“My XO says you’d asked to speak to me.”

“Yes, and thank her on my behalf for all the help so far,” Holden said. “Listen, we burned through an awful lot of our stores in that skirmish. We fired fourteen torpedoes and nearly half of our point defense ammunition. Since this used to be a Martian ship, I thought maybe you’d have reloads that would fit our racks.”

“Sure,” Captain Tseng said without a moment’s hesitation. “I’ll have the destroyer Sally Ride pull alongside for munitions transfer.”

“Uh,” Holden said, shocked by the instant agreement. He’d been prepared to negotiate. “Thanks.”

“I’ll pass along my intel officer’s breakdown of the fight. You’ll find it interesting viewing. But the short version is that first kill, the one that broke open the UN defense screen and ended the fight? That was yours. Guess they shouldn’t have turned their backs on you.”

“You guys can take credit for it,” Holden said with a laugh. “I had a Martian Marine gunnery sergeant doing the shooting.”

There was a pause; then Tseng said, “When this is over, I’d like to buy you a drink and talk about how a dishonorably discharged UN naval officer winds up flying a stolen MCRN torpedo bomber crewed by Martian military personnel and a senior UN politician.”

“It’s a damn good story,” Holden replied. “Say, speaking of Martians, I’d like to get one of mine a present. Do you carry a Marine detachment on the Cydonia?”

“Yes, why?”

“Got any Force Recon Marines in that group?”

“Yes. Again, why?”

“There’s some equipment we’ll need that you’ve probably got in storage.”

He told Captain Tseng what he was looking for, and Tseng said, “I’ll have the Ride give you one when we do the transfer.”

The MCRN Sally Ride looked like she’d come through the fight without a scratch. When she pulled up next to the Rocinante, her dark flank looked as smooth and unmarred as a pool of black water. After Alex and the Ride’s pilot had perfectly matched course, a large hatch in her side opened up, dim red emergency lighting spilling out. Two magnetic grapples were fired across, connecting the ships with ten meters of cable.

“This is Lieutenant Graves,” a girlish voice said. “Prepared to begin cargo transfer on your order.”

Lieutenant Graves sounded like she should still be in high school, but Holden said, “Go ahead. We’re ready on this end.”

Switching channels to Naomi, he said, “Pop the hatches, new fish coming aboard.”

A few meters from where he was standing, a large hatch that was normally flush with the hull opened up into a meter-wide and eight-meter-long gap in the skin of the ship. A complicated-looking system of rails and gears ran down the sides of the opening. At the bottom sat three of the Rocinante’s remaining ship-to-ship torpedoes.

“Seven in here,” Holden said, pointing at the open torpedo rack. “And seven on the other side.”

“Roger,” said Graves. The long, narrow white shape of a plasma torpedo appeared in the Ride’s open hatch, with sailors wearing EVA packs flanking it. With gentle puffs of compressed nitrogen, they flew the torpedo down along the two guidelines to the Roci; then, with the help of Bobbie’s suit-augmented strength, they maneuvered it into position at the top of the rack.

“First one in position,” Bobbie said.

“Got it,” Naomi replied, and a second later the motorized rails came to life and grabbed the torpedo, pulling it down into the magazine.

Holden glanced at the elapsed time on his HUD. Getting all fourteen torpedoes transferred and loaded would take hours.

“Amos,” he said. “Where are you?”

“Just finishing that last patch down by the machine shop,” the mechanic replied. “You need something?”

“When you’re done with that, grab a couple EVA packs. You and I will go get the other supplies. Should be three crates of PDC rounds and some sundries.”

“I’m done now. Naomi, pop the cargo door for me, wouldja?”

Holden watched Bobbie and the Ride’s sailors work, and they had two more torpedoes loaded by the time Amos arrived with two EVA packs.

“Lieutenant Graves, two crew from the Rocinante requesting permission to board and pick up the rest of the supplies.”

“Granted, Rocinante.”

The PDC rounds came in crates of twenty thousand and at full gravity would have weighed more than five hundred kilos. In the microgravity of the coasting ships, two people with EVA packs could move one if they were willing to take their time and recharge their compressed nitrogen after every trip. Without a salvage mech or a small work shuttle available, there wasn’t any other choice.

Each crate had to be pushed slowly toward the aft of the Rocinante through a twenty-second-long “burn” from Amos’ EVA pack. When it got to the aft of the ship next to the cargo bay door, Holden would do an equally long thrust from his pack to bring the crate to a stop. Then the two of them would maneuver it inside and lock it to a bulkhead. The process was long, and at least for Holden, each trip had one heart-racing moment when he was firing the brakes to stop the crate. Every time, he had a brief, panicky vision of his EVA pack failing and him and the crate of ammo drifting off into space while Amos watched. It was ridiculous, of course. Amos could easily grab a fresh EVA pack and come get him, or the ship could drop back, or the Ride could send a rescue shuttle, or any other of a huge number of ways he’d be quickly saved.

But humans hadn’t been living and working in space nearly long enough for the primitive part of the brain not to say, I’ll fall. I’ll fall forever.

The people from the Ride finished bringing over torpedoes about the time Holden and Amos had locked the last crate of PDC ammo into the cargo bay.

“Naomi,” Holden called on the open channel. “We all green?”

“Everything looks good from here. All of the new torpedoes are talking to the Roci and reporting operational.”

“Outstanding. Amos and I are coming in through the cargo bay airlock. Go ahead and seal the bay up. Alex, as soon as Naomi gives the all clear, let the Cydonia know we can do a fast burn to Io at the captain’s earliest pleasure.”

While the crew prepped the ship for the trip to Io, Holden and Amos stripped off their gear and stowed it in the machine shop. Six gray disks, three on each bulkhead across the compartment from each other, showed where the rounds had ripped through this part of the ship.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com