A/N: Hi guys! Thanks for the comments. Tell your friends (hahahahah). Once again, con crit is very accepted (and yes, I know what constitutes con crit and what constitutes praise.) This chapter is sort of a bridge into Tiarad-I promise they'll be there in the next chapter! I'll try, anyway. Thanks for reading!-Sutori

RECOGNIZANCE

"Of course I can see you," Guy looked at the man strangely. "Are you feeling all right?"

The man didn't answer, for he was enthralled by the rest of the members of the study group. "And you! All of you can see me too?"

"Ye-yes?" Aileen asked nervously.

The man smiled. "Come with me, please! All of you! You are the ones we need!"

"Is it just my imagination, or has this turned into a bad fantasy novel?" Guy mumbled.

"Hold on a second!" Qing Yuan protested. "We don't know you! We're not coming! There's absolutely no way."

Tobias looked around nervously. He had no clue what was going on, and apparently, neither did the rest of the group. Ali seemed oblivious-maybe she couldn't see him. Not like it was a great sight, anyway. The man had obviously been sick, hungry, and probably wandering the streets for days. Even though he wasn't a psychology person, he had the feeling that this guy had some kind of mental problem.

"Hey-Aileen!" he hissed. "D'ya think something's wrong with him?"

Before Aileen could reply, a deeper voice spoke.

"No, Tobias. There is nothing wrong with him. But I question his judgment."

The group turned around, and saw that amazingly, it was Professor Marsek. "Rakos!" the beggar gave a toothless smile. "How're ya doing?"

"I told you not to breach the portal! And I am Crispin here, Sivak." He sighed and looked at the nervous students in front of him. "I told you to let me make the first connection."

Sivak shrugged. "Sorry! But I'm bringing a message. And this one," he pointed to Guy, "started to talk to me as if I was a common beggar."

"But you-" Guy started before Tobias clapped a hand over his mouth.

Crispin nodded. "What is it?"

"It is from the Keluach Garian. Here." Sivak extended a bony, greasy hand with a wrinked note towards the professor. He gingerly took it and read its contents. Qing Yuan assumed it was a short message, because within a few seconds, he had put it into his shirt pocket.

"I see. That's still no reason for you to be skulking around here." Crispin said.

Sivak bowed. "Forgive me, sir! The next Passing will be in two hours." Without another word, he scuttled off.

Crispin watched him leave, and then pointed to Aileen, Tobias, Qing Yuan, and Guy. "You four, please come with me."

"What about me?" Ali protested.

"Leave now. Do not talk about what happened here. If you do.I shall make sure you do not pass your biology exam."

With that threat, Ali turned on her heel and stomped off. The rest obediently followed Crispin to the on-campus faculty housing. A majority of the single professors lived here, for the apartments were rather nice, if small. The only one who seemed to know what to expect was Qing Yuan, who had spent many an hour over red wine with Crispin, discussing some project or another.

When the door opened, Aileen was in shock. The living room didn't look like a sterile hospital room. In fact, it looked like an actual domicile. While the walls and carpet were the same as in the dorms, white and cream, there were interesting artifacts that she couldn't quite place that decorated the corners of the room, and good editions of modern art on the walls. The whole room had a very cozy effect to it, and the group nervously sat on the white leather sofa after Crispin motioned to it. When he disappeared for a moment, the group sat in total silence, unsure of what was going on. The smell of coffee permeated the air. Aileen was pretty sure it was going to be a long night.

Crispin soon returned with several mugs and the coffee and set them down on the glass coffee table. The next few minutes were devoted to fixing the coffee, and when everyone had finished, he spoke.

"You're all very confused. That's understandable. I'm going to start at the beginning, and when I am finished, you will be able to ask questions. Is that clear?" he asked. Everyone nodded.

"For years, I have been studying scientific principles and theories. When I was in grad school-like you, Qing Yuan-I was running tests on certain bacteria when I noticed odd properties. I ran them through our database, and nothing turned up. I thought I had discovered a new species and make scientific history. When I showed this to my professor, he was understandably concerned, but told me that it wasn't a scientific breakthrough. He had brought the bacteria himself, from his travels into another civilization. When I asked which one, he told me that it was from a parallel world, called Tiarad."