Author's Note: I apologize, yet again, for the delay. Life has a way of taking precedent, and mine has been pretty full recently. I am finally finishing this chapter from the Santiago, Chile airport as I await my flight back to the states. Unfortunately, in the absence of internet connection, I will have to wait to post it. (Update: now posting from another airport, this one in Dallas, Texas. I'll be home to WA in 5 hours!) In any case, I hope you enjoy it :)
Disclaimer: Use your brains.
Chapter Forty-Seven: Approval
Artemis Fowl did not like bureaucrats.
"Surely the Council has had time to review and approve my proposal by now. It has been nearly three weeks!"
"These things take time, Fowl. There are many factors to consider before coming to a decision."
"I was under the assumption that you had impressed upon them the urgency of the situation—"
"I made all aspects of the situation quite clear! Once I passed it onto them the decision was out of my hands! I have no more control over the Council than you do, Fowl!"
The elf and the human glared daggers at each other over the polished wooden table. Truth be told, Trouble Kelp was quite as fed up with the Council's foot-dragging as Artemis was, but he would rather eat his own set of shiny new Foaly Systems wings than admit it to the bespoke-suit-wearing nuisance sitting across from him.
"Ahem," said Foaly. Artemis and the Commander both turned their glares on the centaur. "By all means, keep bickering if that's what suits your fancies at the moment, but I thought the purpose of this meeting was to compile all of our information and resources so that we can be as ready as possible once Artemis does get the go ahead."
"First of all, Donkey," said Trouble, "Fowl and I are co-heading this project. And as I am the one who put the proposal to the Council and the one in the position of higher authority, it is I who will be getting the go ahead. Second of all," he added grudgingly, "you are right. What do you have for us?"
Foaly was unable to hide his smug smile at being told he was right by the commander as he pulled up the images on his holo-screen. "Top notch equipment. State-of-the-art. Fresh off the assembly-line. Or it would be if we still used assembly-lines."
Trouble cleared his throat.
"Ah, yes, well," continued Foaly hurriedly. "This baby here is the new-and-improved Smart Cord—"
"Technically speaking the phrase 'new and improved' makes no sense," Artemis interrupted. "If something is new, its like has never been seen before. 'Improved' by its very nature implies just the opposite."
The centaur, both elves, and his own bodyguard all gave Artemis rather dirty looks.
"Artemis," said Holly in an overly-patient voice. "Do you really think this is the time for syntax debates?"
"Perhaps not," conceded the teen. "Continue," he added, nodding at Foaly.
"Yes. As I was saying, the improved Smart Cord has a higher weight capacity, a range of auto-detectors that can tell you everything from barometric pressure to body temperature, and an anti-shock system that will automatically smooth and cushion sudden stops."
"That is a worthwhile improvement," said Holly approvingly.
"I thought so," said Foaly smugly. "I also have constructed, with Qwan and No1's help, a fabricated version of the warlock shield they erected around the Tree site last time. It isn't as strong or as exact as a shield erected and controlled directly by warlocks, but it should suffice all normal and a variety of abnormal circumstances."
The commander made a grudgingly approving noise. "That could prove useful. Although I hope it doesn't come to that."
"As do I," said Artemis who, despite appearances to the contrary really was making his best effort not to antagonize the elf more than necessary. Needless to say, it wasn't working very well. "Who knows about this project, apart from ourselves and the Council?"
"No one," said Kelp. "Provided Diggums has kept his trap shut."
"'Shut' is rather much to ask of our pungent friend," observed Butler wryly. "But I think we can rely on him to keep what he knows to himself. He wouldn't have been nearly as good of a criminal if he didn't have a good supply of prudence, however well he keeps it hidden."
Artemis nodded in agreement with his bodyguard's assessment. What Mulch Diggums lacked in conventional manners and schooling, he made up in resourcefulness and craft. In fact, Artemis observed, looking around at the motley crew surrounding him, he had managed to surround himself with a variety of resourceful and talented individuals over the course of his short life.
"Something you'd like to share with the class, Fowl?" said Trouble bad-temperedly.
"I was just appreciating the pool of unique and valuable talents we have to pull from in the planning and execution of this project," said the teen smoothly in a rare, if calculated, show of benevolence.
Trouble snorted disbelievingly.
"I think the most prudent thing to do at this point," cut in Juliet, "would be for all of us to get a good night's rest and hope that the approval comes through in the morning. It would be a pity to have to postpone action because we're too tired to function properly."
"Good idea, Juliet," seconded Butler firmly.
Holly stood up and rolled her shoulders, reveling in her newly recovered ability to do so. In the two weeks since her discharge from Haven General, she had been working tirelessly to regain the strength and dexterity that would allow her to take part in the upcoming mission. Now that she actually knew what that mission was there was no way she was going to miss it, not for a dozen sacks of gold.
Artemis stood too. Since Holly's discharge from the hospital, and subsequently his own, he had been staying with the elf in her one-bedroom apartment while Butler and Juliet shared a room in the hotel across the street. This was a great show of faith on the manservant's part; one that did not go unappreciated by either Artemis or Holly.
Holly and the three humans left first, passing the two other fairies on their way out. Holly waved at them, but only Foaly returned the gesture. Trouble still hadn't spoken to her in any capacity other than as her commander since their encounter in her hospital room. Holly didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved that he was keeping things between them strictly professional.
"Penny for your thoughts?" said Artemis as the two of them ascended the steps of Holly's building. The colloquial phrase sounded odd coming from his mouth.
"Nothing novel," said Holly, punching the code into the pad by the door. It opened with a soft whoosh. "What do you want for dinner?"
"I highly doubt that is what you were thinking about just now," said Artemis. "But, since you ask, something Mediterranean would be nice. On me, naturally."
Holly was sorely tempted by the offer to get out of cooking, but…
"Sorry, Mud Boy. I've got a fridge full of food that needs to be eaten, and we're the only ones around to do it." She continued into the kitchen and opened said fridge so they could both look inside. "I could do a Greek Salad."
Artemis smiled. "I suppose that shall have to suffice, then."
Holly set to work on the salad while Artemis wisely got out of her way. He was deeply immersed in a book about the history of the LEP when Holly appeared in front of him, making him nearly jump out of his skin.
He scowled at her, smoothing out the front of his button-down. "Must you, Holly?
The elf shrugged in a manner that most humans not familiar with the People would call "impishly," but which Artemis associated much more with certain female LEP Recon elves than with pre-pubescent demons. "It's fun to make you jump. Dinner's ready, by the way."
"I figured as much," said Artemis, unfolding himself from the couch. Although still not tall by human standards, he had grown several centimeters over the last year and no longer fit comfortably in the fairy-sized surroundings.
Holly and Artemis ate their dinner in a companionable silence, after which Artemis drew his elven girlfriend into a discussion bordering on debate about some of the points in the book he had been reading. Artemis was never truly happy unless he was analyzing something that would make most people's brains hurt.
"Artemis, this is supplementary material. It was written to be used as part of a course at the LEP Academy. More than two decades ago!"
"So you agree that the volume is out-of-date and incomplete."
"Artemis, for fairies, two decades are barely worth noting. And besides, it is a history class. History doesn't change."
"On the contrary, Holly, the facts may not change, but our knowledge and understanding of them do. And that is really what we study when we study history, unless time travel is involved."
"Ugh," said Holly. "Never again."
"I have to admit that the topic doesn't interest me nearly as much as it did when it was still just a theory," conceded Artemis. "Although whether that is the knowledge of the realities of time travel or simply loss of the novelty of the idea upon its fruition, I have yet to analyze.
"Analyze away," said Holly. "I, for one, am going to bed."
Artemis nodded. "I shall have plenty of time to theorize upon my own psychological motivations at a later date. I confess that for the moment I have rather had my fill of psychology." He made a wry face. "I have always preferred the hard sciences in any case. Fewer unknown variables."
"Less of a chance of being wrong," said Holly knowingly.
Artemis nodded in agreement. "If you understand the principles. Which, obviously, I do."
"Obviously," said Holly with a roll of her eyes. She rose from the couch. "You coming?"
"In a minute," said Artemis. "I want to finish this chapter."
"I thought you said the book was 'out-of-date and incomplete."
"Oh, it is," said Artemis, waving his hand as though to bat away the point. "But no more so than the vast majority of human history books. Honestly, you should see some of the things they try to teach us in school. If they over-simplified it any more, there wouldn't be anything left to learn!"
Holly smiled. She had come to enjoy seeing the normally cold and calculating teen get worked up over something he was passionate about. "I'm sure that would please the majority of the students to no end."
"Hmph," said Artemis, and went back to his book.
Holly left for the bedroom with a fondly exasperated shake of her head and a small satisfied smirk at having had the last word.
Artemis sat at Holly's dining room table, a cup of Earl Grey tea and the deceptively innocent-looking acorn in front of him. It was six am and Holly was still fast asleep. Artemis wished he was too, but though the nightmares had receded, the insomnia had not; there was just too much on Artemis's mind for him to get a full, restful night's sleep. In the hours he had spent awake while everyone else dozed in peacefully, the troubled teenager had reached the conclusion that his subconscious connected wrapping up this whole business with the Power Tree with sealing the vault on his guilt. Therefore, if he could complete this mission without fouling something else up, maybe he could finally be free of the last lingering grasp of the Complex. He sure to Frond hoped so.
"Don't laugh at me," he muttered to the shiny, silent seed next to his teacup. "I'm doing the best I can. It's hard enough re-learning to trust my friends and family. Relearning to trust myself… Well, I'm talking to a bloody acorn, now aren't I? He made a sound of disgust and took a sip of his tea. It had gone cold. "Cold tea," said Artemis, setting the cup back down with an expression of cultured distaste. "How disgusting."
As he had already tested fate once by boiling water for his first cup of tea, Artemis decided to forgo a second attempt and check his email for the umpteenth time in the hope that the Council had finally approved his (as he still privately thought of it) expedition.
One new message from BGLope lepcouncil . gnom
Esteemed Commander Kelp and Master Fowl,
After careful consideration, the Lower Elements Police Governing Council has decided to approve your proposed expedition to Africa Site 001 for the purpose of the attempted revival of the Ancient Power Trees. We have assigned a representative of the Council to accompany you on the mission and oversee the proceedings. We will expect you at the Shuttle Bay tomorrow at precisely 7 am to sign the remaining paperwork and depart for the site. Please arrive in a timely manner with all necessary gear and documentation. You may contact my secretary with any further comments or concerns.
Council Chairman Benedict Gulliver Lope
Artemis jumped out of his chair so quickly that he nearly knocked it over. "Holly! Holly!"
"What?" The elf was on her feet, neutrino in hand, before Artemis had regained his balance.
"The Council has approved the mission," said Artemis, blinking at the laser currently pointed at his midriff. "Can you put that thing away?"
Holly resisted the urge to give her boyfriend a good singeing before returning her weapon to its holster. "Never wake me like that again unless there is an emergency."
Artemis had the grace to look abashed. "Sorry. I got a little excited."
"Apparently," said Holly, her ruffled nerves and interrupted sleep making her crabby. "What time is it?"
"Six-thirty anti-meridian, Haven General Time," Artemis responded.
"In other words, half-past the crack of dawn, metaphorically speaking," said Holly. "Have you eaten?"
"I had some tea" said Artemis, waving a hand impatiently. "We should contact the others."
"A word to the wise, Artemis," said Holly. "If you want to keep you head attached to your shoulders, you do not 'contact' Trouble Kelp until at least seven-thirty in the morning."
"When do we leave for Africa?"
"At seven tomorrow morning," said Artemis, consulting Chairman Lope's email.
"Then we certainly have time for some breakfast," said Holly decidedly. She proceeded to the kitchen and prepared some eggs, toast, and sim-coffee, then sat down in front of Artemis's computer to read the Chairman's email.
"I see the Council is insisting and keeping a finger in the pie." She shook her head. "At least they're finally letting us take some action. The old farts on the Council may get a kick out of sitting around hemming and hawing and twiddling their thumbs, but I for one do not." She stood to clear their plates away.
"I can do it," said Artemis.
Holly looked at him askance.
"You don't believe me?"
"I don't believe you're offering."
"Well, I am."
"Then be my guest," said Holly, holding up her hands as though offering the contents of the kitchen table to Artemis.
"That I already am," pointed out Artemis laconically, stacking his plate on top of Holly's.
"Yes, so don't break anything," said Holly.
Artemis pretended to drop the plates he was holding.
"I'm serious, Mud Boy. You break it you buy it."
"Hardly a threat to someone with my level of wealth," said Artemis, recovering the plates with a smirk.
Holly gave him a swat on the rear. "Go. Clean up. I'm going to call the Commander and Foaly about tomorrow. Then we can go see Butler and Juliet."
"Aye, aye, Captain," said Artemis.
"Go!" said Holly, and Artemis had to move quickly to avoid another swat on the rear. He almost made it.
AN: Action next chapter. I promise. Until then, reviews are welcomed with open digital arms.