It was just past midnight on Christmas Eve. "Well, Orin, how do things look?" Santa asked the head elf at the Northern Lights Weather Station.

            "Well, Santa, the beard looks nice." Orin attempted a joke.

            Santa sighed. "Thanks Orin, but --"

            "I know, Santa, I'm sorry. Things aren't looking too bad, although there will be blizzard conditions in Alaska and Siberia," Orin said officially, spinning the globe. "The weather will be warmer, as you head south, but you know that already. There's an active vocano in the southern hemisphere, and that could result in difficult travel in the vicinity of Argentina. But, use a little dust and you should be fine. Other than that, just the usual. Clear skies, rainy weather, snow, a hail storm or two, and of course some heat as you get into the southern hemisphere."

            Santa nodded. "And, how about the time?"

            "Well, Santa, you've added about 70,000 stops, and many families have relocated. Time will be a little tighter. I'll have your charts ready by midday. I'll meet you at the Sleigh Port, after the Gathering in the Circle, and we can review them. There will be a few changes, in order to save time, but nothing out of the ordinary. Fortunately, the increase is rather small this year, and you're losing a few thousand stops, as well. I just want to review your itinerary one last time to ensure that no one is omitted."

            "Are there any other unusual conditions?" Santa yawned.

            "Um, Santa -- what about Ria?"

            Santa looked at Orin and smiled broadly. "We are going to do Christmas just the way Ria would want us to. This will be the best Christmas ever!"

            Orin nodded. "Okay, Santa. No other conditions out of the ordinary, as best as we can determine."

            "Okay, then. I'm sure you have things under control. It's been a long day, and this is my last stop." Santa yawned again. "I'm heading home to take my last snooze before the Run. If anything comes up, please inform the missus. She'll give me a list of any last minute changes when she wakes me. And, thank you, Orin, for another fine year of service.

            "Toys are ready, bells being polished --" Santa's voice trailed off as he left the weather station.


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