Hello, everyone. I’m happy to report that I caught up on my writing a bit (but am still working madly to stay ahead!) This is a fairly long chapter. If there’s too much text for you to read comfortably, you can view the Fanfiction.net format. I’m having terrible formatting problems– bad scripts, random deletion of all my chapter markings– so please gloss over that. I also start using some French here. Translations are provided when the meanings aren’t obvious already. I don’t speak French, so if there’s any grammatical errors, please let me know. I live in the US and the closest we get to French is Canadian speakers and our classrooms. To all the European readers out there– I’m bred with American spellings, mostly. There are a few exceptions where the European spellings seem more natural. Sorry if that bothers you. On with the show!
Chapter Five: Loss
Soundtrack: Bond – Duel
Château Paradizo, France
Minerva took off her glasses, rubbing the bridge of her nose. The numbers on the computer screen danced and blurred in front of her eyes. She heard a doorknob turn quietly, and turned to see Gaspard Paradizo enter the room.
Soundtrack: Bond – Duelhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1AvVo05TL4
“Bonsoir, Minerva.” The blonde returned the greeting, forcing herself to tear her eyes away from the computer screen. “It is nearing midnight,” Gaspard said. “Don’t you need to be getting to bed?”
Minerva sighed. “The surveillance equipment is still buggy, Papa.”
Gaspard raised a brow. “I still don’t understand why this is such a problem. I doubt we will be having any intruders in the house.”
Gaspard Paradizo had been mind-wiped, along with the rest of the estate. All except Minerva. The fairy people were short one juvenile criminal mastermind with Fowl gone, so they’d had to settle for her. The only reason she still had all her memories intact was that the LEP needed someone functioning aboveground to help with the demon materializations. Minerva had already started dumping her fairy data in countless places for the day her luck ran out and a squadron of LEP officers would come to erase the last few months from her memory. So with Minerva being the only one who remembered the demon incident, it was awfully difficult to invent reasons for the upgraded security and the long hours spent in front of the computer with seemingly trivial problems. In all actuality, she wasn’t working on the surveillance at all—she was trying to refine Foaly’s time stream calculations.
“I would rather be safe than sorry,” Minerva replied. Gaspard sighed.
“C’est un travail de Romain, Minerva. It’s a Herculean task.”
“I’ll be up soon, Papa,” she pleaded. “Please?”
Gaspard considered a moment, then relented. “All right. But try to get some sleep, cherie.” He exited the room and Minerva turned her attention back to the screen. She tugged on a curl unconsciously, opening one of her countless files on demons. If Qwan is utilizing sixty percent of his power while No1 is using eighty, the energy of the time stream would be redirected… There was a tiny blip of… something on the screen in the millisecond that the file opened. An eye less trained to computers wouldn’t even notice, but Minerva Paradizo immediately saw the glitch.
She immediately opened another file—an innocent photo album of a skiing trip. No blip there. She tried another demon file—there! The same thing. As if the program was compensating for something. Minerva’s grip on the mouse tightened. Someone has been here. Someone has been in my fairy files. She was just beginning to isolate the bug when Minerva heard the doorknob turn again. “Papa, I–”
She turned in her chair and her words died on her lips. There was no one in the doorway—which actually meant that there was someone very important in the doorway. Minerva’s hand snaked to the button under the cherry wood desk, pressing it and sealing the door. “Unshield, fairy. Now.” This was said with much more bravado than Minerva actually felt—the pistol she had hidden in the study was ten feet to her left. Much too far to move in a split second.
Thankfully, this fairy was apparently not hostile. The shield buzzed down almost immediately, and Minerva could not keep the surprise out of her face. She recognized Wing Commander Vinyáya from her LEP ID photos, although the fairy before her looked much worse for the wear. She was draped in a heavy lead sheet. Clinging to Vinyáya was—
“Mon Dieu,” Minerva breathed. “A demoness.”
Vinyáya let the lead blanket slide to the floor, her arms shaking in exhaustion from holding it up. The girl was asleep in the commander’s arms, and Minerva couldn’t tear her eyes off of it. Different than No1, certainly. The demoness had no horns and was much skinnier than the imp had been—although she wasn’t sure if it was from her gender or lack of food. She was dressed in a simple black shift with a hole cut out of the back for her tail, and long, glossy hair fell down her back. “Mon Dieu,” she repeated.
“Glad you’re so excited,” Vinyáya drawled. “Heaven forbid you just stand there and do nothing.”
Minerva scowled a bit, but relaxed. “You’re the runaway here, not me. Why should I help you?”
“You have a lead sheet to block communications, almost no equipment, you snuck in, and you look like you’ve been dragged across three continents. It’s not rocket science.” Minerva’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not a radical, are you? One of those kill-the-demon fairies?”
“Do I look like a radical?”
“Honestly?” Minerva said. “Right now, yes.”
Vinyáya sighed. “As much as I love doing the ‘witty banter with genius’ thing, I’ve got more important things to worry about.”
“It’s a long story.”
Minerva crossed her arms, leaning against the desk. “I am not a complete idiot, Commander. I don’t know what you’re doing or if you have a plan, but I am not about to be suckered by a triple acorn badge. So talk or I’ll trigger the silent alarm.”
Vinyáya gritted her teeth. If this was what Fowl was like in the beginning, she could see why Holly Short had hated him. “I can’t talk about it. Confidential police information.”
Minerva scoffed. “Confidential? Foaly should know better than to hack my system. I know all about your ‘confidential’ Section Eight.”
“Obviously not,” Vinyáya snapped. “Since you don’t know who she is–” Vinyáya motioned to the sleeping demoness– “or what we’re doing.”
“I haven’t been around to check the news feed for a day and a half.”
“Oh, I understand now. You’re not stupid, you’re just lazy.”
Minerva glowered at her, and Vinyáya glowered right back. “Believe it or not, I’m don’t much feel like helping you, fairy,” Minerva growled. Well, as much as a twelve-year-old French girl could growl. Vinyáya wanted to blast this little brat right into her fancy leather chair, but she kept her hands balled up by her side and forced herself to calm down. This childish arguing wasn’t helping anyone, especially Tieve.
“Okay,” Vinyáya said, “what would I have to do to get you to trust me?”
Minerva chewed on her lip, casting her eyes to the ceiling as she thought for several moments. “I have a few rooms with locks. I’ll tell Papa that I have some delicate experiments inside so he won’t barge in. You two have to be split up, and you’ll be in handcuffs. While you get some sleep, I’ll catch up on the news feed. Then we’ll decide from there.”
Vinyáya weighed her offer. Being in handcuffs was not high up on her “things-I-love-to-do” list, but she didn’t have much of a choice. She could see why Minerva wouldn’t want to take the chance, seeing as she looked like a beat-up terrorist. The curly-haired blonde wasn’t their only option, but she was by far the best. And if anything happened, Vinyáya could always use her cuff-melting technique—rub your wrists together, get some magic sparks going, and presto. One melted pair of zipper cuffs.
“Fine,” she said. “Wake me up when you’re done reading.”
Minerva crossed to the doorway, peeking out. “Okay, we’re clear.” They ran across the hall, and Vinyáya couldn’t help but enjoy hearing the squelch of her muddy boots against the fancy Tunisian rug. Minerva keyed in the code to a fancy mahogany door, being careful to cover her hand so that no one could see. “Okay, the demoness can go in here. You’re next door.”
Vinyáya gently shook Tieve awake as Minerva unlocked the other door. “Tieve? Wake up. It’s time to… um, go to sleep.” So maybe she didn’t exactly have the mothering thing down pat. Oh well.
Tieve yawned, only half-awake. Vinyáya set the girl down on the bed, unconsciously brushing a strand of dark brown hair away from her face. “We’re safe, okay? I won’t be able to see you, but I’ll be right there.”
Tieve caught sight of Minerva and nodded warily. “Get some sleep,” Vinyáya said. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
The commander followed Minerva out the door and into another similar room. There was a large, four-poster bed—obscenely large for a human, never mind a fairy. The room was decorated in a tasteful ecru and beige scheme, with oak furniture and a security camera nestled in a corner. She could practically feel the money oozing out of the walls. Vinyáya turned, allowing Minerva to cuff her hands in front of her. “Sorry,” the girl said apologetically. “I just can’t afford to take any risks.”
The rational side of Vinyáya saw the logic of this argument—but she didn’t exactly feel like being rational at the moment. “Whatever makes you feel better,” she muttered.
Minerva left and Vinyáya fell into the bed, asleep before the sheets had settled.
Police Plaza, Haven City
Sool was absolutely livid. He rapped his pen against the table, his eyes flitting around the room. All of the Council members and a few other VIPs were in attendance, all in various states of panic and anxiety.
Rikk Swift, one of the Council who had voted against placing Tieve in Vinyáya’s care, leaned back in his chair. “I knew something like this would happen,” he muttered, his tone accusing.
Foaly scowled. “Vinyáya is a decorated officer, Swift.”
“So was Turnball Root,” he countered. “Then he tried to wipe out half the city.”
Foaly opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off by a wave of Sool’s hand. “This is irrelevant. I don’t care why she did it. What I care about is getting this situation under control before the press gets hold of it.”
Trouble Kelp silently seethed in a corner, leaning up against the wall. Apparently, he and Foaly were not quite important enough to have chairs. “Isn’t civilian safety the first priority?” he said, with a tone that bordered on insubordination. Sool noticed this and turned in his chair to fix the major with an icy glare.
“Your first priority, Major, is to do what you’re ordered,” he said crisply. “Right now, that would be to tell me everything you know about this… incident.”
“I don’t know anything.”
“Nonsense,” scoffed Sool. “You and Vinyáya were close. She must have said something to you.”
Trouble Kelp was many things, but he was not a liar. Honesty was one of the virtues than his mother had drummed into him as a child, and he was loathe to give anyone a reason not to trust him. “She told me that she would protect the People. That’s all.”
“One person in particular,” Lope mumbled.
Cahartez turned, his face reddening. “Vinyáya has been on this Council for years and you just turn on her?”
“She turned on us!” Svenska shot back.
“Go sell some curry, you progressive!”
The tension in the room erupted into an all-out shouting match. Cahartez and Svenska looked like they were about to start throwing punches, Lope was shouting at Foaly and Trouble, and the peaceful Matthew Trapini and Hoshi Akiko were looking like a pair of pixies that accidentally stumbled into a den of trolls. Sool pounded the desk with his fist. “Quiet!” he shouted. Trouble Kelp took slight comfort from the fact that his bellow was nowhere near Commander Root’s.
The room eventually stilled. Sool glared at everyone, disdainful. “You’re acting like a bunch of teenaged goblins, for Frond’s sake,” he spat. Ark Sool turned his attention to Kelp. “Commander. I have a squadron picked out to you. Go aboveground and ferret out Vinyáya. I don’t care what you have to do to bring her back, just do it.” Trouble nodded, feeling his gut tighten in apprehension.
Sool sat back down, steepling his fingers. “If I hear even a rumor that you’re working with Vinyáya, I’ll run you through Internal Affairs, put you on traffic duty for a couple of decades, and kick you out of the force. Am I understood?” Another nod. The gnome ran a hand through his oily black hair, leaning back in his chair. No, Trouble corrected himself. Root’s chair.
“Vinyáya is going to be desperate,” Sool said. “Her career is over. All that’s left is the tribunal.”
Château Paradizo, France
Minerva yawned groggily, forcing her eyes open. The side of her face ached terribly. She looked down and moaned—she’d fallen asleep on the keyboard. Her document now had 635 pages of the letter “Q.”
“Fantastique,” she muttered. Turning, she nearly fell out of her chair. This was not shaping up to be the most dignified day of her life. The demoness was standing only a few inches from her, her big brown eyes curious.
“Mon Dieu! Vous m’avez effrayé,” Minerva caught the girl’s blank expression and switched languages. “You scared me!” Nothing. “Tú hablas español? Deutsch? Italiano?” No dice.
Minerva scowled. She didn’t know Gnommish—although not from lack of trying. Foaly was so paranoid that Minerva would pull a stunt like Fowl that he’d locked any trace of Gnommish up tight, sending her everything in French and English. True, she’d made some progress with the firewalls, but there were other things higher on the priority list then. Now, however, it rendered her dumb to what was possibly her greatest ally.
Wonderful. Minerva stood there awkwardly for a moment, trying to think of a way to communicate that didn’t involve Charades. She was interrupted by the demoness’ stomach growling.
Motioning to the girl, Minerva started off down the hallway, headed towards the kitchen. It was a beautiful room—sparkling linoleum, custom appliances, and shinier than a jewelry store. Which was mainly because no one used it. The last person to frequent the kitchen had been her mother, who had left with Ulrich.
The blonde’s jaw tightened and she forced the thought out of her mind. Pulling open a stainless steel cupboard, she inspected the contents. Six boxes of macaroni, a bag of corn chips, a stash of Beau’s chocolate (Minerva threw that away), and a box of Pop-Tarts. She unwrapped a set of the pastries, which were chocolate-fudge flavored. The demoness munched away contentedly. Minerva glanced at the nutrition label—40 grams of sugar. The entire daily recommendation, stuffed into one fudgy package.
The girl finished the Pop-Tarts and looked at her. The awkward silence started again. Minerva shifted in her chair, and then her face lit up. Holding up a finger in the universal “wait” gesture, she scurried off.
Five minutes later, she returned with two violins in her hands. Vinyáya definitely would not like this. But Vinyáya was also sleeping on the job, which meant that this may be the only chance Minerva had to test this girl’s true power.
The French girl handed the demoness some sheet music and was pleased to see her eyes flit over it, comprehending. Minerva lifted the violin to her chin, hesitating just slightly. Was this really right?
Things began slowly, with Minerva carving out a simple melody. Tieve echoed her, fitting in perfectly. Then things got a bit faster, accelerating slowly, building speed, an unstoppable juggernaut of sound. It was a fight, a duel between the two of them. Tieve’s bow flew across the strings, matching Minerva with an intensity that startled her. There was more to this demoness that met the eye.
Minerva picked up the pace, unconsciously swaying in time as the music seemed to take her over. Tieve was totally lost, her eyes closed with a faint smile on her face. Don’t you see? she seemed to ask. Her music could communicate what she could not. I was born to do this.
For once, Minerva did not think about angling the situation to her advantage, plotting and scheming. She was gone, gone somewhere else. She had played this song dozens of times with her father, but no feelings like this had ever emerged. It was intoxicating. The violins got faster, hastening, flying to some other destination than a lonely château. The sheer emotion, the power behind the notes—it was hypnotic.
Minerva felt like Nero, fiddling away while Rome burned. Drunk on power and mad with euphoria. And they played on.
Vinyáya yawned, then groaned. Her body was one giant ache—she felt as if she’d just come out of a concrete mold. The elf rolled over with difficulty. Tieve was playing again, dash it all. Didn’t that demoness know that it was dangerous? Vinyáya didn’t want her to blow up her flat while playing a scale. Vinyáya glanced about the room, looking for her alarm clock.
This is not my room, she thought. Then, I’m in Paradizo’s house. Tieve is playing. And lastly: D’arvit!
The commander raced down the stairs, her untied hair streaming out from behind her and lending to the dramatic effect. She burst into the study just as the last chord sounded. (end music) Minerva was flushed pink with excitement. The curly-haired girl turned to Vinyáya, her face aglow. “On croit rêver! I can’t believe it! She is astounding, à tout casser…”
Vinyáya could feel her fists curl with anger. “I can’t believe it either,” she said coldly. “Do you know what you could have just done?”
Minerva scowled, obviously irritated that Vinyáya had destroyed her jubilant mood. She was still slightly out of breath, her eyes unfocused as if coming down from some great height. “I am not a complete idiot, Commander–”
“Well, you’re acting like one!” she shouted. “Tieve blew up the Operations Booth last time she played something! Do you know how lucky you are to have all of your limbs attached?!” Minerva opened her mouth to speak, but Vinyáya cut her off. “Don’t answer that. Look–” Vinyáya glanced at Tieve, who was looking frightened. “Tieve,” she said, switching to Gnommish, “could you go to the kitchen for awhile? Minerva and I need to have a little talk.”
The demoness mutely scurried away, recognizing a dismissal when she saw it. Vinyáya turned to the French girl and tried to rein in her temper. “I am not happy to be here,” she said quietly. “This is one of the last places in and above the world that I would ever choose to be, all right?”
Minerva turned scarlet. “If you feel that way, the door’s right outside. I don’t remember sending you an invitation.”
Vinyáya sighed. “I want to leave. But Tieve–” she pointed to the kitchen— “she needs to be here. She needs somewhere to be safe. And I will not let her out of my sight. So that means I’m stuck here too.” The commander narrowed her eyes. “I will not tolerate you putting any of us in danger, got it?”
“Since when do you give the orders?” Minerva retorted. “This is human territory. My territory. You need my help, both hospitality and intellect.”
Vinyáya twirled a strand of silvery hair. “I could always turn myself in and tell my story. Sool is just looking for an excuse to mind-wipe you, and I know that you haven’t finished all your preparations yet.”
Minerva scowled. “Fine,” she snapped. “But if I’m going to help you, I need to know some things. Running tests and the like. I need to know what exactly that girl–”
“What Tieve can do. Blowing up a house could be useful,” Minerva muttered. Vinyáya opted not to comment.
“All right. I’ll watch over your… experiments. And you’ll be less careless.” She stuck out a hand. After a moment’s hesitation, Minerva shook it. “Well then. That’s settled.”
The French girl settled herself in the ergodynamic computer chair, absently tugging a corkscrew curl. Vinyáya stood there for a moment, then huffed out of the room in search of Tieve.
Carla Frazetti had long been a fan of perfume, especially with some of the ratholes she’d had to visit in her time. She had acquired a large collection of scents (most stolen from laboratories around the world) and always carried a bottle with her. So when they had left Château Paradizo, their destination was the one thing that had brightened her day: Grasse, la capitale mondiale des parfums. The perfume capital of France.
Carla tried not to fidget, stranded at a wrought-iron table in some flouncy café, just yards away from a perfume boutique. She was a vicious gangster, not some kind of beauty store diva.
Kong was checking his hair in the mirror for the umpteenth time, teasing his spikes into even sharper points. Frazetti glanced at her Rado watch. Half and hour before their train left. Then another two hour jaunt to Marseille, a brief stay, then off to one of Spiro’s little hidey holes. Spiro himself was reading over one of the brat’s documents, his eyes glittering.
“A hostage fund,” he breathed. “Looks like the Fowl kid did something right after all.” The businessman rubbed his hands together gleefully, his lips twisting into sardonic grin. “That kid had better enjoy those seconds when he gets back from the time stream, because the rest of his life after that isn’t going to be so peaceful.”
Their little trio had made quite the discoveries on Minerva Paradizo’s computers. While most of the more sensitive material was tucked away on a remote server, a goldmine of information was on her personal hard drive at the Château. All the vitals on the People—Frazetti’s mind still couldn’t reconcile herself that there were fairies under her feet—and the events of the last few years. Along with a cache of information on the notorious Artemis Fowl II, which Spiro had been thrilled with. Kong was more interested in the demon files.
Spiro had played a bit of hocus pocus with some airline’s booking systems, and all incoming flights to their destination had been cancelled. No nasty surprises from the French—or the LEB. LEP. Whatever. The chaos at Customs would be an added bonus—they wouldn’t have to shoot anyone to get past. Probably.
Truth be told, Carla Frazetti was as uneasy as a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. These two men were violent, sure, but she made a living around violent people. But they were also insane and ridiculously powerful. Even if Carla had been in Chicago with the Mob at her back, Kong likely had connections with the snakehead crime circle in Thailand, along with a few old friends of Spiro that were sure to shoot first and ask questions later. As of now, she was stranded in France. Her godfather was sending people over, but it was a moot point. They couldn’t protect her.
But Carla Frazetti was not one to sit back and watch the fireworks—she’d be setting some off herself. All there is to do now, she reflected, is wait for the right time.
Hopefully, before this thing got her shot dead.
Château Paradizo, France
Minerva was staring at the computer screen when disaster struck. “Minerva!” Gaspard called, his voice easily carrying up the ornate staircase and into her study. “Our flight was canceled. Some computer error, apparently. I don’t know what went wrong.”
He’s supposed to be in Marseille with Beau! Minerva thought frantically. She leapt out of the chair, racing towards the kitchen. Gaspard continued to speak as he climbed the stairs.
“Minerva, cherie? Where are you?”
Minerva ignored her father, throwing open the kitchen doors. Tieve and Vinyáya were sitting at a long table. Apparently she had just walked in on the stern lecture that the commander was giving Tieve—probably something about accidentally blowing people up and the like. Oh well.
Vinyáya was instantly alert, her eyes scanning the room. “Wha–”
Minerva cut her off with a push. “Entrez dans le cabinet!” she hissed, slipping into French. Any further protests were stopped when she shoved the pair into the pantry in a very undignified fashion. A split-second later Gaspard poked his head into the kitchen.
“There you are,” he said. Then he quirked a brow. “I never knew you for a cook.”
Minerva flushed red. “I got a little hungry.”
“I see.” Gaspard hardly looked convinced, but he dropped the subject. “Our flight was cancelled, so we shall be here for the next few days.” He looked at Beau. “Purging this entire house of chocolate.”
Beau gave him a look that could peel paint, then screamed as loudly as his five-year-old lungs could muster. Clearly he was not happy at the thought of his sugar being taken away. Minerva grimaced. “I suppose he’s over the chest infection, then.”
Gaspard sighed. “Don’t tease your brother, Minerva.” He paused. “Have you made plans for our absence?”
Minerva opened her mouth to answer no, then turned pale. A terrible thought had crossed her mind. “Yes,” she said. “Je suis désolé—I’m sorry. Visiting an old school friend,” she lied.
Gaspard smiled. “Maria?”
“Oui. I am actually leaving within the hour.”
The Brazillian quirked a brow. “So soon?”
“Oui, Papa. Désolé.” Minerva silently heaved a sigh of relief when Gaspard shrugged.
“All right. Have a good time.”
“Thank you, Papa.” Father and son exited the kitchen. Vinyáya was out of the panty in a flash.
“Leaving within the hour? Nice of you to let me know.”
Minerva scowled. “Things happened rather quickly. I’m afraid that something may have happened. Or be happening. Or is going to happen. Whatever.” She crossed to another cupboard and pulled out a wad of euros, apparently one of many stashes she had around the château. “We need to leave now.”
“Where are we going?”
Vinyáya furrowed her brow. “What’s in Marseille?”
“I have sensitive information on a stash of hard drives there. Information too high-risk to be kept here.” She obviously was not in the mood to talk.
Vinyáya kept her thoughts to herself as they piled in one of the many luxury SUVs in the Paradizo garage. Later, looking back, she would realize how much of a mistake this was. She should have begged and pleaded and threatened, gotten down on her hands and knees and pulled out her Neutrino.
But she didn’t.
Ooh, cliffhanger. 😛
I was always bummed out that Minerva never got a chance to mature, so I’m giving her one. So, to all of you Minerva-haters– get ready to see your Mary Sue grow up. I am trying to keep this in style with how Colfer matured Artemis, but they are two different people. A side note– places with very specific names (such as the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) are real places. Colfer used real places as much as possible, and I’m trying to emulate that. Research was done with Google and Wikipedia. Reviews make me happier than Foaly with a crate of carrots!