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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9. Chapter 8

My pulse thrums rapidly in my wrist, every breath comes short and fast as panic sets in. This isn't a coincidence, they've been searching for me for almost two days and now they're getting desperate. They can't let a loose end unravel their secrets.

Everything around me feels like it's closing in, trapping me where the Monitors will find me. Simoran's vibrant green eyes cloud over with panic and I can imagine mine are filled with fear.

'This can't be happening,' I think to myself. No, I knew this was going to happen. I had just prayed they wouldn't do a sweep. They're going to find me and shut me up for good. Their little war will stay a secret until they're ready to put it into action.

"We need to hide you," Simoran says insistently and wraps her long fingers around my forearm, but I can't make myself move. Fear and desperation have irrationally locked me in place forcing my mind to constantly swivel between thoughts of saving myself and telling Simoran about the war. "Indie, come on." She pulls on my arm more desperately.

"Simoran, I need to tell you something first," I tell her.

"It's already 6:10, the sweeps start in twenty minutes," she says hurriedly.

The fear for my own life and desperation to tell someone about the war incase I'm caught still battle in my head. I don't no why I didn't tell anyone besides Maura sooner, the more people that know the better, but now may be my last chance to tell anyone.

"No," I answer demandingly. "This is more important."

"What could be so important that you'd risk your life just to tell me?" she argues back while her eyes look around the room for a place to hide me.

"Why the Monitors are looking for me," Simoran looks away from the dirty apartment and looks at me with her bright green eyes full of confusion, but she still holds an iron grip on my arm. "Why I'm not dead," I continue and her grip losens.

"Is it really that important?" she asks in a small voice, clearly less certain of herself than before.

"Simoran, it changes everything," I say honestly.

"Changes what?" she insists still uncertain of what to do, protect me or here what I have to say.

I feel so stupid for not telling her or Grey earlier, I was to caught up in my own mourning and fear to think about the implications of war. "The entire existence of Numbers," I tell her with my green eyes meeting hers.

A strand of her golden brown hair falls into her face, but she doesn't move to fix it. I have her attention and just in time to because the sweeps start in fifteen minutes. "Fine, tell me," she says quietly and with a slight tremble to her voice.

"My number was dropped to zero because my sister, Adrian, stole an access card from a Monitor. They didn't execute right away like I thought they would," I swallow trying to hold back the tears. "They wanted our help in starting a war."

"A war?" Simoran asks interupting me.

My eyes dart to the clock on the wall, only twelve minutes till the sweeps begin. "Yes, a war. They decided they no longer needed the labor of us Numbers and that the easiest way to get rid of us would be to let us kill eachother."

She interupts again clearly forgetting about the ticking clock. "How did they intend to do that when it's so hard to kill us?"

I shake my head. "I don't know. Maybe give some Numbers access to Agent10. The point is they want to get rid of the remaining Numbers and that's why they want to kill me. I let them believe I was going to help them and then escaped. I got shot during the escape, but managed to make it out through the air vent."

"Without Adrian?" Simoran asks this time not curiously, but hollowly. She knows the horrible thing I did by leaving my sister behind.

"Without Adrian," I confirm squeezing my eyes shut. It's not the first time that I wonder if I deserve to die. I betrayed my sister by leaving her behind. She should be the one safe and alive, not me.

"I know you think your horrible person for leaving your sister-" Simoran starts, but I interupt.

"I am a horrible person."

"But," she continues. "You couldn't have gotten yourself and your sister out."

"How do you know? You weren't there," I spit too nastily.

"Like you said, there were Monitors chasing you and you had to make it out to tell people about the war. Just think about how many Numbers you can save because you're alive to tell me about the war." She sounds like Adrian, reassuring me and comforting. She acts like the mature one when I should be the one taking charge and responsibility.

When I don't say anything Simoran looks at the clock, only seven minutes left. "You need to hide. We can finish talking about this later."

I nod my head in submission. "Yeah, you're right."

I stand up with Simoran to look for a place where the Monitors won't find me. Everything in the room is so broken, like just about everything in Manhattan, that it seems like there couldn't possibly be anywhere to hide. 

"Um, maybe..." Simoran begins and then stops unsure of what to do.

I force myself to take a deep breath an relax my muscles, panicking will only slow me down. It seems like there is no where to hide. There isn't enough furniture to hide behind, not that they wouldn't check there anyways. All of the rooms are to small to offer safety. I can feel sweat bead in my palms as the clock ticks towards 6:30. I squint my eyes shut and force myself to think. 'Where wouldn't they even think about looking? Up.' 

The idea pops into my head, but when I look up the ceiling is made of dry wall, I can't get up there in time.

A creaking sound from the front of the house snaps both mine Simoran's attention away from the search. My breath catches in my throat and I don't dare to move. There is only one person it could be, a Monitor. They've started the search early to try and catch me off guard. Footsteps echo through the short hallway that leads into the dim kitchen.

I don't know how they figured ou I was here, but there isn't time to think any more. Simoran reaches for my hand and I, without thinking, pull bothe of us behind the wobbly table as if that was going to hide us. 

We were supposed to have another five minutes before the sweeps even started, but that must have been some sort of decoy to make it easier for them to find me. 

Simoran's grip is like iron on my arm, but it feels like nothing compared to he nausea in my stomach. The only sounds I hear is my heart jumping in my chest and the sound of Simoran's shaky breathing as she tries to keep herself calm.

Suddenly guilt begins to mix in with the feeling of fear. Simoran is hiding with me. If they find us, no, when they find us, she'll be arrested and executed too. I look over at her hand on my arm, all of the blood drained from her long fingers because if the tight grip she has. What will Grey think when he comes back after the sweep to find his sister gone. He'll know it was my fault.

"Simoran, Indie," someone whispers and I jump hitting my head against the table. 

I push myself out from under the table expecting to be surrounded by Monitors. Fists in the air, head ducked low, ready to fight. Grey takes a step back, surprised to see me ready to fight him.

I drop my fists both relieved and stunned that it's just Grey. "I thought you were the Monitors."

"Yeah, they made an announcement at the factory and sent everyone home. This sweep is more serious than usual," he says rubbing his hands through his dark brown hair. He's right though, they would never send workers home early from the factories unless they really needed to find someone.

"They're looking for me," I say honestly. 

"I figured," he huffs before looking at the clock on the wall behind him, there is only three minutes left until the sweeps start. "Can you at least tell me why they are looking for you?"

"Not now, but I promise I'll tell you as soon as the sweep is over," I say desperately.

His eyes dart around the room. "Alright. I think I know where you can hide."

Grey pulls a chair over to the corner of the room and tells me to climb on top of it. "Where exactly am I going to hide?" I demand.

"In the corner there's a hole in the ceiling that is just big enough for you to get through," he tells me from below.

It takes me a moment, but then I see it. A hole is in the dry wall of the ceiling nearly invisible in the dark shadows of the corner. I reach my hands up and grab the edges of the dry wall. Dirt and cobwebs layer he inside of the hole and a small showering of dry wall crumbles away when I grab the edge. 

There isn't much time left and the fear I have seems to amplify with each second that tick by. I fear the Monitors because of the power they hold over us, but more than anything, in this moment I hate them for what they are and what they represent. 

They are the oppression that keeps us pinned down and they are the reason I have to hide, that I have to worry each and every move I make will somehow alert them as to where I am.

With that resentment living in me, I tighten my grip on the edge and pull myself into the ceiling. My right leg swings over the edge and I push on my knee to bring my other leg in.

The ceiling is full of support beams, cobwebs, and smells strongly of mold. I can hear Grey or Simoran put the chair back into place and brush aside the pieces if dry wall, they don't want to draw attention to this part of the apartment because the Monitors will check every place they know of and can get to.

I crawl as far away from the hole as I can to ensure that even if the Monitors decide to look up here they won't see me. 

When I'm certain it has to be 6:30 I tuck myself between two beams and hold my breath. They'll be here soon.

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