“Sam, there is a bot in the hallway outside the lounge,” I called to my security/maintenance chief. “Is there anything I need to know?” It wasn’t a normal occurrence to see one of his bots just sitting – not doing anything as far as I could see.
“Nothing to concern yourself about, Captain,” Sam answered. “Just doing an electrical upgrade to the vid system. Didn’t want you to walk into a mess, so I put A4 out there to intercept you.”
“I wasn’t headed in, just past,” I explained. “I didn’t know we were due for any upgrades.”
“Something Cassie spotted on the NET last time she was surfing. A bit of a recall issue that I can do a work-around until we get to the Destiny where I can pick up the replacement part,” Sam said.
“Good deal. Will it be done by this evening? I was going to use the lounge for one of Dr. Morie’s biofeedback trainings.”
“I’ll have it ready by 1900. Will that do?”
“Fine. Thanks for staying on top of things.”
As I walked away the bot slipped silently in the door through a crack just big enough to accommodate its width.
“Merry Christmas!” My crew all sang in unison.
I was standing in the doorway to the lounge totally shocked into speechlessness.
The room had been transformed into a winter wonderland. In the far corner were a group of three trees in graduating sizes all covered in snow, decorated in small twinkle lights with glass icicles hanging from each limb. The carpet was covered with some sort of artificial snow that felt and crunched so realistically under my boots that I expected it to be wet when I reached down to touch it – it wasn’t. When I raised back up it was snowing on me, but not sticking or getting me wet. Sam must have installed some sort of simple imaging chamber unit. There now was a fireplace in the room where there had been a vid consol. It crackled and actually gave off a wood smell and heat. A plate of Christmas cookies and a mug of hot chocolate were sitting temptingly by my chair.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Cassie gushed. “It was Ma-rye-a’s idea, but I did the shopping.”
“Sam set it all up,” Ma-rye-a explained.
“We were so afraid you would want to come in when you found the bot outside the door this morning,” Moby said.
“We all thought you wouldn’t mind us spending some of your credits for the surprise. I authorized it,” Horus confessed. “If you don’t like it…”
It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I loved it. I could hardly talk for the lump of emotion in my throat.
“I love it,” I finally choked out. “I lost track of time. I had no idea it was Christmas.”
“That’s what you get when you stay plant bound too long and don’t have a ship’s log to keep up,” Ma-rye-a gently chastised.
A tear rolled involuntarily down one of my cheeks. I wiped at it with my hand. Something bumped my foot. When I looked down it was A4 with a box of tissues on his back.
“We knew you would need some,” Sam explained.
“Let’s open presents,” Cassie sang excitedly.
I hadn’t even noticed there was a pile of packages by my chair all dressed up with ribbons and bows. This was going to be a Christmas to remember.