- The Hidden Oracle
Also…did I mention that the hundred-foot statue was entirely nude? Well, of course it was. Gods are almost always depicted as nude, because we are flawless beings. Why would you cover up perfection? Still, it was a little disconcerting to see my buck-naked self stomping around, slamming a ship’s rudder at Camp Half-Blood.
As we approached the Colossus, I bellowed loudly, “IMPOSTER! I AM THE REAL APOLLO! YOU’RE UGLY!”
Oh, dear reader, it was hard to yell such words at my own handsome visage, but I did. Such was my courage.
The Colossus did not like being insulted. As Mama and her soldiers veered away, the statue swung its rudder upward.
Have you ever collided with a bomber? I had a sudden flashback to Dresden in 1945, when the planes were so thick in the air, I literally could not find a safe lane to drive in. The axle on the sun chariot was out of alignment for weeks after that.
I realized the ants were not fast enough fliers to escape the rudder’s reach. I saw catastrophe approaching in slow motion. At the last possible moment, I yelled, “Dive!”
We plunged straight down. The rudder only clipped the ants’ wings—but it was enough to send us spiraling toward the beach.
I was grateful for soft sand.
I ate quite a bit of it when we crash-landed.
By sheer luck, none of us died, though Kayla and Austin had to pull me to my feet.
“Are you okay?” Austin asked.
“Fine,” I said. “We must hurry.”
The Colossus stared down at us, perhaps trying to discern whether we were dying in agony yet or needed some additional pain. I had wanted to get his attention, and I had succeeded. Huzzah.
I glanced at Mama and her soldiers, who were shaking the sand off their carapaces. “Thank you. Now save yourselves. Fly!”
They did not need to be told twice. I suppose ants have a natural fear of large humanoids looming over them, about to squash them with a heavy foot. Mama and her guards buzzed into the sky.
Miranda looked after them. “I never thought I’d say this about bugs, but I’m going to miss those guys.”
“Hey!” called Nico di Angelo. He and Will scrambled over the dunes, still dripping from their swim in the canoe lake.
“What’s the plan?” Will seemed calm, but I knew him well enough by now to tell that inside he was as charged as a bare electrical wire.
The statue strode toward us. One more step, and it would be on top of us.
“Isn’t there a control valve on its ankle?” Ellis asked. “If we can open it—”
“No,” I said. “You’re thinking of Talos. This is not Talos.”
Nico brushed his dark wet hair from his forehead. “Then what?”
I had a lovely view of the Colossus’s nose. Its nostrils were sealed with bronze…I supposed because Nero hadn’t wanted his detractors trying to shoot arrows into his imperial noggin.
Kayla grabbed my arm. “Apollo, what’s wrong?”
Arrows into the Colossus’s head. Oh, gods, I had an idea that would never, ever work. However, it seemed better than our other option, which was to be crushed under a two-ton bronze foot.
“Will, Kayla, Austin,” I said, “come with me.”
“And Nico,” said Nico. “I have a doctor’s note.”
“Fine!” I said. “Ellis, Cecil, Miranda—do whatever you can to keep the Colossus’s attention.”
The shadow of an enormous foot darkened the sand.
“Now!” I yelled. “Scatter!”
I love me some plague
When it’s on the right arrow
Ka-bam! You dead, bro?
SCATTERING WAS THE EASY PART. They did that very well.
Miranda, Cecil, and Ellis ran in different directions, screaming insults at the Colossus and waving their arms. This bought the rest of us a few seconds as we sprinted for the dunes, but I suspected the Colossus would soon enough come after me. I was, after all, the most important and attractive target.
I pointed toward Sherman Yang’s chariot, which was still circling the statue’s legs in a vain attempt to electrocute its kneecaps. “We need to commandeer that chariot!”
“How?” Kayla asked.
I was about to admit I had no idea when Nico di Angelo grabbed Will’s hand and stepped into my shadow. Both boys evaporated. I had forgotten about the power of shadow-traveling—the way children of the Underworld could step into one shadow and appear from another, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Hades used to love sneaking up on me that way and yelling, “HI!” just as I shot an arrow of death. He found it amusing if I missed my target and accidentally wiped out the wrong city.