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.”

“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.”

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