One impromptu surgery session, four hours, and three quarters of a mile later, Doryn started as a large explosion took out the cave and a large part of the stone face around it. The success of her trap made her grin. That was for Cindy, you jerks!

 

God job, Doryn! That will teach them! Light bless Tippi and her bloodymindedness. Joey just nodded agreement, approval washing through him to her.

 

“Let’s keep moving. I think we’re on the opposite end of the island that we want to be,” Doryn said quietly.

 

The two squirrels on her shoulders nodded; the one she carried with infinite gentleness remained still.

 

-x-

 

Heart pounding, Doryn waited to a count of five- and bolted across the open space while the mo’arg’s back was turned, Tippi and Joey hot on her heels, Cindy clutched to her chest.

 

-x-

 

A fire was a risk she didn’t dare take out in the open; grey-green clouds blocked the heavens from view, low and threatening. Briefly she prayed for no more acid rain. That little bit of weather had been an extremely unpleasant surprise. But the firestarter burned almost smokeless, and soup bubbled quietly. Tippi sat on a rock, vigilant, taking first watch.

 

-x-

 

“…Since when can-?”

 

Apparently my biological systems have integrated the pieces you used to patch me up. Cindy, recovering but still a little weak, stared alongside Doryn, Tippi and Joey; who was more surprised was hard to say. The charred crater, about the size of a large pot, spoke for them all, as did the reek of burning demon flesh.

 

“You shoot…. fireballs.”

 

Cindy preened a little. I shall have to practice, she declared. We need to find more demons.

 

-x-

 

Felhounds are tenacious, untiring, and utterly loyal to their masters. The pack that dogged them for the last fifteen hours rounded the corner, snarling low.

 

The leader stepped on the small wire strung at ankle-height across the ravine, and Doryn almost whooped as the scraggly dead tree growing in the side of the ravine WHIPPED into the pack and sent them flying, literally, scattering with cracks of broken bones and pained yipping as they landed. She’d pulled it back around the corner, out of sight and taught as piano sting; stepping on the wire released all the coiled tension into a smashing blow.

 

Reaching for her crossbow, she loaded a bolt. Any survivors would report back to their masters, after all.

 

-x-

 

“Looking for… assistant… to aid in testing…” Zenruid Fateshifter muttered to himself as he wrote. The Nope II, docked at the floating mage city of Dalaran, provided him and his office a spectacular view of the Broken Isles through a glorious bay window built into the hull. Natural lighting really was best. Behind him, in a state of delicately organized chaos, his lab waited. 

 

“I am so not looking forward to recreating the squirrels. They took forever the first time! All those little hairs! And I can’t find my blueprints! It’s almost like that’s a convenient plot device to prevent other cybiosquirrels, a name I invented just now, from popping up somehow and possibly godmode! …Not to mention finding a new assistant.” He sighed, heavy and dramatic. 

 

She’d been perfect, really, for the job. His very own Doreen Green. Seriously, it was like a celestial sign. 

 

Well. Almost. Besides dying, she was perfect. The vitals monitoring program he’d activated in her goggles went dark minutes after she’d been air-dropped into the most hellish warzone on this or any planet: The Broken Shore. There was a recovery mission in the works, of course, but that kind of thing took organizing, and time and effort and money, to venture back and scour the island for broken bits of squirrel or girl. 

 

Which meant even more paperwork! 

 

Zenruid finished the first copy of his new advertisement with another little sigh. 

 

But a week had passed, a week of no contact, not a hint of human hide nor metal hair. It didn’t take a genius, which he was, to figure out what that meant. Something briefly sad and tired flickered across his face- 

 

CHI-RIT-RIT-RIT-CHIIIIII-SCREEEEEEEEE!

 

A shape, large and dark and winged and flying like it was drunk, in pain, or trying to dislodge something blasted past the bay window too fast to discern, just a streak of dark colors and- green?

 

Zen blinked. “Felbats? Here-?”

 

Something went WHUNK, a hard impact, rocking the Nope II. His keen night elf hearing picked up sounds of a fight, booted footsteps and little tinktinktink noises like metal on metal, leathery wings beating against the metal of his ship. Something screamed in inhuman pain- something WHUNG-TANK’d above him and abruptly cut it off. Zen stopped, ears pricked and listening, moments away from cat form but holding off for some reason. 

 

A slow smile began to spread across his face. 

 

Then Doryn Greenly and her squirrels blasted his lab door clean off it’s hinges –Oh, goody, look at that! She got the incendiary functions up and running!– and strode inside, the thunk of her boots on the deck loud in the still silence. 

 

She looked… well, much like anyone who had traversed the length of the Broken Shore alone: battered, bruised, with old bloodstains (hers) and new (presumably the bat’s) and others of questionable origin. Only half her cloak remained, the rest singed off; her armor sported dozens of scratches, dents, scorch marks, and other signs of combat. Dirt caked her skin, old tear tracks bright against the grime. Her right hand was swathed in bandages, a deep cut on a cheekbone, a slight limp to her step on the left side, pale-faced, her hair an ginger mass of who even knew what. The halberd and gun were gone, but she’d held on to the crossbow, it seemed. He made a gleeful mental note to find her a nice rifle, something fitting for her. A wild light in her sleep-deprived eyes hinted at the fact that this was not the same girl he picked up in Stormwind.

 

(Well, that, and the fact that apparently to reach him she hijacked a fel-bat and crashed it onto the top deck. Which, honestly, was suitably impressive, very Squirrel Girl, if a tad bit showy. A humble man, was Zen.)

 

The other thing she wore? An expression pure rage, and three equally angry cybiosquirrels, one on each shoulder and one on her head. The resemblance between thier posture was a little uncanny, to say the least, bristling with fury both literally and figuratively. (He noted, with the sort of observational skills so sharp they bordered unnerving, that one looked much the worse for wear than the others- was that a scar? My theories were right! HA!

 

She looked like she was about to shoot him, or tell the squirrels to kill him, or possibly both.

 

Doryn opened her mouth. And whatever she meant to say, whatever curses or questions she had for him, what came out was a single, hoarse, ironclad sentence. 

 

“I WANT A RAISE.” 

 

And Zen grinned.

Author Cael
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