Howdy, my friends, I'm back with a new chapter! It's been a wild time since Christmas, not gonna lie, but I'm surviving, and this story is progressing! Thank you all for your kind and encouraging words. You really are what keeps me writing, so you have my sincerest thanks.
Just a note about this chapter, aliases start popping up a lot, so if you're confused, just see the A/N at the end of the chapter. But of course, if you've still got questions/comments/concerns, please feel free to leave a review and let me know what you think! Hope you guys enjoy!
That crooked grin that he tossed back at her was unmistakable. It was still Percy in there. He had only matured a couple thousand years. As wild - and frankly ridiculous - as the whole situation was, Bianca was actually quite relieved. Her friend was not gone for good. With a happy smile stretching across her face, Bianca turned to address her father, "Father, may I ask why you and Nico brought Lord Perseus here?"
Percy threw her a half-hearted glare and coughed pointedly, "It's just Percy, and funnily enough, I would like to know the same thing." Bianca rolled her eyes at Percy as the two turned to look at Hades and Nico expectantly.
Hades' expression immediately hardened, "We have a mission for you."
"The gods suck," Nico grouched under his breath as he and Perseus were herded at spear point by several Empousai through downtown Baltimore. Perseus caught Nico's jab at him and nearly burst out laughing. He supposed he deserved that one. It was his fault they were in this situation, after all.
One of the Empousai guarding Nico none-too-gently jabbed a spear into the demigod's side and hissed, "While I agree with you there, shut your trap. Don't forget, you're currently a prisoner of Kronos' army. The fact you gave yourselves up doesn't matter one bit."
Nico rolled his eyes but kept his mouth shut, choosing instead to glare daggers into the back of Perseus' head. They continued trudging along the Inner Harbor, being blissfully ignored by the many mortals milling around them, until they came to a stop in front of a very large and very expensive-looking yacht. Perseus' eyebrows rose, but he wisely didn't say anything. It seemed Kronos' army liked to do evil in luxury.
Once they were in earshot of the boat, their monstrous chaperones banged their weapons together raucously, and a moment later, the gangplank lowered to let them on board. There, they were met with an alarming sight. Luke Castellan, Silena Beauregard, and Ethan Nakamura stood in an intimidating line, blocking the group's progress into the main cabin.
Seeing the familiar faces of their fellow Campers, both Perseus' and Nico's eyes widened infinitesimally, but neither said a thing. Internally, Perseus cursed. This just confirmed their suspicions that many half bloods had already turned on the gods and that Kronos' army was gathering intel on Camp at every moment.
Noticing the newcomers, Luke smirked and gestured widely with his arms, "Ah, new recruits! Welcome! What brings you to our humble abode?"
Perseus swallowed a harsh comeback and plastered on a grin, "Hello, the name's Percival Quacey. This is my young friend Nico di Angelo." Percy stuck out a hand, "We were wondering if we could seek asylum here from the gods"
Hearing this, Luke lifted an eyebrow, "Oh? This is new. Do you mind telling us a little more? Standard precaution, you see."
Perseus - technically Percival - stared back at Luke seriously, "Of course. You see, Nico is a son of Lord Hades, and—"
"Ooh, this will be good," Luke chuckled darkly, "Sorry, please continue."
"Yes, well, Nico was just recently claimed, and the King of the Gods found out. He's been out for the kid's blood ever since," Perseus lied smoothly, "I ran into him being chased by a rampaging bull out by campus and managed to get Animal Control on the line just in time."
"Damn, I'm sorry kid," Luke winced in sympathy before his eyes hardened with hatred, "See, it's Olympian bullshit like this that drove us to the Titans. If you look around, every half-blood, Titan, monster, and god here has been wronged by the Olympians, too many times to count. It's sad. It's really sad." Luke shook himself from his stream of consciousness and lifted his chin toward Perseus, his face a mask of suspicion. "Right, and who are you? You're not a demigod, that's for sure. I've never seen you at Camp, and you're too old to have survived on your own without proper training."
Perseus grinned sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck, "You caught me. I'm nobody really. Just your everyday clear-sighted mortal. I'm a PhD student at NYU, if you count that as something interesting." He pulled out his counterfeit student ID and gave it to Luke with a shrug.
Luke skimmed over it and seemed to relax slightly, now that he had confirmed the stranger's identity. "Well then," he said, handing the card back, "Nice to meet you, Percival and Nico. We will be more than happy to harbor Nico - and you if you need it. You'll both be very useful for the cause, so we can all benefit in the end." Luke shook their hands firmly before gesturing to his fellow demigods. "Alright! So I think a few introductions are in order." Nico looked warily at the other two demigods who had been observing their exchange quietly up until now.
"Hey, no need to be shy. Silena and I don't bite!" Luke laughed before pointing back at Ethan, "Him, though, I wouldn't be so sure." He winked at the surly son of Nemesis, who scowled back in return. "Ouch, tough crowd. Anyway, it looks like Nico's a new Camper, so in case you guys haven't met before, the tough guy right there is Ethan Nakamura, son of Nemesis, and the lovely lady is Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite."
Ethan nodded curtly at Nico then at "Percival," while Silena smiled brightly and waved at them. "I think I've seen Nico around Camp, but I never got the chance to introduce myself," she said, "It's very nice to meet you both."
Percy smiled, though it came out looking rather strained, "Likewise." The daughter of Aphrodite - his niece; thinking about that never got less weird - picked up on his tension immediately and frowned slightly. Before she could say anything, however, a man with horns and kelp green hair walked out of the main cabin and barked at them, "Hurry it up, pipsqueaks. We haven't got all day!"
Percy's eyes widened with recognition. It was Oceanus. If even the most historically neutral Titan had picked a side in the coming war, things were definitely not looking bright for the gods.
Luke rolled his eyes, "Aye-aye captain."
The Titan of the Great Sea scowled, "It's Lord Oceanus to you."
Luke bowed somewhat mockingly before gesturing for the other demigods to follow him. They emerged in a luxurious common area that was brimming with activity. Demigods, monsters, Titans, and gods milled around a central table spread with a world map, arguing and even physically fighting with each other.
With just a cursory glance, Percy could already recognize Hyperion, Prometheus, Hecate, Nemesis, Chris Rodriguez, and another Camper he recognized but had never talked to. There was no telling how many other Campers there were, as it seemed this ship only contained the head honchos of each group.
"So here's how this is gonna work," Luke explained as they walked, "Nico, I'll need you to head to the Underworld and try to seek shelter with your father. If he refuses, come straight back here, but if he accepts, you'll be our eyes and ears in the Underworld." Nico nodded. Turning to Percy, Luke continued, "Percival, I know you must be super busy with school and stuff. Props to you, man. But in your downtime, you'll be in charge of looking for other clear-sighted mortals who might be interested in joining our cause. We need intel on the mortal world too, and you guys are the best for the job."
"Yeah, will do," Perseus nodded, "Thanks, man."
"Ooh, what do you study, Percival?" Silena asked with interest.
"My program is called Atmosphere and Ocean Science and Mathematics," he smiled, "I'm specifically focusing on oceanography for my dissertation though."
"Wow, that's incredible!" Silena said, "You know, I know a son of Poseidon at Camp, and I think if he were a mortal, he'd be a lot like you."
Perseus' chuckled at the irony and said with a smile, "Well that's great! Sad to know I'll be fighting against him now." At that realization, a pained look flashed across Silena's face. She quickly recovered her neutral expression, but she looked away in guilt. Perseus observed her thoughtfully. Perhaps there was still hope for her.
He didn't have time to ponder more because, at that moment, several things happened at once. Luke was about to introduce him and Nico to Hyperion, when an incredibly intense flash from outside lit up the cabin, and a loud crash of thunder shook the entire frame of the ship. Perseus looked around, immediately on guard. He stood protectively in front of Nico, though internally, he smirked proudly.
"Zeus," Luke snarled under his breath, pulling out his sword, "Everyone, prepare to defend the ship! He must be after Nico. Get him to shore. He'll be stronger there, but be careful! We don't know where or when the lightning might hit next." The demigods saluted and hurried to follow his orders. Luke then turned to Perseus, "Percival, we'll take care of Nico from here. You won't be much help to us in battle, so we need to get you out. Don't forget your mission. We'll be checking in."
Perseus nodded the affirmative before Luke nudged him toward Hecate, who laid a hand on his shoulder and teleported them away. Perseus barely had time to close his eyes as the goddess unleashed her true form. When he opened them again, he saw that Hecate had teleported him to the middle of the NYU campus. He turned to thank the goddess, but she was gone before he could open his mouth. Heading back to his current make-shift residence, Perseus thought back to what had happened and grinned. He was accosted by Bianca as soon as he walked through his front door. She asked him frantically, "How'd it go?"
Perseus grinned, "Worked like a charm. They totally bought it. Guess I owe Thalia one now."
Despite his words, the worry never left Bianca's face, "You think Nico will be alright?"
"I know Nico will be alright," Perseus smiled reassuringly, "Now I think it's time for you to go home. They'll be coming to keep an eye on me soon enough."
Bianca nodded, but she couldn't quite keep the look of worry off her face. Abruptly, she threw her arms around the disguised god. "Please keep my brother safe," she whispered.
"I won't let anything happen to him," Perseus promised solemnly. Bianca gave him a meaningful look, holding him to his promise, before she grabbed her backpack and left the apartment.
Perseus sighed in aggravation, rubbing his tired eyes furiously as he looked up from his reading. It had been a month since he had started his mission for the Titan army, and he was no closer to being done than he was when he first started. The only clear sighted mortals he had managed to find on campus were an elderly-bordering-on-ancient Classics professor who could barely walk and a medical student so swamped with work he could barely function, without downing a gallon of coffee a day.
One would think that a university with a total enrollment of over 50,000 would have more than two clear-sighted mortals. But alas, it was not so. To make matters worse, one look at the two he had found told him that they sure as heck were in no condition to aid in any war efforts.
Looking back at his article on the effect of water temperature on crustaceans, Perseus had the inexplicable urge to smash his head into the table. Before he could follow through with the melodrama, however, a shadow fell over him. Looking up, Perseus saw a girl around his pretend age holding a book and looking at him pointedly. Her sharp brown eyes seemed to bore holes into him, and Perseus smiled nervously back, trying to gather his thoughts.
There was something incredibly familiar about her presence, even though he was pretty sure he had never met anyone who looked like her before. As soon as she moved around to the empty seat across from him, he knew exactly who she was. There was only one person who moved with such effortless grace and purpose.
His heart leapt into his throat and tried to do a fifty-meter dash as the girl asked, "May I sit here?"
Perseus cleared his throat and said, "Of course." He quickly returned to his reading, trying to resist the urge to look up at his neighbor every two seconds.
The two read in silence - or at least tried to - for about a half hour before it became too much for Perseus, and he asked, "What are you reading?"
The girl looked up from her book, lifting an eyebrow in amusement. Whatever small doubt Perseus had to her identity evaporated. He knew that expression like the back of his hand. "A book," she said with a familiar smirk, returning to her page.
Perseus snorted, "Right, I should have known."
"Fundamentals of Ecology," she elaborated.
"Truly riveting," Perseus said dryly.
The way her brow furrowed slightly further confirmed her identity. "Much better than," she peered at the title of his paper, "The Effects of Temperature and Acclimation on Crustacean Nerve-Muscle Physiology."
"Touché," Perseus shrugged, "So, Biology or Environmental Science?"
"Environmental Science," a familiar grin, "So, Biology or Marine Sciences?"
Perseus barked out a laugh, "You got me. Marine Sciences. Future oceanographer Percival Quacey, at your service milady." He bowed lavishly in his seat and stretched out a hand across the table.
"Cynthia Treu," Artemis laughed, shaking his hand firmly, not missing a beat, "So, Percival, care to discuss our research over coffee instead of boring old readings?"
"Would I ever!"
At a table at the campus Starbucks, the disguised duo slowly sipped their coffees and made small talk. "So, Cynthia, why did you decide to come to NYU?"
"Well, they have such an amazing program, and well, to be honest, I came because an old family friend of mine recently moved here, and I was going to help keep an eye on him. He tends to get in trouble a lot, you see."
Perseus raised an eyebrow curiously, "Oh? Anyone I'd know?"
Artemis shook her head, "No, unlikely. He's a high schooler right now. Bit of a delinquent to be honest, but he's a good kid. Just attracts trouble like a magnet. I'm surprised he even made it through middle school while I was away for college."
Perseus smirked, knowing Artemis was drawing a lot on her knowledge of his past as Percy Jackson. Her incredibly detailed cover story revealed very crucial bits of information though. She was there to keep an eye on him and protect him. Perseus had to restrain himself from both grinning sappily and groaning in frustration. He supposed he was somewhat defenseless. He couldn't afford to use his powers and risk blowing his cover to the Titans and the gods.
Ok, so he saw the logic in Artemis being there. But that didn't mean he was happy she was endangering herself for him. Glancing at her curiously, Perseus asked, "If you don't mind me asking, why are you specifically the one in charge of watching him?"
"Well, his dad left long ago, and his mom has been struggling to make ends meet," Artemis said sadly, "Since we're old family friends, I felt it was right to help in any way I could. Out of my family, I'm the only one with enough flexibility in my lifestyle for the job."
Perseus looked at her with a twinkle in his eye, "That's very selfless of you. He must appreciate you a lot."
Artemis laughed, her cheeks reddening slightly, "Oh, it's really my pleasure. NYU was my first choice school anyway, so it's not like I'm making any big sacrifices or anything."
"Still, that's not an easy thing to do," Perseus shook his head, "Really, props to you."
"Oh, well thank you," Artemis smiled widely, "So, what about you? Why did you decide to come here?"
Perseus shrugged, "I'm just here for the program and the big city life I guess, and to meet different people. I'm from New York actually, but I went to a very small liberal arts college in a small city, and I really didn't like it. It's pretty good to be home."
"Oh, that's awesome," Artemis grinned, "Have you met any interesting new people on campus yet?"
Perseus shrugged with a sheepish grin, "I haven't had much time to socialize, to be honest. My research has been keeping me pretty busy, but I did meet a Classics professor and a medical student during orientation who really stood out to me. Sadly, I don't think I'll be interacting with them much. Our schedules and interests just don't really line up, you know?"
"Aw, that's a shame," Artemis frowned sympathetically.
"Eh, it's ok!" Perseus laughed, "I think I met another really interesting girl today though." He winked at Artemis.
Artemis snorted, "Oh yeah? Do tell."
"You see," Perseus started, stroking his chin with ridiculous exaggeration, "She's an Environmental Studies PhD student, and she reads these really boring books."
Artemis laughed aloud. Perseus looked at her pointedly, "Right? And she had the audacity to sit at my table and read them!"
"Oh, the horror," Artemis rolled her eyes, sarcasm dripping from every syllable.
"I really couldn't believe something like that was happening to me," Perseus shook his head with self pity, "It completely ruined my enjoyment of my own reading."
"Right, because your article about crabs or something is so much more interesting than my ecology book," Artemis snorted.
"Yes! Exactly! At last, you see the truth."
Artemis lifted an eyebrow in amusement and finished the last dregs of her coffee before replying snidely, "You're delusional."
Perseus grinned roguishly, but his eyes shone with sincerity as he said, "Gods, I'm so glad I met you." Artemis' eyes widened slightly in mild surprise before her expression softened, and she smiled back meaningfully. Oftentimes, what is left unsaid holds the greatest meaning of all.
There you have it, folks! It's spy time. I feel like the whole undercover spy genre is a bit of a trope at this point, but I couldn't help myself. It was just too fun to write. Also, I needed an excuse to get Perseus and Artemis working together directly again to address the main conflict. It felt like they were sorta stagnating the last chapter or two, so I thought it was time to get things rolling again.
About the aliases, Perseus is using Percival Quacey again, his usual mortal identity. Percival b/c it sounds like Perseus and Quacey b/c it means "of the moonlight" as a tribute to Artemis. Artemis is Cynthia Treu. Cynthia was another name for Artemis in Greek myth, referring to her birth on Mount Cynthus, and Treu means "loyal" in German, a nod to Perseus.
Thanks for reading! Until next time!