The son of neptune, p.49
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       The Son of Neptune, p.49

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
Page 49


  Ella made a horrible, painful wail like she was being burned.

  Percy held up his hands in exasperation. “What do we do? We can’t force her. ”

  “No,” Frank agreed. The ogres were three hundred yards out.

  “She’s too valuable to leave behind,” Hazel said. Then she winced at her own words. “Gods, I’m sorry, Ella. I sound as bad as Phineas. You’re a living thing, not a treasure. ”“No planes. N-n-no planes. ” Ella was hyperventilating.

  The ogres were almost in throwing distance.

  Percy’s eyes lit up. “I’ve got an idea. Ella, can you hide in the woods? Will you be safe from the ogres?”

  “Hide,” she agreed. “Safe. Hiding is good for harpies. Ellais quick. And small. And fast. ”

  “Okay,” Percy said. “Just stay around this area. I can send a friend to meet you and take you to Camp Jupiter. ”

  Frank unslung his bow and nocked an arrow. “A friend?”

  Percy waved his hand in a tell you later gesture. “Ella, would you like that? Would you like my friend to take you to Camp Jupiter and show you our home?”

  “Camp,” Ella muttered. Then in Latin: “‘Wisdom’s daughter walks alone, the Mark of Athena burns through Rome. ’”

  “Uh, right,” Percy said. “That sounds important, but we can talk about that later. You’ll be safe at camp. All the books and food you want. ”

  “No planes,” she insisted.

  “No planes,” Percy agreed.

  “Ella will hide now. ” Just like that, she was gone—a red streak disappearing into the woods.

  “I’ll miss her,” Hazel said sadly.

  “We’ll see her again,” Percy promised, but he frowned uneasily, as if he were really troubled by that last bit of prophecy—the thing about Athena.

  An explosion sent the airfield’s gate spinning into the air.

  Frank tossed his grandmother’s letter to Percy. “Show that to the pilot! Show him your letter from Reyna too! We’ve got to take off now. ”

  Percy nodded. He and Hazel ran for the plane.

  Frank took cover behind the Cadillac and started firing at the ogres. He targeted the largest clump of enemies and shot a tulip-shaped arrow. Just as he’d hoped, it was a hydra.

  Ropes lashed out like squid tentacles, and the entire front row of ogres plowed face first into the dirt.

  Frank heard the plane’s engines rev.

  He shot three more arrows as fast as he could, blasting enormous craters in the ogres’ ranks. The survivors were only a hundred yards away, and some of the brighter ones stumbled to a stop, realizing that they were now within hurling range.

  “Frank!” Hazel shrieked. “Come on!”

  A fiery cannonball hurtled toward him in a slow arc. Frank knew instantly it was going to hit the plane. He nocked an arrow. I can do this, he thought. He let the arrow fly. It intercepted the cannonball midair, detonating a massive fireball. Another two cannonballs sailed toward him. Frank ran.

  Behind him, metal groaned as the Cadillac exploded. He dove into the plane just as the stairs started to rise.

  The pilot must’ve understood the situation just fine. There was no safety announcement, no pre-flight drink, and no waiting for clearance. He pushed the throttle, and the plane shot down the runway. Another blast ripped through the runway behind them, but then they were in the air.

  Frank looked down and saw the airstrip riddled with craters like a piece of burning Swiss cheese. Swaths of Lynn Canyon Park were on fire. A few miles to the south, a swirling pyre of flames and black smoke was all that remained of the Zhang family mansion.

  So much for Frank being impressive. He’d failed to save his grandmother. He’d failed to use his powers. He hadn’t even saved their harpy friend. When Vancouver disappeared in the clouds below, Frank buried his head in his hands and started to cry.

  The plane banked to the left.

  Over the intercom, the pilot’s voice said, “Senatus Populusque Romanus, my friends. Welcome aboard. Next stop: Anchorage, Alaska. ”

  XXXVII Percy


  Percy would’ve preferred driving Grandma Zhang’s

  Cadillac all the way to Alaska with fireball-throwing ogres on his tail rather than sitting in a luxury Gulf stream.

  He’d flown before. The details were hazy, but he remembered a pegasus named Blackjack. He’d even been in a plane once or twice. But a son of Neptune (Poseidon, whatever)didn’t belong in the air. Every time the plane hit a spot of turbulence, Percy’s heart raced, and he was sure Jupiter was slapping them around.

  He tried to focus as Frank and Hazel talked. Hazel was reassuring Frank that he’d done everything he could for his grandmother. Frank had saved them from the Laistrygonians and gotten them out of Vancouver. He’d been incredibly brave.

  Frank kept his head down like he was ashamed to have been crying, but Percy didn’t blame him. The poor guy had just lost his grandmother and seen his house go up in flames. As far as Percy was concerned, shedding a few tears about something like that didn’t make you any less of a man, especially when you had just fended off an army of ogres that wanted to eat you for breakfast.

  Percy still couldn’t get over the fact that Frank was a distant relative. Frank would be his…what? Great-times-a-thousand nephew? Too weird for words.

  Frank refused to explain exactly what his “family gift” was, but as they flew north, Frank did tell them about his conversation with Mars the night before. He explained the prophecy Juno had issued when he was a baby—about his life being tied to a piece of firewood, and how he had asked Hazel to keep it for him.

  Some of that, Percy had already figured out. Hazel and Frank had obviously shared some crazy experiences when they had blacked out together, and they’d made some sort of deal. It also explained why even now, out of habit, Frank kept checking his coat pocket, and why he was so nervous around fire. Still, Percy couldn’t imagine what kind of courage it had taken for Frank to embark on a quest, knowing that one small flame could snuff out his life.

  “Frank,” he said, “I’m proud to be related to you. ”

  Frank’s ears turned red. With his head lowered, his military haircut made a sharp black arrow pointing down. “Juno has some sort of plan for us, about the Prophecy of Seven. ”

  “Yeah,” Percy grumbled. “I didn’t like her as Hera. I don’t like her any better as Juno. ” Hazel tucked her feet underneath her. She studied Percy with her luminescent golden eyes, and he wondered how she could be so calm. She was the youngest one on the quest, but she was always holding them together and comforting them. Now they were flying to Alaska, where she had died once before. They would try to free Thanatos, who might take her back to the Underworld. Yet she didn’t show any fear. It made

  Percy feel silly for being scared of airplane turbulence.

  “You’re a son of Poseidon, aren’t you?” she asked. “You are a Greek demigod. ”

  Percy gripped his leather necklace. “I started to remember in Portland, after the gorgon’s blood. It’s been coming back to me slowly since then. There’s another camp—Camp Half-Blood. ”

  Just saying the name made Percy feel warm inside. Good memories washed over him: the smell of strawberry fields in the warm summer sun, fireworks lighting up the beach on the Fourth of July, satyrs playing panpipes at the nightly campfire, and a kiss at the bottom of the canoe lake.

  Hazel and Frank stared at him as though he’d slipped into another language.

  “Another camp,” Hazel repeated. “A Greek camp? Gods, if Octavian found out—”

  “He’d declare war,” Frank said. “He’s always been sure the Greeks were out there, plotting against us. He thought Percy was a spy. ”

  “That’s why Juno sent me,” Percy said. “Uh, I mean, not to spy. I think it was some kind of exchange. Your friend

  Jason—I think he was sent to my camp. In my dreams, I saw a
demigod that might have been him. He was working with some other demigods on this flying warship. I think they’re coming to Camp Jupiter to help. ”

  Frank tapped nervously on the back of his seat. “Mars said Juno wants to unite the Greeks and Romans to fight Gaea. But, jeez—Greeks and Romans have a long history of bad blood. ”

  Hazel took a deep breath. “That’s probably why the gods have kept us apart this long. If a Greek warship appeared in the sky above Camp Jupiter, and Reyna didn’t know it was friendly—”

  “Yeah,” Percy agreed. “We’ve got to be careful how we explain this when we get back. ”

  “If we get back,” Frank said.

  Percy nodded reluctantly. “I mean, I trust you guys. I hope you trust me. I feel…well, I feel as close to you two as to any of my old friends at Camp Half-Blood. But with the other demigods, at both camps—there’s going to be a lot of suspicion. ”

  Hazel did something he wasn’t expecting. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. It was totally a sisterly kiss. But she smiled with such affection, it warmed Percy right down to his feet.

  “Of course we trust you,” she said. “We’re a family now. Aren’t we, Frank?”

  “Sure,” he said. “Do I get a kiss?”

  Hazel laughed, but there was nervous tension in it. “Anyway, what do we do now?”

  Percy took a deep breath. Time was slipping away.

  They were almost halfway through June twenty-third, and tomorrow was the Feast of Fortuna. “I’ve got to contact a friend—to keep my promise to Ella. ”

  “How?” Frank said. “One of those Iris-messages?”

  “Still not working,” Percy said sadly. “I tried it last night at your grandmother’s house. No luck. Maybe it’s because my memories are still jumbled. Or the gods aren’t allowing a connection. I’m hoping I can contact my friend in my dreams. ”

  Another bump of turbulence made him grab his seat. Below them, snowcapped mountains broke through a blanket of clouds.

  “I’m not sure I can sleep,” Percy said. “But I need to try. We can’t leave Ella by herself with those ogres around. ”

  “Yeah,” Frank said. “We’ve still got hours to fly. Take the couch, man. ”

  Percy nodded. He felt lucky to have Hazel and Frank watching out for him. What he’d said to them was true—he trusted them. In the weird, terrifying, horrible experience of losing his memory and getting ripped out of his old life—Hazel and Frank were the bright spots.

  He stretched out, closed his eyes, and dreamed he was falling from a mountain of ice toward a cold sea.

  The dream shifted. He was back in Vancouver, standing in front of the ruins of the Zhang mansion. The Laistrygonians were gone. The mansion was reduced to a burned-out shell. A crew of firefighters was packing up their equipment, getting ready to move out. The lawn looked like a war zone, with smoking craters and trenches from the blown-out irrigation pipes.

  At the edge of the forest, a giant shaggy black dog was bounding around, sniffing the trees. The firefighters completely ignored him.

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