Home > Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(12)

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(12)
Author: James S.A. Corey

“I didn’t mean… Look, I’m sure there are all kinds of differences. Earth hates Mars for having a better fleet. Mars hates Earth for having a bigger one. Maybe soccer’s better in full g; maybe it’s worse. I don’t know. I’m just saying anyone this far out from the sun? They don’t care. From this distance, you can cover Earth and Mars with one thumb. And… ”

“And I don’t belong,” Havelock said.

The door of the noodle bar behind them opened and four Belters in gray-green uniforms came out. One of them wore the split circle of the OPA on his sleeve. Miller tensed, but the Belters didn’t come toward them, and Havelock didn’t notice them. Near miss.

“I knew,” Havelock said. “When I took the Star Helix contract, I knew I’d have to work to fit in. I thought it’d be the same as anywhere, you know? You go, you get your chops busted for a while. Then, when they see you can take it, they treat you like one of the team. It’s not like that here.”

“It’s not,” Miller said.

Havelock shook his head, spat, and stared at the fluted glass in his hand.

“I think we just stole some glasses from the Blue Frog,” Havelock said.

“We’re also in a public corridor with unsealed alcohol,” Miller said. “Well, you are, anyway. Mine’s soda water.”

Havelock chuckled, but there was despair in the sound. When Havelock spoke again, his voice was only rueful.

“You think I’m coming down here, picking fights with people from the inner planets so that Shaddid and Ramachandra and all the rest of them will think better of me.”

“It occurred to me.”

“You’re wrong,” Havelock said.

“Okay,” Miller said. He knew he wasn’t.

Havelock raised his fluted glass. “Take these back?” he asked.

“How about Distinguished Hyacinth?” Miller countered. “I’ll buy.”

The Distinguished Hyacinth Lounge was up three levels, far enough that foot traffic from the port levels was minimal. And it was a cop bar. Mostly Star Helix Security, but some of the minor corporate forces—Protogen, Pinkwater, Al Abbiq—hung out there too. Miller was more than half certain that his partner’s latest breakdown had been averted, but if he was wrong, better to keep it in the family.

The décor was pure Belt—old-style ships’ folding tables and chairs set into the wall and ceiling as if the gravity might shut off at any moment. Snake plant and devil’s ivy—staples of first-generation air recycling—decorated the wall and freestanding columns. The music was soft enough to talk over, loud enough to keep private conversations private. The first owner, Javier Liu, was a structural engineer from Tycho who’d come out during the big spin and liked Ceres enough to stay. His grandchildren ran it now. Javier the Third was standing behind the bar, talking with half of the vice and exploitation team. Miller led the way to a back table, nodding to the men and women he knew as he passed. While he’d been careful and diplomatic at the Blue Frog, he chose a bluff masculinity here. It was just as much a pose.

“So,” Havelock said as Javier’s daughter Kate—a fourth generation for the same bar—left the table, Blue Frog glasses on her tray, “what is this supersecret private investigation Shaddid put you on? Or is the lowly Earther not supposed to know?”

“Is that what got to you?” Miller asked. “It’s nothing. Some shareholders misplaced their daughter and want me to track her down, ship her home. It’s a bullshit case.”

“Sounds more like their backyard,” Havelock said, nodding toward the V and E crowd.

“Kid’s not a minor,” Miller said. “It’s a kidnap job.”

“And you’re good with that?”

Miller sat back. The ivy above them waved. Havelock waited, and Miller had the uncomfortable sense that a table had just been turned.

“It’s my job,” Miller said.

“Yeah, but we’re talking about an adult here, right? It’s not like she couldn’t go back home if she wanted to be there. But instead her parents get security to take her home whether she wants to go or not. That’s not law enforcement anymore. It’s not even station security. It’s just dysfunctional families playing power games.”

Miller remembered the thin girl beside her racing pinnace. Her broad smile.

“I told you it was a bullshit case,” Miller said.

Kate Liu returned to the table with a local beer and a glass of whiskey on her tray. Miller was glad for the distraction. The beer was his. Light and rich and just the faintest bit bitter. An ecology based on yeasts and fermentation meant subtle brews.

Havelock was nursing his whiskey. Miller took it as a sign that he was giving up on his bender. Nothing like being around the boys from the office to take the charm out of losing control.

“Hey, Miller! Havelock!” a familiar voice said. Yevgeny Cobb from homicide. Miller waved him over, and the conversation turned to homicide’s bragging about the resolution of a particularly ugly case. Three months’ work figuring out where the toxins came from ending with the corpse’s wife awarded the full insurance settlement and a gray-market whore deported back to Eros.

By the end of the night, Havelock was laughing and trading jokes along with the rest of them. If there was occasionally a narrowed glance or a subtle dig, he took it in stride.

Miller was on his way up to the bar for another round when his terminal chimed. And then, slowly throughout the bar, fifty other chimes sounded. Miller felt his belly knot as he and every other security agent in the place pulled out their terminals.

Captain Shaddid was on the broadcast screen. Her eyes were bleary and filled with banked rage; she was the very picture of a woman of power wakened early from sleep.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she said. “Whatever you’re doing, drop it and go to your stations for emergency orders. We have a situation.

“Ten minutes ago, an unencrypted, signed message came in from the rough direction of Saturn. We haven’t confirmed it as true, but the signature matches the keys on record. I’ve put a hold on it, but we can assume some ass**le’s going to put it on the network, and the shit should hit the fan about five minutes after that. If you’re in earshot of a civilian, turn off now. For the rest of you, here’s what we’re up against.”

Shaddid moved to one side, tapping her system interface. The screen went black. A moment later a man’s face and shoulders appeared. He was in an orange vacuum suit with the helmet off. An Earther, maybe in his early thirties. Pale skin, blue eyes, dark short-cropped hair. Even before the man opened his mouth, Miller saw the signs of shock and rage in his eyes and the way he held his head forward.

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