Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

“The right thing for himself, maybe. I don’t think Holly is at the top of his priority list.”

  Root didn’t answer. He couldn’t.

  “And another thing. I have a sneaking suspicion that young Artemis Fowl wanted us to stop time. After all, everything else we’ve tried has played straight into his hands.”

  Root rubbed his temples. “That’s impossible. How could a human know about time-stoppage? Anyway, this is no time for theorizing, Foaly. I have less than eight hours to clean up this mess. So what have you got for me?”

  Foaly clopped over to an equipment rack clamped to the wall.

  “No heavy armament, that’s for sure. Not after what happened to Retrieval One. No helmet either. That beast of a Mud Man seems to collect them. No, to show good faith, we’re going to send you in unarmed and unarmored.”

  Root snorted. “What manual did you get this from?”

  “It’s standard operating procedure. Fostering trust speeds communication.”

  “Oh, stop quoting and give me something to shoot.”

  “Suit yourself,” sighed Foaly, selecting what looked like a finger from the rack.

  “What’s that?”

  “It’s a finger. What does it look like?”

  “A finger,” admitted Root.

  “Yes, but not any ordinary finger.” He glanced around to make sure that no one else was watching. “The tip contains a pressurized dart. One shot only. You tap the knuckle with your thumb and someone goes beddie-bye.”

  “Why haven’t I seen this before?”

  “It’s a covert kinda thing. . . .”

  “And?” said Root suspiciously.

  “Well, there have been accidents. . . .”

  “Tell me, Foaly.”

  “Our agents keep forgetting they have it on.”

  “Meaning they shoot themselves.”

  Foaly nodded miserably. “One of our best sprites was picking his nose at the time. Three days on the critical list.”

  Root rolled the memory latex on to his index finger, where it immediately assumed the shape and flesh tone of the host digit.

  “Don’t worry, Foaly, I’m not a complete idiot. Anything else?”

  Foaly unhooked what appeared to be a false bottom from the equipment rack.

  “You’re not serious! What does that do?”

  “Nothing,” admitted the centaur. “But it gets a great laugh at parties.”

  Root chuckled. Twice. That was a major lapse for him.

  “Okay, levity over. Are you going to wire me?”

  “Naturally. One iris-cam. What color?” He peered into the commander’s eyes. “Hmm. Mud brown.” He selected a small vial from the shelf and removed the electronic contact lens from a fluid capsule. Plucking Root’s eyelid with thumb and forefinger, he slotted in the iris-cam. “That might irritate you. Try not to rub or it could end up in the back of your eye. Then we’d be looking into your head, and there’s nothing interesting in there, heaven knows.”

  Root blinked, resisting the urge to knead his watering eye.

  “That’s it?”

  Foaly nodded. “That’s all we dare risk.”

  The commander agreed reluctantly. His hip felt very light without a tri-barreled blaster dangling from it.

  “Okay. I suppose this amazing dart finger will have to do. Honestly, Foaly, if this blows up in my face, you’ll be on the next shuttle back to Haven.”

  The centaur snickered. “Just be careful in the toilet.”

  Root didn’t laugh. There were some things you didn’t joke about.

  Artemis’s watch had stopped. It was as though Greenwich wasn’t there anymore. Or perhaps, mused Artemis, we’re the ones who have disappeared. He checked CNN. It had frozen. A picture of Riz Khan jittered slightly on the screen. Artemis could not hold back a satisfied smile. They had done it, just like the Book said. The LEP had stopped time. All according to plan.

  Time to check out a theory. Artemis wheeled over to the monitor bank and punched up the Mam Cam on the twenty-eight-inch main monitor. Angeline Fowl was no longer on the chaise lounge. Artemis panned around the room. It was empty. His mother had gone. Disappeared. His smile widened. Perfect. Just as he’d suspected.

  Artemis switched his attention to Holly Short. She was banging the bed again. Occasionally she would rise from the mattress, pounding the wall with her bare fists. Maybe it was more than frustration. Could there be method in her madness? He tapped the monitor with a slim finger.

  “What are you up to, Captain? What’s your little plan?”

  He was distracted by a movement on the avenue monitor.

  “At last,” he breathed. “The games begin.”

  A figure was advancing down the avenue. Small, but imposing nonetheless. Unshielded too. Finished playacting then.

  Artemis punched the intercom button.

  “Butler? We have a guest. I’ll show him in. You get back here and police the surveillance cameras.”

  Butler’s voice came back tinny through the speaker.

  “Ten four, Artemis. On my way.”

  Artemis buttoned his designer jacket, pausing at the mirror to straighten his tie. The trick to negotiation was to hold all the cards going in, and even if you didn’t, to try to look as though you did.

  Artemis put on his best sinister face. Evil, he told himself, evil but highly intelligent. And determined, don’t forget determined. He put a hand on the doorknob. Steady now. Deep breaths, and try not to think about the possibility that you have misjudged this situation and are about to be shot dead. One, two, three . . . He opened the door.

  “Good evening,” he said, every inch the gracious host, albeit a sinister, evil, intelligent, and determined one.

  Root stood on the doorstep, palms up, the universal gesture for Look, I’m not carrying a big murderous weapon.

  “You’re Fowl?”

  “Artemis Fowl, at your service. And you are?”

  “LEP Commander Root. Right, we know each other’s names, so could we get on with this?”


  Root decided to chance taking out his weapon. “Step outside then. Where I can see you.”

  Artemis’s face hardened. “Have you learned nothing from my demonstrations? The ship? Your commandos? Do I need to kill someone?”

  “No,” said Root hurriedly. “I only—”

  “You only meant to lure me outside, where I could be snatched and used to trade. Please, Commander Root, raise your game or send someone intelligent.”

  Root felt the blood pump through his cheeks.

  “Now you just listen to me, you young . . .”

  Artemis smiled, in command again. “Not very good negotiation techniques, Commander, to lose your cool before we even get to the table.”

  Root took several deep breaths.

  “Fine. Whatever you say. Where would you prefer to conduct our talks?”

  “Inside, of course. You have my permission to enter, but remember, Captain Short’s life is in your hands. Be careful with it.”

  Root followed his host down the vaulted hallway. Generations of Fowls glared down at him from classical portraits. They passed through a stained-oak doorway to a long conference room. There were two places set at a round table, complete with pads, ashtrays, and water jugs.

  Root was delighted to see the ashtrays, and immediately pulled a half-chewed cigar from his vest.

  “Maybe you’re not such a barbarian after all,” he grunted, exhaling a huge cloud of green smoke. The commander ignored the water jugs, instead pouring himself a shot of something purple from a hip flask. He drank deeply, belched, and sat.

  “Ready?” Artemis shuffled his notes, like a news anchor. “Here is the situation as I see it. I have the means to expose your subterranean existence, and you are powerless to stop me. So, basically, whatever I ask for is a small price to pay.”

  Root spat out a shred of fungus tobacco. “So, you think you can just put all this information out over the Internet.”

  “Well, not immediately, not with the time-stop in effect.”

  Root choked on a lungful of smoke. Their ace in the hole. Gone.

  “Well, if you know about the time-stop, you must also know that you are completely cut off from the outside world. You are, in effect, powerless.”

  Artemis jotted a note on the pad. “Let’s save some time here. I grow weary of your clumsy bluffs. In the case of an abduction, the LEP will first send a crack Retrieval team to get back what has been lost. You have done so. Excuse me while I titter. Crack team? Honestly. A Cub Scout patrol armed with water pistols could have defeated them.”

  Root fumed silently, taking out his anger on the cigar butt.

  “The next official step is negotiation. And finally, when the eight-hour time limit is about to run out, and if no solution can be reached, a bio-bomb is detonated, contained by the time-field.”

  “You appear to know an awful lot about us, Master Fowl. I don’t suppose you’ll tell me how?”


  Root mashed the remains of his cigar into the crystal ashtray.

  “So, let’s have it, what are your demands?”

  “One demand. Singular.”

  Artemis slid his notepad across the polished table. Root read what was written there.

  “‘One ton of twenty-four-carat gold. Small unmarked ingots only.’ You can’t be serious.”

  “Oh, but I am.”

  Root sat forward in his chair. “Don’t you see? Your position is untenable. Either you give us back Captain Short or we will be forced to kill you all. There is no middle ground. We don’t negotiate. Not really. I’m just here to explain the facts to you.”

  Artemis smiled his vampire smile. “Oh, but you will negotiate with me, Commander.”

  “Oh, really? And what makes you so special?”

  “I am special, because I know how to escape the time-field.”

  “Impossible,” snorted Root. “Can’t be done.”

  “Oh, yes it can. Trust me, I haven’t been wrong yet.”

  Root tore off the top page, folding it into his pocket.

  “I’ll have to think about this.”

  “Take your time. We have eight hours . . . excuse me, seven and a half hours, then time’s up for everybody.”

  Root said nothing for a long while, tapping his nails on the tabletop. He took a breath to speak, then changed his mind and stood abruptly.

  “We’ll be in touch. Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.”

  Artemis pushed his chair back.

  “You do that. But remember this, none of your race has permission to enter here while I’m alive.”

  Root stalked down the hallway, glaring back at the oil paintings. Better to leave now and process this new information. The Fowl boy was indeed a slippery opponent. But he was making one basic mistake—the assumption that Root would play by the rules. However, Julius Root hadn’t gotten his commander’s stripes by following any rule book. Time for a bit of unorthodox action.

  The videotape from Root’s iris-cam was being reviewed by experts.

  “You see there,” said Professor Cumulus, a behavioral specialist—“that twitch. He’s lying.”

  “Nonsense,” huffed Dr. Argon, a psychologist from below the United States. “He’s itchy, that’s all. He’s itchy so he scratches. Nothing sinister in it.”

  Cumulus turned to Foaly.

  “Listen to him. How can I be expected to work with this charlatan?”

  “Witch doctor,” countered Argon.

  Foaly raised his hairy palms.

  “Gentlemen, please. We need agreement here. A concrete profile.”

  “It’s no use,” said Argon. “I can’t work in these conditions.”

  Cumulus folded his arms. “If he can’t work, neither can I.”

  Root strode through the shuttle double doors. His trademark purple complexion was even rosier than usual.

  “That human is toying with us. I will not have it. Now, what did our experts make of the tape?”

  Foaly moved slightly to the side, allowing the commander a clear run at the so-called experts.

  “Apparently they can’t work in these conditions.”

  Root’s eyes narrowed to slits, bringing his prey into sharp focus. “Excuse me?”

  “The good doctor is a half-wit,” said Cumulus, unfamiliar with the commander’s temper.

  “I—I’m a half-wit?” stuttered Argon, equally ignorant. “What about you, you cave fairy? Plastering your absurd interpretations onto the most innocent of gestures.”

  “Innocent? The boy is a bag of nerves. Obviously lying. It’s textbook.”

  Root slammed a clenched fist on to the table, sending a spiderweb of cracks scurrying across the surface.


  And silence there was. Instantly.

  “Now, you two experts are on handsome retainers for your profiling work. Correct?”

  The pair nodded, afraid to speak in case that broke the silence rule.

  “This is probably the case of your lives, so I want you to concentrate very hard. Understood?”

  More nods.

  Root popped the camera out of his weeping eye.

  “Fast-forward it, Foaly. Toward the end.”

  The tape hopped forward erratically. On screen, Root followed the human into his conference room.

  “There. Stop it there. Can you zoom in on his face?”

  “Can I zoom in on his face?” snorted Foaly. “Can a dwarf steal the web from under a spider?”

  “Yes,” replied Root.

  “That was a rhetorical question, actually.”

  “I don’t need a grammar lesson, Foaly, just zoom in, would you?”

  Foaly ground his tombstone teeth.

  “Okay, boss. Will do.”

  The centaur’s fingers prodded the keyboard with lightning speed. Artemis’s visage grew to fill the plasma screen.

  “I’d advise you to listen,” said Root, squeezing the experts’ shoulders. “This is a pivotal moment in your careers.”

  “I am special,” said the mouth on the screen, “because I can escape the time-field.” “Now tell me,” said Root. “Is he lying?” “Run it again,” said Cumulus. “Show me the eyes.” Argon nodded. “Yes. Just the eyes.” Foaly tapped a few more keys, and Artemis’s deep blue eyes expanded to the width of the screen. “I am special,” boomed the human voice, “because I can escape the time field.” “Well, is he lying?” Cumulus and Argon looked at each other, all traces of antagonism gone. “No,” they said simultaneously. “He’s telling the truth,” added the behaviorist. “Or,” clarified the psychologist, “at least he thinks he is.” Root swabbed his eye with a cleansing solution. “That’s what I thought. When I looked that human in the face, I figured he was either a genius or crazy.” Artemis’s cool eyes glared at them from the screen. “So which is it?” asked Foaly. “A genius or crazy?” Root grabbed his tri-barreled blaster from the gun rack.

  “What’s the difference?” he snapped, strapping his trusty weapon to his hip. “Get me an outside line to E1. This Fowl person seems to know all of our rules, so it’s time to break a few.”



  Time to introduce a new character to our other-worldly pageant. Well, not strictly speaking a new character. We have encountered him before, in the LEP booking line. On remand for numerous larcenies: Mulch Diggums, the kleptomaniac dwarf. A dubious individual, even by Artemis Fowl’s standards. As if this account didn’t already suffer from an overdose of amoral individuals.

  Born to a typical dwarf cavern-dwelling family, Mulch had decided early that mining was not for him, and resolved to put his talents to another use, namely digging and entering, generally entering Mud People’s property. Of course this meant forfeiting his magic. Dwellings were sacred. If you broke that rule, you had to be prepared to accept the consequences. Mulch didn’t mind. He didn’t care much for magic anyway. There had never been much use for it down in
the mines.

  Things had gone pretty well for a few centuries, and he’d built up quite a lucrative aboveground memorabilia business. That was until he’d tried to sell the Jules Rimet Cup to an undercover LEP operative. From then on his luck had turned, and he’d been arrested over twenty times to date. A total of three hundred years in and out of prison.

  Mulch had a prodigious appetite for tunneling, and that, unfortunately, is a literal translation. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of dwarf tunneling, I shall endeavor to explain them as tastefully as possible. Like some members of the reptile family, dwarf males can unhinge their jaws, allowing them to ingest several pounds of earth a second. This material is processed by a superefficient metabolism, stripped of any useful minerals and . . . ejected at the other end, as it were. Charming.

  At present, Mulch was languishing in a stone-walled cell in LEP Central. At least, he was trying to project an image of a languishing, unperturbed kind of dwarf. Actually, he was quaking in his steel-toe-capped boots.

  The goblin/dwarf turf war was flaring up at the moment and some bright spark LEP elf had seen fit to put him in a cell with a gang of psyched-up goblins. An oversight perhaps. More likely a spot of revenge for trying to pick his arresting officer’s pocket in the booking line.

  “So, dwarf,” sneered the head-honcho goblin, a wart-faced fellow covered in tattoos. “How come you don’t chew your way outta here?”

  Mulch rapped on the walls. “Solid rock.”

  The goblin laughed. “So what? Can’t be any harder than your dwarf skull.”

  His cronies laughed. So did Mulch. He thought it might be wise. Wrong.

  “You laughin’ at me, dwarf?”

  Mulch stopped laughing.

  “With you,” he corrected. “I’m laughing with you. That skull joke was pretty funny.”

  The goblin advanced, until his slimy nose was a centimeter from Mulch’s own. “You pay-tron-izin’ me, dwarf?”

  Mulch swallowed, calculating. If he unhinged now, he could probably swallow the leader before the others reacted. Still, goblins were murder on the digestion. Very bony.

  The goblin conjured up a fireball around his fist. “I asked you a question, stumpy.”

  Mulch could feel every sweat gland on his body pop into instant overdrive. Dwarfs did not like fire. They didn’t even like thinking about flames. Unlike the rest of the fairy races, dwarfs had no desire to live above ground. Too close to the sun. Ironic for someone in the Mud People Possession Liberation business.

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