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Page 107 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

When the elevator didn’t arrive after several minutes, she thumped over to the panel and hit the button a few more times. A small display said OUT OF SERVICE.

“Damn,” Bobbie said to herself. “They really are kidnapping us.”

She’d left the external speakers on, and the harsh voice coming out of her suit echoed around the room. Avasarala didn’t look up from her drink but said, “Remember what I said.”

“Huh?” Bobbie said, not paying attention. She climbed awkwardly up the crew ladder to the deck hatch above her head and hit the button. The hatch slid open. That meant that everyone was still pretending that this wasn’t a kidnapping. They could explain away the elevator. Explaining why the undersecretary was locked out of the rest of the ship would be harder. Maybe they figured a woman in her seventies would be reluctant to climb around the ship on ladders, so killing the lift was good enough. They might have been right. Avasarala certainly didn’t look like she was up to a two-hundred-foot climb, even in the low gravity.

“None of these people were on Ganymede,” Avasarala said.

“Okay,” Bobbie replied to the seeming non sequitur.

“You won’t be able to kill enough of them to bring your platoon back,” Avasarala finished, tossing off the last of her gin, then pushing away from the bar and heading off to her room.

Bobbie didn’t reply. She pulled herself up to the next deck and let the hatch slide shut behind her.

Her armor had been designed for exactly this sort of mission. The original Goliath-class scout suits had been built for Marine boarding parties in ship-to-ship engagements. That meant they were designed for maximum maneuverability in tight spaces. No matter how good the armor was, it was useless if the soldier wearing it couldn’t climb ladders, slip through human-sized hatches, and maneuver gracefully in microgravity.

Bobbie climbed the ladder to the next deck hatch and hit the button. The console responded with a red warning light. A few moments of looking at the menus revealed why: They’d parked the crew elevator just above the hatch and then disabled it, creating a barricade. And that meant they knew something was up.

Bobbie looked around the room she was in, another relaxation lounge, nearly identical to the one she’d just left, until she found the likeliest place for them to have hidden their cameras. She waved. This won’t stop me, guys.

She climbed back down and went into the luxurious bathroom space. On a ship this nice, it couldn’t properly be called the head. A few moments’ probing found the fairly well-hidden bulkhead service hatch. It was locked. Bobbie tore it off the wall.

On the other side were a tangle of piping and a narrow corridor barely large enough to stuff her armor into. She climbed in and pulled herself along the pipes for two decks, then kicked the service hatch into the room and climbed in.

The compartment turned out to be a secondary galley, with a bank of stoves and ovens along one wall, several refrigeration units, and lots of counter space, all in gleaming stainless steel.

Her suit warned her that she was being targeted, and changed the HUD so that the normally invisible infrared beams aimed at her became faint red lines. Half a dozen were painting her chest, all coming from compact black weapons held by Mao-Kwik security personnel at the other end of the room.

Bobbie stood up. To their credit, the security goons didn’t back up. Her HUD ran through the weapons database and informed her that the men were armed with 5mm submachine guns with a standard ammo capacity of three hundred rounds and a cyclic rate of ten rounds per second. Unless they were using high-explosive armor-piercing rounds, unlikely with the ship’s hull right behind her, the suit rated their danger level as low.

Bobbie made sure her external speakers were still on and said, “Okay, fellas, let’s—”

They opened fire.

For one long second, the entire galley was in chaos. High-impact plastic rounds bounced off her armor, deflected off the bulkheads, and skipped around the room. They blew apart containers of dried goods, hurled pots and pans off their magnetic hooks, and flung smaller utensils into the air in a cloud of stainless steel and plastic shards. One round took a particularly unlucky bounce and hit one of the security guards in the center of his nose, punching a hole into his head and dropping him to the floor with an almost comic look of surprise on his face.

Before two seconds could tick by, Bobbie was in motion, launching herself across the steel island in the center of the room and plowing into all five remaining guards with her arms outstretched, like a football player going in for a tackle. They were hurled against the far bulkhead with a meaty thud, then slumped to the ground motionless. Her suit started to put up life-sign indicators on her HUD for them, but she shut it off without looking. She didn’t want to know. One of the men stirred, then started to raise his gun. Bobbie gently shoved him, and he flew across the room to crumple against the far bulkhead. He didn’t move again.

She glanced around the room, looking for cameras. She couldn’t find one but hoped it was there anyway. If they’d seen this, maybe they wouldn’t throw any more of their people at her.

At the keel ladder, she discovered that they’d blocked the elevator by jamming the floor hatch open with a crowbar. Basic ship safety protocols wouldn’t allow the elevator to move to another deck unless the deck above was sealed. Bobbie yanked out the crowbar and threw it across the room, then hit the call button. The lift climbed up the ladder shaft to her level and stopped. She jumped on and hit the button that would take her to the bridge, eight decks up. Eight more pressure hatches.

Eight more possible ambushes.

She tightened her hands into fists until the knuckles stretched painfully inside her gauntlets. Bring it.

Three decks up the elevator stopped, the panel informing her that all the pressure hatches between her and the bridge had been overridden and forced open. They were willing to risk a hole in the ship emptying out half the ship’s air rather than let her up to the bridge. It was sort of gratifying to be scarier than sudden decompression.

She climbed off the lift onto a deck that appeared to be mostly crew quarters, though it must have been evacuated. There wasn’t a soul in sight. A quick tour revealed twelve small crew cabins and two bathrooms that could reasonably be called heads. No gold plating on the fixtures for the crew. No open bar. No twenty-four-hour-a-day food service. Looking at the fairly Spartan living conditions of the average crew member on the Guanshiyin brought home Avasarala’s last words to her. These were just sailors. None of them deserved to die for what had happened on Ganymede.

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