Chapter Eight: Hero to Zero
Chapter Eight: Hero to Zero
The light filtered through the curtains as the alarm clock squawked incessantly. Annabeth reached out a hand and slammed it down on the offending item. The clock emitted a strange screech and Annabeth looked up. The sides of the alarm had fallen off and it looked like it had been flattened with a hammer. She groaned and put her head back down onto the pillow; it was way too early for this.
A few minutes later, a smell began to seep into her room. Her nose twitched. She lifted up her head curiously and sniffed; the smell was light, airy with a mixture of a meat of some sort? She sat up fully and smiled before stumbling around the room in her haste and putting on her clothes automatically. Gods, she was hungry! As her stomach twisted, Annabeth felt faintly guilty at doing something so normal after Percy was gone. Sighing, shaking her head, she ran a brush through her hair and, upon seeing the small temple of make-up in the bathroom (a subtle hint left by Hecate no doubt); she grudgingly applied some light foundation before bounding out of the door and down the stairs, her guilt firmly shoved down into a deep dark corner of her soul. Her feet made no sound as padded with soft, quick steps into the kitchen. She smiled as she saw the stack of pancakes and bacon Joyce had made; she’d been right about the food.
After a hurried breakfast, Hank was running around like a headless chicken trying to find a very important piece of paper that could apparently make or break his career, Annabeth was dropped off at Hemery High School by Joyce Summers. The main building of the high school was grand but, cheap in Annabeth’s opinion. There wasn’t any history to it and it just looked like a bad copy to her. Although she was a bit of a purist when it came to architecture, Annabeth would be the first to admit that.
She gazed up at the building which looked like the Town hall in ‘Back to the Future’. Percy had made her watch it before…She closed her eyes and pushed away thoughts of him. The riotous noise of streams of students talking and laughing in the summer sun as they entered the building echoed almost in her ears; they sounded happy and carefree. Annabeth thought she might have a problem with behaving like that. However the ring on her thumb warmed slightly hotter than was usual and she thrust down her fears; Hecate would be watching her today. Suddenly someone bashed into her and Annabeth’s eyes snapped open to see a boy with lank brown hair in a black leather jacket brush past her. Her fake memories reared upwards in her vulnerable state and she instinctively snapped,
“Watch where you’re going, Oliver!” Annabeth closed her mouth quickly, shocked at the venom in her voice. The boy, Oliver, stopped and turned around slowly. The demigod immediately began analyzing him. He wasn’t tanned like most of the LA people she’d seen, he stood out in this school because of his ragged clothes and mostly he gave off the aura of misfit. Annabeth could sympathize. However there was darkness in his eyes that made her retract any kind feelings towards him, she had a feeling that he wouldn’t appreciate it.
“I’m so sorry, your majesty. Please forgive me.” His voice was cruel and mocking and the boy by him, Benny Jacks if Hecate’s memory implant worked correctly, laughed in a hyena-like fashion. Annabeth looked at him and saw the darkness retreat in his eyes and flash of regret appear. So not a complete lost cause then, she mused.
“Well since you say it so nicely, I’ll let you off just this once.” Annabeth hadn’t had to reach down deeply for the bitchiness. She was strangely okay with that. Pike frowned slightly and the ring on her finger warmed again. Oh, yeah. She had to be bitchy but in character as Buffy.
“Anyway, don’t you have somewhere to be? Like drinking with Benny in the park like you normally are?” Annabeth recovered quickly and the surprise faded from Pike’s face. He retorted quickly.
“You just don’t know how to have fun Summers, cause of that stick stuffed up your ass.” Pike turned and left, Benny running after him. The young demigod watched him go and sighed before turning back to the object of her misery; Hemery High School.
This was her freshman year and she was already ruling her year with a pair of iron stilettos. Apparently ‘Buffy’ was popular enough that nobody had tried a coup since middle school which she had dealt with ruthlessly; the main instigators were still social outcasts. Annabeth sighed again. She was also on the Cheer-leading Team which she disliked for the reason that she didn’t particularly care about whether sport’s crowds were ‘cheery’ or not. The daughter of Athena looked up at the grand facade of her new school and grimaced. She had a feeling this day was going to suck.
Annabeth limped in through the door and dropped her bags heavily on the ground. She hadn’t been wrong in her prediction. School had been mind-numbingly boring because she had to act like an idiot, why did she have to be a stereotypical blonde cheerleader? Couldn’t she have been an all-rounder?
The demigod shook her head and limped towards the kitchen. Not that being a physical perfectionist had helped; she’d still been dropped from the top of the pyramid. Probably because having the memories of a cheerleader and actually being a cheerleader were actually quite different. Still, at least the incident had given Annabeth more information to build up a picture of what she was becoming; she’d been dropped from at least three meters and in an awkward position, she should have broken something, she would have broken something a year ago.
After school though she’d had to walk home and her leg was beginning to feel the strain. Annabeth knew from her fake memories that Joyce usually picked her up after practice but a note had been delivered from the school office. Joyce Summers couldn’t pick her up today. Annabeth had been worried, even though she was still annoyed with the woman because of her reaction to Hank’s words the previous night.
“Mom? You home?” she called out, walking towards the kitchen. Her….relative should be in there and Annabeth just wanted to make sure she was okay before taking a long warm bath to ease the muscles in her leg.
“I’m in the kitchen dear!” replied Joyce, her voice wavering as though she was crying, and Annabeth frowned. She ignored the strain in her leg and burst into the kitchen. The sight that greeted her caused her to freeze on the spot. Thalia and an older, but recognizable, version of Artemis were standing in the kitchen whilst Joyce Summers looked as though the world had fallen down around her ears. The young demigod could understand the feeling all too well. She mentally prepared herself and rushed over to her Mom.
“Mom! Mom, what’s wrong?” She allowed the franticness she had felt when she saw Thalia leak into her voice. Mrs Summers smiled weakly and out of Annabeth’s periphery vision, she saw Artemis and Thalia retreat a few steps.
“I have some bad news for you sweetheart,” Annabeth’s worry increased and her mind cast back to how tired her dad, Frederick Chase, had looked when she last saw him, “your cousin, Annabeth has disappeared.” Annabeth froze again but not because of the shock, she felt a lot like Tom Sawyer must have felt when he went to his own funeral. The grim thought stuck in her mind. Would she have to go to her own funeral? And see her Dad and her Mom and Clarisse grieve her? Gods I hope not, she thought. “I know this must be a shock for you sweetheart but,” Annabeth interrupted her.
“When, um when did she…go?” Joyce frowned at the question but Artemis answered her.
“Two days ago but she has access to a considerable…resource and she had mentioned coming to LA before.” Annabeth turned to the goddess, and feeling rather sick, spoke again.
“Um, uh, no offense lady but who are you? And why are you here? Shouldn’t the police be investigating this?” She saw Thalia’s electric blue eyes narrow in suspicion and she winced mentally. Was she too put together? Should she be crying? Artemis didn’t show any indication of her mood on her face but Annabeth noted her hands clench slightly.
“I am Annabeth’s aunt on her biological mother’s side, Thalia is my younger sister. We came here because we were hoping to find her here with family; she hasn’t been missing long enough for the police to be involved.” Her voice had a sharp edge to it. Ah, she hadn’t been outwardly upset enough. Although hearing Lady Artemis claim her as a niece was saddening on many levels; Lady Artemis was upset enough to help her Mother, then Annabeth couldn’t help but worry about Athena. Why did I make that stupid deal? Her mind roared like a wounded animal and it wasn’t too much effort for her to make her face crumple with grief. Annabeth turned her face away, eyes wet, from Artemis and her piercing eyes and gently placed a hand on her Mom’s shoulder.
“I, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have leaped down your throat like that. Mom?” Joyce Summers looked up into her face, and Annabeth could see the worry that made her heart clench there.
“I’m just going to check my email. Maybe she’s sent something.” Annabeth squeezed her Mom’s shoulder, gave her a watery smile before brushing past Thalia as she left the kitchen.
Grabbing her bags from the hallway she rushed up the stairs, her leg throbbing with pain. It was easier to focus on that pain than her internal pain. How could she have been so blind? She hadn’t fully realized the consequences of her actions before. Oh Gods, would they ever forgive her for this?
Annabeth opened the door to her room and shut it behind her quietly so as not to disturb the guests downstairs. She dumped the bags on the floor and turned on her computer before sitting down on the edge of the bed and placing her head in her hands. The room was deathly quiet. She could hear her heartbeat and the steady thud-thud in her ears. She breathed in deeply and the smell of old perfume mixed with dust filled her nostrils. The room didn’t smell like it was hers. Her stomach roiled and she hunched over, trying hard not to be sick.
Thalia, her best friend, was downstairs. She couldn’t speak to her though; she couldn’t tell her what had happened. Thalia was never going to forgive her for this. The ring on her finger warmed and Annabeth took it as the warning it was. Why had she made that deal? Suddenly she heard light footsteps on the stairs and her head snapped up as Artemis came bursting through the door. The ring lost its warmth in a heartbeat and Annabeth hid it in a closed fist as the Olympian viewed the room suspiciously.
“Yeah, can I help you?” She asked, a bit bitchy, but the underlying meanness was mitigated by her voice; she definitely sounded like she’d been crying. Lady Artemis’ stance went from fighting ready to in control very smoothly. She stepped further into the room and Annabeth could see her eyes darting around, looking for something. The young demigod tightened her grip on the ring; she had a feeling she knew what the goddess was looking for.
“I’m sorry, I just wondered if you had an email from Annabeth yet?” Her face was guileless but Annabeth still allowed a look of suspicion to flash across her face. Just accepting Artemis’ arrival would be too oblivious even for the mortal she was supposed to be.
“No, no I haven’t.” Artemis was still checking out the room so Annabeth decided to give her a few more moments to look around.
“Were you close to Annabeth? She never really talks about her bio-mom’s family.” The goddess was still obviously distracted but she answered as she scanned the room.
“I knew of her and her Mother speaks of her often to me but I only met her in person for a few days about a year and a half ago. Thalia is much closer to Annabeth than I.” Finally, Artemis relaxed, well as much as a goddess of the Hunt ever did, and fixed her piercing eyes on Annabeth; the young demigod felt another wave of guilt.
“However, I do care for her. She is a member of my family and I will help with the search for as long as I am able.” The daughter of Athena tried not to wince, that comment was like someone twisting a knife in her gut. Artemis turned to leave and Annabeth spoke up without thinking.
“Um, when you find her, can you tell her something from me?” Lady Artemis paused and Annabeth continued, rushing her words.
“Please, please tell her that what she did was wrong and that she will be sorry about it in the years to come. I know it doesn’t make any sense and sounds really harsh but she’ll get it. It was based on a conversation we had, um, recently.” The goddess of the Hunt faced her again and Annabeth froze, half fearful and half hoping, there was something searching in those eyes. Whatever it was faded and Artemis nodded before leaving. Annabeth heard her walk down the stairs, she heard the farewells exchanged and finally she heard the door close with a very definite click. She placed her head back in her hands and began to cry, not loud sobs but small, grief-filled tears. Why had she made that deal?
Lady Artemis and Thalia were walking away from the Summers’ home. The daughter of Zeus looked over at her Mistress. The goddess of the Hunt looked…well…demoralized if Thalia had to pick a word. Her look couldn’t only have been to do with the news they had delivered. Joyce Summers had been heartbroken and Buffy (Mrs Summers went down in Thalia’s estimation for choosing a name like that) had been upset as well. The way the younger Summers had behaved rang faint bells in Thalia’s mind but she didn’t know why. She sighed out loud and her head drooped. Maybe Lady Artemis wasn’t the only one feeling demoralized.
“There was something strange about that girl.” Artemis said suddenly. Thalia’s head jerked up as she turned it to look at her Mistress.
“Strange, Ma’am?” Artemis’ stride lengthened and Thalia hurried so she could keep up.
“Yes. Strange. I thought for a second that I felt…” the goddess shook and her head and exhaled slightly more noisily than normal, “perhaps I am growing old, for there was no evidence for what I felt.”
“What was it you could feel my lady?” The daughter of Zeus asked, intrigued. Artemis stopped suddenly and looked back in the direction of the Summers’ house, but her eyes seemed to stare far beyond that small plot of land. The goddess turned back to Thalia, her eyes worn and tired.
“It was nothing, Lieutenant. It was nothing.”
AN: Sorry for the long wait…but enjoy?