“Let’s get this straight, Perseus,” said Octavian, the perpetual sneer on his face impossibly more stuck-up and annoying. “As his new Personal Assistant, your job will be to take care of whatever it is that he needs. Do you understand?”
Octavian tapped the top of the clipboard that he was holding to his chest. Percy had just about had enough of the pasty-skinned fuck-faced blond that everyone went to great lengths just to avoid. It wasn’t even because Octavian used to be the P.A. of the man that was the de facto CEO and President of the New Rome group of companies.
“Yes, Octavian,” Percy said through gritted teeth. He was pretty sure that Octavian was being aggravating on purpose by using his given name. He had very clearly said that he strongly preferred being called Percy. HR had even agreed to put “Percy” on his name tag—though not on his official company-issued intern ID.
“Good,” said Octavian. “Get to it,” Octavian continued, as he walked past and practically slammed the clipboard into Percy’s chest. Percy grunted, the wind knocked out of him. “I’m going to enjoy my new position as co-director of Project SIBYL.” Percy really tried to fake a smile at Octavian, but ended up scowling, instead.
“Who would give an asshole like that a job as a co-director for one of the company’s most important projects?” Percy grumbled under his breath as he pushed open the heavy doors. They were the only ones of their kind in the whole building. The rest were hydraulic—as was the ubiquitous design these days.
“Sir,” Percy said a little timidly as he took in the sight of the president’s office. It was a strange place, truth be told. It looked like a study straight out of Victorian England. So out of place in a world where sleek steel and glass had become the norm. “You wanted to see me?”
“I did,” said the man, Dr. Grace, standing by the only ‘modern’ fixture in the entire room—the massive windows that stretched from floor to ceiling. “And for the record, the kind of man that would give Octavian a job as co-director for Project SIBYL is the kind of man that has known for decades that it is a dead end.”
“Y-You heard that?” Percy stammered, lowering his head in deference to one of the most powerful men on the planet. “I-I’m so sorry, sir,” he said, voice as soft as the pink that crept up his cheeks.
A moment of silence passed. Dr. Grace did not move a single muscle, icy blue eyes still staring out onto the skyline of Nova Olympia. “Hold on, sir,” said Percy, finally realizing what had just been revealed to him. “What do you mean that Project SIBYL is a dead end, sir? Why spend billions of marks every year on the project if it’s not going to succeed?”
Percy supposed he should be more respectful of his boss, but everything he thought he knew had just been thrown out of one of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Because the people need hope, Percy,” said Dr. Grace, turning from the window for a moment to look over his shoulder at his new P.A. Dr. Grace adjusted the golden frame of his glasses, made the bridge sit lower on his nose. He looked at Percy with strikingly blue eyes. “We all need a little hope, don’t we?”
“O-of course, sir,” Percy stammered. He looked around the room, suddenly uncomfortable. What was he supposed to do with the knowledge that the one project that all the people of Nova Olympia looked to was just a facade meant to keep them hoping. “D-do you need anything else, sir? Or can I go back to my office?”
Dr. Grace chuckled and pivoted where he stood. He looked at Percy with such intensity that Percy felt his legs lock up. He wanted to leave. He really did. But he was frozen on the spot. “Call me Jason in privacy,” said Dr. Grace, with a smile that somehow managed to be both warm and chilling.
“Perseus Jackson. Aged 19 years old.” said Jason, as he walked slowly toward his new P.A. “Mother: Sally Jackson. Deceased Step-father: Gabriel Ugliano. Current Step-father: Paul Blofis. Actual Father: Disgraced CEO of Trident Incorporated and co-owner of the Hellene Group of Companies—government alias Poseidon. A bastard of one of the few people on this planet that have fallen so far from grace.”
Percy felt a chill run up the length of his spine. He was always afraid when something, anything asked for biometric identification. He wasn’t necessarily ashamed of his heritage, but it was certainly inconvenient. “Sir, I don’t know why this is relev—”
“It is in fact, very relevant to why you are in this office right now,” said Jason, his deep voice startling Percy from his daze. He hadn’t realized that the older man had come to stand up right in front of him. “Come,” said Jason, gesturing toward the grand wooden desk that sat in the middle of the room, “Take a seat.”
Percy gaped at his boss for a moment, watching as Jason walked over to the desk and sat on what was basically a throne.
“Come on,” said Jason, leaning back with a very cat-like grace. He reached forward and picked up a folder from his desk. “Perseus Jackson. Top of his class. Graduated Vocational School a whole five years ahead of the planetary average—four years ahead of dominion average. Offered a full scholarship to and enrolled in the Institute for Extraterrestrial Marine Chimerobiology as its historically youngest student.”
Percy had not seen actual paper files used in a very long time, but the one that Jason took out of the folder seemed very familiar. It was a report card, one that he had only ever seen holographically projected. Jason held in his hands the original.
“Commended for excellent academic work. Proved to have an almost unnatural aptitude for working with marine creatures, both chimeric and not.” Jason set the report card down with a slight smirk. He looked up at Percy and gestured with a single finger—the ‘come here’ hooking motion that Percy had only ever seen done in movies.
Jason took out another page from the folder, though this one he flipped around to show Percy. It was an image of a creature that seemed to be half-serpent, half-bull. “Instrumental in the preservation of the Ophiotaurus olympii, affectionately nicknamed ‘Bessie’ in a classic case of mistaken gender identity.”
Percy felt like his face was on fire. Dr. Grace—Jason—had evidently done his homework. He was pretty sure that his work with Bessie was protected by the planetary government, and he had definitely told no one but the institute’s archivist that he had named the Ophiotaurus Bessie because he had initially thought it was female.
Percy could not imagine why the CEO would take such an interest in him, but then again, he supposed that he did have quite the storied history. Despite his mind screaming at him to run, Percy found himself walking toward the desk. Timidly, he sat down in one of the chairs, wondering what else Jason had managed to dig up on him.
“Applied for a full scholarship to the Nova Roma Institute for Advanced Research,” said Jason, as he put down the entire file, fingers splayed to either side of the folder. “Rejected for the presence of Hellene DNA in biometric identification. Recommended, instead, to apply to the Hellene Research Academy.”
“Look, sir,” said Percy, at his wit’s end. There were things that he didn’t want to be reminded of, least of all his rejection from the Nova Roma Institute. “It was a difficult time. I didn’t have money. I didn’t know—”
“I know you didn’t have money,” said Jason, stark blue eyes flashing with something that Percy couldn’t quite read. “What I don’t know is why, if you didn’t have money, you applied for an unpaid internship position in my company.”
Jason picked up a small glass cube from the edge of the table, utterly out-of-place among the more traditional implements of work. He spun the cube on his palm and rolled his eyes as it split into four pieces that flew apart to form the corners of a holographic screen.
“Perseus Jackson,” said Jason, “Asked very nicely that his name tag say Percy instead of Perseus. Self-professed conscientious objector to biometric identification—possibly due to Hellene heritage.” Percy felt his face flush. It was somewhat humiliating to have his entire history outlined to him like this. It was like a slap in the face.
“I applied for the guaranteed free room and board, sir,” said Percy, meekly.
Jason tapped his fingers on the stop on an ink bottle that sat beside a stack of parchment. “Is that all?” he asked. Percy looked up and saw a look of skepticism in his boss’ eyes.
“No, sir,” said Percy. He hung his head in shame. Since it was so apparent that Jason had the power to access information he shouldn’t have been able to, Percy suspected it was going to be only a matter of time before Jason would figure out that it wasn’t just about the board and food. He supposed it was better to come clean now than be caught red-handed later.
“I applied so that maybe I could eventually get enough favour to get into the Academy,” Percy said, bashfully. “And then, I was hoping that maybe once I had a little more traction, I could get Bessie moved somewhere better for him.”
“Better for him?” asked Jason, with a raised eyebrow. Truth be told, he had only managed to procure things that directly had to do with Percy. Anything to do with Bessie was still a closely-guarded secret between the government and the Hellenes.
Percy felt more warmth creep into his cheeks. He didn’t know why he was discussing this with his boss, the one man that probably shouldn’t be getting his hands on Bessie. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, sir, but if I told you why Bessie is not safe in Nova Olympia, I would get shot on the spot.”
Percy looked up and saw a somehow-sympathetic smirk on Jason’s face. “No one is safe on Nova Olympia,” he said. “No one is safe on this damned planet as long as Project SIBYL fails to produce the improved Oracle Drive.”
Percy fidgeted nervously where he sat. He could feel Jason looking him over, gauging him, measuring his reactions. As intimidated as he felt by this older man, he had secrets that he had to keep, lest Bessie and his one informant among the Hellenes be put in grave danger.
“I see,” said Jason, with a cryptic smile on his face. His eyes flicked over to the security camera in the corner of the room, which, until this moment, had been off. Percy’s eyes followed Jason’s. He saw the red indicator flash on.
“Yes, Percy,” said Jason. “I wanted to see you. I know it’s your first day on the job, but I wanted you to know that you don’t have to stress out around me.” Percy was more than a little bit shocked at the sudden change in demeanour that Jason had gone through.
“Anyway,” said Jason. “Let me tell you, I have just had the strangest epiphany. I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but bear with me on this—” Percy couldn’t help but wonder why it was that Jason had just now turned on the security camera. “—Could it be that the Ophiotaurus has something to do with getting the improved Oracle Drive to work?”
Percy felt something cold settle into the pit of his stomach. He tried to formulate a response, but the letters simply wouldn’t come together in his head—much less the words. He looked up, at a loss, at Jason. Then, he saw the sparkle of mischief in those blue eyes.
The realization hit Percy like a sack of bricks. He briefly glanced at the security camera again. It was trained on the two of them. Video evidence. “I don’t know, sir,” Percy managed. His voice trembled. His right eyelid twitched. “It sounds far fetched!” he said.
Percy’s eyes flitted to where Jason was tapping on the stopper of the ink bottle. There was a faint rhythm to the tapping, one that he could only just pick out due to his extensive education in, humiliatingly enough, old Earth movies. It was Morse code. “I will help Bessie, I promise,” Jason kept tapping over and over again.
Percy didn’t know if this was worth it, but if his informant was correct, he had very little time. He was running out of options and here he was, seated in front of one of the most powerful men on the planet, offering him help. He knew that it likely wasn’t the best idea, and that it probably wasn’t going to be free, but he felt like he didn’t have a choice.
“But,” said Percy, with a heavy sigh. He looked at Jason and shook his head. He really hoped he wouldn’t regret this. “I imagine that it could happen,” he said.
The smile on Jason’s face was dazzling, Percy had to admit. His stomach did a little somersault at the sight. The CEO of Pantheon Industries was not known for smiling too much. Percy wondered if that had something to do with having a prick like Octavian nearby all the time.
Whatever the case was, Percy couldn’t help but wish that he could see that smile more. There was just something so open about it that he wanted more. “Good,” said Jason, still grinning. “That will be all, Percy. If you don’t mind, I would like some coffee.”
“O-Of course, sir,” said Percy, averting his gaze so that Jason wouldn’t see the blush that had stained his cheeks.