by Michael Surbrook and Mathieu Roy

Raven's eyes perked open. It was late morning, but she had been dozing off in boredom—with nothing else to do, she'd come downstairs to see her friend Johnny the Wrench, but the mechanic was involved in a complex repair and could not spare the time and concentration to talk.

"That's odd," she said.

Johnny finished up whatever he was doing with a tool that looked like a futuristic blaster before answering. "What's odd?"

"I'm feeling PK vibes. I thought I was the only PK in here."

"Really." Johnny returned to his work. "You should go check. Besides, you're distracting my boss."

Raven glanced at the supervisor just in time to see him hastily look away, and stifled a giggle. "How professional of him." Johnny didn't respond, concentrating again on his work, so Raven shrugged and walked to the elevator.

She quickly located the mysterious signature. It came from one of the physical training rooms—fully stocked with weights, bikes, exercisers, and whatever else one might want to torture oneself with, in the name of fitness. Not that Raven was in any position to judge, having newly found a strong desire to keep herself fit.

Standing in the center of the room was a goddess... or at least, a woman who looked like one. Taller than Raven by several inches, she stood at least six feet in height. Her white hair was very long, falling down to her knees, fully three-fourths of her height. She wore a long, two-layered cloak in gray, with a black border. It fell nearly to the ground, hiding whatever she was wearing underneath.

Her back to the door, she was staring at a barbell loaded with heavy weights—a least thousand pounds being slowly spun in a circle. Given the relatively inconsequential effect, her PK signature was extremely strong.

Before Raven could speak, the woman said, "Good morning, Raven. Do come in, I have been waiting for you to arrive."

Raven warily stepped inside the room, her eyes on the stranger. She wasn't overly impressed by the display of telekinetic power—it was well within her own ability—but that signature? At "rest"? At least, she thought wryly, she wasn't getting any headaches.

"Good morning," she replied cautiously. "I didn't think there was another telekinetic in the building, miss...?" Her voice trailed off.

The barbell stopped spinning and hung motionless. With a rustle of her cloak the woman turned, giving Raven a long and cold visual examination before replying. "Nys... Shion Nys." To Raven it sounded like she was supposed to know the name. In fact, Raven was beginning to think that the name was unneeded and that she should have known who the stranger was the moment she walked in the room. She thought better of pressing the issue, although her lack of recognition was plain in her face.

The barbell settled quietly to the floor, coming to rest without a sound. Shion's eyes narrowed slightly, giving Raven the impression she was being judged, and found wanting.

"I have been asked," Shion said abruptly, "to train you. To test your limits, your strengths and your weaknesses."

This, then, was an experienced telekinetic, as well as a powerful one. Having this mysterious woman show her the ropes, as it were, was certainly a good idea; God knew Raven had had little contact with other teeks. Except that...

"Mr. Sanato didn't mention anything to me," she said noncommittally.

"That is not my concern." There was another long pause. "Only my contract matters."

Raven shrugged. "It's not that important, I guess." Unless, of course, he didn't know about it, either.

Turning away from Raven, Shion bent over and picked up the barbell with one hand. Effortlessly she reached out and dropped it onto a weight bench rack. "Now," she said quietly, "I think we should go somewhere better suited for those such as us." Shion turned to look over her shoulder, fixing Raven with one gray eye, "Unless you think otherwise."

"No argument here," Raven said, looking around. "All this stuff looks pretty breakable. Did you someplace in mind?"

"Come here," Shion said with a gesture.

Raven hesitated. "Uh, where are we going? I really think I should warn..."

Shion reached out with one gloved hand. Under the cloak, Raven got a glimpse of a black-garbed arm and some sort of white body armor... and then they were gone.

The transition from day to night was almost like a physical blow. One moment she had been in the ST fitness room and now she was... outside? Pulling away from the taller woman, Raven glanced around, trying to get her bearings. The sky was clear, and full of stars. To her left was a thick band of lights. It looked like Neo York at night, except it was taller, longer. To her right, the ocean lapped at a submerged building, which she was standing on the roof of. In fact, she was surrounded by a number of ruined buildings, all of which were poking out of the sea at various crazy angles.

"Where... Where the frag are we now?" Raven said uneasily, squinting at the city and trying to recognize a landmark. "That doesn't look like Neo York..." The realization that she might be further from home—whichever of them—than she had been in her life, and had no idea where, struck her like a ton of bricks, bringing her to the edge of panic. Dust started to whirl around her as she quickly looked around for something she might recognize.

A sudden stinging slap sent Raven staggering, eyes blinking at sudden tears and the bright spray of stars. Shion stood impassive, staring at her with the same cold, critical look. "Calm yourself." It wasn't a request, it was a command.

Raven's power flared at the startling, stinging slap, then relented as she calmed herself somewhat. "Give me a break," she said, still uneasy. "I haven't been out of Neo York in... well, ever."

Turning to face the band of glittering light, Shion raised on hand in what looked to be a carefully calculated and highly dramatic fashion. "Raven," she said in a low voice, "welcome to MegaTokyo."

"Mega..." Raven started before she caught herself and shut up. From Neo York to Mega Tokyo was thousands of miles, far enough that it was much shorter going through the planet than around, she thought, somewhat wryly. If Shion decided to leave her here—and given her past behavior, Raven didn't put it past her—it would be Hell to get back home.

What Raven simply could not understand was why Shion felt the need to put on such superior airs and try to belittle her at every occasion. Of course, she couldn't know by looking at the black-haired teek that she'd been the butt of jeers, swipes, and insults her entire life, and was pretty much immune to them by now. The real question was, why did Shion, who was so powerful, act so much like a street ganger who had something to prove?

"Now," the other woman's words cut through her thoughts like a knife, quickly snapping her back to the here and now, "here we are safe, as there are no PKs in MegaTokyo powerful enough to challenge me..." Shion turned to face Raven. "... or you," she added almost as an after thought.

Well at least, Raven thought wryly, I do rate an afterthought. I bet 99% of the human population doesn't. Then she thought a bit more on what she'd precisely said. She's scared of Ran. Well, I can't blame her—I sure as hell am, and with the noise this little demonstration will do...

Picking her way across the rooftop, Shion stopped facing Raven. "Now, before I can train you, I need to know what you are capable off. How strong you are, how fast, how... durable."

"Makes sense to me," Raven replied simply. Durable. Ouch. She shivered in the winter night air. "I'm not immune to cold, I can tell you that right off the bat."

"Now, let's get started." Pointing out across the water, Shion indicated one of the many ruins immersed by the sea. "Hit that, as hard as you can."

"Gotcha." Raven examined the structure for a few seconds, trying to discern the best method of attack as she prepared her power. Okay, here goes... With a groan of effort she hurled a kinetic bolt with all the force she could muster. The bolt's aftereffects rippled the water and threw spray like an invisible speedboat sent at breakneck speeds. It slammed into its target, blasting a gaping hole in the side of the building and blowing away many of the interior walls.

Shion silently watched as masses of reinforced concrete slid down into the water, raising great clouds of spray and dust. "Too slow," she stated flatly. "You took too much time. You need to become more comfortable with your power, you need to be more reflexive, you need to be able to act instantly."

Raising her hand, the tall esper pointed at another water-logged office tower. Raven's knees almost buckled under the sudden buildup of pressure. The concrete rooftop cracked in a line that arced out to the edge of the roof and created a furrow in the choppy, dark water.

The building vanished.

Finally, Raven stood up and peered over the edge of a rusty, salt encrusted air-conditioning unit. The entire top of the building was missing, leaving a gaping hole that dripped chunks of debris down into the dark depths of the structure.

"Sheesh..." Her eyes wandered from Shion's handiwork to her own. Shion's bolt did seem much more destructive, but since they were both blowing huge holes in buildings the comparison seemed more than a little moot. One thing was sure, the two of them together was something on the scale of a natural disaster.

Raven looked at Shion, for a second wondering how much to tell her—then she figured it'd just be counterproductive to try to hide what would become obvious later on, out of misguided paranoia. "I can be fast—my real hangup is shifting from doing one thing to another. If I keep doing the same thing, I don't have to take my time. If I have to restructure my mental patterns, I can do it nearly instantly—but I risk getting burned. That's why I prefer to take my time when I can."

"Acute Synaptic Distress Syndrome," Shion stated. "The energy is there, but the mind can't handle the strain. How old are you?"

"Just turned twenty," Raven replied.

"You might improve. Usually you reach your full potential by age eighteen." Shion regarded Raven carefully, "On the other hand, you control may degrade as you get older, until you lose control of your power entierly."

Raven looked to the hole she'd blasted in the building. "What an encouraging thought." She shrugged. "I have been getting better since I started at ten—both in control and in power. It's been a bit too slow of an increase to figure out if it's stopped yet. And I haven't really been shifting under extreme conditions. Mostly I've been fighting off gangers and such. Maybe I just need practice."

"Practice is always important. The more your practice the less effort you need to generate your power."

"Then practice I will," said Raven. "A lot."

"Oh, you will. Trust me." Shion gave the other woman a slight grin, her first expression that didn't seem degrading, "Well, there is no point in you freezing to death, lets find someplace warm and have lunch, I skipped breakfast."

"Sounds like a plan to me," said Raven, shivering. "Next time give me a bit of warning, I'll bring a coat."

"Yes... perhaps we should get one before we eat."

"Great." She looked to the city. "Shall you do the honors?"

When they'd left Neo York, it had been late morning, perhaps 10 AM. But when they landed in Mega-Tokyo, it was 2 in the morning—the next day. It didn't seem to matter much; the streets were lit bright as day by gaudy multicolored neons, and filled with people and cars. Japanese were of course widely in evidence, but Mega-Tokyo's cosmopolitan character was plainly visible in the number of gaijin present, tolerated more than accepted by the natives. Shion's cloaked figure drew stares, but she seemed to care not a whit.

Raven tried very hard not to appear immature, but she just could not ignore the fascinating sights around her. She'd never been out of Neo York and the difference between the two cities was immense. The buildings were much closer together, their competing neons projecting eerie colored lights on the street. They seemed much taller, too, even the arcologies. More than once Raven stopped, staring openmouthed at the huge neon logo on an arcology side, or a particularly enticing storefront, or other amazing sight. Shion pulled her along, her attitude a mixture of mild amusement and exasperated annoyance at the younger PK's unworldliness.

The shops in MT displayed things that would never be found in a Neo York storefront. Elecronic gadgets that only show up in Neo York in five years, full-sized cyberdroids, mannequins sporting the lasted cybernetics. One of the shops that made Raven stop and gawk was displaying live replicants. Regardless of whether they really were or not, replicants certainly looked like people; beautiful, perfectly formed people standing on display for any passerby who might wish to make a purchase. For some reason, this jarred Raven and she stared until Shion sighed in exasperation and pulled her along.

Even the Mega-Tokyo police was sleeker and slicker than Nypdink. Shion passed in front of an ESWAT cruiser without sparing it a glance, but Raven started and turned. The short Japanese woman standing besides it stopped talking to her radio and looked at the two passing PKs. Raven thought there might a faint PK signature emanating from her. Their gazes met for an instant, then Raven hurried before annoying Shion any further.

Mega-Tokyo was much warmer than the windswept ruins they'd be on earlier, owing to the huge number of neon signs and the massive heating required by the numerous arcologies. Shion seemed to know the city well; she led Raven to the Ginza, which seemed nothing else than an alley of multicolored lights. She went straight for a clothing shop and started looking at the storefront. She pointed out a stylish, expensive-looking coat in black leather.

"Do you like this one?" she asked.

"Uh, sure," Raven replied, unsure.

Shion just went inside, and two minutes later she had bought the coat and handed it to Raven. Just like that. Raven put it on, grateful that the fit was perfect. She fingered the material—it felt like real leather, or a really good imitation. She wondered how much it had cost, but doubted that Shion knew, or cared.

The next stop was a classy restaurant nearby. Raven, wearing semi-casual blouse and slacks, held her coat closed, feeling grossly underdressed; but then again, the person she was with was wearing armor. At any rate, it did not matter, as they were shown to a private room as soon as they stepped inside.

Shion ordered for them both: noodles, soup, steamed vegetables and other typically oriental foods, and all of it real food rather than soy imitations. This actually made Raven smirk; she thought it was pretty ironic that real food was considered a delicacy here, but that the Zero Zone residents grew their own just so they could survive. Furthermore, the restaurant's vegetables, however tasty, didn't hold a candle to Lydia's carefully tended garden produce.

Shion proved to be a polite and agreeable dinner companion, not quite friendly, but making small talk with nearly no sign of her earlier coldness. Raven wondered whether she'd passed some kind of test and deemed worthy of Shion's time, or whether the tall PK felt that Raven's overall lack of reaction to her dominance game was proof that she was the acknowledged top dog. Whatever the reason, Raven welcomed the improved attitude.

After dessert, Shion made a quick phone call, then led her to a nice cafe for a digestive where they met a Japanese woman who Shion introduced as Nabiki Tendo.

"And how may I be of service to the Empress?" Ms. Tendo asked.

"You can start by not calling me that right now," Shion replied.

Raven recognized the nickname. So Shion was the Empress, the powerful PK that she had heard so many awed whispers about. Raven felt like she should be intimidated, but oddly, she wasn't—any more than she already was, that is. She just hadn't heard enough to be really scared—although that teleport from Neo York to Mega-Tokyo was scary.

She sipped a double-mocha latte and listened distractedly as Shion requested of Nabiki—a fixer, it seemed—a collection of general data on psychokinesis. She had to laugh, though, when Shion specified that it had to be "in a format that Raven will understand."

"What's so funny?" Shion asked sharply.

"Nothing, I guess. I just had this vision of someone translating medicalese into English just for me."

"Tell me Raven," the white-maned woman continued, "have you ever heard of ASDS - Acute Synaptic Distress Syndrome? Acute Synaptic Hyperfunction? Psychokinetic Hyperfunction?"

"ASDS is the medical term for brainburn, I think." She paused. "I don't know about the other—I guess one of them is losing control of your powers."

"Close enough," Shion replied. "By format, I mean beginner's texts on parapsychic phenomena and psychokinesis. You have have been able to do this all your life, but it doesn't mean you have any idea what you are doing."

"Point taken," Raven said. "Sorry." She returned to her coffee to show herself chastened.

"Nothing to be sorry about," Nabiki said with a smile. "Just relax Ms. Raven and enjoy your first visit to Tokyo." The fixer removed a PDA from a coat pocket while speaking, flipping open the lid and scratching at the display with a small stylus.

"I certainly am so far," Raven replied, returning the smile. "I thought Neo York was impressive, but it sure looks drab in comparison to Mega-Tokyo."

"As I recall, Chicago was once called 'the city that never sleeps'," Nabiki said, before gesturing towards the front of the cafe, "but I think Tokyo now has a better claim to that title. I mean, where else can one purchase a new coat, eat dinner and enjoy a cup of coffee this late at night?"

Raven put down her coffee so as to not choke on it, and looked at Nabiki. "Wow. Either you are a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, or you have very good sources of information. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at either."

"Just a well educated guess, Ms. Raven. Oh, and is that a first name or a last name?"

"First name," Raven said. She shrugged. "Only name, really. My SINCard says 'Raven Clark', but that was added a few days ago. We don't really care about last names in the Zone, and my aunt never told me mine, assuming I ever had one."

"Zone?" Nabiki asked. "You're from the Neo York Zero Law-Enforcement Zone? How did you ever manage to end up here?"

"Well, the short story is that I'm a teek, and a corp found out about me and made me an offer I couldn't possibly refuse, so I signed up."

Nabiki nodded. "I understand," she said, sounding as if she did. "Corporations the world over are constantly on the look out for new talent. Which one was lucky enough to find you?"

"Shiroko-Tsuhi. I can't complain about them so far—they are very businesslike and pretty ruthless, but they are a corp." She smiled wryly. "I turned down their request to move to their head office in Mega-Tokyo, and now I almost regret it."

"Mmmm..." Nabiki answered noncomittaly, scratching at her PDA. "I hope to have the requested texts within a day or so. Do you wish them on disk or should I just send them by email?"

Raven looked to Shion—since she was paying for this, the answer was pretty much hers to make. When none was forthcoming, Raven shrugged and said, "E-mail is fine." She wrote down her address and handed it to Nabiki.

"Thank you." Slipping the sheet of paper into a pocket, the fixer stood and gave a slight bow. "I am sorry I cannot be a better host, but I have pressing business elsewhere. Ms Clark, I hope you return to Tokyo soon. And when you do, be sure to give me a call, so I may make the proper arrangements."

Proper arrangements? Puzzled, Raven stood and bowed as well. "I will be sure to call you, Ms. Tendo. Thank you for your help."

"Then I shall say goodbye for now."

"Hmm, how shall I call you?" Raven queried.

Nabiki stopped at the entrance and turned back with a smile, "I think you'll have to ask your teacher about that."

Raven looked interrogatively up at Shion, but said nothing.

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