The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

Let us assume we are allies. Remember this at Kefk.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

Revenge on all our enemies. Hani, there will be a day you want it.

“Not yet,” she said. She caught the plastic-wrapped confection Geran spun her way on the tabletop. Haral and Tirun blundered back in, hunting gfi and food. She tore the plastic and swallowed the mince in hunks, guaranteed to make for hiccups. She chased it with gfi. “Gods, tofi.” The spice made her sneeze.

“Slow down, for the gods’ sake.”

“What, slow down? We’ve got eight and a half hours to sleep.” She stood up and grabbed Khym’s arm. “Come on, husband. Suddenly I’m in the mood.”

“Gods, Py ”

“Who notices? Finish the gfi Come on.”


Eight and a half hours was not enough. The alarm went off like attack and mayhem and universal doom. Pyanfar climbed over Khym to kill it, but there was nothing for it then but to remember where she was and what there was waiting, and to pull herself and her half-conscious husband out of bed and face it.

She faced it in a plain twill pair of blue trousers, common-spacer-like, because they were headed out, and otherside of that jump was likely no time for washup or amenities. She saved her brightest silk pair for after-cleanup on the docks at Kefk.

Healthiest to think in those terms, that there would be the need of red silk trousers and all the finery.

But she did put on the ruby pendant earring, among the others, that winked and shone ferociously in the red-gold sweep of her tufted, many-ringed ear. It advised all who wanted to argue with a rather plainly dressed hani that she held a captaincy. On such a day she needed all the convincing it could lend.

“Feed the gods-rotted kif,” she ordered Tirun when she found her on the bridge.

“Feed it what?” Tirun asked, and forthwith turned her stomach.

“I don’t know: thaw something. Throw a steak through the door. Don’t get near it. And don’t carry weapons.”

“Gods, it’s just one kif. I can-”

“Don’t go near it. How much more trouble do we need on this ship?”

“Aye,” Tirun said, and swallowed all further argument.

They were all up, all functioning: Chur came out from Khym’s former cabin to sit check-out on the bridge; Haral and Hilfy and Geran arrived from below; and Tully came up too, stiff and sore and pottering about the galley with Khym (gods!) and Hilfy, getting breakfast. On the bridge the com-flow started and The Pride began to drink down the information Aja Jin and Vigilance had been awake through the down-watches composing. Haral and Geran and Chur were in Charge there, while Tirun went off to kif-feeding.

“We got a request,” Chur reported, “from Aja Jin. They want conference when you can.”

“Fine,” Pyanfar said, martyred. “Fine. I’ll get to it.”

“Checks are running fine. We just take Aja Jin’s course the way it stands?”

“We take whatever they give us. I’m not quarreling with their comp.” She leaned over Chur’s seat and took a look at station output. It was mahen language again. Mkks began to have the feel of normalcy in its operations.

Any kif on Mkks who valued his Life, she reckoned, was headed for Sikkukkut’s ships. She thought of others of the noninvolved, non-kif, wishing they could have evacuated the entire station. But that was impossible. Mahendo’sat and stsho had to stay and trust the few conventions of non-involvement and neutrality even kif observed in the Compact. Tc’a and chi were safe. Indisputably. And they protected the other, oxy-breathing residents by their own immunity and their insanity.

“What’s our count?”

“Hour three minutes to undock,” Haral said.

“Good gods, they’re going with it, are they?”

“That mahe’s a stubborn bastard.”

“We on count?”

“We’re catching up.”

She put her own board live. Ran a survey of systems and recent com messages.

From Aja Jin: You got no problem, you come in on coordinate number one good. …

Another optimist, she thought. “Put in a call to Jik.”

“Aye,” Geran said. And a moment later. “He’s not answering.”

“What, not answering? We’re in countdown. Remind him who’s asking, huh?”

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Categories: Cherryh, C.J