The projection clock displayed 2:57am when he awoke with a start. He forced himself to stay in bed, not stirring as he concentrated on sounds and possible movement. A nearly inaudible scuffing came from the outer room. First Stanton checked Margaret. She was sleeping soundly. He listened to her breathing for a moment then carefully left the bed.
He had slept in long tee shirt only, but wasn’t concerned about being seen. Whoever was in the apartment would not care. He rolled to the floor, crept to the doorway, and then saw a light dim but bright enough to illuminate areas of storage. Since, neither Margaret or he had anything they’d want to or need to hide, Stanton wondered what the intruder searched for.
He heard a sound like someone was frustrated, and as quietly as possible, moved into the same room. When he stood, he was directly behind the intruder. He shot a quick punch that connected with the base of the man’s skull driving him to his knees. Stanton’s follow-up kick knocked him out.
When he checked, he found Margaret still sleeping. Stanton pulled on his jeans and closed the bedroom door after he left. Then he frisked the intruder, found a laser pistol, a long hunting knife, and several coins with, he saw under the beam of light from his dropped flashlight, profiles of the king.
He placed the coins on the counter top, and kept the laser. Finally Stanton rolled him over and found that he was looking at William the first person he met after leaving the portal that brought him to the ring world. The confusion following his seeing William’ s face was enough that he backed away, donned the remainder of his clothing, and sat on a chair while he waited for William to wake up.
He recalled that William stood a good four, or five inches taller than him. His thick red hair was still tied in a long braid. His pale blue eyes now closed fluttered under their lids. He still needed a shave. His barrel chest of taut muscles, wide shoulders now wore the kingdom’s uniform and boots.
He could not imagine how and more importantly why William found him. Not to mention what he was searching for. He came to slowly, and shook his head as he pushed himself to a seated position.
“Why are you here, William?” He asked.
“She sent me.”
His thoughts stopped, blocking words from escaping. Then he asked, “How did she know where I am? Did she plant some type of tracking device on me?”
William only shrugged. “I am to pass on the message then I will return to where you first met me. I cannot leave those docks unsupervised. Too many of the wrong kind of people come through that way.”
“What is the message?” He leaned forward feeling anxious, discovering his feelings for her were still very strong.
“You cannot stay in this place. Use the portal with the double arches, which can be found at the opposite side of the village from the main gate tower. At the top of the second tier of steps to the left at shoulder height is hand-sized opening. Reach into and when you feel a key shaped stone, pull it and turn it to the right twice and then the left once. Move quickly, and you will hear a rumble and grinding of stones. The boulders in the small archway will rolled to both sides. Escape then.
“There is little time before you and your companion are permanently trapped. The king has control over mind-altering tech and will use it at the time he decides you are ready. This tech will alter your implant and you will become worse than a servant.
“I await your arrival here and bring the child with you.”
He frowned at the last, and started to question William. He held up both hands and shook his head. “I’ve no idea what child she speaks of. Just do as she tells you. I will send you a guide. Now I must leave. The guard whose clothing I borrowed will awaken soon.”
He stood, and left through the front door leaving Stanton with unanswerable questions. He knew what child she meant, but Margaret was not ready to birth it. And if I’m to bring the child does that mean leave Margaret behind? He couldn’t, wouldn’t leave her. And where was here? Perhaps the answers all waited for after they passed through the portal and exited somewhere else on the ring world.