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The Fowl Files Extract

Captain Holly Short is known by everyone under the world as one of the key members of the LEPrecon Squad. But the daring young elf’s job wasn’t always so exciting. Like all Recon officers, she began her career in Traffic. This is the story of her initiation as a Recon captain, and how she became the first female officer to serve under Commander Julius Root.

Sydney Harbour, Australia

‘The thing about pain, Major Evergreen,’ said the old elf, laying a small wooden case on the table, ‘is that it hurts.’

Evergreen was still too groggy for jokes. Whatever the stranger had put in the dart was taking its time leaving his system. ‘What are you … ? Why am I … ?’ Full sentences wouldn’t come. He couldn’t pluck one from his addled brain.

‘Quiet, Major,’ advised his captor. ‘Don’t fight the serum. You will make yourself ill.’

‘Serum?’ gasped the major.

‘A very personal concoction. Since I don’t have my magic any more, I have had to rely on nature’s gifts. This particular serum is concocted from equal parts ground Ping Pong flower and cobra venom. Not lethal in small doses, but quite an effective sedative.’

Fear was piercing the LEP officer’s daze now, like a hot poker through snow. ‘Who are you?’

A child’s scowl twisted the stranger’s ancient face.

‘You may address me as Captain. Don’t you know me, Major? From before today? Cast your mind back to your first years in the LEP. Centuries ago, I know, buy try. The fairy People often think that they can forget me completely. But I’m never far away, not really.’

The major wanted to say, yes I know you, but something told him that lying would be even more dangerous than telling the truth. And the truth was that he couldn’t remember seeing this old elf before in his life. Not until today when he had assaulted him on the docks. Evergreen had tracked a runaway-gnome signal to this hut, and the next thing he knew this old elf had stung him with a syringe gun and was asking to be addressed as Captain. And now he was tied to a chair, being given a lecture about pain.

The old elf flipped two brass clasps on his case and lifted the lid reverentially. Major Evergreen caught a glimpse of a velvet lining. Red as blood.

‘Now, my boy, I need information. Information only an LEP major would know.’ The captain lifted a leather pouch from the box. There was another box of some kind inside the bag, its edges pressing into the leather.

Evergreen’s breath came in short gasps. ‘I’ll tell you nothing.’

The old elf undid the bag’s leather tie with one hand. The box shone from inside the bag, casting a sickly glow on the old elf’s pallor. The wrinkles around his eyes were thrown into deep shadow. The eyes themselves were feverish.

‘Now, Major. The moment of truth. Question time.’

‘Do yourself a favour and close the bag, Captain,’ said Major Evergreen, with more bravado than he felt. ‘I am LEP: you can’t harm me and hope to escape.’

The captain sighed. ‘I cannot close the bag. What is inside yearns to come out, to be free and do its work. And don’t think anyone is coming to save you. I have jacked into your helmet and sent a malfunction message. Police Plaza thinks your communications are on the blink. They won’t be worried for hours.’

The old elf pulled a steel object from the leather bag. The object was a mesh cage, and inside was a tiny silver spider with claws so sharp, the tips seemed to disappear. He held up the cage before Evergreen’s nose. Inside, the spider slashed its claws in a starving frenzy, an inch from the major’s nose.

‘Sharp enough to cut air,’ said the captain. And indeed the claws seemed to leave short-lived rents where they passed.

The mere act of revealing the spider seemed to change the old elf. He had power now and seemed taller. Twin red dots sparked in his eyes though there was no light source in the hut. The ruffles of an old-style LEP dress uniform poked from beneath his overcoat.

‘Now, my young elf. I was ask but once. Answer promptly or bear my wrath.’

Major Evergreen shivered from fear and cold, but kept his mouth tightly closed.

The captain caressed the major’s chin with his cage. ‘Now, here is your question: where is Commander Root’s next Recon initiation site?’