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"Show-off..." Luke teased his friend as he took down all the snowmen in one go. 


Luke sped through the cave with the others, throwing a glance at Puma and seeing if she was alright. Now they were both super-heroes after all, he was sure that she could take it, but then again... 


"Wow, didn't know that the Grinch was a giant spider..." He joked, noticing the similarities between one of the prisoners and Santa. Now, of course, given they world they were in, perhaps it was some other mythological character, but then again, there was definitely a certain resemblance... "Isn't it a bit too early to ruin Christmas?"


"Anyway... let's rock...


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Angelic stared at the scene, running scenarios through her mind as quickly as she could. Well, the teen heroes had seen it all now - almost all of it, anyway. The association with Jultomten was there for all to see. Just keep moving and play it professional. Everything will be fine. "Father Christmas!" she called, flying up in the air, her cape blowing dramatically behind her thanks to its clever smart-fabric lining. "The heroes of Earth are here to rescue you - and your assistant!" The spider-webbed elf next to Santa gave Eira a visible double-thumbs-up; damn, why did Percy have to be so unsubtle? 

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"You heard her!" La Puma Negra says as she leaps and bounds through the glacier with movement that while still feral in nature, had a trained, almost gymnastic ability. Training at Claremont had done wonders to getting her body not in shape, as she was already stronger than any average human, and far faster than anyone like her. The blessing to the curse that was her life. At least it was with how she perceived it. If it meant mad dashing in to fight some snow spider lady with those powers, she was going to do so with gusto.


Just as she looked like she was going to leap up with a kick, but turned more out to be a feint, delaying the action to try and uppercut the most monstrous thing she had ever seen in person in a world of super-heroes and magic. This supposed queen looked utterly terrifying, making what she thought of herself look near meaningless in comparison, "Let em go!" she cries out, slashing forward.

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The Spider Queen hissed as claws tore at her flesh, but didn't seem actually hurt by La Puma's blow. She grabbed ahold of the web with her front limbs, standing above all the heroes, and bellowed in a multi-part throaty contralto. "You want me to let them go, do you? Well then I WILL!" Up close, the spider-queen looked oddly - well, not humanoid, she was a giant spider after all, but the two eyes she stared at the heroes with looked like giant human eyes if you ignored the fact that they were all black. 


Angelic saw the spider-queen's mouth open and cursed before yelling "Cover your mouth and noses!" Soon the reasons for her warning became clear as the spider-queen vomited forth a horde of black, scuttling spiders that swarmed all over the heroes. Eira had dealt with this before and had the advantage of no access to her interior from the exterior, but the sensation of the spiders pouring over her skin was still perfectly noticeable - and she had no way of knowing how this would affect her organic teammates. Quickly, she began wiping the spiders from her face, easily hurling them aside as they failed to find purchase on her skin. 

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Now of course a mighty dragon was not afraid of spiders, right? Well... Maybe, but still being invested by a wave of skittering horror definitely made Luke's stomach churn. He dashed away, trying to remove as many of the small abomination that were now on his body and definitely imagining many more crawling on his skin. Whatever. Time to fight back. He rushed toward the creature, jumping high assisted by dragon wings, unleashing a furious barrage of fists and ethereal claws, enough to overwhelm, if only for a moment, the beast.

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Angelic, the woman of steel, faster than a speeding railgun projectile and more powerful than an electric train, faced down the giant spider and - threw a rock at her. The rock whizzed past the spider's head and buried itself in the ice wall like a hot projectile into butter, producing a throaty contralto laugh in stereo from the spider-queen. "Oh, did the little lost toy princess miss?Pathetic! Why don't you come over here and give mama a kiss-" 


Eira responded by saying something in Swedish that sounded truly obscene, circling behind her friends as she glared at the spider-queen. 

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Paper was ready to leap into action when a blur that was La Puma blew past him. Good damn, he was jealous of that speed. But he grinned as he watched her tear into the drider-wanna-be. Well, he was grinning until…


“Crap, crap, crap, nope, crap…”

The paper pole was in his hands before he finished the motion to thrust it down. He twisted as the leverage pushed him over the wave of tiny legged horrors. He abandoned the pole as the tiny spiders already started swarming up it.

Paper landed on a small paper platform suspended in mid air, the pole collapsing into the black mass below.

“Okay, fuck all of that.”

He turned to see Luke had pushed through the wave and literally launched into an attack of his own. It was followed closely by  something burying itself into the icy wall mere inches from the spider-queen’s head. It had move so fast he only saw the results. He glanced back at Angelic with a raised eyebrow. He recognized profanity when he heard it. Paper cracked a smirk, thinking he would have to get her to tell him just what that meant later.

Back to the problem at hand. Paper decided leveling the playing field a little would be best. The three of them could keep the spider-thing preoccupied. Hopping down from his platform he ran across the icy expanse towards the web. With light tugs, trails of paper ribbon unrolled from the little case at the back of his belt. As he approached the giant webbing all it took was a flick of his wrist and the ribbons responded.

”Brace yourselves.”

He yells up at the two men and he slides to a stop. Swinging his arms in short arcs, the razor sharp paper ribbons slice through the threads in an attempt to free the victims.

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With fantastic speed and outstanding agility, Puma leapt to uppercut the spider woman with the ferocity of the animal for which she had named herself for. The strike would land nicely, having had real combat experience with the likes of the Patriot in a sort of sidekick roll had been paying off more and more for her it appeared. For her trouble however it appeared that it had done little, especially as it didn't phase her when out from her mouth released a torrent of small spiders, going over them like a flood, with Puma right in front for the time being. Even dodging back did little as she had to quickly close her eyes and mouth, even pinching her nose. It didn't stop the feeling of small fangs biting her, but whatever toxin they may have had her superhuman body seemed to have beaten back as she shook off as much of the spiders as she possibly could.


Emboldened by her comrades, she herself leapt into action once again, feinting this time a simple claw strike before trying to come up with a clawed roundhouse kick, "Maybe this will convince you, RRAAAWWW!!!"

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The Spider Queen had taken some damage now between the paper and the cat claws, her giant body bleeding and bruised in several places.


But she wasn't out of the fight yet. "Send all your lost toys against me!" she bellowed in chorus - "you'll never win! I'm a queen and I say it's time we DANCE!" And so she did, stamping her giant limbs in a rumble of rhythmic movement that produced a sudden fall of rocks, snow, and ice from the roof of the cave. Angelic took a big hit from a lump as big as her body that turned out to be mostly snow and ice, scrabbling her way out in moments with a snarl on her pretty face. The others all took hits too, some of them big ones - it was clear the ice cave couldn't hold out forever. 


"Oh dear!" called the roly-poly figure in the web. "Spider Queen, this is no way to  make your children love you! You have to treat them with respect and kindness, or they'll never learn to love you back!" 


"Shut up!" bellowed the furious giant spider. 


"Angelic!" called the other elf, shooting her a misty-eyed look like a romance novel hero. "I know times were dire - so I used your transmitter-" and there it was in his free hand, beeping red at one end "to call for aid!" 


"Agh!" responded the furious android heroine. 

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Nightscale managed to barely dash away from the falling rocks and while sure, a few crashed on his back, but they didn't have enough momentum to pierce a dragon's hide.


"You have been a naughty spider haven't you?" Luke chuckled as he teased the giant monster. Unfortunately though, his claws failed to strike true and he could not match his bravado with action. For now at least.

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Angelic whipped another rock at the Spider Queen's head, not surprised somehow when she missed again. Why not, since everything else was going wrong today. At least the distraction seemed to be helping the hostages escape. Both Percy and Jultomten were wiggling their way free from their bonds now that the spider's web had been so damaged, Jultomten with a look of uncharacteristic seriousness behind his jolly white beard, Percy with a look on his face like - well, there was no reason to dwell on that! Maybe he hadn't pushed the button after all. 

"If anyone is going to do something," she called once the two hostages were finally free and running away from the spider, slip-sliding on the ice and snowy ground as they went, "better to do it now!" 

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Razor sharp paper easily sliced through the giant webbing, letting the two out-of-seasonally festive hostages wiggle free. He didn’t need to tell them to run. The duo slipped and slid as they scrambled away towards safety.

The ground shook as the giant spider queen stomped to her own beat. Paper managed to keep his footing but a large chunk of icy rock fell on him. A wave of pain smashed through his shoulder, causing him to stagger a moment before recovering his balance.

“That’s gonna leave a bruise.”

He thought as he turned to face ‘her majesty’.

“Working on it!”

He yelled back at Eira. He grit his teeth and paper swarmed around him; some gathering to his outstretched hand, the rest gathering under his feet. Paper crouched and a paper pillar exploded upwards under him, carrying him above the spider-queen. A long slender handle began to form in his hand, growing out into a comically large, oversized guitar.

“You may have some rhythm, but it time to drop the bass.”

Holding it by the neck with both hands he easily swung it over his head, then into a downward swing aimed directly at the giant arachnid.

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With a distant sound that distinctly echoed like the opening bars of It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, Paper brought the giant guitar down on the Spider Queen's head - with fantastic results. 


"Noo! Noo!" she cried in a chorus, "not the beats of that infernal music! Aieee!" And then suddenly, the Spider Queen fell apart! What had appeared to be an exoskeleton and skin turned out to be an outer casing holding in a truly vast horde of black spiders that spilled out and onto the ground everywhere in a vast, scuttling wave of arachnid life, fleeing the heroes up the walls and towards the opening in the ceiling like a tide going upstairs. 


Eira wasn't upset to see them go; and neither was anyone else. Well, except for one. Santa Claus had escaped his bonds and stood, holding a single black spider in his work-roughened hand, a sad look on his bearded face. "Oh Spider Queen," he said, making an unhappy noise at the back of his throat, "you just couldn't let anyone else be jolly when you were so miserable yourself." He set the spider down, letting it scuttle away to join its peers. "And now, my friends!" he said, waving his arms at Leon and his crew. "Look at you! The hero children who saved Christmas." 


For her part, Angelic approached Percy, the man-sized elf who'd been captured alongside Santa Claus. "You look well, yes?" she asked tentatively. "You see I told you she couldn't stop me, whatever spell she used." 


"Ah, Angelic," said the elf playfully. "So serious now!" He stroked her pale cheek and smiled. "I knew you'd come for us. For me."


Eira sucked cold air through her teeth and shot a glance at the teens. "Well. It has been a day." 

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With a violent and climactic end to their fight, it was not fully over yet as the werecat would suddenly jump off and away as she saw the defeated Spider Queen fell apart into barrage of spiders that now swarmed away. On all fours like a large cat, she felt she still had to be weary, not wanting more of those things to get on her again. However, it appeared like these spiders wouldn't be coming back, nor reinforcements by more armed ice men. Even then, she was still on guard as she crept back together with her fellow compatriots, her heightened hearing picking up what sounded like music after Paper had struck the Spider Queen with his paper guitar. 


"¿Está hablando de Navidad? ¿Es verano? (Is he talking about Christmas? It's Summer?)" Puma would question, feeling still the tinge of pain that the shard of ice that had struck her in the leg had caused. She hadn't expected to meet Saint Nicholas, quickly doing a sign of the cross at meeting the saint person, though was confused why Angelic would have experience with such a person. Puma could only assume that they had somehow met before or even helped. The young hero wouldn't pay it too much attention, the cold air stinging where she had been hit from before. Thankfully, her superhuman biology was helping heal somewhat quicker than the normal person would.

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Posted (edited)

Paper felt the impact through the paper guitar and grinned. Using the momentum of it he shoved back and landed on his feet. He wasn’t as fast as most members of the school’s growing cat-person population, but he was still one of the more agile humans. Or at least he’d happily boast if asked… sometimes even when he wasn’t asked.

He could feel the hint of a tremble in his muscles as he swung the guitar in a wide arch, ready to attack again. It wasn’t enough to slow him, but it seemed an unnecessary worry as the carapace of the giant spider cracked and crumbled… into more spiders.

“Yesh! See, this is how phobias start.”

Leon made a face as the swarm tried to flee. He leaned on the guitar and rolled his shoulder as he watched the old man in red. Leon shook his head.

“Be a lot easier if he just squished it.”

He muttered letting the guitar collapse into paper that joined the swirling mass of sheets around him. The paper swirled and flowed back into his backpack. At the old man’s words Leon waved dismissively.

“Yay, yay. I’d ask for what you owe me, but I don’t need a sack of coal.”

He said coldly. Leon wasn’t sure he actually believe this guy was the real deal. He wasn’t sure if that would have made this better or worse if he did. Instead he did want he did best and withdrew. Eria’s keen memory would be able to pickup the change in Leon’s attitude as easily as Luke could after being friends for the last three years. 

Leon hunched his shoulder a bit and turned to Eria.

“We done here E?”

He asked before turn back towards the cave that they had walked through.

Edited by Spacefurry
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Father Christmas went from hero to hero, congratulating them all and thanking them for his rescue. "It's always close to Christmas around here!" he told La Puma Negra warmly. As if from nowhere, he produced a cup of steaming hot chocolate and offered it to her, the rich-smelling drink in a mug emblazoned with a cat with a perky Christmas hat. Switching smoothly from English to Spanish, he asked "Creo que sé lo que quieres. ¿Quieres un amiguito?" He smiled. "Think about it!" And then Santa Claus gave Leon a sad look, his round rosy face wrinkling like a roasting apple in the oven. "It's been a hard life for you, hasn't it, Paper! I'm sorry the world's been so difficult for you." He looked at the boy and then reached out, putting his hand on Leon's hand that wasn't a hand at all. "I know it won't make up for all the difficult years, but if you like, I can give you a hand." 


Over on the other side of the room, Percy turned to Nightscale, holding onto Eira's hand and said, "Magnificent young dragon, would you be interested in a job after you graduate? It'll only be part-time - but we'll pay you in gold!" He laughed like the tinkling of a silver bell made of chocolate. 


Eira stared at Percy for a moment, a smile creeping across her lips, then called to Leon sardonically, "Are we?" 

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"Leaving so soon." Luke teased as the procession of spiders escaped the scene. "Did not expect that." He shook his head, smirking however at Leon's flashy display. Being a hero was definitely also a matter of style wasn't it? 


He gave his friend a concerned look as he realized that Leon's mood had darkened. Now, unfortunately he wasn't exactly great at talking these kinds of things through.


"Only one?" He teased instead. "You are severely underestimating us." He closed the gap between them and gave his roommate a playful nudge on a shoulder. 


He did not catch the meaning behind the exchange between Santa and Puma, but then again, he was mysteriously fluent in an ancient dead language pretty much since his egg hatched, but everything else apart from American English, well...


"I'd be honored. As long as it doesn't involve dragging a flying sled." The young man chuckled when the fellow that was likely one of Santa's assistant offered him a job. He wasn't exactly sure if a career working for Santa would fit his future, after all, he had his home to look after, so he could not exactly waltz around the world carrying presents. But then again... Gold coins? Yeah... His 'hoard' amounted to a fistful of dollars at most right now. 


"Just glad of doing my job... I mean, I wouldn't want all the kids in the world missin' Santa..." Yep. especially his little 'bro and the other kids from the trailer park.





Edited by Nerdzul
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Leon gave Eira a ‘really’ look, but paused when the old man in red took his hand. It was strange, but he could swear he felt something in it. A sense of ease started to creep into him. He looked back at the man and saw on their face genuine care and an a desire for understanding. It hurt the boy somewhere inside, but Leon’s targetless anger pushed back and the old man didn’t deserve it.

He glanced at Luke when his roommate bumped his shoulder. He wanted to just yank his hand away, but instead just pulled his hand away with feigned carelessness.

“I don’t need a hand out.”

He paused, wishing he had meant to make that a pun on purpose. He flexed the realistic looking fingers absently.

“I made my bed.”

Leon started to turn away but stopped as a thought came to mind. Why pass up a prime favor if he could use it.

“But, if you owe us… there is a certain little kitty cat I’d like to get something special.”

He wanted to get his girlfriend something nice for graduation. Sure he was the one graduating and she had another year, but that was semantics.

“Any good ideas mister I know what people want?”

Leon flashed a familiar mischievous smile.

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"Uno amigo?" she spoke with a puzzled look, the mug finding itself in her hands, sniffing it to figure out what it was. Her inspection would confirm exactly what it was, hot chocolate procured from seemingly out of nowhere. While he spoke with the others, she would quickly take a quick sip of it before drinking it normally. It was rich and milky, just how she liked it, no, exactly how she liked it. If this was truly Santa Clause then he knew exactly the sort of things she wanted, including how she liked her chocolate flavored drinks.


It was furthermore that the cat on the mug was oddly cute, liking the small caricature on it as she drank, "Gracias señor, Dios lo bendiga" she'd smile, a rarity at that as she continued to drink the confectionary gift.

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"Hmmm," said Santa Claus, stroking his beard thoughtfully. "We do have many Japanese things lately, not to mention things for nice kitties! I think something can be arranged..." He clapped Leon on the arm manfully, his grip the strong, work-roughened grip of a master craftsman. "Well-said, my boy." Then he called to La Puma, "Lo encontrarás en casa esta noche. Lo sabrás cuando lo veas!" 


Eira stuck her tongue out at Leon, taking Percy's hand in hers as she said to Luke, "Percy's operation is a - subsidiary of the main industrial operation here, yes? We-he's working on setting aside some traditional practices that have held back real scientific development." She was practically beaming. "After all, who's to say that magic can't be improved by progress?" 


"Yes, well," said Percy, as he smiled at Luke. "Between the Spider Queen, Krampus, and the Snowman, operating in the North Pole can be tricky. Science or not - we can always use a visit from Santa Claws!" 




Over the next little while, after everyone got a tour of Santa's workshop, some remarkable things happened: 


Nightscale was presented with a magical contract - though it was the first he'd ever seen on red construction paper printed in green ink. He'd be paid a fair bit of silver every year if he was willing to come protect Percy's workshop (and the rest of the North Pole) on important holidays like December 25 and January 6. 


Angelic looked uncommonly pleased with herself for a while, though she and Percy stayed apart while she was touring with the others, her cape flying behind her in a breeze that never seemed quite cold enough for the Arctic even at this time of year. 


La Puma's gift turned out to be the mug - which at first seemed to be a small gift indeed until she noticed it refilling itself every time it was empty, with all the thick, warm, hot chocolate she could drink! The cat winked at her every time it did so, and putting her ear close let her hear the soft sound of contented purring. "He'll have things to say when you need them," offered Santa Claus, "if you keep him close." 


Santa explained that he'd been working with the heroic community for many years, ever since the days of the Centurion, and suggested the heroes ask people like Miss Americana or Dragonfly if they wanted more stories of heroes saving Christmas. 


Leon was presented with a brand-new streaming rig for Neko, a 'studio-in-a-box' that she'd be able to take just about anywhere. "This is my design," offered Eira proudly. "Much of the new electronics section comes from my work." 


At Santa's indulgent smile, it was clear what one of her presents had been. 


Eventually the heroes and their magic escorts made their way back to the gateway from which they'd come; a bit of magic topology that didn't seem to surprise any of the North Pole regulars. It was a perfect day; the ice and snow beneath their feet cold yet somehow welcoming, the sky overhead a welcoming shade of fierce blue.  

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"Santa Claws?" Luke chuckled... "I like it. Has a good ring to it." He continued playfully.


"Can I bring my little 'bro at work sometimes?" He asked. Gabriel would definitely love it and besides, Luke has always done his best to spend Christmas with his family, especially now that he was living away at school (and was planning to get a place of his own afterward). "Now he doesn't know I'm a superhero though..." He ruffled the hair on the back of his neck looking thoughtful. Indeed that was going to be a bit of a 'logistic' issue, wouldn't it? Then again, they did have magic to fix this kind of stuff, rigth?


Now it was a bit childish perhaps, but the young dragon had a big grin on his lips as they visited the North Pole, especially in the version that belonged to Santa. He did his best (and fail) though. to appear like he wasn't too awe-struck, after all he had sort of a reputation to maintain.

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Leon did his best to hide his surprise at the enormity of the North Pole operation. He was still having trouble believing all of it. How could something like this exist and not be common knowledge?

But then again, it was wasn’t it. Just so unbelievable as to hide in plain sight. He kinda had to respect that, he thought as they toured.


When presented with the gift for Neko he grinned mischievously.

“Oh, I am getting so many brownie points for this. All your cuddle are belong to me. Mwah-ha-ha!”

The boy gave a mock villainous laugh.


Back at the portal gave their guides a mock salute and a smile. Remembering part of Luke’s conversation with Percy he had overheard, Leon chuckled.

“Okay, the Krampus sounds like a party waiting to happen. But are you seriously having a beef with Frosty?”

Leon snickered and elbowed Luke and smirks.

“Either way, I hope get invited to next throw down Santa Claws.

He glances at Eira and gives her a nod.

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La Puma couldn't help herself as she eventually got comfortable and began to drink at her leisure the chocolatey goodness that was never ending hot chocolate. It was always delicious and warm, sweet and smooth, with just the right amount of chocolate. What and how she'd store it, assuming that there was a place to put it in her dorm, a small dorm fridge, was a different matter. Puma would have to make those considerations once she got back home as that was a problem for Carmen and not the heroic portion of her life.


The teenage werecat could be seen rubbing her face up against the warm mug, giving off a purr softly at odd moments as she hung around the back. Likely not wanting to be seen or heard doing this rather out of the usual aggressive behavior actions. The whole brooding demeanor seemed to mellow out while at the workshop, listening to the strange and soft purrs of the mug, comforting her after a long and tiring battle with a rather scary and rather mean ice spider woman. Saving Santa was just only one part to the crazyness.

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With goodbyes said, magic contracts signed, they made their way home. Back on Earth and in Eira's laboratory, the android scientist did her best to explain: 


"So you see, there are many dimensions driven by belief and insight as much as physics, yes?" She had pulled out a holographic smart board to explain as she showed the students the map of the multiverse they'd all seen in their physics classes. "So naturally it should be of no surprise that there is a dimension that appears to be the magical realm of the North Pole, complete with, ah, Santa Claus and all the trimmings." She smiled a little too broadly. "I have been there myself several times, as you saw. You should not think there was anything strange in what you did - or saw - or behavior you observed," she added. "Now, I think we turn to payment. Don't worry - I won't be paying you just in exposure to Santa Claus!" 

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