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[JASON]

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[JASON]

JASON WAS AFRAID THEY'D LOSE THEIR TARGET. The ventus moved like ... well, like the wind, "Speed up!" he urged.

"Bro," Leo replied, "if I get any closer, he'll spot us. Bronze dragon ain't exactly a stealth plane."

"Slow down!" Kyra yelped, wrapping her arms tighter around Jason, "I'm going to get dragon sick!"

The storm spirit dove into the grid of downtown streets. Festus tried to follow, but his wingspan was way too wide. His left wing clipped the edge of a building, slicing off a stone gargoyle before Leo pulled up.

"Get above the buildings," Jason suggested. "We'll track him from there."

"You want to drive this thing?" Leo grumbled, but he did what Jason asked.

After a few minutes, Jason spotted the storm spirit again, zipping through the streets with no apparent purpose—blowing over pedestrians, ruffling flags, making cars swerve.

"Oh great," Piper said. "There're two."

She was right. A second ventus blasted around the corner of the Renaissance Hotel and linked up with the first. They wove together in a chaotic dance, shooting to the top of a skyscraper, bending a radio tower, and diving back down toward the street.

"Those guys do not need any more caffeine," Leo said.

"I guess Chicago's a good place to hang out," Piper commented, "Nobody's going to question a couple more evil winds."

"More than a couple," Jason replied, "Look."

The dragon circled over a wide avenue next to a lake-side park. Storm spirits were converging—at least a dozen of them, whirling around a big public art installation.

"Which one do you think is Dylan?" Leo asked. "I wanna throw something at him."

But Jason focused on the art installation. The closer they got to it, the faster his heart beat. It was just a public fountain, but it was unpleasantly familiar. Two five-story monoliths rose from either end of a long granite reflecting pool. The monoliths seemed to be built of video screens, flashing the combined image of a giant face that spewed water into the pool.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it looked like a high-tech, super-size version of that ruined reflecting pool he'd seen in his dreams, with those two dark masses jutting from either end. As Jason watched, the image on the screens changed to a woman's face with her eyes closed.

"Leo ..." he said nervously.

"I see her," Leo responded, "I don't like her, but I see her."

Then the screens went dark. The venti swirled together into a single funnel cloud and skittered across the fountain, kicking up a waterspout almost as high as the monoliths. They got to its center, popped off a drain cover, and disappeared underground.

"Did they just go down a drain?" Piper asked. "How are we supposed to follow them?"

"Maybe we shouldn't," Leo said. "That fountain thing is giving me seriously bad vibes. And aren't we supposed to, like, beware the earth?"

Jason felt the same way, but they had to follow. It was their only way forward. They had to find Hera, and they now had only two days until the solstice.

"I don't think we have a choice, Leo." Kyra responded, "We don't have much time left. Only a few days left until the solstice."

"Put us down in that park," he suggested. "We'll check it out on foot."

Festus landed in an open area between the lake and the skyline. The signs said Grant Park, and Jason imagined it would've been a nice place in the summer; but now it was a field of ice, snow, and salted walkways. The dragon's hot metal feet hissed as they touched down. Festus flapped his wings unhappily and shot fire into the sky, but there was no one around to notice. The wind coming off the lake was bitter cold. Anyone with sense would be inside. Jason's eyes stung so badly, he could barely see.

They dismounted, and Festus the dragon stomped his feet. One of his ruby eyes flickered, so it looked like he was blinking.

"Is that normal?" Jason asked.

Leo pulled a rubber mallet from his tool bag. He whacked the dragon's bad eye, and the light went back to normal. "Yes," Leo said. "Festus can't hang around here, though, in the middle of the park. They'll arrest him for loitering. Maybe if I had a dog whistle ..." He rummaged in his tool belt, but came up with nothing.

"Too specialized?" he guessed. "Okay, give me a safety whistle. They got that in lots of machine shops." This time, Leo pulled out a big plastic orange whistle. "Coach Hedge would be jealous! Okay, Festus, listen." Leo blew the whistle. The shrill sound probably rolled all the way across Lake Michigan. "You hear that, come find me, okay? Until then, you fly wherever you want. Just try not to barbecue any pedestrians."

The dragon snorted—hopefully in agreement. Then he spread his wings and launched into the air.

Piper took one step and winced. "Ah!"

"Your ankle?" Jason felt bad he'd forgotten about her injury back in the Cyclops factory. "That nectar we gave you might be wearing off."

Kyra turned towards Piper, "Wait, what?"

"Piper hurt her ankle when we landed in Detroit." Leo told the blonde girl, "We gave her some of the ambrosia from your bag but..." He motioned towards Piper's feet, 

"It's fine." She shivered, and Jason remembered his promise to get her a new snowboarding coat. He hoped he lived long enough to find her one. She took a few more steps with only a slight limp, but Jason could tell she was trying not to grimace.

"Let's get out of the wind," he suggested.

"Down a drain?" Piper shuddered. "Sounds cozy."

They wrapped themselves up as best they could and headed toward the fountain.

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