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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34. Chapter 33

"Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you."

-Walt Whitman

Every cell in my body begins to shake as I look into the foggy eyes of the man in the lab coats. I am not afraid, this has always been the inevitable, if anything I'm excited. The truth behind the extermination of the Numbers is the final act in Avalis's little magic show. She'll wave her wand and the curtains will open up to reveal her grand plan. The crowd will roar and all of the Numbers will be gone. I knew there was something behind the curtain, I just now get to find out what it is.

The adrenaline in my body makes me stand on my toes and curl my fingers into fists. The end is near and I'm finally awake. I'll be alive long enough to see myself fall.

"Are you coming?" the man in the lab coat asks and Craggier holds out a pair of handcuffs. I works forward with my hands out to let the deep-voiced Monitor clip the handcuffs on my wrist. The y scrap shut with the irritating sound of metal grinding against metal as Craggier purposely makes them as tight as possible without breaking my wrists.

"So," I start saying while I'm pushed into the hall by Craggier, her head not even reaching my chin as she reaches short her arms upwards to push against my shoulders. "Is this the plan I was told about? The one where you start a war among all of the Numbers? Because I thought that one already started a while ago."

"It's a surprise," the man in the lab coat says with a crooked grin that strangely comes off more friendly than evil.

I put the goofiest grin I can manage on my face and clap my cuffed hands like a little kid. "Ooh, goody. I just love surprises."

Annoyed at my sarcastic tone, Craggier whacks me on the back of my head, while Cartwright remains completely stoic. The lab-coat guy smiles even more broadly than before and replies without even a hint of irony or sarcasm. "Good, you should love this then."

I let my smile fall and my smirk take its place. "You better not disappoint me."

"I won't," he says, turning around so that I can see something wicked in his eyes for only a moment.

The conversation ceases suddenly when the man turns back around and begins picking up his pace. My stomach writhes at just the thought of the wicked look I saw in his eyes, the one that by no means matched his strangely friendly smiley, and I get the sickly feeling I'm going to be more than disappointed by whatever surprise awaits me. If it's part of Avalis's show then it can't be good, only deadly. Maybe this is where I'll find out who the jack is and who the lucky ace is.

The man whips his lab coat to the side with overly dramatic flare as we reach a door identical to the rest, he must be part of Avalis's show, the razzle dazzle before the punch line. Even if he is a real scientist or doctor, he only wears that lab coat to intimidate me. His mysterious talk about surprises and his shifting expressions are only meant to throw me off, so that I'm truly shocked by whatever is coming. Avalis wants me to see all of her power. She wants me to know that she pulls the strings of the people all around me, including me. If I won't see her as my mother then I must see her as the highest authority.

The door hisses open like all of the others when he slides his card through the scanner, the hissing noise is much louder and the door much thicker. This isn't like the other rooms in the building. It may appear as plain as the other ones with it's white face, but it hides something much more sinister. Why else would you need a door with extra reinforcement? They either want to keep something in or everyone else out.

Before I can contemplate what is so evil that it must be kept behind a reinforced door or what it might have to do with the fall of the Numbers, I am unceremoniously shoved into the room by Craggier. I manage to catch myself on the edge of a steel counter top in order to keep myself from face planting on the well-polished tiled floor.

The two Monitors walk in followed by the lab-coated man. A slight whooshing sound and the feeling of air being displaced around my ankles accompanies Craggier walking past me, and I suddenly find find my feet flying out from under and the sharp corner of the counter making itself at home in my stomach. I can just not catch a break from that woman, first I have to put up with her obnoxious voice and now she's tripping. I've decided that I hate her even more than I hate most Monitors- and that's saying something.

When the corner of the counter is finally evicted from my gut, I peel myself away from the counter, trying to casually rub the pain out of my stomach, and have a look at what's behind the extra thick door. Glass cylinders litter the counter tops, glistening in the bright fluorescent lights. A large steel refrigerator stands stoically at the back of the room, daring anyone to discover whatever hazardous chemicals lay inside of it. This isn't an execution room and it certainly isn't some war conference room. What the hell did I just walk into?

"Admiring the lab, are we?" the man with the lab coat asks me.

"I feel like I just walked into a bad horror movie," I confess.

The man chuckles lightly as if I am some kid who could never understand what's happening. "This will be much more interesting than a horror movie."

"You promised me a surprise and this is just flat out cliche. Wait, don't tell me, you're actually a mad scientist bent on world domination," I say flatly, thinking about a bad sci-fi, horror movie I saw as a kid. This guy does bear an uncanny resemblance to the main villain. If he's the actor playing the villain, then Avalis must be the director. She's pulling the strings even if the audience can't see her. Too bad I didn't bother to learn my lines like she wanted me to.

"Scientist, yes. Mad, no."

"That's a matter of opinion," I interrupt and he scowls. Craggier slaps the back of my head for good measure.

 "I'm not mad and I don't want to take over the world. I just want to cleanse it," he says to me, his hands clenched together as if to keep them to shaking.

"Alright, Hitler." That earns me another whack to the back of my head. "You keep falling further and further into the mad scientist stereotype the more you talk. You're a living, breathing cliche."

"Hitler didn't want to make the world a better place. He just wanted power, where as I want to cure the world of the disgusting plague known as the Numbers. I'm doing the world a favor," he says, pointing his chin in the air so that he can attempt to look down at me.

"Why, you little...." My wrists strain against their bindings as I lunge for the idiot in front of me. I suddenly want to cleanse of this monster as much as her wants to kill the Numbers. A force from behind propels me backwards and I find myself unfortunately pinned between Craggier and Cartwright.

His lips twitch in satisfaction, but I cannot help but notice that his hands are shaking now. Despite being clenched as tightly as he can manage, his fists tremble as he watches me. So, he's acting out of fear, not the selfless desire he claims to have. He wants to wipe out the Numbers to protect himself, not because we're really evil. "I wouldn't kill me yet," he says followed by a heavy swallow. "You'll ruin the surprise. You'll love it, I promise."

"I'm sure it will be. I have such high expectations from you," I say, my mouth stretching into a brave smile. My muscles pulse beneath my skin, fueled by rage and propelled by desperation.

The reinforced door behind me opens suddenly, sending in a spray of stale air from the hallway. "Oh good. The first part of the surprise is here."

My muscles cease their pulsing, all of the emotions suddenly drained from my body. That is all emotion except one. Fear. I don't want to turn around. I don't want to see the curtain fall. I don't want to know what's behind it. Ignorance is bliss only until you know you're ignorant.

I'm obviously not going to love whatever is behind me. If I had to guess I'd say it will be something that will mess with my head. Turning around will hurt like hell, half of me wants to delay the pain as long as possible and the other half just wants to get it over with.

"Don't you want to see your surprise?"

Something sticky clings to the inside of my throat and it takes me a moment to figure our how to form words around it, or at least one word. "No."

"That's too bad. It's a good one," the man says with a tone lost somewhere between disappointment and sympathy.

"Whats's so good about it?" I ask, this time managing more than a single word.

The man shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head as if the answer is too difficult to put into words. "Why don't you see for yourself?"

My usual sass and snarky comments are long gone. Even if I could come up with something clever I wouldn't say it, it wouldn't do me any good. One of the Monitors behind me, probably Craggier, tries to grab the back of my head and force me to turn around, but I shake them. I'm strong enough to make myself look.

Without any more hesitation- I've showed enough weakness as it is and won't give these people the satisfaction of my fear- I turn around to face the first trick in the final act, the thing that will let me see what's behind the curtain.

What's behind the curtain must be pretty demented because as soon as I turn around I feel like I've been punched in the gut repeatedly, and it's not just from being tripped earlier. Clever, coffee brown eyes dig into my shocked, grass green ones. This can't be right.

Kern stands in front of me, his hands pinned together with a pair of silver handcuffs identical to mine and two Monitors attached to his arms like leeches. His jaw is locked tightly as he looks at me and I suddenly realize that what I thought was the usual clever glint in his eyes is actually fear. His typical Numbers' clothing is bloody and torn, exposing is bony frame. So, they found him too. That means they probably also found Mallery.

"We found a traitor," the lab-coated man says with the same disappointed and sympathetic voice he used earlier.

Kern doesn't acknowledge the man, he stands stiffly and looks only at me, his facial expression urgent. "A traitor to what?" I ask, refusing to take my eyes off of my captured friend.

"His country, his people." I can't see the man, but I imagine that he tenses at my imposing question.

"Aren't we all human?" It's a simple question, yet it's answer determines everything.

"No, I am human, while you are not."

I can't help but let a smirk glide onto my face. "Then he betrayed no one. He tried to save his people from the devil." Kern smiles at this, but the fear doesn't leave his eyes.

"Vermin will save vermin. You're existence depends on feeding off those who are superior to you. Humans." That's his reasoning. We're vermin because we're different and because we are different we deserve to die. He fails to see that we're all capable of our own humanity.

"Why are us vermin here?" Kern asks, his voice hoarse like he hasn't had anything to drink for a while. Maybe he hasn't.

I turn around to here about what's really behind the curtain. Kern was a distraction so they could get the final pieces together and now all will be revealed. The man lights up, his face giving away his blood lust. "To help us get rid of the other vermin of course."

"We'd never help you kill the other Numbers," Kern says with enough determination for the two of us. I scowl and clench my fists to show that I am with Kern.

The man actually has the nerve to laugh. "Like you have a choice. You aren't human, you have no rights."

A little chord snaps inside of me, the one that was just starting to fuse together again. "I'm human, you god damned miserable man. More human than you at least."

He looks at me with a puzzled expression, but addresses the four Monitors in the room. "I think we can safely move on with the plan."

I look at Kern with a pleading expression; I just messed up big time. He simply smiles, this time letting it temporarily chase away the fear in his eyes. It's okay. It's all okay.

Craggier and Cartwright tighten their grip on my arms and drag me to one of the chairs near where the lab-coated man now stands. The cold seeps through my clothes and burrows into my skin the moment I'm tossed into the metal chair. It's like the cold is trying to numb me to what's happening around me and hold me in place at the same time. But, I can't just ignore the blaring truth and the writhing pain that is to come.

Kern is rudely tossed into the other chair, it's frame sighing under the weight of his overly slim body. A shiver rattles his body, made only more prominent by the utter lack of any fat on his body. I had thought he was skinny when I first met him, but this is a whole new kind of thin. He's skin and bones, his body slowly deteriorating from whatever they've been doing to him.

Being General Axis's daughter does have some perks it turns out, even if you are a Number. At least they'll feed you and give you clean clothes before they kill you. A regular Number would be made to suffer before they die.

The man in the white lab coat walks over to the massive steel refrigerator standing tall in the corner and pulls out two glass bottles with labels covered in tiny black print that I doubt anyone can read. Next,  he opens up a cabinet and grabs to syringes packaged in nice, little, plastic covers and two packets of sanitizing clothes. What the hell are those for? What do vaccines have to do with killing all of the Numbers? I guess they don't want us to die of disease before than can fill our heads with bullets.

The liquid sloshing in the tiny, plastic jars is faint blue color that would appear clear unless you were to look right at it. A horrible thought suddenly consumes me. That's not a vaccine. It's Agent-10. They don't need our help; they just want to kill us!

"Getting rid of us so soon?" I ask, trying to mask the fear in my voice with my best poker face.

"Hmm," the man starts and peers at the contents in the jar. "Oh," he continues, now understanding what I'm referring to. "No, this isn't Agent-10 if that's what you're wondering."

"Then, what is it?" Kern speaks up from his slumped over position in his chair. It's a miracle he can even sit up in the slightest.

One of the Monitors watching him, a man with frizzy, blonde hair, glares at him. "You don't have the right to ask questions."

The scientist gives the same look to the Monitor that he's been giving to Kern and me. "It's fine. I was going to explain anyways."

He begins to unwrap the syringes from their packaging and hands a sanitization wipe to Cartwright and one of Kern's Monitors. Cartwright requestss that I pull up my sleeve by tapping on the edge of it and I comply.

"You were actually very close to the truth when you mistook this liquid for Agent-10," the scientist addresses me while still studying the blue contents of the bottle. "It's actually a virus of sorts that acts like Agent-10." Everything turns to static around me as soon as I hear that. This can't be good. "Like Agent-10 it strips Numbers of their regenerative abilities, but it's better in three ways. 1) It also begins to kill Numbers after it takes away their ability to come back to life. 2) It's highly contagious and will spread from Number to Number with ease. 3) It has no effect on humans, it only kills Numbers."

 A shudder ripples through my body and I'm already starting to feel sick, even though they haven't given me the virus yet. So, this is how they're going to use us to wip out our own people. We'll be their unwilling biological weapons. After they give us this virus, if I had to guess, I'd say they'll let us loose in Manhattan in order to spread the virus. Or maybe we're just test subjects to make sure this thing really does what it's supposed to do.

"Wait a minute, if you're injecting us with a deadly virus, then why did you bother to sanitize the injection spot first?" Kern asks, pointing out the irony in their steps.

"We wouldn't want you to die of some other illness first," the man says simply like it's completely logical.

He carefully selects one of the jars, this one being a slightly darker shade of blue than the other, and plunges the first syringe into it. The blue liquid flows from it's original container and into the syringe with a disturbing grace, the fluerescent lighting giving it a strange glow.

The man walks over to Kern and grabs his right arm before burying the needle deep into his skin. Kern cringes as the virus slowly disappears from the syringe and finds it's place in Kern's body. I hold my breath until all of the of the liquid is gone and then wait for my turn.

As the next syringe is filled I can only focus on the liquid inside of it. It's like I'm looking death in the eyes. I just didn't expect death to be such a beautiful color or glitter in the light like that. I doubt I'll find that virus nearly as beautiful once it's in my body.

The scientist flicks his lab coat out of the way as he approaches me, ready to put on a big show for the final act. The syringe piches a little when it enters the spot Cartwright previously sanitized, but I'm not paying attention to the moderate pain. I'm too busy watcing my down fall slip into my veins like a nightmare slips into your head at night, only this time I won't wake up.

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