"You are aware that you are the best agent in the field?"
"However, you are also the youngest agent in the field. Are you aware of this also?"
"Yes sir. Your point, sir?"
"Be careful. You may be the best, but you are also the most inexperienced out there. And this is an important job. Get in there, finish the job and get out. No mistakes. You cannot afford to botch this mission. Understood?"
"Of course, sir. In, job, out. No mistakes."
"You're reckless, Edward. You manage to turn the most simplest missions into the most complicated."
"Try not to worry, sir. I can handle myself."
Edward cut the link to Central as the black van slowed down to a leisurely roll and stopped. So this was the target? Edward, to his astonishment, was impressed. He had seen many a fancy house and dozens of mansions back in his thieving days but none as fanciful as the one that lay sprawled before him.
It was a two-hundred acre estate and more castle than manor. It was ancient and solid looking with its huge stone walls covered with vines which crept further on, still, over the parapets and wrapped itself snugly around a lone tower, silhouetted by the large, silver moon behind it. This manor cum castle overlooked the low lying green lawn, which was also overlooked, no doubt, by hidden cameras and the legendary Butler. A large silver gate interrupted the gravel path that led all the way up the hill on which the manor sat, to the large wooden doors that was the entrance to Fowl Manor. Lights were on inside and Edward could see shadows dance past tall windows on what he took to be the second floor.
Farley sat in the driver's seat sipping a Lemon Slushee, obviously waiting for Edward to give the go. Edward took a deep breath to calm himself and threw in another one just for the heck of it. He gave Farley the thumbs up and watched as Farley's raven hair lengthened into golden , curly locks and his burly figure shrink into that of a small, fifteen year old girl. She was dressed in a red halter top and ragged jeans that looked like they had been through a shredder. The girl smiled at Edward and her blue eyes twinkled in the dim lights.
"Better get going, Farley," said Edward grimly. The girl nodded and exited. Edward watched as the girl walked up to the gates and buzzed the intercom. He watched a conversation he could not hear and after a few minutes of watching the girl talk into the intercom and watching a huge bald bear in a suit come to the gate and talk with the girl before admitting her in, he turned his attention to his part of the job.
Artemis stared down at the chess board before making his move. Minerva, whose face had moments before, been smug with an almost certain victory, fell. Holly laughed.
"I warned you not to take Artemis on," said Holly after getting her breath back. Minerva just glared at her.
Artemis stood up and stretched. "It was a good game at any rate," admitted Artemis. "You really did give me a run for my money."
"But I still didn't win," grumped Minerva, determined to remain unrelenting.
Artemis was about to respond when there was a knock on the door. Artemis turned to tell Holly to shield but she was already gone. "Who is it?"
"It is me, sir," said Butler, his voice slightly muffled by the heavy oak wood doors. "We have a guest."
"Well come in then."
The doors creaked open and in stepped Butler, followed closely by an extremely small and frightened looking girl. "And who might you be?"
The girl jumped at the sound of Artemis' voice but did not answer. She looked around the room, her eyes hovering slightly on Minerva and, for a split second so that Artemis wasn't sure if he had imagined it, in Holly's direction. When she spoke, her voice came out in a whisper. It was so soft that Butler had to repeat what she said.
"She says her name is Adrianne Valoski. She claims that she came here to Ireland, from America to discuss an important matter with you. She said she would only speak with you. I checked her for weapons. She is apparently, unarmed."
"Then, Ms. Valoski, have a seat right here by the fire," said Artemis, gesturing toward a seat near the fireplace. "You look positively frozen."
Indeed the girl's skin was pale to the point it was almost translucent. She nodded and timidly crossed the room to said seat. What struck Artemis as odd was the fact that a girl in such a get up as hers with more skin showing than fabric would be so timorous.
"I-I should not be here but…I need your help to find my parents," she blurted out. "They just went missing and…and the police…they are not doing all they can to find them! They already think they are dead but I know that my Mama and Papa are alive! I just know it! The police don't want to waste their time with a poor family like us. It's not fair!"
"Okay, okay," said Minerva soothingly. "How do you know that they are alive? And why come to Artemis?"
"I just know that they are alive. I came here to Artemis because I have heard of some of his exploits and ventures. Who has not? If he can't help me, then who can?"
Minerva reached out to pat the girl but the girl flinched away and for the second time that night, Artemis was unsure of whether or not he had imagined hatred and scorn flit across the innocent features of the young girl.
"Excuse me," began Artemis. "But how old are you again?"
Artemis was beginning to feel nervous. Her story wasn't sticking together and neither was her illusion. How many fifteen year-olds used the words 'exploit' and 'venture' and knew the name Artemis Fowl at one time? And where had she found the money for a flight to Ireland? Artemis understood that she could have easily run across his name on the internet and her timid nature suggested 'bookworm' status and she could have raised the money somehow but then there were those looks, the way she was dressed…
Artemis had learned that humans often times explained away reality and replaced it with what they wanted to see. Artemis decided not to make excuses for his guest's odd behavior and he noticed that Minerva's face suggested she would do the same.
"Who are you really?"
Adrianne looked at Artemis, startled. "W-what do you mean?"
"Your façade is not working on us. Talk or be removed from the premises."
Artemis was shocked by the sudden transformation of the girl's features, from scared to scary. Her face was contorted in anger and her mouth a grim slash. She looked particularly sinister.
"I told Edward that we should have come up with a better story than, 'my parents are missing'. Who would believe in that kind of crap anyway? Idiot…" Her voice deepened to that of a man's as she spoke.
Butler stepped in front of Artemis and he pulled Minerva from her seat and behind him as well. "Who are you?"
The girl glared at him before transforming into a twenty year old, broad-shouldered, raven haired, black-eyed man. Although his skin was not as pale as the girl's had been, it was still pale but looked more solid and believable.
"I," said the man in a dramatic voice, "am your worst nightmare." He disappeared and reappeared behind Minerva with a loud crack. Wrapping a thick arm around her neck, he disappeared again and reappeared in the doorway of the room. "Catch me if you can," he said. With a mischievous grin in place, he disappeared. Somewhere in the hall there was the crash and tinkle of something expensive.
Holly unshielded and rushed to Butler's side, Nuetrino drawn and ready to go. "Should I go after him?"
"No," said Butler. "You stay here and guard Artemis. I'll go after him. After all this is familiar turf to me. Holly, I'm counting on you to keep Artemis safe."
Holly nodded. "Of course."
The bodyguard left on silent feet, Sig Sauer drawn. Holly turned to Artemis who was deep in thought. What was the point of coming here? What was the man after? Was he a kidnapper? Who was Edward? Where was he at this exact moment?
Edward was scaling the wall of Fowl Manor when he heard the crash of something worth a lot more than a buck. Edward hurried the rest of the way to a nearby window and looked in. The plan had been simple. Distract Artemis and company while Edward made it into the house. When Edward was inside, leave. When the occupants went to bed, Edward would kidnap Artemis, quietly, discreetly. They would have been on their way home by the time Artemis was discovered missing.
What could go wrong? Apparently Artemis figuring out that Farley was not a fifteen year-old who had lost her parents. Darn! Truth be told, Edward had been dumb enough to think that Farley could slip in with that story and the goody-two-shoes would have fallen over himself to help Farley that he wouldn't have noticed a few holes in the story. It would have been, 'Help me' then 'Okay' then 'Meet you tomorrow' and done. Maybe they should have planned it out a little bit more…K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. A law they should have followed. Damn Edward's theatrical side to hell.
Too late for regrets. Edward peeked inside. He could see his target but who was that diminutive figure with the toy gun talking to him? Uh-oh…Edward had seen many pictures of her species. In fact, their description had been drilled into his skull. She was one of the People. Not good. Oh well…Roll with it Edward.
Edward pressed himself into the wall and he felt himself become insubstantial, nonexistent. He slid through the wall as if it was not there and silently he slinked toward the unaware pair.
"You're right. None of this makes sense. I think…"
Holly noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She whirled around, Nuetrino pointed at the forehead of a seventeen year-old boy. His black eyes were crossed as they stared at the weapon pointed between his eyes. Holly was about to use the Mesmer on him when the boy said something that completely caught both her and Artemis off guard.
He spoke in Gnomish. "Elf, if you pull that trigger you will deeply regret it."
Holly replied in Gnomish. "You can speak my language?"
"Yes. That is not all I can do."
Edward felt himself meld with the fairy and he let all of her memories soak into him. This boy…his feats were extraordinary…his intellect was a marvel…Edward understood. When he had first been told who he was kidnapping, he wondered why they would risk so much for this one kid. Unlike the other poor, homeless kids, Fowl belonged to a rich and highly influential family. Surely he would be missed? Was it worth the bother it would create later on? It was.
Edward felt a bit of the boy's power in the eye stolen from him. It was powerful and unique and extremely ancient. No doubt the fairy would have been feeling an increase in her powers. The boy would be a fine acquisition to the agency.
Holly, or really Edward in Holly's body, turned around to face the raven-haired boy. The boy was extremely pale and weak-looking. Holly, or really Edward, frowned. The boy didn't look like much but still…the icy blue eye reminded him that looks could be deceiving. "You are coming with me."
"Who are you? What have you done to Holly?"
The boy's voice was cold and the magic in Artemis' eye flared. Edward could see that the boy's magic responded to emotion. It would be dangerous if he got really upset. A thought completely irrelevant to the situation at hand occurred to Edward. Where was Farley?
There was a crash as Farley landed on the wooden table where Minerva and Artemis had been playing chess earlier and the table collapsed under the weight. Farley dropped an unconscious blonde girl and staggered forward. "Oh man! You guys are still here? We need to get out of here! That…that…steam engine is still after me!"
"What?" asked Edward dumbly.
The large oaken doors blasted open as the huge bear from earlier on barged into the room. Edward, thinking quickly, flicked the gun in his hand to Stun and shot Artemis. The bear shocked that its friend would shoot Artemis shook off its shock and charged at Holly. But too late. Edward leaked out of Holly's body and caught Artemis before he fell to the ground. The bear caught Holly who had fainted clean away and Edward and Farley leapt out of the window.
"WINGS, FARLEY! WINGS! NOW!" Edward closed his eyes as the ground rushed to meet them. He waited for impact, but there was none. Farley had sprouted bat wings.
"I forgot I could fly, for a second there," said Farley sheepishly. Hefting both Artemis and Edward, Farley glided towards the van.
"What was that?" exclaimed Farley when they touched down. "You would think that dude had been through the labs!"
"Um…you don't want to run into that dude again, do you," asked Edward.
"Then let's get out of here!" Edward pointed to the rushing figure running down the gravel path. Edward needn't have said more. They were in the van and gone by the time Butler had reached the gate.