Home > Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(4)

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)(4)
Author: James S.A. Corey

“I didn’t deserve that,” he said.

“You didn’t,” she agreed. “Look, I told you I wasn’t in the mood tonight. I’m feeling cranky. I need a good night’s sleep. I’ll be nicer tomorrow.”


“I’ll even make you dinner. Apology accepted?”

He slipped forward, pressed his lips to hers. She kissed back, politely at first and then with more warmth. Her fingers cupped his neck for a moment, then pulled him away.

“You’re entirely too good at that. You should go now,” she said. “On duty and all.”

“Okay,” he said, and didn’t turn to go.

“Jim,” she said, and the shipwide comm system clicked on.

“Holden to the bridge,” Captain McDowell said, his voice compressed and echoing. Holden replied with something obscene. Ade laughed. He swooped in, kissed her cheek, and headed back for the central lift, quietly hoping that Captain McDowell suffered boils and public humiliation for his lousy timing.

The bridge was hardly larger than Holden’s quarters and smaller by half than the galley. Except for the slightly oversized captain’s display, required by Captain McDowell’s failing eyesight and general distrust of corrective surgery, it could have been an accounting firm’s back room. The air smelled of cleaning astringent and someone’s overly strong yerba maté tea. McDowell shifted in his seat as Holden approached. Then the captain leaned back, pointing over his shoulder at the communications station.

“Becca!” McDowell snapped. “Tell him.”

Rebecca Byers, the comm officer on duty, could have been bred from a shark and a hatchet. Black eyes, sharp features, lips so thin they might as well not have existed. The story on board was that she’d taken the job to escape prosecution for killing an ex-husband. Holden liked her.

“Emergency signal,” she said. “Picked it up two hours ago. The transponder verification just bounced back from Callisto. It’s real.”

“Ah,” Holden said. And then: “Shit. Are we the closest?”

“Only ship in a few million klicks.”

“Well. That figures,” Holden said.

Becca turned her gaze to the captain. McDowell cracked his knuckles and stared at his display. The light from the screen gave him an odd greenish cast.

“It’s next to a charted non-Belt asteroid,” McDowell said.

“Really?” Holden said in disbelief. “Did they run into it? There’s nothing else out here for millions of kilometers.”

“Maybe they pulled over because someone had to go potty. All we have is that some knucklehead is out there, blasting an emergency signal, and we’re the closest. Assuming… ”

The law of the solar system was unequivocal. In an environment as hostile to life as space, the aid and goodwill of your fellow humans wasn’t optional. The emergency signal, just by existing, obligated the nearest ship to stop and render aid—which didn’t mean the law was universally followed.

The Canterbury was fully loaded. Well over a million tons of ice had been gently accelerated for the past month. Just like the little glacier that had crushed Paj’s arm, it was going to be hard to slow down. The temptation to have an unexplained comm failure, erase the logs, and let the great god Darwin have his way was always there.

But if McDowell had really intended that, he wouldn’t have called Holden up. Or made the suggestion where the crew could hear him. Holden understood the dance. The captain was going to be the one who would have blown it off except for Holden. The grunts would respect the captain for not wanting to cut into the ship’s profit. They’d respect Holden for insisting that they follow the rule. No matter what happened, the captain and Holden would both be hated for what they were required by law and mere human decency to do.

“We have to stop,” Holden said. Then, gamely: “There may be salvage.”

McDowell tapped his screen. Ade’s voice came from the console, as low and warm as if she’d been in the room.


“I need numbers on stopping this crate,” he said.


“How hard is it going to be to put us alongside CA-2216862?”

“We’re stopping at an asteroid?”

“I’ll tell you when you’ve followed my order, Navigator Tukunbo.”

“Yes, sir,” she said. Holden heard a series of clicks. “If we flip the ship right now and burn like hell for most of two days, I can get us within fifty thousand kilometers, sir.”

“Can you define ‘burn like hell’?” McDowell said.

“We’ll need everyone in crash couches.”

“Of course we will,” McDowell sighed, and scratched his scruffy beard. “And shifting ice is only going to do a couple million bucks’ worth of banging up the hull, if we’re lucky. I’m getting old for this, Holden. I really am.”

“Yes, sir. You are. And I’ve always liked your chair,” Holden said. McDowell scowled and made an obscene gesture. Rebecca snorted in laughter. McDowell turned to her.

“Send a message to the beacon that we’re on our way. And let Ceres know we’re going to be late. Holden, where does the Knight stand?”

“No flying in atmosphere until we get some parts, but she’ll do fine for fifty thousand klicks in vacuum.”

“You’re sure of that?”

“Naomi said it. That makes it true.”

McDowell rose, unfolding to almost two and a quarter meters and thinner than a teenager back on Earth. Between his age and never having lived in a gravity well, the coming burn was likely to be hell on the old man. Holden felt a pang of sympathy that he would never embarrass McDowell by expressing.

“Here’s the thing, Jim,” McDowell said, his voice quiet enough that only Holden could hear him. “We’re required to stop and make an attempt, but we don’t have to go out of our way, if you see what I mean.”

“We’ll already have stopped,” Holden said, and McDowell patted at the air with his wide, spidery hands. One of the many Belter gestures that had evolved to be visible when wearing an environment suit.

“I can’t avoid that,” he said. “But if you see anything out there that seems off, don’t play hero again. Just pack up the toys and come home.”

“And leave it for the next ship that comes through?”

“And keep yourself safe,” McDowell said. “Order. Understood?”

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