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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8. eight

Ow

I bring my fingers to my lip, which had been split just a few days ago from my unsuccessful fight with Amber, and feel blood. Great

Grunting, I drag myself to my feet just in time to see another punch coming towards my face. I block it with my forearm and retaliate with a kick to the side. The other recruit stumbles to his left, off-balance. I plant another kick on his chest, and he falls to the ground. I quickly pin him down, throwing a combination of punches at his face. He grunts in pain, trying to block my fists with his hands to no avail. 

"Okay, that's enough," Thompson, the soldier who's evaluating us, mutters. I roll off the dude and stand up, glancing to the corner of the mat where I know Amber's standing. I reach down to try and give the guy a hand up; he slaps it away. 

"Sheesh," I mutter, walking the other direction. It's not like I wanted to beat the guy up. It's a test, remember? I make my way to Amber. The expression on her face is unreadable. 

"Nice job," she congratulates me. 

"Thanks," I say, unclear on whether or not the compliment is genuine. "You're up after this match, right?" She nods. "Well, good luck." 

"Thanks," she says, her eyes trained on the match about to begin. I turn my eyes to the mat and watch one girl beating another up. Well, not beating her up. It was a pretty even fight. 

I feel bad for whoever's going up against Amber. After about two minutes, the shorter of the two girls has the other one pinned when Thompson calls the match off. He gestures to Amber and she walks to the center of the mat. 

Her opponent is a buff dude, around 6'1". I frown. 

"That's not fair!" I blurt out. All heads turn to me, including Amber's glaring eyes. 

"Excuse me?" Thompson asks. 

"They're not evenly matched," I point out. Her eyes shoot daggers at me. 

Next, she does something which surprises me. She smirks. "Well, you and I weren't a fair fight, either," she says. "Felt kinda bad for you." 

I feel my ears turn red. She grins at me as a few of the other recruits let out a nervous laugh. 

"Do we have your permission to proceed?" Thompson asks me with a sneer. 

I nod, saying nothing. 

They start circling, arms raised, weight bouncing on their toes. 

The buff dude makes the first move. He throws a strong, but slow punch towards her left cheek. She blocks it easily and counters with a foot to the stomach. He doubles over, giving her the opportunity to lock her fingers on the back of his head and slam his face into her right knee, making him crumple to the ground. He's lying, face-down on the mat. She sits on his back and grabs his left arm, twisting it at a painful angle. He screams out in pain and moves quickly, throwing her off his back. She collapses on the floor of the mat below him. He kicks her in her side. She winces, but stands up anyhow. The next kick he aims at her, she blocks. She then throws a low kick to his left knee, and his legs buckle. Once again, she's on top of him, throwing punches left and right. 

"That's enough," Thompson calls. He turns to me. "Well, you're right. It wasn't a fair fight." 

I roll my eyes. Amber stalks towards me, clutching her side. 

"Hey, good jo-" I begin, before I'm slapped in the face. Hard

"Ow!" I protest. 

"What the hell was that?" She yells. I can feel the eyes of all the other recruits on us, but I can't tear my eyes away from her golden ones filled with anger. 

"Sorry! He just looked so much bigger than you, I-" 

She slaps me again. 

"Ow! Would you stop that?" 

Slap. 

"Jesus! I'm sorry!" I shield my face with my hands. 

She scowls at me. 

"I'm not someone you have to protect, okay?" 

"Okay," I concede, trying not to roll my eyes at her stubbornness. Aside from her glowering eyes, she looks slightly like an angry puppy; too harmless to do much damage. I glance at her side. "Are you okay?" 

She glares at me, but lifts her shirt up anyways. A giant bruise is already forming where she was kicked. 

"I'm fine," she mutters. I glance at her hand. Her knuckles are split and ugly. I look up at the mat, and see two other recruits dragging her poor opponent off the mat. 

Huh. Guess it wasn't a fair fight. 

I look back to her and see her prodding the bruise and wincing. 

"You sure you're okay?" 

She groans and rolls her eyes. "Jay, I'm fine. Relax, please!" 

I can't help but grin at her nickname for me, despite her irritated tone. 

A couple fights later, Thompson tell us that everyone's gone. Only four people get sent away, including the guy I fought. Unfortunately, Amber's opponent is still here, and is giving both her and me the stink eye. 

"We're moving on to shooting," Thompson explains. He directs us across the room, where a bunch of targets are set up, along with a bunch of rifles. A grin spreads across Amber's face. 

"I love shooting," she mutters. I chuckle. 

She grabs the gun at the target next to mine. 

We all look at Thompson expectedly. 

He looks back at us. "Well? Shoot the damn things!" 

A few nervous chuckles make their way through the other recruits. Immediately, the room is filled with the sound of dozens of gunshots. 

I squint, focus on the target, steady my hands, aim the gun, and pull the trigger. The bullet lands about an inch from the target. 

"Not bad," Amber says with a grin. 

"Oh yeah? Let's see you do better." I don't know why I challenged her. I'm pretty sure she'd be able to hit the target, first try. 

The gun goes off. I was right. 

"Nice," I say. She mocks a bow. 

"Why, thank you!" 

I shoot again, this time hitting the target. I shoot a few more times, each time either close to the target or on it. Even if it's not on the target every time, at least I have good grouping. I look around the room. Some of the other recruits haven't even gotten close. I look at Amber's board. There isn't a single mark that isn't directly on the target. 

After another ten minutes or so, Thompson signals for us to stop. 

He dismisses another three recruits, who storm out of the room angrily. I watch, trying to stop myself from smiling, as Amber's beaten opponent stalks out of the room. 

Thompson turns to us. "Well, congrats, rookies! You're in. All of you will be trained and supervised by me. From now on, I'm your God. Okay? You have questions? Come to me. You need help? Come to me. You want any advice? Come to me. You want to be promoted? I'll go to you, because I'll know who deserves an upgrade. I'll be keeping a close eye on you. But if any of you aren't enough to handle this, emotionally, you're out immediately. Understood?" 

When he mentions the "emotional" stuff, he locks eyes with me and glares. I gulp. Does this guy already think I'm some sort of emotional roller coaster? 

Damn. Guess I didn't get off to that great of a start, despite being good at the physical aspects. Amber, of course, is better. 

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