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Skies the Bodyguard 2

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Chapter 1

 

            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.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

            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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

            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?”

            “Made it.”

            “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.”

            “Me neither.”

            “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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

            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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

            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!”

            “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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

            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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

            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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

            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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

            “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.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

            “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?”

            “Um…”
            “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.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

            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.

            Vaughn nods.

            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.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

            “-The silence is maddening. So you start talking to yourself to just hear something. I don’t know when I stopped realizing I was doing it. But that’s the most frustrating part! I started talking to myself to break the silence and now my own voice is like white noise.”

            Skies exhales heavily as she leans back in her seat. Beside her in the driver’s seat, Vaughn awkwardly chews his tongue as he focuses on driving. He’s not sure how to respond to…all of that. He wasn’t a expecting a five minute monologue on the troubles with isolation on Pandora.

            “Wow, I talked for a long time, didn’t I?” Skies chuckles weakly. “How about you talk for a bit.”

            “Uh, well, at the risk of getting you to talk more about yourself,” Vaughn says and Skies laughs. “If you were so concerned with staying hidden, why did you reveal yourself to Rhys and me?”

            “God damn, good question,” Skies sighs and turns her head away. She’s silent for a couple minutes, just watching the scenery go by as the sky brightens from the slowly rising sun.

            “I guess…you two were the first non-bandit humans I’d seen in months,” she finally says, “so I guess I was just…lonely…”

            Vaughn looks at her with surprise. He wasn’t expecting such a vulnerable answer.

            “Plus I needed help moving those skag bodies,” she adds as she grins at him.

            Vaughn smiles weakly. “Is that why you’ve been following us this whole time?” he asks, “cause of the lonely thing, not the-not the skag bodies.”

            “No, not exactly,” Skies replies, “after Rhys told me about Jack, I started watching him to make sense of it all. But then I noticed…potential in him- hell, in both of you! There aren’t many Hyperion stooges who would be able to handle themselves on Pandora. But you two have been flourishing! So I wanted to see where it would go.”

            Vaughn smiles bashfully. “You…really think I’m…flourishing?”

            “Are you kidding?” she exclaims, “you bit a thug’s ear even though he could’ve shot you. You’re a total badass.”

            Vaughn beams with half embarrassment, half pride. He hasn’t thought about it much, but he has been feeling different since coming to Pandora. Like he’s his own person.

            A distant explosion echoes through the air. Vaughn slams on the brakes and he and Skies stand up and look back.

            A rocket is rising from the ground far off in the distance. It doesn’t look professionally made; more like a bunch of junk slapped together. And the cockpit is the caravan.

            “There they go,” Vaughn sighs and drops back into his seat. “Without me.”

            “You don’t really wanna go back to Helios, do you?” Skies asks as she sits back down.

            “No,” he replies, “it’s just weird to think Rhys is doing this without me. We used to do everything together…even if I was just in his shadow.”

            “Well, look on the bright side,” she shrugs and Vaughn looks at her expectantly. “If you were with him right now, you wouldn’t be able to save him.”

            Vaughn smiles weakly. Then he takes a deep breath, shakes away his feelings, and continues driving.

            “So where are we going anyway?” he asks.

            “A town called Lynchwood,” Skies replies, “it’s been abandoned since the sheriff died and out of all of Jack’s secret bases, it’ll be the easiest to get to. Although the train tracks’ll be a pain. We’ll have to walk across ‘em.”

            Vaughn sighs. “I wish there was a way I could call Rhys and let him know about our plan.”

            “Maybe there is. We’ll be passing a Hyperion facility soon. We could steal somebody’s ECHO comm and use it to call him.”
            “Isn’t that dangerous?”

            Skies shrugs. “No more dangerous than breaking into Helios through Handsome Jack’s office.”

            Vaughn shrugs and nods. “Alright, let’s do it.”

            Skies grins excitedly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

 

            As the morning sun rises over the Arid Nexus, a Hyperion guard patrols the wall of an Eridium pumping station. Rakks are flying about aimlessly in the sky; skags can be heard growling in the distance. All is quiet this morning.

            Unbeknownst to him, something scuttles along the Eridium pipe, stopping just as he nears. As he starts to turn around to continue his patrol, a face in a Psycho mask drops down in front of his. He cries out in alarm and tries to lift his gun but he’s too slow. The Psycho whips out a knife and cuts his throat.

            The guard drops to his knees, clawing at his neck and choking on blood. The Psycho finishes him off by removing his helmet and driving her blade through his skull.

            Skies smiles under her mask as the guard falls limp and lifeless to the ground. After stealing his ECHO communicator, she climbs back onto the top of the pipe and races along the length.

            Vaughn is in their car, parked in a gap between the pipe and the ground. He’s leaning over the driver’s door, pointing his gun at nothing. It feels heavy in his hands. He hasn’t tried shooting it since his blunder earlier- he doesn’t even know how to cock it- but he wants to get used to the weight. He doesn’t want Skies protecting him if they get attacked.

            “Hey!” Skies chirps as she drops down in front of him.

            Vaughn yelps and falls backwards. “Don’t do that! What if I shot you?”

            “Ah, you wouldn’t be able to hit the broad side of a Rakk Hive,” she scoffs.

            He huffs. “Well, did you get it?”

            “Of course,” she chimes and hands him the ECHO communicator.

            “Great,” he says and starts fiddling with the functions. Skies hops onto the hood of the car, watching him closely.

            “Will it work?” she asks.

            “Maybe,” Vaughn replies, “I should be able to tune into his frequency but communicators like this one aren’t made for such long distances so it won’t have good reception.”
            “Well, at the very least, you can let him know you’re okay,” she points out.

            Vaughn smiles in response before focusing more intently on the communicator. “Almost…there!”

            “Rhys! Rhys, are you there?” Vaughn says into the mic. The only response is tons of static. “Listen, Rhys, I don’t know if you can hear me but we have a plan to get to Helios. We can get everyone out, I just- no. No, no, I’m losing him!”

            He wrestles with the signal as it goes in and out before tossing the device aside in defeat. “Dammit.”

            Skies watches him for a second before shrugging. “Oh, well. We can try again on Helios.”
            “I guess,” Vaughn sighs.

          She smiles and hops into the passenger seat. “Shall we get going? We still have a ways to go.”
            He smiles back weakly. “Okay.”

            Vaughn starts the car and they take off. They drive nonstop, out of the Arid Nexus and down the long highway to the Eridium Blight.

            “You’re gonna wanna go quickly here,” Skies warns, “Hyperion’s got turrets everywhere.”

            “R-really?” Vaughn whimpers and looks around fearfully.

            She shrugs. “Maybe they aren’t activated anymore.”

            A turret suddenly pops out of a nearby tower and starts firing at them. Vaughn shrieks and swerves around the road before speeding off.

            Skies leans back in her seat as she laughs. “Nope! Still active. Alright, let’s go! Punch it! To the Dust!”

            They charge at top speed through the Eridium Blight before reaching the tunnel that goes to the Dust. Vaughn finally slows down and takes deep breaths as they go through the dimly lit tunnel.

          “We’re making good time,” Skies comments, “we oughta be in Lynchwood before nightfall.”

            They exit the tunnel into the expansive desert known as the Dust. The sudden brightness makes them cover their eyes. As they lower their hands what they see in the sky makes the car come to a screeching halt.

            Helios is falling. Escape pods are barely keeping ahead as shrapnel breaks off and crashes into the planet’s surface far off in the distance. Helios is not far behind.

            “Oh my…” Skies breathes in shock.

            “Wha-how-how is this-.” Vaughn stammers before slamming his foot on the gas.

            “Whoa!” Skies exclaims as she’s pushed back from the force of the sudden acceleration.

            “We have to get over there!” he barks, “we have to help!”

            The car careers through the desert towards Helios, but they don’t even get close before it hits the surface. The dust and rubble exploding into the air is visible even from this distance. Skies and Vaughn can only watch, speechless and shocked.

            When they finally make it to the crash site, the dust has long settled. Giant pieces of rubble and debris are scattered for miles. Vaughn weaves around them, trying to get as close to the space station as possible. He finally stops when he can’t drive any farther.

            “I’m gonna go look for survivors,” he declares before hopping out of the car and racing off.

            Skies stares after him before looking around. Helios is embedded into the ground. The entire bottom half of the giant ‘H’ is smashed to pieces while the top half is crumbling. And in between, The Eye remains intact, staring out at the destruction.           

            Skies stares back at it before turning away, eye narrowed. She examines the destroyed structure before hopping out of the car and walking towards it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

 

            When Rhys wakes up, the first thing he notices is the silence. No nattering voice in his ear, no constant buzzing in the back of his head. For the first time in months, he’s completely alone.

            Or so he thinks. But as he sits up, rubbing his aching head, he sees Jack’s chair has been set upright and someone’s sitting in it.

            Rhys starts to panic before he realizes who it is.

            “You know,” Skies breathes. She’s staring forlornly out the large window that once overlooked Elpis, and is now looking out on miles of desert and debris. “Despite everything that happened, Helios was the first place that felt kinda like home.”

            Rhys watches her stand up with a melancholy expression. She smiles weakly and offers her single hand. “How ya doin’, big guy.”

            Rhys smiles back as he takes her hand with his remaining one. “Oh, you know. Been better.”

            “Yeah,” she chuckles and helps him to his feet. “But you did it. You beat Jack. How does that feel?”

            “Honestly,” he sighs, his smile dropping. “Not as good as I want it to.”

            Skies smiles sadly. “Yeah, it…never does.”

            Rhys turns away to look at the wreckage of Helios behind him. “Jack said we measure success by the amount of destruction around us. If that’s true, then I must be pretty successful.”

            “Don’t do that, Rhys,” Skies says, “don’t compare yourself to him. You don’t have to be like him. You can be better.”

            Rhys looks at her with surprise and she grins. “Don’t measure success by destruction. Measure it by your rewards and reap them.”

            Rhys blinks and looks around, his remaining eye landing on Jack’s trophy case. Most of the stuff has clattered to the floor but it seems more or less intact.

            He hobbles over and picks up the frame containing the rights to Atlas.

            “Ah, the Atlas deed,” Skies muses. “Good choice. Start fresh.”

            Rhys smiles and turns away.

            “So uh,” Skies says quickly, “is that all you want? Because I was wondering- and feel free to say no, this is your stuff now- but could I maybe…”

            Rhys chuckles. “Take whatever you want. I don’t want any of it. And besides, it’s the least I can do for uh trying to strangle you.” 

            She laughs. “Aw, don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I kicked you in the junk.”

            “That’s okay. I deserved it.”

            Skies beams excitedly and races over to the trophy case. Rhys watches her pick through everything, mumbling something about the Conference Call being gone, before turning to leave. But he stops just as he reaches the wall of rubble and looks back.

            Skies is quiet now, with the cowgirl hat on her head and katana tucked under her arm. She’s leaning against Jack’s desk and looking at the photo of his daughter. She’s smiling but it’s…disheartened.

            “Hey, you know,” Rhys says, catching her attention. “It might be easier to carry all that stuff if you had another arm. I could help you with that if you wanted- no strings attached, of course.”

            Skies blinks with surprise and smiles warmly as she pockets the photo. “Y’know, when you say it, I feel like I can really believe you.”

            Rhys smiles back. And together they help each other out of the wreckage of Helios.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

 

            A cruiser approaches Prosperity Junction, stopping just outside the small city. Skies hops out onto two feet, both in loosely tied boots. Wearing her Psycho mask- now with two eyeholes- she enters the town, two hands in her trench coat pockets.

            She wanders around the town, staying out of people’s way, her trained eyes searching carefully. After about a half hour, she scales the tallest building with ease. Perching herself on the edge of the roof, she removes her mask and pushes her clean but messy hair out of her face.

            “He’s not here,” she grunts in aggravation. “That idiot. I told him that ECHO signal was a trap. Why would Fiona reach out to him after all this time? Now he’s probably being held captive by bandits or Handsome Jack supporters or something.”

            Skies huffs and rests her chin in her robotic right hand. “If he’s not dead…”

            She quickly shakes the thought out of her head and grabs her ECHO communicator from inside her coat. “I won’t believe he’s dead until I see proof. I’ll just track his ECHO coordinates. Hopefully he still has it on him.”

            Before Skies can get to work, her communicator receives a call. She immediately answers it.

            “Rhys!” she barks, “it’s about time! I was almost starting to worry about you.”

            “Sorry, sorry,” Rhys laughs apologetically, “I should’ve called you sooner but I uh got caught up with some stuff.”

            Skies sits down off her haunches, feeling more at ease than she’s been the last couple days. “So was I right? Was it a trap?”

            “Not exactly,” he replies, “long story short, we’re going after the Vault of the Traveler again. Wanna come?”

            “…what?”

            “Bear in mind,” Rhys adds quickly, “we’re putting together a whole team so if you don’t wanna reveal yourself yet, it’s totally fine.”

            “No, it’s…” Skies trails off. She shakes her head and smiles weakly. “It’s fine. I’ll come.”

            “Really? You sure?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Great!” Rhys exclaims, clearly relieved. “We have to go pick up the rest of the team but I’ll send you the coordinates for our base and you can meet us here.”

            “Okay,” Skies smiles.

            The call ends and Skies immediately receives a message with Rhys’ coordinates. She does a double take.

            “Is that…hm.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

 

            Rhys, Vaughn, Fiona, and Loader Bot march through the halls of the Helios wreckage to the control room for the Eye.

            “So once Zero, Athena, and August are finished gearing up,” Rhys explains, “we’ll go over the plan.”

            “What about that…friend of yours?” Fiona asks, “is she coming or what?”

            “She said she would,” he replies, “but I wouldn’t blame her if she had second thoughts…”

            He trails off as they enter the control room. There’s a person standing in the middle of the room, staring out the window. They’re wearing a homemade Psycho mask and their eyes seem forlorn as they stare at the decapitated statue of Handsome Jack outside.

            “Skies!” Rhys exclaims happily. She looks up with wide, mismatched eyes- one brown, one yellow.

            She takes off her mask, smiling widely. “Rhys!”

            They race up to each other and she punches his left arm with a metal fist.

            “Ow!” he whines.

            “You jerk,” she snaps, “and after I told you it was clearly a trap.”

            “Well…okay, you weren’t entirely wrong,” Rhys admits, “and I should’ve called you sooner so you wouldn’t worry. You didn’t go on a rampage or anything, did you?”

            “No. I was gonna wait three days before doing that.”

            They smile at each other, comforting and understanding.

            “Skies?” Vaughn questions, peeking around Rhys.

            “Vaughn!” she exclaims.

            They laugh as they excitedly grab each other’s hands.

            “Look at you!” Vaughn gasps, “you’ve got a new leg! And an arm! And an eye!”

            “I know!” she squeals, “and look’it you! You look…you look good.”

            “I feel pretty good,” he replies, “you look good too.”

            “And I feel pretty good too.”

            They smile and laugh warmly.

            “Vaughn,” Fiona says, poking her head in. “You know this person?”

            “Oh, yeah,” he nods, “if it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have survived after escaping Vallory.”

            “Nah, sure you would’ve,” Skies scoffs and playfully punches Vaughn’s shoulder with her flesh hand. “Bandit King.”

            They smile again and Fiona clears her throat.

            “Who are you?’

            Skies is taken aback by the question. “Uh whuh-um…I-.”

            “Skies?”

            The voice startles everyone into spinning around. Zer0 is standing in the doorway looking about as surprised as one can when they don’t have a face.

            “Z-Zer0,” Skies croaks, looking a little nervous.

            “Oh, crap,” Rhys mutters, covering his mouth. “I forgot.”

            He quickly steps in front of Skies, hands raised. “Zer0, it’s not what-.”

            Before he can finish, Skies steps around him and approaches the assassin, smiling widely.

            “He-ey, Zer0. Long time no see,” she says jovially, “you look good…I’m assuming.”

            He just stares at her, seemingly blankly. Skies smile wavers and she sighs and rubs the back of her head.

            “Okay, I know you’re surprised to see me,” she says, “and I know we have…erm… ‘history’. But I’ve changed-or I’m changing. A-and now I’m here for the same reason you are: to help Rhys and open a Vault. And I think you and I could work well together. But if we could just not bring up my, you know, ‘past employment’, that’d be great.”

            “So what do we think?” she asks, “we cool?”

          There’s a heavy pause as Zer0 seems to consider the question. Finally, he nods. “We’re cool.”

            Skies sighs with obvious relief. “Okay, awesome. Um I look forward to working with you.”

            Zer0 nods silently and Skies beams as she faces Rhys. “So, who else is on this ragtag crew? Maya? Brick? Lilith?”

            “Uh, no,” Rhys replies, “but there is-.”

            “What the hell is she doing here?”

            Everyone looks back at Athena, looking absolutely furious. August is standing behind her, not sure what to make of the situation.

            “Uh oh,” Rhys whimpers.

            “Okay, Athena,” Skies says quickly, “just listen-.”

            Before she can finish, Athena whips out a pistol and points it at her. Skies chuckles while Zer0 disappears and reappears behind Fiona.

            “Wish I could do that,” August grunts.

            “I’ll ask again,” Athena snarls, her temper growing from the blatantly amused look on Skies face. “What is this Jack lover doing here?”

            “Jack lover?” Fiona asks.

            Skies’ smile remains, but something dark flashes over her eyes and her fingers twitch.

            “Wait!” Rhys exclaims, stepping between them. “Athena, it’s not what you think!”

            “Then start talking,” she growls, cocking her gun.

            Rhys gulps and Skies pokes her head over his shoulder. “Uh, Athena, just FYI- if you hurt this guy, I will eviscerate you and your new fiancée too. Congratulations by the way.”

            Athena snarls darkly.

            “Athena, please-,” Rhys begs.

            “Do you know? Who she really is?” she demands.

            Rhys sighs and nods. “Yeah, I know.”
            “Do they?” she asks, nodding to Vaughn and Fiona.

            “Yes,” Vaughn says quickly, stepping up next to Rhys. “But it’s-it’s not like that anymore. She’s our friend. She’s saved us.”

            “Wa-wait, wait,” Fiona orders impatiently. “What’s going on? Who is this?’

            “She’s-,” Athena starts to bark.

            “Skies the Bodyguard,” Skies interrupts.

            Everyone looks at her with different forms of surprises. She just stares ahead, seemingly neutral.

            “Skies the Bodyguard?” Fiona questions angrily, “Handsome Jack’s murderous, loyal bodyguard?”

            “That sounds more like Wilhelm,” Skies remarks then shrugs. “But yes, I’m Skies the Bodyguard. I’ve been alive this whole time. So go ahead, call the lynch mob. Publicly torture and execute me. Make it a huge spectacle.”

            “And you knew this?” Fiona snaps at Rhys.

            “Yeah,” he sighs, “we met not long after the caravan was first destroyed by those moon shots.”

            “You never mentioned her.”

            “Because I told him not,” Skies says quickly. “I had to keep myself hidden. You know the kind of people who would want me dead? People like that.” She points at Athena, who still has her gun raised. “But it’s fine now. I can’t grow from my past if I keep running from it.”

            “But you’re redeeming yourself,” Rhys argues, “you want to be better and you’ve been working towards that. You haven’t been running from your past, you’ve been agonizing over it this entire time. You don’t deserve punishment for that.”

            Skies smiles at him but it’s full of pain. Athena’s gun hand wavers.

            “Hey.”

            Everyone turns at the voice as Sasha approaches. She stops, looking unsure.

            “What’s…going on?” she asks.

            “Sasha,” Rhys breathes.

            She smiles. “I-I thought you were dead. Get over here.” She approaches, arms spread.

            “Oh, come on,” Rhys smiles and steps forward. “Like I could go…”

            He trails off as Sasha slips by him and hugs Vaughn. He lowers his arms in awkward disappointment.

            “I saw that,” August grunts.

            “Me too,” Skies grins. Rhys growls at them and walks up to Sasha and Vaughn.

            “Ahem,” Athena grunts. Skies looks at her with surprise as she pockets her gun.

            “Trying to grow from your past,” she muses, “is something I understand.

            Skies visibly relaxes.

            “But I’ll be watching you,” Athena adds. Skies just grins.

            “Okay!” Vaughn booms, “now that we’ve all…calmed down, can we finally go over the plan?”

            Everyone starts to agree but Sasha cuts them off. “Wait,” she says, pointing at Skies. “Who is that?”

            “I’ll tell you after,” Skies replies as everyone gathers in the control room to finally hear the plan.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

 

            Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, Loader Bot, Athena, August, Zero, and Skies gather outside, in sight of the Eye of Helios. Vaughn is in the control room just down the way from them, ready to fire the giant laser when it’s time.

            Loader Bot rests Gortys on ground, lifeless with her upgrades held together by duct tape, and hands Rhys and Fiona the two pieces of her core. They combine them and Rhys places it in Gortys’ manual insert drive.

            “That’s all it takes this time?” he asks.

            “I’ve made some modifications,” Loader Bot replies, “you will want to stand back. This may not be pleasant.”

            Everybody watches with bated breath. But nothing happens.    

            “Um…” Loader Bot grunts.

            Everyone shares a confused look while Rhys and Fiona bicker for a second about what might be wrong. And then, the Gortys orb lifts into the air and flies up higher and higher as it glows yellow, before transforming into a giant robot; her final form.

            “Whoa! Hey, guys! What’re you doing here?” she asks with excitement. Everyone just stares at her with surprise before the antenna on the back of her head lights up and summons the Vault. Instantly a giant stone monster lumbers out: the Traveler.

            “Oh no,” Gortys groans, “not again.”

            “Get to your positions!” Fiona orders, “we don’t got a lotta time!”

            “Woo, go time!” Skies cheers excitedly as everyone splits up. Fiona and Sasha get into one car, Athena and Skies into another; Zero stands on top of the car August drives. Loader Bot flies a buzzard. They all drive off towards the Traveler while Rhys remains with Gortys.

            Athena pulls their car up next to Sasha and Fiona’s. “Fiona, get to the top of the cliff. After we get the Traveler into position, you’ll only have a few seconds to jump into it while it teleports. You can do it.”

            “Yeah, you guys got this!” Skies adds, “you know, I paid some attention to you while I followed Rhys around and you two are pretty tough.”

            “You’re really creepy, Skies,” Fiona comments, “but I appreciate the sentiment.”

            “No problem,” she grins and gives a thumbs-up.

            “Just handle your part- we got this,” Sasha says before splitting off.

            Skies’ grin is unsettlingly excited as they approach the Traveler. “You ever fought anything this big before?”

            “No, this is probably the biggest one I’ve seen,” Athena replies, “you?”

            “Nah, I fought humans more than monsters,” she says, “y’know, I never even saw the Warrior in person? One of my biggest regrets.”

            “Really? That’s one of your regrets?” Athena asks incredulously.

            “Well, I mean, it’s lower on the list but…yeah.”

            August and Zero reach the Traveler first. It tries to smash them, narrowly missing the car, and Zero flips around and lands on it, running up its arm.

            “Damn, he’s so cool,” Skies comments, “I can’t let him show me up.”

            “Hey!” Athena snaps as Skies climbs on top of their outrunner. She readies herself before leaping and landing on the Traveler’s fist just as it tries to swipe at them. Grinning, she races up its arm and fires at its face with her assault rifle.

            She freezes when a familiar sound hits her ears and turns around. The Eye of Helios is charging up. It fires and the Traveler teleports out of the way, leaving Skies and Zero in the air.

            She yelps as she starts plummeting. Zero disappears, reappears beside her and grabs her arm, disappears with her in tow, and reappears safely on the ground.

            “Whoa,” she drawls, feeling a little dizzy. He holds her shoulder to keep her steady. “Wow, thanks, Zero,” she says, “you totally saved me. You’re like my hero. Zero my hero. Heh, that’s fun to say. Zero my hero.”

            “You babble a lot,” he comments.

            “Yeah, it’s a habit I’ve developed,” she remarks.

            Athena and August pull up beside them. They hop on and drive close together.

            “What happened?” Zero asks.

            “Sounds like Vaughn jumped the giant laser gun,” August replies.

            “Goddammit, Vaughn,” Athena growls.

            “It’s fine,” Skies says, “we just gotta wait for the Eye to charge up again. Should only take a few minutes I think.”

            “Yeah, but Gortys still hasn’t joined the fight,” August points out impatiently as they narrowly dodge another punch from the Traveler.

            Everyone looks back to where the giant robot is standing, Rhys a tiny speck by her ankle.

            “Hey, Gortys!” Athena barks into her ECHO communicator. “This isn’t working! We need a new plan!”

            “Man, I never shoulda gotten involved in this,” August growls.

            “Shut up, August,” Skies snaps, “Rhys’ll figure it out, alright?”

            “Hopefully he does/ Our weapons are proving/ ineffective,” Zero says.

            No one can argue with that, as their bullets don’t seem to faze the monster. It just keeps swatting at them like flies.

            “Just…hold on a bit longer,” Skies insists.

            “Hey, you!” Gortys finally shouts, grabbing everyone’s attention as she walks forward. “Big freaky…glowy…big handed...handy…thing monster…”

            “Ha! See, told ya!” Skies exclaims excitedly.

            The Traveler turns to face Gortys and makes a series of odd grumbling noises.

            “Is it…laughing?” Athena questions incredulously.

            Gortys stands to face the Traveler as it approaches. She points at it with finger guns before literally firing lasers right out of her finger tips. They blast its chest, startling it for a second.

            “Whoa!” Skies and the others exclaim.

            The monster teleports, reappearing right near Gortys and tries to punch her. She slides out of the way, just barely dodging it.

            “Woo!” Skies cheers and claps excitedly as they start fighting, the others watching with stunned amazement. Gortys fires her finger guns, annoying the Traveler into chasing her. Steadily, she inches the monster towards the cliff where Fiona and Sasha are.

            “Almost there,” Athena growls.

            The monster teleports again, appearing in the desired spot. Everybody holds their breath as Gortys fires her lasers and the monster teleports once more.

            The caravan zooms off the cliff and flies through the air just as the Traveler starts teleporting. It disappears into the monster’s chest.

            “Did they do it?” Skies asks.

            “Looks like it,” Athena replies.

            The Traveler doesn’t seem to have to noticed, its focus entirely on Gortys. Unfortunately, she notices but isn’t ready to dodge its punch and gets knocked to the ground.

            “Is she okay?” Zero asks.

            “She better be,” August replies, “she’s our only chance we got at holding that thing back.”

            “Hey, does anyone know where Rhys went?” Skies asks as she looks around.

            “Most likely inside some kind of control room in Gortys to pilot her fighting which is why she was using finger guns,” Athena replies plainly.

            “You really do this a lot, don’tcha,” Skies comments drily. “Sorry, ‘did’ do this a lot.”

            Athena glares at her and she just grins.

            “Why isn’t the monster finishing her off?” August asks as they watch the Traveler completely ignore Gortys on the ground.

            “The beast understands/ she freed him and without her/ he will disappear,” Zero replies.

            “So it just wants to wreak havoc,” Skies remarks, “I get that.”

            As the Traveler walks off, looking for some havoc to wreak, Loader Bot lands his buzzard and the others quickly join him.

            “While Rhys and Gortys engage the Traveler,” he explains, “we will do additional damage from its flanks.”

            Before anyone has a chance to comment or even register what he just said, Gortys reaches for them and picks them all up in her giant hand.

            They all rise up in a room somewhere in her enormous body before arcade consoles. Loader Bot, Rhys, and Zero are in front; Athena, Skies, and August are in the back.

            “Oh, okay, we’re doing this now,” Loader Bot says with surprise.

            “Okay, Athena, the plan is-,” Rhys starts to explain but Athena cuts him off.

            “Yeah, for Gortys to digitize my attacks out of my combat experience,” she states, “got it.”

            “…right,” Rhys replies, taken aback. “How did you-.”

            “I’m good at my job, Rhys,” she grunts, “let’s do this.”

            “This is interesting/ I’ve never done this before/ You have done well, Rhys,” Zero says.

            “Oh my god, thank you,” Rhys squeals, flattered.

            “Dork,” Skies comments. He glares at her.

            The Traveler continues walking away, having not noticed them. Rhys grips his joystick.

            “Alright, Gortys,” he says, “let’s go.”

            Gortys walks forward and quickly picks up speed until she’s charging the Traveler and slides out in front of it. Then Athena takes over.

            Gortys digitizes her shield, blocking a punch from the Traveler and knocking it back before upcutting it. She whips the shield at its face and swiftly catches it before going in for another hit. The Traveler teleports behind her, grabs her ankle, and throws into the cliff side, shaking around everyone inside. It goes in for a double punch which Gortys blocks with the shield before back flipping to safety.

            August takes over next. “Oh, you’re not gonna like this part,” he smirks as Gortys cracks her knuckles and punches the air.

            The Traveler throws a punch. Gortys parries it and their fists pound together. It tries again and Gortys parries it before grabbing its arm and kneeing its midsection, knocking it into the cliff side. Gortys gets in closer and pounds its stomach multiple times before the Traveler teleports behind her. It approaches her and lifts its large arms. Gortys points her fists at it and they fly off her wrists, smashing it to the ground.

            Then it’s Zero’s turn. And he sits Gortys down serenely on the ground as the Traveler picks itself up.

            “What is he…what is he doing?” Rhys asks, baffled, as the Traveler approaches. “He’s not doing anything, what is he doing?”

            “Um…yeah, I dunno,” Loader Bot replies, just as confused.

            “Guys,” Skies grins knowingly, “just relax.”

            The Traveler teleports and reappears right in front of Gortys, dropping its two fists down on her. But Zero pushes his buttons and Gortys teleports too, reappearing at the monster’s side.

            “Ooooooh he did the thing!” Rhys exclaims.

            Gortys high kicks the Traveler, knocking it off its feet. She charges it, bounding off the cliff side and kicks it again. The Traveler tries to punch her but she blocks it. When it tries again, she catches its arm and attempts to flip it onto its back but it teleports, reappearing behind her and tries to double-punch her. Without even turning around, Gortys blocks its arms and knocks it onto its back.

            Then its Skies turn. She rolls her shoulders and says, “okay, let’s see if I remember how to do this.”

            A laser cannon pops out of the top of Gortys’ right forearm and she immediately starts blasting the Traveler. It teleports, reappearing right in front of her. An air cannon pops out of the back of her right calf and shoots her into the air, dodging its punch. She flips over it upside down, and continues to fire lasers. It blocks with its arm as she lands on the other side of it. It teleports again and reappears right at her toes. She narrowly blocks its fists with her left arm and blasts its stomach with her laser cannon, knocking it back a few steps.

            Finally, Loader Bot takes over. “Aw, I have missed this.”

            “Hey, me too,” Gortys agrees as she walks forward. She picks up a large piece of Helios debris, spins around, and whips it at the monster. As it prepares to teleport out of the way, Rhys takes over.

            “Who’s got two big thumbs and just had his finger guns come back online?” he smirks as Gortys points her finger guns. “This guy.”

            She starts firing, blasting the Traveler as the hunk of debris flies closer. It seems to smash into the monster, but when the dust clears, it’s not there.

            “Aw, c’mon, is that it?” August scoffs, “I was expectin’ a fight.”

            “It has disappeared/ A mere feint, I imagine,” Zero says.

            Gortys walks forward, carefully keeping an eye out for the Traveler. It appears overhead and smashes her into the ground, cratering the dirt.

            “This prick won’t stand still,” August snaps.

            “Rhys, we can’t kill it,” Skies points out.

            “Yeah, I-I know,” he replies and activates his ECHO communicator. “Fiona! We can’t kill this thing until you pop its teleporting gland!”

            “Do you have a teleporting gland, Zero?” Skies asks as Rhys and Fiona talk.

            “My skill is refined/And I will not tell the secret,” he replies.

            “Just curious,” she shrugs.

            The Traveler loses interest in Gortys and starts walking towards the Helios wreckage. Everyone inside watches, impatient but having no choice but to wait for Fiona and Sasha.

          “Guys, I feel like I should point out that all of this going according to plan is really, really slim,” Gortys comments.

            “Then at least we’ll die like legends,” Rhys proclaims.

            “Or cautionary tales!” she adds.

            “Once Sasha and Fi come out of that thing, we’ll be fine.”

            “How’s that working out?” Athena asks.

            “They’re on their way!” Rhys exclaims, hearing their cries of excitement in his ECHO communicator.      

            “Great. Tell them to hurry up and blow the damn thing!” August demands.

            “It’s going right for Helios!” Skies exclaims, pointing frantically over her console.

            “Fiona, what’s your status?” Rhys asks.

            He’s quiet for a second as he listens to her response.

            “Well?” everyone barks impatiently.

            “Ah uh the charges are set, they’re almost out!” he replies frantically.

            “Oooh, hurry up hurry up hurry up hurry up,” Skies moans, crossing her fingers.  

            “That thing is almost to Helios!” Athena points out, “if it destroys the Eye, we’re finished!”

            “Yeah, I know!” Rhys retorts.

             “What’s taking them so long?” August demands.

            “I-I don’t know,” he replies, “s-something’s wrong with the detonator.”

            They all watch as the Traveler kneels down in front of the Eye control centre and starts banging on it.

            “So turn around and get closer!” Rhys orders into his comm.

            Everyone agonizingly watches Rhys, waiting for some kind of indication that everything’s going to work, when something shoots out of the Traveler’s mouth and crashes through into the Helios wreckage.

            “Was that them?” Athena asks.

            “Either that or the Traveler had a bad breakfast,” Skies comments.

            “What’s going on? Where’s Sasha?” Rhys asks frantically into his comm. “What happened?”

            “Sasha?” August questions. “Rhys, what’s wrong with Sasha?”

            Before he can reply, the Eye starts powering up. The Traveler laughs at the futility and prepares to teleport away. But it doesn’t. A distant explosion is heard and it doubles over, gripping its chest.

            “They have done it,” Zero says while the others smile and sigh with relief.

            The Eye fires and blasts a large hole right in the monster’s chest.

            Gortys steps forward, grips the antenna on the back of her head, and pulls it off, revealing it to be a giant energy sword.

            She charges and everybody readies for the final attack.

            The sword slices through the Traveler. It doesn’t have a chance to dodge and its unable to block. Gortys drives the sword up the monster’s chest, leaving a long, yellow gash. The Traveler loses its glow and crumbles apart, sending dust into the air as it collapses.

            “Great job, guys,” Rhys says as Gortys lets everyone out onto the ground. “Man, we kicked the hell out of that thing.”

            “Heck yeah we did!” Gortys cheers.

            “That was…really fun,” Athena admits.

            “I thought about that for a long time,” August says, “didn’t imagine it going exactly that way but…it worked.”

            “Exhilarating,” Zero comments.

            “Yeah, it’s been a long time since I just let loose on anything like that,” Skies adds.

            “You really made use of your old weapons,” Athena remarks.

            “Yeah, well, I guess Jack did give me at least one good thing,” she shrugs.

            The congratulations are cut short when Rhys notices Fiona looking around frantically. The others watch him run around, calling Sasha’s name, concern quickly rising.

            Rhys and Fiona find her, lying on the ground, badly hurt. Vaughn catches up but stops nearby and everyone gathers near him, respectfully watching.

            “The detonator,” he explains, “it was out of range. She had to go back.”

            “But she’s…she’s going to be okay, right?” Gortys asks worriedly.

            “I…I don’t know,” Vaughn admits.

            “Sasha,” August sighs.

            “She fought with honor,” Zero says.

            Skies is silent as she squeezes her flesh arm and looks away.

            They all watch as Sasha speaks her last words and Rhys and Fiona quietly cry over her. Fiona gives her a small box, a gift from their old mentor Felix. It’s some kind of odd pocket watch. Sasha rests the item on her stomach, holding it close.

            Just as the end seems to near, the watch floats up over Sasha’s body. It lifts her up, covering her in green light. Everyone just watches, bewildered, as she gets higher and higher. And then the watch bursts into cross-shaped sparks and she continues hovering, looking much more alive.

            “I guess Felix did care enough to-.” Before she can finish, the sparks disappear and she hits the ground hard, making everyone wince as she cries out in pain.

            “Oh, yeah. That’s broken,” Gortys states.

            “Ah, shit,” Sasha grunts, sitting up. Fiona quickly races in and hugs her tight. Rhys soon joins them.

            After they hug, they help her to her feet and everyone stares at her apprehensively.

            “I’m…I’m fine…mostly,” she says reassuringly.

            Vaughn smiles with relief and races in, Loader Bot and Gortys close behind.

            “Yay!” Gortys cheers, “oh, I’m so happy now! What a rollercoaster of emotions, huh?”

            “It was intense,” Loader Bot agrees.

            The five of them join together in a group hug, while Athena, Zero, August, and Skies watch, smiling with relief.

            “Man, if it wasn’t for the smell of rotting monster carcass, this hug would be perfect,” Vaughn comments.

            “Too bad that thing blew up,” Athena says, “I could use one of those.”

            “I knew you’d be alright,” August states.

            “Sure you did,” Sasha retorts.

            “I hoped you’d be alright,” he clarifies.

            “Yeah, I don’t know why I was so worried,” Skies says, “the badasses never go so peacefully.”

            “It was looking grim/ That’s quite a turn of events,” Zero comments.

            “You always talk in haiku?” Athena asks.

            “It’s inconsistent,” he replies.

            “Guys? The arm- this is excruciating,” Sasha and they finally split apart.

            “I’m so happy I could scream!” Gortys exclaims, “but I won’t cause when I do people’s ears start to bleed.”

            “Then thank you for not doing that,” Vaughn says.

            “I don’t really like most of you, but I enjoyed that,” August says, “it was fun, y’know? Cathartic.”

            “Your ma would’ve been proud,” Vaughn states.

            “Yeah, well, you didn’t know her,” he argues.

            “Yeah, no, uh no I didn’t. You’re right. It’s just a thing you say,” he stammers, “and I’m gonna shut up now.”

            “Hey,” August says, clapping his shoulder. “Thanks.”

            Vaughn smiles at him.

            “For shutting up.”
            August lowers his hand and they look away awkwardly.

            “I quite enjoyed this/ Perhaps we’ll do it again,” Zero says.

            “Wow,” Rhys giggles, awestruck. “That…that sounds awesome.”

            “I’m talking to her,” he grunts, looking at Fiona.

            She smiles and Rhys scoffs and looks away. “Yeah. Of course.”

            Skies slides in, playfully elbowing Zero. “I’d join you on another adventure anytime. Who knew we’d make a good team?”

            “It is surprising/ But I enjoyed watching you fight/ When it wasn’t with me,” Zero replies.

            “Yeah, same,” she beams, “you really are super cool. Maybe uh maybe later you could, y’know, briefly mention to your friends that I’m not like ‘evil’ anymore? So I don’t have to worry about them killing me. And…I don’t wanna fight anymore. With them at least.”

            “I will put in/ A good word for you.”

            “Thanks, Zero.”

            Athena approaches Fiona, smiling. “You’ll do fine out there.”

            “That means a lot,” she replies warmly.

            “So…does this mean we can collect the loot now?” Vaughn asks.

            “Uh yeah,” Sasha replies, “I suppo-.”

            Before she can finish, everyone but Rhys, Fiona, Gortys, and Loader Bot race by.

            “Ah, the Desolator’s mine!” Sasha exclaims and chases them. “I died for it already!”

            “I got dibs on any shields cause I get shot a lot!” Vaughn adds.

            “I call assault rifles! They’re my new favourite!” Skies exclaims.

            “You can’t just call a whole gun type!” Athena snaps.

            “Then you better hurry and grab one!” she retorts.

            Athena, August, Zero, Sasha, Vaughn, and Skies scurry around like excited children, gathering all the loot they can carry while Gortys shares a tender moment with Rhys and Fiona, and then Loader Bot.       

            Rhys and Fiona watch them from afar before turning their attention to the bigger loot: the Vault. They race each other, jabbering and bickering as usual, before entering the glowing portal. Inside, they climb the stone steps and approach the large chest. And as they open it, the Vault disappears.