The Julius Deception

(or, "A Factual Description of What on Earth Happened to the Commander")

A true account of the fate of one Julius Root, based on various facts given in 'The Opal Deception.' This story takes place after the explosion in E37. All will be explained…

"They are shockproof, fire resistant, invisible to radar...It's a flying clinic."

Foaly, The Opal Deception p.71

It was tricky to regain consciousness. The other mental capacities were also slow in returning, but the one he had to admit hurt the most was consciousness. Whether it was because he suddenly became aware of all the pain trickling through his body or because he had been fervently hoping that he would not have to deal with the waves of discomfort he was experiencing, he knew not. One of the few matters that his brain was being quite clear about was not to open his eyes. He could already sense the slow and steady pulse in his sore flesh and had no desire to see the actual damage firsthand. At least this way he could pretend that it wasn't serious.

But that wasn't working now either. Tire and unexplainable fatigue spread into every vein and stretched within his lungs when he drew breath. A good, long, hacking cough did nothing to remedy the problem, only reminding him that the fungus cigars had not really been such a bright idea. A weight seemed to descend upon him as he struggled not to fall prey to the grasping fingers of sleep that were neatly coiling themselves around him. At times like these, retaining consciousness was…something. Blearily, he tried to complete the thought. Something…important. Yes. That was it. But why…? What had they said back at the Academy? Important things had to do with…with what? With survival. Good. Keep thinking, he told himself. As long as you think…

Think what? …No, not that. Survival. Think survival. Right. To live was not…to die. One must find… keep awake…

"You have broken six ribs." A familiar voice piped cheerily in his ear, jarring him from his comatose state.

Commander Julius Root moaned, or rather, would have moaned had his chest allowed it. The noise that he ended up producing was little more than an upheaval of shaky breath. It served to dislodge the numbness from his appendages, causing a ripple of discomfort in the process. There was one good thing that came of it: the commander noticed that the surface beneath him was not the hard flooring of E37, but a remarkably soft place. Instead of having grateful thoughts like most normal people who survived an undeniably lethal event, the only item that seemed to pass through his mind was: why couldn't he just die in peace without an annoying voice yelling at him?

A flash of memory flew back to him, but as quickly as it came, he found that it soon departed. It did not feel pleasant. Perhaps he wasn't…He tried to take hold of the memory again to no avail, as he was disrupted from his thoughts by a voice chirping into his ear.

"You are recommended to see a medical warlock immediately. Gosh, I don't know why they have me doing this. It's not like anyone goes around and breaks six ribs." His first instinct was to remark that broken ribs weren't that uncommon for him, and would have told whomever was talking that, had the voice not been a pre-recorded message. Should he ever see the script writers for the helmet commands again, he decided he would have to yell at them extra loudly. But that would be for later. Now, he needed to figure out what his status was. Certainly back in E37 there were no comfortable spots like the one he was face-down on, which meant that he wasn't in the chute. The idea that he might be held captive had more than once presented itself and Root dreaded it being true more and more with each moment. He needed to get a look.

He brought focus back into his eyes long enough to notice that quite a few spots on his suit seemed to have melted, and his magic was no longer welling within him to heal them. Oh, D'Arvit. So the pictures of exploding rock and fire racing around in his head weren't only dreams. Root noted that the softness beneath him was grass, and would have wondered how he had ended up on plant-life, but the conversation was showing no signs of stopping. The voice speaking appeared strikingly familiar; he could have sworn that he had heard it before. His first guess was Holly, as it was feminine-sounding, but as the recognition hit him, he identified the speaker as none other than…

"Corporal Frond, will you please just say the lines written on the sheet?" came the sound of an indignant centaur, "We don't have enough of the budget left to redo this taping."

Annoyed, Root grunted to his helmet, "You do, you ungrateful pony. Don't go blaming me for your expensive inventions." Another memory filtered through Root's hazy mind. Hadn't there been something new and incredibly money-consuming that the centaur had just told him about? He pondered on that for a few moments, then recalled that he was livid about Foaly and lost his train of thought. It was one thing for Foaly to complain about the budget to his face, but to do so over a recorded voice message in his own helmet was uncalled for. But the tape was not done yet.

"Hey, Holly!" squeaked Frond, "Why don't you try this? I'm getting bored."

Foaly's voice cut in again, "Corporal, please! I need to bother Julius about the lack of sufficient tinfoil in the Ops. Booth soon. Can you get on with it and finish the recording?" Then, "Hello, Holly."

Holly. Wherever had she gotten to? Root craned his neck as much as it would allow him to and surveyed the area.

"But I'm sure that Holly could do it so much better! Besides, I want a break. I just read off all those dull place names for your new map system. " Here she switched to her serious voice, "'London: Fifty-three miles from your current location.' Or 'Japanese whaler. Approach with caution.' Can't Holly do this one?"

A pause. He abandoned his search. Wherever condition or location Captain Short was in, she definitely was not here.

"Well, what are the chances that good ol' Julius will hear this?" Foaly gave in to Lili's whining voice.

The commander attempted a weak laugh, causing a thin trickle of blood to escape his lips. He cursed faintly. Holly had called him Julius a little while ago…when had that been? Then, his mind ached with remembrance of the explosion, the countdown, Koboi, and Scalene's trap. Holly. Had she left like he had told her to? He put his head down. No Holly anywhere, which could be good or very bad. He concluded that trying to figure out the fate of his officer was dangerous to his emotional stability at the moment; thus, he opted instead to realize that somehow he had gotten out of the chute, and had not been noticed by anyone yet. And that made sense. He wouldn't be noticed by anyone…what had the pony said?

Foaly had by now instructed Holly how to use the recording system. "Go for it, fly-girl."

Root held what little of his breath remained in anticipation of hearing her voice again. Snatches of their conversations floated in his head, unwilling to dissipate. If there was any person that Julius Root wanted to hear at this point, it would have to be Captain Short. Any sign that she might be safe, or at the very least still living, was more than welcome. Holly actually sounded quite good as the voice in his headset, he though absent-mindedly.

"Hello, you have broken an undetermined number of ribs-"

"Six!" hissed Frond.

"-and are probably not even conscious at this time, but we here at Police Plaza think you need some help-"

"And even though we can do nothing to help you as this is only a recording-" Foaly interrupted. The microphone was snatched away again.

"-healing yourself is of the utmost priority. Concentrate your magic on your ribs, or see an experienced medical warlock as-"

Lili again: "Poor guy. It can't be fun having six broken ribs."

"No kidding, Corporal," Foaly agreed, "I'm sure whomever it is appreciates your sympathy, though." Whomever it was did not, and wanted Holly's voice back quite a bit.

"-it is in the best interests of your health to do so. Your survival-"

"Really ought to matter more to us." Finished the centaur, "Sorry about that."

A sigh resounded in the helmet as Holly began again.

"Whomever you are, do your best to come back to Police Plaza in one piece."

Then silence. Root supposed that Foaly had decided that it made a good enough ending message and stopped recording. That was a rather odd statement for Holly to make. Not that he wasn't expecting her to care about her fellow officers- Captain Short had more than proven her worth in that regard already. If he got out of this mess, he'd head straight to the Plaza. Holly was bound to come back there eventually, and when she did, he'd be there…

Finally, he gave up the effort and patiently waited for sleep to consume him.

It didn't though.


As his body was taking its time in dying, the commander elected to attempt to sit and occupied himself with figuring out how exactly he'd survived Koboi's explosion. The sitting part was taking too much out of him, so he elected to recline on his side instead. He vaguely recalled something Foaly had said about suits…

That had been it, hadn't it? Foaly's wonder suits. The budget-eating suits that had saved his life and sucked the LEP funds so dry that he was left with strange recordings in his helmet. Root recalled something about them being fireproof, and checked his own suit. The same scorches met his cloudy vision, and in a couple spots the micro-fiber even seemed to be melting. Rolling his eyes, the commander sighed. Fire-proof indeed.

Yet, he couldn't completely discount Foaly's contribution. He was still breathing, although with some difficulty, and that was considerably better than the alternative. Ever the strategist, Root began to calculate his next moves with great care. He would need to find an acorn fast and perform the Ritual. Holly would be the next priority. The last words of the recording rang in his head, and he felt an involuntary urge to smile. If there was any hope at all for him to find Holly alive, then he would. Strange, he mused, after all that had happened it hadn't stopped him from being willing to do anything for her. To Root, Holly was his last chance at something he had given up when he accepted the position of commander. And now, as the few threads that held this dream together began to fray and snap, he redoubled his efforts to hang onto them. If she was alive, he would find her.

And then something extraordinary happened. For perhaps the first time in his career as commander of the LEPrecon, Root was contemplating raising his techie's budget. Foaly may have been beaten by Koboi's interference with their communications equipment, but it had been he who held the ace in the hole. Though Koboi had a scheme planned, Haven was at stake, and one of the people who mattered most to him was missing, Julius Root almost felt like smiling. Foaly had won.

Then, just at the point when Root ought to have lapsed back into sleep, a voice once more sounded in his helmet. This time, it was not as amusing as the previous message had been.

"You've fractured your collar-bone. Your lungs are unhealthy. They exhibit signs of severe deterioration most likely caused by smoking. The arteries near your heart are clogged. You…"

Root swore again. Damn the centaur.

Author's Note:

Here's my first go at an AF story. The main basis of this is that Root never died, and I'll get into what happens to him more in the next chapter. I'm just taking what Mr. Colfer wrote in the book, and presenting you with what went on behind the scenes.

Reviews greatly appreciated!