This exceeding long chapter is again dedicated to my Co-op partner, Pantherdragon... And to the best goddamn Salvador I have ever played with. Wotan, you make Team Ro-bros cry with joy when you join our group. I'll rescue your ass from the line of fire any day!
5/11/14 (also, Happy Mother's day!)
When the need for coin (or eridium) arose the Vault Hunters pick at the mission boards... or just chat up people of Sanctuary. Some jobs were hit and some were miss. The more difficult missions paid well and the easier ones paid crap – same as always. The only reason the crap-pay missions got done at all is because they were easy. Salvador could complete one alone, blindfolded, if you just pointed him in the general direction of the people who needed killing. Plus, one easy mission tended to pay for a whole night of drinking. The problem arose when any amount of money larger than drinking coin was needed.
Eventually, the jobs would all get done, even the terrible, insanity-inducing, hard ones.
Usually they were done with a lot of bitching and moaning along the way though.
Perched on the lip of a high hill that ended suddenly in a steep ravine, Maya frowned, lowering the binoculars. "How are we going to get in there?"
Axton didn't have to have eyes in the back of his head to know she was looking to him for answers. With his own pair of binoculars still raised he made a vague noise, surveying the facility Hyperion workers and bots were visible in the beyond the towering wall that surrounded the building – still mindlessly doing their jobs, despite the fact Gaige and Krieg were down there assaulting the outside of their building. In fact, they didn't even seem phased in the slightest! When Krieg had shown up, all they had done was shut the doors quite calmly (and lock the systems out). And if the doors weren't open yet with Gaige down there trying to hack the system, that meant-
"Fuckin' shittin' shitballs!" Gaige swore over the ECHO, her voice frustrated.
"I'm assuming that means negatory on hacking our way in?"
"The most negging-of-tories. The system locked out once Krieg showed up." Gaige agreed. Axton watched as she made a hasty retreat from her covered position where she had been trying to hack the door open, summoning Deathtrap to cover her retreat.
"Zer0, now." Axton simply said.
Pop~ POPOPOP! Zer0, who had been itching to start exploding heads, finally released a barrage of critical shots, finally causing the Hyperion goons to pay attention that they were being assaulted... as their heads started to explode.
The attack didn't last long however. Moments later The Shield went up. Every shot after that simply bounced off the courtyard as a almost invisible wall was erected.
"See, like I said. Unpenatrable shield." Mordicai's voice came from the ECHO as well. "It's like a small scale version of Sanctuary's shield. Only... you know... not held together with spit, duct tape, and half-charged power cells."
"This job is terrible." Maya frowned, glaring at the shield.
"If it were easy, the pay would be shit... or I would have done it myself." Mordicai replied.
Axton was already doing the math. Time taken from Zer0's assault to shield going up... four seconds. Time taken from Krieg appearing to Gaige losing her connection with their terminal... instantaneous. Time taken for Krieg to start foaming at the mouth – he pretty much CAME always foaming at the mouth.
"What if Zer0 goes and sneaks in, then goes on a murder spree inside?" Salvador, flat on his stomach over the embankment was glaring down at the fortification.
It was an idea, but Axton had doubts on this plan of attack. "That would be fine for him, but then how do we get in? Got any clue how to hack, Zer0?"
The assassin lifted his digi-katana. "I can hack, you know / mostly the heads of my foes / doors don't have weak points."
Arriving breathless from her retreat of the fortress, Gaige jumped over the embankment, sliding down into the ravine with them. Krieg threw himself headfirst down the slope as well, tumbling seemingly unhurt to the bottom. "Well. Not doing that again." The mechromancer gasped. "They seem... pretty... un-assault-able. Why are we doing this mission? What's the pay anyway?"
Mordecai replied via ECHO, "I think Lil' said the price for this job was set at 'enough money to give Marcus a boner'..."
There was silence.
"I didn't need that thought in my head, Mordecai." Maya wrinkled her nose.
"Yup, realized it two seconds after I said it too. Excuse me, I'm going to go drink myself into unconsciousness at Moxxie's." The sniper dropped his ECHO communicator with a clatter and the Vault Hunters could hear him shuffling off muttering about how he was going to need eye-bleach now.
No sooner than the two Vault-Hunters were out of sight of the fortress than work has resumed out there. Robots appeared again, carrying loads of eridum and materials, engineers began overseeing the work, and a small patrol of sky-drones began circling the compound. The only thing that got in there, was the eridum, and robots.
An idea struck Axton. Maybe not a brilliant idea... but hell... any port in a storm.
"Hey Gaige, what exactly was in that scrap yard you were rooting around in down there?" Axton asked.
"Besides scrap? Well, it had that terminal hub that cut me off the moment they detected danger, they had some cast off piles of 'you-really-don't-want-to-know', a whole assembly line of half crushed Cl4p-tp units, and some newly dead engineers who apparently didn't have their ticket to the poop train... You can thank Krieg for that."
"I AM A LOCOMOTION OF PAIN!"
Maya reached over and pat Krieg on the shoulder before he could work himself into another foaming-at-the-mouth-frenzy. The siren was still looking at Axton with curiosity. "Ok, you've got an idea. You just started grinning like a lunatic."
"Maybe." Axton reached up and rubbed at his jaw, confirming he was indeed grinning like a loon (and also in need of a shave). "Depends. What size of robot do you wear?"
Blinking in confusion, Maya raised one eyebrow and frowned. "Uhh... wear?"
"Yep. Because today, we're all going to be hyperion robots."
The Siren looked doubtful. "Couldn't we all be engineers?"
Axton rubbed at his jaw again. "We could... but robots outnumber the engineers 10 to 1... and Krieg only killed... how many did you kill, Krieg?"
"ALL." The psycho said emphatically.
"Two." Gaige reported.
Axton nodded at this info. "He only killed two. So only two of us can wear hyperion engineer clothing. The rest of us will have to get in somehow – hence, robots."
"Right. So Gaige and myself will go as engineers... I think we can bluff our way through. The rest of you guys, you're gonna be our robot minions."
Zer0 gave an emote of u_u; "You have said "Minion" / Somewhere, Claptrap is crying / … at that I feel no remorse." With that, the assassin vaulted the embankment and entered stealth-mode as he approached the scrap yard. Axton hissed his name, but the (man? Alien? … bro-bot?) made for the scrapyard without a sound. Apparently the assassin intended to gather his own materials for a disguise.
"I'm going too. It gets boring without things to shoot." Salvador went to follow, making a great jump and scrambling up the embankment as well. He didn't even TRY to be stealthy. The dwarf just jammed both hands into his pockets and swagged after the ninja. … At least if anyone was watching, they'd probably pay attention to the dwarf wearing orange rather than the slightly blurry spot sneaking through the scrap yard.
Gaige sidled over to Axton, looking up at him brightly. "So the plan, brah? Axton and Gaige – as Hyperion lackies, are going to be bringing damaged robots in to repair then, right?"
"Right in one, jailbait." The grin he gave her almost made her blush.
Instead, she kicked at him and her booted foot caught him in the shinguard. "I'm 18!" She insisted to deaf ears. Everyone had nicknames they just couldn't shake, and hers was unfortunately 'jailbait'.
The scrap yard had been empty of any enemies or active robots by the time the rest of the Vault Hunters managed to sneak down to it. The main body of the facility didn't seem to notice anyone was there, which always was a good thing. However the dump was a little too quiet for Axton's taste.
"Zer0? Sal? If we're walking into a trap, just... y'know... swear madly or something." Axton tried not to disturb any of the piles of scrap as he squeezed by, looking for the two men that should have been patroling the-
–... nevermind... found 'em.
"SALVADOR?! THE FUCK!?" Axton shouted. Maya and Gaige lifted their heads, but Gaige found herself suddenly grabbed in a headlock and bodily turned away from the dwarf in question.
"Ah! 'ey! What are you doin', brah!" Gaige flailed, trying unsuccessfully to slap Axton away.
Maya was flushed a brilliant crimson, clashing badly with her siren markings. "Oh my." She murmured, raising both hands to cover her eyes.
"What? What's going on? Omg, what am I missing?" Suddenly becoming frantic, Gaige flailed all the more.
Zer0 trudged up to Axton, his helmet resting in his hands, in shame. "I tried to stop him / Salvador liked his idea / more than he liked mine." The assassin tried to explain.
It really explained nothing. "The fuck was his idea that he thought being naked was a good one?!" Axton burst out, bordering on just plain throwing his hands in the air and saying 'fuck it all!'.
Gaige went rigid. "... now I've REALLY got to see this! Come on, brah, let me go! I'm 18, I'm not a kid here!"
Krieg slumped slightly, actually kneading at a scar along his temple with one finger. "Uhg, this was not worth fighting to wake up to. You can have control back, Krieg." He said this in a strangely calm voice. Seconds later he looked up again as if he had forgotten what what going on, spotted Salvador a second time, and then screamed bloody murder, reaching up to claw at his eyes shouting "DO NOT WANT."
Krieg was like that sometimes.
Salvador was also like that at times too. And this was one of those times.
"Your idea was stupid. Putting on robot parts... eugh, who knows where they've been." The dwarf huffed.
"On ROBOTS." Axton argued. "Ok, so you didn't like my plan... but at what point did 'lets take off our pants' sound better than 'lets wear pants and NOT traumatize people."
"C'mon! I wanna see!" Gaige was still flailing in her headlock.
Salvador shrugged. "After picking up robot parts, oil got everywhere. And then slag. And then midget robots starting coming out of the garbage because-," The gunzerker was there completely nude, covered in splotches of motor oil, slag, and telling a strange story that almost couldn't be true (except Zer0 was nodding at certain parts and seemed to be wincing). He had enough chest hair to knit into a sweater for a midget... but that really only made the lack of pants worse.
Axton held up one hand. "Wait. Stop. Ok. We're not arguing NOW, while you have no pants. Just... just find some pants and we'll do this plan differently in a way involving pants for everyone. That way our siren doesn't die of embarrassment." Maya was an interesting shade of red, even her fingers even seemed to be blushing.
"Well, I would put them back on," Salvador started to speak, and Axton suddenly developed a murderous headache, "But after all of that happened... they kinda sorta... caught fire."
Zer0 was nodding still. Truth.
Maya was still blushing. She couldn't hold a SMG like this. Hell, she couldn't even stop blushing.
Gaige was still thrashing and flopping around in Axton's half nelson hold, attempting to get a look at the dwarf and ogle him shamelessly. As per normal.
Krieg was clawing at his mask.
And Salvador was just standing there, hands on his hips, chest thrust forward as if in challenge. Lacking even a single stitch of clothing and giving no fucks about it. Axton was SO not going there.
There was a dull throb of an approaching headache behind his eyes, but Axton grit his teeth through the frustration. "Zer0... in my pack there is a spare pair of pants. Can you-,"
"Brah, why do you have a spare pair of pants with you at all times?" Gaige stopped her helpless failing at flailing.
Axton scowled. "Because THIS IS PANDORA."
"Sparta." Gaige was grinning now.
"You are grounded." Axton said, in a complete monotone, still carefully keeping the over-hormonal teenage girl facing away from Salvador. "Zer0, can you give those pants to Salvador. Sal, you are going to wear them, or so help me you will find turrets everywhere you go from now on. Every chest you open: turrets. Every toilet you flip up: turrets!"
The gunzerker didn't bat an eye.
"And some of those turrets will actually be Claptrap." Axton amended.
Suddenly Salvador snatched the pants from Zer0 and began to step hastily into them. "Fine, fine, you don't have to be all creepy about it. But they aren't going to... to..." Leading off in amazement, Salvador stared at the pants in surprise.
"Hey-ay! These fit PERFECTLY!"
Indeed, once the dwarf was in Axton's pants (… now there was a phrase Axton was NEVER going to be able to get out of his head), the clothing was almost a perfect fit everywhere... except of course material of the legs pretty much pooled around the ground and his feet vanished in the fabric.
… Sad thing? … the dwarf looked better in those pants than Axton felt he did.
However, the disaster was averted. Axton released Gaige, who shoved away from him to see if there was any sort of view worth seeing now that Salvador had put on pants. Krieg stopped clawing at his own face and stood passively next to Maya (almost hiding behind her, really). Maya dared to uncover her eyes, but her face was still blushing so brightly it was as if her new siren color was now pink.
"Sal... I'd say 'Keep it in your pants' next time... but I don't even know where your pants went to do that with." Maya struggled to regain her composure, and settled for trying to sarcasm her self back to normal.
Salvador only grunted, busy rolling up his new pants so he wouldn't trip over the too-long legs. Nevermind the fact the gunzerker was also lacking shoes and his shirt, but he still had managed to keep all his weapons (now that was strange and kind of impressive).
"I'm never getting those pants back, am I?" Axton murmured to Zer0.
The assassin silently shook his head.
And with that Gaige walloped Axton upside the head. "I wanted to see too, brah!"
"You can see back in town." The dwarf leered.
Axton again grabbed Gaige, maneuvering her behind him. "Sal... so help me... TURRETS FOERVER." The menacing glower was bordering on the insanity line. And just like that, Salvador found he was busy rolling up his pants legs again. So busy, oh my lookit the time.
"I'm 18!" Was Gaige's protest, but as per normal Axton seemed not to hear.
Disaster narrowly averted, this time Axton's plan was slightly modified as per Salvador's protests. Gaige and Axton both wearing engineer armor would lead four broken 'robots' straight into the facility, by-passing the entire security network. With armored pieces of Hyperion robot built around him, Zer0 made a strangely graceful robot. Krieg, however, could not fit into a regular hyperion robot, and Gaige took great delight in constructing a Badass Loader around the psycho before she made a convincing robotic shell for the Siren.
Again, though, the problem was Salvador's costume... they shoved him into one of those ruined Cl4-tp shells... "This... is the worst idea you have ever had, pendejo." The surliest little claptrap unit ever shuffled after the group, plotting murderously what he was going to do when this mission was over.
Axton preemptively shot any revenge in the butt, "I'll owe you a couple of bottles of tequila if you can keep from blowing this plan before we get inside. Once inside... hey, whatever works, bro." The promise of booze and violence could make instant friends on Pandora.
Gaige was frowning down at her Hyperion armor when Axton stopped in front of her. "We... have a problem." He said seriously. That was always a bad sign. The soldier said everything with a tease or a taunt, serious was reserved for when someone had launched a barrage of rockets at you.
"Oh god, what now? Krieg lost his pants?" Gaige whipped around to look at the bad-ass loader bot that was currently Krieg. The Krieg-bot was clearly trying to figure out if he had working rockets... either that or he was simply silent for the moment, for a first.
"Thank god for small favors." Axton shuddered, shaking his head, "No, its the ID badges. We'll need them to get in."
"Sweet, wait, why is that a bad thing? They'll get us in, especially since these Hyperion suits were clearly not made to fit a lady of my proportions. I look retarded." Gaige made an hourglass shape with her hands... which went at odds with the completely flat and curve-less surface of the Hyperion armor. She had been forced to widen the chest armor to the last strap slot, widen the hip straps, and then take in the waist straps to the smallest sizing. This caused the armor to hang off her in an uncomfortable and entirely unconvincing manner.
"They might get us in... only if the guards are particularly stupid. Look." Axton plucked at the badge on Gaige's hip and held it up on its tether to show her the plastic card closely. It showed a gawky, acne covered ginger haired man with an impressive beard.
Would have been a close match... except for the fact the man had been the wrong gender.
… "God dammit... I have to somehow pass as that man? What's your dead-guy look like?" Gaige fumbled for the card at Axton's hip, jerking it against the elastic tether and frowning when she saw a picture of a man that might pass as Axton if the viewer was near sighted... and drunk... and of sub-intelligence for starters.
"Unless you can grow a beard in the next five minutes, and figure out how to hide your," Axton actually fumbled for words, "-your tits, we might have an issue here."
"What?" Axton paused in his scowling. "A plan?"
"Tits." Gaige giggled, amused.
"Great. Forgot I was trying to work with jailbat."
Axton's complete lack of his normal teasing or cocky grin set Gaige's mighty 18-year-old ego in a rage, Gaige seemed to inflate with pride and fury at Axton's disapproval. "Give me this!" She snatched her own ID card from the soldier whirled to face one of the terminals in the scrapyard. Swiping the card through a slot, she was given access to the ID holder's data... and proceeded to scrub it bare and rebuild it from scratch. Within a minute, she had modified the card to report that the engineer was now a woman, and had updated the picture with one of her own.
She left the beard on her photo though...
"The beard is a bit much." Axton was looming over her shoulder as he watched, arms crossed but an amused smirk on his face.
Axton raised one eyebrow at her, silent.
Gaige pouted as she removed the facial hair from her ID card, and saved the data. "Fine. Just give me your card, I'll update your profile to match."
"No problem parole-officer-Axton."
The soldier gave her a crooked smile. "Nice nickname. Still not as catchy as jailbait though."
Gaige's response was a few keystrokes before she tossed his ID badge back to him. "Yeah well, they can't all be winners," she said with a wide and smug grin. "C'mon. Lets go infiltrate us some Hyperion bases, before Krieg figures out I didn't disengage the payload for that bad-ass loader he's in."
"Wait... what?" Axton cast an alarmed look back at Krieg as Gaige towed him towards the fortress.
This was the most over-thought, over-planned, bull-shit of a plan Gaige had ever seen put into action. But the alternative was throwing themselves against an unbreakable barrier until Handsome Jack laughed himself into an early grave... so she was with this bull-shit plan.
Even if the plan mean impersonating one of the capitalist pigs that Hyperion had maintaining their robots.
Gaige spotted Axton look over his shoulder no fewer than three times during the winding walk from the scrapyard to the front gate. The first time, she figured he was looking everyone over, making sure that no one was out of uniform (and Salvador had pants and costume still on... jesus, Gaige couldn't believe Axton had made her miss that!). The second time, she figured he was doing a double check (as if Salvador had stripped off his clothing within that instant and declared he was now a nudist).
The third time she realized it was her he was checking on. Robots – even false robots-in-disguise – didn't have to do anything to be let in. But humans had to pass through the checkpoint and have their credentials scanned. False ID's had always been Gaige's specialty back before Pandora, and she had let the skill grow rusty here. Not a lot of need for fake IDs in bandit-ville. She was positive they'd get past the door guards if her ID's were put to the question.
After the third time Axton looked back at her, Gaige gave him a thumbs up and a cheesy grin. It didn't seem to settle the soldier, but he did manage a weak smile in return.
The guards gave Axton a wary glance as he approached the door, briefly looked over each of the robots without much attention and their eyes locked onto Gaige. Oh shit. So much for letting Axton do all the talking. Time for an amazing example of cunning!
"What? Is it the tits? A girl can have tits AND be an engineer, you know." She asked, turning sideways to profile off how the armor failed to hide her bust entirely.
"Wh-what?" One of the guards, clutching his weapon, seemed more confused by this than alarmed.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the little Cl4p-tp shell suddenly break into a coughing fit... and Axton facepalmed violently.
"Are you saying girls can't be engineers? Do I have to sufferage your ass?" Gaige gave the guards a scowl that promised a huge pissy-fit if they answered that question wrong.
"N-no! E-equal opportunity... whatever... job. Yeah! Um," The guard fumbled for a few moments flustered.
The other guard snorted out, "ID... um... sir?"
"Ma'am! Or I guess sir. Or whatever!" Gaige was going to beat this dead horse of a plan until it either got them into the building, or blew up in their faces. And seeing as how Axton had yet to pull his face out of his hands, she had a feeling it was going to be the latter that happened first.
Pulling the ID card through a data reader, the guard peered at the screen. Gaige allowed herself a short moment of egotistical pride. Now instead of showing the Hyperion goon's photo, it showed one of her own and the guards seemed none the wiser.
Passing inspection, the senior guard nodded Gaige inside, holding out his hand for Axton's card. After swiping it though, he got a strange expression on his face. The man looked at Axton, then clearly down at his chest. Then over at Gaige and oggled her chest as well.
"Is there a problem?" Axton wasn't sure if he was frustrated by the strangeness or nervous.
"Ah... no... ma'am. You two can pass." The guard tried not to make eye contact with Axton as he handed back the card.
It was then he noticed the card that was now clearly marked as 'female' for gender.
Even as bewildered as he was, Axton held up a convincing strut of confidence as he walked through the gate. It wasn't until they were about ten paces in that he heard one of the guards mutter, "God-awful ugliest woman there. Even for Pandora. Didn't even have any boobs on her."
"I think she had a 5 o'clock shadow... that's … uhg. Not enough booze on this planet for that."
Twenty paces in and after the gates had closed behind them, Axton slowed his pace to match Gaige's own. The mechromancer grinned. "Don't listen to them. You make a lovely woman, Axtina. Just shave that hairlip."
"Jailbait... I will end you." He said in an even tone that promised revenge.
"Ah, that time of the month? Don't worry, we'll get some chocolate, and a heating pad, and –,"
At that point, the Cl4pt-tp started laughing again.
"Ok, disguises are overrated at this point, we're in." A sphere of blue energy pulsed around the Maya-bot and suddenly pieces fell away revealing a rather cramped looking siren.
Zer0 somehow escaped his robot shell leaving the armor completely intact. Salvador shucked off the Cl4p-tp shell over his head like a large shirt and once free proceeded in his normal swagging walk to the head of the group. Krieg, however...
"STUCK." The psycho stumbled a few times as he tried to disengage the release mechanism Gaige had built on.
"What? Just pull that little lever in there, bro, it'll open." Gaige tapped on the right limb of the robot, over the spot where she had built the switch.
"STUCK!" Krieg said again. "ITS STICKY IN HERE."
Axton watched as Zer0 followed the way Salvador went and frowned. "This really isn't the place to be freeing him from the loader. We're still in sight of the gate. If anyone comes through," and this would have been the perfect moment for fate to flip him off and an entire platoon to enter the doors... but they stayed closed, "they are going to see a bunch of vault hunters manhandling a bad-ass loader."
Pausing to look back at the closed gate, Maya agreed. "Just wear it a little longer, Krieg. You make a very terrifying loader," she said placating.
"He also makes a terrifying psycho, terrifying Bunkers & Badass player, and terrifying cook." Gaige chirped, loading her shotgun.
"SALT THE WOUND."
"You always put too much salt in things. It's disgusting." Gaige bantered back. Axton had no clue how the girl managed. Krieg was a towering terror of muscle with no volume control. Yet the giant seemed to turn into a puppy for the women. If Axton asked him to do something, there would be screaming, menacing looks, and that buzzsaw would make an appearance. Should Maya or Gaige or even Tiny Tina or Lillith ask... well there was still screaming (Krieg was stuck on one volume) but he would usually do as they asked.
"Hold on." Axton paused before they left the corridor, pulling out one of the two turret cases and hefting it into the air with a grunt. There was a metallic snk as the magnetic anchors stuck to juncture where wall and ceiling met and the turret unfolded and erected the whirling energy shield as it began it's protection subroutine. Throwing the second case, it landed directly above the door, giving it a straight down view of anyone who would enter the building. Stuck to the ceiling, most people would not see it out of the way up there... not until the rockets started flying that was.
"Dears, watch the exit for us." Axton blew the turrets a kiss.
"Classy ladies." Gaige whistled, admiring the turrets as she always did.
Moving quickly to catch up to where the vanguard of the group had vanished, the Vault Hunters made their normal checks: weapons – check. Loaded – check. Grenades – check. Deathtrap – double check. Sense of preservation – not at all: as it should be. They had just reached the door when gunfire broke out.
Or maybe it was more accurate to say the room came down with a case of the Salvador. The dwarf stood in the center of the room, only wearing Axton's pants as bullets and rockets went EVERYWHERE. Zer0 had managed to get himself up on the conveyor system in the lab and was gleefully sniping from his moving perch. Grenades flew, some of them sticking in the mechanisms of the assembly line, but most turning the battlefield into a whirling haze of destruction.
"I guess getting everyone in here might have been a little unnecessary." Maya admitted, watching as Salvador mopped up the remainder of the defenders. "I guess Mordecai rated this job a little too high."
It was then that a Super Badass Loader was dispensed from the assembly line.
"And fate decides it hates you today, darlin'." Axton sighed as he rolled behind cover.
"THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!" Krieg charged at the other Loader, still trapped in his robot shell disguise, and for the span of a few minutes what can only be described as a 'robot slap fight' took place in the building.
"Fate hates shirts today too, it seems." Gaige was peeking out behind a nearby crate, watching as the psycho finally freed himself from the armor and proceeded to go on his normal shirtless rampage.
The only positive side of the brutal battle that followed was at least there were no reinforcements. Axton's turrets saw to that. Though there was the repeated scream of "What spawn-camping sunnvabitch puts those here!" every once in a while from the hall. Otherwise, the fight... well it didn't exactly go well. For every chip of durability the Vault Hunters scraped from the titan, the machine seemed to take twice that many out of them. Maya had all but given up on damaging the thing and was instead just trying to keep everyone alive.
A small warning alarm went off at Axton's belt... the twins had lost power. Crouching low, Axton attempted to run back to the doorway to retrieve the girls and power them back up. He had managed the dash there just fine, but the moment he turned around the Commando found himself looking straight on at four rockets... almost ten feet away.
And then they came to give him a hug, and he didn't remember a whole lot after that.
"On your feet!" Lights whirled, sound was muted and fuzzy, but his brain was busy praising the Siren that he was still alive at all. Dazed and bleeding, Axton grasped at Maya's wrist and she hauled him up, the numbing sensation of a massive eridium powered healing causing him to shiver.
"Thanks." The commando muttered, his palm bloody as he removed it from his shoulder. "I owe you one. Or ...several. Probably many at this point." Blood no longer gushed from his arm, but the slash through his armor and clothing was still bad enough that his sleeve was entirely red and sticky within moments. At least the siren's healing talent had numbed the pain away. His other injuries from taking four rockets head-on seemed to be a collection of scratches, burns and maybe a few cracked bones. Axton briefly reveled in his continued existence as 'the luckiest bastard on the planet'.
Glowing like the Vegas strip, Maya jerked her attention back to the fight. "Oh, that's... that's bad."
Axton didn't have to peek around their barricade of machinery where he was slumped to know what was bad. He had heard it. Deathtrap had lost power and the unique sounds of the machine's core powering down sent a dread chill through him. And if DT was down... Gaige had just lost her best defense. The girl only seemed to keep on her feet as long as that giant robot was there to soak damage and look more menacing than her.
"Plan B it is then." Gritting his teeth, Axton reached for the belt of grenades he kept strapped to his pack.
Maya paled. Even her eridium stripes dimmed slightly. "Can we at least get the others out of the blast zone?"
"Y'got 10 seconds." Axton began to prime the grenades, wincing as he heard the chatter of the super-hyper-godforsaken-whatever-badass Loader unleashing it's barrage against someone he hoped had taken cover.
Raising one fist, Maya released a signal beam before ducking back down as the Loader turned to look at her. The bright blue beam signaled Axton beginning Plan B. Peripherally, Axton was aware of Zer0 diving for cover, Krieg actually backing down from a battle, and to his great relief he saw Salvidor charge out of combat instead of into it... and a small little mechromancer was tucked under his arm. It spoke legions that the Gunzerker was willing to drop a gun to rescue a team mate. Warm fuzzies filled Axton's stomach.
Wait no... that was acid damage. Plan B it was!
Zer0 was trying to lay down a barrage of critical hits to the joints of the loader to keep it at a distance. It did little damage, but it certainly kept the monstrosity away while Axton twisted a fist full of wires through one of the 'girls' turret casing. Red goes to red, blue goes to blue, white gets spliced to black and green, and the rest of the wires... fuck 'em. Precision wasn't needed for Plan B, just a seriously HUGE explosion!
The Vault Hunters had all taken cover now. Axton rose for a brief heartbeat, fearing the barrage that could drop him in an instant, and heaved his turret at the feet of the Loader.
… he missed by a good 30 feet.
"Pendejo... you throw like a girl!" Salvador looked scandalized.
"Hey! That's an insult to girls! I throw better than that!" Gaige protested.
"No you don't, you throw like a very small girl too." Salvador said without paying her much mind.
"I'm bleeding here, I'm lucky to still have an arm!" Axton protested, clutching at his arm which was still steadily seeping blood.
Even facing death, Salvador was busy looking out for #1. "... if you do lose the arm... can I have it?"
Axton pointedly did not look at Salvador. Spotting your teammate drooling over your arm is a good way to never sleep again. "I don't even want to know why."
"Arms are delicious, brah?" Gaige shrugged.
"Can we argue about this later?! We're about to be killed!" Maya (as 'The Only Sane Person On Pandora') flinched as the ground shook from another barrage.
"Nah, we're good." Axton fished in his vest and pulled out a simple radio transmitter. Old fashioned- yes, cheap - yes, but reliable. Risking one more glance around the barricade, he gave a lopsided grin. "Mr Loader, say hello to my classy lady friend."
The unstoppable juggernaught had continued walking steadily towards them. The thirty feet to the hardcase Axton had thrown had shrunk to twenty... then ten... and finally the robot stood directly over the tiny device. With a single press of a button, the turret began to unfold.
And then exploded.
The shockwave almost shredded their barricade to pieces. The roof was blown off the lab. Ceiling beams fell down crushing most of the remaining lab equipment. And the Loader was launched into the air as a small tactical nuke detonated under it.
Gaige was sobbing with crocodile tears at the 'death' of one of the twins. "So... goddamn classy."
Yet the Loader was still standing. Or rather, pulling itself to its feet again after being tossed around. Armored plates had pealed back in some places, it was scorched, one of it's guns had come loose, and a cloud of what might have been steam or perhaps smoke now puffed from the side. But it was still up, after taking a nuke almost point blank.
"Sunnvabitch!" Maya spat. That was about as strong as her language EVER got. And if the siren was pseudo-swearing, it got bad.
"Plan B has failed us / Let us take it to Plan G / G-T-F-O-now." Zer0's mask was blank of emoticons, which pretty much clearly showed the assassin was beyond joking too. They had done what they had come to do... break everything. The building was a shambles, the Hyperion workers were dead or scattered... so what if they left a giant death machine still running? Gotta know when to call your battles!
"No! We got this!" Gaige holding her shotgun like a shield between herself and Zer0. "We finish this! Like men! Like heroes!"
"YEAH!" Salvador, ever eager to volunteer for any cause that involved lots of fighting and shooting, tossed his lot in with Gaige's plan.
"BEST EVER MEN." Krieg agreed. Never mind the fact that one of these men was indeed a 18 year old girl.
Zer0 hesitated now. He could not back down from a challenge, but he knew enough not to tempt the impossible... and now he was reconsidering. Or perhaps he was trying to think up a good haiku. His answer finally came in the expression of a XD facemask and a single word, "In."
Maya was looking at Axton, as if he were the last sane person on Pandora. "We're doing this? Back in again? Seriously?"
Looking at Gaige, Axton could see the girl wasn't just cocky (though she was), but her eyes burned with the cunning of a well thought out (or sometimes just plain lucky) plan. "You sure on this, jailbait?"
"Put on your man-pants, Papa-bear!" Gaige grinned, thumbing the hammer of the shotgun in anticpation.
"I would... but Sal took 'em." Axton gave his lopsided grin. "Plan?"
Gaige's cocky grin shifted into a slightly apologetic one for a moment. "We shoot it."
Silence. It was as if even the why-the-hell-are-we-fighting-this-thing Loader had stopped it's attack, floored by the 'plan'.
"No no, hear me out. That steam from the Loader? It's power cells have been breached and they are venting super heated air. That's a HUGE weak point! The kind of weak point that deals massive fuck'n damage. And the armor is buckling at the knees, so it can't turn around easily. We get behind it, and then run around it in circles shooting it in the back!" If there was one thing Gaige knew it was robotics, and if she said the power core was now it's weak spot they believed her.
Zer0 risked poking his head over the top of the barricade to confirm this. "There is truth in this / Assassins do it from behind / … Innuendo... yeah." The lithe man/robot/alien reached forward to tip the mechromancer's forehead up so he could press his mask against it in what might have been a kiss.
"Shameless flirt." Gaige grinned.
3 – was Zer0's response.
"Engaging." The assassin whispered, springing from cover. Zer0 activated his cloak and danced around the Loader's stomping feet to flank the machine. Forgoing his normal sniper rifle for something more annoying, the assassin did the best he could to draw the giant lumbering machine's attention so it would turn it's back on the others.
However the machine refused to turn. Five of the six intended targets the Loader had locked on to were on the other side of the nearly crumbled barricade. One lone target behind the Loader didn't generate enough threat to cause it to ignore the group of Vault Hunters hunched under cover together.
Zer0 switched back to his favored sniper rifle, trying a few critical shots in the joints and in the exposed battery. The Loader gave a mechanical groan, but failed to turn around again. Instead a set of four barrage rockets were launched up and over behind the machine to target the assassin. Nimble dodging barely managed to save Zer0's lean ass from being spattered over the ground.
"Try being MORE annoying! Like... Claptrap! Be like Claptrap!" Gaige called, ducking as more of the barricade crumbled.
Hesitating for a moment, Zer0 tried to figure out how to be as annoying as the small robot who dogged their every move. Flirt with the machine? Lurk like a creeper? Both were very lethal things to do in this case.
So instead, Zer0 pulled out The Bane.
"SWITCHING WEAPONS!" The gun shrieked.
"Oh for FUCKS SAKE, I thought he threw that thing out!" Axton covered her ears as a terrible report of 'yeahyahehyeaeah!' and other shrill shrieking sounded.
A catastrophic bellow of electronic fury came from the bad-ass machine at the very sound of The Bane. The Loader whirled as fast as it could, which proved that the damaged metal casing was indeed a hindrance. However, the Bane was more of a hindrance. Too slow now to keep pace behind the machine, Zer0 found himself now looking into the barrel of the only remaining cannon.
"Move!" Like a guardian wall of meat, Axton swept into the assassin, tossing the thin man/robot/alien? over his shoulder and running for dear life as the Loader unleashed a full round of rockets and bullets at the place that he had been moments before. "Why do you still have this piece of shit, Zer0?!" Axton twisted as he ran, trying to dodge the shrapnel as he return to ducking behind the towering robot. The art of staying alive was one Axton excelled at, how he could survive a near point blank assault was something the other Vault Hunters would boggle at (Gaige claimed he wore briefs made entirely of 4-leaf clovers).
"Trolling!" Zer0 said, his mask lighting up with an :D emoticon, then flashed with a 'lol'. "Slow trolling."
"Well it's working now! Keep firing!" Axton pivoted, a cloud of ash and dust churning up under his boots as he changed his direction to a fast sidestep now that they were directly behind the Loader. The Bane only effected the gun-wielding lunatic shooting it... not the lunatic carrying the lunatic shooting it. Thank god for small favors... and lunatics with screaming guns.
Once the Loader had rotated 180 degrees and it's back now towards where the rest of the Vault Hunters crouched, they sprang out all guns firing at the small breach on the battery. The Bane shrieking madly with it's terrible call of doom (ear bleeding doom). A slow rotation began, everyone moving in a group and the Loader unable to face them. Even the rockets couldn't touch them as Maya picked them out of the air with her SMG. It was like a May-Pole of death.
The Loader gave a grumble of what might pass as robotic fury or frustration as the focused damage of the Vault Hunters (and whever-the-hell Gaige was hitting with her wildly inaccurate shots) finally destroyed the power core with a small blast. Then, like a tumbled statue, it suddenly fell to the ground with a concussive blow. A cloud of dust and grime billowed from the impact and the Vault Hunters slid to a halt, all guns trained on the fallen robot.
There was the sound of crackling electricity from the melting power core on the Loader and frantic panting from the exhausted Vault Hunters. Breathing seemed too loud, everyone was tense for another wave of enemies or for the robot to stand back up.
"Is it dead?" Salvador asked.
"Do machines really live?" Maya replied rhetorically. "Go poke it and see."
"After you kiss my hairy ass, I'm not getting any closer to it." Sal snorted, keeping his distance from the Loader.
Maya went a brilliant crimson and gave a soft curse. "Sal, you bastard, now I have that picture in my head again!" The dwarf only gave and amused chuckle, puffing his hairy chest out in pride.
"I got this." Axton said, his voice level and calm. Administering the 'double-tap' was a sacred duty of soldiers who don't like to have to say 'I thought it was dead already!' on every mission. Stepping a few paces closer, Axton launched his remaining turret at the Loader. There was the magnetic snk as the turret clipped on to the Loader and unfolded.
"That bastard killed your sweet sister." Axton simply said.
And with that the turret looked down at the fallen Loader and continued firing until it's entire payload was empty. The Loader still didn't move. If that didn't scream 'I'm totally dead, come loot my corpse' nothing did.
"Family... it's so beautiful." Gaige said, the mock crocodile tears back.
As one, the Vault Hunters dropped to the ground in exhaustion. Krieg sprawled on the floor like a huge starfish, mumbling something about being 'too full for the blood feast' and flailing helplessly at his mask as if he had an itch. Giving a punch-drunk mumble of 'my job here is done', Salvador performed a spectacular belly flop onto the rough ground, and dropped into what was probably an immediate nap.
Crackling with a brief wave of static, the ECHO earpiece fit into each of the Vault Hunters ears sprang to life. Mordecai sounded awed. "I... I really can't believe you guys did that! You've come a long way from those bounty posters! Jack is going to have to add 'breaking all my shit' to your list!" There was a shrill chirp from Bloodwing before the ECHO cut off.
Gaige had flopped against Axton, using his legs as a back rest as he used his own backpack to slump against. The Commando gave the engineer a exhausted grin as she stared up at the ceiling in a daze. "I think I'd settle for free drinks, a hot shower, and someone finding where I put my ribs." Axton winced at the sharp pain in his back.
"My bruises have bruises." Gaige groaned, lifting the hem of her shirt up to reveal her stomach. Where the butt of the shotgun normally rested against her hip, she was a solid bruise from side to side and across her belly.
"Jesus, darlin!" Axton sat upright, aghast. "I thought I taught you how to hold your gun without bludgeoning yourself."
"When rockets come flying my way, I'll hold that gun however I want!" Gaige said indignantly. In all honesty, how Gaige held her gun made no difference for the accuracy. As long as she wasn't looking into the barrel, she'd either hit (and decimate her enemies) or miss (and bullets would ricochet everywhere) no matter how she was holding the gun.
Maya was equally as horrified. "Is this all from the recoil of your gun?" Raising one hand, a numbing blue light danced over the mechromancer's belly. The bruise didn't fade much, but the pain was instantly numbed. There was only so much healing a siren could do in a day, and Maya was just about tapped out.
"Fast travel is set. You guys can limp back to Sanctuary whenever you are ready. Lil' has a pile of money waiting for you for this job... guess you're going to want to roll around in it?" Mordecai chuckled.
There was an exhausted cheer from the Vault Hunters sprawled on the floor at Mordecai's promise, and one deafening snore from Salvador. However that would mean standing up to limp to a Fast Travel station, and that was a lot of damn work at this point. Perhaps just a few more minutes of lying on the floor...
"So... Say it Zer0." Axton flailed behind him, sure Zer0 was lurking behind his back somewhere.
"Say what?" The assassin was indeed directly behind him.
"Thank me for being insane enough to charge into a fully armed Loader to drag your ass out of the line of fire." Axton was grinning, both hands folded over his stomach as he leaned against his backpack.
There was a grunt of irritation from the assassin. That kind of reaction might have passed as 'thanks' from Krieg or even Salvador, but Axton knew he could needle Zer0 and probably not be killed for insisting.
"C'mon, that's not a 'thanks!' Say it nicely!" A short paused followed, and Axton heard the shuffle of soft boots on the broken concrete. Looking up, he was a little surprised to see Zer0 looming directly over him, leaning slightly so his mask was lost in the bright light from the sky above.
"I would have preferred / a rescue with dignity / but I am alive." Zer0 cocked his head as if contemplating something and continued, "To risk your own life / Tossed into the wind as a leaf / For one such as I… Thanks."
An unexpected thanks. Axton had honestly just expected the 'thanks'... not the whole haiku. Lifting a gloved hand to the back of his neck in embarrassment, he felt awkward now. "Ah... no problem."
"NOW KISS." Gaige belted out, grinning at them as if someone had dipped them both in chocolate.
Maya's surprised and stifled giggle turned into a less-than-convincing cough.
Axton's gaze at Zer0 filled with irritation. "And you encourage her to do this, you know."
The assassin only shrugged, a strange little :3 face flashing over his mask.
Pushing herself to her feet, Maya tottered unsteadily for a second as the remainder of the adrenaline from the fight cause her to stumble. "We're done here, right? Hyperion's facility is wiped off the map, we destroyed everything we came across, and I for one have seen enough of Salvador half dressed or not at all dressed to last me the rest of my days."
The sleeping dwarf continued to sleep, completely oblivious.
"Aye." Axton agreed.
"Aye." Zer0 put a vote in as well.
"YES. VERY YES." Krieg shuddered.
"Well I didn't!" Gaige was pulling Axton to his feet, pouting at the 'great missed opportunity'.
"Too bad, the Ayes have it. The motion has been passed. Next up to vote, all in favor of a long night of drinking until we all forget that whole situation..."
The Ayes won again.