Nico looked at me with wide eyes. He clearly had not anticipated a surprise vacation.
We began to walk down the familiar pathways, stopping to buy some Churros.
Nico gnawed on his quietly. I managed to down the whole thing in four bites. I get hungry easily on Olympus; it always smelled so good that I couldn’t not take part in the food.
“Should we go back to camp and start packing?” asked Nico.
“In a bit,” I said, and then I nudged Nico with my shoulder, “But let’s go on a date first.”
He grinned brightly then blushed and looked at the pathway.
“Where should we go?” he asked.
“Anywhere,” I replied, “You’re the one who wanted to in the first place. Let’s just go take a walk.”
“Sounds great,” he agreed quietly.
“Central park?” I asked, “Mary Poppins Style?”
Then I looked over the edge of the pathway suggestively.
He grinned even wider, “I didn’t want to take the elevator either.”
I found a good place, nice and shady and then I reached out and grabbed Nico’s hand, pulling him closer so that we were shoulder to shoulder.
We looked each other in the eyes and smiled.
“Geronimo!” I said.
“Allons-y!” he replied.
Then we both stepped of the edge of the pathway.
You see, over the past eleven months Nico and I had been practicing different methods of shadow-travel. I’d ridden hellhounds, fought a few shadow demon (tamed one or two) and once I even let go of Nico mid travel. This wasn’t such a good idea because I ended up sitting on the bed of a random Ikea and it took a few hours for Nico to find me again. Eventually all of that had gotten boring and we began to experiment testing all of the cool ways we could enter and exit the shadow world. We’d done cool secret agent dive-rolls, the in action ninja kick, it was pretty awesome. We’d gotten to a point where he could pinpoint his location completely as long as there was a shadow, there was endless possibilities.
My favorite move we had invented was what we called ‘Mary Poppins Style’ we’d jump into a shadow and come out somewhere else looking like a proper formal couple, arms locked, chins up and everything, as if we hadn’t just stepped out of a tree.
This was the most intense version I’d done so far, but I wasn’t afraid as we fell from the sky. Nico was getting good at this and I trusted him enough to know he wouldn’t ever do anything that could possibly put me in danger.
We both fell, hundreds of feet. I screamed excitedly, it was like a crazy roller coaster or really intense, no parachute skydiving. There wasn’t a moment where I doubted him. I looked over at Nico, the wind was whipping around his shiny black hair and his aviator’s jacket flapped around him like wings. He gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and I returned it with an exhilarated “Woo-hoo!”
Just as we were around a hundred feet from the ground, I spotted someone. A woman in a formal business suit, she had her cellphone up to her ear but wasn’t talking into it. She was too busy gaping at us, completely horrified. I don’t think she’d ever seen two teenagers jump from the Empire State Building and look happy about it.
I winked at her, gave a small wave and then tangled myself around Nico.
We disappeared into a Newspaper box shadow, leaving the shocked business woman with a good reason to be late for work and the need for a few therapy sessions.
While in ‘The Void’ I untangled myself from Nico, linked arms with him and prepped for landing.
I saw the light and Nico and I both put our left foot forward and we dropped out of an oak trees shadow and walked on happily. After about ten feet of keeping our backs straight and walking in union we both gave up. We doubled over laughing so hard it hurt.
“Did you see her face?” I sputtered.
“She looked terrified,” exclaimed Nico.
I punched him playfully, “We should joke about it, and we probably scarred her for life.”
We both composed ourselves for a moment and when we caught eye contact again, we cracked up; falling to the grass.
It really wasn’t that funny; we were mostly jut high off the adrenaline and the fact that we’d just jumped off the Empire State building and landed cordially in central park.
After while we stopped, mostly because passersby started to look at us like we were crazy.
Nico got to his feet and then offered me a hand up, which wasn’t really necessary but it was cute gesture.
We meandered down the cement pathways, talking about anything that came to mind, at one point we had a very intense discussion about ducks. He was not a fan. I assured him it must’ve been geese he was talking about, but he still scowled at the fluffy little ducklings.
We crossed over streams on fancy bridges, reenacted the Sound of Music (which I had made him watch two months ago and he’d watched it nineteen times since then) out of one of the fields, and saw how many sandwiches we could steal from picnickers without being noticed. Nico had an unfair advantage because he could pop in and out through shadows but I still held my own. We ended up with so many subs we had to put some back, not necessarily in the right basket.
Eventually we came upon the Balto statue and I told Nico about the movies about Balto that I used to love as a kid.
“But it’s weird,” I said, “I don’t remember there being any bulls at any point in the story.”
I peered up at the two bronze bulls that stood on either side of the sled dog.
“Strange creative symbolism?” suggested Nico.
I shrugged, “Hmmph, guess so,” and turned around.
We began to walk out of the clearing.
I was stopped by a strange clicking and whirring noise, like the sound of gears springing to life.
I turned around hesitantly, hoping for the best.
One of the bulls had smoke pouring out of its nostrils, its head clicked around to look at me. Something in his ruby red eyes made a whirring noise and I got the creepy feeling it was zooming in on my face. “Target acquired,” said an automated voice from some where in the bull’s chest. The other bull stamped its hoof.
I looked at Nico for a second.
“Run?” I asked.
“Run,” He confirmed.
Nico and I took off in different directions. He disappeared into the shadows within seconds, leaving one bull very confused, sniffing at a tree trunk.
I, on the other hand, did not have it so easy, I sprinted for a while dodging and weaving through the forest. I hoped that would slow the bull down. Not so much, he just barreled through the forest taking the trees down with him.
A mental image of some very stunned gardeners appeared in my head. I felt a little bad.
I felt a little worse when one of the bulls took out a memorial park bench.
I was beginning to grow tired, my stamina was usually pretty good but I needed to save my energy for the fight.
I scrambled up a tree, throwing myself into the tightly woven branches.
I was safe, I thought, at least for a little while.
Then the bull breathed fire.
“Not so safe. Not so safe,” I muttered to myself as flung my right leg over a branch trying to haul myself up.
I scaled the tree getting higher into the thin branches, trying to escape the flames now circling the trunk.
The bull began to ram the tree, attempting to knock me to the ground.
He was a smart robot, I’d give him that.
Luckily my grip was tight and I managed to jump to the next tree without him noticing.
I really hoped I could do the cool Tarzan thing, jumping from one treetop to the next. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as it looked. A lot of times I almost fell and had to sloth cling to a branch.
After about twelve trees I finally messed up, I thought I could make a six foot gap, but ended up landing on the ground hitting my back with a loud thud and an “Eeeuggh.”
It was only then that the bull noticed I was yards away.
He stamped his hoof and began to charge.
I jumped up fumbling for my sword.
Then I was tackled.
Everything went black and I felt like I was falling.
“Nico,” I said, “Please tell me that’s you.”
“No it’s the other Son of Hades,” he replied sarcastically.
We tumbled out onto grass, still in Central Park.
“Why didn’t you transport us to camp?” I asked, exasperated.
“We need to stop them,” said Nico, “They’ll tear up this place looking for us.”
“So?” I blurted “That’s better than both of us getting torched by robot livestock!”
Nico looked at me disapprovingly.
“Fine,” I agreed “We’ll stop the giant bulls from destroying Central Park.”
“How were going to do that, I don’t know,” said Nico.
I scanned the area looking for a possible advantage.
“I think I have and an idea,” I said.
I had just seen it, well actually heard it; the gurgling splashes of a fountain nearby.
Nico and I jumped to our feet and sprinted following the sound.
As we were running I yelled back to Nico, “I remember Percy telling me that the Colchian Bulls are burning to the touch. Well I’m pretty sure anything that breathes fire and has naturally hot skin doesn’t like water.”
“You are amazing,” replied Nico as we skidded to a halt in the middle of an fancy well gardened clearing.
“I know,” I said, pulling out my weapon and defense disks. I activated the shield first, spinning my forefinger lightly around the rim and watching it unfold into full size. I didn’t get the time to activate my sword.
One of the bulls, smoke pouring from its nostrils saw us stamped its hoof again, reared up a little and cried out. Whinnied, bleated, roared, whatever you call a mechanical bull sound.
Then he charged, Nico and I dove out of the way in opposite directions. Without even getting up to my feet I crawled over and flung myself into the fountain. There was a shallow basin about twenty feet in radius with a few inches worth of water in it. In the middle of the basin there was a large jet of water spurting up as tall as me. Nico crawled over next to me, splashing through the fountain. We sat next to each other just in front of the jet. The spray dripped on us from above, it was freezing cold, soaking through out clothes and hair. He started to smell like wet sheep due to the wool collar on his aviator’s jacket. I pulled a soppy movie stub out of my purple hoodie’s pocket, letting it drift in the pool. Nico curled his fingers around mine.
I looked over at him and smiled, I hadn’t had this much fun all year.
“Good first date?” he asked.
“Best I’ve ever had,” I replied.
The bull snorted indignantly, he was not amused by our romance now was the time for pulverization. He circled around the fountain not daring to step into the water.
After a few minutes he got fed up.
Then he drew his head back and his jaw dropped open, I saw what was coming next, so did Nico.
Just as a spark of flames began to form in the beast’s mouth I jumped up got behind the fountain. I pressed my shield into the spray of water, angling it just right and Nico carefully rolled towards the bull.
I used the old spoon trick, the water bounced off my shield and was redirected straight into the bull’s mouth. He froze, tensing up. He steamed intensely a white cloud bellowed around him. I could hear the whirring inside of him slow, his inner mechanism noises stopping all except a loud clicking which began to grow lazy, his automated voice said, “Pyrotechnic malfuuncctiioooonn…” and gurgled to a stop.
Nico took advantage of this lull in the system. He jumped up, pulled his sword from nowhere, and beheaded the bull.
Nico and I grinned at each other, “One down, one to go,” I said.
“And we found their weakness,” he replied happily.
Within seconds of out conversation ending the other bull tromped into the clearing ripping up the neatly planted flowers.
From a distance I saw an old couple watching us in horror.
Gods, I thought to myself, the newspapers are gonna be strange this week.
The bull sprang into action. He ignored me, focusing on Nico, registering him as the only demigod on the premises.
Nico dived into a tree and sprang up out of the fence behind the bull, plunging his stygian iron sword into a chink in the bull’s hip.
The bull reared up, and sprinted forward, surprised.
Nico and I watched as the bull rampaged away out of the Conservatory Garden and straight into Harlem Meer, sinking into the murky depths.
“Your sword,” I said sadly.
“It’s okay,” replied Nico, “I can summon it whenever I want.”
He leaned against a tree, casually, and then pulled the sword out of the shadows in the branches.
“Okay,” I admitted shrinking my shield and tucking it into my pocket, “That’s cool.”
“Very,” he agreed, “So…shall we get going.”
“Yeah,” I said walking up to him, wringing out my sopping hair, “After all we are going to Hawaii tomorrow morning.”
He tucked his sword away and held out his hand to me.
I took it gratefully and we fell into the shadows.