The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

They were perhaps cavalier about such scramblings-about while The Pride was inbound at some commercial port, with safe lanes and the prospect of a long, sedate voyage under inertia.

Kefk lacked all such guarantees.

“You stay course.” Jik’s voice sputtered into the complug in Pyanfar’s left ear: Haral had relayed it, on slight delay, Pyanfar flicked her ears back, looked at the time-differential ; of several situations ticking away on the upper margin of the number four monitor. Not enough time for her query to have gotten Jik’s direct response: half that. He had anticipated the question, she reckoned, when he himself had acquired beacon image from some source, maybe one from Kefk station itself. “Sikkukkut’s transmitting,” Hilfy said. “Same sort of thing.”

If anything short-flashed between Harukk and Aja Jin or Vigilance, close as they were riding within their own little band of kif, Jik gave no clue to this. ‘ ‘We got system scan now, got Kefk output, they not want trouble, a? Nice friendly port.”

Gods. “We stay it,” Pyanfar said to the crew about her. She twitched in misery; fatigue settled like a hot iron between her shoulderblades and into that shoulder and elbow locked into the brace above the control board. She sweated and stank and shed hair; crew were no better. The hunter-ships would likely have had a shift to backup crew now and again, all crew seated in a touchy situation like this, but taking the shunt to give main-crew a chance to stretch and eat and take the kinks out of their backs. The hunter-ships would have that luxury; so would the kif incoming at their backs and up ahead; and gods only knew if the multibrained tc’a even needed relief. She left shed fur on what she touched. And the aches-gods.

“Jik says they’ve asked for a ship list over and over again. No response from station.”

“That’s not good,” Haral said.

“Not at all friendly of them,” Chur said.

“Hope that tc’a stays real close,” said Pyanfar.

“The tc’a’s still transmitting,” Hilfy said. “Same stuff.”

“How are you doing, Chur?” Pyanfar asked.

“Uhhhn. Lost a bit of weight. Gods-be concentrates . . . we got to get a hot-box on the bridge if we keep this up. Nice warm food.”

“Food?” Tully asked.

“He has a hard time biting through the packets,” Geran said. “Here . . . now. You got to have the teeth for it, friend . . . He’s catching on with the equipment. Knows what he’s looking at, just fine.”

“Math,” Tully said.

“Help if he could read,” Pyanfar said.

“Sure might.”

No knowing whether human instrumentation was anything like their own. And his blunt-nailed hands had no hope of hani recessed buttons. Thank the gods. There was nothing he could push.

But a kif’s retractable claws were quite another matter.

She should, she thought, have gone down to the lower deck herself and left the ship in Haral’s capable hands. Not called a kif to the bridge.

It was too late to do otherwise. She saw the flash from the optional-telltale that was presently linked to lift operation and withdrew her arm from the brace. “Haral. You’ve got it.”


“We got a kif coming up. All of you-” Pyanfar rotated her chair crew-ward. “All of you keep your minds on you work, huh? Is this going to be a problem for anyone?”


“Even if it gets interesting.”

“Aye.” From multiple throats.

Tully turned a bewildered look her way. Hilfy never budged.

“Geran, take over com for now. Hilfy wants a relief.”

“Aye, captain.”

Hilfy swung her chair half about. Her ears were back. “I didn’t say-”

“I know you didn’t. I want you on guard. Something wrong with that?”

“No, aunt,” Hilfy said, a quiet voice. She spun back td the board and looked up as Geran released restraints and prepared to shift.

Pyanfar spun her chair the other way and undid her own restraints.

“Is this a test?” Hilfy asked.

“No,” Pyanfar said. “It isn’t. It’s the real thing. I figure you know the kif well enough. Don’t you? Maybe your considered opinion’s worth something.”

Hilfy’s ears slanted back. Her adolescent mustaches drew down in a look of distress. “Putting it on me, are you?”

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