1. Yes, Claudia, there is a Santa Claus.
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."
"Noooooooooooo," Claudia wailed. No more Christmas songs. They've been playing them on the radio and in the stores since October. Why can't we celebrate one holiday at a time?"
Myka tossed a handful of popcorn at her, but the kernels scattered before they reached their target. "Well aren't you a bah-humbug?"
"I think she's been spending too much time around Artie," H.G. chimed in.
"Hello, I'm right here, "Claudia said, waving her hand in their general direction. H.G. and Myka were curled up on opposite ends of the couch in Leena's living room, while Claudia had bunched up a pile of pillows and a blanket and was lounging on the floor in front of the television. "I'm not totally without holiday cheer; I'm watching Miracle on 34th Street, aren't I?"
"Give her a break!" Leena yelled. She came to stand in the doorway, still keeping an eye on the hot chocolate she was making. "Joshua is spending the holidays with his new girlfriend and Fargo called to say something had come up at Global, so she's feeling a lack of Christmas love." The kettle started whistling, and she ducked back into the kitchen.
"We've got plenty of love for her, don't we?" H.G. asked, leaning towards Myka.
"Plenty!" Myka agreed, leaning forward to meet H.G. in a kiss that quickly turned from a peck to a lip-lock.
"Puh-leeze," Claudia complained rolling her eyes, "Save it for the mistletoe."
Leena came in carrying a tray with four mugs of rum-laced hot chocolate. "Make room for me," she said, passing out the drinks and squeezing onto the couch between the two warehouse agents. "I love girls' night."
More eye rolling and a sigh came from Claudia.
"I have just the thing to turn Scrooge Donovan into Claudia Claus." H.G. reached over the side of the couch and fiddled with a brown paper bag.
"Ta-da!" she exclaimed, producing an old and slightly tattered Santa hat.
"Yeah, that's going to do it." Claudia said sarcastically.
"Ye, of little faith," H.G. said with a cryptic smile. She got up to put the hat on Claudia's head.
Only when it was too late did Claudia notice that H.G.'s hands were covered with purple gloves.
2. Diary of a Wimpy Caretaker
I'd like to first state that I think this is a stupid idea; however, I promised Mrs. Frederic I'd do it, and I try to keep all my promises. I was going to do it on my laptop, via an oscillating 128-bit encryption system to make it uncrackable, but she said it had to be with pen and paper. She smiled when I called her a Luddite. I'm not sure why the method matters, but she said it does. My one act of defiance will be the lack of dates. Chronological is so last year.
I've been the Warehouse Caretaker for approximately sixty-seven hours now and I'd like to say that my life has completely changed, but that's wouldn't be entirely true. I still feel awkward and geeky, I'm still only a B-cup, I can't predict the future and I still can't find out Todd's new identity.
I'm not saying nothing has changed. I've already met twice with the Regents and after each time I felt like either shooting myself or getting shit-faced. I can only hope as time goes on, the bureaucracy dies down. I'm a hands-on type of girl, not a paper-pusher, hand-shaker or ass-kisser..
I've changed, too. I feel more… sensitive is the best word I can use to describe it. It's like I can hear more clearly, though it's not like I can hear through walls or anything. I'm more aware of the tone of a person's voice, emotions, connotation, all that stuff. Everything I eat or drink tastes richer, more flavorful, whether in a good or bad way. Colors are sharper, edges more defined.
I'm still me, just tweaked a little.
Except when it comes to the Warehouse.
I have all this knowledge of the artifacts – what is stored where, each objects history. Myka quizzed me for over an hour – she would name an artifact and I could tell her where it's located, the back story and what it does. I know every agent that has walked through its doors, their history before and after working for the Warehouse.
It's like the Warehouse is alive and I can feel what it feels.
It's cool, but it creeps me out.
3. Claudia Donovan Got Married
"You look... amazing."
Claudia was admiring her reflection in the mirror and her eyes met Myka's. "You're just saying that because you're my maid of honor."
Myka smiled and moved into the room, stopping behind Claudia and fluffing up her veil. "I'm saying it because it's true." Her eyes misted over, and she looked around for the tissues.
"Don't you start, or you'll get me going." Claudia plucked the tissue box off a nearby vanity and handed them over, taking one for herself. "My mascara isn't waterproof."
‘That's because you didn't have Leena help you with your makeup." Myka fussed, dabbing at the corner of her eyes.
"I can do some things on my own."
"Whose special day is today?" a booming voice interrupted.
Claudia turned and gave a shout of joy. "Pete!" She practically launched herself into his arms, squeezing him tight.
"Careful," he cautioned, laughing, "you'll get all wrinkley and… smudgey."
He pried loose and held her at arm's length. "Look at you. All grown up."
She laughed, embarrassed. "I thought you weren't going to make it. When did you get back?"
"About..." he looked at his watch, "ten minutes ago. Joshua met me at the airport with my tux, and I changed in the car. Which, let me tell you, was not as easy as they make it look in the movies."
"Are we ready to do this?" Artie stood in the doorway looking very uncomfortable in his tuxedo. He fidgeted with the bowtie, and Myka smacked his hand as she walked by him.
I'll be out there she mouthed as she left the room, dragging Pete behind her. Pete gave her two thumbs up as he disappeared from view.
"You look beautiful."
"So people keep telling me," Claudia said, still a tiny bit self-conscious when it came to any type of compliment from Artie.
"I hope Todd knows how lucky he is."
"I'm sure he does," Claudia joked, as Artie pulled her veil up and forward to cover her face.
"If not, I'm sure you'll remind him every day for the rest of your lives," Joshua joked. He stood on Claudia's left, and she put her arm though his.
Artie started to walk away, but Claudia put her hand on his arm, stopping him. "Walk with us – with me," she said, taking his arm as he crooked his elbow.
Strains of The Wedding March could be heard in the distance.
"Are you sure?" Artie asked, a hitch in his voice.
Claudia's smile lit up the room. "Definitely."
4. Female Warehouse Agents wear combat boots.
"Holy cow, where did they all come from?" In what seemed like seconds, Myka and Claudia were surrounded by ninjas. Yes, ninjas.
"He must have used the lamp to clone himself," Myka yelled at her.
"Who would have known Aladdin really had a magic lamp?" Claudia mumbled under her breath. She stood back to back with Myka, circled by angry looking ninjas. She guessed they were angry: their faces were covered with black masks. The wicked looking swords they carried didn't help to convey a sunny, friendly disposition.
Claudia looked down at the Tesla in her hand, then back up at the ninjas. Fucking ninjas!
"Are you ready?"
Claudia took a deep breath. It felt as if all her life, all she'd done, had been leading up this moment, this one sliver in time. "Ready," she answered.
. . . .
Ten minutes of kicking-ass-and-taking-names later, the lamp was safely encased in a container of purple goo, and Lief Hanson, movie illustrator and the previous owner of Aladdin's lamp, was unconscious and handcuffed to a table leg.
Only then did the insistent banging, screaming and cursing from a hallway closet cause Myka and Claudia to remember their work wasn't quite done.
Myka turned the key in the lock and twisted the knob. In a tumble of coats, shoes, and a long-handled umbrella, Pete stumbled out, wild-eyed and ready for action. "Where is he what happened what did I miss?" His words all jumbled together.
"Thanks for the help," Myka said, patting him on the shoulder. She turned to Claudia and smiled. "Care for a drink?"
"As long as Pete's buying," she replied. Picking up the container with the neutralized lamp, she shoved it in Pete's direction. "It's all yours now, big guy."
Myka laughed and threw her arm around Claudia's shoulders. "I think this calls for drinks and pizza."
"Definitely," Claudia agreed.
Shoulder to shoulder, they walked out of the house, a bewildered Pete staring after them.