“I can’t be a snitch!” Krivash said with a twitch of his antennae.
“It wasn’t up for debate. You get back in with Grimmel, and you tell me everything he does.” Ashraya countered.
“What if he finds out?!”
“What if you don’t go back?” Ashraya said. “If you help me, we can stop Grimmel and your friends can be safe.”
Krivash paused and looked away. She had all the cards to play, and Krivash was on borrowed time. He had to get back by tonight or Grimmel would do something terrible. He wouldn’t get to see the kids again, or Kich, or Cyan.
This police officer was really confident. Maybe she could do it, if he helped.
“I’ll need that truck and all of the guns.” Krivash said. “I need to be back on Deck 5 today.”
“I’ll be pissing someone off, but I can make it happen.”
Krivash pulled the truck into the warehouse. Grimmel and some of his thugs were waiting; many of the underlings had astounded looks on their faces. The squirmy bug had really done it?
Krivash had pitched a story to Ashraya involving Krivash single-handedly defeating Dismember in a duel. Dismember may have had the strength, but Krivash was quick on the draw!
Ashraya shot that one down before he had finished, advising Krivash to keep it simple and honest: he had stolen the truck from the loading zones while Dismember’s crew were distracted. She said it seemed “more realistic that he could pull that off.” Whatever that meant.
Krivash hopped out of the truck and went back to the trailer. He threw the door open, revealing crates full of guns. Grimmel’s people went straight to work, unloading and moving the cargo. Grimmel approached Krivash.
“How?” Grimmel demanded.
“I’m the Roach,” Krivash said, unable to stop himself.
Grimmel placed a hand on Krivash’s shoulder. “How?”
“Dismember’s gang got tied up in something, and I took the loaded truck while he wasn’t paying attention.”
Grimmel straightened. He adjusted his suspenders, making him seem mild-mannered again. “I had heard some justice had befallen him.”
Krivash was busy trying to figure out what the word befallen meant when Grimmel grasped his shoulder and spun him around towards a door. They walked together.
“I’m bringing you in. I think I have you figured out, and I think you could be useful for me. As long as you stay useful, nothing bad will happen.”
Grimmel led him to a smaller room. Both Kich and Cyan were inside, tied to chairs. They looked haggard, but alive. Krivash tried to run over to them, but Grimmel’s hand dug into his shoulder.
“Starting now, you all work for me. Don’t fuck this up, Roach.”
Krivash didn’t tell Kich or Cyan about the police. Lying to them had been hard, but he felt it would keep them safer. They didn’t believe any of it, but luckily they couldn’t figure out how he had done it.
Grimmel had elected to use Krivash as a grifter. He infiltrated other smaller gangs and act as a snitch. When Grimmel had them in a corner, Krivash would act as a liaison to have them absorbed instead of killed outright.
The irony was not lost on Krivash.
Cyan and Kich were part of the muscle now. Krivash didn’t see them as much, which upset him. He was always busy working the streets, and they stayed in Grimmel’s facility doing odd jobs. Krivash missed the days when they would steal cred sticks and food. He despised this place and all of its rules.
In addition to his new responsibilities, Krivash also had to find time to meet up with Ashraya. She didn’t want to use comm’s so she would frequently come down, or send another officer, to speak with him directly. It was always covert, but nothing made Krivash feel more exposed than being within eyesight of the officer.
After a while Ashraya decided that the safest way to speak to Krivash was to do so telepathically. She would set up meetings and they would both go to a location, sit apart, and talk about what has been going on.
Krivash began to resent her as much as Grimmel; she had trapped him just as much as the violent gangster. Worse, she was able to deflate all of his bluster, which was Krivash’s best tool.
He was sitting in a dark, off-the-path restaurant. Krivash could sense more than see Ashraya walk in and sit at the bar. She was wearing plainclothes, and had a pretty convincing civilian demeanor. Nothing to see—just a lashunta ordering a stiff, cheap drink. Krivash was facing away from her, sitting in a booth behind her.
How are things? she asked conversationally once she had a drink.
Fine. I’m supposed to be figuring out who runs unlicensed gambling dens somewhere around here. Krivash responded anxiously.
He trusts you. That’s more than we could have hoped for. Ashraya said.
Trust is a strong word. He has me in a corner and can make all the rules—like you. Krivash said, not bothering to hide his resentment.
You are doing good work. You are doing a great service. Ashraya said, pushing past the jab.
When can I be done? Krivash asked.
When we take down Grimmel. Ashraya confidently.
When? Krivash whined.
He’s been careful with his movements. You mentioned he heard about Dismember—he’s probably keeping his head down for the time being. Ashraya said casually.
Can’t you find someone else? Krivash pleaded.
No one is going to work as well as you. He trusts you and doesn’t see you as a threat to his work. It’s you, or no one. Ashraya asserted. What is he doing joining all the gangs together?
He’s gonna move on Deck 7. I asked around and found out that he wants to grab Dismember’s territory now that he’s missing muscle. You’ll guys will be shooting each other if you don’t take him down soon. Krivash huffed.
Ashraya was silent for a time. Krivash wasn’t looking at her, but he could tell she was sipping her drink. She thinks too much. She had hundreds of officers, and the longer they waited, the stronger Grimmel’s position.
You need to act fast. Krivash finally said to her. He’ll figure us out fast. I’ve only told you about the small deals. When you get ’em he doesn’t think twice—just bad luck. It’ll eventually get to a point where we have to do this blind because he’ll stop telling people his plans.
You think about this a lot. Ashraya said distractedly. This annoyed Krivash.
I don’t want to work for you, or him. The sooner it’s done, the sooner I’m out. Krivash said.
I was thinking you could come work for the police. Ashraya started. You could—
Are you kidding me? Let me be done already. Krivash pleaded.
I meant like a real officer. Ashraya clarified.
No. Put me in jail. I don’t want to play anymore. Krivash said.
What will you do when I let you loose? Ashraya asked.
It was Krivash’s turn to be quiet. He hadn’t thought about that. Before this Krivash and his buddies would steal food and money. They took care of the other brats that didn’t have anywhere to go. It wasn’t a great living, but it was fun. More importantly, they were all free.
I know you are a good kid. I don’t want to see you back on the streets. You’ll die out there. You were lucky with Grimmel. You can’t always be lucky. Ashraya said.
Krivash still didn’t answer.
Will you come have dinner with me and my husband? Ashraya said, abruptly changing topic.
Is this your plan to get me off the streets? Krivash said.
I want you to talk to Lafid. Ashraya said confidently.
I don’t want to have dinner with you. Krivash scowled. When do we meet next?
The next meeting will be at my home—for dinner. Ashraya said. Or you go to jail.
You can’t be serious. Not eating your food isn’t a crime. Krivash said in a deadpan.
You work for Grimmel. I can put you in jail whenever I want. Ashraya said, barely concealing her amusement.
You have all the cards, and the chips. Krivash said, annoyed.
Would it be nice to be free from all of this? Ashraya countered.
Yes. Let me go. I promise to never steal a truck full of guns again. Krivash said.
Krivash could almost physically feel her smile. Come meet my husband. He may be able to get you into training to become a Starfinder.