“Right this way, Miss Akura.” Shipwreck held a heavy steel door open for the new recruit as she heaved one of her bags into the hall. “Hey, you two!” He whistled, and a pair of soldiers raced to his side. They look like grunts, thought Akura, and hoped that she wouldn't end up being one of them.
“Get these bags up to quarters A-D25.” The soldiers saluted and hauled the bags off, but not before they gazed at Akura with obvious delight. Once they had left, Shipwreck handed her a key.
“Here y'are, Miss. It's one of the finest boarding rooms we have here at the compound. You'll want to stay there, at least until you purchase a house or somethin'. But it's free here, and the company is great.”
“One of the finest boarding rooms?” she exclaimed, as he began to lead her down the hallways. “But I'm not even sure of where I rank yet!”
“Don't be silly. Trust me, Miss,” He stopped when they had reached a grand-looking door which had a gold plaque on it. “Our commander ain't gonna give you anything worse. I'll be seeing you soon, then,” Shipwreck flashed a grin at her and opened the door. “Don't worry too much.”
He left, and Akura proceeded towards the man sitting at his desk, evidently studying some papers. When she had gotten within about three meters of it, he spoke. “Ah... you must be the new recruit. Akura J'Mir Richards, if I'm correct?” He looked up at her, his handsome face studying hers. She was surprised at how young it was, in fact – she had expected someone much older. She wondered how this man had become the field commander of the Joes so quickly. He must have been surprised too, for he said: “You look a lot different from your photo. For one... I thought you were twenty.” He held up a sheet of paper. “Unless these records are wrong.”
“Oh, it's a common mistake.” she explained. “I look older than I really am. But no, I am twenty years old, commander-”
“Conrad Hauser. Everyone around here calls me Duke, though.”
“That's your codename, the ones that all the Joes have?”
“That's right.” He smiled. “I see you've been doing your research. Incidentally, are you aware that you have already been assigned a codename?”
His smile made her heart skip a beat or two, but she managed to answer him. “Y-yes. In fact, I chose the name myself.”
“Hm.” Duke leaned back in his chair. “Yes... in fact, I think I may have heard of you. You're The Death Bringer, aren't you?”
“Oh!” The use of her old title astonished her for a second, namely because she had not been called that for a long time. “Yes, sir. That is me.”
“You wiped out three squadrons single-handedly!”
“It's not something that I'm proud of, but yes, I did.”
He smiled again from behind his hands. “You'll be a wonderful addition to our team. I trust you're familiar with our mission statement?”
“Yes, sir. You aim to rid the world of Cobra in order to secure a safer, more tolerant future for the world.”
Duke had gotten up, and offered his hand to her. “Not 'you'. 'We', Akura. Or should I say... Athena.”
She grasped his hand, trying to fight any trace of a crush she had developed on the man while shaking it professionally. “Thank you, Duke. I look forward to working with G.I Joe.” As she turned to leave, however, she heard him clear his throat. “Yes, sir?”
“I didn't comment on this previously, but...” He strode towards her until they were no more than a foot apart. “You certainly have very unique eyes. I don't think I've ever seen anyone with two different coloured eyes.” Duke was staring into them now, which made Akura blush.
“I... I don't know why they're like that. But I'm glad you like them,” she added brightly. “I was afraid that you would refuse me because of them.”
“I'm not that kind of person, Akura. Neither are the rest of the Joes.” He glanced up at a clock on the wall. “Speaking of the others, their break begins about now. Perhaps you should go meet them all.”
After getting lost in the large military complex, Akura had finally found her way down to the recreation room. She was able to do so with the help of a soldier that was strolling past, who was only more than happy to show her the way. He was quite talkative, asking her what she would be doing with the Joes and what she thought of the weather. Even though she hadn't been around for long enough to answer those questions, thoroughly, she managed to make decent conversation with him and was complimented on how interesting she was. This puzzled Akura greatly, but she accepted it just the same.
She slipped in quietly, not wanting to turn too many heads. The recreation room had a homey, pleasant feel to it. She could see a large brick fireplace in the middle of the back wall which had a large pile of wood beside it. After all, it was Autumn. She wondered if they needed any assistance gathering wood.
There were several arcade game machines lined up against the wall, along with a dartboard, a bookshelf and a bar. Its presence amused her and she thought, I bet it's the most popular feature. The thing that caught her eye though, was the pool table in the middle of the room which several people were congregated around. Among them was a red-haired woman who couldn't be much older than she was. The woman was talking to a burly, African-American man and she must have said something funny, for the both laughed uproariously at the same time. Once their laughter died down, she took the opportunity to come out of her corner by the door and approach them.
“I don't mean to interrupt your conversation, but I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Akura, and I've just joined G.I Joe.”
The man and the woman looked at each other before turning to her and smiling. “Oh yeah,” the woman said, “Our commander said something about a new member earlier last week. I'm Shana, and this is Marvin,” The man raised a hand and grinned cheerfully. “But we're known as Scarlett and Roadblock respectively. What about you, Akura? Is that your... uh...”
“Oh, it's my real name. I've chosen a codename already, though: Athena.”
“That's a pretty cool name,” said Roadblock. “Where are you from, Athena?”
Akura noticed that they immediately started using her codename instead of her real name; but this probably came from being in a special forces group for so long. Accepting that she would most likely not be known by any other name while she was here, she answered, “I'm from Boston. I was in the national army for three years before I got selected by the military officials to come over here. Before all this happened I lived in a remote beachside community...”
A sick feeling, like a turning in her stomach suddenly washed over her and she breathed deeply, but it wouldn't go away. In fact, it felt just like a tidal wave...
Thankfully, Scarlett noticed this almost instantly and wrapped her arm around the younger woman's shoulder, guiding her to the bathroom. But Akura controlled herself and soon drew out of her hunched position, her hands rubbing her face swiftly before mumbling, “Sorry... it's just something that happens occasionally.”
“You sure you're ok?” Roadblock placed his hand on Akura's back, nodding at Scarlett to get a glass of water from the bar. “You really didn't look so flash just then.”
“Yes... thank you... I'm fine.” She gave an appreciative yet shakey smile, taking the drink from Scarlett in both hands and sipping lightly.
“I see you've become acquainted with each other.” Someone at the door said. All three of them recognised who it was, but Scarlett was the first to speak.
“Duke! I didn't know you had some time off today.” Her tone was full of amorous intent and Akura's heart sank. Duke and Scarlett were in a relationship. This was confirmed when Duke gave Scarlett a quick wink, one that the new recruit's keen gaze noticed.
“In theory, I don't, Scarlett. I have to finalise some administrative issues with Athena here.”
“Ah. That's true.” Scarlett turned to Akura and shook her hand. “It was nice meeting you, Athena. I'll be looking forward to working with you.”
“As will I,” added Roadblock. “See you around, Athena!”
Duke led Akura away from the recreation room. “I told you they were good people.”
“Of course. I was wrong to doubt you, Duke.” She felt shame well up inside of her.
“Don't worry about it, Athena. I've done questionable things before. It's alright to doubt – but I'd like you to trust me on the battlefield. That's the most important thing.”
She nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. Trust on the battlefield... of course it was important.
However, could she learn to trust her new colleagues off the battlefield? As of now, she could. But don't be too trusting, Akura... remember last time? How could she forget the last time she was betrayed so horribly, that it had shattered her for years on end?
But she had to stay positive. It was the only way she could show her strength.
Don't expect more of this soon. When I posted the first chapter, I actually had this one all done, but now that I've posted this, I haven't got chapter three. Don't hold your breath.