Robye picked up a long pointer and turned toward the board
As quickly as light spreads through a room, it was consumed with static.
“What’s going on in there, Robye,” Hermes called out. Stopping at the door, he looked inside. “It must be an emergency from the other end.”
While screeches and squawks of electronic air bounced against the walls, a rough and raspy voice blared out, exploding through the space.
“Hermes…, Robye…, one of you, contact me immediately,” the voice commanded.
“Oh, Uncle Hermes, it’s Santa,” Robye cried out. “Did you know…?”
“Quiet, Robye, listen,” Hermes said, “wait…,”
“An imperative situation has developed.” Santa’s voice crackled, fading in and out.
“Stand back, Tom,” Robye ordered, “you’re in his glow.”
“Wha…, okay,” he said, quickly moving to one side.
Hermes stopped outside the door. “Robye, do you need any help?”
With eyes glued to the control panels, Robye said, “I think I’ve got it, thanks.”
A three-dimensional image began to develop.
Tom stood, mesmerized. His eyes flashed between the formation and Robye’s capabilities at the helm. “Wow”, was all he could utter.
While continuing to stabilize the form, a little smile crooked in the corner of Robye’s mouth, as Santa materialized beside him. “It is good to see this equipment is still working. We haven’t used it in a while.”
“I’m right outside the door,” Hermes said, stepping into Santa’s view. “What kind of urgent situation brings you here?”
Robye turned to Tom and swiped his ear with a grin. “Haven’t lost my touch, huh? Good feeling, you know.”
Tom asked, scratching his head, “did I see what I think I saw?”
“We don’t use this equipment much, anymore. Old technology, you know how that goes,” Robye grinned, “but once in a while, we find it still useful.”
Hermes voice broke the spell. “Les and Freddie were in the cellar and are probably in the tunnel by now. They have a lot of work ahead of them; four or five hours, I’m guessing.”
“Thanks for the update, Hermes but the cellar project is not why I am here,” Santa pointed out. His impatience was quite evident.
“You sound frustrated, Santa, what is going on,” Hermes asked. “The big ice machine should be at the other location by now.”
“It has been there for a while; Hank and Barnie are there with it,” said Santa, “but the tunnel caved in.”
“What about Hank and Barnie,” Robye interrupted, “are they okay?”
With staggering movements, Santa’s head turned to Robye. “They did get out but had to make a run for it; a close call, I was told.”
“That’s good,” Hermes said, showing relief.
Santa turned back to Hermes. “The ice machine was still pumping into the fault when it went down.”
“Did they turn off the engine,” Hermes asked.
“No time,” Santa answered.
“It will burn up the engine,” Hermes cried. “Pushing ice into an already filled hole will ruin the engine.”
“Hermes, they could not turn it off,” Santa said, slightly raising his voice. “Those two boys had to jump or go down with it.”
“Of course,” Hermes said, “they had no choice.”
“You see the situation, Hermes,” Santa said, grimly. “Two machines have been inadequate for this season.”
“Yes and now we are down to one,” Hermes said, “the small one.”
“From my reports, the dark ice collapsed under the big one and recovery is impossible.”
“…and it was our main machine,” Hermes muttered. “You know it will take weeks for the machine shop to finish building the new one.”
“Should there be no other outbreaks, my concern now is the north east side of the city.” Santa explained. “It has little defense; only the snow bobbies at this time.”
“We have never had to be concerned with North East Corner, before,” Hermes pointed out. “Have any ice moles been seen there?”
“There have been no reports of any,” Santa said, “but it is being checked, as we speak. There seems to be a need to expand on our previous experiences.”
“Good idea, Santa,” Robye interjected. “Those moles are really wicked this time.”
“The North West Corner has always been their place of choice to attack,” Hermes said.
“…and they have been vicious, this season,” Robye pointed out.
“You know what will happen if we find they have spread.” Santa said.
“I see where you’re going with this,” Hermes muttered, “and it makes my skin crawl.”
“The foundation of Happenstance could be in jeopardy,” Robye said, quietly.
Tom gasped, “you’re serious?”
Santa’s image suddenly jerked, making a slow, uneven turn toward Tom. “Yes, I’m afraid so.”
Turning back to Robye, Santa added, “we are in an extremely dangerous situation; we are fighting for our survival.” It was long seconds later when he continued. “Not only would Happenstance be lost but so would Christmas.”