Not many people know the true vastness of the expanse. Endless and dark, empty and cold. Space was silent, not just quiet, but unimaginably devoid of any sound. The stars were unreachable, an unquantifiable distance away when one was drifting through the inky blackness of it all. Pick a direction and there was likely nothing that way for billions of miles… billions. Space was hopeless and undefined.
When most people traveled through space, they were on their way to a specific destination. They knew how long it would take to get there and how far away it was. There was a flight path that took something infinite and made it measurable. Measurable makes people feel better. How far, how long, how much fuel. Answers to these questions gave peace of mind to space travelers, because the notion of floating directionless through space was terrifying to most. It would be so easy to get lost. One engine malfunction, one miscalculation, one circuit short that blows out the comms and your ship becomes your tomb.
Bobbie Draper, however, was doing just that… floating… unaffected by circumstances that would have most paralyzed with fear. Floating through the wide, endless, black sea from one random place to another. Every system aboard her ship was shut down. Not a single light blinked from the dashboards of the pilot's terminal. Not a shutter was heard, save for an occasional, tiny clink of metal tapping metal in the zero gravity environment. The barely audible sound threatened to drive her mad in the midst of such silence.
It was cold. Bobbie floated slowly, knees pulled to her chest, from one side of the bridge room to the other. With her eyes closed, she was unaware of her orientation to the floor or ceiling. Her long hair wafted around her, grazing her cheeks every few minutes. The only source of warmth was the knit throw blanket she had pulled tightly around her. She breathed evenly, in and out, purposeful breaths that used as little oxygen as possible. Her thumb ran back and forth over the fabric of the blanket. The motion kept her calm, as did the blanket itself.
This happened often. Bobbie's Donnager Class Mini would run low on fuel and it was a fight to conserve every milligram of plasma. It wasn't because the ship was inefficient, rather it was due to the long stretches in space Bobbie forced on the vessel, much longer than it was designed for. She didn't have a choice, though. The places she had to go were far, far away from one another. Entire systems away from one another, in fact. She didn't like crossing through the Ring Gates. Each trip was perilous, with little information about what lay beyond the individual gates.
Still, Bobbie risked it. She had to. Her mission depended on it. With nothing else to live for, she would chase lead after lead after lead to wherever they took her. Bobbie had one singular purpose and with each passing year, she grew more and more hopeless of ever fulfilling it.
Lazily opening her eyes, the Martian checked the time. It had been long enough. Pushing lightly off the wall, Bobbie glided toward the pilot's terminal. Easily pulling herself into the seat, she reached to press a sequence of buttons. A soft hum rolled throughout the ship. Her skin registered the barely there circulation of fresh air. Taking her first deep breath in almost a day, relief slipped over her. The slight headache began to subside with each inhale.
Tapping a few more buttons, the artificial gravity reengaged to seventy percent. Bobbie felt her body being pulled down into the seat and suddenly felt heavy with the gravity. Long dark hair, peppered with grey, fell over her shoulders and the blanket settled on her body. Reclining back in the seat, Bobbie relaxed.
With a wave of her hand, a holographic layout of the ship's systems slid in front of her. The fuel level was low, but it was enough. Another swipe and she was looking at a map. Squinting to be sure, she gave a hard gesture and the holograms disappeared. Leaning forward, Bobbie flipped a switch, she reached to another panel to initiate another program. A few lights turned green. Her stealth tech was now engaged.
The stealth would allow her to move unseen through one of the most dangerous places in the entire universe. Pulling the chart back up, Bobbie glanced at it to check one more time, then set her course at an easy burn. She sat back again. Time to wait.
Soon her ship would cross the threshold of the Slow Zone, the hub of the Ring Gates. It was more of a region than a single place, stretching for a million miles. No matter how many times she entered the Zone, it was always unnerving, even though Bobbie had one of the few ships in existence that could pass through it undetected.
Her Donnanger Class Mini was one of a kind. The entire Mini fleet was fairly new, only built in the last decade. They needed a fraction of the crew size of a normal Donnanger Class ship. Bobbie had modified hers so thoroughly, it could be operated by one, though two was optimum. The Minis were created in response to the massive defection of marines from Martian Marine Core. More than thirty percent of the Core was gone, disappeared overnight. Cowards that had abandoned the Earth Mars Coalition for what was perceived as the greener pastures of Laconia.
Bobbie's jaw clenched tight. She'd lived her whole life without ever really hating anyone… until Laconia. The Laconian Martians fancied themselves revolutionaries, upholding true Martian ideals. In reality, they were tyrants and scoundrels. They cared nothing for the existence of humanity, aside from themselves. They stole her home planet from her. Yes, Mars was broken before the invasion of the Laconian Empire. However, seeing defected Martians invading Mars was unfathomable. Loyalty, duty, honor were the Martian ideals Bobbie had fought for when she was in the Core. The only thing Laconia was fighting for was dominance.
Traitors, all of them. But her home planet, as well as the rest of the system, wasn't the only thing they'd stolen from her.
Bobbie glanced at the source of the metallic clinking sound she heard each time she had to shut her ship down. Two rings hanging on a silver chain, hooked securely above the pilot's terminal. One was Bobbie's. The other belonged to her wife.
They had been married for twenty beautiful years. Each year seemed better than the last. Despite everything happening in the solar system around them, Bobbie and her wife were beyond happy. Theirs was a love story for the ages. They never should have ended up together and the odds were piled high against them. Still, they always managed to find their way to each other until finally they decided to make sure they never spent another day apart.
Chrisjen Avasarala had been the most magnificent person in the world. Bobbie was convinced her wife would live forever. After all, Chrisjen was larger than life and seemed to transcend everything. But she didn't live forever. After twenty perfect years, she passed away, gone forever, and Bobbie was lost. And that's the first time she'd ever felt real hatred.
The day before Chrisjen's funeral, the Laconian High Consul Winston Duarte, bastard among bastards, insisted on a state ceremony for Chrisjen on Laconia. He'd proposed that because she had been such an influential leader throughout the system after the Free Navy attack, she deserved the fullest honor the Laconian Empire had to offer.
Bobbie had been enraged. She, Ashanti and Chrisjen's entire family, along with the whole of the UN government refused to comply. Chrisjen would never want to be buried anywhere other than her Mother Earth. Not to mention, she'd stood against the Laconian invasion in every way possible.
Duarte had promised to reconsider then, in his usual cowardly way, he stole the body of Earth's queen during the night. No one knew where he took her. Maybe no one would ever know, but Bobbie would continue searching for her wife, or at least for answers, for as long as it took to either find her final resting place, or choke the life from Winston Duarte with her bare hands.
When she lost Chrisjen, she lost everything, and Duarte had taken the only closure she had. Now she was left with an empty soul and a vendetta. Ashanti had tried to convince her to stay on Earth, told her that Chrisjen's body might be gone but she would always be with Bobbie. It seemed trite though she knew the woman meant well. To say she missed her wife didn't even begin to touch the surface of what she went through, and was still going through. Chrisjen had been her whole life. She would find the answers she sought or die trying. What did her life matter anymore anyway?
Now her days, weeks, and months were spent searching. She investigated, found a lead on where Duarte went when he left Earth with Chrisjen, followed it, investigated more, found another lead on one of Duarte's fortified holds, searched it, and the cycle went on and on. She'd been aimlessly chasing a phantom for over three years now. She hadn't set her feet on Earth's rich soil for almost two. Some days she missed the green and the water and she missed Ashanti and the boys, though they were grown men now, but she couldn't go back for some unnameable reason. It didn't seem right to be there without Chrisjen.
With a despondent sigh, Bobbie tore her gaze from rings hanging near her. She would pass through the Ring Gates shortly on her way to the Laconian system itself. Her ship was still booting back up, leaving a chill in the bridge room. Gripping the blanket securely around her, Bobbie settled in to wait.
Images flashed across Bobbie's mind. Goliath armor, gleaming at the front of the training arena. She looked down at her cadet's uniform, then back at the armor, hoping she'd be able to wield it one day.
Her first space walk. She could almost feel the pulsing of her heart beat in her throat. It was terrifying. She turned her head toward space and caught sight of a twinkle millions of miles away. Earth.
A flash of Ganymede. Her squad laughing.
An instant later, Bobbie was in the living room of her parent's home. She told them she was taking a permanent position with the United Nations, working with the Secretary-General. She and her father were yelling at each other, their voices distant through her dream state.
Another flash and she heard more laughter. Turning, Bobbie found herself in Ashanti's home. Chrisjen's eightieth birthday party. Her wife caught her gaze and tilted her head, beckoning Bobbie. She walked over and slipped her arms around the small woman's waist. They were smiling at each other.
Suddenly, Bobbie felt her conscious mind fighting to wake. No, she told herself, I want to stay here. Chrisjen's face became confused as if Bobbie had said it out loud. The dream began to fade, her wife's face becoming unfocused.
Eyes blinking open, Bobbie woke breathing deeply. Shaking herself, she forced her brain back to the present. She must've dozed off. Quickly, the Martian checked her position on the consoles.
"Shit," she hissed. She'd fallen asleep in the Slow Zone. Bobbie chided herself under her breath. "Idiot."
Taking a minute, she scrolled through all her systems. Everything looked good. Her stealth was working perfectly and no signal locks were detected. No one knew she was here. The Behemoth lay far off. Taken over by the Laconians in the invasion, the massive former Belter ship acted as a patrol of sorts for the Slow Zone.
Sitting up straight, Bobbie rubbed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. She needed to stay alert. Falling asleep had been a stupid mistake. What if the velocity modulation had changed and she'd missed the adjustment? She and her ship could be obliterated.
Bobbie pulled the blanket from around her. She'd gotten too comfortable. Carefully folding it, Bobbie fished around for the airtight bag she kept the blanket in. Finding it, the Martian gently slipped the prized blanket inside and sealed the bag, tucking it securely away.
For the stealth to work optimally, the ship's speed had to stay minimal, barely above thrusters. It would take a long time to reach the Laconian gate. Rising from the pilot's chair, Bobbie decided a walkthrough of the Atlantic was in order. She grabbed her tool box and began systematically checking every inch of her boat.
Passing through a Ring Gate was always disorienting. A strange feeling came over Bobbie's body, as if she were being examined, somehow both internally and externally. Like she was warped apart and back together in only a couple of seconds. It wasn't painful, just weird.
Once the Atlantic was clear, Bobbie scanned the space around her. Nothing popped up. She relaxed a little, but only a little. The Laconian Martians were arrogant beyond belief and didn't bother with tech like stealth. They'd convinced themselves they were invincible. The upside being that any advanced scanner would pick up their gargantuan ships. None of them were about now, thankfully.
One of things Bobbie liked most about the Donnanger Class Minis were the large viewports placed throughout the ship. The logic was that with a smaller crew, it was important for them to be able to visually see as much of the ship as possible. Tapping a button, Bobbie turned off the smart film on the bridge viewport. Now able to see everything, or the lack of everything around her, she looked across the long span toward the direction she was headed.
A far distance away, Bobbie saw the faint reflection of her destination shining off this system's center star. As her ship drifted toward it, she went to check her suit. In the small staging area near the primary air lock, her armor was stowed. Bobbie walked up to it, standing face to face with the latest version of the Martian Goliath Suit Armor. She had to tilt her head back to look at the face plate. It was tall, towering over even her six foot plus frame. She pressed her palm to the center of the suit's chest to pull up the holographic systems display. Everything looked okay. Fully charged, weapons stocked, all green lights. Sitting on a bench, Bobbie opened a schematic on her handheld.
It was a map of the station she was headed for. Supposedly, a science station. Though she'd been to a few Laconian science stations, none of them ever turned up any intelligence on the whereabouts of Chrisjen's remains or Duarte's current location. Might as well cross off this last one, Bobbie thought. Then she'd move on to… somewhere.
The time passed quickly as Bobbie made final check after final check. Venturing into the belly of the beast was reckless, she knew. Though she was always careful as possible, it still made her anxious. Pulling a hair tie from her wrist, Bobbie leaned her head back and brushed her fingers through her long salt and pepper hair. Easily pulling it into a bun, unconcerned with how it looked, she was ready.
Soon, she was back in the pilot's chair, looking through the viewport over the exterior structure of the station as she floated along its underside. Glancing at her schematic, she was getting close. Then her eyes caught what she was looking for. There at the end of what should be one of the maintenance corridors, on the least important region of the station, was a universal airlock.
Keeping her stealth engaged, she would dock there. It was no easy feat, however. Times like this, an extra crew mate would come in handy. Rushing off the bridge, Bobbie swiftly squeezed through the narrow hallways, past the engine room and medical bay, to the primary airlock.
Smashing a large button to the open doors, Bobbie breathed out, "Come on, come on."
The doors slid open and she went to work prepping the outer hatch. Once she was done, the Martian quickly slipped back down the corridor to the bridge. The rest would have to be done once she was in her armor suit.
Doing her best to eyeball it, Bobbie positioned the Atlantic's airlock with the station's. She looked from her panels out the viewport and back again. This would have to do. Too much more movement and she risked hovering too close and making noise.
Now time was of the essence. Hurriedly, Bobbie moved to the staging area and expertly tapped a few buttons on the armor suit. It unlocked and she stepped inside before it had even opened fully. Closing the suit, she went to work.
The first thing she did was put it in quiet mode, a new feature made for exactly what she was doing… sneaking. It muted the suit's footsteps as well as silencing any alarms or button pushes. Next she went to the airlock, opened the interior doors again. This time she closed them behind her and opened the exterior hatch, which was large and more a door itself. This is where it became quite technical to keep the stealth working properly. She would have less than a minute to make a seal between her ship and the station before the stealth would automatically disengage, unable to remain stable with an open space breaking its field.
Rushing, she opened the door and quickly dropped the tubing that ran around it, designed to create a sturdy, though short, passage between structures. She started breathing hard in her haste. With practiced precision, Bobbie secured the tubing to the ship's exterior door. Without stopping her movement, she shifted to drop down into the station. Not looking around just yet and relying on her suit to tell her if there was anyone nearby, she speedily secured the tubing to the hatch on the station door.
She quickly said, "Show me the Atlantic's stealth readout."
The suit's link to the ship displayed instantly on her face shield. Bobbie took a breath of relief. Her stealth was holding steady. A wave of a hand in front of her face and the readout was gone. Time for a little exploring.
Sticking close to the wall, Bobbie moved cautiously through the station. The area she was in seemed largely unmanned and it was easy to get around. Everything in these damned Laconian spaces looked foreign to her. Their tech was derived almost completely from the Builders, the civilization that created the Ring Gates. The rogue Martians had learned to manipulate it, making their own creations. Foremostly, a fleet so devastating it could overtake an entire system with relative ease.
Half of the fucking place glowed that eerie blue that Bobbie would forever associate with the protomolecule. The idea that anyone thought it was okay to use a force that already wreaked so much havoc on the system was infuriating. Especially a force that Bobbie and her comrades had worked so hard to squash.
Passing by a bulkhead, Bobbie rolled her eyes at the Laconia flag painted there. Stopping, she took three steps back to face the flag. Pulling out a tactical knife, she carefully carved an obscene drawing onto the flag. Putting the knife away, she smirked at her handiwork and momentarily thought of her friend, Amos. Not much amused her these days, but this did.
Moving on, Bobbie found herself at a seemingly impassable door. Here was the security she'd been expecting. It was a large and very secure door. Surely, it was being monitored and she quickly moved back down the hall. Taking another study of her map, she found an alternate route. Ducking into a side room, Bobbie felt along the wall for a weak spot.
"Show me infrared."
Her display morphed to heat displaying infrared vision. It didn't look like anyone was close by. Switching it back, Bobbie took a breath. Raising a fist, she punched the wall hard. The arm of her suit went straight through it. Retracting her fist, Bobbie looked through the hole. The room next door was massive. It must be a cargo bay of some sort. It was empty of personnel.
How to do this quietly, Bobbie thought. Rather than simply busting the entirety of her suit through the wall, she decided to try to finesse it a little. Spreading both hands and securing one knee against the wall, Bobbie began to push. The wall started to collapse under the strain. Exhaling roughly, Bobbie took in a deep breath and pushed harder. She felt the locking mechanisms on the suit click on, giving her the extra torque she needed.
Pushing off her back foot, the wall cracked and then cracked again. The metal creaked as her knee bent it in. The same happened as it crumpled under the pressure of her hands. Gritting her teeth, Bobbie pushed on, doing her best to apply the necessary force without drawing attention.
Finally, the metal began to tear, ripping apart. Another minute and she had a space big enough to fit through. Gingerly moving on, she found herself in the cargo bay. However, as she looked around, Bobbie realized it wasn't a cargo bay at all. Panels all around glowed blue. Power generators. Thick power cables ran from them. Following their trail, Bobbie was led to another wall. At least a dozen of the cables were running through to the other side of the wall.
Assessing the wall, Bobbie spoke to herself. "What are you hiding back here?"
Placing a hand on the wall, she let the sensors of her armor give her the feedback she needed. Metallic outer walls with a concrete center. Why so enforced, she wondered. It would take more effort to get through it.
Just then, a silent alert blinked on her face shield. Someone was near. Turning, Bobbie looked in the direction she'd come from. Voices were coming from the room. She quickly moved to crouch behind the generators and listened.
"What the hell," one voice sounded.
"What could've done this?" Asked another.
Slowly, Bobbie peeked around. Two guards were surveying the huge hole she'd made in the wall. They didn't have their guns drawn. She could stun them. Maybe they would leave without making a fuss. Maybe she would just shoot them now and get it over with.
One of them said, "I'm gonna alert the commander."
Bobbie sighed. She grabbed the taser from her suit belt. Just as the guard was about to pull his device to call up, Bobbie rose from her spot. Without hesitation, she aimed and pulled the trigger of her taser. The longer range electric barbs shot forward and through the hole, jabbing into the man. He yelled in pain and fell to the floor, his device flying from his hand.
The other guard looked at Bobbie with huge eyes. In one fast movement she tapped a button to release the barbs. Taking long, assertive steps, she walked toward him. He immediately turned to run, but not before she pulled the trigger again, releasing a fresh set of barbs into his flesh. He crumpled to the ground.
Keeping the trigger pulled tight, Bobbie allowed the electric flow to continue running through him. Only when he passed out did she release it. She simultaneously made her way back through the hole in the wall where she found the other guard attempting to crawl out the door. Reaching down, Bobbie grabbed one of his shoulders, roughly turning him over. Attempting to use only enough force to knock him out, Bobbie gave him a satisfying punch to the face. He was out instantly.
Dropping him to the floor, the woman looked around. The door was still open. She closed it quickly. There would surely be more coming eventually. Making quick work of it, Bobbie tied the two men up and ducked back to the other side of the wall.
She didn't have any time to waste. With purposeful steps, she went across the room again. Finding where the power cables ran to the other side, Bobbie placed a hand on the wall. Two outer layers of metal and an inner layer of concrete. She could do it quietly again, but it would take time.
Without taking too many more seconds to think, Bobbie pulled her tactical knife back out. Holding it tightly, she used the force of the suit to stab a gash into the metal. Grunting, she ripped the knife all the way to the floor creating a long cut. She stowed the knife and roughly stuck her fingers into the cut. Setting her feet firmly, Bobbie began to pull the metal apart. It creaked loudly, but didn't vibrate enough to turn on any alarms.
Once she pulled the metal sheeting apart, there was the concrete to deal with. With a rough exhale, there was no way around it, she knew. She'd have to punch through it. The faster the better. One giant hit would crumble enough. Walking back, Bobbie faced the wall. With a running start, she turned her shoulder toward the wall and barreled into it.
Along with a loud thud, dust kicked up around her. Waving it away, Bobbie saw she'd made several cracks in the concrete. Working fast, she pulled huge chunks of the stuff out of the wall and let them fall to the floor, wincing a bit at all the noise she was making. Soon, a large enough breach was made that she would be able to move through it. At least once she got through the other side of metal sheeting.
Thankful for the armor, she snatched the tactical knife back out and repeated what she had done to the other side of metal, making a long slit in it and pulling it apart with the strength of the suit. Passing through all the layers of the wall, Bobbie found herself in another large room. This one was different.
Nothing glowed with protomolecule power. There was an elaborate computer setup against one wall and several oddly placed household items on some shelves. Knitting her brow, Bobbie followed the line of cables to a machine situated in the center of the room.
It was rectangular, metal alloy, with several small consoles all over it. Walking slowly over, Bobbie examined the strange machine. It was the only thing in this entire place that didn't seem overtaken by a combination of Laconian and Builder tech. What was different about this thing, Bobbie wondered.
She set a hand on the machine and felt the palm of her armor register a soft vibration emanating from it. Tapping a few different sensors in her visor, she tried to see inside, but couldn't. Kneeling down, she looked over the panels and power source. Becoming more curious, she wanted to know what was inside.
Then Bobbie noticed a phrase in fine print over one of the consoles - Cryogenic Stabilization, along with a bunch of science things she didn't understand.
"Shit," Bobbie whispered. "What games are you playing?" She spoke to an unseen foe.
Her mind raced. A cryo chamber, located deep in the ring system, the only piece of technology in the Laconian system not crawling with protomolecule, and only one unit. What was Duarte up to? Then, fuck, Bobbie thought, what if this is somehow Duarte's personal cryo chamber. Maybe he was using it for some kind of enhancement.
Her heart began to race at the idea that the quarry she'd been chasing for years could be right here at her fingertips. Breathes becoming heavy, Bobbie slowly slipped the knife from its sheath again, hearing the quiet metallic ting it made.
Tapping a button at her neck, Bobbie allowed the visor and helmet to retract. If she was finally going to get the chance to confront Duarte, she was sure as hell doing it eye to eye. All the hate in her heart began to bubble to the surface creating an anxiety in the pit of her stomach.
Determined, Bobbie reached over to where the power cables ran into the machine. Wrapping the fingers of the armor suit's large hand around the cables, she yanked them hard, releasing them from the machine. The failsafe alarm began to beep immediately. A whoosh of air came from the machine as the top panel began to open. A strange, cold mist floated out as it slid backwards to reveal what was inside.
Bobbie's hand gripped tight around the knife handle. As the midst began to clear, she moved closer, her free hand grasping the side of the chamber. This was it. Years of searching, aimless wandering, so much anguish and anger. She could justify it all in this moment and finally satisfy her vengeance.
But as the mist dissipated, Bobbie's eyes widened and she suddenly pulled her hand back as if she'd touched something hot. Her gaze fell on something she never thought she'd see again in her life. Her senses seemed to leave her. Numb with shock, the knife slipped from her hand, falling to the floor. Vision blurring momentarily, Bobbie fought to keep her footing through a sudden rush of untranslatable emotion.
There, in the chamber, lay the unmistakable form of her wife. Onyx hair, skin seeming darker against the white bodysuit she lay in, the curve of her mouth, the line of her jaw were all features Bobbie knew. It was the same and altogether different. The lines around her eyes and lips were smoother somehow. Her hands looked… younger.
Bobbie couldn't suppress the barely audible, "Chrisjen," that came from her mouth.
At the tiny sound, the woman in the chamber began to stir. She seemed to struggle to open her eyes. Bobbie took two confused steps back, her mind unable to catch up. Was this Chrisjen's body? Was it a clone? What the fuck was happening?
Fighting to sit up, whatever it was sucked in a breath of air as it did so. It seemed difficult for it, or her, to breathe. The dark hair fell around the dark face and the… Bobbie still didn't understand, but it slowly turned to face her. An instant expression of emotion came to the face.
They stared at each other, frozen. Finally, a quiet sound floated to the Martian's ears. "Bobbie?"
Bobbie gave a tight shake of her head at the sound. It was too familiar and too much and how did this thing know her name? She couldn't speak, yet she couldn't tear her eyes away. The moment seemed to drag out, both of them stunned and trying to process what was going on.
Suddenly, a proximity alert beeped quietly from Bobbie's suit. She aggressively jammed the button to re engage her helmet. Another team of guards was moving in. Bobbie glanced at the holes in the adjoining two walls, then she looked back at the woman. She should leave her. No, she needed to take her. Shit.
Looking back and forth again, Bobbie asked, "Can you follow me?"
It gave a hesitant nod but began to shift out of the chamber. Bobbie quickly went to the wall and began to move back through it. Getting back into the room she'd originally come in from, Bobbie glanced down the hall.
"Fuck," she hissed. Looking back, the strange doppelganger was slow to catch up. "You're gonna have to move a lot faster if we're getting out of here," she said firmly.
It only looked at her, concerned. Down the hallway from them, a dozen Laconian marines began forming up. This isn't good, Bobbie thought. Looked like they were going to have to fight their way out. On the up side, it seemed she was the only one with an armor suit. Bobbie glanced at the small woman next to her. She looked scared.
"When we pass this doorway, we have to move quickly," Bobbie told her. "Can you do that?" The woman nodded. "Stay behind me, close," she instructed." Another nod.
Suddenly a voice shouted from the hall. "Just give us the woman and you can leave freely!"
Bobbie silently debated with herself. Then she looked at her unexpected companion again. The woman put a hand on the forearm of her armor, as if asking for protection. Something about the way she moved her hand…
Taking a deep breath, Bobbie quietly asked, "Ready?" A single nod was her reply. "Go!"
They moved smoothly through the door together and the woman quickly slipped behind her. The sensors of Bobbie's suit allowed her to feel a small hand staying pressed against her shoulder as they moved backward. It told Bobbie the woman had been trained for something like this.
Immediately, Bobbie activated the rail gun on her suit. She aimed an arm down the hallway and sprayed the entire area with gunfire. The Laconians ducked out of the way and began returning fire. Bullet after bullet hit her suit, ricocheting in every direction.
She shouted, "When we hit the corridor on the right, get down it and run like hell!"
The Marines moved forward pursuing as fast as they could through Bobbie's hailstorm of bullets. She was impressed at the way the woman stayed with her, not impeding her pace in the least. Bobbie needed to buy a couple seconds for the woman to move from behind her.
"Firing missile," she warned her.
Jamming a button at her shoulder, the mini launcher popped out. The force of the launch pushed Bobbie backward and at the same time her companion darted from behind her and down the corridor just as the missile exploded, throwing the Marines in every direction.
Bobbie turned and ran after her. Her plan of docking at the end of a maintenance tunnel paid off. No one was able to block their escape.
"Get up the ladder to the airlock," Bobbie told her.
Without hesitation, she obeyed, climbing quickly and passing through the tubing. Bobbie rushed after her. She roughly shoved the woman past the interior doors of the Atlantic and smashed the button to close it, protecting her from the vacuum of space as Bobbie released the tubing as carefully as she could. Closing the exterior door, she mashed the button again. It opened and the woman was watching her, still appearing fearful.
Bobbie suddenly stopped, caught by the look on her face. It looked just like her, lips parted and eyes full of emotion, it looked just like her Chrisjen. It couldn't be though. Her Chrisjen was gone and this woman was much too young. None of this made sense.
Ripping her eyes away, Bobbie faintly said, "I need to stow my suit and we need to get out of here."
Moving hurriedly to the staging area, she stepped into the suit's cradle and held her arms out. It began to automatically retract. As she had done when she got into it, Bobbie didn't wait until the thing was completely retracted. She was in too much of a rush.
Swiftly maneuvering through her ship, Bobbie was back in the pilot's seat. The woman had followed and slowly sat down in the copilot's chair, watching her.
The stealth was still engaged. Good. If Bobbie moved the boat just right, the Laconians would never detect them. The unnerving part was how slow they had to move. Turning on the thrusters, she pulled gingerly away from the station. With a wave of her hand the holographic display whisked up. Tapping buttons, Bobbie imputed a zigzag course back to the Ring Gate and the hardware consoles blinked in response.
The engines whirred to life and Bobbie pursed her lips with nervousness. The stealth was really meant to be engaged after a ship had powered up. Thankfully, all the Atlantic's retrofits gave her different advantages, but using some of them still made her anxious. Body tense, she watched the stealth controls. Still green. A moment later they were off and Bobbie released a slow breath.
Then she glanced warily over to her passenger. They stared at one another, one wearing a hopeful expression while the Martian wore a much more cautious one.
The woman spoke for the second time but said the same thing she had the first time, a quiet, "Bobbie."
Tilting her chin up, eyes narrowed in suspicion, the Martian asked, "How do you know my name?"
Her eyebrows lifted at the question, as if the answer were obvious. "It's me," she said, hand at her chest. "Chrisjen."
Bobbie shook her head and pointed a stern finger at her. "Don't say that."
Face sympathetic, the woman gently spoke. "I… I can't imagine how strange this must seem."
She stood from the copilot's chair and took a step in Bobbie's direction to which Bobbie quickly stood and maneuvered herself behind the seat.
"Stay away from me." She said it firmly, a protective hand extended out in front of her. Suddenly she wondered why she'd brought the woman along at all.
Stopping in her tracks, the doppelganger opened her mouth to speak. Staring at Bobbie, she seemed lost for words. Closing her lips, she slowly held her hands up and took a backward step to sit back in the chair.
"Okay," she said understandingly.
Bobbie stayed in her place. They'd known each other for less than a half hour and Bobbie found herself already irritated by the similarities. It probably should have been a comfort, but the way she looked at Bobbie had her feeling resentful. The way she sat with such perfect posture, the way she moved her hands, and her long hair draped around her face. All it did was remind Bobbie that her Chrisjen was gone.
When Bobbie didn't speak, the other woman asked, "Do you crew this ship by yourself?" She glanced around.
The simple question set Bobbie at ease. Yes, no more of this talk about her being Chrisjen. She slowly sat back down in the pilot's seat.
"I do," she replied simply, eyes on her displays.
"Can I help?"
Bobbie still didn't look at her. "No. Please don't touch anything."
A few silent moments passed, Bobbie checking and rechecking the panels for no reason. Then after several minutes, the woman asked another question.
"Where's the Razorback?"
Suddenly, a hundred memories flooded her mind. Bobbie shut her eyes against a wave of sorrow. The sleek ship, it's unique design, and the cockpit built for two. She and her wife had used that ship long after it had become obsolete. When Bobbie was an ambassador and Chrisjen had retired, the former UN Secretary-General accompanied her wife on trips to Mars often. She'd learned to copilot the Razor efficiently and Bobbie had loved flying with her. Sometimes they took the tiny ship on simple trips around the globe just to be in it together. So much had happened in that little boat.
Clearing her throat, she answered matter of factly, "Scrapped it."
When no response came, she looked over to see the woman with parted lips, distressed.
She asked, exasperated, "You scrapped our ship?"
Bobbie met her eyes, anger stirring in her belly. "No," she said, attempting to measure her emotions. "I scrapped mine and my wife's ship." When the woman just looked at her, appearing hurt, Bobbie continued. "Look, I don't know who, or what, you are, but you are not Chrisjen Avasarala."
She watched as the strange copy's face morphed from hurt to frustration. With a dramatic huff, she leaned back in the chair. Then, standing, she left the bridge. Bobbie wanted to yell after her not to touch anything. At the same time, she didn't want to engage with the look alike at all, so she stayed silent.
Examining the consoles, Bobbie realized how low on fuel she was. It was a long way to anywhere with fuel. Closing her eyes, the Martian sighed deeply. She was stuck with the imposter, at least for a while. Pulling out her handheld, she shuffled through some old messages. Maybe she could get them to someone who could help.