Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, that would be Disney and Square Enix. Enjoy!
Warning--contains spoilers for ReCom. Don't like, Don't read until you've played the game
"Man, oh, man." The words exited his mouth in a sigh, accompanied by a slight, rueful shake of the head. Arms folded across his chest, Axel stared out the window, eyes following the path that led from Castle Oblivion to touch the worlds. Sooner or later, Sora would walk down just that path, and the experiment could begin. It was an honor to be posted here, to work on this very important investigation of the heart, which might lead to fulfillment of the Organization's dream: to become whole again. But the only feeling—well, memory of a feeling, really—Axel could dredge up was boredom.
By coincidence, or perhaps by the design of the Superior, he had been assigned to Castle Oblivion with the colleagues whose company he enjoyed the least. First, there was the self-proclaimed Lord of Castle Oblivion. One side of Axel's mouth rose in the smirk that had a near-perpetual home on his face. Marluxia certainly relished the opportunity to lead, though in reality as Number XI, he only ranked Larxene and the newly-joined Roxas. It still puzzled Axel why Xemnas had put Marluxia in charge while placing members of the Founding Six—Vexen, Lexaeus and Zexion—in a subservient capacity. The Founders had always remained aloof within the Organization, staying together as a group, their leadership unquestioned. Maybe there'd been some sort of a falling out? Axel stroked his chin with a gloved hand, jade-green eyes narrowing appraisingly. Perhaps he'd found weak spot to exploit.
A faint whispering noise signaled that a portal had just opened behind him. Axel didn't turn, watching through the reflection in the window. The figure lowered its hood, revealing the short blonde bob and calculating green eyes of the last member of Castle Oblivion's crew. "Larxene," Axel greeted, looking back over his shoulder.
"Axel," she replied, smiling. "It looks like things are going to start to get interesting…finally. Marluxia wants us all in the debriefing room."
"Really?" Axel followed along, curiosity piqued. Larxene's cryptic statement, and Marluxia's gathering of their satellite force, could only mean one thing: the Keyblade master had arrived. Slouching into the meeting room on the thirteenth floor, Axel leaned against a wall, observing the gathering through narrowed eyes. In addition to Marluxia and Larxene, the Founders assigned to Castle Oblivion had deigned to join this meeting. Normally Numbers IV, V and VI didn't leave the basement, loath to mingle with the lower numbers.
"What do you mean by calling us here, Zexion?" Vexen, Number IV, sniffed. As a high-ranking member, he observed the rules of rank rigidly, and had been incensed when lowly Number XI took command. The other two Founders who flanked him, Lexaeus and Zexion, shared his view, but not so extremely—or at least, so publicly.
So, Zexion was responsible for initiating this little get-together. When the normally quiet, passive Number VI did act, it was always with good reason. Axel cocked his head towards the shorter man.
"Two powerful signatures are present in the basement," Zexion announced without preamble. The Cloaked Schemer was not one to mince words.
"You smelled them?" Lexaeus inquired in his deep, rumbling bass. Zexion's nose could read much more than ordinary scent—the man could smell power, in addition to other things. Axel would be willing to bet that he could sniff out an approaching person's gender, current mood and what they were thinking about eating for lunch. Well, maybe that was taking it a bit too far, he conceded mentally, all the while keeping an eye on Zexion.
"Of course." Zexion was far too dignified to roll his eyes, but his tone managed to convey the gesture of annoyance. "One, I know. The Keyblade Master's companion, the boy who succumbed to Darkness. Riku."
Marluxia frowned. "He could prove troublesome. We must dispatch him immediately."
"If I may propose an alternative?" Vexen asked smoothly. "The boy Riku could prove almost as informative to our research as Sora himself. Our reports indicate that he lost his heart to the darkness, and yet here he is, whole again—he is whole?" he inquired of Zexion. The shorter man nodded. "To find out how he managed such a feat would be very…interesting," Vexen finished.
Larxene folded her arms. "You just want an opportunity to carry out your little experiments," she said scornfully. Ah, Larxene, stirring up trouble even though she could care less. Number XII certainly was a nasty piece of work, Axel reflected with a twinge of admiration. She had achieved a level of nastiness that even Saïx could aspire to. Thank goodness she was on his side. Misguidedly, she trusted him, as much as one Nobody could trust another. Or at least, she trusted in his desire to see the Founders toppled. Axel had long doubted her loyalty to the Organization, and having observed her for the time they'd been posted here, he felt certain that she and Marluxia had cooked up a plan between them to take over the Organization, using Castle Oblivion as a launching point. Now all he needed were the words out of her mouth to cement it, and he felt confident he would coax it out of her soon enough.
Vexen bristled. "You should learn to hold your tongue," he snapped. Larxene glanced over at Marluxia, obviously expecting his support, but the Lord of Castle Oblivion remained silent. Glowering, the Savage Nymph didn't pursue the argument.
"And the other, Zexion?" Marluxia inquired.
"It was very…unusual." Could the Cloaked Schemer actually sound perplexed?" Axel's eyes widened in surprise. "It smelled a great deal like the Keyblade Master. The same power, the same strength of heart. But I'm certain that this presence is female."
"WHAT?" At once, the other occupants of the debriefing room voiced their shocked disbelief.
"Impossible!" Vexen sniffed contemptuously."Like Sora, but female? You must be mistaken."
Number VI's eyes flashed, but he kept his level tone. "I'm not."
"Aren't you two forgetting something?" Axel interjected, unable to help himself. Two Founders actually having an argument? This was rich."There's an easy way to settle this. Go and search the basement."
"An excellent suggestion, Axel," Marluxia declared. "Thank you for volunteering." The Graceful Assassin smiled nastily. Axel scowled, unpleasantly surprised with how quickly the junior Nobody had painted him into a corner. Finally, he nodded wordlessly, stepping back into a portal. A moment later, he emerged on the first basement level, wearing a scowl.
Marluxia had enjoyed the little show of power too much, he reflected sourly. He and Axel had never really gotten along…the plants the Graceful Assassin liked to cultivate were just too flammable, and too tempting, for the Flurry of Dancing Flames to pass up. A cold smile spreading across his face, Axel took solace in the fact that he wouldn't have to put up with Number XI's presence much longer. In fact, he might get to eliminate the traitor himself…wrenching himself out of his daydream, Axel returned his mind to the task at hand. He would have to search the basement, floor by floor. How tiresome. Well, no time like the present to begin. Thrusting his hands into his pockets, Axel strode off into the first dark room of the basement level.