Mickey strolled down the halls of Disney Castle, rolled-up note in hand, heading toward the Gummi Ship hangar. He needed to deliver this message to the denizens of Destiny Islands.
As he passed in front of the massive double doors to the audience chamber, he was interrupted by Chip and Dale running up to him, gasping heavily, and jumping to get his attention.
"Your Majesty!" Dale shouted.
"There's something strange at the Hall of the Cornerstone!" Chip shouted in turn.
Mickey nodded and pocketed the note. "Okay. Take me to it. And bring me the Royal Magician and the Captain of the Royal Knights."
There was nothing wrong with the Cornerstone of Light itself. But behind it, at the very back of the room, was a black and blue swirling portal that was almost the size of the Cornerstone.
"A big light appeared, and then that hole opened!" Chip explained.
Dale dashed into the hall, with Donald Duck and Goofy right behind him. Donald flinched away in shock. "Woah! That can't be good!"
Goofy looked to the King. "How do ya wanna deal with this, Your Majesty?"
Mickey glared at the portal. "There are no coincidences. This must have appeared here for a reason, and I'm going to find out." He turned to Donald and Goofy. "Are you with me?"
Donald and Goofy both nodded at him with hesitation. "Of course, Your Majesty!" Donald replied.
"Every step of the way!" Goofy added.
The King didn't need any more confirmation than that. He instantly started running towards the portal, Keyblade in hand, with Donald and Goofy keeping up behind him.
As a group, they all jumped through the dark portal.
The portal brought them to a flat desert plateau, cast orange and brown by the setting sun. Tall, blocky rock formations surrounded the plateau, just as bare as the ground they stood on. Small sandstorms rolled across the cracked earth, obscuring parts of the area as they rolled by.
While Goofy and Donald looked around with confused looks, Mickey just stared wide-eyed at their surroundings. He recognized this place. He'd barely seen this place in nearly a decade.
The Keyblade Graveyard. The Badlands.
Goofy pointed off into the distance. "Hey, look!"
One of the sandstorms passed by completely, revealing a strange sight. A good distance away from the Disney trio stood a cloaked figure. The stranger wore a black robe with red trim, and seemed to be clutching their side and limping slightly, as though they'd been injured in some minor way.
At the stranger's feet was a pile of armor pieces, colored gold, red, and brown. There was enough armor in the pile to cover a man's entire body, but the individual parts had been separated and scattered across the desert floor.
Once again, Mickey recognized this sight. The others did not. "Who's that?" Donald asked nervously, keeping his voice as low as he could.
The King summoned his Keyblade, sensing trouble. Donald and Goofy did not need to be told twice, and brought out their weapons in turn. Donald held his staff at the ready, while Goofy held up his shield in a defensive position.
The stranger in the distance took notice of them for a moment, then looked back down at the armor. The figure – it appeared to be a man – rolled up his sleeves a little bit, revealing black gloves with... strange red markings on the palms.
The man then clapped his hands, knelt down, and placed his hands on the pile of armor.
Blue sparks enveloped the armor pieces entirely, followed by the man himself, then a bit of the surrounding area. Mickey and the gang had to shield their eyes from the light.
Then the light faded, and an entirely different figure stood before them. The armor was now off the ground, covering the stranger's body completely. The only piece remaining was a weapon, sitting flat on the ground. The now-armored figure reached down and grabbed the weapon by the hilt, pulling it up from the sand and rock.
It was a Keyblade. A gold and black Keyblade with a steel-gray hilt.
Mickey gasped. "Who are you?" he called across the desert.
The armored figure ignored them and pulled out a cellphone, bringing it to his ear. "I have completed my objective," the man's gruff voice spoke from the armor. "What's your status?"
There was silence for a few moments. Mickey and his friends started to move towards the armored stranger.
"So she's on schedule? Good. What about you?" the man continued. There was more silence. "Then perhaps you should just–" He seemed to get cut off by the person on the other line. "Yes, yes, sorry. I'll leave that to you."
The man looked up at Mickey. "I seem to have guests. I'll test this... new toy out and get back to you." And he ended the call there, putting away the cellphone.
The trio got back into their fighting stance. "Who are you?" Mickey repeated.
The armored figure finally looked down at them, though his entire face was covered. "Call me Hyperion."
"What are you doing here?" Mickey yelled at him.
"I'm taking this armor," the man said darkly, circling around the Disney trio. "If you have a problem with that..."
Mickey charged forward. With a "Hya!" he swung the golden Keyblade at Hyperion. The armored fake brought up the Ends of the Earth Keyblade and blocked Mickey's attack. Mickey didn't stop, striking with a few more fast swings even before he hit the ground. Then he just bounced up and attacked some more, not giving Hyperion a chance to retaliate.
Donald and Goofy joined the battle soon after. Goofy tossed his shield once Mickey gave him and opening, the heavy weapon slamming into Hyperion hard. Donald raised his staff to the air and cast Firaga, sending a huge fireball at Hyperion that impacted with great force.
With some distance between them, Hyperion retaliated with an attack of his own. "You call that fire? Magma Bomb!" He raised his Keyblade to the air, and a volley of fireballs fired out from the tip at the three fighters. Mickey did his best to dodge, Donald tried but failed a bit, and Goofy took the brunt of the attacks with his shield.
Then Hyperion stabbed his Keyblade into the ground. "Gravitonne!"
The trio was forced to stop moving as, out of nowhere, they felt a massive force pushing them down into the ground, as though gravity had been multiplied tenfold. The force pushed them into the ground, rendering them helpless for a few seconds before the effect stopped.
The man in Terra's armor laughed at the sight of the three of them on the ground, temporarily paralyzed by pain. Twirling the Keyblade in his hand, he said, "It seems this arrangement will work out just fine. And I'm only going to get stronger..."
Mickey pushed himself up and glared at the enemy. "What do you want?" he demanded weakly.
"Hmph," the man grunted. "Do you know of Alexander?"
Mickey said nothing.
"If you see him, let him know..." The man became wreathed in darkness as a black portal appeared at his feet. "...he will soon pay for what he's done."
The stranger, calling himself Hyperion, disappeared... taking the real Terra's armor and Keyblade with him.
Soon after, the strange black portal that had taken them to this place reappeared back where they'd started, apparently ready to bring them back to Disney Castle.
The King and his friends finally got to their feet. They were alone once again in the Badlands.
"What just happened?" Donald managed to ask.
"I don't know," Mickey admitted. He turned and looked at his friends. "But Yen Sid might know something about this."
Mickey Mouse had already planned to visit Yen Sid at the earliest opportunity, mainly to inform him of what they learned from the datascape. Fortunately, Yen Sid was easily found at the Mysterious Tower.
The royal mouse bowed in front of the wizard's desk, and Yen Sid nodded back in acknowledgment. Despite how far they'd come, they were still master and student in a way.
"Yen Sid," Mickey finally spoke, a serious expression on his face. "I think we're finally close to figuring out where Ven's heart is."
"Is that so?" Yen Sid remarked. "Then that leaves only Terra."
Mickey winced. But he stayed on track – one thing at a time. "Right. And we've gotta save all three of them."
Yen Sid thought for a moment. "Hmm... I sense there are a great many things on your mind, Mickey. Tell me of them – and do not rush."
"Alright," Mickey replied. He took a deep breath to calm himself. "Y'see... It's about Alex."
Yen Sid had no reaction, simply allowing Mickey to continue at his own pace.
"I know we're all part of a game with a story, and so far those stories have all had happy endings," the mouse continued. "But those stories involved a lot of pain and hardship before they got better. At the time, we couldn't be sure if we were gonna come out alright or not."
The grand wizard closed his eyes in contemplation. "Doing something as monumental as restoring the worlds... or bringing down Organization XIII... It is the kind of task that tests the will of those who pursue it. Even if you know about it in advance, some hardship cannot be avoided."
"But some hardship CAN be avoided," Mickey said in counterpoint. "Axel was restored because Alexander prevented him from making a sacrifice."
"Hmm..." Yen Sid murmured. "So you wish to make use of Alexander's information to avoid pain in the future."
Mickey sighed. "Well... that's just it. I'm pretty sure Alex doesn't know a lot about the future. Not right now, anyway." He steeled himself a little, allowed himself to be more hopeful. "But in the real world, that information is out there, and maybe Alex can find it!" There was a pause, and Mickey shrunk back a little. "That's what I was thinking, anyway."
Yen Sid nodded. "Anything else?" he asked after a moment.
There was one other thing. A big thing. Mickey took on a more determined look. "Yes. About Terra. Did you know his armor and Keyblade were in the Badlands?"
Yen Sid just nodded again.
"Well, someone stole it!" Mickey declared.
The wizard showed a rare moment of mild surprise. "Strange. I was under the impression that the armor was still possessed by the boy's Lingering Will. In order to take the armor, one would first need to overpower it. Not an easy task, knowing Terra and how he was towards the end."
"He used some strange technique to put it on – not like regular Keyblade Armor," Mickey said, recalling what he saw. "And then he attacked us. The magic he used was strange, too. Donald had never seen anything like it. And..." Mickey recalled the cellphone. "...I think he had some partners, but they were in other places."
Yen Sid grunted, his expression now a stern look of angry determination. "Hmm... There is great power in those items, if one has the will to control them. It seems that power is starting to fall into the wrong hands." He stood up and slowly moved to the window, saying, "However, these items are impossible to find at random. The only one who might know is... Yes, I fear this may be one of Xehanort's latest ploys."
"What? Xehanort?" Mickey responded.
Yen Sid turned back to the mouse. "And Alexander is deeply connected to these... new invaders."
"But Xehanort's two halves are gone," Mickey pointed out. "There was Ansem, who commanded the Heartless... and Xemnas, who commanded the Nobodies. Didn't Sora and Alex defeat them both?"
"Correct, those two met their end," Yen Sid confirmed. "However, therein lies exactly our problem. Their destruction guarantees the original Xehanort's reconstruction. Xehanort's heart, one seized by his Heartless half, is now free. And his body, which had become his Nobody, has been vanquished. Both halves will now be returned to the whole. In short... this means Xehanort will return."
"And you think... you think maybe he's gonna try something?" Mickey asked.
"A man like Xehanort will have left many roads open," Yen Sid remarked.
Mickey became absolutely determined. "Well, it doesn't matter what he cooks up. Me and Sora, we'll be ready, and Riku, too! And once Alex comes back...!"
Yen Sid held up a hand, and Mickey quieted down. "Yes," Yen Sid replied, "Sora and Riku are indeed strong. But... not true Keyblade Masters, like you. Nor has Alexander truly mastered the Lockshield. Tell me... would a single one of you suffice if what you faced was not a single one of him?"
This shocked Mickey immensely. "What?" Mickey gasped, running up and slamming his hands on the desk. "What do you mean?"
Yen Sid looked directly at Mickey. "Mickey, I have two tasks for you, and time is of the essence. First, please summon Sora hither. Riku as well."
"Of course," Mickey replied, "but... why?"
The old wizard leveled the most intense look at Mickey Mouse. "To show us the Mark of Mastery."
Mickey paced back and forth in the Disney Castle study. Donald and Goofy stood at attention in front of him, despite being a little confused about it. "Ya called for us, Yer Majesty?" Goofy asked.
"I've got a very important task for the both of ya," Mickey explained, eventually coming to a stop. "Yen Sid tells me Alexander is back in the game worlds."
Donald and Goofy exchanged a look. "He's here?" Donald inquired.
Mickey shook his head. "No. In a completely different world! In the time that he's been gone, Alex has Interfered in the stories of three new game worlds."
The duo was shocked. "WOAH!" Goofy exclaimed. "It's only been about... a week! How did he manage THAT?"
"Yen Sid said he stayed in the real world for a while and then came back," Mickey said, "and now he's been going to new worlds back-to-back. He's currently Interfering in a fourth world now, and Yen Sid said that... he was in some serious danger."
Donald nodded. "What do you need us to do?" he rasped.
"First," Mickey declared, "I want you to check on our friends in Radiant Garden, and then on Alex's friends in Twilight Town. They might know more about what he's been up to, or if any of Hyperion's partners have made an appearance."
Goofy saluted the King. "We're on it."
Mickey smiled. "Great! Then I want you to go to the world where Alex currently is, help him through the rest of that game's story, and then get his help with this whole Hyperion problem. Yen Sid says he's the key to figuring out who they are and how we can stop them, so hopefully he'll know where to start!"
"What will you be doing?" Donald wondered. "Are you coming with us?"
"Nope," Mickey said. "Yen Sid gave me a job of my own."
Donald and Goofy nodded and saluted. "We won't let you down, Your Majesty!" Donald announced. The two of them pivoted towards the door and marched, opening the door...
...only to find Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck standing on the other side of the door, their hands on their hips.
"Uh-oh," Donald mumbled.
"And just WHERE do you think you're going?" Daisy demanded, intimidating Donald and Goofy back into the room. "Off on another adventure? Without TELLING me?"
Mickey gave Minnie a sheepish look. "Oh... you were listening, huh?"
Minnie took her hands off her hips and gracefully entered the room. "Mickey... I understand if you need to go on an important journey to protect the worlds. I can handle it." She gestured to where Daisy was chewing Donald out. "But it's not very fair to the people that are important to you."
Mickey gulped. Donald was a friend, and Mickey didn't mean to put him in trouble so often like this. But the fact that he hadn't even considered what Daisy or Minnie might think put him in a massive amount of guilt. "Aw, shucks... I'm sorry, dear."
Minnie just smiled, the kind of smile that made you feel bad even when you'd technically been forgiven.
Goofy looked between the two couples, and eventually struck upon an idea. "I got it!" he declared, pulling Donald and Daisy apart. "I'LL go and check on Alex myself!"
The conflict came to a screeching halt. "WWWHAT?" Donald screeched.
Daisy was far happier about this. "You would?" she gasped, and gave Goofy a great big hug. "You're the best, Goofy!"
"Are you sure?" Donald asked again. Truth be told, he wanted to do right by his sweetheart, but he was very unsure about letting his friend tackle a potentially dangerous mission alone.
"Don't worry about me," Goofy reassured him. "I ain't the Captain of the Guard for nothin'! I'll take on this mission for the both of us!"
Donald took Goofy's hand in his own. "Thanks, Goofy," the duck said.
Daisy placed one of her hands on theirs. "Be safe, you hear?"
Mickey joined in, placing a hand on Daisy's. "I know you can do it."
Finally, Minnie placed her hand on top of theirs, forming a five-way handshake. "Come back to us soon, Goofy."
Goofy nodded his head vigorously. "You betcha! I won't let any of you down!"
"Excellent!" Mickey rejoiced, looking at everyone in the group. "Well then... let's get to work."
The Interference Re:Coded