Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

  Artemis held the locator’s face up to the cab’s light. It was translucent. Slightly polarized but good enough. He nudged a slew of tiny shimmering wires aside, inserting a buttonhole camera in the space. He secured the pea-sized transmitter with a dab of silicone. Crude but effective. Hopefully.

  The magnetic screws refused to be coaxed back into their grooves without the proper tool, so Artemis was forced to glue them too. Messy, but it should suffice, provided the locator wasn’t examined too closely. And if it was? Well, he would only lose an advantage that he never expected to have in the first place.

  Butler knocked off his high beams as they entered the city limits. “Dock’s coming up, Artemis,” he said over his shoulder. “There’s bound to be a Customs and Excise crew around somewhere.”

  Artemis nodded. It made sense. The port was a thriving artery of illegal activity. Over fifty percent of the country’s contraband made it ashore somewhere along this half-mile stretch.

  “A diversion then, Butler. Two minutes are all I need.”

  The manservant nodded thoughtfully.

  “The usual?”

  “I don’t see why not. Knock yourself out. . . . Or rather don’t.”

  Artemis blinked. That was his second joke in recent times. And his first aloud. Better take care. This was no time for frivolity.

  * * *

  The dockers were rolling cigarettes. It wasn’t easy with fingers the size of lead bars, but they managed. And if a few strands of brown tobacco dropped to the rough flagstones, what of it? The pouches were available by the carton from a little man who didn’t bother adding government tax to his prices.

  Butler strolled over to the men, his eyes shadowed beneath the brim of a watch cap.

  “Cold night,” he said to the assembled group.

  No one replied. Policemen came in all shapes and sizes.

  The big stranger persevered. “Even work is better than standing around on a frosty one like tonight.”

  One of the workmen, a bit soft in the head, couldn’t help nodding in agreement. A comrade drove an elbow into his ribs.

  “Still, though,” continued the newcomer. “I don’t suppose you girls ever did a decent day’s work in your lives.”

  Again there was no reply. But this time it was because the dockers’ mouths were hanging open in amazement.

  “Yep, you’re a pathetic-looking bunch, all right,” went on Butler blithely. “Oh, I’ve no doubt you would have passed as men during the famine. But by today’s standards you’re little more than a pack of blouse-wearing weaklings.”

  “Arrrrgh,” said one of the dock hands. It was all he could manage.

  Butler raised an eyebrow. “Argh? Pathetic and inarticulate. Nice combination. Your mothers must be so proud.”

  The stranger had crossed a sacred line. He had mentioned the men’s mothers. Nothing could get him out of a beating now, not even the fact that he was obviously a simpleton. Albeit a simpleton with a good vocabulary.

  The men stamped out their cigarettes and spread slowly into a semicircle. It was six against one. You had to feel sorry for them. Butler wasn’t finished yet.

  “Now before we get into anything, ladies, no scratching, no spitting, and no tattling to Mommy.”

  It was the last straw. The men howled and attacked as one. If they had been paying any attention to their adversary in that moment before contact, they might have noticed that he shifted his weight to lower his center of gravity. They might also have seen that the hands he drew out of his pockets were the size and approximate shape of spades. But no one was paying attention to Butler—too busy watching their comrades, making sure they weren’t alone in the assault.

  The thing about a diversion is that it has to be diverting. Big. Crude. Not Butler’s style at all. He would have preferred to take these gentlemen out from five hundred feet with a dart rifle. Failing that, if contact was absolutely necessary, a series of thumb jabs to the nerve cluster at the base of the neck would be his chosen modus operandi—quiet as a whisper. But that would be defeating the purpose of the exercise.

  And so Butler went against his training, screaming like a demon and utilizing the most vulgar combat actions. Vulgar they may have been, but that’s not to say they weren’t effective. Perhaps a Shao Lin priest could have anticipated some of the more exaggerated movements, but these men were hardly trained adversaries. In fairness, they weren’t even completely sober.

  Butler dropped the first with a roundhouse punch. Two more had their heads clapped together, cartoon style. The fourth was, to Butler’s eternal shame, dispatched with a spinning kick. But the most ostentatious was saved for the last pair. The manservant rolled on to his back, caught them by the collars of their donkey jackets, and flipped them into Dublin harbor. Big splashes, plenty of wailing. Perfect.

  Two headlights poked from the black shadow of a cargo container and a government saloon screeched along the quay. As anticipated, a Customs and Excise team on stakeout. Butler grinned with grim satisfaction and ducked around the corner. He was long gone before the agents had flipped their badges or begun inquiries. Not that their interrogations would yield much. “Big as a house” was hardly an adequate description to track him down.

  By the time Butler reached the car, Artemis had already returned from his mission.

  “Well done, old friend,” he commented. “Although I’m certain your martial arts sensei is turning in his grave. A spinning kick? How could you?”

  Butler bit his tongue, reversing the four-wheel drive off the woodenworks. As they crossed the overpass, he couldn’t resist glancing down at the chaos he had created. The government men were hauling a sodden docker from the polluted waters.

  Artemis had needed this diversion for something. But Butler knew there was no point in asking what. His employer did not share his plans with anyone until he thought the time was right. And if Artemis Fowl thought the time was right, then it usually was.

  Root emerged shaking from the pod. He didn’t remember it being like this in his time. Although, truth be told, it had probably been an awful lot worse. Back in the shillelagh days, there were no fancy polymer harnesses, no auto thrusters, and certainly no external monitors. It was just gut instinct and a touch of enchantment. In some ways Root preferred it like that. Science was taking the magic out of everything.

  He stumbled down the tunnel into the terminal. As the number-one preferred destination, Tara had a fully fledged passenger lounge. Six shuttles a week came in from Haven City alone. Not on the flares, of course. Paying tourists didn’t like to be jostled around quite that much, unless of course they were on an illegal jaunt to Disneyland.

  The fairy fort was crammed with full-moon overnighters complaining about the shuttle suspensions. A beleaguered sprite was sheltering behind her ticket desk, besieged by angry gremlins.

  “There’s no point hexing me,” squealed the sprite, “there’s the elf you want right there.”

  She pointed a quivering green finger at the approaching commander. The gremlin mob turned on Root, and when they saw the triple-barreled blaster on his hip, they kept right on turning.

  Root grabbed the microphone from behind the desk, and hauled it out to the extent of its cable.

  “Now hear this,” he growled, his gravelly tones echoing around the terminal. “This is Commander Root of the LEP. We have a serious situation above ground, and I would appreciate cooperation from all you civilians. First, I would like you all to stop your yapping so I can hear myself think!”

  Root paused to make certain his wishes were being respected. They were.

  “Secondly, I would like every single one of you, including those squawling infants, to sit down on the courtesy benches until I have gone on my way. Then you can get back to griping or stuffing your faces. Or whatever else it is civilians do.”

  No one had ever accused Root of political correctness. No one was ever likely to either.

  “And I want whoever’s in charge to get over here. Now!”

  Root tossed the stand on to the desk. A blare of whistling feedback grated on every eardrum in the building. Within fractions of a second, an out-of-breath elf/goblin hybrid was bobbing at his elbow.

  “Anything we can do, Commander?”

  Root nodded, twisting a thick cigar into the hole beneath his nose.

  “I want you to open a tunnel straight through this place. I don’t want to be bothered by Customs or Immigration. Start moving everybody below after my boys get here.”

  The shuttle port director swallowed. “Everybody?”

  “Yes. That includes terminal personnel. And take everything you can carry. Full evacuation.” He stopped and glared into the director’s mauve eyes. “This is not a drill.”

  “You mean—”

  “Yes,” said Root, continuing down the access ramp. “The Mud People have committed an overtly hostile act. Who knows where this is going?”

  The elf/goblin combo watched as Root disappeared in a cloud of cigar smoke. An overtly hostile act? It could mean war. He punched in his accountant’s number on his mobile.

  “Bark? Yes. This is Nimbus. I want you to sell all my shares in the shuttle port. Yes, all of them. I have a hunch the price is about to take a severe dive.”

  Captain Holly Short felt as though a sucker slug was drawing her brain out through her earhole. She tried to figure out what could possibly have caused such agony, but her faculties didn’t stretch to memory just yet. Breathing and lying down were about all she could manage.

  Time to attempt a word. Something short and pertinent. Help, she decided, would be the one to go for. She took a trembling breath and opened her mouth.

  “Mummlp,” said her treacherous lips. No good. Incomprehensible even by a drunken gnome’s standards.

  What was going on here? She was flat on her back with no more strength in her body than a damp tunnel root. What could have done this to her? Holly concentrated, skirting the edge of blinding pain.

  The troll? Was that it? Had the troll mauled her in that restaurant? That would explain a lot. But no. She seemed to remember something about the old country. And the Ritual. And there was something digging into her ankle.


  A voice. Not hers. Not even elfin.

  “You awake, then?”

  One of the European languages. Latin. No, English. She was in England?

  “I thought the dart might have killed you. Aliens’ insides are different from ours. I saw that on television.”

  Gibberish. Aliens’ insides? What was the creature talking about?

  “You look fit. Like Muchacho Maria, she’s a Mexican midget wrestler.”

  Holly groaned. Her gift of tongues must be on the blink. Time to see exactly what kind of craziness she was dealing with here. Focusing all her strength at the front of her head, Holly cracked open one eye. She closed it again almost immediately. There appeared to be a giant blond fly staring down at her.

  “Don’t be scared,” said the fly. “Just sunglasses.”

  Holly opened both eyes this time. The creature was tapping a silver eye. No, not an eye. A lens. A mirrored lens. Like the lenses worn by the other two . . . It all came back in a jolt, rushing to fill the hole in her memory like a combination lock clicking into place. She had been abducted by two humans during the Ritual. Two humans with an extraordinary knowledge of fairy affairs.

  Holly tried speaking again. “Where . . . where am I?”

  The human giggled delightedly, clapping her hands together. Holly noticed her nails, long and painted.

  “You can speak English. What sort of accent is that? Sounds like a little bit of everything.”

  Holly frowned. The girl’s voice was corkscrewing right to the middle of her headache. She lifted her arm. No locator.

  “Where are my things?”

  The girl wagged her finger, as one might at a naughty child.

  “Artemis had to take your little gun away, and all those other toys. Couldn’t have you hurting yourself.”


  “Artemis Fowl. This was all his idea. Everything is always his idea.”

  Holly frowned. Artemis Fowl. For some reason, even the name made her shiver. It was a bad omen. Fairy intuition was never wrong.

  “They’ll come for me, you know,” she said, her voice rasping through dry lips. “You don’t know what you’ve done.”

  The girl frowned. “You’re absolutely right. I have no clue what’s going on. So there’s no future in trying to psych me out.”

  Holly frowned. It was obviously pointless playing mind games with this human. The mesmer was her only hope, but that couldn’t penetrate reflective surfaces. How the devil did these humans know that? That could be worked out later. For now she had to figure a way to separate this vacuous girl from her mirrored sunglasses.

  “You are a pretty human,” she said, voice dripping with honeyed flattery.

  “Why, thank you . . . ?”


  “Why, thank you, Holly. I was in the local paper once. I won a competition. Miss Sugar Beet Fair Nineteen Ninety-Nine.”

  “I knew it. Natural beauty. I’ll bet your eyes are spectacular.”

  “So everyone tells me.” Juliet nodded. “Lashes like clock springs.”

  Holly sighed. “If only I could see them.”

  “Why ever not?”

  Juliet’s fingers curled around the glasses’ stem. Then she hesitated.

  “Maybe I shouldn’t.”

  “Why not? Just for a second.”

  “I don’t know. Artemis told me never to take these off.”

  “He’d never know.”

  Juliet pointed to a viewcam mounted on the wall.

  “Oh, he’d find out. Artemis finds out about everything.” She leaned in close to the fairy. “Sometimes I think he can see inside my head, too.”

  Holly frowned. Foiled again by this Artemis creature.

  “Come on. One second. What harm could it do?”

  Juliet pretended to think about it. “None, I suppose. Unless of course you’re hoping to nail me with the mesmer. Just how stupid do you think I am?”

  “I have another idea,” said Holly, her tone altogether more serious. “Why don’t I get up, knock you out, and take those stupid glasses off?”

  Juliet laughed delightedly, as if this was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.

  “Good one, fairy girl.”

  “I’m deadly serious, human.”

  “Well, if you’re serious,” sighed Juliet, reaching a delicate finger behind her lenses to wipe away a tear, “two reasons. One, Artemis said that while you’re in a human dwelling, you have to do what we want. And I want you to stay on that cot.”

  Holly closed her eyes. Right again. Where did this group get their information?

  “And two.” Juliet smiled again, but this time there was a hint of her brother in those teeth. “Two, because I went through the same training as Butler, and I’ve been dying for somebody to practice my pile driver on.”

  We’ll see about that, human, thought Holly. Captain Short wasn’t a hundred percent yet, and there was also the small matter of the thing digging into her ankle. She thought she knew what it could be, and if she was right, then it could be the beginnings of a plan.

  Commander Root had Holly’s locator frequency keyed into his helmet face screen. It took Root longer than expected to reach Dublin. The modern wing rigs were more complicated than he was used to, plus he’d neglected to take refresher courses. At the right altitude, he could almost superimpose the luminous map on his visor over the actual Dublin streets below him. Almost.

  “Foaly, you pompous centaur,” he barked into his mouthpiece.

  “Problem, bossman?” came the tinny reply.

  “Problem? You can say that again. When was the last time you updated the Dublin files?”

  Root could hear sucking noises in his ear. It sounded as though Foaly was having lunch.

  “Sorry, Commander.
Just finishing off this carrot. Ahm . . . Dublin, let’s see. Seventy-five . . . Eighteen seventy-five.”

  “I thought so! This place is completely different. The humans have even managed to change the shape of the coastline.”

  Foaly was silent for a moment. Root could just imagine him wrestling with the problem. The centaur did not like to be told that any part of his system was out of date.

  “Okay,” he said at last. “Here’s what I’m going to do. We have a Scope on a satellite TV bird with a footprint in Ireland.”

  “I see,” muttered Root—which was basically a lie.

  “I’m going to e-mail last week’s sweep direct to your visor. Luckily there’s a video card in all the new helmets.”


  “The tricky bit will be to coordinate your flight pattern with the video feed. . . .”

  Root had had enough. “How long, Foaly?”

  “Ahm . . . Two minutes, give or take.”

  “Give or take what?”

  “About ten years if my calculations are off.”

  “They’d better not be off then. I’ll hover until we know.”

  One hundred and twenty-four seconds later, Root’s black-and-white blueprints faded out, to be replaced by full-color daylight imaging. When Root moved, it moved, and Holly’s locator beacon dot moved too.

  “Impressive,” said Root.

  “What was that, Commander?”

  “I said impressive,” shouted Root. “No need to get a swelled head.”

  The commander heard the sound of a roomful of laughter, and realized that Foaly had him on the speakers. Everyone had heard him complimenting the centaur’s work. There’d be no talking to him for at least a month. But it was worth it. The video he was receiving now was bang up to date. If Captain Short was being held in a building, the computer would be able to give him 3D blueprints instantaneously. It was foolproof. Except . . .

  “Foaly, the beacon’s gone off shore. What’s going on?”

  “Boat or ship, sir, I’d say at a guess.”

  Root cursed himself for not thinking of it. They’d be having a big laugh in the situation room. Of course it was a ship. Root dropped down a few hundred feet until its shadowy outline loomed through the mist. A whaler by the looks of it. Technology may have changed over the centuries, but there was still nothing like a harpoon to slaughter the world’s largest mammal.

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