“That’s impossible! Mud Men can’t have discovered magic.” Holly thought Foaly sounded a little desperate. As usual, he was ignored.
“Are you sure of what you saw, Holly?” Root asked her quietly.
“I didn’t see anything,” Holly said. “I just felt it. I’m sorry that’s not much to go on, Commander. But somehow he knew I was there.”
“You could have been imagining it,” Root said. She knew he was just covering all the bases. His face had gone uncharacteristically pale.
“I wasn’t.” She shook her head firmly. “I wish I had been.”
“Foaly,” Root snapped, all traces of hesitation gone. His face had resumed its beet-red color. “Find out whatever you can about this Kaiba. I like to know my opponents.”
“Commander,” Foaly said, “There’s no guarantee that Kaiba will be an opponent. There’s no guarantee that he’ll ever develop an interest in the People.”
“There’s also no guarantee that I’ll strangle you if you don’t shut up right away and get to work,” Root said with extremely forced calm. “But who wants to take their chances?”
Foaly got the hint. His nimble fingers flew over the keys as he pulled up databases and cross-referenced sources.
“Well, our boy’s certainly not shy,” he said a few minutes later. “What’s he trying to prove with that coat? I mean, look at it…it practically defies gravity…”
“Foaly.” Commander Root’s voice was the calm that comes before a homicidal outburst.
“Right,” the centaur said hurriedly. “But I still think he’s trying to make up for a lack of something. Look at this.” He pointed at an image on the screen.
Holly and Root leaned closer. “Is that a...jet?” Holly asked, struggling to keep her face neutral. She was largely unsuccessful; she could feel the corners of her mouth twitching.
“Yep,” Foaly said. “Apparently, the dragon is his trademark.”
Root was also struggling to keep a smile off his face. “So he has a dragon fetish. What else?”
“He garnered considerable fame as Duel Monsters World Champion a couple of years ago,” Foaly said, still scrolling down the screen.
“A card game. He was beaten by a guy named Yugi Mutou, and apparently he’s been obsessed ever since at winning back his title. Hosted a couple of tournaments.”
Holly raised an eyebrow at Root. “It doesn’t sound like this guy is going to be much of a threat. Card games?” Root returned the dubious look.
Foaly clicked another site and whinnied with surprise. “Now we’ve got something,” he said, leaning forward. “Seto was adopted at the age of ten by a man named Gozaboro Kaiba. Gozaboro was a world-famous chess master and arms dealer. Seto beat him in less than twenty moves.” The centaur whistled in appreciation. “Four years later, Seto seizes control of the company and Gozaboro commits suicide.”
Root frowned. “That’s a little too convenient.”
Foaly nodded. “It was. It left Seto – Kaiba, as he is now known – the sole owner of KaibaCorp. He stopped making weapons and starting making games. Since then, he’s built a reputation for being ruthless with the competition.”
Holly stared at the screen. “How did his…stepfather die?”
Foaly scanned a few lines of text. “Fell out a window.”
“Kaiba killed him.” It was not a question.
“Probably.” Foaly looked anxiously up at her. “This is not a guy we want having magic, Holly.”
“We don’t want any Mud Men having magic,” Root said. He fixed the centaur with an angry glare. “How come we’re only finding out about this now?”
“I don’t know,” Foaly said. “The reading just appeared out of nowhere!”
“Does he live in Ireland?” Holly asked.
Foaly checked the screen. “No. Domino City. It’s in the United States.”
“That explains the coat,” Holly muttered.
“I want you to figure out how to track this,” Root ordered the centaur. “I want to know if there are any more Mud Men popping up with magical ability.”
“I would have to reconfigure my sensors,” Foaly said. “It was only luck that I managed to hit on this one.”
“Then do it!” Root snapped, the vein at his temple throbbing. “Honestly, Foaly, sometimes I don’t know why I pay you.”
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Foaly muttered under his breath as he bent over the screen, but Root ignored him. He had already turned to Holly.
“I guess you already know where you’re headed.”
Holly nodded and retrieved her helmet from the console. “I’m going to have a little chat with Artemis Fowl.”
An hour later, Holly floated through the front door of Fowl Manor and drifted noiselessly up the stairs. Butler passed by, heading down, but he did not appear to sense her. In any case, he didn’t try to stop her. Good.
Artemis sat at his computer, typing a series of commands. Holly could see his face reflected in the screen; he looked stricken. That scared her. She was just trying to decide how to begin when he swiveled around in his seat.
“Captain Short, I presume,” he said casually. “Why don’t you settle down so I can see you.”
Gritting her teeth, Holly settled into the visible spectrum.
Artemis arched an eyebrow. “Don’t you want to know how I detected you?”
“Not really,” Holly said, settling onto the floor and deactivating her wings. “I want to talk to you about Seto Kaiba.”
Artemis looked a little put out. “You presume I know the man.”
“Don’t try and deny it, Artemis,” Holly said. “You met with him just this afternoon.”
“So that was you,” Artemis said with a small smile. “I suspected.”
“I get it, you’re amazingly clever,” Holly growled. “Moving on.”
Fowl was still smirking. “Why this sudden interest in Mr. Kaiba?” He steepled his long fingers under his chin. “It wouldn’t have anything to do with the LEP’s interest in me, would it?”
Holly snorted. “Don’t flatter yourself, Artemis. You’re not that important.”
“And yet you’ve come to me for help.”
Holly squeezed her hands into fists. Something about Artemis never failed to make her angry. “What do you know about Kaiba?”
He stopped smiling and leaned forward. “What do you need to know?”
Holly took a deep breath. “Why did you visit him?”
“I wished to purchase stock in KaibaCorp, as you no doubt heard during our meeting,” Artemis replied. “I am extremely careful with my money.”
“Don’t lie to me, Artemis,” Holly warned him quietly. “That’s not the real reason.”
He was watching her calmly. “You’re right. It’s not.”
Holly folded her arms in front of her and stared right into his blue eyes. For a moment, they simply stared at each other. Then Artemis smirked.
“I went to KaibaCorp because I wanted to rob it,” he said, as evenly as though he’d just confessed to jaywalking.
Holly’s breath hitched. “And did you?”
Artemis’ reply was a single nod.
“Artemis, you idiot!” Holly exploded, unable to curb her reaction. “Kaiba’s dangerous! You may have just signed your own death warrant!” She forced her herself to calm down.
Artemis raised an eyebrow. “Are you worried about me, Holly?” he asked.
“What is your impression of Kaiba?” Holly asked in return, ignoring his question. She was worried, but fought to quell her reaction.
Artemis sighed. “He’s clever, maybe a genius. He’s also cold and ruthless. I have no doubt he’ll resort to drastic measures to take back what is his.” He shook his head. “When I accessed the files, he injected a virus into my system. Quite insidious, by the way.”
“A virus?” Holly said, instantly alert. “What files did Kaiba get?”
“What makes you think…” Artemis began, but Holly overrode him.
“Come on, Fowl, you wouldn’t have bothered mentioning it if it weren’t something serious. Therefore, I’m assuming the virus either downloaded or destroyed some of your files.”
Holly reeled back. “Both? Artemis, what files?!”
“Personal files. Ultimately useless.” Artemis’ lips pursed in a thin line. “All the same, I would like to retrieve them.”
Holly shook her head. “You’re going to get yourself killed some day, Artemis,” she said.
“This is the last theft,” Artemis said. “After this, I’m going to restrict myself to legitimate enterprises.”
Holly shook her head. “You say that, Artemis, but I don’t think you’ll ever be able to give up crime. You’re just not strong enough.”
Without another word, she disappeared from view. By straining his eyes, Artemis could see a faint heat smudge drifting over the carpet and out the open door of his office. He sat rigidly in his chair staring after Holly for a long time. For the first time in his life, he found himself with absolutely nothing to say.
Seto Kaiba stood for a moment, illuminated by the light streaming in from the wall of windows behind his desk. His fingers barely touched the desk, and his eyes were fixed on the place where Fowl had touched the desk during the interview. Abruptly, he pushed himself up and stalked to the other side of the desk. He sank to his knees with a flurry of white trench-coat and looked carefully at the area. He could make out a faint trace of metal.
“Looks like the virus did its work,” he muttered, signaling a member of his staff. The man carefully swept the tiny bits of mechanical bug into a bag and sealed it.
“We’ll start analyzing this right away, Mr. Kaiba. We’ll catch the culprit.”
Kaiba said nothing, only allowed his eyes to tick up to meet the guard’s. The man flinched and hastily backed away. A faint smile tugged at the corners of Seto’s mouth. But then he remembered his interrupted time with Mokuba and it quickly disappeared.
“Out!” he commanded. Instantly, the guards and technicians scattered throughout the room dropped what they were doing and made for the door. None of them broke into a run, but it was a very close thing.
As soon as they were all gone, he booted up his laptop. The anti-viral program had been restarted, and the results were flickering across the screen. Kaiba keyed in a series of commands, and the screen changed. Encrypted information scrolled across the screen almost leisurely.
“Now, let’s see what the great Artemis Fowl keeps in his personal files,” Kaiba muttered, typing in another series of commands. The encryptions faded, and the screen went black. Then, slowly, a line of text began to scroll across the screen, written in plain English. Kaiba smirked and leaned forward to read. The lines of text began to flicker by faster as the computer became more adept at breaking the encryption. But Kaiba didn’t notice. He was too busy reading the first line.
THE BOOK OF THE PEOPLE
BEING INSTRUCTIONS TO OUR MAGICKS AND LIFE RULES