"Awwww!" the whole Hermes cabin complained.
"Silena, take the Aphrodite crew to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel."
"Oh my gods," one of her sisters said. "Fifth Avenue is so on our way! We could accessorize, and monsters, like, totally hate the smell of Givenchy."
"No delays," I said. "Well . . . the perfume thing, if you think it'll work."
Six Aphrodite girls kissed me on the cheek in excitement.
"All right, enough!" I closed my eyes, trying to think of what I'd forgotten. "The Holland Tunnel. Jake, take the Hephaestus cabin there. Use Greek fire, set traps. Whatever you've got."
He grinned. "Gladly. We've got a score to settle. For Beckendorf!"
The whole cabin roared in approval.
"The 59th Street Bridge," I said. "Clarisse—"
I faltered. Clarisse wasn't here. The whole Ares cabin, curse them, was sitting back at camp.
"We'll take that," Annabeth stepped in, saving me from an embarrassing silence. She turned to her siblings. "Malcolm, take the Athena cabin, activate plan twenty-three along the way, just like I showed you. Hold that position."
"You got it."
"I'll go with Percy," she said. "Then we'll join you, or we'll go wherever we're needed."
Somebody in the back of the group said, "No detours, you two."
There were some giggles, but I decided to let it pass.
"All right," I said. "Keep in touch with cell phones."
"We don't have cell phones," Silena protested.
I reached down, picked up some snoring lady's BlackBerry, and tossed it to Silena. "You do now. You all know Annabeth's number, right? If you need us, pick up a random phone and call us. Use it once, drop it, then borrow another one if you have to. That should make it harder for the monsters to zero in on you."
Everyone grinned as though they liked this idea.
Travis cleared his throat. "Uh, if we find a really nice phone—"
"No, you can't keep it," I said.
"Hold it, Percy," Jake Mason said. "You forgot the Lincoln Tunnel."
I bit back a curse. He was right. A Sherman tank and a hundred monsters were marching through that tunnel right now, and I'd positioned our forces everywhere else.
Then a girl's voice called from across the street: "How about you leave that to us?"
I'd never been happier to hear anyone in my life. A band of thirty adolescent girls crossed Fifth Avenue. They wore white shirts, silvery camouflage pants, and combat boots. They all had swords at their sides, quivers on their backs, and bows at the ready. A pack of white timber wolves milled around their feet, and many of the girls had hunting falcons on their arms.
The girl in the lead had spiky black hair and a black leather jacket. She wore a silver circlet on her head like a princess's tiara, which didn't match her skull earrings or her Death to Barbie T-shirt showing a little Barbie doll with an arrow through its head.
"Thalia!" Annabeth cried.
The daughter of Zeus grinned. "The Hunters of Artemis, reporting for duty."
There were hugs and greetings all around . . . or at least Thalia was friendly. The other Hunters didn't like being around campers, especially boys, but they didn't shoot any of us, which for them was a pretty warm welcome.
"Where have you been the last year?" I asked Thalia. "You've got like twice as many Hunters now!"
She laughed. "Long, long story. I bet my adventures were more dangerous than yours, Jackson."
"Complete lie," I said.
"We'll see," she promised. "After this is over, you, Annabeth, and me: cheeseburgers and fries at that hotel on West 57th."
"Le Parker Meridien," I said. "You're on. And Thalia, thanks."
She shrugged. "Those monsters won't know what hit them. Hunters, move out!"
She slapped her silver bracelet, and the shield Aegis spiraled into full form. The golden head of Medusa molded in the center was so horrible, the campers all backed away. The Hunters took off down the avenue, followed by their wolves and falcons, and I had a feeling the Lincoln Tunnel would be safe for now.
"Thank the gods," Annabeth said. "But if we don't blockade the rivers from those boats, guarding the bridges and tunnels will be pointless."
"You're right," I said.
I looked at the campers, all of them grim and determined. I tried not to feel like this was the last time I'd ever see them all together.
"You're the greatest heroes of this millennium," I told them. "It doesn't matter how many monsters come at you. Fight bravely, and we will win." I raised Riptide and shouted, "FOR OLYMPUS!"
They shouted in response, and our forty voices echoed off the buildings of Midtown. For a moment it sounded brave, but it died quickly in the silence of ten million sleeping New Yorkers.
Annabeth and I would've had our pick of cars, but they were all wedged in bumper-to-bumper traffic. None of the engines were running, which was weird. It seemed the drivers had had time to turn off the ignition before they got too sleepy. Or maybe Morpheus had the power to put engines to sleep as well. Most of the drivers had apparently tried to pull to the curb when they felt themselves passing out, but still the streets were too clogged to navigate.
Finally we found an unconscious courier leaning against a brick wall, still straddling his red Vespa. We dragged him off the scooter and laid him on the sidewalk.
"Sorry, dude," I said. With any luck, I'd be able to bring his scooter back. If I didn't, it would hardly matter, because the city would be destroyed.
I drove with Annabeth behind me holding on to my waist. We zigzagged down Broadway with our engine buzzing through the eerie calm. The only sounds were occasional cell phones ringing—like they were calling out to each other, as if New York had turned into a giant electronic aviary.
Our progress was slow. Every so often we'd come across pedestrians who'd fallen asleep right in front of a car, and we'd move them just to be safe. Once we stopped to extinguish a pretzel vendor's cart that had caught on fire. A few minutes later we had to rescue a baby carriage that was rolling aimlessly down the street. It turned out there was no baby in it—just somebody's sleeping poodle. Go figure. We parked it safely in a doorway and kept riding.
We were passing Madison Square Park when Annabeth said, "Pull over."
I stopped in the middle of East 23rd. Annabeth jumped off and ran toward the park. By the time I caught up with her, she was staring at a bronze statue on a red marble pedestal. I'd probably passed it a million times but never really looked at it.
The dude was sitting in a chair with his legs crossed. He wore an old-fashioned suit—Abraham Lincoln style—with a bow tie and long coattails and stuff. A bunch of bronze books were piled under his chair. He held a writing quill in one hand and a big metal sheet of parchment in the other.
"Why do we care about . . ." I squinted at the name on the pedestal. "William H. Steward?"
"Seward," Annabeth corrected. "He was a New York governor. Minor demigod—son of Hebe, I think. But that's not important. It's the statue I care about."
She climbed on a park bench and examined the base of the statue.
"Don't tell me he's an automaton," I said.
Annabeth smiled. "Turns out most of the statues in the city are automatons. Daedalus planted them here just in case he needed an army."
"To attack Olympus or defend it?"
Annabeth shrugged. "Either one. That was plan twenty-three. He could activate one statue and it would start activating its brethren all over the city, until there was an army. It's dangerous, though. You know how unpredictable automatons are."
"Uh-huh," I said. We'd had our share of bad experiences with them. "You're seriously thinking about activating it?"
"I have Daedalus's notes," she said. "I think I can . . . Ah, here we go."
She pressed the tip of Seward's boot, and the statue stood up, its quill and paper ready.
"What's he going to do?" I muttered. "Take a memo?"
"Shh," Annabeth. "Hello, William."
"Bill," I suggested.
"Bill . . . Oh, shut up," Annabeth told me. The statue tilted its head, looking at us with blank metal eyes.
Annabeth cleared her throat. "Hello, er, Governor Seward. Command sequence: Daedalus Twenty-three. Defend Manhattan. Begin Activation."
Seward jumped off his pedestal. He hit the ground so hard his shoes cracked the sidewalk. Then he went clanking off toward the east.
"He's probably going to wake up Confucius," Annabeth guessed.
"What?" I said.
"Another statue, on Division. The point is, they'll keep waking each other up until they're all activated."
"Hopefully, they defend Manhattan."
"Do they know that we're not the enemy?"
"I think so."
"That's reassuring." I thought about all the bronze statues in the parks, plazas, and buildings of New York. There had to be hundreds, maybe thousands.
Then a ball of green light exploded in the evening sky. Greek fire, somewhere over the East River.
"We have to hurry," I said. And we ran for the Vespa.
We parked outside Battery Park, at the lower tip of Manhattan where the Hudson and East Rivers came together and emptied into the bay.
"Wait here," I told Annabeth.
"Percy, you shouldn't go alone."
"Well, unless you can breathe underwater . . ."
She sighed. "You are so annoying sometimes."
"Like when I'm right? Trust me, I'll be fine. I've got the curse of Achilles now. I'll all invincible and stuff."
Annabeth didn't look convinced. "Just be careful. I don't want anything to happen to you. I mean, because we need you for the battle."
I grinned. "Back in a flash."
I clambered down the shoreline and waded into the water.
Just for you non-sea-god types out there, don't go swimming in New York Harbor. It may not be as filthy as it was in my mom's day, but that water will still probably make you grow a third eye or have mutant children when you grow up.
I dove into the murk and sank to the bottom. I tried to find the spot where the two rivers' currents seemed equal—where they met to form the bay. I figured that was the best place to get their attention.
"HEY!" I shouted in my best underwater voice. The sound echoed in the darkness. "I heard you guys are so polluted you're embarrassed to show your faces. Is that true?"
A cold current rippled through the bay, churning up plumes of garbage and silt.
"I heard the East River is more toxic," I continued, "but the Hudson smells worse. Or is it the other way around?"
The water shimmered. Something powerful and angry was watching me now. I could sense its presence . . . or maybe two presences.
I was afraid I'd miscalculated with the insults. What if they just blasted me without showing themselves? But these were New York river gods. I figured their instinct would be to get in my face.
Sure enough, two giant forms appeared in front of me. At first they were just dark brown columns of silt, denser than the water around them. Then they grew legs, arms, and scowling faces.
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