Once upon a time, in a cold Icelandic winter, some kind soul set out to warm hearts with an advent calendar. Yule Lads, ’twas called, and the final Christmas gift was not gold, nor frankincense, nor myrrh, but a unique little ship. How spritely it was, how gleaming and fine! And in years to come, good children exchanged Leopards through the bounty of free enterprise, bringing joy to purchaser and seller alike. But every time a Leopard passed to a new owner, a pang of sadness ran through the giver’s heart, for he knew that the next time he needed a Leopard, the price would be higher than what he’d paid. No shiny new Leopard would ever appear beneath a Christmas tree again. Every one of these much-loved boats would acquire a long history until it broke. And so, each Christmas, good children found fewer and fewer Leopards under the tree.

Desperate parents, laden with parcels, sought for Leopards for their children – but that year, as in every year, there were a fewer Leopards to be found. And how sad those good children were to settle for hyperspatial velocity rigs, because there was nothing quite like a Leopard – the very fastest toy boat ever to grace a Christmas tree. A harsh wind pummeled the desperate parents in their shopping sojourn, and Leopards flew off the shelves. More and more toy boats broke, carelessly thrown aside, or crushed by bullies. Fie on them! For each thought to shatter his neighbor’s toy or increase the worth of his own much-loved Leopard.

The cautious held their best toys tight, but even so, by holidays last year, a Leopard was a rare and precious gift. You could swap three shimmering Drakes and some bright-wrapped chocolate, and still only walk away with a single shuttle. Fewer and fewer Leopards broke, because fewer and fewer Leopards still existed. And as each child clutched his favorite toy to his chest, other children cried out for Leopards of their own. All children knew, in their heart of hearts, that someday all the Leopards would be gone.

Their parents looked everywhere as Christmas came again. Four long years had passed since the first Leopards came around, and those beloved old toys were few and far between. For the price of a glorious carrier, a vessel to make your fortune, you could get only two or three Leopards. Families in need, who’d bought their children grand gifts in better days, now sold their favorite toys for many times the price they’d paid, and found some comfort there. Collectors placed their Leopards on high shelves behind glass and never took them out. Poor luck for those hardy few who needed the quick little boats for their work! And though this Christmas was a bitter one, each child knew that the future would be bleaker still, for someday there would come a Christmas when no Leopards sat beneath any tree. In letters and prayers, the innocent cried out – Oh Santa Clause, send us Leopards again!

Jenne Exupery

Jenne Exupery is a low-wattage independent who dabbles in shipping, salvage, trade, exploration, and nearly victimless heists. He can usually be found bumming around Derelik and Domain under one name or another. Preferred contact method: in-game mail to Jenne Exupery of Manticore-Horizon Shipping [MANHO].




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