In which Artemis mulls over the rather unwanted presence of a certain MI6 agent.
The Royal and General Bank was a pitiful yet fabulous pseudo-organisation, its cover complete with the abundance of monetary resources, which every respectful bank must possess. Now, striding down its hallways on a rather impromptu call by the Crown's protectors, he was observing the chinks in MI6's armour, put on show like chain mail - fairly effective, yet completely ancient, and a failure to the well trained eye.
"Master Fowl," the toneless male voice greeted him as he stepped into that stereotypical office that best suits the corporate VP - Frond, he has the Bahama vacation pictures to complete it. In hindsight, a pretty clever idea. Oh well.
"I suppose you know what the assignment is?" The end of this statement was punctuated with a short laugh - a bark, rather. The bark of a puppy who still doesn't know how to behave.
"He isn't an agent, sir. He has no assignment. Just a small problem Smithers needs solving." The blond male in question looked over - 18, blue-eyed, alert, and possessing all the physical charm required by MI6 agents to woo their targets. Now where did that concluding pretty thought spring from?
"I am well aware of the specifications of the task assigned to me, Mr-"
"Rider. Alex Rider." There he goes.
"And your status as an agent has now been solidified." The derisive chuckle seemed to only further amuse the blond, humoring his rather juvenile levity. How duplicitous and multifaceted this young male must be to be the Kohinoor of MI6's crown.
"Alex, I would suggest that you lead him to Smithers; we'll deal with the details of the previous task at length later at evening tea." Blunt's dismissal caused Rider to start, motioning Artemis and Butler to step out while he guided the duo to the lift which would take them to Smithers' labyrinthine labs.
"Smithers is a bit pissed at taking help." Rider seemed to have subdued his wisecracking, jovial self and now seemed much more serious. Thy duplicity. Artemis' sigh was met with a cocked eyebrow."You don't seem too happy to be rendering your services either, Fowl."
"I assume you must be aware of my history," was the only reply he wished to give, apart from the cold stare that Alex felt was both metaphorically undressing and scanning him.
"That Russian Mafia mission was some serious shit indeed." He stayed silent for a while. Alas, peace was short-lived. "I must say, how did you manage not to royally screw that up? It was the goddamn Mafia, and you aren't exactly James Bond."
"But I am Artemis Fowl II. For a person with an average intellect, it was a lost case." A scoff followed the declaration. "Not even child's play for me. I must warn you, Mister Rider, that small talk is utterly wasted on me. It would suit all of us if you immediately ceased pitiful attempts at a decent conversation." He didn't seem ruffled, though, but shut up.
Smithers' lab was a treat - nothing compared to the Ops Booth, but good enough nonetheless. The man himself was Irish, thirty six, and wiry, and somehow the geekiness of his looks was a tad too similar to Foaly's.
"Fowl! As much as it hurts my fat-suit fat ego, I need your help. Old little Quinn is out on a little holiday with an old friend in Scotland, and I heard the child genius was in town." Butler took to examining the artillery with a keen eye.
"May I see the defected object?" An iPad was brought out, along with a small glowing cube, whose blue aura was akin to the C Cube and another object whose existence was pure rumour so far. Artemis was unable to restrain his gasp, and Smithers grinned.
"Not that really. Someone tried to replicate that beauty though. Our American friends wanted an expert's opinion apart from Dr Richards and their resident genii, so here we are, copy retrieved from an old friend of mine - Dr Erik Selvig."
"The resemblance is uncanny - I suppose the key element to the object's creation was lacking?" Smithers nodded. Artemis, after a confirmatory nod from Smithers, picked up the object is his now gloved hands and closely studied it from all quarters. Butler had been preoccupied by Alex, the duo checking out the various ammunition. "Vibranium and Adamantium, both impossible to obtain and terribly difficult to recreate - unless you have the sources. I can safely assume that the Royal Society declined Dr Selvig's grant for approximately 140 million pounds, which would have never been made public, lest their coveted scientist be called a lunatic?"
"You're as good as they say." Artemis smirked, then proceeded to take a magnifying glass and place the cube under it. Hours later, a tickly warm breath on his neck broke his train of thought and he turned around, extremely irritated.
"May I know what on Earth is missing in that organ you call a brain?" Taking off his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to twenty while Alex smiled sheepishly at him, the look quickly morphing into one of his wonder. Taking Artemis glasses, he hastily pushed them back on the latter's face. "Mr Rider-" Alex's face held a look of wonder.
"Goddamn, you look even more beautiful when you're angry, and in glasses." That took him by surprise and shock. Beautiful?
"I'm unable to understand." A flash of irritation, and a brief look of hesitance, and Alex sighed deeply, moving closer.
"Damn you, Fowl." And before he could fully comprehend what happened, Alex had already left the room, leaving Artemis with an elevated heartbeat, shallow breathing, rapid eye movement and a tingling sensation on his lips. Well, back to work, I guess.
Four hours later, when he was safely back at his home in London and surrounded by Myles and Beckett incessantly arguing about Peanut Butter, he wondered what took him so long to catch the agent's drift, and why he allowed Rider to one-up him. Well, I will have the last laugh, no matter what.
"Rider, meet me at The British Museum at 1800 hours. There is something I require from you."