Alex had been in the middle of his Particle Physics class at the academy when his instructor had paused, checked her notifications board, and sighed.
“Rider?” she had squawked.
“Yes?” he’d answered, as politely as possible, even though inside he was already seething.
“Admiral Blunt wishes to see you.” Before Alex could protest, she had glared at him and said “Immediately.”
Which was why he was sitting in Blunt’s office, across from him at his desk. Alex wasn’t at all happy about what was happening, and he attempted to make this fact as visible as possible. He slouched in his chair and scowled.
Blunt narrowed his eyes. “Dirty looks won’t change anything. And sit up- you’re nineteen, and a soon-to-be Starfleet officer. Show some dignity.”
“I definitely won’t be a Starfleet officer if I die on this one.”
“Now, Alex,” Blunt had sighed, “We talked about politeness.”
“What? It’s true.”
Blunt ignored him. “Now,” he said, “I’m sure that you are wondering what your mission is going to entail.” He turned the screen on his desk to face Alex, and pressed a button on his desk. An image of a boy about Alex’s age with dark, swept back hair, pointed ears, and upturned eyebrows appeared. The name listed below the image was ‘Artemis Fowl II.’
“Do you know who this is?” asked Admiral Blunt.
Alex shrugged. “He looks a bit familiar, but no, I don’t.”
“I’m surprised,” said Blunt. “You should read up on galactic events more often. It might do you some good.”
“Just tell me who he is.”
If Alex didn’t know any better, he would have said that Blunt had rolled his eyes, just slightly. “Artemis Fowl is the half-Romulan vice-president of the Fowl Trading Corporation. It was founded and is led by his Father, Artemis Fowl I.” Blunt pressed the button again, and a different image appeared, this of an adult, pure blooded Romulan that held a striking resemblance to the first image. He then switched back to show the boy again.
“Seems pretty young to be so high up in the company. Sounds like nepotism to me.”
“One would think that,” said Blunt, “but the boy has proven himself to be more than capable. He is a prodigy. I’d even go so far as to call him a genius. He has written hundreds of science papers, all of which are absolutely brilliant.”
Alex shrugged. “So, why are you telling me about him?”
“In the past,” said Blunt, “The Fowl Trading Corporation had never been what we call… legitimate. While we have no solid evidence, we are almost certain that during the Cardassian-Sorbarak war, they were selling weapons to both the Cardassians and the Sorbaraks. This war resulted in the deaths of millions, and perhaps many of those deaths could have been prevented had the Fowls never stepped in. We have also connected them to drug trafficking, the smuggling of illegal creatures- you name it, they have probably done it. Or at least- that was how it used to be.”
“What do you mean by ‘used to’?” asked Alex
“A few years ago,” answered Blunt, “Artemis Fowl Senior was taken captive by some disgruntled Cardassians on the way to a trade meeting on Kessler 7. He was held by them for two years, and when he was finally rescued, he supposedly came back a changed man. Apparently, he and his son began to dedicate themselves to making their business entirely legitimate. They make massive donations to various charities, and have discontinued their weapons production entirely.”
“So?” said Alex. “What does this have to do with me?”
“Ah,” said Blunt. “That’s the question. While we are positive of Fowl Senior’s dedication to the cause of good, we aren’t convinced that Fowl Junior shares that sentiment. We have reason to believe that he is building a bio-weapon behind his father’s back.”
So far, the mission didn’t seem at all different to any other missions he had ever taken. Alex had been doing this for years- they all had begun to blend together in his mind. How many bio-weapons had he helped to dismantle? Four? Five? Who cared.
“The evidence,” continued Blunt, “Is this image that we captured of Kawasaki 17, the class M planet where the Fowl Trading Corporation Beta Sector headquarters is located.” He pressed another button on his desk and a blurry picture of what looked like a massive metal hexagon lying in a desert appeared. The picture had been taken from above.”
“What is that thing?” asked Alex.
“We aren’t 100% sure,” answered Blunt, “but it is shaped like it could be a variant of a Steingard Hex.”
The term ‘Steingard Hex’ sounded familiar to Alex, and he said so.
“Perhaps you covered it in history class. It was used against the federation by the rebel planet Lucheat. What it does is create an energy that disrupts all cellular activity on any given planet, essentially erasing all DNA.” Blunt looked at the photo almost affectionately. “A brilliant piece of technology, if I may be frank. It is almost a shame, what happened to the woman who invented it.”
“So what you’re saying,” said Alex, “Is that this genius kid is building a bio-weapon and you want me to stop it?”
“Not so fast, Alex,” said Blunt. “We need proof that that is what he is doing.”
“So you want me to find proof?”
“Precisely,” said Blunt.
“Alright,” said Alex. “How am I going to do that?”
Blunt steepled his fingers. “The plan is this: You will rendezvous with the Starship Haven tomorrow. They will take you to Kawasaki 17, which is about a month’s journey away at warp 9. The crew will be taking a week’s leave there. When you reach the planet, you will beam down with the Captain and some of her crewmembers, posing as an ensign. You will use the name Peter Locks. While the captain discusses trade agreements with Fowl Junior, I would like you to do some poking around. See if you can find anything, and then when rest of the Crewmembers beam back up, report back to me with what you find. As usual, if you find yourself in serious danger, you may contact us immediately. If you have any questions, you may ask Haven’s Captain, Holly Short. Do you understand?
Alex nodded briskly. “Aye.”
“You are dismissed,” said Blunt. “Report to the landing-bridge at 0600 hours tomorrow.”
“Aye, sir,” said Alex, who then walked out of the Admiral’s office, a familiar sense of dread developing in his stomach.
The SS.Haven was a fine ship. It was a galaxy class cruiser, capable of going up to warp 11. Alex had spent his month aboard getting to know the crew that he would be working with on Kawasaki 17.
There was the chief science officer and also first officer Commander Foaly. He was a member of a species that Alex had heard of, but never actually seen, called the Santara. They were remarkable, as they had a four legged body, each leg ending in strange, three toed feet, covered in coarse, dark green fur speckled with blue. Where the head of the body would have been located was a humanoid torso, with pale green skin, wild hair, and antennae. Alex was reminded vaguely of a fictional species of alien from a 20th century book he used to read as a kid, about humans turning into animals.
Foaly was a brilliant scientist, there was no doubt about that. But he was also very strange, even for an alien. He always wore a hat that he had fashioned himself out of tinfoil, and was always ranting about how he was sure that the Borg were listening in on his every thought. It was almost endearing.
There was the Chief Security Officer, Lieutenant Trouble Kelp. He was a tall, well-built human, with a pretty big head and a tendency to disregard authority. Alex suspected that this tendency stemmed from his inability to take a female Captain seriously.
The Communications officer, Lieutenant Commander Verbil Chix, was half bajoran and half something that Alex didn’t recognize. The most remarkable thing about the guy was were huge, insect-like wings extending from the center of his back. Well, that, and his thinly masked crush on Captain Short. He was constantly trying to impress her with his flying, but Captain Short was hard to impress.
And there was the Chief Medical Officer, Lieutenant No. 1. Alex was genuinely unsure what species he was supposed to be. He had asked him if all of the medical officers on the ship were numbered, and No.1 had explained that his name was actually No.1. He had then regaled him with a story about how he was raised on a colony where everyone was numbered until they became an adult, and how he had been rescued from the colony but chose to keep the name.
He had also met some people that weren’t going to accompany him on the mission- the Ferrengi named Mulch who ran the bar, made bathroom jokes, and who Alex had caught trying to pickpocket him multiple times. There was also a Vulcan Ambassador called Minerva, who was there to help with peace agreements whenever they were required.
But the most remarkable member of the crew was the Captain. Captain Holly Short was a member of a species called the Alf, who’s home planet had only joined the federation about five years ago. She stood at about three feet, with nut brown skin and red hair cropped close to her skull. Her ears were long and pointed. And she was the single most no-nonsense person that Alex had ever met.
The day that the ship was about to arrive at their destination, she called Alex into her ready room. She sat dwarfed behind her desk, and she still managed to look imposing. She asked Alex to sit down.
“I know that you have been told… certain facts about Artemis Fowl II. I would like you to understand that I do not like or agree with these facts.”
“Okay?” said Alex.
“Fowl has been a friend of mine for years. I know him very well. I simply cannot accept that he would build something… so evil. And it kills me to go behind his back like this.”
Alex nodded. “Why are you telling me this?”
Captain Short glared at him. “I know what kind of stuff that you do on your missions. How many of the people that you’ve investigated die?”
Alex shrugged. “A lot, I guess. It usually isn’t my fault, though.”
“Usually,” sneered Captain Short. “I just want to make it very clear to you that if anything happens to Artemis-“ she drew her finger across her throat.
“I didn’t choose to do this,” Alex said weakly.
“You are dismissed,” said Captain Short sharply. Alex left the ready-room as quickly as possible. Something about that woman genuinely unsettled him.
When they beamed down to Kawasaki 17, Artemis Fowl II was waiting for them.
At first, Alex was struck by the size of the place. They had materialized in what appeared to be the front room of the building. There was a shiny black desk at the end of the room, a receptionist behind it. The entire room, in fact, seemed to be made out of a material similar to black marble. There were waterfalls on opposite walls. And in the center of the room stood the man that they had come all this way for, Artemis Fowl II himself. Standing next to and slightly behind him was a massive Klingon.
Alex had been expecting someone taller, but Fowl stood at about five-feet six. While his human ancestry was evident, his Romulan features, though less extreme than the rest of his kin, had a striking effect. He was dressed in a black earth-style suit rather than in the traditional geometric garb of Remus.
He smiled cordially as he stepped forwards. “Holly. It’s good to see you again.” He spoke with an accent- Irish? Perhaps that was from his human mother.
Captain Short grinned, and hugged him. For a moment, Alex was dumbstruck. He had always been given the impression that anyone who stepped within a foot of the Captain would be incinerated instantly by her laser glare.
Fowl and Captain Short broke apart. “I’m afraid that I don’t have any time for idle chatting, Artemis,” she said ruefully. “I’m here on business.”
Fowl sighed, and then looked over her companions. “It looks like the usual suspects are here.” But then his eyes met Alex’s “Wait. Who is…”
“That’s our Ensign,” said the Captain, not skipping a beat.
“Ah. I see,” said Fowl. He strode up to Alex, and held out his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Alex took it. It was icy cold. “I’m Alex-“ Wait. It was supposed to be Peter, wasn’t it? Whatever. “Alex Locks. Good to meet you too.”
Artemis then smiled at him, and Alex’s heart stopped.
And then started again. He suddenly realized just how imposing this guy was. From that smile, Alex had been given the distinct impression that Fowl fully intended to rip his throat out with his teeth. He disliked him immediately. He let go of his hand.
Fowl turned to Captain Short. “So, what does the Federation want this time?”
“More Warp Cores,” answered the Captain. “We can’t figure out how you make them. Actually, the SS Haven has one of yours. It can go up to warp 11. How do you do that?”
Artemis raised his eyebrows, and Alex felt like he’d been kicked in the chest again. “I mustn’t reveal my secrets, Holly. You know that.”
“Artemis, the Federation could really use your skill. Again, I implore you-“
“No,” he said, almost sadly. “I have a duty to my family. I have to keep this business up and running.”
The Captain rolled her eyes. “That’s what you always say. Are the Fowls really that helpless without you?”
Artemis shrugged. “I do not intend to find out.”
He then turned to everyone else. “I am sure you are exhausted from your journey. Butler will lead you to your rooms. You may join me for dinner at 5:00.”
The massive Klingon then stepped forwards from behind Fowl and beckoned them to follow. He led them to a hallway lined with doors. He told Alex which one was his, and Alex walked into the room, the door sliding shut behind him.
The dinner had been uneventful up until the last few minutes. Fowl had chatted idly with the other members of the away team and hadn’t even payed any attention to Alex, until the Captain, Kelp, Foaly, Verbil, and No.1 had become caught up in a conversation about ship operations and Fowl had turned to him.
“So,” he asked under his breath, “Why are you here?”
Alex didn’t know what to say. His face suddenly felt numb. “I don’t know what you mean,” he finally managed to say.
“Oh, don’t play coy with me. I’m going to leave now. I will be in the next room. Follow me in two minutes. Be as discreet as you can, though,” he raised his eyebrows, “discretion is your specialty, isn’t it?”
He stood up and briskly walked out of the room. Alex just stared after him, dumbstruck. He then stared at his plate. Good god, he thought, I’m in more trouble than I thought.
Two minutes later, he walked into the small chamber next to the dining room. It seemed to be a kind of living room- there were two couches facing each other, a coffee table between them. Fowl was sitting on the farther couch, looking irritatingly relaxed.
“How did you know?” snarled Alex as soon as the door closed behind him.
Fowl simply gestured to the couch across from him. “Please, sit.”
Alex didn’t sit. “How did you find out? Did Captain Short tell you?”
“While I am sure that she wanted nothing more, no,” said Fowl. “It was fairly obvious from your behavior that you were hiding something. The awkwardness in which you said your name, the fidgeting- if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you were in love with me.”
Alex was dumbfounded. “You’re really that good?”
“Well, that and the fact that there is no Alex Locks listed in Starfleet registry. A Peter Locks, but no Alex. That was a dangerous slipup, friend. It’s a good thing that it was I who caught it, and not Butler.”
“I’m not your friend, Fowl.”
Fowl sighed. “There’s no need to be so hostile. And please, call me Artemis. My father and I share a name, and it helps to make things less complicated.”
Alex glowered at him. Like hell he was going to be on first name basis with this fucker. “Alright, why am I still here?”
Fowl tilted his head to the side. “What could you possibly mean by that?”
“You know I’m a federation spy,” answered Alex. “You should have sent me away or killed me by now. But instead, you’ve invited me to have a private conversation. What do you want?”
“I believe that the real question is: what do you want? What could the federation possibly want from me other than more Warp Cores?” He threw the back of his hand against his brow in mock anguish. “And I’ve tried so hard to be good!”
“I’ll tell you what the federation wants-“ started Alex, and then he stopped. Why should he tell this theatrical bastard anything? He ended the sentence there.
“You’ll tell me what the federation wants…” Fowl waved his hand in a ‘go on’ motion.
“I’ll tell you what the federation wants,” said Alex.
“When?” asked Fowl.
“Eventually,” replied Alex.
“Yes,” said Alex. “Eventually. Someday, in the future, you’ll know.”
This time, it was Fowl’s turn to glower. “I can assure you, Alex, this is not the time to play games. Just tell me what you want, and we can all go home happy.”
Alex smirked. “I’m not playing games. You’ll find out, that’s a promise. Just… not right now.”
At this, Fowl leapt up and snarled at him “I can have you killed by pressing a single button on my comm. You know that, right?”
“Do it,” spat Alex. “End my suffering.”
Fowl was shaking. His eyes were ablaze.
Alex was suddenly struck with the inexplicable urge to walk up to the Romulan, grab him by the lapels of his absurd suit, and shove his tongue down his throat. He quickly filed that intrusive thought away to be mulled over later.
“You…” Fowl’s voice was deathly quiet. “Have you any idea who you’re dealing with? Do you really know who I am? The Cardassians have a name for me, you know. They call me Yor Karliss. Do you know what that means?”
Alex was silent.
“It means Demon in the guise of a man. Know that this title was not given idly.”
Fowl then stalked out of the room. Alex just stared after him.
The mission was a bust, obviously. And now he was in deeper trouble than he could have ever imagined.
And while he was at it, why the hell did he want to kiss him?
At 6:00 the next morning, there was a knock at the door of the room where Alex was staying. When Alex threw on his Starfleet uniform and opened it, he found that Fowl was on the other side. He was smiling cordially, but it barely masked the clear tension between them.
“I was thinking that, because you have never visited this base before, I might give you a tour. Perhaps we can… get to know each other a little better.”
Alex wanted nothing less than to get to know this guy any better, but if he was ever going to actually find out about the Steingard Hex, this was his only chance. He grudgingly agreed.
Fowl had seemed to revel in showing Alex just how advanced the technology produced by Fowl Trading was. He also seemed fixated on emphasizing just how much power he wielded. Alex supposed that it was an attempt at intimidation.
While they were staring at a group of busy scientists through a large glass window, Fowl had said to him, idly “I could… make it worth it for you, you know.”
“Make what worth it?”
“You know,” hissed Fowl, “giving me the information.”
“Are you trying to bribe me?”
“That’s a rather gauche way of putting it, but yes, I am trying to bribe you.”
“What do you have to offer me?” asked Alex, just for the hell of it.
“Riches. Miracle cures. I could make you powerful beyond your wildest imagination.”
Alex was quiet for a moment, pretending to think about it. “Nah,” he said. “I think I’m good. Thank you for offering, though.”
He wasn’t entirely sure, but he thought that he could hear Fowl’s teeth grinding.
Throughout the tour, Alex looked around for anything that could possibly have to do with the Steingard hex. He saw nothing. It was discouraging, to say the least.
The next attempt occurred the next morning. Alex was eating breakfast in an employee dining hall. He was absentmindedly stirring his synth-cornflakes when Fowl approached him again. He sat down across from him and rested his chin on the tips of his fingers.
“You know,” he said, “the Federation does not need to know about your little… slip up.”
“Can’t I just have breakfast in peace?” asked Alex.
“You may continue to consume your… whatever that is, exactly, when I am finished speaking to you.”
“What do you mean, whatever that- do you not know what cornflakes are?” Alex was incredulous.
At that, Fowl actually appeared to be intrigued. “You can explain the logistics of flaked corn to me another day. Right now, I wish to speak to you about business.”
“But… you’ve never heard of cornflakes? How do you not know about cornflakes?”
“Alex, please. I’m trying to propose a deal.”
Alex waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, you’re going to threaten to tell the federation I screwed up unless I tell you what you want to know, whatever. Now, let’s talk about cornflakes.”
It goes without saying that Alex did not, in fact, give a single damn about Fowl’s knowledge of cornflakes, or rather lack thereof. Alex just wanted to fuck with him.
Fowl looked unamused. “You are the single most frustrating person I have ever met in my entire life. That is not an exaggeration.”
“I try my best,” quipped Alex. “So, anyway. Cornflakes.”
Fowl sighed. “Fine. Tell me about these… corn flakes.” There was a distinct space between the words corn and flakes.
“Right,” started Alex. He hadn’t expected to get this far. “So these cornflakes are made of… uh… corn.”
“Do you not know what corn is?”
Fowl shrugged. “I was raised on Remus. I am not familiar with most Earth practices.”
“Isn’t your mother human?”
“She was raised on Remus as well. Her parents were dignitaries.”
“Okay,” said Alex. “So this is going to be more complicated than I thought.”
“Do you intend to explain every aspect of the production of corn flakes to me?”
“Because I fully intend to finish what I started.”
Fowl nodded slowly. “I must admit, I admire your dedication, no matter how completely ridiculous it may be. Now, continue your cornflake… lecture.”
Alex then proceeded to tell Fowl every single miserable fact he knew about cornflakes, which, admittedly, weren’t in large quantity. He wished that he had picked something to neg him about that he was more familiar with. Fowl, however, utterly enthralled by it. He drank up information about other planets like a plant absorbing moisture from soil.
“That was fascinating,” said Fowl when he was finished.
Alex genuinely could not tell if he was being sarcastic or not.
Fowl checked his com. “Ah, it appears that I am needed elsewhere. It is a shame- I wish that we could continue our conversation further.”
Alex was suddenly struck by how strange the whole situation was. “Yeah,” he said, “Me too, I guess?”
Fowl started to walk away, but then he turned back. “And I suppose that the blackmailing didn’t work, did it.”
Alex shrugged and shook his head.
“Alright,” said Fowl. “I shall try harder next time.”
He then strode from the dining hall, his heels clicking on the black granite floor
Alex was irritated but also inexplicably turned on.
* The next attempt, which occurred the next day, was heavier handed. Fowl had called him into his office, and when the door shut behind him he had pulled out a phaser and pointed it at him.
“What does the federation want? Tell me, or I’ll vaporize you.”
“Vaporize me, then,” said Alex, not skipping a beat.
Alex waited for five seconds, and found that he was still a solid person. “I thought not,” he said. “If I disappear, the federation will come looking. It was a nice try, though. Probably would have worked on someone else.”
Fowl lowered the phaser.
“They told me that you were a genius. I honestly was expecting better,” said Alex.
But as Alex said those words, there was a loud, electric whooshing noise, and all the lights in the office went out. The room was pitch black for a moment until tiny red lights in the ceiling lit up and started to pulse gently. Fowl swore under his breath. “They did it again- what did I tell them about the power cells?”
“What’s going on?” asked Alex.
Fowl grimaced. “Those philistines down in research and development overloaded the power system with their experiments again. Last time they did it we were completely locked up for two hours.”
Alex started towards the door. “Maybe I should-“
“Don’t bother,” cut in Fowl. “When I say locked up, I mean it literally. The doors are locked- we don’t know why they do it when we get an overload, and we don’t know how to fix it. But for the time being, we are trapped.”
“Shit,” breathed Alex.
“My sentiments exactly.”
“Is there any way to break out of here?”
Fowl sighed. “No. When I designed this facility I made sure that my office would be the most secure room in the building. If there was a way out, I would know about it.”
“So what you’re saying,” said Alex, “is that I’m trapped, in here, with you, until the power comes back on.”
“I’m afraid so,” said Artemis. “You might as well make yourself comfortable. Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink?”
Alex sat down on one of the sofas in the room. He put his head in his hands.
He felt a slight shift as Fowl sat down next to him.
“Well,” said Fowl, “This is… awkward.”
Alex looked up at him and glared. “You were just pointing a phaser at me two minutes ago. So yeah, it’s pretty fucking awkward.”
“You know that I never intended to actually shoot you.”
“Sure,” said Alex, “but the sentiment was still there.”
“And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“You aren’t though, are you?”
“No,” he sighed, “I’m not.”
They were both silent for a moment.
Suddenly and unhelpfully, Alex noticed how the red light played with the shadows on Fowl’s face, how dark his eyelashes were. His lips were slightly parted. He realized that he really wanted to kiss him. He dug his fingernails into his palm to resist the urge.
“Your full name is Alexander Rider, isn’t it?” said Fowl suddenly.
“How did you know?”
“I know a lot of things. Starfleet needs to work on its net security.”
Alex narrowed his eyes. “Just what do you know. About me, I mean.”
Fowl took a deep breath. “You are registered as a Cadet in Starfleet Academy, but are used for espionage as well. Your parents, who were both Starfleet officers, are dead. Officially they died in a shuttle accident, but that is highly doubtful, considering that your father, John Rider, was known to be a spy. Your best subject at the academy is-“
“Okay, okay, that’s enough. You know a lot. I get it. It’s creepy, you know.”
“Being sent to my facility to spy on me is creepy. I think that we are even on that regard.”
Despite himself, Alex laughed. But then he thought of something. “I just have one thing that I’m wondering about, Fowl. If you’re so good at hacking, why didn’t you just hack into Starfleet and find out my mission parameters? Then you wouldn’t have had to go through all the trouble of trying to get the information out of me.”
Fowl took a deep breath. “I- listen. I am about to say something that will doubtlessly make you very angry. I am trapped in this room with you. Please, I beg of you, try to stay calm while I tell you.”
“Just spit it out, Fowl,”
“And please, for heaven’s sake, call me Artemis. I prefer it, honestly.”
“Fine. Just spit it out, Artemis.”
Artemis started to lace and unlace his fingers. “Alright. How it goes is… well, I was always able to hack into Starfleet. If I wanted, I could have had the information days ago.”
Artemis silenced him by quite literally placing a slim, cool finger against Alex’s lips. “Let me finish. The reason that I did not access that information and instead tried to get it from you is that… oh, god, how to put this… well, the fact is, I was bored.”
“You see,” continued Artemis, “Things have been… just so simple around here. And then you show up, and suddenly something exciting happens, and… well, I started to view it as a game, the goal of which was to cajole the information out of you by the end of your visit.”
“So you tried to bribe me and threatened me with a phaser… for fun.”
“No, no, no, not for fun, exactly- perhaps for something to do.”
“You bastard. You absolute bastard.”
“You have every right to be angry.”
“I- you- you fucker!” hissed Alex. He stood up and started to pace about the room
“And I changed my mind,” said Artemis, standing as well. “I am sorry. What I did was childish and inexcusable.”
“THE STEINGARD HEX!” cried Alex.
Artemis was taken aback. “I- what?”
“I’m here for the Steingard hex you’re building. You are building one, aren’t you? That’s what I was sent here for.”
“Oh, I see. That explains everything.”
“You are building one, aren’t you?”
Artemis smiled slyly. “Oh, I’ll tell you if I am… eventually.”
For a moment, Alex and Artemis stared at each other. Then Alex grabbed Artemis by the lapels of his absurd suit, backed him against the wall, and kissed him hard.
Artemis stiffened in surprise for a second, but then melted into the kiss, his hand grabbing a fistful of Alex’s hair. He opened his mouth slightly and Alex slipped his tongue in. Artemis’s free hand grasped at Alex’s waist, pulling him closer. Then they broke apart, panting.
“Oh, no,” breathed Alex, “that wasn’t-“
“Uh… that… I didn’t mean to-“
“I’m sorry, did you just accidentally shove your tongue into my mouth?” asked Artemis sarcastically.
“It wasn’t part of the plan,” answered Alex.
“Obviously,” said Artemis.
“But you let me.”
Suddenly the full reality of the situation seemed to dawn on Artemis. His face was tinged copper. “Oh dear lord. I let you.”
They stared at each other for another moment.
“I… uh,” Alex managed.
Artemis took a deep breath, and the blush faded from his cheeks. He then stared at Alex almost contemplatively. “I believe that we may have reached a crossroads.”
“Yes,” answered Artemis softly. “A crossroads. Either,” he continued, “we act as if this never happened, you and the away team stay for the next few days and then leave, and we’ll never have to see or think about each other again.”
Alex leaned closer to Artemis, so that their foreheads almost touched. His hands were resting on his shoulders. “And the second option?”
“The second option,” breathed Artemis, “involves you kissing me again.”
So Alex closed the distance between their lips, kissing him deeply. A part of him realized that he was being incredibly unprofessional, but then that thought was silenced by Artemis’s hand curling into his hair. He moaned involuntarily and pressed Artemis against the wall.
And then, with an electronic whoosh, the lights came back on. The spell was broken.
They broke the kiss. They were both breathing heavily.
“Just to be clear,” said Alex, half laughing, practically into Artemis’s mouth, “you aren’t actually building a Steingard Hex, are you? Because that would make this incredibly awkward.”
“Oh, of course not,” muttered Artemis. “It’s a… a… oh, what’s the damn thing called, I named it for heavens sake… it’s a power converter of some sort, but I can’t remember the name. Why can’t I remember the name?”
Alex laughed softly. “I tend to have that effect on people?”
“Shut up,” said Artemis.
“Stop! You’ve put me in a very delicate situation, you know. I can’t be seen having relations with a federation- “
Alex cut him off by kissing him again. Artemis kissed back for a moment but then pushed him away. “For crying out loud, Alex! The position you’ve put me in, it’s… well, terribly unprofessional, first of all- oh, what am I going to do?”
Alex thought for a second. “Well,” he said, “You could start by accompanying me to the dining hall for a bowl of cornflakes. My treat!”
“Oh, god. I knew the cornflakes would come up again. And then what?”
“We take a romantic stroll down to your power converter and you provide me with solid proof that it’s harmless.
Artemis was quiet for a moment. “Seems good to me,” he finally said.
They both went downstairs to the dining hall and shared a completely underwhelming bowl of cornflakes. Neither of them cared.