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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11. Chapter 10

Simoran leaves for her night shift only an hour or so after the Sweep, she has to take the night off from the Ring, but Grey can still go. With both of them gone I'm left alone in the dingy, cramped apartment.

My fingers clutch the edge of the couch and my feet tap nervous patterns on the ground. I hate to admit, but I feel exposed without Simoran or Grey here to hide me if they have to. Being apart of a team is what I'm used to, and I guess they're my new tea now, but it still feels wrong to be alone.

Looking back on that half a day alone on the street, it seems obvious why being alone is a bad thing. Then again, thinking about my time in the Court House makes me think that there are worse people to be with than yourself.

Darting to the window, my eyes search the empty alley where I had been laying in a pool of my own blood only two days ago. That day feels like it happened months ago, the day before that years ago, and the days before that are a completely different lifetime.

No Monitors lurk in the shadows of the alley, at least not any that I can see, there are only mountains of trash filling the dark stretch of pavement. The rain from yesterday has washed away the dried up blood in the alley, erasing any signs that I was ever there.

The dark shadows slowly elongate as the time flies by. I register the shift in time, but my mind is to busy to care about things like lost time, it's caught up in the past, like it has been these last few days, rather than the present.

Every muscle in my body stiffens when I think about how I got here. I left Adrian to save myself, that's how I got here. If I hadn't been such a coward or if I had actually taken a moment to think about the consequences of my actions, then she might still be alive. There is no doubt in my mind that they killed her because of what I did.

I should have just gone along with what they wanted me to do, at least until I found Adrian and figured out a way to get both of us out of there, but I didn't. Adrian had to pay for my careless decision.

The sound of bullets whizzing through the air mixes together with the sound of Adrian's name echoing off the bright walls of the Court House

Salty tears trickle down my cheeks burning my dry skin as they go. The liquid drips of my chin and splashes onto my dirty clothes. With everything that has happened these last few days I feel like I haven't had any time to mourn my sister. 

She was the only constant in my life, she filled the gap of time between when my dad died and when we first met Maura. That was the four years or so when we first came to Manhattan and were trying to figure out how this new world worked.

Surprisingly the Monitors hadn't been cruel enough to just throw two kids on the street, they assigned, more like forced another Number named Sol to watch over us. Sol wasn't exactly the ideal caretaker. He wasn't particularly mean, more forgetful than anything.

He often forgot to go pick up supplies during he allotted hours and when I finally reminded him to go get it, it was too late and the Monitors wouldn't give it to us until the next pick up day. Which meant we'd sometimes have to make one weeks worth of supplies last two.

Those were the hardest times because Sol worked often and Adrian and I were to young to work, so we had to wait for him to come home from his all day shift. Adrian was the only reason I got through those times and now she's not here to comfort me any more. 

I had started taking up stealing after three years like that. When Sol had the night shift I'd sneak out of the apartment and break into some of the old supply warehouses, the ones they hadn't upgraded in a while and tended to store less supplies in. That's how Maura first noticed me. 

One night, back when the only person working with Maura was Mallery, I broke into a larger warehouse, a step up from my usual basic robberies. I had been ten at the time and had been doing some pretty basic robberies for just under a year, but being the stupid kid I was, I made a careless mistake when breaking in. Most of the old warehouses just had a basic alarm system that went off when a door was opened at night, but they had very few Monitors patrolling them making it easy for me to get in and out before more could arrive. This warehouse had been different, it was full of surveillance and Monitors, like the factory I had broken into right before everything went to crap.

 One of the Monitors watching the surveillance quickly spotted me and sent a group of Monitors after me before I even knew I had been spotted. I wouldn't have made it out if Maura and Mallery hadn't been robbing the same warehouse. They helped me escape through any air vent and after that everything changed.

We still had to live with Sol until I was 13 and the government decided I was old enough to both work and take care of Adrian, but Maura taught us both how to get by. 

It still took four dark years of being alone to find someone who'd really look after us. There were four years where it felt like it was just me and Adrian. She was the only reason I got through those four years. If I hadn't had her then I think I would have just given up, but she gave me a purpose. My purpose became looking after her.

My eyes are blurry from the tears and my ears still filled with the sound of Adrian's name coming out of my mouth in a scream. It's not until the sound of smashing glass replaces the scream in my mind, do I notice the kid that just jumped through the window.

My first reaction is to wipe my tears out of my eyes, wouldn't want the intruder to see me crying. The kid looks at me with narrowed brown eyes that would look like a warm cup of coffee if not for the death glare he was giving me.

I jump to my feet only a moment after his feet hit the ground further crunching the shards of glass, but it's a moment too late. The kid grabs the most valuable looking thing in the apartment, a small, rusted silver necklace that must belong to Simoran, and jumps back through the window and onto the fire escape.

I swear under my breath as I follow the kid through the window where small drops of my blood mix with little bit he's left behind as the shards bite into my palm. The kid doesn't even bother going down the ladders, he just swings from the rail and jumps the two stories to the ground.

He's obviously an amateur thief since he broke into a Number's apartment instead of a warehouse, especially if he didn't even think to look in the windows to see if there was anyone inside, but he's definitely fast. The kid is already half way down the alley by the time I jump over the rail. He may be fast, but I have a feeling I'm faster and much more experienced.

I sprint almost silently across the alley quickly closing in on the kid despite my injured leg. He turns around to see how close I've gotten and when he sees me a look of panic crosses his face. 

'Good,' I think. 'The more panicked he gets, the more sloppy he gets.'

We reach the end of the alley and the kid takes a sharp turn. I sprint around the corner just in time to see the heel of his typical white sneakers, that every Number has, disappear around the next corner.

The chase goes on for a good five minutes, me constantly drawing closer to the kid. I know I wasn't supposed to leave the apartment, but I feel alive for the first time in days and, besides, I have to get that necklace back.

I finally corner the kid in a dead end alley. Grabbing him by the shoulder, I force him to turn around and leave my palm out, demanding the necklace. His expression is not at all what I expected, his eyes shine with glee and his mouth upturned in an irritating smirk. His smirk only grows bigger when he sees the confusion on my face.

All the air leaves my lungs as I'm slammed against the brick wall. The hard brick presses against my back as the smirking thief watches his friend hold me against the wall. This new guy is absolutely massive, at least six feet tall and pure muscle. Another person stands behind these two idiots, a girl with bright red hair and with absolutely no muscle or fat on her body.

"Tell us where you keep your stash!" The girl demands in a voice that reminds me of a squeaking rat.

"What stash?" I say in return even though I'm pretty sure I know what she's talking about.

"We know you work for that scum Maura," the massive guy pinning me to the wall bellows.

The kid who originally chased down the alley just stands off to the side with a big smile on his face. I get the feeling he's the brains of this group. It was a clever plan, but not something I haven't seen before. I should have seen this trap coming, but I was to caught up in the chase.

"I don't know what your talking about," I spit in the guy's face. Maura and I may not be on the best of terms, but I wasn't going to rat her out.

The guy's face turns red  and he lets go of one of my shoulders to press his forearm against my throat. "Want to do that again?" He growls.

I try to answer, but no words can escape my throat. 

The rat girl has a satisfied look on her face as she continues the interrogation. "It's no secret that Maura's group of thieves are the best in the city, after all Maura herself was an ex-con before she came here," she squeaks out. "She has more than she needs and we just want our share."

The big guy lift his arm from my throat just long enough for me to answer."What makes you think I work for her?" I ask, though; I want to scream that she doesn't deserve anything. This kind of theft is low, something I never resorted to. It's one thing to steal from the Monitors and the government, but trapping one of your own in an alley and trying to take from them is just cold. 

The girl lets out a snort of laughter. "We've seen you with her before. You spend to much time with her not to be working with her." It's true that I spend a lot of time with her, even outside of work, but this doesn't seem like there only reason for targeting me.

"And why did you choose to go after me?" I don't even try to deny working with Maura anymore, they won't believe me no matter what.

"We didn't originally target you. We followed the smaller girl with the brown hair first after we saw her with Maura at the Ring." I shut my eyes thinking about them following Casprie. "But right before we were going to break into her apartment the Monitors swarmed the complex. We didn't know how to find any of the others we'd seen with Maura until Kern here." She gesture to the smirking boy. "Saw you go into that apartment with that other kid."

I had been praying no one saw me go into the apartment, but apparently this kid did. They must not know I'm wanted by the Monitors or hey wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. "I honestly don't know where it is. Maura doesn't tell anyone."

"Really?" The guy pinning me to the wall barks. "Then where do you bring the things you steal?" 

I shrug as much as I can while being pinned to a wall. "We leave them with Maura and she does whatever she wants with them after she gives us our cut."

"I don't believe you," the little thief says in a dark voice. Even his friends look up in shock, it's the first thing I've heard him say since he broke into the apartment.

Something about his warm eyes that still manage to look calculating makes me feel like he already knows, like he just wants to make me say it. It also makes me want to strangle the kid, I have enough problems already, I don't need his crap.

"It doesn't matter if you believe me. It's the truth," I launch back.

The kid tilts his head in a way that makes me feel like bacteria under a microscope. "Actually it does matter if I believe you, my friend will hold you here as long as it takes for you to tell us." The monstrous guy grins in agreement. 

My mind whirs with all of the possible outcomes, something that years of stealing has taught me to do. I grit my teeth as I come to a conclusion, I can't beat these guys in a fight, I'll have to give them what they want or make them think I'm going to give them what they want. 

"Alright, I'll tell," I say to them, a plan already forming in my head. 

"No you're going to show us exactly where it is," the girl snarls.

I try to make my voice sound as weak as possible, like I've already given up. "Okay, follow me."

The guy lets me up from the wall and immediately grabs both of my wrists and pins them behind my back, though; it won't make a difference, as soon as we get out in the open I just need to get out of his grip to escape. 

I start moving foreword and they follow me. The girl watches me with a scowl, while the smirking kid just looks at me with curiosity. To him I'm probably some fascinating creature he's keen to watch. 

I imagine the streets of Manhattan in my mind and know exactly where to go, somewhere open, but away from the sights of the Monitors and even other Numbers.

It would take me only a few minutes to reach this place on my own, but the lumbering idiot pinning my hands behind my back can walk in a straight line. The other two might be able to keep up with me, but he definitely can't.

I stop as the streets give way to garbage filled sand and pretend like I'm looking for something specific. With a nod of my head I gesture down the beach where rows of shacks stand. "This way," I tell them with certainty.

The smirking kid's eyes narrow, not in anger, but in question. It feels like he knows I'm lying, yet he doesn't say anything so I keep going.

I carefully choose a shed that's close enough to an alley to make a quick escape before saying, "She keeps it in here."

The kid bites his lip nervously as he watches my face and suddenly his eyes widen in surprise. "She's lying!"

Damn, this kid is good. The girl spins to face me, but I'm already in motion. My head swings backwards to make contact with the guy's nose at the same time my feet fly forward, using the massive guy's chest as support, and send the girl sprawling to he ground. 

The nose cracks under my skull and throbbing goes through my head. I may have broken his nose, but that will definitely leave a mark on he back of my head.

The guy lets go of my hands to grab his broken, bleeding nose, while the girl lays on the ground rubbing her head. The kid, Kern, looks at me with surprise and then anger. I take off sprinting towards the alley with him right on my tail.
 
He's a lot faster than he was earlier. He must have been going slower to ensure I wouldn't lose track of him. This time he goes all out. I force my feet to go as fast they can despite my injured leg.

I fly across the pavement, but I don't have to look back to know Kern is closing in on me. The buildings loom above me and an idea clicks into place. If I keep going like this he'll catch me for sure, but if I climb he might not be able to follow.

Whipping around a corner, I immediately find the hardest place to climb. It would be a struggle for me to climb even in my best condition, so I'm hoping Kern won't be able to follow.

The spot I chose to climb is far from any window sills or balconies. Even if he climbs using the windows I can easily just jump to the ground, while he waits for me at the top. My fingers struggle to get a grip on the thin edges of the brick as I begin to make my way upward. I only make it a few feet in he air when Kern hurries into the alley.

"Catch me if you can," I yell at him as he tries to figure out the best way to reach me.

Adrenaline pumps through my veins and I move a lot faster than I expected. I don't feel the rough stone bing into my already injured hands or the wind trying to knock me off the four story building. It's just Kern and me, cat and mouse. 

In five minutes I'm at the top of the building while Kern is only half way up using the window sills. Looks like the mouse won this time. Kern swears below me, but I don't stop to listen to him. Instead I jump from building to building on my way back to the apartment.

The window will be a little hard to explain to Grey and Simoran, I'll have to find a way to fix it. But, at least I won't have to worry about those three anymore. I don't think they'll want to come for me again, not after I injured two of them and humiliated all three of them.

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