“So, this is Unity, huh?”
Brandon stared out the window next to Winona, the massive headquarters of the infamous group coming into view.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to this part of the city, yet this building looks familiar…”
“Have you seen it on TV?” Faith asked him.
“Nah, it didn’t have that huge has blue U thing in the center up there—”
“Our headquarters was built based on neoclassical architecture—” The Brown Suit interrupted Brandon. “You can tell by the pillars around the front entrance. Aside from Unity’s symbol up above, the entire structure is composed of limestone.”
“Huh? If you guys are Unity, shouldn’t you use that phantonite stuff?”
“There’s no need to waste it on the building,” Pam responded. “It costs too much money to produce that amount of phantonite—and even then—phantons can alter its structure. Intentional or not, phantons from Ability users within and ones relating to the Nexus Network would warp the building, causing it to collapse.”
“Limestone, along with quartz—” Winona started to explain. “—are two natural minerals that do have a relation to phantons. With the building made up of limestone, it can suppress the phantons from within and keep unnecessary interference from the outside.”
“She’s right.” Pam nodded. “Studying how quartz and limestone interact with phantons was how phantonite came to be in the first place.”
“Interesting, interesting…” Brandon seemed to understand what was explained to him, although he wasn’t so sure about the “interesting” part. “Anyway, I guess let’s head in?”
“Yeah, I suppose it’s time, huh…?” Faith said nervously.
Pam escorted the three inside the front doors of the building, leaving their bags in the van to be picked up later. They walked into a giant lobby, filled with several tables and chairs. There was the main reception desk, with two large doors on each side.
A lone woman sat at the desk. Her blond hair completely covered her face—currently focused on a laptop in front of her. As the group approached, blue eyes barely became visible, glaring out at the world.
“This is Veronica Wilton, part receptionist—part guardian of Unity.”
“Hi, hi.” Veronica greeted them in a monotone voice. She took out a paper from one of the many pockets covering her white coat, matching the other colors that Unity had. “This is the schedule, Mrs. Roswell.”
“Thank you.” Pam accepted the paper, glancing through what it had to say. “All right, this doesn’t seem too bad. Nothing that different from my own orientation years ago.” She looked at the three next to her, giving them a grin. “No need to worry, guys.”
“What does it say, mom?” Faith moved next to her mother to look at the list herself.
“See—nothing too exciting. A bunch of information today, then tomorrow you’ll begin doing some training exercises with your group leaders.”
“Group leaders?” Brandon asked.
“Oh, that’s right—Brandon, you’re not too familiar with all of this, so let me give you a quick rundown on that part—” Pam cleared her throat. “Basically, you’ll be put on a team with someone else that’s new here—in your case—someone with an Ability. Then, someone who’s already graduated Unity will be assigned to lead the two of you.”
“Right. I think I remember something about Faith and Winona being on a team together?”
“Yep!” Faith answered Brandon’s question. “Winona and I have done a few miscellaneous activities here already, and seeing as though we already know each other, we were put together.”
“Miscellaneous activities?” Brandon was confused. “What would those involve?”
“Basically just testing our Abilities,” Winona responded. “Although, Faith hasn’t had much time to do that yet, as she’s only recently begun to get her Ability down.”
“Right, right…” Faith giggled awkwardly. “Yet, we’ve also been here for various classes on general Unity-related things. Especially martial arts classes—now those are fun!”
“You know, it doesn’t seem all that ba—” Brandon stopped speaking at Pam placed her finger on her lips.
“Remember, Brandon. Try to avoid talking like that here.” Pam turned toward Veronica. “Anyway, we’re gonna head on in. Thank you again, Veronica.”
“It is my pleasure.”
Pam led the three into the giant doors on the left, leaving the lobby behind them just as quickly as they entered. They began to walk down a long, dimly lit gray hallway with a few doors on each side.
“Sheesh—she was kinda creepy. You said she was also part guardian of Unity? Is she some kind of robot or something?”
“No, nothing like that.” Pam chuckled. “Wearing the white coat indicates that she simply does your typical office work here, fooling the average public. But since you guys are entering Unity now, you can know that she’s actually incredibly powerful, with an Ability of her own.”
“Oh!?” Brandon’s eyes lit up. “What Ability is it!?”
“Even I don’t know that, actually. I’ve never seen it or heard any details. Rumor has it, that she—power-wise—rivals even Adam’s mother.”
“Woah… I heard Adam’s mom was a big shot here, is that right?”
“That’s right. She… She had the potential to easily be the Leader of Unity. Although, that was cut short, unfortunately…”
“Ah, man. Poor Adam. My mom was kinda crazy, but at least I knew her before the divorce happened. Can’t imagine what it was like not having a mom at all…”
Faith’s eyes fell to the ground upon hearing that statement from Brandon.
Pam sighed. “Right. You’re doing this to eventually help him, right? You must really care about him.”
“Well, there’s that—” Brandon scratched his head in embarrassment. “But… I also owe him.”
“Owe him?” Pam asked.
“Eh, it’s not important right now.” Brandon laughed.
“I hope he’s doing all right…” Faith said with a worried look.
“Relax, he’s got—” Brandon hushed himself. “He’s… He’s got us in his heart! Yeah! Totally nobody else helping him, haha!”
Faith and Winona glared at Brandon, while Pam stared at them in confusion.
“Anyway, here we are—”
At the end of the hallway, Pam opened up a heavy steel door. It led into a vast gray room, that was around the size of an average gymnasium, with two other doors off to the left and right. There was a long, single window on the other side of the room above them, which seemed to have several monitoring stations within.
“Well, there’s a lot of empty space, but it sure is gloomy in here…” Brandon stated.
“This is one of the training rooms used here. If we took the right door back in the lobby, we would have ended up in the other one.” Pam explained. "These rooms are mainly just for show, actually. What's under these floors is—"
“Welcome!” Rizzo’s voice echoed throughout the room, interrupting Pam. The group looked up to see him standing in the center of the window, glaring down at them.
“What the hell!? How is he doing that!? What is his Ability!?” Brandon looked around in a panic.
“It’s… It’s a microphone, Brandon.” Faith sighed, patting his shoulder.
“Oh… Yeah, that’s a thing.”
“Winona Collins. Faith Roswell. Brandon Shepherd. In that order, you three have awakened marvelous Abilities. One could assume the gods themselves granted them to you. But, how did this come to pass?”
“Well, I wanted to stop the Brown Suits from taking my sister and ruining our family’s garden,” Winona responded bluntly.
“I had the person most precious to me dying in my hands, and through that stress, it awakened. Sure kept him warm until I got him to safety, at least.” Faith shrugged.
“Eh, k-kinda like her’s, except that he was getting stomped on by a man.” Brandon sighed, glancing at Faith.
“Person most precious to you, huh…?”
Pam looked upward at Rizzo, grinning with her hands on her hips. “That answer your question?”
“...Interesting group. Although it was a rhetorical question, I appreciate the honesty.” Rizzo cleared his throat. “Perhaps it was due to these circumstances, or it involved a force similar to fate? Regardless, you are here today, ready to begin your quest. What quest? Your quest to learn all the values of Unity, and to protect our country of Requiem!”
“Uh-huh. I’m sure that’s the glorious reason.” Brandon said sarcastically, followed by a nudge from Pam.
“I told you not to—”
“You’ve got quite the mouth, Brandon Shepherd.”
A different voice was heard on the speakers. Approaching the window, Trevor revealed himself.
“What the? Who are you? And what’s with your hair?” Brandon stepped back nervously.
“That’s Trevor Benjamin—” Winona began explaining. “He’s a year ahead of us in his Unity development, and incredibly strong. I’ve had a few practice matches with him before, and have lost every time.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Winona,” Trevor stated. “Out of the four new recruits this year, you’ve certainly shown the most potential.”
“Huh? Wait—four?” Brandon questioned.
“Yes—” Pam held Brandon’s shoulder. “As you know, Faith and Winona are on a team. If it were only the three of you, we would have just paired you all together. But, since there’s another person, we can keep the traditional setup.”
“Where is this other person I’m supposed to be with—and who ruined a perfect threesome!?”
“Threesome, huh…?” Faith held her head, sighing at Brandon’s wording.
“He’s right here, actually,” Trevor responded. “Here—Paul, introduce yourself to your new teammate.”
As Trevor gestured to the side of him, nobody appeared.
“Oh, I get it!” Brandon’s face lit up. “This person’s got invisibility! That’s a cool Ability!”
“No—” Trevor sighed, reaching down toward the floor next to him, out of sight of the others below. “He’s just lying here—he does that.”
Trevor pulled up a person in his arms. The boy moved like a rag doll—swinging around loosely.
“Sorry, Trevor. Had my hearing turned off. These machines in here were bugging me too much.”
The young man placed his feet on the ground, finally standing up straight. He adjusted his round glasses, which did not seem to fix their crooked placement over his brown eyes.
“Hi, I’m Paul. Paul Callahan.” He fidgeted with his hair, which was wrapped up in a bun behind his head. “Nice to meet you.”
“Interesting guy—hi, I’m Brandon Shepherd! I guess you and I are gonna be working together?”
“It would appear so! I apologize in advance if you have to carry me around sometimes.”
“...Carry you around?”
“Yep. My body has gotten used to not using any unnecessary energy, so a lot of the time I’m just on the floor for the hell of it!”
“That sounds like an extreme case of Adam…” Brandon sighed.
“Well, then that’s good!” Faith gave him a thumbs up. “Maybe it means you two will be able to work well together?”
“I-I’m not sure… hopefully?”
“Well, that will be put to the test starting tomorrow!” Rizzo stated. “You’ll be meeting the Unity member in charge of each group, and you’ll be facing off against them—working together with your partner.”
“Facing off!? L-Like a real fight!?” Brandon asked anxiously.
“No, nothing serious—” Faith explained. “It’s simply to test how well you use your Abilities, and how well you work on a team. You should be okay on that front—having so much experience in sports after all.”
“I’m not used to trying to inflict pain on others—although I have kicked a few guys in the nuts before… as well as taken a few hits myself…”
“Good to know!” Pam chuckled, as the other two girls giggled awkwardly. “I think you’ll be okay. There’s a lot more you’ll have to worry about in the future.”
In the room above, Trevor turned toward Rizzo. “Might I request something?”
“What is it?” Rizzo asked, keeping his eyes focused below.
“I’m curious about this guy’s Ability. It involved electricity, correct? I would like to see how mine fares against it.”
Rizzo smirked. “At his current level, your Ability will fare extremely well. However—if you’re curious about it—then I don’t mind.”
“Thank you, sir.” Trevor looked down directly at Brandon. “Did you hear that, Brandon Shepherd?”
Brandon did not say anything—his terrified face answered Trevor’s question for him.