==A Cold Lonely Christmas==

Christmas Day, there was not a speck of snow to be seen in Mute City-but the temperature remained very low none-the-less. The Upper City was much more festive around this time of the year, the streets were decorated and the traffic was heavy. Even the Galactic Federation would rest easy on this day and celebrate with an annual Christmas party. The Lower City however, was the complete opposite. The streets were littered with trash, the streets were silent, and crime retained a steady flow on such a happy day. Red Star and the Bloody Chain had no regards for Christmas, seeing it as just another Western holiday that plagued Japan; they did not believe in a Christmas truce and had no intentions of ceasing fire amongst each other.

Not only were people jumpy for the holiday, but the annual Grand Prix was coming up soon. This wasn't the coldest Christmas Mute City had endured, but it was still looked at as a very cold one. The unfortunate inhabitants of the Lower City had little to celebrate about, yet many of them were happy enough to have loving families to endure the hardship of poverty with; except for Chiya Flower, who had been cheated in life…

Chiya shivered greatly as she sat next to a lone candle. She had her hands closely around the flame, desperate to get any source of warmth, she was wrapped in the blanket her mother had fabricated before sending Chiya off of Mysteria. She had her stock hat sent down more covering her ears-unfortunately for her, she owned no pants-only the same purple shorts she wore every day. Fortunately for her, she could always manage to clean her clothing because of a soup kitchen that opened once a week in-between the Upper and Lower city-they provided the poor with free access to washing machines.

"M- Merry Christmas…" she muttered sadly.

Chiya was a very family loving person, Christmas was her favorite holiday because of the love they could all share together-only she could no longer enjoy this. This was her fifth year being away from Mysteria, meaning she had endured a lonely Christmas many times before. She had chosen the path of an isolationist and chose not to make any friends in the Lower City, that and the fact that she disliked the idea of having female friends. She was a stern believer that becoming friends with men was an impossibility-as she suspected that all men were perverted.

The flame blew out as a gust blew throughout the room-she was living in an abandoned warehouse with several holes in the building.

"No! Come on!" she panicked, grabbing onto the candle out of sorrow. She frowned and sighed as she scratched her head. She was now out of matches. "Bloody Hell…"

She would usually hang around a bar called Rough Odds, but she was unable to do so at the moment because of the holiday. She would always hang around in the bar during the winter, as this was her one place she could retreat to for warmth.

Chiya gave up on the candle and stood up-she was immediately discomforted as her bare legs became exposed to the cold. She slowly walked over to her mattress while shivering, holding the blanket much more tightly. I should be a wealthy woman in a sauna right now, not a freaking warehouse! She collapsed onto her mattress and curled up quickly, getting her entire body inside of her blanket. She continued to shiver as she stared aimlessly at the wall. Chiya was absolutely miserable and felt that there was little to fight on for, but she was strong, she knew that things would change for the better eventually. Despite the terrible life she led, there was one thing she always looked forward to every year since she was a kid.

She closed her eyes and smiled, imagining the Blue Falcon racing down the track of Mute City. I only wish the Grand Prix lasted longer, like, ten or more races each year… She exhaled happily and rubbed her arms. I used every last credit I had buying that engine, if I can just tune it correctly-I'll have taken my first step towards becoming an F-Zero racer… Chiya had failed to enter a university like she wanted, so she decided as a last resort to pursue her dream of becoming an F-Zero racer; she had purchased a regular vehicle engine with what money she still had. Chiya had experience working with engines and was hopeful that she could successfully turn it into a competition worthy engine-but she would still need the body of a machine, reactor, combat module, and booster. Even if she obtained every necessary part, she had no idea what was needed to be done to acquire an F-Zero pilot's license.

Chiya had a faint smile as she continued to lay still, the only moments of happiness she had was in her dreams. She was now picturing herself racing in a pink version of the Blue Falcon, leading all the other racers as she easily raced. She nodded and exhaled happily.

All I need to do is make that happen, and life will be smooth sailing…

A U.S. soldier maneuvered through a thick pile of snow, moving towards a foxhole. He rubbed his fingers along his M1 Garand as he shivered, he looked down at his comrades-all freezing in the foxhole.

"Ya' look nervous soldier, want a cigarette?"

One of the soldiers chuckled with a panicky look, "How about a box?"

He chuckled back at the soldier and shook negatively, "Hell no, you know how much prisoners would pay for a box of cigarettes?"

The soldier held his hand out and chuckled, "Maybe we can bribe the krauts with the cigarettes," he joked.

Earl Bendek laid wrapped in his blanket as he watched a WWII movie on the Battle of the Bulge. He had a bored look on his face, as Earl had no one to celebrate Christmas with either; except for Lieutenant Seppuku, but he wasn't one who regarded the holidays as anything special. Earl was in his brown leather jacket, while Seppuku kept the base moderately heated up-it was still very cold. The base was illegally owned, meaning the city didn't pay for many services-Seppuku had formed his own way to run electricity.

Earl yawned and stretched his arms, unlike Chiya, Earl had access to a vehicle and possessed money. He planned on driving up to the Upper City.

"Oh God! The krauts! They have space ships!"

Earl rolled his eyes and turned off the TV.

Earl later worked around the Red Dove, deciding that he would fix up the machine somewhat before he left. Earl had an angry look on his face as he applied a metal filling into a bullet hole-there were nearly twenty bullet holes on the body of the machine.

"Honestly, how do you get into this kind of mess..?"

"Because, I was playing around with some of Chain's goons."

Earl widened his eyes and turned around, Lieutenant Seppuku had appeared out of nowhere. Earl raised an eyebrow at him, "When did you come in?"

He ignored the question and walked up to the Red Dove, "You're doing a fine job, Bendek."

"When do I get paid?"

Seppuku shrugged, "Gotta' go kill some baddies for their wallets-I'll pay you right after."

Earl nodded and rubbed his hand on the body of the machine, "Think you'll win this year?"

Seppuku nodded, "I can win this year, for once I don't feel like fighting Blood Falcon-just gonna' focus on Michael Chain and the race."

Earl swung his fist up in the air excitedly, "Nail Chain!"

"Damn right I'll nail Chain."

The two remained silent, an awkward moment pursued. Earl broke the silence by clearing his throat, "So who are all your rivals gonna' be this year?"

"Blood Falcon, Goroh, Jody, and Chain."

"Jody? Again?"

Seppuku clenched his fists and growled, "That bat will never be free of my hatred…"

Earl nodded and began walking towards his vehicle, "Think I'm gonna' head up to the café."

Seppuku growled, "Of course that man keeps it open on Christmas…"

"Bart keeps it open because it's a family establishment, and Christmas is all about family." Earl sighed and shook negatively, "Considering I can't see my family again, getting drunk on Christmas is about my favorite thing-only Rough Odds is closed on holidays."

Earl opened the door to his vehicle and waved farewell to Seppuku. "Hey, how's things going with that one girl?"

Earl stepped away from the vehicle, "Patricia?" Seppuku nodded, "Eh, I'll probably go on one or two more dates with her before I dump her-she wants me to meet her family, and that's always the queue for me to run."

Seppuku smirked, "I like your style."

Earl shrugged, "I just wanna' see if I can lock lips with this girl before I run."

"What about getting her in bed?"

"Only with the person I love, and I'm not looking for love."

Seppuku chuckled and turned away from him, "Fine, enjoy your Christmas." He turned around and pointed back at him, "Careful, goons are all over the city this time of the year."

Earl nodded, "Yeah, I'll keep my eyes peeled."

Earl tapped his finger on a handgun and got inside of the vehicle, immediately taking off for Bart's Café.

Chiya stood around the bathroom of the warehouse with a frown, looking into the broken mirror with discontent. Not only was Christmas a sad and cold time of the year for Chiya, but it was also the dullest-she would never find a place in the Lower City that was open during the holiday, meaning she was practically trapped inside of her warehouse. Though she didn't drink, watching TV at Rough Odds was about all she looked forward to doing every day. The bar owner would typically kick a non-paying customer out after a while, Chiya was an exception in their eyes, they had no relation to each other at all, yet they felt sympathetic for her and let her stay. Chiya was a huge fan of romance, yet she herself had little to no interest in dating-not since her first boyfriend on Mysteria that tried getting intimate with her after prom.

"I never get presents like all those ungrateful families, guess I've been on the naughty list for five years straight…" she joked in frustration.

Chiya viewed herself as an attractive young adult, so she failed to understand why she had not been picked up by a successful business owner. Little did she know, a business was looking for talent and skills, not beauty.

She turned around and kicked an empty bottle of soap away, she lowered her eyebrows and held her forehead in discontent. She felt like an animal trapped in a cage, there was nowhere to turn. She had no family or friends to turn to for help, and lacked any available means of getting up to the Upper City without walking miles.

Chiya growled loudly and flailed her hands in the air, "Why haven't you come back for me Mom!?" she shouted in rage.

Earl opened the door to the café while shivering, quickly shutting it behind him.

"Jesus Christ…"

"Merry Christmas, Earl," Bart greeted from behind the counter.

Earl nodded and sat down on the far end of the counter, "If only it weren't freezing out there."

Bart nodded, "Haven't had many customers today, I assume that's why." Earl held his forehead and sighed, Bart raised an eyebrow at him, "Something on your mind?"

"It's Seppuku, he runs me down to exhaustion with these damn repairs. It seems like every day he comes back with a fresh batch of bullet holes in his machine."

"Have you asked him to tone down the violence?"

Earl smirked at him and began to chuckle, "Seppuku? Tone dow- yeah, right."

Bart quirked his mouth and nodded, "I guess that did seem a bit far fetched…"

Earl sighed and dipped his head down, "He does always respect my wish to have a vacation day on Christmas though, he didn't argue when I just walked out without finishing the repairs."

"Perhaps even Seppuku has moral principles-"

"Moral principles? Bart, the man goes out hunting for criminals for fun."

Bart shrugged and chuckled, "Well, hang in there. If it weren't for your past, you'd be able to land a job easily anywhere in Mute City."

"To be honest, I sometimes fear that if I ever quit, Seppuku would hunt me down."

"No-o, no-o, he wouldn't do that. That'd be illegal."

Earl face palmed, "Bart, this guy doesn't care…"

"Okay, well let's stop talking about Seppuku for a moment then."

Earl nodded and looked up at him, "I really feel like I'm missing something, my life just doesn't seem as good as it should be."

Bart grinned, "What about your girlfriend?"

"On its way out. My relationships are more of a hobby than love."

"A really sick hobby."

Earl shrugged, "I'm still young, and it's not like I'm having sex or anything."

"You play around with a woman's emotions, that's pretty sick hearted."

Earl swished his hand at him, "Maybe when I'm thirty I'll stop and look for a wife-but I'm still in my twenties so why rush?"

Bart leaned over the counter and smiled, "You're a good man Earl, other than your hobby." Earl shot back an offended look and nodded, "Did you take part in the Lower City Christmas donation foundation?"

"No, what's that?"

"The soup kitchen hands out presents to people of the Lower City-the presents you donate."

Earl smirked, "Sounds nice, give the children the presents their families can't afford."

Bart shook negatively, "Oh no, this doesn't have to be toys or anything-just general stuff that one might need."

Earl rubbed his chin and shrugged, "Can I pick something up from the kitchen then? I'm a citizen of the Lower City."

Bart narrowed his eyes at him and slammed his fist down, "That's just sick and selfish."

"What. Why?"

"Just because you live down there doesn't mean you can't afford things, there are people who can't even afford a good meal-don't just go and take advantage of the situation."

Earl nodded and shrugged, "Eh, alright."

"You can still donate if you wish."

Earl raised an eyebrow at him with a look of disinterest, "Why?"

Bart grinded his teeth, "Because it would make someone happy!"

Earl sighed and rubbed his chin, "Yeah, I mean, I guess it's Christmas." Bart raised an eyebrow at him, Earl sighed and shook affirmatively, "Guess I'll go do my part."

Bart smiled, "Karma will reward you one day for your actions Earl."

Earl rubbed his chin and smirked, "That's true, I do believe in karma…"

"So-o..?"

Earl exhaled with a grin, "I guess I'll go find a little cheap toy for a kid or something."

"Or an adult."

Earl shook negatively, "No, I want to help a little kid-adults can handle poverty, but a kid deserves care."

Bart smiled at him and nodded, "That's a very good way to think Earl…"

He held his cheek and exhaled, "I was a pretty popular guy at my school as a kid, but we sure the Hell were poor-I can remember what it's like to have little." He smirked and looked up, "It was bad, I can only imagine what it's like for a child to be without nothing at all, surrounded by a brutal gang war."

"I went and bought several books-both for children and adults."

Earl shrugged, "I don't know how much I'm willing to spend, hence the reason I said I'd get a cheap toy."

Bart nodded, "I understand, you're not very well out of the financial slump yourself."

"If we win the Grand Prix we'll be in good hands."

Bart smirked at him, "Karma?"

Earl beamed at him and nodded, "Toy for a Grand Prix victory?" Earl chuckled and shook negatively, "The prize money is usually in the vicinity of a billion credits-I don't think I can afford something on par with that…"

"See what happens, I assure you, good will only come out of doing this one day…"

Earl continued to stare at Bart intensely, then smiled and nodded.

Earl walked down the supermarket of Mute City, looking down a toy isle. He rubbed his chin as he looked around-he was considering buying an F-Zero action figure, but was debating whether this was something a child would want. He was taking into consideration the fact that a toy could break easily-he wanted to find something that would either not break, or not be a heartbreaker if it did. He rubbed his chin and stared at a football. Nowhere to play football in the Lower City… he puckered his lips and looked towards another section of the isle. He held up a toy plastic tank. He stared at the tank very intensely, specifically the small plastic tank commander that stuck out from the turret. He shook negatively and set this down after swallowing.

Earl momentarily held his chin and quirked his mouth after looking at all of the pinkness of the girl isle. Wait, should I get a toy for a girl instead..? He stood still while thinking carefully about this. He found himself walking towards the isle, but still contemplated whether this was a good idea or not. I guess most little girls are more soft than little boys, they probably have a tougher time handling poverty than guys… he swallowed sadly as he stared at a doll. In a section of a town with no police, but plenty of gang members, a lot of them have probably witnessed things no child should ever see-like their parents being raped… Earl sighed and shook his head, not wanting to imagine these horrible scenarios. He ultimately decided to get a toy for a little girl instead.

"Girls like beauty and stuff though…"

He looked at a plastic doll with accessories and such, wondering if this was what to pick out. He then considered the fact that the toy could break and shook negatively. He rubbed his chin again and moved his jaw side-to-side, he looked down at a separate section of the isle and raised an eyebrow. He was staring down at a few pink toy accessories, he could see a very thick pink comb with stickers decorating it. He smirked and held up the comb, he pressed down on the bristles and nodded at it. Perfect for a little girl, and pretty strong plastic… He carried the comb away with him, he had found what he believed to be the perfect gift for a little girl-despite the fact that this wasn't a real comb, it could still act as one and keep a little girl's hair from becoming ruffled.

Earl later opened the door to the soup kitchen, which was near the slope leading up to the Upper City. He got a disgusted look on his face as soon as he smelled the building-it wreaked of many human odors, despite the fact that the building was vacant for the most part.

"Oh sweet Jesus…" he muttered with a sickened look.

"Hello!" someone greeted.

He looked up and found someone standing behind a counter with a smile. Earl waved at the woman and walked forward with the pink comb.

"Are you here to make a holiday donation?"

Earl nodded, "Yeah, when are these redistributed?"

"Tomorrow night."

Earl nodded and put the comb on the counter, "I- it's not the best gift, but I wanted to help some little girl feel pretty in some way…"

She nodded at him and smiled, "That's all one can really ask for," she handed Earl a pen and paper, "Please write a short letter to go with this gift, just write Secret Santa for the name."

Earl nodded and took the pen, he got somewhat of a frown on his face as he looked down at the paper. He exhaled and began to write:

I apologize if this isn't the best gift you've ever received. I believe that all should be treated kindly and equally, and that all children of the world should get the same love and respect that any family could offer. This might not be the greatest toy-nor is it much of a toy, but for what it's worth, I hope this simple gift can bring somewhat of a smile to your face, as it brought one to mine purchasing this. No matter how poor you may be, you are always beautiful, and this comb may help you feel more beautiful both in the inside and outside. Though I am not a girl, buying this comb made me feel beautiful inside. Despite the darkness and poverty the Lower City offers, I hope you have a merry Christmas. ~Secret Santa.

Earl set the pen down and sighed with a smile. He looked up at the woman and waved farewell to her, "This will go to a little girl, right?"

She nodded, "Yes, they get to pick out one gift from the table. I assure you that you will have made a little girl's Christmas great this year."

Earl smiled and turned away, immediately taking a step out into the cold. He stood still outside and looked into the air. He had a warm fuzzy feeling inside, not concerning himself with what karma this could bring him. Writing the letter made him realize, that Christmas could feel good even if he weren't gaining anything from it. The thought of making someone happy for Christmas was truly a miracle to him-as he believed that he had done wrong to many in the past.

He put his hands in his coat pockets and began walking back to his vehicle, "Merry Christmas, little girl…"

== Less than a year later ==

About a year had passed, the gang war was now over, Chiya had established a new home in Seppuku's organization, she had an F-Zero machine, and she now had the greatest friend she could ever ask for. Christmas was in about four weeks, Mute City was looking at yet another cold winter.

Earl went walking down the hallway of the base, he rubbed his hands together and quirked his mouth as he looked at Chiya's door. He smiled and approached it slowly, momentarily knocking on it.

"Chi', are you decent?"

"Yes, just getting ready, hold on…"

Earl closed his eyes and smiled, "Alright, I'll be in the garage waiting."

The two were going to Bart's Café, a very common place for the two to visit together. Earl hadn't gained many more girlfriends after meeting Chiya-but still managed to get about four dates during their friendship. Their friendship gave Earl less time to go mingle with other girls, but he still tried.

Chiya was sticking her tongue out slightly as she adjusted her bangs in front of a mirror, she was combing her hair down with the other hand. She slowly looked into her own eyes in the reflection, instantly reminded of her life as a bum. She smiled slowly and looked back at Mauser-who was silently sleeping on her bed.

She exhaled and nodded approvingly at her appearance. "Coming!" She said as she stood up.

She placed a now-broken pink comb down by the mirror and walked out the door, off to live her life that has now bettered.