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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
Charlie, Alice, and George went through the red door. They were now in the same huge, white room in which they had first met Mr. Grandours. Just like last time, Grandours was sitting and smiling.
"Welcome back," said Grandours. "You did well on the Test of Time, although I have discovered that you weren't supposed to have taken it in the first place. Where exactly did you obtain your time machine?"
Charlie said, "I'll tell you all about that later, but right now, we have to go back to Venezuela and rescue Jane Wadkins. She's stranded in the rain forest."
"Who is Jane Wadkins?" asked Grandours.
George answered, "She's the physicist who invented the time machine, but she was kidnapped, and she is stranded back in time in the rain forest."
"No." Grandours shook his head and said, "I've never even heard of this Jane Wadkins. Talon Bilg invented the time machine. His family is extremely powerful; they're the richest family on Earth and have been ever since Talon introduced his time machine. The Bilgs own most of the major industries in the world, and are heads of state in numerous major countries. If you continue talking like this about the venerable Talon Bilg, you will be in serious trouble with the law. And you certainly may not go back in time and change the past. That would be most despicable."
Charlie, Alice, and George looked at each other -- they were quite confused. Alice figured it out first and said, "Talon has red hair. He must have kidnapped Jane. And since she was kidnapped before she announced her invention, Talon could take credit for it and go down in history as the inventor of the time machine."
"What is this nonsense?" asked Grandours.
"It isn't nonsense," insisted Charlie, "We met Talon in Montana before we started the Test of Time."
"No, no," said Grandours, "Talon Bilg lived in England, and was not from your time at all."
Alice had one more question to ask Grandours, "Was Jane a part of the Test of Time?"
"No," said Grandours, "She was not."
The kids then knew that they were right about Talon being a kidnapper and not an inventor. They realized that they were not going to be able to convince Grandours about Jane. They had to help her escape from the rain forest, but this was not the time to do it.
Grandours said impatiently, "Well, despite your babbling, you have passed the first part of the Test of Time, and you did very well -- especially considering your youth. You may now use your time machine under supervision. Return when you are ready for the second part of the test."
Grandours had been looking at the kids, but now he looked down, letting them know that were done. A mist swirled around their feet, and when it cleared, they were back in Charlie's room.
Charlie, George, and Alice had never been so relieved in all their lives. Charlie lay on his bed, and George and Alice sat down on the floor.
"I'm so happy to be back," said Alice.
"Me, too," said George.
Charlie added, "Me, three." added Charlie,
Alice said, "I want to let my parents know that I'm okay. They're probably really worried."
Charlie said, "But what are we going to tell them? We can't tell them that we've been to Egypt in 1911 and Venezuela in 1799. No one will believe us."
George said, "Before we decide, I'm hungry. Maybe we could eat first, and then decide on what to say."
Charlie and Alice nodded -- they were also hungry. They went down the stairs and into the kitchen. As they were piling food onto the table, Charlie's sister cane into the kitchen. Kate said, "You guys just ate. How could you possibly be hungry again after five minutes?"
Charlie asked in an amazed voice, "Five minutes?"
"Okay," said Kate, "maybe it was 10 minutes. But you guys still eat like pigs." She shook her head and oinked repeately as she left the rooom.
George said, "I guess we came back to a time right around when we left. No one missed us at all, and we don't have to explain anything to anyone."
"That's a relief," said Alice. "But we will have to explain what happened to our clothes. They look dirty and rumpled."
Alice then looked at George's T-shirt and jeans, and said, "I guess you don't look much different from normal."
"Thanks a lot," grunted George, his mouth full of food.
Charlie took out his time machine and opened it. It looked like it was working -- at least it wasn't in test mode like it was before. He said, "We have to help Jane somehow. We can't just leave her in the rain forest."
"How can we help her?" asked George. He added, "We don't know if the time machine is even working anymore -- and Grandours said that wecan only travel in time with supervision. If we break the rules and go without telling Grandours, we probably won't be allowed to time travel ever again. Do you think it's worth it?"
"Yes," said Charlie, "I do."
"Plus," continued George, "We don't know what date to put in the machine. All we know is that we left Jane around sunset one day in 1799 in Venezuela."
Everyone was silent around the table as they ate. The idea of stranding Jane in the forest made them feel very bad, but going back to the crocodiles, quicksand, jaguars, and tarantulas was even worse.
"I'm sure we can figure out the exact time when we were in the rain forest." said Charlie. He added, "We could look up when von Humboldt and Bonpland were in Venezuela."
Charlie moved his cereal over by the family room computer and started typing. He looked disappointed and said, "I can only narrow it down to June or July, 1799."
"Wait a minute," said George, "Bonpland said that they saw a solar eclipse two days before we met them. We can look up when the eclispe happened - there aren't that many solar eclipses."
Charlie again started typing, and in a few minutes he smiled. He said, "I've got it. All we have to do is add two days and put the time around sunset."
"No," said Alice, "It won't work. If you type in that date, we'll just go back to Montana in 1799, not Venezuela."
George replied, "I'm still convinced that this time machine can do a lot of things we don't know about yet. And one of those things is changing your position. Otherwise, how could they send us to Egypt and Venezuela in the Test of Time? And why would they have a map on the screen of the time machine? I was thinking about that when Charlie first showed me the time machine. I bet that you just have to type in the longitude and latitude of the place you want to go, then type in the date and time, and you'll travel to that location and time."
"That sounds reasonable." said Charlie. He started typing again -- he was looking up the longitude and latitude of the mouth of the Orinoco River on the Internet. In about a minute, he had the numbers, and typed them into the time machine. He then typed the time that they had left the rain forest. Charlie looked up at George and Alice and said, "I'm going back to help Jane. Do you want to come too?"
"Maybe," said George.
"Maybe not," added Alice.
But then they looked at each other and realized that they couldn't just leave someone stranded in the rain forest. They had to do something.
The three of them touched hands, but as Charlie was about to press the red button, Alice pulled away and yelled, "Stop!"
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