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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13. Chapter 12

It was only an hour or so after my conversation with Grey that Simoran came back from her night shift. I honestly didn't have the guts to tell her about the necklace, other people's emotions are not something I'm too keen to deal with. Grey told her about it instead.

I couldn't hear them talking from where I sat in the living room, but I saw the look on her face. She was devastated. She didn't get angry at me or even cry, that I know of, but she immediatley went to bed after that without saying a word to me.

That was two days ago. I've spent the last two days in the apartment while Grey and Simoran go between work and the Ring. Simoran hasn't braughten up the necklace at all, but I can tell it still bothers her. I still plan on getting it back for her, though; it won't be easy. It's not like I can call up monster boy, rat girl, and the kid to ask for it back. No one even has a phone on this island.

A door creaks open behind me and I look up to see Simoran leaving the bedroom she shares with her brother. Her bright eyes seem eerily cat like in the darkness.

"Did I wake you up?" she asks quietly.

I shake my head before realizing she can't see me. "No, I can't sleep."

"Well, I'm going to do some warm ups at the Ring, want to come?" she says.

"Is Grey coming?" I ask instead of answering. It's about ten o'clock now, I was going to try to catch up on some sleep, but I doubt that will happen.

"Not yet, he'll come just before the fights begin. He doesn't like to do his warm ups at the Ring," she replies and her eyes, the only part of her I can see in the darkness, flicker toward the bedroom where Grey must still be sleeping.

"Yeah, I'll come," I say without asking any more questions. For some reason I'm glad it will be just Simoran and me.

I really shouldn't be going out with everything that's happened, but right now I don't care. I've been stuck in this place for two full days without stepping outside once and there is absolutley nothing to fo in here. To be safe I pull my hair out of its ponytail and carefully poition is so that it covers up the zero inked into my skin.

She pulls on a thin white hoody, standard Number attire, that's speckled with dirt, but surprising clean, and tosses me an extra jacket. I pull the thin material over my arms, though; it's a bit tight since I'm at least three inches taller than Simoran. She opens the door as quietly as possible and slips into the night with me right behind her.

The mid January weather calls for something much warmer than a hoodie. The wind isn't too bad tonight and it hasn't snowed since before my number was dropped to zero, but I can still feel an icy chill through the jacket.

Mid January, for some reason this surprises me. I hadn't really thought about the date in a while, but it's almost my birthday. February 18th, which, unfortunatley for me, it is also the "birthday" of the Axis Dynasty. It's the day the first ruler of the Dysnasty, Demitria Axis, dismantled the legislative and judicial branches of the United States to create a dictorial country. Of course, it's not that simple. It took years for her to create the country from the ground up and to unify the people. Again unfortunatley for me, she used the almost universal hatred for Numbers to unite the people. She promised to exterminate us, something the old government would never even have thought of doing. That happened over one hundred years ago, but I still hate the long dead woman.

When we arrive at the Ring it's a ghost town compared to the night I saw Simoran fight. A few fighters and prodigies are warming up, but besides that it's empty. Simoran leads the way into the massive warehouse and a bunch of the people stop what they're doing to say hello to her. I thought the fighting industry would be just as much of a dog eat dog world as the theiving one. In the thieving line of work you can only trust the people in your group, if you have one, and even that's a little sketchy. No group trusts another group and you have to be careful who you let yourself rely on. I guess in the fighting world as long as you beating the crap of another person isn't personal, it's okay.

A girl who towers over even me and a younger boy not much shorter make there way towards us when they see Simoran. Both of them have goofy grins on their faces like they just pulled the world's best prank and can barely contain their laughter.

"Hey, Simoran!" the boy calls out as they get closer to us.

"Hey!" she calls back and waves at them excitedly. I really don't understand how this whole Ring thing works. Why is everyone so excited?

The pair stop in front of us still wearing their matching smiles. From it was hard to tell, but now that they are up close I can tell they are related. The girl has brown hair verging on red, while the boy's is darker brown, kind of like coffee. And their eyes are opposite ends of the spectrum, hers are practically black, while his are the color of fog rolling over the ocean, such a light gray that it almost seems white. But their facial features are nearly identical, strong jaw lines, thin lips, and button noses. The combination of features seems weird, but suits the pair well.

"Indie," Simoran says to me. "This is Dede and Pinrer. Dede's a fighter and Pinrer is her cousin and prodigy." I had assumed they were siblings, but cousins was a better explantion for their different eye and hair colors. "Dede, Pinrer, this is Indie."

"She new?" Dede asks bluntly.

The question was directed at Simoran, but I go ahead and answer. "Umm, no. I'm not a fighter, just a friend."

"If you're not a fighter, then what are you? A thief or a gambler?" Pinrer asks not bluntly like his cousin, but more curiously.

"I'm not sure it really matters," I say in return.

"Fair enough."

"Are you ready for your fight?" Simoran asks Dede possibly to end the awkward conversation I was having with Pinrer.

"Yeah, if I beat Mark tonight then I move up to the number three spot. That would only put me two spots behind your brother. I hope you don't if I beat him up because I'll fight him again sooner or later," Dede replies jokingly.

Simoran laughs brightly. "Trust me, I don't mind at all. He needs to be knocked around every once and awhile."

All three of them laugh and I force myself to smile a bit. I'm not used to this kind of social interaction. Dede and Pinrer wave goodbye so they can finish warming up, which leaves me alone with Simoran again.

"They seem nice," I say for the sake of avoiding awkward silence.

"They are," she agrees. "Pinrer is one of my least favorite people to fight. I always feel guilty when I hurt him."

"Well, I guess it's just part of your job," I say.

Her lips press together as if she is having an unpleasant thought. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."

"No, you don't," I agree.

"Did you like it?" she asks after a moment of silence.

"Like what?"

"Being a thief," she says without looking at me, her eyes are locked onto a couple of fighters warming up.

I shrug not really sure what kind of answer I should give. Would it make her to feel better to tell her that I disliked my work as a thief as much as she dislikes her work as a fighter or should I be optimistic and tell her that there are better ways to make a living? In the end I just decide to tell her the truth. "I really did like it, no wait, I loved it. And do you want to know why I loved it?"

She nods her head for me to continue. "Because it was an oppurtunity to show that we can take from them too. That they aren't invulnerable to us and we can affect their lives too. Sure, what we took wasn't as valuable as what they take from us, but it was something. It showed that we don't need them to survive, but they need us. Where would they get all of that food and clothing if it weren't for the factories we work in? They'd have to do it themselves and I don't think they'd be able to do it without us, but we can sure as hell do it without them. It's a one way system and unfortunately they are on the receiving end of it."

I don't say it, but I left a piece out of my speech. They don't need us. At least not like they used to. That's why they want to start a war among us anyways, to finish us off. They have their fancy machines in the free world, so why not just exterminate what you don't need anymore? This thought leaves me sick to my stomach. I guess I forgot I have a war to stop.

"Wow," Simoran says breaking me from my sudden pessimism. "I didn't know you were that passionate about stealing."

I smile at her. "I thought we came here so you could warm up or were you just in the mood to waste my time?"

"Depends, does having your time wasted annoy you?" she asks jokingly.

"No, what really annoys me are teenage girls who aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing what they're supposed to be doing," I say with a look of mock disappointment.

She laughs again which eases a bit of the tension that came with thinking about war and then runs off to do some stretches, or whatever, with a few other people.

It doesn't take long for the Ring to start filling up as Numbers come to bid part of their salary on a meaningless fight or just to watch, which almost seem worse to me.

"Hey," a breathless voice says from behind me.

I turn around to see Grey already slightly sweaty from whatever warms he did. "Hey. Did you run here?"

"I'd call it more of a sprint," he replies still a little out of breath.

"Because you were almost late," I say not as a question, but as a statement. The fights are about to start and he just got here.

"Maybe I was just in a hurry to see your smiling face. To bad your glaring at me." he says with a goofy grin that could give Dede and Pinrer's smiles a run for their money.

"And that explains why your late?" I say as a small smile slips onto my face, his good mood is contagious.

"See! Now you're smiling!" he says happily and dodges the question.

"Well, the fights are about to begin, so you better go," I say still smiling. He gives me another big smile and then lips into the crowd.

I can't see over anyone's head, but it doesn't bother me, I'm not really in the mood to watch. There is a small nearly empty corners were a few people were still taking bets, so I decide to sit there to get away from the over bearing crowd.

There is distance between me and the crowd, but I can still hear them roar when ever someone gets a hit in as if they were screaming in my ear. With my eyes closed, I try to block them out so I can just think. I've lost sight of what got me into this situation in the first place.

Losing what I had come to consider as my normal life and then the only person I care about isn't really what put me in this situation, it's the impending war. I don't know what I can do to stop it, but there has to be a way I can. If not then there will be no more run down apartment or overcrowded Ring. There won't be any warehouses to steal from or streets to push through. Sure, all of these things will still be there long after the Numbers are gone, but they will have lost their meaning. An object only has a meaning as long as there is someone to give it a meaning. Animals may use the old warehouses as a place to stay warm and the streets as a place to scavenge through, but will they understand what the purpose of a street or warehouse is? Will they be able to create something out of just paved roads and four walls? No, to an animal that's all they will ever be. They won't be a home or place to meet up with your friends. They will have lost their meaning.

These are the kind of thoughts that make someone realize why humans really exist. Some people believe that humans are completely insignificant, that our lives come and go with no real change or purpose, but maybe our purpose is to give meaning to things that once had no meaning. To give a purpose to creation. It's strange how thoughts of war turned into ideas about the meaning of life.

I watch everyone in the crowded room. They all have meaning. There is a purpose to they're existence. I can't just let these people die. I have to so something to save them. Maybe that's my purpose, to save these people so they can continue to give meaning to the world. Yeah, that sounds like a nice purpose in life.

Out of the corner of the eye I see something that both startles me and amazes me. A pair of shockingly blue eyes observe me from the center of the crowd. I can't see the body they are a part of, just a bit of  skin surrounding the eyes and the start of a nose, but I don't need to. I know exactly who it is and I honestly don't believe it.

When the person sees me staring back they turn around and head for one of the exits. I follow without question wondering if this is some kind of trick or if I'm just going crazy. Probably the latter, sometimes I feel like a crazy person.

The exit leads into a dark alley filled with garbage, but there isn't anyone out there. The door shuts with a soft thump. Still no one comes out. An echo fills the alley as I walk away from the Ring.

"Indie," a rushed whisper comes from farther down the alley. My heart stops in my chest and it's all I can do to not sprint down the alley.

A girl with hair the color of coal and eyes like the sky peeks her head out from behind a corner with the most beautiful smile I've ever seen on her face. A choked sob rises from my throat. I can't believe she's here in the flesh and blood. It's not a trick and I'm not crazy. It's actually her.

She steps all the way from behind the corner dressed in a clean, white pair shirt and pants, which strikes me as odd, but I'm far to happy to care. She looks healthier than I have ever seen her. Her cheek bones don't stick out from her face as much and she's gained a little wait.

I can't contain myself anymore and sprint forward wrapping her in my arms. I hold on tight and promise myself to never, ever let go of her again.

"Indie," she says into my hair her voice so filled with happiness and melancholy at the same time.

I take a deep breath trying not to cry all over her clean, white clothes. "Adrian," I reply.

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