Finn's eyes went wide with shock as the power lanced out from the barrel of the wicked looking gun he held, slicing into the seemingly impenetrable ice lake that stretched between the outer wall he and Coll stood upon and the Christmas citadel. He had known that the essence of Spring within Dieter held great power, but he'd had no idea it would have this effect on the ice of the Utter North.
"This is going to be all too easy," he laughed. He turned to Coll, who was holding the massive syringe in Dieter's neck. The great Hare's eyes were filled with tears, and Finn could hear the muffled protests from beneath the black leather muzzle strapped over Dieter's mouth. His hands were bound, and they'd been forced to actually break his legs to keep him from kicking when Coll had first inserted the needle. Without his legs, he was much more pliable, and they'd been able to get the needle inside his neck.
Coll had pulled back the plunger, and the syringe had filled with a golden substance that reminded Finn of honey...or perhaps maple syrup. He'd enjoyed maple syrup; one of the few good things he'd experienced while in exile. Those bloody fools in Canada certainly didn't know how to prepare a good stout ale. Always cold, never warm.
He'd have a good hot ale soon enough. Just as soon as they brought on a powerful thaw. To melt the towers of Jouloutorni. With the syringe full, Finn had turned on the gun connected to the syringe by a tube that ran into the box of gears and copper wire. The device had drawn the golden fluid through the tube. As it passed into the box, the gears came to life, clicking and whirring. Smoke had issued from some of the pipes, and then something passed up through the coiled tube leading to Finn's weapon.
Now the fluid shone, radiated light and heat. Finn could feel the warmth immediately on his face, like he'd stepped next to a furnace. He'd turned his gaze on the lake, pointed the gun, and fired.
The heat of the sun seemed to come out of the barrel, a stream of light that carved down into the ice. And the ice had not simply melted. It had exploded.
"The Train is still coming," Coll said. "And it's gaining speed."
Finn had laughed again, and turned the gun away from Jouloutorni, turning it towards the approaching black steam engine and the cars it pulled.
* * * * * * *
The Conductor was standing in the engine of the Polar Express, his eyes scanning the outer wall. The gates to the frozen lake were still closed, and while they should have been signaled by now, none of the signal fires were lit. And he could swear he'd heard the signal horns from Jouloutorni only moments earlier.
"You look worried old boy," Jack said, standing beside him with a lit cigarette between his fingers.
"There!" the conductor shouted, pointing to one of the battlements on the outer wall.
A great light had shone in the perpetual night of the Utter North, as though the sun was coming up over the horizon. A deafening roar followed the light, and they could see geysers of water shooting up over the top of the wall, sending chunks of ice hurtling skyward.
"We're in a bit of jelly, and make no mistake," the Conductor said, with more annoyance than the awe that Jack felt seeing the wanton destruction Finn's device was wreaking on the frozen lake. "Seems your redcoats are preparing a welcome for us."
"So it would seem," Jack said, but the Conductor had already climbed out onto the side of the coal car and was clambering quickly toward the passenger car behind it.
The engineers were watching the devastation as well, looking nervously at the still closed gates.
"Ever had to ram those?" Jack asked conversationally.
They shook their heads, fear in their eyes.
"Any chance of us slowing enough that we won't be pulverized when we hit?" Jack asked.
They shook their heads again.
"Bugger," Jack said.
* * * * * * *
"I don't want to alarm anyone," the Conductor said breathlessly as he tumbled into the passenger car where the rest of the group was assembled. "But I was wondering if any of you might be able to hit a stationary target from a moving train?"
Lara looked over at Courtney, who was already picking up her bow and quiver. "How far?" Courtney asked.
"Over a hundred meters," the Conductor replied.
Courtney gaped. "I can't shoot that far, moving train or not."
"Yes you can," Granny said. "Both you and Lara can. You'll need some help, but you can hit it. Come." This last command was directed at Lara.
"I can help," Silke said.
"I need you here," Granny replied. "In case something should happen to us, your bow will be needed here."
"What should the rest of us do?" Ripper asked as the women climbed out the door to cross to the coal car.
"Brace yourselves. We're in for a rough ride."