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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22. Chapter 21

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”

- Elie Wiesel

"What now?" Adrian asks as we make our way through the streets.

The sun is coming over the horizon, it's fierce light making the ocean look like it's in flames. "I don't know." I'm too tired too think about what comes next. It feels like there isn't much more I can do. Saving Mallery was one thing. Stopping a war is something completely different.

I revealed in the moment where I felt like I had actually hurt them and their genocidal plan in some way, but now I realize that Mallery doesn't actually mean anything to them. She is disposable. They could easily find another Number who can do what Mallery does. Mallery is not a human being to them, they don't care about her like I do or Adrian does, she is a tool that can easily be tossed out and replaced with another one.

Anxiety crosses Adrian's face, her forehead creases and her lips draw into a tight line like the string of a bow. "We have to do something. If we don't everyone will die. You will die and I will not let that happen," she says her anxiety slipping away with each word and her feature showing defiance instead. Fists clenched and head raised, she looks at me as if waiting me to object.

I shake my head, feeling none of her determination. "You don't have to worry about me, no matter what happens I'll be okay."

Something on the verge of obsessive crawls into Adrian's voice. "You're right. Nothing will happen to you, I'll make sure of that." With that she swiftly walks ahead, her legs moving in long, silent strides.

I admire my sister's determination, but I fear that it will get her into trouble. This is why I'm in charge. I don't have enough determination or guts to put us in a risky situation. I fear consequences more than I crave reward or change. Though, something tells me that it may be different this time. Maybe I do want change enough to put myself on the line, but never Adrian. There is nothing worth putting Adrian in danger.

We walk most of the way in silence, sticking to the small side streets and placing each foot carefully as not to make any noise. So many things consume me as I watch the back of Adrian's head in front of me. Is there something I can do? If there is, am I brave enough to take the risk? What about the people around me? Will I be putting them in danger? Is any of it worth the risk or are we doomed either way.

Sometimes I think I obsess over things to much. Obsessing about what to do won't change things, but I can't stop. My mind is like a scratched record that keeps gets stuck on the same thing over and over and over again. Nothing to do but let it think, plot, and obsess. Obsess about the war. Obsess about the rash in the back of my mind, that flares about with rage just thinking about it. Obsess over Adrian. Obsess over everything I've lost and everything I have to gain if I only had the guts to leap for it.

"Do you ever think about the other side?" Adrian asks me.

"The other side of what?" I answer confused on what she's asking me.

She shrugs her shoulders and answers just loud enough for me to hear her. "The ocean, I guess. What's the free world like? Do you think they'd ever accept us?"

That's something every Number has though about. Would they accept us if we lived there? History says no, but history is a flexible thing. We only know what we are told. History can't be rewritten, yet what society knows can be. Who says that Numbers and regular humans never got along? The government. They want us to believe that regular humans and Numbers can never mix and that it is Number's fault that we can't. This could be true or it could just be propaganda to support Axis control. Aren't they the ones who saved the country from us? That's how they got and keep they're power at least. "Not the way things are now," I finally say after much contemplation. "Not with the Axis Dynasty in control. Maybe if we could change the entire government and rewrite history, but that's asking the impossible. For now, I think the best we can do is save our own skins."

"And what if we did rewrite history and changed everything?"

"Then we'd be living in Eden. Everything would be golden." I smile at the idea of Eden, a perfect utopia. That's how I imagine the world where Numbers have rights like every other man woman and child. It's a ridiculous and far fetched idea that will never happen, but it's a nice thought.

"Yes, the new Eden," Adrian agrees and then laughs. "I didn't know you were religious, Indie."

"I think it's something dad told me about. I guess when you can't believe in society, you can always believe in God or Allah or Vishnu or what ever you can find faith in. If you can find faith in the spaghetti people from Pluto, then so be it."

"That sounded really impressive until you brought up the spaghetti people from Pluto," Adrian says in a lightly teasing tone. I can't see her face as we make our way through the streets just barely lit up by the sunrise, but I can tell she has her signature lopsided grin. It's the kind of grin that makes you smile back even in your worst mood.

"What can I say?" I laugh. "I have quit the imagination."

Her shoulders shake slightly with quiet giggles. "I'll testify to that."

"What do you think, Adrian? About  the Dynasty?" I ask her.

Her giggles stop and her head tilts sideways in contemplation. "I say they're as unmovable as a brick wall and as infinite as the sky. They're is no way around them, so the best thing you can do is get on their good side and use that infinite brick wall as protection from whatever is to come."

"That makes sense," I say, nodding to myself. "But, a brick wall can crack, it can be brought down and turned into rubble."

"Not this one. It is invincible and it is meant to last an eternity," she murmurs in a hollow voice.

I hate to admit it, but I agree with her. It often feels like the Axis Dynasty will never meet it's end. That it will forever barricade us on this bloody island. "Yeah, I guess so," I say lacking all of my previous joy and laughter.

By now we are at the base of the stairs leading into the apartmen. Adrian takes the lead and I follow behind her feeling sullen, my little victory over the Dynasty long fogotten. The sun is now just barely above the horizon, I'd guess it's about seven in the morning. Grey and Simoran will be home by now, I wonder if they'll ask where we went and what we where doing. They probably will and they can't know. They don't need to be dragged any further into this than they already are. That just wouldn't be fair. I've already put them into more than enough danger.

"Adrian," I whisper grabbing her arm. She turns to look at me, a depressed look on her face that probably matches my own. "If Grey and Simoran ask where we were just tell them... tell them we went to see Maura, but we couldn't find her, alright?"

She looks away from me her jaw clenched for reasons unknown to me. "Alright."

Without another word she turns her back on me and hurries up the last few steps. I huff out a lung full of air. Nothing is simple anymore. With a deep breath, I follow Adrian up the stairs and into the apartment.

The door shuts silently behind us and cuts out most of the light in the apartment. Two figures sit on the couch, one with their head in their hands and their foot tapping out a nervous rhythem and the other leaning back with their arms crossed. Simoran and Grey, hopefully.

The one with their head in their hands looks up and their curly hair bounces around their shoulders, Simoran. She stands up and runs down the short, narrow hall before wrapping her scrawny arms around my bony waist. "You're back," she cries.

"Yeah, I am," I say surprised by the younger girl's affection. I didn't know she cared that much about me. "Hey," I say to her and gently pull her away from me. "I'm okay, we're okay." I look to Adrian who just watches Simoran with her jaw clenched. I think we're okay.

Grey's silhoutte stands up from the couch and he slowly walks across the room, lacking the hurry of his sentimental sister. His muscular form stops a few feet away from us and he watches me with his hazel eyes.

"Simoran, Adrian, do you mind making breakfast?" he finally says never breaking eye contact with me.

Simoran nods happily and pratically skips into the dingy kitchen. Adrian just grumpily shoves past him. I wish I could talk to Adrian and see why she's so upset, she was laughing with me only a few minutes ago, but I need to talk to Grey right now.

"We went to find Maura, the woman we used to work for," I say before he can even ask. "We couldn't find her, it doesn't matter anyways."

"Okay," he says nonchalently. "I just wanted to make sure you're fine."

This shocks me and I quickly do my best to cover my surprise. "Yeah, I'm fine. Adrian and I are both fine."

 He finally breaks eye contact and starts studies and drip in the ceiling very intently. "Good," he mutters.

"Umm, if that's all you wanted to talk about, then I think I'll help Simoran and Adrian," I say, trying to get out of this awkward convesation.

He pulls his eyes from the water and looks back at me. "Actually, there is one more thing I want to talk to you about."

"What?" I ask.

He steps closer to me and cautiously grabs my arm. "I think we should talk about this outside," he tells me, his eyes flickering to where Simoran stands in the kitchen. What ever it is, he doesn't want Simoran to know.

I nod my head and open  the door to the apartment. Simoran and Adrian don't even look up from what they're doing as Grey and I leave the apartment. He carefully chooses a spot on the stairs that can't be seen from street level and sits down. I take a seat next to him and wait for him to explain.

"I've been thinking about what you told me at the Ring, about the war and all. I can't stop obsessing over it, do you know what I mean?" he says looking for an answer.

"There's a lot I can't stop obsessing over," I state plainly, watching the small sliver of street I can see.

"I just can't help but feel that there's something I need to be doing," he continues.

I turn to face him. "I know, I feel like I should be doing something, but I don't see how anything I can do will make a difference."

"What if we could though? What if we could change how society thinks about Numbers?"

"Eden," I reply without thinking.

"What?" Grey asks, confused about what I'm talking about.

"If we could change everything, the way people think about Numbers, how the government treats us, then it would be an Eden," I say, even though I know it's an exaggeration.

Grey gives me a genuine smile. "I like the way you think. An Eden would be nice, but I don't think it would be that perfect."

I crack a small smile at the thought of an Eden. "Yeah, it's hyperbole. An exaggeration to get across an idea."

He chuckles at my words. "Alright Ms.Braniac. Now, what do we do?"

"I don't know," I tell him, restating what I've already told Adrian.

"Come on, you used a hyperbole in a casual conversation, you have to have something," he says still smiling.

"We're talking about a war, I wouldn't qualify this as a 'casual conversation,'" I reply.

"Okay, so it's a serious conversation. We just need to think of something," he says with certainty.

"Are you sure there is something we can do?" I ask him because Is need someone to tell me that we can make a difference. Adrian makes me feel like there is nothing I can do, but maybe Grey can tell me other wise.

"I am."

"Then we will come up with something," I say with confidence. "We'll make a difference even if it is only temporary."

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