The son of neptune, p.51
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       The Son of Neptune, p.51

         Part #2 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
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Page 51

 

  “It’s huge,” she said. “That—that’s where the Gitchell Hotel used to be. My mom and I stayed there our first week in Alaska. And they’ve moved City Hall. It used to be there. ”

  She led them in a daze for a few blocks. They didn’t really have a plan beyond finding the fastest way to the Hubbard Glacier, but Percy smelled something cooking nearby—sausage, maybe? He realized he hadn’t eaten since that morning at Grandma Zhang’s.

  “Food,” he said. “Come on. ”

  They found a café right by the beach. It was bustling with people, but they scored a table at the window and perused the menus.

  Frank whooped with delight. “Twenty-four-hour breakfast!”

  “It’s, like, dinnertime,” Percy said, though he couldn’t tell from looking outside. The sun was so high, it could’ve been noon.

  “I love breakfast,” Frank said. “I’d eat breakfast, breakfast, and breakfast if I could. Though, um, I’m sure the food here isn’t as good as Hazel’s. ”

  Hazel elbowed him, but her smile was playful.

  Seeing them like that made Percy happy. Those two definitely needed to get together. But it also made him sad. He thought about Annabeth, and wondered if he’d live long enough to see her again.

  Think positive, he told himself.

  “You know,” he said, “breakfast sounds great. ”

  They all ordered massive plates of eggs, pancakes, and reindeer sausage, though Frank looked a little worried about the reindeer. “You think it’s okay that we’re eating Rudolph?”

  “Dude,” Percy said, “I could eat Prancer and Blitzen, too. I’m hungry. ”

  The food was excellent. Percy had never seen anyone eat as fast as Frank. The red-nosed reindeer did not stand a chance.

  Between bites of blueberry pancake, Hazel drew a squiggly curve and an X on her napkin. “So this is what I’m thinking. We’re here. ” She tapped X. “Anchorage. ”

  “It looks like a seagull’s face,” Percy said. “And we’re the eye. ”

  Hazel glared at him. “It’s a map, Percy. Anchorage is at the top of this sliver of ocean, Cook Inlet. There’s a big peninsula of land below us, and my old home town, Seward, is at the bottom of the peninsula, here. ” She drew another X at the base of the seagull’s throat. “That’s the closest town to the Hubbard Glacier. We could go around by sea, I guess, but it would take forever. We don’t have that kind of time. ”

  Frank polished off the last of his Rudolph. “But land is dangerous,” he said. “Land means Gaea. ”

  Hazel nodded. “I don’t see that we’ve got much choice, though. We could have asked our pilot to fly us down, but I don’t know…his plane might be too big for the little Seward airport. And if we chartered another plane—”

  “No more planes,” Percy said. “Please. ”

  Hazel held up her hand in a placating gesture. “It’s okay. There’s a train that goes from here to Seward. We might be able to catch one tonight. It only takes a couple of hours. ”

  She drew a dotted line between the two X’s.

  “You just cut off the seagull’s head,” Percy noted.

  Hazel sighed. “It’s the train line. Look, from Seward, the Hubbard Glacier is down here somewhere. ” She tapped the lower right corner of her napkin. “That’s where Alcyoneus is. ”

  “But you’re not sure how far?” Frank asked.

  Hazel frowned and shook her head. “I’m pretty sure it’s only accessible by boat or plane. ”

  “Boat,” Percy said immediately.

  “Fine,” Hazel said. “It shouldn’t be too far from Seward. If we can get to Seward safely. ”

  Percy gazed out the window. So much to do, and only twenty-four hours left. This time tomorrow, the Feast of Fortuna would be starting. Unless they unleashed Death and made it back to camp, the giant’s army would flood into the valley. The Romans would be the main course at a monster dinner.

  Across the street, a frosty black sand beach led down to the sea, which was as smooth as steel. The ocean here felt different—still powerful, but freezing, slow, and primal. No gods controlled that water, at least no gods Percy knew. Neptune wouldn’t be able to protect him. Percy wondered if he could even manipulate water here, or breathe underwater.

  A Hyperborean giant lumbered across the street. Nobody in the café noticed. The giant stepped into the bay, cracking the ice under his sandals, and thrust his hands in the water. He brought out a killer whale in one fist. Apparently that wasn’t what he wanted, because he threw the whale back and kept wading.

  “Good breakfast,” Frank said. “Who’s ready for a train ride?”

  The station wasn’t far. They were just in time to buy tickets for the last train south. As his friends climbed on board, Percy said, “Be with you in a sec,” and ran back into the station.

  He got change from the gift shop and stood in front of the pay phone.

  He’d never used a pay phone before. They were strange antiques to him, like his mom’s turntable or his teacher Chiron’s Frank Sinatra cassette tapes. He wasn’t sure how many coins it would take, or if he could even make the call go through, assuming he remembered the number correctly.

  Sally Jackson, he thought.

  That was his mom’s name. And he had a stepdad…Paul.

  What did they think had happened to Percy? Maybe they had already held a memorial service. As near as he could figure, he’d lost seven months of his life. Sure, most of that had been during the school year, but still…not cool.

  He picked up the receiver and punched in a New York number—his mom’s apartment. Voice mail. Percy should have figured. It would be like, midnight in New York. They wouldn’t recognize this number.

  Hearing Paul’s voice on the recording hit Percy in the gut so hard, he could barely speak at the tone.

  “Mom,” he said. “Hey, I’m alive. Her a put me to sleep for a while, and then she took my memory, and…” His voice faltered. How he could possibly explain all this? “Anyway, I’m okay. I’m sorry. I’m on a quest—” He winced. He shouldn’t have said that. His mom knew all about quests, and now she’d be worried. “I’ll make it home. I promise. Love you. ”

  He put down the receiver. He stared at the phone, hoping it would ring back. The train whistle sounded. The conductor shouted, “All aboard. ”

  Percy ran. He made it just as they were pulling up the steps, then climbed to the top of the double-decker car and slid into his seat.

  Hazel frowned. “You okay?”

  “Yeah,” he croaked. “Just…made a call. ”

  She and Frank seemed to get that. They didn’t ask for details.

  Soon they were heading south along the coast, watching the landscape go by. Percy tried to think about the quest, but for an ADHD kid like him, the train wasn’t the easiest place to concentrate.

  Cool things kept happening outside. Bald eagles soared overhead. The train raced over bridges and along cliffs where glacial waterfalls tumbled thousands of feet down the rocks. They passed forests buried in snowdrifts, big artillery guns (to set off small avalanches and prevent uncontrolled ones, Hazel explained), and lakes so clear, they reflected the mountains like mirrors, so the world looked upside down.

  Brown bears lumbered through the meadows. Hyperborean giants kept appearing in the strangest places. One was lounging in a lake like it was a hot tub. Another was using a pine tree as a toothpick. A third sat in a snowdrift, playing with two live moose like they were action figures. The train was full of tourists ohhing and ahhing and snapping pictures, but Percy felt sorry they couldn’t see the Hyperboreans. They were missing the really good shots.

  Meanwhile, Frank studied a map of Alaska that he’d found in the seat pocket. He located Hubbard Glacier, which looked discouragingly far away from Seward. He kept running his finger along the coastline, frowning with concentration.

  “What are you thinking?” Percy asked.

  “Just…possibiliti
es,” Frank said.

  Percy didn’t know what that meant, but he let it go.

  After about an hour, Percy started to relax. They bought hot chocolate from the dining car. The seats were warm and comfortable, and he thought about taking a nap.

  Then a shadow passed overhead. Tourists murmured in excitement and started taking pictures.

  “Eagle!” one yelled.

  “Eagle?” said another.

  “Huge eagle!” said a third.

  “That’s no eagle,” Frank said.

  Percy looked up just in time to see the creature make a second pass. It was definitely larger than an eagle, with a sleek black body the size of a Labrador retriever. Its wingspan was at least ten feet across.

  “There’s another one!” Frank pointed. “Strike that. Three, four. Okay, we’re in trouble. ”

  The creatures circled the train like vultures, delighting the tourists. Percy wasn’t delighted. The monsters had glowing red eyes, sharp beaks, and vicious talons.

  Percy felt for his pen in his pocket. “Those things look familiar. . . . ”

  “Seattle,” Hazel said. “The Amazons had one in a cage. They’re—”

  Then several things happened at once. The emergency brake screeched, pitching them forward. Tourists screamed and tumbled through the aisles. The monsters swooped down, shattering the glass roof of the car, and the entire train toppled off the rails.

  XXXIX Percy

  PERCY WENT WEIGHTLESS.

  His vision blurred. Claws grabbed his arms and lifted him into the air. Below, train wheels squealed and metal crashed. Glass shattered. Passengers screamed.

  When his eyesight cleared, he saw the beast that was carrying him aloft. It had the body of a panther—sleek, black, and feline—with the wings and head of an eagle. Its eyes glowed blood-red.

  Percy squirmed. The monster’s front talons were wrapped around his arms like steel bands. He couldn’t free himself or reach his sword. He rose higher and higher in the cold wind. Percy had no idea where the monster was taking him, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t like it when he got there.

  He yelled—mostly out of frustration. Then something whistled by his ear. An arrow sprouted from the monster’s neck. The creature shrieked and let go.

  Percy fell, crashing through tree branches until he slammed into a snowbank. He groaned, looking up at a massive pine tree he’d just shredded.

  He managed to stand. Nothing seemed broken. Frank stood to his left, shooting down the creatures as fast as he could. Hazel was at his back, swinging her sword at any monster that came close, but there were too many swarming around them—at least a dozen.

  Percy drew Riptide. He sliced the wing off one monster and sent it spiraling into a tree, then sliced through another that burst into dust. But the defeated ones began to re-form immediately.

  “What are these things?” he yelled.

  “Gryphons!” Hazel said. “We have to get them away from the train!”

  Percy saw what she meant. The train cars had fallen over, and their roofs had shattered. Tourists were stumbling around in shock. Percy didn’t see anybody seriously injured, but the gryphons were swooping toward anything that moved. The only thing keeping them away from the mortals was a glowing gray warrior in camouflage—Frank’s pet spartus.

 
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