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.


23. twenty three

I wake up to the sound of rustling sheets, pounding footsteps, and a shower being turned on. I sit up quickly, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. 

Shit. I slept in. 

I glance down and notice that I'm still wearing my day-clothes from yesterday. Must've fallen asleep in them. My boots, however, are standing neatly next to my trunk. I glance around. 

Wait, didn't I fall asleep in Jay's bed? 

I frown, trying to remember how I made my way across the room in the middle of the night. I vaguely remember hearing his voice. 

Well, at least that means he made it home safe

I glance at his bed and find it unoccupied. I bite my lip nervously. He did make it home last night, right? 

I curse myself for falling asleep. I was supposed to wait for him! 

I shrug it off. I'll see him at breakfast, anyways. I make my way over to my trunk and pull out clothes for today. 

"Hey, princess." 

I groan. Not in the mood, Liam!  I keep staring straight ahead, not even bothering to turn to him. 

"What do you want?" 

"Just you, Princess." 

I roll my eyes and scoff. "Good luck with that one, asshole." 

"Who needs luck when you've got a body like this one?" 

I finally turn to face him. Great. He's wearing nothing but a pair of workout sweatpants. His abs and v-line are exposed. 

"That body's about to be six feet under if you don't leave me the hell alone," I say with a disinterested glare. 

I glance around the room. Alice is, as usual, scowling at me. Whatever; neither Liam nor his skanky bimbo are going to ruin my day. Jay's back from his mission, Thomas's visiting tomorrow... Today's going to be a good day. 

He just grins. "One day, baby, one day," he says, walking away. 

I huff. "Yeah, the day pigs fly," I mutter. 

I finish changing and look around the room. Still no Jay. Where the hell is he? 

Cynthia and Alex walk over to my bed. 

"Hey," I mutter, still glancing around the room for Jay. "Have either of you seen Justin?" 

They shake their heads. "Thought he was supposed to come back last night?" Alex asks. 

I nod. "I thought I heard him come in last night," I say, excluding the part where I somehow fell asleep in his bed and ended up in my own. 

"I'm sure he's fine, Amber," Cynthia says. 

I frown. "I didn't say he wasn't." 

Alex laughs. "Well, you look worried. Come on, let's get breakfast." 

I nod. "Okay," I say. Food always makes things better. Food will clear my thoughts. 

We head to the cafeteria. I expect to see Jay at his normal seat, at the end of the table. Instead, I see only Jack. I bite my lip, and sit in my normal seat next to Jay's. I glance to the table he normally shares with his Elite. He's not there, either. 

Where is he? 

"Hey, guys," Jack says. "Have you seen J-"

"No," I interrupt. Alex gives him a warning look. 

"Wasn't he supposed to co-"

"I don't know where he is!" I blurt. 

Cynthia looks at me, with worry in her eyes. She reaches for my arm; I shrink away at her touch. Whenever someone touches me, I immediately feel uncomfortable. Except for Thomas, obviously. And Jay. Whenever I feel his skin on mine, I'm left immediately craving more. 

"Amber, he's fine," she assures me. 

I huff. "I know," I say, shoving a forkful of scrambled eggs in my mouth. 

Alex and Jack exchange a look. If it weren't for the fact that the look was them expressing their concern about me, I'd be elated; the two would be cute together. 

I snatch up my muffin from my plate. "I'm gonna go for a walk. I'll see you guys in training." 


"See you," I say, hurriedly standing up from the table. I jog back to the bunker. No Jay. An anxious thought crosses my mind; I take a deep breath, and jog to the infirmary. 

I go to one of the trauma surgeons. 

"Hi," I say. She looks up at me. "Was there anyone admitted last night? Teenage boy?" 

She glances at a clipboard. "Uh- yes." My heart pounds. "Jason McCard."

I take a deep breath. That's Jay's mentor; if he's here, that means Jay is somewhere in camp. 

Another thought crosses my mind; if Jason's in the infirmary, could Justin be... 


"Thank you," I mutter, walking slowly out of the infirmary. 

I make my way to the training room. Maybe he wanted to get in a pre-training workout? 

I open the doors to the regular training room; none of us really use the Elite's training room unless we're with our mentor. I hear the sound of a punching bag being hit. Repeatedly. Hard. I look over. 

Oh, boy

Standing in front of a punching bag is Jay; dripping with sweat, arms raised. He doesn't even stop to acknowledge me when I enter the room. Doesn't even look up. Just keeps beating his punching bag. 

I bite my lip and walk over. As I get closer, I notice his hands; he's not wearing wraps. His knuckles are all split, bloody, and ugly. 

"Hey," I say. He pauses, then resumes hitting the bag without looking up. I glance down at the muffin still in my hand. "You missed breakfast." 

"Not hungry," he mutters, not turning away from the punching bag. He grunts as he lets out a hard hit. With those knuckles, it's gotta hurt. 

I frown. "Jay, what's wrong?" 


I chew on the inside of my cheek. "How was the mission? Did you get hurt?"

"Mission was a success," he spits out. He says it so angrily, it's like a successful mission is a bad thing. 

"Then what's wrong?" 

"Nothing." He stops punching the bag, steadies it with his hand, and turns to face me. Oh, God. Those blue eyes; they're like the oceans I've never seen. "I'm fine, I promise." 

I bite my cheek harder. The metallic taste of fresh blood fills my mouth. I hold out the muffin as an offering. 

"No, thanks," he says. 

I give him a pointed look. "I'm guessing you didn't eat after your mission, yesterday, and you didn't eat breakfast. You've gotta be starving." 

"I'm not." 

What's his deal? 

I sigh. "Jay, what's going on? You can talk to me." 

He inhales deeply, then turns back to the punching bag. 


He hits the bag, hard. His ruined knuckles leave a bloody mark on the fabric. 

"What happened on that mission?" 

He punches again. "I already told you. It was a success." 

I remember that his mentor is in the infirmary. "Is it about Jason? Is he okay?" 

Another hit. "He's gonna be fine." 

I huff. These vague answers are starting to get really frustrating. 

I decide to just stand there, watching him hit. Sometimes silence is the best way to get answers. After a couple minutes of silence, he finally steadies the bag with his hand and turns to me. 

"There were thirty people at that camp," he says quietly. 


I remember how shocked Justin looked when those Service soldiers came to our truck and I killed them. He's never killed anyone before. Well... Until last night. Last night, he killed thirty. 

"They were asleep," he mutters. 

I take a deep breath. "Jay, why do you think they were there? They were going to attack our camp. By killing thirty, you saved hundreds." 

He shakes his head. "I told myself I'd never kill anyone," he says. "After my dad... I just couldn't be like him." 

He hits the bag, repeatedly. The canvas sack is stained with his blood, and drops of it fall to the floor from his fist. I drop the muffin to the ground and grab his wrists, one in each of my hand. I wrestle with him for a second, forcing him to lower his fists. He fights, but eventually lowers his hands. I examine his ruined hands; the flesh is torn and bruised. His hands are much too large for my own, but I attempt to wrap mine around his nonetheless. 

I look up from his hands and see his saddened, heavy eyes. Oh, God... the guilt of this... 

He sits down on the ground, hugging his knees. I sit next to him; even when we're both sitting, he towers over me. I place my hand on his arm. 

"Jay, you were following orders. It's not like it was your decision." 

"Then why was I excited to get a mission? I knew I'd have to kill. I was selfish." 

"It wasn't selfish. We've all wanted missions. It's always exciting to get chosen, no matter what you're getting chosen for." 

He takes his tattered, large hand and places it on top of mine. I feel a shiver run up my arm from his touch. 

What is this boy doing to me? 

He squeezes my hand gently before standing up. He reaches down and I take his hand; he pulls me to my feet. 

"Thanks for waiting for me to come back, last night," he says with a smile. 

Oh. So I did fall asleep on his bed last night... that's awkward. 

I just grin. "No problem." 

"Amber..." he begins. "Does it pass? The guilt? Does it ever go away?" 

I bite my lip. "It's like grief. It's always there, sometimes stronger than other times. But it gets better."

"You mean... The more people you kill, the easier it is? Is that why it's so easy for you?" His usually gentle eyes flash with anger, and it scares me. 

I taste blood in my mouth once more. 

"No- Not really. It's always hard. The guilt gets worse, you just learn how to numb it. Put your duties first. Your safety." 

He glowers at me. I wish I could shrink away, escape these terrible eyes. "How many have you killed, Amber?" 

I gulp. "No more than I had to," I answer vaguely. And it's true. 

"God, it doesn't even mean anything to you." He sounds disgusted. He stands back up and turns back to the punching bag. I wince as he hits the bag and blood spatters everywhere. 

"Of course it means something to me, Justin," I protest. "It's just something we all have to do." 

"How many?" He demands. His voice is cold, like his hardened eyes. "You don't know, do you?"

More thick blood fills my mouth as I chew on my cheek. 

"I know."

"How many?" 

I spit out the blood. "Fifty two." 

He settles the bag, bringing it to a rest. For a minute I'm grateful he's stopped ruining his hands, but he starts hitting it again. I didn't think it was possible, but he hits the bag harder. 

"Justin, stop it!" I try to place myself between his angry fists and the bag, holding out a hand to stop him. "If it wasn't you, it would've been someone else. They would have died, anyways. And if they hadn't, we all would've." He drops his hands. 

"I'm a killer," he says quietly, looking at the ground. 

I shake my head. He looks at me and we lock eyes yet again. "You're a soldier. You follow orders. There's a difference between killing of your own free will and killing on a mission." 

But is there? 

What about all the soldiers I've killed over the past few years? Were those murders excused? 

"Justin, you're not a bad person." 

He shrugs before turning back to the punching bag. 

"Thanks, Amber," he says before hitting the bag. I can't tell if he's being sarcastic or not. Although the sight of him ruining his hands pains me, I decide there's nothing I can do to stop him, save taking one of the punches myself. And, given his anger and how much the bag is swinging, taking one of his punches right now would very likely knock me out. That wouldn't help with his guilt. Rather than try to stop him, I lean back against the wall and watch him work out, blood dripping down his wrists and to the floor, his muscles rippling under the shirt he's long since sweat through. 

The door to the training room opens. I look up and see General Tyler, Dean Marshall, Officer Thompson, and all twenty Elites jog into the training room. Jason is among them, being pushed in a wheelchair. 

What the- 

Morgan Murphy notices us and shuts the door to the Elite training room behind them. 

"What's going on?" Justin wonders aloud, looking away from the bag. 

I smile a little bit. That's the Jay I know. Always asking questions. Always curious. 

"Dunno," I say. 

"Think it's serious?" 

I huff. "Well, all the important people are in one room. I'd say it looks pretty serious." 

"As long as I don't have to kill anyone else," he mutters. 

"You won't," I assure him. 

He turns to face me. "That's not something you can promise." 

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