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Skies the Bodyguard 1

Chapter Text

Introduction

 

            A Hyperion train flies down the tracks through the Tundra Express. The inside is packed with armed guards not to protect the cargo from any potential threats, but to protect themselves from the cargo.

            In the middle car is a large, tempered glass case. And inside the case sits a person, broken in more ways than one.

            Her name is Skies, and she’s had a rough couple days.

            She’s curled up on the floor of her prison, her left side leaning against the wall. Her right side is still pretty tender.

            She looks through the glass at the three nearby guards. They’re chatting to each other, feigning nonchalance, but she catches them glancing at her every so often, their fingers on the triggers of their rifles.

            She’d grin if she wasn’t so exhausted. One leg, one arm, and one eye and these idiots are still afraid of her. Well, they have every right to be.

            Still they didn’t even bother frisking her before they locked her up. That’s their mistake. She’s carrying some pretty precious cargo.

            She pats her vest with her left hand, feeling the contents to remind her that it all still happened.  As if the lack of her prosthetics and her current predicament wasn’t proof enough.

            Part of her wants to fight back. She would never win in this state, but being shot to bits is immensely better than becoming Nakayama’s test subject.

            But she just…doesn’t have the energy anymore.

            She sighs heavily and stares down at nothing. Maybe she’ll become motivated when Nakayama starts experimenting on her. Or maybe she’ll become his instrument of vengeance. In any case, it’s going to be a long trip.

            She closes her eye and begins to resign herself to sleep when an explosion goes off.

            Before anyone has a chance to register it, more explosions go off and the train car goes flying.

            Skies’ prison tumbles around the car. She shouts and tries to keep herself stable as it crashes into the soaring guards. As it smashes through a wall of the car, she bangs her head against a wall of the cell and blacks out.

            When she regains consciousness, the first thing she sees is all white. Actually that’s all she sees. Just endless white.

            Is this the afterlife? Oh, no wait. It’s just snow.

            She groans and rubs the back of her head. It’s not bleeding but she’s going to have a massive lump for a while.

            She struggles to roll over, wincing as her right side brushes against the cell’s wall. Her prison is mostly buried in snow, but there’s just enough of a gap to see through. Not that there’s much to see. Just the sky.

            A face suddenly appears and Skies exclaims with surprise. The face grins excitedly before disappearing again.                      

            Skies blinks with confusion and tries to see where the face went when she hears a familiar tick-tick-ticking.

            She quickly curls into a ball, covering her head as a small explosion goes off, blowing off the door to her cell. She coughs as the resulting smoke plumes over her.

            Skies grabs the side of her cell and pulls herself up. As she looks around, she can piece together what happened.

            There are train tracks running along the cliff side ahead of her. A section of the track has been destroyed and the train she was on flew off. The cars are completely littering the surrounding tundra. Nobody would’ve survived. The only reason she did is because of her cell.

            The face appears before her again. “Hi!”

            “Gah!” Skies exclaims with surprise.

            The face belongs to a young girl, at least 13. She has short blonde hair with pink ribbons and has a Psycho mask strapped to the side of her face. Her clothes are mismatched but kind of adorable. She’s smiles widely as she leans in close to Skies.

            “Wow, I didn’t think anyone would survive that!” she squeals, “you’re pretty lucky.”

            “Yeah…lucky…” Skies mutters.

            “Hey, wait…I know you!” she exclaims excitedly, “you’re Skies the Merc!”

            Skies blinks with surprise.

            “Yeah! Wow, this is so awesome!” the girl cheers as she jumps around the snow. “You’re like my tenth favourite mass murderer. You used to be higher before you started working for Handsome Jack.” She says his name with such disgust it’s almost theatrical.

             Skies scoffs uncomfortably and rubs her neck.

            “Hey, wait a second,” the girl says, eyeing Skies suspiciously. “How are you alive? I heard you died down the Vault with Jack.”

            “Uh well…”

            “And what happened to you? I heard you had an awesome robot arm and leg and like a laser eye. Where are they?”

            “Uh-.”

            “And why were you being held prisoner on a Hyperion train?”

            “Um-.”

            “And how did you start working for Jack in the first place? I have always wondered that. Answer my questions!” she cries wildly as she grips the Skies’ vest.

            Skies chuckles with amusement. “Alright, alright. I’m uh I’m not much of a story teller but seeing as how you did just save my life I guess I owe you.”

            “Yay!” the girl cheers, throwing her arms into the air.

            “But first, what’s your name?”

            “I’m Tiny Tina!” She poses dramatically.

            “Well, Tiny Tina, you already know me,” Skies says, “but I haven’t been a merc for a long time. Now I’m...or I mean I was Skies the Bodyguard.”

            “Yeah, yeah, I already knew that,” Tina scoffs as she starts pushing the glass cell through the snow.”

            “Well, what else do you wanna know?”

            “Everything!” she exclaims, “from the beginning.”

            “The beginning, huh?” Skies muses as she lies down in the cell. “Well, I guess the beginning would’ve been about one year ago…”

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

 

            My entire life I had been a mercenary, travelling through space in my crappy, little cruiser, taking whatever job I could get my hands on.

            I had made a name for myself by killing whoever people wanted me to kill. I offed anyone from cheating boyfriends to high-level politicians. I had no code. It didn’t matter if it was some vigilante justice or a personal grudge. I would do the job with only one question asked: how much?

            It had been a couple weeks since my last job. I was drifting in space, scrolling through the ECHOnet, trying to find my next meal ticket when my comm started chiming with a call.

            “Skies the Merc,” I answered.

            “Heya, kiddo. It’s Handsome Jack.”

            Any moron this side of the galaxy knows about Handsome Jack: the low-level Hyperion employee who became CEO and sole owner seemingly overnight. He was one of the most powerful people in the universe. So I think my reaction of choking on my own spit was justified.

          The amusement in his voice as I hacked was annoyingly blatant. “You…okay there, cupcake?”

            “Y-yeah, fine,” I coughed and cleared my throat. “Uh how can I help you?” 

            “I wanna hire you for a very important, very special job.”

            “You…want me to kill someone…?” I asked with disbelief.

            “Not…exactly,” Jack replied, “I’m not gonna discuss it over the ECHO communicator. If you’re interested, then come to the Hyperion space station, Helios outside of Pandora.”

            I wish I could say I hesitated. I mean if I went there and refused, then he would just kill me. That’s why he wanted to discuss it in person. But all that was going through my brain was ‘Handsome Jack. Handsome freekin Jack.’

            “Uh, yeah, no problem. I’ll head there right now,” I replied without a second thought.

            “Excellent,” he purred, “I’ll have someone wait for you. See you soon, kitten.”

            After we hung up, I just leaned back in my seat, staring dumbly out the window, trying to process what just happened. I had never gotten a job from anyone nearly as huge as Handsome Jack. I had done plenty of jobs for big-name-company stooges, sure, but nobody higher than like middle management.

            This…this could be my big break! I do this job for Handsome Jack, and my name and rates will skyrocket! No more struggling between jobs, no more settling for whatever I can get; I’ll be set!

            Oh, how naïve I was.

            So I headed for Pandora as fast as my little ship could putter. It took a few hours.

            As I neared Helios I remembered feeling stunned. I had seen pictures of the Hyperion station before but in person it was incredible.

            I directed my ship into the landing bay and docked it amidst the much bigger, much nicer ships. As I hopped out, a pair of armored guards approached, guns at the ready.

            I kept my cool but left my hands at my side. I didn’t wanna to ruin my meeting with Handsome Jack by getting shot but I also didn’t want these corporate morons thinking I was scared of them.

            “Identify yourself,” one of them barked.       

            I hooked a thumb at myself. “Skies the Merc.”

            “Who?” the other scoffed. I just rolled my eyes.

            “Why didn’t you answer when you were being called?” the first asks.

            “Oh uh yeah, it doesn’t have an onboard communicator,” I replied, pointing at my ship.

            They both laughed at that and so did all the surrounding bystanders. I could see them, eyeing my ship and me, dressed in my raggedy cloak. Little did they know, I had about a dozen knives and a couple guns stashed under that cloak.

            “What’s your business?” the first guard asked.

            “I have a meeting with Handsome Jack,” I replied.

            Everyone started laughing even harder. It was really starting to get on my nerves. Wasn’t someone supposed to be waiting for me?

            “You? As if,” the second guard scoffed.

            “Yeah, why don’t you take your trash heap,” the first guard said, “and get back to whatever junkyard you crawled out of.”

            I narrowed my eyes as everybody laughed and quietly weighed the pros and cons of killing them all. But then the bystanders suddenly scurried away like rats as a man approached the two guards.

            “That’s enough,” he snapped and they instantly shut up. “Get back to work.”

            They skulked away quietly as the man faced me. He was the whitest guy I had ever seen, and I had done jobs for citizens of the snow planet, Kryo. Light hair, pale skin. And just looking at him made my douchebag alarm go off.

            “I am Mr. Blake,” he said like it was a big deal. “I’ll be escorting you to Handsome Jack’s office.”

            “Cool,” I said. He gestured for me to follow and led me out of the hangar bay.                    

            As I followed him through the halls, I got eyed by every stuck up, arrogant asshole we passed. Many of them scoffed, snorted, or commented loudly to their friends on my ‘unsightly appearance’. But I kept my eyes forward, not giving them the satisfaction of a reaction.

            Blake eventually led me to the Hub of Heroism: a monument to egotism, assholery, and Handsome Jack. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.   

            We passed through the atrium to a large elevator and Blake stopped to face me.

            “This elevator will take you straight to Handsome Jack’s office,” he said.

            “Thanks,” I replied as I stepped past him.

            “Good luck,” he added slyly as he walked away.

            I glanced after him before entering the elevator and going up.

            I was brought to the lobby first. It was big and comfortable, except for all propaganda posters all over the place. There pictures of Jack fighting some sort of great beast and taking down a whole army with just two guns.

            Somebody- or something- was standing by the door on the other side of the room. It looked like a man fused with a Loader Bot. He was standing so still I almost thought he was statue, but I could feel his eyes on me.

            I crossed the room quickly but before I could reach the door, the cyborg cut me off.

            “Uh what’s up, big guy?” I asked.        

            “Leave all your weapons,” he demanded in his robotic voice.

            “Oh, sure, that-that’s understandable,” I shrugged and removed my whole cloak. “Here, just take this whole thing.”

            The cyborg took my cloak and stepped aside.

            “Don’t mess with any of my stuff,” I snapped as I went through the door. It led into a hallway that went straight to another closed door.            

            As I walked I glanced at my t-shirt and grimaced. It was Dahl shirt I had stolen off some dude I killed once. “Wish I had worn a different shirt.”

            It was too late to worry though, as the door opened and I walked into Handsome Jack’s office.

            If I could only use one word to describe his office I would use…ostentatious. It was needlessly big with fountains, two giant busts of Jack, a couple of large couches, a trophy case. The far wall was just glass, looking out on Pandora’s moon, Elpis.

            If I was impressed by the Hub of Heroism, you can imagine how blown away I was by his office.

            Leading straight from the door, up a couple of stairs, was a large desk with a big, yellow chair behind it. And sitting in that yellow chair was Handsome Jack himself.

           “Hey, there she is,” he boomed as he stood up. “Just the lady I’ve been waiting for. Come on, have a seat.”

            I approached his desk and sat in the round chair across from him. I was…tense. I wasn’t scared of those Hyperion guards or that big cyborg, but Handsome Jack…Handsome Jack was different. He radiated power and confidence. I had never been around someone like that. It wasn’t that I was scared, really, I just…I felt like I really wanted to impress him.

            And I had to wear the brand Hyperion hated most.

            “You want anything? A drink, something to eat?” he asked, flashing a charming smile.

            “Uh no, no I’m good,” I replied. I was actually starving but I could not show any kind of weakness. I was just begging my stomach not to growl. “S-so uh what’s this job?”

            “We’ll get to that,” he said, waving away my question as he sat down. “But first, I’d like to ask you something.”

            He tapped on his keyboard, bringing up a holographic computer screened. He typed something then turned the screen to me, showing the picture of a man. “Recognize this guy?”

            I did. A few weeks back I did a job on Demophon for some Jakobs employee that involved killing a Hyperion employee. I had done countless jobs like that before. Corporate scum liked murdering the opposition but rarely liked getting their hands dirty. But why did Jack care?

            I considered lying to him but if he was asking me then he already knew.

            “Yes,” I replied bluntly, “he was a mark.”

            “Tell me how you did it,” he ordered, leaning forward.

            I watched him carefully.  Both of his hands were folded on the top of the desk and he didn’t look angry, more intrigued.

            I took a deep breath. “I disguised myself as a janitor and stole one of their IDs. I figured office workers didn’t pay much attention to people below them. I was right. I was able to get into the facility and find the mark’s office easily. Then I just hid out until he was alone, slit his throat, and got out before anyone noticed. It was just a standard job.”

            “And it wasn’t the first involving Hyperion,” Jack added.

            I continued watching him, my eyes darting between his mismatched ones. “No. I had killed quite a few Hyperion employees. And I had killed for Hyperion plenty of times too.”
            “Oh, I know. You have quite a rap sheet, don’t you?” he grinned as he leaned back.

            I narrowed my eyes cautiously and brushed my hand against the knife I kept hidden in my beanie. I didn’t plan on using it but it did ease my nerves a bit.

            Jack laughed. “Ease up, kiddo. This isn’t an interrogation. It’s an interview.”

            I blinked with surprise.

            “I’m not gonna kill you, I like you. I like the way you work, the way you think. See, I’ve done some research on you and I’ve been keeping an eye on you since this job.” He pointed at the computer screen.

            “How’d you know it was me?” I asked.

            “I didn’t, not at first,” he replied, “I had to find the Jakobs employee who hired you first. That wasn’t hard. Neither was torturing him.” He laughed. “Th-the moron was crying the whole time my boys were bringing him to me. He crumbled like paper. And don’t get me wrong, that makes my job a lot easier. But it’s just-it’s kind of boring, you know?”

            “Anyway,” he says as he turns his computer screen back around. “You passed the interview. Congrats. Now let’s discuss the job.”

            “Now, this job is top secret and super important,” he explains as he types. “So, because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll give you this one out because if you choose not to do it after I tell you about, I will kill you.”
            I should’ve backed out right then and there. Obviously whatever this job was, it was dangerous and different and so was Jack, to put it lightly. But I was intrigued and excited. And I had never turned down a job before.

            “Whatever it is, I’m in,” I said.

            Jack grinned. “I knew you’d say that.”
            “You said over the comm that you didn’t want me to kill anyone,” I stated.

            “Right. I need you to track someone.”

            I leaned forward as he turned the screen back to me. It showed multiple different pictures of a woman, beautiful with fire-y red hair. One of the images showed her glowing purple with some kind of blast firing from her hand into a group of armed people.

            I shot up. “A Siren!”

            “You said you wouldn’t back out,” Jack warned.

            I glared at him. “I’m not, I just…Sirens are legendary. I’ve never even seen one in person.”

            “Then consider this your lucky day,” he grinned, “this is Lilith. A while ago my guys and I destroyed a bandit town on Pandora called New Haven. Killed tons of people. It was great. And I thought Lilith died with them but lately I’ve been thinking she actually survived.”
            “So you want me to find her,” I stated.

            “Find her, find evidence of her, or find evidence she actually died,” Jack added.

            “So you’re just going off a hunch?”

            “Hey, I have great instincts with this type of thing.”
            “Alright, do you at least have some idea of where I can start?”

            “On Pandora there’s a bandit town called Sanctuary,” Jack replied, “start there. I can give you a shuttle with the coordinates.”
            “Just message them to me. I can take my cruiser.”

            “Ha, you mean that rusted little tin can you flew in on?” he snorted, “no, no, no. I’m not going to let anyone working for me be seen in that thing or in a Dahl t-shirt.”

            He typed on his keyboard. “What’s your size? Medium?”

            “Small,” I grunted.

            He finished typing and a yellow shirt digistructed on his desk. “There, for you. Consider it a gift of my admiration.”

            I unfolded it, trying to hide my grimace. “Yellow’s not really my colour.”

            “I think it’ll look great.”
            I tucked it under my arm. I’ll be wearing my cloak anyway so it didn’t matter.

            “There’ll be a shuttle waiting for you in the docking bay,” Jack said.

            “One more thing,” I said, “how much?”

            Jack grinned with amusement. He typed on his keyboard and showed me the screen. “How’s that?”
            I had never seen so many zeroes. It almost made me dizzy trying to count them. I quickly shook some sense back into my head and looked back at Jack.

            “Half now, half when I finish the job,” I demanded.

            “Sure,” he shrugged, “just remember, if you try to run, I will find you.”
            “I don’t run away,” I said.

            He grinned as he typed on his keyboard. “There, I’ve wired it to you. We done here?”

            “Yup,” I nodded and stood up. “I’ll call you if I find anything…or don’t find anything.”

            “I’ll be waiting.” He waved as I walked away.

            As soon as I was outside in the hall, I checked my ECHO comm. The amount of numbers nearly took up the whole screen. I had to keep from jumping and cheering, but I couldn’t stop the big, goofy smile on my face.

            I sauntered back into the waiting room, my head held high. The cyborg was still standing by the door with my cloak. He held it out to me.

            “Thanks, bro,” I chimed and saluted him. “Catch you later.”

            As I rode the elevator down, I put my cloak back on. After I exited into the Hub of Heroism, I held out my new Hyperion shirt in front of me. Suddenly yellow was looking pretty damn good.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

            Before that mission, I had never been on Pandora before. A planet full of killers doesn’t need to hire another one. All the rumours I heard about it always said it’s a dangerous wasteland; everything wants to kill you; some even went so far as to say it’s the worst planet in the galaxy.

            Meh. The planet I was born on is worse. But that’s a different story.

            Jack’s shuttle didn’t take me straight to Sanctuary. Instead, I was dropped in some place called Three Horns Divide. Sanctuary itself was surrounded by a giant wall with some kind of force field. After some scouting, I found there was only one entry point: a large gate that could only be opened from the inside. Whoever lived inside, the bandits clearly didn’t like them and regularly charged the wall, with zero success.

            What better place for a supposedly dead Siren to be hiding out in?

            After taking out a couple annoying, dive-bombing rakks, I made myself comfortable on a large rock near Sanctuary’s wall and called Jack.

            “What’s the deal with Sanctuary?” I asked.

            “It’s the home base of the Crimson Raiders- a group of annoying rebel bandits hell bent on stopping me,” he explained.

            “Why?”

            “Cause they’re the bad guys obviously. And I’m the hero. It’s what dey do.”

            “Okay. So maybe Lilith’s just hiding out in there.”

            “I’m not gonna give you the rest of your pay based on a hunch.”

            “The whole reason I’m down here is because of your hunch.”

            Jack sighed with aggravation. “Look, I’ve been trying to destroy Sanctuary for months. If you can prove to me that Lilith is in there, I’ll consider this a job well done.”

            “Fine,” I grunted and hung up.

            I’m smart enough to not take Jack’s word on everything so I decided to ask some of the local bandits.

            There was a small camp right outside Sanctuary’s gate. Some bandits and a couple Psychos were dancing around a skag spit. They all stopped as I strolled in and watched me curiously.

            “Hey, guys,” I said, “mind if I ask you a couple questions?”

            One of the bandits scoffed as he swaggered up to me. “Depends. What are you gonna give us?”   

            “Nothing,” I shrugged, “it’s all about what you’re going to hold onto. Namely your lives.”

            They all laughed and drew their weapons. One of the Psychos rushed me, lifting his buzz saw axe. I sidestepped him, drew one of my larger machetes, and drove it through his neck. He gagged for a second as his body went limp, then I ripped the blade out and cut his head clean off.

            Well, not clean but, you know.

            The rest of the bandits froze and stared at me with surprise. I glared at the first one that approached me as I wiped blood splatter off my cheek.

            “I don’t have to kill every one of you and raze your camp to ground,” I said, “if you’ll just answer one simple question.”

            The bandit laughed but this one was different than before. He was clearly impressed and a little intimidated.

            “Alright, little lady. What do you wanna know?” he asked.

            “What’s the deal with Sanctuary?”

            He scoffed and the others started muttering angrily.

            “Nothing but a bunch of stuck-up killers in there. Like, we’re all killers but they just think they’re better than us. They only share their shelter and supplies with people they deem ‘worthy’,” he explained, “bunch o’ skag suckers.”

            I nodded with understanding. “Alright, thanks.”

            “They’ll never let someone like you in,” he purred as he sidled up beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “A badass like you oughta be with someone like me.”

            “Thanks,” I smirked and pressed the barrel of my pistol under this chin. “But you’re not my type.”

            After I blew off his head and killed everyone else in the camp, I went for Sanctuary’s gate. I didn’t think getting in would be easy but I might as well try the most direct route first.

            Right in front of the gate was an intercom. I pushed the button and a small hologram of a man appeared.

            “Who are you?” he asked.

            “I need help,” I replied, putting on my ‘damsel in distress’ voice. “I heard this place is safe. Please let me in, everything’s trying to kill me!”

            “Ha!” he scoffed, “nice try, kid. What do you think we are, idiots? I saw how you killed all those bandits.”

            I spat. I didn’t consider there might be cameras along the wall. “Fine. Then I wanna join the Crimson Raiders. I think I could be a great asset.”

            “We don’t take new recruits. We’re not boy scouts. Get lost.”

            I growled angrily as the hologram turned off. The bandits were right. They were a bunch of self-important, stuck up douches. But I still needed to get inside.

            I feigned storming off but I didn’t go far. Once I was around the nearby mountain I climbed it and perched myself on an outcrop of rock. From here I could see the gate but they wouldn’t be able to see me.

            I staked it out for quite a few hours and nothing interesting happened. It didn’t look like anyone left and they certainly never let anyone in.

            I buried my face into my hands, groaning with frustration. What was I supposed to now?

            I heard the engine of a vehicle and quickly lay flat on the rock to keep myself hidden. A technical drove down the road, stopping at the camp I just sacked. Two bandits hopped out and cried out with aggravation.

            “Another camp destroyed!” one of them exclaimed.

            “Think it was same group?” the second asked.

            “Nah, look. These guys were killed by bullets. The last camp looked like they were just blown to bits.”

            I cocked my head curiously.

            “Flanksteak isn’t gonna like this,” the second groaned.

            “Come on, let’s keep go-.”

            Before they could get back into their vehicle, I leapt off the rock, bounced off the roof of one of the buildings, and landed on the first bandit, tackling him to the ground.

            “He-!” the second bandit started to shout but I silenced him with a bullet in the neck. Then I pointed my gun at the first bandit.

            “Where is this camp you were talking about?” I asked.

            “N-near Frostburn Canyon,” he replied, pointing towards the south.

            “Cool, thanks,” I grinned then shot him in the head. Afterwards I climbed into their technical and drove off.

            This destroyed camp was a longshot but I needed all the leads I could get, and it was certainly better than staking out Sanctuary any longer.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

            Just because I’m a merc doesn’t mean I’m some kind of one-trick skag. Like yeah I’m good at killing, amazing even. But it takes more to be a successful merc than just knowing how to shoot a dude in the head.

            Often employers are morons and don’t know enough about the people they want killed. So you gotta learn these things, the most important fact being their location. That’s where tracking comes in.     

            It doesn’t take me long to find the destroyed camp but if I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I would’ve passed it off as abandoned. The buildings were completely intact and the bodies weren’t completely noticeable, mostly because there wasn’t any. Scattered here and there throughout the camp were severed body parts and blood splatters.

            Whatever did this definitely wasn’t a gun and it couldn’t have been any kind of bomb. There weren’t any scorch marks or craters in the dirt. No, whatever did this was incredibly destructive and efficient.

            To me that sounded like a Siren.          

            I considered calling Jack about this news but I figured it wouldn’t be enough, and I didn’t want to call him about something frivolous again. The next time I called him, I wanted it to be about rock hard proof.   

            I got out of the technical and started investigating. The blood splatter was tacky and the limbs were fresh, so this couldn’t have happened more than a couple hours ago.

            I rubbed my chin as I looked around, wondering which direction the source could’ve gone. In one direction was a bunch of bullymong dens; in the other was some kind of cave. I wouldn’t want to hide out among bullymongs, so I headed for the cave.

            It wasn’t very deep and opened up into a large, snowy, icy region which I assumed was Frostburn Canyon. Nearby was a way station with vending machines. I cocked my head curiously and headed over. I could always use more ammo.

            As I fiddled with the Ammo Dump, a cloaked figure came up beside me at the Dr. Zed’s Meds machine. They didn’t pay me any mind so I did the same for them. But when I half-glanced at them I noticed fire-y red hair poking out of their cloak.

            I felt my heart lurch into my throat but I kept my cool. Anyone could colour their hair red.

            After I got my pistol ammo, I rested my back against the machine and started loading my gun. But from the corner of my eye I examined the figure. Beneath their cloak I couldn’t make out their body shape, but I could just barely see their face under the hood.

            It was Lilith. Holy shit, Lilith was shopping beside me.

            I pocketed my pistol but kept my hand on it as I walked away. I looked cool outside but on the inside I was freaking out. I was expecting to find a suspicious camp, maybe hear a couple rumours, not come face to face with her at a vending machine!           

            “Hey.”

            I jolted and turn around. Lilith was facing me, awkwardly rubbing her arm.

            “This is kind of embarrassing,” she said, “but do you have a couple of bucks you could spare? I could really use an Insta-health but I don’t have much spending money right now.”

            “Oh, sure,” I replied and dug out some cash. “No problem.”
            She smiled gratefully as she accepted the couple dollars. “Thanks. You-you’re not from around here, are you?”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “You don’t look like the neighborhood bandits,” she replied, “this might seem like a stupid question, but are you a Vault Hunter?”

            I grinned. “Nah. I’m just a wanderer, you know, going planet to planet, seeing the sights.”

            Her eyes narrowed. “Never thought of Pandora as a tourist stop.”

            “Maybe not for normal tourists.”

            She stared at me. She was suspicious; I would’ve been too if I were her.

            “Well, I gotta get going,” I said, “see you around.” 

            “Yeah. Bye,” Lilith muttered.

            I turned and went back to Three Horns Divide. The whole time I could feel Lilith watching me but I pretended like I didn’t notice.

            Once I exited the cave, I took one quick look back to make sure I wasn’t being followed, then raced for my technical. As I jumped in, I called Jack.

            “Jack, I found her!”

            “What? For real?” he exclaimed, bewildered.

            “Yeah! Near Frostburn Canyon,” I explained as I started the vehicle. “But she suspects something so you gotta send someone to pick me up like now.”
            “You interacted with her? Are you out of your mind?”

            “I didn’t have a choice! What’d you want me to, race off the second I saw her?”

            “Fine, whatever. I’ll send a shuttle to your location.”

            “Not yet,” I ordered, “let me get away fir-.”

            Before I could finish, something blasted into the back of the technical, flipping it over. I dived out to avoid getting crushed and tumbled across the hard ground.

            “Skies? What happened?” Jack asked.

            “Wow, you’re pretty lucky.”

            I lifted my head and looked up at Lilith as she strolled up to me. “Nobody’s ever survived my phase blast.”

            “Well, to be fair, the car took the brunt of it,” I groaned as I lifted myself up.

            She nodded and glared at me. “Who do you work for?”

            “Keep her distracted,” Jack ordered, “I’m on my way.”

            “Sorry,” I grunted, “that’s confidential.”

            “It’s Handsome Jack, right.”

            I shrugged. “I mean, who else would it be.”

            Lilith smirked. “Well, too bad for him, but your luck’s ran out.”

            “I make my own luck.”

            Before she could lift her hand, I activated a flash bomb in my pocket. It blew apart most of my cloak and a lot of my possessions, but created a blinding flash.

            “Aw, dammit!” Lilith barked.

            I raced off in a random direction, blocking my eyes from the bright light. As my vision started to clear, I looked back at Lilith. She was doubled over, covering her eyes. Then I saw her wave her arm and my eyes widen.

            She released a phase blast in my general direction. I instinctively lifted my arm to cover my head before I felt a tremendous pain.

            I screamed as I lost my footing and skidded across the dirt. I writhed on the ground, gripping my right shoulder where my arm used to be. I tried to look for her but my vision was blurred and I could feel blood running down my face.      

            Then I saw something shining bright orange hovering in the air. Lilith had discarded her cloak and was glowing as she flew on orange wings. I would’ve been amazed if I wasn’t about to die.

            I tried to crawl away- futile as it might’ve been- but when I flung my hand forward I hit only air. I was at the edge of a cliff.

            I looked back at Lilith. She must’ve still been blinded by the flash bomb because she hadn’t spotted me yet.

            I looked over the edge of the cliff. It was a long drop. I might’ve survived it if I was in perfect shape, but at that moment, I wasn’t so sure.

            Lilith cried out in frustration and sent out an orange wave that tore into the ground straight for me. I screamed and threw myself off the edge.

            Things are kind of blurry after that. I just remember lots of pain and a rush of wind before an abrupt end.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

            When I woke up, I was really groggy, not very coherent. I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. My vision was blurry at first and…wrong in a way I didn’t understand at the time.

            As my vision and head cleared, I realized I was in some kind of hospital room, most likely owned by Hyperion judging by the large poster of Handsome Jack hanging from a rope over the words ‘Hang in There’. The next thing I realized was something was very, very wrong.

            I grabbed the blanket and whipped it off me. I was wearing plain white underwear and a tank top. My right leg and arm were gone and as I rubbed my face I felt a gauze pad over my right eye.

            I lied there numbly before the door slide open and a doctor walked in with a med-bot.

            “Oh, you’re awake,” the doctor said with blatant annoyance. “And after I just told Handsome Jack you wouldn’t be awake for another week at least.”

            “How long was I out?” I asked. My throat was dry and my voice scratchy.

            “A couple weeks,” he replied blankly as he went over to a computer and started tapping on the keyboard. “Anyway, since you’re up, Handsome Jack wants to see you. This bot will assist.”

            A wheelchair digistructed in the middle of the room. The med-bot wheeled it over to the bed and moved to grab me.

            “It’s fine, I-.” I tried to lift myself up but my left arm crumpled under my weight. My whole body was weak. I didn’t feel like myself.

            “You’ve been in a coma for over fourteen days,” the doctor said scornfully. “And your body’s been under tremendous stress. All your wounds are healed but it will be a while before you’re in proper shape again.”

            I sighed and let the med-bot lift me out of bed and settle me in the chair. Then it wheeled me away.

            I had assumed we were in some Hyperion base on Pandora, but we were actually right on Helios. The judgemental looks I had got when I first arrived for my meeting with Handsome Jack were nothing compared to the looks I was getting at that moment. Of course I was still too tired to care, not that I ever cared before.

            The bot wheeled me through the Hub of Heroism onto Handsome Jack’s elevator. When we entered his lobby, his cyborg was standing in the same place as last time. He faced me as the med-bot wheeled me by.

            “You’re pretty impressive, girl,” he said.

            I blinked with surprise. “Thank you…”

            The bot wheeled me through the hallway and into Jack’s office. He was sitting at his desk, busy at his computer. His face lit up when he saw me.

            “Hey, there is she!” he boomed as he stood up and walked over. “Glad to see you’re not dead. Was almost worried about ya.”

            He waved at the med-bot. “Get lost. I’ll call ya when she’s ready to go.”
            As the bot left, I watched Jack questionably. “How did I get here?”
            “I rescued you obviously,” he replied, “when I reached your last location before your ECHO was destroyed, Lilith was nowhere to be found. But we did find your mangled corpse at the bottom of a cliff. But to my surprise, you were still alive. Just barely but enough to save ya.”

            “Ugh, that’s right,” I groaned and rubbed my head. “Lilith completely tore me apart.”

            “Yeah, but you survived,” Jack said as he clapped his hand on my good shoulder. I looked up at him and his eyes were shining with excitement.

            “You survived. An attack. From a Siren,” he emphasized. “Do you know how many people can say that?”        

            “Uh-.”

            “None!” he exclaimed, throwing his arms into the air. “People don’t survive Siren attacks. But you did. Sure, you got out with some missing pieces, but don’t worry. Your buddy, Jack, is gonna fix you right up. Check this out.”

            He wheeled me to the right side of the room next to a table with a cloth over it. He whipped off the cloth dramatically. Underneath was a robot arm with yellow plating, a matching leg, and a robotic eye.

            “Cool, right?” Jack smirked as he crouched down beside me. “One of a kind. Designed them myself. R&D just finished them up like yesterday so perfect timing.”

             I just stared at them dumbly, my mind blank. Finally I managed to say, “but…why?”
            “Your awesome killer and survivor skills are too good to be wasted,” Jack replied, “so I’m gonna put them to some use as my second bodyguard and left hand. What do you think? I mean obviously you have no choice but.”

            I took a deep breath and smiled weakly. “Well…I guess I do owe you my life.”

            Jack beamed. “Damn right you do.”

            He patted my good shoulder a couple times and damn it, it felt good.

            That’s how I nearly lost my life to a Siren and involuntarily sold it the Devil.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

            Skies lies in her prison cell-turned makeshift bed, staring at the ceiling of Tiny Tina’s cave. She stretches her arm and leg high, groaning loudly. She is so stiff but she can’t exactly get up and move around.

            She flops her arm and leg back down and squirms uncomfortably. Her right side is starting to feel irritated and so is her right eye. She can’t ignore it forever.

            She pulls herself up and leans over the side of her cell. Tiny Tina is in her workshop, working on something while singing ‘Pop Goes the Bandit’.

            “Tiny,” Skies calls.

            “What!” Tina booms.

            “Can I borrow a few things?”

            “Hmmmm maybe~. Whatchu need?”

            “A small mirror, a pair of tweezers, and first aid supplies.

            “Okay,” Tina sings and starts gathering the items from around her workshop. She skips over and plops herself down beside Skies, dropping the items in front of her.

            “Thanks,” Skies smiles as she takes the mirror. Her smile drops when she sees her reflection. It’s the first time she’s seen herself since the ‘incident’. Her right eye has a massive, ugly slash going straight across it. It’s barely started healing due to lack of care but she still can’t open it by herself.

            “Hold this for me?” Skies requests, handing the mirror back to Tina.

            “What are you doing?” she asks as Skies rifles through her vest on the floor. Inside she has hidden the knives she always carries on her person, as well as a couple of secret items no one can ever know about.

            “Well,” Skies explains as she pulls out a small switchblade. “Those Hyperion jerk offs didn’t have the decency to clean me up after they found me- they were too scared of me.” She smirks and Tina laughs. “But I can’t just leave all these useless robot parts in my body.”

            Watching her reflection, Skies carefully re-slices her right eyelid open, cutting away any scabs that were sealing it. Opening it, she reveals the remnants of her ECHO eye- a robotic eyeball with a large crack going straight across it.

            Skies grabs the tweezers, slips one prong into the crack, pinching the eyeball, and starts pulling. With some force and a short cry, she successfully pops the eyeball out of her socket. That’s the easy part. The hard part is pulling out the thin wires that make up her artificial retina. She can feel them wiggling within her skull before she finally unplugs it.

            “Eeeeeewwwww,” Tina laughs as Skies drops it on the floor and covers her eye. Blood and some kind of discharge drip from between her eyelid.

            Skies quickly opens the first aid case and grabs tape and a gauze pad. She tapes it over her eye and leans forward, sighing.

            “That was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tina comments.

            Skies grins wearily. “What’s wrong? Never seen someone tear their own eyeball out before?”

            Tina points at the ECHO eye on the floor. “Can I have it?”
            “Uh better not,” Skies replies as she picks it up. “I don’t know how intact the hardware is but if you mess with it too much it uh might explode.”
            “Aaawww now I want it even more,” Tina whines.

            Skies smiles as she tucks it into her vest and grabs her large machete. “That was the easy part. The hard part will be removing the rest of my arm and leg.”

            “How did you lose them anyway?” Tina asks, “I heard your prosthetics were invincible and they gave you super strength, you had built in cannons and turrets, and even your eye shot lasers.”

            Skies chuckles as she pulls back the sleeve of her tank top, revealing the shattered remains of a metal arm still attached to her shoulder. “Well, you’re mostly right. But my eye definitely didn’t shoot lasers.”

            “Then what did they do?” Tina demands, rocking back and forth excitedly.

            Skies winces slightly as she drives her knife underneath a shard of metal connected to her skin, but still smiles. “Alright, alright. I’ll tell you.”

 

            I got pretty messed up after my tousle with Lilith. But fortunately, thanks to Hyperion’s advanced medical knowledge, I was fixed up while comatose so I could get my prosthetics put on right away.

            I don’t remember the surgery- I was too doped up. It was the recuperation afterwards that was hell. Pretty sure I destroyed one hospital room and killed two doctors. It was just…all the overstimulation.

            See, my ECHO eye could do it all. It had environment scanning, threat warnings, infrared, hacking; it was a marvel of prosthetic engineering. And having all that input rushing into my brain for the first time gave me the biggest migraine.

            My arm and leg too. My arm had a built-in laser cannon and my leg, an air cannon. Both I activated with my mind, but before I learned how to do it, they would just turn on randomly.

            It only took about a week for me to get used to them though. Then came psychical therapy; I had to learn how walk again as well as activate all of my new action skills on command. That didn’t take me long either.         

            After that was the fun part: training.

            I did all my training in some kind of battle practice room. Helios had a lot of them for training soldiers and I had one made special just for me. Scientists would review my progress from a safe skybox while I fought whatever prisoners Hyperion had captured from Pandora. Skags, bullymongs, Psychos, I fought them all. And while it started out fun, it got old fast.

            They kept me there for two weeks, constantly insisting I wasn’t ready. But I annihilated any opponents they sent at me, taking them out with one well-placed shot from my laser cannon.

            After a while, I got tired of it.

            “Why don’t you give me a challenge?” I shouted at the scientists.

            They grinned, as if they had been waiting for this moment.

            The cell door opened, releasing a giant Psycho, over seven feet tall and muscular, with one shriveled arm: a Badass.

            I smirked. “That’s more like it.”

            The Psycho screamed about eating my eyeballs and charged me. I reacted in kind but before he could reach me, I activated my air cannon. It shot me high into the air. I flipped over as I flew over him and fired my laser cannon. I got three direct shots on his shoulders. My laser didn’t blow him to bits like it did others. Instead it just dealt massive burns.

            He gibbered angrily as I landed on the other side of him and threw his buzz saw axe. My eye tracked it and I dodged it easily while firing my laser. I took out of his legs and he fell hard onto his chest.

            As I run up to him, my eye scanned his large arm and predicted his swing. I dropped to me knees, dodging him, then pointed my laser cannon and blew his head to bits.

            I grinned as I wiped viscera from my face. My smile dropped when I heard clapping and I looked up. Standing in the entrance way was Handsome Jack, smirking as he clapped for me. I wiped my face and stood up as he approached me.

            “Very impressive, kiddo,” he said and I struggled to not smile dumbly. “And they said you weren’t ready. You look pretty ready to me.”

            “They did, huh,” I growled and glared up at the skybox. The scientists were all cowering as they watched Jack.

            “No more training,” he declared as he turned and marched away. “Tomorrow you start working for me. Meet me in my office first thing in the morning. See you then.”
            I watched him leave, a smile of excitement slowly growing on my face.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

            I spent my entire life travelling through space. I’ve been to countless different planets. I’ve seen exploding stars, supernovas, and black holes. So you’d think that the view of Pandora from my Helios penthouse wouldn’t be that interesting in comparison. And objectively, it wasn’t. But there was just something about the fact that it was my view; that I had seen it for the past month I’d been living on Helios and knowing that I’d see it every day for the foreseeable future.

            It…I don’t know. It was nice.

            Anyway, my first day as Jack’s official bodyguard wasn’t overly interesting but it was important. As soon as the clock struck daytime hours, I got up and went straight for the fast travel station in the apartment district. Most people wouldn’t be able to teleport directly into Handsome Jack’s office, but that’s because they don’t have my bio-signature.

            I appeared in Jack’s lobby and went into his office. He was sitting at his desk and looked up as I walked in.

            “Hey, right on time,” he chimed, standing up. His smile disappeared as he looked me over. “Haven’t you done any shopping since you’ve been here?”        

            I looked down at my clothes: plain pants and a black t-shirt, both old and stained with blood and sweat. I never did have a very nice wardrobe.

            I shrugged. “I was more focused on learning how to use my new limbs.”

            He rolled his eyes. “Well, luckily for you, I’m always prepared.” He pointed to the library at the right corner of his office. On the coffee table I could see a neatly folded bundle of clothes and a pair of shoes.

            “Get changed,” he ordered, “we got a lot to do today.”

            I quickly changed and checked myself out in a mirror. He had given me Hyperion branded high tops, black pants with the right leg cut off at the hip to show off my robot leg, a Hyperion branded tank top, a puffy, brown vest, and a black Hyperion branded beanie. There was also a belt with a hip holster and a Hyperion pistol.

            “Alright, I get it,” I grunted, “I work for Hyperion.”
            “Actually you work exclusively for me,” Jack corrected.

            “Then why aren’t I decked out in Handsome Jack swag?”
            “I could get you a mask if you want.”

            “Ew, no.”

            “Alright,” Jack boomed as he finished at his computer and stood up. “Let’s go, kitten.”

            “Where are we going?” I asked as I followed him out of the office.

            “I gotta introduce you to some people and fill you in on some stuff so you know what’s going on.” He smiled excitedly. “I got some big plans in the works, let me tell you.”
            We entered the lobby where two people were waiting: Jack’s cyborg and the pale dude I met when I first arrived on Helios, Blake. He stood up diligently as Jack and I approached while the cyborg remained as still as a statue, as usual.

            “This is Jimmy Blake, my go-to guy,” Jack said.

          “It’s Jeffery, sir,” Blake said apathetically then looked at me. “But you will call me Mr. Blake.”

            “Fine. Then you can call me Mistress Skies,” I replied.       

            He curled his lip. “It’s a pleasure. You are in a positon many people would die for. It must be nice to have it all handed to you on a silver platter.”

            “It is nice,” I grinned, “thank you for asking.”
            Blake looked even more disgusted while Jack just looked amused. He waved to the cyborg. “That’s Wilhelm, my right hand and other bodyguard. Say hi, Wilhelm.”

            “Hey,” he grunted in his robotic voice.

            “Always nice to see you,” I replied.

            “That’s all for Helios,” Jack said as he turned on his heel and walked away. “Nobody here is important enough for a formal meeting. Neither was Blake but you’ll be seeing him a lot so I wanted to get it out of the way.”

            “Where to now?” I asked as we approached the fast travel station.

            “Pandora,” he replied as he punched in some coordinates. “To meet my girlfriend.”

            My interest piqued slightly and I teleported after him.

            We appeared in some kind of building. It looked like the kitchen of a small house. The fast travel station was a small one, definitely not capable of teleporting to other locations. There were lots of bullet holes in the walls and casings littered the floor.

            “Your girlfriend lives on Pandora?” I questioned as I looked around. “I figured she’d be living it up on Helios or a mansion somewhere.”
            “Not her style,” Jack shrugged, “she’s all about killed bandits, so I gave her a bandit town as an anniversary gift.”
            “You couldn’t just give her flowers?” I mumbled then asked, “so what’s she like?”

            Before he could answer the front door opened and a woman dressed as a demented sheriff walked in, brandishing a large pistol. She grinned when she saw us. “Jack. I was just wanting to see you.”
            “Heya, Nish,” Jack waved and pointed at me. “This is-.”

            “Don’t care,” she grunted as she grabbed the front of his shirt and tugged him into another room.

            I rested my fist on my hip and stared at the closed door then looked around aimlessly. For lack of anything better to do, I went outside.

            I exited onto a wooden deck with a couple of chairs. There were glass bottles and bullet casings all over the ground.       

            I sat down on one of the chairs with my feet on the railing of the deck and drew my new pistol. By that point it had been a few weeks since I used a gun. Knives were always my favourite weapon of choice whenever possible. I made a mental note to find a nice knife and add a holster to my new uniform.

            I wielded the pistol in my left hand and aimed at nothing. I’m ambidextrous but after spending so much time training my new arm and laser cannon, I felt a little shaky.

            I spotted somebody walking down the dusty road in front of the house. He was definitely a bandit and it didn’t look like he noticed me yet.

            I aimed at him and fired. The bullet whizzed past his forehead.

            I scoffed with annoyance. Before I could get headshots no problem. I was definitely rusty.

            “Hey, you wanna die!” the bandit barked and pointed his shotgun at him. I stared at him apathetically and fired again. This time I got him in the shoulder. He cried and dropped to his knees, losing his gun. I shot again and successfully got a headshot.

            “Wasting bullets,” I muttered with disgust.

            I glanced up at the sound of doors opening and the street started filling with bandits. They chattered angrily as they saw the body and me with my gun.

            I sat up and reloaded my gun. Well, I did need shooting practice.

            For the next hour I worked on my aim, shooting bandits in the head. It didn’t take me long to get my rhythm back. Soon I was dropping them like flies with one shot each.

            Once the street was cleared, I smile satisfactorily and leant forward against the railing. I noticed one of the bottles had some liquid in it. I took a quick sniff before awarding myself a victory swig. Let me tell ya, Jack’s expensive brandy got nothing on rakk ale.

            As I dropped the empty bottle, the front door opened and the sheriff walked out. She had shed her big coat and boots and was only wearing jeans, a tight t-shirt, and her hat. She half glanced at me before looking at the bandit bodies that littered the street.

            “So you think you can just come into my town and kill my people?” she asked.

            I narrowed my eyes, not sure how to gauge the situation, but I replied nonetheless. “I used them for target practicing.”

            “Hm,” she grunted and looked at the bullet casings around my chair. “Looks like you needed a lot of practice.”

            “I won’t deny I was a little rusty,” I shrugged, “but most of these were already here.”

            She faced me, planting her hands on her hips. “You judging my aim? I’m the best shot on Pandora.”

            I smirked and rested my cheek against my gun. “Before I got here.”

            She narrowed her eyes and glared at me. I glared back. Then without warning, we drew our pistols and fired.

            The shots rang out and were quickly followed by a deafening silence. The sheriff’s hat drifted to the ground, a hole in the brim. Blood hit the wood by my feet.

            The sheriff chuckled and picked up her hat. “I like you.”
            I smirked and wiped the blood from the scratch on my cheek. “Thanks. I like you too.”

            I gotta say, I had an immediate connection with Nisha. We had so much in common. We both loved killing people.

            While Jack slept in the bedroom, Nisha and I talked for an hour about our past exploits. She told me all about how she worked with other Vault Hunters to save Elpis and rise Jack to power and I told her some of my favourite mercenary stories. I was just in the middle of one when Jack finally woke up.

            “-so the guy opens the locker and sees me inside with his shotgun and I’m like, ‘lookin’ for this?’ And I shoot him in the face.”

            “That is so dumb,” Nisha laughed.

            “Shut up, it was not dumb,” I argued, “it was awesome. You should’ve seen the look on his face. You know, before I blew it to bits.”

            “The best part is the splatter,” she smiled and I nodded in agreement.

            “Ladies,” Jack greeted as he leaned against the table. He eyed the hole in Nisha’s hat and the cut on my cheek then smiled. “You two seem to be getting along.”

            “You picked a good one here, Jack,” Nisha said, pointing at me. “And I don’t say that often. If you’re not careful, I may steal her from you.”
            “Damn, Nish, you’re gonna make me blush,” I grinned.

            Jack chuckled but I immediately sensed it was forced. Nisha must’ve sensed to because she smiled at him, amused. “Jealous?”

            “Hm,” he huffed and stepped away. “I only wanted to introduce the two of you. We’ve still got a lot to do today. Let’s go, Skies.”

            I shrugged and stood up. “Welp, duty calls.”

            “Call me sometime,” Nisha waved.

            “I sure will,” I waved back before teleporting after Jack. We appeared back in his lobby. Jack was standing with his back to me, hands on his hips.

            “Was that our only field trip?” I asked.

            “Not quite,” he replied.

            I watched him carefully. In those early days, I had a hard time reading Jack. At first I would think he really was annoyed of my connection with Nisha. Later I would realize that wasn’t the reason.

            “Alright,” he muttered and turned back to the fast travel station. He punched in coordinates and faced me. He looked very serious for the first time since I’ve known him and I perked up.
            “I really don’t want you to know this person,” he said, “not even Nisha knows her. I figured I could tell you my plan without her. But she really wants to meet you. So consider yourself lucky.”

            I blinked, my interest piqued. He teleported away and I followed him, to meet this mysterious person.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

            The place I appeared in was some kind of lab. It was dimly lit with only one sealed door and a couple large consoles attached to the metal walls. Attached to the ceiling in the middle of the room was a large generator of some kind with large, purple tubes running from it and disappearing into the walls. But the thing that caught my attention right away was the thing floating beneath the generator.           

            She was a teenage girl, couldn’t be any older than 18, with glowing, swirling tattoos on her left side and white angel wings: a Siren. Purple energy of some kind appeared to be flowing into her from the generator and then out of her into what I would later learn was a Vault Key.

            Jack was standing at one of the consoles, reading the levels displayed on the holographic screens but I didn’t pay him any mind. I was transfixed by the Siren. She didn’t seem to notice us and I couldn’t tell if she was even conscious. She just floated there limply, her face pointed downwards.

            And then she suddenly appeared in front of me.

            “Whoa!” I exclaimed, jumping backwards.

            She smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

            I stared at her with surprise then looked past her. She was still floating in the middle of the room while simultaneously standing in front of me. But as I looked the second version over I realized she looked digistructed.          

           I closed my right eye and she disappeared. I opened it again and she stood there, still smiling.

            “You’re in my ECHO systems,” I stated.

            She nodded. “Uh huh.”

            “This is Angel,” Jack said, pointing at the girl in the middle of the room- her real body. “As you must’ve noticed, she’s a Siren. Her powers allow her to hack remotely into almost any piece of tech with her mind. This machine she’s hooked up to amplifies her powers.”

            “I see,” I mumbled.

            “I’m glad I got to meet you in person,” Angel said. I realized her voice was coming from inside my head and I wondered if Jack knew she was talking to me. From the way he was watching me, I figured he did.

            “I don’t get to meet many people in person,” Angel continued, “it’s really impressive that you survived a fight with a Siren.”

            “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it a fight,” I grunted, scratching my head. “I just got lucky.”

            “I don’t believe in luck,” she muttered.

            “Neither do I.”

            She looked at me and smiled. She had a…a very sweet smile, I couldn’t help but return it.

             “Alright, cupcake,” Jack said impatiently, waving at me. “Get over here and pay attention.”
            I glanced at Angel, or rather her hologram, once more before trotting over Jack. I joined him in front of a console while he clacked away on the keyboard.

            “So, like I already said, I have big plans in the works,” he explained, “I won’t go into it but the endgame involves me opening the Vault of the Warrior and cleansing Pandora.”

            “Sounds great,” I commented.

            “It does, doesn’t it,” he agreed, “but first I’m gonna wipe that bandit capital Sanctuary off the map.”

            “But can’t you just do that when you ‘cleanse Pandora’?” I asked.

            Jack huffed and looked back with annoyance. “The key is taking longer to charge than I thought it would.”
            I glanced back at Angel and the Vault Key. I noticed then that one of Angel’s eyes was open and watching us. She looked…exhausted.

            “Okay…” I muttered and looked at Jack. “So uh how are you gonna deal with Sanctuary?”

            “Well I would love to just Moon Shot their asses, and believe me, I’ve tried,” Jack replies, “but they have this shield generator that protects their whole worthless city. So I came up with a plan to take out that shield.”

            “Angel,” he calls out, “introduce her to our pigeons.”

            “Yes, Jack.” Angel’s voice echoed out from somewhere in the room. Then four large, holographic screens appeared high in the room. Each one displayed the face of four different people.

            “Axton the Commando, Maya the Siren, Salvador the Gunzerker, and Zero the Assassin,” Angel stated, highlighting each respective picture. 

            “See, a while ago I put out a call for Vault Hunters, claiming that I need their help to open the Vault,” Jack explained, “obviously I don’t. But soon these idiots will all be on Pandora and I’ll trick them into dropping Sanctuary’s shields.”

            “How are you gonna do that?” I asked.

            He waggled his finger at me. “I don’t wanna spoil the surprise.”

            I glared at him sceptically. “But how am I supposed to help if I don’t know the plan?”

            He laughed. “I don’t need your help. I’ve been sorting this plan out for months. I just wanted to show them to you so you wouldn’t be asking me stupid questions like ‘who’s that’ and ‘what’re they doing’. All you have to do now is sit back and enjoy the show.”

            My expression softened. “Well, I do like watching people get screwed around.”
            “That’s the spirit,” Jack grinned and bumped my shoulder. “Well, that’s all for today. Come on, let’s get back to the office.”
            I followed him to the mini fast travel station embedded in the wall. As he teleported away I took one last look back at Angel. She lifted her head and smiled weakly at me before waving. I waved back numbly. Then the fast travel station seemingly activated on its own and I teleported away.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

            Being Handsome Jack’s bodyguard wasn’t as glamorous as people thought. Most days I spent hanging out in his office or lobby while he worked. Often I would follow him around Helios when he had to go to meetings or chew out someone which usually ended in throwing the poor idiot out of an airlock. Sometimes he would have me buy him coffee or something from the Hub of Heroism. I was basically a glorified assistant.

            The first exciting thing that happened was when Jack hired a bunch of low level assassins for a special mission. Wilhelm and I stood in his office while he recorded a message for them.

            “Alright, you mindless gun-hands,” he said, “you’re looking for a really hot chick with blue tattoos and mystical powers. A Siren. Specifically one named Lilith. The official reports say she died in New Haven, but I’m positive she’s hiding out near Sanctuary. If you catch wind of her, tell me and I’ll pay you enough money to build a mansion, made out of other…smaller mansions. Out.”

            I shook my head disapprovingly. “I can’t believe you hired these nobody, no-talent assassins to find Lilith. You realize if, by some miracle, they do manage to find her she’ll destroy them.”

            “That’s the point,” Jack grinned, tapping his head. “They’re Siren fodder. Their ECHO communicators are being tracked. When they die, we just gotta check out their last location.”

            “Hm,” I sniffed, “I guess the only thing those slobbering tools is good for is bait.”

            “Or target practice,” Wilhelm added and I grinned.

            Jack checked his watch and sighed. “I gotta get to a meeting with accounting. It’ll take all day; those idiots love to talk about numbers. Wilhelm, watch the lobby. Skies, stay in the office. If any of those mercs call, let me know immediately.”

            “Got it,” I saluted as the two of them left. As soon as the door sealed shut behind them, I skipped through the office and flopped down on Jack’s chair.

            That wasn’t the first time Jack left me alone in his office. The first time I was much more nervous and reserved. But it didn’t take me long to relax and take advantage of the solitude.

            Jack’s office didn’t need to be guarded. It had automatic defenses that kept everyone out and in. I was only there to take calls and messages- like an assistant. But he only got called directly if it was really important so I got some peace and quiet.

            I lounged in Jack’s big chair, blissfully enjoying the dopamine injectors with my feet up on his desk. My eyes drifted to the frame picture of a young girl on his desk. I never asked him about it but I had my suspicious…that I never liked to dwell on.

            I quickly spun around to enjoy the view of Elpis. When I got bored of that, I hopped up and went to ogle his trophy case.

            Jack was surprisingly sentimental. Not only did he keep trophies from corporate fallout- mostly Atlas junk- but also an old hat that Nisha wore before she became a sheriff and the goatee from his old boss, Harold Tassiter- he loved telling that story.

            My favourite thing though was the shotgun. It was called the Conference Call, one of the most powerful guns Hyperion ever made. I always wanted to try it out but I knew Jack would never let me mess with his stuff. Still it was crazy tempting.

            I rubbed my face as I eyed the big gun. I figured Jack would have some sort of security on his trophy case but no matter how many times I scanned it with my ECHO eye, I never picked up anything. So, albeit against my better judgement, I started to reach for it.

            “Don’t!” Angel’s voice cried in my ECHO comm.

            I flinched and pulled back my hand. This was the first time I had heard from her since meeting her. A hologram of her face appeared before my ECHO eye.

            “Jack has traps all over his office,” she explains, “his trophy case has an electrical field around it.”

            “I thought it would,” I admit, “but my eye wasn’t picking up anything.”

            “Yeah, he uh he set up a block in your systems so you can’t inspect anything related to him.”
            “Oh my god, that prick,” I groaned, “he probably would’ve laughed his ass off if you didn’t stop me.”

            “If you like…” Angel hesitated and trailed off. I waited patiently and after a couple seconds, she gathered the courage to continue. “If you like, I could remove the blocks.”

            I blinked with surprise. Then cautiously looked over my shoulder at the door and surrounding walls. I knew Jack had cameras in his office. I didn’t think he would care about me talking with Angel, but conspiring with her was a different story.

            I lowered my voice and covered my mouth, pretending to rub my nose as I walked back to his desk. “Would he ever find out?”

          “Only if he ran diagnostics,” Angel replied, “and he would only do that if he had a reason to.”

            I sat down in the chair and stared out into the office. “Why would you do this?”

            She was silent for a second, like she didn’t know what to say. Then finally she replied, “I think you would find it useful.”

            I hesitated for a second before nodding. “Alright.”

            Angel’s display smiled. “This might feel a little weird.”

            “Executing Phase Shift.”

            I felt a tingling through my cybernetics, kind of like being tickled but on the inside. It didn’t last very long and Angel said, “okay.”
            I activated my scanner and immediately information came up that never did before. I saw all of the traps hidden in Jack’s office: an energy wall behind the door, an electrical field surrounding the trophy case, a couple of turrets in the ceiling, a trap door in front of his desk, to name a few. Not to mention all of the cameras hidden around his office- even more than I thought. I also had the option to hack everything.

          I turned off my scanner and smirked. “Thanks, Angel. If there’s anything I can do in return-.”

            “That’s okay,” Angel smiled, “I’m happy to help.”

            With that, she left my ECHO comm. I eyed the Conference Call but decided not to push my luck. I had defied Jack enough for one day.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

            One day I was just chilling in the lobby, stretched out on a couch. Wilhelm was standing nearby and we had spent most of the day swapping merc stories when the elevator door opened. I sat up as Blake walked in with the sweatiest nerd I had ever seen. He was smiling feverishly as he followed Blake, carrying some sort of suitcase.

            Wilhelm groaned with blatant disgust and turned away. I quickly stood up and cut off the two before they could exit the lobby.

            “Hold up,” I said, “who’s this guy?”

            “This is-,” Blake started to reply before the new guy cut him off.          

            “Wow! You’re Skies the Bodyguard,” he squealed and stepped way too close. “Your prosthetics are legendary. Designed by Handsome Jack himself. Can I-can I see them? Can I examine them?”

            I pulled my robot arm out of his reach. “Touch me and I’ll shove your hand down your throat.”

            His smile wavered but not by much as he stepped back, clutching his case with both hands.

            Blake sighed. “This is Professor Nakayama. He has a meeting with Handsome Jack today. I’m escorting him.”

            “I didn’t hear of any meeting,” I stated.

            “They’re every few weeks,” Nakayama said proudly.

            I glared at him before looking at Blake. “Sorry, Blake. Jack said I have to check with him before letting anyone into his office.”

            He sighed impatiently but stopped arguing. I called Jack on my built-in ECHO comm.

            “Hey, Jack. Blake says this greasy weirdo called Nakayama has a meeting with you?” I questioned.

            Jack scoffed with disgust. “Ugh, yeah I forgot. Go ahead, see them in.”
            “Alright, follow me,” I grunted.

            “I don’t need to be here,” Blake said and turned away. “I’ll leave it to you.”
            I shrugged and led the far too giddy scientist to Jack’s office. Along the way I could feel his eyes watching my every move. It still makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

            As soon as I got into Jack’s office, I hustled behind his desk to keep myself from twisting Nakayama’s pencil neck. His smile only widened when he saw Jack, who looked annoyed and apathetic.

            “Sir, are you ready for your memory transfer?” Nakayama asked as he approached the desk.

            “Yeah, yeah. Just hurry it up,” Jack ordered and leaned back in his chair. “I’m busy.”
            “Of course, sir,” he nodded and opened his case.

            “Memory transfer?” I questioned.

            “I am working on a very top secret project for Handsome Jack,” Nakayama gloated. I tried to get a peek of what was in the case, but he quickly turned it away from me. “It involves his fantastic memories but nobody but I know about it-.”

            “It’s an AI,” Jack stated plainly.

            Nakayama sputtered while I looked at Jack with surprise. “An AI?” I questioned.

            “Yeah. An AI designed to be me,” he explained, “the idea is to use it if I ever die; make me immortal, you know? So every few weeks Nakayama copies my memories and transfers them into the AI’s code.”

            “Is it finished?” I asked.

            “Yes,” Nakayama stated proudly, “it was created in Handsome Jack’s magnificent image.”

            “This is just to keep it up to date,” Jack added, “in case we ever do need to use it. I like to be prepared for everything, you know.”

            Nakayama finished fiddling with whatever was in his case then pulls out two small suction cups attached to wires. His grin widens as he approaches Jack.

            “Wa-wa-wait!” Jack orders, “let Skies do it.”

            “Uh b-bu-but, sir,” Nakayama stammered, “sh-she wouldn’t know how to place them.”

            “Then tell her, moron,” he barked. Nakayama flinched back like he’d be smacked. He deflated as he handed the wires to me.

            “Place each one on his temples,” he muttered.

            “That’s not difficult,” I grunted. Jack leaned back in his chair as I stuck each suction cup onto the sides of his head.

            “I didn’t want his sweaty hands touching me again,” he groaned, “he seems to enjoy it way too much. This is top secret so it couldn’t be helped before.”

            After both cords were attached, I peeked over Nakayama’s shoulder to get a look into his case. Inside was a small, built-in computer with far too many Handsome Jack stickers and pictures. As Nakayama typed away on the keyboard all that came up on screen were lines and codes so I quickly got bored.

            “By the way, ‘Namayaka’,” Jack said. Nakayama perked up, blissfully ignoring the fact that Jack didn’t even say his name right. “How goes the robot?”

            “Ah uh the prototype is done,” Nakayama replied hesitantly, “but-.”

            “Why didn’t you say so?” Jack snapped, “hurry up with the memory transfer. I wanna see it.”

            “Ah b-but, sir, it hasn’t been tested yet and-.”

            “Then I wanna watch the test.”

            “Ugh, y-yes, sir.”

            “Robot?” I questioned.

            Jack grinned at me. “This one I’m actually excited about. It’s so awesome.”

            I cocked my eyebrow, intrigued. After the transfer was finished, I removed the wires from Jack’s head- per his orders- and Nakayama closed his case. The three of us left the office together. Nakayama looked like a happy puppy having Jack walk beside him. I was kind of nervous he might piddle on the floor.

            “Watch the office, Wilhelm,” Jack ordered as we went into the elevator.

            We walked to Research and Development and came up to a sealed door with a keypad. Nakayama punched in a code and led us through.

            It was a large lab with tons of computers and tools. In the middle of the room was a medical table and lying on it was a yellow robot body.

            “OoOohohoho,” Jack chortled excitedly, rubbing his hands together. I looked at it questionably, not sure what the big deal was.

            “Well, what are you waiting for?” Jack asked impatiently, looking at Nakayama. “Start the test.”

            “Ah, yes, sir,” Nakayama said quickly and started typing on one of the computers.

            “So, what is it?” I asked, pointing at the robot. “I mean I assume it’s more than just a robot.”           

            “Ooh, you’ll see,” Jack said, grinning wolfishly.

            The table suddenly started moving along a track, the robot still on it. It disappeared through a hole in the wall, which opened up to a large window. On the other side was an empty metal room. Jack and I got closer while Nakayama continued typing on the computer.

            A hole on the other side of the testing room opened up and another table slid in, this one with a human man strapped on it. He was naked with his back facing out. One of the computers in the lab displayed moving, jagged lines that represented the man’s vitals.

            Medical devices dropped down from the ceiling in the testing room, attached to metal arms. The man started wiggling and screaming but the glass was sound proof so we couldn’t hear him.

            Five scalpels suddenly sliced into the man, down both of his arms, his legs, and his back. Immediately, two robot arms removed all of his organs and bones and then literally shoved the robot body into his skin. Finally five laser sutures sewed the skin back up.     

            The restraints on the man’s body let go and he fell flat onto the floor. His vitals on the screen had flat lined.

              Jack and I immediately cracked up.

            “You-you were right,” I chuckled, “that was awesome.”
          “Yeah,” Jack snickered, wiping the corner of his eye. “Now how do we make them…not die?”

            “That’s the problem, sir,” Nakayama said skittishly. “I-I’ve ran the numbers many times and-and it’s just not possible to…put a robotic endoskeleton into a human body. They-they can’t survive.”

            “Well, find a way,” Jack ordered, “I want this to work. It’s a way better idea than your AI.”

            Nakayama deflated and stared at the floor.

            “Make a new one and make it work,” he demanded as we started heading out. “Oh and send that one to my office. But, you know, clean it up first.”
            I followed Jack back to his office, feeling chipper. Working for him did have its interesting moments.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

            Skies’ eye is closed as she focuses on keeping her breath steady. She’s not looking for sleep- that was never easy to find even when she was in proper shape- she’s merely looking for rest.

            She’s disturbed by what sounds like paper rubbing together. She opens her eye and sees Tiny Tina leaning over her glass cell-turned-bed, measuring her one leg.

            “Uh what’cha doin’?” Skies asks.

            Tina tosses the tape measure over her shoulder and looks at her innocently. “Nuttin’. What are you doing?”
            Skies smiles wearily as she lifts her head. “Actually, I was just wondering what you plan to do with me.”

            “Huh?”

            “You got me in a pretty sweet spot right now. Immobile in this busted cage, feeding me crumpets and tea. I’m essentially your pet hamster.”

            “What’s a hamster?”

            Skies sighs. “The point is I’m useless. You can do whatever you want to me. So what’s your endgame? You gonna turn me over to the Crimson Raiders?”
            Tina stares at her, seemingly perplexed. Then she shrugs theatrically. “Dunno. How bout you keep telling your story and I’ll decide later.”

            Skies chuckles and sits up. “Alright.”
            Tina squeals happily and hops into the old cage to sit across from her. Skies rests her chin on her hand and considers how to begin.

            “Okay. I think you’re gonna really enjoy this part.”

 

            Being a space station, Helios doesn’t exactly have night and day. However, it does have nighttime hours and daytime hours, so that workers have proper times for working and sleeping.

            During those early days, I also worked those hours. I would spend nighttime hours in my penthouse apartment and daytime hours with Jack or in his office.

            One morning, when I got up to start the day, he sent me an urgent message.

            “Skies, before you come in today, be sure to grab some drinks and lots of pretzels,” he ordered, “oh and popcorn.”

           I didn’t think much of it. Jack often ordered me to pick up snacks. So on my way to his office, I stopped in the Hub of Heroism and picked up everything he wanted, as well as a couple things I wanted.

            I entered Jack’s lobby carrying grocery bags. Wilhelm was in his usual spot, still as a statue, but he always seemed to perk up when I walked in.

            “Morning, Wilhelm,” I greeted, “want a snack? Oh, wait, do you even eat?”

            “Eating is for chumps,” he grunted.

            I responded by stuffing a handful of gummies into my mouth. “Maybe. But I sure enjoy it.”

            I left the lobby and went through the hallway into Jack’s office. He was leant back in his chair, staring intently at his computer, a giddy smile on his face.

            “Skies! Perfect timing!” he exclaimed.

            “I got everything you wanted,” I said as I dropped on the bags on the desk.

            “Excellent. You are going to love this,” he grinned excitedly.

            “Hello, Skies,” a familiar voice rang through his computer.

            “Oh, hello, Angel,” I smiled, “nice to er hear you.”

            “Okay, okay,” Jack said impatiently. “You remember those Vault Hunters? Well, last night they rode a train to begin what they thought was gonna be their new job. But really it was just the beginnings of my masterful plan.”

            He giggled like a schoolgirl. “The train blew up and soon they will wake up somewhere in Windshear Waste. They’re gonna think they survived out of ‘pure strength of will’ or something and come looking for revenge. But they won’t know that I planned it this way. Ha ha! I am such a genius. Aren’t I a genius?”

            “You are very smart, sir,” Angel said while I tried not to roll my eyes into the back of my head.

            “Sir, I’m picking up new ECHO signals,” Angel stated.

            “Awesome. Connect us,” Jack ordered, leaning forward in his chair. I grabbed the guest chair and dragged it around the desk to sit next to him.

            The holographic computer screen lit up, displaying a split screen of four different views. They were all looking at a Claptrap.

            “I thought you shut down all the Claptraps?” I questioned.

            “That one survived,” Jack grumbled with disgust.

            “This Claptrap Jack modified to be a Vault Hunter a few years ago,” Angel explained, “he wants revenge on him too.”

            As the perspectives looked around, we got a look at those four Vault Hunters: Maya the Siren, Axton the Commando, Salvador the Gunzerker, and Zero the Assassin. As well as two others…

            “Wait, wait, wait,” Jack said quickly, “who are they?”
            “Uh, sir, I’m picking up two other ECHO signals,” Angel said.

            “Connect us.”

            Two other perspectives were added to the screen. The owners appeared to be a teenage girl and a Psycho.

            “Who are they?” Jack demanded, “where did they come from?”

            “Seems there were two stowaways on the train who really did survive because of pure strength of will,” Angel said.

            “Hey, I know that kid,” I said, pointing at the girl. “Her name is…Gaige? I saw a video of her on the ECHOnet. She created this killer robot that killed one of her classmates. It was awesome. And-.” I pointed at the Psycho. “Whoa, that dude is buff. And seems to have a thing for the Siren. He’s got good taste.”

            “Ugh,” Jack groaned, aggravated as he rubbed his hand down his face. “Alright, whatever. They wanna join the party? Fine. It won’t make any difference.”

            The now six Vault Hunters, almost half dead, followed the nattering Claptrap through a blizzard to what appeared to be his home. He kept going on and on about something that I barely listened to before a giant bullymong broke through the ceiling and tore out his eye.

            “I never liked Claptraps,” I commented as the Vault Hunters looted Claptrap’s house. “They were always annoying me and getting in my way. I was so glad when they all deactivated.”

            The Vault Hunters followed the blind, whiny robot back outside, seemingly to help him find his eye.

            “Oh oh, watch this,” Jack said excitedly, “I’m gonna screw with them.”

            He giggled giddily for a second before clearing his throat and pressing a button on his keyboard. A microphone icon appeared in each section of the split screen.

            “Hey, kiddo. Jack here- President of Hyperion,” he said, “lemme explain how things work here: Vault Hunter shows up. Vault Hunter looks for the new vault. Vault Hunter gets killed. By me. You see-seeing the problem here? You’re still alive. So if you could just do me a favour and off yourself, that’d be great. Thanks, pumpkin.”

            He turned off the mic and leant back, looking pretty damn proud. “You see what I did there? I made it look like I don’t want them alive. Heh, I’m so clever.”

            “Very clever, sir,” Angel said while I again tried not to roll my eyes into the back of my head.

            The Vault Hunters, seemingly unbothered by Jack’s message, found the giant bullymong and fought it for Claptrap’s eye. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to watch. I couldn’t stop myself from getting into it.

            “Yeah, nice shot!” I cheered when Axton got a clean shot to the bullymong’s head, finishing it off. Jack looked at me accusingly.

            “What?” I questioned, “don’t you want them to win?’

            After the Vault Hunters got the robot’s eye, they continued to follow him through the snowy waste until they came upon a town.

            “Okay, watch this,” Jack grinned, nudging my shoulder, and pressed another button on his keyboard. This turned on a different part of the screen that read, “Broadcasting: Pandora.”

            “Attention, people of Pandora! Handsome Jack here, offering a million bucks to whoever brings me the head of the Vault Hunter who just arrived in Liar’s Berg. Oh, and I’m still offering a reward for Roland, the mass-murdering leader of the Crimson Raiders. Good hunting, bandits!”

            As the Vault Hunters arrived in this town called Liar’s Berg, a small army of bandits ambushed them, chittering excitedly about the reward. I rubbed my chin thoughtfully.

            “You…do want them to win, don’t you?” I questioned.

            “Yeah, my whole plan hinges on them,” Jack replies, “but I’m not gonna make it easy on them. If they can’t handle this then they’re useless to me anyway.”

            I leant back in my chair, watching him curiously. “And what is this plan? You never did share it with me.”

            He grinned. “I wouldn’t wanna spoil the surprise.”

            I eyed him suspiciously, wondering just what sort of convoluted plan would need a bunch of Vault Hunters to seek vengeance against you.

            But I didn’t wonder long as I looked back at the fight and quickly got sucked in. I figured might as well sit back and enjoy the show.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

            Jack may have put his nonexistent heart and soul into his plan for the Vault Hunters, but he was still president of a multi-billion dollar corporation. So while he had to go to meetings and do his job and whatever, he left me to watch the Vault Hunters and let him know if anything interesting happened.

            Those first couple days they just ran around Southern Shelf, exploring, looting, and killing bandits. And I have to say, I really enjoyed watching it. I got excited when they found cool guns or won a big fight. I just couldn’t help myself.

            “Yeah, nice!” I cheered as Krieg sliced off a dude’s head with his buzz saw axe.

            “You’re really enjoying this,” Angel said.

            I flinched. I forgot she was watching too. “Uh, yeah. I guess it reminds me of my travels. When I was a merc, I loved exploring, seeing new things, finding cool things, meeting cool people, and then killing them.”

            Angel giggled. “What was your favourite planet?”

            “Hmm maybe Aquator? It’s mostly all water so it’s very peaceful and beautiful. I had a client there who let me stay there once in a while in exchange for not telling anyone about the horrible things he would have me do.”

            “Tell me more.”

            “About the horrible things?”

            “No,” Angel laughed, “about your travels. I don’t…sightsee much.”

            “Uh, right.” I felt a twinge in my chest which I promptly ignored as I spun Jack’s chair around to look at Elpis. “Well…what do you wanna know?”

            “Anything.”

            I spent the next couple hours telling Angel stories of my travels. I mostly told her about what I saw and where I’ve been, leaving out all the people I killed. Of course she knew about all of that but that’s not what she was interested in. It was nice, reminiscing. And it was made even better when I could see Angel’s hologram smiling in my ECHO eye.

            “What about you?” she asked.

            “What about me?” I asked back.

            “I wanna know more about you.”

            I chuckled. “Not much to know. My personality doesn’t extend far past being a murderer.”

            Angel smiled. “Come on. What about…your birth planet?”

            My smile dropped and I tried to look away uncomfortably, but that’s hard to do when a hologram is right in your vision. “Uh um well…”
            Angel immediately sensed my discomfort and looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. That’s personal. I shouldn’t pry.”

            “No, no. It’s okay, it’s-.”

            I was grateful for the interruption when I heard the door slide open. I started to spin around to look at Jack when I saw a bizarre sight.

            “What the-?” I exclaimed.

            Jack walked in, smiling brightly as he led a horse with two horns, a braided mane, and a hide that looked to be made of diamonds.

 

            “AAAAAHHHHH BUTT STALLION!!”

            Tina’s squeal knocks Skies out of her story, and nearly knocks her over. She leans against the wall of her old cage and rubs her ear.

            “Jeez, Tina, take it easy,” she complains. “I don’t need busted ear drums on top of everything else.”

            “Sorry,” Tina grins, “but I love Butt Stallion! Tell me everything about her! Did you ride her? Can she really poop guns? Is she as beautiful in real life as she is on the ECHOnet?”

            Skies smiles wearily. “Look, I hate to burst your bubble, but nothing interesting happened with Butt Stallion. Jack bought her for bragging rights then immediately dumped her in her own wing on Helios to be taken care of by interns.”

            Tina deflates like a busted balloon. “Aaaaaawwwww.”

            Skies leans back and looks at her expectantly. “May I continue?”

            “Yeah, yeah, go ahead,” Tiny replies dismissively but still gives Skies her full attention.

 

            Well, it didn’t take long for the Vault Hunters to reach Sanctuary. Both me and Jack were excited to see the inside of those massive walls. So as the door slid open and the Vault Hunters went inside, we leant forward excitedly and…

            The screens went black.
            “What?” Jack snapped, “Angel, what happened?”

            “I-I don’t know, sir,” she replied, “there appears to be some sort of interference. I can connect you with a voice call but I can’t get any visual.”

            “Ugh, it must be that stupid force field they have,” Jack groaned, “alright, whatever. Patch me through.”

            He clears his throat then starts clapping lightly. “Made it to Banditville, huh? Well done. It’ll be nice to see a friendly face when I’m burning that place to the ground. Oh, and I have decided that I will tell you my secret later on. Once you’ve earned it.”

            He sighed, content with himself as he leaned back.

            “So what’s this secret anyway?” I asked.

            “Ah ah, no free ride,” he teased.

           I glared at him then thought about it for a couple seconds. “It’s that Angel’s working for you, isn’t it?”

            “Yeah,” he grunted then shot up excitedly. “Oh, oh, watch this.”

            He tapped on his keyboard, closing the Vault Hunters’ screens and activating his planet-wide broadcast.

            “Bandits of Sanctuary: I hear a new Vault Hunter has arrived in your city. So just turn ‘em into me and you’ll be rewarded.”

            “You really think anyone’s gonna turn them in?” I asked as Jack leant back.

            “Eh, it doesn’t matter,” he replied, “I’m not gonna reward anyone anyway.”

            Jack folded his hands behind his head as he watched the dark Vault Hunter screens with annoyance. I quickly got bored and started scrolling through the ECHOnet.

            “Oh,” I chirped, “Oooh, Jackie, you are gonna love this.”

            “What?” he grunted.

            I turned my ECHO communicator over to him, smirking excitedly. His eyes lit up as he read the screen, the ECHOnet in a tizzy over the Crimson Raiders missing leader.

            “Oh,” he purred, “now that’s interesting.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

            “So, ol’ Rolly’s disappeared huh? It’s gotta be serious if even his little bandit buddies don’t know where he is.”

            Jack paced back and forth in front of his window, babbling about the missing Crimson Raiders leader, Roland. Apparently, he went on some kind of mission and hasn’t returned or called in and the Crimson Raiders were freaking out.

            Wilhelm and I watched Jack from the other side of his desk, standing dutifully.

            “What’s Roland like anyway?” I asked Wilhelm.

            “Traitorous, back-stabbing bandit scum,” he growled.

            “Uh right. I forgot Nisha said you guys have um history,” I said, “he a good fighter?”

            “He’s weak.”

            “Oookay. You’re clearly biased.”

            Jack giggled as he hopped into his chair and wheeled back to his computer. “Those Crimson Raiders dumbasses will fall apart without their precious leader.”

            His smile dropped as he watched his computer screen. I went around his desk to get a look.

            The Vault Hunters had left Sanctuary and were running around Frostburn Canyon. Jack rubbed his chin with contemplation as he watched them.

            “But if these morons spend too long searching for him, it could put a damper on my plan,” he mused, “we need to find Roland and get him out of the picture.”

            “What do you suggest?” I asked as I sat back down in my chair.

            Jack considered the question. “We’ll keep an eye on all ECHO communication waves. If anyone so much as says the word ‘Roland’ I wanna know about it. We’ll watch these ding dongs too and use any clues they find against them.”
            “Which reminds me,” he grunted as he turned on his microphone. “You think the Firehawk’s got Roland, huh? Y’know, I heard the Firehawk liquefies bandits and drinks ‘em like flesh smoothies. But nah, I’m sure your bandit pal Roland’s just fine. Of course, if Roland hadn’t been such a dumbass in the first he- whoops. Almost spilled the secret.”

            He leaned back in his chair, grinning smugly.

            “Who’s the Firehawk?” I asked.

            “Eh some big, bad bandit with a thing for fire,” Jack replied, “guy’s got himself a fan club calling him the Firehawk. No idea what the guy looks like though. Don’t think anyone’s ever seen him.”

            “Huh,” I mused, “think he’s got Roland?”

            “If he does, then he’d already be dead. The Firehawk fancies himself better than other bandits and kills anyone who doesn’t worship him. Self-important prick.”

            I kept my mouth shut on the irony of that statement coming from Jack.

            We spent the next couple hours watching the Vault Hunters fight their way through Frostburn Canyon. Wilhelm stayed in the office, standing quietly in the corner. Every so often, Jack would call up the Vault Hunters to taunt them and try to lower their morale. I just enjoyed watching them shoot through groups of bandits and Psychos.

            Eventually the Vault Hunters seemed to be nearing the Firehawk’s lair. Jack and I both leaned forward expectantly, excited to see what would happen next.

            Then the door opened and Blake marched into the office.

            “Sir, you have a meeting with acquisitions soon,” he announced.

            Jack groaned loudly as he fell back into his chair. “But things are getting good. Postpone it.”

            “It’s your regularly scheduled meeting, sir,” Blake announced.

            He groaned again but stood up. “Fine. Hopefully they make it quick.”

            He pointed at me as he walked away. “Let me know if anything good happens.”

            “Yeah, yeah. I’ll keep your chair warm,” I said as I hopped over into his chair. I sighed happily as I leaned back and rested my feet on his desk.

            “Hey, Wilhelm. Why don’t you come watch with me?” I suggested, “you know, unless I’m interrupting your super important business.”

            “And what you’re doing is super important?” he retorted.

            “This was an actual task given to me by our boss,” I pointed out, “it’s better than you just standing around doing nothing.”         

            “I don’t have to keep myself constantly busy like you humans,” he argued, “I don’t even have to maintain my body or skills to be good at my job. Not that you do that anymore.”

            “Ex-squeeze me?” I scoffed, standing up. “Are you saying I’m rusty?”

            “I wouldn’t put it so nicely.”
            “I was one of the best god damn mercenaries across the six galaxies. I’m probably even better now,” I snapped as I approached him.

            “Wouldn’t be able to keep up with me.”

            “Oh yeah? Well why don’t you put your gun where your mouth is.”

            Wilhelm looked at me incredulously.

            “Sorry that wasn’t supposed to sound like a suicide threat. It was like-put your money where your-,” I stammered the huffed, “I’m trying to challenge you.”

            “What’s the challenge?” he asked.

            “Let’s go to Lynchwood. There’s always tons of bandits running around there,” I replied, “we’ll see who can kill the most.”

            He hesitated. “Jack won’t like us just leaving.”

            “Don’t worry. His meeting will take an hour at least. That can be our time limit. And we’ll be back before he even notices.”
            He looked unsure at first before smirking. “Alright, I’m in.”

            “Awesome,” I grinned and led the way out of Jack’s office to his fast travel station. I punched in the coordinates for Nisha’s place and stepped aside. “After you.”

            Wilhelm teleported away and I quickly followed him.

            Nisha was leaning against her kitchen table, a bottle of rakk ale in hand as she watched us incredulously.

            “The hell are you two doing here? Where’s Jack?” she asked.

            “Sorry, Nish. Probably should’ve called first,” I replied as I tried to get around Wilhelm. He was almost too big to fit in the little house and nearly took up half the room. “Um see Wilhelm and I have a little challenge going- would you move!”

            Wilhelm glared at me. “This little house is too small for my superior frame.”

            “It’s just cause you’re so freekin big,” I grunted as I squeezed under his legs to face Nisha. “Okay so Wilhelm and I want to see who the better fighter is so I thought we could come here and kill some bandits. Cool?”

            Nisha chuckled. “Sounds fun. But I can’t have you just murdering my townspeople. That’s my job. You can go over to the Grinders though. That place is always full of skag riders and rats. You’d actually be doing me a favour.”

            “Sweet,” I grinned and headed for the door. “Come on, big guy.”

            I opened the door and skipped off the porch and onto the street. Wilhelm followed me, literally smashing through the doorway and most of the porch’s roof.

            “God dammit, Wilhelm,” Nisha snapped.

            I laughed and we made our way to the Grinders, on the outskirts of Lynchwood.

            “Alright,” I boomed as we arrived. “We’ve lost a bit of time since Jack went for his meeting so let’s say the time limit is 45 minutes. That should give us plenty of time to get back.”

            “Fine. Let’s start already,” Wilhelm grunted as his shoulder gun fired, completely obliterating a group of unsuspecting rats.

            I nodded approvingly. “Impressive. My turn.”

            I fired my arm laser at another group of rats and blew them to pieces. I looked back at Wilhelm, grinning. If he had eyes, I’m sure he would’ve been rolling them.

            “Not bad,” he grunted.

            I giggled and we both took off   .

            For the next half hour or so we both ran around the desert plain, destroying bandits, Psychos, skag riders, and rats. They never stood a chance. Almost none of them even saw us coming. I couldn’t help but smile the entire time and whenever I glanced at Wilhelm I could see him smiling too.

            After what seemed like no time at all, the alarm on my ECHO started going off, indicating our time was up. I turned it off and sighed as I walked over to Wilhelm.

            “Okay, so, I’m not gonna lie,” I said, “I stopped keeping track a long time ago.”      

            “Yeah, me too,” Wilhelm admitted, “I was enjoying myself too much.”

            I laughed. “Yeah, me too.”

            “If we proved anything it’s that cyborgs are always better than normal humans,” he declared.

            “Hell yeah,” I smirked and held up my right fist. “Cyborg fist bump.”
            “I’m in too good mood to let your dorkiness ruin it,” he groaned by bumped my knuckles anyway.

            We quickly got back to Jack’s office- miraculously without Wilhelm destroying Nisha’s house anymore. But as we heading back into his office, the door opened up to Blake who glared at us accusingly.

            “Where have you been?” he barked.

            “Uh why? Is Jack back?” I asked, peeking over his shoulder to see if he was at his desk.

            “No, he’s still in his meeting,” Blake replied, “but we have been receiving multiple messages from the same unauthorized, unregistered ECHO communicator for the last hour.”

            “So what’s the big deal?”

            “They claim to have Roland!”

            “Well why did you freekin lead with that!” I snapped. I grabbed his arm and yanked him down the down the hall and through the lobby. As we entered the elevator, he pulled his arm out of my grip.

            “Don’t touch me. Where are we going?” Blake asked.

            “To Jack of course,” I replied.

            “But we can’t interrupt his meeting.”

            “Trust me. He’s going to love this.”

            We hurried through Helios to the acquisitions offices. Without wasting anytime, I burst through the door, dragging Blake in with me. Everyone looked up at us with surprise.

            “Uh e-excuse me.” A smartly dressed woman in front of a holographic screen looked at us with blatant offense. “We’re in the middle of a meetin-.”

            “Yeah, don’t care,” I snapped as I dragged Blake over to Jack. He was slouching in his seat but sat up expectantly as we approached. “You gotta hear this.”

            “Whatever it is, it’s gotta be more interesting than what these morons were blathering on about,” he grunted and stood up. “Meeting adjourned.”

            “Uh b-but, sir, we still have to go over-,” the woman tried to argue.

            “Meeting. Adjourned,” Jack emphasised before leaving, Blake and I close behind.

            “So what’s going on, Jimmy?” he asked as we marched through the halls.

            “Well, a…gentleman calling himself ‘Flanksteak’ has been trying to get a hold of us for a while,” Blake explained.

            “Blake, just tell him-,” I tried to say but he cut me off.

            “At first I ignored them because he’s using an unauthorized ECHO communicator but after a dozen messages I finally decided to listen to one and…a group of bandits called the Bloodshots have Roland.”

            “What?” Jack barked, “why didn’t you lead with that!”
            “That’s what I said,” I groaned.

            “Uh uh they want to make a trade: Roland for a cash reward,” Blake added quickly.

            “Forward all messages directly to my personal ECHO communicator,” Jack ordered.

            “Yes, sir,” Blake sighed before scurrying away. I smirked after him before following Jack back to his office.

            “So what’s the plan?” I asked, “gonna make the deal?”

            “Pft, no,” Jack scoffed, “Hyperion doesn’t make deals with bandit scum.”

            “Then what about Roland?” I asked.

            “Oh, we’ll get him,” he smirked as he sat down in his chair and I joined him in my mine. The Vault Hunters looked to be driving around some big desert. “Do they know about Roland?”

            “Um…” I mumbled.

            “Yes, sir,” Angel replied and I stifled a sigh of relief. “They caught wind of his capture after defeating the Firehawk.”

            “Excellent,” Jack grinned and activated his ECHO comm. “Blake, prepare to mobilize Hyperion troops and loader bots to the Bloodshot Stronghold. Oh and prepare the W4R-D3N.”

            “W four R - D three N?” I questioned.

            He smiled excitedly. “This is gonna be fun.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

 

            “H-Handsome Jack, sir, I-I swear I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the employee sniveled, “I-I would never embezzle from the company. Was it Nicholson who said that? He’s lying! He’s been trying to ruin me for years!”

            “Jackson,” Jack growled with annoyance. “You think I don’t watch the numbers? You think I don’t notice when something’s off? You think I’m an idiot?”

            “N-no, sir, I-I d-.”

            The poor sap didn’t even have a chance to finish begging as Jack took out his pocket watch. I watched from the office door as he wrapped the chain around the sucker’s throat, struggling not to smirk. I always did enjoy the way their eyes popped out.

            Jack let his chain slip from the still twitching corpse and pocketed the watch. He sighed as he straightened his jacket and spoke into his ECHO comm. “Clean up in Mr. Randal Jackson’s old office.”

            With that, he turned on his heel and marched to the door. I waited until he was fully out before following, like an obedient shadow.  

            I watched Jack closely as we walked through the corridors. His shoulders were still square, his head was still held high, and his eyes still looked straight ahead. Everyone we passed still looked at him with the same amount of respect and/or fear. But I knew.

            Jack’s preferred method of dealing with nobody, no good employees was the airlock. Strangling was reserved for more ‘personal’ dealings. But it is definitely more satisfying than shooting someone out an airlock.

            Yup, it was obvious to me. Jack was pissed.

            He had every right to be, really. Thanks to the Vault Hunters, Roland narrowly escaped Hyperion’s grasp. Now they were all safe in Sanctuary, laughing and plotting. So for the last couple days, Jack was in rotten mood and taking it out on anyone who dared slip up.

            Oh, well. As long as it wasn’t me.

            When we arrived back at his office, Wilhelm was in his usual spot in the lobby but with a most unwelcome guest.

            Professor Nakayama was standing by the office door, clutching his briefcase to his chest. All of us looked at him with the same amount of disgust.

            “Ah, sir, it’s time for our weekly appointment,” he said excitedly.

            Jack scoffed with blatant repugnance but Nakayama’s smile didn’t waver. When Jack didn’t demand he leave or strangle him, I motioned for him to follow us into the office.

            Jack collapsed into his chair and immediately turned his attention to his computer. I told Nakayama to remain on the other side of the desk and attached the probes to Jack’s head. As his memory was copied, I stood beside him and watched the computer screen.

            It was still black. It didn’t look like the Vault Hunters had left Sanctuary at all since we left. This deeply displeased Jack as he growled softly, his eyes narrowing. I glanced at him warily before quietly clearing my throat and motioning to Nakayama to wrap it up.

            Even with his rose-coloured glasses, Nakayama could tell when Jack was in a bad mood. So he finished the memory copying and left without another word except for, “thank you for your time, sir.”

            Jack exclaimed in aggravation as he leant back in his chair. “What are they doing? Angel, can you hear them at all?”

            “I’ve caught a few things, sir,” she replied, “and you’ll be happy to know, they’ve taken your bait.”

            “Huh?” I questioned while Jack’s face lit up.

            “Really?” he asked.

            “Yes, sir. They should be leaving shortly.”

            “About time,” he said, smiling for the first time in days.

            “What bait?” I asked.

            “All part of the plan,” he smirked and clapped his hands together. “Welp, better get everything ready.”

            He typed on his keyboard and an item digistructed onto his desk. It looked like a large battery. Then he went over to his minibar and started making drinks. I approached him curiously but before I could see what he was making, he handed me two shot glasses of brandy but one was fizzing like crazy.

            “What’s the deal with this one?” I asked.

            “Just a lil’ somethin’ special for Wilhelm,” he replied then added seriously. “Do not drink it.”

            I blinked with surprise and glanced at it warily.

            After he grabbed the battery, he strode out of the office and I trotted after him.

            “Wilhelm!” Jack boomed as we entered the lobby. “Have I got a job for you!”

            Wilhelm looked at him expectantly, almost excitedly.

            “I’ve got some important cargo that needs transporting and you’re just the man to transport it,” Jack announced as he handed him the battery. “This needs to take a trip through the Tundra Express. You must keep it on you at all times. Once you’ve reached your destination, I’ll let you know what to do next.”

            “Understood,” Wilhelm nodded as he tucked the battery away.

            “Great,” he exclaimed happily and nodded at me. I handed Wilhelm the fizzing drink. Even with his limited expression, he looked at me questionably. I just shrugged.

“Cheers!” Jack exclaimed, holding his own shot glass high. We toasted and drank. 

“Now then,” he declared and took our glasses, resting them on the table before leading us to the fast travel station. He quickly punched in some coordinates and stepped aside. “Off you go. Your ride will be leaving soon.”

            Wilhelm nodded before teleporting away. Jack beamed, almost too happy. I eyed him curiously as we went back into his office.

            “Angel,” he sung, “Wilhelm’s ready to go.”

            “Understood,” Angel replied, “the train and the guards will be ready shortly.”

            “Excellent,” Jack grinned as he sat in his chair. The Vault Hunters were finally on the move. Looked like they were going through Three Horns Divide.

            I watched Jack closely as I sat in my chair. His switch had flipped way too quickly.

            “So what’s the deal with that thing?” I asked, “why’s it so important that Wilhelm has to guard it?”

            “It’s a power cell,” he replied, “and with it, we’ll be able to destroy Sanctuary.”

            I blinked, impressed. “Really. So where’s it going?”

            “Sanctuary, duh.”

            I was confused again. “How’s Wilhelm supposed to get it there?”

            “He won’t. The Vault Hunters will.”

            I just stared at him incredulously. Jack rolled his eyes, still grinning. “Just watch. It’s more fun that way.”

            I shrugged agreeably and watched the screen as the Vault Hunters entered the Tundra Express.

 

            “Oh, oh, I know what happens next!” Tina squeals excitedly, bouncing up and down. “The Vault Hunters meet Mordy, who tell them that a Vault Key is being moved on a Hyperion train, then they come to me, and I help them blow it up! And then-.”

            “Hey, hey, hey,” Skies snaps, “who’s telling this story, you or me?”

            “But I already know this part,” she whines, “and it’s one of the best parts because it’s got explosions and me!”

            Skies smiles wearily and rolls his eyes. “You know your side. But isn’t the whole point of this to tell my side?”

            “Fiiiiiiine,” Tina groans dramatically and leans back. “Go ahead.”

            She smiles, satisfied, and leans against the side of her old cell. “Actually, it’s ironic that this is your favourite part of the story. Because for me, it’s when things started to go bad.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

 

            Jack and I watched as the Vault Hunters arrived in the Tundra Express. There they met Mordecai, who told them he heard a rumour that Hyperion was transporting the Vault Key by train. Afterwards they met a weird little girl. <Tiny Tina blows a raspberry. Skies smiles and ignores her>. With her help, they blew up the train tracks to rob the train.

            I watched the whole thing with great interest, trying to figure out Jack’s angle. Obviously he fed Mordecai that rumour. But I couldn’t figure out why.

            Finally, as the Vault Hunters made their way through the wreck, I just asked.

            “Okay, so the Vault Hunters think that they’re gonna find the Vault Key here,” I said.

            “Right,” Jack nodded.

            “But the Vault Key’s hidden with Angel.”

            “Correct.”

            “So instead you’re leading them into a fight with Wilhelm.”
            “Right again.”

            “Why?” I asked with annoyance. “Aren’t they important to your plan? Wilhelm will destroy them.”

            “That’s exactly what I want everyone to think,” Jack grinned.

            I stared at him incredulously until I heard a commotion on screen. The Vault Hunters had finally met Wilhelm.

            I turned my full attention to the screen when the fight broke out, expecting Wilhelm to blow the Vault Hunters to pieces. But he didn’t. It was a fair fight- or as fair as a fight can get when you’re battling a tricked out cyborg with healing drones. But the Vault Hunters held their own. Which made no sense.

            “Something’s wrong,” I mused, “I’ve seen Wilhelm fight. Sure these guys have better gear than common bandits, but he should still be annihilating them.”

            I looked back at Jack. He was smiling, way too amused at the idea that his right hand man might actually lose.

            I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. “What…was in that drink?”

            His grin widened wolfishly. “Just a little…somethin’ necessary for my plan.”

            My eyes widened and I looked back the screen. Wilhelm was actually losing. I gripped the arms of my chair as I watched the Vault Hunters lay into him, wasting him. And then it was over.

            I just stared at the screen in disbelief as they raided his corpse. They quickly found the power core and decided to bring it back to Sanctuary.

            Jack chuckled as he leaned forward and activated the microphone. “Wow. Bravo. Champagne. Cheers. High-five. Slow clap. You got the damn power core, didn’t ya? You’ve been warned, the kid gloves are comin’ off. Tighten up the big boy pants because things are gonna get really, really bad for you Vault Hunters.”

            He leaned back, satisfied. I glared at him accusingly.

            “You planned that?” I asked with disbelief. “You wanted Wilhelm to lose?”

            “Okay, okay, okay,” he said quickly, sitting up. “I know that sounds bad. But trust me. It’ll all be worth it when I wipe Sanctuary off the face of Pandora. Trust me.”

            I narrowed my eyes with uncertainty. He just smiled suavely and patted my back.

            “Just watch,” he said, pointing to the screen. So I turned back to it.

            It was black, meaning they were in Sanctuary. But Jack didn’t seem annoyed so I watched curiously.

            Then all of a sudden the screen lit up but instead of from the Vault Hunters view, we were looking at the Vault Hunters. They were clustered together on some kind of balcony with a Crimson Raider officer, staring back at us with confusion and surprise.

            Jack turned on the mic. “Hey, you know, I think it’s finally time to tell you that little secret. Angel’s working for me.”

            Angel’s voice chimed in, both from our end and the Vault Hunters’. “Lowering Sanctuary’s shields, Jack. Executing Phase Shift.”

            Jack grinned evilly as he pressed a button on his keyboard. I heard a distant bang from somewhere on the space station followed by another, bigger bang from the computer screen.

            “Nicely done, Angel,” Jack boomed, “now let’s kill ourselves some Vault Hunters.”

            The Vault Hunters scattered out of view, but from what we could make out from Sanctuary’s footage, it was obvious that they were in trouble. Helios was blasting the city with moon shots, causing panic and destruction.

            “Your plan is…working,” I mumbled.

            “Of course it is,” Jack grinned and turned on his mic. “You only survived our train ride together because I wanted you to. Five years ago, Roland and his friends opened the vault because Angel and I tricked them into doing it. Everything you Vault Hunters have ever done is all part of my plan. I’m such a rock star.”

            After a couple minutes of watching Sanctuary slowly get blown to bits, the view suddenly changed back to the Vault Hunters’ eyes. They were standing out in a snowy field somewhere, looking at Sanctuary off in the distance.

            “Hm. Must’ve escape-.” Jack stopped and we both leaned forward.

            I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Sanctuary was lifting out of the ground and glowing…purple. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously.

            But it was still getting nailed with moon shots. Helios would blast it out of the sky before it would even get up there. At least, that’s what Jack wanted to think.

            “That’s the best you got?” he said into the mic. “A flying city? What could you chumps possibly have that makes you think you’ve got a chance against me?”

            “A Siren,” Roland answered.

            I felt my stomach flip as Lilith chimed in. “Sup.”

            Just like that, the whole city disappeared in a flash of purple.

            “Huhn,” Jack grunted as we watched the moon shots fly through the empty space.

            I didn’t realize my jaw was hanging open until the Vault Hunters turned away, seemingly as awestruck as we were. As Jack just stared at the screen, obviously trying to make sense of what we just saw, I fell back in my seat, feeling very…exhausted.

            I groaned and rubbed my eyes. “You’ve gotta be kidding.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

 

            “Hm. So, Wilhelm’s dead, huh?”

            That was Nisha’s response to my hour long rant of the past events. I sat across from her at her kitchen table, my head resting on the tabletop as I ran my finger along the rim of my whiskey glass. I was feeling a lot of different emotions but the only ones that translated were my anger and exhaustion.

            “So why are you so pissed?” Nisha asked, “just kill the bandit assholes who did it.”

            “It’s not that simple,” I groaned, “I’m not angry because they killed him. I’m angry because Jack had them do it; I’m angry that it was part of his plan; I’m angry that it didn’t work!”

            I shouted that last part as I sat up, throwing my hands into the air. “That’s the part that really gets me. This was all part of his plan and now it’s completely ruined!”

            Nisha looked amused at my anger. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, Wilhelm was devoted to Jack. I’m sure he’d be fine with being used for his plan, even if it didn’t work.”

            “It’s not even that,” I sighed, “it’s that he underestimated them. He was so sure this plan would work that he sacrificed Wilhelm. But he never considered the Crimson Raiders might get away- and take the whole freekin city with them.”

            I sat back in my chair, my arms hanging limply by my sides. “He’s so arrogant, so freekin narcissistic. He absolutely refuses to see how dangerous his enemies really are. Hubris will be his downfall.”

            “You’re probably right,” Nisha shrugged, “but it’s your job to protect him, right? So just do your job.”

            I smiled humourlessly. “You make it sound easy.”

            She grinned back and lifted her glass. “Cheer up. To Wilhelm.”

            “To Wilhelm,” I replied. We clinked and drank.

            My built-in ECHO chimed, followed by Jack’s voice. “Skies, get back here.”

            I groaned as I put down my glass. “Welp. Gotta go back.”

            “Have fun,” Nisha grinned and waved cheekily. I half-waved back as I used her fast travel station.

            I strolled into Jack’s office and took my seat beside him behind his desk. He didn’t even acknowledge me, too focused on what the Vault Hunters were doing. It looked like they were in some kind of town, fighting a bunch of different loader bots. I was immediately intrigued.

            “What’s going on?” I asked.

            “That’s what I would like to know!” Jack snapped, “they stole a lunar supply beacon and Angel is powering it!”

            “A what? She’s what?” I questioned, flabbergasted.

            He groaned impatiently. “I don’t have time to explain every little thing. You’re going down there.”

            “What!” I exclaimed, getting really tired of asking questions.

            “Head down to the station,” he ordered, “I’ll let them know you’re going.”

            “Wh-wait!” I barked, “what am I supposed to do?”

            “Kill them obviously!”

            “Oh. Right. Okay.”

            I hopped out of my chair and hurried to the fast travel station to teleport to the Helios Station. Workers were racing back and forth, busy powering the moon shot cannon and trying to keep up with Jack’s assault orders. I grabbed one by the back of the collar as he ran by.

            “Yo. I’m supposed to be sent down to Pandora,” I said.

            “Ah, r-right,” he nodded, “follow me.”

            We dodged around the scurrying workers as he led me deeper into the station. “Uh Handsome Jack wanted to maximize survivability while still maintaining speed so we had to make some adjustments.”

            “Okay…?” I grunted. “Uh has a human ever survived this before?”

            “Getting moon shot to Pandora? A human’s never even done it before, not like this,” he replied, “but first time for everything.”

            We stopped in front of an escape shuttle and he cleared his throat. “We will be firing you inside of this. It’s built for tremendous impacts so you should survive…probably…”

            “Great…” I groaned and climbed inside. The worker closed the hatch and I buckled myself into the seat. A crane lifted up the shuttle and carried me into the moon shot cannon, dropping me in place. I took a deep breath and braced myself when I just barely made out a message play over the Helios intercom.

            “Warning: life support shut down.”

            “Wait, what-?” I started to question when the cannon fired.

            The forced flattened me against the seat. My screams barely escaped my gritted teeth as I blasted through space and plummeted to Pandora. I flew by everything so fast I couldn’t make anything out, except for the quickly approaching ground.

            I stopped hard and fast, smashing into the dirt. If I didn’t have my seatbelt on, I would’ve crashed through the windshield. I unbuckled myself and doubled over in my seat, panting from the adrenaline. Then I opened the hatch.

            I grabbed the edge of the doorway to pull myself out, letting out a heavy breath. “Woo, damn.” I said as I stepped out of the dust and looked up at Maya, Axton, Salvador, Zero, Gaige, and Krieg. They all looked surprised but still kept their guns ready.

            “Talk about catching a ride.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

 

            Maya, Axton, Salvador, Zero, Gaige, and Krieg glared at me, bewildered but guns at the ready, as I worked the kinks out of my organic joints.

            “Hey, kiddos,” I grinned, “it’s real nice to meet you guys in person. You don’t know me yet but I’m-.”

            “Skies the Bodyguard,” they said simultaneously- except Krieg who just growled, “meat”.

            “Oh, my reputation precedes me,” I mused, “and of course I know all of you. Oh, and by the way, Gaige, big fan.”

            “Oh, thank you,” she giggled, “that almost makes me feel bad for what I’m about to do.”

            “Get her, boy!” she cheered and summoned her killer robot, Deathtrap.

            “Ah! So cool!” I squealed, “I gotta say, I am super honoured to see Deathtrap in person, and to take control of it and make it kill all of your friends.”

            My ECHO eye lit up as I hacked the robot’s systems. It twitched and sparked for a second before turning and charging Salvador.

            “Ay!” he exclaimed, barely dodging its razor sharp claws.

            “Hey! That’s not fair!” Gaige whined and immediately dismissed Deathtrap.

            “I got this,” Axton stated and threw out of his turret. “Chew her up, honey!”

            “Nice try, handsome,” I smirked, popped out my laser cannon, and blew his turret to bits.

            “Hey!” he snapped.

            “Next?” I purred.

            Zero disappeared into thin air, Krieg shouted something about blood as he lifted his buzz saw axe, Salvador unleashed two large rocket launchers, Maya’s hand started glowing blue, and Gaige and Axton both readied their guns.

            “Good,” I grinned darkly.

            My ECHO eye caught Zero appearing behind me. My air cannon popped out of my leg and rocketed me into the air so I cleanly dodged his sword swing. Everyone watched me with surprise as I flipped through the air and readied my laser cannon.

            “Move!” Maya ordered. They all dived behind cover as I sent lasers raining down.

            I flipped through the air and landed neatly on the ground before getting ready to fire again. My ECHO eye picked up movement to my right and I spotted Maya attempting her Phaselock. I smirked and aimed at her. She barely managed to leap out of the way.

            My ECHO eye caught Krieg and Zero trying to flank me while Salvador popped up behind me, two guns at the ready. I activated my air cannon and blasted into the air then started firing down on them. I laughed as they scattered like vermin.

            “She can read our moves,” Zero stated.

            “That’s right!” I sang as I landed and started firing again. “You guys don’t stand a chance.”

            “Skies,” Angel said in my ECHO comm. “I’m really sorry about this.”

            “Whuh-?” Before I could finish, my prosthetics gave out. I exclaimed as I fell onto my right side, my metal arm and leg now weighing me down and my right eye completely dead.

            The Vault Hunters looked at me with shock before racing for the fast travel station.

            “Ah, no!” I barked and drew my pistol with my left hand. I tried firing at them but I was shaking and my vision was blurry. I doubt I even managed to graze one of them before they all disappeared.

            “Dammit,” I snapped, dropping my arm. I lay there quietly for a second before I felt power run through my right side again. I sighed loudly with relief when my vision came back and I lifted myself up.

            I sat on the dirt, panting as I activated my ECHO comm. “Jack. Jack? Jack!”

            I felt my chest tighten when he didn’t answer. Wasn’t there some kind of announcement that the life support stopped working before I left Helios? Could he…?

            No. There’s no way his office was on the same system as the rest of Helios. He was probably just pissed and ignoring me.

            “Jack!” I shouted.

            “What the hell was that?” he yelled, “what happened?”

            “It-.” I hesitated. “I don’t know! My prosthetics just gave out. Some kind of glitch maybe?”

            “That’s not possible,” he argued.

            “Whatever it was, it wasn’t my fault. Now, how do I get back to Helios?”

            No answer.

            “Jack!”

            “What!”

            “How do I get back to Helios?” I snapped.

            “Oh, fer-. Get to Opportunity,” Jack ordered, “I’ll meet you there.”

            “Fine,” I barked but I knew he wasn’t listening anymore. I wouldn’t find out until later that he was busy chewing out Angel.

            I stood up and grabbed my ECHO device from my belt. I pulled up a map of Pandora and looked for Opportunity.

            “Not far,” I sighed, “but walking’ll still be a pain.”
            Fortunately, right outside the town was a Catch-A-Ride. I pushed a button on the station and it immediately lit up red.

            “Whoa, unauthorized user up in my grill!” a pre-recorded voice rang out. “You trying to hack my Catch-A-Ride? Uncool, bro, Uncool.”

            “Oh shut up,” I grunted and immediately hacked the Catch-A-Ride with my ECHO eye. It constructed a runner and I hopped in and took off.

           I drove down the road, smashing into any stalkers that were stupid enough to get in my way, but it wasn’t enough to sate my annoyance, so I called Nisha.

            “Haha, wow, you have it rough,” she commented, sounding not the least bit sympathetic after I told her what happened.

            “I totally woulda had ‘em too!” I whined, “if…if my prosthetics didn’t randomly stop working.”

            “It’s weird that happened,” she said, “usually Jack is like real meticulous about that kinda stuff.”

            “Well, you know, Mr. Perfect will never admit it but…stuff happens,” I replied.

            She hummed agreeably. “You know, you should just ditch Opportunity and come hang out with me.”

            I chuckled lightly. “Tempting offer but Jack’s pissed enough. I should try to stay on his good side here.”
            “You’re such a good pet.”

            “I thought that was you.”

            “Nah, he’s my pet.”

           I laughed until Angel’s hologram suddenly appeared in my vision. Then I scoffed with disgust.

            “Nish, I gotta go,” I said, “I’ll call you later.”

            After hanging up, I said to Angel, “do you mind? I’m driving.”

            “Skies, I’m really sorry,” she said quickly, “I know you’re upset and you have every right to be. I don’t expect you to forgive me or understand why I did it. Just know I really am truly sorry.”

            “Oh, I know why you did it,” I snapped, “you’ve chosen your side, haven’t you? I’m sure Jack will never want to believe it but you want the Vault Hunters to win. You’ve been helping them this whole time, even after your betrayal.”

            She seemed stunned. “You’re…very perceptive.”
            I shrugged wordlessly.

            “Thank you for not telling Jack the truth.”

            I winced. “Yeah, well, like I said. He wouldn’t believe me. You’re his favourite.”

            She smiled sadly and I felt a heaviness in my chest that I quickly ignored.

            “I have to go,” Angel said, “you’re almost to your destination.”

            Her hologram disappeared as I pulled up to a long bridge going over the water. In the distance I could see the skyline of a large city. I hopped out of the car and walked the rest of the way.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

 

            Compared to the other cities on Pandora, Opportunity is big, bright, and flamboyant, even though it was still being built. Definitely a monument to Jack’s massive ego. He loved those. Especially when they were literal monuments like the statues of himself he had all over the city.

            Compared to the other cities on Pandora, Opportunity looks livelier. But it wasn’t. It only had construction workers who were all busy working so I was basically wandering around an empty city, waiting for Jack.

            I hung out in the Living Legend Plaza for a while before sitting on the statue, sighing with annoyance. I was about to call him when someone called out to me.

            “Hey, kiddo. No sitting on the statue. It’s priceless.”

            I turned around to Handsome Jack. Except he wasn’t. While he looked real enough, his voice, posture, and general sense of self clearing weren’t Jack. He looked awkward, like he was trying too hard to be cool. I knew immediately that he was one of Jack’s body doubles. I had never met them before but I knew they existed.

            And this one seemed like a great opportunity for me to have some fun. Hey! I guess the city lived up to its name.

            “Jack!” I exclaimed, jumping to his feet. “About time. I’ve been waiting for you.”

            “Y-you have?” he questioned before grinning shakenly. “I mean, of course you have. I’m always fashionably late. You’re my bodyguard…right?”

            “The one and only,” I replied, clapping his back. “Lookit us. Just two genuine articles.”

            “Heh, uh y-yeah,” he chuckled nervously.

            “So this is a nice city you have here,” I commented, “I’m sure it’ll be real cool when it’s finished. But in the meantime, there must be something fun for you to do.”

            “Uh well…” he murmured with uncertainty.

            “C’mon, Jackie boy,” I grinned, squeezing his arm. “You can’t tell me you don’t have your own pad here. You can take me, your trusted left hand and bodyguard there. You take me everywhere. You know that.”

            “Uh right.” He forced a grin. “Of course. Just follow me…kitten…”

            I did my best not to laugh as he led me through the city. He barely even walked like Jack; he was way too jittery. Any professional assassin would know he’s not the real deal.

            He took me to the Waterfront District and across a large bridge to a skyscraper out into the sea. The inside was completely furnished. It looked like it was going to be where all the big wigs lived when the city was done.

            We got into the elevator and went all the way to the top, to the penthouse.

            When the doors slid open, I rubbed my hands together excitedly. “Aw yeah. This is what I’m talking about.”

            Just like with everything Jack owned, the penthouse was needlessly big with tons of furniture in the living room, a giant TV screen, and speakers all along the edge of the ceiling. The walls were all glass, overlooking the ocean and the city. And the kitchen was overstocked with fresh, expensive food.

            “We-well, this is my pad, kiddo,” Not-Jack said before I rushed inside, straight for the kitchen.

            “Wa-wait! Don’t make a mess!” he squealed.

            “Why not?” I asked as I shoved expensive chocolates into my mouth. “It’s your place, right? You can just have someone clean it up.”

            “Uh um we-well,” he stammered and fidgeted. I rolled my eyes and walked up to him.

            “Okay, okay. I had my fun,” I said and patted his shoulder. “I know you’re not really Handsome Jack.”

            “What?” he questioned.

            “You’re one of his body doubles,” I clarified, “I knew from the start.”

            He sighed and clapped his hand across his forehead. “Ugh, is my acting that bad.”

            “Yeah, but from what I heard you guys aren’t paid to be good at it,” I shrugged, “don’t worry about it.”

            He sighed. “Okay, well, we should go. We could get in a lot of trouble for being here.”

            “Why? I mean you’re still kind of Jack, right? Why not reap the benefits?” I asked, waving my hands at the room behind me.

            “Uh b-but.”

            “Come on,” I urged, “if you’re really Jack then you should be allowed to live it up like him, right? What’s something you always wanted to do?”

            “Well…” he trailed off.

            “Yeah?”

            “I guess I have always wanted to try the expensive champagne he always has.”

            I slid over to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of champagne, popped the cork, and handed it over.

            “Bottoms up, ‘Jack’.”
            He smiled and took a swig.

            One bottle of champagne later, we had rock music blaring from the speakers and were jumping on the couches, head banging to the beat. There were food crumbs and splatters all over the floor and bullet holes in the wall after I taught Not-Jack how to shoot a pistol. He was terrible at it.

            I’m not sure how long we partied for but it was cut short when the music suddenly stopped.

            “Hey! Who cut the tunes…” Not-Jack started to shout but quickly fizzled out as we saw who was standing by the stereo.

            The real Handsome Jack glared at us as he lifted his finger from the buttons.

            “Jackie!” I exclaimed, “you found me! ‘Bout time! You know how long I’ve been waiting?”

            “Too long, apparently,” he grunted as he looked around the room.

            “What can I say, I got antsy,” I shrugged as I hopped off the couch. Not-Jack cowered behind me.

            “H-Hansome Jack, sir, I *hic* I d-din’t mean for it to get *hic* to get so out of h-hand,” he stammered and slurred.

            “Relax, kiss-ass,” I said, patting his face. “If he were really pissed off, he would’ve come in shooting. Now, why don’t you go sleep it off.”

            He nodded before stumbling off to the bedrooms. I sighed as I watched him leave. “I’m gonna miss that little idiot.”

            “Well, I did have an important job for you,” Jack said, “but you might be too drunk to handle it.”

            “Are you kidding? I haven’t had a drop of alcohol,” I scoffed, “you think I’m gonna get drunk with a guy who is literally paid to be an assassination target?”

            “Good, then let’s get going already,” he ordered as he headed for the door. “I’m in a hurry.”
            “Hey, you’re the one who took forever to pick me up,” I grunted as I followed him. “So what’s the job?”

            “First!” Jack boomed, pointing at me. “I want to be sure you didn’t botch that last job on purpose.”
            “Are you serious,” I grunted, “you think I let those Vault Hunters get away on purpose? After what happened to Wilhelm?”

            “You did waste a lot of time playing with them.”

            “Please. Like you never play with your prey.”

            “So what did happen?”

            “I don’t know!” I snapped, “all of my cybernetics and prosthetics just stopped working! Don’t you think I’m pissed about it?”

            “Alright!” Jack snapped back, “well you can redeem yourself with this next job.”
            “Great,” I snorted, “what is it?”

            “You’re gonna get something for me.”
            The conversation stopped as we arrived at Opportunity Square. We went up to a metal door with a keypad and Jack punched in a code. Inside was some sort of surveillance room with footage of the city. But Jack wasn’t interested in the footage. Inside he went up to an empty wall and placed his hand against it. A large scanner appeared that scanned his whole body and a hidden door opened up.

            “Cool, secret lab,” I commented as we went down a set of dimly lit stairs.

            “It’s connected to your bio-signature too,” Jack explained, “I tried to call you to tell you to meet me down here, but you were clearly busy.”

            I just shrugged and grinned as we reached the bottom of the stairs. It was a simple room with a large computer on one side of the room, a couple of cabinets and shelves on the other, and a fast travel station across from us.

            “This is uncharacteristically boring of you,” I remarked.   

          “I don’t spend any time down here,” Jack replied, “it’s mostly for emergencies. Now let’s go.”

            He punched some coordinates into the fast travel station and teleported away. I followed close behind.

            We ended up in another larger lab. Beside us over a large console was a window overlooking a forest-y area, but the glass was smashed and there was fresh blood and large claw marks in the floor.

            “Uh what is this place?” I asked.

            “The Wildlife Exploitation Preserve,” Jack replied, “we experiment on Pandoran life with slag here.”   

            “There seems to be some…problems,” I remarked at the blood and claw marks.

          Jack shrugged apathetically. “Eh, break outs happen every so often. It’s not why we’re here.”

            I followed Jack through the facility. There were scientists and guards running around frantically. One of them stopped when they noticed us.

            “Ah, H-Handsome Jack, sir! W-We have the situation under contro-.”

            “Yeah, yeah, don’t care,” Jack grunted as we slipped past them.

            We quickly arrived to the roof, where two guards were hanging out. They immediately jumped to attention but Jack didn’t pay any attention to them. He was completely focused on the sky.

            I looked up and saw a large bird flying around up high. Jack pointed at it.

            “That. I want it.”

            I shrugged. “Okey doke.” I loaded my laser gun and took aim.

            “Alive,” Jack added.

            I retracted my cannon, rolling my eyes. “Picky, picky.”
            I noticed one of the guards had a sniper rifle and yanked it from his hands.

            “Hey-!” he started to argue but stopped when Jack looked at him.

            I took aim at the bird through the scope but couldn’t get a good shot. I scoffed, removed the scope and tossed it aside before aiming again, this time with my ECHO eye. It zoomed in and targeted a joint between the left wing and the body.

            I fired. The bird’s screech seemed to echo for miles as it plummeted towards us and hit the floor near our feet.

            “Excellent shot,” Jack praised.

            I smiled and gave the guard his gun back. “So what’s the deal with the bird anyway?”

            “It’s a message,” Jack grinned, “and I’m gonna have a lot of fun with it.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

 

            We spent the rest of the day at the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, watching the experiments done on Mordecai’s bird, Bloodwing. I won’t go into the grisly details. Besides, I was more interested in the effect it was having on Jack. He was smiling the entire time, which wasn’t odd for him. But it was different from the wolfish, amused smile he wore when punishing subordinates or destroying his enemies. It was…ghastly and dark.

            I realized later, when the experiments were a complete success, that this wasn’t just some sick, fun game to play on his enemy’s pet. This was about revenge.

            We left in a hurry, after Jack left the scientists with very specific instructions. As soon as we got into his office, he turned the Vault Hunters’ feeds on. They had just arrived on the outskirts of the preserve and were meeting with Mordecai, who was not very happy we had his bird.

            We watched the Vault Hunters fight their way through the preserve but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. I felt…tense. I couldn’t see how this could turn out well for us. I had pieced together Jack’s plan for Bloodwing based on the experiments and I didn’t think it would turn out the way he wanted. And I didn’t like the way Jack was feeling. He wasn’t watching them with his usual giddiness. Sure, he kept teasing them the same way, but I could see it on his face. He just kept on that dark grin.

            I decided to speak up.

            “Uh, Jack,” I said, “I know what you’re doing but I don’t think it’s gonna work. Destroying Bloodwing isn’t gonna make them stop. If anything, it’ll make them want to kill you even more.”

            “This is about sending a message,” Jack growled darkly, “if they don’t stop, I’ll destroy anything and everything they love.”

            “That isn’t gonna work!” I argued, “people like them, they don’t slow down. If you provoke them, they’re only gonna get more dangerous.”

            “So will I,” he snarled then glanced at me. “Besides, isn’t it your job to make sure they don’t kill me?”

            I huffed, offended. “Maybe, if you don’t decide to just kill me off for your so-called ‘plan’.”

            He scoffed. “Are you still on about Wilhelm? Let it go, it was important for my plan.”

            “Which failed!”

            His head whipped towards me furiously and he jumped out his chair. “Are you questioning me!” he barked.

            “Yes!” I barked back, jumping out of my chair. “You’re underestimating them! You’re so arrogant and narcissistic, you wouldn’t know danger if it smacked you in your plastic face!”

            “Obviously neither do you,” he retorted, “if you’re so stupid to insult me!”

            “I’m not afraid of you, Jack,” I growled, jabbing my finger at his face. “And I will not be tossed aside like some disposable pawn. If that’s all I am to you, then you can just end me right now. Or try to, anyway.”

            We glared at each other silently for a second, daring the other to make a move, when the door slid open.

            “Um,” Blake croaked, taken aback as he saw us. “Uh, sir, the uh the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve has been sending us red alerts for the past hour.”

            “I know, Blake!” Jack shouted angrily.

            He winced like a whipped dog. “Uh, right. Sh-should we send reinforcements?”

            “Don’t bother, Blake,” I snorted as I stomped to the door. “All those workers getting mowed down like grass, they’re expendable. They serve no purpose than to be killed as far as Jack is concerned.

            “Hey, where are you going!” Jack demanded as I slid past Blake. “Do not turn your back on me!”

            “Enjoy the view,” I sneered, pointing at my back as the door slid shut behind me.

            I took the elevator to the Hub of Heroism and just started walking to nowhere in particular. I was absolutely fuming and it must’ve been obvious because everyone stayed out of my way. They didn’t even give me condescending glares like they usually do.

            When I finally calmed down a little, I stopped walking and looked around. I ended up in one of the lesser used corridors. There were a few people milling about, obviously on the lower end of the food chain: janitors, maintenance workers, the like. They were all clearly surprised to see me, blatantly staring at me.

            I spotted what looked like a seedy pub at the end of the hall and let myself in. The whole place gawked at me as I settled at the farthest end of the bar.

            “Uh wh-what can I get you?” the bartender asked.

            “Get me a bottle of the most expensive booze you got,” I replied, “and put it on Handsome Jack’s account.”

            The guy seemed apprehensive but did as I said and brought me a bottle of rakk ale. I popped off the cork, took a swig, and sighed miserably before dropping my head onto the counter top.

            “Maybe this would be more satisfying if it was brandy or something,” I mumbled.

            “Skies.” Angel’s voice rang through my head and I shot up.

            “A-Angel,” I stammered, “d-did you…hear all that…?”

            “I hear everything that happens in Jack’s office.”
            “Ah,” I sighed and slumped against the bar.

            “Skies, you were right about most of what you said,” Angel said, “Jack does see most people as expendable. Just a means to an end. But there are some who are important to him. He may not say it, but he does value you. I mean, he wouldn’t just save anyone’s life, you know.”

            I scoffed stubbornly but I couldn’t argue as I looked at my arm and leg.

            “I know you’ve noticed it too. Wilhelm’s death hit him harder than he’ll ever admit, especially that it turned out to be meaningless,” she continued, “Wilhelm was with him for a long time. He wouldn’t have sacrificed him if he wasn’t absolutely sure it would work.”

            “But it didn’t!” I snapped, slightly louder than I intended.

            “And that hurts him even more than you. Trust me.”

            I sighed heavily. “I’m not gonna apologize.”

            “You don’t have to. He won’t either.”

            I shifted uncomfortably. “What if…he tries to kill me?”

            “I don’t think he will,” Angel replies.

            “You don’t ‘think’?”

            “Even I can’t always predict what he’ll do.”

            I glowered for a second before grabbing my bottle and leaving. I made my way back to Jack’s office, taking my time. But eventually, I did make it.  I went through the quiet, empty lobby and as I went down the hall, I heard a horrible, ear piercing screech from Jack’s office. When I went through the door, I saw him standing behind his desk, holding a violin while Blake stared at him incredulously.

            “Alright, you know what, screw you! It woulda been awesome if I had found it earlier. Shut up!” Jack snapped before tossing the violin aside and dropping back into his chair, pouting.

            He didn’t seem to notice me at first as I stared at him, shocked. Then, before I realized what was happening, I burst into laughter. I dropped my bottle and doubled over, arms wrapped around my stomach. My eye actually welled up. I had never laughed that hard in my life.

            When I finally pulled myself together, Jack and Blake were staring at me with bewilderment. I kept snickered as I picked up the bottle and planted it on Jack’s desk.

            “Here,” I said.

            “Rakk ale,” he sneered, “I don’t drink that slime.”
            “Oh, get over it,” I scoffed as I grabbed two shot glasses from his bar. “Here, I’ll pour it to be sure you don’t put any poison in it.”
            His usual amused smile cracked across his face. He took the shot and we ended up drinking the whole bottle together.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

 

            “Okay, gimme one black, one half and half. Uh two whole wheat bagels with cream cheese and- oh, those are cute. And two of those little cat cake pops.”

            The barista quickly gathered my order and handed me a cup tray with the two coffees and a bag holding the baked goods. I nodded my thanks and turned to leave. The coffee shop was full of morning commuters but they gave me a wide berth while also glaring at me like I was trash. The contradiction still makes me grin.

            I made my way through the Hub of Heroism to Jack’s office. He was still in the same spot I left him the night before: at his desk, watching the computer screen.

            The Vault Hunters had spent the last couple days in Sanctuary, which meant nothing but black screens. Jack figured they were planning something and he was frustrated that he couldn’t figure out what. But he wasn’t taking that frustration out on me so I was happy.

            “Mornin’, Jackie,” I said as I took my usual seat by his side. “I brought breakfast.”

            I opened the bag and took out the cake pops and the bagels.

            “Oh, yum,” Jack chimed and reached for a cake pop.

            “Ah,” I scolded, pulling it out of reach and handing him a bagel. “Breakfast first, then dessert.”

            “What are you, my mother?” he scoffed but started eating the bagel.

            “My job is to take care of you, I figure that means nutritionally too,” I shrugged and turned to the screen. I lit up when I noticed the Vault Hunters were actually doing something. They were just driving in a technical but still more interesting than a black screen.

            “Finally some action,” I commented as I leaned back, drinking my coffee. “What are they up to?”

            “Not sure. They finally just left Sanctuary and they haven’t brought up any part of their plan,” Jack replied bitterly, “they’re getting smarter…”

            “Yeah, ‘getting’,” I muttered under my breath then asked, “well, what do you think they’re up to?”

            “They must want to get the Vault Key,” he mused, “but there’s absolutely no way they could possibly get through my security measures. Plus they wouldn’t even know where it is.”

            I immediately thought of Angel but I didn’t say anything. Instead I said, “maybe they’re trying to gather intel.”

            Jack snorted. “Well, they won’t find any of that here.”

            “Huh?” I questioned and realized they were in an area I didn’t recognize. “What’s this?”

            “Thousand Cuts,” Jack replied, “half of it is controlled by moi, the other half is controlled by a group of bandits called Slabs. They must be here to see the Slab King.”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “He’s an old friend of Roland’s. Real name’s Brick.”

            “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of him from your bounty listings. So with Mordecai and Lilith, Roland must be getting the team back together.”

            “Looks like it,” Jack grunted and smirked. “At least that way I can destroy them all at once.”

            I made sure Jack couldn’t see the look of uncertainty on my face as I focused on the screen. The Vault Hunters were busy fighting the Slabs.

            “You sure Roland and Brick are still friends?” I asked, “why are his bandits trying to kill them?”

            “Pft, I don’t care,” Jack scoffed, “bandits are always tryin’ to kill each other.”

            I shrugged agreeably and enjoyed watching the fight. The Vault Hunters shot their way through Slab Town and eventually arrived at some kind of old factory building where they met the Slab King, Brick.

            “Damn,” I exclaimed, “dude looks like he’s made of brick.”

            “He’s just a wall of meat,” Jack scoffed then chewed the inside of his cheek. “You know, maybe I can use this chance to blow them all up right now.”

            I looked at him curiously as he turned on the mic.

            “So, the Vault Hunters met the Slabs,” he said, “what a lovely opportunity to kill two bandits with one mortar assault.”

            He pushed a button on his keyboard and the Vault Hunters looked up at Helios as shots plummeted down all over the town. As they landed, I noticed they were a few beacons with energy shields and lots and lots of bots. Quickly followed were missile shots that slowly started destroying the town.

            The Vault Hunters, with Brick, quickly got to work fighting the robots to try and get to the beacons. The robots didn’t stand a chance. They Vault Hunters were quickly turning them into scrap while Brick got to work on the beacons and Jack was getting pissed.

            “Hey! Nobody destroys my beacons!” he barked into the mic and sent down more robots.

            I chewed on my metal thumb as I watched the battle. We were losing horribly, though I wasn’t surprised. It was still torture.

            Finally after they destroyed the second beacon, I jumped to my feet.

            “Send me down, Jack!” I begged, “I hold them off, they won’t stand a chance!”

            “No way,” Jack snapped, “first of all, if those beacons stay intact, nothing near that town will survive. Secondly, how do we know your prosthetics won’t crap out again?”

            I flinched. “Uh, y-you ran diagnostics on them and said they were fine.”

            “Yeah, and that’s what bothers me. If they’re fine than why did they stop working during that fight?” he asked. I clamped my mouth shut, unable to answer. “You are staying benched.”

            I turned away, tugging at my beanie with frustration. I knew Jack was right. If I tried to fight them again, Angel would definitely interfere. For a second, I thought I should tell him about her. But I didn’t. Instead, I agonizingly watched the Vault Hunters destroy the beacons and save Slab Town, while Jack got more and more irate.

            He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed with annoyance as he activated his Pandora-wide mic.

            “People of Pandora,” he said, “the jackass Vault Hunters have joined the Slab bandit clan and that can only mean one thing. It’s triple bounty week for all Slabs! I want scalps, people, and I want ‘em now!”

            He fell back in his seat, glaring at the screen with aggravation. I did the same and sighed.

            “Now what?” I asked.

            He shrugged lazily. “Doesn’t matter. Whatever they’re planning, they definitely cannot get the Vault Key. And soon it’ll be charged, I’ll have the Warrior, and they’ll all be destroyed.”

            He grinned darkly as he tapped his fingers together. “It’s only a matter of time.”

            I grimaced as the Vault Hunters went back to Sanctuary and the screens went dark. I just…wasn’t so sure.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

 

            I was lying on one of the office couches, glaring a hole into the ceiling, feeling just lousy.

            Jack had been called away to an emergency meeting, leaving me alone to brood about past events.

            If I had gone to Slab Town, I could’ve at least held off the Vault Hunters long enough for Jack’s mortars to destroy the whole place. But because Angel interfered with my first fight with them, Jack didn’t want me facing them again. He didn’t trust my abilities anymore.

            Ugh, I wish that didn’t sting as much as it did.

            My only option to fix it would’ve been telling him the truth about Angel, but I highly doubt he would’ve believed me. He would’ve just gotten angry, accused me of blaming her for my problems. It would’ve made things worse.

            So all I could do was wallow in self-pity.

            I didn’t have long to wallow though when Jack burst through the doors.

            “Let’s go!” he boomed.

            “Huh?” I questioned, sitting up. “Go where?”

            “A group of bandits have stolen an Eridium shipment,” he replies, “we have to go get it back.”

            “We do? Wait,” I said as I followed him to the fast travel station. “Why us? Isn’t this more of a job for like mercenaries or something?”

            “I like to be personally involved in small jobs like this sometimes. Let people know they can’t screw with me or my company.”

            “Right. Well, I’m always down for murder.” Especially if it meant proving that I’m not useless.

            We teleported to the location: a Hyperion base somewhere on Pandora. The workers were all in a tizzy, racing about like bugs. Then Jack obnoxiously cleared his throat and everyone froze.

            “Wow, that was impressive,” I commented.

            “Where’s Rickman?” Jack asked.

            “Uh, that’s Richman, sir,” a suited man replied as he exited the crowd.

            “With that suit? I doubt it,” Jack scoffed, “is the crew together?”

            “Uh yes, sir,” he nodded, “they’re waiting for you at the gate.”

            “Good,” Jack grunted and we took our leave. The crowd parted around us as we went to the front gate where a large, armored black truck with yellow stripes was parked. Standing around it was a group of five armed men. They all stood at attention at the sight of Jack.

            “Wait, so you are using mercenaries?” I asked.

            “Well, yeah,” Jack replied, “the bandits are probably gonna put up a fight. They always try even though they must know they’re gonna fail.”

            “But…” I wanted to say, ‘but that’s why I’m here’, but bit my tongue. I couldn’t stand the thought of sounding so…needy.

            We all climbed into the truck. Two of the mercs were in the front seats while the other three were in the back with us, though they were on different seats. Everyone seemed really tense with Jack so near.

            I sighed as I rested my chin in my hand and watched the desert go by through the window. The mercs kept talking to each other in code, probably trying to sound smart. My mood had worsened and every time one of them opened their mouth, I had to fight the urge to punch their teeth down their throat.

            We drove for a few minutes before the driver spoke up. “Approaching the target.”

            Jack and I both perked up and looked out the windshield. Ahead of us was a bus covered in metal plating and spikes. Sitting on top were two people in armor. They immediately started firing their assault rifles when they saw us but their bullets bounced harmlessly off the truck’s hull.

            “Well, take them out already,” Jack ordered, “but do not destroy the Eridium. We need that.”

            The guy in the passenger seat rolled down his window and began firing a shot gun, aiming for the wheels. But the bandits weren’t dumb. They wouldn’t let the merc get a decent shot and kept firing at him. I rolled my eyes judgmentally.

            One of the bandits tossed a grenade. Our driver jerked the wheel and I bumped into Jack as we barely dodged the blast.

            I lost my temper and jumped up. “Shoot them, you morons!”

            The mercs all seemed surprised by my outburst and the passenger tried to shoot the bandits but kept missing. I groaned with aggravation and stomped to the front.

            “Hey, Skies!” Jack snapped but I ignored him.

            “Outta my way!” I barked as I tugged the merc out of the window. “Like this.”

           I drew my pistol, poked out of the window while the bandits were reloading, and fired twice, a bullet for each head.

            “Now!” I snapped, “shoot the wheels.”

            I fired a couple more times and tore the back right tire apart. The bus immediately started losing control and swerving.

            “There,” I grunted, “you buncha amateurs.”

            The passenger merc looked offended but before he could argue, the driver cried out.

            We looked forward and exclaimed as we careened towards the back of the bus. It looked like it stopped in its tracks. Our driver swerved and hit the brakes, throwing the rest of us forward. We barely tapped the back of the bus.

            “What the hell happened?” Jack demanded as he lifted himself up off the floor of the truck.

            I threw open the passenger door, jumped out, and raced to the front of the bus, skidding to a stop at what I saw.

            It looked like the bus had been cut in half, the back left behind. When I turned ahead, I saw a smaller vehicle driving away with two back wheels closer to the middle than the edges and a tailgate. Standing behind it were about three people in matching armor that I quickly recognized: Crimson Raiders. And beside them I could make out crates of Eridium.

            I snarled and readied my laser cannon. Then one of them lifted their fist and wiggled it around. My ECHO eye zoomed in on a detonator.

            I gasped and spun around as Jack got out of the truck.

            “What the hell is goin-?” Before he could finish, I grabbed the front of his jacket and dove to the side just as the back of the bus blew up. The truck flew into the air, flipped around a couple times, and crashed into the ground.

            “Jesus!” Jack exclaimed at the fire and destruction before us. As we stood up, I looked back at the Crimson Raiders. My ECHO eye could still see them but they were steadily getting out of range.

            “Jack, these aren’t just bandits,” I said, “they’re the Crimson Raiders.”

            “What’s the difference,” he shrugged, “I’ll just call some reinforcements and-.”

            “Reinforcements?” I snapped, “we don’t have that kind of time! They’re getting away.”

            “Relax,” he groaned, “we’ll find them, torture them, and kill them. Easy peasy.”

            “How can you say that after what just happened? We completely underestimated them! Look, if I leave right now I can-.”

            “No way. What if your prosthetics stop working again?”

            “It won’t happen again!”

            “How do you know!”

            “Because-.” Because I didn’t think Angel would care about a bunch of random Crimson Raiders if the Vault Hunters weren’t involved.

            “Besides, you’re my bodyguard,” Jack added, “you can’t just leave me alone out here.”

            I groaned with irritation and turned back towards the Crimson Raiders. They were nearly out of range.

            I heard moaning from behind and turned around as one of the mercs pulled himself out of the wreckage of the truck. He looked pretty beat up but more or less alive.

            “Perfect,” I chimed and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him to his feet and shoving him towards Jack. “Watch him.”

            “Wh-whuh?” the merc mumbled.

            “Huh!” Jack snapped.

            “I’m getting that Eridium,” I declared and raced away.

            “Skies!” Jack barked after me.

            I took a running start then activated my air cannon and blasted into the sky. I flew through the air, landed, then did it again, quickly gaining ground on the Crimson Raiders. With my ECHO eye zoomed in on them, I could see that they didn’t know I was chasing them. It looked like they were already starting to celebrate. Then one of them noticed me.

            They pointed dramatically and the others whipped around as I shot into the air again and came down on their tail.

           They were all exclaiming with surprise as I aimed my laser cannon, but I didn’t fire it. Instead, I drew my pistol with my left hand and shot out both of their back wheels.

            They swerved a bit but the driver managed to maintain control. The Crimson Raiders in the back were pulling out their guns but I shot myself into the air before they could shoot and flew over the truck. I landed on the hood, startling the driver and the passenger. Before they could do anything, I shot them both in the head with my pistol.

            The truck lost control as the driver’s body slumped against the steering wheel and swerved to the left. I blasted off just before it crashed into a large rock.

            As I landed back on the ground, the other Crimson Raiders jumped out the back and took aim at me. I smirked, lifted my laser cannon, and blew them all to mush.

            I stepped over their remains and peeked inside the back of the truck, making sure there was no one left. Inside were ten large crates of Eridium.          

            I scratched my head and looked back. My ECHO eye wasn’t picking up Jack or any vehicles. I was too far out of range. So I went to the front of the truck and popped the hood. The engine was smoking but it looked like it would still work for a bit longer.

            I threw out the two corpses and climbed into the driver’s seat. It was little janky to control, what with the blown out back tires, but it would work to get back to Jack.

            I called him on the way. “Jack, I’m coming back. And I got the Eridium.”

            “None of it had better be damaged,” he snapped back.

            “Relax, it’s all fine,” I groaned, “I told you I could do it.”

            There was no reply and I smiled victoriously.

            Jack and that merc were where I left them, but a Hyperion bus was with them with a bunch of soldiers. They all looked at me with surprise as I pulled up and hopped out of the vehicle.

            “Eridium’s in the back,” I said, hooking a thumb towards the back of the truck.

            Jack glared at the soldiers. “Well, what’re you waiting for? Unload it!”

            They scrambled away and started moving the crates to the bus. I grinned as I leaned against the truck and watched them. Jack came and stood next to me.

            “So, not bad, right?” I smirked.

            “Alright, fine,” he relented, “you got the Eridium. But next time listen to my orders.”
            “Well, maybe next time don’t order me to let the enemy go,” I retorted.

            “Well, maybe I wouldn’t if I was sure you wouldn’t screw it up.”

            “I didn’t screw it up!” I snapped, “look, whatever happened that time, it’ll never happen again.” I hoped.

            “Right,” Jack grunted, seemingly unconvinced. Then one of the workers told him all the Eridium was moved and his face softened. “Alright, let’s get back to the office. I’m sick of being out here. I’ll never get all of this dust out of my clothes.”
            I shrugged. “Part of the risk of being out in the field.”

            “I don’t suppose you left any of them alive, did you?” he asked as we climbed into the bus.

            “Nope. All dead.”

            “Dammit. You had to have all the fun.”

            We both grinned as we took our seats in the back and drove away.                

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

 

            Jack slouched back in his seat, face smushed into his hand as he listened to some corporate jag-off go on and on around something or another. I stood beside him like a good dog, but my focus was on the view of Pandora out the window. I could not care less about whatever the meeting was about.

            News about me saving a shipment of Eridium had travelled fast around Helios, although it had gotten pretty skewed. By then the rumours involved a train and an army, but whatever. I enjoyed the effect it had on people. They still hated me of course, but they were also more scared of me.

            Jack enjoyed it too. He had me accompany him to a lot more meetings which actually kinda sucked for me. It was so boring. Still I can’t deny I liked how uncomfortable I made people. They obviously didn’t think I should be there.        

            I was starting to fall asleep on my feet when Nisha suddenly called me on my built-in ECHO comm.

            “Hey-hey, Skies,” she giggled, “you’ll never guess who just strolled into town.”

            I stepped away from Jack so I wouldn’t disturb him before replying with amusement. “Who?”

            “The Vault Hunters.”

            “What?” I gasped. “Why? What are they doing?”

            “Eh, looks like they’re trying to stop the Eridium transport. They’re also killing a bunch of the townspeople. Rude.”

            “Nish, listen, do not engage them.”
            “Relax,” she laughed, “I can take ‘em. Besides, I can’t just let ‘em shoot up my town.”

            “Are you forgetting they killed Wilhelm?” I snapped.

            “Yeah, and this is my chance to get revenge,” she retorted, “talk to you later, I gotta let these losers know who they’re dealing with.”

            “Nisha-.” She cut the call before I could finish. I groaned and turned back to Jack, grabbing his shoulder.

            “Jack, you need to hear this,” I hissed.

            “Well, it’s gotta be more interesting than this,” he grunted and sat up. “What’s up?”

            “The Vault Hunters are in Lynchwood.”

            “Huh?” he questioned, “why?”

            “Nisha says they’re trying to stop the Eridium trains,” I replied.

            “Ugh, of course. Well, whatever. Nisha can handle them.”
            “Jack, please-.”

            “Excuse me,” one of the office workers snapped, “we’re in the middle of a meeting.”

            “This is more important than whatever you’ve been droning on about,” I retorted.

            “Whuh-!” she exclaimed, offended.

            “Relax, Skies,” Jack said, waving me away. “Nisha will be fine. And we’ll finally be rid of those annoying tools.”

            I growled, knowing there was no point in trying to argue. “Fine, but can I at least go watch the Vault Hunters?”

            “Fine, go ahead.”

            I smiled gratefully before racing off. I ran straight back to the office and skidded to a stop behind Jack’s desk, eyes glued to the screen. The Vault Hunters were running around Lynchwood, shooting bandits. But there was no sign of Nisha in any of their views.

            I sighed with relief as I fell back into Jack’s chair and immediately called her.

            “Nish, listen, the Vault Hunters are stronger than you think,” I insisted, “look, I can go down there right now-.”

            “Relax,” she laughed, “it’s not a big deal. I’ll let them have their fun. And then I’ll show them who’s boss. Just chill out.”

            She cut the call again and I groaned loudly with aggravation, dragging my hands down my face. “She’s just like Jack.”

            “They’re perfect for each other,” Angel commented, her hologram popping up in my ECHO eye.

            I blinked with surprise at first before glowering. I was still feeling a little sour after she messed with my prosthetics.

            “Neither of them listens to me,” I mumbled.

            “They don’t see the full picture like you do,” Angel said, “but…try not to worry about it. If Nisha won’t listen to you then that’s her fault.”

            I huffed and looked back at the screen. The Vault Hunters looked busy trying to rob the bank. I cocked my head curiously.

            “Looks like they’re having fun,” Angel commented.

            “Yeah,” I muttered.

            “You should just enjoy the show,” she suggested, “maybe Nisha will surprise you.”

            I groaned with uncertainty.

            “Besides, Jack won’t like it if you just up and leave.”         

            I couldn’t argue with that and decided to just stay put. I admit, watching the Vault Hunters fight their way through Lynchwood to the Eridium mining station was fun. I got sucked way too into it.

            And then they went back to the town.

            “Wait, where are they going?” I questioned but I knew the answer. They were going for the Sheriff’s house.

            I quickly called up Nisha. “Nisha, you’re going to fight them?”

            “Obviously,” she scoffed, “I told you, I can’t just let them get away with shooting up my town.”

            “I’m coming to help,” I declared as I jumped to my feet.

            “Relax, I-.”

            “Stop telling me to relax!”

            “Fine, since you obviously don’t know how.”

           She cut the call and I shouted angrily before racing for the door and nearly running into Jack.

            “Whoa!” he exclaimed, “where are you going?”

            “To Lynchwood,” I replied as I slid past him. “Nisha’s fighting the Vault Hunters.”

            “She won’t be happy if you muscle in on her fight,” he warned.

            “I don’t care. They’re stronger than you think and I’m not gonna let them kill Nisha too.”

            “Uh huh. And what if your prosthetics stop working again?”

            I froze just before activating the fast travel station. I knew Angel didn’t want me killing the Vault Hunters. So if I went down there, would she interfere again? And then what? Nisha and me would both be killed?

            “Ah, dammit!” I barked and punched the wall with my metal fist, cracking it.

            “Hey,” Jack scolded.

            “I…hate this…” I snarled.

            “Look,” he sighed, “I told you, Nisha can handle this. You know how strong she is.”
            “But…” I muttered, my hand falling to my side. “I hate feeling so…useless.”

            “Well, only you can fix that.”
            I glanced at him before looking back at the fast travel station then back at him. He just stood there, hands in his pockets, watching me. Then I squared my shoulders and reached for the fast travel station.

            “I’m going,” I stated.

            “Wait!” Angel cried, her voice coming through the office speakers. “Look at the screen!”

            “Wha-?” Jack questioned, the two of us bewildered. We hurried back into the office and looked at the computer.

            The Vault Hunters were all looking at the same thing: Nisha’s bullet-riddled corpse lying at their feet.

            I vaguely recall Jack turning on the mic. “Wa-wait. Did you…actually just kill my girlfriend? That’s kinda pissing me off. Huh.”
            Jack lowered his hand, looking incredulous, like he wasn’t sure how to feel. Then without another word, he left.

            I stayed put, fists clenching against the desk, my metal fingers scraping the surface. I started panting heavily as rage washed over me and I looked around frantically for something to destroy. But in Jack’s office, there was nothing.

            I whipped away from his desk and saw my reflection in window. Immediately feeling disgusted, I punched the glass.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

 

            I slept better that night than ever before. Granted I had blacked out after downing two bottles of Jack’s brandy. And I sure didn’t get any rest.

            I was rudely awoken by a shaky hand poking my shoulder. I groaned as I lifted my head from the couch and looked up at Professor Nakayama.

            “Ugh,” I scoffed, pressing my face back into the couch cushion. “Not a face I want to wake up to.”

            “Where’s Jack?” he asked whiningly.

            “I’unno,” I mumbled, “he left yesterday.”

            “Our appointment is today,” he pouted.

            “Get lost, Nakayama,” I snapped, “Jack has more important things to worry about than you dumb little AI.”

            “My AI is not dumb,” he screeched, “it is pivotal in maintaining Handsome Jack’s empire. My AI will-.”

            I tried ignoring him but his squealy voice was grating against my ears and growing migraine and he was not shutting up anytime soon. So I shot up angrily.

            “Alright!” I barked, “if I go look for him, will you shut up and leave me alone?”

            He nodded meekly.

            “Good,” I grunted and stood up. The room was still spinning a bit but I kept my balance and dragged my feet to the door. Nakayama didn’t move.

            I glared at him before motioning for him to leave. He flinched and scampered for the lobby. I made sure to turn on the defenses before leaving.

            I went straight to the fast travel station, thinking I knew exactly where Jack was. I teleported into Nisha’s kitchen and was only mildly surprised by what I saw.

            The table was flipped, the chairs were scattered about, and there were even more bullet holes in the walls and cabinets. No blood anywhere though.

            I saw Nisha’s bedroom door was cracked open and let myself in. Jack was passed out on the bed in just his Hyperion sweatshirt and pants. The rest of his clothes were all over the floor along with empty bottles of Rakk ale.

            I left quietly and teleported back to the office. Nakayama was waiting there for me, impatiently.

            “Jack ain’t coming,” I said plainly.

            “Wh-wha-?” he stammered but I ignored him as I went into the office. As soon as the door closed, I called Blake.

            “Cancel all of Jack’s meetings today,” I ordered, “actually, do the same for tomorrow too.”

            “What, why?” he exclaimed.

            “Just trust me,” I replied, “it’ll be better for everyone.”
            I cut the call and lumbered back to the couch, where I quickly passed out again.

            I drifted awake sometime later and checked the time on my ECHO comm. It was later that night.

            I sensed another person in the room and rolled my head over to see Jack sitting at his desk. He didn’t look much better. His outer layers of clothes and his shoes were on the floor, his hair was a mess, and he looked exhausted the way he was leaning against the desk.      

            I rubbed my face as I lifted myself up, pushing my messy hair out of the way. Sometime during my drunk night I had thrown off my beanie, vest, and shoes somewhere around the room.

            I shambled over to the desk and fell into my chair. The Vault Hunters’ views were on screen. Looked like they were driving through the Highlands.

            “What’d we miss?” I asked.

            “Not much,” Jack replied, “looks like they just left Sanctuary.”

            He ran his hand through his hair as he leaned back, looking at the couch and the two empty brandy bottles beside it. “You really did a number on my liquor storage.”

            “Yeah, well, you know how it is,” I shrugged, “oh, I cancelled all your meetings for today. And tomorrow too.”

            “Yeah, I noticed. Not a bad idea.”

            I stood up, smacking my gross tasting lips together. “I’m gonna run home and shower.”

            “Fine,” he grunted, “don’t take all day.”

            “It’s nighttime hours.”

            “Whatever.”

            I smiled a little as I left. He at least sounded like his usual self.     

            I used the fast travel station to get to the apartment sector, went to my penthouse, and showered. After I was clean, dressed, and refreshed, I stopped at the Hub of Heroism to pick up some early breakfast. It was quiet, most of the workers still sleeping before work begins.

            As I entered the office, I was greeted with Jack’s shouting.

            “Alright, great, success. You’re pissing me off! Good for you! Here’s your prize!”

            He slammed his hand on the keyboard as I rounded the desk and took my seat, sipping my coffee. He was clean and dressed now, with his hair neatly styled as usual. And instead of looking exhausted, he looked pissed.

            “Sup?” I said.

            “These assholes are vandalising my property,” he snapped, thrusting his hand at the screen. I saw the Vault Hunters were in Opportunity, fighting a Super Badass Loader bot that Jack must’ve sent down. As they jumped around, I noticed one of his statues knocked on the ground.

            “Wow. They uh keep busy,” I grunted. I placed the bag of bagels and a coffee cup on the desktop. “Here, eat breakfast.”
            Jack grumbled with irritation as he squeezed the cup.

            We watched as the Vault Hunters made their way through the city with a hacked Overseer bot to another statue. They fought off more bots as the Overseer started laser-ing through it.

            Jack’s face was turning red from how angry he was. I barely managed to hide my chuckle behind a cough.

            “What is this even accomplishing?” he barked into the mic, “are you trying to piss me off? Is that your goal? Well, mission accomplished, jagoff. Y’know, when I’m curbstomping your dumb, little ass to death, you can take solace in the fact that one time for like eight seconds, you mildly irritated me. Good for you. Your parents must be so proud.”

            The final statue fell and Jack growled with aggravation. “Yeah-no-go ahead. Knock that last one down. I’ve already got a great idea for a new statue. It’s just gonna be me kicking you in the junk. I’m gonna commission like fifteen of those sumbitches and just put ‘em everywhere.”

            I couldn’t stifle the chuckle that time and Jack glared at me accusingly.

            “Sorry,” I smiled, “want me to go down there and deal with them?”

            “No, it’s fine,” he huffed as he crossed his arms like a pouting toddler. “They’re just statues. Whatever.”

            I snickered as he turned on the mic again. “You are such a jackass.”

            “Aw, don’t let it get to you,” I said, “the city’s still under construction. You can just remake those statues.”

            “It wasn’t just the statues,” he whined, “while you were gone, they also flooded the construction site of my future Underdome- with Moxxi’s help!”

            “Moxxi? She that hot clown chick you used to date?” I asked.

            “Yeah,” he smirked, “turns out she still has a grudge against me for dumping her.”

            “I thought she dumped youuuuu…” I trailed off as Jack glared at me. “Never mind.”
            He angrily bit into a bagel as we looked back at the screen. The Vault Hunters were hurrying through the city to the square, where a bunch of guards were stationed.

            “What are they doing?” I asked as they started fighting. Then I noticed Handsome Jack in the distance.

            “Ha!” Jack snorted, “they must think that’s really me. Dumbasses.”

            I shook my head sceptically as they fought the body double. “They can’t possibly be that stupid.”
            “They’re bandits. What d’you expect?”

            I watched them closely as they fought, my gears turning. First Wilhelm, then Nisha, now a body double. It would make sense if they were working through Jack’s high players, but the body doubles weren’t really that high up on the ladder. They must have been there for another reason. A bigger reason.

            After they had killed the body double, Jack turned on his mic. “Ha ha, nice try, idiot. I bet you thought you’d won, didn’t ya? But that was just a body double. And noooow-you’re gonna die!”

            The Vault Hunters didn’t seem too worried as more guards and bots appeared. They quickly looted the body double and fought their way through. They were moving with a purpose, like they knew exactly where to go next.  

            “What’d they take off him?” I asked.

            “Huh? Oh, who knows,” Jack shrugged, “probably just his crappy guns to scrap for parts or somethin’.”

            I leaned forward curiously as the Vault Hunters ran around the city, listening to all the info kiosks. I had listened to them when I was there. They’re all of Jack going on about Opportunity propaganda. Which is why I didn’t understand why the Vault Hunters were listening to them.

            “So they vandalize your city, kill your body double, and now they’re listening to your kiosks?” I mused with confusion.

            “Yeah…” Jack said as he leaned forward. “This is starting to look a little weird.”

            “Starting to?” I scoffed, “Jack, come on, you’ve been underestimating these guys for too long. They’re a threat and they’re up to something.”

            “Fine, but what?”

            “I don’t know, man. What could they have to gain from killing one of your body doubles?”

            Jack really considered the question and he watched them closely as they listened to each kiosk. When they finished, they ran off to a door leading to some kind of office and Jack’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

            “What?” I questioned but Jack didn’t reply as he opened another window on his computer. He typed a bunch and opened up what looked like a transcript of some sort. It made no sense to me but Jack got angrier and angrier as his eyes scanned over it.

            “Angel’s been talking to them,” he hissed.

            I clamped my mouth shut. He closed the transcript just as the Vault Hunters finished messing with what looked like a replica of Jack’s pocket watch. Then Jack pushed a button on his keyboard.

            I jumped as Angel’s cries of pain broke through the office speakers and my built-in ECHO comm. And judging from the reactions on the Vault Hunters, I think they heard her too. Then Jack turned on his mic to the Vault Hunters and Angel.

            “You seriously thought you could hide from me, Angel?” he snarled, “is that what you thought? Say goodbye to your friend, Angel. Say it!”

            It seemed like Angel was having a hard time controlling her powers, as her hologram flashed in and out in my ECHO eye. I fell back in my chair, gripping my twisting stomach as I watched her pained expression.

            “Oh, Angel…”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

 

            “You wanna know why I’m trying to awaken the Warrior? Because it’s not enough. This disgusting planet; these stupid, stupid freekin bandits I defeated, I don’t know, how many years ago? It’s not enough! I want it all! Every planet, every star. Y’know what, call me old fashioned but, being a god sounds like a helluva lot of fun.”

            Jack made a lot of speeches. Like a lot. And I remember…probably too many of them. But that one in particular really stuck with me. Like the Vault Hunters tore through his defenses- through his charming hero façade- and for the first time Handsome Jack was really showing his true colours.

            After finding out Angel had been helping them this whole time, Jack was pissed. He blamed the Vault Hunters for it, saying they manipulated her or something. He just couldn’t bear the idea that his precious Angel was trying to betray him. I knew though. Of course I couldn’t do anything about it. I mean, what could I do? Stop her myself?

            I couldn’t. I couldn’t…

            Jack’s mood only got worse as the Vault Hunters started storming the Hyperion facility in Thousand Cuts. I excused myself to the lobby to avoid his passive aggression.

            “Angel,” I said.

            “Yes,” she replied, her hologram popping up in my ECHO eye.

            “Why are you doing this? It won’t end well,” I pointed out.

            “I disagree. I think the Vault Hunters can stop him.”

            “I don’t care about that. I mean for you.”
            I blurted it out before I realized and clamped my mouth shut, surprised at myself. Angel smiled softly.

            “You…really are a good person,” she said.

            “Come on,” I scoffed, “you have any idea how many people I’ve killed?”

            “Yes, I do. But I mean deep down. I knew from the second I saw you that the life you lived was not one you chose.”

            I sighed and smiled weakly. “Yeah, well…I guess that makes two of us.”
            Angel smiled back.

            I looked away hesitantly. “I could…break you out…”

            “It’s too late for me,” she said plainly.

            “No, I could. While Jack’s distracted, I could go down there. We could…we could bring Eridium and one of the injectors with us and-and find someone who could fix you.”

            “It’s not possible,” Angel argued, “you know that. Even if you could break me out, Jack would find us.”

            “I could…” I popped out my laser cannon and glanced back at the office. “…right now…he’d never see it coming…Jack trusts me.”

            “I think he does,” she nodded, “and I think that’s why you wouldn’t be able to.”

            I stared at my arm, at my leg for a second when Jack’s voice called out from behind the door.

            “Skies, get in here! They’re gonna try and break through the bunker! You’re gonna miss the best part!”

            I sighed miserably as I retracted my cannon, my arm dropping to my side. “Be right there,” I called back.

            Angel smiled warmly. I forlornly stared back until her hologram flickered away, then I went back into the office.

            Jack was leaning forward in his chair with an excited grin on his face. As I sat down, I watched the screen with confusion. The Vault Hunters, with the help of Brick’s buzzards, were tearing through the turrets and bots on Jack’s bunker.

            “What are you so excited about?” I asked, “they’re kicking ass.”
            “For now,” he snickered.

            It didn’t take them long to take out the last bot, and that’s when Jack chimed in, as what looked like a large, metal pedestal started lifting from the floor.

            “Do you really think I’d protect Angel with nothing but a couple bots and some flimsy turrets?” he said, “y’see, you’re not at the bunker right now. The bunker isn’t a place.”

            The pedestal was actually large bot with many large guns that flew through the sky.

            “That’s the bunker,” Jack said proudly, “Meet the BNK-3R, the greatest defense bot ever built. Designed her myself. Now do me a favour and die.”

            Jack still looked excited but in a very dark way as the Vault Hunters and Brick’s buzzards fought the BNK-3R. I, on the other hand, was torn. At times I found myself rooting for the Vault Hunters, hoping they might be able to help Angel. But then I would hope they get destroyed, so Jack could win. It’s like I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and you can guess who was who.

            But the Vault Hunters were holding their own and slowly beating the giant bot. And the idea of them winning was starting to make me feel sick.

            “They’re gonna beat it,” I muttered, “they’re gonna win.”

            “I won’t let them,” Jack snarled.

            I was unconvinced as we watched them tear into the BNK-3R. And judging from Jack’s face, I’m not sure he was convinced either.

            “Skies.” I winced at Angel’s face in my ECHO comm. I glanced at Jack but he was completely focused on the battle.

           “Tell me how it ends,” I grunted as I stood up and left. As soon as the door closed behind me, Angel started talking.

            “You wanna help me, right?”

            “Y-yes,” I croaked.

            “Then I need you to do something very important. Something only you can do.”

            “O-okay?”

            “I need you to hack Jack’s fast travel station.”
            “What?” I exclaimed.

            “The Vault Hunters are gonna get through his security door and when they do, he’s gonna try and stop them,” Angel exclaimed, “you have to keep him there. Jack has security on his tech that keeps even me out. But thanks to the upgrades I made, only your ECHO eye can break through it.”
            “Yo-you were planning this from the beginning,” I said, stunned, “oooh, you diabolical little genius! I don’t know whether to be proud or pissed!”

            “Please, Skies.”

            “Angel-,” I groaned as I doubled over, gripping my hair. “If I do this then yo-you’ll…”
            “Skies, please,” she begged, “I have to stop him. He can’t win.”

            I pressed my forehead into the wall and glared at the fast travel station. I felt like I was losing a staring contest.   

            “Skies. Please.”

            I groaned in agony before activating my ECHO eye. I hacked the fast travel station, completely deactivating it.

            “Thank you.” Angel’s smile was warm but it made me feel sick. When her hologram disappeared, I slid down to my knees, my head still pressed into the wall.

            After a couple minutes, the office door opened up and Jack stormed up, barking angrily.

            “What are you doing!” he shouted, “they’re almost to the security door! I have to stop them!”

            “It’s not working,” I mumbled.

            “What?” he snapped as he tried to turn on the fast travel station, but it didn’t respond. “What-wha-what’s wrong with it?”

            “It’s not working,” I said again as I lifted my head. “I tried. Angel…she must’ve hacked it.”

            “That’s not possible,” Jack argued, “I designed my defenses so not even she can break through.”

            “She must’ve found a way. Just like how she hacked my prosthetics.”

            “What!” he barked.

            “That’s why I lost that fight with the Vault Hunters,” I clarified, “she shut them down.”
            “Why didn’t you say anything?”

            “You wouldn’t have believed me.”
            Jack didn’t argue and growled. “Fine, it’s fine. I’ll fix it, I can fix it.”

            He knelt behind the fast travel station, dropping an ECHO device between us, and removed a panel. I glanced at the ECHO and realized it was projecting a small hologram of Angel’s room. She’s was still floating there with the Vault Key, completely alone. And then a light appeared as a door opened and her tattoos lit up white.

            Jack slammed his hand on the ECHO device and shouted, “you get the hell away from my daughter!”

            It felt like I was just punched in the gut. Feelings started surfacing, feelings that I spent the last year or so stomping down. Feelings I hadn’t felt my entire life.

            Angel…really was Jack’s daughter…

            I could hear Jack yelling and Angel arguing but it was like white noise in my ears. I felt numb, cold, confused, like I was floating through empty space. Through it all, some part of me was demanding I go down there, stop them. Another part was telling me to leave it, let her do what she has to do.

            I only snapped out of it when I heard Angel scream.

            I shot up and looked at the ECHO device. Angel was no longer floating; instead, she was lying on the ground next to the Vault Key, with the Vault Hunters, Roland, and Lilith standing over her.

            “Angel! No, Angel!” Jack shrieked, slamming his hands onto the floor. We both stared at the hologram, speechless. And then, I glanced at the fast travel station and turned it back on.

            Jack jolted when it beeped, grabbed the ECHO device, and jumped to his feet. Then without another word, he teleported away.  And I stayed put, curled up on the floor.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

 

            Skies halts her story and looks off in the distance, her stomach in knots and an odd heaviness in her chest. She rubs her tired eye and leans back.

            “That’s…enough for now,” she says, “you got anymore tea?”

            “No, keep going.”

            Skies looks at Tiny Tina with surprise. She doesn’t sound like her usual self and she’s staring down at the floor, her expression blocked by the shadow of her hair.

            “I want you to keep going,” Tina says, her voice dark and heavy. “I wanna hear it all from you. What Jack did. Do you know?”

            Skies blinks before replying, “yeah, I know.”

            “Why do you wanna stop? Do you feel bad? About losing your friends?”

            “Wha-I-.”

            “You don’t deserve to feel bad.”

            Skies is speechless. That’s a lot of presumptions just dropped on her, and from a girl who, in their short time together, has not been known to spit such insight. Skies dumbly opens and closes her mouth, as if she’s trying to say words that just aren’t there.

            Then Tina looks up with her usual smile, though it looks a bit strained. “You’re right. That’s enough for now. It’s sleep time.”

            Without another word, Tina hops out of the overturned glass cell and skips into her workshop, closing the door behind her. Skies just stares after her in mild confusion.

            She spends the rest of the night in her makeshift bed/prison- not that she can go anywhere else- staring at the ceiling, thinking about these…feelings in her abdomen. Loathing them.

            She’s never had feelings like these before. Not until meeting Jack.

            She may not be able to translate them, but there is one emotion she understands: anger.

            Damn him. Damn Jack for making her go through all this. Damn Lilith for not killing her back then. Damn herself for not letting Jack kill her. Damn Tina for making her relive all this. Damn Angel…

            “Angel,” she moans, curling in on herself. “Angel. Nisha. Wilhelm.”

            “…Jack…”

            Dammit, why aren’t these feelings going away? Why isn’t her anger enough to cloud the twisting in her chest? What does it all mean?

            She digs her forehead into her knee, her fingernails scraping against her scalp, her eye squeezed shut, trying to think of something- anything to distract from these horrid feelings.

            She’s so preoccupied, she doesn’t notice Tina’s door open, or Tina standing there watching her, before going back inside and closing the door.

            “Skies!” Tina sings, startling Skies. She quickly sits up as the young girl opens the door of her workshop and skips out, holding a teacup and a plate of crumpets. “It’s breakfast~!”

            “Breakfast?” Skies questions, “already?”

            “Uh duh, dummy,” Tina smiles, “it’s morning.”

            Skies has no idea how Tina can tell time inside this cave with the door sealed, but she doesn’t question it.

            Tina hands her the breakfast and plants herself across from her in the cage. “So continue your story.”

            “Oh uh I…I don’t know, Ange-guh I-I mean, Tina!” Skies exclaims. Tina looks at her oddly and she quickly clears her throat. “I-I mean, you already know how it ends.”

            “Yeah, but I wanna hear it from you,” she chimes, “you’re soooo good at telling it.”

              Skies sighs with defeat. How can she say no to that big smile?

            “Alright. I guess I’ll continue from where we left off.”

           

            Eventually I managed to pick myself up off the floor and wandered into Jack’s office to the window. I leaned my forehead against the glass and tried to focus on Elpis, instead of my own reflection.

            Soon Jack returned. I watched him walk in through the reflection on the glass. In one arm, he was cradling Angel’s body. The other was dragging Lilith by some kind of strange collar around her neck.

            The second I saw Lilith, a white, hot rage boiled up inside me. While Jack left her in the middle of the floor and carried off Angel, I whipped around.

            “You…” I snarled and stomped up to her. “You! This is all your fault! If you weren’t so incompetent and had just actually killed me back then, I wouldn’t have to go through any of this!”

            Lilith was crumpled on the floor, exhausted and beaten. But she still looked up at me with the smallest, most annoying grin on her face.

            “I’d be more than happy to finish the job.”

            Her tattoos lit up and for a split second, my heart leapt, but she immediately cried out in pain and doubled over, her powers dying down.

            I stared at her with confusion before again noticing the collar around her neck, then I smirked.

            “Heh, Jack beat you, did he,” I said, “you-that-that’s what you get. Acting all-all high and mighty with your ‘Crimson Raiders’. Not so high and mighty now, are ya, little Siren!”

            I continued taunting her for a good while. I don’t even remember most of what I said. She just lied there, unable to fight back, so I kept dishing it out.

            I finally stopped when Jack stepped up beside me, startling me. I completely forgot he was there and I have no idea what he was doing that whole time. He glared at Lilith, smiling but his eyes were furious.

            “You really are beaten, huh, Lilith,” he said and I grinned with him. “Oh, but don’t worry. I’m sure your big, strong boyfriend will come save you. Oh, wait.”

            He knelt down beside her and lifted her head by her hair. “No, he won’t.”

            He let her go and stood up, laughing. Lilith glared up at him.

            “You won’t win,” she growled, “they’ll come for you.”

            “Oh, I’m counting on it,” Jack grinned as he walked over to his computer. He leaned over the desk and turned on his mic, sighing heavily.

            “People of Pandora, my daughter is dead,” he explained, “Murdered. By the Vault Hunters. So I’ve decided I’m rescinding the bounty on the Vault Hunters. If you should kill that child-murdering son of a bitch before I do, I will find you and you will regret denying me my vengeance.”

            He sat in his chair, rubbing his forehead as I walked around to stand beside him. The Vault Hunters’ screens were black, meaning they were in Sanctuary. Jack leaned forward as he turned on their mic.

            “I wanna be clear about something. This isn’t about Pandora anymore, it’s about you and me. I can never replace what you took from me but murdering your Vault Hunters pals; destroying that flying city, hell, that’s a start.”

            After that, he stood up and marched over to where Lilith was attempting to stand up. “Let’s go.”

            “Where are we going?” I asked as I followed him. He kicked Lilith over and picked her up again by the collar, dragging her with him as we left the office.

            “The Vault of the Warrior.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

 

            The Vault of the Warrior was inside a large volcano that Hyperion drilled into, outfitting it with a bunch of equipment to make it more accessible, including a console that measured the charge of the Vault Key right at the Vault’s entrance, in the middle of a pool of lava. It was here that we brought Lilith, connected her to the Vault Key with Eridium, and started charging it right over the key hole.

           She didn’t go quietly of course. She struggled as much as she could and said many vile things. But she was swiftly punished and, because of the power of the Eridium, every injury we gave her was swiftly healed. It was really quite fascinating but I didn’t have long to watch. While Jack watched the key charge up on the console, he also had his ECHO comm display the Vault Hunters on their journey and they were making steady progress to us. It wasn’t long before they found their way to Hero’s Pass. And it was making me uneasy.

            “They’re gonna get here,” I muttered.

            “Good,” Jack growled, “let them come.”

            “Jack! They’ll ruin everything!”

            “I’m going to ruin them.”

            I groaned loudly with aggravation. “Can’t you just, for once, take a step outside your giant head and have a little foresight?”

            “What are you talking about?” he snapped, turning to face me.

            “If they stop you, then everything that’s happened will all be for nothing!”

            “They won’t stop me! I’m gonna stop them for what they’ve done!”

            “Augh, this is exactly what I’m talking about!” I barked, “you think you’re so smart, so prepared, but you’re too arrogant to really see the full picture!”          

            I glanced at the hologram display. The Vault Hunters were almost to the end of Hero’s Pass, where a Badass Constructor was guarding the entrance to the mine.

            I squared up and looked at Jack. “If they beat you, this will all have been for nothing,” I said again with emphasis. “And I will not let that happen.”

            “Hey! Where do you think you’re going!” Jack demanded as I started walking away.

            “I’m gonna slow them down until the Warrior’s ready,” I declared.

            “Skies!” he barked, “do not kill them! I wanna kill them!”

            “Then get the Warrior ready,” I retorted, looking back at him. “And maybe you’ll get the chance.”
            “Skies!” Jack roared as I marched away but I ignored him and he didn’t follow me.

            The Vault Hunters quickly destroyed the Constructor blocking their way and entered the mine shafts, congratulating each other on a job well done. They stopped short when they saw me, leaning against a mining vehicle.

            “Sup,” I nodded.

            “Heh, you again?” Axton scoffed with amusement.

            “What’s up? Want a rematch?” Maya asked.

            “Cause last time went soooo smoothly,” Gaige taunted.

            “Heh, yeah, good one,” I laughed drily as I stepped forward. Then my mood darkened. “But this time Angel isn’t here to save you.”

            Without another word, I started firing my laser cannon. They barely managed to dive out of the way and scramble for cover. But whatever stone piles or vehicles they hid behind, I immediately blew up with ease. They scrambled around the cave like insects and whenever one of them tried something sneaky- like Maya’s Phase Shift or Zero’s little disappearing act- I would always catch it on my ECHO eye at the last second but still with plenty of time to dodge with my air cannon.

            “Ay! Why don’tcha face us fairly, pendejo!” Salvador barked, while attempting to aim two rocket launchers at me.

            “Aw, what’s wrong, lil’ guy?” I teased as he scurried away from my laser. “Feelin’ subpar?”

            I was out-numbered but they were out-matched. They may have been quick to dodge but soon one of two things was going to happen: either one of them would run out of steam and I’d blow them to mush, and the others would soon follow, or Jack would awaken the Warrior.

            At least that was the plan. But as it turns out, despite all my lectures to Jack about underestimating them, in the end I also underestimated them.

             My eye caught Maya moving behind me, attempting her Phase Lock. I smirked with amusement and shot into the air, turning to fire at her. Then my eye caught Zero appearing midair to my left. I was unbothered and turned to fire at him, when I detected movement behind me.

            I whipped my head around just as a berserk, Badass Krieg leaped at me, buzz saw axe held high. My air cannon shot off just as he swung but I wasn’t fast enough, and he sliced through my ECHO eye.

            I slammed hard into the ground, rolling across the dirt, crying out in pain as I held the right side of my face. I could hear the Vault Hunters congratulating each other as I writhed. My blood boiling, I lifted myself to my knees, my left hand clamped over my eye.

            “You’re gonna pay for that,” I snarled and aimed my laser cannon. They flinched and started to scramble.

            But my arm didn’t fire. Instead it started beeping and flashing red, almost like it was about to…

            “Is it...?” Salvador questioned.

            “It’s gonna blow!” Gaige exclaimed.

            “Everyone, move!” Axton ordered.

            The Vault Hunters ran off quickly while I stayed on my knees and watched my arm in bewilderment for one more split second before it did, indeed, explode.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

 

            The blast was small, just enough send me flying into a wall, give me a couple minor burns, and completely destroy my arm. All I was left with was a couple of scrap pieces sticking out of my shoulder.

            I lifted myself up off the ground, feeling woozy. My vision was blurred and blood and some kind of discharge were leaking down my face and out of my shoulder. I grabbed my backup ECHO device from my belt and called Jack.

            “Jack!” I barked.

            “Oh, you’re alive,” he said almost apathetically.

            “Barely. Why the hell did my arm just explode?”

            “Oh, is that what that was? Look, okay, your prosthetics are one of a kind. I couldn’t risk them getting stolen so I planted bombs in them to blow up when your heart rate goes up. Y’know, in case you got captured and tortured or something.”
            “What! Why didn’t you mention this?” I snapped.

            “Well, I didn’t want enemies finding out about that either,” he replied, “besides, they’re not strong enough to kill you or anything so I didn’t think it was that big a deal. So did you beat the Vault Hunters or what?”

            “No, I didn’t beat them! Because my freekin arm exploded! I have to go back to Helios.”

            “Oh nonononono,” Jack said, “you get your ass back here. You don’t get to run just because you got a little excited. Besides, it’s just your arm.”

            “My eye’s been destroyed too.”

            “Your eye? I didn’t put a bomb in there. Couldn’t find one small enough.”     “N-no, the Vault Hunters did it…”

            “Oh. Well, that sounds like a ‘you’ problem,” Jack grunted, “now get back here.”

            “Is-is the Warrior ready?” I asked.

            “Not yet, so get back here or you’ll miss the big show.”
            “Jack, I-I’m not even sure if I can walk right now. I-I can see the show from here.”

            “Get. Your ass. Back here,” he demanded, “you ran off to fight the Vault Hunters against my orders and lost.”

            “I didn’t lose!” I snapped, offended. “I would’ve won if my arm didn’t blow up!”

            “They destroyed your eye! You lost! Now drag your sorry ass back to me or I’ll make you pay for defying me!”

            “How can you ‘make me pay’ from where you are?” I scoffed.

            “Did I not mention that I carry a remote detonator? And you should have one more robot limb left. You catching my drift?”
            I flinched and looked down at my leg.

            “I’m gonna guess from your silence that you do,” Jack said, “now either come back to me and I can get you a new arm and eye after I’m done destroying the Vault Hunters and this disgusting planet. Or don’t, and I blow up your leg and leave you here to rot. What’s it gonna be?”

            My throat felt dry. My chest heaved. Everything else around me seemed to fall way except for my robot leg that I couldn’t take my one eye off of. I was torn. Crawl back to Jack to serve him for the rest of my life or defy him and be destroyed. It wasn’t a very good choice.

            So I came up with a third.

            I lifted my ECHO comm to my mouth and uttered three words. “Screw you, Jack.”

            Before I could hear whatever whine he was about to let loose, I threw my ECHO over the edge into the lava. Then I drew the machete I kept on the back of my belt, lifted it high over my head, and drove it through my right shin.

            I shoved it through the metal, prying and tearing the robot limb from the rest of my body. I have severed many flesh limbs and this was much harder. It probably didn’t help that this was my first time severing my own limb. But I tore it off just as it started beeping and flashing. Then I also tossed it over the edge. It blew up, spraying lava into the air.     

            Across the way I could see Lilith floating in the air, glowing bright purple as she charged the Vault Key. Except all I could make out was a purple glare. Everything was blurring. My head was getting fuzzier and fuzzier and my body got heavier. And everything went black.

            I woke up slowly sometime later and noticed I was moving- or being moved to be more specific. My lower body was being dragged across the ground and my upper body was suspended in the air as something held my left arm. It took me a minute to remember what had happened until I opened my eye and realized something was very wrong with my vision. Then I remembered.

            I struggled to lift my head, failing a couple times, before I managed to look up just enough to see who was moving me. Brick had my arm and was leaning against Mordecai as they walked through the cavern leading to the entrance of the Vault. Neither of them noticed I was awake so I dropped my head back down without a word.

            They arrived at the Vault and Brick said something like, “look what we found,” as he tossed me ahead. I rolled across the ground onto my back, moaning softly. My vision was foggy but I still recognized Lilith and the Vault Hunters, looking very free and alive. They were talking but their voices were muffled in my ears as I looked around. And then I spotted him a few feet behind the Vault Hunters.

            With great difficulty, I rolled onto my stomach and dragged myself across the hot stone. The Vault Hunters stepped aside. I think I heard them chuckling as they watched me. I probably would’ve chuckled too. But in that moment I didn’t care, I barely even noticed.

            My hand fell onto Jack’s chest and I gripped his bloodied shirt as I pulled myself closer to get a better look at his face. His mismatched eyes were wide open, his face contorted in pain. His mask was lying on the ground beside him and for the first time I saw his real face. A nasty scar was planted right smack dab on it, in the shape of the Vault symbol. I remember thinking that it was so Jack to hide something like that.

            “I told you so, you idiot,” I croaked. Then I rolled off of him and onto my back. I saw bright lights in the sky above me and barely processed that it was from a hologram that the Vault Key hole was projecting before I blacked out.

Chapter Text

Conclusion

 

            “I woke up eventually to a boot poking my face. We must’ve been missing for a while because Blake had come down with a bunch of armed guards. I couldn’t quite make him out but I recognized him from the pale blur. They argued for a while on the best way to finish me off before Nakayama somehow got a hold of them- I think he just listened in on any conversations about Jack- and asked to make me into a weapon of vengeance. And the rest is, you know, history.”

            “Woooooow,” Tina breathes, her chin planted in her hands. “So you lost all of your robot parts because of the Vault Hunters, Jack, and…yourself?”

            “Heh, yeah, well,” Skies chuckles weakly, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

            “It must’ve been because you ended up here!” Tina chimes, throwing her hands into the air theatrically.

            “It’s certainly better than Nakayama’s lab,” she shrugs, “anyway, that’s the end of my story. So you gonna turn me in to the Crimson Raiders or what?”

            “Hmmmmm, I dunno!” Tina sings, “I haven’t decided yet~.”

            “Jeez, you’re almost better at torture than me,” Skies groans.

            Tina giggles then looks down, uncharacteristically serious. “Do you…regret working for Jack?”

            Skies blinks and looks away forlornly. “It’s…complicated.”

            There’s a heavy, awkward silence before Tina hops out of the prison cell and skips away. Skies watches her, weakly smiling, before looking away miserably. What if Tina does decide to give her to the Crimson Raiders? Skies wouldn’t blame her and she wouldn’t fight it. But what if she doesn’t? Is she just gonna live in this busted cell for the rest of her days? If Tina keeps feeding her nothing but tea and crumpets, then she won’t last much longer. Then again, it’s not like she wants to do anything else.

            Skies lies down and stares at the ceiling, resigning herself to the whims of this unhinged thirteen year old. Whatever she decides will be Skies fate.

            Turns out she doesn’t have to wait much longer, because the next day Tina comes skipping out of her workshop, holding something long wrapped in a sheet. She places it before Skies, smiling brightly. Skies looks at her, unsure at first, before hesitantly lifting the sheet.

            “Th-this is-,” she trails off, shocked.

            “Yeah!” Tina nods, shaking like an excited, little dog.

            Skies throws off the rest of the sheet and stares at it, stunned and speechless.

            “Ta da!” Tina exclaims, “a new leg!”

            It’s a peg leg constructed from various scraps of metal and hardware. It looks like it’s barely held together and probably has like six kinds of tetanus. But Skies stares at it like it’s the most amazing thing she’s ever seen.

            When she’s finally found her voice, she looks up at Tina and simply asks, “why?”

            “I made it. For you!” Tina chimes.

            “Yeah, I-I figured but I just…why?”

            “Because you’re broken.”

            She’s says it so bluntly, so simply like she’s talking about a mere toy, but it hits Skies like a punch in the gut. She looks back down at the leg, feeling an odd lump in her throat.

            “Sooooo you just gonna keep starin’ at it or do you wanna put it on?” Tina asks.

            Skies blinks and looks back at her. “You know how to do that?”

            “Nope but I can guess!” she replies, lifting a tool in each hand.

            Skies looks back at the leg a lot more warily.

            It takes almost all day to install the new leg. Thankfully most of the hardware from Skies old leg is still in what’s left of her flesh thigh. But it’s still a very lengthy, very painful process. Skies never wished so bad for an actual doctor and an anesthetic.

            But finally by evening they get it done. Skies cautiously lifts herself out of the glass prison cell and stands on her own, new two feet.

            It feels…odd. She starts walking, carefully, and struggles to keep her balance. The peg leg is definitely a couple inches too short but she keeps that to herself.

            “How’s it feel?” Tina asks excitedly.

            “…it’ll take some getting used to,” Skies replies, smiling shakenly. “But it definitely feels nice to move around again.”

            Skies stops and faces Tina. Gathering whatever scrap of sincerity and humanity she has left in her, she says, “thank you, Tina.”

            Tina looks at her, blatantly surprised, before bursting into squeals and charging in. Before Skies has time to react, Tina wraps her arms around her midriff and hugs tight. “You’re welcome.”

            Arm up, Skies looks down at the smaller girl in shock. Strange feelings roil in her stomach and she swallows another lump in her throat before Tina steps away. She smiles at her brightly and Skies forcibly smiles back.

            “Welp,” Tina sighs as she stretches. “It’s been a busy day. Time for sleepies!”

            As she skips away she chimes, “and tomorrow I’ll start your arm!”

            Skies looks at her with surprise. She wants to build a new arm too? What will that be, just a stick?

            She smiles at the thought but it’s short lived and she looks away, a heavy feeling in her stomach. She glances at the workshop door before scowling solemnly.

            Skies gathers the only possessions she has left in the world: her vest, her knife and pistol, the Siren collar, and Jack’s mask. Hiding the last two in her vest after struggling to put it on, she hobbles up to the door, trying to make as little noise as possible. After glancing back at Tina, who is still fast asleep, she opens the door and disappears into the darkness of the Pandora night