Editor's note: Nope. We're not even going to joke about this.
After I'd finally shaken the Predator drone, I disappeared for a few weeks into the Los Angeles underground, the President's parting advice echoing in my mind: Hallmark controls everything.
Two days later, I stopped outside the fence of the Hallmark Central Plant, underneath the blood red skies.
An unearthly wail from within, as the furnaces were fed with the bodies of the damned.
Cutting the fence, I ducked inside the perimeter, sprinting across the apron and clambered up a drain pipe to the roof. There, as I pried off the cover to the roof vent, I heard the sound of footsteps behind me. I spun around, flourishing the Jefferson Nunchuks I'd recovered from the vault of the Founding Fathers.
"Be at peace my son," said the Pope, stepping out of the shadows.
"The Pope!" I said to the Pope.
"It is I," the Pope confirmed. "I've read your Tumblr, Chris. And, although I do not approve of some of the language you've employed, your points are sound. Commercialism is one of the great challenges of our modern age, and for it to have perverted a celebration of the birth of Christ saddens me greatly. I shall develop a new way -- a better way -- to celebrate His birth. But to do that, we first have to destroy the beast." The Pope threw back his Pope cape, revealing a leather suit, strapped with knives. "Now let's kick some ass."
Just then two Hallmark guards burst out of a door, armed with submachine guns. Before I could react, the Pope closed the distance between them, unleashing a spinning kick that sent one guard flying through a plate-glass window. Sidestepping around a burst of fire, the Pope launched a vicious salvo of punches into the other guard's neck, sending him through a different plate-glass window.
"OHHHHH SHHHHIIIIIIIT THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!" I yelled.
The Pope gave me a look which said that he still wasn't impressed by my language.
Inside the Hallmark factory, the Pope and I kicked rich amounts of ass, fighting our way to the central computer core, where all the world's calendars were programmed. After subduing the sinister Hallmark calendar technicians, with their lidless, unblinking eyes, we stood before the central core.
"Do it!" The Pope said.
"You got it Your Holiness," I said. "Let's see if this ... dates ... something ... pun. Goddamnit."
Before I could earn another rebuke for blasphemy, the sound of bells and hoof steps was heard from the roof above. Down, down, down the smokestack came the sound of rollicking laughter, followed moments later by Santa Claus, my nemesis in red velvet.
"Chris Bucholz. The Pope," he said, addressing us warmly. "I understand what you're trying to do here. The tradition of gift-giving has gone too far; conspicuous consumption pains me as much as it does you two."
I set the Jefferson nunchuks a-twirl, ready to silence this prince of lies for the last time, before a Pope-ish hand rested on my shoulder, staying me.
"But there is still good here," Santa continued. "Christmas is still a time spent with friends and family. Laughing. Sharing stories. Just being there for each other. This is mankind at its best, not its worst. Surely, you can appreciate that, Pope."
The Pope nodded. He appreciated the hell out of this.
Santa nodded and turned to me. "Chris Bucholz, you are awful. No reasoning -- no logical argument, no call to your better nature -- will ever make you accept Christmas. Your heart of tarnished tin will not permit it."
"All true, Nemesis."
"You leave me no option. To save Christmas, I will have to blackmail you." He held up a scroll of paper. "On this list are all of the naughty acts you have committed this year."
I licked my lips. Even the Pope looked surprised, and I think a bit jealous. "You couldn't have seen everything," I said. "I did a lot of that when it was dark out."
Santa coughed, and put on his reading glasses. "January 1st," he said, reading from the note. "Fouled the dishwasher."
"It was a New Year's party, and the bathroom was busy for like ten minutes," I said.
"January 1st," he continued. "Fouled the dishwasher."
"You did that one already."
"You did it twice."
"So you don't see everything. I did it three times."
Santa put the note away and looked at me sadly.
I sighed, seeing his threat to its inevitable conclusion. "If I destroy Christmas, you'll release this naughty list to my various enemies, who will use it to tear me down from my perch atop society."
Santa and the Pope shared a look. "Sure," Santa said.
"Cracked is very well-respected these days," I said, feeling the need to defend my perch. "And I'm like ... the sixth best guy they've got."
"Sure, sure," Santa said, that condescending bastard.
As we walked out of the factory, I leaned in to Santa. "So, this probably means no presents again this year, right?"
Santa nodded, padding the pocket with the list in it.
"Actually," the Pope said, "You can have this back." From out of his Pope Mobile he withdrew this:
"Oh, Pope," Santa said, punching his shoulder affectionately. We shared a three-way high five.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and came pretty close to dying from the flu while writing this, so if it gets weird towards the end, it's not entirely his fault. You can check on his condition on Facebook or Twitter.