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.


25. Chapter 24

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude." 

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Forgive and forget. That's what I'm supposed to do. That's what I hope and pray Maura will do. It's what society says we should do. But, I mean, how often is society actually right? Just looking at history, half of the things we've done as humans can't be considered right. So, who's to say forgiving and forgetting is what I should do? 

I'd say it's something I need to do. It stems from my need for survival, not my need to forgive and be forgiving. If Maura has any sense of survival, she'll see the need for forgiveness, or at least cooperation. 

I shuffle to a stop in front of the grate, leading into Maura's home. Adrian stops suddenly, kicking up dirt as she tries to avoid running into me. There is something so wrong about doing all of this in broad daylight. It's not night that keep secrets, it's the day. The daytime is when all of the eyes are watching.

A desperate need to walk away fills me. I think it's the rash in the back of my mind. It begs me to either just turn around and leave or to hurt Maura for what she's done to me. Why should I have to apologize to her? I did nothing to her, she's the one who abandoned me! 

I grit my teeth and grip the back of my head like I'm trying to rip the feral part of my mind out. I wish I could. It hasn't burned like this sense the last time I died, but now it's like a blazing fire that can't be quenched. It burns through my mind and consumes ever other conscious thought in its deep inferno. Everything seems to drain from me and I find myself slumped against the wall.

'Hurt her,' that part of my mind begs me. 'She needs to know what she's done. She left you alone and she must pay for that sin!'

"No," I mumble to myself, only slightly of another voice coming from outside of my head. 

Someone is gripping my arms trying to get me to let go of the back of my head. But, I can't. If I let go, I fear my feral nature will poor out like a tsunami and I'll do something I regret.

"Indie, snap out of it. Are you trying to get killed?" Adrian asks me, shaking me at the same time.

For some reason her words cause something to click in my mind. It suppresses the animal part of my mind with a much stronger desire. The desire to live. There is a moment of time where my mind is split into two. Part of it desperate to do anything but forgive and the other willing to do anything to live. Different thoughts run through my mind at the speed of light. Kill Maura. Forgive her. Fight for the Numbers. Run with my tail between my legs. Live. Die.

With a huff of air, the feral part lets go of it's grip and I collapse to the ground with my head cradled in my hands. A splitting headache replaces my divided mind, but it is a relief. At least I can think clearly. 

The back of my head is sore and when I reach back there, my hand comes away with small specks of blood. I guess I really did try to rip out the animal in me. Not that it's possible or anything. If it was, Lord knows I'd try again and again.

Adrian kneels down in front of me. She touches my arm affectionately and looks at me with a deep frown. "What was that?"

"The affect of dying," I explain simply as I lean my head against the cold, brown stone. Everything around me is too bright compared to my dark my mind. The sunlight eradicates the shadows and even makes the disgusting dumpsters sparkle a little bit. It feels unnatural.

A spasm runs through Adrian's arm, causing her to tighten her grip. It's strange how much death scares someone who supposedly can't die. There are worse things than death. "Are you okay?"

A sharp needle of pain lances my head, but I nod anyways. "I'll be fine. Just help me stand up."

She grips me underneath my arms and hauls me to my feet. Her arms strain because I'm just kind of dead weight right now. When she lets me go, it's all I can do to stand on my own two feet. I'm completely drained and have a massive migraine.

I do a weird shuffle behind Adrian as we move towards the grate. She picks it up carefully and sets it down lightly on the cracked pavement with a slight clatter. I hear her hit the ground below me and wait a moment for her to move before jumping into the now cover less hole.

Maura's home and the thieves' meeting area is exactly as I remember it, accept that it obviously hasn't been used in a while. The blue prints and notes from the last heist are still on the table. It's a cruel logic. Many of the members of our little group are either dead, missing, or in hiding. There is no one to perform the heists anymore.

My throat tightens when I think about the way things used to be. Ross and Casprie, my best friends who could pass as siblings with their dark hair and sharp features. That is if Casprie hadn't been ghostly pale. Ross and I used to give her crap about it, saying she better not got in the sun or she might burn up. She's a real ghost now. Dead and gone, only alive to haunt the thoughts of those who knew her. 

Ross is missing, probably dead. He wouldn't give into there demands. They've certainly already put a bullet in his head, while Agent-10 trickled through his veins. He's just another ghost to haunt me now. I'll never see him or Casprie again. They're both in a better place now. At least they're together. That's the best I can hope for them. It's not hard to imagine the two of them goofing off in the after life, running rampant through heaven and playing tricks on eachother.

And then there's Kressum and Brelis, the two youngest members of our group. I think they might have been brothers, but I can't remember now, which makes me depressed. They won't even have ghosts to haunt my mind if they are dead. I knew so little about them and never took the time to get to know them. I never even looked for them. They could be dead and it's almost like they will have been erased for history with no one to remember them.

"Adrian! Indie!" a familiar voice exclaims behind us.

My body goes rigid and I can feel the feral thoughts creeping back in. I force the thoughts down and turn to face the speaker. Her blonde hair is closely shaved as always and the scar running for her ear to her collar bone is just as prominent, but something about her looks different. She doesn't look bright and youthful any more. Her features have deteriated into fatigue and aging. It's like she aged five years in just a few weeks.

"Maura!" Adrian exclaims happily and runs towards her, wrapping her in a hug.

I don't move a muscle. It's all I can do to contain my rage. I simply stand there and watch the pair. Maura looks over Adrian's shoulder at me with a warm look in her eyes, but I just meet it with a cold glare. 

She lets go of Adrian slowly like she's afraid my little sister will vaporize into the air. "I thought..." she starts, but gets caught on her words. "I though you were dead."

Adrian gives her a bitter sweet smile that doesn't quiet reach her eyes. "No, I'm alive. I'm okay."

Maura quickly embraces her once more before saying, "I'm so glad to see you again. It's just that Indie told me she left you at the Court House." I can hear the bitterness creep into her tone. She still blames me and probably always will, after all, it is my fault.

"It's not Indie's fault. She looked for me and tried to save me. She took bullets for me. I know she did all she could and I want you to know that too," Adrian says with a slightly more genuine smile.

"Of course," Maura replies with a fake smile and suspicion in her eyes. Like I said, she will always blame me for what happened no matter how many times I try to make amends.

"Maura," I say coolly, refusing to reveal any emotions. "We really need to talk"

She nods her head and gestures at the table. "Right, take a seat."

As soon as I joined the conversation it became awkward and tense, great, this was going to be rough. I take seat in one of the rusted chairs next to Adrian, who doesn't seem to notice the tension in Maura's words and my own words.

"I think you two better explain what happened," Maura says, her eyes avoiding mine as she flickers between the two of us.

Adrian launches into a long, detailed explanation of what has happened. She starts with her escape from the Court and goes on to finding me, looking for Ross, saving Mallery, and stealing the tablet. Maura watches Adrian intensely the entire time and I watch Maura, studying her body language and analyzing her facial expressions. Her face scrunches up in pain when she mentions how Ross was missing. I can't imagine how she'll when we have to tell her Casprie is dead. Probably the same as me, hollow and confused. It's hard to comprehend that someone you care about is dead.

"Mallery is safe?" she asks as soon as Adrian finishes. I can feel the tablet burning in my hands and want to snap at Maura to stop asking questions and get to the part where she helps us.

"She's safe," Adrian confirms.

"And what about the others? Do you know what happened to Ross?" she asks clearly worried.

Adrian looks pained at having to explain it, so I step in. "Maura, we don't know what happened to Ross, we just know he's missing. The Monitors most likely have him. We have no idea what happened to Kressum and Brelis. And Casprie.... Well, she's dead. They killed her." My voice catches in my throat and I can feel the tears welling in my eyes.

A strangled sound escapes Maura's throat. It's a sound you'd never expect someone as strong as Maura to make. But, Casprie was like family to her, as she was to all of us, and that's a pain that never goes away.

"Why would they do that?" she asks no one in particular. "No, no, she didn't deserve that."

"No, she didn't," Adrian murmurs, her previous joy in seeing Maura completely gone. "They killed her because she refused to help them."

Maura doesn't say anything for a long time, too long if you ask me. She sits there with her head against the table and her hands wrapped around her bare neck. I can't tell if she's crying, but I know I want to.

"Maura," I say slowly. "We really need your help."

"With what?" Her voice comes out as a growl. She looks up at me with bloodshot eyes and a scowl.

"This is about the war, the one I told you about," I tell her, trying to sound calm.

"I remember," she says, her voice still sour. "Now, what do you need from me?"

I pull the tablet off of my lap and set it on the table. "We took this from the Monitors. We think it might include details about how they plan on starting and maintaining the war. I need the hacking equipment to get into it."

For a brief moment I think she'll turn us away, but then she stands up without another word and works towards the closet where my hacking supplies are. She comes out with the bag in hand and tosses it to me. I manage to catch it by one if the straps.

There are tons of cords and disks inside the bag, but I know exactly what ones I need. Before long I've plugged the tablet into Maura's dinosaur of a computer and am decoding the password.

Maura sits at the table, looking miserable, and Adrian watches everything I do like an eagle. Once I've decoded the password, shutting down the tracker is a piece of cake, I just hope they haven't already tracked the signal.

I search through the messages sent to the Monitor from the Dynasty itself and find thousands of messages about hundreds of topics. I cut out the ones that don't involve Numbers, but that cuts out only about three percent of the total messages. So, I only look at messages involving Numbers and war. This significantly cuts the amount of messages and I'm left with just over five hundred messages. 

To be safe I download these messages to Maura's computer before I begin sifting through them. Most of them are just messages that happen to mention Numbers and wars in the same message with no correlation between the two. I narrow down the search to messages in the last month and am pleasantly surprised when I almost immediately stumble across a document about genocide.

The document is a Monitor evacuation plan for February twentieth of this year. It simply states that it is due to the coming genocide of the Numbers and that the government has decided it will no longer be safe for the Monitors to remain on the island. 

I find no further messages about the actions the government will take to start the war, but that doesn't surprise me. It's unlikely a Monitor would need to know that information and m sure they're very careful who they give that kind of information out to. But, I have a date now, February twentieth. 

"They plan to start the war sometime around the twentieth," I tell Maura and Adrian.

"That's less than a week away," Adrian says, her features turning pale.

"Yeah, it is," I reply as I reread the message. The plan will go into action soon. I just wish I could know more about what they are actually planning on doing. This is enough for now. We have a first step. A date we can work with. The only problem is that is so little time. Six days to stop a war. Six days to save everyone.

"What exactly do you plan to do, Indie?" Maura says, finally looking up from her slumped position at the table. Her face is as hollow as my growling stomach.

My hands clump tightly around the tablet. Beads of sweat form in the palms of my hands leaving a dewy residue on the screen. "What ever I can. If the Monitors can't leave the island, then they can't start the war. It wouldn't look good to the free public if they left there own people on the island to be killed by Numbers."

I can't tell what she thinks based on her facial expressions, she either thinks it's not a half bad idea or she thinks I'm a complete idiot. She watches me with a blank face like she's expecting me to react of she's trying to tell me something. Maura has a habit of that, trying to communicate something through a look.

Adrian doesn't seem to pick up on this because she speaks up, causing Maura to look away from me. "If you don't mind, we also need some supplies."

"I don't mind at all," Maura replies in a voice as blank as her face. She turns to me and says, "Indie, I could use your help bringing some of the boxes out here."

So, that's what she wanted, to talk to me alone. A small trickle of heat pricks at the back of my head and I can feel the animal part of me waking up. It still wants to hurt her. Like slamming the door on an over filled trunk, I shove the feral thoughts back to the deepest part of my mind.

"I can help too," Adrian offers kindly.

Maura shakes her head. "It's kind of sad, but I haven't taken care of these blue prints in almost a month. Could you put those away for me?"

Adrian's a smart kid and she knows something's up. She also knows it doesn't involve her. She nods her head and picks up the first blue print, rolling the thick paper up. 

Maura gets up with ease, but it looks like a giant hand is pressing down on her. Her shoulders slouch forward and her head hangs lazily to the side, partially hiding her blood shot eyes.

I force myself to my feet and almost immediately have to grab the edge of the table to keep from collapsing back into the chair. Hacking into the tablet distracted me from how drained the mental attack left me. I've never felt so drained in my life. Not when I was shot or after a long day of work. Actually, this is the third most drained I've ever felt. Only after the two times I've died. A mental fight can be so much more difficult than a physical one.

Maura drags her feet into the storage room, while I walk with a rigid posture, trying to keep myself from falling apart both mentally and physically. I open the cracked and warped wood door that doesn't quiet shut all the way, and stiffly move into the room.

Across the rather large room Maura is already pulling down a box of what looks like rice. With a false strength, I join her and attempt to pull down a heavy box full of water jugs. It takes some effort, but I manage to set it on the floor without dropping it on my foot or bursting one of the gallon bottles.

"How much do you think you'll need?" Maura asks me as she sorts through various containers of food. It's pretty obvious it just empty talk, meant to fill the time until she can figure out what she needs to say.

"Enough to last six people for six days," I tell her, making sure to include Mallery and Kern. I meant it to be factual, we only have six days left, but it comes out more sarcastic. Though, the sarcasm isn't directed at Maura, it's more like spitting in the face of life for being so cruel.

Maura lets out a light, airy laughter. "Alright. I'll send you with eight jugs of water, six boxes of crackers, and for bags of rice. Sound good?"

"Yeah, that works." Today isn't supply day, so we'll have to sneak the supplies in the broad daylight. The rice and crackers will be easy to hide and carry under out jackets, but we'll need a box for the water and it will be heavy. We can always say it's parts for one of the machines at a the factory we work at, if someone asks. We will be long gone by the time any Monitor has time to look up whether or not any factories are expecting parts. 

"I just want you to know how sorry I am," she says suddenly. I knew she wanted to talk about something, but I hadn't actually expected her apologize. 

"Me too, Maura. I'm sorry too," I say, temporarily putting the food I was sorting through down.

Maura looks at me with her dark blue eyes. "You don't have to be sorry. I should have known, should have understood that you would never leave Adrian unless you had to. You love her so much and I was a fool to think you just left her."

Instead of replying, I wrap my arms around Maura's muscular shoulders. The last piece of my feral mind dissolves in that moment, temporarily put to sleep, which fills me with relief.

Maura pulls away from me and looks at me with a slight smile creasing her face. "Promise me that no matter what happens you will look after Mallery and your sister. Ross and Casprie are already gone and I don't want to lose you three too. You guys are like my family."

"I will look after them," I promise her. "If the war happens, I'll keep them safe."

Her smile drops suddenly. "It's not just the war. I want you to watch over them no matter what happens."

"Maura, what are you talking about?" I ask, taking a surprised step backwards. The conversation changed so suddenly from apologies to her asking me to watch over the others. It's like a smooth piece of glass that abruptly turns sharp and cuts your finger.

"Things are going to happen soon. Big things that will change everything," she tells me, confusing me further.

"Change things, like on the island?" I ask. But, what could change things more than the genocide of all the Numbers on the island?

"I'm talking on a global scale," she says, gripping my shoulders tightly.

"What's going to happen?" I say and swallow down my rising panic, afraid of what she will say.

"I can't tell you. You'll have to trust me. Take he supplies and Adrian, and go back to where ever it is you're hiding. Don't come out until you have to." Her eyes bore into me, daring me to do other wise.

"Maura, I don't understand. I need to know what's going to happen," I reply, my voice shaking ever so slightly.

Her jaw tightens and she lets go of me to run her fingers through her virtually nonexistent hair. "You don't need to know anything. You need to survive."

"Wh-why?" I stammer.

She doesn't answer my question, but returns it with one of her own. "Do you trust me?"

Part of me wants to scream no and tell her she hasn't given me a reason to, but the problem with that is that I do trust her. I trust her more than ninety-nine percent of the people I've met, actually, make that ninety-nine point nine percent. "I do trust you, but-"

She cuts me off my shoving the box of water in my arms. "Good. Now go get your sister and go back to hiding."

"Wait," I cry out as she walks towards the door with the box of foo, but she ignores me.

The wood door creaks as she forces it to turn on it's rusted hinges. She walks out of the door like nothing happened and drops the box on the table in front of Adrian. Adrian jumps at the bang of the box hitting of the table, like a muffled gun shot.

She looks from me to Maura, clearly confused. "What? Are you angry?" she asks Maura, terrified that Maura, who is like a mother to her, would me mad at her.

"No," Maura says, placing her hand lovingly on Adrian's shoulder. "It's just time for you and Indie to leave."

Adrian picks up the box of food. She trusts Maura even more than I do and would never question her. She looks at me or confirmation and nod my head. Adrian shuffles towards the hole leading to the street, stopping once she reaches the base.

"Go ahead. I'll be up in a moment," I tell her and she goes up without a second thought.

Everyone one needs someone they can both trust and look up to. Maura is that person for me. She's taught me everything I know and helped me survive in this cruel world. I trust her more than almost anyone. She's made mistakes, but we all have including myself. She's never done anything unforgivable.

I place the box down on the table and Maura pulls me into one more hug. Cross my fingers this won't be the last.

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