Coming to Close

Let’s rip the band-aid off: Emily and I are going to stop regularly making posts on this blog.

We’ve discussed it, and this blog has become more like a homework assignment rather than the fun blog it was when we started. We are becoming interested in starting newer projects that we will hopefully find are more fun.

For our few dedicated readers, we appreciate you coming along! Emily is going to start a new blog eventually called OneDrunkGoth where she will review horror subjects and pair them with beers!

I will be starting a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition content blog where I will create monsters and races. My first monster is currently in development and I’m going to try and start the blog this year.

There is a very, very good chance Emily and I will start a different blog involving flash fiction. We will write much shorter, improv stories rather than the almost-an-actual-short-story that Write Makes Right became.

I’m sure we’ll be uploading here when we get these up and running. Don’t kill your notifications for this blog just yet!

I’m sure Emily or I will also sporadically post here. The original purpose of the blog was to communicate with each other more after Emily moved away. We are closer as siblings, so I think the blog was a success.

Thanks for your laughs, thanks for your kind words, and thanks for reading!

—DTM & EMS

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Am I Actually Being Productive?

Emily—you said something to me a while back that I basically haven’t stopped thinking about. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “you keep starting new projects to ignore the fact that you don’t have a hobby.”  While I don’t remember it clearly, I do remember the questions it made me ask myself.

Do I start new projects to ignore the fact that I have no persistent, passionate hobbies?

Do I continue to start new projects to cover up the fact that I’m not finishing projects?

Am I actually being productive?

My friends like to give me crap because I’m basically always planning a new project: a new blog, a new RPG campaign, a book I want to write, rules for a new system; it’s all in good fun. They love to point out that I have no time left in my week. My partner loves to laugh with me every time I have a new idea I want to chase.

A big problem I face is that many of my projects don’t have designated end dates. This blog started and doesn’t exactly have a stopping point. When we started Write Makes Right, we didn’t really have an end point in mind. I want to start a third blog publishing DnD content, and that also won’t really have an end date in mind.

I don’t have a lot of free time anymore, so if I want to pursue these things I need to become a work horse, or I need to start cutting out more of my free time. Or the third option: I can be more productive with my time. I can make schedules and set deadlines.

But lets back up and revisit the questions before. I keep myself really busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m being productive.

Do I trick myself into believing that doing anything is productive? Or should I cut the fat and find a few core projects to focus instead of trying to do everything? Right now, on a given week where I’m working a bunch of stuff, I work nearly every night. That means I’m quite busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean productive.

So what is productivity then?

Productivity_Definition

Does it need to be defined by input and output? Does it need to be defined by the value of the work? I think the first thing I need to do is define productivity for myself.

I work on stuff as often as I do because I want to build experience and form creative habits. I would love to eventually be a writer and designer for games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. But first I need to practice doing this on my own. The idea of a savant who is genius from the start is a lie, and I know that if I want to eventually pitch these things to companies, I need to have experience under my belt.

I take a lot of inspiration from the German Bauhaus school and it’s artistic movements. I learned about it in college and I was enamored with it. The original Bauhaus school was a bunch of designers and artists who had grown tired with the movements of the past, and came together to create a school and a collective. Just to push art forward and create new and interesting things based on newer, more modern ideologies. Many great designers were part of it back when it was still a thing. A lot of artists used the school to create great volumes of work that we still emulate today.

That’s the idea I am trying to encompass when I’m toiling away at the things I want to create. Maybe I shouldn’t bother wondering whether the thing I want to create is going to have value. I think I value the journey a lot more than the product.

Important Thing #1: I place more value in the journey, rather than the product I create.

But let’s back up. What if I stretch myself too thin and I botch the landing? If one spreads their attention between too many ideas, none of those topics get the attention it deserves. It’s cool and all that I have so many things I want to do, but instead of adding more to the workload, perhaps it would be better to form a list and then work on them one at a time.

I could also make the argument that a lot of things don’t get worked on. I have a list of things I want to create and accomplish, but they are always put off because I have something more important to work on—usually Rogue Trader prep or blog posts.

I have always known that I work better and more creatively when my deadline is close. It was probably the most important thing I learned in college: when under pressure, I perform better. This is still prevalent today, it’s the reason I keep trying to start projects and activities that have an inherent, “thing is needed on this day.” Seven Degrees of Smudde, Write Makes Right, and Rogue Trader all have deadlines I need to meet, and as that deadline looms I become far more productive.

There it was. I used the word productive candidly. So what can I learn about this?

Important Thing #2: I need to be completing things on a deadline.

That one makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be concerned with productivity if I wasn’t concerned with time, right?

We should also consider that a lot of my projects are things I would like to do, not have to do. No sense adding deadlines upon deadlines for each project I come up with. I’m sure I’d get a lot more done, but I’d also be a stressed out, anxious mess.

One of the above definitions of productivity is: “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”

I already talked about how I don’t necessarily want to measure my productivity in an input to output ratio. But perhaps I can instead group my ideas by overarching categories and treat it as one large, spanning project. Then it will be easier to dissect everything into smaller steps that I can complete on deadlines. I can complete more pieces of larger wholes and still go on a longer journey while also having easy to accomplish goals.

Important Thing #3: Categorize individual ideas into larger wholes so that I can complete larger ideas by finishing smaller pieces.

I have tons of things I want to create for Dungeons and Dragons, Rogue Trader, and eventually my own RPG system. It only makes sense that I take all the elements that fit into one category and begin doing treating it as one whole. Instead of trying to contextualize wanting to create seven new player races, and dozens of new monsters, I can instead think of it as my “DnD Project” with the goal of completing one piece per month. Instead of trying to write chapters simultaneously, I can instead think of it as a book where I tackle smaller parts.

All of this probably seems really obvious to many—if not all of you. But I struggle to contain my wandering mind, so parsing all of this helps me slow down and find my stride. My mind wants to spend its time trying to manage my energy, when really I should instead try and manage the workflow so that my energy is spent more efficiently. Whenever I want to do something, for an example, create a new class in Dungeons and Dragons, my brain thinks, “Yeah, if I just buckle down and get to work I should be able to squeeze this in.” But that’s not really how anything works. It’s a romantic idea to believe that I am a content creating machine, but I’m just setting myself up for failure.

—DTM

 

 

 

Stop Banking on Curiosity

In the past couples months I’ve had some serious trouble finding a book that urge me to keep reading. I read the Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, and that book had me vibrating in my chair waiting until I was able to pick it back up. The first book in that series was a little slow and weirdly esoteric, but at a certain point I was hooked. This dude came into the river and noodled me like a catfish. The second and third books I willingly jumped into his boat and wished for him to whisk me away.

Now that I’ve finished that series—and I’m changed in deep, physical ways—I’ve been chewing through books trying to find the next person to enrapture me. But I’m having trouble. Many books I’ve been reading end up being a drudge, and for the first time in my life I actually put a book back without finishing it.

I keep seeing this trend in books where they structure and write their stories so that pieces of the puzzle are sprinkled throughout the book. That’s all well and good, but what you are doing is banking on my curiosity to take me to the end of your story. Curiosity is a cool element to stories, but more importantly I need to know what the book is about.

Stories are about problems that a protagonist must overcome. That is a very simple way of phrasing a complex idea. Curiosity is making me search for an answer. Purpose drives me to read until the conclusion.

Listen—I can look up your answers. If you write a book and the big thing that’s taking me to the end of the book is a black box, your book won’t hold my attention. I can go find the answer in your book and then put it away. I can look it up online to sate my curiosity. Why should I care about your black box?

This is what I keep finding in books. They don’t tell me what the protagonist’s deliberate purpose is; their stories use curiosity instead of purpose to drive the narrative. And since I don’t know what the protagonists are trying to do, I have no investment. Their actions, their successes, their failures, and their sacrifices mean nothing because I don’t know what it’s all for. I know what the writer is trying to go for, but by the time I know what the goal is I can no longer be so emotionally invested.

It can get confusing, because most books are pretty good about telling you what the protagonist is attempting to do, but there is a difference between telling me that a character needs to achieve something, instead of telling me what they are trying to achieve.

I just a read a book called The Stars are Legion by Kameron Huxley. I want to talk about the two protagonists. There is Jayd, a cunning woman seeking to save her world, and Zan, a woman who has cliche’d her memory but still has to fulfill her mission!

Spoilers inbound!

They two protagonists are… lovers? Who knows—book ain’t got time for this shit—the protagonists are separated by their duties as Jayd goes to a rival planet to negotiate peace and Zan is tossed down a recycling chute.

The book from there follows their stories: Jayd trying to protect the future of her people and her world by navigating a political nightmare, and Zan, who has to climb her way back up from the bottom of the world to the surface. But don’t worry! The two separated heroes have a plan.

They don’t tell you what the plan is up front. You have to keep reading to find out! Jayd just keeps saying things like, “It’ll all be better when we complete our plan and are back together!” and Zan has fuggin’ amnesia so even she has no idea.

For most of the book the reader doesn’t know what the end goal is. And I mean specifically. We know that Jayd and Zan have a plan to “save their dying world” but we don’t know what that plan involves. How are you going to do that? What specifically is your plan?

It is important for the inciting incident to not only kick the story into motion, but also set the stakes, or at least lay them out.

Zan’s story is one of survival, and she keeps having to face life threatening obstacles. I get a little stressed because I like Zan, I don’t want her to die, but when things don’t go as planned I have no idea what the consequences will be if she dies.

With Jayd, her two main goals were to retrieve a mysterious metal arm, steal a woman’s womb [sic], and get the hell off her rivals world. Cool! We know what she needs to achieve, but I have such a hard time being invested in her trials because I don’t know what the arm and the womb [sic] represent. What do these mean to the story? Keep reading to find out!

I had no real grasp on what the end game was until about two-thirds of the way into the book. I enjoyed reading it, but I was more enthralled with the world building than I was with the goals of the characters. The ending was a little anti-climactic because I had trouble being invested in a goal that was so nebulous.

Let’s contrast this.

Lord of the Goddamned Rings.

Frodo finds the One Ring and needs to take it to Mount Doom to destroy it at the place it was forged! Why do we need to do that? Oh, if Sauron regains the Ring, he will have power over all other races and will likely bring doom to Middle Earth!

The story can have it’s various acts, all of it’s action, and it’s exploration because we know this is moves towards the goal of getting Frodo and the Ring to Mount Doom. The Ring Wraiths feel threatening because they threaten that purpose. Without that purpose, the books plot is basically feckless. Nothing feels dangerous.

Harry Goddamned Potter.

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, haplessly defeated Lord Voldemort, and as he matures into a fledgling wizard we learn that Voldemort is going to return. Harry needs to amass the allies and skills he needs to face down the Dark Lord.

Each book in Harry Potter has it’s own plot and driving force, with various levels of success, but the overarching threat of the book, Lord Voldemort, is established immediately. With that single looming villain, we have more context for what happens and the consequences of those events. Harry can’t die because he needs to defeat Voldemort. He needs to be strong enough to face him in the end.

The Goddamned Hunger Games

Katniss Evergeen is thrust into the heart of both survival and politics as she takes the place of her sister in a deadly publicized event known as the Hunger Games. She must literally fight to survive, and when she does, she becomes the figurehead of a movement to abolish the games and overthrow the capital and all of it’s tyranny.

Katniss’s story is an enthralling one because she is a reluctant protagonist that eventually turns into a driven one. She needs to survive her fellow competitors, and eventually becomes embroiled in a civil war that threatens all she knows.

The above mentioned books establish their books plots within the first act. They might not be the most complex books, but their strengths come from the fact that they lay out the problems for the protagonist—and me, the reader—and I can go on their journey with them. When you establish a strong premise, and a strong problem to overcome, readers are dying to know what happens next. Curiosity should follow purpose, but you definitely shouldn’t use curiosity as your driving force.

I enjoyed The Stars Are Legion enough to finish it. I’d even recommend it to you because the world it sets up is super unique. I would love a follow up book! But what it and many other books do that does not resonate with me is they keep the purpose behind everything—tucked away until I, the reader, am allowed to know.

As with all rules, there are plenty of times to break this rule, but I think it’s way more important to establish goals and expectations early in a book so that I can be engrossed in the journey instead of waiting to see what it was all for.

—DTM

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Universe

First of all:

Emily, you done fucked up. This marks the first time that you not only missed a post, but here we are on Friday and you still haven’t posted.

I guess that means the blog is over. Thanks for the ride everyone. I hope you learned a lot about me and my inner workings. You’ll just have to wait until I start my next blog: Devon Degrees of Doody, now with a new writer!

Credits

Speaking of waiting, as of this week Laryssa and I are caught up on Steven Universe. We now join the frothing masses as we wait for the next series of episodes to be released on Cartoon Network.

Steven Universe (2013)

It’s a fantastic children’s show following a young boy named Steven Universe, and his adventures with the Crystal Gems: several powerful beings who are tasked with protecting the Earth. Steven himself is special: he is half Crystal Gem, and half human.

It starts off as a cheerful show about a young boy growing up and helping out around his home town of Beach City. Early episodes revolve around the town and the strange entities and magical items that cause problems.

As the show goes on, the viewers begin to learn more about who Steven and the Crystal Gems truly are, where they came from, and the trials that lay ahead of them.

With a premise like that, it sounds like this could be just another straightforward, formulaic children show about being a kid and growing up. But this show strives for so much more. There is a tight cast of characters, all completely unique and bereft of cliche. Every single character that appears on screen is deeply thought out and very developed. They all have personal and emotional arcs that are easy to get invested in.

The show is amazingly positive and teaches very complex issues ranging from simple topics like forgiving someone to much more complex issues like consent and emotionally abusive relationships.

The actual story line of the show is methodically thought out. I’m sure the shows creator, Rebecca Sugar, had the entire show plotted out before they even began writing the pilot. The larger story is slowly sprinkled in as the show moves forward, hinting at the massive scope of the world and the events of the past. And as you learn more and more, you realize that very important things were hinted at in the first episodes, and you never noticed.

This show is, at its core, a show about relationships between different people and different credos. Characters who seem easy to read at first become so much deeper as more about their histories and relationships are laid bare and explored. These are real relationships these characters have, and no two characters have similar dynamic. This gives the show a wide range of ideas to play with as two characters might go on an introspective romp through the town, while the other two take to the railroads to return to their birthplace. No single friendship is duplicated, and it is a beautiful way to explain to children that no two people are alike, and therefor no two friendships are alike.

Image result for steven universe crying

This show is one part Mr. Rogers, one part Dragonball, and one part Power Rangers. The episodes can change wildly. One episode might show a cartoon fight of epic proportions, and another might be an emotionally charged reveal where people contextual how they feel about difficult to understand topics. This show works so diligently to avoid cliche that there is nothing else like it. 

Fucking real talk: this show has changed the way I write, and it helps me deal with my anxiety.

tumblr_o2b1dtmKKi1tl4fyeo1_540

My new writing style

I could gush forever, but I recommend to any of my readers to go watch this show. Just watch a couple episodes and I think you’ll see what I mean. The episodes are short, somewhere around 11 minutes on average, and it’s quite easy to binge many of them in an evening. Steven Universe gets my absolute recommendation. I’m sad I didn’t watch it sooner, but I’m glad I’ve watched it now!

—DTM

Writing Strong Emotions

So Krivash’s prelude was kind of a bummer. I knew it was going to be, when I had developed Krivash for our Starfinder game, I had most of that mapped out in my head.

Problem is—it’s a bummer story. About halfway through writing it I suddenly had some doubts: what is the point of this story? Is it’s only point and purpose to be sad? I tried to add a positive spin on it; Krivash was going to try and become the diplomat that Ashraya and Lafid saw him as, and try and give their memory validation.

Since Rogue Trader started, I’ve ended up talking to a bunch of my players and their writing. Seems that our group getting back into RPG’s has kicked off a personal writing renaissance. A common theme I’ve seen among my friends is that the writing is usually a pattern of tragedies. It makes sense: a very common thread among calls to adventure are negative emotions. You don’t often see adventurers happy from the get-go. At least I don’t.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I want to write happier things, and some of the stories I have in my head definitely end happier, but I realized a couple things as I mused on it.

It’s easier to write sad things because everyone has experienced deep, profound sadness in some way, but not everyone has experienced deep, profound happiness. It’s interesting to think about how great happiness and great sadness manifest themselves in the same way emotionally.

Not many. I’ve been thinking about this because I’m crafting a narrative for Rogue Trader, and I don’t want everything to feel sad. I had a reunion between a player and her characters lost brother, and thinking about how to act that out I realized a bunch of these things.

When you think about someone dealing with loss, you see quiet, disbelief, usually accompanied by crying.

When you think about someone experiencing great happiness, you see disbelief, usually accompanied by crying.

Here’s the thing: 99% of books I’ve read end happy. The conflict is resolved, the protagonist gets the love interest, and they all live happily ever after. So why is it hard to write happiness in the shorter form, like me and my players usually write?

We lack the time and space to develop the investment needed to feel happy. Sadness is often a shortcut.We write sad things because we believe having an emotional reaction to writing makes it good writing. Sad things are caused by emotions everyone has felt before: heartbreak, betrayal, death, abandonment.

How many of us know the feeling of suddenly having our burdens relieved? How many of us have beaten cancer? Inherited a ton of money? Found a long lost loved one?

Stories have happy endings because there is enough time for the reader to understand the characters, parse the problems that they face, and most importantly, develop an investment in what happens. This is what I hope to achieve in my writing, and what I hope to achieve in Rogue Trader.

This probably wasn’t a ground breaking thought to a lot of people, but I need to move past the point where sad things is the point of my writing. It’s neat to evoke an emotional response, but I know that I can craft stories better than that. I need to write something longer, or at the very least explore other ideas in my short form writing.

—DTM

 

Krivash the Roach: Part 6

I miss my mom sometimes.

She wanted me to be a good kid, and I wasn’t.

The police don’t really help us—we’re thieves.

Krivash pounded on the elevator door, willing it to go faster. His antennae flicked about, probing and brushing the walls in agitation. It was a larger elevator, able to carry several dozen people at once, maybe even a small car, but Krivash was alone. It was late at night.

Krivash hadn’t understood. He had only ever taken care of himself, and he had only ever taken care of those around him. He wanted to make things right when he made things wrong. He wanted to fix the things he had broken. He didn’t want help. He didn’t ask for it. He just wanted to be left alone to choose for himself.

He didn’t want a life where he had to do what he was told. No one had ever told him what to do, and he certainly wasn’t going to be told what to do now. Krivash could take care of himself.

So why did Ashraya care? She was messing with his life and the lives of his friends.

I don’t want to see you turn into someone like him.

Krivash finally understood. She had made a mistake, and she wanted to make it right. She wanted to fix what was broken. Krivash had been so self absorbed—he assumed other people were that way. It’s the way it had to be, right?

The truth of it was evident: he was in the elevator, wasn’t he?

The doors chimed politely and began to open carefully. The moment the gap was big enough he squeezed through he began running. The distance suddenly felt insurmountable. It was one of those nightmares, where you were running but your arms and legs were stuck in sludge.

The house was within sight, at the end of the block. He didn’t see Grimmel’s vehicles. Krivash almost stumbled and fell when he heard the distant pops of gunfire. A couple stuccato bursts and then all went quiet.

He kept running, although he desperately wanted to curl up and hide. His head was a swirling torrent of fear.

The street lights nearer Ashraya’s house were out. They didn’t seem broken, and Krivash still didn’t see any of Grimmel’s thugs. Krivash could see that houses door was ajar. He crept up the stairs.

Their home was destroyed. The door had been kicked in, and the coat tree was knocked over. In the living space, the TV was on, some television show continuing on as though nothing had happened. There was a spilled drink on an end table, dripping into the carpet. The couch had blood on it. There were bullet holes across several of the walls.

Krivash crouched down to take off his shoes like Ashraya asked, trying to pretend like everything was okay, but then the tension in his stomach was too much. He vomited. He was coughing when a heavy booted footstep came out of the kitchen.

“Roach? The fuck are you doing here?” said a man Krivash had never seen before.

Krivash coughed a couple more times to buy himself a few seconds, then composed himself and tried standing up. “Grimmel sent me. Wanted me to—”

A couple rushed foot steps and something heavy slammed into the strange mans head. He crumpled to the ground without a sound. Ashraya was standing there, holding a heavy looking lamp. There were years streaming down her cheeks.

“Krivash—you—you told them about me?”

Krivash stood up. “No! No I was coming to stop them!”

“They shot Lafid, because you told them about me.” She screamed at him, her emotions spilling over. “Krivash—we just wanted to help you, you—”

A bullet hole appeared in her forehead. Ashraya collapsed to the ground. A pool of blood began to seep through the carpet.

Krivash whirled around and saw Cyan standing there. A smoking gun in her hand. A van of thugs behind her. In the distance, sirens could be heard all across the Ring.

“Cyan—what did you do?” Krivash shouted at her. He collapsed to beside Ashraya, desperately trying to figure out what he should do.

“Roach, why did she know your real name?” Cyan said, her voice quiet.

Krivash didn’t answer. He stared at the dead woman.

“You were the snitch.”

“You just killed her! You killed her!” Krivash shouted into the ground. “She was gonna help—” He stopped. Grimmel’s men were gathering. Krivash stood up. If he was found out to be the snitch by all of them—

“Krivash—you bastard!” Lafid shouted behind him.

He lurched out of the kitchen behind Krivash. He had been shot several times in the chest and neck. His expression was of anger and grief. As Krivash turned, Lafid wrenched a police baton through the air, and it cracked against Krivash’s skull.

As the heavy pan connected with Krivash’s head, something in his right antennae popped. Krivash fell, and he could see the broken antennae dangling in front of his face. Gunfire from behind Cyan whizzed past into the building, cutting down Lafid where he stood. Krivash clutched at his head and rolled into the living room. He was in too much pain to stand, and he didn’t know whether it was all physical.

The sirens were getting closer. The men definitely heard this exchange. Some of them were calling up, saying they had to get out of here. Cyan was frozen in place.

Krivash slowly, staggered to his feet. He had done this. All of this. They were dead. They were dead. Cyan is a killer now. It was his fault. Cyan stared at him, her eyes already blank and her expression slack. She knew what this meant—Krivash being the snitch meant she was dead, too.

No.

Shoot me, Krivash said to Cyan.

The look on Cyan’s face crumpled, and she began to blink away tears.

Shoot me or they’ll hurt you. Krivash urged.

Cyan closed her eyes. She lowered her gun.

You said you’d give me up, remember? Krivash said. Shoot me!

He just wanted to make things right. He just wanted to fix what was broken. He didn’t mean to steal a truckload of guns. He didn’t mean to get them all mixed up in this. He didn’t mean to get Ashraya and Lafid killed.

Cyan, you have to—

“The roach is the snitch.” She called out. She sniffed away the tears.

A lot of confused and enraged voices sounded behind her, and then they all surged towards the house. Krivash turned and ran for the far window across the living room. Cyan fired her gun a couple times, breaking the window pane for him.

“He’s getting away!” Cyan shouted. Her eyes were puffy, and she wiped her nose with her off hand. She looked defeated, and alone. I did this.

Krivash paused for a moment at the broken window. The broken faces of Ashraya, Lafid, and Cyan all stared at him. His legacy.

Krivash pounced through the window into a narrow alley. The broken glass stabbed at his feet, but he didn’t fall. He turned  left and ran. Behind him he heard more angry voices, and a couple gunshots ricocheted off the walls.

The sirens reached a crescendo as several armored vehicles with flashing strobes pull up to cut off his escape. Gunfire erupted all around Krivash as police and gangsters began exchanging fire. Krivash scrabbled under a car. The end of his broken antennae jammed into the ground, and it hurt. He emerged from the backside of the vehicle, got to his feet, and kept running. From up the street, another of Grimmel’s transports smashed into a police vehicle. More of Grimmel’s people hopped out and began another firefight.

Krivash sprinted for the next alley, and several people shouted after him. A couple thugs gave chase but eventually had to stop and turn to defend themselves.

As the distance grew, it became quieter. The air became calmer. He could still hear the gunshots somewhere distant. Krivash kept running. It was the only thing he was good at.

He eventually found a quiet place near some empty dumpsters. He crouched down behind one. His world was spinning, and Krivash wanted to give up, to quit, to hide, but he didn’t know how. He never wanted responsibilities, but now he was the one responsible. He could see the stars above him now, and the starry eyes held nothing of their comfort. He was being judged.

He pulled his legs up to his chest, wrapping himself in a hug. He sank his head down and sobbed.

I didn’t kill them.

But I killed them.

His antennae twitched, and it hurt.

Krivash wasn’t sure how long he’d sat there. It was still night cycle when he stood back up. The gun fight and sirens had quieted down several hours ago. He emerged onto another unfamiliar street and looked around. More houses, but this side had more bodegas and shops. One billboard caught his eye against the darkened buildings: it showed a bunch of people lined up, all wearing uniforms and looking skyward. Words flashed across the screen.

Join the Starfinder’s today!

Krivash returned to the dumpster and emptied out his coat. He threw away the trinkets, baubles, and partially eaten pieces of food he’d accumulated. He pulled out his gun, which Ashraya had given back to him all those weeks ago, but then put it back in his coat. He shook his coat twice, brushed away dust and debris, and the coat was partially returned to it’s deep brown glory.

Krivash made his way to the docks. At first he thought the Starfinder building would be directly under the sign, but he was mistaken. A lively old lady in a shop laughed at his haplessness, but then directed him towards their building when she thought he might cry. By the time he arrived, it was several hours past morning.

For having such an impressive billboard, the office was very plain and tidy. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but it seemed like any other administration building. Krivash walked up to the counter where a greenish blue Vesk was seated. The barbs on her scaly skin were all smoothed back, and there were delicate intricacies to the patterns arrayed across her visible scales.

“Hello! How can I help you?”

“I’d like to join the Starfinders.”

“Oh! That’s great! Do you have time to fill this out?” She shuffled through pads and papers for a moment before handing him a data slip and a pen.

Krivash stood there and looked at all of the questions. Name. Date of birth. ID number. Emergency contacts.

I—I don’t know any of the answers.”

The nice lady looked at him, concerned and a little confused. “Well—we can work around that. But I do need something from you to prove who you are.”

“A nice man named Lafid signed me up.”

“Oh! Lafid!” She typed hurriedly at her terminal. “Yes! Okay, I’ll get this processing. He put in a special word for you.”

Krivash’s antennae twitched, and it hurt.

The world was threatening to spin again. He stood there, as still as he could, worried that if he moved, everything might crumble around him. He remembered sitting at the table with Ashraya and Lafid as they talked and laughed.

“So—what do you want to do in the Starfinders?”

“I want to be a diplomat.”

The vesk lady nodded agreeably. She kept working for a minute or two. Krivash could sense that she was trying to make small talk. Chit-chat.

“What do you want your name to be in our system? I only have your first name.”

“Krivash… the Roach.”

She hesitated and tilted her head in amusement. She informed him on the rest of the proceedings, where the shuttle was taking the recruits, and what to expect. At the end she smiled and waved as he left, reminding him again and again what time to show up at the dock.

“I’m sure you’ll make Lafid proud!” She said as the door opened.

Krivash’s antennae twitched.

And it hurt.

 

 

Krivash the Roach: Part 5

Krivash was already sitting in the office with Grimmel when several of his lieutenants knocked and then entered. Cyan and Kich were with them. Krivash straightened in surprise. Oh no.

Without speaking, Grimmel reached up and took a data pad from one of the lieutenants. He skimmed it over and then grunted in irritation.

“I’m going to leave and find—” Krivash began, rising from his seat.

“Sit. I want you here for this.”

Krivash plopped back down. He was really glad he didn’t need to move his head to look around the room. Cyan and Kich didn’t look too worried, and Grimmel wasn’t looking at him, so it’s probably nothing involving him.

“We’re pretty sure there’s a snitch.”

Krivash’s antennae twitched. It only involves me.

The second lieutenant chimed in, “The hit happened as predicted. The force took in Rouza and Piffen after they dropped the haze.”

Grimmel didn’t say anything. After a moment, he looked over at Krivash. Krivash did his best to hold very, very still.

“Roach.”

Was time even moving anymore? He was pretty sure neither of the lieutenants, Cyan, or Kich were moving anymore. Grimmel’s gaze must create a vortex that sucks in time. Krivash thought he was going to die long before Grimmel finished his thought.

“Have you heard any other groups been hit by the police?” Grimmel said, looking back to the group in the room.

Time resumed.

“Not that I’ve heard, but I’ve only met with groups that would probably go down in one raid.” Krivash said, trying to keep his tone even.

Grimmel was quiet again. After a moment he looked up, his look unreadable. “Do we know who the snitch is talking to?”

“People inside are pretty sure it’s Ashraya Demeza. She took down Dismember.”

Krivash’s antennae wanted to twitch so badly.

Grimmel looked over at Krivash again. Krivash forced himself to meet the gaze.

“We can’t afford to have the police interfering yet. Find out where she lives and kill her.”


Krivash had made his way to the nicer neighborhoods up in the Ring. The roads here were flanked by actual sidewalks instead of faded paint on the ground. The air smelled cleaner and the houses were nicer. None of the businesses had broken windows or flickering signs. Easily Krivash’s favorite part was that you could see space through massive plate windows in the ceiling. Depending on rotation, you could actually feel the warming rays of the nearby sun.

Krivash was in a foul mood.

He found the building he was looking for and walked up the stairs to the door. Stairs? For the door?

He knocked.

After a moment the door opened and Ashraya greeted him politely and in ushered him inside.

Her house was nicer than any place Krivash had ever slept. The entry way had a tile foyer that led directly into a furnished living room. The walls were actually painted—a subtle cream color—and matched the dark brown carpets. There was some comfy looking furniture. Ashraya asked Krivash to take off his shoes. He walked towards the kitchen, and hesitated for a moment. The carpet was so comfortable to walk on; Krivash had only ever known concrete and steel floors.

Her husband, a tall, sturdy looking lashunta, walked out of the kitchen wearing plainclothes and a blue apron. If Ashraya was a caramel colored lashunta, he was definitely some kind of chocolate. He reached out a hand to greet Krivash.

“Lafid. Nice to meet you. You timed that well—dinner is just finishing.”

Krivash desperately wanted to be rude, but something about this place stayed his sharp retort. He opted for uncomfortable silence.

Lafid smiled warmly and went back into the kitchen. Ashraya offered to take Krivash’s coat, which he did very reluctantly. All of his favorite stuff was in there.

“You don’t need to be polite. I know you aren’t comfortable. Be yourself. I’ve warned Lafid about you,” she said with a smile. “Just hear him out, won’t you?”

“When can I leave?” Krivash asked.

“After dinner.” Ashraya said. She gave him a pleading look. Krivash wished he knew how to roll his eyes.

This was easily the greatest meal he had ever eaten. The food was steaming as it was brought to the table. Krivash kept looking around, his first reaction to find the exits. He was uncomfortable. Why are they making him dinner? What do they want with him?

Krivash ate mostly in silence. A variety of utensils were on the table, and Krivash had to wait to see which big spoon was for which bowl of colorful foodstuffs. He was used to eating everything like a fruit, held in hand and eaten quickly and greedily; how food was supposed to be eaten! But Ashraya and Lafid were using spoons and forks to eat. Krivash knew how to eat with them, he wasn’t a mongrel, but it felt so fake. Eating with them made him feel like he was pretending to eat.

Even using utensils, Krivash still finished his dinner far faster than the lashunta pair. He wasn’t talking. He was listening to them talk with each other; they talked about their days, what they had for lunch, their coworkers and friends. Everything was so practiced. It felt rehearsed. This wasn’t real. They were like preening birds in a cage. Trapped.

“You all right there, Mr. Roach?” Ashraya said.

“I—uh, yeah I’m okay.”

“Did you enjoy dinner? Is there anything else I can get you?” Lafid said. He stood up, crossed to the sink and rinsed his hands off. He patted them on a towel and began to collect plates.

Krivash didn’t answer. His antennae flicked about. The air was too calm here.

“You don’t look comfortable.” Ashraya said. “You counting the minutes before I let you go?”

“No. I don’t have anything to say. You guys practice talking like this, and I haven’t.”

“It’s—it’s not practice.” Ashraya said. Her face scrunched up in confusion. “We are just talking about what happened today. Small talk. Chit-chat.” She absentmindedly swirled some type of sweet, red alcohol in a fancy cup.

“Chit-chat.” Krivash repeated. “But your days sounded really boring.”

Lafid laughed from the sink. “They might be. Maybe for you picking up groceries and cleaning the house sound boring.”

“Yeah. I’ll never know how difficult it is to purchase food with money. Then I’ll finally have something to talk about.”

Lafid returned from the sink, refilled Ashraya’s glass. He looked over at Krivash. His eyes and smile were warm. “What would you talk about Mr. Krivash?”‘

There was a long moment of silence. What the hell did these people want with him? He just wanted to go home. He didn’t want to be out having dinner.

“My day started when I woke up in a room owned by a man who wants to squish me. He has my friends, and if I try and stop working for him, they’ll get hurt. He sent me on a mission to steal someone else’s guns, and then I made a new friend. This friend tells me that I work for her now, and she sends me back into the place that I don’t want to go to. I don’t get to go out and have fun anymore, because everyone keeps making me do things I don’t want to do. Then my new friends invites me over to dinner, and threatens me when I say I don’t want to.”

While he was speaking, Ashraya’s pleasant smile began to fade. She looked down at the table. Krivash suddenly felt guilty. He hated this. Why did he feel guilty? He didn’t do anything.

“That sounds hard.” Lafid finally said. “Sounds like you don’t get to make your own decisions anymore.”

“No. I don’t.”

“It sounds scary.” He said again. His voice was comforting.

“I’m not scared.” Krivash lied.

Ashraya looked up with a smile. “It’s almost over. When you are done, I’ll let you go. I won’t bother you again.”

Another quiet pause. Ashraya smiled at Krivash.

“How old are you, Krivash?” Lafid said. He placed a hand on Ashraya’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“I don’t know.”

“Would you like to get off of Absalom?” Lafid asked.

Krivash paused for a moment. “And do what?”

“Well, Ashraya wanted me to talk to you about the Starfinder Society.”

“I don’t want to join your society. How hard can it be to find stars?”

“Original,” Lafid said with a wry smile on his face. He continued, “You could explore space for a time. You could get away from all of this. You could learn a trade, or get an education.”

“You think I could do that?” Krivash asked flatly.

“I think you could learn. You could go see new worlds.” Lafid continued. Krivash’s twitching antennae betrayed him. “You can explore planets, maybe even meet new aliens.”

“Is that your job?” Krivash asked.

“I’m a pilot. I fly the exploration ships.” Lafid said. “When I was young I really wanted to go see the stars.”

“Driving vehicles has never worked out for me.”

“Well—you seem to want to make sure no one gets hurt. You could be an diplomat.”

“What do they do?” Krivash asked, trying to still sound surely.

“They help mediate between groups of people. You would represent the Society and it’s goals, while also negotiating with peoples we may meet out there.” Lafid said.

“I think you could be really good.” Ashraya added.

“You picked a job for me?” Krivash said, his frustration bubbling up again.

“No. We wanted to talk to you. But if you are interested, I have already placed your name on the list of trainees. The shuttle leaves next week.”

“Why are you two so concerned with what I do?” Krivash demanded. He worked to keep his tone level.

“Because we care,” Lafid said.

“Why?”

“You are kid doing a dangerous job. You are doing this for your friends. Ashraya tells me you are a good kid, just a little misguided. I know you’ve grown up on the street, and I want to help you do better.”

“I am doing fine.” Krivash said. “Or at least I was—before everyone suddenly cared what I was doing.”

“We care about you because—”

“And I still don’t know why Grimmel is forcing me to work for him. I gave his guns back—”

I don’t want to see you turn into someone like him.” Ashraya shouted. She calmed herself and straightened in her chair. “I think you are a good person. You are risking your life for your friends—”

“And now I’m risking my friend’s lives for you.”

Krivash stood up suddenly and made for the door. He grabbed his coat off the rack and looked out the window to make sure no one was outside to see him leave.

“Krivash. I need your help to stop Grimmel because he has killed dozens of people, and he’s on track to kill dozens more. I’m sorry, okay?” Ashraya said. Lafid was behind her leaning against the kitchen door jam. Krivash turned to look at them, his back to the door.

“What happens if Grimmel finds out about me? You get to come home here. You have carpets, and spoons, and a bed. I get to go back and be near him.” Krivash said.

“You’d be stuck there anyway. He has your friends, right? You are helping me free all of you.” Ashraya said sharply.

“He has my friends, and that’s my fault. But I can keep working, and they’ll be okay. But you—you are risking us all, from the safety of your office.”

Anger sparked in her eyes. “I am an officer—”

“Then do your job and arrest the bad guy before he kills me.”


Krivash couldn’t sleep. It had been a couple of days since he stormed out of Ashraya’s house. He tossed and turned in his bed: he felt guilty about not telling Ashraya that Grimmel had his eyes on her.

But why should he? What did he owe her?

Krivash didn’t want anyone to get hurt or die, but if Grimmel could take care of her than Krivash could start to plan how to get everyone out of here. Grimmel may have been the wild animal, but Ashraya had locked him in the cage.

“Roach? You awake?”

The voice came from across the darkened room. It was Cyan. She had come in late, and Krivash had pretended to be asleep. He felt too anxious to talk, and Cyan felt like a stranger now anyway.

“How could you tell?” Krivash said.

“You sleep in your coat. Whenever you roll over it sounds like I dropped a box of stuff down some stairs.”

“My coat is very comfy.” Krivash said.

Cyan giggled. “Do you even have a blanket?”

“Nah. It always gets wrapped around me.”

“It’s a blanket. It’s supposed to wrap around you.”

“I’ve never slept in a blanket that wasn’t planning to kill me. It’s safer in my coat.”

Cyan laughe again. She was laying on her back, and then she rolled onto her side to face him.

“We don’t really talk anymore,” Cyan said. “Things got real messed up.”

“Yeah—yeah. I’m sorry I got you all into this. I never thought my greatest blunder would be mistaking guns for fruit.”

“It’s okay. It’s not all bad. We have jobs now—we get food and stuff.”

A long moment of quiet. Krivash knew what he wanted to say, but couldn’t find the words. They were trapped here like him, and it was his fault. He wanted to play a fun game, steal a truck, and have a good laugh about it later.

“I know the only reason we’re all here is because Grimmel is threatening you with us.” Cyan said after a time.

“I didn’t mean for it happen this way. I tried to make it right but—”

“You don’t need to say sorry. It was gonna to happen eventually.” Cyan said softly.

“Huh?” Krivash said.

“We were growing up. People went easy on us because we were small. But we’re adults now. Things aren’t easy for adults,” Cyan continued. “I wish I had never run away from home. I miss my mom sometimes.”

Krivash sat up suddenly on his bed. “You had a mom?”

“I did. I got mad at her because she wouldn’t let me do the things I wanted to do, so I ran away.”

“Where is your mom now?”

“I don’t know anymore. It was a couple years back. I shouldn’t have left my mom, or my dad.” Cyan said.

“What was it like to have a mom?” Krivash said after a time.

“She was mean, but she took care of me. I was a kid, and she was an adult. She had to worry about me because adults always have to worry about kids. She worked a lot and got mad at me a lot. But that’s because she wanted me to be a good kid, and I wasn’t.”

Krivash’s antennae twitched.

He could sense her quietly crying. She was shuddering.

Krivash got up and went over to her bed. He wrapped the blanket around her more tightly.

“I’m so scared.” She continued. “I just wanna go home.”

“Do you think the police could help? Help find your mom?” Krivash asked.

“I don’t know. The police don’t really help us—we’re thieves,” she said. She sounded confused that he would even bring it up.

Suddenly Kich walked in. He trundled over to his bunk and sat down. He groomed the fur on his face before flopping onto his back and groaning loudly.

Cyan wrapped herself up, sniffed quietly, and tried to act casually. “Where have you been?”

“I was helping find some ammunition. Found it though!”

“For what?” Krivash said, cold taking over his chest.

“They found the officer who’s been nicking our crew. I was helping load up the vans.” He said casually. Just another day on the job—arranging a murder.

“For what?” Krivash tried to sound genuinely curious. He knew he was failing.

“They’re gonna off her. Weren’t you there when Grim gave the order?”

“It’s late—are they going tomorrow?” Krivash said.

“What? No they’re goin’ now.”

Krivash stood up suddenly. What was he supposed to do?

“Cyan. Do you want to see your mom again? Even if she’s mean?” Krivash asked. Kich was squinting at him confused.

“Yeah,” she said. She seemed embarrassed that he brought it up in front of Kich.

“Even if she’s mean?”

“She wasn’t mean. She was being a mom. She just wanted what was best for me.”

What was best? For me?

Krivash ran out of the room, both Cyan and Kich calling after him in confusion. The door slammed open as he pushed through it. He ran down the hall, pushing past people, before coming to the loading zone. There were no vehicles here.

He turned and tried to walk casually out of the dock, and onto the street. Once he was several blocks down, he began running for the lift elevator.