He pulled out his hand terminal and called Naomi.
After several moments, she finally answered, “Uh, hello?”
“The galley doesn’t work, where’s Amos?”
A pause. “You called me from the galley? While we are on the same ship? The wall panel just one step too far away?”
“The wall panel in the galley doesn’t work either. When I said, ‘The galley doesn’t work,’ it wasn’t clever hyperbole. It literally means that not one thing in the galley works. I called you because you carry your terminal and Amos almost never does. And also because he never tells me what he’s working on, but he always tells you. So, where is Amos?”
Naomi laughed. It was a lovely sound, and it never failed to put a smile on Holden’s face. “He told me he was going to be doing some rewiring.”
“Do you have power up there? Are we hurtling out of control and you guys were trying to figure out how to break the news to me?”
Holden could hear tapping from Naomi’s end. She hummed to herself as she worked.
“Nope,” she said. “Only area without power seems to be the galley. Also, Alex says we’re less than an hour from fighting with space pirates. Want to come up to ops and fight pirates?”
“I can’t fight pirates without coffee. I’m going to find Amos,” Holden said, then hung up and put his terminal back in his pocket.
Holden moved to the ladder that ran down the keel of the ship, and called up the lift. The fleeing pirate ship could only sustain about 1 g for extended flight, so Holden’s pilot, Alex Kamal, had them flying at 1.3 g to intercept. Anything over 1 g made the ladder dangerous to use.
A few seconds later, the deck hatch clanged open, and the lift whined to a stop at his feet. He stepped on and tapped the button for the engineering deck. The lift began its slow crawl down the shaft, deck hatches opening at its approach, then slamming shut once he had passed.
Amos Burton was in the machine shop, one deck above engineering. He had a complex-looking device half disassembled on the workbench in front of him and was working on it with a solder gun. He wore a gray jumpsuit several sizes too small for him, which strained to contain his broad shoulders when he moved, the old ship name Tachi still embroidered on the back.
Holden stopped the lift and said, “Amos, the galley doesn’t work.”
Amos waved one thick arm in an impatient gesture without stopping his work. Holden waited. After another couple seconds of soldering, Amos finally put down the tool and turned around.
“Yep, it doesn’t work because I got this little f**ker yanked out of it,” he said, pointing at the device he’d been soldering.
“Can you put it back?”
“Nope, at least not yet. Not done working on it.”
Holden sighed. “Is it important that we disable the galley to fix this thing just before confronting a bloodthirsty band of space pirates? Because my head is really starting to ache, and I’d love to get a cup of coffee before, you know, doing battle.”
“Yep, it was important,” Amos said. “Should I explain why? Or you want to take my word for it?”
Holden nodded. While he didn’t miss much about his days in the Earth Navy, he did find that he occasionally got nostalgic for the absolute respect for the chain of command. On the Rocinante the title “captain” was much more nebulously defined. Rewiring things was Amos’ job, and he would resist the idea that he had to inform Holden anytime he was doing it.
Holden let it drop.
“Okay,” he said. “But I wish you’d warned me ahead of time. I’m going to be cranky without my coffee.”
Amos grinned at him and pushed his cap back on his mostly bald head.
“Shit, Cap, I can cover you on that,” he said, then reached back and grabbed a massive metal thermos off the bench. “I made some emergency supplies before I shut the galley down.”
“Amos, I apologize for all the mean things I was thinking about you just now.”
Amos waved it off and turned back to his work. “Take it. I already had a cup.”
Holden climbed back onto the lift and rode it up to the operations deck, the thermos clutched in both hands like a life preserver.
Naomi was seated at the sensor and communications panel, tracking their progress in pursuit of the fleeing pirates. Holden could see at a glance that they were much closer than the last estimate he’d received. He strapped himself into the combat operations couch. He opened a nearby cabinet and, guessing they might be at low g or in free fall in the near future, pulled out a drinking bulb for his coffee.
As he filled it from the thermos’s nipple, he said, “We’re closing awful fast. What’s up?”
“Pirate ship has slowed down quite a bit from its initial one g acceleration. They dropped to half a g for a couple minutes, then stopped accelerating altogether a minute ago. The computer tracked some fluctuations in drive output just before they slowed, so I think we chased them too hard.”
“They broke their ship?”
“They broke their ship.”
Holden took a long drink out of the bulb, scalding his tongue in the process and not caring.
“How long to intercept now?”
“Five minutes, tops. Alex was waiting to do the final decel burn until you were up here and belted in.”
Holden tapped the comm panel’s 1MC button and said, “Amos, buckle up. Five minutes to badguys.” Then he switched to the cockpit channel and said, “Alex, what’s the word?”
“I do believe they broke their ship,” Alex replied in his Martian Mariner Valley drawl.
“That seems to be the consensus,” Holden said.
“Makes runnin’ away a bit harder.”
The Mariner Valley had originally been settled by Chinese, East Indians, and Texans. Alex had the dark complexion and jet-black hair of an East Indian. Coming as he did from Earth, Holden always found it strangely disconcerting when an exaggerated Texas drawl came from someone his brain said should be speaking with Punjabi accents.
“And it makes our day easier,” Holden replied, warming up the combat ops panel. “Bring us to relative stop at ten thousand klicks. I’m going to paint them with the targeting laser and turn on the point defense cannons. Open the outer doors to the tubes, too. No reason not to look as threatening as possible.”
“Roger that, boss,” Alex replied.
Naomi swiveled in her chair and gave Holden a grin. “Fighting space pirates. Very romantic.”