Rae leaned against the hood of the jeep she had rented a few days prior as Everett said his goodbyes to Makenna. In less than a day, Rae had come to really like Makenna. She could see where Everett got most of his charm. It was a little hard to watch them part, especially because it wasn’t like they were going on a vacation. The truth was that they were willingly going straight into danger. That was just the life of a demigod, and only a rare few actually had someone who worried about them when they did face danger.

As Everett finally started making his way towards the car, Rae gave one last wave before sliding into the driver’s seat.

“Take good care of him!” Makenna called.

“Mom!” Everett complained. “I’m not completely helpless, you know.”

“Mmhmm, whatever you say, sweetheart. Be safe and have fun!” It was such an inappropriate way to send off demigods on a quest, but Rae found it humorous. It was like something she might say.

Rae pulled out with Everett sitting up front and Koa already sprawled out in the backseat. Once they were on the highway, she reached over to get in the glovebox.

“I can do that,” Everett offered, but Rae had already fished out what she was looking for.

She handed the manila folder over to him. “Here. This is what you can expect for the trip. After you read through, do you mind navigating for me? I’ll need help in about an hour or two with the exits.”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” he said distractedly, already absorbed in studying every detail of the assignment. It reminded Rae fondly of their study sessions at school. He was the only one who ever took academics seriously.

While Everett read, Rae pulled out her phone to check in with Dmitri. He didn’t pick up, so she left a voicemail telling him the team was assembled and they were on their way to meet with the curator probably by that evening if they didn’t hit any traffic.

When she hung up, she noticed Everett gripping the handle above his head. Glancing in the rear view mirror, she saw Koa sitting up in the middle, both seat belts from each side strapping him in. “What is up with you two?” she asked.

“Never. Talk. On. The. Phone. While. Driving. Again,” Koa gritted out.

“Huh?” she asked, looking to Everett for clarification.

Still gripping the handle, he expanded on the situation. “While I think you are talented and incredibly skilled in many areas, driving while distracted might not be your strong suit. Didn’t you notice when we knocked over that whole row of safety cones? Or the solid twenty seconds we were on the rumble strips?”

Rae didn’t actually remember much that had happened while she was on the phone. “That didn’t happen,” she argued.

“Yes it did,” Koa and Everett responded simultaneously.

“But did we crash?” Rae asked argumentatively. “No. We are perfectly fine and no person or animal got hurt. So no complaining.”

“I think I’m developing an ulcer,” Koa complained from the back seat.

→ ←

“I would like a cheeseburger, no, two cheeseburgers, a large fry on the side, a half a dozen chicken strips, and a large sweet tea. Uh… what do you guys want?” Rae asked turning in her seat to look at the two boys, neither of whom were surprised at the amount of food Rae was ordering for herself.

“I’ll just have a water,” Everett told her.

“I will have a bacon cheeseburger and a water as well,” Koa said.

Rae repeated their orders into the speaker, and after paying and taking the food, they were on their way again. Everett had long since plugged his phone into the auxiliary cord and was having a friendly but heated argument with Koa about their music tastes. Rae would constantly try to join in on the conversation only to be cut off by the two boys chorusing, “Eyes on the road!”

To which she would reply, “They are on the road!”

But the two wouldn’t stop at that. “Mind on the road,” Everett told her after that.

Another one of their road trip adventures occurred about thirty minutes after their drive through stop.

“Sorry, guys. Nature calls,” she said as she pulled off the highway to the Service Plaza they were passing. “Oh good, there’s food here too.”

Everett shook his head at her. “So should we get food while you go, uh, to the restroom,” he paused thinking of how to word it. No matter how long he was in this relationship, he felt he would always be awkward in those kind of situations.

“I thought that was a given?”

Everett shook his head again as they all got out of the car and went inside.

→ ←

They drove for a few more hours and when Rae began to yawn, the boys began to panic.

“Maybe we should pull over and have one of us drive,” Everett offered.

“Or we could stop somewhere for the night if you feel adamant about being the driver,” Koa said next.

“Just maybe you should stop driving if you’re getting tired,” Everett added.

“Guys. I’m fine,” Rae said, but her sentence was cut off by another yawn. “We’re almost there. Why don’t one of you call ahead to the museum and see what their late hours are. If no one answers you can try the curator’s private number. It’s all in the folder.”

“Yes, I know,” Everett said, flipping right to the page with all the contacts. Apparently he had memorized the information already. It didn’t really surprise Rae.

As they pulled off the highway and into the small city, Everett finally got ahold of someone on the phone. The museum, fortunately, was open until ten tonight and the curator hadn’t gone home yet.

Squealing into the lot, her park job less than stellar, Rae hopped out of the car within the same second that she had parked it, leaving the boys gripping their seats for dear life back in the car.

“Oh, it feels so good to stretch my legs!” Leaning back down to look in the car, she asked, “Are you coming? C’mon, we only have an hour.”

“I might be developing two ulcers,” Koa groaned.

The three of them climbed the steps of the small history museum, but before they got any further than the circulation room, an older looking gentleman in suspenders and a bow tie darted out of a dark room. “In here. Quickly.”

Rae glanced back at the boys. Koa seemed indifferent, but Everett was glowing a nervous grey.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Rae said in her thoughts with a shrug, following the man into the pitch black room. Everett’s soft glow illuminated the room slightly.

Suddenly, the lights flicked on and they found themselves standing in a small, indoor amphitheater. The sharply dressed old man with tufty and unchecked white hair emerged from behind a small curtain. “There, that’s better. Now come closer so I can see you while I talk to you.”

“Um, do you know who we are?” Rae asked as she descended the stairs further into the room.

“Well aren’t you the people I called for? The Greek people?”

“Yes, but how did you know who we were?”

“Intuition,” he said, though he sounded a bit unsure. “Plus you’re the first people who didn’t cry or hesitate when I pulled you in here today.”

Rae’s eyebrows lowered. “Wait. You’ve just been pulling random guests of the museum in here all day? And no one called the police or anything?”

“Of course not! Once I explained I was the curator and offered free admission, every thing was smoothed over. Mostly. Except for that one lady who hit me with her handbag and demanded free admission for the year. She was a feisty thing,” he added, a giddy smile on his face.

As Everett was whispering how crazy this guy seemed in her mind, Rae responded to the man, “I am thoroughly impressed.” She found herself starting to like the slightly insane curator.

“So, you are the people I called for, right? You’re going to retrieve the artifact?” he asked, not entirely trusting his intuition it seemed.

Rae extended her hand, letting it hang as he squinted and tried to figure out what she was doing with his poor eyesight. “I’m Rae Bennet, from Teras. These are my associates, Theo and Koa.”

“You sound so young,” the man observed. “Are you sure you’re old enough to handle this sort of thing? I hear it’s very dangerous.”

Rae was slightly offended. “Sir, we may be young, but I can assure you we are more than capable.” At that moment, her stomach audibly rumbled.

“How can you possibly still be hungry after how you’ve eaten today?” Everett asked jokingly in her thoughts.

Rae ignored him, still trying to seem professional.

“Well I won’t take up too much of your time,” the curator said with a small smile, obviously having heard her stomach’s cry for food. “The name’s Jack, Jack Willoughby, and if you come with me, I’ll show you what it is that’s gone missing.”

He began leading them through a back door past the stage and down a hallway to another doorway. They stepped out, seemingly from the wall, into a deserted show room.

“I’ve had to close off this room after it was stolen. The public doesn’t know it’s missing. I’m telling people the room is having some maintenance done with the lighting, so if you kids could pretend you’re from an electrical company, that’d be great.”

Rae was nodding her head in agreement as Koa asked, “Do we look like electrical professionals to you?”

“We can pull it off,” Rae interjected.

“I like your attitude,” Jack said, possibly attempting to point at Rae but ending up motioning a few feet left of her.

To move the conversation forward, Rae asked, “So what was stolen, Jack? What exactly are we going to be looking for in the drakon lair?”

“Go ahead and read the plaque,” he said, vaguely motioning in the direction of an empty display case. “There’s a picture on it as well.”

Striding across the carpet to the aforementioned plaque, Rae leaned down to read the tiny script. “The Baetylus: a legendary stone that was believed to hold life. Whether this stone possesses any such power is a mystery, though the relic has been preserved for countless generations reaching back to the earliest recorded years in history. Blah blah blah, history that only Theo reads, and oh! It says here that it fell from the sky, thought now to be a piece of a meteorite but could actually have been a gift from the gods.”

Everett put a finger on an important sentence she missed. “If you hadn’t skimmed you would have read the interesting part. It says you have to swallow it to gain the life power it holds inside. Apparently there was a woman who died and her husband left to find the stone. When he returned and shoved it down his wife’s throat, she was revived. The stone wasn’t recovered again until after she died at an old age, the life she had been given restored in the stone at her proper time of death. Some believe the stone may hold pieces of the spirits of everyone who ever borrowed its life.”

Rae shivered. “Creepy.”

“Yes, quite,” Jack said from directly over her shoulder, making her jump. How did he get over here so quietly without them noticing? He seemed quite spry for his old age.

Rae stood up straight and proud. “I’m sure it will be a piece of cake to retrieve the stone, Jack. You can count on us.” But then she was thinking about cake, and her stomach rumbled again.

“You don’t know how glad I am to hear that. That stone was worth a fortune and I had just been in the process of auctioning it off to a prestigious museum in Italy. I could do a lot to revive this old place with that kind of money.”

“Seems the stone has a way of reviving more than just people,” Everett commented.

“Right you are,” Jack said with a smile. “I’ll walk you out and give you the address of the hotel I’ve arranged for you all to stay in while you’re in the area. Try to sound… electrical, if you can when we’re around people.”

They strolled out of the show room as Jack led them back towards the entryway. “So as you can tell, it’s a real mess of wires and the lighting is just a catastrophe.”

“Uh, yes,” Rae stuttered, but then the ideas started to come to her and she fell into character. “I think the room has a lot of potential. I’ll have my boys untangle the mess of wires you have now and I’ll have something better brought in. I’m thinking a color change for one, just to spruce up the mood of the room. The tone you set with lighting will have a direct effect on how your visitors feel about the pieces in the room.”

“Tone it down,” Everett whispered in her mind. “You sound more like an interior decorator than an electrical professional.”

She halted her monologue and cleared her throat. “So, yes. We’ll fix the lights,” she finished lamely.

“Excellent,” Jack beamed. “Here’s my personal contact information,” he said, handing her a business card with an address for a hotel scrawled on the back. “I look forward to doing business with you.”

Rae smiled and waved goodbye to the man on her way out, which might have looked less professional and more like a little girl saying goodbye to her grandpa.

“Smooth,” Koa commented to her in the parking lot. “And by smooth, I mean that was a smooth coast into a crash and burn.”

She ignored him as she got into the car, her excitement building. This was her first important job that was all up to her. Not to mention, she had two of her closest friends with her.

Everett entered the address in his phone and gave Rae verbal directions to the hotel. When they arrived, Rae stayed put in the car to gaze up at the monstrous place. “Maybe Jack was paid in advance for the stone,” she speculated, but her feet were tapping in eagerness. This was the nicest hotel she had ever looked upon.

As they made their way to the front desk she heard Everett scold, “No running, Rae.”