The Interference IV: Dark Renegade

To Our Surprise

"...So I finally managed to get us all into Elaeus's little pocket dimension after absorbing the remains of the Epoch, and that's where we defeated him. Guardia finally held its Moonlight Parade, and we returned to Amestris shortly after sending the rest of the group to their respective times. And that's pretty much the long and short of it."

The popular Kingdom Hearts II characters known as Sora, Riku, and Kairi listened to their friend wrap up his tale as they sat on one of the beaches of Destiny Islands. The person telling the tale was none other than Alexander Karsath, the Interference.

The "Interference" phenomenon happens when a person's heart becomes connected with the world of an interactive story, like a video game. The world in question is brought into existence, along with its characters, and the person who connected becomes sucked into the world at the beginning of the story. They are thus called Interferences, due to the nearly inevitable changes that their presence causes to the game's storyline. And to protect their identity upon their return, time stops in the "real" world for that length of time.

Alex Karsath became the Interference of Kingdom Hearts II two weeks previously in the real world's time. He acquired a weapon called the Lockshield, the direct equal and opposite of Sora's Keyblade, and managed to learn to fight with the world's techniques and abilities as he was forced to fight alongside the Keyblade Master and his friends. He made a couple of changes to the game's storyline, the most notable of which being the prevention of Axel's death and his subsequent restoration to a full human with a heart.

Two weeks after his return, on the midnight of Alexander's fifteenth birthday, his sister, Erica, became an Interference of the game Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir. Fearing that the universe of that anime-based game would be less merciful than that of Kingdom Hearts II (and also knowing his sister's fangirl nature), Alexander went in after her to protect her (and the main characters).

Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one hopping across game universes. The missing apprentices of Ansem the Wise, known as Braig, Dilan, Elaeus, Even, and Ienzo, came out of hiding to study the Interference phenomenon. Dilan was the one who came into the Fullmetal Alchemist universe, and he managed to kidnap Erica. On top of that, he exploited the tension between brother and sister to influence Erica to turn herself into a Heartless, in the hopes that this conflict would prove too much for Alexander.

Alexander bested his sister's Heartless and destroyed her, along with Dilan. In a move to distract himself from his sister's combined suicide and betrayal, he immediately went along to the next game universe, and the Elric brothers – the protagonists of the Fullmetal Alchemist universe – joined him for that adventure. They went to the world of Chrono Trigger, an old Square-Enix classic RPG in which the group transcended time in the world called Guardia.

On top of having learned how to use alchemy in Amestris, Alexander learned Lightning magic in Guardia. Near the end of it, as he mentioned, he also began to learn how to use the Chronos abilities – magics to move through time with. They were crucial in the final battle.

Although he named one of those Chronos abilities after Cloud's Omnislash, a sarcastic disembodied voice sounding just like Alexander's spoke out, which only the four of them could hear. This was Joumae, Alexander's dark counterpart. Joumae represented the will of the Lockshield, and was essentially created by the imbalance of darkness and light within Alexander's heart. And because Sora, Kairi, and Riku were familiar with having secondary personalities within them (namely being Roxas, Naminé, and the late Heartless of Xehanort), they could all hear each other's counterparts.

Sora blinked at this description. "You what?" he mumbled.

Alexander scowled. "Well, you have to understand that it was a last minute decision. I knew what kind of effect I wanted, and I knew how to pull it off with the time loops, but I was missing a name to, y'know, incant. So that was the first idea that came to my head."

Riku chuckled at Alexander's defense. "Well, just shows how creative you are with your abilities." At this, Joumae laughed.

Well, Sora's Nobody, Roxas, joined in, I guess the technique could use a rename anyway. It'd be bad to end up fighting alongside Cloud and be forced to use that in front of him.

Alex sighed and nodded. But a silence descended on the group as they failed to come up with another name for the Chronos Omnislash ability. This silence lasted for a few moments, but then one of the counterparts broke it. Paradox, maybe? It was Naminé, Kairi's Nobody.

Kairi thought about it for a moment, and nodded at Alex. "That sounds nice. Especially if it's done by setting up a bunch of overlapping time loops. A paradox is the only way to describe it!"

Sora grinned. "The Chronos Paradox it is!"

Alexander rolled his eyes. "Hey, don't I get a say in what my abilities are called?" he asked jokingly, but he then shrugged. It was a good name for it.

"You know..." Riku began to say, putting on a thoughtful look, "this Paradox ability seems like it'd be good for more than just the Omnislash technique. If you could create closed time loops to bring more of yourself to the present, the possibilities..." He trailed off purposefully.

Yeah, so best not to restrict it to the Omnislash, Joumae agreed to fill the silence.

"Well, that got off track fast," Alex remarked. "Now, where was I?"

The Kingdom Hearts trio gave each other a glance. "Actually, you finished your story," Kairi pointed out. "I think you covered just about everything."

Except that Alex has a crush on Lucca! Joumae obnoxiously interrupted, making the others jump. Alexander blushed and flustered a little, tired of this teasing. As small the likelihood was that he'd admit it, he and Lucca had become more than positive acquaintances.

"Really...?" Riku asked, a smirk on his face as usual. "Surprising, coming from the guy that complained about Sora and Kairi's reunion being too 'mushy'."

The other three blushed, while the counterparts in their heads started laughing. Eventually, a flustered Alexander said, "Look, there's nothing really... tangible.. yet!" Finally, he got up from his seat on the beach and looked out to sea, taking deep breaths to calm down.

As the last bouts of mirth escaped from the group, Alex said, "Well, now my plan is to get a day off before I head out and face another of the apprentices. I've yet to celebrate my birthday... and, well... I don't know how people will react to my sister's sudden disappearance. I gotta see how things are gonna turn out."

Sora and the others stood up as well. The Keyblade Master nodded at him and said, "Yeah, we understand. See you later, Alex."

"See ya," Kairi added.

Riku nodded. "Take care of yourself. And try not to get killed this time."

Alexander winced but smiled back, and then held up his right hand. It became covered in an inky black smoke for a moment, and his weapon was in his hand when the smoke dissipated. It was a moderately large, round, dark green shield with a keyhole in the center and the Heartless emblem in the center. This was the Heartless Seal Lockshield, the Kingdom Hearts design of the shield.

Alex pointed the center of the shield toward the sea and shouted, "Unlock!" A bright blue beam shot out from the keyhole in the center of the Lockshield, and stabbed into the air just above the water flowing in. A ripple formed in the air, expanding until it was as tall as Alexander, before it suddenly tore through the space and formed a dark portal. Without any further words, Alex ran forward and jumped into the portal.

The very next second, Alex was standing in a dark, second-story apartment by himself. The dark portal closed behind him, revealing the television and game systems behind him. He was back in the real world; back in his own home. Alex sighed and knelt down, disconnecting the Super Nintendo from the VCR and removing the Chrono Trigger game cartridge.

Joumae chuckled in Alex's mind, and the boy sent querying thoughts toward Joumae's section of his mind. Ahem... Well, now we know that the Interference phenomenon isn't dependent on which game system is plugged in.

Alex quirked an eyebrow as he picked the game system up and started carrying it back into his room. "Well, what did you expect?" he asked, using his current solitude to voice his thoughts aloud. "That I'd suddenly come across a PS2 and an SNES that could make games real? And nobody else had?"

Well, that type could've been on backorder, Joumae suggested with a mental grin. There was a pause as Alex entered his cluttered bedroom and set the SNES equipment on the desk near the door. Point is, our lives haven't been based on week premises. If only people could write fanfiction without such weaknesses...

Alex chuckled as he started changing into his pajamas. "You've been digging into my memories, haven't you?" He hung his magicked traveling garments up and looked at his digital clock. 12:10 AM. He'd been through no less than two harrowing adventures, and only ten minutes had gone by in his world. Astounding, but he was beginning to get used to the effect.

Finally, Alex turned off the light and tucked himself into bed. Now that his magical garments were off, his lack of sleep was quickly catching up to him. "G'night, Joumae."

Goodnight, Joumae replied. And good luck in the morning.

Alexander shifted to laying on his side, and let out a deep sigh. He didn't exactly want to be reminded of what was ahead of him.

At long last, the morning sun rose to shine on the west coast of America. At about seven-o'-clock, the knob of the apartment's front door shook as someone outside fumbled in unlocking it with a key. At last, the door opened up, and a full-figured brunette woman wearing a dark business outfit and glasses stepped in.

The woman placed her purse near the door and hung up the keys up on the shelf nearby. She then walked into Alexander's room. The boy was asleep, obviously, and quite soundly. Smiling, the woman walked over to Alex and gently shook his shoulder.

The boy groaned, and rolled back to peek up at his mother. Wendi Karsath grinned at her waking son and whispered, "Happy birthday, Alex."

Alex nodded slowly. "Thanks, mom..." he mumbled, his voice revealing his grogginess.

Wendi nodded back. Alex liked to sleep in, especially during the summer. She started to walk out of the room, and moved toward the door right next to Alex's bedroom door. Looking back, she said, "Make sure you wake me up before noon; your dad's coming then." She then opened the door and walked in.

Alexander blinked as he watched this. Something was wrong here, but... The realization made his eyes go wide. She'd just gone into Erica's bedroom! Alex threw off his covers and ran out to the door, and swung around to look into Erica's room.

His mother, having just taken off her jacket, looked back at him with a confused expression. "Yes?" she asked.

Alex's jaw dropped. The room was completely different. The bunk bed was gone, replaced by a single bed and mattress. Gone was the shelf full of manga and merchandise, replaced by a desk with a computer and printer on it. And instead of two cabinets for clothes – one for mom and one for Erica – there was only one.

Get ahold of yourself, man... Joumae whispered, his tone dead serious.

Alexander gulped and straightened himself. His sudden burst of energy in the panic was now fading. "Um... nothing, I guess. You go to sleep." After all, since his mother worked the graveyard shift, she'd need to sleep during most of the day to be ready for the night.

His mother smiled and nodded again, and Alex closed the door slowly. His eyes stayed wide as he walked back into his room in his tee-shirt and shorts, wondering what was going on. It seemed that all evidence of Erica had...

It must be a part of the universal failsafe law, Joumae explained. When someone dies as an Interference, that person is completely erased from the real world altogether. In every way. No memories, no belongings, no official records... Heck, your parents had never even-

"Alright," Alex muttered, cutting Joumae off before he could elaborate. But despite the risqué example, the point was clear. In order to keep the phenomenon hidden, every trace of Erica had been erased. Only Alexander remembered how it had once been, simply because he hadn't been in the real world at the time.

Alexander sat on the edge of his bed, and stared off into space contemplatively. His whole life was different now... It would be harder to simply pretend that everything was normal. Harder to pretend that he hadn't been through a dangerous adventure. Pretend that he hadn't been killed and brought back to life through a time paradox. That he didn't have an obnoxious bastard as a mental copilot.

Catching this train of thought, Joumae said, Well, it's better this way. Would you rather have your parents know that one of their children sacrificed herself for the sake of power? Or that the other one was in charge of dispatching her?

Alex sighed. There wasn't any way around Joumae's argument. Silent once more, he held up his hand and stared at it. He summoned the Heartless Seal Lockshield, then switched it to the Crimson Catalyst, then the Time Fracture, and then dismissed the shield. What use would those things be here? There was no use for them, and using them would only attract unwanted attention to himself.

The only way to use his abilities would be to go back into a game universe. But to do so at that very moment would be just running away again, like he'd done from Amestris to Guardia. No, he was determined to get through today and live more of his life without incident.

Tonight, then? Joumae asked curiously. Alex simply nodded.

The doorbell rang once. Only once, and a long moment passed before the pressure on the doorbell was released, letting the second tone ring out. Alexander ran to the door and quickly opened it. Standing outside was a fairly tall man with brown, short hair. He was wearing a blue denim jacket with a black shirt underneath, blue jeans, and black sneakers. The man also had a big black backpack strapped to him, and it looked stuffed.

The man grinned. "Hey there, rugrat," he greeted Alex as he walked in.

Alex smirked and closed the door behind him. "Hey, dad."

Wendi, now awake and dressed in a baggy shirt and slacks, walked into the living room as the man did. "Peter! Good to see you again."

Peter Karsath placed his backpack down on the couch. "What, you thought I'd miss the spud's birthday?" he asked sarcastically, unzipping the main pouch of the backpack.

Joumae chuckled in Alex's mind. He'd only been able to be around the father a couple of times before this, but he'd immediately liked him. Peter's sense of humor was at a level of irreverence quite similar to Joumae's. So, you're the Spud, huh?

Alex knew better than to react to Joumae around his family. As he walked over to his dad, his mother walked into the kitchen. Alex peered into the backpack and saw a few packages wrapped in birthday-themed wrapping paper. Birthday presents.

Meanwhile, Wendi pulled out a chocolate cake she'd baked the day before from the refrigerator and placed it on the counter. Peter took out all of the presents and spread them out on the couch. Alex grinned when he saw the shape of some of the presents. It was hard to miss that familiar rectangular shape.

The parents sang "Happy Birthday" to Alex, and fifteen candles were blown out. The presents, afterward, consisted of a variety of items. As he suspected, there were a few video games, which were Ratchet: Deadlocked and Jak X: Combat Racing for the PS2, and Mario Kart DS.

There was a book called The Infinite Book by John D. Barrow. It seemed to be basically a book about the history and applications of infinity in all forms. This was obviously an improvement on last year's math book gift, which was entitled Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz by Edward B. Burger and Micheal Starbird. Wow... You're really a math nerd, aren't you?

Alex sent a thought Joumae's way that more or less said, Better than a fanboy.

Two more presents were there. One was a digital camera, something Alex had been curious about having for a while. The other was a T-shirt. It was entirely black, save for a strange warning sign in the middle:

Rays cast from this shirt travel at over 650,000,000 MPH.

Alexander laughed, and Peter grinned at his reaction. "See, I couldn't really pass that up when I saw that in the store."

Geez... Alex Karsath: Adventurer by night, math geek by day.

Alex rolled his eyes, out of his parents' view. He mentally insisted that he wasn't really that bad, but Joumae wouldn't have any of it.

After all the short festivities were taken care of, his father finally left to catch the bus to his own home in northeast Portland, and his mother resumed her nap for work. Alex took some time to play Mario Kart DS, since it wasn't likely to be a game that he'd make an Interference in.

Because Joumae warned him, We've got to be careful of games that your heart might connect to accidentally. Like Sonic the Hedgehog? Simply loading any one of those games up would suck us right into it, you fanboy.

Alex scowled. "Hey, look," he muttered in the privacy of his own room, "Sonic was pretty much what brought me into gaming. We used to have a Sega Genesis in our old house, before the divorce." He chuckled after a moment, and added, "Actually, my mom told me a story one time about how, when I was three years old, I'd sit around and play Sonic Spinball to entertain myself. I'd end up killing myself over and over again, but apparently being able to control the slightest thing was enough for me."

Joumae was silent for a moment. Well, that explains a lot.

At last, nine-o'-clock came around, and Alex woke Wendi up. His mother took a shower and got ready for work, and she was at the door by nine-thirty. "Goodnight, Alex," Wendi said warmly as she opened the door. "See you in the morning."

Alex gave her an empty smile back. "See you," was all he could say, for he knew what he was about to do. He closed the door behind his mother, and waited a moment before locking the deadbolt. He then walked into his room and stared down through the blinds of his window.

Once his mother's red Cavalier was out of the driveway, Alex sighed and looked over at the shelf across from his bed, where he kept most of his games. So, where are we headed next, Alex? Remember the criteria...

Alex nodded. He needed to know the game backwards and forwards. He needed to like the game and story well enough for his heart to connect with it. It needed to be a plausible enough world so that he'd have little trouble maneuvering. And it needed to be suitable for facing the next apprentice that would appear in that world once he entered.

Unfortunately, his parents didn't buy games often, and the lack of Erica's presence hadn't improved his game collection. He still had a bunch of cheap anime knock-offs. Stuff from anime like Inuyasha and YuYu Hakusho. Yeah. The Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto universes had some decent games, he'd admit. But the aforementioned game choices had hindered Alex from buying more games that he thought were worth buying.

Finally, his gaze rested on a series of PS2 games that he was very familiar with. What was more, it wasn't developed by Square-Enix...

What's wrong with Square?! Joumae snapped, sounding almost offended.

Alex sighed as he glossed over the series, including his newest addition to it. "Square's got some great games and all, but it's not like there aren't any good stories beyond their development. I'd like to broaden my choices before I get myself into a rut."

Okay, okay... What game did you pick, anyway?

Finally, Alex pulled out one of the four games he'd been looking over. It was a Greatest Hits title for the PS2, and one of his favorites. "My friend..." he said with a proud, dramatic air, "we're going into the world of Jak II."

Disclaimer: Alexander, Joumae, the Lockshield, the overall concept of The Interference, and related concepts and characters are the intellectual property of Newbie-Spud. Kingdom Hearts, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Chrono Trigger and their characters and concepts belong to Square-Enix and its business partners. Jak and Daxter and related concepts and characters are the property of Naughty Dog, Inc.