......It had taken them a while to get used to another and it had taken a long time to acclimate to living as an Interface partner. He had to say good-bye to his old life as he knew it, had moved to Alean and he had learned a lot anew.

Voodoo had in turn adopted a lot from his partner, calming down in his ways, no longer as hot headed and easy going. He took responsibility, he was more balanced and the partnership turned out to be very tight, though it took them a bit longer than the others to sort it all out and phase for the first time.

From Opposites Attract

Birgit Stabler


"What was that?!" Voodoo shouted as Kyle walked away. The Sentinel transformed from his jet mode and stomped down the air strip after the annoying Human who couldn’t fly a paper airplane.

Kyle shot around and pointed a finger at him. "Don’t start with me, Mister." He growled. "I wasn’t the one who said ‘this is a tailspin’ and proceeded to cut the engines! How was I supposed to know what to do?!"

"You’re the one who just sat there like a lump in a smelter!" Voodoo seethed.

"NOBODY GAVE ME AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL, YOU OVERSIZED RUBBERBAND!" Scott shouted at the top of his lungs. It took everything he had to reign in his anger. He pitched his voice high, imitating a girl: "Come along Kyle, it’ll be easy. Just use the stick." His dark eyes shot right through the Sentinel. "Nobody said anything about a dive at five thousand feet!"

"All you had to do was read the instruments!" Voodoo shouted back.

Kyle’s eyes snapped wide. "Instruments?" His voice came dangerously quiet. "Instruments? ON A LIVING JET?! HELLO! I am an Interface, not a linguistics expert! And no one ever said anything about mine having to read Avionics! I was told "It’ll be easy Kyle. Just go around a few times . . . you’ll do fine."

"It’s all common sense!" Voodoo declared. "All you have to do is THINK!"

"Oh! So I’m an idiot now!" Kyle stripped his jacket and proceeded toward the hanger bay.

"I’m not finished yet!" Voodoo shouted after him. He chased Kyle down with the intent to pluck the annoying creature off the ground.

Kyle spun around, anger lit his eyes. "Don’t EVEN THINK about touching me!!"

Voodoo couldn’t do anything from that point. When Kyle said ‘not to’, he learned to obey-the hard way. It was the one thing forbidden.

Getting along was trying for both partners. Their relationship seemed to go fine after the fire incident at the Sentinel base. But Voodoo was accustomed to doing everything his way and in his time.

Kyle just moved to Alean. He left a profession, his parents, an ex-wife and son. Most of his colleagues found it preposterous that he would suddenly ‘rise and depart’ without much of an explanation. But Doctor Scott didn’t know how to explain it in terms they could understand. He disappeared for several months, only to suddenly reappear, riding in this strange and dark craft. All he could tell them easily enough was that he had been abducted by aliens and he was not the same person.

And that was the truth. But not one of them swallowed it. It broke his mother’s heart, but Kyle could not think of any other way to explain it. He promised to visit infrequently, but it still hurt his friends and family.

Shields were altogether another matter. Learning to use them came trickier than Voodoo thought. Actually, creating them proved almost impossible. He remembered how Wolf and Spellbinder complained their partners sometimes allowed emotions to ‘leak’ through. Now he understood what they meant. Sometimes he’d be out on a practice run and Kyle would be quietly studying elsewhere. Then Scott would come across something that shocked him or excited him and the damned emotions would come right through and twice Voodoo nearly crashed from the distraction. He berated Kyle severely for it.

"Are you trying to kill me?!" He demanded one evening.

"Yes." Kyle snarled. "I’m trying to kill you. Think of it as a hobby."

"Not funny." Voodoo returned darkly.

Kyle threw up his hands. "I’m sorry!"

"Never sorry enough, Doctor!"

"Oh! Alright then. How sorry do you want me to be? Shall I lie down and kiss your boots and BEG forgiveness? Huh?"

"Yes! And you can lick the dirt out from under my landing components too! After all, YOU’RE SMALL ENOUGH!"

Voodoo won that argument-one of many. Kyle silently glared, turned away and walked off.

For several weeks, neither Interface spoke to the other. Kyle became edgy, easily startled. Voodoo snapped at everything and he made more mistakes in practice runs. Several weeks drifted into two months and finally the other Sentinels were fed up. Thon Roque decided it was time for the two to make amends.

"The more you hurt each other, the more you’re hurting yourselves." He tried to tell Voodoo one bleak afternoon.

"Okay." Voodoo answered cooly. "So all I have to do is convince Scott to stop arguing with me and everything will be okay." His voice lathered in sarcasm and he threw Roque a shrug. "No problem. The flesh-creature will easily comply with my every demand and whim."

"Voodoo, all relationships have two-way streets. You can’t change Kyle. But you can change yourself."

Voodoo’s optics lit behind his shield. "I don’t want to change." He growled. "I shouldn’t have to change. I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS DAMNED INTERFACE TO BEGIN WITH, WHY THE PIT SHOULD I HAVE TO CHANGE BECAUSE OF IT?!"

"Because that’s the way things are." Roque answered calmly. "Nobody said life was fair."

Voodoo threw his arms in the air. "Oh, reducing speeches to cliches, now? Give me a freakin’ break!"

That went nowhere. Roque turned to Kyle.

Doctor Scott sat in the kitchen, quietly studying. Roque found him amid a stack of books and pamphlets, digipads and crystal readouts. Under it all sat a cup of coffee and a notepad.

Scott scribbled over the pad as Roque entered. "Voodoo already fumed about the visit." Kyle warned the Sentinel leader before he had a chance to say anything.

"Then no doubt he told you I tried to talk sense into him."

Kyle tore his eyes from the pad. "No. I felt it through the link. Voodoo doesn’t talk to me unless he’s telling me what to do."

Roque knelt before the Human. Kyle showed signs of wear and sleeplessness. "The two of you have to do something. Otherwise you’ll rip each other up. You’ll end up hurting yourselves in the long run."

Kyle remained silent for a long moment. "I’m open to suggestions." He finally answered.

Roque only gazed at the floor.

"I thought so." Kyle frowned and turned back to the book.

"Interfacing isn’t easy." Roque argued softly. "The partners involved have to muddle through and sort out their differences. Some changes have to be made and some things merely have to be accepted. But the benefits far outweigh the difficulties."

Kyle mutely frowned. That was not how Voodoo saw it. His life was once so carefree and happy. Now he had this constant ‘buzz’ in the back of his head. He was constantly aware of the Doctor’s presence and all he wanted to do was bite it off. The constant state of agitation gave Kyle headaches. Sometimes they interfered with his work and the greater the interference, the harder he tried to study.

Voodoo considered Kyle a liability, a leash and chain. He noticed how sometimes Spellbinder’s entire life surrounded Kayla. He saw how Skywolf would do ‘weird things’ when he communicated with Jill and Voodoo wanted nothing to do with it. The idea of having another mind in his body was too weird.

Thank Primus for shields, he would think. Although the shields he managed to make were weak, they were better than nothing. Kyle still hadn’t been able to develop shields.

Unfortunately the inevitable would happen. They would at some point in the day, run into one another. Voodoo tried to avoid this by going out on recon missions or work as security. But it didn’t always happen.

They ran into one another in a corridor early one morning. The same thing happened every time. They’d stop and stare at each other for a long moment. Soul recognition. A hidden desire to touch the other.

Then disgust from one partner, anger and an inferiority complex from the other. Kyle tried to walk around Voodoo, avoiding any further eye contact.

"So is this how it’s going to be from now on?" Voodoo snapped. He was infuriated Kyle would not so much as talk to him face-to-face.

Kyle sighed, exasperated. Voodoo’s anger hit him unbounded and it hurt. "What do you want me to say?" He asked quietly. "Oh, hi, Voodoo, how’s it been? By the way, nice tux." He only glanced at the tall dark Sentinel over his shoulder.

Scott’s sarcasm only added fuel to the smouldering fire. Voodoo’s optics lit bright behind his shield. "You hate me, don’t you?" he accused.

"I don’t hate anybody." Kyle answered calmly.

"The slaggin’ pit you don’t!" Voodoo snarled. "You go out of your way to avoid me and when we meet, all you can do is argue."

Kyle closed his eyes a moment, measuring out how far Voodoo would push him. "You want me to give you the silent treatment, then?" He offered. "If that’s what you’re after, I can give you the silent treatment."

"Oh, now you’re stooping to a female’s tactics." Voodoo set his fists on his hip plates. "That’s so original."

Kyle nearly bit his tongue. He finally faced the Sentinel. "Why can’t you just say something somewhat nice for once?" He asked. "Just something like ‘hi, Kyle, how was your day? What did you do?’ Or is that too hard a thing for you to even be superficial?"

Voodoo grew disturbingly silent and Kyle knew he said the wrong thing (just about anything at this point would be the wrong thing, anyway). Voodoo leaned over and pointed a finger. "Are you asking me to actually care about you now?"

Kyle did not want to stay to hear anything else. He walked off while Voodoo finished his verbal attack:

"You’re just a worm!" Voodoo called after him, feeling very triumphant. "Just something that comes up from the ground every time it rains! Squishy! Squishy little worm! Watch it squirm!"

Kyle made it out the building and collapsed against the wall. He was nothing. He meant nothing. He should never have left his home, his parents, his friends, even if he knew they would all die off while he lived on. Kyle pounded his fist into the wall until his hand bled. The pain in his body still could not mask the pain in his soul. He stared at the blood as it ran down. He concentrated on it, shutting out all other parts of his mind.

And a shield finally snapped into place, blocking Voodoo out entirely. If felt good to be sheltered from Voodoo’s anger. Well, it was painful, he had to admit. But it was a good kind of pain . . . just like his hand. Kyle managed to gain control of his emotions and made way back to his quarters.

A timid knock tapped at the door. Kyle had no idea what the time was. He moaned and opened his eyes as the knock softly repeated. He sat up and a book slipped off his chest and thumped to the floor. He staggered and stepped over mounds of clothes, dirty dishes and about three piles of books, papers and video disks.

It was Kayla, greeting him with a warm smile and a back pack over her shoulder. "I . . . was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by and see how you were doing." Her soft voice felt like music to Kyle’s ears. She and Jill were hard to catch. Because of the Seeker threat, something which Kyle still couldn’t get a full answer about, Kayla and Jill and Rayan were more or less off Alean a good deal of the time. That usually left Scott and a scant number of Humanoid and alien vagabonds alone with many other Sentinels.

Kyle felt very embarrassed about his unkempt condition and the messy quarters. He bowed his head, grateful for some comforting company, but ashamed. He forced a smile, though his lips trembled. "Kay-la . . . I’m glad to see you." He stammered clumsily.

Kayla read into his eyes. Kyle looked awful and he trembled. If it weren’t for the fact they were trying to track down a ship full of Braintrust’s victims, she and Jill would be spending more time with him, trying to help him adjust to his new life. As it was, they had to take care of this other emergency. Kayla managed to steal the next couple of hours while Skywolf made some adjustments on Spellbinder’s scanners.

"Are you . . . too busy for breakfast?" She tilted her head and tried to empathically read Kyle’s life signs.

Kyle couldn’t look her in the eye. "I need to take a shower." He replied.

Kayla smiled gently, very concerned for him. "Why don’t you take your shower and meet me in fifteen?"

He nodded silently and turned then glanced back. "Thank you, Kayla."

She watched him return to his messy abode. Perhaps she could talk Spellbinder to run this mission alone for today. Kyle desperately needed someone to talk to.

<<He’s eaten up with depression.>> she told her partner through the link.

<<This mission is very important.>> Spellbinder emphasized. <<It means we might be able to save several people from those horrible experiments.>>

<<Kyle is very unwell. He needs to know he’s not alone here, that someone really does care for him. I know those people are important. But so is an Interface.>> Kayla could feel Spellbinder mull over her argument. Voodoo wasn’t exactly the easiest person to work with. Socially, he was avoided. But he was one of their best fighters. Voodoo was a talented flyer and had the ability to zero in on a pinpoint target. This business with his Interface was interfering with his efficiency. If Kayla could help Kyle, maybe it could indirectly help Voodoo, too.

<<Alright.>> Spellbinder agreed. <<But just for today.>>

Kyle needed more than ‘today,’ but Kayla would take anything given her at this point.

Visits from Kayla and Jill did help ease some of Kyle’s distress. The shields helped to another degree but they gave him a feeling of isolation. But Doctor Scott knew it was just a simple matter of time. Kyle did the one thing he had done all his life: he buried himself in more work.

Voodoo fumed in silence, after all, two could play at this little ‘I’m-better-than-you’ game!

One week led to another. A few weeks passed into months. Neither Kyle nor Voodoo spoke to each other and they refused to talk to anyone about their tattered relationship. Voodoo wasn’t going to let anyone interfere with his life and fun. Kyle wasn’t going to let Voodoo order him around. What they refused to realize was how their behavior affected others around them. Voodoo became snappy and irrationally irritable. Kyle became more withdrawn and socially illusive. He took good care of his patients, when travelers to Alean came to sell or trade their wares with the Sentinels. But when no one needed care, Kyle vigorously studied xenobiology.

And the months added into a year. And still neither saw nor spoke to one another. By then, they had grown accustomed to living apart, ignoring their bond, keeping the shields in place and took care not to bridge the gap with emotions. It was safer that way because they could forget their lives had been ruined by the Interface.

One year led to two years. Two years became four years. Four years became six years. Voodoo lived on one side of the planet, Kyle on the other. Voodoo never darkened the door to the main base, preferring to live out in the hard-core wastelands of Alean. Everyone, Sentinel/Humanoid citizen and specialist alike expressed their concern for those crazy enough to live in the far eastern regions of Alean. Whenever someone was either brave or dumb enough to speak to Kyle about it, Doctor Scott merely shrugged, not entirely concerned. It was the madman’s choice (he knew they were, of course, talking about Voodoo. But he would never openly say or admit it to himself)

Kyle didn’t dare mention the sense of isolation gnawing at him day by day. A part of him, somewhere inside counted the weeks and months and years he and Voodoo were apart. At one point, Kyle found himself even wondering if Voodoo was okay (of course he was, stupid!) And if Voodoo thought of him.

(Of course not, Worm!)

He was nothing. Kyle would live on as long as Voodoo lived on, but he would live on hated by the very person responsible for his immortality.

It choked Kyle up every time he thought of it. Voodoo hated him so much, he would rather see Kyle die of isolation than to try to breech that gap.

Kyle could live on for millions of years and still mean nothing to Voodoo. That meant, in some small way, that his life was meaningless. Doctor Scott examined his quarters-a small three-room place that lay in a state of constant chaos. Even with someone coming in once a week to help keep it clean, Kyle couldn’t care less what condition it was in.

He couldn’t care less what condition he was in, either. He couldn’t look himself in the mirror. He allowed himself to grow a moustache. At least it helped to hide part of his identity from himself.

But it did not bring color back to his skin. It did not relieve the dark circles under his eyes. It did not allow him to eat more than once every two days.

But his books were there! They were good friends, the books and papers. They helped him to forget for hours on end. They taught him more about the galaxy and all the inhabitants. Books opened more opportunities for Kyle to explore, to mentally run further and further away from himself and the dismal state of affairs. Sometimes they would actually lull him to sleep.

Mostly they would actually lull him to sleep. But that wasn’t until long into the morning hours.

Books helped him to forget just how meaningless his life really was.


Sitting in the cave in the dark, howling winds was one of Voodoo’s favorite pasttimes. He could site for hours and watch the storm-driven sand shift and sweep across the landscape. When the storm was over, the whole area would look completely different. He enjoyed it because in some way, it was new territory for him to explore.

Well, that was freedom. He didn’t live at the base with all the other idiots and their precious Humanoid/alien population. Voodoo didn’t live by anybody’s rules but his own. Nobody shared anything with him, not even his life.

And the shields were holding just fine, thank you. Voodoo was a free ‘bot. He wasn’t pinned to the ground by some ineffective flesh-creature like some other poor saps. Pathetic! The little worms couldn’t even take care of themselves! Their bodies were frozen in one shape forever and they had nothing to protect their little bodies unless it was made.

Very inefficient! Voodoo wondered how the fleshlings managed to live as long as a species as they had. He loved being what he was: superior in form and design. His strength was as great as his height. Solid. Metallic. Able to withstand outer space temperatures. He could withstand most conventional laser fire, too. And he was fast!

But fate decided to curse him with this . . . appendage. If it was a joke, it was in bad taste. If it was a gift, he was the wrong candidate for it. Why? Why did the superior always get tagged with ‘dripplings’ dangling from their sides?

Well, it’s handled, Voodoo thought to himself. The problem is solved. He lives there, I live here. We have our shields, things will be just fine.

Worm will be ‘safe’ and ‘fine.’ Voodoo grinned at his new pet-name for Kyle. ‘Worm’ worked very well because worms were gross. They lived underground-underfoot. They ate excrement and when you pick them up, you couldn’t tell which end was the head. Voodoo was sure the worms didn’t know which end was their head, either. Worms were very squishy. If you pressed one between your fingers hard enough, they oozed all this white stuff. It was gross.

Yeah, that was K-that was Worm. Voodoo didn’t like the doctor because ‘Worm’ was so completely opposite. Well, not totally, anyway. K . . . Worm (!) Still walked on two legs, so he had something in common with the Sentinels. Worm had this irritating little manner about him; a repulsive . . . gentleness that portrayed weakness of spirit. Voodoo had seen how Worm worked with his patients. Worm sometimes actually knew what he was doing!

Ooh, but Worm did flare in a temper when pushed just to that point! And what a temper! It was funny because it instantly reminded Voodoo how worms would squirm and wiggle when handled. They twitched in the hand as though throwing tantrums-yes, that was Worm to a ‘T’! Oh, well, of course, Voodoo had to admit he himself had a couple of faults. He tended to be a little overzealous, somewhat of a loud-mouthed and sometimes hotheaded. K . . . Worm (!) was repulsively calm and rational. And the calmer . . . Worm was during one of their arguments, the louder Voodoo became, irritated that he couldn’t crack that self-righteous soft voice.

Unfortunately, some part of Voodoo, deep down inside, kept track of the time spent away from his Interface partner. So many hours, so many days, so many weeks . . . so many years.



And some other part of Voodoo knew he was lying to himself.

Not that lying was the worst of it. The worst of it came when Thon Roque decided to be the good guy in this little battle (little?) Of wills. Voodoo found it both annoying and fascinating that everyone was so willing to stick their proboscis in his and Worm’s business.

But what pissed him off entirely was when they tricked him into a face-to-face meeting with Worm.

After seven years of silence between them, they now stood atop a mountain of flat rocks and stared at each other. The wind howled unmercifully about them. It brushed through Kyle’s blonde-white hair and snapped at the folds of his long duster coat.

Neither of them was willing to speak first.

Voodoo silently stared. He was surprised by the moustache-just as blonde-white as the stuff atop K-Kyle’s head. It almost looked nice. "I suppose you want me to apologize." Voodoo blurted first. He dared not try to use the link. He dared not lower the shields.

Kyle stared at him long after that. He didn’t want to answer Voodoo. He didn’t want to talk to this . . . thing that cursed his very existence. He silently shook his head.

"What’s the matter, Worm, lost your tongue?" Voodoo sneered.

"Not at all." Kyle replied, shouting over the noisy windstorm. "You talk enough for the both of us."

"Ohh!" Voodoo pitched his voice in mockery. "Nice comeback. Why don’t you drive that vibro blade a little deeper-you might actually hurt my feelings!"

Kyle shut his mouth. He didn’t know what else to say. It occurred to him how he was just as responsible for the arguments as Voodoo. Voodoo hurt him, he hurt Voodoo back, Voodoo would come back for more. It was a vicious abusive cycle and something neither of them were willing to break because both of them had to ‘win.’

Kyle decided he was tired of fighting. He bit back his pride. Maybe if he started to make amends by apologizing, Voodoo would follow and they could . . . sort of start over. He threw his eyes on the ground, the tempest wind bit his face, pressing cold Alean air into his skin. "Voodoo," he called. "I-I’m sorry." His eyes climbed the tall dark blue Sentinel. Those words weren’t as hard as he thought they would be. He blinked his eyes in wind. "I . . . this whole thing has been hard and I guess I’ve been blaming it on you . . . I’m just as much at fault."

"WHAT’S THAT, DOCTOR?" Voodoo snipped. "Is Worm trying to apologize?" And he smiled.

"Yes." Kyle answered emphatically. "I’m just as much at fault here."

But Voodoo wasn’t fooled. This was, after all, Worm he was talking with. Worm could piss all over the floor, but it could never be an apology and that’s what Worm was doing, pissing all over the floor, attempting to attain some kind of acceptance. Voodoo was inclined to laugh. "Well, Worm," he declared. "I suppose we could give it all a little whirl. I accept your apology. But I expect a few things for true recompense. Practice runs. Everyday. You will learn to fly."

The coldness in Voodoo’s voice sliced into Kyle’s soul like a brand new razor blade. The wound bled but Kyle wasn’t about to allow this monster to gloat over it. Kyle covered his pain, leaning on his training to hide all emotion from his face. He told himself he felt nothing. He would feel nothing ever again. This was business. Pure business. He would deal with Voodoo in the same way he dealt with his superiors at the hospitals at home: with ‘respectable indifference’ and emotionless obedience.

"Very well." He answered in monotone.

Once again, Voodoo won.


Voodoo did everything he could to raise Kyle’s ire. But once Kyle made his mind on a situation, he resolutely refused to go back on it. But by refusing to emotionally responding to Voodoo, Kyle also had to treat everyone around him the same way. To lower his defenses down even for a moment meant crashing altogether.

Even for Kayla.

Actually, that surprised Kyle. He liked Kayla. He liked her a lot. But . . . he couldn’t tell her that. He dared not tell her that. Besides, they were two totally different people. Kayla was a sweetheart. Kyle felt nothing for anyone.

He considered allowing his hair to grow so that he wouldn’t have to look at himself in the mirror.

And the practice runs with Voodoo became an exercise in torment.

"Ahh, decided to finally come out of the ground to squirm with the gods today, Worm?" Voodoo sneered as Kyle boarded him.

Kyle, as usual, said nothing. He had been studying, the only pleasure he had anymore. But his studying of flying got him by as far as actually flying was concerned. Landings were harder than he imagined and Voodoo chewed him up one side and spit him out the other for his inefficiency. It was always emotionally distressing for Kyle to get in and strap down. Not only were the flying lessons hard, but Voodoo’s constant shrewity ate at Kyle like a painful viral infection.

One practice run finally went smoothly, almost perfect. Kyle managed three well-executed vertical rolls and a really good high-performance turn.

They even landed decently and when Voodoo couldn’t say anything, Kyle allowed himself a smile. He disembarked and Voodoo transformed behind him.

"Well, Worm, that was better than usual." The Sentinel piped.

Kyle ignored him.

"Of course, it’s all rusty." Voodoo prodded. "I suppose all the wiggling you do at night has made you realize-"

Kyle snapped. He turned and stared cooly at his Interface partner. "Would you just shut up for just a while?"

Voodoo was taken by surprise by Kyle’s sudden answer. Kyle hadn’t said anything in rebuttal for weeks and to actually hear something from him was surprising. But Voodoo quickly rebounded. "Why? Can’t take a little insult now and again?"

Kyle was hard put to squelch his anger but he managed. He astutely turned and walked away. Whatever feelings he had over his successful run were dashed against the rocks of Voodoo’s nattering.

"What’s the matter, Worm?" Voodoo jeered. "Can’t come up with something more to say? Did it take you all week to come up with that? Wow! Hey look, everybody! The Worm is pissing again!"

Kyle retreated inside. His face was a mask of resolute conviction. He passed a room full of traders that came and left Alean once every eighteen months. Often he would lend his services as a doctor to cure their ills or ease their space sickness.

Not right now. He could feel Voodoo approach the building and Kyle aimed for his own quarters before Voodoo caught sight of him and started in again.

Then Thon Roque came walking in Kyle’s direction, blocking the doctor’s retreat. Kyle flinched in surprise.

Too late. Voodoo entered the building.

"Hiya, Roque!" Voodoo nearly sang. "Lookit the Worm! He’s actually learning how to walk and fly!"

Roque gazed at Kyle. The poor Human winced, bracing for another barrage of insults. Roque waited until Voodoo was close enough and gave him a solid right-cross. Voodoo went sailing down the hall and crashed.

Kyle fled, unwilling to see anything more.

Voodoo sat up, rubbing a pained mandible. "What was that for?" He whined.

"For someone who doesn’t have the ability to do it." Roque snarled. "Who do you think you are?"

"What?" Voodoo snapped.

"Who gave you the right to harass someone like that? Don’t you care about Kyle at all?"

"Worm?" Voodoo corrected. "Of course-"

"Shut up, Voodoo. Don’t utter another syllable." Roque pointed at him. "I’m assigning you to maintenance for the next full-moon phase."

Voodoo gaped. "Why?"

"I won’t put up with this anymore. You and Kyle have been picking at each other so much, the others and I are sick of it."

Voodoo stood up, indignant. "Well, maybe Worm and I will just take our ‘picking’ and go off planet!"

Roque crossed his arms and said nothing.

But Kyle was gone. They didn’t know where the hell he went or how he left without anyone knowing. He just disappeared. Everyone searched every nook and cranny, every place on and off base. They used scanners and no sign, absolutely no sign of Kyle anywhere.

Voodoo merely shrugged after their final attempt. "Well, I guess he decided he didn’t want to take anymore flying lessons."

Kayla glared at him. She told no one about the tiny note she found in her coat pocket the morning after Kyle turned up missing. ‘I’m sorry.’ the note read. ‘Enough is enough.’

But he did not say where he was going or if he was going to come back. Kayla suspected they were not going to see or hear from Kyle for a very long time.

Voodoo was glad to see him go. He was glad that annoying . . . ‘person’ was out of his life. Hopefully for good. And he went on about his life, happy because the one person he really hated the most wasn’t there anymore. His shields worked just fine. He didn’t have anything to fuss over. Just keep up the shields and everything would continue to be just fine. He wouldn’t have to feel any pain or grief. He didn’t have to hear or see anything. Thon Roque finally gave up, believing Voodoo and Kyle would have to reconcile on their own. But that didn’t matter to Voodoo. What did he have to reconcile for? He was and always will be a free agent. He wasn’t responsible for anybody!


And twenty-five years passed.


Then the pains started in. At first they were twinges, little annoying things and he would just adjust his pain receptors accordingly. A while later, the pain would come back, a little stronger and he would adjust his pain receptors. And it came back and he would adjust again and soon, his adjusters were so high, Voodoo found he could not feel anything. He had no sensation of landing, which resulted in several crashes. He could not feel objects when he picked them up. He could not concentrate because his receptors were turned off.

That was the point of malfunction and he had to go to Skywolf. But Voodoo did not want to hear the medic preach about the necessity of his Interface with Kyle Scott. K . . . Worm was gone, out of his life. That’s all there was to it. At least twenty-five standard years, he told himself. He was sure it was longer, but at this point, Voodoo did not want to admit to that.

That self-deception did not work. Skywolf informed him that unless he and Kyle reconciled, Voodoo would be disabled in a matter of weeks. It wasn’t what Voodoo wanted to hear. And worse yet, Skywolf told him he needed to find Kyle and bring him back.

Voodoo fumed and thought of every profane word he ever heard in every language he could speak. There was no way in the pit he was going to go look for Worm. No way whatsoever! Kyle hated him, he hated . . . Worm. That was it.

But by the end of that week, Voodoo’s shields started to crumble. It took more power reserves to hold them up. He would flinch out of recharge, his body wracked in agony, his mind in turmoil and the worst of it was the emptiness in his soul. Someone had rejected him. He wasn’t good enough. He deserved to die, but could . . . not.

And those weren’t his feelings.

Guilt nailed him, but Voodoo refused to give into it. He merely used more power to raise stronger shields.

The middle of the following week brought news of Seeker activity around a cluster of class-M planets and their satellites. Thon Roque dispatched four Sentinels to observe the problem and report back.

But the four, including Voodoo, were discovered and a terrible battle ensued, resulting in three wounded, two captured. Three Seekers chained Voodoo to a rock wall then they played with Integer like two cats with a mouse. She died at their cruel hands.

Then they turned to Voodoo and used him as target practice. They left him there for days on end, coming back in little dares and tried many different weapons. None of them were really very good, their aim proved poor most of the time. Voodoo knew sooner or later he would be rescued. But he hoped they found him alive.

Weakened by the power he used to keep up his shields from Kyle, Voodoo knew it wouldn’t take much to kill him. He had numbed himself to the world, but that cost him dearly. He felt almost nothing as his captors threw things into his body while they cackled and hackled, overcharging on energon.

Voodoo merely shut them out much the same way he shut everything else out. He only wanted to be free. He only wanted to fly off and not fight another war for as long as he lived. And in some cases, Voodoo thought it would be nice if his life did not last much longer. Distantly he could feel terrible pain. It would never go completely away.

Then one of the Seekers made a queer gurgling sound and Voodoo activated his optic sensors and watched as one Seeker kissed the ground in a thump. The other three hauled out electro-plasma rifles, powerful enough to kill a Decepticon on spot, and hunted for the perpetrator. Their forms swished through foliage, hunched over as though looking for little animals in the brush.

Another Seeker cried out and flipped backwards, hitting the ground head-first. Then something else shot out and zapped one of Voodoo’s arms free. The two remaining Seekers dashed to the right, running after something in the brush. They paid no attention to him. Voodoo slowly extracted seven vibro-knives from his chest, two from his legs and a spear from his right shoulder. He was a mess, but he felt nothing. He undid the shackles from around his ankles and the moment he took a step, he hit the ground face-first. No feeling. No power to move.

Another Seeker met his maker, his body flew back and crumpled against rock. Voodoo wondered who his rescuer was. Certainly no puny Human, that’s for sure.

The last Seeker dashed back to the camp, firing intermittently between steps. He spat profanity of all kinds, so obviously missing his target with each stride.

The brush close to the clearing rustled as something passed through it. No sooner did the brush shake than the Seeker shot into it, only to watch as other brush hissed and shook elsewhere. The Seeker swore and fired over there, too.

And the Seeker’s target dashed out in the clearing for just a scant moment, just a breath of a moment.

But it was enough a moment for Voodoo to see . . . just long enough to force him to admit something he did not want to admit. And he hated all that much more and that one thought, that tiny thought drained the last of his strength and Voodoo passed out.


The rescue party found Voodoo and Integer. They buried Integer’s broken body and sent Voodoo straight to Skywolf. Jill tended to him the best she could, but there was little she could do to stop a terrible leak in his code/decode interlinking pathways. Some of the pathways would have to be replaced altogether. But the problem was the replacements would only end up the same way later.

"It’s only a matter of time." Jill informed him impassively.

"Till what?"

She rolled her eyes. He knew what she was going to say! Jerk! But, Voodoo was Voodoo and there was no changing him. "Until you cease to function. All we could do is put you in permanent stasis." She watched his lower mandible drop and shrugged. "I’m sorry, Voodoo."

"Can’t you replace them?" He demanded.

"I can replace them-"

"Then do so!"

She sighed impatiently. "Look, all it will do is buy you a little extra time. And I only have so many here. It will get to the point where you will be in here once a week every week laying on my table, waiting for new parts."

He read the iciness in her voice. "And you’re telling me I’m not worth it. Is that what you’re saying?"

Jill crossed her arms defensively.

"Oh no!" Voodoo snarled. "Don’t go into the Interface thing with me again. That doesn’t work."

"How long are you and Kyle going to be immature about this?"

"As long as it takes."

"Until one of you drops dead?" Her eyes narrowed, lips taut in anger.

"I will at least be free-"

"And insane." She added. "I’m surprised you’re not completely there already." She changed her mind: "In fact," she added, "I’d almost say you are there now, the way you behave sometimes."


"Do you want me to pull out a list?"


"Voodoo!" Jill shouted back, "You and Kyle have got to stop this! You’re destroying yourselves!"

"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! IT’S A LIE! YOU’RE LYING!" and he kicked a table over. He pounded into the nearby wall and plunged his fists into a nearby consol. He flipped another table loaded with equipment and pounded his fist into the window. He swung back around to find something else to tear up when a fist contacted his face and he spun out of control and slammed into the counter. He paused just a second, a little stunned. Then he drew a gun. His attacker kicked it out of his hand and then kicked his face first then the vulnerable spot in his thoracic cavity. And that was when Voodoo finally kissed the floor, too weak to move.

His attacker ran to the other side of the room and at first Voodoo thought the attacker a coward for not finishing him. But when his head cleared, he only saw Skywolf, bending over, carefully scanning his injured partner.

Voodoo had injured Jill. He had hurt someone else’s Interface partner. An unpardonable sin. He trembled all over. How could he do such a terrible thing? Jill was only telling him the truth. She didn’t hate him. She wasn’t trying to be mean. And he had lashed out. They were such fragile creatures. The Humans were so fragile and they were such good people.

Voodoo’s trembling turned to shaking. His anger melted to guilt and shame and self-hatred. "I’m sorry . . ." his voice came so small, so pitiful. "I’m so sorry . . ."

Skywolf lifted his head, but did not look at Voodoo. "Get out, Voodoo." He said with a monotone voice. "I don’t care what you do to your own Interface. But I’ll kill you if I ever see you around Jill again."

Voodoo managed to push himself up and forced himself out the room. He staggered, his body weak with shame. He fell to his knees and bowed over. He couldn’t go on like this. He couldn’t stay here, either.

A pair of strong hands half lifted him and he found himself face-to-face with Roque. "Voodoo . . . I don’t need to tell you what to do. But whatever you decide to do, I suggest you do it now, while you’re still functioning."

Voodoo stared a moment longer. Roque wasn’t angry at him, though he deserved it. The Sentinel stumbled to his feet and took a last glance into the other room as Kayla and two others ran in to help Skywolf with Jill. He walked away a few paces, glanced warily back at Roque and found Roque’s even expression neither kind nor mean.

Voodoo hurt all over now. He staggered away a little further before transforming and leaving Alean airspace.

* * *

Kyle left with only a few possessions-some of his books, a few clothes and whatever universal currency he had on hand. He paid the traders a handsome fee for a ride, to keep their mouths shut-and no questions asked.

They traveled for months, waking now and again, landing on a planet for business, to eat and stretch their muscles. Kyle had no idea where they were going, or when they were going to stop at another planet. He knew he couldn’t return home, that would be the first place the Sentinels would look. He needed to distance himself from all of them because all the good they would do was to get him to talk with Voodoo. And talk was over.

Kyle decided he would just try to move on and make the best of a sorry situation. His life had grown from bad to worse and he found he trusted no one. He scarcely even trusted himself.

The traders landed on a beautiful planet, already preparing to sell and trade wares, stretch their legs, eat and move on again. Vegetation here grew lush and thick. Trees the size of Transformer buildings scraped the sky with brilliant gold and blood-red leaves.

Kyle fell in love with it.

The traders prepared to move in four hours. Kyle took a little time to walk about the small town, finding the common technology only as advanced as radio. The people either had not yet discovered television, or socially rejected it. Their lives were simple, their children grinned with faces reflecting summer sunshine and strangers were welcomed with opened arms.

Kyle entered a small café. Baked sweet apple pie, rich with strong cinnamon passed through the air. The hint of ambrosian coffee followed. Kyle took a table by the large window and stared out. Even the cars were few and simplistically designed. Most people either rode on bike or a huge bird-like creature.

"And what’s your name?" A waitress dressed in a deep red mini skirt politely asked him through the translator.

"Doctor Kyle Scott." Kyle turned to her without thinking about it. He fearfully bit his tongue.

But the pretty girl smiled warmly. Her hair, woven back by a cute bun and accented with a huge red bow, glistened in the late afternoon sunlight. She looked every bit as cheerful as the blue sky outside. "A doctor?" she asked as she produced a pen. "Are you a physicist, Doctor Scott?"

"No." He answered simply. "Just as physiologist."

The waitress glanced outside toward the space port. "Really? Now why would such a good-looking doctor like you be traveling with them?" She nodded outward, "It’s not much of a life."

Kyle smiled, appreciating her kind words. "I’m looking to start a new life."

Her eyes searched his weary, pain-ridden face and beamed gentleness toward him. "Well, we specialize in new lives, Doctor."

It warmed Kyle’s heart and he chose to stay.

In the years that followed, Kyle picked up a low-paying job and found a small place to live. He needed to take time to rebuild his shattered self-esteem and damaged psyche. He took therapy and considered practicing medicine again.

Even with advanced technology available to the people on IB-2, they more or less rejected high tech, preferring such things as holistic medicine and therapy as opposed to manufactured medicines. And just as Kyle suspected, television was rejected by the entire planetary society because of the draining impact it had on the younger generations. The culture in which he found himself was rich with literature and drama. Sports took a second place to art and teachers and scientists held the same status as heros.

Having some knowledge of holistic medicine, Kyle settled into the medical community, choosing to remain as anonymous as possible, though he was highly admired by his peers.

The other oddity about IB-2 was the cities structures. Most building were designated only for businesses while the citizens and residents lived underground in the nearby hills or under the tremendously massive Prit’dal trees. A semi-backwards little world, Kyle thought, where a simple life was valued above commerce and technology.

But as good as his life became on IB-2, the long stretch of years proved a burden on Doctor Scott. He could not deny a part of him was missing. No matter how much medication or therapy he took, severe bouts of depression haunted him. A part of him was missing terribly and he could not figure out what exactly it could be. Oh, there might be that link-thing with Voodoo, but Kyle refused to believe (admit?) It had anything to do with his condition. But by and by, it began to occur to Doctor Scott he had very little time left to live.

Or maybe he started to believe that when a psychic passed him on his way to work one morning and told him he was dying.

Three tests over a period of four months confirmed her words.

* * *

Voodoo returned to the one planet. The clearing where he and Integer were held prisoner lay in blackened ruins. The four Seekers lay in piles, their bodies broken by a small but exceedingly powerful laser pistol designed on Alean for the Human Interface partners. Voodoo knew who was here. He couldn’t deny it anymore. He rummaged through the Seeker’s makeshift camp and found energon. He consumed that, hoping it would give him enough time and power for the most difficult task of his life.

Time was running out. His shields were leaking and the only thing holding Voodoo together now were emotional defense mechanisms. And even they weren’t working too well.

Finding Kyle was not as easy a task as he thought. There were many Human-type cities sprawling across IB-2. At least Kyle had good taste in environment-traveling along the ground was out of the question for a Transformer. The residents on IB-2 lived in gigantic trees usually lining some stream or swamp or river. It was a terrible contrast to the cities with their huge metal-and-glass buildings and railways. Voodoo was never so glad he had the advantage of air travel and he circulated one particular area, struggling toward and against his link. He crossed three large rivers, all inhabited by the sizable trees.

His scanners picked up familiar vibrations (from the weapon, no doubt). He slowed and hovered above a clump of trees with fences and yards dotting about the ground. A small garden resided in one yard across the stream nearby a network of giant roots. Voodoo landed as softly as he could, stumbling on legs that could not feel the ground underneath. The place was a great deal larger from the ground than above. Voodoo was amazed because it was large enough even for him. He stepped carefully about, wondering if anybody was home. He felt like an intruder and hoped he wouldn’t be shot like one (though he knew he deserved it).

He rounded one tree to the right and found an area crowed with wood-sculptured shelves containing several herb gardens, weapons and tools. He was amazed and amused by Kyle’s resourcefulness.

A noise inside the ‘tree house’ called his attention and Voodoo carefully picked his way around, entering under one of the tree’s roots that acted as a doorway.

He was met with a pair of icy dark brown eyes and a hard glare. Even after twenty-five years, Kyle had nothing to say. He knew Voodoo was there, even before the Sentinel landed.

Voodoo wordlessly sat down and just watched while Kyle went about cleaning several newly picked roots. The Sentinel glanced all around him. The tree was naturally hallow inside about twenty-five feet up. Those roots not covering the ground were hemmed in and closed off with mud and grass walls. A small hearth was fashioned carefully out of rocks and compacted sand and ashes. Electric lights punctuated the walls on two sides of the room and a stereo sat next to the hearth. In spite of its naturalistic setting, the place came with indoor plumbing and electricity.

"Nice place." He finally said, trying to speak softly.

Kyle iced him another glare for a moment then returned to his work. "Thank you." He answered quietly.

Voodoo wanted to say something else. At least they said something. Maybe they could work it out. Maybe. He tried to choose his words carefully. "I didn’t know you knew how to do all this."

Kyle shrugged, his expression a little lighter. But he didn’t make eye contact. "I didn’t." He admitted. "I managed to get a job."

Voodoo smiled, feeling a little less fearful. He leaned forward and sat on his knees. "Kyle," he said softly. "Come back to Alean with me."

"There’s nothing on Alean for me." Kyle coldly answered. He wondered why Voodoo bothered to come back at all. Obviously Voodoo was in as much pain as Kyle felt himself. Voodoo wasn’t concerned about Kyle at all, he just wanted to stop hurting. That only irritated Kyle because it still reduced him to . . . a worm. Something to toss in the garden to make the flowers grow.

"I want . . ." Voodoo could feel his anger rise and he tried to quench it. "I think we should at least work out our differences. Give it all another shot."

Kyle slammed his tool down and waited a beat before looking at his Interface partner. He snorted, an angry smile crossed his face. "When I discover I can’t fix the problem with therapy or surgery, I usually tell the patient there’s nothing I can do for them, even though I’ve done everything in my power to help."

Voodoo glanced at the ceiling, struggling to hold up the shield, struggling to control his temper. "You’re saying our relationship is beyond repair. You’re saying you don’t want to have anything to do with me."

Kyle started to put his tools away, slamming things down and snapping locks, tossing objects. He paused from his actions and drew a deep breath, trying to hem in his anger. "I think we’ve said enough things to each other to last a lifetime." He finally stated. "I’ve said enough and I’m tired of saying." He dared Voodoo to say the wrong thing. He dared the over-sized tin can to curse or belittle him just once. This was an intrusion. Kyle was happy to end his life here and here comes Voodoo, trotting out his apathy so everyone could feel sorry for him.

Voodoo leaned forward, trying to reach eye contact but Kyle looked elsewhere. "If we don’t do something, we will die." His voice remained carefully level, but he was losing patience.

Kyle lost his. "What do you care?" He snapped. "Now that *we* are at the point of death, now’s the time for *us* to talk? What’s that?"

"It means, Stupid, that you and I will end up killing each other!"

"No!" Kyle shouted. "It means YOU will die! It means NOTHING! Not a DAMMNED THING!" and he shoved everything off the table. Tools and boxes, herbs and medical gadgets rattled to the floor, their assorted noises making a louder shout than Kyle could muster: "Get OUT OF MY LIFE and LEAVE ME ALONE! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME!?"

"I don’t want anything from you!" Voodoo shouted back, his anger now in control. Stupid Human! He almost said.

"YES YOU DO!" Kyle countered. "Otherwise you would not be here upsetting me! You KIDNAPED me to save one of your friends, you INTERFACED with me, and because of that, I’ll never live a normal life again! You ruined my life!" "Now GET OUT!" And he pointed to the doorway. "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!" All the strength in his body drained away. He sank weakly to his knees grasping his hair as though to pull his skull apart. Emotional pain shot through him and Kyle’s muscles ached "LEAVE ME ALONE!" he bowed over, and wept inconsolably, laying his hands over his head. "Leave me alone!" He lamented, "Leave me alone!"

The sudden break of emotions shattered Voodoo’s shields and everything slammed into his soul like a sledge hammer. Voodoo froze as intolerable pain washed through him. Emptiness ate at his heart and worthlessness . . . the desire to die devoured him and he fell flat on his face, unable to move.

And he shut down.



The vagueness of sound came to him.

Voices followed that.

Once voice, actually. One tiny voice.

It might have been a child, whimpering in cold with broken arms and legs. It must have been a child, abandoned by the wayside, no one to come and comfort him, no one wanting to care.

It was a child’s voice that wept in Voodoo’s mind. Someone cruelly rejected the child because he was so tiny and fragile and Human.

What evil sinner would do such a terrible thing? What thoughtlessness!

But to Voodoo’s horror, he realized the child was Kyle.

And if Voodoo could have, he would have wept. All he could do was lay on the floor, his opticless face focused entirely on the unconscious Interface partner before him. Voodoo trembled, wondering, praying somehow that he might be given a second chance to set things right. Oh, Primus, if there was a god . . . would it be too late? He reached out and ever so carefully stroked Kyle’s soft blonde-white hair.

Kyle did not move.

He tried to press through Kyle’s shields and found they had broken a long time ago.

The damage was done. He and Kyle had been at each other’s throats for so long and all he could do was think of himself

while Kyle buried his agony. And it seemed the more pain he felt, the harder the doctor worked.

Was it too late?

<<Kyle?>> Voodoo called as gently as he could. Both their shields were down. Both were vulnerable. <<Kyle . . . don’t go. Don’t leave me. I know it sounds selfish . . .>> He stared at the unmoving figure. He was so small, so fragile, just like Jill. Now he understood why Skywolf said the Sentinel Interfaces were the responsible side of the partnership. They were the stronger. That was the way of things; one was made strong to care for the weak. That was the way of things. And Voodoo had selfishly violated that principle.

<<Kyle?>> he called weakly. <<Kyle? Please, please forgive me.>> he fell quiet, cupping his hand over Kyle’s still form. <<Forgive me! Forgive me.>>

Voodoo awakened back at the base on Alean. Skywolf’s face came into view and the old Sentinel gave him a grim smile. Voodoo glanced around then tilted his head in puzzlement.

"Spellbinder and Roque went after you when you didn’t report after six cycles."

Voodoo felt terrible. They still came after him. He was a jerk and they still came after him. Then he gaped and struggled to get up. Restraints prohibited him from moving. "Kyle!" He called. "Kyle!"

Skywolf laid a hand on his chest, his face no less grim. "He’s here, Voodoo." He answered quietly.

"I want to see him."

"He’s on life support right now." Then Wolf’s face turned down in sadness. "Look, Voodoo, about what I said . . . I’m sorry."

"No." Voodoo objected. "You acted out of fear. I should be the one to apologize . . . I was thinking only of myself and I really want to see Kyle."

Skywolf stared mournfully. "He’s in bad shape, Voodoo. He may not make it."

The news ripped Voodoo up inside. He was responsible. He was the cause. Millions of ideas came and left him. Somehow, some way he had to make it up. He had to pay for the pain he caused Kyle. Not that Voodoo had any idea, but he was going to try. "I just want to see him." He pitifully begged. "Please, please. Let me see him!"

Wolf held his hands up in surrender. "I can’t." His words never came flatter. "I can’t." He repeated. "I’m sorry. The risk is far too high. I can’t let you see him for at least another seventy-two cycles."

Exasperated, Voodoo looked helplessly away.

Kyle was comatose when they found him and Voodoo. Skywolf brought in an expert, Dr. Antiasis from Yistach 4 to treat Kyle. The others did not want to disclose Interface information, hoping Antiasis could help Kyle without the knowledge. But Antiasis’ prognosis was not optimistic.

"I can’t really help him." The sixty-something doctor reported.

Kayla stared at the floor. Jill crossed her arms. "Didn’t you say you were going to put him on immune therapy, Doctor?"

Antiasis nodded. "I can put all the things I want into his body, Miss McKennan. But the fact of it is, your friend simply has no desire to live. He’s severely underweight, his immune system is shot, his response time is slower than my mother’s. He’s what, forty? He shouldn’t have all these problems. His emotional state is disastrous. Until he finds a reason to live, there is nothing I can do."

Voodoo’s demands to see Kyle were reduced to begging. But Skywolf insisted the two kept their distance until Kyle was strong enough.

"I can bring him out of it." Voodoo insisted. "Honest."

"Voodoo, if a Seeker were to come here and say he wanted to be friends with you, would you believe him?"

Voodoo resented the comparison. But he understood what Wolf was saying. Even if Wolf were to allow him to see Kyle, what would he say? How would Kyle take it? The scene Kyle made on IB-2 might very well be repeated. At this point, Voodoo felt nothing from his partner; he assumed Kyle was unconscious. Voodoo remembered the anguish and rage projecting from his partner. Kyle was hurt beyond words-literally.

But strangely enough, Kyle managed to wake a few days later.

His recovery came slowly, if at all. Kayla, Jill and Rayan took turns visiting as often as they could. Unfortunately, their partners missed them during raids and battles. But as Jill pointed out, Kyle was one of them and they were all just as guilty of negligence as Voodoo. Jill visited Kyle at breakfast. She filled him in on the latest gossip among Alean’s Humanoid population, what new stuff traders and visitors brought, and a few things that had happened during Kyle’s long absence. McKennan was careful to leave Voodoo out of their conversation in hopes Kyle would develop some trust in her.

Kayla usually took up the afternoon. She always asked Kyle if he were too busy to have a visitor before intruding. She liked Kyle a great deal and enjoyed his love of medicine. They spent hours discussing a single topic or theorizing new ideas. Kayla was surprised to discover Kyle had photographic memory and learned things quickly. Except flying. Perhaps because of his bad experiences with Voodoo, it left him feeling inept and kept him from performing as well as he honestly could.

She identified with him and told him a few horror stories of her own with Spellbinder. He smiled, more at ease now than when he first came back. The empath scrutinized Kyle’s dark brown eyes. The trauma had turned his skin pale and he still could look no one in the eye for long without weeping. She smiled kindly and closed the medical book in front of her. "There has to be something else you’d like to do." She prodded. "I know you tire of reading, or at least that’s what Rayan says."

Kyle blinked lightly. "Rayan said that?" He echoed. "Are the three of you in a conspiracy, now?"

Kayla smiled carefully, not sure if Kyle was joking or not. "No." She answered. "Or are you asking about our visits?"

"You mean to ask if I was asking that the visits were all a conspiracy?"

She batted her eyes.

"Are they?" Kyle nudged.

Kayla cast her eyes on the book. "What happened was wrong, Kyle." She confessed. "Dead wrong. We were so busy fighting our own little war that we failed to take care of one of our own." Now she met his eyes again, her expression very apologetic.

Kyle considered it but diverted his eyes elsewhere. He felt very comfortable with Kayla. Her presence seemed to fill the room and shelter him from the anguish in his heart. Kyle couldn’t remember clearly, but he thought they said she was emphathic. "My . . . parents owned a double story mansion in the outskirts of the city. We had a six hundred acre yard that came complete with a labyrinth. The gardener was one of my closest friends and I would spend hours working in the yard with him while my parents worked. When I was in the first three years of college, he taught me how to clip the bushes in the labyrinth. By the time I was ready to attend the university, the labyrinth was changed to a collection of Human figures and animals and fictional characters." A smile slowly splayed over Kyle’s face. "I ended up lost in the maze a few times. Took me hours to get back."

Kayla shared the smile. "That explains the garden you had on IB-2." She answered.

Kyle nodded quietly.

Kayla stood and ran her hand over his hair and gently kissed his brow.

"Are you leaving?" Kyle shot her a worried look.

"I thought about getting something to eat. Are you hungry? Would you like to share a bowl of soup with me?"

He thought about it. They were always trying to get him to eat. The depression left him ill and digesting anything proved painful. But today he felt strong enough that food actually started to sound good. He nodded.

Three weeks passed from the time Kyle came out of his coma. He was walking, albeit slowly, and eating. Everyone tried to encourage him to ‘stick with it’, but the truth of the matter was, Kyle didn’t care one way or the other. He knew at some point, he would have to face Voodoo again. He thought of a million things to say and a billion ways to say them. The thin shield held between he and Voodoo drained him and it hurt sometimes. All he could do was sleep.

Kayla watched him sleep late one night. Spellbinder had scout patrol and she did not feel like roving off across the planet through the dead zones. So he took off and she visited Kyle, taking Rayan’s place. But the day proved one of ‘those days’ when Kyle was more tired than usual and he dozed off. She encouraged him to simply rest on the couch if he did not want to go directly to bed (he wanted her company, but couldn’t stay awake).

She sat and read while his stereo played softly. She glanced at the clock. Only seven P.M. Kayla wondered what all Kyle did on IB-2, if he met anybody, if he managed to have a family. She doubted it, really. Kyle was quiet, but not secretive. She leaned forward, supporting her elbows on her knees, flipping the book’s pages over her thumb. When would Kyle and Voodoo get it done and over with? They needed to make amends somehow. But . . . of course, Kyle couldn’t emotionally handle it-not in this state. Kayla was so grateful Spellbinder was kind to her. Just the idea of being so connected to something that resembled someone’s nightmare was frightening enough. But to be harassed and abused . . . what the hell was Voodoo thinking?

She thought about what she would like to have done to help Kyle-"If you don’t stop this, if you don’t put an end to the abuse, we will put Kyle to sleep."

"You can’t do that!" She imagined Voodoo retorting.

"What? Oh, and abuse isn’t?"

<<Kayla!>> Spellbinder came at her.

She frowned. <<I wouldn’t really do it. You know that.>> she defended.

<<Oh my!>> Spellbinder teased, <<My little Kayla! All grown up and ready to commit murder!>>

she grimly smiled at the joke. <<I dread them meeting.>>

<<Me too.>>

she fell silent a moment: <<I don’t suppose we could tie Voodoo down somehow and tar and feather him.>>

<<I’m sure Thon Roque would enjoy it just as much as we. But it’s not proper.>>

she deeply sighed and dropped the book.

Two more weeks passed. Kyle finally decided to do it. He swept his coat from the chair by the door and decided not to take his hat.

"You don’t have to do this yet." Jill voiced from his study table. "If you don’t want to, if you’re not ready, you shouldn’t do it."

Kyle frowned. "I need to face him, Jill. Running from it isn’t going to solve my problem. I tried that already. Did it for over twenty years."

She took to her feet and slipped her hands in her jacket pockets. "Kyle, look, I know you’re very new at this Interface business. I-I and Kayla and Rayan made the mistake of letting you go it alone. No one should . . . let me train you first."

Scott’s brows furred in puzzlement. "What has training got to do with talking with Voodoo?"

Her eyes diverted from him then went back. "Well, for one thing, you don’t realize how much power you have as an Interface. What comes to you, can be thrown back. The link isn’t just a communication device, Kyle. It’s part of your life-force. You have the ability to kick him in the ass-mentally-if you so choose."

Kyle stared at her in disbelief. "I am a doctor, Jill." He answered sternly. "I didn’t learn medicine without adapting a strong sense of values and standards."

"Some of that will change." Jill insisted. "You will have to learn to fight even kill Seekers-"

"I don’t have a problem with a warrior’s profession." He snapped. "But Voodoo isn’t supposed to be my enemy and I won’t treat him as such." He paused and picked up his hat anyway. "I have to go." And he exited the door.

Jill chased after, lingering in the doorway. "Kyle!" She called fearfully. He turned to her, his face impassive. She faltered, worry creased her eyes. "Be careful."

He gave her a warm, reassuring smile and cupped her cheek. Jill’s heart stopped a moment then he turned and walked away.

Voodoo didn’t need to be told. He knew, even without hearing Kyle’s voice in his head, he knew. They returned to the rocky hilltop. The morning air bit, but there was no wind. Kyle made his way to the top and Voodoo almost offered assistance, but thought better of it. This time he sat on his knees, his hands on his thighs, his head down, mouth shut.

Kyle stood still, unable to think of anything to say, though he had thought of a million things to say, they all escaped him like his breath in the chilled air.

Voodoo wanted to press against the link, but didn’t dare. He strongly felt it was Kyle’s turn to talk. It was up to Doctor Scott whether or not they tried again.

The corners of Kyle’s mouth tightened and his eyes fell. He simply could not think of anything to say.

Awkward silence hung between them for a long time. They watched one another more for expression than conversation. Maybe Kyle was right. Maybe they were beyond talk. Maybe it was over, after all. He frowned sadly, more disappointed in himself than Voodoo. He turned away, guilt-ridden and sorry because nothing worked between them. They were just too different.

"Don’t go." Voodoo begged. "Don’t leave me."

The words milked into Kyle’s soul and terrible sadness fell over him. He batted back tears. <<What am I to say?>> he asked innocently. <<Where do I start?>>

<<You started twenty-five years and eight months ago. It’s actually my turn.>>

<<I’m sorry.>>

<<No!>> Voodoo moaned. "I took advantage of you." He voiced. "I was wrong. You actually tried to make amends and I let my anger and pride sweep it all away."

Kyle rolled his eyes and turned back around. "I ran away, Voodoo. That’s no way to solve a problem."

"You were protecting yourself. My hatred was killing both of us." Voodoo answered quietly. "How could I blame you for that?"

Kyle’s eyes swept to the ground then back to Voodoo. "We are so completely different. How could we ever get along?"

Voodoo thought it over a moment, "You get along with me just fine. I can’t get along with anybody, that’s all. It’s not you, Kyle. I just . . . everybody has a problem with me. I don’t like to conform. I don’t like to be bossed around. I don’t like to be told what to do."

"It’s simple respect, Voodoo." Doctor Scott pointed. "What’s so hard about that?"

Voodoo nodded in agreement. "I just have a problem with speaking my mind. I don’t know how to talk with others very well."

Kyle smiled grimly. "You talk just fine-"

"Yes." Voodoo agreed. "Enough for both of us."

Kyle’s smile broadened kindly, hearing some of his own words confirmed. "You talk just fine, Voodoo. You just don’t know how to communicate." And he suddenly held up a hand to ward off any reactionary anger from his partner. "That’s not your fault." He amended. "Communication is learned, not something you’re born with. I had to learn it."

Voodoo fell quiet a moment. "Like flying." He said softly.

Kyle nodded in equal silence.

Again awkward silence passed between them. Kyle felt Voodoo’s uncertainty but did not know how to work with it. He stood perfectly still as Voodoo inched closer to him on his knees. "Kyle . . . Kyle," he repeated timidly, "I-I could teach you to fly, if you’ll teach me to communicate."

Kyle’s eyes fell from him, unsure of this idea. He did not want to go through those practice runs again.

"I-I won’t hurt you." Voodoo’s voice filled with sorrow and remorse. "I swear. I swear. I want to make it right."

Kyle thought it over carefully then took a deep breath. "One condition." He lifted his eyes to the blank space atop Voodoo’s head.

"Name it." Voodoo accepted. At this point, he was willing to do about anything, even if it were degrading.

"That you never call me worm, or any other name ever again." Kyle immediately demanded. "No more names, no more bullshit. I am half of this Interface, not a quarter or a third. Half. I am not some little animal that you just bought from the pet shop. I am a sentient creature just like you with thoughts and feelings. I admit, I am emotional-"

"And I am insensitive." Voodoo added. "That makes you the better between us."

"I wouldn’t say that, Voodoo." Kyle returned quietly. He thought of the many times his own sensitivity interfered with his work, especially when a patient died on his hands.

Voodoo came a little closer and very gently pulled Kyle’s hands out of his coat pockets. Voodoo was pleased Kyle allowed him to just hold his tiny hands between his fingers. At first Kyle didn’t know what to think, if Voodoo was going to do something to him or not. But when he realized all Voodoo wanted to do was hold his hands, he smiled lightly and relaxed.

They still argued. Sometimes it got pretty close but when it would reach the point where he thought about calling Kyle a name, Voodoo backed off and walked out instead. He vowed he would not call Kyle names ever again and he meant it. But it didn’t mean they wouldn’t argue. Voodoo was still the loud-mouthed opinionated brash individual. But gradually his manners leveled and he learned to confront his anger in more constructive ways.

The flying lessons became easier for Kyle once Voodoo learned to be patient. The Sentinel reminded himself almost daily that Kyle could not sprout wings and fly whenever he chose. But the conditions for flying weren’t always the best on Alean, especially for nervous doctors whose entire lives have been spent with their feet on the ground and their noses either in books or on operation tables. Voodoo suggested they practiced on another world; one consisting of tall grasses, rolling hills and huge reptillian-like creatures. Kyle agreed and for five and a half months, he and Voodoo practiced take off and landing procedures and vertical loops. Finally, Kyle got to the point where he could handle Voodoo under rudimentary battle procedures.

That was when Spellbinder and Kayla decided to join in and spar in the air. Using harmless battle games, one Interface partnership acted as attacker, the other defended.

To Voodoo’s surprise, Kyle adapted quickly to the games, calling out battle tactics under fire as though he had been through it all before sometime in his life.

"No. Not really." Kyle denied as they zoomed over the rugged crest of a series of rocky mountains. He and Voodoo played a harmless game of hide-and-seek with Kayla and Spellbinder, using nothing but the pilot’s vision as an exercise to backing up possible damaged scanners. Kyle had to learn to use his own senses in battle. Flying was not like driving a car, where the driver had the advantage of a rear-view mirror. The doctor learned to compensate for such inadequacies by a ‘spiral meltdown’ and resumed course at a lower altitude. Voodoo loved the new maneuver.

"Hey." Kayla’s soft voice filtered through the comlink.

Kyle glanced everywhere, finding not one sign of Spellbinder’s purple and black bodyshell anywhere. He said nothing, scanning the airspace around Voodoo with his eyes. Scoot shook his head.

<<Damnit, where is she?>>

<<I don’t see her.>> Voodoo returned.

<<Hush. You’re supposed to pretend to be unconscious.>>

"Kyle?" Kayla called. She smiled, realizing he didn’t’ know she wasn’t anywhere to be seen, anyway. "Kyle, we’ve got company."

"I don’t see you." Kyle finally came back.

"No. I’m not in your area. I’m . . . never mind. But F/X just entered my airspace. He wants to play. Are you up for a threesome?"

<<Ewwe.>> Voodoo complained.

Scott grinned. "I don’t normally share my company, Kayla. But if F/X can be a good boy, he can come play."

"Comin’ in at ten o’clock!" Kayla announced and she and Spellbinder shot out from the caves in a steep ravine off the nearby coastline.

Kyle gasped, exasperated. "How’d she do that?" He asked.

"I dunno." Voodoo grunted. ‘I’m supposed to be unconscious."

The close-range scanners alerted Scott Voodoo was being targeted by Spellbinder’s systems. Kyle frowned and winged a hard right, aiming a straight three o’clock position and swept low to the ground. Another bleep on the radar showed something else coming in at four o’clock.

"Kyle," Voodoo softly voice, "if you’re not ready for this, you can call it off."

"I might as well break in now." Scott answered. Spellbinder and F/X were coming at him from two sides. He tipped Voodoo to a two ‘o clock direction aiming for the jagged ridges north by northeast of their position.

"KYLE! THAT’S NOT F/X!" Kayla’s voice screamed over the comlink.

Too late. One blip at four o’clock on the radar became six and Voodoo cursed.

"What are they?" Kyle asked as the Sentinel took over the systems.

"Seekers." Voodoo answered simply.

"Are we in trouble?"

"Not yet."

A crack sounded to Kyle’s right and Voodoo grunted with impact. "Now we’re in trouble."

Two explosions from eight o’clock lit up from Voodoo’s back side and Kyle almost missed witnessing two Seekers plunging to the ground below after F/X shot them.

That still left them with four attackers.

Kyle had no idea what to do. He could feel Voodoo’s pain through the link and tried to raise a shield to keep his own head on straight. "Can’t we land?" He asked.

"I’d rather not." Voodoo argued. "If we land, they can shoot us like a dead tree."

"Okay . . . um . . . what if we held back and used our rear thrusters to fly backwards behind them and attack them-"

"I don’t have reverse thrusters, Kyle." Voodoo answered.

"Well, damnit, what do we do?"

"Hey, I’m open to suggestions, Doctor!"

"Well, you’re the better trained warrior between us, what would you do?"

Voodoo did not get the chance to answer. One Seeker shot something into the clouding sky while another Seeker shot at Voodoo, narrowly missing him. The shot from the first Seeker, encouraged the clouds to rain and a lightning bolt shot out of nowhere.

"Kayla!’ Kyle called. ‘What’s your position?

"About seven-thirty south of you." She answered. Static kissed the communication and the rest of her message came garbled.

"Seeker intervention." Voodoo surmised. "They’re using a jamming signal.’

"Can you get through to them?"

Again, Voodoo didn’t get the chance to answer. Something slammed into his side and torrential rain hid most of the landscape from view.

"My scanners just went offline, Kyle." He reported. "We’ll have to land."

"If we land, like you said, we’ll be fried like lampegdon lizards in a guarvan feast!"

"I’m losing altitude too fast and neither of us can see!"

"Damnit, let me turn around!"

"No! Keep moving forward. If you turn, they will most certainly shoot you right in my face. Then you will loose control."

Kyle growled in frustration. He tried unsuccessfully to call Kayla and F/X again but all he got was more static. They were on their own. The rain made visibility impossible. But he did manage to catch a glimpse of a flat strip of mountain rock. "Did you see that below us?" He asked Voodoo.

"What’s that?" Voodoo had fallen quiet. Pain interrupted his ability to concentrate and he hated having to leave Kyle to his own defenses.

"Back there. I’m going to turn and try to land."

"Wont’ make it." Voodoo rejected. "They’ll catch us-"

"No one can see us in this rain." Scott checked the pressure around them. It was going to be a very dangerous landing.

"You can’t see through it, either." Voodoo returned.

"No. But you can pick up land mass and distinguish it from rock, can’t you?"

"Sorta. Yeah." Voodoo wasn’t sure what Kyle was driving at, but they really had no other option. He had to land. Voodoo prepared his body to protect Kyle at all costs. He might crash and blow up, but he could use the stronger portions of his form to protect his partner.

Kyle struggled to see past the cloudburst and wished he could roll back the windows to see with his naked eyes. That was when he realized the cabin was slowly shifting around him. "Voodoo, what are you doing?" He asked. He managed to turn around in a forty-five degree angle and aimed for the strip of bare rock.

"If I crash, chances are, you will be injured."

Kyle said nothing more, concentrating wholly on the landing procedures. The darkness made it so hard to see, Doctor Scott thought they would miss the strip entirely and crash right into the mountain side.

Voodoo jolted hard and Kyle slammed his head hard against the consol. A terrible thunderous noise pounded into his ears and through Scott’s head. His body twisted and stretched and fell a million feet from the air. He landed on something steadfast, freezing and wet.

And there he lay, the wind knocked out of him.

Thunder echoed in an endless loop, shouting and demanding. It tossed boulders and shot blindly at the ground like a three year-old stomping furiously. Drops of solid ice pounded over Kyle’s body but roused him enough to return to consciousness. Scott blinked through a blinding ice storm and staggered to his feet, his body movements hampered by his drenched clothes. Kyle collapsed against a pillar of jagged red rocks and batted his eyes against liquid ice. He took a step and slipped. Ice coated everything in fine white sheets layer upon skin-numbing layer. Kyle struggled to keep moving or become part of the scenery.

<<Voodoo?!>> he shouted.

No response.

He staggered blindly, his skin painfully cold, now, his face felt nothing. He fell but his body registered naught as the downpour slammed over his backside and started to solidify his clothes.

"Voodoo!" He called again.


Kyle followed the direction of the voice and thanked whatever Power watched over him when the pounding sleet started to lift. Kyle climbed his way back to his fallen partner, shivering and batting back the thin layer of ice packing his body. Several snaps of electricity sparked from Voodoo’s upper back and Kyle flinched in pain. His partner hissed inward and clawed the ground. Kyle wiped his eyes and glanced around as the rain died off. Sounds of battle echoed from afar. Explosions and shouts mingled with the freezing rain as it traveled downhill. He gripped the slippery rocks and managed to make his way up. Kyle caught his breath and tried to assess the damage. Voodoo leaked in several places and Scott’s heart sank; he was helpless to do anything. He removed his gloves and checked his weapons.

"I’m going to try to get help." He winced as an air missile whined through the air and blew some miles away.

"You’ll not make it." Voodoo weakly objected. The rain intensified and Scott moaned in frustration. "Kyle, you’re freezing and soaking wet." Voodoo observed.

"And you’re seriously injured." Kyle returned. "What can I do?"

Voodoo shook his head. "You’re not a mechanic. Without phasing, you can’t do anything."

"Phasing?" Kyle echoed.

"Yeah." Voodoo monitored his tone of voice, careful as not to insinuate Kyle was an idiot. "That . . . thing Kayla and Rayan do with their Interface-"

"Oh, yeah." Kyle frowned. He had no idea how that worked. They couldn’t explain it to him very well, either. His skin tightened in chills. What was he to do? Voodoo positioned himself more comfortably. It must be nice not to be bothered by weather conditions.

<<Like being in a vehicle, I suppose.>> Voodoo answered Scott’s unspoken question.

His silent words startled Kyle and Scott found some measure of comfort in Voodoo’s voice coming through the link.

<<Talk to me.>> he begged. He shuddered, glad to hear something more than his own thoughts.

<<Where do I start when I have so much to say?>> Voodoo winced when another circuit faded and shut down. His guidance systems went off line and he could not tell which direction he was facing. He lay still, concentrating on Kyle. <<Kyle, I was so angry . . . at the Interface. I was wrongly angry at you. I thought . . . I thought it was just one more thing to keep me out of the sky. I thought it was something that I would have to think about day and night.>>

<<You didn’t want to take care of me.>> Kyle answered calmly. Voodoo radiated shame. <<Like having a child you didn’t want.>> Kyle added.

<<I just wanted to fly.>> Voodoo’s voice came small. <<I didn’t want anyone to take that freedom away from me.>>

Kyle didn’t know what to say. He started to grow sleepy and realized hypothermia settled into his bones. He forced himself to stand. The battle below fell quiet. Someone was winning.

<<How could you forgive me?>> Voodoo asked. <<How could you ever trust me again?>>

His head started to ache and Kyle leaned against another ragged rock face. <<I didn’t ask for this anymore than you.>> he answered. <<I had to leave my home, my friends, everything I was. That wasn’t easy. At least you’re still here, among people you know.>>

<<Yes.>> Voodoo agreed sadly. <<Yes.>>

Kyle returned to the fallen Sentinel and ran his numbed hand over Voodoo’s smooth dark surface. Ripples of soft white and light blue lines washed over Voodoo’s skin in reaction to Kyle’s touch. Kyle couldn’t say why he was doing it. He just . . . had to. He was, however, sorry for Voodoo’s pain. He hated to see anyone suffer. Doctor Scott smiled grimly. It was interesting to see Voodoo’s reaction to his touch.

<<Because it’s YOU that’s touching me.>> Voodoo answered softly.

<<You mean I’m tickling you.>> Kyle guessed.

<<No . . .>> Voodoo tried to find the right words. Kyle’s tiny hand moved over his upper arm. No matter how small Kyle’s hand was, Voodoo felt it intensely and it felt good. He opened his hand and Kyle traced all along Voodoo’s arm until he reached the opened hand. He stroked the backside and kept wondering why he was enjoying this as much as his partner.

Voodoo’s soul touched him through the link and at first Kyle flinched in fear. But Voodoo slowed his pressing, approaching Kyle cautiously.

Kyle responded, leaning his whole body against Voodoo’s hand and kissed the warm dark blue metal. It felt good. He felt weird, kissing a machine . . .

<<A machine that . . . that . . .>> Voodoo almost couldn’t bring himself to say ‘loves you’. But he did feel that. He DID feel that. He pressed closer to the link and Kyle lowered the shield and Voodoo kissed Kyle through the link and Kyle drew a breath and closed his eyes. Warmth flooded him and revived his freezing body. Voodoo watched Kyle’s reaction and felt stronger than he had in years. <<Share with me, Kyle.>> he begged. <<I’ll not hurt you, oh Primus, I swear!>>

Kyle turned to face him and drew close and kissed Voodoo’s face and had the Sentinel the ability to outwardly cry, he would have. But he wept inside and Kyle staggered back from the intense emotions sweeping over him. Voodoo caught him and Kyle simply rested in the Sentinel’s giant hand. His mind struggled to make sense out of the complex situation. He wanted to touch Voodoo.

He wanted to do more than touch Voodoo.

He wanted to kiss Voodoo.

He wanted to do more than kiss Voodoo.

Instinct took over and Kyle pressed his lips to Voodoo’s face again and Voodoo’s reaction filled his own soul-breath upon breath and their souls kissed and Kyle breathed Voodoo into his mind, into his soul and Voodoo lost his breath, his body writhed as though in orgasm. His heart stopped, his . . . his body stopped and then resumed. He relaxed. Systems long since damaged or burned out kicked in as though nothing had ever happened.

He sat up and pressed his hands to his chest.

Kyle was gone.

Kyle was . . . .

Kyle was inside him.

Kyle was a part of him.

Strength started to build.

He became widely conscious of Kyle’s presence inside and energy, starting sparse, grew until it heated and the heat rushed all through his systems and Voodoo lifted his face to the soft rain. The sensation of phasing left him wordless. He was a part of Kyle. Kyle was a part of him.

Kyle. Gods he loved that name! Kyle was HIS partner. Kyle was more than a partner. Kyle was a part of himself. How precious! How very precious! Voodoo staggered to his feet and Kyle rerouted systems to compensate for the damage.

<<How are you doing that?>> Voodoo asked, exasperated.

<<I don’t know.>> Kyle replied. <<It’s like . . . I’ve done it all my life. Just reflexive.>>

Voodoo searched his systems. <<Where are you?>> He asked. <<In my chest?>>

Energy rushed all through his body. <<I’m here.>> Kyle’s presence echoed throughout Voodoo’s entire body. Kyle wasn’t just located in some small ‘pocket’ in subspace. He was a part of Voodoo’s entire frame, head to boot, hand to hand. Voodoo rubbed his hands together. They were Kyle’s hands too. And those were also Kyle’s legs. What power! What beauty! What a sensation!

"Kyle . . ." Voodoo whispered and he flooded Kyle’s soul with as much love as he could gather from his own being. Kyle almost lost himself in the emotion. This was phasing. This was what it was like to be a part of something more than yourself, greater than your partner-one person inside the other. Two people forming one.

Jet engines reverberated behind and Voodoo turned as Spellbinder and F/X transformed and landed.

"Oh Primus, are you alright?" Spellbinder glanced everywhere. "Where’s Kyle?"

"Here." Voodoo’s voice came small and he patted his chest. His face was blank with speechless awe.

Spellbinder and F/X glanced at one another and F/X approached Voodoo with some caution. "You . . . you phased?"

Voodoo meekly nodded. "But Kyle says he’s got hypoth-em-eeia-hypo-" his lips turned in annoyance. "Don’t give me those words, I’m doing good to speak at all!" He interrupted crossly. "I don’t know! I’m just a Sentinel for cryin’ out loud!"

Spellbinder produced his weapon from subspace. "Let’s get out of here before Seeker reinforcements arrive."

Four days later, Kayla visited Kyle on the balcony overlooking the barren, rocky valley below the residential complex on Alean. He sat in warm clothes, a bowl of imported chicken soup in front of him and voice recorder and box of tissues beside him. The empath took a seat at the table’s front and watched a long moment while her friend sipped a cup of warm tea. He sneeze and caught a tissue.

"Excuse be." He blew his nose and softly moaned.

She smiled. "You handled Voodoo very well, Kyle." She praised.

"Still crashed." He muttered.

"You walked away. That’s very commendable."

He eyed her, appreciating the kind words, but not really in the mood for a compliment. Kyle dipped his spoon into the bowl and dripped the soup several times before deciding to eat a little of it.

Kayla leaned forward, crossing her arms over the table. "What you did was very brave."

Kyle tried to breathe through his nose and plucked another tissue. He blew and tossed it in the can nearby. "I would think there would have been a better timbe and place for sombething like that to happen than at the mombent of attack. That’s not going to happen all the timbe, is it?"

"You mean the phasing? No. You came to the point where your need for your partner outweighed your judgement."

"This won’t happen all the timbe, will it?"

"No. Not always."

Kyle tried to sniff again with no success. He spooned his soup again, staring at his meal, his mind whirling in a million different directions. "I’ve never, ever had an experience anywhere close to it. It was like . . . he was all inside be, Kayla. It was as if love was sombething you could hold and it filled me . . . I felt entire. It went all through my veins. It was soft like silk, but it burned like fire and I . . . I could breathe it and I could sleep in it." He paused, his eyes scanned the rocky cliffs ahead in deep thought. "I will never be the sambe." His voice fell soft.

"No." She tried not to laugh at his cold-affected voice. "That stays with you, Kyle. And you’ll get that same feeling at times when you and Voodoo are in tune with each other."

Kyle smiled lightly though it hurt his dried lips. He felt . . . special.

<<You are.>> Voodoo confirmed from far away and he Touched Kyle again and Kyle closed his eyes a moment. He sighed and resumed eating.

Kayla silently watched Kyle a moment longer. Then her eyes drifted to the great canyon that housed the Sentinel base. Another trader ship zoomed in from space, bearing gifts and tools and food items from other planets.

Everything was going to be okay.


T.L. Arens