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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30. thirty

I make my way back to Tent Three, only to be greeted by three unfamiliar soldiers in the three beds. I pull aside a doctor. 

"Excuse me," I say, grabbing someone by the arm. "Where's my brother?" 

The doctor frowns. "The plant worker?" 

I nod, and the doctor checks his chart. 

"Tent twenty seven," the doctor says, pointing towards a canvas tent marked with a 27. I nod gratefully, and make my way to the tent. 

Once I duck inside, I sit next to my brother. 

"Hey," he says, wisely not commenting on the water bottle, bracelet, or oversized shirt. "Where were you?" 

"Just looking for some friends," I say. 

"Did you go to your old cabin?" 

I nod. "God, Thomas, I can't stay here. Everywhere reminds me of him." 

He puts a hand on my arm. "It'll be okay, Amber. See if you can find anyone who's leaving, and we'll get out of here as soon as we can." 

"But... But you're still hurt," I point out. His hands are mildly clammy, his face is pale, and he has a feverish sheen all over. 

"A couple days, then. I'll be fine," Thomas says with a reassuring smile. "I'll be fine." 

I squeeze his hand and exit the tent once again, this time determined to find someone. Jack, Cynthia... Even Liam would be welcomed at this point. She walks around outside; the chaos has finally subsided. The doctors go about, silently doing their work; almost everyone else is asleep. There's still chatter, but it's the type of noise that fades into near-silence, drowned out by the night. The cool air rushes around. 

I walk silently, glancing at the faces of the injured to see if I recognize anyone. 

"Amber!" Someone whisper shouts from behind me, clearly not wanting to disturb the sleeping soldiers. I turn around and find Jason McCard. 

"Hey, what's up?" I ask, slightly confused as to why he's talking to me again, despite our interaction earlier. As he draws closer, I see the panicked look in his eye. He runs his hands nervously through wind blown hair. 

The resemblance between him and Justin is uncanny. 

"Have you seen Julia?" He asks, slightly winded from, I assume, scurrying around the camp in a panic. "You know what she looks like, right? Blonde hair, brown eyes? Short?" 

I nod; Julia and I had talked a bit after bidding Jason and Justin ado on their mission. "Yeah, I know her. Haven't seen her."

"God," he mutters. His worry is obvious; he keeps running his hand through his hair. "If you see her, would you let her know I'm looking for her?" 

I nod. "I'm not really doing anything right now, I can help look for her?" I suggest. Honestly, doing something might be best for me at the moment. Wandering around aimlessly just subjects myself to allow my brain to wander aimlessly and... well, that's never good. 

His eyes widen. "Could you? Really? God, uh... Yeah, that'd be great, if you don't mind." 

I smile at his gratitude; I can tell why he and Justin would've liked each other. Maybe not personality wise, but at least physically they're... just so similar. 

"I've already looked over there," he says, gesturing towards a group of tents by the main entrance. I nod. 

"I'll check the ground," I suggest. 

"Thank you so much, Jeffries." 

I nod. "Anytime," I say, before walking over to the groups of soldiers sleeping on the ground. Some I recognize; most I don't. At one point, I stumble upon Jack. 

"Hey, Jack," I say, kneeling beside him and placing a hand on his shoulder. 

"Huh?" He sits up, rubbing his eyes wearily. "Oh, hey Amber." 

"You all good?" 

He nods. "Little hip injury. I'm fine, though." He looks around. "Justin with you?" 

I swallow, hard. "Um... Actually-- Justin... H-He didn't make it." 

Jack's eyes widen. "Fuckin' Hell." 

"Yeah." 

"What happened?" 

"He was really close to that last explosion," I explain. No tears threaten to spill, though there's a tightness in my chest. 

"Fuckin' Hell," he says again. He looks to me, now. "Are you gonna stick around?" 

I shrug. "Probably for a few days," I admit. "But after that I'm outta here." 

"Who you going with?" 

"No clue, yet." 

He nods. "Well... If I don't see you..."

I smile and pull him into a hug. "Bye, Jack." 

"Bye, Amber."

Something comes to my mind. "Oh, and Jack?" 

"Yeah?" 

"Go for Alex, okay?" He looks bewildered. "Go for her while you have the chance." A look of realization settles in his eyes... Justin's gone. 

He smiles. "See you around, Amber." 

"See ya." 

I stand up from my crouching position and move on. I like doing this for Jason; since he's technically my superior, I can pretend it's an order. Orders take my mind of things. And... well, explaining everything to Jack felt more like an errand than telling him what really happened which was, well, Justin's death. Busy body, vacant mind. 

A few soldiers down, I see Liam. 

"Oh, boy," I mutter under my breath. Unfortunately, he's awake. 

"Hey, Amber," he says. I raise an eyebrow. No "Princess?" "Babe?" 

"Uh... Hiya, Liam. You doin' all right?" 

He nods. "Yeah, and you?" 

"I'm holding together, I guess." 

Liam, too, looks around. "Justin?" 

I shake my head. 

Liam hesitates. "I'm sorry," he says. 

I nod. "So am I. I'll see you, Liam." 

I quickly walk away, bewildered by his sudden change of character. 

I'm so busy contemplating what happened to him yesterday, what changed him... I almost miss the girl on the floor. I almost walk right past a girl with blonde hair. 

Unable to recognize her face through the layer of grime and blood, I kneel next to her and shake her shoulder gently. 

"Hello?" She groans, propping herself up. 

"Hey, uh... Julia?" The moonlight shines off a patch of blood on her head. 

"Who are you?" She asks, bringing herself into fetal position, shivering from the cold. 

"It's Amber," I explain, not exactly expecting her to recognize me. "Jason's looking for you." 

She sits bolt upright. "He's alive?" 

I nod. "I just talked to him. He's going crazy, looking for you." 

A grin spreads across her face, stretching from ear to ear. Despite the dirt and the blood, I must admit that she's beautiful. Her face is angelic, with soft features and just the right proportions everywhere. 

"Do you... Do you know where he is?" 

I nod again. "I can take you to him," I offer, aware that it would be dumb to let her go herself considering whatever head injury she may have. 

"Oh, thank you so much!" She hugs me tightly; I stiffen at her touch. Noticing this, she quickly pulls away. 

I clear my throat. "Here, uh... Let me help you up." 

I hook my arms under her shoulders and hoist her to her feet; she's only a couple inches shorter than me, but she's light. I hold out my arm and she grips my elbow as we walk towards the tents We walk slowly and carefully; I, especially, don't want her to fall. 

All caution goes out the window the second she sees Jason. Still on crutches, he's moving slowly from tent to tent. As she calls his name he turns around and... his face is priceless. The pure joy on his lips as he meets her eye lights up the whole camp. Julia quickly releases my arm and runs to him, slinging her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. He nearly falls down, trying to catch her with all the momentum she built up, running. I see him nuzzle his head into her hair. 

They stand like that for a while, simply hugging and being in each other's arms. 

Tears threaten to spill yet again; I close my eyes, tight, but it doesn't go away. The image of them hugging doesn't go away in my brain, and it hurts, it hurts so bad. 

All I can picture is a girl with long, blonde hair hugging a tall boy with a shaggy mop of brown hair, and it hurts, because my shaggy, brown-haired boy is gone. I'll never run into his arms like that. 

I settle for walking up to the two and clearing my throat. 

The two pull apart, looking at me. 

Jason pulls me into a quick side hug, and this time, I don't flinch. "Thanks," he says. I nod, saying nothing. 

"Well... Uh, again, Jeffries-- If there's anything you need, just let us know." 

I smile before raising an eyebrow, an idea forming. 

"Hey uh... are you guys gonna stay here?" I ask. 

Jason looks to Julia. "Well," Julia says. "We haven't talked about it much, but, uh... I don't know. Jason, what do you think?" 

Creases appear on his forehead. "Well, I mean--We came here because it was safe. Not really safe anymore, I don't think." 

Julia nods, then turns back to me. "I guess we're outta here." 

I take a deep breath. "Can my brother and I come with you?" 

They hesitate, glance at each other, and look back to me. 

"We can both drive," I continue. "We won't be any trouble; we made it on our own for a while." 

"I... I, uh, I don't see why not," Jason says, turning to Julia. She shrugs. 

"Fine by me." 

The biggest smile since yesterday spreads across my face. "Really? Wow, thanks! When would you leave?" 

"Well, uh, like I said, we haven't really figured anything out yet," Jason says. "I'll find you when I know, but probably a couple of days?" 

I nod eagerly. "Thank you so much!" 

"All right, then, we'll talk it over and fill you in later," Julia says with a smile. I nod gratefully. 

"Okay," I say. "Well, uh... goodnight, then." 

"'Night."

"Night." 

I turn away and walk back to Thomas's tent. I duck under and find him sleeping. 

"Dude, wake up," I say, shaking his shoulder. 

"Hm?" He mumbles something incoherent under his breath, propping himself up and rubbing his eyes. "What's up?"

"I got us a ride," I say excitedly. 

This wakes him up. "Seriously? That fast?" 

I nod. "Justin's old mentor is leaving with his girlfriend," I explain, cutting out large portions of the story. "It'll probably be a couple of days or so." 

"That's great, sis," Thomas says. "We can finally put this all in the past." 

Those words hit me; put this all in the past

Do I really want to do that? Forget all about it? Of course, the memories will be unforgettable; I already know that I'll remember Justin as long as I live. But... this camp? This training? These people? The war? 

Thomas and I worked so hard to get here... We risked everything to get here. Everything. And just... putting it all in the past feels just... wrong

Thomas places a hand on my knee; I look back to him. The emotion in. his eyes shows that he knows he said something wrong. 

"Hey, I'm sorry," he says. "Don't think of it so much as putting it in the past as it is moving on to a new chapter, hey?"

I shrug. "We have to leave, anyways. Doesn't really matter." 

"Hm," he says, followed by nothing else. After a moment, he scoots over in his bed once again. "You should get some sleep," he says, patting the mattress next to him. 

I shrug and climb into bed, laying on my back and staring at the canvas ceiling. 

Long after I hear Thomas's breaths even out as he falls asleep, I'm still awake, simply thinking. 

At least Thomas is a constant; the two worst days of my life, he's still been there at the end. After Dad was killed, Thomas was there. And today... Today he's alive, and that's all I need. 

~.~.~

It's been so long since I've been on the road, unsure where my next drink or meal would come from. It's been so long since I've lacked the security of the base, the constant protection surrounding me. 

We'd had to walk all the way to Los Angeles, because Julia and Jason had (smartly) hid their truck their before walking into the base. Thomas and my truck was destroyed at the plant. The truck itself is a pickup truck, but they'd crafted some sort of metal rig around it so it's more of a box in the back than a simple bed. On top of the box are apparently solar panels; their car, like ours was, is electric. In the truck itself are two large water containers, similar to the tanks Thomas and I had, filled with water, along with some other miscellaneous supplies. Thomas, Julia, Jason, myself, and one other girl named Vick are piled in; three always in the back, two in the front, one of whom drives. 

We drive out of the ruined city of Los Angeles, past the destroyed plant, and out into the desert once again. 

Sitting in the back of a truck, the familiar rumble of the engine working below me, traveling over uneven ground. Silence, all around, except for the hum of the engine. Driving down an open street... A stranger, coming into sight. Walking into the middle of the road, waiting for us to stop. Thomas presses down gently on the brakes, looking to me expectantly. 

It's my job; I have to deal with it. I sigh, already mentally weary from having to engage with the stranger, hop over the open side of the truck, and run to the stranger. 

"Hey," the boy says. "I'm-"

His voice stops as I tackle him to the ground, pinning his legs with my legs and his arms with my arms. He doesn't struggle, simply looks shocked. 

My hair falls down, brushing against his jawline, blowing in my face. 

"What do you want?" I ask of the boy with eyes like an oasis in this damn desert, hair all dirty and messed up. Freckles dot his cheeks, fear and exhaustion inhabit his face. 

My body pressed on his... My body moving with his as he breathes. His chapped, bloody lips, his large, strong hands. 

The truck rumbles onward, the ragtag group of five teenagers sitting in silence... damaged, but all still alive. 

As we drive along the open desert roads, nothing for me to do but think, I see a boy, standing on the side of the road. He walks to the middle of the road; a boy with wild hair, calming eyes, and an awkward smile. 

I blink hard as we drive past; when I open my eyes, looking at the spot where he was standing, the boy is gone. 

Gone, and we drive on forward. 

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