"Free Like Them"
By Ricki

"Angel Arm Diaries" Story 1: Trigun manga based fanfiction... My first anime fanfiction I've written on my own. Knives, Vash and Rem, and their life aboard the SEEDs ship before the "Big Fall". Background: Vash and Knives deal with what they are... Plants. How can two boys, twins, raised under the same circumstances, turn out so differently? During the eleventh & twelfth months they develop their own personalities... Ones you'll recognize as the diaries progress. Enjoy it! --Ricki

A Question of Humanity
         He had believed he was human. There was no reason not to believe, but now he knew better. He wasn't human, he never had been. All those months living with a human mother, with human emotions, learning human things, and it had been all for nothing. Or had it? Was his destiny based on what he was or what he wanted to be?
         Vash stared out into the stars in space. They were always the same small dots of light. There was nothing unusual about them, they were always burning, always bright, and they never believed themselves to be anything but. The stars lit the black cloak of space and only at their deaths did they change what they were. Why couldn't he have had that too? He could have lasted without this knowledge until his death… But he wasn't even given the choice! His eyes filled with tears as he floated through anti-gravity. The little droplets hung suspended as perfect orbs in the air around him. Why had Rem waited so long if she had wanted to tell him? He had never even had reason to believe he wasn't exactly like her.

         It had all happened so quickly. Rem had woken him up as she normally did in the morning and Knives stood by her side. His twin brother was always awake the moment Rem was, eager to follow her around the ship as she did all the rounds and checks on the ship's computers. Knives had been by her side since he learned to walk seven months ago. Rem took every moment of Knives' attention and just like any mother, tried to teach him everything she could. He learned by doing, even if it took weeks, Knives had learned every inch of the computer systems upon the ship. Vash knew he could learn it as quickly, but had only a mild interest in it from time to time. Even when Rem taught their lessons, he would often find himself contemplating the hundreds of sleeping people within the hull of the ship.
         Vash never begrudged Knives anything. Not even this morning as they followed Rem into the Geo Plant, or "Recreation Room" as Rem enjoyed calling it. They would lie under the trees and feel the grass through their fingers. And eventually Vash had fallen asleep as he was apt to do, listening to Knives and Rem talk about the ship's inhabitants and about their mission, the SEEDs they carried through space. And Vash was glad that he was one of those seeds too, looking to find a place to call home, to sink his roots in.
         He was thinking about the life of a flower as he laid napping, enjoying the artificial sunlight and feeling the brightness through his eyelids, when the sunlight was abruptly cut off. Aqua eyes opened slowly to peer into Knives' aqua blue eyes.
         "What are you thinking about, Vash?"
         Vash smiled, "How much I love it here and how much I'll love it when we all find a home together with the other SEEDs."
         "Other SEEDs?" Knives asked as he continued to look into his brother's eyes.
         "Well, yeah, of course Knives, the other people… The sleepers…"
         Knives' eyes twinkled, "But we aren't people," he said gently. "It's no secret."
         Vash sat up and his eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean, Knives?" He looked at his fingers and down to his toes, and even lifted his shirt to look at his bellybutton. "I'm human just like the others… Right Rem? What's Knives talking about?"
         Rem looked up from a book and her eyes were vacant as they sometimes were. She had been listening to the entire conversation as she always did, afraid of something, but Vash was never sure what. When she didn't answer him, Vash got up and went to her. "But you are our mother…"
         A smile crept along Rem's mouth as if he had said something embarrassing. A hollow chuckle came from her throat and carried only a short distance. "Adopted, but yes, your mother in a way…" She looked at Vash's pained expression and melted, her head slipped down back to the book she had been reading. "But you and Knives… Aren't exactly human. Knives has known for so long that I assumed you already knew. I didn't even think to explain." Her dark eyes lifted to look at Vash through strands of her long hair. "Come here for a moment, Vash." She stood and held her hand out for Vash to take.
         He looked at the hand a moment, then to Knives who nodded with a smile. "Rem… Vash should meet our real mother."
         "I know…" Rem agreed with a slow smile. "Come with me Vash, there is someone you should meet." With those words, he took her hand reluctantly and followed her out of the Rec room and down through the many corridors of the ship.

Like Them
         Towards the center of the ship, in a circular room similar to the Cold Sleep Chamber where Vash and Knives spent many days, were the power plants that fueled the ship. The room was small, and crammed around the circumference of the room ten glass enclosures were secured in two neat rows. Each bulb housed a different "plant"; an artificially created biological powerhouse. Each plant bore a different use, some merely creating the fuel and energy for the ships, others the oxygen and light; some created the other components necessary to maintain the plant life in the Rec room.
         A walkway led to one side of the room and Vash clung onto Rem's hand in uncertainty. Why were they here? The sleepers were on the other side of the ship, weren't they? Of course he knew that Rem wasn't their biological mother, but it was because their real mother couldn't take care of them. He assumed it was because she was one of the sleepers aboard the ship, one who couldn't stay awake during the journey. He was always slightly curious about the reason that they grew up much faster than the children in the videos he and Knives watched, but he assumed it was because they were in space. No other babies had been born in space, had they?
         He and Knives spent very little time exploring this section. At least, Vash spent very little time here, although Knives seemed to be enthralled by the globes and their hidden occupants. The idea that anything lived in these things sent shivers down Vash's spine. He hated this room and the sterile glass globes. He hated the feeling they gave him. They were so foreign a design… So alien… He didn't want to be around these mysterious devices. At least with the sleepers he could look in at them and watch their angelic faces.
         The walk ended in a locked door. Rem had never brought them this far. She had always told him it was a laboratory where only the ship's scientists were allowed to go during their hours awake. Rem had ventured in from time to time, but only to check that everything was in order, she said.
         Vash's fingers felt sweaty in Rem's hand. With her other hand she pressed in the numbers on the keypad and then glanced over her shoulder at Knives. "I'll change it again… So don't go memorizing it like you did last time. She needs to be left alone."
         Knives blushed and looked at his toes, "Sorry Rem."
         Rem turned her attention to Vash. "Time goes by so fast now that you and Knives have been with me. It's been, what, eleven months now? I'm sorry I didn't bring you here sooner." She pressed the last button and the door slid open to reveal a darkened room. As Rem stepped in, Vash's fingers slid out of her hand and he didn't want to follow. It scared him because he remembered this place.
         "Rem… I don't want to go in there…" He took a step back but Knives had other plans for his twin. He set both hands on Vash's back and with one swift push, sent his brother skipping into the room… Into the darkness… Shivers went down his spine.
         It was then that Rem turned on the lights to reveal a single glass orb attached to the side of the ship where a walkway brushed up next to it. The glass wasn't smooth and perfect as the others, there were various cuts, scratches, and repaired sections. Instruments with flashing lights and gauges were glued to the surface. Pieces of metal, wires, and tools lay scattered on the ground. Bottles and containers filled desks and shelves that were pushed up against the walls around the walkway. It looked as if someone had been searching for something and had never come back to clean up after themselves. The whole room looked panicked and that did nothing for Vash's nerves.
         But none of this caught Vash's eyes as much as the woman inside the glass. This bulb wasn't opaque as many of them were in the huge chamber. This one was clear and the inner globe was unraveled. In fact, Vash was pretty sure he had never seen anything like this in the other globes. The inner part had always been a perfect sphere, connected with wires to the ship, but this… This was…
         His eyes took in the features of the calmly sleeping woman on the other side of the glass. She was nearly colorless, white bleached flesh, naked and raw, thin and frail. Long fluffy strands of hair swept down her face and her back… Oh my… Her back?! What was that?
         Before he knew it, Vash had pressed his hands up against the glass as he examined the hundreds of cherubic body parts that were attached to her back. Feet and arms, eyes, ears, backsides… All breathing, all moving independently of one another. The mass was connected to hundreds of wires and electrodes as if she were some kind of growth coming out of the machine. So this was a plant… A mass of parts that could separate and live on their own as others…
         "You use her to make other plants, don't you?" Vash's eyes remained focused in horror at the sight in front of him. This creature… "You use her… Take her apart to grow new beings like her, don't you? That's why she's so huge…" He looked up at her face and took a step back; the plant's eyes had opened. The white orbs looked at him without seeing and her arms moved… The appendages around her fluttered and Vash saw tiny wings like baby birds fluttering in response to the movement. Larger feathers swept the base of the bulb. She looked like a terrible angel of death.
         He swung now to face Rem. "Why did you bring me here? To show me that I am one of these things attached to her? Did you just pluck us off like you do with the others?"
         Rem held up her arms, seeking to explain, but Knives beat her to it. "No Vash, she's our mother. She gave birth to us like the animals in the video Rem showed us. But she couldn't take care of us, so Rem came and took care of us instead."
         "So we really aren't human? We're one of those things?" Vash turned abruptly and pounded on the glass. All this time he had believed he was no different than the sleepers. All this time he had been led to believe he was a human. But now they were telling him he was one of these monsters? These feathered freaks? He pounded on the glass, unable to bring himself to hurt those near him, although the words were as much to them as to the plant within. "I hate you! It's no better than if we'd been plucked off you like an apple! What good is it that we can walk around if we aren't even human?" The plant made no response, only closed her eyes again.
         Vash slid down the glass into a heap on the floor. "I want to be human, Rem. I want to be like you! Why couldn't you have just not told me?" Tears came out of his aqua eyes and he tried to fight them back.
         Rem came to squat down beside him. "But Vash, you would have found out someday, so it's better you know…" Tears came to her own eyes as she watched her adopted son. "No… That's not true. I'm sorry Vash. I didn't want to tell you. I wasn't going to. There really wasn't any need… See, you are human in nearly every way."
         "But we aren't Rem," Knives added. He received a very angry look from two brown eyes and so he closed his mouth.
         "The plants create life, Vash. No matter what we ask of them, they can make it. Sometimes even before we ask. But this one… She's special. The others are all her children. I think that one day she decided that her children should look like the humans around her… The angels that fluttered about taking care of her and her children. And so she took great care and that's how you and Knives were born."
         "I… I don't understand, Rem." Vash rubbed his eyes and stood up, surprising Rem who fell to her butt with a yip. He sniffled and said, "I don't understand it, and I don't like it." He stomped past her out of the room and when he hit the hallway he broke into a run.

         Knives started to go after him but Rem stopped him. "Let him be, Knives. It's a lot of information for your brother. Let him think this through on his own."
         "You didn't leave me alone when I found out…"
         "Because I had to watch you every moment otherwise you would come in here every chance you got and disturb her rest! I know you think it's the best thing in the world to be one of them… But Vash isn't like you, Knives. He wants everything to stay the same…" She trailed off, her eyes worried, "I hope he stays the same too. It would hurt me very much if this affects him in a bad way."
         "Vash is strong," Knives said reluctantly. "He loves you too much to let it get to him." He smiled and gave Rem a hug. "I love you too."
         "I love you too, Knives." Rem smiled distantly and took her adopted son's hand. "Come on, let's go make lunch. We'll make Vash's favorite and then you can go find him."
         Knives nodded, "I know where he is, but Rem aren't donuts for breakfast?"
         Rem laughed, "Today they will be for lunch…" She took one last look at the plant sleeping in the orb behind them and whispered, "Thank you," as they left.

Donuts and Death
          Vash hung in anti-gravity, eyes closed, trying to think of anything but that horrible creature he saw in the glass. "Mother…" The words rung in his ears and he covered them up with his hands, hoping they'd go away. The word stung him more than he would have thought capable. He couldn't think of that creature as being his mother. Rem was his mother, and she always would be. The plant…
         "Why why why? We aren't disgusting feathered monsters! We look like…" Vash opened his eyes and looked around the room. He grabbed at the wall and pushed off towards the door, opening it, he stumbled out into the artificial gravity, gained his balance and jogged, then ran down the hall towards the Cold Sleep Chamber.
         Not even grabbing a coat, he stumbled through the icy pods, shivering, looking at the faces, and examining each one. He looked like them… Humans. Sleeping angels, SEEDs, ready to find new soil and new life.
         Vash turned, caught his reflection on the warped silver steel and he couldn't quite see himself anymore. All he saw were those appendages, feathered wings and those blank eyes. Those terrible eyes that had no life to them but somehow looked exactly like a human's eyes. And as the sight overcame him, he turned from the room and stumbled out again nearly tripping over Knives as he did so. His brother grabbed his shoulders and Vash looked into those cool eyes. "We look human, Knives. We can't create things like the plants; we don't have to hang in those glass cages… We're free! Free like humans…"
         "Free like them?" Knives pointed into the rows of sleeping humans, each in cages of their own. "I don't exactly see how the plants are any different than those humans."
         "But, they're there by choice…" Vash tried to convince himself, and then when that failed, he said, "Aren't they?"
         Knives nodded. "I guess they are. Rem told me that they sleep because during this trip they would eventually get old and die."
         "Will we die, Knives?"
         His brother frowned, "I…" Knives had been careful to avoid the subject of death with Vash, just because he was afraid of how he might react. He turned away from his brother and said, "Vash, there's never been anything saying on the ship that a plant can die… They're special because they're protected in those globes. I'm not sure about us."
         "Maybe Rem would know…" Vash pulled away from his brother and started to head towards the door. "Because maybe we can die… Maybe we're as human as Rem says we are."
         Knives shrugged, "Maybe we can…" He lowered his voice as Vash went around the corner, "But we'll never be human."
         Vash peered around the corner, "Are you coming, Knives? I think I smell donuts!" He grinned, grabbed his brother's hand and they ran all the way to the mess room.

         Rem was waiting with a plate of donuts. She set the last batch down on the table and wiped the flour from her cheeks. It was funny, of all the different foods that she had learned to make on Earth; these seemed to be the most special for the boys. At least Vash relished them as if they were gold. Knives was always indifferent to every food set out for them. This was especially true after he had first visited the plants and he had learned that they didn't eat.
         Knives' attitude about the plants worried her. Day after day he seemed to be more curious about them as if he'd rather live in one of those bulbs than out here with his brother. Rem wondered if she should have closed off the whole section of the ship to them instead of letting the boys wander. They were learning so quickly though… It was hard for her, as a mother, even a foster mother, to deny them anything to help them learn and grow. Her thoughts disappeared as she heard pounding footsteps coming down the hall.
         "I was right!" Vash ran past Rem to the table and grabbed a donut, nearly shoving it into his mouth before she caught him. Rem lifted her eyebrow at her boy and gave him the look.
         "Your prayers, Vash?"
         "Oh yeah," Vash bowed his head and when Rem wasn't looking, shoved the donut in his mouth.
         Knives came in and Rem exchanged a look with him. Apparently their little episode that morning hadn't changed Vash just as Knives had said. She wondered though, even if Vash didn't appear to be hurting on the outside, how did she know it hadn't hurt him deeper on the inside? Rem had never been very good at reading people. "I'm glad you're back to your old self, Vash." She said offhandedly.
         "Oh yeah," Vash said between donuts. "There was something I wanted to ask you, Rem." He stopped chewing long enough to watch Rem and Knives sit down at the table around him. Then he reached for a third donut. "Rem, can we die?"
         Rem looked shocked and threw a glance towards Knives who shrugged. "I didn't say anything." He reached for a donut and started eating as Rem looked back at the expectant green eyes that were looking at her. The question had come quite unexpectedly, and she started to wonder about its origin. Had Knives talked to him about the plant, and what was going to happen to her?
         "I'm…" Rem smiled, a dark expression passed over her face as she thought desperately of how to answer Vash. The right answer would leave him as he was, but the wrong answer… "Yes, Vash, you can die." The truth was the only answer, Rem realized. She would never tell her boys a lie, even if it would hurt her to do so.
         Vash's eyes lit up. "See Knives? What did I tell you? We are more like humans…" He turned his eyes to Rem again. "Thank you Rem… I… I'm sorry about how I acted… I'm glad I know now… But," his eyes fell to the table. "Is it okay if we never go back to that room again?"
         Rem nodded, "Not ever again." Whew, she thought to herself. Vash really hadn't changed.
         "And you're our mother, forever and always right?"
         "Of course…" Rem smiled, her look was distant but loving. If only she had been their real mother.
         "Good!" Vash didn't seem to notice her expression and grabbed another donut, "Oh these are so good…" He munched eagerly at the donut as Knives and Rem joined the meal. "Plants couldn't enjoy donuts… They aren't lucky enough!" He nodded to himself and they settled into the rest of the meal talking about the flowers in the Rec room.

          Knives rolled over in the bed and opened his eyes. Rem lay asleep beside him still so he decided to rest a moment more, until he realized his brother had disappeared. Knives opened his eyes fully and scanned the bed. The oversized bed had been the only luxury given to the single person who watched over the fleet of ships during each five-year shift. Since they were babies, Knives and Vash slept curled up near Rem on the huge bed. But Vash was never awake before him. His brother suspected sometimes that Vash liked to have the bed to himself. But he had rolled off it before…Moving over to the edge of the bed, Knives craned his head over the side and looked underneath. No, Vash wasn't there. So where was he? He got up again and looked back at Rem. She was still sound asleep. Sure, maybe Vash had never gotten up before Knives, but he'd definitely never gotten up before Rem, and now he was gone. Knives got up now, determined to find him.
         Over the last few weeks Vash had spent much of his time alone. Although, Knives had to admit, Vash had always spent a lot of time alone. As he had followed Rem around every morning, learning about every inch of the ship, Vash spent hours alone in the observatory above the Cold Sleep Chamber just thinking. Lately, it had gotten worse. But he'd never gotten up early.
         Knives glanced at the clock by the bed. It was 0500 hours… Where could Vash be? He never even got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom!
         With a long look at Rem's sleeping figure, Knives headed down to the observatory. Vash wasn't there. He wasn't in the hanger, or by the windows in the anti-gravity room either. He wasn't even in the kitchen finishing off last night's salmon sandwiches. A curiosity swept over Knives. He didn't go to the plant chamber, did he? Vash told him the place gave him the shivers. He'd never understood Vash's reaction. Knives felt at home there, as if he were in a room of friends. Often he'd talk to them. The plants within would unravel and look at him with their blank eyes. They couldn't speak to him, but it was a comfort to know they heard him. They knew him for what he was and accepted him. Knives often wondered if the humans in their pods would ever do the same. If only they'd wake up…
         He stumbled past the hallways towards the plants. Could Vash have finally accepted what he was? He contemplated this as he passed the computer room where Rem taught their lessons… And sitting at Knives' computer was Vash, alert and typing away at the keys. Knives' eyebrow raised, when had Vash learned to use the computer? He was typing with both hands, not even looking at the keys! How many times had Vash even touched those computers? Only during lessons, and most of the time they remained off while Rem taught them from the overhead. When had this happened? His brother was so simple…
         Vash looked up as Knives came in. "I can't find anything about them…" He said quietly. "I've been looking, but I think the files are locked. Why would they be locked, Knives? Shouldn't everyone have access to information about them?" He pushed the keyboard away from him disgusted. "Every single time I seem to be getting somewhere I run into some password!"
         Knives looked at the computer screen and then back to Vash. The screen was full of password screens and flashing windows. He hadn't come that far after all, but still… His brother was trying to learn something more about them, and that was a start. "Do you really want to know, Vash? After what you said a few weeks ago…"
         "I want to know." Vash said stubbornly. "Show me." He stood for Knives to take his place. Knives nodded and took his seat. He easily opened the files and decrypted the security codes locking the information. Vash was over his shoulder; probably memorizing everything that Knives had taken so much time to learn from Rem. Vash was no doubt a quick learner, although he hadn't realized it until now.
         After a moment he had brought up the files and stood up. "Here's all of it. I think there might be more… But the ship's computers are limited. We don't have access to the Earth's files." Vash sat down and started to read, and Knives took a seat nearby. He'd read it all dozens of times; knew every word by heart.
         The Earth was dying. The humans had killed it with wars and nuclear weapons. The vast amount of energy had destroyed nearly a third of the world's population and the planet was in decline. A form of energy that could create was searched for. Anything and everything was accepted. Even to the point of creating artificial intelligence and creating artificial life.
         The plants were a mixture of DNA of every life-giving organism on the planet. They were batteries… Creatures much like green plants who could form energy from sunlight at first, like powerhouses, like potatoes they could hook a clock to. But they weren't perfect. They were short-lived as many batteries were. So the scientists tampered with adding strands of human DNA… Vash looked up at Knives. His twin knew what he was thinking, but he knew Vash hadn't read far enough. "Keep reading Vash." Aqua eyes turned back to the screen. The human DNA didn't take. Nothing could change the imperfect batteries... And something happened, but it had been left out of the files. A gap had been left on purpose, perhaps to guard the secrets of the plants. But suddenly, the first plant as they knew it was born, unable to be exposed to oxygen, but she never dimmed; the energy was perfect.
         Everyone on the planet rejoiced, plants were used as the first non-nuclear power sources for space-travel. They could create artificial gravity, oxygen, sunlight, and could be easily reproduced by grafting them… They collected the plants together and sent them off with the SEEDs into space as a hope for mankind in case the Earth couldn't be saved. They would create a second Earth, somewhere on a planet that could sustain life. But none had been found and that was where the files ended.
         Knives wasn't really sure how many years the SEEDs project had taken to get off the ground, or how far they'd come. He was sure that Earth hadn't survived. The species had probably destroyed themselves a long time ago. It saddened him to think that Rem had lost everything she knew… But he was glad she was here with them. At least she still had a chance at paradise.
         Vash had finished reading the files and he stared at the screen blankly. Knives knew what he was thinking… So many questions had been left unanswered. Maybe now that the two of them were together they could finally ask Rem about it and she would answer… At least he thought Vash was thinking this until he said, "I want to see her again."
         Knives swallowed and looked at his brother, "Really?"
         "Okay," Knives responded and stood. "Follow me then." He headed out the door and listened to Vash's footsteps behind him down the rest of the corridors to the plant room. It was quiet as always, the only sounds were the dull ringing of the metal walkways as they went past the silent orbs. Rem had told him once that the plants could produce sound, that they could scream, but he doubted it. Normally the plants remained curled upon themselves, performing their tasks within the glass.
         But now, without Rem with them he could see the plants unraveling. Even if he had no other power, the plants could sense him. The creatures in the bulbs came up towards the glass, white eyes watching them without seeing. Knives felt Vash's hands cling to the back of his shirt. Those eyes, ten of those creatures peering through nearly opaque glass. Knives had been here so many times talking to them and he knew they recognized him now… Even if they weren't supposed to, according to the files, which meant it had something to do with what he was.
         "They know we're here," Knives said to Vash as they finally came to the door. "You shouldn't be afraid of them. They're our sisters." He heard a snort behind him and Knives shrugged. Maybe Vash would never accept it; it didn't really matter to him, because at least he was doing his part. He looked up at the keypad and frowned. He'd forgotten to bring a stool this time to reach it. He looked back at Vash, "You'll have to help me reach it."
         "I thought Rem changed the code." His aqua eyes were still locked on the plants behind them and their figures sweeping in and out of view. "I mean, she did, didn't she?"
         "She always uses the same three sets of numbers," he said. Knives smiled to himself, the numbers were always the star-date when she had found the twins. He wondered if Vash even knew their birthday. "Come on Vash, give me a hand. You said you wanted to see her. You're chickening out now? We've come all this way!"
         Vash glanced around and reluctantly helped Knives get onto his shoulders so he could reach the keypad. It was unfortunate that he knew so much but was still so short. Being older had its advantages. At least he could reach the computers, but not quite tall enough. Humans grew so slowly. They could already walk and talk and think for themselves. Humans would have barely taken their first steps by this time, and talking, ha! How in the world had Vash convinced himself he was like a slow growing human? He'd seen the videos, had taken the lessons that described every part of daily life that Rem had been so careful to cover. So why hadn't Vash known something was different? Knives rolled his eyes, his brother was obviously not that bright.
         The door slid open and Knives jumped off Vash's shoulders. He grabbed his twin's arm and pulled him towards the open door. "Come on, I'll need you to reach the light switch too." Within moments they had the lights on and Vash went over to the edge of the walkway to set his hands upon the glass again.
         "She's not moving," he said sadly. "I thought she'd come to the glass like the others." He traced one of the scratches on the glass with a finger before turning to look at Knives. "She woke up before."
         Knives shrugged, "You've got to talk to her." He came to stand next to his brother and set his hand to the glass. "Mother, Vash is here."
         The frail being on the other side of the glass began to move. The cherubic bodies at her back fluttered, legs moving as if trying to get free. Vash nearly stepped back, but Knives cast him a look and he stayed where he was. "Come now, you don't want to disappoint her do you?"
         "I just…" Vash trailed off as the plant moved closer and gently set her hands on the glass, one opposite Vash's hand, the other and Knives' hand. It was then a connection was established. Knives was never sure how it occurred but there was an exchange of energy and then the plant smiled. Her son smiled back and then glanced over to Vash, but Vash didn't have the same smile, he was frowning; deep furrows formed on his brow. Knives shook his head and looked back at his mother.
         She was so beautiful, her feathered wings swept the bottom of the bulb, and her long legs ended in tiny toes that floated just barely above the glass. She was happy to see them. He looked deep into her eyes and felt a longing to be within the glass, with her. But he knew he couldn't… And his mother was dying. Rem had told him as much, and as he looked into those empty eyes he knew this was the last time that she would wake.
         Vash breathed a sigh next to him. Knives looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "What is it, Vash?" Did he know the truth about her? Had he made as strong a connection?
         "She's tired, Knives," Vash breathed. "I never knew… She's so beautiful."
         Knives nodded. He'd felt it before; he'd known her exhaustion from his first meeting. Plants weren't meant to expel so much energy as she had in order to create them. He shook his head and stepped back from the glass. "Rem was right, she needs her rest." He set a hand on Vash's shoulder and looked at her, secretly grieving inside.
         "Yes," Vash agreed. "I'm sorry we woke you," he said and pulled away as well. "She's done all she wanted to do. I think I'll let her rest." He turned and headed for the door. "I'm sorry Knives."
         "For what?"
         Vash shrugged, "I didn't understand what you saw. I didn't believe you… They're all so tired. Like they've never slept… I don't think I'll be able to sleep so much now either. If I'm like them… I think there's a lot more that we're supposed to do." He headed out without another word and Knives watched him.
         He went back to the glass and watched his sleeping mother. She had made them free. What were they supposed to do with that freedom? Why were they born if they couldn't do anything more than a human could? Shouldn't freedom mean they didn't have any restrictions? He looked down at his hands. Why was he so human that he couldn't even do a fraction of what his mother could? What was freedom for if he'd been restricted to this?
         Knives sighed. He wasn't good at this thinking thing. He glanced over to one of the desks and choked. It was nearly 0700 hours! Rem was sure to be up by now! And if she caught him… Knives dragged a chair over to the light switch, turned off the light and slid the chair off into the dark and ran out the door to catch up with Vash.

Screaming Angels
          The sound pierced through the night, echoing through the metal hull of the ship until every inch rung with the sound. It was a sound that Knives and Vash had never heard in their entire lives. The sound filled their ears until they could no longer drown it out by putting their hands over them. Vash wailed in the bed beside Rem and she looked in horror from one boy to the other.
         Knives was already on his feet. He had been wandering through the ship on his own, wondering about his mother. It had been a full two weeks since their visit and he wanted to check up on her. He hadn't known that he could trigger something like this… Knives tried to catch his breath after the long run back to the bedroom. Rem knew Knives had sparked the screaming and she looked at him as a mother would look at a child who had hit his brother. "What did you do, Knives?" He swallowed and started to turn away, but Rem caught his arm and swung him to face her. "What did you do Knives?!"
         Vash was screaming now, trying to bury his head in the pillows, "Make it stop Rem, make it stop! Please…" He scrambled and wailed, the sound only increased.
         "I just wanted to talk to them…" Knives couldn't look at Rem, her brown eyes were too accusing. "All I did was visit them and then suddenly one of them started to scream… I didn't even know they could scream Rem. I promise I didn't even touch them!" He went limp in Rem's arms and she let him go.
         Rem put a hand to her face and breathed a sigh. Then she stood, grabbed her shoes and headed down the long corridors towards the plants. Knives followed her, leaving Vash to cry in the bed alone. What was she going to do? He hadn't laid a hand on the plants, hadn't even been able to speak to them this time. When they'd started screaming a shiver ran down Knives' spine and he didn't know what to do. He tried to calm them, tried to say something that would stop the sound, but nothing seemed to work. When he left the huge room, the pitch increased, and Knives knew all of the plants were screaming now.
         "Rem, what are you going to do?" He huffed behind her, not used to keeping up to her as she broke into a jog. Knives puffed, "Rem! I'm sorry!"
         She didn't respond, only came up to the door and opened it. The screaming… Even Rem put her hands up to her ears as she continued down the long walkway to the final door. Knives followed reluctantly, the plants were reeling in their cages, pounding against the glass. He'd never seen them like this… "Rem…" His voice didn't carry, but Rem turned to look at him.
         "Knives, it's not your fault." She lowered her head; her long hair fell around her face. "But I will need your help quieting them. Vash's too." Rem looked up at Knives and he frowned.
         "I don't know how Rem… And Vash…"
         "Go get Vash. Bring him here." She turned with her final order and continued down the hallway towards the door where their mother rested in her bulb.
         Knives nodded; from now on he'd listen to Rem. He didn't want anything like this to happen again. He ran from the room, and as the door closed behind him it was almost a relief from the sound. He could hear himself think now. When he got back to the bedroom, Vash had every blanket from the bed dragged to him in the corner of the room and he sat quivering in the pile. "Come on Vash, Rem needs us to help her."
         "I can't… I can't… I won't go in there." Vash shook, tears threatening his eyes again. His face was still red and he was shaking. "I'm not one of them, Knives. I can't be."
         "So you'll let them scream? You'll spoil them?" Knives reached into the blankets and wrapped his fingers around Vash's arm. "Vash, Rem needs our help and we've got to help her. We can't just let them get away with this… We've got to get them to shut up." He pulled his brother out of the pile on the floor and dragged him out of the room.
         "No Knives… I… Don't make me, please." Vash struggled, but weakly, he wasn't really trying to get free. Knives knew that the fear wasn't quite overwhelming the curiosity. "How can I help?"
         His brother shook his head, "I don't know Vash, but Rem said we could help, and you believe Rem, don't you?"
         "Of course."
         After that, Vash didn't struggle against Knives. He walked calmly beside him until they finally broke into a jog, eager to stop the noise as soon as possible. When they came to the plant chamber, Rem was gone. Knives held his hands over his ears and called for her, but when there wasn't a response, he had to catch Vash from running away. "Stop that… She's here somewhere! REM!!!"
         The door opened at the other end of the walkway and Rem came out. She looked down at the floor and Knives' eyes went wide. "REM! Our mother!" He ran now, full speed towards the doorway, what had happened to her? Why had Rem gone in there? Knives knew now why the screaming had started, he knew the plant within that room had died… He had to get to her, had to see her. But Rem had different plans. She stood in front of the door, blocking the path as the door slid shut. "Rem! I have to see her, please Rem."
         Rem shook her head. "You and Vash have to quiet them now."
         "But our mother."
         "I AM YOUR MOTHER." Rem said fiercely. She turned to the keypad and pried it off with her fingers. She ripped at the cables and pulled the keypad off. "I should have done this a long time ago," she said suddenly and grabbed Knives' arm. "Either you and Vash shut them up or we'll lock them up and let them scream forever."
         Knives tried to pull away from Rem, but she was too strong. He screamed, "Let me go! She's dead isn't she? I have to see her!"
         Rem slapped him. Knives fell to the floor and looked up at her, rubbing his face. Vash ran up to him, "Rem…" He tried to do something for Knives, but his twin brushed him away.
         "Leave me alone, Vash."
         "But Knives…" Vash looked up at Rem. "Rem, I don't understand."
         She held the keypad up for them to see. "I should never have told you what you were. You were right, Vash. And from now on you are human. No one is to know what you are. No one. When my five years are up we'll all go into the sleep chamber together. When they finally find us a new home we'll be a family, a human family." With a sigh, Rem put out her hand for Knives. "Touch the glass and make a connection, both of you. They'll quiet down."
         Knives growled at her and stood up on his own, his face still red with the print her hand had left. His face had fallen into a scowl and he walked over to the nearest plant. They were still screaming, but the sound had been drowned out by everything that had happened. Knives could hardly hear them now as he thought about what Rem was doing to them… What she was making them do… He would never forget what he was, never!
         He placed fingers onto the smooth glass and the plant within stopped screaming. It was instant. Knives closed his eyes. When the plant came up and placed her hand on the other side of the glass, he could feel her pain, she was indeed mourning the passing of her mother. It will be okay, Sister, Knives thought to her.
         When he opened his eyes, Knives looked over to Vash. "Put your hand on the glass and they'll quiet down," he went to the next plant and she too was quiet. He looked at Vash who hadn't moved. "Move it Vash, before they start up again!"
         Vash jumped into action then, although hesitant at putting his fingers on the glass at first. Then he finally set his hand against the glass and he said, "Shut up, brat. You're being selfish."
         Knives rolled his eyes, "You don't have to talk to them."
         "First you say I do…" Vash went to the next plant and she quieted without a word.
         They each headed towards the next one down the line, but the room was quieting now on its own as the plants nearest those they'd touched were going back to sleep. As the sound died in the farthest corners of the chamber, Knives looked at Vash, and then back to Rem. "It's done."
         "Good," Rem said, and headed out the door. "Let's leave them alone."
         "But, Rem… What about her?" Vash said quietly.
         Rem shook her head, "As far as you should be concerned, she never existed." She reached out her hand, "Isn't that what you wanted?" Vash nodded and took her hand. Knives sneered; his brother was too easily convinced. He wouldn't be… He'd find a way into that chamber someday…
         But as they walked from the chamber and the door closed behind them, Rem went to the nearby keypad that usually remained unlocked and typed in a password to lock it. Then, as she did with the other one, she ripped it off the wall as well. Without a sound they followed her down the long corridors and finally into the hangar. Knives frowned, "Rem…"
         She set the keypads down onto the floor and pushed the boys out of the room. The inner door closed behind them and Knives and Vash pressed themselves up against the windows. Without an explanation Rem opened the outer doors and the vacuum of space sucked the keypads into the void. Knives pressed himself up to the glass. "Why? Why did you do that?" He pounded at the glass and turned to look at Rem as she closed the outer doors again.
         Rem set a hand on Vash's head and he wrapped his arms around her. "I'm sorry Knives, but I don't want you going in there any more. It's not good for you. From now on, I'm your only family. The plants…" She squeezed Vash, and held out a hand for Knives. "Come here Knives." Knives frowned, but when Vash turned to look at him with those green eyes, he came up to Rem and hugged her as well. "I love you Knives. And you too Vash." Rem held them in her arms.
         Knives felt like he was being squeezed in a vice. He looked at Vash again and sighed. His brother was okay with this… Why was Vash so okay with this? Vash had his eyes squeezed shut and he was smiling. Knives closed his eyes too and tried to feel comfortable in Rem's embrace. When he opened his eyes again, Vash was looking at him. He nodded to Rem and Knives looked up at her and said through gritted teeth, "I love you too…" When he looked back at Vash he was smiling as if everything had gone back to normal.
         With a sigh, Knives managed to pull himself away from the group hug and he grabbed Vash's hand. "Hey Vash, I have an idea."
         "Let's go look at the sleepers…" He looked up at Rem. She smiled and nodded. "Come on Vash."
         "Okay!" Vash replied, and he followed Knives to the Cold Sleep Chamber. As they walked he started talking about the sleeping occupants aboard the ship. "You know Knives, I was thinking about how you know so much about the computers… Maybe you could teach me how to use them better. Because Rem told me once there are files on each of the SEEDs. I thought that maybe we could look over them, maybe get to know them better so when we all wake up on the new planet we'll know something about them."
         Knives turned his head to look at Vash as they walked. His frown disappeared as he looked at that goofy smile on his brother's face. He really was okay with this. Nothing would change after all… Except that Vash now got up early and wanted to learn everything about the ship, and had already started following Rem in the morning rounds. In two weeks he had learned nearly everything that Knives had spent most of his life trying to learn. All of the secrets, all of the shortcuts that he'd had to make, all of the information he had gotten out of Rem; Vash learned it all almost immediately as if he were a computer himself. It was almost aggravating.
         But then again… Vash had begun to open his mind, and Knives had tried to fill it with everything he could manage. Even about the plants when he could. His twin had come down with that habit of calling them all "brats" and "spoiled children" since they never had to do anything, just sit in those glass globes all day long. The plants never had to do chores or have lessons. Knives had become jealous of them.
         It would all change now. Rem had destroyed his only way to get to his sisters and there would be no more talking about them. Knives knew that from now on they didn't exist… At least in Rem's view. He would never forget the plants… But for a time he decided there were other things he could learn about, and he smiled at Vash, "I think that's a great idea, learning about the sleepers…" Maybe when they were awake, he would find someone to be on his side, someone who could override Rem's decision.
         When they reached the observatory, Vash sat down and stared out at the long rows of glass cages with their sleeping occupants. Knives stood nearby, his hands pressed up against the cold windows. He looked down at Vash and frowned. Why did Vash like these sleeping people so much? Was there something he was missing? The humans didn't even move! They were frozen solid. They didn't move, they didn't respond… The plants had accepted him… Would the humans? Knives slid down onto his butt.
         Vash looked over at him. "Do you think we'll ever get to meet them?"
         "Yes," Knives said, the idea having already crossed his mind. "Yes, I think we will." He looked out over the sleeping humans and smiled. She won't stop me this time, Knives thought. He looked over at Vash and put an arm around his brother's shoulder. "You know what Vash, I think we will get to meet them."


          Vash looked out over the desert. He sat with his legs pulled up to him, feeling the hot suns on his back. A cemetery lay before him, crosses made of scraps marked the graves. There were so many… As far as the eye could see. All of those people… Their cold sleep pods had been their coffins. He frowned, burying his head in his arms. How many hours had he watched them sleeping? How many of them had hoped to find a new home, a paradise where they could live in peace?
         He sighed, and looked again out over the graves. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, his eyes glancing over each grave, apologizing wordlessly. There was nothing he could have done, was there? It had all been Knives' doing five years before. Knives had killed them all… Only Rem had managed to save any of those people who lived in the small houses they had built around the fallen ships.
         Reaching into his coat, Vash pulled out a small cross on a chain. He'd found it earlier that day. It glittered in the sunlight as he held it dangling in front of him. "I won't forget to pray, Rem." He said, and clutched the cross between his fingers and bowed his head. "I know I'm not a human… I'll never forget that, but it's my duty to protect them. I was born free to do just that. Free, like the humans. Someday Knives will understand it too. I'll make him understand, no matter how long it takes."
         "Hey, Vash! Come on!" Knives said as he appeared over the hill. Vash's twin had been scouting the area as Vash sat alone in thought. Knives walked over to one of the graves, scuffed dirt at it, and sneered as he tipped it over. "I don't want to be this close to a town," he grumbled and wrestled his bag farther onto his back. "Come on."
         After a moment, Vash stood and grabbed his bag. He walked down towards the tipped grave marker and righted it. With a sigh, he put the necklace on the cross and looked at Knives. His brother frowned and walked away. Vash breathed a sigh and raised his eyes to the distance. A SEEDs ship rose over the horizon. It was being taken apart slowly over the years, and one of the plants had been taken out to stand guard over the city. The plant… Goosebumps ran over his arms and he looked at Knives. His brother was looking for a fallen ship that had no other survivors than the plants… He wanted his family. Vash wanted to be with the people… In those towns… They were family… Rem had been family… But for now he followed his brother thinking someday he will understand. Vash nodded to himself and with one last longing look at the city, followed his brother into the desert.

- The End -

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