Chapter 3

Chapter 3 : Inseparable

“Are you sure this is the right way?” Tye asked again.

Kam glared at him. Her tail was curled tensely around her waist. “For the last time YEAH!” 

Jumbo toddling along at her feet frowned at him and nodded in agreement. They walked on, hoods up, miserably hot, tired and gritty. 

“See right there,” Kam said pointing. “That’s it.” 

Tye squinted. “I don’t see anything.”  His hand was killing him. It had pushed aside any thought he had the night before about honorable decorum. His right one had been stung and he held it, wrapped up in a piece of cloth, in his left.

“My eyesight is much better than yours,” Kam said. She put two fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly.

“What was that about?” Tye groaned.

Kam ignored him and said, “Must not have been loud enough.” 

Tye’s ears were ringing. “Loud enough for what?” he asked.

“Jumbo you try please,” Kam said. Jumbo’s eyebrow rose happily. He smiled and lifted up on the hindmost of his eight legs.

“Cover your ears,” Kam suggested covering hers.

Jumbo plopped down let out a great rush of air and an ear-splitting whistle. When Kam uncovered her ears Tye did too.

“Now what?” he asked. 

“We wait.”

Tye turned his hand over gingerly. Kam was watching. She bit her lip sympathetically. Even in pain he had great posture. She shook her head. Her feeling last night that he deserved whatever he got was beginning to wane.

“Hurts pretty bad, don’t it?” she asked.

“Yes it does,” he answered, not sure if she was sympathizing or mocking him. 

She came closer. “Let me see it.”

He hesitated, remembering their rough confrontation on the ship.

“I just want to help. I promise,” she said.

Tye looked at her uncertainly, but her expression was sincere. He held his breath as he let her unwrap his wounded hand and then hold it gently in her own. She snapped a small vial off her utility belt with her free hand.

“This will take a minute,” she said, flipping open the cap and pressing the open end to his skin. The slim container slowly began to empty into the wounded flesh.

“What is it? If I may ask,” Tye said.

Kam tried not to laugh at his proper speech. “They call it ‘mother’s kiss’,” she said, smiling just a little.

Tye smirked. “That’s cute. So does it make the pain go away as fast as a kiss from mom?”

Kam smiled weakly and looked down before answering. “I wouldn’t know. But this works really well,” she said. She nodded in agreement to her own statement and focused on the wound. 

Tye watched her as he absorbed the meaning behind her words. She kept her gaze focused on his hand.

“It already feels better thank you,” he said, leaning his head near hers to watch the action. A dark protective glaze was forming over the wound. When the vial was empty she slipped it back on her belt. 

He watched as Kam rewrapped his hand. When she finished she looked up. Neither had realized how close they were standing until that moment. Tye just noticed the honey colored flecks in Kam’s dark eyes. Her lips were slightly parted with the beginning of a response she had forgotten, when the sound of a low rudder forced their gaze away. 

They stepped back. The vehicle with a long low resting body and large wheels pulled up and one of the drivers lowered his window.

 “Somebody ordered a taxi?” the Murodean driver asked.

“That’s us,” Kam said smiling. “Come on Jumbo. You too….”   

“Tye,” Tye said.

   “Nice name,” she said and smiled slightly.  Jumbo looked at him and crossed his eyes. Kam got in the low rudder and put Jumbo on her lap, his flexible legs curled up under his body almost disappearing.

“Hey, Kam. Thought I heard you whistle,” said the second driver as Tye got in. He was an eighteen-year-old boy, almost two years Kam’s junior and a good friend.

“Swivler! How’s the ride?” Kam said happily.

“Still running. Who’s your partner?” he asked.

“Jumbo? I made him,” Kam said.

“No, the other one,” Swivler said laughing. 

“Oh, that’s Tye,” she said. “We need to get to town.”

“You’re almost at the nearest town,” the first and older driver said.

“Actually we need to get to Laredo City,” Tye said. “Actually, you may drop Kam off , but I need to go to Laredo City.” 

Kam glanced sideways at Tye, “Go ahead and take us both there,” she said.

“That’s a bit further. But we got you covered,” Swivler said. The older driver turned the rudder around and headed to town. “Go a little faster, Pop. Who you gonna hit?” Swivler said.

“That’s why you have a suspended license. Speed limit’s 400 and I’m driving 400.”

“I get it back in a week.” Swivler argued. “And that is not even why I lost it.”

“That’s Driver,” Kam whispered to Tye. “He’s Swivler’s dad. When Swivler gets older and has a family he will become Driver and his oldest kid becomes Swivler that’s the way it‘s always been. Like a tradition, you know?”

“Oh,” Tye said, distracted by a sudden tremor in his mind. “That’s… quaint.” He turned toward the window and leaned his head against it.

Kam frowned confused and turned toward her own window.

Tye glanced at Kam, but a slight pain shot through his mind with an urgent message. He was late and their agent was in danger. As Tye cringed, Swivler started talking to Kam.

“My sister’s been trying to reach you.”

“Oh yeah, I’m sorry. I’m going to call her as soon as I can.”

“Yeah, you’re notoriously bad at keeping up with your friends.”

Kam pouted, “I’m trying to do better. But you don’t know what it’s like. Juke keeps me so busy. He’s so suffocating. I’m about to be 20 but I don’t think he ever wants me to leave.” 

Tye could barely process the conversation. The message from a Sentinel dominated his mind. Tye was late and his partner was in trouble. It was vital that they register for Space Stage. His temporal implant would automatically activate the tracker once he was within range, showing him a map to his partner’s location. He needed to proceed with caution and be ready to put up a defense. Perfect, thought Tye. He felt a headache coming on. He checked the time again. He hoped they got there soon.

“We are here,” said Driver after a short ride. 

“Great,” Tye said, getting out. His head was pounding.

“Pay up,” said Swivler.

“About that…” said Kam, getting out, “I’ll mail it to you I promise.”

“What!” shouted Swivler. Driver shook his head at the kids.

“I promise,” said Kam, slamming the door. The rudder drove off in a puff of sand.

“He’s not going to make you pay?” Tye asked.

“Nah, we’re practically family. I’ll make Juke pay him. But you still owe me rudder fair,” she said, setting Jumbo on the ground.

“There it is,” Tye said, ignoring her last statement. 

“What?” Kam asked. She followed his gaze to a bright green banner in front of a small shop.

“Space Stage,” they read in unison. 

“Well? Come on there’s probably a transcator I can use to call Juke. And you can get started paying me back,” she said.

She grabbed his arm and ran to the shop. There was a trans. 14, one of the newest transcators on the market and an air-cooling system.  Kam started to head to the transcators but Tye didn’t move from the doorway. The tracker should show both his location and the partner if he/ she was within range, but there was nothing. Kam turned back to him.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said without his eyes ever leaving the sign-up table. “I mean, I think I’m too late.”

“So,” Kam said, shrugging. “Just go over there. Time limits aren’t that important. I’ve got a call to make and I need to be able to say the flyer’s paid for.”

“I’m going, give me a minute,” Tye said, irritated. Kam shrugged again and left.

A map came into view in his peripheral, but it showed no indication of his partner’s location. Tye put a hand to his temporal implant and looked around for his partner.  He walked back toward the door. Finally, a blinking dot appeared on the map. He adjusted to the strangeness of watching where he was walking and simultaneously following his steps on the map displayed in the peripheral of his vision. He walked around the corner of a nearby building. The tracker was beeping with intensity, but he didn’t see anyone in the alley. He readied his DES staff. A couple dumpsters and trash bags were shoved against the walls. The area was slightly shaded by the building’s shadow and looked menacing even in the daytime. It smelled of rotten food and dirt. Tye took a closer look around, keeping his DES ready in his left hand while holding his right hand sleeve to his nose. He kicked a few bags and one started to move. He bent down to it cautiously.  

“Hello, is anyone there?” Tye asked. Something seemed to struggle beneath the pile. Tye pulled away the debris revealing a middle-aged Murodean man, who was bound and gagged. Tye pulled out the gag.

“Are you okay?” he asked as they stood, and he tried to free the man’s restraints.

“What are you doing here?” the man asked gruffly.

 Tye was indignant. He pulled back from working on the restraints. They were of a more advanced nature than the mouth gag.

“I was trying to rescue you. Do you know how to undo these restraints?”

“No, they were specially manufactured for the gang some traitors hired to attack me.”

Tye shortened his DES staff and scanned the cuffs. “Ah, I got it.” He aimed a disrupting charge at the cuffs and they disintegrated.  

“Thanks,” the man said, rubbing his wrists, “but you don’t have time for this. I can take care of myself. You should have already registered for Space Stage. Have you?”

“How could I?” Tye demanded, “You’re my partner.”

The man shook his head. “Not anymore. My identity has been compromised. Take this.” He grabbed Tye’s hand and injected a capsule into his wrist.

“Hey, what is that?” Tye asked. He could see a slight bump where the Murodean had made the injection.

“We needed to deliver it. The PDDs are part biological. That’s an organic substance that will give the biotech a distinct signature we can track. We plan to put it in contact with a PDD to give us proof of its location and design. A lot of good people risked their lives to get this.”

“You just injected me with a foreign substance?”

“It’s harmless. It reads as part of your bio makeup and won’t be detected. Just make sure you deliver it on time.”

“How do I deliver it?”

“Get it in physical contact with the PDD. I’ll explain everything after you register before it’s too late or the gang comes back.” He turned Tye around and pushed him back toward the registration shop. 

“But, what about you?” Tye asked.

“Just GO!” He piled the bags back up like they were when Tye arrived, activated a whip claw and hid behind a dumpster.

Tye pursed his lips unhappily but left the alley. He reattached his staff to its usual position diagonal across his chest and ran back toward the sign-up stand. Tye didn’t know if he would be able to register without a partner, but he would have to try.

 When Kam came back from the transcator Jumbo was waiting. “Took you long enough,” she said. She looked over at the sign-up desk where Tye stood talking. “He isn’t doing too well is he?” she said.

Jumbo frowned, lowered his eyebrow and then shook his head/body. Her tail curled around her left leg as she thought.

“I suppose we should help him,” she said. “Not that he’ll appreciate it. Or deserve it. What a major dift. I can’t believe he gets to go to Space Stage and I’m stuck at the Rust n’ Grub.” She walked over anyway.

“But you said I was only twenty minutes late,” Tye was saying. “And you still have the booth up.”

“Yeah, but where’s your partner?” said the Squamatian man behind the counter in a gruff voice. He had scaly light purple skin and his nametag said Tad.

“My partner…” Tye repeated.

“Yeah, all contestants need a partner. It’s a new rule to cut down on the number of competitions and time before the final elimination round. Have you got one?” he asked.

“Of course I do. But couldn’t I sign up and add the partner later?” Tye asked.

“You’ve got to register with your partner. Then you have to pass the trial round before even entering the competition. You can’t even have your ID picture taken without ya partner. New rule to prevent cheating by swapping later. No partner, no entry,” Tad said.

“But I-” Tye tried again.

“Have a partner,” Kam interrupted. She wrapped her arm around Tye’s shoulders. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” she continued.

“What are you doing?” Tye whispered. 

She smiled at him and thought, Is this guy slow or what?

“I know you said you’d sign us up,” she covered, “but I just had to come. Besides,” she said with more meaning, “I was afraid no one would believe you really had a partner.”

“Yeah,” Tad said. “I never saw anyone so young sign up before. You know the cut off age is thirteen.”

“I’m not a child!” Tye argued, pushing away Kam’s arm. “Contestants shouldn’t need a partner.”

“Well, ya do. And are you sure you want to team up with a girl,” Tad asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kam said.

“Nothing,” Tad said. “Just that, unless they’re married or related, boy-girl teams don’t do well.”

“You hear that?” Tye said to Kam. “I better get a different partner.”

“Doesn’t matter. Contestants your age, not to mention size, never win. Besides ya too late,” Tad said.

“Really?” Kam said. She pouted the best she could.

“Sorry honey,” Tad said as Kam started to sniffle.

“I--I just really wanted to do this,” she said to no one in particular. “It’s so, so…”

  Tye stared at her, was she going to cry? She didn’t seem like the crying type of girl. Unless… Tye wrapped his arms around Kam and patted her back. 

“It’s ok Kami. There’ll be other competitions,” he said. 

Wow he actually caught on, Kam thought. That was good because she didn’t think she could actually make herself cry.

“But it’s so unfair!” she said.

“I know, I know,” Tye said. He looked over at Tad. “Can’t you do something?” he asked.

Tad sighed. “I don’t know…” Kam let out a loud sob.

 “Please?” Tye asked. “For her?”

Tad shook his head and then nodded. “Ok I’ll do it,” he said.

“Thank you!” said Tye. He let go of Kam. “We did it!”

Kam pretended to wipe away tears and smiled. “Thank you so much,” she said to Tad.

“Yeah, well I got a sister,” he said. “Besides this just gets ya to the trial round. With a flick of his hand, he pulled the Space Stage bio-scanner camera out of his Ktech storage and motioned for them to pose together. “Stand close and smile,” he said.

Kam and Tye looked at each and shrugged. They did as they were told.

“Oh wait!” Kam said. She picked up Jumbo. “Ok now we’re ready.”

“I hope you’re happy,” Tad said, turning on the flash. “Because for the next three months you guys are gonna be inseparable.” 

Two seconds after the flash Tye and Kam’s smiles disappeared.

“What did he mean by that?” Kam whispered so Tad wouldn’t hear. Tye shrugged. “You didn’t find out much about the rules did you?” she asked quietly. 

Tye shook his head. “This was my partner’s idea,” Tye whispered.

“Alright,” Tad said. He pulled two photos from his scanner’s camera. He cut the photos apart and stamped them down on a paper then fed it into a machine. 

“You’ll have passports and IDs, specialized for the game. Your names?” Tad asked.

“Tye,” Tye said.

“Kam,” Kam said.

“What is that? You’re not Claude and Festo,” he said, mentioning a popular singing duo. “I need a last name.”

“I don’t have one,” they both said. 

“Then make one up,” he said.

“Umm…” Kam said.

“I don’t know,” Tye said. He knew he couldn’t use his actual name.

“Never mind,” Tad said through clenched teeth. “I’ll put down a name. I just need the bio scan to come through… Huh, congratulations.”

“What is it?” Kam asked.

“Apparently you’re the only two of your genetic make-up to register which means automatic entry to the competition.” He explained while running the passports through another machine. “That means you don’t have to fail the trial rounds. You’ll go straight to Round one but after that no freebies. You’ll have to play. I thought you looked weird,” he added, tossing the passports to Tye and Kam.

Kam and Tye looked at each other. 

“For once living with the stares paid off,” Kam said to Tye. “Where are you from?"

Tad slammed a box down on the counter interrupting her question. He pulled out a stack of pamphlets and other papers. Then he pulled out a navy blue bag.

“One last thing,” he said, putting the bag on the counter. “One bag with one printed copy for each of you,” Tad said, packing the bag. He began to speak in one long breath. “Rule book, read it, Game pamphlet, read it, Host papers, read it, Requirement sheets, read it, Status documents, read it, Utility sheets, read it, Sign Out papers, read it, ‘Quip papers, read it, order forms, read it.” He stuffed each thing in the bag as he spoke. “Oh yeah, and you’ll need a permit if you’re taking the robot.” 

He zipped the bag and held it up. Across the middle of the bag was a strip of electronic press tape. In silver two words appeared.

“Congratulations!” Tad said with exaggerated enthusiasm. “You are now: Team Omega.” 

Kam took the bag by its one strap and Tad started to pull down the booth’s shade.

“Wait!” Tye called.

“Yeah?” answered an irritated Tad.

“What did you mean by we’re going to be inseparable,” Tye asked.

Tad rolled his eyes. “Just what I said. Read the rule book.” With that, he slammed down the shade.

They headed to the door where Tye noticed a table with a complimentary pitcher of water. While Kam curiously examined one of the pamphlets Tye drank the entire pitcher.

Kam glanced at him. “I think you’re supposed to use the cups.”

Tye sighed. “I’m still thirsty. How can a planet be this dry!”

“Why didn’t you and your partner register wherever you’re from?” Kam asked.

“My partner!” Tye rushed out of the store and down to the alley where he had left the agent.  

“Hey,” Kam shouted, running after him. “Hey, where are you going?”

Tye glanced back at her just before turning into the alley wondering how he could explain and what he was allowed to explain. Once there he realized he wouldn’t have to explain anything except for his strange behavior. An irritated Kam soon joined him in the deserted alley. The man was gone. Tye scanned the area and noticed fresh dents in the dumpster trash was more strewn about.

“What is wrong with you?” Kam demanded. She looked around. “Is that blood?”

Her eyesight was good. He noticed the trail too. There had been a fight. He hoped the agent really could take care of himself or that the Sentinels had been able to help. He glanced at Kam wondering if he could keep her out of danger. “Let’s get out of here,” he said. “I thought I left something…But now it’s gone.”

Kam shook her head. “You must be really dehydrated. I’m going to go sit down and look over this stuff.” She said, indicating the bag. “Feel free to join me when you find your mind or whatever it is you lost over here.” Her nose wrinkled in disgust from the smell as she made her exit.

 Kam sat down on a bench outside the front of the building and started to go through the bag. It was simple with one thick strap, a zipper at the top and one pocket on the inside and she was glad. The less complicated something was, the less storage space it took up. Her matterless storage was almost full and she couldn’t afford to buy more space. Tye came and stood near the bench, as she pulled out the rule book. He seemed tense and kept looking around.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes…” he said, not wanting to make her suspicious. “Do you think they refilled the pitcher?” He smirked.

She rolled her eyes and smiled. Kam leafed through the rule book, then pulled out the other papers and stored the bag to her Ktech. The bag went transparent and disappeared as the Ktech system absorbed it. It used up much of her remaining storage, but she’d remove it once they got settled. She glanced at Tye. They caught each other’s gaze for an awkward silent moment. Then Tye started to pace. Kam was excited and apprehensive. She was going to be in Space Stage! But her partner was… She glanced at Tye as he paced in front of the bench. She bit her bottom lip and her tail tightened nervously around her waist. She wondered why he was so anxious. She tried to focus on reading the many papers Tad had handed them. She’d watched the games plenty of times but being in it seemed complicated. Every year there were scandals and rumors of the creative ways that contestants tried to cheat. There were several new rules trying to deal with problems Kam never noticed as a fan.

“Unbelievable,” Tye muttered. Herman Ranshire, his own personal hope to get out of this mess, turned out to be a drunk. He was getting no message about the missing agent from the Sentinels. But hadn’t they warned him it would be dangerous and communication limited. At least his headache had subsided. He wondered if he could get away from Kam and contact the on the trans 14.  Now he was in a competition he didn’t want to enter with a…a girl who could end up being killed for a cause she knew nothing about. He stopped pacing and stared at his hands. They both looked normal now. How much blood would be on them if this all went wrong?

 He glanced at Kam sitting on the bench reading. He’d have plenty of time to get to know her now, he thought. He couldn’t help feeling slightly glad and that worried him more. He leaned against the store wall to the left of the bench and watched her sort papers and then file them to her Ktech for a minute. A painful tremor shot through his mind. Partner compromised , was the message. Well he already knew that. Monitoring situation. Reports show entry into Space Stage successful. Proceed as planned. Girl will not have diplomatic immunity. Reveal nothing. 

He was relieved they kept the message short. They must know it was painful.

 “Kam, may I see our passports?” he asked.


Tye could think of a few scenarios where one would want to have diplomatic immunity and none of them were pleasant. Kam was basically a stranger. If she was an innocent bystander he didn’t want her getting hurt, but he didn’t plan on sharing any secrets either.

 “Unbelievable,” he muttered. He handed back her passport.

“You think that’s unbelievable,” Kam said thinking he meant their unexpected partnership memorialized in the passport photo. “Look at this. I think I found out what he meant by inseparable.”

  Tye sat down next to Kam and leaned over to see the booklet. Even seated, he was a head taller than her and so close that she felt the warmth of his exhalation. She cleared her throat then read out loud:

“Rule 70: For the duration of the preliminary competitions all contestant teams must remain within 3 meters of each other at all times. Contravention will result in disqualification.”

Tye raised his eyes from the book to look at Kam. “You mean…” he said.

“That’s right we’re stuck to each other at least for the length of the preliminaries,” Kam said. “I hope it doesn’t go over time. It often does, you know because of ties and stuff.” She went into further explanation. “It’s all in the book, the whole history of the game and what they’re doing new this year. I mean I’ve watched it, but I didn’t know contestants went through all this. For instance, the reason why the passport picture has both the contestants in the photo is so that no teams can switch members. People would be open to team members from another planet for an advantage in certain rounds then switch just before the final games. The big thing in the competition this year is trust and respect. If you don’t have that your team is already a failure and so they disqualify you if you try to change teams.” 

“Or move four meters away,” Tye said.

“Yeah,” Kam said. “Well, I guess you really have to have a strong bond to be in this.” They looked at each other with the same worried expression. “If only we’d known,” Kam said sadly.

“Never mind, where do we go from here? Some sort of training I’d imagine,” Tye said.

“I think so.” Kam paused. She retrieved some more papers and gave them to Tye. “Aha!” she exclaimed at last. “Host papers. We go to the Southern district. 

Tye nodded solemnly. Now it was becoming real.

Now that it was becoming real, Kam was getting excited. “I always wanted to enter Space Stage you know. I’ve seen almost every competition even from before I was born.”

“Mhmm, where exactly is the Southern District?” He asked, trying to get back on topic.

“Oh, about two hours away. It’s the only green place you’ll find on this planet. I always wanted to go there too. I think there might even be some lakes.”

Tye smiled slightly. “You think so? This planet is a little dry. Where I’m from is mostly water. My dad used to take me every month to Paix reef and Azur Falls. The water was perfect.”

“Really?” Kam said surprised to see him brighten up for a change. “I love to swim,” she said. 

He went on enthusiastically. “You’d love my city. Everything’s underwater and it glows with a pallet of colors I haven’t seen on this planet so far.”

“You must really miss it.”

Tye hesitated. She was right. “I do. I miss it a lot,” he said. He hadn’t been gone that long, but he’d never been to another planet before and he wasn’t enjoying it. He hoped he’d see Mer again.

“So,” she said thinking now might be the time to transition to the subject of their similar characteristics, “you came all this way just to enter Space Stage? Couldn’t you do it from your hometown?”

Tye stiffened. “It’s a long story,” he said.

“We have time ya know. Where did you live?”   

“I doubt you’d know it. We should probably start heading to the Southern District,” he said curtly, hoping he hadn’t told her too much. He stored the papers she’d given him and stood up.

“Okay,” Kam said, sensing the moment was gone. “I guess I’ll get a cab then.” She stood and walked to the street corner. He could tell she seemed put off. He couldn’t help it though.

“Kam,” he called, and she turned around and stared blankly at him. “I need to use the transcator before we go.”


“And,” he began trying to think of a peace offering, “thanks for doing this with me.” He smiled and she smiled in return.

 “You’re welcome,” she said and thought, maybe it won’t be so bad to be inseparable.