I woke up back at camp in bed, the slightly damp dress still clinging to my body uncomfortably.
I must have been pretty tired because when I woke the sun notified me that it was well into the day. I changed into a pair of soft worn jeans and a camp shirt, with combat boots. I threw the dress onto the ground where it turned into seawater and trickled through the cracks between the floorboards.
Well, I wasn’t going to wear it again anyways, I thought.
Nico clearly wasn’t at camp because I didn’t meet him on my way to the Pavilion and he wasn’t in his cabin. He must have gone off to check on Hazel or something. I ate breakfast alone and then teamed up with the Apollo Cabin for a game of Volleyball against the Demeter team and after severely scraping up my knees we lost horribly. The Demeter Cabin might have cheated but there was no way to prove that the grass was latching onto my feet. Afterwards I met up with Travis and Connor Stoll, who were up to their usual shenanigans. Upon seeing me they both smiled and Travis bowed and presented me with a toothbrush he claimed belong to Dionysus himself.
Needless to say I dropped it immediately.
“He’s coming back today for the games,” said Connor, “We thought he should be greeted properly.”
“What did you do?” I inquired.
“Just the basic sink-rubber band trick and replaced his toothpaste with mayonnaise,” replied Travis pridefully, grinning.
“Remind me to lock my door,” I said playfully, as we stepped into the armory.
Connor helped me strap on some basic leather armor, since I was too lazy to go all of the way back to get my own.
We spent the next few hours training for the sword fighting competition that would be taking place tomorrow.
Travis was better than Connor but I was better than both.
After a few rounds (myself winning two of three) I was exhausted.
Travis and Connor however were not, they continued to practice as I watched, yelling out pointers.
I looked down at my hands, there were a few minor cuts and scrapes, but they burned like crazy. I don’t remember such little things hurting so badly. Why was my threshold so much lower?
I shrugged it off, wrapping up my hands in bandages and yelling, “Loosen up, LOOSEN UP!” to Connor.
We all left very tired, myself the most, although I mad done the least, making me feel pathetic.
We had lunch together, Chiron recognizing that I probably wasn’t going to ever sit at my own table. I loved eating with the Hermes crowd; they were all so fun and playful, although I did notice that every time I turned to talk to someone a few of my fries would go missing.
After lunch as people began to file out I noticed Jake and Ava standing at their table looking at me.
After nearly everyone was gone I told Travis and Connor I’d see them later.
I walked over to Jake and Ava. Ava was sitting lazily on the edge of table and Jake was standing next to her awkwardly with his hands in his pockets.
“What’s up guys? “I asked hesitantly.
“You might have some tough competition for the sword fight,” said Ava.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Lance Beckett was elected as the Hephaestus sword champion,” said Jake, he sounded kind of bitter and kind of jealous.
“Is that a big deal?” I asked, they were acting like I was just challenged to a duel by Ares himself.
“He’s the one the challenged Jake for the Counselor position, and won. He’s great a making sword and even better at fighting with them. He said he was going to ‘kill’ all of the other cabins. I would have thought he was an Ares kid if he wasn’t such a great Craftsman too. He’s the best sword fighter the Hephaestus cabin has ever had, he even beat of Leo for the place of counselor,” explained Ava.
“Is that supposed to scare me” I asked.
“Yes,” said Jake.
“Look, Lea, we're on your side. I’d rather have you win for Morpheus than Lance with for Hephaestus,” said Ava, “His head’s already big enough. If it gets any bigger he’ll explode.”
“Sounds like it’ll be fun beating him,” I said.
“Lea,” warned Ava, “Don’t be so cocky. He might even try to cheat. He mentioned something about your armor no being so great anymore.”
“What?” I sputtered.
“I think he’s trying to sabotage the competition,” said Ava, “We tried to talk to Chiron about it but he said since there was no proof that he couldn’t do anything, but he’d keep a sharp eye on Lance.”
“Oh and if it’s true you might want some new armor,” said Jake, “Go and visit bunker Nine later, Leo’s the best and fastest craftsman, I’m sure he’d be willing make you something.”
“Oh he’d definitely be willing,” said Ava giggling, and then she jumped off the table and jogged away before I could ask what she meant.
I looked over at Jake for an explanation, but he just blushed, fixed his Beiber-cut soft brunette hair and looked at his shoes.
I crossed my arms, smirking, “You’re not going to tell me what she meant?”
“Not a chance,” he muttered, but I had a pretty good idea.
I left him there to examine the ground and went on to catch up with Connor and Travis.
We did some more sword fighting and then practiced archery, I sucked even more than usual. I was worse that both Travis and Connor, and that was saying a lot, although I wasn’t quite Percy bad yet. I still managed to hit a target.
“You lost your mojo,” joked Connor.
I laughed lightly in reply, but I was scared he was right. Ever since I gave up my divine lineage, my skills had declined. Now with lack of practice and demigod skills, I was beginning to be average (or less than average) at everything I used to excel in.
I tried again, aiming my bow precisely, but as I concentrated my hand shook and I missed completely.
I sighed, forced a smile and said, “I wonder what I did to upset Apollo?” although I knew it was only my fault.
After a while we all got bored, and maybe I was a bit ashamed at how poorly I was doing so we left earlier than planned.
I vented my aggression through volleyball, which I had been practicing during P.E. over the year and was now sufficient at. Also I had begun to learn how the game actually worked instead of just hitting the ball whenever it came near me. I still haven’t determined if this made me a better player or not. By the time the Apollo cabin and I had completely stomped the other team, the sun was casting a golden glow over the camp as it sunk down the sky.
I figured now would be a good enough time as any to go talk to Leo. I was hesitant, to be honest. I hadn’t talked to him much since the quest a year ago. There was something between us, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Especially now that Nico was back in my life. I felt a bit guilty for ignoring him, just like the others do.
I said goodnight to my friends just in case I didn’t go to the campfire.
I jogged back to my cabin pulling on a sweatshirt with my High School name on it, and stumbled around my room trying to pull on skinny jeans from two years ago. The denim fit snuggly around my now toned thighs.
I rushed out my screen door and tromped down the creaky wooden steps ducking into the woods. I had a pretty good idea where Bunker 9 was, not to say I didn’t get lost in the dark a few times but all I had to do was follow the sounds of crashing metal and small explosions and I was there just before dark.
I was stunned by the size as I entered, it was huge. The room was shaped in a half cylinder, like a bomb shelter, with catwalks navigating the ceiling. There was a banner that read “Hey, Lea,” which seemed like an overly casual thing to put on a banner, but I appreciated the welcome (and felt a bit weirded out by it too). There were huge storage containers in the back right corner, multiple work tables and a large empty space in the middle of the floor where I guessed the Argo II used to sit.
The place was pretty crowded, except for the empty spot, like when six year old gets told to clean his room and just shoves everything into piles in the corners.
A small wobbly three legged table waddled around the room picking things up and sorting through the junk. I watched it for a while silently taking everything in. It smelled like a Home Depot; fresh lumber, cement and metal.
A crash made me look up, Leo appeared to have been walking along one of the catwalks and then spontaneously fallen. Maybe he slipped or something. He hung from a harness swinging absentmindedly, upside-down. When he caught me staring at him he flailed a little trying to regain his feet.
“H-hey Lea,” he said.
“I thought you were expecting me,” I replied, glancing up at the banner.
“I was-I just figured- I didn’t know,” he tried to say, “I wasn’t sure if you’d show up.”
Both of our cheeks flushed, him with embarrassment, mine with guilt.
I tried to smile it off, “What, you thought I’d show you up?”
He began to reply but he accidentally unhooked his belt in the wrong order and ended up crashing face first onto the cement floor, luckily he only dropped a few feet so I don’t think he broke anything. Still, I rushed forward helping him up.
“Dude,” I muttered, “I thought you Hephaestus kids were supposed to be coordinated.
He laughed passively, accepting my hand up.
“So what’ve you got for me, Q?” I joked.
“One second Agent Bond, no need to be hasty, the new mock of advanced armor is in the back,” He fiddled with his belt, unattaching himself from the ceiling.
“Meet you there,” I offered impatiently.
“Yeah”, he replied quietly.
I left him to get situated as I navigated my way deeper into the bunker.
I had to step over a broken automaton cheerleader carcass on my way there, which was a bit unsettling but I continued anyways. The little three legged table stumbled past me, leading me through the piles of scraps.
At the very back of the bunker something glowed with golden light, but not like a oil lantern, more like how celestial bronze glows in darkness.
I could hear Leo crashing along in the catwalks above me, there was a strange whirring noise like a zip line and Leo landed gracefully next to me, having slid down a cable with a carabineer.
“Now that’s more like it,” I said to him.
“I know,” he replied, “very secret agent.”
“We could make an excellent crime fighting duo,” I said laughing as he led the way towards the golden light.
When we turned around the corner of a large stack of lumber I saw the source of the light.
On a headless mannequin a full outfit was displayed.
Glowing golden was the most beautiful turtleneck I’ve ever seen. The main piece was a scaled breastplate reaching from the hips all of the way up the neck. At the shoulders were three spiked plate like my usual armor that melded into two plates for the upper and lower arm. The legs matched the arms with two large plates wrapping around the main sections and knee plates joining them together, completed with golden boots and spiked gauntlets.
“Imperial gold,” said Leo, “Strong as steel yet surprisingly light.”
“Dude,” I stuttered, “That looks awesome.”
“Fully automated too!” added Leo.
“What does that mean?” I asked running my fingers down the scales.
“Automatic defense system matching that of your shield, but not over whelming, so you’re not going to be jerked around against your will. It’s also got teeny motion sensors inside so it can predict and enhance movement.”
“Oh my gods, Leo, how long did this take you?” I gaped.
“Just a day,” he replied casually.
“How many hours?” I demanded, sensing a white lie.
“24 and a half, but that’s no big deal,” he shrugged.
“Holy Zeus, man! Did you even sleep? I cried.
“Nahh, didn’t need to,” he replied dismissedly, pretending like it was no big deal he spent a full day non-stop making something for me.
“I punched him in the shoulder as a way of saying thank you and said, “Whatever, where’s the dressing room?”
“Back there,” replied Leo, observing the floor.
I wheeled the mannequin into a small curtained room with me, and began to dress; underneath the armor was a finely tailored brown leather jumpsuit, which covered me entirely from the chin down, gloves and everything. It took about fifteen minutes and some major stumbling to get the back zipped up, but I managed. The armor fit impossibly well, sliding on loosely, and then tightening snugly up against my body, into position. It tailored itself to fit readjusting itself in size and shape until it was perfect fit. That must have been what Leo meant by ‘fully automated’.
I redid my ponytail, pulling back all of the loose strands with my bangs back into a tight style.
I was surprised at how easy it was to move with the full armor on, usually even with leather it’s tight, uncomfortable, sweaty and heavy but this was light and easy to maneuver in.
I pulled back the curtain with a gloved hand, stepping out of the makeshift dressing room.
When Leo saw me his mouth dropped open, he muttered something inaudible.
I tucked an imaginary loose hair behind my ear.
Leo grinned from one pointed ear to the other.
“Just needs one more thing,” he said and then disappeared into the darkness.
I put my hand on my hip and rolled my eyes dramatically; exasperated by the amount of work he was putting into this outfit. He was spending more time making me look pretty and defended than I did during the homecoming dance.
He reappeared with a small piece of gold in his hands, he walked up to me, and I stood still as he placed the metal on my face.
It cradled my cheekbones framing my face in the imperial gold, vaguely resembling Magneto’s headpiece.
“What is the point of that?” I asked.
“It makes you look really cool,” he joked.
“Pfft,” I replied, “I already look cool.”
“It also helps with the automated defense system, it kind of hacks into your brain and figures out what you want to do and has the armor do it for you,” he added.
“Gee,” I said, “I just love having my brain hacked.”
He laughed leaning against a work table.
“Do you have your shield with you?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s in my jeans pocket,” I walked back to the dressing room and pulled the little disk out of the pocket.
When I showed it to Leo he took my right arm and pressed the disk into a small circular indent.
“Good, got the right measurements,” he muttered as it clicked into place.
I looked at him as he busied himself with some wiring that was coming from my elbow.
He noticed me staring and glanced up twice then finally we locked eyes.
“You’re amazing,” I said, “You know that right? You’re amazing.”
He stared at me for what seemed like eons, then he realized that he wasn’t dreaming and shook himself back into action, stuttered a reply. “Thanks, thank you.”
He turned away busying himself with something on the table.
I attempted to recover from that weirdly intimate moment, “Not that I need this armor.”
I bit my tongue feeling stupid and vain.
Gods. Why do I always get so nervous around guys who are nice to me?
Why can’t I just have a conversation without being mock prideful and sarcastic?
From above I heard someone say, “Stupid girl, so proud of herself for no reason.”
I searched the room for a source of the voice.
Leo and I met eyes.
We both were wide eyed, panicking, he had no idea what was going on either.
Leo grabbed my hand and pulled me into the better lit part of the bunker.
Standing on one of the work tables, was Lady Gaga.
Well at least it looked like her.
Wearing huge rubber looking red twelve inch heels and a matching block-like dress was a woman with blunt cut white blonde hair and crazy red and black makeup. She grinned at Leo and I.
We both looked at each other, freaking out.
Since when did Lady Gaga impersonators make house calls?
“You’ll regret thinking so highly of yourself,” she sneered, “You might say something you don’t mean.”
“Ate,” gasped Leo.
The crazy chick the disappeared in a poof of scarlet smoke and reappeared on the other side of the room, gathered some of the junk in her hands and disappeared fully.
“Oh no,” said Leo, “Oh gods no!”
“What?” I demanded, “What is it? What’s happening? Who was that chick? What?”
“Ate,” repeated, making the word sound like A.T.
“Wow thanks, that cleared things up!”
“She’s the goddess of fatal recklessness. Basically when a hero screws up because they don’t think before they act of speak she makes sure it comes back to bite them,” he explained.
I flopped onto a heap of insulation lining, and groaned, “This suckssssssss.”
“Yeah, the fact that she took the bombs is worse,” added Leo.
“You say what now?”
“Yeah she took a few of the bomb prototypes I was working on,” said Leo staring blankly at the doorway.
“No,” I gasped.
“And one of them has a mixture of Greek fire and nitrogen,” he continued.
“Which means?” I dared to ask.
“A very large green mushroom cloud, and bye-bye Camp Half Blood,” he said, his eye twitching.
I sat up, “You’re kidding.”
His eyes stay locked on the door.
I stood up and shook him, “Dude, what do we do?”
“Find her, apologize, pray, find shelter,” he replied.
“How do we find her?” I asked.
An explosion answered me.
“Schist,” I replied, repeating a term I had heard Hazel use last year.
Leo and I sprinted out of bunker nine.
Another explosion, off to the north-west.
“Well, this is the craziest bread crumb trial I’ve ever followed,” I said, “You?”
“Actually no, did I ever tell you about the time in Milwaukee?” he replied.
Another explosion much larger.
“We’ll save that story for later,” I replied and sprinted off in the direction of the explosion.
In the distance I could hear shrieking, the high fangirlish cries of dryads. As I sprinted into a clearing one ran into me, her eyes bulging, “Water!” she screamed and darted away.
Leo helped me up and we continued on, dodging frenzied dryads as we went.
I could tell Leo was starting to panic, because bits of his hair were on fire and he was humming eye of the tiger.
“Dude,” I said, through shorts breathes, begins to feel smoke in my lungs, “calm down. We’ve got this. This honestly isn’t the worst situation we’ve ever been in.”
“Yeah,” he panted, “This is actually the second time I’ve come close to blowing up camp.”
“What?” I replied, dodging a falling tree limb, “You have really got to stop making explosives, or at least lock them up or something.”
He hurdled easily over a fallen log, “I actually blew up the Roman Camp once, but not all of it.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Reyna told me about that.”
Leo stopped for a second, “She did?”
I stopped along next to him, catching my breath, “Yeah, what’s the big deal?”
“Nothing,” he replied, and then stared blankly into the distance ahead of us.
Another explosion jarred me out of my confused daze, close by slightly to our left.
Leo and I started running again, “They seem kind of all over the place, don’t they?” I asked.
“Yeah, but all heading North,” replied Leo, who was now ahead of me, his stamina holding up better than mine.
“If I was a crazy pop star looking goddess with multiple explosives where would I go?” I muttered, loud enough for Leo to hear.
Suddenly Leo changed direction veering even harsh left cutting me off for a second; he looked back at me with wide eyes and said, “The Crater.”
“What?” I called up to him.
“The biggest trap my cabin made when Festus Senior was going bonkers,” he began to explain.
“What?” I repeated, “I really should have listened to Annabeth when she told me about all the recent happenings.”
“Big dragon-went physco-my cabin set up traps-big craters left behind,” panted Leo.
“Alright,” I said, still confused but I was pretty sure no matter how much he explained I wasn’t going to fully understand.
“It’s not far!” he yelled, now yards ahead of me.
I wanted to stop, take a break, I was seriously exhausted, and this guy had more endurance than any of the football players in my class. I began to wonder, does being part god make you automatically better at being human?
If so than being a mortal sucked.
More than usual.
Another explosion made me flinch, I kept on getting distracted.
Focus, Lea, focus, I told myself, and then let my mind wander.
People from camp must already have heard the explosions and come running their top priority would be putting out the fires and helping the dryads. They didn’t even know what was causing the explosions. I considered stopping and running back to tell everyone and letting them handle it, but that wasn’t a very ‘Chosen Savior of the World’ thing to do.
I groaned and pushed myself to catch up with Leo.
Just in time, too.
At first it was a spark of light, then a bonfire sized flame.
I skidded in front of Leo, instincts kicking in, I slammed my right wrist, hearing the clink notifying me that my shield was unfolding and pulled Leo close to me.
I grabbed him by one suspender, pinning him to my side, and raising the shield above our heads, like a crazy intense umbrella.
I knew he was invulnerable to flame but I wasn’t so sure about flying pieces of shrapnel.
Dirt, tree branches, loose explosive parts and fire rained down on us, wrapping us in an inferno heat.
Leo instinctually wrapped his arm around me protectively, and I curled into him protecting my face, the only vulnerable part of myself at the moment.
Thank Hephaestus for the armor, or else I would have been ultra crispy fried.
Leo let go of me, and I lowered my shield looking around.
We were on the rim of a large but shallow crater, about a hundred feet in diameter.
In the middle stood Lady Ate, in a new outfit of course. This one appeared to be made out of random armor pieces stuck into a ballerina-esque tutu dress, with a gauntlet tophat.
She held two identical explosive devices.
“Lea,” she cooed, “Come here, I have challenge for you.”
At the moment I was feeling up for any challenges, a glass of water maybe but no challenges.
“You choose the fate of your Camp, choose one. One will be returned, the other detonated. Let’s hope you get it right,” she called up to me.
“You know what?” I replied, “I’m already choosing the fate of the world, I think Imma let an expert handle this one. Leo, you down with that?”
He grinned at me, then at Ate, “The one in your left hand.”
Ate smirked, and tossed him the left one.
Then she pressed as small button on the remaining one and vaporized.
Once again I tucked into Leo, him placing the second explosive directly behind my shield, where it would be best protected.
The explosion roared around us, relatively small compared to the one before.
It died almost instantly.
I fell back onto the dirt, relieved.
“How’d you know?” I said looking over at Leo who was lying beside me.
He pointed at a small strip of red, “She forgot to take the warning tape off.”
He laughed and I laughed with him, until it hurt, ash poured down on us like soft apocalyptic snow.
“We’d better get going, the other campers will be here soon and I want a fantabulous debut of your new armor,” said Leo.
“And you don’t think epically walking away from an explosion is fantabulous enough,” I replied, accepting Leo hand up.
“Hmmm, for you,” he said, “Not quite.”