Author: Miadevil PM
Chapter 3 up-- Plot exposition abounds. All your questions are answered. It's epic! Or not.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Humor - Chapters: 3 - Words: 8,568 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 5 - Updated: 12-15-02 - Published: 12-09-02 - id: 1114190
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Non Miserere Dedite
It is an unseasonably cold night; the man in the dark jacket shivers behind his binoculars. A gust of wind rises from nowhere and surprises him into dropping the standard-issue-nightvision-300-x-magnification-goggles from his perch in the oak tree. Bad luck there, and maybe it foreshadows the rest of his night, but he doesn't know that as he curses under his breath. He can't know how the rest of this evening (his last) will end.
He drops noiselessly from the tree and stoops to grab the binocs, emitting another burst of profanity as he examines the cracked lens. It doesn't matter though; he's already seen enough to be prepared for his job. He doesn't know why he's here, on a stealth mission through this large, and seemingly unguarded mansion. He doesn't know just whose name and description it is that he has on a slip of paper in his pocket. He doesn't know why his superiors have taken such precautions on this hit, treating it as a suicide mission.
What he knows is that there are no dogs, no gates, and no guards surrounding him. His scanner yields no laser-defense system, no cameras, but he has enough experience not to trust technology. It doesn't matter, he is the best in his field, and he is confident (too confident?) that he can handle this low-end job.
Gathering himself, he sprints across the rolling green grounds, dodging spots of light from the ornamental garden lanterns, staying in the shadows and off the paths. The landscaping is deceptive, and by the time he reaches the sculpted hedge against the house's stone walls, the man is breathing hard and cursing this still-cold May air.
He stays in the shadow of the wall until he is sure that there are no hidden traps, and he then creeps along the stone stretch to where massive columns shield the large wood-and-glass double doors.
This is the tricky part, the man knows, and he allows himself a few long breaths before he delicately feels the stem of one doorknob. Twisting the handle won't do; there are sensor alarms for such things, and he knows already that the doors are locked. The man pulls his hand back and reaches to the back of his jacket (no bag for him, it only gets in the way) for the long wire fastened to the neck.
A pick may be archaic and elementary; certainly his higher-ups have said so, but this man (as we've said) does not trust technology, not even the electronic skeleton key they have provided him. He prefers tools that he knows, and over thirty years getting acquainted with lock picks have given him the skill that he needs to pick this inordinately difficult lock.
Finally, he hears a minute click and pulls the wire out, pleased. His satisfaction cannot last long though, for the next step is the most dangerous (hit-or-miss), and if he has any gods, he should be praying to them now.
He checks the electronic scanner again and grimaces at the display that tells him there is no alarm, not even an automatic beep when the door is opened. He hopes this is true, and wonders, not for the first time, what business he has in this peaceful, and to all appearances, unsuspecting residence.
Another deep breath, and the man twists the handle and pushes the door open, stepping in quickly. He feels a surge of good-will towards the scanner; it has told true and there is no alarm. He shuts the door behind him gently, and only the small click of the handle interrupts the sleeping household's silence.
One more tentative step on the thick dark rug, and he pulls from his memory the blueprints of this place, and the location of his target. He is still for a few minutes, then shakes off his inertia and heads towards the sweeping stairs in front of him. He is uneasy now, but he doesn't know why.
The house is dark and silent around him; all his senses are alert, his instinct screaming, but there is no sound, and the frequent, furtive glances over his shoulder yield nothing. He is now at the bottom of the stairs, and he pauses for one second, just another breath, even though he knows that he should just get the hell out of this house.
Just one second, just one mistake, but it's enough, and even before the man feels the grip on his wrists, he knows that it's over. He doesn't deserve this, but again, he couldn't have known about the enormous figure looming behind him, or the smooth handcuffs that are snapped around his wrists as he is led away. But he does know that struggle is useless, for the man behind him is built like a steam engine, all iron and steel and strength.
Artemis Fowl was happily asleep and dreaming when he was so very rudely roused from his bed. There weren't many nights that he got to sleep as long as he had already this night, and for a few moments, he tried to ignore the way that his bed was suddenly shaking beneath him. It was probably just a rogue earthquake, right? Right.
Oh wait, he was the one that was shaking.
He rolled over and squinted at the dark shadow that was hovering over him, one of its huge hands still on his shoulder.
"Butler? Butler if it's about the Microsoft stock, I don't want to know until the morning, I don't care how much we lose, I want to sleep please, just let me sleep....."
Not very dignified, but he was tired, dammit.
"It isn't about the stock, Master Artemis. Microsoft seems to have pulled out of its plunge, and you have made a few hundred thousand, but that's not why you need to wake up."
Artemis groaned. "Then why? Mother and Father haven't called from Tokyo, have they? No, they already called tonight. Never mind. Just tell me!"
"I've caught an intruder," Butler said. "He appears to be...well, I suspect that he is an assassin."
"Yes, sir. I have taken the liberty of putting him in the holding room; he won't escape, but I suggest that you question him immediately."
Artemis brushed a dark strand of hair from his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. It was true; the man would not escape, not from the holding room. Recently remade in the manner of a mental hospital, it had padded seamless walls and soothing Mozart piped in to tranquilize their often-panicked detainees. Artemis wouldn't go so far as to say that nobody could escape it, but he was pretty sure that one would have to be...well, a different species altogether, to do so.
"You've searched him?" he asked Butler.
"Yes, sir. I confiscated a number of high-quality stealth weapons, but apart from a paper with your name, description, and location, there was no evidence as to who sent him."
Artemis pulled himself out of bed and reached for a dressing robe, slipping into his slippers. It wasn't his most awe-inspiring attire, but it was comfortable and he suspected that Butler was intimidation enough anyways. He grabbed a pair of glasses from a drawer, and followed Butler down the hall.
As they walked, Butler told Artemis how he had caught the intruder on his nightly patrol, (nightly patrol? Artemis hadn't known about that. He didn't know when the man found time to sleep) and how he had searched him thoroughly before leaving him to the squishy walls and the Mozart. Artemis only listened with half an ear, this wasn't the first assassin sent after him and it would hardly be his last.
But maybe Butler hadn't been careful enough with his search, or more probably, he just hadn't found the thin packet in the man's jacket, for when they reached the holding room the man was past questioning, sprawled on the floor and slowly settling into rigor mortis, a few grains of powdered cyanide still on the plastic clutched in his hand.
Now, Artemis Fowl was no stranger to illegal, immoral, and all around on the shady-side-of-the-law events. During his sixteen years of life, he had indulged time, thought, and copious effort into one goal - namely, getting money. Whether it was embezzled and blackmailed from acquaintances in high places, or obtained in a cross-species ransom, he loved money in all its forms and denominations.
There were exceptions, of course. There was the Fairy Fiasco, as Artemis fondly referred to it, when his mother was sick, and a few years later, the rescue of his missing father, once again involving those inhabitants of the Earth that not many humans were aware of. Artemis liked to think that he and the fairies had a special understanding because of their history together.
Yes, fairies. Although they were seriously doubted, if not outright denied to be real by the vast majority of homo sapiens, Artemis knew a few personally, and still occasionally socialized with them. Prominent among those he knew was Captain Holly Short, a commander in the ranks of their LEPrecon squads, an elite division of law enforcement.
A few years ago, he had finally broke through in the puzzle of their existence that had occupied him for months, and consequently ransomed Captain Short for a large sum of money, simultaneously managing to outwit the finest of the LEPrecon force. A short time after that, they had put aside their differences and cooperated in the rescue of Artemis' father and the subsequent capture of an insane, power-hungry fairy duo supplying weapons to support an uprising of goblins, the thugs of the fairy world.
Nothing like that had been going on for some while now. LEPrecon occasionally called in Artemis for consultation in matters concerning humans, and Artemis informed them when he ran into dealings that appeared to be magical in nature, but there hadn't been any large events, and Artemis hadn't seen any of their race for so long that he doubted they would remember, much less recognize him if they met again.
Of course, his appearance was changed - a lot. He was a far cry from the pale, bespectacled boy that they had last seen. He had finally grown, now measuring just about 6'2 in height. The onset of puberty had also provoked a vain streak, and from the first time he tried contact lenses, he was hooked.
Not that it was strictly for cosmetic reasons that he mostly wore his contacts. After he had a unpleasant revelation while rescuing his father, one that convinced him that physical strength mattered, he had followed the Greek philosophy of balance of both mind and body, in all things moderation, etc. Advanced mathematical theses were followed by time in the gym, with Butler as his private trainer and sensei in Oriental fighting methods. Glasses were impractical while fighting, and after they were broken for the third time, he was relieved to wear the contacts he had previously shied away from.
Artemis' father and mother teased him quite a lot about his "obsession" as they described his training, but then, they didn't really know where his mind was...
Between his parents and school, Artemis usually had a hard time indulging in his favorite shady activities. Now that his father was back, he had no reason to try to increase the family fortune he supposed, but it was a second part of his nature by now, and in a numbered Swiss account, funds were still steadily piling up away from his parents eyes.
As for school, Artemis was finishing up junior year at St. Bartleby's School for Young Gentlemen. He had pleaded with his parents to be allowed to take university courses at home, but they had wanted for some reason, a "normal adolescence" for him, and he was consequently forced to suffer through boring classes and arrogant, condescending professors. He was quite popular with the other students however, mainly because of the brilliant pranks he was constantly conceiving and setting into motion. (Also, he smuggled them cigarettes. Never mind that he wouldn't touch the cancer-sticks himself.)
But now it was holiday- the third brilliant day of vacation, forget the chill in the air, it was summer. And Artemis' parents were supervising takeover negotiations (extremely hostile, Artemis Sr. was a ruthless businessman) in Tokyo, leaving him to his own devices. Whee.
Which all leads us to this particular night and the advent of Artemis' fourth assassin in two years, the man who was now lying lifeless on the soft white floor of the holding room.
Inside the room, Artemis sat down in the soft-and-rounded chair. Hard. He swallowed with difficulty.
A dead man. A very dead man. When would he get used to this? He thought never. No matter how many dead he had seen, he knew he would never be able to view them with the cold dispassionate gaze that Butler possessed. Maybe he had just been fooling himself with all his fighting and training, for the sight of those open, empty eyes turned his stomach, forced the bitter taste to rise in his mouth, and chilled his blood.
Butler knelt beside the man and felt for a pulse, though Artemis knew that there would be no life flowing through that still white wrist. That thought was confirmed when Butler stood up, shaking his head.
"Dead, Master Artemis. Cyanide poisoning. He was almost definitely provided with it in case of capture and questioning. Someone wants you dead, with nothing pointing to them."
"Well that's nothing new," Artemis drawled. Mustering much more composure than he had thought he owned, he knelt before the corpse, examining the features and clothing.
"We'll have to wait till morning for an autopsy, but he looks continental, maybe German. His clothes are certainly from that region. Moderately priced, built for function rather than fashion. Holds in with the hired-assassin deal."
Butler nodded, and Artemis stood up, brushing off his immaculate knees. "Show me his tools," he ordered imperiously.
He followed Butler into a room next to the padded one, a room with feed from a tiny camera hidden in the holding cell, and a single long table against one wall. Butler gestured toward the table, where a variety of objects were spread.
"Over there is everything he had on him," he told Artemis.
Artemis examined the equipment. However much this man may have erred in coming here, he had certainly come prepared. There was a muffled, high-powered handgun, poisoned darts, a razor blade, even a machete-type hacking utensil. Each weapon seemed to be of moderate quality, holding in with the man's mercenary appearance. No surprises, until...
Artemis reached the gadgets that the dead man had so distrusted, the techno-skeleton key and electronic scanner and let out a low whistle.
"Butler, come look at this."
Butler obeyed, and glancing at Artemis for permission, picked up the key to examine. He turned it over, peered at it, and finally pointed out the tiny lettering along one side.
"Koboi Labs," he read out loud. "This product is protected by copyright laws. All patent infringements, including but not limited to reverse-engineering are prohibited."
Artemis let out a yelp of surprise and snatched the key away from Butler.
"What?" he exclaimed. "Koboi Labs? Fairies? It can't be."
But his own eyes showed him the truth and his disbelief quickly melted into fuming anger.
"They sent an assassin!" he said heatedly. "They tried to kill me! Why would they do that? That just goes to show you, Butler, you shouldn't trust anyone. Ever."
Butler regarded his young master (and student) fondly, hiding a smile. It was a mark of Artemis' experiences that he automatically suspected the fairies for everything. Not that he didn't have good reason in this case. Still, it was good to see Master Artemis this angry, good to see him so relaxed back from school. How long ago would he have just waved it off and considered it logically? Not very long at all.
"If I may point out something," Butler interrupted.
Artemis paused mid-rant. "Of course, Butler."
"This man is human."
Artemis immediately glared at him, but did not voice the retort that sprang into his head. Why Butler, thank you for pointing that out. How could I have missed that crucial detail? Instead he merely said, "And?"
But he realized why almost as soon as Butler spoke. "The fairies wouldn't send someone human to do their dirty work. You remember how proud those LEPrecon guys were. And Koboi Labs was disbanded back when you and that Captain Short caught that girl supporting the goblins. I doubt that LEPrecon would be supplying them with leftover equipment of that manufacture, even if it was bargain-priced."
"True," Artemis said. "But whoever hired this man must have fairy contacts, to provide him with this technology."
He picked up the scanner. It too was of Koboi make, equipped with a tiny nuclear battery like much of the fairy technology.
"I don't know what's going on," he said grimly. "But I will find out and I will make whoever did this wish that they were still fetal and safe in their mothers' wombs."
His dark eyes were thoughtful as he turned to Butler. "Good night," he said. "We'll do the autopsy in the morning, and prepare to give our friends down under a visit. But for now, I'm going to sleep."
A/N. I posted this before but realized I had to make some format changes. Anyways, I'm planning on making this a long story. There will be romance later on but it will not be Artemis/Holly and NO MARY SUE. So, tell me what you think? Please? ^_^