The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

It also might backfire.

Pyanfar stared at Dur Tahar eye to eye within the half-ring of Chanur crew and the hair bristled down her back. Gods, that I have to be afraid. That one hani has to look at another like this, and worry about the han.

She brushed past and headed for the bridge.


Pyanfar looked back, at Tahar with Haral’s hand clamped in a firm grip on her arm. Pyanfar jerked her chin up in a gesture that freed the Tahar captain, turned and walked the narrow, curve-floored corridor to the bridge.

“They still on?” she asked Tirun, at com one, as she settled into her own chair.

“Your two,” Tirun said, and Pyanfar spun her chair about, and punched that channel in on speaker, along with the recorder.

“Pyanfar Chanur speaking.”

“Rhif Ehrran,” the answer came back, delivered over speaker from the board, as others gathered on the bridge to hear it. “We understand the kif have turned one of the Tahar over to you.”

“That’s correct, ker Rhif. Dur Tahar. She’s advised us that her kin are still in the custody of the hakkikt’s forces, and that they’re in imminent danger. We made immediate application through all channels for their release. We’re holding her pending a quieter situation on the docks-”

“You undertook this without notifying us.”

“The notification to the hakkikt was a matter of emergency. Hani lives are in danger. Regarding the general situation, Tahar showed up at my lock in kif custody without advance warning. And let me remind the deputy this is not a secure communication.”

“You’re obstructing a han order, Chanur.”

“As a matter of record, Tahar has appealed to us to take her parole.”

Dead silence on the other end for a moment. Then:

“Cooperation, Chanur. You don’t take that parole. Hear me? Hear me? You want ours, we get yours. You’ll turn her over.

Pyanfar’s pulse skipped. She flicked a glance at the recorder light’s green glow. It was being logged on Vigilance

and assuredly she wanted it on The Pride’s tapes. “You’re implying, are you, that our request for medical assistance to injured personnel hinges on our rejecting Tahar’s appeal?”

More silence. The trap was too obvious. Rhif Ehrran was too wary to confirm that with any chance of it being logged verbatim. “Nothing of the kind, Chanur. But I don’t send my crew into a situation I don’t trust. And pending resolution of this matter, I’m putting that request on hold.”

“Gods rot you, you’re talking about a critically ill woman and a gods-be short schedule! You’re-”


“Gods blast you!”

Tirun’s voice quietly: “Log it?”

“Log it. Log that cut-off, to the minute.” Pyanfar cut the recorder off. She was shaking when she spun the chair about, and her heart hurt her when she looked at the faces about her; Geran’s face; and Tahar’s. “Geran,” Pyanfar said quietly, to the killing-rage she saw in Geran’s eyes. And with profoundest shame: “Tahar. I’m still trying.”

“What are they doing?” Tahar asked in a hollow voice. “Chanur, what’s going on?”

“The law. The law that wants you is telling me they’ll by the gods let Chur Anify die if we don’t hand you over on the spot. That’s what’s happened on Anuurn since Gaohn. That’s what the han’s come to nowadays, spies and note-takers out to prove their case at any cost. Law by innuendo, by threat, by payoff and profit and political gain. That’s what we’ve got. Deals with the stsho. Buy-outs and sell-outs. Hani so gods-be anxious to get the advantage of their rivals they don’t see anything else-like you and me, Tahar. Like both us gods-be fools. I watched you and you watched me and we fought each other, and our menfolk did, and all the while the old women in Naur and Schunan licked their whiskers and planned how to skin us both. They sent Ehrran out. The stsho found a chink and they’re using it-stsho money; and hani gods-be stupidity. Incarnate in Ehrran.. By the gods, Tahar, I’ll help your crew, I swear to you. But they’re demanding I turn you and them over to Ehrran. And I don’t see a way out of it. I’ve got a sick woman aboard with another jump to go, gods know when. They’ve got the medic that can help her; and they’re going to play dirty.”

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Categories: Cherryh, C.J