The night air was cold, much colder than I remembered and everything was covered in a blanket of snow. I heard my footsteps crunch in the snow on the steps and it brought back chilling memories, colder than even the winter air. I was a child again as I waked out into the street, a young and helplessly lost child wandering through a ruined street watching the cold air turn my breath to fog as the cold wind blew it away. I passed a flickering street lamp and stopped to stare at the leaning pole. I could hear soldiers in the distance, spectral voices carried on the howling wind. I pulled my coat tight around me and walked on with blood stained hands. I walked aimlessly on, for hours, I walked through the night, I couldn't sleep- I just walked. First I had ran, ran from the soldiers till I passed out in an alley. Then I woke. I woke to my mother, and sister, dead in the snow. My mother shot down by the soldiers that shouted in my dreams, my sister run through, Alliance bayonet in her side. Their ghostly faces woke me in the night, bleeding and pale, lips blue from the cold and bullet wounds. I saw them in my dreams, they wouldn't let me sleep... they couldn't let me sleep. I woke from their nightmarish faces to the soldier's shouts, closer now. I woke and ran. I ran for hours before I slowed to a walk, then I walked for hours more before I stopped, the rising sun casting it's pink glow over the white...
I shook the memories and looked back from the lightening horizon to the warm house waiting for me there, covered in snow. I sighed and watched the cold air turn my breath to fog. What was I looking for out there? I couldn't remember anymore. I just had to get out of that house, take a walk... I don't know what for, I guess I was running again, running from the memories but I felt as if I was looking for something this time, Naomi maybe or some answers? A reason for this madness... whatever it was, it wasn't there. I turned back to the house fingering the locket in my hand as I watched my feet sink in the snow. I never thought, not in a hundred years, I'd ever see that locket again. It was my sole possession for so many years, the only thing I had that was mine, the only thing left from before. The faces in it were no more than a dream to me by the time I lost it, the black plastic behind it still a mystery when the chain broke as I ran from the explosion and dead body of the only family I had left. The hit had gone so wrong, so terribly wrong and I cursed those faces for not stopping it, I didn't stop or go back, I just ran and let it fall... eight years, almost nine since then... eight years I'd never thought of it again, till now.
"How did she find it?" I whispered to the wind.
"I palmed it off some drunk on X18999... said it was real silver, a relic from Ambassador Yuy's past," a voice cut my musings. I looked up to see Naomi leaning against the lamp pole.
"Dad did look kinda like his brother," she smiled at me. "Knew you'd come back," she grinned and stepped forward to catch me in another hug. I pushed her off and glared her. She pouted for a second then returned the glare.
"You were following me," I growled.
"Now he notices," she laughed, I pulled my gun her. "Oh come on Ai, if I'd Ďa wanted to kill you I would have done when you were watching that flickering street light," she rolled her eyes at me. Slowly I put the gun down not really trusting her but seeing the logic in what she said.
"Still don't remember me?" her smile faded as I kept the gun out, ready.
"Hn." I glared. I didn't remember her and whoever she was, she was no relative of mine, we were nothing alike, all my family was dead- I saw them die. Though, she had those eyes... those eyes that shone now with unshed tears. We stood there a while, not moving just standing there watching each other in the snow. She seemed to be searching, trying to remember something. Then she smiled a sad little smile and looked up at me sweetly, old memories played in her eyes and I could tell she knew me. She took a step closer and began to hum a slow tune. It echoed in my mind, played a deeper tone as I felt strong arms wrap round me in a dream, strong arms hold me tight and rock me on a cold winter's night, a soft voice singing that song... The winter's wind picked up the melody as I fell into her arms closing my eyes to the tears.
"I- I thought you were dead," I heard my voice sob as I hid my face on her shoulder.
"So did they." she sighed holding me tightly.
"How?" I asked as I looked up into the deep blue seas of my sister's eyes.
"I took the bayonet in the side, missed my kidney by an inch," she smiled weakly and stepped back lifting her shirt and jacket to show me the scar, a long white slash just inches from several vital organs. She turned around, it was on her back too.
"An old parson took me in, healed me up." She dropped her shirt back and wiped her eyes, then dried mine.
"They do that a lot..." I mumbled remembering Duo's stories of his church. Naomi grinned and looked at me funny, then she laughed.
"Yeah, I guess they do." I smiled a little as she laughed. She stopped suddenly and looked at me, just smiling. I watched a single tear slip down her check.
"I've waited a long time to see that smile again, Ai." she breathed just watching me.
The sun rose behind deep grey clouds lifting the solemn shadows of night from the empty street. It was the dawning of a new day and the beginning of a new era in my life as I stood watching the town waken to this beautiful new day and sleepily ignore its splendor. I stood in three feet of snow cold but not alone, for the first time in my remembered life, not alone. We stood together and watched the dawn, my sister and I together.
"How did you find me?" I looked up at her after the sun had disappeared back behind the thick clouds, the red of dawn fading. She shrugged.
"Luck I guess." she smiled. I knew there was more to it than that but I didn't really care, not now. All I could think of was the impossibility of it all, the miracle almost that she survived and found me, that I had a family... I wasn't alone. Then a new ray of hope...
"Are there... did... anyone else?" I stuttered not able to fully articulate the thought- I was trained not to hope.
"No." she sighed
"Are you sure?" I asked not wanting the dream to die.
"Yes." she looked back up at me, I could see the fire in the ice of her eyes.
"But how-" I pressed.
"I'm sure, Ai. I would know." She frowned and looked away at her feet. I knew then that she would, she had looked, not just for me but for everyone, anyone... all the remnants of our family, and all she found was me. I watched her for a while, saw the pain in her eyes mix with anger and hate as she recounted some distant memory. She remembered, she remembered it all. She was only seven then but she knew what had happened that snowy night so long ago, the details of which I still couldn't separate their reality from nightmare. She knew.
"What happened... that night" I asked tentatively not wanting to force those memories upon her.
"Do you really want to know?" she asked with sincerity. I nodded. Taking a deep breath she looked away, I saw her eyes grow distant as she watched the horizon, I could almost see the ghosts of that night there, before our eyes.
"It was a cold night two years after the death of our father." she began closing her eyes then opening them slowly. "Mother had taken over the coalition, father's little guild that which your friend Odin always said would get them killed... and he was right, it did." she almost laughed. I could remember the people, vaguely. Weathered faces floating in and out of my mind, I could remember the constant tension of the life of a soldier, even as a child I lived on the battlefield, I guess it was too much to expect a normal childhood, but I can remember the times when it was... when the soldiers had gone home from the fighting to their own families and left us to ours. My life had been one constant war- living in between, that's why I could so easily forget, give it up for a dream. Even if I hadn't lost it all so early I don't think I could have looked back and found it much more, the life of a soldier living between battles... but it was a good life, then.
"It's unnatural for mercenaries to work for a cause- for free." she continued with scorn. I could remember their faces, the surprised shock on my mother's eyes as she walked into a room and they were there, behind a wall of Alliance soldiers. "We were sold out by our own men. They turned us in to the Alliance for a simple fee. We should have known better, mercenaries can't be trusted, not for long anyway." I watched a tear slide down her face as she paused, took another long breath. I could hear the soldier's shouts from my dream as my mind replayed the scene, my mother clutching me tight in her arms as she turned and ran trailing my sister behind her. The soldiers chased us and Naomi fell. Mother took out her gun and shot the soldier that put his bayonet through her but that just drew the fire of the others.
"They had found us, the colonies last resistance." she sighed then lapsed into a long silence. We stood there together for several minutes, we could hear the small town begin to bustle around us. Just as I began to feel the chill bite of the cold and remember my friends in the house behind us she laughed again.
"I can remember the last thing our father said," she chuckled as she turned to me and began in a deep voice, "My brother believed in pacifism and look what it got Him! No, Arle, I'll not sit back and watch as the People that killed my brother destroy my home. They won't get away with this, I won't let them." she laughed again and returned to her normal pitch. "He stormed out. He was a soldier, tall and proud, nothing like his scholar of a brother though they looked much the same. He left that day to stop the Alliance from building a weapon on the very grounds that Heero Yuy grew up, a weapon of mass destruction and chaos. Father saved the world from that weapon and gave his life for it... he never came back." her eyes returned and focused on me, or rather the locket in my hand. "That black chip was sent to us three days latter, the address written in his handwriting. I didn't know this then, I didn't know most of this then but now I do... that chip, Aiden, is the weapon." her voice dropped to a conspiratory whisper as she watched my eyes try to cope with the information.
"Nani?" I was confused, it sounded all too... surreal. She took the locket gently from me and opened it prying the chip out and placing it on my palm.
"It's a disease." she stated flatly, "The Alliance was going to release it on one of the smaller colonies where resistance was high and use the consequences to threaten the rest of us with, if we didn't play nice they would simply have to send one- just one of those black chips and activate it, just one to wipe out an entire colony." she stressed her words, tried to plead with me as if I was disbelieving
"How?" I asked in awe.
"I'm not sure. I don't quite understand the chemistry of it all but I've seen the test files. It's a horrible way to die. Father stopped that, he stole the only existing sample and destroyed the testing facility."she smiled faintly as she rubbed the photo in the locket.
"Destroy the sample?" she cut me off, I nodded. "If the seal is broken on that chip, it will release enough of the virus to infect a good hundred miles. Since it wasn't properly activated it wouldn't spread to the entire colony- or planet, nor would it be as lethal, it will just be a slow death then. The virus will infect anyone it comes in contact with and lay dormant until it reaches the right conditions- temperatures exceeding 101 degrees, that's all it needs to activate and kill. It could sleep for years, turning innocent people into carriers that would spread it throughout the entire system, it would be the end of humanity- the last great plague..."she watched me as I finally realized the gravity of the situation, the atrocity. I would never have imagined it possible for any sane human to create such a thing... but then this was the Alliance.
I looked down at the little black chip resting placidly on my palm. I could see my hand shake, never had I been so afraid, never so close to death in it's purist and most horrible form. Death in battle is honorable, fair; it has meaning and even... as Dorothy once put it- a certain beauty to it, as far as death goes. But this... this disease... I can only imagine the horror...
"Father saved the world in that last act and we've paid for it ever since. First the Alliance then Oz searched valiantly for that chip, they killed our father for it, then our mother..."
"How many others must die for their mistakes?" I asked, enraged.
"Everyone if it falls into the wrong hands." her voice held the trembling tone of foreboding, she knew of such hands.
"Who?" I asked.
"Recently there is a new faction rising in the depths of space..." she looked down and took a deep breath, "not really all that new a faction. It's a group of old soldiers and revolutionaries, some from Oz, some from the Alliance, some even from the colonies and Mariemeia's little rabble, what's left of it anyway." she paused and looked back up at me, she was trying to read my reaction, failing that- or satisfied by it- she continued. "They've banded together for one last war. Somehow they found out about it, they found the test files, that's how I knew about it... the Omega project... They've been looking for it, and they now know I have it." she looked away closing her eyes, tossing her head as if to curse herself. She looked back suddenly, laid her eyes full on mine, cobalt pools stared into deep blue seas then she took both my hands in hers.
"Help me Ai, I can't run from them forever." she pleaded.
"How did you find out?" I asked, I didn't like her story, for some reason I didn't like her story, even as I asked I ran it through my mind for incontinuity.
"They attacked me, duh!" she rolled her eyes.
"About the project," I corrected finding the hole I'd sensed was there, "you said they found the files, that's how you knew..."
"I was a soldier too in that war Heero." her eyes narrowed and her voice dropped... that name, her calling me by it... it just didn't sound right but her words were even worse.
"What do mean by that?" I asked her my eyes narrowing as I stepped away.
"I fought in that war too little brother, I watched my friends die and I killed for it... after the war I realized there was nothing left for me to do, fighting was all I knew. A pacifist state is a bad one for a soldier, quite a terrible fate. I wallowed in it for half a year, then I met Darron... he was the New Dawn's general, he took me in and I've spent the past year with them, fighting off the Earth rule wherever we can,"
"What Earth rule, it's a union, not one ruler but many." I told her as I felt my lip curl at her words, who- what they reminded me of.
"With Earth in control..." she almost shouted. I stood my ground no matter how much it hurt to hear her talk like that... because it hurt so much. She glared at me a while then she stopped, I watched her eyes soften as they fell to the snow covered ground. "I don't expect you to understand little brother," she sighed to her feet, "Just know this; I've hated the Earth for so long that hatred was the only reason I survived some of those battles... but when one of the Dawn's officers came across the Omega project and suggested we give Operation Meteor a third try only this time we wouldn't use a colony on them but rain down a truly biblical plague..." I backed from her, from the very idea. She smiled weakly and stepped forward catching my arm and continued in a comforting voice, "I hated the earth but I couldn't let them kill all those innocents there. I knew most of the people there were just like... well, normal at least. They didn't fight or cause any of this... they just wanted to live in peace they didn't even see what they were doing to us so when I heard about it I decided to find the Omega virus first... just so happened I didn't have to look far." she grinned and held up the locket in her hand. "I'd always known that black chip had something to do with Dad's death, and I guessed about Mom... but never could have imagined..." she trailed off letting me finish the thought for her in my own mind. I never could have imagined either. As truly exceptional as my life has been it's still all to... surreal for me to really believe, but her eyes told me to, they begged me to and I had no other choice then to accept it, something inside told me it was real.
"I don't know how but they found out I had it." she looked down again I could see tears well in her eyes. "They attacked me... they'd already killed Darron for not wanting to go through with it and they attacked me..." her voice rose again to that pleading whine as I saw the tears rim her eyes, "I've run for three months, Ai, and I'm tired now..." she fell into me and began weeping on my shoulder, the stress of running from friends three months finally catching up to her.
"What can I do?" I asked lifting her off my shoulder to look at her face.
"You can hep me destroy it" she looked up at me with determined eyes.
"But you said-" I started to argue.
"I know," she cut me off again. "I don't want to just destroy it, I want to dispose of it, properly." she corrected herself as she backed off and wiped her eyes. "The virus had a safeguard, in case it ever got out where they didn't want it. What my father didn't know, and the New Dawn hasn't found out yet is that the Omega project has two facets, the virus, the Omega, and the antivirus- the Alpha... the Alliance Alpha base was abandoned after their second Omega virus got out on L2. They'd tried to recreate the virus but it didn't work, the new one was weaker and too easy to cure." she went on with such strength in her voice, I had to admire her for that, then it hit me- Virus on L2... I remembered Duo's stories of the virus that had wept through the streets of his colony, they were frightening... could it be... weaker?
"Aiden?" Naomi brought my thoughts back from a nightmare.
"The virus... L2?" I asked, afraid of the answer.
"AC 187, V08744 colony." she watched me with questioning eyes. Duo's virus...
"Weaker?" I squeaked remembering his recantations of the symptoms, the time it took to die... Naomi nodded.
"You see the urgency of the problem then?" she smiled, I nodded. "Then you'll help me?"
"Yes." I couldn't let *that*... escape.
"They dropped the project but the base is still there, if I can just get there we can kill the virus and it will all be over, no one else will have to die for it, ever."
"Where is it?" I asked, that's all I needed to know.
"Earth." she smiled.