“I’ve never met anyone else in my life who cared more about other people’s welfare, and less about their feelings,” she said. “But at least he’ll make sure everyone is well fed before he tells them all the many things they did wrong.”
“I think that does it,” Naomi said, hitting the key to send the filled-out form to Melissa’s terminal, a charmingly outdated model she pulled out of a pocket in her robe when it chimed receipt.
“Mrs. Supitaya p**n ,” Holden said.
“Melissa, how long have you and your husband been on Ganymede?”
“Almost,” she said, tapping her finger against her chin and staring off into the distance, “ten years? Can it be that long? It must be, because Dru had just had her baby, and he—”
“I’m wondering because the one thing no one outside of Ganymede seems to know is how this”—Holden gestured around him—“all got started.”
“Well, the UN and Martian soldiers started shooting at each other; then we started seeing system failures —”
“Yes,” Holden said, cutting in again. “I understand that. But why? Not one shot during the entire year that Earth and Mars have jointly held this moon. We had a war before the whole Eros thing, and they didn’t bring it here. Then all at once everyone everywhere is shooting? What kicked that off?”
Melissa looked puzzled, another expression that made her eyes almost disappear in a mass of wrinkles.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’d assumed they were shooting each other everywhere in the system. We don’t get much news right now.”
“No,” Holden said. “It’s just here, and it was just for a couple of days. And then it stopped, with no explanation.”
“That is odd,” Melissa said, “but I don’t know that it matters. Whatever happened, it doesn’t change what we need to do now.”
“I suppose not,” Holden agreed.
Melissa smiled, embraced him warmly, then went off to check someone else’s paperwork.
Naomi hooked her arm through Holden’s, and they started toward the warehouse exit into the rest of the station, dodging crates of supplies and aid workers as they went.
“How can they have had a whole battle here,” she said, “and no one knows why?”
“They know,” Holden said. “Someone knows.”
The station looked worse on the ground than from space. The vital, oxygen-producing plants that lined the corridor walls were turning an unhealthy shade of yellow. Many corridors didn’t have lights, and the automatic pressure doors had been hand cranked and then wedged open; if one area of the station suddenly lost pressure, many adjoining sections would as well. The few people they ran into either avoided their eyes or stared at them with open hostility. Holden found himself wishing he were wearing his gun openly, rather than in a concealed holster at the small of his back.
“Who’s our contact?” Naomi asked quietly.
“I assume Fred has people here,” she replied under her breath as she smiled and nodded at a passing group of men. All of them openly carried weapons, though most were of the stabbing and clubbing variety. They stared back at her with speculative looks on their faces. Holden moved his hand under his coat and toward his gun, but the men moved on, only giving them a few backward glances before they turned a corner and disappeared from view.
“He didn’t arrange for us to meet someone?” Naomi finished in a normal voice.
“He gave me some names. But communication with this moon has been so spotty he wasn’t able to—”
Holden was cut off by a loud bang from another part of the port. The explosion was followed by a roar that gradually resolved into people shouting. The few people in the corridor with them began to run, some toward the noise, but most away from it.
“Should we …” Naomi said, looking at the people running toward the commotion.
“We’re here to see what’s going on,” Holden replied. “So let’s go see.”
They quickly became lost in the twisting corridors of Ganymede’s port, but it didn’t matter as long as they kept moving toward the noise and along with the growing wave of people running in the same direction. A tall, stocky man with spiked red hair ran alongside them for a while. He was carrying a length of black metal pipe in each hand. He grinned at Naomi and tried to hand her one. She waved it off.
“’Bout fookin’ time,” he yelled in an accent Holden couldn’t place. He held his extra club out to Holden when Naomi didn’t take it.
“What is?” Holden asked, taking the club.
“Fookin’ bastahds flingin’ the victuals up, and the prols jus gotta shove, wut? Well, fook that, ya mudder-humpin’ spunk guzzlas!”
Spiky Redhead howled and waved his club in the air, then took off at a faster run and disappeared into the crowd. Naomi laughed and howled at his back as he ran. When Holden shot her a look, she just smiled and said, “It’s infectious.”
A final bend in the corridor brought them to another large warehouse space, looking almost identical to the one ruled over by the Supitaya p**n s, except that this room was filled with a mob of angry people pushing toward the loading dock. The doors to the dock were closed, and a small group of port security officers were trying to hold the mob back. When Holden arrived, the crowd was still cowed by the security officers’ Tasers and shock prods, but from the rising tension and anger in the air, he could tell that wouldn’t last long.
Just behind the front line of rent-a-cops, with their nonlethal deterrents, stood a small clump of men in dark suits and sensible shoes. They carried shotguns with the air of men who were just waiting for someone to give them permission.
That would be the corporate security, then.
Looking over the room, Holden felt the scene snap into place. Beyond that closed loading bay door was one of the few remaining corporate freighters loaded down with the last food being stripped from Ganymede.
And this crowd was hungry.
Holden remembered trying to escape a casino on Eros when it went into security lockdown. Remembered angry crowds facing down men with guns. Remembered the screams and the smells of blood and cordite. Before he knew he’d made a decision, he found himself pushing his way to the front of the crowd. Naomi followed, murmuring apologies in his wake. She grabbed his arm and stopped him for a moment.