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Page 81 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

“You’re f**ked,” she said.

Avasarala took another sip of her tea. She should have been ruined. She should have been in tears. She’d been cut off from her own power, tricked. Jules-Pierre Mao had sat there, not a meter from where she was now, and laughed down his sleeve at her. Errinwright and Nguyen and whoever else was in his little cabal. They’d tricked her. She’d sat there, pulling strings and trading favors and thinking that she was doing something real. For months—maybe years —she hadn’t noticed that she was being closed out.

They’d made a fool of her. She should have been humiliated. Instead, she felt alive. This was her game, and if she was behind at halftime, it only meant they expected her to lose. There was nothing better than being underestimated.

“Do you have a gun?”

Bobbie almost laughed.

“They don’t like having Martian soldiers walking around the United Nations with guns. I have to eat lunch with a dull spork. We’re at war.”

“All right, fine. When we get on the yacht, you’re in charge of security. You’re going to need a gun. I’ll arrange that for you.”

“You can? Honestly, though, I’d rather have my suit.”

“Your suit? What suit?”

“I had custom-fit powered armor with me when I came here. The video feed of the monster was copied from it. They said they were turning it over to your guys to confirm the original footage hadn’t been faked.”

Avasarala looked at Bobbie and sipped her tea. Michael-Jon would know where it was. She’d call him the next morning, arrange to have it brought on board the Mao-Kwik yacht with an innocuous label like WARDROBE stamped on the side.

Probably thinking she needed to be convinced, Bobbie kept talking. “Seriously. Get me a gun, I’m a soldier. Get that suit for me, I’m a superhero.”

“If we’ve still got it, you’ll have it.”

“All right, then,” Bobbie said. She smiled. For the first time since they’d met, Avasarala was afraid of her.

God help whoever makes you put it on.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Holden

Gravity returned as Alex brought the engine up, and Holden floated down to the deck of the cargo bay airlock at a gentle half g. They didn’t need to go fast now that the monster was outside the ship. They just needed to put some distance between the ship and it, and get it into the drive’s star-hot exhaust plume, where it would be broken down into its various subatomic particles. Even the protomolecule couldn’t survive being reduced to ions.

He hoped, anyway.

When he touched down on the deck, he intended to turn on the wall monitor and check the aft cameras. He wanted to watch the thing be torched, but the moment his weight came down, a white-hot spike of pain took his knee. He yelped and collapsed.

Amos drifted down next to him, then kicked off his boot mags and started to kneel. “You okay, Cap?” he said.

“Fine. I mean, for I-think-I-blew-out-my-knee levels of fine.”

“Yeah. Joint injury’s a lot less painful in microgravity, ain’t it?”

Holden was about to reply when a massive hammer hit the side of the ship. The hull rang like a gong. The Roci’s engine cut off almost instantly, and the ship snapped into a flat spin. Amos was lifted away from Holden and thrown across the airlock to slam against the outer door. Holden slid along the deck to land standing upright against the bulkhead next to him, his knee collapsing under him so painfully he nearly blacked out.

He chinned a button in his helmet, and his body armor shot him full of amphetamines and painkillers. Within seconds, his knee still hurt, but the pain was very far away and easy to ignore. The threatening tunnel vision vanished and the airlock became very bright. His heart started to race.

“Alex,” he said, knowing the answer before he asked, “what was that?”

“When we torched our passenger there, the bomb in the cargo bay went off,” the pilot replied. “We’ve got serious damage to that bay, to the outer hull, and to engineering. Reactor went into emergency shutdown. The cargo bay turned into a second drive during the blast and put us into a spin. I have no control over the ship.”

Amos groaned and began moving his limbs. “That sucks.”

“We need to kill this spin,” Holden said. “What do you need to get the attitude thrusters back up?”

“Holden,” Naomi cut in, “I think Prax may be injured in the airlock. He’s not moving in there.”

“Is he dying?”

The hesitation lasted for one very long second.

“His suit doesn’t think so.”

“Then ship first,” Holden said. “First aid after. Alex, we’ve got radios again. And the lights are on. So the jamming is gone, and the batteries must still be working. Why can’t you fire the thrusters?”

“Looks like … primary and secondary pumps are out. No water pressure.”

“Confirmed,” Naomi said a second later. “Primary wasn’t in the blast area. If it’s toast, engineering must be a mess. Secondary’s on the deck above. It shouldn’t have been physically damaged, but there was a big power spike just before the reactor went off-line. Might have fried it or blown a breaker.”

“Okay, we’re on it. Amos,” Holden said, pulling himself over to where the mechanic lay on the cargo airlock’s outer door. “You with me?”

Amos gave a one-handed Belter nod, then groaned. “Just knocked the wind out of me, is all.”

“Gotta get up, big man,” Holden said, pushing himself to his feet. In the partial gravity of their spin, his leg felt heavy, hot, and stiff as a board. Without the drugs pouring through him, standing on it would have probably made him scream. Instead, he pulled Amos up, putting even more pressure on it.

I will pay for this later, he thought. But the amphetamines made later seem very far away.

“What?” Amos said, slurring the word. He probably had a concussion, but Holden would get him some medical attention later when the ship was back under their control.

“We need to get to the secondary water pump,” Holden said, forcing himself to speak slowly in spite of the drugs. “What’s the fastest access point?”

“Machine shop,” Amos replied, then closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep on his feet.

“Naomi,” Holden said. “Can you control Amos’ suit from there?”

“Yes.”

“Shoot him full of speed. I can’t drag his ass around with me, and I need him.”

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