[Wednesday, 21 December, 2259 | Double Digits]
She’s seen with Santa like this for the last four hours, but he still looks strange to Virginia. After declaring today a day off in celebration of her tenth birthday, he’s not wearing his uniform for the first time in three weeks. There’s no beard, no hat, just a simple shirt and pants, both black, and both smart casual. Virginia wears a green dress, carefully selected to match her green elf’s hat. Virginia was none too happy about having to wear the hat on her day off, but Santa reminded her that since it includes the scrambling technology, the City’s surveillance won’t be able to identify her.
They pair sit at the Plaza Restaurant, an establishment in the heart of the sector, surrounded by people celebrating the festive season. Santa is eating a synthetic burger, while Virginia is on her third slice of pizza, wondering why her mentor is studying those around him.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“Just making sure nobody notices us,” Santa says.
“But we’re incongruous, right?”
Virginia nods. “They won’t know who we are because of the scrambling.”
“And if anyone studies the surveillance footage, they’ll see they can’t identify us. It’s a red flag to the authorities.”
“Thanks for bringing me out, especially if it’s risky.”
“It’s your birthday, kid. It’s worth the risk. And if anybody tries anything, I’ve got your back.”
“And I’ve got yours.”
Santa chuckles at the thought. He reaches beneath the table and places a small gift wrapped present on the table and slides it across to the newly-minted ten-year-old. “Happy birthday, kid. Double digits already.”
Virginia hastily rips the paper apart, revealing a set of UnReality Lenses. “Whoa, UnReality Lenses? Thank you!”
“But… these are made by YutopiCorp, aren’t they?”
Santa nods. “Yeah. But I had Morse and Krack hack them. YutopiCorp will think you’re some kid in the Wasteland; they’ll never find you.”
Virginia leaps from her seat and wraps her arms around Santa’s hulking body. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome, kid,” Santa says. “Feel like ordering dessert?”
“No, can we go home? So I can play some UnReality?”
“Sure,” Santa says. “Might be an idea to skip out on dessert, anyway, since we’ll be having birthday cake tonight.”
“Shit, I promised Morse and Krack I wouldn’t say anything,” Santa says. “Sit tight while I settle the bill, okay?”
Santa stands up from the table and heads to the counter where he’s greeted by a service android. At the opposite end of the Plaza Restaurant, a nigh-invisible figure, thanks to cloaking technology, stands against the wall. Silently, the figure studies both Santa and Virginia.
“I’ve located them, sir,” the figure says.
“Have they indicated who their next target is?” comes a voice through the figure’s communicator.
“No, they’re smart; they haven’t discussed their business,” the figure says. “Would you like me to eliminate them?”
“No. The optics would be terrible. One of them’s a kid celebrating…” the voice falls silent for a few seconds. “Her birthday,” he finally says.
“I’ll be waiting for them in Mr. Gigget’s apartment,” the voice says. “I’ll give my life before I give them the opportunity to attack you.”