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Leo yawned widely. Smacking his lips (mostly because it helped him stay awake), he tilted his flashlight over the book and carefully read the words.

Asclepius or Hepius was a hero and Greek god of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. Leo yawned again. He was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman named Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas, king of Lapiths. Eyes fluttering, Leo turned to the next page. 

-The newborn was taken to be raised by Chiron who taught the demigod in medicine and would drive him to become the greatest of healers.

Tiredly frowning, Leo clicked his pen.

Chiron raised this guy? he thought. Does that mean he knows about the potion? Maybe I should talk to him about... He shook his head. No, he'll ask too many questions. Plus he's already worried about the whole time travel thing, I don't need to freak him out by asking him questions on a cure for death.

It seemed like forever since Nemesis sent him back in time and a lot happened after he stumbled into the Olympians' throne room. For starters, he wasn't the only thing Nemesis sent to the Olympians and demigods. He was sent to the past along with three books. One of them recounting his first quest with his best friends, Piper and Jason, and it was written in their point of views.

At first, it had been a nightmare to listen to people he barely knew read his personal thoughts out loud, he even tried to run away at one point, but eventually he learned to tolerate it.

Yeah it still sucked having people to read his personal issues and feelings, but it wasn't so bad when he realized the people reading it were actually pretty cool. Strange, probably crazy (who was he kidding? They were all crazy), but cool. While he still didn't understand Nemesis' motive for sending him back into the past, reading that book and hearing Apollo brag about his son, did give him an idea on how to defeat Gaea once and for all.

It was going to get him killed, there was no avoiding that. But maybe, if he could find this 'cure for death', he could save the world and come back to life. That sounded like a great plan, right?

"If I can find those stupid ingredients." Leo grumbled. He groaned in frustration when he flipped the page and found that the passage on Asclepius was over. 

He slammed The Big Book of all Things Greek and threw it into his growing pile of dead ends. As soon as the book fell into the pile, a cloud of dust floated into the air, causing the son of Hephaestus to have a sneezing attack.

He had spent hours in the Big House attic, searching for any clues on Asclepius and his cure for death, and he didn't even have a lot of time doing research before the others would realize he wasn't in his sleeping bag at the Hephaestus Cabin (it was still too soon to be sleeping in Beckendorf's bed). The demigods would probably freak if they found him missing and he didn't even want to know their reactions if they ever found out why he was in the attic, but he had no choice. This was something he had to do.

Sniffling, Leo rummaged through another bookshelf until he came across a small paperback book. 

Major Accomplishments of Minor Gods, the title read.

At least we're getting somewhere. Leo yawned. He checked the table of context. And it has a chapter on Asclepius too. Which was amazing considering the guy was minor even by minor god standards.  

Leo flipped to the god's chapter and started reading.

Read. Read. Read. Since when did I become such a bookworm? he thought, eyes fluttering again. He was reading about Asclepius' symbol, when his eyes shut without his permission. He would've fallen asleep if he hadn't pinched himself.

He jumped, eyes snapping open. 

Yeah hurting yourself was bad, but if it kept him awake, Leo didn't care.

He continued reading.

...Upon hearing the death of her hunting companion, Hippolytos, the son of Theseus, a grief-stricken Artemis begged her nephew Asclepius, the best physician in all of Greece to bring the deceased back to life. Leo perked up at that. He began to eagerly read more. Asclepius complied by creating the Physician's Cure and administering it into the dead prince.

The Physician's Cure...

Resting the flashlight on his lap, Leo took out his notepad and began to write his findings down. 

Okay we have a name. the son of Hephaestus thought. How do we make it?

He picked up the book and was about to read more details, when he heard the attic door suddenly slam open. 

"Leo! I swear to the gods when I find you here-!" a voice hissed, causing Leo to stiffen.

Crap, how long have I been in here?

He hurriedly shut off his flashlight and hugged the book to his chest. It was probably a stupid idea to hide, especially when he wasn't in the best hiding place. But he really didn't want to be found by the angry son of Hades. Who knows what he'll do to him?!

Okay, okay! Don't panic! Leo thought, mind racing. Just wait until he leaves, then run downstairs and tell everyone you decided to... uh...Take a walk in the woods! A nice long walk in the woods... Full of monsters... Without telling anyone... And covered in cobwebs.... Leo grimaced. Damnit! Hermes was right, I do suck at lying.

As he struggled to think of a good lie, he didn't notice the sound of footsteps, or that they were coming closer.

Got it! I... er... decided to sleep in the Big House! Yeah I didn't want to be a bother so I decided, why not sleep in the attic?... On the cold hard floor... Without my sleeping bag... And without telling anyone... Leo slapped his forehead. He was trying! He really was! But his brain felt like a fried egg! Why am I so exhausted? I didn't even do anything besides read all day! 

"Valdez!" the voice growled behind him.

Leo turned around and gulped. Busted.

He didn't think he's ever seen Nico di Angelo look as angry than he did right now.

"Uh... Hi Nico!" Leo tried to say cheerfully. He forced himself to smile and wave at the scowling boy. 

The son of Hephaestus scrambled to his feet and tried to ignore the room spinning around him.

He swayed a bit, but still kept smiling. "Um... Good morning?" Was it morning? He lost track of time. "How'd you sleep?" He figured he should ask some conversational questions. That should help Nico cool down.

"Fine." he answered gruffly. "Until I woke up this morning and saw everyone running around, trying to find where you went!" Leo guiltily winced. "What are you doing here?! People are worried! They're starting to think you ran away!"

"I'm sorry," Leo said, racking his brain for an answer. "I wasn't tired and I thought maybe I could... hang out here?"

Leo inwardly groaned. Hermes would've died in second-hand embarrassment.

"In the attic." Nico said dryly.

"Uh-huh." There was no turning back now.

"In the dark."

"It... calms me down?"

"Without telling anyone."

"Kinda... wanted to just be alone...?"

"Doing what?"

"Uh... nothing?"

"I see..." the son of Hades narrowed his eyes.

For a moment, Leo couldn't help but feel a sense of hope that he might get out of this scot-free. Maybe Nico take pity on him and just drop the conversation. He seemed like a loner type of guy, he had to know what it feels like to want to be alone.   

His hopes were crushed, when Nico reared his fist back and struck him in the arm.

"Ow!" Leo yelled, eyes wide. He clutched his wounded appendage, suddenly feeling more awake. 

"What was that for?!"

"For giving me such a stupid lie!" the son of Hades snapped. "And this is for scaring the crap out of me!"

He punched him again in the other arm.

"Ow!" 

"I thought you ran away! I would've Shadow Traveled all over New York looking for you, if Will hadn't suggested we search here!" Nico yelled, waving his arms. "What are you really doing here anyway?"

Nico's eyes zeroed in on the book clutched against Leo's chest. 

"What are you reading?" he frowned.

"Nothing!" Leo said too quickly. He slammed the book shut and shoved it in his tool belt.

He'll do his research later.

"It had to be something for you to want to be so secretive about it." Nico huffed. His body relaxing from his earlier tense posture. Apparently punching him must've felt very soothing. "Whatever, as long as I've found you, I guess it doesn't matter. Let's go downstairs and tell everyone you're still here."

The son of Hades waited until Leo walked in front of him, before the two boys went downstairs.

"You found him!" Will said brightly, seeing the two come back from the attic. He grinned at Nico. "See, I told you he couldn't have gotten far."

"Yeah, yeah." Nico grumbled. "He shouldn't have even left his cabin in the first place."

"Right." Will frowned at the son of Hephaestus. His hair was sticking out in random places and was covered in cobwebs; his eyes were bloodshot and half-lidded due to lack of sleep. The only thing that looked neat about him, was his outfit which was handmade by some 'mystery seamstress'. Other than that he was a complete wreck.

"Do you have any idea how worried we were?" Will scolded. "Next time you decide to run off, you need to tell someone!"

"Sorry." Leo yawned.

"And what were you doing in the attic anyway?" the son of Apollo asked, picking the cobwebs out and attempting to fix his hair. "Couldn't have been sleeping, that's for sure. You look like you're going to pass out any minute."

"Nah. I'm an insomniac, remember?" the son of Hephaestus closed his eyes before snapping them open again.

"Stop saying that." Will groaned. "There's a difference between being unable to sleep vs. not wanting to sleep."

"I don't know what exactly he was doing," Nico told him. "But when I came upstairs, he looked like he was reading something."

"Reading?" Will repeated incredulously. He turned to Leo. "So after we spent hours reading The Lost Hero, you decided to sneak out in the middle of the night, stay up, and skip breakfast, just so you can read another book." 

The son of Apollo made a face. "You do realize we're going to be reading the second book today, right?"

"I'll be fine." Leo assured him. The son of Hephaestus stretched."Just gotta wash my face. I've done this before."

Will's frown deepened, but before he could say anything, Nico added.

"You have to tell the others that you're still on Camp."

As if on cue, Annabeth rushed in to speak to them.

"Have you found-" she stopped and glared at Leo. "Where have you been? We've been searching all over for you!"

"Attic." Nico said, before Leo could answer. He didn't seem to want to explain the situation either. He just stared back at her with an unreadable expression.

His response seemed to throw her off. "Wait what's he doing in the...? Whatever! Com'on! We've been searching for you when we should've been already on our way to Olympus! I... We need to read the second book and find out what happens to Percy!"

"But Leo hasn't eaten yet." Will protested.

Annabeth groaned. "He can eat on the way there. Hurry!" 

And with that, she rushed out of the Big House, no doubt rounding up the other demigods into the van.

Will glanced at Leo. 

"Go get washed up." he said. "I'll get you something light to eat on the ride."

He gave Nico a goodbye wink before leaving the Big House.

Nico blinked at where Will was standing, as if he had no idea what just happened. Deciding to just ignore it, he turned to Leo. 

"I don't know what you were doing upstairs," he said. "But if you ever pull a stunt like this again, I will have every demigod in Camp line up, for a chance to punch you. Do you understand?"

Judging by his face, Nico wasn't joking.

Leo gulped. "I won't."

This was going to be a long day, Leo could just feel it.

By the time the demigods had made it back to the 600th floor, the gods were already seated in their thrones, impatiently waiting for them.

"There you are." Apollo smiled at them. "What took ya'?"

The demigods said nothing, they just all glanced over at Leo. 

Still munching on his crackers, Leo just gave a closed mouth smile and sheepishly waved.

"I don't even want to know." Athena grumbled. "Let's just get this over with."

She picked up the book. 

The Mark of Athena, the title read. 

The goddess's eyes widened at that. Could it be...?

On the cover, the picture show an owl peering at the reader in the background. In the foreground, Percy Jackson and who was undoubtedly Jason Grace, were on their horses, looking ready to maim each other.

Are they searching for the Athena Parthenos and finally taking revenge against those filthy Romans?

Looks can be deceiving. she reminded herself, but she could shake the feeling of overwhelming hope that the Romans will finally be brought to justice.

She couldn't stop a small grin.

I knew Hera's plan wasn't going to work.

"Does anybody want to read first?" the goddess asked.

"I can do it." Connor shrugged, taking the book. 

Seeing Jason and Percy fighting on the cover made the gods exchange uneasy looks and caused the demigods to shift uncomfortably.

Annabeth studied the title closely. 

The Mark of Athena? she wondered. Is that the thing the Romans took?  Is that why Mother is acting so strange?

Once all the demigods were seated, Connor opened the book.

The son of Hermes flipped to the first page before he frowned.

"Annabeth I?" Connor read.

The readers gave him looks of surprise.

"What?" Percy blinked.

The only person who looked unimpressed was Annabeth.

"Very funny, Connor." she scowled at him. Out of all the times for his stupid jokes, he just had to chose now, didn't he? She suppressed the urge to sigh. "Just hurry up and read the real chapter."

"That is the real chapter." Chris said, looking over his brother's shoulder. "This really is an Annabeth chapter."

Connor spun the book around to prove it.

Leo winced in sympathy. Damn! First Tartarus, now this? Com'on Nemesis, hasn't she already had enough?

The daughter of Athena stared at her name in disbelief.

"But-" she faltered. "Why would Nemesis write this book in my point of view...?"

"It could have something to do with the title." Nico suggested. "The Mark of Athena."

Jake frowned. "Sounds like a curse..."

If possible, Annabeth looked more distraught. A curse? My mother wouldn't curse me, right? But then again, she hasn't been rational ever since we discovered the Romans. There's no telling what she would do... What if she found out I wanted to work with them, and decided to curse me?  She shuddered.

Percy sent him a quick glare.

"Ignore him. I'm sure it means something else." he told her. Percy wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "And reading your thoughts won't be that bad, Leo's fine with it."

Leo made a face at his choice of words. 

If you mean 'fine' as in, I put up with it because I have to, then yeah. I'm fine with it... he thought, but out loud he said: "It'll be hard, but you'll do fine, Annabeth."

"Yeah, it'll probably be harder for us than you." Travis joked. "Can you imagine how boring Annabeth's thoughts must be?"

"I know," Connor agreed, laughing with him. "It's probably going to have her over analyzing stuff, thinking about the square root of fifty-two, and talking about buildings' structures-"

"Alright, we get it. Just shut up and read the chapter." Annabeth snapped. Although she was still uneasy about her thoughts being read out loud, she had to do it if she wanted to find out about Percy. She needed to be sure her Percy was still the same Seaweed Brain she knew and loved.

If Leo can do it, so can I. Annabeth thought, sitting up proudly. Besides, it's only two chapters. I can deal with that! I've fought in the Titans' War for gods' sake!

With those thoughts in mind, she refused to let this book, or Nemesis for that matter, get to her.

Until she met the exploding statue, Annabeth thought she was prepared for anything.

"Wait! What!" Connor pretended to gasp in horror. "Annabeth? The Annabeth Chase? Not prepared for something? Hey, Leo, are you sure you're not from an alternate universe?"

Leo bit his lip to keep from laughing with the Stoll brothers.

"Not funny." Annabeth said flatly.

She'd paced the deck of their flying warship, the Argo II, checking and double-checking the ballistae to make sure they were locked down. She confirmed that the white "We come in peace" flag was flying from the mast. She reviewed the plan with the rest of the crew—and the backup plan, and the backup plan for the backup plan.

"Never mind! False alarm, people! This is our Annabeth!" Travis snickered. 

"Yeah," Percy said, smiling fondly. "Who else would make a backup plan for a backup plan?"

"Someone who's on a life-or-death quest." Annabeth said, she could help but grin at Percy. "How else are we supposed to survive without one?"

The daughter of Athena tried not to think about her future encounter with the Romans. She had spent last night looking up as much Roman culture and gods she could find in the Athena Cabin bookshelf. They embarrassingly didn't have enough to tell her much, other than the basics. How much does future Annabeth know about the Romans? Did she know more or less? Is it possible that Annabeth was missing something that her future self already knew?

The daughter of Athena bit her lip.

Most important, she pulled aside their war-crazed chaperon, Coach Gleeson Hedge, 

"Wait, he's here too?" Annabeth groaned.

Biting back a yawn, Leo shrugged. "Chiron thought we'd need a chaperon at the last minute, and Coach Hedge volunteered. I guess he was the only one was willing to go on short notice."

"Great. As if making peace with the Romans wasn't going to be hard enough." she grumbled. "I should leave him on the ship. Maybe I could tell him to keep guard or something..."

and encouraged him to take the morning off in his cabin and watch reruns of mixed martial arts championships.

"Looks like Future Annabeth was already way ahead of you." Connor snickered.

Annabeth blinked. "Oh... um... that works too."

Eyes fluttering, Leo brushed his hair back.

...Everything seemed to be in order. Even that mysterious chill she'd been feeling since the ship launched had dissipated, at least for now.

The demigods blinked.

"Mysterious chill?" Percy asked, worriedly frowning. "What are you talking about?" 

"I don't know..." Annabeth frowned.

She couldn't help but feel a flare of annoyance at that. 

One thing that Leo had over her in this 'reading your thoughts' situation, is that he already knew what was going to happen. He was always so quick to assure people things were going to be alright in seemly hopeless situations or was unsurprised when he would think of something so dark or ridiculous (embarrassed, maybe, but still unsurprised). She wished she had that advantage, or have Future Annabeth with her. It felt so surreal to be told actions and feelings she hadn't even thought of yet. It was almost like an out-of-body experience.

"I could be nervous or it could be the change of the temperature. The temperature change would it explain why it's described as 'mysterious'." she muttered.

...What if this was a bad idea? What if the Romans panicked and attacked them on sight?

The readers tensed. 

"We'll be fine." Leo told them. "I sent them the video scroll, remember?"

"Right, besides, they won't attack if they see Jason on board." Percy added.

"Not unless they see him as a traitor." Athena remarked.

Leo scowled at her.

"They aren't going to attack us." he said more firmly.

The Argo II definitely did not look friendly. Two hundred feet long, with a bronze-plated hull, mounted repeating crossbows fore and aft, a flaming metal dragon for a figurehead, and two rotating ballistae amidships that could fire explosive bolts powerful enough to blast through concrete...well, it wasn't the most appropriate ride for a meet-and-greet with the neighbors.

"But it's the best war ship for the quest!" Leo bragged. Hephaestus, Nyssa, and Jake took in the description in awe.

"We made it to the deadline." Jake said in disbelief.

"Yup." Leo said, swinging his legs back and forth. "It took a lot of hard work, but we did it! Great job, team!"

The Hephaestus kids shared a smile.

Annabeth had tried to give the Romans a heads-up. She'd asked Leo to send one of his special inventions—a holographic scroll—to alert their friends inside the camp.

"Hopefully the message had gotten through. Leo had wanted to paint a giant message on the bottom of the hull—WASSUP? with a smiley face— Pfffttt!" Connor and Travis started laughing.

Annabeth stopped herself short from smacking her forehead. "Really Leo? We're about to make history by becoming allies with our greatest enemies, and you want to draw a smiley face at the bottom of the hull? Do you realize how serious this is?"

"I do! That's why I suggested it!" Leo said, snickering. "Like you said, the Argo II doesn't look very friendly, so I thought it would be a good idea to draw the smiley face. Ya'know to help diffuse the situation!"

"I don't think the Romans have your sense of humor." Annabeth deadpanned. "Don't forget they're more serious than we are."

"I think it's a great idea!" Apollo chuckled.

"Of course you would." Artemis rolled her eyes.

but Annabeth vetoed the idea. She wasn't sure the Romans had a sense of humor.

Annabeth blinked again. Okay this was getting weird. 

At least it's manageable. she thought. She'd rather take these awkward moments than half the things Leo had to listen to, especially the memories about his childhood.

That was horrible. she couldn't help but remember the pained look on his face. She hoped she never would have to go through anything as emotionally draining as that chapter.

...On the stern quarterdeck, Leo rushed around like a madman, checking his gauges and wrestling levers. Most helmsmen would've been satisfied with a pilot's wheel or a tiller. Leo had also installed a keyboard, monitor, aviation controls from a Learjet, a dubstep soundboard, and motion-control sensors from a Nintendo Wii. He could turn the ship by pulling on the throttle, fire weapons by sampling an album, or raise sails by shaking his Wii controllers really fast... 

Annabeth listened to the description with a concerned frown.

"This is great and all." she said slowly. "But won't so many controllers make you lose track of what does what? I can't imagine this being easy for someone flying on their first try."

"You and Coach Hedge manage just fine." Leo told her. 

She made a face. I will?  She already forgot what the Wii remote does.

Leo must've seen her self-doubt, because he was quick to reassure her.

"It's easy when you get the hang of it. It's better to learn just by doing it, instead of memorizing." he eagerly turned to his siblings and went into more details about other controls. 

"-And if you type 'LOL' on the keyboard, you can electrocute random seats in the mess hall-"

"Why would you want to do that?" Percy interrupted.

Leo, Hermes, and the Stolls simultaneously gave him eerily similar mischievous smiles in response.

"Never mind." Percy said, deciding he didn't want to know. I get the feeling half of Travis' plans are going to involve Katie anyway.

Piper paced back and forth between the mainmast and the ballistae, practicing her lines.

"I'm sure she'll do just fine." Lacy smiled.

Drew snorted.

"Lower your weapons," she murmured. "We just want to talk."

Her charmspeak was so powerful, the words flowed over Annabeth, filling her with the desire to drop her dagger and have a nice long chat.

Aphrodite smiled proudly. The Romans wouldn't know what hit them.

...Today she was dressed in tattered jeans, worn-out sneakers, and a white tank top with pink Hello Kitty designs. (Maybe as a joke, though Annabeth could never be sure with Piper.)

"It was probably a joke." Leo said.

"How is that a joke?" Lacy asked with a slight frown. "What's so funny about wearing Hello Kitty?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Piper's weird like that sometimes."

Leo went through his tool belt.

T hen there was Piper's boyfriend—Jason. He stood at the bow on the raised crossbow platform, where the Romans could easily spot him. His knuckles were white on the hilt of his golden sword.

"Really? He's still got the golden sword?" Thalia groaned. "At this point, I'm just waiting for it to explode."

Otherwise he looked calm for a guy who was making himself a target. 

Thalia winced. "Did you really have to word it like that?"

"Sorry." Annabeth said, but she didn't sound very apologetic. How was she supposed to control what she was thinking? She didn't even know what her future self was going to do at this point.

Is this kinda how Leo felt? she wondered, glancing at the boy.

Leo was slumped in his chair, obviously trying to stay awake (what was he even doing in the attic?) He seemed to be doodling in his notebook.

The son of Hephaestus yawned. His eyes closed without his permission before he pinched himself. Leo jolted up.

Hephaestus eyed the boy with concern.

Over his jeans and orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt, he'd donned a toga and a purple cloak—symbols of his old rank as praetor.

"Where'd he get that?" Travis frowned.

"I dunno. He said he found it in his cabin. Must've been given to him by Hera's Roman side." Leo guessed. 

"It's a good idea for him to be wearing both at the same time." Annabeth said. "It's a good representation of unity." 

"Did you ever find out what praetor means?" Percy asked. 

"Oh yeah!" she said. She was so focused on what her future self was doing, she forgot to tell the others."It's basically like a consul, only a lower level. It's kinda like how we're camp counselors but we still have to answer to Chiron and Mr. D."

...Annabeth tried to hide it, but she still didn't completely trust the guy.

"Yeah, I had a feeling you didn't." Leo said, making a face. That was something both past and future Annabeth shared. While it took Leo a long time to convince past Annabeth to trust Jason and the Romans as a whole, he never confronted future Annabeth about this distrust. Not that she would admit to having it in the first place.

"What?" Thalia said in disbelief. She gave Annabeth a disapproving look, not much different from a sibling catching the younger doing something she shouldn't. "How could you not trust Jason? What more does he have to prove to you that he's trustworthy? He already saved Hera and he even helped Leo stop the Maenads from destroying the Camp!"

"I don't even know why future me doesn't trust Jason." Annabeth said, keeping her eyes down as she played with her necklace. "but I do now." At least, more than she originally did. She still felt she had a lot to learn about the son of Jupiter and that was saying something considering she just finished reading a book full of his thoughts.

 "Good." the daughter of Zeus said. She really wanted Jason and Annabeth to get along. They were two of the most important people in her life.

He acted too perfect—always following the rules, always doing the honorable thing.

Thalia blinked as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"And that's a bad thing?" she said. "He had to follow the rules and be honorable, if he didn't, Lupa would've killed him."

"You're right." Annabeth meekly agreed, she held her dad's college ring.

Without realizing it, Leo's eyes fell closed.

He even looked too perfect.

"He can't help how he looks, Annabeth." Thalia sighed, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. Now she's just looking for reasons to hate him...

In the back of her mind, she had a nagging thought: What if this is a trick and he betrays us? What if we sail into Camp Jupiter, and he says, Hey, Romans! Check out these prisoners and this cool ship I brought you!

"Okay, now you're just being silly." Thalia huffed. "He would never do something like that."

"I know." the daughter of Athena agreed.

Annabeth doubted that would happen. Still, she couldn't look at him without getting a bitter taste in her mouth. He'd been part of Hera's forced "exchange program" to introduce the two camps. Her Most Annoying Majesty, Queen of Olympus,

Despite the glare he was getting from said goddess, Hermes laughed. "Good one, Annabeth!"

"That's not his fault." Thalia told Annabeth. "He isn't happy about the arrangement either."

"I know that now." she said. 

had convinced the other gods that their two sets of children—Roman and Greek—had to combine forces to save the world from the evil goddess Gaea, who was awakening from the earth, and her horrible children the giants.

Without warning, Hera had plucked up Percy Jackson, Annabeth's boyfriend, wiped his memory, and sent him to the Roman camp.  

Poseidon and Annabeth grimaced. 

Percy comfortingly rubbed Annabeth's shoulder.

Leo's head snapped up. Realizing he fell asleep, he shook his head and wiped his eyes.

He ate some of the crackers Will gave him.

In exchange, the Greeks had gotten Jason. None of that was Jason's fault; but every time Annabeth saw him, she remembered how much she missed Percy.

"I bet I miss you too, Wise Girl." Percy told her.

How can you? Hera stole all your memories. Are you even the same person you are now? Annabeth forced herself to smile at him.

Percy...who was somewhere below them right now.

Oh, gods. Panic welled up inside her. She forced it down. She couldn't afford to get overwhelmed.

I'm a child of Athena, she told herself. I have to stick to my plan and not get distracted.

Percy smiled at that. "I'm a distraction?"

Annabeth playfully rolled her eyes. "Are you kidding me? You're the biggest distraction I've ever met."

She smiled and bumped his shoulder with hers.

"She felt it again—that familiar shiver, as if a psychotic snowman had crept up behind her and was breathing down her neck. Oh my gods! A what?!" Connor laughed.

"Who says that?" Travis said in between his laughter. 

"Percy! It's obvious he's infecting her with his weirdness." Connor snickered.

"I can overexaggerate too." Annabeth rolled her eyes, but she couldn't help but wonder. Why am I mentioning that chill again?

Leo played with the buttons on his jacket.

She turned, but no one was there. Must be her nerves. Even in a world of gods and monsters, Annabeth couldn't believe a new warship would be haunted. The Argo II was well protected. 

You'd think that but... Leo trailed off with a scowl.

Annabeth wished she could pray to her mother for guidance, but that wasn't possible now. Not after last month, when she'd had that horrible encounter with her mom and gotten the worst present of her life....

Annabeth felt her breath hitch. The others stared back at her sympathetically. Percy frowned worriedly and held her close.

"You okay?" he muttered in her ear.

Forcing herself to be expressionless, she gave him the faintest nod.

Don't overreact. she told herself sternly. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. You still don't know what this 'worst present' is. It might not be as bad as you think...

Despite her thoughts, she couldn't calm down. What was so bad about that present? What did Mother give me?  Why can't future Annabeth just tell us what it is?! 

She really wished Future Annabeth was here. Leo was sweet, but she needed answers.

She squeezed her necklace.

Having a feeling what she gave Annabeth had gotten, Athena nodded her head in approval. I couldn't have picked a better person.

Annabeth was resourceful and able to adapt to even the most difficult situations. She had proven herself on her journey to Camp Half-Blood and had further proven her capabilities during the Titans' War. If anyone could find the Athena Parthenos, it was Annabeth. 

She will not fail.

The cold pressed closer. She thought she heard a faint voice in the wind, laughing.

Leo, Annabeth, and a few other demigods shuddered.

"What is that?" the daughter of Athena whispered to herself.

...She almost ordered Leo to reverse course.

I wish Annabeth had told me to turn around. Leo thought, frowning miserably. We could've just Iris-messaged Percy, Frank, and Hazel, and told them to met us at a nearby town or something.

Then, in the valley below, horns sounded. The Romans had spotted them.

The demigods perked up at that.

"I wonder what's it going to look like!" Lacy couldn't help but say excitedly. She bounced up and down in her chair.

"I bet I'm right." Connor grinned. 

Annabeth tried to take her mind off of her mother's present by focusing on what the Roman Camp looked like.

...Ringed by the Oakland Hills, the valley was at least twice the size of Camp Half-Blood.

A small river snaked around one side and curled toward the center like a capital letter G, emptying into a sparkling blue lake.

Directly below the ship, nestled at the edge of the lake, the city of New Rome gleamed in the sunlight. Connor blinked.

The demigods' eyes were as wide as saucers. They were completely motionless as they listened to the description in stunned silence.

Leo was just smiling at their reactions.

"I told you it was a city." he said.

As if he said the magic words, the demigods snapped out of their trance and began to eagerly talk at once.

"Oh my gods!" Lacy gasped in surprise, her arms were flapping around like she had no idea how they worked. "They have a city!"

"But how?!" Katie asked. "How are they so big and we're..."

"Not even big enough to be considered a colony." Travis finished, scratching his head. "I dunno. I'm just wondering how they fight off the monsters. They must have attacks every other day."

Annabeth's jaw was still open. She had dreamed of a demigod city all her life, and here it was right in California, right under her nose. How could she have missed it?! What kind of magic did they use to hide it? When was it made? How long did it take to make? 

"How come they have a city but we don't?" Mitchell complained. "Don't get me wrong, I love Camp Half-Blood! And still do! But how come we have to risk our lives everyday to have a normal life while they can do that safely in their city?"

Some of the demigods grumbled in agreement. Once you reached eighteen, you were pretty much on your own. Campers (if they were still alive) could come back and work as a staff member, but that wasn't the same.

 "We're not big enough for a city." Annabeth reminded.

"But why?" Travis stressed. "Why are we so much smaller than we are? Are Roman gods hooking up with humans around the clock? What's going on?"

"And I thought Hermes had a lot of kids..." Connor muttered, blinking owlishly. "How many kids does Mercury have?"

Connor shook his head in disbelief before he continued reading.

She recognized landmarks

"Landmarks...? They have landmarks?  We don't even have that anymore. We lost Zeus's Poop Pile last year." Mitchell complained out loud.

"Zeus's what?!" said god thundered. The demigods jumped. They had been so focused on the city, they forgot the gods were still there.

"Oh... uh... Nothing! It was a mistake!" I didn't mean for you to actually hear that!  Mitchell hurriedly said. "S-Sorry M'Lord!"

"Make sure it never happens again." the god warned in a deep growl.

The boy gulped and quickly nodded his head. "I will..."

That's what Zeus' Fist was supposed to look like! Leo bit back his laughter.

Jason had told her about—the hippodrome, the coliseum, 

"They have an actual coliseum?!" Connor gasped before eagerly reading more.

the temples and parks, the neighborhood of Seven Hills with its winding streets, colorful villas, and flowering gardens.

She saw evidence of the Romans' recent battle with an army of monsters. 

The readers looked confused at that.

"I'll explain later." Leo assured them. He wiped his eyes. "I wanna see if the book's going to tell us first."

The dome was cracked open on a building she guessed was the Senate House.

"They even have their form of government!" Chris said. "How can bunch of teenagers do that?"

"They're not all teenagers." Leo explained. "It's basically like a regular city, they got babies, kids, adults, elders..."

"How does this even function?" Percy said, still in awe. He never imagined a world were you can be a demigod and live a normal life. He didn't like to think about it, but he always assumed that he would always be running from monsters or would eventually die before he went to college. Heck, he hadn't even expected to live past his sixteenth birthday. Now here Leo is, telling them all that it was possible for a demigod to live until they were elderly.

He thought being as old as Daedalus was impossible, especially for a kid of the Big Three.

He suddenly felt overwhelmed with a surge of hope. If that was possible... Maybe he and Annabeth could...

What am I thinking?! he stopped himself. He felt his face turn red. We literally just started dating yesterday, I can't be thinking about stuff like that! It's weird!

He forced himself to pay attention to the book before his thoughts could get any stranger.

...Dozens of kids in togas were streaming out of the Senate House to get a better view of the Argo II.

...About half a mile to the west, where the horns were blowing, a Roman fort stood on a hill. It looked just like the illustrations Annabeth had seen in military history books—with a defensive trench lined with spikes, high walls, and watchtowers armed with scorpion ballistae. Inside, perfect rows of white barracks lined the main road—the Via Principalis.

Wow... Annabeth said, eyes still wide in awe.

A column of demigods emerged from the gates, their armor and spears glinting as they hurried toward the city. In the midst of their ranks was an actual war elephant. Connor gasped. 

"They have a war elephant?!" The Stoll exclaimed.

"Why are the Romans getting all the cool stuff!" Travis complained. "Why can't we have a mascot?!"

"I mean, we got Mrs. O'Leary." Percy said. "She's kinda like the Camp's mascot."

The Stolls frowned at him.

"Hardly." Connor said. 

"She's more your pet than anyone else's." Travis agreed. "We just take care of her until the summer."

"We need to explain to Chiron all the reasons why we need a camp elephant and how it would be beneficial to Camp Half-Blood!" Connor said firmly. 

His brother nodded in agreement.

Annabeth wanted to land the Argo II before those troops arrived, but the ground was still several hundred feet below. She scanned the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of Percy.

Then something behind her went BOOM!

The demigods immediately snapped out of their awe and stiffened.

The gods grimaced.

"I knew this was going to happen." Athena smiled.

"What's happening?!" Thalia demanded.

"They're being attacked!" Clarisse scowled.

"They haven't even gotten off the ship and the Romans are already attacking them." Hermes grimaced.

"So much for the video scroll." Jake muttered.

Before the readers could fully panic, Leo was quick to diffuse the situation.

"We're not being attacked!" he yelled, over the beginnings of a meltdown. 

Everyone turned to him.

"Geez, I know you guys are nervous, but could you at least try to let me explain things before you freak out?" Leo told them.

"If you're not being attacked, what was that?" Nico asked.

"Terminus." Leo said, as if that explained everything.

Apparently it did for the gods and the son of Hades.

"Oh." Nico said, relaxing slightly.

Annabeth frowned at that, before turning to Leo.

"What is Terminus?" she asked.

"Who is Terminus." Apollo corrected.

"Terminus is the city's guard." Poseidon explained. "He is the Roman god of boundaries."

"Apparently he has a strict 'no weapons' policy." Leo shrugged. He rocked his chair back.

...She whirled and found herself eye to eye with an angry statue.

"Unacceptable!" he shrieked.

Apparently he had exploded into existence, right there on the deck. Sulfurous yellow smoke rolled off his shoulders. Cinders popped around his curly hair. From the waist down, he was nothing but a square marble pedestal. From the waist up, he was a muscular human figure in a carved toga.

Do the Romans have automations like the ones in New York? Percy wondered. He instantly thought back to Pompona.

"I will not have weapons inside the Pomerian Line!" he announced in a fussy teacher voice. "I certainly will not have Greeks!"

Athena narrowed her eyes.

"Wow. Thanks for the welcome." Connor said sarcastically.

The other demigods grumbled in agreement.

"He's old-school, you know how stubborn the gods can be." Leo told the demigods. Said gods huffed at that. "The Roman demigods are more openminded."

"That's the worst first impression I've ever seen." Katie frowned. "If they really want an alliance with us, why would they let someone like Terminus be the first person you meet?"

Leo hesitated at the question. You just had to show up, didn't you Terminus?

"He's basically the 'Coach Hedge' of the Roman Camp." Leo explained.

Leo wasn't exactly sure how much Terminus and Coach Hedge were alike or if they were at all, but it worked. The demigods winced in understanding.

Jason shot Annabeth a look that said, I've got this.

"Terminus," he said. "It's me. Jason Grace."

"Oh, I remember you, Jason!" Terminus grumbled. "I thought you had better sense than to consort with the enemies of Rome!"

No longer feeling threatened or taking the god seriously, some of the demigods rolled their eyes.

"But they're not enemies—"

"That's right," Piper jumped in. 

Aphrodite frowned. "Now's not a good time, sweetie."

"We just want to talk. If we could—"

"Ha!" snapped the statue. "Don't try that charmspeak on me, young lady. And put down that dagger before I slap it out of your hands!" Connor frowned and silently reread the statue's description.

"With what? Your head? You don't even have hands!" he laughed.

"Um...okay. But how would you slap it? You don't have any arms."

Travis and Connor laughed at that.

"Impertinence!" There was a sharp POP and a flash of yellow. Piper yelped and dropped the dagger, which was now smoking and sparking.

"Lucky for you I've just been through a battle," Terminus announced. "If I were at full strength, I would've blasted this flying monstrosity out of the sky already!"

"Hold up." Leo stepped forward, wagging his Wii controller. "Did you just call my ship a monstrosity? I know you didn't do that."

"We've spent six long months working on that ship!" Leo said. "There was no way I was going to let him call it that."

The idea that Leo might attack the statue with his gaming device was enough to snap Annabeth out of her shock.

"I would've paid good money to see that." Hermes chuckled.

"Let's all calm down." She raised her hands to show she had no weapons. "I take it you're Terminus, the god of boundaries.

Annabeth's eyes widened in fear. Future Annabeth already knew that before she did? How far behind was she in her Roman studies? What did her future self know? What did she not know that she should have beforehand?

The daughter of Athena never felt more clueless than she did reading this chapter.

Jason told me you protect the city of New Rome, right? I'm Annabeth Chase, daughter of—"

"Oh, I know who you are!"... 

Leo winced. Shut up Terminus!

Nico just silently grimaced.

Annabeth blinked in surprise.

"What?" she said furrowing her eyebrows. 

"A child of Athena, Minerva's Greek form. Scandalous! You Greeks have no sense of decency. We Romans know the proper place for that goddess."

The demigods' jaws dropped.

"Excuse me?! That goddess?! PROPER PLACE?!" Athena roared, her form shifting from Roman to Greek. 

"His words! Not mine!" Connor clarified. He quickly hid his face behind the book as if it would shield him from the death glares he was getting. "I don't know what the Hades his problem is!"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Annabeth demanded through gritted teeth. Percy glared at the book as if it was Terminus himself.

"Please ignore him! He doesn't represent the Roman people!" Leo near begged. 

"What did he mean by my existence being scandalous?!" Annabeth angrily asked him. "What's wrong with being a child of Athena?!"

"There's nothing wrong with it..." Leo said. "It's just that... er... Athena's Roman form doesn't have brain children, so he's just... surprised to see you?" he winced at his own choice of words. Surprised? Really? Did that sound 'surprised' to you?

Well it was better than 'disgusted'.

Finally staying in her Greek form, the goddess scowled.

"It's blatant disrespect like this that is why I refuse to bless the Roman people with my children."She turned to the demigods. "You see how this deity treats your people? This is the same creature these people worship! They worship these ideals!"

"No they don't!" Leo told them. "Look, remember the reason why we're doing this, okay? Gaea will kill us all if we don't stay together."

"How will they want to work with me if they think I'm some kind of freak?" Annabeth asked.

"They won't think you're a freak." Leo told her. Inside his head he was silently pleading to the Roman people: Whatever you do. Don't ask if she has a bellybutton. Please for the love of all gods, don't do that to me.

Annabeth glared at the book one more time. 

"We need to remember the giants." she said, more telling herself than Leo. "We need to work together to beat them."

"Right!" Leo agreed.

The daughter of Athena took a deep breath before letting it go. "Alright, let's keep reading."

[Annabeth]... "What exactly do you mean, that goddess? And what's so scandalous about—"

"Right!" Jason interrupted. "Anyway, Terminus, we're here on a mission of peace. We'd love permission to land so we can—"

"Impossible!" the god squeaked. "Lay down your weapons and surrender! Leave my city immediately!"

"Which one do you want? Surrender or leave?" Percy said, rolling his eyes. He had it with this stupid statue.

..."Both!" Terminus said. "Surrender, then leave. I am slapping your face for asking such a stupid question, you ridiculous boy! Do you feel that?"

"Uh-huh. Sure." Percy said flatly.

"Wow." Leo studied Terminus with professional interest. "You're wound up pretty tight. You got any gears in there that need loosening? I could take a look."

"He's not a machine, boy. If he was, we would've fixed him a long time ago." Hephaestus muttered.

"Or tossed him in the dump." Hermes added.

"Stop that!" Terminus insisted. Another small explosion made Leo drop his screwdriver. "Weapons are not allowed on Roman soil inside the Pomerian Line."

"The what?" Piper asked.

"City limits," Jason translated.

"And this entire ship is a weapon!" Terminus said. "You cannot land!"

"Great, now what?" Travis complained.

Down in the valley, the legion reinforcements were halfway to the city. The crowd in the forum was over a hundred strong now.

The readers winced.

"It's okay." Leo told them. He took his pen out of his pocket.

Leo twirled it in his hand.

Annabeth scanned the faces and...oh, gods. She saw him.

Poseidon perked up at this.

Annabeth sat up straighter.

"Percy?" she whispered hopefully under her breath.

He was walking toward the ship with his arms around two other kids like they were best buddies— Connor made a face. "Who are these guys?"

The other demigods blinked, unsure how they should feel about this. On one hand, they were happy to hear the son of Poseidon was alive and well. On another hand, how much did he remember? Did he know who were on the war ship and why they were there?

a stout boy with a black buzz cut, 

"That's Frank Zhang!" Leo said, trying to sound cheerful, despite the uneasy looks from the demigods. "He's the son of Mars, that's the Roman version of Ares!"

Poseidon cleared his throat.

Leo glanced at the god. "Huh? Oh yeah! He's also a descendent of Poseidon! He's pretty cool. He knows archery and can shapeshift too!"

That last part got the demigods attention.

"Shapeshift?" Clarisse frowned. "That's not a child of Ares ability."

"It's not a child of Mars ability either." Leo shrugged. "I don't know how he got it. I think it has something to do with his family tree or whatever, but he can turn into all sorts of animals." 

and a girl wearing a Roman cavalry helmet.

Annabeth frowned.

"Who's she?" she asked, eyes narrowing.

"That's Hazel Levesque!" Leo said, unable to keep the fondness out of his voice. "She's the daughter of Pluto, that's the Roman version of Hades! She's been recently resurrected, so she's still new to the 21st century, but worry not! I, Leo Valdez, have taken her under my wing and am determined to catch her up to speed! We're still learning about pop culture and chicken nuggets, but I think she's coming along gre-"

"Resurrected?" Percy interrupted. "Wait. Did she come from the Doors of Death?"

"Um..." Leo dared a quick glance at Nico. 

The son of Hades' eyes widened in alarm before he slightly shook his head.

Dude. You're just going to make it worse on yourself when they find out. Leo suppressed the urge to sigh. "Not exactly. Anyways, she's able to control precious gems and metals. She's also really good at riding a horse. Frank and her are dating, just a FYI." 

Annabeth relaxed at that.

"I'm guessing they're coming with us on the quest." she said.

"Yup." Leo said. "They'll be really useful and they're fun to hang out with." Especially now that our weird love triangle thing is over. Leo tried not to make a face at. Or love rectangle.

He shuddered at the thought of Sammy and Hazel dating. 

...He wore a purple cape just like Jason's—the mark of a praetor.

"Figures, Percy found a way to become the leader." Nico smiled and rolled his eyes.

The demigods looked made faces at that.

"But why would he be praetor if he knew he was Greek?" Katie asked. "Wouldn't he turn down the position of leadership if he knew he had to come back to Camp Half-Blood?"

Annabeth grimaced at that question.

Annabeth's heart did a gymnastics routine.

Aphrodite and her daughters giggled.

Annabeth chose to ignore them.

"Leo, stop the ship," she ordered.

"What?"

"You heard me. Keep us right where we are." Leo pulled out his controller and yanked it upward. All ninety oars froze in place. The ship stopped sinking.

"Terminus," Annabeth said, "there's no rule against hovering over New Rome, is there?"

The statue frowned. "Well, no..."

"We can keep the ship aloft," Annabeth said. "We'll use a rope ladder to reach the forum. That way, the ship won't be on Roman soil. Not technically."

The statue seemed to ponder this...

"I like technicalities," he admitted. 

"Great, then you won't mind this." Percy said.

"Still..."

"All our weapons will stay aboard the ship," Annabeth promised. "I assume the Romans—even those reinforcements marching toward us—will also have to honor your rules inside the Pomerian Line if you tell them to?"

"Of course!" Terminus said. "Do I look like I tolerate rule breakers?"

"Uh, Annabeth..." Leo said. "You sure this is a good idea?"

"It's better than nothing." Annabeth murmured.

She closed her fists to keep them from shaking. That cold feeling was still there. It floated just behind her, and now that Terminus was no longer shouting and causing explosions, she thought she could hear the presence laughing, as if it was delighted by the bad choices she was making.

Annabeth stiffened. Seriously what is that?  Is it just in my head? How come the others haven't said they heard anything?

Clicking his pen, Leo grimaced.

But Percy was down there...he was so close. She had to reach him.

I've got to see how he's doing and how much he remembers. Annabeth thought desperately. The plan doesn't sound that bad. We both will be on the ground without any weapons and we could peacefully discuss forming an alliance. 

She still couldn't help but feel uneasy, but she ignored the feeling. I have Leo and the others with me, I'll fine. I have to see Percy.

"It'll be fine," she said. "No one will be armed. We can talk in peace. Terminus will make sure each side obeys the rules." She looked at the marble statue. 

Annabeth nodded along with this. 

"Do we have an agreement?"

Terminus sniffed. "I suppose. For now. You may climb down your ladder to New Rome, daughter of Athena. Please try not to destroy my town."

"No promises." Leo muttered under his breath.

"Finished." Connor said, causing Annabeth to sigh with relief.

She couldn't but feel a sense of pride that managed to get through the whole chapter despite what she heard. 

I can do this. she told herself. Just one more chapter, and I'll even get to hear about Percy!

She felt her heart race at that.

"Who wants to read next?"

"I will." Chris volunteered.

"Annabeth II,"