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“Kind of sounds like you’re talking out your ass there,” Naomi said.

“Also,” Avasarala said, “I just gave them permission to shoot at the UN Navy without political repercussions.”

“Even if they help,” Holden said, “there’s no way they can completely stop the UN ships from taking some shots at us. We’ll need an engagement plan.”

“We just got this damn thing put back together,” Amos said.

“I still say we stick Prax and Naomi on the Razorback,” Holden said.

“I’m starting to think that’s a bad idea,” Avasarala said. She took a sip of coffee and grimaced. The old lady was definitely missing her five cups of tea a day.

“Explain,” Holden said.

“Well, if the Martians decide they’re on our side, that changes the whole landscape for those UN ships. They can’t beat all seven of us, if I understand the math right.”

“Okay,” Holden said.

“That makes it in their interest not to be called a rogue element in the history books. If Nguyen’s cabal fails, everyone on his team gets at minimum a court-martial. The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to make sure I don’t survive this fight, no matter who wins.”

“Which means they’ll be shooting at the Roci,” Naomi said. “Not the pinnace.”

“Of course not,” Avasarala said with a laugh. “Because of course I’ll be on the pinnace. You think for a second they’ll believe that you’re desperately trying to protect an escape craft that I’m not on? And I bet the Razorback doesn’t have those PDCs you were talking about. Does it?”

To Bobbie’s surprise, Holden was nodding as Avasarala spoke. She’d sort of pegged him as a know-it-all who fell in love only with his own ideas.

“Yeah,” Holden said. “You’re absolutely right. They’ll fling everything they’ve got at the Razorback as she tries to get away, and she’ll have no defense.”

“Which means we all live or we all die, right here on this ship,” Naomi said with a sigh. “As usual.”

“So, again,” Holden said. “We need an engagement plan.”

“This is a pretty thin crew,” Bobbie said now that the conversation had moved back to her area of expertise. “Where’s everyone usually sit?”

“Operations officer,” Holden said, pointing at Naomi. “She also does electronic warfare and countermeasures. And she’s a savant, considering she’d never worked it before we got this ship.”

“Mechanic—” Holden started, pointing at Amos.

“Grease monkey,” Amos said, cutting him off. “I do my best to keep the ship from falling apart when there’s holes in it.”

“I usually man the combat ops board,” Holden said.

“Who’s the gunner?” Bobbie asked.

“Yo,” said Alex, pointing at himself.

“You fly and do target acquisition?” Bobbie said. “I’m impressed.”

Alex’s already dark skin grew a shade darker. His aw shucks Mariner Valley drawl had started to go from annoying to charming. And the blush was sweet. “Aw, no. The cap’n does acquisition from combat ops, generally. But I have to manage fire control.”

“Well, there you go,” Bobbie said, turning to Holden. “Give me weps.”

“No offense, Sergeant …” Holden said.

“Gunny,” Bobbie replied.

“Gunny,” Holden agreed with a nod. “But are you qualified to operate fire control on a naval vessel?”

Bobbie decided not to be offended and grinned at him instead. “I saw your armor and the weapons you were carrying in the airlock. You found a MAP in the cargo bay, right?”

“Map?” Avasarala asked.

“Mobile assault package. Marine assault gear. Not as good as my Force Recon armor, but full kit for half a dozen ground pounders.”

“Yeah,” Holden said. “That’s where we got it.”

“That’s because this is a multi-role fast-attack ship. Torpedo bomber is just one of them. Boarding party insertion is another. And gunnery sergeant is a rank with a very specific meaning.”

“Yeah,” Alex said. “Equipment specialist.”

“I’m required to be proficient in all of the weapons systems my platoon or company might need to operate during a typical deployment. Including the weapons systems on an assault boat like this.”

“I see—” Holden started, but Bobbie cut him off with a nod.

“I’m your gunner.”

Like most things in Bobbie’s life, the weapons officer’s chair had been made for someone smaller than her. The five-point harness was digging into her hips and her shoulders. Even at its farthest setting, the fire control console was just a bit too close for her to comfortably rest her arms on the crash couch while using it. All of which would be a problem if they had to do any really high-g maneuvering. Which, of course, they would once the fight started.

She tucked her elbows in as close as she could to keep her arms from wrenching out of their sockets at high g, and fidgeted with the harness. It would have to be good enough.

From his seat behind and above her, Alex said, “This’ll be over quick one way or the other. You probably won’t have time to get too uncomfortable.”

“That’s reassuring.”

Over the 1MC Holden said, “We’re inside the maximum-effective weapon range now. They could fire immediately or twenty hours from now. So stay belted in. Only leave your station in life-threatening emergency and at my direct order. I hope everyone got their catheter on right.”

“Mine’s too tight,” Amos said.

Alex spoke behind her, and it was echoed a split second later over the comm channel. “It’s a condom catheter, partner. It goes on the outside.”

Bobbie couldn’t help laughing and held one hand up behind her until Alex slapped it.

Holden said, “We have greens across the board down here in ops. Everyone check in with go/no-go status.”

“All green at flight control,” Alex said.

“Green at electronic warfare,” Naomi said.

“We’re go down here,” Amos said.

“Weapons are green and hot,” Bobbie said last. Even strapped into a chair two sizes too small for her, on a stolen Martian warship captained by one of the most wanted men in the inner planets, it felt really goddamned good to be there. Bobbie restrained a whoop of joy and instead pulled Holden’s threat display up. He’d already marked the six pursuing UN destroyers. Bobbie tagged the lead ship and let the Rocinante try to come up with a target solution on it. The Roci calculated the odds of a hit at less than .1 percent. She jumped from target to target, getting a feel for the response times and controls. She tapped a button to pull up target info and looked over the UN destroyer specs.

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