Fowl Manor, Dublin. A week ago:
Butler drove the car down the driveway to the manor. He felt a sense of accomplishment in doing what he wanted to do for days. Something had been troubling him. Recently, things had been disappearing around the Fowl Manor, money, various items –vases, spoons, statues- his Sig Sauer. A few nights ago, the power went out, but when Butler investigated after about 10 minutes when the back-up power wouldn't start, he found that the power lines had been cut. Checking the back-up generator, he found that it had been messed up beyond repair. Wires had been cut, valves had been removed - and the missing components were nowhere to be seen.
He had also thought he heard some movement in the house, but had dismissed it as his hearing. He was getting old. Butler had been the only one in the manor when it had occurred: Juliet was touring, Artemis and Angeline Fowl were in Haven, watching Artemis's recovery. But he was still a bit troubled, so he had decided to write to Minerva.
He had just come back from the village after posting a letter to Minerva and was putting some groceries into the pantry when he heard a slight intake of breath. Instantly, he dropped the celery and whirled around to face the attacker, pulling out his gun in the process. Nothing. Butler backed up against the fridge and waited. Suddenly, he heard a voice in his ear, 'You shouldn't have posted that Butler.'
Butler's last thought was, 'Fairies!' when there was a quiet buzz sound and a flash of light, as Butler's body hit the ground and was dragged away…
Paradiso Chateau, Tourrettes sur Loup. Now:
Big day today! Lately I have been reading a lot of fiction like you told me to. Artemis is fine. Caviar is still his favourite meal. Kings was my favourite book out of the three you gave me to read. Lately, I haven't read so much, I confess. I need to get back to the other book you gave me. Going to the book store soon! Have to buy the other book you recommended. Today is very busy. Overall, there is a lot to do today. Natalie is coming for dinner. Botanist. After dinner, shopping in the city. Cities are too crowded for Artemis though. Knowing him, he prefers to stay in his study.
Minerva read the letter, taking in the unconnected sentences and the strange language, instantly decoding and translating it.
Minerva turned on the black light and read:
Sorry I haven't written to you in a while. It's just that there has been so much going on, and have only just managed to write to you after the conclusion of our latest adventure. So much has happened. In short:
You know how Artemis stole some fairy magic and got out of Limbo? Well, apparently, this brought on what is known as Atlantis Complex, or multiple-personality disorder. He is now recovering, but still switches between himself and his alternate personality, Orion. He is also obsessed with counting things, though it is getting less and less now. I will tell you another time.
There's something strange going on here. I can't really say what. Every time I go outside I feel like I'm being watched. And things have been going missing. Last night, a vase went missing, and a few weeks ago, a diamond earring. One of my guns that I keep on my table disappeared too, but I know I left it there. Yesterday, all the power went out. When I went to investigate, I saw one of the main power lines had been cut.
Who do you think is behind this? Please reply ASAP.
Minerva put down the letter and frowned. Usually she was happy when she got a letter from Butler, but this time was different. Usually his letters were long and full of details, but today the letter was short and obviously, something was troubling him. Why would he bother to code his letter and write invisibly if there wasn't? Maybe she could get into the firewall and see for herself…
Walking over to her desk, she tried to think of another password for Artemis's fire wall. Rejected. Again. Minerva shook her head. Artemis sure knew how to set his passwords well.
Even if she could not hack into Artemis's video cameras, at least she could access some areas of the LEP database. She could access some of the files on Artemis, but couldn't get into the more sensitive areas of the LEP network. I really need to get better at this. Artemis is only better than this than me because he's a criminal and you're not, consoled Minerva. If our positions were switched, then I'd be the one with the impenetrable password. At least she was able to hack into some of the LEP's files about Artemis, if not his direct video feed.
Minerva studied the files. It had been updated and stated that Artemis was being held in The Argon Clinic in Haven to cure his 'Atlantis Complex'. Minerva read this entry with interest. 'Atlantis Complex'? Looking up the file, she remembered that Butler had referred to it earlier.
A scan of the file on Fowl Manor didn't show anything wrong. Minerva frowned, wondering what was troubling Butler. Normally he was loathe to ask for her help. Knowing Butler, he liked to handle things by himself, even when it was obvious he needed someone to talk to. She tried another password. Rejected. Again.
'Minerva, darling, how is that science project coming along? Is it finished yet?'
Minerva jumped and turned around to face her father.
'Not yet, Daddy. Please. I'm thinking.'
'What's this one about? Who are you trying to prove wrong this time? Einstein? Newton?
Minerva bit back a sigh of frustration. How many times had she told him not to interrupt her when she was thinking?!
'Not today. I'm working on something different. I still need to draw out the plans. I need time to think. Maybe we can talk a bit later?'
Minerva's father frowned slightly. 'If that's what you want, darling, but if there is anything you need, I'm in the garden. Alright?'
'Yes, Daddy, now please. I need to think.'
Minerva's father exited the room. Finally some peace and quiet.
Minerva dialled a number. Normally, she and Butler would use email as their way of communicating, as it was faster as well as more convenient. But occasionally they mailed each other, but that was only when there was a parcel of some sort going along with it.
Minerva noticed that this time, Butler had mailed a letter, but it didn't have a parcel attached. Also it had been coded, but she hadn't been asked to visit.
5 rings. Voicemail. 'Hello,' said Butler's voice. 'You have reached the number of the Fowl Manor. If you do not have direct business with the Fowls, please hang up immediately. We will not tolerate any mischief of any sort. If that is the case, then I suggest you hang up now, or I will take this matter up with the police.' A slight pause. 'If you have a message, please leave it after the beep.'
The phone beeped and Minerva hung up. But something was strange. Minerva had tried to hack into Artemis's system once using his phone, but it turned out that while she could - just - hack the phone line, she still needed the password for Artemis's firewall.
Artemis's voice had been the voice in the voicemail. Not Butler's. There was no reason for Butler to change the voicemail, unless it had something to do with something else. Like the letter. Minerva called again. This time, she noticed a soft tapping in the background noise, mostly covered by the soft music playing. Listening closely, Minerva discovered it for what it was: Morse Code.
Minerva quickly hung up and redialled, retrieving a pen and paper from the desk in the meantime.
'Minerva. Come at once. Can't speak here. Quickly. PJ673SJE21SS'
Minerva read the message and couldn't believe what she had read. She redialled, and got the same message. Catching her reflection in the mirror, she realised that her face was an expression of utter bewilderment.
Someone had tapped the phone and was monitoring the Fowls, or Butler just wasn't risking it. Paired with the letter, it was clear that Butler was in trouble. Even worse, they could be holding Butler captive and the whole thing was a trap. But she had to go see if he was alright. The last part of the message was a bit confusing though. Minerva never got her Morse code wrong, but the last part was utter garbage. Trying again, she got the same results. Unless… Minerva gasped. It couldn't be. Artemis's password for the firewall? Typing in the letter sequence, rearranging it, sorting it, decoding it, after 2 minutes, she had gotten in. Not bad. She thought. Even someone like Artemis, even with that sequence, would have taken 30 seconds to figure that out. Artemis is going to rage when he finds out that I've gotten in…Butler must really be in trouble if he gives me the password for Artemis's firewall, even though the password was scrambled. But who would be smart enough to get through Artemis's defences, that even I, Minerva Paradizo, can't get past and also know to correctly time it for when Artemis is mentally ill and being cured by creatures that most humans don't know exist?!
Minerva pulled a suitcase off her shelf and pressed a pulled some keys off a shelf. The situation was urgent, and she couldn't afford to waste time, but still, she had to say goodbye to her dad. But she couldn't risk it. He would insist on coming along with her, even though she was pretty much fifteen already. Torn between two possibilities, she tore a piece of paper off a notepad and wrote hurriedly:
I'm so sorry to leave you like this, but I just couldn't wait. I'm going to Ireland for a while to do a little research. I'll be back soon. Take care of the kids and don't give Beau any chocolate!
Signing off with a flourish, she snuck to the window to check on her dad. He was still outside, weeding the garden. Good. Taking her things, she crept outside, dressed all in dark green and hid in the shadows, watching her dad for a minute with sad eyes. Hopefully I'll be back soon. She thought to her father. Turning away, she ran to the plane on the outside of the residence. She slipped out the gate and ran the whole way to the airfield. While running, she just had to feel a small sense of satisfaction. While Artemis was still smarter than her, she had always been good at certain sports, especially running. At least she was better than him at something. She liked to think of herself as good at everything, instead of specialising in just one area. While Artemis could solve quantum physics problems and write eternity codes, she could run for a while and get away from certain dangers and at the same time, solve quantum physics problems and write eternity codes, though it might take her just a bit longer to solve them. The plane was in sight now. Climbing into the plane, she hopped on and started the engine. 'Butler, here I come,' she said determined, as she started the plane, and it flew off into the sky.