It was. The half-machine, half-bull fire-breathing creatures had turned on us and were now under Ares’ control.
“So not only will your…” Her nose wrinkled. “Your Army of Awesome have to get past the mortals, they will have to face Sentinels, daimons and automatons before even reaching Ares.”
Aiden folded his arms. “That is, if he doesn’t come after us the moment we set foot out of the University.”
“He won’t.” Athena tapped her finger down on a square, which I assumed was the Covenant building. “He knows how heavily entrenched he is, and moving an army would make him vulnerable to attack. Before the First left him, he would’ve risked it. But not now that he knows the God Killer is coming for him. He will remain where he is and wait for you to come to him. He knows you will suffer losses in the process.”
The truth weighed heavily. We would suffer losses.
“Getting past the mortals will not be hard,” she continued. “The loss of their lives will be unfortunate, but we have to sacrifice the few to save the many. Then there are the Sentinels, daimons and automatons, but it is fighting Ares that will take everything.”
“We can’t just zap him with a God Killer bolt and call it a day?” I asked.
Athena arched a brow. “It’s not like he’s going to stand still and allow you to do that, and we know what happened last time you faced off with him.”
“Thanks for the reminder,” I muttered.
“It is only to serve a much-needed point. None of you are trained to battle a god, let alone Ares. Even I couldn’t prepare you, not effectively. He can and will outmaneuver and out-plan you, and he knows that.” Athena waved a hand over the map, and it disappeared. Neat trick. I was jealous.
“So are you saying that we cannot defeat him, not even with the God Killer?” Marcus asked, and the crinkled skin around his eyes appeared more noticeable.
“No.” She faced us and hopped up on the desk, demurely crossing her legs. “War is partially strength, partially skill, and partially psychological. We have the strength in the Apollyons and the Sentinels, but we do not have the skill, and we do not have anything that will put Ares at unease. Without the last two factors, we will not succeed.”
I frowned. “Are you also the goddess of depressing facts?”
“I am just being realistic,” she stated coolly. “But I do have an idea.”
Here we go. A bit of excitement thrummed through me. An idea was better than everything else she’d been spouting, because right now, I didn’t need Phobos and Deimos inside my head to believe we were embarking on a suicide mission.
“It is a risky idea, but we really have no other choice. If the God Killer fails, it will be an all-out war, and we know what happened the last time the gods went to war,” Athena said.
Aiden shifted his weight. “Thousands died.”
“And it will be millions this time.” Apollo studied the goddess. “What is your idea?”
A small smile appeared. “We use Perses.”
Apollo stiffened, and I didn’t understand the reaction. “The demigod? Are we going to go slay Medusa or something?”
“No. Not Perseus. Perses.”
I stared at her. “Okay. I’ll admit, I slept or doodled through most of my classes. I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“That is a lovely discovery.” Marcus pierced me with his Dean of Academics stare. I withered like a poor little flower left out in the sun without water.
“Perses is the god of destruction and war,” Apollo explained, eyes wide. “He was nearly indestructible and nearly unstoppable.”
I shook my head as I glanced at Aiden, relieved to see he looked just as clueless as me. “Okay. Is there another god of war that I’m unaware of?”
“You guys populate like rabbits,” Seth added, grinning slightly. “It could be possible we haven’t heard of him.”
Deacon’s lips twitched, but Athena’s next words knocked the smile off his face and silenced the entire room.
“No,” she said. “Perses is not an Olympian. He is the Titan god of destruction.”
I gaped at the goddess in what must have been the most unattractive manner known to man. “A Titan?” I squeaked out. “A mother-freaking Titan?”
Athena nodded. “A Titan.”
“Whoa.” Aiden ran his hand through his hair before clasping the back of his neck. He turned sideways, shaking his head. “Wasn’t expecting that.”
“I don’t think anyone was expecting that.” Apollo stepped toward Athena. “Let’s break down this idea step-by-step. How would we be able to use Perses? The last time I checked, he was in Tartarus.”
“He is still there.” Athena tipped her chin up. “And as you know, he is not dead. He is only entombed.”
“And how do you think we’re going to release him?” Apollo demanded, brows slashed. “Zeus would never agree to this.”
“I am Zeus’ favorite child.” Her smile beamed.
Apollo’s blue eyes rolled. “That’s something to be proud of.”
She tsked softly. “I can get him to agree to anything, and he’s desperate, Apollo. You know that’s true. The last thing he wants is a full-out war.”
“The last thing he wants is to do anything. That lazy son of—”
“True.” Athena raised her hands. “But I will get his backing.”
“Okay. So if you get his backing, what about Hades? He will never agree to releasing Perses,” Apollo argued.
“He will if Zeus demands it.”
Apollo laughed deeply, and the sound shook the chairs. “Hades controls the Underworld. He will deny it just because Father demands it.”
“I’m sure you can get Hades to understand and agree. That will be up to you.” She tapped her manicured fingers on her bent knee. “And you know how Hades likes to make a deal.”
Last time I’d seen Hades, he’d wanted to kill me. This idea was going downhill fast.
“All right, let’s say we get Hades to agree to release Perses. How in the world would we be able to control him?” Apollo asked.
“Perses is just one Titan. He is powerful and a bit…crazy, but Ares nearly died by his hands during the war, if you remember correctly. Perses can train the God Killer. He could train hundreds of our people to fight. We will have the skill, and we will have the psychological upper hand.” She smiled again. “Besides, Perses will do anything to be free. Any of the Titans would. Put the fear of gods in him, or whatever it is the mortals say. Make him behave, and in return, Hades can give him better accommodations.”
“Oh, this is rich.” Apollo laughed.
“You’re serious about releasing a Titan?” Seth blinked slowly, as if coming out of a daze. When Athena simply nodded, he turned to me. “Ares would never expect it.”
There were honestly no words.
From what I remembered about the Titans, those who stood against Zeus had been imprisoned since they could not truly be killed. Titans were badass, like “they put the ‘bad’ in badass” kind of badass. The last time they were topside, it had been a bloodbath. No one, not even the Olympians, messed with the Titans. And now we were talking about unchaining one and working with it? And hoping for the best?
Oh, this had apocalypse written all over it.
And people thought I made bad decisions?
But Seth was right, and so was Athena. Ares would never expect something as crazy as this. Perses was the Titan god of war and destruction. If anyone could prepare us for coming face to face with Ares again, it would be him and no one else.
“Okay,” I said, letting out a deep breath. “Let’s unleash a Titan on the unsuspecting world.”
The others agreed, and plans were made to meet with Hades. The atmosphere was much better, and that probably had to do with the absence of Phobos and Deimos and the fact that we had something, no matter how crazy, to work with. Still, I couldn’t help but think we might be making the whole situation worse.
* * *
I knew Seth wasn’t being housed in the cell anymore, but I also knew he wasn’t in this dorm. There were others, and he’d wisely chosen one that didn’t house a decent number of people who wanted to commit an act of homicide when they were around him.
And it had put some much-needed distance between us.
The stupid cord in me wasn’t happy about the separation, but it had ceased its incessant buzzing and humming. I liked to think that I was gaining some control over the obsessive need to be near Seth, and if both of us survived this, it was something we both needed to work on.
We would survive this.
I couldn’t allow myself to think anything else. When Deimos and Phobos had been inside me, it was all I could think about. We would fail. I would die. Those I loved would die. Now that their influence was gone, I felt like myself again. Things weren’t all rainbows and puppy tails. I could still lose people, and after I discovered there was a good chance the Olympians would take out my rosey-red behind after fighting Ares, there had been moments when I wanted to find a corner to rock in.
But I was a born fighter, and I would fight. That’s who I was at the core.
Alone in my room, I stripped out of my clothes and kidnapped another one of Aiden’s shirts to sleep in. The soft, well-worn cotton slipped over my head and ended at the thigh. I wasn’t sure if he was truly okay with me hijacking his clothes, but he wasn’t there and I simply liked his shirts.
Dragging myself to the bed, I tucked my legs under the covers and rolled onto my side, facing the door. The last I’d seen of Aiden, he’d left with Marcus to go over the newest developments with Solos and the crew. As exhausted as I was, I had bowed out of the third meeting with the Army of Awesome. There was just too much going on in my head to face everyone.
Lying there, waiting for Aiden to return, I told myself again that we were actually planning to release a Titan. Crazy pants right there. Obviously, I’d never met a Titan, and a part of me was excited by the prospect of coming face-to-face with such a legendary being.
A freaking Titan.
I gave a sleepy snort.
My eyelids grew heavier as the minutes ticked by. I didn’t want to fall asleep, because there was so much I needed to talk with Aiden about, but I was sinking through the bed. After Deimos and Phobos had been yanked out of me, the emotional storm that had followed had been a cleansing of sorts, but it had also tuckered me out.
I realized then that I hadn’t thanked Seth.
That was the last thing I remembered thinking before I felt something warm and slightly rough graze my cheek. Stirring restlessly, I forced my eyes open.
“Aiden,” I whispered.
A slight smile appeared on his full lips. His hand stilled on my cheek. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I was waiting for you.”
“You need to sleep, but I…” His thumb smoothed on my cheek again. “I couldn’t stop myself from touching you.”