Chapter 1. AF
You have 1 new message. Holly registered the flickering green light in the corner of her visor as she swooped down towards the oak.
“Open.” she commanded and Trouble Kelp’s message came through. It was Holly’s next Recon.
Duration: Until seven hours past midday.
Recon: You have to monitor the Monthly Burping Contest For Gnomes.
Additional Comments: I’m sorry that I had to give you this job, Holly but the patrol officer’s come down with toadpox and you were the only officer available. it read. Holly landed gently by the ancient tree and groaned. Spending a day around bloated, bumbling gnomes was not what she had signed up for when she had joined the LEP. Still, as an LEP officer she was bound to do her best on duty for the good of the people (though she wasn’t sure what good it would do to stand around watching gnomes burping all day), so she decided to do the ritual quickly. Holly set her helmet’s visor to the highest night-vision mode in order to find an acorn with ease. This act of practicality allowed her to spot a large acorn which was nestling in the grass beside her foot. She planted it, and allowed the magic to wash over her.
As soon as the ritual was completed, Holly could feel the tips of her elfin ears buzzing with magic. She pulled her wings into action and shot off into the air.
“Compose.” she enunciated, and confirmed her retrieval of Trouble’s message. Trouble apologised again for having to burden Holly with the company of gnomes for the rest of her day but she waved it off, not wanting to cause hassle. Besides, she thought, what could be the worst that could happen at a public and harmless event such as a burping contest? With this comforting thought, she flew through the open air and felt at home with the wind whistling past her and the stars glittering above. Then, she sighed as she pulled down into the chute that would lead her below ground and beneath the mud-men.
When she had landed in Haven, it was a simple matter for Holly to hop onto a shuttle and fly to Atlantis. When she arrived she was greeted by a hubbub of short, squat gnomes practising their burps for later. One gnome blasted out such a powerful burp that Holly could smell his rancid breath from metres away. Feeling sick, she turned away, sure that her face was wearing a similar shade of green to her LEP outfit. She barged her way through the crowd until she reached the judges panel.
“Major Holly Short reporting for duty, sir.” She said, saluting smartly to a particularly bulky gnome with a hairy upper lip and a wart on the tip of their nose.
“Excuse me?” asked the gnome in an outraged falsetto. Now that Holly looked closely, she could see that the gnome was indeed a lady with curly hair that was adorned with live and wriggling insects, and messily applied lipstick which she had previously mistaken for sauce.
“I mean…madam…” said Holly, blushing furiously, yet unable to hide the look of horror on her face at this hairy female. The lady gnome gave a snort and turned away with great disgust. Holly felt bad but there was nothing that she could do to console this haughty gnome and consoling masculine females was not a part of her job description, so Holly quickly mumbled an apology and flew up to get a better view of the plaza.
From this vantage point, Holly could spy a number of gnomes arguing about whose burp was more vibrational or longer. However, there was nothing too serious going on so Holly was contented to hover above the mass of fat fairies and think about other matters. She was thinking of Artemis and how he had changed since the kidnapping incident when there was a loud yelp from below. A gnome (who really should have been entering the Largest Nose Competition) was throttling a younger gnome for insulting his burping techniques. Holly braced herself and soared down towards the pair.
“O.K., I don’t care who started this but there is going to be no fighting whilst I am on duty. Understood?” she asked Big Nose. Big Nose turned on her menacingly.
“This runt here,” he said, shaking the comparatively small fairy “said that I didn’t load my burp enough,” he said, “but I know that I can load it with more force than any gnome can!” Whether it was the threatening stance with which he held the offensive gnome high above his head or whether it was simply the fact that he smelled bad and Holly didn’t want to be near this gnome any longer, Holly felt that things had gone far enough.
“I’ve already told you, that I. Don’t. Care, and if you continue to harm that citizen then I will be forced to disarm you and the only thing that I have to do that with is a neutrino- I left my buzz-baton back at Police Plaza.” Said Holly, grinning nastily. The angry gnome decided that Holly seemed mad enough to be capable of carrying out her threat since she had confronted him in the first place, and set the other gnome down. Just as he did so, a loud voice boomed from the loudspeakers which had been placed around the plaza.
“The Monthly Burping Contest for gnomes will commence in five minutes so will all contestants please head towards the stage!” the voice announced. There was a flurry of activity as eager gnomes pushed their way through to the centre stage. Holly was shouting hoarse in order to be heard.
“Could all contestants please form an orderly queue!” she yelled, “No pushing!”
There was much pushing and shoving but Holly was powerless by herself to stop all of it so she allowed the gnomes to form a line in their own time. The contest started without any problems and as the time went on and the judges scored gnomes marks out of a hundred, the long snake of gaseous fairies dwindled to resemble nothing more than a sausage to Holly from her bird’s eye view. Albeit a very fat sausage. Soon, only a handful of gnomes were left to prove that they could deliver the loudest, stinkiest and most powerful burp of the month to the rest of their species. The Monthly Burping Contest for gnomes was the most important contest for their species as they had o other outstanding qualities to speak of, besides being prize pains to the rest of fairy kind, so the few gnomes who were waiting to burp their way to glory were feeling very nervous indeed. There was a lot of tension between the last to gnomes in particular, as they were none other than Big Nose and his victim. Holly was keeping a close eye on this pair as she did not want to have to face Trouble and tell him that she couldn’t even monitor a couple of gnomes. After three more contestants, one of who had managed to score an 89 which was the highest score so far in the contest, it was Big Nose’s turn. He strode onto the stage and prepared himself. After a few moments of rigorous breathing, he opened his mouth and let rip. His burp was so loud that it shook the stage and it was so powerful that it blew wigs off unfortunate gnomes. It repelled all of the judges with its immense reek and it lasted for a whole minute. After the burp had died down, there was a pause of awe, and then an eruption of applause. The judges flashed their number cards and gave Big Nose a score of 97- the highest score in the whole history of the contest. He beamed at the audience, sure of his win. Behind the stage, Big Nose’s offender was quaking in his grey boots. He gave a squeak as the judges announced his name and stumbled onto the stage.
Meanwhile, Holly has spotted a round object that was glinting near the stage curtains, under the artificial light strips that lit up Atlantis. It reflected the light so perfectly that it almost blinded her, yet in that reflected light, Holly saw power. The object was round and golden, and when Holly reached it, she saw that it was a lustrous ring. It was intricately carved with an ancient language and it seemed to call to her. In a daze, Holly reached out to pick it up…
The tiny gnome on the stage trembled as he took a sip of water to calm down his nerves. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth. In the same instance, there was an explosion. The gnome’s burp was lost in the sound of the explosion that happened just a few metres in front of him. The stage erupted and splintered into a thousand fragments and the last contestant was blasted out of his aforementioned grey boots. A flame blossomed amidst the shards of wood and the curtains caught fire. The audience were squealing and stampeding towards the exit for safety. The judges however, stayed n their panel and sat there, gaping. They were clueless as to what had happened and thought that it was the tiny gnome and his burp that had caused the explosion. After all, every gnome knew the little grey-booted gnome as being Flamer, the local curry maker and fire-breather.
Holly snatched up the ring just before the stage exploded. She activated her wings and soared into the air and then towards Flamer who was buried beneath the rubble. She yanked him out and clipped him onto her moonbelt and then put him down in front of the judges who were still gaping at him. Holly then flew to the nearby flameproof foam canisters and sprayed the remnants of the stage and curtains. As soon as the fire had died out and the ringing of the explosion had faded out from everybody’s ears, the judges solemnly raised their scoring cards. Flamer’s eyes grew wider and wider until they were the sizes of his curry bowls. The judges had given him 100, proclaiming him to be the best burper in all history.