Threshold

Lord Marcus stood before the reinforced glass that looked down over the main floor of Project Gateway, his hands clasped behind his back, his dark eyes scrutinizing the frantic activity going on below him. Men and women in lab coats were scurrying about the dozens of pieces of equipment, each of which was tied into the operation of the large circular device in the center of the chamber.

The Gateway Portal.

The theories behind the portal had been proven nearly a decade ago when, quite by accident, Doctor Eleanor Hasian had created an artificial passageway from this world to another. The Doctor had, unfortunately, been killed in the creation of the passageway, but her notes and data had been spared, and once Lord Marcus had realized what she had accomplished he had made Project Gateway the top priority of his Research Division.

Project Gateway was the last hope for their dieing world.

"We're ready, My Lord," came the voice of Doctor Avtar, the head of Project Gateway.

"Proceed, Doctor," directed Lord Marcus.

"Beginning acquisition of target twenty-one," reported Doctor Avtar, initiating the start-up cycle.

Data streams were superimposed over the glass of the observation room, showing Lord Marcus every detail of the progress of the survey mission being run. Figures were calculated, co-ordinates locked in, and energy funneled into the golden ring that was the Gateway Device.

A maelstrom of purple energy swirled about Gateway in a spherical pattern, cascading and shimmering in a pyrotechnic display of incredible force. With a thunderous roar that shook the foundation of the building, the sphere collapsed to form a pool that rippled within the confines of the Gateway Device, swirling about like liquid energy.

Touching various sensory controls built within the glass, Lord Marcus magnified the image of the Gateway Device, the window now showing only the tumulus pool of energy. The purple, which seemed a solid color from a distance, was actually quite translucent when viewed up close, and through it could be seen another world.

Bustling streets, towering buildings, speeding vehicles, and thousands of other sights could be seen through Gateway. People abounded on the alien world, moving about in thick throngs the likes of which Lord Marcus had not seen in ages.

The portal seemed to arrive between two large buildings, but it gave view to an expansive thorough way filled with vehicles. The streets and buildings were lit up with a myriad of colors; the garish lights pushing back the darkness that tried to embrace the city, the vision very similar to how their world had once been.

"Sir!" cried out Doctor Avtar. "A thriving world!"

"So it is, Doctor," acknowledged Lord Marcus, smiling. "Tell me, can they see the Gateway from their side?"

"I don't believe so, My Lord," theorized Avtar. "They're not reacting at all to its existence. I would guess that it is either beyond their range of sensory ability or that perhaps it would even be invisible to us if we were on the other side of it."

"How long can we maintain this window?"

"Approximately four hours, My Lord. After that, the system requires a recycling period of ten hours to build up a sufficient charge to re-establish a portal to the other world."

Doctor Avtar patiently waited for further direction from Lord Marcus, unsure of what the next step would be. Lord Marcus had pushed them for finding another world, one that held life, but he had not entrusted them with what he had planned after that world had been found.

The main entrance door to the testing chamber hissed open and four persons dressed in casual attire entered, their very essence indicating that they were anything but ordinary.

Red Guard thought Avtar, growing nervous.

The Red Guard were the elite agents of Lord Marcus' forces. Defense, assassination, espionage, counter-espionage, infiltration, and any other form of covert operations known were the traits of the Red Guard. They were shadows within the darkness, and they had often been considered mere legend.

Those that were employed by Lord Marcus knew different.

"Time left?" asked one of the four, the apparent leader of the group.

The man was a head taller than the Doctor, with jet-black hair that was tied back into a tail that hung half way down his back, and dark green eyes that had a hard edge to them.

"Three hours, forty-seven minutes," began Doctor Avtar, monitoring the countdown display. "Mark."

The four members of the Red Guard each activated a wrist worn unit, establishing how much time they had left until the portal shut down.

"Lectar?" called Lord Marcus' voice from above. "I want two specimens retrieved. Male and female. And be subtle about it. I see no need to alert this world to our existence. Yet."

The tall man nodded and then led his group into the portal, the pool of energy rippling as they passed through it, stepping from their world to the other as the scientists and Lord Marcus watched in fascination.

"My Lord, if I may?" broached Doctor Avtar, nervously.

"Yes."

"I would suggest, for the safety of your people, that we observe this world for a while."

"There are less than a thousand of us left alive, Doctor. More of us die every day. We foolishly squandered our resources; we eradicated the very source of our sustenance. We do not have time to waste studying this other world."

Doctor Avtar lowered his head in shame.

"If these people truly offer the salvation that we seek, then I intend to find out as quickly as possible."

"You are quite right, My Lord," offered Avtar.

"Fret not, Doctor. Your concern for our people is admirable, just misplaced. We must think of the good of the whole."

"Yes, My Lord."

The chamber grew quite, filled only with the hum of the equipment that powered Gateway, and everyone waited anxiously for the return of the Red Guard team.

Hours drained away into minutes, and Doctor Avtar began to grow nervous that perhaps they would have to wait until a second window was opened before the Red Guard would return. His fears were cast aside as, with less than ten minutes of time left, the Red Guard finally returned, carrying the unconscious forms of two people from the alien world.

"Very good, Lectar," commended Lord Marcus. "Take them to the audience room, I will interview them in private."

Lectar nodded in confirmation before directing his team to carry out their Lord's instructions.

Watching them exit the testing chamber, Doctor Avtar offered a silent prayer that they had indeed found the very thing that their world needed to survive.

* * * * *

Mike awoke with a groan, a stiffness to his body that hinted at the beating he had taken, and he wondered briefly how long he had been unconscious. Confusion doused his mind as his eyes fluttered open to reveal that he was no longer in Central Park, but in some large room constructed of stone.

Lisa! he abruptly thought, hearing a soft moan from beside him.

Rolling over, Mike saw his girlfriend lying next to him, just beginning to wake up herself. Groggily, he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, and he scampered over to her, patting her cheek to help snap her out of it.

"I was beginning to wonder if perhaps my men had been too rough with you," came a voice from deeper in the room.

As he helped Lisa sit up, Mike cast a glance at the far end of the room, startled to see a man lounging in an oversized chair that could only be described as a throne.

"Where the hell are we?" demanded Mike, his voice weak and not threatening in the least.

"And the female, she is well?" asked the man, positioning himself so that he sat leaning forward, completely focused on the two.

"No thanks to those goons that jumped us," growled Mike.

A smile played at the corner of Lord Marcus' face, and he rose from his chair, seeming not to walk towards the too so much as to float towards them.

"What are you?" asked Mike.

Lisa let out a small gasp as she twisted about, her eyes widening as she saw Lord Marcus approach them.

"Someone that needs you," answered Lord Marcus, halting before them and offering each of them a hand. "Please?"

Mike and Lisa allowed Lord Marcus to help them stand, the two looking at him with a hint of fear in their eyes.

"Allow me tell you a story," started Lord Marcus, slowly walking about the room, his hand occasionally brushing one of the many tapestries that hung on the walls. "A story of my world."

"Your world?" wondered Lisa.

"For centuries we groveled to the sorcerers of our world to supply us with our sustenance, our means of survival. But it was not enough that we were dependant on them. They wanted far more than our dependence. They wanted our very souls."

"Sorcerers? What the hell are you talking about?" demanded Mike.

"Silence," commanded Lord Marcus, making a motion with his hand.

Mike tried to protest but he found that he could not talk. It was if an invisible hand was clamped tightly over his mouth.

"What did you do to him?" cried Lisa, her voice filled with the same panic that was evident in Mike's eyes.

"The same thing that I shall do to you if you are not quiet," threatened Lord Marcus.

Mike pulled Lisa close to him, his eyes pleading with her to be silent, and he held her trembling form as Lord Marcus continued.

"As science quickly caught up with the power of the sorcerers, there were those of us that began to sow the seeds of discontent. The uprising was short and bloody, and when it was over we realized that we had over extended our confidence.

"Once more we turned to science, hoping for it to find a way to replace that which we lost with the death of our sorcerers. Now, as our world teeters at the threshold of extinction, we believe we have found that salvation on your world."

"Are you saying that we're not on Earth?" asked Lisa, her voice quivering with disbelief.

"Earth? That is what you call your world? Hmm, dirt. It is very simplistic."

Lord Marcus chuckled as he saw Mike struggling to try and talk, and a motion of his hand removed the invisible gag from the human's mouth.

Hesitantly, Mike said "I don't know what our world has that could help you, but I'm sure that if you went to our world, that if you talked to our leaders, that they'd help."

The laugh that rolled from Lord Marcus rumbled with an energy of its own, seeming to reverberate through the chamber, growing deeper with each wave.

Mike and Lisa looked at each other, mystified over the man's reaction, their fear growing stronger.

"We could never be so direct," Lord Marcus was finally able to say. "There is only one way to find out if you are truly the answer to our salvation."

"And what is that?" asked Mike.

* * * * *

Doctor Avtar nervously knocked on the door to Lord Marcus' audience chamber, quickly entering after permission was given. Stopping abruptly, Doctor Avtar gaped at the two bodies lying sprawled out on the floor, their throats savagely torn open, their eyes staring lifelessly from faces that were masks of terror.

Lord Marcus was sitting on his throne, one leg draped over the armrest, his physical appearance glowing more healthily than it had in a very long time.

"They are compatible?" asked Doctor Avtar, though the answer was quite obvious.

Lord Marcus licked the last traces of blood from his lips, his tongue brushing against the tip of his lengthened incisor, and he nodded in confirmation at the Doctor.

"It has been so long, My Lord," cried Doctor Avtar, clasping his hands to together.

"The Gateway is cycling for its next use?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Very good, Doctor," complimented Lord Marcus, rising. "You, and your team, will be rewarded for your accomplishment."

"Your happiness is all the reward we seek, My Lord," gushed the Doctor, falling to one knee as Lord Marcus approached him.

"I was thinking more of letting you feed from the first group that we retrieve from the next window."

Doctor Avtar looked up to Lord Marcus, smiling hungrily, his fangs glistening with saliva generated in expectation as to the meal he would soon have.

END