Krivash felt cold as he turned off the truck. Pulling the fab out killed the engine—the heat and the vibration sharply dying off made him realize how comfortable he was sitting in the cab.
The lot he had found had several other trucks in it. He felt confident that the stolen truck wouldn’t be immediately found here. He was only ten or so blocks away from the bar. Krivash didn’t expect to find the men, but this was the only place he knew to look.
It took Krivash several hours of wandering before returning to the truck. He wasn’t sure what to do with the guns. He felt like a small child trying to find a way to make sure mom and dad wouldn’t be mad. Why couldn’t it have just been fruit?
The truck was where he left it. He felt a touch disappointed—why couldn’t someone have stolen it from him?
The cab door barked loudly as it closed—almost with a note of finality. Krivash looked at the steering apparatus and fumbled for the key fab.
Something sharp was pressed against his throat. Both of Krivash’s antennae were grabbed in a fist and his head sharply pulled back. Krivash tried to jerk his hands up in a submissive gesture, but the hand in the pocket merely succeeded in dramatically billowing his coat. The other hand successfully made it up.
“A brown roach in a brown coat. I wouldn’t have imagined that you were stupid enough to come back here,” said a woman’s voice, deep and throaty. Krivash immediately imagined an eye-patched marauder captain.
“Wait—is this your truck? I must have gotten in the wrong one. You shouldn’t leave your doors unlocked, you know.”
A brief exhalation of amusement from the pirate captain, but the blade did not move. Krivash pressed his luck.
“I was hoping to leave these here so that the owner could find them!” Krivash fished the fab ring out of his pocket. He dropped them on the seat next to him. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you. I didn’t know this wasn’t my truck.”
“Do you listen to yourself while you speak?”
The truck door opened and a stocky man was standing there, looking pleased with himself. He apparently had thought his roach trap had worked! But no one had ever captured the Roach before, not even this man. He just didn’t know he failed yet.
“Sir! Is this your truck? I found your keys in an alleyway and wanted to return them.”
He could sense more than he could see the incredulous look the man and the woman shared. Good, they thought he was harmless and an idiot. All according to plan.
“Get out,” the woman ordered.
Krivash hopped out. Hands still in the air. His antennae twitched nervously once they were free of her iron grip.
“Did you find the girl and the rat?” The man asked.
“No, this bug was alone. Got him in the cab.”
Krivash made a mad dash away from the pair. He didn’t make it far, a massive fist collided with the side of his head, throwing him into one of the trucks massive tires. Krivash fancied himself a tough guy, but he knew when to hold ’em—and when to black out.
Krivash raised his head up. He was in a small room, lying on the ground. A woman was standing in the narrow doorway. He recognized her voice as the woman from the truck.
“Where am I?” Krivash asked, fidgeting with his antennae. He found his feet and brushed himself off. All of the stuff in his coat was gone.
“Grimmel wants to see you,” she said, ignoring his question.
“What did I do?” Krivash asked, trying to sound harmless. “I gave the damn truck back!”
The woman grabbed him by a shoulder and pushed him down a nondescript hallway. Around a couple corners, past a couple doors, and Krivash was pushed into a big room. For a meeting with someone with a fake name like Grimmel, Krivash was expecting a massive, throne room type chamber. But it was a crowded room with a bunch of people sorting guns and ammunition.
The woman steered the young shirren through the room of grim looking thugs. He curled in upon himself, trying to look small. Krivash was lead to a tall, thickly built man. He was wearing nice clothing, like he might be out to see some old friends. He perked up a bit when he saw Krivash coming, removing a pair of reading glasses and setting them down near a data pad.
Krivash knew how this was supposed to work. He jerked himself away from the woman and straightened his coat indignantly. He glared at her—noting the lack of eye patch—and turned to the man. Krivash tried to look tough while also looking for avenues of escape.
The man held out a hand. “Grimmel,” he said pleasantly.
“Uh—I am Roach,” Krivash said while tentatively shaking the hand.
“You stole my truck.”
“I found a truck with it’s doors unlocked and figured I’d move it to teach the owner a lesson!” Krivash said firmly. The excuse felt weak even to himself.
The Grimmel smiled. He looked at the floor and seemed to consider something. “Well, they certainly learned a lesson. As did I.”
Krivash’s mandibles began before his mind could catch up. “Well I hope the next time—”
“You are the first shirren I’ve met that speaks with their mouth, not their mind.” Grimmel said.
“I grew up speaking with my mandibles. I didn’t learn—”
“Another time perhaps,” Grimmel interrupted. “I was looking for your friends. The girl and the rat. Would you mind telling me where they are?” The veiled, almost unnoticeable threat in his voice gave Krivash pause.
“I—don’t have friends. I stole the truck by myself,” Krivash said.
Grimmel walked over to Krivash, the smile still on his face. He was easily a head and shoulders taller than Krivash. He smelled of nice cologne. Grimmel’s presence would have been reassuring in any other scenario.
“You are either very smart, or very stupid. You stole my truck and my guns, yet—you basically hand yourself over to my muscle. Somehow you are competent and inexperienced all at once. Tell me where the girl and the rat are.” The polite smile on his face didn’t change at all, and to Krivash it turned into a horrific parody. He felt sick.
“I don’t have any—”
“You tell me where the girl and the rat are, or I have my soldiers kill every human girl and ysoki shit they can find hiding in dirty corners of our deck.”
Krivash felt like vomiting. He had never been in trouble like this. A lifetime of stealing food and pocket change had led to this moment. It was suddenly so clear to Krivash how lucky he had been until now. He wanted to cry—but tough guys don’t cry.
“Do you think I’m lying?” Grimmel said.
Grimmel stared into Krivash’s compound eyes for a long moment. The hand on his shoulder seemed so heavy. The gentle smile was mocking him.
“Are you going to let me kill a bunch of kids? I didn’t know you were so cold hearted.”
“No.” Krivash said, defiance finding root in him. He wasn’t sure where his confidence came from, but the image of this man meeting Cyan and Kich forced something into Krivash he hadn’t felt many times before. He planted his feet and looked up into Grimmel’s eyes. “I stole your truck because you let people stupider than me drive it around. If you are gonna blame someone, blame the guy with the stupid made up name.”
Grimmel kicked Krivash hard in his abdomen. Krivash jerked several inches into the air before buckling into a heap on the ground. Grimmel stepped over him. The room quieted as everyone paused to watch their boss recompose himself.
“Grimmel is my families name.” Grimmel said, turning away. “You and you, pick several of your best men. Go to the abandoned shanties at 46XT and 288RNF. Bring all the urchins in. All of them.”
Grimmel turned back to Krivash. He knelt down and grabbed the shirren by the antennae, heaving him into the air as he stood. Krivash shrieked mentally in pain, causing those nearby to flinch at the sudden mental intrusion.
“I can’t figure you out. Most people who try and fuck me over are at least brazen enough to think they are tougher or smarter than me,” Grimmel shouted. “I can’t tell if this is an act, or if you truly are a hapless idiot who is in over his head. So we are going to find out.”
Krivash kept shrieking in pain, grasping fruitlessly at the thick arm holding him aloft. Grimmel brought his face close to Krivash’s, but he didn’t stop shouting.
“By the night cycle I will have all the damned urchins in the city locked up.” Grimmel started, his fatherly facade contrasted by his loud voice. “On Deck 7, the shithead who calls himself Dismember is buying up all the guns he can get his hands on. Take a truck, fill it with his guns, and bring it back to me. If you don’t, the urchin’s will be vented into space. You have three days.”
The hand opened and Krivash landed on his feet and fell to his knees. His antennae twitched as if they were panicking separately from their host. The pain subsided and Krivash began to calm down. Relief was flooding through him, which was quickly followed by guilt; he had a chance to make things right, but he knew that he wasn’t good enough to pull it off.
Grimmel dropped a key fab next to Krivash. The very same one.
Krivash the Roach is my character in the table top role-playing game: Starfinder.