Due to my document being obscenely large, I am continuting Fermata in a new document. I have gotten past my terrible writer’s block and will now be updating consistently for at least the next few chapters (which I have written already!) So please let me know you’re still reading so that I’ll actually get my butt on a chair and write. Please?
Summary Thus Far:
Wing Commander Vinyáya has been charged with the care of a young demoness named Tieve. Trouble Kelp has snagged Tieve from the timestream. After it is revealed that Tieve may be a soceress, Ark Sool attempts to lock her up. Vinyáya flees aboveground to the one human with enough knowledge to help her– Minerva Paradizo. The unlikely threesome travel to Minerva’s mother’s house, only to find her murdered. Billy Kong has broken criminal mastermind Jon Spiro out of prison, and together with reluctant henchperson Carla Frazetti they have discovered Tieve. They are looking to capture Tieve and Minerva for their own game. Trouble Kelp has been commanded to bring back Vinyáya and Tieve, but is torn between loyalties.
Minerva has developed a plan to reclaim fairy files stolen by Kong, Frazetti, and Spiro. This chapter picks up where we left off in Part I.
Chapter Seven: The Best Laid Plans —
Trouble Kelp leaned against a wrought-iron railing, lost in thought. His perch afforded him a resplendent view of Helen Paradizo’s garden, but that was hardly his interest at the moment. The garden home had been deserted—although it was clear that someone had been living there not too long before. As he had suspected, there was no trace of Vinyáya. But Trouble Kelp knew his teacher better than that—she had always drilled it into them to cover their tracks. The fact that nothing suggested the commander had stayed there was perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence that she in fact had.
Chix Verbil came up on one side of him. “Corporal Kelp positively identified the body of Helen Paradizo at a nearby morgue, Major,” he said. “The humans do not have the identity as of now. Minerva must have wanted to avoid makin’ a fuss.” Trouble nodded. Chix hovered by his side awkwardly. “Major,” he said finally, his eyes clouded with indecision. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why would Vinyáya run? And why would she follow the girl here?”
Kelp folded his arms, sighing. “I don’t know yet. There’s something going on here that we’re missing. Something bad must have happened.” He switched the subject. “Have the techies found anything on the computers?” Chix shrugged. “Don’t know yet. Roob said something about a virus and getting a lock on the source.”
The major nodded. “All right. Dismissed.” Chix gave a small salute before spreading his wings, looping lazily over the low roof and out of sight. He always was a showoff, Trouble reflected idly.
In truth, Vinyáya’s actions troubled him more than he had let on. Kelp had no doubt that Vinyáya was in sound mind and doing what she felt was best for the People. What concerned him more was the unknown quantity, what had happened that had made Vinyáya leave so quickly with Paradizo. Questions that Trouble knew could change fairy civilization as they knew it. He sighed. Didn’t Holly normally deal with all the ‘save the world’ stuff?
Durand Business Complex, Lyon, France
Minerva was nervous. Not a ‘test-stress’ nervous, or a ‘I hope this experiment goes well’ nervous. It was more like a ‘I hope I’m still alive in an hour’ kind of nervous. She tried to keep it out of her face—who knew if Kong and Spiro had planted people in the facility? Her analytical mind instantly began calculating the number of weapons that were pointed at her right now, the likelihood that they would kill her in the next five steps—
Mon Dieu, Minerva. You are acting like a little child. It was a simple plan, really. Go to target. Distract target, get objective. Leave. Three little steps. There was no time to rethink it now, anyway. The elevator dinged, and Minerva stepped in. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflected her tense frame from every angle. Silently, she checked her jewelry. Nothing silver—good. That would not help her plan. A knife was strapped to her wrist, and she could feel her own pulse flush against the blade. It was a morbid reminder of how close death really was.
The double doors opened, and she was there. A man Minerva recognized as Spiro was looking intently into a computer, Kong watching over his shoulder. The sight of Kong’s peacock hair sent a million nasty memories through her mind, filling her with fear and fury. She spotted a tiny flicker in a corner—so Vinyáya and Tieve were in place. Kong turned, catching sight of Minerva. His mouth twisted into an ugly little smile, confirming that he was not at all surprised to see her there. “Paradizo,” he intoned. His voice was honey smooth—like how a snake slithers to its prey. And then the snake kills it, Minerva thought, slightly hysterical. Just like he’s going to kill you. This was a stupid plan. Stupid, stupid, stupid–
Jon Spiro snapped out of his reverie, turning away from the computer screen. He casually removed a cigar tin from his pocket, selecting one and lighting the end. Why should he hurry? Not like she could go anywhere. “You were here a little sooner than I expected.” Get a hold of yourself. “It seems your expectations were fatally flawed.”
“Fatally?” Spiro laughed. It was reedy, like a rusty squeezebox that had sat in an attic for years. “Well, I suppose delusion comes with genius. I doubt you’re quicker on the draw than our mutual acquaintance Mr. Kong.” You may not die now, she thought murderously, but you won’t have long to wait. Spiro sucked on his cigar. “I’m not going to make the same mistake twice,” he informed her. “Kong. Root out her friends, will you?”
His flippant tone was lost on the Taiwanese man, who was just itching to mutilate something. He stalked off into the other room, searching for accomplices. Get rid of Kong: check. The Mafia woman (Carla something) sat at another computer, utterly indifferent to the scene before her. Spiro pulled a gun out of his lapel, loading it lazily. “Now I’m going to upset your plan a bit,” he said. “I’m sure your little genius mind assumed that we would just capture you and force you to help us with the temporal spells. But that would be incorrect.”
Minerva paled, feeling her pulse quicken against the knife. “You’ll never get it before Artemis returns. With my help, maybe you could. All I want is Artemis’s life. You can kill the rest.” Vinyáya, hurry up. He laughed again, and Minerva cringed. “You’re one after my own heart. Trying to bargain when empty-handed.” He shook his head, almost regretful. “No, sorry. I have my eyes on a bigger prize than Fowl’s life alone.” He paused, savoring his next words. “The demoness.”
“Care to explain?” The oldest trick in the book, and one that Spiro would definitely see though. But curiosity drove her to it. He grinned. “Power over time, mademoiselle. Use your imagination.”
Something clicked. “You’re going to go back to the Needle. The Cube.” “Among other things,” Spiro confirmed. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. I’ve got all the knowledge I need. Which makes you superfluous.” What in the heck was Vinyáya doing, tatting lace? Tieve was obviously having a hard time getting her magic to flow. And her own time was fast running out.
Spiro released the safety catch. “That’s the thing with you and Fowl,” he remarked. “You never want to take the plunge. Snuff someone out. It’s not a big deal once you do.” He shook his head. “You devise all these complicated plans so that no one’s gotta die. Well, let me save you some time—when people like you are around, people with your intellect—people are going to die. Fact of life.” Minerva could slowly feel her calm ebbing away. How many people had she put in danger? Her mother was already lying in a morgue somewhere because of her stupidity. What about Beau, what about her father? “You and Fowl…” Spiro drawled, “…you guys need a couple of tries to get things right. But me…” He cocked the gun. “I only need one shot.” He fired.
There was a huge WHUMP and three piercing screams. The magical overspill from Tieve’s spell threw both Spiro and Carla into the wall, with Carla’s leg snapping in an unhealthy way—scream number one. Tieve was crumpled on the ground, unconscious and in pain. Scream number two. A ripping, burning pain set Minerva’s shoulder on fire—scream number three. But she was still here, in this time. Something had gone horribly wrong, and her mind instantly realized that her worst fears had been realized. Minerva moved as quickly as she was able, throwing the demoness over her good shoulder and scrambling for the stairs. Vinyáya was gone. This was not good, not good… she was off, spinning in the dark realms of panic. Spiro with all of his stupid death-talk had driven her halfway insane. Is that a skill you got when you finally went mad—being able to lure others into the same fate?
She frantically hit the GROUND FLOOR button on the elevator, watching the doors slide close as Billy Kong threw open a door so hard the glass window shattered. He was too late. Minerva slid down the wall, taking huge breaths. Spiro is a lunatic. Don’t listen to him. All you have to do is get out of this building and into a safe place. Easy. You knew this could happen, didn’t you? Even if the possibility was infinitesimally small. You have a plan. There’s always a plan.
She could feel her hysteria ebbing away. Minerva had perhaps ten seconds before the elevator doors opened, plus the ride back up and down for Kong to follow her. Plenty of time. She dug their last sheet of cam-foil out of her pocket, covering Tieve just as the elevator stopped. She exited the building in a daze and hailed a cab.
Minerva’s mind was handling half a dozen issues at one time. But the thought that sat at the front of her mind was one desperate plea: help!
Unknown Location, Unknown Time
Vinyáya felt massive pressure all around her, elfin ears threatening to pop. Something went wrong, she thought, but was stopped from elaborating on that thought. Because she couldn’t breathe. Underwater. She was underwater, presumably drowning. Frantically she looked about, spotting the surface of the water and kicking toward it for all she had. But it was impossibly far away, and the commander had used up half her oxygen simply identifying her situation. It was looking as if this mistake would likely kill her. The water pulled at her legs, trying to suck her down into black depths. The edges of her vision were graying, and her lungs burned like an unholy fire. She had to breathe, had to inhale. Water, air, whatever. Unable to resist, Vinyáya pulled in a frantic breath, and the pain hit her lungs like a troll’s charge. It was a white-hot blazing wall of fire that hurt more than anything she’d ever felt. The surface was still impossibly far. Somehow she was still moving, her legs working on autopilot, her arms scrambling for purchase that didn’t exist in liquid. But it was futile. Muscles couldn’t run without oxygen, and that was in short supply. Vinyáya managed one last kick, desperately straining for the surface. She broke the water and tried to gasp, but still couldn’t breathe. Bending double, Vinyáya vomited water and bile, trying to clear her lungs, sucking in air. Her limbs still felt like lead, but worked on autopilot. It seemed her brain wasn’t wasting any precious oxygen to register pain. Vinyáya floated there for awhile, trying to form coherent thoughts. I’m alive. Good, there’s one. I’m alone. Not as comforting, but still a thought. I don’t know where or when I am. Three in a row! She was on a roll.
She took stock around her, which look less than ten seconds. Surrounding her was miles and miles of uninterrupted water, save but for one geothermal energy plant to the northwest. Definitely not anywhere near Lyon. Fear tightened her gut, but Vinyáya reined it in expertly. No time to panic. It was easy—go to the plant. Get a calendar. Radio the LEP. And after that was all done, she was going to kill Minerva. Vinyáya struck out for the plant, taking it slowly and mulling over her situation as she swam. Tieve hadn’t been able to control her magic under such intense pressure. Instead of the spell unfolding naturally, it spewed all over the place like a shaken-up soda. But neither Tieve nor Minerva were here with her, which likely meant that they had been left behind in the present. Future. Whatever. She was truly alone. And if Foaly’s calculations were correct, she was stranded in this time forever. Foaly’s been wrong before, Vinyáya told herself as she climbed up onto the plant. Minerva’s a genius, and Trouble will probably find them soon. They’ll find a way. The base was poorly staffed, so Vinyáya just stuck to the shadows instead of marinating a full-blown shield. She hijacked a battery, jamming it into her communicator and promptly broadcasting a distress signal. Help would arrive in minutes. Vinyáya then applied herself to finding an office. She checked several doors before finally striking gold. At least these humans were actually trying to develop alternate energy sources instead of using up all their natural resources. Vinyáya glanced at a calendar and caught her breath. Instead of being sent back ten seconds, she’d been sent back ten years. Her mind was still processing this as the door opened. “LEP assistance, responding to call,” a familiar voice said. She turned and saw the face she’d cried for since his death. Julius Root.