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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 41:
Almost the Answer

As the white mist was clearing, Charlie was relieved to see that they had made it safely to Grandours' large white room. Talon, however, was unpleasantly surprised when he realized where he was. He became agitated, and began to tremble with fright.

Grandours sat serenely in front of them. He calmly asked, "Why are you here?"

Talon spoke first, talking in a shaky but aggressive voice. He said, "They killed Feo and then they tried to kill me." Pointing a long, shaky finger at Cordelia, he continued, "Look, Cordelia has an illegal weapon. She threatened to kill me. She tried to leave me in the rainforest to be eaten by crocodiles. Those kids helped her. They're all evil and they should be punished severely."

Cordelia was livid, but she addressed Grandours calmly, "Everything Talon told you is a lie. He is a heartless murderer who manipulated history to benefit himself. When we attempted to stop him, he tried to kill us. He even let Feo die, and she had been helping him commit his horrible deeds." Cordelia continued, giving Grandours all the details of Jane's kidnapping, Talon's rewriting of future history, how the kids had saved Jane and restored history, Feo's treachery, how Talon had come to Charlie's house, kidnapping all of them, and how Charlie had rescued them from the rainforest. Cordelia then sent Grandours her memory records of the entire event.

Grandours looked sadder and much older than he had before. After a long silence, Grandours shook his head and spoke slowly and deliberately, "Talon, I am terribly disappointed in you. We once thought that you had the potential to become one of the finest time scientists, but you failed miserably at that and then you deceived all of us." He continued, "You will be taken to a place where you can do no more harm to others."

Two large men came into the room and grabbed Talon by his arms. As they escorted him out of the room, Talon shouted spitefully, "I've always despised you and your ridiculous rules. I'll get even with all of you someday. You'll regret this. I deserve to be in charge, not you, you ..." The rest of Talon's tirade was cut off abruptly as the door to the room slammed shut behind him.

Charlie asked Grandours, "But what about Gertrude? She was helping Talon, and she is still out there, living in Montana. She stole Cordelia's time machine and got away."

Cordelia said, "Gertrude is Talon's older sister and is a genius at programming and cryptography. She is very dangerous."

Grandours added, "We will find her and bring her to justice."

Grandours looked at Charlie and smiled. "You are a remarkable young man. With your friends you have restored history and freed billions of people from Talon's despotry. We are profoundly grateful for your courage, perseverance, and resourcefulness."

Grandours continued, "Thanks to the extraordinary actions of all of you, we can again live freely. You will go down in history as courageous people who risked their lives to help others in the fight against evil and ruthless forces."

Charlie, Alice, and George were astounded and deeply moved. They hadn't quite realized the importance of what they had done. They were also relieved that the ordeal was finally over.

"We would like to pay tribute to you for your courageous deeds," Grandours said solemnly, "but I cannot expose you to the future, because then, you might inadvertently change the past. Given these extraordinary circumstances, all I can do is give you a heartfelt but rather inadequate 'Thank you.' You can be certain that you will be known forever in history as a hero."

Grandours continued, "You helped shape the future, and after you complete the Test of Time you can travel freely through time and become acquainted with history without unknowingly changing it. I hope to see you again very soon."

Charlie, Alice and George were happy but exhausted. After saying goodbye to Grandours and Cordelia, Grandours sent them back in time to Charlie's house.

They reappeared in Charlie's dining room, startling Kate, who was sitting at the table reading. Charlie told Kate what had happened since they left. Kate was very interested, especially about the adventure in the rainforest with the crocodiles, but she thought that the part about people calling Charlie a hero was ridiculous.

Alice and George went home to rest, and Charlie went right to bed. When he got into bed, he fell asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately, Charlie's dreams were mostly about crocodiles and tarantulas.

Charlie slept until morning, when his mother called to him, "Charlie, you're going to be late for school."

Charlie quickly showered, got dressed, and ran downstairs. He ate a huge breakfast that tasted absolutely wonderful. He debated whether or not he should try to tell his parents about his time machine again, but he heard the school bus approaching and had to run to catch it.

When Charlie got on the bus, he noticed Alice and Charlie sitting in the back of the bus. As he walked towards them, he almost tripped on a large foot sticking that was out into the aisle. The foot belonged to Claude who, as usual, was trying to humiliate Charlie in front of everyone.

Charlie stopped and looked directly at Claude. He said sternly, "Don't ever do that again." Charlie was more annoyed at Claude for interrupting his thoughts than for trying to bully him.

Claude scoffed at Charlie and said, "And what are you going to do to me if I do?"

"You won't do it again," Charlie said confidently, dismissing Claude's nonsense. Something about the way that Charlie spoke made Claude stop sneering. He pulled his foot in and looked out the window; he didn't know what to say to Charlie. Claude's friends were surprised at what had just happened. So was Charlie. But Charlie was even more surprised when he realized how weak Claude was, and how standing up to him was so simple.

Charlie sat with Alice and George in the back of the bus. Alice said, "I dreamt about crocodiles last night."

"So did I," said Charlie.

George said, "I never remember my dreams."

"When do you want to do the next part of the Test of Time?" whispered Charlie.

Alice sighed and asked, "How about letting us recover first?"

George volunteered, "We could just go on a fun trip first. I really want to go to medieval times and see knights jousting."

Alice added, "I'd like to see the Ice Ages - mammoths are so cute. I'd just love to see a baby mammoth."

Charlie was trying to decide what destination he'd like the best when the bus stopped in front of their school. Before getting off the bus, Charlie looked out the window and recoiled with shock when he noticed that the sign by the front door of the school was different. The sign used to say "Castle Meadow Middle School." It now read, "Gertrude Bilg Middle School."

Charlie shakily pointed to the sign and said, "George, Alice -- look at that sign. This is too weird." The three of them looked at the words in horror.

George said, "They didn't catch her after all."

"I wonder what else has changed," said Alice.

A girl near them had overheard Charlie's comments about the sign and asked, "What's so strange about a school being named after the President of the United States?"


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