Disclaimer: Borderlands and all of Pandora's residents are the intellectual property of Gearbox Software. No copyright infringement intended.

Leave Them As You Found Them

Leave them as you found them.

Now where did Scarlett hear that from? Was it in a magazine? She was probably reading some rubbishy relationship advice column, wasn't she?

Leave them as you found them.

What does it mean?

It's a rule, isn't it? If you ever find yourself in a romantic entanglement with someone younger than you, then, when said relationship inevitably comes to an end, you have a moral obligation not to leave them any more miserable, unhappy, traumatized, embittered, vindictive, misanthropic, distrustful, paranoid or otherwise emotionally-devastated than they were when you originally met them.

Hmmmmmm.

Well, Scarlett can rest easy, then, can't she?

Let's not mince words, now. Gaige is fucked up. Gaige is a hot mess. Gaige is a human bloody oil spill, and someone threw the match looong before Scarlett came along.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()

No one should really have been surprised when Gaige chose Captain Scarlett over the Vault Hunters.

The Vault Hunters had a resistance to kick into shape. The Vault Hunters had a city to keep from crumbling to dust. The Vault Hunters had a helpless population to defend against hordes of depraved, ravening bandits. The Vault Hunters had one of the most powerful intergalactic conglomerates in existence breathing down their necks every minute of every hour of every day.

Scarlett has her men to look after, and...well, she hardly gives a toss about them, does she?

It's not hard to understand. When an eighteen year-old girl hauls ass from the world on which she's spent her entire life, and then ends up on a lawless, war-torn, brigand-infested hellhole, her needs are gonna be really quite simple.

When Gaige arrived on Pandora, she needed food.

She needed guns.

She needed a roof over her head.

And she needed attention.

"Look, kid, thanks for visiting, but just so you know, Frostburn is really, really..." Lilith grasped at the air, searching for the correct word. "...boring! Seriously, if you hang around here too long, you're gonna end up as dull as I am. My, uh...my boring might rub off on ya. Heh. Ummm...Sanctuary's not so bad! There's, uh...Moxxi's?"

"Oh, sorry sweetie," Moxxi said. "I'd love to stay and chat, but there's this ex-military hunk propped up at the bar right now, crying and moaning about how his wife left him, and he's knocking 'em back faster than I can pour them! Oh, it breaks my heart, but he needs me more than you, vixen!"

"Uuhh, maybe you shouldn't be visiting Bloodwing so much?" Mordecai said. "I'm not saying anything, but, uuuhhh...you keep coming to see Bloodwing...wouldn't that, uh...maybe Deathtrap is gonna get jealous? You know. I'm just sayin'..."

"Oh, hi Gaige!" Claptrap said. "Wanna hang out? Wanna listen to music? Wanna play echo sims? Wanna watch a movie? Wanna go shopping? Wanna play foosball? Want me to do your hair? Wanna hide in the caverns and see how long it takes before the others notice we're missing? Wanna go get pizza?"

Now, Gaige already knew what it meant to be ignored. Twelve years in Eden-5's education system made sure of that. Twelve years of Marcy and her oh-so-perfect friends being the centre of the frickin' universe made sure of that.

But when she lived on Eden-5, at least Gaige had her mom and dad.

Was it any surprise at all that Gaige chose Captain Scarlett over the Vault Hunters?

When Mechromancer and Pirate Queen first met, flames jumped to life in Scarlett's eyes. "Oh, very nice," she said, gazing approvingly at Gaige's cybernetic arm. "Four fingers and an opposable thumb! How genteel." Scarlett held up her own comically primitive prosthetic, an obnoxiously crude hook with the added functionality of being able to crush human skulls like a nutcracker. "It's a little...unrefined...but style is rather lost round these parts."

Gaige gave an indulgent snicker, and then tried to think of the suavest possible way she could mention that she created her prosthesis herself. Axton decided to save her the trouble.

"She built it in her shed," he said. "Engineering whizz."

"Ohhh..." Scarlett tongue went to her upper right incisor, and she didn't care at all if Gaige could see it.

()()()()()()()()()()()()

There's this cruel trick that Gaige's own mind plays on her.

Every morning, when she's not-quite-awake and not-quite-asleep, Gaige thinks that's she's back home on Eden-5.

She drools into her pillow and pulls the sheets over her head, and for a brief few moments Gaige deludes herself that she's back in her old bed, the bed that she's slept in since ten years of age.

She hears floors creaking and footsteps falling beneath her. Must be her mom and dad downstairs, pottering about the house, the house that she lived in for as long as she can remember, the house that watched her grow up.

She feels the bed trembling, the world shaking slightly. Must be some big-ass truck trundling by on the road outside.

The delusion only lasts for a few moments.

Gaige's old bedroom is hundreds of billions of miles away. She'll never see it again. Each morning, she wakes up in Scarlett's cabin.

The footsteps and creaking floors? Pirate scumbags wandering around Scarlett's ship. Gaige's mom and dad are a long, long way away.

The shaking, shuddering sensation? The Buccaneer's Bacchanal hovers above the desert, bobbing and floating across the sand.

Each morning, Gaige drifts into wakefulness. She stretches, and moans, and rubs the gunk from her eyes, and then looks around.

Gaige groans. "Stupid brain," she says.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

No one has any right to be surprised when Deathtrap starts wearing a pirate's bandana.

When Hyperion convoys roll through the desert, they throw up massive dust clouds that can be seen for miles around.

"Oh, look," Scarlett says, eyeing a plume of smoke rising through the air. "Looks like a spot of money's on the way."

Not long after moving to the Wurmwater, Gaige was struck by a rather unfortunate flash of inspiration. She installed a shoulder-mounted loudspeaker on Deathtrap, and a microphone on her cybernetic arm. Now, whenever Deathtrap is summoned, Gaige seems to instantaneously become ten times more irritating than usual.

"ATTENTION HYPERION EMPLOYEES," she hams into her wrist. "JUST SO YOU KNOW, YOUR BOSS, HANDSOME JACK, IS A TOTAL DILL HEAD, AND NOW WE'RE GONNA TAKE ALL OF HIS STUFF. IF ANY OF YOU GUYS ARE GONNA BE A TURD BURGER ABOUT THIS, THEN BRING IT ON, CAUSE ME AND DEATHTRAP ARE ABOUT TO SHOW THE HORRORS OF A WORLD WITHOUT EMPLOYEE HEALTH COVERAGE!"

Scarlett gives a blissful sigh. It's nice having a former Vault Hunter on her crew. It's nice not having to worry about things like strategy or planning for a change. Just point Gaige at the bothersome guards, and give her an encouraging pat on the arse.

Gaige sends volley after volley of explosive ordnance flying at the Loaders escorting the convoy, her cannon's massive recoil making no impression at all upon her cyborg grip. Deathtrap jets and soars above the carnage, hails of electricity and lasers flung down upon his foes. Scarlett's gigantic pet Rakk Hive, Roscoe, leaps and bounds happily across the sands, ramming into trucks, sending them flipping and tumbling for hundreds of metres, their contents spilling and scattering across the ground.

"OOOOHH YEAH!" Gaige screeches. "ANARCHY FOREVERRRR!"

Deathtrap.

Bodyguard. Weapon. Companion. Friend. Megaphone.

Many of the convoy personnel leap off their vehicles and dash frantically across the dunes, rocketing away from the fighting as fast as their legs can carry them. Scarlett really isn't sure why they bother. "I mean, do they really think that dying of thirst is preferable to being captured by pirates? Eaten by cannibals? Sacrificed by cultists? When you really think about it, we're the respectable party! It's sort of insulting, really..."

When the chaos has ended, Scarlett's mooks move in to gather up the loot. Roscoe stomps contentedly about, waiting for the next opportunity to please his mistress. Gaige loudly announces that she's heading back to the Bacchanal, and then steals one of the skiffs, greatly reducing the amount of loot the pirates can actually carry. Scarlett's newest cosmetic piercing is bothering her, and so she stands before one of the Hyperion truck's rear-view mirrors and spends about ten minutes trying to pry the piece of metal from her flesh.

Some distance away, Sand Worms burst out of the earth and gobble up Handsome Jack's fleeing employees. None of the pirates notice.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Captain Scarlett hangs rich red drapes all around her cabin. The curtains are red. The rugs are red. The upholstery is red. She's Captain Scarlett. She likes red.

There's gold everywhere. Gold coins stacked on dressers. Gold ornaments piled in corners. Golden statues on shelves. Golden weapons hanging on hooks. Scarlett's a pirate. She likes gold.

Scarlett likes red. Scarlett likes gold. She's a one-track woman, in certain respects.

Each morning, the sun climbs above the mountains, and shines through the windows of Scarlett's cabin. The light drifts through the glass, and all the red in the room begins to burn. All the drapery, all the fabric, become aflame. Blood boiling.

The gold begins to glow. The blazing light of the sun is mirrored and captured in a thousand different places, in a thousand different reflections.

Each morning, even though they're sound asleep, Gaige and Scarlett can feel the sunlight on their backs. On their arms. On their legs. On their hair. They snore and sigh and drool, and yet still they feel the light crawling into the cabin; still, they feel the heat beginning to fill the room. The desert is bitterly cold during the night, but the sun is up, now, and Gaige and Scarlett can feel it, can sense it on their skin.

Scarlett feels this instinct far more keenly than Gaige. Scarlett has spent years and years roaming across the deserts.

Gaige will learn.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Gaige loves not having to get up for school in the morning.

Scarlett hardly knows what an alarm clock is at all.

Ten hundred hours. Eleven hundred hours. Midday. The afternoon. Pirate Queen and Mechromancer get up when they want.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Gaige has ten piercings, now.

Yeah, yeah, a girl who sliced off her own arm isn't gonna flinch at a frickin' piercing.

But it makes Gaige feel like she belongs just a little bit more.

A nose stud. Two lip piercings. One above her right eye. Three in her ears. Two nipples. One in her bellybutton.

Gaige knows what her eleventh is going to be.

Scarlett had better act fucking impressed when she sees it.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Are Scarlett's men jealous of Gaige? Well, obviously they are.

Each member of Scarlett's crew is allotted two hundred millilitres of water each day. Their bellies are bubbling cauldrons of acid and sulphur. Their oesophagi are all seared and scorched.

Gaige guzzles chilled minerals, and cold beer, and soda, and tea, and liqueur jostling with ice cubes. She gulps it all down a glass at a time, and Scarlett loves nothing better than when the stuff dribbles down her chin, trickling down her neck, running and trailing down her skin.

Each member of Scarlett's crew eats three meals a day...most days. They eat whatever crap Mercer is able to scrounge from the desert. Worm meat isn't very appetizing. Human flesh can be rather demoralizing, however scummy its original owner used to be.

Gaige has cereal, and fruit, and bread, and soup, and milk, and cheese, and pork, and steak, and everything else that happens to be in Scarlett's personal pantry. And chocolate! Oh god, Scarlett loves chocolate. Sometimes, Pirate Queen and Mechromancer lounge about with a box open between them, empty wrappers strewn across the sheets.

"Umf, umf, yur knor, ah curd melk yur a nur proththethic," Gaige says, chewing on a toffee.

"Mmm, yur a darrring!" Scarlett says, caramel oozing down her throat.

Each member of Scarlett's crew sleep in cots and hammocks, six to a room.

Gaige sleeps in the captain's cabin. Each morning she wakes, and purrs, and flexes, and stretches, and sniggers at life.

Of course Scarlett's crew are jealous of Gaige. Gaige is Scarlett's moll. Pirate Queen and Queen. Perks of the position.

On the Buccaneer's Bacchanal, mutiny is always on someone's mind.

Everyone thinks it, at some point. The same scenario has wriggled its way into every man's head: they storm the captain's cabin, knives drawn and guns cocked. They wait until, ooh, say, zero seven hundred, zero eight hundred hours, and then kick the door open to Scarlett's private quarters. Those two lazybones are sure to be dozing in their bed. They'll be defenceless. They won't be suspecting a thing. All the men have to do is grab them, tie them up, drag them onto the deck, and put a bullet in both of their heads. Bang, bang, done.

Then, they find the key to Scarlett's pantry, and throw themselves a feast to celebrate a successful insurrection. Champagne and ice cream. Lovely.

Every man has thought of it.

Trouble is, every man knows what would actually happen if they went through with it.

They know that Scarlett is bound to have some horrifyingly effective weapon hidden under her pillow.

They know that Gaige need only snap her metallic fingers, and an armour-bound demon will materialize from nothing, his burning red eye glaring at them.

They know what sort of reflexes a woman needs to become a Pirate Queen in the first place. They know what sort of reaction time a girl needs to become a Vault Hunter. Even an ex-Vault Hunter.

A gang of traitorous scum versus a Pirate Queen and a Mechromancer? No, don't like those odds.

The men aboard the Buccaneer's Bacchanal don't need to be peering through no keyhole to know what's in the captain's cabin. Two lionesses are sprawled across that mattress, and the only thing that keeps them from reaching out and swiping with their claws is the grogginess in their heads.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Scarlett wonders when she's going to lose interest in Gaige.

I mean, come on. Teenagers are just annoying...

Scarlett reads comics because it's wry, and ironic, and offbeat.

Gaige reads comics because she likes reading comics!

Gaige enjoys hamburgers, and pizza, and potato chips, and fizzy drinks.

Scarlett enjoys fine wines and haute cuisine, and she especially enjoys these things when surrounded by starving criminals.

Scarlett is a pirate who terrorizes the deserts because she likes shiny things.

Gaige is a pirate who terrorizes the deserts because she has some misguided notion that it will fill the void left by her family's absence.

They have nothing in common! Gaige babbles on and on and on about science and engineering and robotics, and Scarlett just rolls her eyes and growls. All of Gaige's tech stuff takes up an entire storeroom in the Baachanal. If Scarlett just threw it all out, she'd have enough room for another Rakk Hive, she knows it.

Gaige is more trouble than she's worth.

Still. The shagging is good, at least. For now.

And they do both enjoy being pirates. It's something they're both really, really good at.

()()()()()()()()()()()()

There are some lessons that Gaige really should have learned before she arrived on Pandora.

The importance of maintaining goodwill.

The importance of not burning your bridges.

The importance of not pissing in your drinking water.

One afternoon, Scarlett pulls up a chair, rests her hands on her chin, and peers at Gaige with a somewhat unsettling smile and an altogether rather creepy glimmer in her eyes.

"Sooooooo," Scarlett says. "Former Vault Hunter, eh?"

It is swelteringly hot outside. Now is the warmest part of the entire day. Scarlett waited until Gaige was sitting under a fan before she pounced. Gaige ain't going nowhere. Gaige is staying right where she is.

"Yeeeeah?" Gaige says, her pigtails fluttering in the breeze. Trepidation is writ large in her eyes.

Scarlett stares admiringly at Gaige for quite a bit longer than Gaige finds comfortable. "Any juicy little tidbits you might have been privy to?" she says, at last.

At the absolute southernmost region of Wurmwater, there's a old abandoned bunker, well hidden in the terrain. For the past few months, Roland has been trying to establish the place as a Crimson Raider stronghold. Every fortnight or so, he sends a consignment of weapons and supplies there; a truck leaves Sanctuary, and travels all the hundreds of miles, strictly under the cover of night. If the worst-case scenario ever comes to pass, and Sanctuary falls to Hyperion, Roland means the Wurmwater bunker to serve as a back-up stronghold; a place for the survivors to take refuge.

It's all very top secret, all very hush-hush.

Why they told an eighteen year-old girl, no one will ever know.

Gaige tells Scarlett. "Fascinating," Scarlett says, skullduggery coming to life in her eyes.

After about four days' travel, the Bacchanal reaches the bunker. There's not much in the way of defences – just a couple of Crimson Raiders guarding the main entrance. Roland had evidently decided that secrecy was the best defence.

"Look, we don't have to kill them!"

The two Crimson Raiders are knelt now on the deck of the Bacchanal, hands tied behind their backs, blood streaming down their faces, nasty bruises over their eyes. Gaige is standing between them and a crowd of gun-toting, bloodthirsting, increasingly-impatient pirates. She makes for a rather cute and colourful – not to mention frantically desperate – defence counsel. Scarlett is slouching against a crate, the Bacchanal's altogether gauche and disinterested judge and jury.

Down below, the other half of the Bacchanal's crew are carrying the bunker's inventory over to their ship. All the weapons. All the provisions. All the equipment. They are stripping away every single valuable thing they find, and stowing it away in the Bacchanal's cargo holds.

Scarlett wonders what to do with her prisoners. "We could sell them to some bandit clan," she says, musing. "I'm sure there's lots of cutie bandit babies that need babysitters..."

"That is not cool," Gaige says, fuming. "Let these guys go, Scarlett."

All of a sudden, there's a dangerous glint in Scarlett's eye. Slowly, deliberately, she pushes off the wall, and a chill trickles into Gaige's blood.

Gaige is inexperienced. Gaige is immature. Gaige is too young and too stupid to realize that she's questioning the captain's authority in front of a very large portion of her crew. Gaige is too dumb and naive to realize that she's putting Scarlett in a very precarious position.

Internally, Scarlett gives a heavy sigh. She doesn't want Gaige to endanger her authority. She doesn't want to tie Gaige to a mast and have her whipped, either. Gaige would be in a sulk for days! She might even start giving her the silent treatment...

Scarlett glowers at Gaige a few moments, and the girl finally realizes that she's just stepped in it.

And it's then that Scarlett decides to break out the old evil grin.

"Men," Scarlett declares.

"Aye, Captain?"

Scarlett points her hook at the two prisoners crouched at her feet. "Patch these men up as best we can. Give them food, and water – enough to reach a Fast-Travel – and set them free."

The pirates fall silent, and stare at their captain in disbelieving amazement. The Crimson Raiders gaze up at their captor – if their faces hadn't been smashed into inexpressive mush, they would have looked surprised.

Scarlett leers at Gaige, twisted triumph on her lips. "When they get to Sanctuary, they can tell old Roland and his Vault Hunter chums all about what Gaige did."

The pirates roar with filthy laughter.

Gaige's eyes go wide. She may be naive, she may be unworldly, but even she realizes that a thousand doors have just slammed shut.

Scarlett smirks, and turns away, sauntering off to survey her new loot. When she is absolutely sure that no one is watching, she gives a sad frown, and sighs.

Leave Them As You Found Them.