There were a few bodies lying outside the fire, bleeding out on the corrugated metal floors. Holden couldn’t tell if they were Amos’ handiwork. The old Holden would have asked. The new one didn’t.
“Naomi,” he said, wanting to hear her voice.
“We’re seeing trouble out here.”
“Is it …” He heard the dread in her voice.
“No. Not the protomolecule. But the locals may be bad enough. Seal up the ’locks,” Holden told her, the words coming to him without thought. “Warm up the reactor. If something happens to us, leave and rendezvous with Alex. Don’t go to Tycho.”
“Jim,” she said, “I—”
“Don’t go to Tycho. Fred did this. Don’t go back to him.”
“No,” she said. Her new mantra.
“If we aren’t there in half an hour, go. That’s an order, XO.”
At least she would get away, Holden told himself. No matter what happened on Ganymede, at least Naomi would make it out alive. A vision of the nightmare Julie, dead in her shower, but with Naomi’s face flashed in his mind. He didn’t expect the little yelp of grief that escaped him. Amos turned and looked back at him, but Holden waved him on without a word.
Fred had done this.
And if Fred had, then Holden had too.
Holden had spent a year playing enforcer to Fred’s politician. He’d hunted ships and killed them for Fred’s grand OPA government experiment. He’d changed the man he’d been into the man he was now, because some part of him believed in Fred’s dream of the liberated and self-governed outer planets.
And Fred had secretly been planning … this.
Holden thought of all the things he’d put off so that he could help Fred build his new solar system order. He’d never taken Naomi to meet his family back on Earth. Not that Naomi herself could have ever gone to Earth. But he could have flown his family up to Luna to meet her. Father Tom would have resisted. He hated travel. But Holden had no doubt that in the end he would have gotten them all to come meet her once he explained how important she’d become to him.
And meeting Prax, seeing his need to find his daughter, made Holden realize how badly he wanted to know what that was like. To experience that sort of hunger for the presence of another human being. To present another generation to his parents. To show them that all the effort and energy they had put into him had paid off. That he was passing it along. He wanted, almost more than he’d wanted anything before, to see the looks on their faces when he showed them a child. His child. Naomi’s child.
Fred had taken that from him, first by wasting his time as the OPA’s leg breaker, and now by this betrayal. Holden swore to himself that if he made it off Ganymede, Fred would pay for all of it.
Amos halted the group again, and Holden noticed that they were back at the port. He shook himself out of his reverie. He didn’t remember how they’d gotten there.
“Looks clear,” Amos said.
“Naomi,” Holden said, “what does it look like around the ship?”
“Looks clear here,” she said. “But Alex is worried that—”
Her voice was cut off by an electronic squeal.
“Naomi? Naomi!” Holden yelled, but there was no response. To Amos he said, “Go, double-time it to the ship!”
Amos and the Pinkwater people ran toward the docks as quickly as their injured bodies and the unconscious teammate would let them. Holden brought up the rear, shouldering his assault rifle and flicking off the safety as he ran.
They ran through the twisting corridors of the port sector, Amos scattering pedestrians with loud shouts and the unspoken threat of his shotgun. An old woman in a hijab scurried away before them like a leaf driven before a storm. She was dead already. If the protomolecule was loose, everyone Holden passed was dead already. Santichai and Melissa Supitaya p**n and all the people they’d come to Ganymede to save. The rioters and killers who’d been normal citizens of the station before their social ecosystem collapsed. If the protomolecule was loose, all of them were as good as dead.
So why hadn’t it happened?
Holden pushed the thought aside. Later—if there was a later—he could worry about it. Someone shouted at Amos, and Amos fired his shotgun into the ceiling once. If port security still existed outside of the vultures trying to take a cut of every incoming shipment, they didn’t try to stop them.
The outer airlock door of the Somnambulist was closed when they reached it.
“Naomi, you there?” Holden asked, fumbling in his pockets for the swipe card. She didn’t reply, and it took him a moment to remember he’d given the card to Wendell. “Wendell, open the door for us.”
The Pinkwater leader didn’t reply.
“Wendell—” Holden started, then stopped when he saw that Wendell was staring, wide-eyed, at something behind him. Holden turned to look and saw five men—Earthers, all of them—in plain gray armor without insignias. All were armed with large bore weapons.
No, Holden thought, and brought his gun up and across them in a full auto sweep. Three of the five men dropped, their armor blooming red. The new Holden rejoiced; the old was quiet. It didn’t matter who these men were. Station security or inner planet military or just leftover mercenaries from the now destroyed shadow base, he’d kill them all before he let them stop him from getting his crew off this infected moon.
He never saw who fired the shot that took his leg out from under him. One second he was standing, emptying the magazine of his assault rifle into the gray-armored fire-team, and the next a sledgehammer blow hit the armor on his right thigh, knocking him off his feet. As he fell, he saw the two remaining gray-armored soldiers go down as Amos’ auto-shotgun unloaded in a single long roar.
Holden rolled to his side, looking to see if anyone else was hurt, and saw that the five on his side had been only half of the enemy team. The Pinkwater people were raising their hands and dropping their weapons as five more gray-armored soldiers came down the corridor from behind.
Amos never saw them. He dropped the expended magazine from his auto-shotgun and was pulling a new one off his harness when one of the mercenaries aimed a large weapon at the back of his head and pulled the trigger. Amos’ helmet flew off and he was slapped forward onto the corrugated-metal decking with a wet crunch. Blood splashed across the floor where he hit it.
Holden tried to get a new magazine into his assault rifle, but his hands wouldn’t cooperate and before he could reload his gun, one of the soldiers had crossed the distance and kicked the rifle away from him.