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“We can’t launch the sled from here,” hoots the elf-chief. “We’d have to drag it to a good ion ramp–the power station would do in a pinch.”

“But we know the Black Fridays have that whole quarter of the city locked down,” says Tim Cripple. “What are we going to do, sneak down their chimney?”

Klaus shakes his head. “They’ve sown the blitzen,” he says, “they’ll reap the donder. We go in the front door, where they’ll least expect us. And we fight.”

“With what?”

“You’d be amazed,” grumbles Klaus, hauling out a Howitzer, “what some people consider toys.”


The elves tower over Klaus, but he’s a bulwark among them, face as bright as his red suit of particle armor. “You’ve checked the alignment?” he growls through his helmet mic.

“To ninety digits of precision,” flutes the elf chief. “There will be no interference from the planet’s field during acceleration.”

“Christ, I wish we could do this anywhere else,” Klaus mutters. “All right. Strap me in. Merry goddamn Christmas.”

The railsled slams out of the tube with a crackle of ions. Behind it, the workshop’s slow spider legs creep onward, following the magnetic pole at twenty-five miles per year.