Vexen, on the way to Oblivion.
"Me," Vexen agreed as he walked closer, raising an eyebrow at Axel. "Is there a reason for you to be shouting and pointing at me like a lunatic?"
"Where have you been?" Axel lowered his arm, looking no less disconcerted than he had on seeing Vexen enter the hallway. "The Superior's had me looking everywhere for you - he was about to DEMOTE me if I didn't find you!"
In the interests of maintaining unity within Organisation Thirteen, Vexen refrained from saying that he would have delayed his return if he'd known. He merely smirked. "I was gathering data. I have enough information to take a break, and now I wish to deliver my report to the Superior."
Axel heaved out a breath. "Well, gimme a minute - I've also got a report to fork over. Shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes, even if the Superior's got questions-"
"It can wait, Number Eight," Vexen said, putting a particular inflection on rank.
Axel took note of it, and turned a blank expression to Vexen. "Sure thing, Number Four," he said, acknowledging Vexen's point. He opened the door and stepped back. "Tell him I'll be in after you."
Vexen entered Xemnas's study and shut the door behind him. He wondered if Axel was considering holding a grudge against him - but though Axel seemed incapable of expressing respect convincingly, he had proved too intelligent for outright insubordination.
"Vexen? Where in the worlds have you been?"
"My stocktaking is complete. Currently, there are fifty-six more stars than there should be," Vexen said.
Xemnas, in spite of himself, could only blink. Once, twice, thrice. "That's what you've been doing? Counting stars?" he said finally.
"Yes. I have my report here, if you'd care to read it, but I can give you a condensed version, if you have the time?"
Vexen looked pleased as Xemnas did no more than stare at him, taking it as a sign that the Superior was eager to hear more. He wore a smug smile. "Stars are disappearing daily as Heartless infiltrate the worlds - but new stars are appearing. This marks the birth of new worlds, as you know, of course." He gave a deferential nod. "I think if we know a little more about this phenomenon, we can use it to harvest hearts from young worlds with few defenders. Far easier than what we've been doing so far. There's no apparent pattern to the appearances of new worlds yet; currently fewer seem to be forming. They haven't been any since roughly seventy-two hours ago, so I decided that this was a good time to knock together a report."
He walked up to Xemnas' desk and laid a sheaf of papers on the table. "It's rather rough, but you've seen enough of my notes over the years to make sense of it."
"Of course. Vexen, I wonder - have you eaten since you started your research?"
"There's been no need. You know that our bodies don't require much in the way of sustenance anymore. In fact, I did a few tests on that subject while monitoring the stars--"
"Ah. Well, still. Visit the kitchens before you continue, please. I wouldn't want you to be discomfited as you speak." Xemnas schooled his face into a look of concern.
"I suppose it would give me time to order my thoughts," Vexen said. Xemnas watched as his face went near-blank, as if some spark had gone out of it.
"Send in Number Eight. He should be waiting outside."
Vexen nodded over his shoulder. He walked a little stiffly, possibly because he hadn't got much exercise during his research. It seemed to Xemnas, however, like some poorly-animated puppet, moving too jerkily to give a convincing simulation of life.
"Yo, boss man. Here's what you asked for." Axel held a battered plastic binder out to him. "I gotta say, things are looking pretty bad for Larxene and Marluxia. Any more incriminating evidence against them would have to be an actual attack on the rest of us."
Axel moved and behaved in such a way that he seemed to have so much energy that it would soon spill over into his environment, so that soon the stones he stood on would become lively. Though he was regularly cynical and expressed hints of bitterness about his now-tenuous existence, at least he had not gone so far as to forget that he was a Nobody. Xemnas made his decision.
"Add another to the list for Castle Oblivion."
Axel raised his eyebrows. "Sir? Who? I know I've got the ones who might be trouble."
"This is a more subtle problem. Number Four will be leaving with the rest."
"Huh. He's a traitor?" Axel asked, slanting a look at the door Vexen had left through.
Xemnas rested his chin thoughtfully on one hand, turning his own gaze at the door. "No. I believe that's the last thing Vexen would turn out to be. He has a good chance of turning into a liability, however." He sighed. "It is a pity, and a great loss to the Organisation..." His voice trailed off with appropriate regret; Vexen - and, of course, Even - had been his colleague for years. His shortly forthcoming death was a pity.
It was unavoidable, however. Whoever could stare for days at a sky that was more empty than not, with a body that was more empty than not, was in many ways no longer /safe/. Vexen's substitute heart consisted of experiments and research, and one day he would not know when to stop taking the world apart to inspect the pieces.
Xemnas remembered the feeling well.