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Capture the Flag

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“Hey, boys!” Katie Gardiner shouted at the Stoll twins. She blew a kiss at them tauntingly across the clearing, then dashed off into the underbrush.

They weren’t very stealthy. But they were fast, and they were gaining on her. Katie flicked out a hand behind her, and the weeds along the deer path moved to intercept her pursuers. Connor and Travis kicked them away easily, but it slowed them down just long enough for Katie to regain her lead.

“Come on, Will, where are you?” she muttered, resisting the urge to whirl and draw her sword. Fifty more meters…

Katie threw herself to the side as two arrows flew simultaneously out of the trees. They struck the Stolls in their breastplates, bright gold cords whipping out of the arrowheads and tangling around their arms and legs. Will Solace, a son of Apollo, jumped down from a tree across the path, and methodically began stripping the twins of their weapons. Katie popped up, and skipped over to him.

“Took you long enough,” she teased Will, frisking a struggling Travis Stoll. “Greek fire… paintballs… Travis, naughty! Doesn’t this belong to Clarisse La Rue?” She waggled a can of black spray-paint in front of his nose. “What’s Connor got, Will?”

“Couple of Mirage Vapors from Iris, and s’more Greek fire. Spoils of war, my friends.” Will placed his thumb and ring finger to his mouth, and whistled three long, clear notes. A few seconds later, a small squad of kids in hoplite armor melted out of the trees.

“Prisoners for Miss Chase,” Will said politely. He bumped fists with one of his brothers, and winked at a cute-looking daughter of Aphrodite. Katie snorted as she dumped the spoils of war into a sack hanging from her belt.

“Come on, Will,” Katie reprimanded, snatching his ear and dragging him away. “They got this.”

“Jackson forever!” they heard one of the twins yell defiantly before yelping in indignation. “Watch where you…”

Will grinned as they began their stalk around the border anew. “Capture the Flag. Best. Game. Ever.”

“Head in the game, Will,” Katie sighed.

Will caught her wrist, and dragged her around a tree. “My head’s always in the game, Kate.” He leaned in, to try and give her a kiss, probably, but Katie stopped him, splaying a hand wide over his entire face.

Laughing, she pushed him away. “Not my type, Will. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“I’m not sure there’s an actual limit,” he said mischievously, ducking closer.

“Quit it,” she yelped. “You’ll give away our position!”

Will retorted, “’Cause I’m so worried about that.”

Suddenly, Katie yanked him to the ground. Before he could say anything else, she pressed her fingers over his mouth.

“Shh!” she hissed, her nature senses sending shocks down her spine. She could feel someone approaching, brushing against the bushes and breaking reeds and tiny branches. “Someone’s coming.” She crouched lower and peeked around the edge of the tree trunk. Then she whipped her head back around.

“It’s the Hephaestus Cabin. The whole freaking cabin!” she whispered, her eyes going wide. There were eight of them total, a bunch of big, burly kids in heavy Greek armor and enough gizmos and gadgets to storm Fort Knox. They were maybe four hundred meters away, just barely visible through the trees. They were tracking a clear course straight and simple towards the Red Flag. Beckendorf, the biggest and the scariest of them, was taking point.

Will blinked, then twisted around the other side to check her assessment. “What’s Percy playing at? That’s not what Annabeth said he’d do.”

Katie made to slap her forehead, then stopped at the last second so that it wouldn’t make a sound.

“He must’ve out-thought her on this one,” she breathed into his ear. “We should go back and sound the alarm.” The two of them could move faster than the attack party, and more quietly, too, if they didn’t get distracted. “The Stolls were a diversion!”

Will made to stand, then stopped. Katie frowned as a look she didn’t like crossed over Will’s face—one part mischievous, one part calculating, and three parts crazy.

“What if we go and get the Blue flag instead?”

Katie blanched. “Annabeth will kill us, even if that does work!” But the idea had its merits. They’d been given border patrol. The Blue Team captain was obviously a little smarter today. And Katie was a Head Counselor… responsible, good at following orders, blah, blah, blah… at least, that’s what Percy and the rest of the camp assumed… She made an executive decision.

“Let’s do it,” Katie grinned.


Will and Katie waited a few minutes, then sent an Iris Message to Annabeth, the Red Team captain, telling her about the Hephaestus attack.

“That’s more than I expected,” Annabeth mused. She frowned. “Am I getting too predictable?” She looked unreasonably worried, and Will smothered a smirk.

“No, you’re golden,” he assured her. “Just get some more traps up. I’d consider an ambush at the northwest clearing, and a couple down around Zeus’ Fist.”

Annabeth nodded. “Agreed.” She waved a bronze-tipped bow through her end of the Iris Message, and the connection dissolved.

Katie raised an eyebrow at Will. “So, did you not tell her we’re going after the flag on purpose, or did you just ‘forget?’”

“Forgot,” Will grinned. “Come on, You. When was the last time the Demeter Cabin got the flag?”

“1993,” Katie whispered, once she was sure Will was out of earshot. Then, drawing her sword, she slipped after him, as silently as a dryad.

The lineup was like this:

On the Red Team, Athena, Demeter, Apollo, and Aphrodite. Annabeth Chase was the Red Captain, one of the most skilled and smartest generals Camp Half-Blood had seen in years. The Blue Team boasted the camp’s other most fearsome warrior, Percy Jackson, the only child from the Poseidon cabin. He’d recruited Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus.

The two of them snuck past several of the Blue Team’s patrols. Purposefully, Will and Katie avoided conflict, taking the long way around everyone they encountered. Occasionally, they’d see a red plume captured by the blues.

“If we can free enough of them, then we’ve got a good escort back to the creek,” Katie whispered to Will once they’d gotten by a squad of Ares hoplites.

“Yeah,” Will said. “But it depends on how many guards Jackson’s got around the prisoners.”

“None from Hephaestus, we’ve passed most of Ares and Hermes. One or two from each cabin’ll be part of the guard with Percy around the flag. Pollux and Castor, I don’t know where they’re stationed.” Pollux and Castor were the only sons of Dionysus. Katie rattled off the Blue Team members as they popped into her head.

“Pass me the Mirage Vapors you got from Travis,” Will whispered. “I’ve got an idea.”

Katie handed one over, then the other. A Mirage Vapor looked like a bunch of miniature air-horns tied together, the entire thing about the size of her closed fist. When activated, rainbow mist, a little like an Iris Message, spewed out of the device, creating an image at the user’s command.

“How close are we to the flag?” Will whispered. “Use your planty-senses.”

She punched him gently. “I know how to do it, Stupid.” She concentrated, and listened to the trees and grass around her. After a long moment, she opened her eyes. “There’s a bunch of people about seven minutes’ walk north-northwest. At the rate we’re going, I’d say fifteen minutes if we don’t want to get caught.”

Will grinned. “Stay here, and don’t move a muscle.”

“What?”

“Be back in a flash, Kate,” he said, then stood up, and strode off in the direction of the flag.

“Are you freaking suicidal?” Katie mouthed after him. But she froze, like he’d told her, gripping her sword and keeping a look out.

After about seven minutes, a roar went up from where Will had gone. Katie swore, bolting up. But then Will barreled out of the trees.

“Get down, get down!” he hissed, eyes wide and wild. There was a ridiculous grin on his face. He tackled her, his bow pressed awkwardly between them.

Katie snapped, “Get off me, you jerk!”

He slapped a hand over her mouth. “Shut up and watch!” Wresting free his bow, he pointed it off the way he’d come.

Why was there a Will—another Will—with a Blue Team flag running from what looked like the entire red team, including the Blue Team Captain himself?

Katie breathed in. “The Mirage Vapor?”

“I freed Miranda—” Katie’s deputy, captured unfortunately early in the game “—and gave her the Vapor, and fixed it so that it would look like me with the flag. Then I set up the other one so that it would look like the clearing they actually had the flag in would vanish.” The goofy, self-pleased look on Will’s face suddenly made sense.

She gaped.

Will pouted, “Aren’t you impressed?”

Katie was speechless for another moment. Then, she shouted, “Genius! I could kiss you!” When Will persisted with the hopeful look, she rolled her eyes. “Not literally.”

“Awwww,” Will moaned, but he was smiling as he led Katie to the clearing.

It was easy, overpowering the guard that was keeping watch on the Red Team prisoners. Will just switched into “rapid fire” mode, shooting three arrows at once. Once all the Blues were bound and gagged (gently, though), Katie used a pocketknife to cut the duct tape holding the prisoners.

One of them protested, “It’s over, Katie. They got the flag.”

She turned to them, exasperated. “Did none of you notice that Miranda’s missing?” she cried, waving her sword. “Must we do everything?”

Will, disabling the remaining Mirage Vapor and handing Katie the flag, said, “Please. I didn’t see you coming up with my kick-butt plan.” He ignored the startled yelps from the Blue Team guards. “When do I get my prize?”

“Once we win,” Katie told him, then turned to the liberated Red Team hoplites. “Reds on three!” she said, holding out her fists. The seven former captives huddled around her, and put their hands on top of hers. Will cheated, reaching in from below. “One, two, three—”

“Reds!”


At a steady jog, they could make it to the creek in twenty minutes. But by now, the Blue Team would know that they were chasing a ruse. Will remedied this—they headed south, to the creek, as they left the clearing, but then struck west once they were out of earshot of the Blue captives they’d left behind. West took them further into the woods, but in an arc that would take them hopefully around the Blues that would be racing back to their flag.

“Half an hour at most,” Will instructed. “Travel quiet, travel fast.” The Red hoplites nodded solemnly. They would make the most of their second chance.

They were almost to the creek when disaster struck. A patrol of Blues—worse, a patrol of Ares’ sons and daughters, headed by Clarisse La Rue—stormed out of the trees, screaming at the top of their lungs. Will shoved the flag into Katie’s hands.

“Go!” he shouted, and immediately began firing arrows at point-blank range. He snapped out orders to the Red team hoplites still standing, and after a long moment of hesitation, Katie ran. Every part of her itched to drop the flag and whip out her sword. But her team was counting on her. Her pounding feet settled into a rhythm, and she beelined to the creek. Once the flag crossed, the game was over.

The sounds of pursuit followed her, but Katie soon could hear running water. She used every trick she knew—poison ivy sprang where she stepped; creepers cleared the ground in front of her. It wasn’t enough!

Katie’s feet entered the water, and for a millisecond of running, she breathed a sigh of relief. And then the water began to freeze, crawling up her legs and holding her in place.

“Oh, come on!” she shouted. Percy Jackson—that boy! Twisting around, she couldn’t find him, but there were Blue Team hoplites closing all around her. So Katie did the only thing she could. She flipped the lightweight flag in her hands so that she held it like a javelin. She drew her arm back, and with all her might, hurled it forward so that it might hit the opposite bank.

Point quivering, it lodged itself upright in the mud across the stream. Everybody froze, even Katie.

“Does it count?” she heard somebody whisper.

Please, Katie begged silently to whatever god or goddess might be listening. Please let it count.

The flag waved slightly in the breeze. And then, very slowly, a poppy flower unfolded on the fabric, shimmering red and gold. For a heartbeat, everyone was silent.

And then, the screaming, the shouting, and the cheering started.

Almost grudgingly, the ice receded from her knees, and Katie kicked out of the stream. She yanked the flag out of the ground, and waved it above her head, whooping and cheering as the Red Team hoplites pounded her armor and waved their swords around in victory. Will, from somewhere, ran up and wrapped her in a bear hug.

“Did I ever tell you you’re a genius?” she shouted to him. “This was Will’s plan!” she told the crowd. “It was his idea!”

“Oh, was it?”

Annabeth strode into the throng, carrying her helmet under her arm. Percy Jackson followed her grumpily. In full celestial bronze armor, it was hard to tell who was more intimidating.

“Disobeying orders?” Annabeth said archly, tapping her leg with the flat of her knife at each point. “Carrying on a risky plan without backup? Forging deep into Blue territory, and not even capturing anyone?”

Katie tensed, sudden shame coursing through her body, but Will stood firm, and so did she, refusing to break rank. “We brought the flag, though,” Will shrugged, and Katie held her breath.

Then Annabeth grinned. “And that almost makes it okay. So, for discipline…”

“Oh, come on!”

“Annabeth, they got the flag!”

“Let ‘em go!”

“They’re heroes!”

Annabeth raised her voice over the campers’. “For discipline! KP and dishwashing duty, the rest of the week.” She winked. “The both of you.”

Katie grinned as Will took her hand behind her shield.

Today was Saturday.



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writer101 said...
Jan. 12, 2012 at 8:29 am
I love it.The Percy Jackson books are my favorite and you kept the theme and the fill of the book so good job.
 
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