A Neurotic Colossus
Where art thy undies?
EVEN MY SUPERNATURAL POWERS of description fail me.
Imagine seeing yourself as a hundred-foot-tall bronze statue—a replica of your own magnificence, gleaming in the late afternoon light.
Now imagine that this ridiculously handsome statue is wading out of Long Island Sound onto the North Shore. In his hand is a ship’s rudder—a blade the size of a stealth bomber, fixed to a fifty-foot-long pole —and Mr. Gorgeous is raising said rudder to smash the crud out of Camp Half-Blood.
This was the sight that greeted us as we flew in from the woods.
“How is that thing alive?” Kayla demanded. “What did Nero do—order it online?”
“The Triumvirate has vast resources,” I told her. “They’ve had centuries to prepare. Once they reconstructed the statue, all they had to do was fill it with some animating magic—usually the harnessed life forces of wind or water spirits. I’m not sure. That’s really more of Hephaestus’s specialty.”
“So how do we kill it?” “I’m…I’m working on that.”
All across the valley, campers screamed and ran for their weapons. Nico and Will were floundering in the lake, apparently having been capsized in the middle of a canoe ride. Chiron galloped through the dunes, harrying the Colossus with his arrows. Even by my standards, Chiron was a very fine archer. He targeted the statue’s joints and seams, yet his shots did not seem to bother the automaton at all. Already dozens of missiles stuck from the Colossus’s armpits and neck like unruly hair.
“More quivers!” Chiron shouted. “Quickly!”
Rachel Dare stumbled from the armory carrying half a dozen, and she ran to resupply him.
The Colossus brought down his rudder to smash the dining pavilion, but his blade bounced off the camp’s magical barrier, sparking as if it had hit solid metal. Mr. Gorgeous took another step inland, but the barrier resisted him, pushing him back with the force of a wind tunnel.
On Half-Blood Hill, a silver aura surrounded the Athena Parthenos. I wasn’t sure the demigods could see it, but every so often a beam of ultraviolet light shot from Athena’s helmet like a search lamp, hitting the Colossus’s chest and pushing back the invader. Next to her, in the tall pine tree, the Golden Fleece blazed with fiery energy. The dragon Peleus hissed and paced around the trunk, ready to defend his turf.
These were powerful forces, but I did not need godly sight to tell me that they would soon fail. The camp’s defensive barriers were designed to turn away the occasional stray monster, to confuse mortals
and prevent them from detecting the valley, and to provide a first line of defense against invading forces. A criminally beautiful hundred-foot-tall Celestial bronze giant was another thing entirely. Soon the Colossus would break through and destroy everything in its path.
“Apollo!” Kayla nudged me in the ribs. “What do we do?”
I stirred, again with the unpleasant realization that I was expected to have answers. My first instinct was to order a seasoned demigod to take charge. Wasn’t it the weekend yet? Where was Percy Jackson? Or those Roman praetors Frank Zhang and Reyna Ramírez-Arellano? Yes, they would have done nicely.
My second instinct was to turn to Meg McCaffrey. How quickly I had grown used to her annoying yet strangely endearing presence! Alas, she was gone. Her absence felt like a Colossus stomping upon my heart. (This was an easy metaphor to summon, since the Colossus was presently stomping on a great many things.)
Flanking us on either side, the soldier ants flew in formation, awaiting the queen’s orders. The demigods watched me anxiously, random bits of bandage fluff swirling from their bodies as we sped through the air.
I leaned forward and spoke to Mama in a soothing tone, “I know I cannot ask you to risk your life for us.”
Mama hummed as if to say, You’re darn right!
“Just give us one pass around that statue’s head?” I asked. “Enough to distract it. Then set us down on the beach?”
She clicked her mandibles doubtfully.
“You’re the best mama in the whole world,” I added, “and you look lovely today.”
That line always worked with Leto. It did the trick with Mama Ant, too. She twitched her antennae, perhaps sending a high-frequency signal to her soldiers, and all three ants banked hard to the right.
Below us, more campers joined the battle. Sherman Yang had harnessed two pegasi to a chariot and was now circling the statue’s legs, while Julia and Alice threw electric javelins at the Colossus’s knees. The missiles stuck in his joints, discharging tendrils of blue lightning, but the statue barely seemed to notice. Meanwhile, at his feet, Connor Stoll and Harley used twin flamethrowers to give the Colossus a molten pedicure, while the Nike twins manned a catapult, lobbing boulders at the Colossus’s Celestial bronze crotch.
Malcolm Pace, a true child of Athena, was coordinating the attacks from a hastily organized command post on the green. He and Nyssa had spread war maps across a card table and were shouting targeting coordinates, while Chiara, Damien, Paolo, and Billie rushed to set up ballistae around the communal hearth.
Malcolm looked like the perfect battlefield commander, except for the fact that he’d forgotten his pants. His red briefs made quite a statement with his sword and leather cuirass.
Mama dove toward the Colossus, leaving my stomach at a higher altitude.
I had a moment to appreciate the statue’s regal features, its metal brow rimmed with a spiky crown meant to represent the beams of the sun. The Colossus was supposed to be Nero as the sun god, but the emperor had wisely made the face resemble mine more closely than his. Only the line of its nose and its ghastly neck beard suggested Nero’s trademark ugliness.
Also…did I mention that the hundred-foot statue was entirely nude? Well, of course it was. Gods are almost always depicted as nude, because we are flawless beings. Why would you cover up perfection? Still, it was a little disconcerting to see my buck-naked self stomping around, slamming a ship’s rudder at Camp Half-Blood.
As we approached the Colossus, I bellowed loudly, “IMPOSTER! I AM THE REAL APOLLO! YOU’RE UGLY!”
Oh, dear reader, it was hard to yell such words at my own handsome visage, but I did. Such was my
The Colossus did not like being insulted. As Mama and her soldiers veered away, the statue swung its rudder upward.
Have you ever collided with a bomber? I had a sudden flashback to Dresden in 1945, when the planes were so thick in the air, I literally could not find a safe lane to drive in. The axle on the sun chariot was out of alignment for weeks after that.
I realized the ants were not fast enough fliers to escape the rudder’s reach. I saw catastrophe approaching in slow motion. At the last possible moment, I yelled, “Dive!”
We plunged straight down. The rudder only clipped the ants’ wings—but it was enough to send us spiraling toward the beach.
I was grateful for soft sand.
I ate quite a bit of it when we crash-landed.
By sheer luck, none of us died, though Kayla and Austin had to pull me to my feet. “Are you okay?” Austin asked.
“Fine,” I said. “We must hurry.”
The Colossus stared down at us, perhaps trying to discern whether we were dying in agony yet or needed some additional pain. I had wanted to get his attention, and I had succeeded. Huzzah.
I glanced at Mama and her soldiers, who were shaking the sand off their carapaces. “Thank you. Now save yourselves. Fly!”
They did not need to be told twice. I suppose ants have a natural fear of large humanoids looming over them, about to squash them with a heavy foot. Mama and her guards buzzed into the sky.
Miranda looked after them. “I never thought I’d say this about bugs, but I’m going to miss those guys.” “Hey!” called Nico di Angelo. He and Will scrambled over the dunes, still dripping from their swim
in the canoe lake.
“What’s the plan?” Will seemed calm, but I knew him well enough by now to tell that inside he was as charged as a bare electrical wire.
The statue strode toward us. One more step, and it would be on top of us. “Isn’t there a control valve on its ankle?” Ellis asked. “If we can open it—” “No,” I said. “You’re thinking of Talos. This is not Talos.”
Nico brushed his dark wet hair from his forehead. “Then what?”
I had a lovely view of the Colossus’s nose. Its nostrils were sealed with bronze…I supposed because Nero hadn’t wanted his detractors trying to shoot arrows into his imperial noggin.
Kayla grabbed my arm. “Apollo, what’s wrong?”
Arrows into the Colossus’s head. Oh, gods, I had an idea that would never, ever work. However, it seemed better than our other option, which was to be crushed under a two-ton bronze foot.
“Will, Kayla, Austin,” I said, “come with me.” “And Nico,” said Nico. “I have a doctor’s note.”
“Fine!” I said. “Ellis, Cecil, Miranda—do whatever you can to keep the Colossus’s attention.” The shadow of an enormous foot darkened the sand.
“Now!” I yelled. “Scatter!”