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Corey, James S. Instant Download. Requires Adobe Digital Editions. Currently not compatible with Amazon Kindle. A new story set in the world of The Expanse. One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. Every shot fired, and from what gun.

I know everything about that assault, and so does half the Belt. Youre famous out here. Youre the one who asked what happened, Fred said, shrugging as best he could with bound, numb arms.

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No, Colonel. I asked what happened to you. General Jasiras private office was decorated like somebodys idea of a British gentlemans club. The furniture was all dark oak and darker leather.

The Butcher of Anderson Station

The heavy desk smelled like lemons and tung oil. The pen set and globe of Earth on top of it were both made of brass. The bookshelves were filled with real paper books and other souvenirs from a long lifetime of constant travel. There wasnt an electronic device more complex than a lamp anywhere in sight. If it werent for the 0. The general was waiting for him to speak first, so Fred swirled the scotch in his glass instead, enjoying the sound the ice made and the harsh smell of the liquor.

He drained it in one swallow, then set it back on the desktop in front of him, an invitation to be refilled. As Jasira put another two fingers into it, he finally gave up on waiting. He said, I imagine youve had some time to review the video the terrorists transmitted from Anderson. Hed guessed this was the reason for the after-hours invitation. He tried another sip of scotch, but it had taken on a sour taste, and he put it back down. Yes, sir, I have. We were jamming radio all the way in, as per protocol, but we didnt detect that little tightbeam relay theyd left Fred, Jasira interjected with a laugh.

This isnt an inquisition. You arent here to apologize. You did good, Colonel.

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Fred frowned, picked his glass up, then put it back down without taking a drink. Then to be frank, sir, I wonder what I am here for. Jasira leaned back in his chair. A couple of little things. I saw your request for an investigation into the negotiation teams work. The declassification of the negotiation transcripts. That surprised me. As he spoke, Jasira rolled his shoulders, though in the moons fractional gravity they could hardly be tense. He must have spent a lot of time dirtside, and the habits died slow.

Sir, Fred said, speaking slowly and picking his words carefully, because of the relay, the public has already seen the battle footage. We cant put that genie back in the bottle. But no one seems to want to talk about the tightbeam they sent to us at the end there.

We And how will this information change anything? You did your job, soldier. The negotiation team did theirs. End of story. As it stands, sir, the people who took Anderson look like theyre insane, and we look like executioners, Fred said, then stopped when he realized his voice was getting loud. Quieting down, he said, There was some kind of mistake. A lot of people died over that miscommunication. Jasira smiled, but there was no humor in it. Dont be so hard on yourself. You barely lost anybody, the general said.

Anyway, the requests denied. We have no reason to do any investigation on this matter. The battle footage is out, and as it stands that works in our favor. The simpler the message is, the more people will understand it: Take one of our stations, and we take it back. We can only confuse the issue by turning it political. Sir, Fred said, all warmth gone from his voice. I killed armed insurgents and over a thousand civilians in this action. You owe it to those peopleyou owe it to meto show we did the right thing.

What if we can avoid this happening next time? There isnt going to be a next time, the general said.

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Youre the one who saw to that. Sir, youre making it seem very much like this wasnt a mistake at all. Who gave the order to ignore their surrender and send me in? Was it you? Jasira shrugged. It doesnt matter. You did what we needed you to do.

We wont forget that. Fred looked at his hands. He rose to his feet, a little too quickly, bouncing in the low g, and snapped a sharp salute. Jasira poured himself another glass of scotch and drank it off, leaving Fred standing as he did. Will there be anything else, sir? Jasira gave him a long, resigned look. Theyre giving you the Medal of Freedom. Freds arm turned limp, and his salute collapsed under its own weight. Im going back down the well. Im too old to suck vacuum anymore. Theyll pin you with the UN Marines highest honor, then shortly thereafter give you your first star.

Try to look happy about it. The silence stretched. Fred focused hard on nothing about ten feet in front of him. Dawes watched him for almost a full minute, then gave up. All right. Why dont I start, then? Dawes said. Heres what happened. You were sleeping with one of the marines.

Keeping it quiet because you were the commander, and thats a no-no, right? So youre very careful taking the station. You keep your casualties low, but you dont get lucky and your lover dies. Fred kept his face stony and still. Dawes leaned back, resting on one long, thin arm like he was lounging under a tree in some sunlit park. You cant get the usual psychological support, Dawes went on, because that would mean exposing the relationship, and youre still ashamed of it.

You have a little breakdown. You end up knocking around OPA bars hoping someonell kill you.