Chapter 1: Welcome Wagon
The dessert heat was stifling from the moment they’d arrived here in the Oasis. The busted-up vehicles and steep slope down from the jump gate up in the hills were far from inviting. To call this place an Oasis was more of an insult than a misnomer; there was nothing green and welcoming about the sand and arid heat that stripped the moisture from Maya's body faster than she could grumble about it.
Her companions, the assassin, the soldier, and the stowaway, weren’t faring much better than her as they trudged down towards the complex where their initial rendezvous was to take place. Though she suspected Zer0 was melting inside his all black suit, he never once so much as sighed; a true hero.
Krieg walked slightly ahead, seeming to know where he was going despite having never been here, nor even been part of the briefing; he wasn’t supposed to join them but he’d snuck out of Sanctuary and followed them at a distance until they were too far from home for them to, in good conscience, send him back. He was the ever-ready presence that Maya found comforting, if a huge hulking psycho could be described as comforting.
Something wasn’t right.
Down in the abandoned street in front of the old holiday complex, the atmosphere felt apprehensive. Was it just her? Was she paranoid?
“Dead and silent sands. Dust of bones and broken things. Something this way comes.” Zer0’s face plate showed an image of a skull and cross bones. He too felt the tension in the air.
“Krieg, hold up!” She called ahead a fraction of a second too late.
The car to their left exploded, sending shrapnel through the air, doused in flames, it seared whatever it touched. Her instinctively raised arm protected her face from the worst of the damage but her blistered skin hurt like hell.
Krieg! He had been thrown clear by the explosion, burns and tears in his flesh evidence of how lucky he had been. Getting to his feet with a growl he frantically searched for enemies to fight.
The assassin ghosted forward, leaving a hollow shade of himself as a decoy. Maya couldn’t track him but she supposed she didn’t need to; there were no bullets flying yet, until there suddenly were. The decoy had attracted the fire of a pair of bandits hiding behind another car further off the road than the first.
Krieg rushed them, hefting his buzzaxe overhead, hell bent on revenge. Zer0 was faster, skewering both bandits on his katana and pitching them into the dirt in front of the party with the firm shove of his foot.
“Spoiler of my spoils!” Krieg grumbled with disappointment to the assassin, quite civilly too, Maya thought. “The red river calls to me. I will drink their pain.”
In lieu of a reply, Zer0’s face plate displayed a thumbs up. The assassin made a subtle bow, one that seemed like a sign of respect.
“Did he just…?” Axton thumbed in Krieg’s direction.
Maya nodded. She’d heard Krieg spout poetry before, even quote Shakespeare, so for him to mimic the haiku style of the assassin was nothing too unusual as far as she was concerned.
“Poetry? Really?” The soldier’s raised eyebrows and a deep sighing breath were the end of his comment on the matter.
It seemed that the two dead bandits weren’t the only enemies in the area. These were not like the ones she was used to facing; ones that would rush you and swarm around. These were stealthy and subtle. They hid and waited until you’d almost passed them by before they’d jump out of hiding and attack.
Sly. She thought.
The party were on high alert after the exploding car incident so stayed clear of the vehicle that lined the road as they pressed forward. Unfortunately that meant that they were out in the open and when a roof mounted turret unpacked itself, they were right in its line of fire.
Maya was too far out of range to use her phase-lock, not that it would have stopped the bullets, only stripped the energy from the battery like she was sucking the life out of the machine. They backed up hoping to avoid the turret’s sensors but the thing was frantically pumping out rounds. Some found their target, scattering the party apart.
A sniper shot peeled across the distance, taking a leg off the turret but it continued to fire rounds down onto them from its new and jaunty angle. Zer0 was crouched behind the rusty carcass of a long dead buggy as he took aim and brought down the turret, sniping its magazine clear off so it had no more bullets to fire.
No sooner had the turret been rendered ineffective then the rusty buggy blew, taking Zer0 out with it. He crouched in the dirt, bleeding out as his head swivelled in search of something to kill for a second wind. Axton was there, kneeling in the flames with him, reviving him as his body armour caught on fire.
Stupid. Maya thought. And I thought I made questionable decisions.
Both men rolled to safety, smothering the fire in the dirt. Axton tried to casually pat at the fire singing his crotch but whacking himself in the nuts instead as his panic increased. Zer0’s face simply showed a sad face with crosses for eyes.
Jokers. Maya smirked. She had to admit that she was already growing fond of the her new family, even if some of them annoyed the shit out of her on a daily basis.
The rest of the way to the complex didn’t pan out in the same way. They used their grenades to explode all of the vehicles between them and the complex entrance, some made bigger booms than others, some took with them the bandits that were waiting to attack them when the party got closer. In the end there was only one enemy left; a bulky badass with a flamethrower.
Incendiary in a place that’s as dry as a nun’s cooch? They’re just asking for this place to go up like a tinder box – not to be confused with Flynt’s Tinderbox. Maya smirked at the memory of Krieg finger-fucking her against the capstan of Flynt’s ship right next to the corpse of the captain himself.
Krieg was already riled up and he rushed in with his shotgun, blasting round after round into the huge foe. The psycho danced around, trying to avoid the dangerous red plume of ignited kerosene until Maya managed to snatch the badass up in her lock. That thing had a ridiculous amount of health and would take more than her power and his jackal to take down.
Taking the opportunity while the foe was immobilised, Zer0 sniped the fuel tanks at its back, exploding them both with a window shattering boom. The badass was shocked from Maya’s grip, pitched back into a sand bank where he began to rage out.
Axton threw out his turret but that only sufficed to waylay the badass for a short while. Krieg emptied all of his shotgun rounds into the raging menace, not even taking the time to cackle about how much mess he was making and then he went to work with his buzzaxe, revving the motor and going for the thing’s legs.
Worn out and bloody, Krieg managed to hack the badass down until it was a legless and mangled mess dragging itself along the floor with one good and one mutilated arm.
“Jesus, don’t these things ever die?” Axton stuffed his last grenade into its snarling mouth and backed up to a safe distance. “You might want to…”
Blood and brains scattered out in a wave, cresting and rolling through the air like the first ripples of a stone dropped into a pond and coming down like a gooey curtain a fair radius from the blast site.
“Stand further back.” Axton finished, looking at Krieg who was now soaked from head to foot in reds and pinks, a few shattered teeth stuck in the goop dripping down his chest.
“GORE ORNAMENTS FOR MY MEAT BICYCLE!” He cackled, seeming much more himself.
“If you say so.” The soldier looked unimpressed.
“You think this is bad, just imagine what that twenty-four hour murder marathon would have looked like.” Maya teased him as she sauntered forward to what her map told her was their rendezvous point. “You haven’t lived unless you’ve been offered fresh cut testicles for earrings.”
Her dry chuckle didn’t cover the groan of disgust behind her. These guys had a few things to learn about rolling with a psycho; if it’s not red, wet and in bits then it’s not properly dead. Before the end of this mission Maya was sure they’d be a bit more appreciative of the eagerness Krieg threw into murder, nothing but full commitment to the kill, completed devotion to dismemberment.
It shouldn’t get her hot but she wasn’t asking who cared. No one understood this thing between them, and no one needed to.
“C’mon, Muscles!” She called to Krieg who was swirling his hand in the mess on his bare chest. “Let’s go find this Pirate lady.”
Chapter 2: WTF is Kitty Kreme?
Meet Shade, their drooling creep of a guide.
Starting off with the 'My Life for a Sandskiff' mission, which breaches into the next chapter too. After that, it's canon divergence time. Yeah!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A warm welcome to The Oasis. That’s what the neon sign said at the gate; a bright yet dusty reminder that not everything in this place was dead or busted. Twinkling fairy lights that were strung back and forth between lamp posts up and down the boardwalk, and the spicy scent of ‘holiday’ on the air could almost fool Maya into thinking she was on a resort in foreign lands, there only to catch a tan and soak up some culture.
Sadly, the only culture here was bacterial, and that holiday smell wasn’t spicy goodness, it was festering flesh.
How had she missed that?
Perhaps the dryness of the air had already ruined her sense of smell. Or maybe it was the other things that were off about the place that distracted her, like Shade – their overly creepy and slightly camp guide. Even his smile was off-putting; too much teeth, too much over-zealous cheer and fake laughter, too much wrongness.
Maya shivered at the thought of him, earning her a concerned glance from the psycho. Krieg had already threatened the guide with beheading, just out of principle it seemed, and Maya was in agreement but they needed some information from him so he had to live.
Shame. Maya pursed her lips curtly as she listened to Shade’s ramblings. Axton had elected to deal with the creep on account of Krieg’s murderous streak and her inclination not to reign him in on this particular occasion. Not that she hadn’t wanted to spoil the psycho’s fun; bad guys always got what they deserved from him, and this weirdo was no different. Ugh!
“Sandskiff?” Axton said sceptically. “To Wurmwater?”
Really? Maya felt irritation rising. Just pick up the ECHO details and let’s go! She shifted her feet restlessly, eager to be away from Shade and the pink neon Kitty Kreme booth. Whatever the fuck kitty kreme was?
“Oh, yes! Take mine! It’s the least I can do.” Shade beamed a drool-smothered grin at them. “Captain Scarlett is expecting you though I’ll be sad to see you go. You’re all just so cool.”
They made their way to a strange little Catch-a-Ride on the edge of the creaky boardwalk and Maya wondered absently whether Scooter had approved this little franchise. The vehicle that was berthed there certainly wasn’t to the mechanic’s usual standard, in fact it looked like a death trap.
Krieg jumped in the driver’s seat and fired the skiff up before anyone could object. He liked to drive. He was good at driving. It gave him a chance to hit and run anything that moved, spreading entrails across the hood of the runner, and all over the ground. He’d cackle with maniacal glee and crow ‘ROADKILL!” and “YOUR LIVER LOOKS PRETTY AS A HOOD ORNAMENT!” at the top of his lungs.
Maya smiled wistfully. The memories she had of just the two of them were something she cherished. Things were different now, living in Sanctuary with the Crimson Raiders made everything different. Although she was happy to belong somewhere, finally, she also lamented the loss of her freedom. She hadn’t really thought about it too much when she had risked her life (and Krieg’s) to save the city, or what it would mean for them both. She’d been selfish, she knew that, not really thinking how it would affect her partner in crime.
Krieg didn’t do well in big groups, it made him antsy, and when he got nervous the bullets started flying. He hadn’t killed anyone in Sanctuary yet but then again he had been keeping to himself. Hiding out in that dingy little basement room under Marcus’s shop because he wasn’t allowed to share with the others and Lilith wouldn’t give him his own room in the main bunkhouse.
Maya’s room was a shared room with Lilith and Ellie, Scooter’s sister. Not that she stayed there all that often, choosing to stay with Krieg on the filthy and torn mattress that he’d been given. It was disgusting really but she’d trade her comfortable bed for the heat of his skin any day or night. The whole thing between her and the psycho really pissed Lilith off; the red siren had tried a number of things to separate them and sending Maya on a mission without him had been her latest attempt to keep them apart.
How’s that working out for you, Red? Maya scoffed internally. Some things just weren’t meant to be changed.
A loud rumbling and pock-ping noise brought her consciousness back to the dry air and mustiness of the present.
That didn’t’ sound too healthy.
“It’s gonna blow!” Axton gasped, backing up from the shuddering skiff and from the psycho within.
Maya dashed forward, trying to drag the bulky mass of muscles out to safety but he was too heavy and moving too slowly in his confusion. How could he not see the thing was going to explode?
As smoke and sparks began to fizzle into the air, Maya was left with little choice. She flexed her power, ensconcing Krieg in a blue ball of life-sapping energy and lifted him into the air. With her free hand she reached for him, snagging her fingers onto some buckles on his hideous but familiar orange pants. When she tugged him she dropped her power, pulling him down and away from the skiff as the engine stuttered to a grinding stop and popped like a giant firework, spreading thick oily smoke and flames all over the vehicle and up into the air like a rolling black mushroom.
Maya was breathless. The fall from the raised platform had knocked the air from her lungs and then Krieg had landed on her, compounding the pain in her chest and making it impossible for her to breathe.
Her eyes watered and her head swam. The dense wall of muscle on top of her wriggled, grinding her back into the dusty gravel and shale beneath. They’d fallen down onto the sands beneath the boardwalk where the mismatched detritus of long past erosion hugged the once shoreline.
“I knew you’d fall for me sometime.” Krieg whispered against her face, with a gleam in his eye. He buried his mask in the crook of her neck and inhaled with a deep sigh. “Pain is the prettiest of perfumes.” He chuckled deeply and jumped to his feet, offering her his hand.
Maya’s lungs burned as she struggled to breathe through the pain of her cramping chest and gut. Gulping air in panicked bursts she finally drew a breath that was enough to comfort her. Despite the air being hot and bitter, it was still better than empty lungs.
Looking up to see a concerned Axton and a blank Zer0 looking down from the [platform, she gave them a thumbs up to let them know they were both okay as Krieg helped her to her feet.
“Oh no! Did my sandskiff just randomly and mysteriously explode?” Shade’s voice over the ECHO and his poorly acted surprise made Maya curl her lip in a silent snarl. “I guess you’ll just have to stay in Oasis and hang out with me some more.”
“Did you just try to kill us?” Maya growled, hauling herself up the wooden beams of the boardwalk.
“Heavens no!” The creepy guide simpered. “Why would anyone want to kill anyone so frickin’ cool?”
Maya didn’t buy it. There was something off about this guy from the get-go. She felt it in her guts harder than liquor shits from a night of drinking firewater.
“KILL ME TO MY FACE!” Krieg roared from down on the sand, beating his buzz-axe against his chest in true regressed primate fashion. “OR YOU’LL RUE THE DAY YOU CROSSED THE RED RIDERS!”
Axton sighed, drawing a breath to correct the psycho only to be stopped by a black-gloved hand resting on his forearm. He looked to the assassin who offered him naught but a shrug, the shake of his head and a question mark on his face-plate that meant ‘what’s the point?’.
“Don’t want to accept my generous offer?” Shade gave an overbearing sigh. “I supposed I have some friends out in the flats who might have some sandskiff parts for you. They’ve very nice and alive.”
Maya’s ECHO pinged with a location update from Shade. Dealing with the creepy little slimeball was becoming far more tedious than she had hoped. Looking at Krieg starting to climb up the beams and rocks to the boardwalk, she waved him off. There was a location out on the sands for a conduit disruptor and things would go much faster of they split up. Dropping back down to scree at the base of the rock face she tapped her ECHO.
“You two go speak to Lionel.” She could only imagine how much worse Shade’s friends would be. “We’ll get the second part way out there in the flats and meet you back at the catch-a-ride.”
Axton confirmed her instruction and the party split up.
Maya and Krieg worked perfectly together, there wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle, even out here in the unknown. They’d faced Handsome Jack (twice- although the first time it was a bomb disguised as Jack), Captain Flynt, legions of loaders, bullymong, threshers, rakk, skaggs, been kidnapped, faced bandits, rats, nomads. You name it, they’d fought it together. What could the bed of the dried-up sea surrounding a fairy-lit holiday complex possibly have give them to worry about?
Kicking a few loose rocks, Maya struck out, following the marker on her map. With Krieg humming a tune at her back she felt good, calm and safe. She was so caught up in the peace she felt with him that she didn’t feel the rumbling under-foot.
Feel free to let me know what you guys think, and if you've liked this story so far, check out the earlier parts of this series where more Krieg/Maya antics and some smut can be found :) Cheers!