Um… please don’t kill me. I got sucked into my Kingdom Hearts forum and my muse took a holiday. I am trying to force myself to write. Anyways, here it is– Chapter Six.
Plot Review Thus Far:
Vinyáya and Tieve have taken shelter with Minerva Paradizo. Minerva has left Chateau Paradizo with the two of them, not telling them anything about their destination. Spiro and Kong have made a trip to Marseille, France with the hopes of gathering more demon knowledge. Trouble has been offically charged with the task of hunting down Vinyáya.
Chapter Six: Crossroads
Minerva stepped out of a cab, popping open the trunk to take out her ‘suitcase.’ She absently handed the driver the fee, walking to an imposing wrought-iron gate. Vinyáya shimmered into focus as the cabbie sped away, unwrapping the cam foil from around Tieve.
Minerva took a key out of her purse and unlocked the gate. She heard the two fairies behind her gasp. The entire estate was a rich garden, foliage overflowing in every crevice and cranny. There were vividly colored blooms competing with bright green leaves, specklings of small blossoms and deep crimson ivy slithering up trees. Cobblestone paths and stepping stones wove through the lush greenery. The only sound was the whisper of leaves and the creak of trees in the breeze, swirling crisp autumn leaves around their feet. It was an awe-inspiring sight: something that made you feel like a child.
Vinyáya’s eyes fell upon a patch of deep orange tiger lilies, and her breath froze solid in her throat. The edge of the patch was stomped on, as if a scuffle had taken place. Looking father, Vinyáya could see signs of a fight. Something terrible had happened here.
She heard a thump behind her—Minerva had fallen to her knees. She could just barely see a woman lying lifeless behind a clump of red flowers, her hair a shocking mirror of Minerva’s own. The traces of blood blended in with the crimson of the roses.
Police Plaza, Haven
Foaly was not in a good mood.
Maybe it had something to do with the wedding ring poking him in the side (he was planning to propose in a week). It could have been the fact that he was stuck on the dimensional equation. Maybe he hadn’t eaten enough breakfast this morning.
Or maybe it was the fact that Sool was mere inches away from his face, poking his odious little cane in Foaly’s gas screens, his face scrunched up like a troll’s while his devilish mind was churning up ways to put his best friends behind bars for life.
“You’ve tried getting a lock on her signal?” Sool asked, not caring enough to actually look at the centaur when he asked him a question.
Of course I did, idiot. “Yes, I tried. It was getting blacked out by something—we lost Vinyáya shortly after she left HQ.”
Sool sniffed. “I’m sure,” he drawled, making it obvious that he really wasn’t sure at all. “Have you checked the cam-cams?”
“They’re scanning as we speak, but picking her out would be like finding a needle in a haystack,” Foaly commented. “It would be best,” he ventured, “to send in Retrieval.”
“I didn’t ask what you think would be best,” Sool snapped. “Obviously, you’re not the one wearing the acorns here.” The gnome crossed to the other end of the Ops booth, pensive. Foaly got an uneasy feeling in his gut.
“I’m going to be frank with you, Foaly,” he said. Alarm bells went off—Sool called him by his name. Which meant that he was either being incredibly patronizing or he didn’t want to have reason for a jury to doubt him when this tape played back later. “The LEP isn’t sure if you’re acting in our best interest.”
“That’s completely false! I–”
Sool waved him away like a pesky fly. “I know that you and Vinyáya were fairly close, especially after Commander Root’s death. I can understand how such bonds could… cloud the mind.”
I’ll give you something to cloud your mind, Foaly seethed. “I’ve never given the LEP reason to doubt me,” he said, his voice miraculously even.
“True. But then again, why take the chance? The Council has voted to give you an assistant to help with tracking Vinyáya down. She’ll be here by lunchtime.”
If Foaly had been holding something, he would have dropped it. “What?!”
“She was quite happy to help,” Sool continued, obviously concealing his joy at finally being able to thwart his bitter enemy. “ ‘Anything for Foaly,’ she said.” Foaly forced himself to keep his mouth shut—if he opened it, he’d probably be eating a pink slip. Sool went on. “I think you know her… Caballine, I believe?”
At that moment, Foaly could have sworn that the heavens had opened up, choruses of angels singing down at him. “Ca-Caballine?” he managed.
Sool smiled. Obviously the gnome thought him too distressed to even form an insult. “Yes, Caballine. I’m sure you understand.”
Foaly tried to work up righteous indignation while rejoicing inside. “Sure. Whatever.”
Sool actually had the gall to rest a hand on his flank. “Glad you understand,” he said, Then he exited the room.
Foaly cantered over to the computer, blacked out Operation Booth’s tinted windows, and began to dance around the room like a loon. Caballine! They could be together all day, go jogging after work, laugh over lunch breaks– for a moment, he was a blushing foal again. Sool, idiot that he was, actually thought that Caballine would turn on him in hopes that she could snag her lover’s job.
“Well, Sool,” Foaly taunted to the imaginary commander, “there’s one more reason I’m glad I’m not you. I actually know that not everyone is as heartless as you.”
For the first time in six months, Foaly actually felt as if his life was looking up.
Vinyáya was curled up in an enormous chair, its cushions swallowing the fairy. It was almost comical—almost. The serious expression on the commander’s face killed any hint of levity.
She absently cast her eyes down to the holographic screen projected by her helmet. Minerva Paradizo’s LEP file. The name “Helen Paradizo” glowed red, and Vinyáya felt her stomach clench. They had found the woman shot dead and left unceremoniously on the dirt, her partner in adultery on the other side of the grounds. Also dead. A terrified cat had shot out of the house when Minerva had unlocked the door, disappearing into the night.
Helen had left a few years after Beau Paradizo’s birth, running off with the groundskeeper. It was a terrible cliché, dumping a toddler and an impressionable child genius in the hands of Gaspard Paradizo. Beau did not remember much of his mother—a smile, a fuzzy memory—but Minerva was quite different. As far as Vinyáya could tell, Minerva had unofficially estranged herself from her adulterous parent and refused any type of contact whatsoever.
Vinyáya wanted to hit herself for her stupidity. It was so blaringly obvious now—Minerva had not wanted to talk about her destination in fear of having to admit ties to her mother. Someone with a bone to pick had murdered the pair, and now she was caught in the middle of a human homicide case, renegade with a demon in tow. It was her own fault—she had acted like a rookie and gotten herself into a mess.
Every scrap of police training was screaming at Vinyáya to leave. This was a human situation, and fairies should not get involved in human affairs. But something inside her kept her rooted in the larger-than-life chair. What if this wasn’t just a human vendetta? What if someone knew?
For Frond’s sake, Vinyáya, she chided herself. You’re as paranoid as Foaly. She would have killed to have five minutes with that centaur at this particular moment. Being stuck alone in a crisis with no intel at all was something that Vinyáya hadn’t had to do in five hundred years. She would have to do this the old fashioned way—with a gun at her side and a head on her shoulders. Who could have done this, and why?
As if on cue, Minerva entered the living room. “Entered” was too kind of a word, however. More accurately, she threw open the doors so hard that the handle dented the wall behind it. The French girl was clutching a sheaf of papers in her hand as if they were the murderers.
“How could you?” she screamed, lapsing into French. “Look at what you’ve done, you and your stupid bureaucrats! This is an unforgivable lapse. You are unbelievable, you–”
“What in Frond’s name are you talking about?” Vinyáya shouted. “What happened?”
Minerva was shaking with rage. “They weren’t mind-wiped. Spiro and Kong. They’re running amok out there, and they’ll kill again–”
“Wait, what?” Then the penny dropped. “You think they–” Vinyáya felt the blood drain from her face. “D’arvit.”
“Swearing. That’s all you can do?” Minerva stalked over to the elf, her entire body taut. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to find comprehensible words in her anger. “Why were they not wiped?”
Vinyáya clenched her fists. “We can’t mind wipe the insane. Progressive fairy yuppies have been yammering about human rights and the LEP passed a bill protecting unstable minds being wiped. The science isn’t perfected yet and it could have disastrous effects on an abnormal brain. Spiro was diagnosed as insane. We’ve been trying to isolate Billy Kong to mind-wipe, but it’s been difficult to spare the personnel for an insertion team, plus the tight Taiwanese security in Green Island Prison.”
Minerva’s jaw dropped. “Human rights for terrorists?” she spat. “What’s next, salt licks for trolls? Taxicabs for felons?”
Vinyáya was at a loss. “I…” She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry about your moth–”
“She is not my mother.” Minerva’s voice was sharper than a knife and twice as deadly. “Don’t you ever say that again.”
The room was pin quiet for a moment. Vinyáya opened her mouth to speak when the door suddenly creaked open. Her hand flew for her Neutrino—
“Tieve?” Vinyáya pulled her hand back.
The demoness in question looked up, clutching a sheaf of paper in her hand. Minerva brushed past her and pulled open the door. “Wait!” The French girl paused, and Vinyáya met her eyes. “What are you going to do?”
A cold little smirk ghosted across her face. She had seen that smile on the face of Artemis Fowl during the siege—icy, arrogant, and ruthless. Vinyáya felt a chill skitter down her spine. “We’re going to steal back from Spiro what was mine,” Minerva said. Then she left. The door slammed shut behind her.
Tieve looked at Vinyáya. “What’s with her?” she said in perfect English.
Two hours later, the trio was in a private cab in a train that was much too jerky for Vinyáya’s taste—she felt like a lightning bug in a jar that some little kid was shaking. The whiteout button on Vinyáya’s LEP jumpsuit was continuing to come in handy, as it was blocking out the surveillance cameras in the car. Minerva had kept quiet for most of the trip, preferring to type notes into her laptop and scribbling what looked uncomfortably like floor plans in a tablet of graphing paper. Vinyáya took this brief respite to interrogate Tieve.
The commander slid over to the plush seat next to the demoness, who looked slightly uncomfortable. “So—you speak English?”
Tieve blushed crimson. “I—um—I guess so. Didn’t really know before.”
Vinyáya arched a brow. “You didn’t know.”
“It sort of just happened. But I couldn’t understand the lady at the train station.”
The elf thought for a moment, then groaned inwardly. Tieve’s magic was just beginning to blossom. And just like human hormones, magic took time to orient itself. The demoness’ magic would probably be flickering on and off for a year or two. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but they were not in a normal situation.
Vinyáya sighed. “Your gift of tongues. It’s on the fritz—puberty.”
“What’s fritz? And what’s puberty?”
Vinyáya flushed a bit. Giving the ‘birds and the bees’ talk to a demoness was not something she had prepared for when waking up this morning. “Nevermind. It just means that your magic won’t work all the time. So you will be able to understand people sometimes.”
Tieve thought on this for a moment, chewing her lip. “I never learned English. They read the females Lady Heartherington Smythe in Gnommish.”
Sexist, Vinyáya wanted to shout. But then again, they had been stranded in time for a millennium. What did she expect?
Minerva motioned the pair to her, focused on the glowing screen of her laptop. “I’ve got our plan,” she said, unable to keep a hint of smugness out of her voice. Teenage genii.
“Great,” Vinyáya said dryly. “Care to share it?”
“Parts,” Minerva said brusquely, the insult rolling of her back like water off a rain slicker. “We don’t have much time to memorize, so no need to go any more in detail then necessary, oui?”
Vinyáya rolled her eyes. “Glad to see you have so much faith in us.”
“There are perfect plans, but certainly not perfect people.”
“That sounds like someone I know.”
Minerva’s mouth turned up a bit at the edge. “Great minds think alike. Sometimes, at least. Artemis had the same idea.”
Vinyáya detected a very subtle change in her voice when she said “Artemis,” and filed that tidbit of information away for later. She did not need teenage girl hormones messing up an already delicate situation. Although for someone who’s mother just died, Minerva seemed fairly calm. Their relationship must have been rocky at best. But no matter what the girl said, Vinyáya couldn’t believe that the death of parent hadn’t left more of a mark. Too many questions and too few answers.
“All right then, let’s hear this brilliant plan,” Vinyáya said. Then she switched to Gnommish. “Tieve, did you catch any of that?”
The demoness shook her head. Her gift was out. Lovely. “Pauses so that I can translate, please.”
Minerva scowled. “It would have been nice if she’d told me earlier than she could understand French.”
“Well, to a thirty-year-old, you can be a little intimidating.”
Minerva decided to let the comment slide. She pulled up a window on the computer screen, plugging in a fiber optics cable to Vinyáya’s helmet into a port. A 3D floor plan flickered into life through the helmet lens. “We are headed for Lyon, third-largest city in France. Lyon is famous for its silk, gastronomy, and cinema. I believe that this is where Spiro and Kong are hiding.”
Vinyáya gave her a quizzical look. “The headquarters of Interpol is in Lyon. Do you really think they’re crazy enough to camp there?”
“It is not that hard to believe,” Minerva replied. “Spiro is already clinically insane, and Mousier Kong is surely close.”
“Crazy, surely, but stupid?”
The blonde shrugged. “Perhaps not. The LEP wouldn’t want to stage a retrieval in the middle of international authority headquarters. Even the best fairy cover-up would still be thoroughly scrutinized. And Spiro thinks that we won’t try anything too risky, knowing that mistake means death or fairy exposure.”
Vinyáya felt an uneasy rolling in her gut. “He thinks we won’t.”
Minerva smiled, showing her teeth. “But we will.”
“You’re making me nervous.”
“Good,” Minerva said. “The madder this is, the more of a chance we have that Spiro has not calculated for it.” She turned back to the computer. “Now, back to the plan. I’ve hacked into French databases and found that office space was recently rented out to two suspicious characters. Satellite has shown them to be Kong and Spiro. They are currently on the eighteenth floor of this building. No one is using the floors above them, but all of the lower spaces are filled.”
Vinyáya paused, relaying bits and pieces to Tieve. After several moments, she signaled Minerva to continue.
“We are going to go to this building, then split up. I will walk up like the normal human I am, and you and Tieve will fly up the building in cam foil. I can get into the main foyer, to Spiro’s computer lab.”
“How do you plan to do this?”
“What does it matter?” She shrugged, her blonde curls bouncing. “I’ll get there.”
Vinyáya snorted, as if commenting just how much faith she had in the French’s petite little figure in a fight. Minerva ignored her and went on. “Tieve will find a suitable hiding place. I will keep Spiro and Kong busy while you send a data charge I have created into the computers. It will burn anything that Spiro has created, whether it is on a local hard drive or once on the Caymans. Rather distressing for him. Then, after a quick search for the safe, you will go back to Tieve.”
More translation. “All right, Mud Girl,” Vinyáya said. “What then?”
Minerva leaned forward conspiratorially. “Once you have rejoined with Tieve, you will give me a signal—flash your helmet light, break a vase. Whatever. Then, Tieve will send is exactly ten seconds into the past. Spiro and Kong go looking, we reappear when they are gone, and walk out unharmed.” She leaned back, pleased with herself.
Vinyáya’s jaw dropped. “You want her to what?”
“I know it is illegal in fairy laws,” the girl said, “but since we are not currently bound by them I–”
“No way. There is absolutely no way. It’s not only illegal but immoral and dangerous. Think up another plan.”
Minerva scowled. “There is no other plan. We’re about as bulletproof as spongecake, unless you happen to have full-body Kevlar suits tucked away somewhere. I don’t think they want to sit down for cookies and tea.”
Tieve tugged on Vinyáya’s sleeve, curious as to what the fuss was about. “There has to be another way,” Vinyáya said. The desperation in her voice repulsed her.
“There isn’t,” Minerva said simply. “We can go with either certain death or only possible death. Your choice.”
And that wasn’t a choice at all.
Three hours later, they had arrived in Lyon. Minerva was crouched in a clump of bushes, sorting out a few pieces of equipment she’d picked up in a hardware store. I need to purchase a car, she thought idly. All this skulking around in shrubbery wasn’t doing wonders for her dignity. She’d rather be in the back of some limousine—with Butler in the front, reassuring her.
The bodyguard had become one of the closest things Minerva had to a friend shortly after Artemis’ disappearance—which was surprising, really. In addition to being responsible for the disaster, Minerva and the huge Eurasian had only their tenacity in common. She supposed he’d felt sorry for her; it was the only reason she could imagine why he stuck around. But in any case, Butler soon began inviting her over during holidays. Minerva vaguely wondered if he’d finished To Kill A Mockingbird yet.
Vinyáya’s voice snapped her back to reality. “Ready, Mud Girl?”
“I don’t call you Fairy Woman, do I?”
“I think it’d be a compliment,” the elf retorted, slinging on a backpack. She checked her watch. “It’s 4:12. I’m going up. Three minutes, and you enter.” She activated the cam foil and was gone within a few seconds.
You don’t need to tell me my own plan, Minerva thought irritably. The first shivers of fear had began to flutter in her stomach. This was different than when Kong had attacked her father—there had been no option to run away. She didn’t know what exactly she had been getting into. But now… this was something she had planned intricately. She knew exactly the reception that was waiting for her—dangerous men with guns, ready to squeeze her for information before they killed her. Surely anyone would be nervous, Minerva tried to reassure herself. It’s perfectly normal.
If only Butler was at her side. But he couldn’t help her now—no one could. Her own fate rested on her own shoulders now. For perhaps the first time in her life, Minerva not only felt alone but was alone. Truly and completely.
The watch on her wrist flashed gently. 4:15— time to go.
Please, please reivew. Let me know that I still have people reading…