Time remained frozen. Every molecule of water around me stood perfectly still. The creases on Eri's suit remained the same. The shards of glass floating in the carriage stood in place like they were being held up by invisible strings connected to the roof.
My only companion was the slight buzzing noise coming from the screen in front of me. A part of me wondered if Heket was in my head right now, patiently waiting to see what I was going to pick- other than that possibility, it did feel like the entire world had stopped and was waiting anxiously to see what I'd pick.
Which, well, I guess it kind of was. I was about to irreversibly change the course of history, after all.
Now since I knew how much the choice I was about to make was going to change the world around me, I felt even more compelled to think about it at length.
Not that it made the choice any easier; as you'd expect, it very much did the opposite. I kept finding myself running down rabbit holes, worrying about the slightest changes that could come from this decision. What if I chose wrong, and something happened to my mom? What if something happened to me, or EDEN? What if I somehow got shorter because of this, or less handsome?
Heket told me the outcomes of my last decision- how the two choices I'd been juggling back and forth between could've led to the destruction of the camp. How I would've been dating someone named Zoe Nightshade.
Was the choice I was going to make here do something similar? In my pursuit of doing the right thing for me, was I somehow going to doom everything else?
At the end of the day, though, I knew these thoughts were pointless. For some reason, a reason I had yet to understand, I'd been given these powers. I could alter reality- for better, or for worse.
I guess, in a way, I was chosen for this. So, whoever or whatever gave me these powers trusted me to make the right call. I had to do what was right, or what I thought was right, and I just had to live with the consequences. That's all I could do.
I stared at the screen for what felt like hours, before settling on my decision.
Here's how the process went- and trust me, from an outside POV, it probably looked kind of funny.
Again, the last time I made a choice like this, even knowing it would affect a lot of things, I had no real way of knowing just how far those changes would go. Knowing the depth of the decision that lay in front of me might've scared someone else, but the more I thought about it, I actually kind of felt relieved to know that even a year ago, I'd been on the right track.
I offhandedly opened my [Inventory] and grabbed a pencil and notebook, along with a can of Coke and some chocolate pretzels. I got the sense I would be here for a while, so I figured I'd get comfortable.
Anyway, I had a decent idea of where to start.
I'd done a bit of reading over the summer, and one of the books I'd read seemed to fit the situation. It was a book by Athena (obviously) that delved into the science behind decision-making- or her hypothesis of it, anyway.
According to her, any 'well-considered' decision is generally the result of six or so precursory steps. For a goddess like her, the steps involved in the process could trend upward to be in the thousands because her brain can compute every single possibility, but for the rest of us, six's the magical number.
The first step, of course, is to identify the decision that's to be made.
It sounds basic, I know. You know that you need to make a decision, but the important part is trying to clearly define the nature of the decision you're trying to make.
This first step is critical, if only because so many people mess it up by taking it at face value. Let's say I put you in a room with two buttons in front of you, red and blue. These buttons lead to hatches with food in them, lollipops on the left, and a steak on the right. Pressing a button, however, leads to some sort of punishment, let's say a slap on the wrist for the lollipops and a kick in the nuts for the steak.
Is your decision which button to press? Or is it what food you want to eat? Maybe you're more focused on the punishment?
You can imagine how different people would react. Take a homeless man off the street, and he'll take the steak, even with the nuts-kicking involved, because he's hungry- he values that over everything else. Take a little kid, and they'll choose the lollipops- do you see where I'm going with this?
Bad analogies aside, what I'm trying to say is that every decision has conditions attached- and step one is figuring out which conditions will make your decision for you. It's figuring out what motivates you.
So, what's my decision? What's my end goal?
I want to make the decision that'll change the lives of most people for the better- the choice that'll protect the greatest number of people that I care about. And how's that going to happen?
Easy. I can protect the most people I care about if I'm the strongest I can be. I want the choice that'll make me the strongest. Just like that, step one is done.
I scribbled get as strong as possible on the empty paper.
Step two: gathering relevant information.
This step involves collecting some pertinent information before you make your decision: what information is needed, the best sources of information, and how to get it. This step involves both internal and external "work." Some information is internal: you'll seek it through a process of self-assessment. Other information is external: you'll find it online, in books, from other people, and other sources.
Luckily for me, I have all the information in front of me, and it's pretty clear-cut.
Step three is to identify the alternatives, which, of course, are all in front of me, so I'm just going to skip that one, too.
Step four is to weigh the evidence and choose among the alternatives. Based on the information that's been collected, draw upon your emotions to imagine what it would be like if you carried out each of the alternatives to the end. Evaluate whether the need identified in Step 1 would be met or resolved using each alternative.
Athena postulates that as you go through this difficult internal process, you'll begin to favor certain alternatives: those that seem to have a higher potential for reaching your goal. The next step, of course, is to place the alternatives in priority order, based on your own value system.
If my goal is to get stronger, what play track benefits me the most? I made four bullet points to rank the choices.
Off rip, I can confidently say that the [White-Periwinkle] track is off the table.
I mean, it literally says "Your power begins to stagnate. Without the pressure of training with your father, your gains will eventually slow and outright diminish, while your opponents' strength continues to climb."
I'm placing that one at the bottom.
The [White-Olive] is off the table too, but it's still ranked above the [White-Periwinkle] because it doesn't outright say I'll get weaker. The insinuation is there, though.
If people start doubting me, and by extension, my father and Atlantis, that's still some part of my life being weakened in the pursuit of being objectively good, I guess.
It's the exact opposite of what my goal from step one is. And, I suppose, I do care about all the people in Atlantis, so if any part of their lives is negatively impacted by this decision, I'll end up feeling like that's on me, too.
That leaves the other two, and to be honest, [White-Black] is going to go in the second spot. While it seems like the continuation of my choice from the first play track, having my 'façade crack,' sounds like it could be a potential liability in the future.
Knowing what I know now, the first version of my 'façade crack' was realizing Aphrodite's deception and the following emotional upheaval. I don't know if I can afford to be like that again, especially with the responsibilities I have now.
Despite that, it ranks second because through that emotional upheaval and subsequent bond-breaking, I realized the full nature of my potential.
I met Heket, learned more about the Game, and discovered the source of my power- the echoes of power from other deities that were being funneled through my body, like some sort of conduit. I met Jason, I co-founded the new EDEN, and I saved Thalia- all of this was caused by the ripple of Aphrodite's betrayal.
I guess I'm just nervous- if the first version of my façade breaking was that rough, how much worse would the second be? Even if good could come out of that decision, would it be worth the bad?
I couldn't confidently answer yes.
So, I guess that leaves the [White-Polka] track. The downside of this play track, of course, is that it's the most objectively evil one, but well, I don't know how true that is. Hear me out.
Though it seems silly now, I can't help but think of the days before I knew I was a demigod.
I guess for some reason, when I found out I was a demigod, I was expecting the kind of demigod treatment the original Perseus, Achilles, or Theseus, even, got. The standard package of killing stuff, getting cool stuff from the gods, and eventually either dying a painful death or settling down.
When you read those stories, there's always a moral at the end, or the middle, or somewhere in there. I mean sure, at first glance, you wouldn't really think so.
No, if you read any of these old-timey myths with an absent mind, they won't make any sense to you; and why would they? The myths of old tend to be outlandish, full of all kinds of mystical things like witches, gods, and monsters so frightening that just hearing about them would make you want to curl up into a ball and think, 'Thank god that story was just a stupid myth.'
Even in the stories without monsters and magic, the subject matter still falls somewhere in the range of kind of weird to unbelievably disturbing.
Even in the class Mr. Brunner- well, Chiron, taught, we still read about some pretty intense subject matter. Families who turn murderously on each other; impossible tasks set by cruel kings; love that goes wrong; wars and journeys and terrible loss.
There was magic, there was shapeshifting, there were monsters, and there were descents to the land of the dead. Humans and immortals inhabited the same world, which was sometimes perilous, and sometimes exciting.
But being a real demigod? There are no morals. There's no real excitement. There's no symbolism, no silver lining to pull you through. It's either kill or be killed. Live in constant fear out in the real world or relax behind the confines of the camp. Looking for meaning beyond that is asking for trouble.
Take Luke, for example. He almost died trying to get an apple from the garden of Hesperides, and then, when he came back to the camp, he thought he saw some sign in that failure, some motivation for a higher calling. He used that motivation to betray his family, his friends, and everyone at camp.
I can't think like that. I can't keep trying to look for the most objectively good decision to make all the time, because the people I need to catch up and beat aren't thinking like that. If anything, I'd be handicapping myself.
With my mind made up, I pressed the screen for the [White-Polka] track. There was a loud gong noise, and the ink and screens disappeared quickly. Time seemed to flow normally.
"I understand, Eri," The words tumbled out of my mouth as if my body was moving on autopilot. "I can't say I trust you just yet, but I know what it's like to care about your home. At the least, I'll hear you out."
"Terrific, dear boy, terrific! Allow me to earn your trust," Eri's face twisted into a huge grin, and I took his proffered hand. "Let me be the first to welcome you, prince, to the home of PROTEUS."
We stepped out of the chariot. My foot immediately sunk into a thin layer of…snow? As my eyes adjusted to the low light of whatever part of the ocean we were in, PROTEUS emerged out of the shadows like a gigantic mass of steel and glass.
Honestly, it kind of looked like a weirdly futuristic version of an evil knight's castle. It was all black steel and dyed glass, with monstrous towers and slit windows and a big set of metal double doors.
As Eri and I stepped closer to the building, the snow shifted. With a slight groan, a metal walkway slowly rose out of the ground, with glowing red lights around the perimeter. Eri placed his hand on the railing, and the lights slowly turned green.
Upwards of the main building, there were moving discs, rotating in an elliptical pattern while emitting a low humming noise. They spewed white mist down on the castle, coating the structure in a glossy sheen. Some of the mist trailed downward toward us, and I noticed that what I previously thought was snow was that mist- just a lot of it.
"Antiseptic," Eri commented as he followed my line of sight. He gestured toward the discs, "Some of our experiments involve creating new biological agents or using gene-editing software on existing ones- we use those discs to prevent the growth of disease-causing microorganisms on the outside, or between campuses."
"It reminds me of snow," I replied softly, holding out my hand as the mist settled on my fingertips. I could feel the molecules of water inside, "You mentioned campuses?"
"That's correct," Eri gestured for me to follow him up the walkway. It creaked and groaned as we continued our path, "Though, for your edification, not in an academic sense. In a medical sense, campus refers to inpatient and/or outpatient facilities located at different addresses operated under a common hospital license issued by the Department. We have a few of those, all of which are connected via our central building- all of which, of course, have been approved by Atlantis."
I hummed as I ran my hand along the railing, "So, Atlantis is aware of- and approves of- all of your research?"
"Now, Perseus. Is that what I said? Please don't try to play the fool when we both know how intelligent you truly are," Eri said with a vicious gleam in his eyes. "Oh, please do take a moment to take in the view. We have incredible positioning for our facilities; we're on the outer rim of Atlantis right now, an area generally defined by medical facilities and warehouses. Though, on occasion, there is quite a bit of natural beauty."
Eri was right. From the angle we were currently at, I could just barely make out the cliff that PROTEUS was standing on. It stretched high above the ground beneath it, and though it was kind of hard to tell, it seemed to be overlooking this big forest.
"Lumber yards tend to peruse this area, though Atlantean lumber isn't wood; not in the sense you must be imagining. Well, on occasion, when a dam is established on a river or such, water can back up and create a lake over established forests, which can then survive without steady oxygen. Mangrove trees, for example, have special roots that allow them to breathe air and survive while submerged," Eri trailed his finger along the railing as we walked, mimicking my movement from before. "The forest in front of you, however, is all kelp. The nutrients in the soil- discharge from Atlantis- are powerful enough to solidify it and give it the appearance of an overworld tree."
"I had no idea Atlantis was so…developed," I struggled for the right word. Last summer, I'd only ever really seen the main city and some of its direct neighbors. I'd never been so far out before. "I've spent most of my time near the castle, to be honest. To think that all of this is just…out here is kind of crazy to wrap my head around."
Eri patted my shoulder knowingly, "Not entirely your fault, young prince. Your duty lies inside those walls. Mine lies out here. I suppose it's good practice for us both to venture outside of our spheres of influence from time to time."
We reached the doors. Eri stepped forward and knocked three times. The doors disappeared in front of us, and we continued walking.
"But, still," I muttered as the tile floors of the building gleamed in front of me, set alight by the series of chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
We soon found ourselves in front of a receptionist, who didn't even look up at first, "Welcome back, sir. The Somniosus department has completed a few trial runs, with the results uploaded to our database already. Hamiltoni has acquired funding for their human tests, and—"
"Excellent, my dear," Eri cut her off with a chuckle, "As always, I appreciate your promptness, but we have company!"
The receptionist looked up with a bored expression, and in less than a second, her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. "Oh—oh my goodness, my lord, I'm so sorry, I didn't even notice you were there! Please forgive my rudeness!"
"Please, I—none of that," I said, waving off her concern. "Really. I'm just, well, happy to be here. Don't worry on my account. What's your name?"
"Makela," The receptionist giggled, straightening her hair, "I hope you enjoy your visit, er, sir."
"I'm sure he will," Eri inserted himself back into the conversation with a diplomatic smile, "Makela, please email me those advancements you mentioned earlier. The young prince and I have some business to attend to."
"Of course, sir," Makela nodded, scribbling down something on a sticky note. She turned to look at me as we walked by, "Bye!"
"Bye," I replied with what I hoped was a genuine smile as Eri led me into an elevator. "She's nice."
Eri hummed in agreement as he clicked the lowest button, "Oh, yes. Top of her class as well. Very passionate about what we do here."
"Which you still haven't elaborated on, by the way," I pointed out, stretching out my shoulder. "I think I've earned enough goodwill to at least get the basics, now, haven't I?"
Eri barked out a laugh, "I suppose you're correct. Well, the building you're currently standing in is the home of the PROTEUS foundation, a research facility developed and funded by Atlantis to promote scientific research. A good deal of our work is geared toward the people; we develop medicines, vaccines, nutritional supplements, top-of-the-line medical equipment- anything to better the lives of our citizens. Thanks to our continued funding from Atlantis, we're able to provide all of this at no cost to Atlanteans."
"Kind of like universal healthcare, then," I pondered as I watched the elevator go lower and lower. "Is it a part of the taxes Atlanteans pay?"
"We don't pay taxes. Everything you see here is through the generosity of your father. Back in the original war with Oceanus, I was a field medic. I'd been so grateful to Atlantis for liberating us, that, well, I wanted to give back. So, when the war, unfortunately, dealt me an injury that even I couldn't heal, I decided to get away from the frontlines and direct my efforts elsewhere. I wanted to create a facility dedicated to the protection of Atlantis, even when I couldn't physically do so myself," Eri exhaled slowly, clutching his right leg, "Nonetheless, I started this division hundreds of years ago, and eventually built it into what it is today."
"I'm sorry for your loss," I said sympathetically, "But, it's nice to see you made the best of it. And you named it after Proteus, the shape-shifter?"
"I did. I wanted the research we do here to save lives, to give our home the ability to change shape and adapt to anything thrown at it."
"Your inventions didn't always protect home," I glanced at Eri, "Chet. Carcinus. A lot of people affiliated with the organization did a lot more harm than good."
"Chet was sent to Atlantis to send a message to Delta," Eri replied shortly. "Carcinus is a different story. He was made with our technology, yes, but not with our express knowledge and support. We had a mole for years, and he was only very recently brought to justice- by you."
"Alpheus was the one who created Carcinus?"
"In a manner of speaking. PROTEUS allows members of the military to request commissions, and given the nature of the transactions, we're not allowed to inquire about the modification before or after the operation. An oversight, yes, but one that has been dealt with. Let me guarantee you this; if we had caught even the slightest wind of what Carcinus was doing, he would've been erased, and Alpheus would have been shackled up."
The elevator doors dinged open, "Commissions? Operations? Is this the part of PROTEUS you aren't telling me about?"
"Yes. Though, it's not that I'm not telling you because I wish to hide it from you," Eri gestured toward the wall on our left. "It's that my words simply won't do it justice. Observe."
The wall- a steel-covered, doubly reinforced glass pane, held a man behind it.
He was surrounded by wooden targets- crudely cut slabs of wood with poorly painted Xs. With a flick of his wrist, bronze blades jutted out of his skin, and he twisted in a circle, slashing and hacking the targets into tiny pieces.
"How do you give someone those kinds of modifications?" I wondered, observing the weapons in his arms. They seemed to sink back and forth out of his skin, appearing when needed and disappearing the moment he pulled away. It was kind of like they had a mind of their own. "Does it not hurt?"
"Undoubtedly, you've encountered some people in the sea that derive from different species- for survival. The mining town of R54 had been no different. My lineage is intermixed with the siphonophore- or, as it's more commonly referred to- the man o' war," Eri explained, raising a hand. He wiggled his fingers, and they slowly turned into long, black tentacles. "A siphonophore is unusual in that it is comprised of a colony of specialized, genetically identical individuals called zooids- clones- with various forms and functions, all working together as one. Each of the four specialized parts of a man o' war is responsible for a specific task, such as floating, capturing prey, feeding, and reproduction. This trait is what allowed me to be an effective field medic."
"How so?" We continued walking through the floor, and I kept encountering more and more genetically modified warriors. There was a woman whose entire body was made of a celestial bronze alloy that allowed her to shapeshift and shoot rockets. A man, Markus, had arms that had been genetically modified to warp into cannons that shot rockets the size of small cars.
"With the colony inside of me, I was able to house medicines and salves and retrieve them without a second thought. From there, as you can imagine, multitasking was quite simple," Eri chuckled. "It's what continues to allow me to do what I do, even after all these years. I'm capable of doing eight different things at once with perfect accuracy."
"So, you're basically a one-man medical team," I summarized, to which he nodded. "I think I get it now. You already had the experience and medical knowledge from your frontline days, so this was just an outlet for you to funnel that into."
"Precisely. This was originally chosen as a flagship site for the Atlantean Medical Center- an offsite, if you will, for when the overflow of patients became too much to handle. Eventually, though, we transformed into what we are today; a research and development facility with a focus on genetics and biological editing," We stopped walking a moment later, in front of a heavily padlocked door. My eyes ran up and down the thick frame, hinging on the rows of celestial bronze chains. "Well, young prince, we've arrived. Shall we?"
I blinked as the chains slowly melted into the door, "We shall."
The doors creaked open, and I was greeted by an all-white room, with a few cabinets on the lefthand side of the room, and a medical sink, to boot.
In the middle of the room, there was a gurney with a heavily restrained Oceanus. He looked even older than he had last summer, and his eyes were unblinkingly staring up at the ceiling as his mouth slowly opened and closed.
"Is this some sick joke?" I growled, stepping into the room- Riptide was in my grasp before Eri could get a word out. Anger surged through my veins- small flashes of heat lit up my back and up my shoulders as I stepped closer to the gurney. "How the fuck is he still alive? I thought I killed him!"
"You did," Eri clarified as he stepped into the room. As his gaze rested upon the bound Titan, I saw an ugly expression settle on his face. "Mentally. While he's still bound in the name of precaution, the sad sack you see in front of you is nothing but a vegetable. No brain activity, no consciousness, just unconscious behavior."
I calmed down a bit as my observations backed up what Eri was saying, "So…this is what you wanted to show me. Why?"
"Perseus…never- never, ever, ever in the entire course of recorded history has an immortal become braindead. You need to understand; immortals do not feel pain as we do, they do not exist as we do," Eri explained patiently, rolling over a medical tray. He began shuffling through the assorted tools, "The forms they take in front of us are supposed to be manifestations. Representations of what we think they look like. Pinning down a deity to a physical form is difficult enough, but pinning one down, trapping one inside, and then destroying their consciousness? Impossible. Or, at least, we thought it was until you came along."
"So, do you want answers, then?" I leaned against the cabinets. Triton had sworn me to secrecy about our one-time Egyptian magic, so even if I wanted to, I couldn't tell Eri the truth about what had happened last summer, "Well, I'm sorry, but you'd be out of luck. I don't remember much of the fight. There were two immortals in my head, so I was more concerned about that, and then, well, I ended up in a coma for a while."
"While that's interesting, it's not exactly necessary. No, I didn't bring you down here to interrogate you; rather, I ultimately wanted to offer you something. Though, before that happens, I need to ask you a question," Eri said as he began making incisions into Oceanus' arm with a scalpel. The Titan groaned, making me tense, but I realized, like two seconds later, that it was just a random noise he was making. "How far are you willing to go for Atlantis?"
"Um. That's a heavy question," I blinked. Honestly, I was expecting him to ask me something about my fight with Oceanus, or something. A picture of the group of dead people from the forest flashed in my mind, "As far as I need to, though. I guess we have some common ground on that."
"Partially. Let me rephrase my question; Perseus, I choose to protect Atlantis. I don't have to by any means! You, on the other hand, have been born into this position. It's all you've known since you arrived here," Eri pursed his lips. "So, the real question I wanted to ask- please don't be offended- is…all of this…Atlantis, the Greek world, being the Child of Prophecy…is this something that happened to you? A bad dream, one that you think you can simply wake up from if try hard enough? A temporary part of your life that you're trying to run from?"
His words hit a little close to home. It was a question I'd been repeating in my head for some time now. Especially after my fight with MJ, the part of me that cared about mortal stuff like school and dances seemed so far away.
I mean, how could it not? My dad just offered to personally train me for a month! After a day of training with him, I'd learned an ability so strong that I excavated forty yards of a forest with it on my first try.
Not only that, but it was my dad…an Olympian! No one, and I mean no one else in camp got this kind of treatment. No one else's parents did more than send them gifts, or pop up in dreams from time to time, and here mine was- one of the most important gods of them all- offered to spend time with me and I was really considering basketball and school over taking him up on the offer.
"I did. To be completely honest with you, until I came to Atlantis I was…thinking like that," I muttered, rubbing my forehead. "Like this was some stupid tournament. A side job. But I don't know, man. When I stepped onto the field to face Kalios, or when I was stuck in that forest with everyone doubting me, for the first time in a while, I just wanted to put them in the ground for even thinking about it. Then, when I thought that snake posed a real danger…but this is all beside the point. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Greek world isn't something I can choose between anymore. It's what I am, and I need to own up to it."
"That's the answer I was looking for," Eri grinned, gently placing his scalpel down on a medical tray. I glanced at the instrument- its tip, fresh with golden blood, was steaming. "Now, then. Onto business. What if I told you I could transfer Oceanus' remaining power to you?"
"You, uh, you could what?" I stumbled out a moment later. "You're telling me you could give me the rest of his power?"
"I think so," Eri amended, gesturing toward Oceanus' open wound. "It's an entirely theoretical practice. Not without its risks, of course, but I think it's an avenue worth exploring, at the least. The logic is as follows: you've demonstrated control over liquids that aren't entirely water. I think it stands to reason that you could do the same with the blood of Oceanus, no?"
I sat against the sink, with my chin resting on my hand, "I did control the ichor of a Titan, though, that was under extreme emotional duress. I don't see how your idea would work- how would simply transfusing his blood inside me do anything? From my understanding, it would simply just become a part of me."
"Exactly!" Eri interrupted, nodding profusely. "That's what I'm banking on. Tell me, Perseus, do you know how the wards of Atlantis, for example, work?"
"You know, Eri, I think I have yet to answer yes to any of those questions," I replied sarcastically, before blinking. "Wait. Well, not Atlantis, but I'm aware of the wards around my camp if that helps."
"It depends. Are they keyed to you?"
"Okay, then yes," Eri bottled a bit of Oceanus' blood into a vial and held it in the light. The golden fluid glistened brightly, "As far as the majority of mana applications are concerned, your blood is what matters the most. Your wards at camp, I presume, use your blood and some other kind of medium, am I correct?"
"Yeah. They used an apple from the garden of the Hesperides for it."
"Fascinating. Well, mana diffusion words in a similar matter. In a strictly scientific sense, mana is partially sentient. Sentient in the sense that it knows who it belongs to, and works for that person, and that person only. It's the same principle that stops me from using your mana to do stuff I want, do you follow so far?"
I nodded, "That makes sense. It kind of sounds like my test to train under Delta. The agent testing me attempted to siphon some of my mana for their attack, but I was able to pull it back."
"Exactly. As long as your mana knows it's yours, it will always come back to you," Eri said with a growing grin on his face. "But what if it didn't?"
"That's where the blood comes in," He tossed me the vial, "Your blood and your mana work together- much like oxygen, your mana resides in your bloodstream and is pulled out of it when needed. Once you're done using it, it coagulates back in your blood after a short period."
"So, that's where we're at right now," Eri paused for a moment, giving me a serious look, "What if you could use your ability to control liquid and meld Oceanus' blood into your own and then siphon his mana? As the logic follows…"
"I'd get to use whatever's left in there," I finished with a shocked expression, "I'd get access to Oceanus' mana, his powers- maybe even his memories!"
"Precisely," Eri agreed with a satisfied look on his face, "Though again, it is purely theoretical. I have no idea what could happen if, for whatever reason, the experiment goes sideways."
I rolled the vial over in my hands, my senses reaching out to the foreign substance, "Which is why you asked me if I was willing to do anything for Atlantis."
"It's unlikely that anything goes wrong," Eri defended. "But not impossible. Given your healing factor underwater, I figured the risk would be minimized."
"How would you even transplant his mana to me?"
"That's the easy part. Most of it is already done," Eri peeled back some of Oceanus' skin and gestured toward rings inside of his veins, "We can simulate a battle by injecting adrenaline into Oceanus, and then these established pathways will gather his mana as it coagulates and concentrate it into one place. From there, we'll simply stick an IV in there and transplant it into your bloodstream."
"It would be like a spark of divinity," I mumbled to myself, remembering the starting perk the Game said I would get if I went down this path. Clearing my throat, I spoke up, "I'm in. When do we start?"
"We can do it right now if you want," Eri offered, waving his hand. A second gurney appeared next to Oceanus. "Though, if you prefer, I can sedate you for the duration of the experiment. I'm not entirely sure if transfusing Oceanus blood into yours will be painful or not."
I settled down on the gurney, the medical paper crinkling underneath my armor, "How long does the transfusion take?"
"Hard to tell," Eri said absentmindedly as tentacles sprouted from his back, grabbing medical tools and antiseptic out of the cabinets. "Could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours."
"I'll take the sedation. Beats being awake for that long," I exhaled slowly, watching as Eri dipped a few cotton balls in hydrogen peroxide. "I'll need an oath from you though. I don't quite trust you enough to be poking around in me without one just yet."
Eri took a ball and gently dabbed at a spot on my wrist with it, "Naturally. I, Eri Vasileiou, hereby swear on the River Styx to only do what is absolutely necessary for the experiment we agreed upon, so mote it be!"
Thunder somehow echoed in the room, and I nodded, "Let's rock and roll, then."
"Pleasure doing business with you," Eri smiled as he placed an IV in my arm, "Administering dosage now. You should feel the effects in—"
AN: Heyo everyone! Sorry for the late upload, but real life has, as it tends to, get in the way! I'm glad to get this chapter out, though, since I'm sure you guys wanted to know which decision he was going to make!
Also, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people would've liked to see the other options. I know it isn't much, but before I start chapters and arcs, I tend to write out what I want to do, kind of like a screenplay, so if you're interested, here's what I had for the other option I outlined. Again, this was supposed to be the OG plot, but I couldn't get past the first few drafts, and it felt kind of awkward to write, but here is the plot summary I wrote for myself so I knew what points to hit:
[Titan's Bane]: Percy chooses the first option and sets out with one of the First Quadrant squads to respond to a distress call outside of the city, something about a ravaging monster terrorizing the townsfolk once a month. They arrive (full moon) and notice that there's a horrendous, humanoid blob that's wildly crashing into houses. They kill the monster (Percy notices that the monster has a gash above the right side of its forehead) and reports his findings to Alpha, who waves off his concerns and continues to train him in swordsmanship. Alpha is stronger than the others, so he can unlock Percy's potential and turn him into a crash-and-burn type fighter. Few more filler missions with the same kind of monster, and Percy finds out that the monsters all share the gash on the right side- on the most recent one, it's in the shape of a crescent moon. Percy hides this from Alpha (he doesn't trust him because of the way he waves him off) and investigates himself, going through the Atlantean library to find out that, in the past, there was a cult that worshipped the moon because of the power it gave to the tides (come up with a name for cult, significance to the right side). He goes to one of the places the cult used to frequent, finds that the cult is alive and well, and plotting to kidnap Artemis. Percy goes to leave to blow the whistle on the operation, but before he does, he notices that Amphitrite, Alpha, and Triton are part of the cult. He escapes before they notice, but before he can tell Poseidon, their plan is put into action and he has nothing to show for his suspicions, Poseidon still believes him and says he'll investigate it. In the meantime, Percy returns to the overworld after training all summer, but the camp is freaking out because Artemis was captured. Percy tracks down the hunters to tell them what he knows, and offers to help, but is shut down by Zoe and Phoebe. Percy follows them from afar. They get attacked by one of the Moon Monsters from Atlantis, and Percy has to hop in to save a younger hunter. Again, he notices the right side, but can't figure out why the monsters all share the insignia. The hunters still refuse his help, and Percy still follows them from afar. At some point, Zoe notices, but instead of outright getting mad at Percy, the two share a tenderish moment and Zoe begins to warm up to Percy. The hunters are forced to return to their normal hunt (Apollo is put in charge for now) but Zoe sneaks away and she and Percy continue the investigation. Kind of like a buddy cop thing, Percy and Zoe play off each other, share tender moments and badass fights, and ultimately become friends (and more- without sharing physical moments) and bond over the loss of Artemis (Percy empathizes cause of his deeply hidden daddy issues). This causes Percy to realize Aphrodite has been manipulating him, and he and Zoe handle it. Eventually, they find Artemis and find out what's going on. Because the moon is said to be associated with the right side of the brain, creativity and intuition, the pituitary gland, and the female reproductive organs, it turns out the cult has been stealing young girls and turning them into monsters. The duo fights fight Alpha, Triton, and Amphitrite- turns out Luke was also involved. They do decently, but Percy is soon forced to choose between saving Zoe (she takes out Amphitrite but is captured by Triton) and killing Alpha. Luke is already incapacitated by this point cause of Percy's training. He lets Alpha go to fight Triton, who cuts off his right arm. Percy and Zoe kill Triton, and Zoe says Percy is the best man she's ever met. They rescue Artemis. Percy is told by Artemis that they have to let Luke go so he can house Kronos, but Percy is mad, steals Backbiter, and uses it to cut Luke's Achilles tendon before Artemis restrains him. Before they go to Olympus, Zoe kisses Percy but tells him she isn't willing to leave the hunt. Percy understands; it's her home, and even though he's come to like her, he doesn't want her to give up on who she is for him. The theme of the first part of their relationship is how loving someone can mean giving up things you care about. They share another, longer kiss, but of course, Artemis has been aware of this and releases Zoe anyway. Percy and Zoe take on jobs as a duo in S2.
I know it's kind of boring to read like that, but yeah, that's overall what I was going to do. Some of you may be disappointed I didn't do it, but here's why: the themes were a bit hard to hit with my current writing skill, the monster storyline didn't seem to make much sense to me, and I didn't know where it would go after. Tell you what, though, if you guys want to see some of this written out, I can make some omakes. Let me know if you'd be interested!
AFTER READING REVIEWS, I HAVE DECIDED I MIGHT MAKE A MINI-SERIES WHERE PERCY CHOSE THE FIRST OPTION. IF YOU WOULD READ THIS, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE REVIEWS SO I CAN GAUGE INTEREST! THANKS!
Dargon32: Thanks so much! It's always nice to hear that, and I think your assessment of his choices was fantastic. Glad you enjoyed it.
Guest: That's actually…a really fair point. I could've just had him wear sunglasses, but I guess an eyepatch sounded cooler lmao!
pontus first god of the sea: Yeah…sorry! The final pairing is decided, but the ones in the middle aren't! Ha.
PerseusKyogre09: That one was def a bit far-fetched, even for me, but I really wanted to write a Percy x Demeter story. I just couldn't really find a way to do it organically, and I felt like I'd be sacrificing the story's integrity if I did. Again, if you guys want some omakes from this, though, I'd be more than happy to oblige.
ah08302004: Love you too, reader! Aphrodite is going to be around for the foreseeable future. Though, sadly, Hera has settled into the auntie role for him. Maybe someday I can write a Percy x Hera story!
Death Reaper Z: Fixed! Thank you!
Tyufvfv: That's a sick idea! I actually kind of wish I thought about it before I went through with this, but thank you nonetheless!
Caelum Est Finis: Truth be told, you did make me think about it, so technically, it was because of you, my man! Also thank you, I'm gonna do something no one's ever done.
Robotdocter: Reading this review made me want to write a mini-series where he chose the first option. I just don't know if enough people would read it.
Dragon Bone Z: As always, your objective view of the situation makes me happy. That's just one of those philosophical conundrums, though, isn't it?
meryfcuckery: I've read some of those, too. My main driving force for a Percy x Zoe fic would've been the spite of it, alone. But anyway…you could be in luck if enough people want it. I'm pretty ready to write it, but again, it would be a mini-series. Maybe more *wink*