Chapter 8: Kai
“Sir?” Kai called. He rose from his seat, which was surrounded by numerous computers featuring screens displaying data sets and hidden camera feeds. The lab, which was fairly big, buzzed with bustling people delivering news and ideas. Over the noise of the crowd Kai could hear a man barking orders.
“Sir, I think you need to see this!” Kai yelled, as loud as he dared. Again, no response from his employer. Kai was almost at the top of the food chain - only one man above him and tens of people below. His boss was mysterious and sensitive. Kai didn’t even know his name.
He didn’t want to be fired for insolence, because Kai had nowhere else to go. No company would take a high-school dropout with a record including a month in jail.
The relative quiet around Kai’s cubicle made him squirm. If he waited any longer, the girls would be gone. He considered triggering the alarm that would notify his boss that an emergency was going down, but decided not to. What if he was wrong? What if they were the incorrect girls after all? Kai chuckled, breaking the silence. The fact that he was stressing out about a couple of teenage girls breaking into the lab was pretty ridiculous, he thought. A tiny part of Kai actually felt sorrow for the girls, because they had no idea what was to come. They’re so young, he thought, even though in reality the group was only three years younger than Kai.
Anyway, their existence wasn’t a big deal. They hadn’t even triggered any alarms yet.
Then the room was doused in a screeching white noise that enveloped everything.
Okay. There was that alarm that they ‘hadn’t’ triggered.
Kai’s boss stood slowly from where he reclined in a tall chair that might be called a throne. He turned slowly, revolving around the room, until his gaze fixed on Kai. His furious eyes bored into Kai’s conscience. I should’ve told him right away, Kai thought. Shoot.
“Kaito,” his boss boomed. Kai shook at the sound of his full name. Fury rippled through the air in waves, each one plunging into Kai’s heart. “You’re fired.”
Fired? Kai shuddered. Okay. He could deal with this. But when his downcast eyes met his boss’s once again, dread spiraled through him. A sickly sweet smile graced the man’s face, and his features were upturned in an almost comical way. Comical, of course, if Kai didn’t know what his boss was about to say.
“Ah, but Kaito...” the man paused to finger his hair, “you know too much, my boy. Executioner!” he bellowed. Kai’s face turned white in absolute terror. He did know too much. The Lab Corporation had a monopoly on technological advances - the world had long since forgotten about the existence of computers, phones, and other mechanisms that everyone once relied on.
Kai’s boss had a habit of killing people on the spot. In fact, he kept a murderer’s block in the faculty lounge just in case. His philosophy was as simple as this: if you work for the Lab, you never leave. The Lab had the technology, the mages, to hunt you down. If you tried to abandon ship, well...
As Kai looked around, many of his coworkers and comrades featured the same expression, although less desperate. Sure, they were about to witness a death, but at least it wasn’t them. They all had families to return to.
Kai had a sister.
Closing his eyes, Kai briefly thought of his sister. His boss had lovingly crafted a gift for the small child when she was just a baby. That was the one kind thing that his boss had ever done for him or his family.
And now Rani would be all alone.
Inhaling once, Kai stepped onto the huge wooden block that had just been dragged in by a couple of workers. He knew it was futile to resist; he went with very little fight left in his scrawny bones.
Kai’s boss cracked another toothy smile once Kai was in place on the mound. “Executioner!” he hollered again. When no executioner came running, however, his smile faded the tiniest bit. His face resembles that of a snake, Kai thought. He is a snake.
Kai’s body was incredibly cold, which could be explained by the location of the lab or his impending execution. Execution. That was a strange notion, was it not? All his life, Kai had been docile, cooperative, even shy. He had never wanted to draw any attention to himself, which was why he hesitated to pull the alarm on those girls.
Was it, though? Or were there more factors at play?
Kai had been feeling an out-of-body experience ever since his boss fired him. He was in denial, simple as that. A coping mechanism of sorts, perhaps. Nothing felt real to the man who was to die. The man who was to die. That would take a while for Kai to wrap his head around.
But Kai didn’t have a while, did he?
Chills raced up Kai’s spine as he thought of Rani. To his ultimate horror, he could only picture her basic shape - the color of her skin, her height. What color were her eyes? How long is her hair? Did freckles dot her nose - what shape was her nose, even? Questions racked Kai’s body and loud sobs threatened to burst from his mouth, but he did not give in. His last act would be to deny his murderers any satisfaction from his death.
Kai was jolted out of his thoughts by a loud clap from his boss’s beefy hands. “At last!” the man cried. Fiery delight shone in his eyes. Kai spun around to spot a heavily cloaked figure approaching the block. This is it, Kai thought. This will be the person to kill me.
Kai nodded and sat in the chair that was pulled from one of the cubicles. This is where I will die. The sense of denial still haunted him, making him numb to what was to come.
“Kaito Akana,” his boss said, loudly and clearly. Thus was the beginning of the execution services.
“You are to be ceased by the hand of Rian Arnold.” His boss paused. “Kaito Akana.” It was customary to repeat the accused’s name every time they were addressed. Every single time, Kai winced at the use of his full name. Kaito. It brought back some bad memories.
“In life, you were a man of honor and work. It is up to you to choose how you will enter the realm of death.” With these words, the executioner unlatched a bottle and a knife. “Pick your poison. Or your dagger, if you so choose.”
“You will die by the means of poison. Please say any remaining words that you would like to voice before your ending.” Through his formal words, Kai could see his boss’s eyes glinting with bloodthirstiness. Maniac, Kai thought. Crazy. Insane.
All around him, Kai saw shocked expressions from each person. He’d been on the other side of this ritual before. He knew exactly how they felt, and what they were thinking. Poor guy, some would think. Doesn’t deserve to die. Or, this sure is a long ritual. The most brutal of workers would only think I’m hungry, or I’m bored.
None of their thoughts would save Kai.
Final words. Final words? Kai didn’t really have anything to say. What was there to say that carried such importance? Final words - a very stressful notion, Kai thought. How would he go out?
An idea sparked in him like wildfire.
“My last word?” Kai raised an eyebrow. “Rani.”
Then Kai spat on his boss’s fancy shoes.
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