This week had been a long one for Fury and it wasn’t showing any signs of stopping. Even the week after the incident in Budapest hadn’t been this tiring. Just within the span of a few days, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. was dealing with unmovable hammers falling into deserts, General Ross pestering him about the manhunt for scientist-turned-fugitive Bruce Banner, and dealing with Tony Stark who was just being… Tony.
And then he got the call about the horse.
“You’re telling me that you saw a horse flying around the base?”
“Yessir,” the agent said on the other side of the phone. “At first we thought it was some type of missile, but it moved too fast. Once I figured out what it was, I ordered for it to be tranquilized and brought to the labs.”
Fury pushed aside the paperwork he had been working on and picked up a file that he had been the topic of many debates with the World Council Recently. Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. He knew a flying horse was called a Pegasus from Greek mythology. Was this some kind of sign for them to go ahead with the project? A warning to stop?
“Give me the lab number.”
Fury knew that whatever this was, it was just the beginning.
Percy silently cursed Blackjack down to Tartarus and back. He’d had a demigod dream of the pegasus getting captured, prompting the demigod to go and rescue him in the middle of finals week. Not that he wasn’t glad for the excuse to get away from the mind-numbing hours of sitting around and studying, testing, and eating too many snacks and not enough meals, but this wasn’t the break he was looking for.
He was outside a huge, government-looking facility. The building was big, with a guard monitoring the gate that allowed people in and out. It had been hard to find. The place was in the middle of nowhere, with only a single road leading up to it. Surrounded by a forest and hills on all sides, the only way in or out undetected was through the sky.
He wished desperately that Annabeth was with him to help him come up with a clever plan to get in, but she was too busy taking tests this week for her to accompany him. And now Percy was glad that she didn’t come. On the high chance that something went wrong, she wouldn’t get dragged down too.
Percy fiddled with the pen in his pocket. Several ideas were racing through his head. He could always crawl through the vents, spy style. Or come up with some kind of lie that would get him into the building.
The son of Poseidon wished he could shadow-travel like Nico, or that he could have Mrs. O’Leary jump him in there, but Percy figured that having a hellhound larger than a tank appearing out of nowhere might cause some trouble, even if the mist made her look like—
A new idea hit Percy like one of Tyson’s hugs.
There were several things that were missing, like what he would do once he got in, if he got in, but it was the best plan he had and would manage to come up with. Now all he needed was a car.
Fury thought he had seen everything. He should've known better, working in this line of work, that even when you thought you've seen everything, there was something new lurking around the corner.
Including a horse with wings.
The pegasus seemed relatively unharmed. One of its wings was folded over its stomach, which rose and fell steadily. The other was spread out behind it, showing its massive wingspan.
Fury stood behind a glass panel staring at the sedated equestrian while scientists ran around, prepping blood tests and taking DNA samples. He motioned over the head scientist.
"Give me a full report."
"Well we, uh, we, um..." She fumbled over her words.
"Get to it."
"We don't know. All tests so far have been inconclusive. No one knows what it is. It isn't a horse or bird—the DNA doesn't match. It's its own breed."
"It's a pegasus." Fury told her.
"Well, yes. But pegasus' are from Greek mythology." She started explaining. "They're the children of Poseidon. Or at least that's what legend says. But pegasus don't exist, so it has to be the result of an experimentation, but nothing is adding up."
Fury watched the pegasus. "So you mean that no one can tell me anything about it?"
She nodded. "But we're working hard on it." She amended. "We'll have results by the end of the day."
"I want them in an hour."
He gave one last look to the pegasus before leaving the lab, not seeing the stressed face of the scientist.
If anyone were to ask Percy, the official story was that he got in, got Blackjack, and got out without a hitch.
He wished it had happened like that.
Things started off smooth. He'd gotten the car and driven his way up to the road, wondering the entire time if his idea would work or he’d get hauled away. There was only one way to find out.
He approached the gate, rolling his window down. Percy tried to look confident. The guard eyed him warily. “How can I help you?”
Percy had never really used the Mist before, but he figured he could wing it. He looked the man in the eyes, focused really hard (he hoped he didn’t look like he was about to fart), and snapped his fingers—making a loud, clear snap. Mustering his most confident voice, he told the guard, “I forgot my key card. You will let me in and not tell anyone about me.”
There was a tense second where Percy was sure that the man was about to haul him away, but then a calm expression settled over his face and he pressed a button. A second later, the gate rolled open. He contained his jump of joy and instead nodded at the guard and drove off.
Percy felt a little bit of relief. Using the mist had been a bit of a wild card, the last time having used it, it didn’t work. But that was just the first part, he reminded himself as he saw people dressed in suits and business outfits. He felt underdressed in his Camp Half-Blood shirt and jeans.
It was after he snuck in through the maintenance door that things started getting rough. The building looked bigger on the inside than it had on the outside. Before him laid a maze of halls, designed to trap anyone who didn’t know their way around (maybe not literally but either way it felt like an attack on Percy). Somewhere inside the mortal version of the Labyrinth was Blackjack, alone, probably scared, and most likely wanting a donut.
And Percy had to find him.
It wasn’t too long after Percy had set off in the building that Fury became aware of the intruder. Video feeds showed a young man manipulating the guard at the front gate to let him pass. After talking to the guard who had no memory of the incident, Fury ordered for the man to be brought to him.
Percy couldn’t tell something was off. He was wondering the halls, searching for Lab 28 where he had figured out a knocked-out Blackjack had been brought to. It made him furious to think that his pegasus was being used as some sort of lab rat.
He was in the right area, if the BLA sign had been any indication (and that’s all science sounded like to him anyway—bla, bla, bla).
I can’t believe they gave me this horse crap. A faint voice entered Percy’s head. I need sugar cubes at the least.
Blackjack? Percy tried reaching out. Blackjack? Can you hear me?
Blackjack, thank the gods. Stay put, I’m coming to get you.
Thanks boss. I couldn’t’ve moved anyway. They have me tied to a table. They also gave me this stupid hay that horses eat. Can you believe that?
Percy followed Blackjack’s voice as a homing beacon. It got steadily louder and louder.
Blackjack, you look like a horse. You are part horse.
You wouldn’t happen to have donuts with you, would you?
The son of Poseidon opened a door. Blackjack looked over at him, kneeling on the floor.
No donuts, I see.
“This is a rescue mission,” Percy told him as he moved to free the pegasus from his restraints. “Why would I bring donuts?”
Percy got the first latch undone and started working on the second one.
Maybe we can get some later then.
“Sure. Later. After we get out of here. I almost got you. Just another minute and—”
Blackjack had shouted the words too late. Something hit his back, causing a burning sensation to flow through him. He fell to the floor with a thud and was unable to move. Percy could see Blackjack struggling to get his attacker, but he couldn’t hear him or anything else. His own heartbeat was too loud. The last thing he saw was a pair of boots stepping in front of him before his head fell to the floor and the world faded to black.
He couldn’t tell how long he had been out, but judging from his stiff shoulders and the small ache in his neck, it had probably been a good while. Percy tried to make himself as comfortable as possible. His hands had been cuffed to the table, which didn’t surprise Percy, but the addition of gloves did.
It wasn’t much longer before the door opened and a man walked in and hold up. The first thing Percy noticed was the spy/pirate-ish look—a black trench coat, don’t-mess-with-me attitude, and, as the final touch, an eye patch. Percy hoped that the man knew Halloween was over.
Mr. Jackson,” the man said in a way that made him hate the name almost as much as when monsters called him Perseus. “I must say, it was a surprise when I was alerted that someone had broken into a facility more secure than the White House.”
Percy swallowed uncomfortably. “You might want to update your security.”
“We will. This time we’ll take into account mind control.” The demigod frowned in confusion. He couldn’t mind control people… the mist. Looking down at his gloves, he realized that these people thought that he could manipulate people. “But I’m not here to talk about that.” The pirate-man continued. “What I want to know is how you knew about this.”
He slid a photo of Blackjack across the table. Percy couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen to his pegasus now that his only shot at rescue now needed rescuing himself. “Why should I tell you anything?” Percy eventually told the man.
“I’ve had a long week, and the sooner you’re gone, the sooner I can get back to other, bigger problems.” The man explained. Percy was surprised that the man was going to let him go, and suddenly thought that this might be a trap. But the chance that this man would actually let him free seemed like a better deal than he would get otherwise.
“I had a dream,” Percy said lowly. “That may sound strange but I swear to Hades its true. I saw—”
“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Pirate-man held up his hand to stop him. “Did you just swear to Hades?”
Percy froze, realizing that he had messed up. “Well, uh, you see, it’s—” he started back-pedaling but the man wasn’t buying any of it.
“The Greek Gods are real? Hades, Aphrodite, all of it?”
Percy wondered if he could get away with saying no before remembering that the man could probably give him some truth serum if they had any and he’d be forced to tell him. His shoulders slumped. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Yeah, they’re real. That’s a pegasus—” he pointed to the picture of Blackjack. “and he’s kinda mine so when I had the dream of you guys capturing him I had to come rescue him.”
The man stared at Percy, trying to determine if he was really telling the truth or not. Percy started to grow uncomfortable when the man dropped his gaze and rubbed his head, like soothing a headache. “If the Greek gods are real,” he started asking, “why haven’t we seen any proof of them?”
“The mist,” Percy answered. “It’s a mystical force that stops mortals from seeing our world. I used the mist to get past the guard at the front gate. Some can see past it, like my mom. It’s how she met my dad.”
“And your dad is…”
The man was taking this all exceptionally well, Percy thought. A sudden thought struck Percy. “Hey, uh, this doesn’t change our little agreement, right? About you letting me go?” When the man didn’t respond right away, Percy’s fear grew. “Please, I gotta get back so I can take finals tomorrow, and if I don’t my girlfriend’s gonna kill me and nothing, not even you, could stop her.”
Pirate-dude held up his hand. “I’ll let you go, don’t worry.” Percy’s shoulder’s sagged in relief. “On one condition.”
And there’s the catch. There’s always a catch.
“I’m assuming you can fight,” When Percy nodded, he continued. “If ever needed, I want you to come fight for us.”
Percy paused. “Who’s ‘us’?”
The son of Poseidon considered the offer. On one hand, he really didn’t want to fight anymore. He’d seen and done enough fighting to last him a lifetime. The thought of fighting for this government agency or whatever they were didn’t sit too well with him.
But saying no didn’t sit well either. Saying no meant he wouldn’t get to leave, and Blackjack would be stuck here. He couldn’t fail his family, who were so excited for him to finally be at college. Percy couldn’t fail Annabeth, who was waiting back in New Rome for him.
“Okay.” He said a beat later. Percy wasn’t sure if he was ever going to regret that, but right now, he knew it was his only choice.
The man nodded. “Now that that’s settled,” he reached over the table and unlocked Percy’s handcuffs. Percy rubbed his wrists a little and took off the gloves. “I’ll have someone take you to your, pegasus.”
“Aye aye.” Percy mocked saluted the man whose glare seemed to grow. “Oh, I’m sorry, that was insensitive of me. Aye.”
“Let’s hope you never meet Stark.”
The man ignored him and led him out of the room. A woman was waiting, tapping away on a pad. She looked up when they walked out, eyeing Percy. Percy gave a small wave. She tilted her head a little before addressing the man. “Director Fury, your plane is waiting.”
Pirate-man, or Fury, nodded. He started walking away, leaving Percy with the woman. “Wait,” Percy called. Fury paused and turned around. “You wouldn’t happen to have donuts, would you?”
When Percy arrived back in New Rome, the sun had started setting. Blackjack took his time, moaning about how awful his day there had been. The woman, whose name Percy didn’t get had led him to Blackjack who was happy to see him (especially with a box of donuts in his hand). Before they left, Percy had asked the woman if they needed his contact info. All she had said was “We’ll find you” and left.
Blackjack dropped Percy off on the street in front of his apartment. “Stay safe buddy,” Percy told him. “Don’t get caught by any more secret government agencies.”
I wasn’t plannin’ on it boss.
Percy smiled. “Alright. Now go get some rest,” Blackjack gave the demigod one last farewell before taking off towards the stables. Percy waited until Blackjack had flown out of sight behind the buildings before heading inside.
Annabeth was waiting on the couch. She had notes spread out all over the coffee table and on the cushions next to her. Percy remembered that she had her final test tomorrow, and it was her one for her major Architecture.
She looked up when Percy entered. A smile spread across her face as she rose to greet him. “How’d it go?” She asked, giving him a small peck on the cheek.
“Without a hitch,” Percy lied. “Blackjack’s fine, he’s off to the stables right now to rest.”
“Wonderful.” Annabeth’s smile made Percy feel guilty for lying to her, but he told himself that she didn’t need to be concerned for him. If S.H.I.E.L.D. ever decided that they needed him, then he’d cross that bridge when it came time. But for now, as far as Annabeth would know, everything was fine. “Come on, I know you might be tired but you have your final tomorrow and I want to test you.”
Percy let her lead him to the couch while she quizzed him on Marine Biology. Soon, the thought of S.H.I.E.L.D. left his head as he started worrying about his final tomorrow and reassuring Annabeth that she would do fine and that she didn’t need to be worried.
On the other side of California, Nick Fury was looking up research on Greek Mythology. He looked down at the two files that sat next to him. One was Percy Jackson’s file, filled with every school he had attended, who his friends were, even if he had a dental plan.
Next to Percy’s file sat another, thicker file. This one had the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo stamped across the front.
And underneath it were the words AVENGERS INITIATIVE.