'Big Brother'

Jool turned, but saw no one. She was certain that someone was watching her. She'd had this feeling ever since she set foot on Talyn. Probably she was being paranoid. She just wasn't used to staying here so long. She'd only intended to be there one solar day. She and Crais had been discussing how they could combat the cybernetic bleedback caused by Crais' neural link to Talyn and she had come over to test some theories. Then the Command Carrier had shown up and they'd been forced to starburst immediately. There hadn't been time for Jool to return.

Not that staying with Crais was a bad thing. They didn't usually get this much time alone. Having him being her only company, however, could be a little straining. Crais was accustomed to being alone with Talyn much of the time, which left Jool feeling very lonely. That was the reason she'd started working on this project. Her initial attempts to reduce the bleedback had failed, so she was working on a new approach.

Truthfully, she was feeling rather annoyed. Talyn seemed to take up so much of Crais' time that it was impossible to see him. Surely he should make a little time to see her. After all, there were plenty of things that Talyn couldn't do that she definitely could - and would, given half a chance. But the last fourteen solar days had brought one problem after another, all requiring Crais' constant presence in command. It almost felt like he was trying to find excuses to stay away from her.

That was it, wasn't it! She'd known he could never accept what she'd told him after Tauvo had left. He'd said it didn't matter, but now it obviously did and rather than admit he'd changed his mind, he was just avoiding her. He didn't even have the good manners to tell her to her face. 'I should have listened to D'Argo', she thought, 'he told me that this was a bad idea'. So now here she was, stuck on this ship with a man who didn't want to see her anymore. Was she jinxed?

"Why the hezmana does the bad stuff always happen to me?" she asked out loud.

No one answered.


Crais unzipped his jacket part way so it wasn't so tight around his neck. How long had he been here? He'd come up here to fix one conduit, but before he'd managed to finish, six more had blown. The last fourteen solar days had been one long race. Everything that could go wrong, had. First came the starburst which had overloaded half of Talyn's circuits. Then, just as he and the DRDs had managed to fix them all, the propulsion system had jammed, then they'd had to resupply, then Talyn had managed to knock out his canon shooting asteroids. He'd barely left command except to snatch a few hours sleep when he could no longer focus on his work. At first he'd thought that Jool might have been trying to be helpful again, but he'd given her strict orders to leave repairs to him and, for once, she seemed to have obeyed. Or, at any rate, he had no evidence that she hadn't.

Jool. How long had it been since he'd seen her? He hardly seemed to have caught a glimpse of her since she set foot on Talyn. He certainly wasn't adverse to having her here, provided she didn't try to assist him again, and he'd been looking forward to spending some more time alone with her. As it was, they'd barely exchanged two words.

Crais decided to take a break. Everything finally seemed to be in working order so maybe he could take an arn off. He really needed sleep but, with luck, he could leave that until later. He was just walking out of the door when an alarm sounded, telling his tired brain that yet another thing had gone wrong. Crais sighed and went back to work.


Jool was in the shower. She noticed the sound as soon as she finished washing her hair. She poked her head out to see what it was.

It was a DRD. It seemed to be doing repairs to a cable. Why it was doing repairs in her bathroom while she was having a shower was more of a mystery. It picked up the piece of cable and started to move towards her.

Jool only realised what it was going to do a moment before it did it and made a desperate leap to get out before the cable made contact with the very wet floor. Hurriedly wrapping a towel around herself, she left her quarters and headed for command as fast as she could go.

Jool stumbled into command. Crais looked up and took in the sight. Barefooted and wearing only a towel, her wet hair hanging around her face - what was she doing? Jool stood there, gasping for breath.

"That thing tried to electrocute me!" she said.

"What?" Crais asked, briefly wondering if this was a hallucination.

"The DRD in my shower tried to electrocute me!"

"Why would there be a DRD in your shower?" Crais asked, now wondering if Jool had gone mad.

"There was a DRD in my bathroom while I was taking my shower. It pulled a cable out of the wall and the frelling thing tried to electrocute me with it!"

"There is no reason for a DRD to be in your quarters, none of the damaged conduits are situated in that area."

"I know that! I'm telling you that that DRD tried to kill me!"

"That is not possible."

"Fine," Jool said. "Don't believe me. You have access to the internal sensors don't you? Check my bathroom and you'll see the cable."

Crais checked.

"I see nothing unusual," he said.

"That DRD tried to kill me!" Jool squeaked. "Maybe it repaired the cable after I left."

"Why would a DRD want to kill you?"

"I don't know," she said. "Maybe it's malfunctioning. All I know is, it tried to electrocute me - what are you going to do about it?"

"What do you suggest I do about it?" Crais said, lack of sleep making him more than a little short-tempered.

"You control the DRDs don't you?"

"Talyn controls the DRDs. I can access them if necessary."

"Can't you shut them down so you can figure out what the hezmana is wrong with this one?"

"With the volume of repairs that still require doing it is impossible to shut down the DRDs. When Talyn is fully repaired perhaps I can do something. However, I find it extremely unlikely that a DRD would purposely try to electrocute you. I expect that it was merely an accident."

"An accident? I nearly died and that's the best you can do?! Well, fine, get on with your precious repairs. While you're at it, get Talyn to find Moya. I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to."

With that she stormed out.

Crais groaned. Could anything else go wrong? He should go after her. He swiped his hand over the door controls but they didn't open.

"Talyn," he said. "Open the door."

The door still didn't open. The controls had jammed. For a brief moment Crais put his head in his hands. This had to be the last thing that would go wrong.


Jool was in her quarters, shivering. The temperature seemed to have dropped dramatically since she'd left. At least the DRD was gone, but Talyn didn't seem to be able to fix the environmentals. She curled up in bed, trying to stay warm.

At first she didn't notice anything. Slowly she noticed the strange smell, then felt the gas begin to make her throat burn. Before long she was struggling for breath. She jumped up, coughing and stumbled across the room to the door.

It wouldn't open.

She tried her comms but they were out too. Jool was still banging on the door when she lost consciousness.


Crais walked to Jool's quarters in a daze. It had taken him half an arn to fix the door controls and he was exhausted after the day he'd had. He became much more alert when he realised that the door here was jammed too.

"Talyn," he said. "Open this door."

Talyn refused. Crais, alarmed by Talyn's behaviour, accessed the internal sensors. Talyn resisted with all his might, but Crais insisted.

The room swam into focus. Everything appeared normal. Then he came to the door and saw Jool in a heap on the floor. Then his mind registered the high quantities of furium gas in there. Furium was a poisonous by-product that Talyn produced. He usually recycled it himself. This was no accident.

"Talyn!" Crais yelled. "What have you done?"

He grabbed his pulse pistol and aimed for the door controls. Before he could fire, Talyn attacked.

Crais screamed with pain and fell to his knees. Talyn continued the onslaught until Crais could barely move. Shaking, he remained on the floor.

"Talyn," he said, struggling to speak. "Why are you doing this?"

'She is a threat.'

"To whom?" Crais asked.

'To you.'

"Why would you think that?"

'She is not a Peacekeeper, she is not a Sebacean. She cannot be trusted. You taught me that.'

"I was wrong," Crais said, feelings of guilt washing over him.

'You were right.'

"Talyn, this is not about that. There have been others on this ship before - not Peacekeepers, not Sebaceans - why would you attack Jool? She is no threat to either of us."

'You will be better off without her.'

"So you're going to kill her?" Crais said, trying to sit up.

'It is best for both of us. Without her, we will be alone again, safe.'

"You think that I will remain here after you kill her?" Crais said, almost laughing.

'You must.'

"I will leave, Talyn. We will find Moya and I will leave. If you can kill her, why would you not kill me too?"

'You are my friend.'

"I am your friend?" Crais said, in disbelief. "You torture me, you try to kill the person I care most about and you still call me your friend."

'She is bad for you.'

"No Talyn," Crais said, managing to prop himself up. "She is good for me. You mean she is bad for you. You think that she will take me away from you. But, Talyn, if you kill her, you will lose me too."

'No, I will keep you here.'

"No," Crais said. "You won't."

He reached the back of his neck and pulled the transponder out. Talyn shuddered. Then he picked up his pulse pistol and fired. The door controls fried. Staggering a little as he got to his feet, Crais braced himself against the bulkhead and forced the door open. When he managed to move it, he pulled the unconscious Jool out.

He searched for a pulse. It was still there, but very faint. As the oxygen entered her system, she slowly began to come around.

"What happened?" she asked groggily.

"That will take some time to explain," Crais replied.


"Are you prepared to listen now?"

Talyn gave a small, rather subdued sound. Crais, taking that for consent, continued.

"Talyn, if you wish me to remain as your Captain, you must realise that we must work together. You cannot expect to control me. You must respect my needs, as I respect yours."

Talyn chirped in return.

"Talyn," Crais asked. "Did you deliberately cause all the malfunctions that we have had?"

There was silence, then a very small chirp.

"Talyn, you must learn that I have a life other than that I share with you. I will not allow you to harm my friends. If you cannot accept this, tell me so, and I will leave. If you wish me to remain, you must learn this."

Jool tentatively entered command.

"Talyn," Crais said. "I believe that you should say something to Jool."

Talyn lowered his lights and made a small, pathetic noise.

"He says that he is sorry," Crais said.

"Sorry?" Jool said, her nerves disappearing. "Sorry is what you say when you lose something you borrowed. He tried to kill me!"

Talyn made a moaning sound.

"He is still a child," Crais said, in a low voice. "It is hard for him to admit when he is wrong."

"Are you talking about him or about yourself?" Jool said.

"Perhaps both," Crais said. "Talyn has learned much from me. I regret that some of it was rather...misguided."

Jool regarded him, then spoke to the ceiling.

"Talyn, I will...accept your apology."

Talyn responded with a happy chirp.