Michael Johnson sat quietly on his bunk, doodling aimlessly. It had been three summers since the Questers had formed, and they were much less active these days. Michael was also very bored lately. In his opinion, being thirteen only meant having a "teen" added to the back of his age, and he was actually quite missing twelve years of age.
"Yo, Michael?" a voice crackled behind him and he jumped. Turning, he saw Zack's face glimmering through an Iris Message, and he grinned for the first time in three months.
"Dude!" said Michael. "How's the trip to Greece?"
"Kind of boring, actually." said Zack. "Just a lot of Annabeth prattling on, and on, and on..."
Michael chuckled. "Well, my birthday has come and gone."
Zack's eyes grew wide. "Man, I totally forgot! How does it feel to be thirteen!"
"Exactly the same." Michael sighed. "Look, did Chiron say when your getting back?"
Zack frowned. "No, I-" There was a crackling on his side of teh line, and suddenly Michael was face to face with Natalie.
"Nat!" Michael beamed. "How's-"
Natalie cut him off. "Michael, theres a situation."
Michael shoulders sagged and he unclipped his Nightwing pin from his hoodie. "Okay. I'll be over there in a few minutes."
Natalie shook her head. "No. Its a big problem. We can handle it from this end. But we need someone to handle it from your end."
Michael's pace quickened as he noted the urgency of the situation. "What's the issue?"
Natlie's faced hardened. "Some sort of...curse or enchantment. We're calling it New Sparta. Across the world, random settlements have erupted into aggression and military dependence. Girls and boys our age are training savagely with any type of gun."
"W-wait." Michael siad. 'How do you know this is a greek problem? And why can't the Heroes Organization handle it just this once?"
"We don't. But there has been a rise in monster deaths. The mist...is breaking..."
Michael's brain clicked into Athena-mode as he shuffled through the options. "Have you tryed Ares? This sounds like his sort of gig."
"Thats the problem, Michael. Ares has been compromised. He has 48 hours to live."
A few minutes ago, Dahlia and her friends were chasing a minotaur through the forest. Even then, it hadn't seemed logical. But an aggression burned inside her, a feeling she could not resist.
After a few well-placed bullets to the horn, the minotaur dissolved. Dahlia and her friends had slain it. And yet things still had not seemed right.
Then a girl had arrived, a smart girl named Natalie. She seemed not to be shocked by the minotaur but by their savagery. Dahlia had wanted to explain the burn nside her right there and then to the girl. But something held her back.
Then, the girl came face to face with a horrible being... a horrible being who touched her, and then...
"That's all you can find?" Michael asked his companion, a talented sorceress named Phyllia.
"That's all I can rip from her coma without killing her," Phyllia said worriedly. "Something seems very wrong here..."
"Yeah well, we know that much," Michael replied, pondering the situation. "So far we know two deities must be involved in this.... the one who cast the spell and the one that placed this poor girl in a coma..."
"Well, we don't know that for sure..." Phyllia interjected. "They could be one in the same..."
"Maybe..." Michael said, not really agreeing."But the latter...it almost seemed like they were trying to heal her..."
Before Phyllia could respond, a sentry stationed outside the Monastery ran in. "Michael! Phyllia! There is one who wishes to speak to you both."
"Very well," said Phyllia. "Bring him in."
But before any others could react, the dim candles flickered, and went out.
Phyllia tried to steady her breathing as her fingers fumbled on a matchbox. Its okay... Don't panic... As the candle was relit a sigh of relief escaped from her and she allowed herself an amused smile...there had been nothing to worry about.
At least, that was until Phyllia saw her visitor. He as cloaked in dar garments, and the only area of skin exposed was a single, gnarled hand- held to an unconscious Michael's forehead asthe stranger bent over him.
"Get away from him!" she yelled and released the most potent spell she could think of. He deflected it with little to no effort and laughed a short, quick laugh.
"Please," he stated in a chilling voice. "I am not harming your friend."
"Not what it looks like, you foul schemer!" Phyllia retorted and let loose another spell. This one caught the stranger off guard and he stumbled, his hand leaving Michael's forehead for a second. In that second panic flared in Phyllia as she felt Michael's life-force momentarily fade, returning as the man re-established contact.
"You, little mage, could cause your friends death if you are not careful," the man said grimly. "The last time I failed to complete the immunization a poor child was trapped in a coma..."
It all added up, but Phyllia was still not convinced. "What immunization? Who are you?"
"All in good time, all in good time," the mysterious one said. "You see, a dark force has unleashd this evil onto the world. The ones of divine birthright think they are immune to it. They are not. They are just affected later, and worse. This one here I am shielding from the plague is holding to life by a thread. Only I can old him."
"Tell me then," said Phyllia suspiciously. "How does this 'disease' affect demigods?"
The stranger released Michael. "The process is complete. I would suggest staying on your guard. The world needs their dabblers in the black arts."
"Hold it!" said Phyllia. "I'm not done-"
The man dissolved into a shroud of black smoke, then floated out the window lightly.
"-With you." finished Phyllia.
Two hours later, Michael and Phyllia pulled up to the Parthenon on a motorbike. Sidestepping the tourists surveying the monument, the two slowly made their way to a pillar of particular interest. Michael tapped it twice and the two vanished.
They reappeared inside the Sub-Parthenon, yet another HQ rejected by the Questers in favor of their beaten old cabin.
"Good we're all here," said Natalie crisply. "The gods have given us 'til Thursday before they liquidate the infected towns."
Gasps echoed from around the room. "Are they crazy?" Kat cried from a corner. "We mortals have a distinct aversion to being nuked!"
"They can't just do that!" Michael said. "How would they feel if-"
"No way we're letting them-" Ava began to growl.
"It makes sense." Said Phyllia. It was such an unexpected comment, and combined with her impassive tone, the entire room quieted down and stared at her.
"Uhm, Phyllia?" Michael whispered. " Not your smartest move."
Phyllis's heat beat faster, but she persisted. " If we fail, what else can we do?" All Phyllia could think of was her friends, even these insufferable Heroes and Questers writhing in agony as Michael had been on that momentary release. "We have to do whatever it takes."
Ava unsheathed her sword, and took a step closer. "Do not. Even. Consider it. Even if we fail, we stop the gods from doing that..."
"In other words, if we fail, suicide." Phyllia retorted. Michael was beginning to look very stressed. "Does anyone else feel that tension?"
Phyllia and Ava both sheathe their wepaons and stared at him incredulously. "Really?"
"No, not that" Michael shook his head. "Don't you feel it?"