It had started in the back of a class room, the boys writing on scraps of paper and passing them around while the teacher’s back was turned. The holidays were upon them, drifting past the windows innocent flakes of snow danced in the strong wind, flowing with it before being deposited on the muddy ground. Roger was small, even then, tiny glasses shining in the lights as he tore pieces from the books and traded them for other shreds being furtively exchanged under desk. It was here that he made the worst mistake of his life. His note, his tiny little question of “What did you ask Santa to get you?” was passed from one person to another faster than some could read, eliciting bouts of giggles among his class mates. It was only until after lesson did he found out why, when all the bigger boys began to pelt him with bits of paper and laugh at him through cries of “Santa isn’t real!” It was something he’d remember for the rest of his life.
It was many years later before he brought his plan to full fruition, and even longer before he had the know-how or the parts to begin. He’d had attempts over the years at smaller projects, mistakes and triumphs that marked themselves in his memory, and occasionally his skin. But he was ready, he could start, he had the plans. In the small basement room of his rented cottage the shrunken figure of Roger navigated the cluttered maze to the large oak chest, the hinges creaking as he prised the lid open. Roger gripped the stiff roll of paper from inside, stretching it out until the three clamps on the desk held it almost straight, pinning the loose end beneath a snow globe. He stared at the grubby piece of paper he produced from his pocket, checking his list minutely for any parts he might still need, then immediately starting again from the top the moment he was done. He grinned; it was time to begin his greatest project.
High velocity, light armour plated boots with a pulley system inside that meant all weight and force it connected with was slowly displaced to leave minimal effect on the machine or it’s environments. It wasn’t feather light, there would still be footsteps in the snow but it would make creeping around much easier in the dead of night. The pulleys would need oiling occasionally however, to make sure the machine didn’t squeak; on Christmas Eve not even mice were meant to squeak. The shoes had some intricate spikes along every few centimetres as well, for extra grip on slippery tiles. The entire feet painted black with non-scratch paint; don’t want to leave little bits of black on someone’s rug.
Legs, a bit more difficult; while it must help contain the pulleys and levers from the boots they must also contain large pumps and some good springs to compensate for long drops. It just wouldn’t do just to have the legs shatter and leave him sitting there on the carpet in the morning. This also manages to tackle the problem of fires, when the legs recover from the drop the air is forced out downwards, extinguishing any fire the machine lands in. All disguised within overlapping plates, extra protection from outside influences so the inner workings didn’t get disrupted by a few leaves. All painted red and white to match body, though after a few tests it’s obviously the lower half gets covered with soot.
The belly was the hardest, not simply because it was the furnace that kept it all running but because it needed to fold inwards to fit through small holes. Roger had conquered that by making the outside plates retractable, acting almost like a bellows to bring more air in and push the old steam around the machine. It meant that when the chest slid tighter the boiler let out a jet of hot air around the machine and out a special exhaust hole near the base of the boiler. It was useful, as that blast of air was enough to rekindle the fire on the way back out, as it would not do to cause pneumonia through the intended acts of kindness. The flexibility and the constant movement of pressure valves and switches makes it difficult to disguise the red glow of the boiler, so the body is painted red as well, making it seem as if the machine is that colour of purpose and not because of design flaws. Luckily the temperature does not get to excessive levels so there is little to no fire risk.
The arms are similar to the legs, more steam pistons inside for extra strength, but instead of bracing for the machine to recover from a drop they must be used to ascend. He had to find a method to aid the ascent back up the chimneys, the arms could support the bulk of the machine and make it all the way up any brickwork, but if the chimney was out of repair a fall might occur, and the climbing wasn’t very smooth or quick. The hooks hidden behind the hands were a nice touch, helping the climbing without having something actually on the hands that might damage unintentionally. Just one valve popped and a nice new set of climbing limbs would come out of the wrists. Red sleeves, giving the impression of a full red suit being worn, the hands painted with the same paint as the feet to make sure the grip doesn’t suddenly disappear. He had to test the handling skills before sending the machine out on an actual delivery.
The head was mostly the container for the series of programs keeping the machine running, keeping separate from the heat of the boiler and the twists of pipes and shifting regulators. Roger had ordered a tin of flesh coloured paint ages ago, but when he went for the package it had turned out to be several backs of bacon. He had been low of food however so he hadn’t reported the mistake, ate the bacon and was left with no skin paint, so the smiling mask looking out from beneath the festive hat was still the faint bronze of beaten copper with two friendly eyes painted on. It was smiling because it was Father Christmas, he didn’t need to hear anything about how the mouth vent would work better if it was a different shape, it smiled. The large fake white beard was a bit more than cosmetic however, the hair stopped the steam as it came out, distilling the water still there and soaking down through the fibres to help cool the fat jolly belly of a boiler it rested on.
The hat... he could work with the hat. It was metallic in itself, pointed up until the cloth bobble which swayed every now and then on top. If he removed the bobble, put in another hook beneath it and a length of chains that went down into the body and was connected to another very secure piston then his machine could use that to help haul itself up that way to help make the climb quicker. It was simple when you thought about it. It would mean a few more tinkers with the brain of the machine; make sure it knew how to use the grapple and how to treat it if it was stuck... But he had a few more weeks, he would get it done in time. Right now it was time to test how it ran.
The taper caught, the coal inside the boiler starting to burn merrily as Roger shut the door in the chest and scurried back. This should go perfectly... but it wasn’t wise to stand directly next to it no matter how confident he was in his creation. The pile of metal and merriment in front of him twitched, hissed, then stirred from the slab. It turned its head, belly starting to glow a faint red as three short bursts of exhaust steam came from its mouth. A very tinny “Ho-ho-ho” reverberated around the small cellar.
Santa was real. Roger had seen to that.