“Please don’t call Jason that,” Percy sputtered. He felt his cheeks warm, though it felt more like his face was on fire, rather than just red. The A.I. smirked, instead of saying anything. Of course. It was the kind of reaction that, frankly, Percy half-expected from an A.I. that had Jason’s name all over it.
Percy tried his best to ignore the shimmering holographic avatar of Scipio, but it was a bit difficult. He looked around, eyes adjusting to the dim light. He wondered where his clothes were—if he even had any at this point. The search, ultimately, proved to be fruitless. “Scipio,” said Percy, relenting with a sigh, “Where can I find clothes?”
There was a soft ding that filtered in through the speakers in the room, and a holographic projection outlined the doors of a closet that Percy felt stupid for missing. The doors swung open on their own, revealing an array of standard-issue jumpsuits—ones with Scipio’s emblem on the shoulder. “Thank you, Scipio,” said Percy, gingerly pushing himself off of the bed and onto the floor.
For a moment, Percy considered jumping up. After all, Scipio was there to catch him if he pitched over and fell, right? It took him another moment or so to realize that Scipio was just an avatar—as lifelike as he might have seemed under the glimmering holographic artifacts.
Percy gingerly made his way to the closet. He grabbed one of the jumpsuits from the rack. Just as he was bending over to pull it over his legs, he realized that he probably shouldn’t be reaching down with his left arm. He braced himself for the pain he was sure was coming, except, it never did.
Percy straightened. The jumpsuit had a hem that ran up the front side, along the centre of the body. Percy put one side over the other and squeezed, prompting the nanites threaded into the fabric to fuse the two sides together. Using his fingers, he zipped the jumpsuit up, all the way to his waist.
When he was done, Percy looked down at his shoulder. He felt both surprised and stupid when he realized that he didn’t have the sling around his arm anymore. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it while Jason had been doing those things to him. Percy shivered, his cock plumping up against the silky-smooth inner fabric of the jumpsuit.
The bottom hems of the jumpsuit legs started to shift. Percy looked down just in time to see intermittent flashes of light as the jumpsuit conformed itself to be a perfect fit. The holes at the bottom of the jumpsuit legs shrank down flush with his skin. He loved the feeling of it, normally. Right now, though, it just intensified the unwelcome sensuality that Percy was feeling.
Percy forced his mind away from the gutter. He prodded at his shoulder and winced. It was still somewhat painful when poked, but more in the sense that it was tender rather than actually injured. “Scipio,” he said, looking up at the glittering avatar, “what happened to my shoulder?”
“Well,” said Scipio, “since you passed out after the kerfuffle at the bridge, Dr. Solace thought it would be the best time to give you a proper treatment in my medbay.” Percy could tell the A.I. was rather proud of one-upping Tempest in that regard.
Scipio drew up a holographic screen to show surveillance footage of when, exactly, Percy had dozed off. Moments later, Will entered the frame and grabbed Jason’s arm. “As you can see, Mr. Jackson, Dr. Solace caught up to Dr. Grace and basically demanded that you be taken to my medbay.”
As far as Percy was concerned, it looked more like Will had physically dragged Jason to the medbay. That was what the footage indicated, at least. Jason was scrabbling for a hold on the smooth sides of the hallways, while Nico was pushing his wheelchair with a bemused expression. “As you can see,” said Scipio, with a smug, self-satisfied grin, “Dr. Solace’s methods, while decidedly unorthodox, have proven to be rather effective.”
Percy shrugged. He had to admit. The A.I. had a point. Besides, some vindictive part of him liked seeing Jason bossed around like that for once. “Would you mind putting me through to Annabeth, Scipio? I need to talk to her.”
The A.I. tilted his head curiously, for a moment. “Very well, Mr. Jackson. She says she will be on in a moment.” Scipio walked up to Percy. “Might I suggest you finish dressing up, sir?”
Despite himself, Percy scowled at Scipio. The A.I. vanished, leaving behind a disembodied voice that said, “No need to get aggressive, Mr. Jackson. I will show myself out.” Softer, but still through the intercom, Scipio mumbled, “Whatever showing myself out of part of myself means.”
Jason was pretty sure that if Reyna could reach through the holographic screen that Cerberus was presently projecting on the nearby wall, she would have her hands around Jason’s throat. The Admiral’s hair was currently rather messy, with stray strands sticking out here and there. “You better have good reason for this, Grace,” said Reyna. “I am fucking indecent.”
Reyna shook the sheet, that was covering up her torso, at the screen. She huffed before clutching the fabric back to her chest. “You don’t get to complain, Reyna,” said Jason, a small smirk playing on his lips. “You’re the one that insists on putting every single message to me on urgent priority. It’s a bit irritating after sex, isn’t it?”
Reyna growled at Jason, and he couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. He felt a lot more put together now than he had been earlier, when Nico and Will had first broken the news to him. He couldn’t help feeling violated, still, but the two had managed to get his mind back on track. He could sort out his personal issues later, when he had sorted out all the other issues currently threatening not only his company, but also his friends.
“So, who’s the lucky girl?” said Jason. Reyna rolled her eyes. The lights behind her turned on, casting a dim glow all around the room. A face, framed by curly red hair popped up behind Reyna, green eyes glittering in the screen. “Rachel?” Jason whispered. He was well aware that Reyna and Rachel had had something of a relationship back on Earth. He hadn’t expected her to be with the Hunters.
“Hylla told me there was a cute redhead waiting to see me on Adonis,” said Reyna. She reached up and stroked the side of Rachel’s face with the backs of her fingers. “Didn’t think it would be Dare.”
Reyna craned her neck back and kissed Rachel. The kiss lasted no more than a few moments, but it was certainly lingering enough to make Jason fidget where he stood. “I thought you’d broken up,” said Jason. “Last time I remember, Rachel was talking about how she had managed to get in Gwendolyn’s bed.”
Reyna snickered. “Oh yeah. So proud of her.” Rachel beamed at Reyna. “Who do you think told her to go for it, Grace? And why do you think Kahale’s so open to the idea of a committed but not restrictive relationship with Octavian?”
Jason made a face. He was pretty sure there were quite a few ethical rules being broken, if Reyna was suggesting what he thought she was. Either way, he didn’t particularly care about her sleeping around with her second-in-command, but Kahale was rather important in what he was about to tell Reyna.
“Reyna,” said Jason, pinching the bridge of his nose. He looked over his shoulder at Nico and Will. “We might have a situation. Yesterday’s attacks might have been premeditated.”
Reyna looked at Jason as though he’d grown a second head. “Well, no shit they were premeditated, Jason.” She shook her head. “There was no way they would have gotten to Capitoline Hill if they hadn’t planned this.”
“Yeah, I know that,” said Jason. “But that’s not what I meant. I’m sure there was a plan.” Jason looked over at Nico and Will again, “but Nico and Will pointed out something a little bit disturbing to me.”
“I’ll have Will send you the details through Butch, just to make sure they’re secure.” Reyna frowned as the neural link at the side of her head started blinking. “As for the attacks, you and I both know that if Zeus was planning on taking power, he wouldn’t have let any members of parliament survive.”
Reyna looked thoughtful, for a moment, then disturbed. Jason supposed she was reading what Will had sent while also listening to him. “He’s got the upper echelons of parliament under his thumb, sure,” said Jason, “but he knows we’ve got allies in the lower house.”
“We think that this attack was pushed ahead of schedule,” said Jason.
“Really?” said Reyna, now genuinely worried. “You think he could have done this? I know you never particularly cared about his attitude, Jason—not that you complained about his ass—but that’s some accusation.”
Reyna tapped the neural link at her temple, and immediately it started blinking red. She was destroying the data. She had the right idea. It was too dangerous to carry around. “It makes the most sense in light of what we recently found out, though, don’t you think?”
Rachel looked between the screen, Reyna, and back. She had a worried expression on her face, but she seemed wise enough to stay out of the discussion for now. Reyna sighed and threw up her hands. “I don’t like this, Jason, but you’ve got a very strong point.”
Reyna leaned back and sighed. She looked at Rachel, clearly tired from everything that had been happening. “What the fuck am I supposed to tell Kahale?” she said. “That we’re taking in the love of his life—even though he won’t admit that’s what Octavian is—prisoner because he might have had something to do with the attack?”
Jason felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Nico. “I don’t really care what you tell Kahale, Reyna,” said the son of Hades. “But what’s important is that we don’t let him get anywhere near Octavian. Under any circumstances. Not to bandy about accusations freely, but we don’t know if Kahale himself is involved in any of this.”
Reyna sputtered, for a moment, clearly outraged at the insinuation that her second-in-command could be responsible for the death of a large portion of planetary government. Jason watched, with growing discomfort, as the admiral struggled with the idea. Finally, she sighed, resignedly. “Fine,” she said.
Reyna looked over to one side. “Scipio,” she said, “Get me HQ. I need confirmation that Octavian is still on the premises.” A few moments passed, in silence. “What do you mean he’s not there? So you’re telling me that he didn’t actually report to his first day on the job as co-director of project SIBYL?”
“Fucking hell,” Reyna said. She reached out toward the opposite side of the screen, presumably to pull up another one. “Human Resources?” she said. “Yes, I need a tracker on Octavian. This is important. I have clearance from Jason Grace.” Reyna looked expectantly at Jason. Jason coughed, to make his presence known.
“What?” said Reyna. The frown on her face did not make Jason any more comfortable. “Okay, I’ll tell him right away.” There was a brief click and whirr as the third screen, presumably, was deactivated. “The boy’s at your mansion, Grace.” Reyna pinched the bridge of her nose. “Should we send an extraction team?”
Rachel reached across Reyna’s chest. “No,” said Rachel. “Let us go. If we want this mission to be of utmost secrecy, you’re not going to get better at Espionage than the Hunters.” Rachel tapped the side of her head. There was no blinking, there, but Jason suspected there was a neural link under the skin, somewhere. “Sorry, but Artemis has been intercepting your communications. We are now well aware of what’s going on.”
“No,” said Jason. “He’s at my house. He’s my responsibility.” Jason turned to face Nico and Will. “I should probably fetch him.”
Jason hadn’t expected anything different, when four voices suddenly spoke up in unison. Nico, Will, Rachel, and Reyna all said the words with varying degrees of disgust, and disbelief, but the sentiment was clear. “Are you crazy? It’s obviously a trap!”