The freight elevator shook as it began to descend to Deck 7. Somewhere a massive engine was lowering the loading platform. Krivash sat in the truck and watched an array of chains, pipes, and metal beams move past them. The truck was surrounded by other heavy machines and vehicles. All the drivers looked bored. Krivash did his best to look bored, but couldn’t help but keep fidgeting in his seat. He felt like a young kid being told to sit still.
Absalom Station was the premier station in this sector of space. At the center of the station was a massive dome, called the Eye, which was home to all of the rich people and large organizations. Krivash had only managed to get in and look around a couple times; the place was wondrous with all of its greenery and parks. Surrounding the Eye was the Ring which was full of neighborhoods that housed those who were doing well in life, just not well enough to live in the Eye. From the Ring came the Arms; they branched out from the Ring and acted primarily as the docks for interstellar ships.
Krivash was most familiar with the Spike. Beneath the Eye, the Starstone Reactor was housed. It powered the entire station. Surrounding the reactor were numerous decks that were loading and staging platforms, but over time they became the slums of Absalom Station.
With a jerk, the platform finished moving. The massive doors began to pull apart revealing Deck 7. It somehow looked identical and different compared to Deck 5 where Krivash lived. The floor went on for several kilometers. The deck ceiling was about ten meters high. Most buildings where built into the deck, spanning the gap from floor to ceiling. Arrayed throughout each deck was several dozen load bearing columns.
Someone honked at Krivash. He had been staring into the unfamiliar deck and it’s forest of columns. He forgot that he was supposed to be driving a truck. He drove into the street and found the first empty lot he could find. He parked the truck and ditched it.
Krivash went and found an alleyway and sat down behind a dumpster. He had to find someone named Dismember and steal a truckload of his guns. Should be easy. Krivash was a professional truck stealer, and finding one full of guns shouldn’t be so hard.
For a few hours, Krivash beat the streets. He took in the sights, and familiarized himself with the deck. The buildings and the streets were identical to his home deck, which fouled his sense of direction more than once. After a time, Krivash found a strip of bars and seedy looking structures and felt like he had come home.
Surely someone in these bars knew who Dismember was. Krivash only need locate and join one of the gangs on this deck to quickly learn where the rest were, and then he could go talk to Dismember. Krivash worried for a moment that his life would be in danger for ganghopping, but he realized his life was already in danger. He didn’t need to stay here, so he only had to not get shot long enough to return to his deck. If people started trying to shoot me, at least I’d have found some guns.
Several of the bars in this district definitely had thugs in them. Whether they were gang worthy was another question. How do you judge someones gang-liness? Wait—were gangs and mobs different? How could you tell?
Krivash decided not to talk to anyone in the bars. His tough guy act needed some practice, and he didn’t want to look stupid in front of other tough guys. Krivash had another idea: he could look for people who sold guns. He needed a gun, didn’t he? Gang members always had guns.
There were a couple gun merchants on this deck. Visiting their stores revealed that they, despite what Krivash had heard, still had a lot of guns for sale. Krivash meandered into a couple stores and loitered for a moment. He asked to see a pistol here or there. He was alarmed at how heavy they were.
“First time buying a gun, eh?” the portly gun merchant asked, giving Krivash a speculative eye.
“Nah. I’ve owned lots of guns before. Just never owned one this—uh, color.”
“That’s Sarcesian gunmetal. It’s iridescent when you look at it just right.”
“Really?!” Krivash said, tilting the pistol back and forth in the light.
The merchant sighed, but his friendly smile didn’t dissipate.
Krivash’s mouth kept digging. “All right, fine. I’ve never owned a gun before. My specialty is rifles. Big ones.”
“What’s your favorite model?” the merchant said, drily.
“That’s not a gun.”
“You’ve never seen them, because they aren’t for sale.”
“I’ve never seen one, because that’s not a gun.”
This is my worthiest opponent.
The merchant motioned for the pistol back. Krivash reluctantly handed it back. The weight of the thing was comforting.
“Over here.” the merchant said. He walked to a different counter and pulled another pistol from a shelf. “This is a good one if you are a first time buyer.”
It was a smaller pistol. It didn’t weigh as much, and in Krivash’s experience with guns, weight was everything. He looked down the sight, trying to look cool, but realized he had no idea how to sight a gun.
“It’s decent little semi-auto. Packs a punch for the cost. It’s good for self defense.” the merchant continued.
Krivash thought back to being in Grimmel’s hand, dangling above the ground. He had felt small, weak, pathetic. It made him want to curl up.
“I—I don’t have any money.” Krivash said finally.
The merchant sighed again. Krivash was testing his patience. He picked up the pistol, returned it to it’s padded case.
“I can give you a truck for it!” Krivash said.
“Yeah! Like a trade. You give me the gun, and I give you the truck.” Krivash said. He pulled out the fab and held it up.
The merchant eyed the keys. “Is the truck stolen?”
“I stole it, but then someone gave it to me.”
“I get the sense, kid, that you are in deep shit.”
“I didn’t know what else to do with the shovel.” Krivash said.
The merchant smiled his warm smile again. He reached back for the gun. “Take good care of it. It’s my last one.”
“But I wanted two. It’s a big truck.”
“Ha. All of my stock is limited right now. My suppliers guns have been going missing.”
Krivash’s antennae twitched.
The kindly gun merchant parted with the pistol for the truck. He was nice enough to kick in some ammo, too. He had wheedled out of the man that his supplier had their storage facilities on one of Absalom’s Arms, and that for the last few weeks there has been a large amount of gun theft.
Krivash was stalking through some shipping containers out on one of Absalom’s Arms. There were only a few armed security guards on duty, but that wasn’t too much of a problem for Krivash. He was a defense barrier subversion expert. There wasn’t a fence he could climb.
There wasn’t a lot of activity. Krivash slowly climbed his way up to the top of a three tiered stack of containers. He had a much better view of many of the loading and unloading zones on the Arm. He saw down and enjoyed the view. Through several of the docking zones he could see out into the inky void of space.
Krivash didn’t often get to look out into space. There were not many windows where he lived. He loved how small it made him feel, and that made him feel safe. It was like there were millions of little white eyes looking down on him, and they wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. Krivash wondered if he’d ever get to go out there and explore. Absalom Station had been his only home. He heard numerous stories from travelers and laborers about the strange, colorful, and exotic worlds that were hiding out there. He desperately wanted to go to one.
In the distance there was a loud clang. Krivash snapped his head around, but didn’t see anything. He saw the nearby security guards looked at each other. They started talking, one shrugged, and the other walked over that way. Krivash tracked him as he walked. He circled this particular lot and then came back. It seems whatever it was, it wasn’t his problem.
Krivash climbed down and made his way in the direction of the clang. The containers were all in neat rows, so it was easy for Krivash to find his way. He made it to the fences before he saw shadowy movement in the next shipyard.
Krivash listened for a moment before going up and over the fences. The next yard had a greater array of barbed implements at the top of the fence, which slowed him down, but only for a moment. His chitin was perfect for rolling over spikes.
This loading yard would have been much more difficult to sneak around if all of the defenses hadn’t been shut down. Krivash noted the cameras and the lenses for trip lasers, but someone was kind enough to pave the way for Krivash. His heart, or hearts, he was never clear on that, started to beat more rapidly. This was it. People were hear to steal guns.
As he neared the center, Krivash could hear more and more hushed whispers. From the sounds of it there were a lot of people here. They had a tent and a laser cutter and were cutting straight into some crates. Once they were open, they moved the tent and the laser cutter and started again. The rest of the people surged forward and began moving massive black boxes. The containers reminded Krivash of the one his pistol had been in.
Krivash’s heart, or hearts, soured when he saw where they were moving them into a massive truck trailer. This was actually going to work.
Suddenly all of the flood lights in the yard came on. Nearby there was shouting, and even louder, there was gun fire. A new wave of people appeared, streaming between the containers and began to shout at the would-be thieves. A gun fight opened up and all became chaos.
Krivash hid as many of the thieves ran straight in his direction. They all streamed past, cursing loudly as bullets and lasers scored the metal crates around them. Krivash darted through corridors, trying to stick to the long shadows cast by the bright lights. He was careful to keep the gun fight in his line of sight. Several more times he had to find cover as the battle threatened to overtake him.
Finally Krivash could see the cab of the truck. He got over excited and ran at a full sprint to the cab. He crashed into someone who was backing up between crates. He scrambled to his feet and made for the truck when he heard the stranger shout at him.
“Get on the ground, now!” the stranger yelled at him. “I will shoot you.”
Krivash stopped and turned to look. Absalom Defense Force. Krivash recognized their race as a Lashunta. He dove to one side and tried to scrabbled around to the passenger side of the truck. The person didn’t shoot at him. He turned to wait and pulled out how new pistol.
The officer came around and saw Krivash waiting. They had their gun trained on him, and looked way more confident with their rifle. Krivash trained his pistol, but then realized something important.
“Wait! Stop! Don’t shoot me! It’s not even loaded!” Krivash shouted. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box of bullets as proof. The stranger rushed him. Krivash realized his mistake and dropped the box; all of the bullets sprang out of it and rolled across the steel plating. He tried to shout again, but the stranger slammed his rifle butt into Krivash’s face.
Krivash woke up in small jail cell. He wasn’t alone, there were other people here and similarly cuffed. Most of them had bruises and cuts. It hadn’t been a good night for anyone here.
There was a nondescript hallway outside of the cell. Other cells were nearby and were similarly stuffed with miscreants. As Krivash peered out, he saw a Lashunta officer enter through a door at the end of the hallway. Judging by the color of their slender antennae, it might even be the same one that nabbed him.
As she walked up she began speaking loudly so everyone could hear. “Listen, we all know you are working for Dismember. One of you is going to talk, so volunteer if you want to save us the time and cut a deal.”
“Oh! Oh! I’ll talk!” Krivash shouted excitedly.
For a couple minutes, Krivash’s life knew only clenched fists and sharp kicks. But after a time the officer was able to extricate the hapless shirren.
They brought him to a simple room. There was a table and a couple chairs within. A kiosk in the corner offered coffee in reusable cups. Krivash drank as much coffee as he could manage before the Lashunta officer joined him.
She was dressed in a pressed uniform. She had caramel colored skin. As with all Lashunta, their eyes seemed larger than other races, and they also seemed more luminous and expressive. She had two delicate, slender antenna coming out of her forehead. She had a polite and gracious smile, but her eyes also said she wouldn’t tolerate nonsense.
“You can call me Ashraya. I appreciate you cooperating.”
Krivash didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure what to say. He was willing to talk, but he didn’t actually know anything. He wished Cyan were here.
Would this be better? she said directly into his mind.
“Nah, I can talk.” Krivash said, still wary.
“I don’t often meet shirren who speak with their mandibles.”
“I didn’t learn to speak with my mind until I met other shirren.”
“I’d like to hear your story someday, but right now I need you to talk about Dismember.” Ashraya said politely. “We can offer you protection, and even move you into the Ring.”
“Your offer is tempting, but I don’t work for Dismember.”
“Then why are you here?” Ashraya demanded.
Krivash flinched. She had been so polite and composed. He wasn’t ready for her to resume her intimidating officer demeanor. She sighed after a moment. She smoothed her uniform in a habitual manner.
“What can you tell me then? If you don’t work for him, why were you there? Why were you trying to get the truck?”
“That was you?” Krivash segued, his only defense mechanism.
“Yes. I was going to shoot you, but your gun had it’s brights on.”
“You were clearly some idiot kid with a gun you found. You hadn’t removed the barrel plug yet.”
“I leave it that way because I like the bright color.”
“If you can tell me, right now, what color your plug was, I’ll let you go.”
“Good guess, but no. I lied about the plug. “Brights” refers to the backs of empty barrels.”
“You could see that my gun wasn’t—”
“Kid. Tell me something, or I’m putting you back in the cell.”
Krivash’s antennae twitched nervously. “I was sent to this deck to steal a truckload of guns.”
“No! I’m not lying! I’m from Deck 5. Grimmel sent me to get him some guns.
“You know Dismember, and Grimmel?”
Krivash nodded. He recounted his story. When he was done, Ashraya nodded solemnly, and then that polite smile returned to her face.
“Good news, kid. I’ve been leading a task force to take down some of the meaner slum gangs. Grimmel is next on my list, and I could use a snitch.”
Krivash the Roach is my character in the table top role-playing game: Starfinder.