Agent Ashlynn Berkshire turned off the ignition and jumped out of the warthog, snatching her rifle and bag from the passenger seat. It was a quiet morning, so when the rumble of the machine abruptly stopped, the silence chilled her. It was a new start, just another step towards her career as a Freelancer, that's what she kept having to remind herself. She took a deep breath and stepped forward.
"Hey!" A voice called out and she snapped her head up to see a patrolling soldier, positioned above the gate. "Who are you?"
"I'm Agent Berkshire, I'm the new Freelancer agent." She replied, keeping her rifle slack in her hands so to not suggest that she would open fire. All the same, she gripped it tight, nervously. It was her first day after all.
"Ah, so you're the newbie then," he chuckled. "C'mon in!"
The doors opened with a low groan and Berkshire walked on through. The growing noise of chatter and the steady rumble of vehicles reached her and as the silence faded away, she felt more at ease. There were the standard white soldiers positioned around the Freelancer base with the occasional Freelancer agent wandering around, passing the time. Those agents could be identified by their white or black armour that was striped with another colour, varying between the agent. Agent Berkshire's was white with a garnet red stripe down the centre of her helmet, making her easy to identify without having to take off her helmet.
She made her way to the control sector, avoiding the various glances from the other soldiers. Even the generally disinterested Freelancer agents turned to see the new arrival. This unnerved her.
The door opened as she held her hand up the sensor panel and Berkshire walked on, the weight of her bag growing increasingly heavy and the rifle becoming uncomfortable in her grip. Her footsteps were loud, echoing throughout the corridor. As the sound reached the far room, the three voices became silent.
"Agent Berkshire." She introduced herself, stopping in the doorway as the three men turned to her.
"Good morning, Agent Berkshire," the central man said. "I'm Agent London, the leader of the Freelancers as I suppose you're aware of."
He shook her hand and she filed away a mental note to address the Freelancer with the black and gold armour as 'sir'.
"I'm Agent Nottingham," said the man to London's right, a Freelancer decorated in black and silver armour. "I'm the second in command around here."
"And I'm, ah, Agent Buckinghamshire." Said the third, who was white, like Berkshire, but had a black stripe instead.
"So you're the third in command, then?" She asked after shaking his hand.
"He likes to think so, but he's just a good solider with a lot of respect." London chuckled.
"And that counts." Buckinghamshire insisted.
"I'm sure it does. Now, if you'll take Agent Berkshire around the base, get her introduced to everything here."
"Will do." He nodded.
Buckinghamshire walked ahead of her and kept a quiet disposition. The return of the crushing silence made her uncomfortable.
"So, not much of a talker, eh?" She tried to break the ice.
"No, not really." He answered, his voice soft but cutting deeper than the silence.
This was going to be awkward.
The first stop was the canteen, filled to the brim with noise from the soldiers and Freelancers, easing the uncomfortableness between them.
"Hey, Buck!" A voice was distinguishable in the rabble as three soldiers came bounding towards them.
"This is Agents Devon, Dorset and Leicestershire." Buckingham introduced, waving to the three. Devon had a white and yellow armour and what Berkshire assumed was her brother had a similar armour of white and orange. Leicestershire's armour was black and green, standing out between the other four white agents. They had their helmets tucked under their arms as they'd just been eating and the friendly faces revealed made Berkshire more comfortable. It was something about the helmets that made everyone look so robotic and inhuman.
"Call me Lester." Agent Leicestershire said, shaking Berkshire's hand.
"It's great to have another gal in the team." Devon told her, smiling. She had blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, similar to Dorset's hair, shorter but the same shade.
"Hey, does that mean we can call you Berks or something now?" Dorset suggested.
"That's cool." Berkshire nodded and turned to Buckinghamshire. "Can I call you Buck then?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever." Buckinghamshire shrugged.
And then, the uncomfortable silence returned.
"So, this is your room." Buck waved a hand to the almost painfully bright white washed room as the tour concluded.
"Homey." Berks nodded and stepped in, tossing her bag on her bed.
"You'll be reporting to Agent London at oh eight hundred hours every twenty four hour cycle for the next week until you've been fully inducted into the team." Buck continued, his voice steady.
"I'll let you get settled in. At twelve hundred hours, come down to the canteen to eat and then there'll be a training routine where you can show off what you can do."
"Just after I eat? I thought you had to wait an hour."
"That's for swimming, Agent Berkshire."
"Not calling me Berks, eh?"
"The others call you Buck."
"I didn't ask for it." He snapped and turned, heading for the door.
That was it. She'd had enough.
"Hey!" She yelled and Buck turned back, his head titled to the side. Berks regretted that. Despite all the Freelancers being a team and supposedly equal, there was a ranking system and Buck was at the top.
"Yes, Agent Berkshire?" He responded, a threatening tone hardly hidden under his seemingly innocent question.
"What is your problem with me?" She demanded, folding her arms and glaring through her visor. "Did I do something to you that offended you? Is my report not good enough, am I not good enough to be a Freelancer?"
"My opinion of you should not matter." He answered sharply, and stormed out.
"Balls." Berks muttered as she slunk back into her room. "I'm so dead."