So you want to hear a new story, eh? A story of an epic journey across the stars; of old friends, new enemies, old enemies becoming new friends; of a war that will change the galaxy as we know it? You want a story with all the Vault Hunters you can handle?!
Well… this is awkward. I… don’t actually know that story yet. So, get out of here.
Well, what are you waiting for? I don’t have a story to tell! So shoo!
Ugh, fine. If you’re so insistent, I suppose I can come up with something.
Let’s see… what do you think of me telling a story that’s never been told before? Yes… a story where the Vault Hunters we know never existed, and instead, a new band of heroes is making their way across the borderlands for the first time? Now that… hehehehehe… that would be one hell of an adventure!
So! Strap on your metaphorical seatbelt, and brace your ass for a tale I’ve decided to call…
Adventures in the Borderlands!
The badlands of planet Faerûn were usually silent as the grave. One glance at the wind-blasted deserts that stretched to the horizon would tell even a newcomer exactly why: they were almost completely deserted, save for the occasional skag that wandered too far in pursuit of a bandit.
One such skag was limping across the wastes at that moment. Walking through a hole in a rusted sign reading “Faerûn: Your Final Destination -- Guaranteed!”, it paused briefly to roar at a circling rakk before its seemingly nonexistent ears perked up. It could hear an unfamiliar sound breaking through the cloying silence of the desert: the rumble of a distant engine, the music coming from its radio, and the bickering of its passengers.
The skag, being a skag, was busy thinking about what kind of food this sound might be coming from when it abruptly stopped thinking about anything. After all, suddenly becoming wrapped around the front of a bus would make anyone lose their train of thought.
The radio played on, oblivious to the bus’ new passenger:
“I was walkin’ down the street when out the corner of my eye I saw a pretty little thing approachin’ me…
“She said ‘I never seen a man who looked so all alone, oh could you use a little company…’”
The other, considerably more alive passengers continued their argument.
“Why are you driving? Why not me?” said the youngest of the three occupants. He was around twenty-seven, lean and tall almost to the point of lankiness, with straight, sleek dyed-blond hair down to his neck framing a youthful face with a nose that could generously be described as “sharp”, and less generously as “a proboscis-like blight on one’s face”. He wore a light purple waistcoat over a short-sleeved white collared shirt, brown pants and leather loafers, and a Stetson, and a Hyperion Transmurdera was slung across his back. A curling pattern of blue tattoos could be seen in the skin exposed by his shirt. This was Taako, the Siren.
“Because,” responded the driver in a deep Scottish brogue, “I’ve specced into vehicle skills.” He looked to be in his early thirties, well-built and fit, with short brown hair, tanned skin, and a beard that could make a bullymong jealous. A scar cut through his right eyebrow and made a notch below his eye. He wore a bulletproof vest and Kevlar greaves over a red sweater, and Kevlar padding over a pair of work pants that ended in combat boots. Instead of an SMG, a Jakobs Scattergun was held in a makeshift holster on his back alongside a metal riot shield, and a massive battle-axe almost as tall as he was lay on the seat beside him. He was Magnus Burns, brawler.
“What does that even mean?” snapped Taako. “It’s the road to Fyrestone! You’re not gonna hit a fucking ramp!”
“Trust me, if the Lance hassles us, I’m the guy you want at the front of the bus,” said Magnus. “But look, if you want to drive so bad, I might let you spell me the next time Shorty back there needs to stop for a ‘pee break’.”
“Hell, no! I’ve got stuff to do!” Taako replied. “I’ve seen the ECHOs. Adventurers are supposed to, like, forage for loot and shit. Borrrring! No, thank you. Not for Taako.”
“I agree. F that S!” Magnus raised his middle finger to let the concept of looting know exactly what he thought of it.
“So I’m looking for something to eat on this rustbucket,” continued the Siren. “What are you doing, Merle?”
“I’m looking over my notes!” yelped the third passenger, jolted from his concentration.
The first thing most people noticed about him was that he was short. Like, REALLY short, like 5’ 1”. He had most of his greying hair tied back in a man-bun, and the rest of it went into a beard that, while not as impressive as Magnus’, was still fairly voluminous. He wore a grey light jacket and loafers, as well as a utilitarian backpack and a tool belt on his waist, which held a Torgue Slapper with a Dahl grip, an engraved ball-peen hammer, and a variety of pockets and pouches bulging with tools and spare parts. His dark-skinned brow was dotted with sweat (probably from wearing a jacket in the desert), and a faint twang of an accent betrayed his Hodunk heritage. Merle Church (for that was his name) was an engineer, the group’s medic, and something of a proselytizer for the Church of Pan on the side.
“Just say you’re masturbating. We get it,” snarked Magnus.
“I happen to be deep in thought!” retorted Merle, his face flushing red.
“‘Don’t come in, Mom! I’m looking over my notes!’” taunted the brawler, making air quotes at “looking over my notes” as Taako snickered behind him.
Merle snapped his notes shut. “I’m very conflicted!” he groused. “I don’t trust this Hogarth guy!”
“He hired us for this job, and he’s your cousin!” Magnus exclaimed.
“Exactly!” said Merle, shoving aside Magnus’ axe as he moved to the front seat. “I know him pretty well. If it weren’t for me, he’d be the biggest asshole in the family, and that so-called ‘bodyguard’, Barry, ain’t no day at the beach, either. Why didn’t they just take all this with them instead of having us haul it?” He craned his neck to look at their cargo.
“I can’t find anything edible, that’s for sure.” Taako grabbed the nearest box and examined it. The label was covered in cartoony drawings of explosions and the words, in bold print, “TORGUE BRAND BLASTING CAPS: BLOW S*** UP!!!!!!!!!!” A simple, but effective, marketing strategy. “A bunch of mining stuff, shit to blow up other shit..."
“The only mine in these parts was lost when Dahl abandoned the planet,” noted Magnus.
“And the way your cousin kept talking about ‘The last job you’ll ever need to take! The last job you’ll ever need to take!’” said Taako, rather haphazardly throwing the blasting caps over his shoulder. “I get the ‘wink wink, you’re gonna be rich’ vibe, but it came across as kind of murdery. And we’re not even doing that job! We fought those other guys to haul some shit to a town in the middle of nowhere! This is the job we’re doing for three hundred bucks apiece? And another thing--”
The radio’s song came to an end as the bus pulled up to the gates of Fyrestone and the trio stepped off:
“You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked, money don’t grow on trees…
"We got bills to pay, we got mouths to feed, there ain’t nothin’ in this world for free…
"Oh no, we can’t slow down, we can’t hold back, though you know we wish we could…
"Oh no, there ain’t no rest for the wicked until we close our eyes for good…”
“I am… uneasy,” Merle muttered.
“Then you are just gonna love this,” Magnus said darkly, squinting at a wrecked Outrunner in the distance. “It’s kind of tough to see… but I think the shit has gone south.”
“Hello, travelers!” called a sudden voice from the town.
Magnus frantically drew his Scattergun, bracing the Torgue stock against his arm. “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” he yelled, pointing the gun around wildly as he looked for the source of the voice.
“AUGH! It’s the big one!” Merle cried, clutching at his chest.
“Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Please don’t shoot me!” the voice begged.
Magnus looked down. Standing -- or rather, wheeling -- at about his chest height was a robot. The robot was rectangular in shape, its sides angling down at the bottom, making it resemble a squarish cone if you turned it upside down. Its body was painted a jaunty shade of dark blue with a red stripe along the middle. A single blue eye sat above a cooling vent, a pop-out storage cabinet, and a voice readout. Instead of legs, an off-road wheel sat at the bottom of its body. An antenna protruded from the top of it, and two metallic arms with three articulated fingers were bolted to its sides, the flaps that would otherwise conceal them winging up. Those same arms were currently held fearfully in front of its face.
The robot cowered a moment more before peeking through its fingers at the adventurers. “We good? We cool?” it asked in a digitally nasal voice. “Alright, now that you guys aren’t about to kill me, let’s get down to business. Uh… welcome to Fyrestone, first off! I am a modified CL4P-TP unit known as GR1FN-TP, but you can call me Griffin! Here, you’re gonna need these!”
The storage cabinet opened, and Griffin took out three devices. The devices were the size of a brick, with a microphone dangling at the side, a voice readout on the front, and several buttons and dials. These were a common sight to the people of Faerûn: ECHO recorders, multi-purpose appliances manufactured by the Dahl corporation. Heads-up displays, communicating, hyperspace storage deck; you name it, these things could do it. Magnus, Merle, and Taako all took an ECHO recorder (Merle took a minute to breathe before taking his) and let the HUD fully activate. Magnus sighed in dismay upon seeing in the experience tracker that he was still only level one.
“Awesome!” Griffin clapped his metal hands together. “Now that your ECHOs are all initialized and stuff, let’s… well… uh… why are you guys here, anyway?”
“We were hired by this dude to bring some mining stuff here,” said Taako, already looking bored. “His name is… shit, what was it? Huggins… Bogard…”
“Wait, you mean Hogarth Hodunk?” asked Griffin, his tone turning to one of worry. “Oh… that’s not good.”
“And what exactly does that mean?” Merle couldn’t keep a note of panic from slipping into his voice.
Griffin was silent for a moment. Then he said “…Come this way,” and wheeled off towards the carfire in the distance.
“I don’t trust this,” Magnus said. “Nothing’s right here: the town looks deserted, that robot was acting pretty shifty, and where the hell is Hogarth?”
“No argument here,” agreed Taako. “Maybe we should just--”
Can you hear me?
Taako froze. “Did either of you guys just hear someone say ‘Can you hear me?’”
Merle and Magnus both nodded.
Taako nodded back. Then he threw up his hands. “Well, that does it. This job’s fucking cursed. Let’s get out of here before a demon eats our legs or some shit.” He turned back towards the bus.
Don’t be alarmed.
And at that moment, a face appeared in the HUDs of the trio. It was a young woman with braided black hair and startling, icy blue eyes.
And she spoke:
I need you to stay calm and don’t let that Claptrap unit know that anyone’s talking to you. Follow him.
You don’t have any reason to trust me, but I need you to believe that I’m here to guide you.
I’ll contact you again soon.
And with that, she vanished.
The trio were silent for a moment before Magnus spoke up. “Guys, did the Guardian Angel just talk to us?”
“Bullshit,” Merle said. “The Guardian Angel isn’t real.”
“You believe in Pan,” Taako shot back.
“But Pan is real!” protested the engineer. “I've got all the proof I need right in my pack! The Guardian Angel, on the other hand, is a myth! It’s a bedtime story, a fairy tale, a--”
“Okay, whatever it was,” Magnus interjected, cutting through Merle’s outrage, “we should probably do what she said. We can’t just ignore something like that.”
Taako shrugged. “Sure. Can’t hurt to follow the orders of a mysterious spectral lady.”
Merle groaned in exasperation. “Fine. But for the record, that wasn’t the Guardian Angel any more than I’m Ivan Vladof.” They sallied forth after the robot.
When they got to him, Griffin was standing before the wreck.
“So what did you have to show us?” asked Magnus.
Griffin sighed and held up a driver’s license -- a license bearing the name and photo of Hogarth Hodunk. “Sorry, guys,” he said, looking down at his own wheel in shame. “Bandits crashed him just before you got here. I was too scared of them to come out and when they left I… I couldn’t find the body.”
“Oh man.” Magnus laid a hand on Merle’s shoulder as the engineer stared mournfully at the flaming vehicle. “Sorry, Merle. I mean, you said he was an asshole, but he was still your cousin, I guess.”
Merle said nothing for a moment. Then a thought occurred to him. “Wait,” he said, turning to Griffin, “If you couldn’t find the body, then… he could still be alive!”
Taako let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good, ‘cause I was worried we weren’t gonna get paid. A-and of course, we can save Merle’s cousin,” he hastily added, seeing Magnus glaring at him.
“I doubt it, guys,” Griffin said. “Bandits around here don’t usually take prisoners. They’re vicious, bloodthirsty psychopaths who--”
Suddenly, an engine roared in the distance. Gleeful shouts and gunshots could be heard, and they were getting closer very fast.
“Speaking of which,” Griffin said dejectedly.
A Bandit Sawblade Technical screamed over a nearby hill and screeched to a halt in front of the bus stop.
Its passengers clambered out. They were a motley pair indeed: one wore a leather motorcycle jacket and work trousers, hid his face with a black mask with a white cross pattern, and carried a machine gun worn with rust; the other was shirtless, wore a white face mask with a curved upside-down V pattern, and held an axe with a buzz saw’s blade grafted onto the front.
A Bandit and a Psycho.
“Well, looks like we got some new arrivals,” sneered the Bandit, cocking his gun. “Whaddya you think, Blood-Bather? Wanna give ‘em a Pandoran welcome?”
“STRIP THE FLESH AND SALT THE WOUND!!!” screamed the Psycho, swinging his buzz-axe wildly over his head.
“Good enough for me! BANDITS, ATTACK!” And with that, they rushed toward the group.
“Their war cry isn’t very creative,” Taako noted.
“Oh, man! What’s that gadget I was working on that, like, throws flames at people?” Merle asked Magnus.
“…You mean your flamethrower?” Magnus replied.
“That would be it!” The engineer pulled up his left sleeve, revealing a wrist-mounted nozzle with a tank connected to it. He curled his hand into a fist, depressing a button on his palm, and a jet of fire shot towards the Psycho, enveloping him.
“I REGRET EVERYTHING!” yelled Blood-Bather, brushing frantically at his arms in an attempt to snuff the flames.
Taako’s tattoos began to glow a brilliant white as the air around him grew cold. He extended his right arm towards the flaming Psycho, and a frigid beam of blue-white light streaked towards its target. It hit the Psycho and instantly sealed him in a block of ice, which promptly toppled over and shattered, breaking his body into pieces.
“Fuck!” the Bandit yelled.
“It’s our first kill!” The Siren triumphantly pumped his fist in the air. “And Taako’s the one who put us on the board! You know, the… killing board.”
“At least he’s not on fire anymore!” piped up Merle. “That was thoughtful of you!”
Magnus stared at the remaining Bandit, his brow furrowed in thought. “So should I jump down and hit the other one with my axe, or…” he asked Griffin. “Well, I can’t get him if he’s, like, ten feet away-- do I have a Charge skill or something?”
“Well, you could use your shotgun on the guy, but that’d take a hell of a lucky shot…” responded the robot.
“Maybe throw my shield?”
“Oh sure, throw a giant metal rectangle 10 feet, that’ll work.”
“Come on, man, I’m just spitballing.”
“Hey!” yelled the Bandit. “I’m attacking here!”
“I’m having a serious discussion with GR1FN-TP, asshole!” Magnus retorted, sounding out each character in GR1FN-TP individually. (“It’s just Griffin, actually, but whatever, go on.”) “We’ll be with you in just a sec. Cool?”
“Oh, okay, cool.” A murderous marauder the Bandit may have been, but he respected the sanctity of an adventurer’s battle planning.
“So do I throw my axe at him?”
“Well, you could try, but that’s not too accurate either.”
“So many choices.”
Abruptly, Magnus swivelled around, launching himself off the wrecked Outrunner with shotty in hand.
“Let’s see how this works,” he quipped. And with that, he soared through the air and made a ten-point landing in front of the Bandit, pulling the trigger on his gun and turning the baddie's midriff into red chunks.
“Kickback was a little rough,” the brawler remarked. “Maybe I need to adjust my grip.”
“I don’t know, you probably couldn’t have blown him in half any harder than that,” Griffin called.
“Hey, guys!” came a voice from the town. A third Bandit jogged toward the gang, his face obscured by a dark brown mask with a red stripe down the middle. He held a Maliwan Snider sniper rifle with a Jakobs grip and Vladof stock, the faded white/blue/orange paint job accented by glowing red lines along the stock and down the Dahl-made barrel, denoting its incendiary ammunition.
“Sorry I’m late!” he said amicably, apparently unaware of his friends’ fates. “Traffic over in the Dust was a nightmare! All right, let’s do this th- OH SWEET ANGEL!” His easygoing demeanor shifted on a dime to grief. “Not what’s-his-name! He had a pet rakk, and he hadn’t even eaten this one yet! You bastards!”
The Bandit took aim with the sniper rifle and fired, sending a bullet at Magnus.
“Shit!” Magnus swore, throwing himself to the ground. The shot zinged off the Outrunner and slammed into the bus’ window, flying through it and igniting one of the seats.
“…Yikes,” Taako said in a deadpan voice.
“Hey!” yelled Magnus. “Did you know our bus is on fire?! Don’t let my stuff burn!”
“What about--” Merle began, but he was quickly cut off. “Fuck Hogarth’s shit!”
“You mean the explosives and blasting caps?” Taako called sardonically.
“Fine! Save that shit, but then save my stuff! And who’s gonna get that guy?” He pointed at the sniper rifle-wielding Bandit, who had dropped his gun and started running away.
“Believe it or not, I can instantly snuff out a candle, torch or small campfire,” Taako said to Merle. “Go on, kill that guy, have your fun.”
Merle gave a thumbs-up and ran over to Magnus while Taako ambled over to the bus.
“Alright, so you’re a Siren, right?” asked Griffin.
“Wow, what gave it away?” Taako deadpanned. “The weird tattoos, the color-shifting eyes, or the fact that my goddamn name is Taako?”
Griffin chuckled awkwardly before recovering himself. “Okay, so to put out the fire you’re probably going to need to do some badass elemental power. Some really tight shit, yeah?”
Taako hmm-ed to himself for a moment, scrutinizing the combustion inside the bus. Then he snapped his fingers, his face lighting up, and grabbed something from his pack. It was… a blue blanket with ornate gold trim around the edges.
“I use BLANKET THROW!” he yelled, flinging the blanket onto the fire and snuffing it instantly.
“Amazing. Jaw-dropping. Reminiscent of George Lucas at his best, says Buff Gamer,” Griffin said caustically, rolling his eye.
Meanwhile, Merle fired off a few shots from his Slapper. The gyrojet pellets shot after the fleeing Bandit and slammed into his back, exploding on impact and forcing him to the ground with a cry of pain.
“Ooh, good shot there!” said Magnus, grinning.
“Guys, you just won your first fight!” cried Griffin. “With fucking aplomb!”
“One kill each!” Merle said happily.
“They never even touched us!” gloated Taako. “I almost feel bad.”
“We should loot the dead Bandits!” suggested Magnus.
“Which one ya gonna loot there, sparky?” quipped Merle. “The flash-frozen one in a million pieces, or the one blown in half?”
Magnus grimaced sheepishly before walking over to the dropped Snider, picking it up and examining it. “I should at least take this pretty sweet sniper, right? After all, I have specced into sniper rifle skills.” (“Of course you have,” muttered Merle.)
Taako walked back over to the duo, having looted the sole semi-intact Bandit while they were arguing. “Here, short stack,” he said coolly, holding a boxy device with a pin by his thumb and forefinger (understandable, seeing as it was covered in blood), “I found this grenade mod on the corpse of the Bandit you mercilessly killed.”
Merle took the mod and examined it. “Tediore standard grenade,” he muttered to himself. “I can work with this.” He stashed it in his storage deck.
“Find anything else, Siren?” asked Magnus, looking down the sights of the Snider.
“Nope. Nothing. Not a thing, brawler,” responded Taako, holding a large wad of cash behind his back.
“Then we should inspect where the attack took place! Let us not tarry!” With that proclamation, Magnus marched off towards the Outrunner, Merle and Griffin in tow.
“I’m with you, my man!” responded Taako, stashing the money in his waistcoat before running after them. “I am always anti-tarrying!"
When Taako caught up with the group, they were rummaging through the crash site.
“Anything?” Magnus called to Merle.
“Nothing.” The engineer crawled out from inside the Runner and leaned against it. “No Hogarth, no Barry, and no map. And what the hell did he need a map for, anyway? He knows the way to Fyrestone!”
“So what do we do now?” asked Taako.
“Ooh! Ooh!” Griffin hopped up and down, eager to share his idea. “I know some guys in town who might have seen where the Bandits took Hogarth! Let’s go!”
And with that, the group headed into Fyrestone proper.
The town of Fyrestone might have been a nice place once upon a time. Now, it was little more than a ghost town filled with empty shacks and, for some inscrutable reason, safes of money.
“Yeah, the Bandits aren’t the best at storing their hauls. Or… y’know, anything, really,” explained Griffin.
“Well, might as well take advantage of it!” Magnus opened one of the safes and grabbed a fistful of dollars. “Loot up, guys!" Merle and Taako followed suit, each becoming about 65 dollars richer.
Suddenly, Griffin grabbed Magnus’ sweater and pulled him towards a building in the close distance. “That’s where this guy lives! He’s the local doctor, name of Zed Blanco.”
“Ah, a fellow man of learning, eh?” said Taako, ambling after the duo. “Good to meet another intellectual out here! I’m sure he’ll make for some stimulating conversation.”
Griffin somehow made the sound of sucking air through his nonexistent teeth. “Weeeeeeeeeell…”
As they came to the front of the building, they could hear the twang of an accented voice coming from a garage.
“See, what y’gotta do,” said the voice, deep and smooth, “is hold the scalpel like this, like a pencil, and then make a teeny little incision right… at… the… artery…” The voice went silent.
“Well, Zed?” asked a new, raspy voice. This voice had a similar to, if not stronger accent than the first voice, and sounded exasperated. “I ain’t got all day to wait around for you to show me how to cut up a midget!”
“I’ve almost got it, T.K., just gimme a… aw, hell with it. Where’d I put that buzz-axe?”
As the group rounded the corner and got a look at the building, a strange scene presented itself: a red-headed, balding man sitting in a lawn chair wearing a blue collared shirt, yellow checkered pants with one leg seemingly empty, and toting what looked like a Dahl shotgun (which was odd, since Dahl didn’t manufacture shotguns), another man with salt-and-pepper hair and intense gray eyes wearing a medical mask, scrubs and an apron, and holding a buzz-axe, and an abnormally small Psycho strapped to a medical table and screaming his head off.
“Zed! Good to see you, man!” cried Griffin, waving happily at the apron-clad man. “Oh hey, T.K.’s visiting! How’s it going, T.K.?”
“Grif! How’s tricks?” called Zed, before turning his attention to the screaming midget and tutting. “‘Scuse me just a sec.” And with that, he drove the buzz axe directly into the midget’s sternum. “Sorry, that was gettin’ annoying as hell. Anyway, who are these folks with ya?”
“Oh, this is Magnus, Merle, and Taako!” Griffin waved at each adventurer as he mentioned them. “Guys, this is Dr. Zed, and the other guy is Teddy Baha, but everyone calls him T.K.! He’s the town hermit, just kind of hermits it up out in T.K.’s Claim.”
The group said their hellos, and Zed and T.K. returned the favor. “So, why have you folks come out to our little town?” asked the doctor.
“We’re here to find one Hogarth Hodunk,” said Magnus. “His car was crashed by Bandits a couple hours ago, but we believe he may have been left alive. Any idea where they might have taken him?”
“Well, if this Hogarth fella’s still kickin’, he’s probably out in the old Dahl Zephyr Substation,” replied Zed. “The local Bandit gangs tend to hang out there. If I can just…” He grabbed the group’s ECHO communicators and tapped on each of them, causing a waypoint to appear on their compasses. “There you go! Now you know how to get there.”
“So it’s settled!” Taako chimed in. “We head down to this substation place, kick some asses, grab Barry and Hogarth, and wham bam thank you ma’am/sir/other, we’re $300 richer! Simple!”
T.K. let out a hacking chuckle. “Well, good luck to ya. Those Bandits are pretty damn fierce, so you’ll wanna pack some good loot. Short Stack and Wide Load seem pretty well-outfitted, and the blonde twink there’ll do fine with that green SMG, but if Griffie’s going with ya, he’s gonna need somethin’ to defend himself with. I got a little somethin’ you might like, robo-buddy…” The hermit reached under his lawn chair and, after a bit of scrabbling around, produced a Vladof Renegade assault rifle with a Jakobs grip and Torgue stock and slung it at Griffin, who caught it and looked it over.
“Thanks, T.K.!” Griffin put the rifle into his storage deck. “I am gonna kick some ass with this!”
“And you’ll probably need these,” said Zed, taking out four squarish pieces of tech with a blue core at the center. “Tediore shields. These’ll generate an energy field around your body that’ll stop bullets from hittin’ ya… until they break, anyhow. They’re not the best, but they oughta keep your insides inside.”
“Hey, that actually sounds pretty good,” remarked Taako, taking a shield from the doctor.
“‘Keep your insides inside’? I dunno.”
“Hey, don’t knock it. I’ve worked in marketing, and trust me, that’s the sort of slogan that works.”
Zed shrugged. “Anyway, if you happen to come across any of my vending machines, don’t hesitate to spend a few bucks on a Health Now! syringe or a new shield. Trust me, you won’t regret it.”
“Thanks for the help, Zed, T.K.! We’ll come back with our employers and some badass loot or die trying!” said Magnus, enthusiastically shaking the hands of the two men. (“Well, maybe not die…” Merle muttered nervously.)
“Be seein’ you,” T.K. said, chuckling like he had just made the funniest joke in the world. The trio stared at him blankly. “Be seein’ you? Hehehehehe… get it? ‘C-cause I’m blind? I did mention I was blind, right? ‘Cause I am, and ‘be seein’ you’, it… y’see, it’s a play on--”
Zed cut the hermit off with a hand on his shoulder. “We can discuss your comedic stylings if they come back alive -- er, when. Anyway, good luck, folks!”
“Bye, Zed! Bye, T.K.!” called Griffin behind him as the group walked off.
“Alright, fellow gun nuts,” said Taako, racking the charging handle on his Transmurdera, “let’s go work for a living.”
The sun was hanging low in the sky as the team marched off into the Arid Badlands, weapons in hand and shields fully charged.
“Okay, so, according to the compass, Zephyr Substation is…” Taako hesitated for a moment before pointing eastwards. “That way.”
“Magnus rushes headlong towards the substation!” declared the brawler, sprinting off towards the waypoint.
“Oh, don’t worry, Magnus! We’ll be just fine back here!” Taako yelled after Magnus’ retreating figure. “You just run off and leave us to trudge through the desert on our own! Totally cool! Super cool.”
“Cool, thanks, bye,” Magnus called over his shoulder.
Several tedious hours of trudging through the desert later, the exhausted trio of Merle, Griffin and Taako found themselves outside the Zephyr Substation. The rusted-over turbines pierced the night sky, only occasionally illuminated by Magnus’ flickering flashlight as he paced back and forth by the door to the inside.
“So does T.K. make that joke a lot? Like, the ‘be seeing you’ one?” asked Merle.
“Yeah, he’s weirdly proud of it,” replied Griffin.
“There you are!” yelled the brawler as he saw the group slogging their way towards him. “Did you stop and pee, or what?”
“Gimme a break,” Merle muttered, glaring daggers at Magnus.
“Honestly, it was pretty easy to follow you,” sniped Griffin. “You’re so damn huge you practically leave a fucking track in the sand.”
“Hey, for the record, that’s all muscle.” Magnus flexed a bicep as if to prove his point.
“So what happened to Magnus charging ahead?” asked Taako, raising one eyebrow. “How come you waited for us?”
“Magnus believes in sharing the glory with his comrades!” replied Magnus, flashing a benevolent smile.
“You’re sure Magnus isn’t afraid of dark, abandoned facilities?” Taako crossed his arms and smirked.
“Hah!” barked the brawler, throwing back his head and assuming a standard superhero stance. “Magnus fears nothing! It’s just… it’s really, really dark in there, and my flashlight’s dying, and I don’t have good night vision, and…” He trailed off and stared nervously at the door.
“No worries! I’ve got great night vision!” Taako threw open the door and sauntered down the hallway.
“So do we!” piped up Griffin, wheeling his way down the hallway alongside Merle.
“B-but… but… fellas…” Magnus stood alone in the doorway.
Merle sighed in exasperation. “Oh, fine, nancy-cat! I’ll take care of it.” He grabbed Magnus’ axe and drew some LED lights, wires, a button, a wireless hot glue gun, and a soldering iron from his tool belt. After a couple seconds of tinkering, he handed the axe, now with LEDs embedded in its blades and a button on its hilt, back to its owner. “Here, now get moving.”
Magnus pressed the button and grinned as the LEDs lit up. “Bitchin’.” He followed on after his companions.
The trio tromped through the corridors of the substation, Magnus holding the axe high to illuminate the darkness. A few yards in, Taako held his arm in front of the party, stopping their progress as he looked around.
“Do you hear something?” asked the Siren.
From a side hallway, a cacophony of noise was echoing down the corridor; roars and clanks filled the air.
“That sounds like… skags?” Merle said, trying to peer through the darkness in the hall.
“And a lot of scary chains,” Magnus added, shining his axe into the doorway.
“You do realize this is how things work out here, right?” asked Griffin. “There’s a room full of bad guys, and you guys go in there and shoot everything that’s moving.”
“All right, fellas,” Merle said, “let’s think about this--”
“Magnus believes thinking is for other people!” bellowed the brawler. “He tends more toward -- dramatic pause -- ACTION!!” And with that, he rushed down the hallway.
“You fool!” Merle called after him. “Wait for us!” But Magnus was long gone. “I guess we should go after him…?”
“Nah,” said Taako, idly picking at a hangnail. “Taako’s good out here.”
“Yeah, let’s just chill. We haven’t really just chilled at all.” Griffin folded in his wheel and rested himself on the floor.
Merle groaned and sat down on a rusted chair that happened to have been laying near. “‘Go to Fyrestone. Deliver a busful of supplies. Have a few laughs.’ I should have stayed in Oasis.”
The sound of gunshots, yells and skag vocalizations drifted down the corridor. However, Taako was clearly more interested in the sound of his own voice.
“--So that was when I realized that Mexican food is where it’s at these days, you know? Like, Mexican places are everywhere you look -- in a good way, of course. You remember what I said Sizzle It Up was canceled for? A merch-driven telenovela advertising a taco joint! It was then that I realized everything had been leading up to this; my name, my show, everything. It was my sacred duty to show that fucking telenovela who was the real top chef! I WOULD CREATE THE ULTIMATE TACO RECIPE! …And then I remembered that I had spent all my money on ads when the show started losing viewers. So that’s why I took this job! Pretty neat, huh?”
Merle stared blankly at him, his eyes glazed over. “Hrrn?”
Taako scoffed annoyedly before turning to Griffin. “Griffin! What did you think of my story?”
Griffin took a full seven seconds before answering. “So… Sizzle It Up with Taako was a show… about cooking?”
“It was about life!” yelled Taako, the fires of passion burning in his eyes. “…Told through the perspective of fine dining.”
Merle shook himself out of his daze. “Well, that sounds… nifty.”
The noises died down as Magnus’ boots clanked their way out of the hallway. The owner of the boots was clutching his shotgun, which was (along with Magnus himself) covered in skag blood. “So!” Taako clapped his hands together. “How was the ominous clanking room?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Magnus grumbled. He tossed a Tediore Quickshot with a Jakobs grip to Merle, who looked it over, noting the tan finish that signified its green rarity. He stashed it in his storage deck, allowing the device to scan the weapon so that it could digistruct a new one when he reloaded.
“That’s okay,” said Taako, following after the others as they continued on. “I didn’t really give a shit.”
“I did…” Griffin slumped his nonexistent shoulders and wheeled off with his allies.
The door ahead led to a loot chest, but since it was boarded up and welded shut, the adventurers never knew that.
“Heckie darn.” swore Taako, tapping at the weld marks. “Barricaded. Can’t get through that. Oh well, mission over, we gave it a good shot--”
“Not so fast!” declared Magnus. “With my remarkable upper-body strength and Merle’s passable engineering skills, we can have this door open in… three days, max.”
“Or…” Merle tapped on Magnus’ shoulder and pointed to a Bandit sentry standing guard on a catwalk in an adjoining atrium. “I got your perception check right here.”
“The hell is a perception check?” asked Griffin.
Merle shrugged. “Just heard of it somewhere.”
“Hello, friend!” called Taako, waving enthusiastically as he strode toward the Bandit.
“Who’s down there?!” yelled the Bandit, peering through the darkness at the four.
“Howdy, neighbor!” Taako flashed a finger gun at the Bandit. “We’re explorers! We’ve taken a wrong turn!”
“Yeah, really seems like you have,” came the reply. “I’d actually heartily recommend you turn around, this is really not a great place for tourism.”
“We mean you no harm, but I would not suggest launching an attack on us!” Taako declaimed, shifting his feet into a fighting stance. “We’re very dangerous!”
“Oh yeah?” The Bandit crossed his arms. “How dangerous we talkin’ here?”
“Level… level one? Or… higher…” Taako began regretting his decision, and took a different tack. “Looook, my dude, I think we might have gotten off on the wron--"
“Go ask the Bandit we shot in HALF how dangerous we are!”
The adventurers stared in wide-eyed shock at Merle, who stared back like a deer in the headlights.
“Nice one, Merle,” growled Griffin.
“Yeah, excellent job there! I was just starting to establish a rapport!” Taako writhed furiously on the spot for a moment before kicking angrily at a nearby barrel.
“To be fair, he wasn’t as cool as you!” Magnus stammered placatingly.
“Look, I’m sure you’re nice people,” the Bandit cut in, “but I’m pickin’ up on a reeeal aggressive vibe from down there. Here you are in our hideout, I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing, and i-it’s all just makin’ me… real anxious.” He slung a wicked-looking triple-barreled rocket launcher off his back and aimed it at the group. “I’m… unpleasant when I’m anxious.”
“Use an ability… that will push him… off… the… catwalk,” Magnus whispered furiously to Taako. Taako waved him aside before turning back to the Bandit.
“Everything’s chill, my dude. Look, let me introduce myself. I’m Taako--you know, from TV? Yeah, you know. We’re looking for a friend of ours? He was taken and his Outrunner was crashed?” (“Push… him… off!!”)
“Yeah, we did that,” replied the Bandit. “‘S there a problem?”
He turned around and shouted over to a pair of fellow Bandits sitting by a large tank. “Hey, Sid, Lead Junkie! There’re some guys here about the Outrunner!”
“Which Outrunner was that again?” asked Lead Junkie.
“The one from a few hours ago,” replied Sid.
“Oh, yeah! Good times.”
“Yep. Well, let’s get crankin’!”
The two Bandits furiously began turning a crank, producing an ominous rumbling as a hatch on the tank began to open. Water began to pour tsunami-like from the hatch as the two Bandits scrambled up a nearby ladder and out of the room.
“Well, that’s disconcerting,” remarked Taako.
“Why the hell would there just be a giant-ass tank of water there?” muttered Griffin to himself.
“Y’know, normally I’d just let you guys drown, but I’ve got this seminar to get to and the boss’ll literally have my head if I’m late again, so let’s just get this over with.” The Bandit drew a bead on the adventurers with the launcher, aiming down the Torgue sight at them.
“Get behind me!” barked Magnus, slinging his shield off his back and holding it out in front of him. Taako, Griffin and Merle scrambled behind it, Merle drawing something out of his tool belt. The Bandit pulled the trigger and three rockets shot from the launcher’s barrels, flying directly at the four.
“Shield up!” yelled Merle, plunking the object on the ground. It was a cylindrical piece of metal no larger than a three-liter soda bottle, but as Merle slammed it down, it began to glow a vivid pink. A shimmering field of energy expanded out from it and solidified around Merle and the others, and the rockets exploded on it harmlessly.
“See, now that’s impressive! Nice job, Merle!” said Magnus. Merle grinned proudly and scooped up the shield generator, deactivating it.
Taako shoved Magnus’ head aside and fired a Cryo Bolt at the Bandit. It hit him and encased everything below his head in ice.
“That’s a hit!” cheered Griffin.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding!” exclaimed the Bandit, teetering back and forth. “You are dangerous!” And with that, he toppled over into the rushing waters.
“Well, this kind of sucks,” said Magnus, staring at the oncoming wall of water.
“We’ve got to climb, boys! Climb for your lives!!” yelled Merle, trying desperately to shimmy up one of the catwalk’s legs. Magnus and Griffin followed suit, with Griffin declaring “I have no athletic skills, here we go!”
“Smell ya later, fellas.” Taako hopped deftly off a nearby crate and parkoured his way onto the catwalk. The remaining three, however, were not so lucky. Griffin lost his grip and tumbled to the floor below, followed in quick succession by Merle and Magnus.
“Well…” Griffin groaned in pain. “That wasn’t how I wanted that to go.”
“I peed a little,” mumbled Merle.
“Wonderful!” moaned the engineer. “Now I’ve got a pee stain!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about that…” said Magnus, helping Merle to his feet and Griffin to his wheel. “...I’m pretty sure it’s going to wash out."
The water hit them with the force of a truck, sweeping them away with it. The trio were tossed and turned before being slammed into a wall and being deposited on the floor as the flood receded. Meanwhile, Taako observed all of this with a mixture of concern and bemusement. He felt some measure of reassurance was in order after an ordeal like that.
“Don’t worry, guys!” he called down to his fellows as they lay on the floor like dead fish. “I’m perfectly fine!” He got no response, save for Magnus glaring furiously at him as Merle tried to repair a short-circuiting Griffin.
“Hey, Jeff!” yelled Lead Junkie from the other room. “Did we get ‘em?”
Taako started briefly before regaining his composure. “Yeah, everything’s good! You guys go ahead, Taa--” He cleared his throat and dropped his voice deeper. “Jeff’s good out here!”
“Well, be sure to grab something to show Sledge!” replied Sid. “The boss is really puttin’ the heat on us to bring in more loot!”
“Sure, sure! I’ll… uh… chop off their feet and bring that!”
“Goddamn, Jeff!” Sid gagged, and began walking off. “I just meant their guns or ECHO recorders or something!”
“You’ve gotten so dark since you broke up with Moxxi!” said Lead Junkie, concern audible in his voice. “You really need to talk to somebody!” And with that, he followed Sid.
Taako listened closely to their footsteps, and breathed a sigh of relief when they got too far away to hear. Meanwhile, Magnus was dragging Griffin up the ladder with Merle on his back.
“Embarrassing, this is,” croaked the engineer. Magnus reached the top, and he and his passengers collapsed on the catwalk.
“I feel lousy,” moaned Griffin. “Like I’m down to 13 health.”
“I… (huff)… need to take a knee… (puff)… after hauling your sorry asses… (huff)… up that ladder,” panted Magnus. “Hey, Taako, wanna maybe say something? Like ‘Oh, Magnus, I’m so sorry you’ve had to strain yourself so much, here’s a bottle of brandy and a hot pad’?”
Taako’s attention, however, lay elsewhere, specifically in a scent that wafted on the air. “(sniff)… Is that… (sniff sniff)… roasting meat?” He thought hard for a moment before realizing: “I know that smell! That’s my recipe for Haunch á la Taako! It was in my very first cookbook!”
“You kids catch your breath, I gotta check this out,” he said to the soggy trio, and started walking off. “That, my dudes, is true haute cuisine!”
“I just hope it isn’t hot cousin,” muttered Merle, staring after Taako’s retreating form.
And that was when things got crazy. When Taako entered the next room, he saw--
Crap, is that the time? I gotta open up the shop! You’d better be going.
Oh, don’t be all mopey like that. You can come back later when I’ve closed up. Besides, from that look on your face as I was telling the story, I’m sure you’ll be wanting to do this again soon enough! Hahahahahaha…
Get out of my shop.