Smoke on the Horizon

XVII. Leo

XVII. LEO

His plan was simple really. It was the execution that would be the hard part. And with only an hour, or, 56 minutes rather, there could be no screw-ups.

“All righty then, he said. “We can do this.”

“If you say so,” Percy said skeptically.

“Of course we can.” Annabeth punched his shoulder. “Leo, what do you need us to do?”

Under normal circumstances, Leo would’ve preferred to work alone and probably would have told them to get him a double mocha latte and leave him to it.

But these were not normal circumstances and he didn’t have the luxury of doing it all himself this time.

Time was ticking.

“Okay,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “We’ll need wood, lots of it, and water, and see what you can find for rocks and such. Anything solid that could withstand some heat.”

“Got it. I’ll get the wood,” Annabeth said.

“What is it with the water thing?” Percy complained.

“Oh, just do it, Seaweed Brain,” Annabeth chided. “We’ll meet back here in what? Ten minutes?”

“Yeah, let’s be quick. We still have to put it all together. I’ll work on the metal components while you’re gone. Hopefully they’ll be ready when you get back.”

Percy and Annabeth nodded and sprinted off in opposite directions, one toward the forest, the other toward - well, hopefully toward water.

Leo unhooked his tool belt and started digging through, praying what he needed would appear.

Percy and Annabeth returned at the same time, which was conveniently the same time at which Leo finished his project.

The large hunk of metal before him very closely resembled a large Archimedes sphere. When he’d first started to pick apart the originals, he’d considered ticketing with the proportions. Unfortunately he’d never had the chance what with dying and all.

He prayed to Hephaestus this would work.

He saw Percy and Annabeth coming towards him just as he was fitting the top on his creation. “Perfect.”

“What the Hades is that?” Percy said as he approached.

“Hopefully functioning,” Leo said with a grin.

He pressed a small button on the top of the sphere and was greeted with a loud clanging.

“It’s not going to explode, right?” Annabeth knocked Percy on the shoulder but she looked on nervously too.

“No, at least, it shouldn’t. I don’t think so.”

“Oh, that makes me feel much better.”

The clanging stopped and two holes opened up along the sides.

“Wood,” Leo said, jumping up and turning to Annabeth and the tall stack of roughly chopped tree alongside her. “In that one, and water to the left.”

They took turns filling the compartments which, to the surprise of Percy and Annabeth, were much deeper than they appeared to be.

Soon they were done and Annabeth’s expression quickly turned from relief to nervousness. “What about the stone? Leo did you get that one?”

He shook his head. He figured when he sent them off that it would be easy enough to find around, but from the small area in which he was working he’d found little. Not nearly enough for their purposes.

“I got some,” Percy said, dropping his pack, previously empty but Leo now realized that it sagged with weight, and sent it crashing to the ground with a deep thunk.

Annabeth looked at him in shock.

“What? I can be proactive. No one said they were getting it so I figured if I found anything I’d bring it back,” Percy said defensively. Annabeth shook her head as if she still couldn’t believe it, but Leo didn’t quite think this was the time to contemplate Percy’s productivity. They still had work to do.

“Okay, good. So, that can go here, then.” Leo pressed another button on he bottom of the Archimedes sphere and, after more clanging, the lower half began to lower from the top. Leo’s breath caught for one awful second as he thought the thing had totally separated, though, as he moved it over, it became clear that it was still intact.

They did their best to break up the larger chunks of stone, some strange kind of sediment that was soft like limestone yet looked like granite. It crumbled easily and, when exposed to heat, fuzed quickly together in a shiny, very solid substance.

“I don’t know what this stuff is but it’s great,” Leo said as he sealed up the rest of the sphere and inspected the final product.

“It’s certainly not schist,” Percy said, cracking a smile and effectively pulling Leo’s attention away from his work.

“Come again?” Annabeth said.

“Sorry, inside joke. Couldn’t resist.” Leo was about to ask him to elaborate when a pop echoed toward them and Momus reappeared.

“Time’s up! I hope you’re ready,” he said in a way that made it clear this was exactly what he did not hope. “Ah, so where are my extraordinary objects?”

“Oh, no. First, where are our friends?” Percy said.

“They’re perfectly safe, don’t you worry,” Momus said, waving away the question.

“Bring them back before we show you what we’ve made,” Annabeth said.

Momus eyed them suspiciously. “Fine.” He snapped his fingers and immediately Jason, Piper, Hazel, Frank, Nico, and Calypso appeared, surprise etched on all their faces, their hands in the air as though they’d been rock climbing.

They all looked a little ridiculous, but Leo didn’t think it a good moment to comment on it.

“Good,” he said instead. “Alright, here you go. The PercAnnaLeoamatic 3000!”

Momus stared, awestruck. Then he started to laugh. “But there’s only one. You were each meant to build something. You have failed, demigods.”

“Ah, yes, about that,” Leo said calmly. “You never said we couldn’t work together. There are three things here, you just can’t see them.”

“Well show me then.”

“Happy to.” Leo pressed a button along the side of the sphere and instantaneously the clanging and internal whirring began. A sulfurous steam began to pour from a hole at the top and the sphere began to separate into three pieces.

Leo looked to Percy and Annabeth, making sure they were ready for what came next. They nodded and Leo set his hand on one of the pieces, attached at the center to the other two. The metal began to heat up, turning red under Leo’s touch. He held it until the wood inside began to burn. At the same time, Percy began making the water in the second casing swirl, steaming as it made contact with the hot side of its twin. Underneath this, in the third, larger container, the stone hissed as it fuzed and melted and reformed itself.

“What is this?” Momus hissed, clearly puzzled but not yet suspicious.

“It’s like an industrial oven packed into a tiny package,” Leo said confidently. “The heat and cooling components double cooking time. And it’s portable!” He dropped a tiny lever at the back of two minuscule wheels appeared.

Momus smirked.

“And,” Leo continued. “The PercAnnaLeoamatic 3000 can make whatever you want. It’s advanced demigod technology allows it to take to any mold to create the sturdiest equipment guaranteed!” He stopped. Everyone stared at him, Percy and Annabeth looking both impressed with his speech and nervous that Momus would reject it.

Instead, the god skirted the device, inspecting its many parts, a look of feigned knowing about his face. Leo could tell that he was having trouble coming up with what to say.

“How can you tell when it’s complete?” he said. “You should be able to see into it. It is poorly designed.”

“Yes, that’s an important point and I’m glad you brought it up. See here? This little button? This’ll pop up green when it’s done. That way you’ll never have to worry about missing it.”

“Hm.” Momus nodded as if he understood exactly how the PercAnnaLeoamatic 3000 worked, which of course he didn’t considering even Leo wasn’t completely sure. Per usual, he was making all this up as he went along.

“And when you’re done, you just press that button and it’ll finalize the product,” he added. “That part is very important. Otherwise, whatever you’re making will never turn out right.”

Leo opened up the bottom compartment containing the now liquified stone, glossy and mesmerizingly dark, and offered it to Momus. “It’ll cool down enough to touch and still be workable,” he said. “Have you ever considered getting a new mask? That white one you’ve got seems a little old. Couple hundred years, maybe?”

“Five-hundred,” Momus said. “Yes, a new one might be nice.”

So he’s taking it, Leo thought. But now was where it got complicated.

“See, it’s cool enough now for you to put something in and have it mold correctly. By just laying your face down, you could easily have a new mask!” Leo put all his enthusiasm into his voice. He knew how crazy it sounded and he was trying his hardest to hide it.

“You first,” Momus said with a smile.

Hades. How did he ever think this was going to work?

“It’ll work best for a god,” Piper said before Leo could think. “And such a god as you are, surely if you try it it will be flawless.” Her charmspeak was strong and Leo even believed her, but he saw Momus hesitate. He glanced at the sphere again. Something in his godly head must have believed Piper or his curiosity won out because he bent at the waist to inspect the substance, looking back between it and Leo as if trying to decide to follow Piper’s instruction.

Finally, and so quickly that Leo almost missed it, the god plunged the entirety of his face into the black liquid.

“Now wait just a second,” Leo said, almost choking on his words. He couldn’t believe Momus had actually taken it. “We have to make sure it sets right and then you can come back up.”

Some of the goop bubbled quietly around his face, perhaps in excitement of his new mask or realization that this wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Leo pressed the little button which was now flashing green and nodded to Percy who was waiting at the ready to blast the casing with cold water.

Momus grunted as the wave hit him, the stone steaming as it molded to the god’s face. He wobbled slightly and pressed himself away from the PercAnnaLeoamatic 3000, only to find that the dark and now shimmering, very solid substance clung to him. His hands moved up to touch it, feeling around the edges and where it met his skin.

“No, no wait. You have to let it sit a minute,” Leo said quickly. He had no idea if the mask would stay stuck to Momus or not, but he was pretty sure he didn’t want to find out. He motioned for the group to move away from the god and back towards their camp and the pegasi.

They shuffled as quietly as they could and hushed the horses, urging them to stay silent as not to give away what they were doing.

“Huumm arruma,” Momus said.

“I hear you, man. You’re looking great. Just a few more minutes. It’s very fragile right now, one wrong move and the whole thing’ll shatter. Try not to move too much and absolutely no touchie.” Leo backed up as quickly as he could without crunching gravel too much and hopped onto Festus’s back.

Percy patted Blackjack and signaled to the others and they all took off simultaneously from the dock.

“When you feel that it’ll come off easily it’s ready,” Leo called down to Momus and urged Festus up too.

“Urruin - Uri - I think it’s working!” Momus sputtered as the lower part of the mask peeled away from his mouth. By the time he got the rest off, Festus was high above him, flying off into the horizon with the others.

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