Deep within the Krimzon Guard Fortress of Haven City, a weapons testing room that had been converted into a Dark Eco lab was illuminated by a single giant screen. Standing before it, occasionally typing into the console and observing the split-screened security footage and scrolling test results, was the Heartless apprentice, Even.
Behind him, near the door to the room, a dark portal coalesced, and a heavily damaged and burnt figure in green armor stumbled out. He grinned weakly at Even's back and nonchalantly said, "So, um... Y'know..."
"You failed," Even accused, not turning his back.
"Hey, hey. We failed," Joumae pointed out, slumping against the wall. "In case you forgot about your little corruption mission too. And now we know why we failed, don't we? Turns out Dark Eco and plain ol' darkness don't actually get along. At least not when the Eco actually likes its host."
Even sighed through his nostrils. "It completely defies the other results. In every prior subject, the interaction helped advance the consumption of the heart, but with those two... it's the reverse."
Chuckling wickedly, Joumae said, "It's alright, Even-buddy. You're just a Heartless in the end. You ain't got all the gray matter your true self had..."
"That is quite enough," Even admonished him before finally turning around to address the battered former Lockshield spirit. "Unless you're trying to convince me that you've completely outlived your usefulness, both as an operative and an advisor?"
"Oh, sure," Joumae muttered, "destroy me." He pointed to the Kingdom Copy resting on the desk next to the keyboard. "See if you've still got a Lockshield at the end of the day."
"Then for both our sakes, I suggest you find a way to make yourself relevant."
Joumae was silent for a moment's pause, and then pushed himself off the wall and staggered towards the screen. Even stepped aside and watched him closely. After looking at the security footage of the city for a while, Joumae said, "This actually works out WAY better for us."
"Is that so? Explain."
The boy started laughing, though it caused him to clutch his ribs and cough and groan in pain. "I really am the real brains around here, huh! Heh heh heh...!"
Even rolled his eyes and didn't dignify that with a response.
Joumae caught his breath and smiled at the screen. "Now... Now Alexander gets to suffer. He gets to not only watch his own body betray him, but everything around him plunge into darkness. He gets to watch the world he created... end. He will spiral further and further into despair, and when he finally succumbs..." Joumae smirked at Even. "...that Heartless will be beyond final-boss tier. I'm talkin' making endgame Ansem, Seeker of Darkness look like a chump."
A corner of Even's mouth turned up. He looked pleased and interested. "Are you certain of that?"
"Hey, you're the Heartless expert here. I'm just assuming the worse off they are in the light, the more dangerous they become in the dark."
Even turned his gaze to the screen. "The boy has an incredible capacity to hold onto darkness in his heart, but even I thought he was near his maximum. If you think he can go even further..."
"Trust me. I know him better than anyone. But you'll have to push him. Just when he thinks it can't get any worse, make it worse." Joumae shot a pointed look at the Heartless scientist. "Now, have I passed my performance review or what, boss?"
Even typed a few keys on the keyboard, and a humming sound revved up off to the left in the next room. "Chamber's prepped. Those wounds will take some time to heal." Even shook his head. "I still can't believe a normal person with a gun and a mutant weasel got the best of you."
Joumae limped off towards the side doorway. "They're the heroes of this game for a reason, but yeah, me too. He should only be able to take four hits." He sighed, then stopped just as he was about to disappear through the doorway. He looked back at Even. "Hey, doc? While you're doing your thing out there, I just have one request..."
The green-haired, green-eyed copy of Alexander put on a hungry smile. "Save Alex for me."
Sora, Riku, Mickey, and Donald climbed the stairs of the Mysterious Tower.
At the top of the last floating staircase, just in front of the last door to Master Yen Sid's chambers, Riku stopped while Mickey and Donald went inside. Sora stopped behind Riku, looking at him curiously.
Riku turned back to his friend. "You ready, Sora?"
Sora shrugged and put his hands behind his head. "Wouldn't be here if I wasn't." Then he put his arms down and looked back over his shoulder. "How about you, Roxas?"
A couple of steps below him stood a transparent ghost that only Sora could see, smirking back at him. "Oh, you know it."
The Interference IV, Book 1: Dark Renegade
To be continued in Book 2: Dark Wastelander