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Page 119 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

“Hey, uh, Cap?” Amos said, slowly screwing the top onto his thermos. “Ain’t you forgetting something?”

“What, Amos? What am I forgetting?”

“Don’t we vote on shit like this now?”

“Don’t pout,” Naomi said. She was stretched out on a crash couch next to the main operations panel on the ops deck. Holden was seated across the room from her at the comm panel. He’d just sent out Avasarala’s data file to her two UN admirals. His fingers itched with the desire to dump it into a general broadcast. But they’d debated the issue for the crew, and she’d won the vote. The whole voting thing had seemed like such a good idea when he’d first brought it up. After losing his first vote, not so much. They’d all be dead in two days, so at least it probably wouldn’t happen again.

“If we get killed, and Avasarala’s pet admirals don’t actually do anything with the data we just sent, this was all for nothing.”

“You think they’ll bury it?” Naomi said.

“I don’t know, and that’s the problem. I don’t know what they’ll do. We met this UN politician two days ago and she’s already running the ship.”

“So send it to someone else too,” Naomi said. “Someone who you can trust to keep it quiet, but can get the word out if the UN guys turn out to be working for the wrong team.”

“That’s not a bad idea.”

“Fred, maybe?”

“No.” Holden laughed. “Fred would see it as political capital. He’d use it to bargain with. It needs to be someone that has nothing to gain or lose by using it. I’ll have to think about it.”

Naomi got up, then came over to straddle his legs and sit on his lap facing him. “And we’re all about to die. That’s not making any of this any easier.”

Not all of us.

“Naomi, gather the crew up, the marine and Avasarala too. The galley, I guess. I have some last business to announce. I’ll meet you guys there in ten minutes.”

She kissed him lightly on the nose. “Okay. We’ll be there.”

When she disappeared from sight down the crew ladder, Holden opened up the chief of the watch’s locker. Inside were a set of very out-of-date codebooks, a manual of Martian naval law, and a sidearm and two magazines of ballistic gel rounds. He took out the gun, loaded it, and strapped the belt and holster around his waist.

Next he went back to the comm station and put Avasarala’s data package into a tightbeam transmission that would bounce from Ceres to Mars to Luna to Earth, using public routers all the way. It would be unlikely to send up any red flags. He hit the video record button and said, “Hi, Mom. Take a look at this. Show it to the family. I have no idea how you’ll know when the right time to use it is, but when that time comes, do with it whatever seems best. I trust you guys, and I love you.”

Before he could say anything else or think better of the whole thing, he hit the transmit key and turned the panel off.

He called up the ladder-lift, because riding it would take longer than climbing the ladder and he needed time to think out exactly how to play the next ten minutes. When he reached the crew deck, he still didn’t have it all figured out, but he squared his shoulders and walked into the galley anyway.

Amos, Alex, and Naomi were sitting on one side of the table, facing him. Prax was in his usual perch on the counter. Bobbie and Avasarala sat sideways on the other side of the table so that they could see him. That put the marine less than two meters away, with nothing between her and him. Depending on how this went, that might be a problem.

He dropped his hand to the butt of the gun at his hip to make sure everyone saw it, then said, “We have about two days before elements of the UN Navy get close enough to overwhelm our defenses with a torpedo salvo and destroy this ship.”

Alex nodded, but no one spoke.

“But we have the Mao racing pinnace that brought Avasarala to us attached to the hull. It holds two. We’re going to stick two people on it and get them away. Then we’re going to turn around and head straight for those UN ships to buy the pinnace time. Who knows, we may even take one with us. Get ourselves a few servants in the afterlife.”

“Fucking A,” Amos said.

“I can support that,” Avasarala said. “Who’re the lucky bastards? And how do we stop the UN ships from just killing it after they kill this ship?”

“Prax and Naomi,” Holden said immediately, before anyone else could speak. “Prax and Naomi go on the ship.”

“Okay,” Amos said, nodding.

“Why?” Naomi and Avasarala said at the same moment.

“Prax because he’s the face of this whole thing. He’s the guy who figured it all out. And because when someone finally rescues his little girl, it’d be nice if her daddy was there,” Holden said. Then, tapping the butt of the gun with his fingers: “And Naomi because I f**king said so. Questions?”

“Nope,” Alex said. “Works for me.”

Holden was watching the marine closely. If someone tried to take the gun from him, it would be her. And she worked for Avasarala. If the old lady decided she wanted to be on the Razorback when it left, the marine would be the one who tried to make that happen. But to his surprise, she didn’t move except to raise her hand.

“Sergeant?” Holden said.

“Two of those six Martian ships that are tailing the UN boys are new Raptor-class fast cruisers. They can probably catch the Razorback if they really want to.”

“Would they?” Holden asked. “It was my impression that they were there to keep an eye on the UN ships and nothing else.”

“Well, probably not, but …” She drifted off mid-sentence with a distant look in her eyes.

“So that’s the plan,” Holden said. “Prax, Naomi, get whatever supplies you need packed up and get on the Razorback. Everyone else, I’d appreciate it if you waited here while they did that.”

“Hold on a minute—” Naomi protested, her voice angry.

Before Holden could respond, Bobbie spoke again.

“Hey, you know? I just had an idea.”

Chapter Forty-Three: Bobbie

They were all missing something. It was like someone knocking at the back of her mind, demanding to be let in. Bobbie went over it in her head. Sure, that prick Nguyen showed every sign he was willing to kill the Rocinante, ranking UN politician on board or not. Avasarala had made a gamble that her presence would back the UN ships off. It seemed she was about to lose that bet. There were still six UN destroyers bearing down on them.