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Page 94 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

Prax shrugged and hit send.

“Torpedoes away,” Alex said, chuckling.

Prax slept on the station, serenaded by the hum of the air recyclers. Amos was gone again, leaving only a note that Prax shouldn’t wait up. It was probably his imagination that made the spin gravity seem to feel different. With a diameter as wide as Tycho’s, the Coriolis effect shouldn’t have been uncomfortably noticeable, and certainly not when he lay there, motionless, in the darkness of his room. And still, he couldn’t get comfortable. He couldn’t forget that he was being turned, inertia pressing him against the thin mattress as his body tried to fly out into the void. Most of the time he’d been on the Rocinante, he’d been able to trick his mind into thinking that he had the reassuring mass of a moon under him. It wasn’t, he decided, an artifact of how the acceleration was generated so much as what it meant.

As his mind slowly spiraled down, bits of his self breaking apart like a meteor hitting atmosphere, he felt a massive welling-up of gratitude. Part of it was to Holden and part to Amos. The whole crew of the Rocinante. Half-dreaming, he was on Ganymede again. He was starving, walking down ice corridors with the certainty that somewhere nearby, one of his soybeans had been infected with the protomolecule and was tracking him, bent on revenge. With the broken logic of dreams, he was also on Tycho, looking for work, but all the people he gave his CV to shook their heads and told him he was missing some sort of degree or credential he didn’t recognize or understand. The only thing that made it bearable was a deeper knowledge—certain as bone—that none of it was true. That he was sleeping, and that when he woke, he would be somewhere safe.

What did wake him at last was the rich smell of beef. His eyes were crusted like he’d been crying in his sleep, the tears leaving salt residues where they’d evaporated. The shower was hissing and splashing. Prax pulled on his jumpsuit, wondering again why it had TACHI printed across the back.

Breakfast waited on the table: steak and eggs, flour tortillas, and black coffee. Real food that had cost someone a small fortune. There were two plates, so Prax chose one and started eating. It had probably cost a tenth of the money he had from Nicola, but it tasted wonderful. Amos ducked out of the shower, a towel wrapped around his hips. A massive white scar puckered the right side of his abdomen, pulling his navel off center, and a nearly photographic tattoo of a young woman with wavy hair and almond-shaped eyes covered his heart. Prax thought there was a word under the tattooed face, but he didn’t want to stare.

“Hey, Doc,” Amos said. “You’re looking better.”

“I got some rest,” Prax said as Amos walked into his own room and closed the door behind him. When Prax spoke again, he raised his voice. “I want to thank you. I was feeling low last night. And whether you and the others can actually help find Mei or not—”

“Why wouldn’t we be able to find her?” Amos asked, his voice muffled by the door. “You ain’t losing respect for me, are you, Doc?”

“No,” Prax said. “No, not at all. I only meant that what you and the captain are offering is … it’s a huge …”

Amos came back out grinning. His jumpsuit covered scars and tattoos as if they’d never been.

“I knew what you meant. I was just joshing you. You like that steak? Keep wondering where they put the cows on this thing, don’t you?”

“Oh no, this is vat-grown. You can tell from the way the muscle fibers grow. You see how these parts right here are layered? Actually makes it easier to get a good marbled cut than when you carve it out of a steer.”

“No shit?” Amos said, sitting across from him. “I didn’t know that.”

“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.