It was supposed to be a guys' day out. It was supposed to be relaxing. They were supposed to be able to go out and enjoy a day at the go-cart, paintball, and laser-tag extravaganza. Of course, it wasn't the same without Leo; he was still off looking for Calypso, but Frank, Percy, and Jason had been determined to enjoy the day anyway. Leo had checked in the night before and assured them that he was fine with them going without him, and that he felt he was almost to Ogygia and was more excited about that anyway. So the trio had kissed their girlfriends that morning and left to enjoy a normal day.
Supposedly, they would have spent the day eating greasy food and playing fun, challenging games. Percy proved he was the most adept at driving when they started with go-carts, mainly because he was the most daring on the track. Jason had made sure he painted Percy all the colors of the rainbow during paintball, leaving some fantastic welts on Percy's skin. The boys had even managed to turn eating into a competition, challenging each other to see who could eat the most pizza. In hindsight, that hadn't been such a good idea.
Supposedly, it was supposed to be a good day. Frank was having his moment of glory in laser-tag, using strategies of war to annihilate Percy and Jason time after time. For whatever reason, the two boys couldn't actually be serious enough to concentrate on anything other than competing with each other and so Frank was able to sneak up on them constantly.
This, though, was where their supposedly good day turned into their worst nightmare. So absorbed in annihilating each other they hadn't noticed the arena slowly emptying of other combatants. But for once, they were relaxed. They were having fun, like normal teenage boys.
The knock-out gas that filtered through the vents though…that definitely wasn't normal. But the arena was so huge that by the time they noticed anything was actually wrong, there was too much in the air for them to do anything. One by one they crashed to the ground, laser-tag guns skidding across the floor and the lights on their chest plates lighting up.
They woke up with aching heads and nauseous stomachs. Glancing around at each other curiously, they took stock of their new situation.
The room they were in was small, three cots pushed against the three walls. The cots practically touched at all corners, and they certainly weren't winning any comfort awards. Thin blankets were folded at the end of each cot, and there wasn't even a pillow anywhere in the room. There were no windows either, only a single door in the center of the only wall without a bed against it. The door had a small barred window at about eye-level, which didn't exactly reassure the boys on their current predicament.
"Anyone remember what happened?" Jason ventured. Percy and Frank shook their heads, just as bewildered. "And any clue on where we are?"
Frank got up to check the door, making sure they were actually locked inside.
"Mental ward maybe?" Percy suggested. Jason and Frank both gave him odd looks. "What? Is it really that crazy an idea?"
Jason glanced around their quarters as if that was answer enough. "I think an actual mental ward would have decent beds. These cots look they're from prison."
Percy scoffed. "Like you've seen a real prison."
"I have actually," Jason refuted. Percy gave him a look. "Weird things happen on quests, man. Weird things."
Percy left it at that, figuring he'd probably been in just as strange places. Frank gave Jason a lingering gaze before turning back to the door.
"I don't suppose your jail time gave you lock-picking abilities?" Frank asked. Jason shook his head.
"Can't you just turn into a bear or something and break the door down?" Percy asked. Frank pushed against the door experimentally, analyzing it.
"I don't know…it seems pretty solid. Worth a shot though," he shrugged. He backed up a few paces which almost brought him to the bed on the opposite wall, and then his form shimmered and broke down until reforming into a large black grizzly bear.
He rammed into the door, making their whole room shake. The door, however, didn't budge. He tried again, and again, but was met with the same result. Just as he was about to try again, a voice shouted down the hallway.
"Alright, we hear you! Knock it off!"
Frank paused and quickly reverted back to human. They didn't know if these people knew all about them or not, but an ace up their sleeve like Frank's shapeshifting could only come in handy. Frank stepped back and they heard a lock in the door.
"Do we jump him?" Percy asked, getting to his feet. Jason did as well.
"I'm all for it," he muttered.
The door opened and the boys were about to pounce, but a pointy spear directed right at them made them think twice. The guard smirked as they all bounced back onto their heels. The guard wore typical Roman armor, studded metal skirt and gold breastplate and all. "It's good to see the three of you awake. Belgertia will be pleased. He is most excited to see you all compete."
"Compete?" Percy repeated. The guard smirked.
"You're the son of the sea god, correct?" the guard asked. All three of them stiffened. This guy was clearly mortal, but he knew about the gods?
"How do you know that?" Percy asked. The guard pointed to Percy's arm.
"Your tattoos aren't very secretive. And we're anxious to be rid of you first, so follow me," the guard ordered.
"Whoa, hey, I'm not about to follow you somewhere that I'm going to die," Percy protested.
"Nor are we going to let you just take him," Jason said. The guard raised his spear. Its point was inches from them.
"You don't have a choice. And you might not die. It just depends if you win," the guard told Percy. "However, if you don't follow me now, I'll just skewer you on the spot and be done with it."
Percy gulped. "You make a compelling argument."
Jason clapped him on the shoulder, not happy with the situation but not seeing any options other than cooperate either. "If you get a fighting chance, then you can win easy. And maybe escape and get us out of here," Jason said.
Percy smiled back at him confidently. "You know I will," he said. He turned back to the guard. "All right, lead the way to my cage match."
The guard stepped out of the room, Percy following. The door closed and the lock clicked, leaving Jason and Frank alone to worry about their friend.
"You really think he'll be okay?" Frank said. "I mean, we don't even know what's going on."
"Like I said, if Percy's allowed a fighting chance then he'll win. He's stubborn that way," Jason said. He sat down on the cot opposite the door, effectively claiming that one as his own for the duration of their stay. Frank still looked uncertain and he glanced at the door.
"Should I keep trying to break it down?"
"Too noisy," Jason argued. "That's how they knew we were awake. Can you turn into something small enough to fit through the bars though?"
"Maybe," Frank said. He concentrated, trying hard to get it right. It was still hard for him to do multiple transformations like this, though he was a lot better since the war.
Eventually, his form shifted until he was a small ferret. He scurried to the door, leaping against the bottom of it.
"Hold on," Jason said, jumping up to help. He picked Frank up and held him against the barred window. Frank scurried precariously onto the ledge, barely balancing on the small ledge. It was a long way down to the ground. "Can you do it?"
Frank steeled himself and jumped down, aiming for the door handle. He missed though, and ended up landing awkwardly in a heap. He lay there for a few moments before shakily getting to his paws. For now, he would stay as a ferret. This form was smaller and less noticeable.
He scurried away, looking for anything that might help. He didn't see any keys just hanging on the walls, though this was a long hallway. There were a lot more doors spanning the length of it, and Frank had to wonder how many others were there.
The sounds of a crowd cheering reached his ears, and he paused with one paw raised. There was a muffled monster roaring as well; Percy must have started the fight then. He wished him luck and continued exploring.
There was a guard at the end of the hallway, though he wasn't watching the hallway. His attention was focused around the corner, and Frank could hear people talking. There were excited exclamations and cheers. Frank could only hope Percy was doing okay.
He quietly crept up behind the guard and looked around cautiously. The room around the corner was some sort of armory; there were collections of different swords, spears, shields, daggers, whips, bow and arrows, and even lances. It all looked like it was imperial gold, and Frank really had to wonder at what was going on here.
There was still a lack of keys. The guard at the end of the hallway didn't have any on him, and it didn't look like the armory had any anywhere. At the other end of the armory though there was a cage door, almost like a portcullis, and Frank recognized the guard there as the one that had taken Percy. He would have to have keys.
Frank scurried carefully over to him, but his moving shape attracted attention nonetheless.
"What the—Is that a rat?" the guard at the hallway asked. Frank continued to the guard at the portcullis. The other guard turned and cursed.
"Kill it!" he demanded, reaching over and picking up one of the spears. He stabbed at Frank as he came closer, but Frank's lean body was able to avoid the attacks. As the guard moved though, Frank noticed the swinging key ring on his hip.
Frank leapt to the man's leg, clinging to his pants and scurrying up. He had just wrapped his teeth around the key ring when the guard grabbed him around his body and ripped him away, throwing him at the wall in disgust. Frank slumped to the ground and didn't move. His body reverted to his human form without his willing it, and the guards cursed and came after him. He couldn't find it in him to move though as they kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious before they dragged him back to the cell.
Jason was pacing anxiously, and he jumped when he heard the lock in the door. Assuming it was Frank, he rushed over to the door. When the door opened though and he was rudely pushed back, Frank mercilessly thrown at him, his hopes plummeted. He barely managed to keep Frank from hitting the ground.
"If any of you lot try to escape again, we won't be so merciful," the guard said before slamming the door. Jason pursed his lips before looking down at Frank.
"Frank? Hey, can you hear me?" Jason asked. He gently put Frank on the ground and checked him for injuries, only finding the lump on Frank's head.
A hammer pounded on the door, and Jason looked up to see a piece of wood over the barred window. The hammer continued for a few minutes, sealing off the one escape route they'd had.
Jason's hopes plummeted more.
The constant hammering did, however, stir Frank. He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut.
"Frank?" Jason asked. Frank's response was to groan more. Jason frowned. "Come on, man, open your eyes."
Frank unwillingly did so. His eyes were glazed over from the concussion. "Couldn't get the key," he mumbled. "Went flying into a wall."
"Don't worry about it," Jason said. "Let's just get you onto a bed."
Frank wouldn't have managed to stand up if not for Jason supporting most of his weight, and even then it was mostly a fall to the closest bed. Frank rearranged himself only so that his whole body was on the bed, and then he went back to sleep.
Jason sat on the edge of the bed he'd been on before and sighed. The door opened again, and a messy looking Percy was pushed into the cell. He turned quickly and tried to lash out at the guard, maybe stop the door from closing, but it was already too late. The door slammed into his face, and all he could do was hit his fist against it as the lock clicked back into place.
"You okay?" Jason asked. Percy turned and looked at him.
"They want us to be gladiators," Percy stated. Jason raised a brow. "They're complete wackos! They're selling tickets to people to see kids they steal fighting monsters!"
"You're kidding," Jason said. Percy shook his head.
"Belgertia, the guy in charge, can see through the Mist and he made some sort of deal with a minor god. The god gives him monsters that the mortals think are just animals or robots or something and whatever kids they steal have to fight them."
Jason was speechless. "Dude, we've been in crazy before but this…"
"This takes the cake and the pie. And all the cookies," Percy stated, crossing his arms angrily. He finally glanced at Frank. "What's wrong with him?"
"Concussion, I think. He tried to escape, but they caught him. We've been warned they'll just kill us next time," Jason said dryly. Percy just laughed.
"I guess that explains the wood over the window," he said. Jason nodded. Percy went over to the other unoccupied bed. "So now what? We just wait for a rescue?"
"The girls have to know we're missing by now; I'm guessing we were unconscious for most of the night, so that right there would tip them off that something was wrong. And with Annabeth leading them, we shouldn't be here more than a few more days," Jason said.
Percy smirked. "Yeah, she sort of hates when I go missing," he stated. Jason laughed.
"That's a bit of an understatement," he said. Percy smiled toothily.
"So we just have to make sure we don't die before they get here," Percy said.
"Yeah, that might piss them off," Jason said. Percy shook his head slowly in disbelief of their whole situation.
"I know this is real, but…is this actually happening to us right now?" Percy asked. Jason sighed, the smile slipping from his face.
"As much as I don't want it to be…I think it is."