I’m completely defenseless, facing an acid spitting three headed monster. My knees are trembling uncontrollably and I put a hand down to steady them. Stop that, I frown at them. My eyes dart to my sword- it’s been knocked about ten feet away, right on the brink of toppling over the dried up river bed.
What if… An inkling of an idea trickles into my mind.
I stare at one of the Hydras ugly faces. “Hey, how do you feel about water?” And with that, I close my eyes and concentrate. Come on water, I plead aloud BOOM explodes out of nowhere, making the entire ground
I open my eyes and can’t help but grinning. A wave the size of a mansion comes roaring down onto the Hydra, pushing it backwards and covering it in salt water and seaweed gunk. The monster growls and roars in confusion and spits acid against the tide.
Whirr. What was that?
I sink to my knees and pant, watching from my front row seat. Not surprisingly, the air has turned humid and I’m sitting in the only dry spot of earth. I take a breather then stumble back to my feet. The Hydra has not been pushed into the riverbed. It’s definitely not trapped and not defeated.
I watch wearily as it scrabbles for a foot hold on the edge of the river and then hooks its claws into a nearby tree, pulling itself back onto safe ground. I feel sorry for the tree.
Groaning in frustration I observe the battle scene. What was it Annabeth always told me? Always have a Plan B? Crap. Sometimes it sucks when she’s right.
I wait; my breath is quick and fast. I won’t be able to summon another wave- I just don’t have it in me. I never tested how far my powers could go, what if it backfired and I ended up killing myself? That would look great on Capitol TV.
‘Oh and from faction 7, we had this son of Poseidon who killed himself- over used his powers! Can you imagine? What an idiot!’
Right now, all I can figure out to do is retrieve my sword. At least then, I’ll have a fighting chance.
The Hydra finally drags its sorry butt onto level ground- its ugly faces glare at me like I-hate-you-why-are-you-still-alive?
And then, comes the burning steaming acid. Flying pieces of deadly liquid shooting straight for me, I hesitate then roll to the side. Sugar honey iced tea! I almost don’t make it; a good chunk of my shirt sleeve has been melted clean off along with some skin. I bring my fingertips up and touch my arm lightly. Not a good idea- pain like fires races up my arm. I grit my teeth and narrow my eyes.
Whirr. There’s that noise again. I’m still on the ground and I scramble to my feet. One of the faces on the monster licks its lips, like it knows that I’ve been cornered. I back up a little, until my back hits a tree. Whirr. I ignore the whirring noises, I’ve got enough on my hands. The Hydra opens one of its offending mouths and its like I can hear the acid building up.
This is the end of Perseus Jackson, all of you Capitol TV viewers. I’m sorry mom who is probably turning away to use the bathroom right about now, I’m sorry Drew who is most likely fuming about all the time she spent making me look good (seriously what was the fuss) and I’m sorry Hydra for eating all that raw chicken last week. I didn’t want to give you indigestion, but when you live in faction 7, there’s not much else to say.
The acid comes, a fourth of the speed of a bullet. At least, I think so. Annabeth normally would tell me those things. I make a final desperate act and grab a branch and pull myself up into the tree in one quick move.
I find myself face to face with a tiny blinking red light. It’s embedded in the bark, and below it is a small circle made of glass. The bark moves slightly with it, creating a whirring noise as it moves. It’s a camera- my mom has one that Poseidon gave her before he left.
I have a Plan B, and I'm going to die. "Hey Hydra, you can't spit this high worth a dam sandwich!" I shout down at the monster.
The Hydra’s many tongues flicker in and out, it’s eyes following my every movement. It’s toying with me, it could easily spit acid and take me out. We both know that. But, this monster clearly doesn’t know what I’m about to do.
It opens all of its mouths and open fires.
Crap, go go! Move! A little voice in my head screams.
I catapult off the branch and thud to the ground, a mess of arms and limbs with an occasional finger. I get up ungracefully and stagger for a few seconds then start sprinting for my sword.
The Hydra pauses for a moment, and I smile in satisfaction. The acid didn’t hit me- it hit the camera. That’s a plus, since I actually didn’t think that far ahead.
It turns and races after me, spitting it’s venom as quickly as it can. I just pray to the gods that it has a bad aim. I run and then I’m diving, an acid bomb sailing over my head as I reach for my sword.
The Hydra is standing over me and lifts a wicked claw over my chest. I strain to reach my weapon. And the claws fall and pin me to the ground.
"Can we talk about this?" I ask and flash a smile.
"Apparently not." I shrug. "But if you won't talk, I'll let my sword do the talking for you."
And with that I drive the blade of my weapon straight into the monsters chest. It’s turned into dust and dissipitated before you can say ‘holy Zeus what the flip am I doing here.’
I stand up, brush my pants off. “Don’t mess with the son of Poseidon.” I frown in the general direction that the Hydra had been standing.
I wander as far as I can, I’m really not sure where I am. I was never good with coordinates or anything in the first place (unless at sea) and now after being in a fight, I’m tired, weak and exhausted and have no clue which way is North and which way is South.
I sit down, open my backpack (which miraculously survived everything) and take out the last of my food rations. I pour it numbly into my hand and stick into my mouth. I need water.
That’s when I hear it. Faint voices- heading in my direction. Seriously, what does a guy have to do to get a break around here?
“I swear, if we don’t find him by the end of today you’re already as good as dead to me Wise A-”
“Jason,” The voice that answers is Annabeth. Great, she’s still with them. At least she didn’t get herself killed.
I move as silently as I can and get on my feet. Maybe they won’t see me. Maybe they’ll pass right by without seeing my orange backpack. Yeah right, maybe they’ll all turn out to be really nice and will make me tea and cupcakes so we can all sit down and share stories about our favorite stuffed animals.
I’m not in a good position to hide. There isn’t much grass, zilch water and barely any small trees. They’re all way tall with zero to no coverage.
“We’ll find him,” Annabeth continues. She’s leading them in my direction. “I’m sure he’ll have gone this way. I know him better than anyone else.”
I can hear Jason muttering under his breath and Piper consoling him. I don’t dare look.
“Hey I think I saw something,” One of the demigods speaks up. I can’t identify the voice- it must be that dude from faction 1 who came with Piper. Looks kind of like a wolf in his own way.
I press my back against the tree, sucking in a breath. Please go the other direction, please. Just my luck, they don’t. The footsteps come closer. Should I run for it?
I grip my sword handle tightly. I haven’t recapped it; you should always be on your guard in the Arena.
“Well, looks like you found him Owl Face. Congratulations,” I can hear Jason’s smirk even though I can’t see him. They know it’s me. “Come out with your hands up Jackson, or I’ll have to take you down the hard way.”
“Subdue the boy already,” Another voice, she sounds bored.. Female, icy and cold. Khione- a minor goddess that the Olympians never cared about. Fantastic- a goddess is here. “You promised me a trophy, Jason.”
I take a deep breath and step back out into the opening my sword raised in defense. “Over my cold dead body,” My voice comes out weaker then I intentioned. Dang it, that always works in movies.
Jason is casually holding a golden coin in his hand. “I’m afraid, Percy, you’ll be very very cold.”
I narrow my eyes, take in the group. The first couple of factions have formed a pack- the Careers is what we call them. A temporary alliance to kill off the other factions first, then turn on one another.
Annabeth has taken to staring intently at the ground; my vision turns a little red for a moment. Then, Khione who is leaning against a tree, twirling a little ice dagger in her hand and finally Wolf Boy who is talking angrily with Piper in the background.
Jason looks over his shoulder and rolls his eyes.
“What do you mean by…cold?” I grip the hilt of my sword harder.
The daylight is fading, it’s starting to get cold and I can feel it. Maybe if I stall him, I can make my escape. They don’t look too focused on me at the moment.
Jason flicks his wrist a little and the coin flips into the air. I watch as it transforms into a long Roman sword. So, his weapon is a little like mine. That’s some sturdy information.
“I promised Khione here a reward. So instead of killing you, I’m just eliminating you as a threat. And, believe me Jackson,” He spits at me. “I would roast you like my grandmas fried chicken supreme, if Khione here hadn’t insisted on you not being touched.”
I was getting more confused by the second. “Look, Grace. You seem like a compatible opponent, I’ll give you that.” I switch sword hands. “But, seriously. It’s a little hard to fight when no one gets hurt. This makes it easier for me.” I lunge forward, aiming for his legs. Jason backs up quickly, backpedaling faster than I’d thought imaginable.
Khione perks up and glares at me. “Stop, Perseus. Don’t move or I’ll freeze you with a little twirl of my finger.”
I hesitate and Jason immediately grabs me by my arms and twists them behind my back. I growl furiously and squirm. I know it’s hard for him to hang onto me.
“Get him into a suitable position,” Khione stands in front of me like she’s about to take a picture.
This makes me struggle three times faster. Jason grits his teeth and I can feel the tension between us. I’m moving and squirming but he has an iron grip. It’s starting to hurt my arms, as his continues twisting.
“Dammit hurry up Khione!” He shouts in frustration as one of my arms slips loose.
Khione smiles at me. “It won’t hurt, I promise.”
I’ve almost screaming in terror by now. What is she doing?
She twirls her finger and I’m instantly engulfed in coldness.
“What the-” I start to say, but I can’t finish my sentence. I can barely see, my eyes are open. Khione paces in front of me taps on something…glass? No…it’s ice. That witch trapped me in an ice cube.
Instantly a stupid thought forms in my mind. And now, for a limited time only get your very own Perseus Ice Cube Popsicle today for 50% off!
“See, that didn’t hurt did it now?” Khione taps the ice with a fingernail. My first reaction would be to tell her to back off, but I can’t. I literally, can’t do anything but think and feel the slow beating of my heart.
“Can we just make camp, it’s getting dark.” Annabeth comments, finally she says something.
Jason flips his sword and it morphs back into a gold coin. “Make a fire,” He shouts at Wolf Boy. “Khione, I’m not carrying your stupid trophy for you, so you better find a spot to put him that isn’t in my sleeping space.”
Khione runs a finger over my face- or where my face would be if two inches of ice didn’t block her from touching it. I’m grateful for the barrier.
Annabeth shoots a glance at me and mouths one word: Drizzle.
That doesn’t make sense. I don’t react- mainly because I’m locked solidly in the ice. She rolls her eyes, and mouths it one more time before turning around to help Wolf Boy gather some wood.
Hazel, the word enters my mind. So, the tribute from faction 6, what of her? The ice is numbing my thoughts, making everything seem a bit fuzzy. I’m disoriented and cold.
The night drags on, its dark and hard to see anything. Khione moves me far away from the camp fire so I won’t melt and ‘make a leave of absence’ as she puts it. Piper and Jason are sitting beside one another and it makes me want to throw up as they tentatively hold hands.
I’ve noticed that the Careers aren’t all that evil. They just want to win- and if I were in that situation…wouldn’t I do the same? (Well besides trap a dude in an ice cage.)
Annabeth is sitting with Wolf Boy and the exchange a few words but mostly keep to themselves. Khione hasn’t stopped checking on me, telling me about her plans on killing everyone and how Jason wouldn’t let her keep me the entire time. She glances Jason’s way and whispers about how she plans to kill him and then keep me around in the ice as sort of a reminder. The whole idea makes me sick.
After a few more hours, they’ve all rolled out whatever sleeping material they’ve got and have fallen asleep. Annabeth was assigned guard duty until Wolf Boy’s shift.
Annabeth starts towards my cage about ten minutes after the others have (probably) fallen asleep. “Percy,” She hisses. “Don’t fall asleep. Stay with me, okay?”
Now that she says it, I’ve been fighting to stay awake. My fear is that if I do relent and drift to sleep, I’ll never wake up. But why should I trust her?
I can’t giver her a sign that I’m not already asleep or that I hear her.
“Wait for them to come,” I can tell she wants to say more, but Jason chooses that time to mumble something in his sleep and roll over.
Annabeth bites her lip, looks at me and then silently creeps back to her bed roll.
It’s hard to stay awake that night. Everything seems to want to make me sleep. The dullness of the ice, both piercing and soothing at the same time. The lullabies of the birds in the trees, the soft blur of the moon. My brain starts to shut down…hazy…sleep….
“Hurry up,” A voice whispers.
“I’m trying!” Another voice says back. “Here.”
“I really don’t feel like trying this again.”
“Just be quick and quiet about it. You’ll be fine.”
My brain snaps fully awake, how long was I out? From my line of vision I can tell that no time has really passed at all. They caught me before I fell asleep.
Who are they?
I strain to look down- kneeling at the foot of my ice cube cell is a built Asian boy. I remember seeing him in training, his name is Frank. As far as I could tell, he was a good guy.
Then, beside him glancing over her shoulder is a young black girl with curly hair. That’s her- that’s Hazel. She must be helping to free me…that’s what Annabeth meant. Realization dawns on me.
Frank is holding a piece of wood in his hands, he’s just finished unwrapping it from layers of cloth.
“Hurry,” Hazel insists looking at the Careers again. “Annabeth is on guard duty still, but you never know if one of them will wake up.”
So that’s what’s going on. My Wise Girl, I smile inwardly. I can’t believe I doubted her- obviously she’s the man with the plan. Well, girl- woman, er female.
Frank concentrates, closes his eyes and the piece of wood in his hand ignites with fire. I would be taken aback if I could move. Sick man, that’s awesome.
Hazel stands up straight, looks directly at me. “Perseus we’re going to help you escape. Annabeth has a plan, and it involves you. Don’t make any noise once Frank has melted the ice.”
I struggle to move any part of my body, just so she knows that I hear her loud and clear. My mind is already thinking way ahead, to the rush of the wind and the free-feeling of not being caged and frozen.
Hazel grins at me then ducks down to Franks level and speaks into his ear quietly. He nods tightly, sweat is trickling down his forehead. I wonder what his problem is?
The ice is melting; I can feel warmth somewhere near my leg. This fire is way hotter then the usual camp fires. The ice melts within two minutes, every bit of it.
Frank puts away the wood, its been reduced to a stub. Hazel gestures at me to follow them. I stretch my legs quietly; the sudden air feels good but strange. I’m still cold, I wonder if I’ll die from hypothermia.
I nod and follow them. I’d love to say thanks, but that could wake the Careers up. Once out of ear shot, Hazel shakes my hand and curtsies formally. It’s cute, in an old fashioned sort of way.
“I’m Hazel, this is Frank. Annabeth sent us.” She gestures to the Asian dude.
I turn to both of them, hoping they know how grateful I am. “Man, thanks. Seriously, I would be dead if not for the both of you- I owe you my life.”
Frank smiles bashfully, he doesn’t seem like the type for words. “Well, Perseus. You look like a good person to me. I don’t see the loss in trusting you.”
“Call me Percy,” I shake his hand.
“Well, Percy,” Hazel rests her hand on the sword hanging from her belt. “Frank is going to go ahead and prepare the shelter we made in a cave. It’s not far, but…Annabeth wants you to do something for her.”
I rub my arms, trying to get some warmth in there. Hazel leads me to a tree. “She says you’re a good climber, not as good as her though.”
I remember those, Annabeth and I would have tree climbing races back in faction 7. Faction 7…seems like a long time ago now, even if its been a few days.
I nod. “Yeah, what do you need?” I want to help Annabeth and Hazel and Frank. I owe them, and that’s not something I want to take lightly. My skin is turning back to its normal color, meaning it’s not blue.
Hazel doesn’t say anything, just points directly above our heads.
“Oh gods,” I gasp. “Is that an Automaton Wasp nest?”