“You know she was gone before the shit hit the fan, right?”
Prax shook his head. He wasn’t about to let reality forgive him.
“And this. I had a chance. I got out. I got some money. And I was stupid. It was her last chance, and I was stupid about it.”
“Yeah, well. You’re new at this, Doc.”
“She should have had a better dad. She deserved a better dad. Was such a good … she was such a good girl.”
For the first time, Amos touched him. The wide hand took his shoulder, gripping him from collarbone to scapula and bending Prax’s spine until it was straight. Amos’ eyes were more than bloodshot, white sclera marbled with red. His breath was hot and astringent, the platonic ideal of a sailor on a shore leave bender. But his voice was sober and steady.
“She’s got a fine daddy, Doc. You give a shit, and that’s more than a lot of people ever do.”
Prax swallowed. He was tired. He was tired of being strong, of being hopeful and determined and preparing for the worst. He didn’t want to be himself anymore. He didn’t want to be anyone at all. Amos’ hand felt like a ship clamp, keeping Prax from spinning away into darkness. All he wanted was to be let go.
“She’s gone,” Prax said. It felt like a good excuse. An explanation. “They took her away from me, and I don’t know who they are, and I can’t get her back, and I don’t understand.”
“It ain’t over yet.”
Prax nodded, not because he was actually comforted, but because this was the moment when he knew he should act like he was.
“I’m never going to find her.”
The door chimed and slid open. Holden stepped in. Prax couldn’t see at first what was different about him, but that something had happened … had changed … was unmistakable. The face was the same; the clothes hadn’t changed. Prax had the uncanny memory of sitting through a lecture on metamorphosis.
“Hey,” Holden said. “Everything all right?”
“Little bumpy,” Amos said. Prax saw his own confusion mirrored in Amos’ face. They were both aware of the transformation, and neither of them knew what it was. “You get laid or something, Cap?”
“No,” Holden said.
“I mean, good on you if you did,” Amos said. “It just wasn’t how I pictured—”
“I didn’t get laid,” Holden said hesitantly. The smile that came after was almost radiant. “I got fired.”
“Just you got fired, or all of us?”
“All of us.”
“Huh,” Amos said. He went still for a moment, then shrugged. “All right.”
“I need to talk to Naomi, but she’s not accepting connections from me. Do you think you could track her down?”
Discomfort pursed Amos’ lips like he’d sucked on an old lemon.
“I’m not going to pick a fight,” Holden said. “We just didn’t leave it in the right place. And it’s my fault, so I need to fix it.”
“I know she was hanging out down in that one bar Sam told us about last time. The Blauwe Blome. But you make a dick of yourself and I’m not the one that told you.”
“Not a problem,” Holden said. “Thanks.”
The captain turned to leave and then stopped in the doorway. He looked like someone still half in a dream.
“What’s bumpy?” he asked. “You said it was bumpy.”
“The doc was looking to hire on some Luna private security squad to track the kid down. Didn’t work out and he kind of took it bad.”
Holden frowned. Prax felt the heat of a blush pushing up his neck.
“I thought we were finding the kid,” Holden said. He sounded genuinely confused.
“Doc wasn’t clear on that.”
“Oh,” Holden said. He turned to Prax. “We’re finding your kid. You don’t need to get someone else.”
“I can’t pay you,” Prax said. “All my accounts were on the Ganymede system, and even if they’re still there, I can’t access them. I just have what people are giving me. I can probably get something like a thousand dollars UN. Is that enough?”
“No,” Holden said. “That won’t buy a week’s air, much less water. We’ll have to take care of that.”
Holden tilted his head like he was listening to something only he could hear.
“I’ve already talked to my ex-wife,” Prax said. “And my parents. I can’t think of anyone else.”
“How about everyone?” Holden said.
“I’m James Holden,” the captain said from the huge screen of the Rocinante’s pilot capsule, “and I’m here to ask for your help. Four months ago, hours before the first attack on Ganymede, a little girl with a life-threatening genetic illness was abducted from her day care. In the chaos that—”
Alex stopped the playback. Prax tried to sit up, but the gimbaled copilot’s chair only shifted under him, and he lay back.
“I don’t know,” Alex said from the pilot’s couch. “The green background kinda makes him look pasty, don’t you think?”
Prax narrowed his eyes a degree, considered, then nodded.
“It’s not really his color,” Prax said. “Maybe if it was darker.”
“I’ll try that,” the pilot said, tapping at his screen. “Normally it’s Naomi who does this stuff. Communications packages ain’t exactly my first love. But we’ll get it done. How about this?”
“Better,” Prax said.
“I’m James Holden, and I’m here to ask for your help. Four months ago …”
Holden’s part of the little presentation was less than a minute, speaking into the camera from Amos’ hand terminal. After that, Amos and Prax had spent an hour trying to create the rest. Alex had been the one to suggest using the better equipment on the Rocinante. Once they’d done that, putting together the information had been easy. He’d taken the start he’d made for Nicola and his parents as the template. Alex helped him record the rest—an explanation of Mei’s condition; the security footage of Strickland and the mysterious woman taking her from the day care; the data from the secret lab, complete with images of the protomolecule filament; pictures of Mei playing in the parks; and a short video from her second birthday party, when she smeared cake frosting on her forehead.