The Kif Strike Back by CJ Cherryh

Mahendo’sat. He’s fighting for mahen survival. His whole species is in danger.

And where’s hani survival?

Not, for sure, with Akkhtimakt.

She drew a deep breath and folded her arms. “So. So you got me listening, mahe. But you’d better know this: that tc’a the knnn snatched wasn’t the only thing we lost out of here. A stsho craft bolted Mkks, and it came this way, full sail for Meetpoint.”

“Ah, no. Not Meetpoint. Go out Tt’a’va’o vector.” A small flash of gilt teeth. “Try maybe take short cut, a? to Llyene?”

“Into the human ships?”

“Xenophobe stsho got big surprise, a?”

“The gods-rotted stsho are cozy with the tc’a, friend.”

“Maybe we fix.”

“O gods, gods, human lunacy’s catching-you’re playing tag with the knnn, you rag-eared bastard!”

“That do be problem, true.”

She stared into his dark eyes and had another cold moment of doubt. “More secrets? Where are the humans going, friend? Where next? Here? Meetpoint?”

Goldtooth’s humor had fallen away like a shed cloak. He gazed at her long and thoughtfully. “Maybe we make deal with knnn. Maybe e-qui-librium. Tape you got, tape I give you at Meetpoint, you say Banny Ayhar take on-one thing in this tape be knnn record; hani, we got hope this thing get to Maing Tol. You courier knnn message.”

“Good gods.”

“Tully-he be cover for message. He know. And I know you take good care this human. He got paper say he crew of The Pride. You fight save him if you not fight for me.”

“You bastard. You son of a-”

“You listen.” He held up a hand and with the other reached into his belt-pouch.

“What’s that?”

“From Jik. You got fine new comp unit downstair, a? You feed this. Got code sort. You process our private message real good, you get talk to us. Ehrran not got.”

“Best present I’ve had in a while.” She took it and tucked the envelope into her pocket.

“Also,” Goldtooth said, “my medic get look stats on Chur Anify; we got piece equipment we bring aboard. Number one fine she go through jump. Same like be in hospital, give her all she need.”

“Gods rot it, why didn’t Jik give us that at Mkks?”

“He not got. This from Mahijiru. We big ship-got zonal command post. Big hospital. Aja Jin, he maybe more fast, Mahijiru got more crew-got need have this thing. Save few lives. Now you got need, a?” He set his hands on her shoulders, hard and heavy. “We settle detail later. I got go, not like be longtime off my ship. Damn lousy place, Kefk. But one thing more I give-” He reached into his belt pouch and took some other small thing from it, took her hand and hooked over her finger an earring, with one great perfect pearl.

“Best I find. I owe you long time for welders, a? Come from Llyene oceans, number one most beau-ti-ful.”

“Goldtooth-Ismehanan-min-” But for the second time words failed her, and Goldtooth laid his hand on the door switch, “You fine woman,” he said. “Beau-ti-ful thing belong you.”

“Where are they going? Gods rot it, what’s their route?”

“Always want talk business,” he sighed, and opened the door and walked out into the corridor.

“Goldtooth, gods rot you-”

She pursued to the doorway, stopped abruptly as a pair of mahendo’sat came dollying a large polystyrene crate past the door. Goldtooth pressed himself against the wall on the other side of the corridor till it passed, waved his hand cheerfully toward the crate that headed for Chur’s room. “There, see, we move quick. I promise. It be done.” He gave an engaging grin. “You trust. You trust, Pyanfar.”


“Chur do fine now,” Goldtooth said definitely, and walked off toward the lift, with a nod of his head gathering up his darkclad crew that hulked along on all sides of him, formidable and irresistible.

She stood alone in the doorway with the pearl clenched in her hand. And felt entirely numb.


“She’s not to get out of that bed,” the hani medic said. The Ehrran’s ears were back, her nose drawn taut about the nostrils as she stood in the corridor prepared to leave. She looked up at Pyanfar the half-hand of difference in their height. “Whatever you imply about my ethics, captain, I did the best for her I could do, and the mahendo’sat have moved in a gods-rotted expensive piece of equipment she’ll stay hooked up to during jump. It’ll take the load off her heart and kidneys and prevent any more deterioration. With luck-” Geran had showed up in the corridor and stood there with a face like thunder. “With luck she even may build back a little on the trip. Depends on a lot of things. You’re lucky this far. So is she. We don’t have that kind of resources. We can’t buy it.” There was bitterness in the woman, a tight jawed hani anger at outsider wealth, and the laws and agreements between mahendo’sat and stsho that forever shut hani out. And that was an old story Pyanfar well understood.

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Categories: Cherryh, C.J