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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6. six

I watch as Amber throws her arms around her brother's neck. She and Thomas are currently taking their last few moments together to say goodbye. 

We have, finally, arrived at the base. We decided to just wait it out and recharge the truck enough to drive here, because Thomas and Amber wanted to spend as much time together as possible before they went their separate ways. 

"Be careful," Thomas whispers into Amber's shoulder. She hugs him tighter. 

"I will," she promises. 

That's not something you can promise, I think to myself. But, of course, I can't say that out loud. She'd probably beat me up, again. 

Amber pulls herself off her brother. Thomas turns to face me. He offers his hand and I shake it. 

"Nice meeting you, bro," I say. "Thanks for the lift." 

He grins. "Don't mention it. You take care of my sister, got it?" 

"Of course," I say with a smile. 

Amber punches him in the shoulder. "I'm the one who's been taking care of you, you idiot." And knowing her, it's probably true. I laugh. She turns, frowns at me, and punches me, too. 

"And I sure as hell don't need some kid I can beat up taking care of me." 

Ouch. That one hurt. 

"Okay, guys," Thomas says. "Guess this is it. Have fun out there!" He turns to his sister. "And please, please, Amber. Try not to die on me." 

"I won't." 

"Be safe?" 

"I will." 

"Don't beat anyone up." 

"No promises." 

He laughs, pulling her into one last hug. She hugs him back before pulling away quickly. She turns and walks away without looking back. Thomas sighs and gets back into the truck, driving away. I stand in the middle for a while, watching the retreating truck, before jogging to catch up with Amber. 

"You okay?" 

"Yup," she says simply. Never one to let down her expressionless façade. 

"You sure?" 

"Yup." 

"Scared?" 

"Nope." 

"Really? 'Cause last night you told me you were ner-" I begin, trying to retort, before getting punched in the arm. Again. 

"Jeez, okay! Sorry." 

She stares up at me, her golden eyes glinting in the sun. 

"Let's just go," she mutters, continuing towards the base. I shrug before following her. 

As we near the outer wall of the large facility, a man with a large gun storms out and meets us a few yards from the nearest entrance. 

"Hands on your heads!" A gruff voice yells. We do as we're told. 

"Who the hell are you?" He demands. 

"Justin Sky!" I call out. I glance at Amber. 

"Amber Jeffries!" She yells, in turn. 

"What do you two want?" 

She looks at me. 

"Uh, who can we talk to about joining the Army?" I ask. She glares at me. Probably should've cut out the 'um.' 

Two soldiers appear from a hallway and march towards us. Amber and I keep our hands on our heads. The start patting us down, searching through our backpacks. 

"Hey! Watch it," Amber grumbles, as one of the guards starts patting down her back pockets. 

"Have to pat you down, kid," he says back. She mumbles a response that I can't hear, but I'm sure it's nothing too friendly. 

After five minutes of rough patting and searching, they take our bags and order us down a hall. Amber seems upset that they took her bag, which has all her weapons. We're both unarmed. 

We wait outside of a closed door made of solid metal. The walls and floors are all concrete. 

"Who's this?" Amber asks one of the soldiers, nodding towards the door. 

"General Travis," he says. "Don't get on his bad side." 

"Thanks," she mutters. My heart beats quickly in my chest. How hard is it, exactly, to join the army? They can't be that picky, due to the limited population and the need for soldiers to fight the Services. 

Amber and I waited outside the room for probably around ten minutes, standing in silence. 

The door finally opens. 

"Come on in," a man who I'm assuming is General Travis says. We do as he says. He stares us up and down. I resist the urge to squirm under his harsh gaze. 

"How old are you two?" 

"15," Amber says. 

"16." 

"Little young to be away from your families, don't you think?" Little shallow to assume everyone's family is alive, don't you think? I'd love to retort, but it would probably be a pretty good way to not join the army, so I keep it to myself. 

"Our families are dead," Amber replies. 

His face turns grim. "Oh," he says simply, with no signs of sympathy. "And why do you want to join the army?" 

I glance to her. "My dad was in it," she says. 

He nods, then turns to me. I mimic her short response: "I just want to fight the Service." He nods again. 

"All right," he says. "We'll have Thompson check you guys out in a few days. Whenever enough people have come in." 

"Check us out?" I ask, curious. 

"See how strong you are," he says. "Along with some other recruits." I gulp. 

"You can follow Jacobsen out the door," he says, nodding to a soldier. The soldier leads us down a hall to a small room with two cots. 

"You two'll stay here, until enough recruits are here to get a proper pool. Once enough of you are here, Thompson'll be in charge of deciding who gets to stay and who gets to go. Should be a couple of days, or so." 

I look to Amber, and then back to the soldier. "So, uh... Both of us will be staying in here?" 

I feel Amber's elbow jab into my side. 

"Uh... Yeah. Limited space," Jacobsen explains suspiciously. "Is that gonna be an issue?"

"It'll be fine," Amber replies shortly. "Thank you, Officer Jacobsen." 

Her polite demeanor is unlike any way I've seen her act before. He nods to us before exiting, shutting the door behind him. 

"What the hell was that?" She demands, turning to me with flashing eyes. 

I gulp. "Well, uh..." I stutter, not knowing how to respond. 

"Dude, we've been living together for, like, a week. Does sharing a room with me really bother you that much? So much that you have to ask the dumbest, most high-school question there is? Seriously?" 

"Sorry, Amber," I apologize. "I just thought it was weird they'd be having us share a room is all." 

She shrugs, collapsing onto the cot on the left side of the room. Wordlessly, I do the same on my side, drumming my fingers on the bedframe. 

Several minutes later, three quick raps on the door distract us. I glance to Amber before standing up and opening the door. 

Jacobsen, the soldier that helped us here, stands in the doorframe carrying both of our bags. 

"They've been checked," he explains. "All your stuff should be in there, save the weapons." I nod in understanding, taking the bags and shaking his hand before he walks away, and I shut the door behind him. 

"They kept our weapons?" Amber asks gruffly. 

I shrug. "I mean, I guess it is an army base. They couldn't exactly have two strange, armed kids, now, could they?" 

She rolls her eyes, snatching her bag from my hand and ruffling through it, presumably to see what's missing. I do the same, and find everything there save my knife. 

Glancing at the analog clock on Amber's side of the room, I see that it reads just after seven at night. Not early enough to go to bed, but I'm tired nonetheless. I lay down in bed, watching a small spider as it scuttles across the ceiling above me. Amber lies in her bed across from me, saying nothing. She doesn't seem up for conversation, especially after her brother and weapons have been stripped from her. The only things in her life that have reliably protected her, gone in a day. 

I allow her to sit in silence, until her breathing evens out and she slips into what I can only imagine to be restless, stressful sleep.

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