MY RESCUE OPERATION GOES VERY WRONG
The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school. We picked up my friends Annabeth and Thalia on the way.
It was an eight-hour drive from New York to Bar Harbor, Maine. Sleet and snow pounded the highway. Annabeth, Thalia, and I hadn't seen each other in months, but between the blizzard and the thought of what we were about to do, we were too nervous to talk much. Except for my mom. She talks more when she's nervous. By the time we finally got to Westover Hall, it was getting dark, and she'd told Annabeth and Thalia every embarrassing baby story there was to tell about me.
Thalia wiped the fog off the car window and peered outside. "Oh, yeah. This'll be fun."
Westover Hall looked like an evil knight's castle. It was all black stone, with towers and slit windows and a big set of wooden double doors. It stood on a snowy cliff overlooking this big frosty forest on one side and the gray churning ocean on the other.
"Are you sure you don't want me to wait?" my mother asked.
"No, thanks, Mom," I said. "I don't know how long it will take. We'll be okay."
"But how will you get back? I'm worried, Percy."
I hoped I wasn't blushing. It was bad enough I had to depend on my mom to drive me to my battles.
"It's okay, Ms. Jackson." Annabeth smiled reassuringly. Her blond hair was tucked into a ski cap and her gray eyes were the same color as the ocean. "We'll keep him out of trouble."
My mom seemed to relax a little. She thinks Annabeth is the most levelheaded demigod ever to hit eighth grade. She's sure Annabeth often keeps me from getting killed. She's right, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
"All right, dears," my mom said. "Do you have everything you need?"
"Yes, Ms. Jackson," Thalia said. "Thanks for the ride."
"Extra sweaters? You have my cell phone number?"
"Your ambrosia and nectar, Percy? And a golden drachma in case you need to contact camp?"
"Mom, seriously! We'll be fine. Come on, guys."
She looked a little hurt, and I was sorry about that, but I was ready to be out of that car. If my mom told one more story about how cute I looked in the bathtub when I was three years old, I was going to burrow into the snow and freeze myself to death.
Annabeth and Thalia followed me outside. The wind blew straight through my coat like ice daggers.
Once my mother's car was out of sight, Thalia said, "Your mom is so cool, Percy."
"She's pretty okay," I admitted. "What about you? You ever get in touch with your mom?"
As soon as I said it, I wished I hadn't. Thalia was great at giving evil looks, what with the punk clothes she always wears—the ripped-up army jacket, black leather pants and chain jewelry, the black eyeliner and those intense blue eyes. But the look she gave me now was a perfect evil "ten."
"If that was any of your business, Percy—"
"We'd better get inside," Annabeth interrupted. "Grover will be waiting."
Thalia looked at the castle and shivered. "You're right. I wonder what he found here that made him send the distress call."
I stared up at the dark towers of Westover Hall. "Nothing good," I guessed.
The oak doors groaned open, and the three of us stepped into the entry hall in a swirl of snow.
All I could say was, "Whoa."
The place was huge. The walls were lined with battle flags and weapon displays: antique rifles, battle axes, and a bunch of other stuff. I mean, I knew Westover was a military school and all, but the decorations seemed like overkill. Literally.
My hand went to my pocket, where I kept my lethal ballpoint pen, Riptide. I could already sense something wrong in this place. Something dangerous. Thalia was rubbing her silver bracelet, her favorite magic item. I knew we were thinking the same thing. A fight was coming.
Annabeth started to say, "I wonder where—"
The doors slammed shut behind us.
"Oo-kay," I mumbled. "Guess we'll stay awhile."
I could hear music echoing from the other end of the hall. It sounded like dance music.
We stashed our overnight bags behind a pillar and started down the hall. We hadn't gone very far when I heard footsteps on the stone floor, and a man and woman marched out of the shadows to intercept us.
They both had short gray hair and black military-style uniforms with red trim. The woman had a wispy mustache, and the guy was clean-shaven, which seemed kind of backward to me. They both walked stiffly, like they had broomsticks taped to their spines.
"Well?" the woman demanded. "What are you doing here?"
"Um…" I realized I hadn't planned for this. I'd been so focused on getting to Grover and finding out what was wrong, I hadn't considered that someone might question three kids sneaking into the school at night. We hadn't talked at all in the car about how we would get inside. I said, "Ma'am, we're just—"