Zedaph

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Their escape method was a minecart.

Well, technically it was called a subway. Or something like that. Zedaph remembered one of his siblings mentioning that as a sandwich stop, but apparently it was a minecart system as well.

It wasn't really a minecart. It had a covered top and was much larger than a minecart. But it moved on rails, and that was enough to convince Zedaph that this subway was a part of the minecart family.

The skeleton chatter behind them was familiar to Zedaph, both because he and Percy had witnessed them being created, and because he heard the same sound every night in Hermitcraft.

They crashed through the ticket booth. Alarms went off, people yelled. A kid screamed.

The six questers all managed to get into the subway just in time for the doors to close behind them. The angry clatter of the skeleton warriors sounded outside and there was a thump against the door before the subway started to move.

Bianca let out a sigh of relief as she took a seat and petted Floofle the Skeleton Cat. "Glad this was here. It's new, isn't it? The subway?"

Zoë gave her a strange look. "I believe it's been here a while."

"Like, before we were born a while," Thalia added.

Bianca scrunched her eyebrows. "It wasn't here when Nico and I lived in D.C. I think... It's hard to remember."

Zedaph stared out the window at the wall of the tunnel whizzing by. "Bianca... who's the president of the United States?"

Bianca looked confused. "What kind of question is that?" She told them the correct president.

"Okay," Grover said, seeming relieved. "It's fine."

"No," Zedaph said firmly. "Not yet. Who was the president before that?"

Bianca frowned. "FDR."

Thalia looked up. "Roosevelt?!"

"Yeah. The elections happened when we were in a hotel, so we didn't know who took FDR's place until after we left-"

"Hotel? What hotel?" Percy asked immediately.

Bianca looked uncomfortable. "I can't remember. Let's drop it, okay? We can figure it out when we're not running for our lives-"

"Lotus Hotel and Casino?" Grover guessed. "Does that ring a bell?"

Zedaph suddenly knew what they were thinking.

He wasn't with Percy, Grian, Annabeth, Gem, Ren, and Grover when they went to the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas, but of course he had heard stories.

Bianca hesitated, then started petting Floofle again. The cat purred, oblivious to the situation. "Yeah. I think that was it. Why?"

Percy and Grover exchanged grave glances.

Zoë was the one who spoke up. "Bianca, that hotel slows down time. It is probable that you were there for decades."

Bianca was silent. She looked up and stared at Zoë for a minute.

"Grover and I and a few others got stuck in there," Percy chimed in. "We were in there for what we thought was a few hours. Actually, it was five days. Where you say you were there for a few weeks..."

"It's a miracle you got out," Grover finished.

"No," Bianca said. "No, that can't be right. That's not possible. We were not-"

The subway hissed to a stop, and the conversation was forgotten as the questers were caught in the crowd of people who exited the minecart-subway-thing.

Zedaph was still confused about the whole thing, but he was sure they'd continue that conversation later.

They regrouped by a bench next to a pillar. A guy was sitting on the bench, reading a paper. Zedaph ignored him. So did everyone else.

Bianca looked like she was in shock. She had put Floofle in her backpack. The cat seemed uncomfortable there, and was yowling protests, but nobody was really listening to her.

Zoë already seemed hardened to her fellow Hunter's feelings. "We must keep moving," she said. "They have most likely found a way to follow us. Let us-"

"For Zeus' sake, give her a minute!" Thalia yelled, earning a glance from the guy with the paper.

Zoë shook her head. "There will be time to collect our thoughts later. We must go. Come." She walked away.

If it were up to Zedaph, they would have waited a minute. But it wasn't up to Zedaph. So he shot Bianca a concerned glance and followed Zoë.

They spent half an hour in subways and taxis.

Finally, Zoë said, "I believe we have lost them."

For once, the comment didn't seem to jinx itself.

They were in a run-down minecart - sorry, train - yard. Empty cargo containers and abandoned cars lay scattered around the area.

Zedaph only knew what the cargo containers were because of Keralis' city in Season 7.

There was a homeless guy with a fire in a trash can. He waved them over.

"Hi," Zedaph said awkwardly.

The homeless guy grinned, revealing that he was missing several teeth. "What's a group of teenage hooligans doing out here?" His tone suggested that it was a joke. They approached his fire and started to warm their hands.

"Vandalism," Thalia said, dead seriously. Percy smacked her.

"We're trying to get to California," Grover blurted.

Bianca, who had gone through the five stages of grief during their trip across town, had reached the acceptance phase. "No, we're not."

Oh, gods, we're a mess.

"Well," the homeless guy said. "This isn't the most comfortable way to do it, but that train leaves for New Mexico in an hour." He gestured with his head.

The questers turned to look at it. It was one of those trains that transported cars. Zedaph didn't understand why they needed a train to move cars. It was like using a flying machine to carry a tamed horse.

"Why should we trust you?" Thalia demanded.

"What other choice do you have?" The homeless guy countered. "I just got you a ticket west. Be thankful."

"Thank you," Zoë said quickly. "We shall take this opportunity."

The homeless guy nodded, winked, and then disappeared into thin air. With him went his fire.

That left them cold and alone with an empty trash can and a train to New Mexico.

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