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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10. Chapter 9

"Some nights are made for torture, or reflection, or the savoring of loneliness."

-Poppy Z. Brite

One. Two. Three. Four.

I try to count the flakes of dust swirling in the air around me. A little bit of light leaks into the dim inner ceiling of Simoran and Grey's apartment from the hole I climbed through. Every time I think I've found all the little specks, they shift and I have to start counting all over again.

It seems like a strange way to pass time, counting specks of dust, but it helps me relax. If I can concentrate on these insignificant flakes then I can force my mind away from what's about to happen. 'Nothing matters, but the dust,' I tell myself. 'Just focus on the dust.'

One. Two. Three. Four.

I start again.

The streams of light shift slowly across the rotting wooden support by as the minutes tick by. The Monitors haven't arrived to sweep the apartment yet, but they will be soon. They have an entire city to rummage through.

They didn't say it directly, but I know there looking for me. The announcement they made

wasn't just to justify a sweep, but to also scare me. If I'm scared I'll be less cautious and make me do something brash, like hide under a table. What they don't realize is that fear doesn't make us give up, it makes do whatever it takes to survive.

My hand trembles slightly at the thought of the sweep. My mind has wondered and I need to go back to counting dust. The dust flickers in and out of the thin streaks of light bringing back a memory I'd long since buried away.

Trickles of the memory try to make there way into my mind, there's a man with the same coal black hair Adrian and I have, or at least Adrian once had, and his eyes are a deep brown unlike either of ours. They flicker with a bright light I always saw in Adrian's eyes but always failed to see in my own. His skin is even tanner than either of ours, but I can still see the similarity. It's the last memory I have of my dad.

The memory has gaps in it, but the dark weight of what happened still ways on me. The light in his eyes seemed to be a lie.

Shaking my head, I force myself out of the dark well of the memory. No use going back there now. That part of my life is over and no matter how many times I wish I could stretch my hands through time and got back there, I can't. All I can do right now is wait.

It seems like I've spent hours squished between various wooden beams before the knock, more like pounding, on the door comes.

"This is the Monitors," someone shouts from the other side of the door. "We're authorized to do a sweep. You have thirty seconds to open the door."

Scampering feet run across the carpet in the apartment below as Grey and Simoran hurry to open the door before the Monitors knock it off its hinges. They open the door, but the Monitors slam it against the wall anyways trying to intimidate Grey and Simoran.

There's shouting below me, but that's not what has me scared. The light on the dust. The pounding on the door. The sound of feet running across carpet. It's all to familiar, especially when I'm tucked away between these rotting beams.

"Are you two aware that there is an epidemic going on?" The Monitor asks, but it sounds more like an accusation than a question.

"No, we weren't. What kind of epidemic?" Simoran's voice filters through the ceiling and I can hear the fear in it from up here.

"There are certain Numbers lurking around the city that shouldn't be," the Monitor answers carefully as if he's looking for some sort of reaction, something that will let them know if I'm in the apartment.

"Like untagged children?" Grey says this time without the fear that was Simoran's voice.

Untagged children. Those two words feel like they're nipping at the back of my brain, trying to make me think about that memory. This scenario is almost exactly the same as the one that happened over ten years ago.

"Indie," my dad whispered into the dark room. "Get up we need to leave."

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and tried to make out my dad's shape in the dark room. He stood in the doorway of my lavish room with Adrian peeking behind his legs. "Where are we going?" I asked in a voice quieter and higher pitched than my voice now.

"Just on a little trip," he told me. Even in the dark I could make out his rigid posture and knew this wouldn't be like our usual trips where he'd take us out of the high tech Mexico City and on a fun vacation or to Chicago to visit our mom in the Capitol.

My mom had been an important person, that much I remember, but everything else is blurry. I don't remember what she looks like. How she acted or even what her name was. I never saw her much anyways since Adrian and I lived with our dad in Mexico City and she rarely came home.

I scurried out of bed and ran across the plush carpets to grab a change of clothing. My young mind could process the seriousness of the situation, but I felt more confused more than anything.

With a pair of my nicest jeans on and a thick coat I could never dream of affording now, I hurried into the hall as fast as my small legs could move me. My father reached for my arm, but then I remembered something. I had left my favorite stuffed animal on my bed, a panda named Edwin.

"Hold on," I told my dad and sprinted back into my room for Edwin.

"Indie, we don't have time for this. We need to leave." He tried to sound calm, but the panic trickled into his voice.

I snatched Edwin off the bed and returned to the hall. This time my dad grabbed my arm with an iron grip and refused to let us go as he ushered us down the stairs.

A driver was waiting in the driveway, his hands gripped tightly around the wheel of one of a car I didn't recognize. The car was a dull gray and was much more casual looking than my father's luxury cars. We weren't just running, we were hiding as well.

Once we were in the car the driver raced out of the driveway and drove towards the highway. Adrian's little toddler hands gripped at my sleeve and I could see tears trickling down her face in the dim streetlights.

My dad was to busy looking out the window, like he was expecting someone to follow us, to notice her tears. I pulled her into a hug and whispered to her, "It's okay. We're going to be okay." Adrian had been to young to pick up on the fear in my voice and just nodded her little head.

The car ride dragged on for hours until we pulled off the highway and drove down a long dirt road with a small house at the end. My dad pulled us out of the car as soon as it stopped moving and moved into the house, looking constantly behind him as he went.

The house was virtually empty with just one tiny cot, a table with an old radio on it, and a kitchen with empty cabinets. It was so different from the fancy mansion my mom's money and position had bought us.

My dad sat down in one of only two chairs at the the table and turned on the radio. At first there was only static, but then a voice came through.

"Our great leaders Avalis and Remus Axis have made an announcement," the voice came through the radio's speakers and echoed through the small room. It was talking about the two rulers of the Axis dynasty, twins who each controlled their own part of the government. Avalis has control over the military and law enforcement, while her brother Remus makes the laws that we have to abide by. "They are cracking down on untagged Numbers and will send all Numbers to the prison on Manhattan. If you know the location of any Numbers then it is advised to turn them in for your safety and for the safety of those around you."

My dad turns to radio off abruptly and stand up so quickly that he knocks the chair he was sitting in clatters to the ground."Do you know what's happening?" He asked us and we both shook our heads no.

"Good." The word was almost to quiet for me to hear.

A flash of headlights came through the window and at first I thought it was just the driver turning around, but then three more sets of head lights passed by the window. All of the blood rushed out of my father's face leaving his normally tan skin deathly pale.

A piece of wood clattered to the ground as my dad pulled it off the ceiling revealing a square hole for Adrian and I to climb through.

I placed my feet carefully on the wobbly chair and reached for the hole in the ceiling where Adrian sat with her chubby toddler fingers wrapped around the edge of the hole. My dad grabbed my by the waist to lift me the rest of the way.

Edwin was tucked into the crook of my arm and as I reached my arms out to pull myself in he fell to the floor. "Edwin," I said desperately, but there was a pounding on the door and my dad put the panel back in place before he could hand me the plush panda.

"Dad," I whispered quietly suddenly terrified of who was at the door and for my dad.

My dad scampered to the door and opened it casually obviously trying to make it seem like nothing is wrong.

"Theran," a woman said my father's name. "Where are they?"

"Who?" My father replied with what seemed like genuine confusion in his voice.

The voice ca e closer along with several pairs of footsteps. "Your daughters! Who else would I be talking about?" Her voice had risen drastically in volume.

"I came out here to get some personal space. There on a trip with their nanny," he replied not reacting at all to the woman's loud voice.

I heard a slight creaking sound and the woman's voice came again, but this time it was not loud and angry. It sounded like she's pleased with herself, like she had my dad just where she wanted him. "And I assume this cute, little panda is yours then?"

My breath picked up quickly and I forced myself to take deep breath and watch the dust float through a thin beam of moonlight coming brought a window in the attic.

"No, it's Indie's, but you would no that if you ever actually spent time with her. She gave it to me before she went on her trip. You should know how she always likes us to have something of hers," my dad answered with his voice filled with venom.

My dad suddenly cried out like he'd been stabbed. A small scream escaped Adrian's lips, but I quickly covered her mouth. A moment passed as my dad struggled below us possibly trying to get away and then there was a gun shot.

Looking back now I can guess that when he cried out they had injected him with Agent-10 and that the gun shot was to finish him off, but I didn't know that back then.

A screeching sound came from the place where my dad pulled out the panel just a few minutes ago. A woman's head appeared in the hole, but all of her features were blurry as if I was looking at her through a wall of fog.

"Found you," she whispered cruelly.

Two soldiers pulled us out of the attic and made us kneel on the ground. My day's body was gone, but there was still a blood stain on the ground. I wanted to cry so badly, but the fear overpowered that and left me kneeling on the ground, hopeless.

"Numbers?" One of the soldiers asked.

"They should be," the woman said with her hand under her chin and head tilts like she was studying us. "Guess there's only one way to find out."

She pulled out a high tech looking handgun from her belt and pointed it at Adrian's head. "But, there are other tests. What if their not Numbers? They'll die," a soldier interjected.

"This way is much faster," she said and pulled the trigger before anyone else could argue.

Adrian crumpled to the ground, all the light drained out of her bright eyes. "Adrian!" I screamed as my vision went red. There were so many emotions swirling inside of me, anger, fear, desperation, depression, and hopelessness.

I reached to grab Adrian's small body, but the second shot went off before I reached her and everything went black.

"Indie," a voice calls to me. "Indie, you alright in there?"

My head snaps to the side where Grey is looking at me from the hole in the ceiling. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking."

"Well, there gone now. You can come down," he replies and then disappears back into the apartment.

I shake the last bits of the memory from my head and follow Grey.

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