Annabeth’s hand rubbed the small of Percy’s back in slow circles that he supposed were meant to be comforting to him. However, they were less than effective. Percy couldn’t feel her touch, nor so much as the slightest wafting of cool air against his bare skin.
Percy still hadn’t pulled on the top half of the new jumpsuit, but it didn’t seem to matter all that much at the moment. Annabeth had come, just like he’d asked her to, except she had in none of the ways that mattered to him. At least at the moment.
Percy needed a shoulder to lean on, and as far as he was aware, it was impossible to lean on the shoulder of a holographic avatar—no matter how realistic it seemed to be. Underneath the glittering silvery-ness, at least.
The platitudes that Annabeth’s silvery avatar offered Percy did not comfort him in the slightest. His heart was still galloping at a mile a minute, and nothing he tried could get it to slow down. He felt slightly light-headed from all the emotional turbulence that was going on inside of him, and he was starting to think he was losing his mind.
Percy appreciated that Annabeth had come, in some way, but he was pretty sure that she would have accomplished more if she had just not started talking. He could lose himself in the motes of light that detached from her holographic form every now and again. They drifted to the ceiling in slow, spiralling trails that eventually ended with a splash of smaller motes that, over time, dissipated.
Percy wasn’t stupid. He knew that the motes weren’t some artifact of a flawed piece of technology. Considering how he’d witnessed, earlier, that the Hunters’ technology was somewhat more advanced than what they currently possessed, he was willing to believe that the motes had been constructed specifically to help calm his nerves.
Percy was well aware that just like the way that Scipio and Tempest flickered every now and again, it was all very deliberate; it was all done for effect. Simply put, holographic technology was far enough advanced that it wasn’t likely to fall prey to small things like artifacting. People just seemed to hold on to the artifacting because it was more familiar—less unknown.
“Annabeth,” said Percy, pulling away as the glittering avatar leaned in to whisper ‘it’s okay’ in his ear for the n-th time of the early morning. Percy turned to face the hologram seated on the edge of the bed beside him. “Annabeth, as much as I love you,” he said, forcing a smile, “and you know I do… This… talking with a hologram. It’s not working for me.”
“I know what you mean, Percy,” said Annabeth with a smile to match Percy’s crooked one. Percy didn’t quite know why, but the way that she smiled at him filled him with a comforting warmth that her avatar’s touch couldn’t even begin to hope to replicate.
Percy was lost in his thoughts for a moment. He had just realized how utterly pretty Annabeth’s hologram was. The silvery pupils of the avatar’s irises were iridescent with life, and the motes of light that drifted from its skin made her seem otherworldly; divine. Percy wondered, idly, whether he would have courted Annabeth if he had had even the slightest smidgen of attraction to women.
“But,” said Annabeth, “You did ask for me urgently and this was the best that I could put together.” Annabeth gestured down at herself. The words snapped Percy out of his thoughts, and he didn’t mind the interruption, for once.
Percy’s mind had already begun the not-so-difficult work of turning his idle daydreams about Annabeth into more sultry fantasies about Jason—particularly being Jason’s ‘boy.’ Percy pressed his face into his hands and heaved a heavy sigh. “What do you say, Percy?” said Annabeth, “Come aboard Adonis. Maybe talking in person will help more. And maybe a tour of my ship will do you some good.”
“You’d do that for me?” said Percy, perking up. He wasn’t the biggest starship geek, but there was definitely enough different from the norm, when it came to Adonis, that his interest was piqued. It certainly didn’t help that Annabeth pulled up a miniature holographic projection of the ship above her open palm.
“Of course I would!” said Annabeth with a smile. “Anything to help, Percy. You helped with the Bessie situation, after all.” Annabeth’s avatar patted Percy on the shoulder again. “Men are typically not allowed on Adonis since they have their own ship—which we sent to ARKV, but I’ve gotten you clearance from Hylla.”
There was a soft ding from the speakers around the room. A strip lit up on the ground, stark purple compared to the soft creamy white of the floor around it. “Just follow the line and it should take you straight to the main hangar and onto Adonis.”
Percy was well aware that it wasn’t very difficult to get to the hangar, what with the purple line that was supposed to guide him there. But, when Annabeth’s avatar had vanished to, as she put it, get decent before he arrived, he inevitably got himself lost.
Percy just couldn’t seem to form coherent thoughts. He felt light-headed and spaced-out, almost as though he was floating on top of the turbulent emotions raging inside of him. He ended up taking a few wrong turns, entirely losing the purple line in the process, until Annabeth’s avatar reappeared next to him, chuckling.
Percy felt his cheeks warm as he looked over his shoulder at the glittering silvery visage of Annabeth. “Sorry,” he said, sheepishly. A ding filtered in through the speakers set along the hallway he was currently going down. A purple line appeared under his feet.
“Thanks, Annabeth,” said Percy, with a genuine smile. He looked down at the purple line and scratched the back of his head. “What would I do without you?” he said, as Annabeth patted him on the shoulder.
“Get hopelessly lost is what you would do, seaweed brain,” said Annabeth. Percy felt a warm tingle in his stomach at the affectionate nickname. “For all the work you do with animals that just have amazing ways of getting around, you can’t seem to do it all too well on your own. Maybe we should have you modified with dolphin sonar. What do you think?”
Percy had raised his fist to punch Annabeth affectionately on the shoulder when he realized that she was just a hologram for now. “Shut up,” he said, the redness on his cheeks deepening, “I don’t have anything to tease you about, wise girl.” Annabeth’s avatar stopped, snickering. Percy harrumphed at her and kept walking—right into a set of doors he hadn’t noticed earlier.
Percy stumbled back, somewhat dazed. The doors hissed open and revealed, Percy gathered from the big 1 blinking from a screen above the doors, the vast primary hangar of Scipio.
Percy knew a little bit about the company flagship, but not a lot. He did know that the ship had four hangars, though. The primary hangar, as far as he remembered from the digital fliers he’d received upon applying for his internship, was where all personnel spacecraft were stored and received maintenance.
Hangars 2 and 3 were the main fighter and scout ship hangars, accessible only to members, honorary or official, of Scipio’s crew. The last hangar, hangar 4, was home to the resource collecting ships, mostly the hydrogen scoops and the asteroid miners that were vital to sustaining life on C-Vita Lyrae.
Leaving the hangar earlier, with Will, Percy hadn’t really had the chance to appreciate the sheer enormity of the structure. The vaulted ceiling was likely an entire six or seven storeys above him. He was standing on a walkway that clung to the walls, one that separated the full two storeys of the first section of the hangar into a first floor and a pseudo-second floor.
Percy had never really thought about how daunting Scipio’s size was, but now that he stood above the first of the four hangars in the ship, he was beginning to realize that Scipio could be a city in itself. It likely was, considering how many people crewed it.
“Impressive, isn’t he?” said Annabeth’s avatar as the two of them approached the railing of the walkway. They leaned over the edge and looked down at the few people moving between the docked ships on the first floor, performing routine maintenance.
Annabeth leaned back and looked at Percy. “You haven’t seen the ARK ships from up close yet, have you?” she said. Percy shook his head. No. He hadn’t. The only times he’d ever actually seen them was in old digital documents and on the news, whenever the colossal ship came into orbit around C-Vita Lyrae.
“ARKIV is easily ten or twenty times as large as Scipio is,” said Annabeth. “ARK ships have to be that big to support the population that live inside them. 10 million currently-active individuals on ARKIV, with another 30 in cryogenic stasis until ARKIV reaches C-Vita Lyrae…”
“Bit difficult to wrap your head around, hey?” said Annabeth, with a smile.
Percy looked over his shoulder at the glittering avatar. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m not sure I’m ready for something that big.” Annabeth started snickering, and it took a while for Percy to figure out why. His cheeks coloured pink. “Anyway,” he said, “where’s your ship?”
Annabeth gestured down at her feet. Percy followed her hand and saw that the purple line was back. It took a harsh right turn at the edge of the walkway, and made its way down the nearby staircase. Percy looked over the railing again and saw the purple line shoot across the hangar toward a silvery ship that looked completely out of place compared to the others currently in the hangar.
Long and thin like a needle, obviously made for speed and stealth rather than strength, Adonis was a stranger among the others. As they walked down the stairs, Percy eyed the ships that he knew. Cerberus was a brute of a ship, dark and imposing. The weapons installations in the front of Cerberus were rather infamously loaded with antimatter warheads.
Caduceus, Will’s ship, was bright and easily visible. Its strength lay in its construction, though. There were no visible weak spots in its hull, and it was built like a moving fortress. It was created that way so that it could transport the wounded from one place to another without worry even in the middle of a firefight.
Tempest was the only ship that even came close to looking remotely similar to Adonis. Even then, Tempest was bulkier and built to take a hit. The plasma and laser armaments mounted in front of Tempest were sure to dish out damage against similarly-sized ships, as well.
Percy decided, as they walked into the middle of the hangar, that if he was ever going to get a ship of his own one day, he wanted one that was right in between Tempest and Adonis. His mind wandered, briefly, to the rather attractive A.I. avatars of the two ships having sex and giving birth to a lovechild that he would claim. He shook his head and started laughing at the ridiculous image.
Percy relayed his thoughts to Annabeth as they walked past Tempest. Annabeth started laughing so hard that her avatar had to vanish for a couple of seconds until she could regain her composure. When she reappeared, she had a decidedly more serious expression. “Don’t lose hope, Percy,” said Annabeth. “When we left ARKIV there was a team working on prototype technology that can allow ships to be grown organically. Next thing you know, they’ll be having sex, too.”
Percy made a face at Annabeth. He wasn’t so sure what to think about that. Besides. He didn’t think he could quite handle the thought of Tempest snarking at Adonis while fucking. “Anyway,” said Annabeth. “It’s actually a pretty good idea to take principles of design from Tempest and Adonis both.”
Annabeth pulled up a miniature hologram of Adonis, highlighting the laser installations in front of the ship. “We have a really efficient fusion reactor onboard, so laser weapons are the best we can manage without compromising space. Adonis can also project a significant shield, but he really can’t take a big hit.”
Annabeth twirled the hologram above her palm. “But that’s the whole point of his design. He can just disappear from sight if we need him to, either by just bolting or activating stealth.”
Annabeth brought up another diagram of Adonis. She pointed out panels of hull spaced at regular intervals around the body of Adonis. She snapped her fingers and the panels retracted, revealing docks into the ship filled with miniature ships. “We use drones to harry the enemy—maybe even take down a fighter or two, but Adonis can’t really take down another capital ship on his own.”
“But Tempest can definitely hold his own in a dogfight,” said a painfully familiar voice. Percy’s head whipped around at the sound. He saw Jason walking toward them from the direction of Cerberus. “He can also move around rather quickly—which helps in the dogfighting—but he can’t run circles around enemies like I think Adonis can with ease.”
Percy took a step back at the sight of Jason. He was both happy, and afraid. Jason looked like he wanted to keep walking, but he stopped, thankfully. “Sorry,” said Jason, somewhat sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” Jason scratched the back of his head. “Anyway, I was meaning to talk to you, Percy.”
“O-okay?” said Percy, lips pursed. Unwillingly, his thoughts turned to all the perverted things he’d been fantasizing of doing to Jason—and having Jason do to him. His cock twitched in his pants, and some small part of him wanted nothing more than to fall on his knees and suck Jason’s member. “W-what about, sir?” he said, stammering.
Percy looked at Annabeth, eyes somewhat frantic. She placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. He didn’t feel the gesture, but he appreciated it. “I’m going back to my house,” said Jason. There was a look of pity and regret in those blue eyes that Percy just couldn’t quite put a finger on. “We have a situation, and we have reason to believe that maybe someone I trusted isn’t entirely himself.”
Percy looked at Jason, then at Annabeth. He was surprised to see a thoughtful look on Annabeth’s face, instead of confusion. She turned to look at him, then down at her hands. She slid her thumb over the side of her index finger twice. Later. Percy frowned, but turned his eyes back to Jason. “O-okay, sir,” he said, “B-but what do I have to do with it? D-do I have to go with you?”
“N-nothing,” said Jason, tripping over a word for the first time since Percy had known him. Jason quickly straightened himself, though. “Well, as far as I know, at least, you have nothing to do with it.”
Jason walked up to Percy and Annabeth. He reached over and placed his hand on Percy’s shoulder. It was comforting, as far as Percy was concerned. Despite his best efforts, it was also somewhat arousing. “I just wanted to let you know since it’s my fault you’re aboard Scipio anyway.” Jason sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Will you be alright if you stayed here for a few more hours? At least until we’re sure the situation is safe planet-side?”
Percy looked at Annabeth. She just nodded at him. “O-of course, sir,” he said. “I-I have friends aboard anyway. I’ll stay with them… I-if you need to find me, you’ll know where to find me.”
Percy wouldn’t have been surprised if he looked down and saw a brick wall being built between him and Jason as Jason’s face took on the confident, borderline-arrogant expression that had been there the first time they had met. “Good,” said Jason. “I will see you later, Percy.”
Jason walked past Percy and Annabeth. Despite his better judgment, Percy turned around to watch Jason go. Jason stopped. Without looking back, he said, with something unreadable in his voice, “I’ll be going now.” Percy felt his heart skip a beat. “Take care of him, will you?” said Jason, voice heavy with something new.
Percy looked at Annabeth. Her expression was grim. “You don’t have to tell me that, Jason,” she said.
Jason continued walking, but stopped again before long. He looked over his shoulder, shockingly blue eyes meeting Percy’s. It was like Jason had something to say, but Percy had to watch helplessly as Jason’s jaw tightened and Jason walked away.
As he and Annabeth continued toward Adonis, Percy couldn’t help but look back, again. Tempest’s engines roared to life and the ship began to levitate off of the hangar floor. Percy’s eyes flitted over to the massive airlock doors as they grated open. Tempest shot past him, stopping just short of the second set of airlock doors just as the first began to close.
Air rushed past Percy and Annabeth as the airlock was evacuated. Sirens started wailing as the second set of doors opened and Tempest zoomed off into the void.