Chanurs legacy, p.1
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       Chanur's Legacy, p.1

           C. J. Cherryh
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Chanur's Legacy


  Chanur’s Legacy

  “A lively tale of swashbuckling capitalism in space … good reading and good fun … Chanur’s Legacy wends its way through diplomacy, sexism, and assorted perils with its feline/hani ears held proudly high.”


  “Memorable characters, intriguing aliens, and a convoluted yet satisfying plot guaranteed to extend even the most space-operatically inclined brain cells.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “Fast-moving … a great deal of fun … financial and political intrigue involving five different alien species and half a dozen planets … Cherryh demonstrates a remarkable grasp of alien psychologies—she has mastered the near-impossible trick of creating aliens who think differently from, but just as well as humans.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Cherryh is a master at creating a living alien world where complicated, different customs realistically entwine.”


  DAW Titles by C.J. CHERRYH


























  Serpent’s Reach |Cuckoo’s Egg


  Merchanter’s Luck | 40,000 in Gehenna


  Brothers of Earth | Hunter of Worlds


  Kesrith | Shon’jir | Kutath



  Gate of Ivrel | Well of Shiuan | Fires of Azeroth




  The Tree of Swords and Jewels | The Dreamstone


  Port Eternity | Wave Without a Shore | Voyager in Night







  375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014





  Copyright © 1992 by C.J. Cherryh

  All Rights Reserved.

  Cover Art by Michael Whelan

  DAW Book Collectors No. 886.

  DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  The scanning, uploading and distribution via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  First Printing, August 1992






  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter One

  Meetpoint was in one sense the center of Compact space: in another sense, this place where all the Compact met for trade was the hindside of every species’ separate territory, and, along with its cosmopolitan character, it had that chancy watch-your-back kind of feeling on its dockside, even in these days when weapons were discouraged and peace governed the dealings of species. Meetpoint’s oxygen docks were redolent of cold and oil and volatiles, its dockside shops and bars echoed of trade and business and offered a selection of vices. Its methane side—the methane folk had to answer for, in their multiple-brained thoughts and stranger songs: but on the oxygen side, the stsho, who were the landlords of Meetpoint, traded in what pleased them. Among those spindly, white-skinned merchants one could find hani, mahendo’sat, kif and (at least when a certain ship was in dock) a stray human from a world named, unenterprisingly, Earth.

  That certain ship had been here. That certain ship had departed twenty-odd days ago in pursuit of its own business, a circumstance which completely satisfied Hilfy Chanur, captain of Chanur’s Legacy, newly in dock at Meetpoint and besieged by her aunt’s unreceived mail—beset also by every hanger-on, would-be and might-have-been politician, inventor, and academician with every offer of favor, every piece of influence-peddling, every crackpot idea and complaint for forty light-years about.

  Being niece to the President of Compact space, the elected President of the spacefaring amphictiony of Anuurn, the mekt-hakkikt of all the kif, the Personage of Personages of the mahendo’sat (gods only knew about the methane folk) … in short, entailed a few liabilities.

  It remained to be seen, with the Legacy past the initial formalities, whether aunt Pyanfar’s latest dealing with Meetpoint’s governor was about to become another of those liabilities. It remained imminently to be seen, because at the top of the message stack which had landed in the Legacy’s files at the instant of their docking, sat a message from gtst excellency No’shto-shti-stlen, requesting the presence of “the august niece of the most distinguished (untranslatable) Pyanfar Chanur in the inner most hospitable (?) administrative offices,” and so on and so on, “omitting customs formalities which this office will be delighted to obviate,” and so on in that vein.

  One didn’t trust that those formalities were going to be ignored, by the gods, one didn’t. One set one’s second-in-command to handling them, in case the honorable or excellent No’shto-shti-stlen changed gtst mind and charged one’s ship with smuggling.

  So Hilfy put on her administrative-offices best pair of black satin trousers, and (acutely aware of her youth) combed the mane until it crackled with static (and looked fuller) and the mustaches so that they somewhat covered the youthful scantness of beard. Hilfy Chanur’s ears at least had no scarcity of rings to signify her voyages. Her red-gold coat was brushed to a sheen. Her mood was even cheerful as she took the lift down from topside to the main lowerdeck corridor and put her head in at lowerdeck ops.

  “I’m off, cousin. You’re in charge. How’s it going?”

  “Smooth so far. Are you sure you don’t want one of us to go along?”

  Tiar was harried, hurried—they were a small crew, in a strange port, dealing with officials they didn’t personally know. The crew was eager to go on liberty, which they couldn’t do unti
l the forms were filed and the cargo was delivered.

  “I’m fine. I know this place. I know exactly where I’m going.”

  “You’ve got the pocket com.”

  She patted the pocket of her trousers. “No problems. Just a walk down the dock to the lift. You get those forms filed, make sure we’re clear of customs … make them sign the forms anyway. Refer them to the governor’s office. I’m not taking any chances.”

  “Aye, captain,” Tiar said, and Hilfy walked on and into the lock, cycled it through to Meetpoint’s biting air, and walked the frost-rimed yellow tube of the ramp to the wide open docks.

  It was a world of gray steel gantries, towering up into an overhead obscured by blinding light, an overhead so tall it made its own weather, had occasional haze about the lights, and rained condensation puddles on the utilitarian decking. Neon glared from storefronts and bars, oxy-breathing species rubbed shoulders in disregard of differences, and nowadays one could trust there were no weapons—

  One could at least carefully hope there were no weapons. She carried none. Since the Peace, guns on dockside were strictly for the police: all species were civilized now. Law decided controversies, ships refrained from piracy, as a historic source of provocation, and from cargo-pilfering, a clear violation of treaties every known species but one now respected.

  So Hilfy Chanur didn’t hurry on her way—or worry about the attention she drew here. She cut a fair figure, red-gold hide and black silk breeches in a world of dreary grays and garish neon light. Hani were fairly scarce at this end of space, but most of all, the Chanur name on the Legacy would not have passed unnoticed. She could imagine the whispers: the Personage’s relative, the mekt-hakkikt’s niece, what’s she up to?—justified, since Chanur had a habit of being up to things.

  But, credit to Meetpoint’s new ordinances, there was not a single interception on her way across the docks, only ordinary traffic; and the lift coordinates she punched in with the number gtst excellency’s request had provided her were a priority destination: no waiting for the car, not even fellow passengers to deal with, just a G-shifting express ride into the great body of Meetpoint Station, to a debarcation into that area the stsho landlords reserved unto themselves, white halls draped in shades of nacre and pastel, and ornamented with the writhing alabaster shapes the stsho called art.

  She abandoned cautions, abandoned concerns for untoward encounters: this was a safe place; quiet and peaceful, so harmonious that she no more than blinked in dismay when black-robed kifish guards turned up in her path.

  So the stsho were back at that foolish practice: uncombative themselves, so fragile a single blow could crush them—they engaged species who could defend them against individuals who might do them violence, the most likely to do violence, unfortunately, being the very species that they hired. One thought that they might have learned that most expensive lesson about the kif—but the stsho made the choices the stsho made: the experiment with mahen and hani guards had apparently not satisfied them, although Hilfy herself had not heard about it; and the fact that the hair rose on a hani captain’s nape and that her vision hazed about the edges at the mere sight of these tall, black-robed figures, the fact that a hani of otherwise peaceful intent instantly entertained violent thoughts at meeting these creatures, did not matter to the stsho. It was so polite. So civilized. The kif bowed; she bowed; they said follow, and she followed these thin, long-snouted shadows, these creatures that always, no matter what the circumstances, reeked of ammonia, if only in her memory.

  “Chanur captain,” they called her, with their peculiar clicking accent, the sound of double, deadly jaws, making consonants that no hani could exactly duplicate. They spoke to her respectfully, for her aunt’s sake, for their employers’ sake: they showed every sign of fearing her displeasure—as kif might, who had reason to think she had power and influence with their employers. So these were no danger. They were not high in kifish rank or they would not be working here, in alien employ. Kick them and they would estimate you the higher for it.

  But she was profoundly relieved to meet a stsho at the end of the corridor, beyond the blowing gossamer curtains, and to leave the guards behind. The spindly, fragile stsho, who was the personal aide, gtst told her, to gtst excellency the governor No’shto-shti-stlen, drifted in draperies of almost pink and almost gold, fluttered agitatedly along a corridor of blowing drapes of almost-white—wherein a gold-coated, red-maned hani, unsubtle intrusion in a realm of faintest distinctions, refused to be rushed. The aide had not deigned to come in person. She was in no imminent need of the governor’s approval. So in the game of diplomatic tit for tat, Hilfy Chanur walked at her own pace into the governor’s vast gossamer-curtained audience hall, where multiple bowl-chairs, pastel cushioned depressions in the floor, defined the stsho’s sense of elegance, decorum, and, thereby, social status.

  In one of these bowl-chairs governor No’shto-shti-stlen waited, plucking pale green leaves from some sort of fruit and eating them one by one.

  But the governor set down gtst lunch as they approached. Manners improved. The aide, bowing, declared the presence of ‘the great hani captain, the birth-bond-relative of the estimable mekt-hakkikt and so on and so on, worthy of gtst attention, and so on.

  “Sit,” the entity lisped in the Trade, with a wave of white, long fingers. Gtst excellency seemed half-transparent, hardly a touch of color in the body-paint, to hani eyes, white on white. Gtst—not precisely he or she, since stsho had three genders, and two indeterminate states if frightened—called for something in gtst rippling planetary language. The attendant scurried to comply, while stsho music played softly in the background, the occasional chime of a single, same note.

  Hilfy folded down into the bowl opposite gtst excellency No’shto-shti-stlen, knowing better than to rush matters with the governor, as she had refused to be hurried. But very quickly a servant showed up with a tray of crystal bowls and a colorless, exquisitely flavored liquid in a crystal pitcher.

  Thereafter, five tiny bowls, savored in silence. She knew the protocols—and knew the giddiness that could set in for a hani partaking of too much stsho hospitality. She kept her ears up and her mouth pursed in hani pleasantness, evidencing the right amount of cultured pleasure in each serving, all the while she watched the minute flutter of feathery lashes and feathery brows, the minute shifts in expression as No’shto-shti-stlen made slow estimation of gtst guest and tried (it was second nature to the stsho) to guess her current rank, her mood, and her expectations by her selection of jewelry and her composure in the meeting.

  “Do you find it pleasant?”

  “Delicate,” she said, in the stsho’s own trade-tongue, and feathery eyebrows went up. “Very delicate. Very pleasant.”

  “We are astounded at your commendable fluency.”

  “Your excellency flatters me. And this is very fine.”

  “Please accept a case lot in appreciation.”

  Ye gods. Appreciation. Of what, one wondered. It was no mean gift. But the obligatory response, with precisely the right degree of gratitude: “Your excellency is most kind. Please be understanding when a gift from my own ship arrives: after seeing the grace and discrimination of your establishment, I can only hope my personal token of admiration finds favor.”

  “I could not possibly.”

  “Honor it with your ownership. Your discrimination is of wide repute.”

  “Your graciousness is most extravagant.”

  “Your excellency’s delicacy and sensitivity amply justify our admiration.”

  It went on like that for two and three more rounds of compliments and deprecations.

  That case of tea was worth about 3000 on the market. A good merchant had her figures in her head. The stsho certainly did.

  “There is, however,” said No’shto-shti-stlen— (there was always the “however”) “—a way in which we might favor ourselves with an opportunity to amplify our association. More tea?”

  Gods, the convolutions. On
e suspected a stsho was trying to lose an upstart foreigner in the verbal underbrush. But one did not decline an offer of further negotiation, not if one wished to remain on good terms. One only hoped one’s good sense held out and one’s tongue did not trip.

  “Of course.”

  Another round of platitudes, another period of quiet assessment, in which, ample time to reflect on one’s capacity for shis tea and on the extent of a stsho’s connivance. No’shto-shti-stlen was a stsho whom aunt Pyanfar called moderately stable.

  That meant both reliable for trade … and dangerous by reason of gtst long-term personal interests.

  “I would wonder,” she said, setting down the third emptied cup of the second round of shis-thi-nli. “I would ask why my illustrious and esteemed aunt was not foremost to help such a deserving person, if your excellency would enlighten me. Surely your trust in my junior self cannot exceed that you would place in her august person.”

  “I hope that my request does not cause any—” A flutter of the hands, a hiding of the mouth behind a napkin. “—awkwardness.”

  Kftli. “Awkwardness.” Cognate relationship to “foreignness.” Perhaps gtst excellency was making a joke. Perhaps gtst excellency had not studied the evolution of the trade-tongues.

  “The august Director left here, perhaps you are aware—deep—into a territory—ahem—of utmost secrecy. Yes, she might oblige us, she is so extravagant in her good offices toward persons in distress. But we are extremely fortunate in your arrival. We were searching records to find a captain of sufficient—mmm—standing and respectability. Your arrival insystem is a most delightful surprise.”

  One did not want another round of tea. And one could now regret one’s youthful enthusiasm for dealing in the other’s language. Avoiding a request at this point was something only a stsho could finesse—and one suspected, not at this disadvantage of rank. Did you want your ship to leave on time, your goods to stay unpilfered, most of all, did you want your manifest not to display some flaw four and five solar systems away that would cost you days and bribes to straighten out?


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