Final Oration Frondish17
An Artemis Fowl Fan Fiction Challenge
Opal curled in her hover chair, catlike, a wicked smile of anticipation playing around her ruby-red lips. This was without doubt the best entertainment she was likely to ever have – and it was all on account of her genius. After she had set up hidden cameras to capture her enemies' reactions on film, she had sent each of them a copy of the recording she had made of Artemis Fowl II's demise. After all their priceless reactions had been caught on film, she had instructed the Brill brothers to make a slideshow out of it, beginning with the death of the mud boy and progressing throughout the footage of his friends' stunned silences, breakdowns, etc.
"Merval! Where's that popcorn!" she demanded as the lights went out and the screen began to light up.
Artemis resented the fact that he was being filmed. It was so degrading. He knew exactly what this was – he had received a similar teaser when the Russian mafia had kidnapped his father for ransom. The shot of him, incapacitated, in Opal's lair would be sent out to those Opal hoped to blackmail into paying the ransom: his parents, Butler, the LEP . . .
He attempted a confident smile toward the camera, but it was difficult to look in control when one was strapped down to a pallet with steel bars. And, to be honest, Artemis wasn't all that sure about his situation. Opal wasn't after money, he had to be honest with himself. She was after revenge. She was insane, thirsty for the blood of her enemies. She wouldn't be bothered with accepting currency in exchange for his life.
The door opened with a pneumatic hiss, and Artemis glanced away from the camera to see who it was. It was Opal. Her shadow fell over his prostrate form, and her smooth accented voice twanged like poorly plucked harp strings. "Hello, my dear little helpless mud man."
"Hello," Artemis said jauntily, trying to conceal the fact that his chest was heaving unnaturally fast.
"How are you this evening?" The cold voice was acidic and rippled with magic and hatred.
"Very well, considering the fact that I am incapacitated and at your rather doubtful mercy," Artemis jibed glibly, thankful that his sarcasm had not deserted him even if his bravery had. "And how are you."
"I am perfect, as always," the pixie crooned. "Now, would you like to say a few last words to those who will be viewing this recording later on? Something touching, preferably. There is nothing quite like a tear jerking ending."
Last words? Artemis's stomach lurched and made him feel sick. Then it was true. He was going to be murdered. Right here. In a few moments. Struggling to keep his face composed, he glanced at the camera. Stall. They're coming for me. I know it. I have to stall her.
"Opal . . ."
"Don't bother wasting my time with stalling," Opal said, tapping her foot. "I happen to know no one is coming for you, because no one knows you are here. You see, I cloned you, just as I promised you I would after you thwarted my plans with that stupid lemur."
"What do you mean?"
"As far as your friends are concerned, you are currently in your bed in Fowl Manor. If they attempt to wake you before they see this, you will apparently refuse to respond to stimuli. Your parents will think you have gone into a coma. Until they watch this, that is."
"D'Arvit," Artemis spat out of habit. One couldn't spend all one's time around fairies without picking up a few idioms. He struggled with his bonds for a moment, but it was a hopeless endeavor.
Opal pulled off her gloves and began warming up her fingers. Red sparks flicked under her nails and made evil hex signs in the air above her hands. "Do hurry, mud boy, I don't have all day."
Artemis swallowed hard and began to talk. He didn't realize how much he had wanted to say until he realized he was never going to get to say it. So much they needed to know, so little time to tell it in. Opal tapped her foot as he rattled off messages for the various people he was certain were going to witness his final moments, making it difficult to concentrate.
Opal, growing bored with the stream of last words, decided to stop him. "Alright, enough is enough. You've gone over your quota." And she flung her red roiling magic at Artemis.
Artemis hollered once, bucked in his harnesses, and then flopped back. His face was deathly pale, his mismatched eyes rolled back in his head. Blood dribbled from his cracked lips, and the hole in his chest, still sizzling like magical embers, stared up at the camera with a cold and complete finality.
Opal stuck her face in the screen, grinning happily and manically. "My dear viewers, please do note that this film is R rated for violence. Sorry to not have warned you sooner!"
"Shouldn't you answer that?" Lily Frond slurred as the communicator on Trouble Kelp's desk began buzzing. "It might be important." She bit one of his long pointed ears.
Trouble Kelp reached up to where the LEP captain leaned over his swivel chair and tweaked her pale green cheek. "You're the only important thing right now, princess."
"I love it when you call me princess." Lily walked around and sat in Trouble's lap, interlacing her fingers behind his head. "You never call anyone else princess, do you?" she demanded, pursing her lips and batting her eyelashes in a mock pout.
Trouble giggled. "Never."
"Not even Holly Short?" Lily rested her blond head on his broad shoulder and cuddled closer, a contented smile playing on her lips. "She is very pretty. And you did go out on a date with her, once. I heard from Grub it went very well."
"Firstly," Trouble said, setting his boots on the desk and leaning back in his chair. "You should never accept my baby brother's word over mine. Secondly, if you count discussing the merits of a Neutrino 4000 and a lively debate on the subject of decreasing the swear toad epidemic as a date going well, it did go very well. But there was no chemistry between us, princess, nothing that we have right here in this room."
"I am so glad to hear you say that," Lily sighed. The communicator buzzed again. "I really think you'd better answer that. Just to shut whoever it is up."
Trouble leaned over and plucked up the communicator. "Yeah, what is it?"
The small device exploded in Trouble's hand, causing both elves to fall backward in the swivel chair. "What under the earth . . ." Trouble shouted, clambering to his feet and almost stepping on Lily, who was lying prostrate and screaming in shock.
The communicator had fallen to the floor and was emitting a high-frequency beam that was casting a projected holographic image onto the ceiling of the commander's office. It was a picture of the mud boy, Artemis Fowl, strapped to a gurney on the floor of some sterile white room.
"What is that?" Lily cried, stumbling to her feet and sucking on a bruised finger as she clawed at Trouble's elbow with her free hand. "Who is that? Is that the Fowl boy?"
"Yeah," Trouble muttered, scrutinizing the scene before him. Why didn't he like the look of this?
"Hello, my dear little helpless mud man," a familiar voice intoned. Opal. Trouble's fist clenched. This could only mean bad news.
"Hello," the Irish boy replied, the smug, quiet accent filling the room. Trouble's teeth were immediately set on edge. He really couldn't stand that kid, criminal or hero.
There followed a strange repartee which Trouble struggled to follow. Lily Frond gasped as the meaning became clear to both of them – the Fowl kid was about to be killed. Right before their eyes. As Trouble moved backward toward the desk, groping for a backup communicator with which to call for support, he heard his name being spoken.
"Trouble Kelp, Commander," Artemis said in rushed tones, staring seemingly right at Kelp through the hologram.
Trouble almost answered.
"I want to tell you that I have a deep respect for you, sir, even if you are a bit of a jackass," the Irish boy said. "I believe that Julius made a good choice in recommending you for office, and I'm sorry we couldn't have been friends. Please keep the LEP up and running smoothly, because they will be – in all probability – the world's last hope in times to come. Oh, and maybe you could consider giving Major Short an aboveground assignment now and again. You know how it is with her – she loves the outdoors."
Trouble was nodding to the requests. He stopped himself, feeling foolish. He stole a glance at Lily, who had both hands over her mouth in shock. The recording above them skipped. Suddenly the whole room was lit up in hellish red as magic poured from Opal's fingertips and into the human's body. Trouble winced against the glare. When he looked again, Artemis Fowl II was dead.
"Oh no," he grunted. "Oh gods above."
Lily was keening and crying, burying her face in the desk.
"I'm sorry, honey, I shouldn't have let you see that," Trouble said, immediately concernedly going to her. "It must have been horrible for you."
"Not that, you idiot," Lily shouted, slapping his hand away from her. "He mentioned Major Short to you. He knew that there was something between you, he did everything but propose you elf and wife!"
Minerva was working out an algorithm on a piece of graph paper, twisting her corkscrew curls around a short manicured finger. But her heart wasn't in the equation. There was something wrong. She could feel it.
"Minnie, will you push me around the courtyard?" Beau Paridezo rolled over to his big sister as she sat slumped at her desk. "Daddy says that a ride will calm me down because I am too hyper right now and I want you to come with me while I am riding."
"Not now, Bobo," Minerva frowned and bit the end of her pencil.
Artemis. That was what was the matter. She hadn't heard from him in ages. Recently he had taken to calling once every several weeks. They would chat about various theories and hypotheses. His calls always thrilled Minerva; she found solace speaking to someone who found interest in the same subjects as she did – what was more, someone who understood those subjects to the extent that she did.
During his last call, they had been in the middle of a very lively debate about the feasibility of a time machine when something had made him rush off the phone. He had promised to call her back, but he had not gotten back in touch with her. And she knew for a fact it wasn't simply because he had forgotten. Artemis Fowl didn't forget things.
"No, Bobo. Go away. I'm trying to think," she snapped, waving her hands at her little brother. He left sulkily, propelling himself and his toy car toward the door with his chubby legs. She looked regretfully after him, sorry she had spoken so harshly, but she couldn't help it. She was on edge.
"If only he would just call me," she muttered, bending back over the diagram and setting her pencil at the ready once again. As though to answer her wish, her cell phone rang, chiming out Scherzo, Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Artemis's ringtone.
Happily adjusting her glasses, Minerva picked up the phone. She found that the small screen was playing a video feed. She gasped as she recognized who it was. "Artemis!" she squealed in horror. She began talking to the picture as though the boy could hear her. "What are you doing strapped to the floor like that? What is going on here? This had better not be a stupid pranks."
A voice Minerva had never heard crackled through the speakers. It was slick and smooth and feline and it made her shudder. What it was saying was even more repulsive than the voice itself. She was going to kill Artemis.
Minerva listened in open-mouthed shock as the recording flicked to a close-up of Artemis. He was talking to her, she realized. "Miss Paridezo, Minerva," he said quietly. "I don't know if Opal will be showing this to you, as I'm not sure that would serve her purpose. However, I thought it appropriate to include the only other prodigy I have ever talked to in this, my last oration."
"Last oration, what are you talking about?" Minerva babbled, frantic.
"You have a great deal of potential and I admire your cognitive aptitude. However, remember what I said to you often. It doesn't pay to be a genius if it costs you other, more important things. Friends, for example. Take me: at this moment my enormous brain or my ability to solve complicated spatial addresses does nothing for me. But I know that I have friends and I will be remembered. Not for my contributions to reputed texts nor for my numerous patented inventions, but remembered as myself. And to be remembered as one's self is better than any number of Nobel prizes gathering dust in a locked chest."
Tears were gathering on her eyelids now, and so the next image – the one of Artemis dead with a hole in his chest – was mercifully unclear. The screen went blank.
"Why can't we watch War of the Worlds?" demanded Beckett, bouncing on the divan in the Fowl family's spacious living room. "Butler says it is a good movie."
"Yes," Angeline Fowl said, smiling gently and taking the four year old on her lap. "Well, Butler is a grown man. You, my little boy, are not."
Artemis Fowl I popped Barney the dinosaur into the DVD drive. "Let's just wait on that, young man, eh?"
Juliet entered with popcorn in several large cartons. She handed one to each member of the Fowl family, took one for herself, and flopped down on the floor. She giggled more than the twins did when she saw the purple costumed dinosaur pop up on the screen. Not, of course, because she found any amusement in the sorry actor's antics. Juliet Butler was laughing because she couldn't help but be reminded by the dancing purple-and-green figure of two particularly stupid musclemen she had come up against in Chicago, during one of Artemis's many adventures.
"Here's to you, Pex," she muttered into a handful of buttery popcorn before she downed it.
"This is a stupid movie," Myles declared indignantly. "I want to watch a duck-mentry. Duck-mentries are not stupid like Barney. It is stupid because tyrannosaurus can't sing because their vocal cords are all wrong. And if they danced like that they would lose their balance and fall down and kill themselves."
"Be quiet, simple-toon," Beckett slapped Myles on the arm. "I like Barney."
The screen suddenly blacked out, interrupting gentle parental chuckles. The screen flicked on again, the picture gradually becoming clearer. Juliet sat up, popcorn spilling out between her fingers. "That's Artemis," she declared.
"Artemis," Myles repeated, then giggled. "What's he doing in Barney?"
"Myles, Beckett, leave the room now," Mr. Fowl said in suddenly strangled tones. "Right now, boys."
The two toddlers rolled off the couch and retreated from the living area, laughing at the prospect of their big brother on television with Barney.
Juliet got to her feet and glanced back at Mr. and Mrs. Fowl. "What's going on?" she demanded.
"Timmy?" Mrs. Fowl said tentatively. "I want you to explain to me what is going on. Arty's upstairs, in bed."
"Go check on him, Angeline," whispered Mr. Fowl.
As Mrs. Fowl flew out of the room, a voice that seemed oddly familiar to Juliet burst through the surround sound speakers. It was a fairy, she realized, recognizing the undeterminable accent.
Artemis replied calmly, typical Fowl. His composed mood immediately soothed Juliet's rattled nerves. Maybe this was some kind of a joke. Of course it was, Artemis was in bed upstairs at this moment with a slight headache.
She sneaked another glance at Mr. Fowl, but his taut face revealed that he was not relieved in the slightest.
The scene skipped, and suddenly the camera was zoomed in on Artemis's pale features. He didn't look good. He looked shaken and scared, a combination that Artemis should never be.
"Mom, Dad," he said. "Myles, Beckett, Juliet, if you're there. Opal has given me the courtesy of a few last words."
"Who the hell is Opal?" shouted Mr. Fowl.
"Quiet," Juliet hissed, half to herself, walking slowly closer to the large screen television set to better hear Artemis's words.
"No doubt you are rather concerned, seeing me incapacitated as I am. However, I will remind you that I have had a penchant for getting out of places seemingly between a rock and a hard place. Don't worry about me. I will be fine. At the risk of contradicting myself, if I do not make it out of this, Myles and Beckett can have whatever they want from my room, including the hamster. Make sure Beckett doesn't try to eat it again, will you? I must admit I have a soft spot for that little creature."
"What is this! Butler!" Mr. Fowl shouted, not remembering that Butler was not at home at the time.
Artemis continued. "Father, thank you for making me all that I am. You've given me the drive and determination to be the most successful person I could hope to be – and yet, treacherous as it may seem, I hereby renounce the family motto. Gold is no longer my power, Father. You are, Mother is, Myles and Beckett are . . . you are my power, my strength. I want to thank you for that."
"Arty's not waking up," screeched Angeline, thundering back into the room with a wild look in her eyes. "God, I don't know what's wrong. He won't wake up!"
Mr. Fowl grasped her by the shoulders and hugged her close. "You don't want to watch this," he told her, and then whipped out his cell phone and began dialing numbers. "Don't worry, son, we'll get you out of this," he muttered, talking to his absent child.
"Mother," Artemis said. "You know more about me than anyone else. You know what I mean. If I do not return to you, make sure you keep the communicator you will find in my room. Keep in touch with the People on the speed dial. If trouble comes – and I have a feeling it will – they will be the ones to help you."
Angeline had her hands over her mouth. She sank onto the couch.
"Juliet, tell Butler not to blame himself too hard. This is my own fault for being so negligent. Look after him for me. And for heaven's sakes, don't let him grow a beard again."
Juliet laughed a strangled laugh, but it was cut off by a blast of red light. Juliet screamed at the next scene, something she had never done in all her life. Mr. Fowl dropped his cell phone in mid rant and Mrs. Fowl collapsed into a heap on the couch.
Mulch took a sip of beetle juice and sat back in his favorite beanbag chair.
"Hey, Stinky, are you going to answer me or what?" Doodah Day's shrill voice came from the office. "Do you want another case or don't you?"
"I already told you, no," Mulch groaned. "Just get out of here and give me a little peace, will you? I've had a long day."
"Yeah. A long day doing nothing in particular," Doodah ranted. "A long day sending me out places while you sat there on your hairy behind and watched PPTV!"
Mulch let out a burst of gas from his rear end, just to drown out the sounds of the complaining pixie. "Hey, Doodah, you're starting to sound like we're married or something. Just go pick up the vole curry and come back."
Doodah Day left the office, grumbling. He slammed the door, no doubt as hard as he could, but the pixie's little arm did not pack much of a punch and the door barely tapped the lintel. Mulch relaxed and sipped his beverage, but didn't get much quiet because only several seconds later the doorbell rang.
"Oh, tunnel mud," Mulch swore, climbing out of his seat and waddling to the door. When he opened it, there was a gnome with a package standing there.
"This is for Mr. Diggums," the truculent creature droned, holding out the package.
"Must be the new equipment from Foaly," Mulch noted, although the package did seem rather small for that. He signed a pad with a digipen and took the package, slamming the door in the postman's face.
He placed it on his desk and began unwrapping it. Once the box was open, he found himself staring down at a small translucent cube. "What the . . ."
A laser shot out from a small lens in the top facet, spreading a matrix of green gridlines into midair.
"What the . . ." Mulch said again, for lack of a better phrase.
A picture began to solidify in the center of the gridmap. A boy. He recognized the kid. "Arty!" he said, but the surprised grin faded from his coarse features as he realized that this was no "hello-how-have-you-been-Mulch" communications link. There was something wrong.
A pixie voice droned from the small cube's miniscule features, difficult to hear, but unmistakable. "Opal Koboi," Mulch breathed, feeling the beetle juice he had just consumed sloshing around in his suddenly quaking stomach. "This isn't good."
Artemis began speaking to him. Mulch strained to hear from the tiny speaker. The words were faint, and he clambered onto the desk to press his hairy ear to the device.
"Mulch Diggums, how have you been? I, as you can see, am slightly less than fine. I sincerely hope you find yourself in better straits than me. I realize that, up until now, your services rendered during the adventures we have shared have gone largely . . . unacknowledged. For this, I am most sincerely sorry. Please accept my apologies."
"Accepted," Mulch grunted. "But why are you telling me all this now?"
"Also, to make amends and clear my conscience, I hereby bequeath to you one eighth of everything in the Swiss vaults rented out in my name. Use it to get into a more up-class district. The last time I had the pleasure of visiting your office it was shabby to say the least. Or you could simply use it to buy a lifetime's supply of beef jerky, whichever you prefer. It's yours to keep. Thanks again."
Mulch couldn't believe his ears. One eighth of a billion or so dollars was . . . a lot of money! He knew that much. But what in Frond's name did Artemis mean by "bequeath"? People don't bequeath things unless they are making out a will.
Then a bright red light flashed and the next scene bowled Mulch over off his desk and onto the floor. He sat up and stared at the screen for a long minute, trying to decipher the punch line to this particular horrible joke. After several moments of nothing but the dead boy on the screen, the dwarf finally realized that there was no punch line, and threw up his beetle juice.
Foaly was stewing. Positively stewing. His computer had detected a bug earlier in the day, but he had run a complete systems check and he had yet to find the virus or the glitch or whatever it was that was setting off his dratted alarm systems.
He had decided to work a double shift in order to stay in the Ops booth and try to find out what under the world was going on. Cabeline had called him several times, angrily demanding the time he expected to be home for supper. The children had already been put to bed, complaining because of the lack of their usual bedtime story. Foaly had suggested he tell it to them over the phone, but Cabeline had refused. "It's the principle of the thing," she had objected, and hung up. That had been an hour ago.
Now, he felt he was finally tracking the rascally thing down. As he clicked keys and pounded buttons through layers of cybernetic code, he could almost picture himself tracking his prey through a technological jungle. "I am the predator," he muttered to himself. "I will hunt you out and eliminate you, you parasitic little glitch."
The system crashed. Just like that. Every screen in the Ops booth went dark and powered down with a high-pitched whine. "Oh no," gasped Foaly, furiously tapping his keyboard. Nothing. "Please don't do this to me!" His beloved computers didn't respond. "No, no, no, no, no!"
The screens blinked back on, but on a scene the centaur did not recognize. "What is this?" he demanded, then noticed the person that was mirrored in the multiple screens. "You," he whinnied. "Arty . . . and Opal. Gods above, it's Opal Koboi!"
Turning away from the screens, he attempted to patch through to Commander Kelp's office, ready to report a code red situation. But there was only static, and he realized that his systems were still down. Someone – probably Opal – was using his computers to show him the scene he was now witnessing. Just like that one time during the goblin rebellion.
"Okay, Opal, what's going on?" Foaly demanded, wondering if the pixie were listening in.
"Hello, donkey boy," Artemis said, drawing Foaly's attention away from his multiple machines. The mud boy didn't look good.
"You really got yourself in a mess, didn't you," Foaly chided the human boy. "Don't worry, Arty, I'll get in touch with . . ."
"I have a confession to make, my friend," Artemis said quietly. "If you remember the Ice Cube project . . . I honestly did not come up with that on my own. I saw a schematic while browsing through some hacked data I retrieved from your system. It was dated several centuries ago, so it would make sense that you would not remember it. However, please keep in mind that at that time I was suffering from the Atlantis complex and was not myself. I am appalled at my actions, and I would like to get that off my chest before I go."
"Go," Foaly mouthed. "Oh no," he said again.
The screen went red, then solidified in a surreally gruesome picture. One that Foaly never thought he'd ever see. He brought a hand to his mouth to stifle the whinny of dismay, and stood there for several moments, surrounded by the same horrible picture.
"Koboi," he gasped finally. "She is going to pay for this. Poor Arty . . . Oh, gods!" The fact hit him that now the People once again had to face Koboi's diabolical schemes – and this time the Fowl boy wouldn't be there to put things right again. Fear and pain clenched in Foaly's gut, and he sank into his specially adapted chair.
Butler was shopping for a new set of motion sensors for the manor grounds. There had been some disturbance on the premises that had gone unchecked. Artemis had assured him that it couldn't have been anything but a stray cat because it had passed the anti-shield-adapted cameras without revealing anything. But a bodyguard couldn't be too careful.
He was currently standing behind the small store's manager, who was scrolling down an ancient computer screen to check and see if they had the model he was looking for. Butler was distracted, however, by his soldier's sense, which was buzzing faintly at the base of his neck. Something was wrong, he could feel it.
"Can't you hurry this up a bit?" he demanded of the manager.
"Hold on," the man tutted. "I'll have it in a minute."
The buzzing grew steadily more violent. Butler reached up and touched the place, almost imagined he could feel it vibrating with the force of it. Artemis was in danger, that's what it was. Nothing else ever affected him so harshly. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'll have to leave an order."
The man grabbed onto Butler's coat cuff, something that was very bold, considering the man was eight feet tall, three feet across the chest, and huffing like a bull. "Wait . . ."
"No," Butler slapped the man's hand away, but his attention was drawn to the computer screen, which had inexplicably changed picture. Instead of the catalogue index that had been there only seconds before, Artemis was on screen. Tied down.
"That's odd," the manager said, beginning to tap at keys.
Butler grabbed him and held him back. "Don't touch that!"
"But it's not supposed to do that," the man objected. "Let me get back to the catalogue for you."
Butler practically tossed him out from behind the desk. The man finally got it through his skull that Butler did not want to be interrupted and stayed where he had been pitched, sprawled in a sitting position on his floor, looking indignant.
"It's Opal," Butler gasped. "How the hell did she escape Atlantis?" Butler grabbed the monitor in his massive hands and held it like a dying friend's face as he stared deep into the screen, breathlessly listening to the conversation.
"Butler," Artemis said, glancing at the screen as though he had just noticed the stunned man staring at him. "You, of course, will be one of the people to view this. Please, once this is over, do not do anything irrational. This is my fault, do you understand me? Being your employer, my last requirement for you is to lay all blame upon my own shoulders. I was the one who neglected to send you for that new surveillance equipment you wanted to get, I am the one who was stupid enough to go out alone while you were gone."
"Don't . . ." Butler's hands cracked the monitor's casing.
The manager screamed. "You're going to pay for that!"
Artemis was still talking. "Take care of the family. You are the only one besides me with full knowledge of the People, and I have a feeling that knowledge is going to be needed."
Butler had heard those words before. But last time he had been the one to die. Red light filled the screen like a spray of bloody water, and his principle's final scream shattered the huge man's heart. And Artemis was gone. Just like that.
With a roar, Butler yanked the monitor from it's moorings and threw it against the wall. The manager cowered for a moment, then fled the scene, leaving Butler to demolish the store while he called 9-1-1.
Holly sat behind her desk with her chin propped up on her fists. Her life had become a bore. Being a major had its strong points – such as being able to make and enforce regulations – but mostly Holly missed the old footloose life she had led as a captain. It had been almost a year now, and there had been no adventure in her life for that amount of time.
Ever since I got promoted I haven't been on a good old-fashioned life-risking jaunt with Artemis, she realized sourly. Life just wasn't the same. If it got any more boring around here, she might quit her job again and take up her old residence with Mulch and Doodah Day as a private investigator/bounty hunter. It didn't pay as well and her new lavish apartment would have to go, but she would rather live in a cham pod in an abandoned, troll-infested shoot and have something to do than languish on her waterbed futon and watch PPTV on a flat screen plasma television set.
"I need a vacation," she groaned. But that was another drawback. As a major she was more important to the recon than she had beep previously, and vacations were not as easy in coming as they had been. And the gods knew they had been hard enough already. "Maybe I should just sign myself an aboveground mission. For the heck of it," she muttered to herself. "Or ask for a vacation and go visit Arty. See what little schemes he's been plotting up lately."
For some strange reason, the thought of her human friend sent a shiver up her spine and a queasy feeling of loss down into her gut. It was so strong she almost doubled up. "Wow," she grunted once the sensation had eased somewhat. "What in Frond's name was that?" She recognized it as the same emotional assailment she had suffered right after Julius Root had died before her eyes. The fact that it had come again – attached to Artemis's name, no less – was disturbing.
Tickled by a strong sense of foreboding, she whipped out her communicator on an impulse and dialed Artemis's number. She held it in her hand, already rehearsing how she would explain the strange impulse to him, and stared at it for a long moment as it rumbled with unanswered signals. Foreboding turned into alarm as the answering machine picked up: "Hello. You have reached Artemis Fowl II. Or rather, you have not, as I am obviously not here at the moment. Please leave a message after the tone, especially if it has to do with saving the world, stolen technology, missing persons, etc. I will try to get back to you as soon as whatever project I am working on at this time is complete. Thank you."
Artemis never turned his communicator off. He said so himself. She had always been able to reach him through it. She had no sooner put it down on her desk than it began buzzing frantically. Relief flooding through her, Holly grinned as she picked it up and pressed "receive caller".
"Hello, mud whelp, what are you . . ."
Holly stopped talking because she realized Artemis's face was not gracing the communicator's screen. Or at least, not in the usual way. He was . . . strapped down to a gurney on the floor of a small white room. He glanced right at the screen and gave a weak smile that made him look ill.
A shadow fell across his body, and a voice crooned out of the communicator. Holly recoiled and dropped the device in alarm and shock. Opal? Out of prison? She had Artemis, that much was clear. Holly's heart dropped into her stomach, submerged instantly in churning, queasy hell.
"Hello, my dear little helpless mud man," Opal said contentedly. Holly had heard that innocent tone before. Right before the proximity bomb had disintegrated Commander Root.
"Hello," Artemis said back, and to anyone who didn't know him, it would seem that he was completely unfazed by the pixie's entry. Holly, however, recognized a shift in nuances that indicated fear. Something was missing, the sharp edge to his tone, maybe. Or the lilting easiness of it.
Keeping one eye on the communicator, Holly leaned over and switched on her com set, contacting Trouble Kelp's office. When she had been patched through, she began barking at him: "Commander, I'm getting a distress signal from Artemis. He's with Opal Koboi, incapacitated. Requesting permission to go aboveground, sir."
"Major Short . . ." Kelp's voice came back strained.
"Don't even think about telling me no, Commander. The request was a formality. I'm going to the Ops booth right now to pick up a gun and a set of wings . . ."
"Holly," Kelp said in a voice that demanded attention. "Did you watch the whole thing?"
"No. I'm just watching it now. I don't see what that . . ." Holly's eyes widened. "What do you mean, the whole thing? You've seen it?"
"Just watch, Major Short."
Holly abandoned the com set and scooped the communicator up, holding it in her lap and bending over it, heart hammering in her chest and her breath coming shorter.
The feed skipped as though a part had been edited out, and suddenly Artemis's face was filling the screen. "Holly Short," he intoned in a serious voice.
"What?" Holly whispered, every muscle tense.
"I need not point out to you the fact that Opal has escaped, as you no doubt know this much if you are viewing this. This means that you will no doubt be hearing from her once I have been dispatched."
Holly's fingers trembled. Not another one, not another friend taken from her by Opal. Please, if there was any justice in the world . . .
"I would like you to make sure my family stays safe, if you don't mind. I know a major has other duties to perform, but for old time's sake."
"Of course, of course," Holly muttered, as though obliging him would somehow render this whole situation only a nightmare.
"I was talking to Minerva on the phone about something the other day. I would like you to go to her and . . . finish the conversation for me. While it will be too late now, it might not be too late . . . later. Or rather, before."
He's delusional, Holly thought. She could see the fear staring in his mismatched eyes. She touched the screen, tracing the contours of his face as her female instincts had prompted her to do so many times in the past. Instincts she had repressed, though now it might have been too late.
"Just a moment, Miss Koboi," Artemis glanced off camera and a flash of his old annoyance crossed his face. He looked back at Holly. "I only have a few moments now, you see," he laughed slightly. "So I must be brief. You've been a wonderful friend, Holly. I attribute every good thing that I have ever done to you." He glanced back in Opal's direction, and Holly could make out the beads of sweat beginning to form under his raven locks. "We've said goodbye many times, Holly, and never once has it actually been the end. Let it not be so now. Come back for me, someday."
What does he mean? He's babbling. Please, Artemis, make sense. Tell me where you are so I can come and save you. A teardrop fell onto the screen and crackled with static before Holly wiped it away with her thumb.
"No doubt you believe me to be delusional," Artemis said gravely, once again reading her mind. "I am not, trust me. I have never thought more clearly or rationally."
A red light sparkled over the screen, lighting up one side of Artemis's face. His face grew paler and more desperate. Holly recognized the amber color of that light. Magic. Hexes. No.
"One last thing," he said, raising his voice, almost pleading. He looked deep into the screen, capturing something of the same magic Holly had felt after the gorilla incident when they had gone back in time. "Don't laugh at me, Holly, but . . ."
The red light blotted out the image. Holly stared at it as it enveloped the tiny screen, heard the yell of pain torn from Artemis's throat. When the red haze had cleared and the picture had solidified once again, it was in the shape of Artemis Fowl II, lying with blood streaming from his lips and gaping wound, sizzling with magic, revealing his ribcage through his starched and bloodied shirt.
Opal's face entered the screen, grinning with her pointed teeth and cat eyes. "My dear viewers, please do note that this film is R rated for violence. Sorry to not have warned you sooner!"
The screen blanked out. Holly stayed there, bent double, her heart the only sound in the room. He didn't finish. She didn't let him finish.
Slowly she got to her feet, placed the communicator on her desk, and started walking. She was going to find Opal Koboi, and she was going to kill her. Not stun her, not lock her up. She was going to take her life. And if the Council didn't like it, they could banish her.
But first – to pay a call on Minerva Paridezo.
"Foaly," she said into her com set. "Have a gun ready for me in five seconds. A softnose. And a pair of wings. I'm going topside."
Holly left the room with the echoes of Artemis's last scream banging inside her skull. She froze the pain and the grief and built it into hatred, stoked it into anger, and fed it into the smelter of revenge as she closed the door on the communicator, her dead friend, and her heart. "Coming through," she grunted as she pushed numbly through the recon officers who milled in the lobby outside her door. "Police business."
Opal Koboi dropped the last kernel of popcorn into her mouth. "It needed more salt," she pouted, shutting off the view screen.
Minerva started and turned around in her chair to find Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police standing behind her. The French girl jumped. "You surprised me. What do you want?"
"Artemis said you and he were talking about something on the phone. He wanted me to ask what it was about."
Minerva frowned. "We were talking about the possibility of constructing a time machine. We had already compiled a database of schematics . . ."
Holly raised her eyebrows. Come back for me.
"Where are the schematics," she demanded. "We have a certain mud boy to raise from the dead."
The End . . . or not