The unusual dimension door, reported to Flax by his High Hats, turned out to be as exciting as he sensed. It was located deep within the city, far below the surface streets of Dubh, in a long forgotten, rat infested street which had been walled off long ago. Flax’s surveyors had found it by speculating that the cordoned off area, marked on the Tan maps they possessed, hid something worth their investigation. Such a blank, uninhabited area, usually found at the periphery of the city, had always proved in the past to be evidence of the position of a dimension door. Even though this anomaly was situated well within the boundaries of the city, his men had persevered and been well rewarded.
The High Hats had heard tales of the ’doors opening dating back several year ago. A local inhabitant had told them of its eerie light which occurred, shining through cracks in the wall which hid it, at regular intervals. He had thought it a sign from some divine spirit to go forth and procreate and told them that he would be soon venturing into the city to find a new slave to bear his seventh child since his nearing again. His knew when to the day and hour. He had watched and recorded and waited and never been wrong. Now the High hats felt confident that they had found a stable and predictable portal and Flax had been informed so that he might inspect this one for himself.
When he did inspect it he found that the dimension door was indeed unusual, not only because of its location, but because there were in fact two openings. The larger of the two was approximately the height of three men high and wide and its companion a third of its size.
By the time Flax arrived the exit points and rate of travel through the tunnels of fluctuating light had been established and reports had been compiled for his examination.
Silus Flax’s elation turned to frustration when he arrived at the scene, for the twin doors collapsed shut before his very eyes before he had the opportunity to explore them. His frustration deepened when he was informed, by the local resident, that they would not open fully again for several years and that, although the door had been open for three days, his minions had been reluctant to inform him until they had been sure of this ‘doors’ importance.
The High Hat leader knew that this was the one, he sensed it and the scouts reports of what lay beyond the larger of the portals was highly promising. The civilisation was there and the evidence of the technology he needed too, all he had to do was wait and. Just wait. Soon Flax instructed his organisation to move its headquarters to the location of this gateway to another time and place, his own residence becoming a shrine to the ,door’ and the prized portal to the fulfilment of his dark ambitions.
After much reorganisation and rebuilding of his High Hats headquarters around the door he placed a great throne like seat, in which he sat for hours daily, facing a blank wall where the door would eventually open again. Day after day he sat and stared, waiting for the moment when its re-opening was predicted. For more than six years nothing happened, six long years since his disappointing encounter with Jonathon on the streets of the Lower City.
But Flax had not forgotten Jonathon. There destinies were entwined he knew, his dreams still featured the young boy as the ‘guardian of the gate’ and now, as the time approached when Flax would enter it, the nightly images intensified and he resolved to find the him again and remove the threat Jonathon posed to his ambitions.
One day Flax had returned to his dwelling from a lone expedition to the Lower City and was greeted by a wall which shivered and trembled in and out of existence. As he watched the ‘door’ stabilised and, for a teasing moment, he could see directly into the world beyond the larger of the openings. The exit point opened into a small concreted yard strewn with beer barrels and empty bottles, a scene of secluded dereliction and neglect.
Opposite the exit there was a brick wall blocking any direct view of the world beyond or indeed the portal from the other side. On this occasion it was night and the world beyond the wall lit by a strange orange glow. Voices occasionally called out into an eerie emptiness and the sound of distant, moving engines occasionally punctuated the darkness.
A gust of cold, clean air blew from the strange world Flax observed, sending a shiver up the watcher’s spine. Once again this was only a tantalising glimpse as the portal to his ambitions became quivered briefly and collapsed.
Flax ignored the smaller aperture, his explorers had informed him that it led back into the underworld of the city and was dangerously narrow with other unexplored and unstable branches. He would concentrate his attention on the larger of the two.
At the time of this opening however, Flax knew that this brief glimpse was to be the first of many, the records secured by bribing and torturing of the local witness of the door indicated such openings prior to the usual three day occurrence. The next time, when the gate stabilised again, he would be ready to move. The meticulous records of his High Hats proved to be correct.
As the months, then years, passed by and the appointed time for the door to stabilise approached, the larger of the aperture began to open as a crescent at thirty day intervals, as the smaller one did too, each time growing wider until Flax could accurately predict the width of the breach in time and space and when it would become fully open and traversable.
He began to plan, collect together provisions and equipment for his expedition, a horde of gold, drugs and jewels. He hoped that gold and jewels would have the same value in the world that he had glimpsed as it held in Dubh. There were humans in that new world, he had smelt and heard them, if he had not actually seen them and weren’t all human beings the same?
Drugs would be useful too, if not already in use there Flax could corrupt the mind of any human here, create a reliance on such things as many of his High Hats had, a desire and that would bring him useful allies and dependants.
Flax became excited, soon he thought, soon! But then, just as he felt as high as he had ever done in his life before, the spectre of the ‘guardian of the gate’ arose in his dreams again and again, with a new and frightening intensity.
Now he feared that his nemesis would come to deny him his right, his ambitions. His dreams warned him.
There was only one thing to do.
Flax knew that the boy, now a man and a roof top flyer, lived seemingly out of the reach of the Tans and his High Hats on roofs of the Leper Castle near the banks of the dark, stinking river. He would make every effort, use all the resources at his disposal to ensure that the ‘boy’ died before the `door’ was fully open again.
Despite his growing excitement and fear, Flax remained organized and methodical in his planning, he had his High Hats to reorganise prior to commencing his tasks in this new dimension he would shortly enter.
Soon an extraordinary and highly secret meeting of the most eminent of the High Hats was called to his private hall and he revealed his plans to them. Reorganization was called for in his absence. The Chief of Flax’s assassins, Edgar Morrel, would assume the position of High Hat leader and run all the business enterprises in the city, as well as day to day discipline, in the ranks.
Morrell was ruthlessly efficient and intensely loyal, Flax knew he would accept no compromises in service from the High Hats. He was also handed a list of Tans who knew to much about Flax’s latest venture. They had been useful, but now was a crucial time in his planning; Morrel would ensure their silence.
Flax would take two companions with him to the other dimension. One was Pinky Makepeace, a plump scholar from the forgotten libraries of the Upper City, who would observe the law and custom of the alien world they would enter, advising Flax on how they would remain unnoticed amongst strangers.
He knew that the place they would briefly inhabit would be very different from Dubh and did not intend to draw attention to himself through some innocent activity frowned upon there, he did not need the attention of the rulers of this world for the three days he would have there, at least not yet and not that type of interest. Along with Makepeace he would take a bodyguard and personal assistant, an assassin named Ivor Scoggins, a man Flax admired for his dedicated service in the past. Scoggins would be useful in many ways, as well as an expert in dealing death he was also a masochist, and Flax’s desire to inflict pain might be somewhat restricted in the realm beyond. Young Ivor would make the perfect travelling companion. Flax’s arrangements were nearly complete. There was only one detail left - how to deal with the ‘boy’.
Flax decided to delegate the task of locating Jonathon to another loyal assassin, Amaril Caldecott, a man who had never failed him. As the day of the portals opening approached Amaril was summoned to Flax’s private residence and filled with anticipation.
The small, hunched, sharp featured man was intensely excited, he knew that something big was in the offing, promotions were rife he had heard, perhaps advancement was a prospect for him too. He entered Flax’s hall and approached his master, eyes upon the ground and humbled by his master’s presence. Flax indicated that he sit and he did, but Amaril never dared look at him.
Flax spoke, looking at the flaky, bald patch on the top of Caldecott’s otherwise dreadlocked head.
“There is my Amaril, a young man in this city who threatens our very existence, our future. He lives, I am told, on top of the Castle of Lepers. There are others there too, but I only want him, the others can die, this boy has eluded my pleasure before - I want him here, alive. Look at me Amaril!”
Amaril raised his eyes nervously to Flax. The assassin grinned. Flax’s stared at him and the grin vanished.
“Do you understand me Amaril? Not dead in a sack in pieces. A-L-I-V-E. Do you understand me? ”
Amaril hesitated, this was abduction, not a killing, it was not his usual work and he was slightly confused. Finally he answered.
" Alive..........Alive not dead, not dead. Seek and return.... alive.”
Flax nodded as Amaril scratched the black, hairy mole on the end of his sharp, rodent-like nose. He decided to repeat the order for good measure; Amaril was good as an assassin but a little dim generally.
“Alive Amaril. If he’s dead then I’ll kill YOU and eat you myself or perhaps I’ll not bother with the killing part. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!”
Amaril nodded vigorously.
“Alive. Alive, your mightiness” he squeaked, forgetting how he should properly address Dubh’s future emperor and knowing that Flax’s last statement was a promise, not a mere threat.
The rat of a man began to vocally run over the novel idea of finding someone and returning them alive instead of killing them. He concentrated hard on the idea, staring at Flax’s boots.
“Alive, boy, Leper Castle by the river. ” he sort of chanted. Flax nodded.
“It will be difficult, I know Amaril, the Tans gave up on the roof dwellers years ago. But I know you are a resourceful man and the reward will be great. Complete this mission Amaril and I will not forget you.”
For a moment Silus Flax smiled, but quickly it faded, his intense, bottomless eyes drilling into his faithful servant. Amaril giggled like some manic child, his eyes shining with glee, overcome with excitement.
“Reward will be great. Never forget me.” he slobbered.
For a moment Flax’s felt his confidence in Amaril Caldecott seemed to be in error. He seemed like a complete idiot now, but looks were deceptive Flax reassured himself, he had never failed him before. He laughed with Amaril, who relaxed and bounced up and down like a five year old, on his seat. Abruptly Flax ceased laughing, his cold, iron gaze paralysing Amaril Caldecott.
“Start today imbecile!” he howled. Amaril Caldecott scuttled quickly from Flax’s presence.
Flax sighed and leaned back in his great chair as the doors closed behind Caldecott and studied the dimension door’s increasing width. Just a three days, he thought. The door would be fully open and the ‘boy’ in his hands to become part of his own personal celebrations before the next and crucial stage of his plans. When he had obtained the weapons technology he knew was there beyond this dimension door, he could sweep the Tans out of existence. Then the Tallmen.
The latter might be difficult, he was not entirely sure of what weaponry they possessed. Difficult, but not impossible, after all his High Hats already did business in the Towers, it would not be difficult to ensure the goods he was now supplying to the Tallmen made fighting undesirable or physically impossible.
They might have their great, lean fingers on the key to Dubh’s very existence now, but they would soon give it up to him, one way or another. But first he had to have the power to get to them, and obtaining that would be his immediate task, once the door was fully open.