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A Christmas for Goose

From Betamountain.org


A Christmas for Goose

by Jill Weber



Somewhere in the future,
In a far away land called Arizona:
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, almost--


By Jill Weber for Karen Weber
(Didn't think I'd do it, did ya?)

I'll have a Blue Christmas,that's certain
And when that blue heartache starts hurtin'
You'll be doin' all right
With your Christmas of white


The cafeteria at BETA Mountain was cheerfully decorated for Christmas,
including a human dressed as Santa Claus serving punch and playing Christmas
carols on a CD player- juke box. A few Kiwis dressed as elves were scattered
around. The Kiwis made good elves, being short, with long, pointed 
ears. Their lavender blue skin color and brown hair didn't really go with
the green and red costumes, but they didn't care.
Most of the beings were eating and chatting and getting into the spirit of
the holiday. With a few exceptions.

"Go ahead," sighed Zachary Foxx, Jr. "Rub it in."
He shot a dirty look at the "juke box" from under his golden brown bangs,
then went back to staring gloomily into his mug of purported egg-nog.

""Excuse me, Little Zach," a low keyed voice said from beside the boy, "May
I join you?"

""Huh?" Little Zach looked up to see Shane Gooseman standing next to his 
table holding a mug of coffee. "Oh, sure, Goose. Have a seat."

"Little Zach went back to pretending to drink.

"Even with the youth not looking at him, Goose could tell that Little Zach's
eyes were red and swollen from crying. And frankly, the ranger wasn't 
in much of a cheerful mood himself.

""Have you seen your father?"

"Zach nodded, "Q-ball let us in for a few moments."

""Where's Jessica?"

""She went to choir practice."

"Goose pushed his black stetson back and ran his hand through his golden 
mane "And you didn't?"

""Well, actually, practice won't start for a couple of hours. Jessie went 
early. Well, she was upset. And Dad always said that church was a good 
place to go when you're upset."

""He's going to be all right, isn't he?" Goose asked, alarm filling his
geen eyes.

"Little Zach sighed. "Sure he'll be all right. He'll be out of the hospital
in a week or so. Jessie's upset because he'll miss Christmas, again. On
top of that..." Little Zach let his thought trail off. It wasn't anything
Gooseman didn't know. Besides, the youth had been trying not to think 
about that subject.

""I'm sorry," Goose said softly.

""For what?" Little Zach asked.

""It's my fault..." Goose began.

"Little Zach bounced to his feet and interrupted with uncharacteristic rudeness.
"Bovo spit! It is not your fault that Dad got hurt!"

"Goose was taken aback by his vehemence. "Do you know what happened?"

""I know you," Little Zach said. "If there was anything you could have done
to prevent Dad from being injured, you'd have done it."

"Goose lowered his head almost shyly. He wished that "Doc" Hartford and Niko
would hurry up and get back. They were better at this emotion stuff than
he was. But he had to say something.

""Thanks, I wish there was something I could do."

"Goose was interuppted again. This time by the juke box when it started
playing "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

"Little Zach dropped back into his seat and burst into tears. It embarassed
him greatly to cry in public, since he considered himself an adult (for
all his fourteen and a half years) but he couldn't stop.

"Goose, over-reacting naturally, whirled out of his chair into a gunfighter's
crouch, pulled his blasters, and shot the hell out of the juke box
before his better judgement could catch up to his reflexes.

""Hey!" cried Santa. "That's mine...was mine anyway," he continued mournfully,
looking at the flaming remains of his jukebox.

"The by-standers looked over with interest. And turned away hurriedly when
they met Gooseman's glare.
A Kiwi dressed in an exceptionally gaudy elf costume bounded over and doused
the fire with a bowl of the "eggnog".

""That's all that Playgo drool was good for, anyway," Ambassador Zozo of 
Kirwin humphed. (Kiwi had sensitive taste buds.)

"Santa came over and confronted the blond ranger. "What did you do that for, 
Ranger Gooseman?" he demanded.

"Goose just shrugged his broad shoulders and gave him a level stare.

"Santa's large brown eyes didn't flinch.

"Little Zach interrupted the stare down.

""It was my fault," he confessed, rubbing the back of his hand across his 
eyes.

"Santa looked at him, and his expression softened.

""I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," Santa said. "I suppose the song 
made you think of your father in the hospital."

"Zach was startled out of his tears, then he realized that the grapevine
had probably spread word of his father's injury clear to Pluto by now. He felt he owed "Santa" an explanation.

""It's not that." His voice quavered and his large blue eyes filled with
tears again.

"Zozo put a sturdy paw on the boy's shoulder. Goose directed a fierce
thought towards the missing Doc and Niko.

""Sorry," Little Zach took several deep breaths to steady himself. "It's
just that that song makes me think of my mother."

""In the cryo-chamber at Longshot," Santa finished.

"Little Zach nodded."We never...I mean Mom's never been away during
Christmas. She was the one we could always count on. She'd take us shopping,
and we'd pick out a tree, and put up decorations. And she would always 
joke about which part of Christmas dinner would get ruined this year (a 
paragon she was, a cook she was not). And sometimes just she and I would..."
He sounded whiny to his own ears and stopped, struggling for control.

"Santa and Goose looked at each other uncertainly. Zo-zo put a comforting 
arm around Little Zach's shoulders.

""They sound like happy memories to me," the Kiwi said gently.

""But I never thanked her for them, never thanked her for any of the things
she did for me. And now, I may never get a chance."

"Santa cleared his throat. "I'm sure you'll get a chance to thank her soon..." He
stopped when Goose's green eyes and Zozo's amber eyes narrowed
dangerously. He changed the subject hastily. "Um, Ranger Gooseman, what do
you intend to do about my juke box?"

"Shane actually blushed.

""I'll replace it," he said gruffly.

""I need it as soon as possible," Santa said.

""Well," Zo-zo said with forced cheerfulness. "What's wrong with now? I need
to finish my shopping. And I think we could all use a change of scenery."

"He turned to Little Zach. "How's about it, kiddo? Care to come?"

""Well, I have to be back for choir practice," Little Zach said hestantly.

""This shouldn't take long, and you said you had a couple of hours," Goose
pointed out, taking Zo-zo's lead. Kiwis were much better at dealing with
emotions than Supertroopers were.

""Why not," Little Zach said resignedly. "Beats trying to drink this stuff."
He looked over where some cleaning 'droids were disposing of the deceased
jukebox.

""Heads up, gang!" he called. He tossed his mug into the middle of the mess.

""Don't let me forget to tell GeeVee where I'm going," Little Zach said to
the others as he followed them from the cafeteria. Little Zach knew the 
AI program that ran the Foxx household would fret if he didn't report in.

"One of the cleaning 'droids sighed. "Humans, go figure."



"Ambassador Zo-zo appropriated a van, but Goose insisted on driving. Santa
brought his civvies with him so he could change on the way to Phoenix. (
Zo-zo just wore the elf suit.)

"Little Zach stared silently out the window, trying to get his emotional
balance. He ignored the friendly squabble between Zo-zo and Goose about
which mall was best. (Not that either was exactly an expert at this sort of
thing.)

"By the time they got to the Phoenix Sky Mall (the first one they came to)
Little Zach had regained control. He wasn't exactly feeling cheerful, but
at least he didn't feel like crawling into a hole and pulling it after 
him.

"They were strolling out of the parking garage when a thought struck Little
Zach and he struck his forehead, "Aw, shucks. I forgot to call GeeVee."

""Is that critical?" Santa asked. Out of the suit, he was medium sized, the
irtyish with brown hair, a neatly trimmed beard and now wearing a plain
denim outfit.

""Only if someone's looking for me," Little Zach said. "By the way, what's
your name?"

""Sorry, I'm Chris," Santa began.

""If you say "Kringle" I'll bite you!" Zo-zo threatened.

"Santa laughed. "Nope, Chris Lamb."

"Zo-zo started laughing so hard he had to and place his hands on his knees
while he fought for air.

""What's so funny?" Shane asked.

"Zo-zo looked at Little Zach. "There's an Earth bird called a kiwi, isn't 
there?"

"Little Zach blinked. "Well, yes. A flightless bird with hairy wings."

"Zo-zo looked at Goose. "That means this party has a goose, a lamb, a kiwi,
and a fox."

""We three may be in trouble from the fox cub here," chuckled Santa.

"Goose slapped his hands against his face in "horror". "You mean, we could
all wind up as Christmas dinner!"
20

"Little Zach gave him a sideways look. "Well, Dad always said that it's
aditional to have a goose for Christmas dinner."

"Goose stuck out his tongue.

As they went inside the mall, Little Zach spotted some carolers, four women
and seven men dressed in 19th Century clothing. So they had to pause
Little Zach dug out some change to put in their pot. Then the quartet
went off in search of a music store.After a long hunt, they finally found
the store they were looking for. Naturally, it was over-stuffed with people.
Little Zach and Zo-zo elected to stay outside rather than fight the crowd.

"After a while, the carolers came past.

"Zo-zo nudged Little Zach and snickered. "Those singers look more like a
football team than a glee club."

"Even the women look like they could go pro," Little Zach agreed, sotto 
voice.

"They turned as Goose and Santa came out of the store, and so missed the
dirty look one of the singers gave them.

"That was quick," Zo-zo commented.

"Goose just gave a feral smile.

"It's easy when you know how," Goose said.

"That's not a very Christmassy atitude, Ranger Gooseman," Santa said
reproachfully.

"Bah, humbug"

"You don't like Christmas?" Santa asked.

""Why should I? All I know of Christmas is that people go mad in shopping 
malls, and it made Little Zach cry. Not much of a recommendation."

""There's a lot to recommend Christmas, Goose," Little Zach stopped. "To
some, it's a time to be with family. To others it's a time to think about 
the birth of Christ, the saviour."

"Goose snorted.

"My "family" is scattered around the universe, and I seriously doubt your
Christ came here to "save" souless Supertroopers."

"You're an ex-Supertrooper," Zozo pointed out.

"But I'm still a bio-engineered mutant," Goose replied.

"So?" Zach said. "In church I learned that Jesus was planted in Mary's womb
through "Immaculate Conception". That sounds like bio-engineering to me.'

"And I understand he had some peculiar powers," Zozo added. "Just like a
Supertrooper."

"And there were many who feared him, and said he was a dangerous maniac. 
And the controversy surrounding him continues to this very day," Little
Zach added.

"Santa laughed. "You're right, The Christ does sound like a Supertrooper."

"Goose just snorted again. "Yeah, sure."

""And your family isn't all on the other side of the galaxy," Little Zach 
said. "I'm right here. C'mon, I'll get you a Christmas present."

Zach darted off and Goose followed, protesting. Santa and Zo-zo looked at
each other, then set off in pursuit.

The carolers strolled after them.


"Little Zach was thinking hard. What do you give a man who has nothing, and
wants nothing?

"He passed a window with twinkling Christmas lights in it and paused. Then
a little light went off in his own mind. He waited until Goose caught up with him.

""I've got it, wait here," Zach ordered. "And don't you dare come in."

"Goose was pacing outside the shop when Zozo and Santa arrived.

""Where's Zach?" Zo-zo asked.

"Goose jerked his head toward the shop. He noticed the singers out of the 
corner of his eye, but gave them no thought.


""Why don't you find out what's keeping him?" Goose asked Zozo.
Zozo bounded into the store.

""Over here, Zozo!" Little Zach called from the line at the counter.

""Whatcha buying?" Zozo asked craning his neck.

""An ornament" Zach said holding it up.

"It was a goose, with a boy on its back and a ribbon in its beak.

""I remembered seeing them last month," Zach commented. "It's from an old 
tale about magic powers. The boy was shrunk to teach him a lesson, and he
learned a lot from a goose. I thought it would be appropriate, because
Goose and I both have a lot to learn."

"He paid for the ornament as the salesclerk wrapped it.


Outside, Goose had given up pacing and was leaning against the plate glass
window.

"You don't want a present?" Santa asked.

"All I want to do is go back to BETA and see if Doc and Niko are back yet,"
Goose grumbled.

"I'm sure they are," Santa said.

Goose just gave him a dirty look.

""Seriously, Gooseman," Santa continued. "Isn't there something you would 
like for Christmas?"

""Christmas isn't for soulless Supertroopers," Goose snapped. Then he shook
his head at himself. "Sorry."

"I don't believe you're souless, Shane Gooseman," Santa said.

"I wish I could believe that."

""What would it take to convince you?" Santa asked.

"Goose looked at him sideways, "A miracle, maybe two."

"Like what?"

""A happy ending, like they have on tri-D."

""Ahem", Little Zach said from the doorway.

"Goose and Santa straightened up and turned.

""We make our own happy endings in this life, Shane," the boy said quietly.
"And our own miracles."


""BLASPHEMER!"

"The foursome looked around in astonishment. The carolers approached them,
quivering with righteous fury.

""What's your problem?" Gooseman asked.

"The lead singer purpled. "Such insolence! First you mock the True Followers
of The Lord. Then you sacreligously compare Our Sweet Saviour to
Supertroopers, then you claim to have the Divine Power to work miracles!"
A crowd gathered at the start of the harangue. By now the quartet had come
to the conclusion that these singers were a few notes short of a chord.


"Little Zach spread his hands in a placating manner. "Take it easy, sir," he said 
gently. "We meant no offense. We were only joking around."

"The singers crowded in, forcing the four against the window.

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain," quoted one of
the female singers.

"The wages of sin are death!" sang out another

"Aren't you over-reacting a little?" Zozo asked as he avoided being trampled

"Shut up, you alien rodent!"

"Remember, Jesus is also the Prince of Peace," Santa warned.

The carolers gave a collective growl at surged forward. Goose and Santa were
knocked down. Goose was winded and Santa cracked his head on the floor
and was stunned.

"Ki-yah!" Zozo cried. Hed leapt up and applied a kiwi-fu kick to the
nearest caroler. The caroler flew back into his friends, giving Zozo a little
fighting room.

He wasn't given a chance to use it. Three or four carolers grabbed Little
Zach from behind and lifted him into the air.

"Let go of him!" snarled Zozo.

"They heaved Zach at Zozo, and both of them went crashing into the store 
window amid sparks and splinters and became entangled in the wrought iron
display cases.

"Zach landed flat on his back on top of Zo-zo, knocking the wind out of both
"Wheeze Ge ff f m!" Zo-zo said into the carpeting

"Little Zach opened his eyes and admired the fireworks until he realized they
weren't inside his head.

""I can't move," he hissed.

""W nt?" Zo-zo moved his head. "Why not?" he repeated.

""The stands are electrified. If I touch them, we'll cook!"

"Zo-zo tried to burrow deeper into the carpet.

"What would your father do in this situation?" the Kiwi asked.

"Little Zach snorted. "He'd probably use his bionics," he replied.

""Oh."

""I can do what Doc would do, though," Zach said thoughtfully eyeing the sparks.

""Well, DO IT!" Zo-zo hissed.

"Little Zach twisted his head to look out the window:

""GOOOOOO-OOOOOOOOSE!" 

"Three of the carolers thought they had Goose pinned when the ranger heard
Little Zach's cry. But Goose wasn't about to let another Zachary Foxx get
hurt. He pulled his knees to his chin and kicked the caroler holding his
legs into the crowd. Now it was a case of who had whom. Goose grasped his
captors firmly by their throats, sat up and bashed them together. He 
dropped the stunned singers as he leaped to his feet and touched his badge.
He could hear a security guard trying to get through the crowd, but he wasn't
about to wait for him. He turned towards the window when one of the 
woman carolers, who fancied herself a martial artist, leaped at him with 
a fierce cry.

There was a golden flash as Gooseman's bio-defenses activated. The now 
anthropoidal ranger turned fiercely. He had no time to waste on gentleness.
And he wasn't in the mood, either.

He caught the girl while she was mid-air and gave her a quick nerve punch
The remaining carolers banded together and charged. Goose-monster threw
the "martial artist" at them, then plunged his paws into the ground and 
ripped up the flooring. The fanatics were thrown off their feet, and Goose-monster
rolled them into a neat little bundle.


"Another flash of light as Goose-monster faded back into Gooseman. He saw 
the security guard break through the crowd, but ignored him as he hit his
badge again and went to the aid of his friends.

A spark hit him as he waded through the window. A now insulated Goose untangled
the wires from the racks. Goose pulled the wires out of the wall as
Little Zach and Zozo pushed aside the racks and got up.

The store owner bustled up worriedly.

"Are you all right?" he asked. "What happened?"

""It's a long story, Zozo said. "My embassy will pay the damages."

"The owner waved aside monetary concerns for the moment. "I'm more worried
about you two," he said. "You're bleeding!"

"Both Zozo and Little Zach were becoming aware of little hurts all over from
going though the glass.

""Good thing it was safety glass," Little Zach remarked. "Or we'd be Christmas
ribbons by now."


Goose left the two for the store owner to fuss over and went out the door
to talk to the security guard.

The guard was pointing a gun at him, an old fashioned, solid bullet .45 
caliber Colt Peacemaker.

Goose held his hands up placatingly. "Take it easy, fella", he said. "I can
explain everything."

"Blasphemer!" the guard cried. "Throw down your weapon and your badge,
you mutant!"

The crowd started to fade back, this was getting serious.

"Goose reached for his badge.

""Don't try any tricks!" shrilled the guard. The gun swung towards Santa. 
"Turn into another monster, and your sacreligous friend goes to Satan, now!

Is everyone in this mall a fanatic? Goose wondered. There was no way to get
between the guard and Santa, so Goose took off his badge and tossed it
at the guard's feet. The matched hand blasters followed.
The guard swung his gun away from Santa. Goose charged and the guard fired
simultaneously.

"Neither hit his target.

"Goose bounced off thin air and looked up in natural astonishment. The bullet
ricocheted off of the first forcefield, into a second, and then into 
the ground.

"The forcefields disappeared, and a for-real female martial artist sailed 
over Gooseman's head and decked the halls with the already stunned guard.
Galaxy Ranger Niko whirled, waist long auburn hair skirling around her like
a cape. Seeing nobody else looked like a fight she went over to Goose.

""You didn't leave any for me!" Galaxy Ranger Walter "Doc" Hartford "complained"
as he helped Goose to his feet.

""Sorry, Doc," giggled Niko. The petite ranger went to where Santa was
struggling to his feet. Goose retrieved his gear before something else could
go wrong.

""You all right?" Niko asked, giving Santa a hand.

""I am now," he said, looking at her with admiration.

""Now that's what I call awesome timing!" Little Zach excalaimed happily as
he and Zozo came out of the store.

""Naturally," Doc said "modestly", as he brushed his natty mustache with a
knuckle. "All us heroes are noted for good timing."

" Santa ignored the black ranger and looked at Zach and Zozo with alarm. 

""You're bleeding!" he said.

""We're all right," Little Zach said. "Oh, Niko, Doc, this is Chris Lamb. 
Santa...er...Chris, these are Rangers Niko and Hartford."

"They shook hands all around.

"Let me look at those," the Doc said. He wasn't a medical doctor, but he 
knew more about medicine than just first aid. Zozo shook him off.

"I think you'd better take care of the crowd, before there's more trouble,"
the Kiwi advised. 

Doc agreed and started leading the spectators back from the possible battle
zone.

The store owner came out, still looking worried.

"You two should see a doctor," he insisted for the nineteenth or twentieth
time.

"Company!" Doc warned, concern in his chocolate brown eyes. He didn't know
why the one guard had attacked Goose, but he wanted to be ready in case
these dudes wanted evens. Niko's hunter green eyes narrowed as she and Goose
braced for further violence. Zozo and the store owner retreated into
the store, pulling Little Zach with them.

The security squad, armed with regulation stun guns converged on the scene.
They pulled up short at the sight that met them.

"Galaxy Rangers!" exlaimed their sergeant. "What's going on here?"

"One of your men tried to off a Galaxy Ranger, buster," Niko snapped. "What's
your position on the matter?"

The sergeant held up his hands in a placating manner, "Whoa, ranger, I'm 
on your side." He looked at the scene. "I always knew McKinney was a weirdo,
but this..."

The rangers relaxed when it was clear that there would be no more fighting
today.

Niko turned to Little Zach and Zo-zo as they came out of the store again.
"You two are going to BETA hospital, right now," she started to hustle them
off.

"But Niko..." Zach protested.

""Go on, youngster," Santa called. "Or you'll miss your happy ending."

"Niko called over her shoulder, "I'll take the air car, Doc, you can catch
a ride with Goose."

""Gee, thanks," was Doc's only comment as he and the security guards tried
to unroll the flooring.

"Goose went over to Santa.

""I won't be able to leave until this is cleared up, if you hurry you'll be
able to catch a ride with Niko."

"Santa shook his head, "Just let me get my gear from your van," he said.

"I can make my own way to my destination." 

They went to the van in silence.

"Goose? Will I be needed to testify?"

"Goose handed over Santa's gear and shook his head. "I suppose not, there 
are enough witnesses. Why?"

""I don't need this kind of publicity," Santa hesitated. "And I'll be moving
on soon."

""Suit yourself," Goose said, used to shy witnesses. "By the way, is that 
blasted juke box damaged?"

Santa checked. "Nope."

"Good, I'd hate to go through that again," Goose said. "These holiday 
crowds are murder!"

Santa laughed as they shook on that one. Goose shot a puzzled look at Santa's
hands, but said nothing to spoil the leave taking.


"Niko lurked in the waiting room as the doctors checked Little Zach and Zozo
out, and put in a few necessary stitches.

Zozo was finished first. When Little Zach came out he heard Zozo complimenting
Niko on her sense of timing.

"How did you find us, anyway?" Zo-zo asked her. "Your P-S-I powers?"

"No, GeeVee power," Niko said.

"But, I forgot to call GeeVee, Little Zach said, puzzled.

"He said you called," Niko replied.

"You must have forgotten that you didn't forget," Zo-zo said.

Little Zach shook his head, but before he could comment, the door to the 
waiting room opened and held the door for the wheelchair Doc was pushing.
In the chair was a tall, brown haired, blue eyed man who managed to wear
his pajamas and robe with as much dignity as if they'd been his uniform.

"Dad!" Little Zach cried, throwing himself on the man.

Capt. Zachary Foxx, Sr. enveloped his son in a bear hug.

""Are you all right?" Foxx asked a trifle hoarsely.

Little Zach got off of his father self-consciously as he remembered that 
his father was injured.

"Isn't that my line?" he asked. "Why are you out of bed?"

Zachary senior ruffled Zach, Jr.'s hair.

"Q-ball gave me time off for good behaviour," he said.

"You'll be home for Christmas?!"

"Yep."

"Yeee- hah ! Wait'll I tell Jessie!" Little Zach exclaimed as he did a 
handspring.

"Zachary, this is a hospital," Capt. Foxx couldn't quite manage a stern tone.
Frankly his own reaction had been pretty close. (Though he couldn't
manage a handspring.) "Where is Jessica, anyway?"

"At church."

"Ahem," said Doc. Everyone one turned to look at him.
"I sent Buzzwang to get your dress uniform, Captain," he said. "And a change
of clothes for Little Zach as well."

"Thanks, Doc."

"What happened at the mall?" Zozo wanted to know.

"Eh?" Goose looked bemused. "Oh, yeah. The carolers are unwrapped and under
wraps, so's the guard. Seems they're all part of some fanatical sect that
would rather fight than switch. They've got an arrest record as long 
as a Kiwi's ear."

Zozo made a rude noise.

"Little Zach scowled, "It's creepazoids like that who give us religious types
a bad name."

"Capt. Foxx put his arm around his son's shoulders.

"How'd they get permission to sing in the mall?" Zachary Sr. asked.

"The guard got them in," Doc said. "By the way, my Goose-man. I saw Santa
while you were filling out forms, he asked me to give you this. He said 
it was to thank you."

He handed Shane a small gift box. Inside was a small gold cross with a
goose engraved on one side and a lamb on the other.

"'Behold, the Lamb of God'," Foxx said.

"Little Zach punched him lightly on his bionic shoulder.

"The man who sent it was named Chris Lamb," he informed him.

"Oh," Capt. Foxx shrugged. "That will teach me to get poetic."

A robot painted to look as though he were wearing a blue and white ranger
uniform and wearing a hard earned Galaxy Ranger badge stepped through the
door.

"Captain Foxx, I have your uniform," he said formally as he handed the
uniform to the ranger. "This is for you, Little Zach," he said to the boy, and
gave him a bundle. 

"Thanks, Buzzwang," both Zacharys said, more or less in unison.

"You're welcome, sirs," Buzzwang said and left.

Foxx backed his wheelchair out of the room. "As soon as we get changed, let's
go give your sister an early present, son," he said.

Sounds great to me, Dad," Little Zach said happily.

"C'mon, Niko, we have to make a report," Doc said.

Niko sighed and started to follow. "I wish someone would tell me what happened."

"Buy dinner, and I'll be glad to," Zozo called after her.

"Deal!" Niko said, and she shut the door.

Little Zach looked at the box Goose still held.

"May I see that?" he asked Shane.

"Sure," Goose pulled the cross out of the box, and handed it to Little Zach.
As he did so, a slip of paper fluttered towards the floor. Zo-zo intercepted it.

"What's it say?" Goose asked.

Zozo squinted at the paper. "It says 'Only those who possess souls are
concerned with owning them'. - P. Anthony." He frowned. "Who's P. Anthony?"

"A twentieth century science fiction writer," Little Zach explained.

"Oh," Goose said.

"Well, you got what you asked for," Zozo said.

"What do you mean?" Goose asked.

""Well, a miracle - Zachary is out of the hospital weeks ahead of schedule,"
Zo-zo started.

""And proof that you have a soul," Little Zach said.

Goose smiled. "Gifts from Santa."

"Why not?" Little Zach said. "Say, what happened to him, anyway?"

"I don't know, he just took off," Goose looked thoughtful.

"A rather peculiar person, even for a human," Zozo commented.

"Yeah, I wonder why he didn't say good-bye," Little Zach said.

"Oh, he said good-bye and Merry Christmas to you when I gave him his gear."
An odd thought struck Goose. "I wonder what happened to his hand."

"Huh?" Zozo said brightly.

"When I shook his hand, I noticed it had a nasty scar on it, it seemed to
go all the way through, in fact it looked like both hands..." Goose trailed
off as he noticed the looks the other two were giving him.

"You're pulling my ears, Gooseman!" Zozo said.

"It was Goose's turn to say "Huh?"

"Zozo and Little Zach looked at each other.

"Couldn't be," Zo-zo said.

Zach Junior looked thoughtful. "You know, he knew an awful lot of stuff, 
like Doc and Niko being home, and me getting a happy ending..." Little Zach's
voice cut off, his eyes went wide and his face drained of color.

"Zach, are you all right?" Goose asked anxiously.

Little Zach shook himself "Yeah, I think so. But it just occured to me, he
said...he said I'd be able to thank my mother soon."

"So, who couldn't he be and why is what he said so important?"

"Come on, Goose," Zozo said. "Let's let Little Zach change, and I'll tell
you about Easter."

"Easter? What happened to Christmas?"

Zozo started to shove Goose through the door.

""Goose? I almost forgot something," Little Zach said.

"Goose turned in the doorway and caught the package that Little Zach tossed him.

""Have a Merry Christmas, Shane."


The End