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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn
On the bus back to school, Charlie and Alice sat by George on the last seat. They told him everything that had happened to them during the field trip. They had to whisper the entire time, so that no one else would hear about it. A few of the kids yelled questions to Charlie and Alice about the fossil they found, what it looked like, did they get to keep it, and how they found it. It was hard for them to answer without lying, or telling too much and giving away the existence of the time machine. Fortunately, most of the kids weren't very interested in fossils.
George asked Charlie, "I was thinking about your time machine all day. Since you found it in town, the person that lost it is probably still stuck here in this time. After all, they can't use their time machine to go back to whenever they came from. They're probably looking everywhere for it. I bet they're desperate."
The bus was just pulling up at their school. Charlie, George and Alice decided to meet at Charlie's house after school to talk about what had happened and what they should do next.
An hour later, after handing in their field trip papers and taking another school bus home, George and Alice arrived at Charlie's house. As soon as they got in the room and shut the door, Alice said, "I just had a great idea. Charlie, aren't you curious who lost the time machine that you have?"
"Of course I am," replied Charlie, "but I don't know who lost it."
Alice said excitedly, "It's easy. We can go back in time to just before you found it and see who left it on the sidewalk."
"Okay," Charlie said slowly, "but what do we do then?"
Alice replied, "It depends - maybe we give it back to them."
Charlie countered angrily, "And maybe we don't. If it was your time machine I don't think you'd be so happy to give it back to ..."
George interrupted, "We can't go back to the past and then just give away the time machine - then we'd be stuck there in the past. But we can at least go back and find out what's going on. Look, there are probably two people from the future here in our town - that paleontologist and whoever lost their time machine a month ago. Why would time travellers come to a small town in Montana? Doesn't that seem a little strange to you?"
"Yes. Let's at least find out who the other time traveler is. I bet it's Mr. Ross. He's definitely not a normal person," added Alice.
"Okay, let's do it," said Charlie. He started typing in the date when he found the time machine, "I'll get us there 10 minutes before I found it. So that should be about 3:30 p.m., 31 days ago." George stopped him, saying, "No, don't type it in here - we'll just end up in your room a month ago. We need to go downtown where you found it, by the fire station."
"Right," Charlie said sheepishly.
It took them about 10 minutes to walk downtown. When they got to the fire station, Alice suggested, "We should go across the street by the diner, and then go back in time."
"No," said Charlie, "the people in the diner would see us disappear. Let's go hide behind that dumpster in the alley by to the diner. We'll be hidden and we'll have a good view of the fire station from there."
George and Alice nodded in agreement, and they crossed the street.
They crouched behind the large, green garbage dumpster in the alley. Charlie typed in the date they wanted, and said, "Hold on to the machine, both of you." They both touched the time machine and Charlie pressed the red button. The swirling mist appeared, but then they were in total darkness.
Something had gone wrong.
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