Disclaimer: Artemis Fowl, etc. is the property of Eoin Colfer, not me.
Acknowledgements: Eternal gratitude to Gus, as usual, for betaing. Thanks also go to Blue Yeti for help with the original idea. Oh, and thank you to all the Crimmers and Orioners who I've gone on and on about the "consituaboomber" to.
Additional Note: This is over 9000 words long; it's in 25 sections, and there are no chapter divisions. If you don't think that you're up to reading that in one go (or you don't have time), then by all means read a bit and come back. It was really not an attempt to be pretentious. My beta and I really couldn't find anywhere to break it up without ruining the flow.
Apologies for any typos; let me know if you find any.
Also: I was not joking in my summary.
To a penguin, who in the end found more energy in this than I could—and who makes a fine dictator.
I care not whether I die tomorrow or next year,
as long as my deeds live after me
He hated the bomber jacket. It was so puffy and awkward, and it really did not suit him. He poked at it with agitation from the moment he sat in the car. He knew what he was doing, of course; taking his mind off of the task ahead by focussing on a triviality was a common occurrence. But recognising it and stopping it were two completely different things.
The world flashed by out the window. Well, not flashed exactly: Butler was driving slower than usual. It would have been frustrating, had it not been so understandable. Artemis doubted whether he would have driven the car at all, had their positions been reversed. Perhaps that was why Butler was the bodyguard, and he was the protected.
Or maybe it was the look in his eye; maybe he saw that glint of certainly and understood the jacket. Artemis couldn't imagine not understanding the jacket.
Artemis caught sight of a man holding a rose, and an assortment of other gifts almost certainly designed to woo some gold digging beauty. He despised roses – he despised Valentines Day. The thought made him sigh. Today was a very good day to hate. Today, he could hate roses, and jackets, and slow driving, and rush hour, and the annoyingly blue sky above; he could even hate himself… It didn't matter. Actually, it would make it easier.
You would think that the formality of a waiting room would be skipped when you are the only patient. Perhaps they viewed the feeling of impending doom as part of the experience. And if impending doom was what they were aiming for, then they had pulled it off magnificently.
The walls were beige with specks of gold spread in such complex and subtle ways that they created the illusion of being random. Artemis spotted the pattern almost immediately.
The carpet was dark blue, but still light enough to display Butler's massive shadow, for he did not sit. Artemis though that a wise move; the chairs that encircled the room were oak, and silvery, satin cloth covered the backs of the seats, but they were still incredibly uncomfortable. Not in a way that was easy to pinpoint – almost as if it had been their purpose. The only gaps in the seats were for the window of the receptionist's booth, which stabbed into the room abruptly, and for two beige doors with ridiculously big black handles. Luckily the receptionist was on a break.
Despite its frankly wasteful size, the room was only lit by only one light; it seemed to compensate for its solitude with its brightness. A water cooler stood, plump, bright, and out of place, as the centrepiece.
It was a classic example of an expensively ruined space, Artemis thought. All money and no class. His last pennies were contributing to this atrocity.
"I could have done far better with half the budget," he muttered.
Butler, who stood at his side, looked down for a moment. "What was that, Mr Fowl?"
"Nothing, Domovoi," Artemis said quietly.
"Okay, then," he replied, placing his hand gently on Artemis' left shoulder.
Artemis didn't flinch away.
"Could you switch the radio on please, Domovoi?
Butler grunted, surprised. Artemis never listened to the radio. But he obliged.
Their ears were met by a reporter, out in the field, talking to someone 'back in the studio.' He was one of those unlucky junior reporters – the kind, which had to go and report on events, which really didn't need a reporter. And so he had absolutely nothing to say. He was clearly struggling, and therefore going into minute detail.
"Yes, Berlioz is scheduled be arriving here to meet the home secretary in approximately thirty-seven minutes. He'll be in a black BMW, a fine vehicle. Crowds of expectant fans have turned out today to see this great Brit in person. Did you know this is the first photo opportunity since his knighthood nearly a year ago? But as we all know, he's done some absolutely fantastic work in the Middle East…"
Artemis knew exactly what Berlioz had really been doing in the Middle East; and 'fantastic' was not the word he would have chosen to describe it – unless of course, the control of oil fields was what the reporter meant. As long as a few well-placed BBC cameramen saw him rebuilding a mosque, he'd have public support, and the government would get the financial backing to win another term in office.
"…Some of his associates have already arrived here. His plane reportedly touched down just over an hour ago…"
"Switch it off," Artemis ordered.
The reporter's annoying voice went dead.
Berlioz was a few minutes ahead of them.
The door opened and a nurse poked her head in. She looked around the waiting room as if it was full. And then, she looked down a clipboard like that was full, too. After she had studied it for a few seconds, Artemis stood up.
"I believe," he said, looking pointedly at the empty chairs one by one, "that you have come for me."
"Master A. Fowl?"
"I think you need to update your records."
"I'm sorry?" she said sweetly. "Is that not your name?"
"No," he answered, picking up his coat.
"Well, what is it then?"
"Oh, I am sorry," she said in a voice that sounded sardonic, rather than apologetic. "If you will kindly follow this way…"
The three of them turned to leave. "Will your associate be accompanying us, then?" said the nurse, noticing that Butler was following.
Artemis halted and turned to Butler, who looked unperturbed by the inquiry, expecting him to dismiss it.
Staring at him, rather than the nurse, he responded: "No, no he will not," he said flatly.
Butler's eyebrows went up immediately. "Artemis—"
"No, Domovoi, I want to do this alone."
"Well, I don't want you to."
"I do not think it is your place—"
"Of course it's my place," Butler fired back.
Artemis turned around to face the nurse, who appeared to be rather enjoying the exchange. "Could you excuse us for a moment, please?"
She nodded. "I'll wait just inside here for you, sir," she said and went into the corridor where she would undoubtedly eavesdrop.
"Despite the extenuating circumstances, I would still appreciate it if you did not bicker with me in public."
"It is my job to protect you," he said flatly.
"What exactly is there for you to protect me from? I'm going a few metres down the corridor to see my general practitioner."
"There are always threats, Artemis."
"Oh, do not insult me, Domovoi, this has nothing to do with personal protection."
Butler shrugged. "Suppose you were right…?"
"I have a right to privacy from my employees."
"You are nineteen years old, Artemis. No one of that age – no matter how intelligent – should go through something like this alone. I'm your family, like it or not."
Artemis paused. "I would not have allowed my Mother or Father to join me. I'm sorry, friend, but I want to go in on my own."
"If you're sure." Butler sat down, defeated.
Artemis left with the nurse.
As the central London traffic brought the car to a stop, Artemis realised that he was within a mile of Putney. Clearly Butler had also, because he turned his head. He was going to have one last go at trying to persuade him. Artemis had been waiting for this.
"Can I turn this car around and go back to the hotel please, Artemis?"
Artemis chuckled as sardonically as he could.
"Really. Artemis, look, we could turn around – go home with a clean conscience, with no blood on our hands. This could be a holiday rather than a mass murder."
"I have a job to do… a legacy to create. I will not leave this man alive."
"For God's sake, Artemis he's a public hero!"
"Only because it is politically sound for him to be one. Only because he and his coalition of villains happen to bankroll a political party who happen to have a lot of power."
"So, you take it upon yourself to kill hundreds of people and yourself."
"Yes, I do take it upon myself." He paused. "There's a quote by Edmund Burke; it's famous. Do you know it?"
"Then have him assassinated? How many times have we been through this? I need to kill all of them – otherwise the next will simply ascend to the throne."
"Remote detonation?" Butler suggested.
Artemis had wondered when this would come up: it was the obvious solution. "The chances of detection are significantly increased."
Butler coughed loudly, trying to imply that between them that risk could be easily neutralised.
"As we have discussed on numerous occasions, Domovoi, this operation will undoubtedly cause the deaths of innocent people... I think it would be wrong for me to escape the fate I am requiring of them."
To his surprise, Butler didn't fire anything back at this. A moment later, though, he leant around his seat, in order to make eye contact. "You do know, Artemis, that 'Good Men' don't generally blow up children."
Artemis frowned at the simplicity. "The traffic is moving, Domovoi."
A nurse led Artemis down the corridor away from the waiting room. It was quite narrow despite the size of the building; it had a dark blue carpet with a repeating pattern of black diamonds, and wooden doors – all identical – at regular intervals on both sides leading into offices.
She was the stereotypical annoying kind of nurse: blonde and young, pretty, and most annoyingly of all, smiley. Artemis wouldn't have trusted such a beast with his laundry – much less his health care. But then, expensive and pompous doctors like their perks, and they usually came in the form of supplementary staff.
Artemis scowled at her. She did her job and smiled dimly back.
"Stop smiling," Artemis said curtly.
Her grin vanished like a whore's rejected outfit. "As you wish, sir," she said, and sped up towards the doctor's office.
She knocked once. "Will that be all, sir?" The smile returned, as if by default.
"Is it not possible for you to go one minute without forcing a highly paying customer such as myself to endure that vile smirk of yours?" Artemis snarled. "Yes, be gone with you, before your teeth blind me."
She scurried off, blushing.
"Do you not know why I am here?" he muttered audibly.
The door, like all the others, was dark brown, and bare except for a small, golden number eleven, pressed up at the top. It was plain, and stripped to the bone, and dull, et cetera. And yet… it was remarkably unique; the number made it so. No other door in the building had those digits in that order, and no other door held the same contents or fate.
Artemis feared the door.
The straps dug into the lump excruciatingly. Painkillers did nothing for a tumour of that size, and the doctors knew it, and the deformed cells were spreading like wildfire around his torso from day to day.
The pain would be gone soon, though. Artemis didn't doubt that it made the task easier… Adrenaline. Anger. Agony… Some times he wondered who was talking: Artemis Fowl, one of the finest minds on the planet, or the little cluster of death resting on his upper torso.
Half a mile to the drop off point.
"Mr Fowl," Doctor Harper said almost brightly, but with a hint of caution. His meetings with Artemis Fowl were never straightforward, even on the most routine of occasions. "Have a seat."
"I intend to," Artemis replied, already taking one. "You may sit, too, if you wish."
Harper no longer engaged in Artemis' ritual power struggle. Instead, he antagonised Artemis by looking through his notes in a particularly innocent and pedantic way.
He cleared his throat. And then he cleared it again. And, after he had done that, he took off his jacket and placed it on the back of his seat "Mr Fowl—"
"You are sorry," Artemis interjected.
"You are sorry," Artemis repeated flatly. "You are sorry, but you have to tell me that I have cancer."
For the first time, Harper made eye contact with Artemis. He was wearing spectacles – the big bulky kind with perfect circular lenses: the kind which appear to suit absolutely no one. Artemis hadn't noticed them before. He thought that odd. Maybe they were new.
His eyes were wider than usual – sympathetic, even. Artemis didn't want sympathy, though; sympathy was unnerving. He wanted answers… straight answers.
"I have stage-one cancer, correct?" Artemis demanded.
He didn't know why he'd come really; he knew he was right. Perhaps there was a peaceful formality to being told by a professional.
Artemis studied his face, nonetheless. His eyebrows lowered a little – having previously been raised in a startled manner after Artemis' self-diagnosis. He looked like a man who had been let off the proverbial hook and then shoved unceremoniously back on a few seconds later. His lips were narrower than before. The remorse that had momentarily disappeared had returned. It frightened Artemis.
"Correct?" Artemis asked again, still only slightly less certain, for, after all, he was certain; he had done the tests himself.
Harper sighed sadly. "No, Mr Fowl, I am afraid you are incorrect."
Artemis was perplexed. He didn't know whether to be intrigued, or doubtful, or annoyed. The horrifying thing about what Harper had said was 'afraid' – his doctor was 'afraid' that he didn't have stage one cancer. "I think you must be mistaken. I have completed my tests independently. And my results are conclusive."
"We are not mistaken, Mr Fowl. We have done numerous examinations and scans." His voice was terrifyingly regretful.
"So have I!"
"With all due respect, sir, whilst you are clearly a young man with a great deal of intelligence, we are far more qualified in these issues."
"But if it is not cancer, what is it? What else could it be?"
Harper bowed his head. When he spoke, it was with the gravest voice Artemis had ever heard him use; it was at the volume of a whisper, but somehow it wasn't one. "It is cancer, Mr Fowl."
Artemis knew instantly what he meant, and his stomach lurched as if a greasy hamburger was dissolving into the acids. His hands, quivering like ice cubes, were not much use in steadying it.
"How long do I have to live?"
"Well, you appear to be in the latter stages… if we had detected it sooner…"
Artemis knew the rough translation of 'latter stages,' but he needed to know exactly. "How long, Doctor?"
"The cells are spreading incredibly fast at this stage… I'm not sure. We'll have to do some more tests---"
"HOW LONG?" Artemis roared, getting to his feet, still clutching his stomach.
There was a pause, and Artemis sat down again, because his legs were shaking violently.
Harper swung his chair round, swapping Artemis eyes for his window. Artemis stared intently at the back of his chair. Later, it occurred to him that it was odd; the doctor would have done this countless times, and yet he couldn't bear to look at him.
"Six months, at the most."
Artemis threw up.
"Is there anything you need me to do?" Butler asked.
"Are, for example, all your affairs in order?"
"Butler, you have known me long enough for that question not to require an answer."
"Yeah," he conceded, "I have."
As they approached the entrance to the car park, Butler's driving speed slowed to a snail's pace. Artemis laughed with hard – almost manic – assurance that made Butler's now ghostly skin lose its last traces of colour. "Oh, Domovoi you love me so."
The bodyguard stopped the car in the middle of the road, and peered around the seat again. "Yes, yes I suppose I do."
"I love me too," Artemis said flippantly.
Butler didn't laugh or even smile, but his grunt was soft as if he had caught the meaning. A car blurted its horn at them, and so he drove into the car park, not wanting to attract any more attention today.
Harper stood in the corner, as the nurse cleaned up. He looked disgusted, but not angry at the state of his desk. And there was certainly no malice towards Artemis.
"Will you be okay, sir?" asked the nurse.
"I will be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Artemis replied more sharply.
The nurse nodded. She wasn't smiling anymore.
"I would appreciate it," Artemis said to both the nurse and Doctor Harper, "if you did not inform my associate – or anyone else, for that matter – about this… incident."
The nurse glanced at the doctor, whose grimace did not stir. "Of course we won't," she said assuredly. "Patient confidentiality."
"Just checking." Artemis turned to leave, he paused when his hand was on the door handle. "Doctor Harper…"
The doctor looked up. "Yes?"
"How long have you had your glasses?"
Harper stared blankly at the irrelevance of the question.
Artemis just blinked.
Eventually, the nurse broke the silence. "The doctor has had that pair for three years or so now," she said. "He refuses to change them. He says they're his lucky pair or something. Disgusting, as far as I'm concerned. Haven't you seen them before?"
Artemis shook his head.
"Why?" Doctor Harper grunted, before he could leave.
"Just wondering," he replied and left the room.
A wall of summer's heat hit Artemis, as he opened the car door and got out. It wasn't made unbearable by its sharpness, but by its consistency. Artemis found himself expecting a cool breeze to rush over his forehead and clear the sweat, but it never came.
"Tell Juliet that I love her," Artemis instructed.
"But more importantly, tell her that you love her."
Butler nodded again.
"And if it helps, let her hate me. I do not mind being hated. In fact, I will be hated across the country in not too long."
Butler raised his eyebrows, so that his frown became more confused; he was probably uncertain as to how or why he was supposed 'let' Juliet hate him. Artemis wasn't concerned; he'd work it out eventually.
"Get back in the car," Butler tried with guile and imitated nonchalance.
"Goodbye, Domovoi," Artemis replied. "It has been a pleasure." He shut the door and walked out of the car park.
Butler would stay there for five minutes, and then drive the opposite direction down the road.
Artemis sighed. All thoughts of Juliet and Butler could be put away now… filed for examination in some holier place of greater influence. For now, he had only himself and his task. There was only a river between them.
Putney Bridge loomed in front of him.
For once, Butler appeared unsure as to whether the paternal or the bodyguard reaction was appropriate. In fact, he wasn't sure what the textbook reply for either was. And so, he stuttered: "But… But… you never get these kinds of things… You…"
Butler, it seemed, was not very good at stuttering.
"Never get this sort of thing wrong? Yes, I know," he said contemplating the absurdity of being incorrect. "Perhaps," he mused, more to himself than Butler, "something has been interfering with my concentration."
"Or, perhaps, that blasted scanner of yours malfunctioned."
Artemis looked at him sceptically; he had built the scanner himself. But it was true that it hadn't been ideal. He had agonised over whether to import one, but with rent and doctors' bills and such, it just wouldn't have been fair on Juliet and Butler. So, a homemade scanner had been the answer. Artemis' homemade version was probably superior to a lot of commercially the used machines; still, it wasn't ideal.
"Perhaps," Artemis conceded. "It doesn't matter now, anyway."
"That doesn't matter, either. A few months, if it is of any interest."
"What does matter, then?"
"How I spend those days. How I use them. What I accomplish."
"Just a few," Artemis answered plainly.
"Any specifics you want to tell me."
"Revenge will be the underlying theme."
Butler paused. When he began it was even quieter than before. "Artemis…"
"Please, Domovoi. Please do not feed me that nonsense about dying a bitter death," said Artemis. "I plan to go out with a bang, my friend."
Butler frowned at the cliché. Artemis cringed at the pun.
The bridge was long and red and cream. It sloped upwards to a high point, and then down again to the other side.
Four lanes of London Traffic crawled along practically in gridlock: two in each direction was fine for about twenty-two hours of the day; and the pavements, carrying light-hearted pedestrians in or out of the city centre, seemed unnecessarily wide for twenty-two hours of the day. But come rush hour it was an entirely different matter.
The path was claustrophobic; his shoulders met a melee of suited bones rushing across the opposite way from him towards the bus stop, or just to the café on the high street for a cup of hot coffee.
He couldn't help but fear for anyone going on the same direction as him. Their day could conceivably go very wrong.
Over the other side of the bridge, sown at river level by the banks, and about fifty metres leftwards from where the bridge ended up, was a gathering crowd. That was where he was going. That was where the object on his waste was going.
The broken paint gave a cheap feel to the side of the bridge. And the repeating, patterned holes added very little sophistication to the childish red and bland cream colours. Artemis mused that he was both like and unlike the aesthetics of his setting: he was not bland or childish or cheap, and yet – like the bridge – he provide a grim, unglamorous service to humanity. Unlike Artemis, the bridge suited itself.
Artemis stopped for a moment to catch his breath; the bomb may not have been very heavy, but it combined with the stifling heat and the ridiculously heavy winter jacket. Artemis already longed for the artificial breeze inside the Peugeot. He leant over the side of the bridge. In the distance he could see the Millennium Wheel and a few less famous London sites.
The Thames itself was littered with bridges like the one he was standing on: the next one up was for trains, but the one after that was another footbridge.
Despite the lack of wind, the Thames chopped mercilessly against itself, producing wave after wave in a continuous cycle: each chop would produce a new wave, which, in turn, would chop into another. It was pointless and repetitious, yet somehow mesmerising… inviting, even.
It occurred to him that he could end it there. There would be no glory, of course – he would be one of hundreds to jump. And his nemesis would live on to wreck more lives. But then, there would be no blood bath, no deaths, no screaming children; he could be at peace. The cancer would be gone… replaced with an eternity of chopping and bulging and riding the waves on the Thames.
Despite the table being round, Artemis still had the distinct impression that he was seated at the head of it.
"What are you going to do to him?" Juliet asked. Butler had told her of Artemis' plan of revenge just moment after they had returned from the clinic.
"In a sense," Artemis replied, looking casually about as if there might be something interesting floating in mid air, "this is going to be one of my least complex plans. I am going to kill him."
"And how will that help?" she spat back.
Artemis wasn't surprised by the familiarity. Whilst it was still true that Artemis handled the bringing in of money, Juliet the more menial work, and Butler the personal protection, the air of authority had faded after they left the Manor, and had all but vanished, in their new domestic setting. Juliet probably now fell somewhere between ignorant, older sister and nagging Mother in relation to Artemis. "Besides ridding the world of a villainous, cruel man, who bleeds people dry?"
Juliet nodded. "Enlighten us."
"It will make me feel better." He shrugged.
"Artemis, if it's peace you want---"
"No," Artemis said more impatiently, "it is not peace that I want. I want vengeance."
"Where are we, Domovoi," Artemis interjected loudly, silencing Juliet like an irritating and thoroughly predictable radio.
"Pardon?" Butler replied.
"Where are we, Domovoi?"
Butler stared at Artemis, bemused, and probably wondering if cancer could really affect the memory.
"No, Domovoi, I am not mad," said Artemis. "And, no, despite a few poignant lapses in concentration, I am fully aware of our location. However, I would like to hear you say it."
Butler looked to Juliet, and, finding no answers, back to Artemis. "We are in a flat in South-East Dublin."
"And why, my friend, are we in this particular flat."
"Because we live here," Butler replied flatly, with a trace of scepticism about where this was going.
"And why do we reside here?" Artemis pressed on.
"Because it was the place you deemed most 'suitable' that our collective budget could afford."
Artemis looked around the apartment. To be fair, it was quite nice. Laminate flooring covered everywhere except for the living room, which was portioned off from the kitchen (where they were sitting) by a clean, white archway. The other side of the living room, there were two doors that led into Artemis' and Juliet's respective bedrooms. Butler slept on the sofa.
Viewable through the kitchen window were Dublin's appropriately grey streets, illuminated, in tiny patches by slightly lighter, softening cloud. Cars busied themselves, bustling for the best position at the traffic lights: insects with genetically built-in aims and purposes… or GPS… one of the two.
Artemis enjoyed looking down on them from time to time – it was one of the few advantages to being near the top of a tall block of flats. He would fantasise about a time not too long ago when he could have momentously affected their lives; about how he could have changed the direction of one of those cars: but this was a different time.
Still, it was a nice flat. But a flat it was, nonetheless. Rich, powerful families – like Fowls – lived in Manors; single mothers of two and whores lived in flats.
Artemis returned to the admittedly pointless exercise of quizzing Butler. "And why exactly did we leave our prior residence, Fowl Manor?"
Butler coughed nervously, and looked to Juliet once again. Artemis leaned forward as if casually quizzical.
"It was repossessed."
"Now, remind me," Artemis said, aware that his voice was developing a smug, cruel tint to it, and that neither Juliet nor Butler were particularly enjoying the conversation, "for what reason was it repossessed?"
"Because your father was framed and imprisoned for fraud by a competitor." He spoke quickly, as if hoping the words would hurt a little less if each was followed by the next without enough pause for them to carry a punch. The result, unfortunately, was that all the boom of his voice landed on the word 'competitor.'
"What of my mother? It occurs to me now that she is not present." Artemis voice quietened now, and he toyed with Butler, hoping that turning it into a game might make it more bearable. "Only, I cannot remember where she is. I suppose it must be the illness."
"Do not speak his name!"
"…The competitor had her sectioned. The ordeal had an adverse effect on her mental health, and he took advantage."
Juliet clearly decided that enough was enough. "Do you have to persist with this? Do you not think that it is hard for all of us? Do you not think it was difficult for us to watch you suffer? I gave up my dreams for you! I gave up my dreams to take care of a helpless teenage boy!"
"You were vulnerable and ill, Artemis."
"Nonsense. Allow me to finish. Now, answer me, Domovoi, what happened to my Mother in the institute?"
Butler appeared to have decided to play this out. "She hung herself."
Artemis didn't flinch, and ignored Juliet. "Out of interest," he went on, "did this competitor happen to be involved in the slave trade, exploiting the poor, torture, and the brutal disposing of anyone who displeases him?"
"And on a more personal level, had this man not sent a ruthless, private army to take the manor from us, who decided to ransack the place, destroying or removing all of our worldly possessions?
Again, his liege bowed his head.
"And what about Haven?"
"In deeper hiding."
"That is correct. And we all know why."
Butler nodded. The fairies had been partially exposed by Berlioz. He hadn't translated the whole book, but he had created other pseudonyms to tell the world of what he had discovered about them: he would have been a laughing stock if he had talked about them openly.
However, the limited publicity had been enough to force them into a state of emergency. The policy was clear: for twenty years, no one from the underground was to have non-essential contact with Mud Men. Artemis received a courtesy email from Foaly, because Holly was being watched too closely. Illegal contact with Mud Men carried a seventy-five year prison sentence.
"One last question, Domovoi: in your opinion, does he deserve to die?"
"We are not here to play God," Butler said as impassively as ever.
"Yes or no?" Artemis demanded. Wanders
Butler sighed, almost admitting defeat. Artemis knew that he would have made a good barrister.
Artemis turned his attention to Juliet, with whom he had been avoiding eye contact.
"And so he shall."
But the temptation to end it all faded with every passing second. A gust of wind blew across his face, as if cooling an overheated autopilot machine.
Besides, now that he thought about it, drowning didn't seem so pleasant after all: squirming for life as water filled his lungs slowly; screaming for help, only to be silenced by his killer; forgetting why he was there, as his vital organs imploded with a tiny pop… And then… nothing.
Perhaps a young girl would point out a bundle of clothes drifting on the river: her father would make up a story, but really, he would contemplate sadly another dead outcast. Then he would probably forget about it and buy his kid an ice-cream.
And all the time Berlioz would stand on the riverbank, cooled by some electric fan, grinning at his fans but smirking at his fools.
He had a job to do, and he would do it. It would have been a waste to end his life drowning at the bottom of a polluted river. Better to die in shame or glory than neither.
That wouldn't do at all; drowning was cowardice.
He walked at a brisker pace, now, retaining the strange looks at his inappropriate attire. He could feel the adrenaline was pumping around his body; he could feel it reacting with the righteous anger. He knew he could do it now. He knew he would do it all. He wanted to… He was a martyr in waiting.
Butler eyed Artemis suspiciously as he collected the small, brown package. Of course, Artemis had wanted to make his own, but the cost of the components had turned out greater than the whole.
The post office was packed and the smell of evaporated, summers sweat lingered like dust. A see of white and dark brown littered every proud, Irish hand; it was impossible to distinguish who was sending, and who was receiving.
Voices chatted incessantly and enthusiastically by the entrance to the post office, but the respective bodies didn't move. Instead they blocked the way, as if the idea that anyone might actually want to leave the post office was so far-fetched that it didn't bare thinking about. Artemis did not like small talk. The equation was one of the most disgusting around: the least amount of useful information conveyed, divided by the highest number of words.
"Excuse me!" Butler called and pushed his way through.
Artemis scowled at the impossibly small gaps in the crowd that he was supposed to fit through.
"Where's my red carpet?" he muttered.
The smog of polluted, Dublin air met him once he had forced his way through the doors, and instantly made his hatred of the incommodious post-office soften just a little. Dublin, like Ireland…used to be so green and pleasant. Now, it was a tribute to capitalism.
Capitalism, Artemis had always reflected, was not a bad thing, nor a good thing; it was a system of life… like the food chain. But the chain could be cruel, and as Artemis looked around him, he supposed it could be ugly too. Maybe the package he was holding might add a bit of beauty – maybe not, but he could try.
A monument to the legendary warrior Cúchulainn stood outside encased in a glass cabinet. It was bronze, complex and impressive. It twisted magnificently in unpredictable directions. It was there in honour of the violent history of the post office. And the bullets of British soldiers still marked the walls behind it
Artemis stopped to look at the plaque; he had read it many times before, of course, but he wanted to refresh his memory. The second and last paragraphs related to the sculpting and the history of the post office. Artemis was more interested in the middle part.
'The legend relates that when mortally wounded in battle, Cúchulainn tied himself to a pillar, so that he might face his enemies, even in death. Only when a raven perched on his shoulder did they dare approach.'
Artemis clutched the package close to his chest, and walked off with Butler.
The car was parked half a mile away: they walked quickly.
"What is it?" Butler asked, glancing at the parcel.
Artemis stopped in the middle of the pavement and smiled up at his companion. "We are going to London. Can you book the flights? Preferably private. I do not want this going through customs."
"As you wish." He spoke absently, and was clearly more interested in studying the parcel in Artemis' hands. He withdrew it behind his back, and they walked on towards the car.
The flight into London was uneventful. The low altitude gave a fine view of the Irish Sea – then the world turned a darker shade of green.
Thankfully, no one checked their bags at either end. The flights were expensive, though. Too expensive for Juliet's low income and Artemis' modest earning on the stock market. For once, however, she did not object to the extravagance.
She, like the others, appeared to have a deeper sense of foreboding than the one which equated to her bank account.
Artemis was drawn to the flashing lights of the photographers, encircling somethinghungrily. They might die today. Kids held their Mothers' hands; they might die today, too. Patriotic Brits waved their union jacks. The flags and their owners might burn in some great fire.
He stepped off the bridge, and took an immediate left down the river. He tried to walk at an even pace, but rather than the internal conflict balancing, he switched between fast and slow at irregular intervals. He knew he looked like an idiot. But who was watching? Artemis was a nobody. A geeky teenage boy.
Upon reaching the crowds, Artemis immersed himself in it, seeking cover in the pile of human bodies. He didn't want to be seen by any of the great-man's private protection team. They had raided his house not long ago. It was unlikely that they would remember, though. They ruined lives on a daily basis. But it was better to be safe.
Artemis pushed his way through towards the metal grating behind which his target stood.
Artemis felt a little uncomfortable. The recycled air was slightly stale, and he could not shake the feeling that his suit did not match the shabby, hired Peugeot 206. The air conditioning whirred on and on and on like a broken hairdryer.
"Do you know the way to the hotel, Domovoi?"
"Of course. I planned the route on the flight over."
Artemis nodded, despite the fact Butler had his eyes on the road. He really didn't know why he had bothered to ask.
"How long will we be here?" Juliet asked from the passenger seat next to Butler.
"Then, Juliet, I shall leave you." He could picture Juliet's expression of annoyance without seeing it.
"To do what?"
"A few months ago, I spoke of revenge, Juliet. That is why we have come to London."
"You've brought us to London so that you can assassinate a public figure!"
"In a manner of speaking… yes."
The exclamation in Juliet's voice had clearly been synthetic, because she took no time to digest this, and fired the next question at Artemis: "How?"
Artemis sighed inwardly. It had been hard for him to decide which he feared more – the action or telling Juliet of it. Her reaction was, of course, easy to predict, but perhaps difficult to stop. She had maternal feelings towards him whether he like it or not; and if most eighteen year old boys worried about confessing trivial things like their sexuality or a tattoo or their use of drugs to their Mother… this was in a vastly different league. But he had to tell him – he owed her the truth, even if t would make her hate him.
"I shall kill him myself. Unfortunately, it will be messy. Many may die. And I shall have to be among them."
He closed his eyes, and tried to ignore the expected wails, and shouts, and punches of anguish. It was not a problem. Juliet could scream all she wanted; she was irrelevant. Loved, of course, but irrelevant, all the same.
Artemis listened far more carefully for Butler' s voice; he didn't hear it. Butler just silently drove the car – and that was all Artemis needed.
Two days of resilience was all that was necessary.
He hoped that Butler had booked separate rooms.
The long, white, horsehair glistened in the sunlight; only a man with such a sour complexion could pull it off as if deliberately. He talked quietly to sadly appreciative reporters, who asked awestruck questions, and licked up the answers like dehydrated cats.
Every so often – at the requisition of a coalition of photographers – he would shake hands with the man standing next to him; a flash of blue fireworks would erupt at head height.
The plump Home Secretary seemed far inferior in comparison, and from the pained, all too wide grin on his face, it appeared that he was aware of this. There was no doubt as to whom the reporters were more interested in. The exciting entrepreneur would grab far more headlines than the average politician. He needed rather than cared for the man towering over him.
And the feeling was mirrored in a more sardonic form. Frederic Berlioz soaked up the attention, and basked in the sun.
Juliet glared at Artemis with contempt. Artemis knew that he was not a typical terrorist, but he was a terrorist, nonetheless. And that was clearly what she saw. Threats to call the police had been made just a few hours after Artemis' 'big reveal,' but they had seemed somewhat empty.
The silence stung far deeper than her shrieks of disgust or the tumour on his left arm or the prospect of what lay ahead. He was leaving her forever; he was going to die. He guessed he had already died a little bit: after all, he knew he was going to do it, and so, in a way, he was dead. And yet, she would not speak to him.
"Juliet, do you not think that they deserve to die?" he asked coldly.
She opened her mouth to speak, but then shut it again.
"Juliet, they are murderers… torturers; they look to exploit innocent people; they put children to work for nothing."
"Do you think I give a shit aboutthe victims!" she burst out, her voice croaky from twenty four-hours of shouting.
Artemis couldn't help but sigh. When it came to death, Juliet was so abstract and illogical. To mind like Artemis', death was the next great adventure. "I am two months from my death bed. I grow weaker daily. Have you not seen the colour of my skin?" He offered an arm; it had once been pale; it was now clean white.
"But it's still two months! You owe us those two months. We are your family. You chose us as your family, and we took you in. You can't disregard us now."
"These men have to die," said Artemis coldly
"Then have him assassinated. Have him killed. No one's disputing why he should die; I'm disputing why you need to die. Because all I can come up with right now is melodrama. I'll tell you, Artemis, two months of life – your life, especially – is worth far more than petty melodrama."
"You do not understand. He has many associates – they have spent their lives together; if he dies, one of them will merely ascend to the throne. This is my chance to get them together, posing for photographs. I will never have this chance again, Juliet – to wipe out the entire organisation in one go." He paused. "And, yes, perhaps a martyr will do some good: perhaps it will wake people up."
Juliet let out a high pitch squeal of helplessness and her legs collapsed. She shrunk downwards into the corner of the hotel room, where she sat, weeping.
Artemis smirked down at her. He had broken her; he had won. The obstacle had been removed – she would bother him no longer. She was one of the last obstacles; certainly, the last emotional barrier. It was almost time.
Juliet looked truly repulsed by the grin, and she had to take a few deep breaths before she could whimper, "What's wrong with you Artemis?"
"Goodbye, Juliet, my love," he murmured as he stepped past her
Butler was in the car outside the foyer, waiting for him – Juliet would probably never forgive him for driving.
As he crunched the metallic door handle downward, Juliet's voice called up from the floor: "Arty?"
Artemis knew instantly exactly the connection she was trying to make. He turned around to face her, and studied her complexion. At this, her eyes went momentarily bright and hopeful, and her face regained a little colour, which, in truth, made Artemis feel a twinge of pride; she was cunning girl. But, still, not nearly as cunning as Artemis Fowl.
"You are not my Mother," he said airily.
There was no need to move any closer; Berlioz was easily inside the blast range, but Artemis had to resist the desire to push through the barricade of police officers and walk up to him.
It occurred to Artemis that he was actually very hot. The black surface of the jacket absorbed more heat than he cared for. Sweat stained his forehead, and industrial strength anti-perspirant would not have stopped the melting sensation in his armpit. It occurred to him that things were not likely to get much cooler in the imminent future.
He slipped his hand inside his right pocket, and felt for the switch, but he was careful not to nudge it too hard. Maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing. He left his hand on it, ready.
The bomb had been easy to acquire; he had done his research and found a quiet dealer with quality products. Quiet, by the standards of a weapons dealer, is very quiet. The fact that they sold most of their stock to Islamic freedom fighters bothered him only momentarily.
They had no names; he had no names. They had his money; he had their bomb. There would be no amateur errors caused by homemade bombs. It was going to be simple.
Butler glanced impassively through the mirror, as Artemis attached the bomb to his stomach. It was small, surprisingly light, and unthreatening. The chemical inside would produce something quite the opposite.
"Putney Bridge," Artemis said. His bodyguard did not respond, and Artemis was not surprised. It was perverse, but Artemis felt more guilt for making Butler drive him, than at the thought of innocent people who would undoubtedly get caught in the fiery blast – they would die to help the lives of many more like them. But Butler's relationship with Juliet would be ruined forever; and that was far more personal guilt.
In truth, Butler had not needed much persuasion. He refused at first, of course. Assisting the principal in blowing himself up was probably second from bottom on Madame Ko's list of Things a Bodyguard Should Do. Luckily for Artemis, Butler had almost certainly done the only thing below it…
Artemis genuinely could not remember what he had been planning to say. "Nothing."
He had struggled with all his might to shake the mental image of Juliet lashing desperately into her brother's face after he had agreed to drive. Butler had stood motionless, taking every punch, silently understanding the righteous anger. It had hurt Artemis far more than Juliet's half-hearted slaps to his own face.
Still, Butler was Artemis' friend, and friends help each other find peace, and happiness, and purpose. And that was all that Artemis was searching for.
Also, although he knew Butler would never admit it, Artemis rather suspected that he understood the strategy behind the attack: an entire organisation wiped out in one swift move. He argued along with Juliet, but with less venom and far less scathing towards the plan: Artemis thought he saw a twinkle of silent agreement in Butler's eye as he had lectured the pair of them on the value of utilitarianism.
That, combined with the knowledge that Artemis would get to Putney by some other means of transport, anyway, meant that Artemis had his driver – if only a little grimmer than usual.
Artemis zipped up the bomber jacket. He hated the bomber jacket.
Mutterings in awe of Berlioz greatness surrounded Artemis. He was a popular man – there was no doubting that. The British government painted him as a generous, family man, helping the country to grow stronger. And so that's what the public saw: a wonderful entrepreneur, who happened to make well-timed donations to all the high profile charities. His knighthood was met with universal applause, and he had turned himself into a celebrity. Any statements made against his character were treated as ludicrous.
It was difficult for Artemis to admit, but he had a begrudging respect for what Berlioz was able to get away with. If anyone of his flag-waving fans had found out about his corruption and cruelty, then the government would have been voted out, and he bankrupted. But money can cover up secrets; it was even vaguely rumoured that Berlioz was considered so important to the British economy that rumours on the underground speculated that even MI5 had been used to cover up his fraudulent activities and breaches of human rights.
Artemis' blood boiled every time he saw his picture on the news.
It was time for him to die.
He pressed against the switch lightly, then harder; it moved a little, but – clearly – not enough. Artemis kept adding force, not knowing when the moment would come, more force, a little more than that…
… A final jab…
He stood on the steps of Fowl manor and watched as the police car drove his proud father away. Although the gravity of the situation should have outweighed such things, Artemis couldn't help but notice the silver shackles attached to his father's wrists.
Artemis Fowl the First, a great businessman, an entrepreneur, a distinguished member of the great line of Fowls… his father was wearing handcuffs.
Artemis stood over his mother's body; the tears lashed against his cheeks.
She had always been so strong – even in her most insane moments, as she had been screaming the house down, there had always been a certain strength…a will to carry on. Mad? Yes. Delusional? Yes. Depressed at times? Yes. But suicidal? Never.
And now the rope marks had burnt a jagged line around her neck.
Artemis sat in the centre of his empty room, his legs crossed, and weeping for his parents. It was cold without the familiar humming of his computers and his television screens. His bedroom was more than a base of operations; it was an intricate factor that honed his ideas and helped him formulate his most effective work.
And now it was empty.
The door opened and Butler walked in. He was accompanied by two men in black t-shirts who, together, might have stood a chance against the body-guard. They were almost as big, and their bulging arms looked more muscled than fatty.
Butler smiled apologetically. "It's time to go, now"
Artemis didn't move.
One of the bailiffs smiled sardonically. "It's time to leave now, young lad…one way or another."
Artemis didn't move. "I am not going to move. I suggest you leave my property"
One of the men started forward, but Butler put an arm in front, and went himself. He picked up the teenager, and carried him out of the room. As he held him, he noticed an oddly shaped lump on his left arm.
"I will get him," was all Artemis could mumble through the tears.
Butler put him down outside, but Artemis' protest was at an end.
His bodyguard patted him on the back, as they left their house for the last time. "Yes, yes," he murmured. "Yes, we'll get him later."
It was a quiet sound, in reality. Perhaps it made no noise at all, but Artemis heard it like a lion's last roar.
He instantly reached for the arm of the person standing next to him. He gripped it tight for some kind of comfort. From the smoothness of the skin, he guessed them to be a woman. The person didn't have time to be confused or startled or indignant, and so for a microsecond she clasped it comfortably.
Artemis never saw the person he was holding.
The world burst into fiery orange, engulfing him in its smoke. The flames around him were highlighted with black. Artemis heard and felt nothing… no terrified screams, no blisters of hot pain… Nothing, except the faint crowing of a bird in the distance. He spun round in circles for what felt like minutes just staring the orange and burnt black, wondering apathetically if the explosion had merged with hell. Was he there?
But then gradually the streaks of black in the fire grew larger, eating up the orange, eating up the fire, until eventually it was all black.
And then there was nothing… except the crowing.
It didn't gain any volume. In fact, it perhaps became a little fainter, poignant against the backdrop of nothingness. Artemis listened to it for a while, but soon realised that he was moving again. Not much – he was just rocking from side to side, up a little down a little, then dropped, and caught, and lifted, and dropped, and caught, and… he was wet. Or damp. His back was damp. It wasn't uncomfortable. It was refreshing, almost.
It occurred to Artemis that he might be able to open his eyes, and so he did. He found that he was floating in the middle of a vast lake. There was no reason that it ought to be a lake; he could see no land around him, but somehow it just was. It was too peaceful to be a sea.
Artemis was cool, and above him the sky was white… not overcast or cloudy… as if its colour had always been white. His bomber jacket was gone and had been replaced by light, cream robes. He lay on his back, his head somehow resting and skimming against the surface of the water, dampening his hair slowly.
He felt for the tumour: it wasn't there, dissolved, unused in its deadly purpose. He sighed with relief and tears of joy were about to form and then didn't, as if stopped by a physical law.
It was over.
He bobbed from wave to wave, breaking and forming gently for many hours. This wasn't like The Irish Sea or the Thames; this water was here for its own sake, and Artemis didn't have to move once in order to float – he was carried like the esteemed gentleman he used to be.
And then, as he stared up one moment at the formless white above him, a ghost drifted out towards him, a shape of the mist, bearing a silver sword at its side.
Artemis stared into his eyes hopefully, as the being hovered over him, judging what it saw.
Against the bright camouflage of the sky, it was hard to tell if Cúchulainn was smiling or frowning.
This has been cooking for a long, long while. Actually, it's more accurate to say that it has been cooked for a long while. It just needed the edits and the energy to tweak it and put it up.
I quite like it; however, I'm well aware that there is a possibility the plebes are going to flame me for what I've done to "their" Artemis. That is to be expected. But I ask you to understand that I'm telling a story and in no way mean to support the actions of my characters – I only seek to understand and explain them.
I apologise for the length and I apologise that one or two of the sections are not all that they could be. Section fourteen, in particular, bugs me. But there really is no way to fix it, and I wasn't going to let a fic that I quite like go to waste.
Thanks for reading: reviews of any kind are – as always – very much appreciated. I try to reply to them all, if they are signed.