To everyone but her fiancé, soon to be sister in law and perhaps her father… Aysel Swan’s heart was several sizes too small. This made her apt to do things to attempt to mold the world to her world view. In her world, people conducted themselves in a business-like manner. People were reserved, and they certainly were not happy, not unless she wished them to be anyway. Christmas in it of itself was not usually an issue when it came to Swan Industry’s employees. If she wanted them unhappy she simply demanded overtime and cut holiday bonuses… if she wanted them happy she did the opposite. But this year… this year it was different. This year there were chocolates… and if rumors were true, these chocolates made one… happy. It was something that Aysel could not abide by in her company.
She needed to have the secret behind these chocolates… analyze their makeup… and then mass produce them and sell them. Make shortages of them when she wanted people unhappy… and excess when she wanted them happy. It would be… devious, sinister and profitable.
She could see the advertisements now… and they made her smile.
That was it then… she would steal the chocolates, and in doing so… steal the very soul of Christmas itself.
After scheming over the base layouts of many of the hero organizations that made up the RPC, she deemed the Carnival of Light’s tents and trailers to be the easiest to slip in and out of to obtain samples of the chocolates.
A plan in hand, Aysel hired the whole lot of Carnies to perform at her corporate Christmas Party on Christmas Eve, leaving the base largely uninhabited for the night. While the Paragon Branch of Swan Enterprises laughed it up, the Lady Darkswan slipped into her stolen Arachnos gear. Soon she stalked the grounds at Prism Lake to the big top. There in the center ring, the grand Christmas tree of the Carnival stood tall and brilliant over the presents of the troupe.
At that very same time, Rosie Montrenne had awoken after her very capable babysitter, Ami Mizuno, had put her to bed. The doll-girl couldn’t sleep knowing she had left Mr. Clicks, her pet clockwork gear, at the circus tents. Ami, as it was, had ended up taking a very sick and upset Patrick to the pediatric ward of the hospital with a high fever. Therefore, with no supervising adult, Rosie snuck out of the Montrenne house to retrieve her favorite toy… (and maybe get a peek at Santa!).
As fate would have it, Rosie arrived at the big top at the very same time as Lady Darkswan. A whirring click alerted the woman to the presence of girl and clockwork. Aysel froze in place under the tree where she was picking up and sacking any presents that looked like they contained chocolates.
Rosie stared at the Lady and said, “Santy Claus’s Elf, why, Why are you taking our packages, why?”
But, you know, that Lady was so smart and so slick, she thought up a lie, and she thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake elf lied, “There’s some packages here that have come untied. So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear. I’ll fix them up there. Then I’ll bring them back here.”
But her fib did not fool the child, as she stared at the packages and then at the elf, and the look that Rosie gave her was far from mild. “Rosie thinks that you’re not an elf, but someone who’s taking our presents, just for yourself!”
Aysel grunted and sighed, and then loading her dart caster she netted the girl, taking bag and doll back to her lab.
Twenty boxes later, the Lady thought victory was at hand, as she dissolved the chocolate in a solution, injected it into her Liquid Chromatograph and waited for the substances to band. She worked in silence, adjusting the elution times through changing coils and solutes both, and Rosie just watched and thought to herself.
Then Aysel came to the toughest part, running the substances on her Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Infrared Radiation and Mass Spectra machines. They would break the chemicals down and give her formulaic puzzles to solve.
Wrapped up in her work, the scientist didn’t even notice when Rosie slipped out of the nets with the help of Mr. Clicks and picked up one of unopened presents from the floor where Aysel had abandoned them.
“Sucrose, fructose, ethanol, theobromine, phenethylamine…” The woman murmured to herself in her Irish accent then sighed as she stared at her spectra. “…looks like some proteins… probably the cocoa butter and cream…” She bit her lip in thought. “Maybe some vanillin… that makes sense for flavor… and ah… ethyl 3-phenylglycidate and perhaps hydroxyphenylbutanone… the aldehyde and ketone in raspberries…”
“Raspberries? Rosie LIKES raspberries!” The little girl proclaimed from the vicinity of Aysel’s elbow.
Aysel jumped in surprise. “How… how did you get out of the nets!?”
Rosie held up Mr. Clicks, and the clockwork gear did a little victory dance on her hand. “Mr. Clicks helped!”
“Um. Well I’m analyzing these chocolates…”
“So I can make more of them.”
“So I can sell them.”
“So I can control people’s happiness.”
Aysel paused. She had to think. Why WAS it so important that she be able to control whether people were happy or not? “I guess… maybe, because…” Aysel paused and Rosie stared at her with her onyx eyes that sparkled slightly in the light of the lab. “…because I’m not happy…”
Rosie tilted her head and thought about this for a moment. “Why?”
“I uh…” Why was she unhappy? She was rich, successful, about to get married to a good man, and was coming into power she had only previously dreamt about. Aysel stared at the child with her own cold black eyes and started to feel tears form in them.
“Aww. It’s otay lady!” Rosie’s eyes glittered at the woman and she held up an open box. “These are from Astra to Rosie, but the sad lady can have one if she wants!”
Aysel blinked at the girl and then looked at the offered box. It contained three of the very same chocolates she had been analyzing. She bit her lip and her hand trembled slightly as she reached out to the box and delicately picked up the truffle.
Rosie looked at her expectantly, her gemstone eyes glittering all the while. “Go on… eat it!”
She hesitated a moment more and then slowly popped the chocolate into her mouth to let it melt and release its flavors… and suddenly she was ten again. It was Christmas Eve, and her father had surprised her by coming home early from his business trip. Even then he had been warm hearted but soft headed; he funded several soup kitchens, and had her put on some older clothes and a coat and took her to one. She remembered the people there vividly, they were so downtrodden, but yet… they were happy, having each other, and enjoying the simple filling meal in ways that she had never experienced in her banquets at her private school. Despite herself…she found that she was enjoying this too, just another young child with her father on Christmas. Her father saw her smile and then whispered into her ear: “After dinner, we are going to go caroling in the snow with them, and we’ll maybe build a snowman or leave some snow angels…”. She blinked the tears from her eyes a few times and was back with Rosie in the present.
[i]Maybe happiness isn’t about what you have… but what you make yourself be…[/i]
The thought sent a chill down her spine and she looked at what she had been doing. She blushed and turned back to the girl. “Thank you Rosie… and… I’m sorry.”
Aysel smiled then, and with Rosie’s help she returned the presents to the tree under the big top. As she finished putting the last present under the tree, Rosie turned to her.
“Rosie wonders… would the not an elfy-lady like to wait with Rosie for her family? They will be home soon and then we will go singing, and then have cookies and cocoa and wait for Santa to come put more presents under the tree…”
Aysel paused. She could think of a million reasons it was a bad idea, but she shook the thoughts out of her head and smiled again. “Why yes Rosie, I think I shall.”
Rosie’s eyes twinkled then and she grabbed Aysel by the hand and took her to the flaps of the tent. She waved at the sky and Aysel stared as the snow started coming down hard. “Look! Santa brought snow for Christmas!, You, me and Mr. Clicks can make snowmen!”
And that was why, when the adults of the Carnival of Light arrived home from the Swan Industries Christmas Party, they found Aysel Swan herself showing Rosie how to make angels in the snow.