By: Caer
see part 1 for warnings & disclaimers

The Forgotten + Part 2

Two figures flitted through the streets, one black, one white. The unabating heat cast visible waves in the air surrounding and they could look to be no more than mirages, wavering in the shadowless empty streets, before disappearing without a sound.

It was night now, but the light cells that once provided emulated sunlight had long burned out and now only the auxiliary lights were left... long burning fluorescent lights that cast a greenish haze on everything and never turned off. The colony was heated only by vented, stale, recycled air that was constantly pumped in during the day and turned off at night... or what used to be night, forcing most people underground or into the more insulated buildings in the place. The remaining heat would keep the colony from freezing until the morning, when it once again came to life, waking with a throbbing hum and spewing it's stifling heat. This would go on, unregulated until it inevitably broke. When this happened, many people could freeze to death and many had, in fact, before anyone came along to fix it. Otherwise, the heat on the streets was unbearable most of the time, though today had been a better day.

The fact was, no one was really around to see the wavering forms as they moved through the alleyways and... if they didn't have a choice, the open streets. It was too hot, and too silent.

The danger of wandering the streets was that there was always a very good chance of being the unfortunate victim of a bored gang's target practice. The target practice was done with slingshots and rocks and bottles of course. It was more like a stoning. There were no guns anymore. The last of the law enforcement had taken everything with them, when they finally decided to abandon the colony and let the criminals run loose.

With a war going on, there had been no one to pay attention.

But now, the war was long over and the rest of civilization was, for the most part, too busy recovering their own damages to pay attention to an abandoned world that wasn't worth their time anyway, being laden with thieves and murderers. They were last in priority as far as most were concerned.

No one realized in times like these that generations had gone by.

"Hey Wufei, why aren't we using the Lincoln passage?" Duo whispered as they ran to a more visible entrance to reach the subway.

"Slicers." He replied. "There were three of them on the way. I figured this was safer."

Duo cursed quietly. "I'll never understand how you do that."

Wufei grinned. "Your problem is you think too loudly and too much my friend." He whispered back.

Duo laughed and continued, once again reflecting on how lucky he had been to find Wufei. He had saved both Duo and the children countless times since. Duo could never thank him enough.

He stopped when he realized that his Chinese companion was no longer at his side. Duo whirled instantly, ready for a fight, but Wufei simply stood quietly in front of an overflowing dumpster.

"Hey, Wufei, why are you stopping?" Duo whispered harshly, looking at the windows above for possible danger.

Wufei raised his hand and pointed. Duo followed it to see a body. It was covered with a large blanket, but it was definitely a body.

"Jesus." Duo growled quietly, shaking his head. "They don't even have enough respect to use the incinerator?" He ranted quietly. "People are dying everywhere from disease already. Don't they get it?"

"Most of them don't care anymore my friend."

"I suppose we should take care of it."

Wufei nodded. "Yes and..."

"What."

"Don't get mad Maxwell."

"What is it?"

"If the body is still fresh, we should take the blanket."

Duo tensed, looking down. He sighed. "I hate it Wufei... I really hate it. But God knows we need it."

Wufei looked silently at his companion.

"Do you want me to carry it?"

Duo shook his head, eyes still closed.

"You keep watch. I'll get it."

"What if it's someone you know?"

Duo sighed bitterly. "I already know death too well Wufei. At least if I knew them... I can keep them alive in my memory. It's all I can give." Wufei nodded and turned, giving the boy some privacy. Duo knelt down, steeling himself for the task. No matter how many times he did it, it still ate at his soul. He had buried so many friends.

"Sorry friend." He whispered. "At least you'll get a funeral of some sort."

He took a deep breath, held it and pulled the blanked down.

+

Randolph Winner woke in his chair to the loud rumbling of the ship docking. They were back on 04-L3. The empty liquor bottle that rested on the edge of the table fell harmlessly to the carpeted floor as the giant ship shook slightly. Winner checked his planner and started. Was it that time already?

He needed a shower. The press would be waiting. He had just risen stiffly and dropped the empty bottle in the trash when his office door slid open. He looked up to see Rashid. The imposing man walked in and the tension from him was almost palatable in the air. Winner waited. Rashid didn't come unless it was important.

"Sir." The man said gruffly. "I am giving you my formal resignation. You will never see or hear of me again, but I can not stay in your employment any longer."

Winner frowned. Rashid was a hard worker. He was more reliable than most. He looked up, squinting a bit at the bright light that filtered through the door. The man looked sincere.

"Very well Rashid. If that's what you need to do. You've been a good worker. I'll see to it that ten thousand credits are wired to your account immediately."

"Don't bother sir!" Rashid's voice was strained. He was visibly angered for a moment, but calmed. "I don't require any incentive to vanish sir. I want no more to do with this. You can be sure that my name will never again meet your ears except in past reference. Good day sir."

Winner stared hard at the man. The faced each other only for a moment before Rashid turned and walked out. Winner walked over and retrieved his glass from the desk. From the bar, he poured himself a shot of whiskey in the bottom of the glass and downed it before filling it up again. He wracked his sleep soaked brain trying to think of why Rashid would want so badly to leave...

Oh yes.

+

Duo gasped as he saw the body underneath.

Wufei... worried, looked back.

"Is it bad?"

"Yeah. He's young."

Wufei turned to get a better look.

"At least he's not a child. He must have just died."

Duo nodded. "I wonder who he was." He put a hand up to touch wisps of hair a color he had never seen before.

"Probably someone's whore-slave. He's that attractive, and his clothes are too nice. Either he got sick, or he got disobedient."

"Maybe." Duo said. He suddenly pulled away though as if stung.

"What? What's wrong?" Wufei asked, looking quickly for danger before kneeling down by his friend.

"He's hot Wu!" Duo said, now noticing sweat on the kid's head. Definitely not condensation. It was sweat. Duo grabbed a pale wrist. "There's a pulse, but he's not breathing."

Duo pulled the limp body down to lie on the mottled pavement, tipping the blond head back and leaning forward.

"Duo!" Wufei grabbed the boy's shoulder. Duo turned, angry, already knowing what his friend would say.

"You don't know what he might have."

Duo stared down. "I can't let him die." He growled. "It's murder."

"What about the children Duo?" Wufei glared at his friend, momentarily forgetting about their surroundings.

Duo smiled sadly.

"They'd still have you, wouldn't they Wu?" He got no answer, but a fearful realization in the jet black eyes. "I'm sorry I can't. I have to try, Wufei. It's what the Father would have done. You'd better keep watch.

Wufei looked down at the lifeless boy and cursed, turning again.

Duo looked gratefully at his friend. He bent down and closed his lips over the pale lips of the inert boy and breathed air into the still lungs, just as Father Maxwell had taught him to when he was still alive.

Several breaths, but there was no response. Duo whispered a curse. He looked to the sky and prayed this hadn't been a risk for nothing, when, bending down to try again, he saw the boys chest moving faintly under it's own power.

Duo froze. He breathed a silent "Thank you" to the lord and proceeded to check the boy for broken bones. When he found none, he clumsily lifted the body, using the limp hands to pull him into a fireman's carry. Wufei stepped forward to help him.

"You better stay away Wufei."

The Chinese boy's hand froze in midair.

"I don't need you getting sick too if he is. You'd better get Trowa. I'll take him home."

Wufei looked about. "I'll see you to the subway."

Duo smiled and turned, bouncing a little to get the limp figure more securely situated. He walked as fast as he could without jiggling the blond too much. Wufei followed behind, his mind alert to any possible danger. Once they reached the subway entrance, Duo turned. Wufei looked worried, but the braided youth smiled.

"Trowa's the only one who can help. Don't take to long, eh Wufei?"

"I don't like it." Wufei growled. "You're at a disadvantage."

Duo snorted. "I can put him down if I need to fight. You worry too much. Besides, this place is pretty safe. I'll be all right."

Wufei sighed. "Your stubbornness is going to get you killed someday." With that and a shake of his head, the boy in white was gone. Duo turned and headed into the darkness.

He knew the tunnels by heart. You had to if you didn't have lights. The underground was a haven from the driving heat in the streets of the colony though. He headed for home with sure but tentative feet, careful not to trip under his burden on some new obstacle, be it something small, like a bottle, or a rat, or in the worst case, a body.

After several turns, miles and no confrontations, Duo came to a small room. He could hear the soft voices of his rather large family down the tunnel a ways, but he was not headed there.

After dealing with more illnesses than one should have to, Father Maxwell had commandeered this room as his "Quarantine" room. Any child with even the slightest signs of sickness was immediately locked in here, where only the Father would go. Duo had spent a lot of time in this room. It always scared the children, but it needed to be there... to keep the rest safe from fatal illnesses. There had been many times when children hadn't come back after "The Room"... on several occasions, Duo was in there at the time. Somehow he always survived though. Sometimes he thought that all those times spent in quarantine with the Father, reading and studying the good book, and playing quiet, thinking games, was what brought them so close together. Father Maxwell had ended up passing his weary torch to Duo, saying that Duo would find a way to make things better if anyone could.

He closed the door to the small stone chamber quietly, trying not to make his presence known. Wufei would tell the others. He quietly lowered his burden haphazardly to the small mattress in the corner and went to find the light.

It was what was called a light cell actually. An oblong rubbery feeling sphere about the size of a man, it absorbed natural light and then could keep the energy from that light for at least twenty days before fading. They could be found in the prison buildings where they were placed as if skylights so that they absorbed the light from outside. They were heat sensitive, so if someone touched it, or heated the surrounding air sufficiently, they would fade on. Otherwise, they would fade and lie dormant until they were heat activated again. Right now, it was too cold in here for movement alone to trigger it, so Duo found the cell and rubbed it vigorously until it slowly lit up. Soon enough, the room would be sufficiently warm to keep the light going. For now, he picked the ungainly thing up and set it down on the inside of the mattress, next to the boy to examine him.

Duo cursed, as he realized the boy was again not breathing, though he had been a few seconds ago. He again placed his mouth over that of the blond stranger and tried to aid his lungs to action. This time it was easier and after two breaths, the boy was again breathing on his own.

Duo straightened the blond out on the mattress, removing his shoes. They were nice shoes. Usually, the charity hauls they got from WE were either used, or cheap and rarely lasted. These sports shoes were practically new and pretty fancy compared to what he was used to. He set them next to the bed and took the socks off next. The khaki shorts the boy wore were loose and easy to remove, as were the boxers, which were silk. Duo frowned in thought. Silk was almost impossible to get from the charity bins. Duo took those off too, suspecting that the boy would not be strong enough to relieve himself for a while. He left the t-shirt on. It was clean cotton and was probably more comfortable than anything they could scrounge from their small store of hand me downs. The shirt was soft white stretchable fabric with a couple of buttons at the throat, which he undid. The boy still didn't move. His chest rose and fell lightly, shuddering a bit, but he was pale and silent. Duo wasn't sure how long he would last.

+

"Sir, I don't think it would be wise to let Rashid just go." Mueller said, frustrated.

"Why?" Winner said casually, making entries on his small organizer in his lavish office back on Colony. "The man is honest. He won't talk. If he does, he's a murderer. He wants nothing to do with it." Winner clapped the organizer closed and stood up. He straightened his tie. "He'll take his family and disappear."

"But he hasn't even reached the shuttleport yet. I could take care of him."

"Brilliant, Brian. Then I would have two suspicious deaths racing through the newsbits. On L2, it's understandable, but here? It's better to leave it be. If he brings anything to light, I'll slap a murder case on him so quick, he'll wish he had died on L2 with the boy. He can't touch me." The man said with chilling surety. "He's nothing." He added, turning to his guard of 25 years.

Then he froze.

"Sir?" Mueller asked, turning.

Winner turned quickly, staring at his chair.

"Are you all right sir?"

The older man breathed shallowly for a second, before pursing his lips, looking up.

"Fine." He replied. "Let's get this thing over with."

Mueller nodded and touched the panel by the door. It slid open quietly and Winner walked out, heading for the press conference where he would address the loss of his son.

"After you sir." Mueller said before taking one last glance around the room and following his boss.

+

"I found him, Duo."

Duo looked up to see the wooden door open to the small room and a tall, lanky boy with dust colored hair that was pulled back in a short tail on top, while the rest was shaved close to his head. He had striking green eyes that were both gentle and intense. He walked toward the makeshift bed, his rucksack slung over his shoulder as he kneeled by the boy. Wufei stayed by the door.

"Trowa? How did you get here so fast? Duo asked incredulous. Getting to Heero's territory was not an easy trip."

"I was on my way, so we took the scooter back."

Duo smiled despite himself and looked up at the Chinese boy, trying to imagine the stodgy Wufei riding behind Trowa on that ridiculous thing. Wufei shot him an indignant glare.

"Don't even say it Maxwell. It got us here." He turned and strode out, slamming the door. Duo laughed as he heard Wufei mutter all the way back to check on the children. He turned back to the task at hand. Trowa had taken out some implements but hadn't touched the boy yet. He had pulled on some clear rubber gloves to protect himself from contagion as best he could. Duo sat far enough away so that they didn't touch.

"What are his symptoms?" He asked quietly.

"What isn't there?" Duo said, unconsciously lowering his voice too, even though it made no difference. "I can't keep him breathing, though he's doing better now. He's hotter than Hades and he's not reacting at all. He won't wake up."

"Hm..." Trowa slipped a flat metal device into the boy's mouth to examine his tongue and checked under both eyelids. He shook the boy gently. "Wake up boy. Come on." He said in a gentle tone. "Get me that bedpan, Duo."

Duo complied, handing him the battered old thing. Trowa brought out a bottle and held the boy's head up and back, letting a good drink of the dark liquid slide into his slack mouth, then rubbing his throat until he swallowed.

"I think he's been poisoned." He said as the pale boy convulsed suddenly, Trowa turned his head in time for him to vomit a generous amount of red liquid into the pan. He coughed but still made no sign of waking at all. Trowa held his head until he was sure the kid wouldn't choke and then lowered his head back to the mattress.

"Poisoned?"

"I think so." Trowa shrugged. "Judging by his reaction and the way his lungs keep shutting down, it must be paralysis. Since we have no animals or diseased that do that as far as I know, it must be poison."

"Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out."

Trowa smiled. "The problem is, paralytic drugs are usually injected... but I can't do anything about that if it is the case. Still, I have a feeling that if you keep him breathing, the poison will run through his system and he'll be ok."

"And that's it?" Duo smiled. Not so bad. The kid could make it.

"No." Trowa stayed Duo's relief with a steady and serious gaze. "He has the Orchid virus as well."

"Well that's not so bad." Duo shrugged and pulled the cover over the boy, who was actually stirring a bit. The braided teen watched, but the strange kid stilled. He looked back up at Trowa. "We've both had it and it wasn't so bad."

"Maybe." Trowa said, reaching into his bag. "But I've never seen someone that old contract it. It's worse as you get older. You could be in for a rough time." The tall boy took out a small bag and handed it to Duo. "It's tea. It should help with the sore throat. Otherwise, he needs a lot of water."

"Right." Trowa stood up to leave. "Duo. He could still die. He's not anywhere near well enough to be safe yet."

Duo nodded. "But at least, we tried Trowa. Everyone deserves that." Trowa smiled in silent understanding. "Yes. Yes they do..."

"Well? What do I owe ya?" Duo smiled trying to break the silence. Trowa hefted his bag higher on his shoulder.

"Actually, I was on my way here to ask for some help from some of you. You' ll be busy, but the crop came in early and we need some extra help. Otherwise, I would have suggested exposing the rest of your kids to this." He gestured at the sleeping blond.

"Thanks." Duo said sarcastically. "That's all Wu and I need. Go ahead and talk to him. He'll send some of the older ones."

"Thanks Duo. Good luck." Trowa shook his hand with a firm, yet gentle grasp and headed off.

Duo shut the door, turning back. The boy was still breathing and seemed to look a little better. He was still burning hot though. Duo got a rag and a bowl of warm water, sponging the boy's forehead and hands, trying to cool him down.

He stared silently at the handsome blond, wondering why it felt so important that he keep him alive. There was definitely something different about him. The boy shifted a bit and moaned unhappily. Duo rubbed the wet rag over his neck and face gently. He sighed, sitting down by the mattress.

"Well kid... Looks like it's just you and me for a while."

+

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