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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7. Chapter 6

"Indie, what are you doing here? Where have you been?" Maura asks her voice leeking into the silence of the night as she sits across from me. She just got back from the factory and found me waiting for her.

"I need help, Maura. They're looking for me," I say fearfully.

Her normally tan skin seems deathly pale in the moonlight as she say feverishly, "I need to know what happened. Does this have anything to do with your fight with the Monitors? Is Mallery in danger?

I swallow hard not wanting to reflect on the events of these last two days, but it doesn't seem like I have much of a choice. "No, this isn't about the Monitors and Mallery isn't in danger, at least I don't thinks she is." Maura seems to relax a little when I say this, but then I say, "Adrian stole an access card from them" Her skin grows even paler. "They tracked the card to our house, there was no time to run. We couldn't fight back and they dropped out numbers to zero."

"How are you still alive if they dropped your number to zero?" Maura interuppts before I can finish explaining.

My face contorts in pain thinking about I'm alive, but Adrian's not. "They didn't want us dead. At least not yet. They said they had special plans for us, plans to start a war."

Her blue eyes narrow in confusion when she asks, "Do you know how they are planning on doing that?"

I shake my head. "No, they didn't tell me that. Just that they needed people on the inside. I told them that I'd help them, but then I tried to find Adrian and escape."

"Does Adrian know anything about the war?" she insists.

I don't know why she's so insitent on the war, but she's missing the real point. "Maura, Adrian's dead."

She slumps back in her seat suddenly as if pushed by an unknown force. "She's dead," she says like the words are completely foreign to her. "How did it happen?"

Tears spill over my eyelids as I do my best to garble out the words. "The Monitors came after me while I was looking for her. They started shooting at me and I had to leave her behind. I barely made it out alive."

Maura refuses to look at me. "You left her and now she's dead." It's not a question, but a fact. She doesn't even look up at me when she says, "Indie, leave."

"What?" I choke out.

Her blue eyes refuse to leave the table. "I said leave. I can't help you."

"But, Maura," I practically beg. I just lost my sister I can't lose Maura too.

"Leave!" she practically yells at me.

The chair I was sitting in falls to the ground as I scamper backwards like a scared little kid. The moonlight shines down on me as I open up the grate and climb through. In the moonlight I get one last good look at Maura because I'll probably never see her again, not after the Monitors find me.

She pushes back her chair and trudges over to the old radio she keeps on the shelf next to all of the sketches and blueprints. It's the radio we can communicate to her with if anything ever goes wrong on a mission. She's probably thinking of little Adrian as she looks at it. She's thinking about how a poor 15 year old girl got killed because of her selfish sister.

The streets are silent watching me in secret. Shadows fall in every direction like cloaks trying to hide me, but they can't hide we forever, not when the Monitors are looking for me.

There aren't many places for me to go besides one of my friends' apartments, either Ross' or Casprie's. I've crashed at Casprie's place a few times, so I decide to go there.

The path leading to her apartment is thankfully full of allies, but still there is a suspicious lack of Monitors and when I get a block away from her apartment I find out why. There is at least a dozen of them surrounding the apartment building, not trying to break into anyone's apartment, but just waiting for something. Waiting for me.

I should have seen this coming. They've been watching me, so they'd obviously know about my friendship with Casprie. But, how did they know where she lives? It doesn't matter, everyone in my band thieves apartments are probably surrounded. There has to be somewhere safer than here.

Footsteps echo in the ally and a few Monitors look up to see what the sound is, but there is nothing for them to see. Filthy air filters into my lungs as the dirt streets stretch on into the night. The Monitors didn't see me, but they're still looking for me and I know they won't stop.

Information they didn't want to get out is in my mind and I can't just forget it. I'm their loose end they need to finish off. They won't succeed, not after what they did to Adrian.

Running through the streets, I finally know where I can be safe. Not in a dark ally or an abandoned factory, but with as many people as possible. The Ring is my safest bet for now. The Monitors never go in there and it's easy to move in and out of the building with the crowd.

The Ring is only a few blocks from here and I quickly head in the direction of the only illuminated building. People rush into the Ring like cattle being herded, always trying to move a little faster and get around the person in front of them. Slipping into the large group and getting into the building is easy.

Everyone is packed tight in the Ring, each person lurching forward to get the best view of the brawl going on in front of them. Maybe brawl isn't the best word for what the fights are; they aren't the sloppy punches and lopsided kicks you'd expect to see from most people, they're much more complexx. Each fighter cleverly weaves around the other to get in the best position to take down their oppenent. When it comes down to it the fights aren't about strength, but speed.

Sweat drips from almost every body in here, not just the fighters, as people watch the current main attraction: a fight between the number five fighter, Bree, and the number three fighter, Farro. It looks like Farro is winning, but it's hard to tell from behind the mass of body's. I'm above average in height, yet I still struggle to catch a glimpse of the action.

The fights are a nice distraction from everything that's going on, seeing other people struggle instead of myself. Watching these people punch and kick for a little money seems shameful when my sister couldn't even put up a fight for her life. That's why I watch, to make myself banish the thought of Adrian's body lying in one of the execution chambers stacked on top of another dozen Numbers.

The clustered bodies press too close and I can't take it anymore. Pushing through the dense crowd, I force my way to the area designated for the Prodigy fights. These fights are much less popular since the Prodigies aren't usually as good as the fighters and a lot less people bet on these fights.

A chipped chalk board hangs on one of the walls near the fighting ring displaying this weeks top ten Prodigies:

1.Calcetine

2.Gimrin

3.Simoran

4.Kelah

5.Pinrer

6.Kay

7.Carlos

8.Minerva

9.Cale

10.Litcher

My heart drops to my stomach. Simoran, the girl who helped me, is here and according to the board she's fighting next. It's only now that I see her of to the side with cloth wrapped around her knuckles, ready to fight. Grey stands next to her giving her some sort of pep talk. It's clear that he's already fought based on the blood on his clothes and the sweat dripping down his face. And since he's still standing he probably won.

Simoran pulls her golden brown hair away from her pale face and green eyes. Her skin is like porcelaim, so unlike my own tan skin, and it's hard to imagine anyone hurting her. I guess she's the one doing the hurting.

Her opponent is a stocky boy with a clean shaven head, who, according to the board, is Gimrin. His teeth are gritted and his eyes narrowed as he watches the smaller, skinnier standing on the opposite side of the fighting ring.

Simoran bounces on her toes with her fists held up to her chin ready for the fight even though she hasn't entered the fight yet. A gruff man, one of the Numbers that runs the Ring, motions for the two to enter the fighting ring.

The person next to me takes a shuttering breath in as the two fighters put their fists up, they probably have a pay check riding on this fight. Grey bites down on his thumb as he watches Simoran, who, as before, is still bouncing up and down on her toes, while her opponent's feet stay planted on the ground. The gruff man says something to the two teens that is too quiet to hear in the chaos, and then steps out of the ring.

Gimrin wastes no time to go after his much smaller opponent. His body moves swiftly so that he stands behind Simoran giving him the perfect position to attack from. His foot swings out to pull her legs out from under her, but however swift and fast Gimrin is, Simoran is faster. Her feet leave the ground, not because Gimrin tripped her, but because she's jumped out of the way.

Gimrin's momentum carries him foreward and Simoran catches his stomach perfectly on her fist, leaving the kid hunched over and gasping for air. Before he can recover she brings her elbow sharply down on his back and the cracking sound is audible even over the roar of the nearby crowd. He definitely broke a rib or two.

Blood dribbles down Gimrin's chin, but he doesn't know or care, he needs to recover quickly if he stands any chance of winning. In the time it takes Simoran to get in position to attack again he's ready. His face is a contorted mixture of rage and pain, but no amount of pain will stop this boy, he's out for blood.

It's clear that Gimrin has a powerful kick because he goes for another one rather than a punch. Speedy as always, Simoran moves to dodge the blow heading towards her hip, but he gets a lucky shot as she jumps out of the way and his foot connects with her knee. She sucks in a deep breath when the foot slams into the side of her knee. The blow doesn't stop her, but it slows her down, making her move with the same limp I have.

Gimrin looks overly pleased with the cheap shot he got in and I can't help, but start hating the kid; he's not as skilled as Simoran, yet he seems to be winning.

Thinking he has the advantage of speed, he goes for a puch to the head, probably to knock her out and win the fight. She ducks her head sideways and uses one hand to grab him by the shoulder and rams her other into his stomach. Her good knee slams into his chest causing him to cough blood onto her face.

It's fascinating to watch someone get so into what they're doing as Simoran, she pays no attention to the blood on her face or the roaring of the crowd, she just does without hesitation. I wonder if that's what I look like on while I'm hacking and stealing.

 Gimrin is struggling to recover his breath and can put up no fight when Simoran slams her fist into his head, knocking him to the ground. He's out cold before he even hits the floor, a much more violent way of knocking someone out than I'm used to.

The gruff man steps into the ring to make sure Gimrin is knocked out and when he's finished he declares Simoran the winner. I expect to see Simoran smirking, but she just more relieved than anything. Grey comes out and pulls her into a brotherly hug, while Gimrin's mentor has to pull him out of the ring.

Watching Simoran and Grey makes my heartache, they're just like Adrian and me, except for the part where Adrian is dead and Simoran is not. Tears trickle in my eys, but I wipe them away. You can't cry at the Ring or really anywhere public in Manhattan.

I feel the same green eyes that I woke up to only this morning on me and when I look up Simoran is watching me. There is not time for me to think, I just push through the crowd as fast as I can. I should have left as soon as I saw Grey and Simoran, but now she's seen me and they're bound to tell a Monitor.

The crowd seems to have gotten ten times thicker and getting through it is a struggle. My heart beats rapidly in my chest and my forehead is covered in a sheen of sweat that I can't tell if it's from the heat or fear.

Stepping out into the pollution filled air of the night is like a breath of fresh air. I slump against the wall of the Ring trying to calm myself. Maybe Simoran didn't see me, maybe she was looking at someone behind me. I try to tell myself these things, but I'm just lying to myself. It was me she saw. She's probably telling a Monitor right now.

The Monitors are already ripping apart the city to find me and now they'll know exactly where I am. It's not safe to stay here, it's not safe anywhere, but the best thing to do right now is to keep moving.

Every sound and every movement is a Monitor waiting to jump out and arrest me. Every Number heading back from the Ring is just waiting to report me even if they don't know who I am. There is no where that thay can't find me. No where they aren't willing to look. I have information they want kept under lock and key and they'll do anything to silence me.

Nothing to do but keep miving. Stopping would mean death. Storm clouds roll over head taking me back to the dream I had the night Adrian and I were arrested. That dream seems like another life, but it was only a couple of days ago.

Normally this is when I'd climb to the of the apartment building and sit with my knees tucked to my chest. The rain would flood the rooftop and chill me to my bone, but it would also refresh my mind. The rain would clarify my thoughts and help put everything in perspective.

Adrian would always complain about how the rain would give me the flu or a cold, but no matter how many times I got sick she still helped take care of me. We were a team, but now half of that team is dead and the other half is being hunted like a wild animal. That's what we are to them wild animals and to them I'm a particularly dangerous wild animal, a rabid one that needs to be put down as soon as possible.

There is nothing that needs to be put in perspective anymore because there is nothing to do but survive and run at this point. How quickly things escalate.

The rain comes after an hour or so of moving through the heart of Manhattan. It comes down in sheets flooding the streets and spilling outof broken rain gutters. Instead of the usual clarity it brings, it seems to bring an omen like my dream. Saying they'll find you again, you were never meant to survive.

The ominous rain only seems to press down harder the further away from the heart of the city I go as if it were trying to give a warning. The Court House, which is also the Monitors' base is closer to the inside of the city so the outside has to be safer. At least I hope is is, so I ignore the rain's warning.

At the very out skirts of the city, right next to the Atlantic ocean, are a few docks and sheds for people to store their boats and fishing equipment at. No one really uses either anymore because no one has a boat and the sheds are too small to even lay down in, though; some Numbers use them to store various illegal items they came by.

After trying a few of them I find that all of them have been locked, probably by different groups of thieves to keep their goods safe. It takes me another fifteen minutes to find a rusted nail that is suitable for picking locks. The nail pushes against the inside of the lock until it catches the tumbler and the lock springs open.

The shed is virtually empty except for a few boxes of spoiled grains and a jug of water, who ever locked this place up clearly has not been here in a very long time. It will be a tight fit, but I should be able to crouch comfortably in the shed for a while.

The rain stops beating against me as soon as I step into the shed and I let out a sigh of relief before a hand covers my mouth. I try to scream, but the hand is clamped firmly. Why didn't I think to check if I was being followed? It's too late now because the Monitors have found me.

"Don't scream," a voice tells me.

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