Hello everyone. I cannot believe that i haven't published since November, and i did have a whole set of excuses lined up but in the end it boils down to two things:
1: Massive anxiety and depression.
2: Being unable to log into this site at all because of my utterly crap, ancient laptop with even worse internet.
Anyway since I am no longer at uni i should be able to publish more for you guys soon.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your infinite patience. Please forgive any grammatical errors. I had so many people DM me demanding an update that i released this without the proper proof reading. If you spot any, DM me (without being a dick) and i will fix it as soon as i can.
Athena's wisdom to you.
Chapter 14: Boarding party, Raiding party, Seige party!
Reyna had a very bad feeling. Every nerve was aflame, every instinct screamed at her. The longer they stayed here the greater the danger they were in. She felt a bead of sweat run down the side of her nose as she crouched beside the legion commando, watching as he drew the final explosive from his bag and set to work priming it.
"Hurry up Philus, we're running out of time rapidly" she ordered in a tense whisper, splitting her gaze between his hands fiddling with the lengths of wire and the nearby bulkhead door, watching and listening for signs of approaching hostiles.
"I'm working as fast as I dare Praetor" he responded, his voice equally taught "But one crossed wire, one wayward pinch of potassium chloride or one errant twitch and this ship will become our one way cruise to the underworld."
"Of course. Apologies just please . . ." She glanced up as the sound of running footsteps passed over their heads on the deck above, "work as fast as you are able." She turned away from him and moved around to the far side of the engine scanning left and right, high and low for any sign of a threat. Her dagger remained unsheathed, held back in her hand with the blade close to her forearm, ready to whip out and slash an enemy the moment one appeared.
The ship was way too quiet. And that wasn't just because the engines were disengaged by the time they boarded. Aside from the few engineers that they had had to deal with along the way there had been no response from any of the other crew aboard, mortal or otherwise. No shouted warnings, no blaring general quarters or intruder alarms and no squads of marines charging down the corridors towards them. Whether that was good fortune or a bad omen she hadn't decided. With any luck it simply meant that no-one had managed to raise the alarm. Completing her search of the room she returned to find Philus in the process of affixing the explosive to the coolant intake valve just as he had the other three. Reyna had been assured that a concentrated blast there would disable the ship's engines without the risk of causing the whole thing to detonate like a dirty nuclear bomb. Once the ship had been disabled it would only be a matter of time before the naval reinforcements en route from Camp Half-Blood arrived. Then their boarding parties could secure the entire vessel.
And that will put an end to this whole misguided war before it can escalate any further Reyna assured herself.
The clang and rumble of the bulkhead door opening caused Reyna to jump and whip around, dagger raised. But it was merely team B returning from the second engine room having completed their objective. Two of them slipped into the space whilst the third remained on guard in the doorway.
"Objective completed Praetor" one of them informed her as they crouched down alongside.
"None" she assured her. "At least, none we couldn't handle quickly and silently."
"This is too easy" Corner remarked, turning in the doorway to lean against the frame. "They go ashore to invade Camp Jupiter with a force too small and too ill equipped to stand a real chance against the Legion, and they leave nothing but a bunch of lightly armed mortals to protect their base."
"Which makes me certain there is more to this than meets the eye Corner. Keep your guard up!" Reyna snapped and Corner looked insulted by the admonishment. "We are among wolves now, right in the den of the enemy. These are their woods, those are their howls we can hear all about us and if they find us we'll be their feast! Do not for a moment relax you-" She jumped again at the clank of Philus' pliers dropping into his satchel, his task now complete.
This is ridiculous thought Reyna I'm a trained warrior, Praetor of New Rome and daughter of the Goddess of war. I am not nervous.But she was. She hadn't been exaggerating when she had scolded Corner. They were in the wolf's den here. These were their woods . . . or waters.
She straightened up and, after Philus' final check on his handiwork, the other commandos followed suit.
"Right, now we need to get moving. We have fifteen minutes to get off this ship before those explosives detonate."
"Don't think that really matters"
Oh Gods no.
"We reckon most of you've only got a few seconds to live anyway" Corner dropped to the floor dead as he slid off the end of Percy's sword. He and Thalia stepped calmly over the commando's corpse and into the engine room. They both wore the same grim expression. Both pairs of eyes, Sapphire blue and Emerald green, flashed with anger and bloodlust. Unlike previous encounters there was no banter and no negotiation. They just attacked. Thalia, wielding her shield Aegis and what Reyna saw to be a wicked looking, Celestial Bronze, serrated Ka-bar, took on three at once. Percy, Riptide in hand, targeted Reyna and Philus.
"Praetor get back!" he yelled, forcefully shoving Reyna behind him and drawing his own Imperial gold Pugio. Percy was at a disadvantage. Even though Riptide had a relatively short blade he struggled to wield it effectively in the enclosed space. More than once sparks flew as it clanged off a bulkhead or the casing of the engine itself.
Unfortunately Reyna was well aware that there were few warriors, even amongst the Legion's elite who could match Percy Jackson, even on a bad day. In less than ten seconds Philus' body crumpled, his dagger clattering to the deck, as his decapitated head rolled to a stop at Reyna's feet. Ford, the explosive expert from squad B, stumbled back into Reyna as Thalia kicked him hard. The man was bloodied, slashed in multiple places and wheezing hard. The other two commandos Thalia had taken on were already dead. Reyna knew that even she couldn't take on Percy and Thalia and expect to survive, never mind win. So she and Ford did something Reyna had hoped she would never again be forced to do. They turned and ran, bolting through the engine room and back through the bulkhead door they had first come in by. They dove through the still open hatchway and sprinted for all they were worth toward the stern of the ship. Behind them Reyna could hear them give chase.
They made rapid progress upward. Racing along decks and gangways, up stairwells and through numerous compartments as they ran for all they were worth shoving aside startled and angry mortal sailors some of whom drew firearms but didn't manage to get a shot off in time. Percy and Thalia stayed close behind the whole time, too close. They burst through the final bulkhead and onto the walkway at the stern of the ship. Directly above the flight deck overhung them by a good few meters. Below them the cold, blue-green waters of San Francisco bay. And ahead, three giant eagles each large enough to carry two people. Reyna didn't even slow down as she hauled Ford, now struggling to stay on his feet, toward the nearest eagle. A deafening BANG rang out and the eagle nearest showered them with blood from its ruined eye as it toppled backwards and fell into the bay. Another deafening BANG and the second eagle fell forward, its warning screech cut off, blocking the gangway with its body as it became wedged at an odd angle between the railings. The third eagle fled but it hadn't gone more than 100 yards before there was a third resounding BANG, a flash of crackling blue tracer and the third eagle's left wing separated from its body. The wretched creature and its severed limb spiralled down to a watery grave like the separating parts of a sycamore seed. It was awful to watch.
Well. . .we're through. Reyna smiled to herself grimly as she turned to face the man whom she had once felt such respect and affection for, and the woman who had meant enough to him that he had turned against the world for her. In a messed up way, Reyna could respect that too.
"We almost made it" she remarked in as light a tone as she could manage. "Ten more minutes and we would have been winging our way back to Camp Jupiter and you'd be without a ship." Percy had a strange expression of mixed smugness and sadness on his face but he didn't speak. Reyna got the impression that their explosives wouldn't be going off.
"Your guys didn't have to die Reyna" Thalia said, her gun still drawn but lowered so it no longer pointed between her eyes. "And neither do you. Nor does anyone else for that matter." She took a step forward and Reyna backed up a step but Thalia made no move to strike. She smiled weakly at the action and Reyna could see in her face that she really didn't want to kill her. "You're a smart girl Reyna and you know us. You know what the Gods are capable of and that means, at heart, you know the truth."
"We don't have to be your enemies or enemies of Rome" Percy insisted. At the far end of the catwalk a bulkhead door burst open and twenty marines armed with assault rifles charged out. Percy didn't even break eye contact with Reyna. He simply held up his fist and the soldiers stopped in their tracks. He stepped forward and offered his hand to Reyna, with a hopeful half smile on his face. Reyna looked between him and Thalia, thoughts and memories of the worst moments of her past came, unbidden, to her mind in a golden haze and for the briefest moment she was tempted. Sorely tempted. She physically had to shake her head to clear the gold flecked images from her mind.
"But you are our enemies" Reyna told them. "You have made yourselves the enemies of Rome, Olympus and the entire world with your insanity. You've disrupted the natural order, corrupted the minds of so many children of the Gods and killed too many innocents to be forgiven!" She looked from Percy to Thalia then back again. "And you really have lost your minds if you think that any person who is loyal or good or sane would join you willingly." Percy and Thalia's eyebrows shot up in identical expressions that said, all too clearly, really? Reyna felt her frustration and anger turn to hope as she realised something. If Percy and Thalia were here then that meant they weren't leading the attack on Camp Jupiter. And with both Jason and Hazel in the fight Reyna was sure they could win. But Thalia must have guessed what she was thinking from the change in her expression. A lead weight dropped into Reyna's stomach when she spoke.
"Yeeeaahhh, not really" she said and she looked almost embarrassed. "The only reason we're not there is because if we had been I would have ended it in ten minutes."
"You're exaggerating" chuckled Percy, "it would have taken you at least twelve." Thalia rolled her eyes but grinned over her shoulder at him.
"Fine, but if we both went it'd be over in like five"
Reyna got angry again. They'd already caught her and now they were mocking her too?
"You knew the legion" she barked at Percy causing him and Thalia to stop laughing and turn back to her with looks as though they had forgotten she was standing there. "You know that the twelfth legion would never be defeated by a ragtag group of traitors!" Again their eyebrows shot up in that really expression and they cast their gazes about at the ship around them in a silent "have you seen the size of this thing?" gesture.
"Admittedly well-equipped traitors" she conceded. She looked sadly at Percy with his amused half smile and she was reminded for a moment of the man he had once been. And then of that brief time when she had thought that they might be together. "The legion will be victorious, with or without me" she said. "And the world will be protected from you!"
"Keep telling yourself that" Thalia replied with a sigh. She took a rapid step forward. Reyna went for her dagger. The butt of Thalia's Handgun cracked into the side of her head and everything went black.
Camp Jupiter Proper; Fort Aeternum
Jason felt his hope crumble along with the temple of Pluto as he watched it collapse and the undead pour forth, led by a FUCKING TANK! Jason knew that the defences established on Temple Hill were designed to deal with attacks from without and the small detachment of veteran legionnaires up there certainly weren't equipped to take on a tank. Even with years of experience he doubted even they had faced one of those before. Jason felt a moment of sorrow mixed with self-hatred and guilt. Those veterans had retired from the legion years ago to live their lives. Some of them were middle aged! And he had helped organise and equip them. He had told them that retreat or surrender were not options. And now they were probably going to be slaughtered. If only he had the standard. It could augment his power. One decent lightning strike would fry anything in that oversized sardine tin; maybe even detonate the fuel and ammo. At least then they would have had a fighting chance.
As the thought crossed his mind he turned his eyes back toward the palisade walls of camp Jupiter and watched for the gate to open and the fifth to rush out, or even for a sign of movement.
What the hell are they doing? Jason thought, his anxiety growing. Even if the messenger didn't make it Hazel should have been able to assess the situation clearly enough to realise we need her and the standard!
"PRAETOR!" The panicked scream made Jason spin around so fast he almost fell over.
"Y-yeah?" The Legionnaire who had yelled was staring toward Temple Hill through a pair of binoculars, abject terror stark on his face.
"LOOK!" He threw the binoculars at Jason and pointed at the Hill before diving for the ladder. Jason raised the binoculars just in time to see the Tiger stop moving and its turret stop rotating, the long barrel of its gun now trained in his direction.
"OH FUCK! GET DOWN!" he roared, diving flat to the boards and covering his head. A booming report echoed throughout the valley. There was the brief whistle of a flying shell and then the one remaining ballista and a good chunk of the top of the fortress wall were obliterated. A shower of stone shards, wooden splinters and bits of legionnaire rained around Jason and a section of the fort partially collapsed.
Jason scrambled on his hands and knees for the ladder. A second boom and another segment of the ramparts crumbled, more stone and wood tumbling into the courtyard below. Three more booms, three more segments of collapsed wall and shredded defences and the shelling stopped. Jason, still atop the wall but huddled into a corner, breathing hard and thanking the gods he was still alive, took up the binoculars and peeked over the wall at Temple Hill. Smoke coiled from the end of the Tiger's barrel and the hatch on the commander's turret cupola was opening. From inside a slender female with pure white hair and a black peaked cap and uniform emerged. She began to observe the field and the fort through her own field glasses.
I have to try Jason thought; this might be the only chance I get. He began to gather his concentration and prepared to unleash the largest bolt of lightning he could muster. Then she saw him. Her mouth opened wide and yelled something but Jason was already diving to the side. The section of wall he had been crouched behind crumbled as another HE shell struck. Stone tumbled down a Jason heard a cry of pain as it crashed down onto someone below.
"GODS DAMN IT!" Jason roared in frustration.
Isn't there anything we can do? He thought desperately. We're pinned down and all of our weapons are both out of range and next to useless anyway. This is like trying to fight a Hydra with a wooden sword! A roared war cry and commotion came from outside the fort.
"WHAT NOW!?" Jason yelled, struggling to his feet. Cheers of relief went up from the loyalists both inside and outside the fort. Jason pressed his eye to a crack in the wall. Out across the field of Mars the gates of Camp Jupiter were opening. The 5th cohort charged out, the standard held high. Jason felt his hopes rise. Reinforcements were finally coming! The rebels, caught completely by surprise didn't even attempt to intercept them with long range rifle fire. They just watched. Not even the Tiger, whose gun could have blasted the cohort to smithereens in a single shot, turned to target them.
If they can hit the Rebels and keep the fort between them and that tank Jason thought, We can route them easily and send them scurrying back to Percy! He joined his warriors in their cheering as the 5th drew nearer and nearer. A few of the rebels were reacting now, turning to reform their formation still facing us? Jason thought confusedly. Were they idiots or what?
Then the cheering stopped. Jason's hopes plummeted as the first arrows arced out of the 5th cohort's rear ranks and struck down . . . on the Amazon's left flank! The 5th cohort didn't have archers. The 5th cohort also wasn't that big. With hands trembling with horror and rage Jason raised the binoculars to his face once again. The purple standards and reddish brown armour of the legion was definitely present but amongst them, in fact outnumbering them, were warriors clad in armour of midnight black, with gold accents. No member of the legion wore armour like that. The traitors of the fifth and their apparent new allies drew to a halt, sealing off the Legion/Amazon force's left flank. They only had one path of retreat open to them now; back toward New Rome and the city boundaries and Jason knew perfectly well that even in this dire situation Terminus wouldn't let a single armed warrior cross the city boundaries. They stopped firing and Jason wondered briefly if they were out of ammo or simply conserving it. As they spread out across the field Jason noticed something else about the 5th. Hazel was nowhere to be seen.
Another shell detonation blew a new hole in the fortress wall. This time at ground level.
"Seal that breach!" Jason bellowed at the legionnaires below. As they rushed about piling up the rubble to form as much of a barricade as they could Jason watched two figures detach from the fifth and move toward the rebel bivouac watched closely by legion eyes but not intercepted for fear of retaliation. Fifteen minutes passed before the figure in legion armour re-emerged, this time without his helmet and Jason could now see that it was Dakota. Jason felt disgust curl his lip, agreeing silently with the boos, hisses and shouts of 'traitor' that followed him all the way to the fortress gate.
"JASON!" He considered ignoring Dakota's call for a moment. Then he moved over to the parapet above the gate to look down on the traitor.
"What do you want Dakota?" he demanded, not bothering to hide his loathing.
"I've come to make you an offer" Dakota replied, hands held above his head to ward off the unpleasant things that were being dropped on or thrown at him by the Legionnaires. "It's one time only" he insisted, "you're really gonna want to listen to me!"
"Go on then" Jason ordered.
"Not from out here!" Dakota yelled, glancing back the way he had come.
Jason considered for a moment.
"Fine" he barked, "bring him in!" The fortress gate was cracked just wide enough for Dakota to be roughly yanked inside before it was slammed shut again. By the time Jason had descended from the parapet Dakota was waiting for him in the fort's central courtyard, swords, spear tips and eyes filled with hatred and betrayal, all trained on him.
"Okay now you're here tell me what it is that you want traitor and why didn't they send Hazel?"
Dakota took a final backward glance over his shoulder, as though to check that he wasn't followed. Then a little of the tension left his shoulders and he began speaking, rapidly and quietly.
"I don't have much time Jason. They think I'm here to demand your surrender now that you're surrounded and outgunned."
"You're not?" Jason asked, unable to conceal his surprise.
"NO!" Dakota said emphatically before controlling himself and lowering his voice again as though the rebels would hear him. "Listen, I had to play along. I knew it was the only way I'd live long enough to talk to you! They already killed every member of the fifth who refused to side with them!"
"Who?" Jason demanded.
"Raleigh's Raiders they call themselves" Dakota said. "They're some kind of special unit led directly by one of Jackson's generals." He glanced around frantically again. It was like he could hear something none of them could.
"Listen you HAVE to get out of here. You need to flee for your life, fly to New York and warn the Greeks!"
"I'm not going anywhere whilst New Rome still stands" Jason told him. He would not abandon his home, his family, or his hope just yet. "Wait" he said as he processed more of what Dakota had said, "they killed everyone who didn't side with them? Where's Hazel?" Dakota's face suddenly became a mask.
"Nevermind that. You need to get out of here. If we lose you too we're all done for!" Jason didn't miss the way Dakota said 'you too' but he needed to hear him say the words.
"Dakota" he insisted, grabbing his comrade's shoulder and forcing him to look him in the eye, " .HAZEL?"
"She's. . . gone."
Jason let his hand drop, "No."
"Yes" Dakota insisted, "Don't you see? You need to leave now! You can't let them take you. They already got Reyna and if they get you too we're all FUCKED! PLEASE JASON!"
Jason hadn't thought his stomach had any farther to fall but he would have sworn at that moment that it dusted itself like Thanos had snapped.
"What do you mean, they already got Reyna?" he asked, slowly. Dakota looked at his praetor as though he may cry. Then he took a step back and produced a small bronze egg from inside the pocket of his purple hoodie.
"Just remember, I only came here to ask for your surrender" he pleaded. Then he gave the egg a twist and placed it on the ground between them. It popped open and Dakota mumbled the familiar incantation before tossing the coin into the newly formed mist cloud and falling utterly silent.
The image that took form before him set Jason's heart pounding, his stomach churning in horror. Percy and Thalia stood on what must have been the carrier's flight deck, with their tongues down each other's throats! Bound and kneeling before them, battered bloodied and barely conscious were two figures. One Jason recognised as the commando leader Ford, the other had a face obscured by lank, blood soaked dark hair.
"My gods" Jason breathed, "REYNA!" At the shout Percy and Thalia broke apart looking mildly embarrassed.
"Jeez Jason" Thalia said, sounding for all the world as though he had done nothing more than wandered into her bedroom.
"We weren't expecting to hear from you so soon" Percy continued. "Raleigh must have done his job better than we expected."
"You bastard" Jason shouted, incensed at Percy's mockery. "Let her go right now!"
"Who? Reyna, or Thalia?" Percy laughed and slapped Thalia lightly on the backside. She bit her lip coquettishly and Jason had to fight desperately not to scream in pure rage.
"You know exactly what I mean you son of a bitch! Release Reyna and Ford right now!"
Percy looked to consider for a moment.
"Mmmm okay" he said, "Wait, no. Well maybe. It depends on if you lay down your weapons and surrender New Rome and the entire valley to use with no more resistance."
"You have become a real sick twisted fuck you know that?" Jason asked in disgust. "First that whole display with Nico on Circe's island, then the assassination of the president? Yeah I know that was you're doing! And Now Reyna and Hazel? What is wrong with you?"
"Okay 1st. . . the president wasn't killed, just left in a medically induced coma like the one Zeus left my mother in. 2nd. . .that was Blitz and Kurosawa's idea, not mine and 3rd. . ." his face turned from joking to serious "Hazel is dead?"
"Yeah along with Half of the 5th cohort you fucking monster" Jason growled.
Percy just rolled his eyes and Thalia briefly covered her own with a hand in frustration.
"I swear I'm going to slice that idiot Raliegh's nuts off one of these days" she sighed. "Preferably before he has any equally brain-dead children."
"Do you even hear yourself Thalia?" Jason demanded. "You sound as mental as he does!"
She uncovered her eyes and frowned at him. "Anyway" she said, her tone neutral, "back to business."
"Let's avoid any more needless death" Percy remarked. "We have control of temple Hill and you are all but cut off. Tell the Amazons to stand down, and order the Rest of the Legion and New Rome to surrender. Then we can take control without any more bloodshed and move on. You aren't our main target anyway. You're just in the way" He moved to stand behind Reyna.
"It's Olympus we want" Thalia continued. She looked down at the pathetic figure at her feet. "Reyna took quite a beating on your behalf you know and I think she's had enough, surrender and you can have her back. In fact you can have both of them." She gestured at Ford.
"Unfortunately there isn't much left of the others for you to have back" Percy added.
"You bastard! I will kill you for this" Jason promised. "I don't care what Annabeth says. She might think you can be saved but you lost any hope of redemption the day you lured us to that island. We're not surrendering, not me, not the Legion, not New Rome. But we're coming for you Percy and when I find you I'm going to cut your head off and bring it to my father as a gift!"
Percy wasn't smiling any more, "Wrong answer dipshit." He grabbed a handful of Reyna's long hair and yanked it back viciously so that she was looking into the mist. Blood ran from beneath her hairline and the corner of her mouth. There were several scrapes, at least one knife slash across her face and bruises were forming in places. Her armour was gone and her clothes were tattered and torn . . . some places more than others. She gasped in pain as Percy yanked her head back. Even through the mist Jason could see that she was shaking and terrified. What in Tartarus had Percy and Thalia already done to her? Thalia shot Ford in the back of the head, his face disintegrating in a paste of bones and gore as he fell forward. She nudged his corpse aside gingerly with one foot until it toppled out of sight and splashed somewhere out of view. She must have rolled him into the bay.
"Go on Reyna" Percy hissed, and the once proud Praetor flinched as though he had just struck her. "Go on or are you still 'stronger than I give you credit for'?" he asked obviously recounting words she had uttered under whatever torture they had subjected her to. "Go on beg for him to save your life!" he ordered yanking on her hair again and she let out an agonised shriek. When she met Jason's eyes through the mist they were terrified, but defiance still remained. "Jason" she gasped, "Please. Don't give them-Ga uugh" she cut off gasping and coughing flecks of blood when Percy kicked her hard in the side. Jason lurched forward out of reflex but couldn't do a thing to stop it as Thalia stood behind her too. Crouching down she clamped a sharp, black nailed hand around the back of Reyna's neck.
"Let's try that again" she said. Jason couldn't see what she did but Reyna's entire body went rigid and she screamed in absolute agony. For fifteen seconds she screamed and for fifteen seconds Jason watched in horror.
When Thalia finally released her and the disturbing look of sadistic enjoyment faded from her face, Reyna was crying. "No more, please" the sound of her broken pleading nearly finished Jason, "no more."
"Then be a good little bitch and do as you're told" Percy ordered, "It's the one thing you dogs of Olympus seem to be good at!" Jason thought he might be sick. When Reyna looked at him again her expression was full of fear and self-loathing.
"Jason . . . please. Help me."
"Good girl" Percy said finally letting go of her hair and leaving her to weep. Both he and Thalia turned back to the mist window, which was finally beginning to dissolve. "Two hours to change your mind Jason" Percy said.
"Then we come for all of you" promised Thalia.
Far Side of the Little Tiber; Caldecott Tunnel entrance
Hazel watched. She watched as the cohort she had sold out marched against the Legion, against the family, she had betrayed. As The pinky nail sized figure of Dakota disappeared through the fort's gate Hazel turned, hoisted her backpack and began to walk again, back toward the small door in the hillside that led into the Caldecott tunnel service passageway. She needed to get away from camp Jupiter. She didn't care where but somewhere. Far enough away that the friends she had just potentially doomed to defeat would not bother wasting the effort to come after her.
And just what then? She wondered to herself as the metal door swung open to admit her into the eerie silence of the tunnel and the comforting embrace of the earth. Maybe I should run back to Alaska again, or maybe even the underworld? She briefly wondered if she should make her own way to the pit of Tartarus and throw herself into it. She would deserve it after what she had done.