The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) - Rick Riordan

ONE

I GO CRUISING WITH EXPLOSIVES

The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.

Up until then, I was having a great afternoon. Technically I wasn’t supposed to be driving because I wouldn’t turn sixteen for another week, but my mom and my stepdad, Paul, took my friend Rachel and me to this private stretch of beach on the South Shore, and Paul let us borrow his Prius for a short spin.

Now, I know you’re thinking, Wow, that was really irresponsible of him, blah, blah, blah, but Paul knows me pretty well. He’s seen me slice up demons and leap out of exploding school buildings, so he probably figured taking a car a few hundred yards wasn’t exactly the most dangerous thing I’d ever done.

Anyway, Rachel and I were driving along. It was a hot August day. Rachel’s red hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore a white blouse over her swimsuit. I’d never seen her in anything but ratty T-shirts and paint-splattered jeans before, and she looked like a million golden drachma.

“Oh, pull up right there!” she told me.

We parked on a ridge overlooking the Atlantic. The sea is always one of my favorite places, but today it was especially nice—glittery green and smooth as glass, like my dad was keeping it calm just for us.

My dad, by the way, is Poseidon. He can do stuff like that.

“So.” Rachel smiled at me. “About that invitation.”

“Oh . . . right.” I tried to sound excited. I mean, she’d asked me to her family’s vacation house on St. Thomas for three days. I didn’t get a lot of offers like that. My family’s idea of a fancy vacation was a weekend in a rundown cabin on Long Island with some movie rentals and a couple of frozen pizzas, and here Rachel’s folks were willing to let me tag along to the Caribbean.

Besides, I seriously needed a vacation. This summer had been the hardest of my life. The idea of taking a break even for a few days was really tempting.

Still, something big was supposed to go down any day now. I was “on call” for a mission. Even worse, next week was my birthday. There was this prophecy that said when I turned sixteen, bad things would happen.

“Percy,” she said, “I know the timing is bad. But it’s always bad for you, right?”

She had a point.

“I really want to go,” I promised. “It’s just—”

“The war.”

I nodded. I didn’t like talking about it, but Rachel knew. Unlike most mortals, she could see through the Mist—the magic veil that distorts human vision. She’d seen monsters. She’d met some of the other demigods who were fighting the Titans and their allies. She’d even been there last summer when the chopped-up Lord Kronos rose out of his coffin in a terrible new form, and she’d earned my permanent respect by nailing him in the eye with a blue plastic hairbrush.

She put her hand on my arm. “Just think about it, okay? We don’t leave for a couple of days. My dad . . .” Her voice faltered.

“Is he giving you a hard time?” I asked.

Rachel shook her head in disgust. “He’s trying to be nice to me, which is almost worse. He wants me to go to Clarion Ladies Academy in the fall.”

“The school where your mom went?”

“It’s a stupid finishing school for society girls, all the way in New Hampshire. Can you see me in finishing school?”

I admitted the idea sounded pretty dumb. Rachel was into urban art projects and feeding the homeless and going to protest