The Children of the Vault’s cultist plague had spread throughout the galaxy. Pandora was hit the hardest, what with its abundance of terrible and violent bandits, and the Calypsos were only getting stronger, leeching off of the vulnerable masses. The topic of joining forces with any remaining bandit clans had been brought up more than once on Sanctuary III after Vaughn had proven himself more than willing to assist the Crimson Raiders in their world-saving endeavors. The problem there lied in the fact that there weren’t too many independent clans left after the Calypsos exerted their influence over the entire planet, not to mention Pandoran bandits generally didn’t hold very high opinions of the Raiders or even Vault Hunters in general. After much pondering and assessing of their options, Lilith sighed to herself and called Zane and FL4K down to the Sanctuary ’s bridge. FL4K knew Pandora’s landscape like the back of their own robotic hand, which made the choice that much easier on Lilith. They were never one for peaceful negotiation, though, which lead the siren to send Zane alongside them.
“See, we haven’t exactly had… The best relations with the Ripper Clan,” Lilith explained. “So it might be a little harder to get them on our side. They’re one of the last bandit clans on Pandora not to ally with the COV, though, so at this point we’re trying for all we can get.”
Zane simply nodded his head, but such a vague explanation on Lilith’s part was not enough to satiate FL4K’s morbid curiosity. “Care to explain?” they questioned.
“Well, we kinda... “ She paused. “...Killed their leader and a bunch of his lackeys a few years back. For the sake of the vault key, you know?”
“That and they’re all totally crazy! ” Claptrap interjected. “Especially that damn captain… Kept me as his own personal ‘torture doll’ for months! ”
Lilith responded with a slight shrug of the shoulders. “Is that enough context for you, killer?”
FL4K nodded slowly. “Of course.”
The drive through the Pandoran desert was a long and uneventful one. The vault hunters’ technical kept them safe from bandit fire as they slogged through miles of sand and fresh corpses. FL4K’s skag enjoyed the ride the most, his tongue flapping in the breeze and occasionally reeling back to slap him in the face. Zane, despite being the one behind the wheel, succumbed to boredom first, turning to small talk.
“So, uh… The ripper clan. How’dya think they got that name?”
“It seems obvious at first, but don’t most all bandits do some extent of ripping?” FL4K replied, gaze still fixed on the rock formations and cliffsides as they passed.
“Really makes ya think just how much rippin’ these blokes do on a good day.” Zane chuckled to himself.
“Of course,” FL4K chimed in, “Although I figure we will be doing most of the ripping, won’t we?”
Zane shook his head slowly. “If anything goes wrong, then I s’pose so. Though I figure I’ll leave most of the nasty shite to you.”
“Just the way I like it.”
After more than enough meaningless conversation and a steady transition from blistering hot to spine-chillingly cold conditions, the two found themselves standing before a giant ship protruding from a nearby mountain, the bandit camp in question lying just underneath. FL4K ogled at the ship’s hull, which proudly displayed a hulking metal dragon, complete with enough gasoline to ‘breathe fire’ for the next decade. Zane tapped them on the shoulder, gesturing towards an opening in the camp’s fortification. FL4K nodded in agreement and the vault hunters slipped in undetected.
Zane rolled his eyes and clutched his pistol. “Well, now what ?”
Lilith’s voice rang through his head almost immediately. “Your job is to find whoever’s calling the shots around here. Whoever that is is anyone’s guess, but I figured the more peaceful approach I planned for you wouldn’t alert the locals too much.”
Zane sighed and placed his gun back in its holster. “Well then, let’s get at it!” He jumped up from his cover as FL4K did the same. “Howzabout we show these bandits some good ol’ fashioned Crimson Raider hospitality?”
The camp went silent. One bandit whipped his head around to face the two vault hunters. “Did one of y’all say Crimson Raiders ?”
Zane huffed and put on a smile. “That’d be us, lad. We’re here on behalf of the Crimson Raiders. Special orders.”
The bandit cocked his shotgun and pointed it at the operative and his robotic companion. FL4K’s skag let out a low growl as FL4K attempted to pacify him.
“You two’ll be comin’ with me. I’m sure Sparky would love to see the both of you.”
The vault hunters trudged through the camp, guns perpetually pointed at their backs. FL4K remained silent throughout, whereas Zane wasn’t afraid to put himself on the line.
“This Sparky fellow… Is he, dare I ask, the leader of this little clan you’ve got here?”
“How’d you figure that out?”
“Lucky guess.” Zane paused. “Say, we’re actually here to discuss a, err… Peaceful agreement with that lad. Think we could get that done before ya blow our brains out?”
The bandit laughed. “Yeah, that’s not gonna fly… And I figure with a plan like that, it won’t be me with the gun against your head. You Crimson Raiders ain’t exactly got a clean track record around here.”
The bandit shoved Zane against a wall in the ship’s interior, gesturing for the much less confrontational FL4K to stand with him. The hunter complied and soon the two and their skag were effectively backed into a corner, which isn’t exactly the best position to be in when you’re stuck in a bandit camp. FL4K sank to the ground and began to pet their skag, who was starting to get antsy. Zane stood indignantly against the wall, his cockiness showing in his pose.
The bandit pounded on a nearby metal door. “Hey, Sparky! We got us a couple of Raider scumbags! Figured you’d wanna be the one to send ‘em off.”
Zane’s gaze shifted nervously to the other vault hunter in the room, who, despite everything, didn’t look worried at all. Perhaps he had underestimated FL4K’s devotion to death, Zane thought to himself. Perhaps it was just because they were a robot. Robots don’t feel pain, right? Or maybe it was, err... They felt it in slow-motion or something or other... Zane snapped out of what bordered on inconvenient daydreaming and winced, realizing that either way he wasn’t a robot.
After a slight wait, the door slowly opened, hinges creaking loudly before the door itself slammed against the wall opposite the two vault hunters. They could only assume that the figure that stepped out was the Sparky they’d heard so much about. He stepped forward to get a closer look and cocked his head, the light revealing that his face was covered by a crude metallic mask, two horns protruding from its front.
“So this is the best the Raiders can do now, huh? A Hyperion bot and an assassin way past his prime. I figure you guys are vault hunters too, aren’t you?”
“What’s it to ya?” Zane huffed.
“I dunno, I guess it just makes it
that much easier
for me to put you out of your misery.” Sparky paused and approached the operative in front of him. “You’re bold, even for a… Vault hunter.” He almost shuddered as he continued. “Reminds me of someone I used to know. Who
“Again, why should I tell you? ”
Sparky looked Zane in the eye as he cocked the gun in his hand. “It would be the respectful thing to do, wouldn’t it?”
FL4K looked over at Zane so as to say ‘just do something already,’ which Zane picked up on almost immediately. The older man sighed and looked up at the warlord in front of him.
“The name’s Zane. Zane Flynt. Me and my pal here were just-”
“Flynt? You said your last name was Flynt?”
“Yes, now if you’ll let me continue-”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
Zane looked back at Sparky, confused and quite frankly a bit irritated. It was difficult to read his face, considering the mask and all, but his body language showed that he was taken aback by something as trivial as the operative’s surname. Sparky let out a sharp breath and composed himself.
“I don’t care why you’re here.” He huffed. “...Tell me about your family life, Zane.”
Zane sat silently, asking himself how something like that could possibly be important or if he should disclose it in the first place. His tension was quickly broken by Sparky raising his pistol towards the man’s head.
“I said… Tell me about your family, Zane.”
The lad’s got quite the temper on him , Zane thought to himself.
The operative inhaled through his teeth. “Fine! Just… Don’t shoot…?”
Sparky lowered his gun slowly. “Go on, then. Or die here and now.”
Zane figured he might as well be honest with the bandit. After all, he figured that no matter what he said, he was going to wind up dead somehow. Working with bandit clans like this generally doesn’t provide such a suicide mission, but…
“Two brothers, one sister, shite parents, you get the gist.” He began. “No clue where my sister is, but I know for a fact both of my bastard brothers are workin’ with bandits now. Haven’t heard from any of ‘em in a while. Figure they gave up on me after I left for black ops.” He paused and looked up at Sparky. “That enough for ya, lad?”
Sparky’s eyes darted from Zane to the ground and back up to the Vault Hunters again. He started to fidget, but with what little of his face the two raiders could see it was impossible to tell if it was due to excitement or panic. Perhaps, in a sense, it was both.
Sparky never thought he’d get this far; he’d just assumed that his entire bloodline was dead, what with Baron being killed by Vault Hunters all those years ago and…
He let out a sharp exhale. It still pained him to remember his father’s death at the hands of those damned Crimson Raiders. Being the leader of a bandit clan could never feel lonelier… Not to mention his entire childhood was ripped away from him by a couple of lousy-
“You okay, boyo? I s’pose I expected more of a, err… Conversation.”
Sparky’s gaze snapped back up to meet Zane’s. “I, uhh…”
No, dammit, he thought to himself, of course I'm not okay. You’re not a teenager anymore, Sparky reminded himself. There's no need to panic and shut down.
The silence rang through the ship's interior before Sparky finally spoke up. “Your brothers. Captain and Baron Flynt, right?”
Zane was taken aback by the fact that the bandit not only recognized his name but his brothers as well. He assumed that they were simply infamous in the area, like some sort of bandit celebrities. The words bandit celebrities echoed through his head as he cringed at the thought of his own family giving in to the Children of the Vault, its plausibility hitting him like a punch to the gut.
“Mmhm.” Zane nodded. “I figure you’ve heard of ‘em then?”
“You know, Zane , I really hate to be the one to tell you this, but… Your brothers are dead.” Sparky paused. “...And you might just be all that I have left.”