December 24, 2020
North Pole SOC (Santa’s Operations Center)
Hours to Launch
The last year had been rough for the Polar Elves. Even with a global pandemic they retained the time-honored task of making sure Santa’s Big Night went off without a hitch, and tonight the tradition would continue. Though this year the details were a bit, well, different.
Maintaining volumes on the Elves’ production lines had been challenging with the need to maintain social distancing and wear appropriate PPE in the arctic chill. Getting the gear itself delivered to the pole was only one of the issues, though a couple of off-the books conversations had led to several crates of custom, elf-size, N95 masks and Nitril gloves being delicately dropped off the back of a Russian ice breaker earlier in the year. A task which had moved several people off the Naughty List onto the Nice List as a special favor for assisting with the Greater Good.
Of course, much of the Elves’ work had been outsourced to Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other online retailers. Even now, Elves were making last minute checks of children’s wish lists against available stock in distribution centers worldwide, giving the production facility the look of a sophisticated call center instead of the more familiar factory floor. Albeit a half empty call center. With much of the staff working safely from their tiny homes spread around the SOC compound, few of them were actually at their miniature desks.
Shifting some of the load to Cloud Connected delivery systems had made their job easier on multiple levels. Santa himself would have more time to nosh cookies and chug cocoa, as many of the presents were delivered early by trucks marked USPS, FedEx, UPS, Royal Mail, Prime, or whatever the markings were for the area. But not everything was as rosy as the glow in the big guy’s cheeks.
Across the world, people were firmly embedding themselves on the Naughty List by abusing the very systems that made holiday present design, production, ordering, and distribution possible. They were working overtime towards their own nefarious ends, which would lead to Santa dispatching the Coal Elves, but not before those miscreants disrupted the North Polar supply chain.
Fortunately, Santa had thought to implement redundancy and lined up multiple sources to get needed resources in case any one of their many suppliers came under attack. The Toys would flow, even if there were some unexpected hiccoughs in the process.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t force any of his vendors to update their security tools and processes to keep these disruptions from happening. While he had some influence as a major customer, the most he could do was to gently suggest that doing security reviews, and updating where needed, would help get them on the Nice List.
Santa had already implemented updated security controls for the SOC. An incident a few years ago had nearly crippled the entire operation. Quick action by an experienced Special Elf Operations team had saved the day, but it had been close. Though even with their own experience, there would always be a challenge getting supply chain providers to follow the same Best Practices they followed at the SOC – even if their customer was Santa himself.
Moments to Launch
In the Launch Bay, Santa does one last walk around of Sleigh 1, checking the harnesses and making sure the load is balanced. He’s done these checks hundreds of times and trusts the Elves that prep the Sleigh, but he always does the walkaround himself.
Forward, Rudolph’s nose is glowing through the bubble of her EVA helmet, required this year due to possible contagion exposure. The reindeer is not happy about the full helmet and filters on her back, but she knows her job, knows the Presents Must Get Through, and doesn’t want to bring back something that could infect the Elves with something they picked up along the way.
Several positions back in the team, Dancer is muttering something about the virus being a hoax and the protective gear being an affront to their civil rights, only to get bonked by Cupid and an exasperated, stern, “Enough with the conspiracy, Snowflake. Pipe down and trust the science ” from Blitzen.
One of the Preflight Elves hands him a clipboard and he glances at it, checking it twice, before signing off and handing it back. “Right. Let’s do this,” Santa says, returning the clipboard and settling into the seat. As the launch team unlock the clamps holding Sleigh 1 on the cradle, his personal handler hooks Santa’s jolly red, NASA designed, hazmat suit to the sleigh’s life support system and locks down the big guy’s helmet.
His handler pats Santa’s shoulder and gives him a cheerful thumbs up, then joins the rest of the team behind the blast shield.
“Sleigh 1, we have positive linkup with NORAD flight control. Navigation is set. You are go for launch,” rings through his helmet speakers from the tower.
“Copy that, flight. Rudolph, punch it!”
And with that, Sleigh 1 launches into the air to deliver pre-sanitized presents around the world, only slightly inconvenienced by the full suit protective clothing covering Santa and the team.