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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22. twenty two

Please don't die. Please don't kill us. Please don't die. Fuck. I have to sneeze. Wait... false alarm. I'm okay. Please don't kill us.

Jason and I slither into camp, grateful that the tent doors are facing out. He nods to me once we are in the center of the ring of tents, telling me to take off the backpack. I sit on my heels and gently, gently, remove my arms from the straps. He unzips the pack painfully slowly, and pulls the hydrazine bomb out. He places it gently on the ground, handing the pack to me. I slide my arms through the straps, much less careful this time. It feels like a weight's been lifted from my shoulders; having a giant bomb strapped to your back isn't exactly the best feeling.

He points to the gap between the two tents that we came in through, and we crawl back out of camp.

We make it out of camp without being seen. From two hundred yards away, I can barely see the jar of hydrazine that is our bomb.

"Think you can make it?" Jason asks. I nod, even though I'm completely unsure of myself. "Then take the shot."

It feels good, knowing my mentor believes in me.

"As soon as you hit it, that thing blows. But you better hit before the guards find us. Kneel to get a better shot."

I do as I'm told, kneeling in the grass. He knees next to me.

"Meyers, you get Clarice?"

"Shit," Jason mutters. "Shoot!"

I take a deep breath and line up the shot.

"Meyers?" I squeeze the trigger and fire.

It misses.

"Meyers!" I hear footsteps jogging towards his post.

"Go, Sky!"

I shoot again. Miss again.

I hear another gunshot; this one isn't mine.

"Agh!" Jason yells, collapsing to the ground next to me. "Sky, make the damn shot!" Anger in his voice, and fear.

I take a deep breath, trying to ignore the sound of more gunshots. I take another shot. I miss again. More gunshots that aren't mine keep coming. A bullet strikes me in the chest. I'm pushed backwards by the force, but the bulletproof vest I'm wearing makes it okay. Damn. I'm definitely going to have a bruise, though.

I line up another shot. I don't even have to question whether or not I missed; the bomb detonates immediately, sending a plume of black smoke into the midnight sky. The sound of fire crackling in the desert grass is the only noise.

I stare in horror at the scene ahead of me. Thirty lives, gone in less than a second. Thirty lives, gone because of me. I killed them all.

"Fuck," Jason mutters.

Crap. Forgot about him. I remove all negative thoughts from my head and turn my focus to my mentor.

"You okay?" I ask, crouching next to him.

"Got hit in the leg. I'm okay, I think." I pull a t-shirt that had been padding the bomb out of the backpack.

"Uh... I don't really know how to do first-aid stuff," I admit. He laughs.

"Lucky for you," he says. "It's my specialty. Give it." I hand him the shirt and watch as he ties it over the bullet wound.

"Alright. Help me stand up." I pull him to his feet, and let him sling his arm over my shoulders. "Looks like you're going to be driving us home, after all."

"Great," I mutter.

"Hey, don't you complain," he says, laughing. Mission's over; casual Jason is back. "You're not the one who's about to be murdered by your girlfriend."

I laugh. "Have fun with that." I open the passenger-side door of the truck and help him in. I cross over and get in the driver's seat, turning on the engine and placing my hands at ten and two.

I take a deep breath and put my foot on the gas. This is even scarier than the mission was. We're pushed back in our seats as the car lurches forward.

"Jesus!" Jason exclaims. "Maybe she won't kill me, after all. I'll be dead because you crashed the damn truck."

"Into what? We're in an open desert."

"You're so bad at driving, I wouldn't be surprised if you found a way to crash it."

"Shut up. Let me drive."

~~~

I pull the car into camp, trying my best not to crash into anything. I put my foot on the brake pedal, sending Jason and I lurching forward.

"Way to make an entrance," he mutters.

I roll my eyes. "Well, I didn't kill us. That's a start." I glance out of the windshield and see Julia jogging towards us. "But your girlfriend's about to. Good luck."

"Crap," he mutters. "No morning training tomorrow. Sleep in, and then I'll see you in the afternoon, okay?"

I nod. "See you."

We open our car doors. I watch Jason pull Julia into a passionate kiss, which only lasts a moment before he winces and she starts fussing over him.

"Good work," Dean Marshall says, walking up to us. I nod. "Get some rest, Sky. You did good."

He reaches out to shake my hand. I hesitate; is wiping out thirty people really 'good work'? I take his hand without saying anything, then make my way back to my cabin. Inside our bunker, I throw my backpack down at the foot of my bed, prepared to strip off all my gear and collapse. Instead, I see someone lying on my bed.

More specifically, I see Amber, in her day clothes, asleep on top of my blanket.

"Uh-"

"She was trying to stay up, waiting for you," Michael, who has the bed next to mine, tells me. What the hell is he doing up?

"Oh," I say. I glance at my watch. It's almost three in the morning. She's quite adorable when she sleeps. Her lips part, ever so slightly, her blonde hair falls on her face. But, as adorable as she is, she's in my damn bed. I sigh and scoop her up, carrying her bridal style.

"Mmm," she mutters into my shoulder. Her eyelids flutter open, revealing her fiery Amber eyes. They widen when she sees me. "Jay?"

I nod. "Yeah. Go back to sleep," I say, carrying her across the room. Despite her height, she's surprisingly light. She murmurs something unintelligible before nuzzling her face into my shoulder. I place her gently in her bed, then sit on the mattress next to her. She looks so unimaginably peaceful. I'd reckon that's how I'd sleep every night, if the world hadn't fallen to shit. Life would be peaceful. I wouldn't be responsible for the death of thirty people.

I sigh and pull of Amber's boots. Half-asleep, she squirms under her blanket, which she pulls up to her chin. Just like she always does.

How many people have you killed, Amber?

I glance around the room. What about you, Liam? Jack? Axel? How many of you are murderers, just like me?

"Jay," Amber whispers. I turn to her. I hate that the second I look into her gorgeous eyes, nothing else matters. I hate that my... Whatever- for her is so strong that it can make me forget murder.

"Mhm?"

She takes my and and grips it, tight. "You didn't die," she mutters.

I chuckle. "No, I didn't. Go back to bed, Amber."

She yawns and rubs her eyes, snuggling further under her blanket.

"I'm glad you didn't die, Jay," she murmurs. Her sleepy voice is cute. She sounds so innocent. Like she hasn't killed anyone. Like she doesn't know I have.

"Thanks," I say, smiling.

"G'night, Jay."

She's still holding my hand.

"Night, Amber." I squeeze her hand before standing up; she closes her eyes and yawns again, turning over in her cot.

I make my way back to my bed, trying to single out the sound of Amber's breathing above all the others in the room. Hers is one of three breathing patterns that isn't slow and even from sleep.

After five minutes, her breaths fall evenly.

I sigh and close my eyes.

"How was it?" Michael whispers. "How was the mission?"

"Fine," I lie. What's fine about murdering people? But I guess the joke's on me; what did I think was going to happen when I wanted a mission? Everyone who's been on a mission has killed. Why did I think I wouldn't have to?

Honestly, I wasn't thinking. The thought never crossed my mind that I'd have to take a life. Thirty lives, to be specific. It was selfish of me; I was so wrapped up in wanting my own glory, I didn't think of the price tag that would come attached to it.

"That girl was worried about you," he says. And just like that, my only thoughts are about a girl named Amber Jeffries. "She stayed up half the night before falling asleep."

"We're just friends." Another lie.

He huffs. "Whatever you say, mate."

I roll my eyes, even though it would be impossible for him to see in the dim lighting. We're not even friends. If he can tell, who else knows?

"Whatever. I'm tired. Let me sleep."

"G'night, mate."

I roll over and press my face into my pillow. The smell of Amber is still on my sheets. I breathe in the scent of coconut and close my eyes, allowing the partial darkness in the room to become absolute.

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