The Militia base was every bit as grand as all reports had made it sound. The main entrance was a captivatingly large dome. White walls gleamed down onto all who entered, webbed with silvery strings that all connected at the dome's apex. Greenery was grown and maintained against every curved edge of the hall. People tended to flock and stare in awe toward the center of the dome, their eyes on the intricate paintings that were cast against the different panels of white. The paintings depicted stories of Militia victories.

Ryx couldn't help noting that somehow, in all the detail of the paintings, the Militia had forgotten to paint their numerous failures. He nestled his knapsack into a comfortable position on his back before moving into the mass of people.

After an effortless graduation Sim test at Amdreich Brute Force Academy , it was off and into the quad program of the Militia. Ryx wasn't entirely sure what exactly 'Double A' meant, but apparently the quad he'd been assigned to was particularly impressive. He glanced down at the piece of paper he held, directing him where to meet the rest of his quad. The 'Black Room' was the designated area, though Ryx knew he hadn't the slightest clue where that was.

"Excuse me," Ryx said, tapping a man who was walking pointedly toward some unknown destination. "I'm looking for the Black Room."

As if Ryx hadn't spoken at all, the man continued his purposeful walk into the crowd, disappearing nearly immediately. Ryx sighed, running his hand through his hair. He felt the repeated shoving and violent thrusts of the mass of people trying to reach their destination.

A sign glared in the distance, plastered to the wall of the dome, different colored arrows pointing to what Ryx guessed were the rooms that matched their colors. Ryx turned in the middle of the crowd, raising his elbows in order to create a barrier between him and the rest of the crowd. He chuckled to himself bitterly, noting that the black arrow was by far the furthest from him. Ryx began using one of the few things that Brute Force had taught him, and he shoved oncoming Militia visitors aside, fighting the current of bodies to reach the Black Room.

On the final home stretch toward the hallway that the black arrow pointed toward, the crowd fell silent. Ryx turned to see that President Ashmore had entered the dome, men in black suits escorting him in. His grey-black hair lay gelled to the right, his jaw set and regal. By his side were his wife and daughter, both dressed up in all black. Ryx could only guess that a memorial for the Telgith Academy bombings was about to take place. Ryx quickly dodged out of the way, ducking into the empty hallway into the Black Room.

The hallway was dark, shadowed, and all together eerily quiet. Ryx could see the door to the room at the end of the hallway which seemed to stretch on for miles. The door was cast iron, black, and it seemed to be leering over the rest of the hallway, as if challenging someone to enter. Ryx shrugged, accepting the challenge idly and walking into the room.

The bright white of the "Black" Room nearly blinded him.

An elderly man dressed in the white suit of a Militia Base guide was seated on a bench in the room, opposite of two other children Ryx's own age. One was a girl whose feet could hardly brush the concrete floor. There was an unaware innocence in her eyes, giving her the appearance of a deer in the headlights.

Next to her, giving a polar opposite impression was a boy, heavy bags under his eyes, his hair messy. His eyes gave off a feeling of submission and a deep upset, but a hateful anger at the same time. Making a quick decision, Ryx sat down beside the girl, guessing she would be more welcoming.

"Yates, I assume?" the elderly man said, pushing his glasses up on the edge of his nose. His scowl was contempt filled. Ryx shrank back slightly. Glancing up at the clock, it was the first time he had noted that he was at least half an hour late.

"Yes…" Ryx began, looking at the two students who sat beside him. "I can explain why I'm late. The memorial just started."

The dark boy's eyes immediately flickered up to stare at Ryx, a hint of pain in them. It wasn't hard to guess he was the member of their quad from the Cutlass Academy .

"This is Kosta Und'esti, your cutlass representative," the elderly man said, motioning toward the boy. "And this is Dara Cress, your sharpshooting representative. Both of you, this is Ryxard Yates, your brute force representative."

Ryx looked around, wondering why there were only three members of their quad. He was aware that high ranking Militia officers were hardly intelligent, but if his education had served him well, quad usually referred to four members.

The elderly man rose from his seat, pointing to the door. Kosta, Dara, and Ryx all looked at each other, hoping someone understood what was happening.

"So I guess someone's later than I am," Ryx laughed, immediately regretting it when he was answered with nothing but the buzzing sound of the lights in the ceiling.

"Your fourth member is otherwise occupied at the moment. We'll go and meet them now," the man said, opening the door. Dara hopped up from her seat, the first to exit the room. Ryx followed after her silently, glancing back at Kosta who seemed to drag himself off the bench as if each movement he made took a strenuous amount of effort.

"Ryxard is an interesting name," Dara said, turning to Ryx as he exited the room. "Any story behind it?"

"Parents who got a little too creative," Ryx chuckled. "Please just call me Ryx, I don't want anyone hearing that other name."

Dara smiled, making a motion as if she were zipping her lips. The group emerged back into the main pavilion, though all the commotion had ceased. Everyone was gathered around the stage that President Ashmore and his family were gathered on. Pictures of the bombing victims were being flashed against the apex of the dome.

As if someone had struck life into him, Kosta suddenly picked up speed passing both Ryx and Dara to catch up with their guide.

"Rentun and Qweneth Und'esti," President Ashmore said softly. The two faces on the dome's ceiling looked like two happier versions of Kosta. The smile slipped from both Dara's and Ryx's face, the cold reality of Kosta's strange behavior dawning on them. As the group slipped from the hall, relief washed over them, free of the heaviness of the memorial.

A lengthy box-shaped room emerged before the group, grey gridlines running along frantically over the white walls. Almost immediately before the entryway was a glass wall that spread both the length and height of the room, glowing from sort of a white light on the other side of it. Dimmed lights were scattered about the ceiling, which sat high above the heads of all of the room's inhabitants.

Their guide approached the transparent wall, a look of both pride and hauteur covering his age-weathered face.

Glancing past the glass, Ryx noticed that there was some sort of a training room settled underneath them, likely a Sim room. Two figures danced around each other, clad in complete black, each taking vicious thrusts at the other.

"That one," the guide spoke calmly, though a glint of excitement sparked in his bland tone. Ryx looked down at the two figures. One was notably larger, stronger, and likely more skilled than the other. Both wore helmets covered in little white tabs, though it looked as though the sleek black helmet hardly did a thing for them as they continued attempting to break open each other's skulls with invisible objects. Ryx traced the line the guide made with his eyes, frowning as he realized that he wasn't pointing at the larger one.

The man that their guide pointed to was slender, maneuvering around the other male in a near acrobatic manner. His grace and elegance began to look as though he was dancing ballet. How any fighter that simply pranced around their opponent could be regarded as a strong fighter was beyond Ryx. He glanced down to see Dara standing directly beside him, her presence much smaller than anyone he'd ever met. She nearly had to rise to the tips of her toes to see down as far as the two fighters.

"They look a bit like..." Ryx began, pausing in a search for the right word. "Insects. And we're just watching."

"Insects?" Dara laughed. "Hardly the visual I was getting. It's very pretty to watch them. The big one is like a rock, and the little one is like water..."

Ryx turned his head to the side, the image of waves crashing off of a boulder sunken into the sand filling his mind. He could see it a slight bit, though the image of insects being watched from above was far more prominent.

"We really have a Blackwatch member?" Kosta's voice rumbled from somewhere behind them. "Not just a repeat representative?"

"Officer Selinnth is a member of Blackwatch," their guide said with a nod, moving toward the staircase that led to the Sim room.

"Blackwatch?" Ryx blinked, looking to Dara, who seemed to be wearing an expression somewhere between horror and having just seen her hero. Immediately she pressed her faced to the glass, straining for a better look at their future teammate.

"You're right, Kosta!" she squealed, turning to give both Kosta and Ryx individual, near-strangling embraces. "The Blackwatch emblem is on both of them!"

"Blackwatch..." Kosta sighed, practically peeling Dara off of him, "are the elite task force of the Militia. When things are too hefty for quads to take care of, they're assigned to the Blackwatch. The occasional impressive quad gets one Blackwatch officer as a member... How do you not know this?"

"I guess my parents were never big Militia buffs," Ryx shrugged, watching as their guide emerged in the Sim room below, leading their newest member back toward the stairs. "I was hoping we'd get the big guy."

"They both seemed pretty important, seeing as they were training in a display room," Dara said, finally turning away from the glass. The larger male, who was still standing in the now empty room removed his helmet, running his fingers through his spiky blond hair. Looking around, he moved quickly toward the stairs as though he wasn't done with the fight yet.

From the door across the room, both their guide and their newest member emerged. They were talking, though their guide looked slightly disconcerted. It was as though he was anticipating bad news; very bad news.

"This is them," the guide said, sweeping his hand out to motion to all three standing before the helmet-clad officer. After a long moment of hesitation, the officer removed his helmet to hold out his hand for each to shake. A long sheet of silvery-blonde hair cascaded down the Officer Selinnth's back from under the helmet. With blank stares, it suddenly dawned on all the other three that 'man' was hardly the appropriate.

"I'm Aivri Selinnth," she said with a wide grin. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, and seemed to be glaring at each and every one of them as if rubbing her femininity in their faces.

"Well... that's hot," Ryx chuckled, taking her hand sheepishly. Aivri's face molded from a cheery disposition to a look as though she were ready to murder. Ryx knew his statement was hardly appropriate, but the awkward chuckle that broke loose from Kosta behind him told him it was at least accurate.

"Officer, this is Dara Cress, your sharpshooting representative," the guide said, pointing to Dara. "This is Ryxard Yates, brute force representative, and this is Kosta Und'esti, cutlass representative."

Somewhere amidst the introductions, her murderous glare had changed into awestruck horror. Her sharp blue eyes darted from Dara to Ryx to Kosta and back.

"Representatives?" she spat, throwing her helmet on the ground. "You got me a quad of zeroes?"

Everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing, looking at the scene that Aivri was making. It was as though she were about to explode. It was hard to believe that they pleasant young lady they had met only a few moments prior had suddenly developed into a monster.

"Now, now, you have to calm down and realize that these three did exceptionally well on their graduation tests, and they qualified for 'Double A'," the guide sputtered, putting up his hands in defense.

"So you stuck me with them?" Aivri snarled, flashing a glare at the other three. "Just because they did well doesn't mean that I have to be in their quad. Take them back."

Ryx couldn't help noting that the tone Aivri was using seemed more applicable to a restaurant when the waitress brought you the wrong order and had to take it back. It was stinging to hear the hateful words flying from her mouth, but all together amusing if one could picture it all in the restaurant comparison.

"Selinnth!" a voice boomed from the doorway. A large man, also clad in all black, his bulky figure hardly fitting into the tight Blackwatch outfit he was wearing, stepped out of what seemed to be a control room. Somehow, the moment he spoke it was as though he had hit her. Fear was etched into her face and she was completely silent and still. The man approached, stopping just in front of their newest teammate. "After last week's mishap, I think you should be quite grateful with this lot. I was considering putting you on training staff," he practically spat in her ear.

"Yes, sir. Thank you," she mumbled, not making eye contact with anyone. Viewers scattered about the room giggled and pointed, causing Aivri to wince as the large man finally left.

The spiky-haired blond boy from the training room was perched atop the stairs, looking out at the scene with a remorseful expression. He walked out slowly, holding out his arms to Aivri, who hardly seemed ready to leap into them.

"It'll be alright, babe," he whispered. "This is only temporary..."

Aivri reached forward and placed her hands firmly on his chest, shoving him away as roughly as she could muster. She picked her helmet with a huff, dusting off with her hand.

"It's not temporary, it's punishment, and it's your fault," Aivri growled. "I'm stuck with this because of you, you don't you dare try to comfort me!"

"Now we're a condition," Ryx smirked. Both Kosta and Dara frowned in unison. It was the first similarity Ryx had seen between them the entire half an hour he'd known them.

"You don't have permission to speak, zero," Aivri cried toward Ryx. He frowned and folded his arms, utterly baffled by the amount of authority the girl was able to give herself.

"You don't own us, you work with us," Ryx said, raising a brow. "Sorry you got stuck with us. Maybe if you calm down and try to make it work, it will."

Kosta shoved Ryx in the arm harshly, shock on his features. Aivri scowled before storming from the room and into a hallway. The sign nearest the hallway read 'DORMS'.

"I can't believe you just insulted a Blackwatch officer," Dara said, eyes wide. She didn't appear to be angry, though; more likely, she was impressed.

"You're an idiot," Kosta muttered before smirking and patting Ryx on the back.

"She was just being annoying and rude. Doesn't really matter what she is, we deserve a little decency, too," Ryx sighed. Aivri's silhouette stalked down the hallway, turning finally toward a door and bursting inside.

"Don't know what you did to piss her off," Ryx said to the spiky-haired blond boy with a chuckle. He frowned in response, brushing off his uniform.

"Don't talk to me, zeroes. I hope you perform as well as you did in your tests, because she certainly deserves better than you," the boy said, exiting the room with a pained look on his face.

"Just for reference," Ryx whispered to Kosta, who seemed to be the most educated on the terminology of the Militia. "What is a 'zero'?"

"The number that equates to nothing," Kosta said in all seriousness before chuckling to himself. "Also a nickname for newly graduated representatives. As in, the number of years of experience we have."

"Zero..." Ryx said, feeling the nickname over. "I've had worse."