Originally published on the Brushbeater Forum by my very good friend Lionheart. -NCS

An old, battered Elf is sitting by a fireplace sipping whiskey. He looks over at a younger Elf perched next to him and says,

“Yep, I was one of Santa’s door gunners. How do you think I got these good looks?”

The flickering firelight shows a jagged scar running from his jaw, up the cheek where it disappears beneath an eye patch before continuing up his forehead.

“It was the best job ever…and also the worst. I mean who wouldn’t love being a part of bringing all that joy to the world? The downside was that much of that joy had to be delivered to Shitholes; and let me tell you there are far more of those than Happylands.”

“Some of the worst were behind the Iron Curtain when that was still up. Add to that their leaders didn’t want us there and took..steps…to do something about it.”

He pauses and sips before continuing.

“Game Night, 1978. Our number came up. That trip was peak suck, hands down. Ask anybody who was there. Santa’s planners always set the route so’s the easy stuff was done first. The sleighs were pigs on a good day and we wanted to be as light as possible when heading into problem country.”

He sips again

“We were maybe 20 minutes out from Bucharest. We’d just dusted off from a small berg…Topji it think it was. Yeah it was Topji. Anyway we were going for some altitude when the Bastards hit us. It was a crisp clear night, 100% stars. Then the sky was full of MiGs. After the first sighting call we had three or four seconds to buckle down until tracers were fucking everywhere. The intercom went from silent to packed with crosstalk as targets and fire assignments filled the net. We still used fiftys back then and hammering away with those really shook the sleigh. Damn satisfying feeling, that was. It was always tempting to just hold the triggers down and hose the sky, but Santa has an elite operation and everyone is extremely well trained and cross trained. You could fuck up and probably be OK, but you couldn’t *BE* a fuckup, if you know what I mean. That meant our fire discipline was top notch. This came in handy that night since ammo supply could have been an issue. I don’t know how many engaged but it truly seemed like the whole goddamn air force was up there with us.”

Another long sip.

“Anyway, a tip I picked up in Santa Air Gunnery School taught me to say, “Die, Motherfucker, Die.” when I hit the trigger and let off when I said the second “Die.” That worked out to a decent burst without waste or excess heat. I don’t know how many I hit but it didn’t seem to matter. They were everywhere and kept coming at us.”

A pause and another longer sip.

“We started taking hits. The sleigh was getting pretty chewed up and the Load Master took a cannon round to his back plate. It saved his ass but for the longest time he almost wished it hadn’t. The pain on his face told the story. We lost some damn good Elves that night – Reindeer too – and it started to look like we might not make it. I mean we were getting hit bad; one reindeer was completely down and two or three more were feathered. I saw the Crew Chief go down and stay there and we had a fire going until one of the Runners got it put out. A chunk of my station tried to take my face off.”

“Santa was fucking amazing at the controls. He made the sleigh do things that weren’t possible, all the while talking us through this awesome and awful situation. His leadership brought us through. He was a legend to us before that and a LEGEND after. Still, what we were doing wasn’t working and the end of the line was coming up fast. Santa whirled us into a high-G downward corkscrew, leveling off inches above the river heading toward the city. We had to look UP to see the trees on the bank as we flew past. There wasn’t a MiG on the planet that could follow and just like that it was quiet again.

“After taking a moment to savor still being alive we hopped into an assessment. The sleigh was shot to hell but still flew. We had casualties, patching up those we could and spending a precious few moments with those past saving. We could continue the mission, whose route pointed us home anyway – that route plan was paying off. Not a single package was damaged, thanks to the magic of Christmas. Santa made the call – “No Abort.”, and we limped it out. Every gift made it to destination and it was Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Ho ho, fucking Ho! A toast to those who aren’t here. You are missed and will never be forgotten…”