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[JASON]

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[JASON]

THE THREE OF THEM quickly brought Jason back to Festus and Kyra slid on behind him to make sure he wouldn't fall off the bronze dragon.

After an hour of flying, he began to mumble something before his eyes snapped open. "Cyclops!"

"Whoa, sleepyhead." Kyra placed her hands on his waist to keep him balanced,

"D-Detroit," Jason stammered. "Didn't we crash-land? I thought—"

"It's okay," Leo interrupted, "We got away, but you got a nasty concussion. How you feeling?"

Jason's head throbbed as he leaned back on Kyra slightly, "How did you—the Cyclops—"

"Leo ripped them apart," Piper answered, "He was amazing. He can summon fire—"

"It was nothing," Leo said quickly.

Piper laughed. "Shut up, Valdez. I'm going to tell him. Get over it."

And she did—how Leo single-handedly defeated the Cyclopes family; how they freed Jason, then noticed the Cyclopes starting to re-form; how Leo had replaced the dragon's wiring and gotten them back in the air just as they'd started to hear the Cyclopes roaring for vengeance inside the factory.

Jason was impressed. Taking out three Cyclopes with nothing but a tool kit? Not bad. It didn't exactly scare him to hear how close he'd come to death, but it did make him feel horrible. He'd stepped right into an ambush and spent the whole fight knocked out while his friends fended for themselves. What kind of quest leader was he?

Then Kyra told him about the other kid the Cyclopes claimed to have eaten, the one in the purple shirt who spoke Latin, Jason felt like his head was going to explode. A son of Mercury ... Jason felt like he should know that kid, but the name was missing from his mind.

"I'm not alone, then," he stated, "There are others like me."

"Jason," Piper replied, "you were never alone. You've got us."

"I—I know ... but something Hera said. I was having a dream..."

Behind him, Kyra tensed. He could feel it in her hands that were on his torso. Hera did mention that she had contacted one of his friends. It had to be her.

He told them what he'd seen, and what the Goddess had said inside her cage, "An exchange?" Piper asked. "What does that mean?"

Jason shook his head. "But Hera's gamble is me. Just by sending me to Camp Half-Blood, I have a feeling she broke some kind of rule, something that could blow up in a big way—"

"Or save us," Piper said hopefully. "That bit about the sleeping enemy—that sounds like the lady Leo told us about."

Leo cleared his throat. "About that ... she kind of appeared to me back in Detroit, in a pool of Porta-Potty sludge."

Jason wasn't sure he'd heard that right. "Did you say ... Porta-Potty?"

Leo told them about the big face in the factory yard. "I don't know if she's completely unkillable," he said, "but she cannot be defeated by toilet seats. I can vouch for that. She wanted me to betray you guys, and I was like, 'Pfft, right, I'm gonna listen to a face in the potty sludge.'"

"She's trying to divide us." Piper swallowed nervously,

"What's wrong?" Kyra asked.

"I just ... Why are they toying with us? Who is this lady, and how is she connected to Enceladus?"

"Enceladus?" Jason didn't think he'd heard that name before.

"I mean ..." Piper's voice quavered. "That's one of the giants. Just one of the names I could remember."

Jason got the feeling there was a lot more bothering her, but he decided he not to press her. She'd had a rough morning.

Leo scratched his head. "Well, I dunno about Enchiladas—"

"Enceladus," Piper corrected.

"Whatever. But Old Potty Face mentioned another name. Porpoise Fear, or something?"

"Porphyrion?" Kyra asked. "He was the giant king, I think."

Jason envisioned that dark spire in the old reflecting pool—growing larger as Hera got weaker. "I'm going to take wild guess," he said. "In the old stories, Porphyrion kidnapped Hera. That was the first shot in the war between the giants and the gods."

"I think so," Piper agreed. "But those myths are really garbled and conflicted. It's almost like nobody wanted that story to survive. I just remember there was a war, and the giants were almost impossible to kill."

"Heroes and Gods had to work together," Jason said. "That's what Hera told me."

"Kind of hard to do," Leo grumbled, "if the Gods won't even talk to us."

They flew west, and Jason became lost in his thoughts—all of them bad. He heard Kyra behind him, rummaging through her bag before she let out a small curse, 

"What's wrong?" He asked, turning to look at her. In her hands, she held a broken camera. The lens was cracked and parts of the body were broken, "Oh, Ky, I'm sorry."

She sighed, "It must've broken when I hit the ground in Detroit. I knew I shouldn't have brought it with me." 

"Hey," Jason placed his hand on top of hers, "We'll get you a new one."

Kyra shook her head, "They're really expensive. This one was a gift from my mom. Gods, I'm so stupid."

"No, you're not, Kyra. How were you supposed to know that you'd drop out of the sky and land on your bag? These things happen." He tried to comfort her, knowing how much she liked her camera.

The blonde girl took the SD card out, placing it in a small pocket of her backpack before putting her camera back inside. Jason gave her one last look before turning around once again.

He wasn't sure how much time passed before the dragon dove through a break in the clouds, and below them, glittering in the winter sun, was a city at the edge of a massive lake. A crescent of skyscrapers lined the shore. Behind them, stretching out to the western horizon, was a vast grid of snow-covered neighborhoods and roads.

"Chicago," Jason stated.

He thought about what Hera had said in his dream. His worst mortal enemy would be waiting here. If he was going to die, it would be by her hand.

"One problem down," Leo said. "We got here alive. Now, how do we find the storm spirits?"

Jason saw a flash of movement below them. At first, he thought it was a small plane, but it was too small, too dark and fast. The thing spiraled toward the skyscrapers, weaving and changing shape—and, just for a moment, it became the smoky figure of a horse.

"How about we follow that one," Jason suggested, "and see where it goes?"

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