Chemical Numbers

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  • Published: 29 Oct 2013
  • Updated: 29 Sep 2014
  • Status: Complete
What if death didn't apply to you?

What if you could have infinite second chances at life?

That's what the Numbers seem to have, endless chances at life. They are mutants who come back to life every time they die. But, with the Numbers System in place, their chances of survival are zero. The Number System requires them to be tagged with numbers on their necks that drop as fifty more Numbers are executed each week using the chemical Agent-10, a chemical that strips Numbers of they're regenerative abilities.

Indie Caserento is a seventeen year old Number living with her sister, Adrian, in Manhattan. Working for a band of thieves has made them wealthier than most Numbers, but still on a count down to their deaths. They think they have a few more years left until their numbers are up, but when Adrian steals from the Monitors both of their numbers are dropped to zero. Their deaths seem imminent until the government makes them an offer that could change everything.

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2. Chapter 1

The air burns my lungs as I take a deep breath. From this high above the city the factory fumes are even stronger. Everything in Manhattan seems to be surrounded by the fumes and coated in a layer of soot from the factories.

A slight breeze runs across the rooftops snatching at my long hair and blowing the black strands in my face. I don't pay attention to the fumes or the hair that sticks to my face because I'm too busy watching something else. The free world.

It's beautiful with tall, glass towers and shining streets, while the buildings on this side of the water are crumbling and the streets filthy. New York is the name of the city on the other side of the water. I've heard Manhattan used to be a part of it, but now the two couldn't be further apart. Maybe not physically, but in the eyes of the people. We are two different worlds.

My eyes wonder back to the streets of my world, the rotting one. Numbers in their filthy, once white clothing hurry through the streets to get as much done as they can on the one day of the week they get off from the factories. That one day off also just so happens to be the day of the weekly executions.

The Court House, where the executions take place, is less than a block from the building I'm sitting on. It's easy to pick out when it's the only building not falling to pieces. I can see it perfectly from here; grand white columns supporting a steepled roof and polished marble steps leading up to the large, wooden door. There won't be a trial, just an execution. The grandeur of the Court House is just for show.

I bet the Monitors are out gathering 1 through 50 right now, well they are probably 0 by now or they will be soon. The Monitors will find them and activate the count down on the numbers tattooed on their necks. When that number hits zero a knock out drug will be released into their body from the area of the tattoo and they will be dragged to the Court House.

I have over eleven years until my number reaches zero and that's only if I don't get caught doing something illegal. Being a thief always leaves the chance of being caught. My number could drop all the way from 29584 to 0 if I were to get caught.

A shout from the streets below pulls me out of my dangerous thoughts about Monitors and Numbers. When I look back to the street below me I can see the source of the shouting, a Monitor, dressed in all black, is holding a young boy by the front of his shirt.

The Monitors shouting fills the toxic air. "You filthy street rat! You think you're better than us, eh?" He throws the poor kid on the ground and presses his foot to his chest so he can't run. "I'll teach you to shove your superior."

The Monitory pulls out a paper thin device and holds it up to the boys neck. I can't see the details from here, but I know what's happening. The Monitor is dropping the boy's number. The boy doesn't dare to resist the Monitor, probably hoping he will show him some mercy and not drop his number to zero. It's not like the Monitors have a problem with executing one more Number.

Tears trickle down the boy's dirt stained face making little trails through the filth. The Monitor finally lifts from the boy, who immediately scrambles to his feet. He didn't pass out, so the Monitor must not have dropped his number all the way to zero.

The Monitor spits on the boy before sauntering off to go harass more Numbers. The boy remains in the street and leans his back against one of the walls with tears coating his face. I feel guilty for not interfering, but my punishment would be just is bad, if not worse, than the boy's if I had.

The kid just stands there cowering with his hand pressed to his neck as if he's trying to keep in the few remaining digits he has left. There is nothing fair about the Numbers System, but then again it is meant to slowly exterminate the Numbers' population, while getting free labor out of it.

This just further reinforces the severity of punishment around here. If I get caught stealing not only will they drop my number to zero, but they probably won't even wait to drag me to the Court House to shoot me.

The breeze that had simply blown my hair earlier has picked up speed and I know it's time for me to get off the roof. I'd come back to life if the wind, by some chance, blew me off. But, that's not something I want to go through again. Coming back to life doesn't hurt, but it does change you. Every time a Numbers dies they come back a little less human and a little more violent. I've only died once and it was enough for me.

My legs swing over the side of the roof and my toes reach for the window sill of the eleventh floor apartment below me. The window sill brushes the tips of my white tennis shoes and I lower my feet all the way onto the window sill. I wrap my fingers around the edge of this window sill and lower myself down to the next. In just a few minutes I've reached the window of the fifth floor apartment I live in with my sister, Adrian.

The apartment is disgusting despite our attempts to keep it clean, but we've managed to keep out the rats and cockroaches that invade other apartments. Adrian stands in the tiny kitchen smearing soot from a cardboard box across her mandatory white clothing. We have a burglary tonight and the dirtier your clothes the better you blend into the night.

The burglary reminds me of the boy I just saw get robbed of part of his life and I can feel the fear rising in my throat. If I get caught, I die. It's not like I haven't done this dozens of times before, I've been a thief almost my entire time in Manhattan, it's just that each time I do a robbery I'm reminded of the risk that I'm taking and the danger I'm putting Adrian in.

"You going to hurry up?" Adrian asks me as she sees me standing by the window.

"Um, yea," I say as I break out of my haze of thought. "Just let me go get my usual clothes."

I go to the side room Adrian and I use for a bedroom and pull out the clothes I usually use for robberies. They're covered in dirt and soot, but I'll have to put more on just to make sure. When I walk out of the side room Adrian is ready and I have to hurry so that we won't be late.

Instead of going out the front door we climb out the window and into the alley behind our apartment building, you never no if one of your neighbors is going to snitch on you for breaking curfew.

The alleys are virtually empty, no one is willing to throw anything out. How can anyone even think about wasting even the smallest scrap of cloth when they have so little? I bet the alleys in New York are full of perfectly good scraps of clothing and morsels of food.

The sun is already falling below the horizon sending glorious shades of red across the broken city. Soon it will be night and we will be able to easily move through the city without being caught.

 The only light besides that of the setting sun comes from the Ring. Though, it is technically illegal, the Monitors never interfere with the Ring mostly because the people that run it pay them off. The people that run the Ring are Numbers like everyone else, but they make a huge profit from the gambling at the Ring. The Monitors will even excuse curfew for those heading to or leaving the Ring because of how much they get paid.

The Ring is used for Numbers to gamble on fights. There are fighters at the Ring who get a cut of the money if they win. Being a fighter can get you a lot of money, but not just anyone can be a fighter. Before a person can become a fighter they must be picked by an actual fighter and become a prodigy. The fighter trains the prodigy, who also fights but for less money, until the fighter's number is picked. When that happens the prodigy takes their place and picks their own prodigy.

I probably could have become a fighter, I'm certaintly fast and strong enough to be one, but the band I thieves I work with offered me a job and money before any of the fighters. And besides the risk may be greater for thieves, but so is the rewards.

Adrain and I go far around the Ring to avoid being caught in its lights. It takes another few minutes of sneaking through empty alleys for us to reach the abandoned factory we're looking for. It looks exactly like any other rundown factory, but inside waits the band of thieves we work with. The doors are boarded up and the only way in is through a grate that leads into the factory's basement.

Adrian pulls the grate open and jumps into the darkness with me not far behind. She lands with a thud below me and then quickly moves out of the way so I don't land on top of her. The basement is just like it has been since  I started working with these thieves: walls covered in rough sketches of different warehouse in factories we've broken into in the past and filled with the various foods and clothing we've stolen in the past.

"Indie. Adrian. Glad you're here," says a tall woman with a nearly clean shaven head that has just a short amount of blonde hair growing out of it and a scar that stretches from behind her left ear to her left collar bone.

I look around the room and realize we're the last ones to arrive, again. "Um, sorry we're late, Maura. Won't happen again," I say hastily.

"Don't worry about it," she says with a slight smile. Maura may look like one of the most intimidating people I've ever met, and she sometimes is, but she's generally pretty nice and lenient.

Adrian and I take a seat at a table along with the other six thieves in our group, Brelis, Mallery, Kresum, Ross, and Joan. There are two drawings laid out on the table, one of a factory and another of a warehouse. Our targets for tonight.

"You gotta teach me how you get Maura to be so nice to you," Ross whispers to me from my right.

Before I can say anything Joan, who is sitting to my left, laughs. "It's cause she's Maura's favorite."

It's true that Maura like me a lot, not because I've been in the group the longest, but because I'm the only hacker in our band of thieves and maybe the best in Manhattan. Maura used to be a hacker before she took over the leadership role and I think that's why she likes me so much. Ross and Joan, the only two people I'd even mildly consider to be my friends, love to give me crap about being the favorite.

Ross and Joan have a little laughing fit before Maura motions for them to be quite and begins speaking. "As you already know from last meeting we are breaking into a food warehouse and a clothing factory. The warehouse will have less security since it's only storing food supplies for Numbers, but the factory makes clothes for the rest of the Dynasty meaning it will have a lot more security," she stops and looks at all of us to make sure we understand what she's saying. "Indie, Ross, Mallery, and Joan will be in charge of breaking into the factory and I want Brelis, Kresum, and Adrian on the warehouse. I'll be here waiting for Indie to hack into the surveillance in the factory, so I can monitor what's happening. And you guys already no how to contact me."

We all nod our heads because we've heard this speech a dozen time before and Maura sighs before dismissing us. I head to one of the supply closets to get a few things I'll need for hacking, while Ross, Joan, and Mallery wait for me. Ross and Joan shove each other playfully while Mallery just stands there quietly. Mallery is the kind of girl you'd expect to see on the cover of a magazine, big blue eyes, long blonde hair, and the perfect smile always plastered on her face. Yet, she never smiles and barely ever speaks. She's good at her job and I guess that's all that matters.

When I've put all of my supplies in a small, black backpack we climb up through the grate and make out way towards the factory. It's dark enough now that we can walk just about anywhere and not be seen, but we stick to the shadows of the buildings anyways.

We reach the factory relatively quickly and crouch in the shadows watching the building. Each of us taking as much information about the building as possible, where the exits are, how many security cameras are on the outside of the building, and much more. The night is completely still as we watch several Monitors patrol the inside if the building through the windows. This was going to be harder than I thought it'd be.

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