The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

“Give me a gun.” Hilfy’s voice, hoarse and strained, with mayhem in it.

“Stand fast,” Pyanfar muttered. “Just stand still, imp- Don’t get in front of anyone.”

“Get Tully out of here.”

“In time,” said Sikkukkut. “Perhaps.”

“What perhaps?” asked Pyanfar.

“How soon,” asked Sikkukkut, “these friends of yours?”

“Inbound now,” Pyanfar said. Sikkukkut made a flourish of his sleeve, a sweep of his robe, an acceleration of small moves. ” Stand still, hakkikt.”


“I advise you. Stay put.” The shot she fired would take out Sikkukkut. The returning barrage would do for her, her crew, and the wall behind them. “Not a convenient time leave dock, even if you could get to your ships. Hilfy, get. Get out.”

“With your allies,” Sikkukkut said, “I will also deal. There is no need for haste.” He paced aside, the only moving figure in the room. “After all.” He moved again. Close

Spread his arms in a dark flourish. “Fire, hunter Pyanfar. Or admit I have judged what you will do.”

“Don’t push me, kif.”

“Civilization. Is that not your word for it? Friendship? The mahendo’sat who will die of your rashness are your allies. Your own life is still more precious. I shall be your ally, hunter Pyanfar, as I was at Kshshti. Is it not true? Others aimed at this young hani and this human. I took them. Therefore they were safe. Is this not a friendly act?”

“You want us out of here before the rest of us reach station. Is that it?”

“I will deal with you, hunter Pyanfar. Nankhit! Skki sukkutkut shik’hani skkunnokkt. Hsshtk!”

Rifles lowered, one by reluctant one, among the kif. A tremor came to her muscles, a long, long shiver; her heart thudded against her ribs. But the rifle stayed steady.

“You may go,” said Sikkukkut.

“Haral. Get them out. Get everybody out.”


“Move it!” She heard a low rumbling. “Khym. Out.”

“Come on,” she heard from Haral. She drew in her breath, heard the sibilance of cloth and quiet hani feet, the slight rattle of arms.

She was alone then. Herself. A roomful of kif. Tully and Sikkukkut.

“You plan to die like this?” the hakkikt asked.

Her nose rumpled into a hani grin. “Scare you, kif?”

Sikkukkut walked again, laid a hand on Tully’s shoulder, where he stood in the others’ grip. Gently. “One last prize. I shall keep this one for a while, and give you another, perhaps, for your sfik.-Your crew is still outside. Do they pick and choose your orders?”

“They understand me.”

The kif stared at her within the shadow of the hood, faceless against the glare.

And laughed his dry laughter then. The hand fell from Tully’s shoulder. “Hunter-ships.”

“They’ll come.”

“Skhi nokkthi.” Sikkukkut retreated again to his chair, the while a rustling of cloth told her of movement at her side. The kif reached to the table beside the many-legged chair, where a meshwork bowl stood. Something in it raced and scrabbled madly; squealed as the hakkikt’s hand closed. The squeal ceased abruptly. He popped it in his mouth, the jaws worked rapidly a moment. Then he took an ornate cup and spat into it.

She laid her ears back.

“Would you join me at table?” asked Sikkukkut. “No, I thought not.” A bony-knuckled hand gestured Tully’s way. “You know he has not spoken since the day we took him. Not a word. He utters sounds, sometimes. I cherish such sfik. His words are precious. Perhaps he will give them up.”

Take him from me, the kif meant, do something about it, if you can. .

“The mahe gave you this passenger at Meetpoint,” Sikkukkut went on. “Was that all? Was that all Mahijiru brought you? Goldtooth. Is that not what you call that mahe? Ismehanan-min is his name. We are old acquaintances. I spoke to him about alliance. He was doubtful.” Again Sikkukkut raised the cup and thrust his snout inside. He lifted his face after. ” think this bigotry.”

“Think what you like. Let’s talk about Tully, shall we?”

“I was skku to Akkukkak. Vassal, you would say. And potential heir-to use hani terms, which mislead. You did me a service.”

“Killing Akkukkak, you mean.”

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127

Categories: Cherryh, C.J