Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter XI: Strangers in Boston Part II
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the PJO universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of Rick Riordan. I make no claim to ownership.
Acknowledgement: Thank you as always to my editor Fezzik, as well as my other betas Luq707, Athena Hope, Yoshi89 and Raven0900 for their incredible work on this story.
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November 16, 2004
Ace thought his perception had seemed to speed up when the massive dog had appeared, but the idea was ridiculous. It appeared to lunge far too slowly. Not quite in slow motion, but he could see the angle and he knew exactly where it would impact and how long he had. He wouldn’t have long enough to raise his sword for a killing blow.
But he would have time to get out of the way if he took the most precise route possible.
At least, he thought he would.
It turned out he even overcompensated.
He seemed to move with impossible speed as if the very world was allowing it. The hound was now set to miss and Ace raised his sword. It wasn’t a killing blow, but it was a nice-sized gash across the creature’s back. It roared and reared to face him, snarling as it sniffed the air. If this turned into an actual fight, he would lose. Just that one quick movement had almost sent him sprawling, and black spots had danced precariously across his vision.
Blaze was watching on in transfixed horror. He was not a fan of dogs. That was putting it very lightly. When one was attacked by one as a child… it left more than physical scars.
But he was also trying to compute what he’d just seen.
There was no way the boy had just dodged that.
It shouldn’t have been possible.
The creature crouched and Ace readied his sword but mercifully, he never had to use it.
With enough time bought, Cato had charged across the street, spear at the ready. He had arrived just as the monster had crouched and with a great lunge, he was atop its back, driving the celestial bronze tip straight through its neck.
This time, it was most definitely a killing blow, and the thing dissolved into what looked like shadows.
“Fuck,” Ace muttered, “this is not my day. That was way too close.”
“Where the hell did it come from?” Andreia asked, now having crossed the street herself. Ace couldn’t help but notice how she looked paler than usual. “It wasn’t there when we left.”
“It was chasing him,” Ace said, gesturing to the new arrival, who was only just now getting his breathing rate down to a manageable level.
They all looked towards the unknown variable, who took one last, deep breath before opening his dark, intense eyes. “It was chasing me,” he admitted. His voice had a slight accent, but Ace couldn’t place it. It reminded him more of wealth than any particular nationality. “It’s been after me for days. Ever since I got to Boston.”
Ace and Cato exchanged glances. This was suspicious.
None of them lived in Boston, it would appear.
Andy lived close by, but it still seemed too significant a coincidence.
None of them had ever met anybody like themselves before. People who saw things nobody saw. People who had to fear things nobody else had to fear.
Yet here were four of them, all having arrived in Boston within days of each other, all seeming to be special, all seeming to attract more monsters than Ace had thought possible.
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking, right?” Ace asked Cato.
He nodded. “Yep, this is creepily convenient.”
The new arrival looked confused. “Sorry, but what’s convenient?”
They all exchanged looks before Andreia stepped forward. “Hey, I’m Andy. This is Ace and Cato. Before we tell you anything, what’s your name?”
The look shared between Ace and Cato this time was one of utter bemusement. Neither of them could imagine trusting so easily. Sure, they had done it in Andy’s case, but that was only because she had quite literally saved their lives. To be that willing to approach an unknown variable was something neither of them could relate to. They were both paranoid, in their own ways.
The boy scowled. “Benedict Lane, unfortunately,” he said through a sigh. “If you’d do me a favour, I’d appreciate being called Blaze.”
If the ostensibly random nickname surprised Andreia, she didn’t show it. “Easy enough. Nice to meet you, Blaze. We should maybe have this conversation somewhere else though. Before something else pops up from out of nowhere.”
“I’m not sure we have time,” Cato put in carefully. “We need to get out of Boston. We’re right here; should we not go through with the plan.”
Ace looked torn and Andreia mildly affronted. “Cato! We can’t just leave him! He has the right to know!” She looked imploringly at Ace. “You agree with me, right?”
Ace didn’t speak at first, examining each of them in turn before slowly nodding. “I agree with you, yes. Nobody should have to deal with what we’ve dealt with without warning. I don’t think it’s the smartest idea to abandon the plan when we’re this close, but I agree he has the right to at least a quick explanation.”
Cato sighed. “Fine, but we shouldn’t do this shit out in the open. As Andy said, I don’t wanna deal with another one of those.”
“Whatever you’re going to tell me, I’m assuming it will explain what the fuck has been going on since I got to Boston?” Blaze asked.
“Maybe,” Cato said. “We have guesses. Fuckin crazy guesses, but guesses. They might be right; it’s hard to say.”
Blaze pondered for a moment before nodding minutely. “Well, it’s a lot better than what I’ve got right now. My stepdad owns property not far away from here. He’s out for the night on business and won’t get back until this morning. Since you just saved my life and everything, I guess I can let you guys come in for a few minutes at least and explain whatever the hell is going on.”
Ace glanced to Cato, who nodded minutely, subtly padding his pockets. His message was clear. If Benedict Lane tried to pull anything, he was armed and ready to retaliate. “Alright,” Ace voiced for the group, “lead the way.”
Ace was rather surprised by the grand home they were led into.
Blaze’s accent had triggered thoughts of wealth in his mind, but he had pushed them aside. He dressed very casually, and his hairstyle certainly didn’t scream rich kid. Perhaps that was the entire point. Perhaps that was an identity he didn’t want. Ace could sympathize with that if it was true. Wanting to escape a reputation was something he knew very well. Something he could understand.
Explaining it all to Blaze was more complicated than Andy. Andy seemed to have had her own encounters and odd occurrences in the past. Not to say that Blaze hadn’t, but his seemed far less numerous and far less significant.
After a while, he did seem to concede the point. It was hard not to when you had three people sat in front of you, regaling you with stories about things that shouldn’t be at all possible. Stories about things straight out of mythology.
When Ace and Cato finished their tale, as well as Andy’s additions, a long silence stretched between them. “That all seems insane,” Blaze said bluntly.
“Trust me, bubba, we thought the same thing,” Cato assured him. “All fun and games until enough of ‘em try ‘n kill ya.”
Blaze shivered. “That dog… it does sound like something out of the Greek myths.”
“Hellhounds,” Ace supplied. “Monsters that served Hades, in most myths.”
Blaze just shook his head. “This is mental,” he decided. “Completely and utterly mental.”
“So you don’t believe us, then?”
“Oh, no, I believe you. I really wish I didn’t, but I do. That doesn’t change the fact it’s mental though.”
Ace’s lips twitched as Cato chuckled darkly. “Nope,” said Ace, “you’ll hear no disagreements from me.”
Blaze just shook his head. “Fucking hell,” he muttered. “Right, so what do I owe you?”
Andreia looked shocked. “Owe us?”
“You saved my life and might have just done it again by explaining all of this.”
“But we didn’t do it to receive something in return.”
Cato looked amused, and Ace too found the dynamic rather intrigued. It actually made sense, in a way. Undoubtedly, Benedict Lane came from a well-off family. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to assume he’d been raised to try and get everything he could out of a given situation.
But the business was very give-and-take.
Exchange was the name of the game.
It was highly amusing watching this philosophy contrast with Andreia’s. She seemed too kind for her own good. Ace wasn’t sure who looked more baffled by the opposite’s outlook.
“Well,” Cato started. “We’re not gonna ask for anything specific, but if you know a way of helping us get to Maine, that would be great.”
“Maine?” Blaze’s eyebrows knit together. “My American geography is quite rubbish, so I’m going to assume Maine leads into Canada?” They all nodded as he began to look contemplative. “I wish I could just drive you all the way there. Problem is, my stepdad would kill me if he came back in the morning and the car was missing. I can probably drive you about halfway, though. Will try and leave you off somewhere you might be able to find a vehicle if that works?”
“We’ll take what we can get,” Ace agreed, marvelling at their luck. What he really wanted to do right now was sleep, in all honesty, but he knew that wasn’t an option.
“Hey, Blaze?” Cato asked.
“You have a phone here, right?”
“Can Ace use it?”
He still hadn’t called his mother and stepfather.
God, this was going to be interesting, to say the very least.
Then again, they might very well be asleep.
Blaze’s face grew stony. “Yeah, of course. The phone’s just in the other room there.” He pointed to the room in question as he got to his feet. “I’ll go get the keys. We’ll be ready when you are, Ace?”
It was with a great deal of apprehension that Ace picked up the receiver and dialled the number he knew off by heart. His heart was beating at a level close to when he’d been in mortal peril, but it was for nothing. He reached the voicemail and sighed, but he did at least leave a note. He owed his parents that.
“Hey, Mom, Dad, it’s Ace. I know you’re probably worried sick, but there’s no need to be. I got caught up at the Staples Center. I’m sure you heard about that. Let’s just say I was a bit more involved than I’d like to be, and I’ve been trying to get back home ever since. I was separated from the team and couldn’t really go back to them. Sorry, but I can’t explain, at the moment. Just wanted to let you know that I’m in Boston. We couldn’t cross in Buffalo, so we’re going to try and cross back over to Canada in Maine. Hopefully, I’ll be home in the next day or two.
“Hope everything is going well with you two and that you didn’t assume the worst. I would have called you earlier, but I haven’t exactly been able to get my hands on a phone. Well, guess I should probably call it here. Love you two, bye.”
Ace hung up the receiver with an impassive expression.
He couldn’t explain why, but he had an odd feeling that it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as that.
Meanwhile, in a rental car on the freeway…
Annabeth hadn’t known Luke could drive. Supposedly, he had gotten his license at some point. Or had just manipulated the Mist. That was also possible, she supposed.
Their quest had thus far been uneventful, though Annabeth had a distinct impression that fact was about to change.
Despite its relative peace, their journey had been… tense.
Luke and Annabeth had always shared an open dialogue with each other. Neither of them really kept secrets from the other. There was a sort of mutual agreement between the two of them not to pry into the other’s family life before going on the run and arriving at Camp Halfblood, but that was pretty much it. And Luke’s quest… he did get rather twitchy when that came up, but Annabeth had never really tried asking. Perhaps he would tell her if she did, but she hadn’t been overly interested in creating needless tension.
“You never did tell me what the prophecy said.”
There was a long pause.
“No, I guess I never did.”
“Isn’t it… important that I know?”
Luke thought about that. “No clue, actually. If anybody has ever proposed a solid explanation for how prophecies work, I haven’t seen it. Maybe knowing is better, maybe it isn’t. Who knows?”
“Can you tell me? Or, will you tell me?”
Luke sighed. “Seeing as you’re the wisdom goddess’s daughter and all, I suppose it might be best if you know.” He took a deep breath. “Fate’s herald shall be found by the oldest of friends, his life shall be halted as his goals meet their end. His journey’s end draws near as great forces unite. Together with friends, he shall wait in the light.”
Annabeth knew there were two more lines. She knew how prophecies worked. Something about Luke’s demeanour though… she’d seen it once before.
In the days after herself, Luke and Thalia had left the home of May Castellan. That didn’t bode well if this was at all similar. Even now, years later, Annabeth had no idea what had sent Luke so deep into his own head. She suspected it to be something concerning his father, but that was the extent of what she could confidently assume.
If this was anything like that… well, it certainly didn’t speak well on the quest ahead, especially when Annabeth sensed their targets were near.
Yet as the full moon shone brightly down upon them, casting its ethereal light upon the Earth in place of the sun, she couldn’t help but think maybe it truly was best if some things were unknown to her.
A few minutes later…
Ace and Cato had really been spoiled when it came to cars lately.
Mind you, every vehicle they’d touched since California had been completely and utterly destroyed, but they’d been in some rather nice cars.
The BMW M750Li they were now riding in might not have been a Porsche 911, but it was no slouch in its own right.
Benedict, or Blaze, was driving this time, and Ace wondered whether or not he might have any better luck than he and Cato had been experiencing. He would feel rather guilty if Blaze wound up destroying his father’s car on his account. Not that the man couldn’t afford another one, judging by the extravagant home he owned.
“Any luck with your parents, Ace?” Blaze asked upfront. Cato was sitting shotgun, leaving Ace and Andreia in the backseat.
Ace shook his head, though his face was unreadable. “Voicemail.”
“Ah, did you leave a message?”
“I did.” His voice wasn’t impolite, but it also wasn’t particularly open, either. “You said your stepdad’s out on business, right?”
Blaze sighed. “Yeah, won’t be back until the morning. He owns quite a few hospitals and is here for a convention of some kind. I didn’t really ask for details.”
“Must be nice though,” Cato observed. “Path’s all laid out for ya. All you have to do is follow it.”
“Oh, I’m not going to work for my father.” His voice was rather cool, and Ace definitely detected more than a hint of pride there.
“Yeah. I’ll be going to law school once secondary is done. My goal is to become a lawyer, as you might expect.”
That was admirable, Ace would give him that. A path was laid out bare before him, yet he chose not to take it. He wanted to carve one of his own, and Ace could respect that. And again, he couldn’t help but notice parallels. Did every demigod have a reputation to escape? Him, as a pestered prodigy back home. Cato, in a similar vein, just for different reasons. Blaze wanted to step out of the oppressive shadow cast upon him by his father. And Andreia… he wasn’t actually sure. She seemed the least troubled of the four of them, in some aspects. Perhaps it was why she appeared to be by far the most open and sociable of the quartet.
It might explain her heart and empathy, as well.
Perhaps the world just hadn’t thrown quite enough in her direction to make Andy particularly cynical.
“I can respect that,” Cato said, mirroring Ace’s own thoughts aloud. “Too many people are just happy to sit around and do nothing nowadays.”
“That’s true,” Blaze agreed. “A lot of them start alright though. It’s when they get a tiny taste of success that the laziness starts creeping up. I’ve seen it happen with my stepdad’s businesses.”
“That’s good for you though,” Andy pointed out. “You’ll know what to avoid when you get there.”
Blaze nodded, a resolute expression on his face. “Exactly. Hopefully, I can get to the same level as—” Before he could finish, he spotted something in his rearview mirror. “Fuck, that’s not good.”
“What is it?” Ace asked, suddenly alert. He’d been drowsy, but all signs of that state were gone.
By now, Cato had already checked the mirror and his face was hard. “Check behind us?”
Ace and Andy both craned their necks to look back and Ace whistled. “That is a lot of monsters.”
“Bloody hell,” Blaze cursed. “You guys weren’t kidding, were you?”
“Nah,” Cato said. “If you think this is bad, you should’ve seen the border. That place was swarming with ‘em.”
“Apparently they really don’t like you,” Blaze deadpanned, looking back over his shoulder towards Ace. “Everywhere you go, they just… oh, fuck!” Something massive had run out in front of them and Blaze swerved hard.
At the exact moment, he was swerving, a semi-truck just so happened to be coming in at top speed in the opposite lane.
Miraculously, they all survived the collision, though Cato’s shoulder gave off a loud crack as the truck clipped his side of the vehicle. It was merciful the massive vehicle had only clipped theirs, or surely they would have been killed.
As it was, they were still sent off the highway, slamming hard into the ditch between the road and a deep, dark forest.
“Fucking hell,” Blaze cursed. “Everyone alright?” They all confirmed they were. They were varying states of banged up, but the collision hadn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been.
The car on the other hand… was a bigger problem.
“Oh, fuck!” Blaze moaned. “Oh, I’m finished. When my father sees this…”
“Bubba,” Cato interrupted, “I hate to break it to you, but we got bigger problems. We gotta get the fuck outta this car before all of‘em catch up with us.”
Blaze paled and immediately unlocked the doors as soon as the point was made. Getting out of a car with a mangled leg wasn’t particularly fun, but Ace managed. “What are we going to do?” Andreia asked nervously. “We can’t fight all of those?”
“Of course we can’t,” Ace agreed, “so we do the next best thing. We get the hell out of the way, and fast.”
None of them needed to ask where.
The woods just feet away from them appeared vast and they were certainly dense.
No one needed to be told twice.
Ace made it about ten feet in before his foot snagged on a root, his leg flared with pain, and he nearly ended up on his face. Andreia caught his arm before that could happen, but the damage had been done to his leg. Perhaps it was a good thing she didn’t release her hold on his arm as they walked, even though he would never dare to admit that fact aloud to any living person, interested or otherwise.
They could hear footsteps behind them all the way. Twigs snapping and leaves being rustled. They could only assume the monsters were hot on their tail. This was rather confusing, as the sounds didn’t seem loud enough to be the battalion of beasts that they’d seen on the highway.
But it wasn’t exactly like it could be much else.
That was exactly what all of them thought until they entered a large clearing. Unlike the rest of the forest, the dense foliage present in most of the wooded area did not obscure the light of the moon, which beamed freely down upon them, bathing them all in bright, silvery light.
It also bathed exactly what was tailing them, and Ace realized with a jolt they were in more trouble than he’d thought.
“Down!” he called, having been the first to catch a true glimpse of their pursuers.
All of his companions complied without complaint, though Andreia, still attached to his arm, hardly had a choice. He threw himself to the forest floor with so much force that she was dragged with him, whether she wanted to be or not.
The unmistakable sound of gunshots filled the clearing, though none of the bullets found their mark.
Cato was back on his feet in a second, and he was armed just as quickly.
‘Huh,’ Ace thought. ‘Maybe it was actually a good idea to bring that AR15.’
Cato’s assault rifle sprayed bullets back towards the large men in leather jackets who had followed them into the clearing.
They reacted quickly, though several of them did fall. One took a bullet to the leg, one took several to the arm, while another took a direct shot to the sternum, and a fifth took a bullet straight through the heart.
For however well-armed Cato might have been, there were far more of them than there were of him.
One resounding gunshot rang through the clearing and Cato screamed as the bullet pierced his calf and he went down hard. Ace’s eyes flashed towards the gun that had fallen from his friend’s grasp, but a raspy voice cut in before he could make any sort of move towards it.
“Any of you move towards that weapon and all of ya get a fuckin’ bullet through your skulls.”
Ace froze. He recognized that voice.
The man whom the bouncer had called over in Dallas before leading him to the back.
“Thought you’d just run away from the Hells Angels, ya little shit,” the man snarled, kneeling in front of Ace and pressing the barrel of the gun up against his head.
He tried to respond but couldn’t. His body had frozen.
All of the bravado you might have when talking about what you would do with a gun pressed to your skull is all fun and games at the time. When you actually found yourself in a situation where you’re one move away from near-certain death, one tended to be a lot less daring than they might have expected.
Ace didn’t say a word, he couldn’t.
“Now,” the biker said gruffly, “give me everything you got on the Daemons of Erebus or I’ll cave your fucking skull in.”
Oh, this had to be a fucking joke.
He actually thought the Daemons of Erebus was a biker gang. After their dastardly escape and Cato’s daring war cry, he probably even thought they were a rival to the Hells Angels.
Oh, this was not good.
For all of Cato’s brilliance, he hadn’t thought that one through and by god, had it come back to bite them in the ass in the most major way imaginable.
Ace swallowed the lump in his throat and took a deep, centring breath. He could hear Andy crying softly to his side, and it was that, in part, that gave him the strength to answer the question. “There’s nothing to tell you, sir.”
“Boy, if you fuckin’ lie to me again.”
“Sir, I swear, this has all been a massive misunder—” The man drew back his fist and slammed it hard into Ace’s nose. He felt his nose seem to retract into his skull before forcefully popping back out at the same time that blood sprayed everywhere. If that wasn’t enough, the biker had brought the but of the gun up hard into his jaw, shattering several of his teeth and filling his mouth with blood as well.
“I won’t ask again!” he snarled.
All fear had left Ace now.
Now, he was only three things.
Determined to save his friends, deathly defiant, and preposterously pissed off.
“Fuck off and go to hell.” Before the man could retaliate, Ace spat the largest clump of blood he could manage right into the biker’s face and prepared to die.
But the fatal blow didn’t come.
The underbrush exploded as motion made itself obvious on all sides.
Wolves and humans alike were bounding into the clearing. The wolves were unnaturally large and their coats shone silver, their eyes gleaming in the luminescent moonlight.
Behind them was what appeared to be a group of teenage girls, all of whom were carrying bows and arrows.
The Hells Angels whirled around, guns drawn. Before they could be fired, the single most miraculous thing Ace had ever seen take place happened, though he could barely see it at all through the haze of agony that was currently his existence.
Just before they could release their ammunition, the guns… vanished.
No, that wasn’t quite right.
Each and every single one of the guns belonging to a member of the infamous Hells Angels MC morphed into a different species of bird. As one, they all took to the air, leaving a thoroughly confused group of MC members behind.
“What the f—”
“That will be enough out of you, mortal.”
Something about that voice sent a chill down Ace’s spine, and he really hoped whoever had spoken was on their side and not just against everyone in the clearing.
The voice seemed to come from one of the girls. One that looked to be in her very late teens, maybe even twenty or twenty-one. She was of average height and had a lithe sort of build. Come to think of it, every girl in the clearing, except one or two, had that same build, though this girl was different. Her pale skin seemed to glow as her pure silver eyes shone unnaturally bright, and the moonlight streaming down from above made her auburn hair look all the more vivid.
“You have all done enough injustice tonight, I think,” the girl decided. “I have no use for you and more important matters to attend to. Be gone.” The girl waved her hand, and Ace’s brain almost short-circuited with shock.
Where the men had stood before, in their place were numerous small, rather terrified-looking chipmunks that immediately scampered away.
The clearing was quiet for all of three seconds before the silvery-eyed girl started walking towards Ace’s prone form. Andreia moved at once, shakily putting herself between the two of them, her posture defensive. “What do you want?” she asked. Her voice quivered, but it was stronger than Ace’s probably would have been, given the circumstances.
The girl — or young woman, smiled. “Fear not, child. I mean no harm. I merely wanted a word with Mister Iverson.” Gently, the girl pushed past Andreia and knelt in front of Ace. Before he could resist, her cool, soft hand cupped his chin and forced him to look up into her eyes. She tutted. “That won’t do, now will it?” Her hand seemed to grow warm and Ace’s jaw might have fallen from his face had she not been holding it in place.
The blood vanished from his face as his teeth just… grew back.
God, that had felt weird; growing back teeth in a matter of seconds.
His nose cracked rather painfully, but he knew at once it too had been healed.
“There.” The woman stepped back and gestured for Ace to get to his feet. “Much better. Rise, child.” Something in her voice made Ace instinctively obey, ignoring the searing pain that shot up his leg. Luckily, Andreia moved immediately to stabilize him.
“Much better.” For the first time, Ace noticed the look of interest obvious on her face. “Now, I think it’s time for you and your friends to get cleaned up. We shall do this quickly for my time is short, and we need to have a chat, Ace Iverson.”
She smiled a soft smile. “Oh yes, little brother, we do indeed.”
Wow… that last scene took on a life of its own.
I don’t foresee FoF being particularly dark. Especially not compared to Ashes of Chaos, but it will certainly have its moments. If it makes anyone feel better, this will probably be the darkest moment in season 1, so there’s that.
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