"Ew!" Arabella said, grabbing hold of the crococdile. "It's all covered in slippy mucus!"
"Partly water, partly protective gel," he answered. "A necessary adaptation it needs to cope with its environment. You can see what that place did to my clothes. I was wearing dark blue clothes when I became trapped in that dimension. The mucus won't harm you and I can't push it back by myself. We don't have much time to get this crocodile back where it belongs. It can't survive for long in our enviroment. there's nothing it can eat...make that nothing it can digest. It would certainly have eaten you if it could."
Bit by bit they forced the limp crocodile up over the ledge and out the door.
"It's a magnificent animal," Arabelle said. "I'm glad it's going back into the wild where it belongs."
"I'm just glad it didn't eat you," he responded. "I'm also happy that I am out of that dimension. Crocodiles aren't the only menace out there. I've seen worse places but it was pretty uncomfortable."
The portal shut and Arabelle turned in dismay to the man. She didn't know how to open the door to the correct dimension. He was trapped here. She looked at him and stopped dead. This was her first really good look at him and he was gorgeous!
He was looking at her intently and Arabelle felt a blush betray her. "I'm Arabelle Viksne," she managed.
He twitched a smile. "Daire of Rejasky," he responded. "Could I trouble you for some food? I was trapped in that dimension. My supplies ran out three days ago and there was nothing I could digest over there. I am rather hungry."
Arabelle winced. "Ouch! Of course! What would you like to eat? Come along. My house is nearby and I'll by happy to fix you something."
"Breakfast," he said with some relief. "I would like a plate of fried eggs with toast and jam. I was dreaming about breakfast when I got the signal that your portal had opened. I don't know what time it is here but for me, it's morning."
"Whatever you like," she responded.
"Now this is worth wrestling with a crocodile!" he said happily, tucking into his meal. "Trail rations are nutritious but they're always stale and tasteless. I haven't had any real food in two weeks. I had begun to worry that my transponder wasn't working and I would be trapped in that dismal swamp for the rest of my life. Well, a crocodile would have put me out of my misery when I grew too weak from hunger. Nothing I could eat over there. The biology is too different from ours. Fascinating place but a short visit is all one can stand. I recorded as much as I could but I really wasn't prepared for an extended stay. It was only supposed to be a quick look around."
"Who is your team leader?" he asked. "Where is he? protocol requires the lead explorer be present."
"I don't have a team leader or a team," Arabelle responded. "I've only just gotten into the main computer laboratory. It's been running wild and I'm just getting settled in."
Your portal was abandoned?" He asked incredulously.
"Yes," she said simply. She shrugged. "There was a break in continuity. I have no idea how widespread it is having been affected myself. The bottom line is that there is no team and I am just figuring out how to operate my portal. There's no one who actually knows how, as far as I can tell. Except for you apparently."
"We have got problems," he said, digesting that along with his breakfast. A slice of cake for desert sounded good to him while Arabelle chose a pear as a snack. "You set a very fine table, my compliments," he thanked her. "I can tell you a little about running a portal, but not much. You'll be better off trusting your instincts and training. I was trained as an explorer. You may have noticed that you can't cross through the portal. That's because you are bonded to the portal. You have to stay with it to operate it. Which is why explorers are needed to cross over and take readings. We carry transponders which are links to portals. The signal from my transponder must have activated your portal, causing it to open at my location. That shouldn't have happened. The portal where I was based should have activated to retrieve me. That your portal responded instead of my own, indicates there is a serious problem with mine. The connection between me and my home portal had to have broken for the safety protocol to kick in and summon any portal available. With your help, I may find a way to get back to my own time and place. I'll worry about that later. Right now, I'm just glad to have been rescued."