By Ahalosniper

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
Unofficial Motto of the US Postal Service

Sleepless NightsEdit

Pandora, so often dominated by fierce battles between raider gangs, lay quiet that night. A rare feeling of tranquility settled over the canyons of the badlands, and even the dustclouds settled down, revealing the myriad of stars over the desert.
Two men sat against the rock at the entrance to a cave about halfway up one of the shallow slanted cliffs. After being silent for a long time, watching the quiet, one spoke.
“We’ll get into New Haven tomorrow morn. The job payoffs ought to keep us floatin’ for another month. Think we’ll run into any trouble on the way in?” He said, putting his hands on the grips of his twin pistols.
The other man, dressed in a dusty old trench coat, laughed. “Thanks for stating the obvious, Garret. No, I don’t think so, if we can make it to the pass quick enough. Are Wrecker’s men still out there?”
“Yeah, I can see ‘em. They’re just sitting in their runner, watching us.” Garret slipped the clip out of his pistol. He set the gun back in the holster, and opened the switchblade knife he had built into it, using the clip as a handle. A dirty little trick, but effective. That kept a man alive on this planet. “Got any personal business in Haven, Spender?”
Spender sighed and picked his scoped combat rifle off the rock it sat on. “No, I don’t. I’m dropping off a package for Ms. Tannis, that’s it, alright? Get off my back.”
Garret laughed and put the clip back in his weapon. “I’m gonna get some of those cake things, want one?”
“Yeah, sure.” Spender mumbled as he adjusted the scope on his rifle. Garret walked back into the cave, passing the big half-track they used for their delivery service. He slapped a little of the caked-on dirt off the fender as he passed. Behind the tailgate, a seven-year-old girl and a beat-up blue CL4P-TP unit were watching two mechanics lying between the treads, changing the oil.
“You know,” the Claptrap began in its high-pitched voice, “You could save a substantial amount if you were to trade in this vehicle for a newer one. The more modern runners use a diluted fuel that costs much less than the pure diesel you feed this.”
Dev, one of the mechanics, poked his head out from under, his face streaked with grease. “For the thirtieth time, a runner wouldn’t be able to fit all of us on it, and two of them would take more fuel than the one half-track alone. Plus, the armor on this thing is too thick to be damaged by raider machine guns. Know of any runner that can do that?”
“Damaged runners can be easily repaired at many locations in this part of Pandora, and they are designed–”
“They are designed so they blow up whenever they take a good hit!” Dev growled frustratedly. “We just don’t have enough cash to spend on a replacement runner every time the raiders blow one of ours up.”
The Claptrap paused. “You know, you could save a substantial amount if you were to trade in this vehicle . . .”
“Maybe it would be better if we just trade in for a new Claptrap unit!” Austin yelled from under the half-track. The girl giggled as the Claptrap’s robotic eye widened. Garret walked back out and tossed one of the packaged snacks to Spender.
As they began to unwrap them, the girl ran out to them. “Hey, Garret? Can Claptrap sleep by me tonight?”
“No, Cary, Claptrap is going to keep watch. You know, Claptrap doesn’t really sleep, he’s a . . .” But then Garret looked down into her pleading eyes, and found it hard to continue.
“It’s alright, he can sleep by you tonight.” Spender said, crouching down and rubbing the mark on her brow the siren had given her. “Me n’ Garret will keep watch tonight.”
“Yay!” Cary yelled. She ran a little way back inside, then came back and looked at Spender. “Are we going for another ride tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yeah, we are. It’ll be a nice, fast ride.” Spender said, smiling.
She ran off back into the cave, happy as could be.
Spender and Garret looked back down towards where the bandit runner was lying in wait. “We’ll have to be fast.” Garret whispered.
A grotesque Skag howl sounded over the landscape.
“Sounds like Half-Tooth’s pack is out tonight.” Garret said, looking out into the starlit night.
“It’s a good night to be out.” Spender said, laying back against the rock, starting to doze off until his turn to watch.

New HavenEdit

The half-track kicked up dust as it ground to a halt in front of Scooter’s Catch-A-Ride in New Haven. Austin and Spender climbed out of opposite sides of the cab.
“I’m just saying that the air filter isn’t the only thing we should replace often.” Austin said, continuing their conversation. “The treads could stand tightening, a new exhaust pipe, and just an overall cleaning could really make her run better.”
“We make three times what we’re hoping to make here, then you come talk to me.” Spender said, meeting him around back unlocking the back hatch. “Until then, just pick up that new filter.”
The Claptrap popped out of its alcove in the side of the vehicle’s armor, and Spender opened the back. Cary was first out, and Garret just behind her, squinting in the sunlight. Dev sat on the ladder and opened his canteen.
“Alright, listen up.” Spender said. “We’ve got deliveries to make, you all know where to go. Dev will get the track refueled and parked with Scooter. Cary, stay with Garret and Claptrap. We’ll meet at the JettSetter in three hours. Don’t get lost.”
Without any hesitation, they spread out in mostly different directions.
Cary spotted a group of kids her age kicking a can around. She looked up at Garret pleadingly. “Take Claptrap with you.” He said, and she ran off with the boxy little blue robot rolling behind. Garret started to tail them at a casual distance.
Spender caught sight of him and laughed. “Still don’t trust her to Clap?”
Garret turned. “The robot’s fine, it’s the girl I’m worried about. You remember what happened last time she ran off.”
He did. Cary had almost been trampled by some walking tank his friends had called Brick. A woman with him, marked with odd tattoos, bent down and touched her on her forehead. Now she had a little mark there, but none of them had any idea what it meant.
As Garret walked off, Dev went back inside the half-track and started it up again to move it into the shade of Scooters tents, and Spender climbed up onto the vehicle requisitioning platform to talk to the Scooter himself.
“Mornin, Spender.” The man said, looking up from under his baseball cap. “You really ought to think about trading that old convoy piece in. I could cut ya a good deal on it.”
Spender half smiled and set a large package on his desk. “That’s what the Claptrap keeps telling me. I think I’ll keep it for a while yet.”
“Suit yourself.” Scooter said. He shrugged, put the package under his desk and counted out money for the delivery. “I’ll let you test ride one if you like, though.”
Spender looked at the sizable bundle he had under his other arm, addressed to Patricia Tannis. “I think, Scoot, I’ll take you up on that offer.”

Not even fifteen minutes later, Spender sat in the driver’s seat of a bright red runner, speeding over the western Rust Commons. The area was filled with Spiderants and bandit outposts, but he had no trouble outrunning any of them.
Finally he came to a place where the cliffs came too close for a runner to fit through. He climbed out and checked his Tediore-made rifle. It resembled its ancient predecessor, the P90 submachine gun, if a bit larger. It had a cylindrical scope, and fired short, accurate bursts, perfect for taking down an unshielded bandit or a Spiderant with its back turned.
He slung it over the back of his trench coat by the leather strap and picked up the parcel for Tannis. As a last measure, he brushed the dust off the front of his coat and brushed his hair back, then walked through the choke point. On the other side lay a cluster of shabby aluminum shelters, rusted and falling apart. One sat a little higher than the others, and he walked up the path to it. Spender noticed the path had been well used recently. Good, she was starting to be able to be outside again.
“Ms. Tannis? Patricia? It’s Spender.” He called, pushing the door open slightly.
A gunshot so close to his head it deafened him for a moment rang out, and a bullet pinged off the door. Spender jumped and fell over backwards, but managed to not drop the package.
A woman who looked in her early twenties poked her head out the door. She had rosy cheeks and a pair of gray goggles strapped over her short, dark brown hair. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Tom. A bandit gang has been hanging out around here, and I don’t want them finding me.” She giggled. “I’m glad I didn’t shoot you. Is that for me?” she picked it up like it might shatter. “Come inside, it’ll be so nice to have company.”
As she disappeared into the shack, Spender picked himself up, muttering, “Yeah, I’m glad you can’t aim, too.”
The inside of Patricia’s shack was simple, bedding in the corner, a desk and chair in the center crowded with papers and small priceless artifacts. She pushed the lot off the side and set the box in the middle.
As she began to rip into the covering paper, Spender said, “There’s another weeks worth of good rations in there for you I got from doc Zed. I’d avoid his ‘special’ meat, I don’t think it’s animal meat in there. The bread and cakes though are from offworld, so you can trust them.”
She pulled a heavy looking binder from the bottom of the package with a grin of triumph.
“What’s in that?”
“All the information on Pandora in the Dahl Corporation’s systems. I have a friend that still works there who sent it to me.” She said, staring at the cover. “He probably thinks I’m an insane little harmless fool who’s not going to last the month. But then, I have you to help me.”
Patricia sat back in her chair, smiling. “Nobody comes out here anymore, except you and the bandits. It gets lonely.”
“You could move into town.” Spender suggested.
She doubled over laughing. After a while, she couldn’t stop herself and rolled onto the dirt floor. Spender started thinking he should do something, when she stopped very suddenly. She picked herself up, sat back in the chair, and looked at Spender quite seriously.
“You could move into here with me.”
Spender had to stop himself from laughing. “You know I can’t, I’ve got a business to run.”
“Shame . . .”
“Yeah.” Spender tried to find a bright side for her. “I’m here every other week, though.”
She smiled at that.

The StormEdit

Garret walked into the bar known as the JettSetter when the sun stood directly overhead with Cary and the Claptrap in tow. The place was a dive, hastily put together with scrapmetal and old spaceship parts. The owner, A J Stetson, kept the place in good working order all around the clock with an old mining vehicle generator for the frequent power outages.
It was for the most part empty, but he spotted a booth made of runner seats and a steel panel where Dev and Austin had set up, and pushed Cary and the robot in between him and Dev. “No Spender yet?”
The two looked up from their card game, and Austin cracked an evil grin. “No, he’s just playing chicken with a rakk hive outside.”
Garret only resisted the urge to slug him because he was across the table and out of reach. “Could’ve just said no.”
“He’s probably still up at Tannis’ place.” Dev said, looking back to his hand. They were playing Egyptian Rat Screw, a game that was popular with runner jockeys like them because it took equal parts speed, luck, and bold-faced stupidity. It fit the crowd. “I don’t get why he hangs out there all the time. Tannis is pretty and all, but she’s without a doubt loony. How’d she end up here anyway?”
“I heard she came in on a corporation team.” Garret said. “As for Spender, I think he just likes people who are skag-crap crazy. How do you think we ended up with you two for drivers?” He got up from the table. “I’m gonna take a walk. If the girl’s not here when I get back . . . you’d better find her real fast.”
As he walked away, the pair looked at each other, and Austin got up and sat on the other side of her.
Outside the bar, Garret found himself back in an alleyway, shadowed by the overhanging second floor of tavern. The place smelled like oil and sewage, and he was pretty sure the smell was coming from the puddles along the middle of the road.
He reached into his jacket and pulled out another of those little cakes. He unwrapped it and walked to the end of the lane. The usual silence of the town held strong, even quieter than usual.
“Could you spare some of that?” a strained voice said from behind him.
Garret turned and saw an old man with a patch over one eye sitting against the building. His clothes and beard were inlayed with dust. Garret looked at the candy for a moment, then sighed.
“Here,” he said, tossing it to the man. “Enjoy it.”
Garret watched as he eagerly wolfed it down. “There’s a sandstorm coming, don’t ya know. It’ll get here before the dim cycle does.”
They watched each other for a moment before Garret said, “Thanks,” and moved on.
Out in the wider, sunlit streets, he started noticing exactly how empty the town was. It wasn’t unusual, but it looked like the houses had been left in a hurry. That was when he caught sight of a handful of people carrying guns running down the street towards him.
As they passed, he called to one of them, “What’s the rush?”
The one he had yelled at kept running, but another one of them caught him by the shoulder, a rifle in his other hand. “Bandits. Wrecker’s Raiders! They have runners, broke through the walls. I’m gonna find some cover!”
He ran off without looking back.
Wrecker was a small time bandit chief who had stolen a shipment of new runners a while back. They had had it in for Spender’s group for some time. Their group had outrun the bandit’s scouts and got into town, and Garret didn’t think the bastard had it in him to attack the whole settlement to get at them. Guess he was wrong.
He took cover just inside an alleyway, drew his pistols, and waited. Before long, a blood red runner came down the street slowly, the turret swiveling about, looking for targets. It wasn’t old, but the raiders had ripped the outer plating up into sharp edges that glinted like new steel. Garret waited until the turret was facing away from him, then popped up and fired continuously at them.
His first shots went through the turret man’s back. Three red holes were opened in his spine, and he slumped over the turret. The driver just revved the engine loudly and sped toward him. Garret didn’t flinch, and held the weapons straight. A single shot went through the plastic mask of the driver, killing him, but the runner kept coming.
Garret threw himself out of the way as the buggy crashed into the side of the building, throwing up a blinding cloud of dust. When it settled, it was as quiet as before.
“Yeah! Try that again!” he shouted, getting up.
At that moment, he noticed a crowd of bandits walking up the street. They saw him, and some began running towards him as others shot tracers.
“Ah, just great.” He muttered, and ran back towards the pub.

Garret threw the door open when he got back to the JettSetter. Dev and Austin still sat at the booth with Cary and the Claptrap. Now, Cary was playing against Austin, and winning, much to the embarrassment and confusion of Austin.
“It’s not damned possible . . .” Austin muttered, staring at his hand as Cary beat him again. Dev was looking at the conveniently placed truck mirror sitting directly over him and doing his best not to laugh when Garret rushed over.
“Get your asses up!” Garret shouted. “Wrecker’s men are here on the warpath.”
Without any hesitation, Dev pulled a sawed-off shotgun from it’s hiding place along his calf, holstered in the boot, and Austin began putting together a sub-machine gun from parts he had hidden on himself. Garret reloaded his pistols and crouched next to Cary. “Listen, you stay with Clap, and shout if you get into any trouble, understand me?”
She nodded silently, and the Claptrap led her behind the bar to hide.
Dev and Austin took positions in the windows as Garret moved outside to cover the alley. It still smelled as bad as before, but all was quiet as he moved towards the intersection with the main street. He kept his eyes glued to the building corner as he edged his way along.
Just as he was about to look around the corner, a hand axe nearly sheared his head apart. He leaped back as the wielder came around with his white, blue-eyed mask. He growled loudly, making a show of how scary he was. Garret just shot him.
As the bandit fell over into the muck, two more came around. This time one of them had a shotgun.

Inside, Dev had taken a knee, sitting right in front of the back door. A hulking brute of a man, scars all across his bare back ripped the flimsy door off its hinges. Just as it finished throwing the board away, it turned back only to catch a spray of lead in his stomach. The bandit flew three feet from the force of the shot and landed in the dust, blood mixing with sand.
He reloaded the lever action when a wiry psycho came through the aluminum ceiling and landed face down behind him. Austin turned away from the window and finished him off with a quick spray.
More began to try widening the hole in the roof to get in, and Dev put the spray of a shell in their direction as he and Austin leaped over the bar for some cover. The barkeep had been cowering there with a rifle, waiting for someone to pull a gun on him. Dev fired a spray of shot over the bar as Austin grabbed him.
“There any other way out of this place?” he asked.
The tender nodded feebly and pointed up. “There’s roof access just above us. But they’re up there.”
Austin looked up at the trap door, then out the back door. A runner with a rocket turret had pulled up outside. Austin decided he had better odds on the roof. He strapped the sub-machine gun to his thigh and nodded to Dev. “Gimme a boost!”
Dev set down the shotgun and weaved his fingers into a step for him. Austin took a short run and leapt up, pushing the trap door out and catching a handhold. Austin pulled himself up, then reached a hand down. Dev lifted the girl up next, then tossed the Claptrap.
He saw another heavy coming through the back with a grenade launcher, and jumped for Austin’s hand with his shotgun in the other. As Austin strained to pull him up, Dev fired a lead slug into his head, and the bandit toppled over.
On the roof, Cary had run off, and the Claptrap dutifully followed. Where the bandits had started ripping into the roof, a muscled guy with a shotgun had started tearing the loose aluminum apart as two smaller people stood watching. Cary crept up with her pocketknife. She walked silently up behind him with a small smile, then stabbed him at the base of his skull. The man roared, standing up and grabbing at the back of his head before falling through the hole.
The other two bandits turned toward her, one producing a wicked carving knife. The Claptrap took stock of the situation and wheeled himself in front of the girl. One bandit looked like he was about to kick him, when the Claptrap’s back opened up. Two small stabilizers extended, and it pulled a pair of rotary machine guns out of itself, fixing to the ends of its arms.
“Stand back, pal.” It chirped. The bandits didn’t moved, baffled. Then Clap opened up. Hundreds of small lead needles riddled the two, and they died as confused men.

Garret dropped behind a crate to reload as buckshot flew by his head. He popped up just as one with a club jumped over his cover and tackled him to the ground. The man yelled a victory cry and raised the club, only to have Garret’s fist hit the side of his head and knock him into the muck in the middle of the alley.
Garret rolled over and sighted one of his pistols, crawling for it. The bandit had gotten back up, though, and rolled him over. He raised his foot to stomp Garret’s head in, when a bullet thudded into his chest, followed by another. The bandit collapsed as the old man hauled Garret to his feet.
“Ah owed ya one.” He said, brandishing a rifle. A hole opened in the man’s heart as the other bandit, a woman, shot him in the back. Garret was hit in the chin with the butt of her shotgun as the old man fell dead, and the barrel was pointed straight at his head.
Just as the bandit was about to pull the trigger, she looked up, face hidden by the mask. From the far end of the alley, two more of them called to her and grabbed onto a runner. She looked back down at Garret, and gave mercy by running off. Finding one of his pistols next to him, Garret stood up and watched the woman running down the alley.
“Wrong move, bitch.” He said, and fired a single round into the back of her head. She fell to the ground without a sound.
Garret turned back to the body of the old man. He lay in the dust, rifle just out of his reach. He turned him over, and put the rifle on top of him grasped in his hands. It was the least he could do.


After talking and laughing for a while, Spender got up to leave. Tannis walked with him out to his runner, and Spender set his gun inside with a package from Tannis to a research group in Fyrestone. She hung back in the crevice in the rock, still wary of the open spaces. Spender looked out into the desert, the sun fading for the dim cycle to begin.
“It’s a beautiful planet, even if it does try to kill you most of the time.” He said, smiling up at her.
She looked careless, rubbing dust from the clothing on her shoulder. “If you like sand, monsters, and gas giants in their final stages going beyond the line of horizon.”
Spender embraced her, and got into the runner as its radio crackled to life. “Spender, you copy?”
He picked up the receiver. “Yeah, I got you Garret.”
“You might want to get back here quick, we have a big sandstorm on the way.”
Spender stood up in his seat, Patricia still watching him. Sure enough, far, far off, a wall of solid sand was sweeping over the entire world as far as he could see. It was coming fairly slowly, and was hundreds of miles away, though.
“Garret, how’s it looking, is it a bad one?”
Another pause came from the other end. “Yes, hell yes. There’s lightning inside it. It’s gotta be flash-glassing in there.”
Spender started getting serious. A flash glassing was when the flying sand was melted by a lightning bolt. They could reach a mile high, and could kill people when they came down. “Alright, I’m coming back. Out.” He turned to Patricia. “Will you be okay out here?”
“I had a different house once. One of the glassed bolts landed on it.”
“Alright, I’m bringing you into town with me.”
She turned around. “If I have to, but I’m bringing my things.”
Spender’s jaw dropped. “We don’t have time!”
She didn’t answer him, only walked back towards her house. Spender grumbled, and ran after her to help pack.