The Lightning Thief

Checking In

Most think animals are incapable of grasping the concept of revenge and therefor cannot hold grudges. Up until he learned that he could communicate with animals, Artie thought the same, but he learned rather harmlessly that he was wrong. The truckers on the other hand, were learning the same lesson in a much more dangerous fashion.

Mufasa went from overgrown lazy house cat to man-eating lion in under a second, leaping off Artie's legs and roared the very second the truckers opened the back of the trailer to check on the animals and drop off the zebra. Needless to say, they did the only natural thing when facing a very hungry and steamed lion, they fell back on their rear ends and screamed as they tried to scrambled to get to their feet. While animals did not believe in mercy, Artie did. He whistled as the lion began to give chase and the other zoo animals made a break for it, eager to be free and not be eaten by a lion. Mufasa looked at Artie with such an annoyed look, that Percy was sure Artie had just changed the menu from truckers to demigods.

"No." Artie said with clear authority to a three-hundred pound hungry carnivore. The lion huffed and left, ignoring the screams of pedestrians and tourists as he bounded down the Las Vegas strip.

Annabeth hopped off the truck. "Now would be a good time to leave." She called to Percy and Artie. "Come on, before the cops show up."

The trio stumbled out into the desert afternoon in comfortable hundred and ten degree temperature, well comfortable if you were a resident of Sin City. They passed the MGM and Monte Carlo as they walked down the strip. It was common knowledge that Las Vegas was located in the Mojave desert which often surpassed one-hundred and twenty degrees. Artie compared this to his time in the Atacama Desert in Chile as they passed the pyramids and the Statue of Liberty. If past experience was any indication, he was sure they would become badly sunburned if they didn't they get out of the sun, provided they didn't pass out from dehydration first. So Artie was relieved when they stopped in front of the Lotus Hotel and Casino.

The doorman smiled at them. "Hey kids. You look tired. Wanna come in and sit down?"

Life as demigods had taught Artie and Annabeth to cautious, and he was sure Percy had learned the same in the past week or two. The thing was, just about anyone could be anything. This doorman could be a mortal just easily as he could be a monster or even a god. You just couldn't tell, by looks anyway. Artie politely sniffed the air around the doorman and found he smelled like flowers. He instantly knew the man was mortal. He relaxed when he realized this and assumed the flower smell was most likely the man's cologne or walked inside castiously, making sure to watch the doorman from the corners of thier vision.

"Pela lua e as estrelas" Artie whispered when he got a good look.

"What he said." said Percy just as quietly.

"Ditto." agreed Annabeth.

The whole lobby was a giant game room. And this was not one's run of the mill arcade filled with old cheesy games like Pac-man and Asteroid. There was an indoor water slide that snaked around a glass elevator, that went straight up for forty floors at least. There was a climbing wall similar to the one at Camp Half Blood, with the lava and earthquakes removed of course, on one side of the building with a indoor bungee-jumping bridge on the opposite side. There were even virtual reality suit with working lasers guns. And hundreds of video games, each with a huge big screen TV. Despite the relatively small amount of kids playing, waitresses walked around serving food from the various snack bars located all over the lobby.

A person, a belhop they guessed, appeared and handed them each green plastic cards with a smile. "Welcome to the Lotus Casino. Here's your room keys."

Percy tried to protest. "Um . . . but . . ."

"No, no." he said, laughing. "The bill's taken care of. No extra charges, no tips. Just go to the top floor to room 4001. If you need anything, like extra bubbles for the hot tub or skeet for the shooting range, just ring the front desk. Those cards work at all the restaurants and on all the games and rides."

Annabeth held up her card. "How much is on here?"

His eyebrows knit together. "What do you mean?"

"When does it run out of cash?"

He laughed again. "Oh you're making a joke. That's cool. Enjoy your stay."

They decided to head upstairs and checkout their room. They saw it was a three room suite each with a bar stocked with soda, candy, and chips. On the nightstands were hotlines for room service. Next to the nightstands were huge queen size waterbeds with fluffy pillows. Like the lobby, there was a huge screen TV with satellite and high speed internet that took up most of the wall opposite the bed. Like the bellhop had said there was hot tub on the balcony and sure enough, a shotgun with a skeet machine so one could fire at clay pigeons over the Las Vegas skyline. For the better part of a second, Artie and Percy contemplated the legal ramifications of this but decided not to dwell on it and enjoy the view of the city down below.

"Oh goodness." Annabeth said. "This place is . . . "

"Sweet." Artie finished for her. "Absolutely sweet."

They found clothes in the closet. Clothes that fit them perfectly which they found strange but quickly forgot when they each found a bathroom and the showers just waiting to be used. Once out, Percy drank several can of coke and ate a bag of chips and exited the bedroom. He found Artie eating a bag of chips with several empty bags around him and Annabeth cranking the National Geographic channel.

"All those stations." he told her. "And you pick National Geographic. Are you insane?"

"Its interesting."

"Finally some luck." cried Artie as he jumped onto the bed behind him. "I love this place."

"So what now?" Annabeth asked. "Sleep?"

Artie and Percy locked eyes and nodded to each other. Percy held up his Lotus cash card. "Play time."

Even before arriving at Camp Half Blood, Artie was used to going without many luxuries. The only entertainment he actually paid money for was whenever he and his brother managed to save enough money to purchase tickets for the local cinema. Film had always been a passion of his. If one were to enter Cabin Eight, they would find a shelf around the interior of the cabin with dozens upon dozens of DVDs, ranging from the early works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to the latest cookie cutter Hollywood blockbuster. He had acquired his massive collection by trading favors and several leather items with the members of the Hermes cabin, mostly Connor and Travis Stoll. For him, like many who enjoy films, it was an escape. For those brief hours, he wasn't Artie, he was merely a spectator of others.

So while Percy and Annabeth enjoyed the various games and rides in the lobby, Artie was munching down on popcorn and soda while he watched film after film. He nearly choked as he laughed at hilarious comedies. He jumped in his seat during a particularly terrifying horror picture. He oohed and aahed at exciting, and quite frankly impossible even in a world where gods existed, action scenes. He even choked back tears during a heartbreaking scene from an awarding winning drama. He was well into one of his most favorite films when Annabeth and Percy busted in.

"Now take me to jail. " Artie said, quoting the movie.

"We're in one already." said Percy.

Artie paused the movie. "Say again?"

"This place is a trap." Annabeth explained. "There people here from the seventies. People who haven't aged. You check in, and you stay forever."

"And the bad news?" he asked before resuming the movie.

Percy stepped in front of the TV. "We need to leave. The Underworld. Our quest!"

Artie leaned to the side, trying to see past Percy when Tobias flew into the room with a screech. The bird of prey landed on Annabeth's shoulder, careful not to dig his talons too deep. Normally Annabeth would have swatted him off her shoulder but something held her back as Tobias cawed several times to Percy as if trying to communicate something important.

"What's he doing?" Percy asked.

"He's trying to tell us something." Annabeth guessed. "But I'm not sure what."

Tobias hissed as he opened his wings, thrusting them forward like arms. He then folded them in way that looked like the bird was pointing to itself. Unless Percy was going crazy, Tobias was motioning him to watch him. Percy nodded for Tobias to continue. Tobias then, gently, slapped Annabeth with the back of his wings. He did it twice more, slowly so Percy understood. Percy nodded and walked to Artie when Tobias flew in front him, blocking him, and landed next to Artie.

"What?" he asked the bird. Tobias pointed a wing towards Annabeth. Percy nodded again. "Ohhh, gotcha."

"What is it?" Annabeth asked. "What is trying to say?"

Percy whispered in her ear what he thought Tobias was trying to convey. "For some reason, he wants you to do it."

Annabeth did her best to hide a smile. "Okay. If it'll help." And with that she walked up to Artie and slapped him. "Snap out of it!"

"Filho da puta!" cursed Artie, holding his cheek. Then he blinked as if coming out of a trance. "Que realmente ferido, Cristo! . . . Wait, did you say something about a trap?"

Annabeth rolled her eyes and explained again. "This place is designed so you never want to leave. You check in, but you stay forever. There are people here as far back as the seventies."

"Not only that." Percy added. "Time slows down here. Some say they've only been a few weeks at most. Gods only know how long we've been here."

Artie looked around at the huge collection of DVDs all over the bed and floor. He did a rough count and found a total of eighty movies give or take. "Annabeth what's eighty times ninety?"

Annabeth cocked her head as she worked it out. "Exactly seventy-two hundred, Why?"

"And if you divide that by sixty and then twenty-four?"

"We don't have time for this." Percy protested.

"We may already be too late." Artie said. "Annabeth, what's the answer. This is important!"

It took Annabeth one agonizing minute to come up with the solution. "Five. It's five."

"Impossível! que não pode estar certo." Artie said before switching to English. "Are you sure? This could mean failure if you're wrong."

"I'm sure. I did it twice. But I'll write it out to make sure."

Artie tossed her a pencil and a notepad from the nightstand. While Annabeth worked Artie scrambled around the room. Stuffing several things into a backpack, clothes and food mostly with a couple of DVDs for his own collect back at Camp Half Blood.

"Would one of you explain what's going on?" Percy demanded. "This isn't time for math homework."

Artie stopped for a moment to explain. He pointed to the DVDs. "There's roughly eighty movies."

"Yeah, so what?"

"Most movies are an hour and half long. That's ninety minutes. If you multiply ninety by the number of movies, eighty like I said, and you get the amount of we've been here which is seventy-two hundred minutes."

"Then you divide that by sixty to get the same amount in hours." explained Annabeth as she worked. "Finally divide that by twenty-four and the answer is how long we've been stuck here."

Percy nodded shakily, not sure he wanted to know. "Which is?"

Annabeth held up the paper with hastily drawn numbers. "Five days. We've been here five days."

Artie gulped. "Which means . . ."

"We have only one day to return the master bolt. One day to finish our quest." Percy concluded.

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