Our new little half-blood was definitely a troubled kid. Within the first week he'd hit bottom of every class and had been in detention twice. Whitman would have made it in-house suspension or even expulsion if he'd know about the candy store Percy was running out of his dorm room but we weren't worried, no student was going to tattle and close down the one source of unhealthy goodies on campus! No question Percy had attitude to burn but he wasn't mean with it. He had no problem hanging out with a dweeby character like Grover (sorry, goat-boy but you are a dweeb). In fact by lights out of Grover's first day as a sixth grader Percy had gotten into three fights with kids who tried to bully our protector and informed the sixth grade study hall that Grover was his best friend – which got both of them detention, oh well at least it was another chance to bond.
Since getting time alone was a problem - Percy stuck to Grover like glue - goat-boy sent a message to camp by squirrel post instead of Iris messaging. Chiron promptly sent back orders to find out all we could about Percy's background which was how Poly, Callie and I came to be breaking into the principal's office – again.
"Honestly, I think we spend more time in here than Whitman does," Poly muttered tapping away on the principal's keyboard.
"I think you're right," Callie pulled a thick file out of the 'J' drawer and took it over to the desk.
I was keeping watch through a crack in the door more on general principles than any real expectation of trouble, like Poly'd said we did this all the time. But you know how it is, let yourself get careless once and you're caught. I think Murphy must have been a half-blood.
The principal's office is a big paneled room with glass fronted bookcases and massive, heavily carved furniture. Grim doesn't even begin to describe it. The cast bronze Ares and Aphrodite in the corner should've made me feel right at home but the marble sphinxes supporting the mantelpiece kept me on edge, I've met one too many of the real thing. Let's just say that being a half-blood gives you real mixed feelings about classical decoration.
"Twelve different schools in twelve years, oh dear," said Callie.
Poly laughed, "Congrates, Mark, we've finally found a kid with a worse record than you."
"I wasn't always thrown out," I reminded him with a quick look over my shoulder, "Mom's in the army, we moved a lot when I was a kid."
"His mother's name is Sally Jackson," Callie read, "social 992-96-8731."
Poly's fingers flew over the board. "Got her," he announced after a bit. "Hmmm…married to a Gabe Ugliano but uses her maiden name –"
"Can you blame her?" I asked.
"Nope," he answered. "Percy's definitely not Ugliano's kid he was seven when they got married. Ummmm…birth certificate says 'father unknown'. "
"Big surprise," I said. My birth certificate says the same thing.
Suddenly Poly burst out laughing. "Shhhhh!" Callie and I hissed.
"Sorry," he choked, "it's just the poor kid's full name is 'Perseus'."
It didn't sound like a laughing matter to me. "And I thought 'Percy' was bad! No wonder he's a scrapper."
"Diagnosed as ADHD and dyslexic," Callie said, shuffling papers. "No surprises there. Straight D- student..." She frowned. "All these expensive boarding schools but nobody ever seems to have made much effort to help him."
"What I'd like to know is how his mom's affording them on her salary," said Poly. "She works at a candy store for gods' sake."
"Maybe she's getting help from Percy's dad?" I suggested taking my eyes off the empty main hall for another brief glance behind me.
The keyboard rattled. "Looks like you got something there, Mark," Poly said at last. "It seems our Percy's got a trust fund that pays for his education, in his name and no clue where the money came from."
"Olympian gold probably," I said.
"His dad's trying to take care of him," Cally agreed.
Sometimes it seems like the gods don't care, they just have their little fling with our mortal mom or dad and disappear back to Olympus. Well that is pretty much what happens but it's not like they can get married and settled down is it? The gods have rules and there are pretty strict limits on how much they can do even for their own kids. A lot of half-bloods have problems with that, they just can't get their heads around the fact the gods are different. Expecting them to act like mortal parents is setting yourself up for grief. Whoever Percy's dad was he was stretching the rules about as far as they could go with that trust fund, which pretty much proved just how much he must care given the grief he'd catch if he was found out.
"Probably Apollo," I said. The sun god is famous for pushing the envelope when it comes to looking out for his kids.
"Black hair," Poly said briefly from the computer.
"They don't have to be blonds do they?" I countered.
"Ever seen one who wasn't?" he asked.
"The original Perseus was a son of Zeus," Callie said out of the blue.
I looked back at her. She was frowning down at the closed folder on the desk. Poly had stopped typing and was staring too. "Oh gods," he said with real fervor, "not again!"
"We know Zeus' got the self control of a horny mink," I said. Maybe the distant thunder was just my imagination but I added a quick, "No disrespect intended," just in case!
Poly remembered what he was supposed to be doing, finished emailing the info to Chiron and started to shut down all the windows he'd opened. "Percy's got tons of attitude maybe he's your brother, Mark."
"Wouldn't mind if he was," I answered promptly, "but I don't think so. He's a little undersized for a son of Ares, besides my dad isn't really into education."
"Hermes maybe," said Callie, closing the file cabinet drawer. "His kids tend to the light and fast."
"Not tricky enough," Poly argued, "how about Dionysus?" He switched off the computer. "I mean here he is, stuck on earth…"
I rolled my eyes. "Poor kid!" then took a final squint through the cracked door into the dimly lit front hall to make sure the coast was clear.
Poly and Callie came up behind me ready to leave. "Castor says that Mr. D is really very nice to him and Pollux when no one is looking," she commented.
"Yeah, but still…okay let's head out."
The next morning we had a new Latin teacher or should I say a very, very old one. Poly stopped in the classroom door so suddenly I walked right into him. "What's the matter with you, smart boy?"
He grabbed my arm and dragged me to our usual seats in the back. "You got eyes don't you?"
I do and at that moment I was having trouble believing what they were telling me. Chiron was sitting at the head of the room next to the teacher's desk. Yes Chiron is a centaur and yes I said sitting. You see he's got this wheelchair, a sort of magic box on wheels that is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Big enough for him to fit his horse half into it with fake legs in front so he can pass for a handicapped human. Other than that he looked about as usual. Chiron always dresses his human half like a wimpy school teacher but the bow-tie was seriously egregious.
"Good morning," he said when everybody'd finally shuffled to their seats. "I regret to say that Mr. Van Kamp has been forced to take some time off due to a sudden family emergency. I will be your teacher for the rest of the year. My name is Mr. Brunner."
Of course the minute class was over Poly, Callie and I made a beeline for the front of the room. "What are you doing here?" Poly demanded with a quick look over shoulder to make sure nobody was within ear shot.
"I came to have a look at our new half-blood," Chiron answered as calmly as if he made house calls every day instead of practically never leaving camp.
"You think Zeus fell off the wagon again and Percy's the result," Poly said flatly.
"I think the boy's situation is far more precarious than usual," Chiron answered, looking a little annoyed. "There are some very worrying things in his personal history."
"Monsters," I said.
"Well, yes," Chiron admitted. "We don't want another Luke now do we?"
"Another Thalia is what he means," Poly said flatly. "Chiron thinks our Perseus is Zeus' just like the first one."
We were back in the principal's office. Yes three times in one week was pretty excessive, and in my opinion we were seriously pressing our luck but we had to fix the paperwork for 'Mr. Brunner' Poly was on the computer as usual and Callie at the desk filling out forms and guess who had his eye glued to the door crack as always?
"Then he's wrong," Callie said, pen scratching. "Have you noticed Percy's eyes?"
"No," said Poly, "and you shouldn't either – the kid's twelve!"
"Don't be stupid, Pol," Callie answered. "Zeus' kids have blue eyes, Percy's are green, sea green."
I looked over my shoulder at her. "Poseidon?"
"Some sea god anyway, could be Triton I guess or Proteus or even Nereus."
"Or Poseidon," Poly said gloomily. "I mean Zeus slipped, why not the Earthshaker?"
I knew our luck was bound run out sometime, unfortunately it was this time. Light fanned out over the checked marble floor of the front hall as the door to the back stairs opened. I hastily and gently shut the heavy oak office door and locked it from inside. "You guys finished yet?"
"NO!" they both hissed emphatically.
I put an ear to the door, hoping that whoever it was would pass by. Of course they didn't. I heard a key slide into the lock and grabbed the big crystal knob to keep it from turning. "Well hurry!"
Whitman, it had to be Whitman, stopped fiddling with the lock after a few minutes but my guess was he'd gone to wake up our custodian/handyman. "We got to get out of here now," I announced.
"I haven't finished the forms," Callie protested, looking rattled.
"Take 'em with you," Poly ordered, throwing open the window and starting to unscrew the screen. "We can sneak them in another night."
"Oh gods," I said, and it was a genuine prayer. "I'm sick of breaking into this place!"
"Not now, Mark!" Poly lowered the screen to the ground outside and stepped back to let Callie out first. He and I followed and I, being the tallest, lifted the screen back into place but of course I couldn't replace the screws from outside.
"This'll fall out the first time Whitman opens his window," I muttered.
"Which means we're safe," Poly whispered back. "Whitman never opens his window!"
The lights went on in the office overhead. "Come on," Callie hissed, clutching a handful of paper, "let's get out of here!"
We circled through the decorative shrubbery towards Birch House and thanks to our training at Camp Half-Blood we were a lot more silent than your average mouse, not that it did us any good. All of a sudden something erupted out of the bushes in front of me with a harsh scream and wild whir of wings. A huge beak missed me by inches as I dove to one side yelling; "Hades and Styx, not another griffon!"
Shrubbery rustled as Poly and Callie split up and spread out. I rolled to my feet, drawing my sword. Yes I had my sword with me. There's a word for half-bloods who go out at night unarmed – dead. I heard the click of Poly's lighter and a jet of green Greek Fire lit up the area showing not a griffon but an eagle about ten feet high from talon to beak, with a vast spread of glistening bronze colored wings. I reoriented myself fast and, as the monster eagle stretched its neck towards Poly and his lighter I shoved my blade into its exposed throat where-upon the thing vanished with a flash of light, a clap of thunder and a strong smell of ozone leaving us standing there, staring blankly at each other with weapons clutched in our hands as the sky opened and rain poured down.