I don't know really why anyone would want to hear my story. I mean, I didn't really do anything in the Titan war except get killed pretty early on. I mean, sure, I helped blow up a boat, but all I really did there was light the fuse and let Percy distract the guards. Big deal. It's not like I'm that great of a speaker either. But if you really do want to hear me out, this is how I see things.
People can be pretty hard to understand sometimes. Now, I realize that what I said is kind of obvious, but it's really weird when you think about it a little more. People, who are so complex, and make so little sense, can work together pretty well. I mean, when I am designing a machine, the number one rule I keep in mind is: keep it simple. The more complicated the parts are, the more things there are that can go horribly wrong. But for some reason, people, who are way harder to understand than any machine, can work together pretty well.
I mean, take the group that came with me to Camp half-blood. We were all just a bunch of scared, unpredictable kids. Things were changing so fast that we didn't know what to do, and we were facing off against some of our worst nightmares. By all rights, our group should never been able to hang together for three hundred miles, like it did. None of us except our satyr guide had any experience, and it was pure chance that we found each other at all.
But we didn't fall apart. Each of us gradually figured out what our role was in the group, and we filled it. Will Solace was the look-out, I got weapons for everyone, and Ethan Nakamura was the self-designated asskicker. It's kind of amazing that we worked together so well. I mean, when you take three totally random kids, shake them up, take them away from their families, (or orphanage, in my case.) set a couple dozen nightmarish monsters on them, and then expect them to travel three hundred miles like that, you wouldn't really expect them to succeed. Cramming random parts together doesn't get you good results, and mashing random people together shouldn't either, but somehow, it does.
Not, of course, that you can just lock any group of people in a room and get them to work together. If my companions on the way to camp had been, for example, Ares' daughter Clarisse and Drew from Aphrodite cabin, I don't know if I would have made it. It doesn't matter how talented people are, if you want to live, you need team players; people who want to help.
Cabin Hephaestus was always way better at working together than the other cabins, like Ares, for example. We didn't fight each other very much, and everybody was looking for a way to out. Same thing with Will, Ethan, and I. We knew that if we didn't hang together, we would end up skewered on the business end of a minotaur's horn. Nobody wanted to be that jerk that let that happen.
As I was saying though. What happened with the three of us, wouldn't happen with everybody. Some people just have one shtick, and if they can't help the team out by doing their one thing, they're useless. When all you have is a hammer, all of your problems look like nails. When you are Ares' kid and all you can do is fight, guess how you are going to want to solve all of you problems. Same thing for Athena cabin. Or Hephaestus cabin, really. Or… well you get the idea. Most of us are only good at one thing, and you'll do well to keep that in mind when you assemble your team for a quest.
Heh. Quests. I remember my first one. We had to kill the hydra. Now, the hydra is no pushover, but this still shouldn't have been that hard of a quest. Lee from Apollo cabin was there, complete with writing notebook and magic shield. Travis Stoll from Hermes cabin was with me too, and me? Well, I had a flamethrower. Like I was saying, it should have been easy. I mean, we could let Travis take care of supplies on the way there. Once we found the hydra, we could count on Lee blinding it with his shield, and then I could let the flamethrower torch it. Everyone had their role. It should've been easy. It wasn't.
Problem number one: we weren't paying attention. We were enjoying our time outside of camp, moving slow and taking in the view. Everything was great until things went horribly wrong. Travis went off stealing supplies we didn't need from a doughnut store, and Lee was focused on writing his awful haikus again, leaving me to be the lookout.
Problem number two: my eyesight sucks. You wouldn't think something that size could sneak up on much of anything, but I didn't notice the hydra until it was about twenty feet from Lee.
It charged Lee, who looked up just in time to see ten toothy mouths spitting acid at him. He whipped his magic shield up and blocked the acid. I charged in with the flamethrower, but the hydra slapped me aside. The flamethrower cushioned my fall, but unfortunately the nozzle broke. In the middle of all of this chaos, Travis came back from the store. His arms were full of stolen doughnuts and pastries, which he dropped instantly, and charged into the fray.
We all somehow survived the next ten minutes, and I managed to climb a tree and jump onto its back, which really didn't do that much good since I had to use both of my hands just to hang on. Lee got a bright idea, and shouted it too me. I took the flamethrower, still strapped to my back, and broke the explosive fuel all over the hydra. I had to let go, though, and the beast flung me off, which was just as well, because a few seconds later, Lee's shield let out a bright flash, and the fluid burst into flames all over the hydra.
I had scratches all over my face, Lee had a few burns from being too close, and Lee would've died from poison had we not had some ambrosia nearby. Talk about lucky. We should have died. We completed the quest, but we didn't really feel too good about it. Our teamwork had sucked.
See, the truth is that I am useless when it comes to getting people to work together. I should've told Lee to get off his butt and stand watch. I should've stopped Travis from running away to steal stuff. I should have kept everyone in line, tracked the beast down, and, torched it before it could find us. I didn't, though, even though I knew that we were in danger of failing the quest. I don't know how to handle people. I'm no leader. I just do as others do.
I guess that that's a trait I got from the man. He always says: "I'm good with machines, boy, not people." Judging by personal experience, I would say that he is about right. I mean, he isn't just good with machines, he is freaking amazing. Let me give you an idea. A typical car has about seven primary operating systems, the engine being one of them. Some of the really advanced stuff we build, like the bronze dragon, have close to one-hundred, plus enchantments. I've never seen Hephaestus make with less than three-hundred-forty seven systems. He can make things that slobs like us only dream of. Ask him to spend some time with his kids, however, and he is totally helpless.
I remember my first conversation with him. "Boy," he said gruffly, "I'm happy to see you made it. How's the arm?"
I don't remember now, but somehow I had broken my arm while getting to camp. It wasn't really bothering me, and I had a thousand other things I wanted to ask him, like, "What was my mom like?" or "What did you think of us three killing that Minotaur?" All I said was, "My arm's fine, I guess."
He paused awkwardly. "Good. The doctors here are as good as they come. You needn't worry."
I scratched my head. Worry was the thing farthest from my mind. I thought that I would change topics. "So… What was mom like?"
He let out the breath that he had been holding, and blushed. "I'm sorry son, I… I'm good with… with… Gah. You mother was amazing. She… She… was so friendly and happy. Her smile could light up any dark day. Brilliant too. She used too…"
All at once, I failed in my desperate attempt to not lose my calm, serious expression. No matter how hard I tried to hold them back, the tears were going to come. They ran down my cheeks in a thick, happy stream.
Hephaestus saw my tears and winced. His hairy face contorted with pain. "Oh no, I've upset you now. Oh dear. I…
"Its fine." I said, smiling as tears rolled down my face.
Clearly, he didn't understand, but he looked a little relieved. Then I hugged him. Not something I'd do now, but hey, I was twelve, I had never known either of my parents, and now, here was my dad.
When I finally let him go, he was smiling too. He chuckled and ruffled my hair. "One of the things, you will learn about me, boy, is that I'm good with machines, not people."
Not the last time that I'd hear him say that.
Don't misunderstand me, I'm not blaming him. I have the exact same problem. People don't make sense to me, and I don't think that they ever will. People can't be dealt with rationally. Machines, on the other hand, always behave in a predicable manner. If the gear ratio is off on a machine, you are not going to get right amount of power. If you don't allow good venting, the machine will overheat. With machines, as long as you take everything into consideration, you are ok. No such luck with human beings.
Take Percy Jackson for example. He's clearly in love with Annabeth, and is always kind of sad when she's not around. As it is, they spend more time together than most serious couples. She's an awesome girl, and she clearly likes him, if jealousy is any indicator. I mean, really, it isn't like I'm going on guesswork here, either. Silena gave me hard confirmation. Apparently Aphrodite herself was interested in their relationship.
So, here is the situation: you have two attractive people that do everything together, you have the fact that they clearly have major crushes on each other, and you have the goddess of love herself gunning for them to get together. All things considered, they should be married by now. I mean, sheesh, how much pushing do you need? Sense, some things make it, people don't.
Not that I'm much better. I mean, how long did it take me to work up the nerve? 2 years? I mean, sure, there was always a bit of bad blood between Aphrodite and Hephaestus cabins, and sure children of Aphrodite were pretty notorious, but really… I mean, Silena was beautiful, kind, helpful, intelligent… everything I wanted and more. What was my problem, you may ask.
I've always been afraid of relationships. I don't have great social skills and I'm always worried that I will hurt someone's feelings by saying something wrong. Usually, I get by simply by not talking very much. You can't say the wrong thing if you say nothing at all, right? You see why I wanted to avoid dating, now? You have to be involved, you have to say the right thing, and there is no way to know what the right thing to say is. I liked Silena a ton, but that only made me more nervous.
Actually, when it comes down to it, she was the one to ask me out. Thankfully that part of the story never got out, or otherwise I would never have been able to live it down. Those last few months that we were a couple were the best and the scariest of my life. I felt like I was flying blind. Every second we spent together was another miraculous second where I didn't mess things up.
When you think about it, it's all kind of ironic. The one thing I couldn't understand ended up giving me more joy than anything else. In the end, I guess that is what I learned from the whole experience, just before I died. Some things don't really make sense, but that isn't a reason to avoid them.
This record is Charles Beckendorf's, forger of weapons and tamer of the bronze dragon. May he be remembered.