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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20. twenty

I wait for Jason at his normal breakfast table, preparing myself for the hours of training and planning that are surely coming. After five minutes, mostly everyone's in the cafeteria, but Jason's not here. I glance at Amber; she's sitting at our normal end of the Rookie table, her dangerous eyes spitting fire at something that Liam, who's standing directly behind her, says. I stop myself from standing up and tackling him to the ground. Fortunately, before I lose my shit on him, he walks away. I watch Amber breathe a sigh of relief.

I wait for a while longer before the same blonde girl I saw Jason talking to yesterday comes up and stands next to me.

"Jason said you should go sit with the other Rookies," she says. "He's meeting with the General and Marshall about the mission."

I nod. "Thanks," I say. I stand up and turn to walk to my table.

"Wait," she says. I turn back around. "Don't let him do anything dumb, okay?"

I nod. "I'm sure he'll be fine."

She shakes her head. "He always tries to be so selfless and brave. Keep him in check for me, 'kay?"

I nod again. What's with everyone asking me to take care of their loved ones? "Will do..."

"Julia," she says. The name sounds oddly familiar. Oh! She was the soldier that came to Amber and my room, our first few days in the Army. She brought us to the training room. 

"Justin," I say. 

She smiles. "I know. Jason likes you. Always brags about how great his Rookie is." This brings a smile to my face.

"Alright, Julia, I guess I'll see you later," I say awkwardly.

"Yeah, I'm sure we'll see each other later. Good luck on the mission," she says with a smile. I head back to my table.

"What was that about?" Amber mutters.

I shrug. "Jason's girlfriend. She was just telling me he wouldn't make it for breakfast."

Amber gives me a funny look, her amber eyes flashing.

"What?" I ask.

"Nothing," she says. I give her a pointed look. "Nothing!" She insists.

"If you say so," I mutter. This earns me a punch to the arm. I've come to expect it.

I dig my fork into the mountain of eggs on my plate. Resting my elbows on the table, I realize that my arm is touching Amber's, which is also resting on the table. My ears turn red when I notice that our skin is touching. Jack kicks my leg under the table and I hiss, glaring at him. He glances at Amber and smirks. I roll my eyes.

Just like high school.

Twenty minutes into breakfast, Jason appears in the cafeteria. He searches the room, finds me, and gestures for me to join him.

"Gotta go, guys. I'll see you later," I say, quickly dumping my leftovers in the trash and my plate in the sink and jogging over to Jason.

"Let's go," he says.

"Where?"

"Training room."

We jog to the training room and find a series of maps already spread out on one of the Strategy tables.

"For the mission?" I ask.

"We're leaving at six," he says. "It's a stealth mission, so we have to get in and out before it gets light."

"How long will it take to get there?"

"Forty-five minutes, give or take."

"You're driving?"

He nods. "Do you know how?"

I shake my head. "Okay, I'll teach you on the way there."

"Why?"

He gives me a look, like it's obvious. "In case something happens, kid. You gotta be able to get back to camp."

"What could happen while we're there?" I ask.

"You tell me," he says. "What could happen?"

"Um... they find us and kill us? The bomb is a dud? Their security is better than we prepare for?" I rattle off just a few of the dozens of scenarios running through my mind.

"Woah, woah, woah, kid. Come on. The worst thing that happens is we both die, right? No need to focus on how."

I gape at him. "Uh... all due respect, Jason, but I think it's pretty important to figure out how we could die and how to avoid that," I point out.

He grins. "You sound just like Julia. You into strategy?"

I shrug. "Not much experience with it, like I've said."

"Well, you'd be good. You like looking at details. Specifics. That's important. Either that, or you're just paranoid." 

"Uh... okay. Yeah, I guess I'll think about going into that. But, uh... back to the mission-"

"Yeah. So, the mission's pretty straightforward," he says, pointing to one of the maps. "They have their tents set up in a ring, six tents total. There's a guard in front of every tent. We're trying to plant the bomb in the middle of the ring. Got it?"

The map displays small rectangles that I assume are the tents, with red X's standing outside of each one. Probably the guards. In the center of the ring of tents is a giant O... where we have to plant the bomb. Based off of the scale of the map, each guard is standing about thirty yards from each other; shouting distance, but because of the formation, they shouldn't be able to see each other from their posts.

I nod, frowning. "How're we going to get past the guards?"

"They're pretty spread out, so we just have to take one of them out and make sure the others don't hear it."

"No guns?"

"No guns unless we have to. The shots are too loud."

"What happens if they see us?"

He grins. "That's my favorite part. Chuck the bomb and run."

I frown. "That seems slightly... dangerous?"

"If we have the bomb on us and it gets hit by a gunshot, it's even worse. We have to get rid of it if we're going to be shot at."

"Uh... how small is the bomb?" Doesn't seem like it's an easy task to get a giant bomb of destruction into a camp with just an ATV.

"It's very basic. Just a jar of hydrazine, with gunpowder to activate it. That thing blows, it's light's out."

"How do we make sure it doesn't blow on the way over there?"

"You've got a lot of questions, Sky," he says.

"So I've been told," I brush off the statement. "Anyways, uh... We're carrying a bomb."

He scoffs. "The trip over there is what's making the mission dangerous. Getting in and out of camp should be easy-breezy."

Great.

"Oh, and we ignite the bomb by shooting the jar. The spark will set off the gunpowder, which, mixed with the hydrazine, will make the camp go boom."

"If we shoot the bomb, they'll know we're there," I point out, frowning.

He grins. "I've seen you shoot, kid. You can shoot relatively accurately from a fair distance. We'll be well out of the camp by the time we shoot the thing."

I gulp. "You won't be shooting?" 

"Not unless I have to. I trust you." 

I nod. "So, uh... Shooting the thing. Won't there be tents in the way?"

"There'll be gaps. They're not too close together."

I sigh. "That's only if everything goes without a hitch, right?" I point out. "And I'm assuming that's not the most likely situation."

He laughs. "That's right," he says. Today's one of those days when I don't necessarily appreciate his casual attitude. I wish he'd be more serious about this. Seriously, how can he talk so casually about this? I'm struggling to keep my heart rate under control. "Most likely, they'll see us and we'll have to chuck it and run. But don't worry, we have bulletproof vests." 

"That's reassuring," I mutter, somewhat sarcastically.

"It's the best we've got. Any other questions? You seem to have an abundance of them."

Why is it a bad thing to be curious? Curiosity saves lives. Well, usually saves lives. The cat was an exception. 

I rack my brain for any final questions that aren't Why the hell are we doing this? or Oh my god what if we die? When I don't find any, I shake my head.

He grins. "Alright, Sky. No need to pack anything. Just wear black clothes 'cause it'll be dark when we're there. Take the day to rest; no training today. Meet me back here at five, okay?"

I nod. "'Later, Jason."

"Get out of here," he jokes, shooing me out of the room. He turns back to the maps, his brow scrunched... Most likely memorizing every detail. Huh. Maybe he is serious about this. I head back to the cabin and find Amber sitting on my bed. She sits up straight when she sees me, as if she'd been waiting for me. 

"Where's everyone else?" I ask.

"Training," she says. "Murphy had to work on something with Marshall, so I got out of training today."

I cross the room and sit next to her on the bed.

"So what's the mission?" She demands, her eyes wide. Obviously, she already knows the basics, but, knowing her, she probably wants the specifics. So that's why she's been waiting for me... 

I explain the mission to her. Her face falls when I mention the part where we have to detonate the bomb and then get away from the camp before we get shot. 

"Shit, Jay," she mutters. "Don't get yourself killed."

I smirk to hide the fact that my ears are now most certainly beet-red. "I've lasted this long, haven't I?"

Crap. Sarcasm doesn't work too well on me. 

"I dunno," she says, brushing off my comment. "I woke up with a bad feeling, this morning. I hope it's not about your mission." A bad feeling? What the hell is that supposed to mean? 

I roll my eyes. "I'll be fine, Amber. Don't worry about me."

"I know, I know," she says with a nervous laugh. "I'm sure McCard knows what he's doing."

"Yeah, he's pretty cool."

Sitting so close to her, I can smell the coconut. I feel heat radiating off of her olive skin, and I want nothing more than to touch her... Anywhere. I want to caress her cheek, run my fingers through her hair, grip her hand... I want my lips to be on hers.

But of course, someone like her would never notice someone as plain as me as anything more than a friend.

I hate how she makes me like this; how whenever I see her, my knees turn to jelly and my ears turn crimson. I hate how the second I met her, I was completely infatuated with how incredible she is.

Crap.

"I'm serious, Justin. Don't die."

"I won't."

"Promise?"

This girl doesn't know the difference between a promise you can keep and one you can't.

"Promise," I say anyways, because a promise that can't be kept is better than one that was never made in the first place. 

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