The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

There was a delicate question-how to get in touch with Jik and get Jik to twist Ehrran’s ear for that medic without being too evident about it. They had made light of the stack of charges Ehrran accumulated. But they needed no more of them. Nothing to complete the pattern and damn them with the han.

Follow channels. Do it the safe way. Keep to protocols.

There had to be time. Even if that stsho had run for Meetpoint and babbled all gtst knew; even if knnn were stirring about. Goldtooth and Jik acted as if there were time. They laid plans. Goldtooth was still coming in to dock, which meant he expected at least a number of hours before trouble hit, at least personal business here to make the trip worthwhile.

But Chur–

Geran’s covering for her, that’s what. And Geran’s scared. So am I. Gods rot it, I never should have let her come past Kshshti.

But we needed her. We still need her.

Gods, she’s not getting better. She’s worse.

Com chatter kept up, Kefk adjusting to the reality of its occupation. Methane-sector was settling down at last-only a small portion of Kefk’s territory, but a precinct with which kif did not trifle and out of which little coherent information came: the chaos at least seemed less. And there were no more knnn involved.

Geran came back to the bridge. Came and leaned on Pyanfar’s chair, and Pyanfar turned it about to face her. “She all right?” Pyanfar asked Geran.

No. Not all right, Pyanfar thought with a sudden chill. Geran’s mouth was clamped tight, jaw clenched.

Tongue-tied again. Like in the hall. Like things that touched on resisting Chur. She watched Geran’s mouth twist, the strain of her throat, just to get words out. “She couldn’t keep it down, captain.”

“Listen, cousin, I’ve already got a call in for a med.”

“Aye,” Geran said, and to her surprise made no argument. Then with a look more naked and more wretched: “I really think you’d better. Captain, she choked pretty bad trying to eat. She’s that weak. She couldn’t get her breath.”

No words for a moment or so. Mortal equations. Points of no return. Healing in jump cost and cost. And if the wound drew too profoundly on Chur’s resources and the jump-stretch went on-

There was another jump beyond this; it might come in a day-or hours; and if things went really wrong here, there might be jump and jump and jump with kif on their track and somewhere, somewhen down that course-having to send I he Pride into jump knowing of a certainty Chur would die in it. That was what they faced.

“All right,” Pyanfar said quietly. “All right, we do it. We get that med in here right now. A hani med. Vigilance has got staff. I’ll get one. I don’t care what it takes.”

Another convulsive effort to speak. “Let me. Captain, let me.” And quietly, the dam broken: “Begging your pardon- but maybe I can talk to staff, go the quiet route, huh? Kin-right.”

Without the arrogance of captains involved, Geran meant.

“Do it,” Pyanfar said without rancor. “They’ve got a com-hold on. You’ll have to get past it.”

“Aye.” Geran took com one post, sat down and went on the com, quietly, urgently.

It was not a thing Pyanfar cared to listen to-Geran pleading Chur’s case with an Ehrran crewwoman who wanted to argue channels in the matter of a Chanur life.

I should have done it before now. Begged them. Gods,-I don’t care, we’ve got to get a hurry-up on this. But it was more likely Geran could win it. Doubtless it would come to captains and her having to plead with Ehrran personally before all was done; but something still had to be sacred among hani-like kin-right and the bond between sisters. A ship incoming with family crisis on Anuurn outranked all oilier traffic. A woman homebound in such events could hoard any plane, commandeer any conveyance without stopping for formalities like fares till later. Kin-right could unsnarl red tape, overcome barriers’, silence opposition and objections. There was law higher than han law. There had always been. Vigilance had to respect that.

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Categories: Cherryh, C.J