A steady rhythm of blows echoes in the halls of the dojo. It’s 7PM on a Friday, and Kathryn Floyd has nowhere to be. Long after all the other students have left, she’s still practicing, driven by the kind of yearning only 16 years of fear and resentment can forge. She takes a break from landing her kicks on the sandbag, brushing the red hair out of the way of her eyes and readjusting her hair ties. As she gets back to punishing the sandbag, Santo Barrerra, master of the dojo, enters through the screen doors. Sliding them shut gently, he crouches nearby Kate and her practice.
Barrerra, dressed in a simple keikogi, looks to the ground, sighing. “Kate, we should talk.”
“I don’t think there’s much to talk about, Sensei.” Kate replies without even bothering to glance at her teacher.
“You’ve been practicing for about 5 hours, Kate. You really should take a break.” Barrerra gets up and holds the sandbag steady. “I can’t imagine how achy you’re going to be tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m not tired yet.” With a wipe of her brow, Kate throws in a full-force haymaker that sends Barrerra stumbling back a couple feet. He steadies himself from the recoil as Kate lands a following heel-kick, impacting the bag with enough force to rip it from its chains. The sandbag, now torn open, spills its contents onto the tatami mat below. Kate’s eyes widen as she blushes. “Oh god. I’m so sorry, I can clean that up.”
Barrerra chuckles. “I’ll be honest, I was a bit more concerned about the sandbag than about you.” As Kate heads for the hallway to get a broom, Barrerra continues. “You’ve been training at this dojo for nearly a decade now. You know everything that I have to teach you about Vibora Camesi.”
Kate, now at work sweeping up the sand, scoffs. “Sensei, you’re a hero. You are Redsnake. You face-off against Shamballah Vampires and the New Shadows. You fight to make a difference in this city!”
Barrerra crosses his arms. “Well, right now, I’m just your teacher. I’m afraid, for your own sake, I can’t show you anything you’d be able to actually use to fight the kind of monsters in Vibora Bay.”
Kate’s sweeping gets more intense. “Why’s that? You just said I know everything about your fighting style, so what do you have that I lack?”
Barrerra sighs. “It’s not about inability at all, Kate. I don’t want to be responsible for you getting hurt.”
Finishing up her cleaning, Kate rests the broom against a wall, turning her head towards Barrerra, smirking. “I took responsibility for my life ages ago, Mr. Barrerra.” She strides towards him, her arms stretched out. “You know full well who I was when you saved me way back when I was 6 years old. Do you think I haven’t changed since then?”
Barrerra recalls that day when he saved Kate and her brother, Zach, from an attack by the Dogz. Even back then, the gang had experimented heavily with the powers of Lycanthropy, and were planning to use them as subjects for sacrifice. He shudders, remembering the cage that the two had been locked in. “Kate, there are people who care about you-”
She raises her voice, moving closer to her sensei. “I already know all that!” Leaning in, she’s well within arm’s reach of Barrerra. He doesn’t even flinch. “Do you know what being a captive like that does to someone? I don’t know what you think of me or what you think I’m worth to other people or whatever. I take responsibility for my own safety. My own life. I thought training with you this long would’ve proven that, but I mean- what else would I use all those skills for? I want to make Vibora Bay safe again.” Kate takes a deep breath. “And I know I’m going to be in danger doing that. Please, understand that I’m ready for that risk.”
“Kate,” Barrerra places a hand steadily on her shoulder, “Being a hero is a lot more than taking responsibility for yourself. If that was all it was about, there wouldn’t have been a reason to try and find you.”
Kate’s face goes pale.
Barrerra continues quickly. “Listen, you have your own perspective of what happened that night. What about what it must’ve been like to be your parents? Making the call to search for you when you had gone missing? When people need to be rescued, that’s when responsibility falls upon a hero. For other people.”
As Barrerra lifts his hand from her shoulder, Kate nods. “I understand.”
Barrerra picks up the broom and dustpan that Kate had left behind, as she stands lost in thought. Barrerra heads for the door, turning back as he opens it. “You have everything you need to keep yourself safe, Kate. That’s all I can offer you.”
“Sensei,” Kate turns to face Barrerra, who pauses. “What was it like to rescue me?”
Barrerra sighs, leaving the broom right outside the door as he shuts it. He sits next to the door, as Kate walks towards him. “Well… It was frightening. I-” he chuckles a bit. “I actually had never had to do a rescue on someone so young before that. It really was more of the kind of job that someone like Black Mask or Juryrig would’ve pulled off.”
Kate takes a seat next to Barrerra. “I’m guessing the stakes were high?”
“They always are with children. My job as Redsnake requires me to be ready, at a moment’s notice, to bear that bad news if I actually fail.”
“You don’t usually handle things like that anymore, I’m guessing.”
Barrerra laughs. “Kate, I see just how well you turned out. Not just as a pupil, but as a person. Of course, I don’t go out of my way to do rescue missions, but if the task fell to me? I’d be that much more ready for it. The reward is more than worth it.”
Kate blushes a bit. An awkward silence settles in as Barrerra sighs. Then Kate asks, “What do you usually do while you’re in uniform anyways?”
“Well,” Barrerra clears his throat. “My specialty is intelligence for other heroes. Infiltration of gang dens, stealth, sometimes precision take-downs of key perpetrators.” Kate nods as she hears the items listed off. Barrerra looks back before he regains his composure. “Kate, make no mistake, these are all still situations that require you to consider the consequences for other people.”
“Sensei, nothing I’ve heard from you so far has made me reconsider trying to be a hero.” Barrerra shakes his head and sighs, but before he can make a counter-argument, Kate leans forward and looks at Barrerra straight in the eyes. “I get how much I must mean to you, all you had to go through to keep me safe for all these years.”
Barrerra interjects. “You have enough spirit to succeed in anything else-”
“But I am ready.” Kate interrupts before her master can finish. “And I know you have the experience as a hero to tell me where to go from here.”
Exasperated, Barrera gently pushes Kate aside as he stands up. “Heroism isn’t something that anyone can do.”
Kate quickly gets up too. “I know it’s something that I can.” She stands directly across from Barrera. “Please. This is what I’m devoting my life to.”
A hand on his forehead, Barrera sighs. After a moment, he straightens out. “Alright.” His reply is clear and deliberate.
Kate beams as she embraces Barrera. “Hey! Easy there.” Barrera shouts as he’s startled by the hug. “We’ll take this slow.” Kate releases Barrera, tears welling up in her eyes. “Calm down there, Kate.”
“Thank you” Kate quietly croaks out.
Barrera smiles. “We’ll get you started tomorrow, ok? And it won’t be anything like what I usually teach you in the dojo. This will be development of moral code, and valuable lessons on what it takes to survive as a hero in this business.”