The Private Wound
Summary: Artemis begins to question his intelligence when a mysterious man manages to trap him in his own home, seemingly effortlessly. Will the fairies have to save themselves this time?
Author's Note: Like Foaly, I'm back like a rash. A nice one. :)
So out of practice it's untrue - if you spot anything dodgy, don't hold back. I need whipping back into shape. That said, enjoy!
The hall had finally quietened down enough to hear the last part of Sool's message. At the mention of the bio-bomb, Trouble had sat up, visibly shocked. "He can't just send a bio-bomb to deal with this Mud Man! What if you're right? We need to know who the fairy behind him is."
"I've got a fairly good idea." Foaly said, watching as Rhodius Bentwood accepted the adulation of the council members. Trouble knew this must have hurt the centaur's pride. "I just don't see how his communicator is still working, when everyone else's is completely flat."
The elf pinched the bridge of his nose. "Much as I'd like to speculate, Foaly, now isn't the time. How did Sool get authorisation to use the bio-bomb? You need full council approval to get the activation codes."
"So, all members of the council have been in here with us for the last four hours, eating beetle pâté with no access to the outside world. Sool either executed the attack on his own, in which case councillors would be calling for his badge right now, or they already knew this was going to happen."
"Trouble," Foaly said, laying a hairy hand on his friend's shoulders, "you're beginning to sound like me."
Somewhere near the western border, Russia
Holly was not happy.
Not only had she been rather brusquely thrown into the back of the jeep, landing sprawling across Mulch, her Commander and their captive, Evgeny Tarasov, but had then suffered the further indignity of having Artemis Fowl heaped onto her back. It wasn't the most delicate display of packing Holly had ever seen.
"Well hello to you too, Major Short." Mulch said, winking. "I don't let just anyone get this close."
Holly wrinkled her nose at him as she pushed herself up into a more suitable sitting position, not helped by the lurching start of the vehicle. "Mulch, I wouldn't want my worst enemy to get as close to you as I just have been. I'll be tasting earthworms for a week."
Mulch gasped in mock offence, but Root cut across him before the dwarf could think of a comeback. "Would you two stop flirting and tell me what the hell just happened?"
Holly pointedly brushed some imaginary dirt off her dress before answering. "Bio bomb, sir."
Root cursed. "I know that, Short. What I want to know is why a bio-bomb was sent to this Mud Man's flat -," here he gestured angrily at Tarasov, "-whilst we were inside, and to the best of my knowledge the only people who could authorize such an attack are trapped incommunicado in city hall?"
Holly shrugged. "Opal Koboi didn't have council approval for the bio-bombs she used."
"Are you suggesting Koboi is behind this?"
A collective shudder ran through the group.
Artemis cleared his throat. "Let's not rely on speculation."
"Then what do you think is going on?"
The Commander rounded on the boy. "I've been awake for thirty-six hours, Fowl. Who in Frond's name is Occam and why should I care about how he keeps his beard in check?"
"Occam's Razor is a maxim attributed to William Ockham, a medieval nominalist. It states 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem'. Jumping to the conclusion that Koboi is behind the attack isn't the simplest explanation of events, given that there is no evidence Koboi has escaped from prison."
The jeep jolted as Butler turned off the tarmac road into the forest that hid the fairy shuttle port.
"So what is the simplest explanation of events, genius?"
Artemis pinched the bridge of his nose, glancing at Tarasov. "I'm not sure yet. None of this makes any sense. Our guest here is going to have some very tricky questions to answer."
E91, Estonian Border, five minutes later
Artemis and the fairies were sitting inside the shuttle port alongside their captive. As a precaution, the fairies had thrown Butler's parka over Tarasov's head during the last part of their journey, in order to protect the secret location of the shuttle port. They had also chosen not to remove it until Butler returned from his sweep of the area, to make sure they were alone. During the silent wait, Holly watched Tarasov's form with interest. The Russian didn't move, aside from the impatient shuffling of his feet from time to time, and this was precisely what Holly found fascinating. She had held many people against their will, and without exception they tried to escape or bargain with her. Tarasov's calm appearance (if she didn't know any better, Holly would have called it indifference) unsettled her more than the violence she had had to deal with in the past.
The pneumatic hiss of the shuttle port entrance heralded Butler's return from his sweep. "Empty."
Root nodded. "Time to remove the hood."
Holly stood and moved behind Tarasov before pulling the jacket from his head. The Russian blinked against the light, despite being diffused as it was; either side of the 200-pound manservant's head. "So, Evgeny." Butler smiled, an action which sent chills through the LEP Major behind Tarasov. "You're going to tell us exactly what is going on here, and I might only break a couple of your fingers. Vy ponimaete?"
Tarasov grinned back, apparently unperturbed by the threat. Butler cracked his knuckles. Before he could do much more, however, Artemis stood and laid a restraining hand on his bodyguard's forearm.
"Look at his irises, old friend."
Butler sighed inwardly. He had been looking forward to a little payback. If Tarasov had been under the influence of the mesmer, as Artemis evidently thought, it would be difficult to justify a missing tooth or two. Nevertheless, he leaned in towards their captive (noting that the Russian didn't flinch - another unfortunate sign that the man was under the influence), peering into the watery pupils. A tense moment passed, broken only by Mulch's indifferent, rumbling stomach.
"It's subtle, but I think you're right." Butler took a step back, allowing for more expert analysis from the two LEP officers.
"Does this mean we're back to square one?"
Artemis bit his lip. "Not necessarily. Tarasov was mesmerised into hacking into my servers. Why? I'm sure every fairy has much more intimate knowledge of their own culture than my files could ever provide."
Holly slumped into one of the shuttle port seats. "What are you suggesting, Artemis? That someone in Haven is conspiring against you?"
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting. I'm sure there are many fairies who still view me and my knowledge of your world as a threat, and what better way to get rid of me than by showing my security isn't tight enough to protect your secret?"
Mulch grunted. "That's dumb. They'd have known that at the first sign of trouble you'd come running to Major Short."
"But what if Major Short shouldn't be here? She should be locked inside City Hall at the moment, alongside Root, and anyone else who could rescue the situation."
"- like Foaly." Holly finished.
"Exactly. If Tarasov had gone public with the information, Haven would be powerless to stop him. The entire fairy species could have been exposed because of a breach in my servers."
Root had been drumming his fingers on the armrest of his seat during this conversation. Clever deduction always gave him a headache. "Tarasov wasn't going to go public though, was he? There's no evidence of that. And why would his accomplice send a bio-bomb to his apartment if he was so important?"
"The Commander's right," Holly said, looking defeated after the momentary excitement. "It wouldn't make sense for Tarasov to go public - it would mean whoever was controlling him would be found by the humans, too. No fairy wants that."
Artemis dropped his head into his hands. They were right, of course. It would be suicidal to want to expose the underground civilisation. Unless…
"What if - what if you're right? Tarasov was never meant to go public. One other human finding out is bad enough, and there are many on the council who would demand a mind-wipe if it happened."
"Still wouldn't work, Artemis. They'd be able to see he'd been mesmerised, just like we can."
"Which is exactly why his apartment was bio-bombed. Keep him around for long enough to present a threat and show my security can be compromised, and then get rid of him before he incriminates the fairy behind it all."
"Well then, why Tarasov?" Root asked, intrigued enough to stop drumming.
Artemis waved the question away. He was sure of his theory now, and answering questions on it was wasting time. "Tarasov's a genius with a score to settle. It isn't impossible to believe he would be capable of orchestrating the plan himself."
The group sat in silence for a moment as they contemplated the theory. Mulch was the first to regroup. "This is all very well and good, but we still don't know which fairy is behind this, or why," he added as the group turned towards him, "the entire city is affected just to get to Artemis. Seems a little extreme, no?"
The question bounced off the walls of the shuttle port, looking for an answer. Finally, just as they were about to admit defeat, Root laughed. Holly started towards her commander, alarmed. It wasn't a sound she heard often.
"What's so funny, Julius?" Like Holly, Mulch had learnt to associate Root's amusement with the arrival of a Very Bad Thing.
In answer, the commander pulled out Holly's purple communicator from his breast pocket. "Corporal Kelp, please tell me you've managed to get into City Hall."
LEP Police Plaza, 7:25 am
"C-Commander." Grub faltered; he wasn't expecting to speak to Root. "We tried, sir."
"Tried?" Root's reply was soft, little more than a rush of static. "What do you mean, tried?"
"Sool overruled me - he said that using a laser to cut through the doors would kill half the people inside."
"What?! That jumped-up, bureaucratic…" The Commander's voice faded into the background and, with a rush of gratitude, Grub found himself addressing Major Short.
"So why are you calling, Corporal?"
"We thought you might be interested in hearing whose bio-bomb nearly killed you."
There was no reply from the other end of the line, although Grub thought he could hear snatches of a frantic, whispered discussion.
"How did you know about the bio-bomb?"
"We managed to patch through to the video feed of the helmet you took, which we've just had to remotely incinerate, Major, as you left it in the Mud Man's home." Grub couldn't resist the complaint - remote destructions meant hours of paperwork.
Holly's reply was forced. "Thank you, Grub. How do you know who was behind the bomb?"
Corporal Kelp smirked and nodded towards one of the techies who initiated the download. "You'll see. I'm sending you the file now. We thought it would be better for you to hear it for yourselves."
"Thank you Corporal. Goodbye."
Grub closed his communicator as the file finished sending. He wouldn't want to be in Sool's position once the Commander had seen that.
E91, Estonian Border
"Good evening, noble and esteemed citizens of Haven. I am afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news on what should be such a happy occasion…"
The file started to play as soon as Holly's communicator finished downloading it. She hastily indicated to the others to gather round, leaving Tarasov sat, quite contentedly, on his own. Now they had established he had not been acting freely, he wasn't considered much of a threat.
"Who's that?" Butler asked.
"Ark Sool. Head of internal affairs and an ambitious little tick. He's acting Commander of the skeleton staff tonight."
"…we have also managed to track down the cause of this catastrophic set of events." There was a pause. "I am afraid, dear friends, that it was the result of an attack by a human." Another pause. Sool was obviously leaving room for his audience's reaction. "The human's name is Evgeny Tarasov. A reclusive genius, he lives alone in a small town in the west of Russia. We have reason to believe he gained intimate knowledge of the fairies when he hacked into the computer systems of the only other human to have made contact with the fairy race: Artemis Fowl."
Artemis smiled grimly. He had been wondering how long it would be before his name came up.
"However, do not be alarmed. As I speak, a bio-bomb has been sent to Tarasov's apartment. He will shortly cease to be a threat."
Root punched the air. "I knew it! I've never trusted Sool."
"Wait…Sool is claiming that Tarasov managed to shut down the whole of Haven…"
"And then he'll look like the hero for being the one to get rid of him and restore Haven, almost single-handedly." The Commander started to pace. "The rest of the LEP look incompetent, being trapped inside City Hall, leaving Sool to take the glory…and the promotion."
"What?" It was Holly's turn to speak. "Sool isn't up for any promotion."
"He nearly was. Some members of the council suggested he should become Commander of Recon and Retrieval instead of Major Kelp - calmer influence or some other troll droppings. They knew that with Sool at the head of the LEP it would be easier to control."
"So while Trouble's stuck in City Hall, looking helpless, Sool saves the day."
"It would seem so."
Artemis waved a hand between the two elves. "You're still missing something. Sool managed to get that broadcast into City Hall. From what you've told me, that ought to be impossible."
"There's an inside fairy."
City Hall, 5 minutes earlier
Foaly and the elder Kelp had taken shelter near Wing Commander Vinyáya's table. The other three-hundred-or-so occupants of the hall were on the other side, enraptured by the grey pixie on the bar-top.
"Typical," Foaly muttered. "The bad guys get the women looking at them like they're from Riverbend, and what do we get? A middle-aged battleaxe who can't keep her saliva in her mouth."
"To be fair, we don't know how many 'bad guys' are in the room. It might just be 'bad guys' following him." Trouble, resting his chin on his forearms, flicked the abandoned cork of a wine bottle as he said this.
"Will you stop it?"
"Looking and sounding so dejected. You're supposed to be the next Commander of the LEP. How will I be able to needle you incessantly knowing that you fall apart so easily?"
"Well, what do you think I should do? I can't haul Bentwood off into a corner now, the crowd won't leave him alone."
Foaly nodded his agreement, eyeing the few people in the hall that weren't thronged about Bentwood. He was about to give up and challenge Trouble to a game of tabletop crunchball involving the cork and Vinyáya's mouth when he caught the eye of the only other centaur in the room.
"Maybe the crowd wouldn't let you alone with Bentwood, but what do you think they'd say to a PPTV researcher interested in getting an interview?"
Trouble followed Foaly's gaze. "I think," he said, lifting his head from his arms, "that might just work."
Five minutes later
"Doctor Bentwood! Doctor!" It was times like these that Caballine was grateful her mother had been related to Dr. LeGear. She managed to push her way through the crowd quite easily, as the smaller fairies moved out of the way to avoid being trampled.
"Miss. Caballine, always a pleasure."
"Doctor, I was hoping for a few moments of your time? I'm sure that, after the events of tonight, PPTV would be very interested in hearing what the saviour of the hour has to say."
Bentwood smiled indulgently. "Well, I'd hardly call myself a saviour, but I'd be glad to give you a minute or two." He climbed carefully from the bar-top, and the crowd parted in front of him like the Red Sea. "Where would you like to conduct this little chat?"
Caballine gestured vaguely. "It's really up to you, Doctor." Bentwood turned away towards the dining table reserved for the guests of honour, and Caballine gave a furtive thumbs-up gesture to Foaly and Major Kelp, both of whom were sitting as far away from the mob as possible. She sighed. Two of the best fairies under the world and they were terrified of a pixie with a pigment shortage.
"So," she began when they had settled and Bentwood had managed to procure a glass of gnommish spirit. "I hope you don't mind if I get straight to the point, Doctor Bentwood -,"
"Rhodius. I'm sure there are many other fairies eager to talk to you, and I don't want to take up too much of your time. Would you be able to tell me how your communicator is still working?"
Bentwood swirled the liquid around his glass, contemplating his answer. "You remember, I'm sure, that I told you Foaly never releases an invention unless there's a design flaw he can charge to fix?"
Caballine gritted her teeth. "I remember you mentioned something about that."
"In this case, none of Foaly's devices are equipped to handle an electromagnetic pulse. Almost every electronic device in here is subsequently useless. Perhaps all of this is a marketing strategy for Foaly's new communicators?"
The centaur ignored the jibe. "How could you possibly know what was causing the problem?"
"Acting Commander Sool told me - he and the techies found an EMP device somewhere in the outer hallways." Bentwood shrugged.
"So how have you managed to protect your communicator?"
He smiled. Caballine had to resist the urge to hit him. "Simple. I created a miniature Faraday cage around my communicator, cancelling out the effects of the electromagnetic pulse." The pixie pulled out his communicator as a demonstration. It was wrapped in what looked like fine-grade chicken wire.
"But how did you have the foresight to protect your communicator before it happened?"
Bentwood's smile widened. "Luck."
Caballine forced herself to smile back. "Thank you for your time, Rhodius. I'll leave you to your public."
"Thank you, Miss. Caballine. I look forward to speaking with you again soon."
Foaly watched the conversation between his girlfriend and the potential criminal with unease. He didn't even comment when Vinyáya began snoring, surprising and alarming Trouble. He didn't think any situation could be bad enough to stop Foaly from being glib.
Eventually Caballine trotted away from the pixie with a look of revulsion on her face, and Foaly exhaled loudly.
"Hello to you, too," she responded tartly before settling at the table. "I found out why the electronics aren't working. There's an electromagnetic pulse device hidden outside this room."
Foaly thumped the table, making both Trouble and the cork jump. "Of course!" the momentary triumph dropped away to confusion. "How is his communicator still active, then?"
"He's constructed a…Faraday Cage around it. He suggested that the fact it's not a standard feature is your way to force people to buy an updated model."
The technician snorted. "Because many fairies will encounter EM pulses during their everyday life."
Caballine stroked a hairy hand. "He's bitter, that's all."
Trouble coughed pointedly, breaking the quiet moment. "This is good, though, isn't it? If we construct a Faraday Cage around one of our own communicators we might be able to reach Holly and the Commander."
Foaly sighed. "Do you know what a Faraday Cage is?"
The Major shrugged. "It can't be that difficult to build one."
"It's not. If you have a few spare yards of mesh with holes smaller than the frequency of the EM wave."
"So now what?" Caballine asked. "Other than implication, there's nothing to suggest Bentwood isn't just paranoid enough to protect his communicator from EM pulses anyway, and just struck lucky here. How do we beat him?"
Trouble sat up. "What's that old Mud Man saying? If you can't beat them, join them." He stood up.
"We've lost, Foaly. I think it's time I joined the crowd." He nodded at the male centaur, almost imperceptibly.
With that, the fairy who would-be Commander stalked over to the other side of the room, to join the back of the throng around Bentwood, now returned to the centre.
The researcher glanced at her partner. "I wouldn't have pegged him for a coward."
Foaly grinned. "He's called 'Trouble' for a reason, Caballine. Just watch. This is going to be good."
Dear, oh dear - whatever's the tribulation with Trouble? :P
Reviewers (especially those bearing concrit) get to help Foaly make a Faraday Cage out of Skylar Peat's hairpins. Or they could just sell them on eBay.