Disclaimer: The Artemis Fowl series and all its characters, settings, events from each book, etc. belong to Eoin Colfer. (I'm just a rabid fan spending way too much time thinking/writing about them.)

Set after The Atlantis Complex. Since the majority of this has been planned prior to the release of the final book, content from The Last Guardian will be disregarded. (New details of settings/technology/etc. from TLG may possibly be used, but whenever conflicts arise I'll go with what I originally intended, based purely on the canon from the first seven books.)

Rated for violence.


Prologue

The light of the setting sun cast a crimson glow over Chicago and its maze of steel and glass. Imposing corporate buildings marred the city skyline, but one stood particularly striking, slicing up through the thin layer of inversion that hung low over the city like the slender tip of a dagger.

A long, gleaming limousine pulled up to the front entrance, and a thin man not a centimeter over five feet stepped out. He wore a white designer suit, and an impressive collection of gold jewelry jangled from his wrists.

A woman stood by the door, dressed in a corporate uniform with the letters FC emblazoned on the lapel and a clipboard clutched to her chest. Her head was slightly bowed.

"Welcome back, Master Spiro."

Jon Spiro barely spared his secretary a glance. "Get me a cup of coffee," he snapped. "I want it in my room in the next five minutes, and it had better be hot enough to sue over."


Spiro settled himself into a computer chair in front of his work desk. He leaned back, savoring the familiar smell of his old office and a cup of his favorite coffee steaming in front of him.

Four years. It had taken four and a half long, bitter years, but all those expensive lawyers, bribes to judges, and well-placed threats had at last paid off. Needless to say, private detectives and intelligence agencies around the world were spitting fire now that the infamous Jon Spiro was getting off with little more than a slap on the wrist yet again.

Spiro should have been in an ecstasy of triumph. This was yet another victory over law enforcement, but as he leaned forward to stare into the black depths of his coffee, the bitter taste that had lingered in his mouth these past years burned like acid, a pungent slime that coated his tongue and hung in his esophagus like the parasitic feelers of a virus.

"I hunted you."

Spiro suddenly let loose a furious roar, and he backhanded his coffee off the desk. The cup bounced once against the thick carpet, then rolled to a stop by a tall standing lamp beside a dining table in the kitchen area, leaving a dark trail in the white fibers. Spiro pressed his fingers to either side of his head, digging his nails into his scalp.

How? he seethed. How did he do it? I had everything perfectly under control.

"Are you quite all right?" said a voice languidly. "You seem a bit frustrated."

Spiro froze.

He had poured millions into the security of the Spiro Needle, and it was harder to penetrate than the average military fortress. But he had been dealing with the Chicago mob too long not to have an automatic survival response in place.

Spiro's hand plunged inside his jacket for the pistol he always kept concealed there. He felt the tip of his fingers brush the cool ceramic grip.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said the voice. "Hands in the air, please. Then I want you to stand up and turn around. Slowly."

Spiro gritted his teeth, but did as he was told. He stood up from his computer chair, holding his hands up where the intruder could see them. Then he turned.

The first thing he saw was the silver glimmer of a weapon leveled at his chest. But as his eyes fell on the face of his antagonist, his breath caught in sheer disbelief.

Spiro had known from the first that the voice was female, though he knew that didn't in any way lesson his danger—he had had too many dealings with Carla Frazetti of the Antonellis not to know what women were capable of. But as he saw the figure reclining leisurely on his dining table, he realized she was no more than a little girl. She was perhaps four to four and a half feet tall, and couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve.

How many more children are going to humiliate me? he thought furiously. However, he kept his expression neutral, and took a moment to study his opponent.

The girl had the face of a child model, with flawless porcelain skin, a small delicate nose, and round, angelic lips like those of a cherub. Her face was framed by long, silken black hair, and the only sign of ill-health was the hint of sleepless dark patches that hung just beneath her carefully applied mascara. However, it was her eyes that were the most telling. They were cold and merciless, the eyes of someone much older than she was.

"Who are you?" he said.

Instead of answering right away, the girl reached down and plucked something from a little gold box on the table beside her. A chocolate truffle of some kind. She took a delicate bite and chewed slowly, perfectly at ease.

"You and I have a mutual acquaintance," she said at last.

Spiro paused, gazing back at her with narrowed eyes. That sophisticated cadence, that vocabulary. Coming from a child, it felt only too familiar.

Spiro shook himself. He was letting his experience four years ago cloud his thinking. She was only a kid, no matter how some adult had trained her to talk.

Spiro's eyes focused for the first time on the weapon in her hand, and he realized it was too small to be a real gun. It had the plastic, futuristic look of a toy.

Because it is a toy, Spiro thought, and was disgusted with himself for not seeing the game sooner. One of his employees had let the girl in as a joke, to rib him for what had happened with the previous precocious brat he had gone up against. Whoever it was, the man's family would wake up tomorrow morning with a hearse parked outside the gate.

"Humph," said Spiro. "This is ridiculous. Do you know who I am? Sorry girl, but coming here, you signed your own death warrant." Spiro's hand went again for the handgun in his coat. He felt no qualms about blowing out the brains of a kid. Anyone who stepped on his turf got it in the neck; that was just how the underworld worked.

However, Spiro felt a blast of heat shoot past his ear, singing the cartilage, and he froze. The smell of acrid smoke filled his nostrils and he glanced over his shoulder to see a smoldering hole precisely two inches in diameter carved into the left cabinet atop his computer desk.

Spiro slowly turned back to face the little girl.

"First of all," she said, "humph is not a word. Second, I'm surprised you are not interested in knowing how...he defeated you."

Spiro stared at her, every muscle in his body suddenly very still. "How do you..." he began, but then stopped. He stared into her deep, chocolate brown eyes, hooded with condescending superiority, her tiny lips curled in a sneer. Suddenly, he laughed. "Let me guess. You're his little sister or something, right?"

The girl stared at him for a moment. Then for the first time, her mouth twisted, as though she had tasted something inexpressibly vile, and her brown eyes seemed to glow red in the darkness. "You would dare," she said softly, "to accuse me of being in any way related by blood to the likes of...Artemis Fowl?"

Then, as quickly as the cloud had come, the girl's face softened again and she was back to normal. She plucked another truffle from the box and said almost breezily, "No, I am not related to that infuriating Mud Child. He is merely someone I greatly detest and would like to suffer untold agony before reaching an untimely demise. So I thought you and I might come to some sort of understanding."

She took another dainty bite of the chocolate and then continued reasonably, "We both want to see the ruin of Artemis Fowl the Second. You require the means both to locate and ultimately defeat him, and I need an effective cover for my operations, as well as resources—resources that you possess, Jon Spiro. Though I understand the boy stripped you of much of what you once had, you also retrieved much even while you were indisposed under the watch of your human law enforcement. Even this building you contrived to hold onto would be a great asset to me."

During this speech, Spiro's eyes had drifted down to the truffle. His sensitive stomach had never been able to handle sweet things, even back when he'd still been living on a diet that consisted of something more than pills and water; the thing gave him indigestion just looking at it. A feeling of foreboding prickled at the base of his skull. There was something about the arrogance, the presumption of this girl to think she could ever be of use to him that he could not ignore.

Yet her reaction to mention of the Fowl heir was promising, and Spiro had to admit he had the barest thought that, with time, he might just take a liking to this girl.

"You said something about telling me how he did it?" Spiro inquired.

The girl smiled, and the expression was far from pleasant.

"Let me tell you a story," she murmured. "A story of a little boy who was clever, ambitious, and surrounded by ever so many loyal friends. But in the end was destined to be deprived of everything he holds dear, and drown in a sea of misery born of his own crimes..."


A/N: Well then, here we are! I guess this is my second longterm-AF fanfiction attempt, though technically my first, since I started this before the other one. (Early October 2010, I think...but you probably don't care about that. (; )

Anyway! Here's some good news: as those of you who'd been reading the other story (The Other Paradox) probably guessed, it was all self-betaed and often suffered on the wording and typo-front as a result. So this time a huge, huge thanks to levina, who betaed this for me and helped smooth out the kinks and congested areas. :3 (And is staying on with me for more future chapters too! :D)

Well, even as talkative as many of you know I am, I'll leave it at that for now. ;) Please review and tell me what you think so far! Constructive criticism, pointing out typos, saying lines you liked, asking questions about details concerning canon, whatever (or just saying that you read it (; ) is great, so don't be shy. It's encouraging just to know you're here, yeah? (:

Thanks for reading! I'm hoping to have the first chapter up before too long. (: (And yes, the title is supposed to be cheesy, even though the story isn't. XD Where the title comes from will be made clear by the end of chapter 2.)

Posted 7/19/12

Posting a revised version 2/5/17, though most of the edits are actually from March 2015. (I held back posting it at the time, since I thought I would want to go over it some more, which I did up through about November 2015. Reading through it again recently, I did think it was substantially better, and decided to go ahead and put it up.)

On a side note, I know it's been a while since I updated—for the last year I've been sidetracked by other fandoms and new projects which turned out to be more ambitious than I expected. I know I may come back to find everyone who was reading this before is no longer in the AF fandom, but I do want to say this project is still very much ongoing and far from abandoned.