Artemis Fowl, once self-proclaimed teenage . “Exactly,” said Argon, thrilled to have Artemis's full . not have been the last emotion on her list, but it would. Be Artemis fowl 08 the last guardian - eoin colfer In perhaps a dozen full moonsthe Berserkers would be gone utterly, and their lastspark of. ARTEMIS FOWL is a child prodigy from Ireland who has 'Full of action, weaponry, farting dwarves and Chandleresque look like child's play' – Guardian.

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Here we go again. Root's face was purple with rage. This was more or less his general state of existence, a fact that had earned him the nickname 'Beetroot'.

There was an office pool running on how long he had before his heart exploded. The smart money was on half a century, at the outside. Commander Root was tapping the moonometer on his wrist. She was barely a minute late. There were at least a dozen officers on this shift who hadn't even reported in yet. But Root always singled her out for persecution. Get up a few minutes earlier!

Holly Short was a city elf born and bred. Since the humans began experimenting with mineral drilling, more and more fairies had been driven out of the shallow forts and into the depth and security of Haven City. The metropolis was overcrowded and under-serviced.

And now there was a lobby to allow automobiles in the pedestrianized city centre. As if the place wasn't smelly enough already with all those country gnomes lumbering around the place. Root was right. She should get up a bit earlier. But she wouldn't. Not until everybody else was forced to. Why don't I ever bawl out those other layabouts? She knew it! You are a test case. A beacon. There are a million fairies out there watching your every move.

There are a lot of hopes riding on you. But there is a lot of prejudice against you too. The future of law enforcement is in your hands. And at the moment, I'd say it was a little heavy. Root had never said anything like this before. Usually it was just 'Fix your helmet', 'Stand up straight', blah blah blah.

Ever since that Hamburg affair. The Hamburg affair had been a total disaster. One of her perps had skipped out to the surface and tried to bargain with the Mud People for asylum. Root had to stop time, call in the Retrieval Squad, and do four memory wipes. A lot of police time wasted. All her fault.

The commander took a form from his desk. I've made up my mind. I'm putting you on Traffic and bringing in Corporal Frond. An airhead.

# 08 Artemis Fowl The Last Guardian Eoin Colfer

You can't make her the test case! Why shouldn't I? You have never given me your best Either that or your best just isn't good enough. Sorry, Short, you had your chance The meeting was over. Holly could only stand there, aghast. She'd blown it. The best career opportunity she was ever likely to get and she'd tossed it in the gutter.

One mistake and her future was past. It wasn't fair. Holly felt an uncharacteristic anger take hold of her, but she swallowed it. This was no time to lose her temper. I feel I deserve one more chance. It speaks for itself, apart from the Hamburg thing. Ten successful recons. Not a single memory wipe or time-stop, apart from Holly took a chance.

Then two, then three. A giant viewscreen crackled into life on the wall behind him. Root jabbed the speaker button, putting all the callers on conference. Southern Italy. No shield. An unshielded fairy could be seen by mortal eyes. That wasn't so bad if the perp was humanoid. Why did these things always happen on his watch? Holly could understand his frustration.

Trolls were the meanest of the deep-tunnel creatures. They wandered the labyrinth, preying on anything unlucky enough to cross their path. Their tiny brains had no room for rules or restraint. Occasionally one found its way into the shaft of a pressure elevator. Usually the concentrated air current fried them, but sometimes one survived and was blasted to the surface. Driven crazy by pain and even the tiniest amount of light, they would generally proceed to destroy everything in their path.

Root shook his head rapidly, recovering himself. Looks like you get your chance. You're running hot, I take it? Then sign yourself out a side-arm and proceed to the target area.

Scopes were sending high-res shots of an Italian fortified town. A red dot was moving rapidly through the countryside towards the human population. Do not attempt a retrieval. Is that understood? Six men. That was below ground, in familiar territory. Do you really? Not up close. Let's not make today your first time. If he'd known how this straightforward Recon assignment was going to turn out, he would probably have retired there and then.

Tonight, history was going to be made. And it wasn't the discovery-of-radium, first-man-on-the-moon happy kind of history. It was the Spanish-Inquisition, here-comes-the-Hindenburg bad kind of history. Bad for humans and fairies. Bad for everyone. Holly proceeded directly to the chutes.

Her normally chatty mouth was a grim slash of determination. One chance, that was it. She would allow nothing to break her concentration. There was the usual queue of holiday visa hopefuls stretching to the corner of Elevator Plaza, but Holly bypassed it by waving her badge at the waiting line. A truculent gnome refused to yield. What's so special about you? Courtesy at all times.

Now if you could just excuse me. That's what I hear. What actually formed on her lips resembled a lemonsucking grimace. Recon venture only above ground when absolutely necessary.

Obviously he had made up the rumour himself and suspected that Holly might have just called him an idiot. By the time he'd figured it out, she had skipped through the double doors. Foaly was waiting for her in Ops. Foaly was a paranoid centaur, convinced that human intelligence agencies were monitoring his transport and surveillance network. To prevent them reading his mind, he wore a tinfoil hat at all times. He glanced up sharply when Holly entered through the pneumatic double doors.

Oh and the EIB. A regular riot. I thought the Hamburg affair might have knocked some of the cockiness out of you.

If I were you, I'd concentrate on the job in hand. He was right. Fill me in. He's moving towards Martina Franca, a fortified town near the city of Brindisi. As far as we can tell, he stumbled into vent E7. It was on cool-down after a surface shot, that's why the troll isn't crispy barbecue right now. Charming, she thought. He chewed on a couple of cows for an hour or two, so that bought us a bit of time.

Fully grown. One hundred and eighty kilos, with tusks like a wild boar. A really wild boar. Suddenly Recon seemed a much better job than Retrieval. What have you got for me? He selected what looked like a rectangular wristwatch.

You find him, we find you. Routine stuff. Nuclear battery. No time limit. The mike is voice-activated. Just in case. He picked a platinum handgun from the pile. The latest model. Even the tunnel gangs don't have these. Three settings, if you don't mind.

Scorched, well done and crisped to a cinder. Nuclear power source too, so plug away. This baby will outlive you by a thousand years. I think. No one's ever really ready for a troll. Maybe it was because she had a sneaking suspicion that Foaly was right. The pressure elevators were powered by gaseous columns vented from the earth's core. The LEP tech boys, under Foaly's guidance, had fashioned titanium eggs that could ride on the currents.

They had their own independent motors, but for an express ride to the surface there was nothing like the blast from a tidal flare. Foaly led her past a long line of chute bays to E7. The pod sat in its clamp, looking very fragile to be rocketing about on magma streams.

Its underside was charred black and pockmarked from shrapnel. The centaur slapped it fondly on a fender. Oldest model still in the chutes. The chutes made her nervous enough without riding in an antique. The pod was not built for comfort. There was barely enough space for a restraining seat among the jumble of electronics. Foaly shuffled uncomfortably. We had a pressure leak on the last mission. But that's plugged now. And the officer lived.

Down a few IQ points, but alive, and he can still take liquids. Foaly strapped the harness on to her, checking the restraints thoroughly. Foaly tapped her helmet mike. Don't think about the white-hot magma flow that's going to engulf this tiny craft. Don't think about hurtling towards the surface with a MACH 2 force trying to turn you inside-out. And certainly don't think about the blood-crazed troll ready to disembowel you with his tusks.

Don't think about any of that stuff Too late. Foaly's voice sounded in her earpiece. You never know. An oil tanker from the Middle East intercepted a transmission one time.

What a mess that was. My life is in your hands here. OK, sorry. We're going to use the rail to drop you into E7's main shaft, there's a surge due any minute. That should see you past the first hundred klicks, then you're on your own. Fire it up. The tiny craft jostled in its housing, shaking Holly like a bead in a rattle. She could barely hear Foaly speaking into her ear. Get ready to fly, Short. No good having a radio if you've swallowed your tongue.

She activated the external cameras and put the view on screen. The entrance to E7 was creeping towards her. The air was shimmering in the landing-light glow.

White-hot sparks tumbled into the secondary shaft. Holly couldn't hear the roar, but she could imagine it. A raw skinning wind like a million trolls howling. Her fingers tightened around the joysticks. The pod shuddered to a halt at the lip. The chute stretched above and below. Like dropping an ant down a drainpipe. Rollercoasters ain't got nothing on this. She couldn't speak, not with the rubber in her mouth.

The centaur would be able to see her in the podcam anyway. The pod's clamp tilted, rolling Holly into the abyss. Her stomach tightened as G-force took hold, dragging her to the centre of the earth.

The seismology section had a million probes down here, with a But there was always that point two per cent. The fall seemed to last for an eternity. And just when Holly had mentally consigned herself to the scrap heap, she felt it. That unforgettable vibration. The feeling that, outside her tiny sphere, the whole world was being shaken apart. Here it comes. Foaly may have replied, she couldn't hear him any more.

Holly couldn't even hear herself, but she did see the stabilization fins slide out on the monitor. The flare caught her like a hurricane, spinning the pod at first until the fins caught. Halfmelted rocks pelted the craft's underside, jolting it towards the chute walls.

Holly compensated with bursts from the joysticks. The heat was tremendous in the confined space, enough to fry a human. But fairy lungs are made of stronger stuff. The acceleration dragged at her body with invisible hands, stretching the flesh over her arms and face.

Holly blinked salty sweat from her eyes and concentrated on the monitor. The flare had totally engulfed her pod, and it was a big one too. Force seven at the very least. A good metre girth. Orange-striped magma swirled and hissed around her, searching for a weak point in the metal casing.

The pod groaned and complained, fifty-year-old rivets threatening to pop. Holly shook her head. The first thing she was going to do on her return was kick Foaly straight in the hairy behind.

She felt like a nut inside a shell, between a gnome's molars. A bow plate buckled, popped in as though punched by a giant fist. The pressure light blinked on. Holly could feel her head being squeezed. The eyes would be first to go - popping like ripe berries. She checked the dials. Twenty more seconds before she rode out the flare and was running on thermals. Those twenty seconds seemed like an age. Holly sealed the helmet to protect her eyes, riding out the final barrage of rocks.

And suddenly they were clear, sailing upwards on the comparatively gentle spirals of hot air. Holly added her own thrusters to the upward force. No time to waste floating around on the wind. Above her, a circle of neon lights marked the docking zone. Holly swivelled horizontal and pointed the docking nodes at the lights. This was delicate. Many Recon pilots had made it this far, only to miss the port and lose valuable time.

Not Holly. She was a natural. First in the academy. She gave the thrusters one final squeeze and coasted the last hundred metres. Using the rudders beneath her feet, she teased the pod through the circle of light and into its clamp on the landing pad. The nodes revolved, settling into their grooves. Holly smacked herself on the chest, releasing the safety harness. Once the door seal was open, sweet surface air flooded the cabin.

There was nothing like that first breath after a ride in the chutes. She breathed deeply, purging the stale pod air from her lungs. How had the People ever left the surface? Sometimes she wished that her ancestors had stayed to fight it out with the Mud People, but there were too many of them.

Unlike fairies, who could produce only a single child every twenty years, Mud People bred like rodents. Numbers would subdue even magic. The Mud People destroyed everything they came into contact with.

Of course they didn't live in the mud any more. Not in this country, at least. Oh no. Big fancy dwellings with rooms for everything - rooms for sleeping, rooms for eating, even a room to go to the toilet! Holly shuddered. Imagine going to the toilet inside your own house. The only good thing about going to the toilet was the minerals being returned to the earth, but the Mud People had even managed to botch that up by treating the If anyone had told her a hundred years ago that humans would be taking the fertile out of fertilizer, she would have told them to get some air holes drilled in their skull.

Holly unhooked a set of wings from their bracket. They were double ovals, with a clunky motor. She moaned. She hated that model. Petrol engine, if you don't mind. And heavier than a pig dipped in mud. Now the Hummingbird Z7, that was transport. Whisper silent, with a satellite-bounced solar battery that would fly you twice around the world. But there were budget cuts again. On her wrist, the locator began to beep. She was in range. Holly stepped out of the pod and on to the landing bay. She was inside a camouflaged mound of earth, commonly known as a fairy fort.

Indeed, the People used to live in these until they were driven deeper underground. There wasn't much technology. Just a few external monitors, and a self-destruct device should the bay be discovered.

There was nothing on the screens. All clear. The pneumatic doors were slightly askew where the troll had barged through, but otherwise everything seemed operational.

Holly strapped on the wings, stepping into the outside world. The Italian night sky was crisp and brisk, infused with olives and vine. Crickets clicked in the rough grass and moths fluttered in the starlight. Holly couldn't stop herself smiling. It was worth the risk, every bit of it. Speaking of risk She checked the locator. The bip was much stronger now.

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The troll was almost at the town walls! She could appreciate nature after the mission was over. Now it was time for action. Holly primed the wings' motor, pulling the starter cord over her shoulder. She fumed silently. Every spoilt kid in Haven had a Hummingbird for their wilderness holidays, and here were the LEP with wings that were junk when they were new. She yanked the cord again and then again.

On the third wrench it caught, spewing a stream of smoke and fumes into the night. The wings flapped their way up to a steady beat and, with not a little effort, lifted Captain Holly Short into the night sky. Even without the locator, the troll would have been easy to follow. It had left a trail of destruction wider than a tunnel excavator. Holly flew low, skipping between mist hazes and trees, matching the troll's course.

The crazed creature had cut a swathe through the middle of a vineyard, turned a stone wall to rubble and left a guard dog gibbering under a hedge. Then she flew over the cows. It was not a pretty sight. Without going into details, let's just say that there wasn't much left besides horns and hooves. The red bip was louder now.

Louder meant closer. She could see the town below her, nestled on top of a low hill, surrounded by a crenellated wall from the Middle Ages. Lights still burned in most windows. Time for a little magic. But they do have certain powers. Healing, the mesmer and shielding being among them.

Shielding is really a misnomer. What fairies actually do is to vibrate at such a high frequency that they are never in one place long enough to be seen. Humans may notice a slight shimmer in the air if they are paying close attention - which they rarely are. And even then the shimmer is generally attributed to evaporation.

Typical of Mud People to invent a complicated explanation for a simple phenomenon. Holly switched on her shield. It took a bit more out of her than usual. She could feel the strain in the beads of sweat on her forehead. I really should complete the Ritual, she thought.

The sooner the better. Some commotion below broke into her thoughts. Something that didn't gel with the night-time noises. Holly adjusted the trim on her backpack and flew in for a closer look. Look only, she reminded herself, that was her job. A Recon officer was sent up the chutes to pinpoint the target, while the Retrieval boys took a nice cushy shuttle. The troll was directly below her, pounding against the town's outer wall, which was coming away in chunks beneath his powerful fingers.

Holly sucked in a startled gasp. This guy was a monster! Big as an elephant and ten times as mean. But this particular beast was worse than mean, he was scared. Situation critical topside. Contact imminent. How far away are Retrieval? We're still in the shuttle. Root was in the shuttle?

This whole town is going to explode in ten seconds I'm going in. Captain Short. You don't have an invite. You know the law. Hold your position. No buts, Captain. Hang back. That's an order! Petrol fumes were addling her brain. What could she do? What was the right decision to make? Lives or orders? Then the troll broke through the wall and a child's voice split the night. An invitation. At a stretch. The troll is light-crazy and there are children in there.

You'll spend the next hundred years on drain duty! Holly had disconnected her mike and swooped in after the troll.

Streamlining her body, Captain Short ducked into the hole. She appeared to be in a restaurant. A packed restaurant. The troll had been temporarily blinded by the electric light and was thrashing about in the centre of the floor. The patrons were stunned. Even the child's plea had petered out.

They sat gaping, party hats perched comically on their heads. Waiters froze, huge trays of pasta quivering on their splayed fingers. Chubby Italian infants covered their eyes with chubby fingers. It was always like this in the beginning: the shocked silence. Then came the screaming. A wine bottle crashed to the floor.

It broke the spell. The pandemonium started. Holly winced. Trolls hated noise almost as much as light. The troll lifted massive shaggy shoulders, its retractable claws sliding out with an ominous schiiick. Classic predator behaviour. The beast was about to strike. Holly drew her weapon and flicked it up to the second setting.

She couldn't kill the troll under any circumstances. Not to save humans. But she could certainly put him out until Retrieval arrived.

Aiming for the weak point at the base of the skull, she let the troll have a long burst of the concentrated ion ray. The beast staggered, stumbled a few steps, then got very angry. It's OK, thought Holly, I'm shielded. To any onlookers it would seem as though the pulsing blue beam emanated from thin air.

The troll rounded on her, its muddy dreadlocks swinging like candles. No panic. It can't see me. The troll picked up a table. Totally invisible. He pulled back a shaggy arm and let fly. Just a slight shimmer in the air. The table tumbled straight towards her head. A second too late. The table clipped her backpack, knocking the petrol tank clean off. It span through the air, trailing flammable fluid.

Italian restaurants - wouldn't you know it full of candles. The tank twirled right through an elaborate candelabrum. It burst into flames, like some deadly firework. Most of the petrol landed on the troll. So did Holly. The troll could see her.

There was no doubt about it. It squinted at her through the hated light, its brow a rictus of pain and fear. Her shield was off. Her magic had gone. Holly twisted in the troll's grip, but it was useless. The creature's fingers were the size of bananas, but nowhere near as pliant. They were squashing the breath from her ribcage with savage ease. Needle-like claws were scraping at the toughened material of her uniform. Any second now, they would punch through, and that would be that.

Holly couldn't think. The restaurant was a carousel of chaos. The troll was gnashing its tusks; greasy molars trying to grip her helmet. Holly could smell its fetid breath through her filters. She could smell the odour of burning fur too, as the fire spread along the troll's back.

The beast's green tongue rasped across her visor, sliming the lower section. The visor! That was it. Her only chance. Holly wormed her free hand to the helmet controls. The tunnel lights. High beams. She depressed the sunken button and watts of unfiltered light blasted from the twin spotlights above her eyes. The troll reared back, a penetrating scream exploding from between rows of teeth. Dozens of glasses and bottles shattered where they stood. It was too much for the poor beast.

Stunned, set on fire and now blinded. The shock and pain made their way through to its tiny brain, ordering it to shut down. The troll complied, keeling over with almost comical stiffness. Holly rolled to avoid a scything tusk. There was complete silence, but for tinkling glass, crackling fur and the sudden release of breath. Holly climbed shakily to her feet. There were a lot of eyes following her - human eyes.

She was per cent visible. And these humans wouldn't stay complacent for long. This breed never did. Containment was the issue. She raised her empty palms. A gesture of peace. The Italians, ever graceful, muttered that it was nothing. Holly reached slowly into her pocket and withdrew a small sphere. She placed it in the middle of the floor. The restaurant's patrons complied, leaning in to see the small silver ball. It was ticking, faster and faster, almost like a countdown.

Holly turned her back to the sphere. Three, two, one Mass unconsciousness. Nothing fatal, but headaches all around in about forty minutes. Holly sighed. For the moment. She ran to the door and slid the latch across.

Nobody was going in or out. Except through the big gaping hole in the wall. Next she doused the smouldering troll with the contents of the restaurant's fire extinguisher, hoping the icy powder wouldn't revive the sleeping behemoth.

Holly surveyed the mess she had created. There was no doubt, it was a shambles. Worse than Hamburg. Root would skin her alive. She'd rather face the troll any day. This was the end of her career for sure, but suddenly that didn't seem so important because her ribs were aching and she had a blinder of a pressure headache coming on. Perhaps a rest, just for a second, so she could pull herself together before Retrieval showed up.

Holly didn't even bother looking for a chair. She simply allowed her legs to buckle beneath her, sinking to the chessboard lino floor. Waking up to Commander Root's bulging features is the stuff of nightmares. Holly's eyes flickered open, and for a second she could have sworn that there was concern in those eyes.

But then it was gone, replaced by the customary vein-popping fury. That is There was I told you to hang back! You know it's forbidden to enter a human building without an invitation.

A child called for help. Corporal Rowe versus the State. The jury ruled that the trapped woman's cry for help could be accepted as an invitation into the building. Anyway, you're all here now. That means you accepted the invitation too. Things could have been worse. Things couldn't have been a lot worse. The establishment was pretty trashed and there were forty humans out for the count.

The tech boys were attaching mindwipe electrodes to the temples of unconscious diners. Retrieval had jimmied a hologram lead into the existing electricity sockets and were projecting an unbattered wall over the hole. The holograms were handy for quick patches, but no good under scrutiny.

Anyone who examined the wall too closely would have noticed that the slightly transparent patch was exactly the same as the stretch beside it. In this case there were two identical patches of spiderweb cracks and two reproductions of the same Rembrandt. But the people inside the pizzeria were in no condition to examine walls, and by the time they woke up, the wall would have been repaired by the Telekinetic Division and the entire paranormal experience would be removed from their memories.

A Retrieval officer bolted from the restroom. The Concusser didn't reach him. He's coming, sir. Right now, sir! She really did. But it wouldn't come. Her magic was gone. A toddler waddled out of the bathroom, his eyes heavy with sleep.

He pointed a pudgy finger directly at Holly. Root shimmered back into the visible spectrum. He was, if possible, even angrier than before. Root wasn't having any of it. You're not running hot at all, are you? Four years? It's a wonder you lasted this long! Do it now.

You're not coming below ground again without your powers. You're a danger to yourself and your fellow officers! There's a full moon tonight. We'll talk about it when you get back. Very good, sir.

Could have been worse, an awful lot worse. Perhaps she wouldn't be kicked out of Recon after all. Artemis knew that, withhis famous lack of coordination, any attempt to hopcasually onto the belt would result in a humiliatingtumble. For Butler, the problem was not one ofcoordination or lack of it. Surely a greencab would be faster? Butler shot the elf a look that would have cowed abull. Holly was a dear friend, but her teasing could berelentless. He tiptoed onto the belt, squeezing hisenormous feet onto a single section and bending hisknees to grasp the tiny stick.

Holly might have grinned had Opal Koboi not beenon her mind. The Stick belt trundled its passengers from the ArgonClinic along the border of an Italian-style piazza towarda low tunnel, which had been laser-cut from solid rock.

Fairies lunching alfresco froze with forkfuls of saladhalfway to their mouths as the unlikely trio passed by. The sight of a jumpsuit-clad LEP officer wascommon enough on a Stick belt, but a gangly human boydressed like an undertaker and a troll-sized, buzz-cutman-mountain were quite unusual.

The tunnel was barely three feet high, so Butler wasforced to prostrate himself over three sections, flatteningseveral handgrips in the process. So the young fairies can learn something about their Howwonderful, thought Butler; but he suppressed hisadmiration, as he had long ago disciplined his brain toconcentrate on bodyguard duties and not waste neuronsbeing amazed while he was belowground.

Save it for retirement, he thought. Then you cancast your mind back and appreciate art. Police Plaza was a cobbled crest into which the shape ofthe Lower Elements Police acorn insignia had beenpainstakingly paved by master craftsmen. It was a totalwaste of effort as far as the LEP officers wereconcerned, as they were not generally the type whowere inclined to gaze out of the fourth-floor windowsand marvel at how the sim-sunlight caught the rim ofeach gold-leafed cobble and set the whole arrangementa-twinkling.

Holly made directly for the narrowest section of thethrong and used sharp elbows to inch through thestrangely silent crowd.

Butler simply cleared his throatonce and the crowd peeled apart as though magnetically Artemis took this pathinto the Situation room to find Commander TroubleKelp and Foaly standing before a wall-sized screen,raptly following unfolding events. Foaly noticed the gasps that followed Butlerwherever he went in Haven, and glanced around.

Commander Kelp was so brimfull of gung-ho attitudethat he had taken the name Trouble upon graduation andhad once tried to arrest a troll for littering, whichaccounted for the sim-skin patch on the tip of his nose,which glowed yellow from a certain angle. Holly was joshing because she was nervous, andTrouble knew it. She was right to be nervous. In fact,outright fear would have been more appropriate, giventhe situation that was being beamed in to them. She realized with a jolt thatOpal was the prisoner.

Watch it and see. Artemis stepped closer to the screen, scanning thepicture for information. The call line ran from a fairy satellite down to SouthAfrica and from there to Miami and then on to a hundredother places, like the scribble of an angry child. Could be anywhere. If it is actuallya live feed. The hubbub in the room rose as, onscreen, one ofthe two bulky gnomes standing behind Opal drew ahuman automatic handgun, the chrome weapon lookinglike a cannon in his fairy fingers.

It seemed as though the temperature had suddenlydropped in the Situation room. Nobody objected. Usually the LEP officers would shuffle with machoreluctance when ordered to move, but in this instancethey rushed to the nearest monitor, eager not to miss asingle frame of unfolding events. Foaly shut the door behind them with a swing of hishoof, then darkened the window glass so there would be One of the Opal Kobois, at any rate.

There were two gnomes onscreen, both wearing full-face anti-UV party masks that could be programmed toresemble anyone. These had been modeled on Pip andKip, two popular kitty-cat cartoon characters on TV,but the figures were still recognizable as gnomes becauseof their stocky barrel torsos and bloated forearms.

Theystood before a nondescript gray wall, looming over thetiny pixie who knelt in the mud tracks of some wheeledvehicle, waterline creeping along the legs of her designertracksuit. The gnome with the pistol spoke through a vox-box in the mask, disguising his voice as Pip the kitty-cat. You hadtwenty minutes; now you have fifteen. Thiswas too important to trust to his dubious grasp ofGnommish.

Trouble Kelp was incredulous. Give us a terrorist, or we kill a terrorist? Sure, we may producethe occasional power-crazed pixie, but by and large thePeople are peace-loving folk. Which is probably whywe live down here in the first place. Under no circumstances can we release Opal Koboi, Opal Koboi.

Certified genius pixieindustrialist and inventor. Orchestratedthe goblin coup and insurrection. Clonedherself to escape prison and attempted tolead the humans to Haven. Responsible forthe murder of Commander Julius Root.

Hadhuman pituitary gland implanted tomanufacture growth hormone subsequentlyremoved. Younger version of Opal followedCaptain Short from the past and iscurrently at large in present time line. It is assumed she will attempt to free herincarcerated self and return to her owntime stream.

Categorized as highly intelligent,motivated, and psychotic. This is a bold move, Opal, thought Artemis. Andwith potentially catastrophic repercussions.

He felt rather than saw Holly at his elbow. Artemis frowned. Perhaps those goblins wouldsimply shoot her with a blank? That would deliverno payoff other than momentary horror on our part. Opal has planned this so that she wins whatever theeventuality. If theyounger Opal dies, then…Then what?

What if they computer-graphic her head to explode? We will certainlyknow. This was one of those times whenArtemis and Foaly were aware of something scienceyand assumed that everyone else in the room also had allthe facts. Moments like this were guaranteed to drive Holly crazy. How will we know whatever itis? You have two versions of thesame individual occupying a time stream, and you areunaware of the ramifications?

The armed one, Pip, occasionallychecked a wristwatch by tugging his sleeve with his gunbarrel, but otherwise they waited patiently. Opal pleadedwith her eyes, staring at the camera lens, fat tearsstreaming down her cheeks, sparkling in the sunlight.

Herhair seemed thinner than usual and unwashed. The picture wassuper-high-def and so clear that it was like lookingthrough a window. If this was a spurious threat, thenyoung Opal did not know it. Tell me? Or to knowwhat the ramifications are? Thisis my kingdom, and I will be simple and to the point, Ipromise. Holly laughed, a single harsh bark. She could notbelieve everyone continued to act like their everydayselves even though a life was at stake. We have become desensitized, like the humans.

Whatever Opal had done, she was still a person. There had been dark days when Holly had dreamed ofhunting the pixie down and issuing a little Mud Manjustice, but those days were gone.

Foaly tugged at his outrageously coiffed forelock. Simple and to thepoint, remember? If young Opal dies, thenold Opal cannot continue to exist. She will fizzle out of existence, andwe will all look a bit puzzled for a moment, then forgetabout her?

Bahjee believes that if the time stream ispolluted by the arrival of the younger version of a beingand that younger version subsequently dies, then thepresent-tense version of the being will release all itsenergy spontaneously and violently. Not only that, butanything that exists because of the younger Opal will alsocombust. Violently and combust were words thatCommander Kelp understood well. How violently? Matter is changed instantaneously into energy.

Ahuge explosive force will be released. We could even betalking about nuclear fission. Theobjects should cause less damage. Just the things she influenced in the past fiveyears of our time line, between her two ages, thoughthere will probably be some temporal ripples on eitherside. Physics trumps quantumphysics, and things go on as normal.

Holly found herself red-faced with sudden fury. In a short time, many of us couldbe dead. I need to stay detached. How likely are the explosions? If I were a betting manand there were someone to take this kind of bet, I wouldput my last gold coin on it.

Let her go immediately. We turn her loose Get Atlantis on the line now. I needto speak to the warden at the Deeps. All we can do is saveher life. What you might be able to do is get herdown to the reactor core. What reactor core? These pods are constructed with science and magic towithstand a moderate nuclear blast. This is taught inschools here.

Every fairy in the room knows this,correct? Technically it was correct, asthey did know it now. Though that issomething I would not bet my last gold coin on.

Opal,apparently, is prepared to take the risk. Opal is forcing you to release her from hercell. The alternative is the utter destruction of Atlantis But still, they had options. She gazed at the figures onscreen and was chilledby how casual the gnomes seemed, in the light of whatthey were about to do.

Smart-masks were very popular with thekaraoke crowd, who could then look like their idols aswell as trying to sound like them. Perhaps they are asclueless as I was ten seconds ago.

Justpress the button. Let metalk to them. She even managed toget through to me. And assemble the Council; we need tobegin evacuating both cities now.

It was in the slantof their heads and the bend of their knees. Perhaps thiswhole thing was not as exciting as they hoped it wouldbe. After all, they could not see their audience, and noone had responded to their threats.

What had started outas a revolutionary action was now beginning to look like Pip waggled his gun at Kip, and the meaning wasclear. Holly activated the microphone with a wave of her hand. Can you hear me? We heard of you. Not too shabby, Captain. Never force akidnapper to demonstrate his resolve. Should I call you Pip? Holly was incredulous. These two were about tototally incapacitate the entire fairy world, and they weregoofing about like two goblins at a fireball party.

We told youalready. Release Opal Koboi, or the younger model isgonna take a long sleep. And by that I mean, get shot inthe head.

Come on, Pip. One more hour?

For me? But notthat cute. Nothanks, Cap. You have ten minutes. If I was you, Iwould get that cell open or call the undertaker. Let me give it to you straight. A lot of innocent people will die. Pip waved his gun carelessly. Me too. I sure would love to hook up for a sim-lattewhen this is all over.

Might be a while, of course, whatwith Haven City being in ruins. It read: Holly fluttered her eyelids to show she understood,then continued with the negotiation.

We have nine minutes left. Theyneed to suit up, pressurize, maybe; go through theconduits to open sea. Nine minutes is not long enough. Fission can put a hell of a hole in the shield.

Drowning, forexample.

Holly banged her tiny fists on the console. These two are so infuriating. Pip stepped close to the camera, so that his maskfilled the screen. The Deeps, AtlantisOpal Koboi was making a futile attempt to levitate whenthe guards came for her.

It was something she had beenable to do as a child before her chosen life of crime hadstripped the magic from her synapses, the tiny junctionsbetween nerve cells where most experts agreed magicoriginated. Imagine it, she thought. I wished to be human. Thatwas a mistake for which I will eventually find someone to The centaur, Foaly—he drove me to it. I dohope he is killed in the explosion.

Opal smirked in self-satisfaction. Granted, shehad cooked up a little surprise for his wife; but this wasmerely a side project and not something she had spenttoo much time on. It is a measure of how far I have come, Opalthought. I have matured somewhat. The veil has lifted,and I see my true purpose.

She needed the world to bowdown, and she was prepared to risk everything andsacrifice anyone to see her wish fulfilled. This time it will be different, for I will havefearsome warriors bound to my will. Ancient soldierswho will die for me. Opal cleared her mind and sent out a probesearching for her other self. All that came back was the She knows, Opal realized. Poor thing. This moment of sympathy for her younger self didnot last long, as the imprisoned Opal had learned not tolive in the past.

I am merely killing a memory, she thought. That isall. Which was a convenient way of looking at it. No discussion; just come along. Jumbopixies were a breed peculiar to Atlantis, where theparticular blend of pressurized environment and algae-based filtration had caused them to pop up withincreased regularity over the years. What the jumbo Before Opal could open her mouth to voice anobjection, the pixies had bundled her into a lined anti-radiation suit and clipped three bungee cords around hertorso.

The warden sighed, as if he had been expectingOpal to somehow disable his guards. Which he had. Opal smiled behind the heavy lead gauze of herheadpiece. This certainly is the day for Opal Kobois to bemanhandled by burly boys. She beamed a thought to her younger self on thesurface.

I feel for you, sister. The elevator cube flashed downward through a hundredyards of soft sandstone to a small chamber composedentirely of hyperdense material harvested from the crustof a neutron star. Opal guessed they had arrived at the chamber, andgiggled at the memory of a stupid gnome in her highschool who had asked what neutron stars were made of. Neutrons, boy, Professor Leguminous hadsnapped. The clue is in the name.

This chamber held the record for being the mostexpensive room per square inch to construct anywhereon the planet, though it looked a little like a concretefurnace room. At one end was the elevator door; at theother were what looked like four missile tubes; and inthe middle was an extremely grumpy dwarf. The jumbo pixies dumped Opal on the gray floor.

Them tubes is built for rods. Engineer Ozkopy here. One hundred Hell, I once took a call on aspaceship. Opal Koboi is in the shuttle bay rightnow. We just need ten more minutes. Never tell a tale, lest you go to jail. It was the Pipand Kip theme song.

Holly glared at him. Artemis grew impatient with the fruitless wrangling. They have nointention of releasing Opal. We should evacuate now, atleast to the shuttle bays.

They are built to withstandmagma flares. The realdanger is in Atlantis. You said, and I concur, that the serious explosions,theoretical explosions, only occur with living beings. His skin tone faded from pale toporcelain, and he actually rapped his own forehead.

Foaly, we are both imbeciles. She had heard it duringprevious adventures, generally before things wentcatastrophically wrong. Argon Clinic. If she explodes,it could go nuclear. I think we should be okay there. Opalharvested her own DNA before the time line split. Instantly a seriesof Evac sirens began to wail throughout the city.

Theeerie sound spread like the keening of mothers receivingthe bad news of their nightmares. Foaly chewed a nail.

But we need to readythe emergency resuscitation teams. Goblins, timetravel, demons. Now this place where everything is so…so…small. And I am fine now. Drop the blast doors, which should helpabsorb some of the shock waves. Leave anythingthat might have Koboi technology behind. Phones,games, everything. Somebody say something, anything. He didnot appreciate such flippant posturing when many liveswere at stake. He pointed at the microphone. Artemis chose to interpret it as anaffirmative.

He approached the screen. This is Artemis Fowl. You may have heard of Wonder boy. Sure and begorraeveryone has heard of that smarty-pants. They arestupid and talk too much, and I should be able to exploitthose weaknesses.

He tried a ruse. How did Artemis Fowlknow their instructions? Explain to me then how I know your Something in the background. Something familiar. The wall behind Pip and Kip was nondescript gray,rendered with roughly finished plaster. A common finishfor farm walls worldwide. There were walls like this allover the Fowl Estate.

Ba boom. There went his heart again. Artemis concentrated on the wall. Slate-gray,except for a network of jagged cracks that sundered theplasterwork.

A memory presented itself of six-year-old Artemisand his father walking the estate. As they passed thebarn wall on the upper pasture, young Artemis pointedto the wall and commented. Were youaware that Croatia declared its independence fromYugoslavia in ? On the wall behind Pip and Kip. Amap of Croatia, though fifteen-year-old Artemis sawnow that the Dalmatian coastline was truncated. They are on the Fowl Estate, he realized.

Something Dr. Argon had said resurfaced. Because the residual magic there is off thescale. Artemis decided to act on his hunch. The gnome was punched backward into thewall, knocking clouds of dust from the plaster.

A narrowstream of blood oozed from the hole in his chest, pulsing His kitty-cat cartoon faceseemed comically surprised, and when the heat from hisface faded, the pixels powered down, leaving a yellowquestion mark. The sudden death shocked Artemis, but thepreceding sentence had shocked him more. He had been correct on both counts: What had happened there? Pip shouted at the screen. If you are human.

If you are Artemis Fowl. It was clearthat Pip wished to pull the trigger, but he could not. He has his instructions, thought Artemis.

He mustwait until the allotted time has run out.

Otherwise hecannot be certain that Opal is secure in the nuclearreactor. Artemis deactivated the microphone and wasmoving toward the door when Holly caught his arm.

If I can make it to a magma vent, we mightbe able to outrun the explosions to the surface. Hecould order Artemis to remain underground, but it wouldcertainly be strategically advantageous to have someonetrack Opal Koboi if she somehow escaped fromAtlantis. Stay in contact if…there is anything left tocontact. The Deeps, AtlantisOpal did not enjoy being forced into the depths of thetube by a flat-topped ramrod, but once she was downinside the neutron crust, she felt quite snuggly, cushionedby a fluffy layer of anti-rad foam.

One is like a caterpillar in a chrysalis, she thought,only a little irked by the rough material of her anti-radsuit. I am about to transform into the godhead. I amabout to arrive at my destiny. Bow down, creatures, orbear thine own blindness. Then she thought, Bear thine own blindness? Isthat too much? It was her most radicalmaneuver ever, and thousands of fairies and humans Worse still, she herself might cease to exist,or morph into some kind of time-mutant.

But Opal dealtwith these worries by simply refusing to engage withthem. It was childish, she knew; but Opal was ninetypercent convinced that she was cosmically ordained tobe the first Quantum Being. The alternative was too abhorrent to be entertainedfor long: The subject of morality tales andschool projects. A chimp in a zoo for the Atlantis fairiesto stare at with round eyes. To kill everyone or even dieherself would be infinitely preferable.

Not that she woulddie. The tube would contain her energy; and with enoughconcentration, she would become a nuclear version ofherself. Any minutenow.

Artemis didnot speak to the others; he simply muttered to himself Holly was relieved to find that there was no patternin the rappings, unless, of course, the pattern was toocomplicated for her to perceive it. The elevator was spacious by LEP standards andso allowed Butler enough headroom to stand up straight,though he still knocked his crown against the capsulewall whenever they hit a bump.

Finally Artemis spoke: Pipwould shoot Opal when the time was up; none of themdoubted that now. Then the consequences of this murderwould unfold, whatever they might be; and their bestchance of survival lay on the inside of a titanium craft thatwas built to withstand total immersion in a magmachimney. The elevator hissed to a halt on pneumatic pistonsand the doors opened to admit the assorted noises ofutter bedlam.

The shuttleport was jammed with franticfairies fighting their way through the security checkpoints, Sprites flew illegally low, theirwings grazing the tube lighting.

Gnomes huddled togetherin crunchball formations, attempting to barge their waythrough the line of LEP crowd-control officers in riotgear. Not without hurting people. No more chitchat or posturing; now he was following hisinstructions to the letter: Wait until your phone alarmbeeps, then shoot the pixie. That Fowl guy. That was bluff, right? Pip decided that he would never divulge what hadhappened here today. Silence was safety.

Words wouldonly bind themselves into strands and hang him. She need never know. But Pip knew that she would take one look in hiseyes and know everything. For a second Pip thoughtabout running, just disentangling himself from this entireconvoluted master plan and being a plain old gnomeagain. I cannot do it. She would find me. She wouldfind me and do terrible things to me. And, for somereason, I do not wish to be free of her.

There was nothing for it but to follow the ordersthat he had not already disobeyed. Perhaps, if I kill her, she will forgive me.

Artemis Fowl 8: The Last Guardian

It must be soon. Very soon. She had been counting theseconds, but the bumpy elevator ride had disorientedher. I am ready, she thought. Ready for the next step. Pull it! Pull the trigger. Police PlazaFoaly felt his forelock droop under the weight ofperspiration and tried to remember what his partingcomment to Caballine had been that morning. I think I told her that I loved her. I always do. But did I say it this morning? Did I? It seemed very important to him. Caballine is in the suburbs. The centaur did not believe his own thoughts.He had them.

There seemed to be no end to the crowds. There was Look only, she reminded herself, that was her job. I cannot do it.