AN: Long wait, short chapter. I'm just cruel that way. Sorry. The next one will be a shorter wait and a longer chapter, I promise!

The Ultimate Truth or Dare Challenge

Bananas, Bots, and Bacchic Baboons

All the campers groaned as their friends froze and the now-familiar The Ultimate Truth or Dare Challenge logo spun across the screen. A commercial for Hebe's Anti-Aging Cream ("Take away millennia in just ten minutes!") began to play.

"What?" Lee, a son of Hermes, yelled. "No! They can't—"

"Dude," an Apollo camper said from next to him, "It's called a cliffhanger. It's what networks do when they want people like you to be all, 'Oh no! I need to keep watching to find out what happens or I'm going to die of anxiety!'"

"Austin, I know that." Lee rolled his eyes impatiently. "But I want to know what happens, since he's my brother and all—"

"And since you want new prank ideas," Will Solace put in.

"That's not true at all—"

Suddenly, a flash of white drew everyone's attention to the front of the amphitheater, right next to the enormous screen set up especially for watching their cabinmates on HephaestusTV.

"Whoa!" Nico cried, stumbling as he appeared as if someone had pushed him from behind. All twenty cabins immediately burst into raucous applause and cheers, and the son of Hades blinked up at everyone looking quite shocked.

Will sauntered up to the stage and gave Nico an enthusiastic clap on the back. "Took you long enough," he said. "I definitely didn't take that long getting back."

Nico blinked. "You're alive? But we thought—"

"Yeah, I know," Will said easily. "Turns out it's all just a HephaestusTV special, not anyone trying to kill us. Kinda anticlimactic, right?"

Before Nico could reply, Clarisse trudged over. "I gotta say, kid, I thought you'd last longer. I mean, only two rounds? That's pathetic."

Will rolled his eyes. "Yeah, look who's talking."

"The girl who could beat you to death," Clarisse countered menacingly. "That's who's talking."

"I prefer not to get beaten to death. But thanks for the offer."

"It's always standing, punk."

"Um, sorry to interrupt your banter and stuff," Nico said, "but we're, like, alive."

Will stared at him. "And…?"

"And everyone was watching us."

"Yeah. Chiron let everyone take the day off from—"

"And everyone still playing," Nico continued adamantly, "thinks they die if they get out."

Clarisse rolled her eyes. "Well duh. Anything else to add, Captain Obvious?"

"Well if you want I can add an army of the dead to this conversation. Your choice."

The daughter of Ares probably would have tackled him right then and there if another burst of light hadn't drawn everyone's attention to center stage again. A fresh ripple of murmuring broke out among the campers, who had already been talking animatedly about the events of the last part of the show.

When the light faded, a group of rather nervous-looking automatons stood in a loose clump in the center of the amphitheater.

V75T, whose bronze legs were trembling slightly (not that the automaton would ever admit it), stepped forward. "Hello," he began. "We come from HephaestusTV, and we're here to conduct a quick survey."

The campers responded with only more muttering and the occasional inquisitive glance, so V75T continued. "So, if you don't mind, we'd like to hear your suggestions for challenges for—"

The rest of his speech (which he'd meticulously prepared on the way down from Olympus) was drowned out by a burst of noise from the campers, particularly the loud collective squeal from the Aphrodite cabin. Immediately, people were tripping over their words in excitement and shouting over each other:

"Wear a crazy hat!"

"Dress up as a banana and—"

"Anyone heard of A Very Potter—?"

"Make them try to—"

"—Travis and Katie—"


"Stop, stop!" V75T blared through a megaphone that had previously been his hand. A flashing red light appeared above his head ("Only 200-watt," Jake Mason whispered to one of his brothers, "I'm surprised Dad hasn't upgraded him yet."), and eventually everyone stopped talking enough that he could continue. "We will come around to each row and ask for suggestions individually. Please keep in mind that we must complete the survey by end of the commercial break, so—"

Another wave of babble broke out, and V75T heaved the automaton equivalent of a sigh and motioned for his fellow automatons to start getting suggestions. Honestly, he thought, demigods were rather primitive inventions compared to automatons. Although the Hephaestus cabin didn't seem quite as horrible…

He decided to question them because they would surely be much more creative and intelligent than any of the others, and promptly headed over to their area of the amphitheater as a commercial for Helios' new tanning salon in New Jersey blared from the screen.

His results weren't as good as he'd hoped.

By the end of the allotted two minutes, V75T's list looked something like this:

Who would you most like to kiss in this room? (Potential to cause inter-Olympian war. Advise Lord Hephaestus to disregard.)
Imitate another player and have people to guess.
Reassemble— (No – no Hephaestus children left; the others would fail.)
Wear some crazy hat that can pop out of nowhere. (Must figure out way to do this.)
Eat a live fish. (No - Lord Poseidon would be angry.)
First impressions of everyone in the room.
Talk in a Brooklyn accent for the rest of the round.
Wear a bag over your head for the next two rounds. (Strange. Common demigod tradition?)
Build a car engine in one minute.

As he sighed (as much as an automaton can sigh, that is) and thanked the Hephaestus cabin, he wondered how angry Lord Hephaestus would be when he saw the lists. Hopefully not furious enough to vaporize anyone, or (gods forbid) recalibrate their systems.

None of the other automatons had had much luck either. HG74, who had been assigned to the Athena cabin, reported back with several complex equations to be solved in a certain amount of time. The children of Aphrodite had given Bot5 heaps of requests for kissing, confessions, and something called 'Tratie,' a term for which none of the automatons could find a meaning. Apollo's kids had given their suggestions in the form of haikus, which made them nearly unintelligible. V75T's personal favorite was one about drunken monkeys, but Hestia would be all over the network, saying that it was inappropriate.

V75T shook his head. There were a few quality suggestions, at least. Might as well send them to Hephaestus. He compiled the list and hit 'Send' just as the logo appeared on the screen again.