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updated 8/1/2008 10:59:02 AM ET 2008-08-01T14:59:02

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is an ingenious criminal mastermind. He discovers there are fairies, and develops a plot to steal the fairies' pot of gold by kidnapping one of them and waiting for the ransom to arrive. But he has no idea what he's gotten himself into when he kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance) Unit. Her senior officer, Commander Root, will stop at nothing to get her back. Read this excerpt and come along for the thrilling adventure!           

“SHORT! GET IN HERE!”

Holly sighed. Ah well. Here we go again.

Stowing her helmet under her arm, Holly smoothed the creases from her uniform and stepped into Commander Root’s office.

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. Commander Root was tapping the monometer on his wrist. “Well?” he demanded. “What time do you call this?”

Holly could feel her own face coloring. 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.

“The thoroughfare,” she mumbled lamely. “There were four lanes down.”

“Don’t insult me with your excuses!” roared the commander. “You know what the city center is like! Get up a few minutes earlier!”

It was true, she did know what Haven was like. Holly Short was a city elf born and bred. Since the humans had begun experimenting with mineral drilling, more and more fairies had been driven out of the shallow forts and into depth and security of Haven City. The metropolis was overcrowded and underserviced. And now there was a lobby to allow automobiles in the pedestrianized city center. 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.

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Root. “Why am I picking on you every day? Why don’t I ever bawl out those other layabouts?”

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Holly said nothing, but agreement was written all over her face.

“I’ll tell you why, shall I?”

Holly risked a nod.

“It’s because you’re a girl.”

Holly felt her fingers curl into fists. She knew it!

“But not for the reasons you think,” continued Root. “You are the first girl in Recon. Ever. 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.”

Holly blinked. Root had never said anything like this before. Usually it was just “Fix your helmet,” “Stand up straight,” blah blah blah.

“You have to be the best you can be, Short, and that has to be better than anybody else.” Root sighed, sinking into his swivel chair. “I don’t know, holly. Ever since that Hamburg incident …”

Holly winced. The Hamburg incident 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 police time wasted. All her fault.

The commander took a form from his desk. “It’s no use. I’ve made up my mind. I’m putting you on Traffic and bringing in a Corporal Frond.”

“Frond!” exploded Holly. “She’s a limbo. An airhead. You can’t make her the test case!”

Root’s face turned an even deeper shade of purple.

“I can, and I will. 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 commander turned back to his paperwork. 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.

“Commander Root, sir. I feel I deserve one more chance.”

Root didn’t even look up from the paperwork. “And why’s that?”

Holly took a deep breath. “Because of my record, sir. It speaks for itself, apart from the Hamburg thing. Ten successful recons. Not a single memory wipe or time-stop, apart from …”

“The Hamburg thing,” completed Root.

Holly took a chance. “If I were a male—one of your precious sprites—we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

Root glanced up sharply. “Now, just a minute, Captain Short—“

He was interrupted by the bleeping of one of the phones on his desk. 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.

“Yes?”

“We’ve got a runner.”

Root nodded. “Anything on Scopes?”

Scopes was the shop name for the shrouded trackers attached to American communications satellites.

“Yep,” said caller two. “Big blip in Europe. Southern Italy. No shield.”

Root cursed. An unshielded fairy could be seen by mortal eyes. That wasn’t so bad if the perp was humanoid.

“Classification?”

“Bad news, Commander,” said the third caller.

Excerpted from "Artemis Fowl." Copyright (c) 2006 by Eoin Colfer. Reprinted with permission from Hyperion Books for Children.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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