Axel Bastion III

III

Eight years past since Axel was left without home and family. Eight years of grueling hardship and hunger. Ones that drove Axel to the very edges of humanity in order to keep himself alive. Constantly, Axel would force himself into situations that would require any sort of stratagem to weasel his way out. From this he learned the necessary skills needed to survive in unarmed combat. He also become quite proficient in wielding his own personality as a weapon. He revealed himself to no one and never once attempted to solve a problem in a way too similar to a previous.

From this self training Axel became a jewel to those in charge of hiring prospective gang members. Several times he was approached, at gunpoint, and “recruited” by these kinds of people. It wasn’t until a gang that was particular to Axel that he seemed the least bit interested in helping and didn’t immediately kill those trying to recruit him.

“What do you want with me? I am a busy man,” Axel said sitting in an old worn out chair in the middle of an abandoned apartment complex. The wallpaper was peeling and the smell of blood seemed to always pervade the dusty atmosphere of the place. It reeked of self-pity and disgust.

One of the two men men standing across the room from Axel acted as if he thought to speak, but hesitated. They were garbed in stained shirts and their appearance was very unkempt. Both were fairly brute-like, large muscular men. One of them had a face with a nose that seemed to arch sideways and eyes that never seemed to cease staring at each other. The other was more normal in his countenance, aside from the large scar running from the left side of his face to his chin. “The bossman has a job for you, kid,” the uglier of the men finally managed to piece together.

“I like your apartment. Did you pick it out yourself?” Axel asked ironically, for he knew the poverty stricken men were forced to live in such filth because of their dull minded attitude and cult-like mentality toward the gang they claimed to be a part. However, Axel understood they were mere tools of their “boss,” who was more akin to a master, and were used simply as a means to an end. They were used to acquire those their master commanded.

“We ain’t here to chat, kid. All we need is for you to kill that woman in the other room. We don’t kill you and we all go along our merry way,” the man spoke with a troll-like slur, as both were trollish in intelligence.

“Oh, are we not? You’re demeanor said otherwise. By the way you two greeted me I thought I was being taken in for some tea,” Axel stood once he had finished speaking and the two men were startled. They immediately pulled out their pistols and pointed them at Axel.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, boy. Ain’t that right, Jack,” again the more unattractive one took the initiative to speak, this time to his comrade.

“Ya, you’s gonna do what we tell ya, tell him John,” the other man said, apparently named Jack.

“You just said what we was goin’ to do, stupid.”

“Boys, we don’t have to argue over what you would do to me if I do not comply. I never said I was going anywhere. In fact, I’m quite interested in this proposal your boss has for me. I prefer to stand, if you will. Do either of you smoke?” Axel said pulling out a small aluminum tin from his pocket that held in it three cigars of reasonable size. From his pocket he procured a zippo lighter and lit his own cigar. Both of the men accepted his request and began taking in long puffs and stowed their pistols away.

“Now, what is it you said I must do?” Axel addressed Jack, as he was quite disgusted by John’s face.

“Well, we was told you gotta kill the woman in the other room. Then the boss wants to talk to you’s tomorrow night,” Jack explained without much difficulty.

“That seems easy enough. She’s just right in there?” Axel said pointing to the door behind the the two men.

“Yep, she is,” John answered. Axel made his way past the two men and was about to open the door when he was interrupted, “Ain’t you want a gun?”

“No, that is quite barbaric, don’t you think? I will be using more traditional methods,” Axel responded as he opened the door and stepped into the room. He closed, and locked, it behind him. The room was dimly lit, but there was enough to see the detail of it. In it’s entirety, it seemed to be a copy of the room Axel was in previously. The walls were the same and even peeled in similar ways. That very same smell was there, yet seemingly stronger. However, instead of a dirty chair there was a large bed, and in it lay a woman.

She seemed to be a bit older than Axel, but despite this she was incredibly attractive. Her hair was golden blonde and when she opened her eyes to inspect her trespasser Axel saw the emerald green that seemed to carry a forest within them. Never before had he seen such striking beauty; for a moment he almost regretted having to kill her, but he resolved to do so in order to further his aspirations.

“Why have you not yet had me killed? I came with your men without a fight. I can tell you I do not wish to live any longer. Just make the blow quick, there is not much else in this life I wish to endure,” the woman said sitting up in her bed.

“What is your name, my darling?” Axel asked walking toward her and while waiting for an answer sat on the bed beside her.

“Elizabeth Maximilian ,” she answered coldly.

“Well, Elizabeth,” Axel began to coo, his voice was comforting and confident in itself, “I do in fact don’t want to kill you." A light sparked in the woman’s eye for just a moment, but quickly faded.

“What do you intend with me then?”

“I wish to speak with you. I want to learn who you are and how you came to a place like this,” Axel said inquisitively.

“You know who I am and why I came here.”

“Well, yes I do, but not for the reasons you think.”

“Yet, you walk in with that smug confidence and air of authority. You let yourself sit next to me and talk as if we were old friends. Do not think I haven’t noticed you looking at my chest, dear fellow. You are no less of a scoundrel then the men standing outside the door.”

“Oh, Lizzy, you remind me of my mother, of course, she is dead. It’s a shame really. I feel you two might have gotten along quite well. Let me tell you about myself. I grew up in this very city, in the suburb across town, actually. My mother spent her days doing nothing but nurturing me and loving me. Much like you probably have with your children; I assume you do have children? I also assume it is because of them you are put in this position. Am I wrong in guessing that if you are not killed tonight, your children will be?”

“You are keen indeed, sir.”

“So, you wish for me to kill you then?”

“I do.”

“And how do you suppose you intend to make me accomplish the deed?”

“I do not intend to make you do anything. I only expect that you will.”

“Ha, indeed, but as soon as I leave this room I will kill those two men and it is likely that no one will come for you until morning. What will happen then if they find you alive?” Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she turned her body toward Axel, assuming what it was he wanted from her. It was not the first time a man had tried to seduce her.

“Oh, Lizzy, you are a beautiful woman, but that is not what I want right now. I do not just go around sleeping with strange woman I meet in dirty apartment buildings. I do have class, my dear,” with that remark Axel gave an evil grin.

“Then what do you want, young sir?”

“Information.”

“I don’t know anything, I promise you.”

“Oh, you don’t? Lizzy, look, I know more about you than you believe. Do not think I let myself be kidnapped by those idiots out the door without first having a reason to be here. I do have reconnaissance throughout the city's gangs. Strategy is important to have, my dear. I know of the affair you’ve been having with Stan Cutlass. He is a shrewd man, detestable really. Yet, he holds power that I wish to obtain. You know more than you believe. The bed is a place where men tend to be at their weakest. You’ve seen a side to that man not many have beheld before. Tell me, what does he love most?”

“I couldn’t tell you that.”

“I guess I’ll be on my way then,” Axel began moving toward the door. “Before I go, Lizzy, I would like to have you know that if you kill yourself that won’t save your children. I have to be the one to kill you. If I walk out of this room and Stan doesn’t receive a report of your death by the end of this day then he will have your children killed. I do not doubt that. Of course, you can always risk it and just try anyway. I mean, what does it matter? You’ll be dead.”

Elizabeth stood from the bed and grabbed Axel’s hand, “Wait, you said I know his weakness, but he’s never actually talked with me. He just pays me when I’ve pleased him and I go on living until he calls upon me again. Never has he been interested in my life. I am only giving my life to him because I have been promised my children will be safe. However, I don’t know why he wants me dead.” Axel sat himself back on the bed with Elizabeth next him.

He looked over at her and again thought of her astonishing beauty. She really did remind him of his mother. When relaying the description of Elizabeth to others he always describes her with these words, “In her eyes I saw such a love and determination that I couldn’t help but begin to fall for the woman. It was not her incredible beauty that drew me in, I had often seen beautiful women, but her majesty. It was quite difficult for me to carry out my task, for we could have lived a great life together, Elizabeth and I.”

Anyway, Axel began to speak again, “He wants you dead because of what I’ve already told you. He doesn’t underestimate the knowledge you’ve gained from lying in bed with him. What he does underestimate is my cunning, my very will to create chaos in a world where life seems too orderly. Yet, accomplish that with order and strategy itself. Quite a conundrum don’t you see? I can only do this with your help Elizabeth,” Axel locked his eyes on the woman’s face. His boyish passions almost getting the better of him. Is she trying to seduce me? The clever girl, Axel thought.

“Stan would always face two photos down when I entered his room. There was one night when he left on some quick business, so I looked at the photos. One was of a woman and a boy. The other was a dog. That is the only sentiment I ever gathered from Stan. He’s a crude man, but if you can find out what those photos mean you might be able to garner what you want. Can I ask you a favor?” Elizabeth matched Axel’s gaze and saw in his eyes nothing. Not a single spark of emotion or content. They were empty of humanity, the sight terrified her.

“What is wrong, Lizzy? Have I startled you somehow?” Axel answered in reply to her sudden quivering.

“What are you? There is nothing inside of you.”

“I am but a man, Lizzy. A man with a goal. Now, what is it you wanted from me?”

Elizabeth, shaken from what she saw, recovered her mind and said, “I wanted to ask that you to make sure my children are safe. Ensure that they aren’t killed by Stan.” Elizabeth tried to make her plea as heartfelt as she could in an effort to try and elicit some sort of emotion from the man next to her, but he remained indifferent.

“I will do what I can. Only as long as it does not interfere with my plans. It should be easy enough to find them,” Axel made the motion to stand, but he was stopped by Elizabeth. She pulled him to her and began kissing him. He tried to resist at first, but he had not been able to control his desire. As Axel began to press for a more passionate appeal, Elizabeth stopped him.

“There it is. There is that bit of human inside of you. Every man has it. There is something in you. I don’t know what happened to cause such emptiness, but I know there’s still a man in that shell,” Elizabeth smiled at Axel and looked into his eyes. At that moment she found his emotion. A small spark of fervor was soon replaced by fury and then settled back into nothing. However, it was only for a fleeting moment.

“Oh, Lizzy, you should not have done that,” Axel said as he placed his hand almost lovingly on her cheek, “it was quite the mistake.” He quickly grabbed the back of Elizabeth’s head and twisted. A loud crack filled the room and Elizabeth’s corpse fell to the floor. It looks as if I’m done here, Axel began thinking, tomorrow will begin my true journey.

“You ‘ave passed with flying colors Axel. I admire that you chose to kill the woman without even using a gun. I ‘ear that you took quite some time to do so, would I be right in assuming you also 'ad your way with the beautiful woman? I wouldn’t blame you,” a large man--one that was particularly obese--sat at a desk in front of Axel. His face was corpulent, his body rotund, and his voice ever-so jolly. The man wore a dirty suit and in front of him was a plate of lavish food. What a disgusting man, Axel thought. Money is quite necessary to accomplish some means, but when it turns us into pigs that is being quite negligent.

“Let’s not indulge too far into the events of last night, sir,” Axel was wearing a tight black shirt and flexible pants. Clothes that were comfortable and afforded him enough movement for combat.

“Ah, I see you ‘ave. It seems I ‘ave again recruited well. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself, boy. Quite the name indeed,” the fat man said leaning forward, almost bursting out of his suit it seemed.

“Stan, I have to say I am very interested in joining with you. Quite interested,” Axel said as he looked around the room. He spotted a picture of Stan with a dog, a woman, and a boy. His eyes didn’t dwell on the photo for long and he allowed them to wander to another part of the room.

“I’m quite in’erested in ‘aving you, boy. Is it true that you killed the leader of Spit Fire and his top members?” Stan said with what seemed to be amazement.

“Why yes, it is true. It was actually quite the ordeal you see. Men can be hard to figure out when you mean to assassinate them. Anyway, enough about me. I couldn’t help but notice the picture of your family sitting at your desk. May I have a closer look?” Axel said putting his hand out for the photo.

“Might as well. They aren’t my family anymore. No, she left a long time ago taking those two along with ‘er. I don’t even think they are in the city any more. But we aren’t ‘ere to discuss family though, Axel. I ‘ave an assignment for you. To prove your real worth to me.”

“I’ll do anything to prove myself to you and Zeus,” Axel leaned forward to emphasize his devotion and show his interest.

“I need you to deliver a message for me. There is some family of mine still in the city, sort of. He lives in Sorrento Prison and I can’t deliver it myself. Can you get it to ‘im for me? He is my brother and all.”

“That’s no problem, Stan. No problem at all,” Axel said with a gleam in his eye. He hadn’t expected to be given such an initiation, especially being so blatantly gifted the knowledge of Stan’s brother.

“Good. Now can you leave ‘ere alone. I ‘ave business to attend to,” Stan waved his hand and Axel stood and left him alone at his desk. A man came into the room from a door behind Stan. “Ah, you’re ‘ere. I ‘ave important things for you.”

“Before you tell me may I ask why you sent Axel to Sorrento Prison? No one has ever escaped that place before. I thought you wanted to recruit him?

“Some people are good for gangs. Others just can’t be trusted. Axel is a man I can’t trust in my gang. I’ll just ‘ave ‘im locked away and he won’t be bothering this city any longer. That’s actually what I need you to do. Make sure he does what I’ve told ‘im,” Stan dismissed the man and looked down at his plate of food. Ravenously, he began to devouring it.