They walked through the building, stopping here and there for Coach Hedge to lecture them with his megaphone, which alternately made him sound like a Sith Lord or blared out random comments like “The pig says oink.”
Leo kept pulling out nuts, bolts, and pipe cleaners from the pockets of his army jacket and putting them together, like he had to keep his hands busy at all times. Jason seemed to be too distracted to pay much attention to the exhibits, but Mira noticed that they were about the Grand Canyon and the Hualapai tribe, which owned the museum.
Mira didn't know who she was working with, and no one seemed to rush over to her to declare themselves her partner, so she stuck to Jason and Leo. Some girls kept looking over at Piper and Dylan and snickering. They seemed to be popular. They wore matching jeans and pink tops and enough makeup for a Halloween party.
One of them said, “Hey, Piper, does your tribe run this place? Do you get in free if you do a rain dance?”
The other girls laughed. Even Piper’s so-called partner Dylan suppressed a smile. Piper’s snowboarding jacket sleeves hid her hands, but Mira got the feeling she was clenching her fists.
“My dad’s Cherokee,” she said. “Not Hualapai. ’Course, you’d need a few brain cells to know the difference, Isabel.”
"Got nothing to say, now?" Mira smirked at Isabel.
Isabel ignored Mira and widened her eyes in mock surprise at Piper, so that she Looked like an owl with a makeup addiction. “Oh, sorry! Was your mom in this tribe? Oh, that’s right. You never knew your mom.”
Mira held onto her forearms as tightly as she could, to stop herself from doing something she'd regret. She absolutely HATED mom jokes, or someone making fun of her parents. Because, you only notice what you've got when it's gone, right?
Piper charged Isabel, but before a fight could start, Coach Hedge barked, “Enough back there! Set a good example or I’ll break out my baseball bat!”
The group shuffled on to the next exhibit, but the girls kept calling out little comments to Piper, sometimes even mentioning Mira and her questionable fashion sense. Well, it wasn't her fault she got whisked away to another dimension as she fell asleep!
“Good to be back on the rez?” one asked in a sweet voice.
"Dad’s probably too drunk to work,” another said with fake sympathy. “That’s why she turned klepto.”
Piper ignored them, but Jason looked ready to punch them himself. Mira smiled at that. She finally got to see Jasper, live.
Leo caught Jason's arm. “Be cool. Piper doesn’t like us fighting her battles. Besides, if those girls found out the truth about her dad, they’d be all bowing down to her and screaming, ‘We’re not worthy!’”
“Why? What about her dad?”
Leo laughed in disbelief. “You’re not kidding? You really don’t remember that your girlfriend’s dad—”
“Look, I wish I did, but I don’t even remember her, much less her dad.”
Leo whistled. “Whatever. We have to talk when we get back to the dorm.”
Leo sent a glance towards Mira, as if by 'when' he had meant 'if'. Mira's lips pressed into a thin line. So he could tell something was wrong, too. Mira was getting this buzzing in her abdomen. It felt like anticipation, but it was more intense than any sort of instincts she'd ever had before. It was almost like she had a heightened sixth sense.
They reached the far end of the exhibit hall, where some big glass doors led out to a terrace.
“All right, cupcakes,” Coach Hedge announced. “You are about to see the Grand Canyon. Try not to break it. The skywalk can hold the weight of seventy jumbo jets, so you featherweights should be safe out there. If possible, try to avoid pushing each other over the edge, as that would cause me extra paperwork.”
Mira snorted. Coach Hedge was even more patronizing in person. The coach opened the doors, and they all stepped outside. The Grand Canyon spread before them, live and in person. Extending over the edge was a horseshoe-shaped walkway made of glass, so you could see right through it.
Mira looked at the Canyon in wonder. It was absolutely breathtaking. She had never been to a place so... Natural before. It felt refreshing.
“Man,” Leo said. “That’s pretty wicked.”
Mira and Jason exchanged an impressed look. The canyon was bigger and wider than you could appreciate from a picture. They were up so high that birds circled below their feet. Five hundred feet down, a river snaked along the canyon floor.
Banks of storm clouds had moved overhead while they’d been inside, casting shadows like angry faces across the cliffs. As far as Jason could see in any direction, red and gray ravines cut through the desert like some crazy god had taken a knife to it.
Mira winced at the thought. Maybe she should keep the Percy Jackson references to a low right now... It was just making her more anxious whenever she reminded herself that she was actually here. Next to her, Mira saw Jason holding his head, looking pale. He was looking down. She turned to see what he had been looking at, but her breath caught. She finally realized how high up the canyon actually was, and although she usually wasn't afraid of heights, she felt sick. Leo rolled his eyes at her. Mira would have glared back, but she was too busy trying to start taking in air again.
“You all right?” Leo asked Jason. “You’re not going to throw up over the side, are you? ’Cause I should’ve brought my camera.”
Jason grabbed the railing. He was shivering and sweaty, but Mira knew he wasn't afraid of heights. He blinked, finally eased back into himself.
“I’m fine,” Jason said. “Just a headache.”
Mira, on the other hand, was most definitely not fine. Her hands were trembling, and all she wanted to do was get back inside. Why was she so scared? Heights had never bothered her before. She had even flown on a plane four times.
Thunder rumbled overhead. A cold wind almost knocked her sideways.
“This can’t be safe.” Leo squinted at the clouds. "Storm’s right over us, but it’s clear all the way around. Weird, huh?”
Mira couldn't be bothered to listen to Leo right now. She felt so miserable. She was having a panic attack on the freaking Grand Canyon! She needed to get inside, fast.
“All right, cupcakes!” Coach Hedge yelled. He frowned at the storm like it bothered him too. “We may have to cut this short, so get to work! Remember, complete sentences!”
The storm rumbled, and Mira shuddered. She felt as if the entire universe was plotting something against her. She focused on breathing, calming down, but it just resulted in her choking on air. She couldn't breathe. Leo glanced at her at last, frowning.
"Are you ok? Don't tell me you're going to make us do all the work!" He said, clearly annoyed at her. Mira felt irritation well up in her despite herself. Couldn't he see that she was freaking out? She opened her mouth to snap back a reply, but before she could even so much as say go screw yourself, Jason let out a little noise and the two feuding teens turned to face him.
Jason reached into his jeans pocket and brought out a coin—a circle of gold the size of a half-dollar, but thicker and more uneven. Mira peered over his shoulder. Stamped on one side was a picture of a battle-ax. On the other was some guy’s face wreathed in laurels. The inscription said something like ivlivs.
“Dang, is that gold?” Leo asked. “You been holding out on me!”
Mira could see Leo staring at the coin curiously.
Jason put the coin away, a frown evident on his face.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Just a coin.”
Leo shrugged, seemingly upset. He turned back over to Mira. She was doubling over now, her knees shaking.
"Mira... Mira! Are you okay?"
"I- I can't... Can't breathe- too high..." she choked out.
"Are you afraid of heights?" Jason asked her worriedly.
Mira's head was spinning. From lack of oxygen? Fear? She didn't know. She just wanted to go back inside.
"Come on,” Leo said. “Let's get you inside.”
He led her inside, back to the museum, where she collapsed against the wall. Mira looked up as she gasped for air.
Why was she panicking so much? She was never afraid of heights before.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
"You seem to be saying that a lot," Leo jeered.
"It's not like anything else I do can fix it. Could you please just hear me out?" She snapped.
"Look, I have to go back. Jason and Piper are probably worried." Leo turned around.
Mira sighed, and looked down in defeat as he left.
Mira had decided not to go back outside. She didn't want to seem so vulnerable in front of everyone. So of course she didn't notice that there was a storm brewing outside. When the door whooshed open, and the kids started herding inside, Mira finally figured out what was happening.
"It's started!" she muttered. She knew there would be a monster attack about now, and then Annabeth would come to take the three demigods to camp. She just didn't know the exact details. Or where she would go, considering she wasn't a half-blood.
She rushed towards the door, where Piper and Dylan were ushering everyone inside. She ran to Piper and helped her open the doors wider. More screaming kids entered the building, while Mira, Piper and Dylan froze their butts off.
Piper’s snowboarding jacket was flapping wildly, her dark hair all in her face. She looked calm and confident—telling the others it would be okay, encouraging them to keep moving. Mira's long hair was always in a high ponytail-no bothersome baby hair for her, even if the wind was whipping her hair about. She hoped she looked as calm as Piper did.
Jason, Leo, and Coach Hedge ran toward them, but it looked like they were trying to run through quicksand. The wind seemed to fight them, pushing them back. Dylan, Piper, and Mira pushed one more kid inside, then lost their grip on the doors, which slammed shut, closing off the skywalk.
Piper tugged at the handles. Mira watched in horror before scrambling forward and trying for herself. Zilch. Nada. The doors wouldn't budge. Inside, the kids pounded on the glass, but the doors seemed to be stuck.
“Dylan, help!” Piper shouted. Dylan just stood there with an idiotic grin, his Cowboys jersey rippling in the wind, like he was suddenly enjoying the storm.
“Sorry, Piper,” he said. “I’m done helping.”
"What?!" Mira yelled through the roaring winds.
Dylan flicked his wrist, and both the girls flew backward, slamming into the doors and sliding to the skywalk deck.
“Piper!” Jason tried to charge forward, but the wind was against him, and Coach Hedge pushed him back.
“Coach,” Jason said, “let me go!”
“Jason, Leo, stay behind me,” the coach ordered. “This is my fight. I should’ve known that was our monster.”
“What?” Leo demanded. A rogue worksheet slapped him in the face, but he swatted it away. “He's a monster?!”
The coach’s cap blew off, and sticking up above his curly hair were two bumps—like the knots cartoon characters get when they’re bonked on the head. Coach Hedge lifted his baseball bat—but it wasn’t a regular bat anymore. Somehow it had changed into a crudely shaped tree-branch club, with twigs and leaves still attached.
Dylan gave him that psycho happy smile. “Oh, come on, Coach. Let the boy attack me! After all, you’re getting too old for this. Isn’t that why they retired you to this stupid school? I’ve been on your team the entire season, and you didn’t even know. You’re losing your nose, grandpa.”
"Oh my gods.." Mira started. She should have known! She knew all of this! But it seemed that her memory only returned to her once it was too late.
The coach made an angry sound like an animal bleating.
“That’s it, cupcake. You’re going down.”
“You think you can protect four half-bloods at once, old man?” Dylan laughed, giving Mira a quick glance. “Good luck.”
"Wait... four? This must be a mistake!" Mira wailed. She was not a demigod!
But Dylan ignored her. He pointed at Leo, and a funnel cloud materialized around him. Leo flew off the skywalk like he’d been tossed. Somehow he managed to twist in midair, and slammed sideways into the canyon wall. He skidded, clawing furiously for any handhold. Finally he grabbed a thin ledge about fifty feet below the skywalk and hung there by his fingertips.
“Help!” he yelled up at them. “Rope, please? Bungee cord? Something?”
Coach Hedge cursed and tossed Jason his club. “I don’t know who you are, kid, but I hope you’re good. Keep that thing busy”—he stabbed a thumb at Dylan—“while I get Leo.”
“Get him how?” Jason demanded. “You going to fly?”
“Not fly. Climb.” Hedge kicked off his shoes. Mira sucked in a breath. Seeing a satyr in person was a lot more surprising than it sounded in the books. The coach didn’t have any feet. He had goat’s hooves, and the bumps on his head were his horns.
“You’re a faun,” Jason said. Mira had almost forgotten that Jason was Roman...
“Satyr!” Hedge snapped. “Fauns are Roman. But we’ll talk about that later.”
Hedge leaped over the railing. He sailed toward the canyon wall and hit hooves first. He bounded down the cliff with impossible agility, finding footholds no bigger than postage stamps, dodging whirlwinds that tried to attack him as he picked his way toward Leo.
“Isn’t that cute!” Dylan turned toward Jason. “Now it’s your turn, boy.”
Jason threw the club. It seemed useless with the winds so strong, but the club flew right at Dylan, even curving when he tried to dodge, and smacked him on the head so hard he fell to his knees.
Piper wasn’t as dazed as she appeared. Her fingers closed around the club when it rolled next to her, but before she could use it, Dylan rose. Blood—golden blood—trickled from his forehead.
“Nice try, boy.” He glared at Jason. “But you’ll have to do better.”
The skywalk shuddered. Hairline fractures appeared in the glass. Inside the museum, kids stopped banging on the doors. They backed away, watching in terror. Mira froze on the floor. She couldn't move. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't think. She just prayed to whatever supernatural being she could recall in her moment of panic that she'd survive at least another day.
Dylan’s body dissolved into smoke, as if his molecules were coming unglued. He had the same face, the same brilliant white smile, but his whole form was suddenly composed of swirling black vapor, his eyes like electrical sparks in a living storm cloud. He sprouted black smoky wings and rose above the skywalk. If angels could be evil, they'd look exactly like this.
“You’re a ventus,” Jason said. “A storm spirit.”
Dylan’s laugh sounded like a tornado tearing off a roof.
“I’m glad I waited, demigod. Leo and Piper I’ve known about for weeks. Could’ve killed them at any time. But my mistress said a third and fourth were coming—both special. She’ll reward me greatly for your death! And as for you..." he pointed at Mira.
"Be thankful to my mistress, for she has decided to spare you. Though I doubt it'll be of any good to your little group," Dylan sneered. For a second, Mira forgot that she was hundreds of feet in the air. Her terror was replaced by momentary confusion. What was he talking about?
Two more funnel clouds touched down on either side of Dylan and turned into venti—though for some reason, Mira felt more comfortable saying anemoi thuellai—ghostly young men with smoky wings and eyes that flickered with lightning.
Piper stayed down, pretending to be dazed, her hand still gripping the club. Her face was pale, but she gave Jason had a determined look, and he nodded at Piper.
Mira stood up immediately, wanting to rush over to Dylan and terrify the answers out of him. She was short, and Dylan seemed to be more amused than concerned over her presence, but that didn't matter. She'd charge him, or punch him, or something. But the moment she stood up, she felt like puking. Guess that plan was a bust.
Mira decided she'd never go on a field trip again.
As she stood next to Piper, helplessly clutching to the door, Jason clenched his fists. He gritted his teeth and got ready to charge, but he never got a chance. Dylan raised his hand, arcs of electricity running between his fingers, and blasted Jason in the chest.
Bang! Suddenly, Jason wasn't standing anymore, and Mira screamed in shock. He was sprawled across the floor, next to the edge of the glassy floor. He lifted his head, eyes landing on his clothes, which were now smokey. The lightning bolt had gone straight though his body. and he was still alive. Mira knew this should have been a huge pointer towards Jason's godly parent, but she had nothing. All those years of obsessing over Percy Jackson had gone to waste...
The storm spirits were laughing. The winds raged. Mira yelped as the winds toyed with her, trying to pull her out of her corner. Piper was screaming defiantly, but it all of it sounded tinny and far away. She didn't know whether Piper was asking her for help or not, because she was focused on not hyperventilating any more. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Coach Hedge climbing the cliff with Leo on his back.