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.And Munur Faha.She was not alone.Even in the matter with the kif.There were senior captains to rely on.There stood Fiar and Sif, co-conspirators off the same bridge.She saw a sudden guardedness in Banny Ayhar’s eyes, the look of an old trader and an old hand in rough places.The old woman knew when she had gotten a high sign, by the gods she caught it up; and it was suddenly spacers and stationers in the control center, spacers and Them, which was only slightly less foreign than the kif.“Chanur,” that Llun voice behind her said, a woman’s voice of some age and authority.But before she turned, Ayhar lifted her chin in that way that from Anuurn docks to Meetpoint, said Ally, till I find out different.“Cap’n, they got into Central, they got it.”Pyanfar crossed the bridge in the wake of a cheer from both crews, to lean on Chur’s seatback.“Clear?”“Not officially confirmed yet.” Chur did not look around.Her ears backslanted as she flicked switches and punched buttons.“Gaohn station, this is The Pride of Chanur, we got an incoming lighter, we’ll handle that.Appreciate word on casualties at your earliest.” Pause.Flick of the ears.“Captain, we got a general announcement: Remain calm.Llun has retaken Central.”“They’ll have every clan in reach of there asking casualties.We’ve got to sit and wait, I’m guessing.”“I’d like it better if they got some operators on output.We just got that same message cycling over and over.Nobody’s handling anything.We got what we got from a ship-to-ship off a Maura freighter.Somebody’s got com in there.”Pyanfar gnawed at her mustaches, spat and gnawed again.“We got no favors coming.Those with bad news get it first, that’s the way of it.They’re all right.Just keep after ‘em.”While Tauran crew methodically handled the approach of the kifish lighter, which was coming in toward the docking boom aft.And a certain kif was standing there with bags and Dinner packed.One hoped.(“Skkukuk,” she had said lately, over com.“This is the captain.Just want you to know I’m back and we’re quite well in control.”)(“/ had absolutely no doubts,” the kifish voice came back to her, tinny the way E-deck pickup always sounded.“/ will give you the hearts of your enemies.”)Literally.It was not a thing she wanted to contemplate at the moment, with the possibility of casualties up in Central and the dire memory of Ehrran out there on the docks.She flinched from that every time the image came back to her, and it came time and again.Nothing left.Nothing, O gods.An Immune.With all the trouble she was, she was still an Immune.She listened while the sorting-out of com and the docking of a kifish lighter proceeded.“You want your chair,” Sirany offered her a second time.Meaning: command of this situation.Everything that went with it.She looked at the Tauran, saw the exhaustion and the anxiousness of a woman who feared every moment she sat there and feared equally to abdicate that chair and turn it back to Chanur.“I’ll take it,” Pyanfar said.“I want to get my second up here; you mind to sit observer? Fit both our crews in here and galley: we got need of all the expertise we got.”“I’ll sit it,” Sirany said, and hauled herself out of the number one place.“Two minute break and I’m back here.”“We have touch imminent,” the Tauran working that docking said, never pausing: the interface between crews went through smooth as the shift of a few bodies, and never a missed beat.Not a jolt as the kifish lighter made its contact with the boom.Retraction whined away, a moan throughout the ship as the boom swung down and dragged lock and lock into contact.A hani might wish to say goodbye.Even to a kif.It was not the way of kif.The presence quit The Pride with never a word and never a report, just the abrupt communication from the lighter pilot that they were ready for undock.Then the lighter took off, rolled and left with all the speed it could muster, a little sputter of its engines against The Pride’s hull.That was, she reckoned, another ambitious kif, the captain of that so-quickly moving ship out there, the one which had appropriated the responsibility for picking up the hani’s kif.Not the foremost among the ships out there.She knew that much by now.It was about the third-subordinate, not in contention for primacy in Sikkukkut’s favor; so it was taking a calculated risk, maybe to do in its passenger, maybe to listen to him, depending on how things developed.And right now there were probably some very worried captains on the number one and two kifish ships.There were worried captains everywhere among the kif out there, Sikkukkut’s highest captains sweating sudden adjustments in hierarchy: they had just gained a lot of Akkhtimakt’s ships.Good luck, my skulking shadow.Good luck.To both of us.She drew a deep breath and flipped switches.“We pulling out?” Haral wondered, beside her.It was what she ached to do, get The Pride out of station, away from dock where it was less a target.“Want to get our people back.” There was a cold lump at her gut./ want to hear something out of Central, gods rot it.What kind of a hash have they got going up there? Station’s stable.No damage alarms.They can’t have shot it up too bad.Kohan’s too reckless.Gods, don’t let him have rushed in there.Hilfy, now, Hilfy can cover herself.“I don’t credit that answer,” the Llun said quietly.“Not tip off our enemies.I don’t see any enemies here, ker Hilfy Chanur.I see alien ships moving out there, I see this station in jeopardy, I hear talk about a threat to the planet.I’m wondering where it comes from.I’m wondering what else we don’t know about.”Hilfy kept her ears up, let them dip a bit in displeasure, brought them up again.Kohan was there, Kohan stripped of his title and his courtesies, the whole clan-gods, the whole clan must have deserted Kara Mahn’s takeover and exiled themselves with their lord rather than submit to the Mahn and his sister.The powers of Chanur were most likely here: like Rhean.Like Jofan, who must have connived at getting herself and Kohan and the rest up to Rhean.She was never prouder of her clan and her kin.“Ker Llun,” she said, quietly, steadily, “I can tell you this.It’s not numbers that’ll win this one.We can’t match numbers with what’s out there.We haven’t got the ships or the guns.Best thing we’ve got on our side right now is a mahendo’sat we’ve lost track of out there and the deep-spacers.My aunts are three of them.Ayhar here.Harun and Faha and Shaurnurn and Pauran and Tauran.And all the rest.Whatever men and kids are onstation, we’d be safer to get them off, out of here: every ship that hasn’t got the guns to fight-take the men and the kids far as they can run into mahen space, and we just hope to the gods they’ll get the word in a few months that Anuurn’s still here.If it’s not-there’ll still be hani.That’s what we’re fighting for [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]