The pad light winked green, and the door slid back. Opal Koboi swung gently before him, suspended in her harness like a bug in an exotic cocoon.
Merv winched her down onto the trolley. Moving briskly, and with practised precision, he rolled up Opal's sleeve and located the scar in her upper arm where the seeker-sleeper had been inserted. He gripped the hard lump between his thumb and forefinger.
'Scalpel,' he said, holding out his free hand. Scant passed him the instrument. Merv took a breath, held it, and made a two centimetre incision in Opal's flesh. He wiggled his index finger into the hole and rolled out the electronic capsule. It was the encased in silicone and roughly the size of a painkiller.
'Seal it up,' he ordered.
Scant bent close to the wound, placing a thumb at each end.
'Heal,' he whispered, and blue sparks of fairy magic ran rings around his fingers, sinking into the wound. In seconds the folds of skin had zipped themselves together, with only a pale pink scar to show that a cut had been made. A pink scar almost identical to the scar that had already existed. Opal's own magic had dried up months ago, as she was in no position to complete a power restoring ritual.
'Miss Koboi,' said Merv briskly. 'Time to get up. Wakey wakey.'
He unstrapped Opal completely from the harness. The unconscious pixie collapsed onto the lid of the cleaning trolley. Merv slapped her across the cheek, bringing a blush to her face. Opal's breathing rate increased slightly, but her eyes remained closed.
'Jolt her,' said Scant.
Merv pulled an LEP issue buzz baton from inside his jacket. He powered it up and touched Opal on the elbow. The pixie's body jerked spasmodically, and Opal Koboi shot into consciousness, a sleeper waking from a nightmare.
'Cudgeon,' she screamed. 'You betrayed me!'
Merv grabbed her shoulders. 'Miss Koboi. It's us, Mervall and Descant. It's time.'
Opal glared at him wild eyed.
'Brill?' she said, after several deep breaths.
'That's right. Merv and Scant. We need to go.'
'Go? What do you mean?'
'Leave,' said Merv urgently. 'We have about a minute.'
Opal shook her head, dislodging the after-trance daze. 'Merv and Scant. We need to go.'
Merv helped her from the trolley's lid. 'That's right. The clone is ready.'
Scant peeled back a sealed foil false bottom in the trolley. Inside lay a cloned replica of Opal Koboi wearing an Argon Clinic coma suit. The clone was identical down to the last follicle. Scant removed an oxygen mask from the clone's face, hauled it from its resting place and began cinching her into the harness.
'Remarkable,' said Opal, brushing the clone's skin with her knuckle. 'Am I that beautiful?'
'Oh yes,' said Merv. 'That and more.'
Suddenly Opal screeched. 'Idiots. It's eyes are open. It can see me!' }
Scant closed the clone's lids hurriedly. 'Don't worry, Miss Koboi, it can't tell anyone, even if its brain could decipher what it sees.'
Opal climbed groggily into the trolley. 'But its eyes can register images. Foaly may think to check. That infernal centaur.'
'Don't fret, Miss,' said Scant, folding the trolley's false bottom over his mistress. 'Very soon now, that will be the least of Foaly's worries.'
Opal strapped the oxygen mask across her face. 'Later,' she said, her voice muffled by the plastic. 'Talk, later.'
Koboi drifted into a natural sleep, exhausted by even this small exertion. It could be hours before the pixie regained total consciousness. After a coma of that length, there was even the risk that Opal would never be quite as smart as she once was.
Copyright 2005 by Eoin Colfer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Group (UK). No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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