I nodded. "We have to get out of here!" No sooner had I said that than the door burst open and young telekhines were spilling out. They were staggering a little, trying to figure out where to charge.
"Put your cap on!" Percy said, "Get out!"
"What? No!" I shrieked. "I'm not leaving you!"
"I've got a plan. I'll distract them. You can use the metal spider- maybe it'll lead you back to Hephaestus. You have to let him know what's going on!"
I looked him straight in the eyes, determined. "You'll be killed."
"I'll be fine. Besides, we've got no choice."
I glared at him, crazy ideas swirling just behind my eyes. I discarded them one by one, half-knowing it would only come down to one thing. Percy was looking determined, and I knew nothing could shake his resolve. Well, here goes. I made a flash decision and kissed him, savoring the shocked look on his face.
"Be careful, Seaweed Brain." I pulled on my hat and vanished, already running. I sprinted to the entrance and glanced back. Percy was surrounded. I wanted to go back, but I knew I couldn't distract him. I needed to go.
I ran as fast as I could as long as I could, then stopped to get the spider. I was gingerly taking it out of my pocket when a scream echoed down the tunnel, making me freeze. Percy.
I hesitated, then turned and began to run back down the tunnel when there was another terrible scream and a huge explosion. The force of it blasted me backward against a wall. I cracked my head on a rock and everything faded to black.
When I woke up, my head was throbbing and I wasn't sure what had happened. Then it all came back to me. The kiss, the screams, the explosion.
Percy was nowhere to be seen, and I think I knew deep down that he was gone, but I couldn't help but hope. I went back down the tunnel to the volcano, and stopped in my tracks. There was a huge smoking hole where the volcano had been.
I sat down hard, staring at the smoke rising from the hole. No. He couldn't be dead. He was Percy, and Percy was too….well… brave, and smart, and…. too Percy to be dead! I wouldn't accept it. I needed to go back to camp. That was the most likely place where he would turn up, alive or… dead.
Holding onto that faint hope, I took the spider out of my pocket and set it down. It unrolled and started to scuttle along. I stumbled forward after it in a sort of daze, Percy's scream echoing in my head. I felt like his being …. gone was my entire fault. I shouldn't have left him alone. I should have fought beside him.
After awhile I reached Hephaestus' workshop. Hephaestus was watching an Iris message, and I saw a picture of Mt. St. Helens with smoke billowing out of it. He turned around when I came in, a grim look in his face.
"What happened? Where's the other demigod?"
I swallowed past the humongous lump in my throat and croaked, "Percy…. is gone. He was in the explosion."
Hephaestus' eyebrows rose and he said, "How did that happen?"
So I told him everything. Well, almost everything. I left out the kissing part. That was private. When I got to the screams, I felt like the lump in my throat was the size of a beach ball, and I couldn't say anything else.
Hephaestus looked slightly sympathetic, and then said, "I'm sorry. I doubt your friend could have survived that. He might have even caused it."
I stared at him, and he went on. "He was the Son of Poseidon, correct? They probably exposed him to an intense amount of heat, and he used his powers to prevent himself from burning up. Perhaps unconsciously."
Then Hephaestus got a strange look on his face and said, "Actually, there is one way he could have survived."
My heart leapt into my throat and I cried, "How?"
"Well, you are the daughter of Athena, so will know what happens when lava and tons of water are combined. A geyser is created. So it is possible that he shot up into the air, and if he hit water, he could have been healed by the sea. If so, he would probably return to your demigod camp."
Hope began to spread through my body, and I felt like I had woken up from a long nap. "Can you get me to camp? I don't know if I could make it through the Labyrinth."
Hephaestus smiled. "That, I can do. Just follow the spider again. One moment, I just need to reprogram it."
I stood by, slightly dazed, while he tinkered with the spider. Now that there was a chance that Percy was alive, I felt like an invisible magnetic force was urging me to go back to camp. To find out for sure.
After a few minutes, Hephaestus handed me the spider and said, "Good luck finding your friend. He is your key to finding Daedalus."
I stared at him. "That's what Hera said. What does it mean? Percy said he has no clue where Daedalus is."
Hephaestus didn't say anything, just turned around and started to work on something.
I set down the spider and we set off. After about an hour of walking, we reached the entrance to camp. I pressed Daedalus' sign and climbed out into the night, took a deep breath, then set out towards camp.
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