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Chapter 12: Mind Wipe


FOWL MANOR

THE return trip from Heathrow took over an hour, thanks to some particularly strong turbulence and an easterly wind over the Welsh hills. When Holly and Butler finally touched down in the grounds of Fowl Manor the LEP was busy humping their mind-wiping gear up the avenue, under cover of night.
Butler undipped himself from the Moonbelt, leaning against the trunk of a silver birch.
‘You OK?’ asked Holly.
‘Fine,’ replied the bodyguard, massaging his chest. ‘It’s this Kevlar tissue. Handy if you get shot with a small calibre, but it’s playing havoc with my breathing.’
Holly sheathed her mechanical wings. ‘It’s the quiet life for you from now on.’
Butler noticed an LEP pilot attempting to park his shuttle in the double garage, nudging the Bentley’s bumper.
‘Quiet life?’ he muttered, heading for the garage. ‘I wish.’

Once Butler had finished terrorizing the pixie pilot he made for the study. Artemis and Juliet were waiting for him. Juliet hugged her brother so tightly that the air was squeezed from his lungs.
‘I’m OK, little sister. The fairies have fixed it so that I will live to well over a hundred. I’ll still be around to keep an eye on you.’
Artemis was all business. ‘How did you fare, Butler?’
Butler opened a wall safe behind an air-conditioning vent.
‘Pretty well. I got everything on the list.’
‘What about the custom job?’
Butler laid out six small vials on the baize-covered desk.
‘My man in Limerick followed your instructions to the letter. In all his years in the trade, he’s never done anything like this. They’re in a special solution to stop corrosion. The layers are so fine that once they come into contact with the air they begin to oxidize right away, so I suggest we don’t insert them until the last possible moment.’
‘Excellent. In all probability, I am the only one who will need these, but, just in case, we should all put them in.’
Butler held the gold coin up by its leather thong. ‘I copied your diary and fairy files on to a laser minidisc, then brushed on a layer of gold leaf. It won’t stand up to close examination, I’m afraid, but molten gold would have destroyed the information on the disc.’
Artemis tied the thong round his neck. ‘It will have to do. Did you plant the false trails?’
‘Yes. I sent an e-mail that has yet to be picked up, and I hired a few megabytes on an Internet storage site. I also took the liberty of burying a time capsule in the maze.’
Artemis nodded. ‘Good. I hadn’t thought of that.’
Butler accepted the compliment, but he didn’t believe it. Artemis thought of everything.
Juliet spoke for the first time. ‘You know, Artemis. Maybe it would be better to let these memories go. Give the fairies some peace of mind.’
‘These memories are part of who I am,’ responded Artemis.
He examined the vials on the table, selecting two.
‘Now, everybody, it’s time to put these in. I’m sure the People are eager to wipe our minds.’

Foaly’s technical crew set up shop in the conference room, laying out a complex assembly of electrodes and fibre-optic cable. Each cable was connected to a plasma screen that converted brainwaves to actual binary information. In layman’s terms, Foaly would be able to read the humans’ memories like a book and edit out what shouldn’t be there. Possibly the most incredible part of the entire procedure was that the human brain itself would supply alternative memories to fill the blank spots.
‘We could do the mind wipes with a field kit,’ explained Foaly, once the patients were assembled. ‘But field kits are just for blanket wipes. It would erase everything that’s happened over the past sixteen months. That could have serious implications for your emotional development, not to mention your IQ. So, better we use the lab kit and simply erase the memories that pertain to the People. Obviously, we will have to erase the days you spent in fairy company completely. We can’t take any chances there.’
Artemis, Butler and Juliet were seated round the table. Technical gnomes swabbed their temples with disinfectant.
‘I’ve thought of something,’ said Butler.
‘Don’t tell me,’ interrupted the centaur. ‘The age thing, right?’
Butler nodded. ‘A lot of people know me as a forty-year-old man. You can’t wipe them all.’
‘Way ahead of you, Butler. We’re going to give your face a laser peel while you’re unconscious. Get rid of some of that dead skin. We even brought a cosmetic surgeon  to  give  your  forehead  a  Dewer injection to smooth out the wrinkles.’
‘Dewer?’
‘Fat,’ explained the centaur. ‘We take it from one area, and inject it into another.’
Butler was not enthused by the idea. ‘This fat. It doesn’t come from my behind, does it?’
Foaly shuffled uncomfortably. ‘Well, it doesn’t come from your behind.’
‘Explain.’
‘Research has shown that of all the fairy races, dwarfs have the greatest longevity. There’s a miner in Poll Dyne who is allegedly over two thousand years old. Haven’t you ever heard the expression “smooth as a dwarf’s bottom”?’
Butler slapped away a technician who was attempting to attach an electrode patch to his head.
‘Are you telling me that fat from a dwarf’s backside is going to be injected into my head?’
Foaly shrugged. ‘The price of youth. There are pixies on the west bank paying a fortune for Dewer treatments.’
Butler spoke through gritted teeth. ‘I am not a pixie.’
‘We’ve also brought some gel to colour any hair you may decide to grow in the future, and some pigment dye to cover the cell corruption on your chest,’ continued the centaur hurriedly. ‘By the time you wake up, your exterior will look young again, even if your interior is old.’
‘Clever,’ said Artemis. ‘I expected as much.’
Holly entered with Mulch in tow. The dwarf was wearing cuffs and looking extremely sorry for himself.
‘Is this really necessary,’ he whined, ‘after all we’ve been through?’
‘My badge is on the line,’ retorted Holly. ‘The commander said to come back with you, or not at all.’
‘What do I have to do? I donated the fat, didn’t I?’
Butler rolled his eyes. ‘Please, no.’
Juliet giggled. ‘Don’t worry, Dom. You won’t remember a thing about it.’
‘Knock me out,’ said Butler. ‘Quickly.’
‘Don’t mention it,’ grumbled Mulch, attempting to rub his behind.
Holly uncuffed the dwarf, but stayed within grabbing distance.
‘He wanted to say goodbye, so here we are.’ She nudged Mulch with her shoulder. ‘So, say goodbye.’
Juliet winked. ‘Bye, Smelly.’
‘So long, Stinker.’
‘Don’t go chewing through any concrete walls.’
‘I don’t find that kind of thing funny,’ said Mulch, with a pained expression.
‘Who knows. Maybe we’ll see each other again.’
Mulch nodded at the technicians, busy firing up their hard drives.
‘If we do, thanks to these people, it’ll be the first time.’
Butler knelt to the dwarf’s level.
‘You look after yourself, little friend. Stay clear of goblins.’
Mulch shuddered. ‘You don’t have to tell me that.’
Commander Root’s face appeared on a roll-down screen erected by an LEP officer.
‘Maybe you two would like to get married?’ he barked. ‘I don’t know what all the emotion is about. In ten minutes you people won’t even remember this convict’s name!’
‘We have the commander online,’ said a technician, a tad unnecessarily.
Mulch stared at the button camera mounted on the screen. ‘Julius, please. Do you realize that all of these humans owe me their lives? This is an emotional moment for them.’
Root’s rosy complexion was exaggerated by poor reception.
‘I couldn’t care less about your touchy feely moment. I’m here to make sure this wipe goes smoothly. If I know our friend Fowl, he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.’
‘Really, Commander,’ said Artemis. ‘Such suspicion is wounding.’
But the Irish teenager couldn’t suppress a grin. Everybody knew that he would have hidden items to spark residual memories; it was up to the LEP to find them. Their final contest.
Artemis stood and approached Mulch Diggums.
‘Mulch. Of all the fairy People, I will miss your services the most. We could have had such a future together.’
Mulch looked a touch teary. ‘True. With your brains and my special talents.’
‘Not to mention your mutual lack of morals,’ interjected Holly.
‘No bank on the planet would have been safe,’ completed the dwarf. ‘A missed opportunity.’
Artemis tried his best to look sincere. It was vital for the next step in the plan.
‘Mulch, I know you risked your life betraying the Antonelli family, so I’d like to give you something.’
Mulch’s imagination churned with visions of trust funds and offshore accounts.
‘There’s no need. Really. Although it was incredibly brave, and I was in mortal danger.’
‘Exactly,’ said Artemis, untying the gold medallion from round his neck. ‘I know this isn’t much, but it means a lot to me. I was going to keep it, but I realized that in a few minutes it will mean absolutely nothing. I would like you to have it; I think Holly would too. A little memento of our adventures.’
‘Gee,’ said Mulch, hefting the medallion. ‘Half an ounce of gold. Great. You really broke the bank there, Artemis.’
Artemis gripped the dwarf’s hand. ‘It’s not always about money, Mulch.’
Root was craning his neck, trying to see more. ‘What’s that? What has he given to die convict?’
Holly snatched the medallion, holding it up for the camera.
‘Just a gold coin, Commander. I gave it to Artemis myself.’
Foaly glanced at the small medal. ‘Actually this kills two stink worms with one skewer. The medallion could have triggered some residual memories. Highly unlikely, but possible.’
‘And the other stink worm?’
‘Mulch gets something to look at in prison.’
Root mulled it over for several moments.
‘OK. He can keep it. Now get that convict into the shuttle and let’s get on with this. I’ve got a Council meeting in ten minutes.’
Holly led Mulch out, and Artemis realized that he really was sorry to see the dwarf go. But more than that, he was sorry that the memory of their friendship could be gone forever.
The technicians descended like flies on a carcass. In seconds every human in the room had electrodes attached to temples and wrists. Each set of electrodes ran through a neural transformer and on to a plasma screen. Memories flickered on the screens.
Foaly studied the images. ‘Way too early,’ he announced. ‘Calibrate them to sixteen months ago. Actually, make that about three years. I don’t want Artemis planning his initial kidnap all over again.’
‘Bravo, Foaly,’ said Artemis bitterly. ‘I was hoping you might miss that.’
The centaur winked. ‘That’s not all I didn’t miss.’
On the pull-down screen, Root’s pixelated mouth stretched into a smile.
‘Tell him, Foaly. I can’t wait to see the human’s face.’
Foaly consulted a file on his hand-held computer.
‘We checked your e-mail and guess what?’
‘Do tell.’
‘We found a fairy file, just waiting to be delivered. We also ran a search on the Internet in general. And lo and behold, someone with your e-mail address had rented some storage megabytes. More fairy files.’
Artemis was unrepentant. ‘I had to try. I’m sure you understand.’
‘Nothing else you want to tell us about?’
Artemis opened his eyes wide, the epitome of innocence. ‘Nothing. You’re too clever for me.’
Foaly took a laserdisc from a toolbox, sliding it into the drive of a networked computer on the table. ‘Well, just in case, I’m going to detonate a data charge in your computer system. The virus will leave your files unharmed, unless they pertain to the People. Not only that but the virus will monitor your system for a further six months, just in case you have outwitted us somehow.’
‘And you’re telling me all this because I won’t remember it anyway.’
Foaly did a little four-step, clapping his hands together. ‘Exactly.’
Holly pushed through the door, dragging a metallic capsule behind her.
‘Look what they found buried in the grounds.’ She flipped the lid, pouring the capsule’s contents on the Tunisian rug. Several computer disks and hard copies of Artemis’s diary fanned across the carpet.
Foaly examined a disk. ‘Something else you forgot to mention?’
Artemis was not quite so cocky now. His lifelines to the past were being cut one by one.
‘It slipped my mind.’
‘That’s it, I suppose. There’s nothing else.’
Artemis returned to his chair, folding his arms. ‘And if I say yes, you’ll believe me, I suppose.’
Root laughed so hard that it seemed the screen was shaking.
‘Oh, yes, Artemis. We trust you completely. How could we not after all you’ve put the People through? If you don’t mind, we’d like to ask you a few questions under the mesmer, and this time you won’t be wearing sunglasses.’
Sixteen months previously, Artemis had successfully deflected Holly’s hypnotic gaze with mirrored sunglasses. It was the first time he had outwitted the fairies. It was not to be the last.
‘Well then, let’s get on with it.’
‘Captain Short,’ barked Root. ‘You know what to do.’
Holly removed her helmet, massaging the tips of her ears to get the circulation going.
‘I’m going to mesmerize you and ask a few questions. It’s not the first time you’ve been under, so you know that the procedure is not painful. I advise you to relax; if you try to resist, it could cause memory loss or even brain damage.’
Artemis held up his palm. ‘Wait a moment. Am I right in thinking that when I wake up again this will all be over?’
Holly smiled. ‘Yes, Artemis. This is goodbye, for the last time.’
Artemis’s face was composed, in spite of the emotions churning inside him.
‘Well then, I have a few things to say.’
Root was curious, in spite of himself. ‘One minute, Fowl. Then nighty night.’
‘Very well. Firstly, thank you. I have my family and friends around me thanks to the People. I wish I didn’t have to forget that.’
Holly laid a hand on his shoulder. ‘It’s better this way, Artemis. Believe me.’
‘And secondly, I want you all to think back to the first time you met me. Remember that night?’
Holly shuddered. She remembered the cold individual who had attacked her at a magical hot spot in southern Ireland. Commander Root would never forget escaping an exploding tanker by the skin of his wings, and Foaly’s first glimpse of Artemis had been a recording of the negotiations for Holly’s release. He had been a despicable creature.
‘If you take away the memories and influences of the People,’ continued Artemis, ‘I might become that person again. Is that what you really want?’
It was a chilling thought. Were the People responsible for Artemis’s transformation? And were they to be responsible for changing him back?
Holly turned to the screen. ‘Is it possible? Artemis has come a long way. Do we have the right to destroy all that progress?’
‘He’s right,’ added Foaly. ‘I never thought I would say this, but I kinda like the new model.’
Root opened another computer window on the screen. ‘The Psych Brotherhood did this probability report for us. They say the chances of a reversion are slim. Fowl will still have strong positive influences from his family and the Butlers.’
‘The Psych Brotherhood?’ objected Holly. ‘Argon and his cronies? And when exactly did we start trusting those witch doctors?’
Root opened his mouth to yell, but thought better of it. Not something that happened every day.
‘Holly,’ he said, almost gently. ‘The future of our culture is at stake here. The bottom line is that Artemis’s future is not our problem.’
Holly’s mouth was a grim slash. ‘If that’s true, then we’re as bad as the Mud People.’
The commander decided to revert to his usual mode of communication.
‘Listen to me, Captain,’ he roared. ‘Being in command means making tough decisions. Not being in command means shutting up and doing what you’re told. Now mesmerize those humans before we lose the link.’
‘Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir.’
Holly stood directly in front of Artemis, careful to make eye contact.
‘Goodbye, Holly. I won’t see you again, though I’m sure you will see me.’
‘Just relax, Artemis. Deep breaths.’
When Holly spoke again, her voice was layered with bass and alto. The hypnotic layers of the mesmer.
‘That was some job we did on Spiro, eh?’
Artemis smiled sleepily. ‘Yes. The last adventure. No more hurting people.’
‘How do you come up with these plans?’
Artemis’s lids drooped.  ‘Natural  ability,  I  suppose. Handed down by generations of Fowls.’
‘I bet you would do anything to hang on to your fairy memories?’
‘Almost anything.’
‘So what did you do?’
Artemis smiled. ‘I played a few little tricks.’
‘What kind of tricks?’ pressed Holly.
‘It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.’
Holly added a few more layers to her voice.
‘Tell me, Artemis. It will be our secret.’
A vein pulsed in Artemis’s temple. ‘You won’t tell? You won’t tell the fairies?’
Holly glanced guiltily at the screen. Root gestured at her to continue.
‘I won’t tell. It will be just between us.’
‘Butler hid a capsule in the maze.’
‘And?’
‘I sent myself an e-mail. But I expect Foaly to find that. It’s to throw him off-guard.’
‘Very clever. Is there anything you don’t expect him to find?’
Artemis smiled craftily. ‘I hid a file on an Internet storage site. Foaly’s data charge won’t affect it. The providers will mail me a reminder in six months. When I retrieve the data it should trigger residual memories and possibly total recall.’
‘Anything else?’
‘No. The storage site is our last hope. If the centaur finds that, then the fairy world is lost forever.’
Root’s image crackled on the screen. ‘OK. The uplink is breaking up. Knock them out and wipe them. Tape the whole process. I won’t believe Artemis is out of the game until I see the footage.’
‘Commander. Maybe I should ask the others a few questions.’
‘Negative, Captain. Fowl said it himself. The storage site was their last hope. Hook them up and run the program.’
The commander’s image disappeared in waves of static.
‘Yes, sir.’ Holly turned to the technical crew. ‘You heard the fairy. Let’s go. Sun up is in a couple of hours. I want us below ground before that.’
The techies checked that the electrodes had strong contacts, then unwrapped three sets of sleep goggles.
‘I’ll do that,’ said Holly, taking the masks.
She hooked the elastic over Juliet’s ponytail.
‘You know something?’ she said. ‘Personal protection is a cold business. You have too much heart for it.’
Juliet nodded slowly. ‘I’ll try to hold on to that thought.’
Holly settled the eyepieces gently.
‘I’ll keep an eye on you.’
Juliet smiled. ‘See you in my dreams.’
Holly pressed a small button on the sleep mask, and a combination of hypno-lights in the eyepieces and sedative administered through the seals knocked Juliet out in less than five seconds.
Butler was next. The technical crew had added a length of elastic to the mask’s strap so that it could encircle his shaven crown.
‘Make sure Foaly doesn’t go crazy with that mind wiper,’ said the bodyguard. ‘I don’t want to wake up with four decades of nothing in my head.’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Holly reassuringly. ‘Foaly generally knows what he’s doing.’
‘Good. Remember, if the People ever do need help, I’m available.’
Holly pressed the button.
‘I’ll remember that,’ she whispered.
Artemis was last in the line. In his mesmerized state he seemed almost peaceful. For once, there were no thought lines wrinkling his brow and, if you didn’t know him, he could almost be a normal thirteen-year-old human.
Hollv turned to Foaly. ‘Are you sure about this?’
The centaur shrugged. ‘What choice do we have? Orders are orders.’
Holly placed the mask over Artemis’s eyes and pushed the button. Seconds later, the teenager slumped in his chair. Immediately, lines of Gnommish text began to flash across the screen behind him. In the days of Frond, Gnommish had been written in spirals. But reading in spirals gave most fairies a migraine.
‘Commence deleting,’ ordered Foaly. ‘But keep a copy. Some time when I have a few weeks off I’m going to find out what makes this guy tick.’
Holly watched Artemis’s life being written in green symbols on the screen.
‘This doesn’t feel right,’ she commented. ‘If he found us once, he could find us again. Especially if he becomes the monster he used to be.’
Foaly tapped commands into an ergonomic keyboard. ‘Maybe. But next time we’ll be ready.’
Holly sighed. ‘It’s a pity, because now we were almost friends.’
The centaur snorted. ‘Sure. Like you can be friends with a viper.’
Holly suddenly shut her helmet visor, hiding her eyes.
‘You’re right, of course. We could never have been friends. It was circumstance that pushed us together, nothing more.’
Foaly patted her shoulder. ‘That’s the girl. Keep your ears up. Where are you going?’
‘Tara,’ replied Holly. ‘I’m going to fly. I need the fresh air.’
‘You don’t have clearance for a flight,’ objected Foaly. ‘Root will have your badge.’
‘For what?’ said Holly, firing up her wings. ‘I’m not supposed to be here, remember?’
And she was gone, flying in a lazy loop through the entrance hall. She cleared the main door with centimetres to spare, climbing quickly into the night sky. For a second, her slim frame was backlit by the full moon, and then she disappeared, vibrating out of the visible spectrum.
Foaly watched her go. Emotional creatures, elves. In some respects they made the worst Recon operatives. All decisions were taken by the heart. But Root would never fire Holly, because policing was what she was born to do. And anyway, who else would save the People if Artemis Fowl ever found them again?

Mulch sat in the shuttle’s holding booth feeling extremely sorry for himself. He tried to sit on the bench without actually touching it with his tender behind. Not an easy task.
Things did not look good, it had to be said. Even after all he’d done for the LEP they were going to lock him up for at least a decade. Just for stealing a few measly bars of gold. And it didn’t seem likely that he’d get an opportunity to escape. He was surrounded by steel and laser bars, and would remain so until the shuttle docked in Haven. After that it was a quick jaunt to Police Plaza, a summary hearing and off to a secure facility until his beard turned grey. Which it would, if he was forced to spend more than five years out of the tunnels.
But there was hope. A tiny glimmer. Mulch forced himself to wait until all the technical staff had cleared their equipment from the shuttle. Then he casually opened his right hand, rubbing his temples with thumb and forefinger. What he was actually doing was reading the tiny note concealed in his palm - the one slipped to him by Artemis Fowl when they shook hands.

I have not finished with you yet, Mulch Diggums - the note read. On you’re your return, tell your lawyer to check the date on the original search warrant for your cave. When you are released keep your nose clean for a couple of years. Then bring the medallion to me.
Together we will be unstoppable.

Your friend and benefactor
Artemis Fowl the Second

Mulch crumpled the note. He made a cylinder of his fingers and sucked the paper into his mouth. His dwarf molars quickly destroyed the evidence.
Mulch breathed deeply through his nose. It wasn’t time to pop the Skaylian Rock Worm Wine cork just yet. A review of his case could take months, possibly years. But there was hope.
The  dwarf wrapped  his  fingers  round Artemis’s medallion. Together they would be unstoppable.
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Epilogue


ARTEMIS FOWL’S JOURNAL, DISK I. ENCRYPTED.

I have decided to keep a diary. In fact, I am surprised that the idea has never occurred to me before. An intellect such as mine should be documented so that future generations of Fowls can take advantage of my brilliant ideas.
Of course, I must be careful with such a document. As valuable as it would be to my descendants, it would be more valuable to the law enforcement agents who are forever trying to gather evidence against me.
It is even more important that I keep this journal a secret from my father. He is not himself since his escape from Russia. He has become obsessed with nobility and heroism. Abstract concepts at best. As far as I know, nobility and heroism are not accepted by any of the world’s major banks. The family’s fortune is in my hands, and I will preserve it in the way I always have, through ingenious plots. Most of these plots will be illegal. The best always are. Real profit lies in the shadowy areas beyond the law.
I have decided, however, out of respect for my parents’ values, to change my criteria for victim selection. It would seem better for the world’s ecology if several global corporations went bankrupt, and so I have resolved to help them on their way. Not victimless crimes, but ones where few tears will be shed for the injured parties. This does not mean that I have become a weak, latter-day Robin Hood. Far from it. I intend to reap substantial benefits from my crimes.
My father is not the only one to have changed. Butler has grown old almost overnight. His appearance is the same as ever, but he has slowed down considerably, no matter how he tries to hide it. But I will not replace him. He has been a loyal employee, and his expertise in matters of intelligence will be invaluable. Perhaps Juliet will accompany me when actual protection is needed, though she now claims that a life in personal protection is not for her. Next week she travels to the United States to try out for a wrestling team. Apparently she has chosen ‘Jade Princess’ as her stage name. I can only hope that she fails the audition. Though I doubt it. She is a Butler, after all.
Of course, I have some ongoing ventures that I can work on without the aid of a bodyguard. In recent years I have developed software to divert funds from various bank accounts to my own. This software will have to be upgraded to stay ahead of the computer crime squads. Version 2.0 should be online within six months. Then there is my talent for art forgery. In the past I have favoured the Impressionists, but now, for some reason, I am drawn to more fantastical subject matter, such as the fairy creatures depicted by Pascal Hervé in his Magical World series. But these projects must be suspended temporarily, for today I discovered that I am the victim of a conspiracy.
The day began strangely. When I awoke I experienced an instant of weakness. For a single moment before I opened my eyes, I felt content, my drive to accumulate wealth forgotten. This has never happened before. Perhaps the mood was left over from some magical dream, or perhaps my father’s new-found positive attitude is contagious. Whatever the cause, I must be careful to avoid such lapses in the future. With my father in his current frame of mind, this is no time to lose my resolve. I must remain as driven as always. Crime is the way forward for the Fowls, aurum potestas est.
Minutes later, a greater mystery presented itself. As I washed my face at the basin, a tiny object fell from one of my eyes. Close examination in the lab revealed it to be a semi-corroded, tinted contact lens. Not only that, but a mirrored layer had been added behind the tinted lens. Ingenious. Undoubtedly the work of a master craftsman. But to what purpose? It is strange, but even though I have no knowledge of this lens, or how it came to be in my eye, I feel the answer is somewhere in my own brain. Hidden in the shadows.
Imagine my surprise when Juliet and Butler discovered mirrored lenses in their own eyes. These lenses are so clever they could have been my own invention, so obviously this unknown adversary must not be underestimated.
I will track the culprit down, make no mistake. No clue will be left uninvestigated. Butler has a contact in Limerick, an expert in the field of lenses and scopes. He may recognize our intruder’s handiwork. Butler is on his way there, as I write.
And so, a new chapter begins in the life of Artemis Fowl the Second. In a matter of days my father returns with his new-found conscience. I will shortly be shipped off to boarding school, where I will have access to a pathetic computer centre and an even more pathetic laboratory. My bodyguard seems to be too old for physical tasks and there is an unknown adversary planting strange objects on my very person.
Overwhelming difficulties,you may think. An ordinary person would draw the shutters and hide from the world. But I am no ordinary person. I am Artemis Fowl, the latest in the Fowl crime dynasty, and I will not be turned from my path. I will find whoever  planted  those  lenses  and  they   will  pay for  their presumption. And once I am rid oj this nuisance, my plans will proceed unhindered. I shall unleash a crime wave the like of which has never been seen. The world will remember the name of Artemis Fowl.
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Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception



Prologue
Chapter I  Totally Obsessed
Chapter II  The Fairy Thief
Chapter III  Dearly Departed
Chapter IV  Harrow Escapes
Chapter V  Greet The Neighbors
Chapter VI  Troll Hasty
Chapter VII  The Temple Of Artemis
Chapter VIII  Some Inteligent Conversation
Chapter IX  Daddy's Girl
Chapter X  Horse Sense
Epilogue


After his last run-in with the fairies, Artemis Fowl had his mind wiped
of his memories of the world belowground. Any goodness he had grudgingly
learned is now gone, and the young genius has reverted to his criminal lifestyle.
Artemis is in Berlin preparing to steal a famously well-guarded painting
from a German bank. Little does he know that his every move is being
watched by his cunning old rival, Opal Koboi the evil pixie has spent the
last year in a self-induced coma, plotting her revenge on all those who foiled
her attempt to destroy the LEP-RECON fairy police. And Artemis is at the
top of her list. In a brilliant move, Opal escapes by cloning herself- and
masquerading as a human in order to carry out her schemes. Her first act is
to lure Captain Holly Short and Commander Root into a deadly trap. Her
next step is to destroy Artemis by turning his own genius against him.
Once again, it’s up to Artemis Fowl to stop the human and fairy
worlds from colliding, Only this time, Artemis may have found an enemy
who may have finally outsmarted him.
For Sarah - The pen is mightier than the word processor.
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Variety is the spice of life

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Prologue



This article was posted on the fairy Internet, on the site
www.horsesense.nom. It is believed that this site is maintained by the centaur
Foaly, technical consultant to the Lower Elements Police, although this
has never been proved. Almost every detail of the following account contradicts
the official release from the LEP Press Office.
We’ve all heard the official explanation for the tragic events surrounding
the Zito Probe investigation. The LEP’s statement contained little in the
way of concrete detail, preferring to fudge the facts and question the decisions
of a certain female officer.
I know for an absolute fact that the officer in question, Captain Holly
Short, behaved in an exemplary manner, and if it had not been for her skill
as a field operative, many more lives would have been lost. Instead of
scapegoating Captain Short, the Lower Elements Police should give her a
medal.
Humans are at the center of this particular case.
Most humans aren’t smart enough to find the leg holes in their trousers,
but there are certain Mud Men clever enough to make me nervous. If
they discover the existence of an underground fairy city, they will certainly
do their best to exploit the residents. Most men would be no match for superior
fairy technology, but there are some humans who are almost smart
enough to pass as fairies. One human in particular. I think we all know who
I’m talking about.
In fairy history only one human has bested us. And it really sticks in
my hoof that this particular human is little more than a boy. Artemis Fowl,
the Irish criminal mastermind.
Little Arty led the LEP in a merry dance across the continents, until finally,
they used fairy technology to wipe the knowledge of our existence
from his mind.
But even as the gifted centaur Foaly pressed the mind-wipe button, he
wondered if the Fairy People were being fooled again. Had the Irish boy left
something behind to make himself remember? Of course he had, as we
were all to find out later.
Artemis Fowl does play a significant role in the following events, but
for once he was not trying to steal from the People, as he had completely
forgotten we existed. No, the mastermind behind this episode is actually a
fairy.
So, who is involved in this tragic tale of two worlds? Who are the
main fairy players? Obviously, Foaly is the real hero of the piece. Without
his innovations, the LEP would soon be beating the Mud Men back from
our doors. He is the unsung hero who solves riddles of the ages, while the
4
Reconnaissance and Retrieval teams swan about aboveground taking all the
glory.
Then there’s Captain Holly Short, the officer whose reputation is under
fire. Holly is one of the LEP’S best and brightest. A natural- born pilot
with a gift for improvisation in the field.
She’s not the best at taking orders, a trait that has landed her in trouble
on more than one occasion. Holly was the fairy at the center of all the Artemis
Fowl incidents. The pair had almost become friends, when the Council
ordered the LEP to mind-wipe Artemis, and just when he was becoming
a nice Mud Boy, too.
As we all know, Commander Julius Root had a role in the proceedings.
The youngest-ever full commander in the LEP.
An elf who had steered the People through many a crisis. Not the easiest
fairy to get along with, but sometimes the best leaders do not make the
best friends.
I suppose Mulch Diggums deserves mention.
Until recently, Mulch was imprisoned, but he had once again managed
to wriggle his way out. This kleptomaniac, flatulent dwarf has played a reluctant
part in many of the Fowl adventures, hut Holly was glad to have his
help on this mission. If not for Mulch and his bodily functions, things could
have turned out a lot worse than they did. And they turned out badly
enough.
At the very center of this case lies Opal Koboi, the pixie who bankrolled
the goblin gang’s attempted takeover of Haven City.
Opal had been facing a lifetime behind laser bars.
That is, if she ever recovered from the coma that had claimed the
pixie when Holly Short foiled her plan.
For almost a year, Opal Koboi had languished in the padded- cell wing
of the J. Argon Clinic, showing no response to the medical warlocks who
tried to revive her. In all that time, she spoke not a single word, ate not a
mouthful of food, and exhibited no response to stimuli. At first the authorities
were suspicious. It is an act! they declared. Koboi is faking catatonia to
avoid prosecution. But as the months rolled by, even the most skeptical
were convinced. No one could pretend to be in a coma for almost a year.
Surely not. A fairy would have to be totally obsessed…
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Variety is the spice of life

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Chapter 1: Totally Obsessed

The J. Argon Clinic, Haven City, The Lower Elements; Three
Months Earlier.


The J. Argon Clinic was not a state hospital. Nobody stayed there for
free. Argon and his staff of psychologists only treated fairies who could afford
it. Of all the clinic’s wealthy patients, Opal Koboi was unique. She had
set up an emergency fund for herself more than a year before she was
committed, just in case she ever went insane and needed to pay for treatment.
It was a smart move. If Opal hadn’t set up the fund, her family would
undoubtedly have moved her to a cheaper facility. Not that the facility itself
made much difference to Koboi, who had spent the past year drooling
and having her reflexes tested. Dr. Argon doubted if Opal would have noticed
a bull troll beating its chest before her.
The fund was not the only reason why Opal was unique. Koboi was
the Argon Clinic’s celebrity patient. Following the attempt by the B’wa Kell
goblin triad to seize power, Opal Koboi’s name had become the most infamous
four syllables under the world. After all, the pixie billionairess had
formed an alliance with disgruntled LEP officer Briar Cudgeon, and funded
the triad’s war on Haven. Koboi had betrayed her own kind, and now her
own mind was betraying her.
For the first six months of Koboi’s incarceration, the clinic had been
besieged by media filming the pixie’s every twitch. The LEP guarded her
cell door in shifts, and every staff member in the facility was treated to
background checks and stern glares.
Nobody was exempt. Even Dr. Argon himself was subjected to random
DNA swabs to ensure that he was who he said he was. The LEP
wasn’t taking any chances with Koboi. If she escaped from Argon’s Clinic,
not only would they be the laughingstock of the fairy world, but a highly
dangerous criminal would be unleashed on Haven City.
But as time went by, fewer camera crews turned up at the gates each
morning. After all, how many hours of drooling can an audience be expected
to sit through? Gradually, the LEP crews were downsized from a
dozen to six and finally to a single officer per shift. Where could Opal Koboi
go? the authorities reasoned. There were a dozen cameras focused on
her, twenty-four hours a day.
There was a subcutaneous seeker-sleeper under the skin of her upper
arm, and she was DNA swabbed four times daily. And even if someone did
6
get Opal out, what could they do with her? The pixie couldn’t even stand
without help, and the sensors said her brain waves were little more than flat
lines.
That said, Dr. Argon was very proud of his prize patient, and mentioned
her name often at dinner parties. Since Opal Koboi had been admitted
to the clinic, it had become almost fashionable to have a relative in
therapy. Almost every family on the rich list had a crazy uncle in the attic.
Now that crazy uncle could receive the best of care in the lap of luxury.
If only every fairy in the facility was as docile as Opal Koboi. All she
needed was a few intravenous tubes and a monitor, which had been more
than paid for by her first six months’ medical fees. Dr. Argon fervently
hoped that little Opal never woke up. Because once she did, the LEP would
haul her off to court. And when she had been convicted of treason her assets
would be frozen, including the clinic’s fund. No, the longer Opal’s nap
lasted, the better for everyone, especially her. Because of their thin skulls
and large brain volume, pixies were susceptible to various maladies, such as
catatonia, amnesia, and narcolepsy. So it was quite possible that her coma
would last for several years. And even if Opal did wake up, it was quite
possible that her memory would stay locked up in some drawer in her huge
pixie brain.
Dr. J. Argon did his rounds every night. He didn’t perform much
hands-on therapy anymore, but he felt that it was good for the staff to feel
his presence.
If the other doctors knew that Jerbal Argon kept his finger on the
pulse, then they were more likely to keep their own fingers on that pulse,
too.
Argon always saved Opal for last. It calmed him somehow to see the
small pixie asleep in her harness. Often at the end of a stressful day, he even
envied Opal her untroubled existence. When it had all become too much
for the pixie, her brain had simply shut down, all except for the most vital
functions. She still breathed, and occasionally the monitors registered a
dream spike in her brain waves. But other than that, for all intents and purposes,
Opal Koboi was no more.
On one fateful night, Jerbal Argon was feeling more stressed than
usual. His wife was suing for divorce on the grounds that he hadn’t said
more than six consecutive words to her in over two years. The Council was
threatening to pull his government grant because of all the money he was
making from his new celebrity clients, and he had a pain in his hip that no
amount of magic could seem to cure. The warlocks said it was probably all
in his head. They seemed to think that was funny.
Argon limped down the clinic’s eastern wing, checking the plasma
chart of each patient as he passed their room. He winced each time his left
foot touched the floor.
7
The two janitor pixies, Mervall and Descant Brill were outside Opal’s
room, picking up dust with static brushes. Pixies made wonderful employees.
They were methodical, patient, and determined. When a pixie was instructed
to do something, you could rest assured that that thing would be
done. Plus, they were cute, with their baby faces and disproportionately
large heads. Just looking at a pixie cheered most people up. They were
walking therapy.
“Evening, boys,” said Argon. “How’s our favorite patient?”
Merv, the elder twin, glanced up from his brush.
“Same old, same old, Jerry,” he said. “I thought she moved a toe earlier,
but it was just a trick of the light.”
Argon laughed, but it was forced. He did not like to be called Jerry. It
was his clinic after all; he deserved some respect. But good janitors were like
gold dust, and the Brill brothers had been keeping the building spotless and
shipshape for nearly two years now. The Brills were almost celebrities
themselves. Twins were very rare among the People. Mervall and Descant
were the only pixie pair currently residing in Haven. They had been featured
on several TV programs, including Canto, PPTV’S highest- rated chat
show.
LEP’S Corporal Grub Kelp was on sentry duty. When Argon reached
Opal’s room, the corporal was engrossed in a movie on his video goggles.
Argon didn’t blame him.
Guarding Opal Koboi was about as exciting as watching toenails grow.
“Good film?” inquired the doctor pleasantly.
Grub raised the lenses. “Not bad. It’s a human Western. Plenty of
shooting and squinting.”
“Maybe I’ll borrow it when you’re finished?”
“No problem, doctor. But handle it carefully. Human disks are very
expensive. I’ll give you a special cloth.”
Argon nodded. He remembered Grub Kelp now. The LEP officer was
very particular about his possessions. He had already written two letters of
complaint to the clinic board about a protruding floor rivet that had
scratched his boots.
Argon consulted Koboi’s chart. The plasma screen on the wall displayed
a constantly updated feed from the sensors attached to her temples.
There was no change, nor did he expect there to be. Her vitals were all
normal, and her brain activity was minimal. She’d had a dream earlier in the
evening but now her mind had settled. And finally, as if he needed telling,
the seeker-sleeper implanted in her arm informed him that Opal Koboi was
indeed where she was supposed to be. Generally, the seeker-sleepers were
implanted in the head, but pixie skulls were too fragile for any local surgery.
Jerbal punched in his personal code on the reinforced door’s keypad.
The heavy door slid back to reveal a spacious room with gently pulsing
floor mood lights. The walls were soft plastic, and gentle sounds of nature
8
spilled from recessed speakers. At the moment a brook was splashing over
flat rocks.
In the middle of the room, Opal Koboi hung suspended in a full body
harness. The straps were gel padded and they adjusted automatically to any
body movement. If Opal did happen to wake, the harness could be remotely
triggered to seal like a net, preventing her from harming herself or
escaping.
Argon checked the monitor pads, making sure they had good contact
on Koboi’s forehead. He lifted one of the pixie’s eyelids, shining a pencil
light at the pupil. It contracted slightly, but Opal did not avert her eyes.
“Well, anything to tell me today, Opal?” asked the doctor softly. “An
opening chapter for my book?”
Argon liked to talk to Koboi, just in case she could hear. When she
woke up, he reasoned, he would have already established rapport.
“Nothing? Not a single insight?”
Opal did not react. As she hadn’t for almost a year.
“Ah well,” said Argon, swabbing the inside of Koboi’s mouth with the
last cotton ball in his pocket. “Maybe tomorrow, eh?”
He rolled the cotton ball across a sponge pad on his clipboard. Seconds
later, Opal’s name flashed up on a tiny screen.
“DNA never lies,” muttered Argon, tossing the ball into a recycling bin.
With one last look at his patient, Jerbal Argon turned toward the door.
“Sleep well, Opal,” he said almost fondly.
He felt calm again, the pain in his hip almost forgotten. Koboi was as
far under as she had ever been.
She wasn’t going to wake up any time soon. The Koboi fund was safe.
It’s amazing just how wrong one gnome can be.
Opal Koboi was not catatonic, but neither was she awake. She was
somewhere in between, floating in a liquid world of meditation, where
every memory was a bubble of multicolored light popping gently in her
consciousness.
Since her early teens Opal had been a disciple of Gola Schweem, the
cleansing coma guru. Schweem’s theory was that there was a deeper level of
sleep than experienced by most fairies.
The cleansing coma state could usually only be reached after decades
of discipline and practice. Opal had reached her first cleansing coma at the
age of fourteen.
The benefits of the cleansing coma were that a fairy could spend the
sleep time thinking, or in this case, plotting, and also awake feeling completely
refreshed. Opal’s coma was so complete that her mind was almost
entirely separated from her body. She could fool the sensors, and felt no
embarrassment at the indignities of intravenous feeding and assisted bathings.
The longest recorded consciously self-induced coma was forty-seven
9
days. Opal had been under for eleven months and counting, though she
wasn’t planning to be counting much longer.
When Opal Koboi had joined forces with Briar Cudgeon and his goblins,
she had realized that she would need a backup plan. Their scheme to
overthrow the LEP had been ingenious, but there had always been a chance
that something could go wrong. In the event that it did, Opal had had no
intention of spending the rest of her life in prison. The only way she could
make a clean getaway was if everybody thought she was still locked up. So
Opal had begun to make preparations.
The first had been to set up the emergency fund for the Argon Clinic.
This would ensure that she would be sent to the right place if she had to
induce a cleansing coma. The second step had been to get two of her most
trusted personnel installed in the clinic, to help with her eventual escape.
Then she began siphoning huge amounts of gold from her businesses. Opal
did not wish to become an impoverished exile.
The final step had been to donate some of her own DNA, and greenlight
the creation of a clone that would take her place in the padded cell.
Cloning was completely illegal, and had been banned by fairy law for more
than five hundred years, since the first experiments in Atlantis. Cloning was
by no means a perfect science. Doctors had never been able to create an exact
fairy clone. The clones looked fine, but they were basically shells with
only enough brain power to run the body’s basic functions. They were missing
the spark of true life. A fully grown clone resembled nothing more than
the original person in a coma. Perfect.
Opal had had a greenhouse lab constructed far from Koboi Industries,
and had diverted enough funds to keep the project active for two years: the
exact time it would take to grow a clone of herself to adulthood. Then,
when she wanted to escape from the Argon Clinic, a perfect replica of herself
would be left in her place. The LEP would never know she was gone.
As things had turned out, she had been right to plan ahead. Briar had
proved treacherous, and a small group of fairies and humans had ensured
that his betrayal would lead to her own downfall. Now Opal had a goal to
bolster her willpower. She would maintain this coma for as long as it took,
because there was a score to be settled. Foaly, Root, Holly Short, and the
human Artemis Fowl. They were the ones responsible for her defeat. Soon
she would be free of this clinic, and then she would visit those who had
caused her such despair and give them a little despair of their own. Once
her enemies were defeated she could proceed with the second phase of her
plan: introducing the Mud Men to the People in a way that could not be
covered up by a few mind wipes. The secret life of fairies was almost at an
end.
Opal Koboi’s brain released a few happy endorphins. The thought of
revenge always gave her a warm fuzzy feeling.
The Brill brothers watched Dr. Argon limp up the corridor.
10
“Moron,” muttered Merv, using his telescopic vacuum pole to chase
some dust out of a corner.
“You said it,” agreed Scant. “Old Jerry couldn’t analyse a bowl of vole
curry. No wonder his wife is leaving him. If he was any good as a shrink, he
would’ve seen that coming.”
Merv collapsed the vacuum. “How are we doing?”
Scant checked his moonometer. “Ten past eight.”
“Good. How’s Corporal Kelp?”
“Still watching the movie. This guy is perfect.
We have to go tonight. The LEP could send someone smart for the
next shift. And if we wait any longer the clone will grow another inch.”
“You’re right. Check the spy cameras.”
Scant lifted the lid on what appeared to be a janitor’s trolley, festooned
as it was with mops, rags, and sprays. Hidden beneath a tray of vacuum
nozzles, was a color monitor split into several screens.
“Well?” hissed Merv.
Scant did not answer immediately, taking time to check all the screens.
The video feed was from various microcameras that Opal had installed
around the clinic before her incarceration. The spy cameras were actually
genetically engineered organic material.
So the pictures they sent were literally a live feed. The world’s first living
machines. Totally undetectable by bug sweepers.
“Night crew only,” he said at last. “Nobody in this sector except Corporal
Idiot over there.”
“What about the parking lot?”
“Clear.”
Merv held out his hand. “Okay, brother. This is it. No turning back.
Are we in? Do we want Opal Koboi back?”
Scant blew a lock of black hair from one round pixie eye.
“Yes, because if she comes back on her own, Opal will find a way to
make us suffer,” he said, shaking his brother’s hand. “So yes, we’re in.”
Merv took a remote control from his pocket.
The device was tuned to a sonix receiver planted in the clinic’s gable
wall. This in turn was connected to a balloon of acid that lay gently on the
clinic’s main power cube in the parking lot junction box. A second balloon
sat atop the backup cube in the maintenance basement. As the clinic’s janitors,
it had been a simple matter for Merv and Scant to plant the acid balloons
the previous evening. Of course, the Argon Clinic was also connected
to the main grid, but if the cubes did go down, there would be a twominute
interval before the main power kicked in.
There was no need for more elaborate arrangements; after all, this was
a medical facility, not a prison.
Merv took a deep breath, flicked the safety cover, and pressed the red
button. The remote control emitted an infrared command activating two
11
sonix charges. The charges sent out sound waves that burst the balloons,
and the balloons dumped their acidic contents on the clinic’s power cubes.
Twenty seconds later the cubes were completely eaten away and the
whole building was plunged into darkness. Merv and Scant quickly put on
night-vision goggles.
As soon as the power failed, green strip lights began pulsing gently on
the floor, guiding the way to the exits. Merv and Scant moved quickly and
purposefully. Scant steered the trolley, and Merv made straight for Corporal
Kelp.
Grub was pulling the video glasses from over his eyes.
“Hey,” he said, disoriented by the sudden darkness.
“What’s going on here?”
“Power failure,” said Merv, bumping into him with calculated clumsiness.
“Those lines are a nightmare. I’ve been telling Dr. Argon, but nobody
wants to spend money on maintenance when there are fancy company cars
to be bought.”
Merv was not chatting for the fun of it; he was waiting for the soluble
sedative pad he had pressed onto Grub’s wrist to take effect.
“Tell me about it,” said Grub, suddenly blinking a lot more than he
generally did. “I’ve been lobbying for new lockers at Police Plaza. I’m really
thirsty. Is anyone else thirsty?” Grub stiffened, frozen by the serum that was
spreading through his system. The LEP officer would snap out of it in under
two minutes and be instantly alert. He would have no memory of his unconsciousness,
and with luck, he would not notice the time lapse.
“Go,” said Scant tersely.
Merv was already gone. With ease, he punched Dr. Argon’s code into
Opal’s door.
He completed this action faster than Argon ever could, due to hours
spent practicing on a stolen pad in his apartment. Argon’s code changed
every week, but the Brill brothers made certain that they were cleaning
outside the room when Argon was on his rounds. The pixies generally had
the complete code by midweek.
The battery-powered pad light winked green, and the door slid back.
Opal Koboi swung gently before him, suspended in her harness like a bug in
an exotic cocoon.
Merv winched her down onto the trolley. Moving briskly, and with
practiced precision, he rolled up Opal’s sleeve and located the scar in her
upper arm where the seeker-sleeper had been inserted. He gripped the hard
lump between his thumb and forefinger.
“Scalpel,” he said, holding out his free hand.
Scant passed him the instrument. Merv took a breath, held it, and
made a one-inch incision in Opal’s flesh. He wiggled his index finger into
the hole and rolled out the electronic capsule. It was encased in silicone and
roughly the size of a painkiller.
12
“Seal it up,” he ordered.
Scant bent close to the wound and placed a thumb at each end.
“Heal,” he whispered, and blue sparks of fairy magic ran rings around
his fingers, sinking into the wound. In seconds the folds of skin had zipped
themselves together, with only a pale pink scar to show that a cut had been
made-a scar almost identical to the one that already existed. Opal’s own
magic had dried up months ago, as she was in no position to complete a
power-restoring ritual.
“Miss Koboi,” said Merv briskly. “Time to get up. Wakeywakey.”
He unstrapped Opal completely from the harness.
The unconscious pixie collapsed onto the lid of the cleaning trolley.
Merv slapped her across the cheek, bringing a blush to her face. Opal’s
breathing rate increased slightly, but her eyes remained closed.
“Jolt her,” said Scant.
Merv pulled an LEP‘-ISSUE buzz baton from inside his jacket. he
powered it up and touched Opal on the elbow. The Pixi’s body jerked
spasmodically and Opal Koboi shot into consciousness: a sleeper, waking
from a nightmare.
Cudgean!” she screamed. “You betrayed me!”
Merv grabbed her shoulders. “Miss Koboi! it’s us! Mervall and Descant.
It’s time.”
Opal glared at him, wild eyed.
“Brill?” she said after several deep breaths.
“That’s right. Merv and Scant. We need to go.”
“Go? What do you mean?”
“Leave,” said Merv urgently. “We have about a minute.”
Opal shook her head, dislodging the after-trance daze. “Merv and
Scant. We need to go.”
Merv helped her from the trolley’s lid. “That’s right. The clone is
ready.”
Scant peeled back a sealed foil false bottom in the trolley. Inside lay a
cloned replica of Opal Koboi wearing an Argon Clinic coma suit. The clone
was identical, down to the last follicle. Scant removed an oxygen mask from
the clone’s face, hauled it from its resting place, and began cinching her into
the harness.
“Remarkable,” said Opal, brushing the clone’s skin with her knuckle.
“Am I that beautiful?”
“Oh yes,” said Merv. “That and more.”
Suddenly, Opal screeched. “Idiots. Its eyes are open. It can see me!
“Don’t fret, Miss,” said Scant, folding the trolley’s false bottom over his
mistress.
“Very soon now, that will be the least of Foaly’s worries.”
Opal strapped the oxygen mask across her face.
“Later,” she said, her voice muffled by the plastic. “Talk, later.”
13
Koboi drifted into a natural sleep, exhausted by even this small exertion.
It could be hours before the pixie regained consciousness. After a
coma of that length, there was even the risk that Opal would never be quite
as smart as she once was.
“Time?” said Merv.
Scant glanced at his moonometer. “Thirty seconds left.”
Merv finished cinching the straps exactly as they had been. Pausing
only to dab sweat from his brow, he made a second incision with his scalpel,
this time in the clone’s arm, and inserted the seeker-sleeper.
While Scant sealed the cut with a blast of magical sparks, Merv rearranged
the cleaning paraphernalia over the trolley’s false section.
Scant bobbed impatiently. “Eight seconds, seven. By the gods, this is
the last time I break the boss out of a clinic and replace her with a clone.”
Corporal Grub slumped slightly, then jerked to attention.
“Hey… what the? I’m really thirsty.
Is anyone else thirsty?”
Merv stuffed the night-vision goggles into the trolley, blinking a bead
of sweat from his eyelid.
“It’s the air in here. I get dehydrated all the time. Terrible headaches.”
Grub pinched the bridge of his nose. “Me too. I’m going to write a letter,
as soon as the lights come back.”
Just then the lights did come back, flickering on one after another
down the length of the corridor.
“There we go,” grinned Scant. “Panic over. Maybe now they’ll buy us
some new circuits, eh, brother?”
Dr. Argon came barrelling down the passageway, almost keeping pace
with the flickering lights.
“Your hip is better, then, Jerry?” said Merv.
Argon ignored the pixies, his eyes wide, his breath ragged.
“Corporal Kelp,” he panted. “Koboi, is she? Has she…”
Grub rolled his eyes.
“Calm yourself, Doctor. Miss Koboi is still suspended where you left
her. Take a look.” Argon flattened his palm against the wall, first checking
the vitals.
“Ok… No change, no change… A two minute laps but - that’s OK.”
“I told you“, said Grub, “and while you’re here I need to talk to you
about these headaches I’ve been having.”
Argon brushed him aside. “I need a cotton ball. Scant, do you have
any?”
Scant slapped his pockets. “Sorry, Jerry. Not on me.”
“Don’t call me Jerry!” howled Jerbal Argon, ripping the lid from the
cleaning trolley.
“There must be cotton balls in here somewhere,” he said, sweat pasting
thin hair across his wide gnome’s forehead. “It’s a janitor’s box, for heaven’s
14
sake.” His blunt fingers scrabbled through the trolley’s contents, scraping
across the false bottom.
Merv elbowed him out of the way before he could discover the secret
compartment or spy screens. “Here we are, doctor,” he said, grabbing a tub
of cotton balls. “A month’s supply. Knock yourself out.”
Argon fumbled a single ball from the pack, discarding the rest.
“DNA never lies,” he muttered, punching his code into the keypad.
“DNA never lies.”
He rushed into the room and roughly swabbed the inside of the clone’s
mouth. The Brill brothers held down. I’m just a little paranoid, I suppose.
Faces can be altered, but…”
“DNA never lies,” said Merv and Scant simultaneously.
Grub reset his video goggles. “I think Dr. Argon needs a little vacation.”
“You’re telling me,” sniggered Merv, rolling the trolley toward the
maintenance elevator.
“Anyway, we’d better get going, brother. We need to isolate the cause
of the power failure.”
Scant followed him down the corridor. “Any idea where the problem
could be?”
“I have a hunch. Let’s try the parking lot, or maybe the basement.”
“Whatever you say. After all, you are the older brother.”
“And wiser,” added Merv. “Don’t forget that.”
The pixies continued down the corridor, their brisk banter masking
the fact that their knees were shaking and their hearts were battering their
rib cages.
It wasn’t until they had removed the evidence of their acid bombs, and
were well on their way home in the van, that they began to breathe normally
again.
Back in the apartment he shared with Scant, Merv unzipped Koboi
from her sealed hiding place.
Any worries they’d had about Opal’s IQ taking a dip immediately vanished.
Their employer’s eyes were bright and aware.
“Bring me up to speed,” she said, climbing shakily from the trolley.
Even though her mind was fully functioning, it would take a couple of days
in an were well on their way home in the van, that they began to breathe
normally again.
Back in the apartment he shared with Scant, Merv unzipped Koboi
from her sealed hiding place.
Any worries they’d had about Opal’s IQ taking a dip immediately vanished.
Their employer’s eyes were bright and aware.
“Bring me up to speed,” she said, climbing shakily from the trolley.
Even though her mind was fully functioning, it would take a couple of days
in an electromassager to get her muscles back to normal.
15
Merv helped her onto a low sofa. “Everything is in place. The funds,
the surgeon, everything.”
Opal drank greedily straight from a jug of core water on the coffee table.
“Good, good. And what of my enemies?”
Scant stood beside his brother. They were almost identical except for a
slight wideness in Merv’s brow. Merv had always been the smart one.
“We have kept tabs on them, as you asked,” said Scant.
Opal stopped drinking. “Asked?”
“Instructed,” stammered Scant. “Instructed, of course. That’s what I
meant.”
Koboi’s eyes narrowed. “I do hope the Brill brothers haven’t developed
any independent notions since I’ve been asleep.”
Scant stooped slightly, almost bowing. “No, no, Miss Koboi, we live to
serve. Only to serve.”
“Yes,” agreed Opal. “And you live only as long as you do serve. Now,
my enemies. They are well and happy, I trust.”
“Oh yes. Julius Root goes from strength to strength as LEP Commander.
He has been nominated for the Council.”
Opal smiled a vicious wolverine’s smile.
“The Council. Such a long way to fall. And Holly Short?”
“Back on full active duty. Six successful reconnaissance missions since
you induced your coma. Her name has been put on the list for promotion
to major.”
“Major, indeed. Well, the least we can do is to make sure that promotion
never comes through. I plan to wreck Holly Short’s career, so she dies
in disgrace.”
“The centaur Foaly is as obnoxious as ever,” continued Scant Brill. “I
suggest a particularly nasty…”
Opal raised a delicate finger, cutting him off. “No. Nothing happens to
Foaly just yet.
He will be defeated by intellect alone. Twice in my life, someone has
outsmarted me. Both times it was Foaly. Just killing him requires no ingenuity.
I want him beaten, humiliated, and alone.” She clapped her hands in delighted
anticipation. “And then I will kill him.”
“We have been monitoring Artemis Fowl’s communications. Apparently
the human youth has spent most of the past year trying to find a certain
painting. We have traced the painting to Munich.”
“A painting? Really?” Cogwheels turned in Opal’s brain. “Well, let’s
make sure we get to it before he does. Maybe we can add a little something
to his work of art.
Scant nodded. “Yes. That’s not a problem. I’ll go tonight.”
Opal stretched out on the sofa like a cat in the sunlight. “Good, this is
turning out to be a lovely day. Now, send for the surgeon.”
The Brill brothers glanced at each other.
16
“Miss Koboi?” said Mervall nervously.
“Yes, what is it?”
“The surgeon. This kind of operation cannot be reversed, even by
magic. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to think…”
Opal leaped from the sofa. Her cheeks were crimson with rage.
“Think! You’d like me to think about it! What do you imagine I have been
doing for the past year? Thinking! Twenty-four hours a day. I don’t care
about magic. Magic did not help me to escape, science did. Science will be
my magic.
Now, no more advice, Merv, or your brother will be an only child. Is
that clear?”
Merv was stunned. He had never seen Opal in such a rage. The coma
had changed her.
“Yes, Miss Koboi.”
“Now, summon the surgeon.”
“At once, Miss Koboi.”
Opal lay back on the sofa. Soon everything would be right in the
world. Her enemies would shortly be dead or discredited. Once those loose
ends were tied up, she could get on with her new life. Koboi rubbed the
tips of her pointed ears. What would she look like, she wondered, as a human?
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Chapter 2: The Fairy Thief

Munich, Germany ; Present Day

Thieves have their own folklore: stories of ingenious heists and deathdefying
robberies. One such legend tells of the Egyptian cat burglar Faisil
Mahmood, who scaled the dome of St. Peter’s basilica in order to drop in on
a visiting, bishop and steal his crosier.
Another story concerns confidence woman Red Mary Keneally, who
dressed as a duchess and talked her way into the King of England’s coronation.
The palace denied the event ever took place, but every now and then
a crown turns up at auction that looks a lot like the one in the Tower of
London.
Perhaps the most thrilling legend is the tale of the lost Herve masterpiece.
Every primary schoolchild knows that Pascal Herve was the French
Impressionist who painted extraordinarily beautiful pictures of the fairy
folk. And every art dealer knows that Herve’s paintings are second in value
only to those of van Gogh himself, commanding price tags of more than
fifty million euros.
There are fifteen paintings in the Herve Fairy Folk series. Ten reside in
French museums and five are in private collections. But there are rumors of
a sixteenth. Whispers circulate in the upper criminal echelons that another
Herve exists:
The Fairy Thief, depicting a fairy in the act of stealing a human child.
Legend has it that Herve gave the picture as a gift to a beautiful Turkish girl
he met on the ChampsElysee.
The girl promptly broke Herve’s heart, and sold the picture to a British
tourist for twenty francs. Within weeks, the picture had been stolen from
the Englishman’s home. And since that time, it has been lifted from private
collections all over the world. Since Herve painted his masterpiece, it is believed
that The Fairy Thief has been stolen fifteen times. But what makes
these thefts different from the billion others that have been committed during
this time is that the first thief decided to keep the picture for himself.
And so did all the others.
The Fairy Thief has become something of a trophy for top thieves
worldwide. Only a dozen know of its existence, and only a handful know of
its whereabouts. The painting is to criminals what the Turner Prize is to artists.
18
Whoever manages to successfully steal the lost painting is acknowledged
as the master thief of his generation. Not many are aware of this challenge,
but those who do know matter.
Naturally Artemis Fowl knew of The Fairy Thief, and recently he had
learned of the painting’s whereabouts.
It was an irresistible test of his abilities. If he succeeded in stealing the
lost master, he would become the youngest thief in history to have done so.
His bodyguard, the giant Eurasian Butler, was not very pleased with his
young charge’s latest project.
“I don’t like this, Artemis,” said Butler in his bass gravelly tones. “My
instincts tell me it’s a trap.”
Artemis Fowl inserted batteries in his handheld computer game.
“Of course it’s a trap,” said the fourteen-year-old Irish boy.
“The Fairy Thief has been ensnaring thieves for years. That’s what
makes it interesting.”
They were traveling around Munich’s Marienplatz in a rented Hummer
H2. The military vehicle was not Artemis’s style, but it would be consistent
with the style of the people they were pretending to be. Artemis sat
in the rear, feeling ridiculous, dressed not in his usual dark two-piece suit,
but in normal teenager clothing.
“This outfit is preposterous,” he said, zipping his tracksuit top. “What
is the point of a hood that is not waterproof? And all these logos? I feel like
a walking advertisement. And these jeans do not fit properly. They are sagging
down to my knees.”
Butler smiled, glancing in the rear view mirror. “I think you look fine.
Juliet would say that you were bad”
Juliet, Butler’s younger sister, was currently on a tour of the States
with a Mexican wrestling troupe, trying to break into the big time. Her ring
name was the Jade Princess.
“I certainly feel bad” admitted Artemis. “As for these high-top sneakers-
how is one supposed to run quickly with soles three inches thick? I feel
as though I am on stilts. Honestly, Butler, the second we return to the hotel,
I am disposing of this outfit. I miss my suits.”
Butler pulled onto ImTal, where the International Bank was located.
“Artemis, if you’re not feeling comfortable, perhaps we should postpone
this operation?”
Artemis zipped his computer game into a backpack, which already
contained a number of typical teenage items. “Absolutely not. This window
of opportunity has taken a month to organize.”
Three weeks previously, Artemis had made an anonymous donation to
the St. Bartleby’s School for Young Men, on condition that the third-year
boys be taken on a trip to Munich for the European Schools’ Fair. The principal
had been happy to honor the donor’s wishes. And now, while the
other boys were viewing various technological marvels at an exhibition in
19
Munich’s Olympia Stadium, Artemis was on his way to the International
Bank.
As far as Principal Guiney was concerned, Butler was driving a student
who was feeling poorly back to his hotel room.
“Crane and Sparrow probably move the painting several times a year. I
certainly would. Who knows where it will be in six months?”
Crane and Sparrow were a firm of British lawyers who used their
business as a front for an extremely successful burglary and fencing enterprise.
Artemis had long suspected them of possessing The Fairy Thief.
Confirmation had arrived a month earlier, when a private detective
who was routinely employed to spy on Crane and Sparrow reported that he
had spotted them moving a painting tube to the International Bank. Possibly
The Fairy Thief.
“I may not have this chance again until I am an adult,” continued the
Irish youth. “And there is no question of waiting that long. Franz Herman
stole The Fairy Thief when he was eighteen years old; I need to beat that
record.”
Butler sighed. “Criminal folklore tells us that Herman stole the painting
in 1927. He merely snatched a briefcase. There is rather more to contend
with today. We must break open a safe-deposit box in one of the world’s
most secure banks, in broad daylight.”
Artemis Fowl smiled. “Yes. Many would say that it was impossible.”
“They would,” agreed Butler, slotting the Hummer into a parking
space. “Many sane people. Especially for someone on a school tour.”
They entered the bank through the lobby’s revolving doors in full view
of the CCTV. Butler led the way, striding purposefully across the goldveined
marble floor toward an inquiries desk. Artemis trailed behind, bobbing
his head to some music on his portable disk player. In fact the disk
player was empty. Artemis wore mirrored sunglasses that concealed his eyes
but allowed him to scan the bank’s interior unobserved.
The International Bank was famous in certain circles for having the
most secure safe-deposit boxes in the world, including Switzerland. It was
rumored that if the International Bank’s deposit boxes were cracked open
and the contents dumped onto the floor, perhaps one tenth of the world’s
wealth would be heaped on the marble. Jewels, bearer bonds, cash, deeds,
art. At least half of it stolen from its rightful owners. But Artemis was not
interested in any of these objects. Perhaps next time.
Butler stopped at the enquiries desk, casting a broad shadow across the
slim-line monitor perched there. The thin man who had been working on
the monitor lifted his head to complain, then thought better of it.
Butler’s sheer bulk often had that effect on people.
“How can I help you, Herr… ?”
“Lee, Colonel Xavier Lee. I wish to open my deposit box,” replied Butler,
in fluent German.
20
“Yes, Colonel. Of course. My name is Bertholt, and I will be assisting
you today.” Bertholt opened Colonel Xavier Lee’s file on his computer with
one hand, the other twirling a pencil like a mini-baton.
“We just need to complete the usual security check. If I may have your
passport?”
“Of course,” said Butler, sliding a People’s Republic of China passport
across the desk.
“I expect nothing less than the most stringent security procedures.”
Bertholt took the passport in his slim fingers, first checking the photograph,
then placing it onto a scanner.
“Alfonse,” snapped Butler at Artemis.
“Stop fidgeting and stand up straight, son. You slouch so much that
sometimes I think you don’t have a spine.”
Bertholt smiled with the insincerity a toddler could have seen through.
“Alfonse, nice to meet you.”
“Dude,” said Artemis, with equal hypocrisy.
Butler shook his head. “My son does not communicate well with the
rest of the world. I look forward to the day he can join the army. Then we
shall see if there is a man beneath all these moods.”
Bertholt nodded sympathetically. “I have a girl. Sixteen years old. She
spends more of my money on phone calls in a week than the entire family
spends on food.”
“Teenagers, they’re all the same.”
The computer beeped.
“Ah yes, your passport has been cleared. Now all I need is a signature.”
Bertholt slid a handwriting tablet across the desk. A digipen was attached to
the tablet by a length of wire. Butler took it and scrawled his signature
across the line. The signature would match. Of course it would. The original
writing was Butler’s own, Colonel Xavier Lee being one of a dozen aliases
the bodyguard had created over the years. The passport was also authentic,
even if the details typed upon it weren’t. Butler had purchased it years previously
from a Chinese diplomat’s secretary in Rio de Janeiro.
Once again the computer beeped.
“Good,” said Bertholt. “You are indeed who you say you are. I shall
bring you to the deposit-box room. Will Alfonse be accompanying us?”
Butler stood. “Absolutely. If I leave him here, he will probably get
himself arrested.”
Bertholt attempted a joke. “Well, if I may say so, Colonel, he’s in the
right place.”
“Hilarious, dude,” muttered Artemis. “You should, like, have your own
show.”
But Bertholt’s comment was accurate. Armed security men were dotted
throughout the building. At the first sign of any impropriety, they
would move to strategic points, covering all exits.
21
Bertholt led the way to a brushed-steel elevator, holding his ID card up
to a camera over the door.
The bank official winked at Artemis. “We have a special security system
here, young man. It’s all very exciting.”
“I know. I think I’m going to faint,” said Artemis.
“No more attitude, son,” scolded Butler. “Bertholt is simply trying to
make conversation.”
Bertholt stayed civil in the face of Artemis’s sarcasm. “Maybe you’d
like to work here when you grow up, eh, Alfonse?”
For the first time Artemis smiled sincerely, and for some reason the
sight sent shivers down Bertholt’s spine. “Do you know something, Bertholt?
I think some of my best work will be in banks.”
The awkward silence that followed was cut short by a voice from a
tiny speaker below the camera.
“Yes, Bertholt, we see you. How many?”
“Two,” replied Bertholt. “One key holder and one minor. Coming
down to open a box.”
The lift door slid back to reveal a steel cuboid with no buttons or panels,
just a camera elevated in one corner. They stepped inside and the elevator
was remotely activated. Artemis noticed Bertholt wringing his hands as
soon as they began to descend.
“Hey, Bertholt, what’s the problem? It’s only an elevator.”
Bertholt forced a smile. Barely a glint of tooth showed beneath his
mustache. “You don’t miss much, do you, Alfonse? I don’t like small spaces.
And there are no controls in here, for security reasons. The lift is operated
from the desk. If it were to break down, we would be relying on the
guards to rescue us. This thing is virtually airtight. What if the guard had a
heart attack, or went on a coffee break? We could all…” The bank official’s
nervous rant was cut off by the hiss of the elevator door. They had arrived
at the deposit-box floor.
“Here we are,” said Bertholt, mopping his forehead with a Kleenex. A
section of the paper remained trapped in the worry lines of his forehead,
and fluttered there like a windsock in the air-conditioner blast. “Safe, you
see.
“Absolutely no need to worry. All is well.” He laughed nervously.
“Shall we?”
A bulky security guard waited for them outside the lift. Artemis noted
the side arm on his belt, and the earpiece cord winding along his neck.
“Willkommen, Bertholt, you made it in one piece. Again.”
Bertholt plucked the strand of tissue from his forehead. “Yes, Kurt, I
made it, and don’t think the scorn in your voice goes unnoticed.”
Kurt sighed mightily, allowing the escaping air to flap his lips. “Please
pardon my phobic countryman,” he said to Butler. “Everything terrifies him,
22
from spiders to elevators. It’s a wonder he ever gets out of bed. Now, if you
could stand on the yellow square and raise both arms to shoulder level.”
There was a yellow square taped onto the steel floor. Butler stepped
onto it, raising his arms.
Kurt performed a body search that would have shamed a customs official,
before ushering him through a metal detector arch.
“He’s clean,” he said aloud. The words would be picked up by the microphone
on his lapel and relayed to the security booth. “You next, boy,”
said Kurt. “Same drill.”
Artemis complied, slouching onto the square. He raised his arms barely
six inches from his sides.
Butler glared at him. “Alfonse! Can’t you do what the man says? In the
army I would have you cleaning the latrines for this kind of behavior.”
Artemis glared back. “Yes, Colonel, but we’re not in the army here, are
we?”
Kurt slipped Artemis’s pack from his back and rifled through the contents.
“What’s this?” he asked, pulling out a toughened plastic frame.
Artemis took the frame, unfolding it with three deft movements. “It’s a
scooter, dude. You may have heard of them. Transportation that doesn’t
pollute the air we breathe.”
Kurt snatched back the scooter, spinning the wheels and checking the
joints.
Artemis smirked. “Of course, it’s also a laser cutter, so I can break into
your boxes.”
“You’re a real smart aleck, boy,” snarled Kurt, stuffing the scooter back
in the bag. “And what’s this?”
Artemis turned on the video game. “It’s a game box. They were invented
so teenagers wouldn’t have to talk to grownups.”
Kurt glanced at Butler. “He’s a gem, sir. I wish I had one just like him.”
He rattled a ring of keys on Artemis’s belt. “And what are these?”
Artemis scratched his head. “Uh… keys?”
Kurt ground his teeth audibly. “I know they’re keys, boy. What do they
open?”
Artemis shrugged. “Stuff. My locker. My scooter lock. A couple of diaries.
Stuff.”
The security guard examined the keys. They were everyday keys, and
wouldn’t open a complicated lock.
But the bank had a no-key rule. Only safe-deposit box keys were allowed
through the metal detector.
“Sorry. The keys stay here.” Kurt undipped the ring and placed the
keys in a flat tray. “You can pick them up on your way out.”
“Can I go now?”
23
“Yes,” said Kurt. “Please do, but pass the bag through to your father
first.”
Artemis handed the bag around the metal detector arch to Butler. He
passed through himself, setting off the buzzer.
Kurt followed him impatiently. “Do you have anything else metallic on
you? A belt buckle? Some coins?”
“Money?” scoffed Artemis. “I wish.”
“What’s setting off the detector, then?” said Kurt, puzzled.
“I think I know,” said Artemis. He hooked a finger inside his top lip,
pulling it up. Two metal bands ran across his teeth.
“Braces. That would do it,” said Kurt. “The detector is extremely sensitive.”
Artemis removed his finger from his mouth. “Should I take these out
too? Rip them from my teeth?”
Kurt took the suggestion at face value.
“No. I think we’re safe enough. Just go on through.
But behave yourself in there. It’s a vault, not a playground.” Kurt
paused, pointing to a camera above their heads. “Remember, I’ll be watching.”
“Watch all you like,” said Artemis brazenly.
“Oh, I will, boy. You so much as spit on one of those doors, and I’ll
eject you from the premises. Forcibly.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Kurt,” said Bertholt. “Don’t be so theatrical.
Those are not network television cameras, you know.”
Bertholt ushered them through to the vault door. “I apologize for Kurt.
He failed the special-forces exam and ended up here. Sometimes I think he
would love someone to rob the place, just so he could see some action.”
The door was a circular slab of steel, at least sixteen feet in diameter.
In spite of its size, the door swung easily at Bertholt’s touch.
“Perfectly balanced,” explained the bank official. “A child could open
it, until five thirty when it shuts for the night. Naturally the vault is time
locked. Nobody can open the door until eight thirty A.m. Not even the
bank president.”
Inside the vault were rows and rows of steel deposit boxes of all
shapes and sizes.
Each box had a single rectangular keyhole on its face, surrounded by a
fiberoptic light. At the moment all the lights glowed red.
Bertholt took a key from his pocket; it was attached to his belt by a
woven steel cable. “Of course the key’s shape is not the only important
thing,” he said, inserting the key into a master keyhole. “The locks are also
operated by microchip.”
Butler took a similar key from his wallet.
“Are we ready?”
“Whenever you are, sir.”
24
Butler ran his fingers over several boxes until he reached number seven
hundred. He inserted his key in the keyhole. “Ready.”
“Very well, sir. On my mark. Three, two, one. Turn.”
Both men turned their keys simultaneously.
The master key safeguard prevented a thief opening a box with a single
key. If the two keys were not turned within one second of each other,
the box would not open.
The light around both keys switched from red to green. The door on
Butler’s safe-deposit box popped open.
“Thank you, Bertholt,” said Butler, reaching into the box.
“Of course, sir,” replied Bertholt, almost bowing. “I’ll be right outside.
Even with the camera, there is a three minute inspection rule. So I’ll see you
in one hundred and eighty seconds.”
Once the bank official had gone, Artemis shot his bodyguard a quizzical
look.
“Alfonse” he said out of the side of his mouth.
“I don’t remember deciding on a name for my character.”
Butler set the stopwatch on his chronograph.
“I was improvising, Artemis. I thought the situation required it. And if
I may say so, you make a very convincing obnoxious teenager.”
“Thank you, old friend. I try.”
Butler removed an architect’s drawing from his deposit box, unfolding
the document until it was almost six feet square. He held it at arm’s length,
apparently studying the design inked onto the paper.
Artemis glanced upward at the ceiling-mounted camera. “Raise your
arms another two inches and take a step to your left.”
Butler did so casually, covering the movements with a cough, and a
shake of the parchment.
“Good. Perfect. Stay right there.”
When Butler had rented the box on his last visit, he’d taken numerous
photographs of the vault with a button camera. Artemis had used these
photos to render a digital reconstruction of the room. According to his calculations,
Butler’s present position provided Artemis with a thirtythreefoot
box of cover. In that area his movements would be hidden by the drawing.
At the moment, only his trainers bar could be seen by the security guards.
Artemis rested his back against a wall of security boxes, between two
steel benches. He braced both arms against the benches, levering himself
out of the oversized trainers. Carefully, the boy slid onto the bench.
“Keep your head down,” advised Butler.
Artemis rooted through his backpack for the video cube. Though the
box did actually play a computer game, its primary function was an X-ray
panel with realtime viewing. The X-ray panels were in common usage
among the upper criminal echelons, and it had been a relatively simple matter
for Artemis to disguise one as a teenager’s toy.
25
Artemis activated the X-ray, sliding it across the door of the deposit
box beside Butler’s.
The bodyguard had rented his box two days after Crane and Sparrow.
It stood to reason that the boxes would be close to one another, unless
Crane and Sparrow had requested a specific number. In that case it was
back to the drawing board. Artemis reckoned that this first attempt to steal
The Fairy Thief had a forty percent chance of success. These were not ideal
odds, but he had no option but to go ahead. At the very least, he would
learn more about the bank’s security.
The game cube’s small screen revealed that the first box was stuffed
with currency.
“Negative,” said Artemis. “Cash only.”
Butler raised an eyebrow. “You know what they say; you can never
have too much cash.”
Artemis had already moved on to the next box.
“Not today, old friend. But let’s keep up the rental on our box, in case
we ever need to return.”
The next box contained legal papers tied together with ribbons. The
one after that was piled high with loose diamonds in a tray. Artemis struck
gold on the fourth box. Figuratively speaking. Inside the deposit box was a
long tube containing a rolled-up canvas.
“I think we have it, Butler. I think this could be it.”
“Time enough to get excited when the painting is hanging on the wall
in Fowl Manor. Hurry up, Artemis, my arms are beginning to ache.”
Artemis steadied himself. Of course Butler was right. They were still a
long way from possessing The Fairy Thief, if indeed this painting was
Herve’s lost masterpiece.
It could just as easily be some proud grandfather’s crayon drawing of a
helicopter.
Artemis moved the X-ray machine down to the bottom of the box.
There were no manufacturer’s markings on the door, but often craftsmen
were proud and could not resist placing a signature somewhere. Even if nobody
knew it was there but them. Artemis searched for maybe twenty seconds
before he found what he was looking for. Inside the door itself, on the
rear panel was engraved the word Blokken.
“Blokken,” said the boy triumphantly. “We were right.”
There were only six firms in the world capable of constructing deposit
boxes of this quality.
Artemis had hacked their computers and found International Bank on
the Blokken client list.
Blokken was a small family company in Vienna that also made boxes
for several banks in Geneva and the Cayman Islands. Butler had paid their
workshop a little visit and stolen two master keys. Of course, the keys were
26
metal, and would not escape the detector arch, unless for some reason metal
had been allowed through.
Artemis reached two fingers into his mouth, dislodging the brace from
his upper teeth. Behind the brace itself was a plastic retainer, and clipped to
that were two keys. The master keys.
Artemis rotated his jaw for a few seconds.
“That feels better,” he said. “I thought I was going to gag.”
The next problem was one of distance. There were eight feet between
the deposit box and the master keyhole by the door. Not only was it impossible
for one person to open the door unassisted, but whoever stood by the
master keyhole would be visible to the security guards. Artemis pulled his
scooter from the backpack. He yanked one pin from its socket, detaching
the steering column from the footrest. This was no ordinary scooter. An engineer
friend of Butler’s had constructed it from very specific blueprints.
The footrest was completely regular, but the steering column turned into a
telescope at the touch of a spring-release button. Artemis unscrewed on e
handgrip, reattaching it at the other end of the column. There was a slit in
the end of each grip, into which Artemis screwed a master key. Now all he
had to do was insert both keys into their corresponding keyholes and turn
them simultaneously.
Artemis slotted one key into Crane and Sparrow’s box.
“Ready?” he asked Butler.
“Yes,” replied his bodyguard. “Don’t go one step farther than you have
to.”
“Three, two, one. G.”
Artemis pressed the spring-release button on the steering column. He
shuffled across the bench, pulling the telescoping pole behind him. As the
boy moved, Butler swiveled his trunk so that Artemis remained shielded by
the blueprint. He moved the plan just far enough to cover the master keyhole,
without exposing Artemis’s legless shoes. However, the target box,
complete with telescoping pole, was visible for the time it took Artemis to
insert the second key.
The master keyhole was three feet beyond the end of the steel bench.
Artemis leaned as far as he could without losing his balance, slotting the key
into its hole. It fit snugly. Artemis shuffled back quickly. Now Butler could
once again mask Crane and Sparrow’s box. The entire plan hinged on the
assumption that the guards would be concentrating on Butler, and not notice
a slim pole extending toward the master keyhole. It would help that
the pole was precisely the same color as the safe-deposit boxes.
Artemis returned to the original box, twisting the handgrip. A pulley
and cable system inside the pole twisted the other handgrip simultaneously.
Both locks flashed green. Crane and Sparrow’s box popped open. Artemis
felt a moment of satisfaction. His contraption had worked. Then
again, there was no reason it shouldn’t: all the laws of physics had been
27
obeyed. Amazing how the tightest of electronic security could be defeated
by a pole, a pulley, and a brace.
“Artemis,” groaned Butler. “Keeping my arms up is becoming uncomfortable.
So, if you wouldn’t mind.”
Artemis cut short his mental celebration. They were not out of the
vault yet. He turned the grips back to their original position, then yanked
the bar toward him. Both keys popped from their holes. With the touch of
a button, the pole snapped back to its original length. Artemis did not reassemble
the scooter just yet. The pole may be needed to search other boxes.
Artemis studied the locker with the X-ray panel before opening the
door any wider. He was searching for any wires or circuits that might trigger
secondary alarms. There was one. A circuit breaker attached to a portable
Klaxon. It would be extremely embarrassing for any thief if the authorities
were alerted by the raucous wailing of a foghorn. Artemis smiled. It seemed
as though Crane and Sparrow had a sense of humor.
Maybe he would employ them as his lawyers.
Artemis unhooked the headphones from around his neck, popping off
the earpieces. Once the wire inside was exposed, he twisted a length around
each side of the breaker. Now he could safely pull apart the breaker without
opening the circuit. Artemis pulled. The Klaxon remained silent.
At last, the box lay open before him. Inside, a single tube stood
propped against the rear wall.
The tube was fashioned from Perspex, and contained a rolled-up canvas.
Artemis removed the tube and held it up to the light. For several seconds,
he studied the painting through the transparent plastic. He could not
risk opening the tube until they were safely back in the hotel. A hasty job
now could cause accidental damage to the painting. He had waited years to
obtain The Fairy Thief; he could wait a few more hours.
“The brushwork is unmistakable,” he said, closing the box. “Strong
strokes. Thick blocks of light. It’s either Herve, or a brilliant copy. I do believe
we’ve done it, Butler, but I can’t be sure without X-ray and paint
analysis.”
“Good,” said the bodyguard, glancing at his watch. “That can be done at
the hotel. Pack up and let’s get out of here.”
Artemis shoved the cylinder into his backpack, along with the reassembled
scooter. He clipped the keys to his retainer, slotting the brace over
his teeth.
The vault door slid back just as the Irish youth lowered himself into
his trainers. Bertholt’s head appeared in the gap.
“Everything all right in here?” asked the bank official.
Butler folded the drawing, slotting it into his pocket.
“Fine, Bertholt. Excellent, in fact. You may escort us to the main level.”
Bertholt bowed slightly. “Of course. Follow me.”
28
Artemis was back in the role of argumentative teenager. “Thanks so
much, Berty. This has been a real blast. I just love spending my holidays in
banks, looking at papers.”
All credit to Bertholt. His smile never wavered.
Kurt was waiting for them by the X-ray arch, arms folded across a
chest the size of a rhino’s. He waited until Butler had gone past, then
tapped Artemis’s shoulder.
“You think you’re really smart, don’t you, boy?” he said, grinning.
Artemis grinned back. “Compared to you?
Definitely.”
Kurt bent over, hands on knees, until his eyes were level with Artemis’s.
“I was watching you from the security booth. You didn’t do a thing.
Your kind never does.”
“How do you know?” asked Artemis. “I could have been breaking into
those safe-deposit boxes.”
“I know all right. I know because I could see your feet the whole time.
You barely moved an inch.”
Artemis grabbed his ring of keys from the tray and ran after Butler to
make the lift. “You win this time. But I’ll be back.”
Kurt cupped a hand around his mouth. “Bring it on,” he shouted. “I’ll
be waiting.”
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Chapter 3: Dearly Departed

Police Plaza, Haven City;

The Lower Elements Captain Holly Short was up for a promotion.
It was the career turnaround of the century. Less than a year had
passed since she had been the subject of two internal affairs inquiries, but
now, after six successful missions, Holly was the Lower Elements Police
Reconnaissance squad’s golden fairy. The Council would soon meet to decide
whether or not she would be the first female major in LEP-RECON’S
history. And to tell the truth, the prospect did not appeal to her one bit.
Majors rarely got to strap on a set of wings and fly between land and
stars. Instead, they spent their time sending junior officers topside on missions.
Holly had made up her mind to turn down the promotion if it were
offered to her. She could live with a smaller paycheck if it meant she could
still see the surface on a regular basis.
Holly decided it would be wise to tell Commander Julius Root what
she planned to do. After all, it was Root who had stood by her through the
inquiries, and it was Root who had recommended her for promotion in the
first place. The commander would not take the news well. He never took
any kind of news well: even good news was received with a gruff thank-you
and a slammed door.
Holly stood outside Root’s office on that morning, working up the
courage to knock. And even though, at three feet exactly, she was just below
the average fairy height, Holly was glad of the half inch granted by her
spiky auburn hair.
Before she could knock, the door was yanked open, and Root’s rosycheeked
face appeared in the doorway.
“Captain Short!” he roared, his gray buzz cut quivering. “Get in here!”
Then he noticed Holly standing beside the door. “Oh, there you are. Come
in. We have a puzzle that needs solving. It involves one of our goblin
friends.”
Holly followed Root into the office. Foaly, the LEP’S technical adviser,
was already there, close enough to the wall plasma screen to singe his nose
hairs.
“Howler’s Peak video,” explained Root.
“General Scalene escaped.”
“Escaped?” echoed Holly. “Do we know how?”
30
Foaly snapped his fingers. “D’Arvit! That’s what we should be thinking
about, instead of standing around here playing still Spy!”
“We don’t have time for the usual sarcastic small talk, Foaly,” snapped
Root, his complexion deepening to burgundy. “This is a PR disaster.
Scalene is public enemy number two, second only to Opal Koboi herself.
If the journos get wind of this, we’ll be the laughingstock of Haven.
Not to mention the fact that Scalene could round up a few of his goblin
buddies and reactivate the triad.”
Holly crossed to the screen, elbowing Foaly’s hindquarters out of the
way. Her little talk with Commander Root could wait. There was police
work to be done.
“What are we looking at?”
Foaly highlighted a section of the screen with a laser pointer. “Howler’s
Peak, goblin correctional facility. Camera eighty-six.”
“Which shows?”
“The visiting room. Scalene went in, but he never came out.”
Holly scanned the camera list. “No camera in the room itself?”
Root coughed, or it may have been an actual growl. “No. According to
the third Atlantis convention on fairy rights, detainees are entitled to privacy
in the visiting room.”
“So we don’t know what went on in there?”
“Not as such, no.”
“What genius designed this system, anyway?”
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Root chuckled. He never
could resist needling the smug centaur.
“Our horsey friend here designed the Howler’s Peak automated security
system all on his own.”
Foaly pouted, and when a centaur pouts, his bottom lip almost reaches
his chin. “It’s not the system. The system is foolproof. Every prisoner has the
standard subcutaneous seeker-sleeper in his head. Even if a goblin manages
to miraculously escape, we can remotely knock them out, then pick him
up.”
Holly raised her palms. “So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that the seeker-sleeper is not broadcasting. Or, if it is,
we’re not picking up the signal.”
“That is a problem.”
Root lit a noxious fungal cigar. The smoke was instantly whipped
away by an air recycler on his desk. “Major Kelp is out with a mobile unit,
trying to get a fix on a signal.”
Trouble Kelp had recently been promoted to Root’s second in command.
He was not the kind of officer who liked sitting behind a desk,
unlike his little brother, Corporal Grub Kelp, who would like nothing better
than to be stuck behind a nice safe desk for the remainder of his career.
31
If Holly was forced into promotion, she hoped she could be half the major
that Trouble was.
Holly returned her attention to the plasma screen. “So, who was visiting
General Scalene?”
“One of his thousand nephews. A goblin by the name of Boohn. Apparently
that means of noble brow in Goblin cant.”
“I remember him,” said Holly. “Boohn.
Customs and excise think he’s one of the goblins behind the B’wa Kell
smuggling operation. There’s nothing noble about him.”
Foaly opened a folder on the plasma screen with his laser pointer.
“Here’s the visitor list. Boohn checks in at seven fifty, Lower Elements mean
time. At least I can show you that on video.”
A grainy screen showed a bulky goblin in the prison’s access corridor,
nervously licking his eyeballs while the security laser scanned him.
Once it was confirmed that Boohn wasn’t trying to smuggle anything
in, the visitors” door popped open.
Foaly scrolled down the list. “And look here.
He checks out at eight fifteen.”
Boohn left swiftly, obviously uncomfortable in the facility. The parking
lot camera showed him reverting to all fours for a dash to his car.
Holly scanned the list carefully. “So you’re saying that Boohn checked
out at eight fifteen?”
“I just said that didn’t I, Holly” replied Foaly testily. “I’ll say it again
slowly. Eight fifteen.”
Holly snatched the laser pointer. “Well, if that’s true, how did he manage
to check out again at eight twenty?”
It was true. Eight lines down on the list, Boohn’s name popped up
again.
“I saw that already. It’s a glitch,” muttered Foaly. “That’s...
He couldn’t leave twice. It’s not possible. We get that sometimes, a
bug, nothing more.”
“Unless it wasn’t him the second time.”
The centaur folded his arms defensively.
“Don’t you think I thought of that? Every one who enters or leaves
Howler’s Peak is scanned a dozen times. We take at least eighty facial points
of reference with each scan. If the computer says Boohn, then that’s who it
was. There’s no way a goblin beat my system. They barely have enough
brainpower to walk and talk at the same time.”
Holly used the pointer to review the entry video of Boohn. She
enlarged his head, using a photo-manipulation program to sharpen the image.
“What are you looking for?” asked Root.
“I don’t know, Commander. Something. Anything.”
32
It took a few minutes, but finally Holly got it. She knew immediately
that she was right. Her intuition was buzzing like a swarm of bees at the
base of her neck. “Look here,” she said, enlarging Boohn’s brow. “A scale
blister. This goblin is shedding.”
“So?” said Foaly grumpily.
Holly reopened Boohn’s exit file. “Now look. No blister.”
“So he burst the blister. Big deal.”
“No. It’s more than that. Going in, Boohn’s skin was almost gray. Now
he’s bright green. He even has a camouflage pattern on his back.”
Foaly snorted. “A lot of good camouflage is in the city.”
“What’s your point, Captain?” asked Root, stubbing out his cigar.
“Boohn shed his skin in the visitors’ room. So where’s the skin?”
There was silence for a long moment as the others absorbed the implications
of this question.
“Would it work?” asked Root urgently.
Foaly was almost dumbstruck. “By the gods, I think it would.”
The centaur pulled out a keyboard, his thick fingers flying across the
Gnommish letters. A new video box appeared on the screen. In this box,
another goblin was leaving the room. It looked a lot like Boohn. A lot, but
not exactly. Something wasn’t quite right. Foaly zoomed in on the goblin’s
head. At high magnification it was clear that the goblin’s skin was ill-fitting.
Patches were missing altogether, and the goblin seemed to be holding folds
together across his waist.
“He did it. I can’t believe it.”
“This was all planned,” said Holly. “This was no opportunistic act.
Boohn waits until he’s shedding. Then he visits his uncle and they peel off
his skin. General Scalene puts on the skin and just walks out the front door,
fooling all your scanners on the way. When Boohn’s name shows up again,
you think it’s a glitch. Simple, but completely ingenious.”
Foaly collapsed into a specially designed office chair. “This is incredible.
Can goblins do that?”
“Are you kidding?” said Root. “A good goblin seamstress can peel a skin
without a single tear. That’s what they make their clothes from, when they
bother wearing any.”
“I know that. I meant, could goblins think of this all on their own. I
don’t think so. We need to catch Scalene and find out who planned this.”
Foaly dialed a connection to the Koboi-cam in the Argon clinic. “I’m
going to check that Opal Koboi is still under. This sort of thing is just her
style.” A minute later, he swiveled to face Root. “Nope. Still in dreamland. I
don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’d hate to have Opal back in circulation,
but at least we’d know what we were up against.”
A thought struck Holly, draining the blood from her face. “You don’t
think it could be him, do you?
It couldn’t be Artemis Fowl?”
33
“Definitely not,” said Foaly. “It’s not the Mud Boy. Impossible.”
Root wasn’t convinced. “I wouldn’t be throwing that word around so
much, if I were you. Holly, as soon as we catch Scalene, I want you to sign
out a surveillance pack and spend a couple of days on the Mud Boy’s trail.
See what he’s up to. Just in case.”
“Yes, sir.”
“And you, Foaly. I’m authorizing a surveillance upgrade. Whatever you
need. I want to hear every call Artemis makes, and read every letter he
sends.”
“But, Julius. I supervised his mind wipe myself. It was a sweet job. I
scooped out his fairy memories cleaner than a goblin sucking a snail out of
its shell. If we were to turn up at Artemis’s front door dancing the cancan,
he still wouldn’t remember us. It would take some kind of planted trigger
to initiate even partial recall.”
Root did not appreciate being argued with.
“One, don’t call me Julius. Two, do what I say, horsey boy, or I’ll have
your budget slashed. And three, what in Frond’s name is the cancan?”
Foaly rolled his eyes. “Forget it. I’ll organize the upgrades.”
“Wise move,” said Root, plucking a vibrating phone from his belt. He
listened for several seconds, grunting affirmatives into the speaker.
“Forget Fowl for the moment,” he said, closing the phone. “Trouble has
located General Scalene. He’s in E37. Holly, you’re with me. Foaly, you follow
us in the tech shuttle. Apparently the general wants to talk.”
Haven City was waking up for morning trade.
Although to call it morning was a bit misleading, as there was only artificial
light this far underground. By human standards, Haven was barely
more than a village, having fewer than ten thousand inhabitants. But in fairy
terms, Haven was the largest metropolis since the original Atlantis, most of
which lay buried beneath a three-story shuttle dock in the new Atlantis.
Commander Root’s LEP cruiser cut through the rush- hour traffic, its
magnetic field automatically shunting other vehicles out of the way into
slots in the slow lane. Root and Holly sat in the back, wishing the journey
away. This situation was becoming stranger by the minute. First of all, Scalene
escapes, and now his locater shows up and he wants to talk to Commander
Root.
“What do you make of this?” asked Root eventually. One of the reasons
he made such a fine commander was that he respected his officers’
opinions.
“I don’t know. It could be a trap. Whatever happens, you can’t go in
there alone.”
Root nodded. “I know. Even I am not that stubborn. Anyway, Trouble
will probably have the situation secured by the time I get there. He doesn’t
like waiting around for the brass to arrive. Like someone else I know, eh,
Holly?”
34
Holly half grinned, half grimaced. She had been reprimanded more
than once for ignoring the order to wait for reinforcements.
Root raised the soundproof barrier between them and the driver.
“We need to talk, Holly. About the major thing.”
Holly looked her superior in the eyes. There was a touch of sadness in
them.
“I didn’t get it,” she blurted, unable to hide her relief.
“No. No, you did get it. Or you will. The official announcement is tomorrow.
The first female major in Recon history. Quite an achievement.”
“But, Commander, I don’t think that…”
Root silenced her with a wave of his finger. “I want to tell you something,
Holly. About my career. It’s actually a metaphor for your career, so
listen carefully and see if you can figure it out. Many years ago, when you
were still wearing one-piece baby suits with padded backsides, I was a hotshot
Recon jock. I loved the smell of fresh air. Every moment I spent in the
moonlight was a golden moment.”
Holly had no trouble putting herself in the commander’s shoes. She
felt exactly the same way about her own surface trips.
“So I did my job as well as I could-a little bit too well, as it happened.
One day I went and got myself promoted.”
Root clamped a purifier globe around the end of a cigar so the smell
would not stink up the car. It was a rare gesture.
“Major Julius Root. It was the last thing I wanted, so I marched in to
my commander’s office and told him so. “I’m a field fairy,” I said. “I don’t
want to sit behind a desk filling out e-forms.” Believe it or not, I got quite
agitated.”
Holly tried to look amazed, but couldn’t pull it off. The commander
spent most of his time in an agitated red-faced state which explained his
nickname, Beetroot.
“But my commander said something that changed my mind. Do you
want to know what that was?”
Root plowed on with his story without waiting for an answer. “My
commander said; “Julius, this promotion is not for you; it’s for the People.“”
Root raised one eyebrow. “Do you see what I’m getting at?”
Holly knew what he meant. It was the flaw in her argument.
Root placed a hand on her shoulder. “The People need good officers,
Holly. They need fairies like you to protect them from the Mud Men.
Would I prefer to be zipping around under the stars with the wind in my
nostrils? Yes. Would I do as much good? No.”
Root paused to suck deeply on his cigar, the glow illuminated the purifier
globe. “You’re a good Recon officer, Holly. One of the best I’ve seen. A
bit impulsive at times, not much respect for authority, but an intuitive officer,
nonetheless. I wouldn’t dream of taking you off the front lines if I didn’t
think you could serve the LEP better belowground. Do you understand?”
35
“Yes, Commander,” said Holly glumly. He was right, even if her selfish
side wasn’t ready to accept it just yet. At least she had the Fowl surveillance
to look forward to before her new job anchored her in the lower elements.
There is a perk to being a major,” said Root.
“Sometimes, just to relieve the boredom, you can give yourself an assignment.
Something on the surface. In Hawaii, maybe, or New Zealand.
Look at Trouble Kelp. He’s a new breed of major, more hands-on. Maybe
that’s what the LEP needs.”
Holly knew that the commander was trying to soften the blow. As
soon as the major’s acorns were on her lapel, she wouldn’t get aboveground
as much as she did now. If she was lucky.
“I’m putting my neck on the block here, Holly, recommending you for
major. Your career so far has been, eventful, to say the least. If you intend
to turn the promotion down, tell me now and I’ll withdraw your name.”
Last chance, thought Holly. Now or never.
“No,” she said. “I won’t turn it down.
How could I? Who knows when the next Artemis Fowl will turn up?”
In Holly’s ears, her voice sounded distant, as though someone else were
speaking. She imagined the bells of lifelong boredom clanging behind her
every word. A desk job. She had a desk job.
Root patted her on the shoulder, his huge hand knocking the air from
her lungs. “Cheer up, Captain. There is life belowground, you know.”
“I know,” Holly said with an utter lack of conviction.
The police cruiser pulled in beside E37.
Root opened the car door, began to disembark, then stopped.
“If it makes any difference,” he said quietly, almost awkwardly, “I’m
proud of you, Holly.” And he was gone, out the door and into the throng of
LEP officers training their weapons on the chute entrance.
It does make a difference, thought Holly, watching the commander instantly
take command of the situation.
A big difference.
The chutes were natural magma vents that stretched from the earth’s
core to the planet’s surface. Most emerged under water, supplying warm
streams that nurtured deep- sea life, but some filtered their gasses through
the network of cracks and fissures that riddled the dry land surface. The
LEP used the power of magma flares to propel their officers to the surface
in titanium eggs. A more leisurely shuttle trip could be taken in a dormant
chute.
E37 emerged in downtown Paris, and until recently, had been the
chute used by goblins in their smuggling operations. Closed to the public
for many years, the chute’s terminal had fallen into disrepair. Currently,
E37’s only occupants were the members of a movie company that was making
a TV film about the B’wa Kell rebellion. Holly was being portrayed by
three-time AMP winner, Skylar Peat, and Artemis Fowl was to be com36
pletely computer generated. When Holly and Root arrived, Major Trouble
Kelp had three squads of tactical LEP arranged around the terminal’s entrance.
“Fill me in, Major,” ordered Root.
Kelp pointed to the entrance. “We have one way in, and no way out.
All the secondary entrances have long since subsided, so if Scalene is in
there, he has to go through us to go home.”
“Are we sure he’s there?”
“No,” admitted Major Kelp. “We picked up his signal. But whoever
helped him to escape could have sliced open his head and removed the
transmitter. All we know for sure is that someone is playing games with us.
I sent in a couple of my best Recon sprites and they came back with this.”
Trouble handed them a sound wafer. The wafers were the size of a thumbnail
and were generally used to record short birthday greetings. This one
was in the shape of a birthday cake. Root closed his fingers around the wafer.
The heat from his hand would power its microcircuits.
A sibilant voice issued from the tiny speaker, made even more reptilian
by the cheap wiring.
“Root,” said the voice. “I would speak to you. I would tell you a great
secret. Bring the female, Holly Short. Two only, no more. Any more, and
many will die. My comrades will see to it.. The message ended with a traditional
birthday jingle, its cheeriness at odds with the message.
Root scowled. “Goblins. Drama queens, the lot of them.”
“It’s a trap, Commander,” said Holly without hesitation.
“We were the ones at Koboi Labs a year ago. The goblins hold us responsible
for the rebellion’s failure. If we go in there, who knows what’s
waiting for us.”
Root nodded approvingly. “Now you’re thinking like a major. We’re
not expendable. So what are our options, Trouble?”
“If you don’t go in, many will die. If you do, you might.”
“Not a nice set of options. Don’t you have anything good to tell me?”
Trouble lowered his helmet’s visor, consulting a mini- screen on the
Perspex. “We managed to get the terminal’s security scanners back online
and ran substance and thermal scans. We found a single heat source in the
access tunnel, so Scalene is alone, if it’s him. Whatever he’s doing in there,
he doesn’t have any known form of weaponry or explosives. Just a few beetle
bars and some good old H2O.”
“Any magma flares due?” asked Holly.
Trouble ran his index finger along a pad on his left glove, scrolling
down the screen on his visor. “Nothing for a couple of months. That chute
is intermittent. So Scalene is not planning to bake you.”
Root’s cheeks glowed like two heating coils.
“D’Arvit,” he swore. “I thought our goblin troubles were over. I’m
tempted just to send in tactical and take a chance that Scalene is bluffing.”
37
“That would be my advice,” said Trouble. “He doesn’t have anything in
there that could harm you. Give me five fairies, and we’ll have Scalene in a
wagon before he knows he’s been arrested.”
“I take it the sleeper half of the seeker-sleeper is not working?” said
Holly.
Trouble shrugged. “We have to suppose it’s not. The seeker-sleeper
didn’t function until now, and when we got here the wafer was left out for
us.
Scalene knew we were coming. He even left a message.”
Root punched his palm with a fist. “I have to go in. There’s no immediate
danger inside, and we can’t assume that Scalene hasn’t come up with a
way to carry out his threat. I don’t have a choice, not really. I won’t order
you to come with me, Captain Short.”
Holly felt her stomach lurch, but she swallowed the fear. The Commander
was right. There was no other way. This was what being an LEP officer
was all about. Protecting the People.
“You don’t have to order me, Commander. I volunteer.”
“Good. Now, Trouble, let Foaly and his shuttle through the barricade.
We may have to go in, but we don’t have to go in unarmed.”
Foaly had more weaponry crammed into the back of a single shuttle
than most human police forces had in their entire arsenal. Every inch of
wall space had a power cable screwed into it or a rifle dangling from a hook.
The centaur sat on the center, fine-tuning a Neutrino handgun. He tossed it
to Holly as she entered the van.
She caught it deftly. “Hey, careful with that.”
Foaly snickered. “Don’t worry. The trigger hasn’t been coded yet. Nobody
can fire this weapon until its computer registers an owner. Even if this
weapon did fall into goblin hands, it would be useless to them. One of my
latest developments. After the B’wa Kell rebellion, I thought it was time to
upgrade our security.”
Holly wrapped her fingers around the pistol’s grip. A red scanner light
ran the length of the plastic butt, then switched to green.
“That’s it. You’re the owner. From now on that Neutrino 3000 is a
one-female gun.”
Holly hefted the transparent gun in her fist. “It’s too light. I prefer the
2000.”
Foaly brought the gun’s specifications up on a wall screen. “It’s light,
but you’ll get used to it. On the plus side, there are no metal parts.
It’s powered by kinetics, the motion of your body, with a backup
mini-nuke cell. Naturally it’s linked to a targeting system in your helmet.
The casing is virtually impregnable, and if I do say so myself, it’s a cool
piece of hardware.”
38
Foaly passed a larger version of the gun to Root. “Every shot is registered
on the LEP computer, so we can tell who fired, when they fired, and
in what direction. That should save internal affairs a lot of computer time.”
He winked at Holly. “Something you’ll be glad to hear.”
Holly leered back at the centaur. She was well known to IA. They had
already conducted two inquiries into her professional conduct, and would
just love the opportunity backslash to conduct a third. The one good thing
about being promoted would be the looks on their faces when the. commander
pinned those major’s acorns to her lapel.
Root holstered his weapon. “Okay. Now we can shoot. But what if we
get shot?”
“You won’t get shot,” insisted Foaly.
“I’ve hacked into the terminal scanners, I’ve planted a couple of sensors
of my own, too.
There’s nothing in there that can harm you. Worst-case scenario, you
trip over your own feet and get a sprained ankle.”
Root’s complexion reddened all the way down his neck. “Foaly, do I
have to remind you that your sensors have been fooled before, in this very
terminal, if I remember correctly.”
“Okay, okay. Take it easy, Commander,” said Foaly under his breath. “I
haven’t forgotten about last year. How could I with Holly reminding me
every five minutes?”
The centaur hefted two sealed suitcases onto a workbench. He keyed
in a number sequence on their security pads and popped the lids. “These are
the next- generation Recon suits. I was planning to unveil them at the LEP
conference next month, but with a real-live commander going into action,
you better have them today.”
Holly pulled a jumpsuit from the case. It glittered briefly, then turned
the color of the van walls.
“The fabric is actually woven from cam-foil, so you are virtually hidden
all the time. It saves you using your magical shield,” explained Foaly.
“Of course the function can be turned off. The wings are built into this
suit. A completely retractable whisper design, a brand-new concept in wing
construction. They take their power from a cell on your belt, and of course
each wing is coated with mini-solars for aboveground flights. The suits also
have their own pressure equalizers; now you can go directly from one environment
to another without getting the bends.”
Root held the second suit before him. “These must cost a fortune.”
Foaly nodded. “You have no idea. Half of my research budget for last
year went to developing those suits. They won’t replace the old suit for five
years at least. Those two are the only operational models we have, so I
would appreciate getting them back. They are shockproof, fire resistant, invisible
to radar, and relay a continuous stream of diagnostic information
back to Police Plaza. The current LEP helmet sends us basic vitals data, but
39
the new suit sends a second stream of information that can tell us if your
arteries are blocked, diagnose fractured bones, and even detect dry skin. It’s
a flying clinic. There’s even a bulletproof plate on the chest, in case a human
shoots at you.”
Holly held the suit before a green plasma screen. The cam-foil instantly
turned emerald.
“I like it,” she said. “Green is my color.”
Trouble Kelp had commandeered spotlights left on-site by the movie
company and directed them into the shuttleport’s lower level. The stark
light picked up every floating speck of dust, giving the entire departures
area an underwater feel. Commander Root and Captain Short edged into
the room, weapons drawn and visors down.
“What do you think of the suit?” asked Holly, automatically keeping
track of the various displays on the inside of her visor. LEP trainees often
had difficulty developing the double focus needed to watch the terrain and
their helmet screens. This often resulted in an action known as filling the
vase, which was how LEP officers referred to throwing up in one’s helmet.
“Not bad,” replied Root. “Light as a feather, and you wouldn’t even
know you were wearing wings.
Don’t tell Foaly I said that; his head is swelled enough as it is.”
“No need to tell me, Commander,” said Foaly’s voice in his earpiece.
The speakers were a new gel-vibration variety, and it sounded as though the
centaur was in the helmet with him. “I’m with you every step of the way,
from the safety of the shuttle, of course.”
“Of course,” said Root dourly.
The pair advanced cautiously past a line of check-in booths. Foaly had
assured them that there was no possible danger in this area of the terminal,
but the centaur had been wrong before. And mistakes in the field cost lives.
The film company had decided that the actual dirt in the terminal was
not authentic enough, and so had sprayed piles of gray foam in various corners.
They had even added a doll’s head to one mound. A poignant touch, or
so they thought. The walls and escalator were blackened with fake laser
burns.
“Quite a shooting match,” said Root, grinning.
“Slightly exaggerated. I doubt if half a dozen shots were fired.”
They proceeded through the embarkation area into the docking zone.
The original shuttle used by the goblins in their smuggling runs had been
resurrected and lay in the docking bay. The shuttle had been painted gloss
black to make it seem more menacing, and a goblinesque decorated prow
had been added to its nose.
“How far?” said Root into his mike.
“I’m transferring the thermal signature to your helmets,” replied Foaly.
40
Seconds later a schematic appeared in their visors. The plan was
slightly confusing, as, in effect, they were looking down on themselves.
There were three heat sources in the building. Two were close together,
moving slowly toward the chute itself: Holly and the commander. The third
figure was stationary in the access tunnel. Inches past the third figure, the
thermoscan was whited out by the ambient heat from E37.
They reached the blast doors: seven feet of solid steel that separated
the access tunnel from the rest of the terminal. Shuttles and eggs would
glide in on a magnetized rail, to be dropped into the chute itself. The doors
were sealed.
“Can you open these remotely, Foaly?”
“But of course, Commander. I have managed, quite ingeniously, to
marry my operating system with the terminal’s old computers. That wasn’t
as easy as it sounds…”
“I’ll take your word for it,” said the commander, cutting Foaly off. “Just
push the button, before I come out there and push it with your face.”
“Some things never change,” muttered Foaly, pushing the button.
The access tunnel smelled like a blast furnace. Ancient swirls of
melted ore hung from the roof, and the ground underfoot was cracked and
treacherous. Each footfall punctured a crust of soot, leaving a trail of deep
footprints. There was another set of footprints leading to the shadowy figure
huddled on the ground a few feet from the chute itself.
“There,” said Root.
“Got him,” said Holly, resting the bull’s-eye of her laser sight on the
figure’s trunk.
“Keep him covered,” ordered the commander.
“I’m going down.”
Root advanced along the tunnel, keeping well out of Holly’s line of
fire. If Scalene did make a move, Holly would need a clear shot.
But the general (if it was him) squatted immobile, his spine curled
along the tunnel wall. His frame was covered by a full-length hooded cape.
The commander turned on his helmet PA, so he could be heard above
the howl of core wind.
“You there. Stand facing the wall. Place your hands on your head.”
The figure did not move. Holly had not expected it to. Root stepped
closer, always cautious, knees bent, ready to dive to one side.
He poked the figure’s shoulder with his Neutrino 3000.
“On your feet, Scalene.”
The poke was sufficient to knock the figure sideways. The goblin
keeled over, landing faceup on the tunnel floor. Soot flakes fluttered around
him like disturbed bats. The hood flopped to one side, revealing the figure’s
face: most important, the eyes.
“It’s him,” said Root. “He’s been mesmerized.”
41
The general’s slitted eyes were bloodshot and vacant. This was a serious
development, as it confirmed that somebody else had planned the escape,
and Holly and Root had walked into a trap.
“I recommend we leave,” said Holly.
“Immediately.”
“No,” said Root, leaning over the goblin.
“Now that we’re here, we might as well take Scalene back with us.”
He placed his free hand on the goblin’s collar, preparing to haul him to
his feet. Later, Holly would record in her report that it was at that precise
moment when things began to go terribly wrong. What had been a routine,
albeit strange, assignment, suddenly became an altogether more sinister affair.
“Do not touch me, elf,” said a voice. A hissing goblin voice. Scalene’s
voice. But how could that be? The general’s lips had not moved.
Root reared back, then steadied himself. “What’s going on here?”
Holly’s soldier’s sense was buzzing at the base of her neck.
“Whatever it is, we won’t like it. We should go, Commander, right
now.”
Root’s features were thoughtful. “That voice came from his chest.”
“Maybe he had surgery,” said Holly.
“Let’s get out of here.”
The commander reached down a hand, flipping Scalene’s cape aside.
There was a metal box strapped to the general’s chest. The box was a foot
square with a small screen in the center. There was a shadowy face on the
screen, and it was talking.
“Ah, Julius,” it said in Scalene’s voice. “I knew you’d come. Commander
Root’s famous ego would not allow him to stay out of the action.
An obvious trap, and you walked straight into it.”
The voice was definitely Scalene’s, but there was something about the
phrasing, the cadence. It was too sophisticated for a goblin. Sophisticated
and strangely familiar.
“Have you figured it out yet, Captain Short?” said the voice. A voice
that was changing. Slipping into a higher register. The tones were no longer
male, not even goblin. That’s a female talking, thought Holly. A female that
I know.
A face appeared on the screen. A beautiful and malicious face. Eyes
bright with hate. Opal Koboi’s face. The rest of the head was swathed in
bandages, but the features were only too visible.
Holly began to speak rapidly into her helmet mike. “Foaly, we have a
situation here. Opal Koboi is loose. I repeat, Koboi is loose. This whole
thing is a trap. Cordon off the area, sixteen-hundred-foot perimeter, and
bring in the medical warlocks. Someone is about to get hurt.”
The face on the screen laughed, tiny pixie teeth glinting like pearls.
“Talk all you want, Captain Short. Foaly can’t hear you.
42
My device has blocked your transmissions as easily as I blocked your
seeker-sleeper and the substance scan that I assume you ran. Your little centaur
friend can see you, though. I left him his precious lenses.”
Holly immediately zoomed in on Opal’s pixelated face. If Foaly got a
shot of the pixie, he would figure out the rest.
Again Koboi laughed. Opal was genuinely enjoying herself. “Oh very
good, Captain. You were always a smart one. Relatively speaking, of course.
Show Foaly my face and he will initiate an alert. Sorry to disappoint you,
Holly, but this entire device is constructed from stealth ore and is practically
invisible to the artificial eye. All Foaly will see is a slight shimmer of
interference.”
Stealth ore had been developed for space vehicles. It absorbed every
form of wave or signal known to fairy or man, and so was virtually invisible
to everything but the naked eye. It was also incredibly expensive to manufacture.
Even the small amount necessary to cover Koboi’s device would
have cost a warehouse full of gold.
Root straightened quickly. “The odds are against us here, Captain. Let’s
move out.”
Holly didn’t bother with relief. Opal Koboi wouldn’t make things that
easy. There was no way they were just walking out of here. If Foaly could
hijack the terminal’s computers, then so could Koboi.
Opal’s laugh stretched to an almost hysterical screech.
“M? we out? How very tactical of you, Commander.
“You’ll need to expand your vocabulary. Whatever next? Puck and
cover?”
Holly peeled back a Velcro patch on her sleeve, revealing a Gnommish
keyboard. She quickly accessed her helmet’s LEP criminal database, opening
Opal Koboi’s file in her visor.
“Opal Koboi,” said Corporal Frond’s voice. The LEP always used Frond
for voice-overs and recruitment videos. She was glamorous and elegant,
with flowing blond tresses and inch-long manicured nails that were absolutely
no use in the field. “LEP enemy number one.
Currently under guard in the J. Argon Clinic.
Opal Koboi is a certified genius, scoring over three hundred on the
standardized IQ test.
She is also a suspected megalomaniac, with an obsessive personality.
Studies indicate that Koboi may be a pathological liar, and suffers from mild
schizophrenia. For more detailed information, please consult the LEP central
library on the second floor of Police Plaza.”
Holly closed the file. An obsessive genius and a pathological liar. Just
what they needed. The information didn’t help much; it pretty much told
her what she already knew. Opal was loose, she wanted to kill them, and
she was smart enough to figure out how to do it.
43
Opal was still enjoying her triumph. “You don’t know how long I have
waited for this moment,” the pixie said, then paused. “Actually, you do
know. After all, you were the ones who wrecked my plan. And now I have
you both.”
Holly was puzzled. Opal may have serious mental issues, but that
could not be confused with stupidity. Why would she prattle on? Was she
trying to distract them?
The same thing occurred to Root. “Holly! The doors!”
Holly whirled around to see the blast doors sliding across, the sound of
their engines masked by core wind. If those doors closed they would be
completely cut off from the LEP, and at the mercy of Opal Koboi.
Holly targeted the magnetic rollers along the doors’ upper rim, sinking
blast after blast from her Neutrino into their mechanisms. The doors jerked
in their housings, but did not stop. Two of the rollers blew out, but the
massive portals’ momentum carried them together. They connected with an
ominous bong.
“Alone at last,” said Opal, sounding for all the world like an innocent
college fairy on her first date.
Root pointed his weapon at the device belted around Scalene’s middle,
as if he could somehow hurt Koboi.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“You know what I want,” replied Opal. “The question is, how am I going
to get it? What form of revenge would be the most satisfying? Naturally,
you will both end up dead, but that’s not enough. I want you to suffer as I
did. Discredited and despised. One of you at least; the other will have to be
sacrificed. I don’t really care which.”
Root retreated to the blast doors, motioning for Holly follow. “Options?”
he whispered, his back to Koboi’s device.
Holly raised her visor, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow. The
helmets were air-conditioned, but sometimes sweating had nothing to do
with temperature.
“We have to get out of here,” she said. “The chute is the only way.”
Root nodded. “Agreed. We fly up far enough to clear Koboi’s blocker
signal, then alert Major Kelp.”
“What about Scalene? He’s mesmerized to the gills; he can’t look after
himself. If we do escape, Opal is not going to leave him around as evidence.”
It was basic criminal logic. Your typical take-over-the- world types are
not averse to knocking off a few of their own if it means a clean getaway.
Root actually growled. “It really tugs my beard to put us in harm’s way
over a goblin, but that’s the job. We take Scalene with us. I want you to
sink a few charges into that box around his waist, and when the buzzing
stops, I throw him over my shoulder and we’re off up E37.”
44
“Understood,” said Holly, lowering the setting on her weapon to minimum.
Some of the charge would be transferred to Scalene, but it wouldn’t
do much more than dry up his eyeballs for a couple of minutes.
Ignore the pixie. Whatever she says, keep your mind on the job.”
“Yes, sir.”
Root took several deep breaths. Somehow it calmed Holly to see the
commander as nervous as she was. “Okay. G.”
The two elves turned and strode rapidly toward the unconscious goblin.
“Have we come up with a little plan?” said Koboi, mocking them from
the small screen. “Something ingenious, I hope. Something I haven’t thought
of?”
Grim faced, Holly tried to shut out the words, but they wormed their
way into her thoughts. Something ingenious? Hardly. It was simply the only
option open to them. Something Koboi hadn’t thought of?
Doubtful. Opal conceivably could have been planning this for almost a
year. were they just about to do exactly what she wanted?
“Sir…” began Holly, but Root was already in position beside Scalene.
Holly fired six charges at the small screen. All six impacted on Koboi’s
pixelated features. Opal’s image disappeared in a storm of static. Sparks
squeezed between the metal seams and acrid smoke leaked through the
speaker grid.
Root hesitated for a moment, allowing any charge to disperse, then
grabbed Scalene firmly by the shoulders.
Nothing happened.
I was wrong, thought Holly, releasing a breath she not realize she’d
been holding. I was wrong, thank the gods. Opal has no plan. But it wasn’t
true, and Holly didn’t really believe it.
The box around Scalene’s midriff was secured by a set of octo-bonds,
eight telescoping cables often used by the LEP to restrain dangerous criminals.
They could be locked and unlocked remotely, and once cinched, could
not be removed without the remote or an angle grinder. As soon as Root
leaned over, the octo-bonds released Scalene and whiplashed around the
commander’s torso, releasing Scalene and drawing the metal box tight to
Root’s own chest.
Koboi’s face appeared on the reverse side of the box. The smokescreen
had been just that: a smokescreen.
“Commander Root,” she said, almost breathless with malice. “It looks
like you’re the sacrifice.”
“D’Arvit!” swore Root, beating the metal box with the butt of his pistol.
The cords tightened until Root’s breath came in agonized spurts. Holly
heard more than one rib crack.
The commander fought the urge to sink to his feet.
45
Magical blue sparks played around his torso, automatically healing the
broken bones.
Holly rushed forward to help, but before she could reach her superior
officer, an urgent beeping began to emanate from the device’s speaker. The
closer she got, the louder the beep.
“Stay back,” grunted Root. “Stay back. It’s a trigger.”
Holly stopped in her sooty tracks, punching the air in frustration. But
the commander was probably right.
She had heard of proximity triggers before. Dwarfs used them in the
mines. They would set a charge in the tunnels, activate a proximity trigger,
and then set it off from a safe distance, using a stone.
Opal’s face reappeared on the screen.
“Listen to your Julius, Captain Short,” advised the pixie. “This is a
moment for caution.
Your commander is quite right: the tone you hear is indeed a proximity
trigger. If you come too close, he will be vaporized by the explosive
gel packed into the metal box.”
“Stop lecturing and tell us what you want,” snarled Root.
“Now, now, Commander, patience. Your worries will be over soon
enough. In fact they are already over, so why don’t you just wait quietly
while your final seconds tick away.”
Holly circled the commander, keeping the beep constant, until her
back was to the chute. “There’s a way out of this, Commander,” she said. “I
just need to think. I need a minute to sort things out.”
“Let me help you to sort things out,” said Koboi mockingly, her childlike
features ugly with malice. “Your LEP comrades are currently trying to
laser their way in here. Of course they will never make it in time. But you
can bet that my old school chum, Foaly, is glued to his video screen. So
what does he see? He sees his good friend Holly Short apparently holding a
gun on her commander. now why would she want to do that?”
“Foaly will figure it out,” said Root. “He beat you before.”
Opal remote-tightened the octo-bonds, forcing the commander to his
knees. “Maybe he would figure it out at that. If he had time. But unfortunately
for you, time is almost up.”
On Root’s chest, a digital readout flickered to life. There were two
numbers on the readout. A six and a zero. Sixty seconds.
“One minute to live, Commander. How does that feel?”
The numbers began ticking down.
The ticking and the beeping and Opal’s snide sniggers drilled into
Holly’s brain. “Shut it down, Koboi. Shut it down, or I swear I’ll…”
Opal’s laughter was unrestrained. It echoed through the access tunnel
like the attack screech of a harpy.
“You will what? Exactly. Die beside your commander?”
46
More cracks. More ribs broken. The blue sparks of magic circled
Root’s torso like stars caught in a whirlwind.
“Go now,” he grunted. “Holly. I am ordering you to leave.”
“With respect, Commander. No. This isn’t over yet.”
“Forty-eight,” said Opal in a happy singsong voice. “Forty-seven.”
“Holly! Go!”
“I’d listen if I were you,” said Koboi. “There are other lives at stake.
Root is already dead; why not save someone who can be saved?”
Holly moaned. Another element in an already overloaded equation.
“Who can I save? Who’s in danger?”
“Oh, no one important. Just a couple of Mud Men.”
Of course, thought Holly: Artemis and Butler. Two others who had
put a stop to Koboi’s plan.
“What have you done, Opal?” said Holly, shouting above the proximity
trigger and core wind.
Koboi’s lip drooped, mimicking a guilty child. “I’m afraid I may have
put your human friends in danger. At this very moment they are stealing a
package from the International Bank in Munich. A little package I prepared
for them. If Master Fowl is as clever as he is supposed to be, he won’t open
the package until he reaches the Kronski Hotel and can check for booby
traps.
Then a biobomb will be activated, and bye-bye obnoxious humans.
You can stay here and explain all this; I’m sure it won’t take more than a
few hours to sort out with Internal Affairs. Or you can try to rescue your
friends.”
Holly’s head reeled. The commander, Artemis, Butler. All about to die.
How could she save them?
There was no way to win.
“I will hunt you down, Koboi. For you, there won’t be a safe inch on
the planet.”
“Such venom. What if I gave you a way out? One chance to win.”
Root was on his knees now, blood leaking from the corner of his
mouth. The blue sparks were gone; he was out of magic.
“It’s a trap,” he gasped, every syllable making him wince. “Don’t be
fooled again.”
“Thirty,” said Koboi. “Twenty-nine.”
Holly felt her forehead throb against the helmet pads. “Okay. Okay,
Koboi. Tell me quickly. How do I save the commander?”
Opal took a deep theatrical breath. “On the device. There’s a sweet
spot. One inch diameter. The red dot below the screen. If you hit that spot
from outside the trigger area, then you overload the circuit. If you miss,
even by a hair, you set off the explosive gel.
It’s a sporting chance; more than you gave me, Holly Short.”
47
Holly gritted her teeth. “You’re lying. Why would you give me a
chance?”
“Don’t take the shot,” said Root, strangely calm. “Just get out of range.
Go and save Artemis. That’s the last order I’ll ever give you, Captain. Don’t
you dare ignore it.”
Holly felt as though her senses were being filtered through three feet
of water. Everything was blurred and slowed down.
“I don’t have any choice, Julius.”
Root frowned. “Don’t call me Julius! You always do that just before
you disobey me. Save Artemis, Holly. Save him.”
Holly closed one eye and aimed her pistol.
The laser sights were no good for this kind of accuracy.
She would have to do it manually.
“I’ll save Artemis next,” she said.
Holly took a deep breath, held it, and squeezed the trigger.
Holly hit the red spot. She was certain of it.
The charge sank into the device, spreading across the metal face like a
tiny bushfire.
“I hit it,” she shouted at Opal’s image.
“I hit the spot.”
Koboi shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought you were a fraction low.
Hard luck. I mean that sincerely.”
“No!” screamed Holly.
The countdown on Root’s chest ticked faster than before, flickering
through the numbers. There were mere moments left now.
The commander struggled to his feet, raising the visor on his helmet.
His eyes were steady and fearless. He smiled gently at Holly. A smile that
laid no blame. For once there wasn’t even a touch of feverish temper in his
cheeks.
“Be well,” he said, and then an orange flame blossomed in the center of
his chest.
The explosion sucked the air from the tunnel, feeding on the oxygen.
Multicolored flames roiled like the plumage of battling birds. Holly was
shunted backward by a wall of shock waves, the force impacting every surface
facing the commander. Microfilaments blew in her suit as they were
overloaded with heat and force. The camera cylinder on her helmet popped
right out of its groove, spinning into E37.
Holly herself was borne bodily into the chute, spinning like a twig in a
cyclone. Sonix sponges in her earpieces sealed automatically as the sound of
the explosion caught up with the blast. The commander had disappeared
inside a ball of flame. He was gone, there was no doubt about it. Even
magic could not help him now. Some things are beyond fixing.
The contents of the access tunnel, including Root and Scalene, disintegrated
into a cloud of shrapnel and dust, particles ricocheting off the tunnel
48
walls. The cloud surged down the path of least resistance, which was of
course directly after Holly.
She barely had time to activate her wings and climb a few meters, before
flying shrapnel drilled a hole in the chute wall below her.
Holly hovered in the vast tunnel, the sound of her own breathing filling
the helmet. The commander was dead. It was unbelievable. Just like
that, at the whim of a vengeful pixie. Had there been a sweet spot on the
device? Or had she actually missed the target? She would probably never
know. But to the LEP observers, it would seem as though she had shot her
own commander.
Holly glanced downward. Below her, fragments from the explosion
were spiraling toward the earth’s core.
As, they neared the revolving magma sphere, the heat ignited each one,
utterly cremating all that was left of Julius Root, For the briefest moment
the particles twinkled gold and bronze, like a million stars falling to earth.
Holly hung there for several minutes, trying to absorb what had happened.
She couldn’t. It was too awful. Instead she froze the pain and guilt,
preserving it for later. Right now, she had an order to follow. And she
would follow it, even if it was the last thing she ever did, because it had
been the last order Julius Root ever gave.
Holly increased the power to her wings, rising through the massive
charred chute. There were Mud Men to be saved.
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Chapter 4: Harrow Escapes

Munich

Munich during working hours was like any other major city in the
world: utterly congested. In spite of the U-bahn, an efficient and comfortable
rail system, the general population preferred the privacy and comfort
of their own cars, with the result that Artemis and Butler were stuck on the
airport road in a rush-hour traffic jam that stretched all the way from the
International Bank to the Kronski Hotel.
Master Artemis did not like delays. But today he was too focused on
his latest acquisition, The Fairy Thief, still sealed in its Perspex tube. Artemis
itched to open it, but the previous owners, Sparrow and Crane, could
have somehow booby-trapped the container.
Just because there were no visible traps didn’t mean that there
couldn’t be an invisible one. An obvious trick would be to vacuum pack the
canvas, then inject a corrosive gas that would react with oxygen, and burn
the painting.
It took almost two hours to reach the hotel, a journey that should have
taken twenty minutes. Artemis changed into a dark cotton suit, then called
up Fowl Manor’s number on his mobile phone’s speed dial. But before he
connected, he linked the phone by fire wire to his Powerbook, so he could
record the conversation. Angeline Fowl answered on the third ring.
“Arty,” said his mother, sounding slightly out of breath, as though she
had been in the middle of something.
Angeline Fowl did not believe in taking life easy, and was probably
halfway through a Tae Bo workout.
“How are you, Mother?”
Angeline sighed down the phone line. “I’m fine, Arty, but you sound
like you’re doing a job interview, as usual. Always so formal. Couldn’t you
call me Mom or even Angeline? Would that be so terrible?”
“I don’t know, Mother. Mom sounds so infantile. I am fourteen now,
remember?”
Angeline laughed. “How could I forget? Not many teenage boys ask for
a ticket to a genetics” symposium for their birthday.”
Artemis had one eye on the Perspex tube.
“And how is Father?”
“He is wonderful,” gushed Angeline. “I am surprised how well he is.
That prosthetic leg of his is marvelous, and so is his outlook. He never
50
complains. I honestly think that he’s got a better attitude toward life now
than he did before he lost his leg. He’s under the care of a remarkable
therapist, who says the mental is far more important than the physical. In
fact, we leave for the private spa in Westmeath this evening.
They use this marvelous seaweed treatment, which should do wonders
for your father’s muscles.”
Artemis Fowl senior had lost a leg before his kidnap by the Russian
Mafiya. Luckily, Artemis had been able to rescue him with Butler’s help. It
had been an eventful year. Since Artemis senior’s return, he had been making
good on his promise to turn over a new leaf and go straight. Artemis
junior was expected to follow suit, but was having trouble abandoning his
criminal ventures. Although, sometimes when he looked at his father and
mother together, the idea of being a normal son to loving parents didn’t
seem like such a far-fetched one.
“Is he doing his physiotherapy exercises twice a day?”
Angeline laughed again, and suddenly Artemis wished he were home.
“Yes, Granddad. I am making sure of that. Your father says he’ll run
the marathon in twelve months.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Sometimes I think you two would spend
your time wandering around the grounds holding hands if I didn’t check up
on you.”
His mother sighed, and static rushed through the speaker.
“I’m worried about you, Arty. Someone your age shouldn’t be quite
so… responsible. Don’t worry about us; worry about school and friends.
Think about what you really want to do. Use that big brain of yours to
make yourself and other people happy. Forget the family business. Living is
the family business now.”
Artemis didn’t know how to reply. Half of him wanted to point out
that there really would be no family business if it weren’t for him secretly
safeguarding it. The other half of him wanted to get on a plane home and
wander the grounds with his family.
His mother sighed again. Artemis hated that just talking to him could
make her worry.
“When will you be home, Arty?”
“The trip ends in three more days.”
“I mean, when will you be home for good. I know Saint Bartleby’s is a
family tradition, but we want you home with us. Principal Guiney will understand.
There are plenty of good day schools locally.”
“I see,” said Artemis. Could he do it? he wondered. Just be part of a
normal family. Abandon his criminal enterprises. Was it in him to live an
honest life?
“The holidays are in a couple of weeks. We can talk then,” he said. Using
a delay tactic, he continued, “To be honest, I can’t concentrate now. I’m
not feeling very well. I thought I might have food poisoning, but it turns out
51
to he just a twenty-four-hour bug. The local doctor says I will be fine tomorrow.”
“Poor Arty,” crooned Angeline. “Maybe I should put you on a plane
home.”
“No, Mother. I’m feeling better already. Honestly.”
“Whatever you like. I know bugs are uncomfortable, but it’s better
than a dose of food poisoning.
You could have been laid low for weeks. Drink plenty of water, and
try to sleep.”
“I will, Mother.”
“You’ll be home soon?”
“Yes. Tell father I called.”
“I will, if I can find him. He’s in the gym, I think, on the treadmill.”
“Good-bye, then.”
“Bye, Arty, we’ll talk more about this on your return,” said Angeline,
her voice low and slightly sad, sounding very far away.
Artemis ended the call and immediately replayed it on his computer.
Every time he spoke to mother he felt guilty. Angeline Fowl had a way of
awakening his conscience. This was a relatively new development. A year
ago he may have felt a tiny pinprick of guilt at lying to his mother, but now
even the minor trick he was about to play would haunt his thoughts for
weeks.
Artemis watched the sound-wave meter on his computer screen. He
was changing, no doubt about it.
This kind of self-doubt had been increasing over the past several
months-ever since he had discovered mysterious mirrored contact lenses in
his own eyes one morning. Butler and Juliet had been wearing the same
lenses. They had tried to find out where the lenses had come from, but all
that Butler’s contact in that field would say was that Artemis himself had
paid for them. Curiouser and curiouser.
The lenses remained a mystery. And so did Artemis’s feelings. On the
table before him was Herve’s The Fairy Thief, an acquisition that established
him as the foremost thief of the age. A status he had longed for since
the age of six. But now that his ambition was literally in his grasp, all he
could think about was his family.
Is now the time to retire? he thought. Age fourteen and three months,
the best thief in the world.
After all, where can I go from here? He replayed a section of the
phone conversation again:
Don’t worry about us, worry about school and Friends. Think about
what you really want to do. Use that big brain of yours to make yourself
and other people happy.
Maybe his mother was right: he should use his talents to make others
happy. But there was a darkness in him.
52
A hard surface on his heart that would not be satisfied with the quiet
life. Maybe there were ways to make people happy that only he could
achieve. Ways on the far side of the law. Over the thin blue line.
Artemis rubbed his eyes. He could not come to a conclusion. Perhaps
living at home full time would make the decision for him. Best to continue
with the job at hand. 3uy some time, and then authenticate the painting.
Even though he felt some guilt about stealing the masterpiece, it was not
nearly enough to make him give it back. Especially to Messrs. Crane and
Sparrow.
The first task was to deflect any inquiries from the school as to his activities.
He would need at least two days to authenticate the painting, as some
of the tests would need to be contracted out.
Artemis opened an audio manipulation program on his Powerbook
and set about cutting and pasting his mother’s words from the recorded
phone call.
When he had selected the words he wanted, and put them in the right
order, he smoothed the levels to make the speech sound natural.
When Principal Guiney turned on his mobile phone after the visit to
Munich’s Olympia Stadium, there would be a new message waiting for him.
It would be from Angeline Fowl, and she would not be in a good mood.
Artemis routed the call through Fowl Manor, then sent the edited
sound file by infrared to his own mobile phone.
“Principal Guiney.” The voice was unmistakably Angeline Fowl’s, and
the caller ID would confirm it. “I’m worried about Arty. He has a dose of
food poisoning. His outlook is marvelous and he never complains, but we
want him home with us. You understand. I put Arty on a plane home. I am
surprised he got a dose of food poisoning under your care. We will talk
more on your return.”
That took care of school for a few days. The dark half of Artemis felt
an electric thrill at the subterfuge, but his growing conscience felt a tug of
guilt at using his mother’s voice to weave his web of lies.
He banished the guilt. It was a harmless lie.
Butler would escort him home, and his education would not suffer
through a few days’ absence. As for stealing The Fairy Thief, theft from
thieves was not real crime. It was almost justifiable.
Yes, said a voice in his head, unbidden.
If you give the painting back to the world.
No, replied his granite-hearted half.
This painting is mine until someone can steal it away. That’s the whole
point.
Artemis banished his indecision and turned off his mobile phone. He
needed to focus completely on the painting, and a vibrating phone at the
wrong moment could cause his hand to jitter. His natural inclination was to
53
pop the stopper on the Perspex tube’s lid. But that could be more than foolish:
it could be fatal. There were any number of little gifts that Crane and
Sparrow could have left for him.
Artemis took a chromatograph from the rigid suitcase that contained
his lab equipment. The instrument would take a sample of the gas inside
the tube and process it. He chose a needle nozzle from a selection of several
and screwed it on to the rubber tube protruding from the chromatograph’s
flat end. He held the needle carefully in his left hand. Artemis was ambidextrous,
but his left hand was slightly steadier. With care, he poked the
needle through the tube’s silicon seal, into the space around the painting. It
was essential that the needle be moved as little as possible, so the container’s
gas could not leak out and mingle with the air. The chromatograph
siphoned a small sample of gas, sucking it into a heated injection port. Any
organic impurities were driven off by heating, and a carrier gas transported
the sample through a separation column and into a Flame Ionization Detector.
There, individual components were identified. Seconds later a graph
flashed up on the instrument’s digital readout. The percentages of oxygen,
hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide matched a sample taken earlier
from downtown Munich. There was a five percent slice of gas which remained
unidentified. But that was normal. This was probably caused by
complex pollution gases or equipment sensitivity. Mystery gas aside, Artemis
knew that it was perfectly safe to open the tube.
He did so, carefully slitting the seal with a craft knife.
Artemis put on a set of surgical gloves and teased the painting from
the cylinder. It plopped onto the table in a tight roll, but sprung loose almost
immediately. It hadn’t been in the tube long enough to retain the
shape. Artemis spread the canvas wide, weighing the corners with smooth
gel sacs. He knew immediately that this was no fake. His eye for art took in
the primary colors and layered brushwork. Herve’s figures seemed to be
composed of light. So beautifully were they painted that the picture seemed
to sparkle. It was exquisite. In the picture a swaddled baby slept in its sundrenched
cot near an open window. A fairy with green skin and gossamer
wings had alighted on the windowsill and was preparing to snatch the baby
from its cradle. Both of the creature’s feet were on the outside of the sill.
“It can’t go inside,” muttered Artemis absently, and was immediately
surprised. How did he know that? He didn’t generally voice opinions without
some evidence to back them up.
Relax, he told himself. It was simply a guess. Perhaps based on a sliver
of information he had picked up on one of his Internet trawls.
Artemis returned his attention to the painting itself.
He had done it.
The Fairy Thief was his, for the moment at any rate. He selected a surgical
scalpel from his kit and scraped the tiniest sliver of paint from the picture’s
border.
54
He deposited the sliver in a sample jar and labeled it. This would be
sent to the Technical University of Munich, where they had one of the giant
spectrometers necessary for carbon dating. Artemis had a contact there.
The radiocarbon test would confirm that the painting, or at least the paint,
was as old as it was supposed to be.
He called to Butler in the suite’s other room.
“Butler, could you take this sample over to the university now. Remember,
give it only to Christiana, and remind her that speed is vital.”
There was no answer for a moment, then Butler came charging
through the door, his eyes wide. He did not look like a man coming to collect
a paint sample.
“Is there a problem?” asked Artemis.
Two minutes earlier, Butler had been holding his hand to the window,
lost in a rare moment of self-absorption. He glared at the hand, almost as if
the combination of sunlight and staring would make the skin transparent.
He knew that there was something different about him. Something hidden
below the skin. He had felt strange this past year. Older. Perhaps the decades
of physical hardship were taking their toll on him.
Though he was barely forty, his bones ached at night and his chest felt
as though he were wearing a Kevlar vest all the time. He was certainly nowhere
near as fast as he had been at thirty-five, and even his mind seemed
less focused, more inclined to wander… as it is doing now, the bodyguard
scolded himself silently.
Butler flexed his fingers, straightened his tie, and got back to work. He
was not at all happy with the security of the hotel suite. Hotels were a
bodyguard’s nightmare. Service elevators, isolated upper floors, and totally
inadequate escape routes made the principal’s safety almost impossible to
guarantee. The Kronski was luxurious, certainly, and the staff efficient, but
that was not what Butler looked for in a hotel. He looked for a ground-floor
room with no windows and a six-inch steel door. Needless to say, rooms
like this were impossible to find, and even if he could find one, Master Artemis
would undoubtedly turn up his nose at it. Butler would have to make
do with this third-story suite.
Artemis wasn’t the only one with a case of instruments. Butler opened
a chrome briefcase on the coffee table. It was one of a dozen such cases that
he held in safe-deposit boxes in the world’s capitals. Each case was full to
bursting with surveillance equipment, counter surveillance equipment, and
weaponry. Having one in each country meant that he did not have to break
customs laws on each overseas trip from Ireland.
He selected a bug sweeper and quickly ran it around the room, searching
for listening devices. He concentrated on the electrical appliances:
phone, television, fax machine. The electronic waffle from those items
could often drown a bug’s signal, but not with this particular sweeper.
55
The Eye Spy was the most advanced sweeper on the market and could
detect a pinhole mike half a mile away.
After several minutes he was satisfied, and was on the point of returning
the device to the case, when it registered a tiny electrical field. Nothing
much, barely a single flickering blue bar on the indicator. The first bar solidified,
then turned bright blue. The second bar began to flicker. Something
electronic was closing in on them. most men would have discounted the
reading. After all, there were several thousand electronic devices within a
square mile of the Kronski Hotel. But normal electronic fields did not register
on the Eye Spy, and Butler was not most men. He extended the
sweeper’s aerial, and panned the device around the room. The reading
spiked when the aerial was pointed at the window. A claw of anxiety
tugged at Butler’s intestines. Something airborne was coming closer at high
speed.
He dashed to the window, ripped the net curtains from their hooks,
and flung open the window. The winter air was pale blue with remarkably
few clouds.
Jet trails crisscrossed the sky like a giant’s game of tic-tac-toe. And
there, twenty degrees up-a gentle spiraling curve- was a tear-shaped rocket
of blue metal. A red light winked on its nose, and white-hot flames billowed
from its rear end. The rocket was heading for the Kronski, no doubt
about it.
It’s a smart bomb, Butler said to himself without one iota of doubt.
And Master Artemis is the target.
Butler‘s brain began flicking through his list of alternatives. It was a
short list. There were only two choices, really: get out or die. It was how to
get out that was the problem. They were three stories up with the exit on
the wrong side. He spared a moment to take one last look at the approaching
missile. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen. Even the emission was different
from conventional weapons, with hardly any vapor trail. Whatever
this was, it was brand new. Somebody must want Artemis dead very badly.
Butler turned from the window and barged into Artemis’s bedroom.
The young master was busy conducting his tests on The Fairy Thief.
“Is there a problem?” asked Artemis.
Butler did not reply because he didn’t have time.
Instead he grabbed the teenager by the scruff of the neck and hoisted
him onto his own back.
“The painting!” Artemis managed to shout, his voice muffled by the
bodyguard’s jacket.
Butler grabbed the picture, unceremoniously stuffing the priceless
masterpiece into his jacket pocket. If Artemis had been able to see the century-
old oil paint crack, he would have sobbed.
But Butler was only paid to protect one thing, and it was not The Fairy
Thief.
56
“Hang on extremely tightly,” advised the massive bodyguard, hefting a
king-size mattress from the bed.
Artemis held on tight as he’d been told, trying not to think. Unfortunately
his brilliant brain automatically analysed the available data: Butler
had entered the room at speed and without knocking; therefore, there was
danger some kind. His refusal to answer questions meant that the danger
was imminent. And the fact that Artemis was on Butler’s back, hanging on
tightly, indicated that they would not be escaping the aforementioned danger
through conventional exit routes. The mattress would indicate that
some cushioning would be needed.
“Butler,” gasped Artemis. “You do know that we’re three stories up?”
Butler might have answered, but his employer did not hear him, because
by then the giant bodyguard had propelled them through the open
double windows and over the balcony railing.
For a fraction of a second, before the inevitable fall, the air currents
spun the mattress around, and Artemis could see back into his own bedroom.
In that splinter of a moment, he saw a strange missile corkscrew
through the bedroom door and come to a complete halt directly over the
empty Perspex tube. There was some kind of tracker in the tube, said the
tiny portion of his brain that wasn’t panicking. Someone wants me dead.
Then came the inevitable fall. Thirty feet.
Straight down.
Butler automatically spread his limbs in a skydiving X, bearing down
on the four corners of the mattress to stop it from flipping. The trapped air
below the mattress slowed their fall slightly, but not much. The pair went
straight down, fast, G-force increasing their speed with every inch.
Sky and ground seemed to stretch and drip like oil paints on a canvas,
and nothing seemed solid anymore. This impression came to an abrupt halt
when they slammed into the extremely solid tiled roof of a maintenance
shed at the hotel’s rear.
The tiles seemed to almost explode under the impact, though the roof
timbers held-barely. Butler felt as though his bones had been liquidized, but
he knew that he would be okay after a few moments of unconsciousness.
He had been in worse collisions before.
His last impression before his senses deserted him was the feel of Master
Artemis’s heartbeat through his jacket. Alive, then. They had both survived.
But for how long? If their assassin had seen his attempt fail, then
maybe he would try again.
Artemis’s impact was cushioned by Butler and the mattress. Without
them he certainly would have been killed. As it was, the bodyguard’s muscle-
bound frame was dense enough to break two of his ribs. Artemis
57
bounced a full three feet into the air before coming to rest on the unconscious
bodyguard’s back, facing the sky.
Each breath was short and painful, and two nubs of bone rose like
knuckles from his chest. Sixth and seventh rib, he guessed.
Overhead, a block of iridescent blue light flashed from his hotel window.
It lit the sky for a split second, its belly busy with even brighter blue
flares that wriggled like hooked worms. No one would pay much attention;
the light could easily have been from an oversized camera flash. But Artemis
knew better.
Bio-bomb, he thought. Now, how do I know that?
Butler was unconscious or else he would be moving, so it was up to
Artemis to foil their attacker’s next murderous attempt. He tried to sit up,
but the pain in his chest was ferocious, and intense enough to knock him
out for a second. When he came to, his entire body was slick with sweat.
Artemis saw that it was too late to escape. His assassin was already
here, crouched catlike on the shed wall. The killer was a strange individual,
no bigger than a child but with adult proportions.
She was female with pretty, sharp features, cropped auburn hair, and
huge hazel eyes, but that didn’t necessarily mean any mercy would be forthcoming.
Butler had once told him that eight of the top-ten paid hitters in
the world were women. She wore a strange jumpsuit that shifted colors to
suit the background, and those large eyes were red from crying.
Her ears are pointed, thought Artemis. Either I’m in shock, or she’s not
human.
Then he made the mistake of moving again, and one of his broken ribs
actually punched through the skin. A red stain blossomed on his shirt, and
Artemis gave up the fight to stay conscious.
It had taken Holly only ninety minutes to reach Germany. On a normal
mission it would have taken at least twice that, but Holly had decided
to break a few LEP regulations. Why not? she reasoned. It wasn’t as if she
could get into any more trouble. The LEP already thought she had killed the
Commander, and her communications were blocked so she could not explain
what really happened. No doubt she was classified as rogue, and there
was a Retrieval squad already on her tail. Not to mention the fact that Opal
Koboi was probably keeping electronic tabs on her. So there was no time to
lose.
Ever since the goblin gangs had been caught smuggling human contraband
through disused chutes, sentries had been posted in each surface shuttleport.
Paris was guarded by a sleepy gnome who was only five years from
retirement.
He was awoken from his afternoon nap by an urgent communique
from Police Plaza. There was a rogue Recon jock on the way up. Detain for
questioning.
58
Proceed with caution.
Nobody really expected that the gnome would have any success. Holly
Short was in peak physical condition and had once lived through a tussle
with a troll. The gnome sentry couldn’t even remember the last time he’d
been in shape, and had to lie down if he got a hangnail.
Nevertheless, the sentry gamely guarded the shuttlebay until Holly
blew past him on her way to the surface.
Once in the air, she peeled back a Velcro patch on her forearm, and
ran a search on her computer. The computer found the Kronski Hotel and
flashed up three route options. Holly chose the shortest one, even though it
meant passing over several major human population centers. More LEP
regulations smashed to bits. At this point she really didn’t care. Her own career
was beyond salvaging, but that didn’t matter. Holly had never been a
career elf anyway. The only reason she hadn’t already been booted out of
the LEP was the commander. He had seen her potential, and now he was
gone.
The earth flashed by below. European smells drifted through her helmet
filters. The sea, baked earth, vines, and the tang of pure snow. Generally
this was what Holly lived for, but not today. Today she felt none of the
usual aboveground euphoria. Today she simply felt alone. The commander
had been the closest thing to family she had left. Now he was gone too.
Perhaps because she had missed the sweet spot. Had she effectively killed
Julius herself? It was too awful to think about, and too awful to forget.
Holly opened her visor to clear the tears.
Artemis Fowl must be saved. As much for the commander as for himself.
Holly closed her visor, kicked up her legs, and opened the throttle to
maximum. Time to see what these new wings of Foaly’s could do.
In a little more than an hour, Holly sped into Munich’s airspace. She
dropped to a hundred feet and activated her helmet’s radar. It would be a
shame to make it this far only to be pasted by an incoming aircraft. The
Kronski showed no up as a red dot in her visor. Foaly could have sent a live
satellite feed, or at least the most recent video footage, but she had no way
to contact the centaur, and even if she did, the Council would order her
back to Police Plaza immediately.
Holly zeroed in on the red dot in her visor.
That was where the bio-bomb would be headed, so she had to go
there too. She dropped lower, until the Kronski’s roof was below her toes,
and touched down on the rooftop. She was on her own now. This was as far
as the onboard tracker could take her. She would have to locate Artemis’s
room on her own.
Holly chewed her lip for a moment, then typed a command into the
keypad on her wrist. She could have used voice command, but the software
was touchy and she did not have time for computer error. In seconds, her
onboard computer had hacked into the hotel computer and was displaying
59
a guest list and schematic. Artemis was in room 304. Third story, in the
south wing of the hotel.
Holly sprinted across the roof, activating her wings as she ran. She was
seconds away from saving Artemis. Having a mythological creature drag
him from his hotel room might be a bit of a shock, but not as much of a
shock as being vaporized by a biobomb.
She stopped dead. A guided missile was arcing in from the horizon
toward the hotel. It was fairy manufactured, no doubt about it; but it was
new, slicker and faster, with bigger tail rockets than she’d ever seen on a
missile. Opal Koboi had obviously been making upgrades.
Holly spun on her heels, racing for the other side of the hotel. In her
heart she knew she was too late, and the realization hit her that Opal had
set her up again. There never was any hope of rescuing Artemis, just as
there never had been any chance of rescuing the commander.
Before her wings even had a chance to kick in, there was a bright blue
flash from beyond the lip of the roof, and a slight shudder underfoot as the
bio-bomb detonated.
It was the perfect weapon. There would be no structural damage to
the hotel room, and the bomb casing would consume itself and leave no
evidence that it had ever been there.
Holly dropped to her knees in frustration, peeling off her helmet to
gulp breaths of fresh air. The Munich air was laced with toxins, but it still
tasted better than the belowground filtered variety.
But Holly did not notice the sweetness.
Julius was gone. Artemis was dead. Butler was dead. How could she go
on? What was the point?
Tears dropped from her lashes, running into tiny cracks in the concrete.
Get up! said her core of steel. The part of her that made Holly Short
such an excellent officer.
You are an LEP officer.
There is more at stake here than your personal grieving. Time enough
to cry later.
In a minute. I’ll get up in a minute. I just need sixty seconds.
Holly felt as though the grief had scooped out her insides. She felt hollow,
numb.
Incapacitated.
“How touching,” said a voice, robotic and familiar.
Holly did not even look up. “Koboi. Have you come to gloat? Does
murder make you happy?”
“Hmm?” said the voice, seriously considering the question. “You know,
it does. It actually does make me happy.”
Holly sniffled, shaking the last tears from her eyes. She decided that
she would not cry again until Koboi was behind bars.
60
“What do you want?” she asked, rising from the concrete roof. Hovering
at head height was a small biobomb. This model was spherical, about
the size of a melon, and equipped with a plasma screen. Opal’s happy features
were plastered across the monitor.
“Oh, I just followed you from the chute because I wanted to see what
total despair looks like. It’s not very fetching, is it?”
For a few moments the screen displayed Holly’s own distraught face
before flashing back to Opal.
“Just detonate, and be damned,” growled Holly.
The bio-bomb rose a foot, slowly circling Holly’s head.
“Not just yet. I think there’s a spark of hope in you yet. So I would like
to extinguish that. In a moment I will detonate the bio-bomb. Nice, isn’t it?
How do you like the design? Eight separate boosters, you know.
It’s what happens after the detonation that’s important.”
Holly’s law-enforcer curiosity was piqued in spite of the circumstances.
“What happens then, Koboi? Don’t tell me, world domination.”
Koboi chuckled, the volume distorting her laugh through the bomb’s
microspeakers. “World domination? You make it sound so unattainable.
The first step is simplicity itself. All I have to do is put humans in contact
with the People.”
Holly felt her own troubles instantly slip away. “Put humans in contact
with the People? Why would you do that?”
Opal’s features lost their merry cast. “Because the LEP imprisoned me.
They studied me like an animal in a cage, and now we shall see how they
like it. There will be a war, and I will supply the humans with the weapons
to win. And after they have won, my chosen nation will be the most powerful
on earth. And I, inevitably, will become the most powerful person in
that nation.”
Holly almost screamed. “All this for a childish pixie’s revenge.”
Seeing Holly’s discomfort cheered Opal immediately. “Oh no, I’m not a
pixie anymore.”
Koboi slowly unwound the bandages circling her head to reveal two
surgically rounded humanoid ears. “I’m one of the Mud People now. I intend
to be on the winning side. And my new daddy has an engineering
company. And that company is sending down a probe.”
“What probe?” shouted Holly. “What company?” Opal wagged a finger.
“Oh no, enough explaining. I want you to die desolate and ignorant.” For
one moment her face lost its false merriment, and Holly could see the hatred
in her huge eyes. “You cost me a year of my life, Short. A year of a brilliant
life.
My time is too special to be wasted, especially answering to pathetic
organizations like the LEP.
Soon I will never have to answer to anyone, ever again.”
61
Opal raised one hand into view. It was clutching a small remote. She
pressed the red button.
And as everyone knows, the red button can only mean one thing:
Holly had milliseconds to come up with a plan. The monitor fizzled out,
and a green light on the missile’s console winked red.
The signal had been received. Detonation was imminent.
Holly jumped up, hooking her helmet over the spherical bomb. She
put her weight on the helmet, bearing it down. It was like trying to submerge
a football. LEP helmets were composed of a rigid polymer that could
deflect solinium flares.
Of course, the rest of Holly’s suit was not rigid and could not protect
her from the biobomb, but maybe the helmet would be enough.
The bomb exploded, spinning the helmet into the air. Pure blue light
gushed from the underside of the helmet, dissipating across the concrete.
Ants and spiders hopped once, then their tiny hearts froze. Holly could feel
her own heart speed up, battling against the deadly solinium. She held on
for as long as she could, then the concussion bucked her off. The helmet
spun away, and the fatal light was free.
Holly flipped her wing-control to rise, reaching for the skies. The blue
light was after her like a wall of death. It was a race now. Had she gained
enough time and distance to outrun the biobomb?
Holly felt her lips drag back across her teeth. G-force rippled the skin
on her cheeks. She was counting on the fact that the bio-bomb’s active
agent was light. This meant that it could be focused to a certain diameter.
Koboi would not want to draw attention to her device by wiping out a city
block. Holly alone was her target.
Holly felt the light swipe her toes. A dreadful feeling of nothingness
crept up her leg before the magic banished it. She streamlined her body,
arcing her head back, folding her arms across her chest, willing the mechanical
wings to accelerate her to safety.
Suddenly the light dissipated. Flashed out, leaving only a dozen squirrelly
flares in its wake.
Holly had outrun the deadly light, with only minor injuries. Her legs
felt weakened, but the sensation would recede shortly. Time enough to
worry about that later. Now she had to return to the Lower Elements and
somehow warn her comrades what Opal was planning.
Holly glanced down at the roof. Nothing remained now to suggest
she’d ever been there, except the remains of her helmet, which spun like a
battered top. Generally, inanimate objects were not affected by bio-bombs,
but the helmet’s reflective layer had bounced the light around internally so
much that it had overheated. And once the helmet had shorted out, so had
all Holly’s bio-readings. As far as the LEP or Opal Koboi were concerned,
Captain Short’s helmet was no longer broadcasting her heartbeat or respiratory
rate. She was officially dead. And being dead had possibilities.
62
Something caught Holly’s eye. Far below, in the center of a cluster of
maintenance buildings, several humans were converging on one hut. With
her bird’s-eye view, Holly could see that the hut’s roof had been blown out.
There were two figures lying in the roof timbers. One was huge, a veritable
giant. The other, closer to her own size. A boy. Artemis and Butler. Could
they have survived?
Holly threw her legs up behind her, diving steeply toward the crash
site. She did not shield, conserving her magic. It looked as though every
spark of healing power she possessed would be needed, so she would have
to trust speed and her revolutionary suit to keep her hidden.
The other humans were several feet away, picking their way through
the debris. They looked curious rather than angry. Still, it was vital that
Holly get Artemis away from here, if he were alive. Opal could have spies
anywhere and a backup plan just waiting to spring into deadly operation.
It was doubtful they could cheat death again.
She landed on the shed’s gable end and peered inside.
It was Artemis, all right, and Butler. Both breathing. Artemis was even
conscious, though clearly in pain. Suddenly a red rose of blood spread across
his white shirt, his eyes rolled back, and he began to buck. The Mud Boy
was going into shock, and it looked like a rib had punctured his skin. There
could be another one in his lung. He needed healing.
Now.
Holly dropped to Artemis’s chest, placing a hand on the nubs of bone
protruding under his heart.
“Heal,” she said, and the last sparks of magic in her elfin frame sped
down her arms, intuitively targeting Artemis’s injuries. The ribs shuddered,
twisted elastically, then rejoined in a hiss of molten bone. Steam vented
from Artemis’s shuddering body as the magic flushed impurities from his
system.
Even before Artemis had finished shaking, Holly had wrapped herself
around the boy as much as possible.
She had to get him away from here. Ideally, she could have taken Butler,
too, but he was too bulky to be shielded by her slim frame. The bodyguard
would have to look out for himself, but Artemis had to be protected.
Firstly because he was undoubtedly the prime target, and secondly because
she needed his devious brain to help her to defeat Opal Koboi. If Opal intended
to join the world of men, then Artemis was the ideal foil for her
genius.
Holly locked her fingers behind Artemis’s back and hoisted his limp
body into an upright position. His head lolled on her shoulder and she could
feel his breath on her cheek. Regular. Good.
Holly bent her legs until her knees cracked. She would need all the
leverage she could get to mask their escape. Outside the voices grew closer,
and she felt the walls shake as someone inserted a key in the door.
63
“Good-bye, Butler, old friend,” she whispered.
“I’ll be back for you.”
The bodyguard groaned once, as though he had heard. Holly hated to
leave him, though there was no choice. It was either Artemis alone or no
one, and Butler himself would thank her for what she was doing.
Holly gritted her teeth, tensed every muscle in her body, and opened
the throttle wide on her wings. She took off out of that shed like a dart
from a blowpipe, kicking up a fresh cloud of dust in her wake. Even if
someone had been staring right at her, all they would have seen was dust
and a sky-colored blur, with possibly one loafered shoe poking out.
But that must have been their eyes playing tricks, because shoes
couldn’t fly. Could they?
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Chapter 5: Greet the Neighbors


E37, The Lower Elements

Foaly could not believe what was happening. His eyes were sending information
to his brain, but his brain refused to accept it. Because if he were
to accept this information, he would have to believe that his friend Holly
Short had just shot her own commander and was now attempting to escape
to the surface. This was completely impossible, though not everybody was
so reluctant to accept this.
The centaur’s mobile tech shuttle had been commandeered by Internal
Affairs. This operation now fell under their jurisdiction because an LEP officer
was suspected of a crime. All LEP personnel had been ejected from the
shuttle, but Foaly was allowed to stay simply because he was the only one
able to operate the surveillance equipment.
Commander Ark Sool was an LEP gnome who went after suspect police
fairies.
Sool was unusually tall and thin for a gnome, like a giraffe in a baboon’s
skin. His dark hair was slicked straight back in a no-nonsense style,
and his fingers and ears boasted none of the golden adornments generally so
beloved of the gnome families. Ark Sool was the highest-ranking gnome officer
in Internal Affairs, and he believed that the LEP was basically a bunch
of loose cannons who were presided over by a maverick. And now the
maverick was dead, killed, apparently, by the biggest loose cannon in the
bunch. Holly Short may have narrowly avoided criminal charges on two
previous occasions. She would not escape this time.
“Play the video again, centaur,” he instructed, tapping the worktop
with his cane. Most annoying.
“We’ve looked at this a dozen times,” protested Foaly. “I don’t see the
point.”
Sool silenced him with a glare from his red-rimmed eyes. “You don’t
see the point.” The centaur doesn’t see the point? I don’t see where that’s an
important factor in the current equation.
You, Mister Foaly, are here to press buttons, not to offer opinions.
Commander Root placed far too much value on your opinions, and look
where that got him, eh?”
Foaly swallowed the dozen or so acidic responses that were queuing on
his tongue. If he was excluded from this operation now, he could do nothing
to help Holly.
65
“Play the video. Yessir.”
Foaly cued the video from E37. It was damning stuff. Julius and Holly
hovered around General Scalene for several moments. They appeared to be
quite agitated, then for some reason, and incredible as it sounded, Holly
shot the commander with some kind of incendiary bullet. At this point they
lost all video feeds from both helmets.
“Back up the tape twenty seconds,” ordered Sool, leaning in close to
the monitor. He poked his cane into the plasma screen. “What’s that?”
“Careful with the cane,” said Foaly. “These screens are expensive. I get
them from Atlantis.”
“Answer the question, centaur. What is that?”
Sool prodded the screen twice, just to show how little he cared about
Foaly’s gizmos.
The Internal Affairs Commander was pointing to a slight shimmer on
Root’s chest.
“I’m not sure,” admitted Foaly. “It could be heat distortion, or maybe
equipment failure. Or perhaps just a glitch. I’ll have to run some tests.”
Sool nodded. “Run your tests, though I don’t expect you’ll find anything.
Short is a burnout, simple as that. She always was. I nearly had her
before, but this time it’s cut and dried.”
Foaly knew he should bite his tongue, but he had to defend his friend.
“Isn’t this all a bit convenient. First we lose sound, so we don’t know what
was said. Then there’s this fuzzy patch that could be anything; and now
we’re expected to believe that a decorated officer just up and shot her commander,
an elf who was like a father to her.”
“Yes, I see your point, Foaly,” said Sool silkily. “Very good. Nice to
know you’re thinking on some level. But let’s stick to our respective jobs,
eh? You build the machinery, and I operate it. For example, these new
Neutrinos that our field personnel are armed with?”
“Yes, what about them?” said Foaly suspiciously.
“They are personalized to each officer, am I right? Nobody else can fire
them. And each shot is registered?”
“That is correct,” admitted Foaly, all too aware where this was leading.
Sool waved his cane like a symphony conductor. “Well then, surely all
we have to do is check Captain Short’s weapon’s log to see if she fired a
shot at the precise time indicated on the video. If she did, then the film is
authentic, and Holly Short did indeed murder her commander, regardless of
what we can or cannot hear.”
Foaly ground his horsey teeth. Of course it made perfect sense. He had
thought of it half an hour ago, and already knew what the cross-referencing
would reveal. He pulled up Holly’s weapon’s log and read the relevant passage.
“Weapon registered at zero nine forty, HMT. Six pulses at zero nine
fifty-six, and then one level two pulse fired at zero nine fifty-eight.”
66
Sool slapped the cane into his palm in triumph. “One level two pulse
fired at zero nine fifty-eight. Exactly right. Whatever else happened in that
chute, Short fired on her commander.”
Foaly leaped out of his specially tailored office chair. “But a level two
pulse couldn’t cause such a big explosion. It practically caved in the entire
access tunnel.”
“Which is why Short isn’t in custody right now,” said Sool. “It will take
weeks to clean out that tunnel. I’ve had to send a Retrieval team through El,
in Tar a. They will have to travel over ground to Paris and pick up her trail
from there.”
“But what about the explosion itself?”
Sool grimaced, as though Foaly’s questions were a bitter nugget in an
otherwise delicious meal.
“Oh, I’m sure there’s an explanation, centaur. Combustible gas, or a
malfunction, or just bad luck. We’ll figure that out. For now my priority,
and yours, is to bring Captain Short back here for trial. I want you to liaise
with the Retrieval team. Feed them constant updates on Short’s position.”
Foaly nodded without enthusiasm. Holly was still wearing her helmet.
And the LEP helmet could verify her identity and relay a constant stream of
diagnostic information back to Foaly’s computers. They had no sound or
video but there was plenty of information to track Holly wherever she
might go in the world, or under it. At the moment, Holly was in Germany.
Her heart rate was elevated but otherwise she was okay.
Why did you run, Holly?
Foaly asked his absent friend silently.
If you’re innocent, why did you run?
“Tell me where Captain Short is now,” demanded Sool.
The centaur maximized the live feed from Holly’s helmet on the
plasma screen.
“She’s still in Germany, Munich, to be precise. She’s stopped moving
now. Maybe she will decide to come home.”
Sool frowned. “I seriously doubt it, centaur. She’s a bad egg, through
and through.”
Foaly fumed. Manners dictated that only a friend refer to another fairy
by species, and Sool was no friend of his. Or anyone’s.
“We can’t say that for sure,” said Foaly, through his clenched teeth.
Sool leaned even closer to the plasma screen, a slow smile stretching
his tight skin.
“Actually, centaur, you’re wrong there. I think we can safely say for
sure that Captain Short won’t be coming back. Recall the Retrieval team
immediately.”
Foaly checked Holly’s screen. The life signs from her helmet were all
flatlining. One second she was stressed but alive, and the next she was gone.
No heartbeat, no brain activity, no temperature reading. She couldn’t have
67
simply taken off the helmet, as there was an infrared connection between
each LEP officer and their helmet. No, Holly was dead, and it hadn’t been
by natural causes.
Foaly felt the tears brimming on his eyelids. Not Holly too.
“Recall the Retrieval team? Are you insane, Sool? We have to find
Holly. Find out what happened.”
Sool was unaffected by Foaly’s outburst. If anything, he appeared to
enjoy it.
“Short was a traitor and she was obviously in collusion with the goblins.
Somehow her nefarious plan backfired and she was killed. I want you
to remote-activate the incinerator in her helmet immediately, and we’ll
close the book on a rogue officer.”
Foaly was aghast. “Activate the remote incinerator! I can’t do that.”
Sool rolled his eyes. “Again with the opinions. You don’t have authority
here; you just obey it.”
“But I’ll have a satellite picture in thirty minutes,” protested the centaur.
“We can wait that long, surely.”
Sool elbowed past Foaly to the keyboard.
“Negative. You know the regulations. No bodies are left exposed for
the humans to find. It’s a tough rule, I know, but necessary.”
“The helmet could have malfunctioned,” said Foaly, grasping at straws.
“Is it likely that all the life-sign readings could have flatlined at the
same moment through equipment failure?”
“No,” admitted Foaly.
“And just how unlikely is it?”
“About one chance in ten million,” said the technical adviser miserably.
Sool picked his way around the keyboard. “If you don’t have the stomach
for it, centaur. I’ll do it myself.” He entered his password and detonated
the incinerator in Holly’s helmet.
On a rooftop in Munich, Holly’s helmet dissolved in a pool of acid.
And in theory, so did Holly’s body.
“There,” said Sool, satisfied. “She’s gone, and now we can all sleep a little
easier.”
Not me, thought Foaly, staring forlornly at the screen. It will be a very
long time before I sleep easy again.
Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
Artemis Fowl woke from a sleep haunted by nightmares. In his
dreams, strange, red-eyed creatures had ripped open his chest with scimitar
tusks and dined on his heart. He sat up in an undersized cot, both hands flying
to his chest. His shirt was caked with dried blood, but there was no
wound.
68
Artemis took several deep shuddering breaths, pumping oxygen
through his brain.
Assess the situation, Butler always told him.
If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, become familiar with it before
opening your mouth. Ten seconds of observation could save your life.
Artemis looked around, eyelids fluttering like camera shutters, absorbing
every detail. He was in a small box room, about ten square feet. One
wall was completely transparent and appeared to look out over the Dublin
quays. From the position of the Millennium Bridge, the room was somewhere
in the Temple Bar area. The chamber itself was constructed from a
strange material. Some kind of silver-gray fabric. Rigid, but malleable, with
several plasma screens on the opaque walls. It was all extremely hi-tech, but
seemed years old, and almost abandoned.
In the corner, a girl sat hunched on folding chair. She cradled her head
in both hands, her shoulders hitching gently with sobs.
Artemis cleared his throat. “Why are you crying, girl?”
The girl jerked upright, and it became immediately obvious that this
was no normal girl. In fact, she appeared to belong to a totally different species.
“Pointed ears,” noted Artemis, with surprising composure. “Prosthetic
or real?”
Holly almost smiled through her tears. “Typical Artemis Fowl. Always
looking for options. My ears are very real, as you well know… knew.”
Artemis was silent for several moments, processing the wealth of information
in those few sentences.
“Real pointed ears? Then you are of another species, not human. Possibly
a fairy?”
Holly nodded. “I am a fairy. Actually, an elf. I’m what you would call a
leprechaun too, but that’s just a job.”
“And fairies speak English, do they?”
“We speak all languages. The gift of tongues, it is part of our magic.”
Artemis knew that these revelations should send his world spinning on
its axis, but he found himself accepting every word. It was as though he had
always suspected the existence of fairies, and this was simply confirmation.
Although, strangely, he could not remember ever having even thought
about fairies before this day.
“And you claim to know me? Personally or from some kind of surveillance?
You certainly seem to have the technology.”
“We’ve known you for a few years now, Artemis.
You made first contact, and we’ve been keeping an eye on you ever
since.”
Artemis was slightly startled. “I made first contact?”
“Yes. December, two years ago. You kidnapped me.”
69
“Is this your revenge? That explosive device? My ribs?” A horrible
thought struck the Irish boy. “And what about Butler ? Is he dead?”
Holly did her best to answer all of these questions.
“It is revenge, but not mine. And Butler is alive. I just had to get you
out of there before another attempt was made on your life.”
“So we’re friends now?”
Holly shrugged. “Maybe. We’ll see.”
All of this was slightly confusing. Even for a genius.
Artemis crossed his legs in the lotus position and rested his temples
against pointed fingers.
“You had better tell me everything,” he said, closing his eyes. “From the
beginning. And leave nothing out.”
So Holly did. She told Artemis how he had kidnapped her, then released
her at the last moment. She told him how they had journeyed to the
Arctic to rescue his father, and how they had foiled a goblin rebellion bankrolled
by Opal Koboi.
She recounted in great detail their mission to Chicago to steal back the
C Cube, a super computer constructed by Artemis from pirated fairy technology.
Finally, in a small quiet voice, she told of Commander Root’s death
and of Opal Koboi’s sinister plot to bring the fairy and human worlds together.
Artemis sat perfectly still, absorbing hundreds of incredible facts. His
brow was slightly creased as if the information were difficult to digest.
Finally, when his brain had organized the data, he opened his eyes.
“Very well,” he said. “I don’t remember any of this, but I believe you. I
accept that we humans have fairy neighbors below the planet’s surface.”
“Just like that?”
Artemis’s lip curled. “Hardly. I have taken your story and crossreferenced
it with the facts as I know them. The only other scenario that
could explain everything that has happened, up to and including your own
bizarre appearance, is a convoluted conspiracy theory involving the Russian
Mafiya and a crack team of plastic surgeons. Hardly likely. But your fairy
story fits, right down to something that you could not know about, Captain
Short.”
“Which is?”
“After my alleged mind wipe, I discovered mirrored contact lenses in
my own eyes and Butler’s. Investigation revealed that I myself had ordered
the lenses, though I had no memory of the fact. I suspect that I ordered
them to cheat your mesmer”
Holly nodded. It made sense. Fairies had the power to mesmerize humans,
but eye contact was part of the trick, coupled with a mesmeric voice.
Mirrored contact lenses would leave the subject completely in control,
while pretending to be under the mesmer.
70
“The only reason for this would be if I had planted a trigger somewhere.
Something that would cause my fairy memories to come rushing
back. But what?”
“I have no idea,” said Holly. “I was hoping that just seeing me would
trigger recall.”
Artemis smiled in a very annoying way. As one would at a small child
who had just suggested that the moon was made of cheese.
“No, Captain. I would guess that your Mister Foaly’s mind-wiping
technology is an advanced version of the memory-suppressant drugs being
experimented with by various governments. The brain, you see, is a complex
instrument; if it can be convinced that something did not happen, it
will invent all kinds of scenarios to maintain that illusion. Nothing can
change its mind, so to speak.
Even if the conscious accepts something, the mind wipe will have convinced
the subconscious otherwise. So, no matter how convincing you are,
you cannot convert my altered subconscious. My subconscious probably believes
that you are a hallucination or a miniature spy. No, the only way that
my memories could be returned to me would be if my subconscious could
not present a reasonable argument; say, if the one person that I trust completely
presented me with irrefutable evidence.”
Holly felt herself growing annoyed. Artemis could get under her skin
like nobody else. A child who treated everyone like children.
“And who is this one person that you trust?”
Artemis smiled genuinely for the first time since Munich. “Why, myself,
of course.”
Munich
Butler woke to find blood dripping from the tip of his nose. It was
dripping onto the white hat of the hotel chef. The chef stood with a group
of hotel kitchen staff in the middle of a destroyed storage shed. The man
gripped a cleaver in his hairy fist, just in case this giant on the tattered mattress
wedged into the rafters was a madman.
“Excuse me,” said the chef politely, which is unusual for a chef, “are
you alive?”
Butler considered the question. Apparently, unlikely as it seemed, he
was alive. The mattress had saved him from the strange missile.
Artemis had survived, too. He remembered feeling his charge’s heartbeat
just before he passed out.
It wasn’t there now.
“I am alive,” he grunted, a paste of tile dust and blood spilling from his
lips. “Where is the boy who was with me?”
The crowd assembled in the ruined shed looked at one another.
71
“There was no boy,” said the chef finally. “You fell through the roof all
on your own.”
Doubtless, this group would like an explanation or they would inform
the police.
“Of course there was no boy. Forgive me; the mind tends to wander after
a three-story fall.”
The group nodded as one. Who could blame the giant being a touch
rattled?
“I was leaning against the railing, sunning myself, when the railing gave
way. Lucky for me, I managed to grab the mattress on the way down.”
This explanation was met with the mass skepticism it thoroughly deserved.
The chef voiced the group’s doubts.
“You managed to grab a mattress?”
Butler had to think quickly, which is not easy when all the blood in
your body is concentrated in your forehead.
“Yes. It was on the balcony. I had been resting in the sun.”
This entire sun business was extremely unlikely. Especially considering
that it was the middle of winter. Butler realized that there was only one
way to dispel the crowd. It was drastic, but it should work.
He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small spiral pad.
“Of course, I intend to sue the hotel for damages. Trauma alone should
be worth a few million euros. Not to mention injuries. I presume I can
count on you good people as witnesses.”
The chef paled, as did the others. Giving evidence against one’s employers
was the first step to unemployment.
“I… I don’t know, sir,” he stammered.
“I didn’t actually see anything.” He paused to sniff the air. “I think I
smell my Pavlova burning. Dessert will be ruined.”
The chef hopped over the chunks of shattered tile, disappearing back
into the hotel. The remaining staff followed his lead, and within seconds,
Butler was on his own again. He smiled, though the action sent a flare of
pain down his neck. The threat of a lawsuit generally scattered witnesses as
effectively as any gunfire.
The giant Eurasian disentangled himself from the remains of the rafters.
He really had been amazingly lucky not to be impaled on the beams.
The mattress had absorbed most of the impact, and the timbers were rotten
and had splintered harmlessly.
Butler dropped to the floor, brushing dust from his suit. His priority
now was to find Artemis. It seemed likely that whoever had made the attempt
on his life had taken the boy. Although, why would someone try to
kill him and then take him prisoner? Unless their unknown enemy had
taken advantage of the situation and decided to seek a ransom.
Butler returned to the hotel room, where everything was as they had
left it. There was absolutely no sign that anything had exploded in here. The
72
only unusual things revealed by Butler’s investigations were small clusters of
dead insects and spiders.
Curious. It was as though the blue flash of light only affected living
things, leaving buildings unaffected.
A blue rinse, said his subconscious, but his conscious self took no notice.
Butler quickly packed Artemis’s box of tricks, and of course his own.
The weapons and surveillance equipment would be held in a safe-deposit
box at the airport. He left the Kronski Hotel without checking out. An
early checkout would arouse suspicion, and with any luck, this entire matter
could be resolved before the students on the school trip returned home.
The bodyguard collected the Hummer in the hotel car park and set off
for the airport. If Artemis had been kidnapped, then the kidnappers would
contact Fowl Manor with their ransom demand. If Artemis had simply removed
himself from danger, he had always been told to head for home. Either
way, the trail led to Fowl Manor, so that was where Butler intended to
go.
Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland Artemis had recovered sufficiently for his
natural curiosity to surface. He walked around the cramped room, touching
the spongy surface of the walls.
“What is this place? Some form of surveillance hide?”
“Exactly,” said Holly. “I was on stakeout here a few months ago. A
group of rogue dwarfs were meeting their jewelry fences here. From the
outside, this is just another patch of sky on top of a building. It’s a cham
pod.”
“Cam, camouflage?”
“No, cham, chameleon. This suit is cam, camouflage.”
“You do know, I suppose, that chameleons don’t actually change color
to suit their surroundings. They change according to mood and temperature.”
Holly looked out over Temple Bar. Below them thousands of tourists,
musicians, and residents were winding their way through the small artisans’
streets.
“You’d have to tell Foaly about that. He names all this stuff.”
“Ah, yes,” said Artemis. “Foaly. He is a centaur, is he not?”
“That’s right.” Holly turned to face Artemis.
“You’re taking this very calmly. Most humans completely freak out
when they find out about us. Some go into shock.”
Artemis smiled. “I am not most humans.”
Holly turned back to the view. She was not going to argue with that
statement.
“So tell me, Captain Short. If all I am to the Fairy People is a threat,
why did you heal me?”
Holly rested her forehead against the cham pod’s translucent face.
73
“It’s our nature,” she replied. “And of course, I need you to help me to
find Opal Koboi. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”
Artemis stood beside her at the window.
“So, first you mind-wipe me, and now you need me?”
“Yes, Artemis. Gloat all you like. The mighty LEP need your help.”
“Of course, there is the matter of my fee,” said Artemis, I buttoning his
jacket across the bloodstain on his shirt.
Holly rounded on him. “Your fee? Are you serious? After all the Fairy
People have done for you?
Can’t you just do something good for once in your life?”
“Obviously you elves are an emotional race.
Humans are slightly more business-minded. Here are the facts: you are
a fugitive from justice, on the run from a murdering pixie genius. You have
no funds and few resources. I am the only one who can help you track
down this Opal Koboi. I think that’s worth a few bars of anybody’s gold.”
Holly glowered at him. “Like you said, Mud Boy. I don’t have any resources.”
Artemis spread his hands magnanimously.
“I’m prepared to accept your word. If you can guarantee me one metric
ton of gold from your hostage fund, I will devise a plan to defeat this
Opal Koboi.”
Holly was in a hole and she knew it.
There was no doubt that Artemis could give her the edge over Opal,
but it galled her to pay someone who used to be a friend. “And what if Koboi
defeats us?”
“If Koboi defeats and presumably murders us both, then you can consider
the debt null and void.”
“Great,” growled Holly. “It would almost be worth it.”
She left the window and began raiding the pod’s medical chest. “You
know something, Artemis. You’re exactly how you were when we first
met: a greedy Mud Boy who doesn’t care about anyone beside himself. Is
that really how you want to be for the rest of your life?”
Artemis’s features remained static, but below the surface his emotions
were in turmoil. Of course he was right to ask for a fee. It would be stupid
not to.
But even asking had made him feel guilty. It was this idiotic newfound
conscience. His mother seemed to be able to activate it at will, and this
fairy creature could do it too. He would have to keep a tighter check on his
emotions.
Holly finished raiding the cabinet. “Well, Mister Consultant, what’s our
first move?”
Artemis did not hesitate. “There are only two of us, and we are not
very tall. We need reinforcements. As we speak, Butler will be making for
Fowl Manor. He may be there already.”
74
Artemis turned on his cell phone and speed dialed Butler. A recorded
message told him that the customer he was trying to reach was not available.
He declined the offer to try again, instead dialing Fowl Manor. An answering
machine cut in after the third ring. Obviously his parents had already
left for the spa in Westmeath.
“Butler,” said Artemis to the recorder. “You are well, I hope. I myself
am fine. Listen very carefully to what I have to tell you, and believe me,
every word is true…” Artemis proceeded to summarize the day’s events.
“We will arrive at the manor shortly. I suggest we stock up on essentials and
proceed to a safe house…”
Holly tapped him on the shoulder. “We should get out of here. Koboi
is no fool. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had some backup plan in case we
survived.”
Artemis covered the mouthpiece with his palm. “I agree. That is what
I would do. This Koboi person is probably on her way right now.”
As if on cue, one of the pod walls fizzled and dissolved. Opal Koboi
stood in the hole, flanked by Merv and Scant Brill. The pixie twins were
armed with transparent plastic handguns. Merv’s gun barrel glowed gently
in the aftermath of his wall-melting shot.
“Murderer!” shouted Holly, reaching for her gun.
Merv casually put a blast close enough to her head to singe her eyebrows.
Holly froze, raising her hands in submission.
“Opal Koboi, I presume?” said Artemis; although, if Holly had not told
him the whole story, he never would have guessed that the female before
him was anything but a human child. Her black hair was braided down her
back, and she wore a checked pinafore of the type worn by a million
schoolgirls around the world. Her ears were, of course, rounded.
“Artemis Fowl, how nice to see you again. I do believe that in different
circumstances we could have been allies.”
“Circumstances change,” said Artemis. “Perhaps we can still be allies.”
Holly chose to give Artemis the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was
acting like a traitor to save their skins. Maybe.
Opal fluttered her long, curved eyelashes. “Tempting, but no. I feel the
world is only large enough for one child genius. And now that I’m pretending
to be a child, that genius would be me. Meet Belinda Zito, a girl with
big plans.”
Holly reached a hand toward her weapon, but stopped when Merv
leveled his transparent handgun at her.
“I know you,” she said to the Brill brothers. “The Pixie twins. You were
on TV.”
Scant couldn’t hold back a grin. “Yes, on Canto. It was the season’s
highest-rated show. We’re thinking of writing a book, aren’t we, Merv? All
about how we…”
75
“Finish each other’s sentences,” completed Merv, though he knew it
would cost him.
“Shut up, you utter imbecile,” snapped Opal, shooting Merv a poisonous
glare.
“Keep your weapon up and your mouth closed. This is not about you;
it is about me. Remember that and I might not have to liquidize the pair of
you.”
“Yes, of course, Miss Koboi. It’s all about you.”
Opal almost purred. “That’s right. It’s always about me. I am the only
important one here.”
Artemis casually slipped one hand into his pocket. The one holding
the cell phone that was still connected to Fowl Manor.
“If I may, Miss Koboi. This delusion of self-importance is common
among those recently awakened from comas. It is known as the Narcissus
Syndrome. I wrote a paper on this precise subject for the Psychologists
Yearbook, under the pseudonym Sir E. Brum. You have spent so much time
in your own company, so to speak, that everyone else has become unreal…”
Opal nodded at Merv. “For heaven’s sake, shut him up.”
Merv was glad to oblige, sinking a blue power slug into Artemis’s
chest. The Irish boy dropped in mid lecture.
“What have you done?” shouted Holly, dropping to Artemis’s side. She
was relieved to find a steady heartbeat under the bloodied shirt.
“Oh no,” said Opal. “Not dead, merely painfully stunned. He is having
quite a day, young Artemis.”
Holly’s pretty features were distorted by grief and outrage as she glared
at the small pixie. “What do you want from us? What else can you do?”
Opal’s face was the picture of innocence.
“Don’t blame me. You have brought this on yourself.
All I wanted to do was bring down fairy society as we know it, but oh
no, you wouldn’t have it. Then I planned a couple of relatively simple assassinations,
but you insisted on surviving. Kudos to you for evading the biobomb,
by the way. I was watching the whole thing from sixty-five feet up
in my stealth shuttle. Containing the solinium with an LEP helmet. Good
thinking. But now, because you have caused me so much trouble and exasperation,
I think I will indulge myself a little.”
Holly swallowed the fear that was crawling up her throat. “Indulge
yourself?”
“Oh yes. I had a nasty little scenario planned for Foaly-something theatrical
involving the Eleven Wonders. But now I have decided that you are
worthy of it.”
Holly tensed herself. She should go for her gun, there was no other option.
But she had to ask; it was fairy nature: “How nasty?”
Opal smiled, and evil was the only word for that expression. “Troll
nasty,” she said. “And one more thing. I am telling you this because you are
76
about to die, and I want you to hate me at the moment of your death as
much as I hate you.” Opal paused, allowing the tension to build. “Do you
remember the sweet spot on the bomb I strapped to Julius?”
Holly felt as though her heart had expanded to fill her entire chest. “I
remember.”
Opal’s eyes flared. “Well, there wasn’t one.”
Holly went for her gun, and Merv hit her in the chest with a blue
charge. She was asleep before she hit the ground.
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Chapter 6: Troll Hasty


Under the Atlantic Ocean,
Two Miles off the Kerry Coast, Irish Waters

Ten thousand feet below the surface of the Atlantic, an LEP subshuttle
was speeding through a minor volcanic trench toward the mouth of
a subterranean river. The river led to an LEP shuttleport where the subshuttle’s
passengers could transfer to a regular craft.
The craft had three passengers and a pilot. The passengers were a
dwarf felon and the two Atlantis marshals who were transporting him.
Mulch Diggums, the felon in question, was in high spirits for someone
in prison clothes. The reason being that his appeal had finally come through,
and his lawyer was optimistic that all charges against his client were about
to be quashed on a technicality.
Mulch Diggums was a tunnel dwarf who had abandoned the mines in
favor of a life of crime.
He removed items of value from Mud People’s houses and sold them
on the black market. In the past few years his destiny had become intertwined
with those of Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, and he had played a
key part in their adventures.
Inevitably this roller-coaster lifestyle had come crashing down around
him as the long arm of the LEP closed in. Before he had been led away to
serve the remainder of his sentence, Mulch Diggums was permitted to say
good-bye to his human friend.
Artemis had given him two things: one was a note advising him to
check the dates on the original search warrant for his cave. The other was a
gold medallion to be returned to Artemis in two years. Apparently Artemis
wished to resurrect their partnership at that time. Mulch had studied the
medallion a thousand times, searching for its secrets, until his constant rubbing
wore down the gold plating to reveal a computer disk beneath.
Obviously Artemis had recorded a message to himself. A way to return
the memories that the LEP had taken from him.
As soon as he had been transported to the Deeps Maximum Security
Prison outside Atlantis, Mulch had put in a request for a counsel call. When
his state-appointed attorney had grudgingly turned up, Mulch advised him
to check the dates on the search warrant leading to his original arrest. Somehow,
amazingly, the dates were wrong. According to the LEP computer,
Julius Root had searched his cave before obtaining a search warrant. The
78
warrant nullified this and all later arrests. All that remained was a lengthy
processing period and one last interview with the arresting officer, and
Mulch would be a free dwarf.
Finally, the day had come. Mulch was being shuttled to Police Plaza for
his meeting with Julius Root. Fairy law allowed Root one thirty-minute interview
to squeeze some kind of confession from Mulch. All the dwarf had
to do was stay quiet, and he would be eating vole curry in his favorite dwarf
chophouse by dinnertime.
Mulch closed his fist around the medallion. He had no doubt who was
pulling the strings here. Somehow, Artemis had hacked the LEP computer
and changed his records. The Mud Boy was setting him free.
One of the marshals, a slight elf with Atlantean gills, sucked a slobbery
breath through his neck, letting it out through his mouth.
“Hey, Mulch,” he wheezed. “What are you going to do when your appeal
is turned down? Are you gonna crack up like a little girl? Or are you
gonna take it real stoic, like a dwarf should?”
Mulch smiled, exposing his unfeasibly large number of teeth. “Don’t
worry about me, fishboy. I’ll be eating one of your cousins by tonight.”
Generally the sight of Mulch’s tombstone teeth was enough to freeze
any smart-aleck comments, but the Marshal was not used to back talk from
an inmate.
“Keep at it with the big mouth, dwarf. I have plenty of rocks for you
to chew back in the Deeps.”
“In your dreams, fishboy,” retorted Mulch, enjoying the banter after
months of kowtowing.
The officer rose to his feet. “It’s Vishby, the name is Vishby.”
“Yes, fishboy, that’s what I said.”
The second officer, a water sprite with batlike wings folded behind his
back, chuckled.
“Leave him alone, Vishby. Don’t you know who you’re talking to? This
here is Mulch Diggums. The most famous thief under the world.”
Mulch smiled, though fame is not a good thing when you’re a thief.
“This guy has a whole list of genius moves to his credit.”
Mulch’s smile faded as he realized that he was about to be the butt of
more jokes.
“Yeah, so, first he steals the Jules Rimet trophy from the humans and
tries to sell it to an undercover LEP fairy.”
Vishby sat rubbing is hands in glee. “You don’t say? What a brain!
How does it fit in that itty-bitty head?”
The sprite strutted along the shuttle’s aisle, delivering his lines like an
actor. “So then he lifts some of the Artemis Fowl gold, and lays low in Los
Angeles. And do you want to know how he lays low?”
Mulch groaned.
“Tell me,” wheezed Vishby, his gills unable to suck in air fast enough.
79
“He buys his self a penthouse apartment and starts building a collection
of stolen Academy Awards.”
Vishby laughed until his gills flapped.
Mulch could take it no longer. He shouldn’t have to put up with this;
he was virtually a free fairy, for goodness’ sake. “Hisself? Hisself? I think
you’ve spent a bit too long under water. The pressure is squashing your
brain.”
“My brain is squashed?” said the sprite. “I’m not the one who spent a
couple of centuries in prison. I’m not the one wearing manacles and a
mouth ring.”
It was true. Mulch’s criminal career had not exactly been an unqualified
success. He had been caught more than he’d escaped. The LEP was just
too technologically advanced to evade. Maybe it was time to go straight,
while he still had his looks.
Mulch shook the chains that shackled him to a rail in the holding area.
“I won’t be wearing these for long.”
Vishby opened his mouth to respond, then paused.
A plasma screen was flashing red on a wall panel. Red was urgent.
There was an important message coming through. Vishby hooked an earphone
over his ear and turned the screen away from Mulch. As the message
was delivered, his face lost every trace of levity. Several moments later, he
tossed the headphones on the console.
“It looks like you’ll be wearing those chains for a bit longer than you
thought.”
Mulch’s jaw strained against the steel mouth ring.
“Why? What’s happened?”
Vishby scratched a strip of gill rot on his neck. “I shouldn’t tell you
this, convict, but Commander Root has been murdered.”
Mulch couldn’t have been more shocked if they had connected him to
the underworld grid.
“Murdered? How?”
“Explosion,” said Vishby. “Another LEP officer is the prime suspect.
Captain Holly Short. She’s missing, presumed dead on the surface, but that
hasn’t been confirmed.”
“I’m not a bit surprised,” said the water sprite. “Females are too temperamental
for police work. They couldn’t even handle a simple transport
job like this.”
Mulch was in shock. He felt as though his brain had snapped its moorings
and was spinning in his head. Holly murdered Julius? How could that
be possible? It wasn’t possible, simple as that.
There must be a mistake. And now Holly was missing, presumed dead.
How could this be happening?
“Anyways,” continued Vishby. “We gotta turn this crate around and
head back to Atlantis.
80
Obviously your little hearing is being postponed indefinitely, until this
entire mess gets sorted out.”
The water sprite slapped Mulch playfully on the cheek. “Tough break,
dwarf. Maybe they’ll get the red tape untangled in a couple of years.”
Mulch barely felt the slap, though the words penetrated. A couple of
years. Could he take a couple of years in the Deeps? Already his soul cried
out for the tunnels. He needed to feel soft earth between his fingers. His insides
needed real roughage to clear them out. And of course, there was a
chance that Holly was still alive and needed help. A friend. He had no option
but to escape.
Julius dead. It couldn’t be true.
Mulch mentally leafed through his dwarf abilities to select the best
tool for this escape. He had long since forfeited his magic by breaking most
of the Fairy Book’s commandments, but dwarfs had extraordinary gifts
granted them by evolution.
Some of these were common knowledge among the People, but
dwarfs were a notoriously secretive race who believed that their survival
depended on concealing these talents. It was well known that dwarfs excavated
tunnels by ingesting the earth through their unhinged jaws, then
ejecting the recycled dirt and air through the other end. Most fairies were
aware that dwarfs could drink through their pores, and if they stopped
drinking for a while, then these pores ISO were transformed into minisuction
cups. Fewer People knew that dwarf spit was luminous, and hardened
when layered. And no one knew that a by-product of dwarf flatulence was
a methane-producing bacterium called Methanobrevibacter smithii, which
prevented decompression sickness in deep-sea divers. In fairness, dwarfs
didn’t know this either; all they knew was that on the rare occasion they
found themselves accidentally burrowing into the open sea, the bends did
not seem to affect them.
Mulch thought about it for a moment and realized that there was a
way to combine all of his talents and get out of here. He had to put his onthe-
hoof plan into effect immediately, before they went into the deep Atlantic
trenches. Once the subshuttle went too deep, he would never make
it.
The craft swung in a long arc until it was heading back the way it had
come. The pilot would punch the engines as soon as they were outside Irish
fishing waters. Mulch began to lick his palms, smoothing the spittle through
his halo of wild hair.
Vishby laughed. “What are you doing, Diggums? Cleaning up for your
cell mate?”
Mulch would have dearly loved to unhinge his jaw and take a bite out
of Vishby, but the mouth ring prevented him from opening his mouth far
enough to unhinge. He had to content himself with an insult.
81
“I may be a prisoner, fishboy, but in ten years I’ll be ISI free. You, on
the other hand, will be an ugly bottom-feeder for the rest of your life.”
Vishby scratched his gill rot furiously.
“You just bought yourself six weeks in solitary, mister.”
Mulch slathered his fingers with spittle and spread it around the crown
of his head, reaching as far back as the manacles would allow. He could feel
his hair hardening, clamping onto his head like a helmet. Exactly like a helmet.
As he licked, Mulch drew great breaths of air through his nose, storing
the air in his intestines. Each breath sucked air out of the pressurized space
faster than the pumps could push it back in.
The marshals did not notice this unusual behavior, and even if they
had, the pair would doubtless have put it down to nerves. Deep breathing
and grooming. Classic nervous traits. Who could blame Mulch for being
nervous; after all, he was heading back to the very place criminals had
nightmares about.
Mulch licked and breathed, his chest blowing up like a bellows. He
felt the pressure fluttering down below, anxious to be released.
Hold on, he told himself.
You will need every bubble of that air.
The shell on his head crackled audibly now, and if the lights had been
dimmed, it would have glowed brightly. The air was growing thin, and
Vishby’s gills noticed, even if he didn’t.
They rippled and flapped, boosting their oxygen intake. Mulch sucked
again, a huge gulp of air. A bow plate clanged as the pressure grew.
The sea sprite noticed the change first.
“Hey, fishboy.”
Vishby’s pained expression spoke of years enduring this nickname.
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Okay, Vishby, keep your scales on. Is it getting hard to breathe in
here? I can’t keep my wings up.”
Vishby touched his gills; they were flapping like bunting in the wind.
“Wow. My gills are going crazy. What’s happening here?” He pressed the
cabin intercom panel. “Everything all right?
Maybe we could boost the air pumps.”
The voice that came back was calm and professional, but with an unmistakably
anxious undertone. “We’re losing pressure in the holding area.
I’m trying to nail down the leak now.”
“Leak?” squeaked Vishby. “If we depressurize at this depth, the shuttle
will crumple like a paper cup.”
Mulch took another huge breath.
“Get everyone into the cockpit,” the voice declared. “Come through
the air lock, right now.”
“I don’t know,” said Vishby. “We’re not supposed to untie the prisoner.
He’s a slippery one.”
82
The slippery one took another breath. And this time a stern plate actually
buckled with a crack like thunder.
“Okay, okay. We’re coming.”
Mulch held out his hands. “Hurry up, fishboy. We don’t all have gills.”
Vishby swiped his security card along the magnetic strip on Mulch’s
manacles. The manacles popped open. Mulch was free. As free as you can
be in a prison sub with ten thousand crushing feet of water overhead. He
stood, taking one last gulp of air.
Vishby noticed the act. “Hey, convict, what are you doing?” he asked.
“Are you sucking in all the air?”
Mulch burped. “Who, me? That’s ridiculous.”
The sprite was equally suspicious. “He’s up to something. Look, his
hair is all shiny. I bet this is one of those secret dwarf arts.”
Mulch tried to look skeptical. “What? Air-sucking and shiny hair? I’m
not surprised we kept it a secret.”
Vishby squinted at him. His eyes were red rimmed, and his speech was
slurred from oxygen deprivation. “You’re up to something. Put out your
hands.”
Being shackled again was not part of the plan. Mulch feigned weakness.
“I can’t breathe,” he said, leaning against the wall. “I hope I don’t die in your
custody.”
This statement caused enough distraction for Mulch to heave one
more mighty breath. The stern plate creased inwardly and a silver stress line
cracked through the paint. Red pressure lights flared on all over the compartment.
The pilot’s voice blared through the speaker.
“Get in here!” he shouted, all traces of composure gone. “She’s gonna
fold.”
Vishby grabbed Mulch by the lapels. “What did you do, dwarf?”
Mulch sank to his knees, flicking open the bum-flap at the rear of his
prison overalls.
He gathered his legs beneath him, ready to move.
“Listen, Vishby,” he said. “You’re a moron, but not a bad guy, so do
like the pilot says and get in there.”
Vishby’s gills flapped weakly, searching for air. “You’ll be killed, Diggums.”
Mulch winked at him. “I’ve been dead before.”
Mulch could hold on to the gas no longer. His digestive tract was
stretched like a magician’s animal balloon. He folded his arms across his
chest, aimed the coated tip of his head at the weakened plate, and let the
gas loose.
The resultant emission shook the subshuttle to its very rivets, sending
Mulch rocketing across the hold. He slammed into the stern plate, smack in
the center of the fault line, punching straight through. His speed popped
83
him through into the ocean perhaps half a second before the sudden change
in pressure flooded the sub’s chamber. Half a second later, the rear chamber
was crushed like a ball of used tinfoil.
Vishby and his partner had escaped to the pilot’s cockpit just in time.
Mulch sped toward the surface, a stream of released gas bubbles clipping
him along at a rate of several knots. His dwarf lungs fed on the trapped
air in his digestive tract, and the luminous helmet of spittle sent out a corona
of greenish light to illuminate his way.
Of course they came after him. Vishby and the water sprite were both
amphibious Atlantean dwellers. As soon as they jettisoned the wreckage of
the rear compartment, the marshals cleared the air lock, finning after their
fugitive. But they never had a prayer: Mulch was gas powered, they merely
had wings and fins. Whatever pursuit equipment they’d had was at the bottom
of the ocean, along with the rear compartment, and the cockpit’s
backup engines could barely outrun a crab.
The Atlantis marshals could only watch as their captive jetted toward
the surface, mocking them with every bubble from his behind.
Butler‘s cell phone had been reduced to so much plastic chips and wiring
by the jump from the hotel window. This meant that Artemis could not
call him if he needed immediate assistance. The bodyguard double-parked
the Hummer outside the first Phonetix store he saw, and purchased a triband
phone and car kit. Butler activated the phone on the way to the airport
and punched in Artemis’s number.
No good. The phone was switched off. Butler hung up and tried Fowl
Manor. Nobody home and no messages.
Butler breathed deeply, stayed calm, and floored the accelerator. The
drive to the airport took less than ten minutes. The giant bodyguard did not
waste time returning the Hummer to the rental agency car park, preferring
to abandon it in the passenger drop-off area. It would be towed, and he
would be fined, but he didn’t have time to worry about it now.
The next plane to Ireland was fully booked, so Butler paid a Polish
businessman two thousand euro for his first- class ticket, and in forty-five
minutes he was on the Aer Lingus shuttle to Dublin airport. He kept trying
Artemis’s number until they started the engines, and switched his phone on
again as soon as the wheels touched down.
It was dark by the time he left the Arrivals terminal. Less than half a
day had passed since they had broken into the safe-deposit box in Munich’s
International Bank. It was incredible that so much could happen in such a
short time. Still, when you worked for Artemis Fowl II, the incredible was
almost a daily occurrence. Butler had been with Artemis since the day of his
birth, just over fourteen years ago, and in that time he had had been dragged
into more fantastic situations than the average presidential bodyguard.
84
The Fowl Bentley was parked in the prestige level of the short-stay car
park. Butler slotted his new phone into the car kit and tried Artemis again.
No luck. But when he remote-accessed the mailbox at Fowl Manor
there was one message.
From Artemis. Butler’s grip tightened on the leather steering wheel.
Alive. The boy was alive at least.
The message started well enough, then took a decidedly strange turn.
Artemis claimed to be unhurt, but perhaps was suffering from a concussion
or posttraumatic stress, because Butler’s young charge also claimed that fairies
were responsible for the strange missile. A pixie, to be precise.
And now he was in the company of an elf, which was apparently a
completely different animal to a pixie. Not only that, but the elf was an old
friend named Holly, whom they had forgotten. And the pixie was an old
enemy who they couldn’t remember. It was all very strange. Butler could
only conclude that Artemis was trying to tell him something, and that hidden
inside this crazed meandering was a message. He would have to analyse
the tape as soon as he returned to Fowl Manor.
Then the recording became an unfolding drama.
More players entered the range of the Artemis’s microphone. The alleged
pixie, Opal, and her bodyguards joined the group. Threats were exchanged
and Artemis tried to talk his way out. It didn’t work. If Artemis
had a fault it was that he tended to be very patronizing, even in crisis situations.
The pixie, Opal, or whoever it really was, certainly didn’t take kindly
to being spoken down to. It appeared that she considered herself every inch
Artemis’s equal, if not his superior. She ordered Artemis silenced in midlecture,
and her command was obeyed instantly. Butler experienced a moment
of dread, until the pixie stated that Artemis was not dead, merely stunned.
Artemis’s new ally had been similarly stunned, but not before she
learned of the pixie’s theatrical plan. Something to do with the Eleven
Wonders, and trolls.
“You cannot be serious,” muttered Butler, pulling off the motorway at
the exit for Fowl Manor.
To the average passerby it would seem as though several rooms in the
manor at the end of the avenue were occupied, but Butler knew that the
bulbs in these rooms were all on timers, and would alternate at irregular intervals.
There was even a stereo system wired to each room that would
pump talk radio into various areas of the house. All measures designed to
put off the casual burglar. None of which, Butler knew, would put off a
professional thief.
The bodyguard opened the electronic gates and sped up the pebbled
driveway. He parked the car directly in front of the main door, not bothering
to place it in the shelter of the double garage. He pulled his handgun
and clip holster from a magnetic strip under the driver’s seat. It was possible
85
that the kidnappers could have sent a representative. He could already be
inside the manor.
Butler knew as soon as he opened the front door that something was
wrong. The alarm’s thirty-second warning should have begun its countdown
immediately, but it did not. This was because the entire box was encased in
some shiny crackling fiberglass-like substance. Butler poked it gingerly. The
stuff glowed and seemed almost organic.
Butler proceeded along the lobby, sticking to the walls. He glanced
toward the ceilings. Green lights winked in the shadows. At least the cctv
cameras were still working. Even if the manor’s visitors had left, he could
get a look at them on the security tapes.
The bodyguard’s foot brushed against something. He glanced down. A
large crystal bowl lay on the rug, the remains of a sherry trifle slopping in its
base. Beside it lay a wad of gravy-encrusted tinfoil. A hungry kidnapper?
Five feet on he found an empty Moet champagne bottle and a decimated
chicken carcass. Just how many intruders had been here?
The remnants of food formed a trail that led toward the study. Butler
followed it upstairs, stepping over a half- eaten T-bone steak, two chunks
of fruitcake, and a Pavlova shell. A light shone from the study doorway,
casting a small shadow into the hall. There was someone in the study. A not
very tall someone. Artemis?
Butler’s spirits rose for a second when he heard his employer’s voice,
but they sank just as quickly.
He recognized those words; he had listened to them himself in the car.
The intruder was playing the taped message on the answering machine.
Butler crept into the study, stepping so lightly that his footfalls would
not have alerted a deer.
Even from the back, this intruder was a strange fellow. He was barely
three feet tall, with a stocky torso and thick muscled limbs. His entire body
appeared to be covered with wild wiry hair that seemed to move independently.
His head was encased in a helmet of the same glowing substance that
had incapacitated the alarm box. The intruder wore a blue jumpsuit with a
flap in the seat. The flap was half unbuttoned, giving Butler a view of a
hairy rear end that seemed unsettlingly familiar.
The taped message was coming to an end.
Artemis’s abductor was describing what was in store for the Irish boy.
“Oh yes,” she said. “I had a nasty little scenario planned for Foaly-something
theatrical involving the Eleven Wonders. But now I have decided that you
are worthy of it.”
“How nasty?” asked Artemis’s new ally, Holly.
“Troll nasty,” responded Opal.
The Fowl Manor intruder made a loud sucking noise, then discarded
the remains of an entire rack of lamb.
“Not good,” he said. “This is really bad.”
86
Butler cocked his weapon, aiming it squarely at the intruder.
“It’s about to get worse,” he said.
Butler sat the intruder in one of the study’s leather armchairs, then
pulled a second chair around to face him. From the front, this little creature
looked even stranger. His face was basically a mass of wirelike hair with
eyes and teeth. The eyes occasionally glowed red like a fox’s, and the teeth
looked like two rows of picket fencing. This was no hairy child: this was an
adult creature of some sort.
“Don’t tell me,” sighed Butler. “You’re an elf.”
The creature sat up straight. “How dare you,” he cried. “I am a dwarf,
as you very well know.”
Butler thought back to Artemis’s confusing message. “Let me guess. I
used to know you, but somehow I forgot. Oh yes, the fairy police wiped my
mind.”
Mulch burped. “Correct, you’re not as slow as you look.”
Butler raised the gun. “This is still cocked, so less of the lip, little man.”
“Pardon me, I didn’t realize we were enemies now.”
Butler leaned forward in his chair. “We were friends?”
Mulch thought about it. “Not at first, no. But I think you grew to love
me for my charm and noble character.”
Butler sniffed. “And personal hygiene?”
“That’s not fair,” objected Mulch. “Do you have any idea what I had to
do to get here? I escaped from a sub-shuttle and swam a couple of miles in
freezing cold water. Then I had to break into a blacksmith’s in the west of
Ireland, about the only place they still have blacksmiths, and snip off my
mouth ring. Don’t ask. Then I burrowed across the entire country to find
out the truth about this affair. And when I get here one of the few Mud
Men I don’t feel like taking a bite out of is pointing a gun at me.”
“Hold on a minute,” said Butler. “I need to get a tissue to wipe my
eyes.”
“You don’t believe any of this, do you?”
“Do I believe in fairy police and pixie conspiracies and tunneling
dwarfs? No, I don’t.”
Mulch slowly reached inside his jumpsuit and pulled out the goldplated
computer disk. “Maybe this will open your mind.”
Butler turned on one of Artemis’s Powerbooks, making sure the laptop
was not connected to any other computer by wire or infrared. If this disk
did contain a virus, then they would only lose one hard drive. He cleaned
the disk off with a spray and cloth and slid it into the multidrive.
The computer asked for a password.
“This disk is locked,” said Butler. “What’s the password?”
Mulch shrugged, a French baguette in each hand. “Hey, I don’t know.
It’s Artemis’s disk.”
87
Butler frowned. If this really was Artemis’s disk, then Artemis’s password
would open it. He typed in three words, Aurum est potestas: Gold is
power. The family motto. Seconds later the locked disk icon was replaced
by a window containing two folders. One was labeled Artemis, the other
Butler. Before the bodyguard opened either, he ran a virus check, just in
case. The check came up clean.
Feeling strangely nervous, Butler opened the folder with his name on
it. There were more than a hundred files on it. Mostly text files, but some
video, too. The largest file was labeled view me first.
Butler double-clicked that file.
A small Quick-Time player opened on the screen.
In the picture, Artemis was seated at the very desk that the laptop
rested on. Bizarre. Butler clicked the PLAY triangle.
“Hello, Butler,” said Artemis’s voice, or a very sophisticated fake. “If
you are watching this, then our good friend Mister Diggums has come
through.”
“You hear that?” spat Mulch through a mouthful of bread.
“Good friend Mister Diggums.”
“Quiet!”
“Everything you think you know about this planet is about to change,”
continued Artemis. “Humans are not the only sentient beings on Earth, in
fact we are not even the most technologically advanced. Below the surface
are several species of fairy. Most are possibly primates, but I have not had
the opportunity to conduct medical examinations as of yet.”
Butler could not hide his impatience. “Please, Artemis. Get to the
point.”
“But more of that at another time,” said Artemis, as if he had heard.
“There is a possibility that you are watching this at a time of peril, so I must
arm you with all the knowledge that we have gathered during our adventures
with the Lower Elements Police.”
Lower Elements Police? thought Butler. This is all a fake. Somehow it’s
fake.
Again, the video-Artemis seemed to read his thoughts.
“In order to verify the fantastical facts that I am about to reveal, I will
say one word. Just one. A word that I could not possibly know unless you
had told me. Something you said as you lay dying, before Holly Short cured
you with her magic. What would you tell me if you lay dying, old friend.
What would be the single word you would say?”
I would tell you my first name, thought Butler. Something only two
other people in the world know. Something completely forbidden by bodyguard
etiquette, unless it is too late to matter.
Artemis leaned in to the camera. “Your name, my old friend, is Domovoi.”
Butler was reeling. Oh my God, he thought. It’s true, it’s all true.
88
Something began to happen in his brain. Disjointed images flashed
through his subconscious, releasing repressed memories. The false past was
swept away by blinding truth. An electric connect-the-dots jolted through
his cranium, making everything clear. It all made sense now. He felt old because
the healing had aged him. He found it difficult to breath sometimes
because Kevlar strands had been woven into the skin over his chest wound.
He remembered Holly’s kidnapping, and the B’wa Kell goblin revolution.
He remembered Holly and Julius, the centaur Foaly, and of course, Mulch
Diggums. There was no need to read the other files; one word had been
enough. He remembered everything.
Butler studied the dwarf with fresh eyes.
Everything was so familiar now. The vibrating frizz of hair, the bowlegged
stance, the smell. He sprang from his chair and strode across the
room to Mulch, who was busy raiding the study’s minifridge.
“Mulch, you old reprobate. Good to see you.”
“Now he remembers,” said the dwarf without turning around. “Do you
have anything to say?”
Butler glanced at the open bum-flap. “Yes.
Don’t point that thing at me. I’ve seen the damage it can do.”
The bodyguard’s smile froze on his face as he remembered one detail
of Artemis’s phone message.
“Julius Root. I heard something about a bomb.”
Mulch turned from the fridge, his beard laced with a cocktail of dairy
products.
“Yes. Julius is gone. I can’t believe it. He’s been chasing me for so many
years.”
Butler felt a terrific weariness weigh on his shoulders. He had lost too
many comrades over the years.
“And what’s more,” continued Mulch. “Holly is accused of murdering
him.”
“That’s just not possible. We have to find them.”
“Now you’re talking,” said the dwarf, slamming the fridge door. “Do
you have a plan?”
“Yes. Find Holly and Artemis.”
Mulch rolled his eyes. “Pure genius. It’s a wonder you need Artemis at
all.”
Now that the dwarf had eaten his fill, the two reacquainted friends sat
at the conference table and brought each other up to speed.
Butler cleaned his gun as he spoke. He often did this in times of stress.
It was a comfort thing.
“So, Opal Koboi somehow gets out of prison and hatches this complicated
plot to revenge herself on everyone who put her in there. Not only
that, but she sets Holly up to take the blame.”
“Remind you of anyone?” asked the dwarf.
89
Butler polished the Sig Sauer’s slide.
“Artemis may be a criminal, but he is not evil.”
“Who said anything about Artemis?”
“Well what about you, Mulch? Why didn’t Opal try to kill you?”
“Ah well,” sighed the dwarf, ever the martyour.
“The LEP didn’t advertise my involvement. It wouldn’t do to have the
proud officers of our police force tarnished by association with a known
criminal.”
Butler nodded. “It makes sense. So you’re safe for now and Artemis and
Holly are alive.
But Opal has something planned for them. Something to do with trolls
and the Eleven Wonders. Any ideas?”
“We both know about trolls, right?”
Butler nodded again. He had fought a troll not so long ago. Without a
doubt the toughest battle he had ever been involved in. He couldn’t believe
the LEP had managed to wipe it from his mind.
“But what about the Eleven Wonders?”
“The Eleven Wonders is a theme park in Haven’s old-town district.
Fairies are obsessed with Mud Men, so one bright spark billionaire thought
it would be a great idea to build smaller models of the human wonders of
the world and put them all in one place. It did okay for a few years, but I
think looking at those buildings made the People remember just how much
they missed the surface.”
Butler ran through a list in his head. “But there are only seven wonders
in the world.”
“There used to be eleven,” said Mulch. “Trust me, I have photographs.
Anyway, the park is closed down now. That whole area of the city has been
abandoned for years; the tunnels are not safe. And the whole place is overrun
by trolls.” He stopped suddenly, the horror of what he had just said hitting
home. “Oh gods. Trolls.”
Butler began to quickly reassemble his weapon.
“We need to get down there right now.”
“Impossible,” said Mulch. “I can’t even begin to think how.”
Butler dragged the dwarf to his feet and propelled him toward the
door. “Maybe not. But you know someone. People in your business always
know someone.”
Mulch ground his teeth thinking about it. “You know, there is someone.
A sprite who owes Holly his life. But whatever I persuade him to do
for us won’t be legal.” Butler grabbed a bag of weaponry from a cabinet.
“Good,” he said. “Illegal is always faster.”
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