Rose walked down the street, glancing nervously at the street light. It flickered indecisively in the silver dusk, as if it couldn't figure out if it was dark enough to turn on yet. She hated this time of day, neither the bright openness of day nor the safe shadows of night. Bad things happened in the in-between places. The street light flashed again, and something in Rose's head flashed. Something bad was going to happen.
Or had happened here, once. Rose was a Sensitive. She got small flashes of things that had happened, and things that might happen. It wasn't always clear which was which. A lot of places had bad histories, and bad futures. Like a lot of "sens", Rose was constantly anxious and uneasy, bombarded by hints of horrors past and future. She wasn't very strong - she rarely got clear pictures, and couldn't focus the visions enough to make a living as a professional clairvoyant or reader.
Sens tended to dress differently. Loose, form-concealing clothing. Gloves, to prevent accidental skin on skin contact and the psychic intimacy it could bring. Many sens wore bits of armour and leather - the image of protective clothing could be comforting, and the "tough" image helped to encourage others to keep thier distance. Some wore hoods and masks that could be pulled shut to close out the world - sometimes sensory deprivation was the only way to deal with the things they saw.
Rose wore heavy khakis above sturdy brown workboots, with gaiters of grey canvas ensuring that there would be no gap between the boots and pants. Over her long sleeved shirt, she wore a knee-length coat with patches of steel and hardened plastic sewn on to it. Worn black leather and spandex driving gloves covered her hands. Her brown hair was clipped short, and worried into stunted knots. Around her neck, a hood of brown leather lay unzipped like a split fruit peel.
She swallowed hard as the feeling of unease intensified. Rocking back and forth on her heels, she looked around, her eyes rolling. It was too much. She ducked into the nearest alley, and pressed herself against the wall. Breathing hard, her hands fluttered to the hood at her neck, then back away. A small noise crept from her throat, something that would turn into a scream if she let it. Too much. She pulled the heavy leather hood over her face and zipped it shut. She couldn't hear much, couldn't see. The familiar scent of the leather blocked out the stink of urine and trash from the alley. Rose breathed deeply, and counted backwards from ten. The feeling of doom was still there, but she felt calmer. Just another few seconds, and she'd be okay to walk the rest of the way home.
"Shit, boys, will you look at this! It must be my birthday! This is some kinky shit right here, all wrapped up just for us!"
The man's voice was loud enough to hear through the leather of the mask. Rose scrambled to pull the mask away, the metal of the zipper catching and opening a small cut on her cheek. Four men surrounded her, young and angry, smiling with too many teeth.
"Please go away," Rose pleaded in a small voice. She shrunk against the wall.
"Hey girl, you looked like you was having fun there. We just wanna have fun, too. Help me out here. It's my birthday. You got somethin' for me?" The other three men chuckled and breathed heavily. They moved closer.
The lead man put his hand on the wall beside her face and leaned in close. She could smell the tequila and tobacco on his breath. His lips brushed her ear as he said "Come on, kinky-girl, you go quiet and I let you put the hood on when we party."
When his skin touched hers, her inner eye exploded. She saw. She saw what he wanted to do to her. She saw what he had done to other girls before. She could feel the ugliness of his rage and lust inside her head. She saw what he'd do if she fought back, knew she couldn't win, knew that would just make it worse.
Rose realised that the hardness pressing against her hip was a gun, tucked into the waistband of the man's pants. She Saw a way out. She grabbed for the gun, and got her hands on it before the man grabbed her wrists and pushed away from him. If she'd been trying to shoot him, that would have been the right thing to do. Instead, she went with the direction of his push, and pulled the gun up to her chin.
"Happy birthday," she said as she fired the gun into her head, spraying the man with blood and gore.
Karin looked down at the smear of blood on the wall, black in the pale green light from the finger-thick tendrils woven into her hair. A black lacquered breastplate over kevlar and leather made her look like some alien insect in the dim alley. She turned towards her companion, hand drifting towards the blades she wore, blades no one in a uniform ever seemed to notice.
"You see what they did to her? What they were *going* to do to her?"
Her companion nodded. A tall man, lithe and pale as snow, save for a slight pink tint on his nose and ears. His lips pulled back in a snarl revealing sharp fangs.
"I saw. I can smell them. The stink of thier hate and fear is still strong here. "
Karin looked back to the blood on the wall and scowled. "The police did nothing. Just another fucking sen offing herself because she can't take it. We can't let them get away with this Colainn."
The large man shook his head and narrowed his red eyes. "We won't." He sniffed at the air and strode down the alley. "Time to go hunting, Kay."