Spotlight: The Last Drop by Andrea Perno
On the heels of his brother’s murder, his father’s disappearance and Earth’s dwindling water supply now contaminated with a deadly virus, Avery and his younger brother have no choice but to leave Earth behind and join the survivors migrating the nearest habitable planet.
What they don’t know is that the rarity of water extends far beyond Earth and they aren’t the only ones fighting for survival.
“Christ, Mom,” I curse under my breath and cast a cautious glance over my shoulder even
though the heavy lead door is closed behind me. I shove the bag deep inside the backpack and bury it with the other supplies. No wonder our water rations look low. It would take nearly all of Dad and Jeremy’s rations to grow fresh fruit like this. Where did she even get the seeds? If the government knew she was using water rations to grow food without a permit, she could face jail time, even be exiled from base.
I’m contemplating destroying the fruit when a satisfying thought pops into my head. What a kick in the face it would be if the government knew food grown on base without a permit was being smuggled directly to the outsiders they refuse to provide rations to. Mom’s subtle act of defiance suddenly feels liberating.
I throw the backpack over one shoulder, clomp up the steps and cut through the drifting sand in our backyard toward the guard tower. It’s about a mile and a half hike to the barrier at the edge of Asik where the south guard tower stands. During the day, the hike would be brutal, especially on crutches, but the sun isn’t up and there’s still a comfortable chill to the desert air.
When I’m a few paces from the tower, a hostile voice hisses from inside my pants pocket, “Can you move any slower?”
I grumble and yank my CARDD from my pocket. Bruce’s flushed face on the screen is annoyed.
“Shut up, Bruce. You’d be slow, too, if you were crippled. Just have the gate open.”
“You sure you want to do this? Jeremy’s due back in like—”
“Shut up. I can do it.”
“Fine. You better make it fast, gimpy. Patrol goes out in half an hour,” Bruce says, pushing
a button on the device so the gate dematerializes.
“Right.” I shove past him and head straight across the room, around the center security desk
to the gate directly opposite the one I came through. It’s the only other barrier between the military base and what lies beyond. Bruce grabs one of my crutches and I nearly eat floor trying to keep my balance on the polished marble.
“What the fu—”
“Dude,” Bruce snaps, his dark eyebrows knitting in frustration. He presses a handful of letters into my hands. “I’ve got people out there, too, remember?”
“Right. Sorry.” I dip my head but keep moving. I should show more respect. Bruce was my superior at the beginning of basic. He, his father and twin brother, were summoned away right at the beginning of training to lead a mission in Brazil. Bruce was the sole survivor. He still refuses to talk about what went down out there. His uncle is the only one who really knows. He raised a big stink about what happened to Bruce, but it only got him kicked off base. That left Bruce alone with no other family members aside from an elderly grandmother with severe dementia. The only reason he stayed was so she’d still have family ties to the military and a safe place to sleep. She’d be thrown out in a heartbeat if he left. The decision to stay has weighed heavily on Bruce. Now he’s just another rifle-carrying body on base that will occasionally turn a blind eye to what I’m about to do. Hell, Bruce practically begged me a week ago. Jeremy would be the one to do this kind of reckless stuff, but with him gone…Bruce and I both know it’s illegal, but we also both have people on the outside now.