The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

She listened. Geran overtook them and joined the lineup, the several of them. She felt numb. Her gut hurt from long walking, and from the earnest desire to break Rhif Ehrran’s neck. “Gods rotted right one bitch.” She shoved off from the wall and walked along the corridor toward the lift, alone.

Gods, the worry and the trust in Haral’s eyes. Oldest of her friends and truest, Tirun next by a year; Geran and Chur after that by two. Five hani, with a few gray hairs round the nose mid aches when they ran; a young fool kid. A stray human and a hani male past his prime- There had been a time, when she had gotten into this, that she had had ambitions-trading deals with mahendo’sat and humans, to repair Chanur’s financial damages; get the ship up to standard-well, that much she had done. And The Pride had altered outlines, wider vanes, alien systems that would put a kink in Chanur’s enemies for sure-if it came to a conflict in space.

But there were other kinds of enemies-like on the debating floor of the han, when the Rhif Ehrran stood up to declare charges and bring Chanur down.

Khym, gods, Khym-she hugged the moment to herself, his defiance of Rhif Ehrran on the docks. But it cost. It would cost plenty when Ehrran and Vigilance got home. Chanur had staked much on this dealing with outsiders; risked too much. Chanur had become like The Pride itself, half-hani, with alien outlines. Foreign wealth bought those changes.

-but go home again? See her clan-home again? Deal again as hani and not some mahen agent bought and paid for?

She pushed the lift button. Turned. The crew had stayed where they were down the corridor, not following. Maybe they sensed her mood. She beckoned and Haral saw and brought the others.

Another hani ship had gotten cut off from hani kind two years ago: Tahar’s Moon Rising. Moon Rising served the kif nowadays; and time was when she would have gone for Tahar on dock or in open space and known that she was right.

The lift arrived; her crew did. Another thought occurred to her and sent the wind up her back. “We’ve still got that kif aboard,” she said.

“We can throw it out,” Tirun said. “We’ve got what we want.”

Pyanfar thought about it, her claw hooked into the lift-switch. But small alarms went off in everything she knew about the kif. “Sfik,” she said. She let them into the lift and got in after. “If we turn it out, we lose a sfik-item, don’t we, whatever by the gods that means. Status. Face.”

“What’s that kif want we do with it?” Geran asked in disgust.

“What he did with Tully,” Haral surmised in the general silence as the lift went up. “Maybe worse. What’s a kif care? It’s to salve our pride, that’s what.”

A chill spread through Pyanfar. “Gods.”


“He talked about a kifish ship not his,” The lift stopped and the door opened. “Rearranging its loyalties. He said.”

“That kif’s one of Akkhtimakt’s?” Haral guessed, right down her own track.

“Bet you.”

“Good gods, what do we do with the son?”

Pyanfar walked out and threw a glance over her shoulder on the way to the bridge, to Chur. “If you figure out what a kif’s mind’s like, let me know. It says it belongs to Chanur. If we let it go we lose sfik. And we got a stationful of kif at our throats if we do”

“We could space it,” Tirun muttered longingly.

“We could give it to Ehrran,” Geran said.

Pyanfar looked back, short of the bridge door. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard yet.”

“We do it?”

She bit at her mustaches, gnawed and gnawed. “Huh,” she said, storing that thought up. “Huh.” And walked into the bridge.

“Kefk?” Chur asked, turning her chair about.

“I got him for you,” Khym said, huge, disheveled, hands hooked into the waistband of a tatty and snagged pair of brown breeches. His much scarred ears were slanted halfback, his scarred nose ducked in embarrassment. Hilfy came and fussed his mane into order, and the ears came up, there, in that room with another male, with Tully lying still on the bed and witnessing all of this.

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Categories: Cherryh, C.J