The Lightning Thief

Artie Gets A Cat

"Remind me why we're doing this again?" Percy asked rhetorically as the walked down Delancy Street.

"Because you don't ignore the gods." Annabeth answered. "Unless you want some serious bad luck."

"Then why does that saying keep coming to mind?" Artie wondered. "The one about how no good deed goes unpunished."

Annabeth chose to ignore that as they arrived to the abandoned water park which had been uncreative named WATERLAND. Clearly the park had been abandoned for some time since now the sign read WAT R A D. The main gate had been padlocked and topped with barbed wire to prevent people from enjoying the rusted dry water slide and pools or reading the sun faded advertisements that either hung or littered the floor and pools.

"If this where Ares brings his girlfriend." Percy said. "I'd hate to see what she looks like."

Percy noticed Artie take a step to the side. "What?" he demanded.

"You might want to be more respectful." Annabeth suggested.

"Why?" he asked. "I thought you hated Ares."

"He's still a god. And his girlfriend is very temperamental."

"You do not want to insult her looks." Artie added.

"Who is she? Echidna?"

"No, Aphrodite. Goddess of love and beauty." Artie answered.

"I thought she was married." Percy frowned. "Hephaestus."

"So is your dad." Artie reminded him. "And yet your not immortal."

"Oh." Percy blushed. "So how do we get in?"

Artie walked to the fence and began climbing then hopped down with a frown. "Smell something?" asked Percy.

Artie shook his head. "Maia." he said to activate the flying shoes.

Carefully he flew over the fence. Once he cleared the top, he tried to turn but ended up doing a full 360* turn. He unsteadily flew forward as he wobbled to keep his balance. Again he tried turning, this time he only turned halfway to the left as he landed softly. Tobias cawed from the decaying WATERLAND sign, Percy didn't think birds could laugh but Tobias seemed to be amused at what he saw.

Artie ignored him, "I'll look around while you guys climb. Let's meet up at the Tunnel of Love."

Annabeth and Percy climbed the fence the old fashioned way, holding down the barbed wire for each other as they cleared the top. Once they reached the bottom, they began searching for Ares's shield. Instead, they found a souvenir shop that had been left open. Percy saw that merchandise still lined the shelf. Thing like snow globes, postcards,pencil, and a few racks of - - -

"Clothes!" cried Annabeth. "Fresh clothes."

"Yeah." Percy agreed. "But you can't just - - - "

"Watch me." she responded as she snatched an entire row and dashed to the changing rooms.

A few minutes she came out in Waterland shorts, a Waterland T-shirt, and commemorative Waterland surf shoes. She also had a Waterland backpack which obviously was stuffed with lots of other Waterland merchandise. Tobias seemed to follow Annabeth's lead and snatched a Waterland tank top before taking off to give it to Artie. Percy then followed suit and before long, him and Annabeth looked like walking advertisement for the abandoned park. They continued to the Tunnel of Love and found Artie at the edge of the pool, already wearing his Waterland tank top with Tobias perched on a post.

They walked up to him. "Found it?" Percy asked.

Artie pointed to the far end of the empty pool. "Right over there. Just sitting there."

Annabeth just frowned, "That's it?"

Artie nodded uneasy. "Yeah. I don't like it either. Seems way too easy."

Percy saw what they meant. The shield was sitting in a white and pick two seater paddle boat with a canopy on top. His gaze went to the cupid statues all around the perimeter of the pool. They seemed surprisingly clean and polished for statues that hadn't been touched for a long time. This was too easy.

Percy turned to Artie, "Smell any monsters?"

Artie sniffed the air, "Nothing."

"Nothing-like, in the arch and you didn't smell Echidna nothing, or really nothing?"

"I told you about the underground air." defended Artie. "And I also did warn you guys about Medusa's lair."

"He's got us there." admitted Annabeth.

"Okay, I'm sorry about that." Percy took a deep breath. "I'm going down there. Annabeth come with me, Artie can cover us with his bow."

Annabeth's cheeks went bright red. "Are you kidding?"

"Whats the problem now?" Percy demanded.

"Yeah," agreed Artie. "We're burning daylight. And last time I checked, either of you can't see in the dark."

Annabeth shifted, "Me, go with you into the . . . Thrill Ride of Love? How embarrassing is that? What if someone saw me?"

Artie was about to go down himself when Tobias landed on his shoulder and half cawed half chirped in his ear. Artie nodded as he understood. "Looks like none of us are going down there."

They both looked at him as he explained. "Tobias sees a thin wire attached to the shield. My guess is it's a trip wire. Once it's moved, a trap will spring. What kind though, I don't know."

Annabeth squinted at the shield. "I don't see anything."

Tobias squawked indignantly. Artie winced before he translated. "Hawks are known for thier visual acuity Annabeth. A near blind hawk can still see five times better than the average human."

"Okay. So what's the plan?" asked Percy.

"Hard to think of one." said Annabeth. "When we don't know what kind of trap."

Artie opened his bow. "One way to find out." he said as he drew an arrow and fired.

The blunt tipped arrow raced toward and bounced of the shield with clear bong, sending it off the boat and onto the pool. Instantly the silent night air was filled with the sound of grinding and ticking of gears, almost if the pool was becoming a machine. The cupid statue drew their bows into firing positions and fired at each other. Silk like cords trailed behind the arrows as they arced over the pool. The second they anchored smaller threads began weaving between them, forming a giant net over the pool. The head of the cupid statue opened to reveal video cameras and spotlights that were trained on the pool, no doubt to record whoever sprung the trap.

A loudspeaker boomed, "Live to Olympus in one minute . . . Fifty-nine seconds . . . fifty-eight . . . "

"Whoa." said Percy.

"You can say that again." agreed Artie.

"Whoa." Percy repeated with a smile.

Something about the statues caught Annabeth's attention. "There a Greek letter here . . . an Eta. Which means . . Hephaestus made this . . . to catch his wife with Ares and broadcast to Olympus to make them look like fools."

"It looks like his show is gonna be short of a cast." said Artie.

"We need to have a little talk with Ares." said Percy. "Once we get that shield. Any ideas Annabeth?"

Annabeth watched at million of metallic spiders poured into the pool. She gulped and took a step back. "Give me a minute will you?"

An hour later they were in the diner parking lot. Ares was sitting on his motorcycle, waiting for them. "Well, well." he said. "You didn't yourself killed."

"You knew it was a trap." said Percy.

Ares smiled wickedly, "Bet that cripple was surprised a couple of mortals sprung his trap without anything to show for it. Too bad, I was curious to see how you looked on TV."

Percy shoved the shield at the god of war, "You're a jerk."

Ares just shrugged as turned the shield into a vest and pointed to red eighteen wheeled truck parked across from the diner. "That'll take you straight to LA with one stop in Vegas."

"KINDNESS INTERNATIONAL : HUMANE ZOO TRANSPORT. WARNING LIVE WILD ANIMALS." Artie read aloud.

"You're kidding." said Percy.

Ares snapped his fingers and the back door unlatched, "Free ride west, punk. No complaining. And here's a little something for doing the job."

He tossed Percy a blue backpack. He looked inside a saw twenty dollars in cash, a few drachma, and bag of Oreos. "I don't want you're lousy - - -"

Artie snatched the bag as Annabeth flashed Percy a warning, "Thanks Lord Ares."

"You still own me one more thing." Percy reminded. "You promised me information about my mother."

Ares kick started his bike, "She not dead. She's being kept hostage. Old war trick. You take someone to control someone else."

"No one's controlling me."

Ares laughed. "Oh yeah? See ya around kid."

"You're pretty smug Lord Ares for someone who runs from cupid statues."

Ares's eyes glowed behind his glasses, "We'll meet again, Percy Jackson. Next time you're in a fight, watch your back." With that, he raced down Delancy street and disappeared.

"If we're taking Ares's ride." said Artie. "We'd better hurry. I think the guys driving, are paying thier check."

Without much choice, they ran to the truck and climbed in. Inside were several empty cages and sacks of animal feed and gallons of water. Only three cages were occupied. An malnourished albino lion, a zebra with a gum caked mane, and an antelope like animal with a balloon tied to its horn that read OVER THE HILL. Artie immediately saw that whomever was taking care, which was stretching it, of the animals, hadn't bothered to feed them properly. The lion had been tossed a small bag of turnips while the zebra and antelope had been given each a box of hamburger meat. Artie's claws began to grow, digging into a feed sack, and it wasn't because he was scared of the lion.

Artie asked calmly, "Annabeth, has the meaning of 'humane' changed recently?"

Annabeth looked confused by the question, Um, I don't think so."

"Didn't think so." he said and began walking to the door. "Be right back."

Luckily for the drivers, the engine roared to life and the trailer began to shake, forcing Artie to either sit down or fall down. He cursed as he took the second option and fell against the lion cage. The lion sniffed and licked Artie's head through the bars of his cage.

Annabeth looked concerned. "Um, I'd get away from him. You seem to look better than those turnips."

Artie wasn't scared in the slightest as he stuck his hand in the cage and began scratching behind the lions ears. Truth be told, Artie was a cat person or rather cats were Artie people. Like satyrs, Artie could communicate with animals, not vocally but mentally. He had learned the hard way he was limited to non-reptilian predators, meaning animals that hunted for thier food that weren't related to crocodiles or snakes. It also helped if they animal was intelligent, like wolves or foxes, since animals don't use words per se.

Even now the lion was saying something like, Wrong food. No water. Help master.

Artie continued scratching as he told Annabeth and Percy to refill the water bowls and switch the food between the cages. The lion quickly ate and drank while Artie drew a knife and began working on the lock, ignoring Percy and Annabeth calling him crazy.

I'll let you out if promise not to eat my . . . pride, he told the lion, knowing animals didn't have friends. Pride roughly translated into family or pack for lions.

No eat man-cubs, promised the lion, man-cubs part of master's pride.

After a few minutes, the lock opened and Artie went to work on the other cages. Normally he would have left them in the cages for their own safety, but he had the lion promise to not eat them, it also didn't seem fair to leave in cages while the lion was free. While he worked, the lion walked to Percy and Annabeth which made them considered become vegetarians.

"Artie?" yelped Annabeth.

"A little busy here." he said. "Problem?"

"Mufasa here is looking at us funny." Percy squeaked.

Artie stopped and laughed as the lion licked their face and laid down next to them. "Figures, you must be dog people."

A/N - It seems that according to my reviews, I made Artie a little too powerful. Well you guys got me there so I've been making a little more human. As for how he beat Luke, the greatest sword fighter in 100 years, I'm gonna let my next chapter explain that along with how he can play the guitar so well and why exactly he is a better archer than the Apollo campers.

Feel free to read and review, and while I know I can't do anything but ask nicely, please be civil about it.

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