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Katie: New Start, New Friends, and New Enemies

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Katie — Bugs

February

Katie (12) - Travis (12) - Connor (11)

With great power comes great responsibilities…

Great powers such as being a walking, breathing, free-producing fertilizer and great responsibilities such as not scaring her classmates with said powers or disrupting class with said powers or trashing her school with said power.

Katie fails all three in one day. Altogether. In one spectacular kabam.

She always thought she had great control over her powers. Sure, she can't really stop her vegetable garden from growing a new batch a day after she picked them clean and sure she can’t really stop the little pine saplings that grew at her feet when she’s just a tad upset. And sure , when she wakes up in the morning, her room is covered lightly ceiling to ground with ivy.

But it never went any further than that and it never bothered anyone. Their neighbors love them for all the free produce and Miranda is grateful for the pine trees.

And dad never had the ‘talk’ with her like Miranda’s mom does.

Things were alright the way they were.

Then she had to go and uproot her entire middle school by its foundation.

That warrant an action and that action comes in the form of multicolor pamphlets of smiley kids in bright orange shirts. They’re posing underneath a wooden sign that said, “Camp Half Blood.”

And sometimes when Dad thinks she’s asleep in her room and not listening in on his phone conversations, she can hear him speaking with a “Mr. Chiron” ’ about safety and fees and commodities.

When she shows it to Miranda, her long-time, equally as strange, equally as superpowered friend, she oohed and ahhed. And even though Miranda struggled to read the print, there’s a twinkle in her eyes.

“They have a climbing wall that sprouts lava! Lava, Kate! That’s so cool. And there’s horse stables! Horses! And oh! Thes also a crafting building. You love weaving, don’t you?”

She plucks the pamphlet from Miranda’s hands, reviewing the faux-cheerfulness again with a frown.  “I guess. But I don’t want to go. I don’t want to miss school.”

“But.” And Miranda takes the pamphlet back. “You’re smart. You’ll survive a week without classes.”

“Come with me, Randi. I don’t want to be alone.”

Miranda smirks, sides curving in a teasing hint. “And watch you whine about everything just like you did at Science Camp? Sure, why not? But you know Mom won’t let me. She rather I just do normal people thing.”

Katie pouts, biting her cheeks as Miranda stands and stretches, joints popping. She picks up the wooden sword from the ground and twirls it in her hands.   

“I’ll try to talk with her. Meanwhile, you just hang on. If anyone bully you, call me and I’ll beat them up. Okay?” Miranda smiles cheekily, confidently. She points a thumb behind her. “There’s two shadow wolves by Mr. Thompsberry’s house. Do you want to come with me? You can even use your powers to surprise them.”

“You know I can’t control my powers very well,” Katie grumbles, but she follows Miranda anyway.

Sooner than she expected, she’s packing a suitcase and getting into the car. She calls Miranda and say goodbye, then heads into the stables to say goodbye to her horse too.

Dad talks animatedly about the camp, about how she was going to love it there and about the activities she can do and the people she’ll meet and how if she loves it enough, she can go back for the summer.

She tries to appear enthusiastic, nodding along and commenting every once and awhile but the truth is she doesn’t care.

She just wants to get her powers under control so she can go back to living like a normal teenager.

It’s only until they drove onto the ramp leading to the airport that Katie picks up her head and asks her first question. “Where is the camp?”

Dad chuckles, a hand going to scratch the back of his neck. “You know, it’s ah, in the states. In America. Somewhere on the east coast. New York to be exact.”

“New York?!” Katie yells, jumping in her seat. “Why is it in New York?!”

The car swerves sharply to the left, throwing her to the right. Behind them, horns blare and tires shriek.

From the window, she could see a palm tree, still growing, breaking through asphalt. Cars behind them screech to a halt in the face of her impromptu creation.

A heavy silence falls on the car as she sinks into her seat.  

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Katie.” But she couldn’t miss the tremble in Dad’s hands and the silent exhale. She bites her cheeks and lowers her head.

With forced pep in his voice, Dad says, “Hey, chin up. This is why you’re going to the camp, yeah? There’ll be someone waiting for us at the airport. They’ll take us the rest of the way. And while I’m talking Chiron, you can make friends with the kid Chiron will bring along!”

Katie nods dejectedly.

There was someone waiting for them when they got off the airport. A man in a wheelchair and two boys, on the ground playing with a deck of cards.

They’re familiar. Very, very familiar. And when their heads rise and their eyes meet hers, it clicks for them too. Before she can even process why they’re placing a finger on their lip or slashing their throats with a thumb or even mouthing ‘no, no, no, no, no ,’ she says, pointing at them, “You guys were in Sierra’s stall last month.”

And the wheelchaired man’s smiles tighten in strain. An eyebrow rise and the wheels creak as the man rolls back a bit to look over his shoulder.

“Oh?”


 

Which, she guesses, all lead them to now.

To this situation. To this dilemma.

See, the two boys, Travis and Connor, are sons of Hermes.

Sons of a trickster.

And Katie has a very weak heart with a weaker sense of humor that borders on nagging mother according to Miranda. So it didn’t really surprise her when she opened that door to Cabin 11 and something popped right by her ear that she responses by shrieking and hurling her suitcase in a wide swing.

A voice cries, “Connor, watch out!” and there’s a loud thump.

The ground starts to rumble. The walls start to wobble. Everything is vibrating. And as she clings to the door frame, eyes shut tight, she could hear a horrible, horrible creaking.  

The shaking eventually stops and when she opens her eyes, there stands a full grown redwood tree in the center of the cabin, piercing through wooden boards and metal beds alike.

By her feet lies the unsuspecting confetti popper with its green and red and yellow contents scatter all over the floor.

What a fantastic start to her first day.


 

Most days, Katie is by the strawberry fields with the satyrs. It's quiet. The satyrs leave her alone. And there’s no pranks waiting to scare her soul out of her body. Which is very, very nice.  

It allows her to concentrate in peace. And Katie needs all the peace she can get.

She takes a deep breath and relaxes her shoulders. She holds her hands out, palm out, and takes another breath. Slowly the strawberries stop growing, the stem stop spreading, the plant stops growing, stops moving, until it’s completely still. She holds it there, concentrating and counting the seconds.

  1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9—  

An aphid crawls on top of the leaf and she could literally feel her control slipping through her fingertips. Close my eyes. Take a breath. Try again. Try again. Try again. And she does exactly that but they continue to grow. Slower though. Maybe if she focuses more then—

“Katie!”

It slips from her hands entirely.

The leaves grow and the stem wraps itself her ankle.

She clenches her fist and stands. 9 seconds. No matter what she does she can never make it to ten.

“Katie! I have this really cool trick to show you!” She hears footsteps running towards her. She didn’t need to turn around to know it’s one of them.

And she turns with her hands on her hips. “If it’s another prank, Travis, I swear I’ll—”

‘Travis’ rolls his eyes. “Connor. And no, Ms. No-Fun-Allowed. It’s not a prank. It’s a magic trick. Here. Pick a card. Any ca— Hey! Where are you going?”

She walks away mid-sentence, mindlessly flexing her hand and saying over her shoulder, “I have to talk to Chiron. Next time.”

It’s not getting better.


 

Sometimes she tries when it’s night.

Maybe it’ll be easier. Maybe it’s just the sun making it difficult.

They’re quiet as they should be, but when she draws near they wake up and the leaves angles to her. She sinks to her knees and holds out a hand. Stop. They slow, but didn’t stop. Stop. they’re not stopping. Why won’t they stop? Katie rubs a hand into her eyes. No, no, crying will just make it worse. She needs to keep it together.

She takes another deep breath and exhale. Then another deep breath, exhale, inhale, ex—

“S-S-See, Connor? There’s a ghost over there. I told you there’s a ghost haunting the strawberry fields, but nooo, ‘ ghosts don’t exist, ghosts are fairy tales.’”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah I see it! Stop shaking my shoulder! Uh, lets go get Lee. He’ll  probably know what to — wait… Katie? Isn’t that Katie?”

And they yell her name, disrupting the silence and her focus. The strawberries grows and grows until they’re red and ripe and probably delicious.

She grits her teeth and stands, twin footfalls coming to her.


 

“You can’t just wander around by yourself at night, Katie! There’s harpies to worry about. They’ll give us a citation if we don’t behave and we already got too many this month because somebody has to keep breaking into Apollo’s and Hephaestus’ cabins! 

“Hey. Lee got it coming. He shouldn’t have made fun of us. I needed tools and Beckendorf is and I quote ‘staying in his lane this time,’ and his tools aren’t exactly free to the public”

“You gotta try harder to not get caught.”

“Have you ever got past Beckendorf’s alarms?”

She tunes them out easily enough. There’s just something about them that’s easy to ignore. Her head falls back onto the chair and she flexes her right hand. It’s not getting better. Two weeks have passed and it’s not getting better. Should it be taking this long? Is she doing something wrong? The wedding is in two months. If she doesn’t get under control by then…

“Hey, Kitkat Katie.”

“Don’t call me that,” she says without thought, lowering her head to stare at the brothers. They’re looking at her weird, with their mouth set in a small frown and eyes narrow just a bit.

“Is something wrong?” one asks.

“Nothing’s wrong.” But everything is wrong. And right behind them, to her horror, the wilting flowers quiver and pull upright. Bright, healthy, indistinguishable from their wilted state a mere seconds ago.


 

And sometimes she gives up for a few hours and dig into her blankets on the top bunk bed in Cabin 11.

She’s only a few feets from where she grew her first tree on camp. Looking down she could see the finished, polished flooring, a contrast to the antiquity of the rest of the cabin. It’s hard to believe it was ever damaged.

The cabin was fixed in just three, incredible days. She didn’t think it was possible but the man who fixed it only smiled and waved his hand flippantly. “Don’t sweat it. It happens all the time with newcomers. This cabin is always getting renovated in weird places,” he said, pointing at the ceiling and the old roof supporters but new shills, the old restroom tiles but new counters, the stained window drapes but new window panes.

It happens all the time.

Yet the only beds being occupied are hers and Travis’s and Connor’s.

Which means the others who were here before already left.

Which means the others who were uncontrollable like her had already left.

She pulls the covers over her head, fully intending on sleeping the afternoon away but then, like fate itself wanted her to suffer, the door flies open and two voices tumble into the cabin, awfully loud and awfully grating.

“I’m never playing kickball with Clarisse again. I think I bruised my ribs when I caught her ball.”

“It’s like a cannon. Why can’t she take it easy on us? Hey, Katie! Are you here? We’re playing volleyball soon and need another player.”

She keeps quiet, listening to them tramp around the cabin. They come closer and closer, stopping at the ladder to her bunk. A second passes before, “We know you’re up there.”

She didn’t say anything. Maybe they’re lying. Maybe they’re —

“The tulips are growing, so we know you’re up there. Come on. Volleyball is waiting for us.”

Reluctantly, Katie rises and peeks down. One of them is holding a pot and true to their words, the tulips are growing, shifting through the life cycle faster than it should be. Katie rolls back onto her bed.

“I don’t want to.”

“Come on , Katie. We left you alone for three weeks now, but you have to participate in some camp activities.”

“You didn’t leave me alone for —”

“Pranks don’t count. They’re not camp stuff.”

“Everybody is waiting. Getting some exercise is good.”

She draws her blankets under her chin and curls in. “No.”

“Playing volleyball will help you stay alert! You need to be alert once you leave camp.”

Once you leave camp … She curls in farther and shuts her eyes. “No.”

“Don’t be such a debbie-downer. And just come play. Just one game.”

“I said no! 

And she feels something surge through her whole body, a jolt of electricity. The ground rumbles, shakes and something is creaking. Something is tearing. Before she could even throw the covers off, she hears screaming.

She bolts straight up and scoots towards the ladder, peeking down from the side and paling at what she sees. Vines, with stems as wide as her wrists, are wrapped around the Travis’ and Connor’s ankles. And by the time she climb down the ladder, the tendrils are snaked around their hips and reaching higher still. She could see them tightening and tightening and tightening. If they reach the neck… then… they could… they could…

Katie swallows and walks up to them, but the vines move faster up and she backs away. Travis, Connor, she still can’t tell them apart but one of them notices and tries to back away too, except his feet is planted and it did nothing but draws panic up in him and in her.

The other raises his head to her and waves. He waves like he’s not minutes away from being strangled by a plant. “Katie. Hey, look, sorry for not taking no for an answer. My bad. Definitely won’t happen again until I get some pruners on me. Can you call these off us?”

Call them off? Call them off? When she can’t even control them in the first place? When her power never directly attacked people before? Call them off?

She tries to say as much, but everything comes out jumbled and she only sees the vines that continue to climb and climb and climb.

“Katie,” the one who tried to back away first said, a wavering smile on his face. “It’s going to be alright. Calm down first. You panicking just makes it grow faster. Breathe, count to ten, breathe again then try.”   

He tries to hide it, tries to mask that growing hysteria in his voice and panic in his eyes, tries to remain calm for her sake, but it just made her panic all the more. She could see it. It’s too tight. The tendrils are still snaking up, curling around thighs and waists and arms. If they get to the neck and squeeze there.

No, no, no, no no no nononononono

“Katie, I don’t want to put pressure on you, but me and Connor are gonna die if you don’t call them off,” the second chuckles, still trying and still failing to rip the vines off.

“I— I— I’m trying. It’s not working. I’m sorry. I—”

“Don’t cry. Oh gods, please don’t cry. I got this.” And Connor brandishes a pocket knife. She didn’t even notice he was shifting around in his pocket in the midst of her panicking.

The pocket knife is small and when Connor somehow unhooked the blade, Katie could see its made of gold and is shining. But it’s small and the vines are thicker than her wrists. What could it possibly—

Connor stabs it into Travis and Katie screams.

He pushes down and she turns away, bile rising at the thought of seeing blood and muscles and bone.

But Travis wasn’t screaming in pain or anything and when Katie peeks behind her hands, Travis is actually snickering.Snickering. “Pffft, did you see that Connor?”

There’s no blood like she expected. No muscles. No bone. Only a trail of cut vines.

“What— how— I—”

“Celestial bronze don’t hurt mortals,” Travis says, taking the knife from Connor’s hand and cutting through his bindings, slicing through the vines like they’re butter. In mere seconds, they were free. But new vines wrap themselves around their ankles. Travis stomps his feet, motioning with his head to her ladder. Connor seems to get what he’s saying and he drags her by the arm to her bed, following up last after them.

The vines don’t follow them up, but Katie watches them crawl through the rest of the floors, through the walls, to the ceiling, threading through boards and winding around nightstands.

Beside her, there’s a cough.

She didn’t dare look at them, couldn’t even find the words to say. Sorry isn’t enough. I don’t have control isn’t enough. I didn’t mean to isn’t enough. Her eyes burn and she shoves the heel of her hand against them. Crying now will make everything worse, but her eyes didn’t seem to want to listen like her stupid powers and she could feel a tear snakes down her cheek.

Travis claps his hands. “Well, that was a wonderful bonding moment. How about we bond some more through volleyball?”

“Unless you have some personal grudge against volleyball,” Connor adds, “Then we can play poker. ”

There’s a lump in her throat. Why do they sound so calm?

“Katie?”

There’s no fear in their voice. They’re not scared. Why? Why ?

“Say something. Are you hurt?”

Her breath hitches and again, the walls start to rumble.

“Oh my shit, she’s crying. Travis, what do we do?”

“I-I don’t know! What do we do? Someone call Lee or Chiron! Wait, Connor, you have drachmas on you, right? Call Annabeth. Where is she staying again? New York? Connecticut? Europe? AHHHH, why didn’t she tell us before she ditched us?”

She buries her head into her knees.

Why aren’t you mad?

Why don’t you hate me?


 

In the end, someone came to investigate the rumblings and found the cabin swathed from top to bottom in vines. Chiron told them it might take a while to get them free and to ‘sit tight.’ Outside, someone is wowing, saying they never saw a child of Demeter do something like this.

… whatever Demeter means.

The three of them sit in the middle of the bed, one has his leg dangling off the side and the other sits crossed legged while she has her legs drawn up to her chest. They’re playing a card game. Egyptian something. They asked if she wanted to play but she shook her head.

She was never that great at card game anyway and once the game started, it looks like they’re going way too fast for her to win anyway. She hugs her knees closer to her.

The third game in, they finally talk.

“So.” A card is laid down. “Do you want to tell us what’s been bothering you?”

Another card is flip, followed by another flip and another flip. Slap.  “Unless you don’t want to tell us. That’s totally fine too.”

Flip. Flip. Slap. “It’s… my dad.” Flip. “He’s getting remarried.” Flip. Flip. Flip. Slap. “The wedding is in two months.”

The flipping stops as they share a look. A conversation passes between them that she didn’t understand. “Do you not like who your dad is marrying or—”

“No, I like them. Him,” she corrects herself, nearly forgetting the divorce from last year. Miranda would never let her live it down if she messes it up in front of her. Especially since she kinda marked the moment by growing a garden of roses when the Gardiner’s visted them to tell them the news. The face on Mrs. Gardiner’s face was great. “I can’t attend unless I have my powers under control.”

“Because you’ll cry?” The one sitting crossed-legged hisses quietly, Travis!

But she nods miserably. “Because I’ll cry.” And probably make the wedding into something from a horror movie.

Connor tilts his head to the side and edges closer to her. “Have you told Chiron?”

“Yeah, but every suggestion he gives doesn’t work.” Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the problem.

Travis hums and taps his chin. “We know someone who sorta has the same power as you. She’s not as dangerous because all she can make are these flimsy pieces of ivy, but hers is just as annoying as yours. Beckendorf always needed to come by and help snip them off. Maybe she can help. But, ah, she’s attending school in Maine. I’m not sure if she’s willing to come down here.”

Connor yawns and falls onto his back. “I heard she hates her middle school. She’ll probably say, say, say…”

Katie raises her head to look questionably at Connor, Travis doing the same. He’s rigid, eyes squinting and nose wrinkling. “Hey, Katie,” he starts slowly, quietly. “Those vines you grew, do they attract bugs?”

And she swallows hard as she reluctantly says, “They attract beetles, but as long as we get rid of the vines fast enough then—”

“Holy f—” “Swear Jar.”

In a burst of speed that Katie didn’t know humans were capable of, Connor launches himself to the wall, banging them like a demon. “HEY, WHO'S OUT THERE? LEE? CHIRON? BECKENDORF? PLEASE, CUT FASTER. CUT FASTER!”

Katie closes her eyes as Travis cackles, wishing more than ever that she had the power to retract too.

“AGH. IT’S EVERYWHERE. OH, GODS. ITS UNSALVAGEABLE. GIVE ME THE GASOLINE. I’M BURNING OUR CABIN DOWN.”

“Connor, you’re overreacting. Oh! Is that a bug I see on your arm?”

Connor’s wails could rival a volcano eruption. Travis’s laughs nearly challenging that. Outside, someone asks if they’re alright.

“Just kidding.”

Katie stares blankly as Connor tackles Travis, both of them crashing to the ground. Through the screaming, the laughing, the “you’re dead to me, you’re dead to me, Travis,” the “wait, wait, wait, Connor! The vines! The vines are still growing! We’re going to be strangled!” and the “Connor, please don’t commit murder,” there’s a drumming in her head. Beneath her fingertips, she could feel her power boiling, itching to get out.


 

Turns out the girl was more than happy to come to help her. In fact, the very next morning when Katie was brushing her teeth, a body tackles her from behind. Full on tackle as in hands are wrapping around her waist and she’s being lifted off the floor. Katie screams and beats her fist on the intruder’s back. She’s drop back onto the floor, stumbling back until her back hits the wall. There’s the familiar sound of creaking.

Within moments, her attacker’s arms are wrap taut to their body, a girl no older than her with short, black hair and a pair of green eyes that flashes with something dangerous.

“W-W-Who are you?” Katie stammers, clutching her chest.

Outside, someone groans. “Not again. Hurry, someone get pruners! And keep Connor away from his cabin!”

The girl smiles and struggles for a bit, awe on her face. “Wow, they weren’t lying. You’re really powerful. They’re not giving. Hey, Katie, would you mind letting me go now?”

“I…” Little ivies crawl up from the walls to the girl. “I don’t know how,” Katie mutters. There are two beads hanging from her neck. A camper then…  

The girl laughs and struggles some more. “Okay, we’ll start there. My name is Veronica and I am going to be your mentor. Please take a while to learn so I don’t have to go back to school ya?”

Veronica’s lessons aren’t really so much about control but draining her power reservoirs to a point she’s able to turn on and off the growing. Then supposedly she works her control up from there. It sounds dubious, but it works. It really, really work and she never felt such control. Except, the lessons are… kind of exhausting. Exhausting to the point where after she’s done practicing, the most she can do is drag herself back to the cabins and to her bed. Then her power reservoir will recharge back up to full capacity and she has to release it all again.

The forest is kind of becoming the Amazon jungles…

Veronica tells her this method is infallible. That eventually she will get a hold of her power and can live like any other demigods (“And you’ll be able to kick anybody butts too.” Veronica adds with stars in her eyes).

Katie thinks she would like it a lot more if it didn’t make her muscles ache everywhere.

Connor reminds her it’s for her fathers. Katie wishes that reminder gives her the strength Connor seems to think it does.

Travis reminds her that if she doesn’t get better control, he’ll prank her.

It isn’t a great motivator until Travis dyes her hair green and snaps a picture to email back to her family.

Now it’s a great motivator and Katie has every intention of getting back on the stupid Stolls.