Chapter Ten: Karma
“Dr. Quiskkin, how is she?”
“I’ll just say it straight out. It’s bad. You were correct in your theory that it was poison.”
“Have you identified what the poison was?”
The doctor warily scanned the crowd surrounding us. In a low voice, he informed me, “If it weren’t for your status as a PopCon, I wouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s something new the government’s developed. You’re extremely fortunate that I’ve access to such information, and have the knowledge to create something to counteract its effect.”
“By that, do you mean to say that you don’t already have such a thing in your possession?”
He coughed sheepishly. “I’m afraid not… sorry.”
“Allow me to assist you.”
His eyes widened. “But… but… you’re-”
“What is the point of status, and winning, if you do not even consider the lives of those who help you achieve your position?”
“It’s unseemly, though, for a PopCon to be among common people for such an extended period of time…”
“Is that truly what you believe?”
Dr. Quiskkin seemed confused. “Of course.”
Belatedly, I realized the implications of what I had asked. I was risking my life needlessly when I questioned someone like him about these matters; anyone with access to confidential government information could very likely be a Con-aut. Even if they weren’t, they could still find my words to be suspicious, and report me. And while I doubted the punishment for being an anti-Con could be any worse than the fate of a PopCon who lost a Contest, it was still something to be feared.
“In that case, I commend you for being such a loyal abider of the conventional ideas associated with the Contest. However, I insist on working on this project alongside you.”
He sighed, before nodding.
“None of this makes the slightest bit of sense at all.”
“Kindrenn…” The doctor glanced towards me, then quickly averted his eyes. They were obviously attempting to watch their words while I could be listening. I found it extremely ironic that this was the typical behaviour of a civilian towards a PopCon, considering how they were the ones who brought us into power, and controlled when we would lose it.
“May I see your work?” I walked up to Kindrenn Skekki. He cringed away from me, but surrendered his papers to me.
I flipped through them, scanning their contents. He seemed to brace himself to be attacked.
“There doesn’t appear to be any errors in your procedure, although the results are quite irregular; there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to them…”
“Yes, and that’s the problem. If we had a pure sample of the substance, maybe we could figure this out. But all we have is from the samples taken from her blood, and we’re running out of those. And, of course, it would put her life in danger to take more samples.”
“Indeed… But hmm… May I make a copy of this to examine further? You seem to have much more thorough observations than I, at the very least.”
He seemed startled by my praise. “Th…thank you, and of course, sir.”
“There’s no need for such formalities. In this circumstance, we are simply coworkers, after all. Please, call me Pykael. Or, if you feel it to be appropriate, Pykkie.”
His lips twitched in the barest hint of a smile. “Alright, then. Then please, call me Drenn.”
After that conversation, everyone seemed to warm up towards me. I wondered if there wasn’t some sort of prejudice towards PopCon among these scientists. After all, the idea of perfection, as far as I was aware of, went against many of the laws of science; I would certainly loathe the idea of a perfect race, then, if I were them.
“That, however, doesn’t feel like the reason. At the very least, it isn’t in this case. It would be a good assumption that it has some connection to Drenn… but what? I shouldn’t pry… though I am quite curious.”
I really must get rid of my habit of thinking out loud. I could be overheard, and that could have deadly consequences, if I spoke the wrong thing.
“It is, however, a characteristic I am known and liked for… after all, it allows fans a glimpse into my mind, one that they may not have with any other PopCon.”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I recalled that hoverbugs weren’t permitted into this laboratory, as they might have interfered with the functioning of the equipment, and reporters weren’t permitted access, either, as this location held some confidential information. If it weren’t for that, my thoughts would have likely been broadcast onto this evening’s news.
“Did you say something?”
“Hm? Oh, no, Drenn. Apologies for disrupting your work; I was simply thinking aloud.”
“I heard you mention my name.”
Shoot… “Is that so? I’m afraid you must’ve been mistaken, then.”
“Don’t try to trick me, PopCon. I’m not one of the gullible idiots who obsess over your every move and believe every word that leaves your mouth. And anyways, you’re the worst liar I’ve ever met.”
I sighed. “If you must know, I was wondering why it was that everyone seemed to like me much more now after you allowed me to call you by a nickname.” My tone was light and slightly joking, but he was, luckily, able to recognize it as the truth. For some reason, this seemed to confuse him.
He watched me with a strange expression that I couldn’t read. “You’re different.”
“No… that isn’t what I mean, and you know it. You’re different from the other PopCon. I can feel it.”
I cast a cautious glance around at the other scientists, but none seemed to believe that this discussion was anything out of the ordinary. That caused me to be even more watchful of them, however; their lack of a reaction could mean that they were a Con-aut spy.
“I would imagine that I am. That would be the secret to my success, would it not?”
“You’re still not telling me everything.”
“I would ask that you please respect my privacy.”
“Privacy? You’re a PopCon; don’t make those excuses.”
“Drenn,” another scientist, a woman named Leika Mevva, warned. Some sort of message passed between them, before he nodded.
“I’m sorry, Pykael. Drenn just has anti-Con… leanings. Please, don’t mind him.”
It was easy to recognize the look of frustration on his face as he restrained himself from disagreeing. I questioned the reason for Leika to mention his “leanings” to me. Was she not worried that I’d report Drenn to the Con-auts?
“Could it be a test, then?…”
“What did you say now?”
“I spoke to myself nothing that concerns you, Drenn.”
Leika laughed. “Oh, Drenn… always thinking that everything has something to do with you. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”
“Leika? Please shut up.”
His words gave her an expression that made her seem as though she’d been struck. Evidently, Drenn typically didn’t speak to her in such a manner.
“Please stop fighting… I’d hate to be the root cause of any disagreement between you.”
“Go to hell,” I could see, were the next words on his lips, but before he voiced them aloud, he suddenly cheered.
“Yes! I’ve found it! The solution!”
“Natha Pière should be completely well in a few days,” Dr. Quiskkin informed me. “Thank you for all the effort you put into this. Without you, I don’t know what we would’ve done.”
I shook his head; it wasn’t my efforts, after all, that had produced the cure, and I refused to be known for a deed I hadn’t done. “Please thank Drenn for me. He was the one who discovered the antidote; he should be the one who is recognized for it.”
“Drenn?” His astonishment at my using of that name to speak of Kindrenn piqued my curiosity about this man even further. I would ask Symn to conduct a background check of Drenn for me when I returned to my house.
I pretended to misinterpret his exclamation. “Yes, Drenn is quite a clever man… However, I’m sure you already realize that, and how fortunate you are to have him under your supervision.”
He nodded absentmindedly. “Yes… of course…”
“When may I visit Nathi?”
“In a few hours. At the moment, she needs to rest.”
“Alright then. I’d like to thank you and your entire team of scientists once more for all your effort spent on helping to heal Nathi.”
“Really, it was no problem…” Flustered, he quickly accepted my thank-you, before turning tail to flee.
“Kindrenn Skekki? Did I hear you right?”
“No, Symnestra,” I retorted, “I said Kindred Spirit.”
“No need to get sarcastic, Pyk. But don’t you remember the name?”
“I do vaguely recall hearing it elsewhere. However, if I could remember, would I be asking you for his information?”
“Guess not. Okay then… The techies are bored, anyways; a hacking job will get them happy.”
“Must this be done illegally?”
“Of course. It wouldn’t be any fun any other way.”
My computer pinged, displaying the results for the background check on Drenn. The first line, and in particular the third and fourth words, caught my attention.
Kindrenn Skekki, Codename Karma
A vigilante anti-Con who refuses to associate with any one group. He hates everything about the Contest, and believes PopCon are better off dead. This view was born in him at an early age. His parents had been scientists under the supervision of the advisor of the late PopCon Tokoma. When Tokoma, who was tagged as a rebel and criminal, was charged for murder, he managed to fabricate evidence that framed Skekki’s parents instead. They were executed, and he won that year’s Contest because of the uproar that was caused by the entire matter.
Ever since, he has made it his mission to eliminate all PopCon, one at a time. His story is well-known in underground circles, and he has earned himself the codename of “Karma,” because essentially, that’s what he is: a seemingly unstoppable force that pays the PopCon back for their crimes.
Several anti-Con rings, including our own, have tried to convince him to ally himself with them, but each time, he has refused, saying that belonging to a ring will only hold him down.
His job places him in an ideal position to fulfill his goal, as he is a well-known and respected doctor in the medical and scientific community for being a genius with toxins, bacteria, viruses, and the like. He by himself is responsible for the creation of several vaccinations.
Skekki’s preferred method of killing is by poisons or diseases of his own creation, especially one that either simulates or causes a fatal heart attack – it is unknown which of the two it is. He needs only to have a small amount of whatever substance he has chosen for the kill to come into contact with an open cut of some sort for his target to die.
His closer colleagues are aware of his alternate identity as Karma, although his superiors and others uninvolved with the anti-Con underworld are not. According to some, he is occassionally assisted by a colleague, although he is always the one who performs the kill.
While it is true that murder goes against the Hippocrates Oath, Skekki justifies his actions by claiming that, because PopCon say that they are perfect, they can’t be categorized as human.
So far, it has been confirmed that he has assassinated 21 PopCon. There are also over 50 unconfirmed cases that he may or may not be responsible for.
Note: Cannot be added onto the suspect list for people who may be the Unicorn, as he refuses to target anyone he thinks of as human, even if they are as corrupt as some of those who are under the employment of PopCon. However, it is true that he sometimes consorts with others who have similar roles in the anti-Con underground, and he may know the identity of the Unicorn.
“Drenn is Karma?!” Obviously, I had heard of the name; who hadn’t? It struck fear into the hearts of many PopCon, as we all seemed to wonder if we would be his next victim. “Well, this certainly explains a few things…” I mused. To be honest, I was now extremely surprised to still be alive after my encountering him.
“Now, however, I believe I’ve found a goal for myself… to find out who, exactly, this Unicorn is – and more specifically, why he targeted Haiyk.”
Author’s Note: Ahkee, last chappie I shall Zine today….. Still have two more completed ones though :P.