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Page 211 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

“Yes,” Prax said.

Finding the emergency environment suits was easy. They were common enough to have essentially no resale value and stowed at brightly colored emergency stations. All the supplies in the main halls and corridors were already stripped, but ducking down a narrow side corridor that linked to the less popular complex where Prax used to take Mei to the skating rink was easy. The suits there were safety orange and green, made to be visible to rescuers. Camouflage would have been more appropriate. The masks smelled of volatile plastic, and the joints were just rings sewn into the material. The suit heaters looked ill cared for and likely to catch on fire if used too long. Another blast came, followed by two others, each sounding closer than the one before.

“Nukes,” Naomi said.

“Maybe gauss rounds,” Holden replied. They might have been talking about the weather.

Prax shrugged.

“Either way, a hit that gets into a corridor means superheated steam,” he said, pressing the last seal along his side closed and checking the cheap green LED that promised the oxygen was flowing. The heating system flickered to yellow, then back to green. “You and Amos might make it if your armor’s good. I don’t think Naomi and I stand a chance.”

“Great,” Holden said.

“I’ve lost the Roci,” Naomi said. “No. I’ve lost the whole link. I was routing through the Somnambulist. She must have taken off.”

Or been slagged. The thought was on all their faces. No one said it.

“Over this way,” Prax said. “There’s a service tunnel we used to use when I was in college. We can get around the Marble Arch complex and head up from there.”

“Whatever you say, buddy,” Amos said. His nose was bleeding again. The blood looked black in the faint blue light inside his helmet.

It was his last walk. Whatever happened, Prax was never coming back here, because here wouldn’t exist. The fast lope along the service corridor where Jaimie Loomis and Tanna Ibtrahmin-Sook had taken him to get high was the last time he’d see that place. The broad, low-ceilinged amphitheater under the old water treatment center where he’d had his first internship was cracked, the reservoir compromised. It wouldn’t flood the corridors quickly, but in a couple of days, the passageways would be filled in. In a couple of days, it wouldn’t matter.

Everything glowed in the emergency LEDs or else fell into shadow. There was slush on the ground as the heating system struggled to compensate for the madness and failed. Twice, the way was blocked, once by a pressure door that was actually still functional, once by an icefall. They met almost no one. The others were all running for the port. Prax was leading them almost directly away from it now.

Another long, curved hall, then up a construction ramp, through an empty tunnel, and …

The blue steel door that blocked their way wasn’t locked, but it was in safety mode. The indicator said there was vacuum on the other side. One of the God-like fists pummeling Ganymede had broken through here. Prax stopped, his mind clicking through the three-dimensional architecture of his home station. If the secret base was there, and he was here, then …

“We can’t get there,” he said.

The others were silent for a moment.

“That’s not a good answer,” Holden said. “Find a different one.”

Prax took a long breath. If they doubled back, they could go down a level, head to the west, and try getting to the corridor from below, except that a blast strong enough to break through here would almost certainly have compromised the level below too. If they kept going to the old tube station, they might be able to find a service corridor—not that he knew there was one, but maybe—and it might lead in the right direction. Three more detonations came, shaking the ice. With a sound like a baseball bat hitting a home run, the wall beside him cracked.

“Prax, buddy,” Amos said, “sooner’d be better.”

They had environment suits, so if they opened the door, the vacuum wouldn’t kill them. But there would be debris choking it. Any strike hard enough to break through to the surface would …

Would …

“We can’t get there … through the station tunnels,” he said. “But we can go up. Get to the surface and go that way.”

“And how do we do that?” Holden asked.

Finding an access way that wasn’t locked down took twenty minutes, but Prax found one. No wider than three men walking abreast, it was an automated service unit for the dome exteriors. The service unit itself had long since been cannibalized for parts, but that didn’t matter. The airlock was still working under battery power. Naomi and Prax fed it the instructions, closed the inner door, and cycled the outer open. The escaping pressure was like a wind for a moment, and then nothing. Prax walked out onto the surface of Ganymede.

He’d seen images of the aurora from Earth. He’d never imagined he’d see anything like it in the blackness of his own sky. But there, not just above him but in lines from horizon to horizon, were streaks of green and blue and gold—chaff and debris and the radiating gas of cooling plasma. Incandescent blooms marked torch drives. Several kilometers away, a gauss round slammed into the moon’s surface, the seismic shock knocking them from their feet. Prax lay there for a moment, watching the water ejecta geyser up into the darkness and then begin to fall back down as snow. It was beautiful. The rational, scientific part of his mind tried to calculate how much energy transfer there was to the moon when a rail-gun-hurled chunk of tungsten hit it. It would be like a miniature nuke without all the messy radiation. He wondered if the round would stop before it hit Ganymede’s nickel-iron core.

“Okay,” Holden said over the cheap radio in Prax’s emergency suit. The low end of the sound spectrum was lousy, and Holden sounded like a cartoon character. “Which way now?”

“I don’t know,” Prax said, rising to his knees. He pointed toward the horizon. “Over there somewhere.”

“I need more than that,” Holden said.

“I’ve never been on the surface before,” Prax said. “In a dome, sure. But just out? I mean, I know we’re close to it, but I don’t know how to get there.”

“All right,” Holden said. In the high vacuum over his head, something huge and very far away detonated. It was like the old cartoon lightbulb of someone getting an idea. “We can do this. We can solve this. Amos, you head toward that hill over there, see what you can see. Prax and Naomi, start going that direction.”

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