CHANUR'S VENTURE [ch2]
Chanur's Venture - It had cost Pyanfar Chanur plenty to get her papers back in order. Now, docked at Meetpoint for the first time in a year, she was in no mood for socializing, and especially not with the mahendo'sat who had so complicated her life recently - financially and almost fatally. Unfortunately, the alien was very glad to see her. "Got present, hani," he grinned, showing off gold-capped primate fangs, and slapping the captain of The Pride of Chanur on the back as he propelled her toward his ship. She wanted to resist; this warm reunion was apt to draw unwelcome attention. But since Goldtooth was as close a friend as she had in deep space, she reluctantly allowed him to maneuver her up the ramp - certain that the aforementioned present was going to mean trouble. She was so right.
There in the dark corridor of the alien vessel, a pale apparition appeared... a being that looked like nothing in civilized space - with a face Pyanfar knew well. It was the human, Tully! "Friend," he called her, struggling hard to communicate, and barely able to pronounce the simple hani word. He smelled of filth and fear. As she tried to reassure him that he was safe for the moment, Pyanfar's mind was racing. Tully was the last thing she needed just now, with Chanur in disgrace and in debt. Rival clans were vying for power at home - a situation Pyanfar had aggravated by bringing her husband offworld even though hani males were held to be too emotionally unstable for spaceflight. The methane-breathing knnnn seemed stirred up these days, possibly about humanity, but she couldn't be sure. Their actions and motivations were never clear to oxy-breathers... although quite possibly deadly. Then there were the kif, always a threat. In their cold-blooded way, they had interrogated Tully, but he'd escaped from them - and the fact that he had made his getaway on The Pride marked her ship as a special target. If the kif learned Tully was aboard again, they'd stop at nothing to recapture him.
As far as Goldtooth was concerned - well, the hani captain knew there was always a gap between what the wily mahe said and what he left unsaid. He had given her a "present"; was he planning to get it back at her peril? And yet risks aside, if things worked out, the potential for rich trade with humanity was staggering - and Chanur would be in on the ground floor! Could Tully be trusted? How much did he really understand about what was going on? What truths, or lies, would he tell her if he could only speak? Gods rot! Pyanfar Chanur would take the gamble - even if it killed her!