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Page 139 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

Behind him, Larson cursed as the partially opened doors snapped shut again, pinning his arm. The sailor worked them back open, pushing them with his back and one leg.

“We’re in!” Larson yelled. Holden began backing up toward the elevator shaft, emptying the rest of his magazine as he went. Half a dozen more zombies spun away, spraying goo; then he was in the shaft and Larson shoved the doors shut.

“Up one level,” Larson said, panting with fear and exertion. He pushed off the bulkhead and floated up to the next set of doors, then levered them open. Holden followed, replacing the magazine in his gun. Directly across from the elevator was a heavily armored hatch with cic stenciled in white on the metal. Holden moved toward it, having his suit transmit the override code. Behind him, Larson let the elevator doors slam shut. The howling of the zombies echoed up the elevator shaft.

“We should hurry,” Holden said, hitting the button to open the CIC and bulling his way in before the hatch had finished cycling open. Larson floated through after him.

There was a single man still in the CIC: a squat, powerfully built Asian man with an admiral’s uniform and a large-caliber pistol in one shaky hand.

“Stay where you are,” the man said.

“Admiral Nguyen!” Larson blurted out. “You’re alive!”

Nguyen ignored him. “You’re here for the bioweapon launch vehicle remote codes. I have them here.” He held up a hand terminal. “They’re yours in exchange for a ride off of this ship.”

“He’s taking us,” Larson said, pointing at Holden. “He said he’d take me too.”

“No f**king way,” Holden said to Nguyen. “Not a chance. Either give me those codes because there’s a scrap of humanity left in you, or give them to me because you’re dead. I don’t give a shit either way. You decide.”

Nguyen looked back and forth from Larson to Holden, clutching the hand terminal and the pistol so tightly that his knuckles were white. “No! You have to—”

Holden shot him in the throat. Somewhere in his brain stem, Detective Miller nodded in approval.

“Start working on an alternate route back to my ship,” Holden said to Larson as he walked across the room to grab the hand terminal floating by Nguyen’s corpse. It took him a moment to find the King’s self-destruct switch hidden behind a locked panel. Souther’s override code gave him access to that too.

“Sorry,” Holden said quietly to Naomi as he opened it. “I know I sort of agreed not to do that anymore. But I didn’t have time to—”

“No,” Naomi said, her voice sad. “That bastard deserved to die. And I know you’ll feel like shit about it later. That’s good enough for me.”

The panel opened, and a simple button lay on the other side. It wasn’t even red, just a plain industrial white. “This is what blows the ship?”

“No timer,” Naomi said.

“Well, this is an anti-boarding fail-safe. If someone opens this panel and presses this button, it’s because the ship is lost. They don’t want it on a timer someone can just disarm.”

“This is an engineering problem,” Naomi said. She already knew what he was thinking, and she was trying to get an answer out before he could say it. “We can solve this.”

“We can’t,” Holden said, waiting to feel the sorrow but instead feeling a sort of quiet peace. “There are a couple hundred very angry zombies trying to get up the elevator shaft right now. We won’t come up with a solution that doesn’t leave me stranded in here anyway.”

A hand squeezed his shoulder. He looked up, and Larson said, “I’ll press it.”

“No, you don’t have to—”

Larson held out his arm. The sleeve of his environment suit had a tiny tear where the elevator doors had closed on it. Around the tear was a palm-sized brown stain.

“Just rotten f**king luck, I guess. But I watched the Eros feeds like everyone else,” Larson said. “You can’t risk taking me. Pretty soon I might be …” He paused and pointed back toward the elevator with his head. “Might be one of those.”

Holden took Larson’s hand in his. The thick gloves made it impossible to feel anything. “I’m very sorry.”

“Hey, you tried,” Larson said with a sad smile. “At least now I won’t die of thirst in a suit locker.”

“Admiral Souther will know about this,” Holden said. “I’ll make sure everyone knows.”

“Seriously,” Larson said, floating next to the button that would turn the Agatha King into a small star for a few seconds. He pulled off his helmet and took a long breath. “There’s another airlock three decks up. If they aren’t in the elevator shaft yet, you can make it.”

“Larson, I—”

“You should go away now.”

Holden had to strip off his suit in the King’s airlock. It was covered in the goo, and he couldn’t risk taking it onto the Razorback. He absorbed a few rads while he stole another UN vac suit from one of the lockers and put it on instead. It looked exactly like the one Larson was wearing. As soon as he was back on the Razorback, he sent the remote command codes to Souther’s ship. He was nearly back to the Rocinante when the King vanished in a ball of white fire.

Chapter Fifty: Bobbie

The captain just left,” Amos said to Bobbie when he came back into the machine shop. She floated half a meter above the deck inside a small circle of deadly technology. Behind her sat her cleaned and refitted recon suit, a single barrel of the newly installed gun gleaming inside the port on its right arm. To her left floated the recently reassembled auto-shotgun Amos favored. The rest of the circle was formed by pistols, grenades, a combat knife, and a variety of weapon magazines. Bobbie took one last mental inventory and decided she’d done all she could do.

“He thinks maybe he’s not coming back from this one,” Amos continued, then bent down to grab the auto-shotgun. He looked it over with a critical eye, then gave her an appreciative nod.

“Going into a fight where you know you aren’t coming back gives you a sort of clarity,” Bobbie said. She reached out and grabbed her armor, pulling herself into it. Not an easy thing to do in microgravity. She had to twist and shimmy to get her legs down into the suit before she could start sealing up the chest. She noticed Amos watching her. He had a dopey grin on his face.

“Seriously. Now?” she said. “We’re talking about your captain going off to his death, and all that’s going through your head right now is ‘Ooh, boobies!’”

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