Amos continued to grin, not chastened at all. “That bodysuit don’t leave a lot to the imagination. That’s all.”

Bobbie rolled her eyes. “Believe me, if I could wear a bulky sweater inside my fully articulated, power-assisted combat suit, I still wouldn’t. Because that would be stupid.” She hit the controls to seal the suit, and her armor folded around her like a second skin. She closed the helmet, using the suit’s external speakers to talk to Amos, knowing it would make her voice robotic and inhuman.

“Better put your big-boy pants on,” she said, the sound echoing around the room. Amos took an unconscious step back. “The captain isn’t the only one that might not be coming back.”

Bobbie climbed onto the ladder-lift and let it take her all the way up to the ops deck. Avasarala was belted into her couch at the comm station. Naomi was in Holden’s usual spot at the tactical panel. Alex would be up in the cockpit already. Bobbie opened her visor to speak using her normal voice.

“We cleared?” she asked Avasarala.

The old lady nodded and held up one hand in a wait gesture while she spoke to someone on her headset mic. “The Martians have already dropped a full platoon,” she said, pushing the mic away from her face. “But their orders are to set up a perimeter and seal the base while someone further up the food chain decides what to do.”

“They’re not going to—” Bobbie started, but Avasarala cut her off with a dismissive wave of her hand.

“Fuck no,” she said. “I’m further up the food chain, and I’ve already decided we’re going to glass this abattoir as soon as you’re off the surface. I’m letting them think we’re still discussing it so you have time to go get the kids.”

Bobbie nodded her fist at Avasarala. Recon Marines were trained to use the Belters’ physical idiom when in their combat armor. Avasarala just looked baffled at the gesture and said, “So stop playing with your hand and go get the f**king kids.”

Bobbie headed back to the ladder-lift, connecting to the ship’s 1MC as she went. “Amos, Prax, meet me in the airlock in five minutes, geared up and ready to go. Alex, put us on the deck in ten.”

“Roger that,” Alex replied. “Good hunting, soldier.” She wondered if they might have become friends, given enough time. It was a pleasant thought.

Amos was waiting for her outside the airlock when she arrived. He wore his Martian-made light armor and carried his oversized gun. Prax rushed into the compartment a few minutes later, still struggling to get into his borrowed gear. He looked like a boy wearing his father’s shoes. While Amos helped him get buttoned up, Alex called down to the airlock and said, “Heading down. Hang on to something.”

Bobbie turned her boot mags to full, locking herself to the deck while the ship shifted under her. Amos and Prax both sat down on chairs that pulled out from the wall, and belted in.

“Let’s go over the plan one more time,” she said, calling up the aerial photos they’d shot of the facility. She patched into the Roci and threw the pictures onto a wall monitor. “This airlock is our entrance. If it’s locked, Amos will blast it with explosives to open the outer door. We need to get inside fast. Your armor isn’t going to protect you from the vicious radiation belt Io orbits in for long. Prax, you have the radio link Naomi rigged, so once we’re inside, you start looking for a network node to plug it into. We have no information about the layout of the base, so the faster we can get Naomi hacking their system, the faster we can find those kids.”

“I like the backup plan better,” Amos said.

“Backup plan?” Prax asked.

“The backup plan is I grab the first guy we see, and beat him until he tells us where the kids are.”

Prax nodded. “Okay. I like that one too.”

Bobbie ignored the macho posturing. Everyone dealt with pre-combat jitters in their own way. Bobbie preferred obsessive list making. But flexing and threats were good too. “Once we have a location, you guys move with all haste to the kids, while I ensure a clear path of egress.”

“Sounds good,” Amos said.

“Make no mistake,” Bobbie said. “Io is one of the worst places in the solar system. Tectonically unstable and radioactive as hell. Easy to see why they hid here, but do not underestimate the peril that just being on this shit moon carries.”

“Two minutes,” Alex said over the comm.

Bobbie took a deep breath. “And that isn’t the worst. These ass**les launched a couple hundred human-protomolecule hybrids at Mars. We can hope that they shot their entire wad, but I have a feeling they didn’t. We might very well run into one of those monsters once we get inside.”

She didn’t say, I’ve seen it in my dreams. It seemed counterproductive.

“If we see one, I deal with it. Amos, you almost got your captain killed blasting away at the one you found in the cargo bay. You try that shit with me, I’ll snap your arm off. Don’t test me.”

“Okay, chief,” Amos replied. “Don’t get your panties in a twist. I heard you.”

“One minute,” Alex said.

“There are Martian Marines controlling the perimeter, but they’ve been given the okay to let us in. If someone escapes past us, no need to apprehend them. The Marines will pick them up before they get far.”

“Thirty seconds.”

“Get ready,” Bobbie said, then pulled up her HUD’s suit status display. Everything was green, including the ammo indicator, which showed two thousand incendiary rounds.

The air sucked out of the airlock in a long, fading hiss, leaving only a thin wisp of atmosphere that would be the same density as Io’s own faint haze of sulfur. Before the ship hit the deck, Amos jumped up out of his chair and stood on his toes to put his helmet against hers. He yelled, “Give ’em hell, marine.”

The outer airlock door slid open, and Bobbie’s suit blatted a radiation alarm at her. It also helpfully informed her that the outside atmosphere was not capable of supporting life. She shoved Amos toward the open lock and then pushed Prax after him. “Go, go, go!”

Amos took off across the ground in a weird, hopping run, his breath panting in her ears over the radio link. Prax stayed close behind him and seemed more comfortable in the low gravity. He had no trouble keeping up. Bobbie climbed out of the Roci and then jumped in a long arc that took her about seven meters above the surface at its apex. She visually scanned the area while her suit reached out with radar and EM sensors, trying to pinpoint targets. Neither she nor it found any.