Part 2 of 3 in the "Feathers and Gunsmoke Trilogy". Manga based, right after the Big Fall. Young Knives and Vash are characters copyrighted by Yasuhiro Nightow, I'm just borrowing! The rest are characters of my own design, I hope you grow to love them as much as I do! This is the "final edit" so I hope you all like it!!

The Big Fall
The stench of bodies, burnt corpses and blood permeated the air. Sleepers had crawled from their tombs, bodies blistered from the heat, leaving trails of blood and bones in their wake as they died. Others lay where the ships had thrown them, tossed aside like garbage. There were thousands of them, spread across the land in the deep gullies left by a ship as it crashed into the planet. The ship had broken apart upon impact, sending the sleeping passengers to their deaths before finally crashing against rocky cliffs and coming to a rest. Fires killed anything that remained within its hull.
None of them had been able to put up a fight. It was a war-zone with no enemies, besides one, and he looked like a twelve-year-old boy. They had not been able to meet their killer. Instead, they had woken to a nightmare if they had woken at all. Many still lay within their sleep pods, dead, still dreaming of a new home they would never see. Their killer laughed triumphantly as he watched the fiery remains falling through the atmosphere. The first ships broke up as the planet's gravity pulled them down. As the last few ships fell towards the planet, their reverse thrusters started and slowed their decent.
Of these last few ships, one housed the last hopes of the planet. Upon the ship were living creatures, housed in glass bulbs that held the ability to terraform an entire planet. This ship was to land safely, even as the others crashed, spilling their human contents upon the rocky soil. It was his plan, the mastermind behind the Big Fall, as it would come to be called. He wanted the creatures to survive because he was one of them, but free from the glass bulbs, free to overthrow the humans that used his people for their own selfish purposes.

The War Zone

The boy stared up into the dark sky the night his escape pod landed silently upon the sandy planet. Red streaks scarred the sky as the ships burned through the atmosphere. Dozens were destroyed even before they hit the ground. The blond boy lifted his arms in joyful praise of his own good work, and he laughed, even as a weeping came from behind him. He turned, his features black, then red, as another ship streaked through the sky. "Why are you crying, Vash?"
A cry of pain shot up from a huddled figure on the ground and a single word rang through the night, "REM!!!!" As the word echoed off of the hills, a great ship fell through the night and colored the sky blood red as it fell, breaking apart as it crashed twenty miles away. When it came to a rest, the explosion could be seen for a hundred miles.
Now the cries of the huddled figure stopped and eyes appeared of a young boy. He looked as the other did; they were twins, green eyes turning red as the bright ships passed overhead. Vash's chin quivered as he watched the billowing flames from the crashed ship. He didn't say a word, he didn't have to, it was over and done, and his brother had done it, he had killed them all, including their mother... "Rem..." Vash moaned, burying his head in his arms.
"Shut up," the other said, his grin spreading as he pointed towards the ship. "Come on Vash, let's go see my handiwork." When his brother did not move, he grabbed Vash's arm and pulled him to his feet. "Come now, this will be brilliant."
Vash pulled away, "No Knives... They're dead, all of them!"
"And so is Rem. You don't have anywhere else to go, Vash. Come with me, or are you going to just sit here and cry yourself to death?" Knives sneered, picking up the bag Vash had carried out of the escape pod and thrust it at him. Vash clutched it to his chest like a teddy bear, and followed his brother reluctantly towards the ship.

It was daybreak when they found the war-zone. The bodies scattered with bits of metal from the ships. Bodies were burned, broken, bruised, bloody, and starting to smell already underneath the suns... Humans had never lived upon a planet with multiple suns, had they? As one sun rose, another smaller one followed behind. As the heat of the day rose, so did the smell.
There were survivors... Vash could see them moving in between the dead and his heart leapt with joy. People who were awake! There had only been three people in his life, Knives, Rem, and William Conrad. Never in his life had he seen so many! But even as he watched, he realized that they were going through the remains, scavenging like crows. He shivered in horror as he saw them turning over bodies, throwing aside appendages, searching for precious items. As they found what they were looking for, they would shove the items into pockets and continue on to the next body. They moaned from broken bones and lost appendages. Even though they were alive, this place would never be anything more than a graveyard. It was a place of death and eternal suffering. These people weren't alive... They were merely moving vessels, waiting for their turn to go to heaven, or hell.
Vash dropped to his knees, and tears came to them. He shook with fear. Had he been wrong about the humans all along? Had Knives been right? Rem, what is going on? These people aren't happy, they aren't living, and they're dying... Weren't these the people you wanted us to live with, to grow old with, to die with? These are...
"Garbage, they're garbage," Knives pulled Vash back to his feet as he snickered. "Miserable humans..." Then he raised his arms above his head as he had done the previous night and said, "Ah, but isn't this planet full of possibilities? Once they're dead we'll be able to remake it our own."
Vash looked at his brother in contempt. It had been less than twelve hours that they had been on the miserable planet, and with every passing moment they would find more of the dead... And Knives was growing ever more cheerful. Vash could only help but think of Rem. Her death had been so recent... He could still see the ship breaking apart in the atmosphere whenever he closed his eyes. Vash squeezed back tears and Knives gave him a weary look. "Are you crying again?" Knives waved towards the bloodied landscape. "They're humans. They would have died eventually. I just helped them along."
"Don't talk to me," Vash responded as he walked down the hill through the field of corpses. Rem... Are you here, Rem? I know this wasn't our ship, but... Vash forced himself to look at the faces, waiting with horrified breath to find his lost adopted mother. Was there another group like this, somewhere else on the planet where Rem was? Was she lying dead without anyone to mourn for her? He choked, coughed, and tried not to cry as Knives walked in prideful silence next to him.
"They all die the same, don't they?" Knives pointed out as they passed all ages: children and adults, grandparents and even the occasional pet. "Doesn't matter what they looked like, where they came from, what species they were..." He toed a cat that a corpse held in its arms, "They all died. But we won't die, will we Vash?"
"She died," Vash said, turning to look at his twin. Knives knew whom he was talking about, their birth mother... Something about her death had started all of this long before they had found out about Tessla. "And we'll die too. It's just a matter of time. If Rem were here, she'd say we should go find the survivors, see if there are any who aren't..." Vash nodded towards the scavengers and his heart dropped, "Like this."
"They are all like this, Vash," Knives snarled. "Humans only care about themselves. They don't care about the 'greater good' or whatever it is that Rem filled your head with. Don't you remember? Rem helped the scientists kill Tessla... They scavenged around her looking for something they could use just like them." He pointed at the humans, and then pulled his twin off through the bodies, holding his other hand over his nose as they went. "They stink just like the garbage they are!"
"You killed them... What do you expect?" Vash growled, and pulled away to walk by himself. The walk was nearly excruciating, forever wandering through blood and death. The field of bodies spread nearly as far as the eye could see. "This ship must have been the first one traveling behind the mother ship, the thrusters didn't have time help its decent like the others," he murmured, trying to avoid thinking about the horrible site that was burning its way into his mind. It made him sick to see them, but if he stopped, he knew Knives would force him to look at them... This is the payback for Tessla, blood for blood.

So many dead, so many people, paying such a dear cost in order to find a new place to live after their Earth had been destroyed. Vash sighed, trying not to breathe through his nose in a desperate attempt to separate the vision of the dead with their scent. Knives lead him through the field of bodies. For hours they wandered as if looking for something. When they saw someone still moving, Knives would pass them in silence, pretending almost as if they were dead. Vash shuddered each time he was forced to move on when he knew he could save them. This would remain in his mind forever. The bodies of women and children that had caught fire, desperately clinging to one another as they died... Families huddled together bleeding, dead now, bodies slumped together, faces grim in death, eyes staring at the sky. He was unable to help even one.
But then from one such pile, Vash heard a child crying. At first he thought it was his imagination, and he looked towards Knives who didn't seem to hear it. But as they walked, Vash's eyes widened when he became sure that the crying came from under pile of bodies. Vash stared at the burnt corpses in disbelief before he said, "Hello? Are you in there?"
Suddenly the crying stopped and a young voice said, "Help me!"
No longer did the corpses bother Vash, he dug down beneath the dead clutching at the dead, flinging them away to reveal an eight-year-old girl. She looked up at Vash and Knives, squinting in the sunlight, rubbing her eyes, tears formed little streaks of mud down her face. Vash looked at her in awe. She was just like the little girl they had seen in the sleep chamber! Only her hair was blond and tightly curled around her face. He leaned towards her, pulling his bag off his shoulder to grab his first aid kit. "Are you okay?"
The little girl sniffed and clutched at her left arm, "This hurts a lot." She looked at the bodies around her, "Aunty... Uncle Robert..." She stifled a choked sob and looked back at Vash, "My arm hurts so much."
Vash nodded and put a tentative hand over her arm, squeezing gently. He confirmed what he had already thought; it was broken. The arm was limp; the bone had broken in half. Reaching into the medi kit, he fished out bandages. This is what you would do right Rem? Behind him he heard Knives snort, "We need those... Vash."
"Not as much as she does," he pulled up the little girl's sleeve and started to wrap her arm. "What is your name?" He asked, trying to keep her mind off the pain, and from her family members, as they lay un-stirring on the ground around them.
"Helen," she replied. "What's yours?"
"Vash," and he nodded over his shoulder, "And he is my brother, Knives."
The little girl giggled, "That's a funny name."
"Yours is too," Knives replied, and Vash could almost swear he'd seen his brother's lips curl into a smile for a split second. He shook off the thought, Must be a trick of the light.
"Well, it wasn't funny on Earth. It was my mom's name. She was very beautiful."
Vash finished wrapping her arm and stood up. "Where was your mom, the last time you saw her?" He frowned, hoping she wasn't amongst the piled bodies, as he knew Rem might be, somewhere out there.
The little girl sniffed and managed to stand as well. "On Earth. She was going to have a baby, so she couldn't go..." Helen's eyes filled with tears. "Where are we? This isn't Earth, it isn't Second Earth either... There are no trees, no water... Only dead people..." Her eyes widened as she realized they were still standing amongst the bodies. With a sudden move, Helen grabbed Vash around the waist and started to cry.
Knives grunted behind them, "We have to go, Vash."
"Yes," Vash replied and set his hand on Helen's shoulder. "Helen, let's get out of here and go to the ship. Maybe someone there will recognize you."
"We are not going to the ship!" Knives protested. "There are humans everywhere. I don't want to be near them... We have to find the plants..." His words fell on deaf ears as Vash took Helen's right hand and started to lead her towards what remained of the smoking ship. Knives grumbled silently, following ten steps behind. "I'm not going to help the brat..." Vash glanced at him over his shoulder and then looked down at Helen. Humans were so funny when they cried... It was almost as if they were laughing. Just like you, Rem. Her eyes were still filled with tears as they walked; occasionally she sniffled as they walked through the corpses. "Whiny brat..." Knives grumbled, kicking a stone into the back of Vash's leg.
Vash startled with the pain, and Helen looked up at him. He smiled, it was a hollow smile, covering up the urges he had to turn around and choke his brother to death. Helen was so cheerful and she smiled back as if they had always been the best of friends. Vash could hear Knives' complaints as they went and he hoped that they wouldn't scare Helen. She was so sweet and small. Bless her; she was strong enough to keep up a fast enough pace that they were able to get out of the war-zone and away from the smell.
When they were far from the bodies, Helen tugged at Vash's hand. He looked down at her with the same smile he'd been wearing for the last few hours. "Vash... I want to go home." The smile faded from his face as he looked at her. She'd been such a trouper, but now he could see that it was all just a fa├žade. After all, she was just a little girl.
"We'll find you a new home, okay?" Vash said as he stopped walking and squatted down beside her. Knives came up short behind them and put his foot on Vash's back, threatening to tip him over, but Vash pushed back. "Stop it Knives. You should know what it feels like to want to find home, right?"
Knives frowned and turned away, "We'll make our own... Don't need a stupid girl in our way..." He wandered off towards the ship alone and Vash turned to Helen again. She was on the verge of crying again.
"What was your old home like?" Vash stood up again and they continued to walk, even as Helen started in the longest description of Earth he had ever heard in his entire life. Rem had rarely spoken of Earth. She had not wanted to be there where Alex had died. If she had to be alone anywhere, it might as well have been somewhere she could do some good. But she never talked about life before.
After awhile Helen ran out of things to talk about, and she eventually said, "Do you really think that we can find a new home for me?" He envied her... Helen had a definition for home. She knew what it was like and what she wanted it to be. Vash had never truly felt at home anywhere, and he wondered if he ever would.
"Yes, I think we well. We'll find it. As long as you search long enough, okay? I won't give up as long as you don't." He nodded as Helen smiled for the first time since she laughed at Knives' name. Then she did something peculiar and held up her little pinky to him. Vash bit his lip, "Um..."
"Promise?" Helen held her pinky up higher until she squirreled up her face and grabbed Vash's hand, "Pinky promise me that I'll find a place to call home again, right?"
Vash nodded, "I promise," and she looped her pinky around his and with a little shake they continued on after Knives.