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Thalia was not speaking to Zoë.

No, she most certainly was not, even though Zoë kept provoking arguments. Thalia did not make it worse for everyone in the van. She did not argue back. She did not briefly consider summoning a lightning bolt. Yes. It was all Zoë's fault.

Thalia's stomach growled, but she refused to say anything. She refused to ask to pull over to get food. Zoë probably would have rudely declined anyway. How did Thalia know that? Because it was what Thalia would have done had she been driving.

Speaking of driving, Zoë did not look old enough. Thalia knew she was. Many of the arguments were about who got to drive. Zoë always won, saying that she had been driving since automobiles were invented. Unfortunately, Thalia couldn't argue with that reasoning, so she had shut up despite the completely normal and not-unreasonable-at-all urge to strangle Zoë.

"When did you get time to drive while you were beating up monsters?" Grover had wondered.

Zoë hadn't answered him.

"Aren't we supposed to be working together on this?" Bianca had asked nervously.

Zoë hadn't answered that either.

Yes. Definitely all Zoë's fault that the van had fallen into awkward silence, besides Grover occasionally giving directions from his... magic acorns or something. Thalia didn't really know how he did it. It was sending them south, though. Zoë said that they should be heading straight west. That started a whole other quarrel during which Zoë had called Thalia a scullion. Thalia had no idea what a scullion was, but she was pretty sure it described Zoë more than her.

Poor Bianca and Grover had to deal with that the whole way to Washington D.C.

Also, minor inconvenience. There was someone following them. Thalia was pretty sure it was Dr. Thorn, the manticore from Westover Hall. That filled her with even more rage than Zoë ever could, but also hope as well. If Thorn was alive, then Annabeth had to be too.

They had been tracking the Bane of Olympus, following the line of the prophecy. The bane of Olympus shows the trail. Or, Grover had. Everyone else had been just following his direction.

The acorns brought them to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Thalia had never been here before, but Bianca mentioned that she and Nico had lived in D.C. for a while.

They stopped outside. "Ready?" Grover asked.

Thalia tried the door. It was open, but there weren't many people visiting. The group of questers stepped inside.

"What are we looking for?" Thalia asked.

"We are not sure," Zoë said. "Has that escaped thy mind? We do not know what this monster, this Bane of Olympus, is."

"Yeah, I got that part," Thalia snapped. "But, like, if you're so good at tracking then you should at least know where we can find signs of it."

Zoë huffed.

They searched the museum under the disguise of innocent tourists.

"There's nothing here," Thalia finally concluded.

She jinxed it.

"Guys!" a voice yelled. The four of them whirled around to see two familiar faces running toward them. That would have been great, except those two familiar faces should not have been there.

"Percy and Zedaph! You're here!" Grover grinned. Then he wilted under Zoë's glare. "Uh- I mean, you're here. You're not supposed to be here, what are you doing here?"

Thalia hid her own surprise and realized that with how desperate they looked, something was off. "What's going on?"

"The General-" Percy started.

"He's here," Zedaph finished. "And so is Luke."

Zoë's eyes widened as she saw them, but she still said hardly, "This quest does not concern thee."

"No, let them talk," Thalia told her.

"The General is not here," Zoë insisted. "It must have been an illusion of sorts. An... Iris-Message, perhaps."

"Iris-Messages don't crack marble floors," Zedaph said.

Zoë finally shut up, which gave Thalia an immense amount of satisfaction.

"The General is here," Percy repeated quickly. "And Luke. They've been working with mortals-"

"Why would they bring mortals into this?" Bianca yelped.

"Mercenaries," Zoë answered gravely. "They'll pledge to any cause if they're paid enough. Sometimes, mortals are worse than monsters."

"Yeah," Zedaph said. "Anyway, The General accidentally created some kittens-"

"Not important," Percy interrupted. "He also created skeleton warriors."

"Skeleton warriors?" Thalia demanded.

"He wanted them to go after Zoë, but they caught a piece of Percy's shirt-" Zedaph said. "So now they're hunting Percy."

Zoë's eyes widened. "If these are the warriors I think of, there is no time. We must leave-"

"We can't," Percy said. "The General also said that he had sent a 'playmate' to you guys. You haven't seen any monsters here?"

The four questers shook their heads.

"I bet that was the monster I tracked," Grover said, his eyes wide. "The Bane of Olympus isn't here."

Thalia swore loudly, earning a glare from a lady nearby with a toddler. "So where is it?"

"We don't know," Zedaph said. "But Thalia - they're trying to use this...
playmate to get you alone."

"Well then," Thalia said. "I guess I'll have to not do that, then. Did the General mention what exactly the playmate would be?"

A roar sounded nearby. Several people screamed. A little kid shouted, "KITTY!"

Zoë strung her bow. "I believe we are about to find out."


Shorter chapter this time but oh well at least I made one

Also hi yes I'm alive in case the last chapter didn't alert you to that fact


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