Home > Abaddon's Gate (Expanse #3)(15)

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse #3)(15)
Author: James S.A. Corey

“What’re you having?” Bull asked as he slid into one of the booths. He liked the ones where he could see the door. It was an old habit.

“I’m on duty,” she said, sitting across from him.

Bull leaned forward, catching the barkeep’s eye, and held up two fingers.

“Lemonades,” he said.

“Sa sa!” the barkeep replied, lifting a fist in the equivalent of a nod. Bull sat back and looked at Sam. She was a pretty enough woman. Cute, with pixie-cut hair and a quick smile. There had been about a minute when they’d first met that Bull had seriously considered whether he found her attractive. But if he’d seen the same calculus in her, they’d gotten past it.

“Didn’t go so good?” Sam asked.


Sam lifted her eyebrows and leaned her elbows against the tabletop. He sketched out Pa’s objections and rationale, and Sam’s expression shifted slowly into a fatalistic amusement.

“Waiting for the refit’s all well and good,” she said when he was done, “but if we try and test-fire that bad boy, it’s going to make an awfully big owie.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Not a hundred percent,” she said. “High eighties, though.”

Bull sighed out a tired obscenity as the barkeep brought the bulbs of lemonade. They were about the size of Bull’s balled fists, citrus yellow with ∏ποдоовощ малыша потехи printed on the side in bright red script.

“Maybe I should talk to her,” Sam said. “If it came straight from me…”

“It came straight from you, probably it would work,” he said, “and they get to tell me no on everything from now on. ‘Bull asked for it? Well, if it was important, he’d have sent the Belter.’ Right?”

“You really think it’s about you not getting born up here?”


“Well… you’re probably right,” Sam said. “Sorry about that.”

“Comes with the territory,” Bull said, pretending that it didn’t bother him.

Sam plucked her lemonade off the table and took a long, thoughtful drink. The bulb clicked when the magnet readhered to the tabletop. “I’ve got nothing against inners. Worked with a lot of you guys, and didn’t run into a higher percentage of ass**les than when I’m dealing with Belters. But I have to get that rail gun’s mounts reinforced. If there’s a way to do that without undercutting you, I’m all for it.”

“But if it’s that or mess up the ship,” Bull said, nodding. “Gimme a little time. I’ll think of something.”

“Start when you want to shoot someone and count back eighteen days,” Sam said. “That’s my deadline. Even if everyone’s sober and working balls-out, my crew can’t get it done faster than that.”

“I’ll think of something,” Bull said.

The larceny complaint turned out to be from a repair and maintenance crew who couldn’t agree how to store their tools. The injury report was a kid who got caught between a stretch of deck plating and someone driving a salvage mech. The cartilage in the kid’s knee had gotten ground into about a dozen different bits of custard; the medic said a good clean bone break would have been better. The injured man would be fine, but he was off active duty for at least a month while all his pieces got glued back together.

The security reports were boilerplate, which either meant that things were going well or that the problems were getting glossed over, but probably they were going well. The trip out to the Ring was a shakedown cruise, and that always meant there’d be a little honeymoon period when the crew were all figuratively standing shoulder to shoulder and taking on the work. Everyone expected there’d be problems, so there was a grace period when morale didn’t start heading down.

Chief security officer on an OPA ship was a half-assed kind of position, one part cop, one part efficiency expert, and pretty much all den mother to a crew of a thousand people with their own agendas and petty power struggles and opinions on how he should be doing his job better. A good security chief kept bullshit off the captain’s plate as a full-time job.

The worst part, though, was that all Bull’s formal duties were focused inward, on the ship. Right now, a flotilla of Earth ships was burning out into the deep night. A matching force of Martian war vessels—the remnants of the navy that had survived two let’s-not-call-them-wars—was burning out on a converging path. The Behemoth was lumbering along too with a head start that came from being farther from the sun and the hobble of low-g acceleration to keep her slow. And all of it was focused on the Ring.

Reports would be filling Captain Ashford’s queue, and as his XO, Pa would be reading them too. Bull had whatever scraps they let him have or else the same mix of pabulum and panic that filled the newsfeeds. Ashford and Pa would be in conference for most of their shifts, working over strategies and options and playing through scenarios for how things might go down when they reached the Ring. Bull was going to worry about all the trivial stuff so that they didn’t have to.

And somehow, he was going to make the mission work. Because Fred had asked him to.

“Hey, chief,” Serge said. Bull looked up from the terminal feed in his desk. Serge stood in the office doorway. “Shift’s up, and I’m out.”

“All right,” Bull said. “I still got some stuff. I can lock up when I’m done.”

“Bien alles,” Serge said with a nod. His light, shuffling footsteps hissed through the front room. In the corridor, Gutmansdottir stroked his white beard and Casimir said something that made them both chuckle. Corin lifted her chin to Serge as he stepped out. The door closed behind him. When he was sure he was alone, Bull pulled up the operational plan and started hunting. He didn’t have authority to change it, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t change anything.

Two hours later, when he was done, he turned off the screen and stood. The office was dark and colder than he liked it. The hum of the ventilation system comforted him. If it were ever completely silent, that would be the time to worry. He stretched, the vertebrae between his shoulder blades crunching like gravel.

They would still be in the bar, most likely. Serge and Corin and Casimir. Macondo and Garza, so similar they could have been brothers. Jojo. His people, to the degree that they were his. He should go. Be with them. Make friends.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology