A/N: While I was generally pleased with how Nine Alone turned out, it still ended up a bit bleaker than I'd intended. By way of a corrective, here's the first chapter of a story that I hope will be a much more lighthearted adventure. No killing off Sikowitz and Sinjin this time around – they won't even be in it. No Rex, either. (After the events of "Who Did It to Trina?", I've lost all interest in writing for him. Unless it's a series of one-shots where I "kill" him off in increasingly gruesome ways, that is.)
Disclaimer: I don't own Victorious, and nobody owns the story of the Argonauts. No, not even Ray Harryhausen.
If Hollywood Arts had offered nothing but acting classes, Jade West might actually have been a cheerful person.
…All right, perhaps that's overstating the case a bit; after all, grouchiness was her default state of being. But certainly it didn't help matters one bit that, even at the nation's premier performing arts magnet school, she still had to take "regular" classes.
It wasn't a matter of lacking academic ability; far from it. In fact, Jade's mind was almost frighteningly sharp. When she was six, her mother bought her A Child's First Stories from Shakespeare for her birthday; the next day, she asked to check out the Complete Norton Shakespeare from the public library; by the end of the week, she had memorized every line of Romeo and Juliet, and was boldly tackling Macbeth, fake Scottish burr and all. When a subject fascinated her, she absorbed every aspect of it like a sponge.
But when it didn't…well, as the Bard would say, there was the rub. For in addition to being brilliant, Jade West was an exceptionally stubborn young woman; and once she had decided that something bored her, she simply shut down – refused categorically to have anything to do with it.
At any other school but Hollywood Arts, this attitude would have spelled disaster. Fortunately for Jade, HA's teachers were accommodating, and often found ingenious ways to spark her interest in their respective subjects – usually by relating them to her greatest love, theater. History? She could learn about the Wars of the Roses through Richard III, and the Hundred Years' War through Henry V. Science? Special effects and stage pyrotechnics are all about chemistry and physics. Math? "Plan the operating budget for a big Broadway musical." Most of the time, it worked.
But there were failures as well; and classical mythology, sadly, was among them. Nothing could convince her that it was worth her time. Her teachers practically flooded her with Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, the tragedies of Seneca – all to no avail. For her myth meant little more than a jumble of meaningless names and places, silly stories about silly people.
Matters came to a head when, at Beck's urging, she enrolled in an AP Psychology course. Naturally enough, Freud was first on the menu, and so Jade found herself compelled to write a paper on the mythological origin of the infamous "Oedipus complex".
It was handed back on a Friday, at the end of the school day. As soon as she burst out of the classroom, Beck could tell things hadn't turned out well.
"What happened, babe?"
Wordlessly, she handed him the paper. The first thing that drew his eye was Mrs. Kowalski's characteristic chicken-scratch handwriting, in red ink that all but covered the title page: "F. You should be ashamed of yourself for handing this in. I've never seen such poor work from any student, let alone one as gifted as you are. If you're not going to apply yourself, why bother showing up at all?"
"Ouch," he murmured.
He flipped to the next page – which, he discovered, was also the last page. It read: "Oedipus was some guy who wanted to get it on with his mother, which is just freakin' sick. Sick and wrong. What the hell, Greeks? The End."
"Well?" Jade elbowed him in the side. "What do you think? Did she screw me over or what?"
Oh, boy. How do I phrase this without setting her off? "Um…I can see her side of things."
Her face swiftly darkened. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"Just…there's not a lot here."
"So? What more is there to say? It's all just a load of crap anyway."
He sighed. "Jade, sweetheart, sometimes I don't know what to do with you."
Tori approached, flanked by André and Robbie. "Anyone up for a smoothie?"
"Bite me, Vega."
"Well, somebody's sure cranky. Is it that time of the month?"
"The time to split your lip? Yeah, I do believe it is."
Beck quickly stepped between the two girls. "I think a nice, relaxing smoothie might be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe we should wait for Cat, though."
As if on cue, the tiny redhead came around the corner, in the middle of a heated argument with Trina.
"It was not a waste of money!" Cat cried.
"Think how many pairs of jeans you could have bought instead. Or shoes!" Trina clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "You just have no common sense at all."
"What's the problem?" asked Robbie.
Cat went from frown to beaming smile in the space of an instant. "Look at the cool pendant I bought!" She removed it from her neck and held it out to her assembled friends. It was a finely carved blue stone dodecahedron, set in a thin gold frame; the light glinted off its many surfaces as she turned it.
"Sweet, Lil' Red!" said Andre. "Where'd you get it?"
"I ordered it from Sky St-"
She noticed the group's disapproving looks.
"…Um, I mean I ordered it from a catalog that has nothing at all to do with commercial air travel."
Tori examined it closely, fascinated. "What is it, exactly?"
"It's called a Wishing Stone. The ad said that if you place it in the palm of your hand and make a wish, it'll immediately come true."
"Of course it will," said Jade. She genuinely liked Cat, but her foul mood had stripped her of any patience with her friend's gullibility. "Maybe next time you should just flush your money down the toilet. It'd be a lot quicker."
Cat stamped her foot. "But it works! It really does! I held it in my hand and wished for a turkey sandwich, and then my mom brought me one!"
"Um, Cat?" asked Robbie gently. "Did you ask your mom to make you a turkey sandwich before you used the stone?"
"Yes…does that matter?"
Jade snorted in disgust. "I swear, you must be the most naïve person on the face of the Earth."
"If you don't believe it works, then try it yourself!" Cat thrust the pendant at her.
"I don't have time for this nonsense-"
Cat's lip began to quiver. Jade knew this warning sign – any moment now she would start bawling.
"…All right, fine." She held out her palm.
The quiver vanished. "Yay!"
The stone, Jade noticed, had a curious feel – almost as if there were a slight electric current running through it. She could sense power flowing into her veins, quickening her heartbeat. This is remarkable…
"Well?" said Andre. "Are you going to make a wish or not?"
"Oh. Right. Um…I wish for…" Oh, what the hell. "…for somebody to make mythology interesting for me."
The stone glowed for an instant, then became cold and inert.
She handed it back to Cat. "Okay, I did it. Are you hap-"
What in the name of God…?
The seven of them were standing on the wooden deck of a ship. To either side, rows of short but powerfully muscled men plied their oars, their bodies sweating in the fierce sun. To their rear they could see a hilly land that was already distant and rapidly receding, while before them was nothing but a vast expanse of sea.
"Uh oh," gulped Robbie. "I don't do well on boats." His face turned green, and he began to lurch about. "Anybody got any Dramamine?"
In the prow stood an imposing individual, only in his twenties but with a thick beard, his long brown hair hanging down in oiled ringlets. He was dressed in a white tunic covered by a gilded bronze breastplate. A sword hung at his side, and his feet were shod in leather sandals.
He stared at them in wonder, with piercing green eyes. They stared back at him, no less amazed.
At last, he broke the silence. "What manner of creatures are you, that you appear on my ship in the middle of the ocean and spirit away members of my crew?"
"We're…um…just people. Regular old people," Tori replied.
"Nonsense. You have made keen-eyed Lynceus vanish – and Orpheus of the melodious lyre – and even mighty Heracles! No ordinary man can do such a thing, and certainly no woman."
"Hey!" snapped Jade. "Can the sexism, sandal boy!"
" 'Sexism'? This word is not known to me." He studied them curiously. "If you are truly human, you must come from far distant lands; I see that there is an Ethiopian among you."
André scowled. "Okay, I've just met you, but already I can't stand you. Who do you think you are, talking like that? And just who the hell are you, anyway?"
"Who am I?" The man seemed astonished at the question. "Who in all the lands of the world does not know my name and quest? I am called Jason of Iolchos, son of Aeson, sent by King Pelias to find and bring back the Golden Fleece from the palace of King Aeetes in distant Colchis. This is my ship, the Argo."
Their jaws dropped.
Trina was the first to recover her composure. She quickly turned to Cat. "Okay, you need to wish us out of here. Right. Now."
"But shouldn't we stay a little while and talk to the nice-"
"NO!" they shouted in unison.
"Oh, okay. I wish that we could – OOF!"
Robbie's poor sea legs had given out at last. As he stumbled, he struck Cat in the side. She fell, the pendant flying out of her hand.
For Jade, time suddenly seemed to slow to a crawl. She could see what was going to happen; she wanted desperately to stop it; but she could only stand, frozen, and watch the inevitable.
The pendant went over the side, and splashed into the water.
Everyone looked at Robbie, who lay prostrate on the deck. Fists clenched. Teeth gritted. Eyes blazed.
"Um…oops? " he whimpered.
Jade turned to the man who had called himself Jason. "Do you have a plank handy, dude?"
"A plank? Why?"
" 'Cause I think we've got somebody – " she gestured at Robbie – "who needs to walk it."