Once upon a time, Trouble Kelp would have looked at Haven and felt a sense of pride, a sense of duty to protect the largest fairy metropolis.
Now, he looked at Haven and sighed.
The city was being rebuilt, but there was only so much you could do with a resource shortage. Money, supplies, fairies. They didn't have enough of anything, really, except maybe swear toads.
The whole thing was a fiasco. First Foaly had vanished without warning, and his techie nephew helpfully explained that he'd gone to see his wife. Then it turned out that a large platoon of goblins were descending on his wife's house, which both cleared up the reason Foaly had left and made Trouble curse the centaur's recklessness. What was he going to do, throw a keyboard?
Then, Foaly had made contact with Holly via on of his gadgets. Arc-dragonfly-thing. It became immediately apparent that something was not quite right, as she was crying as she told them that Opal was dead and the humans hadn't collectively vanished off the face of the earth. Both those things were good news (despite his general dislike of the Mud Men, he didn't like needless death), and Holly didn't cry, ever, not even at really bad Opal-Koboi related news.
Standing in the room with her were Mr. Convicted Criminal, Mulch Diggums, and the man-mountain Butler. However, Mr. Insufferable Mud Boy Artemis Fowl was conspicuously absent.
That was about the point where Foaly, looking none too dry-eyed himself, informed the LEP commander that the insufferable Mud Boy in question was dead, having sacrificed himself to save his race, and in the process prevented the next Ice Age, if the centaur's calculations were correct. And they generally were.
Trouble had to ask him to repeat that. Twice.
Trouble had never liked Artemis Fowl very much. First of all, he was a fairy police officer, and he had first heard of Artemis Fowl when the twelve-year-old human kidnapped another fairy police officer, who he'd happened to respect quite a lot, given that she'd saved his hide during her own initiation.
Since then, this Artemis Fowl proceeded to build a supercomputer from fairy tech, which had promptly been stolen by another human. He'd cheated a mindwipe, gotten involved in the demon incident, been involved in another incident that led to the arrival of a second Opal Koboi, as if one weren't enough, and developed a mental illness that required his bodyguard to live for a stretch belowground, causing panic whenever innocent tourists spotted the giant Mud Mountain with a small army's worth of weapons.
Trouble had to admit that each of those times, things had turned out okay, and it probably would have been a whole lot worse if Fowl hadn't been present. But the Mud Boy seemed to get involved in some sort of trouble every few months, and almost inevitably dragged the fairies along with him.
Despite all this, Trouble realized he missed Fowl. After listening to months of supposedly tough, macho LEP officers griping about paper cuts or the tech shortage, it became fairly apparent that there were more annoying people in the world (cough, Grub, cough). The earth was still the regular temperature and Opal Koboi wasn't High Queen of the People, so Trouble decided they owed Artemis Fowl.
Plus, though he'd never admit it, a Mud Boy genius would have been useful to the a rebuilding effort. Haven was still in a bad state. Atlantis was pretty much the same. Most of the Council was dead—something about exploding cell phones—and the casualties, while small by human standards, were pretty big for the fairies. When you were only three feet tall, and your biggest city had the population of a human town, almost everything was big, really.
This whole thing was a mess, but there was no point in moping about it. Trouble decided to go down to the Operations Room and yell at Foaly—a fairly reliable way to get himself out of moping mood and into a yelling one.
It was only after he left that he realized the centaur had been acting strangely.
Trouble had not become LEP Commander for nothing. He noticed details, and his hunches were generally correct. And right now, he had a little hunch that Donkey Boy wasn't telling him something.
Trouble tried to remember the Operations Room. Little things popped out in his memory. Fowl's file open on one screen, Foaly deliberately standing in front of another. The partitioned-off corner. The centaur's nervous tics—if the floor hadn't been reinforced, there would've been a dent in it from all the tapping.
What was Foaly up to this time?
Right off the bat, Trouble guessed that it wouldn't be legal, and he wouldn't like it. Both signs that this situation had something to do with Mr. Deceased Mud Boy, who'd seemed to revel in illegal things that the LEP didn't like.
Trouble decided to circle back. Quietly. He wasn't in the mood for a long, excuse-filled lecture. Luckily, all those hours spent training in the Academy had paid off. Trouble could creep like a cat. Albeit a three feet tall one with a temper.
The hallway was empty. Most officers were out on their assignments, except for a poor few who'd gotten mountains of paperwork. Figurative mountains, of course—digital forms killed a lot less trees than paper ones, and you'd think the officers would be grateful they weren't getting fireballs or gaseous emissions launched at them.
The door to the Operations Room was open a crack. Voices drifted out into the hallway.
"You really should close the door, Holly. Who knows, maybe Commander Kelp is right outside listening. "
Trouble suppressed a chuckle. Good old paranoid Foaly.
Holly's voice responded. "You saw him leave five minutes ago, Mr. Genius. But fine."
The door slid closed almost all the way. It would've shut completely, but Trouble jammed a nearby bit of wire into the crack.
The sound of feet scuffling, then quieter voices. Trouble strained to hear. "The clone's growing pretty well do far. It's creepy, though. I keep on feeling like it's staring at me while I work. I mean, I've even started wearing my tinfoil hat again. You never know."
This is a joke. It has to be a joke.
Trouble could imagine Holly rolling her eyes. "You never know what? That maybe a mindless clone has somehow developed mind-reading waves, deflectable only by a tinfoil hat? Hasn't Caballine chewed you out for the hat yet, by the way? She generally has good fashion sense—unlike you."
Trouble stayed still. Plenty of interesting information, which his tech consultant and best field officer had somehow simultaneously forgotten to mention.
The sound of hooves shifting. "I haven't, um, showed Caballine yet. Besides, if everything goes according to plan, it won't be mindless for much longer. It'll be Artemis soon, after all. And I'm betting Artemis already has that mind-reading device tucked away somewhere—because, well, he's Artemis. Tinfoil is useful stuff! Hey, do you want to try out my new—"
"No. I'm not a guinea pig, for Danu's sake. I just came here to check on the clone. In fact, I should probably go now. One of the dwarfs has been caught diluting his spit with water. Again. I mean, leave it to a dwarf to figure out how to commit spit fraud."
Trouble ducked behind a corner as Holly came out of the Operations Room, looking annoyed. She turned and walked down the hallway.
Trouble waited until she was out of sight, then turned and trudged down the hallway in the opposite direction, thinking over what he'd just heard.
His tech consultant and best captain were involved in something that sounded highly illegal, and Trouble had feeling that line about tribunals wasn't an exaggeration.
Trouble wasn't stupid. He just had the misfortune to live in the same world as people such as Foaly, Opal Koboi, and Artemis Fowl. Holly and Foaly were growing a clone. From their conversation, it was a clone of Artemis Fowl, insufferable Mud Boy extraordinaire. And they were planning to make it sentient. Sentient.
The idea was mind-bending, to say the least. Cloning was illegal for some religious reasons, but mainly because a clone was basically the body of a fairy (or human) which spent its not-especially-long life as an essential vegetable. No thoughts, no feelings, no awareness whatsoever. The shell of a living thing. Unethical.
However, as much as it galled him to admit it, if anyone could find out a way to remedy that, it'd be Foaly. And once again judging from their conversation, they were trying to give it Mud Boy's mind.
Essentially, they were trying to bring Fowl back to life.
When the realization hit, Trouble groaned. Why did all these moral dilemmas have to be so complicated?
At this point he, Trouble, being a responsible commander of the LEP, should report this new revelation to the Council, testify in the inevitable trials, etc., etc, and the result would almost certainly result in severe punishment and demotion for both his tech consultant and best field officer.
Unfortunately for all the rulebook fanatics, Trouble Kelp, while not quite as much of a loose cannon as Holly Short, the aforementioned best field officer, was not above bending the rules. Occasionally.
Ignoring this wasn't just bending the rules, though, it was bulldozing over them, stomping them into the mud, then spitting on the remains. He could be allowing the possible creation of a poor dumb creature, which would spend its brief life in a constant state of unawareness and organ failure, and he could be allowing someone to come back to life, which was also ethically questionable, given the huge amount of people and People dying every day and staying dead.
There were questions that needed to be answered. Did he trust Foaly and Holly to do the right thing?
If they failed, however, Argon would soon have custody of Unauthorized Experiment 15. Extremely unauthorized.
With this in mind, reporting what he'd heard was an excellent and reasonable decision.
Unfortunately, there was also the small matter of Mud Boy himself. Without him, humans wold be extinct, the world would be in the grips of an ice age, and Opal Koboi would be giving the orders, likely while wearing thick winter clothes as the rest of the fairy People shivered. Instead, Fowl was dead, and a clone was growing in the far left-hand corner of the Operations Room.
Trouble realized that he was pacing the hallway. He'd have to decide fast, before some passing sprite noticed and drew the conclusion that the LEP commander had finally lost it, and who could blame him?
The rules clearly stated that cloning was illegal. Always.
But Trouble wasn't above bending the rules. Occasionally.
I owe Mud Boy, he though again.
He didn't like the feeling much.
It wouldn't take much to just walk away from this whole thing, and let Foaly and Holly follow through with their plan, with the bonus that he could get rid of that pesky feeling of debt.
What if they fail? What if they create a shell?
Trouble knew that Holly was good person. She'd already weighed the moral pros and cons of the whole process, carefully, and he trusted her judgement.
Trouble hated owing people. Especially, as he'd just found, people he disliked.
Maybe he was capable of bulldozing over the rules and stomping them into the mud… although he'd probably omit the spitting part.
With that, the decision was made. Trouble Kelp turned and stalked down the hallway, yelling
at a passing wide-eyed sprite to move it already, the paperwork isn't going to do itself!
You saw nothing, he told himself. You heard nothing.
And as an afterthought,
We're even now, Fowl.
I said you were smart, Mud Boy. I was wrong; are exceptional.—Qwan
Which do you think seems more suspicious? An alien-looking craft hovering in the yard of a country home, or a floating doorway with a centaur standing in it?—Domovoi Butler
We can only change the future, not the past or present.—Artemis Fowl II
I'm trying to care, Artemis. But I thought it was all supposed to be over when the fat lady sings. Well, she's singing, but it doesn't appear to be over.—Holly Short