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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18. Chapter 17

The sound of the gunshot echos off the walls of the nearby buildings. A faint thump can just be heard over the ringing in my ears, I have sick feeling that the thump was the sound of a body hitting the payment. Cano loosens his grip on my neck, temporarily distracted about what we all assumed has happened, someone is dead.

The blue gas hasn't cleared enough for me to see much, but it's hard to miss the crimson trickle of blood making it's way towards us on the slanted street. Who's blood is it? Kern's? Adrian's? Mallery's? Or Venaree's? I'm praying that it was the latter.

My vision is still black around the edges and blurry, so Cano must see something that I can't quit make out because his entire body goes rigid and he drops my already bruised body to the ground. I manage to catch myself with my hands instead of landing completely on my tail bone.

Each breath I take in fills me with pain. It's a struggle to breath, the same way it is a struggle to run a marathon; it hurts like hell and I have to remind myself not to stop. First trying to get the air through my severely bruised and previously suffocated throat and then trying to fill my lungs, which feel like they've been crushed under a boulder, is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Cano moves slowly through the fog to where the trickle of blood is coming. The sound of a bullet going into the chamber stops him in his tracks. "You better run like hell if you want to live," a voice croaks through the fog.

I could tell it was a girl talking, but I don't know who it was or who they're talking to. It could be Mallery or Adrian and they're talking to Cano or it could be Venaree talking to one of us who is not dead. Cano must know who is talking because his face twists into surprise and fear as he takes a step and then he turns on his tail and flees.

He runs right past me without a second glance. A moment ago he was going to rip my throat out and  now he's running away. Is it too much to hope that it's Venaree who is dead? No, I should hope no one is dead. Venaree wasn't a good person, but she didn't deserve to die. Yet, as the gas dissipates, I can make out the form of a narrow body crumpled on the ground like an unwanted newspaper left to wither away in the rain. The body, like the voice that scared Cano away, is that of a girl. It's to soon to tell who it is.

Taking in a deep, painful breath I shakily get to my feet. The air wheezes in and out of my lungs with much effort, but I manage to shuffle towards the body where someone is already crouched next to it. I fall to my knees next to the cold limbs of a young girl. Her hair is spilling out of the bun on top of her head, as red as the blood that will never wash out of the pavement.

There is a whole in her chest where her heart is. It was a fast death. A painless one. Something that by all of the odds should not have happened. What are the chances that she would have ever been born? Virtually zero. The probability that she would have been born a Number? Less than 1%. The likely hood that the government would have even found her and sent her to this island? Depends on who you ask. That the same government who condemned her would use her to do there dirty work? Something I don't even know how to calculate.  The chance that Kern would have stolen the gun that killed her or used her only weakness? There is no way to know. But, no matter how you put it, the chances of her dying at this very moment of time are virtually zero, yet here is her body laying out in front of me. Her glassy eyes watch something she can't see and her mouth hangs open like she's trying to utter the last words she never got to speak.

On the other side of the body is her killer. Someone who I have come to trust. She took away someone's life, someone who wasn't supposed to be able to die. But, I won't blame her for making this improbable moment probable. Behind every unjust action is a reason. That reason can never make the action just, but sometimes that reason was unavoidable. The girl with the blood on her hands just stares at the limp body with her blonde hair hanging in her face hiding the expression she wears.

"Mallery?" I whisper quietly as Kern and Adrian slowly find us in the still clearing gas.

She looks up, her face bitter and twisted and tears trickling down her face. "I had to do it. If I let her take the gun she would have killed me," she pleads like I'm her judge and jury.

"I understand," I say, though; I'm not sure if I do. I almost let Cano kill me so that the others would be safe. How do you choose whose life means more? I decided that everyone else's lives were more valuable than my own. Mallery decided that hers was more valuable than Venaree's. I'm not saying she's wrong, I'm disgustingly glad that it's Venaree's body and not hers, but I'm just wondering how you weigh a life.

"Sometimes we have to make decisions that effect the entire balance of society. You had to make one of those decisions," Kern says kneeling next to Mallery, who's as tense as wire. "When it comes down to it we usually have choose between logic and humanity. Humanity often seems like the better decision at the time, but it always bites us in the ass later down the road. Then there is logic. Logic is putting your own fears and guilt behind you and choosing what you know will be the better outcome. You chose logic. You put the fear or blood on your hands and the guilt of killing another person behind you. It may not seem like it now, but you made the right decision. You may have saved thousands of Numbers by making the decision you did. Logic rules over humanity always.

I once again see how clever Kern is. He appealed to Mallery's dominant trait, logic. The bitter look on her face dissolves, though; the tears remain. Logic has won Mallery over yet again. Kern puts his arm around her and helps her get to her feet.

Adrian studies the body like she can't quiet wrap her mind around it. Numbers die every week, but not like this. We don't kill each other. This is a lot for anyone to take in. Adrian sees me wheezing on the ground and comes to help me to my feet.

"You alright?" she asks.

I cough a little and my hand comes away sprinkled with blood, I tuck it behind my back to hide it from my sister who has been traumatized enough already. "I'm good."

She pulls me into a tight lung that hurts my injured chest. I hug her back afraid to let go. Maybe if I hold on forever nothing bad will happen to her. It's a nice thought.

"Shit!" Kern swears ahead of us before turning to look at us. "Cano must have called in the Monitors."

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