Note: Juvenilia, written when I was a teenager. I'm now a bit embarrassed by it, but am leaving it up here because a number of people were kind enough to read it and say complimentary things. I once had grand plans for it, but I'm afraid that the chances of it ever being finished are almost zero (alas). Feel free to enjoy it if you will, but don't judge me on it. ;-) - May 2020.
Return to Haven.
Holly Short stumbled thankfully through the doors of Police Plaza and out into the cool night air of a slumbering Haven. She had been sprayed, injected and cross-examined to within an inch of her life she was bone-tired, filthy, bloodied, and she stank worse than a pubescent troll. Right now, she didn't care what happened to her provided she got a bubble bath and a pile of pillows. And not necessarily in that order. After all, even if her body didn't realise it, here, she hadn't washed, eaten or slept for three years.
Wincing with the effort of dragging her boots along the pavement, Holly cursed whichever deity had prompted her to walk to work that morning. Or rather, on a Tuesday morning three years, five months and twenty seven days ago. Holly groaned. Her head hurt. She cursed Artemis Fowl and his crazy schemes. Even though, technically, this one hadn't been quite his fault. It still made her feel better.
She stumbled to a halt beside an ostentatious statue of Frond, with half an idea in her head to buy as many deep fried pit slugs from the van opposite as she could carry. But it was 0400 hours, Haven time. The van's grilles were decidedly closed, its stroppy pixie owner doubtless snoring along with the rest of Haven. For a moment, Holly contemplated just breaking into the van and liberating the contents of its fridge, but she didn't have the energy. Typical of the LEP to arrive just after the nick of time and probe her for every detail of her unexpected absence without offering her so much as a cup of sim coffee. If Foaly had been there, he would have remembered, but Foaly was still topside, supervising Fowl's 'insertion', as he insisted on calling it, back into the family home.
This was getting ridiculous. Holly was an experienced enough officer to know when an elfin body was – to use the technical term – dead on its feet. The retrieval jocks, of course, had another name for it, but it was a term not generally used in polite company.
Retrieval jocks... Trouble. Subconsciously, Holly felt her feet turning in the direction of Trouble's flat. Trubs and his mates would let her crash on their couch for a night, she was sure, and it was a damn sight closer than the other side of Haven.
Why in the name of Frond's bollocks did Trouble Kelp have to live at the top of a huge flight of stairs? Holly gritted her teeth and began to drag herself upwards, comforting herself with the thought of the insulting names she would call him when she reached the top.
At long last, she stood panting on the front doorstep. A stolen traffic cone surmounted the banister rail, and leaning against the porch wall was a text bar (also stolen) of the type used by LEP officers to control traffic. The text on this particular bar was frozen in a delicately crude invitation. Chix Verbil's work, no doubt. It didn't seem to matter if a male was LEP or not – they were the same the world under.
Holly had never been a subtle elf. Right now, tact and delicacy were not exactly on her top ten traits list either. She pounded her fist against the door as though picturing it to have Artemis Fowl's face.
Somewhat to her surprise, there was an almost immediate diatribe of cursing, and the door was wrenched open
"Who the...?" queried the sprite who stood behind it, taking in her dishevelled appearance.
"I'm looking for Trouble." Holly explained, wincing inside her head at how ridiculous that sentence sounded. From the room behind the sprite came a demented cackling voice that Holly recognised only too well.
"Seventeen!" Chix Verbil choked, through his laughter "Seventeen, the bastard!"
"Er, what?" Holly asked, slightly bemused.
"My flatmates and I have a little bet on," grinned the sprite at the door. "About the number of times in a month that a different girl shows up here 'looking for Trouble'."
"Save your bet, flyboy," Holly said, shoving aside the sprite and stepping through the front door uninvited. "I'm not most girls."
Chix Verbil's head twisted so suddenly that the vertebrae cracked.
"Holly!" he exclaimed in shock, crass pick up lines deserting him in the face of this unexpected miracle. "You're supposed to be dead!"
"Well, I'm not." She replied brusquely, tossing herself down onto the couch with a sigh of satisfaction, in between Chix and a gnome by the unfortunate name of Eugene Cahartez. Eugene was the great-nephew of the chairman of the Council, woefully diminutive even by fairy standards, as timid as a stinkworm in a pit full of dwarves, and preferred to be known only as E.g. for very obvious reasons. Holly had always rather liked him. The sprite, whose seat she was occupying, seated himself in the rickety armchair opposite and glared at her balefully.
"Who's the toad?" Holly continued, oblivious, jerking her head in the sprite's direction.
"There's no need for that!" he replied huffily. (To be called a toad by a complete stranger occupying your couch is a tad insulting, even if your skin does happen to be green).
Chix re-hinged his jaw with difficulty. "Uh, Erebus." he muttered by way of introduction. "Erebus Blade, Holly Short."
"Holly Short?" Blade enquired his skin flushing emerald with interest. "The Holly Short? The mysteriously beautiful female who would throw herself weeping into your arms if only she could return beyond hope from the depthless limbo of the otherworld?"
"Yeah, that's the one." Chix confirmed obliviously, as Holly battered him about the head with a cushion. "You alright, girly?" he added, amused. "You seem to have lost a bitta arm, if y'know what I mean. Hard trip, was it?"
Holly gritted her teeth in frustration. Trouble always had ha dubious taste in friends. Being a Retrieval jock, it came with the territory.
"Please, Verbil," she moaned. "You have no idea. Just grab Trubs for me, please, and I'll leave you to continue with your intellectual fulfilment." She gestured to the widescreen television, frozen in the middle of a video game of the sex-violence-and-high-speed-car-chase variety.
Casually, Chix tossed an entire basin of popcorn into his mouth, ignoring E.g.'s squeak of protest.
"Gonna be difficult, sweetcheeks," he explained, through a mouthful of popcorn. "Trubs is gone."
"Gone?" asked Holly, in a hollow voice. "What do you mean, gone?"
"Oh, he's not dead, or anything," E.g. reassured her. "He's just moved out. Got a place of his own on the other side of Haven." Holly could tell by the way the gnome's lower lip quivered that he considered this defection little short of the basest betrayal.
"Ash, then." Holly said desperately. Ash Vein, the fifth flatmate, was a good elf in a crisis, a LEP major of the old school, and Trouble's closest friend.
"Working the nightshift at Police Plaza." explained Chix cheerfully. "So it looks like it's just you and us, baby. And the night is still young. Grab a console and we can give these mud boys a good hiding before sun up." He gestured at the frozen screen.
Holly groaned. She had thought that walking across Haven to her apartment was the worst possible torture right now. Of course she had been wrong. First rule of Recon. Things can ALWAYS get worse. The one thing she knew was that she was sure as Hell not going to spent the next six hours fending off the advances of Chix Verbil.
"Forget it." She grumbled, heaving herself upright with the greatest of difficulty. "I'm outta here."
"Here!" mumbled E.g. shyly, hastily scribbling something onto the back of a chip packet, and thrusting it into her hand. "Trouble's new address." Holly stuffed the scrap into her pocket, moving towards the door.
"Thanks E.g. Don't bother to see me out, anyone." She needn't have worried. The moment she was on her feet, Erebus had leapt back to the vacated couch with a gleeful cackle, and Chix had reactivated the video game's controls. Holly let herself out of the back door to the accompanying soundtrack of unrealistic gunfire, screeching tyres, and raucous cheering.