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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30. Chapter 29

"We fear death so profoundly, not because it means the end of our body, but because it means the end of our consciousness - better to be a spirit in Heaven than a zombie on Earth."

-Alison Gopnik

Avalis didn't leave long after she revealed her identity. She acted like she was suddenly in the biggest hurry of her life, even though she had time to play cards with a total stranger only a moment before. I guess that's what it would be like to rule one half of the most powerful country in the world. Always having to flutter from one thing to the next. 

That was... I don't even know how long ago. There are no clocks or windows for me to tell time by in here. I've been in the same cell ever since and no one has come to take me anywhere. The world could've ended and I probably wouldn't notice. As people, we think we have some sort of sixth sense for danger and tragedy, but we don't. Us humans have a tendency to turn our backs on these things; we continue smelling the roses, while the world is collapsing in on itself right behind us. Humans are a rather blind, considering we have eyes. Maybe that's because there are two types of blind: the kind where you simply cannot see and the kind where you choose to not see. I really would have no idea if the world ended and I'm not sure if I'd truly care. 

Humans are a rotten species, the world would be better off without us. All we ever do is kill each other and cause suffering. We destroy our planet as if we own it. We cut down trees and pollute the ocean like we're better than every other species. Just because we are more intelligent and happen to have opposable thumbs, we think that gives us the right to destroy, but it doesn't. It only goes to prove how narcissistic and immoral we are.

As if dying to prove my point, someone fires a gun in the distant. It's a faint popping sound, something I'm surprised I could hear all the way in the heart of the Court House, but it was definitely there. 

The world doesn't hold it's breath after the shot. It screams. Sirens begin to wail as if protesting the sudden violence. Someone, a young man possibly, begins a long winded cry. They need help, but I doubt they'll receive it. My head begins to ring and my heart picks up pace, begging me to run outside and see what's happening. My heart is too foolish to realize I am caged.

The earth shouts from beneath me, it trembles and cries as a blast shatters the air. The grounds screams begin to mix with the scream coming from outside before one of them is abruptly cut off. 

Now everyone wants to show just how horrible humanity is. Shots come so rapidly that the sound becomes one horrible white noise, a background to whatever atrocities lay outside the dangerous security of this building. Another explosion makes the scream again, causing the building to shudder in fear.

I pull myself to my feet, which seem steadier than the ground, and press myself against the door. Outside of the tiny window in the door I can see Monitors running around the halls, it's chaos but they all seem to know what they are doing. Each one looks as if their task is the most important one, the one that could be the key to their success, as they shove past each other and charge through various doorways. I hope they all fail miserably.

A clatter on the opposite end of the hall distracts me from the rodents scurrying through their maze. A silhouette stands still at the end of the hall for a moment, their head listing from left to right, trying to make sense of their surroundings. Then, with great hurry, they run down the hall towards my cell and slowly turn from a black outline and into a full fledged person. A woman to be specific and a very familiar one at that.

Avalis stops in front of my cell and watches me through the glass. I suddenly forget about the earth screeching beneath and the white noise of gun fire. This is way worse, at least for me. Bullets can't penetrate multiple concrete walls, while Avalis is only one window pane away from me. Her smile is a hybrid of wicked and clever, it makes me cringe as we watch each other through just two layers of glass and criss-crossed strands of thick wire. Her eyes shift confusedly from blue to green as if they don't know what color they want to be. 

The ever familiar popping and hissing sound of the door being opened is ten time louder than the raucous going on outside. It's a noise I've come to fear. I take it as an omen every time I hear it. Avalis is the bringer of that omen when she steps through them door. I don't know why she's here, but it certainly isn't to play cards again.

"Indie, all prisoners are being moved to a more secure location. I highly advise you come with me," she tells me, her long, bony fingers wrapped around my wrist, acting as a human handcuff.

There's no point in resisting, I've learned that the hard way on multiple occasions, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically going to trust her. "Shouldn't you have guards with you?" I ask, moving forward on my suspicions. She's tied for the most important person in the country, based on popular opinion, someone ought to be making sure she doesn't get hurt in all of this chaos.

"My dear Miss Caserento," she says with a mouthful of arrogance. "I'm in charge of the army. I used to serve on the front lines. Trust me, I can protect the both of us." To drive the point home she pats the gun on her hip, which I hadn't noticed before. It's hard to tell if she's threatening me or trying to assure me of my safety, not that it's an easy thing to do since I've spent most of my life in the firing line.

Her words do nothing to quell my suspicions. It is not ordinary for the most important person in the country to protect one of the least important, especially if that person is a Number. "I can protect myself," I tell her, making no attempt to swallow the spite filling my mouth.

"That makes my job a hell of a lot easier." Her mouth is so full of cockiness at this point that it's practically dripping out if her mouth. "But, I already know you'll need me."

I bristle at her words. I am not her "job". It's not like I signed up for this, so if I hadn't been dragged here then poor Avalis wouldn't have to bear the responsibility of protecting me. 'As if I need protecting,' I think to myself. 'I could kick her ass into the next millennia.'

"Just leave me here then," I spit haughtily. "I wouldn't want you to go through the trouble of saving me all the time."

That woman has the nerve to laugh like I'm some sort of jester here to entertain her. "Oh, don't you worry. This is a job I've been looking forward to."

This surprises me and my words catch in my throat just long enough for her to tighten her grip on my rest and pull me out of the cell. She has to drag me at first before I reluctantly run next to her. The varying white passages turn dark in the gloom of the situation. Lights flicker on and off as the building repeatedly shutters. Billets seem to ricochet in my ears, their noise bouncing around inside of my head and taking the place of any clear thoughts.

The bullets cease long enough for one clear thought to enter my head. The war. Could it be starting? Are those Numbers's screams echoing in the streets as they murder their own kind? But, Avalis is still here. The Axis Dynasty would never leave their dear leader here in the midst of all this violence if it had been preplanned. Could this be something else all together?

"What's happening?" I ask, desperate to know that the blood of innocent Numbers is not being spilled at this moment.

"That's a good question," she replies, not even a little out of breath from all of this sprinting.

"So, you don't know?"

I can tell she find me amusing when she answers my question. "I know what's happening, I can't tell you, that's all."

"Of course," I huff, not at all surprised but still annoyed.

She stops in front of a door that must be in the heart of the building because the noise from outside as significantly dulled. All of the Monitors that were running around earlier disappeared a while back, probably to get the hell out of here or stop what's going on outside, but their is still one standing at the entrance to the door. It's Cartwright.

"This is where you'll be staying for a while," she tell me as she opens the door. "Don't worry, Sergeant Cartwright will be watching this door very carefully." She's telling me I won't be able to run. 

"I'll be staying here? What about the other prisoners? I thought you said they were all being moved," I protest. I had been hoping I'd see Kern, Mallery, Simoran, or Grey, but that hope is now rotting away and being replaced by panic.

"They are," she says, pressing her hand to the gun on her hip as if my panic is tangible. "Just to various locations throughout the center of the building."

I didn't have any chance of seeing them while I was holed up in that cell, but this is a new kind of disappointment. It's the kind where you already know something bad is going to happen and it's too late to fix, but you have no opportunity to make amends or say goodbye. It's the last disappointment before the end.

I have nothing left to say as she gently presses her hand against my back and guides me into the cell. She closes the door right as I turn around to look down the hall to see if I can catch a glimpse of any of the other prisoners or even Ross and Adrian. The tiny window only lets me look at Avalis as she watches me for a few brief seconds. Gone is the wicked and clever smile, her mouth says nothing, but her eyes promise that we will see each other again. They have finally settled on a shade of green that reminds me of the color of Simoran's eyes, which only makes this more painful for me.

She turns and walks down the hall, leaving me alone but not quite alone since Cartwright is just out of view. I eventually make myself stop looking out the window, waiting for a familiar face to walk by, and move into my small, new room. It's obviously not a cell because there isn't a toilet or a bed. It looks like the interrogation room I was in with Avalis minus the table and chairs.

Without much thought, I curl up into a ball in the corner and try to block out the violence I can hear in the gun shots and explosions. Blocking out and leaving it all behind ends up being devastatingly easy. After all, everyone I know and care about is safe inside the most protected building on the island. It's not me or my friend and family being fired, it's someone else, someone else's sister, someone else's friends who is dying. Not carrying is too simple and too easy, I find myself lulling into its immoral comfort.

Here I am, just a body in the corner, not thinking about all of the lives being lost right now. A being without a soul, forgetting what tragedy is because it's not directly affecting me. I can feel myself becoming a zombie.

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