This was written for my Borderlands 2 Co-op partner, who has named our Axton-Gaige combo 'Team Robots'. My Axton may not do even half of the damage that she does, but he's here to back her up, pick up her, lay down slag fire, and other various rick-roll'esk type things. Inspiration came from our crazed borderlands chatting. Team Robots is pretty fun. Her Gaige is Ordered Chaos/Best Friends Forever spec, and my Axton is guerrilla/survival.
For you, Panther! Keep doing great (and you are the best co-op partner and beta writer ever!)
Warnings: Adult language... because when someone is shooting at you, there is really only one 4-letter-word you probably are saying.
Welcome to Pandora!
Gaige winced as the ship hit another bump. Perhaps 'bump' wasn't the correct term when you are tossed two feet into the air, off the wooden crate you were sitting on (where upon you hit your head on the low ceiling), and then slammed straight into the metal floor on your already bruised ass. For almost twelve hours the young girl had been squished between crates of guns and supplies bound for Pandora.
"'Second class accommodations' my bruised fucking ass." Gaige hissed, shifting one of her legs under her to pillow her bruised rump. "I think I could have packed myself in a crate of pillows and traveled more comfortable - and cheaper - than this," she said to herself.
Well... mostly to herself. In her lap, her disabled ECHO device lay there, waiting for her to record her next ECHO-cast to the morbid delight of her new 20,000 followers. She hadn't yet found the resolve to turn it on again for another ECHO-cast to her listeners/stalkers.
There was something to be said about the irony of that ECHO-device. She worked like a dog through high school and slaved away at a science fair experiment, only to have one or two interested people subscribed to her cast (and in truth... they might not have been subscribed as much as they were 'too lazy to unsubscribe'). Then, she killed one sociopathic rich girl - and suddenly the entire planetary sector knew her name.
They could know her name because of all the 'wanted' posters plastering every wall, however. Even this ship had one posted on the battered door facing the cargo hold. Gaige had been sure she was going to be refused a ticket to Pandora, but the captain merely glanced at the poster, then at her... and then at the 7' tall robot of malevolent destruction floating behind her…. He asked for double the normal price for her ticket.
So now here she was: the most brilliant 18-year old girl in the sector fleeing for Pandora in hopes the lawless world might offer a chance at escape. It was only because of her father than she had even managed to board the ship at all. Who would have thought one burning golf cart rolling though a police barricade (and unless she was mistaken, it had also run over the chief of police and putting a burning tire tread over his wide ass) could have been such an effective distraction?
"Hi Daddy, I don't think I got the chance to say thanks before." Gaige thumbed the ECHO-device, turning it on for a private echo. Her subscribers - the rabid hoard that they were - could wait. She had a message for home first. "I got onboard okay. It's the most anonymous ship I could find. I don't even think it has a name other than 'That thing is still flying, god damn!'. Or at least that's what the others at the spaceport called it."
The ship banked gently, approaching Pandora's orbit. Gaige paused in her transmission, looking at the dingy surroundings.
"Well, I've decided that facing a fascist bourgeois pig like Handsome Jack on Pandora is probably safer than staying within the system and waiting for the Holloway's to find me. But ... I did leave one last parting gift for Marcy's rip-off DT units. Some new DLC, uploaded while I was boarding this ship. I believe I can safely name this program SMASH THE SYSTEM!" Volume forgotten, Gaige belted out this last bit with all the rebellion an exhausted teen girl could manage.
The program, typed as an 11th hour idea before she boarded the ship, infected the main constructor rod that each DT knock-off was spawned from. Why bother reprogramming just one robot when you can reprogram all the robots? Now whenever the swine-police bots were digistructed, they went after the most corrupted power government in the galaxy – Hyperion. Every Hyperion employee, machine, computer, coffee-maker, or building was a target for these newly-modified DT copies.
There was a soft beep from the echonet that the recorder was linked to. Pausing in her silent gloating, Gaige looked down at the message. It was from her father, and it was short.
$680,000,000,000 bounty increased to $820,000,000,000. Hyperion CEO contributing funds to new bounty.
Gaige blinked. Handsome Jack was increasing her bounty himself? And it now surpassed the bounty on that Siren who's wanted posted was plastered to the wall of the ship even! Her mouth fell open. As if 680 BILLION wasn't high enough, apparently the stunt of sending DT drones after Hyperion pissed off their sociopath CEO.
"This... is awesome." Gaige said in a hushed voice, teenage ideals of anarchy dancing in her head. She shook herself out of her stupor a few seconds later. This was technically a very bad thing. As if her bounty weren't large enough before... it was now to the point she'd turn HERSELF in for a shot at that much money (if she'd be allowed to keep it and wasn't killed in a prison or something).
Glancing up at her bounty poster again, Gaige's eyes drifted to the others pasted on the wall beside it. While she now rivaled Maya in bounty value, the Siren still had her crazy-ass Siren powers and apparently Sirens only got stronger when on Pandora. Gaige just had... she had...
Well. Her brains, for one. But you don't go around killing people with the power of your brains (unless you were a Siren... those lucky women...). She had Deathtrap as well, for at least the short duration the robot could exist without running out of power cells and deconstructing. Other than those two things... Gaige had no weapons. She didn't even know how to fire a gun. Sure, she knew the concept behind it (point the open end at enemy, pull trigger, laugh over a corpse, etc), but she had never fired a weapon a day in her life. It was why Deathtrap had so many weapons built into him, so Gaige herself didn't have to try to use them. She had no illusions about her skills either, any shots she fired would miss the targets wildly, even when standing only feet away.
Suddenly aware that her ECHO-device was still broadcasting dead air, Gaige returned to the message to her dad. "It's cool, Dad. It's like all the best vault hunters have bounties on them anyway. Besides, they didn't put a bounty on Deathtrap. They'll proooobably regret that. I mean, he's awesome! He should have half the bounty on his own JUST for being so awesome."
The ship bucked and Gaige was flung off the crate she was sitting on again. Hissing in pain and trying to keep from belting out 'FUCK' at the top of her lungs, Gaige gave a feeble laugh to cover for the sake of her father's concerned ears.
"I'm ok! Just a little bumpy here. Anyway, I figure I'll hunt some vaults on Pandora for a bit. Just a girl and her robot. After a few years, that old Holloway man is probably going to be dead of … I dunno... testicular cancer or doucebag-itus or something incurable even with billions of dollars. After that, I guess I'll head home. Or buy a planet of my own! Come on, dad, I'm 18, I can take care of myself... but thanks for that distraction back there to help me get off world. It... it really helped." Gaige swallowed awkwardly as her voice grew thicker. Her nerdy dad, always supporting her, never disappointed in her choices, and quick to slip her hot chocolate or ice cream when she needed it most – she didn't miss the planet she had run from at all.
She just missed her parents.
The ECHO-device chirped again with an incoming message.
Here if you need me, sweetie.
Gaige ended the ECHO with a hasty "Love you dad, take care of mom," and slumped against one of the crates. Her cool metal palm pressed into her bridge of her nose managed to keep any tears at bay, but the burning heat of unshed tears remained. She was not going to cry, she was not going to cry after all the crap she had gone through so far. No. Not even a little. But still her eyes burned.
The ship bounced again and this time a persistent whine came from the right side of the ship where the wing attached to the hull. This didn't feel like turbulence though, and unless Gaige was mistaken, the whining noise was the engine exhaust port suddenly jamming. The noise escalated into a shrill squeal for a few seconds before stopping entirely.
… That was a very bad thing – tended to mean the the ship is about to blow up.
"Hey, Captain...um...-guy. Is your ship blowing up?"
"SHITBALLS!" Was the answer.
"I'll take that as a yes." Gaige's eyebrows shot up.
Another impact this time. There was the unmistakable of sound of a heavy pulse cannon firing outside the thick cargo walls.
"Are we being SHOT at?!" Gaige yelled upwards, and the answer was a string of curses as the ship banked again, attempting to dodge the attack. This jolt slid all the boxes two feet to the right side, slamming wooden crates into the wall, and burying Gaige in a explosion of beef jerky and half-leaking bottles of motor oil as one of the boxes cracked and spilled it's contents onto her. Curling quickly into a ball and covering her head with her metal arm, Gaige grimaced as she felt something bounce off the unyielding metal before it could have struck her.
"Ah, good, oil and beef jerky. Not my top two favorite smells. Fuck this. Deathtrap, need a shield here!" Raising her arm into the air (and her middle finger to the universe in general), the metal arm began to vibrate at a growing pitch. Bending her wrist as if making a shoo-ing gesture, the digistruct rod that was the very support of her arm activated, and with a whirl-click and shrill whistle of activity Deathtrap materialized.
The heavy, floating robot reached over in the small cargo hold, barely able to fit (even considering he had no legs), and picked his creator off the floor. The ship shuddered again as the sound of the pulse cannon continued to shrill through the armored plating. A constant 'thud thud' shook the ship as it was battered, and this time the whistling sound became a hiss and immediately Gaige's ears popped.
The ship was losing pressure.
"Hey! Fix your shit back here, this heap is leaking pressure!" Gaige bellowed, turning to face the cockpit of the cargo ship. The heavy door was closed however, even as the pressure alarm went off. "Hey! Umm.. .Captain... Sparrow? Ahab? Ishmael? Bob? Captain-guy!" She called again. Yet still no one responded.
Warning bells were going off, and not just the ones on the ship. Gaige's finely tuned 'shit-O-meter' was going off with terrible urgency. Gesturing with her replacement arm, the girl guided Deathtrap to the cockpit door and tested the handle. It was, as expected, locked.
Locked for a loser, that is. Gaige was too awesome to be stopped by such mundane things as locks. "Hey Deathtrap, can you get this for me, babe?" Gaige twisted to lean over Deathtrap's shoulder, looking back into the cargo hold and watching in mild alarm as the cargo was being sucked towards the right side wall where the pressure leak was. "And... um... hurry?"
There was a hiss and a click and three long digi-claws sprang from Deathtrap's arm bracket. Holding claws steady, the robot fed the long blades into the rubber seal between door and frame and sliced upwards, destroying the lock. Without the lock in place the door flew inwards and smashed into the robot as the negative pressure in the cargo hold jerked it open. Deathtrap promptly deconstructed in a whirl of scrap metal and hissing particles, dumping Gaige on the floor.
Cursing as she smashed straight back down on the the metal on her bruised ass, Gaige flexed her wrist again, trying to reconstruct Deathtrap. However there was a complete lack of anything when she triggered the construct signal. The summoning rod had a slow cool down time on its battery pack, and of course, Gaige was remembering that at the worst possible time.
Murphy's Law sucked ass, Gaige thought. Fuck you universe, no one likes you either.
Trying to scramble to her feet, but failing, Gaige had to throw herself face-down through the door as the pinhole breach in the ship's hull suddenly widened into a gaping tear. Crates flew at the wall and smashed themselves into splinters. The contents that were pulverized enough were sucked out into space and the alarm changed in pitch from 'uh oh' to 'yeah, you're fucked'.
Only on Pandora do alarms differentiate in such sounds. Though technically, the cargo vessel was a few miles above Pandora...
Dragging herself along the ground, clutching at the panels of the floor, Gaige floundered into the cockpit away from the terrible roar in the cargo hold. She didn't bother trying to get the pilot's attention because 1) it was far too loud to be heard over the sound of the ship depressurizing and 2) it would appear the pilot had either mastered the art of invisibility or had bailed ship at some point.
… While Pandora was a strange place, invisible bastards were just beyond her comprehension right now. So she assumed the latter. The bastard had somehow jettisoned out over the planet, leaving a decrepit cargo ship with a hull breach slowly approaching Pandora for a deadly reentry while being fired upon.
Welcome to Pandora.
Catching the arm of the pilot's chair and pulling herself into the seat, Gaige found herself looking down at a wall of flashing angry buttons, half cracked console panels, and gear-shift levers held together with baling wire and duct tape. She could honestly not tell if the ship had been sabotaged, was malfunctioning, or was just really really shitty.
The ECHO-device that had been clipped to her bag was now clattering against the chair as the air pressure of the cockpit was vented back towards the cargo hold. At some point, the power switch had been mashed on, and approximately 20,000 (actually 20,002) subscribers listened as Gaige swore nonstop at incompetent mechanics, the laws of gravity and re-entry, and several times how much of an insufferable bitch Marcy Holloway was. Plus, some sort of primal scream of fury about 'third place'.
Before the ECHO-cast was cut off in a roar of static, wind, and the tortured sound of twisting metal.
It was a beautiful day on Pandora. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and the stink of midget was EVERYWHERE.
"Uhg, I can taste it." Axton spat, twisting sideways to not spit all over his magnificent assault rifle. Seriously, the gun was so damn amazing he felt he should walk up to Torgue and hug the man for gifting the surface of Pandora with such a weapon as this. And not a bro-hug off the shoulder either, but the kind of hug a child does when they run up to their parent, drop to their knees, and cling to them until they are dragged across the floor when said parent finally gets tired of standing there and goes off to do something.
Awkward? Maybe. But this gun was worth it.
Dahl sniper rifle strapped across his back, Jacobs shotgun at one hip, and a Valdof pistol (taken from a Hyperion goon... ah, brand loyalty) on the other side, Axton was armed for a 'typical' day.
"You going to check out that crash?" Maya poked up over the wall, looking down over the edge of the train station, as Axton crossed into the dusty road.
"Sure, why not. The Guardian Angel said it was a supply carrier." Axton shielded his eyes from the sun as he looked up at the Siren. He had been on this planet one week exactly, and from his first day here he had the crap nearly-beaten out of him by bandits, discovered what exactly a skagg was (Never going to get THAT image out of his head now) - and a laid eyes on his first Siren, a strange little dwarf, and a... well... whatever the hell Zer0 was. As strange of a group as they were, they had completed their first mission on this planet : Not dying.
Now Handsome Jack himself had extended some sort of invitation to the Vault Hunter-to-be (as they had yet to discover a single vault yet). The president of Hyperion was inviting them onboard his private train bound for Opportunity for some sort of business deal. Everyone smelled a trap, but the general idea was 'fuck it', and they intended to board the train anyway if only to blow it up and hopefully Jack with it. So far, Jack had managed to taunt them at all hours of the day (and night), but once it became clear to him that these new Vault-Hunters weren't as inept as the insults suggested, the CEO offered this suspicious parlay.
"Won't take long, it's only a few hours out, I'll make it back in time for the party. Want to come with? I could use someone like you on this." Axton thumbed towards the barren wastes approximately where the ship came down.
Maya only gave him a slight smile. "You mean you want someone to levitate bandits into the air so you can headshot them when they aren't dodging?"
That was one of the benefits to having a Siren around. Sniping was stupidly easy when the target stood still like a idiot. The other benefit was DAT ASS. Clearly. Pandora itself was in awe of Maya's finely sculpted –
POP! POPPOP! The sound of a high powered assault rifle firing caused both of them to look up suddenly, Maya in concern and Axton pulled from the beginnings of some thoughts that belonged in the gutter. Zer0 was perched on the roof of the train station firing down into a slight canyon that bounded one side.
"What's going on?" Maya asked, twisting her body gracefully over the wall and landing with a purr of that strange energy that powered Sirens.
"Trouble has been found / Salvador angered the horde / he's enjoying it." Zero answered, lifting the rifle up to his mask and taking another shot. POP. The sharp squeal of a spiderant dying and the Salvador's raucous laughter echoed from the bottom of the valley.
"Well then." Axton rubbed at his insignia on his head, sighing. "You two should probably go fish him out before we end up searching through spiderant piles to put him back together. I can go on the supply run and be back before you finish dragging the dwarf back to the station to catch our train."
Maya stopped him, her hand catching his backpack. "Alone? That seems... like a completely terrible idea."
"Not alone, sweetheart. I got my little girl here." Axton gave a winning grin and slapped at his backpack, where the compressed hard case of the turret was strapped. "She'll watch out for me."
This did not really seem to appease the Siren... but there just weren't enough of them to separate on this mission and still pull Salvador out of his 'fun' (with all his limbs intact). "Well. Alright. Just. Just watch out for yourself." Releasing her grip on his backpack, Maya hesitantly headed towards Zer0 and the end of the gorge. The assassin had no trouble at all helping Salvador from his current spot and Maya positioned herself at the edge of the drop as well, prepared to revive the dwarf if he fell.
'Third wheel' came to mind. But can someone really be a third wheel out of a party of four? Maya usually went with Zer0 if they had to split up because, with Zer0's sniping skills and Maya's long range Siren powers, they could finish off bandits before they ever even came close. Salvador enjoyed running into the middle of a fray and Axton could only heave his turret a short distance, so under normal circumstances the two of them were paired up for missions on the bounty board.
Salvador was a native to this planet, so the dwarf was perfectly at home here. Meanwhile, Maya and Zer0 both came to this shit-ball of a planet of their own choice (as insane as that was).
Axton didn't have much of a choice when he came to Pandora. Death by firing squad would have wasted his talents.
The train depot was strategically positioned in the ass-end of nowhere... but at least a Catch-A-Ride station had been put up next to it. This station cost credits to use, a 'service' that wasn't needed as Axton popped the case open and fiddled with the controls. There was a friendly beep and then the Catch-A-Ride proclaimed 'free cars for Scooter!' and now everyone who came to this station was now named "Scooter! Sweet, free cars".
Jabbing at the preset vehicle mode, Axton climbed into what ended up being a lime green Runner (and if the soldier didn't know better, it had been Zer0 who picked the color last time). Now he was blinding and offending anyone with eyes or fashion sensibilities - which really made sense, as Axton wasn't really sure if Zer0 properly had either.
Struggling to recall Angel's message, Axton figured it was at least an hour into the wastelands, and by the sound of it the ship had gone down in a blaze of gunfire, explosions, and beef jerky. That last item made Axton's stomach rumble uncomfortably.
When dinner consists of something-Skaggy, Thresher steaks, and you-really-don't-want-to-know casserole, you started missing army food. And that, Axton knew, was rather pathetic.
The wastelands were miles and miles of barren scorched earth, with the occasional weak-looking trees miraculously growing, and a lot of skagg mounds randomly dotting the land. Axton realized almost instantly where the supply ship had crashed – the wisp of dark smoke rather gave it away. Though the distance was deceptive. As he grew closer, the gray wisp darkened into a black towering cloud that roiled like a thunderhead. The smell of burning metal, the tang of ozone, and a strange stink which must have been ruined gunpowder covered the area, and only grew more offensive as he approached the crash.
'Crash' it might have been, but Axton was surprised it wasn't a 'wreck'. The ship was almost entirely in one piece. It appeared that the hull of the cargo area had been punctured and all the contents were strewn behind the crash site for miles. The ship had managed to skip across the ground like an oversized pond-stone, leaving furrows in the bleached desert soil, until it had finally smashed nose-first into a slight rise in the ground. Both of the thrusters had been blown out, and one bore the unmistakable scars of heavy artillery fire.
That seemed to be the work of Hyperion lackeys. Burn marks charred almost every area of the ship ineffectively until they finally managed to score hits on the thrusters - and suddenly their shots had homed in like a precision attack. Axton crawled out of the Runner, idly wondering why Hyperion would make guns that were shitty for burst fire, if not to make sure their minions turned into cannon fodder while wielding them. The answer seemed to Axton to be 'Because Hyperion are dicks'.
The dried ground crunched and turned into sand with each step as Axton approached the ship. The smell had gone from bad to noxious, and corrosive clouds of smoke belched out of the destroyed engines. Gritting his teeth and trying to breathe through his nose as little as possible, Axton ducked into one of the holes in the cargo hold to take a look at what managed to survive the crash that could be salvaged.
A smashed crate a few feet away had spilled motor oil everywhere, making the floor a mire of grease and treacherous footing. Edging into the room carefully, Axton picked through the boxes looking for useful gear or food – anything that might fetch a price until he found his next bounty. A box containing ammo was mostly salvageable; there were a few shitty guns, what appeared to be pieces of a tank's barrel, and a box containing dried meat and jerky (now only partially soaked in oil) scattered through the hold. Axton sorted the ammo into his pack in the efficient manner of a soldier taking damn good care of his guns, nabbed a few of the weapons (you can always use a spare), and jammed three sticks of jerky into his mouth as he packed the rest away. They only tasted a little like motor oil and skagg ass.
Shuffling forwards towards the exit of the cargo bay, Axton paused as he picked his way through the debris. Were those... footprints? Dropping to a crouch and touching the oily mark on the floor, Axton found it was still relatively slick and damp. There was the familiar mark of shoe treads in the prints and unless skaggs had found and put on Reeboks, then Axton wasn't the first raider to hit the wreck. Ahead of it was another print, this one stretched into a long skid as the shoe-wearing being most definitely stumbled into the cockpit.
Drawing out the pistol (as the shotgun would have been overkill and would definitely cause dangerous ricochets in the enclosed ship) Axton edged towards the open cockpit door.
It was at that point where a cold metal rod was jammed against the back of his skull and someone demanded he put his hands into the air. However, they demanded it in a rather … well... girlish voice. Even for a midget it was a bit girly.
Still, you don't mock girls with guns. Freezing in place, Axton's soldier instincts kicked in and he raised his hands slowly over his head and started to buy himself time. "I didn't think 14-year-old girls were resorting to banditry."
Gaige swore under her breath. First the skaggs attacked the ship, then a bunch of bandits made a run at the place, and THEN a mouthy (and heavily armed) lone bandit called her bluff? The nerve of this planet!
"I'm 18, and if I want to resort to banditry then I damn well will, and it will be FABULOUS." Gaige gave up at trying to disguise her voice. It hadn't worked with the group of bandits who showed up earlier either. Though one of them had taken a single look at her and then belted out 'Tits or GTFO' … before Deathtrap mauled him into tiny misogynistic bits.
And now this guy. Apparently common sense was optional among bandits. Even among the smug and heavily armed variety of - Gaige froze, her thoughts breaking off in an instant. The bandits who had attacked earlier in an attempt to loot the ship as she recovered from the crash weren't half as well armed as this guy. And even with a faux-gun (it was a metal pole she was holding... but unless he had eyes in the back of his head to stare down the 'barrel' he shouldn't be able to know that) pressed to his skull, the man had an unwavering air of confidence.
This wasn't a bandit. This was a Vault Hunter.
"Your mouth is hanging open, darlin'." The career soldier wasn't even looking at her, both his hands were raised and crossed behind his head – more in a position of lounging rather than surrender. She had no clue how could he tell her mouth was hanging open, but she had the sinking feeling the soldier now knew the metal rod she was pretending was a gun was just a metal rod.
Snapping her mouth closed, Gaige thought up a witty retort, but with her mouth closed she only gave a frustrated growl. Unclenching her jaw for her retort, the engineer found herself shoved to the ground as the soldier pivoted on the heel of one boot and plowed right into her, knocking the metal bar from her hand. It had happened so fast she barely even had time to look surprised.
Gaige gasped in surprise and then pain as the air was driven from her lungs in the instant she hit the ground. The metal bar rolled across the floor to the corner of the cockpit, but she was still armed with... well... her arm. Making an iron fist with the intention to hit the crazed Vault-Hunter (and not stop hitting him until he was the human equivalent of a ground beef), she felt the whizz of bullets before she heard them and her eyes widened in alarm. The cockpit was suddenly a battle zone, the sound of gunfire made the small metal ship ring.
"Stay down!" The commando rolled off Gaige, his pistol back in his hand (when did THAT happen?) and shouldered against the thickest part of the hull to take cover. With a fluid motion, the Vault-Hunter leaned through the damaged wall of the cockpit and emptied his pistol as fast as he could before ducking back inside. "Aww look, first day on Pandora, and you made friends." The man was smirking. Of all things – he was enjoying this!
Gaige, dazed on the floor with both arms over her head, gazed up at him and her breath caught a second time. Was this what being a Vault-Hunter was about? Laughing in the face of danger? Grinning like a loon while facing impossible odds? A completely whacked out sense of self-preservation?
"Those are NOT my friends." Gaige pulled herself forward on her belly until she too was crouched against the wall with the soldier.
The man gave a cool gaze out at the crowd, and the extracted a small compressed case from his shoulder. "Well you sure made a lot of these not-friends. What about me? Want to be my friend?" He asked in all seriousness, though there was a teasing twist to his tone. Friendly, but still unbelievably cocky. Then without another word, the man threw the small case out into the open through the ruptured hull.
The clank and clunk and whirl of metal expanding and digistructing caught Gaige's immediate attention. Where before a 5-pound brick had been, there was now a 300-pound turret, firing with twin mini-guns at any target stupid enough to pop out of cover. Again, her mouth fell open as she oggled the machinery.
"I want to be the friend of that fine piece of machinery." Gaige whispered.
"I know, right? Atta, girl!" The man cheered on his own sentry, leveling now a sniper rifle at one of the bandits and turning the foe into a fine red mist. Pausing to reload, the man suddenly turned towards the exit to the cargo hatch and glared. "Welp. We're about to be flanked."
"What?!" Gaige was at least proud she kept her voice from breaking. In the short pause between ratta-tatta-tatta from the sentry and the return fire from the bandits, she suddenly heard what the man had... someone was shoving noisily through the ruined rubble in the cargo hold. This was also how she had heard the Vault-Hunter approaching as piece of wooden box and ruined cargo crunched underfoot. "Oh. … shit."
The Vault-Hunter grimaced and popped up over the half-destroyed hull to shoot a rushing attacker in the knee, causing the rushing bandit to stumble and become a target for the sentry.
Apparently he noticed yet more bad news, because a scowl spread further across his face and he murmured. "Ah, not now, darlin'."
The sentry was smoking slightly. And it seemed to Gaige that all it's bullets were pulling slightly to the left.
"Here, take this." The Vault-Hunter thrust the sniper rifle at Gaige, pulling at the shotgun at his back. "You know how to use this, right?"
"N-no!" Gaige fumbled the gun and the soldier lunged to catch it before it could fall to the ground "Well, sort of. I mean... bullets go in the other people, basic principle, right?"
The man paused, giving her a critical look. "You came to Pandora with a massive bounty on your head... and you don't know how to shoot?"
"It never came up when fleeing for my life!" Gaige's mind was racing. "And you know who I am?!"
The scowl left the soldier's face slightly, replaced by a look of amusement briefly as he flipped off the safety on the shotgun. "Yeah. You're the girl on the bounty poster next to mine. At least they got your good side too."
While bullets were flying, bandits were attempting to flank them, his sentry having some sort of meltdown, the soldier still had noticed Gaige's bounty poster that had been pasted to the walls of the cargo vessel. And now that she thought about it... she did remember him! Axton, the AWOL soldier.
Of course... the bounty poster didn't mention his sentry. Or the amount of ego the man was packing. Seriously, it was almost worth an ordinance for his ego alone.
Axton checked the shotgun, stood briefly from his cover (and was nearly hit by a dozen different bullets) and fired straight back into the cargo area. There was a howl of pain... but it didn't seem to even phase who-or-whatever was coming in at them from behind. "Badass." As if that was all the explanation in the world that she-
And then the Badass entered the cramped cargo ship's cockpit. … ok, so it WAS pretty much self-explanatory. The bandit was almost twice as large as the others, his gun was twice as horrifying, and he seemed twice as homicidal. Against such a foe, the teenage engineer could only do one thing.
Gaige flipped him off.
Correction: She flipped him off with her metal arm, activating the digistruct feature. Seconds later, Deathtrap actually loomed over the already oversized bandit. The stare down lasted all of three seconds before the Badass sighed out 'oh fuck not again'. After that, Deathtrap was proving he could live up to his namesake.
Axton was staring at the robot with awe, surprise and something new respect for Gaige. "That was pretty badass there. I'm Axton, and I'm thinking I'm going to have to be your friend now too."
Flush with pleasure at the compliment, Gaige waved her constructed arm as if to fend off the praise. "Pfff, it was nothing. You should see what he can do when he's not running at half power."
The answer of bullets to Deathtrap's appearance reminded them both that this was an active battlefield. The bandits apparently had issue with their continued survival.
"Welcome to Pandora. Take this gun as a … planet-warming gift, or … whatever." This time Axton offered Gaige the impressive shotgun he had finished reloading. Some part of her common sense finally gave itself voice.
"I don't even think felons are allowed to own guns?! Isn't everyone here a felon?" Gaige shrank back as bullets sprayed around her into the wall, eyes distrustfully on the awfully big shotgun Axton was trying to give her.
"Aren't you, too?" Axton asked, strangely calm, and he gave her a knowing look. Gaige scowled. "Look, if you are worried about someone complaining about you having a gun – two things. First, I deputize you in the name of the Dahl Armed Forced division, now take this gun, soldier!"
Gaige stiffened in alarm as a massive shotgun was thrust into her arms. "And the other thing?"
"I won't tell anyone if you don't?" The soldier grinned, leaning out just enough from his hiding place to splatter a bandit over the ground with his rifle.
The smell of gunsmoke was everywhere, even overwhelming the previous stink of the crashed ship. But the battle was finally over.
Gaige hurt everywhere. The shotgun made her arms ache with the weight and the recoil alone had bruised her palms. Several times the butt of the gun had recoiled back and jammed into her stomach. Gaige didn't have the strength to do more than shoot from the hip (or as Axton called it 'Pray and Spray'), but even then her accuracy didn't seem any better than it had when she had been properly holding the gun. Nearly two dozen bandits had decided to make a raid on the ruined cargo ship. Now there were just two Vault-Hunters left standing.
"Was that the welcome wagon to this shit-hole?" Gaige groaned, slumping against the now thoroughly ruined spaceship.
Axton was nursing a swollen, black eye and a split lip from when a second Badass had attempted to rush them. The man had fended the oversized psycho off with a handaxe, of all things, but for his heroic efforts he was nearly killed. "Yep."
The commando was seated on the ruin of his sentry, the loyal machine having gone down and been field repaired at least three times before the bandits finally were killed or fled. It seemed to Gaige that the sentry was a strange mix of digistruct tech, and actual physically-in-the-metal tech. She had seen the man run out onto the field, basically weld a second barrel onto the sentry in the middle of the fight, and then declared the machine 'stronger, better, faster, and a whole hell of a lot sexier'.
Gaige really couldn't disagree with him on that. The sentry was pretty sexy (speaking entirely as an engineer's POV that is). Deathtrap had run short on power twice, and twice the bandits had moved to overwhelm her before she could re-summon her robot. During both of those times, a sentry hard case had flown over the bandit's head, exploded outwards into the newly-repaired sentry, and proceeded to lay waste. Each time, Axton would rush in, shove a new weapon in her hands, clip a new shield onto her belt or toss (carefully!) a handful of grenades her way.
Someone you just met wasn't supposed to risk their life for you on Pandora. But Axton had. Whether it was due to respect for her engineering skills, or the man had a soft side for 'noobs', Gaige wasn't sure exactly. But she did have a way to find out.
"Hey. Thanks, bro." Gaige shuffled to stand in front of Axton... until her knees gave out and she slumped to sit next to him, her back resting against the destroyed sentry.
Axton's normal amused smirk curled into a more sincere smile... just once. He folded both his arms behind his head and closed his eyes, leaning heavily against the sentry's ruins. "Ro-bros gotta watch out for each other."
Now it was Gaige's turn to smile. For a veteran soldier and a Vault Hunter, Axton was surprisingly easy for her to understand. "I have gotta ask. How many vaults have you found so far?"
At this, Axton actually fumbled, nearly sliding off his backrest. "Ah... well... none."
"Hey, if they were easy to find, every lunatic with a shovel would be a vault hunter and Handsome Jack would have dug up all the loot!"
Gaige grudgingly admit that was probably true. "What about the other Vault-Hunters? Have they found any?"
"Well, Salvador found what he thought was a vault... ends up it was just a midget hiding in a chest." Pausing, Axton glanced down at her. "And another chest that was full of bullets. And another chest that had two rocket launchers... ok, Salvador might have some low standards, but it was a pretty sweet rocket launcher."
The posters that had been pasted to the wall of the cargo vessel had mentioned a 'Salvador',... as well as his numerous and varied crimes.
Gaige looked horrified. "Is it true that he has cannibalism on the list?"
Axton shrugged, looking just as horrified. "Dunno... just … don't die around him to be safe. Or if he looks at you kinda funny, try to look less delicious. And hide behind Maya. No one would try to eat a Siren... well... not that way." There was a dreamy half-leer on Axton's face.
It took Gaige a few seconds to realize Axton expected her to join up with them. "Wait, you want me to join up with you guys?"
Breaking out of his gutter-thoughts, Axton sat a bit straighter. "Got anything else you are looking to do, Pumpkin?"
'Pumpkin' was what her dad called her. She couldn't start over on Pandora with one of the hardest to kill Vault-Hunters on the planet calling her 'Pumpkin'! "Don't call me that! I'm... I'm a Mechromancer!" Gaige improvised on the fly. "And I'm here to break all Jack's robots, get all the treasure, and make sweet mechromancer love to your sentry."
Axton burst into wild laughter, tipping sideways and sliding off his sentry. "I dunno, she's an awfully classy lady."
"The classiest." Gaige agreed, sadly looking over the wreckage.
Standing up and brushing the dust (and gore) off his pants, Axton seized a large piece of his turrets rubble and hefted it up to his shoulder. "I've rebuilt her before. I'll rebuild her again. I've been having this dream: twins turrets. Good idea or best idea?"
The stupid smile on Gaige's face hadn't fallen off since she put it on. It was as if Axton could read her mind. "Hawt." Gaige agreed.
Helping drag the miscellaneous pieces of the turret to Axton's vehicle, Gaige found there was a perfect cockpit for a gunner on the Runner. She happily took control of the vehicle's machine gun, firing into the air a few times to get the feel of the weapon (and because it's a big fucking gun with unlimited bullets... it seemed a waste to NOT be firing it).
"Where to?" Gaige roared over the gun fire as she attempted to shoot down some sort of... bat creature. Best not to ask what they were.
"Train station. We have a meeting with Handsome Jack. And we could use some big robots to say hello to Hyperion." Axton wheeled the car through the barrens, leaving behind the ruined cargo ship that Gaige had managed not to crash and kill herself in. The commando paused as he realized something. "You didn't officially agree to come with. Please tell me I'm not kidnapping you here, jailbait."
Jailbait?! "I'm 18!" Gaige insisted. "I'm 18, I have a massive badass robot, and I'm coming with to make Handsome Jack sorry he ever put his handsome bounty on me! Besides, I think I'm getting better at this shooting things."
Gaige was shooting into a cliff face, scoring a long line across the rock as they drove.
"What are you aiming at?" Axton asked warily, scanning the walls for bullymong.
"Aiming?" Gaige blinked. "I'm not aiming, I'm just shooting! And I'm getting better at shooting. I didn't say anything about aiming."
She wasn't sure if Axton was about to facepalm or frown. Instead, the commando gave a snort of amusement, shook his head, and continued to drive with a half twist smile on his face. "I think you and I are going to get along juuust fine."
For the first time since she had fled home, Gaige felt that everything was going to be ok. Well, except for their upcoming meeting with that sociopath Hyperion executive. And the fact that Pandora was still a shit-hole that ate sanity like a fat kid chowed down chips. And also the fact that something with four arms was chasing them gorilla-style along the walls of the canyon-
"What the hell is THAT?!" Gaige wheeled the mounted gun around to point at the thing chasing them.
"Ah. That would be a bullymong. Might want to shoot that." Axton peered behind them.
"What is WRONG with this planet?" Gaige asked rhetorically, firing blindly at the monstrous bullymong.
"I ask myself that question every day, jailbait."