He chinned a button in his helmet, and his body armor shot him full of amphetamines and painkillers. Within seconds, his knee still hurt, but the pain was very far away and easy to ignore. The threatening tunnel vision vanished and the airlock became very bright. His heart started to race.

“Alex,” he said, knowing the answer before he asked, “what was that?”

“When we torched our passenger there, the bomb in the cargo bay went off,” the pilot replied. “We’ve got serious damage to that bay, to the outer hull, and to engineering. Reactor went into emergency shutdown. The cargo bay turned into a second drive during the blast and put us into a spin. I have no control over the ship.”

Amos groaned and began moving his limbs. “That sucks.”

“We need to kill this spin,” Holden said. “What do you need to get the attitude thrusters back up?”

“Holden,” Naomi cut in, “I think Prax may be injured in the airlock. He’s not moving in there.”

“Is he dying?”

The hesitation lasted for one very long second.

“His suit doesn’t think so.”

“Then ship first,” Holden said. “First aid after. Alex, we’ve got radios again. And the lights are on. So the jamming is gone, and the batteries must still be working. Why can’t you fire the thrusters?”

“Looks like … primary and secondary pumps are out. No water pressure.”

“Confirmed,” Naomi said a second later. “Primary wasn’t in the blast area. If it’s toast, engineering must be a mess. Secondary’s on the deck above. It shouldn’t have been physically damaged, but there was a big power spike just before the reactor went off-line. Might have fried it or blown a breaker.”

“Okay, we’re on it. Amos,” Holden said, pulling himself over to where the mechanic lay on the cargo airlock’s outer door. “You with me?”

Amos gave a one-handed Belter nod, then groaned. “Just knocked the wind out of me, is all.”

“Gotta get up, big man,” Holden said, pushing himself to his feet. In the partial gravity of their spin, his leg felt heavy, hot, and stiff as a board. Without the drugs pouring through him, standing on it would have probably made him scream. Instead, he pulled Amos up, putting even more pressure on it.

I will pay for this later, he thought. But the amphetamines made later seem very far away.

“What?” Amos said, slurring the word. He probably had a concussion, but Holden would get him some medical attention later when the ship was back under their control.

“We need to get to the secondary water pump,” Holden said, forcing himself to speak slowly in spite of the drugs. “What’s the fastest access point?”

“Machine shop,” Amos replied, then closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep on his feet.

“Naomi,” Holden said. “Can you control Amos’ suit from there?”


“Shoot him full of speed. I can’t drag his ass around with me, and I need him.”

“Okay,” she said. A couple of seconds later, Amos’ eyes popped open.

“Shit,” he said. “Was I asleep?” His words were still slurred but now had a sort of manic energy to them.

“We need to get to the bulkhead access point in the machine shop. Grab whatever you think we’ll need to get the pump running. It might have blown a breaker or fried some wiring. I’ll meet you there.”

“Okay,” Amos said, then pulled himself along the toe rings set into the floor to get to the inner airlock door. A moment later it was open and he crawled out of view.

With the ship spinning, gravity was pulling Holden to a point halfway between the deck and the starboard bulkhead. None of the ladders and rings set into the ship for use in low g or under thrust would be oriented in the right direction. Not really a problem with four working limbs, but it would make maneuvering with one useless leg difficult.

And of course, once he moved past wherever the ship’s center of spin was, everything would reverse.

For a moment, his perspective shifted. The vicious Coriolis rattled the fine bones inside his ears, and he was riding a spinning hunk of metal lost in permanent free fall. Then he was under it, about to be crushed. He flushed with the sweat that came a moment before nausea as his brain ran through scenarios to explain the sensations of the spin. He chinned the suit controls, pumping a massive dose of emergency antinausea drugs into his bloodstream.

Without giving himself more time to think about it, Holden grabbed the toe rings and pulled himself up to the inner airlock door. He could see Amos filling a plastic bucket with tools and supplies he was yanking out of drawers and lockers.

“Naomi,” Holden said. “Going to take a peek in engineering. Do we have any cameras left in there?”

She made a sort of disgusted grunt he interpreted as a negative, then said, “I’ve got systems shorted out all over the ship. Either they’re destroyed, or the power is out on that circuit.”

Holden pulled himself over to the deck-mounted pressure hatch that separated the machine shop from engineering. A status light on the hatch blinked an angry red.

“Shit, I was afraid of that.”

“What?” Naomi asked.

“You don’t have environmental readings either, do you?”

“Not from engineering. That’s all down.”

“Well,” Holden said with a long sigh. “The hatch thinks there’s no atmosphere on the other side. That incendiary charge actually blew a hole through the bulkhead, and engineering is in vacuum.”

“Uh-oh,” Alex said. “Cargo bay’s in vacuum too.”

“And the cargo bay door is broken,” Naomi added. “And the cargo airlock.”

“And a partridge in a f**king pear tree,” Amos said with a disgusted snort. “Let’s get the damn ship to stop spinning and I’ll go outside and take a look at it.”

“Amos is right,” Holden said, giving up on the hatch and pushing himself to his feet. He staggered down a steeply angled bulkhead to the access panel where Amos was now waiting, bucket in hand. “First things first.”

While Amos used a torque wrench to unbolt the access panel, Holden said, “Actually, Naomi, pump all the air out of the machine shop too. No atmo below deck four. Override the safeties so we can open the engineering hatch if we need to.”

Amos ran out the last bolt and pulled the panel off the bulkhead. Beyond it lay a dark, cramped space filled with a confusing tangle of pipes and cabling.

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