Here you go! I am assuming this will be my last update before Christmas so consider it an early present.

Merry Christmas! And for anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, this can just be a random gift from me.

Thank you for all the reviews! 16 in 6 days! I am pretty sure that's a record for me. Keep it up.

Disclaimer: I don't own Artemis Fowl. You know that. Now get reading.

Chapter 2: Hot stuff

Holly Short and Trouble Kelp stood their ground as the mesmerised fairies encircled them.

The image before her eyes reminded Holly randomly of a pack of hyenas she'd once seen on TV. They'd rounded up their prey much like this, hemming in the poor defenceless animal and then striking as a pack.

The sounds the fairies were emitting were eerily similar to hyenas. The continual chanting could easily be compared to the cackles of the African mammal.

Beside her Trouble loosed off a couple more shots into the chest of a bulked-up jumbo pixie who was edging too close. He tumbled face first to the dusty ground and was immediately replaced by three more fairies. The crowd began to press in on all sides, pushing Holly and Trouble closer together till they were back to back.

Holly yelled to make herself heard over the din around them. "Trouble! See an escape route?"

The commander's trained eyes scanned the area over the heads of the fairies. He was a professional at finding his way out of a firefight. It was LEP Academy basic training; if an officer couldn't locate the safest route to take, then they were a dead fairy. No point in even trying.

He spotted a slight thinning of the crowd towards the magma chute entrance. "I've got a visual of the exit. By the chute. On three captain Short?"

"Three's good for me."

"One, two, three!" simultaneously, the two elves ducked to the ground as the nearest fairies made a grab for them. Crouching low, they began loosing off shots at random, scorching numerous ankles and toppling members of the crowd like dominoes.

"This way Holly!" Trouble yelled. He began crawling through the chaos. Holly turned and followed, dodging trampling feet as she went. A couple of fairies noticed what they were doing and tried to pursue, but the chaos that followed the progress of Holly and Trouble's neutrinos soon forced them to stop.

They made it through to the space mostly unharmed, though sporting quite a few scratches and scrapes between them. Holly jumped to her feet first and pulled Trouble up after her. Behind them, the confused crowd were slowly gathering their surroundings. It was slightly eerie when, as one, they turned to face the two elves.

Trouble shivered. "Creepy." As quickly as possible, they hurried towards the chute entrance, closely pursued by the mob of fairies.

"What do we do?" Holly yelled as they passed the green-lit docking station.

"Heat suits! We're going in!" he yelled back, swiftly changing direction and careering off to the left, where Holly could just see the entrance to a LEP lockup.

"Of course. Heat suits." She muttered, before following, elbowing a couple of crazed sprites out of the way as she did.

The commander was already at the lockup, keying in the code as fast as he could and flinging the door open. Just inside the door, to their extreme good fortune, they found two heat protection jumpsuits. Slamming the door behind them, Trouble grabbed a suit, throwing the other to Holly. She caught it and immediately pulled it on over her LEP jumpsuit, where it shrank a little to fit the contours of her body snugly. Trouble was doing the same.

She scanned the room, looking for the special helmets that went with them. They had to be made from a specific polymer to withstand the intense heat from the chutes, for that was what the heat suits were for.

A couple of years ago, when Holly was still in Hybras, the investigation over the B'wa Kell rebellion had finally come to a close. And apart from the new security features, the council had also ordered that Foaly invent a suit that would insulate a LEP officer in the event that they were caught unawares by a magma flare, as had happened to Holly. She had survived purely by luck, and so now, any time anyone went in the chutes, they had to don the new outfits. They were not exactly the most fashionable clothing, but they worked. They were jet black, with a mirrored coating pasted over the fabric to reflect heat. And instead of the usual heating coils, Foaly had installed hundreds upon hundreds of cooling gel packs that instantly activated when intense heat was applied. The officer would basically be encased in a mirrored bubble until the flare passed. They were completely insulated; even the helmets and gloves had to be locked in place.

Holly passed Trouble the second helmet and he screwed it on tightly, activating the oxygen pack attached to his back and switching on the helmet mike. Holly did the same and they looked at each other.

"Ready?" she asked, glancing towards the door. Hammering sounds were coming from the other side.

"Ready." The commander strode forwards, neutrino at the ready and opened the door. The crowd surged in, but before they could make a grab for the two elves, Holly and Trouble had activated their wings and soared up and over their heads, heading for the open blast doors. Naturally, the sprites present all gave chase, blocking the exit towards Ireland and herding them down the way. Which to be honest, didn't bother Holly that much as they were planning on going in that direction anyway.

They made it to the entrance to the chute without major incident, though a few sprites got pretty badly singed from the fairies below, who were now blasting any weapons they had upwards. Luckily for Holly and Trouble, their heat suits dispelled every blast.

Without looking back, they dived into the cute and flew as fast as they could downwards, heading into the main chute in the area, E1. Behind them, the sounds of pursuit grew fainter and fainter as the sprites gave up chase. Sure, the mob wanted the traitors dead, but they weren't going to risk getting fried for the sake of revenge. Without Foaly on their side, no one knew when the next flare would be. Except Holly and Trouble who had the readouts displayed on the inside of their helmets as an extra precaution. Holly chose to glance at the figures as they made it into E1. Apparently, it was in five minutes.

"Trouble, the next flare is due any minute." She called out, sounding slightly worried.

"D'arvit Holly! I know that! Hurry up!"

They sped up as much as they could. They had to get into another secondary chute before the next flare came. Though Foaly's suits were equipped with wings, they had one major design flaw; the wings didn't work when the gel packs were activated, which was in roughly five minutes from now. And, Holly thought, if we're hanging suspended in midair over the earth's core when the flare comes, lets just say it's not going to be much fun when the wings stop working.

Out loud she asked, "Where's the nearest exit to the surface?"

Trouble had to shout into the helmet mike now. The customary roar that came with a magma flare was beginning to rumble deep below them. "France, seven hundred miles from here, but there's a service tunnel forty miles away. If we can reach it in time, it's small enough that we can land before the flare reaches us.

Holly opened her wings to full throttle. Four minutes to travel forty miles. They could make it. They would make it.

Three minutes to go…

Holly could feel the g-force rippling her cheeks as she pushed the wings as fast as they could go.

Two minutes to go…

Close behind her, she heard Trouble speed up further. His wings were making a funny clunking sound that really didn't sound healthy. Twelve miles to go now…

One minute to go…

It was starting to get hotter now, Holly could see the air below her beginning to glow orange. The rumbling was growing louder. It sounded like some fiery monster from the depths of the earth wanted to swallow them whole. The flare was on its way.

She could see the entrance to the service chute just in front of her. They were going to make it! She willed the wings to keep going, the end was in sight!

Then, of course, as was expected with Holly Short's track record, disaster struck. Behind her, Trouble's wings began to sputter. She slowed down slightly and glanced back. He had stopped completely and appeared to be having some trouble with the anti-friction mechanism. It was smoking slightly.

At that moment, to Holly's horror, the wings packed in altogether and Trouble Kelp plummeted like a stone, right into the mouth of the oncoming flare.

"Trouble!" Holly screamed into her mike as she halted in midair and turned, getting some nasty whiplash from her wingpack as she did so. "I'm coming!"

"Captain Short!" he yelled back as he fell. "Don't you dare! You'll be killed! the flare's too close! I order you not to come!"

Holly kept on flying downwards, following the smoke trail left by the wings. "I've lost one too many commanders in these chutes. I'm not about to lose you too."

She was going to have to fly pretty fast. Foaly had said these wings came close to breaking the sound barrier. Well, she was about to test that theory. If anyone had a chance of reaching that speed, it was her. Holly was the speed master. After all, she had the air speed record and the core diving record under her belt already.

She flew, an arrow piercing the cloying orange air around her, following the spiralling figure below her. Past him, she could see the magma building miles away. How long would it take to reach them? The gravity pulling her downwards helped her speed up even more.

Commander Kelp was only thirty metres away now! She outstretched her arms, willing them to grow longer. Twenty metres, there was a huge bang. What was that? Sonic boom? Oops. She must have broken the sound barrier. Holly kept going. Ten metres…

"Gotcha!" she pulled out of the dive as tightly as she could at the pace she was travelling, grabbing Trouble's oxygen pack by the handle and pulling him with her. Her own wings made a sad sort of groaning sound as she began to gather speed once more, this time heading up the way. The flare was here. She could feel the gel packs at her feet beginning to tingle as the air warmed. Any second now, they would inflate and she would fall. She pushed her wings further, so close to the service tunnel it was almost touchable.

All of a sudden, the roaring intensified a thousand-fold as white hot magma crashed into her chest. The gel packs in her suit responded immediately, inflating in less than half a second. Holly found herself encased in a giant blue and black bubble. Her grip on Trouble's pack was slipping as his own gel packs inflated, shielding him from the flare. She was so preoccupied with trying to retain her hold on her commanding officer, that Holly didn't notice one vital detail about her current predicament.

Her wings had stopped.

Hee hee! (Insert maniacal laughter here) Oh yes that's right! My cliffies are back with a vengeance! ^_^ (Does a little dance to celebrate)

Never fear! I shall update within the next 7 days! Review and it shall help me in my plan to get Holly and Trouble out of this horrible predicament!

Seriously though, even if you just wanna have a rant at me for cliff hangers, review!

It could be a Christmas present to meeeee! (unless you're ranting of course)

Katy x