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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26. twenty six

I stomp around in the rubble, listening carefully for any signs of nearby life. A simple sound could be the difference between life and death; it could signify the life of a desalinization plant worker, or it could alert us of the presence of an attacking GWRPS soldier. 

I scan the area, wondering how there could possibly be any survivor in this desolate wasteland. It was heartbreaking to see the remains of Los Angeles; it is now nothing less than thousands of skyscrapers scarred from war. There is no life. Windows are broken, buildings are crumbling. There is nobody around for miles. Just us, the plant, and the Services. It's saddening that a city once so lively, I'm told, could be reduced to something so desolate. 

The plant is nothing less than a crater in the ground, with crumbling pieces of building all around. Water is pouring out of dozens of pipes. A strange feeling washes over me as I realize this is the water that should be sent to our base camp. Without this plant, I'm back to where I was a few months ago; scared and dehydrated. 

As we walk around the site, my boots crunching on shattered glass, we see nobody. After several hours of searching in vain, we're finally alerted of life. 

As I walk through the ruined plant, I see a drop of blood on the crumbling concrete. 

"Curtis!" I whisper-shout, motioning for him to join me. He and Captain Grey jog over, studying the single drop of blood on the concrete in front of me. 

It's smeared, as if the wounded person was moving. I immediately look around, trying to spot more blood. The setting sun throws streaks of orange across the sky, bathing everything in a pink mist. It's hard to make out the color red, when everything seems to have a red sheen to it. 

After another twenty minutes of searching, when the sky has abandoned its last signs of daylight for deep indigo, I find another rusted splotch of blood. 

"Found some more," I call out, alerting the rest of the group. Glancing around, I look for any place that an injured worker could be hiding. 

Spotting a strange formation of crumbled concrete, forming what looks like an entrance to some sort of hideout, I jog towards it. The way the concrete is structured, a person could easily squeeze through it. Pulling my flashlight from my bag, I motion for Grey and Curtis to join me before shining the light in the crevice. 

It's not large. I can see the end of it, the moonlight streaming in from the end of it. Looks like what I thought was a cave is more of a tunnel. Adjusting the beam of the flashlight so it shows the floor of the newly-formed tunnel, I see a group of three people huddled on the ground, next to another who lies, bleeding, next to them. 

They stare at me with terrified expressions. 

"It's okay," I say. "We're with the Army." 

One of them nods. "W-we worked at the p-plant," he stutters. "The S-services came with b-bombs..." 

"I know," Curtis says gently. "Are there any more of you?" 

He shakes his head. "W-we were the only ones wh-who made it out." 

Another worker speaks up. "Can you help him?" He nods towards the soldier on the ground. The position he's lying in makes it impossible for me to see his identity. 

"Was he shot?" Grey inquires. 

The second worker shakes his head. "It was from the explosion," he says. "A piece of glass hit him in the stomach." 

Curtis nods. "We'll get you guys all back to the army base, then we'll take him to the Infirmary. The medics will take care of him from there," he explains. The worker nods gratefully. 

"Let's move out quickly," Grey says. Two of the workers on the ground stand, helping the third (who has a bloody leg) to his feet. Curtis and I move towards the fourth worker, the one on the ground, to carry him out. 

I assume he's unconscious, because he hasn't moved or said a word since we got here. 

Curtis and I roll him onto his back, and his head shifts in the process. With familiar blonde hair and chocolate brown eyes, this worker is definitely someone I know. 

"Holy shit," I mutter. All of a sudden, the urge to get him back to camp and to the infirmary is stronger than ever. 

"You good, Sky?" Curtis asks. 

I nod. "Let's hurry," I urge, lifting his top half by hooking my arms under his shoulders. Curtis nods and grabs his feet, and we effectively carry him from the tunnel. 

"Let's move out, everyone!" Grey yells, ushering us towards the two trucks that brought us here. 

Curtis and I carry the wounded worker to the back of one of the trucks, where two other soldiers in our troops help us settle him down. One of the soldiers who supposedly specializes in first aid crouches next to him, pressing t-shirts to his wound to try and stop the bleeding. 

I cross my fingers and hold my breath. Amber thinking her brother is dead is one thing. Bringing his dead body into camp would be quite another. 

The engine turns over and rumbles to a start, and the truck starts bouncing and bumping on our way back to camp. 

I chew anxiously on the inside of my cheek as I watch Thomas's chest rise and fall, praying that it continues to do so until we can get him back to the trauma surgeons. 

I lean back and settle against the edge of the truck, but my muscles refuse to relieve the tension they've been carrying since this morning. Since I joined the army, honestly. My mother used to massage my shoulders, when I'd get tense. I sigh. I'd give anything to have her rub all the soreness from my muscles once again. I'd give almost anything just to feel her touch, hear her voice. Just to see the twinkle in her eye as she smiled 'good morning.' 

Thanks to this goddamn civil war, that's no longer possible. I'll never see her again. She'll never love me again. Because of this goddamned war, I no longer have a family. The other Rookies and the Jeffries twins are the only people I have left. As of now, I only know where one of those people are; Thomas Jeffries is dying right in front of me, and there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is cross my fingers and hold my breath and just hope that he makes it back to camp. 

I need at least one person left alive. 

~~~

They've set up tents in the main courtyard, as well as some right outside of camps. With reinforcements and refugees coming in, there's just not enough space in the bunkers. I run around frantically, trying to find a certain blonde-haired, amber eyed girl. 

I search every tent, every group, trying to lock eyes with her. I avoid checking the first-aid tents. I'm praying she's not in there. After thirty minutes of searching in vain, I finally make my way to the medics' tents, my feet dragging with dread. 

I inspect ever single tent, locking eyes with every single soldier and refugee in there. Not a single person has Amber's golden eyes. 

I hear yelling and a lot of commotion from outside. I quickly abandon my search and jog out, glancing around for the source of the disturbance. I see two troops quickly loading into trucks. Within two minutes, both trucks are speeding into the distance. I glance around and see Jason McCard in a wheelchair, talking to some other Private. 

"What's going on?" I ask him, interrupting their conversation. The private bids us goodbye and jogs off. 

"They're sending reinforcements to Oregon," he says. "I don't know all the details." 

Shit. Amber's in Oregon. "The troop that went there isn't back yet?" 

"They're on their way back now. They couldn't hold off the services, so they retreated while we sent in reinforcements." 

I take a deep breath. Amber's on her way home. 

"Any clue when they'll be back?" 

"Should be a couple hours," he says. I chew on the inside of my cheek. 

I've seen Jack, I spotted Cynthia from a distance, and I know where Thomas is. In a few more hours, I'll have four people that I care about. That's enough. 

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