Welcome to Fermata! This story takes place in the time between The Lost Colony and The Time Paradox. As is blaringly obvious, I do not own anything. I am also known as Target Aquired on artemisfowl.fangathering(com), and this story will be posted on their Fanfiction Archive also. Enjoy!
Chapter One: Discovery
Uninhabited Island, Florida Keys
The Florida Keys have always had the makings of an international tourist hotspot: sea breezes, scuba diving, a laid-back atmosphere. A place where you can simply whittle away the day, lounging about in a hammock and sipping a martini. Droves of vacationers flocked to the archipelago every year, bringing the state of Florida considerable tourist dollars. While many of the keys were populated, the less accessible keys had remained relatively uninhabited.
Trouble Kelp was currently stationed in one of these small islands in the Dry Tortugas, although "stationed" may be too kind of a word. More accurately, he was lying half-submerged in tepid water, feeling mosquitoes buzz next to his helmet with the rest of his squad. Major Kelp had been handpicked, along with the rest of his squad, by Commander Ark Sool to supervise possible materialization sites of rouge demons. Foaly had hacked into the Fowl boy's computer and revamped his calculations for the umpteenth time, sending Trouble and his squad to locations such as Juneau, the top of Big Ben, the New Siberian Islands, and even the Taj Mahal. All stakeouts had been long, hard, and fruitless. Needless to say, many of the squad were tired of carrying out a task that could have been done by one of Foaly's light distortion projectors.
But Trouble was not about to give Ark Sool another reason to watch him—ever since the Opal affair where he had given Holly the benefit of a doubt (rightfully so, as it turned out), Sool had kept the major on a short leash. So if watching a muddy swamp for eight hours was what it took, Trouble would do it without question, and to the best of his ability.
Major Kelp shifted in the water, taking a headcount of his squad. They were arranged in a rough circle around Foaly's estimated area of materialization, all with specially modified weapons at the ready. Instead of the normal energy bursts, these guns shot pressurized darts filled with a formulated mix of tiny silver pellets suspended inside a pool of liquid sevoflurane. When the dart punctured, it would depressurize and deposit the silver into the bloodstream along with the sevoflurane, which would temporarily sedate the target. Point and shoot.
Chix Verbil was to the left of Kelp, idly flicking at a piece of foliage. Next to him was Private Ash Corrine, a new recruit to the LEP. Directly across from Trouble was Lili Frond. She was currently inspecting her reflection with her LEP communicator, using the quartz screen as an impromptu mirror. Grub was to the right of Frond, trying to swat away mosquitoes while remaining as still as possible. Lastly was one of Foaly's techies, Roob, who was there "to keep the Recon jocks from doing anything stupid." Roob was constantly twitching, his eyes bouncing around nervously. Roob scooted over and tugged Trouble's lapel.
"Um, 'scuse me," he stammered, "but… what I mean to say is…" He tapped his watch. "The optimal materialization time is in approximately sixty-five seconds, Major, sir." Roob tugged at his watch strap nervously, obviously imagining getting gored by buck demon horns.
Trouble nodded and signaled the group to cock their weapons (Silversevos, as named by Foaly). He loaded his own and titled his head to look down the sights, adjusting until the crosshairs were in the center of the target area. The grove settled, and Trouble could feel his squad lose their lax attitude and settle down for business. He activated his helmet mike. "All right. If there is a materialization, it will begin in approximately forty-five seconds. Captain Verbil and I will take the first shots. If we miss or the shots fail to penetrate, Corporal Kelp and Private Frond will fire. Private Corrine, you're to protect Roob and call in for backup if needed. Everyone clear?" Five heads nodded in unison. "Right. Maintain radio silence until materialization." The helmets were supposed to be soundproof, but Trouble was taking no chances.
Major Kelp turned his full attention to the site, senses alert and waiting for any sign of a demon. Everything was quiet—even the mosquitoes seemed to have fallen silent in anticipation. The seconds ticked by in silence, the only sound was the slight sea breeze ruffling leafy boughs. Trouble glanced at his watch.
Six… five… four… three… two… one…
Nothing. Trouble kept his hand on the trigger of his Silversevo, his eyes trained on the air. Wait, he could imagine Julius saying. Hold your position until all threats have passed.
Then, his skin began to prickle. There was a whining in the air, barely perceptible. Adrenaline seeped into the major's veins and he stilled completely. Blue sparks of electricity began to crackle in the air, bathing the small grove in a bluish light and throwing shadows against the trees and water. And in the middle—a hazy outline, quickly sharpening before Trouble's eyes. He waited, tense. If he shot too soon, the dart would simply whiz through the insubstantial demon. Too late, and it could be whisked off to Victorian England. The figure began to take more form, curled into a ball.
Trouble squeezed the trigger, with Chix following close behind. Both darts punctured, dumping silver and sedative into the demon's bloodstream. The foggy form snapped into reality, the insubstantial becoming solid. There was a small cry and the demon tumbled out of the air and landed in a large puddle, sending blue sparks scattering. Trouble held his position for a moment, waiting for the sparks to clear before going in.
Raising a hand, he signaled the squad and moved in cautiously. The demon was crumpled on the ground with long, dark hair floating the murky water. Trouble flipped the demon onto its back and started. It was a tiny demoness. She couldn't be any older than thirty in fairy years—about eight or nine by human measure.
Roob peeked out from behind Kelp's shoulder. "What in Frond's name is that?"
Lili looked skeptical. "This is what we're supposed to go to war against? She's a little girl."
"So what?" blurted Grub. "She's still a demon."
Trouble hoisted the girl up and shouldered his weapon. "All right," he said. "Pack up camp and move out. We approximately six hours to get belowground before the sedative wears off." Not that Trouble believed that this little imp could feasibly escape custody. From what Sool had been spewing, the demons were bloodthirsty monsters with hardly more brain capacity than a troll. This little demoness didn't look bloodthirsty or stupid. Just scared.
Trouble's soldier sense was buzzing in his skull. This whole affair was going to be trouble.
Haven, The Lower Elements
Ever since the demon affair three months ago, all LEP personnel had been clocking in serious overtime. Foaly and his techies were scrambling to calculate when and where Captain Short and the rest of the group would turn up, while simultaneously predicting increasingly-frequent demon materializations. Recon had been stretched thin, with Foaly sending officers to the far stretches of the globe to gather information and watch possible sites. The Council had been in session forty-four times over the last three months—a record that had been surpassed only after the Turnball Root incident. Wing Commander Vinyáya was just finishing her third straight shift and boarding a tram home when a message opened in her helmet visor, red-flagged for priority.
"Open message," she enunciated. Text scrolled before her widening eyes. Elbowing her way past muttering civilians, the commander rapped the back of the driver's headrest. "To Police Plaza," she ordered.
The driver opened his mouth to object, then caught sight of the Neutrino at Vinyáya's hip. He nodded and turned the starter chip, connecting to the magna strip. The tram rumbled into life, rumbling along slowly in the heavy traffic. "I should have been more specific," Vinyáya said casually, pressing a red button on the dash. Only the LEP used this particular button-- it overrode the strip and cleared it of all vehicles but the tram. "To Police Plaza quickly."
The driver obliged, whizzing through Haven at speeds that normally would have earned him a hefty fine. Vinyáya pulled off her helmet and activated the holographic screen. One of Foaly's new gadgets. Holograms weren't anything new—the People had been using them for centuries. But this computer was projected from her helmet, along with a virtual keyboard, and the hologram field itself was touch-sensitive. Her slim fingers lightly brushed the air as she called up the message again.
Trouble Kelp and his squad had finally come through—they had a demon in custody. Kelp was currently transporting the demon to Police Plaza to appear in front of the Council, where they could hopefully pump it for information. All the Council members were en route, in addition to Foaly and Major Kelp. Personally, Vinyáya was not overly concerned about the threat the demons posed to the People. She was concerned about aboveground appearances, which could have much farther-reaching consequences.
The tram hissed to a stop and Vinyáya closed the hologram window, brushing past the throngs of civilians outside Police Plaza with a flash of her badge. Foaly was in the lobby, arguing with a secretary. Vinyáya came up alongside him.
"No!" he snapped. "We need to close down all the South American chutes, not just the Florida one. We need Major Kelp's cargo now."
The secretary tapped a few keys. "What I'm telling you is that I can't do that, centaur. I've got a shuttle full of tourists coming in from Disneyworld. Unless you plan to strand two hundred fairies inside of a shuttleport for six hours." She sneered.
Vinyáya leaned over, brushing silver hair out of her eyes. "Pretend with me for a moment that your opinion actually means something," she began. "Now imagine with me what would be worse for your career: following orders from a Council member and detaining a few fairies, or letting a demon loose aboveground and having your career collapse around your pointy ears?"
Vinyáya had not reached Council by feminine charm.
The secretary paled. "A demon?"
"Yes," the commander said impatiently. "A demon. So are you going to do what I'm asking, or am I going to have to get Internal Affairs involved?"
"The Eighth Family, as you all know, is a hazard to the rest of the People," Sool lectured. "If even one demon is anchored aboveground, the results would be disastrous."
Chairman Cahartez leaned forward in his seat. "Really, though—what are the odds of a demon being anchored, since humans have no knowledge of how to do it? For Frond's sake, they don't even know about demons."
Sool wagged a finger at him. "Wrong on two counts. Firstly, a demon was anchored by chance barely three months ago, and we know what that lead to."
Of course everyone knew. When Abbot had turned up in Minerva Paradizo's front yard and been anchored by a silver statue, the entire fairy civilization had nearly been compromised. "And," Sool continued, "There are also humans who know the procedure. Individuals that for some reason, have not been mind-wiped."
Vinyáya scowled. The fact that Root was gone was bad enough. That he was replaced by this grotesque thing was enough to make her blood boil. "The Paradizo girl was the first to unravel the dimensional equation. Her knowledge of demons is enough to save her."
"For now." Sool shrugged. Vinyáya opened her mouth to retort, but was interrupted by a techies scuttling into the room. He whispered something in Sool's ear and left. The commander grinned. It was like watching a shark get a whiff of a wounded animal. "Our guest of honor has arrived. Major Kelp?"
The two double doors to the Operations Booth opened with a cinematic creak. In between Chix Verbil and Trouble Kelp was a small figure, hands bound with plastic zipper cuffs. The demoness was small, barely coming up to Trouble's shoulder. She had long, glossy brown hair falling down to the small of her back and over her eyes. Her figure was skinny and gawky, with petite hands gripping the hem of a sooty black shift. She stared at her feet, shoulders hunched, trembling slightly. An altogether unimpressive specimen. Vinyáya mentally quirked a brow.
"Major Kelp," Sool stated. "This is the demon you captured in Florida?" Trouble nodded, and Sool stroked his goatee. "Thank you, Major. Captain Verbil, you're dismissed."
Sulking slightly, Verbil left the room. Sool stood and approached the girl, his cane clicking on the tile floor. "Demon," he barked. "Your name?"
She remained silent, eyes locked on the floor. Vinyáya could see her small hands shaking. "I asked you a question," Sool spat, rapping his cane on the floor. "You speak Gnommish, correct?"
The girl did not reply. Sool's eyes narrowed. "You know about the demon invasion, I presume. Now you can talk to us now, or we can move you to Howler's Peak." He nudged the demoness' foot with the tip of his cane. "Jail. Behind iron bars." The silence stretched on uncomfortably. "When is the invasion?" Sool pressed. "What are their numbers? Speak!"
Foaly could hold himself no longer. "She's a child, Sool!"
The commander whirled. "Quiet, civilian. You're here to tape, not to make comments."
Trouble Kelp rose from his chair. "Yelling isn't going to help matters. Maybe we should just step back--"
"Step back and what?" blurted Chairman Lope. "Wait for an entire pride of demons to materialize and attack Haven?"
"No!" Kelp said hurriedly. "I meant that--"
Sool cut him off. "This is a matter of national safety, Major Kelp, not a daycare center."
Trouble closed his mouth but remained standing, his muscles tight. Vinyáya rapped the table. "We may not be a daycare center, Commander, but that doesn't mean that we have the right to interrogate small children."
"Well then, Chairwoman Vinyáya," Sool said, with a touch of mocking, "What do you suggest we try?"
Vinyáya seethed inwardly. No one could fill her with a blind, teeming bloodlust like Ark Sool. "Let her settle in for a day. Get her bearings. Then maybe she would be more willing to talk."
Sool's lip curled. "And where do you propose we settle her in? Unless you plan to put her in a cell, that is."
"She can stay with me," Vinyáya blurted, then stopped, aghast. Trouble Kelp's eyes widened and Sool snorted derisively. Chairman Svenska dropped his pen onto the table. It clattered onto the floor and rolled next to the demoness' foot.
"That is completely out of the question," Sool began, at the same time as Cahartez said, "That may actually work." Cahartez looked about. "Why not? The demon gets a safe place where the LEP doesn't have to worry about surveillance. Win-win."
Sool merely stared in disbelief. "Win-win? That's completely preposterous!"
Cahartez leaned back in his chair. "Let's put it to a vote. Majority rules." Which meant that five out of the eight members had to support Vinyáya.
"Fine," Sool spat. "Nay."
Svenska clicked his pen. "I think it's our best option now. Yea."
"Yea," Vinyáya said, amazed that her voice was still even and cool.
Lope's eyes were glued to the table. "It's too much of a gamble," he mumbled. "Nay."
"I trust Vinyáya," Cahartez said simply. "Yea."
"Fighting fire with fire only causes destruction," murmured Chairwoman Akiko, the only other female on the Council. Akiko was a famous fairy artist who resided just below Tokyo. "Yea."
Chairman Rikk Swift, a businessman from under Denmark, folded his arms. "Demons are unpredictable and violent. Nay."
All eyes fell to the last member, Matthias Trapini. Trapini bit his lip and shifted in his chair. "We're over a barrel right now, Sool," he said finally. "Yea."
Cahartez nodded decisively. Not something you got to do often in a room full of bureaucrats. "That's majority. Wing Commander Vinyáya will be responsible for the demon girl until further notice. Session adjourned."
The room relaxed, but ominous overtones still played about the air. Vinyáya rose, in a daze until Foaly clapped her on the shoulder. "Ever been a mother before?" he asked, grinning in his annoying horsy way.
"No, I haven't, and I'm not about to start taking tips from you," Vinyáya quipped, with much more bravado than she actually felt.
Trouble had removed a penknife from his pocket and was cutting off the plastic cuffs. Vinyáya knelt until she was at the demon's eye level—or at least, where she thought the eye level was. The girl's face was covered with her long hair.
"Hey," Vinyáya greeted, trying to sound both authoritative and friendly. "I'm Vinyáya." As if the girl didn't already know. "You're going to stay at my house for awhile, okay?"
The demoness didn't break her no-speaking trend. Trouble raised a brow at Vinyáya over the girl's head as if to say, "What did you get yourself into?"
Vinyáya was beginning to realize that it was much more than she bargained for.
After a silent car ride and a silent walk, the pair reached Vinyáya's flat. It was much like the commander herself: small and businesslike. And dangerous—if Vinyáya wasn't a police officer herself, most of the security items in her home would have been illegal. But she was, and ever since she had woken up staring down the barrel of a smuggled human rifle wielded by some B'wa Kell idiot, Vinyáya had outfitted her apartment with enough security to satisfy even Domovoi Butler.
"Don't leave the flat without me," she said to the demoness. "I've got quite a bit of security, and if you tripped an alarm--" She almost said, 'you'd be fried faster than a slug in a vat of oil,' but then reconsidered. "—you'll get hurt." Vinyáya mentally congratulated herself. Maybe this parenting thing wouldn't be so hard.
Except for the small issue that the girl hadn't spoken once. But hey, you couldn't win them all.
Vinyáya pushed open the door and walked inside, tossing her helmet onto a chair. "Um… make yourself at home." Not like a time-traveling demon really has anything to unpack, she thought wryly. "I can dig up some clothes for you." Turning, she accidentally bumped the piano, dissonant notes breaking the silence. For the first time, the girl looked up, curious.
Vinyáya rubbed her hip. "What?" She followed the girl's eyes. "Oh. That's a piano. You press the keys here--" she demonstrated— "and it umm… makes sound. Each key has a different sound." If someone would have told her a week ago that she would be explaining the mechanics of a piano to a displaced demoness, she would have told them to stick their head into a microwave. "You can try it if you want."
The girl didn't speak but shuffled up to the piano curiously. Delicate scaly fingers reached for the keys, plunking them experimentally. Vinyáya stood there for about ten minutes, fidgeting awkwardly. Finally, she tapped the girl's shoulder. She recoiled as though scalded, falling to the floor.
Vinyáya pulled her hand back quickly. "Oh! I'm sorry." The girl was scrunched up against a leg of the piano, her knees pulled up to her chin. Vinyáya's gaze softened. "Listen," she said gently, "you're safe here. No one is going to hurt you, all right?" She met her gaze squarely. "I promise."
After a few moments, Vinyáya pushed herself to her feet. "Um, I suppose you can sleep on my futon--" Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that the demoness had pulled a fleece blanket and cushion from the couch and was lugging them both towards the piano. "You want to sleep… next to the… umm… piano?" After a moment's hesitation, the girl nodded.
"Well, all right." The commander knelt down again until she was at eye level. "How about this: you tell me your name, and you can sleep next to the piano."
The demoness' eyes slid to the floor and she remained silent, inspecting her armored toes. Vinyáya sighed and rose, rubbing at her eyes. It had been a long day, and tomorrow looked to be even longer. As her fingers brushed the doorknob to her bedroom, she heard a sound. She turned. "What?"
"Tieve." The voice was like rough velvet, whispery yet smooth. "I'm Tieve."
Vinyáya smiled. "Nice to meet you, Tieve. Now get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a fun day." Depending on your definition of "fun," Vinyáya thought to herself.
She pulled the door shut, then turned to gaze through the crack between the door and the doorframe. The girl—Tieve—was running her fingers absently over the white ivory piano keys, as if the mysteries of the world were locked inside.
Vinyáya grimaced and fell onto her futon. Next thing you know, she'd be spouting Shakespeare to convicts.
This was mostly the introduction: getting used to the characters and my personal style of writing. I wanted to let you guys know a few things, since you're deciding right now whether to follow this story or not...
1) This story will have the same "rating" as the other Artemis Fowl books: K+ to T. Personally, I don't swear because of my values (I'm a born-again Christian).
2) Since this is a fanfic, Colfer obviously did not write it. But I am trying to use many of Colfer's favorite elements: dry humor, travelling to different places, etc. This will hopefully be a blend of Colfer's writing style with my own.
3) There will be absolutely no Mary-Sue's, darn it! There is nothing I hate more than a character who suddenly comes in and is superstrong/intellgent/all-powerful. No way. So if your'e worried about too-perfect characters, don't be. Everyone has flaws.
I hope that you enjoy the story! Reviews are awesome, especially constructive criticism. Flames will be ignored, you sillies.