Artemis seemed determined to turn the inside of the shuttle into a maximum security prison. Sheets of camfoil hung from the roof of the shuttle, hiding Artemis, Holly, and Butler from view. All present wore mirrored lenses of one form or another to prevent being mesmerized. Butler in particular had some unobtrusive mirrored contacts. The manservant was hidden just outside the doorway of the shuttle, the camfoil making the man-mountain appear to be an open doorway leading to freedom. He had his Sig Sauer out and was calmly aiming at Nopal. If she made so much as a single suspicious movement, he would shoot. To kill.
As for Artemis and Holly, the two were sitting within the shuttle, hidden behind a curtain of camfoil. They both had LEP helmets on, Holly because it made her feel comfortable and Artemis because he had a couple balls in the air to juggle, so to speak.
He had jury-rigged the helmet to link up to several devices both inside and outside of the shuttle. There was a small camera, with shield-filtering of course, watching Butler's back to ensure that nothing snuck up on his bodyguard, fairy or otherwise. The floor around Opal had a pressure-based alarm that Artemis had hidden as well as a thermal camera mounted inconspicuously on the roof should the pixie somehow shield and slip her bonds. Her vital signs were being monitored by a bug planted on the back of her neck. Finally, hidden beneath the plush gel-seat was a shaped charge that Artemis could activate with the right gesture.
Holly, typically averse to killing, had balked slightly when Artemis had described the precautions. However, she had nonetheless accepted a Neutrino—working, thankfully—from the Fowl armory and was currently drumming a tattoo into the grip. The LEP captain couldn't even find it in herself to even rib Artemis for his paranoia.
When it came to Opal Koboi, there was no such thing as too paranoid.
"So," Holly began, her voice crackling over the helmet's radio, "I don't suppose that you still have that concrete prison cell anymore?"
Butler heard through an earpiece, but he couldn't exactly break in. Sorry, big man, Holly had informed him, digging out some LEP helmets, but they don't size these things for trolls. The professional in him would have preferred radio silence, but he trusted Artemis and Holly to be paying attention. Their chatter would be contained within their helmets anyways.
Artemis winced at the mention of Holly's original kidnapping, taking his eyes off the various feeds he was scanning. There was some awkward silence as her fumbling genius friend searched for words.
"Ah, that," he said. "The kidnapping room."
"That's the one, mud-boy. I'm just saying that when Koboi wakes up we'll have to keep her somewhere. She needs to face trial."
There was another pause as Opal shifted slightly in her sleep, groaning, but didn't appear to wake. Artemis suspected that she was awake nevertheless. The objective of being hidden was to draw out any hidden contingencies that Opal may have had as well as gauging her capabilities in her current state. It was the best they could do with present circumstances and more than enough for any normal straitjacketed fairy, but Artemis had his doubts. For all he knew, she had been awake the whole time and was simply biding her time. It was, after all, what he would do.
But Artemis had equally important things to think about. Like Holly.
"Holly," he blurted out.
She looked at him curiously. Her mismatched eyes brushed over Artemis and he felt a shiver. They hadn't even had another quiet moment after this whole debacle. Not two hours after Bruin Fadda's millenia old magic had nearly ripped the soul from his body and here he was, on the knife's edge once again. Perhaps he was still giddy from the healing and potentially about to face off with the most dangerous pixie in the world again, but he simply had to let Holly know.
Artemis shuddered. Sharing his feelings. Really, what was the world coming to?
"The room. It's gone, you see."
Butler, despite himself and the situation, cracked a grin. Artemis may be a genius and a mastermind, but a casanova he was certainly not.
"Um… good?" Holly tried.
"Holly, you know I care about you deeply, correct?"
The elf nodded, unsure as to where this was all going. She said nothing though, trusting that Arty indeed was going somewhere with all this.
"Right, well given that," Artemis said, valiantly plowing on, "I also very much like your company. The six months I spent in Haven with you never more than a communicator beep away has spoiled me somewhat, and I tend to not be an easy person to spoil. But even before, anytime I received a visit from you, business or otherwise, I was elated. But I just couldn't stomach the thought that you were visiting somebody who had kidnapped you all those years ago and you were treating him so undeservedly well."
"I had the room destroyed. I want you to be able to be in my home without any reminders. I don't want there to be any obstacles for when you come visit. I wish to see you as often as I physically can. And suppose you were to spend a lot of time in the manor, it would only be right—"
Butler really, really wished he could shut off his earpiece. He was familiar to some degree with Artemis' feelings courtesy of just how long he had been with his charge, but the gushing was certainly new. He shook his head ruefully. Young love.
"Frond, stop, Arty!" she hissed, a note of pleading in her tone for the human to stop before she nearly died of embarrassment. "Are you inviting me to come up and live with you or something? I'm flattered, but Arty. There are steps for these things, you know?"
"Ah, well, I just supposed…." Artemis said, deflating. He felt like all the blood in his body had rushed to his face in the past several seconds. It suddenly became hot enough inside his helmet that he wanted to open his visor.
Holly caught his look and snorted. He must have been the dumbest genius she knew. And she knew four.
The elf snaked her arm down, and grabbed Artemis' hand. She squeezed it reassuringly. Artemis stared at their intertwined fingers with something like amazement. Gods, sometimes he did act his age.
"I forgive you, Arty," she said, keeping her gaze fixed on Opal. "But you get a reward because you're being unusually considerate. And honest. It's actually pretty unfair when you do that."
Artemis' ego rebounded with impressive quickness. It was incredible what having a elf's hands in yours did for confidence. He straightened up.
"Holly," he chided, tone mock-offended. "Artemis Fowl does not play fair."
The captain in question did not have time to roll her eyes before she heard a small beeping from Artemis' radio. Her mouth hardened into a grim line. One more tangle with Opal Koboi. Even with the odds so decisively stacked against her, it never paid to underestimate the pixie. She was much like Artems in that way.
Holly pulled her Neutrino out of her holster, flicking it on. She knew that Artemis had little intention of allowing Opal to leave the shuttle alive. Probably claim it was some sort of "accident". The elf wasn't an idiot. But she knew Artemis was also just lying to spare her the culpability.
Opal killed Julius. If the pixie died here, maybe she'd look the other way.
Nopal's eyes fluttered open. She was no longer under the early morning sky, but that made sense. She had probably fallen asleep.
Hm. I was under the impression that you don't wake up when you die, she thought to herself. Evidently not, then. Good to know.
She wanted to stretch her arms but found they were trapped in some fairly rough sleeves. It was a little itchy against her skin, but at least they were warm. Was this what people called an itchy blanket?
The pixie blinked as light poured into wherever she was. It might have been a shuttle? All she really knew was that she was lying down on something fairly plush and that she had never seen the sun before in all its glory. And it certainly was glorious.
The sun's rays poured in through the shuttle's open doors. It was warm on her face. She basked in it for a while. Sure, fairies are supposed to be nocturnal, but who wouldn't enjoy the sun on their upturned face for the first time? Certainly not her.
Nopal smiled, the brilliance of it briefly outshining the sun. But having such a beatific expression on one's face for so long was tiring, so she dropped it and frowned. Nopal then experienced the old adage firsthand that it did indeed take more muscles to frown than to smile. This was especially true for pixies, whose faces were the focal point of their body and actually contained around 120 muscles compared to a human's measly 43. She smoothed her face back into a neutral expression.
At this point, Nopal was solidly convinced that she was alive. All of the things that she could feel—a gentle breeze, the warm sunshine, an itch in her forearm, the view of the inside of the shuttle, and the soft give of the gel behind her back—were completely new and beautiful in their novelty. But other things were less pleasant.
Nopal was incredibly thirsty and hungry. It took her awhile to sort these emotions out, as even before she had never experienced those things. Or at least not a physical hunger. Also she had to use the bathroom. Desperately. She didn't know why, but she figured that if she wet her pants at that moment it would be very embarrassing.
She tried banishing these things by thinking really hard that they didn't exist. She stared at a singular point on the roof of the shuttle and tried to will her bodily functions out of existence. No such luck. The harder she focused, the more she thought about them and the more that her biological processes refused to be silenced. Being trapped sucked. She needed a new plan.
After several moments, she had it.
She could talk.
Or more specifically call for help. But who could she call for help from? She was from nowhere and had nobody. Ah, but she did have somebody. Plural somebodies.
Nopal opened her mouth. It would not be accurate to describe her voice as rusty from disuse. In fact, her voice had never been used before in the entirety of her life, which had to be nearly four years at this point. She was about to say her first words. And they came out like this:
Incomprehensible, even to Nopal herself. She worked her jaw and willed her tongue to move correctly. Theoretically, the pixie-genius knew how it worked, but as Artemis often was reminded, the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. She uselessly moaned the two syllables for several seconds before she stopped drooling and speaking essentially baby-talk.
"Holly," she called, surprisingly comprehensible. "Arty. Holly. Arty."
Nopal smiled to herself—not too hard of course, speaking was difficult after all, and she hadn't enough strength for too much facial movement. Anyways, hopefully Holly and Arty would come and help. And if they didn't she'd just have to keep at it.