“Yeah, Grace,” said Reyna. “You see that?” The decorated Admiral poked her finger through the side of the screen she was currently being projected on. “They’re saying that’s the work of the TITAN separatist cell, but you and I both know that whether or not TITAN had anything to do with the attack, Zeus is the mastermind.”
Jason was more than a little bit shell-shocked. A holographic man, regal in his bearing, made of glittering purple-and gold motes, leaned toward Reyna. “Admiral,” Scipio said, “I believe that Mr. Grace is presently in shock. Too dumb to speak, as he likes to call it. Might I suggest dealing with him in less harsh tones?”
“I don’t recall asking you for your help, Scipio,” said Reyna. Her second-in-command, Mike Kahale snickered behind her. Reyna shot a withering glare over her shoulder at the man that was stood behind the helm of Scipio. It silenced him rather quickly. “What I do recall is that I asked you to check on the security of the bunker.”
“With all due respect, Admiral,” said Scipio, folding his arms behind his back. “The A.I. core aboard me is the most advanced of its kind—thanks, in no small part, to Mr. Grace’s generous contributions. I am somewhat offended that you seem to think me incapable of multi-tasking.”
“I need not remind you, as well, Admiral, that you told me—” Scipio paused, the drone responsible for his holographic form whirring and clicking. After a few moments, he started speaking again, although this time in an eerily similar voice to Reyna’s. “—Gods help me I will kill him. Scipio, you’re in charge of reminding me not to strangle him.”
“Remind me why I let you program the personality for Scipio, Grace?” Reyna hissed. Jason, who had mostly gotten over his shock, was smirking.
“I have no idea how to do any of this, Jason,” said Scipio, voice still eerily like Reyna’s but not quite. It was treading well into the territory of the uncanny valley, and while Jason might have found it eerie some time ago, it was perfectly natural to him now. “Why don’t you do it and save me the effort?”
“Scipio, one more word from you and I will have you arrested and thrown to the brig for insubordination,” said Reyna, visibly exasperated at not only the A.I. of her beloved capital ship, but also at Jason.
“With all due respect, Admiral,” said Scipio, his holographic form displaying a smirk much like the one that Jason was wearing on his face. “I am the ship, and throwing me into my own brig is the equivalent of me putting you in your own stomach.”
“Scipio, I swear. I will take an axe to your core.”
“I wish you the best of luck in that endeavour, Admiral.” said Scipio, the smirk on his face unwavering. It did not even seem to have any effect on his regal bearing.
“As one of the most advanced A.I. present in the Vita Lyrae sector, my need for power dominates most of the ship.” Scipio conjured up a detailed schematic of the room that housed his processing core—although Jason was well aware there was a secondary back-up core in a more heavily-defended part of the ship. “Taking what is most likely to be a metal axe to my core is only going to make at least three hundred thousand volts of electricity coursing through your system.”
“Frankly, Admiral,” said Scipio, the smile on his face bordering on a friendly sneer, “I would not have expected such bad strategi—” There was a loud ZAP sound followed by the clinking of the small spherical drone on the floor of the Scipio’s bridge.
“Gods damned nuisance,” Reyna muttered under her breath. The tip of the barrel of her plasma pistol was still glowing cherry-red from the heat of the ionized gas that had just passed through it.
“I heard that, Admiral,” said the disembodied voice of Scipio, filtering in through all the speakers around the bridge. Jason couldn’t help but snicker. A third holographic screen had appeared to show a very disapproving Tempest.
“Asshole” Tempest muttered. He wrapped his fingers around an imaginary cylinder and made motions as though he were tossing something over his shoulder.
“I heard that, too, Tempest,” said Scipio. “And don’t think I don’t know what you were doing with your hand. Since it seems you are so intent on such vulgarity, you can forget all about that invitation to Gestalt tonight.”
The hologram of Tempest immediately blinked out, just as Scipio fell quiet, as well. “Was that?” Reyna said, amused, disgusted, and baffled. “Gestalt? Is that their equivalent of having se—You know what, Grace, I don’t want to know about your perverse experiments with A.I.”
Percy groaned in his anaesthetic-induced slumber, snapping Jason back to his senses. Jason filed the situation about his father to the back of his mind. “Solace. I need Solace. I know you have him, Reyna.”
The Admiral regarded Jason with a very flat glare. “Are you seriously more concerned about that twink of yours than the absolute disaster that we are facing right now, Grace?” she demanded.
“Stop calling him my twink Admiral Ramirez!” Jason yelled, surprising both himself and one of his oldest and best friends. “I sent all of my confidantes his file. You should know by now that he isn’t just some boy I picked up from one of those gods-forsaken bars you insist on dragging me to.”
“Percy might just prove to be the key to us getting Poseidon on our side, finally. So either tell me where Solace is, because I know that you know where he is, or I will have Tempest break into your data banks and give the information to me.” Jason glared at Reyna. “Gods help me, if you don’t cooperate…”
Reyna shook her head and sighed. “Jason,” she said, voice soft. “Scipio, my quarters, please,” she said. Reyna and the screen shimmered before reappearing, the bridge long left behind. “That transporter is pretty nifty, if you ask me,” said Reyna. “This isn’t just about Poseidon, is it?”
Jason averted his gaze. “Gods damn it, Jason!” said Reyna. “I know you said that you fall in love easily, but you barely know the boy. And let’s not have any delude ourselves here. He is just a boy.” Reyna paused. “He’s barely a man. Whatever the fuck that means these days.”
“Jason. Jason, we have a crisis on our hands.” Reyna’s voice grew grim. “I don’t care how important the boy is to us strategically, but we can’t afford to have you pining, doe-eyed, moonstruck, over some piece of ass! Do I have to remind you what happened to my last second in command, your fucking fiancé the last time we tried to strike back at the Hellenes?”
Jason hung his head. “I know,” he said. “I know. He tried to kill me, today.” Reyna fell immediately silent.
“Jake didn’t tell me that.” Jason looked up and saw that there were tears in Reyna’s eyes. Ones similar to his own.
“No, he didn’t.” Jason shook his head. “I told him not to share anything about what happened just yet.” He averted his gaze and wiped away the tears that had gathered at the corners of his eyes. “Just get me Will, Reyna.”
“Will do, captain,” said Reyna. “We have a visual on you.” Reyna’s eyes flicked over to the side. “Yes, thank you, Scipio. Give Tempest the day’s authorization code.” Her eyes flicked to the other side. “Kahale. Get Will to Tempest as soon as you can. I don’t care if he’s on Cerberus right now. Tell him this is important and if he refuses, tell Nico di Angelo that Percy is in danger.”
“For all our sakes, Jason,” said Reyna, turning her attention back to the CEO and president of Pantheon Industries, “I certainly hope you know what the fuck you’re doing.”
The screen quickly shrank into a vertical line before disappearing entirely. The projector drone went back to its place on the wall and left Jason in silence to contemplate. “I hope so too, Reyna,” he whispered, to no one in particular.
“I’ll make sure she hears of it, sir,” Tempest’s less-modulated robotic voice filtered through the speakers.
Jason rubbed his jaw, especially where it was still stinging from the resounding slap that he had just experienced. Nico di Angelo, despite his diminutive—compared to Jason—stature, packed quite the punch. From the balled fists he’d seen when the son of government alias: Hades entered the room, he’d half-expected to get punched in the face.
“Why the fuck did you have to bring Percy into this?” Nico demanded. Jason was pretty sure that the trembling he could see in Nico’s frame was not the chills. It was quite obviously anger. “All Percy wanted to do was give Bessie a better home.”
“You brought Percy into this when you told him about Bessie and what he has to do with the Oracle Drive.” Jason said, practically yelling over the din of Will setting up his equipment on the furthest bed. “If you wanted to keep him out of this, then I didn’t fail you. You failed.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Bessie? The Oracle Drive?” Nico looked genuinely baffled, and Jason had to wonder if Percy had been keeping the knowledge away from the son of Hades, too. “Bessie is a fucking Ophiotaurus. He’s an alien species, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the secret to how the Oracle Drive is supposed to work exists in… his…”
Nico paled visibly and practically ran out of the room. “Tempest, put me through to Erebos. Right. Now!”
Jason looked over to Will, who was muttering under his breath in the corner. “Who are you talking to?” said Jason, eyebrow raised. Will tapped his temple, which briefly glowed a bright blue. “Nico. He says you’re an asshole for not telling him about this earlier, when he could have escaped the compound with Bessie in tow.”
“How was I supposed to know?” said Jason. His eyes flicked back over to Percy. “I just found out today.” Will shrugged. “And what was he saying before he ran out? What was that?”
“Nico says you’re an idiot if you still haven’t figured it out.” Jason raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Will. “He and Hades are yelling quite a few archaic Italian obscenities at each other right now that I am not going to repeat.”
“You know Italian?” said Jason, just as Will pressed a large section of the ring that he had been constructing into place.
“Archaic Language translator,” said Will, tapping his other temple, which briefly glowed green. “Your company produces them. Gods know why, considering how small of a market you’ve got to sell it to. Either way, it helps considering Nico likes slipping into Archaic Italian very often.” Will waggled his eyebrows in Jason’s direction. “Especially during sex.”
“There,” said Will, plugging in a final part to the machine he had spent the last hour constructing. The large ring, much larger than the scanner from earlier, whirred to life. Four arms detached from the ring’s inner circumference, no doubt mounted with laser scalpels and all sorts of surgical tools.
“Hold on,” said Jason, as he moved Percy onto a stretcher. “That’s a superficial rejuve machine, isn’t it?” he said.
“Basically,” said Will, patting the side of the construct. “It’s more advanced. Medical grade, if you will. It’s really the only choice that we have at the moment. A proper rejuve is the only way to get rid of all the unbiunium in his body but this will do for now.”
Jason warily brought the stretcher over to where Will was standing with his ring. “I can target the most problematic radiation areas, and maybe fix up that wound properly. You did a decent job not letting him bleed to death, but that’s not going to hold very long.”
Jason sighed, but Will patted him on the shoulder reassuringly. “He’ll be fine, Jason, but only if you make sure he gets on a rejuve cycle as soon as possible. I’ll do it for you, if you want, but you know what it means.”
“Eight hours minimum a day in the tank, preferably during the sleep cycle,” Jason breathed. Will had been pestering him to do the treatment himself, but he had actually grown fond of his graying hair. “I’d do it alongside him if I could keep my current looks.” Will nodded, seemingly pensive.
“Well, that’s one way to get him in your bed,” said Will, with a laugh, after a moment’s silence. “Although it’s not so much a bed as a huge tank filled with solution and nanobots.”