Cassie's visions weren't always clear. Too often, they didn't make any sense until it was too late. The future was enough to drive a person crazy. Maybe, someday it would.
The future, Cassie thought, was a bitch.
Her notebook and pens were Cassie's constant companions. Her fingertips were stained blue, green, orange, red (she had to buy more pens before leaving for Hong Kong; her red pens had bled dry in the pages of her notebook). She was no artist, but Cassie didn't need to be: she knew that this was Nick, still and broken and dead. She knew that those thick red lines were her blood--and that she was bleeding and crying and dying in a future that could be tomorrow, an hour away, in a minute, right now.
Every Watcher alive saw her own death.
Cassie was just a kid the first time she saw herself die. Cassie had cried, long and loud, as Mom wrapped her arms around her. Mom's hands were gentle, but her voice was stern. People listened when Mom when she spoke; so did Cassie. Cassie hadn't understood, but she never forgot what she had been told that day, shaking and sobbing in the parking lot outside their apartment building, one wrong step away from an oncoming car.
Mom had crouched down next to Cassie, eye-to-eye, and said: "We are the future, Cassie, and we have the power to change it."
Mom was gone, and Cassie didn't cry anymore. She was still scared; she was scared all the time. Cassie was so terrified that she could hardly hold her pen steady as she sketched out the futures she saw. She knew what was at stake--she could feel it right down to her ink-stained fingertips. If she wasn't brave enough, and smart enough, and a good enough Watcher, the Division would win. The good guys would lose, and they would die.
Sometimes fighting the future worked; sometimes it didn't.
Nick listened to her, and he believed in her. He didn't understand, and Cassie couldn't possibly begin to put what she saw in her vision into words. There were times when Cassie wanted to scream at Nick, to shake him until he felt the future the same way she did. The rest of the time, Cassie wanted to wrap him up and put him somewhere safe and far away.
She'd told him that she wasn't as young as she looked.
Cassie was only thirteen, but she'd had a lifetime's worth of bad shit play out in her head. She didn't know of any other thirteen year old who had an arch-nemesis like something straight out of a comic book.
Pop Girl showed up in Cassie's visions even before Nick had. The Division had already taken Mom away. She'd made sure that there were plenty of people left to look after Cassie, but none of Mom's contacts were interested in smoothing the hair back from Cassie's forehead when a vision released her, shaking and wide-eyed. Not that Cassie was a kid who needed babying anymore, but. . . she missed her mom so much, so very much.
(Cassie would never tell anyone about all the times she had hated Mom for choosing the future over the present.)
Cassie knew that Pop Girl was different the first time she saw her. Cassie had looked into the future to see Pop Girl looking back at her. The moment had been strangely, startlingly intimate. Pop Girl's lips had curled, wet and red as she drew the lollipop from her mouth: "I know how you die, little girl."
Like there was anyone with even a hint of psychic abilities who didn't know how Cassie was going to die.
Fighting the future--fighting the Division's pet future--was a big deal. Cassie was in the middle of something bigger than big--if she was right (and she was), winning this particular fight was going to change the entire landscape of the future. The Division's Watchers hadn't taken their eyes off of Cassie since she landed in Hong Kong, desperate and determined. There was probably an entire drawer full of pictures and descriptions of Cassie's death, drawn and written by dozens of indifferent hands. She wasn't even sure how the Division's Watchers recorded their visions--hell, maybe The Death of Cassie Holmes was a multimedia extravaganza.
It didn't matter what they saw, or how they saw it. The Division's Watchers couldn't tell Cassie anything she didn't already know.
Pop Girl wasn't so easy to dismiss; she didn't just see Cassie's death, she caused it. She haunted the edges of Cassie's visions, and laid shadows across her future. Pop Girl had turned Cassie's death into a game. Every time Cassie managed to divert the future in a new direction--somewhere happier, somewhere better--Pop Girl was right there, nudging events back into place with a whispered word into her father's ear.
Tigers stalked Cassie's nightmares.
Pop Girl was a good Watcher: experienced and ruthless and better than Cassie. Hell, yeah, Cassie was scared of her. The secret was that Pop Girl was as exciting as she was frightening. Cassie had never gone head-to-head with another Watcher before, and had never before been forced to push the boundaries of her abilities. Cassie would never be on Mom's level, but she could still win against Pop Girl.
Maybe both of their visions said that Cassie was going to die, but Pop Girl's future was a blank. Pop Girl's future was an open playing field, and whatever happened, Cassie was going to make sure that Pop Girl wasn't the only one who got to walk away with a happily-ever-after.
Cassie had learned a lot about the world, and about herself, since Mom had been taken away. She had discovered that courage felt a lot like fear, and that she had a greater capacity for both than she'd ever imagined. Cassie had learned that she could be cold, and hard. Pop Girl was a problem--she was Cassie's problem--and Cassie was going to be the one to take care of her.
The future wasn't fair, and it wasn't kind--but it could be changed.
Cassie turned her face to the future, towards Pop Girl, and said: "can you see me coming?"