by Michael Surbrook and Mathieu Roy

Raven tried to relax as the suborbital touched ground at the Sydney Airport. This time she had an alley seat, so she couldn't stay glued to the window as she had on her first flight... Not that the clouds between Neo York and Australia were much more exciting than those between Mega-Tokyo and the Big Apple. She was starting to think she was going to be on a lot of planes in the future, so she might as well get used to it now.

Shion hadn't been too clear on why the two of them were headed down-under. If she had to hazard a guess, Raven would say it was for the same reason Shion had taken her to Mega-Tokyo earlier; a suitable ground for esper practice. The last few weeks had been occupied by mostly physical training; a bit of martial arts, lots of falling, some tai chi. All very useful stuff for Raven, but hardly something that required someone of Shion's caliber. Raven figured it was time to move past the simple finesse and duration exercises Shion had put her to.

Shion and Raven left the suborbital and climbed into the waiting car that would take them to the Shiroko-Tsuhi arcology. Raven was struck by how different Sydney was from Mega-Tokyo or Neo York. Sydney looked built in width rather than height, a perception that was deceptive as it had more than its fair share of skyscrapers. The city's broader streets added to the clean feel of the place. It looked a lot tamer than Mega-Tokyo's garish neons, and freer than Neo York's crowded atmosphere. It was no wonder Ling Ling was fond of the place.

To top it all, in December, it was summer South of the equator. As she climbed down of the car, Raven basked in the heat, thinking that this globe-trotting business definitely had its advantages. She wondered if there would be time to enjoy the sunny weather.

Shiroko-Tsuhi's Sydney arcology was smaller than the one in Neo York, but one could barely use the world "smaller" to describe anything this size. Keeping in line with the rest of the city, the arcology had traded the huge neon logo for a yard of greenery all around the building.

Once they'd been settled in, Shion took Raven out in the outback. The vast expanses of greenery were hardly as hospitable as Sydney. Bandits and brigands were legion in the region, preying on the huddled villages of the weak and defenseless—rather like a post-apocalyptic simsense thriller. Occasionally, the yellow, red and blue cars of the Main Force Patrol could be seen.

Shion directed their movements, and over the next few days they didn't encounter anyone, except from afar. As the days went by Raven figured that was for the best—for the brigands, at least. Shion was running her through a series of telekinetic exercices, levitation, teleportation, telekinesis, and occasionally the results could be destructive, like when she demonstrated to Shion some of the various forms of kinetic bolt she was capable of.

Finally, Shion settled down near a bunch of really old and abandonded car wrecks.

"Now we begin." She stated this almost ominously.

"Time for the heavy stuff?" Raven couldn't fully suppress a cocky smile. She felt much more in her element than she'd ever been on a tatami.

The rise of power from Shion was all the warning she got. She felt Shion's power grab her and shove her across the ground. As Raven scrambled to mount a defense, she heard Shion yell, "Break out! if you can..."

Raven gathered her own power and pitted it directly against Shion's. Earth, debris and wreckage erupted from the ground where the two telekinetic waves met. No doubt the Empress was at full power now, and Raven was also giving everything she got. Beads of sweat ran down Raven's face, and the strain gave her a dull headache. She stopped sliding.

The debris were flying everywhere now, shooting from where the opposing forces were engaged in their duel. Entire cars, ruined and crumpled, were levitating around and outwards, digging great furrows in the ground. Raven groaned with effort—Shion's raw telekinesis was a close match for hers. She shoved once, then again... and broke free from Shion's grasp.

The Empress vanished. Raven staggered forward at the sudden disappearance of Shion's telekinesis. Well, where are you going, Shion? thought Raven. Surely you have other things in mind for me. She wiped sweat from her brow. I've never really cut loose at that level for so long, it's really tiring... Where is she? She brought up a kinetic shield and levitated herself above the wreckage.

Orienting herself from the psychic noise caused by Shion's teleport, Raven finally spotted her, standing behind the cover of a pile of wrecks. Of more immediate concern, however, was the car that slowly levitated off the pile, then suddenly shot up and across at the flying wizzer.

Whoa! Pulling out the big guns! Raven gestured downwards, and her power shoved the car towards the ground. There was a lot of 'oomph' behind it, too much for her to stop easily while keeping both her levitation and her shield, but her angled kinetic force was enough to deflect the huge projectile into the ground, where it landed with a loud 'BOOM' and a thick cloud of dust.

Two can play this game. Raven reached out telekinetically and lifted a car of her own, hurling it with all the power she could muster towards Shion. The car landed with another crash and a cloud of smoke that obscured Shion from view.


The sudden quiet worried Raven, levitating and watching the car she'd embedded in the ground, and she became more and more nervous. Finally, she called out, "Shion?" and levitated the car away.

Unseen, Shion hurled a kinetic bolt straight at Raven's flying form. It slammed into her shields, delivering little damage but a lot of force, and Raven went flying backwards a good eigthy feet, spinning in the air.

Raven finally managed to regain control of her motion. She was shaken, winded, and angry at herself. Dumb, dumb, dumb! she admonished herself. You really thought you'd splattered the Empress with a stupid car? She wiped her forehead again. I can't keep this pace up for long. I need a breather. Hopefully these wrecks will keep me out of sight... She dropped, landed, panting, and bent forward, gasping for air.

In the sudden esper silence, the rise of Shion's power resounded like a gunshot. Raven looked up just in time to see a levitating Empress looking down at her. Shion hurled another kinetic bolt, broad and fast, trying to offset the long range by spreading the force of the attack. Raven barely had time to put her shield back up before the bolt slammed into her, knocking her backwards and lifting great geysers of dust and debris all around her.

Before she could mount a counterattack, Shion appeared with a whoomp of displaced air near her and slamed her fist hard at the ground next to her head... no, into the ground, driving her arm down to the elbow. "I win."

"You did," Raven panted. Not that I'm surprised. I hope you feel more secure now, Shion. Still, I did better than I thought I would. "I guess that's why you're the teacher and I'm the student," she added out loud, more diplomatically.

Shion dropped to the ground in a cloud of dust. "Perhaps... but you did very well. You have a great deal of power at your command, and didn't suffer any... extreme adverse effects from this work out."

"Bit of a headache, but nothing major, no." Raven rubbed her temples. "I'm not used to this kind of workout." Guess I misread her, maybe she just wanted to drive home a point.

"We'll take a break now," the other woman went on, "and work more on endurance training."

Standing, Shion pointed at the wrecks scattered about, "I'll have you juggling those in a week."

Raven looked at the massive hunks of metal Shion was pointing at. "Juggling," she repeated, only half-disbelieving the claim. She stood, wiped the sweat from her brow, and glanced around, at the destruction they'd caused. Cars embedded in piles of wreckage, debris strewn about, and an impressive crater where Shion's last attack had struck. "Good thing there wasn't something fragile here, like say, a city."

"That is the idea, Raven."

Raven remembered her lunchtime conversation with Ling Ling, when they'd discussed the PK "cold war". God have mercy on our folly, she thought again. She sat on the hood of a wrecked car and rested.

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