Disclaimer: I don't own PJO; Rick Riordan does.

Chapter 1

Dog Shelters and Genetics

My freshman year was going pretty good. Well, good had always been kind of a relative term in my life. When I said good, it meat that monsters had mostly left me alone, none of my friends had gone missing, I hadn't gotten any calls from camp, my dreams had been pretty tame, and the best part was I wasn't failing any of my classes.

Of course, no one told me to knock on wood.

Everything started with an English assignment, specifically a five-page persuasive essay on an assigned topic to be drawn out of a hat.

The only thing worse than writing an essay was writing an essay on a topic you didn't get to choose. Like, what if I got something like school uniforms? I could care less about what I had to wear to school every day. And how did you come up with five pages about it? If you were me, it involved a lot of babbling and run-on sentences.

At least we were allowed to pick our views on the subject, because I didn't know what I'd do if I got something along the lines of proving how the crazy weather a few years ago was a sign of global warming. Seriously, it was just a couple of gods fighting about who stole what\who's a liar\who Mom always loved more. People were so quick to blame everything on global warming these days.

My best-case scenario in this situation was getting something Mom or Rachel knew a lot about. I was starting to think that with their combined help, I had got a shot at not having to redo my freshman year a million times.

"Yes!" one of the nerdy kids who always sat in the front row called out. "I got global warming!" Well, there was one dreaded topic I didn't have to worry about.

"Video game violence? You've got to be kidding me," a girl – I think her name was Rylie – moaned.

There went what was probably the one topic I wouldn't have minded.

And upon receiving my subject, I really started to envy Rylie. Euthanasia. What was euthanasia? Was it some fancy way to spell youth in Asia? How do you persuade someone about there being youth in Asia? Global warming would have been better than this.

"Umm...Mr. Miller? Can I do a redraw? Seriously, I don't even know what this is." I tried the desperately confused student approach. Hey, sometimes it worked.

Mr. Miller just gave me one of those satanic smiles that seem to be characteristic to English teachers. "Well, you'll have some research to do." Of course he wouldn't be understanding. He was a teacher.

After Mr. Miller was out of earshot, the kid who was sitting next to me turned to me and said, "Hey, you wanna trade topics? Mine sucks."

Valin was an athletic popular kid who was so short he could probably still pass for a child when he went to the movies. He was smart enough, and I didn't know him well enough to know what his definition of a crappy topic would be. Yet I couldn't think of anything worse than euthanasia.

"Sure," I agreed, and we swapped topics while Mr. Miller had his back turned.

"Oh man," Valin groaned. "I don't even know what the hell this is. Come on, Percy. Trade me back."

"Forget it. You wanted to trade," I said, turning my eyes to the folded piece of paper Valin had handed me. Being fairly certain it was better than euthanasia (which admittedly didn't take much), I opened it.

Adoption.

I'll admit, my first thought was, "Yes! I actually know what this is!"

Then I realized I'd never really thought about adoption. I'd never had a reason to...until now. That's English class for you. Making you think about things that you should never have to, thus "expanding your knowledge of the world." Or something like that. I tried to tune out the cheesy things teachers said.

Speaking of things teachers said, I realized Mr. Miller had returned to his podium at the front of the room and was talking. "...know that some of you have received more difficult topics than others."

Valin glared at me.

"Try to work through that. Do research. Think creatively. Find a topic that isn't frequently done." The bell rang, and everyone ran for the door. "Five pages!" Mr. Miller shouted, trying to be heard over the mob of students.

I prayed to the gods that Mom or Rachel would have some spin to put on this topic. Otherwise I had a hunch that this paper was going to closely resemble a train wreck.

Rachel and I walked home together every day after school. Now I know what you're thinking. Why was a rich girl like Rachel walking home from school? She probably had a private limo, ready to take her wherever she wanted.

Well, Rachel didn't like the perks that came with being rich. Therefore, she walked home with me.

Maybe that wasn't what you were thinking. If it wasn't, I can probably guess what was on your mind. Just let me tell you, I didn't like Rachel. She was nothing more than a friend.

"What subject did Mr. Miller dump on you?" I asked. Rachel and I had the same English teacher, just at different periods.

Rachel grinned thoughtfully. "Marijuana. Not sure what my spin will be on it yet."

Knowing Rachel, it would be creative.

We walked in silence for a few blocks while Rachel was most likely lost in thought. Then she seemed to remember that I was right there next to her. "Oh, so what's your topic?" she asked.

"Adoption. Any ideas?"

"You could do it about how orphanages are just like dog shelters," Rachel said thoughtfully after thinking for a few minutes.

I wasn't following her train of thought, but with Rachel, that happened a lot. "Ummm...well, I think that orphanages are a little nicer than dog shelters," I tried to say without totally bashing her idea. After all, she was trying to help me.

Rachel shook her head. "Not like that!" Of course I was wrong. "Everyone wants the cute little puppies, but no one wants to adopt the older dogs."

I still was not getting how this translated to the subject of adoption.

Noticing my blank expression, Rachel went on. "Nine times out of ten, parents want babies, not kids or teenagers. So if you don't get adopted when you're really little or all your relatives die when you're older, you're out of luck."

"Not the right angle?" Rachel ventured when I was silent. "Well, you know you're going to have to find something you feel somewhat strongly about. Otherwise it'll be impossible to come up with five pages on it."

"Just curious, what would you do if you had to write a paper on euthanasia?"

"Oh, probably something about how it's better to let someone die painlessly than live out the remainder of their life in suffering," Rachel said. "Although it's not too creative."

"That's what euthanasia is?" Well that had nothing to do with Asia.

"Yeah, what did you think?"

"Oh...yeah...well...that's what I thought," I lied. "Valin has to write his paper on it. I was just asking so I could give him some ideas tomorrow."

Rachel rolled her eyes. "Percy, you're a horrible liar!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

The argument continued until we arrived at my house. Sad to say, Rachel ended up winning.

"Mom, I'm home," I shouted as I stepped through the door and threw my bag on the floor. It was probably a good idea to ask her for help on my essay right away or chances are I would completely forget about it. Let's just say it happened before, and history projects were not not easy to complete in ten minutes.

"In the living room," she called out.

I went through the kitchen, grabbing some blue candy out of a dish. Hey, blue food was pretty much a staple part of my diet.

Mom was watching some talk show while folding clothes. She made a point of looking up and smiling when I came in. "How was school?" she asked.

"Fine." I took a seat in a chair and grabbed the remote, promptly switching the channel to MTV. "I've got to write a persuasive paper on adoption."

Maybe if I'd been paying attention, I would have noticed the way Mom stiffened, or the guarded tone her voice took. "Well that seems like a decent topic." She kept her gaze on the towel she was folding.

"Well, we have to take some creative angle or whatever. And Rachel says I should do it about how orphanages are like dog shelters, but-"

"That's not true! Orphanages are a lot nicer than dog shelters," Mom interrupted. I decided not to try and explain Rachel's logic. "Well...you could always do it on a mother's right to contact her child when he or she is older."

"Isn't that what open adoption is for?" Listen, I wasn't pretending to be an expert on this subject, but I had seen Juno. I knew a little bit.

Mom let out a smile sigh. "Honey, some people don't realize how hard it will be to give up their child until they've signed off on their legal rights. Really, it can leave a woman with a hole in her heart for the rest of her life. She always wonders about her child, and how he's doing, and if he's in a stable family, and if she could have done it by herself, and-"

"Mom, I get it." Okay, this was obviously some soft spot for her, and she looked hurt that I hadn't let her go on. "It's a good topic," I tried to reassure her. "It's just...I don't know, not something I think I'd be able to get into." And Rachel's dog shelter idea was looking better and better.

"Well of course. It's hard to feel passionately about something you haven't really experienced, Percy. And I hope you never have to feel what it's like to give a child away," Mom said. Call me crazy, but it really sounded like she was speaking from experience.

"You don't know what it feels like either, Mom," I stated.

She was silent for a few minutes. "Oh, look at the time. I've got a...umm...friend who I'm supposed to meet."

Let's just say that bad lying must have been genetic.

Mom was out of the house in less than a minute. If I'd been smart, I would have just let it go and never brought it up to Mom again. I would have went with Rachel's dog shelter idea, got a somewhat decent grade on the paper, and been on with my life.

But when have I ever done the smart thing?

Note: A new chapter will be posted every Sunday.