Shania ducks down behind the rocks as fire blasts over their heads. "Could've taken that job at the law firm," she grumbles, "but nooo." She tightens her grip on her phaser rifle and adds, "It must be running out of hit points by now, surely."
Nanette frowns down at the scanner in her hand, before raising her head to peer carefully over the top of their makeshift shelter. The creature – which resembles nothing so much as a large wingless dragon – is clearly injured, but still more than holding its own against their attacks.
She raises her gun and fires a few times, hitting it in the side and provoking a new surge of flaming breath in their direction. Their weapons are impressively powerful – Daly only wanted the best, after all – but even they're having trouble penetrating the dragon's tough hide. The only bright spot is that the reward for taking it down will pay for almost half of their planned upgrades to the ship.
If they can take it down, that is.
"How're you guys doing?" Nanette asks into her communicator.
It's Walton who answers. "Oh, we're just peachy. Someone remind me whose idea it was to confront this thing?"
"Look, do you want that second bathroom or not?" Nanette demands. The short answer, of course, is that it was hers, though the others had agreed after she explained her reasoning. This planet is way out of the way of everything, stuck off in a far corner of their virtual universe. She doubts many people will have explored out this far yet. That, added to the difficulty level of this particular quest, gave them the least chance of having to interact with other, real-world players, as well as ensuring that any loot they gained would be theirs and theirs alone.
Besides, how often in your life do you get to fight a dragon?
She runs an arm over her forehead and tries to focus. "Have you seen any weak points?"
"I tried aiming for the eyes," Nate puts in, through the communicator. "But that just seemed to make it angry."
Shania has risen up to peer cautiously over the top of the rocks. "It looks like it's less armoured underneath," she says. "But we'd have to get in pretty close to hit it."
That sparks an idea. "Hang on," Nanette says, and pulls off her backpack. She rummages through it for a moment before emerging triumphant with a pack of stick-on explosive.
Shania stares at her. "You can't be serious."
"No way it can survive this," Nanette says, weighing the explosive in one hand, then, into the communicator, "I've got a plan. Can you guys get its attention focused on you for a few minutes?"
"Can do, boss," Nate replies, over Walton's rather strenuous objections.
The sound of phaser-fire fills the air, and Nanette pops her head around the rocks to see the dragon begin lumbering away from them. Its movements seem to be hampered by its size and weight, which is the only reason they haven't all been turned into crispy dragon food by now.
"Cover me," she says to Shania, and launches herself around the rocks without waiting for a reply.
It only takes her a few seconds to cross the short distance to the dragon's back leg, and she dodges a swaying tail and ducks underneath to slap the explosive directly onto its stomach. Then she flicks the switch and runs like hell.
A blast of flame hits her just as she dives back behind the rocks, sending her shoulder into agony. But her efforts are rewarded a few seconds later when the explosive detonates and the dragon vanishes, replaced by a pile of money, weapons, and other items. Nanette raises her uninjured arm in triumph. "Told you it'd work."
"You're insane," Shania tells her, but she sounds admiring. "Come on, let me fix your shoulder, and then we can go pick up our loot."
She pulls a health pack out of the backpack and sets about applying it to Nanette's shoulder. Nanette watches her work, breathing a sigh of relief as the pain disappears and the injury begins to heal. It's one of the things that still surprises her; how quickly they heal nowadays. Anything short of actual death can be fixed almost instantly with enough health packs. (They've banded about theories about what actual death would mean for them – Nanette has always been of the opinion that they'd just blink out of existence – but none of them is exactly in a rush to find out for sure.)
Shania's fingers are gentle on Nanette's skin, brushing against Nanette's shoulder as the wound finishes healing and disappears into nothing. "Come on," she says, closing up the backpack and swinging it over her shoulder. "Let's go find out what we won."
* * *
Walton raises a glass, already most of the way to drunk. One of the best parts of no longer being under Daly's control is that the alcoholic drinks on the ship actually have an effect now, and they've all spent the last hour or so taking full advantage of that fact. "To our fearless captain," he says. "Crazy as hell, but she gets the job done."
"I'll drink to that," Nanette replies, downing her glass and reaching out to refill it. She lost track of exactly what she was drinking a while back, but it tastes decent and is doing the job, so she doesn't much care. Her skin is tingling, an electric feeling running through her and making her hyper-aware of everything, especially the feeling of Shania's arm pressed against hers where they sit together. The past few weeks have been such a whirlwind that she hasn't had the chance to fully test out her un-barbie-dolled anatomy, but she's hoping tonight will be the night.
The party breaks up not long after, everyone splitting up and heading off to different parts of the ship. Nanette walks Shania to her room, their hands brushing casually and sending sparks through her fingers. They pause by the doorway, staring at each other, before Nanette moves forwards and kisses her.
Shania kisses back fiercely, her hands coming up to wrap around Nanette's back. They stumble inside and over to the bed, fingers pulling impatiently at clothing.
Nanette learns two things that night – her anatomy works just as well as it always has, and Shania is very good with her hands.
* * *
"No more dragons," Nanette agrees. It's a whole wide universe out there, after all. Plenty of other ways to make money.
She curls closer to Shania and lets herself drift. That can be tomorrow's problem, she decides. For now, she's happy right where she is.