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Getting to San Diego was the easy part.

Thank goodness Camp Jupiter had a car. The three demigods piled into the backseat.

The driver was an adult son of Hermes - er, Mercury. Gem was still amazed at how demigods from Camp Jupiter survived to adulthood.

Anyway, the poor guy had to drive them seven hours to San Diego, because Reyna and Jason were both fourteen and Gem was thirteen. It was sort of illegal for them to drive.

By the time they arrived, it was late at night. When Reyna asked a random stranger for the time, he told them it was 11:30 PM.

That was nothing compared to the frequent all-nighters Gem pulled in Hermitcraft, but she didn't say anything as they walked away, because the guy offered to sell them a bag of white powder that Reyna told Gem wasn't bonemeal.

"We need a hotel," Jason said. "Or somewhere safe to sleep. And then we need to track down that leopard."

"Where would a leopard even be?" Gem wondered. "Is that like an ocelot?"

"Leopards don't typically live in San Diego," Reyna said. "Bacchus said it only escaped in San Diego, we don't know where it could be now. We're looking for... tracks, basically."

"But not yet," Jason added. "We're sleeping right now.

"Not right now," Gem said.

"Not right now," Jason agreed. "But soon."

They found a cheap, sketchy hotel on a side street that had rooms available. Camp Jupiter prepared demigods for quests much better than Camp Half-Blood did. They had money, weapons, a ride...

Or maybe Camp Half-Blood provided the same things, but the Greek demigods always found a way to ruin it.

That seemed more accurate.

"This isn't a very safe part of town," Gem observed.

"Nope," Reyna agreed uneasily.

Gem left Jason and Reyna to check in, because she didn't know these non-minecraft things and she didn't have the energy to learn at the time.

The lobby smelled like cigarette smoke. It was small and carpeted in dark blue. There were a few chairs along the walls, but the one Gem tried to sit in made a loud squeak in protest, so she decided she would rather stand.

Jason waved her over. Gem followed them up the stairs.

"I don't trust this place," Reyna said. "Keep your guard up. Not just against monsters, but mortals too."

Gem had spent long enough in this world to know that people were more dangerous than monsters, given the motivation. She nodded and kept a hand on her sword.

The Romans had asked where she had gotten it. When she replied with the truth, they had laughed. Only when Reyna yelled at them did they shut up and accept that the two of them had spent the last six months on a pirate ship.

Gem couldn't hold back a smile at the memory. Reyna was no one to be trifled with, and she had already established her presence in camp within a couple hours of arriving. That was the only reason she and Gem were allowed on the quest.

Their room was small, like the hotel itself, but neat. It seemed to be well looked-after. Still, none of them trusted the beds, so they spread sleeping bags out on the floor.

Reyna was the first one asleep. Gem and Jason stayed awake, awkwardly staring into the distance.

"So," Gem said finally. "Nine years, huh?"

Jason looked down at his arm. There were nine tallies there, as if he had been branded. All of the Camp Jupiter kids seemed to have them. Apparently they were a mark of how long they had been at camp.

At Camp Half-Blood, there were bead necklaces. This seemed much more permanent, as if they were saying, "Once a legionnaire, always a legionnaire."

Jason seemed almost surprised to see his marks there. "Yeah," he said. "I've been at Camp Jupiter a while."

"I see," Gem said, and then they fell into awkward silence again.

"I'm going to sleep," Jason announced.

Gem leaned her head up against the wall. The past few days had gone by so fast. There was barely any time to think.

She was exhausted. Her body wanted to sleep. But her mind was racing, taking the opportunity to bombard her with everything that had happened.

She was a daughter of Demeter. Or Ceres. She didn't really know. The agriculture goddess.

Hylla was gone, and Gem would quite possibly never see her again.

Gem could apparently be terrifying if she got mad enough, as had happened with the Fury in the bathrooms in Seattle.

But most of all... Roman gods existed.

What did this mean? Gem had learned painfully little about other ancient mythologies of this world, mostly from Annabeth. There were hundreds of mythologies.

Were all of those real, too? Because Gem found it hard to believe that Greek and Roman would exist, but not anything else.

She sighed. I should be sleeping.

It was close to midnight when a rainbow appeared in front of her, despite there being minimal light. Gem was too tired to be surprised at the Iris-Message.

She couldn't tell who had sent it yet, because the rainbow appeared to have been made with a flashlight and a hose in a dark place. But she knew the voice as it spoke. "Hey! Gem!"

"Bdubs?" Gem asked.

"Yeah. Itsh me. Shouldn't you be asleep?"

Gem realized just how out of character being up this late was for Bdubs. If she had her time zones right, New York was three hours ahead of California - meaning it was about three in the morning for him. "Shouldn't you?"

Bdubs was silent.

Gem was silent too.

Bdubs spoke up. "Yeah," he said. "I wish I was. Where are you? That doesn't look like a pirate ship."

"It's not," Gem admitted. "It's a hotel room. I... It's hard to explain, but I'm in California right now. San Diego."

Something told her not to tell Bdubs about Camp Jupiter.

She hears Bdubs breathe a sigh of relief. "At least you're not dead."

"Yeah," Gem said, letting out a breathy, fake laugh. "That's a plus. Listen, I'll be back to Camp Half-Blood as soon as I can. I got wrapped up in some... stuff."

Bdubs was quiet for a minute, and Gem could tell he wasn't quite satisfied with her answer. "You're okay, though?"

"Yeah," Gem managed. "I'll be alright."

Bdubs might have nodded. Gem didn't see.

"Get some sleep, okay?" Gem told him.

"Yeah. I will. Hopefully. You too."

And then the rainbow dissolved.

The interaction with one of her fellow Hermits only made Gem miss them more.

"Who was that?" Jason asked sleepily. Apparently he hadn't fallen asleep yet, or maybe Gem had woken him.

"A friend," Gem said as she climbed into her sleeping bag. "I haven't seen him in a while."

"Oh," Jason said.

And then the room was silent until Gem fell asleep.

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