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So when the monster attacked, it ran straight at its enemy, hoping to get a grip on them, which pretty much ended the fight. If it couldn’t do that, it tried to hurl heavy objects at the opponent. The one in the cargo bay had nearly killed Jim Holden by throwing a massive crate. Unfortunately, her armor had a lot of the same restrictions it had. While it made her very fast when she wanted to be, it was not particularly good at lateral movement. Most things built for speed weren’t. Cheetahs and horses didn’t do a lot of sideways running. She was strong in her suit, but not nearly as strong as it was. She did have an advantage with firearms in that she could run away from the creature while continuing to attack from range. The creature couldn’t throw a massive object at her without stopping and anchoring itself. It might be ungodly strong, but it still only weighed what it weighed, and Newton had a few things to say about a light object throwing a heavy one.

By the time she’d finished assembling her suit, she’d watched the video over a hundred times, and the tactics of the fight were starting to take shape in her head. In hand-to-hand combat training, she’d been able to overpower most of her opponents. But the small and quick fighters, the ones who knew how to stick-and-move, gave her trouble. That was who she’d be in this fight. She’d have to hit and run, never stopping for a moment. And even then she’d need a lot of luck, because she was fighting way out of her weight class, and one shot from the monster was a guaranteed knockout.

Her other advantage was that she didn’t really have to win. She just had to do enough damage to make the monster kill itself. By the time she’d climbed into her newly refurbished suit and let it close around her for a final test, she was pretty sure she could do that.

Bobbie thought her newfound peace about the battle to come would finally let her sleep, but after three hours of tossing and turning in her rack, she gave up. Something still itched at the back of her head. She was trying to find her Bushido, and there were still too many things she couldn’t let go of. Something wasn’t giving her permission yet.

So she pulled on a large fuzzy bathrobe she’d stolen from the Guanshiyin, and rode the ladder-lift up toward the ops deck. It was third watch, so the ship was deserted. Holden and Naomi had a cabin together, and she found herself envying that human contact right now. Something certain to cling to amid all the other uncertainty. Avasarala was in her borrowed cabin, probably sending messages to people back on Earth. Alex would be asleep in his room, and for a brief moment she considered waking him. She liked the gregarious pilot. He was genuine in a way she hadn’t seen much of since leaving active duty. But she also knew that waking a man up at three a.m. while in her bathrobe sent signals she didn’t intend. Rather than try to explain that she just needed to talk to someone, she passed the crew deck by and kept going.

Amos was sitting at a station in ops with his back to her, taking the late watch. To avoid startling him, she cleared her throat. He didn’t move or react, so she walked to the comm station. Looking back at him, she saw that his eyes were closed and his breathing was very deep and regular. Sleeping on a duty watch would get you captain’s mast, at the least, on an MCRN ship. It seemed Holden had let discipline lapse a bit since his Navy days.

Bobbie opened up the comms and found the closest relay for tightbeam traffic. First she called her father. “Hi, Pop. Not sure you should try and answer this. The situation here is volatile and evolving rapidly. But you may hear a lot of crazy shit over the next few days. Some of it might be about me. Just know that I love you guys, and I love Mars. Everything I did was to try and protect you and my home. I might have lost my way a little bit, because things got complicated and hard to figure out. But I think I see a clear path now, and I’m going to take it. I love you and Mom. Tell the boys they suck.” Before she turned off the recording, she reached out and touched the screen. “Bye, Dad.”

She pressed send, but something still felt incomplete. Outside her family, anyone who’d tried to help her in the last three months was sitting on the same ship she was, so it didn’t make sense.

Except, of course, that it did. Because not everyone was on this ship.

Bobbie punched up another number from memory and said, “Hi, Captain Martens. It’s me. I think I know what you were trying to help me see. I wasn’t ready for it then, but it stuck with me. So you didn’t waste your time. I get it now. I know this wasn’t my fault. I know I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m going back to the start now because I understand. Not angry, not hurt, not blaming myself. Just my duty to finish the fight.”

Something loosened in her chest the moment she hit the send button. All the threads had been neatly tied up, and now she could go to Io and do what she needed to do without regret. She let out a long sigh and slid down in the crash couch until she was almost prone. She suddenly felt bone tired. Like she could sleep for a week. She wondered if anyone would get mad if she just crashed out in ops instead of going all the way back down the lift.

She didn’t remember having fallen asleep, but here she was stretched out in the comm station’s crash couch, a small puddle of drool next to her head. To her relief, her robe seemed to have remained mostly in place, so at least she hadn’t bare-assed everyone walking through.

“Gunny?” Holden said in a tone of voice that meant he was saying it again. He was standing over her, a concerned look on his face.

“Sorry, sorry,” she said, sitting up and pulling her robe more tightly around her middle. “I needed to send out some messages last night. Must have been more tired than I thought.”

“Yeah,” Holden said. “It’s no problem. Sleep wherever you like.”

“Okay,” Bobbie said, backing toward the crew ladder. “With that, I think I’ll go down and take a shower and try to turn back into a human.”

Holden nodded as she went, a strange smile on his face. “Sure. Meet me in the machine shop when you’re dressed.”

“Roger that,” she said, and bolted down the ladder.

After a decadently long shower and a change into her clean red-and-gray utility uniform, she grabbed a cup of coffee from the galley and made her way back down to the machine shop. Holden was already there. He had a crate the size of a guitar case sitting on one of the workbenches, and a larger square crate next to his feet on the deck. When she entered the compartment, he patted the crate on the table. “This is for you. I saw when you came on board that you seemed to be missing yours.”

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