“Why do you have to get rid of it?” asked Tim. “You say it’s no harm to you, let’s take him with us to earth.” Tim had just ejected the body of the symbiont’s host in a ‘burial at sea,’ and they were all headed to the bridge to set a course for a hub space station—basically a Super Target for all aliens, big and small.
“I don’t think Feepin can survive that long in a human,” said Jack. His face had gone slightly green.
“We’re on a schedule.” Tim crossed his arms. “Stargates have to be aligned, ships have to be leased, treaties have to be accounted for—we throw all our planning out of kilter, and we could be stuck several galaxies away from home for years.”
“We can make up time on the Prentapsis System layover on Fedj,” said Nate. “We should get rid of this thing as soon as possible because we have no idea what it will do to Jack. It might take control and kill us all.”
“It seems friendly enough,” said Tim.
“Can you ask it about alien technology?” said Bradley.
“You guys aren’t paying attention,” said Jack. “He doesn’t have his Nitrilii host anymore, and nearly all of his thinking is through the host.”
“You mean it’s only intelligent when it’s in a host?” asked Tim.
“Yeah,” said Jack. “That’s what I’ve been telling you.”
“Then just cough it up and let it go—it’s just a slug.”
“No!” Jack said.
Tim threw his arms in the air. “But you just said—”
“You don’t understand the difference between sentient and intelligent,” said Jack. “He’s self-aware no matter how little brain he has at his disposal.”
“All right,” said Tim.
They entered the bridge, a circular madhouse of nobs, levers, lights, spinners, and implements that made no sense to Tim, but Bradley immediately set to work making adjustments. There were no seats, so they’d dragged in a few containers to sit on.
Nate scratched the back of his head. “So he’s basically you right now.”
“No. I think like Jack because I use his brain. I’ve got the same knowledge he has. But we each are doing very different things with it all.”
Tim, Nate, and Bradley gaped at Jack.
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
Nate cleared his throat. “You just spoke as if you were Feepin.”
“Oh,” said Jack. “We have the occasional confusion, but it’s good. I’m in control.”
“Yeah,” said Nate, sarcasm obvious.
“Well, he’s right about one thing,” said Tim. “I don’t think you’re compatible. You’ve gone from the inside of a cucumber to pea green soup in just a few minutes.”
“I’ll be okay,” said Jack. “I’m just a bit queasy.” He sat down on one of the containers.
“We should be at the station in a few days,” said Bradley. “Anyone for a game of ‘I Spy?’”
“Maybe later,” said Tim.
“Days,” said Jack.
“Yeah, about eighty-four hours to be exact.”
“That’s long,” said Jack. “You guys should draw straws.”
“What for?” asked Tim. Jack was a deep forest green now.
“Someone’s going to have to take a turn with Feepin.”