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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23. Chapter 22

"Time is a game played beautifully by children."
- Heraclitu


Time is an interesting thing. It means everything and it means nothing. It brings us closer to our demise and closer to our vocations. Without time we know no limits. With it we can learn to understand our world. Time is a human creation. Minutes, seconds, hours, all ideas that came human minds. Time is a natural thing. Days, years, seasons, all existed long before we did. No matter which way you put it time seems to run everything simply because we let it. 


Lately time means both everything and nothing to me. I can feel the seconds tick tick ticking away, counting down to whenever the Dynasty plans to unleash the war and wipe us out. Yet, it feels like time doesn't exist anymore in the apartment. Time has come and passed, the same cycle continues, and it just means nothing to me. I'm trapped in a timeless space, where I can feel seconds sliding by, yet I do not experience them. Time has never mattered more. Time has never mattered less.


I sit next to Adrian on the couch, watching the door, waiting for the next part of the timeless cycle to click into place. A quick glance at the clock tells me it's 6:29. Only a minute to go. Right on time, as if someone had cued her, Simoran walks through the door. Her coppery curls plastered to the side of her face after a long day at the factory. She stumbles into the living room and I stand up to let her sit down.


"Thanks," she mumbles and leans back into the couch.


Adrian anxiously taps her foot on the ground. "How was work?" she asks the other girls. They're the same age, both fifteen, but they couldn't be more different. One bright and energetic, the other anxious and quiet.


Simoran's eyes shift over to Adrian, clearly surprised she acts. Adrian doesn't look at the girl, but at me instead like she's asking for praise or approval. "Good. Long, but nothing too over the top," Simoran replies sweetly.


The short and awkward conversation is coming to a distinct in, so I decide to step in. Maybe, I can get Adrian to say more than a few words to Grey or Simoran. "Do you have any cards?" I ask Simoran.


She nods her head. "Yeah, they're in the kitchen drawer." She tries to stand, but I move swiftly into the kitchen and grab the cards before she's even all the way up.


She plops back down onto the couch, while I pull out one of the supply boxes from the closet to use as a card table. "Have you ever played Take Four?"


Simoran shakes her head, but Adrian's face lights up. She's a master at this game, I don't think I've ever known her to lose.


"The rules are simple," I state. "Everyone gets four cards and four cards are placed face down in between the players. Before each round begins you are allowed to take another players card in exchange for one of your own, but you aren't allowed to look at their cards. Once everyone has exchanged or not exchange cards you turn over the four cards in the middle and you try to match your cards with the ones in the middle. The first person to make a match with a card gets the points for that card. All of the cards can be matched in a round or not at all. You get one point for a number card, three points for a face card, and five for an ace. Matched cards go to the disposal pile and aren't played again. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins. Does that make sense?"


Simoran stays silent for a moment, trying to process the rules. "Yeah, I think so," she finally says.
"Good," I say and begin dealing out four cards to each of us and then placing four face down in the middle. "Anyone want to switch cards?"


Adrian shakes her head and studies her cards. Simoran looks like she might want to, but decides against it when neither if us do. Smart girl. Trading cards in the first few rounds is pointless. You're basically just gambling that someone else's card is more likely to match one of the ones in the middle. It's not until a few rounds have been played that trading cards actually matters. For instance, if you know three queens have already been played and disposed of and you have the fourth queen in your hand, you want to get rid of it. There is zero chance that a queen is in the middle, so the best thing to do is give your queen to someone else.


I flip over the cards and Adrain instantly slaps down a king over the card I just flipped. Simoran reacts quickly, but I beat her to the punch by slapping down a ten over one of the cards. Adrian throws down and queen and the round is over in the blink of an eye. A queen, a king, a ten, and an ace lay in the center, but after getting rid of the matched cards only the ace is left. Adrian gets six points and I get one, like I said, Adrian always wins this game.


I place the ace face down and put three new face down cards next to it. I grab another card from the deck to replace the one I lost. The round flies by again with Simoran getting three points, me getting two, and Adrain getting none, which is quit the shocker. The ace still sits in the middle.
Three more rounds go by with no one trading cards and Adrian dominating the game. On the sixth round I go ahead and take one of Adrian's cards, it's an ace. The one card that has been in the middle since the beginning. I'm only four points behind Adrian, this could really tie up the score. The cards are flipped over and I through down the ace like it's money and I'm an alcoholic at a liquor store.


Adrian gives me a grouchy look, yet I can see a smile tugging at the corners of her cheeks. At least she's having fun even though I could beat her now.


My slight lead on my sister doesn't last long because the very next round she takes one of Simoran's cards and then scores a queen, a jack, and a three. That's seven more points for her. She has to be psychic or something.


Time does that weird thing again where it slips through my fingers and fall into nothingness, where before the game I had a firm grip on it. It's not long, or at least it doesn't feel long but it's actually two hours, before Grey walks in the door at precisely the right time according to the cycle. 8:30. 


He gives a small smile and then goes into his and Simoran's bedroom. I don't blame him. He worked from 5:00 this morning and just got home. That's a crazy long shift by anyone's standards. 


We turn back to the game and keep down the noise so Grey can sleep. Seeing him reminded me what we talked about just a few days ago. The war. Time wades between meaninglessness and desperate importance for the rest of the game and I just can't stop thinking 'What do we do?'

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