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Page 246 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

“Microgravity also makes fish more nutritious,” Prax said around a mouthful of egg. “Increases the oil production. No one knows why, but there are a couple very interesting studies about it. They think it may not be the low g itself so much as the constant flow you have to have so that the animals don’t stop swimming, make a bubble of oxygen-depleted water, and suffocate.”

Amos ripped a bit of tortilla and dipped it into the yolk.

“This is what dinner conversation’s like in your family, ain’t it?”

Prax blinked.

“Mostly, yes. Why? What do you talk about?”

Amos chuckled. He seemed to be in a very good mood. There was a relaxed look about his shoulders, and something in the set of his jaw had changed. Prax remembered the previous night’s conversation with the captain.

“You got laid, didn’t you?”

“Oh hell yes,” Amos said. “But that’s not the best part.”

“It’s not?”

“Oh, it’s a f**king good part, but there’s nothing better in the world than getting a job the day after your ass gets canned.”

A pang of confusion touched Prax. Amos pulled his hand terminal out of his pocket, tapped it twice, and slid it across the table. The screen showed a red security border and the name of the credit union Alex had been working with the night before. When he saw the balance, his eyes went wide.

“Is … is that …?”

“That’s enough to keep the Roci flying for a month, and we got it in seven hours,” Amos said. “You just hired yourself a team, Doc.”

“I don’t know … really?”

“Not just that. Take a look at the messages you’ve got coming in. Captain made a pretty big splash back in the day, but your kiddo? All that shit that came down on Ganymede just got itself a face, and it’s her.”

Prax pulled up his own terminal. The mailbox associated with the presentation had over five hundred video messages and thousands of texts. He began going through them. Men and women he didn’t know—some of them in tears —offered up their prayers and anger and support. A Belter with a wild mane of gray-black hair gibbered in patois so thick Prax could barely make it out. As near as he could tell, the man was offering to kill someone for him.

Half an hour later, Prax’s eggs had congealed. A woman from Ceres told him that she’d lost her daughter in a divorce, and that she was sending him her month’s chewing tobacco money. A group of food engineers on Luna had passed the hat and sent along what would have been a month’s salary if Prax had still been a botanist. An old Martian man with skin the color of chocolate and powdered-sugar hair gazed seriously into a camera halfway across the solar system and said he was with Prax.

When the next message began, it looked just like the others before it. The man in the image was older—eighty, maybe ninety—with a fringe of white hair clinging to the back of his skull and a craggy face. There was something about his expression that caught Prax’s attention. A hesitance.

“Dr. Meng,” the man said. He had a slushy accent that reminded Prax of recordings of his own grandfather. “I’m very sorry to hear of all you and your family have suffered. Are suffering.” The man licked his lips. “The security video on your presentation. I believe I know the man in it. But his name isn’t Strickland …”

Chapter Thirty-Four: Holden

According to the station directory, the Blauwe Blome was famous for two things: a drink called the Blue Meanie and its large number of Golgo tables. The guidebook warned potential patrons that the station allowed the bar to serve only two Blue Meanies to each customer due to the drink’s fairly suicidal mixture of ethanol, caffeine, and methylphenidate. And, Holden guessed, some kind of blue food coloring.

As he walked through the corridors of Tycho’s leisure section, the guidebook began explaining the rules of Golgo to him. After a few moments of utter confusion—goals are said to be “borrowed” when the defense deflects the drive—he shut it off. There was very little chance he was going to be playing games. And a drink that removed your inhibitions and left you wired and full of energy would be redundant right now.

The truth was Holden had never felt better in his life.

He’d messed a lot of things up over the last year. He’d driven his crew away from him. He’d aligned himself with a side he wasn’t sure he agreed with in exchange for safety. He might have ruined the one healthy relationship he’d had in his life. He’d been driven by his fear to become someone else. Someone who handled fear by turning it into violence. Someone who Naomi didn’t love, who his crew didn’t respect, who he himself didn’t like much.

The fear wasn’t gone. It was still there, making his scalp crawl every time he thought about Ganymede, and about what might be loose and growing there right now. But for the first time in a long time, he was aware of it and wasn’t hiding from it. He had given himself permission to be afraid. It made all the difference.

Holden heard the Blauwe Blome several seconds before he saw it. It began as a barely audible rhythmic thumping, which gradually increased in volume and picked up an electronic wail and a woman’s voice singing in mixed Hindi and Russian. By the time he reached the club’s front door, the song had changed to two men in an alternating chant that sounded like an argument set to music. The electronic wail was replaced by angry guitars. The bass line changed not at all.

Inside, the club was an all-out assault on the senses. A massive dance floor dominated the center space, and the dozens of bodies writhing on it were bathed in a constantly changing light show that shifted and flashed in time to the music. The music had been loud out in the corridor, but inside, it became deafening. A long chrome bar was set against one wall, and half a dozen bartenders were frantically filling drink orders.

A sign on the back wall read GOLGO and had an arrow pointing down a long hallway. Holden followed it, the music fading with each step so that by the time he reached the back room with the game tables, it was back to being muted bass lines.

Naomi was at one of the tables with her friend Sam the engineer and a cluster of other Belters. Her hair was pulled back with a red elastic band wide enough to be decorative. She’d switched out her jumpsuit for a pair of gray tailored slacks he hadn’t known she owned and a yellow blouse that made her caramel-colored skin seem darker. Holden had to stop for a moment. She smiled at someone who wasn’t him, and his chest went tight.

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