Four years after I learned I was a demigod, I thought I could finally settle into my life. Maybe it was the relief of finally getting a break or just the prospect of spending time with Annabeth, but when Chiron offered that we take a day off and enjoy the peace, I took the chance immediately.
Annabeth had originally wanted to go to the Museum of Modern Art, but eventually I bargained her down to the Empire State Building observatory deck. There'd be more mortals around, but they'd be too interested in the view if something did happen.
We walked down the crowded sidewalk, hand in hand, making our way toward the building, a path we'd walked many times before. This time, though, it wasn't an emergency or crisis. Just a normal day with nothing to do steered our feet.
When we got into the lobby, there was a throng of people trying to cram into the elevator, just as we had suspected. "Do you think we should try later?" I asked, wondering how many of those mortals were just that.
"It'll be fine," Annabeth promised as someone from security hurried over.
"I remember you two," he said, holding out a security card. "Six-hundredth floor, just like always. Don't worry, we'll clear a car for you, right after this one." Before I could explain that we weren't going there, he'd shoved the card in my hand and hurried off to shepherd the tourists into the elevator.
"What should we do with it?" I inquired, holding it out to Annabeth.
"I'll keep it," she replied. "We all know how bad you are with keeping track of things."
True to his word, the security guy had finally cleared an elevator for us, and we stepped in as the muzak piped in from above. The doors closed with an air of finality, and I reached over and hit the button. As always, I felt impatient to reach the top, rocking from side to side.
About thirty floors up, the music started skipping and the lights flickered. "What's going on?" Annabeth wondered. Suddenly, there was a brisk breeze and an odd wheezing sound, like Grover trying to play his pan pipes. Annabeth and I huddled into the corner as a blue box materialized in front of us. I blinked once or twice to make sure it wasn't the Mist, but the box stayed like it was, fading into and out of view.
Once it had formed completely, I stepped toward it. The door opened with a screech, and a woman with hair to rival Rachel's stepped out. She looked confused, like she wasn't the one intruding. After her stepped out a tall, thin man, with scruffy hair. He looked around, scrunched up his thin nose, and said, with a British accent, "Well, this is a bit cramped, isn't it?"