This first appeared a couple of years ago on Robert’s Live Journal. That’s when I knew he’d be a force to reckon with and that I wanted him on my side…or in front of me, but never, ever behind me as you’ll soon understand. Here is the first chapter of his version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I’ll post another chapter later today and daily until Christmas.
Christmas has traditionally been a time of innocence and goodwill. The sort of time which makes cherished childhood memories. A time of family, friends, and fun.
… and, for the nations of the world, a time of abject terror.
The North Pole has a dark side that the tourists never see. Now it has burst into the open, and the jolly old elf himself is holding the world hostage. Join Captain Mesner and his crack team of soldiers as they journey to the most inhospitable place on the face of the planet to battle an enemy most people don’t even believe exists. You may never see the season the same way again.
‘Twas the night after Christmas
And all through the pole
Not a creature was living
Not one single soul…
Chapter 1: Twelve Gunners Gunning
I pulled my snow camo parka strings tight against the freezing wind, slapped the rifle butt with a smart click, and swung it around behind me. My team looked at me expectantly, as I pulled out a projection map and shone it on the snow.
I shook my head. I hoped that the bird that flew us in here at least made it to the staging ship off the coast, but with half the pole to fly over, I wasn’t optimistic. This was a hell of a place to get stuck.
That latently pedophilic SOB had spotted us. Intelligence about being able to “fly in under radar” had been tripe. I’d lost three out of fourteen men before we’d even hit the ground.
Red and green flak. He’d shot at us with red and green flak. My whole life, I’d let a demented international blackmailer with a sense of humor like THAT deliver unsolicited gifts to my me and my kids. Was I nuts?
No. Like the rest of America, I hadn’t had a clue, of course. Well, now I had a chance to deliver a little gift to him. I held the map steady and pointed with my other hand.
“All right, gentlemen, we’re here. The compound is surrounded by primary defenses in the form of a stone wall, alarms, barbed wire, electricity, and minefields. And of course, the weather up here.” I said, grimacing into the freezing snow. “There’s a weak point in the defenses, however, right here.” I pointed at an area with a straight shot between two minefields and a thinner portion of wall. “The bad news is, we can expect heavy opposition, and we have to assume they know that we’re here right now. Since we can’t count on the element of surprise, we’re going to have to be all the more exact in our maneuvers.”
One of the men, Hawkins, raised his hand.
“Captain Mesner, sir? Where do we find Mr. Kringle?”
I stood up, turned off the map, and tucked it into my belt.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know. This compound is the only location that could be identified by recon, and it’s anyone’s best guess where Kristopher is actually hiding. We suspect that his recent threat of delivering bombs directly into people’s houses has caused an understandable tightening of procedure. Part of our job is to determine where he is now.” He nodded, unsatisfied but prepared.
“Any further questions?” I asked. No one spoke.
“All right, then, form up. Remember, failure is not an option here. If we don’t swing this, then a lot of innocent people are going to die, and the world infrastructure is going to be at this guy’s feet. Mr. Thyger?”
* * *
It was a beautiful explosion. George Thyger was the best demolitions man in the United States. He didn’t just blow things up. He did pyrotechnically assisted matter relocation as elegant as “Moonlight Sonata” and twice as loud. The elves were dumbfounded, for a moment, to find that a portion of their defensive wall had gone missing.
Unfortunately, it was a very short moment. All of the men fired their rifles, just as sixteen small hands went to an equal number of disproportionately large guns and incendiary devices of various stripes. Elves did not look the way I had expected. Stocky, muscular, rather like short bodybuilders, but armed to the teeth. It was a wonder that our bullets didn’t hit grenades and make them blow up.
And when the shooting subsided, it became clear that we had set off every single alarm apparently ever produced. The freezing air rang with a din of clangs and claxons so tremendous that it was an effort not to cover your ears. It choked out even the snow swept wind, redubbing the whole world to its own tune. I gave up on trying to shout above it, and waved the men forward.
I could still only see the dim suggestion of a building, but it was enough to judge direction. Thyger had blown a hole right where we needed it, but an advancing column of elves, already with guns drawn, said that our way through was quickly getting blocked. Those alarms must have honeycombed the building, too.
No time to think. There were minefields on both sides, probably in conflicting patterns so they would be harder to guess. One side almost certainly spelled doom. I dove to the right and fired. I hit the ground, unsure as to whether I was alive. The elf that I shot was not so lucky. His body fell to the left, into the minefield. At that moment, something sprang out of the ground to about head height. Something cubical, with a diabolical head on a spring.
And then exploded, sending a deadly ring of shrapnel through the air.
Jack in the Boxes. Bouncing Betty Jack in the Boxes. This HAD to be some kind of illness. I rolled back onto the path, threw my rifle onto my back, and drew my pistol. In close quarters combat, there was no point using ammunition I might need for long range later. More or less entirely by hand signal, I directed my men foreword. You don’t get a team of the best soldiers without them being bright enough not to get themselves killed in a minefield firefight.
Leaving a swath of jolly green corpses in our wake, we advanced into the compound. The blinding snow was starting to clear as we got closer. The building was made of crimson stone, Cut into high walls on all sides, forming a “U” shape. Each corner had a tower on it. Graile, the tech expert, spotted a an interface box nearby. He shot off the lock, pulled out a handheld computer and plugged in.
The alarm died, leaving behind just the blowing wind and a somewhat spooky echo.
“Alarm systems disabled, sir.” Graile said, giving me a signal, “But a silent alarm of some kind also seems to have gone off, and I can’t get a fix on where it connects.”
I nodded. So we could expect company. Well, that didn’t surprise me all that much. What worried me was that it had been far too easy to get in here. Even with Thyger, we couldn’t have broken into our OWN base that easily. The iron grip this guy had on world stock markets meant that he was neither underfunded or foolish, and he’d need to be one or the other for it to be this easy. We were missing something.
And as the thought finished forming, I saw a flicker of movement in a tower.
I didn’t even have time to scream a warning before Pearson dropped dead.