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HUGO AWARD WINNER FOR BEST SERIES
For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
Abaddon's Gate is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Caliban's War.
The Expanse Short Fiction
The Butcher of Anderson Station
Gods of Risk
The Vital Abyss
The Sins of Our Fathers
Table of Contents
A Preview of Cibola Burn
A Preview of War Dogs
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Chapter One: Holden
When he'd been a boy back on Earth, living under the open blue of sky, one of his mothers had spent three years suffering uncontrolled migraines. Seeing her pale and sweating with pain had been hard, but the halo symptoms that led into it had almost been worse. She'd be cleaning the house or working through contracts for her law practice and then her left hand would start to clench, curling against itself until the veins and tendons seemed to creak with the strain. Next her eyes lost their focus, pupils dilating until her blue eyes had gone black. It was like watching someone having a seizure, and he always thought this time, she'd die from it.
He'd been six at the time, and he'd never told any of his parents how much the migraines unnerved him, or how much he dreaded them, even when things seemed good. The fear had become familiar. Almost expected. It should have taken the edge off the terror, and maybe it did, but what replaced it was a sense of being trapped. The assault could come at any time, and it could not be avoided.
It poisoned everything, even if it was only a little bit.
It felt like being haunted.
"The house always wins," Holden shouted.
He and the crew—Alex, Amos, Naomi—sat at a private table in the VIP lounge of Ceres' most expensive hotel. Even there, the bells, whistles, and digitized voices of the slot machines were loud enough to drown out most casual conversation. The few frequencies they weren't dominating were neatly filled in by the high-pitched clatter of the pachinko machines and the low bass rumble of a band playing on one of the casino's three stages. All of it added up to a wall of sound that left Holden's guts vibrating and his ears ringing.
"What?" Amos yelled back at him.
"In the end, the house always wins!"
Amos stared down at an enormous pile of chips in front of him. He and Alex were counting and dividing them in preparation for their next foray out to the gaming tables. At a glance, Holden guessed they'd won something like fifteen thousand Ceres new yen in just the last hour. It made an impressive stack. If they could quit now, they'd be ahead. But, of course, they wouldn't quit now.
"Okay," Amos said. "What?"
Holden smiled and shrugged. "Nothing."
If his crew wanted to lose a few thousand bucks blowing off steam at the blackjack tables, who was he to interfere? The truth was it wouldn't even put a dent in the payout from their most recent contract, and that was only one of three contracts they'd completed in the last four months. It was going to be a very flush year.
Holden had made a lot of mistakes over the last three years. Deciding to quit his job as the OPA's bagman and become an independent contractor wasn't one of them. In the months since he'd put up his shingle as a freelance courier and escort ship, the Rocinante had taken seven jobs, and all of them had been profitable. They'd spent money refitting the ship bow to stern. She'd had a tough couple of years, and she'd needed some love.
When that was done and they still had more money in their general account than they knew what to do with, Holden had asked for a crew wish list. Naomi had paid to have a bulkhead in their quarters cut out to join the two rooms. They now had a bed large enough for two people and plenty of room to walk around it. Alex had pointed out the difficulty in buying new military-grade torpedoes for the ship, and had requested a keel-mounted rail gun for the Roci. It would give them more punch than the point defense cannons, and its only ammunition requirements were two-pound tungsten slugs. Amos had spent thirty grand during a stopover on Callisto, buying them some after-market engine upgrades. When Holden pointed out that the Roci was already capable of accelerating fast enough to kill her crew and asked why they'd need to upgrade her, Amos had replied, "Because this shit is awesome." Holden had just nodded and smiled and paid the bill.
Even after the initial giddy rush of spending, they had enough to pay themselves salaries that were five times what they'd made on the Canterbury and keep the ship in water, air, and fuel pellets for the next decade.
Probably, it was temporary. There would be dry times too when no work came their way and they'd have to economize and make do. That just wasn't today.
Amos and Alex had finished counting their chips and were shouting to Naomi about the finer points of blackjack, trying to get her to join them at the tables. Holden waved at the waiter, who darted over to take his order. No ordering from a table screen here in the VIP lounge.
"What do you have in a scotch that came from actual grain?" Holden asked.
"We have several Ganymede distillations," the waiter said. He'd learned the trick of being heard over the racket without straining. He smiled at Holden. "But for the discriminating gentleman from Earth, we also have a few bottles of sixteen-year Lagavulin we keep aside."
"You mean, like, actual scotch from Scotland?"
"From the island of Islay, to be precise," the waiter replied. "It's twelve hundred a bottle."
"I want that."
"Yes sir, and four glasses." The waiter tipped his head and headed off to the bar.
"We're going to play blackjack now," Naomi said, laughing. Amos was pulling a stack of chips out of his tray and pushing them across the table to her. "Want to come?"
The band in the next room stopped playing, and the background noise dropped to an almost tolerable level for a few seconds before someone started piping Muzak across the casino PA.
"Guys, wait a few minutes," Holden said. "I've bought a bottle of something nice, and I want to have one last toast before we go our separate ways for the night."
Amos looked impatient right up until the bottle arrived, and then spent several seconds cooing over the label. "Yeah, okay, this was worth waiting for."
Holden poured out a shot for each of them, then held his glass up. "To the best ship and crew anyone has ever had the privilege of serving with, and to getting paid."
"To getting paid!" Amos echoed, and then the shots disappeared.
"God damn, Cap," Alex said, then picked up the bottle to look it over. "Can we put some of this on the Roci? You can take it out of my salary."
"Seconded," Naomi said, then took the bottle and poured out four more shots.
For a few minutes, the stacks of chips and the lure of the card tables were forgotten. Which was all Holden had wanted. Just to keep these people together for a few moments longer. On every other ship he'd ever served on, hitting port was a chance to get away from the same faces for a few days. Not anymore. Not with this crew. He stifled an urge to say a maudlin, I love you guys! by drinking another shot of scotch.
"One last hit for the road," Amos said, picking up the bottle.
"Gonna hit the head," Holden replied, and pushed away from the table. He weaved a bit more than he expected on his walk to the restroom. The scotch had gone to his brain fast.
The restrooms in the VIP lounge were lush. No rows of urinals and sinks here. Instead, half a dozen doors that led to private facilities with their own toilet and sink. Holden pushed his way into one and latched it behind him. The noise level dropped almost to nothing as soon as the door closed. A little like stepping outside the world. It was probably designed that way. He was glad whoever built the casino had allowed for a place of relative calm. He wouldn't have been shocked to see a slot machine over the sink.
He put one hand on the wall to steady himself while he did his business. He was mid-stream when the room brightened for a moment and the chrome handle on the toilet reflected a faint blue light. The fear hit him in the gut.
"I swear to God," Holden said, pausing to finish and then zip up. "Miller, you better not be there when I turn around."
He turned around.
Miller was there.
"Hey," the dead man started.
" 'We need to talk,' " Holden finished for him, then walked to the sink to wash his hands. A tiny blue firefly followed him and landed on the counter. Holden smashed it with his palm, but when he lifted his hand nothing was there.
In the mirror, Miller's reflection shrugged. When he moved, it was with a sickening jerkiness, like a clockwork ticking through its motions. Human and inhuman both.
"Everyone's here at once," the dead man said. "I don't want to talk about what happened to Julie."
Holden pulled a towel out of the basket next to the sink, then leaned against the counter facing Miller and slowly dried his hands. He was trembling, the same as he always did. The sense of threat and evil was crawling up his spine, just the same way it always did. Holden hated it.
Detective Miller smiled, distracted by something Holden couldn't see.
The man had worked security on Ceres, been fired, and gone off hunting on his own, searching for a missing girl. He'd saved Holden's life once. Holden had watched when the asteroid station Miller and thousands of victims of the alien protomolecule had been trapped on crashed into Venus. Including Julie Mao, the girl Miller had searched for and then found too late. For a year, the alien artifact had suffered and worked its incomprehensible design under the clouds of Venus. When it rose, hauling massive structures up from the depths and flying out past the orbit of Neptune like some titanic sea creature translated to the void, Miller rose with it.
And now everything he said was madness.
"Holden," Miller said, not talking to him. Describing him. "Yeah, that makes sense. You're not one of them. Hey, you have to listen to me."
"Then you have to say something. This shit is out of hand. You've been doing your random appearing act for almost a year now, and you've never said even one thing that made sense. Not one."
Miller waved the comment away. The old man was starting to breathe faster, panting like he'd run a race. Beads of sweat glistened on his pale, gray-tinged skin.
"So there was this unlicensed brothel down in sector eighteen. We went in thinking we'd have fifteen, twenty in the box. More, maybe. Got there, and the place was stripped to the stone. I'm supposed to think about that. It means something."
"What do you want from me?" Holden said. "Just tell me what you want, all right?"
"I'm not crazy," Miller said. "When I'm crazy, they kill me. God, did they kill me?" Miller's mouth formed a small O, and he began to suck air in. His lips were darkening, the blood under the skin turning black. He put a hand on Holden's shoulder, and it felt too heavy. Too solid. Like Miller had been remade with iron instead of bones. "It's all gone pear-shaped. We got there, but it's empty. The whole sky's empty."
"I don't know what that means."
Miller leaned close. His breath smelled like acetate fumes. His eyes locked on Holden, eyebrows raised, asking him if he understood.
"You've got to help me," Miller said. The blood vessels in his eyes were almost black. "They know I find things. They know you help me."
"You're dead," Holden said, the words coming out of him without consideration or planning.
"Everyone's dead," Miller said. He took his hand from Holden's shoulder and turned away. Confusion troubled his brow. "Almost. Almost."
Holden's terminal buzzed at him, and he took it out of his pocket. Naomi had sent DID YOU FALL IN? Holden began typing out a reply, then stopped when he realized he'd have no idea what to say.
When Miller spoke, his voice was small, almost childlike with wonder and amazement.
"Fuck. It happened," Miller said.
"What happened?" Holden said.
A door banged as someone else went into a neighboring stall, and Miller was gone. The smell of ozone and some rich organic volatiles like a spice shop gone rancid were all the evidence that he had been there. And that might only have been in Holden's imagination.
Holden stood for a moment, waiting for the coppery taste to leave his mouth. Waiting for his heartbeat to slow back down to normal. Doing what he always did in the aftermath. When the worst had passed, he rinsed his face with cold water and dried it with a soft towel. The distant, muffled sound of the gambling decks rose to a frenzy. A jackpot.
He wouldn't tell them. Naomi, Alex, Amos. They deserved to have their pleasure without the thing that had been Miller intruding on it. Holden recognized that the impulse to keep it from them was irrational, but it felt so powerfully like protecting them that he didn't question it much. Whatever Miller had become, Holden was going to stand between it and the Roci.
He studied his reflection until it was perfect. The carefree, slightly drunk captain of a successful independent ship on shore leave. Easy. Happy. He went back out to the pandemonium of the casino.
For a moment, it was like stepping back in time. The casinos on Eros. The death box. The lights felt a little too bright, the noises sounded a little too loud. Holden made his way back to the table and poured himself another shot. He could nurse this one for a while. He'd enjoy the flavor and the night. Someone behind him shrieked their laughter. Only laughter.
A few minutes later, Naomi appeared, stepping out of the bustle and chaos like serenity in a female form. The half-drunken, expansive love he'd felt earlier came back as he watched her make her way toward him. They'd shipped together on the Canterbury for years before he'd found himself falling in love with her. Looking back, every morning he'd woken up with someone else had been a lost opportunity to breathe Naomi's air. He couldn't imagine what he'd been thinking. He shifted to the side, making room for her.
"They cleaned you out?" he asked.
"Alex," she said. "They cleaned Alex out. I gave him my chips."
"You are a woman of tremendous generosity," he said with a grin.
Naomi's dark eyes softened into a sympathetic expression.
"Miller showed up again?" she asked, leaning close to be heard over the noise.
"It's a little unsettling how easily you see through me."
"You're pretty legible. And this wouldn't be Miller's first bathroom ambush. Did he make any more sense this time?"
"No," Holden said. "He's like talking to an electrical problem. Half the time I'm not sure he even knows I'm there."
"It can't really be Miller, can it?"
"If it's the protomolecule wearing a Miller suit, I think that's actually creepier."
"Fair point," Naomi said. "Did he say anything new, at least?"
"A little bit, maybe. He said something happened."
"I don't know. He just said, 'It happened,' and blinked out."
They sat together for a few minutes, a private silence within the riot, her fingers interlaced with his. She leaned over, kissing his right eyebrow, and then pulled him up off the chair.
"Come on," she said.
"Where are we going?"
"I'm going to teach you how to play poker," she said.
"I know how to play poker."
"You think you do," she said.
"Are you calling me a fish?"
She smiled and tugged at him.
Holden shook his head. "If you want to, let's go back to the ship. We can get a few people together and have a private game. It doesn't make sense to do it here. The house always wins."
"We aren't here to win," Naomi said, and the seriousness in her voice made the words carry more than the obvious meaning. "We're here to play."
The news came two days later.
Holden was in the galley, eating takeout from one of the dockside restaurants: garlic sauce over rice, three kinds of legumes, and something so similar to chicken, it might as well have been the real thing. Amos and Naomi were overseeing the loading of nutrients and filters for the air recycling systems. Alex, in the pilot's seat, was asleep. On the other ships Holden had served aboard, having the full crew back on ship before departure required it was almost unheard of, and they'd all spent a couple of nights in dockside hotels before they'd come home. But they were home now.
Holden ran through the local feeds on his hand terminal, sipping news and entertainment from throughout the system. A security flaw in the new Bandao Solice game meant that financial and personal information from six million people had been captured on a pirate server orbiting Titan. Martian military experts were calling for increased spending to address the losses suffered in the battle around Ganymede. On Earth, an African farming coalition was defying the ban on a nitrogen-fixing strain of bacteria. Protesters on both sides of the issue were taking to the streets in Cairo.
Holden was flipping back and forth, letting his mind float on the surface of the information, when a red band appeared on one of the newsfeeds. And then another. And then another. The image above the article chilled his blood. The Ring, they called it. The gigantic alien structure that had left Venus and traveled to a point a little less than 2 AU outside Uranus' orbit, then stopped and assembled itself.
Holden read the news carefully as dread pulled at his gut. When he looked up, Naomi and Amos were in the doorway. Amos had his own hand terminal out. Holden saw the same red bands on that display.
"You seen this, Cap'n?" Amos asked.
"Yeah," Holden said.
"Some mad bastard tried to shoot the Ring."
Even with the distance between Ceres and the Ring, the vast empty ocean of space, the news that some idiot's cheapjack ship had gone in one side of the alien structure and hadn't come out the other should have only taken about five hours. It had happened two days before. That's how long the various governments watching the Ring had been able to cover it up.
"This is it, isn't it?" Naomi said. "This is what happened."
Chapter Two: Bull
Carlos c de Baca—Bull to his friends—didn't like Captain Ashford. Never had.
The captain was one of those guys who'd sneer without moving his mouth. Before Ashford joined up with the OPA full-time, he'd gotten a degree in math from the Lunar Campus of Boston University, and he never let anyone forget it. It was like because he had a degree from an Earth university, he was better than other Belters. Not that he wouldn't be happy to bad-mouth guys like Bull or Fred who really had grown up down the well. Ashford wasn't one thing or another. The way he latched on to whatever seemed like it made him the big man—education, association with Earth, growing up in the Belt—made it hard not to tease him.
And Ashford was going to be in command of the mission.
"There's a time element too," Fred Johnson said.
Fred looked like crap. Too thin. Everyone looked too thin these days, but Fred's dark skin had taken on an ashy overtone that left Bull thinking about things like autoimmune disorders or untreated cancer. Probably it was just stress, years, and malnutrition. Same thing that got everyone if nothing else did. Point of fact, Bull was looking a little gray around the temples too, and he didn't like the crap LEDs that were supposed to mimic sunlight. That he was still darker than an eggshell had more to do with a nut-brown Mexican mother than anything ultraviolet.
He'd been out in the dark since he was twenty-two. He was over forty now. And Fred, his superior officer under two different governments, was older than he was.
The construction gantry sloped out ahead of them, the flexible walls shining like snake scales. There was a constant low-level whine, the vibrations of the construction equipment carried along the flesh of the station. The spin gravity here was a little less than the standard one-third g on Tycho Station proper, and Ashford was making a little show of speeding up and then slowing down for the Earthers. Bull slowed his own steps down just a little to make the man wait longer.
"Time element? What's that look like, Colonel?" Ashford asked.
"Not as bad as it could be," Fred said. "The Ring hasn't made any apparent changes since the big one during the incident. No one else has gone through, and nothing's come out. People have backed down from filling their pants to just high alert. Mars is approaching this as a strictly military and scientific issue. They've got half a dozen science vessels on high burn already."
"How much escort?" Bull asked.
"One destroyer, three frigates," Fred said. "Earth is moving slower, but larger. They've got elections coming up next year, and the secretary-general's been catching hell about turning a blind eye to rogue corporate entities."
"Wonder why," Bull said dryly. Even Ashford smiled. Between Protogen and Mao-Kwikowski, the order and stability of the solar system had pretty much been dropped in a blender. Eros Station was gone, taken over by an alien technology and crashed into Venus. Ganymede was producing less than a quarter of its previous food output, leaving every population center in the outer planets relying on backup agricultural sources. The Earth-Mars alliance was the kind of quaint memory someone's grandpa might talk about after too much beer. The good old days, before it all went to hell.
"He's putting on a show," Fred went on. "Media. Religious leaders. Poets. Artists. They're hauling them all out to the Ring so that every feed he can reach is pointed away from him."
"Typical," Ashford said, then didn't elaborate. Typical for a politician. Typical for an Earther. "What are we looking at out there?"
The gantry sang for a moment, an accident of harmonics setting it ringing and shaking until industrial dampers kicked in and killed the vibration before it reached the point of doing damage.
"All we've confirmed is that some idiot flew through the Ring at high ballistic speeds and didn't come out the other side," Fred said, moving his hands in the physical shrug of a Belter. "Now there's some kind of physical anomaly in the Ring. Could be that the idiot kid's ship got eaten by the Ring and converted into something. The ring sprayed a lot of gamma and X-rays, but not enough to account for the mass of the ship. Could be that he broke it. Could be that it opened a gate, and there's a bunch of little green men in saucers about to roll through and make the solar system into a truck stop."
"What—" Bull began, but Ashford talked over him.
"Any response from Venus?"
"Nothing," Fred said.
Venus was dead. For years after a corrupted Eros Station fell through its clouds, all human eyes had turned to that planet, watching as the alien protomolecule struggled in the violence and heat. Crystal towers kilometers high rose and fell away. Networks of carbon fibers laced the planet and degraded to nothing. The weapon had been meant to hijack simple life on Earth, billions of years before. Instead, it had the complex ecosystem of human bodies and the structures to sustain them in the toxic oven of Venus. Maybe it had taken longer to carry out its plan. Maybe having complex life to work with had made things easier. Everything pointed to it being finished with Venus. And all that really mattered was it had launched a self-assembling ring in the emptiness outside the orbit of Uranus that sat there dead as a stone.
"What are we supposed to do about it?" Bull asked. "No offense, but we don't got the best science vessels. And Earth and Mars blew the crap out of each other over Ganymede."
"Be there," Fred said. "If Earth and Mars send their ships, we send ours. If they put out a statement, we put out one of our own. If they lay a claim on the Ring, we counterclaim. What we've done to make the outer planets into a viable political force has reaped real benefits, but if we start letting them lead, it could all evaporate."
"We planning to shoot anybody?" Bull asked.
"Hopefully it won't come to that," Fred said.
The gantry's gentle upward slope brought them to a platform arch. In the star-strewn blackness, a great plain of steel and ceramic curved away above them, lit by a thousand lights. Looking out at it was like seeing a landscape—this was too big to be something humans had made. It was like a canyon or a mountain. The meadow-filled caldera of some dead volcano. The scale alone made it impossible to see her as a ship. But she was. The construction mechs crawling along her side were bigger than the house Bull had lived in as a boy, but they looked like football players on a distant field. The long, thin line of the keel elevator stretched along the body of the drum to shuttle personnel from engineering at one end to ops at the other. The secondary car, stored on the exterior, could hold a dozen people. It looked like a grain of salt. The soft curve was studded with turreted rail guns and the rough, angry extrusions of torpedo tubes.
Once, she'd been the Nauvoo. A generation ship headed to the stars carrying a load of devout Mormons with only an engineered ecosystem and an unshakable faith in God's grace to see them through. Now she was the Behemoth. The biggest, baddest weapons platform in the solar system. Four Donnager-class battleships would fit in her belly and not touch the walls. She could accelerate magnetic rounds to a measurable fraction of c. She could hold more nuclear torpedoes than the Outer Planets Alliance actually had. Her communications laser was powerful enough to burn through steel if they gave it enough time. Apart from painting teeth on her and welding on an apartment building–sized sharkfin, nothing could have been more clearly or effectively built to intimidate.
Which was good, because she was a retrofitted piece of crap, and if they ever got in a real fight, they were boned. Bull slid a glance at Ashford. The captain's chin was tilted high and his eyes were bright with pride. Bull sucked his teeth.
The last threads of weight let go as the platform and gantry matched to the stillness of the Behemoth. One of the distant construction mechs burst into a sun-white flare as the welding started.
"How long before we take her out?" Ashford asked.
"Three days," Fred said.
"Engineering report said the ship'll be ready in about ten," Bull said. "We planning to work on her while we're flying?"
"That was the intention," Fred said.
"Because we could wait another few days here, do the work in dock, and burn a little harder going out, get the same arrival."
The silence was uncomfortable. Bull had known it would be, but it had to be said.
"The crew's comfort and morale need as much support as the ship," Fred said, diplomacy changing the shapes of the words. Bull had known him long enough to hear it. The Belters don't want a hard burn
- "A politically complex and pulse-pounding page-turner.... Corey perfectly balances character development with action... series fans will find this installment the best yet."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
- "Riveting interplanetary thriller."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on Leviathan Wakes
- "It's been too long since we've had a really kickass space opera. LEVIATHAN WAKES is interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written, the kind of SF that made me fall in love with the genre way back when, seasoned with a dollop of horror and a dash of noir. Jimmy Corey writes with the energy of a brash newcomer and the polish of a seasoned pro. So where's the second book?"—George R.R. Martin
- "An excellent space operatic debut in the grand tradition of Peter F. Hamilton."—Charlie Stross on Leviathan Wakes
- "If you like science fiction with great characters and set in real space, you'll enjoy this one."—Jo Walton, author of Farthing on Leviathan Wakes
- "It gnaws at your soul."—Sun on Leviathan Wakes
- "High adventure equaling the best space opera has to offer, cutting-edge technology, and a group of unforgettable characters bring the third installment of Corey's epic space drama (after Caliban's War and Leviathan Wakes) to an action-filled close while leaving room for more stories to unfold. Perhaps one of the best tales the genre has yet to produce, this superb collaboration between fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck should reawaken an interest in old-fashioned storytelling and cinematic pacing. Highly recommended."—Library Journal on Abaddon's Gate (starred review)
- "Politics, philosophical ideals, and humor mingle in a tale that will shock and surprise."—Publisher's Weekly on Abaddon's Gate (Starred Review)
- "Literary space opera at its absolute best."—io9.com
- "[T]he authors are superb with the exciting bits: Shipboard coups and battles are a thrill to follow."—Washington Post
- On Sale
- Jun 4, 2013
- Page Count
- 576 pages