by Michael Surbrook and Mathieu Roy

Shion and Raven took the suborbital for the trip back to Neo York. Raven had wondered why Shion hadn't simply teleported them back, but in her excitement the questions lasted about three seconds. 'Porting from NY to MT was already a big deal, but to actually fly all the way over the Pacific...

The stewardess showed the two women to their seats. First class, no less, although Raven simply couldn't picture Shion in coach class and figured S-T was footing the bill. Shion took her seat and ordered sake for herself; she didn't seem inclined to conversation, which suited Raven just fine. By a stroke of luck she had the seat near the window. She took full advantage of this, gluing her eyes to the plexiglass as the S-O took off. The plane quickly gained altitude, reducing Japan to toy size. Raven squinted, trying to make out any landmarks, but she didn't know the area well and the jet was climbing too rapidly for her to distinguish anything.

The massive aircraft would make the trip to Neo York in a little under two hours, a speed that was simply mind-boggling, at least to Raven. She watched the cloud cover attentively as the SO fired its scramjets, accelerating madly until it was far, far above the speed of sound.

The thought of speeding over the ocean was an exhilarating one, but after watching the blurry cloud pass underneath for half an hour, the sheer monotony of the decor dampened her excitement somewhat. She returned her attention to the first class section of the plane.

Besides her, Shion was resting, her eyes closed, apparently asleep. The Empress, apparently, was used to suborbital flights. The same could not be said of several other passengers, who appeared rather green. Raven guessed that her own flying had made her resistant to motion sickness, something she was glad for after seeing someone use a sick bag.

The stewardess noticed her shift of attention and approached quietly, asking if Raven wished anything to drink. The teek shrugged and asked for a Coke. Rapid service was a hallmark of this airline, and Raven's glass was brought quickly. Raven sipped it experimentally; apparently the stewardess had misunderstood her intent, or had tried to preserve the dignity of first-class flying, because she'd added quite a bit of rum to the cola. Raven decided she didn't mind and busied herself with the vidscreen embedded in the seat in front of her, sipping intermittently.

The plane was equipped with a full-featured, touch-screen webterm. Starting to feel bored, Raven curiously brought up the Search page and entered "Psychokinetic, Shion, Nys, Empress". That turned quite a number of news and research sites, but they were nowhere near the top of the relevance ranking. There were quite a few sites dedicated to collecting every available scrap information of PKs in general and Shion in particular. The Empress herself seemed to have quite a fan following, with sites completes with gossip boards and picture galleries. She looked at the latest speculations on Shion's activities and giggled at some of the more outrageous hypothesizes.

Some of them had the deal pretty much dead-on, however, and digging a bit, Raven was treated to a few pictures of herself, complete with flattering (and not-so-flattering) comments on her appearance and wild speculation as to what she was capable of. Apparently the site's informants had little to work on, but the amount of correct information present, and the short time in which it had been gathered, made Raven sure that there were a lot of very smart, very talented people with way too much time on their hands.

The captain's pleasant modulated voice came over the speakers, warning the passengers of imminent landing. Raven closed the vidscreen and went back to the window. Once she'd flown high up to get a view of Neo York, but she'd never been anywhere near this high. From up here the view was astonishing; it looked like a palette of lights crisscrossed with thin darker lines. Raven stared until the planed touched the ground with a light bump.

Shion stood and tapped Raven's shoulder, causing her to start. "Let's go," the tall woman said. Raven nodded and let Shion lead to a waiting car.

Shion stood in the center of the training dojo dressed in wide hakama and gi. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail that almost reached the floor. Hands at her sides, she gave Raven an expressionless gaze. "Have you been given and hand-to-hand training?"

"A bit," Raven replied uncertainly. She looked awkward in her white gi, protective padding strapped to her hands and feet.

"What style?"

"Tae Kwon Do—I'm a white belt." Raven looked at Shion uneasily. "It's fun to try to learn, but truth be told, I suck."

A shrug was Shion's response. "You did say you wanted to practice, correct?"

"Yes. Definitely."

"Good." Shion smoothly dropped into an open-legged stance, her hands held away from her body. "Now, hit me... if you can."

"Uh..." Raven let slip dubiously. She took the stance her teacher had taught her—or tried to, anyway. "Sure, I'll try." She shifted her weight from one leg to the other to make sure of her balance, then tried that straight punch the Sensai had told she'd had about right, aimed at Shion's chest.

Shion stepped back with one foot and casually slapped Raven's arm aside. "Too slow. Try again."

Raven nodded. She tried with a high spinning kick this time, and realized it was a bad idea only half-way in the move. She went too short, missed cleanly, overbalanced, and fell face first on the mat. "Oof" she said eloquently.

Shion stood quietly for a moment. "Why did you fall?" she asked in an almost conversational mode.

"Lost my balance," Raven snapped back in frustration. Then she calmed herself, reminding herself this was hardly her first embarrassing fall. She picked herself off the floor and elaborated, "For someone who's only been walking for seven months, I thought it wasn't all that bad."

There was a long pause as the taller woman digested this bit for information. "What do you mean, 'seven months'? I thought you were twenty?"

"I am.," Raven confirmed. "But I was born with spine deformations that pretty much kept me from standing—at least, not without a lot of pain and effort. That's why I signed up with S-T—they were willing to cure me."

"I see," Shion replied slowly. "How very altruistic of them. Perhaps we should try a different tactic. Don't let me hit you."

"I'll try," said Raven, taking up a high guard.

Shion responded by taking a half-step forward, her hands down near her waist. Raising her left, she snapped it at Raven's head, drawing out the other woman's block and opening her side for a light blow to the ribs.

"Is that the best you can do?" Shion asked in an almost mocking tone. "You're going to need to do better."

"I know, I know! I'm just starting out. I told you I still sucked." Raven grinned. "Bet you weren't very good when you started out, either."

"Was I?" Shion stepped to one side, pushed Raven's arm to one side and sent her crashing to the mat with what seemed to be gentle nudge. "I have always been strong and quick."

Stepping back, Shion placed both arms behind her back and looked down at where Raven lay on the mat. "And if you think I am fast, you should know that there are cybernetically enhanced people who make me look like I am standing still. How do you plan to cope with someone like that, should the need arise?"

"Lift them off the ground," replied Raven without missing a beat. "Their speed and strength is worth zilch if they have no leverage." She lifted a hand to forestall Shion's next argument. "I know, what if I don't want to use my powers? Right now, Shion, I'm screwed. That's why I'm trying to learn, but it isn't easy for me. My sensei says I'm quick and pretty strong, but I need to be more comfortable with how my body works now before I can use it well. So I need practice and lots of it." She rose from the ground, resumed her stance, her guard a bit lower, this time. "Please try again."

A slight nod answered the request, at which point Shion vanished. Raven felt a momentary surge behind her and then was hurled across the room to end in a tumbled heap amid a pile of pads and mats.

"I never said you didn't have to use your esper talents."

"Oooof. Sorry," Raven said, picking herself out of the mats. "I thought that was the point of 'hand-to-hand training.'" Then without transition she manifested her shields and hurled Shion the other way, straight into an upright mat.

Or at least she tried. Shion simply stood there, her hair swirling about as the force of Raven's telekinetic strike simply ruffled her clothing. There was a momentary pause, and then Raven felt a similar force press against her. Gritting her teeth, fists clenched, she pushed back, trying to force the powerful esper back. Shion, in turn, settled into a lower stance, her hands clenched into fists.

Mats and pads slid across from the floor away from the duo, clumping up against the far wall. A rack of training swords fell over with a crash. The floor thumped and dust swirled in tight patterns across the floor. Somewhere, something cracked and popped.

With a low cry, Shion slid to one knee and then pitched backwards, bouncing off of one of the protective pads that lined the walls. Rolling forward, she ended up back in her original stance, blinking the sweat from her eyes.

"Very well done," she stated in an almost dead tone of voice.

Tired, Raven rose from the half-kneeling position Shion had pushed her back in. "That could pretty much have gone either way," she said, panting. It could have, but I wasn't putting my full strength into that push—was she? Was this some kind of test? Was she trying to give me an even fight? She decided to risk a comment, see what would happen. "We'll have to try that again at full force sometime."

"Perhaps. And if we do it certainly cannot be in this building." Straighting her clothing, Shion walked slowly towards the center of the room, glancing idly at the minor chaos the short telekinetic duel had caused. "I think that is enough for today. I suggest you take a look at the reading materal I ordered. Meanwhile, I am going to contact someone I know about furthering your martial arts training."

Well, she didn't bite. Raven looked around at the disarrayed gym. A natural disaster, she thought again. "That sounds like a good idea, Shion. I will read the material attentively. Thank you for all your help, and for your patience."

Looking down at Raven, Shion stood silently, her face unreadable. "Do not thank me until you have survived your first encounter with a true enemy. Then you will have a reason to be grateful."

Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories