Pairing/Character: Cain, OCs
Warning: minor swearing, drug use
Disclaimer: Characters not mine, of course
Author's Note: Written for Quote Challenge 01 on the LiveJournal community tmchallenge. (And if you haven't yet, check out the community! It's great fun.) Much thanks to vagajammer for the beta.
A Future Better Left Unknown
Cain stalked along the uneven cobblestones of the dank alley, hand hovering over his gun as he watched for anything or anyone taking too much interest in his squad, or seeming to take too little. Even the shining city had her dark underbelly, carefully ignored by certain of her populace so as not to taint the illusion of perfection, and this, the Barrens, contained the most dangerous of her Districts. It would not make a good impression if he was careless and took a bullet—or worse, one of his men did.
He hadn't been surprised the commander had told them to go roust Dreamers. Ever since the Eastern Guild had opened their borders to trade, addiction to the purified essence of the red poppy, dubbed Dream by unscrupulous dealers, had increased a hundredfold. Guild shamans used small amounts to induce prophetic dreams; addicts used increasingly larger amounts to lose themselves in the euphoric dreamworld. Recent reports had suggested addicts were squatting in a handful of derelict buildings at the edges of the Sin District.
He'd been more surprised he'd been put in charge of the squad, although he shouldn't have been. One more week and he'd be in two years, and this assignment only confirmed the promotion he'd suspected was coming. He couldn't wait until he graduated from the shit detail. Not that missions like ousting the squatters—and, by the Queen's orders, getting them help, although he wasn't holding his breath on that working—weren't worthwhile. Far from it. He even thought dumping drudgework like this on raw recruits worked well to weed out the glory hounds and the faint of heart. He was just glad it wouldn't be him anymore.
The first three buildings had been a bust, but it had taken two hours to clean out and relocate the addled inhabitants of the fourth. Given that Dreamers—for reasons known only to the Gods and the addicts themselves—liked to stay in close proximity, he bet the next building on their list, separated from the previous by a narrow alley, would also be occupied. He also bet they'd once again be clustered on the top floor, as Dream's other predictable effect was an obsession with climbing to the highest roosts a user could find.
He motioned for his men to stand ready and kicked in the door, the dent he left lost among the others on the scarred wood. The hinges screeched and the knob hit the wall with a thunk. The foul stench of unwashed bodies, sour sex, and rotted food poured out. Fighting not to gag, he peered around the doorframe to survey the room.
Trash piles cast shadows in the gloom and left the place a tight maze that would be a bitch to search. He raised his lantern, light picking out substances better left alone. Nothing human moved. He signaled his men to fan out throughout the ground floor.
Unsurprisingly, the search of that floor, as well as the next two, found no one. On the top floor several huddles of men and women, emaciated and dreaming, crowded as close to the boarded up windows as they could get. The patrol had just about finished the sweep and was herding the squatters somewhere safe to sweat off the drugs when Cain spotted the trapdoor to access the roof.
"Fuck. Roof access."
Henry Meyers looked up from where he was helping a rookie restrain an addict whose dreamscape seemed inclined to nightmares. "Think we'll get another jumper?"
"Would be our luck."
"I'll follow you up as soon as Sleeping Beauty here is secured."
Cain nodded and started up the splintering ladder.
He saw the woman as soon as his head popped into the open: a dark silhouette of skin stretched over bone, backlit by the afternoon sun and balanced on the edge of the building. She danced languidly along the ledge, hips swaying back and forth, arms outstretched for balance.
With her arms out like that, he could see her palms. The intricate tattooed swirls of a seer contrasted against the sickly pallor of her skin.
Damn, another of them.
More and more seers had turned up among the addicts. While small doses of Dream might occasionally grant a snatch of vision to normal humans, the drug muddled and blunted the gifts of humans with the Sight. A sober seer was bad enough, spouting streams of babble full of meaning tangled in meaning as he tried to make sense of his own internal rhythm of symbols and branches of possibility. A seer addicted to Dream was unable to separate what he saw with his eyes from the symbolic futures he saw in his head, losing what little connection to sense he started with.
If there was a reason why more Seers drugging themselves into oblivion, the Seer's Guild chose not to share it with the unenlightened and uninitiated. Speculation ran rampant that they saw a future so terrible they were fleeing from their gifts in droves. Cain just wished they hadn't chosen such a self-destructive way to escape.
He inched closer, hoping this seer wouldn't do a damn fool thing like thing like stepping out into the sky, at least not before he'd moved close enough to grab her. "Come on. Time to go."
"You're here." Her voice was high and melodic, less befuddled than he would have expected; her eyes, when he moved close enough to see, were dreamy and unfocused. Smiling sweetly, she reached for him. "But I can see the darkness clinging to you even now, tainting you. That won't do, not for our first time. I'm gonna run a bath. If you'd like a shot at jumping my bones you should be naked by the time the bath tub's full."
She giggled and spun and tilted into the air. He reached out, managed to snag her arm, and yanked her back. For a moment he thought she'd tumble them both down three stories and onto the hard pavement below, then she tipped into his arms and twined herself around him. He started to pry her off, but the instant her palms touched her skin he froze, locked in place by some unknown force. Her eyes grew dark and pained, and her smile dropped.
"Oh, no," she sighed. "Poor man. You'll be left to rust."
Humming a tune he didn't recognize, she trailed her fingers up the back of his neck and into his hair. "The dark sun rises as the bright sun falls. The bright will be reborn, but will wait to rise. You'll help her rise after the dark has entombed you, infused you, but not consumed you. You'll help her rise and, in helping, we'll all be dancing in the sun."
"Don't you two look all cozy." The jibe broke whatever spell the seer had woven and Cain fought not to stumble as he dragged the girl away from the edge. He scowled at Meyers, who was still grinning, and handed her off. Cain's skin tingled, a cold burn where the seer's fingers had touched.
As she was being pulled down the hole in the roof, she turned; her eyes seemed to glow as the sun caught them. "You'll meet your first crack in your heart a set of seasons down the road, Mr. Cain. You won't cross paths with your second for many matched sets of seasons."
He breathed a sigh of relief when she was finally out of sight. Damned seers and their poetic mumbo jumbo. If he had to get glimpses of the future, he'd take a Viewer any day. At least they spoke plain, describing scenes, not symbols.
It felt good to be alone in the sun and the wind and the wide open spaces, and he gave himself a thirty count to shake off the chill that had raced up his spine and raised his hair. Finally, he descended back into the stench and the gloom.
"Sir?" Young Tyler Bennet, wet behind the ears but already steadying into a credit to the force, glanced towards him as Cain dropped down through the trapdoor. "What now?"
"We take 'em back, move on. Get the rest of the block cleared out by sunset."
The corners of Bennet's lips twitched up. "Dark sun or bright sun?"
Cain fought not to roll his eyes. Of course Meyers had heard and wouldn't keep his mouth shut. "The ones sitting in the sky. Idiot."
Bennet fell into step beside him and they wound down through the building. "Not worried about her predictions?"
"Ignoring them." At Bennet's narrow-eyed glance, Cain shrugged. "Not much else I can do. Chances are she's not even seeing true right now. Even if she is, these prophecies are all but impossible to untangle, not until after the fact."
Bennet nodded in understanding but didn't seem convinced.
Neither was Cain, but he could only do the best he could and hope, when the time came, it was enough.
Concrit is always welcome.