IMPORTANT-ish. PLEASE READ ALL OF MY SUPER-HUGE AUTHOR'S NOTE. (sorry. It's almost as long as the chatper.)To those of you who read Flame of the Gods, there is now a link in my file of a picture I found on deviantArt that I swear is Valerie. (after Zane dies) Go look at it if you like, and be sure to review for whoever drew it (bother, I can't remember). Oh, and there's a link to a gorgeous picture of Holly. The Profile has been updated with various things. Check it out.

I really didn't feel like waiting for Monday, so I'm updating now. ;) I get nervous from waiting. This summer, I won't be able to be on ffnet as much, (though more than last summer) but I'd prefer it if no one forgot me. Therefore, I'm going to keep chapters coming, every week, same as always, except these chapters are going to be more like short fics that could stand on their own. I've decided to group them together, though, for my poor friend, who may be updating for me, and checking my account, and all kinds of tedious things that I love her for.

There will be several chapters, all loosely related, centering around some kind of mischief or other. Mostly funny, not really anything serious, and I hope you'll enjoy them. I may continue this little series every summer if it's popular.

The following chapter was actually taken from a much longer fic that makes no sense whatsoever when the Fowl Files are read, because Root and Trouble didn't meet Holly until she went in to pass the test, and all of that. However, this scene works because… because it does, and I think it's very funny.

Off track though. Back to the story. Read it, review it, I'm working on a long one. Oh yes, and this is dedicated to welovechocolate, just because she(or maybe he or they) have reviewed so much, and sent my lots of encouraging notes when I needed them.

I love you all too,


Disclaimer: I do not own anything except the things I own. The things I own are the things not owned by Colfer. Colfer owns everything except the things I own. The things Colfer owns are the things I do not own. :) Try that one, all you people who think you're the next Artemis Fowl.

Holly scowled at the gnome. Big, and burly, and mean looking. The other girls looked terrified— except for Frond, who was so busy flipping that long blond hair, that she hadn't even noticed him.

"Rule number one," growled the gnome.

No, you don't say? thought Holly. Ought we to have started with rule number sixty-three?

"You!" A thick finger pointed at her. "Stop looking so insolent! Pay attention, or I'll have you run laps for the next three hours, and then three more after supper!"

"Me sir?" asked Holly sweetly. "I'm paying attention. I apologize if it looked like I wasn't."

He grunted, and went into a lengthy explanation of how the guns worked. Holly stood up straight, and listened with apparently rapt attention. Far from it however. She was thinking about what the rest of her training would be like. All kind of things, though what they were, she'd only been given vague information about.

She didn't need to pay attention, really. When she'd gotten her text books, two days ago, she'd stayed up half the night going over the lessons for the next three weeks. She'd memorized the parts of different guns years ago— ever since Tanya had accused her of sketching the safety in the wrong place one day when they were little.

Tanya was a good friend. Her cousin had been in the LEP. He was in politics now, or something, but that had sparked the interest that had led Holly to where she was now.

"What's your name?" The instructor leaned down, close enough for Holly to read his name tag. A one mister Tron.

"Short, Holly, sir!" She wasn't going to let him rant about saying it wrong, even though most new recruits did. It infuriated people— not being able to accuse you of anything wrong, though they had the sneaking suspicion that you weren't an exact angel.

"I'll see you at the end of the session."

"Very good, sir!"

Tron gritted his teeth, and stalked on down the row, looking for other daydreamers.

Holly wrinkled her nose at his back, and went back to thinking. No harm done. A few extra minutes to avoid history was always welcome. Human history especially. It was boring. Besides, she relished the thought of smearing that self-satisfied smirk off Tron's face. She knew what she was doing. Why bother listening? It was torture.

Chairs were pushed back, and all around her, the other girls moved towards the door. It was stupid, really, she mussed— separating the girls from the men for the first three months.

The door shut, and she stood up beside her chair, waiting to be yelled at.

She was not disappointed.

"Who do you think you are? If you don't know this stuff, you're going to get your cute butt kicked out of the Academy, and you can kiss your career goodbye! I want to see you run after supper. You will be down on the track at exactly six thirty-five!"

"Yes, sir!"

Muttering to himself, the Tron turned around, and bustled out, slamming the door behind him, as he pulled out a pen. No doubt to write it down before he forgot. Holly grinned, and shuffled towards the door, wasting more and more of her Human history class.

After a monotonously stiff and silent supper, Holly got up, and jogged to the track. She got there about twenty seconds early. Supper was done at six thirty. What she saw was not pleasant.

The men, naturally. Men were never pleasant. And these were the real jocks. The guys trying to top everyone's record, and make it to Recon. The so called: 'tough guys'. Great. She'd get pushed around and shoved even more. And made fun of. But if she even glared at one of them, she'd be running laps all night for mister Tron.

Sheel came ambling up to her. Holly swallowed. Sheel had quite the reputation for being the absolute worse of the instructors. He oversaw the physical training for the upper-class men. Upper-class meaning the ones who'd been through everything else, and wanted to get into Recon. "Short. Tron told me you'd be here. Got in trouble."

"Yes, sir!"

"You can run with the boys tonight. Go through their outfit. That should keep your mouth shut in class after this."

Holly decided not to argue with him, even though he was wrong. She hadn't been talking. It was so unfair or men— stereotyping about women. Not all women blabbed non-stop.

"No lagging. Get down there on the track."

His whistle blew the moment her foot touched the track surface, and the men took off, laughing quietly at something someone had said. About her, no doubt.

Holly scowled, and stretched her legs slightly, drawing up behind the last one. She was in shape, she'd show them.

After all, she'd been running for years now. That, and she'd made up her own exercise 'program'. Tanya's cousin always said no woman would ever make it onto Recon. They weren't in good enough shape. So she had decided to prove him wrong. So she wasn't really worried about the running. She'd stay at the back, and pass them slowly.

It flustered men, when women beat them without any apparent effort.

They finished one lap. "Nine more," laughed someone.

One of the men turned their head, glancing back at Holly, who was jogging along smoothly. "What'd you do?"

"Nothing." She smiled dangerously. "Apparently I wasn't listening."

"Go figure." He rolled his eyes. "Talking weren't you? You're going to wish you hadn't after Sheel's done with you."

She shook her head, and decided not to talk anymore, quietly moving around the two men at the back.

Eight more laps to go.

Holly moved up two more men.


Two more.

With three more laps to go, Holly was in the middle of the pack, carefully controlling her breathing, so that it sounded like she was hardly running at all. The men ignored her, except for a few glances that spoke plainly about tripping, and wondered what she'd do if they did.

Finally, one of them stuck out their foot.

Holly twisted her heel as she came down, crushing his toes, and moving past him without breaking stride.

There were a few stifled laughs in the back, and then everyone was calm and solemn again.

Two laps.

Holly decided it was time to move up a little faster. She threaded her way through the group to the outside, slowly pulling closer to the head of the group. It was two men, both jogging together about ten feet ahead of everyone else. She had the idea that when they reached the last few hundred yards, they'd be sprinting full out to beat each other.

Hiding a grin, she moved in until she was a few feet behind them, deciding to beat them in the sprint.

They were on the last lap now.

As they moved around the curve into the straightway, Holly pulled up on the outside, stretching her legs farther with them, and pushing the ground away as hard as she could.

They were flying now. The men weren't watching each other anymore, they were watching her. Holly knew better than to turn her head. She kept her eyes glued on the white line up ahead, reaching farther and farther with each stride, and breathing with the pounding of her feet.

Ten feet.

Holly pushed herself forwards harder, feeling a thrill of pleasure as she pulled away from the men, and flew over the line.

She slowed to a jog, paused, resting her hands on her head, and then turned around and went back.

Sheel was scolding them very loudly. "For Frond's sake, Kelp! You let a woman, and a beginner beat you! And, she smashed this year's record. Yours, by the way. You might want to work out a little more. Look at her! She's tiny! And she beat you without trying!"

Though pleased to hear about the record, and the commotion she'd made, Holly did not appreciate being called tiny. Not at all! That, and the woman remark bothered her. But she decided to let it go until later. After she'd shamed them a few more times.

"Go on then! Hurry up!"

Grumbling, the men began to move to the training building. Mostly a gym, a pool, and a shooting range, along with locker rooms, and a few offices. The only time Holly had been in there, was to put her things in her locker. They didn't start any of that training for a few more months.

First, they went to the shooting range.

Sheel smirked at her. "Too little to use a gun, I hear? Use the paints. And try to hit the targets. Which do not, by the way, include the walls, or floor, or ceiling. That, and people."

Holly snorted. "Just too little according to you. I can shoot well enough." Which was true. She'd been doing paints since she was able to walk. Before that, actually, considering someone had put her down near a gun, and she'd made a mess of the carpet.

And once, though she wasn't supposed to tell, Tanya's cousin had let her shoot one tiny laser burst with his gun. She'd had to do drills for him over and over with her paints before he let her, but it had been worth it. And she still remembered it's feel.

"Fine." Sheel didn't like women who smarted off. How could this woman shoot? She'd probably never been near a gun in her life, and the whole reason she was here, was because she hadn't paid attention in the session on the guns and shooting. "Pick a gun then. Let's see you shoot."


"What now, Vein?" He scowled at the man beside Kelp. The other fast one.

"It's against regulations."

"Keep your mouth shut, and watch." Sheel wasn't known for following regulations.

Holly turned, and ambled over to the wrack, picking up one her size. It helped, to read the tables in the back of the textbooks. She'd already calculated her size out. It took less time later, and people thought you were a genius, doing an hour's worth of math in your head.

The men sat down on the benches where Sheel motioned them, prepared to laugh at her attempts to shoot.

"Right. Go ahead when you're ready. And try not to hit anybody."

With deliberate slowness, Holly flicked the safety. That was the number one thing for looking good when you drew your gun: looking cool when you released the safety. The other thing was actually hitting what you aimed at.

They were all whispering now— the men. Probably making bets.

She shook her head. Please!

"Get on with it, woman. Or is it too scary?"

"Just because you're scared you'll look like an idiot doesn't mean you have to act all tough," snapped Holly, deciding it was worth smarting off as she sighted.

The gun came up, and she pulled the trigger once, just right, with just the right squeeze, just the right timing, and just the right angle.

The screen blinked once, and displayed the stats. She was off the perfect center by a one thousandth of a degree.

Silence for a moment.

Then Sheel shrugged. "Alright, Short, keep shooting. Kelp and Vein, you shoot with her. Try to keep it competitive."

Whispering, the men moved to their stations, picking up their guns on the way. Holly hid a grin, pretending not to notice the glances they threw her, and concentrated on the gun.

It was a good gun. She might as well get used to it. She was hoping to hit it dead on tonight.

"Nice shot," commented Kelp, stepping up to the line. "As good as mine. The record this year."

"But of course!" Holly glared at the back of his head as he raised his gun. "Who's else would it be? The great Kelp holds all the records, doesn't he? Give me a break."

Trouble shot, and turned, stepping out of Vein's way. "Despite what you think, Miss Short, I'm not insulting you in any way, nor am I attempting to show off for you. If I wished to show off for a woman, let me assure you that it would be some infinitely more attractive than yourself."

Everyone had found an excuse to stop shooting, and tried to keep straight faces. If there was anything Trouble had a right to brag about, it was his insulting skills.

There was a very loud crack, as her fist connected with his face. Sheel looked up from his clipboard just in time to see Trouble totter backwards, lose his balance, and smash his head on the stairway railing.

Holly turned like nothing had happened, and shot again, equaling her last shot.

"You little—"

"If you have an issue with my height, Kelp, I'd be happy to clear any doubts." She spun around, letting her safety settle back into place. She wouldn't be accused of pulling a weapon on anyone later, if she got into trouble for it. Which she probably would.

"Oh! You want to go?" Trouble shot up, leaping forwards, to be stopped by Vein.

"You can't do that, Trouble," he said calmly. "Not only is she not on the same level as you, but she is a woman. It's against rules, and you'll both get in trouble. Drop it."

Sheel leaned over the railing. "You know, I'd really like to see these two tear each other apart. At this rate, you'll be practically married by the time we're done. I don't suppose any of us would let anything slip?"

Grinning, the men shook their heads.

"Good. Then go down to the gym where there's more room, and fight there. After you put your weapons away, mind you."

The men turned, quickly, filing to the weapon rack. This would be worth seeing, they were sure. Miss Short was turning out to be more than she appeared in several aspects.

In the gym, the men seated themselves, and promptly began to make bets on who would win.

Sheel got straight to business. "Alright. Basic rules. First one to holler loses, and no extra weapons. Kelp, bring your knife over here. Fight until you can't fight anymore, or one of you hollers."

Holly nodded, brushing a loose strand of hair out of her face. That was a disadvantage. She had no doubt mister Kelp would pull it if he got a chance. Good thing it wasn't long. "I'm ready."

"Then go ahead."

Trouble lost no time circling and making tough talk. He spun around and dove at her. Holly just barely had time to get out of the way, grabbing his shoulder, and spinning him around into her fist.

The crack sounded quite nice. She loved a good crack.

He grunted, and swung at her. The punch made an even louder crack than hers had, but she let her head roll with it, snaking her foot behind him, and tugging hard on his ankle.

They hit the mat with a thud, Holly rolling over on top, and landing another punch in his face.

On the sidelines, the men leaned forwards, watching with intent interest. This was extremely entertaining. Most of them hadn't seen a good fight for years. It was highly discouraged. But of course, Sheel didn't care much for what other people thought.

Trouble grabbed her by the throat, forcing her into a headlock. Unfortunately, for him, it was backwards: she was facing him. Holly head butted him, and then bit his arm.

He let go.

Holly gave him a shove, rolling to her feet as he did, blood pounding in her ears. She loved fighting. Especially fighting like this. No one got badly hurt, and she usually won. And it gave you such a thrill, to hear the crack, and dodge and twist and turn and spin. Everything was so focused and clear. You felt smooth and fast and perfect.

Again, he wasted no time, letting his foot shoot out, and slam into her stomach.

She gasped, and bent her knees slightly, grabbing his foot and giving a sharp tug. Trouble hit the mat again.

There was a very sudden, very loud bang.

Everyone froze.

Except for Holly that is. She ignored it, falling on top of Trouble, and knocking the breath out of him. Her fist came up.

It was caught from behind. "Little woman—"

Holly didn't wait to hear more. She spun around as she was half lifted into the air, kicking the mat with her feet to steady herself, swung as hard as she could at the face of the man holding her up. If anyone thought they had seen Holly Short mad before, they were wrong. She was mad now. She hated being referred to as little, and hated even more that demeaning tone in which certain men called her: 'woman'.

The man let go, quickly joining Trouble on the mat. Shocked silence filled the room.

Then Holly got a good look at who she'd punched.

Major Julius Root. A LEP legend, and as rumors had it, the soon to be active commander. Also someone who had a reputation for being sexist and having a very short temper. If one at all.

She might as well say something smart. She was already in bad trouble. "I would give you an explanation, but I doubt you have the mental capacity to comprehend it. Let me say this. That wasn't a good idea. Stay out of the way, or you'll get hurt."

Holly turned, picked up Trouble, who was too completely shocked to quite realize what was happening, and began to throttle him. "You can holler when you feel like it, Kelp. I'll just keep squeezing."

Trouble glanced down at Major Root. He wasn't going to stop her. He had that look on his face that said: Fine. Go ahead and kill yourself if you want. It's not my problem.

He needed air.

With a grunt, he swung his foot at her.

Holly twisted him around, and fell gracefully to the mat, squeezing harder, and smiling slightly.

Trouble could see black now. He stopped struggling and kicking her, and gritted his teeth. If she had any woman in her at all, she'd get worried and let go after a moment.

He could hardly see anything now. She squeezed harder.

Groaning inwardly, Trouble raised a finger.

Immediately, Holly let go, pushing him off of her onto the mat, and getting up.

Trouble lay against the mat, head swimming, gasping for breath. He couldn't believe it. A woman had beaten Trouble Kelp in a fight. And he had given it up in front of the soon to be active commander, and Sheel, and every single one of his peers. And he had lost in a fair fight.

Slowly, he rolled over onto his back, looking up at her. For a moment, her eyes met his. They weren't quite brown, and they weren't quite green either. A mix maybe. They were smiling at him if her face wasn't. Now that she had won, she wasn't particularly angry about it. It was over, and she was pleased with herself, which she had every right to be.

Then, Julius Root got to his feet. "I want to know what's happening in here, Sheel!"

" She got in trouble with Tron today, and had to come work out with us. She and Kelp got into a disagreement, so I let them fight it out. She gets into a lot of fights apparently."

He snorted. "I can believe that. She has a hell of a punch at any rate. However, in case you can't recall, fighting is against the rules. And not only that, but she's a woman, and she hasn't had any training. Matching her against an older man who's been through almost all the training we offer and our top man at that is hardly excusable."

"She picked the fight with him. And she beat him at any rate."

"Woman!" Julius Root spun around to face her, and found to his astonishment that she was no longer there. "Where the hell did she go?"

There was a severe fit of coughing from several of the men behind him, and then the gym door banged shut from the other side of the gym. Miss Holly Short was gone.

"Who was that infuriating thing?" demanded Root, bruised face turning a slightly deeper shade of grape.

Sheel shook his head in false remorse. "I'm sorry, sir. Tron didn't mention her name, just that she'd be showing up. He's probably forgotten her name by now, seeing that it's Tron. You know how he is with forgetting things. Do any of you men know her name?"

In unison, they shook their heads, striving to look innocent without much success. Even Trouble, from where he lay on the mat manage to grunt a negative answer. After all, that girl had punched Root in the face, and for that, she deserved to go free, if nothing else. It had been worth the humiliation, in the end.

Root spun around, and marched towards the door. "When that thing gets to the LEP, I swear, I'm not going near her. She'll probably make it to the referral list for Retrieval, given her attitude. I'm not going to even consider her! She's too much trouble, damn her!"

Hee hee. It's a shame he forgot it was that same girl when she burst into his office looking like a plumbing accident with D'Arvit scrawled across her chest. He should have been suspicious. Anyway, that was the one time Holly punched Root in the face. I just had to have it, because… I mean, she had to have sometime, and this was the perfect time. Besides, that comment of Trouble's… Yeah. This is my summer filler, just so no one will forget me. ;) I'm working on a nice long thingy for August-ish/September-ish-ness. Wait patiently.

Anyway, sorry for super long author notes, but just for my anon. reviewers, please try to include some way for me to contact you when you ask questions, and so forth. This is especially frustrating when you review stories that have already been completed, and I can't respond to you in author's notes, because I don't know if you're reading my current story.

A lot of people seem to have been reading Hitting Hard, lately, and I was asked for a sequel. Right now, I have my calendar marked up with fics for the next two years. (yes, I have no life). Some of them are written, and some are not. At various times I've had vague ideas floating around in the back of my head, but nothing that has really stood out, though I might be able to combing Hitting Hard and Flame of the Gods with something else to make a trio. My action seems pretty popular. So if you guys want me to continue that streak, or something more along the lines of The Spark (as my next one, A Questionable End is), you're going to have to tell me. I don't know what you guys want. You tell me. And feel free to PM or email me with something, if you want to.

Hugs and kisses. Another story like above in a week.

You who do not review: Your evils will condemn you on the day of judgment. :)