AN: This story is a bit of a take on part of the next book in the Heroes of Olympus series. It was meant to be a one-shot, but kind of got away from me, so it's looking like several chapters instead.
Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson. This is just for fun.
Leo hated deadlines.
He hated rush jobs too, and building a flying boat in six months, when it would have been difficult to build it the right way in a year was the ultimate in rush jobs. Every day for the past six months he had done nothing but eat, breathe and sleep construction on a deadline.
Nothing worth doing deserves rushing, mijo. It must be done in its own time.
He guiltily brushed his mother's words aside and tried to work harder and faster. The ultimate rush job was their only option because they were up against the ultimate deadline. Special emphasis on dead. Their lives and the lives of everyone else in Western civilization depended on this boat being fully operational in a few days. Of course, it also depended on the good will of the gods, and the ability of seven still unknown demigods - of which he was included - being able to defeat an army of ancient giants in some way they had yet to determine.
Leo's stomach lurched at the thought as he glanced around at the still unfinished ship.
He really hated deadlines.
It was impressive how Cabin Nine had pulled together and thrown themselves into this project. The idea of leaving their terrible curse behind had appealed to all of his siblings, and they attacked it with one single enthusiastic mind. The kids who usually left for their own homes during the rest of the year stayed behind, and a couple of others who hadn't been there for the winter break showed up. They had gathered up their supplies from their cabin and their forge and pretty much made Bunker Nine their home.
Day and night, you could hear tools clanging and the fires roaring as the children of Hephaestus only took breaks to eat or sleep, and then usually at the insistence of Chiron or someone else. Leo could count on one hand the number of times two of his siblings had been out of the bunker at the same time. For them it had been like heaven. They had a near impossible project to build, no real rules about how to do it, and nothing to distract them from it. Stressful, frustrating heaven, sure, but heaven still the same.
They had just managed to get it done. The Argo II worked, but that was about it. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't yet fully functional, but it could fly, and so they had started on their journey to find the Roman camp. The thought was they could finish it on the way there and later, on the way to Greece, so that it would be complete when they made their offer to the gods. The hope was that the children of Vulcan would be able to help with the finishing touches as well.
Underneath the grease and oil that covered his face, Leo snorted. That had been the hope, anyway. It wasn't quite the way things worked out.
The wires he was working with were frayed and kept tangling, even as he tried his best to keep them in order. The trip to the Roman camp hadn't been easy, and parts of the ship had taken damage. This part of the Argo II had borne the brunt of a run in with some particularly mischievous sylphs who had stalled them over St. Paul. The wiring system had fallen apart as a result, and he needed to repair it so that he could finish installing the rest of the weapons systems that protected this part of the bow. But it wasn't working because the wires were frayed and they twisted like snakes in his hand and he had been working on this for fourteen hours now and it still wasn't done, and they had three more days' worth of work before they could even consider the ship in the same condition it left camp in, which wasn't good enough because they still had to finish certain modifications before they could start for Greece, and-
The wires tangled again. He conjured a fireball in his palm and hurled it into a nearby piece of scrap metal. It hit with a satisfying clang that echoed throughout the old building and faded, leaving a dent and a scorch mark in its place. Feeling a bit better, he left the wires for a moment and stretched his arms over his head.
Raccoon eyes under blonde curls watched him for a moment over the screen of a laptop then flicked back down to focus on whatever had held their attention before. The sound of absent-minded typing filled the silence. Leo settled back in to finish his repair job and allowed himself a wry smile. As annoying as he tried to be, that was the biggest reaction he had gotten out of Annabeth all day.
He had thought that knowing where her boyfriend was would maybe chill Annabeth out, but he had been completely wrong. If anything, it had had the opposite effect. Leo still got uneasy remembering how she had dealt with a snake woman she called an empousa who had gotten in the way of a delivery of supplies for the Argo II, and he hadn't been completely comfortable being alone with her without something hammerlike within easy reach since. Finding and reaching the Roman camp became her one objective, and she had very little patience for anyone who slowed them down, which wasn't good news for him: the chief builder and designer of the ship that would get them there.
She had shown up a few days into their building, and by then he probably should have expected how she insinuated herself into their process. She threw herself into their work with a manic determination. She inspected all the blueprints for design flaws, and she double checked all their numbers and calculations. She helped brainstorm ways to include their new features, and she added a few herself.
This was supposed to be a children-of-Hephaestus-project, but Leo went ahead and let her join in because Athena was the goddess of invention, and he was pretty sure no one had ever built anything like the Argo II before. Besides, she proved full of invaluable information as she had been on more quests than anyone and so could think of problems they might face so far-fetched that no one else had even considered them. And, alright, he vividly remembered what had happened to the last (snake) person who crossed her, and it scared him a bit to think that he could be next.
He only put his foot down when she had started to help build. Athena kids were better at the intellectual side of mechanics, anyone knew that, so when she started running wires and tightening screws all over his ship, Leo was more than a little concerned. They couldn't afford any setbacks and time was tight enough.
"You said this morning that you needed someone to finish this side of the ship, and everyone else is busy with something else" Annabeth said when he brought the subject up. She looked down at him from the harness she was swinging from. "I can handle a power tool, Leo."
Leo decided to tread carefully. "I didn't say that," he said. Instead, he implied it. "But we're under a lot of pressure, and everything, even the little stuff, needs to work, so why don't…"
Annabeth shifted the power tool in her hand. He was pretty sure she didn't mean to aim it at him. "You know," she stated off-handedly, "I was the one who reactivated Festus when we found his body."
He winced, and not just because she had dredged up the topic of his former dragon. "That…doesn't exactly prove your point. His neurocircuits were a mess and, man, I still don't know everything you did to that control disc but you really shouldn't have done it. And-"
She interrupted. "I should say," she said flatly, "I reactivated Festus, in the middle of a battle, with us about to be attacked, and with someone's life on the line." She frowned at the memory. "Beckendorf's life, actually. I successfully restarted the dragon – reattached its head - and made sure it attacked the enemy and not us so that we could save him." Her voice got a little softer, and the frown on her face faded slightly. "Because if anyone was going to reattach his head, it would be me."
Then she swung around and went back to riveting the side of the ship, with maybe a bit more force than necessary. Leo watched her for a moment, then turned and walked away and let her continue. He could see she knew what she was doing there, and if Annabeth could get that done, it would be one less thing for him to worry about later. And, he thought, if she could restart his dragon the first time around, he could certainly trust her to help make Festus' newest incarnation come to life as well.
So Annabeth worked with them, inevitably being called away for camp business by her brother Malcolm, who Leo figured was her Athena deputy, but usually returning within a day or so. Others popped in from time to time to contribute as well - the Hecate cabin to calibrate the magical systems, a few from the Apollo cabin to improve navigation, among others - but none actually moved in the way Annabeth had. And it was because of her as much as anyone that they had gotten as much done as they did.
Finally-finally- the repair job was finished. Leo wiped his forehead, smearing around the grease there. He moved away from the ship and started searching for where he had left his wrench. The walls creaked and moaned around him as they were hit by a hard gust of wind. The building they were in was old. It was the only one the Romans claimed they could spare. It seemed sturdy enough, or there was no way Leo was keeping his ship there, but it was definitely a fixer-upper and was prone to leaking when it rained.
And did it rain here. And snowed. And hailed and sleeted and blew and stormed. But not every day, no, some days the sun just beat down on them and baked them like they were in a desert. The Roman camp appeared to have control over the weather at their location just like Camp Half-Blood did, the difference was that they used it to create nasty weather instead of deflect it. Anything to make their kids just that much tougher.
He found his wrench, climbed up the front of the ship, and set to work adding the new Greek fire cannon to the stern. Behind where he was anchoring the cannon, there was a pit meant to contain a whole set of horrible things for them to drop on enemies. For now it was empty, just one more thing on his to-do list. There was also a similar set up in the back of the boat that was to be rigged up with a giant net, something crucial to Annabeth's plan to protect the Parthenon, but they couldn't do anymore with that until she provided some more numbers on air resistance and perimeter length so they could set it up the right way.
Leo paused and listened in her general direction. Judging from the sound of her typing, that wouldn't be happening today. He bit back a groan and went back to work.
Finding the Roman camp hadn't been extremely hard with Jason's newly remembered directions to guide them, and they had soon found themselves fording through the camp's defenses and landing –literally – on their front doorstep. The other camp hadn't shown surprise at an army of Greek demigods suddenly appearing fully trained and equipped for war. In fact, the Romans had guessed they would come, expected them, even. A few snidely implied that they were late.
It turned out that the presence of Greek demigods had been revealed to them shortly after Percy Jackson arrived in their camp. However, they didn't immediately try to make contact with them, or build an ark to seek out an alliance, or really change much of their schedule beyond setting up a look out or two. It only made sense, they explained to the tired and stressed and bedraggled crew of the Argo II, for the Greeks to come to them.
Thinking of the Romans left a bad taste in his mouth. He gathered up some saliva, turned and spat over his arm, and watched it fall a long way to the ground. From his high position, Leo could look out over the entire impromptu workshop. Various stations sat abandoned at the moment with their half completed projects strewn around. Today it was just him and Annabeth. Everyone else must have been at another summit. Again.
It wasn't that the Romans hadn't busy the past six months. A short tour/showoff of the camp proved that. One look inside the workshop of the children of Vulcan (their very nice, not at all ramshackle, workshop) showed Leo several new war machines that his cabin hadn't thought of and, he had to admit, would come in handy. From what he had gotten to know of the members of Cabin Nine, the Vulcan kids weren't much different. They had a few conversations about equipment, building, gears and tools – basic small talk stuff - and it had gone pretty well. Definitely better than he had been expecting. Just as he was thinking that this hadn't gone so bad and they would be able to easily work together after all, they had the first of many summit meetings.
There was a round stone area situated near the center of their camp between training arenas and lit all around by torches. A half circle of stone seats wrapped around one side, and from the outside, the design reminded Leo of the Coliseum. It looked like the entirety of the Roman camp was sitting in those rows under banners for each god. On the other side, an odd assortment of chairs was set out of the ground, huddled around half of a large, round stone table. Latin words were etched into the table accompanied by a few Greek symbols.
The Romans had apparently been preparing many things for their arrival. One was presented at that first meeting.
"This," explained a son of Ceres, walking forward and setting a long piece of paper down on the table, "is what we will require as compensation for coming to your aid."
Every Greek mouth opened, and more than a few bronze weapons had been reached for when Jason and Piper smoothly intervened.
"I believe cooperation is a better term for what we are looking for," Piper quickly said. She tilted her head and gave the boy a small smile. "After all, our parents won't join us in this fight unless they join every one of us."
"I don't need to remind you, Anthony," Jason said quietly, "that this is not just for one camp's benefit. We are trying to save the gods and the world." He looked up at the other boy from where he was sitting. "Put it away."
The boy looked as if he was going to argue. He and Jason held a quick staring contest, before he snatched the paper back off of the table. "Be that as it may," he said smoothly, rolling it up, "there is one issue we refuse to leave unresolved a moment further." He looked over all of the campers before settling on Chiron. "The Golden Fleece," he told the centaur. "We know you have it and we demand you relinquish it."
Half of the room stiffened, and everyone was silent. Then everyone spoke at once.
"Try and take it," Clarisse snarled at the other side of the table. She stretched out her arms and cracked her knuckles.
"They might find a few…unpleasant surprises if they do," Connor Stoll said, smirking at her.
His brother, Travis, added. "Do you have proof we have the Fleece? Otherwise, we think you all are hiding the Batmobile here somewhere and we demand you relinquish that first."
"Guys," Piper pleaded, "we're all on the same side here." No one listened to her, the noise level just increased and droned her out.
"What's the matter?" Clarisse taunted. "Having trouble with your own defenses? I bet they could use a little boost."
"They were certainly easy enough to get through," Nico DiAngelo added giving the Romans a cold smile. "With the Fleece, I doubt Half-Blood Hill would be so accommodating."
"Not that we're saying we have it." The Stoll twins added. Leo saw Piper open her mouth, but if she said anything, he didn't hear it. She looked to Jason for help, but his eyes were darting between both camps, like he didn't know whose side to take.
"I'll say it," Annabeth spoke up. Everyone fell silent, and she cut off Nico's protest with a sharp gesture. "No, Piper's right, we're supposed to be on the same side, and we shouldn't be keeping secrets." She glanced at Chiron, then back at Anthony. Leo wondered why Chiron hadn't spoken up yet, but he figured it was because he wanted the demigods to work things out for themselves. He wondered what the guy would do when someone started shooting arrows off instead of just their mouths.
"It's true, we have the Fleece," Annabeth continued. "The Titans sabotaged our borders and we needed it to bolster our defenses. We quested for it, we fought for it, we earned it, and we kept it." She continued, taking a deep breath, "And it may be possible for us to do without it for a while after the giants are defeated." She leaned forward and set her elbows on the table. "Now, what I would like to know," she said, her intense grey eyes on Anthony, "is how you knew that the Fleece was at our camp in the first place."
Anthony regarded her for a hard moment, and then said, "Amber."
A girl about Anthony's age, eighteen or so, stood up under the Ceres banner and approached the table. On it, she set a necklace strung with four painted wooden beads. "I believe," Anthony said over the sudden murmurs on their side of the pavilion and pointing at the image on the second bead, "that that is supposed to be the Golden Fleece."
Leo had seen necklaces like that before, on nearly every person who had boarded his ship. It was a camp necklace, where each bead represented a year at Camp Half-Blood. Having only known he was a demigod for six months, Leo didn't have one yet, and neither did Piper. Everyone on the Greek side was talking again, but he didn't have to listen to know what they were saying. There was only one person who the Roman camp could have gotten a Greek half-blood necklace from.
AN: So, that was chapter one. EDIT: I've gone back and done some light editing, so the typos should be pretty much gone. Please let me know if any are still there.
This story pretty much wrote itself backwards: literally, I started with how it ends and worked out what had happened before that, and before that and so on, which was new for me. If anything doesn't work, or is confusing, let me know, and I'll try to make it more clear.