Home > Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(10)

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(10)
Author: James S.A. Corey

“Guess it wasn’t robbery,” Amos said.

Holden didn’t say, Then what was it? but the question hung between them anyway.

The engine room was neat as a pin, cold, and dead. Holden waited while Amos looked it over, spending at least ten minutes just floating around the reactor.

“Someone went through the shutdown procedures,” Amos said. “The reactor wasn’t killed by the blast, it was turned off afterward. No damage that I can see. Don’t make sense. If everyone is dead from the attack, who shut it down? And if it’s pirates, why not take the ship? She’ll still fly.”

“And before they turned off the power, they went through and opened every interior pressure door on the ship. Emptied out the air. I guess they wanted to make sure no one was hiding,” Holden said. “Okay, let’s head back up to ops and see if we can crack the computer core. Maybe it can tell us what happened.”

They floated back toward the bow along the crew ladder, and up to the ops deck. It too was undamaged and empty. The lack of bodies was starting to bother Holden more than the presence of them would have. He floated over to the main computer console and hit a few keys to see if it might still be running on backup power. It wasn’t.

“Amos, start cutting the core out. We’ll take it with us. I’m going to check comms, see if I can find that beacon.”

Amos moved to the computer and started taking out tools and sticking them to the bulkhead next to it. He began a profanity-laced mumble as he worked. It wasn’t nearly as charming as Naomi’s humming, so Holden turned off his link to Amos while he moved to the communications console. It was as dead as the rest of the ship. He found the ship’s beacon.

No one had activated it. Something else had called them. Holden moved back, frowning.

He looked through the space, searching for something out of place. There, on the deck beneath the comm operator’s console. A small black box not connected to anything else.

His heart took a long pause between beats. He called out to Amos, “Does that look like a bomb to you?”

Amos ignored him. Holden turned his radio link back on.

“Amos, does that look like a bomb to you?” He pointed at the box on the deck.

Amos left his work on the computer and floated over to look, then, in a move that made Holden’s throat close, grabbed the box off the deck and held it up.

“Nope. It’s a transmitter. See?” He held it up in front of Holden’s helmet. “It’s just got a battery taped to it. What’s it doing there?”

“It’s the beacon we followed. Jesus. The ship’s beacon never even turned on. Someone made a fake one out of that transmitter and hooked it up to a battery,” Holden said quietly, still fighting his panic.

“Why would they do that, XO? That don’t make no kinda sense.”

“It would if there’s something about this transmitter that’s different from standard,” Holden said.


“Like if it had a second signal triggered to go when someone found it,” Holden said, then switched to the general suit channel. “Okay, boys and girls, we’ve found something weird, and we’re out of here. Everyone back to the Knight, and be very careful when you—”

His radio crackled to life on the outside channel, McDowell’s voice filling his helmet. “Jim? We may have a problem.”

Chapter Four: Miller

Miller was halfway through his evening meal when the system in his hole chirped. He glanced at the sending code. The Blue Frog. It was a port bar catering to the constant extra million noncitizens of Ceres that advertised itself as a near-exact replica of a famous Earth bar in Mumbai, only with licensed prostitutes and legal drugs. Miller took another forkful of fungal beans and vat-grown rice and debated whether to accept connection.

Should have seen this one coming, he thought.

“What?” he asked.

A screen popped open. Hasini, the assistant manager, was a dark-skinned man with eyes the color of ice. The near smirk on his face was the result of nerve damage. Miller had done him a favor when Hasini had had the poor judgment to take pity on an unlicensed prostitute. Since then, security detective and portside barman had traded favors. The unofficial, gray economics of civilization.

“Your partner’s here again,” Hasini said over the pulse and wail of bhangra music. “I think he’s having a bad night. Should I keep serving him?”

“Yeah,” Miller said. “Keep him happy for… Give me twenty minutes.”

“He doesn’t want to be kept happy. He very much wants a reason to get unhappy.”

“Make it hard to find. I’ll be there.”

Hasini nodded, smirking his damaged smirk, and dropped the connection. Miller looked at his half-eaten meal, sighed, and shoved the remains into the recycling bin. He pulled on a clean shirt, then hesitated. The Blue Frog was always warmer than he liked, and he hated wearing a jacket. Instead, he put a compact plastic pistol in his ankle holster. Not as fast a draw, but if it got that far, he was screwed anyway.

Ceres at night was indistinguishable from Ceres in the daytime. There had been a move, back when the station first opened, to dim and brighten the lights through the traditional human twenty-four-hour cycle, mimicking the spin of Earth. The affectation had lasted four months before the council killed it.

On duty, Miller would have taken an electric cart down the wide tunnels and down to the port levels. He was tempted even though he was off duty, but a deep-seated superstition stopped him. If he took the cart, he was going as a cop, and the tubes ran just fine. Miller walked to the nearest station, checked the status, and sat on the low stone bench. A man about Miller’s age and a girl no more than three came in a minute later and sat across from him. The girl’s talk was as fast and meaningless as a leaking seal, and her father responded with grunts and nods at more or less appropriate moments.

Miller and the new man nodded to each other. The girl tugged at her father’s sleeve, demanding his attention. Miller looked at her—dark eyes, pale hair, smooth skin. She was already too tall to be mistaken for an Earth child, her limbs longer and thinner. Her skin had the pink flush of Belter babies, which came with the pharmaceutical cocktail that assured that their muscles and bones would grow strong. Miller saw the father notice his attention. Miller smiled and nodded toward the kid.

“How old?” he asked.

“Two and a half,” the father said.

“Good age.”

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