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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10. ten

Something about being in a larger group of teenagers made Amber more willing to open up. To me. To the group, she stays silent and mysterious, with her calm façade always on. But as the days went by, she slowly, slowly started showing me her real self. 

I now know that her favorite color is blue, because she loves water. Her biggest fear is heights. She grew up in a small town in Quebec with her twin brother Thomas, who she calls Tommy because he used to hate it when he was younger. Still does. As soon as the U.S. army started moving troops to Canada, her dad joined. Her and her brother decided to move to California after her dad was killed. 

I've also learned about the other kids in the group. Mr. Ass now has a name; he's now Liam Johnson. We've been here a week, and he's already 'hooked up' with half the girls in our group. His current plaything is a blonde bimbo named Alice. She and Amber... well, I don't think they're exactly friends. There's one kid who seems to be a pariah of sorts. He sits at the end of the table at meal-times, never talks to anyone in the group, and always complies silently to orders. His name is Axel Smith. 

I feel bad for the kid. Honestly, Amber and I haven't done much to try to incorporate ourselves into the larger group, but at least we feel comfortable(ish) with each other. 

Well, she's still dangerously gorgeous, makes me forget how to speak, and makes my ears turn red, but I'm getting better and hiding my feelings. Sort of. 

Currently, we're doing one of my least favorite things; going to bed. 

To be specific, changing before bed. 

I turn to the wall to change my shirt, but still feel eyes on my back. I turn around and notice Alice staring at me, and Amber glaring at her. Liam's eyes are trained on Amber. I roll my eyes and pull on my shirt. 

Amber walks over and crouches next to my trunk. She opens it and starts rummaging through. 

"Hey!" I say. "What are you doing?" 

She pulls out a t-shirt. 

"Can I wear this?" 

I roll my eyes and wave her away. She's taken a liking to my oversized shirts, and has begun to steal them as often as she can. Pretty soon, I'll be down to just the shirt I'm wearing. 

Amber stands in the corner, by her bed. She puts my shirt on top of her own, shuffles around for a bit, and pulls her old shirt out from under mine. It's something she's done every day since we got here, and I honestly can't seem to figure out how. I tried it once -- My head got stuck in an arm hole. 

As usual, Liam's eyes are trained on Amber's body. 

"Whatcha trying to hide, Princess?" He asks with a smirk. 

She rolls her eyes and ignores him. 

"You have some dirty little secret?" He continues. "Ooh! Is it a tattoo? A tramp stamp?" Without looking up from her trunk, she puts her middle finger in the air. 

"Ooh, getting feisty, now, aren't we?" 

I roll my eyes and feel my face get hot with anger. I want nothing more than to punch the guy, tackle him to the ground and beat him up. I tried hitting him the other day. Amber immediately pulled me off and said he wasn't worth it. Then she hit me. In the arm. Hard. 

She rolls onto her bed, pulling the covers up to her nose. Liam rolls his eyes, mutters something about a bitch, and makes his way over to his bed. Which, unfortunately, is only separated by mine by one bed. I get into my bed and turn on my side, so I'm looking the opposite way of his annoying face. 

~~~

"Get up!" A gruff voice yells. I groan and roll over. Checking the clock on the wall, I notice that it's four-thirty in the morning. What the hell?

One minute, a bunch of reluctant groans, and a lot of shuffling of sheets later, everyone is standing by their beds, saluting General Travis, who woke us up. 

"At ease." 

We all soften our postures and hold our hands behind our backs. 

I glance at Amber. She sends me a look, as if to say What the hell is going on? I shrug. 

"Last night, our patrols found a Service camp about twenty miles south of here." He glares at us all, scanning us up and down. "Tomorrow morning, a group is going to go out and... take care of things." 

Take care of things? Oh. He means... 

"Kill them?" Alice pipes up, a shocked look on her face. He nods stiffly. 

"Today, you all have a shot to impress us enough to get sent on the trip." 

Wait. Why are they sending the newbies on a mission? 

"One of you is going to get to go, in order to set the pace and lead by example for the others. We believe that, in the current global climate, on the spot training is the most effective." 

Oh.

"We'll test you guys today, and choose by tonight." 

He stalks out of the room without another word. Amber looks at me excitedly. 

Well, we all know who's going to get to go... 

She makes her way to my bed and sits down next to me. 

"That's so cool," she mutters. "Wonder who's going to get to go." 

I stare at her as if she just grew an extra head. She raises her eyebrow. 

"What, is there something in my teeth?" She laughs. 

I frown and shake my head. "You seriously wonder who's going to go?" 

She nods innocently. 

"It's gonna be you, idiot," I say. 

She hits my arm. "First of all, no it's not. Second, don't call me idiot, idiot." 

I roll my eyes. "Whatever you say, idiot." 

That morning, there was a lot of excited shuffling. Everyone rushed around the room, trying to get ready so they could be the first in the gym. 

Of course, by the time everyone got there, General Travis and another soldier were already waiting. 

"Kids, this is Officer Dean Marshall. He's going to be leading the trip tomorrow, so he's going to choose which of you he's going to take under his wing. Try your best to impress him." 

With that, he walks out of the room. Huh. Travis really likes dropping bombs and then leaving, doesn't he? 

Dean Marshall walks through all of us, examining each of us up and down with his eyes. He's a big guy; probably around 6 feet, flat, and much bulkier than the rest of us boys. His sharp jawline and angry eyes give off a look of anger. 

"All right, runts," he begins. "I'm going to be fighting each of you to see who's the best in hand-to-hand combat. I have a feeling hand-to-hand's going to play a big part, tomorrow." 

After receiving a few worried looks, he reassures us. "Don't worry, runts, I'll go easy on ya." 

"Alphabetical order," he calls. 

Of course, that mean's Alice is up first. 

Oh, this should be interesting. 

Not thirty seconds later, he has her pinned to the mat. "Next," he growls. 

Axel steps up, wringing his hands behind his back. He's not a small guy, but his hunched shoulders and wirey arms give off the appearance of an elementary school kid. 

Another minute later, Marshall calls for the "next" kid to come up.

Amber walks confidently up to the mat. He eyes her up and down. 

"Name?" 

"Amber Jeffries, sir." 

"All right, Amber Jeffries, let's see what you've got." 

They start circling each other, hands up to protect their faces, weight balanced on bouncing toes. 

Marshall goes in for the first punch. The look on his face when he's blocked is pure surprise. She immediately counters with a jab to the abdomen. He doesn't stumble back, but he winces slightly. She goes for an uppercut to the jaw, but she's blocked. The block is followed by a hard, hard kick to her stomach, which forces her to double over in pain, clutching her stomach and stumbling backwards. I wince. Little harsh, for a fight with a girl. He goes after her again, punching her with his impressive full strength in the jaw. She winces, attempting to punch back, but her other arm is clutching her stomach. Oh, God, please end the fight. He goes in for a kick to the side, to which she retaliates by executing her signature move of grabbing his leg, and pulling his weight out from under him. He tumbles to the ground. He tries to roll over onto his stomach so he can stand up, but she pins him down and holds his arms at an uncomfortable angle behind him. 

"Next," he grunts, earning a few nervous laughs from the crowd. Amber immediately rolls off and helps him to his feet. 

"Nice fighting," I hear him tell her silently. 

Looks like Amber's going to be the one to go, after all. 

She returns to my side, clearly hurting. She's still clutching her stomach, and a small abrasion can be seen on her jawline where his fist hurt her. The surrounding area is already turning red; it will surely leave a nasty bruise. 

"Are you o-" I begin, before she cuts me off. 

"Fine," she mutters. I decide to say nothing more. 

We stand in silence as we watch Dean Marshall take down person after person. 

A few fights later, it's finally my turn. 

By now, Marshall's slightly bruised and has a slight limp to his left side. I see the weakness and go for it, kicking his left knee. He winces and takes a step back. My triumph doesn't last long; I receive a painful kick to the jaw. Ow. I block his next punch and throw two of my own, but my third is blocked. 

He finally pinned me, but it took a while. Longer than most. 

Amber and I watched the rest of the fights in silence. There was no question of who the strongest fighter was; Amber Jeffries was five steps ahead of any of us. 

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