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Page 280 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

“That’s me,” Bobbie said. “Can you send control of that node down to the panel in the machine shop?”

“Done,” Naomi said after a second.

“Thanks,” Bobbie said, and killed the comm. It took her a moment to re-familiarize herself with the Martian military video software, and to convince the system to use out-of-date data-unpacking algorithms. After a few false starts, the raw gun camera footage from her fight on Ganymede was playing on the screen. She set it to endless loop and sat back down on the deck with her suit.

She finished bolting the back armor on and began attaching the torso’s power supply and main hydraulic system during the first play-through. She tried not to feel anything about the images on screen, nor to attach any significance to them or think of them as a puzzle to be solved. She just concentrated on her work on the suit with her mind and let her subconscious chew on the data from the screen.

The distraction caused her to redo things occasionally as she worked, but that was fine. She wasn’t on a deadline. She finished attaching the power supply and main motors. Green lights lit up on the hand terminal she had plugged into the suit’s brain. On the wall screen by her helmet, a UN soldier was hurled across the surface of Ganymede at her. A confusion of images as she dodged away. When the image steadied, both the UN Marine and her friend Tev Hillman were gone.

Bobbie picked up an arm assembly and began reattaching it to the torso. The monster had picked up a soldier in a suit of armor comparable to her own and then thrown him with enough force to kill instantly. There was no defense against that kind of strength except not to get hit. She concentrated on putting the arm back together.

When she looked up at the screen again, the feed had restarted. The monster was running across the ice, chasing the UN soldiers. It killed one of them. The Bobbie on the video began firing, followed by her entire platoon opening up.

The creature was fast. But when the UN soldiers suddenly turned to open a firing lane for the Martians, the creature didn’t react quickly. So maybe fast in a straight line, but not a lot of lateral speed. That might be useful. The video caught up again to the UN soldier being thrown into Private Hillman. The creature reacted to gunfire, to injuries, even though they didn’t slow it down. She thought back to the video she’d seen of Holden and Amos engaging the creature in the Rocinante’s cargo hold. It had largely ignored them until Amos started shooting it, and then it had erupted into violence.

But the first creature had attacked the UN troop station. So at least to some degree, they could be directed. Given orders. Once they no longer had orders, they seemed to lapse into a default state of trying to get increased energy and break the constraints. While in that state, they ignored pretty much everything but food and violence. The next time she ran into one, unless it had specifically been ordered to attack her, she could probably pick her own battleground, draw it to her where she wanted to be. That was useful too.

She finished attaching the arm assembly and tested it. Greens across the board. Even if she wasn’t sure whom she was working for, at least she hadn’t forgotten how to do her job.

On the screen, the monster ran up the side of the big mech Yojimbo and tore the pilot’s hatch off. Sa’id, the pilot, was hurled away. Again with the ripping and throwing. It made sense. With a combination like enormous strength and virtual immunity to ballistic damage as your tool set, running straight at your opponent, then ripping them in two was a pretty winning strategy. Throwing heavy objects at lethal speeds went hand in hand with the strength. And kinetic energy was a bitch. Armor might deflect bullets or lasers, and it might help cushion impacts, but no one had ever made armor that could shrug off all the kinetic energy imparted by a large mass moving at high speed. At least not in something a human could wear. If you were strong enough, a garbage Dumpster was better than a gun.

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.

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