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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24. twenty four

Something shitty this way comes. 

The world's been falling to shit for a while, now. I mean, it's already pretty shitty. I thought it was about as shitty as it can get. Unfortunately, when you've been around shit for so long, you start to recognize the signs of a new wave of fresh shit coming your way. 

All the important people in a military operation rushing into one room kind of seems like a sign that a load of shit is coming. 

Pardon my cursing. I'm just not really sure how else to describe the shit. I think 'shit' is about as specific as I can get. 

Not long after all the important people were called into the Elite's training room, a general assembly was called. Us Rookies have never been to a general assembly before; everyone gathers in the courtyard and listens as the important people tell us what kind of shit is coming our way, and how to best prepare for said shit. 

Everyone is separated into groups. There are the Elites in one section, the Rookies in another. Everyone else is separated into different troops of about twenty each. 

Huh. The Army really likes putting people into groups of twenty, don't they? Twenty Rookies, twenty Elites, twenty to a troop? 

I'd like to guess that, if I counted, there'd be twenty Captains, like Thompson and Marshall; each leading a troop of twenty. General Travis is Lieutenant General of our camp; his superior would be General Ross, who supervises all of the Western units. General of the Army is General Sams, but no one's heard from him in a few months. He stays within his unit, gives orders to the other Generals, and expects them to give orders to their Lieutenant Generals. 

Nobody really focuses on what the ranks are among the other soldiers; we're all just "Private." 

There are around five hundred in the camp; four hundred privates, twenty Rookies, twenty Elites, twenty Captains, and the last forty are all surgeons, strategists, and other non-fighters. 

General Travis calls us all to attention. 

"Soldiers!" He calls out, his large voice booming throughout the courtyard. He stands for a moment in complete silence, simply scanning the crowd. "The Gasoline and Water Restoration and Protection Services are attacking. They have bombed the water plant in Los Angeles, and are sending troops in to surround our camp. They also seem to be making a move on the gasoline well in Oregon." 

I hear Amber suck in a deep breath. I turn to her; her eyes display nothing but utter shock. She grips my arm and sways. The Los Angeles Water plant is where Thomas works. 

"Amber," I say quietly. She says nothing, staring straight ahead. "I'm sure he's fine."

I'm sure he's fine? What the hell kind of promise is that? They bombed the damn place. Chances are, he was either killed by the blast or by the rubble. 

"One troop will be sent to Los Angeles, three to Oregon. The rest will stay here and defend, while we wait for General Ross to send in reinforcements." 

"Amber," I whisper, not really sure of what I'm going to say next. I say nothing. She stares straight ahead. 

"Captains, you already have your orders. Troops, meet with your captains for specific orders. Elites, you know where to go. Medics, be ready. Everyone on duty," General Travis demands. Are general assemblies always this brief? 

Dean Marshall jogs over to us. "Everyone, listen up. You're all going to be in troops today. We need the man power, but try not to get in the way. Don't ask questions, just follow orders and do as you're told." 

We nod. "Cynthia, troop one twenty. Jack, one twenty one. Alice, one twenty two." He goes on, assigning each of us to a troop, numbers one twenty through one forty. I'm in one thirty seven. Amber's in one twenty nine. As everyone jogs off to their respective troops, I grab her arm and pull her aside. 

"Amber, are you okay?" 

She glares at me. "I'm fine." 

She tries to pull away. "Amber, I'm serious. Are you okay to fight?" 

She bites her lip. "When have I ever been distracted enough not to be able to fight?" 

"Uh-"

"Never. So would you leave me alone and let me do my damn job?" She glares at me pointedly, her eyes flashing fire at me. I release her arm and watch as she jogs to her troop. 

I make my way to troop one thirty seven. Twenty one pairs of eyes watch me. 

"You the Rookie?" Someone says. The captain, I'd imagine. 

"Yes, sir," I say. "Justin Sky." 

He looks me up and down. He's short, but muscular. Looks to be in his mid-twenties, with a sparse mustache but thick, black hair. 

"Elliot Grey. Captain, to you," he says. His voice is shaky, as if he's not used to being in charge. He sounds like he's trying too hard to convey an atmosphere of respect. The other privates watch us uneasily. 

An uneasy troop is a useless troop. 

"Yes, sir," I say. 

"Good," he says. "You a shooter? A fighter?" 

"Yes, sir," I say, nodding. 

"Okay. Join Private Curtis, over there," he says, nodding in the general direction of the other privates. Another mid-twenties man raises his hand. 

I walk over to him. "Morgan Curtis," he says, offering his hand. I shake it. 

"Justin Sky." 

As he shakes my hand, he glances down at my bandaged knuckles. "What happened to you?" 

"Didn't wrap my hands going at the punching bags, sir."

He laughs. "Lettin' off a little steam, were ya?" 

I nod. 

"You did the mission with McCard?" 

I nod. "Yes, sir." 

He grins. "I like that kid. He's a good soldier. Good teacher." 

"Yes, sir." 

"Alright. Well, we're mostly shooters. Grey was just telling us that we'll be covering other troops that are going in to drive Service troops out, so, yeah. Lot of shooting. How's your aim?" 

I shrug. "Okay, I guess."

"Can you hit a moving target from two hundred feet?"

"Yes, sir." 

"Then you're good. Just stick with me; I'll tell you what to do." 

"Yes, sir." 

"First battle?" 

I nod. 

"Well, at least you have a mission under your belt. That's experience," he says. He seems like a good mentor; knows when to lift you up, but also when to criticize. Seems better, at least, than Grey, who seems to have a lot of fake respect. 

I nod, my attention focused on Captain Grey, who's currently lecturing a soldier on the importance of keeping your boots tied. 

"He has no idea what he's doing," Curtis mutters to me. "He's just an interim Captain, since Captain Holland got kicked out for smuggling weapons out." 

"Grey?" He nods. "Yeah, I could kinda tell," I admit. 

"Alright everybody, gear up! We're moving out in ten," Grey yells. I'm not sure if he realizes that we're already geared up, but we move to the weapon's room anyways. 

Curtis hands me a bunch of extra ammunition. 

"Vest?" I ask. He shakes his head. 

"There aren't enough for everyone," he says. "Only Elites and the higher-ups get them." 

I frown. I can think of a million different ways that this could end poorly. 

Like I said; something shitty this way comes. 

"Don't worry, kid," he says. "We're not really gonna be in the line of fire." 

I nod. What about the other Rookies? Amber? Jack? Where are their troops? 

"What about the other Rookies?" I ask. Can't blame myself for being curious, can I? 

He cocks his head at me. "I mean, I guess it depends on their troops and where they're going." 

I chew on the inside of my cheek. Where are  my friends going? 

My curiosity gets the better of me: "Curtis, do you know which troop is going to the plant?"

"Los Angeles or Oregon?" 

"Los Angeles." 

He frowns. "Uh- one thirty two, I think." 

I exhale, though I'm not sure if I feel relieved or disappointed. I know Amber would want to be the one to go to the plant, or at least have someone she knows and trusts. I have no idea which Rookie is in one thirty two. 

"Thanks," I mutter, still frowning. Even though I know it's highly improbable, a part of me still hopes Thomas is alive. I mean, if it weren't for him, Amber definitely would've left me on the side of the road. He's a good guy; he doesn't deserve to be killed by the Services. 

"You sure ask a lot of questions, don't you, Sky?" Curtis accuses me. Is this seriously my most defining personality trait? 

"So I've been told." 

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