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The Portal of Time, Part III

by Jennifer Loyd

"There is a way back," Andre begins, "at least there could be. But to journey forward through time would be far more dangerous, and I can't predict--"

"It doesn't matter," Kristen interrupts him. "I don't care about the danger, I have to find John. I am not going to live without him!" She races out of the room, leaving Andre no choice but to follow her. But he has seen the toll going back in time has taken on her. Even if she does find John, and even if they do go back, he cannot guarantee what condition she will be in, or if she will even survive the journey....

Marlena is alone in the prison cell. She must escape, but how? Just then she hears men's voices. "She's a pretty one, Madame la Duchesse!" remarks one mockingly, laughing drunkenly. "But an aristocrat nonetheless, and she'll lose her pretty aristocratic head today!" replies another. A third voice joins in, forceful and commanding, one Marlena recognizes immediately: "No! She is not to be sent to the guillotine. I have orders that she is to be released directly into my custody."

Marlena listens, horrified. "Orders? What orders?" one of them asks, and she hears a rustling of papers. The guillotine? She can't believe what she's hearing, it's like a nightmare, unreal.

"The papers seem to be in order..." "Wait! It's signed by Dumouriez!" "Dumouriez? The traitor!" "Arrest him, he's a spy, a counter-revolutionary!" A dreadful commotion ensues and Marlena scarcely dares to breathe, not even knowing what outcome to hope for. If Stefano rescues her, she will be his prisoner forever. But if he fails, they will both go to the guillotine. The cell door is finally opened and "La Duchesse d'Évannes" is roughly pulled out by one of the guards. Stefano is being held against the wall, his hands tied behind his back, his shirt torn, the point of a bayonet at his chest....

Meanwhile, at a nearby café, a man and a woman are speaking in hushed tones in the back room. They dare not raise their voices, for if what they are discussing were to be overheard it could spell death for them both.

"We cannot let them kill her," whispers Mme Méchante to her brother, Josué Laurent. "She is a good and kind woman and she does not deserve to die at the hands of these monsters."

"And she will not die," Josué replies. "Do you think that I have forgotten all that Mme la Duchesse has done for all of us? She is the most generous, most selfless woman I have ever known, and for her to be condemned to death just because she is a noblewoman is an outrage."

At that moment their friends Abi and Marguérite Mai come hurrying over to join them. "We must act sooner than we had anticipated," Marguérite announces, breathless. "They have taken her from Vincennes and plan to execute her today!"

"Mon Dieu!" exclaims Josué as he and Mme Méchante rise abruptly from the table.

"There is still time," Abi reassures them, "but we must go now--if we do not save her she will die!"

"We shall never let that happen!" declares Mme Méchante as the four of them embark on their perilous mission....

Elsewhere, John and Mimi have spent the night combing the streets of Paris looking for any trace of Marlena and Stefano. They have tried asking people, but the atmosphere of suspicion and fear weighs heavily upon the city and no one will answer their questions. Now that it is daylight perhaps they will be able to learn something. It shouldn't be that hard to find two people from another time, they can't just disappear. Although, one of them is Stefano.

They are walking past a door which suddenly opens as a woman comes rushing out with a man following close behind. John turns to the woman who has nearly run into him and steps back in shock. "Kristen?" he asks in disbelief.

"John? John, you're here!" she exclaims, throwing her arms around him. Mimi is equally surprised to see Andre there, and the four relate the events that led them to this point.

"Now, we just have to find Doc," John concludes.

"And Stefano," Mimi adds.

"How are we going to get back?" Kristen asks, turning to Andre. "You said there's a way back, how?"

"There is a way," he confirms. "But we don't have the equipment we need to reopen the portal and reverse the process."

"I think I know someone who can help us," Mimi offers. "For once, our timing couldn't be better."

"Who?" Kristen asks.

"Antoine Lavoisier, the most renowned chemist of his time--of this time," Mimi answers. "He should have his laboratory around here somewhere, if he hasn't been executed yet... Do we even know what year this is?"

"That's right!" Andre exclaims. "If we can use his laboratory we just might be able to reopen the portal... But how are we ever going to explain this to him?"

"First we have to find Doc," John reminds them, scrutinizing the crowds of passers-by. "Something must be going on," he observes, "these people are all headed in the same direction."

"Maybe we should follow them," suggests Mimi, feeling suddenly unsettled. "It would be easy for Stefano to hide in a crowd."

"If he hasn't taken her out of the country by now," John objects.

"He can't take her out of the country, France is at war with every monarchy in Europe! They'd be killed!" Mimi exclaims.

"They may be killed even if they don't try to leave the country, look!" John yells, pointing ahead as they all stare in horror. The mid-afternoon sun is gleaming off the freshly-cleaned blade of the guillotine. Crowds of onlookers have gathered around, awaiting the imminent executions. The sound of horses' hooves and tumbril wheels signals the first batch of prisoners, and the last spectators rush so as not to miss the afternoon's entertainment.

Kristen turns away from the gruesome spectacle. "Let's get out of here," she suggests, visibly disturbed. But John is still searching the throngs; it is Andre who takes her hand in an instinctively protective gesture and Kristen does not pull away.

"I can't leave, Doc could be here somewhere," John insists, desperately searching the crowd.

"Andre, why don't you and Kristen go and find Lavoisier," suggests Mimi. "John and I will find Stefano and Marlena... if they're here, we'll find them."

"No!" Kristen objects. "John, I'm not leaving you here."

"Kristen, you have to, there's no time!" John insists. "If Doc is here we have to get her out and back to our own time as soon as possible."

"It's the only way, Kristen," Mimi agrees.

"Well why don't you go yourself Mimi?" Kristen retorts.

"Listen to me, Kristen!" John demands, taking her by the shoulders. "There isn't time to argue about this. If you ever loved me, you'll do as I say. Go with Andre, find Lavoisier, find out how to go back to the present. We'll all meet back where we met today, rue de la Victoire."

"John, I love you," Kristen cries, embracing him one last time before leaving with Andre to find the one man who can make their return trip possible, if they can persuade him to assist them.

We're witnessing history in the making, Mimi thinks, overcome by a strange sense of unreality as they see the executioner, the guards, the soldiers, all prepared for the fateful ceremony. The tumbril bearing the prisoners has just arrived, and the drumrolls begin. The first victim, a woman, is yanked out. She stumbles and falls against the guard, turning her face to the crowd, a face John and Mimi instantly recognize as John's agonized scream seems to drown out the roar of the mob....


Part IV

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Since Jan. 2, 1998,

people have entered the Portal of Time!