For all the Fowl fans who journeyed to the Lower
Elements with me. Thank you.
Ériú; Present Day
The Berserkers layarranged ina spiralunder the rune
stone, loopingdown, downinto the earth—boots out,
he...
bloodypurpose burns bright inour souls.
It was the hatred ofhumankind that kept the spark
alive—that and the black magic o...
Fromthe case notes of Dr. Jerbal
Argon, Psych Brotherhood
1. Artemis Fowl, once self-proclaimed teenage
criminal mastermin...
5. Discuss mytheoryofrelativitywithArtemis.
Could make for a veryinterestingchapter inmy
V-book:Foiling Fowl: Outsmarting ...
gnome limped directlyto his chair. He dropped into the
embrace ofits padding, slappingthe armrest controls
untilthe gelsac...
to showyousome inkblots, and youtellme what the
shapes suggest to you.”
Artemis’s moanwas extended and theatrical.
“Inkblo...
“Knowingthe number does not answer the
question. What do yousee?”
Artemis allowed his lip to wobble. “I see anax
drippingw...
“Whatever,”said Argon, wavingthe quibble away.
“I did a little research, and it turns out that the Fowls
have beena bother...
this huge magicalevent—canyoube more specific?”
Argonshrugged. “Our records don’t go back that
far. I’d saywe’re talkingab...
problem.”Artemis pulled a folded napkinfromhis
pocket. “I sketched a designwhile youkept me waiting
these past fewsessions...
“I can’t stand to look at youperched ona fairy
stool,”Foalyhad told him. “It offends myeyes. You
look like a monkeypassing...
Artemis emerged fromArgon’s office, his self-satisfied
smirk evenmore pronounced thanusual. WhenButler
sawthis expression,...
Artemis felt a pangofsympathyfor his bodyguard,
anemotionhe had beenexperiencingmore and more in
recent months. It was dif...
soulto power their systems, clones were doomed to a
short life ofnegligent brainactivityand organfailure. This
particular ...
inevitablyreminded ofthe clone’s gene donor.
That pixie is poison, she thought bitterly. Whatever
she touches withers and ...
consultant Foaly, and that the centaur had labeled it
urgent.
“Foaly. What is it? I’mat the clinic, babysitting
Artemis.”
...
“Situation?”
Hollystrode past, forcingthe others to follow.
“Opal,”she said inEnglish.
Butler’s face hardened. “Eyes on?”
...
humanairport-walkwaysystems. There were platforms
throughout the city, and alla personhad to do was step
onto a belt and g...
Butler shot the elfa look that would have cowed a
bull. Hollywas a dear friend, but her teasingcould be
relentless. He tip...
ownheritage eachtime theypass through. How
wonderful, thought Butler; but he suppressed his
admiration, as he had longago ...
repelled fromthe giant human. Artemis took this path
into the Situationroomto find Commander Trouble
Kelp and Foalystandin...
“Watchthe show, Captain,”he said tightly. “It’s
prettyself-explanatory.”
There were three figures onscreen, a kneelingpris...
said Foalycaustically.
The hubbub inthe roomrose as, onscreen, one of
the two bulkygnomes standingbehind Opaldrewa
humanau...
no distractionfromoutside. The remainingfour stood in
a ragged semicircle before the wallscreen, watching
what would appea...
“Did he just say–?”
“Yeah. Fifteenminutes, or Opal’s dead.”
Butler popped a translator bud into his ear. This
was too impo...
but we can’t just stand byand allowher to be murdered
either.”
The computer had picked up the references to
Koboionscreena...
Artemis frowned. “Myfirst impressionis to callit a
bluff. But Opal’s plans always take into account first
impressions.”
“I...
Hollycrazy.
“What are youtalkingabout?”shouted Holly.
“What willwe know? Howwillwe knowwhatever it
is?”
Artemis stared dow...
“Just to be clear,”said Artemis, “do youwishto be
told what the word ramifications means? Or to know
what the ramification...
existence is suddenlynegated bya quantumanomaly?”
Trouble raised his arms. “Whoa! Simple and to the
point, remember?”
Foal...
Violently and combust were words that
Commander Kelp understood well.
“Release its energy? Howviolently?”
Artemis shrugged...
Hollyfound herselfred-faced withsuddenfury.
“You’re talkingas thoughOpalis alreadydead.”
Artemis was not sure what to say....
and hunt her down. Get Atlantis onthe line now. I need
to speak to the wardenat the Deeps. Is it stillVinyáya?”
Artemis sp...
wayhelp…
He clenched his fists tillhis fingers creaked. “Okay.
Talk.”
“The Deeps is powered bya naturalfissionreactor
ina ...
and everysoulinit, whichis unthinkable to anyone
except Opalherself.”
Foalyhad alreadybrought up the prisonplans.
“The rea...
course no actualbutton, just a sensor onthe touch
screen.
“Hold it, Captain!”ordered Trouble.
“I ama trained negotiator, s...
two biggnomes pickingona pixie.
Pip waggled his gunat Kip, and the meaningwas
clear. Why don’t we just shoot her now?
Holl...
the prettyones always stupid?”He turned to the camera.
“Youknowwhat youcando for us. We told you
already. Release OpalKobo...
Pip waved his guncarelessly. “Ohyeah, the
quantumlaws. We knowabout that, don’t we, Kip?”
“Quantumlaws,”said Kip. “Ofcours...
out ofAtlantis innine minutes. It’s not possible. They
need to suit up, pressurize, maybe; go throughthe
conduits to opens...
The Deeps, Atlantis
OpalKoboiwas makinga futile attempt to levitate when
the guards came for her. It was somethingshe had ...
blame. The centaur, Foaly—he drove me to it. I do
hope he is killed inthe explosion.
Opalsmirked inself-satisfaction. Ther...
white noise ofterror.
She knows, Opalrealized. Poor thing.
This moment ofsympathyfor her younger selfdid
not last long, as...
pixies gained inbrawntheygenerallysacrificed inbrains,
and so theymade the idealprisonguards, havingno
respect for anyone ...
The elevator cube flashed downward througha hundred
yards ofsoft sandstone to a smallchamber composed
entirelyofhyperdense...
“That sounded prettygood, Jumbo, except for the
do be at the end,”said the dwarf, whose name was
KolinOzkopy. “But evenso,...
percent planetarycoverage. Hell, I once took a callona
spaceship.”
Hollyswiped the mike sensor. “We’re movingas
fast as we...
unlike him, as Artemis detested bothpoor grammar and
poor manners. His skintone faded frompale to
porcelain, and he actual...
“We were minutes into this crisis before the clone’s
relevance occurred to me,”he said. “IfNopalhad been
created at a late...
that I canbe blamed for Opal’s latest stunt.”
Butler’s face blazed a fewshades redder than
Artemis could remember havingse...
their weapons into the magma chutes. Leave anything
that might have Koboitechnologybehind. Phones,
games, everything.”
“Al...
me.”
Pip grinned, and his mask echoed the expression.
“Oooh, Artemis Fowl. Wonder boy. We’ve heard
ofyoualright, haven’t w...
instructions to the letter.”
Pip’s mask software was not able to cope withhis
rapid expressionchange and froze momentarily...
Amemorypresented itselfofsix-year-old Artemis
and his father walkingthe estate. As theypassed the
barnwallonthe upper past...
gentlydownhis breastplate, as undramatic as a paint
drip runningdowna jar. His kitty-cat cartoonface
seemed comicallysurpr...
“There’s no time,”she said, correctlyguessingthat
he was headed for home.
“I must tryto save myfamilyfromthe next stage of...
The Deeps, Atlantis
Opaldid not enjoybeingforced into the depths ofthe
tube bya flat-topped ramrod, but once she was down
...
would die. Worse still, she herselfmight cease to exist,
or morphinto some kind oftime-mutant. But Opaldealt
withthese wor...
and rapped the steelwallofthe elevator withhis
knuckles.
Hollywas relieved to find that there was no pattern
inthe rapping...
ignoringthe usualX-rayprotocols and jumpingover
barriers and turnstiles. Sprites flewillegallylow, their
wings grazingthe ...
She need never know.
But Pip knewthat she would take one look inhis
eyes and knoweverything. For a second Pip thought
abou...
Police Plaza
Foalyfelt his forelock droop under the weight of
perspirationand tried to remember what his parting
comment t...
borne bycertainfairies ifit meant reachingtheir shuttle in
time. Elves shoaled around his knees like cleaner-fish,
several...
shimmeringinthe polished steelbelowlike a sprite
trapped inanother dimension.
“Don’t worry, Chix,”said Holly, pattingButle...
stretchout inthe back. Ridingthe off-roader was
Butler’s favorite part ofhis underworld visits.
Off-roader!Foalyhad snorte...
ofthe blockycraft and had locked onto the supplyrail
before the doors had sealed.
Artemis and Butler leaned back and allow...
“We canmake it,”Artemis said, his voice close to
a panicked wheeze.
Up ahead the mouthto hellbeganto close as the
giant dw...
focus necessaryto send blink commands to the sensors
inher lenses and actuallylook at what was infront of
her.
“Close,”she...
his bodylanguage was clearlythat ofa reluctant
assassin.
He tried to regainsome ofthat old cavalier spirit by
wavinghis gu...
grewquiet as the entire force waited for the
repercussions ofthe murder theyhad just witnessed.
Whichquantumtheorywould pr...
planet. Nothing will stand in my way.
This was allverymelodramatic, but Opaldecided
that, under the circumstances, her eve...
be destroyed utterlybyher ownpower, evennowbeing
released as electrons shifted orbits and nuclei
spontaneouslysplit. Her b...
wrongverb, as Artemis Fowlwas not inthe habit of
imagininganything. Evenas a smallboy, he had never
nurtured daydreams ofh...
equipment; but Opalhad also severalshadow
companies that illegallyextended her influence to the
humanworld and eveninto sp...
three floors to sink into the depression. Fortunatelythe
upper floors were bolted to the cavernroof, whichheld
firmand sav...
Precious manuscripts were lost. Banks collapsed as all
financialrecords for the past fiftyyears were completely
wiped out....
LUCKILY for CaptainHollyShort and the passengers in
the Silver Cupid, Foalywas so paranoid where Opal
was concerned and so...
have agreed was preferable to their beingdead.
The shuttle soared onthe thermals, borne aloft like
a dandelionseed inthe G...
Holly?”
Hollyconsidered what was under the hood. “I can
shave fifteenminutes offthe usual, but it’s stillgoingto
be a coup...
Atlantis
Opaltook a fewmoments to congratulate herselfon
once againbeingabsolutelycorrect inher theorizingand
thenlayabsol...
“This is Frondsday,”proclaimed KolinOzkopy,
chinjutting. “I could be doingwithout allthis bleeping
nonsense ona Frondsday....
momentarily, and the poor sentence construction
forgotten. Ozkopywas not entirelyhappywithOpal
insultinghis retinas.
“Wort...
Atlantis and the crushingoceanwithequal
offhandedness, reorganizingthe atomic structure of
anythingthat stood inher way.
S...
Ériú, a.k.a. The Fowl Estate
Buried ina descendingspiralaround the lock, the
Berserkers grewagitated as magic was let loos...
Can you feel the shift? Oro called downto the
spirits ofhis warriors. Be prepared to push forward
when the gate is opened....
The fort inquestionwas anold Martello tower that
stood sentryona hilloverlookingDublinBay. The fort
had beenworndownto a n...
It was true to saythat the brothers loved each
other more thantheyloved themselves, but Myles lived
ina state ofconstant f...
downstairs bathroomand fertilized personally.
“Okay, Beck,”she called downfromthe tower.
“Just put the underpants down, ki...
underpants, Beck. Whydon’t youburythemas a gift for
Papa Rabbit?”
“Rabbits don’t need underpants,”said a sinister
little v...
house for lunch. What’s onthe menutoday?”
Myles sheathed his sword. “I would like a croque
madame, withchilled grape juice...
disquiet. Where were these noises comingfrom? It
sounded as thoughthere was a war zone nearby.
Juliet followed Myles to th...
“Don’t worry, boys,”she said. “I willprotect you.”
She reached into her pocket. Insituations like this
where things were v...
tower.
Oro ofthe Berserkers felt a moment ofdoubt.
Perhaps this anticipationoffreedomis merelya
yearning, he thought.
No. ...
Tara Shuttleport, Ireland
WhenCaptainHollyShort attempted to dock inher
assigned shuttle bay, she found Tara’s electromagn...
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Artemis fowl the last guardian

  1. 1. For all the Fowl fans who journeyed to the Lower Elements with me. Thank you.
  2. 2. Ériú; Present Day The Berserkers layarranged ina spiralunder the rune stone, loopingdown, downinto the earth—boots out, heads in, as the spelldemanded. Ofcourse, after ten thousand years underground, there were no physical boots or heads. There was just the plasma ofblack magic holdingtheir consciousness intact, and eventhat was dissipating, taintingthe land, causingstrange strains ofplants to appear and infectingthe animals with uncommonaggression. Inperhaps a dozenfullmoons the Berserkers would be gone utterly, and their last spark ofpower would flowinto the earth. We are not alldisappeared yet, thought Oro ofthe Danu, captainofthe Berserkers. We are readyto seize our glorious moment whenit comes and to sowchaos amongthe humans. He sent the thought into the spiraland was proud to feelhis remainingfairywarriors echo the sentiment. Their willis as keenas their blades once were, he thought. Thoughwe are dead and buried, the spark of
  3. 3. bloodypurpose burns bright inour souls. It was the hatred ofhumankind that kept the spark alive—that and the black magic ofthe warlock Bruin Fadda. More thanhalfoftheir companyofwarriors had alreadyexpired and beendrawnto the afterlife, but still five score remained to complete their duties should they be called upon. Remember your orders, the elfinwarlock had told themallthose centuries ago, evenas the claywas falling ontheir flesh. Remember those who have died and the humans who murdered them. Oro did remember and always would. Just as he could never forget the sensationofstones and earth rattlingacross his dyingskin. We will remember, he sent into the spiral. Remember and return. The thought drifted down, thenechoed up fromthe dead warriors, who were eager to be released fromtheir tomb and see the sunonce more.
  4. 4. Fromthe case notes of Dr. Jerbal Argon, Psych Brotherhood 1. Artemis Fowl, once self-proclaimed teenage criminal mastermind, nowprefers the term juvenile genius. Apparentlyhe has changed. (Note to self:Harrumph.) 2. For the past sixmonths Artemis has been undergoingweeklytherapysessions at myclinic in HavenCityinanattempt to overcome a severe case ofAtlantis Complex, a psychological conditionthat he developed as a result of meddlinginfairymagic. (Serves himright, silly Mud Boy.) 3. Remember to submit outrageous billto Lower Elements Police. 4. Artemis appears to be cured, and inrecord time too. Is this likely? Or evenpossible?
  5. 5. 5. Discuss mytheoryofrelativitywithArtemis. Could make for a veryinterestingchapter inmy V-book:Foiling Fowl: Outsmarting the Smarty-pants. (Publishers love the title—Ka- ching!) 6. Order more painkillers for myblasted hip. 7. Issue cleanbillofmentalhealthfor Artemis. Final sessiontoday. Dr. Argon’s office, Haven City, the Lower Elements Artemis Fowlgrewimpatient. Dr. Argonwas late. This finalsessionwas just as unnecessaryas the past half dozen. He was completelycured, for heaven’s sake, and had beensince week eighteen. His prodigious intellect had accelerated the process, and he should not have to twiddle his thumbs at the behest ofa gnome psychiatrist. At first Artemis paced the office, refusingto be calmed bythe water wall, withits gentlypulsingmood lights; thenhe sat for a minute inthe oxygenbooth, whichhe found calmed hima little too much. Oxygenboothindeed, he thought, quicklyducking out ofthe chamber. Finallythe door hissed and slid aside onits track, admittingDr. JerbalArgonto his ownoffice. The squat
  6. 6. gnome limped directlyto his chair. He dropped into the embrace ofits padding, slappingthe armrest controls untilthe gelsac under his right hip glowed gently. “Aaaah,”he sighed. “Myhip is killingme. Nothing helps, honestly. People think theyknowpain, but they have no idea.” “You’re late,”noted Artemis influent Gnommish, his voice devoid ofsympathy. Argonsighed blissfullyagainas the heated chair pad went to work onhis hip. “Always ina hurry, eh, Mud Boy? Whydidn’t youhave a puffofoxygenor meditate bythe water wall? Hey-HeyMonks swear by those water walls.” “I amnot a pixie priest, Doctor. What Hey-Hey Monks do after first gongis oflittle interest to me. Can we proceed withmyrehabilitation? Or would youprefer to waste more ofmytime?” Argonhuffed a little, thenswunghis bulk forward, openinga sim-paper file onhis desk. “Whyis it that the saner youget, the nastier youare?” Artemis crossed his legs, his bodylanguage relaxed for the first time. “Suchrepressed anger, Doctor. Where does it allstemfrom?” “Let’s stick to your disposition, shallwe, Artemis?” Argonsnagged a stack ofcards fromhis file. “I amgoing
  7. 7. to showyousome inkblots, and youtellme what the shapes suggest to you.” Artemis’s moanwas extended and theatrical. “Inkblots. Oh, please. Mylife spanis considerably shorter thanyours, Doctor. I prefer not to waste valuable time onworthless pseudo-tests. We mayas wellread tea leaves or divine the future inturkey entrails.” “Inkblot readings are a reliable indicator ofmental health,”Argonobjected. “Tried and tested.” “Tested bypsychiatrists for psychiatrists,”snorted Artemis. Argonslapped a card downonthe table. “What do yousee inthis inkblot?” “I see aninkblot,”said Artemis. “Yes, but what does the blot suggest to you?” Artemis smirked ina supremelyannoyingfashion. “I see card five hundred and thirty-four.” “Pardonme?” “Card five hundred and thirty-four,”repeated Artemis. “Ofa series ofsixhundred standard inkblot cards. I memorized themduringour sessions. Youdon’t evenshuffle.” Argonchecked the number onthe back ofthe card:534. Ofcourse.
  8. 8. “Knowingthe number does not answer the question. What do yousee?” Artemis allowed his lip to wobble. “I see anax drippingwithblood. Also a scared child, and anelf clothed inthe skinofa troll.” “Really?”Argonwas interested now. “No. Not really. I see a secure building, perhaps a familyhome, withfour windows. Atrustworthypet, and a pathwayleadingfromthe door into the distance. I think, ifyoucheck your manual, youwillfind that these answers fallinside healthy parameters.” Argondid not need to check. The Mud Boywas right, as usual. Perhaps he could blindside Artemis with his newtheory. It was not part ofthe programbut might earnhima little respect. “Have youheard ofthe theoryofrelativity?” Artemis blinked. “Is this a joke? I have traveled throughtime, Doctor. I think I knowa little something about relativity.” “No. Not that theory; mytheoryofrelativity proposes that allthings magicalare related and influenced byancient spells or magicalhot spots.” Artemis rubbed his chin. “Interesting. But I think you’llfind that your postulationshould be called the theoryofrelatedness.”
  9. 9. “Whatever,”said Argon, wavingthe quibble away. “I did a little research, and it turns out that the Fowls have beena bother to fairyfolk offand onfor thousands ofyears. Dozens ofyour ancestors have tried for the crock ofgold, thoughyouare the onlyone to have succeeded.” Artemis sat up straight; this was interesting. “And I never knewabout this because youmind-wiped my forefathers.” “Exactly,”said Argon, thrilled to have Artemis’s full attention. “Whenhe was a lad, your ownfather actually managed to hog-tie a dwarfwho was drawnto the estate. I imagine he stilldreams ofthat moment.” “Good for him.”Athought struck Artemis. “Why was the dwarfattracted to our estate?” “Because the residualmagic there is offthe scale. Somethinghappened onthe FowlEstate once. Somethinghuge, magicallyspeaking.” “And this lingeringpower plants ideas inthe Fowls’ heads and nudges us toward a beliefinmagic,”Artemis murmured, almost to himself. “Exactly. It’s a goblin-and-eggsituation. Did you think about magic and thenfind magic? Or did the magic make youthink about lookingfor magic?” Artemis took a fewnotes onhis smartphone. “And
  10. 10. this huge magicalevent—canyoube more specific?” Argonshrugged. “Our records don’t go back that far. I’d saywe’re talkingabout back whenfairies lived onthe surface, more thantenthousand years ago.” Artemis rose and loomed over the squat gnome. He felt he owed the doctor somethingfor the theoryof relatedness, whichwould certainlybear some investigation. “Dr. Argon, did youhave turned-infeet as a child?” Argonwas so surprised that he blurted anhonest answer to a personalquestion, veryunusualfor a psychiatrist. “Yes. Yes, I did.” “And were youforced to wear remedialshoes with stacked soles?” Argonwas intrigued. He hadn’t thought about those horrible shoes incenturies; he had actually forgottenthemuntilthis moment. “Just one, onmyright foot.” Artemis nodded wisely, and Argonfelt as though their roles had beenreversed, and that he was the patient. “I would guess that your foot was pulled into its correct alignment, but your femur was twisted slightlyin the process. Asimple brace should solve your hip
  11. 11. problem.”Artemis pulled a folded napkinfromhis pocket. “I sketched a designwhile youkept me waiting these past fewsessions. Foalyshould be able to build the brace for you. I mayhave beena fewmillimeters off inmyestimate ofyour dimensions, so best to get measured.”He placed tenfingers flat onthe desk. “May I leave now? Have I fulfilled myobligation?” The doctor nodded glumly, thinkingthat he would possiblyomit this sessionfromhis book. He watched Artemis stride across the office floor and duck through the doorway. Argonstudied the napkindrawingand knew instinctivelythat Artemis was right about his hip. Either that boyis the sanest creature onearth, he thought, or he is so disturbed that our tests cannot even beginto scratchthe surface. Argonpulled a rubber stamp fromhis desk, and on the cover ofArtemis’s file he stamped the word FUNCTIONAL inbigred letters. I hope so, he thought. I reallyhope so. Artemis’s bodyguard, Butler, waited for his principal outside Dr. Argon’s office inthe large chair that had beena gift fromthe centaur Foaly, technicalconsultant to the Lower Elements Police.
  12. 12. “I can’t stand to look at youperched ona fairy stool,”Foalyhad told him. “It offends myeyes. You look like a monkeypassinga coconut.” “Verywell,”Butler had said inhis gravellybass. “I accept the gift, ifonlyto preserve your eyes.” Intruthhe had beenmightyglad to have a comfortable chair, beingmore thansixand a halffeet tall ina citybuilt for three-footers. The bodyguard stood and stretched, flatteninghis palms against the ceiling, whichwas double-height by fairystandards. Thank God Argonhad a taste for the grandiose, or Butler wouldn’t evenhave beenable to stand up straight inthe clinic. To his mind, the building, withits vaulted ceilings, gold-flecked tapestries, and retro sim-wood slidingdoors, looked more like a monasterywhere the monks had takena vowofwealth thana medicalfacility. Onlythe wall-mounted laser hand-sanitizers and the occasionalelfinnurse bustling past gave anyhint that this place was actuallya clinic. I amso glad this detailis comingto anend, Butler had beenthinkingat least once everyfive minutes for the past two weeks. He had beenintight spots manytimes; but there was somethingabout beingconfined ina city clamped to the underside ofthe earth’s crust that made himfeelclaustrophobic for the first time inhis life.
  13. 13. Artemis emerged fromArgon’s office, his self-satisfied smirk evenmore pronounced thanusual. WhenButler sawthis expression, he knewthat his boss was back in controlofhis faculties and that his Atlantis Complexwas certified as cured. No more counting words. No more irrational fear of the number four. No more paranoia and delusions. Thank goodness for that. He asked anyway, just to be certain. “Well, Artemis, howare we?” Artemis buttoned his navywoollensuit jacket. “We are fine, Butler. That is to saythat I, Artemis Fowlthe Second, amone hundred percent functional, whichis about five times the functionalityofanaverage person. Or to put it another way:one point five Mozarts. Or three-quarters ofa da Vinci.” “Onlythree-quarters? You’re beingmodest.” “Correct,”said Artemis, smiling. “I am.” Butler’s shoulders sagged a little withrelief. Inflated ego, supreme self-confidence. Artemis was most definitelyhis old self. “Verygood. Let’s pick up our escort and be on our waythen, shallwe? I want to feelthe sunonmy face. The realsun, not the UVlamps theyhave down here.”
  14. 14. Artemis felt a pangofsympathyfor his bodyguard, anemotionhe had beenexperiencingmore and more in recent months. It was difficult enoughfor Butler to be inconspicuous amonghumans; downhere he could hardlyhave attracted more attentionifhe had been wearinga clownsuit and jugglingfireballs. “Verywell,”agreed Artemis. “We willpick up our escort and depart. Where is Holly?” Butler jerked a thumb downthe hallway. “Where she generallyis. Withthe clone.” CaptainHollyShort ofthe Lower Elements Police Recondivisionstared at the face ofher archenemyand felt onlypity. Ofcourse, had she beengazingat the real OpalKoboiand not a cloned version, thenpitymight not have beenthe last emotiononher list, but it would certainlyhave ranked far belowrage and intense dislike bordering on hatred. But this was a clone, growninadvance to provide the megalomaniacalpixie witha bodydouble so that she could be spirited from protective custodyinthe J. ArgonClinic ifthe LEP ever managed to incarcerate her, whichtheyhad. Hollypitied the clone because she was a pathetic, dumb creature who had never asked to be created. Cloningwas a banned science bothfor religious reasons and the more obvious fact that, without a life force or
  15. 15. soulto power their systems, clones were doomed to a short life ofnegligent brainactivityand organfailure. This particular clone had lived out most ofits days inan incubator, strugglingfor eachbreathsince it had been removed fromthe chrysalis inwhichit had beengrown. “Not for muchlonger, little one,”Hollywhispered, touchingthe ersatzpixie’s forehead throughthe sterile gloves built into the incubator wall. Hollycould not have said for sure whyshe had begunto visit the clone. Perhaps it was because Argon had told her that no one else ever had. She came from nowhere. She has no friends. She had at least two friends now. Artemis had takento joiningHollyonher visits and oftenwould sit silentlybeside her, whichwas veryunusualfor him. The clone’s officialdesignationwas Unauthorized Experiment 14, but one ofthe clinic’s wits had named her Nopal, whichwas a cruelplayonthe name Opal and the words no pal. Cruelor not, the name stuck; and nowevenHollyused it, thoughwithtenderness. Argonassured her that Unauthorized Experiment 14 had no mentalfaculties, but Hollywas certainthat sometimes Nopal’s milkyeyes reacted whenshe visited. Could the clone actuallyrecognize her? Hollygazed at Nopal’s delicate features and was
  16. 16. inevitablyreminded ofthe clone’s gene donor. That pixie is poison, she thought bitterly. Whatever she touches withers and dies. Artemis entered the roomand stood beside Holly, restinga hand lightlyonher shoulder. “They’re wrongabout Nopal,”said Holly. “She feels things. She understands.” Artemis knelt down. “I know. I taught her somethinglast week. Watch.” He placed his hand onthe glass, tappinghis fingers insequence slowly, buildingup a rhythm. “It is an exercise developed byCuba’s Dr. Parnassus. He uses it to generate a response frominfants, evenchimpanzees.” Artemis continued to tap, and slowlyNopal responded, raisingher hand laboriouslyto Artemis’s, slappingthe glass clumsilyinanattempt to copyhis rhythm. “There, yousee?”said Artemis. “Intelligence.” Hollybumped himgently, shoulder to shoulder, whichwas her versionofa hug. “I knewyour brains would eventuallycome inhandy.” The acorncluster onthe breast ofHolly’s LEP jumpsuit vibrated, and Hollytouched her wi-tech earring, acceptingthe call. Aquick glance at her wrist computer told her that the callwas fromLEP technical
  17. 17. consultant Foaly, and that the centaur had labeled it urgent. “Foaly. What is it? I’mat the clinic, babysitting Artemis.” The centaur’s voice was crystalclear over the HavenCitywireless network. “I need youback at Police Plaza, right now. Bring the Mud Boy.” The centaur sounded theatrical, but thenFoaly would playthe drama queenifhis carrot soufflé collapsed. “That’s not howit works, Foaly. Consultants don’t give orders to captains.” “We have a Koboisightingcomingthroughona satellite. It’s a live feed,”countered the technical consultant. “We’re onour way,”said Holly, severingthe connection. Theypicked up Butler inthe corridor. Artemis, Holly, and Butler were three allies who had weathered battlefields, rebellions, and conspiracytogether and had developed their owncrisis shorthand. Butler sawthat Hollywas wearingher business face.
  18. 18. “Situation?” Hollystrode past, forcingthe others to follow. “Opal,”she said inEnglish. Butler’s face hardened. “Eyes on?” “Satellite link.” “Origin?”asked the bodyguard. “Unknown.” Theyhurried downthe retro corridor toward the clinic’s courtyard. Butler outstripped the group and held openthe old-fashioned hinged door withits stained windowdepictinga thoughtfuldoctor comfortinga weepingpatient. “Are we takingthe Stick?”asked the bodyguard, his tone suggestingthat he would rather not take the Stick. Hollywalked throughthe doorway. “Sorry, big man. Stick time.” Artemis had never beenone for public transport, humanor fairy, and so asked, “What’s the stick?” The Stick was the street name for a series of conveyor belts that raninparallelstrips alongHaven City’s network ofblocks. It was anancient and reliable mode oftransport froma less litigious time, which operated ona hop-on/hop-offbasis similar to certain
  19. 19. humanairport-walkwaysystems. There were platforms throughout the city, and alla personhad to do was step onto a belt and grab hold ofone ofthe carbon-fiber stalks that sprouted fromit. Hence the name Stick. Artemis and Butler had ofcourse seenthe Stick before, but Artemis had never planned to use suchan undignified mode oftransport and so had never even bothered to find out its name. Artemis knewthat, with his famous lack ofcoordination, anyattempt to hop casuallyonto the belt would result ina humiliating tumble. For Butler, the problemwas not one of coordinationor lack ofit. He knewthat, withhis bulk, it would be difficult just to fit his feet withinthe belt’s width. “Ah, yes,”said Artemis. “The Stick. Surelya green cab would be faster?” “Nope,”said Holly, hustlingArtemis up the ramp to the platform, thenpokinghiminthe kidneys at just the right time so that he stepped unconsciouslyonto the belt, his hand landingona stick’s bulbous grip. “Hey,”said Artemis, perhaps the third time inhis life he had used a slangexpletive. “I did it.” “Next stop, the Olympics,”said Holly, who had mounted the belt behind him. “Come on, bodyguard,” she called over her shoulder to Butler. “Your principalis headingtoward a tunnel.”
  20. 20. Butler shot the elfa look that would have cowed a bull. Hollywas a dear friend, but her teasingcould be relentless. He tiptoed onto the belt, squeezinghis enormous feet onto a single sectionand bendinghis knees to grasp the tinystick. Insilhouette, he looked like the world’s bulkiest ballerina attemptingto pluck a flower. Hollymight have grinned had OpalKoboinot been onher mind. The Stick belt trundled its passengers fromthe Argon Clinic alongthe border ofanItalian-style piazza toward a lowtunnel, whichhad beenlaser-cut fromsolid rock. Fairies lunchingalfresco froze withforkfuls ofsalad halfwayto their mouths as the unlikelytrio passed by. The sight ofa jumpsuit-clad LEP officer was commonenoughona Stick belt, but a ganglyhumanboy dressed like anundertaker and a troll-sized, buzz-cut man-mountainwere quite unusual. The tunnelwas barelythree feet high, so Butler was forced to prostrate himselfover three sections, flattening severalhandgrips inthe process. His nose was no more thana fewfeet fromthe tunnelwall, whichhe noticed was engraved withbeautifulluminous pictograms depictingepisodes fromthe People’s history. So the youngfairies canlearnsomethingabout their
  21. 21. ownheritage eachtime theypass through. How wonderful, thought Butler; but he suppressed his admiration, as he had longago disciplined his brainto concentrate onbodyguard duties and not waste neurons beingamazed while he was belowground. Save it for retirement, he thought. Thenyoucan cast your mind back and appreciate art. Police Plaza was a cobbled crest into whichthe shape of the Lower Elements Police acorninsignia had been painstakinglypaved bymaster craftsmen. It was a total waste ofeffort as far as the LEP officers were concerned, as theywere not generallythe type who were inclined to gaze out ofthe fourth-floor windows and marvelat howthe sim-sunlight caught the rimof eachgold-leafed cobble and set the whole arrangement a-twinkling. Onthis particular dayit seemed that everyone on the fourthfloor had slid fromtheir cubicles like pebbles ona tilted surface and gathered ina tight cluster bythe Situationroom, whichadjoined Foaly’s office/laboratory. Hollymade directlyfor the narrowest sectionofthe throngand used sharp elbows to inchthroughthe strangelysilent crowd. Butler simplycleared his throat once and the crowd peeled apart as thoughmagnetically
  22. 22. repelled fromthe giant human. Artemis took this path into the Situationroomto find Commander Trouble Kelp and Foalystandingbefore a wall-sized screen, raptlyfollowingunfoldingevents. Foalynoticed the gasps that followed Butler wherever he went inHaven, and glanced around. “Maythe fours be withyou,”the centaur whispered to Artemis—his standard greeting/joke for the past sixmonths. “I amcured, as youwellknow,”said Artemis. “What is goingonhere?” Hollycleared a space beside Trouble Kelp, who seemed to be morphinginto her former boss, Commander Julius Root, as the years went on. Commander Kelp was so brimfullofgung-ho attitude that he had takenthe name Trouble upongraduationand had once tried to arrest a trollfor littering, which accounted for the sim-skinpatchonthe tip ofhis nose, whichglowed yellowfroma certainangle. “Haircut’s new, Skipper,”Hollysaid. “Beetroot had one just like it.” Commander Kelp did not take his eyes fromthe screen. Hollywas joshingbecause she was nervous, and Trouble knewit. She was right to be nervous. Infact, outright fear would have beenmore appropriate, given the situationthat was beingbeamed into them.
  23. 23. “Watchthe show, Captain,”he said tightly. “It’s prettyself-explanatory.” There were three figures onscreen, a kneelingprisoner and two captors; but Hollydid not place OpalKoboi right awaybecause she was searchingfor the pixie amongthe standingpair. She realized witha jolt that Opalwas the prisoner. “This is a trick,”she said. “It must be.” Commander Kelp shrugged. Watch it and see. Artemis stepped closer to the screen, scanningthe picture for information. “Youare sure this is live?” “It’s a live feed,”said Foaly. “I suppose theycould be sendingus a pre-record.” “Where is it comingfrom?” Foalychecked the tracer map onhis ownscreen. The callline ranfroma fairysatellite downto South Africa and fromthere to Miamiand thenonto a hundred other places, like the scribble ofanangrychild. “Theyjacked a satellite and ranthe line througha series ofshells. Could be anywhere.” “The sunis high,”Artemis mused aloud. “I would guess bythe shadows that it is earlynoon. Ifit is actually a live feed.” “That narrows it downto a quarter ofthe planet,”
  24. 24. said Foalycaustically. The hubbub inthe roomrose as, onscreen, one of the two bulkygnomes standingbehind Opaldrewa humanautomatic handgun, the chrome weaponlooking like a cannoninhis fairyfingers. It seemed as thoughthe temperature had suddenly dropped inthe Situationroom. “I need quiet,”said Artemis. “Get these people out ofhere.” Onmost days Trouble Kelp would argue that Artemis had no authorityto clear a room, and would possiblyinvite more people into the cramped office just to prove his point—but this was not most days. “Everybodyout,”he barked at the assembled officers. “Holly, Foaly, and the Mud Boy, staywhere youare.” “I think perhaps I’llstaytoo,”said Butler, shielding the top ofhis head fromlamp burnwithone hand. Nobodyobjected. Usuallythe LEP officers would shuffle withmacho reluctance whenordered to move, but inthis instance theyrushed to the nearest monitor, eager not to miss a single frame ofunfoldingevents. Foalyshut the door behind themwitha swingofhis hoof, thendarkened the windowglass so there would be
  25. 25. no distractionfromoutside. The remainingfour stood in a ragged semicircle before the wallscreen, watching what would appear to be the last minutes ofOpal Koboi’s life. One ofthe OpalKobois, at anyrate. There were two gnomes onscreen, bothwearingfull- face anti-UVpartymasks that could be programmed to resemble anyone. These had beenmodeled onPip and Kip, two popular kitty-cat cartooncharacters onTV, but the figures were stillrecognizable as gnomes because oftheir stockybarreltorsos and bloated forearms. They stood before a nondescript graywall, loomingover the tinypixie who knelt inthe mud tracks ofsome wheeled vehicle, waterline creepingalongthe legs ofher designer tracksuit. Opal’s wrists were bound and her mouth taped, and she seemed genuinelyterrified. The gnome withthe pistolspoke througha vox- boxinthe mask, disguisinghis voice as Pip the kitty-cat. “I can’t make it anyplainer,”he squeaked, and somehowthe cartoonvoice made himseemmore dangerous. “We got one Opal, yougot the other. You let your Opalgo, and we don’t killthis one. Youhad twentyminutes; nowyouhave fifteen.” Pip the kitty-cat cocked his weapon. Butler tapped Holly’s shoulder.
  26. 26. “Did he just say–?” “Yeah. Fifteenminutes, or Opal’s dead.” Butler popped a translator bud into his ear. This was too important to trust to his dubious grasp of Gnommish. Trouble Kelp was incredulous. “What kind ofdeal is that? Give us a terrorist, or we killa terrorist?” “We can’t just let someone be murdered before our eyes,”said Holly. “Absolutelynot,”agreed Foaly. “We are not humans.” Artemis cleared his throat. “Sorry, Artemis,”said the centaur. “But you humans are a bloodthirstybunch. Sure, we mayproduce the occasionalpower-crazed pixie, but byand large the People are peace-lovingfolk. Whichis probablywhy we live downhere inthe first place.” Trouble Kelp actuallysnarled, one ofhis leadership devices—whichnot manypeople could carryoff, especiallywhentheystood barelymore thanthree feet highinwhat Artemis was sure were stacked boots. But Trouble’s snarlwas convincingenoughto stifle the bickering. “Focus, people,”he said. “I need solutions here. Under no circumstances canwe release OpalKoboi,
  27. 27. but we can’t just stand byand allowher to be murdered either.” The computer had picked up the references to Koboionscreenand had elected to runher file ona side screen, incase anyone needed their memoryrefreshed. Opal Koboi. Certified genius pixie industrialist and inventor. Orchestrated the goblin coup and insurrection. Cloned herself to escape prison and attempted to lead the humans to Haven. Responsible for the murder of Commander Julius Root. Had human pituitary gland implanted to manufacture growth hormone (subsequently removed). Younger version of Opal followed Captain Short from the past and is currently at large in present time line. It is assumed she will attempt to free her incarcerated self and return to her own time stream. Opal is in the unprecedented position of occupying places one and two on the LEP Most Dangerous list. Categorized as highly intelligent, motivated, and psychotic. This is a bold move, Opal, thought Artemis. And withpotentiallycatastrophic repercussions. He felt rather thansawHollyat his elbow. “What do youthink, Artemis?”
  28. 28. Artemis frowned. “Myfirst impressionis to callit a bluff. But Opal’s plans always take into account first impressions.” “It could be a ruse. Perhaps those goblins would simplyshoot her witha blank?” Artemis shook his head. “No. That would deliver no payoffother thanmomentaryhorror onour part. Opalhas planned this so that she wins whatever the eventuality. Ifyoufree her, thenshe’s free. Ifthe younger Opaldies, then…Thenwhat?” Butler weighed in. “Youcando allsorts ofthings withspecialeffects these days. What iftheycomputer- graphic her head to explode?” Artemis was disappointed inthis theory, whichhe felt he had alreadydiscounted. “No, Butler. Think. Again, there’s nothingto gain.” Foalysnorted. “At anyrate, iftheydo killher, we willknowverysoonwhether this whole thingis realor not.” Artemis halflaughed. “True. We willcertainly know.” Butler groaned. This was one ofthose times when Artemis and Foalywere aware ofsomethingsciencey and assumed that everyone else inthe roomalso had all the facts. Moments like this were guaranteed to drive
  29. 29. Hollycrazy. “What are youtalkingabout?”shouted Holly. “What willwe know? Howwillwe knowwhatever it is?” Artemis stared downat her as thoughwakingfrom a dream. “Really, Holly? Youhave two versions ofthe same individualoccupyinga time stream, and youare unaware ofthe ramifications?” Onscreen, the gnomes stood like statues behind the shiveringpixie. The armed one, Pip, occasionally checked a wristwatchbytugginghis sleeve withhis gun barrel, but otherwise theywaited patiently. Opalpleaded withher eyes, staringat the camera lens, fat tears streamingdownher cheeks, sparklinginthe sunlight. Her hair seemed thinner thanusualand unwashed. Her Juicy Couture tracksuit, purchased no doubt fromthe children’s sectionofsome exclusive store, was tornin severalplaces, the rips caked inblood. The picture was super-high-defand so clear that it was like looking througha window. Ifthis was a spurious threat, then youngOpaldid not knowit. Trouble pounded the desk, anaffectationofJulius Root’s that he had adopted. “What are the ramifications? Tellme?”
  30. 30. “Just to be clear,”said Artemis, “do youwishto be told what the word ramifications means? Or to know what the ramifications are?” Hollyelbowed Artemis inthe hip, speedinghim along. “Artemis, we’re ona clock here.” “Verywell, Holly. Here is the problem…” “Come on,”pleaded Foaly. “Let me explain. This is mykingdom, and I willbe simple and to the point, I promise.” “Go on, then,”said Trouble, who was knownfor his love ofsimple and to the point. Hollylaughed, a single harshbark. She could not believe everyone continued to act like their everyday selves eventhougha life was at stake. We have become desensitized, like the humans. Whatever Opalhad done, she was stilla person. There had beendark days whenHollyhad dreamed of huntingthe pixie downand issuinga little Mud Man justice, but those days were gone. Foalytugged at his outrageouslycoiffed forelock. “Allbeings are made ofenergy,”he beganinthe typicalpompous imparting important info voice that he used at times like this. “Whenthese beings die, their energyslowlydissipates and returns to the earth.”He paused dramatically. “But what ifa being’s entire
  31. 31. existence is suddenlynegated bya quantumanomaly?” Trouble raised his arms. “Whoa! Simple and to the point, remember?” Foalyrephrased. “Okay. IfyoungOpaldies, then old Opalcannot continue to exist.” It took Trouble a second, but he got it. “So, willit be like the movies? She willfizzle out ofexistence, and we willalllook a bit puzzled for a moment, thenforget about her?” Foalysnickered. “That’s one theory.” “What’s the other theory?” The centaur paled suddenly, and uncharacteristicallyyielded the floor to Artemis. “Whydon’t youexplainthis bit?”Foalysaid. “I just flashed onwhat could actuallyhappen, and I need to start makingcalls.” Artemis nodded curtly. “The other theorywas first postulated byyour ownProfessor Bahjee over five centuries ago. Bahjee believes that ifthe time streamis polluted bythe arrivalofthe younger versionofa being and that younger versionsubsequentlydies, thenthe present-tense versionofthe beingwillrelease allits energyspontaneouslyand violently. Not onlythat, but anythingthat exists because ofthe younger Opalwillalso combust.”
  32. 32. Violently and combust were words that Commander Kelp understood well. “Release its energy? Howviolently?” Artemis shrugged. “That depends onthe object or being. Matter is changed instantaneouslyinto energy. A huge explosive force willbe released. We could evenbe talkingabout nuclear fission.” Hollyfelt her heart speed up. “Fission? Nuclear fission?” “Basically,”said Artemis. “For livingbeings. The objects should cause less damage.” “AnythingOpalmade or contributed to will explode?” “No. Just the things she influenced inthe past five years ofour time line, betweenher two ages, though there willprobablybe some temporalripples oneither side.” “Are youtalkingabout allofher company’s weapons that are stillincommission?”asked Holly. “And the satellites,”added Trouble. “Everysecond vehicle inthe city.” “It is just a theory,”said Artemis. “There is yet another theorythat suggests nothingat allwillhappen, other thanone persondying. Physics trumps quantum physics, and things go onas normal.”
  33. 33. Hollyfound herselfred-faced withsuddenfury. “You’re talkingas thoughOpalis alreadydead.” Artemis was not sure what to say. “We are staring into the abyss, Holly. Ina short time, manyofus could be dead. I need to staydetached.” Foalylooked up fromhis computer panel. “What do youthink about the percentages, Mud Boy?” “Percentages?” “Theory-wise.” “Oh, I see. Howlikelyare the explosions?” “Exactly.” Artemis thought about it. “Allthings considered, I would sayabout ninetypercent. IfI were a bettingman and there were someone to take this kind ofbet, I would put mylast gold coinonit.” Trouble paced the smalloffice. “We need to release Opal. Let her go immediately.” NowHollywas uncertain. “Let’s think about this, Trubs.” The commander turned onher. “Didn’t youhear what the humansaid? Fission! We can’t have fission underground.” “I agree, but it could stillbe a trick.” “The alternative is too terrible. We turnher loose
  34. 34. and hunt her down. Get Atlantis onthe line now. I need to speak to the wardenat the Deeps. Is it stillVinyáya?” Artemis spoke quietlybut withthe commanding tone that had made hima naturalleader since the age of ten. “It’s too late to free Opal. Allwe cando is save her life. That’s what she planned for allalong.” “Save her life?”objected Trouble. “But we still have…”Commander Kelp checked the countdown clock. “Tenminutes.” Artemis patted Holly’s shoulder, thenstepped awayfromher. “Iffairybureaucracyis anythinglike the humankind, youwon’t be able to get Opalinto a shuttle inthat time. What youmight be able to do is get her downto the reactor core.” Kelp had not yet learned the hard wayto shut up and let Artemis explain, and so kept askingquestions, slowingdownthe process, wastingvaluable seconds. “Reactor core? What reactor core?” Artemis raised a finger. “One more question, Commander, and I willbe forced to have Butler restrain you.” Kelp was a breathawayfromejectingArtemis or charginghimwithsomething, but the situationwas critical and ifthere was a chance that this humancould insome
  35. 35. wayhelp… He clenched his fists tillhis fingers creaked. “Okay. Talk.” “The Deeps is powered bya naturalfissionreactor ina uraniumore layer set ona bed ofgranite similar to the one inOklo, Gabon,”said Artemis, tuggingthe facts fromhis memory. “The People’s Power Company harvests the energyinsmallpods set into the uranium. These pods are constructed withscience and magic to withstand a moderate nuclear blast. This is taught in schools here. Everyfairyinthe roomknows this, correct?” Everyone nodded. Technicallyit was correct, as theydid knowit now. “Ifwe canplace Opalinside the pod before the deadline, thenthe blast willat least be contained and theoretically, ifwe pump inenoughanti-rad foam, Opal might evenretainher physicalintegrity. Thoughthat is somethingI would not bet mylast gold coinon. Opal, apparently, is prepared to take the risk.” Trouble was tempted to poke Artemis inthe chest but wiselyresisted. “You’re sayingthat allofthis is an elaborate escape plan?” “Ofcourse,”said Artemis. “And not allthat elaborate. Opalis forcingyouto release her fromher cell. The alternative is the utter destructionofAtlantis
  36. 36. and everysoulinit, whichis unthinkable to anyone except Opalherself.” Foalyhad alreadybrought up the prisonplans. “The reactor core is less thana hundred yards below Opal’s cell. I’mcontactingthe wardennow.” Hollyknewthat Artemis was a genius and that there was no one more qualified to second-guess kidnappers. But still, theyhad options. She gazed at the figures onscreenand was chilled byhowcasualthe gnomes seemed, inthe light ofwhat theywere about to do. Theyslouched like adolescents, barelyglancingat their captive, cockyintheir abilities and not evena jot self-conscious about their cartoon- character smart-masks, which“read”their faces and displayed the appropriate emotions inexaggerated cartoonstyle. Smart-masks were verypopular withthe karaoke crowd, who could thenlook like their idols as wellas tryingto sound like them. Perhaps theydon’t knowexactlywhat’s at stake here, Hollythought suddenly. Perhaps theyare as clueless as I was tenseconds ago. “Cantheyhear us?”she asked Foaly. “Theycan, but we haven’t responded yet. Just press the button.” This was just anold figure ofspeech; there was of
  37. 37. course no actualbutton, just a sensor onthe touch screen. “Hold it, Captain!”ordered Trouble. “I ama trained negotiator, sir,”said Holly, hoping the respect inher tone would get her what she wanted. “And I was once …”She glanced guiltilyat Artemis, sorrythat she had to playthis card. “I was once a hostage myself, so I knowhowthese things go. Let me talk to them.” Artemis nodded encouragingly, and Hollyknew that he understood her tactics. “CaptainShort is correct, Commander,”he said. “Hollyis a naturalcommunicator. She evenmanaged to get throughto me.” “Do it,”barked Trouble. “Foaly, youkeep tryingto reachAtlantis. And assemble the Council; we need to beginevacuatingbothcities now.” Thoughyoucould not see their realfaces, the gnomes’ cartoonexpressions were bored now. It was inthe slant oftheir heads and the bend oftheir knees. Perhaps this whole thingwas not as excitingas theyhoped it would be. After all, theycould not see their audience, and no one had responded to their threats. What had started out as a revolutionaryactionwas nowbeginningto look like
  38. 38. two biggnomes pickingona pixie. Pip waggled his gunat Kip, and the meaningwas clear. Why don’t we just shoot her now? Hollyactivated the microphone witha wave ofher hand. “Hello, youthere. This is CaptainHollyShort of the LEP. Canyouhear me?” The gnomes perked up immediately, and Pip even attempted a whistle, whichcame throughthe vox-boxas a raspberry. “Hey, CaptainShort. We heard ofyou. I’ve seen pictures. Not too shabby, Captain.” Hollybit back a caustic retort. Never force a kidnapper to demonstrate his resolve. “Thank you, Pip. Should I callyouPip?” “You, HollyShort, cancallme anythingand any time youlike,”squeaked Pip, and he extended his free hand toward his partner for a knuckle bump. Hollywas incredulous. These two were about to totallyincapacitate the entire fairyworld, and theywere goofingabout like two goblins at a fireballparty. “Okay, Pip,”she continued evenly. “What canwe do for youtoday?” Pip shook his head sorrowfullyat Kip. “Whyare
  39. 39. the prettyones always stupid?”He turned to the camera. “Youknowwhat youcando for us. We told you already. Release OpalKoboi, or the younger modelis gonna take a longsleep. And bythat I mean, get shot in the head.” “Youneed to give us some time to showgood faith. Come on, Pip. One more hour? For me?” Pip scratched his head withthe gunbarrel, pretendingto consider it. “Youare cute, Holly. But not that cute. IfI give youanother hour, you’lltrack me downsomehowand drop a time-stop onmyhead. No thanks, Cap. Youhave tenminutes. IfI was you, I would get that cellopenor callthe undertaker.” “This kind ofthingtakes time, Pip,”persisted Holly, repeatingthe name, forginga bond. “It takes three days to paya parkingfine.” Pip shrugged. “Not myproblem, babe. And you cancallme Pip alldayand it won’t make us BFFs. It ain’t myrealname.” Artemis deactivated the microphone. “This one is smart, Holly. Don’t playwithhim, just tellthe truth.” Hollynodded and switched onthe mike. “Okay, whatever your name is. Let me give it to youstraight. There’s a good chance that ifyoushoot youngOpal, thenwe’re goingto have a series ofverybigexplosions downhere. Alot ofinnocent people willdie.”
  40. 40. Pip waved his guncarelessly. “Ohyeah, the quantumlaws. We knowabout that, don’t we, Kip?” “Quantumlaws,”said Kip. “Ofcourse we know about that.” “And youdon’t care that good fairies, gnomes that could be related to you, willdie?” Pip raised his eyebrows so that theyjutted over the top ofthe mask. “Youlike anyofyour family, Kip?” “Ain’t got no family. I’manorphan.” “Really? Me too.” While theybantered, Opalshivered inthe dirt, tryingto speak throughthe tape. Foalywould get voice analysis onthe muffled mumbles later—ifthere was a later—but it didn’t take a genius to figure out she was pleadingfor her life. “There must be somethingyouneed,”said Holly. “There is one thing,”replied Pip. “Could I get your com-code? I sure would love to hook up for a sim-latte whenthis is allover. Might be a while, ofcourse, what withHavenCitybeinginruins.” Foalyput a text boxonthe screen. It read:They’re moving Opal now. Hollyfluttered her eyelids to showshe understood, thencontinued withthe negotiation. “Here’s the situation, Pip. We have nine minutes left. Youcan’t get someone
  41. 41. out ofAtlantis innine minutes. It’s not possible. They need to suit up, pressurize, maybe; go throughthe conduits to opensea. Nine minutes is not longenough.” Pip’s theatricalresponses were gettinga little hard to take. “Wellthen, I guess a lot ofpeople are going swimming. Fissioncanput a hellofa hole inthe shield.” Hollybroke. “Don’t youcare about anyone? What’s the goingrate for genocide?” Pip and Kip actuallylaughed. “It’s a horrible feeling, impotency, ain’t it?”said Pip. “But there are worse feelings. Drowning, for example.” “And gettingcrushed byfallingbuildings,”added Kip. Hollybanged her tinyfists onthe console. These two are so infuriating. Pip stepped close to the camera, so that his mask filled the screen. “IfI don’t get a callfromOpalKoboiin the next fewminutes tellingme she is ina shuttle onher wayto the surface, thenI willshoot this pixie. Believe it.” Foalyrested his head inhis hands. “I used to love Pip and Kip,”he said.
  42. 42. The Deeps, Atlantis OpalKoboiwas makinga futile attempt to levitate when the guards came for her. It was somethingshe had been able to do as a child before her chosenlife ofcrime had stripped the magic fromher synapses, the tinyjunctions betweennerve cells where most experts agreed magic originated. Her power might have regenerated ifit hadn’t beenfor the humanpituitarygland she’d had briefly attached to her hypothalamus. Levitationwas a complicated art, especiallyfor pixies withtheir limited powers, and usuallya state onlyachieved byHey-Hey Monks ofthe Third Balcony; but Opalhad managed it while stillindiapers, whichhad beenher parents’ first signthat their daughter was a little bit special. Imagine it, she thought. I wished to be human. That was a mistake for whichI willeventuallyfind someone to
  43. 43. blame. The centaur, Foaly—he drove me to it. I do hope he is killed inthe explosion. Opalsmirked inself-satisfaction. There had beena time whenshe’d whiled awaythe prisonmonotonyby concoctingever more elaborate deathtraps for her centaur nemesis, but nowshe was content to let Foaly die withthe rest inthe imminent explosions. Granted, she had cooked up a little surprise for his wife; but this was merelya side project and not somethingshe had spent too muchtime on. It is a measure ofhowfar I have come, Opal thought. I have matured somewhat. The veilhas lifted, and I see mytrue purpose. There had beena time whenOpalhad simplybeen a ruthless business fairywithdaddyissues; but somewhere duringthe years ofbanned experimentation, she had allowed black magic to fester inher souland let it warp her heart’s desire untilit was not enoughto be lauded inher owncity. She needed the world to bow down, and she was prepared to risk everythingand sacrifice anyone to see her wishfulfilled. This time it will be different, for I will have fearsome warriors bound to my will. Ancient soldiers who will die for me. Opalcleared her mind and sent out a probe searchingfor her other self. Allthat came back was the
  44. 44. white noise ofterror. She knows, Opalrealized. Poor thing. This moment ofsympathyfor her younger selfdid not last long, as the imprisoned Opalhad learned not to live inthe past. I ammerelykillinga memory, she thought. That is all. Whichwas a convenient wayoflookingat it. Her celldoor phase-changed fromsolid to gas, and Opalwas unsurprised to see WardenTarponVinyáya, a malleable penpusher who had never spent a night outside under the moon, fidgetinginher doorway, flanked bytwo jumbo pixie guards. “Warden,”she said, abandoningher levitation attempt. “Has mypardonarrived?” Tarponhad no time for pleasantries. “We’re movingyou, Koboi. No discussion; just come along.” He gestured to his guards. “Wrap her up, boys.” The jumbo pixies strode rapidlyinto the room, wordlesslypinningOpal’s arms to her sides. Jumbo pixies were a breed peculiar to Atlantis, where the particular blend ofpressurized environment and algae- based filtrationhad caused themto pop up with increased regularityover the years. What the jumbo
  45. 45. pixies gained inbrawntheygenerallysacrificed inbrains, and so theymade the idealprisonguards, havingno respect for anyone smaller thanthemselves who did not signtheir paychecks. Before Opalcould openher mouthto voice an objection, the pixies had bundled her into a lined anti- radiationsuit and clipped three bungee cords around her torso. The wardensighed, as ifhe had beenexpecting Opalto somehowdisable his guards. Whichhe had. “Good. Good,”he said, moppinghis highbrow witha handkerchief. “Take her to the basement. Don’t touchanyofthe pipes, and avoid breathingifpossible.” The pixies hefted their captive betweenthemlike a rolled rugand double-timed it fromOpal’s cell, across the narrowbridge that linked her cell-pod to the main prison, and into the service elevator. Opalsmiled behind the heavylead gauze ofher headpiece. This certainly is the day for Opal Kobois to be manhandled by burly boys. She beamed a thought to her younger selfonthe surface. I feel for you, sister.
  46. 46. The elevator cube flashed downward througha hundred yards ofsoft sandstone to a smallchamber composed entirelyofhyperdense materialharvested fromthe crust ofa neutronstar. Opalguessed theyhad arrived at the chamber, and giggled at the memoryofa stupid gnome inher high schoolwho had asked what neutronstars were made of. Neutrons, boy, Professor Leguminous had snapped. Neutrons!The clue is in the name. This chamber held the record for beingthe most expensive roomper square inchto construct anywhere onthe planet, thoughit looked a little like a concrete furnace room. At one end was the elevator door; at the other were what looked like four missile tubes; and in the middle was anextremelygrumpydwarf. “Youare bleepingjokingme?”he said, bellythrust out belligerently. The jumbo pixies dumped Opalonthe grayfloor. “Orders, pal,”said one. “Put her inthe tube.” The dwarfshook his head stubbornly. “I ain’t puttingno one ina tube. Themtubes is built for rods.” “I do believe,”said the second pixie, veryproud of himselffor rememberingthe informationhe was about to deliver, “that one ofthemreactor sites is depleted so the tube do be empty.”
  47. 47. “That sounded prettygood, Jumbo, except for the do be at the end,”said the dwarf, whose name was KolinOzkopy. “But evenso, I need to knowhowthe consequences ofnot puttinga personina tube are worse thanthe consequences ofputtingtheminone?” Asentence ofthis lengthwould take a jumbo pixie severalminutes to digest; luckily, theywere spared the embarrassment ofbeingpressed for anexplanationwhen Kolin’s phone rang. “Just a sec,”he said, checkingcaller ID. “It’s the warden.” Kolinanswered the phone witha flourish. “Y’ello. Engineer Ozkopyhere.” Ozkopylistened for a longmoment, interjecting three uh-huhs and two D’Arvits before pocketingthe phone. “Wow,”he said, proddingthe radiationsuit withhis toe. “I guess you’d better put her inthe tube.” Police Plaza, Haven City, The Lower Elements Pip waggled his phone at the camera. “Youhear anything? Because I don’t. No one is callingthis number, and I’ve got five bars. One hundred
  48. 48. percent planetarycoverage. Hell, I once took a callona spaceship.” Hollyswiped the mike sensor. “We’re movingas fast as we can. OpalKoboiis inthe shuttle bayright now. We just need tenmore minutes.” Pip adopted a singsongvoice. “Never tell a lie, just to get you by. Never tell a tale, lest you go to jail.” Foalyfound himselfhummingalong. It was the Pip and Kip theme song. Hollyglared at him. “Sorry,”he muttered. Artemis grewimpatient withthe fruitless wrangling. “This is futile and, frankly, embarrassing. Theyhave no intentionofreleasingOpal. We should evacuate now, at least to the shuttle bays. Theyare built to withstand magma flares.” Foalydisagreed. “We’re secure here. The real danger is inAtlantis. That’s where the other Opalis. Yousaid, and I concur, that the serious explosions, theoreticalexplosions, onlyoccur withlivingbeings.” “Theoreticalexplosions are onlytheoreticaluntilthe theoryis proven,”countered Artemis. “And withso many—”He stopped mid-sentence, whichwas very
  49. 49. unlike him, as Artemis detested bothpoor grammar and poor manners. His skintone faded frompale to porcelain, and he actuallyrapped his ownforehead. “Stupid. Stupid. Foaly, we are bothimbeciles. I don’t expect lateralthinkingfromthe LEP, but from you…” Hollyrecognized this tone. She had heard it during previous adventures, generallybefore things went catastrophicallywrong. “What is it?”she asked, afraid ofthe answer, whichmust surelybe terrible. “Yeah,”agreed Foaly, who always had time to feel insulted. “WhyamI animbecile?” Artemis pointed anindexfinger diagonallydown and southwest inthe approximate directiontheyhad come fromthe J. ArgonClinic. “The oxygenboothhas addled mysenses,”he said. “The clone. Nopal. She’s a livingbeing. Ifshe explodes, it could go nuclear.” Foalyaccessed the clone’s file onArgon’s Web site, navigatingwithblurred speed to the patient details. “No. I think we should be okaythere. Opal harvested her ownDNAbefore the time line split.” Artemis was angrywithhimselfallthe same for momentarilyforgettingthe clone.
  50. 50. “We were minutes into this crisis before the clone’s relevance occurred to me,”he said. “IfNopalhad been created at a later date, myslowthinkingcould have cost lives.” “There are stillplentyoflives at stake,”said Foaly. “We need to save as manyas we can.” The centaur popped a Plexiglas cover onthe wall and pressed the red buttonunderneath. Instantlya series ofEvac sirens beganto wailthroughout the city. The eerie sound spread like the keeningofmothers receiving the bad news oftheir nightmares. Foalychewed a nail. “There’s no time to wait for Councilapproval,”he said to Trouble Kelp. “Most should make it to the shuttle bays. But we need to ready the emergencyresuscitationteams.” Butler was less thanhappywiththe idea oflosing Artemis. “Nobody’s deathis impending.” His principaldidn’t seemoverlyconcerned. “Well, technically, everybody’s deathis impending.” “Shut up, Artemis!”snapped Butler, whichwas a major breachofhis ownprofessionalethics. “I promised your mother that I would look after you, and yet again youhave put me ina positionwhere mybrawnand skills count for nothing.” “That is hardlyfair,”said Artemis. “I hardlythink
  51. 51. that I canbe blamed for Opal’s latest stunt.” Butler’s face blazed a fewshades redder than Artemis could remember havingseenit. “I do think you canbe blamed, and I do blame you. We’re barelyclear ofthe consequences ofyour last misadventure, and here we are neck deep inanother one.” Artemis seemed more shocked bythis outburst thanbythe impending death situation. “Butler, I had no idea youwere harboringsuch frustration.” The bodyguard rubbed his cropped head. “Neither had I,”he admitted. “But for the past few years it’s beenone thingafter another. Goblins, time travel, demons. Nowthis place where everythingis so… so…small.”He took a deep, shudderingbreath. “Okay. I said it, it’s out there. And I amfine now. So let’s move on, shallwe? What’s the plan?” “Keep evacuating,”said Artemis. “No more empoweringthose hostage-takingnitwits; theyhave their instructions. Drop the blast doors, whichshould help absorb some ofthe shock waves.” “We have our strategies inplace, human,”said Trouble Kelp. “The entire populationcanbe at their assemblypoints infive minutes.” Artemis paced, thinking. “Tellyour people to dump
  52. 52. their weapons into the magma chutes. Leave anything that might have Koboitechnologybehind. Phones, games, everything.” “AllKoboiweaponryhas beenretired,”said Holly. “But some ofthe older Neutrinos might have a chip or two.” Trouble Kelp had the grace to look guilty. “Some ofthe Koboiweaponryhas beenretired,”he said. “Budget cuts—youknowhowit is.” Pip interrupted their preparations byactuallyrappingon the camera lens. “Hey, LEP people. I’mgettingold here. Somebodysaysomething, anything. Tellus more lies— we don’t care.” Artemis’s eyebrows furrowed and joined. He did not appreciate suchflippant posturingwhenmanylives were at stake. He pointed at the microphone. “MayI?” Trouble barelylooked up fromhis emergencycalls and made a vague gesture that was opento interpretation. Artemis chose to interpret it as an affirmative. He approached the screen. “Listento me, you lowlife. This is Artemis Fowl. Youmayhave heard of
  53. 53. me.” Pip grinned, and his mask echoed the expression. “Oooh, Artemis Fowl. Wonder boy. We’ve heard ofyoualright, haven’t we, Kip?” Kip nodded, dancinga little jig. “Artemis Fowl, the Oirishboywho chased leprechauns. Sure and begorra everyone has heard ofthat smarty-pants.” These two are stupid, thought Artemis. Theyare stupid and talk too much, and I should be able to exploit those weaknesses. He tried a ruse. “I thought I told youto read your demands and say nothingmore.” Pip’s face was literallya mask ofconfusion. “You told us?” Artemis hardened his voice. “Myinstructions for youtwo idiots were to read the demands, wait untilthe time was up, thenshoot the pixie. I don’t recallsaying anythingabout tradinginsults.” Pip’s mask frowned. How did Artemis Fowl know their instructions? “Your instructions? We don’t take orders from you.” “Really? Explainto me thenhowI knowyour
  54. 54. instructions to the letter.” Pip’s mask software was not able to cope withhis rapid expressionchange and froze momentarily. “I…ah…I don’t…” “And tellme howI knewthe exact frequencyto tap into.” “You’re not inPolice Plaza?” “Ofcourse not, youidiot. I’mat the rendezvous point waitingfor Opal.” Artemis felt his heart speed up, and he waited a second for his conscious mind to catchup withhis subconscious and tellhimwhat he recognized onscreen. Somethinginthe background. Somethingfamiliar. The wallbehind Pip and Kip was nondescript gray, rendered withroughlyfinished plaster. Acommonfinish for farmwalls worldwide. There were walls like this all over the FowlEstate. Ba boom. There went his heart again. Artemis concentrated onthe wall. Slate-gray, except for a network ofjagged cracks that sundered the plasterwork.
  55. 55. Amemorypresented itselfofsix-year-old Artemis and his father walkingthe estate. As theypassed the barnwallonthe upper pasture, youngArtemis pointed to the walland commented. “See, Father? The cracks forma map ofCroatia, once part ofthe Roman, Ottoman, and AustrianHabsburgempires. Were you aware that Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in1991?” There it was. Onthe wallbehind Pip and Kip. A map ofCroatia, thoughfifteen-year-old Artemis saw nowthat the Dalmatiancoastline was truncated. Theyare onthe FowlEstate, he realized. Why? SomethingDr. Argonhad said resurfaced. Because the residual magic there is off the scale. Something happened on the Fowl Estate once. Something huge, magically speaking. Artemis decided to act onhis hunch. “I’mat the Fowl Estate, waitingfor Opal,”he said. “You’re at FowlManor too?”blurted Kip, promptingPip to turnrapidlyand shoot his comrade in the heart. The gnome was punched backward into the wall, knockingclouds ofdust fromthe plaster. Anarrow streamofblood oozed fromthe hole inhis chest, pulsing
  56. 56. gentlydownhis breastplate, as undramatic as a paint drip runningdowna jar. His kitty-cat cartoonface seemed comicallysurprised, and whenthe heat fromhis face faded, the pixels powered down, leavinga yellow questionmark. The suddendeathshocked Artemis, but the precedingsentence had shocked himmore. He had beencorrect onbothcounts:not onlywas Opalbehind this, but the rendezvous point was Fowl Manor. Why? What had happened there? Pip shouted at the screen. “Yousee what youdid, human? Ifyouare human. Ifyouare Artemis Fowl. It doesn’t matter what youknow, it’s too late.” Pip pressed the stillsmokingbarrelto Opal’s head, and she jerked awayas the metalburned her skin, pleadingthroughthe tape over her mouth. It was clear that Pip wished to pullthe trigger, but he could not. He has his instructions, thought Artemis. He must wait untilthe allotted time has runout. Otherwise he cannot be certainthat Opalis secure inthe nuclear reactor. Artemis deactivated the microphone and was movingtoward the door whenHollycaught his arm.
  57. 57. “There’s no time,”she said, correctlyguessingthat he was headed for home. “I must tryto save myfamilyfromthe next stage of Opal’s plan,”said Artemis tersely. “There are five minutes left. IfI canmake it to a magma vent, we might be able to outrunthe explosions to the surface.” Commander Kelp quicklyweighed his options. He could order Artemis to remainunderground, but it would certainlybe strategicallyadvantageous to have someone track OpalKoboiifshe somehowescaped from Atlantis. “Go,”he said. “CaptainShort willpilot youand Butler to the surface. Stayincontact if…” He did not finishthe sentence, but everyone inthe roomcould guess what he had beenabout to say. Stay in contact if…there is anything left to contact.
  58. 58. The Deeps, Atlantis Opaldid not enjoybeingforced into the depths ofthe tube bya flat-topped ramrod, but once she was down inside the neutroncrust, she felt quite snuggly, cushioned bya fluffylayer ofanti-rad foam. One is like a caterpillar ina chrysalis, she thought, onlya little irked bythe roughmaterialofher anti-rad suit. I amabout to transforminto the godhead. I am about to arrive at mydestiny. Bowdown, creatures, or bear thine ownblindness. Thenshe thought, Bear thine own blindness? Is that too much? There was a nigglydoubt inthe back ofOpal’s head that she had actuallymade a horrific mistake by settingthis planinmotion. It was her most radical maneuver ever, and thousands offairies and humans
  59. 59. would die. Worse still, she herselfmight cease to exist, or morphinto some kind oftime-mutant. But Opaldealt withthese worries bysimplyrefusingto engage with them. It was childish, she knew; but Opalwas ninety percent convinced that she was cosmicallyordained to be the first QuantumBeing. The alternative was too abhorrent to be entertained for long:she, OpalKoboi, would be forced to live out her days as a commonprisoner inthe Deeps, anobject ofridicule and derision. The subject ofmoralitytales and schoolprojects. Achimp ina zoo for the Atlantis fairies to stare at withround eyes. To killeveryone or evendie herselfwould be infinitelypreferable. Not that she would die. The tube would containher energy; and withenough concentration, she would become a nuclear versionof herself. One feels one’s destiny at hand. Any minute now. Haven City Artemis, Butler, and Hollytook the express elevator to Police Plaza’s ownshuttleport, whichwas connected to a magma vent fromthe earth’s core that supplied much ofthe city’s power throughgeothermalrods. Artemis did not speak to the others; he simplymuttered to himself
  60. 60. and rapped the steelwallofthe elevator withhis knuckles. Hollywas relieved to find that there was no pattern inthe rappings, unless, ofcourse, the patternwas too complicated for her to perceive it. It wouldn’t be the first time Artemis’s thought process had beenbeyond her grasp. The elevator was spacious byLEP standards and so allowed Butler enoughheadroomto stand up straight, thoughhe stillknocked his crownagainst the capsule wallwhenever theyhit a bump. FinallyArtemis spoke:“Ifwe canget into the shuttle before the deadline, thenwe stand a realchance ofmakingit to the magma chutes.” Artemis used the word deadline, but his companions knewthat he meant assassination. Pip would shoot Opalwhenthe time was up; none ofthem doubted that now. Thenthe consequences ofthis murder would unfold, whatever theymight be; and their best chance ofsurvivallayonthe inside ofa titaniumcraft that was built to withstand totalimmersionina magma chimney. The elevator hissed to a halt onpneumatic pistons and the doors opened to admit the assorted noises of utter bedlam. The shuttleport was jammed withfrantic fairies fightingtheir waythroughthe securitycheckpoints,
  61. 61. ignoringthe usualX-rayprotocols and jumpingover barriers and turnstiles. Sprites flewillegallylow, their wings grazingthe tube lighting. Gnomes huddled together incrunchballformations, attemptingto barge their way throughthe line ofLEP crowd-controlofficers inriot gear. “People are forgettingtheir drills,”muttered Holly. “This panic is not goingto help anyone.” Artemis stared crestfallenat the melee. He had seensomethinglike it once inJFK airport, whena TV realitystar had turned up inArrivals. “We won’t make it through. Not without hurtingpeople.” Butler picked up his comrades and slungone across eachshoulder. “The heck we won’t,”he said, steppingdeterminedlyinto the multitude. Pip’s attitude had changed since he’d shot his partner. No more chitchat or posturing; nowhe was followinghis instructions to the letter:Wait untilyour phone alarm beeps, thenshoot the pixie. That Fowl guy. That was bluff, right? He can’t do anything now. It probably wasn’t even Fowl. Pip decided that he would never divulge what had happened here today. Silence was safety. Words would onlybind themselves into strands and hanghim.
  62. 62. She need never know. But Pip knewthat she would take one look inhis eyes and knoweverything. For a second Pip thought about running, just disentanglinghimselffromthis entire convoluted master planand beinga plainold gnome again. I cannot do it. She would find me. She would find me and do terrible things to me. And, for some reason, I do not wish to be free of her. There was nothingfor it but to followthe orders that he had not alreadydisobeyed. Perhaps, if I kill her, she will forgive me. Pip cocked the hammer onhis handgunand pressed it to the back ofOpal’s head. Atlantis Inthe reactor, Opal’s head was buzzingwithexcitement. It must be soon. Verysoon. She had beencountingthe seconds, but the bumpyelevator ride had disoriented her. I amready, she thought. Readyfor the next step. Pull it!she broadcast, knowingher younger self would hear the thought and panic. Pull the trigger.
  63. 63. Police Plaza Foalyfelt his forelock droop under the weight of perspirationand tried to remember what his parting comment to Caballine had beenthat morning. I think I told her that I loved her. I always do. But did I say it this morning? Did I? It seemed veryimportant to him. Caballine is in the suburbs. She will be out of harm’s way. Fine. The centaur did not believe his ownthoughts. If Opalwas behind this, there would be serpentine twists to this planyet to be revealed. Opal Koboi does not make plans; she writes operas. For the first time inhis life, Foalywas horrified to catchhimselfthinkingthat someone else might just be a little smarter thanhe was. Police Plaza Shuttleport Butler waded throughthe crowd, droppinghis feet with care. His appearance inthe shuttleport onlyserved to heightenthe levelofpanic, but that could not be helped now. Some temporarydiscomforts would have to be
  64. 64. borne bycertainfairies ifit meant reachingtheir shuttle in time. Elves shoaled around his knees like cleaner-fish, severalpokinghimwithbuzzbatons and a couple sprayinghimwithpheromone repellent spray, which Butler found to his great annoyance instantlyshrunk his sinuses. Whentheyreached the securityturnstile, the huge bodyguard simplystepped over it, leavingthe majorityof the frightened populace millingaround onthe other side. Butler had the presence ofmind to dunk Hollyinfront of the retinalscanner so theycould be beeped through without activatingthe terminal’s securitymeasures. Hollycalled to a sprite she recognized onthe securitydesk. “Chix. Is our chute open?” ChixVerbilhad once beenHolly’s podmate ona stakeout and was onlyalive because she had dragged his wounded frame out ofharm’s way. “Uh…yeah. Commander Kelp told us to make a hole. Are youokay, Captain?” Hollydismounted fromButler’s shelflike shoulder, landingwithsparks fromher boot heels. “Fine.” “Unusualmode oftransport,”commented Chix, nervouslyhoveringa foot fromthe floor, his reflection
  65. 65. shimmeringinthe polished steelbelowlike a sprite trapped inanother dimension. “Don’t worry, Chix,”said Holly, pattingButler’s thigh. “He’s tame. Unless he smells fear.” Butler sniffed the air as thoughthere were a faint scent ofterror. Chixrose a fewinches, his wings a hummingbird blur. He tapped the V-board onhis wrist computer with sweatingdigits. “Okay. Youare set to go. The ground crewchecked allyour life support. And we popped ina freshplasma cube while we were inthere, so you’re good for a fewdecades. The blast doors are droppingin less thantwo minutes, so I would get movingifI were youand take those two Mud Men…ah, humans…with you.” Butler decided that it would be quicker to keep Artemis pinioned onhis shoulder untiltheywere inthe shuttle, as he would probablytrip over a dwarfinhis haste. He set offat a quick lope downthe metaltube linkingthe check-indesk to their berth. Foalyhad managed to get a remodelingorder approved for the bayso that Butler could walk under the lintelwithhis chintucked low. The shuttle itselfwas actuallyanoff-road vehicle confiscated bythe Criminal Assets Bureaufroma tuna smuggler. Its middle rowof seats had beenremoved so that the bodyguard could
  66. 66. stretchout inthe back. Ridingthe off-roader was Butler’s favorite part ofhis underworld visits. Off-roader!Foalyhad snorted. As if there is anywhere to go in Haven that doesn’t have roads. Plasma-guzzling status symbols, that’s all these clunkers are. Whichhadn’t stopped himfromgleefullyorderinga refit so that the vehicle resembled anAmericanHumvee and could accommodate two humans inthe back. And because Artemis was one ofthe humans, Foalycould not help but showoffa little, stuffingmore extras into the confined space thanwould be found inthe average Mars probe:gelseats, thirty-two speakers, 3-DHDTV; and for Holly, oxy-boost, and a single laser cutter inthe hood ornament, whichwas animp blowinga long- stemmed horn. This was whythe shuttle was referred to as the Silver Cupid. It was a little romantic-soundingfor Artemis’s taste, and so Hollyreferred to it byname as oftenas possible. The off-roader detected Holly’s proximityand sent a message to her wrist computer inquiringwhether it should pop the doors and start itselfup. Hollyconfirmed without missinga step, and the batwingdoors swung smoothlyupward just intime for Butler to unload Artemis like a sack ofkittens fromhis shoulder into the backseat. Hollyslid into the single front seat inthe nose
  67. 67. ofthe blockycraft and had locked onto the supplyrail before the doors had sealed. Artemis and Butler leaned back and allowed the safetycinches to drop over their shoulders, pulling comfortablyclose ontension-sensitive rollers. Artemis’s fingers scrunched the materialofhis pants at the knees. Their progress downthe feeder rail seemed maddeninglyslow. At the end ofthe metal panel–clad rock tunneltheycould see the vent itself, a glowingcrescent yawninglike the gate to hell. “Holly,”he said without partinghis teeth, “please, a little acceleration.” Hollylifted her gloved hands fromthe wheel. “We’re stillonthe feeder rail, Artemis. It’s all automatic.” Foaly’s face appeared ina heads-up displayonthe windshield. “I’msorry, Artemis,”he said. “I reallyam. We’ve runout oftime.” “No!”said Artemis, strainingagainst his belt. “There are fifteenseconds left. Twelve at least.” Foaly’s eyes dropped to the controls before him. “We have to close the doors to ensure everyone inside the blast tunnels survives. I reallyamsorry, Artemis.” The off-roader jerked, thenhalted as the power was cut to the rail.
  68. 68. “We canmake it,”Artemis said, his voice close to a panicked wheeze. Up ahead the mouthto hellbeganto close as the giant dwarf-forged gears rolled the meter-thick slatted shutters downover the vent. Artemis grasped Holly’s shoulder. “Holly? Please.” Hollyrolled her eyes and flicked the controls to manual. “D’Arvit,”she said, and pressed the accelerator to the floor. The off-roader leaped forward, jerkingfree from its guide rail, settingoffrevolvinglights and warning sirens. Onscreen, Foalyrubbed his eyelids withindex fingers. “Yeah, yeah. Here we go. CaptainShort goes rogue once more. Hands up who’s surprised. Anyone?” Hollytried to ignore the centaur and concentrate on squeezingthe shuttle throughthe shrinkinggap. UsuallyI pullthis sort ofstunt toward the end ofan adventure, she thought. Third-act climax. We’re starting earlythis time. The shuttle grated alongthe tunnelfloor, the friction sendingup twinarcs ofsparks that bounced offthe walls. Hollyslipped controlgoggles over her eyes and automaticallyadjusted her visionto the curious double
  69. 69. focus necessaryto send blink commands to the sensors inher lenses and actuallylook at what was infront of her. “Close,”she said. “It’s goingto be close.”And then, before theylost the link:“Good luck, Foaly. Stay safe.” The centaur tapped his screenwithtwo fingers. “Good luck to us all.” Hollybought themanextra fewinches bydeflating the Cupid’s suspensionpads, and the off-roader ducked under the descendingblast doors withhalfa second to spare, swoopinginto the naturalchimney. Below, the earth’s core spewed up magma columns tenmiles wide, creatingfieryupdrafts that blasted the smallshuttle’s scorched underside and set it spiralingtoward the surface. Hollyset the stabilizers and allowed the headrest to cradle her neck and skull. “Hold on,”she said. “There’s a roughride ahead.” Pip jumped whenthe alarmsounded onhis phone as thoughhe had not beenexpectingit, as thoughhe had not beencountingthe seconds. Nevertheless he seemed surprised, nowthat the moment had finallyarrived. ShootingKip had drained the cockiness fromhim, and
  70. 70. his bodylanguage was clearlythat ofa reluctant assassin. He tried to regainsome ofthat old cavalier spirit by wavinghis guna little and leeringat the camera; but it is difficult to represent the murder ofa childlike pixie as anythingbut that. “I warned you,”he said to the camera. “This is on youpeople, not me.” InPolice Plaza, Commander Kelp activated the mike. “I willfind you,”he growled. “Ifit takes me a thousand years, I willfind youand deliver youto a lifetime’s imprisonment.” This actuallyseemed to cheer Pip a little. “You? Find me? Sorryifthat doesn’t worryme, cop, but I knowsomeone who scares me a lot more thanyou.” And without further discussionhe shot Opal, once, inthe head. The pixie toppled forward as thoughstruck from behind witha shovel. The bullet’s impact drove her into the ground withsome force, but there was verylittle blood except a smalltrickle fromher ear, almost as if youngOpalhad fallenfromher bicycle inthe schoolyard. InPolice Plaza the usuallyriotous operations center
  71. 71. grewquiet as the entire force waited for the repercussions ofthe murder theyhad just witnessed. Whichquantumtheorywould prove correct? Perhaps nothingat allwould happenapart fromthe deathofa pixie. “Okay,”said Trouble Kelp, after a longpregnant moment. “We’re stilloperational. Howlongbefore we’re out ofthe troll’s den?” Foalywas about to runa fewcalculations onthe computer whenthe wallscreenspontaneouslyshattered, leakinggreengas into the room. “Hold onto something,”he advised. “Chaos is coming.” Atlantis OpalKoboifelt herselfdie, and it was a curious sensation, like ananxious gnawingat her insides. So this is what trauma feels like, she thought. I’m sure I’llget over it. The sour sickness was soonreplaced bya fizzing excitement as she relished the notionofwhat she was to become. Finally I am transforming. Emerging from my chrysalis as the most powerful creature on the
  72. 72. planet. Nothing will stand in my way. This was allverymelodramatic, but Opaldecided that, under the circumstances, her eventualbiographer would understand. It never occurred to the pixie that her theoryof temporalparadoxcould simplybe dead wrong, and she could be left downa hole ina nuclear reactor having killed her onlyrealally. I feela tingle, she thought. It’s beginning. The tingle became anuncomfortable burning sensationinthe base ofher skullthat quicklyspread to clamp her entire head ina fieryvise. Opalcould no longer nurture thoughts offuture conquests as her entire beingsuddenlybecame fear and pain. I have made a mistake, she thought desperately. No prize is worthanother second ofthis. Opalthrashed inside her anti-rad suit, fightingthe soft constraints ofthe foam, whichblunted her movements. The painspread throughher nervous system, increasinginintensityfrommerelyunbearable to unimaginable. Whatever slender threads ofsanityOpal had left snapped like a brig’s moorings ina hurricane. Opalfelt her magic returnto conquer the painin what remained ofher nerve endings. The mad and vengefulpixie fought to containher ownenergyand not
  73. 73. be destroyed utterlybyher ownpower, evennowbeing released as electrons shifted orbits and nuclei spontaneouslysplit. Her bodyphase-shifted to pure goldenenergy, vaporizingthe radiationsuit and burning wormhole trails throughthe dissolvingfoam, ricocheting against the walls ofthe neutronchamber and back into Opal’s ragged consciousness. Now, she thought. Nowthe rapture begins, as I remake myselfinmyownimage. I ammyowngod. And, withonlythe power ofher mind, Opal reassembled herself. Her appearance remained unchanged, for she was vainand believed herselfto be perfect. But she opened and expanded her mind, allowingnewpowers to coat the bridges betweenher nerve cells, focusingonthe ancient mantras ofthe dark arts so that her newmagic could be used to bringher soldiers up fromtheir restingplace. Power like this was too muchfor one body, and she must excise it as soon as her escape was made, or her atoms would be shredded and swept awaylike windborne fireflies. Nails are hard to reassemble, she thought. I might have to sacrifice myfingernails and toenails. The ripple effects ofyoungOpal’s murder inthe corner ofa field were more widespread thanevenArtemis could have imagined, thoughintruthimagine is the
  74. 74. wrongverb, as Artemis Fowlwas not inthe habit of imagininganything. Evenas a smallboy, he had never nurtured daydreams ofhimselfonhorseback fighting dragons. What Artemis preferred to do was visualize an achievable objective and thenwork toward that goal. His mother, Angeline, had once peered over eight- year-old Artemis’s shoulder as he sketched inhis journal. Oh, darling, that’s wonderful!she’d exclaimed, delighted that her boyhad finallyshownsome interest in artistic creativity, evenifthe picture did seema little violent. It’s a giant robot destroying a city. No, Mother, Artemis had sighed, ever the theatricalmisunderstood genius. It’s a builder drone constructing a lunar habitat. Angeline had ruffled her son’s hair inrevenge for the sighand wondered iflittle Artymight need to talk to someone professional. Artemis had considered the widespread devastationthat would be caused bythe spontaneous energyexploding fromallOpal-related material, but evenhe was not aware ofthe saturationlevels Koboiproducts had achieved inthe fewyears before her incarceration. KoboiIndustries had manylegitimate businesses, which manufactured everythingfromweapons parts to medical
  75. 75. equipment; but Opalhad also severalshadow companies that illegallyextended her influence to the humanworld and eveninto space, and the effects of these tens ofthousands ofcomponents explodingranged frominconvenient to downright catastrophic. Inthe LEP lockup, two hundred assorted weapons, whichwere scheduled for recyclingthe followingweek, collapsed like meltingchocolate bars, thenradiated a fierce goldenlight that fried alllocalclosed-circuit systems before explodingwiththe power ofa hundred bars ofSemtex. Fissionwas not achieved, but the damage was substantialnonetheless. The warehouse was essentiallyvaporized, and severalofthe underground city’s load-bearingsupport pillars were toppled like children’s buildingblocks. HavenCityCenter collapsed inward, allowinga million tons ofthe earth’s crust to cave inontop ofthe fairy capital, breakingthe pressure sealand increasingthe atmosphere readings byalmost a thousand percent. Anythingunder the fallingrock was squashed instantly. There were eighty-sevenfatalities, and propertydamage was absolute. Police Plaza’s basement collapsed, causingthe bottom
  76. 76. three floors to sink into the depression. Fortunatelythe upper floors were bolted to the cavernroof, whichheld firmand saved the lives ofmanyofficers who had elected to remainat their posts. Sixty-three percent offairyautomobiles had Koboi pistons intheir engines, whichblewsimultaneously, causinganincredible synchronized flippingofvehicles, part ofwhichwas captured ona parkinggarage camera that had somehowsurvived compression. It would in future years become the most viewed clip onthe Underworld Web. Koboishadowlabs had for years beensellingobsolete fairytechnologyto humancompanies, as it would seem cutting-edge to their shareholders. These little wonder chips or their descendants had wended their wayinto almost everycomputer-controlled device built withinthe past fewyears. These chips inside laptops, cellphones, televisions, and toasters popped and pinged like kineticallycharged ballbearings intincans. Eighty percent ofelectronic communicationonplanet Earth immediatelyceased. Humanitywas heaved back to the paper age inhalfa second. Life-support systems spat out bolts ofenergyand died.
  77. 77. Precious manuscripts were lost. Banks collapsed as all financialrecords for the past fiftyyears were completely wiped out. Planes fellfromthe sky, the GraumII space stationdrifted offinto space, and defense satellites that were not supposed to exist stopped existing. People took to the streets, shoutinginto their dead cell phones as ifvolume could reactivate them. Looting spread across countries like a computer virus while actualcomputer viruses died withtheir hosts, and credit cards became mere rectangles ofplastic. Parliaments were stormed worldwide as citizens blamed their governments for this series ofinexplicable catastrophes. Gouts offire and foulblurts ofactualbrimstone emerged fromcracks inthe earth. These were mostlyfrom ruptured pipes, but people took up a cryof Armageddon. Chaos reigned, and the survivalists eagerly unwrapped the kidskinfromtheir crossbows. Phase one ofOpal’s planwas complete.
  78. 78. LUCKILY for CaptainHollyShort and the passengers in the Silver Cupid, Foalywas so paranoid where Opal was concerned and so vainabout his owninventions that he insisted nothingbut branded Foaly-techparts be used inthe shuttle’s refit, goingso far as to strip out any Koboior generic components that he could not trace back to a parent company. But, evenwithallofhis paranoia, Foalystillmissed a patchoffiller onthe rear fender that contained anadhesive Killer Filler developed byKoboiLabs. Fortunately, whenthe adhesive fizzled and blew, it took the pathofleast resistance and spunawayfromthe ship like a fiery swarmofbees. No operatingsystems were affected— thoughthere was anunsightlypatchofprimer left visible onthe spoiler, whicheveryone inthe shuttle would surely
  79. 79. have agreed was preferable to their beingdead. The shuttle soared onthe thermals, borne aloft like a dandelionseed inthe Grand Canyon—ifyouaccept that there are dandelions inthe Grand Canyoninspite of the arid conditions. Hollynudged theminto the center of the vast chimney, thoughthere was little chance oftheir strikinga wallinthe absence ofa full-fledged magma flare. Artemis called to her fromthe rear, but she could not hear over the roar ofcore wind. “Cans,”she mouthed, tappingthe phones inher ownhelmet. “Put onyour headphones.” He pulled a pair ofbulkycans fromtheir clip onthe ceilingand adjusted themover his ears. “Do youhave anykind ofpreliminarydamage report fromFoaly?”he asked. Hollychecked her coms. “Nothing. Everythingis down. I’mnot evengettingstatic.” “Verywell, here is the situationas I see it. As our communications are down, I assume that youngOpal’s murder has thrownthe entire planet into disarray. There willbe mayhemona scale not seensince the last world war. Our Opaldoubtless plans to emerge fromthe ashes ofthis globalpyre as some formofpixie phoenix. How she intends to do this, I do not know; but there is some connectionto myhome, the FowlEstate, so that is where we must go. Howlongwillthe journeytake,
  80. 80. Holly?” Hollyconsidered what was under the hood. “I can shave fifteenminutes offthe usual, but it’s stillgoingto be a couple ofhours.” Two hours, thought Artemis. One hundred and twentyminutes to concoct a workable strategywherein we three tackle whatever Opalhas planned. Butler adjusted his headphones’ microphone. “Artemis. I knowthis has occurred to you, because it occurred to me.” “I predict, old friend,”said Artemis, “that youare about to point out that we are rushingheadlongto the exact place where Opalis strongest.” “Exactly, Artemis,”confirmed the bodyguard. “Or, as we used to sayinthe Delta:we are running blindfolded into the killbox.” Artemis’s face fell. Kill box? Hollyshot Butler a witheringglance. Nicely put, big guy. Artemis’s family lives in that kill box. She flexed her fingers, thenwrapped themtightly around the controls. “Maybe I canshave twentyminutes offthe usualtime,”she said, and set the shuttle’s sensors searchingfor the strongest thermals to bear themaloft toward whatever madness OpalKoboihad orchestrated for the world.
  81. 81. Atlantis Opaltook a fewmoments to congratulate herselfon once againbeingabsolutelycorrect inher theorizingand thenlayabsolutelystillto see ifshe could feelthe panic seepingthroughfromabove. One does feelsomething, Opalconcluded. Definitelya generalwave offear, witha dashof desolation. It would have beennice to simplylie awhile and generate power; but withso muchto do, that would have beenanindulgence. Work, work, work, she thought, turningher face to the tunnelmouth. I must away. Withbarelya flick ofher mind, Opalemitted a corona ofintense light and heat, searingthroughthe solidified anti-rad foamthat encased her, and levitated to the tube hatch, whichhindered her barelymore thanthe foam. After all, she had the power nowto change the molecular structure ofwhatever she concentrated on. Alreadythe power is fading, she realized. I am leakingmagic, and mybodywillsoonbeginto disintegrate. Adwarfstood inthe chamber beyond the fizzled hatch, seemingmost unperturbed bythe wonders before him.
  82. 82. “This is Frondsday,”proclaimed KolinOzkopy, chinjutting. “I could be doingwithout allthis bleeping nonsense ona Frondsday. First I lose receptiononmy phone so I have no idea who is winningthe crunchball match, and nowa goldenpixie is floatinginmychamber. So praytellme, pixie lady, what is goingon? And where are your nails?” Opalwas amazed to find that she felt compelled to answer. “Nails are difficult, dwarf. I was prepared to forgo nails to save time.” “Yep, that makes a lot ofsense,”said Ozkopy, displayingfar too muchlack ofawe for Opal’s taste. “Youwant to knowwhat’s difficult? Standinghere gettingblasted byyour aura, that’s what. I should be covered inSPF one thousand.” Infairness to Ozkopy, he was not being psychoticallyblasé about this whole affair. He was actuallyinshock and had a prettygood idea who Opal was and that he was probablyabout to die, and he was tryingto brazenit out. Opal’s goldenbrowcreased witha frownlike ripplinglava. “You, dwarf, should be honored that the finalimage seared into your worthless retinas is one of myglorious…glory.” Opalwas not entirelyhappywithhowthat sentence had ended; but the dwarfwould be dead
  83. 83. momentarily, and the poor sentence construction forgotten. Ozkopywas not entirelyhappywithOpal insultinghis retinas. “Worthless retinas?!”he spluttered. “Mydad gave me these retinas…not that he directlyplucked ’emout of his ownhead, youunderstand, but he passed ’em down.”To his eternalcosmic credit, Ozkopydecided to go out withsome flair. “And, seeingas we’re insulting eachother, I always thought you’d be taller. Plus, your hips are wobbly.” Opalbristled angrily, whichresulted inher radioactive corona expandingbya radius ofthree yards, totallyatomizinganythingwithinthe sphere, including KolinOzkopy. But, eventhoughthe dwarfwas gone, the stingofhis partingcomments would live oninOpal’s mind-drawer ofunfinished business for the rest ofher life. IfOpalhad one flawthat she would admit to, it was a tendencyto rashlydispose ofthose who had offended her, lettingthemoffthe hook, as it were. I mustn’t let that dwarfget me down, she told herself, ascendingwithblindingspeed toward the surface. Myhips are most definitelynot wobbly. Opal’s ascent was blindingand divine inappearance, like a supernova that shot toward the ocean’s surface, the fierce heat ofher black magic repellingthe walls of
  84. 84. Atlantis and the crushingoceanwithequal offhandedness, reorganizingthe atomic structure of anythingthat stood inher way. She rode her corona ofblack magic onward and upward toward the FowlEstate. She did not need to think about her destination, as the lock called to her. The lock called, and she was the key.
  85. 85. Ériú, a.k.a. The Fowl Estate Buried ina descendingspiralaround the lock, the Berserkers grewagitated as magic was let loose inthe world above. Somethingis coming, Oro, captainofthe Berserkers, realized. Soonwe willbe free and our swords willtaste humanblood once more. We willbake their hearts inclayjars and callforththe ancient dark forces. We willinfiltrate what forms we must to hold the humans back. Theycannot killus, for we are already dead, held together bya skeinofmagic. Our time willbe short. No more thana single night after allthis time; but we willcover ourselves inglory and blood before we joinDanuinthe afterlife.
  86. 86. Can you feel the shift? Oro called downto the spirits ofhis warriors. Be prepared to push forward when the gate is opened. We are ready, replied his warriors. When the light falls upon us, we will seize the bodies of dogs, badgers, and humans and subvert them to our wills. Oro could not help thinking:I would rather inhabit a humanthana badger. For he was proud, and this pride had cost himhis life tenthousand years ago. Gobdaw, who layto his left, sent out a shuddering thought that could almost be a chuckle. Yes, he said. But better a badger than a rat. IfOro’s heart had beenfleshand blood, it would have burst witha newpride, but this time for his warriors. Mysoldiers are readyfor war. Theywillfight until their stolenbodies drop, thenfinallybe free to embrace the light. Our time is at hand. Juliet Butler was holdingthe fort, and not just inthe sense oflookingafter things while Artemis’s parents were awayat aneco-conference inLondon—she was actuallyholdinga fort.
  87. 87. The fort inquestionwas anold Martello tower that stood sentryona hilloverlookingDublinBay. The fort had beenworndownto a nub bythe elements, and strange black ivyhad throwntendrils alongthe walls as thoughtryingto reclaimthe stone for the earth. The would-be conquerors were Artemis Fowl’s brothers: four-year-old Myles and his twin, Beckett. The boys had rushed the tower severaltimes withwoodenswords but were rebuffed byJuliet and sent gentlytumblinginto the longgrass. Beckett squealed withlaughter, but Juliet could see that Myles was growingmore and more frustrated at the failure ofhis assaults. Just like Artemis, that one, Juliet thought. Another little criminalmastermind. For the past tenminutes the boys had beenrustling behind a bush, plottingtheir next attack. Juliet could hear muffled giggles and terse commands as Myles no doubt issued a complicated series oftacticalinstructions to Beckett. Juliet smiled. She could just imagine the scenario. Myles would saysomethinglike: You go one way, Beck, and I go the other. ’S called flanking. To whichBeckett would respond withsomething like:I like caterpillars.
  88. 88. It was true to saythat the brothers loved each other more thantheyloved themselves, but Myles lived ina state ofconstant frustrationthat Beckett could not, or would not, followthe simplest instruction. Anysecond nowBeckett willgrowbored withthis tacticalmeeting, thought Butler’s younger sister, and come wanderingfromthe bushbrandishinghis toy sword. Moments later, Beckett did indeed stumble from the bush, but it was not a sword that he brandished. Juliet swungher legover the lowparapet and called suspiciously. “Beck, what have yougot there?” Beckett waved the item. “Underpants,”he said frankly. Juliet looked againto confirmthat the grubby triangle was indeed a pair ofunderpants. Because ofthe knee-lengthWimpyKid T-shirt he had wornfor the past forty-eight days, it was impossible to ascertainwhether or not the underpants were Beckett’s own, thoughit seemed likely, giventhat the boy’s legs were bare. Beckett was somethingofanunrulycharacter and, inher fewmonths as nanny/bodyguard, Juliet had seena lot worse things thanunderpants—for example, the wormfarmthat Beckett had constructed inthe
  89. 89. downstairs bathroomand fertilized personally. “Okay, Beck,”she called downfromthe tower. “Just put the underpants down, kiddo. I’llget youa cleanpair.” Beckett advanced steadily. “Nope. Beckett is sick ofstupid underpants. These’re for you. Apresent.” The boy’s face glowed withinnocent enthusiasm, convinced that his Y-fronts were about the best present a girlcould get—besides a pair ofhis Y-fronts witha handfulofbeetles cradled inside. Juliet countered with:“But it’s not mybirthday.” Beckett was at the foot ofthe worntower now, wavingthe pants like a flag. “I love you, Jules—take the present.” He loves me, thought Juliet. Kids always knowthe weak spot. She tried one last desperate ploy. “But won’t your bottombe chilly?” Beckett had ananswer for that. “Nope. I don’t ever feelcold.” Juliet smiled fondly. It was easyto believe. Bony Beckett gave offenoughheat to boila lake. Hugginghim was like hugginga restless radiator. At this point, Juliet’s onlywayto avoid touchingthe underpants was a harmless lie. “Rabbits love old
  90. 90. underpants, Beck. Whydon’t youburythemas a gift for Papa Rabbit?” “Rabbits don’t need underpants,”said a sinister little voice behind her. “Theyare warm-blooded mammals, and their fur is sufficient clothinginour climate.” Juliet felt the tip ofMyles’s woodensword inher thighand realized that the boyhad used Beckett as a distraction, thencircled around to the back steps. I didn’t hear a thing, she mused. Myles is learning to creep. “Verygood, Myles,”she said. “Howdid youget Beckett to followyour instructions?” Myles grinned smugly, and the resemblance to Artemis was uncanny. “I didn’t give himsoldier’s orders. I ’gested to Beck that his bummight be itchy.” This boyis not yet five, thought Juliet. Wait tillthe world gets a load ofMyles Fowl. Fromthe corner ofher eye she sawsomething triangular sailthroughthe air toward her and instinctively snatched it. No sooner had her fingers closed onthe materialthanit dawned onher what she was holding. Great, she thought. Hoodwinked bytwo four-year- olds. “Righto, boys,”she said. “Time to go back to the
  91. 91. house for lunch. What’s onthe menutoday?” Myles sheathed his sword. “I would like a croque madame, withchilled grape juice.” “Bugs,”said Beckett, hoppingonone foot. “Bugs inketchup.” Juliet hiked Myles onto her shoulder and jumped downfromthe tower’s lowwall. “Same as yesterday, then, boys.” Memo to self, she thought. Wash your hands. The boys were waist highinthe pasture whenthe farawaychaos began. Beckett paid the suddendistant cacophonylittle attentionas his internalsoundtrack generallyfeatured explosions and screaming, but Myles knewsomethingwas wrong. He headed back to the Martello tower and clambered up the stone steps, displayinga lack ofmotor skills reminiscent ofArtemis, whichamused Beckett greatly, as he was sure-footed to the same extent his brothers were not. “Armageddon,”Myles announced whenhe reached the top step. “The end ofthe world.” Beckett was dismayed. “Not Disneyland too!” Juliet ruffled his sun-bleached hair. “No, ofcourse not Disneyland.”Inher stomachshe felt a growlingof
  92. 92. disquiet. Where were these noises comingfrom? It sounded as thoughthere was a war zone nearby. Juliet followed Myles to the compacted mud floor ontop ofthe tower. Fromthere theyhad a clear view downinto the distant city. Usuallythe onlysounds to ride the breeze this far northwere the occasionalbeeps oftraffic-jammed horns fromcars stuck onthe ringroad. But todaythe highwayto Dublinseemed more like the road to hell. Evenfromthis distance, it was clear that the sixlanes oftraffic had come to a complete stop. Several engines exploded as theywatched, and a pickup truck threwanunexpected forward flip. Farther into the city, bigger explosions rumbled frombehind buildings and smoke belches drifted into the afternoonsky, a skythat had troubles ofits ownas a smallaircraft landed inthe center ofa soccer stadiumand anhonest-to-God communications satellite dropped fromspace like a dead robot onto the roofofthe U2 hotel. Beckett climbed the steps and took Juliet’s hand. “It is Harma-geddon,”he said quietly. “The world is goingboom.” Juliet pulled the boys close. Whatever was developingseemed too bigto be directed specificallyat the Fowlfamily, thoughthere was a growinglist of people who would happilydestroythe entire countyof Dublinjust to get at Artemis.
  93. 93. “Don’t worry, boys,”she said. “I willprotect you.” She reached into her pocket. Insituations like this where things were violentlyweird, the first course of actionwas always the same:Call Artemis. She scrolled throughthe list ofnetworks onher phone and was not overlysurprised to see that the only available one was the FOXsystemthat Artemis had set up for emergencysecure calls. I imagine that Artemis is the only teenager in the world to have built and launched his own satellite. She was about to select Artemis’s name fromher contacts whena bulkyforearmappeared inspace ten feet infront ofher. There was a hand at the end ofthe arm, and it clutched a fairyNeutrino blaster. “’Nighty-’night, Mud Wench,”said a voice from nowhere, and a blue bolt ofcracklingpower erupted fromthe tip ofthe weapon. Juliet was familiar enoughwithfairyweapons to knowthat she would survive a blue bolt, but that she would probablysuffer a contact burnand wake up inside a cocoonofpain. Sorry, myboys, she thought. I have failed you. Thenthe bolt fromPip’s weaponhit her inthe chest, scorched her jacket, and knocked her fromthe
  94. 94. tower. Oro ofthe Berserkers felt a moment ofdoubt. Perhaps this anticipationoffreedomis merelya yearning, he thought. No. This was more thanhis ownlonging. The key was coming. He could feelthe rushofpower as it approached their tomb. Gather yourselves, he sent downto his warriors. When the gate is open, take whatever shape you must. Anything that lives or has lived can be ours. Oro felt the earthshake withthe roar ofhis warriors. Or perhaps that was mere yearning.
  95. 95. Tara Shuttleport, Ireland WhenCaptainHollyShort attempted to dock inher assigned shuttle bay, she found Tara’s electromagnetic clamps to be inoperable and so was forced to improvise a landinginthe gate’s access tunnel. This was more or less what the Tara shuttleport supervisor would write in his Extraordinary Incident report whenhe got out of rehab, but the sentence did not conveythe sheer trauma ofthe situation. For their entire approach, Holly’s instruments had assured her that everythingwas hunky-dory; and then, just as she swungthe Silver Cupid’s tailaround to dock withthe clamps, Tara’s flight-controlcomputer had made a noise like rawmeat hittinga wallat speed, then shut itselfdown, leavingHollywithno choice but to reverse into the shuttleport’s access tunneland praythat

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