The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

  Text copyright © 2005 by Eoin Colfer

  Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

  New Disney • Hyperion paperback edition, 2009

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Printed in the United States of America

  ISBN 978-1-4231-2455-9

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file.



  Table of Contents


  1. Totally Obsessed

  2. The Fairy Thief

  3. Nearly Departed

  4. Narrow Escapes

  5. Meet The Neighbors

  6. Troll Nasty

  7. The Temple Of Artemis

  8. Some Intelligent Conversation

  9. Daddy's Girl

  10. Horse Sense

  11. A Last Good-bye


  Preview Of Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony

  Start Thinking Like A Criminal Mastermind

  A Message From Eoin Colfer

  Artemis Fowl: Read The Entire Series

  Artemis Fowl Book 1

  Artemis Fowl Book 2: The Arctic Incident

  Artemis Fowl Book 3: Eternity Code

  Artemis Fowl Book 4: Opal Deception

  Artemis Fowl Book 5: Lost Colony

  Artemis Fowl Book 6: Time Paradox

  Artemis Fowl Book 7: Atlantis Complex

  For Sarah—

  The pen is mightier than the word processor


  This article was posted on the fairy Internet, on the site www.horsesense.gnom. It is believed that this site is maintained by the centaur Foaly, technical consultant to the Lower Elements Police, although this has never been proved. Almost every detail of the following account contradicts the official release from the LEP Press Office.

  We’ve all heard the official explanation for the tragic events surrounding the Zito Probe investigation. The LEP’s statement contained little in the way of concrete detail, preferring to fudge the facts and question the decisions of a certain female officer.

  I know for an absolute fact that the officer in question, Captain Holly Short, behaved in an exemplary manner, and if it had not been for her skill as a field operative, many more lives would have been lost. Instead of scapegoating Captain Short, the Lower Elements Police should give her a medal.

  Humans are at the center of this particular case. Most humans aren’t smart enough to find the leg holes in their trousers, but there are certain Mud Men clever enough to make me nervous. If they discover the existence of an underground fairy city, they will certainly do their best to exploit the residents. Most men would be no match for superior fairy technology, but there are some humans who are almost smart enough to pass as fairies. One human in particular. I think we all know who I’m talking about.

  In fairy history only one human has bested us. And it really sticks in my hoof that this particular human is little more than a boy. Artemis Fowl, the Irish criminal mastermind.

  Little Arty led the LEP in a merry dance across the continents, until finally, they used fairy technology to wipe the knowledge of our existence from his mind. But even as the gifted centaur Foaly pressed the mind-wipe button, he wondered if the Fairy People were being fooled again. Had the Irish boy left something behind to make himself remember? Of course he had, as we were all to find out later.

  Artemis Fowl does play a significant role in the following events, but for once he was not trying to steal from the People, as he had completely forgotten we existed. No, the mastermind behind this episode is actually a fairy.

  So, who is involved in this tragic tale of two worlds? Who are the main fairy players? Obviously, Foaly is the real hero of the piece. Without his innovations, the LEP would soon be beating the Mud Men back from our doors. He is the unsung hero who solves riddles of the ages, while the Reconnaissance and Retrieval teams swan about aboveground taking all the glory.

  Then there’s Captain Holly Short, the officer whose reputation is under fire. Holly is one of the LEP’s best and brightest. A natural-born pilot with a gift for improvisation in the field. She’s not the best at taking orders, a trait that has landed her in trouble on more than one occasion. Holly was the fairy at the center of all the Artemis Fowl incidents. The pair had almost become friends, when the Council ordered the LEP to mind-wipe Artemis, and just when he was becoming a nice Mud Boy, too.

  As we all know, Commander Julius Root had a role in the proceedings. The youngest-ever full commander in the LEP. An elf who had steered the People through many a crisis. Not the easiest fairy to get along with, but sometimes the best leaders do not make the best friends.

  I suppose Mulch Diggums deserves mention. Until recently, Mulch was imprisoned, but he had once again managed to wriggle his way out. This kleptomaniac, flatulent dwarf has played a reluctant part in many of the Fowl adventures. But Holly was glad to have his help on this mission. If not for Mulch and his bodily functions, things could have turned out a lot worse than they did. And they turned out badly enough.

  At the very center of this case lies Opal Koboi, the pixie who bankrolled the goblin gang’s attempted takeover of Haven City.

  Opal had been facing a lifetime behind laser bars. That is, if she ever recovered from the coma that had claimed the pixie when Holly Short foiled her plan.

  For almost a year, Opal Koboi had languished in the padded-cell wing of the J. Argon Clinic, showing no response to the medical warlocks who tried to revive her. In all that time, she spoke not a single word, ate not a mouthful of food, and exhibited no response to stimuli. At first the authorities were suspicious. It is an act! they declared. Koboi is faking catatonia to avoid prosecution. But as the months rolled by, even the most skeptical were convinced. No one could pretend to be in a coma for almost a year. Surely not. A fairy would have to be totally obsessed. . . .



  The J. Argon Clinic, Haven City,

  The Lower Elements; Three Months Earlier

  The J. Argon Clinic was not a state hospital. Nobody stayed there for free. Argon and his staff of psychologists only treated fairies who could afford it. Of all the clinic’s wealthy patients, Opal Koboi was unique. She had set up an emergency fund for herself more than a year before she was committed, just in case she ever went insane and needed to pay for treatment. It was a smart move. If Opal hadn’t set up the fund, her family would undoubtedly have moved her to a cheaper facility. Not that the facility itself made much difference to Koboi, who had spent the past year drooling and having her reflexes tested. Dr. Argon doubted if Opal would have noticed a bull troll beating its chest before her.

  The fund was not the only reason why Opal was unique. Koboi was the Argon Clinic’s celebrity patient. Following the attempt by the B’wa Kell goblin triad to seize power, Opal Koboi’s name had become the most infamous four syllables under the world. After all, the pixie billionairess had formed an alliance with disgruntled LEP officer Briar Cudgeon, and funded the triad’s war on Haven. Koboi had betrayed her own kind, and now her own mind was betraying her.

  For the first six months of Koboi’s incarceration, the clinic had been besieged by media filming the pixie’s every twitch. The LEP guarded her cell door in shifts, and every staff member in the facility was treated to background checks and stern glares. Nobody was exempt. Even D
r. Argon himself was subjected to random DNA swabs to ensure that he was who he said he was. The LEP wasn’t taking any chances with Koboi. If she escaped from Argon’s Clinic, not only would they be the laughingstock of the fairy world, but a highly dangerous criminal would be unleashed on Haven City.

  But as time went by, fewer camera crews turned up at the gates each morning. After all, how many hours of drooling can an audience be expected to sit through? Gradually, the LEP crews were downsized from a dozen to six and finally to a single officer per shift. Where could Opal Koboi go? the authorities reasoned. There were a dozen cameras focused on her, twenty-four hours a day.

  There was a subcutaneous seeker-sleeper under the skin of her upper arm, and she was DNA swabbed four times daily. And even if someone did get Opal out, what could they do with her? The pixie couldn’t even stand without help, and the sensors said her brain waves were little more than flat lines.

  That said, Dr. Argon was very proud of his prize patient, and mentioned her name often at dinner parties. Since Opal Koboi had been admitted to the clinic, it had become almost fashionable to have a relative in therapy. Almost every family on the rich list had a crazy uncle in the attic. Now that crazy uncle could receive the best of care in the lap of luxury.

  If only every fairy in the facility was as docile as Opal Koboi. All she needed was a few intravenous tubes and a monitor, which had been more than paid for by her first six months’ medical fees. Dr. Argon fervently hoped that little Opal never woke up. Because once she did, the LEP would haul her off to court. And when she had been convicted of treason her assets would be frozen, including the clinic’s fund. No, the longer Opal’s nap lasted, the better for everyone, especially her. Because of their thin skulls and large brain volume, pixies were susceptible to various maladies, such as catatonia, amnesia, and narcolepsy. So it was quite possible that her coma would last for several years. And even if Opal did wake up, it was quite possible that her memory would stay locked up in some drawer in her huge pixie brain.

  Dr. J. Argon did his rounds every night. He didn’t perform much hands-on therapy anymore, but he felt that it was good for the staff to feel his presence. If the other doctors knew that Jerbal Argon kept his finger on the pulse, then they were more likely to keep their own fingers on that pulse, too.

  Argon always saved Opal for last. It calmed him somehow to see the small pixie asleep in her harness. Often at the end of a stressful day, he even envied Opal her untroubled existence. When it had all become too much for the pixie, her brain had simply shut down, all except for the most vital functions. She still breathed, and occasionally the monitors registered a dream spike in her brain waves. But other than that, for all intents and purposes, Opal Koboi was no more.

  On one fateful night, Jerbal Argon was feeling more stressed than usual. His wife was suing for divorce on the grounds that he hadn’t said more than six consecutive words to her in over two years. The Council was threatening to pull his government grant because of all the money he was making from his new celebrity clients, and he had a pain in his hip that no amount of magic could seem to cure. The warlocks said it was probably all in his head. They seemed to think that was funny.

  Argon limped down the clinic’s eastern wing, checking the plasma chart of each patient as he passed their room. He winced each time his left foot touched the floor.

  The two janitor pixies, Mervall and Descant Brill were outside Opal’s room, picking up dust with static brushes. Pixies made wonderful employees. They were methodical, patient, and determined. When a pixie was instructed to do something, you could rest assured that that thing would be done. Plus, they were cute, with their baby faces and disproportionately large heads. Just looking at a pixie cheered most people up. They were walking therapy.

  “Evening, boys,” said Argon. “How’s our favorite patient?”

  Merv, the elder twin, glanced up from his brush. “Same old, same old, Jerry,” he said. “I thought she moved a toe earlier, but it was just a trick of the light.”

  Argon laughed, but it was forced. He did not like to be called Jerry. It was his clinic after all; he deserved some respect. But good janitors were like gold dust, and the Brill brothers had been keeping the building spotless and shipshape for nearly two years now. The Brills were almost celebrities themselves. Twins were very rare among the People. Mervall and Descant were the only pixie pair currently residing in Haven. They had been featured on several TV programs, including Canto, PPTV’s highest-rated chat show.

  LEP’s Corporal Grub Kelp was on sentry duty. When Argon reached Opal’s room, the corporal was engrossed in a movie on his video goggles. Argon didn’t blame him. Guarding Opal Koboi was about as exciting as watching toenails grow.

  “Good film?” inquired the doctor pleasantly.

  Grub raised the lenses. “Not bad. It’s a human Western. Plenty of shooting and squinting.”

  “Maybe I’ll borrow it when you’re finished?”

  “No problem, doctor. But handle it carefully. Human disks are very expensive. I’ll give you a special cloth.”

  Argon nodded. He remembered Grub Kelp now. The LEP officer was very particular about his possessions. He had already written two letters of complaint to the clinic board about a protruding floor rivet that had scratched his boots.

  Argon consulted Koboi’s chart. The plasma screen on the wall displayed a constantly updated feed from the sensors attached to her temples. There was no change, nor did he expect there to be. Her vitals were all normal, and her brain activity was minimal. She’d had a dream earlier in the evening but now her mind had settled. And finally, as if he needed telling, the seeker-sleeper implanted in her arm informed him that Opal Koboi was indeed where she was supposed to be. Generally, the seeker-sleepers were implanted in the head, but pixie skulls were too fragile for any local surgery.

  Jerbal punched in his personal code on the reinforced door’s keypad. The heavy door slid back to reveal a spacious room with gently pulsing floor mood lights. The walls were soft plastic, and gentle sounds of nature spilled from recessed speakers. At the moment a brook was splashing over flat rocks.

  In the middle of the room, Opal Koboi hung suspended in a full body harness. The straps were gel padded and they adjusted automatically to any body movement. If Opal did happen to wake, the harness could be remotely triggered to seal like a net, preventing her from harming herself or escaping.

  Argon checked the monitor pads, making sure they had good contact on Koboi’s forehead. He lifted one of the pixie’s eyelids, shining a pencil light at the pupil. It contracted slightly, but Opal did not avert her eyes.

  “Well, anything to tell me today, Opal?” asked the doctor softly. “An opening chapter for my book?”

  Argon liked to talk to Koboi, just in case she could hear. When she woke up, he reasoned, he would have already established rapport.

  “Nothing? Not a single insight?”

  Opal did not react. As she hadn’t for almost a year.

  “Ah well,” said Argon, swabbing the inside of Koboi’s mouth with the last cotton ball in his pocket. “Maybe tomorrow, eh?”

  He rolled the cotton ball across a sponge pad on his clipboard. Seconds later, Opal’s name flashed up on a tiny screen.

  “DNA never lies,” muttered Argon, tossing the ball into a recycling bin.

  With one last look at his patient, Jerbal Argon turned toward the door.

  “Sleep well, Opal,” he said almost fondly.

  He felt calm again, the pain in his hip almost forgotten. Koboi was as far under as she had ever been. She wasn’t going to wake up any time soon. The Koboi fund was safe.

  It’s amazing just how wrong one gnome can be.

  Opal Koboi was not catatonic, but neither was she awake. She was somewhere in between, floating in a liquid world of meditation, where every memory was a bubble of multicolored light popping gently in her consciousness.

  Since her early teens Opal had been a disciple of Gola Schweem, the cleansing coma
guru. Schweem’s theory was that there was a deeper level of sleep than experienced by most fairies. The cleansing coma state could usually only be reached after decades of discipline and practice. Opal had reached her first cleansing coma at the age of fourteen.

  The benefits of the cleansing coma were that a fairy could spend the sleep time thinking, or in this case, plotting, and also awake feeling completely refreshed. Opal’s coma was so complete that her mind was almost entirely separated from her body. She could fool the sensors, and felt no embarrassment at the indignities of intravenous feeding and assisted bathings. The longest recorded consciously self-induced coma was forty-seven days. Opal had been under for eleven months and counting, though she wasn’t planning to be counting much longer.

  When Opal Koboi had joined forces with Briar Cudgeon and his goblins, she had realized that she would need a backup plan. Their scheme to overthrow the LEP had been ingenious, but there had always been a chance that something could go wrong. In the event that it did, Opal had had no intention of spending the rest of her life in prison. The only way she could make a clean getaway was if everybody thought she was still locked up. So Opal had begun to make preparations.

  The first had been to set up the emergency fund for the Argon Clinic. This would ensure that she would be sent to the right place if she had to induce a cleansing coma. The second step had been to get two of her most trusted personnel installed in the clinic, to help with her eventual escape. Then she began siphoning huge amounts of gold from her businesses. Opal did not wish to become an impoverished exile.

  The final step had been to donate some of her own DNA, and green-light the creation of a clone that would take her place in the padded cell. Cloning was completely illegal, and had been banned by fairy law for more than five hundred years, since the first experiments in Atlantis. Cloning was by no means a perfect science. Doctors had never been able to create an exact fairy clone. The clones looked fine, but they were basically shells with only enough brain power to run the body’s basic functions. They were missing the spark of true life. A fully grown clone resembled nothing more than the original person in a coma. Perfect.

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