III – Trust
Sirens sounded across the city, echoing throughout the expanses of the underground metropolis as the massive blast doors closed, sealing Haven away in a cocoon of metal and stone. Emergency broadcasts played over the public address systems, their foreboding message being accentuated by the numerous flashing lights of police vehicles and evacuation alerts. Haven rarely had lock downs such as these, as they follow an event that is, luckily, an even greater rarity: a threat from humanity.
Fairies rushed through the streets, going to their homes or predesignated shelters while LEP officers oversaw the lock down. On one busy street there was an individual that stood out amongst the panicked masses of fairies, mainly because he was Artemis Fowl. He had managed to take off his hospital gown and put on the Armani suit that Butler had dropped off for him a few days ago. The moment the sirens went off he knew it had to do with Holly, he hadn’t heard from her at all since the last time they met, and the LEP had seemed very on edge as of late. He made his way from the hospital, which he left despite everyone’s protest, making his way towards police plaza. Doing this was a lot more easily said than done, especially for Artemis who, with his lack of physical fitness, was having a tough time running through the chaotic streets in a cumbersome suit which was now stained with sweat.
Why does this always happen? Thought Artemis as he tiredly jogged through the maze of citizens, careful not to run into anyone, though breathing was an even more pressing concern. I’ve been dead for a year, put into a cloned body, been bed ridden with the worse possible attire and nourishment for weeks, and now I have to run a marathon through a panicking city in a suit that I just acquired. Why me? I’m a genius for heavens sake!
Artemis’ pondering was interrupted by what felt like running into a brick wall. The difference between a brick wall and what he ran into was that it made the former look like a wall made out of tissue paper. The man mountain that stood before him was none other than Butler.
“Butler, how refreshing to see you, what are you-” Artemis was cut off when the man scooped him up like a pet cat and, holding him against his chest, ran faster than one would think possible towards police plaza. For the fairies that they flew passed it appeared as though a troll was using Haven’s streets for a track meet.
“I came down as soon as I could after I heard what happened to Holly,” Butler said as they blew through the busy paths.
“What happened?! How am I not current on the situation?” shouted Artemis through the noise that reverberated throughout the city.
“Foaly told me that Holly had gone missing during a run in with some rogue goblins, though I guess he didn’t think informing you was a good idea given your current condition,” Butler bellowed.
“I am not a child anymore,” Artemis protested, “And I more than anyone should be kept up to date with the relevant facts, especially those concerning Holly’s well being!”
“No arguing with you there Artemis,” Butler acknowledged, “But let’s put that aside, we’ve got to get to police plaza and get to the bottom of what’s transpiring.”
“Fine, but please do try to avoid running anyone over,” the genius said nervously as he clung on for dear life.
Butler grunted, then doubled his pace as the plaza came into view.
Police Plaza, Ops Booth
“What’s the status on the lock down?” Demanded Commander Kelp as he viewed the various feeds from around the city.
“The lock down is complete,” Stated Foaly, who was typing furiously on his old keyboard. “Now nothing short of a thermonuclear blast can touch us. I have also notified Atlantis and all other settlements of the current situation, they are following suit.”
“Good, now I need for you to get the word out, mobilize all LEP forces and reserves and prepare for full scale evacuation, we have to be ready for everything!”
“Yes sir, but if you don’t mind me asking, what about Holly?” Foaly said, concerned.
“I don’t know Foaly, we’ve had no luck tracking her current position, she could be anywhere,” Trouble said, a hint of melancholy in his voice. “But she’ll pull through, I know that for a fact. She knew the risks when she joined, hell she wanted them, and our first priority is to protect the People. We’re not giving up on her, Foaly, but we have our duty. She’d understand.”
Foaly said nothing, instead focusing on the terminal in front of him. “Hang in there Holly,” he whispered, praying that she was alright.
There was a sudden increase in the level of commotion outside the ops booth, accompanied by the occasional crash. Foaly and Trouble looked out the door to see what was causing such a ruckus to see the legendary Butler plowing down the hallway with an extremely embarrassed looking Artemis Fowl cradled in his massive arms.
“Sorry if I made a mess,” the bodyguard grunted apologetically. “None of the buildings down here suit me very well.”
“Ah Butler,” greeted Foaly, “I see you got my call, and you brought Artemis with you as well.” The centaur barely held back his laughter at seeing the genius in such a disheveled state, being held like a kitten by Butler.
“It’s good to see you too Foaly,” Artemis stated flatly as he was released from Butlers bear hug, absentmindedly brushing off his suit and adjusting it to its usual perfection, “Now if you would please inform me as to what has happened, and where’s Holly?”
Trouble frowned guiltily, “That’s it Fowl, we don’t know. What we do know is that she’s been seriously injured and is in the hands of a group of unknown humans.”
“What!” Artemis exclaimed. “How did this happen? I demand answers!” Such outbursts were rare for the boy. Clearly he was worried sick about his friend, way past to point of worrying about etiquette.
“How about we just show you,” Foaly said, bringing up the surveillance footage onto the screens.
Artemis watched to footage in disbelief, his jaw dropping in shock. He saw his best friend get shot with no one there to help her, she was alone and he wasn’t there for her. Butler didn’t look like he was taking it any better, his fists clenched into boulders.
“How long ago was this,” Artemis asked weakly.
“Three days,” Foaly said sadly. “But I was only able to access the actual footage a few hours ago. I’m sorry Artemis.”
“We have to find her,” Artemis said resolutely.
“I concur,” Butler growled, cracking his knuckles.
“As do we all,” Trouble agreed, “But Haven is locked down, and there is an imminent threat from whoever these mud men are. We have no evidence pointing to any location, they dropped off the map.”
“So you couldn’t track their aircraft,” Artemis stated in disappointment.
Foaly shifted uncomfortably at that. It was rare that anyone ever duped him, and the scale of the situation made it even worse. “Not yet, there is always a way, but it may take time.”
“Time we don’t have,” Artemis said as he made his way to Foaly’s computer.
“Hey now mud boy, I couldn’t even track them, what makes you think you can?” Foaly said, his ego working its way into his discourse.
“A hunch,” Artemis stated, familiarizing himself with the interface. His hands blurred as he worked, typing at a speed that even Foaly was impressed by. “This may take a few minutes,” the prodigy said, utterly focused on the task at hand. He had to be right, he couldn’t afford to fail, to let Holly down, he’d never forgive himself.
Borislav Dragovich Ivankov left the room, closing the door behind him. Holly stood there for a few moments regarding her uniform before she got busy putting it on. Like a second skin it fit perfectly and didn’t scratch like the abysmal gown she had on earlier, a huge relief. After getting dressed her stomach growled fiercely, bringing it to her attention that she was incredibly famished, and rightly so after what she’d been through. She remembered the small refrigerator in the room, striding over to it and opening it cautiously. She eyed its contents suspiciously: several power bars and some water, not the most extravagant selection. She pondered as to whether or not the food was tainted, but then again, why would they even bother now? She quickly consumed the bars, washing them down with the cold water. Though it was not nearly enough to sate her appetite, it it was sufficient for the time being.
Checking her suit one final time, Holly made her way to the door, stopping with her hand on the handle. After a few moments of fleeting hesitation, she twisted the knob, and pulled open the door.
The room opened out into a long corridor, lined with rooms similar to the one she had occupied, obviously functioning as accommodation for whoever resided there. The hall was constructed out of some sort of alloy painted pure white, with lights lining the roof at regular intervals. It looked generic, but very functional. The hall appeared to be deserted except for the elf and the man standing patiently beside her.
“Shall we get started Captain Short?” The commander asked politely.
“Fine, but don’t try anything funny,” Holly said warningly.
“The thought never crossed my mind I assure you,” Borislav replied, turning towards the hall. “Right this way.”
The man started walking, Holly staying a few measured paces behind him, leaving enough space to react to any sudden movements. Given that the commander seemed to be open to questions thus far, she figured she’d try and get more information out of the human. “So who exactly founded this…organization?” Holly asked curiously.
“The people who created this operation were, as I would put it, a group of extraordinary gentlemen. They ranged from extremely wealthy aristocrats to some of the brightest scientists and doctors of our time. There were also writers, politicians, philosophers, generals, and so on, all of them devoted to this cause, and even more so secretive. They had the means to make this happen, and so it did. Now the descendents of these individuals run things, acting as a council of sorts. Though I may control most operations and directives, I answer to them, the shareholders. They have a very good act at funding our efforts and providing the necessary technology to make our work possible.”
“By technology, you mean fairy technology.” Holly stated accusingly, remembering the equipment they used when they had raided the warehouse.
“Well how can you expect us to be effective using mankind’s current assets? No, we needed to be current with your technology in order to not only do our job, but to stay hidden as well. You see, we were quite sure that if we were discovered we’d have a dozen bio bombs on us in ten seconds, we know how paranoid the LEP can get. Though I guess we’ll find out soon enough, now that you’re here.”
They had come up to an open elevator, stepping inside the large metallic box. Again, it was obviously not the sort you’d see in the Ritz; it was pure military practicality. There were two dozen levels on the control panel, each with corresponding numbers and codes, giving Holly an idea of the true size of the facility that she was in. They were currently on level fifteen, Borislav pressed level three.
The elevator thrummed, taking Holly up to whatever waited in the above unknown.
“Where are you taking me?” Holly asked, keeping the apprehension out of her voice. She didn’t trust this human, but then again she didn’t give her trust easily. She’d been through enough to know that trust was something reserved only for a few.
“Why to the third level of course,” Ivankov said with the slightest bit of expression.
“Be more specific,” Holly deadpanned.
“The garage so to speak. I have already discussed our predicament with the council and we have seen that the only viable option is to let you go and hope for the best. We don’t want to provoke the LEP by being rude or disrespectful to you, we’d rather make this…meeting, as cordial as possible, hopefully avoiding any unnecessary conflict by defusing tensions before someone acts irrationally.”
The elevator stopped smoothly, signaling their arrival at level three. The doors opened noiselessly, revealing a massive, well lit room that was filled with the sounds of machinery. Upon seeing its contents, Holly gaped despite herself.
The room was filled with dozens of aircraft of varying sizes, all of them jet black with no markings. Some were massive, obviously for transportation, while others were agile looking gunships bristling with hardware. There was an aircraft for every thinkable application, a refined variety, all of them appearing to operate similar to fairy craft and looking just as capable. Throughout the expanses of the hanger various personnel sought to the maintenance of the futuristic looking machines, while others stood guard at regular intervals. Overhead there were numerous cranes and lifts, depositing craft into the smaller sub-hangers which lined the walls. At the far end of the hanger was a colossal blast door with block letters across it saying: CHUTE A1. The fact that they had access to a chute entrance was enough to make Holly’s head spin. The LEP supposedly had every chute, even the most remote ones, under surveillance. Either they missed this one, or someone needed to be fired.
“How on earth did you get all of this?” Holly asked, still surprised and grudgingly impressed by the unexpected tier of assets that were before her.
“As I said before,” Borislav said smoothly, “Our benefactors have a miscellany of connections, though I hope you understand if I refrain from divulging who exactly. We also have an extraordinary team of engineers and scientists who implement and improve the product we receive.” He began walking solidly through the hanger, Holly following suit. “As for the size of our operation, don’t worry, all of our personnel and partners have an adamant belief in the cause, and bear absolute fealty to this endeavor. I personally choose who can be a part of this, and I only choose the best.”
Holly only nodded in response, slightly distracted by a sleek interceptor that they were passing. She appraised it carefully, estimating its speed, handling and maneuverability, feeling a desire to give it a whirl.
As they passed through the hanger towards a set of smaller blast doors there was little commotion over their presence there. A few mechanics and even fewer guards gave curious glances, but most of them acted as though an LEP officer passing through was a regular occurrence, though it obviously wasn’t. Clearly they already knew everything beforehand.
Upon reaching the other side they stood before the blast doors. Two soldiers dressed in black armor, minus the helmets, saluted the commander and opened the large portal, which expanded into another smaller but still sizable room. In it was, by all accounts, the largest collection of suspicious looking black vehicles Holly had ever seen, the kind that would put every Hollywood villain to shame. Hundreds of machines lined the long room ranging from cars and trucks to armored personnel carriers and tanks, all black of course, contrasting perfectly with the clean white walls. One of the cars was waiting just in front of them, its key already in the ignition.
“This is the last leg of our little journey, a quick drive and I’ll be out of your hair,” Ivankov stated as he reached the car, opening the passenger door motioning for Holly to get in. The elf acquiesced, taking a seat in the vehicle, which was quite uncomfortable as the seat was many sizes too big.
The man closed the side door placidly, walking around to the drivers side before entering himself, putting his hands casually onto the wheel while he started the engine. “Don’t worry, this car has enough armor to withstand more than a few landmines. It’s the smell you should worry about, those damn air-fresheners you get at the wash smell like excrement.” Holly, upon giving a whiff, couldn’t agree more.
The car accelerated towards the opposite side if the garage, the multitude of black flashing by the tinted windows like stop motion animation. At first it appeared as though they were going to collide with the wall, but suddenly it retracted into itself, revealing a tunnel that disappeared into the distance. They passed though the passage, which seemed to have a blast door every twenty yards, exiting into the dark of night.
Police Plaza, Ops Booth
Artemis Fowl sat back in the chair, feeling very good about himself. Not only was he right, but he one upped Foaly once again. “I’ve got it,” he yelled, capturing the attention of the centaur, elf and mountain standing outside the door.
Foaly was the first in, an incredulous look on his face. “I totally could have done that,” he said, relief and dismay in his voice; the former over the possibility of finding Holly, the latter over being outdone by Artemis, again.
“What have you got?” Trouble asked, relieved as well. Butler stood silently behind them, wearing his serious face.
“Though there was considerable amount of interference, I was able to track the unknown aircraft to a five square kilometer radius in the Western Alps.”
“So let’s get going,” Butler rumbled behind them.
Foaly frowned, “I’d have to override the lock-down sequence, and even then it would take a few hours to get there and who knows how many more to pinpoint the exact location. Don’t forget that we have no idea what we’re up against. We could very well be walking into trap.”
“I don’t care! This is Holly’s life we’re talking about! I’m not going to let such petty encumbrances impede a rescue operation!” Artemis said impatiently, balling his fists in frustration.
“I agree”, nodded Commander Kelp, the hard look on his face showing his desire to help Holly as well, regardless of the risks. “I’ll personally organize a team, we’ll scour those mountains until we find her and those responsible.” His voice was commanding and charismatic, a show of his impeccable skill as commander; Julius would’ve been proud.
Trouble turned to Artemis and Butler. “You may come as well, if you wish, though I advise against it given all of the unknowns.”
“Dealing with such situations is our specialty,” Artemis stated seriously, Butler nodding behind him.
“Alright.” Kelp said, making his way to the command console. “Foaly, I need you to lift the lock down, but only for the hanger bay. We must avoid exposing Haven as much as we can.”
Foaly was about to circumvent the lock-down procedures for the hanger when an alert sounded from his terminal. He eyes went wide. “Everyone! You might want to see this!”
“What is it?” Artemis asked, his voice hopeful. The three of them crowded around the centaur in uncertain anticipation.
Foaly turned in his chair, tears of joy forming in his eyes. “It’s Holly.”
Western Alps, several minutes earlier
Cradled in the heart of the mountains sat a small lake, its oval shape surrounded by the massive peaks that fed it. It was perfectly clean, one of the last places truly void of human influence. The wind rustled the trees around it, kissing the surface of the lake making gentle waves that lapped lazily against the shoreline. The sky above was clear as crystal, billions of stars twinkling against the black canvas that was the universe while the moon wandered sleepily across the horizon, its glow illuminating the quiet water below which reflected the heavens like a mirror. On a grassy knoll overlooking the water stood two figures, one clearly an adult, the other appearing as though a child.
They had left the vehicle a few kilometers away, walking through a narrow valley to the remote location that they were now in. Holly didn’t quite understand why he had bothered taking her all this way by foot, and by himself for that matter. Did he trust her that much, or was he simply that confident about his abilities? Holly wondered about that as she overlooked the breathtaking scene before her. Commander Ivankov stood behind her, most likely doing the same thing.
“This is where we part ways Captain Short,” Borislav said smoothly, his watchful eyes on the sky above.
“So you’re just going to let me go after all?” Holly said curiously, still enraptured by the nature around them, and the smell of the crisp clean air thrilling her senses.
Borislav walked up to her, leaving only three feet between them, “Do you know why I took you out here?”
“Enlighten me,” replied Holly, not in the mood for guessing. She tensed up slightly, not comfortable being so close to the man.
“To prove a point.”
Holly looked up at him curiously. To prove what?
“As you’ve already noticed, we’re all alone. Not a single one of my men are within ten miles of our location, and I left the car a few thousand meters away to boot. It’s just you and me.” He paused for a second, then reached into his jacket. When his hand came out, it was holding Holly’s neutrino and her communicator, which he removed a small device from before putting it in his other hand. Holly took a step back, not sure if he was going to shoot her or not. Instead, the man extended his arm, the handle of the gun facing her. “You know what they say about trust,” he said quietly, holding the gun steadily.
Holly was shocked to say the least, she never thought he’d leave himself so exposed, to an LEP officer no less. Nonetheless, Holly slowly reached for the gun, putting her fingers around the grip. Feeling the familiar sensation of the firearm in her fingers was a huge thrill, it was an extension of herself that she felt almost naked without. She made the effort to pull it slowly from his hands, but his hold didn’t waver, clasping the weapon in a vice grip. He looked at her for a moment, then spoke even softer than before, “Now I need to know that I can trust you.” With that he released the gun, leaving his hands at his side as he waited expectantly.
Holly looked at him, then the gun. Nothing was in her way, his life was in her hands. She could shoot him, bring him in for interrogation even, but inside she knew that that wasn’t the right thing to do. He’d saved her life, told her a plethora of classified information, and now entrusted her with his life. Holly looked at Borislav, who was dead still, his face impassive. But his hard eyes were trustingly soft; he knew she couldn’t do it. Holly let out the breathe she didn’t know she was holding, attaching her Neutrino 3000 to her waist. The man in front of her gave a ghost of a smile before tossing her the communicator, “I’ve debugged your communicator as well as your firearm, you should be able to call for extraction without any problems. As for what happens next, that’s up to you and the rest of the LEP. I’ve left some data on your communicator that will allow you to contact me directly when they are ready to talk.”
Holly, still slightly flabbergasted by the turn of events, simply nodded.
The man looked around casually, as if on a nature walk, “Well, this concludes our little first contact dilemma. I can say it went better than expected.” He extended a hand to Holly, “We will meet again, but I feel that we got off on the wrong foot. The name’s Borislav Dragovich Ivankov, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Holly looked at his appendage for a moment, amazed, but soon extended hers as well, clasping his hand and shaking it firmly, “Well met Drago.”
Ivankov smiled fully, something that he obviously rarely did, “Well met indeed.”
With that he turned around and began walking towards the way he came, Holly watching as he did. Soon his black clothed figure melted into the inky embrace of the forest, the sound of his footsteps fading into silence. Holly stood there staring into the darkness, but unable to see any sign of the man. The moon watched serenely, the brilliant night sky behind it doing the same. From the tops of the mountains came a cool breeze, rustling the grass at Holly’s feet as it passed through the valley before rising freely into sky.
The sounds of thousands of boots hitting the ground reverberated through the red half-light, demonic growls echoing off the walls. The mysterious entity watched with glee as the army of grotesque creatures formed from squads into platoons, platoons into companies, companies into entire battalions. Heavy armor covered their muscular bodies, what it didn’t cover was hide as tough as nails. In their clawed hands was a colossal variety of weapons from both worlds. There were numerous human weapons, softnose assault rifles, heavy machine guns, artillery, and just about everything else imaginable. Despite their aesthetic differences, all of the weapons had one thing in common: they were made to kill with devastating efficiency and brutality. Overhead flew dozens of jagged looking shuttles, bristling with dreadful armaments while along side the infantry drove massive armored vehicles, their engines growling hungrily for battle.
From atop an overly dramatic throne the shrouded being watched, taking in the scene of pure power in front of it as it trembled in the anticipation of the impending chaos. It let out an excited squeal, something that didn’t quite suit such a nefarious being, but it couldn’t care less. “You can run to the ends of the earth you pathetic little rats,” it said do a distant foe, “But nothing will save you from what is coming. The world will burn until its surface is but glass, and I will feed off its impudent souls to my heart’s content.” The being laughed insanely, it’s madness flowing like an ocean of fire, burning with flaming vituperation and hatred as the army marched to the drums of war.