Home > Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(15)

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(15)
Author: James S.A. Corey

“What’s up?” Alex said.

“New job,” Holden said, teeth chattering from the juice. “We’re calling for help and negotiating a release of prisoners once the bad guys have the Cant. Burn back to that asteroid, since it’s the closest we can get to cover.”

“Roger that, Boss,” Alex said. He added in a lower voice, “I’d kill for a couple of tubes or a nice keel-mounted rail gun right now.”

“I hear you.”

“Wake up the kids downstairs?”

“Let them sleep.”

“Roger that,” Alex said, then clicked off.

Before the heavy g started up again, Holden turned on the Knight’s SOS. The channel to Ade was still open, and now that McDowell was off the line, he could hear her breathing again. He turned the volume all the way up and lay back in the straps, waiting to be crushed. Alex didn’t disappoint him.

“One minute,” Ade said, her voice loud enough to distort through his helmet’s speakers. Holden didn’t turn the volume down. Her voice was admirably calm as she called out the impact countdown.

“Thirty seconds.”

Holden wanted desperately to talk, to say something comforting, to make ludicrous and untrue assertions of love. The giant standing on his chest just laughed with the deep rumble of their fusion torch.

“Ten seconds.”

“Get ready to kill the reactor and play dead after the torpedoes hit. If we’re not a threat, they won’t hit us again,” McDowell said.

“Five,” Ade said.





The Canterbury shuddered and the monitor went white. Ade took one sharp intake of breath, which cut off as the radio broke up. The static squeal almost ruptured Holden’s eardrums. He chinned the volume down and clicked his radio at Alex.

The thrust suddenly dropped to a tolerable two g and all the ship’s sensors flared into overload. A brilliant light poured through the small airlock porthole.

“Report, Alex, report! What happened?” Holden yelled.

“My God. They nuked her. They nuked the Cant,” Alex said, his voice low and dazed.

“What’s her status? Give me a report on the Canterbury! I have zero sensors down here. Everything’s just gone white!”

There was a long pause; then Alex said, “I have zero sensors up here too, Boss. But I can give you a status on the Cant. I can see her.”

“See her? From here?”

“Yeah. She’s a cloud of vapor the size of Olympus Mons. She’s gone, Boss. She’s gone.”

That can’t be right, Holden’s mind protested. That doesn’t happen. Pirates don’t nuke water haulers. No one wins. No one gets paid. And if you just want to murder fifty people, walking into a restaurant with a machine gun is a lot easier.

He wanted to shout it, scream at Alex that he was wrong. But he had to keep it together. I’m the old man now.

“All right. New mission, Alex. Now we’re witnesses to murder. Get us back to that asteroid. I’ll start compiling a broadcast. Wake everyone up. They need to know,” Holden said. “I’m rebooting the sensor package.”

He methodically shut down the sensors and their software, waited two minutes, then slowly brought them back online. His hands were shaking. He was nauseated. His body felt like he was operating his flesh from a distance, and he didn’t know how much was the juice and how much was shock.

The sensors came back up. Like any other ship that flew the space lanes, the Knight was hardened against radiation. You couldn’t get anywhere near Jupiter’s massive radiation belt unless you were. But Holden doubted the ship’s designers had half a dozen nuclear weapons going off nearby in mind when they’d created the specs. They’d gotten lucky. Vacuum might protect them from an electromagnetic pulse, but the blast radiation could still have fried every sensor the ship had.

Once the array came back up, he scanned the space where the Canterbury had been. There was nothing larger than a softball. He switched over to the ship that killed it, which was flying off sunward at a leisurely one g. Heat bloomed in Holden’s chest.

He wasn’t scared. Aneurysm-inducing rage made his temples pound and his fists squeeze until his tendons hurt. He flipped on the comms and aimed a tightbeam at the retreating ship.

“This message is to whoever ordered the destruction of the Canterbury, the civilian ice freighter that you just blew into gas. You don’t get to just fly away, you murderous son of a bitch. I don’t care what your reasons are, but you just killed fifty friends of mine. You need to know who they were. I am sending to you the name and photograph of everyone who just died in that ship. Take a good look at what you did. Think about that while I work on finding out who you are.”

He closed the voice channel, pulled up the Canterbury’s personnel files, and began transmitting the crew dossiers to the other ship.

“What are you doing?” asked Naomi from behind him, not from his helmet speakers.

She was standing there with her helmet off. Sweat plastered her thick black hair to her head and neck. Her face was unreadable. Holden took off his helmet.

“I’m showing them the Canterbury was a real place where real people lived. People with names and families,” he said, the juice making his voice less steady than he would have liked. “If there’s something resembling a human being giving the orders on that ship, I hope it haunts him right up to the day they put him in the recycler for murder.”

“I don’t think they appreciate it,” Naomi said, pointing at the panel behind him.

The enemy ship was now painting them with its targeting laser. Holden held his breath. No torpedoes launched, and after a few seconds, the stealth ship turned off its laser and the engine flared as it scooted off at high g. He heard Naomi let out a shuddering breath.

“So the Canterbury’s gone?” Naomi asked.

Holden nodded.

“Fuck me sideways,” said Amos.

Amos and Shed stood together at the crew ladder. Amos’ face was mottled red and white, and his big hands clenched and unclenched. Shed collapsed to his knees, slamming against the deck in the heavy two-g thrust. He didn’t cry. He just looked at Holden and said, “Cameron’s never going to get that arm, I guess,” then buried his head in his hands and shook.

“Slow down, Alex. No need to run now,” Holden said into the comm. The ship slowly dropped to one g.

“What now, Captain?” Naomi said, looking at him hard. You’re in charge now. Act like it.

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