Wordcount: 506 words.
The ability to travel is one of the most prized is something many take for granted. Of course, it really depends on what you mean by the ability to travel. For some, the ability to simply travel from their home to work is something they are grateful for. Others, it is perhaps the opportunity to travel to distant lands (no matter how frequent) that is prized. After all, it is not the destination itself that changes you, but the journey.
Depending on who you talk to, travel can either be a good or a bad thing. After all, when you travel, it tends to bring with it an exchange of culture, ideas, and a host of other values. For this reason, the ability to walk between the worlds is one that is prized above most. After all, if simply travelling between two countries or even districts or even houses can make a huge change, what more if you could travel between worlds?
The pathways between the worlds are called Gateways and are formed in two manners; either naturally or by intervention. If they are formed naturally, the Gateway tends to be open seasonally; the pathway remains open permanently, but the Gateway itself would be closed during certain times. Those formed by intervention on the other hand, are opened permanently, but if they are not used after a certain time, they will collapse, and reopening them can cause a tear in the Time-Space continuum. Of course, this can be circumvented by simply creating another Gateway in a nearby location. The existence of these Pathways are not known to all; in many worlds they are restricted knowledge.
However, not everyone can create a new Gateway.
There are two kinds of abilities that are associated with the Gateways, and they are called “Keys” and “Locks.” There are as many Locks as the region needs, but there are only 12 Keys at any given time. While both are able to traverse the Gateways, Locks are not able to create new Gateways. They can reopen Gateways that have been closed, or coax a natural Gateway to reopen out of season (although this is quite dangerous and may actually close the Gateway permanently like one that has been made by Intervention). However, they are able to maintain Gateways without much effort and in certain cases, actually able to re-route the pathways between the Gateways to create a junction and network of sorts.
Those with the potential to be Locks can be trained to be Locks, whereas Keys are born. The ability to create Gateways (available only to the Keys) is one that is inborn, and cannot be trained or emulated. As the number of Locks is restricted (depending on several factors) in each district, it is not uncommon for some worlds to recruit other Locks or those with the potential to be Locks to their worlds.
This was how a small group of people from a world that officially denied the existence of the Gateways found themselves kidnapped one fine afternoon.