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.


3. Chapter 2

The world around me is completely still. Nothing dares disturb the silence of the night almost as if the entire world is holding it's breath for what is about to happen. The moon is peeking over the edge of the building and I know if we stay here much longer the light will give us away.

Ross' dark eyes search the empty night for the perfect oppurtunity, watching the patterns of the Monitors and the rotation of the cameras. He must notice a specific pattern because he waves his hand in a gesture for us to follow him. We weave a complex loop avoiding being in the sight of the cameras or the Monitors inside until we are in a nook of the factory behind the nearest camera and away from any windows.

The wall of the factory, like most in Manhattan, is riddles with cracks and pock marks and will make for a decently easy climb. Ross goes first and Mallery and Joan follow leaving me to climb last with my backpack of hacking gear.

The wind is strong compared to the silence of only a few moments ago. It blows leaves and trash across the streets below. A crumpled flyer blows in the ally, it's bright pink color makes it stand out in this brown and grey world. It's the flyer we see every week after the executions, the one that reads, "Justice Served: Fifty More Numbers Executed this Week," followed by the names of those executed. Every time I see one of those flyers I say to myself, "Don't look, keep your head down, and wait for your turn on the chopping." That's my rule and I guess you could say that's the only way to survive here. Keep your head down, we're all going to die soon anyways.

The rough stone of the wall presses into my palms and brings back to the moment, my other rule is, "Destraction kills." That especially applies on a burglary like this. We make it to the roof and Joan pulls the cover off an air vent and climbs in with the rest of us behind her. The vent is clasterphobic and disgusting, it's clear they haven't cleaned it since Manhattan was abandoned.

Joan periodically checks through different vents looking for the one that leads into the security room. We move as silently as we can through the vents, so we draw the Monitors suspicions. The dust fills my nose and I have to resist the urge to sneeze, never know what the Monitors will hear.

After what feels like an hour, Joan stops over a grate and puts her hand up for us to stop. She pries the grate open without a sound and lands catlike on her feet behind a Monitor behind a desk. She wraps her arm around the womans neck and cuts off her oxygen until she passes out. The woman struggles for a moment and tries to scream, but no sound comes out and then she slumps on the floor. She won't remember this and if she does she won't know who to report.

Joan moves her limp body into the corner of the room and the rest of us jump into the room below. It's cramped with only one basic computer system that must run all the security in the factory. I open the door that leads into the main part of the factory a crack and look around. It's the standard clothing factory that Numbers work at, multiple floors for everything from manufacturing to packaging to shipping.

I close the door quietly and look to the others. They look back at me and I give a nod of my head signaling that it's safe to enter the factory. We move without having to communicate further. Ross and Joan smoothly open the door and glide into the factory without a sound, while I move to the computer.

Mallery stands behind me, watching the door with her hand on the knife at her hip. Mallery may be all bright looks on the outside, but there is something dark about her on the inside. She is one of the best fighters I've ever seen, but she still chooses to be a thief. And then there is her deadly speed. I don't know if she's ever killed anyone, but I know she could if she wanted to.

The computer is a simple processor that controls all the security cameras and access entries. All of the doors to the factory are locked at night and can only be opened by a retinal scan of a Monitor or someone else important, we got around it by going through the vent.

My fingers fly gracefully across the key board and within a minute I have control over just about everything in the factory. This computer controls more than just the cameras and entries, it also stores the shipment logs and can override the machinery.

Before I do anything else I skim through the footage of the last hour or so to make sure we weren't caught on camera, which we weren't, but if had been all I'd have to do is delete the footage and fill in the missing time with a repeat of another section of footage. To ensure that we won't get caught on camera later I set the cameras on loop, so they'll just play the same footage over and over again.

I pull a slip of paper out from my pocket with the codes of the boxes Maura wants us to steal. When I look them up on the shipment list a several boxes of shirts, pants, shoes, and jackets come up, but then something I wasn't expecting comes. A box of Counters is on the bottom of the list. Numbers' digits are usually dropped automatically as more are executed, but the Monitors can manually drop the numbers using a Counter. What does Maura want with these Counters?

Mallery gives me an impacient look and I decide that I'll have to demand an answer from Maura later. I quickly erase the existance of the boxes from the systems and put my hacking materials back in my bag. This way they won't even know we were here or that anything is missing.

Mallery peeks her head out of the door to make sure no Monitors are near by and then slides out with me behind her. The factory is dark which works to our advantage, but also means the dark uniforms of the Monitors could easily blend into the shadows.

Mallery elusively weaves through the empty factory like a ghost. Her footsteps don't make a sound, though; each step we take sends a flurry of dust into the air that quickly settles back on the ground like snow. The air reeks of machine oil and rusted mechanical parts, I crinkle my nose against the harsh smell, but it invades my nostrils anyways.

The sound of blood rushing through my ears blocks out all of the distractions around me. My fingers twitch at my side and my heart picks of speed in excitment for the heist.

Mallery's golden hair stands out like a beam of light in the dark factory and I know wish she would have put on her usual black winter hat to tuck it in. My own hair blends perfectly into the night.

I hear a laugh at the end of the hall and see two Monitors walking towards us, one a burly man with a bald head and a firey red beard and the other is a small woman with a voice too deep for someone her size.

"Vernon payed me 2,000 Scripts not to drop the number of one of the fighters at the Ring," the man says gleefully.

"Which fighter?" the woman asks curiously in her deep voice.

"I can't remember his name, something Porter, but apparently he's a big enough deal for Vernon to pay me 2,000 Scripts! Can you believe that? Though, I would have loved to take that stupid kid in. Those Numbers think they are so much better than us," the man finishes with a huff.

"What'd the kid do?" the woman probes.

The man shrugs his broad shoulders. "Eh, got in a fight with another Number. Now, that one was thrown in with the lot that got executed today. Ain't nobody payin' off her bill"

The woman snickers at this. "What did her face look like when you dropped her number to zero."

The man laughs loudly. "She started crying!"

The two go into a laughing fit and I can feel Mallery tense next to me. It's hard to listen to the Monitors talking about us Numbers. They really hate us.

As soon as the Monitors turn the corner Mallery darts down the hall trying to make up for the lost time the slow Monitors cost us. I follow right behind her, but I hear something behind me that makes me dive into another hallway instead of heading straight.

The woman Monitor comes back down the hallway with the man right behind her, but Mallery doesn't see them, she's still running.

"I think I dropped it back here," the woman says to the man, but he's not looking at her. He sees Mallery.

Mallery turns around having heard the woman's voice and takes on a dear in the headlights look. She goes completely still as if she hopes they won't see her if she doesn't move. I see the man pull something out of his belt, a stun gun. If he hits her with that then all he has to do is drop her number to zero and shoot her.

He aims the stun gun at her and I know what I have to do. I can't let her die. Mallery finally seems to realizw what happening as the gun goes off and she dives behind a stack of crates. The man swears under his breath and moves closer to the boxes with the woman right behind him.

I wait patiently in the hallway as the Monitors slowly inch their way towards the boxes. Just as the two are about to move past the hall I spring out of the shadows and slam into the man as hard as I can. The man topples to the ground and I press my forearm to his throat to get him to pass out.

The man is much stronger than I am and thrashes to get free, but I holds my ground until a pair of arms rip me of the man and send me toppling to the ground with the woman's arms wrapped around me. The woman removes one of her arms from around me and pulls out her Counter. I know she can see the fear in my eyes because her face lights up with joy.

Mallery is inching her way out from behind the stack of boxes and for a second I think she is going to leave me here to die. My heart picks up speed and I can feel the tears spring up in my eyes. There is no way this woman will let me get out of here alive, she'll drop my number, kill me, and then file it in as self-defense. My limbs thrash wildly under the woman's weight, but she is stronger than she looks and I can't seem to break free.

Mallery looks like she's trying to decide between helping me and saving herself and I can't help but cry out, "Help! Help!"

Her face scrunches up in indecision and she turns away from. My heart sinks, she's going to leave me. I'll die because I chose to save her. She swears under breath and turns back towards me just as the man is recovering from his lack of oxygen.

The man runs at her, but she easily docks under his arms and jumps ontop of the woman pinning me down. The woman screams like a banshee as she's thrown to the ground. I scramble to my feet and press my hand to my neck thanking God that the woman was too distracted by Mallery's last minute rescue to drop my number.

The woman manages to get to her feet and reaches for her stun gun, but I know Mallery can handle her. I have to knock out the man.

His face is as red as his beard now and he reaches for his stun gun, which he seems to have forgotten is still on the floor from when I tackled him. When he realizes this he wraps his hands around his Counter and grips it tightly, I can't help but think he's pretending the Counter is my neck.

He'll probably expect something sly like ducking under his arm or dropping to the ground and tripping him, so I guess I'll just have to do something completely idiotic. He waits for me to come after him and I go for it. He's waiting to see if I'll go left or right and just before I slam into him I feign left, but quickly change directions. He takes the bait and lurches left just as I correct my course and tackle him by the waist, definetly not what he was expecting.

His head whips back and slams into the wall behind him and he shouts in pain. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Mallery stuggling with the woman, but I can't worry about her now. Adrenline pumps through my veins as I press my forearm to the Monitors throat again. His eyes are already glaze over from his head injury and it only takes a moment for him to pass out.

I'm hoping that their are no other Monitors on this floor who could have heard the commotion. The man lays passed out on the floor and when I look over to Mallery she's dragging the woman's unconcious body towards one of the hallways.

"Coming," she says gruffly.

I don't even have to answer her as I grab the man's arm and begin dragging him. He's really heavy and all the muscles in my body strain to pull the body across the floor. I manage to get him to the edge of the hall where Mallery as deposited the woman's body in a storage closet. Mallery grabs the man's other arm and we drag him into the closet with the woman. We stack boxes in front of the door knowing that someone will find them tomorrow morning, but they won't be able to come after us tonight.

"You have to be more careful," Mallery tells me.

I can't help but laugh at this. "I need to be careful. I wasn't the one who carelessly got caught by the Monitors."

"You didn't have to save me," she huffs.

"Yes, I did. What would you want me to do?" I insist. 'Leave you?"

"Now they'll be looking for both of us and maybe even the others," she says harshly.

"Well, I wasn't going to leave you. I guess we'll just have to hope they didn't get a good look at us," I asnwer her without looking into her bright blue eyes.

"I guess so," she says and we stop talking as we make our way to the storage area of the factory to find Ross and Joan.

The walk to the storage section is uneventful as we cautiously make our way through the factory. When we get their Ross and Joan are waiting by one of the garages with the boxes we are stealing.

"What took so long?" Ross demands.

"We ran into some trouble on the way," I tell him, but he raises his eyebrows demanding a better answer. "Monitors."

Joan and his faces go pale and all he says in response is, "Let's hurry."

I once again pull off my black backpack and rip off one of the panels next to the garage. Normally I'd have to use a retinal scan to get the garage door to open, but all I have to do is twist a few wires and the garage opens. We shouldn't have to worry about the Monitors coming to check on the noise, they'll probably think it's a late night pickup.

There are eight moderate sized boxes in total, so we each take two and slip out of the garage silently. Another retinal scanner is on the outside of the garage and after I reassemble the one on the inside, I rip the front off the other one and twist a few wires until the door closes.

Getting back to the basement will be harder when we can't move quickly with these boxes, but we've done this plenty of times before and we'll manage. Ross takes the lead and the rest of us fall behind him.

The sun begins to come over the horizon sending shades of scarlet and crimson over the grey city. The light makes the city almost look alive like it must have been decades ago; I can almost imagine a family, a normal one, living in the apartment building across the street instead of a starving group of Numbers.

Ross pulls up the grate and begins dropping down the boxes where a pair of scarred hands pull them into the basement having heard the thud. We jump down one by one into the basement just after Maura has pulled the last box in and set it on the table.

"The other group isn't back yet," she tells us as soon as we come in.

I nod my head. The warehouse is quite a bit further than the factory, it makes sense that they would take longer.

"Why don't you guys head home and we can go over the break ins tomorrow," she tells us and the other mumble a thank you, we're all tired after that.

Mallery heads for the grate again, but I grab her arm. "We need to tell Maura," I tell her and she bites her lip.

She looks like she wants to leave, but she hops back into the basement. "Fine."

Maura notices we haven't left yet and turns back to us with a look of confusion. "I told you guys that you could leave."

"Um," I begin hesitantly. "Something happened at the warehouse."

Maura's confused look turns into a serious one. "What happened?"

Mallery nervously shuffles her feet and looks away leaving me to answer. "Two Monitors saw us."

I've never seen someone's face go as white as Maura's does. "What?"

I can't throw Mallery under the bus, but I also can't lie to Maura. "I..."

The look she gives me is enough to make the words stick in my throat. "You what?" She demands.

I'm not sure how to respond without lying or betraying Mallery. "It was my fault," Mallery speaks up.

"Mallery, just tell me what happened," Maura says trying to sound patient.

Mallery takes a deep breath before answering. "I thought they had turned the corner, so I started running down the hall, but they came back and saw me. If Indie hadn't attacked them then they would have caught me."

Maura's face goes even paler than before and her gaze turns back to me. "You attacked them?"

"Yes," I squeak out.

"And what about you, Mallery? Did you attack them?" she questions.

Mallery can only nod her head. Maura starts pacing the room with her hand pressed to her head. My heart races in my chest and I can feel a layer of sweat forming on my brow as I watch Maura pace.

She looks up suddenly and grabs Mallery and I by our shoulders. "You have to stay hidden. They're going to come looking for you, no one attacks a Monitor and gets away with it."

"We'll do what ever we have to," Mallery assures her.

"Go home and don't come out for anything or anyone. If you stay out of the streets they won't find you," she says and grips our shoulders even tighter. Of course they won't find us at our homes, Numbers aren't given homes. We have to claim an apartment and try to keep other Numbers from taking it, so the Monitors won't know where we live.

"What about work?" I ask in a whisper.

Maura shakes her head. "I'll take care of that. If you don't want to be on next on the execution list just stay inside and don't come out. Do you understand me?"

Mallery and I both nod our heads. What else can we do if we want to live?

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