"There it goes," someone cried down the hall, and footsteps went thundering past Chur Anify's door, disturbing her convalescence. "Kk-kk-kt," something else called out, and that brought Chur's eyes open and set a little quicker pulse into her heart, so that needles jumped on the machine to which she was bound by a large skein of tubes, indicating an increase in pulse rate; in response to that, a flood of nutrients and appropriate chemicals came back into her bloodstream, automatically supplied.
Living bound to a machine-extension which thought it knew best what a body ought to feel was bad enough; lying there while riot went on in the corridor was another thing, and Chur edged her way off the bed, carefully (the spring extensions on the skein of tubings made it possible for her to reach the bathroom and saved her some indignities). In this case she gripped the various tubes in one fist to keep the extension from jerking painfully at the needles and padded over to the bureau where she had her gun, hearing the kifish clicking going on out there. Her head spun and her heart raced and the gods-cursed machine flooded her veins with sedative when it sensed her elevated pulse, bult she made it to the door and pushed the button with the knuckle of her gunhand.
The door shot open. She slumped lazy-like against the wall and stared at a kif who turned up directly opposite her and her pistol; then her eyes went strange-focused and her mind went here and there again, so that she had difficulty recalling where she was or why there should be a kif in The Pride's corridor looking as horrified as a kif could look (not extremely) and why the peripheries of her vision informed her there were her cousins and a human standing there in shock and in company with this kif. It was a great deal to ask of a drugged hani brain, but the kif had its hands up and she was not crazed enough to go firing off a gun in a ship's corridor without knowing why.
And while her brain was sorting through that crazy sequence, something small and black ran right over her foot on its way into her room. "Hyaa!" she yelled in revulsion, and the kif dived for the wall beside her as she swung to keep a bead not on the thing but on the kif. A hurtling mass of her friends overtook her from behind--not to help her, to her vast bewilderment: they grabbed her and the gun, while the kif flinched and pasted himself tight to the wall, making himself the smallest possible target.
"Chur," her sister Geran was pleading wiht her, and she supposed that it was Geran prying the gun loose from her fingers: she was dizzy and her vision fuzzed. She heard her cousin Tirun's voice, and human jabber, which was her friend Tully; and she dazedly let herself be dragged one step and another into the room, someone else was taking the skein of tubes. A bell was going off: the infernal machine was telling off on her, that she was stressed.
"Gods rot it," she cried, remembering. "There's something in here." And then she remembered that she had seen little black things before, on the bridge, and could not remember whether they were hallucinations or not, or whether her sister took her seriously. It was embarrassing to see hallucinations. And the cursed machine kept pouring sedative into her, so that they were going to leave her alone in here and drugged, with whatever-it-was: she did not want that either.
"Look under the bed," Geran said, while Geran was putting her back into it, and she could not remember where the gun had gotten to, which was against ship's rules, which was against all the regulations, to lose track of a firearm; and there was a kif trying to crawl under her bed. A sweat broke out on her, cold on her ears and nose and fingertips. "Where's my gun?" she asked hazily, trying to sit up again; and "There it is!" someone shouted from the floor.
"My gods," Chur murmured, and her sister put her flat on her back again. She blinked, blinked again in the crazed notion that there was a kif on his hands and knees at her bedside and people were trying to get her hallucination out from under her bed.
"Sorry," Geran said fervently. "Stay down. We've got it."
"You're crazy," Chur said. "You're stark crazy, all of you." Because none of it made sense.
But something let out a squeal under her bed, and something bumped against the secure-held braces, and there was an ammonia smell to the room which was no illusion, but a kif's real presence.
"He got," said Tully's voice, and he loomed up by her bedside. "Chur, you all right?"
"Sure," Chur said. She remembered at least where she was now, tied to a machine in na Khym's cabin because she was, since the kif had shot her on a dock at Kshshti, too sick to be down in crew quarters; and Goldtooth had given them this fine medical equipment when he had met them here at Kefk, which was before the docks blew up in a firefight and she had been holding the bridge single-handed when the little black things started coming and going like a nasty slinking nightmare. There was a kif aboard, his name was Skkukuk, he was a slave and a gift from the hakkikt and he stood there with his black snout atwitch and his Dinner clutched in both bony hands as he stared at her. She curled her lip and laid her ears back, head scantly lifted. "Out!"
The kif hissed and clicked and retreated in profound offense, teeth bared, and Chur bared hers, coming up on her free elbow.