And they dropped like stones.
They hit the roof of the largest warehouse and crashed through into darkness.
Unfortunately, Piper tried to land on her feet. Her feet didn’t like that. Pain flared in her left ankle as she crumpled against a cold metal surface.
For a few seconds she wasn’t conscious of anything but pain—pain so bad that her ears rang and her vision went red.
Then she heard Jason’s voice somewhere below, echoing through the building. “Piper! Where’s Piper?”
“Ow, bro!” Leo groaned. “That’s my back! I’m not a sofa! Piper, where’d you go?”
“Here,” she managed, her voice a whimper.
She heard shuffling and grunting, then feet pounding on metal steps.
Her vision began to clear. She was on a metal catwalk that ringed the warehouse interior. Leo and Jason had landed on ground level, and were now coming up the stairs toward her. She looked at her foot, and wave of nausea swept over her. Her toes weren’t supposed to point that way, were they?
Oh, god. She forced herself to look away before she threw up. Focus on something else. Anything else.
The hole they’d made in the roof was a ragged starburst twenty feet above. How they’d even survived that drop, she had no idea. Hanging from the ceiling, a few electric bulbs flickered dimly, but they didn’t do much to light the enormous space. Next to Piper, the corrugated metal wall was emblazoned with a company logo, but it was almost completely spray-painted over with graffiti. Down in the shadowy warehouse, she could make out huge machines, robotic arms, half-finished trucks on an assembly line. The place looked like it had been abandoned for years.
Jason and Leo reached her side.
Leo started to ask, “You okay … ?” Then he saw her foot. “Oh no, you’re not.”
“Thanks for the reassurance,” Piper groaned.
“You’ll be fine,” Jason said, though Piper could hear the worry in his voice. “Leo, you got any first aid supplies?”
“Yeah—yeah, sure.” He dug around in his tool belt and pulled out a wad of gauze and a roll of duct tape—both of which seemed too big for the belt’s pockets. Piper had noticed the tool belt yesterday morning, but she hadn’t thought to ask Leo about it. It didn’t look like anything special—just one of those wraparound leather aprons with a bunch of pockets, like a blacksmith or a carpenter might wear. And it seemed to be empty.
“How did you—” Piper tried to sit up, and winced. “How did pull that stuff from an empty belt?”
“Magic,” Leo said. “Haven’t figure it out completely, but I can summon just about any regular tool out of the pockets, plus some other helpful stuff.” He reached into another pocket and pulled out a little tin box. “Breath mint?”
Jason snatched away the mints. “That’s great, Leo. Now, can you fix her foot?”
“I’m a mechanic, man. Maybe if she was a car …” He snapped his fingers. “Wait, what was that godly healing stuffthey fed you at camp—Rambo food?”
“Ambrosia, dummy,” Piper said through gritted teeth. “There should be some in my bag, if it’s not crushed.”
Jason carefully pulled her backpack off her shoulders. He rummaged through the supplies the Aphrodite kids had packed for her, and found a Ziploc full of smashed pastry squares like lemon bars. He broke off a piece and fed it to her.
The taste was nothing like she expected. It reminded her of Dad’s black bean soup from when she was a little girl. He used to feed it to her whenever she got sick. The memory relaxed her, though it made her sad. The pain in her ankle subsided.
“More,” she said.
Jason frowned. “Piper, we shouldn’t risk it. They said too much could burn you up. I think I should try to set your foot.”
Piper’s stomach fluttered. “Have you ever done that before?”
“Yeah … I think so.”
Leo found an old piece of wood and broke it in half for a splint. Then he got the gauze and duct tape ready.
“Hold her leg still,” Jason told him. “Piper, this is going to hurt.”
When Jason set the foot, Piper flinched so hard she punched Leo in the arm, and he yelled almost as much as she did. When her vision cleared and she could breathe normally again, she found that her foot was pointing the right way, her ankle splinted with plywood, gauze, and duct tape.
“Ow,” she said.
“Jeez, beauty queen!” Leo rubbed his arm. “Glad my face wasn’t there.”
“Sorry,” she said. “And don’t call me ‘beauty queen,’ or I’ll punch you again.”
“You both did great.” Jason found a canteen in Piper’s pack and gave her some water. After a few minutes, her stomach began to calm down.
Once she wasn’t screaming in pain, she could hear the wind howling outside. Snowflakes fluttered through the hole in the roof, and after their meeting with Khione, snow was the last thing Piper wanted to see.
“What happened to the dragon?” she asked. “Where are we?”
Leo’s expression turned sullen. “I don’t know with Festus. He just jerked sideways like he hit an invisible wall and started to fall.”
Piper remembered Enceladus’s warning: I’ll show you how easily your rebellious spirit can be brought to earth. Had he managed to strike them down from so far away? It seemed impossible. If he were that powerful, why would he need her to betray her friends when he could just kill them himself? And how could the giant be keeping an eye on her in a snowstorm thousands of miles away?
Leo pointed to the logo on the wall. “As far as where we are …” It was hard to see through the graffiti, but Piper could make out a large red eye with the stenciled words: monocle motors, assembly plant 1.
“Closed car plant,” Leo said. “I’m guessing we crash-landed in Detroit.”
Piper had heard about closed car plants in Detroit, so that made sense. But it seemed like a pretty depressing place to land. “How far is that from Chicago?”
Jason handed her the canteen. “Maybe three-fourths of the way from Quebec? The thing is, without the dragon, we’re stuck traveling overland.”
“No way,” Leo said. “It isn’t safe.”
Piper thought about the way the ground had pulled at her feet in the dream, and what King Boreas had said about the earth yielding up more horrors. “He’s right. Besides, I don’t know if I can walk. And three people—Jason, you can’t fly that many across country by yourself.”
“No way,” Jason said. “Leo, are you sure the dragon didn’t malfunction? I mean, Festus is old, and—”
“And I might not have repaired him right?”
“I didn’t say that,” Jason protested. “It’s just—maybe you could fix it.”
“I don’t know.” Leo sounded crestfallen. He pulled a few screws out of his pockets and started fiddling with them. “I’d have to find where he landed, if he’s even in one piece.”
“It was my fault.” Piper said without thinking. She just couldn’t stand it anymore. The secret about her father was heating up inside her like too much ambrosia. If she kept lying to her friends, she felt like she’d burn to ashes.
“Piper,” Jason said gently, “you were asleep when Festus conked out. It couldn’t be your fault.”
“Yeah, you’re just shaken up,” Leo agreed. He didn’t even try to make a joke at her expense. “You’re in pain. Just rest.”
She wanted to tell them everything, but the words stuck in her throat. They were both being so kind to her. Yet if Enceladus was watching her somehow, saying the wrong thing could get her father killed.
Leo stood. “Look, um, Jason, why don’t you stay with her, bro? I’ll scout around for Festus. I think he fell outside the warehouse somewhere. If I can find him, maybe I can figure out what happened and fix him.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Jason said. “You shouldn’t go by yourself.”
“Ah, I got duct tape and breath mints. I’ll be fine,” Leo said, a little too quickly, and Piper realized he was a lot more shaken up than he was letting on. “You guys just don’t run off without me.”
Leo reached into his magic tool belt, pulled out a flashlight, and headed down the stairs, leaving Piper and Jason alone.
Jason gave her a smile, though he looked kind of nervous. It was the exact expression he’d had on his face after he’d kissed her the first time, up on the Wilderness School dorm roof—that cute little scar on his lip curving into a crescent. The memory gave her a warm feeling. Then she remembered that the kiss had never really happened.
“You look better,” Jason offered.
Piper wasn’t sure if he meant her foot, or the fact that she wasn’t magically beautified anymore. Her jeans were tattered from the fall through the roof. Her boots were splattered with melted dirty snow. She didn’t know what her face looked like, but probably horrible.
Why did it matter? She’d never cared about things like that before. She wondered if it was her stupid mother, the goddess of love, messing with her thoughts. If Piper started getting urges to read fashion magazines, she was going to have to find Aphrodite and smack her.
She decided to focus on her ankle instead. As long as she didn’t move it, the pain wasn’t bad. “You did a good job,” she told Jason. “Where’d you learn first aid?”
He shrugged. “Same answer as always. I don’t know.”
“But you’re starting to have some memories, aren’t you? Like that prophecy in Latin back at camp, or that dream about the wolf.”
“It’s fuzzy,” he said. “Like déjà vu. Ever forgotten a word or a name, and you know it should be on the tip of your tongue, but it isn’t? It’s like that—only with my whole life.”
Piper sort of knew what he meant. The last three months—a life she thought she’d had, a relationship with Jason—had turned out to be Mist.
A boyfriend you never really had, Enceladus had said. Is that more important than your own father?
She should’ve kept her mouth shut, but she voiced the question that had been on her mind since yesterday.
“That photo in your pocket,” she said. “Is that someone from your past?”
Jason pulled back.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “None of my business. Forget it.”
“No—it’s okay.” His features relaxed. “Just, I’m trying to figure things out. Her name’s Thalia. She’s my sister. I don’t remember any details. I’m not even sure how I know, but—um, why are you smiling?”
“Nothing.” Piper tried to kill the smile. Not an old girlfriend. She felt ridiculously happy. “Um, it’s just—that’s great you remembered. Annabeth told me she became a Hunter of Artemis, right?”
Jason nodded. “I get the feeling I’m supposed to find her. Hera left me that memory for a reason. It’s got something to do with this quest. But … I also have the feeling it could be dangerous. I’m not sure I want to find out the truth. Is that crazy?”