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Chapter 13 Out Of Time

THE journey between dimensions was more violent than Artemis remembered. There was no time to reflect on various scenery changes, and barely time for his senses to register sights, sounds or temperature changes. They were ripped from their own dimension and dragged through wormholes of space and time with only their consciousnesses intact. Only once did they materialize for the briefest second.

The landscape was grey, bleak and pockmarked, and in the distance Artemis could see a blue planet camouflaged by cloud cover.

I'm on the moon, thought Artemis, then they were gone again, drawn by the lure of Hybras.

It was an unnatural feeling, this out-of-body, out-of-mind travel. How am I still aware? thought Artemis. How is any of this possible?

And stranger still, when he concentrated, Artemis could feel the thoughts of the others swirling around him. It was mostly broad emotions, such as fear or excitement. But after a bit of mental twiddling, Artemis detected specific thoughts too.

There was Holly, wondering if her weapon would arrive intact. Typical soldier. And there was No.l, fretting inces-santly, not about the journey itself but about someone who would be waiting for him in Hybras. Abbot. A demon named Abbot.

Artemis reached out and found Qwan floating in the ether. His mind was formidable, juggling complex compu-tations and philosophical puzzles.

You are keeping the mind active, young human.

Artemis's consciousness realized that this thought was directed at him. The warlock had felt his clumsy probe.

Artemis could feel a difference between his mind and the others. They had something different. An alien energy. It was difficult to explain a feeling without senses, but for some reason it seemed to be blue. A blue plasma, electric and alive. Artemis allowed this rich feeling to flow through his mind and was instantly jolted by its energy,

Magic, he realized. Magic is in the mind. Now this was something worth knowing. Artemis retreated to his own mind-space, but he took a sample of the blue plasma with him. You never know when a touch of magic would come in useful.

They materialized on Hybras, inside the crater itself. Their arrival was accompanied by a flash of displaced energy. The group lay on the soot-blackened slopes, panting and steam-ing. The ground beneath them was warm to the touch, and the acrid stink of sulphur stung their nostrils. The eupho-ria of materialization soon dissipated.

Artemis breathed experimentally, the air from his mouth blowing up small dust eddies. Volcanic gas made his eyes water, and flat flakes of ash instantly coated every exposed patch of skin.

'This could be hell,' he commented.

'Hell or Hybras,' said No.l, climbing to his knees. 'I got some of this ash on a tunic before. It never comes out.'

Holly was up too, running a systems check on her equip-ment.

'My Neutrino is fine. But I can't get a lock on a communications signal. We're on our own. And I seem to have lost the bomb.'

Artemis kneeled, his knees cracking through the ash crust, releasing the heat below. He glanced at his watch and caught sight of his own face. His hair was grey with ash, and for a second he thought he was looking at his father.

A thought struck him. I look like my father, a father I may never see again. Mother. Butler. I have only one friend left.

'Holly,' he said. 'Let me look at you.'

Holly did not look up from her wrist computer.

'No time right now, Artemis.'

Artemis padded across to her, walking gingerly on the thin crust.

'Holly, let me look at you,' he said again, holding her shoulders.

Something in Artemis's voice made Holly stop what she was doing and pay attention. This was not a tone Artemis Fowl used very often. It could almost class as tenderness.

'I just need to make sure you're still you. Things get mixed up between dimensions. On my last trip, I switched fingers.'

He held up his hand for her to see. 'Strange, I know. But you seem to be fine. All present and correct.'

Something flashed in the corner of Artemis's eye. There was a metal case half buried in the ash further up the crater wall.

'The bomb,' sighed Artemis. 'I thought we'd lost it in transit. There was a flash when we landed.'

Qwan hurried across to the bomb. 'No. That was energy displacement. Mostly mine. Magic is almost another being. It flows where it will. Some of mine did not flow back to me in time, and ignited on re-entry. I am happy to say that the rest of my power is fired up and ready to go.'

Artemis was struck by how much of this prehistoric being's language was similar to NASA jargon. No wonder we don't have a chance against the fairies, he thought. They were solving dimensional equations when we were still knocking stones together.

Artemis helped the warlock to heave the bomb from the ash's grip. The timer had been knocked for six by the time-jump and now read over five thousand hours. Finally, a stroke of luck.

Artemis used Butler's picks to examine the bomb's workings. Maybe he could disarm it if he had a few months, a couple of computers and some laser tools. Without those things, there was about as much chance of him disarming this weapon, as there was of a squirrel making a paper aero-plane.

'This bomb is perfectly operational,' he said to Qwan. 'Only the timer was affected.'

The warlock stroked his beard. 'That makes sense. That instrument is relatively simple, compared to the complex-ity of our bodies. The dimension tunnel would have no trouble reassembling it. The timer is another matter. It will be affected by any time-flares we run across here. It could blow at any second, or never.'

Not never, thought Artemis. I may not be able to disarm this thing, but I can certainly blow it, when I need to.

Holly peered at the deadly device. 'Is there any way we can dispose of it?'

Qw............

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