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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17. seventeen

I watch from across the courtyard as Amber and Thomas say goodbye to each other for the second time in two months. I'd like to say bye to my friend as well, but I have a feeling Amber would slit my throat if I intruded on their moment. They pull out of their embrace. Thomas holds up a hand and waves to me, while Amber glares at me. I wave to Thomas, then turn away. 

I know Amber and I are at odds, but it still hurts when she sends me cruel looks. 

"Breakfast?" Jack interrupts my train of thought. I nod, and we walk towards the cafeteria. On the way, we see Alex and Alice having a heated argument. 

Oh, right. Those two are friends. Were friends? Who knows, these days. 

"What's going on there?" I mutter to Jack. 

"Who knows?" He replies, stating exactly what I was thinking. 

Sheesh, this place is getting more and more like a high school every day. Not that I'd know. There aren't any functioning schools in the States, anymore. They've all been gone since the war. Most of the world's been gone since the war. 

World War Four. 

It technically ended two years after I was born, but it's kind of still going on. When I say "kind of still going on," I mean there's still tensions between the Services and the Army. It's sort of a different war, a Civil War, 'cause the Army is just a part of the States. There aren't any countries, other than Canada and France left to wage an international war. 

In the twenty-second century, global warming hit it's peak. All the clean water turned acidic. All the gasoline was spilled into the ocean after the mines were blown up by nuclear bombs meant for war. The limited water led to dehydration and starvation across the globe, while all the remaining gasoline was used to power military vehicles. The war started because all the countries were fighting over the last resources. 

France is the only place that's really a country, anymore. It's the only place that's a civilization. 

But here in California, working in the Army, we have our little bubble. We have water, from the desalinization plant in what used to be Los Angeles, and we have electric transportation and weapons and food. We're okay, here. 

We take our usual seats at the end of the cafeteria table. A couple minutes into breakfast, a food tray is slammed onto the table across from me. I jump in my seat and look up. 

"Can I sit?" Alex asks, her face flushed red with anger. 

I nod towards the seat. She slides in next to Jack, who's currently trying not to choke on his oatmeal. I kick him under the table. 

"Hey!" He barks. I glare at him, then glance at Alex, who's angrily stabbing her eggs with a fork. 

"E-Everything okay?" He stutters quickly. 

She scowls. "Alice is a bitch. Other than that, I'm dandy!" 

"What else is new?" I mutter. She glares at me. 

"What'd she do?" Jack asks. 

Alex goes on to rant about how Alice got mad at her because she thought Alex was interested in Liam and got jealous, then Alex told her she was delusional if she thought she'd be interested in that douchebag, and then Alice got mad because that's her boyfriend. 

"Ugh! As if I'd ever have feelings for that idiot!" She huffs. 

I glance at Jack, who doesn't really seem to know what to do with his hands. He keeps picking at his fingernail. 

"I thought everyone loved him?" I ask. 

She scoffs. "Everyone hates him. People just hang around with him because he beat Axel up on the first day for arguing with him." 

Huh. That's why Axel's so quiet. 

"He's never tried to beat me up," I argue. 

She raises an eyebrow. "That's 'cause you already beat him up. He doesn't want to make a fool of himself." 

Well, that makes me feel pretty good. 

"And Alice?" Jack questions. 

"The guys like her 'cause she's hot. I was just friends with her 'cause she was the first person I met." 

"You're hotter," Jack says. I whip my head up and gape at him. He stares at me with wide eyes, as if asking me if he actually said that. 

"Um... Thanks?" Alex says, raising an eyebrow. 

What? She mouths to me. I shake my head. Ignore him

"I just mean tha- Sh-She's not that pretty," Jack stutters. 

I roll my eyes. Nice going

"'Kay," Alex mutters, stuffing a forkful of eggs into her mouth. 

Five minutes later, General Travis walks into the room. There's a shuffling of benches and clanking of plates as everyone rushes to salute him. 

"At ease," he calls out. Everyone in the cafeteria, over five hundred soldiers total, relax their soldiers and hold their hands behind their back. 

"Rookies. Training room in two minutes." 

Jack glances at me. 

"Shit!" I say, and we rush to dump our plates into the sink and jog to the training room. We make it there in exactly two minutes, slightly out of breath from the hustle over here. 

General Travis is nowhere to be seen, but both Dean Marshall and Thompson are standing in front of us. It's a rare sight; there are some rumors that Dean and Thompson really don't like each other. Again, making my point that this place is like a glorified high school. 

"Today, you guys are training with the big boys," Thompson barks out, gesturing towards the separate room where the elite team of mission soldiers train. Technically, all soldiers can go on missions, but there's a team of twenty soldiers that are trained with specialties. For example, there are the first aid trainees, the shooting trainees, the hand-to-hand, and the strategy trainees. 

"That's so cool," I hear Amber mutter to Cynthia. Huh. Didn't even know they were standing next to me. Which is odd, because I normally know exactly where Amber is in a room. 

"There are twenty of you, and twenty Elites. You'll be paired up, in the hopes that they'll whip you into shape," Marshall explains. Thompson scans the room, stopping for a second to glare at me. 

Great. Knowing him, I'll probably get paired up with some idiot. The two soldiers herd us into the separate training room. 

It's awesome. Actually, let me rephrase that. It's pretty damn awesome. For one, it's gigantic. An entire wall is dedicated to various monitors, some showing strategy simulations, others showing rankings, others displaying various camera angles. There's a section that's dedicated to first-aid, with dummies and kits everywhere. There are a dozen punching bags, half a dozen treadmills, and three giant mats in the center of the room. There are a dozen targets with more rifles than I've ever seen in one place. 

Pretty damn awesome. 

I glance over at Amber and I'm not surprised to see her normal calm façade, which is disrupted only by her wide, excited eyes. 

General Travis is already in the room, talking to two of the Elites. One is a large, bulky guy who's definitely all muscle. The other is a tall girl, similar body to Amber, but with jet black hair and dark brown skin. Very muscular. She looks like someone who would definitely kick my ass, and, judging from the fact that she's an Elite, she definitely could. 

"Soldiers!" General Travis barks out. Everyone jogs to the center of the room. "You're all going to be paired up. Elites get to pick who they want. Rookies, step forward in alphabetical order." 

Alex steps to the mat and is picked by a mid-twenties man. 

Alice steps up into the center of the mat that separates the Rookies from the Elites. For a minute, nobody steps up to train her. After a moment, I'm not surprised that the one who volunteers to take her is a young man, maybe in his early twenties. He eyes her up and down hungrily. 

Amber steps up the center. I can't see her, but I can only imagine that by now she's replaced the excitement in her eyes with fire. Four Elites immediately step up, including the two who were speaking to General Travis earlier. One of the others is a man, who's maybe in his late twenties. The other is another young woman, probably mid-twenties. Glancing around, most of the Elites look to be in their late teens through early thirties. The youngest, a skinny but tall boy, looks to be about eighteen or nineteen. The oldest, a buff woman with tanned, leathery skin, looks to be in her mid-thirties. I know, of course, that she can't be older than thirty-five, however, so who knows? 

"Well, looks like we've got a problem," Dean Marshall muses. The four Elites glare at each other. "Jeffries, who do you want?" 

I glare at him. Way to put her on the spot, man! 

She eyes each of them up and down. Bet they weren't expecting to be evaluated by a Rookie, huh? Oh, how the tables have turned. 

It takes a minute before she decides on the young woman; the leader with the black hair. 

"Her," she says, nodding in her direction. None of the Elites show any emotion on their faces, but the leader smiles cooly. 

"Morgan Murphy," she says. 

"Amber Jeffries." 

"We'll make a good team," Murphy says. Amber grins. 

"Sure will." 

Axel's picked by the middle-aged woman that Amber turned down. A few more Rookies are picked by other Elites, none of whom had peaked my interest anyhow. I don't really care who picks me, as long as it's not some loser. 

Jack gets picked by another young man. 

I step up to the mat, and two people step forward. One is who looks to be the youngest Elite in the room; the tall and skinny dude. He's lean and muscular. Looks fast. The other is the late-twenties dude who picked Amber but was turned down. 

Well, he tried to pick Amber, which means he's good at evaluating a warrior, which means that he's at least got experience under his belt. On the other hand, the younger guy must be pretty damn good to be an Elite at his age. 

Shit. 

I try to keep a calm façade, mimicking what I think Amber would do. 

Fuck it. They're both probably good choices. 

I nod towards the younger one. He grins a charming, boyish grin. 

Oh, boy. Wrong choice? Who knows. 

"Jason McCard," he introduces himself. 

"Justin Sky," I say. 

"You look like a strong kid," he says. 

I shrug. "Thank you, sir." 

He laughs. "Oh, no way are you calling me 'Sir.' I may be your superior, but I sure as hell aren't an old man." 

I laugh casually. "Yes, sir!" 

He glares at me. "I like you, Sky, but I will smash your face in if you call me 'Sir' one more time." 

I think we'll get along. 

"'Kay, McCard." 

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