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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17. Chapter 16

Gravity pulls at the bottom of my feet as they hang over the edge of the building. I told Grey, Simoran, and Adrian that I was coming up here, but I think only Adrian understood. This is where I come when I just want to think. It's more relaxing when it pouring rain, but I'll take what I can get.

New York seems even further away than last time I was sitting on a roof. A fog has rolled over the city across the water, so that I can just make out the glass buildings it is so famous for, though; it's not nearly as beautiful as Mexico City. Under Demitria Axis's rule they rebuilt that city from the ground up and it's the most technologically advanced city in the world. New York pales in comparison. The boats patrolling the waters make it look a bit like a prison, even though it's this side that's a prison and those boats are meant to keep Numbers from escaping.

What did we ever do to earn our place in this city prison? It's painfully simple. We were born differently than other humans. We didn't have to commit any crimes, we just had to born a certain way. People are afraid of those who are different and they are petrified of change. It only took one person to us that fear to gain power and to doom an entire group of people. People are so willing to blindly follow any one promising protection from what they fear.

Adrian's head pops out of one of the windows below me signaling that it's almost time to go. The sun has already set and the moons light gives the fog a silver glow making it appear supernatural and unearthly.

When I swing into the window Adrian is already waiting for me in her usual thieving style. Soot and dirt she gathered from the streets cover her clothes that were a pristine white when I found her.

I swallow down the lump in my throat that's been forming in ever since I let Adrian talk me into this dangerously stupid plan. God, if Adrian dies. If I lose my little sister again I don't know what I'd do. If they find us I know I'll do anything to keep them away from her.

"Indie," her feathery voice says intruding on my thoughts. "Indie, come on. You gotta get ready."

"Right," I mumble and grab the bag she filled with dirt from outside and cover my clothes and face with it.

"You alright?" she asks me.

"I'm fine," I say half to myself.

"Okay," she says giving me a strange sideways glance. "Let's go."

Adrian's toes lightly tap down the stairs until we hit the street and she quickly sneaks into the shadows. I follow her and press my back against the brick wall of the apartment building. The cold leeches out of the rough wall and finds itself deep inside me making me shiver from head to toe.

The blue orbs of Adrian's eyes light up with little twinkling stars as they look at me for conformation. I nod my head towards the street to our right and she nods back in comformation before trailing me further into the shadows. Ross's apartment isn't far from here, but I'm cautious anyways.

Nothing disturbs us as we make our way to Ross's place. There isn't a single Monitor or Number anywhere. They are all at the Ring, the Numbers to watch and the Monitors to keep tabs on the Numbers.

It's not long until we reach the building one of my best friends, the one still alive hopefully, lives in. Ross always hated the Ring so he should be home, but if he's not I don't know what I'll do.

Adrian and I move up the staris quietly not wanting to alarm Ross if he is home by bursting through the window, but not wanting to alert any neighbors who may be home.

As soon as I get to the door it's clear something is wrong. The wood around the handle is broken as if someone kicked in the door. Adrian looks at me with surprise written all over her face. She thought that Ross was safe, that they didn't know where he was, but it looks like she was wrong.

I push on the door lightly and it swings open with ease, I have to make sure that the actually took him and he didn't escape. I pray to God that he escaped. We make our way slowly into the apartment not knowing what to expect inside.

Pairs of muddy footprints trail the small hallway leading room, but nothing seems out of place yet. All of my muscles tense as I step out of the hallway and into the living room/kitchen area. The small wooden table where he eats, one of the scarce pieces of furniture, is in pieces on the floor. The frail wood must have crumpled under some sort of weight. The matching chair to the table is laying on the floor and a lamp lays shattered on the ground.

I can see it in my head. Ross was probably sitting at the table when he heard the sound of shattering wood. He probably stood up quickly knocking over the chair before the Monitors marched down the hallway and into his living room. Knowing Ross he would have run for the window, but now I can see as I pull up on it that it's jammed. He couldn't get out. A Monitor probably grabbed him from behind and he fought back. One of them threw the other onto the table and it clapsed under the weight. A flailing limb could have easily knocked over the lamp as Ross continued to struggle. Either way, based on the number of boot prints, there were plenty of Monitors to keep him from escaping. No matter how the fight went down, he's gone, I'm certain of it.

"Shit," Adrian swears under her breath as she looks at the destroyed table.

Ross, Casprie, and I would come here after a long shift at the factories and play cards sometimes. I wasn't very good at it, I sucked actually, but it didn't matter. I was with my friends and that's what was important. Now that both of them are gone I'm not really sure what to do.

I thought that if I stayed away from them, then they'd be safe. That wasn't true. Maybe I should have come looking for them sooner. Or would they have just found me as well? I guess I'll never know.

"What do we do now?" Adrian says her voice quiet and fragile.

My faces scrunches up at the thought of doing anything but look for Ross. But, I just have to accept that he's not here and the chance that he managed to escape is minuscule. "We keep going," I tell her. "Look for anyone else that you remember from the list."

"The only other two people I remember from the list are Maura and Mallery," she says as she studies me, trying to judge exactly what I'm feeling.

"We'll look for Mallery," I decide.

"What about Maura?" Adrian asks.

"Maura can take care of herself for now. We'll find her later," I say, though I'm not sure if my decision is logical or if I'm still bitter about Maura abandoning me. Maura was someone I thought I could count on, the others even joked that I was her favorite, even though Mallery has always been her favorite, but I clearly don't mean that much to her. I won't abandon her like she abandoned me, but she certaintly isn't my top priority.

"Do you know where Mallery lives?" Adrian asks.

"Yeah," I say. I went to Mallery's place one time to bring her some supplies from the stash when she was sick, Maura gave me directions and I think I still know how to get there.

We leave the apartment as silently as we came. Everything seems to have shifted in a matter of minutes. Adrian had me convinced me that we could save not only Ross, but all of the Numbers, but that idea is shattered. Even if we had saved Ross, what would have stopped them from findiing other Numbers to do their dirty work?

 The streets are just as empty as they were before. We should have plenty of time considering the fights continue well past midnight. The shadows seem to watch us with lustful eyes like they can't wait to reveal who is hiding among them. A Monitor could be waiting around any corner with our pictures on his tablet alerting him to our criminal status.

I get turned around a few times trying to find Mallery's apartment and we are forced to move slowly to keep from being seen from Monitors and Numbers alike, but eventually I find the right street. Her complex is near the ocean on the side of Manhattan that faces away from the free world. For some reason this view of the open waves is much more appealing than the glass city behind me. I wonder how they treat Numbers in the countries on the other side of this vast expanse of water. Are they treated like real humans or are they shunned and locked up like we are? I hope it's the former for their sake.

I lightly tap on her door hoping she'll hear it, if she is in fact here, so that I won't have to knock louder and risk alerting the neighbors to our presence. You never know who's a snitch.

Inside the light sound of feet against a floor slowly gets louder as someone moves towards the door. The door budges a bit before the rain warped wood gets stuck against the frame. The person inside yanks harder forcing the door to open all the way.

Mallery stands in the door frame with her hair sticking out at all angles like she just woke up. Her face is bent into a nasty looking snarl as she says, "What the hell do you want?" I forgot how little Mallery likes other people. Then a strange series of expressions flickers across her face: surprise, curiosity, and possibly relief. "Indie! Adrian! I thought-" she starts before she stopping abruptly like she's not sure if real or she's still asleep.

"You thought what?" I ask in a moment of curiosity. What did everyone think happened to me?

Mallery seems to have decided that she's actually awake and she's not dreaming because the look of relief, a strange look when Mallery's face is usually accompanied by a scowl. "Well, I thought you guys were dead. You didn't show up on the next heist day and Casprie went to your guys's apartment, but it had been taped off and there was a Monitor standing at the door. We all figured you two got your numbers dropped and were dead."

They thought I was dead. If everyone thinks you're dead then are you truly alive? No one thought of how I was doing or what I was up to because they thought I was thown in the furnace with all of the other bodies. I shake my head and force myself to think about what I need to do now. Save Mallery.

Adrian is nervously scratching her ear, a strange habit I don't remember her having. Then again Adrian has a lot of strange habits. I turn back to Mallery and say, "I don't have a lot of time to explain. Adrian and I were both dropped to zero." I pull my hair away from my neck to show Mallery the zero on my neck. "But, they didn't kill us. They wanted our help in starting a war. We escaped and now they're looking for you."

"Wait, what?" Mallery asks.

It's feels like we've been standing in the open for far too long now. even though no more than a minute or two has passed. "Trust me on this. We need to leave soon or they could find us."

"Actually, we need to leave right now," Adrian says suddenly her voice full of fear. I turn my head to look where she's looking and see three figure coming down the dark street. It's too dark to tell if they're Monitors yet, but who ever they are they're in an awfully big hurry. The trio runs down the street towards the apartment complex and I know Adrian's right, we need to leave now.

I grab Mallery's arm and pull her down the stairs and Adrian follows right behind us. The three figures have gotten a lot closer, but they're still too far away to tell if they're Monitors or Numbers.

Mallery's relieved expression has turned to the thoughtful one she gets when planning a heist. Her brow furrows inwards and her lips curve into a frown. She pulls her arm out of my hand and sprints down the last of the stairs. Her feet thunder across the pavement echoeing loudly in the narrow streets. I'm not sure what she's doing, but Mallery is pure logic and I'm pretty sure I can trust her judgement.

I follow behind her and Adrian trails me. The three people behind us have seen us by now and I'm certain they're following us. Two of them split off, one going down an alley to the right and the other going down an alley to the left, but the third one stays right behind. This one is definetly a boy and a small at that, he's either younger or just really short.

My leg and arm injuries have healed surprisingly well over the last week or so without any infection, but they still slow me down. Adrian and Mallery will move faster without me. If I could get the kid behind me to follow me, then Adrian and Mallery will have a better chance of escaping the other two if they change up their path.

"Change up your path," I say as loudly as I can while sprinting. "I'm going to stop the guy behind us."

"Indie, don't," Adrian says with a horrified expression. I turn around and she reaches for me, but Mallery understands and grabs Adrian's arm.

I run towards the boy as fast as I can. By now I can tell that he's definetly a Number, he wears the standard white clothes and is too young to be a Monitor. His feet shuffle in confusion when he sees me sprinting towards him, though; he gets control of himself quickly and starts running again.

I had been expecting him to try and get around me, but he stops right before we are about to crash into eachother and I tackle him to the ground. The kid doesn't even try to fight back as I pin him down and it's not till I have my knees pushing his shoulders to the ground that I recognize him. His warm, coffee brown eyes look up at me with the same happiness he wears with his smile. His coppery hair sticks to his young face with sweat. 

I don't even say anything. I just punch him in the face. His head snaps sideways and blood trickles down his chin, but he seems more amused than anything. I punch him again with more force and his head snaps in the other direction.

"You about done?" he asks while I seethe.

"You little bastard," I spit out.

"I don't appreciate that," he says his calm the opposite of my rage.

"You're here to take us in," I snarl my fists clenched at my sides itching to to bach in his nose of maybe knock a few teeth out.

He gives me a knowing smile and I have to restrain myself from hurting him. "I'm not here to turn you in. Quite the opposite actually."

"What? You're going to help us?" I say sarcastically.

"Exactly," he says.

"Like I can trust you. You should be giving me a reason not to bash your teeth out."

"Because it's very hard to talk without teeth and if I can't talk I can't help you," he says his swollen lips stretched into a smile.

I raise my fist ready to knock a few teeth out when he says, "Wait, let me explain." I look at him for a moment before lowering my fist. I'll punch him next time something stupid comes out of his mouth. "I know you know about the war plan."

"So, you are working for them?" I say.

"Yes, but no. Look I'm not an idiot as you already know and I realize that their going to kill me as soon as the rest of the Numbers are dead or when I stop being useful. I'm also selfish as you already know and I want to save my own ass. I figure the best way to do that is to keep them from getting what they want and finding people who can help me stop them."

Something about what he says rings true. Not just the part about him being selfish, but the part about actually wanting to stop them as well. Kern sees the hesitation on my face and continues, "If you need any more convincing, then I should probably tell you that Venaree and Cano are right on your friends trial. They're following them from the roofs and I know a place where you can hide."

My jaw clenches and I look down the street in the direction that Mallery and Adrian ran. "How did you find us?"

"Someone reported seeing you, I don't know who it was. We were just told to come down her and follow you," he says. "Look, if you don't accept my help, then you can go ahead and say goodbye to your friends."

This is going to be either the worst mistake of my life or the best decision I've ever made, I decide as I stand up and reach my hand out to help Kern up. He accepts my hand and gets to his feet.

"Now what?" I ask looking through the maze of streets.

Something pings at his side and he pulls out a tablet. "Venaree says they're closing in on them near the supply store on 22nd Street."

"We have to hurry," I mutter.

"Let's go," Kern says and takes off running.

I kind of forgot how fast he is until I have to keep up with him. He moves swiftly through the streets easily dodging dumptsters and street lamps. It's a struggle to even trail him and I doubt I could beat him even in perfect health.

It's only a few minutes before we reach 22nd but it feels like a normal human lifetime. Above me I see to figures sprinting across the roof tops and ahead of the two figure running across the ground, Mallery and Adrian. One of the people on the roofs, probably Venaree based on their size, motions to the other and they begin descending the buildings. I don't think Adrian and mallery have seen them, they'll be running head on into a trap.

Kern pulls something out of his pockets, it's spherical with a small blue bottom at the top. "What is that?" I ask him as I study the object.

"Agent-10 gas bomb," he explains gripping the device tightly.

"Are you crazy?" I scream as loud as I can through my burning lungs.

He shrugs and gives a small smile. "Do you have a better plan?"

I can't keep my eyes from the bomb in his hand, it contains the only thing in this world that will give him the ability to kill me. If he uses that thing he could easily turn on me. "How do I know you won't kill me?"

Kern keeps his eyes on the Cano, the monsterous boy, and Venaree, the rat girl, as they slowly creep down the side of the cracked walls. "I guess you better take this," he says and tosses me something.

I barely manage to catch the cold metal object. When it's in my hands I realize it's a standard issue Monitor handgun. I can't believe they gave Kern one. These things pack a powerful punch and just about anyone can aim one since they are virtually self aiming. You just lock onto your target using the screen in the back of the gun and fire, the gun adjusts itself so that the bullet will head straight towards the intended target.

"I stole it incase you were wondering," he says.

"Of course you did," I reply only half joking.

Mallery finally spots Cano and tries to turn herself and Adrian around, but the wall climbers have already hit the ground and are right behind them. Cano reaches out with his strong hands and grabs Mallery by the back of the shirt pulling her to the ground and bringing Adrian down with her.

"I guess I better use this," Kern says like he's not really sure he wants to, which I understand. He knows Venaree and Cano, this has to be a hard decision even if they aren't necessarily friends.

Kern presses the button on the top and lobs the sphere into the air. The smooth black surface makes it almost invisible in the night except for the now glowing blue button. It hits the ground and a burst of blue gas pours out of it filling the streets. A high pitch scream fills the air and it's impossible to tell who it was through the blue fog.

The street now looks like a much creepier version of the New York I saw earlier. The blue gas looks completely unnatural compared to the fog that rolled over the other city and that mixed with the sound of panicked feet and loud coughing makes it seem like something out of those horror movies my dad used to watch when I was a kid.

I remember watching from the stair once when my dad didn't know I was there. The movie had strange monsters that lived in this families basement and started killing people at night. No one survived that movie and I hope the scene before me won't end up like that since none of us will regenerate if we die.

The only person I can see is Kern. He looks as terrified as I feel despite the fact that he was the one who released out kryptonite. We make I contact and we both understand what we need to do. I press foreward into the gas where I'm virtually blind and begin feeling around for someone, anyone. If it's Mallery or Adrian I'll pull them out of the gas, if it's Venaree or Cano I'll have to shoot them. I don't plan on killing them, but it's impossible to say how things will go down.

My hand comes into contact with someone's arm and when I grab it I know I've made a mistake. The arm is much to thick and muscular to be Mallery's or Adrian's. That's the last thing that goes through my head before a fist slams into my stomach. My body fold into itself and the gun slips from my hand and clatters to the pavement.

It feels like I've ruptured something, though; I have no idea what it feels like to rupture an organ. What if it's one of my lungs? Or my pancreas? Either one could be deadly.

A foot collides with my folded arms and send me wheeling backwards. I slam to the pavement flat on my back. Cano hovers over me looking like an idiot. His arms are crossed and his face has the most arrogant smile. Kern can pull that off because he actually has a brain, Cano, on the other hand, does not.

I can't breath  as it is, but Cano only makes it worse by pressing his foot down on my ribcage. "Not so tough now are you, tricky girl?" he says in his baritone voice.

"Tricky girl. That's the best you could come up with?" I ask trying to keep him occupied. I need to give Kern time to find Mallery and Adrian.

"I atta crush ya like a bug," he says.

"Like I'm scared of a boy without a brain," I taunt. Venaree can't really hurt the others, but Cano can and he's to stupid to realize I'm trying to keep him distracted.

"What you say?" he demands. "That I have no brain?"

"You heard me, dummy," I say as I try to wiggle out from the crushing pressure of his foot.

"I may not be very smart, but I can kill you," he says before bending down and grabbing me by the neck.

His beefy hands wrap around my neck and pull me off the ground. 'I just need to stay here a little longer,' I tel myself. As soon as I can be sure Mallery and Adrian are safe I'll kick Cano in th face and get out of here.

Cano's fingers squeeze down on my neck, but I don't fight back. I'm hoping that if I don't fight back he won't squeeze as hard. Black starts rimming my vision when I hear the gunshot echoe through the gas filled streets.

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