Xenia felt her bottom radiate a dull ache as she stared up at the man staring down at her, his craggy face showing no signs of concern at her embarrassing state.
"I'm tired," she complained.
"You're not," he said without hesitation. "Get up and do it again."
"I'm pregnant." Xenia Ivanov reminded him.
"Then you better learn the routine and minimize the risk." He said dispassionately as he waited for Xenia to get to her feet.
Xenia gave the man a look that was part glare, part acquiescence to what he wanted. Pushing herself off the padded mat, she asked herself not for the hundredth time, why she was doing this? Why was she putting herself through this?
"Now remember," he said looking at her sternly, "remember your feet and pivot in smooth easy motion. You are an ice skater, you know how to keep balance, you simply need to remember your ground is not the ice and you do not need to put so much effort into it. Balance should be focused on the moves you are attempting to perform."
Xenia had spent two weeks with Jonas and Ana Gisler when they were visited by Timm Keller.
Keller had been a friend of the Lukas' father Hans, they had both served together and later on, fought side by side in the Resistance during the first Occupation. He had been a close family friend who had seen both boys grow up. Timms had tried to track down his old friend, only to find that most of his family had been wiped out. Jonas and his wife were the only survivors. However, upon arriving at Jonas' home in Winterthur, he discovered that while Lukas was dead, he had left a child behind.
Keller's own family was safe in Eschau, Germany and as Xenia got to know him, realised that this was a man who could help her survive in the new world. She was an Olympic level skater and her body was in peak physical condition. According to Jonas, there was no risk of complications and until the first trimester, she was able to put it through its paces. One thing Xenia had learned during her journey through Italy, was that she was ill equipped to deal with Visitors and she would need to know how to protect herself when she began her search for Daniel.
Of Daniel, Xenia learned from the local church (via telegraph no less) that her brother was alive and might even be engaged in some work for the World Liberation Front, through Rome. The last report of her brother's whereabouts had him leaving Mexico for San Francisco. San Francisco was currently occupied territory. It was just the kind of thing Daniel would do because unlike Xenia who could barely remember the first occupation, Daniel had been old enough to remember when Mama and Papa had spirited them away from San Jose to hide in Alaska. Jonas advised that it was safer for Xenia to stay with him and his wife with a baby on the way but Xenia couldn't.
She needed to find her brother.
Thus, she asked Keller to teach her how to survive if she had to make the arduous journey that was lay ahead when she went after Daniel. Keller had tried to deter her at first, largely because the journey was no longer as easy as it used to be. Thanks to the Pulse, travel had retreated forty years in the past.
For Xenia to reach North America, she would have to travel across Europe to reach northern England where B25s, decommissioned from the 50s, had been put into use again to make transatlantic flights. Because of the Visitors' supreme power over the air, such flights were dangerous and easily shot down. However, the Visitors disliked travelling in cold weather because while their ships were made to travel in temperatures of 4 degrees Kelvin, ice was something they had little experience with. Thus nine times out of ten, the B25s were able to get across the sea without running into Skyfighters.
After Newfoundland, she'd have to make her way to Montreal and after that, a cross country trek across the country to British Columbia to begin the drive southward into the States. Once past Seattle, she'd be straying into Occupied Territory where reports had filtered back into the Safe Zones of a near total break down in law and order. Where the Visitors held control, there was martial law but in the wide expanse of America where communities were small and situated remotely, it was the law of the jungle. It was into this wilderness that she would have to travel and once she'd left the Safe Zone, there would be no help if she were to encounter trouble.
She'd be on her own.
Once again, Xenia found herself on the defensive, defending herself against Keller's attack using the Tai sabaki movement to reposition herself. Part evasion and part defence, tai sabaki would put Xenia in a position to launch her own offensive with adequate preparation and balance. Despite Keller's age, he was incredibly fast and Xenia who was accustomed to thinking in similar format, found herself quickly driven across the dojo, giving Keller almost complete control from the bout.
"Is this how you're going to fight?" He sneered. "You're going to let them push you around?" Another fist came at her and she blocked it, barely. "You're a silly, weak woman. Hardly worth a hand to hand fight. They should shoot you."
Xenia gritted her teeth, becoming more and more flustered. In a matter of seconds, she was driven to the edge of the training floor.
"You cannot do this," he shook his head, disapproving at how this hand ended. "You don't have it in you."
"I'm here aren't I?" She demanded, breathing hard, cheeks flushed. She wasn't weak. She could do this. She hadn't gone through three weeks of this punishing regime because she was afraid. Xenia knew what she was capable of.
"That is just geography," Keller retorted. "Can you kill with your bare hands?"
"I've shot Visitors," she said defiantly, remembering the Visitor she had killed in Tuscany.
"Shooting is nothing," the man dismissed it. "You pull a trigger and its over. A second and that is it. I am asking you can you kill a Visitor? Can you beat his brains into a pulp, until your hands are bleeding with his green blood?"
"YES I CAN!" Xenia growled and took the offensive to show him but Keller was ready for her and blocked the strike easily.
"Can you?" He demanded, taking the attacking position once more, forcing Xenia into Tai Sabaki again. "If you don't, that baby will pay the price! That child you have in your belly is a delicacy for them!" He insisted, throwing another strike which she dodged but not far enough. "They'll split you open like a fucking oyster...is that what you want?"
"FUCK YOU!" Xenia growled and suddenly with adrenalin coursing through her at the horror of such a suggestion, she blocked him and kept blocking him as she drove him across the floor, using the movements of tai sabaki to put her on the offensive. "NO ONE IS GOING TO HURT MY BABY, DO YOU HEAR ME?" She near screamed at him as her foot struck out, performing the Nage-no-kata he had drilled into her brain as he retreated, causing him to tumble to the floor on his back. Xenia dropped to her knee, armed pulled back ready to throw another punch. "NO ONE!"
Keller cracked a smile. "So now you know what makes you mad, what to draw from when they come after you. Your baby is your strength, use it. When you fight them, think of what will happen to your child if you fail. Kill them before they can lay one finger on it."
Xenia stumbled back, breathing hard, needing a moment to compose herself. "Its a boy," Xenia replied. "My baby is a boy."
She knew it. With every fibre of her being, without there being any logical reason to believe such. She knew it.
Keller got to his feet and nodded. "Then use your son to defend both your lives. Never forget what you have to lose if they catch you. If anyone catches you."
To be Continued…