His grasping fingers reached to the middle of their breakfast table. Malone tore off a large
piece of warm bread, fresh from the oven, then got down to the serious business of eating the rest of his morning meal. "Doesn't
it concern anyone but me that we have a strange woman, who appeared out of no where, now sleeping in Roxton's bedroom?" he
asked, in a tone practically dripping with sarcasm. "I mean, Lord John seems to think she's some kind of dream come true and
the rest of us are just sitting here, accepting this Marguerite Krux at face value."
"We're all leery, Ned." Veronica,
sitting beside the skeptical journalist, smiled mildly. She gently placed a hand on his arm. "But, our guest has only been
here for five hours and has been unconscious for about four hours and fifty five minutes since her arrival. I'm sure she'll
wake up shortly and the reason she's here will be ... interesting."
"It is worrisome." Arthur Summerlee spoke quietly
from the opposite end of the table, looking at the young man and woman over his spectacles, and was forced to agree with Malone.
"It's a very bizarre situation, indeed." He sipped his tea and thoughtfully ran a thumb around the lip of the delicate china
cup's matching saucer. Last night their visitor had unnerved the professor more than he was willing to admit. Why, after having
heard his voice, did Miss Krux display such astonishment? She appeared to know him from somewhere; actually she seemed to
know *all* of them. He shrugged, attempting to dismiss where his over active imagination was taking him. "However, she does
"*Appears*." Veronica stressed, her focus darting from Summerlee to Challenger. "I know the plateau
has shown us some strange and remarkable things these past few years but this is the first time it's literally hand delivered
an uninvited guest right smack in the middle of my home."
Malone acquiesced to his companion and also awaited words
of wisdom from the elder members of their jungle household.
Chewing absently on a strip of wild-boar bacon, a previously
silent and meditative Challenger pushed his plate away and stood. "Whoever she is I think we would do well by not treating
her like an intruder." he encouraged, "Once Miss Krux awakens we will acquire more information about the woman and the portal
she traveled through. I'm certainly looking forward to what she has to say!" Realizing the others were staring at him, possibly
unsettled by his rash forward thinking enthusiasm, Challenger pulled his zeal down a few pegs. "Still, you can't be too careful.
It's good that Roxton is keeping an eye on her."
Veronica, watching an eager Challenger move away from the table to
trot down the stairs into his precious laboratory, allowed a nearly ironic chuckle, "I don't think Roxton's taken his eyes
*off* the woman since her arrival."
"And that's peculiar too." Malone commented quietly to his companions, leaning
back into his chair. "Roxton's been around beautiful women before and he's never allowed any of them get to him." Ned paused
then reassessed, "Well, not much anyway." He took in their diverted smiles and continued, "But even before he saw this Marguerite
Krux in the flesh Roxton was acting like a man possessed. I'm worried about him and her influence over him. Remember what
happened with Danielle, the Voo Doo Queen? If we hadn't rescued him in time who knows what she might have did. As it was,
Roxton wasn't too pleased with out interference."
"I know. Despite what she did to him, to all of us, it took weeks
for him to get over her death. I never really understood it. She was evil." Veronica picked at the buttered toast on her plate.
nodded but, through the wisdom of age, had picked up on something the young reporter and lovely jungle native had missed,
"Lord Roxton puts up a good facade, my friends, but he's an injured man. Emotionally, he needs someone to fill a void inside
of him. Perhaps this mysterious young woman has all the answers he's been seeking."
"And maybe," Malone added, "some
evil force in the jungle is aware of Roxton's current mental state and brought her conveniently to him?"
"It wouldn't be the first time." Veronica considered, "Maybe some entity feeding on the emotional wounds from
one of us?"
Without thinking, Malone reached down to scratch the lower part of his right leg, the area which was a
wooden substitute, not flesh and bone. Realizing his mistake, Ned commented: "We *all* have our scars, Veronica." and glanced
briefly at the jungle beauty who, suddenly wounded, looked away from him. "But still," Malone persisted, trying to ignore
Veronica's reaction, "a he-man like Roxton losing his bearings over a mere woman? It just doesn't seem right."
amused, Summerlee lifted a crisp, red apple out of the bowl resting next to his left elbow. He stared at the fruit for a moment,
thinking of something he was told when still a young boy. Before taking a bite, Professor Summerlee made his position clear:
"No *mere* woman, my boy. A very *special* woman, I'd say."
"Take it easy. Don't move too quickly." Roxton
helped her sit up on the bed and spoke quietly. "You've been through some ordeal."
Marguerite gulped and groggily licked
her lips. "I feel like I've been pummeled over and over again by a horde of troglodytes." She commented dryly, placing both
of her hands to the side of her aching head. "The dream I was having ..." Marguerite then squinted, the light radiating from
Roxton's bedroom window hurting her eyes. Attempting to get her bearings she looked about the room, feeling an air of familiarity
but also loss. "Did I sleep long?"
"Several hours. You *did* go through a lot to get here. It's understandable." His
tone barely hid admiration. That she was beautiful he already knew but her voice was like that of an angel. She was slender
and graceful as well. His dreams ... All those times he had seen her … had imagined what it would be like if she was
real …. to touch her .
Marguerite gazed at Roxton, taking him in, noting the unsure but familiar half smile and
also aware of previously unseen lines of suffering around his eyes. Or perhaps it was just fatigue. It would not surprise
her to learn he had stayed awake, watching over her, unable to sleep until he was certain she was well. What had happened
to her anyway? The last thing she remembered was him calling to her in the temple. It wasn't until Marguerite noted, once
again, that the man was in desperate need of a haircut that she remembered where she was and how she got there.
my God." Marguerite whispered and her eyes widened as they flitted about anew to look over Roxton's quarters. "Where am I?"
she asked and sincerely meant it. "How did I ...?" Marguerite swung her legs off the bed and nearly stood when she was struck
with yet another attack of vertigo.
"It's okay." Roxton eased her down and sat next to her on the bed. As the woman
leaned forward, he softly patted her back, unable to resist touching her tempting hair in the process.
As the nausea
ebbed and despite the care and warmth of his fingers, Marguerite moved away from him on the bed. "Please don't touch me."
she insisted, "You're not him. You could never be him."
Confused, Roxton's hand dropped away. "Who? Who do you think
"You're pretending to be John Roxton." She looked him up and down for a moment, as if appraising, then glanced
down at her own hands, "NOT a very good likeness, I might add." she stated but did not appear entirely convinced.
blinked, "I am John Roxton.” he said, “But how did you .?"
"No, you're some figment of my imagination."
Marguerite fumed, frustrated by yet another trick played on her by this accursed plateau, "You're a tease or a punishment;
something to make me regret all past wrongs here on the plateau. Because it's my fault - *everything is always my fault*.
And no matter what I do my past is always there to haunt me. I keep hoping that one day I'll be redeemed or forgiven and just
when it seemed like it might happen . when some of my friends say they trust me . when I can sincerely hope for the briefest
moment of true contentment here ..." She trailed off and, closing her eyes, bit her lower lip, preventing herself from saying
"Look," Roxton cleared his throat and stood. Attempting sympathy, he looking down at the enigmatic, moody woman.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Honestly." Roxton waited for her to look up at him. "But I do know what you mean
when you speak of happiness. I haven't had a completely happy day since I was ..." he dangled, and looked away from her. "Let's
just say it's been a long time."
Marguerite hesitated and stared at him long and hard. If she didn't know better ...
Again, feeling a combination of relief and panic, she licked her dry lips. She would know that grim expression anywhere. God
help her. Her keen sense of self preservation might have left her completely but she *did* trust him. "You haven't been the
same since William was killed?"
Shaken, the look Roxton gave her was piercing. "No one knows ... Tell me, do you collect
old newspapers?" he asked in a gruff voice. Acknowledging the woman's uncomprehending expression Roxton asked, "Who are you?"
looked down at her hands and shook her head in a bemused fashion. "Someone, I think, who was in the wrong place at the wrong
By afternoon tea she was sitting at the common room table with the rest of the treehouse inhabitance,
exchanging information and coming to grips with what must have happened.
Marguerite found herself a bit heartsick
that certain touches to the treehouse, things she had added to both beautify and make the place worth living in, were nowhere
in sight. Before making her appearance in front of the others, Marguerite had Roxton escort her to what was once her own quarters.
It was nothing more than a storage room now, occupied with what Marguerite could only guess was Challengers scientific "junk".
Gone were her scarves and the mosquito netting above her bed. Gone was her bed and the bamboo lamp table where she kept her
treasured jewlry box. If she wasn't so irritated by the whole matter she would have cried.
"You say in your world you
were a part of The Challenger Expedition?" Summerlee attempted to bring the matter down to one common denominator. He placed
a plate of warm cocoanut cookies in front of their guest. "You funded the mission?"
"Yes," Marguerite repeated, as
she had twice before. Oddly, she didn't feel offended by the grilling, particularly coming from dear Summerlee, with whom
she was delighted and saddened to see. Delighted because in this world, an existence where Marguerite Krux had not come to
the plateau, he had survived the attack by Dracul's warriors. However, Marguerite was also saddened because she now realized
something that had never occurred to her before. In her own world, if she hadn't been wounded, if her injury hadn't forced
Veronica to help her over the bridge first, the blond jungle native and Summerlee would have went off together before any
of the others. He never would have been pierced by that arrow and taken a dive over the great falls.
again turned shyly away from the professor.
Summerlee noted how uncomfortable Miss Krux suddenly appeared in his presence
and made a mental note to ask her about it later.
Malone stared at the woman from across the table. Grim-faced, he
accessed Marguerite's explanation. "You were in that temple and a strange set of circumstances occurred to bring you here?"
he asked her once again.
Marguerite gazed at the journalist and narrowed her eyes. There was something strange about
this Ned Malone. He was the same yet unaccountably bitter and suspicious. She saw little idealism in him but the accusation
in his tone, even when he wasn't critical, left her wary. "I don't understand it any better than you do, Malone. All I know
is one moment I was in that temple with Roxton, looking for," she paused, "*artifacts* then I was here."
Summerlee enthused, "I have heard of something like this before. Challenger can explain it better than I but it sounds like
the Parallel Universe theory."
"Parallel Universe? I'm not sure I'm familiar with …" Marguerite began but was
"And you say you know each one of us from where you come from?" Veronica asked, cautious but interested.
She was closest to Marguerite and leaned forward a little to whisper, "In your world did I . did I ever find ...?"
your parents?" Marguerite asked and almost wished she hadn't when she saw the hope in Veronica's wide, clear eyes. What could
she tell her? That her mother is Protector of the Plateau and her father is dead? In this world was it even true? "No, not
yet." Marguerite blinked at the deception, "Our Veronica's still searching as well. But we expect any day now to find where
they are and what's been happening with them after all these years."
Veronica nodded and averted her gaze, a little
Marguerite's eyes rose to search for an anchor and she saw him. Roxton stood in the background, leaning
against a support beam near their small fireplace, taking in the conversation but not truly participating other than to toss
out the occasional comment. She wasn't certain if that was a good or bad thing. He did, however, smile when he saw that she
was looking for him. Despite fighting against it, a connection had been made between her and this Roxton. It was almost as
powerful as the bond between Marguerite and the man left behind in her own world. 'And why shouldn't it be?' her thoughts
did battle, “They are, after all, the same man. In a sense .'
"I have a theory that may explain you." Challenger
announced as he entered the common room from his laboratory. He focused directly on Marguerite, obviously unaware of the eye
contact between she and Roxton. "In our world, here on the plateau, we have a shifting series of anomalies. It's the cause
of so much of the phenomenon we experienced in this lost world."
"Shifting plains of reality." Marguerite said and
noted Challenger's visible regret when he realized he need not explain the phenomenon further to her. "Are you suggesting,
Challenger, that I'm not really here? That I'll go back to my world unexpectedly, without a moment's noticed; whenever the
powers of the plateau see fit to take me back there?"
"Not quite." Challenger said, "I believe you will be able to
leave the plateau, to go back to your own world, but you must return to the location of that temple for it to happen. That
is where your energised focal point is. Whatever mystical force it was that brought you here still exists in your world and
is waiting for you ."
"I'm ready." Marguerite quickly stood, "Let's go."
"Not so fast, Miss Krux." Challenger
tempered, "The electrical charge or energy that brought you to us doesn't not yet exist here. Or, at least, we've never found
anything like it. As a matter of fact, the temple you spoke of is also unfamiliar. If that place exists here then its power
must be dormant. We will have to manufacture the power from our end to send you back."
"The windmill." Marguerite caught
on and smiled, "You can somehow channel it with the windmill like you do for the current to electric fence?"
yes." Summerlee cleared his throat, "But we have been having problems with that process lately."
"The electric fence
has been down for over a week." Veronica said.
"Why? What's wrong?"
"Materials have not been easy to come by
here and what we've been able to produce does not last long. If I could just get my hands on a piece of non conductive material
that will last for more than a few days ..."
"What you're saying is you need silk or satin?" Marguerite asked, remembering
a conversation she and Challenger had a long time ago, when they first arrived on the plateau.
"Silk would be ideal
but as I've said ..."
"I'm wearing silk under drawers." Marguerite thought seriously about it for a moment, "Actually,
I think it's blend of some kind but it should work."
"Really?" Challenger said, nearly deadpan.
There was silence for about the count of six then a small explosion of laughter came from each of the explorers,
including the normally sour-faced Malone.
Here's the deal." Marguerite said, leaning forward and attempting to ignore
the giggles. She placed both hands on the table top, "You can have my underwear, do whatever it is you need to do to get the
electricity sizzling, then send me home. Meanwhile, you have silk and can continue experiments for years to come. Not to mention
also keeping the treehouse protected. How does that sound?"
"Miss Krux," Challenger reached forward and took her hand
in a hardy shake, "I believe we have a deal."
Approval, some more guarded than others, came from about the table. The
only unsmiling face was that of John Roxton who stood, still in the background, and did not appear overwhelmingly pleased.
was cruel. How could he send her to him, the one woman who might free him from debilitating emotional pain, only to take her
away again so quickly? Slowly, he walked away from the others to the balcony and looked thoughtfully out into the jungle.
He could hear her laughter, a soft rumble over something Summerlee imparted, and it gripped Roxton's heart. He glanced to
his right and gazed at Summerlee's easel. The painting of Marguerite remained; seeming to mock him, and Roxton wished he had
never let himself hope for a respite.
Roxton jumped when he realized she was standing next to him. He
had been so lost in his daydreams and misery he hadn't heard her.
"Don't you want to come and join the party?" Marguerite
asked, a smile in her tone. She had seen him move away and could almost guess what the problem might be. If he was anything
like her Roxton he was having misgivings about what needed to be done the following day. They were going to have to move the
windmill to get Marguerite where she was going and it wasn't going to be easy, especially if the T-Rex's were hungry and on
"Maybe in a little while." Roxton answered, "How long before you leave?"
"Challenger says it will
take a couple days to get it all sorted out." Marguerite replied. "Something to do with trajectory and beams of light and
Roxton looked down at her and gave a short laugh. 'Two days.' he thought and was unexpectedly inspired. They
had her company for at least a couple of days and a lot could happen in that amount of time. For all they knew, Challenger's
theory was wrong. As brilliant as the professor was, mistakes had been made. He had two days to talk with Marguerite, to understand
her and possibly even woo her. 'Two days.' Roxton mused again. In that amount of time perhaps he might even convince Miss
Krux that she belong here with him, was *needed* here far more than where it was she originally came from.
it's still early. Would you like to go hunting with me today?" he asked, looking down at her with a bemused smile.
." Marguerite looked on the verge of saying "no" for a moment but then, reconsidering, she replied: "Sure."
Malone stared at the couple as they stood on the balcony together. She was a charmer alright but he just did not trust this
woman. Her story was ludicrous but he was the only one here that seemed to realize this fact. Challenger's scientific curiosity
obscured his reasoning but what was everyone else's excuse? Summerlee treated the newcomer like a long lost granddaughter,
even suspicious Veronica acted like she was a big sister with all the answers and Roxton … Well, he obviously was not
thinking with his *mind*, that was for sure.
Clenching his teeth, Malone decided he was going to watch Marguerite Krux
very closely. She was not at all what she appeared to be. He was certain of it.