Artemis continued to stare at his computer’s plasma screen as the ancient grandfather clock that stood vigilantly in the corner began to ring. Artemis froze.
Once I was a criminal.
The clock seemed to disagree with him as it continued to ring.
Twice I’ve lied.
The clock agreed. The words were unspoken, but to Artemis, the ring had many layers of meaning.
“It’s 2 O’clock, Holly. Too late to be visiting don’t you think?” Artemis said coolly. But, there was silence. Not something Artemis had expected.
Artemis turned in his chair to face the window, to see it empty. It was no longer a portal for a fairy, but a portal into the sky, a portal into the stars where no war could reach. The most shocking thing though, was the dark silk curtains that seemed to be frozen in time.
The clock started to ring again.
Artemis immediately turned towards the grandfather clock. It had not rung for at least 5 seconds, and for some reason unbeknownst to Artemis, had the urge to ring again.
Three lovers betrayed.
The clock agreed once again as the ringing stopped.
Artemis glanced at the cup of wine on his desk. He wondered how he had become intoxicated from only half a glass and why the wine was caught in midst of splashing on the sides of the cup. The confusion was oddly comforting for him. Being right all the time had not serviced him well recently.
He glanced up at the clock expectantly and is if on cue, it rang again.
Artemis waited a second, and then whispered, “Five”, but the clock had stopped.
Artemis’ heart clenched as the feeling of impending doom seized him. The man’s eyes widened in shock as the Atlantis Complex took over again.
Guilt. Holly warned me about this…
Others would have begun to panic, but Artemis had been prepared. He reached over his keyboard, pressed a small black button behind his screen’s base and sat firmly in his chair.
Five friends lost forever.
As Artemis was beginning to relax, he suddenly jerked as five Shokk charges sunk into designated areas in his back. He slumped in his chair momentarily, a gesture of defeat, and then activated the intercom.
“Butler, it seems that I’ve begun to relapse. Can you please come to my quarters quickly? Bring some cold cloths and burn cream.”
Silence, not even a whisper. Normally, Butler would have responded immediately. Artemis had been on edge recently but it wasn’t anger Butler feared, it was self-infliction. Artemis’ frustration had no limits.
Six days of friendship.
Artemis hoped that the great clock would continue to ring, but the clock that had stood over the shoulders of various generations of Fowls for centuries had no such luxury, for it could not tell lies. Artemis turned his head slowly towards the picture on his nightstand.
In the picture, Artemis was standing beside a young girl, not even three feet tall, or so it seemed. If one looked closer, they would notice the delicate, refined features of a beautiful, young woman. Her black, curled hair cradled her face perfectly and her milky pale skin seemed to glow. Her smile was big and her white teeth showed, but there was a hint of sadness. If one could tell a story from this picture, it would be that the woman had sought to destroy Artemis, but as time passed, grew to love him. Her smile told that she could do nothing to stop the inevitable, but enjoy her new life until it ended.
Artemis tore his eyes away from the picture and immediately looked down. He blinked a few times as if holding back tears. Then, he slammed his fist on his desk in frustration. The tears flowed freely now. Artemis believed that no one was watching anymore, that no one cared. The feelings were interrupted by another ring. Artemis was playing a game with the clock now. It helped him progress through his feelings like he hadn’t been able to for weeks.
Seven stars, seven stars of glory, seven stars of friendship, seven stars of the hunt, seven stars of betrayal.
Artemis glanced up at the night sky. He opened his mouth as if to apologize to the stars and that was when all seven of Orion’s stars twinkled. Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak and Saiph. Artemis realized that he had, had six friends, not five. Orion had taught him that. Beneath all the antics, Orion had been a true friend. He had also taught Artemis the names of the stars and the story of Orion and Artemis, the hunter and the hunted and why he had chosen such a name, why it was so important.
Eight weeks of silence.
Artemis thought about the fairy communicator that was probably in a landfill on the other side of the world, with its batteries ripped out.
It wasn’t silence on her part, it was mine, he thought guiltily. They say it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but that isn’t true.
The clock offered a moment of reprieve, but it was more of a curse than a gift as it allowed Artemis to dwell on his past mistakes.
Nine minutes of glory.
Artemis sighed in relief the ring reminded him of his victory. He had, had nine minutes of glory before he was betrayed. The betrayer is betrayed, Artemis thought darkly. His mistake had cost him friendship, companionship and respect, but he had completed the task. Somewhere in his heart, he knew that it could have been worse. The world would have entered into chaos and democracy would have crumbled into organized anarchy.
Artemis secretly believed that it was the Atlantis Complex that had made the decision, the Atlantis Complex that wanted to sort and organize everything, anything to avoid chaos. Just a few years before, Artemis would have chosen solitude instead of anarchy without question. He never thought it possible, but he had changed, and it had happened without his notice.
The clock continued and the next ring spoke. The grin in its voice was unmistakeable and it only said three words.
Glory, Artemis? Hahahahaha… The grinning voice changed and became furious, “Glory?”
Artemis swallowed nervously. The clock seeming to have a conversation with him was one thing, but actually mocking him was not only unexpected, but rather disturbing.
Artemis eyed the wine glass sitting on his table.
It got up and spoke to him, just as the clock had. This character seemed smug instead of mocking though. Artemis noticed how much it sounded like himself, but chose not to point it out.
Are you waiting for the ten Artemis? Well guess what. It isn’t coming, because I stole it. Just like you stole the title of the Guardian. I don’t deserve your ten, just as you don’t deserve your title. The voice paused momentarily. Look what you’ve become Artemis. I’m just a reflection of your subconscious, as is your clock. Do you ever remember that clock over there from before tonight? Today I’m a cup; tomorrow I’ll be a watch. I used to be a god. A GOD, ARTEMIS! Stop holding on to the past, and fix what you’ve done.
The pendulum in the clock moved, but that clock did not ring. Artemis froze as he realized something. He had not heard five or ten. He hadn’t heard the ring, but he had gone through the process of relating the number to his thoughts. He was thankful that the next ring came quickly, leaving him no time to think about the implications of what he’d just realized.
Artemis glanced outside and saw a blue pylon directly outside his window. It hadn’t been there when he had looked earlier. A thought occurred to Artemis. It reminded him of a time stop pylon. Artemis squinted at the light, trying to figure out if his assumption was right, that is, until streams of red light burst from the markings on the pylon. The red and blue light casted an ominous shade of purple across the grass and Artemis was transfixed.
The clock rang one last time and Artemis realized what day it was. It was Christmas. The 10th anniversary of his kidnapping of Holly.
Artemis stood up. I need to speak with Butler, he thought, and that was the last thought that crossed the Great Artemis Fowl the Second’s mind. If he hadn’t been so intent on saying “Merry Christmas” to Butler, he would have noticed the purple glow intensifying, he would have noticed the 12 glowing shapes that left the pylon and he would have noticed the landscape outside the pylon rushing past. He would have been able to rush to the doorway and escape his doom, but he didn’t notice, he didn’t rush the doorway, he wouldn’t have wanted to.
The 12 missiles arched silently into Artemis’ room, which didn’t even give Artemis’ brain a chance to register shock. Artemis’ own fortress turned against him as a storm of deadly shrapnel shredded him to pieces. Later, experts would acknowledge that an instant death was more merciful than what would have killed him otherwise. Solinium modified by demon magic would have killed Artemis slowly. The time stop surrounding him would have slowed down his body, but not his mind. Artemis would have suffered 10 years exactly, of mortal pain. He would have suffered until the tenth anniversary of Holly Short’s death.
10 years after Holly’s suicide
Foaly opened the door to his flat and walked in. The crisp smell of an undisturbed home rose to meet him and he let out a sigh of relief. He was glad that no one had broken into his home while he had been on leave.
Foaly walked over to his fridge, poured himself a glass of wine and sat down on his modified chair. He motioned towards the TV and it turned on. Foaly flicked his finger towards the right lazily, but the machine seemed to understand what he meant. Foaly wasn’t surprised when he saw the news was about Artemis, it was, after all, the 10th anniversary of the death of the greatest threat to the People.
Although Foaly knew what Artemis had done was a huge risk and that he should hate him with a passion for such a thing. He also knew that he should hate Artemis for doing what he did knowing what it would do to Holly, but he didn’t. He knew Artemis had good intentions and had just made a mistake even if it was an unforgivable one.
There was one thing Foaly thanked Artemis for though; the revival of Commander Julius Root. Artemis’ actions had made it necessary to use time travel to go back in time and kill Artemis before he caused any major trouble. The death of Artemis prevented Opal’s uprising entirely. Without Opal’s uprising and her quick defeat by Artemis, there had never been a hematite ore body hurtling towards Haven. Turnball Root was never able to get a control orb from Koboi Industries because Opal had never had a reason to give it to him.
Foaly was glad that these events had never occurred. The price however, was that he didn’t have any friends and was saddened by the fact that he could not share his feelings with anybody. Mulch was in jail once again. He had been able to escape to Los Angeles and steal several Golden Globes, but Foaly eventually tracked him down and had him arrested. Holly was dead, and he had never had the courage to speak to Caballine without his friendship with Holly.
Foaly continued to use these thoughts as a distraction from what he was trying to avoid thinking about. He was trying to not think about what would’ve happened if he had not pressed that button 10 years ago, but a dream later that night gave him no choice.
He remembered what Julius had said, “None of your bright ideas, thank you very much. Captain Short’s life is in danger, so push the button before I climb that tower and push it with your face.”, and it worried him. Even after being told what had happened 10 years in the future, Commander Root had said the same line, at the same time, but relative to the original timeline. It was as if he hadn’t in the timeline Foaly was currently in at that time. Originally, the commander had said the words before Foaly powered up the pylons, but the second time, he said it before he pressed the button to kill Artemis. It didn’t even make sense at the time.
Foaly knew inconsistencies could happen and had seriously considered not pressing the button to see if the new timeline could come up with something better.
Foaly hadn’t told anybody about this and he had sworn to remain silent, while quietly hoping that he would never have to consider such a thing again though he often wondered what his life would be like if Artemis had lived another 10, 20, 100 years.
Would Artemis be alive to challenge me? Holly? Opal? Would Mulch be out of prison? Would I be married to Caballine with kids on the way? Would I be happy?
It was then, when Foaly realized how noble Artemis’ decision had been. He chose solitude over companionship and paid the price with his life.