Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter VIII: Ace’s Acrobatics
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.
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November 15, 2004
As Ace and Cato flew down a backroad outside of Philadelphia, Ace felt a small bit of amusement at how the visual scene might differ from the reality of the situation.
He had put his new sword in his bike’s saddlebags for safekeeping. Cato, on the other hand, had sought to be more adventurous — surprise, surprise. Instead of being logical, Cato had strapped the spear to the back of his bike. It now functioned much like a flagpole, and contributed much to the resplendent scene of two young men driving down a calm, back road outside one of the most historic cities in the United States of America.
The view was perfect, with the near-full moon shining luminescent beams of light upon the mortals below. It cast what resembled silver spotlights here and there across the land that stretched out far below, and stood out vividly in the clear sky. The way Cato’s “Don’t Tread on Me” flag flowed majestically in the breeze added to the scene as well.
What didn’t add to the image of grandeur, was the fact that the two of them were driving well over one-hundred miles an hour and trying not to die.
They’d left Nashville almost twenty-four hours ago and arrived in Philadelphia about twelve hours ago. There had been more than a few near misses on the long, nearly twelve-hour drive when Ace began to doze off whilst streaking down the highway at sensationally idiotic speeds.
Miraculously, Ace once more managed to not get himself killed during the drive. It would actually be rather depressing to go back to Canada knowing it would be more than two years until he would be allowed to drive again. On the upside, he very much doubted he would be having any troubles when it came time to take his driver’s test. For all of its moral dilemmas and historical flaws, trial by fire was a truly excellent teaching tool, assuming the student lived long enough to learn anything at all.
The problem hadn’t been the drive, though Ace had come dangerously close to being spotted by the police on numerous occasions. No, the problem had come when they had reached Philadelphia itself.
They hadn’t ventured into the city for more than thirty minutes when the first attack came. As Ace and Cato drove down a road bordering the Delaware River, they watched as at least thirty creatures marched straight out of the water. The ones who appeared to be adults seemed to stand at roughly seven feet tall. They had dog-like faces, with black snouts and brown eyes. Their bodies were sleek and resembled that of a seal, while their odd feet seemed a hybrid between flippers and something resembling a human foot.
“They made Poseidon’s trident in the myths, right?” Ace loudly asked Cato, trying to be heard over the sound of their engines and the rushing wind.
“In most myths, yeah,” Cato yelled back. “Some say they made Kronos’s scythe, too.”
“Can they fight?”
“No clue. Not staying to find out though.”
It had turned out that escaping the telkhines hadn’t been quite as easy as Cato made it sound.
Well, the telkhines weren’t terribly difficult to evade, provided they stayed well away from any bodies of water. They weren’t very nimble, and their odd feet, though serviceable, seemed as if they suited water more than land.
Naturally, telkhines weren’t their only problem though.
They’d spent the entire day driving all over Philadelphia in an effort to escape. Every time they tried to leave the city, monsters of varying species headed them off. Dracaena seemed to be the most common, but they were far from the only. Several laestrygonian giants had been spotted along the way, as had some more well-placed telkhines.
Getting gas had been an absolute bitch.
They had been cornered by five telkhines and three or four dracaena. They were actually fortunate the force that was on top of them didn’t number far more, but it had still seemed quite daunting at the time. Cato had filled the bikes up with gas while Ace had defended them with the celestial bronze sword they’d stolen back in Nashville. It felt a bit odd to wield a sword in broad daylight as a weapon, but it wasn’t exactly as if they had much of a choice. They had chosen the most out-of-the-way gas station they could find in hopes of not being spotted by anybody who might recognize them from the newspaper, and luckily, the incident had gone unseen.
What was even more fortunate, was that Ace was actually pretty good with a sword.
His technique might not have been the cleanest — seeing as it wasn’t exactly something he’d practiced — but just like the few times he had tried fencing, the movements felt natural. In some instances, it even looked to him as if the incoming strikes were just a touch slower than they should have been. His footwork was exceptional and he managed to evade, block, or parry every stab from the monsters wielding short-range weapons. The ones who hadn’t held weapons… well, they had been rather easy kills.
By the time Ace had dispatched a few of the monsters with weapons, as well as all but one of those without, Cato had their bikes full of gas once more. Getting on his own before another monster attack had been difficult, but he’d managed.
That brief scrimmage had pretty much summarized their day.
No matter what they did, they couldn’t lose the beasts that seemed hell-bent on murdering them. Why they were so persistent, neither of them knew. All that mattered was that they were and that losing them seemed to be utterly impossible.
Ace had proposed they just leave Philadelphia and keep heading to Canada, but Cato had pointed out that they needed sleep. Philadelphia was full of alleys and other places where that could happen. It was also large and clustered, so finding refuge that would be concealed well enough from the monsters was possible. Ace had to agree with that philosophy, even if he did so very grudgingly. He was exhausted, but he didn’t like the idea of just running around and trying not to die. It gave even more of the beasts time to arrive.
By now, Ace had realized that for one reason or another, monsters really wanted them dead. He was sure Cato realized this as well, though the pair hadn’t yet discussed it. It was only natural that more monsters would come.
And come they had.
Needless to say, the two of them never ended up sleeping. The plan of hiding somewhere discrete and alternating shifts while the other slept had seemed like a solid plan. The downside was that it hinged on the two of them actually being able to escape the monsters long enough to hide.
That still hadn’t happened.
Even now, flying down a backroad on the pair of motorcycles, they had pursuers. They thankfully didn’t have the unnatural speed that the Minotaur had possessed, but they were close enough to be troublesome.
Certainly close enough to make Ace’s heart skip a beat when they had come to a dead end.
“Fuck!” Cato cursed, looking wildly around. “Shit, we can’t stay here.”
He wasn’t wrong.
They might have been a significant distance away, but the herd of monsters that was now chasing them was positively massive.
Ahead of them, the road ended. If they continued to drive straight, they would end up driving down a very steep hill. If they drove far enough back the way they had come, they would run headlong into the pack of bloodthirsty beasts tailing them. There had been no alternate routes along the way.
Not even Cato seemed able to find a solution. Not that he couldn’t see any. Dozens were flashing through his mind at a million miles a minute, but none of them were good and he knew he’d never think of one in time.
Apparently, the universe seemed to think it was Ace’s turn to come up with a solution.
His memory reviewed the route they’d taken at a preposterous speed, and his mind began working and processing faster than it ever had before. “We passed a house back a bit, didn’t we?” he asked.
Cato started. “What… uh, yeah, I think so. Why?”
“We’ve got to get into that house.”
Cato seemed to ponder this for about three seconds before nodding. “It was a mansion,” the man reminded him. “Gated and everything. There might be security.”
Ace scoffed. “We’ve dealt with worse, haven’t we?”
“We have. I just wanted to make sure you knew what we might be getting into.”
“Unless you have a better solution, let’s get moving.”
Clearly, Cato didn’t, for he turned his bike around and started driving in that direction.
By the time the two of them reached the property, they could actually see the herd approaching in the distance. The gates were rather high, but Ace was pretty sure he could climb them.
“Weapons,” Cato reminded him, “grab your weapon.”
Cato pulled a large backpack from his saddlebag and threw it over his back. Judging by the not-so-subtle protruding shapes, Ace was pretty sure the bag was loaded with weapons. Not the kind of weapons that would be of any use against monsters straight out of Greek mythology, but certainly the kinds of weapons that would be of all kinds of use against human opposition.
Ace snatched his sword out of his saddlebag just as Cato took his spear. Ace began scaling the gates and was halfway to the top by the time he realized Cato had yet to follow. When he reached the top, he peered down and almost facepalmed. He would have, if his spot atop the gates had not been so precarious. Cato had actually taken the time to not only remove the spear but to make sure the flag he’d lovingly draped on it had been detached and stored carefully in his bags.
Seriously, that man and his damn priorities! He could probably buy another one for next to nothing.
Well, once they weren’t viewed as criminals, at least.
In mere seconds, the two of them were over the gates and onto the property. Not a minute too soon, for they could now hear the monsters outside as they began running towards the manor home itself. It wasn’t massive in the way that some celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills might be, but it was still large enough to be considered a mansion.
Ace was halfway to the front door when Cato forcefully grabbed the smaller boy by the arm. “Rule number one about breaking in anywhere,” he stated matter of factly. “You never go in through the front door.”
Ordinarily, Ace might have asked why this mattered. He might have asked what difference it made, or even if they should even worry about it given the circumstances.
But this was Cato.
Ace would bet everything he had — and plenty more — that the man had already broken into more buildings than Ace ever would.
Given that, he wasn’t surprised when Cato pulled actual lockpicks from his bag as soon as they reached one of the more out-of-the-way side doors. He picked the lock in no time, and before the pair of them knew it, they were inside.
The hall was large and vast. Even in the inevitably low lighting brought on by the dead of night, its majesty couldn’t be ignored. The furnishings were all tasteful. Nothing screamed of wealth. It wasn’t overly ostentatious, just elegant and classy.
Cato took about a tenth of a second to admire their surroundings before marching purposefully off, giving Ace little choice but to follow. They moved carefully but quickly, walking past the debonair decor — most notably the dark, polished oak billiards table in the corner that glowed with a dull sheen.
“There,” Ace hissed, indicating a rather large–looking closet nearby. They appeared to be in one of the off–wings of the manor, so they probably wouldn’t be spotted as soon as security did their rounds.
Cato shook his head. “Nah, the attic. We can see the monsters that way. They might search it first, but we’ll be ready.”
Ace frowned. “Will we?”
Cato’s lips twitched as he removed something from his bag Ace hadn’t seen until now and handed it to him. His eyes widened as he recognized the weapon. “Trust me, bubba. I’m always ready.”
Meanwhile, in New Bedford…
Andreia sighed as she threw the last of her things into her suitcase. It was rather full, especially considering she would only be gone for a few days. A lot of the space was taken up by rather large plushies, but still…
She had a swim meet in Boston to attend. One she would be leaving for that next afternoon once school concluded. Since her father was out of town, one of his friends would drive her. The drive was only about an hour, so it wasn’t terribly long. While gone, she would stay at the hotel with the rest of her team. This had been another reason her father hadn’t been very concerned with leaving her on her own. She would be spending part of that time at this swim meet, and she had another one in two weeks.
Andreia glanced towards the clock on the wall and mentally sighed. The hour was growing late, but she already knew sleep wouldn’t be finding her for some time.
She’d been to a countless number of swim meets in her life. Of them, a great number had taken place in Boston, which was where this one was to be held.
Logically, she shouldn’t be this nervous for a swim meet.
A part of her knew that wasn’t the problem.
Her nerves were tingling and her danger senses were on high alert, but a small part of her knew that it had nothing to do with the coming competition.
Whatever was about to happen, Andreia could tell it would be big.
November 16, 2004
Ace knew as soon as he woke up that shit was about to go down.
For one thing, Cato had roused him.
He’d only done that once before, and it had been right before major shit had gone down.
For another, he could just feel it. His mind was unusually sharp for having just returned to the land of the waking, and his body seemed already wired to react.
He glanced sideways towards Cato, who nodded.
That was all it took for Ace to scramble to his feet, as Cato also rose to a standing position. Footsteps could now be heard on the stairs leading up to the attic, and Ace and Cato briefly exchanged one, final glance. Both of them repositioned their ancient weapons so that running would be less difficult. Cato also pulled something else from his pocket. Ace didn’t see it, but he knew Cato well enough to guess as to what it was.
The door to the attic opened and two security guards stepped inside. Cato didn’t even let them start talking before he hurled the object. It turned out to be a smoke grenade, as Ace had expected. The two guards were caught completely by surprise, and Ace and Cato sprinted out of the attic, Cato shoulder tackling one of them in the process. Ace never looked back to check, but it didn’t sound like he’d fallen down the stairs, which he took as a positive. Ace was all for defending himself, but being an accomplice to murder wasn’t on his to-do list. Not even if it would only be considered manslaughter.
At the first available opportunity, the two split; Ace went right, and Cato left.
They had spoken last night about what to do in this situation, and their decision had been unanimous.
Neither of them had any delusions that the Harley Davidsons would have been left in working condition by the herd of monsters they’d escaped from. Knowing this, their top priority was a vehicle. The drive from Philadelphia to the Canadian border was relatively short compared to their last few trips on the highway, and both of them sensed that they were in the final stretch of their journey.
But they needed a vehicle.
They were nearly out of money for gas, which could be a problem.
The plan was for Cato to lose his pursuer with the use of a few more smoke grenades, slip off, and find some money. He would then aim to meet Ace down in the garage, once they found it.
As Ace rounded a corner, his brain almost froze as a bullet zoomed past his head, missing by less than half a foot.
His heart rate seemed to double all at once as his adrenaline began to pump at levels he hadn’t known to be possible.
Everything changed when the guns came out.
Every teenager in the world seemed to talk about what they would do when a gun was drawn. The reality of the situation was that their elaborate plans would never come to fruition amid battle. When the guns came out, adrenaline kicked in, and your body resorted to what it knew unless otherwise trained.
It wasn’t so much fight or flight as it was curling up in a ball due to panic or getting the hell out of the way. Or, if you were less fortunate — die trying.
Ace had always been pretty good at the whole running thing, so his body resorted to that.
As he neared what appeared to be a grand staircase, more bullets sailed past him as his heart sped up still faster. It was miraculous that none of them found their mark. He was doing the best he could to weave in unpredictable ways, but he was surprised the man hadn’t at least gotten lucky so far. Several shots had been so close that Ace was sure they would hit him, but they all seemed to veer off course at the last possible second.
He was nearing the staircase now, but he would then be trapped.
The stairs were comprised of marble and in the centre of a large balcony that overlooked the floor below. To either side of them, railings that nearly came up to Ace’s shoulder stretched on for ten or so feet. The stairs weren’t terribly narrow, but he would never be able to dodge bullets whilst running down them. He would be a sitting duck.
He didn’t need to think about it. Once he heard Cato call that one command, his instincts kicked in. The body really did default to trained reactions when adrenaline took over, and Ace had been trained to follow similar instructions in sports for years.
He didn’t look back, but if he had, he would have seen Cato come from a hallway connected to the one Ace and his pursuer had just run down. He was behind the man chasing Ace, so therefore in no threat of being shot. He had also managed to lose his own tail, at least for now.
The world seemed to slow down for a fraction of a second as Ace saw something sailing through the air in his peripheral vision. He could sense it more than he could see it. He knew exactly how far it was away from him without looking. He didn’t need to gauge the distance; it was as if the very air was keeping him informed of that.
At the perfect moment, Ace’s hand shot out and caught the spear that Cato had thrown him. He didn’t need to think about what Cato meant for him to do with it. There was only one thing the lunatic could have meant for him to do with it. If Ace was thinking clearly, he would never have done it. A fall from this high could easily be fatal if the landing wasn’t perfect. Even then, broken bones would be almost guaranteed.
But Ace wasn’t thinking clearly, so he did it anyway despite the risks.
He veered off, and it looked as if he would run straight into the railing to the left of the staircase.
Before that could happen, he brought the spear up and drove it into the floor at an angle. It bent in just the perfect way and Ace was sent sailing through the air less than a second later. He soared well above the railing he’d just vaulted over and, once again, the world seemed to slow as he fell. For an infinitesimally small amount of time, he was sure he would die as his momentum had forced him into a front flip.
In other words, he was fucked.
Or so he thought.
Somehow, someway, Ace managed to complete the full rotation before landing in a crouched position. No pain shot up his legs at all. It felt as though he’d landed far too softly considering what he had just done, but he wondered if the pain was perhaps just being dulled by the absurd amount of adrenaline in his system.
Without looking up, he knew to reach out and snatch the spear from the air as it fell.
When he turned on his heel, he noticed the security guard standing stock still on the stairs about halfway down. He was gaping at Ace as if he were an alien, and he seemed too astonished by what he’d just seen to do more than gape.
Cato, on the other hand, was sliding down the banister to the man’s right — Ace’s left. Instinctually, Ace threw the spear towards Cato, who caught it with surprising ease just as it neared him.
The security guard paid for his lack of composure about two seconds later. As Cato slid past him on the banister, he brought the dull butt of the spear forcefully into the back of the man’s head, sending him tumbling down the stairs, completely unconscious.
Ace froze as Cato landed at the bottom. “Did we just… is he?”
Cato had already bent over the man and was swiftly checking his pulse. “Nah,” he said. “He’s fine; the pulse is still there. Probably concussed to hell and back, but he’ll be fine. Now come on, no time to stand around.”
Numbly, Ace followed Cato down the hallway to their right.
Finding the garage was surprisingly easy, but they didn’t just burst straight through the door. On the contrary, Cato came to a complete stop outside of it, pressing his fingers to his lips. Ace obeyed at once and came to a silent halt. Cato mimed the shooting of a gun, and Ace nodded, withdrawing the weapon from his pocket that Cato had given him the night before. With a nod, Cato threw open the door to the garage and immediately leaned out of the way.
Lucky he did, for a bullet flew through the space his head had occupied a second or so earlier. Ace leaned past Cato and without even looking, he fired the taser Cato had slipped him the night before. His shot found its mark, and Cato bounded into the garage. With a vicious pistol whip, the man slumped to the floor, unconscious — he’d already been on his knees from the taser blast, so he’d been relatively easy pickings.
Ace and Cato just exchanged a look. “Damnit,” Ace muttered, “you really are rubbing off on me.”
Cato just raised his eyebrows as he began his way towards the nearest vehicle. It just so happened to be a Porsche 911. If Ace was in a better state of mind, he might have been jumping up and down at getting to ride in a car like this. He’d never imagined being near one. It was a testament to how utterly wired and shocked by everything he was that he hardly even acknowledged it, even when sliding smoothly into the passenger’s seat.
“Well, I clearly can’t be sane anymore,” Ace said as Cato started the engine.
“Why not?” Cato asked, driving slowly forward as the motion sensor activated garage door began to rise.
“Because,” Ace said as Cato floored the accelerator, the force from the launch pinning him to his seat as they rocketed off the property. “I should not have found that enjoyable, but it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Cato’s laughter was maniacal and persistent, even as he drove the 911 straight through a hoard of monsters, ploughing over several dracaena and a dozen or so telkhines in the process, coming out on the other side with only open road ahead.
Cato put the accelerator to the floor as they streaked away from the rabid herd of monsters. He was still smirking like a madman as he paid Ace a brief glance. “See? This is why we get along so well. You get it; you understand.”
God — this story is fun to write. That vault scene might be my favourite one yet. It’s one of the first truly demigod-like things anybody has done in this story.
I will only say this once — demigod weapons work on mortals in this story the same way I’ve already depicted mortal weapons working on monsters. If the attack should be fatal, it will do nothing— see Percy trying to slice through Rachael in book 3 and the gang member in LA during book 1. If it will just be harmful in the short term, it will at least be able to make contact. This is how Cato was able to hit the security guard with the spear since he didn’t use the celestial bronze tip.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Athena Hope, (Others) for their corrections/contributions this week.
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