the beak of a displaced penguin.
"Crap." Penguins didn't belong at the North Pole.
Another flash fizzled and a second penguin splurped into the snow, almost tipping over. Something was obviously wrong with the portal. He'd have to check the data from his orbiting satellites. “Elf-One, log into Santalite 4 and check the MetaChimney portals. One of them seems to be malfunctioning. I'm getting leakage from the South Pole.”
“On it, sir. I'll send the tech team over.”
The reindeer had stopped eating, and stood snorting in a huddled group. Santa dropped his tinseled feed bag and started toward the penguins, but before he could reach them, former United States Secretary of State John Kerry appeared in a whiz of light, plopped into a snow drift, butt first. His upturned feet immobilized, he reached for his breast pocket credentials.
“There's an art to the landing,” Santa sighed, as another crackle ejected former U.S. Vice President Al Gore from the portal, landing him head first in one of the many snowbanks littering Santa's property. Kerry and Gore struggled to their feet and brushed the snow from their lapels. The three men stood looking at one another, making internal calculations as to who might speak first.
Santa finally broke the silence. “God rest you merry, gentlemen.”
Santa tried again. “You've, uh, come upon a midnight clear.”
Finally, Santa broke down. “All right. I guess you've discovered my secret.”
A smile unfurled on Kerry's green-hued face. “What's this thing called, anyway?”
“It's my MetaChimney Wormhole. Takes me through Middle Earth in all directions.”
“So that's how you do it!” Kerry's grin widened.
Gore was nodding. “Also explains the elves.”
Another penguin popped from the portal and landed at Gore's feet. Between its wings it held a tiny tin can. Gore snatched up the can and held it, nonchalantly, behind his back.
“Yes, Al,” Santa continued. “I've managed to reduce my carbon footprint when I travel.” Yet another penguin chortled through. This one held a butane lighter. His wing flicked the flame on and off nervously.
Santa stroked his beard. “My MetaChimney seems to have brought you guys up from the South Pole.” The men nodded, looking away. “What are you guys doing down there?”
Thirty more penguins splooped in en masse, covered in a hoard of gelled hand warmers. One of them was sitting on an unplugged camping stove. The snow surrounding this cuddle of penguins was slowly melting, evporating into the air like steam from a hot cup of cocoa. Santa radioed in to Elven Control. “Can you guys fix that malfunction?”
Gore put his arm around Santa and steered him away from the flightless birds. “We're actually studying these penguins, Mr. Claus. Their habits hold vital clues to surviving in harsh conditions. And... and, their fat stores contain compounds for promising new drugs. We should probably be getting them back.” Kerry was running after them, bent over, long arms flailing, trying to round them up.
Three of the straying penguins approached a snow drift with an open can of Sterno. One of them flicked its lighter and the third threw the lit Sterno into the snow. The heat reduced the mound to a pool of blue water on a layer of slush.
“You're training penguins to melt the polar ice caps?” Santa asked the men.
“Not at all.”
The three men stood silently again, kicking snow.
Santa folded his red-sleeved arms. “Look, boys, I'll keep your secret. But only if you keep mine.”
“Oh, don't worry, Santa,” Kerry patted Santa on the shoulder. “You can trust us. We're politicians.”
A particularly bulbous penguin waddled up to Frosty the Snowman and melted him in seconds with a blowtorch. Frosty's coal-black eyes glared blinklessly at Santa from a puddle on the ground.
He groaned again into his radio. “E-One, send the snowman team down here on the double. Have you found that malfunction yet?”
The tech team, four elves in work clothes, arrived on a snowmobile. They carried their tools to the portal entrance and began tinkering with the wormhole's control box. While one elf held a well-placed screwdriver in place, another pried the entrance open and peered inside. “I see the problem, Santa! An abominable snowball's lodged in the vent.”
“Bumble!” Santa yelled.
After some pounding and hammering, the elves put their tools away. “Good as new!” They hopped back on their snowmobile and sped away. Santa shouted after them. “Grab me a slushie at the 7-Elven!”
It was quiet again. The three men smiled.
“Well?” Santa pointed, palm-up in the direction of his MetaChimney and escorted Kerry and Gore to the entrance. He shook their hands goodbye.
“Merry Christmas,” said John Kerry.
“And Happy Halloween to you,” Santa replied.
Then he turned with a jerk and, laying a finger aside of his nose, trudged back through the snow up to the house. “Mama?” he called out. “Two more names for the naughty list!”
This story was a collaborative effort between @geke's writing and @jimitations' idea. We hope you get a kick out of it! And thanks to @v4vapid for hosting the Conspiracy Creative Writing Contest, volume 2.