Hello, everyone. My name's Krieg. Uh, our name. I think? I guess it really doesn't matter, considering I'm just ranting to myself. I tried starting an ECHO log like some other people do, but, um...

"I AM THE PRETTIEST FROG IN THIS ENTIRE POND!"

...yeah, the ECHO thing didn't work out. So I guess now I'm just talking to myself. Normally, this might be time to call in a shrink, but I'm an amnesiac voice in the head of a buzz-axe wielding mutant psychopath who likes to yell about poop, so I think it's a little too late for that.

"THEY ARE NO MORE AWARE OF WHAT IT USED TO DO THAN A PIGEON IS AWARE OF THE DEEDS ICONIZED BY THE BRONZE EFFIGY UPON WHICH IT PERCHES AND POOPS!"

I really should have seen that coming. O...kay, let's just start at the beginning, and ignore the fact that none of this makes even the tiniest amount of sense.

I...met a girl. Isn't that how these things always start? Well, I met the girl after escaping from a Hyperion lab where we were brutally experimented on—

"NO ONE WANTS THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS FOR LONG! NOT EVEN OTHER MONSTERS!"

Right. I really need to get my thoughts in order here.

So...I met a girl. Uh, woman. A beautiful, smart, lethal Siren named Maya. And the other guy saved her life! Which is pretty good, considering that usually he just kills lots of people. Um...okay, he saved her by killing lots of people, but, you know, they were rats. They were planning to eat her.

Anyway, long story short, she became a Vault Hunter and signed up with Handsome Jack. He tried to kill her—and the other Vault Hunters—which I could have told them would happen. Well...no, I couldn't have. I wanted to, but...couldn't. The other guy is getting better, but he's still not good at, you know, talking. Without shouting about stripping the flesh and salting the wounds, I mean.

The thing is, when the train they were riding in exploded? We were kinda on the outside. Just...hanging from the window. Not really sure why the other guy didn't just ride on the inside with the rest. I will admit that we did get a nice, refreshing breeze out there, though.

So, the train exploded.

"I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY EVERYTHING IN THIS SCRIPT MUST INEVITABLY EXPLODE!"

Because pathos or...why am I arguing with you? The train exploded, and we were thrown out into the snow. I didn't know what happened to everyone else, but we woke up a few hours later, and we were trapped on a glacier filled with junk and corpses.

We found a new ECHO, and the other guy managed to retain enough sanity to activate it normally without eating it or whatever. He's usually good with tools and stuff, but sometimes...he's not.

We wandered around the glacier, and eventually found this weird house built into the ice, made out of scavenged trash and all that. Place even had a Fast Travel station, though our new ECHO didn't have any other locations logged. It was a bit chilly, but otherwise pretty nice.

Stayed there for about a day, hunting those ape-things the ECHO labeled "bullymongs" for food, until we were healed up properly from the crash. That also gave our new ECHO to do that...thing...what's it called? Implant synchronization firmware...I don't know. But that started happening, and we got new tricks as everything started working again.

Well, there wasn't much to do on that part of the glacier, so eventually we both agreed it was time to move on. Grabbed some ammo and loot from this Hyperion barge lodged in the ice, and moved through on our way.

That's when we got real lucky. We found a town, small little place with some vending machines, food and ammo in the houses, and the power still on. Completely abandoned, of course, not a surprise with the state the glacier's in.

There were signs of a recent firefight, about a week old, maybe a little less, between at least two groups with guns, plus some more of those bullymongs. The 'mongs didn't have guns. Uh, I don't think. I really hope they can't use guns.

Anyway, it was a bit hard to get a good read on what happened, since the survivors had taken the time to drag the corpses out of the way. They didn't bother to bury them, which is understandable considering the rock-hard nature of the ground around here, so it was easy to tell that all the guys with guns were just more bandits. Well, all the dead guys were bandits, anyway. Unless the winners managed to kill a couple dozen men and beasts without taking a single casualty, which I find doubtful.

Didn't really know what to do but sit there, so that's what we did, while looking for a boat or something to get off the glacier. The nearby bandits started sending waves at us once they realized we were there, two or three waves a day, each maybe two dozen hands each. Killed them pretty easy—the town entrance made a pretty good chokepoint—and on the morning of the third day, I finally managed to convince the other guy to take one captive.

After we made sure he wasn't gonna bleed to death any time soon, he mentioned that he worked for Captain Flynt, shipmaster of the frozen ship The Soaring Dragon.

"A SHIP AT SEA IS ITS OWN WORLD! TO BE THE CAPTAIN OF A SHIP IS TO BE THE UNQUESTIONED RULER OF THAT WORLD AND REQUIRES ALL OF THE LEADERSHIP SKILLS OF A PRINCE OR MINISTER!"

Uh, yeah. Anyway, even though this Flynt guy's ship was obviously marooned or run aground or whatever the word for crashed waterbourne vessels is, we figured it might be the best place to find a ride out. Maybe a Fast Travel station with a pre-recorded destination code to somewhere off the glacier. Something like that.

Well, we had to trek all the way across the frozen wasteland, through at least two bandit villages, more than one crashed ship, a rakk hunting field, and more angry bandits than I even knew existed, but we finally managed to climb to the top deck of that stupid ship.

If the good captain was around, we must have missed him, and he certainly didn't pop up and start shooting while we were rooting through his stuff. Well, the other guy was doing the rooting. I kept trying to tell him to let me read the papers we found, see if there was anything useful on them.

There weren't any boats on The Soaring Dragon, and we obviously couldn't just yank the whole thing out of the ice and go sailing, so we headed back to that town we had been camping out in the past few days. Yeah, the ship we spent a few hours fighting our way to turned out to be completely useless.

But on the way back, while the other guy was chasing after a rakk for some reason, I noticed that there seemed to be another bandit outpost on the horizon, built into the ice. It was a long shot, but I managed to convince him to head over there and see if there was anything we could use.

Well, there were more bandits and 'mongs, but other than that nothing much, so we just took the long shot and followed this ice cave behind the bullymong lair. It looked like it hadn't seen more than a little foot traffic recently. Probably because the bullymongs moved in.

Once we got through the cave, we found this sprawling port town filled with bandits. Not sure if they built the place or stole it, but it looked like there had been another firefight, maybe a week or so ago, so maybe they killed all the civilians and moved in recently. Or they just decided to shoot each other for fun.

Either way, there were still enough of them alive and armed to keep the other guy happy, and I managed to guide him over to the actual docks, which weren't so much docks as a bunch of dinky boats and rafts tied together. After everybody was dead, we managed to find a boat with a working engine and point it in the direction of Three Horns, which from what we had gathered from the guy we talked to, was the center of the anti-Hyperion resistance.

Took a looong time to get to Three Horns. It was about a six hour boat ride—the damn thing was so old it was a miracle we even moved that fast—but then it took us almost as long to find a place to dock. It didn't help that the other guy kept trying to climb up sheer cliffs, which worked about as well as you'd expect.

But we did find a beach, if you can call it that, where we able to...park, or weigh anchor. I'm not sure of the precise nomenclature and shipping terms.

""SHIPPING", IN THE WORLD OF FANFICTION, IS BASICALLY—"

Not that kind of shipping, buddy.

"YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD!"

I...I have no response for that.

Point is, we made landfall. Maybe that's the word I was looking for. But we hiked up the road, past some more bullymongs and a small bandit outpost with a vehicle digistruct station, to find the only bridge had been blown up.

Couldn't get a car because the Catch-a-Ride didn't recognize us as an authorized user—which is understandable, if annoying—so we had to clamber up an icy cliff face after all. Sorry, scratch that, it was a cliff face made of ice. Took us about an hour to climb maybe twenty, thirty feet.

There was a cave system up ahead, but we could hear bullymongs inside, and it was already getting late. Relatively. Pandora has long days. What I'm getting at is, we found a corner to shelter from the wind and went to sleep. Life would have been easier if we had stayed down in the bandit camp, which had actual shelters and fire and stuff, but the other guy would have jumped right back down there, and then we would have had to climb back up in the morning, so I didn't mention it.

Once we woke up, we trudged through the caves, which were filled with bullymongs, as expected. Ice caves, so there wasn't really anything worth mentioning besides the 'mongs and the ruins of some old campsite.

Finally managed to get out of there after a couple hours, which is when we got our first good look at Three Horns Divide.

In front of us was a vast plain. Tundra, I think you'd call it. A bit of hardy plants here and there, but mostly just ice and snow. Off to the right—east—was the ocean. A different one than the one we'd just crossed, I'm pretty sure. The water is actually surprisingly pretty when you're not stuck on a glacier in the middle of nowhere, trying to figure out how to cross it.

To the west were mountains, ice structures, that kind of thing. I couldn't tell at that distance, but there turned out to be lots of bullymong lairs dug into the walls and ice.

We didn't have too much idea of where we were going, other than 'that self-righteous city with the shield,' but we saw something on the horizon, across the plain, that might be a city wall, so we headed in that direction.

That...took a good four hours. A very boring four hours. We got attacked by a handful of rakk twice, but other than that we didn't see anything until we ran into the skag dens right before the road.

After the skags, we followed the road for a bit until we found a small bandit outpost outside the city gates. There had clearly been a firefight recently—big surprise—but the bandits were still rearing to go. Once we cut through them, we managed to find a communicator to call in and ask for the doors to open.

They, uh, didn't let us in. Guess why.

"IT IS ALL THAT IS LEFT UNSAID UPON WHICH TRAGEDIES ARE BUILT!"

Anyway, our plan to join the resistance was kinda off the table, but someone had left a runner idling near the gates. Aren't these things supposed to self-destruct after a while? Or un-digistruct or whatever? I have no idea, I was just thankful we didn't have to walk everywhere any more.

We did manage to find a few maps in the bandit outpost, none of which were well-written, but at least they gave us a general overview of the area. There were a couple more bandit towns to the west, through bullymong territory, some crazy cult and their god-demon in Frostburn Canyon, and the Bloodshot Fortress down in Three Horns Valley.

As you might expect, the second the other guy saw that map—and realized what all the squiggly lines meant—he was beside himself with glee. Couldn't decide where he wanted to raid first. I knew we wouldn't be getting anything done until he killed something, but I managed to point him at the bullymongs nearby. That way, once we killed everything, we'd still have time to come back to our little bandit shelter, instead of having to find a new one.

So we drove over there, chopped our way through a big 'mong nest, and had some fun at this big, multi-tiered bandit camp. Not even a camp, really, it was honestly a small town. It looked decimated, though. More than usual, I mean. Seems as though there weren't as many people there as should have been able to fit. I guess they had killed each other off recently or something.

But, we got some loot and murder, so it didn't really matter to us. Ran around there for...three hours, maybe four, can't really remember. The point is, we had gone back to the outpost outside the anti-Hyperion city to stash our stuff. Then, we went over to the—relatively—nearby skag dens to hunt some dinner.

That's when we met the ninja.

It was a weird ninja. Basically standard—laser sword, wearing all black, that kind of thing—but he had a basic digital screen on his helmet. It showed a zero when he killed people, and other stuff.

He almost killed us, as you might expect, but the other guy managed to strike up a chord with him somehow—

"I LIKE SWORDS!"

Uh, yeah. That was how. Confused Zero long enough for the other guy to offer him a haunch from one of the skags we killed.

That's his name, by the way. Zero. He's not very chatty most of the time, which is to be expected for the whole Mysterious Warrior archetype, but he has one interesting quirk besides the mask: He really likes speaking in haiku.

So, we got to talking—as best as the other guy could, anyway—and Zero admitted he was on the train with Maya! Yeah, she and the other Vault Hunters all survived, turns out they just woke up on that glacier a few hours before we did. Who would have thought?

There are five of them, Zero, Maya, a Commando, and two people called a Gunzerker and a Mechromancer. Not sure what those mean, but I imagine it would be hard enough to get information out of Zero without being, you know, us.

But yeah, the Vault Hunters have been hanging out in Sanctuary—that's the city we were camped near, the headquarters of the Crimson Raiders, the anti-Hyperion resistance—doing jobs for the resistance and the people of the city. In fact, they had just got back from raiding the Bloodshot Fortress and rescuing the leader of the Crimson Raiders! And, uh, something else. Something about a...Friendship...Gulag? I have no idea what he was talking about.

With Zero vouching for us, we probably could have gotten into the city, but I didn't want to impose, so I didn't mention it. I figured we could ask tomorrow, after he went back and told everyone we were just outside the city gates.

The other guy yelled something about bedbugs, which Zero managed to correctly interpret as a goodbye, and we parted ways for the night. Well, by night I mean we both needed to go to sleep. Uh, all three of us. I mean—I don't know what I mean. English is not designed for two minds in one body.

Well, the next day we didn't see Zero or the others. I think we slept through them leaving Sanctuary, or maybe they used the Fast Travel network to get around. I don't know why Zero didn't stop by and say hello, but I probably shouldn't spend too much time trying to figure that guy out. I'm really not even sure what he is.

Still, we thought we may as well head down to Three Horn Valley, see if there was anything interesting in the area besides the Fortress. There was, actually, to my surprise. The Happy Pig Motel, a little collection of abandoned shacks and some vending machines. Not as cold as Three Horns Divide, though. A bit of snow and ice around, but more dirt and rock.

That worked pretty well as a base of operations for the day, while we raided the big bandit town over in the...marshes? The town was built on the shallow water right before the sea. Is that a marsh? I think so, but I think a marsh should have more plants and stuff like that.

"THERE ARE DEAD THINGS! DEAD FACES IN THE WATER!"

There...there weren't actually dead things in the water. Well, there were after we started killing things, but I don't think that's what he's talking about, and besides, most of the corpses stayed on the walkways.

That day was pretty basic, all things considered. We killed bandits, looted their stuff, then returned to the motel and hunted the skags nearby for dinner. Explored around a bit and found some weird lightning generator in a cave, but that's about it. Depopulating that stilt city ate up most of the day. We did get a couple nice Maliwan guns, though, that go well with our Hellborn spec.

I hate speccing Hellborn. I swear the burning hurts me more than it does him.

We spent the night in the motel, which honestly wasn't the best of ideas considering all the dead bodies still strewn about, but it was better than using the Fast Travel station to jump back to Three Horns, where we'd be too far from our camp, and without a runner or the ability to get a new one. How does that Scooter guy stay in business if no one can use his Catch-a-Rides?

When we woke up, we still hadn't heard from Zero, which was when I realized we had never given him our contact info. Normally, it wouldn't be too hard on a planet like this—the population's small enough that just putting in someone's name will come up with a short list of ECHO addresses, and then you just find your friend on there—but the other guy had decided to register as "MEATBICYCYCLE_"

Yep.

Add on top of that, I couldn't properly communicate to him that we needed to try and find Zero's address so we could call him and join up with the others, and you see why...we didn't. Yeah.

Still, Zero had mentioned a few things that night we met him, like a big bandit town out in the Dust, past Bloodshot Fortress, where they learn to fly those flying bandit contraptions, buzzards or vultures or something like that. Using the bandit maps we had found in the marsh or mini-lake or whatever the word is, we managed to figure out the coordinates and plan out a route to get there.

Took hours, though. The Dust is pretty far from Three Horns, and there's nothing interesting between the two. Just a lot of dirt slowly changing into sand as the miles passed by.

The Dust itself was...big. And dusty. Whole lot of desert, interspersed with piles of junk and spiderant dens. The bandit training camp was on top of a rocky plateau, apparently impossible to get to without flying. We found an easy way, though: There was a big rock outcropping that pointed straight at the camp, so we ramped off that and landed right in the middle of a bunch of surprised bandits.

They didn't stay surprised for too long, and opened fire before we even managed to get out of the car. Thankfully, we were specced Mania at the time, which works well for soaking up bullets. Unfortunately, the runner got hit by a lucky stray, and the fuel tank blew. At least we weren't standing next to it at the time.

The standard bandits were easy enough; the base had lots of open-air buildings scattered around, which meant we had lots of cover, but it was still easy to dash around and cut people down with the buzz-axe. There were a couple goliaths, big guys who go into a rage if you knock off their helmets, but they're usually not too difficult.

The hard part was the buzzards.

Stupid flying heaps of junk shouldn't have even been able to get airborne, let alone be as annoyingly nimble and durable as they were. Worse, Mania is our melee tree, with only like, two programs dedicated to improving our gun use. But the real problem was we didn't have any corrosive weapons!

"ANGER IS AN ACID THAT CAN DO MORE HARM TO THE VESSEL IN WHICH IT IS STORED THAN TO ANYTHING ON WHICH IT IS POURED!"

Oh, don't start. You're the one who insists on grabbing only fire weapons.

"OF COURSE YOU SHOULD FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE! YOU SHOULD FIGHT EVERYTHING WITH FIRE!"

Anyway. We did manage to kill the dozen buzzards flying around, but it took a while. Would have been easier if we could have hijacked one, but they kept flying just out of reach. Didn't even get any loot worth mentioning...

And, of course, we lost our car, as I already mentioned. That meant we had to jump down from the plateau—luckily it wasn't too tall, but still. I knew there was no way we could walk back to Three Horns in even a week, so I told the other guy to head to the nearest Fast Travel station, which was in the middle of a big scrap yard.

The place was actually a lot more organized than you'd think, with all the junk stacked up neatly, and a nice big open area in front of the garage and out to the Dust proper. It's owned by a big girl named Ellie, who at least refrained from shooting at us long enough for the other guy to rant about burning rubber and so on.

Ellie got the message, and showed us her Catch-a-Ride machine. Apparently Scooter, the guy who's always ranting through the pre-recorded messages, is her brother. He designed the entire system, which was news to me. Honestly, judging by what I heard from the machines, he sounded like a backworlds hick.

Well, Ellie realized pretty quickly that the station was refusing to operate for us because it thought we were a bandit—or, um, bandits, or...nevermind. The point is, she unlocked it for us, so that we could actually buy cars. We're not on the special list that gets the cars for free or anything, but at least we're authorized.

It was getting pretty late—though it was hard to tell, with Pandora's night cycle—so we used the Fast Travel to jump back to Three Horns. The plan was to drive over and grab some of the better loot we had left in that outpost outside Sanctuary and take it back to the Happy Pig Motel, maybe leave a note for Zero.

That's not what happened.

We had just come out of the Fast Travel station when the city came under attack by a moonshot blitz—the Hyperion moonbase was firing kinetic weapons at them. Real high-damage railgun sabots.

"SIR ISAAC NEWTON IS THE DEADLIEST SON OF A BITCH IN SPACE!"

Not the time.

Anyway, moonshot blitzes were pretty common. They hit Sanctuary once, maybe twice a day, and I didn't think much of it.

Until I noticed the city's shield seemed to be down.

I managed to convince the other guy that there was something we could do to help—though I honestly didn't know what, I still knew we needed to be over there—so we hopped into a runner and started driving.

We hadn't even gotten halfway there, though, when the city ripped itself out of the ground, flying into the air. I had heard rumors that Sanctuary was a grounded mining ship, but I hadn't really thought much of it until right then. But flying or not, the city still didn't have a shield, and the railguns were tearing pieces off the city big enough that we could see them, even far away as we were.

But the city was glowing.

Bright purple light, like Eridium or slag. I don't know what caused it, but it was emanating from the entire city, and it was powerful enough that we could feel it, thrumming in our chest, from miles off. And then suddenly...

It was gone.

The entire city, just disappeared with a snap of your fingers. It definitely wasn't destroyed, it had...teleported, I guess, which I don't think is supposed to be possible for something that size inside an atmosphere. Although I'll admit my knowledge of FTL technology has some pretty big gaps in it.

"FOR THE WARP IS A STRANGE AND TERRIBLE PLACE! YOU MIGHT AS WELL THROW A TRAVELER INTO A SEA OF SHARKS AND TELL HIM TO SWIM HOME AS SEND HIM THROUGH THE WARP UNPROTECTED! BETTER IT IS NOT TO LET COMMON MAN TRAVEL THROUGH THE STARS. BETTER STILL, LET HIM NOT KNOW SUCH A THING IS FEASIBLE!"

We were near those skag dens at this point, and the animals were howling up a storm. We had stopped about when the city started flying, and the skags apparently decided that we were the cause of...actually, I'm not going to speculate what a bunch of beasts driven crazy by some weird Eridium effect thought.

The point is, they attacked us, even though we were still in the runner. Rather than getting out and chopping them up on foot, we just drove over them, even driving back to the dens to make sure there wouldn't be any following us. Well, at first, we jumped out when the hawking skag started spitting at us.

Which is why we were off the road when two bandit technicals roared past.

I wanted to call out to them—I realized instantly they had to be survivors from Sanctuary; there were no bandits left in the area at that point—but the other guy just kinda stood there like an idiot, watching them drive past.

But, with some urging, I was able to get him into our runner and follow after them. Runners are faster than technicals, so I knew we'd be able to catch up with them if we hurried.

We did, but it took a while. They blew straight out of Three Horns Divide, right into Three Horns Valley and past the Happy Pig Motel. We didn't actually catch sight of them until they reached the motel—we were following their tracks in the snow up to then—but we still weren't able to get their attention before they went up a hill and entered a cave system I later found out was called the Fridge.

At the time, I didn't think too much of losing them. I hadn't known Zero was with them, so I hadn't been sure how we were supposed to convince them we were friendlies before they started shooting. It seemed somewhat fortuitous when that decision was taken out of our hands.

Well, it was about time for sleep anyway, and though I knew it might have been a good idea to head back to Sanctuary and try and figure out what had happened, not to mention collecting our stuff from the bandit outpost, we were too tired to make the trip right now. Instead, I settled for checking some of the maps in the motel, which is where I learned the name of the Fridge.

After we had some rest, I managed to convince the other guy to head back to the outpost. There were just too many reasons we had to.

By the time we got there, the squatters were already moving in.

That's one problem with Pandora's extremely long days. It's easy for people or communities to get into their own sleep cycles if they're not careful, sleeping while everyone else is awake and vice versa. I don't know what Sanctuary's schedule was, but my guess is that the bandits had just been waking up when the city disappeared, and immediately took advantage.

To be specific, there was now a giant hole in the ground, with basements and ramshackle houses and all the things that the citizens of Sanctuary had added to their grounded city over the years, assuming it would never fly again. I'm no engineer, but I think some of it might have been...I don't know, a repair bay, or something, that whatever megacorp that sent the ship here intended to use to keep it in tip-top shape.

"LARGE CORPORATIONS WELCOME INNOVATION AND INDIVIDUALISM IN THE SAME WAY THE DINOSAURS WELCOMED LARGE METEORS!"

Right. Well, the place was actually kinda clean, for a bandit town. They hadn't really had a chance to start stapling bodies to the walls and stuff. Of course, by the time we left, they certainly had a large enough supply of corpses to use as decoration.

Honestly though, it was a complete waste of a day. We grabbed some bandits, yelled at them, killed them when they ran away, wash, rinse, repeat.

The problem wasn't with our methods—okay, our methods weren't great, but that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was simply that none of those stupid bandits knew anything more than we did, and oftentimes quite a bit less.

We spent pretty much the entire day there, basically just carving through the squatters because why not? At least it kept the other guy happy. But eventually, we did have to head back to the Happy Pig Motel and get some rest.

Some idiots tried to loot it in the middle of the night, so we didn't get a lot of sleep, but when we woke up—officially woke up, that is, not just popped up to slaughter some guys—I figured it might be a good idea to follow the refugees from Sanctuary into the mountain. With the benefit of hindsight, I was regretting not following them right away. Judging from the bandit maps, I knew there was a pretty sizable rat nest in there, so I was pretty sure they had gotten killed while we were screwing around in the Sanctuary Hole.

Well, we made our way into the Fridge, which was as cold as you'd expect from a place with a name like that. There was ice and snow everywhere...I don't know anything about geography, but that seemed a bit weird, even for Pandora.

And, like I thought, there were a whole bunch of rats in there, plus some rakks who liked to divebomb us when we were in a firefight with the former. There were also weird rock tripods called crystalisks, whatever those were, but the crystals they dropped translated into money easily, so I guess it was okay.

Carving through there took pretty much all day—mostly because the other guy kept getting distracted and wandering down side tunnels—but even when we were getting tired and wanted to rest, I knew we needed to press on. Not only was the place cold enough that I didn't think we'd be able to find a warm place to sleep, but I had a feeling the rats would find us and kill us while we slept, no matter where we hid.

All that meant we were getting a bit slow as we neared the lift out of the place. Psycho class mods provide some pretty big adrenal boosts and so on, but even they can't keep you running on zero sleep forever. I was pretty damn relieved when we came out of the Fridge into Highlands Outwash, with green grass, fresh water, and a small little two-story shack where we would be able to hole up for the night. Not to mention Sanctuary, floating on the horizon as cool as you please.

Then the stalkers attacked.

I don't know what to make of these guys. They're...little four-legged lizard things with spikes on their tails they can shoot at people, and on top of that they're invisible, and shielded to boot. They have to be some escaped Hyperion experiment or another, but I honestly didn't see any real signs of it. It's just...it's the only thing that makes sense. Even on a planet this crazy, there shouldn't be animals that are just naturally shielded.

But, luckily, we had a shock grenade mod with us, which worked as well on their shields as it does on mechanical ones. It was still a damn annoying fight, but we killed enough to make the rest think twice about attacking.

Thankfully, there was that shack I mentioned. It was a bit better than a shack, to be honest. Sort of a maintenance outpost for the vending machines and Fast Travel station. But it had a bed, and a refrigerator with some food, so we were able to lock the door and get some sleep. Pretty damned sturdy door, too. The stalkers wouldn't be getting in.

The stalkers were still there in the morning, waiting for us to come out, which I guess is why they're called stalkers in the first place.

We killed them and went the only way we could, around a hill and into Hyperion territory. We passed through a stalker nest that was right next to a Hyperion garage, to find the loaders and stalkers fighting it out. The sanest thing to do would have been to just let them kill each other, but, well...

"A BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY AGAINST MANY FOES IS A BATTLE OF THE BEST KIND! THERE ARE FEW CONSIDERATIONS, ONLY THOSE CONCERNING WHERE TO PLACE YOUR NEXT SHOT! IT IS WAR IN ITS PUREST FORM!"

Yeah. Sanity has left the building. Though again, I'm just a voice ranting to myself, so it's not like I'm that much better.

Anyway, carved through them, almost died, the other guy had lots of fun, nothing too exciting. We did come across a much bigger Hyperion base soon after, and we had to fight our way across a bridge while constructors threw everything they had at us, but even that wasn't anything really special. Oh, maybe I forgot to mention: We had some pretty good corrosive weapons now, so that's why we were able to deal with the bots pretty easy.

After we got past the base and what looked like some kind of supply depot, that's when we were in the Highlands proper. There was even a Fast Travel station, some vending machines, and a Catch-a-Ride station nearby. The thing there wasn't was shelter.

Pretty as the Highlands are, I knew better than to bet on being safe just camping out in the open. We could see a Hyperion base—bigger than the one we had just fought through—from where we were, and later we found another, smaller one. And those were just the obvious threats. Pandora loves its dangerous critters, after all.

So we bought a runner and started looking for something. Not anything specific, just a place to sleep, or maybe some people to talk to, figure out what Sanctuary was up to, and how we might be able to help them indirectly.

Turns out the Highlands are filled with threshers roaming the landscape, in addition to the stalkers nesting everywhere, so it was a good thing I had convinced the other guy to grab a car. He had wanted to go straight for the Hyperion base, but I managed to talk him out of it.

We wandered around for the rest of the day without much luck. Everywhere was either threshers, stalkers, bots, or all three. We actually found quite a few shacks and outposts that had clearly been lived in for a while, until the stalkers or threshers moved in nearby and started killing everything. I heard something about the first Vault messing up Pandora's ecosystem, which might have been part of it, but with this planet it's hard to tell.

Funny thing is, we eventually found a place to sleep in pretty much the worst spot in the Highlands. This little triangular beach area was filled with threshers, just dozens and dozens of them. I think it might have been a breeding ground. But the thing is, there was a shack nearby, built into a corner of the cliff and high off the ground where they couldn't reach. We were able to get up there because of the ladder, but all the worms could do was throw spikes at us, and eventually they got bored and left us alone. Thankfully they just ignored the runner completely.

The morning didn't see our situation improved much. We had killed a bunch of threshers on our way in, but more had appeared to replace them, and we still didn't really have any idea of where we should go.

After waiting about an hour—which the other guy didn't like; he's not good at sitting still—I decided that the threshers were busy enough that they wouldn't notice us when we fled in the runner. They did anyway, of course, but it took them long enough that we were able to get away.

While we were cruising around, we finally found our way to the north-west corner of the area, right before one of Hyperion's bridges. That's where Overlook was, this little town on top of a big hill. I thought the place was abandoned at first. There was no one on the streets, not a single soul. There was a Hyperion announcer promising deadly consequences to anyone who went outside, though, which explained most of that.

We did run into Zero again, to my surprise. He was just sitting on the cliff edge, sniping stalkers in their nests down in a little maze of...I don't want to call them canyons, but the point is there were a bunch of stalker nests at the bottom of the cliff. He explained what had happened with Sanctuary. Except he did it in haiku, so I still didn't quite know what was going on. Apparently a Siren—not Maya—was involved, teleported the city, the whole deal. Sounded awesome.

The rest of the Vault Hunters were apparently up in Sanctuary at that very moment, getting ready to meet a scout out in some Hyperion base called the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve. We couldn't get up there because we didn't have Sanctuary's Fast Travel logged on our ECHO, and Zero didn't offer. The problem probably didn't even occur to him.

I was tempted to try and stick around, wait for the others to Fast Travel down, and introduce myself, but I didn't really think this was the best time. It wasn't anything specific, but...they were busy with their own important missions—something about a traitorous AI—and the other guy hadn't gotten to kill anything today, so he was bouncing on his heels. Probably not the best time to meet new people.

So, instead, we wandered through the Highlands again, mostly farming Hyperion loaders at the big base we had first seen, just trying to get one of the bots to spawn with a decent gun we could loot. No such luck.

Eventually, we just gave up, and returned to Overlook. The other guy had settled down, so I figured maybe we could talk to some of the residents, see if they needed help or something. Though I'm not sure what we could do; they already had a wonderful clock tower, what else could they need?

We didn't get a chance to talk with the townspeople, but we did find Zero again, back for more sniping. I had a strange feeling that he did that whenever he was feeling bad and needed to unwind. Like how most people go fishing, except with a gun instead of dynamite.

Apparently something had gone wrong with today's mission, I'm still not sure on the details. Jack killed someone, but it wasn't one of the Vault Hunters. One of their allies, I think. Zero can be hard to understand, and it's even worse since I can't really ask him to elaborate on anything.

Much as I wanted to stick around, Zero didn't seem to be in a mood for it, and it was getting late anyway. So we said goodbye to Zero—

"THE ONE WHO WILL CRUSH THE WORLD AND THE ONE WHO WILL RECREATE THE WORLD ANEW!"

I—anyway. We headed back to our little shack on the beach to get some sleep. Threshers were loud that night, for some reason. Still don't know why. Maybe they were mad that we kept coming back? I don't know enough about them—anything, really, except that they're annoying—to say for sure.

When we got up and went back to Overlook in the morning, Zero wasn't there. I assumed he had just never come down, and that they had used the Fast Travel network to skip the town, but a nice lady in a surgical mask informed us—from behind a closed door, wisely—that the Vault Hunters had left early for a diplomatic mission to Thousand Cuts.

I had no idea where Thousand Cuts was, and the other guy wasn't in the mood to ask, so he said thank you...kinda...and we left town.

The one area in the Highlands we hadn't been to yet was everything on the other side of a Hyperion bridge over a dried-up riverbed. There wasn't too much over there but stalkers and threshers, but we did have a good fight with a pyro thresher right at the edge of the zone.

As we were coming back, though, I spotted something under the bridge, a couple shacks hanging from the bottom. I convinced the other guy to take a look, and he did...but he got too excited and fell off the platform. Okay, it wasn't really his fault. The only way to actually get inside the shack was by jumping on these precarious metal beams...

Thank God for whatever it is about shields that means zero falling damage, though.

"AN APPROPRIATE SOUND EFFECT HERE WOULD HAVE BEEN 'SINGLE BOUND!'"

But the thing is, while we survived the fall perfectly fine, we realized instantly that we were now surrounded by dozens of angry threshers. And our runner was up on top of the bridge, so we couldn't just drive away like normal.

I'm just glad we took the time to re-spec into Mania again. We had been trying out Bloodlust—it goes well with fire weapons—but it hadn't been more than marginally effective against the threshers. Mania wasn't really that much better, but at least it gave us the health to just tank most of what they threw at us.

Climbing back up was easier than I expected. There was a nice big earthen ramp, probably a beach back when there was actually water. Still took a while to slog back up that hill, find that shack...and fall again.

Yeah.

At least the threshers—if there were any left—didn't bother us this time. And third time's the charm, as they say. We got inside that stupid shack, unlocked the door from the inside so that we could actually come and go safely, and settled in for the night.

You (hypothetical 'you;' I'm still just talking to myself) might be wondering why we didn't go back to the beach house. Simple: We wanted to be closer to Overlook, where we knew the Vault Hunters frequented.

We spent a couple more days like that, running up to Overlook, talking to the nice lady about the Vault Hunters, then raiding the Hyperion bases or whatever until we got tired again.

On the morning of the third day, Karima—that was her name, Karima—informed us that the Vault Hunters had done something to some distant city, which I later learned was called Opportunity. Just some unspecified blow to Hyperion's operations, and that today they'd be taking the fight to one of their primary bases.

I was excited, I won't lie. This was exactly what we had been waiting for. A simple, uncomplicated hack-and-slash mission where we could introduce ourselves. As long as we kept to fighting loaders, it would be obvious what side we were on, and everything would be fine.

...except Karima accidentally sent us in the wrong direction.

We were supposed to go to this place called Thousand Cuts, which she described as a bandit town. Only problem is, she gave us the wrong Fast Travel code, so we ended up in Lynchwood instead. That would have been fine—we could have just gone straight back and gotten the right code—but Lynchwood is also a bandit town. So we didn't notice the difference.

Lynchwood is a simple enough place. A train, some mines, some rats, lots of guys with guns. We had some fun there, as you can imagine, and in fact came back the next two days to carve through the population again. Sometime during the first day, Jack sent out a planet-wide ECHO, something about the Vault Hunters killing his daughter and how he wanted revenge, but it's really hard to tell what that psycho is thinking at the best of times. So that was just confusing.

But on the night of the third day, when we were checking in with Karima again—she had long since apologized for sending us to the wrong place, but didn't know where the Vault Hunters were going the other days—we managed to run into Zero again, sniping stalkers again.

He said something about how the leader of the resistance had been killed a few days ago, when they raided the control core. And...other stuff. He said something about a Siren being murdered, something else about a Siren being kidnapped, but Maya was fine...I'm still not sure what that was all about. Having three Sirens on the same planet at the same time strains credulity. There can only be six in the entire universe at any one time, remember. What's so special about Pandora that they'd all come running?

I gathered Zero was still upset about the whole ordeal—though it's hard to tell with him, he goes hunting when he's had a bad day—so I didn't press for more information, and left him to it.

I did want to do some good, though, so I managed convince the other guy to get Karima to scrounge up the Fast Travel code for Sawtooth Cauldron, a nest of bandits who worked for Jack. Mercenaries and kidnappers and the like.

Well, she held up her end of...the bargain...wait, did we give her anything in return for the code?

"THAT ILLUSION OF CHOICE WAS JUST A FORMALITY! YOUR TASK HAS ALREADY BEEN DECIDED, YOU SEE!"

Oops...we owe that woman some flowers.

Heh...anyway, Karima might not look like much, but the people of Overlook trust her, and they don't have much to do every day but stay indoors and surf the ECHOnet. It wasn't too hard for someone to pass on the code to Sawtooth Cauldron.

The Cauldron's this tiered valley thing that's kinda hard to describe, but the important part is that there are a bunch of low valleys, and a big bandit structure built on some sort of abandoned foundry. I was actually impressed with what the bandits were able to do with the place, considering they're bandits. I mean, sure, the tower is held together by old duct tape and rusty nails, and the valleys are constantly being besieged by wildlife, but still, I think this might be the closest thing the bandits have to...a capital city?

Well, the first thing that happened when we came out of the Fast Travel network is a bunch of buzzards started shooting at us. We don't like buzzards, since we prefer melee, and even with our new corrosive weapons, the fight would have been more annoying than we prefer.

So, the other guy jumped off the cliff and down into the valley below. I agreed completely with the decision, surprisingly enough—shields mean no falling damage—up until the part where we landed on a skag, roasting over a firepit, surrounded by dozens of armed bandits.

Needless to say, they were not interested in inviting us to brunch.

Still, it took them a second to recover from the shock of a psycho falling out of the sky, which gave us time to catch on fire. Why was that a good thing?

Because we had re-specced to Hellborn recently.

I don't know how obscure psycho-type class mods are outside Pandora, so if this were some sort of ECHO log or journal entry or really anything with any amount of sanity attached whatsoever, this would be the part where I provide a detailed explanation of the different psycho skill trees.

But it's not, there isn't, so I won't.

The point is that a Hellborn-specced psycho is a force to be reckoned with while on fire, especially if his enemies aren't resistant themselves. Luckily, the buzzards had all stayed up top, which meant other than a couple scattered richer bandits who had bought shields somewhere or another, all of our enemies burned quite nicely.

Still hurt like hell, though.

It took over half the day, but we eventually managed to clear out the canyon, cutting through what we couldn't burn and burning through what we couldn't cut. I suppose picking up all those fire guns wasn't such a bad idea after all.

"IT'S AS TRUE NOW AS WHEN I STARTED ADVENTURING! 'WHEN IN DOUBT, SET SOMETHING ON FIRE!'"

I knew I shouldn't have encouraged him.

Anyway, the other valleys were a bit more sparsely populated than the first—likely due to all the dangerous critters finding their way in—so they didn't take much time at all. The thing that caught our attention for a while was the small shantytown we found on the shores of a lake, which led to some sort of buzzard maintenance bay or forge or something along those lines. I'm not an engineer, I can't tell the difference.

Point is, we blew it up, and suddenly started seeing fewer buzzards. I'm not sure if we destroyed all their stores, or they were just being more careful with the ones they had left, since they couldn't repair them or make more, whichever it was.

Either way, it made our lives much easier. Without those things to worry about, we were able to carve back to the tower without any real difficulty. Even the threshers in the pond weren't too much of a problem. But that tower...

That tower was filled with bandits who knew how to use the strange terrain to their advantage. They weren't anything like an organized and trained military force, but they had clearly fought there before. Fought people like us before, and taken the time to think about how to do better next time.

They used suicide psychos to try and blast us into the lava, and normal ones to tie us up in melee while the nomads with the rocket launchers got into position, and when we carved through the psychos in seconds, the marauders were careful to distract us from the heavy hitters. Combined with the fact that we were still specced Hellborn, which is hardly the best for pure survivability, I knew we had quite a fight on our hands.

Thankfully, bandits still don't use shields as much as they should.

We had a few fire weapons specifically designed for setting as many enemies on fire as possible, and they worked like a charm. Rather than focusing on just killing everyone, I managed to convince the other guy to keep as many alive, but on fire, as possible to keep our Elemental Empathy tech and related abilities going. That—combined with the fact that rocket launchers have horrible aim—is the only reason we survived.

It was a hard-fought day, but we won, and managed to get our hands on a decent amount of loot, too. The other guy wanted to come back the next day, but I convinced him to sleep on it.

In the morning, when we went to talk to Karima, she was all excited about some final battle to wipe out Hyperion for good. It was a bit late in the game for us to just pop in, but she did give us the Fast Travel code for Opportunity, the Hyperion city they were building in the middle of the ocean. She asked us—rather gleefully—to go there and wreak as much havoc as possible.

Well, we did our best, but the place was already pretty torn up by the time we got there. I'm just glad I realized that we'd be dealing with loaders again, and convinced the other guy to respecc into Bloodlust. Mania would have worked too, but Hellborn would have been terrible. Fire is worthless against armor.

But still, there were a lot of loaders to fight, so we had a lot of fun there. And while I have no idea how digistruction supplies work, if Hyperion had to divert any loaders to fight us that they would have sent against the Vault Hunters, then it was a day well spent.

I didn't know it at the time, but that was the day they went down into Hero's Pass and fought Handsome Jack and his Warrior. I'm still not sure on all the details for that, but I do know that at the end of the day, we got a planet-wide ECHO from Lilith, the new leader of the Crimson Raiders, telling everyone that Jack was dead and his plans foiled. I still don't know what exactly those plans were, but...yay?

Anyway, I tried to get into Sanctuary the next day, but Karima still didn't know the code, and couldn't get in touch with anyone for us. Well, she probably knows the code, but just pretended not to. I don't blame her; letting the other guy wander around without an escort would be a bad idea. And no, I don't count.

We decided to head off to the Eridium Blight for the day. Karima didn't have the code for that either, but we bought a runner and managed to find it. The Blight is, as the name implies, the place hit worst by Hyperion's mining operations. The entire place is just...scarred, rent by all sorts of earthquakes and mining equipment and who knows what else. The ground was covered in Eridium dust, and the air was nearly purple with alien energy. Even Hyperion seemed to have trouble living here; they only had one, relatively small base.

"AHH, LOOK! HOW LOVELY! THE BLACK CLOUDS OF TWILIGHT ARE SO FETCHING TODAY!"

The bandits, of course, had no trouble at all, and had this massive sprawling village next to the magma river, and another smaller one down the hill. We had some fun up there, but I didn't feel like they were connected to any of the other bandit clans. So we didn't do as much good as when we cut through Flynt's men or those fire guys or the Sawteeth.

Oh, and there were bullymongs. Lots of them, mostly nested in the walls of the ravines. Don't know how they can survive in that kind of environment, and honestly don't care too much. It's best not to ask questions about Pandora's wildlife. You might get an answer.

But the Blight wasn't really that interesting. The bandits didn't have much loot, the Hyperion base had even less, and the bullymongs were just annoying. So we only spent the one day there, and after confirming with Karima that Zero hadn't come down while we were gone, went to sleep in that stupid little shack under the bridge.

Which is when we discovered why the door had been locked in the first place. Someone had found their way inside and grabbed all the loot we had left behind. Thankfully there wasn't too much, but it was still odd, especially in the Highlands. There aren't any bandits in the region; Hyperion and the stalkers killed them all.

We asked Karima about it in the morning—well, the other guy screamed about shiny poppets running away, and she seemed to get the idea—but she hadn't seen anything either. She suggested a Zaford survivor might have done it, but I had no idea what that was, and the other guy wasn't interested in sticking around to ask.

We did find a new place to play—the Arid Nexus. A desert zone with no less than four separate Hyperion bases, more angry skags than you could shake a blood-soaked buzz-axe at, and no one around for miles, which meant we didn't have to worry about property damage or friendly fire, like that time a stalker followed us into Overlook.

That place was a lot of fun. Good, clean, meaningful fun, where you know you're doing something useful, even if it's something as simple as cutting a bloody path through a Hyperion base. We even managed to find a place to sleep, some tiny Hyperion outpost with a bunch of radio equipment inside. There were no vending machines nearby, which was a little annoying, but we had the runner for when we needed to go get something.

Still, every night before we went to sleep, we Fast Traveled over to Overlook to talk to Karima, make sure the Hyperion remnants hadn't destroyed the town when we weren't looking. They had a shield and everything, but I wasn't sure about the state of their ground defenses.

Anyway, after the...fifth day in the Nexus? Five sounds right, but the Pandoran day cycle makes it confusing. On the fifth day or so, when we came back, we found Zero, chatting up Karima like it was the most normal thing in the world! Well, for a certain definition of normal. He was still doing his haiku thing.

Apparently, for the past week or so, he and the other Vault Hunters had actually been halfway on the other side of the planet, in a little town called Oasis. Something about a lost treasure and sand pirates and a 'standard lighthouse/compass mapping system,' whatever that means. He even gave us the Fast Travel code so we could check it out for ourselves. The next day, we did.

It was...I'm not sure how to say this. There was...a guy. And...the other guy—my other guy, that is—he...saw nothing wrong with this guy. But there was. Something wrong with him. The guy. Well, my guy too, but...

"HELLO EVERYONE! I'M AMY'S IMAGINARY FRIEND! BUT I CAME ANYWAY!"

Okay, fine, I'll just say it...think it...yes. The sole inhabitant of the town of Oasis was a man named Shade, the last survivor of a massive drought. In his isolation, he took the corpses of the other townspeople—mostly mummified by the desert air and heat, thankfully—propped them up in various poses and odd situations, stuck ECHO recorders on them, and pretended they were still alive.

The other guy didn't notice they were dead.

We spent six days running errands for them.

Running back and forth across the desert...we had a sand skiff, which at least made the actual travel moderately bearable, but the tasks...the random, irrelevant tasks Shade kept sending us on...

Jocko wants props for comedy skit. Kill a bunch of pirates/sand worms/stalkers.

Natalie likes watching people drive. Jump off a few very specific ramps in the sand skiff.

Frank has fallen off the wagon again. Go find him whiskey.

Six days. Six days of this, with the other guy treating every single random thing Shade could come up with as some sort of divine mission. He didn't even rant like an idiot when we got the missions! Just nodded a bunch of times! It was almost like he remembered—

Oh.

Oh, that's it.

Um. Well. I was...going to say it's almost like he remembered being a Vault Hunter.

We...we don't really remember much. Before Hyperion's experiments, that is. But...yeah. The whole mission flow is kinda familiar, now that I...think about it. Talk to people, solve their problems, get loot...

I can't believe it took me this long to notice the connection.

Well. Uh, the point is that, at the time, I was pretty mad at the other guy, so I wasn't really talking to him much. But eventually Shade ran out of things to have us do, so first thing in the morning on the seventh day, we went back to Overlook, and ran into Zero again.

"PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST!"

Yes, it was before breakfast. Apparently Zero had come down to buy some food from Karima, or something. I'm not sure what was going on, and the poor woman was even more confused than me, since there was a haiku-spinning ninja and an insane psycho spouting nonsense at each other.

What Zero did manage to convey is that while we were off doing errands for nonexistent people, the Vault Hunters were taking part in a tournament to open a second, smaller Vault. How many of the things are there on this planet, anyway?

He also said that they had another adventure today: A quick hunting expedition off on a distant continent. He actually seemed pretty excited about the whole thing, though it's hard to tell with him. But he likes a challenge, so I guess he was hoping deadly monsters might do the trick.

To my surprise, he invited us to come along. Maybe it was a sign of his enthusiasm; every other time the other guy hinted at wanting to meet the Vault Hunters, Zero resolutely ignored him. Though, in fairness, the other guy is not exactly best at communicating.

He—the other guy—said yes right away, but I convinced him to think it over. It wasn't that I didn't want to meet them, it's just that I...just didn't feel like it was the best time...

"THERE'S A BLUSH FOR WON'T, AND A BLUSH FOR SHAN'T!"

Okay, fine. I was nervous. Apprehensive, even, about seeing Maya again. Nervous as a kid at his first school dance. So, I took the coward's way out and convinced the other guy that it wasn't the best time to make contact again.

We still took the Fast Travel code, though, and went to Aegrus—which was basically one giant swamp with savages, witch doctors, and crazy monsters—on our own. Zero had finally given us his ECHO address, so we were able to track the other Vault Hunters through him, and avoid them.

Like a stupid teenager hiding in the bushes when his crush walks by.

We spent most of the first day just fighting drifters, giant spider-like things which were not meant to be fought on foot. But, we did it anyway, and while we didn't find any interesting loot or anything, at least we were able to keep the majority of those things off Maya and the others.

At the end of the day we found a relatively out of the way camp to sleep in after we killed all the savages there, and bedded down for the night after calling Zero to let him know where we were. The next seven days went by in a blur; in the morning we'd check to make sure the lodge where they were staying was still standing, then head over to the savage village to kill them all. That might sound like something that would only take one day, but they kept coming back. I have no idea, but I wouldn't rule out those witch doctors resurrecting everyone.

"THE OLD "BRING HER FAMILY BACK FROM THE GRAVE" GAMBIT? HAVE YOU NO SHAME?"

Sometime during the day, usually about noon—or what would be noon on a world with a sane day/night cycle—Zero would arrive to help us. And by 'arrive,' I mean randomly start sniping savages from a couple hundred yards off. After everything was dead, we'd get to talking, best as we could. Apparently there was some evil doctor controlling the savages, he was obsessed with Handsome Jack even though he was dead, that sort of thing. They ran into an annoying robot, more savages, so on and so forth.

We left the main area—Hunter's Grotto, it was called—only a couple times. Once to pop into the annoyingly bright Sun Swamps, and once to try our hand at hunting boroks.

But we mostly stuck to that first swamp area, where we could have a bit of fun fighting the savages, collect some loot, and do some good by clearing the way for the others, even if they didn't notice.

Soon enough, Zero called to say they were Fast Traveling back to Sanctuary. I still didn't have that particular code, but I knew asking for it would be a waste of time.

Okay, no, that's not why I didn't ask. I was still nervous. Well, I did have a decent excuse: Just appearing in the middle of the city would have gotten me shot.

But Zero did mention that they were planning on raiding a Hyperion base, out in one of the darker parts of the Arid Badlands. Specifically past Fyrestone, around an area that apparently used to be bandit territory before Hyperion took control of the planet. Plus, one of the bandit leaders, the Slab King, would be leading the raid.

He didn't come right out and say it—he rarely does—but I got the hint that he was saying we'd be able to blend in with the bandits if we wanted to, maybe help out a bit more directly than usual.

We did follow, even though I knew it was a bad idea, but that was probably just a symptom of nerves. By the time got there, the battle was in full swing, and I was surprised at the scale of it. It wasn't just five Vault Hunters, a bandit lord and his honor guard. It was a full-on warzone, with two Sirens—one of which was Maya—snipers acting as support, buzzards flying overhead, runners racing back and forth...I think every slab bandit and Crimson Raider was out there that day.

Which isn't to say this was a curb-stomp. They needed the manpower. Hyperion was acting like this was their last stand, and maybe it was. Their base was built like a castle, and they were defending it with every man and robot they could get their hands on. Loaders dropped down from the moon nearly every other second, commandos were dropping so many turrets you could hardly see the ground...

And then Maya went down.

The Hyperion raptor who shot her was dead before I even realized we had broken cover. And then we were helping her up, and there were corpses everywhere and they hadn't been there before...it took a second for me to piece everything together. I mean, it wasn't exactly complicated—we ran out and killed everything between us and her—it was just...faster than usual. And red. Very red.

"I'VE FOUND THAT BY-THE-BOOK COMMISSARS TEND TO DIE HEROICALLY FOR THE EMPEROR, EVEN WHEN THE ENEMY IS SUSPICIOUSLY FAR AWAY!"

Hm? Oh, right. The cute little cyborg, Gaige, shot us. Luckily it was with a shock weapon, and we don't really use shields much anyway. But she figured out we were friendly when we didn't fight back, so by the time the rest of the Vault Hunters had arrived, she was able to help Maya calm everyone down before they started shooting.

Everyone was surprised that Zero knew us, and Gaige got pretty mad at him for not mentioning it, but honestly I had expected about as much. Zero is secretive even at the best of times. I bet it never even crossed his mind that the others might want to know that we were shadowing them. Well, shadowing them makes it sound like we were always a few steps behind. Following, sure, but not quite shadowing.

Anyway, we were having a nice reunion—Maya actually hugged us, though I'm not sure if it's because we saved her life again or because she was just glad we were still alive—when Hyperion gave us a very loud reminder that we were still in a warzone. Dropped a constructor practically on our heads.

The Dahl commando expertly identified the fact that Hyperion was gearing up for a follow-up defensive push in an effort to finish us off while we were vulnerable, and immediately jumped into his runner to give us time to deal with the constructor. The midget with the rocket launchers, Salvador, handled that one pretty well on his own, but there were more loaders where that one came from, and he was almost out of ammo.

Still, Hyperion didn't have much hope left, and they knew it. The human soldiers and engineers stayed behind the loaders, but our snipers were taking them out, and slowly but surely, we were depleting their reinforcements. Speaking of which, fighting loaders is a lot easier when we have friends to shoot the ones that explode.

When we blew up their base—well, I say 'we,' but mostly it was the Slab King and his buzzards—all the loaders were finished, and there were only a few humans left. Zero and us managed to corner a couple, and after the last survivor witnessed us having a kill count competition—which we won, no matter what Zero says—he surrendered. A Hyperion moonbase engineer, surrendered and ready for interrogation! Not a bad first day on the job, if I do say so myself. Okay, yeah, we chopped his arm off a little bit, but he was fine. He actually had the audacity to complain about in front of a girl with a cyborg arm. The gall of some people.

But we dragged him back to Sanctuary for interrogation. And we finally got to enter Sanctuary, without having to worry about the possibility of being greeted with bullets. Oh, there were a few raised eyebrows, but no one raised a fuss, and we walked through the streets as a trusted friend.

Sanctuary is, by far, the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The other guy wasn't as impressed, since there weren't any corpses stapled to the walls, but I found the lack of blood and feces used for poorly-spelled graffiti to be rather pleasant. It was like Hyperion's bases, but...softer. Everything Hyperion makes is sharp, with hard edges and danger lurking just under the surface. Sanctuary doesn't have any of that, not to mention there were no loader digistruct stations waiting to unleash mechanical armies at a moment's notice.

The people were something else, too. Oh, they were a bit skittish—except for that Tannis chick, who treated us like a disobedient nephew—but friendly enough, and I didn't hear a single threat about killing me, my unborn children, or stealing my stuff.

The old Vault Hunters didn't take part in the interrogation—

"FRIENDS EQUAL POWER UPS! HAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN AT ALL TIMES!"

Good point. I still haven't talked about the new Vault Hunters.

Maya, of course, I already mentioned. A Siren, as sleek and deadly as the Maliwan SMG she carried. It was different than the one she'd had when we first met, but still a solid weapon. She had grown up a little since we last saw her. Acting like a mother to the little cyborg had probably left her with no choice.

Speaking of the cyborg, her name is Gaige. She's quirky, and hyper, and got a bit of a hair-trigger temper, but at least she only shoots off her mouth when she gets mad. And even then, it's mostly at Axton. I question how useful she'd be in a fight, but she promises that when she goes 'full anarchist,' she's the strongest in the party. I figured she was just being boastful, but Maya confirmed it. While also mentioning that the chance of friendly fire goes up at the same time.

Axton is the Dahl commando I mentioned earlier. The driver of the group. He can get whiny at times, but mostly he's friendly and upbeat. It's really only Gaige that brings out his mean streak. He's got a decent head for tactics, which should be expected, as he's the only one who's had any formal military training. Even though he's obviously more concerned with glory and big explosions than the most efficient strategy, I can't really blame him. I mean, my most common tactic is to literally run into combat screaming.

The midget, Salvador, is a fun one. He managed to invent a new class—don't ask me how that works, I have no idea—and actually figured out a way to use two guns at a time effectively. That's how he took out that constructor; double rocket launchers. In battle, he's a screaming berserker, like us, but when things quiet down, so does he.

And, of course, Zero. Still as inscrutable as ever. Gaige thinks he has a checklist of 'mysterious warrior' tropes, and I can't rule it out. He never takes off his mask, never answers any question about himself, prefers speaking in haiku...oh, and he's the cook. I'm not sure what to think about that.

The old Vault Hunters, the three survivors of the four who opened the first Vault four or five years ago, didn't take part in the interrogation of the Hyperion spy, which was probably for the best, even if only to keep too many people from being crammed into one room at a time.

The six of us—plus Tannis, who apparently sleeps in the downstairs room of the Crimson Raiders headquarters where we were conducting the interrogation, and wouldn't leave—pretty much just whaled on the stupid guy all night. Well, okay, there was more to it than that, with Maya playing good cop, Gaige playing poor innocent girl disturbed by all the violence, but mostly it was just me and Salvador punching the guy a lot.

It worked. Somehow. We managed to get the codes to the Hyperion moonbase, just in time for the people upstairs to finish their game. It was pretty late by that point, so we all went to bed. Actual beds, without any strange parasites in them! I think we fainted within ten seconds of hitting the mattress. Which was probably a good thing, since I hadn't gotten around to explaining to the other guy about...ahem...some normal social protocols.

"IT'S A PART OF EVERY PRINCE'S JOB TO GIVE WOMEN SOMETHING TO DREAM ABOUT!"

...huh. Maybe he would actually do okay. I mean, I'm gonna try and talk to him about it anyway (he doesn't always pay attention), but I'm not as worried as I was ten seconds ago.

In the morning we got up, had breakfast—breakfast! I had forgotten what breakfast that you hadn't killed yourself tasted like!—and the old Vault Hunters organized a memorial service for their fallen friends, especially Roland, the leader of the Crimson Raiders. He was murdered by Handsome Jack, but I'm still a little fuzzy on the timeline.

It was a touching service, helped immensely by the fact that the other guy managed to keep his mouth firmly shut through the whole thing. Roland's daughter, or little sister or something, finished it up by giving the statue one last hug. It was a beautiful, touching moment, and the sun was setting in a wonderfully symbolic manner.

Then that obsolete Hyperion greeter bot they keep around for some reason said something stupid and ruined everything.

Now, we—as in me and the other guy—are slowly getting used to the routine, of not having to wake up every morning and kill everything between us and a bathroom. Ironic that we'd join up in one of the more hectic times, when the entire city is scrambling to prepare for a final assault on Hyperion through their moonbase.

And that...that, I think, is a wrap. None of this made the slightest bit of sense. I wasn't writing this down, or reciting it into an ECHO. I was just narrating in my own head, while the psycho in charge of my body occasionally ranted about poop.

But still, I feel...better. Like I got things off my chest. Like I was talking to a psychiatrist, or a group therapy session.

Funny that my mind goes right to that sort of thing. Maybe I really am insane.

For now though, I think I'm just going to say goodbye. So...goodbye. Say goodbye.

"HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!"

Heh. Close enough.