“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.

“Oh,” Holden added. “Might want to prep an SOS if we can’t get this fixed.”

“Yeah, because we got a lot of people out there who we really want coming to help us right now,” Amos said.

Amos pulled himself into the narrow passage between the two hulls and then out of sight. Holden followed him in. Two meters beyond the hatch loomed the blocky and complex-looking pump mechanism that kept water pressure to the maneuvering thrusters. Amos stopped next to it and began pulling parts off. Holden waited behind him, the narrow space not allowing him to see what the big mechanic was doing.

“How’s it look?” Holden asked after a few minutes of listening to Amos curse under his breath while he worked.

“It looks fine here,” Amos said. “Gonna swap this breaker anyway, just to be sure. But I don’t think the pump’s our problem.”


Holden backed out of the maintenance hatch and half crawled up the steep slope of bulkhead back to the engineering hatch. The angry red light had been replaced with a morose yellow one now that there was no atmosphere on either side of the hatch.

“Naomi,” Holden said. “I’ve got to get into engineering. I need to see what happened in there. Have you killed the safeties?”

“Yes. But I’ve got no sensors in there. The room could be flooded with radiation—”

“But you have sensors here in the machine shop, right? If I open the hatch and you get radiation warnings, just let me know. I’ll shut it immediately.”

“Jim,” Naomi said, the stiffness that had been in her voice every time she’d spoken to him for the last day slipping a bit. “How many times can you get yourself massively irradiated before it catches up with you?”

“At least once more?”

“I’ll tell the Roci to prep a bed in sick bay,” she said, not quite laughing.

“Get one of the ones that’s not throwing errors.”

Without giving himself time to rethink it, Holden slapped the release on the deck hatch. He held his breath while it opened, expecting to see chaos and destruction on the other side, followed by his suit’s radiation alarm.

Instead, other than one small hole in the bulkhead closest to the explosion, it looked fine.

Holden pulled himself through the opening and hung by his arms for a few moments, examining the space. The massive fusion reactor that dominated the center of the compartment looked untouched. The bulkhead on the starboard side bowed in precariously, with a charred hole in its center, like a miniature volcano had formed there. Holden shuddered at the thought of how much energy had to have been released to bend the heavily armored and radiation-shielded bulkhead in like that, and how close it had come to punching a hole in their reactor. How many more joules to go from a badly dented wall to full containment breach?

“God, this one was close,” he said out loud to no one in particular.

“Swapped out all the parts I can think to,” Amos said. “The problem is somewhere else.”

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