Hey guys! This seems to be my most popular story yet! I can see why. Rick is pretty famous. I love his work, and it is amazing as is. But, it is fun to find out what would happen if you changed a variable. Hope you guys enjoy this chapter, next update is next week. Next story is tomorrow at noon. Look forward to seeing you all! Enjoy!
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Chapter 7: The Long Con
I sat on my bed, surrounded by huge leather bound books. Hermes sat at my desk chair.
"So, your plan is to say that you're… going to a school because you got a scholarship. And I am a teacher there?"
"Yes! I already drew up the paperwork and borrowed these books from the library to pass it off as examples of coursework!"
His eyebrow went up a bit, "And how do you expect to get them off the campus? Someone will come after them."
I smirked, "Not if someone has an RFID proof bag that prevents any signal from getting in or out, thereby preventing the library from knowing I took these books out."
"Ah. You stole them."
"Listen, they have like, ten copies of these. And NOBODY checks them out. No-one will notice if they disappear. Unlike a half-human who causes so many problems that everyone sees her."
He frowned, "Your idea has some holes in it. What if someone inquires about this scholarship? What about you little sojourn to your brother's school? Your mother and brother themselves? How do you even plan to get there?"
"Like I said, I have the paperwork. I forged a lot of the information, including the brochure and photographs. And nobody but the guard saw me, and that's easily deniable. I can just say I was at school. Or at home. There were no cameras, so I'm good. And the whole point of pretending I'm going to school is to appease my family. Everything will work out. You'll see."
He sighed, "I'm sure I will. I need to go study for pretending to be a teacher for… what's the name again?"
I smirked, "The Imíaimos University for Gifted Students."
He burst out laughing, "That's the name you came up with?!"
"Yup. Its stylish, classy, fancy, and the perfect description for the actual place. The perfect con. If you look close enough, and have the right information, you can garner what I'm talking about. But most of the people we're tricking are dumb. It will be so fun to see them not understand it."
"An inside joke. I love it." he smiled, "I'm starting to look forward to this. I'll be seeing you later."
I waved, "Later dude. This is going to be good."
He disappeared in a cloud of glitter and I turned back to the books. I stood, shoved them all in a bag, and started packing up all my things, which wasn't much. I slung my bags over my shoulder, flouncing out of my room, hair bouncing in its ponytail.
I had almost made it to the front doors to walk to the bus station a couple blocks away when the dean caught me.
I groaned and turned around, faking a smile, "Mrs. Harrison! How are you?"
She glared at me, "You stole my car. Took it on a joy ride, skipped classes, sneaking off campus, only to sneak back on after being missing for an entire day. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I was seeing to familial and personal academic matters."
"I was traveling to a school that recently contacted me. They monitor students at all schools in New York to see if any match the specific criteria they're looking for. They believed I fit their criteria, and asked to meet me. So, I met them, and I have received a scholarship with their university. I am now heading home to inform my family about my opportunity and to be transferred to my new school."
Harrison stuttered and spluttered in utter astonishment.
I smirked as I continued, "I would say it has been an honor to be a student at this… prestigious school. But it really hasn't. Your curriculum is horrendous, your teachers underpaid and barely qualified. You embezzle money from the parents to pay for your own desires and to make the school look nice for the newspapers. All to hide that the school is rotting away from the inside."
She was turning beet red, now too angry and astonished at my words to get in a word edgewise.
"And I would suggest stop spending money on yourself and actually get teachers who know what they're doing, and pay them accordingly. Or don't. I have everything I need to destroy you. Someone actually qualified to be the dean of a school will be put in charge, and you will be in jail for your embezzlement and lies. I would say have a good day and a nice life, but I honestly don't care if you have a good day or life. I honestly hope you rot in jail so this school can be brought back from the brink of destruction."
She looked like she was about to pass out.
"Nonetheless, I must take my leave of this school." I picked up my bags, "I wish the school all the best, and hope that the world will one day see you for what you are. A crook."
I turned and strutted out the doors, leaving the dean in shock, as well as the teachers and students who had gathered when they heard her shout.
Do I regret making such a scene? Absolutely not. I made a dramatic exit with flair. If I had the chance to do it again, I would have gone bigger and bolder, making me a legend for all time in that school. I mean, I already am, but eventually I will be forgotten.
But I was happy to be leaving, no matter what the circumstances were. That school sucked.
I sat at the bus stop for half an hour, bags at my feet, soaking in the sun with a little smile on my face. Life was good. I had met my father, told that awful woman just what I thought of her, revealed her to her entire staff, and was going to reveal her to the state.
I was free, and going to join a camp of people like me to hone my skills. I would be safe, and I could even visit my family when I chose.
I climbed on the bus when it got there, paid my fee, and sat down, staring out the window as things flashed by in a blur. The past two days had been like that. So fast it was a blur. All I wanted was to visit Percy. And then I learned my world was much bigger than I thought, traveled to New York, visited Olympus, then traveled to the bottom of the sea, met my father, and then fought some weird creature, only to get sent back to school with the instructions to head to some camp.
Things went so fast I had had barely any time to wrap my mind around how weird it was. I had that time now. And I did not like it. The Greek gods were real. My father was one. I wasn't supposed to exist. My uncles probably hated me, and one was known to want me dead, if he even knew I was alive at the moment. I had a step-mother, and she was remarkably nice.
I had questions when my journey started, and like so many other journeys, I had answers, but a thousand more. Hopefully this camp, Camp Half-Blood Hermes called it, would provide me with some more.
And my mother might be able to answer some of them. Hopefully, she could, and would allow me to go. I mean, I was going to go anyways, with or without permission, but it would feel nice to have her support.
I was so lost in thoughts, I almost missed my stop. I cleared my head, yelled for the driver to keep the doors open, hefted my bags up, and jumped off.
I could see the apartment building a block away. Home sweet home. I sighed, crossing the streets, avoiding the pick pockets and other rabble. The desk clerk didn't even look up from his magazine as I walked in.
I pressed the button for my mother's apartment. It buzzed for a couple seconds before her voice crackled over the intercom.
"Hello? Who is this?"
"Lana? Where have you been?"
"I'll explain when I get up."
The door swung open and I started trudging up the stairs. I raised my hand to knock, but it swung open before I could. I started to smile, thinking it was my mother. It wasn't.
Gabe Ugliano. My step-father. And the name matched the looks. He was honestly the worst person in the entire universe as far as I was concerned. And here he was, standing in front of me, pot belly showing unashamedly, beer in hand.
He belched and eyed me, "Thought you went missing."
"Glad I could disappoint you. Get out of my way."
"You can't talk like that to me in my house."
I glared at him, "First off, not a house. Second, my mother pays all the bills here, and she and my brother and I have lived here for years, long before you showed up on the scene. You want to claim this is your place? Start paying the bills and stop treating my mother like a slave!"
I shoved him out of the way and stormed to my room, which I kept locked whenever I wasn't home. I did not need that perverted and disgusting bastard in there messing everything up. I threw my bags on the floor and plummeted pace down onto the bed.
Home sweet home.
A soft knock on the door made me look up. My mother was in the doorway. She was smiling sadly, but her eyes were tired, and I could see the grey hairs in her ponytail.
"You could try to get along with him you know."
"Why? He treats you like a slave, treats Percy like absolute shit, trashes the apartment, and steals everyone's money for his gambling obsession and beer. He's lewd, gross, and rude."
I sat up, "language? LANGUAGE?! HE HITS YOU! HE CLAIMS HE'S IN CHARGE OF THIS PLACE WHEN HE DOES ABSOLUTELY JACK SHIT TO HELP!"
"Lana! Shush! He could hear you!"
"GOOD!" I shouted, "I WANT HIM TO HEAR ME! I WANT HIM TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I THINK OF HIM. HE IS A WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT WHO DOESN'T DESERVE TO WALK THE SAME PLANET AS YOU, MUCH LESS BE MARRIED TO YOU!"
She looked really tired. I didn't want to do this to her, but she deserved better. He treated all of us horribly, and she just sat back and let him abuse her. He did nothing for her, or anyone other than himself. I would say he was absolute trash, but there's no need to insult trash.
I sat back down on the bed and sighed, "I'm sorry… I just don't see why you married him in the first place, much less stay with him. He abuses you and Percy, steals your money, hits you, and forces you to do things for him. Why?"
She sat next to me, "I wish I could tell you, but know that's it's for you and Percy, even if you don't understand why."
"Is it because of our father?"
She froze for a little bit, examining me, as if trying to gauge what I knew.
"Is that where you've been? Trying to find… him?"
"I went to go see Percy, but instead I got to have a chat with his friend." I watched my mother as I continued, "He's a satyr. And he told me some interesting things."
I expected her mouth to twitch at my words, but instead her face just fell.
"How... how much… do you know?"
I stood up and started pacing, "A lot. The Greek Gods… they're… real."
I looked at her, "And my and Percy's father was, is, one."
She nodded silently.
She looked up and met my eyes, "We met at Montauk one summer… I saw him for who he really was, and we had a romance for the summer. He never met you two, having to leave before Zeus found out."
"Well, he's met me now. I went to Olympus. I participated in a concert against my will. I met Hermes, and he took me to him. I spent the night there, and we had a small talk before he sent me back to school."
"Is that why you're here? To get some answers?"
"Yes, and for another reason."
She closed her eyes and took a shaky breath, "the camp."
I looked at her, "You know about it."
She nodded, "He told me about it, said it would be a safe haven for you two, but that it meant I might have to say goodbye… forever."
She looked up sadly, "You've come to say goodbye, haven't you?"
I was about to explain my plan when the intercom buzzed again.
"Mom? Are you there? It's Percy. I got the weekend off from school. Can I come up?"
Mom walked to the intercom and pressed the button, "yeah honey. Come on up. Your sister is already here."
She turned to me, raising an eyebrow. I shook my head, silently saying no, I'm not going to tell him. It was a minute until we heard his footsteps coming down the hall and saw the doorknob turn to open.
Percy came in, an overnight bag slung over his shoulder. His hair was as black as mine, eyes the exact same shade of sea green. It wasn't hard to tell we were twins, and people who saw us together joked we were clones.
I sat on the couch in front of the coffee table and watched as mom hugged him tightly and kissed his forehead.
"It's good to see you sweetie. How's school?"
He shrugged, setting the bag down, "It's… decent. I think I'm learning, and I haven't had a disaster. Yet."
She smiled, "That's good. Sit with your sister. I'm making cookies, and they're almost ready."
He perked up, "Blue?"
She laughed, "Of course! Go sit."
Percy sat next to me and we stared at each other for a minute.
"Grover told me you snuck into the school to visit me."
I shrugged, "Yeah, I went to visit you. I was going stir crazy at school, and the dean was a bitch. Figured I'd come visit. Instead, I got your half naked friend. And not the good half, mind you."
"Eww. I don't need to be picturing that." He shuddered, then glared at me, "A guard was attacked on the grounds. It was mentioned at assembly yesterday. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
I raised an eyebrow, "are you accusing me of attacking an innocent, law abiding security guard just doing his job of keeping you juvenile delinquents in line?"
Percy glared at me. I caved.
"Ok, yeah. I did it. Dudes alright though, yeah?"
"Yes, but that is not the point. Why did you do it?"
"I wasn't myself at the moment. I had just gotten some life changing news, and I was more than a little distracted, and distressed, angry, confused. My head wasn't in the right space. I wasn't thinking, so I lashed out so I wouldn't have to explain myself. I do regret my actions there. I've had some time to think, and I believe I have things… figured out."
He narrowed his eyes at me, "Wwhat things?"
Mom came out of the kitchen with a platter of cookies at that moment, giving me a glad reason to stop talking.
She set the platter on the table, letting us grab some as she sat in a chair next to the couch.
"So… Lana, dear."
I swallowed my cookie, delicious as always, Y?"
"You had news for the family?"
Gabe waddled into the room. I glared at him.
"You're not family. Get out. This doesn't concern you."
He growled, but my face must have held death in it because he retreated back into his room.
Percy snickered as mom chided me, "Lana. Was that really necessary?"
"Yes. It was. This only concerns the three of us. Besides, I really don't think he'd be interested anyways."
Percy frowned, "Interested in what? Those things you were busy with? The life changing news?"
I nodded, "Yes. That. I've received a scholarship to a university over on Long Island Sound for gifted students. I went to meet with a teacher two days ago, and he said that they can transfer me over effective immediately. I invited him over today to discuss the school with you."
Speak of the devil and the devil shalt appear. Right as I finished speaking, the intercom buzzed.
"Excuse me. Is this the Jackson household? I have an appointment today to discuss a scholarship for Miss Jackson."
Mom narrowed her eyes at me, then stood and called the 'teacher'.
'Yes, this is the Jackson household. We were just talking about the scholarship. Come on up."
She sat back down and glared at me, "You told a stranger our address?"
"First off, he's a professor. He wants to talk about the school, nothing more. It's fine."
A knock on the door cut her off from saying what was on her mind. I got up and opened the door. Hermes could clean up nicely. His suit was navy blue, and fresh pressed. His hair was slicked back, and for some reason he was wearing glasses. I looked at his shoes. He had swapped the winged sandals for a pair of dress shoes, so shiny I could see their reflection in my eyeballs, reflected in them.
I turned to my family. Percy looked very unimpressed, and mom looked astounded. Her eyes were round and shocked. The glimmering in them told me that it wasn't the suit that shocked her.
Hermes held his hand out to my mother, "I am Professor Alan Holmes with The Imíaimos University for Gifted Students. We contacted your daughter after a review of her records and we believe she is the exact type of student we are looking for."
She shook his hand after some hesitation. He offered it to Percy, who declined in favor of shoving a cookie in his mouth. Hermes chuckled, then sat on a chair facing the three of us as I sat down next to my brother again, grabbing a cookie.
"So, you are the Jacksons. Lana only told me your names, Mrs. Sally Jackson, and her twin brother, Perseus?"
They nodded, but not before mom glared at me again.
"Right, well, I'm sure as Lana told you, we contacted her first about the school. We sent her an explanatory pamphlet… Miss Jackson?"
I jumped up and rushed to my room, grabbing all my supplies. Percy's eyes got big as I dumped everything on the table, handing mom the brochure.
She flipped through it, "Well, your school seems… interesting. Can you...?"
"Tell you more? Of course." He straightened up, "At the Imíaimos University for Gifted Students, we search all New York state schools for the signs of special and unique students, like your daughter here. We reach out and provide them with a full scholarship to our extended campus and courses. All courses are covered, as is food and lodging."
She nodded, continuing to flip through the little booklet, "And what courses do you offer?"
"A wide range of courses, with different levels in each. The books on the table are a small selection of the courses we teach: Latin, Greek, history, science, classical literature. We also have hands on courses, such as weaving, horse-back riding, canoeing, rock climbing, and a lot more."
I leaned forward, "They also have art classes, and lots of Phys Ed. Plus, they have a state of the art survival training course to prepare you for any situation. And, I'd be around other kids my age, going through the same things as me. I might be able to make friends for once!"
Hermes nodded, "And we have councilors for each group of students, who provide their knowledge and expertise to aid and advise students."
Mom nodded, obviously warming up to the idea a little, "So, you teach them everything they would need to know. What are the terms like?"
"Well, there are several options. She can stay for the school year, or the summer, or all year round. She does get weekends and holidays off, usually, unless she has made other plans, so she can visit with permission form the head office. And since we're very close here to the school, she can hail a cab, or head to the nearby bus station to get transportation to the city. She will of course be provided with a school card that will allow her transport on all major transports in the country."
Percy piped up, having listened intently, "Do you have field trips?"
Hermes nodded, "Yes, we have major field trips about once or twice a year, and students can get approved for mini-trips across country with two other students. Though, we haven't had one of those in a while. Usually, students are allowed with permission to go out with as many others as permitted for sight-seeing trips into the city, but it's not usually permitted, as there have been… incidents."
Mom looked up from the pamphlet, "Incidents?"
He nodded, "Yes. Some students strayed away from the pack, or left the designated areas with the supervisors, and most were never seen again."
"We did find some. The ones who were lucky."
"What do you mean lucky?"
He cleared his throat awkwardly, shifting in his seat. He didn't say anything, but we all got what he meant. The students had been killed. By monsters, but to protect Percy, we meant evil humans.
I cleared my throat, "Listen, those kids were idiots and trouble makers."
Percy looked at me sideways, "And you're different?"
"I'm more likely to stay within the grounds of the university, only leaving to come visit you guys. If I ever did get to go on a field trip, I would most likely stay with the group. This place is like college, not a two-rate public school. I'm likely to learn more with supervisors than on my own. I'll be perfectly fine there."
Mom played with the paper in her hands, staring at the books on the table. Percy stared at me, and I stared right back. Hermes looked at all of us, sensing the tension. Since none of us were looking, he grabbed a cookie.
Mom sighed, "I think it's what's best, but it's up to Lana. It's her life after all."
I nodded, "I would really love to go here mom. Theres so much I can learn. Plus, I can take online school and get extra credit. If I spend the whole year there, I could learn so much. I could learn how to be safe, and how to protect others. I can still visit home, whenever. I could gain valuable life skills, and maybe get a job to help support the family with whatever. Please mom."
She sighed, looking at me, "You're sure?"
"I've never been surer."
She looked down in defeat, "then I won't stop you." She looked up to Hermes, "When does she leave?"
"That depends on-"
I interrupted him, "In a couple minutes. I need to pack and say goodbye to you two. But all the paperwork is ready to be sent off for my transfer. I wish I could stay longer, but I don't want to waste any more of the school year."
She looked infinitely sad, then smiled, "I'm glad you've finally found a place that suits you. I really hope this school will do good by you."
"I hope so too. I promise I'll email, write, or text on the daily. I'll call as often as I can, and visit every holiday."
I hugged her, then turned to Percy. He was looking at the plate of cookies and huffing.
"I'll miss you Percy."
"No you won't"
We hugged, and I punched him gently on the arm. I ran to my room and grabbed everything I could carry into my bags. I walked out and placed my things by the door. I turned and locked my room, throwing the key to my mom.
"Keep ugly out of there please."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
Gabe walked out at that moment and stared at Hermes, who stared back in shock, looking like he was about to burst into laughter.
"Who're you?" he grunted.
"I'm a teacher with The Imíaimos University for Gifted Students. I'm here to bring Lana to the school."
"How'd she afford that?"
"I got a scholarship." I glared at Gabe, "Leave my brother alone, and stop treating my mom like shit, or I will rain hell on you next time I'm here."
"Like you could do anything to me." He snorted.
My eyes went red, and before I could even think about it, my foot ran back and flew forward with astonishing speed and power, landing right on his groin.
He fell to the floor with a squeal, instantly passing out. Percy burst out laughing as mom yelped and lept up to check on him. I decided to make my leave and grabbed my bags, rushing out of the door unceremoniously.
Hermes followed me, laughing his ass off. I ran down to the parking lot, pausing, waiting for him. He was still chuckling as he pulled a set of keys out and unlocked a fancy looking car near the door. He opened the door for me and I hopped in silently.
Can I get an amen from all New Yorkers here that have to live with all the traffic? It sucks. It was barely noon and everywhere was backed up. Why.
We sat in silence, except for almost continuous honking. Hermes tapped the wheel, looking at me from the corner of his eye.
"Alright. I figured you might want to talk with someone."
"About my shit step-father? No. there's nothing to talk about. I've been very clear about my feeling towards him. I'm an open book there."
He nodded, "Right… Sure."
We sat in silence again, staring at the cars. We moved about an inch a minute. I fidgeted in my seat, nervous, but unsure why.
I looked out my window. The empire state building was in full view. Maybe that was why. I was leaving the normal world and starting a new life. I was going to have a new home, a new normal. Enemies, friends… family. People who would care about me, and people who would love to see me dead.
Was this really the right choice? Was I making a mistake in going to the camp? Should I have waited a bit? Should I have never gone to Percy's school in the first place? What if they didn't accept me into the camp? What if I went in and Zeus finally saw me and decided to terminate me?
I had too many questions, too many doubts. The world used to be simple.
It was never simple.
With my mother's marriage, my powers, and all the creatures, Greek monsters as I now knew, life was never simple. I always had to look over my shoulder, wonder when the next attack might be. Wonder if I might not make it this time. Wonder if I might not be able to protect my brother from all the crazy.
Life had never been, and never would be simple. That was just the rule. But now, some of those wonders and worries were going to go away. I was going to a place to learn how to fight these things.
But there was always the chance I would fail. That one day, I would pick a fight I couldn't win. And by leaving to train, I was leaving Percy open to attack. I had always tried to protect him, and keep him safe from all the cruelties of the world around us.
But I wasn't going to be there to protect him. What if a monster found him? He wouldn't know what to do. He had no fighting skills I knew of. And he certainly didn't know about our heritage.
I could never forgive myself if he was hurt because I wasn't there.
But, there was going to be a day eventually, sometime in the far off future hopefully, where I wouldn't be there.
Hermes snapped me out of my spiraling thoughts leading me into a deep hole I didn't want to go down.
"I can't really relate to the step-father thing, but my step-mother isn't really the best lady in the universe."
"Yeah. Her. Not the nicest lady."
"Hasn't she tried to kill every son of Zeus ever?"
"Not just the sons, and it wasn't all of them, but yes. She does not like it when her husband fools around."
I leaned back and stared at the roof, "Well, I'm glad my step-mother isn't awful. I managed to get along with her and make her laugh in the short time I got to know her."
Hermes smiled, "Yeah. Amphitrite has been one of the nicer ones."
I sighed, "Do you think I'm making a mistake?"
"About going to camp? No. this will be safest for you and Percy both. Being far from him will lower his scent to monsters, so they'll be less likely to go after him."
"So he'll be safe?"
"For a good while at least, if your mother is careful. I'm guessing that's why she married your step-father. His scent must be covering up your scents."
"Percy will eventually end up at camp, won't he?"
"Oh, without a doubt. A son of Poseidon is too powerful to be in the mortal world without protection for long without monsters going after him. Like I said, he's got maybe two or three years until he needs to get out."
We left the city and were finally getting somewhere. Trees and farmlands passed by in a blur. It was too late to turn back now.
"You're going to love camp. And they'll love you. Chiron, the director, always loves taking in new demigods and teaching them."
He looked at me, "You're still worried about Percy, right?"
"Yeah. And Zeus. And about a thousand other things. It's no big deal."
He shrugged and turned back to the road. We drove in silence for a while, then his phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open, holding it up to his ear. Two little snakes wriggled out of the little wire on top, so it could connect to a satellite, and slithered to his ear. It looked like they were whispering to him.
He had a bland discussion about some business dealings, then hung up. I just sat and didn't inquire. I was starting to get really tired, as if all the action of the past days had worn me down. It was like jet lag, but without the jets.
Suddenly, the woods cleared and we were passing strawberry fields.
Hermes smiled, "We're here."
He slowed to a stop at the bottom of a hill and parked the car. He opened his door and climbed out as I gathered my bags and slid out. He nodded at me, locked the car, then walked up the hill with me.
We reached the top. There was a huge pine tree, and a stone arch with Greek words on it. A centaur and a middle aged man who reminded me of Gabe from a distance stood between the arch and the pine.
We walked up to the two, and Hermes nodded to them.
"Lana, this is Chiron and Mr. D, the directors here at camp. They'll show you around and get you settled, and figure out your schedule."
He nodded goodbye to me, then disappeared in another shower of glitter, his car disappearing too.
The centaur smiled at me, "I'm Chiron. Hermes told us of you. Welcome to Camp Half Blood Miss Jackson."
He gestured behind him as I walked up. My eyes squinted for a minute as I looked over the valley, the sunlight on the lake blinding me for a minute.
Then, they adjusted. My bags fell off my shoulder to the ground as I let out a startled breath.
Camp Half Blood.
Chiron placed his hand on my shoulder, "Welcome home Miss Jackson."