Percy looked at Nico. Guilt he’d been hiding for years twisted and turned in the pit of his stomach. It hadn’t gnawed at him this badly for so very long. “Me breaking up with Nico as soon as I did wasn’t an accident.” Percy leaned back again, tears stinging the corners of his eyes. “I didn’t have the courage to do it when I did, but I definitely had the motivation.”
Percy looked at Jason. He didn’t know why, but he did. Jason immediately looked at him, distressed. When Reyna held Jason back, Jason pulled his arm away and ignored her. He walked over to Percy and stood in front of him.
Percy could feel everyone looking at the two of them. “You might be fooling them,” Jason whispered, reaching down to take Percy’s good hand, “But you’re not fooling me. I know this is painful, and I want you to know that you don’t have to say anything more. You’ve already told us more than enough.”
The warmth of Jason’s fingers intertwined with his own sent shivers down Percy’s spine. He squeezed his eyes shut and blinked his tears away. “You don’t understand,” said Percy. “When I sequenced that DNA, someone got access to my files.”
The look on Jason’s face grew cold, and a brief glance about the room showed varying levels of concern on everyone else’s faces. “No, it wasn’t Zeus,” Percy all but whispered. “It was a girl. I eventually found out who was helping me with Bessie all along. Her name was Annabeth, she told me, and she showed me what she had found in Bessie’s DNA.”
The door to the bridge hissed open and a cart loaded with a proper set of biological laboratory apparatuses hovered into the room. Percy untangled his fingers from Jason’s and pushed the older man to the side.
Percy reached for a glass slide and put it in his lap. He bit into his thumb hard enough to draw blood, and he smeared a single drop of it onto the slide. Scipio walked over to the microscope, touched it briefly, and then flung a glimmering holographic sphere on the far wall.
The sphere turned into a screen that showed everything under the microscope’s purview and even turned a delightful shade of crimson when Percy mounted the slide under the objective lens. “I’m not as innocent and naïve as you all might think I am.” A twinge of pink crept into Jason’s face. “I have my connections, too. Although, none of them are nearly as influential as you lot.”
Percy looked into the microscope and adjusted the focus until the individual blood cells filled up a large portion of the viewport. Among the red blood cells and the smaller platelets were metallic objects of two distinct types. Some of them were shaped like a teardrop. They were standard medical nanomachines that were probably left-over from when Will had performed a superficial rejuve on Percy. Those were irrelevant.
Some of the nanomachines, however, were hexagonal. They did not seem to have any mechanisms to propel themselves at all, and they were mostly flat save for an embossed circle in their middles. With a pair of tweezers, Percy pressed the circle and immediately, hitherto invisible designs on the hexagonal objects began to glow.
“Quick,” said Percy. He couldn’t help but pant as his temperature began to plummet. The machines were sucking out all the energy that they could from his body. He had no idea why the damn things had to broadcast at such high frequencies, but Annabeth had assured him it meant that no one would be looking for stray signals.
“Scipio,” Percy gasped. He held his arms to his chest, drawing the blanket tighter around his shoulders. He shivered. He felt cold. So cold. “Please, scan me for any modulated radiation and pick up whatever you can. It’s going to be a couple million threads of data concurrently, so make sure you can piece them together.”
Jason approached Percy, concern clearly written on his face, but Percy shoved him away. Percy looked into the microscope and gave Scipio ten seconds to gather whatever data that he could. When the ten seconds was up, Percy shut off the nanomachine he had just touched and immediately, every other one returned to its original inert state.
“What the hell did you just let him do, Grace?” said Admiral Ramirez, clearly distraught. Percy looked over his shoulder and saw the form of Scipio frozen in place and flickering.
Another screen appeared on the bridge of Scipio, and a woman appeared there. A silver circlet was wrapped around her brow, and curtains of golden hair framed either side of her face. Her eyes were an astonishing shade of grey, piercing and calculating even through the screen.
“Percy,” Annabeth breathed, as though there was no one else on the bridge of Scipio. “You are such a fucking idiot,” she hissed. Scipio jolted sideways. All lights on the bridge flickered off and then back on—except this time they were an angry red colour. A female robotic voice, the default onboard computer for when the A.I. was out of commission, spoke. Unauthorized breach of security. Unauthorized breach of security.
Another screen appeared, though this one was very clearly a view from Scipio’s security camera. Women of all ages stepped from their strange angular ship into Scipio’s hangar. They were all dressed in sleek silver jumpsuits and they had plasma rifles strapped to their backs. Behind the first column of women, a group of four, bearing what seemed to be an A.I. core that was crackling with electricity strode down the ramp of the ship.
One of Scipio’s drones whirred and clicked as it made its way to the platform that Percy was currently on. It projected an avatar in shimmering silver, although this one was clearly Annabeth. The avatar walked over to where the Admiral was clutching the railing, teeth clenched. “You do not need to w—”
“Don’t tell me that I don’t fucking need to worry,” said Reyna. She pointed at another screen that had come up, one that was showing the head of the column of women that had marched aboard Scipio. There were two women clearly in the lead, linked arm in arm. “I want to know what the fuck my sister is doing on this ship.”
Percy looked at Jason and saw the colour immediately leave his face. Jason turned from Percy to the screens behind him and gasped. “What is my sister doing here?” he said. “They were on ARKIV.” A chill ran down Percy’s spine. What the fuck was going on? ARKIV had not been scheduled to depart from Solar System orbit until ARKIII had reported that C-Vita Lyrae was stable and habitable.
Annabeth waved off the questions. “As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted,” she said, “There is no need to worry about the A.I. core. We are bringing Adonis onboard Scipio because Scipio was not built to process such a dense amount of data.”
“Hylla and Thalia will explain all to you, but for the moment, I would welcome Scipio back into the world of the living.” Everyone turned to face the A.I. and saw the golden-purple man standing bashfully right next to basically a naked greek god. “Hades, the files will be sent aboard Erebos now that they have been decompiled.” The comlink with Erebos was instantly terminated. “This meeting will be reconvened when everyone has had a chance to settle in and a proper debriefing has occurred.”
The schematic for a large but sleek ship appeared across the surface of the sphere that housed Scipio’s bridge. “For now, Admiral Ramirez, I would call your crew to battle positions. There are seven TITAN Shadowlances approaching your ship in full cloaked mode. You will not get a visual on them until they leave the shadow of C-Vita Lyrae, and I suggest you prepare as much as you can while they are in transit. They will arrive within the next three hours.”
Annabeth’s avatar turned to Percy and Jason. “Doctor Grace,” said Annabeth. She gestured at Percy and the way that he was shivering, “Please, take Percy somewhere safe. He needs to recover before we proceed, and better he is with someone that cares for him while we engage the enemy.”
Annabeth turned back to Admiral Ramirez and with a gesture called up a map of the surface of C-Vita Lyrae and the space around it. Whatever she said beyond the fact that there were surface-to-orbit missiles being moved into position was lost on Percy.
In a matter of moments, everything had been turned upside down and Percy felt like a kicked anthill inside. Not a kicked ant—a kicked anthill in its entirety. The only thing that kept Percy from passing out was the warm and gentle grip that Jason had on his shoulder while he was wheeled out of Scipio’s bridge.
Percy was jolted awake by a loud bang and a very intense vibration through Scipio’s reinforced hull. He felt the entire ship shake, and the hairs on the back of his head stood on end in the low-pitched thrum that reverberated in the room. Percy wondered, idly, if Scipio had just fired the utterly colossal particle beam cannon that was mounted on its bow.
When Percy tried to blearily wipe the sleep from his eyes, he realized that he didn’t feel cold anymore. In fact, he felt rather warm and cozy despite the impacts that intermittently rocked Scipio’s hull. He looked down and saw, much to his surprise, two arms wound around his waist, lightly furred with near-translucent blond hair.
Percy didn’t dare look over his shoulder but he could very clearly feel the ghosting of warm breath over the curve of his neck. He realized, rather shockingly, that he didn’t feel creeped out at all by the proximity. In fact, he was about to snuggle deeper into the embrace when he realized that not only was he naked, but that whoever was holding him was, too.
“Oh,” said Jason, as the arms unwound from around Percy’s waist. “I didn’t realize you were awake.” Percy looked over his shoulder into deep blue eyes and cheeks tinged with pink. “I’m sorry for being indecent,” said Jason.
“It’s just… When the attack hit, Scipio had to divert a lot of the ship’s power to the shields and the weapons. The life support systems are working on minimum right now, and it’s somewhat chilly.” Percy wanted so badly to tap Jason on the cheek and tell him that he was rambling, but he didn’t feel like doing that to his boss. “You looked so cold, and I couldn’t get you in a jumpsuit, so I decided to do the next best thing and share my body warmth with you.”
“I-I can leave if you want me to,” said Jason, stammering the words out. It was the last thing that Percy had expected. From the confident, self-sure face that Jason put out into the world, Percy would have never expected the man to be shy in the bedroom.
Percy shook his head and turned around. He grunted in pain as the weight of his entire upper body came to a rest on his injured shoulder. He looked Jason in the eye, heart hammering in his chest. “What happened in the breakroom?” he said, unable to believe that he was about to say what he was about to say, “Was that really all just an act?”
Confusion, and then momentary hurt, flashed across Jason’s eyes. “What do you mean, Percy?” he said.
“All of it,” said Percy. “Was all of it just an act to not arouse suspicion? So that you could get me alone to talk to me about Bessie?”
Jason shook his head and tightened his arms around Percy. He pulled the two of them closer together. “Me accosting you in the break room, yes. That was an act. I needed video evidence that you weren’t involved in any secret dealings, but more than that, I would never dream of stepping over boundaries like that.”
Jason bit his lower lip, and Percy honestly thought it was adorable. Silver strands of hair be damned, Jason was cute for his age. “But the way that my body reacted to yours,” said Jason, more pink creeping into his cheeks. “You can’t fake something like that. That was very real.”
Percy couldn’t help but smile to himself. He took his one good hand and pressed it against Jason’s chest, surprised to find it covered with near-invisible fuzz. “You said you woudn’t ever step over boundaries like that,” said Percy. “But what if I had given my consent? My enthusiastic consent? Would you do it again?”
Silence fell upon the two of them as Percy explored Jason’s body with the tips of his fingers. He would have never guessed that a company president, especially one as prominent as Jason, would have the time to dedicate to maintaining such a beautiful body. “I don’t know, Percy,” said Jason.
“I heard from Will that you had someone once,” said Percy. “I know you shot him today. For me.” Percy shivered, fingers curling into a fist against Jason’s chest. “Do you still love him? Is that why you wouldn’t?”
“No,” said Jason. The laugh that he forced was a bitter one. “Gods, no. I’ve moved on from Luke. I knew that the next time I saw him again, it wouldn’t be pretty.” Jason shook his head and removed one of his arms from around Percy. He covered Percy’s fist on his chest with his significantly larger hand. “It’s just…” Jason took a deep breath. “I’m afraid to love again.”
A moment of silence stretched between them, shattered, in the end, by the particle cannon being fired a second time. “I’m sorry, Percy,” said Jason, pulling away from Percy. “I shouldn’t have done this. It was inappropriate for me to touch you without asking you if you wanted me to.”
Percy shook his head and grabbed Jason’s arm just as Jason was about to rise from the bed. “No, Jason,” said Percy. Their eyes met just as another dull boom rocked Scipio. “Please, stay. I’m afraid, too.”