So this is my new story that I hope you all enjoy. This chapter doesn't have much going on because it's mostly an introduction, but I can guarantee that next chapter things get interesting.
I don't own PJO.
Spending my summer on some road trip in a burning hot bus with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents was definitely not in my original plans. Then again, none of my life ever goes as planned. It was part of a program called STRUCK, Striving To Reform Underage Criminals Keenly. I'm pretty sure they just added 'keenly' so they could have an actual word as the initials. The program takes a bunch of teens whose only other option would be juvie and sends them on a road trip for the summer. It's almost like a two month long group therapy session/trust exercise. We're all supposed to spill our life stories and bond with each other as if we're all best friends.
Anyway, so from the very first day on that bus I knew this trip would be a living hell. I hadn't even done anything wrong to land me there…or at least not intentionally. No one believed me though. I doubted anyone on that trip would've believed me if I told them. Thankfully I had been avoiding almost everyone for the first couple stops. We kept stopping at different high schools to pick up more and more criminals. My comfortable solitude was brought to an abrupt halt when a girl plopped down next to me on the seat.
Her eyes were a dangerous electric blue and her dark hair was in a jagged cut. She was wearing mostly black except for a silver bracelet on her wrist. I found it odd that she was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans in this hot weather, but I didn't think much of it. Unlike some of the kids here, she seemed very relaxed like she was used to being sentenced to stuff like this.
"Hey," she greeted, clearly trying hard to be polite even though it seemed totally out of her nature.
"Hi," I said quietly, glancing out the window where rain was starting to fall. I didn't really want to talk to people. They would all just end up thinking I was some sort of monster when they found out why I was stuck on that trip.
She nudged my arm, "You shy or something? We may all technically be criminals but I doubt anyone will be picking fights with you. Unless you ask for it." It wasn't the best reassurance, but the attempt was nice.
"I'm not usually shy," I explained. "This is just a different environment for me. I'm just trying to think around it. I'm Annabeth, by the way." Not to mention I was not at all comfortable with why I was there. Why couldn't they just lock me up instead? That sounded more logical to me.
Sticking out her hand, she introduced herself, "I'm Thalia."
Hesitantly, I shook her outstretched hand, "So, you sound like you're used to these kinds of programs. Is this summer going to suck or should it be manageable?"
She shrugged, "It depends on how you look at it. This is the third year I've been sent on one of these. By this point I consider these things fun. Some people spend most of their time being angry though and end up hating it. For example, meet Percy. He's one of my best friends."
The boy she pointed to definitely did not look thrilled to be there. He was staring blankly at the seat in front of him, yet he kept fidgeting as well. His shaggy jet black hair covered part of his green eyes, but not to the point that I couldn't see how unfocused they were. That sad, lost look on his face reminded me of Bobby and Matthew. I instantly suppressed the thought. The last thing I wanted to do was make a total wimp out of myself by crying on the first day.
"Does he always look so…depressed?" I asked. Without even realizing it, I rubbed my shoulder where the healed bullet wound I had was hidden by my t-shirt.
A grin broke across Thalia's face, "Nah, he just always pouts about being here the first couple of days. I guess I can understand why though. According to him, he's only here under false pretenses." At least I'm not the only one stuck on this trip that shouldn't really be here.
"In that case," I said, "What did he not do to get him sent here?"
She laughed and stood up from the seat, "Why don't you just ask him yourself? Hey Percy!"
The boy's head snapped around and his mouth twitched up in a very slight grin for a second at the sight of his friend. I really hoped he didn't stay so sad this entire trip. Even I didn't plan on holding this grudge for the whole trip.
Thalia pointed to me, "She wants to ask you something."
"No I don't," I snapped at her. "She's delusional. I'm Annabeth." I didn't want to just ask him point blank. He seemed like he hated what sent him here, so I didn't want to just upset him more by bringing it up. And I was worried that he'd ask me for my story in return.
"Nice to meet you," he said in a sincere voice. "I would introduce myself but I think Thalia already covered that for me." There was a playful tone to his voice that I was surprised to hear. I guess Thalia was right; he is a happy kid beneath that misery.
"Hey Thalia," two guys greeted from the seat behind ours. Both of us turned around to face them. One of them looked pretty close to a surfer with the whole blond hair/blue eyes combo except for a thick white scar running down the side of his face. The other was wearing a bunch of black and was clearly Italian with his dark hair and eyes.
"Annabeth," Thalia said, "Meet Luke and Nico, Thing One and Thing Two."
"Do you have any friends that aren't guys?" I asked her.
She waved off my comment, "I do. I'm just closer with these idiots."
"I would hope so considering we've known each other for ages," Luke commented. His voice quavered just a tiny bit, as if he was walking on egg shells by mentioning how long they had known each other. I wondered why, yet I didn't even bother prying. Thalia's pretty impassive mask broke for just a split second, giving me a glimpse of anger at him she seemed to be trying to bury.
"But could you stop calling us idiots?" Nico quipped.
"You two are idiots though," she pointed out. "Don't you remember last year when you thought it would be fun to roll a bowling ball down that street with the huge hill? It cracked in two and you guys are lucky that car didn't crash when it swerved to avoid it." Great. So now I also get to spend my summer with people who have a very odd idea of fun.
"That was his idea," Luke jabbed his finger at Nico.
Nico simply rolled his eyes in response, "It was your bowling ball."
"You two sound like the Stoll brothers," Thalia huffed.
"Hey," Nico snapped, "I'm offended by that accusation."
"Are we really that bad?" I flinched as two guys popped up from the seat in front of us. Just one look at them made me very unsurprised they ended up on this trip. It seemed like they had mischievous grins forever branded on their faces.
One of them pointed at me and raised an eyebrow at Thalia, "New girl?"
Thalia nodded, "Yep. Annabeth, these are the Stoll brothers. Never trust them with your stuff. Actually, try not to trust them in general."
"Harsh," the same one commented, "I'm Connor, by the way."
"And I'm Travis," the other introduced himself.
"Would you ever consider dating me?" Connor asked out of the blue. What is wrong with all of these people? I expected a bunch of hard-ass criminals, but these people just seemed to get progressively dumber.
I was surprised to see Percy push Connor back down in his seat, "Leave her alone." His eyes focused in on mine, "Don't mind them, they both just like making people uncomfortable."
I grinned a little, "Thanks."
After a few minutes everyone settled back into their seats, much to my relief. They all seemed way too comfortable with being on a trip for criminals. Seriously, how fun could this trip be? I assumed I would slowly get used to being on this trip, but I definitely didn't think I would ever get to the point where I would be happy to be there.
"Is everyone on this trip insane?" I whispered to Thalia.
"Pretty much," she laughed. "And soon you'll be just like the rest of us."
The look of disbelief on my face must've been priceless, "You can't be serious."
She waved off my comment yet again, "Don't worry. Everyone acts different the first week or so. It's just how we adjust. It won't be long until you see what we're all actually like. Some scarred, some mean, some nice, some crazy. If nothing else, we're always an interesting bunch. It's just the way things are here."
Like I always say, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and plan on returning for the next one. I'm still debating whether or not to have them find out they're demigods later in the story or keep it an AH fic. Oh well. Peace out.