Oct 16, 2021

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Slick

Slick, or Kai Fushenu, was born an elf to dual-citizenship human parents while in Japan. In a feeble attempt to get him the best environment, they brought him to Tir Tairngire, the elven nation in North America, when he was about 6 years old. Kai spent a little time in Tir, during which his knack for languages became apparent. The elves in Tir had come from all types of backgrounds and spoke many different languages in addition to those who spoke Sperethiel. Kai picked up a dozen or so languages in the time he was there.

He also found Nonasto'rent, a master of the elvish martial art of Carromeleg. Kai became a black belt in the art, returning several times over the years for further instruction. As part of his training, he also learned how to be stealthy, crafty, and to master the art of social skills. However, there was always something special about this young boy. He charmed the pants off of everyone, without seeming to try, even before his training. He was coddled and spoiled, loved, cared for, and had nothing but good come of it. He took long walks in the woods, never getting lost, learned how to spot creatures hiding in the wilderness and enjoyed his time in the forests.

Then his parents had him come to Seattle. Unfortunately they weren't very wealthy, but they did sacrifice everything to get him into the best school they could afford. It was a night-and-day existence: rich school by day, slum at night. He learned where the underworld elements hung out, and kept his ear to the ground to help himself survive. That and his keen perception skills kept him safe most of the time.

In high school he met Sara Lee, now know as Sri (her mother's name). There was always something about the tiny athletic girl that Kai loved. She was a paradox: Athletic, technical, knowledgable about the oddest things. In some ways, much like him, and in others very very different. He couldn't stand hurting things, and she had no problem with hurting things when it was necessary. He found that out when some kids from school decided to pick on him because he was an elf. He thought he had everything handled, using his carromeleg evasion techniques to stay clear of them. However, he couldn't keep it up forever. Before he had to lay a hand on them, Sri was there and giving them a serious ass-kicking. He was relieved that he didn't have to do it. It meant a lot to him that he didn't have to do that, and he was grateful to her.

Before that day, though, they did end up dating. It was brief. It was lovely. He just wasn't sure it would last. She actually broke up with him, believe it or not, so he has a sore spot in his heart for her even to this day. But they've always been the best of friends, always had each other's back. He knows he can tell her anything, trust her with anything. He tells himself that it's for the best. He will live a hundred years, or longer. He'll have to suffer through her aging and dying. He'd have a harder time with it if she were his wife. He thinks.

One day, after she had broken up with him, they were hanging out together near the Space Needle. It was a higher-class neighborhood than he was used to, but it was pretty much up her alley. He gazed up at the needle, and imagined what it must be like to sit in one of the booths in the restaurant up there. What do they serve? Not soycaf and creamer, for certain. He remembered the terrific food in Tir, and felt homesick for his people, the woods. Then he looked at Sri. He smiled. Sri was the one thing Tir might never have for him. He'd just be happy being in her presence.

She complained that she had a headache, but it quickly deteriorated. She started rubbing her eyes, harder and harder with her fists. "Kai, I don't know what's wrong." Then her last coherent sentence for a while: "Kai! I can't see!!" Kai felt his insides tearing apart, but not the way Sri did. She fell to the ground in a fetal position, retching, rubbing at her face, and he got down next to her.

He felt what she was going to do next before she did it: He grabbed her hands. Her nails were sharp. Too sharp. And she was about to start clawing at her face.

"Sara Lee!" he called, again and again. She didn't respond. She writhed, tried to curl up, tried to rip her hands from him. He knew when she'd wriggle free, he knew when she was going to knee him in the back. His caught every minute detail of what was going on: skin bulging, eyes burning, the pain she was going through.

Then it stopped. She lay unconscious under him. He rolled off her, relieved, and slapped his commlink. "Emergency services. Hi? I have a 16 year old girl, unconscious. I don't know what happened. She started having a fit. She said she was going blind. I had to restrain her. Please come. Oh, yeah, the plaza right under the Space Needle. Yes. Yes. Thank you. I'll be here."

Kai closed his eyes. He pulled the woods to himself. And he prayed. He didn't care if anyone or anything heard him.

"Sir?"

Kai opened his eyes, then hopped to his feet. "Yes, sir!"

"Is this the woman?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, I just had to fight to keep her from hurting herself. She's strong for her size."

The man spoke on a radio headset, and then motioned to an ambulance. Paramedics came with a stretcher rig. They carefully loaded her on, and Kai followed the medics and the drone to the ambulance. He accompanied her to the hospital, gave them her name when she got there, and got hold of her mother after several calls.

His stay in the hospital was difficult. Suddenly his senses had come alive. More so than ever before. He could hear a patient's heart beating in the next room. He could read the chart labels from across the room. His clothes' texture was so rough he could feel individual fibers. He kept lapsing into meditative states to weed out the sensory overload. Occasionally he was interrupted by a doctor or nurse, or another patient asking if he was okay. He was only okay when he was meditating.

During her hospital stay, Sri accidentally stabbed herself, 3 nurses, 1 doctor and her mother with her nails before she got control of herself. This led to a lot of issues, because her nails were impregnated with a fast-acting venom. Kai narrowly escaped being clawed a few times himself. Everyone was fine after a bit, it just paralyzed them. But Kai was there when Sri came out of paralysis from stabbing herself.

"Are you ok?"

"No, I'm not at all ok."

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know what I am anymore. And I'm afraid my father won't love me anymore. And I hurt my mom. I'm afraid I'm going to hurt everyone."

"Sara Lee, that was an accident. Of course you're not going to hurt everyone."

"I might even hurt you."

"I won't let that happen, Sara. I can take care of myself."

"No, you can't. You need me."

"Well, I certainly would like to have you around. But I don't think I need a bodyguard."

"It's not your body that I need to protect."

He thought about that for a very long time.

Eventually it became apparent that the venom acted as a truth-syrum after the person came out of paralysis. Sara was telling the truth, but only as she knew it.

But she wasn't far from the truth, he eventually decided. Kai's perceptions out of control, he started reading people. The pores of pooling sweat, the thrum of their pulse in the neck, the flare of a nostril, the size of a pupil, the clenching of a fist, the tension of muscles, the curl of a lip. He could tell what people were feeling, and by extension could sometimes tell what people were thinking. Most especially his timing for communication improved, his attention to subtle cues. He had always been charming, now he was unnaturally so. When he sat with Sara, he could tell, but without wanting to, how she felt about him. It only confused him more.

Then Sara's father died. It hit her hard. She was too ashamed to talk to him about how it happened. He knew it was due to a gang fight, but she felt too guilty about it for it to be just because of a gang fight. Kai didn't know what to make of it. It was the one thing that she refused to talk about with him. Kai simply forgave her and went on with taking care of her until she was released from the hospital. Now, she was 17. It took a long time for her to heal.

Kai continued to be friends with Sara, and they joked around about living together as roommates. Kai worked on his newfound powers, turned out he was an adept. He felt a little cheated that he wasn't a magician, but he also secretly felt grateful that he wasn't what Sara had become. Sara never told him the full extent of the changes she had undergone, but Kai got to overhear the doctors talking to Sri, Sara's mother, and he couldn't help but overhear everything they had to say. Sara was goblinizing, they said. Impossible, she said. Then it was a curiosity. Eventually it would have been a case of which medical research facility Sara would live in for the rest of her soon-to-be unnaturally short lifespan but Sri pulled rank and money, pulled contacts out of her ass and "arranged" to have her daughter come back home -- and her medical files deleted. Not too long afterwards, some specific doctors and medical staff were missing and presumed dead. Kai didn't talk to Sara or Sri about it. He could simply read it on their faces.

And that's how Kai came to suspect that Sri wasn't just a b-rated movie star. Her dark glasses, always wearing gloves, the deep lipstick, the obvious make-up, the hair scarf -- Oh, if you checked you'd probably find several movies and even trace some royalty checks, but not enough to explain her extravagant lifestyle and the expensive high school. He wasn't sure what she was, but when the term "Shadowrunner" became a household word, he suspected that that was what Sri was. Did Sri and Sara do it together?

Then one day Sri turned up dead of a drug overdose. Or at least that's how it was explained. Kai quickly found out about the identity swap; there was no way that Sara would be able to pretend to be Sri without him knowing it. And so he put on appropriate displays of grief, attended Sri's funeral in Sara's name, said his condolences to Sara under Sri's hair scarf and tinted glasses, and did his best to leave his friend to her new world in the upper-crust section of Seattle.

Not three days had passed when Kai got a circumspect note from alias Sri. "Kai, darling, I have to go through her things. I know you were her best friend, and I think there are things here she would want you to have. Please come to the house. If you prefer I can pick you up on Sunday at 4pm. S"

Sri picked him up in her flashy sports car on Sunday at 4. "I'm so glad you could help me with this. So tell me how things are going?"

They drove up to Redmond Estates, and held light conversation. When they pulled through the electric gates and into the garage, alias Sri then led him into the house.

"Come with me to the parlour first."

He felt uncomfortable. While he could occasionally see a flash of Sara, the resemblance to her mother was amazing. The gloves, the glasses, the hair, the height. Sara even moved like her mother.

In the parlour, Sara removed the glasses and he saw the familiar eyes. That made him feel much better. She removed her gloves and hair scarf. He could see some scars and stitches, still healing, from recent surgery.

"Sara? What happened?"

"You might as well just call me Sri. I had some ---enhancements. I figured I should work with what I have. I have another more major surgery scheduled for next month."

"Did they..."

"No, these are enhancements. Adding, not taking away. I won't catalog them for you. Hopefully you'll just see them in action."

"Okay. So did you want me to take some of your stuff out of the house?"

"Actually, yes, but that's not really why I asked you to come here. Come, sit down. Take a breath -- or as many as you need. Let me know when you're ready."

He felt a big weight on his chest. He sat across from her on a chaise lounge. He really felt he should never have had any idea what a chaise lounge was, but he knew it when he saw it. It was gaudy, leopard print. He closed his eyes. He took two breaths and brought the forest to him. Another five or six breaths and he opened his eyes.

"Ok, go ahead."

"Kai." She reached out and took his hands. She looked deeply into his eyes. "I have to do something really big. And I am scared, and I don't want to do it alone."

His heart raced. He squeezed her hands gently. She winced. He looked down at her hands, and noticed the neat tiny stitches along the sides of her hands, he turned them over.

"They'll be activated next week."

"Do I want to know what they did?"

"No, not yet anyway."

"Your claws?"

"They're just fine. Except one. But really, it's ok. Kai, you're changing the subject."

"I'm sorry. Please, continue."

"I want to keep up the pretense of being Sri. Even when I think I'm safe here at home. And to do that completely I have to take it another step. I need to be able to pay the bills for this place."

"Yes, I know," Kai said, resigned.

"You know?"

"Well, I think I know anyway."

"I can't keep any secrets from you, can I?"

"No, not really."

"Well, I have to do -- that. And probably quite often. The work and fees will change, but the expenses to keep up this facade won't change much. I could use some help."

"You know I'll do --almost-- anything for you."

"I need a negotiator. You could be the best in the business. I want you to be my agent."

"Your -- agent?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Uh -- you said you know."

"Yes. I was hoping that I'd work --" He swallowed hard and took a breath. "I will gladly be your agent, Sri. Any time."

"Do you understand what you're getting yourself into?"

"Probably better than you do. I live in the Barrens."

"Oh, right."

"Sri, I promise I will work on my contacts, and I will work on my skills. Can you promise me something in return?"

"Sure, Kai, what?"

"When you're ready, when I'm ready, and whenever you can -- please take me with you."

And that's how Kai became a shadowrunner. He began setting up contacts for Sri, who worked under the street name of Stalker. Second-story work. Cat burgling. Some wetwork. Usually working alone. When she was Sri, they only spoke on rare occasions, perhaps going to the mausoleum together as part of one of Sri's infamous Sunday drives. Otherwise Sri lived alone, had no friends to speak of.

Stalker was another story. She had Slick, her Face companion, set up her jobs, and she did the work. Impeccably. One day, her street reputation might match the mysterious runner Nightmare who had disappeared a short time ago never to be seen on the streets again.

While working the rumormill in Seattle, keeping his ear to the ground as usual, Slick met with the second most interesting person he'd ever meet, an elven mage named Lightning.

Kai completed his black belt, and one day Stalker approached him in The Pit, where Kai sat talking to some new kid on the block.