Author's Note: I... really shouldn't be writing this. I swore I was going to take a fanfiction break, but apparently my poor broken ego couldn't take not having adoration heaped upon it - I mean, I had an idea and I can only play Borderlands in short tidbits now because I can't snipe with this wrist brace on but I CAN type. So. We get to find out what all is happening with skag-girl during the events of Borderlands 2. This will take place just after the ascension of Sanctuary and before the capture of Bloodwing. If you haven't read Skag-girl yet, now would be a good time to do so. She's my OC.
A note on Zero: I refuse to use a 0 in his name and I refuse to write in haiku. I have a love-hate relationship with his character. This will help swing it more towards love for the duration of writing the story.
And lastly: I have a book on amazon. It's called Mortal Gods by Bonnie Quinn.
Handsome Jack rarely held meetings face-to-face. He also rarely held meetings. There were body doubles for that and the executives littered about Hyperion, while not exactly trust-worthy, were at least competent to ensure no absolutely wretched project got implemented and that any major decisions were shuffled off to him. In a neat summary format, of course. Jack didn't care much for details. That was what being stinking rich with an entire company under his thumb did – it freed him up from having to deal with things like boardrooms and having to read through twenty-thousand plus words of blah blah blah business alignment and blah blah blah projected earnings. However, every once in a great while, an idea came through that was just so brilliant – so clever – that he had to meet with the individuals responsible. Sometimes the idea was so clever that he then had to kill the people that came up with it and take credit. This was not one of those times, however. He had an instinctual feeling that it might be useful to have scapegoats later on down the line. It was worthy of a meeting, at least.
The engineers responsible were arrayed in a conference room, uneasy in their chairs around the table. The room was conspicuously absent of any management, as whenever a meeting with Jack was called the management found reasons to be absent, just in case it was one of those 'kill everyone in the room' type meetings. That was why they were management and not dead. Jack was situated in his luxurious quarters, which occupied almost a square mile of the space station orbiting Pandora. He had a desk – used only occasionally – and a magnificent leather chair (no doubt from some endangered species or another, Jack hadn't really paid attention to the details of décor save ensuring it cost more than most yearly incomes) which was carefully tailored to make Jack look imposing when he sat in it. The boardroom was arrayed before him on the empty carpet as a hologram projection, just as he was currently appearing to them in some other part of the Hyperion corporate empire.
"So," Jack said benignly, steepling his fingers on the polished desk surface, "I just got done reading your proposal. Brilliant. I noticed it's a three phase plan – skip the first two and give me what phase three will result in. In one sentence or less."
The lead engineer cleared his throat nervously. Half the team was riveted in staring at Jack, the others were watching their leader.
"Phase three will be the elimination of Tediore as a competitor," he said.
"Okay. I'm intrigued. Back up to the first two phases."
Tediore guns were pieces of crap, but they were cheap pieces of crap and the things were everywhere, much like topless pictures of Moxxi. They were especially entrenched on poor worlds and Jack would very much like to see them ousted of their holds, so that Hyperion could move in and take over – both in terms of market-share and literally taking over. Atlas was reeling from its setbacks on Pandora and seemed content to let Hyperion be, Dahl and Torgue were always in the back of his mind as a problem, Jakobs and Vladof never seemed to give a damn about the competition, Maliwan was comfortable in their niche, and Jack never had any idea what the hell Bandit was up to, nor did he really care. As worthless as Tediore guns were, they were strong enough to pose a threat to Hyperion.
"Phase one will be a pilot of our program on a single world," the engineer said, "We'll install our devices onto strategic relay towers. They'll be set to self-destruct if anyone tampers with them, to ensure we cover our tracks if they're found. These will intercept a certain range of digistruct signals and build flaws into the constructed device – carefully randomized as to frequency to ensure a pattern doesn't develop. When someone attempts to use a Tediore gun, it could blow up in their face."
"Phase two will be a roll-out to surrounding worlds, mimicking the spread of a computer virus across inter-planetary communication lines as well as an increase in frequency of flaws on digistructed guns. This will be accompanied by a propaganda mission – not linked to Hyperion – that will spread rumors that the errors in the digistruct system were introduced by Tediore protocols and could potentially spread to more than just their guns. Hopefully, the world governments will start panicking and cutting Tediore out of their system."
"Phase three will see Tediore's revenue plummet, allowing Hyperion to swoop in and take over."
"I love it!" Jack laughed, leaning back into his chair and slapping the palm of one hand onto the desk. It made the engineers jump, but he didn't notice. "I'm gonna have to modify phase one though. Go ahead and pilot it on some other world – I don't care which – but I want a modified version of your boxes made that blocks all digistruct signals except those carrying a Hyperion signature."
He straightened in the chair, leaning forwards and resting his elbows on the desk surface. The engineers couldn't look away, their faces a mix of apprehension and curiosity.
"Ship those to Pandora," he said, "I want to bring the whole damn network down for those assholes."
Lilith surveyed the assembled vault hunters unhappily. Or rather, the lone assembled vault hunter. She supposed that perhaps she had gotten too comfortable dealing with Roland and Mordecai, that her expectations for reliability were too high. Still, considering what was at stake, she had expected a better turn-out than just Maya when she called for the four, citing an emergency. Maya, for her part, looked similarly unhappy and Lilith supposed the same thoughts were running through her sister siren's head.
"Where's the rest?" Lilith asked. Behind her, Roland was silent, content to let the two sirens handle this.
"Axton and Salvador are off doing a side-job for Scooter, so they're stranded" she replied, "I refuse to do anything for Scooter anymore."
Lilith wasn't sure if she wanted to hear the reasons around that one or not.
"And Zero?" she prompted.
Maya hesitated. Then a voice – mechanically breathy – came from outside.
And the three turned to look as Zero dropped from somewhere up on the roof of the building onto the balcony. The lanky assassin walked in, cat-like in his grace, and perched near a wall, setting himself apart from the others. He never seemed to relax, Lilith reflected, he never walked easy and always seemed strung tight like a cable, ready to move in a heartbeat. That was probably what made him such a good assassin.
"You can use the front door next time," Lilith said crossly, "What's so appealing about our roof anyway?"
"Good view of the city." He paused, tilting his helmeted head to the side a fraction. "Quiet. Good for introspection."
"More like sulking that your sword no longer works," Maya said. Zero's head snapped s quare to hers and even though his eyes were not visible, there was the distinct impression that he was glaring at her – a cold stare, pitiless and baleful.
"That's actually what we called you here for," Roland interjected before the two could continue, "We need to find out why the digistruct network is down and how to bring it back up. There's someone outside of Sanctuary that we think may be able to help with this and Mordecai has been able to pin-point her last location in the Dahl Headlands. We need you to go there and find her. Do whatever it takes to secure her help."
"Since travel is down," Lilith continued, picking up when Roland paused, "I'll be phase-shifting the two of you to her coordinates. Once you're there, you're on your own. No vehicles. No returning to Sanctuary. Think carefully about what supplies you'll need, as we can't get anything to you once you're down there. Everything is offline."
"Mordecai will be able to brief you further on the specifics of this person we're sending you after,"Roland said, "Go get what you need and then return here."
Maya and Zero turned to go. Zero's long legs quickly carried him past Maya and he brushed past her in the hallway, taking the stairs before turning off into the hallway that led to the rooms that Roland had given the vault hunters. Or rather, the one room. It was lined with bunk-beds and Maya suspected that Roland was used to putting up guests for nights on end. Zero was already at the locker he used for his few belongings when Maya entered. She came up beside him, unlocking her own, and stared dourly at the contents. Guns. More guns. A few keepsakes she'd picked up here and there. A single shotgun. She sighed and unhooked a backpack and crouched, shoveling spare ammunition into the main part of the pack.
"If you bothered to organize you'll be able to fit more," Zero commented from above her. The siren gave a non-committal grunt and ignored his advice.
"It's going to weigh a lot as well," the assassin continued.
"Well, in case you weren't listening," Maya snapped back, "The digistruct network is down so we're not going to be able to buy ammunition from the vendors. What's inside is what's inside and the bandits have probably emptied them all out by now."
"So we kill the bandits and loot their bodies."
Maya looked up, watching as Zero removed a long thin blade from the locker, wrapped in leather, about the length of his forearm. He held it on his palms for a moment, regarding it, and then stepped back to find the best place to wear it. He settled for hooking the short sword to the small of his back, moving the shield over to the left hip to make room. Maya had never seen him use a real blade – she didn't even know he owned one.
"I'd rather not take chances," she said quietly. After a moment, Zero tilted his head in a way that Maya had come to realize meant assent.
"Here," he said, taking his own backpack from the locker and dropping it beside her, "Fill them halfway with ammo. I'll go see to the other supplies."
He left, hardly making a sound. Maya watched him go and as soon as he was out of eye-shot she turned her attention back to the packs, reluctantly reaching in to arrange the boxes of ammo into a neat stack along the bottom. Of course Axton and Salvador would chose now to get themselves stranded god knows where on Pandora on some perverted mission for Scooter. She frowned severely, irritated by both the thought of Scooter and the thought of going on this mission with no one but Zero for company. It wasn't that she distrusted or even disliked the assassin – it was just that he was wretchedly boring. Incredibly competent with a rifle, but a miserable conversationalist.
"Mordecai," Maya said, pausing to bring up the ECHO connection, "Tell me about this woman we're meeting."
Mordecai's features flashed into view at the corner of her HUD. There was nothing but the faint overlay of static for a moment and Maya could only assume that the sniper was thinking of the best place to start. He started to speak, stopped himself, and frowned severely. Then he nodded to himself.
"She's the orphaned daughter of Dahl engineers," he said, "She's paranoid, her sanity is questionable, she can't hit a building at five paces with a gun, she's on good terms with most of the bandit gangs, and she keeps Pandora's infrastructure running. Her name is Tasha, but everyone calls her skag-girl. If she sics Bunny on you, just yell at her that I sent you and she will hopefully call him off."
The connection was cut before she could ask questions. The siren remained frozen where she was for a moment, taking in everything Mordecai had just said. She supposed this wasn't the first time they'd dealt with a crazy orphan – there had been Tiny Tina, after all. What was it about the original four vault hunters that attracted such company? Her ECHO flashed into life again. Mordecai.
"So I forgot to mention," he said and Maya detected a faint slur to his words. He was drinking, apparently. "We've been trying to contact her since the network went down three days ago. She hasn't responded."
"You said she's paranoid," Maya pointed out.
"No, you don't understand." There was a layer of urgency undercutting Mordecai's words. "She always responds to me when I ECHO her. Always. Find out what's happened, and quick."
The ECHO cut off once more and Maya had a feeling that Mordecai would not have anything more to say. Maya shook her head in dismay. The digistruct network down – no doubt the work of Jack, although no one knew how – herself being sent out on a mission to find someone who might be dead already with only Zero for company, and the whole planet just going to hell around her at the hands of Hyperion. This was not what she had anticipated when she came here to learn about her siren heritage.