It was probably Foaly’s grin that drove Gudgeon over the edge.

‘Give me those disks!’ he roared, pinning Foaly to the operation’s shuttle.

Root was tempted to let them wrestle for a while, but now wasn’t the time to indulge himself.

‘Naughty naughty,’ he said, pointing his index finger at Gudgeon. ‘No one beats Foaly but me.’

Foaly paled. ‘Careful with that finger. You’re still wearing the -‘

Root’s thumb accidentally brushed his knuckle, opening a tiny gas valve. The released gas propelled a tranquillized dart through the latex fingertip and straight into Gudgeon’s neck. The Acting Commander, soon to be Private, sank like a stone.

Foaly rubbed his neck. ‘Nice shot, Commander.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Total accident. I forgot all about the fake  finger. There are several precedents, I believe.’

‘Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately Gudgeon will be unconscious for several hours. By the time he awakens, all the excitement will be over.’

‘Shame.’ Root allowed himself a fleeting grin, then it was back to business. ‘Is the gold here?’

‘Yep, they just inserted it.’

‘Good.’ He called to Gudgeon’s sheepish troops. ‘Get it loaded on a hover trolley and send it in. Any trouble and I’ll feed you your wings. Understood?’

No one actually replied, but it was understood. No doubt about it.

‘Good. Now hop to it.’

Root disappeared into the operation’s shuttle, Foaly clopping behind him. The commander shut the door firmly.

‘Is it armed?’

The centaur flicked a few important-looking switches on the main console.

‘It is now.’

‘I want it cheap ugg boots launched as soon as possible.’ He glanced through the laser-proof refractor glass. ‘We’re down to minutes here. I see sunlight poking through.’

Foaly bent to his keyboard in earnest. ‘The magic is breaking up. In fifteen minutes we’re going to be in the middle of overground daytime. The neutrino streams are losing their integrity.’