Exchange Program

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“What have you been doing?” Lina asks when I join her and the gang for lunch in the cafeteria. Bobbi, Lucy and Ella are eating their lunch quietly as Nero munches on his hamburger loudly like a pig.

“Ran into an annoying dragon,” I grumble, sitting between Lina and Ella.

“Did he do anything to you?” Lina asks worriedly.

“No,” I assure her. “He’s just not very friendly.”

“That stupid reptile,” Lina comments before her eyes widen in realization. “No offence, Mel.”

I chuckle. “None taken.”

“Why does he hate you so much anyway?” Ella asks, looking at me.

I shrug. That’s the question that has been in my head since day one. All he tells me is to ‘get out of his way’.

“Maybe it has something to do with the Director title,” Nero suggests.

Lina glances at him with a strange look on her face. “That’s genius of you, Nero!”

“I know right,” Nero says cockily.

“Wait, what? What do you mean?” I question.

“Before you came along, Augustus was trained to become the next Director since he was a rare shifter. You see, Augustus was raised here in the HQ building,” Lina explains.

“Really?”

“Yeah, we don’t know the full story though. We just heard it from the seniors before us,” Ella says, dipping her orange juice.

“Poor Augustus,” I murmur.

“Yeah, he changed when Thomas announced that you’re going to be the next Director a few years ago. He planned this for years and crushed Augustus’s dreams,” Lucy pipes in.

“Did you hear about the exchange program?” Bobbi appears out of nowhere, plopping into a seat next to Nero.

“What exchange program?” Nero, Lina, Ella, Lucy and I say at the same time. It is so loud that everyone is looking at us.

“What are you looking at?” I snap at them. All the HQ agent trainees sheepishly look away. Everyone at my table looks at me proudly.

“That’s cool,” Nero remarks.

“The exchange program for a Demigod’s protector,” Bobbi says, showing us a paper with bold words ‘Exchange Program for HQ Agent Trainees. Priority for rare shifters. Interview at Training Room 4 at eight o’clock tomorrow.’

“You should apply!” Lina tells me. “I’m sure they’ll pick you since you’re a rare shifter, unless if Augustus applies too.”

“But this means I have to go to Mount Olympus,” I state, shaking my head.

“Not exactly,” Bobbi says. “Goddess Athena is going to interview the interviewees. Those who are successful will be on their way to Newborough.”

“Newborough is quite far,” I say, remembering once I saw the map of the country. Newborough is a city very far from Meadow Falls and Gurney City.

Lina shrugs. “It’s your choice, Mel. If you want to do it, then do it. The purpose of these kinds of programs is so you can have the experience. Plus, all you need to do is be the bodyguard for Athena’s daughter.”

I think about it. Maybe it is a great idea. I get to try something new other than staying in the HQ building for the next three years. Maybe I can try to sneak and check on Nate once in a while.

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