Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter IV: Perpetuated Plans Pertaining to Pipe Bombs
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my mythical editor Fezzik, as well as my betas Umar, Luq707, Raven0900 and Yoshi89 for their legendary work on this story.
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November 12, 2004
The Staples Center
“Ace,” the boy in question responded, taking Cato’s outstretched hand and shaking it firmly.
The two of them glanced around the room. It was as if they had momentarily forgotten about the oncoming crisis. They had taken a respite to revel in the normality of simply meeting a new acquaintance. This was probably because both of them intuitively knew that normality wasn’t going to be a luxury they would be able to enjoy for quite some time.
“Yeah, I’m all for the moment,” Cato said quickly as his train of thought barreled straight back into the metaphorical wall that was reality with a resounding crash. “But we really need to get the hell’uv outta here. There are about ten things coming for us that I don’t want to fight.”
Ace glanced quickly between Cato and the pile of gold dust that had been Sofia not moments earlier. “More of them?”
“No. I’m not sure if what’s coming is better or worse. A helluva lot bigger, but it doesn’t have fire attached to its body, so…”
“How much bigger are we talking?” With dread, Ace’s brain flashed back to his encounter with the cyclops back in the first week of September.
Cato shrugged. “Can’t say I was counting feet, but… a lot bigger. Like… two of her, maybe?”
“Fuck,” Ace muttered, eyes darting around the room as if he were a trapped, rabid animal desperate to escape a cage. “How the hell are we planning to get out of here? It’s not like there’s a quick way out. It’s the Staples Center.”
“So… hear me out,” said Cato, a contemplative yet anticipatory expression spreading across his face. Ace thought the expression akin to an ancient Roman spectator watching a gladiator in the coliseum.
“That’s never a good start to a conversation,” he muttered darkly.
Cato’s face split into a wicked grin that suddenly made Ace very grateful this lunatic was on his side. “Let’s get one thing straight,” Cato said in an oddly mischievous yet still very much serious tone. “My ideas are usually crazy, but they’re almost always right.”
As Cato began explaining what Ace was going to have to do, he could only sit back, dumbstruck, and wonder exactly how the hell he had gotten himself into this situation.
Ten or so minutes later…
This was a really bad idea.
That was the only conclusion Ace could come to as he tore through the Staples Center at top speed. He was more than a little bit grateful both for his raw speed and natural athleticism, as well as the countless hours he’d spent on long runs while training.
There was a pack of beings behind him that Ace frankly did not want to get caught by. If he were to get caught, it would most definitely be the end of him. He’d debated taking hockey sticks as weapons from the rack in the dressing room, but Cato had assured him they would be of little use. He’d said that blunt force wasn’t going to be a viable option against these enemies, not unless that force was of a much higher magnitude than a clubbing blow with a hockey stick.
Ace hadn’t understood what Cato had meant at the time, but he had gotten the general picture quickly enough.
He’d made it out of the dressing room and up the long, sweeping tunnel leading into one of the more centrally located areas on the Staples Center’s first floor when he’d caught sight of the mob and nearly lost his jaw. It had done a rather splendid job of trying to tumble free of his skull and hit the floor.
It was very clear what the threat was. The only confusing thing was that the few people still milling around didn’t seem to notice them at all. How one failed to notice ten or so figures when they were all at least eight feet tall and nearly twice as wide as most men, Ace had no idea.
He didn’t exactly have time to think about it. The monstrosities didn’t fail to notice him — as he had vaguely hoped they would — even though Cato’s plan hinged on drawing their full, undivided attention onto him, and away from the older male who had saved him from the flaming demon that had pursued him into the changing room.
There had been a moment, back in the dressing room, when Ace had wondered how he was going to draw them away from the crowd. It turned out to be childishly easy. He didn’t even have to do anything. The oversized, humanoid figures caught sight of him at once and didn’t hesitate to make a beeline straight towards him.
Ace had been just as prompt in his response to that dilemma — getting the hell out of there.
Now, he was two floors up, running for his life from the beasts which barreled towards him and seemed to never stop.
As he continued his wild, cartoonish chase, two thoughts dominated Ace’s brain.
The first of which was that creatures of this size really ought to have been exhausted by now, yet these things had seemed to defy all logic and hadn’t even so much as slowed down.
The second was that Cato had better be ready in time. If he wasn’t, this was going to end extremely poorly.
Meanwhile, two floors up, Cato hauled yet another five-gallon tank filled with propane into the back kitchen of a randomly selected Pizza Hut.
It hadn’t been all that difficult to make its occupants vacate the area. They had already been packing up and on their way out for the night. Some basic scare tactics had them running fast enough.
This was good.
When everything went down in about eight minutes, Cato really didn’t want anybody to get caught in the crossfire. The collateral damage already had the potential to be disastrous. Best if everybody was well out of the way.
With the last propane tank in place, Cato began spreading out the pieces of scrap metal that would be necessary for the final component of their rather simple plan. Cato had a habit of coming to needlessly complicated solutions, but sometimes, he recognized the fact that the simplest solution was really the best solution.
The unfortunate thing was that when he usually came to that conclusion, the simplest solution tended to also be the most extreme suggestion.
Not that this plan was actually simple at all.
It just seemed simple to Cato, which was like saying the earth looked small next to the son.
He sighed. If it wasn’t broken, don’t fix it. As long as it worked, it wasn’t exactly as if anybody could be too upset with him later. With that blatant bit of self-justification out of the way, he began to construct what would soon be his homemade weapon of mass destruction.
This was bullshit!
Ace had decided by this point that life must just be fucking with him. Seriously, he was a goddamned elite cross country runner, yet he was tiring and these fucking things weren’t?
If Ace really did die here, he would be sure to punch whatever deity was responsible for this sudden lack of logic in the face. Until then, he needed to try and come up with a way for that not to happen. Well, Cato had a way, but the time hadn’t come yet for that plan to become obvious. Ace was actually rather worried about what he would do.
“Distract them, lead them back to me and I’ll do the rest,” Cato had said.
Well, didn’t that statement practically drip with ominous foreshadowing. Not to mention, although Ace was eternally grateful to this Cato for the save, the man seemed slightly unhinged.
But distracting them… that would be the trick, wouldn’t it?
He veered hard to the right, running towards the nearest cafeteria as fast as possible. Thank the heavens that whatever these things were, their turning radius was miserable in spite of their superhuman endurance. This allowed Ace to put some distance between himself and the creatures. He promptly took this opportunity to pick up one of the chairs from a table situated near the middle of the cafeteria and hurl it at the nearest monstrosity as hard as he could. He didn’t look to see if it made an impact. He knew it had from the resounding crash, but he didn’t have time.
He had spotted something that might be able to buy him some time, but if he stood still for too long, he would be flattened in an instant.
Forcing down all thoughts of dying, Ace tore the fire extinguisher from the wall and aimed it at the oncoming beings. The torrent of watery foam that exploded from the implement nearly caused Ace to stumble. He’d only ever fired a gun a few times in his life while out hunting with his stepdad’s father, but this felt similar, in a sense.
It turned out that whatever the hell these things were, they were not a fan of water. Idly, Ace remembered something about how most giants, or at least, abnormally large creatures from myths seemed to have an affinity for fire. If that was the case, it made some degree of sense that the water was working so efficiently. Then again, maybe applying logic here was foolish. Nothing about this was logical. It was just as outrageous as being struck by a goddamned lightning bolt.
Thinking on myths, the other beast he’d encountered earlier, Sofia, was oddly reminiscent of another monster from the old, Greek stories.
An empousa, if Ace remembered correctly.
Fascinating as the Greek myths were, he had more pressing concerns to worry about. Primarily, not getting mauled by a pack of feral monsters twice his size.
Knowing that he couldn’t keep up the constant spray of water much longer, Ace hurled the fire extinguisher at the nearest creature’s head and bolted once more. At least now he had a course of action, and it was about time he began heading to where Cato and he had arranged to meet.
Cato’s plan, whatever the hell it was, better work, or they were completely fucked.
In the meantime, the chase continued.
Back in the Pizza Hut, Cato had everything ready. Now, it was just a matter of doing a frankly absurd number of rapid, advanced calculations. He had to make sure the metal was prepped at exactly the right time. He would only have one shot at this, and the timing had to be perfect. Getting rid of the giants wasn’t going to be the hard part. Doing so while making sure he and his new acquaintance stayed alive… that was going to be the difficult part.
He supposed it probably wasn’t the most dangerous thing he’d ever done in his life. He had done more difficult things than this. It was time to get to work.
Right about now, Ace hated just about everything that wasn’t a fire extinguisher.
But man, did he love fire extinguishers.
It was, thus far, the best method he’d discovered to keep the pursuing beings at bay. Luckily, he wasn’t going to need any other methods.
His most recent exploitation of the last fire extinguisher he’d gotten ahold of had allowed him to put more than enough room between the giants and himself. The Pizza Hut he’d agreed to meet Cato at was in sight, and he was closing in fast.
Now, all he had to do was hope that his new acquaintance was ready.
“Cato!” he bellowed, just as the man had asked him to, “I’m here!”
Cato was eternally grateful for his sense of paranoia. It was that sense that had, years ago, driven him to spend months trying to imitate echolocation. It wasn’t perfect. He was no bat, by any means, but he was fairly good at judging how far away people were, what speed they were moving at, how quickly they would be upon him, and so on. He’d seen blind men do it, so he could think of no reason all those years ago not to try it. It had been one of the most difficult tricks he had ever mastered, but he’d eventually gotten it down and he was currently very grateful for the fact.
Without that ability, he might never have known to open the oven and throw the heaps of scrap metal inside at that exact moment. Now, he only had to hope his calculations were correct.
Ace leapt straight over the counter. He knew all too well these giants were just going to barrel straight through it, so he needed to move as quickly as possible. Just as he did, Cato burst from the kitchens with a crazed, manic gleam in his eyes. Ace would have gulped if the situation were different. That look scared him, but not as much as the beasts tearing towards him at speeds which were preposterous for beings of their size.
“On three, we bolt!” Cato hissed. “One, two… THREE!”
He called out the final number just as the first giant slammed into the counter. The two of them leapt to the side and sprinted around the counter, back out onto the main floor. The giants, not being able to turn quite as quickly, all barreled through the counter and careened into the wall, knocking it down and causing them to all tumble into the kitchens.
Ace actually paused as the heatwave struck him, causing him to stagger. His eyes bugged out at the sight they had just caught behind them. The kitchens exploded outwards. The entire counter and everything around it was engulfed in a roaring fireball that seemed hell-bent on consuming all in its path.
“Don’t just fuckin’ stare at it!” Cato screamed. “Move!” Ace didn’t need to be told twice and booked it towards the nearest elevator. “Ok,” Cato cried, “not that fast, holy hell!”
In spite of himself, Ace smirked, slowing his run to a still fast, but slightly more reasonable pace, patting himself down as he went. Hair? Check. Left eyebrow? Check. Right eyebrow? …mostly. His skin was bright red from the heat, the hairs on his forearms and eyebrows singed.
“What the hell did you do?” he asked Cato as they both ran for the elevators.
“Got rid of the giants.”
“You made a bomb! Inside the Staples Center!”
“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?”
“How did you know it would blow up at the right time and not kill us?”
“A whole lot of calculations that would probably go way over your head.”
“Calculations? Do you have any idea how many variables there were?” Then, Ace came to another realization as they neared the elevator. “You asked me to call out so you could judge distance. Holy hell man! What if you judged wrong?!”
“I wouldn’t have.”
“You can’t be sure of that?”
“Like… ninety-nine point nine percent.”
“What about the other point one percent?”
The elevator opened and they both stepped inside. Cato frantically smashed the button for the ground floor before turning back to Ace with a rather manic expression.
“You wouldn’t have been here to ask me questions.”
“You know what… nope, I’m done asking about this.”
“So… what’s the plan?”
Cato paused. “Well… there’s a good chance we’ll be wanted for blowing up the Staples Center. I have some friends who can probably get rid of the evidence before it can be submitted, but our profiles will still be sent out for questioning.”
“Okay, I’m going to ignore the fact that you apparently have friends who can just tamper with criminal evidence and ask the other question. What the hell are we going to do then?”
Cato shrugged. “Do you live in LA?”
Ace laughed mirthlessly. “I live in Canada.”
“Huh… that’s gonna be more difficult.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m assuming you’re here for the hockey tournament since I saw you playing tonight.” His eyes lit up. “You’re fuckin’ good, by the way.”
“Thanks, and yeah, I’m here for hockey.”
The elevator doors slid open, admitting them onto the ground floor. By now, they could hear fire alarms blaring throughout the building. They needed to get out of here now — that much was blatantly obvious.
“Yeah, well, I can’t really take you back to your teammates as a somewhat wanted criminal.”
Ace blanched. “No, let’s avoid that option.”
“That’s the plan.”
“Care to tell me what else you have planned?”
“Well, if I can’t get you to your teammates, I might as well drive you home.”
“You’re… going to drive me back to Canada while we’re wanted criminals?”
“Okay, first of all, it doesn’t really solve the ‘wanted criminals’ thing, does it?”
“Nah, it’ll be fine. Once the evidence is gotten rid of, they won’t chase you into Canada. My friends’ll make sure of that.”
Cato actually laughed. “Don’t worry about me, bubba. I’ll be fine.”
“Right,” Ace said with no small bit of skepticism. He supposed as long as he got to Canada, he couldn’t really complain. “Um… I appreciate it and all, but why would you do this?”
Cato’s smile widened as they neared the first exit that would take them out into the parking lot. “One, I kinda like you; you seem decent enough.”
“Two, I kinda got you into this mess by blowing up part of the Staples Center.”
Ace snorted. “That is a very valid reason.”
“Yup. Three, I have nothing to do for the next few days, since I was supposed to be here till Wednesday but I don’t have to anymore.” Ace noticed that Cato was now wearing a grin that wouldn’t look out of place on a child on Christmas morning. “And most importantly, it means I can get the fuck out of California!”
Despite himself, even though he didn’t exactly get the joke, Ace laughed. Normally, going off with a random person whom you hadn’t even known for an hour was a really bad idea. This one time, Ace was going to make an exception. He had a good feeling about Cato, and he had no desire to be arrested at the ripe old age of thirteen.
Meanwhile, in parts unknown…
In the deep, dark recesses of an unnaturally large cave, three elderly looking women sat around a large table. If any mortal was ever blessed with the honour of entering said cave, they would either be high on the ethereal power that hummed through the air, or the whispering voices of fate and destiny would drive them to insanity.
Probably the latter, but it was a moot point, since no mortal had stood before these three beings in millennia.
It was rare that mortals ever met the Olympian gods, but it did happen from time to time. Whether it be due to what most regular people would deem coincidence, or whether it be a direct result of the hero’s or god’s actions, it did happen.
But these three women were no gods.
They were beings that predated the Olympians by a great number of years. They were, in fact, the three beings that ensured there was no such thing as happenstance in the world at all. They were Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis, otherwise known as the Moirai or, in simpler, more modern terms — the Fates.
The gods governed over the world. They all controlled a force of nature or reality. It was their job to ensure the force they lorded over was kept under control, and that it worked in harmony with the other forces to keep the world stable. They ran the world as they saw fit, and would intervene when needed. That was much less now than in millennia past. The gods had learned their lesson. Divine intervention often meant instability, which often led to apocalyptic problems.
These beings were different.
They lorded over reality itself. They shaped the doings of even the gods. Even the great immortals of Olympus had to bow to the will of Fate and Destiny. Much like millennia ago, while revolting against Kronos and the other Titans when the Moirai had fated a being to have the power to destroy the gods if sacrificed.
It had been a close call and was the most well-known, yet far from the only time the Olympians had to concede to the force of destiny.
These three beings were currently sitting in chairs around a centrally located table. Atropos sat at the head of the table, with Clotho on her left and Lachesis on her right. Clotho was spinning a long, golden thread, as if weaving an intricate construct that would be turned into a simple garment in time.
Of course, the truth was far more sinister and significant than that.
Directly across from her, Lachesis measured the ever-expanding fabric as her sister continued to spin it. Atropos had a plain, black book open in her hands.
To call it a book was doing it a disservice.
It was impossibly thick, and if any mortal looked upon this book, their brain would fail to comprehend what they were seeing. It would manipulate the very reality in front of them to see something it could comprehend. Indeed, any mortal would simply see an absurdly thick tome that was black and unlabelled.
The truth of the matter was more complex.
This book could not exist in the mortal world because the mortal world didn’t get on well with things that centred on the concept of infinity.
This book was infinite.
It wasn’t thick — it was never-ending. There was an endless number of pages, and this was the reality that the human eye just couldn’t see, because the human brain could never comprehend what something so obviously infinite looked like.
Atropos flipped to a very specific page somewhere in the paradox of a book and raised a long, black quill. Carefully, with the utmost precision, she lowered the quill to the parchment. Though none saw what she wrote, if somebody was observing from the other side, it would appear as if she had drawn something akin to an X.
Satisfied, she closed the book with an audible snap and laid it down heavily on the table before her with an equally loud thud. When done, she looked from Clotho, who had stopped spinning her thread, to Lachesis, who seemed satisfied with her measurement.
“Is it time?” Clotho asked.
Atropos merely nodded and Lachesis indicated a very specific point on the long string of golden thread. From nowhere, Atropos seemed to pull an obnoxiously large, overly ostentatious pair of shears. They seemed far too large to be functional, but Atropos handled them with well-practiced precision that had been honed over many millennia.
With a swift and deft motion, she cut a single strand of the golden thread. It caused the snipping sound to ring resoundingly and unnaturally through the cave, echoing and reverberating off the walls in a way that such a small, seemingly insignificant sound never should have been able to do.
But the motion… it was the furthest thing from insignificant.
When Atropos took it upon herself to pen a destiny in the book of fates and solidify her choice through the cutting of the thread… it meant that something big was coming.
This chapter was a bit of a pain logistically because I wrote Ace and Cato into a corner, but I’m fairly happy with how it all turned out. Also, if you can’t tell, I will be writing the Moirai (Fates) more accurately to their admittedly limited portrayal in Ancient Greek literature as opposed to how Rick wrote them in the series.
And no, that thread was not Luke’s.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl and Athena Hope for their corrections/contributions this week.