Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

“We don’t bargain with kidnappers,” said Holly, surprised. “What’s going on here?”

  “Nothing,” replied Foaly casually. “Straightforward exchange. The gold goes in, you come out. We send in the missile. Big blue bang, and it’s all over.”

  “Does Fowl know about the bio-bomb?”

  “Yep. Knows all about it. Claims he can escape the time-field.”

  “That’s impossible.”


  “But they’ll all be killed!”

  “Big deal,” retorted Foaly, and Holly could almost see him shrug. “That’s what you get when you mess with the People.”

  Holly was torn. There was no doubt that Fowl was a danger to the civilized underworld. Very few tears would be shed over his body. But the girl, Juliet—she was an innocent. She deserved a chance.

  Holly descended to an altitude of six and a half feet. Head height for Butler. The humans had congregated in the wreckage that used to be a hallway. There was disunity between them. The LEP officer could sense it.

  Holly glared accusingly at Artemis. “Have you told them?”

  Artemis returned her stare. “Told them what?”

  “Yes, Fairy, told us what?” echoed Juliet belligerently, still a bit miffed over the mesmerizing.

  “Don’t play dumb, Fowl. You know what I’m talking about.”

  Artemis never could play dumb for very long. “Yes, Captain Short. I do. The bio-bomb. Your concern would be touching, if it extended to myself. Nevertheless, do not upset yourself. Everything is proceeding according to plan.”

  “According to plan!” gasped Holly, pointing to the devastation surrounding them. “Was this part of the plan? And Butler almost getting killed—all part of the plan?”

  “No,” Artemis admitted. “The troll was a slight blip. But irrelevant to the overall scheme.”

  Holly resisted the urge to punch the pale human again, turning instead to Butler.

  “Listen to reason, for heaven’s sake. You cannot escape the time-field. It has never been done.”

  Butler’s features could have been etched in stone.

  “If Artemis says it can be done, then it can.”

  “But your sister. Are you willing to risk her life out of loyalty to a felon?”

  “Artemis is no felon, miss, he is a genius. Now please remove yourself from my sightline. I am monitoring the main entrance.”

  Holly buzzed up to twenty feet.

  “You’re crazy. All of you! In five minutes you’ll all be dust. Don’t you realize?”

  Artemis sighed. “You’ve had your answer, Captain. Now, please. This is a delicate stage in the proceedings.”

  “Proceedings? It’s a kidnapping! At least have the guts to call it what it is.”

  Artemis’s patience was beginning to fray.

  “Butler, do we have any tranquilizer hypodermics left?”

  The giant manservant nodded, but didn’t speak. At that precise moment, if the order came to sedate, he wasn’t sure if he would, or could. Luckily Artemis’s attention was diverted by activity in the avenue.

  “Ah, it would seem the LEP have capitulated. Butler, supervise the delivery. But stay alert. Our fairy friends are not above trickery.”

  “You’re a fine one to talk,” muttered Holly.

  Butler hurried to the demolished doorway, checking the load and catch on his Sig Sauer nine-millimeter. He was almost grateful for some military activity to distract him from his dilemma. In situations like these, training took over. There was no room for sentiment.

  A fine haze of dust still hung in the air. Butler squinted through it, into the avenue beyond. The fairy filters rigged over his eyes revealed that there were no warm bodies approaching. There was, however, a large trolley seemingly driving itself up to the front door. It was floating on a cushion of shimmering air. Doubtless Master Artemis would have understood the physics of this machine; all Butler cared about was whether or not he could disable it.

  The trolley bumped into the first step.

  “Automatic compensator, my foot,” snorted Root.

  “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” replied Foaly. “I’m working on it.”

  “It’s the ransom,” shouted Butler.

  Artemis tried to quell the excitement rising in his chest. This was not the time to allow emotions to enter the equation.

  “Check for booby traps.”

  Butler stepped cautiously on to the porch. Shards of disintegrated gargoyle lay scattered beneath his feet.

  “No hostiles. Seems to be self-propelled.”

  The trolley lurched over the steps.

  “I don’t know who’s driving this thing, but he could do with a few lessons.”

  Butler bent low to the ground, scanning the trolley’s underside.

  “No explosive devices visible.”

  He extracted a Sweeper from his pocket, extending the telescopic aerial.

  “No bugs either. Nothing detectable at any rate. But what do we have here?”

  “Uh-oh,” said Foaly.

  “It’s a camera.”

  Butler reached in, pulling the fish-eye lens out by the cable.

  “Nighty-night, gentlemen.”

  In spite of the load it carried, the trolley responded easily to Butler’s touch, gliding across the threshold into the lobby. It stood there humming softly, as though waiting to be unloaded.

  Now that the moment had come, Artemis was almost afraid to seize it. It was hard to believe that after all these months, his wicked scheme was minutes away from fruition. Of course these last few minutes were the vital ones, and the most dangerous.

  “Open it,” he said at last, surprised at the tremble in his own voice.

  It was an irresistible instant. Juliet approached tentatively, spangled eyes wide. Even Holly closed the throttle a notch, dropping until her feet brushed the marble tiling. Butler unzipped the black tarpaulin, dragging it back across the cargo.

  Nobody said a thing. Artemis imagined that somewhere the 1812 Overture was playing. The gold sat there, stacked in shining rows. It seemed to have an aura, a warmth, but also an inherent danger. There were a lot of people willing to die or kill for the unimaginable wealth this gold could bring.

  Holly was mesmerized. Fairies have an affinity for minerals, they are of the earth. But gold was their favorite. Its luster. Its allure.

  “They paid,” she breathed. “I can’t believe it.”

  “Neither can I,” murmured Artemis. “Butler, is it real?”

  Butler hefted a bar from the stack. He dug the tip of a throwing knife into the ingot, gouging out a small sliver.

  “It’s real all right,” he said, holding the scraping up to the light. “This one, at any rate.”

  “Good. Very good. Begin unloading it, would you? We’ll send the trolley back out with Captain Short.”

  Hearing her name dispelled Holly’s gold fever.

  “Artemis, give it up. No human has ever succeeded in keeping fairy gold. And they’ve been trying for centuries. The LEP will do anything to protect their property.”

  Artemis shook his head. Amused.

  “I’ve told you . . .”

  Holly took him by the shoulders. “You cannot escape! Don’t you understand?”

  The boy returned her gaze coolly.

  “I can escape, Holly. Look in my eyes and tell me that I can’t.”

  So she did. Captain Holly Short gazed into her captor’s blue-black eyes, and she saw the truth in there. And for a moment she believed it.

  “There’s still time,” she said desperately. “There must be something. I have magic.”

  A crease of annoyance wrinkled the boy’s brow.

  “I hate to disappoint you, Captain, but there is absolutely nothing.”

  Artemis paused, his gaze tugged momentarily upstairs to the converted loft. Perhaps, he thought. Do I really need all this gold? And was his conscience not needling him, leaching some of the sweetness from his victory? He shook himself. Stick to the plan. Stick to t
he plan. No emotion.

  Artemis felt a familiar hand on his shoulder.

  “Everything all right?”

  “Yes, Butler. Keep unloading. Get Juliet to help. I need to talk to Captain Short.”

  “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”

  Artemis sighed. “No, old friend, I’m not sure. But it’s too late now.”

  Butler nodded, returning to his task. Juliet toddled along behind him like a terrier.

  “Now, Captain. About your magic.”

  “What about it?” Holly’s eyes were hooded with suspicion.

  “What would I have to do to buy a wish?”

  Holly glanced at the trolley.“Well, that depends. What do you have to bargain with?”

  Root was not what you’d call relaxed. Increasingly wide bands of yellow light were poking through the blue. Minutes left. Minutes. His migraine was not helped by the pungent cigar feeding toxins into his system.

  “Have all nonessential personnel been evacuated?”

  “Unless they’ve sneaked back in since the last time you asked me.”

  “Not now, Foaly. Believe me, now is not the time. Anything from Captain Short?”

  “Nope. We lost video after the troll thing. I’d guess the battery is ruptured. We’d better get that helmet off her ASAP, or the radiation will fry her brain. That’d be a pity after all this work.”

  Foaly returned to his console. A red light began pulsing gently.

  “Wait, motion sensor. We’ve got activity by the main entrance.”

  Root crossed to the screens. “Can you enhance it?”

  “No problem.” Foaly punched in the coordinates, blowing it up four hundred percent.

  Root sat down on the nearest chair.

  “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”

  “You sure are.” Foaly chuckled. “This is even better than the suit of armor.”

  Holly was coming out. With the gold.

  Retrieval was on her in half a second.

  “Let’s get you out of the danger zone, Captain,” urged a sprite, catching Holly by the elbow.

  Another ran a rad-sensor over her helmet.

  “We’ve got a power source breach here, Captain. We need to get your head sprayed immediately.”

  Holly opened her mouth to protest, and had it instantly filled with rad-suppressant foam.

  “Can’t this wait?” she spluttered.

  “Sorry, Captain. Time is of the essence. The commander wants a debriefing before we detonate.”

  Holly was rushed toward the Mobile Ops unit, her feet barely touching the ground. All around her Retrieval Cleaners scanned the grounds for any trace of the siege. Techies dismantled the field dishes, making ready to pull the plug. Grunts steered the trolley toward the portal. It was imperative that everything be relocated to a safe distance before the bio-bomb went in.

  Root was waiting on the steps.

  “Holly,” he blurted. “I mean, Captain. You made it.”

  “Yessir. Thank you, sir.”

  “And the gold too. This is a real feather in your cap.”

  “Well, not all, Commander. About half, I think.”

  Root nodded. “No matter. We’ll have the rest soon enough.”

  Holly wiped rad-foam from her brow.

  “I’ve been thinking about that, sir. Fowl made a mistake. He never ordered me not to reenter the house, and seeing as he brought me in there in the first place, the invitation still stands. I could go in and mind-wipe the occupants. We could hide the gold in the walls and do another time-stop tomorrow night. . . .”

  “No, Captain.”

  “But, sir . . .”

  Root’s features regained whatever tension they’d lost.

  “No, Captain. The Council is not about to hold off for some kidnapping Mud Man. It’s just not going to happen. I have my orders, and believe me they’re written in stone.”

  Holly trailed Root into the mobile.

  “But the girl, sir. She’s an innocent!”

  “Casualty of war. She threw her lot in with the wrong side. Nothing can be done for her now.”

  Holly was incredulous. “A casualty of war? How can you say that? A life is a life.”

  Root spun sharply, grasping her by the shoulders.

  “You did what you could, Holly,” he said. “No one could have done more. You even retrieved most of the ransom. You’re suffering from what humans call Stockholm Syndrome: you have bonded with your captors. Don’t worry, it will pass. But those people in there, they know. About us. Nothing can save them now.”

  Foaly looked up from his calculations.

  “Not true. Technically. Welcome back, by the way.”

  Holly couldn’t spare even a second to return the greeting.

  “What do you mean not true?”

  “I’m fine, seeing as you asked.”

  “Foaly!” shouted Root and Holly in unison.

  “Well, like the Book says: ‘If the Mud Man gold can gather, In spite of magick or fairy glamor, Then that gold is his to keep, Until he lies in eternal sleep.’ So if he lives, he wins. It’s that simple. Not even the Council will go against the Book.”

  Root scratched his chin. “Should I be worried?”

  Foaly laughed mirthlessly. “No. Those guys are as good as dead.”

  “As good as isn’t good enough.”

  “Is that an order?”

  “Affirmative, soldier.”

  “I’m not a soldier,” said Foaly, and pressed the button.

  Butler was more than a little surprised.

  “You gave it back?”

  Artemis nodded. “About half. We still have quite a nest egg. About fifteen million dollars at today’s market prices.”

  Butler usually wouldn’t ask. But this time he had to. “Why, Artemis? Can you tell me?”

  “I suppose so.” The boy smiled. “I felt we owed the captain something. For services rendered.”

  “Is that all?”

  Artemis nodded. No need to talk about the wish. It could be perceived as weakness.

  “Hmm,” said Butler, smarter than he looked.

  “Now, we should celebrate,” enthused Artemis, deftly changing the subject. “Some champagne, I think.”

  The boy strode to the kitchen before Butler’s gaze could dissect him.

  By the time the others caught up, Artemis had already filled three glasses with Dom Perignon.

  “I’m a minor, I know, but I’m sure Mother wouldn’t mind. Just this once.”

  Butler felt that something was afoot. Nevertheless, he took the crystal flute offered to him.

  Juliet looked at her big brother.

  “Is this okay?”

  “I suppose so.” He took a breath. “You know I love you, don’t you, sis?”

  Juliet scowled—something else that the local louts found very endearing. She smacked her brother on the shoulder.

  “You’re so emotional for a bodyguard.”

  Butler looked his employer straight in the eye.

  “You want us to drink this, don’t you, Artemis?”

  Artemis met his gaze squarely. “Yes, Butler. I do.”

  Without another word Butler drained his glass, Juliet followed suit. The manservant tasted the tranquilizer immediately, and although he would have had ample time to snap Artemis Fowl’s neck, he didn’t. No need for Juliet to be distressed in her final moments.

  Artemis watched his friends sink to the floor. A pity to deceive them. But if they had been alerted to the plan, their anxiety could have counteracted the sedative. He gazed at the bubbles swirling in his own glass. Time for the most audacious step in his scheme. With only the barest hint of hesitation, he swallowed the tranquilizer-laced champagne.

  Artemis waited calmly for the drug to take hold of his system. He didn’t have to wait long, since each dose had been calculated according to body weight. As his thoughts began to swirl, it occurred to him that he might never awaken again. It’s a bit late for doubts, he chided himself, an
d sank into unconsciousness.

  * * *

  “She’s away,” said Foaly, leaning back from the console. “It’s out of my hands now.”

  They followed the missile’s progress through polarized windows. It really was a remarkable piece of equipment. Because its main weapon was light, the fallout could be focused to an exact radius. The radioactive element used in the core was solinium 2, which had a half-life of fourteen seconds. This effectively meant that Foaly could tune the bio-bomb to blue-rinse only Fowl Manor and not one blade of grass more, plus the building would be radiation-free in under a minute. In the event that a few solinium flares refused to be focused, they would be contained by the time-field. Murder made easy.

  “The flight path is preprogrammed,” explained Foaly, though no one was paying a blind bit of attention. “She’ll sail into the lobby and detonate. The casing and firing mechanism are plastic alloy and will completely disintegrate. Clean as a whistle.”

  Root and Holly followed the bomb’s arc. As predicted, it swooped through the decimated doorway without knocking so much as a sliver of stone from the medieval walls. Holly switched her attention to the missile’s nose-cam. For a moment she caught a glimpse of the grand hallway where she had, until recently, been a prisoner. It was empty. Not a human in sight. Maybe, she thought. Just maybe. Then she looked at Foaly and the technology at his fingertips. And she realized that the humans were as good as dead.

  The bio-bomb detonated. A blue orb of condensed light crackled and spread, filling every corner of the manor with its deadly rays. Flowers withered, insects shriveled, and fish died in their tanks. Not one cubic millimeter was spared. Artemis Fowl and his cohorts could not have escaped. It was impossible.

  Holly sighed, turning away from the already dwindling blue-rinse. For all his grand designs, Artemis had been a mere mortal in the end. And for some reason she mourned his passing.

  Root was more pragmatic. “Okay. Suit up. Full blackout gear.”

  “It’s perfectly safe,” said Foaly. “Didn’t you ever listen in school?”

  The commander snorted. “I trust science about as far as I could throw you, Foaly. Radiation has a habit of hanging around when certain scientists have assured us it has dissipated. No one steps outside the unit without blackout gear. So that counts you out, Foaly. Only bipedal suits. Anyway I want you on monitors, just in case. . . .”

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]