Summary: Because after all, fairies don't age the same way as humans.
Author's Note: OK, this is a little trilogy I've embarked on. Nothing major, just a collection of shorts I think I can create a tenuous link between. :)
This particular chapter was written in one sitting, and is un-beta-ed (i.e. probably full of errors).
All in all, Holly thought, the last twenty years had been good for her.
That wasn't to say it had been completely free of danger - there had been the Case of the Sporadically Exploding Sweartoads, and before that, the Mysterious Disappearance of Foaly's Carrots, in which she had uncovered a conspiracy to depressurise Haven and very nearly lost her life. But Foaly's carrots had been returned safely, which was the main thing.
However, she'd led a good, almost charmed existence. Rising through the ranks of the LEP with inexorable ease until last year, when Trouble deigned to sit at the Council, she finally received the triple acorn badge and became the first female Commander of the LEP. The badge sat, gleaming, on the front of her lapel, and she looked at it often.
He'd done well for himself, too. Good at his job as Commander - a little too good, as it happened, and within a year of taking up the post he was beginning to be badgered by the other members of the Council to take up a seat. He'd resisted as best he could for nearly fifteen years, but eventually fell under the politics of it all. She wondered whether he was at a Council meeting now; sat in the faux suede chairs, eating vole curry and wincing in regret as the belt of his trousers began to cut into his ever-expanding abdomen. Grub - Captain Grub now - would have a field day.
A knock at the door. "Commander Short?"
Speaking of Grub...
"Yes, Kelp?" When she first took up the position of Commander, she had attempted to be friendly to her inferiors, but quickly learnt that friendliness got little done. So she sat, on the lonely edge, for the sake of her city.
"It's nothing too bad, Commander. A sighting, but the humans thought they were hallucinating." Grub said, stepping through from the strip-lit hallway into the darker chief's office. Wearily, she waved an arm that meant elaborate. It was nothing too interesting. If the humans thought they imagined the fairies then the LEP would probably be able to contain the situation without needing a single mind-wipe. Sometimes Foaly liked to send Grub up to see her about pointless missions, just to watch him get toasted. "Couple of tourists spotted at Tara without shields."
As a rule, fairy sightings at Tara were never considered high-priority - most of the humans that ventured there were taking some form of hallucinogen - but the name stirred something in Holly. Something half-forgotten, echoing back to her as though from someone else's memory.
She sat silent for a little while, until Grub coughed and spoke. "This...wasn't relevant. Was it?"
Holly shook her head. "Not really, no. Did Foaly send you?"
Captain Kelp, who had tensed in preparation for a verbal onslaught, visibly sagged with relief at being able to offload the blame. "Yes. He told me you'd be very interested to hear it."
With a push, she rose out of the cracked leather chair that was the epicentre of the LEP. "Well, he got that right."
Five minutes later, she stood outside the LEP's Operation Booth. In twenty years, little had changed to the titanium cube apart from the number of fibre optics that protruded from irregular points about the outside. It was beginning to resemble an armour-plated hedgehog.
On cue, the soft underbelly poked its head around the outside of the door. "Holly! I saw you coming."
The past twenty years had wrought a more profound change on the LEP's technical genius, Foaly. Where once he had been a self-professed loner with paranoid tendencies, since marrying his centaur girlfriend, Caballine, they had produced a veritable herd of offspring. While his technological work suffered, the centaur had never seemed happier.
"Foaly. Why did you tell me about the tourist sighting at Tara?"
He scratched his chin. "No reason, really. Grub was here, I was here, the scopes picked up on the sighting...I thought our Commander-in-Chief should know about it."
Holly crossed her arms. "That's not the reason."
"Well...no. But I wouldn't have thought you'd storm all the way down here to defend little Grub's honour. What's your reason for doing that?"
Mismatched eyes widened. Foaly sighed. "Of course. Fowl."
"What about him?"
"You miss him."
That caught her off guard. "What?"
"As your job's gotten tougher, you've spoken to him less and less. I'm betting you've spoken once in the last five years. If that."
She said nothing. Her glare was enough. Foaly felt the room heat up by several degrees.
"That's why you've leapt on this Tara sighting. It's your subconscious."
"I wouldn't have had you down as a psychologist." She remarked, feeling exposed by the insights the centaur was making.
"Take the Tara assignment for yourself. I'm betting you haven't been to the surface in several years either. If nothing else you need to complete the ritual, for the good of your health."
She gritted her teeth. "Are you telling me what to do?"
Foaly gasped in mock-horror. "Me, ma'am? Wouldn't dream of it. Just thought you'd like to know your colouring is beginning to match Root's."
Several hours later, Holly had rushed through her re-activation, ordered a surface visa, and taken the shuttle up to Tara, disrupting a small family of gnomes who had waited several decades to get to the surface.
Even as the port opened and the surface air flooded in, Holly felt more relaxed. She hadn't noticed it below ground, but the muscles in her back were knotted and cramped to a point of agony. Perhaps Foaly had been right about the trip being good for her health.
She located a helmet and a pair of wings - a new range of Foaly's, suspiciously similar in design to Opal Koboi's DoubleDex range - and without further ceremony, kicked off the Irish peat soil to climb gratefully into the expectant night.
Her aim was simple: she had to track the two humans who had seen the fairy tourists, and fit them with a new surveillance device (a tiny microphone, grown from a genetically-engineered plant, so it decomposed naturally within a few days. It was, according to Foaly, a breakthrough to match the discovery of fire. Holly thought it was just a lump of fancy lichen). All she had to do was attach it to the humans, probably under the nails, and then they could be monitored for a while until it was certain they weren't about to reveal their sighting to anybody else.
And within another few hours, as dawn was breaking, that aim was accomplished. In a small block of flats near Kilclare, she scooped up the sleeper-deeper - a precaution, to make sure the humans didn't wake up while she was busily attaching the microphones - and left the little apartment.
As she climbed into the air again, safe behind her shield, she contemplated what to do next. Foaly had insisted she left that evening, as there was 'no time to waste' if the humans did reveal what they saw to anyone else, but the full moon she needed to complete the ritual was not until the following night. Spiralling lazily through the air, she came to the conclusion that there was nothing for it but to wait at the Tara departure lounge until nightfall. Much as she wanted to continue flying over Ireland, she knew her shield wouldn't last much longer, and it would be rather ironic to contain one sighting only to cause another.
Unless...she stopped, mid-spiral, as an imposing shape, squatting on the landscape, came into view. Foaly's words came back to her. You miss him.
Did she? It wasn't such an absurd notion. The last time she had spoken to him, he appeared to be a rather decent person, for a human. And Foaly was right, in a way, about her subconscious. As he job became more and more desk-bound, she found herself reminiscing about the adventures she had with Fowl and co. It would be nice to check up on him. See how many Nobel prizes he had now (at last count it was four, with a fifth in the offing).
As usual, Lili Frond's voice spouted through her helmet as she entered Fowl airspace. It was curious to see Frond as she used to look: the painted face and over-curled hair looked natural now compared to the plastic mannequin that pouted in the LEP hallways. She listened patiently until it was over, scrutinising the digitally aged photographs of Artemis Fowl and Domovoi Butler. Artemis would be almost forty now; Butler the other side of sixty-five. The notion filled her with unease and she hovered uncertainly for a moment before steeling herself and descending.
Artemis Fowl the second yawned, stretched, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He had been woken up by the rude arrival of sunlight, and with it the acute neck pain that comes with falling asleep at a desk. Again.
He really had to stop doing this. His body - while in fine physical shape - was getting older by the day. It wouldn't take kindly to sleeping at right angles for much longer. He opened his eyes, and promptly shut them again.
Instead of seeing the rolling hills of his estate, framed by Egyptian linen curtains, Artemis saw a diminutive person, clad from head-to-toe in skin-tight black, attempting to pull a bizarre contraption through the second floor window of his study.
He coughed. "Can I help you?"
The figure froze; turned its head impossibly slowly. The man frowned in puzzlement. "Would you mind removing your helmet?" It did so.
"What are you doing here?"
This wasn't the answer he was expecting. Having not heard from the elf for the last five years, or seen her in the last eight, he wouldn't have placed an unannounced social visit top on his list of reasons to get back in touch. The awkwardness of the situation didn't go unnoticed by Holly, either.
"How...how have you been?" He ventured after an embarrassed silence.
"Oh! You know. Busy. I was promoted to Commander last year so there's a lot to do."
Artemis nodded. It wasn't as though she didn't deserve it, after the amount of times she had saved Haven.
"And you? Keeping busy?"
He opened his mouth to respond; to tell her about the latest Nobel bid he was working on that would, with any luck, make his tenth award. But before he managed any of that, an angry, impatient voice shouted from the bowels of the house.
So should I continue? You're free to say no if you like - but then I'll cry, which is never good. Takes me ages to apply mascara.
Reviewers get one of Foaly's kids! He's got millions. One or two disappearing isn't a problem. :)