"—the buoys are containing most of the floating oil. Specialist Arthur Finney had this to say." The image switched to a man in his thirties. "It's incredible good luck that the waters are this calm this time of year," he said, "otherwise the oil would be..." He made a diving motion with his hands. "...rolling with the waves under the buoy line..."
In the New York apartment she shared with Paul, Ms. Sally Jackson- happened to walk past the television to hear the last line. She stopped and turned around, staring at the news channel with her mouth a little "o" of alarm.
"—possible devastating effects on the wildlife—" Images flicked across the screen, showing the coast of New York.
Something darkly foreboding swelled in the center of her chest. It what she sometimes thought of as her mother's instinct.
Dropping the laundry basket on the couch, Sally nearly ran into the kitchen. "Paul!" she called, grabbing a grocery bag from the table. Drawers flew open and shut as she snatched nonperishable snacks and dropped them in the bag. "Paul! Where are you?"
A faint call answered. "Just a minute...What d'you need?"
"The car keys." She threw the bag over her shoulder and moved to raid the refrigerator.
Paul appeared, leaning on the doorframe. He watched her whirl through the kitchen like a very tidy hurricane. "Why do you need these?" he asked, dangling the keys by his side.
The refrigerator shut with a snap. "I'm leaving for a few days," she said, kissing his cheek and deftly plucking the keys from his fingers as she brushed past.
Confused, Paul trailed her to the bedroom. "What? Why? Where are you going?" Realization hit and Paul let out a sigh. "This has something to do with Percy, doesn't it?"
Not looking up as she stuffed clothes in a duffel bag, Percy's mom nodded. "Something's wrong. Don't ask me what—I don't know."
"I'm not going to question you," he said with a bemused smile. "Heaven forbid." He opened the closet and took out a sports backpack. "But I am coming with you."
She raised her head to flash him a quick grateful smile, and bent back down.
In the room off the kitchen, the news channel was still blaring bad news to the New York locals.
"—it's now day two of the oil spill off the New York coastline, and things aren't looking good..."
"Percy! Percy, you moron!" Annabeth muttered to herself. (She could have called him worse things.) She was hot and irritated and striding across the Camp Half-Blood grounds. "Where the Hades are you?"
He was late. That wasn't so unusual, but in this case he was 2 hours late.
And what exactly did he decide to be late for? A date. Their date. Their very first one.
She was livid.
If you don't have a good reason for this, I'll kill you, she swore silently. (She could have said worse things.)
It was now late afternoon, and the sun threw every shield, sword, and helmet into blinding, glittering brightness. The dazzling sunlight also meant that everyone could see Annabeth (daughter of Athena, architect of The New Olympus, expert swordswoman, etc.) wearing a skirt. In vivid detail.
The Campers grinned/sniggered/and/or winked as she stalked past. Apparently gossip flew in Camp—everyone seemed to know about everyone's romantic troubles, and the fledgling lovebirds were no exception. The Stoll brothers wolf-whistled as she went by, and she sent them a patented Death Glare that temporarily shut them up.
"I pity Percy sometimes," one of them whispered to the other.
"He got himself into this one," the other said. "But hey, he's taken on Hydras and hellhounds, he can handle this."
"Girls are a whole lot harder, bro."
Annabeth heard them and smiled with satisfaction.
The Poseidon cabin looked like it always did. Practically empty, sparsely furnished with sea-related items, the sound of a salt-water stream trickling inside. Annabeth stopped outside of the entrance, which was open with only a draped fishing net for a curtain.
"PERCY!" she yelled inside. It echoed. "I'm coming in!" So you had better be decent, she thought, although she didn't much care if he was at the moment.
Untangling herself from the fish net rope, she entered the cabin.
Percy's cabin had always seemed very lonely to her, although she was too mad at the moment to care. The Athena cabin was always swarming with teenagers and overflowing with projects. Paper diagrams pinned to the walls, blueprints strewn in neat little piles on every available surface, helmets and shields hung on bedposts. It was busy, crowded, and only quiet at midnight.
The Poseidon cabin, obviously, had a less occupents. Uno. Even Percy's impressive mess couldn't make up for the lack of siblings bickering over whose stuff was whose. The fountain's gurgling stream in the other room couldn't cover the echo that accompanied every sound.
It was deathly silent.
Annabeth folded her arms. "Percy?" she called, softer this time. Her incensed single-mindedness was fading away; she didn't feel the need to punch her stupid boyfriend anymore. No matter how tempting.
Something was wrong. She didn't know exactly what, but something was.
"Percy?" again. It echoed off the unadorned walls. Percy...cy...sea...see...
Annabeth strode past the single bed, the Manticorn horn, Tyson's shield on the floor. As she paused at the doorway, she saw something that nearly shut down her lungs.
Her hands ripped from the doorway and she sprinted.
Percy lay half in, half out of the fountain, looking pale and still and very, very dead. He was slumped over, face in the water with the fountain trickling over the back of his neck, fingers and torso lying stiff and relaxed on the bottom.
Annabeth had already grabbed his shoulders and hauled him out before she remembered he couldn't drown. Flipped him over onto his back—tried not to notice his lips were blue—checked his breathing—
It wasn't there.
She noticed something else. He was wet. Dripping. Soaked. A little puddle spreading inch by inch. "Oh no," she breathed. "No, no, no, no—"
There were only two reasons a son of Poseidon could be wet: either he chose to, or he was dead and the choice had been taken from him.