Another chapter. Just so you all know, this story is referred to in my next super long, exceptionally excellent one. (A Questionable Ending) I have promised it for August 14th, but now I'm not sure-- I'm having WB beyond belief. You'll all like it. Beside the point though. It's amusing, it's almost pointless (though not quite), and Foaly gets his little moment of triumph. You'll see what I mean.

Loads of love,


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.

Julius rubbed his head tiredly, wishing the pounding would stop. Not literally— his blood was pounding, heart was pounding, head was pounding, everything was pounding, and he couldn't concentrate, damn it all! "Major Kelp! Get in here!"

Slowly the door opened, and Trouble peeked in. "I didn't do it sir!"

A vein pulsed on Julius's forehead. His eyes wandered from Trouble's face back to his desk, and stopped on his coffee cup. "You're telling me you haven't switched the damn sugar with the damn salt for the six thousandth, five hundred and seventy-first time, and you expect me to believe it, when for six thousand, five hundred and seventy times, it has been you? And don't question me, because I've kept tally!"

"Yes sir…"

"And why do you expect me to believe this sorry excuse for an excuse?"

Trouble shuffled his feet uncertainly, and cleared his throat several times. "Well, sir, uh—"

The deep red on Julius's face deepened, and the color faded to a bruised grape color. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

Trouble was certain the spittle was going to knock him over one of these days. He almost began to shake his head, and then had a brilliant instant of inspiration. "Yes sir. I mean, sir, Holly Short, sir. She beat me to the bowl today, and I couldn't switch them, because she threatened to punch me— I mean, she wanted to do it instead of me, and ah, you know how that goes. Women and all."

Actually, Julius did know how that went. He didn't tell Trouble this however, not wanting to lose face in front of his men.

The lights flickered. Both men froze.

"Is this a drill?" whispered Trouble nervously. "Or did the pony mess up again?"

The lights went out.

"D'arvit," swore Julius. "No power, no coffee."

Trouble was fighting a losing battle with the door. "Sir! It's trying to shut, and I don't know why—"

Hastily, Julius got up and squeezed out into the hall, pulling Trouble after him. "It's another one of those fantastic drill's Foaly's dreamed up. The doors lock automatically. Come on, we don't want to get stuck back here. We'd better go find him, and twist his tail until he opens them all again, and returns power."

"What about the civilians?"

"It's just in this building." Julius gritted his teeth. "Which of course makes it all the more absurd, since we have the back-up, emergency generators in case of a lockdown." He sighed, and motioned for Trouble to follow him. "Come on. Let's not waste time."

Holly sat in her chair, frozen in the darkness. Her computer was dead. The lights were dead. She didn't even have the comforting hum of the ventilation system. She needed to be able to see. Slowly, she groped through her drawers, finally locating the emergency flashlight Foaly had insisted that everyone have. Thank Frond for that pony.

That was— if that pony hadn't actually caused his lack of power. If he had, he'd not live long enough to bequeath his belongings to his carrot garden.

The door. She had no clue what was happening outside. And then she remembered. They were all hooked up to the power system. In case of attack, they were locked when the power was cut off. There was no way to open them now. She wondered how many others were trapped in their 'safe' modules.

Julius was going to be furious with Foaly— if he ever got out of his cubical. Given the situation, Foaly might have realized his mistake, and decided to leave the doors locked.

There was only one way. The ventilation system. Or the plumbing… make that two. Holly preferred the vents.

Slowly, slowly, Holly climbed onto her desk, pulled out her gun, and started slicing open the vent. The laser cast an eerie glow over the darkened room, and Holly tried to concentrate on the task at hand— of cutting her way into the vents, without much success.

Julius tripped over a janitor's bucket with a roar of surprised rage, skittered dangerously across the tile floor, and landed with a clatter and plenty of unprofessional swearing about sixteen feet away. "Why me?" he asked, sitting where he was in what appeared to be total dejection, and praying no one else would get to the pony before him. "Why me? And why today of all days? And why wasn't I warned?"

"Successful criminals don't phone to give the details of their vile schemes." Trouble probably shouldn't have quote the Commander at himself, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

"Shut up!" Julius tried to get to his feet, and failed. One foot seemed to be permanently stuck in the mop bucket's little water-wringing-contraption-thingy, and he had the most uncomfortably wet sensation. To put it plainly, the water on the floor was soaking into the seat of his pants. This was perhaps the most humiliating thing that had happened to him in the last twelve years. The most humiliating thing before that— never mind. Never mind that at all. He shuddered and crossed himself at the thought of it.

"Do you need some help?"

Then, to Julius's eternal shame (photos were immortalized in a number of underground pamphlets. Underground at the LEP, and underground of the underground. They were snickering over the pictures for years during the annual gang convention in Atlantis), Trouble Kelp pulled out a flashlight, one that every good officer should have ready for emergencies, and got a good look at him. "Oh. Oh my… Err, Commander? Sir? Are you all right, or would you like me to get some help?"

"I'm not permanently injured, Kelp! A slight mishap because of some idiot who left a bucket of water lying around in the middle of the hall in the dark!" (Various curse words have been omitted from the previous passage, as the actual words of the message are too far apart to be remembered in meaning and context.) Julius struggled valiantly with the bucket, and only managed to drop a heavy wooden mop on his head. This did not aid the painful pounding that had only increased during the entire episode of ridiculous and unlucky mishaps. Perhaps he should retire.

"If you say so, sir."

"I do." Julius tried again, and failed to do anything but further entangle his foot in the mop bucket's little water-wringing-contraption-thingy.

After a moment of uncertain silence, Trouble leaned over, grabbed hold of the bucket, and pulled. For an instant, they both thought it was starting to give way. Happiness was short lived, however, and with a tremendous howl, Trouble lost his balance and toppled, sending up a geyser of soapy slosh as his head cracked on the tiles.

Julius thought his ankle was broken, and if it healed in the position it was in now, he'd forever look like an off-balance ballerina of some kind, only able to perform point on one foot. In his eagerness to not look like an off-balance ballerina, he began bashing the bucket against everything within range, including Trouble's head, which was (unfortunately for him), lying within perfect kicking/bashing range. Julius took full advantage of it, and almost broke Trouble's head before the bucket gave out and shattered. "Good thing you have a hard head Kelp. Not injured badly, are you?"

"Not at all," muttered Trouble, blinking desperately, and trying to see straight before realizing it was dark, and he couldn't anyway. For a moment, he'd thought Julius had permanently blinded him. "A slight headache, but nothing major."

"Good. Let's go then."

Trouble had meant to be sarcastic, but apparently Julius hadn't caught that bit.

Holly grunted, inching onward. She'd never imagined the vents would be this tight. The only reason she'd been able to get into them was that her room was right underneath a big junction. Now, she wondered just exactly how, she was going to get out. She was definitely not finding her way back to where she'd come. There was no turning around. Literally and figuratively.

If she went forwards, and then backed up out of a vent, she'd get jammed in there, because she'd get stuck on the little notches that someone so kindly installed on the sides of these ventilation pipes or whatever thy were called. Sadly, the only thing she could possibly consider an exit was a large junction. And she'd have to go headfirst. That was much more sad.

The pressure on her shoulders suddenly disappeared, and Holly realized she'd come to just one of those junctions. She stopped hastily, careful not to pull herself any farther so she didn't lose her chance to get out.

One of the boys would have bashed the vent open with their head, but Holly was a little above that. Carefully, she squeezed her arm past her head, and forced a conveniently twisted latch to the side. The vent fell to the floor with a clatter, and with a smile, Holly tugged her other arm from her side, and flashed her light over the room. It certainly wasn't much, but she'd take it, despite the fact that the floor was six feet below her. The lucky occupant had not been in their room when things happened.

She tipped forwards, and heaved herself through the opening. So far, so good. Holly bent her knees, holding herself from the waist down inside the vent, so she wouldn't fall.

With a grunt, she let go of the sides, and dropped the flashlight to the floor. She was going to need both hands for this. Why, she wondered, did they have to make the vent in the middle of the ceiling? There wasn't any shelving she could climb down, or even a wall to cling to. Questions later though. She tried to straighten her legs out.

They didn't move.

Again she tried, and this time realized that one foot was caught on the other. The other foot was caught on something in the vent, by the bootstrap. Once again, she found herself complaining about the LEP's poor stylistic choices. Why oh why? And now she was stuck in someone's office, and Julius would probably yell at her, and…

Whose office was she in, anyway?

Holly squinted at the papers scattered across the desk below her. There. A release form. Who was it signed by?

She looked closer, and immediately stiffened.

Active Commander Julius Root.

Not only was she going to die, but she was going to be lightly grilled with lemon juice and served on an engraved silver platter with a side of Iceberg salad and exotic worms. Condronia beetle juice too, if it wasn't to much to ask, and perhaps hashed white nettles for desert. She wondered if she'd look well under glass.

Julius hobbled along after Trouble though the halls until he reached Ops. Luckily, Ops was a doorless open room, full of wires, couches, and random coffee dispensers. Foaly insisted on the best for his minions, and Julius and the Council agreed that he had been the head of a labor union at one point in his life. Either that, or some kind of politician, because he was absolutely ruthless, and nothing they could do would stop him.

Inside, it was very confusing. The techies seemed to be taking things in stride, lighting plenty of candles they'd found somewhere, and a few of them were actually getting cozy on the couches.

Julius tried not to look. He didn't want to be scarred for life. He cleared his throat noisily, and waited to be noticed, but as Foaly had posted specific instructions to harry, harass, and otherwise intimidate the commander at all available opportunities in every single one of his weekly memos, no one looked up at Julius. They knew why he was here.

Right then. On to other tactics. He climbed on a chair, and bellowed a few curse words. Despite Foaly's memo, he got attention. No one used words like that in Ops. Much worse in fact. His attempt was almost laughable. "Where's the pony?"

One favorite of Foaly's, a good young centaur with a slick tail lowered her head again. "Are you referring to his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty?" There was a shocked pause, and then glances among the techies, who suddenly understood the game. "Because if so, you just referred to him in a very disrespectful way, which is punishable by death."

Julius blinked. Had that centaur actually succeeded in brainwashing a large group of allegedly intelligent people? Did they actually think he was worthy of anything other than garbage duty? "He just authorized a lockdown without telling anyone."

"His Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty does what he likes. Why are you questioning him?"

Inside, Julius was howling. This was ridiculous! He knew all too well, however, that he was in Foaly's territory, and dependent on the good-will, however meager of the techies surrounding him. Only with their royal permission, would he get into The Booth. Sadly, this would involve much kissing of hands, feet, and hems of various garments. He relished the thought of none of them, and wished dearly, that it was a crime to have a smart mouth. No— he wished murder were not a crime for a moment. "His much… whatever… royal… Forget it. Foaly's effectively shut down the city's and therefore People's law enforcement. He needs to flip the power switch again."

"It's all up to his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty."

"I want to talk with him!"

The young centaur rose, flicking her tail impertinently at him, and Julius hoped with all his heart that when Foaly was booted out she would not be taking his place. She was so like Foaly, and if he hadn't known better, he would have sworn Foaly had probably trained her in Julius-antagonizing. "I will speak to his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty on your behalf, and see what he has to say."

She clopped importantly across the room to The Booth, and bowed low, elegantly, and with much to much flare for Julius's taste. Actually he hated the whole bow thing. He hoped Foaly wouldn't make him do it to enter. "Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty, please grant your humble and undeserving servant permission to enter your glorified presence so that I might speak to you on behalf of a brainless nitwit, come to plague you for ridiculous favors."

"Certainly, oh Favored One." Foaly was enjoying this whole thing immensely, and Julius could tell immediately. With a hiss, The Booth opened to admit her.

The Booth remained silent for a few minutes. Then, with much majestic and imposing creaking, the doors swung open, and Foaly could be seen lounging in his hover chair, being hand-fed carrots and fanned by various attendants who had been in The Booth with him at the time of lockdown, as well as that one particular centaur. "Enter."

Trouble coughed heavily for several minutes, and had to wipe his eyes before stepping forward to be smacked until he bowed.

"Foaly!" Julius roared, and ran forward.

To his surprise, the techies were actually very fit and accomplished people. They caught him, stopped him, and restrained him. Most people could not do this. "You will refer to his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty as his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty!" He was smacked several times over the head with legal pads.

"But I can't remember that!"

On his hover chair, Foaly stretched luxuriously, and made a mental note to give everyone a liberal bonus for this display. Especially that girl with the cute tail.

Julius got into a spat with several of his mock guards, and while they fought, Foaly wondered if he should make them lock Julius in a cubicle with a stack of math problems and refuse to let him out until they were finished. That would fall under the category of torture and cruelty though, he was certain, and he decided to veto it, despite the obvious attraction of the idea.

Finally, he pushed himself upright, and shouted: "Speak, imbecile!"

"Return the power!" howled Julius right back, all too happy to make himself heard.

"After his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty sees his masseuse." Foaly shut his eyes.

"Now, pony-boy, or I'll cut all funding!"

With a dramatic sigh, Foaly reached towards one of his panels. He was seriously reconsidering the math thing. "Out of the kindness of his heart, his Much-Esteemed-and-Exalted-Exceptionally-Benevolent-Worshipful-All-powerful-Forever-reigning-Majesty will grant your imprudent request, ungrateful wretch."

The lights came back on, and for the good of everyone, Julius was forced to leave The Booth and Ops by an escort of no less than eleven techies and computer nerds.

They were afraid of violence.

After this, things might have eventually cooled off, except for one small thing. Julius, whose blood was practically evaporating, he was so angry, fled back down the hall to his cubical.

Needless to say, everyone wanted to know what had happened, and was crowding around the stupid door. Julius pushed and shoved his way through them, snarling threats, and promising sudden, immediate, and even instant death if they didn't move.

Very wisely these people got out of the way.

When Julius opened the door, the first thing he saw was the face of Captain Holly Short, dangling a few inches above the top of his head, swaying back and forth softly. The second thing he saw was the gun she was holding that was pointed at his head.

Holly, in an effort to escape the room before he returned, had been in the process of trying to cut a hole in the ceiling. Naturally, when Julius had opened the door, she'd given her attention to that general area, and of course forgotten to point the gun elsewhere.

The last thing he saw was her finger on the trigger.

After that, he didn't know what happened, or what he saw, and he didn't care, because he had a heart attack. Really. Actually. He did.

Definitely not on the-top-five-best-way's-to-greet-your-Commander list.

Cute? Maybe that centaur with the cute tail was a little suggestive of possible /Foaly, but personally I think he's too eccentric for a romance. Too many quirks. No sensible woman would put up with that for long. And without the quirks, he's just not Foaly. He strikes me more as the lovable, slightly ridiculous, and at times childish bachelor, prone to get in trouble because of his mischievous little mind, but clever enough to escape most of the punishment, if not the blame. (sorry about the character rant. I got carried away).

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