The woman fell, sprawling onto the
practice mat. She dragged herself to her knees and attempted to get her
breath back. Kyra Flynn bounced lightly on her toes.
'Come on, Vicky, get up. You don't have
time to breathe!'
'But…I did everything…you showed me…and
I still ended up…face down…in my own sweat.'
'Yes…but it took you longer to get there
this time. That's progress!'
Kyra trotted forwards to help the woman
up…and suddenly found herself on her back with a knee at her throat.
Far from being annoyed, for the first time in weeks Kyra experienced a
small rush of pride. The fact that she could easily reverse the
situation and have the woman in a lethal headlock in seconds was
The group of women on the edge of the
mat clapped and one or two whistled. Vicky released Kyra, stood up and
bowed solemnly. Kyra flipped upright and put an arm round the younger
Everyone was buzzed by the throw and in
the next half-hour, they put their hearts into the practice session. As
far as Kyra could see, their only problem was that they didn't fully
realise how vulnerable they still were. Preston had warned her of the
dangers of teaching a little 'self-defence'…it often engendered a
confidence far beyond the user's abilities. Nevertheless, the incidence
of harassment, assault, rape or attempted rape was increasing and
Tatiana had requested she initiate some program for female members of
the Council's Administration, who did not warrant personal protection.
She really had no choice. Even Tatiana didn't seem to understand that
'self-defence' was simply a mental and physical plan for adverse
situations which altered according to need.
The classes, in one of the Centre's many
clinical areas, had been amazingly well attended, and yes, the women
had made excellent progress, but it was time to hammer home the brutal
That reality appeared, as punctual as
ever, bare-footed and in black sweat pants and body hugging black vest.
Kyra almost felt the crackle of electricity as twenty four pairs of
eyes followed the contours of Preston's toned biceps and ranged over
the outline of his sharply defined pectorals and abdomen. It was
probably best to get the show on the road before the women started
hyperventilating. She snapped her fingers and smiled ruefully as the
women shuffled in embarrassment at being caught out.
Kyra had to admit that she wasn't
looking forward to this. When Preston had agreed to the demonstration,
he'd warned her that he wasn't particularly going to pull any punches.
She noticed that he'd left a coolbox by the door. That worried her
slightly. She also knew that he'd come straight from Kata training with
a group of Acolytes and was therefore at peak efficiency.
He addressed the obviously adoring crowd.
'Why are you all here?'
Twenty-four hands went up. Preston
nodded at a tall, thinnish woman with her hair in plaits.
'To learn how to protect ourselves if
'And how successful do think you might
be if that happens?'
'Far better than we would have been a
few weeks ago.' The woman sounded peeved.
'Good. So assuming the worst happens,
what would you do?' He pointed to another woman.
'Kick the crap out of him!' she
Everyone else nodded and a few clapped.
Kyra sighed. She had tried to explain the philosophy that drove her
instruction, but to no avail. The women just wanted an opportunity to
Preston remained impassive. 'If that is
all you have learned,' he said, 'Then you are all in for a
Some of the women began to fidget,
others looked at him defiantly. Vicky stepped forward. She was one of
Tatiana's personal assistants and considered herself to be a fast
learner. Her bravado was also fuelled by the fact she acted upon
occasion as Robbie and Lisa's chaperone if Kyra and Preston were
delayed and therefore felt more comfortable than the rest in
challenging the Cleric.
'This is just a scare tactic…a typically
male one at that. We know men are generally heavier and stronger…but
Kyra's taught us to use the advantage of surprise. We could win!'
'It's not a question of winning…and the
advantage of surprise is all you have…it may just enough to give you
Twenty-four voices began to chatter in
indignation and were then silenced by the Cleric's raised hand.
He pointed to Kyra, now standing about 5
metres in front of him. Then he pointed to the exit, an equal distance
'All she has to do is reach that door…'
During the first few seconds both
opponents judged distance and timing. Kyra shifted sideways, light on
her feet, eyes darting between Preston and the elusive exit. Preston
altered his own position by a few degrees. Kyra moved to the other
side. The Cleric made a slight counter move.
Kyra had hoped to distract him from the
fact that each time she made a side move, she also came forwards a
little, but she saw that the distance between Preston and the exit was
also increasing. She began to walk forwards. He did the same.
Kyra waited without blinking until he
was just 2 metres away then charged, feinting at the last possible
second to her left, hitting the mat and extending her right leg half a
metre off the ground. To her credit, Preston thought, as he jumped to
avoid being tripped, it was not a standard move. A lesser attacker may
have been floored at this very point, giving Kyra those vital seconds
to reach the door. But he had a point to prove to the women.
Preston landed neatly on both feet,
sinking down to the ground. It would have been totally unrealistic to
use the full Katas, since any attacker was unlikely to be as highly
trained, so he modified his approach.
With her eyes firmly fixed on the door
ahead, Kyra allowed momentum to take her into a side roll, pulling her
knees up so she would be ready to sprint once the roll lost its power.
Preston turned rapidly and launched
himself towards Kyra as she prepared to come to her feet and make a
dash for the door. When she knew she would never make the transition in
time, she spun round, kicking out with alternating feet. He gripped her
right ankle and twisted it hard. Pain seared through her as he
continued to twist and spin her round, away from the door. Basically,
she was back where she started from. Then Preston let go and Kyra
scooted backwards, away from him. He allowed her to get to her feet
once more before walking towards her again. Her ankle throbbed, but her
mind was racing through possibilities.
The women were forgotten as instinct
kicked in. She let her mind sink into concentration and adopted one of
the many postures Preston had taught her…each designed to give her
maximum opportunity for flight whilst still allowing her to inflict
damage on her opponent. All she had to do was get to that door…
This time, assuming that he would
recognise the position and react accordingly, she waited again, then
flipped sideways to try and put some distance between them. Although he
was already turning to match her, she accelerated forwards again, only
to be brought down by a body blow to her ribs. She swore she heard a
crack, but had no time to be concerned as she tried to bring her knee
up under the man's chin. But he overwhelmed her with sheer strength and
she decided that an impression of submission might cause him to release
her enough to try something else. However, he obviously had other
plans. She found both her wrists were held in a vice-like grip above
Because the point of the exercise was to
show how a potential rapist would try to disable his victim, Preston
slammed Kyra down onto her back and immediately straddled her stomach.
She responded by flinging both legs upwards in a scissor action to try
to either destabilise him or if she had sufficient power, to get her
legs around his neck. Neither ploy worked as Preston simply leaned
further forward, released her wrists briefly and clapped both hands
over her ears.
He had judged the amount of strength he
could safely use, but Kyra screamed once from the pressure and pain.
And later, she realised that was where she made her true mistake. She
got angry. That had never even been an option when Prozium was sluicing
through her willing veins. She had never lost focus.
She knew before she started the
'demonstration', that she couldn't win. She wanted to show these women
that they had to fight to escape…that was all. But Preston had hurt
her…and he'd known he would…that was why he brought the cool box.
Her mind flipped back to practice
sessions when she was a child…allowed until she was eight to train with
the Monastery boys. She'd beaten a couple of them a few times, even
though some were older than her…but never John. He never saw any
reasoning in allowing her a false victory and she realised that still
held. The more she fought, the more he would respond.
If she gave up now, nothing would be
learned…women being attacked fought for their lives. Damn him! So she
forced her body into action, trying to dislodge him. None of the
ordered and ingrained Katas would work here. This was pure
Kyra knew Preston couldn't really risk
releasing her wrists again, so with his hands occupied, those lethal
weapons were effectively rendered useless for the moment. She used her
body weight to rock them both up and down, side to side, trying to find
a way of inflicting some damage…any damage. Unexpectedly, he let go.
She surged upwards, believing she had one more chance, ignoring the
warning signs, lashing out with her fists. The last thing she
remembered was an almost leisurely counter blow and a flat handed chop
to her throat. Then nothing.
Kyra awoke to pain and cold. There was
an ice-pack on her throat and she was aware of both a dull throbbing in
her ankle and a sharp sensation in her chest when she breathed. She
could just see Preston standing to one side, near the door. Part of her
was pleased that he looked almost mortified.
Other concerned faces swam into and out
of her vision. Vicky bit her lip and Kyra could see that she…and the
others…had been crying.
'It's OK,' she said softly. 'We
understand now…we really do. Cleric Preston says that understanding
might actually save our lives. But we wish….you know…'
Kyra could only whisper. 'I know. And it
is OK. You see…It's only him I couldn't ever get past…just him…' And
she drifted off into merciful oblivion once more.