June 1, 1995, Oured Osea, Local Campus

The Deans Office was brightly lit with the sun coming through the blinds. The Dean shuffled through a stack of papers as Ray sat silently across from him waiting to be addressed.

"Mr. Ray Tarisino…" the Dean mumbled as he pulled out an individual piece of paper from the stack of papers.

Ray watched the Dean as his eyes went back and forth across the paper.

"It says here…that you're at the top of your class, and that your teachers speak highly of you," the Dean paused as he continued to scan the paper. "You're majoring in literature, correct?"

"Yes sir," Ray answered as he avoided direct eye contact with him.

The Dean raised an eyebrow at Ray as he turned to his computer and brought up Ray's file.

"So why do you want to quit? You could have a promising career as a teacher," he queried not looking over at Ray.

Ray rolled his eyes at the Dean ignoring his question, as he remained silent.

After a few more minutes the Dean turned his attention back to Ray. "Before you sign this termination paper, may I ask what you intend to do?"

Ray let out a sigh knowing the Dean wasn't going to drop the subject until he answered his question. "I'm going to join the Phoenix Initiative."

The Dean raised an eyebrow to Ray's answer. "The Phoenix Initiative? You are aware that you're not guaranteed a spot with them rite? Besides wouldn't you rather play it safe by staying here, rather than take your chances with an unknown certainty?"

Ray grew annoyed with the Deans poor attempts to keep him there. "I'm sure…"

The Dean groaned in reassignment as he pushed the termination paper towards Ray, "Ok, but I think you're making a big mistake throwing away a bright future in literature."

Ray shrugged off the Dean's words as he signed the termination paper to make his decision final.

"Ok that will do it," he paused as he quickly skimmed over the paper. "Good luck Mr. Tarisino," The Dean spoke as he offered his hand to bid him farewell.

Ray clasped his hand and bid the Dean farewell as well.

Local Cafe

Ray sat in the corner with his back turned to the window in the silent Café as he collected his thoughts. There would be no turning back now that he had made his decision. Ray starred down at his cup of coffee that had become cold over his prolonged sitting session. Ray gently ran his fingers up and down the cup as he tried to focus his thoughts.

"You ok sweetie?" asked a pretty voice that snapped Ray to attention.

"Hmm? Eh…Yeah, I'm ok." He replied as he glanced at her in the corner of his eyes.

"Ok sweetie I'm just checking, you've been sitting there for the better part of 3 hours. And you haven't even touched your coffee." She said as she tilted her head sideways.

Ray looked down and realized she was correct, as she spoke her words. As he turned his head more to make eye contact with her, he was awe struck with how beautiful she was; with her short black hair and hazel eyes. But he couldn't shake the feeling he had seen her before.

"What's wrong?" she asked him noticing that he was staring at her intently.

"I'm sorry stop me if I'm being rude. But I have the strangest feeling like I know you from somewhere."

She gave him a small smile and blushed a bit, "Probably are you aware of the Ridge Racer Circuit?"

Ray nodded at her in reply as he continued to look at her not taking his eyes off her.

"Then you might know me as Reiko Nagase. I was dubbed the Queen of the Circuit when I was the first female to win the Championship back in 93'."

"Yeah that might be why then, I'm Ray Tarisino a pleasure," he stated as he extended his hand.

"Nice to meet you Ray," she replied with a warm smile as she shook his hand. "Let me know if you need anything ok?"

Ray gave her a small smile and kissed her hand, making her slightly blush as she turned to return to her job.

"Hey…you have a minute?" Ray paused as Reiko turned to meet his gaze," I need a bit of advice."

"What's on your mind sweet heart?"

"You ever make a decision, and begin to wander if it was the right one?"

Reiko gave Ray a questioning look before she took a seat across from him. "Well now this sounds like a story." She sat in silence as she gave Ray a caring look.

Ray rubbed his face as he contemplated how to begin. He lifted his eyes to meet hers as he let out a small sigh and began to tell her. How he was the top of his class in college, how he left behind a bright future for something uncertain like the Phoenix initiative. He told her how he even began to doubt his decision. Maybe the Dean was right, he thought silently to himself.

Reiko listened attentively to his words, as he spoke his mind. It felt strange to Ray to be open to someone let alone a stranger he just met. But this Reiko there was something about her that drew him to her. It felt nice to have someone to listen.

"I see what you mean." She stated tenderly. "You know some of the best choices, are the ones we are most unsure of."

Ray let out a sarcastic laugh, "I wish I felt the same way you do."

Reiko gave him a sideways glance, "Why do you think I quit racing?" Ray answered her with silence.

"Because I wasn't happy with what I was doing. Sure I had wealth. But I wanted to be a singer, not a racer that's why I quit. Sure being a singer isn't guaranteed success but I'm happy with my decision. It's the reason I work here to support my singing career."

Ray let a small smile go across his face, "Can I hear you sing a song?"

Reiko blushed at his words, "I can't…"

"Why not?"

She paused and looked down at the floor for what seemed like an eternity, "I'm embarrassed to sing in front of others."

Ray raised an eyebrow at her response. "Well it's just the two of us here, plus I'm sure you're singing is amazing."

Reiko tried to hide her face from him as she blushed at his compliment, before looking around at the empty café.

"See?" he spoke as he watched her look around.

"Promise you won't laugh like my 8 year old sister did?"


Reiko nodded and slowly stood up and let out long breath as she closed her eyes…

The journey begins
Starts from within
Things that I need to know

The song of the bird
Echoed in words
Flying for the need to fly

Thoughts endless in flight
Day turns to night
Questions you ask your soul

Which way do I go?
How fast is too slow?
The journey has its time within us

If a man can fly over an ocean
And no mountains can get in his way
Will he fly on forever
Searching for something to believe

From above I can see from the heavens
Down below I see the storm rages on
And somewhere in the answer
There is a hope to carry on

When I finally return
Things that I learn
Carry me back to home

The thoughts that I feed
Planting a seed
With time will begin to grow

The more that I try
The more that I fly
The answer in itself will be there

Her angelic voice soothed Ray's rambunctious thoughts as he listened in awe. Reiko's eyes slowly opened to Rays gaze upon her.

"Journey Home… that was magnificent."

The song had been recently written by Anti-War moguls that where against the current conflict in Belka, even though the conflict was going favorably for the Allies. Most recently being a major victory over airspace B7R, where Galm Team shot down Silber Team.

"You keep singing like that and you'll be on a major label in no time," Ray complimented her trying to sound reassuring.

"Thank you, no one has ever complimented me on my singing."

"What really? What are they deaf?" Ray exclaimed surprised.

"No its ok I don't mind…" she whispered frowning.

"Tell you what next time you sing I'll cheer you on." Ray exclaimed.

"Oh what no, that's not necessary."

"Nonsense! When's your next gig?"

Reiko let loose a small giggle followed by a smile, "Hold on…" She walked towards the counter and pulled out a small piece of paper and pen and scribbled something down, and handed it to Ray.

The Viridian Lounge

June 6 8:30 pm

~Reiko xoxo

"I'll be there promise," Ray stated as he smiled at here.

"Don't be late," she winked at Ray and went back to work.

Ray silently chuckled to himself as he checked his watch

"Shit… 1:35 I was supposed to be home at 1 for lunch." Ray spoke aloud.

Ray bid Reiko farewell as he left the Café and rushed home.


Ray finally made his way home 20 minutes later since the traffic was surprisingly lite. Ray lived in a nice suburban house with his mom and younger sister. His mom was a nurse at the city hospital while his sister was a sophomore in high school. The house was a nice white with black shutters and a white picket fence, your stereotypical middle class house so to speak.

Ray opened the front door as it let out a dull squeaking sound announcing to everyone that he was home.

"Ray Tarisino front and center mister," called his mom in a stern voice from the laundry room which was the next room over.


She always spoke his name whenever he was in trouble. Normally she would call him slick, or whatever nickname she could think of when she needed him for something. So Ray knew he was in for it.

"…Yes?" He spoke hesitantly awaiting for his mother's wrath to invoke as he stepped into the laundry room

"The Dean called…" She stated as she snapped a pair of pants as she pulled them out the washer.

Of course that asshole would call to tell his mother… Ray thought silently to himself.

"He said you dropped out. Care to tell why?" she spoke as she continued to do laundry.

What was there to say Ray thought? It was as simple as that, dropping out of college. But he knew his mom wouldn't like or accept his answer.

Ray drug out a long sigh as his gaze met his mothers, "I wanted to try something different."

"So switch majors!" she snapped at him as she stopped and gave him her full attention.

"I don't want to be in college. I-I want to…" but he hesitated.

His mother gave him a blank stare as she waited for him.

"I just…I dunno, it seemed like it was the right thing to do."

"Well it's a bit late now to reconsider isn't it?" she snapped as she gave him the stink eye.

"Yeah…I know, but there's no backing out of what's been done."

"Just tell me what is so important that you had to leave college behind for?"

"…The Phoenix Initiative…"

"What?! You do realize that if you get in, you're going to Belka to fight that god awful war right?" She countered cutting him off.


"If you wanted to serve why didn't you just enlist in the Osean Army?"

Ray had no answer for her as he just shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm very disappointed in you young man. I raised you better than this."

Ray remained quiet as he looked down at the floor waiting for her to finish. After a few more minutes of silence between them Ray took that as his signal to leave, and he did so leaving without a single word.

The next day, June 2, Osean Administration Building, 8:45 am

Ray pulled into the parking lot across from the Administration Building, letting out a long breath. Ray grew more nervous as the next few hours would make or break him.

"Here we go," He spoke aloud to himself as he let out another breath as he stared at the building.

Ray's palms grew sweaty as he let himself out of the car, as he slowly approached the Admin Building. No turning back now, Ray thought as he wiped his palms on his shirt.

"You nervous too?" asked an unknown voice from behind him.

Ray pivoted to meet the voice, "Come again?"

"I said you here for the initiative as well?" asked the bulky looking man.

"Yep," Ray answered flatly.

"Well nice to meet you! I'm William Barringer, you can call me Bill." Stated the friendly stranger as he extended his hand to Ray.

"Uhh, Ray Tarisino," He replied shaking his hand.

William was an odd fellow; he stood about 5'11 the same size Ray was. He had short black hair, and blue eyes, and had a broad build. The guy could have passed for a football player. As the duo made their way to the where the test was being held Ray learned a lot about William, during their short talk. Bill was originally in college to be a lawyer, but he had to drop out from it being way too expensive for him. He was a very friendly guy, very bubbly and talkative. Definitely an oversized teddy bear, the way Ray had him pinged.

After a few minutes the two finally managed to find the room where the test was being held. The room was filled to maximum capacity.

"Wow there must be at least 68 people here!" Bill exclaimed as he patted Ray on the shoulder. "C'mon I see 2 empty chairs over there for us buddy."

Ray shook his head in silence as his new "friend" led them to their seats.

"This is going to be a snap! I'm willing to bet only the 2 of us will make it in!" Bill cried out as he smacked Ray in the back with a loud smack echoing through the room.

This guy is something else, Ray thought as he gave Bill a passive smile.

The room was filled with a dull roar as people made small talk with others while they waited for the test to begin. Ray tried to remain quiet as he waited for the examiner to show up, but William made it hard when he started a conversation with random people.

"Settle down people," called an authoritive voice from the back.

Everyone turned their heads to see who was calling them to attention.

A man in his mid-30's with short black hair and hazel eyes, made his way through the crowded room and made his way up front with another guy who looked to be the same age. Only he had longer brown hair, and green eye.

The man with black hair spoke up, "First off I would like to thank you all for coming out this morning, and taking part in the initiative. My name is Hal Coover. I am the co-founder of Phoenix Squadron. This dashing chap here is Martin Young." He spoke boisterously as he patted his comrade on his back.

"Thanks Hal," He spoke plainly. "First off before we even consider you for the Initiative, you must pass a general knowledge test; which Hal will pass out as I explain it to you." He gestured over to his comrade as he began to hand out papers to everyone. "We don't let idiots into Phoenix. This test ranges from politics, trigonometry, navigation, theoretical sciences, and moral choices."

Assorted sighs and groans followed after he finished his sentence.

"Shit…" Ray mumbled to himself. "I never studied 98% of those topics."

"Good luck man," William said nudging Ray in the side.

"You all have 2 hours….good luck to you all." Hal stated as he and Martin took a seat in the front.

Question # 1

The S wave shadow zone is caused by the outer core not transmitting S waves. It crosses an arc of 105 degrees on the Earth (see the diagram on the left). Estimate the radius of the outer core. The radius of the entire Earth is 6370 km

Do what? Skip…

Question # 2

What are three types of Contour lines?

Index, Intermediate, and Supplementary

Question # 3

You are an emergency worker that has just been called to the scene of an accident. When you arrive you see that the car belongs to your wife. Fearing the worst you rush over to see she is trapped in her car with another man.

She sees you and although barely conscious, she manages to mouth the words "I'm sorry"…

You don't understand, but her look answers your question. The man next to her is her lover with whom she's been having an affair.

You reel back in shock, devastated by what her eyes have just told you. As you step back, the wreck in front of you comes into focus. You see your wife is seriously hurt and she needs attention straight away. Even if she gets attention there's a very high chance she'll die.

You look at the seat next to her and see her lover. He's bleeding heavily from a wound to the neck and you need to stem the flow of blood immediately. It will only take about 5 minutes to stop, but it will mean your wife will definitely die.

If you tend to your wife however, the man will bleed to death despite the fact it could have been avoided.

Who would you choose to work on?

"A Moral question? They weren't kidding," Ray thought out loud.

Ray wasn't quite sure how to answer the question. And the rest of the test was no better it continued like that the whole time. At one point Ray stopped answering questions and skimmed through the test quickly looking at all the questions.

"Wait a second…"

Ray examined the test closer, and realized there were more moral questions than actual knowledge questions. Could they be testing us just morally? No it couldn't be that simple, could it?

"Pens down people," Hal commanded, followed by the clattering of pens, and assorted cuss words.

"We will now break for lunch, and meet back her at 1. We'll then reveal who moves on to the next stage."

"Whew damn that was intense, don't you think so m'man?" Bill asked Ray.

"That's an understatement…."

Well there's the prologue of my new series. Off to a bit of a slow start but it will pick up. Anyways thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to like or hate this story. –Repressed Hero