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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
George asked, "Did you chicken out again, Alice?"
"No -- but we have a big problem," said Alice. "How are we going to get back? We don't know the longitude and latitude of our home. We also don't know the longitude and latitude of Cambridge, England, where Jane lives. We won't be able to bring her anywhere."
Charlie's jaw dropped. "Yes, that would have been a huge problem."
George said, "I bet there's a way to find latitudes and longitudes on the time machine."
"Yes," said Alice, "And it would be fun to figure that out while jaguars are stalking us, crocodiles are trying to eat us, we're sinking in quicksand, and mosquitos are swarming around our heads."
"I'll look up those latitudes and longitudes on the computer right now," said Charlie, as he typed on the computer. He wrote down the numbers and put them in his pocket.
"Wait a minute," said George, "Charlie, didn't you tell me that your time machine couldn't go to the future? That means that we won't be able to bring Jane to her time."
"I forgot," said Charlie, "I tried going to the year 5000 to show my sister how the time machine worked, but the machine said that I needed some upgrade that I didn't have."
After a moment, George said, "I bet I know what the problem was - your machine is from some year before the year 5000, and it can't go in the future beyond the time it's from, but I bet we can go up to the year your time machine was made. And Jane certainly lived before that, since she invented the time machine."
Charlie said, "I sure hope you're right."
Alice added, "I hate to say this and bring up another problem, but what exactly are we going to do with Jane if we do find her? If we just bring her back to her home in England, Talon will simply kidnap her again and take her back to the rain forest once more."
George said, "We could go back to before she was kidnapped, and warn her."
"That won't work," said Charlie, "No one would believe you if you warned them about being kidnapped by a time traveler who will transport them to the rain forest in the year 1799. Would YOU believe a story like that?"
"No, I would just think that you're crazy. I have a better idea," replied Alice, "We could bring Jane back to the time before she was kidnapped, find her time machine, and hide it somewhere that Talon couldn't find it. He can go ahead and kidnap Jane as he already did -- it won't matter, because we'll save her, and he won't get her time machine and change the future."
"That might work," said George, but he had serious doubts about the plan.
"I think we're ready now," Charlie said. George and Alice touched his hands and Charlie pressed the red button. Again, the familiar white mist swirled around them. This time, they were tense, realizing the many dangers involved in time travel.
When the mist cleared, they were back in the hot, humid, noisy rain forest, and all they could see was trees.
"This is definitely not Montana," said George, "The latitude and longitude idea must have worked!"
"I think I can hear the ocean," said Alice, pointing over George's shoulder.
They started walking in that direction, and in a few minutes, they could see the sea. They emerged from the forest on a hill overlooking both the sea and the mouth of the Orinoco River.
"Look," said Charlie, "There's George -- down by the river."
Charlie, George, and Alice looked in amazement as they saw another George walking along the riverbank.
"That must be you when you got lost and made it to the mouth of the river before us," said Alice.
Just as she finished, they saw two more figures running along the riverbank towards George -- it was another Alice and Charlie. The three figures down by the river then got together. Suddenly a fourth figure materialized behind the three figures' backs. They watched themselves turn to see the figure, and soon, all four of them disappeared.
"That was us going back to Grandours!" said Charlie. He added, "I wondered where that woman came from - I should have known that she just appeared."
"Now, how do we find Jane?" asked Alice.
"Let's head back to where George got lost and we split up," said Charlie. They headed back up the river, walking along the riverbank, following the footprints that they made on their last trip here.
Alice started yelling, "Jane, Jane, can you hear us?"
Charlie and George joined in, calling for Jane. In a few minutes, they heard a distant reply from Jane.
Charlie yelled, "We're by the river."
Jane shouted, "We're coming."
In a few minutes, Jane and the hunter, who was helping her search for George, emerged from the forest. Jane was relieved to find them.
Jane said, "I see you found George."
"Yes," said Charlie, "A lot has happened since we last saw you. My time machine is working again, so you can go home."
Charlie took out the piece of paper that had the longitude and latitude coordinates on it. He started typing. He then asked Jane the exact date and time in the year 2345 when she wanted to return to Cambridge. When he finished typing, George and Alice linked arms, and Alice grabbed Charlie's left arm. Charlie offered Jane his other arm. Jane held onto his wrist and said goodbye to the hunter who had been helping her. Charlie then pressed the red button.
When the mist cleared, they were on a flat, paved surface and many car-sized, box-shaped, metal vehicles were careening towards them. They were about to be crushed.
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