After getting stranded in a Pandoran desert, Rhys and Vaughn- and Jack- run into someone interesting.
The demotion of the century; a ten million dollar Vault Key deal gone sour; said ten million dollars blown to shreds; his old employers trying to kill him; the AI ghost of a corporate dictator- and his hero- living in his head.
To sum it up, Rhys’ trip to Pandora has not gone well.
The only good thing that’s happened the last couple days is his best friend, Vaughn, actually believes him about his Handsome Jack ‘situation’. He may have been sceptical at first, but they’ve known each other a long time. They can tell when the other’s telling the truth.
But that doesn’t amount to much now, with the two- three- of them stranded in the middle of a Pandoran desert.
Now they’re resting under a large rock in an effort to stay out of the sun. Every so often, Rhys looks up at the Hyperion space station, Helios, to see if his old friend, Yvette, has sent them a car yet. But it’s quiet.
Rhys sighs and rubs the back of his neck with his robot hand. The cool metal feels nice.
“How do you think the girls are doing?” Vaughn asks. He’s sitting beside Rhys, staring at the sky.
“Oh, I’m sure they’re fine,” Rhys replies, “they’re tough.”
They’re talking about Fiona and Sasha, born-and-raised Pandorans they met through the botched Vault Key deal. They were working on finding a new Vault together when Helios attacked them, splitting them up.
“Hopefully they make it to Hollow Point alright,” Vaught says.
“Ugh, come ooonnn,” Handsome Jack groans. He’s been pacing back and forth in front of them for the last couple minutes, looking not unlike an agitated cat. Rhys has been trying to ignore him but once he starts talking, it’s a little difficult.
“I’m dying here, cupcake,” Jack whines, “literally dying again- of boredom! Let’s get going, let’s do something.”
“You expect us to walk to Hollow Point?” Rhys asks drily.
“Actually, I expect you to walk to Old Haven,” he replies, “that would make much better sense strategically. But anything would be better than just sitting here.”
Rhys sighs and looks past the hologram to try to ignore him. Who knew Handsome Jack was so whiny?
He spots something moving around the outcropping of rocks across from them and jolts. Two skags have emerged from their den. They notice the pair of ex-Hyperion workers and snarl.
“Uh, Rhys?” Vaughn says fearfully as they jump to their feet. The skags stalk towards them, drool dripping from their chops.
“Finally some action,” Jack says excitedly, clapping his hands together.
“Heh, uh, g-good boys,” Rhys nervously says as he slowly draws his stun baton.
One of the skags roars and charges. Rhys and Vaughn scream.
Something suddenly leaps off the rock they’re against, tackling the skag to the ground. Even the second skag is surprised.
Whoever they are, they’re definitely human. At least, for the most part. They keep the thrashing skag pinned to the dirt and stab it multiple times in the head with a machete.
The second skag gets over its bewilderment and charges the mysterious person. They start to turn but Rhys responds faster.
“Hey!” he exclaims and lunges forward, jabbing the skag with his stun baton. It yips as it flies off, hitting the ground hard.
The person looks with Rhys with surprise and he flinches back. They’re wearing a Psycho mask.
They quickly hop off the first skag and run over to finish off the second with their knife. Once they’re sure both beasts are dead, they stand up straight and face Rhys.
“A Psycho,” Vaughn whimpers as he cowers behind his friend.
“A female Psycho,” Jack adds, “never seen that before. S’kinda hot.”
The person definitely looks like a woman with a mess of long, curly brown hair. She’s wearing a single black boot and black pants with the right leg cut off at the thigh, showing off her robotic peg leg made of exposed scrap parts. She’s also got on a black shirt and a brown trench coat with the right sleeve tied at the shoulder as she’s missing her arm. Her Psycho mask looks cheap and handmade, with a painted blue Vault symbol crossing over the left eye. There’s a hole for her left eye but a patch covers where her right eye would be.
She scans Rhys and Vaughn appraisingly, lingering on the Hyperion logo on Rhys’ vest, his stun baton, and his one boot-less foot.
“Uh,” Rhys coughs, breaking the tension. “Thank you for saving us.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Vaughn adds, “you-you’re not gonna e-eat our eyeballs…are you?”
The suspicious glare in the Psycho’s eye seems to soften. “Nah, eyeballs aren’t my thing.”
“That voice,” Jack muses.
Rhys and Vaughn watch with surprise as she puts her machete away in her coat and takes off her mask. She’s got a nasty, jagged scar that cuts straight through her right eyelid to her temple. She looks kind of familiar.
“Skies!?” Jack exclaims in disbelief.
“Skies?” Rhys questions, glancing at him before looking back at the girl. “Skies the Bodyguard?”
She shakes her head. “Ex-bodyguard.”
Rhys, Vaughn, and Jack learn what happened to Skies.
Rhys, Vaughn, and Jack stare at Skies in shock. Everyone on Helios- hell, everyone connected to Hyperion and on Pandora knows Skies the Bodyguard. She was a wandering space mercenary who randomly became Jack’s bodyguard and left hand. Well, it seemed random to everyone else; only a select few knew about the special mission she had beforehand. Whether she failed that mission was…debatable.
“Damn,” Jack laughs, “looks like she’s been through the wringer. Wonder what happened to her. Rhys, ask what happened to her.”
“Uh um,” Rhys stammers, “wh-what-.”
“Ah-ah, me first,” Skies orders, “what are a couple of Hyperion stooges doing in the middle of The Rust Commons?”
“Uh,” Rhys chuckles awkwardly, “we were…l-looking for a Vault.”
Skies guffaws. “Ha, I should’ve known. The only reason anyone comes to Pandora is to find a Vault. That or they’re running from something. It clearly didn’t work out well for them. Wonder if it’s a good idea to leave them alone. They might tell someone about me. Oh, but maybe they had something to do with those moon shots earlier. It can’t be a coincidence.”
Rhys, Vaughn, and Jack watch, bewildered as Skies talks out loud to herself. It’s like she completely forgot they were even standing there.
“U-um,” Rhys speaks up.
Skies stops and looks at them with surprise. She covers her mouth uncomfortably. “Oh, I was…talking aloud, wasn’t I? Sorry. It’s uh been a while since I’ve talked to anyone but myself.”
“Well, she’s nuts,” Jack grunts.
Skies clears her throat. “So uh what are you doing now?”
“Um right now we’re waiting for our friend on Helios to send us a car,” Rhys replies.
“And you think they will?” she questions.
“What do you mean?” Vaughn asks.
“From what I remember, Helios wasn’t exactly abundant with loyalty.”
“Yvette will come through,” Rhys insists.
“It’s cute that you think that,” Skies comments.
She scratches the scar across her eye as she glances at the skag bodies. “Tell you what: if you lug these two skags to my camp, then I’ll let you stay there.”
“Really?” Vaughn questions.
“What’s the catch?” Rhys asks suspiciously.
“That is the catch,” Skies replies, “you think carrying skag bodies is easy? Although Muscles here might have an easier time than Toothpick.”
“Hey,” Rhys snaps, “I have muscles.”
“No, you don’t,” Jack scoffs.
“I do too.”
Skies gives him a weird look. He awkwardly clears his throat and approaches one of the skags.
“So uh any tips on how to do this?” Rhys asks, “preferably so I don’t get their blood on my clothes.”
Skies scoffs with amusement and reaches into her coat, pulling out two lengths of rope.
“Here,” she says, tossing them to the boys. “Tie their legs together and drag them.”
Rhys and Vaughn do so and start dragging. The bodies are heavy and it’s difficult to get started. But when they manage to, they’re able to get a sort of rhythm going.
Skies grins with amusement. “Hey, guys.” They look back at her and she hooks her thumb over her shoulder. “It’s this way.”
Rhys sighs heavily and they turn and start dragging in the opposite direction, following Skies.
She walks with a sort of hobble, like her peg leg is a little too short. Rhys can’t help but watch her. He saw her a couple times on Helios and even in this dilapidated state, she stills seems so strong and brave.
“Rhys,” Jack snaps, “ask her how she’s alive. Where’d she get that leg? What is she doing down here? What happened to her?”
“Would you calm down,” Rhys hisses.
Skies glances back at him. He awkwardly clears his throat.
“So uh what…happened to you?” he asks, “everyone said you died with Handsome Jack. But you’ve been here the whole time?”
“That’s right,” Skies nods.
“Why didn’t you call Hyperion for help?”
“Ha!” she scoffs, “I can’t tell if you’re naïve or just an idiot.”
“She’s got you pegged,” Jack comments and Rhys glares at him.
“Hyperion found us in the Vault of the Warrior,” Skies explains, “and you know what they did when they found me, half-dead next to Jack’s corpse? They discussed the best way to execute me. Like sure a firing squad is efficient but everyone loves a good, ol’ fashioned hanging.”
“In the end, they decided to give me to Professor Nakayama, to turn me into some kind of ‘weapon of vengeance’. I got lucky and escaped but…” She sighs bitterly, “everyone at Hyperion hated me.”
Rhys stares at her regretfully before struggling to catch up to her.
“I never hated you,” he declares.
Skies looks at him with surprise.
“I thought you were kind of amazing,” Rhys says, “you were this nobody merc who suddenly started working for Handsome Jack. Like you started at the bottom and shot all the way up. It was kind of inspiring actually. Like if she could make it then so can I. Plus you were so strong and the only one brave enough to stand up to Jack.”
“I wouldn’t call it bravery,” Skies mutters, “that would imply I was scared in the first place.”
“Exactly!” Rhys exclaims, “you were so cool!”
Skies looks at him uncomfortably. He suddenly feels embarrassed and looks back at Vaughn and Jack. They’re both judging him.
“Uh,” he coughs awkwardly, “m-my point is not everyone ha-hated you.”
“Hm,” Skies grunts and looks away. “Thanks, I guess.”
Rhys smiles warmly.
“God, you are such a loser,” Jack groans.
Rhys shares his dirty, little secret.
After a little while, they arrive at a small bandit camp, nestled in the middle of a circle of outcroppings. Rhys and Vaughn look around nervously.
“A bandit camp?” Vaughn questions.
“Yeah. But don’t worry,” Skies replies, “it’s abandoned. I made sure of that.”
She drops herself by the fire pit and nods at the dead skags. “Untie their back legs and hang them off that building there. I’ll gut them later.”
“You’re…gonna eat them?” Vaughn asks with disgust.
“Obviously,” she scoffs, “what, you guys never eat skag before?”
Rhys and Vaughn eye the bodies warily. Their tough hides hardly look edible.
“Better get used to it,” Skies says, “it’s like a staple down here.”
“We’re not gonna stay down here forever,” Rhys says as they untie the skags’ back legs. “I got a plan to get us back in Hyperion.”
“Wow, I’d love to hear it someday,” Jack says sarcastically. Rhys glares at him as they sit by Skies.
Jack crouches right beside Rhys. “Enough pussy footin’ around. Ask her what happened to her old prosthetics. Where’d she get that leg?”
Rhys groans with annoyance and looks at Skies. “So uh what happened to your old prosthetics?”
“Got destroyed,” she replies curtly.
“And where’d you get that leg?”
“Aha! Now I know she’s lying,” Jack booms, “I don’t doubt she could do surgery on herself but she is not mechanically inclined enough to make her own leg, not even one that junky. She must be hiding something. Somebody must’ve helped her. Ask her, ask her.”
“No, I’m not gonna grill her,” Rhys snaps.
“Who are you talking to?” Skies asks.
Everyone looks at her worriedly.
“Uh what?” Rhys questions.
“I wasn’t going to say anything because talking to yourself is a symptom of spending too much time on Pandora- I would know,” Skies explains, “but your buddy there doesn’t seem bothered by it.”
“Uh,” Vaughn mumbles and looks away guiltily.
“And you keep looking at…something,” she adds, staring at Rhys suspiciously.
“Be careful here, kid,” Jack warns, “I don’t know how she might react if you tell her. She might dedicate her life to you or she might kill you where you stand.”
Rhys awkwardly clears his throat. “Uh well y’see…a little while ago we found a data drive that belonged to Professor Nakayama and I plugged it into my head port and now…eh heh uh H-Handsome Jack is uh in my head.”
Skies looks sceptical at first, but the pieces dropping into place in her head is practically visible. And she quickly looks terrified.
She suddenly jumps to her feet and races away, disappearing around a large outcrop.
“Wow,” Jack comments, “wasn’t expecting that.”
“She looked…scared,” Rhys says with slight disbelief.
“Well, I can’t imagine working for Jack was wholesome,” Vaughn grunts then quickly adds, “uh no offense.”
“Eh,” Jack shrugs.
They sit in silence for a second before Vaughn asks, “what now?”
“I don’t know,” Rhys replies, “but I don’t like the idea of staying here.”
“Let’s keep moving.”
They get up and leave the camp. They walk in silence for a little bit and near an old Dahl oil pump when they hear a distant explosion. They look up as something fires from Helios.
“It’s about time,” Vaughn comments as the drop plummets towards them.
Skies watches Rhys and Vaughn.
Hugo Vasquez ambushes Rhys and Vaughn, using a car they thought Yvette was sending them. He threatens to kill them with a prototype Hyperion gun which promptly doesn’t work. Rhys, using his hacking abilities that have been enhanced by Jack, makes the car run Vasquez over. But then he suddenly loses control of his robot arm. After punching himself in the head, he and Vaughn make a break for it.
Skies watches the whole thing from the top of a nearby large outcrop.
“Yeah! Go ahead and run! You’re just making this funner for me!” Vasquez shouts as he gets into his car.
“Wow, what a tool,” Skies comments as she watches the car take off after Rhys and Vaughn.
“I’m gonna kill you!” Vasquez barks. Skies sits up nervously. There’s no way they can outrun him.
From out of nowhere, a loader bot flies in and pick them up, taking them into the sky. Skies is equal parts relieved that they’re safe and surprised at how relieved she is.
“This isn’t over! You hear me! You hear me!” Vasquez shouts, shaking his fist at the sky.
Skies shakes her head at him. “Moron.”
She watches the loader bot fly Rhys and Vaughn off into the distance. “Looks like they’re heading towards…maybe Old Haven? Wonder what they’re up to.”
She looks down and watches Vasquez pace around his car. He’s talking, probably into an ECHO communicator, but she can’t hear him.
She sits up and sighs. “It’s not a good idea to get involved with them. All the work I’ve done to keep my existence a secret from…everyone- it could all be ruined! And then Lilith will come for my head. Besides, getting involved with Jack in any way is just…”
She trails off and sighs again. She stares off into the distance, where Rhys and Vaughn disappeared.
Skies meets up again with Rhys and Vaughn.
Loader Bot brings Rhys and Vaughn to Old Haven, where some kind of Atlas Vault hunting tech is supposed to be. It’s up to them to find it.
Using his ECHO eye, Rhys notices hidden wires within the walls and streets of the city. He locates and activates three panels which causes a giant Atlas facility to rise up out of the ground beneath Old Haven.
“This must be our facility,” he grins.
“Uh, Rhys…” Vaughn says nervously. He turns around and gasps.
Standing down the street from them is Skies. She takes off her Psycho mask as she approaches, glaring darkly at Rhys.
“Ohohoho,” Jack laughs as he appears behind the Company Man. “I know that look. You’re in for it now, kid.”
“Uh, hi,” Rhys croaks, “nice to-nice to see you again. Uh, you’re not here to kill me…right?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” Skies growls.
Jack laughs. “Better start running, Rhysie. With that peg leg you might be able to outrun her. Might.”
Skies eyes Loader Bot suspiciously before glaring at Rhys again. “Jack, in your head,” she says and Rhys stiffens. “How do you…perceive him?”
He runs his hand over his hair. “Uh he appears as like a hologram in my ECHO eye. I can hear him and see him and he moves around and stuff. And he can see things that I don’t. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have recognized you.”
“So he knows who I am,” Skies says, her expression going unreadable. “I guess he would. I was around while Nakayama fine-tuned the AI.”
The boys watch her warily before she again glares at Rhys and they flinch- except for Jack.
“How much does he remember,” she asks, “what’s the last thing he remembers before meeting you?”
Rhys looks at Jack expectantly, who groans with annoyance.
“Uh I was getting everything ready to send Wilhelm uh on a ‘special mission’,” he replies.
Rhys repeats this to Skies and she nods. “Yeah that makes sense. After everything started going bad, Jack didn’t have time for his appointments with Nakayama. So that means he doesn’t know what happened to all of us.”
Her lip curls into a snarl. “That really pisses me off.”
Rhys flinches and steps back, his hand on his stun baton. He flinches again when she shoots him another glare.
“How far in your sub-systems is he?”
“Huh?” Rhys questions.
“Oh, don’t be naïve,” Skies snaps, “you think he’s gonna be content just sitting in your head like a good little AI? I saw the way you lost control of your arm. That’s why I’m keeping a nice, strangle-free distance between us.”
Vaughn worriedly glances at Rhys as he self-consciously rubs his right arm.
“You can’t trust him, Rhys,” Skies says sternly, surprising everyone.
“What?” Jack snaps.
“Your virus protection should be enough to keep him out but he’ll do everything he can to worm his way in,” she continues, “he’ll say whatever you want to hear, do whatever you want him to do, pretend to be your friend, but it’s all a lie. People are tools to him and when he’s done with you, he’ll crumple you up and toss you out an airlock.”
“You back-stabbing, traitorous bitch!” Jack barks as he stomps up to her and points at her accusingly. “She’s the one you can’t trust, Rhys! She was my bodyguard and yet I’m dead while she’s somehow still alive? She probably killed me herself!”
Rhys glances between Jack and Skies nervously. She curiously watches him.
“What’s he saying?” she asks.
“Uh um he thinks you killed him,” he replies.
“Ha!” she scoffs, “that’s rich coming from him. Hey, Jackie! Why don’t you tell the kid about the bombs you planted in the arm and leg you made especially for me?”
Jack stops as realization dawns on him. “Oooh, that’s what happened to you. Okay, that makes sense.”
He turns to Rhys, who’s looking at him accusingly. “Okay, look, it was a failsafe. It was never meant to kill her. Trust me, if I wanted her dead then she’d be dead.” He looks back at Skies. “Just like me, you nobody, worthless merc!”
“She still can’t hear you, Jack,” Rhys points out.
“Then tell her what I said!” he orders.
“Uh he said if he wanted you dead, you’d be dead.”
“And…he called you a nobody, worthless merc.”
“Worthless!” Skies snaps and stomps closer to Rhys. “You sure didn’t think I was worthless when you first hired me, you heartless asshole!”
She angrily points at Rhys who watches fearfully, hands up. Skies freezes and glances at his robot arm before backing up, covering her face.
“N-not you, him. Jack. You’re…you’re different.”
She stops and looks at Rhys from between her fingers. “You can be different.”
Rhys just stares her, stunned.
Skies lowers her hand and takes a deep breath. She looks back at Rhys but this time her expression is different; softer.
“Don’t trust him, Rhys,” she says again as she backs away.
“Oh, and one more thing,” she adds, “if you could not tell anyone about me, that’d be great, or else I will kill you.”
With that, she puts her Psycho mask on before disappearing between some buildings. The boys stare after her and Rhys and Vaughn glance at each other.
“So uh anyway,” Rhys says as he strokes his hair and turns back to the facility. “Let’s check it out.”
They start to go inside when they hear vehicle engines. They turn around as a large truck and a familiar red car pull up.
“Uh oh,” Rhys groans as Vasquez steps out of the car, and out of the truck, August with a bunch of armed thugs.
Skies meets with Rhys on the road.
Rhys steps out of the caravan. He stretches his arms to the sky, breathing deeply.
“Move,” Fiona whines, shoving past him. He glares at her but quickly steps aside as Athena leaves.
Loader Bot hops down from the roof of the vehicle, Gortys under his arm.
“Oh, it is such a nice day,” she comments cheerfully as she starts rolling around.
“It’s better than being in the caravan,” Sasha agrees as she and Vaughn step outside.
“Okay, a short break and then we have to keep moving,” Fiona declares, “so if you have to pee, do it now.”
“Good idea,” Vaughn says as he trots around the vehicle.
Rhys stretches again. He’s so stiff from being crammed into the caravan with everyone for the last few days. It’s been a long drive and they’re not even sure where the destination is.
As he’s rolling his neck, he spots a familiar Psycho mask poking over a nearby outcrop. He makes eye contact before they disappear.
“Uh I’ll be right back,” he says quickly, “gonna stretch my legs.”
“Don’t get eaten by a skag,” Sasha warns half-jokingly.
Rhys goes by the cluster of large rocks, looking around expectantly.
“So.” A voice speaks up behind him, making him jump and whip around. Skies is lying on a rock, her mask propped up atop her head and an amused grin on her face.
“Quite the adventure you’ve gotten yourselves into,” she says, “working for Vallory, the Bandit Queen herself. It’s not much of a step down from your old job. From what I’ve heard, she’s about as tyrannical as Jack.”
As if on cue, the AI’s hologram appears behind Rhys and glares at her.
“Have you been following us?” Rhys asks.
“Sure have,” Skies replies.
“How are you keeping up?”
“It’s not about keeping up. It’s all about guessing where you’re gonna be.”
“Little weirdo,” Jack grunts.
“So have you told your friends about your ah little roommate?” Skies asks, tapping her head.
“No, only Vaughn knows,” Rhys replies.
“You should probably keep it that way,” she warns, “especially with Athena. She hates Jack.”
“She really does,” Jack nods.
“Have you told them about me?” Skies asks.
“You said if I did, you’d kill me,” Rhys points out.
“Just making sure,” she shrugs, “you didn’t listen to my other piece of advice so…”
Rhys winces guiltily. “Well I-I-I just…Fiona didn’t really have a plan…I didn’t have a choice and-and-.”
Jack glares at Rhys, irked by his stammering while Skies chuckles with amusement.
“Chill, kid,” she says, “I’m not upset or blaming you. I was expecting this. He’s good at what he does.”
“What he does?” Rhys questions.
She looks at him seriously. “Manipulate.”
Rhys blinks with surprise, stiffening.
“Rhys, come on, let’s go!” Fiona calls out, startling him.
“Maybe he got eaten by a skag,” he hears Sasha says.
“Nah, there’d be a bit more screaming,” Athena says.
“Better get going,” Skies smiles as she pulls down her mask. “Catch you later.”
She hops away as Rhys walks back to the caravan.
“Hey, don’t listen to anything she says,” Jack orders, “well, except for not telling your friends about me. That’s a good idea. She has those sometimes. But everything else is total bullshit. You made the right choice, trusting me.”
“Right…” Rhys says, slightly unconvinced.
He gets back to the caravan and everyone climbs on to continue their endless road trip.
The amateur Vault Hunters reach their destination.
After weeks of driving across Pandora, the amateur Vault Hunters- and Athena- finally arrive at their destination: a large, metal wall full of vegetation in the middle of snowy tundra. And in the center is a giant, purple dome.
Everyone looks around in awe as they leave the caravan.
“This is where the upgrade thingy is?” Rhys asks, looking at Gortys as Loader Bot rests her on the ground.
“We’re so close,” she chimes and takes off, a holographic compass over her head.
Everyone starts to follow but Rhys lags behind and looks back.
He’s seen Skies so much on their trip it’s become a common occurrence. Whenever they stopped for a break, he would spot her somewhere nearby, usually near some rocks. But she would always disappear before anyone else saw her.
Now he doesn’t see her anywhere. He wonders if she knows where they are.
“Rhys, come on,” Fiona orders.
“Coming,” he says and quickly catches up.
It takes a little while for Skies to finally reach the caravan. She may be great a tracking them but keeping up is still difficult to do on foot, especially with her peg leg.
She looks around cautiously to verify no one’s around before approaching.
“Nice place,” she comments, staring at the strange preserve. “Lots of hiding places but might be a little too cramped for my liking. Think I’ll just hang out here.”
She trots up to the caravan and lets herself in. After shaking off the snow from her coat and boot, she plops down on the cough, sighing contently. It’s been far too long since she relaxed, especially on a big, comfy cough.
“It’s probably not a good idea to relax too much,” she reminds herself. “What if they come back?”
She groans and starts to stand up when she hears engines outside. She quickly drops to the floor and peeks out a window.
Two large vehicles have pulled up nearby. She glowers with disgust as Vallory, August, Finch, and Kroger exit one. Her disgust quickly changes to distress though, when two familiar Vault Hunters exit the other.
She gasps and drops down below the window. “Brick and Mordecai! What are they doing here?”
She slowly peeks out the window. Vallory’s talking to everyone and points at the caravan.
Skies gasps and scuttles across the floor. She curls up under the table and puts on her Psycho mask. If they spot her, maybe they’ll think she’s just some random Psycho and she can make a break for it.
Kroger kicks open the door and takes a quick look around before turning away.
“It’s empty,” he says.
“Then they’re inside,” Vallory declares, “find them!”
Vallory, August, Finch, and Kroger get back into one of the vehicles while Brick and Mordecai go in on foot. Skies watches them leave through the window before sighing with relief and sitting on the floor.
She spits with disgust. “I can’t believe I hid like a scared little kid. But Vallory’s got connections with the Crimson Raiders. I can’t risk getting involved with them.”
“I…I have to go.”
Skies stands up and checks outside one more time before leaving the caravan. Wondering about Rhys, she takes one more look at the preserve. Then she takes off down the snowy plain as fast as her peg leg will allow.
Skies and Rhys meet once more in Old Haven.
Rhys stares up at the entrance into Old Haven, sighing heavily. He glances back to where Finch and Kroger are standing with Vaughn, his arms bound behind his back.
Vaughn smiles at him but it’s weak and forced. Rhys’ smile looks much the same before he turns away and goes into Old Haven.
“Alright, Rhys,” he sighs, “let’s just find Vasquez’s body, get back here, and…not crap out pants.”
“Now you are gonna have such a hard-on for my office, Rhys,” Jack says as he appears behind him, alarming him greatly.
“Ah, well, two out of three ain’t bad,” Rhys mutters as he starts to follow the babbling hologram through the ghost town.
“Wow, things just go from bad to worse with you, don’t they,” Skies says as she appears behind him, alarming him greatly.
“Come on!” he exclaims, exasperated. “Between you and Jack, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a heart attack yet.”
Skies just smiles at him, mildly amused.
Rhys sighs. “Where have you been anyway?”
“Why? Did you miss you me?” she grins and saunters by him, still keeping him at arm’s length. Jack glares daggers at her as she goes by.
“No, well, I mean-,” Rhys stammers, “you were following me for so long and then just disappeared. I was starting think you got lost or something.”
“I had to make myself scarce,” Skies shrugs, “after Brick and Mordecai showed up, I realized Vallory’s got connections with the Crimson Raiders. They are like the number one people who want me dead- or they would be if they didn’t already think I was dead. So I can’t afford to let them catch wind of me.”
“Then why are you here now?” Rhys asks.
She laughs drily. “I kept asking myself that same question when I was tracking uh Wingus and Dingus over there.” She points towards Finch and Kroger. “Despite my own common sense, I just couldn’t stay away. So let me know if you come up with an answer.”
Rhys watches her wander down the street, staring forlornly at the night sky. Then he looks at Jack, who hasn’t stopped glaring at her.
“Do you…miss Jack?”
They both look at him with surprise and he flinches, suddenly feeling like he’s asked the wrong question.
“What…” Jack breathes, stunned.
Skies chuckles uncomfortably and turns away. “Wow. That’s a helluva question.”
Rhys watches her carefully as she throws her hand into the air.
“Okay!” she booms, “maybe I have some unresolved issues about that whole chapter of my life. And maybe I feel guilty about a lot of things for a lot of different reasons. And maybe I’m constantly switching between blaming myself and blaming him like some kind of emotionally constipated metronome.”
She drops her arm and her shoulders sag and for a moment, Rhys doesn’t see the strong badass he always thought she was. For a moment, he sees a sad, lonely girl who’s been on her own for far too long.
Then she straightens herself up. “But! I think I can safely say that I’m not here for him-.”
Skies stops as she turns around and finds herself face to face with Rhys. He had been cautiously moving closer while she lamented.
Skies flinches and Rhys lifts his hands.
“Ah, I wasn’t-.”
He’s cut off when his robot arm lashes out and grabs Skies’ neck, slamming her into a wall.
“Ah! Jack, stop!” Rhys shouts and grabs his own wrist with his other hand.
“Betray me, you little rat,” Jack snarls, his face inches from Skies. “You should know what happens to people who betray Handsome Jack.”
Gagging, Skies claws at his metal wrist with her one hand. Rhys tries to pull himself off her, but succeeds in only loosening Jack’s grip.
Her eye cracks open and she looks at him. “Sorry, Rhys,” she croaks.
She nails him in the crotch with her peg leg. Rhys chokes on his breath as he drops to his knees, his hand tearing from Skies’ neck. She slips away and runs off, disappearing into the darkness.
“Gah, she’s good,” Jack spits then sighs. “Alright, kiddo, we got work to do.”
Rhys lifts his head and glares at him.
“What?” he scoffs, “oh, come on, she’ll be back. It takes more than attempted strangulation to scare her off.”
Rhys just moans and hangs his head as he tries to breathe through the pain. Once he feels like he can move again, he lifts himself up and continues searching for Vasquez’s body.
Skies has a one-on-one with Vaughn.
“I can’t believe I just did that. I can’t believe I just did that. I cannot believe I just did that.”
Vaughn repeats this mantra as he races through the Pandoran desert, his arms bound behind his back. He runs until he can’t run anymore then stumbles to a stop, panting heavily as he looks back. He expected Finch and Kroger to chase him, but he’s safe. They must be more interested in Rhys.
Vaughn sighs bitterly. Story of his life.
He knows he shouldn’t feel jealous over who his kidnappers’ favourite is, but he can’t help it. It’s been getting harder and harder to keep these feelings harboured.
He sighs again, much more miserably.
“I can’t believe you just did that!”
Vaughn yelps and whips around. He spots a figure sitting on an outcrop of rocks and starts to panic. But he calms down when he sees it’s just Skies.
She’s grinning as she drops down in front of him.
“I didn’t think you had it in you!” she exclaims, “biting that tool’s ear like that. I figured you were the type to curl up and cry when things got bad.”
Vaughn huffs. “Even I can defend myself when I have to.”
“Well, colour me impressed,” Skies beams. Vaughn weakly smiles back.
She reaches into her coat and pulls out a switchblade. “Here. Turn around; watch your fingers.”
“Oh,” Vaughn chirps and does what she says. Skies cuts away his bonds, freeing his hands.
“Thanks,” he says, rubs his wrists.
“No problem,” Skies replies and puts away her knife. “So what’s your plan? You gonna disappear into the Pandora expanse? Live off the land, never trusting anyone or anything? Cause I don’t recommend it.”
“No. No, I’m not gonna run away,” Vaughn states, “I wanna help my friends.”
“Great,” Skies chimes, “how?”
“Um…” he whimpers and doesn’t answer.
Skies watches him for a second. Then they both perk up at the sound of growling.
“What’s that?” Vaughn squeaks, ducking behind her.
“Just skags,” she replies, “I don’t think they know we’re here yet.”
“Look,” she adds, “how about we look for a place to camp for the night and then we’ll come up with a plan.”
“We?” Vaughn questions as she starts to hobble away.
“Yeah,” she replies, looking back at him. “What, did you think I was gonna leave you to fight Vallory by yourself?”
Vaughn smiles and trots after her. Together they wander through the darkness in search of the slightest bit of safety.
Skies helps Vaughn figure out a way to help his friends.
“Okay, be careful. Keep your head down. There, you see them?”
Skies point out to the desert plain. From atop this large rock, Vaughn can see for miles- not that there’s much to see, especially in the dark. But with the light of Elpis and Helios, he can just barely make out what Skies is referring to.
A short walk away is a small bandit camp. It’s quiet and dark but there’s a couple armed bandits hanging around, seemingly on guard.
“That’s our camp,” Skies states.
“Huh? Bu-but it’s already taken,” Vaughn points out.
“I’ll handle that. You just wait here,” she orders.
Skies dons her Psycho mask and hops off the outcrop. Vaughn lies down flat on the rock and watches her trot up to the camp.
The guards are wary of her at first but seem to relax as she gets closer. She jumps around a lot, waving her arm wildly. Vaughn wishes he could hear what she’s saying.
Suddenly the guards fire their guns into the air, waking everyone in the camp. They shout something and they all scramble away, abandoning their camp.
Vaughn stares, dumbstruck until he sees Skies waving at him. He carefully climbs down the outcrop and joins her.
“What’d you do?” he asks.
“I told them a Rakk Hive is on a rampage,” Skies replies, “only Vault Hunters are crazy enough to mess with a Rakk Hive.”
“We fought a Rakk Hive,” Vaughn points out, “kind of.”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
Skies sighs as she settles down by the fire pit. Vaughn sits across from her, looking around nervously.
“Are we really safe here?” he asks.
“Sure,” Skies replies, “skags tend to stay away from populated areas- er or areas that look populated. And as long as we don’t have a fire, we won’t attract rakks.”
“Those bandits won’t come back?”
“Probably not. Small camps like this are often temporary, like way stations. That’s why I always steal them. It’s the large, walled off areas you have to avoid.”
“You really know a lot,” Vaughn comments.
Skies just smiles and shrugs.
Vaughn sighs and looks up at Helios. “If everything goes according to plan, they should be up there by morning.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” Skies asks.
Vaughn sighs again and looks at his feet, silent.
Skies scoffs. “Come on, tough guy. You said you want to help your friends, right? Well, how do you want to help them?”
He looks at her and considers the question for a second. “I want…to get them away from Vallory.”
Skies smiles. “Okay. So how do you want to do that?”
“Come oooonnnn,” she groans impatiently. “You used to work for Hyperion. Don’t you know how to brainstorm? Workshop? Spitball?”
“I was an accountant,” Vaughn mutters, “Rhys and Yvette did most of the planning. I just helped with numbers.”
“Well, here’s your time to shine.”
Vaughn takes a deep breath and thinks really hard about what to do next.
“Well…they should be at Hollow Point right now. Could we…get them away from Finch, Kroger, and August?”
“I like the way you’re thinking,” Skies says, “but Vallory will be pissed enough about her plans getting ruined. You don’t want to add the death of her son on top of that.”
“Right…” Vaughn grunts. He sighs and looks up at Helios. “They would have to be away from their guards when they’re on Helios. Ugh, if only we had a way up there.”
Skies grins and leans forward. “Actually, I do.”
“Huh?” Vaughn exclaims.
“Jack had a couple of ‘secret bases’ on Pandora that connect right to his office,” Skies explains, “and with my bio signature, I can get you in without activating any of the defenses.”
“That-that’s great!” Vaughn smiles.
“Yeah,” she nods and rubs her chin. “Only problem is they’re all quite a ways from here. It would take days to walk.”
“But we don’t have days,” he points out, “can’t we find a vehicle?”
“We could but-.” She stops and looks at him with realization. “Wait a sec. You have all your limbs. You can drive!”
“Yeah,” Vaughn replies.
“Awesome!” she exclaims, jumping to her feet. “Okay, let’s go find a vehicle.”
“Whuh-uh how?” Vaughn asks as he scrambles after her.
“Well, we can’t use a Catch-a-Ride because Scooter’s lock-out programs will keep us both out,” Skies sighs, “too bad Angel isn’t here.”
“Who’s Angel?” Vaughn asks.
She jolts, clearly surprised she said that out loud. “Uh um no one! A-anyway, as I was saying, the only way we can get a vehicle is if we steal one. Fortunately, The Rust Commons have tons of motor bandits. Hang on.”
Skies disappears into one of the buildings and comes out with a Bandit pistol, which she passes to Vaughn.
“Huh!” he cries, “I can’t shoot a gun!”
“No, I can’t shoot a gun,” she argues, waggling her one arm. “Loading ammo with one hand is a bitch. You can though, it’s easy. And it’ll be mostly for self-defence. Bandits don’t take kindly to their cars being stolen.”
Vaughn groans with uncertainty but loosely holds the pistol.
He sighs. “So how are we stealing a car?”
“First,” Skies smirks, “we have to find one.”
Skies and Vaughn find a car.
The horizon barely starts to light up from the slowly rising sun when Vaughn and Skies poke their heads over a cluster of large rocks. A group of bandits are fast asleep in the sand, snoring and muttering. Parked around them are multiple different cruisers.
Vaughn glances at Skies who grins excitedly before putting on her mask.
“Follow me. Stay quiet and keep your hand on your gun,” she whispers.
They climb over the rocks and start walking to the nearest car. The bandits don’t even stir.
As they move, Vaughn looks at his gun. He’s seen Hyperion pistols before but he’s never actually held one. This is not nearly as sleek. How do you even reload it?
He examines it closer, turning it around, when his finger accidently squeezes the trigger.
The gun fires into the sky, the shot echoing off the surrounding rocks. Vaughn freezes immediately while Skies whips around.
“Oops,” he squeaks.
The bandits all shoot awake instantly, dreary but on red alert as they spot Vaughn and Skies in the middle of their camp.
“Huh?” “What the-.” “Hey!”
As they quickly grow more aggressive, Vaughn just stares guiltily at Skies, whose incredulous glare is obvious even with her mask.
The bandits start grabbing their guns. Skies groans loudly with frustration before gripping Vaughn’s shirt and tugging him away. “Come on!”
He cries out as she throws him into a vehicle and jumps in after him. “Drive!”
“H-how do I-aah!” Vaughn shrieks as a bullet ricochets off the dashboard, inches from his hands.
Skies snarls as she glares at the bandits. She reaches into her coat and whips out a grenade.
“Drive!” she barks again as she pulls the pin.
Vaughn starts the car and immediately slams his foot on the gas. It takes off, tires ripping through the sand as Vaughn drives through the only gap in the surrounding rocks and Skies tosses the grenade. The bandits immediately scurry for cover.
The grenade goes off, subsequently causing all of the parked vehicles to explode and completely destroying the rocks. Vaughn and Skies cover their heads as shrapnel rains down around them.
Finally, it stops. Vaughn breathes heavily as he continues driving the car, white-knuckling the steering wheel. Skies sighs and sits back in her seat.
As his heart rate settles, Vaughn slows down the car until they’re driving at a much more comfortable pace. He takes a deep breath and exhales shakenly.
“Uh…sorry,” he mumbles.
Skies chuckles. “It’s fine. At least you figured out how to use your gun.”
Vaughn chuckles weakly. Then he takes a couple deep breaths and sits up straight. “Okay, here’s the plan.”
Skies looks at him expectantly.
“You get me into Helios,” he orders, “I find Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, Gortys, and Loader Bot. And then you get us out of Helios.”
Skies grins as she leans back, resting her feet on the dash. “Sounds great.”