Disclaimer: I do not own Artemis Fowl…Holly does. Wait, what? This story ships Juliet/Artemis? Why didn't anyone tell me this before I wrote this disclaimer? I wrote this story before writing the disclaimer? And who says that this isn't a comedy? Why am I making a joke of the disclaimer, then?

Tunnels

S-Michael

Artemis had used magic to make Juliet not question the fact that he was three years younger than he should have been. He had felt guilty about it, but it was that or try to convince her that he had been in cryogenic stasis for the years that elapsed while he was lost in time. It had been a tough choice, to lie or use magic, but there had been no third option…unless you count telling her the truth.

No. There had been only two files on the disk he had given to Mulch for a reason. Artemis's fairy life was dangerous and deadly, and he hadn't wanted to expose her to that again. Artemis smiled to himself. She's the bodyguard, and yet I was trying to protect her But now he was dragging her into it again, in a matter of speaking. It wasn't fairies this time, (well, unless you count trolls) but something equally improbable. But it was for a good cause…

I wish Butler were here, Artemis thought wistfully. But of course, Butler was an old man now. Fifty-eight, in spite of the age on his birth certificate. And if he wasn't… Artemis tried to think of something else. He looked at Juliet. She was in the plane seat next to him, supposedly reading a paper (supposedly because she was a bodyguard, after all, and a Butler, no less). She had already been an adult when before Artemis left the world and returned three years late, and now she was even more so. He caught his eyes wandering, and forced himself to return to his book. Damn puberty!

Juliet hid a smile. Supposedly, she was reading a newspaper, but she was aware of everything that went on around her. (An assassination attempt on a plane going from Dublin to Miami was a vanishingly unlikely possibility, but still a possibility.) So, of course, she was aware whenever her employer stole a glance at her. Rather than annoyed, she was amused. So he's finally going through puberty. She had taken time off of the Mexican wrestling circuit in order to do this mission. After all, she was a Butler, and the Butlers were bodyguards. She wondered, though, which she preferred. Wrestling was a lot more glamorous and a lot less fatal, but being a bodyguard was the family calling.

She decided not to think about it. Still, it was hard not to think. She wondered what, exactly, they were going to do in Florida; Artemis, in typical Artemis Fowl the Second fashion, refused to divulge anything. In his own way, which had little to do with fashion and even less to do with his looks, he was very vain. Juliet made a study of him, and decided that, in time, he'd be quite the lady-killer. Smart, rich, and pleasing on the eye: what female wouldn't want him? She managed to think this, quite ironically, without the slightest tang of emotional pull herself. Even if he wasn't however many years younger than she was (her mind gave her two different numbers, somehow), he was still the principal. Principals and bodyguards did not form relationships; after all, one day, the bodyguard would die protecting the principal serving her ultimate purpose.

After landing in Miami, Juliet and Artemis hailed a taxi, and Artemis give the driver an address. If he thought there was something strange about a teenage boy and a woman in her twenties getting off a plane and immediately asking to go to a bar in a bad part of town, the driver didn't say anything about it.

"Normally, I prefer something a little less…dirty, but our friend insisted that he meet us here. Supposedly so that his fiends couldn't find him," Artemis said when they got out of the cab. "It would just make him look more suspicious to me, if I were his friends. I mean, honestly: meeting a contact in a dark, shady underground joint: could you be more cliché?"

Regardless, they walked into the bar, and Juliet was instantly on high alert. Her employer was right: this place was a cliché: poorly lit, people huddling at tables, talking in hushed voices. One would think that there were a dozen conspiracies in Miami, and they were all fermenting in this very bar. Artemis made a beeline to a table in the back.

"Mister Valdez," Artemis said.

"H-h-how do you know?" the man sitting across from him asked.

"This place was such a cliché that I simply went to where you would have been waiting for me if it were a movie," Artemis said. "I am Artemis Fowl the Second."

"You? But—you're a kid," Valdez said.

"I also happen to be a genius," Artemis said.

"No doubt, but still, what possible use could you have for—" he looked around to make sure no one was watching "—you know," he whispered.

"It's for a friend," Artemis said. "Now, then, do you want to get paid or not?"

"Alright," Valdez said. "If you go to St. Augustine—"

Artemis sighed dramatically. "I wish you hadn't of done that, friend."

"Done what?" Valdez said.

"You're already lying to me. I've already checked the St. Augustine angle, and there is nothing there. Your operation there is nothing but a façade to draw the eye away from what is really going on," Artemis said.

"We thought someone was spying on us," Valdez said.

"Yes, it was me. Or rather, one of my agents, to be precise," Artemis said. "And sadly, you've proven to be untrustworthy. Now I'm going to have to require that you take us to it."

"And what if I don't?" Valdez asked.

"You don't get paid," Artemis said.

"I can live with that," Valdez said.

"Also, I'll have to inform the government about your embezzlement scam that you've been using to pay for your…lets say…'membership dues,'" Artemis said.

"You know?" Valdez asked.

"Of course I know, Valdez, if that is indeed your name—and, of course, I know that it's not. Why do you think I approached you? You have something I can hold over your head, something I can go to the authorities with and not be laughed out of Florida. In short, I have leverage over you," Artemis said. "Now then, you're going to take us to the real entrance."

"Tonight? It's in the Everglades," Valdez protested.

"Tomorrow morning. I want to be rested, so that we don't make mistakes. Besides, it'll be easier travel during the day," Artemis said, "but first, there is some equipment we need to pick up. Why don't you ride with us, Valdez?"

Juliet didn't know what those fan-powered flat-bottomed boats used in the everglades were called. She could have asked Artemis, but not in front of the contact. Bodyguards were supposed to be intimidating, and admitting to the slightest ignorance would have made her less intimidating. It was hard enough, being so curvy. She looked at the equipment Artemis had told her to pack: mountain climbing gear, searchlights, two elephant hunting rifles with plenty of ammo, an entire bag full of white phosphorous grenades, high-power flares, a minigun out of a helicopter set on a tripod (how had he gotten that?), and a computer survailence system with a set of machine guns that could be programmed to kill anything that approaches. Why do we need this stuff? She hoped that they weren't poaching alligators. As soon as she thought that, she knew it was ridiculous; Artemis considered himself an environmentalist. Besides, that would only account for some of this stuff.

They approached…a well. A well, in the middle of the swamp. Yeah, that made sense. Artemis went to the well. Juliet already knew from his expression that he already knew that it was a fake. She didn't know how he knew, or even what they were looking for, but she knew that he knew that this wasn't it, and was just going through the motions of testing it. There was a rock on the rim of the well. He knocked it in, and listened for it to hit bottom.

"There's water in this well," Artemis said.

"Well, it's a well," Valdez said.

"Don't toy with us, Valdez," Artemis snapped. "I tire of your games. Take us to the real entrance, or else."

Valdez turned the boat on. "Can't blame a guy for trying."

The next location was a mile deeper into the swamp. Juliet could tell that he knew that this one was real, but she couldn't tell how he could be so confident. It looked exactly like the last one, right down to the carvings of strange creatures around the edge. Artemis lit a flare and dropped it. She wasn't looking down the well, or entrance, or whatever, as they had about a hundred pounds of weaponry in the boat with a man who had already tried to trick them twice and was only here because they were blackmailing him, but she did hear a sound like a distant wail coming from the well. Just her imagination?

"Stupid trolls," she heard Artemis whisper. Troll? What did that mean? Then aloud he said: "Alright, this is the spot. Juliet, secure the climbing rope to something. Valdez, I expect you to be here when we get back."

"And just why would I be?" he asked.

"We should tie him up," Juliet said.

"No way! I'm going to die of exposure!" Valdez complained.

"We're only going to be down there for three hours," Artemis said.

"How can you possibly know that? There's a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels down there," Valdez said.

"I have a map," Artemis said.

"What? How can you possibly have a map? We don't even have maps," Valdez said.

"I have sources that you wouldn't believe—not even you, Mr. Valdez," Artemis said.

"And did your mysterious source tell you about the monsters that guard the tunnels?" Valdez asked. Juliet thought: Monsters. Right.

"What do you think the heavy weaponry is for?" Artemis asked. He can't mean monster monsters, can he? Juliet decided to save the questions for later.

Artemis knew that the first well was a fake. For one thing, Valdez was just the type of person to try to weasel out of something until the last moment. For another thing, the dancing elves around the well were slightly off. You'd have to either be familiar with the well or with the culture that built it in order to tell the difference, but Artemis was the latter. Finally, this place was a magical null, and unlike in modern fairy society, the fairies who built this place relied on magic for everything. Magic is still a big part of what it is to be a fairy, but these people used it for everything, and he meant everything. Without wizards, they wouldn't have had so much as a functioning toilet. Still, he had to pretend that there was some possibility that this was the right well. He noticed a rock on the lip. Good; he wouldn't have to waste a flare to prove a point.

And so he went through the song and dance of testing the well, finding water at the bottom of it. That was fortunate, as it meant he'd only waste a minimal of time in here instead of having to go down there and prove that the well didn't go anywhere, but it was hardly blind fortune. The well was waterproof, or else the water from the swamp would seep in. Therefore, it must also collect rainwater, and so unless these people had emptied it recently, it should have water in it. He doubted that they were adamant about it. After all, what was the likelihood that someone would come along who actually knew what they were doing? A number slightly under zero, the people responsible for this ruse figured. Fools. Come on: someone had to have built their secret little ruin, and therefore someone would be able to find some reference to it somewhere, in some culture.

"There's water in this well," Artemis said.

"Well, it's a well," Valdez said.

"Don't toy with us, Valdez," Artemis snapped. "I tire of your games. Take us to the real entrance, or else."

"Can't blame a guy for trying," Valdez said.

Artemis had to admit one thing, though. These people were good at keeping a secret. Who would have thought that since the dawn of the sixteenth century, there had been a secret organization operating in Florida, it's vital heart down a ten-thousand-year old well and hidden in a troll infested labyrinth. Even the normally-paranoid Foaly hadn't figured it out. But Artemis had. He smiled to himself. Underneath the Everglades, there was something that people would sell their eternal souls for, be they human or fairy, and Artemis was stealing some of it just so he could give it away.

The next well was indeed the correct one. He could feel it, and he dropped a flare down the well, even though he already knew what would happen. Most of it. The flare hit ground, and a troll that was standing too close ran screaming.

"Stupid troll." Right; anyway: "Alright, this is the spot. Juliet, secure the climbing rope to something. Valdez, I expect you to be here when we get back."

"And just why would I be?" he asked.

Before he could answer, Juliet said: "We should tie him up."

"No way! I'm going to die of exposure!" Valdez complained.

Typical, Artemis thought. After all he's done to stay alive, any possibility of death terrifies him. "We're only going to be down there for three hours," he said.

"How can you possibly know that? There's a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels down there," Valdez pointed out.

"I have a map," Artemis said, and left it at that.

"What? How can you possibly have a map? We don't even have maps," Valdez said.

"I have sources that you wouldn't believe—not even you, Mr. Valdez," Artemis said. Of course, he had to call in every favor the fairies owed him—and considering that he saved the world a couple three times, that was saying something. Ah, well. I guess that the next time I need something, I'll just have to save the world again.

"And did your mysterious source tell you about the monsters that guard the tunnels?" Valdez asked, resentful of Artemis's vague answers.

Artemis smiled smugly. "What do you think the heavy weaponry is for?"

Artemis was an expert at reading people, and Juliet was one of the people who were close to him, besides—not to mention that this accursed puberty had him paying a lot more attention to her than what was necessary. Long story short, it was as if he could read her mind: He can't mean monster monsters, can he? This was a question of skepticism, not fear; it was as if Valdez had been worried that the tooth fairy would show up. He'd answer the question when she asked. His answer would even be more or less truthful. The trolls would be driven away by the flare, and it was time to go.

"We don't need to tie Mr. Valdez up," Artemis said. "He'll stay. After all, after doing all this, he wants his money. After all, he might as well get something out of this. Besides, he's also going to need the antidote." And with that, Artemis repelled down the well. Let Mr. Valdez chew that one over. There were places in Florida where wells were three hundred feet deep, simply because there was no bedrock to keep them from collapsing upon themselves any higher than that (the entire state was a giant sand dune). This well went much, much deeper, and yet Artemis and Juliet repelled down this rope with grace.

After getting chased by a pack of trolls, Artemis had promised himself to get in shape. Ever since, he had worked on his cardio. Running, jogging, swimming, etcetera. He really couldn't care less about being buff, though, as it wouldn't matter how buff he was if he ever had to face a troll again, only how fast he could run in the opposite direction. (He thought this unironically as he descended into a nest of trolls.) Besides, if he were buff, then he would have to replace all of his suits. He had better things to do with his time than weight train. It was hard just finding time for cardio.

"When you say monsters, you don't mean monster monsters, do you?" Juliet asked, right on time (that is, the second they were out of range of Valdez's hearing).

"Any animal that is unknown or hostile towards humans seems to be a monster," Artemis said. "These creatures will indeed be monsters, but they're also just animals. The light ought to scare them away from us, but just in case, well, we came prepared." And they repelled deep into the earth.

Juliet did not like this answer. All of this heavy weaponry was to stave off animals? Minigun, elephant guns, machine guns, grenades? In spite of his assurance that the animals would be afraid of light, Artemis was packing like he expected an all-out war. And wasn't sure that he was going to win. And then she realized that he was ahead of her. If these creatures were so dangerous, shouldn't she be in front so that she could protect him? He said that the light would scare them off, but one hundred and fifty pounds of material called him a liar. (The fifty pounds that wasn't counted before were computer equipment and spare ammo—the last count only tallied weaponry.)

They landed, unhooked themselves, and unhooked their equipment. The first thing Artemis did was turn on a searchlight, which illuminated everything a bit too well. Juliet was momentarily blinded. There were four corridors. Artemis left a spotlight attached to a computerized machinegun at the mouth of three of them, carried one spotlight and dragged the rest of the machine guns and computers and spotlights on the trolley behind him. The rest, of course, was Juliet's responsibility to carry. Eighty pounds of equipment, not including ammo. It wasn't as if she couldn't do it, though; Juliet was trained by the best, after all, and could carry up to a hundred and eighty pounds on a perfectly flat plane without too much strain—one and a half times her weight, or nearly.

Their path was a gradual decline. That was good because it would make the going on the way down a little bit easier, but bad because it would make coming back just that much harder. It shouldn't matter, if they weren't going far, And Artemis had told Valdez to wait for three hours. That would be an hour and a half up-hill at most, assuming that the slope remained constant. No problem. Assuming the slope remained constant. Every time they approached a fork in the road, Artemis set up the computer-machinegun-spotlight trio in the paths they were not using.

"Paranoid?" Juliet asked.

"Believe me, when dealing with these animals, it pays to be paranoid," Artemis said.

Juliet cocked an eyebrow. He sounded like he was talking from experience, not research. Not enough cockiness, too much weariness, and even a trace of fear. Fear? Nothing scared Artemis Fowl. Then again, why would it? He was always three steps ahead of everybody else. It was a good thing he had no interest in world domination, because Lex Luther had nothing on Artemis Fowl. Except that Artemis wouldn't have any idea who Luther was, as he didn't read comic books. Ever.

She heard a machinegun behind them fire for a few seconds. What was that? Then another one fired. Then another one. Then one started firing, but did not stop. "Hey, uh, Artemis? What are those guns programmed to shoot at?"

"Warm-blooded entities significantly larger than a human," Artemis said. "After all, we don't want to end up shooting ourselves."

Then one of the spotlights broke.

Artemis checked his GPS. In the last few minutes, according to it, he had traveled a significant distance eastward, towards the Atlantic. Or rather, the inaptly-named Bermuda triangle. This was to be expected. The ancient fairies didn't have automobiles, and so they put distance-shrinking spells on all of their major thoroughfares. And some minor ones, apparently. These were doubly-efficient, because they made you get there faster, and since the way was not part of the "real" world, it couldn't be attacked by, say, a bunch of Mud Men with stone spears. Or a thermonuclear device, for that matter. And it wouldn't show up on any way of scanning the earth. If you dug for it, you would not find it, and the original cave system this labyrinth was modeled on could be anywhere in the world, if it even still existed. Or it could be several cave systems, all mixed into one another. That's what he would have done. So, this was likely the largest cave system in the world, and impossible to navigate. Unless you knew what you were doing. And Artemis did.

Qwan had gotten him maps of the labyrinth he'd have to cross, and highlighted his course. It helped that he had been around before this place was lost. The demon warlock really liked Artemis, and had offered to train him. Artemis had claimed that he had lost his stolen magic on the transition back to the real world, but Quan had just smiled knowingly, saying, Of course you have. And if you ever have any troubles controlling…puberty…just come to me. Most of the fairies had been scared to a panic by the idea of Artemis Fowl with magic, even temporarily. (Nº1 hadn't been, but he was nearly completely inexperienced with humans and Artemis in particular.) He'd had called in a truckload of favors from Foaly in order to have him look for certain individuals who fit a certain pattern. Fake ID's, large withdrawals of money that don't seem to go anywhere, birth certificate fraud, and more. Artemis didn't tell Foaly what he was after. Let him think it was gangs or something. Even the fairies didn't know that what he was looking for here really existed. It was only pure luck that the humans who found it lived to tell the tale, or rather, to horde the knowledge to themselves, for nearly five hundred years.

These were some of the thoughts in Artemis's head. Some. Puberty had been forcing him to think about girls an alarming amount lately, and most recently, most of that was directed at Juliet. I've just been alone with her to long, he told himself. Alone with her…stop it! He did not need this.

The machine guns began to fire.

"Hey, uh, Artemis? What are those guns programmed to shoot at?" Worried that they were wasting their ammo killing innocent voles, no doubt. There wouldn't be—couldn't be—anything innocent in here, but Juliet wouldn't know that.

"Warm-blooded entities significantly larger than a human," Artemis said. "After all, we don't want to end up shooting ourselves."

Then one of the spotlights broke. Uh-oh, was his first thought. His second: I am a freaking idiot. Trolls feared light, but they hated getting shot at. Apparently, they hated getting shot at more than they feared light. And machine gun bullets weren't enough to stop them. Rather, not enough to stop them in time to help Artemis and Juliet.

Juliet froze when the first of the monsters came into view. Artemis didn't really blame her. All the bodyguard training in the world couldn't prepare you for a beast out of legend. Unless you knew it was coming. It charged.

"Juliet," Artemis said, only the slightest tremble in his voice reveling that he was anything but calm.

She snapped out of it, and took action. Elephant gun. She shot the beast, and it went down. Another one. She shot again. Down. She had to reload. The next two where closer when the fell. She was a crack shot, and could reload in a snap, but that snap was enough time for the trolls to get perceptibly closer. "Minigun," she said.

Artemis knew what she wanted him to do. Even an idiot would have, and Artemis Fowl was anything but an idiot. The minigun was attached to her back. For a split second, he tried to think of a way to get it off without disturbing her aiming and firing. Then he detached the strap. If only it were that simple. Well, in terms of objectivity, it was that simple, but few thing in life were objective, especially not to a pubescent boy. When he grabbed the gun, he was acutely aware that he was touching her…the back of his knuckles felt her bra under her shirt, where, he could tell, it snapped close…and open…snap out of it! He scolded himself. His mind worked so fast that this whole transaction took a split second, and he had barely lost any time. He set up the heavy minigun on its tripod that didn't look as though it could support it, and then Juliet took over. Which, being in an understandable hurry, she did by knocking Artemis to the ground.

He looked up at her, watched as she gunned down trolls with extreme fervor and aggression, and thought, DAMN, that is hot! He told himself that this was hardly appropriate, but on the ground, staring up at this amazing woman, it seemed very appropriate. It seemed to go on forever. She must have wiped out a whole pack of trolls.

"Hey, Artemis, are you alright?" Juliet asked, offering him her hand. Artemis didn't respond. Not with words, that is. He took her hand, pulled himself to his feet, stood on tip-toes, pulled his face to his and kissed her, full on the lips, hard. Neither spoke, the blushed in the harsh light. Then Juliet smiled and said, "Can I take that as a 'Thank you'?" The moment was over.

"I'm sorry. My emotions got the better of me—I mean, my hormones. Yeah, those," Artemis said lamely.

"It happens," Juliet said. She looked at the creatures. "I've never seen anything like these animals before. Hands, are they primates? But tusks…never seen anything like this."

Oh, no, thought Artemis. This was a very bad time for her to start asking questions. After they had what they came for, sure, but right now wasn't good. They had a mission to accomplish. Still, he admired her scientific curiosity. It was something that was discouraged in a bodyguard. "They'll still be here when we come back."

"I suppose you're right," Juliet said. "What's our next move, fearless leader?"

Artemis went to check his map, which was inside of his GPS locator. It was broken.