by Mathieu Roy and Michael Surbrook

"Please sit down, Ms. Clark," said Sanato mildly, indicating the chair before him. Raven looked curiously at the small room—bare except for the worktable and two chairs—then sat across the executive. She gave him an intrigued look.

"I would like to debrief you regarding your encounter with Shion," he explained.

"Okay..." said Raven.

Sanato steepled his hands together, partially obscuring his face. Looking at Raven over the tips of his fingers, he seemed more business like and cold than she remembered. "How are you today?" he asked, the question belying his serious demeanor.

"I'm doing great. And you?"

"I am well." A folder was picked up and casually flipped though. "I see you are taking acrobatics, tumbling and dance classes. How do you like them?"

In spite of his serious, even grim, attitude, Raven smiled. "I love them. It's great to be able to do this thing, even if I'm not very good yet."

"And your martial arts classes? Do you feel you've improved any?"

"Yes, I think I'm getting better. I wouldn't get into any real scrapes yet, but I'm getting there."

"Excellent." Sanato paused, and set the folder aside. "Now, I would like to speak with you regarding your work with Shion," he explained.

"Okay..." said Raven.

"What do you think of her? Both as a teacher and as a friend."

"Well... She's very professional, to the point of being a bit cold. She's experienced and intelligent, and very decisive. She doesn't like losing time, so she has little tolerance for stupidity and she doesn't deal with anyone who she considers she has nothing to gain from. She just ignores them. I guess that's part of why she comes across as so arrogant."

"With me it wasn't so bad, I think because I'm a PK and in her line of work, so I was worth her time. She showed me a lot of things, including some she didn't have to, and she showed inhuman patience for the antics of a wide-eyed street brat." She grinned at the last.

"Showed you things?" Satano asked with a slight measure of surprise. "What sort of things?"

"Mega-Tokyo, Australia, the beach there..."

"Speaking of which, did you enjoy your trip to Australia?"

"Yes, very much. Though it was demanding."

Sanato scribbled notes, faintly reminding Raven of Nabiki. "Demanding how? What did Shion have you do?"

"Lots of things. She stretched my abilities to my limits, and then started on combinations; for example, she had me fly while holding a car over my head, then throw objects at me to dodge or deflect. She also worked a lot on radically altering my psychic patterns, which is my real weakness."

"Pardon?" Sanato blinked in surprise. "What do you mean by 'altering your psychic patterns'?"

"I mean switching from doing one thing to another. Going from full-force kinetic bolt to full-force barrier. I need to readjust my patterns to do that, and I can't do big changes easily yet."

"Oh," Sanato said in response, "I see... I think." He flashed Raven a quick grin and then resumed his more somber tone. "Tell me Ms. Clark, how powerful do you think Shion is? If needed could you oppose her?"

Raven laughed. "Mr. Sanato, the first thing she did upon meeting me is teleport us both to Mega-Tokyo. She is much more powerful than me, and I never won one of our mock-up battles. On the other hand, she can't just brush me away, either. So I can at least slow her down."

"She teleported you to Mega-Tokyo? What did you think of that?"

"It really startled me. One moment it was day, the next it was night. And the distance... It's mind-boggling. I guess that's when I realized that Shion was really, really powerful."

Sanato looked thoughtful for a moment. "You say you can slow her down... what do you think it would take to stop her?"

"Ran." Raven shrugged. "I guess two or three strong, skilled espers would have a good chance. Or one with cyberdroids or some other backup. It's tough to evaluate esper combat. So many variables."

Sanato nodded. "Yes, espers present many variables." Shuffling some papers, the Japanese executive looked over at Raven. "Tell me, what do you think of Shion's sister, Marta Nys?"

"She's... interesting. Very bold, very expressive. And very blunt. She isn't afraid to plainly speak her mind, even to the Empress. Although she is her sister, after all."

"Yes, well, as they say familiarity does breed contempt. Now, are you aware that the woman is a lesbian?"

"Oh yes."

"Did she try to seduce you?"

Raven blinked. "Um, not exactly. Though she made it plain she was interested. I'm her type, apparently."

"From what we... I understand, any young athletic woman is her type, especially if they have fairly long hair. Would you say yes to such an offer?"

She squirmed uncomfortably. "That's... a can of worms I'm not ready to open right now. I'm still getting used to men, after all. Besides, she has a lover..."

Sanato nodded. "Ah, yes, Ms Ling Ling Li. You met with her briefly. Any comments on Ms Li?"

"She is mysterious and inscrutable."

Sanato paused. "So we've heard," he said at length.

"There isn't much I could tell you. She seemed friendly if a bit distant. Very professional."

"So you two didn't talk much, then."

"Not all that much. A bit of small talk."

"Anything important? Did she ask you any questions?"

"She asked me where I was born and stuff like that."

"What did you tell her?"

"That I grew up in the Zone and why I signed up with you."

Sanato gave Raven a quizzical look, "And why did you sign up with us?"

Raven's look was equally quizzical. "You cured my deformities."

"Aahhhh..." Sanato as if that answer had some form of significance, "I see." Abruptly he switched topics. "Has Shion exhibited any unusual vices?"

"Err..." Raven squirmed uncomfortably. "She did drink a lot, although that didn't impact her performance—she's got a lot of tolerance, too."

Sanato scribbled on his pad. "Drinks a lot, eh? I noticed that at the company meeting the other night. She does seem to enjoy her liquor." Sanato paused for a moment, "Do you think she cares for the company of men?"

"Men? I dunno. She does seem to like escort synthetics, though." She blushed slightly. "Two at a time."

Sanato blinked. "Two at a time? We uhmm..." Sanato paused and for a moment his face assumed a distant expression that made Raven quietly smirk.

"By the way, who's idea was it to have them waiting for us at the hotel?"

"Where was this?" Sanato asked in a surprised tone.

"Australia, first day of our vacation."

"That was not my doing. Did this bother you?"

"It was a surprise, but... not altogether unpleasant. So I guess the answer is no."

"Ahem. As I was saying..." Sanato paused again. "Do you like Adam?"

"Oh yes." Raven put her elbows on the table and lay her chin on her hands. "He's friendly and attentive and there seems to be no end to his skills." Her eyes were taking a dreamy cast. "He's sooo great to have around..." She snapped back to the present. "Thanks for uh, assigning him to me. He's working out great."

"Excellent." Sanato glanced at his notes. "You don't require another do you? Male or female?"

"Another? Female?" Raven stared goggle-eyed at Sanato. "Uh, Adam's plenty for now."

"Just asking Ms Clark. As you said, with espers many things are variable."

"I guess..." Would he have given me another just for the asking? They've got to be expensive... And a female one... She shook her head. "I'm not all that familiar with... that part of myself yet."

Sanato gave her a kind smile, "I understand, your comfort is of great concern to us."

"Thanks. I appreciate it."

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