I thought about Mrs. Dodds. "You mean if I killed one, accidentally, with a sword—"
"The Fur ... I mean, your math teacher. That's right. She's still out there. You just made her very, very mad."
"How did you know about Mrs. Dodds?"
"You talk in your sleep."
"You almost called her something. A Fury? They're Hades' torturers, right?"
Annabeth glanced nervously at the ground, as if she expected it to open up and swallow her. "You shouldn't call them by name, even here. We call them the Kindly Ones, if we have to speak of them at all."
"Look, is there anything we can say without it thundering?" I sounded whiny, even to myself, but right then I didn't care. "Why do I have to stay in cabin eleven, anyway? Why is everybody so crowded together? There are plenty of empty bunks right over there."
I pointed to the first few cabins, and Annabeth turned pale. "You don't just choose a cabin, Percy. It depends on who your parents are. Or ... your parent."
She stared at me, waiting for me to get it.
"My mom is Sally Jackson," I said. "She works at the candy store in Grand Central Station. At least, she used to."
"I'm sorry about your mom, Percy. But that's not what I mean. I'm talking about your other parent. Your dad."
"He's dead. I never knew him."
Annabeth sighed. Clearly, she'd had this conversation before with other kids. "Your father's not dead, Percy."
"How can you say that? You know him?"
"No, of course not."
"Then how can you say—"
"Because I know you. You wouldn't be here if you weren't one of us."
"You don't know anything about me."
"No?" She raised an eyebrow. "I bet you moved around from school to school. I bet you were kicked out of a lot of them."
"Diagnosed with dyslexia. Probably ADHD, too."
I tried to swallow my embarrassment. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Taken together, it's almost a sure sign. The letters float off the page when you read, right? That's because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the ADHD—you're impulsive, can't sit still in the classroom. That's your battlefield reflexes. In a real fight, they'd keep you alive. As for the attention problems, that's because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a regular mortal's. Of course the teachers want you medicated. Most of them are monsters. They don't want you seeing them for what they are."
"You sound like ... you went through the same thing?"
"Most of the kids here did. If you weren't like us, you couldn't have survived the Minotaur, much less the ambrosia and nectar."
"Ambrosia and nectar."
"The food and drink we were giving you to make you better. That stuff would've killed a normal kid. It would've turned your blood to fire and your bones to sand and you'd be dead. Face it. You're a half-blood."
I was reeling with so many questions I didn't know where to start.
Then a husky voice yelled, "Well! A newbie!"
I looked over. The big girl from the ugly red cabin was sauntering toward us. She had three other girls behind her, all big and ugly and mean looking like her, all wearing camo jackets.
"Clarisse," Annabeth sighed. "Why don't you go polish your spear or something?"
"Sure, Miss Princess," the big girl said. "So I can run you through with it Friday night."
''Erre es korakas!" Annabeth said, which I somehow understood was Greek for 'Go to the crows!' though I had a feeling it was a worse curse than it sounded. "You don't stand a chance."
"We'll pulverize you," Clarisse said, but her eye twitched. Perhaps she wasn't sure she could follow through on the threat. She turned toward me. "Who's this little runt?"
"Percy Jackson," Annabeth said, "meet Clarisse, Daughter of Ares."
I blinked. "Like ... the war god?"
Clarisse sneered. "You got a problem with that?"
"No," I said, recovering my wits. "It explains the bad smell."
Clarisse growled. "We got an initiation ceremony for newbies, Prissy."
"Whatever. Come on, I'll show you."
"Clarisse—" Annabeth tried to say.
"Stay out of it, wise girl."
Annabeth looked pained, but she did stay out of it, and I didn't really want her help. I was the new kid. I had to earn my own rep.
I handed Annabeth my minotaur horn and got ready to fight, but before I knew it, Clarisse had me by the neck and was dragging me toward a cinder-block building that I knew immediately was the bathroom.
I was kicking and punching. I'd been in plenty of fights before, but this big girl Clarisse had hands like iron. She dragged me into the girls' bathroom. There was a line of toilets on one side and a line of shower stalls down the other. It smelled just like any public bathroom, and I was thinking—as much as I could think with Clarisse ripping my hair out—that if this place belonged to the gods, they should've been able to afford classier johns.
Clarisse's friends were all laughing, and I was trying to find the strength I'd used to fight the Minotaur, but it just wasn't there.
"Like he's 'Big Three' material," Clarisse said as she pushed me toward one of the toilets. "Yeah, right. Minotaur probably fell over laughing, he was so stupid looking."
Her friends snickered.
Annabeth stood in the corner, watching through her fingers.
Clarisse bent me over on my knees and started pushing my head toward the toilet bowl. It reeked like rusted pipes and, well, like what goes into toilets. I strained to keep my head up. I was looking at the scummy water, thinking, I will not go into that. I won't.
Then something happened. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I heard the plumbing rumble, the pipes shudder. Clarisse's grip on my hair loosened. Water shot out of the toilet, making an arc straight over my head, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the bathroom tiles with Clarisse screaming behind me.
I turned just as water blasted out of the toilet again, hitting Clarisse straight in the face so hard it pushed her down onto her butt. The water stayed on her like the spray from a fire hose, pushing her backward into a shower stall.
She struggled, gasping, and her friends started coming toward her. But then the other toilets exploded, too, and six more streams of toilet water blasted them back. The showers acted up, too, and together all the fixtures sprayed the camouflage girls right out of the bathroom, spinning them around like pieces of garbage being washed away.
As soon as they were out the door, I felt the tug in my gut lessen, and the water shut off as quickly as it had started.
The entire bathroom was flooded. Annabeth hadn't been spared. She was dripping wet, but she hadn't been pushed out the door. She was standing in exactly the same place, staring at me in shock.
I looked down and realized I was sitting in the only dry spot in the whole room. There was a circle of dry floor around me. I didn't have one drop of water on my clothes. Nothing.
I stood up, my legs shaky.
Annabeth said, "How did you ..."
"I don't know."
We walked to the door. Outside, Clarisse and her friends were sprawled in the mud, and a bunch of other campers had gathered around to gawk. Clarisse's hair was flattened across her face. Her camouflage jacket was sopping and she smelled like sewage. She gave me a look of absolute hatred. "You are dead, new boy. You are totally dead."
I probably should have let it go, but I said, "You want to gargle with toilet water again, Clarisse? Close your mouth."
Her friends had to hold her back. They dragged her toward cabin five, while the other campers made way to avoid her flailing feet.
Annabeth stared at me. I couldn't tell whether she was just grossed out or angry at me for dousing her.
"What?" I demanded. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking," she said, "that I want you on my team for capture the flag."
7. MY DINNER GOES UP IN SMOKE
Word of the bathroom incident spread immediately. Wherever I went, campers pointed at me and murmured something about toilet water. Or maybe they were just staring at Annabeth, who was still pretty much dripping wet.
She showed me a few more places: the metal shop (where kids were forging their own swords), the arts-and-crafts room (where satyrs were sandblasting a giant marble statue of a goat-man), and the climbing wall, which actually consisted of two facing walls that shook violently, dropped boulders, sprayed lava, and clashed together if you didn't get to the top fast enough.
Finally we returned to the canoeing lake, where the trail led back to the cabins.
"I've got training to do," Annabeth said flatly. "Dinner's at seven-thirty. Just follow your cabin to the mess hall."
"Annabeth, I'm sorry about the toilets."
"It wasn't my fault."
She looked at me skeptically, and I realized it was my fault. I'd made water shoot out of the bathroom fixtures. I didn't understand how. But the toilets had responded to me. I had become one with the plumbing.
"You need to talk to the Oracle," Annabeth said.
"Not who. What. The Oracle. I'll ask Chiron."
I stared into the lake, wishing somebody would give me a straight answer for once.
I wasn't expecting anybody to be looking back at me from the bottom, so my heart skipped a beat when I noticed two teenage girls sitting cross-legged at the base of the pier, about twenty feet below. They wore blue jeans and shimmering green T-shirts, and their brown hair floated loose around their shoulders as minnows darted in and out. They smiled and waved as if I were a long-lost friend.
I didn't know what else to do. I waved back.
"Don't encourage them," Annabeth warned. "Naiads are terrible flirts."
"Naiads," I repeated, feeling completely overwhelmed. "That's it. I want to go home now."
Annabeth frowned. "Don't you get it, Percy? You are home. This is the only safe place on earth for kids like us."
"You mean, mentally disturbed kids?"
"I mean not human. Not totally human, anyway. Half-human."
"Half-human and half-what?"
"I think you know."
I didn't want to admit it, but I was afraid I did. I felt a tingling in my limbs, a sensation I sometimes felt when my mom talked about my dad.
"God," I said. "Half-god."
Annabeth nodded. "Your father isn't dead, Percy. He's one of the Olympians."
"That's ... crazy."
"Is it? What's the most common thing gods did in the old stories? They ran around falling in love with humans and having kids with them. Do you think they've changed their habits in the last few millennia?"
"But those are just—" I almost said myths again. Then I remembered Chiron's warning that in two thousand years, I might be considered a myth. "But if all the kids here are half-gods—"
"Demigods," Annabeth said. "That's the official term. Or half-bloods."
"Then who's your dad?"
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