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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
It was Talon outside the window. When he made eye contact with Charlie, Charlie froze, his heart pounding wildly in his chest.
George saw what was going on, and pulled Charlie back from the window. He grabbed the time machine from Charlie and said, "We're leaving," as he typed in the time they had come from later that morning. Charlie held onto the time machine, and they disappeared.
A very angry and disappointed Talon watched the boys disappear through the window - he didn't even notice that a second Charlie was still asleep in the bed. Talon assumed that the time machine had disappeared along with the boys; he didn't realize that a time machine was still in Charlie's pile of laundry, just a few feet away. He and Gertrude left, enraged both at Charlie and at their own ineptitude.
Charlie and George reappeared in Charlie's room hours later, grateful for the daylight. Charlie shut off his flashlight and put it in his pants pocket. Charlie was upset, and told George, "I've got to warn my parents about those people. They'll probably be back tonight."
George said, "Yes, they want that machine very badly. But how did they know you had it? Do you think they followed you home last night?"
"No," said Charlie, "It was that newspaper article. My mother told the reporter how I found a triangular computer last month. All they had to do was look up my last name in the phone book. We're the only MacDuffs in town."
George said, "You should leave the time machine at my house tonight - that way they won't be able to find it. My name wasn't in the article."
Charlie asked, "Can I sleep over at your house, too - I really don't want to sleep here while those two are looking for me."
"I'll ask my parents later," said George, "I'm sure they'll say yes."
Charlie went to his bureau and took out a long shoelace. He slipped the shoelace through the ring in the time machine and tied the ends. He handed it to George, and said, "You keep the time machine for now, and don't tell anyone that you have it."
"Good idea," said George, as he slipped the time machine around his neck.
The boys went to tell Charlie's parents about the break-in, but a note on the refrigerator said that they had gone to town and wouldn't be back for a few hours.
Charlie got some breakfast. George had already eaten, but he had a second breakfast anyway. "We should warn Alice about those people," said Charlie. "They might try her house, too. She was mentioned in the newspaper article." Charlie called her, and she came over just as George was finishing his cereal.
The three of them went up to Charlie's room. The boys told Alice all about how Talon and Gertrude had broken into Charlie's room the night before, looking for the time machine, and how they must have found out about it by reading the newspaper article. Charlie said, "Since you're also listed in the article, you should tell your parents - and be sure to watch out for Talon and Gertrude."
"This is getting way too complicated and dangerous," sighed Alice.
As they talked, George was fiddling with the time machine. He had a weird idea. "What would happen if we put in the date and time right now, to the second?" asked George.
"Nothing would happen," answered Alice. Charlie had other things on his mind, "Who cares about that?" he said in an annoyed voice.
"I care," replied George, "Don't you want to find out what it can do? I'm sure it can do a lot more than we've seen already."
Alice sighed, "Fine, we'll do your little experiment." As George typed in the exact current date, Alice and Charlie each held onto a corner of the time machine. George pressed the red button.
When the mist had cleared, George, Alice and Charlie realized that they were no longer in Charlie's room. They stood huddled together in an cavernous white chamber. An old, bearded man wearing a long, white robe was sitting in a large chair in front of them. He was staring at three very confused kids.
George, Alice and Charlie looked around the chamber and at the strange, silent, old man. Alice whispered, "Where are we, and who is that man? What happened to your room?"
Charlie said, "I have no idea."
"The screen on the time machine says: TEST MODE - LEVEL 1," George replied.
"I guess your little experiment worked," said Alice, "are you happy now?"
The old man cleared his throat. George, Charlie, and Alice looked at him nervously. "I am Grandours," he said quietly, "Are you ready?"
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