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Page 271 of Caliban's War (Expanse 2)

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.

But there were six more ships tailing them.

Including, as she’d just pointed out to Holden, two Raptor-class fast-attack cruisers. Top-of-the-line Martian military hardware, and more than a match for any UN destroyer. Along with the two cruisers were four Martian destroyers. They might or might not be better than their UN counterparts, but with the two cruisers in their wing, they had a significant tonnage and firepower advantage. And they were following the UN ships to see that they weren’t about to do something to escalate the shooting war.

Like killing the one UN politician who wasn’t straining at the leash for a war with Mars.

“Hey, you know?” Bobbie said before she realized she was going to say anything. “I just had an idea …”

The galley fell silent.

Bobbie had a sudden and uncomfortable memory of speaking up in the UN conference room and wrecking her military career in the process. Captain Holden, the cute one who was a little too full of himself, was staring at her, a not particularly flattering gape on his face. He looked like a very angry person who’d lost his train of thought mid-rant. And Avasarala was staring at her too. Though, having learned to read the old lady’s expression better, she didn’t see anger there. Just curiosity.

“Well,” Bobbie said, clearing her throat. “There are six Martian ships following those UN ships. And the Martian ships outclass them. Both navies are at high alert.”

No one moved or spoke. Avasarala’s curiosity had turned to a frown. “So,” Bobbie continued, “they might be willing to back us up.”

Avasarala’s frown had only gotten deeper. “Why,” she said, “would the Martians give a f**k about protecting me from being killed by my own damn Navy?”

“Would it hurt to ask?”

“No,” Holden said. “I’m thinking no. Is everyone else here thinking it wouldn’t hurt?”

“Who’d make the call?” Avasarala asked. “You? The traitor?”

The words were like a gut punch. But Bobbie realized what the old lady was doing. She was hitting Bobbie with the worst possible Martian response. Gauging her reaction to it.

“Yeah, I’d open the door,” Bobbie said. “But you’re the one that will have to convince them.”

Avasarala stared at her for one very long minute, then said, “Okay.”

“Repeat that, Rocinante,” the Martian commander said. The connection was as clear as if they were standing in the room with the man. It wasn’t the sound quality that was throwing him. Avasarala spoke slowly, enunciating carefully, all the same.

“This is Assistant Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala of the United Nations of Earth,” Avasarala said again. “I am about to be attacked by a rogue element of the UN Navy while on my way to a peacekeeping mission in the Jupiter system. Fucking save me! I will reward you by talking my government out of glassing your planet.”

“I’m going to have to send this up the chain,” the commander said. They weren’t using a video link, but the grin was audible in his voice.

“Call whoever you need to call,” Avasarala said. “Just make a decision before these cunts start raining missiles down on me. All right?”

“I’ll do my best, ma’am.”

The skinny one—her name was Naomi—killed the connection and swiveled to look at Bobbie. “Why would they help us, again?”

“Mars doesn’t want a war,” Bobbie replied, hoping she wasn’t talking completely out her ass. “If they find out that the UN’s voice of reason is on a ship that’s about to be killed by rogue UN war hawks, it only makes sense for them to step in.”

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