The Titan's Curse

By Artie Gallezi

Adventure

Artie Wants To Fight Godzilla

"So Aphrodite just came down from Olympus to tell you not take anything from the junkyard?" Artie asked as he slid a shirt and the chest piece of his armor.

"Yeah," said Percy after he explained his meeting with the goddess of love.

Zoë narrowed her eyes. "Be careful, Percy. She has led many heroes astray."

"I'd hardly say that." Artie threw his cloak on and adjusted the fibula under his chin. "But Zoë has a point."

"I agr — " Thalia froze and stared at Artie.

Artie looked up from tightening his belt. "What? Is my fly open or something?"

"No."

"Good." Artie said. "Because I forgot to make one when I put the armor together."

"You just agreed with Zoë." Thalia pointed out. "Like it was no big deal."

"So?" Artie asked.

"You never agree with anything she says." Bianca said. "Appolonia had force feed you nectar when Zoë said the coffee you made was too hot to drink and you chugged a whole mug in seconds."

"I thought it was quite funny." Zoë shrugged.

"Try Charlie Chaplin if you like slapstick." Artie held out his palm to Bianca. "Give me Diego."

"Diego?" Bianca asked.

"Mew!" said the kitten, poking its head out its favorite pouch on Artie's belt.

"There you are." Artie rolled his shoulders. "Sword, belt, cloak, and armor. Let's go!"

"Less than hour ago, you were curled up on the floor mumbling to yourself in Portuguese." Thalia reminded. "Are you sure you're alright."

"To paraphrase Sin City," Artie's voice grew rough and coarse. "Sometimes all anyone's gotta do is let it out and a few buckets later there's no way you'd know."

"Okay," said Percy, eager to get a move one. "How do we get out of here?"

Artie and Zoë both pointed and said together. "That way."

"This is becoming most weird." Zoë said.

"Ditto." Artie paused as he realized he agreed with Zoë for the third time in as many seconds. "How can you tell?"

"Ursa Major is there." Zoë pointed to the sky. "That makes that direction, North." Zoë then pointed to her left. "Which mean that is west. How did thee reach that conclusion?"

"Roughly the same way." Artie admitted and pointed to another cluster of stars. "But I used the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia to find Polaris."

"Polaris?" Thalia asked.

"The North Star." Artie explained. "The three wise men used it. Once I found it, the only way to mess it up would be to forget the points of a compass."

"Guys?" Grover broke in. "Look!"

They had reach the crest of a junk mountain. Piles of metal objects glinted in the moonlight : broken heads of bronze horses, metal legs of human statues, smashed chariots, tons of dented shields and bent swords and lots of other kinds of weapons along more modern stuff, like cars that gleamed gold and silver, refrigerators, and computer monitors.

"Whoa!" Bianca gasped. "Some of the stuff . . . looks like real gold."

"It is." Thalia said grimly. "Like Percy said, don't touch anything. This is the junkyard of the gods."

"Junk?" Grover picked up a gold crown that looked as it had been split by an axe. "You call this junk?" He bit off an end. "This is delicious!"

Thalia swatted the crown away. "I'm serious!"

"Look!" Bianca picked up a silver bow that glinted in the moonlight. "A Hunter's bow!" She yelped as it began to shrink into a crescent moon hair clip. "Its just like Percy's sword!"

"And our bows" said Zoë. "Leave it, Bianca."

"But — "

"It is here for a reason. Anything thrown away in this junkyard must remain in the yard. It is defective. Or cursed."

Bianca carefully set down the clip and came up laughing. "Oh, that is priceless."

Everyone turned to see what was so hysterical.

Artie had also decided to forgo Aphrodite's warning as well and was fiddling with an old-looking remote control. At his feet was a wind up rat being swatting around and pounced on by a playful little Diego. Artie was trying to confuse and disorient the kitten as he made it spin in circles and weave left and right.

Artie was oblivious to the stares as he egged on Diego. "Come on, you almost got it that time."

"Artie, didn't you hear Zoë?" Thalia took the remote and chucked it far away. "This stuff could be cursed."

Diego hissed at her.

"No, no." Artie sighed. "She's right."

Diego stared up at the daughter of Zeus.

"What?" she demanded. "Got something to say?"

Diego sank his sharp, and surprisingly strong, teeth into Thalia's shoe.

Thalia jumped back with a yelp. "Ow!"

Diego quickly scurried behind Artie's boot and hissed as if to warn there was more to come. Everyone looked away as they tried not to snicker and burst out laughing.

"He bit me!" Thalia growled.

"You took away his toy." Artie remarked. "What do expect frtoom a baby?"

"Can't you control him?"

"Aw, did the wittle baby kitten give da big stwong Thalia a boo boo?" Artie teased.

Thalia's eyes sparked with electricity. "Boo boo?"

Artie plucked Diego by the scruff his neck and held him up to Thalia's face. "Apologize."

"He started it." Thalia protested.

"Not you." Artie gave Diego a slight shake. "Well?"

Diego gave Thalia big wide eyes and batted her nose gently. "Mew?"

"You're lucky you're cute." Thalia rolled her eyes. "Come on, lets get out of this yard."

They began picking their way through the hills and valleys of junk. If Artie and Zoë had not pointed out Ursa Major and Polaris, it would have been easy to get lost as all the mountains looked like the rest. Despite Zoë and Thalia's nagging to leave everything untouched, there just was too much cool junk. Percy found an electric guitar that looked like Apollo's lyre while Grover found a broken tree made of metal. It had been chopped into pieces, but some the metal bird figurine whine and flapped their wings when Grover picked it up. Even Artie found a collapsible silver boomerang with razor sharp edges sticking out of an armored dummy. It looked as if two curved hunting knives had been welded together and required a special grip to throw and catch without cutting your fingers off.

"What is that?" Bianca pointed to a mound.

Ahead of them, with the highway beyond that, was a hill much bigger and longer than the others. It was like a metal mesa ,the length of a football field and as tall as goalposts. At one end was a row of ten thick metal columns, wedged tightly together.

"They look like — " Artie began to say

"Toes." Grover said.

Bianca frowned. "Really, really big toes."

"Let's go around." said Thalia. "Far around."

"But the road is right there." Percy protested.

"Yeah," Artie agreed. "Quicker to climb over."

Ping!

Thalia hefted her spear while Zoë and Artie drew arrows, but then soon realize it was only Grover. He had thrown a piece of scrap metal at the toes and hit one, making a deep echo as if the columns were hollow.

"Why did you do that?" Thalia demanded.

Grover cringed. "I don't know. I, uh, don't like fake feet."

"And I don't like Justin Bieber." Artie collapsed his bow. "You don't see me chucking stuff at him."

"Didn't someone nail him with a water bottle during one of his concerts?" Percy asked.

"So you want to go around, Thalia?" Artie said quite brisk. "Let's get a move on."

No one argued and after several minutes of walking, they reached the highway which was an abandoned, but well light, stretch of black of asphalt.

"We made it out!" Zoë exclaimed. "Thank the gods."

But the gods apparently did not want to be thanked. Behind them, the mountain of scrap began to rise and boil up. It seemed the columns resembled toes because they were toes. The owner of those toes was a giant bronze statue in full Greek battle armor. It was impossibly tall, like a skyscraper that been given arms and legs. It gleamed wickedly in the moonlight. It bent down slightly, its rusty joints creaking at the slightest movement, to reveal that the left side of his face had been partially melted. Across his chest, written in dust by a giant finger. were the words WASH ME!

"Talos!" Zoë shouted.

"Who's Talos?" Artie asked as he handed Diego to Tobias. "Get him out of here."

"One of Hephaestus's creations." Thalia said. "But it's too small. It must be a prototype. A defective model."

Talos drew his sword from his belt. The sound of that came as it left its sheath was horrible, metal screeching against metal. The blade alone was over a hundred feet, easy. It was rusty and dull, but it did not matter. A blow from that weapon would be like getting hit by battleship.

"Someone took something." Zoë looked to the others, "Who took something?"

"Figure it out later!" Artie opened his bow. "Run!"

They all scattered, like they had with the Nemean Lion. Thalia drew her shield and held it up as she ran down the highway. The giant swung his sword and took out some power lines which sparked and exploded in Thalia's path. Zoë and Artie fired arrow after arrow that shattered harmlessly against the giant's metal face, like two human machine guns as each ran around the giant, Artie went left and Zoë went right. Grover bleated like a baby goat and climbed up a mountain of metal. Talos then brought down a massive foot on a mountain scrap, nearly crushing Bianca and Percy as they hid behind the remains of a broken chariot. Talos then brought up his foot again when Grover shouted to get his attention.

"Hey, Talos!" Grover shouted.

Grover then began to play a quick melody on his reed pipes. Over by the highway, the downed power line began to dance. One of the poles, with the wires still attached, flew towards Talos's leg and wrapped itself around his calf. The lines sent a jolt of electricity up the giant's backside. Talos whirled around, creaking and sparking, and raised its sword. Then two massive fireball, each with a thunderous boom, engulfed the hand that held the sword, causing him to drop it, and the left side of his face. Percy and Bianca turned to see Artie collapse his bow to regrasp the handlebars of his motorcycle while Thalia rode behind him. Thalia jumped off and rolled to dissipate the force as Artie opened the throttle and spun to face where the giant had drop his sword onto a mountain of scrap.

Artie revved the engine and yelled. "NOW!"

"For Zeus!" Thalia pointed her spear at Talos.

Artie raced toward the fallen sword at full speed, becoming a shapeless blur of colors, as bolt of lighting shot from Thalia's spear. It could not have been better timed as the bolt hit Talos in his knee, forcing him down on it, just as Artie became airborne as he used the sword as a massive ramp. While Talos had been occupied with Percy, Bianca, and Grover, Artie had thought of a plan. While the metal skin was near impossible to damage, there was a chance that its insides were far softer. The hard part would be getting inside without being killed. With no time to think of anything better, Artie figured Thalia and everyone else could keep Talos distracted while he tried to shut down the giant from the inside. Barring that, he could simply start ripping at wires and flipping switches.

Just as he felt the motorcycle slow and begin to fall, Artie leapt with all the strength his legs could muster as he drew his Kopis. He slammed hard into Talos's face, the air forced out his lungs, as he concentrated on maintaining his grip on his Kopis that was buried up to the hilt just below the giant's left eye. He dared not look down as gently lowered himself to the hole his explosive arrow had made just moments before. He rolled inside just Talos slapped his own face in an attempt to swat him like mosquito. The force sent him to the floor and he paused to catch his breath, forcing himself to focus on the well being of his motorcycle rather than his sore chest.

He looked up and quickly examined the room.

The floor was shaggy with a wool carpet that had been cleaned in sometime, both in sight and smell. Wires and cables sparked as they stuck out in random spots on the floor, walls, and ceilings. On the walls were countless levers and switches, some blinking while other sparked and were missing handles. Toward the front, between the giant's eye, was a leather arm chair complete cup holders and little speakers where the occupant's head would be. Artie was at a loss on where to begin. None of the switches and levers were labeled which meant there was no guarantee if they would shut Talos down or activate his rocket powered fists. The seat might be the master control, but there was no set of controls or display and Artie had the feeling its was only there so someone could enjoy the view.

Then Artie looked to his left and rolled his eyes, "Oh . . . that was easy."

Right where Talos's right ear was, was a little red box labeled, EMERGENCY SHUT DOWN. He ran up and threw open the box. He stared at the giant red button the size of car tire that had a little sticky note that said in ancient Greek,

NOTE TO SELF :

SWITCH OUT SELF DESTRUCT FOR EMERGENCY SHUT DOWN

SELF DESTRUCT IS A LITTLE CLICHE ON SECOND THOUGHT

Artie breathed a sigh of relief at his luck and silently thanked the gods that he wasn't about to blow himself, and his friends, to kingdom come. He pressed the button and the entire box came out of the wall and rotated to reveal a laptop. The keyboard was dusty, but the screen lit up brightly as it booted up. A little message box came up in ancient Greek.

WELCOME TO EMERGENCY SHUT DOWN SEQUENCE

DO YOU WISH TO SHUT DOWN PROTOTYPE TALOS 1.0?

( Y / N )

No!, Artie thought as he jammed down on the 'Y' key.I wanna fight Godzilla.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO SHUT DOWN PROTOTYPE TALOS 1.0?

( NO NEED TO JAM ON THE KEYS BTW)

( Y / N )

"Okay, have it your way. " Artie pressed the 'Y' key again, gently this time. "Just stop this thing already."

THANK YOU

. . . . . . . . .

PASSWORD

"Oh come on!" Artie protested as he began to type. "I don't have time for this!" Artie racked his brain for possible password that the Greek god would use. "Hephaestus is the god of metal and fire, right?"

MTELRUX

. . .

(DENIED)

. . .

FIREFTW

. . .

(DENIED)

"Caramba!" Artie continued typing frantically. "You're not a big fan of Ares, but you still care about Aphrodite. Maybe that's the key?"

ARESSUX

. . .

(DENIED)

. . .

LUVDOVE

. . .

(DENIED)

"Seu pedaço de merda!" Artie slammed on keyboard. He took a deep breath and muttered to himself. "Your kids maybe?"

HNRYFRD

. . .

(DENIED)

. . .

DAVINCI

. . .

(DENIED)

. . .

BKNDORF

. . .

(DENIED)

"What are you doing?" shouted a voice.

Artie nearly slammed his head into the ceiling at Bianca's voice. "Cristo! Don't do that!"

Bianca looked sorry but asked again. "What are you doing?"

Artie resumed guessing passwords. "Trying to shutdown Talos, but I need a password." He spared a glance. "How did you get in here anyway?"

"Maintenance hatch." Bianca began looking at the switches, hoping one would be labeled. "Under his foot."

"You stood under his foot?!" Artie cursed as another entry was denied. "Why dose a god need a caralho senha?"

"Maybe we should try smashing?" Bianca suggested. "Keep ripping out wires and stuff till he shuts down."

"I'll just have to reroute the Olympus level encryptions, find a hole in the Firegod firewall, and upload a Hades virus to mainframe." Artie fingers became a blur on the keyboard.

"I have no idea what that means." Bianca looked to Artie. "How long will that take?"

Artie put his fist through the screen. "Exactly that long." He opened his bow and began firing arrow after arrows as sparks and steam flew everywhere. "Start smashing and pulling."

Together they trashed the control room in a matter of seconds. Steam and smoke began to fill the room and they were relvied with the smell of burning wires and metal. The room began to shake as Talos turned his head and moved his body frantically. Then Artie and Bianca fell to the floor as Talos punched himself in the face. Artie helped Bianca up as they both heard a giant metallic clang, only to fall back down as Talos began to run.

"Artie?" Bianca coughed as she tried to clear the smoke away. "We need to get out of here."

Artie looked around for an escape route when a small explosion separated him from Bianca. The force slammed him between Talos's eyes while Bianca was stopped by the wall that held the Emergency Shutdown Switch. Artie shook his head and tried to ignore the ringing in his ears. He looked and saw Bianca was only five feet from him as she stumbled forward.

Then the floor and wall gave way.

Talos's entire face had fallen off his head — taking Artie with it.

Artie tried to grab Bianca, but for the first time, he was too slow. "BIANCAAAA!"

He watched as second by agonizing second, Bianca and the rest of Talos grew smaller as he fell. Then he heard a giant clang before he felt a massive force as Talos's face crashed into something.

Then everything went black.

Artie groaned as he found himself in cave that smelled like burning wire and metal. It was a very small cave as his face was hardly four feet from the ceiling. The ground felt surprisingly soft as he realized he was laying down. He tried to lift his head, but regretted as he felt a bolt of pain shot down to his very toes. He could smell blood and he felt warm and sticky all over his body. Artie was trying to regain his sense when he heard a screech followed by a high pitched yowl.

"Guys!" called out a voice. "Tobias says over here!"

"Grover?" Artie tried say, but it came out as a whisper.

"Under here?" asked a voice that he recognized as Zoë.

"Yeah!" Grover assured.

Artie heard Thalia grunt with effort. "Come on, help me lift."

The cave ceiling went up and over. Artie tried to smile as he saw Grover, Thalia, Zoë, and Percy all staring down at him. While Artie could not see, everyone saw the son of Artemis was severely injured. His hair and face was matted with blood as was his armor and cloak. His left leg was bent slightly in the middle of his shin while a shard of bone stuck out of his right thigh. His arms had fared better, but only slightly as shrapnel stuck out of his armor and skin like porcupine quills.

"Artie?" Percy asked. "Are you alright?"

Artie tried to chuckle but it came out as a cough and he tasted blood. "You should see the other guy."

Zoë knelt by Artie's side. "This is hardly the time for comedy, Artie."

"Can we move him?" Thalia looked around. "I wouldn't be surprised if that was just the first wave."

"Let me see." Zoë laid a hand on Artie's chest and yelped. "He has broken ribs. Two perhaps, maybe even more. I cannot be sure unless I remove his armor."

"Can we move him?" Thalia asked again.

"No." Zoë looked unsure. "If we had some nectar and ambrosia, perhaps it would be enough to heal him. To move him, at the very least."

"Left boot, nectar." Artie tasted blood and swallowed. "There should be some ambrosia in my belt. Next to the sheath."

Artie bit back a yell as Thalia ripped off his left boot and Grover check his belt. Zoë laid his head against her lap and held the flask of nectar to his lips.

"Wait!" Percy said. "His thigh."

"You are right. It will not heal properly." Zoë looked down at Artie. "This will hurt, Artie."

"What's going to — AHHH!" Artie howled as Grover forced the shard of bone back into his leg. "FILHO DA PUTA! CARA DE BUNDA! VOCÊ É UMA DROGA!"

Artie would have continued indulging in Portuguese, but Zoë forced the flask of nectar in his mouth. He felt better as he tasted Chocolate Coca, his favorite drink from Rio, on his tongue and felt stronger as Zoë fed him small bites of an ambrosia square which tasted like the Chilean empanadas he sampled when he visited Santiago, Chile's capital. But after an entire flask of nectar and a whole square of ambrosia, Artie could not find the strength to stand up. However, it did heal him sufficiently to be moved without the risk of injuring further. Artie found himself unable to protest as Percy and Zoë lifted him onto Thalia's back.

"Ugh" Thalia grunted. "Come on, lets go."

"Wait!" Artie tried to gaze around. "Where's Bianca?"

Everyone looked to each other and Artie saw all of them were on the verge of tears.

"No . . ." Artie was finding it hard to breath. "Please . . . not her . . . if you found me . . . she has to be . . ."

"The sun coming up." Percy said, almost pleadingly. "We can still find her. Tobias can search the sky." He looked desperately to Grover. "You and Artie can catch her scent."

"No we won't." Grover said miserably. "It happened exactly like it was supposed to."

"What are you talking about?" Percy demanded.

Artie saw as Grover faced Percy, his eyes blurry and watery from tears. "The prophecy said, One shall be lost in the land without rain.

"If there's one thing I know." Artie said trying to sound optimistic. "You'd be surprised what you can live through."

But he knew they didn't believe it, as much they wanted to.

Even he didn't believe it.

Bianca was gone.

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