We were shuffled into an auditorium by a security guard who seemed like he really didn't want to be there at all.

No, really. I've met a lot of people who don't want to do their jobs- I was one of those people myself in middle school when Yancy had me work the gift shop- but this guy's on a whole other level.

His I'm here to help pin was a stark contrast to the perpetually annoyed expression on his face. When Malcolm and I originally walked up to him, he'd gone to great lengths to pretend he didn't see us.

A for effort.

Honestly, just out of respect for that alone, I would've been fine with leaving, but Malcolm was too insistent. The little brat literally crawled up the desk to get the guard's attention, knocking over his coffee.

He found it hard to say no to us after that. I might be a little out of line for this, but I made sure to use my powers to harden the coffee- he'd be having a hard time cleaning it up, now, for sure. I may not care too much, but I know Malcolm does, so…revenge!

"Row four." He said gruffly, pointing a sausage-like finger toward the front. His eyes drifted down to my phone, which was buzzing with messages. Oops. There go more brownie points with security. "Phones aren't allowed."

"I'll keep that in mind," I responded, leading Malcolm to the seats before the guard could get any more words in.

I turned my attention to the stage, where the speaker, Julius Kane, was setting his presentation up.

I'm not quite sure what I expected, but he…wasn't it. I guess I was expecting more of a pale, jittery-looking dude who seemed scared of his own shadow. You know, the kinds of scientists you see on tv shows.

Egyptian Theorist doesn't really sound like the most exciting title. I think I'd be hard-pressed to find people lining up for the job. When's the last time you heard a little kid say their life's ambition was to be one?

Yeah, I thought so.

Julius, on the other hand, seemed like a walking contradiction to that assumption. He was clearly of African descent- it was pretty easy to tell with his brown skin and piercing brown eyes. He sported a goatee, a shaved head, and was clad in a pair of beige slacks and a cashmere sweater.

If you really pressed me, I'd feel comfortable enough saying that he looked and felt like a buff evil scientist. Like I said, the opposite of what I was expecting.

As he began his introduction, my phone buzzed again. I peered at the screen, my eyes widening as I saw multiple messages from MJ. I leaned close to Malcolm, saying, "I'll be right back, kiddo."

He nodded absentmindedly, locked into the presentation already. I'm telling you, those Athena kids are something else. When they find something they like, that's the end of that. You could smack them upside the head and they still wouldn't acknowledge you.

I jogged out of the auditorium, pulling my phone out by the tomb from earlier.

MJ: Hey, babe, you never responded earlier!

That was last night.

MJ: Percy?

That one was from four in the morning.

MJ: I'm getting worried!

This morning, right before my nap.

MJ: Percy, I swear to God if you don't call me right now…

And that last one, of course, just sent.

I was supposed to keep her posted with the quest. We'd been dating for a while now, and whenever I did demigod stuff, we agreed that I was supposed to send her periodic text messages, so she'd know that I was, well, alive.

Despite that, MJ was still chill about the whole Greek mythology thing. Granted, it didn't normally affect our day-to-day lives too much, but still. A whole day without correspondence…

In my defense, I got caught up with driving, and then the whole Serqet thing, and then I took that nap…not that she'll take any of that…

"Percy Jackson!" MJ said sternly, not even letting the line ring once. My girl's dedicated, "What did we talk about?"

"I'm sorry!" I said, whispering as a group of children walked by. I didn't want to look like a crazy guy. "I got a bit sidetracked."

MJ sighed, and I could tell she was holding back tears, "I know, honey. You just know that I worry! Like, I know you're capable and all, but it's also really scary. I…care about you a lot."

"I know, baby," I said solemnly. Truth be told, I understood what she was saying. I still got that nervousness when some of my mortal loved ones, like my mom, or MJ went somewhere and didn't text back, so I tried to scale that up to how I'd feel if one of them went on a deadly quest. "I'm really sorry. I'll text more, I promise."

"I know," MJ's voice was strained, and I heard her take a few shaky breaths. "I wish I could come to visit. It's really boring here."

I felt bad for her. Not only were her parents never around, but a lot of her friends weren't either. Liz was on vacation. Piper was gone with Peter. Gwen was at Oscorp basically full-time over the summer.

Even then, she's always been a bit anxious…

"Not yet. The wards are still down," I scratched my cheek. I found myself offering, "Maybe when I fix them, I can sneak you in for a while. I don't have anything else planned this summer."

"Really?"

"Really," I grinned to myself. "You could sleep with me in my cabin, I could show you around. It'll be like a vacation."

"I think I'd like that," MJ replied a few moments later. I could basically hear the smile in her voice. "So, you're okay?"

"I'm okay."

"You're drinking water? Eating food?"

"I am, baby."

"Am I keeping you from anything?"

"Nah, I'm just at a museum with Malcolm. We're at some presentation he really wanted to see."

"And you're on your phone in the middle of it?" MJ teased, though I could tell she felt bad I left to talk to her. "Go hang out with him! We can talk later. Call me when you're driving, or something. I'll keep you company."

"I wish you could keep me company right now," I said under my breath, and I was rewarded by her melodious laugh.

"Trust me, Jackson. When I see you again, you're going to have a hard time keeping me off you."

"Is that a promise?"

"You'll see. Plus, I got this new pajama set…" I stopped listening to her as one of the tombs rumbled a bit. "…slips right off…"

"Mmm, does it?" I responded off-handedly, stepping closer to the tomb.

"It does," MJ confirmed, her voice dropping to a whisper. She lightly teased, "You'll have to wait to see the rest, though. Get back to your presentation!"

"Okay, bye, cutie," I replied, putting my phone back in my pocket and examining the tomb. Just as I went to go run some diagnostics on it, the tomb snapped open, a bandaged hand grasping the edge of the clay creation.

"Holy…" For the first time in a while, I was rendered completely speechless as a mummy ambled out of the tomb, its legs twisting and popping in and out of place. It sounded wet and gross.

I pulled out Riptide as the mass of yellowed flesh drew closer. Some of the bandages were coming undone, revealing a skeletal figure underneath with splotches of horribly disfigured skin.

"أين أنا؟?" The mummy growled something I couldn't truly make out. It repeated its statement, its mouth stretching and swirling behind the wraps. As the mummy grew angrier, its eyes began glowing an ominous shade of red. "من أنت?"

I slashed my sword at the mummy, and it passed right through it. Damn it- did the magic of Riptide still technically classify this thing as human?

Spurred on by my attempt to kill it, the mummy darted at me with more speed than I would've thought possible from a half-dead dude wrapped in toilet paper.

I easily weaved by it, bringing a silver dagger out of my [Inventory]. It buzzed with electricity, and I flung it at the mummy. It landed in its throat with a satisfying thunk and exploded in a shower of blue sparks.

The mummy pressed forward, unbothered by the electricity running through its body. I frowned to myself- there was enough voltage in there to kill a baby hippo.

It stumbled toward me, swinging a wrapped arm. I ducked under the appendage and charged [The Thousand Hand Technique], releasing it a moment later.

CRUNCH!

I blasted through the mummy's arm, chaining it with a kick that crumbled its body. The mummy wailed, degenerating to an ash-like substance.

"What in the Scooby-Doo just happened?" I asked no one in particular as I tossed my dagger back to where it came from. Trying to shake myself out of the weird thoughts, I walked back into the auditorium before anything else could go wrong.

"—the original expedition ended a few years back. I received some funding from local companies to continue my research," Julius was saying, holding up a toolbag. "With the constant company of my son, I thankfully didn't go completely off the deep end in those tombs. Right, Carter?"

He nodded to a young kid in the front row, who looked mortified at the attention that was swung at him. Julius took it in stride, laughing indulgently and saying, "Well, perhaps not. My son seems to disagree."

There was some polite laughter as a response to that. Personally, I'd give the joke a high six out of ten, maybe five, but I guess that's just me. Not everyone can have my easygoing charm and wisecracking wit, you know?

I snuck into my seat next to Malcolm, hopefully not disrupting anyone else's experience in the process. A few of the people behind me grumbled, but no one cared enough to actually say anything to me.

"I digress; when I was deep in the tombs, I actually did discover something. As I mentioned earlier, the very first expeditions into these underground chambers were carried out before the advent of modern technology. As such, many notable parts of the history of Egypt were simply buried," Julius continued, pacing the stage. His words burned with an intensity I couldn't place. Was he mad? Sad? "You can imagine my momentary surprise, still, when we uncovered the tomb of Hatshepsut right underneath our initial site."

He paused for dramatic effect, his warm eyes roving the crowd. His gaze rested on me for a moment too long, before he cleared his throat and continued talking, "Surprised? Confused? All understandable reactions, of course. Hatshepsut is a rarely talked about a pharaoh, mostly on account of the fact that she was a female ruler."

Murmurs broke out in the auditorium. While I pondered how so many people could have an opinion on that, even Malcolm seemed a little surprised. Huh. Guess it really must be remarkable.

"I know, I know. Crazy, right? The fifth ruler of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, Hatshepsut reigned, our devices tell us, somewhere between the years of 1478 BC and 1458 BC. As the wife, daughter, and sister of a king, Hatshepsut not only shared the royal bloodline but also inherited the art of ruling from her royal family. Her bloodline was practically royalty itself," Julius continued. "It is believed that King Thutmose I wanted his daughter to inherit the throne. After her husband's death, Hatshepsut took over the throne and reigned for over 21 years. She accomplished a lot more than many other pharaohs could have done during their reign. From initiating countless construction projects to establishing routes for foreign trade, everything was accomplished smoothly, and the people enjoyed peace under her government."

He stopped for a moment, bending down and unzipping his workbag. Julius shuffled through a moment, before eventually procuring a clay cast of a butterfly-looking thing. He displayed it proudly for the assembled crowd, "The butterfly, an ancient symbol heavily associated with Hatshepsut. The Egyptians often merged their history and myth together, so interpret this as you will, but it was wildly believed that Hatshepsut, much like the rest of her bloodline, held the power of the gods."

Once again, the room broke out in murmurs. A woman behind me complained, "I came to hear him talk about excavations, not silly fairy tales."

Julius paid no mind to the crowd, "Unlike the rest of her family, though, she possessed abilities that had never been seen before, especially in Egypt. Hatshepsut could do wondrous things like produce ice and water from her fingertips, move whole buildings with little less than a thought, and—"

The door to the auditorium rumbled for a moment. Julius paused, his eyes narrowed.


[SIDE][DAILY] Quest Alert!

What's New Scooby-Doo?

Survive the onslaught of mummies!

Rewards:

$10 per mummy!


Really? That's kind of a lame quest…

"Pardon?" Julius said out loud as I accepted the quest.

Another rumble. Some of the people in the crowd started getting a little antsy. Even Malcolm looked back at the doors, a look of confusion passing over his features. "Percy, what is that?"

I grumbled under my breath, "Hopefully not what I think it is."

Unfortunately, as I've come to learn, Fate doesn't like me very much. I'd be willing to say it doesn't like me at all.

The doors busted open, and hordes of mummies began running toward me. Yep- right toward me. It felt like I was playing Black Ops again, stuck on a high round with no pistol ammo. Something made me doubt any of these little freaks were going to drop a powerup, too.

Malcolm's words from earlier echoed in my head: The burial chamber houses one of the largest collections of mummies in the United States: 23 human mummies.

The undead masses of the Chicago Museum of Natural History stumbled through the door, their bandaged bodies and decaying flesh colliding as they continued their search of me.

The people, though I'm not sure exactly what they saw, all screamed and began scrambling for the exits.

Malcolm trembled next to me, "Percy, are those…"

"Mummies," I said spitefully, noticing their glowing eyes. These bastards were already in kill mode. "Don't worry. I'll handle them."

This time, I wasn't messing around. It was all fun and games out there when it was just me and that one mummy, but now?

Malcolm's in here. That Carter kid's in here. I can't afford to mess around.

I took a deep breath, activating both [Pyrokinetic] and [Angelic Trigger] at the same time.

Unlike the usual explosion of flames that normally came from using that skill, [Angelic Trigger] negated its drawbacks, focusing the power into a refined and controlled state- a slow, green aura around my skin and hair.

CRACK!

I exploded off the seat, zipping straight to the nearest mummy and pulverizing it in a single hit. My eyes instantly flicked to the next one. Almost as if my body switched to autopilot, I teleported in front of the mummy and wiped it from existence with an ax kick.

The mummies, despite their overwhelming numbers, were wiped out pretty quickly. I'd been training against two high-level warriors for the better part of the year, and honestly, these mummies weren't really the most coordinated. Maybe this is why the quest was kind of lame.

They were more annoying than anything. A part of me began to wonder if this was just some practical joke from Nephthys- payback for my unintentional slight on her.

Was it unintentional? I don't think I meant to offend her, but eh. I've had the poor habit of pissing people off in the past. Bah. Beats me.

I exhaled slowly, turning both of my skills off, and turning back to Malcolm. "See? Easy! Nothing wrong."

"So," Julius called from up on the stage. For the first time, I noticed a boomerang- no, wand- in his hand. Despite his smile, the emotion wasn't reaching his eyes. "You've found me, after all."

"Huh?" I replied eloquently. What was he talking about? "Found who? You? I don't even know who you are, man."

"The House of Life won't halt my mission," Julius said in a no-nonsense tone. He brandished the wand, carefully pointing it at me like a loaded gun. "Not now, not ever."

"Look, I'm telling you—"

A red hieroglyph appeared in front of me, humming loudly with power. I instinctively jumped backward, just as the area underneath me exploded in a column of shrapnel and fire.

Malcolm scampered away, screaming.

"Julius," I said, grappling to get a hold on my anger. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Don't you, now?" The theorist pressed on, waving his wand. One of the chairs next to me folded in itself. It bubbled and swirled, like its molecular structure was being rearranged. A blazing hieroglyph roared to life.

Isfet. Chaos.

I frowned as the chair finished into transformation into a metal crocodile. No, I wasn't worried about it, or him, per se.

The opposite's true, in fact.

I'd worked my way through his game plan already- not that it was too tough. You see, I was sure I could wipe out Julius with one or two hits, and while I'm not sure he knew that, he was still maintaining a healthy distance.

Normally, I could blast my way through just about anything he was conjuring, but I had a weakness in this fight: Malcolm.

Whether by pure skill or luck, though I'm sure it isn't too much of a logical leap, seeing as Malcolm and I sat together, and he didn't run out when the mummies swarmed me, Julius knows I care about Malcolm and will prioritize his safety.

And he's using that against me. As long as I have to continue playing this defensively, he'll be able to sling spells at me from the stage. I think he thinks he can outlast me, or, at the least, buy himself enough time to escape.

Probably the latter. He isn't wearing any linen, and the conditions in this auditorium aren't beneficial for spellcasting at all. I'd wager, even though he's an adult with years of experience, his mana pool will run out after one or two more spells.

Maybe three if he's really pushing it, especially with these powerful ones that could knock back any other magician.

But Percy! I hear you asking already. How come Julius is getting tired so quickly and you're still not even breaking a sweat? You just fought dozens of mummies! And he's an adult!

Well, dear friend, there's only one answer: I'm awesome, and he's not. That's all there ever was to it.

Kidding, kidding. I'm kidding. Well, kind of, anyway.

The true reason he never really stood a chance against me, besides the conditions of the fight- which are horribly against him, by the way- lies in the difference between the nature of our powers.

Egyptian magic isn't quite like Greek magic. They're almost like polar opposites.

Greek magic is something each demigod is born with. This is seen in varying extents, of course, but it's still there. It's our birthright, in our very DNA. There are a few different exceptions to it, sure, but every godly parent imparts this much to their children, if not more.

It's like a package deal. Hey, welcome to the world of being a Greek demigod! Sure, you'll be in danger your whole life and never be able to live normally, but here are some cool powers!

I guess what I'm getting at, if I get serious for a moment, is that mana and its subsequent use is kind of like a muscle for us. Your godly parent, whoever they may be, determines where you start, just like human genetics. Greek demigods come into the world with the ability to harness mana, just as they enter the world with the capability to eat and drink and sing.

It doesn't fully work out for you in the future either way, though. Just because you have one of the Big Three as your parents doesn't necessarily mean you'll grow to become a juggernaut, and just because you have a peaceful or minor deity as your parent doesn't mean you'll be a weakling. You'll still have to work hard to master your gift, but I will admit that having a powerful parent does put you in a better starting point.

Someone like me, having half of Poseidon's DNA, starts off in an objectively better spot than someone like Piper, who has Aphrodite's DNA. Beyond that, it's all up to us. Well, kind of.

Starting points aside, using and detecting mana is a bit rarer and significantly harder than just having the ability to control it. While every demigod is born with the ability to harness it, using it in noticeable and impactful ways is a whole other story. My dad told me a while ago that I was the exception to that rule, and well, he was right.

Think of it as a dam. Every demigod has the ability to regulate the dam. You know- make sure the water isn't too high, know it's there. Do routine checkups. Most demigods do this unconsciously, without even knowing they are.

Using it is like drawing water out of it, in small or large amounts. Which, of course, is impossible without being able to detect it.

Well, not impossible. More like unconscious. Sometimes, when a demigod uses their power, they use mana, sure, but they don't know they're using it. They're just using their powers without knowing quite how they work.

I feel like I'm losing you. Okay, I'll backtrack.

It's kind of like the Force from Star Wars.

Is it wrong of me to reduce one of the greatest parts of my entire lineage and current extended family down to a movie reference? Maybe, but I think it makes things a little easier to understand.

Just like how in the movies, all of the Jedi and Sith and all that are force-sensitive, so are demigods. Just like an untrained force user, most demigods can manage small feats without prior instruction. And, just like the movies, with proper guidance, each demigod has the ability to be powerful- within reason of course.

From what I can gather, there is some semblance of activation when any demigod taps into their birthright. It manifests itself in different ways, sure, but the most basic and understandable one by far is the conduct and emotions of those who use it.

And so far, I've only stumbled across two ways of activating your latent abilities.

The "light" side of using mana is undoubtedly aligned with compassion, selflessness, self-knowledge and enlightenment, healing, mercy, and benevolence- all of that good stuff. As you can probably assume, the "dark" side of it is the opposite. We're talking hatred, fear, anger, aggression, jealousy- do I really need to keep going?

A case study in this is Piper and me.

The first time I ever harnessed my power was when I was talking to my dad on the dock. Hearing about my mom, the unfair circumstances around her kidnapping, the battle ahead- I'd had so much anger and hatred and Zeus knows what in my body, I'd unwillingly bent a metal buoy like a plastic toy. In all the times I've truly lost it, like my battle with Carcinus, I reach limits I never knew were possible. It just comes naturally.

This much holds true even when I use it in a battle like right now. I don't necessarily have good emotions behind using my powers.

In fact, I'd be willing to say I rarely do. Through the advent of the game, I can use destructive skills like my [Immolater] or [Death Leap] without too much conscious thought, but unconsciously?

I still want to hurt the person in front of me. I want them to be in pain. Sometimes I want them to suffer.

Think about it like if you were playing a video game. Even if you were controlling your character and, I don't know, hitting a button to make them attack someone, you still have that violence on your mind. Your intention is still to hurt. Even if you're just hitting a button.

That's sort of how the game compartmentalizes my feelings- it uses them as primers. When I use a skill, it's almost like a circular reaction where the game uses my own power- my emotions, my feelings- and then transforms it into something entirely greater. Something powerful.

This is almost directly in contrast to how Piper uses her powers. We've been training together for some time now, and every single time she taps into her inheritance, it's way different than how I do.

She claims she uses feelings of love, acceptance. Again, a direct contrast to the monstrous anger and waves of hate that motivate me. Again, genetics might have something to do with that, but the difference is still noticeable.

Apparently, Piper discovered her powers through self-actualization. Kind of lame if you ask me, but she learned how to control what was inside of her when she became fully honest with herself. When she admitted she was weak, and all that jazz, but made the vow to grow stronger in any way possible.

And, as I said, I got mine through a rush of anger. Two completely valid ways, and as far as I can tell, there aren't drawbacks to either. It's just how you choose to use what's yours.

Otherwise, you're just shooting a gun without knowing where the ammo is coming from or what it does. Mastering your mana is like being able to load RPGs into a pistol. It's invaluable.

That's why we're different from the Egyptians, and dare I say, even better.

Whereas all of the power we use is ours, our counterparts across the world use Divine Words of Power. They're called divine because they enable the magicians to use the commands to wield godly strength and powers.

Case in point- it isn't theirs to use. They speak in a different tongue- an ancient magic language that lets them temporarily tap into someone else's strength. They then take that strength and transform it into something usable, such as a spell. Magicians are capped off, though, because if they exert too much energy, their life force will literally burn to ashes.

"You won't win this," I called out to Julius, flipping over the metal contraption, and instantly melting its maw off with a burst of flame. I raised my hand at him, a green fireball spinning to life on my fingertips. "So, I suggest you stand down, and we can have a talk about all of this. I don't want to hurt you."

Julius paused for a moment and lowered his wand. For a moment, I wondered if he was pulling a fast one on me, but I took a look at his body- he was panting in exertion. "Who are you? How are you doing this?"

"Percy Jackson," I called out, extinguishing the flame. "Come to your senses now?"

"Look, kid," He sighed, a weary look on his face. "I've made some enemies around the world. You can't really blame me for taking it a bit weird when all your summons busted in here, raising all kinds of hell."

"My summons?" I repeated, scoffing. "I have no idea what those mummies were, and absolutely no idea what they were doing! They attacked me outside!"

"Hm," Julius rubbed his chin, deep in thought. "I thought…no matter. Even if you aren't a mage from the House of Life, we should probably still talk. Let's go to the cafeteria. It's on me- consider it an apology for attacking you."

"I've never been one to turn down free food."


A few minutes later, Julius, Malcolm, Carter, and I were sitting down at the museum cafeteria, plates of food in front of us. Carter nearly had a breakdown, but Julius comforted him enough for us to continue talking.

Well, that, and he told me he was going to wipe his son's memory of the day while we were waiting in line for our food. So, I decided to pay no attention to it. His son, his rules, I guess.

"Our flights in an hour, so I'll make this quick," Julius sighed, rubbing his temples. "When your- when those mummies came in, I thought maybe you'd been a necromancer, sent from the House of Life to kill me."

"Two questions," I said, biting into a burger. "What's the House of Life, and what's necromancy?"

"The House of Life, also known as the Per Ankh, is an organization of Egyptian magicians, founded by the god of writing and magic, Thoth," Julius replied, his eyes hardening. "In ancient times, each temple in Egypt had a branch called the House of Life. They could perform amazing feats with magic and could call upon the power of the gods. In modern times, the organization has become global and operates out of three-hundred and sixty nomes worldwide. I used to be a member…but we had a falling out. I've been paranoid of them hunting me down ever since."

"You said they're worldwide- does this mean there's a large concentration of them here? Is that why you were so quick to attack?"

"Er," He had the decency to look embarrassed. The tips of his ears turned the same color as his sweater. "The House is primarily operated in the First Nome, specifically the remains of the ancient Egyptian city, Heliopolis. Young magicians are trained here. At age thirteen, they are assigned to a specific nome and typically leave the city. Normally, initiates must start training by the age of thirteen, and after spending three years in the First Nome under Cairo, Egypt, they will be assigned to one of the other districts around the world to keep an eye on rogue monsters, demons, and gods. That's my roundabout way of saying: not exactly."

Julius paused, sipping from his bottle of juice. "As for necromancy, well. It's a path of magic. Skilled necromancers can summon spirits of the dead to answer questions or perform tasks, even haunt people's dreams. The spirits of the dead were important forces in Ancient Egypt, and any good necromancer can use these forces or ward them off as needed. I figured, in my paranoia, that you were a skilled magician coming after me."

"Which I'm not."

"Right. Well, you are still a magician, aren't you?" Julius said, sizing me. "A rather powerful one, if your display of magic was anything to go by."

"I'm an Elementalist," I told him, telling him a version of the truth. I didn't trust the man enough to tell him the truth about who I was or where I came from. "I'm traveling across the country with my family, and my cousin here wanted to see your presentation."

"Ah. That makes sense. I had a bad feeling about this one, but I'm glad to see nothing too dangerous happened. This museum is on the western side of the shipping canal," Julius stroked his goatee. "Regardless, I believe it's in your best interest to leave as soon as you can, too."

"We were planning on leaving tonight," I nodded.

"Good, good," Julius exhaled, pulling a card out of his pocket. He slid it across the table. "My card. In case something of this nature arises again."

"Thanks. I'll keep you in mind," I waved the card, slipping it into my pocket as he got up to leave.

"Good. A word of advice, young magician," Julius turned to look at me. "Beware of the gods. They always have their own agendas. Come, now, Carter."

"So, you're saying the Egyptian gods are real," Silena summarized as we walked along the Chicago River. It glittered prettily in the setting sun, the red hues bathing the waterfront trail in a fiery light. "And one of them is after you. And Malcolm."

"Basically," I said, sizing up everyone's reactions. Malcolm's face fell, Silena scowled, and Jason stared at me impassively. "Don't worry too much."

"Don't worry?" Silena repeated, kicking a pebble across the sidewalk. The force behind the kick was immense- she launched that thing like it was the root of all her problems. "Don't worry? Percy, you just said—"

"I know what I said. You didn't let me explain. Their gods aren't quite as strong as ours. The way our gods can walk among us like mortals- theirs can't do that," I said, holding Malcolm's hand as he walked closer to me, shuddering in spite of the heat. "When they enter the mortal plane, they have to bind themselves to hosts or they'll dissipate. I've met two of them- I could've destroyed them both. I'd bet my whole bank account Jason could, too."

Jason nodded from behind us, twirling his coin between his fingertips. Even in a purple tee and a pair of jeans, he still looked threatening. "Percy's probably right. I can give a decent fight to most minor gods. If what he's saying is true, those gods won't have a chance at nabbing either of them."

"Then why tell us?" Silena asked curiously, pushing her bangs out of her face. "I mean, besides just informing us. I know you, Percy. There's something you want."

I cracked a grin, "I must've grown predictable. You're right, though. Not right this second, but I want to start training you. All of you. To unlock your latent power."

"Latent power?" Jason tried the words out, scowling. I didn't mean it like that! "What do you mean?"

"Piper and I have been experimenting with this for a while," I said, scratching my chin. "Haven't you ever wondered how I can do some of the things I can do?"

"I have," Silena admitted grudgingly. Skeptically, she continued, "And you're saying we can do them too? All of them?"

I nodded, "Maybe not all of them, but kind of."

"Anna says I can't train, though," Malcolm pouted. His backpack hobbled up and down with each step, and Gerald looked like he was being taken on the ride of his life. "She says I'm too small."

"Anna isn't going to stop me," I said seriously, still being mindful of Malcolm's young age. I didn't want to be too aggressive toward his mother in every sense but physical. "I'll talk to her."

"Death wish," Silena said under her breath, smiling sheepishly when I glared at her. "Oops."

"Percy's a capable warrior. He wouldn't do this without good reason," Jason commented from behind us. "I trust him implicitly."

"Thanks, Jason." The man really knew how to cheer a guy up.

"We need to loosen you up, Grace," Silena complained from in front of us. She arched her back a bit. "How are you so ramrod straight all the time? Does that not hurt?"

Jason hummed, "I was trained to stand this way as a part of my conditioning. My previous caretaker had grunts hit my body with sticks until I could maintain this form for hours on end. It's like second nature to me, Ms. Beauregard."

Silena blushed down to her roots. Smooth, Silena. Smooth. "Oh, um, I see."

We stopped walking as we reached our destination- Lou Malnati's. For the first time that day, Jason sported a wide grin. "This place has the best pizza in Chicago."

"I think I'll be the judge of that."


The rest of the day, thankfully, passed by pretty uneventfully, and we were right back on the road.

One thing I'll mention, though, is how much I've come to enjoy family dinners. It seems alien to me that just a year ago, I thought I had no family other than my mom and Smelly Gabe, but I would've sooner danced around NYC with a tutu on than called that whale family.

Now, though? I had family all over the place- literally.

When I'm at camp, people actually fight over who gets to sit with me, even though I always end up sitting with Malcolm and Annabeth anyway.

And, I know it's going to sound cliché, but funnily enough, I feel like I've learned how to have a conversation as a result. It seems like such a small thing but since we have set meal times every day and phones don't really work behind the borders, it's honestly been a case study in how to truly converse with another human with no distractions.

It feels weird, to say the least, and I don't know if I've grown enough to completely quantify what I'm feeling into words, but yeah. I like it.

Besides, how could anyone not? Dinner by the Chicago River with some of my friends, nice music, and good pizza? Sounds like Elysium to me- not that I plan on going to the real Elysium anytime soon.

I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel as we passed by a big WELCOME TO KANSAS sign. We were making decent time.

"Okay, okay, here's a good one," MJ, who insisted on keeping my company on the drive over the phone, muttered excitedly. "Would you rather have the ability to see 10 minutes into the future or 150 years into the future?"

"Uh, ten minutes into the future," I replied. "OH, oh! Here's one. Would you rather swim in a pool full of Nutella or a pool full of maple syrup?"

"Ew," MJ said, and I could imagine her wrinkling her nose. "Maple syrup, though. Would you rather have to wear every shirt inside out or every pair of pants backward?"

"Oh, easy, babe. Shirt inside out all the way. Wearing pants backward would mean the fly would be, well, it doesn't matter. Um, would you rather be able to speak any language or be able to communicate with animals?"

"Har, har. Communicate with animals, like my superhero boyfriend," MJ said, thinking to herself. "I'm running out of good ones! This is so unfair! Oh, would you rather—"

My eye picked up on movement somewhere in front of me, and my reflexes roared. Taut muscles splintered together like livewire on my skin, and my hand gripped the wheel hard, ultimately swerving the car to the right.

"Babe?" MJ said a moment later. "What was that?"

"I'm not entirely sure," I said, looking in the rear-view mirror.

In the low light of the Kansas fields, I saw a hulking behemoth of metal behind us. It had a round, low body the size of a picnic table, accompanied by razor-sharp wings that had feathers like serrated kitchen knives.

The monster's beak was glinting red, and its eyes glittering dangerously. It rose to its full height- I'd say ten feet- and I noted the crisscrossing stars on its belly.

It looked like a Stymphalian bird, only on steroids- and might I remind you, slaying those things was one of the labors for the greatest demigod of all time. Great.

It screeched, launching back at the car again. I pulled the steering wheel hard, drifting us away again. This time, Jason shook awake.

"Yeah, honey," I said in a strained voice as the bird narrowly missed us again. "I'm going to have to call you back."


AN: Well, hello! It's been a while since I've actually had an author's note (mainly because I've gotten lazy and just started uploading chapters the moment they're done) but this time, I wanted to make it a point to have some form of discourse, just because I understand this chapter could have some potentially confusing things and pretty soon, the story's going to get pretty crazy.

I do have a new story, but this one will always be my priority. Always.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at, is buckle up.

One of the things I wanted to explore with the idea of having the pantheons mix is the idea of power scaling. To do this idea justice, I went back and reread all of the Kane Chronicles, and the truth of the matter is that they're just not as powerful as the Greeks. Not even close. I think Percy does a decent job of explaining this discrepancy (and he is qualified because he's worked with both), but if you guys have any super pressing questions, drop them in a review or a PM.

Characters! This arc is going to have a lot of growth for everyone involved, so keep that in mind. It will be a central theme moving forward.

Power! Percy's giving some pretty big hints to how the Gamer powers really work, and to my more keen-eyed readers, the poem from before is going to start paying dividends real soon. Hell, you might even get some more hints if you really pay attention.

Planning. In terms of planning, I've mapped out all the way to Battle of the Labyrinth. I'll be sticking to the major events of canon pretty closely in terms of timing, but pretty soon, well. Let's just say a fan favorite is going to be making an appearance.


Now, it has been a while but! Onto my favorite part:

Rahad: I feel like it's a good idea for me to mention, again, that the poll is for my own research, in a sense. I want to gauge interest in different pairings, but ultimately, I'll do what I want. It could be the one winning, it could be the one not winning, it could be one that isn't even there!

plebston323: I'm glad you came around, lol. Aph isn't a bitch per se, but she's got some growing to do. My favorite irony in the world is how many people dropped this fic after that chapter, seeing as she vows to be better for Percy, but I digress.

JackBlaze123: Bro, I couldn't agree more. How the fuck does a god ever get tricked like that? It just makes no sense, but myths are myths, I guess. As for his bloodline, well, I'll just say that it was a convenient way for me to do some things you'll find out about soon. Do you remember that idea we talked about a while back? It feeds into that.

Arrowman: Well, you know me!

Yesirsski: Man, did it feel good to hear from you! Have some faith.

Crissthethief: Hah. Guilty as charged.

King Kroniiclez: I won't be doing that! I like their companionship too much to do that.

TheHandOfJustice: Jesus, man, where did you come from? I'll take the compliments as always, and hell yeah I'm better than you! I remember you flexing your story on me back in the day, but now who's winning mwahahah! I'll take the coffee, though, it's been far too long.

Malosi: The picture in reference is from the chapter where Percy helps Malcolm look for his stuffed animal- chapter 21.

Caelum Est Finis: Thank you for pointing this out to me. My fic is indeed the 22nd most followed fic of all time, which, when considering the fact that it's maybe 20% done is just bonkers. Thank you guys so much.

SandaKagami: My lips are sealed, but…wink!