Before I get emotional... this is the final chapter. But, because I love you guys, I'm posting a present, just for you, in three days. Keep an eye out for it the archives or subscribe to me to get an alert when it's up.
Now, I think I'm allowed a longer author's note for this chapter than the rest, don't you? I just want to say, right here and now, that you guys are the best reviewers I've ever had. More than one person suggesting this should be nominated for the ORION AWARDS- you guys made me cry, you know that? I would read these reviews on my phone at school, and then someone would ask me if I was okay, because I was crying. At one point, I honestly couldn't think of how to thank you guys, and I just started fumbling for words and said- thank you, gracias, merci, arigato gozimasu, habeas meam gratuitas, xie xie, danke dunke, THANK YOU SO MUCH. Thank you in all the languages I know it in. That about sums it up, I think. All 298 people who reviewed it, all 73 people who favorited it, all 98 people who followed it- I love you all and would give you guys a heart if fanfiction coding allowed me to. Take this chapter and my present instead? God... would you believe that, when I first started this story a few days after finishing The Last Guardian, I was intending for it to be a oneshot? That I started it as a warped version of chapter 13, then just pressed enter and started typing the first chapter 17,000 words later, and that those first 17,000 words aren't even part of the posted version? That I was intending to just post it as a oneshot, then go back to my regular fandoms? Well, Artemis Fowl is very fun to write for, and you guys are so much nicer than the other communities I'm used to. I'm staying here, you guys, and I'll be back with another project soon. But this final chapter is for you guys. Dedicated to each and every one of my reviewers and readers. I hope you enjoy it, your present in three days, and my upcoming project, which I've already started working. Enjooooooooooy! *hugs and kisses you all through the internet*
Two weeks later...
"Foaly, relax. It's really not that interesting of a story."
Foaly, visibly angered, shifted in his hospital bed and glared at them all. "Oh, I think that it is. The little tidbits you've given me are not enough; in fact, they only made me eager to learn more. How can Opal have been behind the whole thing if she's dead? You have to tell me!"
Holly grinned at Artemis, who smiled back, if a little reluctantly. "Oh, I don't know, Foaly," Artemis said, joining in on Holly's scheme. "The doctor did say not to upset you. Perhaps we should just leave and let you rest-"
"Oh, no you don't. This is the first time I've felt well enough in three days to do more than just blink at you, and I'm not going to waste it. Tell me! And, besides, after learning that Caballine is alive and in the physical therapy room just down the hallway, nothing you people say could upset me."
"Well... all right," Holly said with a pseudo-reluctance and grinned again. "You do deserve to know, after all. Artemis, why don't you start?"
Artemis adjusted his sling in a decidedly business-like manner and leaned back in his chair. This would take a while. "Well, I was on the surface with Holly when the commander called her and informed her of the situation with your wife. Butler was in the city, and so Juliet came with us. I offered to drive her, which is why we were in a car instead of watching her fly away. We were ambushed before we reached Tara- a team of fairies forced Juliet to crash the car. I was unconscious and had no idea, but learned later that they had been instructed to heal my life-threatening injuries only, and let Holly heal herself and Juliet die.
"They used Juliet as bait, though their consciences were strong enough to oblige them to heal her life-threatening injuries as well. Butler came, as they planned, looking for us. They ambushed him as well, and from what I understand he actually almost took out on one of them, even though he'd been drugged. Then they transported the both of us to Cork, though General Gage had his fun by telling us we were miles from both civilization and each other."
"What?! General Gage? Are you serious?!"
Artemis smirked and nodded. "Yes, I am, Foaly. You have no idea how surprised I was to recognize the prestigious general as my captor. But wait, it gets more interesting. So, I regained consciousness to the general, who informed me that 'Butler had angered a certain mistress and I was going to pay the price for it'. He told me that they were going to let Butler watch a live feed of him attacking me. Seems Opal didn't have time to come up with an excuse for the assault that at least made sense."
"Hey!" Foaly cried. "There you go again! Don't keep mentioning her and then just change the subject! That's not fair!"
Artemis chuckled. "Thank you for convincing me to come along with you today, Holly, this is truly enjoyable. Anyway, I still had a broken collarbone from the car crash- they only healed my life-threatening injuries, remember?- so I'll spare you the grisly details of the beating and simply say it was... painful. I lost track of time, but, eventually, an elf we learned later to be named Eric Jones, medical warlock, made his entrance and healed me again, ordering the general to stop. According to Butler, the general told Butler they were just going to leave him to die and that nobody would find him. After we spoke with them later, however, we learned that Opal's orders were actually to kill him- they couldn't bring themselves to do it."
"And now is where my portion of the story begins. I-"
"Hey! Stop that! Tell me about Opal! She's dead, but you keep talking about her like-"
"Shush, you. We'll get to her when we get to her," Holly said with a grin. "So, when I regained consciousness, I was underground and wearing a helmet that she designed, along with a pair of Koboi doubledex wings." She smirked at the look on Foaly's face and continued. "I was given your location and told about the bomb, as well as handed a thirty minute time limit to reach you and warn you. Of course, it was all a set-up; there was no possibility of my reaching you in time. I got there just in time for the explosion. There were a few casualties... the only one you knew was... the commander."
Foaly gave a slight gasp while Holly swallowed and looked away, Trouble's death still a raw and painful topic. Artemis took over again, allowing Holly to swallow her grief silently.
"She was ambushed too and knocked unconscious. At this point, we were both transported to a warehouse underground. She was restrained against a wall while I was mesmerized from the moment I woke up. He ordered me to kill Holly with a Neutrino that we found out later to have been taken from the general, and then altered so it could kill. It took a bit of effort, but I managed to resist him and..." This time, it was Artemis's turn to fall silent, struggling to speak the same words that had been haunting him these past two weeks.
Holly returned the favor and spoke for him. "Killed him. Artemis passed out right afterwards. I managed to get us both outside and found help- or, rather, help found us. I told an officer about Gage's involvement and they started tracking him. They eventually found him at a warehouse owned by Booki Palo- the same place, in fact, where we found Gage over a month ago when he went 'missing'. Remember that? As it turns out, that entire affair was just a meeting so the fairies involved could simply begin planning for when they would carry out Opal's plan for revenge. Maybe this'll make you feel better about getting a virus from trying to hack into their system... rearrange the letters in Booki Palo and you get Opal's idea of a joke."
Foaly frowned. "Excuse me? What kind of a... oh my gods. Booki Palo- Opal Koboi. Booki Palo- Opal Koboi. Oh my gods! Ha, I knew it. Nobody in their right minds would name their kid 'Booki'."
Holly rolled her eyes. "Yes. Well, anyways, LEP stormed the warehouse to find three out of five fairies involved. The other two, Jonathan Court- who took Caballine hostage- and Dale, who tried to force Artemis to kill me- were both dead. It didn't take long for us to realize they had all been mesmerized. Now... does that sound at all familiar with how present Opal arranged her escape from prison?"
Foaly watched them in confusion for several moments before finally sighing and shaking his head, closing his eyes in exhaustion. "Oh, gods. That's... but a plan of this complexity... are you sure?"
"Oh, yes, we're sure. Past Opal had been planning this long before her death. If present Opal hadn't intervened and murdered her, we would probably all be dead right now; she would have time to resolve the holes in her plan that we all took advantage of. Past Opal mesmerized all five of these fairies to carry out this plan just like Present Opal mesmerized those two pixies long before her plan was actually put into action. It's ridiculous; we still have warlocks working with them. Due to the fact that this information would probably cause widespread panic, this is all classified... particularly the bits about Opal. The only people who know besides the officers involved are the Council and the families of Jonathan and Officer Dale."
"Yeah." Holly nodded in answer to Foaly's question and glanced uncertainly at Artemis, who was deliberately avoiding looking at either on of them and was shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "He was a rookie LEP officer... had a wife and two kids. Opal picked him because she hacked into academy records and saw he was so skillful with magic he could've been a warlock. She knew it was possible Artemis could resist the mesmer, just didn't realize how big of a threat that was. Otherwise, she probably would have gotten a warlock to do the job."
Artemis shifted uncomfortably again and bit his lip, swallowing the lump in his throat. He had already known about the fact that Dale had a family- known for a while, actually. That didn't make it any easier to listen to Holly describe him; describe the man that he had killed.
He had had a family. A wife and two kids that he had watched take the news of Dale's death. And no matter how many times Holly told him it wasn't his fault, nothing could take away the sight of the look in the tiny seven year old's eyes when he was told his father wasn't coming home. When his wife was told the circumstances of his death, Artemis hadn't missed the burning hatred in her eyes, even as she grudgingly spoke with him afterwards.
He had killed someone. An innocent, nonetheless. Artemis was no stranger with death; people had died in the execution of his plans before, after all. He himself was the cause of present Opal's death. But he had never actually killed someone before. And, whenever someone died in the midst of one of his plans, it was because his plan went wrong. It had never been his intention for anyone to die.
And that wasn't the only thing troubling him about Dale's death. He knew what it was like to be dead; he had been dead for six months and would by lying if he said the agonizing torture from Limbo still didn't return occasionally as a nightmare. And Artemis found himself wondering if Dale was now floating in Limbo as well, torn between the afterlife and the physical world. He understood, logically, how unlikely that was- Dale's spirit hadn't been ripped from his body, so there was no reason why it would be left behind. But it was still a possibility, and, no matter how minute, it still haunted him day and night. Was he really responsible for putting someone through what he himself had suffered in Limbo?
"What do you think, Artemis?"
He started, Holly's question pulling him out of his miserable ruminations. He looked between her and Foaly, who were both watching him expectantly. "I'm sorry?"
"I just asked you if think Foaly here will ever be able to get over the fact that Opal was still able to hack him, even from beyond the grave."
"Oh. Oh, um, no. I think it will be something we can use to bother him with for many years to come. Look forward to it, Foaly. I'd also like to point out how she never successfully hacked me, only you."
Foaly groaned. "Give it a rest, will you? I hack your manor's security systems all the time. It's actually my favorite pastime."
"I'll let you in on a secret, Foaly- I only let you into my system to make you feel accomplished. You really don't hack me."
"Oh, really?" Foaly chuckled, unconvinced. "Is that what you think? Well, I'll be sure to leave you a virus as a present the next time you 'let' me into your system again. Then we'll see who's laughing."
"I will be, when your plan backfires and I actually plant a virus in your own system before you even get near me."
"Oh, we'll just see about that."
Artemis smirked while Holly and Foaly laughed before leaving him in peace, talking about Caballine's recovery. He thought back on the past month and sighed, shaking his head. It was a lot to contemplate. Coming back to life, regaining his memories, and now, this. While disasters like this past one seemed to be rather commonplace for him and his friends... this was different.
Nothing was gained from all the destruction. Absolutely nothing came out of this. People had died, and, for what? Opal's revenge? Opal was dead and had been so for seven months. She was long buried and, even if her plot for revenge had somehow succeeded and Artemis, Holly, Foaly, and Butler had all died, so what? Nothing else would have happened. She wasn't waiting in the shadows to step in the aftermath and take over. She was dead.
Artemis was reminded of his discussion with Holly after the debacle concerning Turnball Root and his human wife had come to a conclusion. He had told her that no good had come out of it. Innocents had died, and what of it? They had stopped no sinister plots to bring fairy and human kind together in an inter-species war or for a fairy to take the position of supreme overlord of the underground.
So what had they accomplished?
He was alive. Holly was alive. Butler was alive. Foaly and Caballine were both alive, if not alive and well.
Trouble was dead, something Holly would no doubt blame herself for in the future. Even when they had learned that Opal had instructed her fairies to wait for Holly to get close enough to see Foaly before setting off the explosive, she still had often said that she should have been able to do something to stop this from happening.
Dale was dead... something Artemis knew he would continue to blame himself for in the future. Holly told him consistently that it was self-defense and that he hadn't had a choice- but all he could think about was Dale's family. Was that comforting news to them? That their father and husband had been killed due to self-defense? And what about Dale himself? Was he trapped in Limbo now, just like Artemis himself had been just a little over a month ago?
Artemis shuddered slightly before shaking his head. He had to focus on the positives. Yes, there was still much to be dealt with.
But they were all alive. And that was what was important.
Artemis blinked and looked up at Holly, who was laughing at him with Foaly. "You alive over there? That's the third time we called your name!"
Artemis smiled at her and nodded. "Yes, Holly. I'm alive."
He just had to focus on that.