Chapter 6: Reparations
The days that followed Brick's death were chaotic.
Claptrap reported several different attacks by "organized raiders" and rehabilitated Gun Loaders just outside of Fyrestone, held off by his patrols. The people now relocated in Old Haven had also been engaged in a battle with the newly risen Bloodshots, fighting a three day war they barely managed to come out on top in. In each scenario, men would drop into the town via Buzzards and begin…searching the entire area. It was the same old shit we had heard with the Skag Riders. Rex was looking for something, and judging by the desperation of his actions, he was getting close. Nobody in their right mind would launch a full on assault on Sanctuary, the city protected by a few hundred armed militia and seven, now six, Vault Hunters.
Yet, Rex was still dangerous. He had a few hundred raiders at his command now, if recent reports were anything to go by, and with the split among the Vault Hunters, our chances of mounting a counter attack were slim to none. And yet, it'd take all of us to bring Rex down. Someone would have to go to Hero's Pass, the home of the Warrior, and investigate the rumors of him being there. Axton and I had also decided that the only place on Pandora that one could genetically engineer Skags like we'd seen, was the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve. So, someone would have to go check that out as well. And I had volunteered to go collaborate with Claptrap on just what exactly might be in Fyrestone that Rex was so interested in.
We need everyone to get their shit together, I thought to myself, scowling, Pandora's entire being is at stake here.
I steered my Runner back onto the defined path, finishing my patrol. Since Mordecai and Zero's very public and dramatic fight, the citizens of Sanctuary had become silent, and questioning when one of us Vault Hunters were around, like they were unsure of our ability to continue leading them. I snorted, pissed off at myself more than anyone. It was my job, with Roland gone, to lead, to take up the mantle of the head Crimson Raider. So far, I'd done nothing successful aside from defeating Handsome Jack, and the New Four had done more in that regard than I. All I'd done was the brainwork, they'd pulled the weight.
I sighed, trying to clear my head. It was time to start heading back to Sanctuary. Maybe when I got there, I could fix this.
When I first came to Pandora, I was a glory hungry, egotistical, smartass renegade deserter.
Handsome Jack had taken a toll on me, seeing so many people die because of one man's arrogance. I guess I thought I was a lot like him, and that scared me. Since then I'd changed dramatically, turning myself into the "Obi Wan Kenobi" kind of guy. I thought more, spoke less. Things that once seemed so important to me were not anymore, things like fame and fortune. All I wanted now was to have a little peace on this crazy planet that I was so in love with. But to do that, I'd need my friends, my brothers, back on the same page.
It'd taken me six days to find Zero. The kid hid so well, I thought I'd never lay eyes on him. Eventually, I caught him by surprise and cornered him before he could run. Zero and I always had a mutual respect for one another. One might even go as far as to say I was his only real friend. I hoped he agreed with that.
"Zero," I barked, stopping him in his tracks, "I need to talk to you."
The assassin stood there on the roof of Zed's pharmacy, his back to me, the wind silent. His sword was slung across his back, along with his rifle. The ECHO device and shield were both on his belt, along with a revolver.
"I will not talk, though I will listen."
I offered a hand, gesturing to the ledge that surrounded the perimeter of the roof. Zero took a seat, his face invisible behind his helmet. I sat next to him, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, as one would when he was about to lecture a child.
"This planet is insane," I said slowly, beginning my long rehearsed speech, "And yet you stayed. You say it's because you found love, I say bullshit."
Zero stiffened, his face still pointed away.
"I think you stayed because you finally found a challenge you could not overcome, one that'd take you a lifetime to beat: Surviving Pandora. I know that I stay here because I both belong here, and because I have an obligation to you Vault Hunters, and the people of Sanctuary. Now, I could start in about how you owe us, and how you're supposed to stay, but in reality it's your life. You make the decisions."
Zero's posture softened a bit, and I even heard him sigh form within his helmet.
"Mordecai was right to be angry."
I nodded. "Yes, he was. He and Brick were very close."
"Maya shouldn't have left it up to Brick to defend Mordecai when she had the ability. She has dishonored herself."
I nodded again, "Yes, she has," I clapped a hand on his shoulder, "Go talk to him, explain that you were only defending your woman. He'll understand."
Zero didn't respond, only removed his helmet, wiping his forehead. He sighed, met eyes with me.
He took a deep breath, and nodded.
That slinky, wannabe ninja queer ass motherfucker could go die for all I cared. He defended a woman who wouldn't defend a fellow Vault Hunter. He was as bad as her. And now, Brick was dead because he had to cover me. He wouldn't have gone after the Buzzard if Maya had not been so preoccupied deciding whether she'd cover me, or shoot me. Brick would have been able to kill the Badass, and we all would have taken out the Buzzard. Instead Maya dropped the fucking ball and Brick had to do it all himself, costing him his life.
I would never forgive her for that.
I held out an arm for Hellfire to land, his feathers a bright red-gold. I stroked his wings, then took another shot from the bottle of whiskey sitting on the platform beside me. And so this was how I spent my days now, drunk either in the bar or up on the roof of the Command building, overlooking the entire city. In the past week or so since Brick's death, I was positive that this was the first moment I'd not been drunk or high off my ass. Lilith and Axton had both tried talking to me, and made very little progress. It was almost insulting that they'd ask me to patch things up with Maya or Zero.
"Fuck them," I said aloud, lighting my bowl, "Fuck them both."
I took a long, deep pull off the pipe, coughing as I exhaled the harsh smoke.
The voice was behind me, and without a doubt belonging to Zero.
I continued to stare forward, out over the city.
"What do you want?" I patted Hellfire to keep him from getting hostile.
Zero didn't answer. I could hear his footsteps getting closer. Hellfire shuffled his feathers.
"Get the fuck away from me, assassin. I have no need for anyone like you."
The steps halted immediately. A long silence broke over the three of us, interrupted only by me taking another drink.
"I want to talk to you. You don't have to respond, though my words will be heard before I part our ways."
I rolled my eyes. "Go for it, Batman."
"Before I came to Pandora, I worked as an assassin, as you know. Yet no kill, no job, no assignment was challenging enough. When I came to Pandora, I worked here as well, and the challenge increased. I liked it. Eventually I met the other Vault Hunters, and went on the biggest challenge of my life. That ended, however, and I found a new one. One that could never be bested: Maya. She's everything to me. I'd die for her, something few others can say. And I'll kill anyone who harms her. Despite our differences, I include you Vault Hunters in that statement. We're a family. What Maya did was unforgivable, and I won't ask you to let her go. However, not all is as it seems. She couldn't let you die. Leaves fall, water ripples, and yet life moves on. We can decide to stay in the past, as we've been, or move on with the winds of change. We can set aside our differences, and fix this fissure in our lives. I'm asking you to do just that."
I snorted, taking another hit off my pipe.
"So you want me to apologize for trying to shoot her?"
"I want you to join me in re-welding this chain of ours."
Could've just said yes, instead of speaking in haiku.
I set my pipe and bottle down. Zero was right, in a sense. We were all each other had. Brick was my best friend, my brother above all others. Yet he wouldn't have wanted me to take the bottle up again, nor would he want me to forsake the group…
He'd be pissed right off at me right now, if he could see me.
"Fine," I relented, refusing to turn and make eye contact, "Tomorrow morning I'll go down, and we'll plan how to kill Rex."
I heard footsteps behind me, heading in the opposite direction, towards the ladder that led down to the roof access.
"Zero," I called.
The footsteps halted.
"You fight good, for a kid."
The footsteps picked up, heading down the ladder.
However Axton managed it, none of us would ever know.
There all of us were, inside the Command Room, standing around the table, talking about the little images on the holographic map of Pandora, making plans. Mordecai had already been here when the rest of us arrived, which was a shock. Even more shocking, was that he nodded to both me and Zero when we walked in, as if nothing had happened. What nearly dropped me to the floor in astonishment, was that he wasn't drunk or hungover. On the contrary, he had a cup of coffee in hand, his beard was trimmed, his clothes washed, and he was clearly planning the next move over the table.
"Alright," Lilith said, addressing the group, "Let's get started. The plan is simple: Mordecai and Axton will go to Hero's Pass to check out the rumors of Rex's main force massing there-"
"Hold on Lil," Mordecai interrupted, "But I'd like to go with Maya," he looked Maya full in the face, "if she doesn't mind."
The room was so silent, the beating of hearts could even be heard.
"Yeah," Maya said, nodding at Mordecai, "That sounds good."
Lilith raised her eyebrows so far they nearly vanished off her face, yet said nothing on the topic. "Okay, Mord and Maya will go to Hero's Pass. Rex is most likely there. Axton and Salvador, you guys go to the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve. Shut down the production of these Skag Riders. Also, it's very likely that Rex has set up shop there. I'm going to Fyrestone, Zero's going with me. Whoever finds Rex first, let the others know, and we'll fast travel to your position, and put this fucker down once and for all. Clear?"
Everyone nodded in agreement except Salvador, who grunted a response.
"Alright," I said, snatching my SMG off the table, "Let's go."
I'd done what Jack could not.
I laid siege to Sanctuary, killing off a quarter of their force and a Vault Hunter. I was the one who pinned Fyrestone down, I had control of the preserve, using Hyperion's prototype plans. I had control over the production of the most elite units on Pandora.
And what was better, was that I knew where it was. The Hyperion experiment. Operation Blizzard.
Once I had the Blizzard in my hands, I would wipe out the Vault Hunters. Something even Jack and his fucking Angel couldn't do.
Which reminds me…Where is that bitch?
It didn't matter. What did matter, was that I was about to be king of Pandora. All the raider tribes would soon be under my command.
I pressed a button on my wrist ECHO, "Captain, lay the traps. Then tell all the men and mechs that we're on our way to the main target. We're going to get the Blizzard."
The war against the Vault Hunters had begun.
I apologize deeply for the wait. I've been writing a lot of other things lately (Visit my name on FictionPress) and have not had time. I will finish the series in the next chapter, and MIGHT do a three part follow up. I may also do One-Shots following this storyline and these characters. Please read/review/follow/favorite! Thanks for waiting!