They each caught one of Tyson’s arms and stopped him cold. They pushed him back and Tyson stumbled. He fell to the carpet so hard the deck shook.
“Too bad, Cyclops,” Luke said. “Looks like my grizzly friends together are more than a match for your strength. Maybe I should let them—”
“Luke,” I cut in. “Listen to me. Your father sent us.”
His face turned the color of pepperoni. “Don’t— even— mention him.”
“He told us to take this boat. I thought it was just for a ride, but he sent us here to find you.
He told me he won’t give up on you, no matter how angry you are.”
“Angry?” Luke roared. ” Give up on me? He abandoned me, Percy! I want Olympus destroyed! Every throne crushed to rubble! You tell Hermes it’s going to happen, too. Each time a half-blood joins us, the Olympians grow weaker and we grow stronger. He grows stronger.” Luke pointed to the gold sarcophagus.
The box creeped me out, but I was determined not to show it. “So?” I demanded. “What’s so special …”
Then it hit me, what might be inside the sarcophagus. The temperature in the room seemed to drop twenty degrees. “Whoa, you don’t mean—”
“He is re-forming,” Luke said. “Little by little, we’re calling his life force out of the pit. With every recruit who pledges our cause, another small piece appears—”
“That’s disgusting!” Annabeth said.
Luke sneered at her. “Your mother was born from Zeus’s split skull, Annabeth. I wouldn’t talk. Soon there will be enough of the titan lord so that we can make him whole again. We will piece together a new body for him, a work worthy of the forges of Hephaestus.”
“You’re insane,” Annabeth said.
“Join us and you’ll be rewarded. We have powerful friends, sponsors rich enough to buy this cruise ship and much more. Percy, your mother will never have to work again. You can buy her a mansion. You can have power, fame—whatever you want. Annabeth, you can realize your dream of being an architect. You can build a monument to last a thousand years. A temple to the lords of the next age!”
“Go to Tartarus,” she said.
Luke sighed. “A shame.”
He picked up something that looked like a TV remote and pressed a red button. Within seconds the door of the stateroom opened and two uniformed crew members came in, armed with nightsticks. They had the same glassy-eyed look as the other mortals I’d seen, but I had a feeling this wouldn’t make them any less dangerous in a fight.
“Ah, good, security,” Luke said, “I’m afraid we have some stowaways.”
“Yes, sir,” they said dreamily.
Luke turned to Oreius. “It’s time to feed the Aethiopian drakon. Take these fools below and show them how it’s done.”
Oreius grinned stupidly. “Hehe! Hehe!”
“Let me go, too,” Agrius grumbled. “My brother is worthless. That Cyclops—”
“Is no threat,” Luke said. He glanced back at the golden casket, as if something were troubling him. “Agrius, stay here. We have important matters to discuss.”
“Oreius, don’t fail me. Stay in the hold to make sure the drakon is properly fed.”
Oreius prodded us with his javelin and herded us out of the stateroom, followed by the two human security guards.
As I walked down the corridor with Oreius’s javelin poking me in the back, I thought about what Luke had said—that the bear twins together were a match for Tyson’s strength. But maybe separately …
We exited the corridor amidships and walked across an open deck lined with lifeboats. I knew the ship well enough to realize this would be our last look at sunlight. Once we got to the other side, we’d take the elevator down into the hold, and that would be it.
I looked at Tyson and said, “Now.”
Thank the gods, he understood. He turned and smacked Oreius thirty feet backward into the swimming pool, right into the middle of the zombie tourist family.
“Ah!” the kids yelled in unison. “We are not having a blast in the pool!”
One of the security guards drew his nightstick, but Annabeth knocked the wind out of him with a well-placed kick. The other guard ran for the nearest alarm box.
“Stop him!” Annabeth yelled, but it was too late.
Just before I banged him on head with a deck chair, he hit the alarm.
Red lights flashed. Sirens wailed.
“Lifeboat!” I yelled.
We ran for the nearest one.
By the time we got the cover off, monsters and more security men were swarming the deck, pushing aside tourists and waiters with trays of tropical drinks. A guy in Greek armor drew his sword and charged, but slipped in a puddle of piña colada. Laistrygonian archers assembled on the deck above us, notching arrows in their enormous bows.
“How do you launch this thing?” screamed Annabeth.
A hellhound leaped at me, but Tyson slammed it aside with a fire extinguisher.
“Get in!” I yelled. I uncapped Riptide and slashed the first volley of arrows out of the air. Any second we would be overwhelmed.
The lifeboat was hanging over the side of the ship, high above the water. Annabeth and Tyson were having no luck with the release pulley.
I jumped in beside them.
“Hold on!” I yelled, and I cut the ropes.
A shower of arrows whistled over our heads as we free-fell toward the ocean.
Chapter Ten: We Hitch A Ride With Dead Confederates
“Thermos!” I screamed as we hurtled toward the water.
“What?” Annabeth must’ve thought I’d lost my mind. She was holding on to the boat straps for dear life, her hair flying straight up like a torch.
But Tyson understood. He managed to open my duffel bag and take out Hermes’s magical thermos without losing his grip on it or the boat.
Arrows and javelins whistled past us.
I grabbed the thermos and hoped I was doing the right thing. “Hang on!”
“I am hanging on!” Annabeth yelled.
I hooked my feet under the boat’s inflatable bench, and as Tyson grabbed Annabeth and me by the backs of our shirts, I gave the thermos cap a quarter turn.
Instantly, a white sheet of wind jetted out of the thermos and propelled us sideways, turning our downward plummet into a forty-five-degree crash landing.
The wind seemed to laugh as it shot from the thermos, like it was glad to be free. As we hit the ocean, we bumped once, twice, skipping like a stone, then we were whizzing along like a speed boat, salt spray in our faces and nothing but sea ahead.
I heard a wail of outrage from the ship behind us, but we were already out of weapon range.
The Princess Andromeda faded to the size of a white toy boat in the distance, and then it was gone.
As we raced over the sea, Annabeth and I tried to send an Iris-message to Chiron. We figured it was important we let somebody know what Luke was doing, and we didn’t know who else to trust.
The wind from the thermos stirred up a nice sea spray that made a rainbow in the sunlight—perfect for an Iris-message—but our connection was still poor. When Annabeth threw a gold drachma into the mist and prayed for the rainbow goddess to show us Chiron, his face appeared all right, but there was some kind of weird strobe light flashing in the background and rock music blaring, like he was at a dance club.
We told him about sneaking away from camp, and Luke and the Princess Andromeda and the golden box for Kronos’s remains, but between the noise on his end and the rushing wind and water on our end, I’m not sure how much he heard.
“Percy,” Chiron yelled, “you have to watch out for—”
His voice was drowned out by loud shouting behind him—a bunch of voices whooping it up like Comanche warriors.
“What?” I yelled.
“Curse my relatives!” Chiron ducked as a plate flew over his head and shattered somewhere out of sight. “Annabeth, you shouldn’t have let Percy leave camp! But if you do get the Fleece—”
“Yeah, baby!” somebody behind Chiron yelled. “Woo-hoooooo!”
The music got cranked up, subwoofers so loud it made our boat vibrate.
“—Miami,” Chiron was yelling. “I’ll try to keep watch—”
Our misty screen smashed apart like someone on the other side had thrown a bottle at it, and Chiron was gone.
An hour later we spotted land—a long stretch of beach lined with high-rise hotels. The water became crowded with fishing boats and tankers. A coast guard cruiser passed on our starboard side, then turned like it wanted a second look. I guess it isn’t every day they see a yellow lifeboat with no engine going a hundred knots an hour, manned by three kids.
“That’s Virginia Beach!” Annabeth said as we approached the shoreline. “Oh my gods, how did the Princess Andromeda travel so far overnight? That’s like—”
“Five hundred and thirty nautical miles,” I said.
She stared at me. “How did you know that?”
“I—I’m not sure.”
Annabeth thought for a moment. “Percy, what’s our position?”
“36 degrees, 44 minutes north, 76 degrees, 2 minutes west,” I said immediately. Then I shook my head. “Whoa. How did I know that?”
“Because of your dad,” Annabeth guessed. “When you’re at sea, you have perfect bearings. That is so cool.”
I wasn’t sure about that. I didn’t want to be a human GPS unit. But before I could say anything, Tyson tapped my shoulder. “Other boat is coming.”
I looked back. The coast guard vessel was definitely on our tail now. Its lights were flashing and it was gaining speed.
“We can’t let them catch us,” I said. “They’ll ask too many questions.”
“Keep going into Chesapeake Bay,” Annabeth said. “I know a place we can hide.”
I didn’t ask what she meant, or how she knew the area so well. I risked loosening the thermos cap a little more, and a fresh burst of wind sent us rocketing around the northern tip of Virginia Beach into Chesapeake Bay. The coast guard boat fell farther and farther behind. We didn’t slow down until the shores of the bay narrowed on either side, and I realized we’d entered the mouth of a river.
I could feel the change from salt water to fresh water. Suddenly I was tired and frazzled, like I was coming down off a sugar high. I didn’t know where I was anymore, or which way to steer the boat. It was a good thing Annabeth was directing me.
“There,” she said. “Past that sandbar.”
We veered into a swampy area choked with marsh grass. I beached the lifeboat at the foot of a giant cypress.
Vine-covered trees loomed above us. Insects chirred in the woods. The air was muggy and hot, and steam curled off the river. Basically, it wasn’t Manhattan, and I didn’t like it.
“Come on,” Annabeth said. “It’s just down the bank.”
“What is?” I asked.
“Just follow.” She grabbed a duffel bag. “And we’d better cover the boat. We don’t want to draw attention.”