How on Earth did I get myself into this? Commander Walsh thought, not for the first time on this unseasonably warm, sunny Christmas Eve, and continued to simmer slightly in his own sweat.
Red wool and sunny days don't go well together in the desert. He tried to wipe the numerous sweat beads off his forehand and was again severely hampered by the thick black gloves and the broad brim of the ridiculous hat. Needless to say, it itched. For a moment he wondered about lice. And the red clashes horribly with the orange sunset. Hard to be a hard-assed, tough-as-hell commander-in-chief while wearing a long, white, false beard that tangles in your legs every time you take a step. "You're doing great, sir." Ranger Niko, dressed in white and gold and glitter, smiled, only a little weary around the edges. "Really." "The children love you." A beaming Zozo, a bell-tangled green cap between his ears, dangled his legs from atop of a pile of colorfully wrapped parcels and waved the next pest forward. "You've got the phys–" he stopped and – at the sight of the dark brown glare hitting him from between the two more-than-brushy white brows – continued smoothly, "–voice for it." Behind Zozo and his pile of parcels stood a silent, black-clad figure. The red and pine-green button on the collar was the only concession that Goose had been willing to make for the event. His face wore the carefully carved mask of blandness he kept for occasions when any comment would be either a groaned "Humans" or a snapped "They're nuts." Walsh couldn't agree more with him, actually. They were nuts. The next brat climbed onto his knees. "Dear Santa, I wish..."