AN:

I'm back Thank you to all who were waiting for me to get back on my feet. My other fics are being worked on and will be updated soon. Here's a new one that's been in my head for a while.

Enjoy!

Shiin

Chapter One:
Loss

The sky above head was overcast. The clouds that covered the sky appeared to be darker than they actually were due to the dome that completely covered the City; arching high above even the tallest of skyscrapers.

Kaoru squinted and caught a flash of silver-metal; the Dome. Cocking her head in its direction she listened intently and felt more than heard the vibration of it as it powered the city. Keeping the people in and everything else out. Not that there was anything to keep out. After The Final War, the people had fled into The City, anything outside out of it had been wiped out in an atomic blast that had left behind nothing but a barren wasteland.

It was said that some residue of the blast had managed to leak its way into the city and as a result Psychics were born – genetic-mutations and anomalies whose twisted genes gave them powers normal people didn't have. To move things, to make fire, to see in to the future; and to read minds.

Kaoru was a Psychic. Her power was of the latter.

A gentle breeze played with a lock of black hair, which had somehow worked its way loose of the tight braid it had been put in. It was an artificial breeze, created by the great machines that lay in the heart of the City and whose purpose was the parody of climate control.

Kaoru lazily tucked the free strand behind an ear and give it a quick pat into place. In the other hand a plastic bag dangled from between her fingers, swinging gently back and forth as she walked. It was full of food and other necessities – all in all not bad for a days worth of filching in stealing – at least by Kaoru's standards.

She could feel the gentle buzz of voices against her mind-shields. Gentler now, and softer; not as insistent or painfully loud mainly due to the fact that she had moved away from the bustling, packed areas of the City to another part that was more deserted.

Kaoru kept her shields up regardless.

As a general rule – and she was no exception – telepaths preferred to keep another's thoughts out of their heads. They liked to be the ones who invaded the other's mind, and not the other way around.

The street in which she walked was home to one of the worst areas of the City. Once a long, long time ago – soon after the Great Movement – it had been a prosperous, high class section of the City. But since then it had fallen on hard times – the rich occupants had moved out in haste and had never come back.

They probably never would too.

The breeze blew again pushing an empty paper bag across the street in front of Kaoru's path. She watched it go by, golden eyes following its progress. Like everything else on the street, the paper bag was dirty and stained.

Oh it had not always been so.

The street held a scent of decay. The paint was peeling off of the faces of the buildings. In their former days of glory they would have been considered handsome and graceful. All of that had vanished with the passing of the years. Left behind in their places were the hollow empty shells of what the street had once been.

The house toward which Kaoru walked was a dark red brick, apartment building. It sagged slightly as if age and the thing's it had seen during its life had weighed so heavily down upon it until it could no longer keep itself upright.

During the course of if life it had been many things: a boardinghouse, an apartment, a schoolhouse, a brothel…. before finally being deserted completely. Years had passed before people had come back to the live in it, Kaoru's family and the handful of other squatters who had taken refuge inside of it.

There was no electricity or heat and it was filthy. But it provided a roof over their heads and was a better alternative to sleeping on the streets as many of them had been doing. The filth could be, and was, cleaned up.

Kaoru stopped in front of it, head tilted to the side and regarding it. If she looked closely enough she could just almost see what it had looked like before. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine. The brick would have been a brighter, cheery red. The shutters on both sides of the window would have been freshly painted and whole. Perhaps white, or maybe green.

The railing on either side of the steeps that lead to the doorway of the house would have been black and shining, not the rust red color that they were now. The steps themselves would have been clean – cleaner at least then they were currently. Void of the graffiti that covered them that consisted of swears and innuendos.

The houses, the entire street too would have looked different. Cleaner, brighter, completely and utterly whole, the ever-present graffiti would have disappeared. The smashed and broken windows would have been sparkling and unbroken.

The air of decay and sadness that hung over the street would be gone. It would be replaced by a happier, prouder feeling. This was a street to respect. This was a good street, an honest street. One that was full of nice and happy people. Not the druggies, homeless and psychics (though technically a Psychic was most often all three).

Sighing Kaoru bounded up the steps and opened the door, slipping inside. She turned right and went up another pair of steps until she reached the second floor. Down the hallway until she reached the second to last door.

She stopped before and knocked three times. A moment later it opened and Leiko's face appeared around the corner. Her lead-green eyes narrowed when she saw Kaoru but she fell back to open the door.

"What did you get?" She demanded as Kaoru entered.

Kaoru made to answer but the next second she was nearly bowled over as a young girl slammed into her, laughing.

Kaoru flailed her arms in mock-pretense of trying to catch her balance. The child wrapped securely around her middle giggled.

"Almost got me there Dove-chan," Kaoru smiled, stroking the girl's blond curls with her free hand.

Dove beamed up at her, blue eyes sparkling and a dimple indenting her left cheek.

"You're nearly getting as big as I am, Chibi." Kaoru teased.

Dove pulled away still smiling. Her eyes drifted to the plastic bag Kaoru held in one hand and she raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Yes," Kaoru said. "I got your chocolate for you." She fished out of the bag a large bar of chocolate and held it out to Dove.

Dove leapt forward to give her another hug and then snatched the bar of chocolate from her outstretched hand and disappeared into one of the back rooms of the apartment.

Leiko snorted next to her and Kaoru caught the scent of smoke as she pulled a lighter and a packet of cigarettes from a back pocket and lit one. Kaoru wondered for a moment where she got them, since Leiko never left the house and decided it was Ricky.

"Where's Ricky?" She set the bag down on the dilapidated green couch.

"Asleep," Leiko's mouth quirked around the cigarette. "So what did you get us?"

"Food and some medicine – Dove's had a cough the past couple of weeks. Also managed to snatch a few dollars..." Kaoru dug into her jeans and pulled out a roll of bills and tossed them next to the couch.

Leiko's eyes narrowed. "No Wunder?"

"Mikael wasn't selling."

"So what about Plaktu on 22nd street?"

"Moved, cops were sniffing around and it wasn't safe."

"Barou?"

"Got caught in a gang's crossfire the other day and his head was blown off."

"Dammit," Leiko snarled.

"You don't need another dose anyway. It's only been a week." Kaoru said softly.

"I do need it!" Leiko snapped back. Kaoru felt a slight tremor go through the floor.

"I thought Ricky had some extra."

"I used it up yesterday." Leiko gave her a considering look. "What about you?"

"Gave the last of it to Dove."

"Bitch." Leiko cursed her.

Kaoru closed her eyes. She could see what was happening to Leiko. Had been seeing it the last couple of months but didn't want to acknowledge it. Wunder-tainted madness.

The very drug that helped a Psychic control their powers and give them a measure of sanity also tore it to shreds and left them a walking-zombie who did nothing but rage until they were finally destroyed.

Leiko had always been short-tempered and snarly but it had gotten worse in the last few months. Even Ricky couldn't placate her.

"Leiko you need to stop taking it."

"Like hell." The wooden chair behind Kaoru snapped in two as Leiko flung out a tendril of her power.

"It's not good for you."

"It's not good for you either but you take it!"

"You're not a telepath!" Kaoru snapped.

"Oh so the fact that I can throw things around and you hear everybody bitchin' in your head makes you special?"

Kaoru was saved from replying when she heard Ricky's soft thread on the floor behind her.

"What's going on."

"She didn't get any Wunder!" Leiko latched onto him like a limpet.

Ricky gave her cool silver eyes. "That true?"

"Tell her to get her own damn Wunder. I'm the one running around like a bloody errand-girl." Kaoru brushed past him as she left the room.

Behind her she heard Leiko shriek a curse and there was the sound of something shattering.

Kaoru sighed and shook her head.

It hadn't always been like this… When she had first met them Leiko had been cheery and happy (in comparison to how she was now) and Ricky had, had some semblance of life to him. Now Leiko was going crazy and all of Ricky's life had been sucked out of him by catering to her ever more volatile whims.

She found Dove curled up on the futon in the room they shared. Dove sat up as she entered and gave her a questioning look.

Sighing again, Kaoru sat down beside her and closed her eyes.

Everything was so fucked up.

A gentle touch on her arm made her open her eyes and she saw Dove looking at curiousity in her gaze.

"What's the matter?" Kaoru asked.

Dove nodded.

"Leiko's a bitch and Ricky's a doormat."

Dove frowned.

"I know," Kaoru shrugged. "But what can I do other than knock Leiko upside the head and hog-tie her."

Dove's mouth twitched as she repressed a smile.

Kaoru stuck her tongue out at her. "Come here Chibi." She opened her arms and Dove climbed into her lap.

"What have you been doing today?" Kaoru rocked her gently back and forth.

Dove shook her head.

"Not much eh?"

A slight nod.

Kaoru hugged her.

Dove… had it only been six months since she had found her? The child-prostitute; her throat slit and left to die by some pedophile John. Kaoru had brought her back to the house and managed to keep her alive. Psychics heal fast and Dove had needed all of her healing ability to live.

She had not spoken since, Kaoru did not know if it was the trauma of what she had been through, her vocal cords may have been damaged or she was just naturally a mute. She knew she could just pry the answers she wanted out of her mind with barely a thought, but she had not. Kaoru wanted Dove to tell her.

She had, however, gotten Dove's revenge for her. It was a simple matter of pulling the psychic imprints out of the alley where she had found her and following them until she found the bastard who had tried to kill Dove.

A cop.

A fucking cop.

The City's finest all-right.

She found him in a Gentleman's club – getting a lap dance from a scantily clad girl. It was the simple matter of twisting a few things here and there inside his head. To all around him it appeared he had suddenly gone insane. Screaming bloody murder and then taking a knife and slitting his own throat in poetic irony.

Dove touched her cheek, pulling Kaoru out of her thoughts.

"What's the matter little one?"

Dove closed her eyes and Kaoru felt a gentle rap against her mind-shields. Lowering them Kaoru felt Dove slip inside.

Kaoru projected the image of a garden. Roses and a waterfall and butterflies flying in the air. Dove sat down in a bench with her head bowed and hands clasped between her knees.

What is it? Kaoru asked gently.

Bad things… Dove 'looked' up and Kaoru saw her blue eyes had glazed over. She was in the grip of a vision.

What kind of bad things? Kaoru 'sat' down beside her and stroked her hair.

Painful bad things… Kaoru thought she saw a flicker of fire in Dove's eyes but couldn't be sure.

Are you going to be ok? Kaoru questioned.

Dove shook her head. I don't know it's too tangled. For a moment her eyes turned gold and then the color faded away. In the end… it'll be ok… I think it'll be ok… Tears slipped down her face and she turned toward Kaoru choking back a sob and burying her face in Kaoru's lap.

Kaoru crooned softly and stroked her back and hair. Dove cried until she fell asleep.

Kaoru pulled herself out of her mind and found Dove curled up against her, as asleep as she had been in her mind. Kaoru stood up and pulled a blanket over Dove's thin shoulders. With a gentle stroke to her cheek she left the door.

Ricky looked up as she entered, his silver eyes looking drained.

Leiko sat beside him puffing another cigarette. The smell of smoke was heavy in the air and Kaoru wrinkled her nose in distaste.

"Go get some Wunder." Ricky said.

"Tell Leiko to get it, she's the one that wants it."

"Leiko isn't fit to be outside." Ricky said softly.

"Then why don't you get it?" Kaoru asked.

"Because I'm the only one who can contain her if she goes crazy."

Beside him Leiko gave a soft snigger.

Kaoru ground her teeth. Knocking Leiko out sounded wonderful.

"Fine," she grit out.

Ricky picked up the money she had brought in and tossed it to her.

"Get the good stuff," Leiko told her.

No I'll get you rat poison. Kaoru grumbled mentally.

Raking her bangs out of her eyes she left the house.

As he turned down the street she felt the barest brush against her mental-shields.

Be safe Kaoru.

Dove's voice.

It took some time for Kaoru to locate a dealer. A reputable dealer was even harder to find. Since Kaoru had no desire to end up dead from a dose of so-called Wunder, it took some time for her to find someone who sold the genuine stuff.

She found Mikael six blocks away from his normal spot after two hours of cruising around the streets. Night had fallen and the lights had flickered on. The ones that actually worked – so everything was dim and hard to see. Her eyes adjusted to it quickly.

"I thought you weren't selling today." She said as she sidled up to him.

Mikael jerked as she appeared, his face was white and had three days growth of stubble.

"Had to move. We're all moving. The cops are out in force and they're cracking down hard." He muttered.

"So I noticed." Kaoru commented dryly. The red-uniformed officers stood out like a sore thumb and there were indeed more than usual. Part of the reason it had taken so long to find someone who sold Wunder was because she was dodging the cops not wanting to have to tangle with them.

"You got it?" She asked.

Mikael grinned, "don't I always baby?"

Kaoru rolled her eyes and dug out some bills from her pocket.

Mikael shook his head at the money. "Uh-uh, it's twice as much today due to the difficulties of sellin'."

"Prick," Kaoru muttered and pulled some more pills out. "If you weren't the only dealer I trusted I'd have knocked you and taken the Wunder without even paying."

"Love you too sweetheart." Mikael grinned and pulled out a brown packet of Wunder.

Kaoru snatched it from his hand and tucked it away.

"Pleasure doing business with you!" Mikael called after her, as she walked.

She was half-way home when it ripped through her brain, slamming into her with such force she reeled and nearly fell.

Dove screaming and the scent of smoke assaulted her.

"You bitch!" Kaoru snarled. If Leiko had done anything to Dove she would kill her, herself!

She took off in a dead run toward the house. The speed all Psychics were gifted with, making her blur.

The house was in flames, thick oily smoke reaching skyward. The windows had shattered and shards of glass lay on the ground reflecting the fire.

Dove! Kaoru screamed. Dove!

She ran toward the door but a burst of fire send her stumbling back.

Dove!

Kaoru? Dove's voice, faint and choked sounding.

Is there anyway for you to get out? Kaoru cried frantically.

No… I… don't know who set it… a Pyro… Leiko and Ricky are already gone… Someone wants you dead… He was asking after you… Dove's voice was fading.

Tears were coursing down Kaoru's cheeks.

Dove-chan…

Love you Kaoru.. Dove's reply was weak. Love you always…

There was the sound of something breaking and suddenly the house pulled in upon itself. The crash of the house and roar of the flames drowned out Kaoru's screams.

She didn't hear it, too wrapped up in grief. There was a movement behind her and Kaoru turned. Then something slammed into the back of her head and everything went dark.

Kaoru groaned softly as she pulled herself out of unconsciousness.

Where was she?

Slowly she opened her eyes and found she could see nothing but darkness. She was tied to a chair. Her legs and arms strapped to it. Cautiously she sent out a tendril of power only to find it rebound and burn her.

It was then she felt the light pressure of a band across her forehead.

A Crown.

The bloody bastards had put a Crown on her!

Locking her power into her, if she tried to use it she would only hurt herself. If she persisted she could permanently damage herself, burn her power into nothingness or even kill herself.

So she did nothing, she waited to see what was going on.

Light flooded the room suddenly, blinding her.

The door crashed open and several people filed in. They were the red uniforms of Cops, gold number emblazoned across the left breast. Fifty-Four.

"So you're awake." A man stepped from behind them. He was taller than anyone she had seen before, his shoulders broad. Long black hair was tied back into a ponytail and he wore the blue-silver uniform of a high-ranking officer.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Hiko."

In response, Kaoru snarled at him. "Bastard." She knew who he was.

Hiko shrugged and raised a hand. The other police filed out of the room.

Save one.

He was small, barely taller than she herself was. His hair was tied back into a low-pony tail, flame red in color and his eyes were gold. A cross-shaped scar was on his left-cheek.

Kaoru knew who he was too and her stomach clenched.

Hiko – Commander of the Police. Called the Puppetmaster by the psychics on the street and The Battousai, the most lethal of all the puppets.

"I know what you're thinking?"

"Oh really?" Kaoru shot back. "You're a Psychic? I thought all you did was command them to be killed."

"Smart-mouthed brat." Hiko muttered.

Kaoru snarled at him.

"No we did not kill your family. A Pyro-Psychic did. We came upon your… home in flames… just before you rushed onto the scene. Sloppy… very sloppy. You should have been able to discover us and not leave yourself open for an attack."

"So sorry I didn't oblige you."

Hiko ignored her. "So I'm offering you a proposition."

"Oh?" Kaoru snapped. "I'm all ears."

"Work for us."

Kaoru blinked, "what?"

"Work for us."

"Yeah that's what I thought you said." Kaoru narrowed her eyes. "What's the catch?"

"You use your powers to aid us… we will supply you – a restricted supply at that – with the Wunder you need and in return we will help you find who killed your… family."

"Sounds too good to be true. What will you do if I say no?"

Hiko smiled grimly. "Put a few well-placed rumors on the street that you work for me."

Kaoru stared at him. "I'd have a price on my head and people lining up to kill me. You probably know Psychics hate you with a passion."

"Of that I'm well aware of. But since you seem to have someone already wanting to kill you; why not take the protection that working for us offers?"

"Damned if I do, damned if I don't." Kaoru muttered.

"Precisely," Hiko waved an arm in the Battousai's direction. He was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed but Kaoru didn't doubt he was listening and taking everything in. "You will be working with Kenshin."

Dancing with the devil… Kaoru sighed. He was the bogeyman of their kind. He had more Psychic-accounted kills on his head than any other of the cops on the force. The only one who came close to him was the Wolf. If half the rumors attributed to him were true… Kaoru didn't know if she'd be safer left on the street and declining their offer.

"Why do you want a Psychic anyway? Everything is going to go to hell in a hand basket once your force finds out that you've employed a Psychic."

"My reasons for wanting you are my own."

"Bastard." Kaoru snapped. He was infuriating.

Hiko laughed softly. "So do you accept?"

"I accept," Kaoru replied levelly.

"Good," Hiko smiled. "She's all yours Kenshin."

Kenshin opened his eyes at the sound of his name and looked in her direction.

Kaoru choked back a snarl as his golden eyes met hers… a Psychic and the greatest Psychic-Killer in the city being forced to work together.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Leiko… Ricky… Dove… I'm sorry. I will find out who killed you and you will have your revenge. Until then, she would just have to keep the Battousai from killing her and doing likewise to him.