Percy was fairly sure that Adonis’ interior was just too good to be true. It had to be too pretty to be physically possible. That was the only way that it made sense, not to mention the fact that the interior of the ship seemed a lot larger than it had any right to be, from the outside.
Annabeth kept trying to convince him that Adonis just looked smaller on the outside because of its strange geometry, but Percy wasn’t entirely sure he bought that explanation.
Whatever the case, Percy followed Annabeth’s avatar, openly gawking at the sleek design of the ship’s interior. The hallways were organic and easy on the eyes. There were very few harsh edges, and even the intersections between corridors made it seem like every hall gently curved into the other. Nothing about the ship was precise and clinical, unlike most other starships that served C-Vita Lyrae. Percy almost felt as though he were walking through a modern art installation instead of a starship.
“Like it?” said Annabeth, gesturing all about her. Percy nodded. He definitely did.
Percy stopped for a moment, though, and wondered if he would want a ship that looked like Adonis. “I could get lost here,” he said. It was true. He decided that his personal ship wouldn’t be so pretty. “I could probably spend hours just walking around Adonis.” Yep. He would definitely be too distracted by the ship’s interior to get anything useful done.
Annabeth chuckled and patted his shoulder. “Adonis is my ship,” said Annabeth. “My baby, almost. Between you and me, a cute boy like you walking through his corridors? He wouldn’t mind at all. Except he’s got a few prototype physical avatars and the last thing we would want is for him to jump you.”
Percy frowned at Annabeth, not sure what to think of that statement. “Wait,” he said, as he came to realize something about what Annabeth had just said, “Wait, wait, wait.” Percy narrowed his eyes at his friend. “Didn’t you say that Thalia and Hylla were co-captains of Adonis?”
“Well, they are, technically co-captains of Adonis by rank.” Annabeth shrugged. “They’re actually the co-captains of Artemis, but since we’ve made Adonis our mobile base of operations, they’ve taken over.”
Annabeth ran her hand along the smooth wall that crept by beside the two of them. “I designed Adonis myself. A labour of many years of love.” Annabeth smiled to herself before kicking the wall. “He won’t stop reminding me he’s due for an update, though. Vain-ass ship.” Annabeth harrumphed. “I want to upgrade him, too, but I can’t actually do anything to him while we’re on a mission. Honestly, that fucking sucks.”
Percy wasn’t really sure what brought the rant on, but he wasn’t about to say anything about it. He did not understand a single thing Annabeth was talking about, but he just nodded along anyway. “Hold on,” he said, “why does Adonis need an upgrade?”
Percy thought back to the lap that he and Annabeth had taken around the outside of Adonis. “I don’t see anything wrong with Adonis. You’re using tech we’re just prototyping, too,” he said. “Why would you need to upgrade him?”
“Don’t be silly, Percy,” said Annabeth. Percy glowered at her, but that just made her laugh. “Of course there’s nothing wrong with Adonis. I designed him, after all. A lot of the tech’s a few years behind what we have on ARKIV now, though, and some of it behind what you guys have over here. His laser arrays, for example, don’t even come near the power of the weakest ones on Tempest.”
“But,” said Annabeth, as she took Percy down another of the way-too-pretty corridors of Adonis, “What I really want is that prototype Alcubierre drive from project WARP.”
Annabeth scoffed. “Leave it a group of men to toss a working warp drive because it couldn’t move ships as small as Tempest.” Annabeth shook her fist at no one in particular. “Well take that, assholes. Adonis is smaller than Tempest, and my calculations tell me that it will work for me.”
Once again, Percy had no idea what Annabeth was going on about, but he just kept nodding along. He was aware that WARP was considered a failure, but not of the reasoning behind the project being scrapped. He decided to take Annabeth’s word for it, though he wondered why she was so confident in the tech.
“What?” said Annabeth, upon seeing the skeptical look on Percy’s face. “Tempest is quite wide and doesn’t have reactors as powerful as Adonis’. Adonis also has a thinner profile, so the bubble wouldn’t have to be nearly as big. Just a bit longer. I think that makes it perfectly doable to warp space and time around Adonis but not Tempest.”
Percy threw his hands up in the air. “I’m not about to argue Physics with you, Annabeth,” he said. “I’m a biologist. Not a physicist.” Percy made a face and shuddered. “I wouldn’t dream of doing so much…” He shivered again, “Math.”
Annabeth looked at Percy with mock-disgust. “You don’t like math?” she said, clinging to the wall behind her, arms splayed to either side. “Heathen,” she whispered, pointing a trembling finger at him.
“Shut up,” said Percy, shaking his head from side to side as he tried not to laugh. “I missed this, Annabeth,” he said, after a brief silence. “I know I went into hiding, but I know what you’re capable of… You could’ve found me and helped out…”
Annabeth stopped walking. “You could also have tried to contact me, Perce,” said Annabeth. Percy’s cheeks flushed red. “But, granted, even if you had tried, you wouldn’t have been able to.”
Annabeth pulled Percy into a side corridor. “Look,” she said, looking about nervously. “Don’t tell anyone that I told you this, but after I received the signal that Zeus had tried to break into your laptop, we needed to move our timetables up.”
Annabeth frowned and leaned against the wall. “We were hoping to have a few more weeks before Zeus caught on to what we were doing, but…” Annabeth sighed. Percy knew the story. Of course he did. He lived the damn thing. “It seems he was half a step ahead of us the whole time. Look.”
Percy looked at Annabeth’s hand. What seemed to be a rocky globe floated above her open palm. “That’s Gelos, natural satellite of the gas giant D-Vita Lyrae.” Percy watched as a patch of the surface began to blink. Annabeth zoomed in to it.
“This is our base of operations,” said Annabeth, as she revealed structure that seemed to spread two or three miles radially outward from the centre of a large crater on the moon’s surface.
Percy gawked at the sight. “You…” He wasn’t able to think of the words for a little while. “You mean you built that whole thing in three years?” he said. “That’s insane.” Percy reached out to touch the diagram, but his hand passed right through it. “Is that why you weren’t looking for me?”
Annabeth looked apologetically at Percy, but honestly, he understood. “Yeah,” she said, scratching the back of her head. “I’m kind of the head honcho of architecture for the Hunters currently in the system. I was working full time on the lunar base.” Annabeth reached out and touched Percy’s shoulder. “I was hoping that you could hold out for a little while until we could get everything together and get you and Bessie out safely.”
“No, no,” said Percy, still somewhat in awe of the detailed schematic of the lunar base that Annabeth had just presented to him. “Holy shit,” he said, “I understand why you weren’t able to talk to me in three years. Wow. What do you need such a big base for?” he said.
“Well,” said Annabeth, “Adonis isn’t our mothership. Artemis is. But like ARKIII, it can’t support people indefinitely like ARKIV. Once we realized that this whole campaign against Zeus would take some more time, we had to set down to construct more tenable living arrangements.”
Percy frowned. “Yeah,” said Annabeth, “I know what you’re thinking.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “We thought we would have more time to scout out somewhere more conducive to life, but Zeus forced our hand. Now that we’ve set down, the clock is ticking on us, too.”
“So…” said Percy, looking into the glittering silvery eyes of Annabeth’s avatar. “We’re all in the same boat, after all…” He looked away, then turned back, frowning. “Wait a minute,” he said, “None of this explains why Bessie and the Oracle drive are so important to keep away from Zeus.”
“I’m afraid that will have to wait for when we get to my room,” said Annabeth. “Hylla’s already given the go-ahead to tell you what we know for now, since a lot of it involves you in particular.”
“Me?” said Percy, incredulous. “Why me?” he said.
“You might not want to know.”
“Sir,” said Tempest, standing in front of the airlock with his arms crossed over his chest. “I, as the artificial intelligence of your personal starship, must emphatically recommend that you do not follow through with whatever it is you have planned in that twisted mind of yours.”
Jason rolled his eyes at Tempest and tried to push past the A.I. A single whirring and clicking drone stopped him. “Sir, let me call for backup, just in case something goes horribly wrong. If you would like, you can go in first. We will follow. We just want you to be safe, sir.”
“Tempest,” said Jason, at his patience’s end, “get out of my way.” He pushed the single drone aside and tried to take a step toward the airlock. A wall made of drones got in his way, spheres whirring and clicking in tight formation from floor to ceiling. “Don’t make me say it, Tempest,” he said, threateningly.
“Good gods, sir,” said Tempest, planting his holographic fists on his hips. “Who on this cursed planet is going to update my source code if you die in there because you’re an idiot, huh?” said Tempest. Jason looked down and saw a probe poking at his chest, bouncing on and off it.
“Don’t you love me enough to live for me?” said Tempest, faux-tears streaming down the sides of his face. It was adorable, really, as far as Jason was concerned, but it was also rather aggravating. The drones that blocked Jason’s way formed hands that took him by the shoulders and shook him. “No one irons out the bugs in my code like you do!”
“Stop being a drama queen, Tempest,” said Jason, trying to push his way through the swarm of drones. They repelled him. “Tempest,” he said, frustrated and exasperated, “as your companion, I command you to stand aside.”
Tempest sighed and begrudgingly returned the swarm of drones to their niches. The petulance was a farce, of course. Since Jason had explicitly commanded Tempest to get out of the way, the A.I. had had no choice but to comply.
“Sir,” said Tempest, clearly desperate to dissuade Jason now or at least prevent any harm to his person. Jason felt bad—he really did—but at the same time, he knew that he had to do this. Jason stepped into the airlock just as Tempest’s holographic projection banged on the reinforced glass window into the room. “Sir,” said Tempest, “If you’re going to go and do something this stupid, at least let me come with you.”
“What?” said Jason, skeptical of the request. “In the suit?” he asked, incredulously. “Tempest, that technology is in its infancy. We haven’t even tried plugging you into it for longer than a minute. What if you blow up or something? How am I supposed to get back to Scipio?”
“I am so glad to know you care so much, sir,” said Tempest, dryly. A humanoid robot, recessed into one side of the airlock, suddenly whirred to life. LED strips all along its arms, legs, torso, and head, glowed green. Its front visor, which was a screen, blinked to life and displayed two greenish triangular shapes that represented Tempest’s eyes. “But,” said Tempest, “If you’re allowed to be stupid, sir, then I’m allowed to be just as stupid.”
Tempest strode out of the airlock with Jason. He grabbed a plasma rifle from a nearby rack of weapons. He sighed and muttered under his breath, “Gods have mercy on me. Scipio is never going to let me live this down.” Tempest cocked the rifle, listening to the satisfying sound of the atmospheric intake sucking in air. “This had better be worth it, sir,” he said.
“I told you that you didn’t have to come, Tempest,” said Jason, as he watched the A.I. line up a shot with one of the targets on the aft bay wall. “And you better make sure you can control your airlock and aft bay from in there. Gods forbid I start feeling like I locked my keys inside my ship.”
Tempest shrugged as the door to the airlock hissed shut behind them. “Don’t worry, sir,” he said, “I checked the wireless link to my core, and, if calculations are correct, I should be well within safe functional parameters everywhere on the grounds of your property except for that shack that you shielded from most typical communications frequencies.”
Tempest pulled the trigger, an arc of lightning shooting from his shoulder, along his arm, and down the length of the barrel. The plasma ball seemed to boil as the electricity made contact with it moments before it was launched forward.
Tempest flew backward into the plasma rifle rack, just as Jason covered his ears for the inevitable explosion. When the dust cleared, the nano-engineered reinforced ceramic target at the far end of the aft bay was smoking and sporting a hole as large as a modestly sized watermelon.
Jason made no move to approach Tempest. He did not like the look of the plasma rifles that had all clattered to the floor thanks to the bungled shot. “Okay,” said Tempest, artificial joints and muscles whirring as he pulled himself to his feet, “note to self—do not fire plasma rifle unless head vaporization is required (or desired).”
“I’m not so sure that was even supposed to happen to begin with, Tempest,” said Jason. Tempest’s boarding ramp lowered to the floor of Jason’s personal hangar. “Maybe you should do as I suggested and not use the mechsuit for now.”
The LED’s all over the faceplate of the robot turned an angry shade of red as Tempest scowled at Jason. “Okay, okay,” said Jason, “no need to get antsy.” He raised his hands to either side of his head since he did not want to aggravate the armed A.I. when he himself had nothing of a similar firepower in his hands.
“If you want, you can scope out the grounds,” said Jason. “Try and detect if there are any hostiles in the area. Keep your scanners open for the airspace, too. If you know any way to detect nanomachine activity, use it.”
“But you are to keep out of my way,” said Jason. “Do you understand me? Under no circumstances are you to follow me into the house when I go inside.” Tempest looked like he was about to say something, but Jason didn’t give him the chance. “Those aren’t suggestions, Tempest. They’re your captain’s orders.”
Tempest’s jaw clamped shut, and while Jason knew that Tempest’s faceplate couldn’t actually move, he heard the sound of teeth grinding being played through the speakers mounted underneath where Tempest’s mouth should have been.