"A man-hunting pack of squirrels has entered the area."
Ross looked up from his breakfast of kibble with a scrunched nose - evidence of his distaste for the menagerie's food of choice or disbelief at what Stevenson had just announced, she was not sure.
"How do you do that?"
"Just get a feeling. Is Nemo still asleep?"
"Probably. That or trying to tame another muffalo."
"Is that why you're eating kibble?"
Ross nodded and waved his spoon in indignation.
"Bugger took all the potatoes again."
"I'll have a word with him... you do realise there's berries in the freezer?"
"Used them to make the kibble," Ross replied with another nod and through a mouthful.
"You made kibble, but didn't think to make a meal?"
"Stove was out of wood."
Stevenson sighed. The logic of some of the people she was stranded with often escaped her.
A quick tour of the base told her only Nemo and Tau were unaccounted for; Nemo could look after himself, and had their best gun besides - but Tau was non-violent, which meant they would probably find them besieged in one of the old buildings by the squirrels or running away. Stevenson hoped the latter - at least while unwounded, Tau could hot foot it back to base quicker than any of them.
She enlisted Latch to help, and after a visit to the cache of clothes scavenged from corpses they both had some semblance of armour hanging off their torsos. The chestplates were ill-fitting, battered, and old, and one of them smelt really funky and put Latch in a bad mood, but they'd do for a battle against the squirrels. Steel shiv and wooden club in hand, and with Wild Boar 4 trotting along merrily behind them, they set off on the trek across the map to find their friends. Well, 'friends' was too strong a word - more like opportunal space-sharers who occasionally hit on each other and sometimes shot each other (Nemo maintained that had been an accident, but everyone agreed Fedon had been an idiot to stand between the bear and the defensive line behind the sandbags).
It didn't take long to find Tau: screaming, with a trail of angry squirrels behind them, they were hard to miss.
"Attack the lead squirrel! See if you can kite it round to me and I'll stab it!" Stevenson called out orders. "Tau - run round me in circles, the rest of them should keep following you. Don't slow down too much and don't trample the healroot, it's taken me ages to get good enough to plant that!"
The first couple of squirrels went down easily enough, but soon there were casualties on both sides. With scratches covering their legs Tau retreated inside to find the herbal medicine - then Latch went down.
"There's too many of them!" Latch wailed and dropped her club, a meal, and a handful of flake on the floor as she fell.
"Too many my ass!" Stevenson replied, and slapped Wild Boar 4 on the rump in encouragement, "We've got them now, don't we girl!"
Metal flashing and teeth gnashing, they knocked out the remaining squirrels. Squeaks of dying, rabid rodents surrounded them, and Tau returned to collect Latch amidst the carnage.
"I thought I should be ready in case I needed to carry one of you back - I turned Ross' room into a hospital. Do you think he'll fit in an animal bed or do we need to build a new one?"
"Just designate him a sleeping spot for now, I think we've run out of wood."
"Do you need treating?"
Stevenson shook her head 'no'.
"Just a few scratches and bruises, you can patch me up later. Latch needs your attention the most - and check over Wild Boar 4, won't you?"
They jumped when several gunshots rang out, punctuated by the yelp of one squirrel.
"That one wasn't dead yet," Nemo said in greeting.
"So you needed to shoot it four times?"
"It's close to the ground and a small target, I can't hit it every time."
"Fine," Stevenson held her hand out, "give me the gun - I need you to finish off these pests, and with my shiv you can hit them each time."
Nemo pulled a face and dithered.
"But I hate melee weapons, they're so barbaric."
"Suck it up; I need medical attention, you don't. Make sure they're all dead, then you can start butchering them."
"And what will you be doing while I'm doing all this work?"
"From a few squirrels?"
"That's easy for you to say, you weren't here! It was a bloodbath."
"A group of chickens have wandered into the area, and are joining our colony," she reported the new information she sensed, then grimaced at Nemo, "looks like I'll be building a coop while you're sorting out these."
"Hide the beer," Nemo said.
"Last time I kept chickens they went crazy for beer and drugs. Belive me, you don't want a drunk chick or a hen overdosed on yayo to deal with - and keep a special eye on Hen 2, she's always a troublemaker."
"Oh, and Stevenson?" Nemo called as he hacked into the first not-quite-dead-yet squirrel, "tell Ross we'll have plenty of meat? I know he thinks it's economic but I really don't want another meal of pet food."
"I'll let him know," she replied, "and a message from him - stop taking all the potatoes."
"But how else will I tame my muffalo army?"
Stevenson paused in thought.
"Have you tried kibble?"