Loaded with freshly cut timber, Thomas’s lumberjack mech suit was seven metric tons of steel and strength. Yet, none of that mattered to the lone reindeer that stood in his way on the snowy forest path.
He preferred not to hurt the stupid animal, but the last transport was lifting off soon, and he had to be on it. If he missed Christmas Eve supper, his wife Martha would tear a strip off him.
“Get out of the way,” he yelled, but the stubborn beast only huffed back and pawed the ground.
There was no going forward, so Thomas would have to go around. He shifted the controller sideways, and the machine’s hydraulics shuffled to the right. Before he could even engage the forward servos, the reindeer rushed the mech suit and rammed against the metal roll cage.
“Hey, easy now!”
The animal didn’t listen and came at it again, butting its head into the closest metal leg. Its one antler caught the hydraulic feed and yanked it loose. Fluid sprayed everywhere, and Thomas slammed his fist on the kill switch before he lost all pressure in the line.
“Dammit, now look what you’ve done!” He hopped out of the cockpit and grabbed a roll of duct tape to fix it.
A pained bleat bellowed out. Thomas scanned the edge of the woods and saw a small calf trapped in a tangle of old barbwire.
He glanced back at the older reindeer. “Is this what this is all about?”
He dug into his toolbox and grabbed a plasma cutter. He took a step towards the baby before glancing at the parent. It kept its distance.
Thomas inched towards the baby and let it sniff his hand before he stroked its side and examined the damage. The old fence had wrapped around the calf’s leg and had torn its skin.
“I can’t do anything for the cuts, but I can get you free.” He ignited the torch and cleared the wire away.
The calf struggled to stand, then staggered back to its parent. The reindeer sniffed where Thomas had touched the baby and the deep cut. It huffed a final time before it nudged its child forward, and the two animals disappeared into the woods.
Thomas checked his watch. If he rushed, he could still make it.
He sealed the leak and powered the engine up. The gauges bounced back in the green, the line pressure held. He throttled up and raced his mech suit back to the transport.
Yup, he’d make it home for Christmas Eve—and now he had a great story to share with his family about him versus the reindeer.