Federal Supermax Detention Unit Six, Cell Number 10196, Somewhere in Utah

Artemis ran his hand over the fabric of his bed for the hundredth time. How many hours had it been? Maybe it had been days. It was literally impossible to tell in here. The lights operated at fifty percent at all times, bathing the tiny white cell in a dim glow that wasn't bright enough to keep him awake, but wasn't dark enough to limit his vision.

It was all very melodramatic for a simple painting theft. Then again, he did blow up the safe and take stolen property across national borders. But of course, the real reason he was in the Federal Supermax Detention Unit Six was because they knew exactly what he was capable of. It was all very hush-hush, one of those ugly little places where people disappeared and were never heard from again.

Butler had been released, apparently they thought he was simply a bodyguard. At some point he had been handed over to the Americans, it was hard to tell when. From his point of view he had been put on a plane, flown to the Midwest somewhere and handed to another set of stern looking people wearing almost identical clothing. They had confiscated his clothes and given him a standard orange jumpsuit with the numbers 16673 emblazoned on the back in bold text. On his arm was an ironed on patch depicting a white dove. Escape risk. For once, he didn't have any idea what he was going to do. Being at the mercy of captors was a unique experience for him.

He had been taken hostage before, certainly, but before there was always the Fowl Family fortune and a very large Eurasian man waiting in the wings to save him. Not counting his own considerable intellect, of course. A slot opened up in the door and a Styrofoam plate of food was shoved through. Minced chicken with the bones removed. Artemis got up from the cot and held the food at length, a slight frown of distaste evident on his face. He was hungry, but he wasn't about to eat THAT. He set the plate gingerly down on the floor next to the toilet. It was a small act of protest, but it emboldened him. It was all he could do.

***

"He is a minor and I'm his legal guardian, I have a constitutional right to see him!"

The elderly woman behind the desk stared back at him from behind a pair of round glasses.

"You're not a United States citizen and neither is he. Furthermore he is a flight risk, and you are under investigation. I hardly think it would be wise to even let you communicate."

Butler clenched his fists in frustration. It had been a whole week since he had seen Artemis, and having his principle locked in a Super-Maximum prison left him feeling frustrated and useless.

"If you don't let me see him I'll go to the press. They'll have a field day with this! Keeping a fifteen year old child in twenty four hour solitary confinement is practically torture!"

At the mention of the word "press" the woman's jaw tightened. He had hit a nerve.

"Alright, look, I can't guarantee ANYTHING, but I will talk to the warden and you will get a call tomorrow."

Butler nodded and stood to leave. It wasn't what he had hoped for, but he'd take what he could get at this point.

***

The two guards flanking him had relaxed their grip. It was the same two as yesterday, and the day before that. They were, almost acquaintances, but they didn't respond when he had attempted to engage them in conversation. It was like chatting to a doorknob. After a series of long metal hallways and security gates he was led outside to a small courtyard dug six feet into the ground. A large chain link fence enclosed the small area. The guards pushed him in and closed the massive door behind him. Another officer with a rifle stood on a catwalk across from him, watching. His one hour of exercise. Artemis was not interested in exercise. He wasn't interested in much of anything here, because there wasn't much to be interested in. In fact, there was nothing. For twenty three hours a day he was shut in that cell. The minutes scraped past like years. He slept most of the time, and when he couldn't sleep he paced just to tire himself out. He was pretty sure it had been eight days, because sixteen meals had been deposited in his room so far. When he went out for exercise they searched his cell and cleaned away everything. He walked to the far corner of the fence and slumped against it, breathing in the fresh air. Someone would come for him. They had to.

***

Butler waited apprehensively, nervous adrenaline making his foot tap on the concrete floor. After what seemed like an eternity the guard returned and motioned for him to follow. He was led into another room where a row of two-way phones sat on their hooks. He found a seat at one in the middle and waited. On the other side of the glass a heavy security door slid open and a fifteen year old boy in prison garb was pushed through. Butler was almost relieved to see him, until he sat down at the opposite booth. He was the same as he always was. Except for the eyes. Normally Artemis looked like he was trying to stare a hole right through you and into the wall behind your head, but these eyes were different. Unfocused. His entire face conveyed no expression. With some trepidation, Butler picked up his phone and Artemis did the same.

"Hey Artemis."

"Hello Butler."

The response was casual. Like they were just passing each other on the street. There was a slight pause.

"Do you have a plan?"

"Naturally."

Some of the weight on Butler's chest lifted. Once his employer had a plan, things started to happen.

"What do you need me to do?"

"Go back to the Manor and get my communicator. Find Holly. Tell her I can get the real Mesmerizer if she can secure my release."

Butler nodded. He had been thinking about giving the fairy folk a call himself.

"That's it?"

"One more thing. I have a shirt hanging up in the study, if you could take it down and put it away for me, that would be just fantastic."

Of course. The painting was still hanging in his study. If Interpol decided to make an appearance it would be and open and shut case.

"Will do Artemis. I'll talk to you in... A little while. Take care of yourself."

Artemis not have known it, but Butler meant those last words. The young mastermind was resilient, but the total sensory deprivation was obviously wearing him down.

***

Holly rolled over and slapped around on the bedside table until her arm connected with the snooze button. The buzzing stopped and she almost let herself drift back off to sleep. Almost. Of course she couldn't sleep in, she chided herself, there was a hell of a lot of paperwork waiting for her. Integrating an entire race that was previously thought extinct into an underground metropolis with limited space and touchy inhabitants was a nightmare. A nightmare that manifested itself in stacks upon stacks of red tape.

The office door shut closed behind her, drowning out the sound of ringing phones and small talk. It was a pretty nice office, to be fair. Solid oak desk, nice comfortable chair, top of the line computer, all the amenities. It was a bureaucrats heaven, so it was a shame, she reflected, that she had never been much of a bureaucrat. A fresh stack of paper had been deposited in her in box during her absence, and she casually flicked off the first dozen papers into the trash, as they were invariable complaint forms from Trouble's younger sibling. For the next hour and a half she dutifully signed requisition requests.

A loud ringing sound made her jump. She picked up the handset next to her.

"Hello?"

There was no answer and the ringing continued. The LEP Major finally realized that the sound was coming from her personal communicator. Her heart skipped a beat. It was Artemis! Just what she needed, a little boy genius to spice up her day. She retrieved the small pad and flipped it open.

"Hello?"

"Holly, it's me, Butler." A gruff and slightly tired voice floated through the connection.

"Butler, hi, long time no see. What's going on?"

"It's Artemis. He's in trouble. Can you meet me at the manor in a half hour?"

Holly frowned.

"What? Why? What's going on?"

"Not now, we need to talk face to face. Can you meet me?"

Holly's curiosity dissolved into worry

"I have a desk job now Butler, I can't just leave whenever I want, it doesn't work like that!"

"You know I wouldn't do this if it wasn't important. He needs your help."

The elf bit her lower lip. Artemis was not one to cry for outside aid unless things were really bad. After a long pause she made up her mind.

"Alright, I'm coming."

"Thank you."

***

Artemis turned over in his bunk. Try as he might, sleep didn't come tonight. He would close his eyes, turn over time and time again and try to drift off but he just couldn't. They had even shut the lights off all the way tonight. He lay on the rough sheets with his front facing the white brick wall and stared at it. It was almost perfectly seamless except for a small indent where some previous occupant had picked at it in his long hours of solitude. As Artemis reached out a hand to it a faint blue light flashed over his palm. He recoiled instinctively. The blue light appeared again on the wall. Artemis's eyes flicked to the window and his heart skipped a beat. A familiar shape was hovering just outside the bars. Artemis dashed to the window, almost like the child he was supposed to be. Holly raised her helmets visor.

***

He was paler, if that was possible. His skin was tighter across his high cheekbones, making them look less regal and more skeleton-like. His eyes, though distant a moment before, had reclaimed their old predatory gleam. The boy was a tiger, looking at a key to his cage that was dangling in the arms of a songbird, just out of reach.

"Hello Artemis."

"Good evening Holly."

They paused momentarily. Where to even begin?

"You're in prison."

Artemis rolled his eyes.

"Oh, well spotted."

"No, I mean, this is a change for you. What happened to being invincible. What happened to "gold is power"?"

"Leave out the gloating Holly, it's not why you showed up and we both know it."

Holly's expression softened.

"Artemis, I'm not gloating. We're not like that anymore."

"I would hope so, otherwise my avenues for freedom are running out."

"Even so, I'm not just giving you a free ride out of here."

Artemis pursed his lips.

"I know."

"I-We, want that horrible little device of yours. It needs to be locked in a vault or destroyed, and if I get my way it'll be the latter."

"Fine."

"Just like that?"

"What other choice do I have?"

Holly narrowed her eyes.

"I want your word Artemis. I want your word that you understand this isn't one of your games anymore. This is real."

Artemis Fowl leaned as far towards Holly as the bars would permit, and the look on his face sent shivers down her spine. It wasn't angry, just incredibly cold.

"You think this is still a game for me?"

"Well, you alwa-"

"This is not a game. Sitting in a cell twenty four hours a day, seven days a week is not a game. Never was, never will be."

There was silence for a moment. When Artemis next spoke, his face carried more sadness than malice.

"After all these years working together, you still don't trust me?"

The elf sighed.

"I trust you Artemis. I trust you to do what you think is right. The problem is, that isn't always what the rest of us think is right."

The teenager shrugged and held out a hand through the bars.

"Can you forgive me for being me?"

Holly smiled and shook his hand

"I think I can do that, just this once."

She pulled her visor back down over her face and Artemis saw his own reflection in it.

"You'll be out by this time tomorrow. Just need to work a little fairy magic."

And with that she was gone.

***

Mr. Noble was astounded. He had woken up this morning with a whanging headache to find out that he had released the Fowl boy from both Interpol and American custody without filing charges. Furthermore he had also discovered from his subordinates that he had ordered the boys criminal record destroyed. The process had apparently taken several hours. The one catch was that he couldn't remember a damn second of it. At that moment his secretary walked in.

"Sir I have that speech on human trafficking for the conference next week."

IPC jerked out of his musings and shook himself. Old age. He probably had a very good reason for letting the Fowl kid go, even if it didn't spring immediately to mind. Besides, he had bigger fish to fry.

"Just set it on the desk over there Seymour. Thank you."

***

Artemis stepped out of the car and stretched. The open air felt indescribably good, like an oasis after a long journey through the desert. They were still well within American borders, but Artemis had insisted on stopping at least once. He had been cooped up for far too long and now he was going to enjoy it, not be stuck in an air-conditioned car all the way to the airport. So here they were, sitting on a concrete picnic bench at some godforsaken truck stop in the middle of nowhere. From what he had seen, that pretty much summed up Utah. Other people would look over occasionally, their eyes would scan his expensive suit, drift over to Butler, and then recoil back to whatever it was they were doing. Artemis ignored them.

"What time is it?"

His bodyguard pulled a sleeve up slightly to glance at his watch.

"Almost two."

The raven haired teenager nodded and stood up reluctantly.

"We'd better go. Fairies keep precise time, and I wouldn't want Holly to think we swindled her. Again."

"And sir, if I may add, your parents are going to want a very good explanation as to where you have been."

Artemis winced.

"Damn. I suppose I will, won't I? Oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Butler opened the door to the rental car that was parked on the edge of the lot, and Artemis situated himself in the passenger seat. Not exactly the style of travel he was used to, but hey, desperate times.

"Oh, and Butler?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for helping me out of there."

The massive Eurasian man disappeared behind his customary pair of shades.

"Just doing my job."

{Thanks for reading, and I apologize for spelling mistakes, I haven't had my mind on my work these past few weeks.}