Hoo, boy, I've been working on this fic for a few months now. I just haven't been able to motivate myself to get it ready faster since I was afraid of the content it contains, which is probably rare for a Kingdom Hearts fic. But, it's finally ready.
Note: The setting is an Alternate Universe Earth in the year 2062. It takes place 20 years before the first Kingdom Hearts game, so the Heartless go by a different name.
WARNING: Contains content that may be found highly offensive, including direct religious themes, blood and gore, foul language, useage of the N word and possibly other racial slurs, along with some sexual content, possible torture, psychological themes, abuse, etc. None of this is meant to insult any ethnic or religious groups.
Kingdom Hearts: Lost War
It is said that there are many worlds but they all share the same sky. One sky, one destiny. In fact, there is an entire legend surrounding this. Supposedly, each star is a different world, and when it goes out, it means the world has lost its heart, the embodiment of its light, to the darkness.
These two concepts, light and darkness. According to legend, the worlds were all once united as one, filled with nothing but light. Everyone loved the light. However, as time passed, people began to argue amongst themselves for greater ownership over the light. They began to fight amongst themselves so that they could hoard it all. And thus, darkness was born in their hearts.
The fighting spread throughout the worlds, engulfing even those that did not initially participate in the conflict. This “Keyblade War” ravaged every setting, every battlefield it found itself on, fought with mysterious key-shaped weapons that to this day confound and intrigue the greatest of minds. Eventually, things came to a head in one final battle. The darkness born from the hearts in the people nearly consumed the worlds, dooming all.
But fragments of lights survived. Those lights came from the hearts of the children. Together, the children managed to rebuild the worlds. Much of the light returned. But the darkness did not go away. It has remained a part of the worlds that were rebuilt. There is darkness in every heart, after all. Perhaps even the heart of a world holds darkness within it, much like a person’s heart. Because of this, the worlds were reformed with invisible walls that prevented contact with each other. And so ended an age of oneness.
The true light, however, sleeps deep within the darkness to this day. One day, a wielder of the Keyblade will find the door to that light. And when that day comes, the light of Kingdom Hearts will wash the darkness away, uniting the worlds once more.
This is not that story.
The year was 2062. Earth was in the middle of a modern-day crusade and the worst of hell that had been unleashed upon the planet had yet to fully manifest itself…
Chapter 1: Day Job
As a shadow in the shape of a person lay down on his apartment’s bed by the window, he stared up at the ceiling. It was a dull, old room. The bed he was on was ripped in some places, with the inner fabric of the mattress sticking out. The walls were a faded gray, with an equally dreary black ceiling. Both of them had empty patches in places thanks to wear and tear over the years. The television set, a rather small tube compared to the flat screens a few of the other tenants had in their residencies, was placed in one corner of the room, in front of the bed’s foot, disconnected by him before he wrecked it in another one of his “tantrums”. Instead, the laptop on top of the wooden desk right next to the bed was his means of keeping up with the news, now that he no longer had his Uncle’s database for scouting out his next target, though the last time he’d bothered to actually watch television, something had gone on during the news about the President of India’s death or something along those lines.
“These are some of the worst times we live in…” muttered Vikas as he roused himself. The people in his neighborhood might disagree with him, but it was far from a false statement. After all, aside from a few countries that had the big guns to back up their refusal to participate, the world was in a global scale conflict. Worst part of it would probably be the fact that it was a worldwide religious war.
Of all things, it had to be because of 2012 coming and going. No earthquakes, no famines, no disasters of that sort ended up occurring at all. There was no Anti-Christ declaring his reign, no cosmic explosion ending all creation and beginning a new cycle, and most definitely no divine man with blue skin and six arms descending to slay demons and start the four era cycle once more.
Of course, everyone held their breath at the time. It was supposed to be the moment of truth for Earth, when the world ended like the Mayans predicted, or when preachers went about in the streets with their signs and microphones to spread the word that the day would come. In the end, that moment of truth turned out to be false, and sent countless communities into uproar. It was the creation of enough non-believers to plausibly fill up half of Europe’s countries with atheists.
Of course, behind the scenes, he’d witnessed the corruption and the backstabbing that had occurred when the general populace wasn’t looking. It was hard to imagine that people would actually notice, considering they’d developed a couple of tactics to deal with this sort of issue whenever it came up, like lines of succession. Sometimes, it felt more like the political squabbles held more weight than military victories.
In fact, it was a surprise that Delhi was so peaceful when he first visited it as a child. There were no fanatics attacking people in the streets, no house or amusement park bombings, no hostage takings and no assassinations. Everywhere was completely peaceful, even taking into account the fact that India was not participating in the war.
Though, as he also constantly reminded himself bitterly, most people in Delhi hardly thought of the metropolis as he did: a farce. After all, they were victims, not participants, of this global war. That made all the difference. Delhi may have been one of the places in India that the other nations would not dare to touch but everywhere else was fair game. Many citizens had been victims in other parts of the country, although by now residencies had become something to compete for.
This metropolis and its international counterparts, along with many other historic places, served as “cultural preservations” for the religions that became the subject of the conflict. “Cultural preservations” was far from the correct term of description. They were just crown jewels meant to convince people that there was still hope in the world, that the religion they believed in would unite the Earth and bring peace.
‘As if!’ he said to himself. The only mystery he really wondered about, though, was how these fanatics rose to power in the first place. It was something that gnawed at the back of his mind whenever he gave it some thought in his free time.
Getting out of his bed, Vikas left through the door way to check the rest of his apartment. The floor was clean, but only because he’d taken it upon himself to liven up the place he’d gotten to stay for some time. After all, it was his place to stay, and therefore his responsibility to maintain. The ceiling and walls shared the same scheme of his bedroom. A good house worker he might be, but he was in no need of fixing up the patches of the walls that were peeling off. There was a kitchen off to the right side of the front door and a small living room off to the left whenever someone entered. The kitchen itself wasn’t that much different from most, with a sink, a cupboard below it where the pipes were, a stove on the left with an oven below it and a refrigerator on the right with a door to a freezer above it. The living room had two forest green sofas, both one seat deals, and a window to the outside.
Thankfully, most of the people on his floor left him alone, allowing him to go about his business unnoticed. The only person he visited often was the old lady two doors down, along with her children. One was a seventeen-year-old student in his last year of high school. The other was a twenty three-year-old currently working as a nurse in a hospital in West Delhi. Other than them, though, he rarely got any visitors.
The superintendent wasn’t a bad person, either. He didn’t ask too many questions. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that Vikas paid his rent off by working for the man and as an unofficial delivery boy. He knew how to get on a person’s good side, an invaluable skill taught to him by his former guardian. In this particularly close-knit community, it was very easy to earn a few rupees without having to go through the paperwork. If you could get a job done, then your boss didn’t need written proof, which was perfect for him, as he no longer had the identification he would otherwise be required to present.
As Vikas stepped into his bathroom, he took note of the contrast it stood in compared to the rest of his apartment. The design of the floor and walls was the same as that of the rest of his apartment, except that the sink was a white marble, with a wooden bottom. This same bathroom architectural design also carried over to the tub, at least in terms of the white marble, not that he had any complaints about it. Focusing his gaze on the mirror, he had a look at himself.
He was a young man of a mere twenty six years and five feet, nine inches, though the current sageness reflected in his dark brown eyes spoke otherwise. Running a hand through his messy brown hair, he snickered at its condition. Most of the time it was fairly presentable, save for the three left-slanted, thin bangs that hung close to his forehead and its neck length at the back, but today it had quite a bit more of an unkempt look to it and a few stray tufts about, not that he was going to bother with combing it.
Turning the faucet on for some cold water, he splashed it over his face to observe the result. His soaked face, with a bit of a wide mouth was a fairly normal one for a person living in India, though it had some ruggedness to it and still looked a bit young for his age. Upon being satisfied with the part of him most people paid attention to, he checked the rest of him. Flexing his arms and hands, he examined them and ensured that they still had their strength, with the same brown skin found on the rest of his body though with a few jagged scars on them.
“Well, I don’t need to worry about my legs,” said Vikas, taking bit of pride in the strength of his fairly long legs that contributed to the majority of his height, “so let’s deal with the rest.”
Removing the skin-tight black tank top he often wore, Vikas had another one of his daily examinations of his torso. While it was well-developed, with a tight six-pack and above-average chest muscle size and tone, it wasn’t as impressive as it would have been without the large tarantula tattoo covering it from his sternum to just above his navel. It was a large, plain green design, looking more like the outline of a tarantula instead of the actual beast. The tattoo wasn’t even complete, having been ruined in certain areas by many large, jagged scars, mostly cuts and burns, though there were a few memorable bullet wounds on the left legs of the spider. Aside from one neat horizontal cut on his stomach, just below his navel, all of them were discolored and sickly, making his torso’s skin color a stark contrast to the rest of him.
Lookin’ good, Vicky!” said a voice from behind Vikas. He could feel a hand on his left shoulder, and it was a perfectly visible hand at that, with its smooth dark skin. The man standing behind him was his friend from years past, but the youth in his face, darker than Vikas', reflected quite a bit of mirth in the mirror with his large black eyes, round nose and large lips that parted in a wide grin. He also happened to be shirtless, wearing nothing except for a pair of bright blue jeans. It still amazed him to see his friend’s body being much less scarred than his, even a bit more muscular.
“Shut the fuck up, Queen!” said Vikas with a sudden burst of joyful vigor, turning around while slapping the hand off of his shoulder. “I got enough work to do without your bitch ass annoying me this early in the morning.” Of course, Queen was going to disappear once he was touched and Vikas knew it. Still, it was a good thing he continued to receive visits from the spirits of his long dead brothers. Even if they disappeared at his touch, he knew they’d always be back to see him. It was a bond that transcended even death.
When he’d gotten himself washed up and ready for the day, Vikas checked the clock on his desk. Thankfully, it was still only 7:30AM. He was glad to still be able to wake up early in the morning without his mother or sister to rouse him from his sleep. Picking up his purple hoodie from his desk chair without paying much attention, he zipped it up and put on his faded black sneakers and single-strap backpack before heading out the door.
Once out of the building, Vikas headed straight for his job at the convenience store. Walking through the streets of Delhi, being pushed along by the constant crowds of people and with the constant dry scent of flat bread being prepared and consumed following him about, he felt right at home. The world around him was busy, yet relaxed. Most of the people here worked hard to maintain their way of life, what with the restrictions on traveling to this metropolis and taking up residence in one of the diminishing numbers of homes available. It didn’t take too long for him to get to the particular convenience story he’d assigned himself to.
It was quite a friendly-looking place, with brown tiled floor and walls, not to mention the aisles of goods stacked neatly beside each other, starting with chips to cookies to cooking spices and so on. The two boys working the morning shift greeted him and he returned the gesture, though he paid them no real attention. Checking the store clock, he found it was about a minute after eight.
Walking through the door next to the cashier, Vikas had a look around the back room. He was hoping to start early and get in some extra money. He wouldn’t have long to wait, as his boss was there, stacking a few things when he turned around.
“Morning, Vikas! You’re early today!” greeted the owner of the store. He was a bit of a portly old man, with wrinkled dark skin indicating his 60’s-looking age and a square jaw. His skin was darker than Vikas’, having lived in Delhi all his life. The clothes he wore, a beige wool sweater that was surprisingly composed of light material with a black diamond pattern and light brown khaki pants, indicated his love of appearing to be the man in charge.
Being a poor man for his whole life, he took refuge in the authority he held over the boys that worked under him. That included Vikash, and he made his use of him as extensive as possible, given the boy’s talents.
“Morning, boss,” said Vikas before clasping his hands and bowing to his elder. As Indians, it was customary for one to respect his elders without question, and respect was one of the things he excelled at. Provided, of course, the elder in question really was worth it and was more than simply a business partner. Otherwise, they would be speaking as equals. He wasn’t in one of his homesick moods today, though, so he wasn’t regretting having to speak in Hindi again thanks to the man’s poor English.
The back room served as a storehouse for everything that they put up for sale in the shop. It was quite spacious, with shelves filled to the brim this week, but the lights were off at the moment, being that they were only there for one particular item. While there was room for the newspapers being sold, a good number of them went into Vikash’s backpack. Once they assured that it had a set of fifteen papers rolled up and tied stuffed in, they took a flight of stairs to the roof.
The air surrounding the two was warm, given that it was still very early in the morning, compared to what it would become later in the day, making it a perfect time to begin the deliveries. The rooftops of this particular neighborhood were beige flats, though a few of them had domes in the center. Something about air, he recalled.
“Okay, son,” said the owner, “take off!”
“You got it, boss!” said Vikas as he walked backward to get a nice running start. Thanks to all his parkour and free running training, he didn’t have to ride a bicycle down below in the streets, where he was at constant risk of crashing into people or vehicles. In fact, his employer was quite happy that his latest grunt was capable of getting newspapers and other packages delivered faster than any other carrier boy he’d ever hired.
Finally getting to one end of the rooftop, Vikash broke into a sprint. Upon reaching the edge, he took a leap. Even though it was across the street, the building he was headed for was shorter, allowing him to make a safe landing.
Going into a roll to disperse the impact, he quickly got to his feet with the remaining force of the jump, running off to make the early morning rounds. As he continued on his course, he couldn’t help but think back to the days of his youth, when his friends were still just high school students chasing each other across town…
Elsewhere in Delhi, in the quiet peace of Akshardham, a man was busy at work. Though, considering that it was a temple complex he was in, “work” had an entirely different meaning. At the moment, he was more of an invisible man wandering the grounds unbeknownst to the monks managing the place.
Though he had no need to pay attention to such a religious site, even he, a man who had long abandoned his faith, couldn’t help but take in his surroundings. On all sides, quite a distance away, were temple walls, each with outcroppings around their centers. At the top of each edge was a pointed dome. Moving his invisible head around, he took in the grounds. Since it was still some time before nine o’ clock, the monks were busy cleaning and setting the place up for the morning services. With the remodeling that the grounds were given several decades back, the white stone floor had been given a green lotus pattern over it, adding to the spiritual feeling. In fact, he could even smell the scent of lotus flowers all over.
‘Looks like they’re already gotten things underway,’ thought the invisible man. He took a look at the fountain he stood in front of. It was a magnificent piece of art in and of itself. As India’s largest step well, it was amazing enough on its own, but it also served as a fountain. There were eight large circular openings surrounding the main fountain serving the function as pools for the minor fountains to pour their water into during nightly festivities. Were it not for the fact that this was the morning and that there weren’t many people coming in yet, the fountain would be glowing with special lights and echoing with music in worship of their Hindu deities.
None of that drew him to the fountain, however. While he did appreciate its artistic beauty, he was no religious man. In fact, as someone who was quite against such foolish notions of faith being the most powerful weapon, he would be all too willing to destroy this temple complex and all other religious sites in the world, were it not for the political incorrectness of such an action, not to mention what his loved ones and especially his allies would think of him.
What did bring him here was the center fountain. As he leaped silently onto it, he took a seat in the center, with his legs folded. No one would ever know of what secret lay beneath this structure.
As he turned on the comms device attached to his ear, he smiled. “Om Namashiwaya…”
With that little whisper, the bottom of the main fountain opened up, and he fell through it. Down the proverbial rabbit hole he went, for the umpteenth time. It hadn’t been too long since his last visit to this particular base, so it wasn’t likely that they would’ve changed passwords yet.
Eventually, the tunnel he slid down revealed its opening, allowing him to land on his feet on the floor. As he no longer felt threatened, he loosened his control over his appearance, becoming visible once more. Upon completing that little order of business, he had a look around at his surroundings as he strolled around.
Walking down one of the hallways, it was quite easy to mistake this base for an underground hospital. It certainly had the smell of one, or at least the section that held the babies. The walls were made of white tiles with black lotuses. The floor was a simple gray. It usually had the effect of getting the employees to focus on their tasks and pay more attention to the walls and what was ahead of them instead of shyly looking down.
While taking his walk, he gave some thought as to what he probably looked like after being essentially dropped down that long tunnel. His black cloak probably still held together, with his hood still on top. That hood concealed both his long gray hair and his aged, wrinkled face, casting a shadow over it. The rest of his figure was that of a tall, but lean man whose age was hidden beneath his black cloak. Said cloak was almost form-fitting right up to the sleeves. Many would call him vain, but he liked to imagine his appearance quite a bit at odd times.
After his little “stroll” down the hallway, he came to the area of the base where things were actually being done. Around here, the general design remained the same, but there were now a few metallic sliding doors open and shut.
One of these was the communications room, and it was his destination. Walking up to the door triggered the scanner, as it made a text request on the panel next to the door for his hand. Removing the black glove from his right hand, he placed it on the scanner. After a few seconds, he was cleared, and the door slid open.
Upon walking in, he found a satisfying level of activity going on. Unlike the halls, this room looked very lively, with several large computer screens at the end and large numbers of people sitting at their desks working on their own computers.
As he walked to the front of the room, past the faceless men and women in their standard black and white uniforms with their fingers clacking away at their keyboards, he heard a voice from behind him.
“My friend, it is good to see you again!”
Hafez didn’t need to look behind him to determine who it was that was speaking. Once the man had placed himself right next to him, he turned towards him.
He was quite a tall man, around his own height, with a graying mustache and beard, and a tidy haircut. His gaze dropped to his friend’s brown trench coat pockets in which his hands were usually placed. His shoes were their usual black as always and properly laced. The poor man’s face was fairly wrinkled and had lost some of its tan from having had to work out of his home country for the past few decades. At the very least he had a small smile on his face.
“So, how’ve you been, Bashar?” asked Hafez.
“Quite alright, Hafez. It was nice to see Syria for a bit before returning to work,” answered Bashar. “And yourself?”
“Oh, I’ve been pretty well off myself. Just that it tends to be a pain in the ass managing all of this,” said Hafez.
“And I assume that means you’re just referring to how difficult searching for your nephew has been?”
“Correct. It’s quite irritating, but that’s beside the matter of the moment. I’d like to know how your vacation was.”
Bashar gave him one of his little smiles. “It was very refreshing. Particularly Damascus. My only complaint is that in spite of the restoration work they’ve done, some of the last cluster bombs did some irreparable damage to our historical sites.”
“My apologies.” Hafez looked down for a moment before raising his head once more with a bit of an excited smile. “Oh, yeah, did the historical parts of the city still look like they did from the first game with the assassins?”
That question alone was enough to turn Bashar’s smile into a frown and the rest of his face into a look of deep-seated anger, with the way his eyebrows furrowed and how his teeth parted, revealing how tightly he was clenching them. Were it not for that look on his friend’s face, Hafez would have laughed a little, but he knew what Bashar’s expression was for. He knew what was coming next.
As soon as Bashar raised his hand, he knew where it would be coming down on in a few seconds. Considering the stinging of his face, he was correct. Not that it would stop there.
Once Hafez’s face had been turned by the slap, Bashar sunk his fist into his gut, leaving him kneeling on the floor clutching his stomach tightly as he gasped for air. Only Bashar could ever get away with a stunt like that by virtue of being a friend. That, and Hafez respected his dedication to his faith and not having it being lightly joked, though he’d take care of that soon.
“I’m sorry, very sorry for saying that,” grunted Hafez, “but I just can’t help it. I’ll try not to do it again.”
“You had better not,” said Bashar. “I still cannot believe it. The fate of our planet lies in the hands of a video gaming nerd.” One of the irritants Hafez had faced when he began his friendship with Bashar was forcefully exposing him to old video games, comics, anime, manga and other petty distractions that made up the majority of the man’s hobbies. Still, his friend knew when to give credit where credit was due, and he had to admit that these so-called “distractions” had in fact given Hafez much of his advanced intellect and his imagination.
“Well, if you would just stop to take these things more as serious business, you would understand exactly wh-mmph!” began Hafez with a pant, before he was cut off by Bashar’s squeezing of his lips. With a disappointed muffled sigh, he quieted himself and turned back to face the large monitors once more.
Once he was assured of Hafez’s silence, or so it seemed, Bashar turned around to leave the room. “I will return shortly. In the meantime, just wait here for me.”
Now by himself again, Hafez fixed his gaze on the information flowing down the screen like a slow waterfall. Often, little things like this would entrance him, leaving him unable to properly concentrate on whatever he was supposed to be directing his attention to. Right now, he was deep in thought, pondering his own situation in life at the moment. It took some time, but he finally managed to take notice of the hand on his shoulder.
“Well, now, don’t you look troublesome today,” said the man standing behind him. This particular person was a Caucasian source of annoyance to him, with his large, buff physique, ruffled black hair, blue eyes, crooked nose and wide grin. The there was the issue of the fact that Hafez would not have been reminded of said physique were it not for his being shirtless.
“Morning, Gregory,” said Hafez nonchalantly without turning around, “now what the fuck brings you to light so early?” He knew that he was beginning to get a few stares from the employees. They couldn’t see Gregory, being blind to his hallucinations, but he was certain they knew when to stop themselves from giving their commander odd looks. It was something that could set him off if he was having the wrong kind of hallucination, and Gregory was one of them.
“Just wanting to bother my favorite little Al Qaeda nerd,” said Gregory with a cheerful grin. Hafez could easily see through it, though. Unfortunately, even he couldn’t avoid his impulses and turned around to face him. That ear-to-ear grin pressed against his face, beneath his down-turned eyebrows was enough of a giveaway.
“Haven’t you learned anything yet about tolerance?”
Gregory laughed at this question. “Aww, my girlfriend used to say you looked soooo cute whenever you got pissy at me and got your ass handed to you, little fucker! Like when I pounded you in the back of the head with the school football or when we stole your books and jumped you in the bathroom. All you tried to do was make lame comebacks and try to slap us!”
Hafez growled. “And so what if I did? I’m still the better man today. Now fuck off.”
“Oh, no way you’re the better man! I’ve been hearing about how things have gone with you and your nephews. Didn’t you off them? And how about this last one! You couldn’t keep him tied up with a ball and chain if you tried! You suck! You sucked as a tough guy, and now you suck as a foster parent, punk!”
“Shut up!” He’d had enough of that man’s mockery, of the belittling tone in which he spoke. He was not a failure of a foster parent. He was not an Al Qaeda nerd. Most of all, he was not going to fail to bring his nephew home safely.
Even these thoughts raging inside of his head weren’t enough. He had to punctuate his response. No amount of shouting would do on its own. But action would be a perfect supplement to a simple “shut up”.
Raising his right hand, Hafez grimaced beneath his hood. Reeling it back, his hand glowed with a faint white light before he spun around and pushed forward, firing a blast of compressed air at Gregory. He already knew that it was a pointless attempt. Most of all, he knew that Gregory was going to return, or if not, then someone else from his high school years would come back to haunt him.
But perhaps he had little idea at the moment of how unaware he was of who was behind his tormentor. He was still a human being, after all, and most of them tended to stop caring about anything when they flew into a rage.
Such was the nature of the situation Hafez found himself in when he heard shouts and screams coming from the employees. When he saw that one of the men was on the floor, bleeding and with singed clothes from a destroyed computer, he cringed.
“Oh, my God!” he cried out, hurrying to the injured man and dropping to his knees. “I am so sorry! Are you badly hurt?!”
“Yes, sir,” groaned the man. Hafez hadn’t intended to get carried away when he attacked Gregory, but he couldn’t help himself. Still, right now was not the time for trying to pin the blame onto someone else. What was needed was for him to give medical attention to another one of his recent victims.
Raising his right hand skyward, he summoned a sword. It was quite different from any other sword out there. Instead of being a normal one with a hilt, guard and the blade, it was a deep black hilt with an equally black guard made of feathers. What constituted the “blade” of this sword was a series of black wings criss-crossing toward a point at the end. By his estimations it was about four feet in length, just like his nephew’s weapon. What constituted the feature he liked to call the “teeth” was some sort of sharp, streamlined silver beak.
Hafez pointed his “Keyblade” at his charge. Almost immediately, the tip of the weapon emitted a purple light, along with the injured man. As soon as the light faded from both weapon and human, his injuries had healed completely, though there was no accounting for the blood loss.
Once he seemed to realize that the man was going to remain in the world of the living, Hafez let go of him, pulled him to his feet by his hands and walked him out. Everyone knew to grab a new set of clothes whenever situations involving stained clothes were involved, as covered in the handbook.
Once everyone had calmed down and resumed work, Hafez left the communications room and leaned against the outside wall next to the door. He had time now to contemplate his actions, and they certainly weren’t the kind of things he liked to do. Remembering the wrong messages he’d sent over the years with his behavior tended to do things to his face, such as make him frown. He wasn’t a bad person, just someone with an ideal and the means to achieve it, with a bit of a temper added in. Or so he liked to believe, if his light was anything to go by. Just like his nephew. If anything, the fact that the two of them were very much alike was a source of some comfort for him.
After some time of self-reflection, he heard footsteps approaching. Looking up, he saw Bashar approaching him, with one of his frowns. Evidently, he must have seen the injured man on his way back from wherever he’d been, and that only meant one thing.
“So,” he said, “I heard you caused another incident in the communications room.”
“Well, hold on,” said Hafez, waving his arms in protest, “I was just in a trance and then Gregory came back to bug me! It’s not my fau-“
He was stopped once again, only this time by Bashar’s hand being held up. Among people who Hafez tended to speak to very quickly, Bashar was usually the last person left who was capable of calming him down with a simple hand gesture, except whenever he was holding a discussion with a business partner. Though, as he recalled, such occurrences were rare.
“I would have thought,” said Bashar with narrowing eyes, “that you would have learned to control your temper by now. Did you not tell me during our last meeting that you were dealing with your problems, particularly Gregory? It would appear that you were lying.”
“Come, now, Bashar,” said Hafez, “you couldn’t possibly be thinking that. Haven’t I already told you that he was the worst of the lot? I’m trying to ignore him, but he keeps hitting my berserk button.”
“As commander of this organization, you should know better than to act on petty high school memories. I was led to believe that you were going to shape up. Some of the employees are beginning to consider you a sociopath and I trust you have learned from your history with your children.”
Hafez removed his hood. With his face revealed, he gave Bashar a frown. Of course, it was clear to him that Bashar could see the spite hidden beneath that simple look, even if he didn’t show it. That ended his side of the discussion.
“Listen, I’m not as dumb as I seem. I just don’t like the idea of acting like a constant professional man all the time. Sure, maybe I have screwed up at times, but do you see the situations all over the world? Have we lost control of them? Have we?”
Bashar said nothing. He must have already known the answer to that, else he would have protested in an instant.
Hafez paused for a moment, then put a hand on Bashar’s shoulder. “Look, I know that my idea for a unit of beasts failed, but come on… have my back here, okay?”
Bashar sighed. “Alright, I’m sorry for joking about that. But there is another issue to deal with; that being whether or not you’ve remembered that you should be asking me what the situation is in the world. Such as the most important subjects at hand?”
“Bastard!” said Hafez, grinning as he gave his friend a light punch in the shoulder. “Alright, fine, what’s the top priority?”
“I thought you would never ask.” Bashar led them back into the communications room.
Not much had changed in the short time they’d been gone, but the occasional look of fear was still there. It was actually a mixed blessing that Hafez still had “tantrums” like these, allowing his employees to remember who they were working for. If they still thought him insane, at least his behavior would keep them from speaking out.
“Alright,” said Bashar, “for now, there is nothing too important for you to hear of yet, except that the current President of India has been killed.”
“I know that,” replied Hafez, “and I know that it was quite a convenient time for his Prime Minister. It was on the news about how he’s under suspicion. I hear they weren’t getting along. Is that true?”
“Yes, and it’s most certainly a cause for concern. He certainly isn’t one of us, and we are now under risk of exposure if he knows about us. If it was him that assassinated the man, then probability dictates that it might be because he discovered the President’s membership in our organization.” Bashar sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It was clear that he was leaning toward the decision that they were both about to agree on.
“So, we’re taking no chances? Leaving no stone unturned?” Hafez smiled at Bashar, nibbling at the morsel of self-satisfaction he got from making predictions about people’s behavior.
“Exactly. The only thing to question is who we should send to assassinate him.”
“Now this is where I wish we still had Vicky. He’d get the job done in just a few hours.”
“Best not to live in the past, Hafez.” Bashar put an arm around his shoulder and smiled at him. “We should just work with what we have now.”
“We can decide that over breakfast, though, right?” Hafez clutched his stomach and grinned. It just occurred to him that he hadn’t eaten anything at all this morning and his hunger was finally getting to him.
“Discussing death while stomaching food? I believe we can digest first and then work out the gory details. Let’s get something.” Bashar walked toward the door motioning for Hafez to follow.
As he left, he lost himself in thoughts of how much life had changed for him in the past sixty or so years. Compared to the days he spent being bullied in high school, he was having the time of his life. It amazed him even now, what with new surprises popping up around the corner.
‘Still, though,' he thought,'I wish he’d understand my position. I saved him from those false friends of his and he repays me with the same treatment my old classmates gave me.’
Most people aren’t used to getting their mail and their newspapers delivered to them on their rooftops and through their windows. Often, tossing the goods over the fence as it is done in the suburbs, shoving it under the door in apartments, or walking up flights of stairs to hand them to one’s clients face to face, as is done among friends in a neighborhood will suffice.
But, as Vikas had proven, they could adjust quite easily when it came to such a mundane occurrence, even if it was quite important to them. This morning was no different as he made his way back to the store. He was running across the rooftops on his usual route. At the moment, the particular rooftop he stood on had two other buildings next to it on either side. Most of the buildings were arranged so that at least two were right next to each other, and Delhi was known for the way its structures could be so close and yet so far away from each other. Such was the case with this series of buildings. He was climbing up from one of the shadowed balconies where he’d left his client’s newspaper, but as he proceeded to continue on his way, he spotted something on the rooftop below him.
Two little black men looking like they were fooling around on the rooftops, a rare sight in India, being that Vikas was one of the very few who practiced parkour. Though, with their small stature, they shouldn’t have been able to arrive up here, considering that their particular rooftop was devoid of any normal entrance.
Upon closer inspection however, he cursed himself for not realizing what they were right away.
The fucking Black Hearts. Their actual name was just “Black Hearts”. “Fucking” was an addition Vikas made to their title, with nothing to do about their non-existent sex lives. As far as Uncle had educated him, these creatures were born of the darkness in people’s hearts, and that a person could become one if they ever succumbed to their own darkness.
These two in particular looked a step up from the midgets he was used to fighting. Their shapes were vaguely those of children, about three or four feet, give or take. What scared most people to death, though, was the inky blackness of their bodies, and their beady yellow eyes. In the case of these two, their antennae were much longer than their shorter cousins, to the point where they curved backwards behind their bodies.
“If I remember, these boys are Brother Shadows,” muttered Vikas, observing the pair from the edge. Judging by the way they kept leaning forward, creeping toward the ledge of their rooftop, they were about to pounce on some poor victim in the streets below. And the onlookers, not to mention the police, would be unable to do a thing about it.Not if he had anything to say about it.
Leaping down from the ledge he stood on, Vikas landed a mere few feet away from them. His sudden arrival certainly startled them enough that they wouldn’t be leaving him anytime soon. In fact, they were doing just the opposite.
The pair began creeping up on him, taking small, slow steps. Judging by the way they were lowering their hands to the floor, they were about to leap onto him as they loved doing to their prey. This called for the usual method of dealing with the pests.
In a flash of black and white bits of glowing cobwebs appeared a handle. It was certainly no ordinary handle either, with its obviously web-like appearance along with the guard, one side black and the other white. From this a strand of white webbing emerged, forming a shaft with several blades jutting out in a curved fashion. The tip of the weapon ended in a spearhead, then developed “teeth” on the side in the shape of spider and tiger fangs, before coming down and forming a second shaft. Unlike the other, white shaft, this one’s blades pointed downward and were perfect in condition, as opposed to the fractured state of the white ones.
He knew what they were thinking. Even as the Brother Shadow on his right leaped into the air to pounce on him, he already understood that their instincts told them to destroy this man holding a Keyblade. Not that it would matter to him, given that he timed a hard horizontal swing in tune with the beast’s movements, sending it flying to his left.
It was only natural that the creature wouldn’t surrender, though it probably would have preferred taking that option before he pointed his hand at it, firing a blast of compressed air at it that punctured its body.
As it observed its partner burst into small shreds, the remaining Brother Shadow turned towards Vikash. If it could express emotions instead of staring at him with its empty yellow eyes, it would probably be angry for an instant at the loss of a comrade. But just for an instant.
Immediately, the creature leaped at him, hands extended, obviously not appearing to have learned that such a maneuver failed when its partner attempted it. If he had a moment, Vikash would have sighed. It was a shame that he had to fight such pitiful little things with whom he held quite a bit in common.
With a quick, short back flip, Vikas managed to acquire the necessary distance between them. Dismissing his weapon in a flash of light, he got to work casting his magic upon the helpless Heartless. It started as a dark purple, flame like aura emanating from both of their bodies, and the Brother Shadow stopped dead in its tracks.
If it could display any possible emotions, fear would be the one most likely to be expressed right now. After all, the magic Vikash was casting was named “Fear” and its effects were apparent upon his victim. It went from looking ready to stick its claws through the flesh covering his heart to backing away in cowardice.
“Let’s go, nigga, c’mon!” said Vikas, beckoning with his hand for the Brother Shadow to come closer. It obeyed, taking nervous, jittery steps toward him, with its claws folded, almost as though praying to some deity for its life. Heartless of that kind tended to do that a lot whenever Vikas cast this spell on them; it often caused him to wonder whether or not they had a religion of their own that they followed.
“You don’t look so happy, nigga,” said Vikas, pulling the creature into a hug. Though startled, the Brother Shadow made no move to hurt him. As far as its senses could tell, they were both beings of pure darkness at the moment. No need to harm a brother. At least, that was what Uncle had taught him.
“You good, little man? You seem pretty tired.” It was clear that he wasn’t going to receive any response from the creature, it being a Black Heart, not that he cared for one in the first place. It didn’t matter whether or not the Black Heart understood the social conventions of man, especially when they weren’t even treated as such.
As he slowly pushed the Brother Shadow away, Vikas raised his hand high, almost as though offering his company a high five, before bringing it down with a slap to its face. It backed away with fast, awkward steps, causing it to trip and fall on its back.
“Of course you’re not tired. You’re just scared, ain’t that right? Well, my friend, I’m givin’ you one chance to come out of this situation alive. You get your black ass out and never come back or I do it for you and free up them hearts you ate. I’m givin’ you five seconds. Five.”
Of course, five seconds was far too generous for his companion, given that his magic had been given more than enough time to set in. Almost immediately after hearing the word five, it dashed off, flattening itself into the ground and faded away. Knowing how easily such a spell could have long-term effects even on beings born of darkness, it most likely wouldn’t bother anyone again for some time.
As his guard eased, Vikas took a seat on the ground. His breath became slightly ragged. It was a side effect of his shifting back and forth between darkness and light so quickly, something he was unable to train out. It had been turning more into a danger recently, given that he no longer had his brothers in physical form to bail him out if he couldn’t even stand. Looking to the fully risen sun looming over the horizon, he sighed.
Sitting down and crossing his legs, he contemplated the reason for any Black Hearts to be up and about in broad daylight. It wasn’t like them to do such a thing. While there had been other sightings in other parts of Delhi, this was the first time he’d found any in the morning. Something about it just didn’t add up.
Vikas looked at the sun, which had now properly risen, and the horizon it loomed over. It felt as though he was a regular soldier in the army who had just left the house after collecting his mother’s blessings. It was not a feeling he enjoyed, given the circumstances he was in. Better to keep her and the rest of his family out of danger. Frowning, he looked at his feet and closed his eyes as he felt a few tears emerging.
“Ma, I promise, someday I’ll put an end to all this…”