Chapter Eighteen
Drumming

Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Artemis, with the help of Commander Root, has managed to heal Holly and Jac from the biological agent that had been affecting them; he did this using magic belonging to the 'Ancients' - beings who had existed before the fairies, and had actually created them (in their spare time, because they wanted some soldiers for their battles). Underground, Kelp has received vital information from Basil Rune, who'd staged his own death in the E1 bombing so he would be able to come to the LEP. With this information the LEP is now able to launch an assault on the Anti-Atlantis Association, (the terrorist group run by Quentin Thyme) and Holly and Root (along with Artemis, Butler, Marcus and the Brambling siblings) have come back Underground just in time to join in the fun.

"And what is Life? – an hourglass on the run
A mist retreating from the morning sun
A busy bustling still repeated dream
Its length? – a moment's pause, a moment's thought
And happiness? A bubble on the stream
That in the act of seizing shrinks to nought."

- 'What is Life?' John Clare

Colm Mistflower was never called Colm by his 'friends', or at least not by anyone who shared the seedy apartment block in the wrong suburb of Haven, but druggies and mobsters hardly called anyone by the name of friend. Mistflower was no different. Oh, he wasn't addicted to any of the illegal drugs that the LEP barely knew existed, and he wasn't linked to any of the Barons of the Underground, but he wasn't much of a friend to anyone. If you called Mistflower a friend, then there was a lot you didn't know about him, and you must never have seen his business card:

Monsieur Mistflower

Odd jobs done

Any place, jurisdiction or motive

He had an arrangement with the Fairy Council: immunity from the LEP in return for whatever 'odd jobs' the Council occasionally had an urge to be completed. There had been a bit of confusion when a Council secretary was hiring a new maintenance man, but that mishap had been quickly cleaned up, surprisingly without anyone losing more than a reasonable (and eventually replaceable) quantity of blood.

Currently, Mistflower was on his way to an address scribbled on a scrap of recycled paper. There was an impeccable, comfortable grace in the writing style; the writer was not nervous or hesitant writing these simple words. He had met up with Lady Vinyáya in a temple in the better part of town, and she had said this job was particularly urgent, and that it must be completed before the LEP had a chance to ruin the situation completely.

If urgency was what she needed, then that was exactly what she would get. Mistflower always had a soft spot for the most attractive fairy on the Council, though it hadn't quite led to what he'd hoped.

How hard could it be to kill this fellow anyway? Fairies were pathetically easy to kill, and Mistflower knew it.

Julius laughed when Holly led the shuttle into a deserted, roped-off shuttle port. None of these ports had been in operation since the E1 disaster, so it hadn't been difficult to ensure that no fairy witnessed the humans arriving Underground. It was more difficult to ensure their safety and anonymity through the streets of Haven – some areas of the city were not pressurized, and there were always eyes peering from behind every fraying curtain. The LEP, it seemed, had arrived at a solution for this problem: a troll-carrier, the only way to transport the humans from E3 to the makeshift Police Plaza. This was why Julius was laughing.

A trembling Grub was squirming with excited nerves, jabbering with his own importance in the passenger's seat, next to one of Trouble's most highly trusted squadmates. The sprite saluted the Commander then rolled his eyes at Holly, gesturing with his head towards the inane Grub. Holly smiled, and Julius was still laughing. None of the others could see what was nearly so hilarious.

"Oi, Butler!" Julius called. "I should've known you weren't human." It still wasn't funny, but Julius didn't seem to notice.

The transport was huge, designed to hold a two-tonne bull troll. The entire chassis reinforced with a steel alloy (designed by Foaly's cousin) with a special electronic and analog locking system (designed by Foaly himself), and, most importantly, it was fully covered and opaque. No one would know they were carrying three Mud Kids and two Butlers through the center of Haven. The public might assume the LEP was transporting a troll, but the backlash from that would be merciful compared to what would happen if the knowledge of humans infiltrating the People's Lower Elements got out.

The humans, Holly, and Julius piled into the back of the transport, which had been hastily redesigned to seat seven (which meant they'd strapped a number of wooden crates to the sides and caused the small electric current that usually ran through the chassis to short-circuit). The trip was long but thankfully smooth due to the lack of traffic in the streets and the electromagnetic system the Underground utilized in the cities.

Trouble met them in the small docking area below the makeshift plaza. Until weeks ago it had been an unsuccessful Atlanteanean cafeteria that had jumped at the chance of a cash settlement for the dingy premises. Trouble saluted Julius by habit, and then gave the Mud Men a quick look-over also by habit (the Butlers getting more than a courtesy glance -Trouble still remembered the embarrassing bruise from the Fowl Affair that had taken weeks to fade).

"Commander, I didn't want to tell you this over the air, but we've got an AAA in custody. The information is flare-hot, and probably as explosive – or at least as powerful. Vein's putting together everything we know for a briefing, and I've got Hodder working on an offensive – that sprite's got a great eye for detail; he's wasted in an average squad." Trouble wasn't grinning with imminent success, as almost anyone else would be, but instead he was serious, his mind jumping like lightening from one aspect of the situation to another. Julius nodded, leading the way towards the stairs at a jog; Holly caught herself barely paying attention to the details Trouble was rattling off and followed Julius. Grub was left behind with the five Mud Men, looking around for direction.

"Commander," called Artemis, "I advise you to allow the Butlers and myself into these proceedings. If there's going to be anything unexpected in this assault of yours, it would be a seven-foot Mud Man with a large gun."

Julius turned back around, as if he'd forgotten the humans completely with Trouble's news – which he probably had. "Will I be wasting time if I talk to the Associative myself?"

"Probably," responded Trouble.

"Fine, no need to be repetitive then. Bring Vein down to… Damn, there are no proper interrogation rooms here, are there? Would it be easy to close off access to this area, do you think?" The driver-sprite thought for a moment then nodded. "Vein, Foaly, Holler—"

"Hodder."

"Whatever. Bring everything they need down here. And try to be discreet about it, Kelp." Julius paused, as if remembering something that had been at the fore of his mind anyway. "Is Foaly here?"

Trouble shook his head. "As soon as we told him you and Holly were coming back he would have held a nurse hostage until they agreed to release him, but he knows he's not fit enough to be back at the Plaza. He's not an idiot, sometimes. He's got a 24/7 video/audio connection directly linked into my office, the damn centaur, talking constantly and working with his free hand. Who knew that two days in forced bed rest would get him quite so agitated quite so soon?"

"Foaly?" Holly interrupted. "What's happened to Foaly?"

"Didn't you know, Hol? He was caught in the E1 bombing. He's fine; it wasn't even critical. A bit the worse for wear, but he'll be back at work in days. I'll get one of the techies to bring down a connection so Foaly can dominate the conversation, as per usual."

Ten minutes later, everything was as Trouble had said it would be. Vein, Hodder and Foaly (via a priority-one network link) were explaining all they knew to the group from Above.

Folay's unruly long hair made a creative splatter against the pale green of the hospital walls. In the peripheral view of the camera they could just see one side of the sling that looped under his belly and helped him to stand without strain. He whinnied in pleasure when he saw them all there.

"Holly!" he exclaimed. "I see Fowl's gambit saved your arse yet again, eh? Well, give my fondest thanks to the Mud Boy when you see him next; what would Police Plaza have done without that gorgeous backside to goggle at?"

"Shut up, Foaly."

"All I was doing was making my pleasure at your return to health known, that's all. I see you didn't even inquire about my own." The image of Foaly was grinning hugely, but the level of group-wide discomfort rose dramatically, freezing everyone into an awkward silence. "Shucks. Bad, eh?" He grinned. It faltered. He hadn't really felt like smiling anyway…

"I had a squiz at the records and recent surveillance of the area your prisoner placed the AAA headquarters at. It's a damn fortress. Huge layers of protection over the whole place, you wouldn't believe the levels of security clearance needed to access harmless data like interior temperatures. That should have ticked me off on its own. Some of the protection made me wonder if perhaps they had someone on the Council playing their game… The area is a mostly disused industrial district. There are some day-factories, but nothing residential. They have far more freedom of movement that way, I expect."

He coughed, adjusting himself in the sling. (Hodder and the techie looked away awkwardly as if the action was somehow rude.) "Now, here's the interesting bit: Lately there've been some enormous discharges of energy. Completely indescribably massive. Off the damn scales. I have absolutely no idea where such power could have come from – it's on par with the Mud Men's unclean nuclear reactions, but the patterns just don't fit the hypothesis of illegal nuclear. Now, here's the really, really interesting part: When I saw these at the time, it was sufficiently significant that I was cleared of the security blocks in place. And I told Root to get someone to go look at it."

There was silence for a moment, as everyone turned to look at the Commander. "I agreed. I ordered Doyle and Biddulph to investigate it."

"They never went," Foaly announced. Root opened his mouth, but Foaly cut him off. "Or, more specifically, they never went because they never got the order."

Trouble was the one to speak their thoughts. "Could it just be a blip in your inter-LEP communication system?"

Foaly nodded. "It could be. But… well, either way it's a fault in my system. The problem is that it's highly unlikely to be a naturally occurring error. More probable, and the consequences are huge, is that the AAA have someone on board who is very good with computer technology. Sufficiently spectacular that they can overcome my security measures, which is verging on impossible since Koboi's handiwork. Either option is, quite frankly, disastrous."

"Are there any pluses?" Asked the sprite named Andriessen.

"I'm glad you asked." Foaly grinned. "I'm not totally hopeless. I have discovered a way to get a team into the AAA compound secretly, so we can get some level of security in place before you fly-boys get all pompous and lay siege to the place. Not exactly pretty, but it's better than climbing the sewerage pipe." Foaly looked away for a moment, down at something in front of the camera. "Hang on a second, I'll send through some files."

The sound of his typing was painfully slow and laboured, an awkward one-handed operation.

The image on the screen before them split, half showing dodgy blueprints of the AAA's building. "Okay," came Foaly's voice, "this is a map of the AAA warehouse. And this," lines of red overlaid the current map, spiralling in from the very edge, "is the lines of the circulation systems. And these," some of the red lines started to flash orange, "are the circulation lines that are no longer fully operational." Foaly scanned the faces of those on the other side of the video connection. "I think the Commander's got it."

Holly moved forward, bypassing the grinning Julius. She lent forward, tracing the orange lines with a finger. "They aren't complete, Foaly."

"By Rune's information the main chamber is…" Trouble moved forward as well, scanning the map, "here." He jabbed a finger at the screen, slightly east of the middle of the complex. "It's not accessible by the orange lines."

"I already have the solution. You'll have to take one of my techies. I recommend Wainwright. If you come in from the disused pipes to the south of the main complex, you can drop Wainwright off at this room here." A cupboard towards the bottom of the screen flashed yellow. "From there he can start working on collapsing the entire electrical system in the compound, as well as the circulatory elements. If worse comes to worst we can cut off all electricity to the entire zone, but that'll be very obvious and will cause unwanted attention from the media."

"Hold on, Foaly." Trouble interrupted. "Wainwright? You want to send Wainwright into the field? Are your brains as squashed as a stink worm room-sharing with a troll?"

"It's the only solution; we need a techie on site. I'd go myself if it weren't for the nurses sedating me every time I look at the door."

Artemis listened silently, turning the idea over and over in his mind. Quite possibly he'd be even worse as a field officer than this Wainwright, although he would have the advantage of surprise and physical size over anyone who should find him. Artemis stepped forward into the scope of the video lens for the first time. "If you need a genius to work on their circuits, I'll go. You'll want Butler anyway, and the closer I am to Butler the further I am from harm."

"Don't be so stupid, Artemis," said Butler. "A fairy operative would be more familiar with the technology they're working with anyway; you'd be at a disadvantage."

"I'm very familiar with the fairy technologies, Butler. I've been studying technology as of the Goblin Uprising in great depth. I've even got a prototype of an amazing device by human standards, constructed from technology inspired by the fairy tech I've had my hands on. It's going to make me very rich within a year."

Trouble sighed. "I don't know what's worse: the idea of my life being in the hands of Wainwright or Artemis Fowl." He turned towards Artemis, looking up at him. "We'll get you suited up and then we'll do the briefing. You'll be under my command, and will damn well do what I tell you to. Capeshe?"

COUNCIL MEMBER DEAD

Lord Peat Found Dead in Suspicious Circumstances

In a bizarre and unexplained situation, Lord Joseph Peat has been found dead in a hotel bed. Although the results of the autopsy have not yet been made public, foul play is expected.

Lord Peat, the Dwarfish member of the Fairy Council, was working towards greater equality for all races of fairy People, and his thoughts on controversial matters had of late been too liberal for the more conservative members of the Council or Council Team to handle. He was known to be outspoken and a non-conformist, having a great deal of influence over changes made to the governing of the Lower Elements. Because of this he was not always popular, especially with rivals, and the strongly right-winged members of the People's Interspecies Government. This is, clearly, a motive for assassination in tighter Council circles.

It is thought that the suspected assassination was the work of someone inside the Council, as the LEP have uncovered evidence that it was because of a call coming from within the Council Headquarters that Lord Peat was present at the Shalibangs Hotel in Downtown Haven. Such an implication has disastrous consequences for the Council because, although the Seven Council members are most often seen as figurehead leaders for their species, real power does rest within Council hands.

There are questions which all concerned People should be asking: Could a Council confidant have lured Lord Peat to the hotel in order to perform an assassination? Could such actions be the result of a Council-senate hopeful, 'thinning' the competition? Could such an attack be the work of a terrorist organization, such as the AAA, working with Council approval and support? Can we give such a government organization the support and resources to continue on such a corrupt path?

This event reflects a crisis situation that is facing Haven City and all the Underground. The 'leaders' of the People abuse their power and will go to any lengths to secure their position, and most of the time the public is not aware of this predicament. The Council is supposedly representative of each Fairy Species, although even from an unscrutinzing glace we can see this to be untrue: the last Centaur member was in 1847, and historically there has never been an official Goblin member since Alfonso the Mistake in the centuries following the Exodus to the Underground.

There are many among us who remember (and partook in) the Frond Revolution of 1421. After the abdication of King Eathwod Frond, the previously ceremonial Council took upon themselves 'provisional administration powers'. There are those among us who believe that the Governing of The Lower Elements is, again, ready for change.

We cannot trust our Council, as they cannot even trust each other.

What will be the fate for the Fey if our leaders are more easily corrupted than the short-lived Mud Men that infest our world's surface?

Daisy Ventaglio, reporting for The Haven Times

Vein folded up the paper, disgusted that such an article had made it to the third page, only behind a pair of missing twin sprite-children and updates on the E1 situation. He dropped The Times in disgust, and picked up The Mirror – at least written rubbish was to be expected from the brown elfin trash with 'Media and Communication' degrees that were employed there. After dragging his eyes over a fountain of substandard drivel about an invasion of violent, poisonous super-Gnats in the outer tunnels, wasting half a page under the dramatic title of 'Infestations: The Stinging Truth', he progressed to skimming through the pages, passing dramatic, attention-grapping headlines like 'Miracle Treatment for Dwarf Fat Allergy Discovered', and 'Sue Anne With A New Beau?'.

He barely glanced at the headlines, still musing on the propaganda that he'd read earlier. He seriously considered cancelling his subscription. Who could imagine that The Times could have been corrupted so easily? The answer was that it couldn't have been corrupted easily, and so there must have been a slow transformation to left-winged, revolutionary publications and he had not noticed it for years, probably.

Things had been coming to a head lately, and so probably his mind hadn't been alert enough to realize what had been right in front of his eyes. Who expects to read the formations of a revolution over their corn flakes and nettle smoothie of a morning?

Vein hadn't.

He dropped the paper in the recycling bin, then paused by the door and thought better of it. He fished it out again, placing it neatly on the corner of his desk. He'd have to show Trouble and Root what was happening as soon as they got back. He shook his head one final time before leaving the office, on his way to check the status of the operation from the Tech Rooms. And then, he'd have to face the press –gossip mongers who'd been audacious enough to print the shite he'd just read. Such were the thrills he was required to look forward to as 3IC of the Lower Elements Police.

Julius Root had put his foot down, as he was wont to do whenever he was feeling particularly (or even slightly) cabin feverish. He'd announced that he was coming, and although he would defer to Trouble in matters about the AAA (of which Trouble was far more knowledgeable), it was known by all that if Julius decided that they were to do something in the mission a particular way, that was the way it was going to happen. The upside of that, for Holly at least, was that Julius had agreed that she could be part of the team going in, as soon as Artemis had announced her fit for duty.

The clocks ticked over to 2500. (The Fairies had adopted the 26-hour day upon descending underground. The People naturally fell into a rhythm longer than the solar day when not guided by the sun or clocks, and so The Lower Elements had developed a system of 337 days, divided into only eleven normal months and one week of festivals around Beltane.) The team was arranged, surrounding the AAA complex of the old factory.

Trouble gave the signal, and two Recon officers flew forward, shielded and as silent as ocean currents. Holly motioned the first team forward – they were the first wave, a quick in-and-out to get Artemis to a position where he could disrupt the AAA's circuits.

In the darkened silence they moved, humming wings rippling the thin air, hastening forward. Artemis smiled, the thrilling adrenaline of fear and purpose running through his veins, making everything far more exhilarating. Butler moved beneath the fairies, as if to catch one if they should drop like stones from the air.

The opening in the life-support system was obvious… The task deceptively simple…

Who would have thought it could go so very wrong?

Mistflower looked up. Suddenly. He was used to looking down, waiting for his moment.

A darkness fell, the red lighting that had been dimly illuminating the corridors failed. Something was moving, and he couldn't see what. That shouldn't be happening, should it?

"Arr—" he choked out.

He swung his weapon round rapidly, firing indiscriminately.

Then the darkness was once again complete, without sinister shadowing. The silence was restored. The red lighting flickered back into place.

Mistflower was in no position to notice.


Author's Note: Many, many thanks to Tyranny who did a marvellous beta job. It was lovely, though it did take me a while to figure out how to work the system, but a fantastic, superbly superlative system it was.

RaevanDawn – Well, even though this wasn't posted that soon, it was only the day after I finally read your review so… Please don't die; my third-party insurance doesn't cover stress-related heart failure.

Wolfrat­ - I still don't understand why someone would pretend to be the 'cusin' of an author who's not Cassie Claire and flame? What does someone get out of that? Seems like a waste of time.

Nallasariel the Weeper – Thanks for the constructive review, on a few notes:

I completely understand your comparisons between this and 42, in writing style and in characterisation. I go at the stories completely differently: in 42 I'm trying to cover 40 years, in this I'm covering days. In this the characterisation of Artemis is meant to be completely different; I'm currently formulating a background for Arty in the sequel which will explain a lot of inconsistencies you might see, especially about Arty not being a manipulative bastard. In 42 Arty a) doesn't have any fairy influence and b) has evil!Timmy's influence, so he goes at things differently than 13-yr-old Arty. Artemis's lack of scrutiny about these things will come to a (plot) point in the sequel as well.

The code was not well thought out, but each code within it was meant to be like the original Gnommish: different enough that an instant translation isn't feasible, but it is possible to make the links between them.

And, again Quentin will be expanded upon in the sequel. Frankly, he's just plain bonkers and always will be.

The Rabid Canon Nazi – I think the ages of the fairies throughout the books have changed (as has the organisation of the LEP ect), and these canon 'facts' aren't consistent. Root is middle-aged in Canon, at about 500/600 years, but elves in general are said to live for 'millennia'. I just make up whatever I like most of the time, so long as it doesn't contradict too badly.

KANDK24 – Thanks for that.

Nocena T. Calamus – Many thanks for the comments you gave me, I really appreciate such great support for the type of fic this is. And also, the reassurances that someone appreciates an AF action/adventure fic which isn't slimy with Artemis/Holly 'romance' (I'm still looking for that ship done passably). Sorry for the lack of updates, Life caught me up.

'identity's cusin' – I don't understand you. You need some new way to get some kicks, I think, because your flaming is about as effective as lighting wet wood with bird droppings.

Identity99 – Thanks for all the reviews, they made me laugh. You can be excruciatingly verbose when you put your mind to it, I'm flattered that you do that for me. (And go right ahead and borrow anything you want to.)

FlyingPurplePig – I'm glad you liked the latest updates, wait till you see what I do in the next few…

Lady of Ikala - You're the first person to guess where either of the names came from! gives you brownies for a prize

Kandice – I'm glad I brightened up four hours of your life, and that it wasn't a waste of time. (You do know that by definition FanFics are wasting time, though. I waste time with them at least 10 hours a week…)

fudge is good – this fic was written before TEC came out, so I decided to name Butler 'Romeo' for the incestuous pun it offered; I do know that the canon name is now 'Domovoi'.

Liz-Beth37 – only two hours? You're the road-runner of readers!

Simply Myself – You jinxed it! You hoped the next wait wouldn't be as long and it's the longest yet… The entire thing should be finished by end of Feb though. Then onto the sequel, where the Lifebond becomes very important…

Melbell – Holly being without magic is more a hint towards things which are coming, rather than an opportunity for Holly to angst. The important thing was that it went, not that it came back… But I agree, magicless!Holly would have been fun to play with for another few chapters, but the story moved it forward unfortunately.

Lessa3 – I've replied to this, haven't I? Hope you liked the later chapters as well as the first two.

TheSpaminator – Jac'll pop up a few times before the story ends, children are so much fun to write. And it's far more than a mere trinket…

becca8 – I agree, far too many people don't balance dialogue and description, and it throws of an otherwise good story.

The Toaster – I imagine Root's immediate definition of 'baby sitting' would end up with one squashed-looking buba…