Drops in the Sky

One foot in front of the other. That's all I knew. Just keep walking. Get water when you can. Get food when you can. Just keep walking. For 92 days, that's all I knew. And then, I met Amber Jeffries. And, by God, that girl became all I knew. All I wanted to know. But the War was all that mattered. Fighting is all that matters.

In World War Four, 10 billion people were killed. I'm one of the lucky two billion that survived. So was Amber Jeffries. Unfortunately, 1.9 billion people live in Europe. Mostly France, and a couple areas just outside of it. I'm in the hundred million left in what used to be the United States, which is currently in the midst of a Civil War. And I'm right in the middle of it.

We're kind of a mess. My life's messy. But Amber... She keeps everything together.

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15. fifteen

"What's the first thing you do?" 

"You go to the plant blow up the tunnel so the water doesn't reach our camp." 

"Why is that?" 

"So the radiation in the water doesn't get to our camp." 

"What next?" 

"Make sure there aren't any Service soldiers there, then check for survivors?" 

"No." 

"Blow up tunnels to other camps and cities?" 

"No." 

We all look around, confused. Amber frowns. "Then what?" She asks. 

"Get the hell out of there. There's radiation in the air, Service soldiers are probably still lingering around, and there definitely aren't any survivors." 

This past week, we've been doing a lot of strategy training, along with our regular strength training. The only explanation? There's definitely something going on with the Services, just like we suspected. 

"Okay, next scenario," Dean Marshall prompts. "There are eight Service camps forming a perimeter around our camp. What's your first step?" 

He looks right at me. "Investigate to see why they're here?" 

He nods. "They're here to get rid of the camp so they have full access to the plant in Los Angeles. What's next?" 

He's still looking at me. I think for a minute. "Add security?"

He shakes his head. "That's already been done." He turns to Liam. "What do you do?" 

"Attack," he says confidently. 

"Nope. Next," he says, looking to Alice. She twirls a strand of dirty blonde hair through her fingers.

"Try to talk to them?" 

Dean Marshall laughs. "Honey, the Services and the Army haven't had a friendly discussion since before World War Four. You," he says, looking at Amber again. "What do you do?" 

"Ball's on their side of the court," she says. "Wait for them to make the first move, then strike with all our troops." 

He nods. "Bingo. They call for reinforcements. What next?" 

I speak up. "Turn on a radio blockade, so the signal blocks their transmissions." 

"Nice one, Sky. Okay, Beckham, what's next?" 

"Keep attacking?" Cynthia responds. 

He nods. "Then we just fight them off. Next scenario-"

Liam scoffs. Marshall stops speaking immediately and turns to glare at him. Oh boy. "What's with all the hypotheticals?" Liam asks. "We all know the Services are around here somewhere. When do we get to fight?" 

Marshall glares at him, his eyes shooting daggers. "Judging from the bruise on your cheek, I'd imagine you of all people would want to avoid a fight." A few snickers arise from the room. "All right, kids. You want to know why we're learning strategy?" 

He scans the room, making eye contact with each of us individually, as if daring us to speak up. No one does. "You're all rookies. New recruits. You don't get answers. You do what you're told, when you're told. Anyone got a problem?" 

No one speaks up, just as he expects. He nods in satisfaction and continues. "As I was saying: Next scenario..." 

~~~

After a long, intense, and somewhat boring strategy training session, we went on to a three-hour long, intense, and much less boring combat training session. 

We practiced dragging two-hundred pound dummies around, shooting at targets, and doing some hand-to-hand in a grueling obstacle course. My group consisted of myself, Cynthia, Alice, and a quiet but tough kid named Jack. We finished second in the short race, beaten, of course, by Amber and her group. 

I hate to say it, but her and Liam make a good team when it comes to physical challenges. They're both strong and alert. Even though one of them is a jackass. Wanna go out on a limb and guess who I'm referring to? 

As we wait at the finish line for the last group to finish up their course, Cynthia comes up and stands next to me. 

"Hey," she says. 

"Hey." 

"Nice work on the course," she says. 

"Thanks. You're a good shot," I say. The only thing that kept us in the game at all washer ability to hit the bulls-eye as consistently as she did. 

"Thanks." 

We stand there awkwardly and watch the last group cross the finish line. 

"You should talk to Amber," she says, out of nowhere. 

I scoff. "Amber's the one who isn't talking to me," I say. If she's being stubborn. I can, too. 

She rolls her eyes. "Of course Amber isn't talking to you! Have you met that girl? She's stubborn as a mule." 

I laugh. "She doesn't want to talk to me." 

"Guess you're stubborn, too. And, trust me. She wants to talk to you. She just doesn't know it, yet." 

She walks off and starts chatting with Amber, hopefully not about me. I highly doubt Amber wants anything to do with me, but if she does, she can talk to me. I'm not the one that's being stubborn, here! Okay, fine. Maybe I'm being a little stubborn. But she's more stubborn. 

I watch Alice throw herself onto Liam. I'm honestly surprised he's kept her around for so long, given his track record; it took him about a week to make his way through half the girls in our group. He only stopped when he got to Alice. Huh, maybe he actually likes the girl. I honestly can't tell what she has to like. He's not exactly a good guy. 

We head over to dinner, and I sit alone. As usual. Well, it's only been my usual since Amber started hating me, but for now, usual. Great. 

"Hey, man, can I sit?" Jack asks, gesturing at the seat across from me. 

"'Course," I say. "Nice work in training today." 

"Thanks," he mutters, rolling his eyes. "Can't say I don't hate it." 

I frown. "What's there to hate?" 

"What's there to like?" 

I shrug. "I kind of like knowing that we're fighting against the Services." 

He rolls his eyes again. "Like we're ever going to get a chance to fight. It's only the flashy kids, like Drew or Liam, or the strangely good kids, like Amber, who'll ever get a real chance. Us normal kiddos don't have a shot." 

I scoff. "We'll get our shots eventually." 

"Yeah, eventually. When's that gonna be? When we're all fighting, tooth and nail, against the Services? When they need every last man? Yeah, there's no way we're getting to fight until it's absolutely necessary. They don't like kids like us." 

"What do you mean, 'kids like us?'" I prod. 

He smirks. "The quiet ones who're pining after girls we'll never have a chance with." 

I laugh out loud. "Seriously? That's what groups us together?"

He grins and nods. "It's pretty obvious, man." 

I huff. "Well, who's your girl?" 

He nods towards a brunette girl named Alexandra. I've heard her get called 'Alex.' "It's pretty obvious you have the hots for Amber," he says. 

"I do not," I spit. "We're currently in the midst of a repeat Cold War. She hates me." 

He laughs. "The second Cold War? What's it about?" 

"I don't even know, man," I say, shaking my head. "Who knows with these girls?" 

He scoffs. "Forget about the girls. I'm just pissed we won't get a chance to fight."

"Who knows," I say. "Maybe we'll get a shot. You're pretty good in strategy, maybe you'll get your shot there." 

"The only person who's kicking ass in strategy is the same person who's been kicking everyone's asses since we got here," he says. "But thanks for the vain attempt at reassuring me." 

I like this Jack kid. Something about his tone of voice, the heavy layer of sarcasm, makes it easy to talk to him. 

"Hey, who knows. Maybe something will get blown up somewhere and they'll need us," I offer. 

He laughs. "Don't wish too hard, bro," he warns. "Something probably will get blown up." 

I scoff again. "Yeah, that's likely," I mutter sarcastically. "They'll probably let everyone fight  but me." 

We turn back to our dinners and finish our meals in silence. 

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