"Is it safe?" I ask Amy as she peers around the corner of the alleyway that we're hiding in. She looks for a few more seconds, then looks back at me and nods. Quick as we can, we dart out of the alley and run across the street. In a few seconds, we're hiding in yet another alley. We've spent a lot of time in them since yesterday.
"I hate this," Amy says sourly, wiping a stray strand of hair out of her face. "Why do we have to run around like criminals? We didn't do anything wrong! Stupid wanted posters everywhere."
"Hey, be happy," I say with a smile that feels faked. "No one else died! None of our friends or classmates! They are all okay and we should be thankful for that."
Amy sighs," I know… But it's just not fair. We shouldn't have to hide our faces in our own town!"
"Believe me, I doubt anyone is looking at our faces," I say, indicating our torn clothes and dirty faces, still streaked with the dust and grime of the Labryrinth. "Anyone who looks at us won't see Aidan Hutchison or Amy Williams. They'll see two homeless beggars who aren't really worth their time."
Amy laughs, and then gets a thoughtful look on her face," Your last name is Hutchison?" I nod and she continues," Isn't it weird that we can travel together all this time, you save my life at least three times and yet I didn't know your last name?"
I shrug," I guess I didn't really think that it was that important. It never even crossed my mind to tell you." We stand in silence for a few seconds. Then I say," Is your name really Amy?"
She looks at me," What else would it be?"
"Amelia or something like that?" I say with a shrug. Conversation starters are hard to come by while you're standing in a filthy alleyway.
She laughs," Nope, just Amy. C'mon, we gotta get going. I haven't eaten in days and I can practically smell the McDonalds cooking."
After a few more minutes of dashing around from alley to alley, we finally reach the local McDonalds. Amy gets elected to go inside, because her clothes are less torn and muddy. While she gets us our first food since we left the Labyrinth and were brought back to Roswell, I think about the reason for our need to be sneaky and unnoticeable.
It didn't occur to us to be on guard until after we got to the gas station. We didn't want to go to the one by the school, as too many people we knew could've been there, people who would definitely ask questions. So we hitchhiked to the downtown area of the neighboring town, which is a lot more urban than anything in Roswell.
Once we got there, we both thought that going to a hotel or something would be a good idea. That's when we remembered that all of our stuff (wallets, clothing, etc.) was back in Athens, Greece. The only things that we had on us were a cell phone and a ten dollar bill that Amy had in one of her pockets. Since we hadn't eaten since the night before, we decided to pop into a gas station and buy a candy bar or some chips. After that, we could call Mimir and have him send us some money. Somehow.
When we walked in the store, the attendant had a small television on, sitting on the counter, that had the local area news playing. As we walked through the store, I heard a familiar name. My name. Amy kept gathering up some food, while I snuck back to the counter and pretended to be reading a magazine from the store's rather dismal collection.
"And now for an update on last week's story about the mystery at Roswell County High," a woman's voice said from the T.V. "Marcus Williams has the story. Marcus?"
"Thanks, Rebecca," a man's voice replaced the woman's. "About twelve days ago, on October 23, paramedics were called to Roswell County High School. When they got there, they discovered that an entire Chemistry class had been somehow begun to drown. CPR was performed on many of the students and all of them were quickly taken to the hospital. Copious amounts of water were found in their lungs, and although some were in serious condition, none of the students were hurt."
"However, the mystery didn't end there. Two students were discovered to be missing from the class. Parents were called, searches have been made, but no sign remains of Aidan Hutchison or Amy Williams. They have been declared missing and the police are currently searching for the pair, in the hopes that they can shed some light on this mystery. I'm Marcus Williams, reporting live from Roswell County High School."
Before 'Rebecca' could respond, I had already run back to Amy and grabbed her, dragging her out of the store. Once we got outside, I explained what I had heard and we both decided that we needed to get out of Roswell and fast. I tried to call Mimir, but he didn't pick up the phone, and when I tried to call Tanner and Marc, they didn't either. After that, we decided, rather unhappily, to spend the night on the street and start to make our way out of town the next day.
Unfortunately, when we woke up this morning, we discovered that there were several posters about us hanging all around the downtown area. That's the reason for our current requirement for being unobserved. Before we could do anything about getting out of town, we needed to get some food, as our gas station attempt had been unsuccessful, which led us to the nice, cheap, open early McDonalds.
After a few more minutes of thinking, Amy comes out, holding a greasy bag. We duck back through a couple alleyways before ripping the bag open and devouring a breakfast sandwich apiece. Amy also produces two small coffees, which we down with great vigor. However, the food feels like it only makes me hungrier, but I try to push my hunger aside.
"Y'know, I'm really lucky to be here," Amy says as we finish off our food.
"Did the food make you all philosophical?" I tease gently.
She shoves me," You know what I mean. If I hadn't been sitting next to you that day, if I hadn't chosen that seat instead of the one by the window, I could be stuck in a hospital like all the other kids in our class. If you hadn't pulled me out of the classroom with you, none of this would ever have happened."
"Would that be better or worse?" I ask her softly.
She laughs," Of course it's better with you. I mean, I'd be a sitting duck for any bad guy who came my way."
"But they wouldn't know that you were an Avatar," I remind her. "You still don't even know who you are. How would anyone else know that you were?"
She shrugs," Maybe some extra perceptive person. Maybe one of the Titans. It doesn't matter, I'm just glad that you pulled me out of that classroom. Otherwise, I would never have had this amazing adventure."
"You're enjoying this?" I ask her. "I mean, I don't like it much and I can defend myself against any Titans or Avatars who come our way."
She laughs," Of course I like it. Two weeks ago, I thought our world was ordinary. I thought that nothing exciting would ever happen to me or to the world. Now, I'm in the middle of an adventure. Running for my life or facing down power-crazed maniacs is much better than waking up every morning to a day that was the same as the last."
"You're crazy," I say with a smile. She smiles at me, nodding her head. "Hey, I'll throw away the trash, 'kay?"
"Whatever floats your boat," Amy responds. "Hey, leave the cell here. I want to try calling the others one more time. I do not want to spend another night out here."
"What happened to it being an adventure?" I ask her teasingly. I catch the wadded up wrapper that she throws at my head, hand her the cell phone, and walk out of the alley. I toss the ball of trash into one of the many metal bins that line the sidewalk and head back to the alley.
When I walk back in, Amy is hanging up the phone, a look of worry on her face. "What's the matter?" I ask her.
"I tried calling Tanner and Marc, but I just got their voice mail. They're here, so they can't be too far off our time zone. Even if they are on the east coast, they'd still be ahead of us. So why aren't they picking up?"
I ignore the small bubble of worry growing in my stomach. Even if they are in danger, we're too far away to be of any use to them. I say as much to Amy, adding," Besides, it's Tanner and Marc. No bad guy could ever take them down."
Amy sighs," I guess you're right. I hope they're okay." She trails off with a sad expression.
"Want me to call Mimir?" I ask her. She nods and tosses me the cell phone. I barely manage to catch it and flip it open. It isn't an iPhone or something fancy like that, so we can't access the internet at some café or something like that. Mimir might be rich, but he must have been feeling very stingy when he gave us these. It's just a flip cellphone. It doesn't have a keyboard or anything.
I hit the '1' key, which is what Mimir programmed himself to be, and hit send. The phone rings… rings….rings….rings…. On the fifth ring, someone picks up. "Hello?" a woman's voice says expectantly.
I'm flustered, because it isn't Mahi's voice and it obviously can't be Mimir or Gabriel. "Um… who am I speaking to?" I say hesitantly.
"Oh, I'm Donna, Rory's wife. I expect that's who you're trying to call, since this isn't one of my phones. I found it in one of our boxes. We had to move recently; our house was damaged in an accident." The woman prattles on, apparently not caring that she doesn't know who I am.
"Sorry," I say to her. "I guess that I must have called the wrong number."
"Really?" 'Donna' asks. "But I don't think that you could have. I mean, your name came up on the contact screen, so Rory must know you. So who are you, exactly?" Her ditsy voice has become hard and slightly angry.
I wince and say," Oh my god. We're breaking up." Then I blow onto the phone and quickly hang up.
Amy looks at me," I guess that wasn't Mimir?"
I shake my head frantically," I think it was his mom."
Amy smiles," Really? What was her name?"
"Really?" I say to her in disbelief just as the phone rings again. I stare at the caller ID. It's Mimir's mother again. I slide the phone back into my pocket and try to ignore the incessant ringing.
"So what's she like?" Amy asks, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the ringtone.
"I don't know, I only spoke to her for a minute," I say with slight exasperation.
There's a few more seconds of senseless noise before the ringtone stops chiming. We sit in silence for a few seconds, but then Amy says," So what was her name?"
"Donna," I say, unable to hold back a smile. "That's her name."
Amy laughs," You've faced down maniacal gods and vicious Titans without breaking a sweat, but Mimir's mom scares you?"
"Hey, you didn't talk to her. That woman was terrifying. I'd take Mnemosyne or Iapetus over her any day." Now we're both laughing, even though we don't know what we're going to do next. Even though there's nothing funny about our situation or even what I just said, our laughter fills the air.
"Okay, so maybe we should wait a little while before calling Mimir again," Amy says once we're able to stop.
"Definitely. And next time, you get to call," I shoot back. "Anyways, what do you want to do next? We don't have any money or a car or anything else that would be remotely useful to us."
Amy shrugs," I don't have the faintest idea. I mean, we could do what Daniel said and head to San Diego. Then again, that's a really, really long walk."
"And what did he mean by we had something important to do here?" I say thoughtfully. "I mean, that kid seems seriously out of his mind, but I feel like he wasn't lying."
Amy nods," He also said that he was supposed to bring us to San Diego. Who told him that we needed to be there?"
"So Daniel definitely has some sort of agenda," I say. We sit and think for a minute or two before I continue," But whatever he wants us to do, I kind of want to stay here, at least for a little while longer."
Amy nods," I don't want to leave after we just got here." She gets a sad expression on her face," Who knows when we're ever going to come back?"
"Oh, we'll be back plenty soon," I say in an attempt to cheer her up. "All we have to do is find the other two gemstones and we are home free. We won't have to fight again!"
"Except for the rest on the battle between the Avatars," Amy points out. I had completely forgotten about that. With all the 'bigger enemy to be fought' going on, I haven't even thought about the battle. Even if we do save the Greco-Roman pantheon from destruction, we're still going to have to fight the other Avatars. Heck, I'll probably have to fight Tanner or Marc. And if I don't, someone else is going to.
"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," I say firmly. "For now, let's just concentrate on seeing everything before we leave, okay? I hold out my hand to Amy.
She smiles and grabs it, using my hand to pull herself up. "Okay," she says. "So where do you want to go first? I've never really explored this part of town, so it's up to you to show me around."
I nod," Well, for a first time visitor, how about the chalk wall? It's this big wall that is covered in chalk drawings. They should have some chalk there, so we can doodle for a little while."
Amy nods," Sounds like fun. Well, it sounds relaxing, anyways."
"Okay, then. Chalk wall it is!" I say as I lead the way out of the alley. We walk down the streets, which are decently filled, although not enough for it to be annoying. At the beginning, we walk in the shadows cast by the buildings on either side of the street, but before too long, we're both walking in the sunshine, talking and laughing. It's way too nice of a day to spend hiding in the darkness. Besides, what are the odds that someone is going to recognize us? We both look filthy, ragged, and altogether completely unlike what anyone is going to associate with the two kids who disappeared a while ago.
The walk to the chalk wall takes about fifteen minutes. When we get there, the wall is practically deserted, except for two kids and their mother. Amy and I move to the other side of the wall to avoid their sight anyways. It's a Sunday, so the wall was wiped clean last evening. Amy and I grab chalk from the bins that line the wall and start to draw on the black surface of the wall. I consider writing my name, but anyone who sees it might connect it to Amy and I, so I compromise and draw my initials on the top corner, which I am just barely able to reach. Amy is busy drawing a series of flowers along the bottom of the wall. I kneel down and start working from the other side, so that we connect a little ways past the middle.
I stand back up and start to draw in the very center of the wall. I let my mind go blank and let the blue chalk glide over the wall, closing my eyes as I do so. After a few seconds, Amy grabs my shoulder. "Aidan!" she hisses into my ear. "Open your eyes!"
I blink open my eyes, which have quickly become unadjusted to the sunlight. On the wall, seemingly carved in blue chalk, is a massive drawing of a snake. It's massive, stretching over a good portion of the wall. The body is coiled, with the head rising out of the pile. The snake's eyes seem to glare at me from deeper within the wall then I would have thought possible. The drawing is far too detailed for the few seconds I had my eyes closed, with a hundred scales covering its body and a tongue peeking out of its mouth.
"Apophis," I say softly, not trusting my own voice. What is happening to me?
"Are you okay?" Amy asks me, worry in her voice.
I nod," Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine." I stare at the serpent for a few seconds longer, then grab the bottom of my shirt and start to wipe away the drawing. "I don't want any of the kids to see it," I explain to Amy. With a few swipes, the snake's glaring eyes have vanished, along with the rest of its body.
She shivers," Heck, I don't want to see it. You sure you're okay?"
I force a smile onto my face, ignoring the feeling of dread in my stomach. "Yeah, of course. It was just a drawing." Before Amy can respond, the sound of laughter causes me to turn around. It's the only human noise that I can hear; the family on the other side must have left. The source of the laughter is a group of kids our age walking down the street. There are four of them, three boys and a girl. They must be laughing at something that one of the boys said, as all but a boy are laughing. A feeling of longing hits me suddenly. I want that life. I want to be hanging out with my old friends, not fighting mythological beings against my will. I want school and homework and everything else an average teenager wants.
Suddenly, one of the kids looks at me. We make eye contact. I stare at him, embodiment of everything I might lose forever. I stare at him and he at me. And then I recognize him. "Run!" I say urgently to Amy. "We have to split up! Just do it!" At that, I take off, running away from Ryan, my former best friend, as he yells my name.
I sprint down the street, dodging the streams of people that flow by me. I glance over my shoulder and see that Ryan is following me. Further behind him, I see Amy running in the opposite direction, luckily pursued by no one. I turn around and try to pick up speed. Dodging through the crowd, I get to the edge of the road. Without checking for cars, I sprint across. A blue Smart Car almost hits me, but brakes before impact, angrily beeping at me as I run. Once I'm on the other side, I head into a store.
The store is very, very small, which is not good. Tons of bowls, plates, vases, and other pottery pieces line the shelves, sit on the tables, and even hang from the ceiling. A kind looking woman looks up from a book as I run in, a look of pleased expectance on her face which quickly turns to shock. I run through the store, ignoring the woman's outraged shout, and push through the emergency exit.
Once outside, I quickly look around. One end of the alley ends in a brick wall that I doubt that I'd be able to climb. The other end leads out into the street and I decide to go that way, running past two dumpsters and a pile of trash bags. I burst out into the street and check my surroundings. I'm only a street over from the chalk wall. Suddenly, I hear a door open from behind me. Cursing under my breath, I take off again, ignoring Ryan's cries.
I head back down the road, running towards the chalk wall. There are less people on this street, which is both good and bad for me. I weave through the people, barely managing to dodge some of them, but I don't stop running. Soon, I duck back into another alley and look for a way out. Like the last one, this alley has a brick wall at the end and lots of dumpsters. However, this one has a fire escape heading up to the top of the building. I'm about to go for it, but then I decide to go for the dumpsters instead. I throw the lid open and climb inside as fast as I can. I reach up and close the lid as quickly and as quietly as I can.
Almost immediately after, I hear the sounds of Ryan entering the alley. He stops moving for a few seconds, and then I hear the clanging noise that must be him running up the fire escape. I stay perfectly still, trying not to move or breath. The darkness surrounds me and it really, really stinks. But I can't get out yet, not until Ryan leaves for good.
"Aidan!" I hear him yell. "Where are you!? Why are you running? We're friends! I just want to help you. You know I'm on your side!" Part of me almost answers. The terror in the rest of me forces that part to be quiet. I can't let anyone find me. If I show myself, I'll be asked a lot of questions that I don't have answers to. Amy and I would practically be put in jail. Heck, we'd probably be put in jail.
A few quiet seconds go by, then Ryan yells again," Aidan! What's going on, dude?! Why are you running from me? You know that I'm on your side!"
Slowly, very slowly, I lift the lid of the dumpster and peer out. The alleyway is deserted, so the only person I have to dodge is Ryan. Going slower than I imagined possible, I lift the lid all the way. Luckily, it doesn't creak or make any noise. I carefully crawl out of the dumpster, trying my best not to move any of the garbage bags piled inside. Every crinkly noise the bags make makes me freeze, waiting for Ryan to look down and see me. But he's still at the top of the fire escape, probably looking around the roof of the building. I don't think he could hear me even if I moved as quickly as possible. But I don't want to take chances.
When I'm fully emerged from the dumpster, I speed walk out of the alley as quick as I can. All of the garbage in the dumpster was in bags, or at least the part I was laying on was, so at least I don't look like I'm covered in trash, although I must smell awful. I walk down the roads, vividly aware of every person who walks by me, though none of them give me a second glance, except for the few who smell the stench that must be coming off me. But even they try to ignore me and get on with their lives.
I decide to avoid the chalk wall, since Ryan will probably go back there to meet up with his friends, but I do take a round-a-bout way past it, so that I'm at least in the part of town that Amy was heading towards. Sure enough, I find her after about ten minutes, peeking out from an alleyway. When she sees me, she motions to me with her hand and I duck in after her.
"Whoa, you stink!" she says with a disgusted face.
"I just had to hide in a dumpster. I am not in the mood," I say with a mockingly stern face. "Were you chased at all?"
Amy shakes her head," I don't think so. I doubt that kid had the time to tell his friends to follow me. He was after you like a bullet." She looks at me, scratching her head," Who was he?"
I let out a sigh, one that I think I've been holding in since we came back to Roswell. "That was a friend of mine. Well, he was a friend of mine, before the world started going mad."
"Oh," Amy says sadly," That must've sucked, huh?"
I nod," Yeah. Part of me kind of wished that he'd caught me. He would make me explain everything. He wouldn't believe me at first, but I'd be able to show him proof. Then, he'd call the cops and I'd do the same with them. And then I wouldn't have to fight anymore."
Amy stays quiet for a few seconds, and then says," Or you'd have to defend yourself against the Titans when they took over the world. And then you'd be dead, just like the rest of us."
I slump against the wall of the alley," I know that. But… I kind of just want everything to go back to the way it was. Back when everything was simple."
Amy walks over to me and pats my shoulder," Everything will go back to normal. We'll beat the Titans and then you can go 'die' in battle against one of the other Avatars. Then everything will be right as rain."
I shake my head," Yeah, you're right." I stand up from against the wall and say," Well, we most definitely have to get of town. Now that Ryan's seen us, people are going to be watching for us."
Amy nods," Where should we go?"
"San Diego," I say firmly. "I may not trust Daniel and I may think that he is so far off his rocker that it kind of scares me, but I do believe him when he says that there is something we need in San Diego."
Amy nods," But how are we going to get there? It's over three hours away by car, so we definitely can't walk."
I point out of the alley, to where a bike rack sits in plain view. Four bikes have been chained to the stand. "I think we might have to do something illegal, if that's okay with you."
Amy grins," The most illegal thing that I've done before this was going through customs without a passport on our way to Mimir's house, and that was just because of his family's amazing wealth and power. So yeah, I think I'm up for stealing some bikes."
"You're like a common criminal," I say as we walk out of the alley and towards the bikes.
Amy shrugs," So sue me."
When we get to the bikes, I kneel down by one and pretend to be fiddling with the lock. When no one is looking, I blast the chain with some handy-dandy energy beam, courtesy of Apophis. The lock disintegrates and I slip the remaining part of the chain off the bike and into my pocket.
"Hey, I'm having trouble with this," Amy says when I stand up. "For some reason, the lock isn't opening."
I take it from her with a smile," Okay, 'sis. Remind me; was the combination your birthday or Mom's?"
"It was Mom's," she replies. A few more seconds and the lock has joined its companion in the lock underworld. We pull the bikes out of the racks and start to pedal down the road. Once we're out of hearing of anyone who might have heard us, Amy says," Really? You made me your sister?"
"Well, you couldn't be my mother or something like that," I reply. "Why are you so upset about being my sister?"
Amy shrugs," I dunno. Why couldn't you have just made me your friend? I know that the idea is a little outlandish, but I doubt anyone would have known."
"Otherwise, how was I supposed to know your combination? Friends don't tell friends the perfect way to steal their bikes."
Amy giggles," You have strange friends." After that, our conversation stops, as traffic suddenly starts to increase. We weave through cars and the occasional traffic light before eventually making it out of the city. Now we bike through smaller suburbs that surround it. The traffic is much lighter and we start to speed up, as the roads become increasingly flattened. Soon, we're racing each other, sprinting for a while, and then making an uneasy truce that we quickly overturn.
After a while, we stop for a break and start to walk our bikes along the sidewalk. This current subdivision is practically deserted. We've only seen one or two people in the last fifteen minutes, so I think that it is unlikely that we get noticed.
"We definitely should have brought water," Amy says. "I'm so thirsty."
"We've only been biking for an hour," I say to her. "We've still got a long ways to go, so save your whining for later."
She shoots a glare at me," And tell me this, smart one: How do you know which way we go to even get to San Diego? We don't have a GPS or a map."
I reach into my pocket and pull out the cell phone. "I'm pretty certain that we can find a map on here," I say. "And yes, I am the smart one. Thank you for noticing."
Amy rolls her eyes at me," I think we'd need internet access for that to work. And what about the batteries? They haven't been charged in a while, so they can't have very much life left."
"Um… I dunno. Hitchhike?" I say with a shrug. "Or we could ask for directions."
"I thought the point of leaving Roswell again was so that we avoided talking to people who might know us," Amy says. Then she sighs and continues," Whatever, let's just get back on the bikes and go. Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky."
My good mood subdued, we ride in silence for a little while. During that time, we make it out of the suburbs and onto stretches of road with no houses to be seen. It's a little disorienting, not knowing when you'll next see another human. But then a car flies by or you see a jogger on the other side of the road and the feeling goes away. We continue to move away from Roswell, but without knowing where we are going, it feels like we might just be going in circles.
But then, during one of our increasingly frequent breaks, a minivan slows down, pulls over, and rolls down its window. A woman peers out and says," Are you two kids okay?" Concern is clearly marked on her face.
"Um, yes ma'am, we're fine," Amy says. "We're just biking back from a friend's house."
"Well, you look absolutely exhausted, "the woman says. "If you like, I could give you a ride home. I'm not in a hurry, so it'd be no trouble."
Amy and I look at each other for a second before I say," It's okay, ma'am. It's not too far. We should be able to make it." The offer is very tempting, but what do we do once we get in the car? Tell her that we live in San Diego, which is still at least an hour away in the car. She'd probably make us get out right away.
"Believe me, I insist. I even have a bike rack for your bikes," the woman nods her head towards the back of the minivan, where a black bike rack sticks out from underneath the car, shocking against the silvery blue of the car. "Oh, just get in. You can even call your mom and let her know that I'll be giving you a ride. I can show you my license and you can give her the license plate number."
I look at Amy with want in my eyes and she looks back with the same feeling. I haven't been on a bike in ages, so I'm really not used to riding for so long. We can just have her bring us a little closer to San Diego and then drop us off. It'll shave time off of our trip, which I am really looking forward to. At this rate, we might not get to San Diego by tomorrow.
I turn back to the woman and say," Okay. I guess we could use a bit of a lift."
The woman smiles, flashing her bright white teeth at me," Put your bikes on the back and get in." We do as she commands, lifting our bikes onto the rack and sliding into the minivan, Amy pulling the door shut behind her.
"So where are you heading?" the woman asks us as I buckle myself in. I feel a bit of guilt over sitting on the seats, since I'm covered in who knows what from the dumpster, but the feeling is swept away in the wave of relief I get from sitting down on a comfortable seat.
I sneak a look at the GPS that is suction cupped to the windshield. We're a lot further away than I expected. From the GPS's view, I can still see Roswell, just a small gap away from us on the map, while San Diego is barely even visible. "Um, just take us towards San Diego," I say to the driver. "Once we get closer, I can give you more directions."
"San Diego!" the woman exclaims. "You were going to bike all that far in just one day?! You must be very fast bikers."
"Well, it's not all the way to San Diego, just in that direction," Amy says. "Believe me; you'll be rid of us in no time at all."
The woman nods as she pulls away from the side of the road. "Don't worry about it. It's my pleasure to be helping you. I didn't have much to do today anyways."
Soon, we're speeding down the road, going much further than we would have ever been able to go on our bikes. Amy and I talk with the woman, although doing our best not to give away any important information. The woman doesn't bring up where we're going or why I smell like I just, I don't know, climbed out of a dumpster, but she does tactfully roll down all the windows.
We drive for about twenty minutes like this, and then the woman says," So, where exactly do you guys live? I'm really sorry about this, but I just remembered a couple of errands that I need to do before I go home, so I kind of need to drop you guys off kind of soon."
Amy assures her that it is fine, trying to buy me enough time to make up an address. Picking a road on the GPS at random, I ask her to just drop us off there. I wish that the ride could have lasted a little longer, but we've already gotten pretty close to San Diego, so I'll take what I can get. In a few minutes, we've turned off of the highway and go down a few side roads until we get pretty close to where I've chosen to have us be dropped off. We say thank you to the woman and start to get out of the car.
But then, the door refuses to open. I pull on it with all my strength, but nothing. It's the same thing on Amy's side. I check the lock, but it says that the door should be opening. "Sorry, it gets jammed every so often," the woman says. She reaches around her seat and pushes on the handle with me. With a shudder, the door slides open.
"Well, thanks for the ride," Amy says as she starts to climb over to get out on my side.
"Oh, it was my pleasure," the woman says. "Just make sure you get home safety, okay?"
Suddenly, something catches my eye. There's something on the woman's hand. Something that seems very familiar, dangerously so. I look up at the woman and say cheerfully," Will do. Have a nice day, ma'am." At that, I quickly start to slide out of the car.
But before I can, the door slams shut, almost catching my leg on its way. The minivan pulls away from the curb and starts to speed down the road. "What's going on?!" Amy says with confusion, although I can see that she is already starting to notice what I did.
"Darn it, I had something all planned," the lady says. "I was going to pretend to get hurt and you'd have to drive me home and it was going to be the perfect trap." She looks at the two of us in the mirror with her brilliant green eyes. "But I guess this way works too."
"Who are you?" I ask her. Her identity is on the tip of my tongue. I can see her face, her hair, her eyes, even the clothes she wore the last time we saw her, but her name is completely avoiding me.
"Oh, sorry," the woman says. She waves her hand in the air, flashing her manicured nails back at us. "That should do it."
The name comes to both of us at the same time. "Mnemosyne," we say in unison.
The Titan waves at us," Hello again." Now I can clearly see the similarities between her and the girl I met a week ago, although I don't have the faintest idea of how that little schoolgirl turned into this soccer mom. But the similarities are definitely there. The same hair, the same eyes. The only new thing that I can see, aside from the difference in age, is a tattoo of a bird on her right hand, which is what prompted my suspicion in the first place.
"But… how did we not remember you?! And you were just a little kid!" Amy says with confusion. I notice her hand moving towards the door and I know that we need to try to make a run for it.
"I'm the Titan of memories, silly. It was a piece of cake for me to smudge myself in your memories. You knew who I was, you just didn't know what I looked like or anything else about me," Mnemosyne says with another big smile. "The aging thing is a secret, but I'll tell you sometime very soon."
"Why are you here?" I demand of the goddess. I look at Amy however and signal that when I say so, we pull open the doors and throw ourselves out. It'll have to be soon, before we get on the highway, but I need to pump Mnemosyne for some information. She's the only link that we have to the Titans right now.
"Because I felt like it," the Titan responds. "I'm not necessarily on your side or anything, but I'm the closest to being there." She continues to drive, even as she stares back at us. "You see, I was never imprisoned as tightly as the other Titans were. I was still stuck in Tartarus, but I wasn't watched nearly as much as Rhea or Kronos was. That meant that I could watch humanity grow under the leadership of the gods. I've grown to like you little buggers a lot. That makes my role here a lot more convoluted."
"So you might support the humans?" Amy asks, giving me an urgent look. Our window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.
Mnemosyne laughs," See? You humans are always thinking optimistically. Sure, I could go over to your side, if I knew that it meant that I be on the winning side. And right now, I just don't see that perfect chance of victory."
"But we have two of the stones and you only have one of them," I point out.
"Honey, even if you had all of the stones, I still might not go over to your side. You'd still have to fight Kronos and the rest of the remaining Titans and that makes it anyone's game. Heck, you might not win ever if you had every stone and only had to fight Kronos."
I raise three fingers where Mnemosyne can't see them. It's now or never. "Unfortunately, that makes you our enemy," I say. "So we'll still have to fight you."
Two. Mnemosyne smiles," You won't do that.
"And why not?" Amy says, grabbing the door handle.
"Because if you don't, you won't get to San Diego in time," Mnemosyne says.
That stops both of us. "In time for what?" I ask her.
Mnemosyne shrugs with a smirk," I can't tell you. It's a secret. But it's important, very important. It might just shift the balance of power in this war. Who knows? It might be big enough to take down Kronos. Of course, it might not be."
"You're lying," Amy says. "Even if you are kind of neutral, you're still on the side of the Titans. When you found out about this, you'd have gotten it for your own side."
Mnemosyne shrugs," True, true. However, I'm giving this to you as a peace offering."
"I doubt that anything in the world that you give us is going to make us let you destroy the world," I say sharply.
Mnemosyne sighs, a look of worry suddenly appearing on her face," Peace offering may be the wrong term. But whatever it is, you'll need to promise me something before I tell you."
"What?" I ask her.
"You have to promise that you won't kill me on the day of the final battle," she says softly. "I know that you guys will fight Kronos no matter what, Gaea stones or not. I also know that Kronos will force me to guard him against your attacks. I want your word that you'll let me live. I'll still fight you to the best of my ability, but I want to live."
"It's not like you're really dying," Amy says. "You just go back to Tartarus."
"Yeah, we don't die, we just go back to prison," Mnemosyne says sarcastically. "Even if that is true for the other gods, it isn't a hundred percent true for me. You were wondering how I aged? I age in relation to the length of the story that I am in. Last time you saw me, my part in the story was just beginning, so I was very young. Now, my part is about halfway done, so I'm middle aged. When I become old and wrinkly, that's when my part is just about over. In other words, I'll die. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to prolong my part, even if it means switching to your side. Heck, I'd even go over to the Hindu side if it would keep me alive longer."
"But why should we trust you?" I say after a moment of silence. The Titan's speech has sort of depressed me. She always knows about how long she has until she gets sent back. That would be devastating for most people, although I suppose that she isn't most people. But even if she does have a sad backstory, I still can't trust her. She might decide that the Titans will win, so her story will live longest that way.
"Because you have no other choice," Mnemosyne says. "I'm the only way you'll get to San Diego by tomorrow. If you aren't there by then, you'll miss your chance and one of the Titans will be there to take it. If I'm lying, you won't miss much by not being there. However, since I'm telling the truth, you could possibly reverse the flow of this war. I'm your only hope, so you are going to have to promise me."
"You act like the Titans are winning already," Amy says. "We have one more gemstone than they do. We're ahead of you."
"Not for long," Mnemosyne says. "We're already close to finding one of the Gaea stones and believe me: we will find it before you will. This is your only chance to keep your lead."
"So we really don't have another choice," I say. It's true, although I hate to admit it. Whatever is in San Diego is so important that both Daniel and Mnemosyne are telling us to go there. Even if it's a trap or a diversion, we can't take the risk of ignoring it and missing what might be the biggest opportunity we might get.
"So do you promise?" Mnemosyne asks. She pulls over to the side of the road, just before the entrance to the highway, then turns around and stares at us. "Swear on the River Styx that you will honor our agreement."
I nod," I swear on the River Styx that I will not kill you when we fight next. I also swear that I will tell all of my companions to do the same." I wait for a few seconds, letting the words hang in the air. "Is that it?" I ask.
Mnemosyne shakes her head," No. She has to swear as well." One of her long fingernails points back at Amy.
Amy looks surprised," Why me? I can't fight anyone!"
Mnemosyne smiles," Just covering my bases. You have to swear as well."
Amy sighs and repeats what I just said. Once the last word crosses her lips, Mnemosyne smiles and turns off the car. She tosses the keys back to me and smiles. "Well, I'm glad you decided to be reasonable. The car is smudged, so that no one will ever see it and remember it, not even the police. Also, there is four or five hundred dollars in the glove compartment. Get yourself some clothes and a place to sleep." She wrinkles her nose," And maybe a shower or four."
"So what's in San Diego that is so important?" Amy asks.
Mnemosyne shrugs," I dunno. That wasn't part of the deal, remember. I just have to get you to San Diego on time."
"But it's a freaking city!" Amy says angrily. "How are we supposed to find this magical occurrence that will save us all."
Mnemosyne laughs," Oh, you'll find it. You are humans, after all. You can do almost anything." She looks at the clock on the dashboard and clicks her tongue," Oh, look at the time. I must be going now." She waves at us," I'll see you in a week or so. And just a word of advice, Aidan: Don't trust the girl." At that, she opens her door, steps out, and vanishes.
"What the heck did that mean?" Amy asks. "She wasn't talking about me, was she?!"
"Of course she wasn't," I say soothingly as I start to climb up into the front. "Well, let's get going. I don't want to make that oath worthless."
I start the car as Amy climbs up next to me. "Do you think we're doing the right thing?" she asks me.
I laugh sarcastically as I pull back out onto the road. "Amy, I haven't been sure of that in a long time." With that, I push the pedal to the ground and we move down the road that will take us to San Diego and maybe even victory.