Shorts smartworld

The Naughty List

Where young Virginia becomes one of Santa's elves, and assists him in seeking "charitable donations" from those on his Naughty List.

[Thursday, 1 December, 2259 | Christmas Cheer]

“Hey, Nanny, what’s the time?”

It may have been almost a year since Santa Claus removed Virginia Northbridge’s Nanny Chip, but old habits die hard. It was her Christmas wish, but after living with that voice inside her head for as long as she could remember, its removal left a void. The girl’s head has felt empty ever since; after all this time, the discombobulating sensation of feeling along with her thoughts has never subsided. The nine-year-old also misses the instant information beamed into her brain, the convenience of the world’s knowledge at her disposal. Asking grownups questions just feels so… archaic.

Santa never came through on Virginia’s second Christmas wish. She never did get that cybernetic eye. “YutopiCorp won’t install them on anyone under fourteen,” Santa had told her. Not that he’s a believer in the corporation’s mission statement; he removed her from a re-education camp funded by that megacorp, after all. “I won’t be installing cybernetics until you’re old enough to provide informed consent.”

Until Virginia is old enough to know what ‘informed consent’ means, the man in red told her, she’s not able to provide it. Fucking Santa. Instead, the girl’s left feeling like one of those poor kids in the slums without two credits to rub together, gifted second-hand goods for Christmas. That she’s spent a little over eleven months as one of those poor kids in the slums without two credits to rub together doesn’t do much to assuage that feeling.

“Hey, Christmas Tree,” the girl asks, before cutting herself off.

It’s not a TreeX; it’s a dumb tree. As archaic as the very thoughts in her head. No custom skins, no transmissions to connect to Santa… not that she needs them. When she asked him why they wouldn’t be putting up a TreeX, he explained that it’s just another of YutopiCorp’s tools to monitor the City’s citizens—particularly children, who have a habit of divulging their deepest, darkest secrets to Santa.

Virginia has certainly divulged both her deepest and her darkest to Santa, but she’s lucky enough to live with him. Not in the North Pole—apparently that’s an urban myth—but in the slums. Santa’s elves are the crew who work with him. She supposes that means she’s now an elf.

It wasn’t so long ago that Virginia wasn’t an elf; she was just a girl. An ordinary girl who did ordinary things like going to school, doing her homework, and maybe, sorta putting Stephen Lichtermann in hospital. But he deserved it. When Santa rescued her from the re-education camp, he gave her a choice: return home to her father and resume the life she once led all the while hoping he didn’t return her to the camp, or live with him in the slums. Return home with her Nanny chip embedded in her brain, or live in the slum free from it and its corporate oversight.

The thought of keeping that device in her head, subject to the whims of the City, made Virginia’s decision easy. Granted, she would likely never see her father again. But throughout this last year, every time she closed her eyes and tried to picture his face, she was instead greeted by Ms. Nagal’s robotic visage telling her, “Oh, you dumb child. He could have appealed the request for you to attend this camp, arguing that you were just an eight-year-old child. If he had promised to keep a better eye on you and revoke some privileges, you would have been able to spend the holidays at home.”

Ms. Nagal is dead now. Virginia didn’t pull the trigger; that was Santa. But just like Stephen Lichtermann, she deserved it.

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