"Where were you when the world collapsed?" Artemis Fowl hated that phrase, which became the unofficial rallying call for the slowly rebuilding society following the Great Techno-Crash. He hated it for its empty, implied romanticization of the world's first united, coordinated struggle in documented history. He hated it for the bleak inadequacy it held in even coming close to describing the traumatic experience that reverted humanity back to the 1940s in the blink of an eye. He hated it for the way it was thrown around casually – disdainfully, in his eyes – by hippie youths who apparently found it hip or cool or whatever bullshit adjective they used these days, trivializing an incident that ruptured families and communities all over the globe. Most of all, he hated it because he knew exactly where he was.

It was the day his heart shattered.

London. England.

The spontaneous combustion of most of humanity's telecommunications and seemingly near-complete aircraft casualty rate (for there was no way to communicate or index these incidents) made those unlucky enough to witness the dying screams of trapped passengers understandably wary of air travel. Even without the ability to tune into emergency government channels did many intuitively realize the inherent danger of sitting several thousand feet in the sky in naught but an electronic metal box. Planes weren't solely affected, of course; cars all over the world suddenly broke down, the simultaneous detonation of these...affected components sounding ominously like rapid gunfire. The lucky ones were left a coughing, sputtering engine; those whose spontaneous explosions came too close to the fuel tanks were vaporized before even having a chance to blink. This is nothing to say of ships whose navigational and communications systems suddenly filled with static, or of the various space stations whose living situations had become extremely hazardous. In short, human traffic effectively ground to a halt – and so, too, did humanity itself.

None of this pleased Artemis Fowl the First, desperately trying to locate anyone – anyone! – with transportation capable of bringing him and his wife to Ireland. He had been enjoying quite a lovely dinner in London with his wife, Angeline, discussing their firstborn – "Romance novels! Really?" "Under a pseudonym, of course, Timmy, otherwise the boys would never let him live it down" – when his phone exploded. There was little warning – he was suddenly aware of a searing heat emanating from his jacket pocket. Pulling out the device, his face had morphed from a confused frown into fearful shock in but a second, noticing the telltale signs of an expanding battery. Only his former criminal life, expecting a deal to end up guns blazing had saved him from serious injury; barely managing not to yelp, he had pushed back violently from the table, toppling the bottle of Sauvignon onto his wife's lap, before quickly tossing his mobile phone into the center of the room like a hand grenade.

Not a moment too soon, for the compromised walls of the lithium battery had suddenly began to gout jets of spewing fire, lasting for several seconds before the structural integrity failed completely, exploding in spectacular fashion. Around him, the screams and yelps of other customers informed him that similar things had happened around him; it seemed that more than one unlucky soul had had shrapnel enter their chests, by the way his neighbor was convulsing on the ground. Thankfully, Angeline's phone was already on the table, and it was a simple matter to follow suit and throw it onto the ground.

Artemis returned his mind to the present. The rest of the day up to just a few minutes prior would end up a technicolor blur of memory when he would later take the time to process it, but he and Angeline were presently trying to find any sort of transportation to Fowl Manor by the end of the day.

"There!" gasped Angeline, pointing at a barnhouse on the next hill. Poking out was a flat, white metallic object – a wing, Artemis noticed, the thought coaxing just a little more energy out of his tired legs. He glanced at his wife, clothes stained with wine, heels missing, and stockings ripped in several places. He knew without asking that Angeline's mind was directly solely at her children, currently alone in the mansion, with no way to contact them. She had to get back. They had to get back. By any means necessary.

Angeline staggered forward, Artemis shortly behind. The climb played hell with his missing leg, and every breath came with a sharp pain in his side, but damned if he wouldn't make the effort, not in the least for his family!

The sudden appearance of two well-dressed – disheveled, certainly, but well-dressed nonetheless – individuals startled the poor farmer into a standing position, glancing around for a weapon before his hands twitched towards a nearby rake. Angeline, replacing Artemis as head of the Fowl household now that her children's lives were potentially at risk, marched directly towards the man.

"We need your plane," the words ringing out like a command.

The farmer blinked. "You serious?" He gaped first at Angeline, then Artemis, then back, not sure how to respond.

Artemis allowed a moment to catch his breath. "Yes, very serious. Our family may be at risk, and as such we must quickly be home."

"But...but...you can't!" The farmer blanched. "Planes are falling out of the sky! Cars are exploding! And besides–"

Artemis cut him off. "I know. We know. But we have to. The battery in my phone just exploded, and as such we are without any method of communication. We have no idea what's happening, but we need to go. We need to try. Please–" Artemis quickly glanced at Angeline, giving a quick nod– "this is of the utmost importance. I'm sure you can understand." He pulled off his Rolex, Angeline fumbling with the clasp of her blue diamond necklace. Once upon a time it was her most prized possession, precisely the same as the eye color of the two Artemises in her life; now, she would gladly trade it to be with her sons, where she belonged.

The two Fowls thrust their hands at the farmer, who backed away out of fear of their determination or of how much money was suddenly being offered, he couldn't tell which.

"These items are worth far more than your plane," Artemis stated with clipped tones, anxiety showing in the tightened corners of his lips. "Sell them, keep them, it doesn't matter. We have to go. Please."

The farmer looked nervously between them, licking his lips nervously. "I–I can't. Look, I appreciate your offer, and your motivation, but it's dangerous out there, I can't just let you go in good conscience!"

Artemis dismissed the farmer's protests with an impatient wave of his hand. "Forget it. We will bear the risks. We need your plane. Please." He could feel the desperation creeping into his voice.

The farmer looked again at Angeline, noticing the distinctly bright eyes of someone holding back tears and the thin slash of determination that her mouth had become. He had bought the plane for quick hops around the English countryside, but recent events had understandably kept his feet firmly on the ground. But…

It was a lot of money – or monetary value – that the two Irish were offering him. And it's not like he couldn't understand their desperation, as old pangs of loss flashed through his chest. Particularly because of the implications – he thought it might have been a local event, or at worst a national event, but never did he even dream of global catastrophe. He closed his eyes and sighed inwardly, coming to a decision. "Ok. Ok! Fine. But it's your funeral, mate, I'm not having that weighing on my mind." He thrust his hand out, still with eyes shut. "Keys are on a hook by the workbench. You should have enough of a run behind the barn."

Artemis and Angeline gratefully placed their respective items into the farmer's hands, offering thanks as graciously as they could while still hurrying to the converted barn. Artemis located the keys, quickly acquainting himself with the small aircraft's controls, while Angeline found headsets for both of them. As he taxied to a fairly flat piece of land, she started wringing her hands nervously. Now that there was nothing to be done until reaching Irish airspace, she found herself unable to think of anything other than the worst: Artemis, dead. Myles, dead. Beckett, dead. Butler, dead. Juliet, dead. Artemis, Sr. could hear his wife start hyperventilating beside him. Giving her a quick squeeze (he wasn't willing to risk any less contact with a plane that may or may not fall out of the air), he muttered sweet nothings into the headset, offering empty optimism that he himself did not feel. A final glance at his wife before pulling back on the yoke, and the plane lumbered off towards the Irish coast.

The next hour passed in solemn silence, the only sounds being Angeline's occasional navigational utterances. With no electronic communications and no GPS, they were left with little more than a compass and a map. Flying over the Irish Sea was particularly stressful without air traffic control to guide them, but the returning images of burning wrecks and scared citizens were enough to further strengthen the resolve of the two Fowls to reach their family, driving everything else from their minds. As long as they maintained their heading they would run into some part of the Irish coast, and from there it would be relatively simple to find Fowl Manor.

"There," said Angeline, speaking for the first time in many minutes. She pointed at a tiny dot that Artemis could barely make out. "I think that's Wexford."

Artemis frowned. Wexford was some hundred, two hundred kilometers south of Dublin.

Angeline traced the Irish coast on her map, trying to compare it against what she saw outside of the cockpit. "I think so." It was difficult to tell with the city so close to the horizon. "I think I recognize some of the buildings from my last visit."

Artemis' frown deepened, then he shrugged slightly. "Alright," he responded, "I'm banking us north." Hopefully his wife was right; seeing the Irish coast quickened his pulse again, and they could not afford wasting any more time looking for the Manor.

Angeline bit her lip, unknowingly thinking along the same lines. Now that home was so close, it felt awful to be so far away. She had to get to her family. She had to know that they were okay. Otherwise…

She shuddered, blocking out the thought. It was too painful to bear.

Thankfully, Angeline appeared to be right, as the rolling hills eventually expanded into the familiar scenery of the outskirts of Dublin. The Fowl Manor had no airstrip, but Artemis knew that the property was large enough for a small aircraft to ditch. Besides, he thought privately, I can use the castle to stop our momentum. They likely wouldn't be needing the plane after today anyway.

With Fowl Manor in sight Angeline returned to wringing her hands in anxious impatience. With each new sight she felt her stomach drop just a little more. Smoking antennas. Swaths of upturned earth. A faint green mist that clung to the fields. Something had definitely happened here – something magical. Wherever there was magic, there were fairies – and where there were fairies, her son was not far behind.

She willed the plane to descend faster, willed everything to be okay. Bruised, battered, and broken, maybe, but okay. She found herself praying. Praying to what, or to whom, she didn't know – God, gods, the universe – but praying with all her might that she would find everyone alive and unharmed.

The plane touched down just a touch violently. Clearly Artemis, Sr. felt similarly to his wife. Neither of the plane's occupants really felt the jolt as he engaged the brakes, causing the aircraft to pitch dangerously towards the ground.

They were out before the plane had fully stopped, running awkwardly to the manor's front doors. Evidently whatever had happened in London had also happened here; the security panel was smoking and the sprinkler system had left the entrance sopping wet, ruining two 15th-century masterpieces.

Not that it mattered to the two Fowls, who instantly split up to look for the house's residents.

"Boys! Artemis!" called Artemis, Sr., frantically running from room to room, hallway to hallway. He was dimly aware of his wife mirroring his actions in a distant part of the house, barely registering the cracks in her voice.

"Butler! Juliet!" Not in the kitchen. Not in his study. Not in his son's study. Not in the bedrooms. Oh, where could they be? The manor was enormous – Artemis cursed himself and his ancestors. A big house and lots of land certainly made it more difficult to find anyone when electronic communication was not an option. Artemis could feel the panic creeping into the edges of his mind. He willed it away, struggling to keep his composure. There would be time for panic and emotional breakdowns later. Right now he had to find his family.

Several more excruciating minutes of searching passed before he ran into his wife in a second-storey bedroom. Her mascara was streaking, tears tracing lines down her cheeks. "I can't find them!" Her voice was high, shrill – close to shattering entirely. Artemis took her hands, squeezing them tightly, allowing the pain to focus them both. He went to the window, leaning against the glass. Could they be elsewhere? On the grounds? Maybe off? He wasn't sure. In the case of an emergency the manor doubled as a bunker. Hell, Artemis, Jr. knew this; he had, after all, been the target of a siege not ten years prior. So where could he be?

He pressed his hands together, pushing them tightly against his mouth. No Butlers, no Fowls, and no clue where to find them. He contemplated gathering the neighbors – what few they had – and forming a search party when he saw them.

His heart leapt into his throat. "Angeline." He beckoned urgently. "There. Near that field." Angeline followed his finger, letting out a sob at the sight. Butler's massive hulk. Juliet's blonde hair. The small figures of the twins. Even a childlike individual, with adult proportions – an elf, Artemis realized with a start – all in the grass. Beside him, Angeline had started weeping in relief. Truth be told, his knees felt equally weak, feeling the tension of the last several hours simply fade away.

Artemis stared at them for a while, feeling too grateful to God that his family was unharmed, and for the Butlers' rendered services. He would certainly have to discuss their next paycheck – If paychecks still even exist, he thought to himself – for the innumerable times they had protected his family from harm. He opened the window, gazing out into the field. From here he could see them better.

He frowned. They were all crouched in roughly a circular shape, backs hunched. What were they doing? He squinted at them in the distance, trying to ascertain what was happening. Is it a fairy ritual of some sort? Then, recalling his son's friendship with the fairies, Did that fairy help? Are they thanking her? Where's Artemis? It wasn't until he saw Juliet pull back, fist on her mouth, tears streaming down her cheeks that he felt a cold hand grip his heart. He only managed to get two words out before rushing out of the room: "Angeline. Artemis."

In the months and years to come, neither Artemis nor Angeline would remember the entirety of the next hour. Only through months of therapy and discussion with each other and Butler would they be able to correctly sequence these events, and only through very careful emotional control.

For when Artemis and Angeline staggered over to the small group of – mourners, Artemis realized as his chest filled with dread – Angeline let out a keening wail when she saw what was in the center of their circle.

Enveloped in flowers, eyes closed and at peace, was their firstborn, Artemis Fowl II.

Artemis, Sr. blanched, the blood draining completely from his face. "No…" he whispered, reaching out a shaking hand to his son's face. He couldn't believe it. He couldn't! That's my son! he wanted to scream, dragging the Lord down to Earth, force him to face the reality that He had created. My son!

He frantically searched the gathered faces, desperately looking for a sign, a hope that no – no, this wasn't happening, that it was a cruel prank, that Artemis would sit up suddenly, laughing, or sharing one of his signature devious smiles. Artemis Fowl the Second, capable of anything, capable of outsmarting fairies and humans alike, the most astonishingly talented and wonderful young man that helped cast off the family's criminal history.

But nothing came. Juliet had turned away to hide her face, hugging the twins' crying faces to her stomach. The young elf was stroking Artemis, Jr.'s raven-black hair, gently whispering in an unknown language, cradling his cheek with an extraordinary gentleness. Angeline had been reduced to sobs, having collapsed onto the grass, clutching her son's arm, begging for him to wake up.

But it was Butler who drove the stake into his heart. Artemis turned to the faithful bodyguard, pleading with his eyes that what he was seeing was a trick, a hallucination. That he would blink and be sharing lunch with Angeline in London.

But instead he witnessed a tear fall from the man's face, and the slow shake of his head told him all that he needed to hear. The last thing he remembered before collapsing into grief was his heart shattering into a million pieces, robbing him of all the happiness in the world.