Title: What Psychos Do
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Rating: M for this chapter, the warnings will be listed in each.
Warning(s): Very descriptive violence, blood and gore, and a few swear words. If this isn't your thing, don't read because it's pretty uh… creative?
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Krieg and Maya
Setting: Before Krieg and Maya even got on the train. A back story to a back story I guess.
Notes: I've been writing Krieg since he came out with the intent to feature him in a chapter of Passing Strange, but decided against it. Since Gearbox released a short video called Krieg: A Meat Bicycle Built For Two (check it out on YouTube to get what all I'm writing about), I fell in love with the ship and decided I should scrap what I had and re-write him and Maya with their own exclusive little story. The narrative style is a little different because I've decided to write Krieg in two ways: one as his inner voice in a first person perspective, and the psycho side of him in third person. The reason why is because I wanted to make sane!Krieg stand out as his own character and follow the narrative style of the video mentioned above with his own thoughts and how he views the world outside of just being a little voice in a psycho's head. I hope it isn't too jarring and reads as well as I hope it does. Love it, flame it – I don't mind. Enjoy.
Somehow, he'd managed to find a seemingly endless supply of saltshakers.
They clink in my pockets and roll off my bare chest as my eye peels open slowly, pupil constricting painfully against a shaft of late afternoon light slicing across my face. Salt falls off me in waves and I was buried underneath like a sleeping dad on a beach waking up to find his children had played a joke on him with buckets of sand and seashells for modesty. I was cured meat. I had become beef jerky. Somehow, this doesn't shock me as much as I thought it would.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, he sleeps, but never for long. There are small moments, when the world is at peace and everything is still and yielding, I'm in control. The thought would be comforting but it's the farthest thing from the truth. Control hurts and every little resentful ache from the day before cuts through me like a thousand phantom pains. Every bullet that shattered his shield has given me more bruised ribs than I care to count and it's the worst kind of hangover to wake up to.
Slowly, I stand up from the makeshift blanket he seasoned himself to take in my surroundings. Light pours through the open windows of what looks to be a diner judging by the dusty and cracked leather booths. That explains the stupid amount of salt still itching the back of my pants right now. Random trash and splintered remains of tables are all that's left, and yet it's still easy to see that it might have been a nice place once. The dark wood floors clean and swept. The mirror behind the bar reflecting the light into the room with a warm glow while customers ate their meals. Maybe the breakfast special was a stack of pancakes with a bacon and eggs smile. Seems like everything on this planet turns to ruins in time.
Bits of glass and debris crunch underfoot as I stumble through the diner in a body that's no longer my own. He's usually awake by now and it's been a long time since I've moved even a pinky without resistance, but longer still since I've actually stood in front of a mirror and somehow, will alone keeps me moving. The mirror is scratched with graffiti and cracked, missing whole parts that have fallen away over time and abuse, but it still reflects clearly the psycho standing before me.
So… this is me. Or what used to be me and turned into us.
It's harrowing looking at the vast gap between who you were and who you are now. There parts of me that are completely him twisting and overlapping who I used to be and it's getting harder and harder to see the man I remember. Now, starring at this stranger, I'm not so sure there's any part of me left. A shiver runs down my spine at the thought of losing myself bit by bit as I slowly turn into this and something – someone – starts to stir in the dark secluded corner of my mind and I know with no uncertainty, that he's listening. Good. Time to remind him I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere.
So, you're awake, huh? Hey, you remember what we used to look like? 'Cause I don't. How about we take a look and see what's under a psycho's mask...
My fingers twitch – our fingers twitch – as it meets resistance, and it's an almost painful effort to move now, but just as I start to tear off the mask to see who's really beneath, someone starts to whisper all the answers in my ear and everything goes wrong. Very wrong. Malleable and raw like glass made liquid bubbling right beneath the surface of my skull. Needles push slowly under my skin, my throat, my eyes - my mind - and I feel like an insect pinned under a magnifying glass; exposed and twitching. Somewhere, there's laughter, muffled and low, like an inside joke too good to share as a beeping monitor echoes a speeding heartbeat and she starts to –
"I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP, MR. DEMILLE!"
And he headbutts the mirror with a savagery that causes the whole thing to crash to the floor into useless shards. I see stars, but he just snorts up the blood in his nose and pries up the mask just enough to spit out the bloody mess to the floor like it's business as usual.
Great, I coulda sworn we were close to some sorta breakthrough back there but sure, maybe it's too early for that. Let's find some food, there's bound to be something left in here to scavenge.
He seems to agree for once because he vaults the counter, snatching up his buzz axe as he goes, and kicks down the door to what I think used to be the kitchens. "I'm gonna MOISTURIZE my pores with your bacon grease!"
Heh, yeah. Whatever, just hold the salt this time.
"This is day one on Pandora," Maya pauses briefly, her finger almost slipping off the REC. button as she brushes away some stray hair that fell into her eyes. "The major settlements are far from the shuttle station and few, scattered all across the planet. The terrain is harsh and most of the locals travel by train. The next one isn't until tomorrow, so I'm on my way on foot to the closest town to rest and ride the train from there. Maybe while I'm there, I'll get some leads about my Siren lineage or at least a point in the right direction to this archeologist I've read about. If anyone would know of a Vault and how it relates to who I am, she would know. Let's hope this works out since it's all I got to go on."
Maya scans the mostly empty shuttle station and notes that not many people travel to Pandora by the looks of it. The shuttle only stays long enough to refuel, the crew wary and armed the whole time. It seems like no one gets off this planet either. If you're not here when it arrives, it doesn't wait longer then it has to. Hardly surprising being how Brother Sophis had called Pandora 'the planet of convicts and cannibals', one of the few things he's said that wasn't dripping in lies. She was the only one on board on the ride out from Athenas until they made a stop at Eden-5, picking up a few shady looking types and what looked to be a teenager judging by the striped leggings. She had her hood up, head down and no luggage; all the signs of a runaway. Maya vaguely wanted to strike up a conversation with the girl, it was a really long and uneventful ride after all, but she knows better than most about what it's like running away and allowed the girl to remain inconspicuous.
After a few moments adjusting her ECHO device to Pandora's frequencies and downloading the layout of the surrounding area, Maya decides to get going. The days are long here from what she's read, and she doesn't want to walk in it longer than she needs to. With one last glance around the empty station, her eyes catch the copper shine of pigtails bobbing off in the distance before turning a corner and she wishes the girl the best of luck wherever she's running to. They both need it right now.
After banging pot over his head with a spoon while laughing maniacally, he cleared the mostly bare shelves with a sweep of his buzz axe and he hadn't managed to find much other than an unlabeled tin can and half a packet of stale crackers. Can't tell if they're still any good, but as he starts to hack at the can with his axe, it doesn't matter much. Out here in the wastes, you eat what you can find and it's been a while since we've eaten something that he hadn't ripped the spine out of moments before, so it's a nice change of pace slurping down something that isn't still wiggling. Eating the colorful diet of a psycho for so long, things like expiration dates – and gag reflexes – ain't such a big deal.
Skag chow. Nice. Today's looking good already.
Mission accomplished, he plops down on the suspiciously stained floor and digs into the meal without any hesitation and with all the table manners of a starving animal. I don't blame him, it's a rare treat and I leave him alone for the time since he's totally focused on his food with occasional mumblings about how this could use some blood sauce and who hid all the saltshakers. It could use come cooking really, but there's no use reminding him.
It's... lonely being the little voice in his head sometimes. Having no one else to talk to, I'm often the one starting the one-sided conversations he wants to pretend he can't hear until he smashes the blunt side of his axe into his face for some silence. Yeah, don't work though. He might be behind the wheel, but there's no ejection seat in this ride. And it does feel like that sometimes. Watching everything he does through a filter as he steers me around. When he's in control, it's just me in here and I don't even know what he's thinking half the time. It's like sharing a very thin wall with an obnoxiously loud and destructive neighbor; his thoughts muted and separate from mine but definitely there and smashing the furniture.
The now empty can rattles across the floor and he pockets the crackers for later. His movements are slow and idle, fingers tracing the length of his buzz axe like a twisted mockery of a fluffy pet and inspecting each sharp edge and this... this I know. He's getting restless and he's gonna hunt soon. Not skag or any of the other wildlife, no. They don't scream enough. He's working himself into a killing mood and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I didn't mind killing before as long as it was to survive, but him... he's got a real taste for it. It used to bother me, but somehow with each passing day it's gotten easier to not care after the blood on my hands dries and flakes away. When the world is built on blood and bullets, when existence is a constant state of insanity, it's hard to get worked up for anything anymore. Guilt becomes irrelevant. The fact that I've grown so used to it would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that all his victims are bandit raiders to begin with. So long as it's not the blood of an innocent victim, I can live with it. We can live with it. It's our compromise and he hasn't broken it, not yet.
Sometimes... I dread the day he might. I try not to think about it much.
He stands, popping his neck and rolling his shoulders as he goes. The buzz axe doesn't stay still for long. It switches from one hand to another before turning in the air and caught once more. If his walk seems casual, it isn't. Somewhere on the other side of that thin wall in my mind, he's maybe thinking about the small bandit camp near the train rail we saw the other day. Five, maybe six of them. They'll have supplies they've stashed away somewhere, likely stolen off of people innocently waiting at the station or passerby that had mistakenly walked into their territory. They're all armed and decently defended, but our axe has seen worse and we're still standing.
My vocal cords constrict and he almost seems to growl at the prospect. "The splintered GLORY HOLES of their eye sockets will taste the sweet, sweEET songs of my prized GOAT!" And without another word, he shoulders open the rotted door, on his way to do just that.
So, I take it we're not gonna talk about what happened with the mirror awhile ago.
This isn't a question because I already know the answer.
"HnnNNG – PINEAPPLES!"
Okay... that wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but yeah. Pretty much.
It's nearly dusk by the time Maya arrives to a town by the name of Rakk Point, but in reality it's nothing but a few buildings; an outpost of sorts before the train station a mile or so away. It seems like a place where travelers stop on their way out to the rest of the wastes that stretch across Pandora, the last breath of civilization before the leap. What passes for walls are bits of metal sheeting with rusted barbed wire, but in some places, the wire has fallen away either by neglect or by someone actually climbing over it. A couple of armed militia looking guards stand at the gates, but neither make any move to stop her, perhaps used to seeing people come and go from the shuttle station. They do however, look at her strangely, openly starring as she passes by. Creeps.
The small town was divided by a wide dirt road with buildings on both sides, and as far as Maya can see, it's pretty bare. Food, guns, ammo, supplies, a few shacks for what seems like the more permanent residents, and something of an inn judging by the size. A sign above the door with the words THE HIVE, the 'e' flickering sporadically in the fading light, screams its class. It'll have to do. She's dead on her feet from the walk. Stepping inside, she runs into a stale wall of cigarette smoke clinging in the air, but it's thankfully cooler than outside. Music plays softly from a radio on the bar and several men in varying states of scruffiness drink at the few tables crowding the far end of the common room. Two pool tables take up most of the space, their players impatiently chalking up their cue sticks. It could definitely be worse. Making her way directly to the bar, Maya finds an older woman skimming a tattered magazine and hopes the stairs leading up to the second floor are what she assumes to be the bedrooms.
"Um, hi," Maya says, trying to get the woman's attention. "You wouldn't happen to have any rooms for the night, would you?"
"Yes, ah –" and the woman looks up from her magazine, her eyes wide and taking in the markings on Maya arm. "Oh, mah lord... is you a Siren?"
Surprised, Maya only nods before she can find her voice and she can't form the words fast enough. "Yes, how – have you seen any Sirens? Where are they? Do you know anything about a Vault?"
"Ssh," the woman shushes with a little flutter of her hand and beckons her around the counter. "Not here. Quiet now an' foller me."
Maya hesitates for a moment, confused at the woman's behavior, but one glance around the room alerts her to the stares she's gotten since she walked through the doors. Now that she thinks about it, it's not the usual look some men give to the only young woman in a room. Like the guards at the gates, it's lingering and focused. One man in particular catches her eyes over the end of his cue stick as he shares a few quiet words with his partner, and he too looks up from his shot to stare. There is something seriously off with the people here on this planet. Without another word, Maya follows the older woman behind the counter and through a curtained door, ready for answers.
The room is cramped, yet tidy. A bedroom, no doubt belonging to the woman herself. A cot and a table big enough for two take up most of the space. A dimly lit oil lamp lights the windowless room and her host waves her over to take a seat before taking one last peek outside the door.
"What is it with everyone here?" Maya says finally, her patience wearing thin. "They act like they haven't seen –"
"Ah Siren?" The woman supplies with a laugh. "Yeah, ah wouldn't reckon so. Yer a rarity aroun' these parts."
"So you haven't seen any," she sighs, disappointed. Maya was hoping for... for something. Anything! Still, it's only her first day here and she tries to reign in her doubts. She's gone her whole lifetime not understanding who she is or where she comes from, her search is only just beginning and she has more than enough time to spare.
"Ah didn't say that," the woman continues. "About five years ago, ah lived on over in New Haven an' met mah first Siren." She pauses briefly to squeeze herself into the chair across from her. "They say seein' a Siren can change yer life an' gal, it did in spades."
"What happened? Where is she now?"
"She's dead," she says shortly. "Hyperion went an' burned New Haven t'tha groun'. Not many survived, an' them that did were nearly all killed later migratin' t'Sanctuary. Glad ah wasn't on that train. Handsome Jack showed up hisse'f fo' that one from whut ah hear. Ah guess havin' a trimenjus robot man kill a bunch of unarmed civilians fo' him gave him th' balls t'show up an' gloat about it."
Dead. Her first time stepping on a planet another Siren has been... and she's dead. Maya's epic journey of self discovery is starting off great. "What about a Vault?"
"Ah cain't help ya there. Maybe yo'll find tha answers in Sanctuary. Last ah heard, tha Crimson Raiders were still–"
"Maw!" A male voice shouts from the bar and the curtain to the door is pushed the aside. "Jim an' tha boys said they saw a Siren an' were gonna... oh," he finishes lamely once his eyes fall on Maya.
"You hush yer mouth befo'e they hear," the woman warns as she stands, scraping the seat at she goes. "Come an' help me git her out tha back befo'e they come back with a posse."
"Wait – what? A posse?"
The woman exchanges a glance with her son, clearly surprised. "People come t'Pandora fo' two things, honey: they're either runnin' from tha law or lookin' fo' tha Vault. Yer a wanted woman an' you just walked into a vipers nest. This here town is full of bounty hunters."
It takes a few moments for the absurdity of the situation to sink in. "How am I wanted? I've done nothing wrong."
"Yer a Siren an' that's enough. Hyperion's put a sweet price on every Siren brought in. Now c'mon, it's dark out an' they might not see you leave."
She's wanted for being a Siren. For simply being born. In the Abbey, Maya had trained for years with focus and mediation so she might better herself with control of her powers. She had often struggled reigning in her emotions because more often than not, the results were disastrous. "A warrior does not fight with the savagery of his anger, but his mind for that is the keenest weapon," Brother Fletcher had once said after calmly rubbing out the ashes that were his eyebrows. She doesn't consider herself to be an angry person, but now, Maya's wondering if it would've been better to melt his face off to prove just how wrong he really was.
"Let them come," Maya says at last.
The bandit on watch never saw him coming.
With one swing, blood sprays out like the citrus mist of an orange peel against Krieg's mask and the bandit clutches vainly at his open throat, blood washing over his fingers and pooling down into his collar. Another swing, and Krieg buries his axe into the bandit's chest deep enough to feel the beating of his pulse slow down in the palm of his hand through the steel, and it makes this moment undeniably beautiful in a head-in-a-meat-grinder sort of way. The pulse finally fades away too soon and the only sound left is a gurgling exhale as Krieg kicks the body off his axe. He breathes in and savors the scent of copper and how it snaps far back on his tongue and this... this is better. It's gonna make it all better. Just a little taste, a drop on his axe. That's all he needs but no, they're all out there and they all want some too.
Stepping over the corpse, Krieg makes his way over to give them what they want.
The bandit camp is nothing but a few shacks circling around a bonfire with the partial remains of a skag on a spit, and Krieg counts three – no – four shadows stretching across the desert floor. They're all sitting around the fire eating, talking. All noise to him; the low mumble of voices before the curtain rises. They haven't seen him, but everyone's watching. Everyone's waiting for the axe to fall. They don't know it yet, but they'll scream for the axe and he could almost call it music to his ears only he's not that cliché.
Something buzzes around like a pesky fly banging into his skull, and warns him it's too risky. They're all armed and we're outnumbered. And as soon as Krieg starts to think that this might be a reasonable observation, the more he wonders how well their faces would fit as shoes. Sure, he's got nothing to wear that'll match, but it's the comfort that counts. He's been wearing these same old shoes for months and years and he needs something flashy for prom! And since fashion is pain, all thoughts of caution are shoved to the back of his mind as he charges out into the open.
"I'M GONNA TRY YOU ALLL ON!"
The bandits all jump, cursing as they reach for their guns, but just as soon as the first few bullets start to pepper the air, Krieg's already thrown his axe and it lands with a satisfying thud into a bandit's collarbone and he goes down with a shout. Diving and dodging bullets, he makes a wild leap and lands with a solid crunch on the dying bandit's chest and yanks up the axe. Two bullets bite into his shoulder, but his shield holds strong and the pain spreads through his body like a drug, fueling his rampage.
Run. Gotta keep moving. No thinking now. Just the screams and the scent of blood and gunpowder in the air and everything is a whirlwind of meat and bright colors and drying stains of blood as he cleaves someone's face open like a pinata. They curse and shout out syllables and senseless words and it washes over him like white noise. Nothing else matters but the screams. There are echoing holes in the things he remembers and each scream feels like a key with the biting cut wrong and all he can hear is the lock jamming each time one falls silent as Krieg guts someone open so they don't have to scream anymore.
His breath comes out harsh and ragged when he realizes he's the only one left standing and Krieg wonders where he's left his axe because it isn't in his hands. He fingers the side of his head, and it comes away red where a stray bullet just barely grazed him as he surveys the carnage around him. A lone marauder crawls away on the ground, the pointy end of his buzz axe jutting out of his shoulder blade as he drags himself to reach for a gun. That little thief! He's officially out of the will and isn't getting any pancake mix now. Krieg casually kicks away the gun and straddles the marauder's back like he's ready for a rodeo, and yanks his buzz axe free with a laugh.
The marauder spits bloody curses and struggles against him, still reaching for the gun, and Krieg leans down low enough to whisper in his ear. "You'll make gooood flip flops."
And he bashes his head in until the blood starts to pool impressively on the sand.
Maya steps out into the bar and the murmur of voices die down to nothing. Her eyes scan a group of men crowded around the pool table and she hears the unmistakable sound of a cocking shotgun. Some of them are wary, but a few others are already counting out the bills in their mind, ready to cash in the bounty.
"Them some interestin' tattoos you got there," says the man with the pool stick she had shared a look with earlier. "Where'd you get 'em?"
"I was born with them," Maya says since she has no reason to hide. She will not be hunted down like some animal. She's trained all her life for combat and she's willing to do what it takes to survive. "Is this going to be a problem?"
"Hell, I knew we'd get a real one eventually," he chuckles lightly, nudging his partner in the shoulder like it's his lucky day. "Well, that all depends on you, beautiful," he addresses her and waves the shotgun her way. "Now I ain't the best shot, but I bet I'll ruin that pretty face of yours from anywheres with this. How 'bout you just come quietly and everyone's happy, y'hear?"
With a thought, she readies herself for the worst and the familiar warmth of her power flows through her veins, lighting up her Siren markings with an ethereal glow. "You can try."
The grin slides off his face, and anyone else that was hoping for a payday takes a step back, his partner included. These bounty hunters were used to petty criminals and bandits, easy game and you can always count on your skill with a gun to take them down. But she was a Siren and bullets feel like peashooters in comparison to the unknown powers they wield. They're scared, as they should be, and that price on her head no matter how high isn't looking good about now.
But maybe he's desperate and prideful, or simply stupid, because he levels the shotgun at her head. "Ain't gonna ask you twice."
"Then you will die screaming."
For a long moment, everything was still and uneasy. Nothing stands between them but the bar and suddenly, that empty air of no man's land between them feels like it stretches on for a hundred miles. Her heart beats harshly against her chest, but she's unafraid. She takes a slow breath and clears her mind of everything else and focuses on the clench of his jaw, the way he works his throat, the tension in his wrist... and dives behind the bar as his finger pulls the trigger.
"Dammit, Jim, tha' there's mah good stuff!" the old barkeep screeches as glass shatters behind Maya and showers down on her from above. "Y'all take this fight outside!"
"Put it on the tab!" Jim replies casually as he pumps his shotgun once more. "I'm gonna be rich!"
Three more shots fire in quick succession, blasting away the shelves and dusting every surface with powdered glass. Wood splinters off the bar somewhere over Maya's shoulder and she knows she doesn't have much cover left for long. Two more shots hit the bar behind her and she can feel their impact on the wood against her back, but she's bidding her time. All she can rely on right now are her powers and those few moments he reloads since she's unarmed. He's going to run out of ammo sooner or later.
"Come out, bitch!" he taunts and his boots thud lightly on the floor, coming closer.
Taking a risk, Maya rolls out from cover and tips over a small table, hoping the movement alone will cause him to fire wildly, and sure enough, it does. His aim goes high, her ears ringing faintly from the sound, pockmarking the stained wall and blowing a dartboard clear off. A few people run out the door, avoiding the gunfire and clearly not interested in the reward. He curses and the soft clatter of shells hit the floor. There – this is her chance. Time to die, Jim.
Maya stands out of cover, and with a simple gesture, she pulls him into the air. He shouts, limbs flailing pointlessly as he's pulled up into the orb. The rest of the people in the room back away, some into corners or tripping over chairs as Jim hovers over the pool table.
"This..." Maya addresses the room at large. "... is what you're messing with."
Another gesture and Jim burns. He dies screaming.
When his body hits the pool table, smoke rising thickly off his scorched skin, she drops her hand and the glow of her skin returns to normal. "If anyone else wants to try and turn me in, I'll be upstairs."
No one replies and without another glance, Maya turns and makes her way upstairs fearing a bullet in her spine with each step. None do, and it wasn't until she had blindly opened any random door and shut it behind her with shaking fingers did she breathe a sigh of relief. But for how long? More might come looking for her and it won't be just one blowhard with an empty wallet and a bad aim. What then?
Sleep doesn't come easy that night. She spends the next several hours with the echos of Jim's screams in her mind, the door cracked and listening for the sound of his footsteps.
A/N: Sorry for the long note, but I see a lot of fluffy things posted about Krieg everywhere and I wanted to explain why I decided to write him differently. Sure he's funny and he's especially adorable in the video with Maya, but he's a psycho and I felt like I couldn't write him true to his nature without that scary and violent side that some fans look past. It might be cute if he offers Maya a balloon animal made out of intestines as a token of affection, but remember he gutted someone open to get them in the first place. I also took a few creative liberties with sane!Krieg and thought since he pretty much lets on that he can take control when he likes and would commit suicide if Krieg ever kills an innocent person, I decided sane!Krieg should be allowed (not many, but few) moments of control here too. This is pretty much for character dissection and plot stuffs for possible future chapters. This was meant to only be a two-shot and in fact, it might be a while till I post the second chapter because The Last of Us is coming out really soon and I wanna wear that out until the novelty rubs off. Depending on the feedback, I might consider writing more than two chapters and just go with a slight novelization of key events in the game with Maya and Krieg and a build up to an actual romance. But that all depends on you, dear reader. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!