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.
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.