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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
"Are we ready for what?" asked Charlie.
"Are you ready for the Test of Time?" the old man intoned in a deep, resonant voice.
"I don't know," replied Charlie, "What is the Test of Time?" He looked at George and Alice, but they were no help at all. They looked hopelessly confused and a little scared.
The old man smiled and slowly said, "One must undergo the Test of Time in order to earn the right to pass through time freely. It is certain and most true that only those who are noble in character will succeed. Those without virtue will undoubtedly fail."
"You mean we have to pass a test if we want to travel in time again?" asked George.
"Yes," the old man replied, "You must demonstrate that you possess integrity, courage, intelligence, resourcefulness, perseverance, patience, kindness, generosity, humility, spirituality, and honor: the qualities of true humans.
"I'm ready for the test," Charlie blurted out. George and Alice just looked at him in disbelief.
George whispered to Charlie, "What do you mean you're ready? We don't know anything about this test."
Alice added, "I am NOT ready for any test. I need time to study or something - I don't even know what the test is about."
"I don't think it's that type of test, Alice. This just seems right to me - I have to do it," Charlie said, "but if you don't want to take the test, we can all go back right now."
"No," said Alice, "I'll take the test, too. How bad could it be, he looks like a kind person."
George added, "I'll do it too. Otherwise it looks like we won't be able to do time traveling anymore."
Charlie turned to the old man and said, "We're ready for the test." He was hoping that it would be an easy test - Charlie had had a rough few days, and he was tired.
The old man smiled again, and said, "Be true to yourself, and follow your heart to find the map to your future. Remember also, that choices have consequences." As he spoke, a mist swirled around Charlie, Alice, and George.
When the mist had cleared, Charlie, Alice, and George were in a sandy desert under a perfect, cloudless blue sky. The sun had just risen, and a cool breeze blew over the endless waves of dunes. On the horizon was a huge pyramid. In the opposite direction, also on the horizon, was a barely-visible, mud-colored town.
George immediately realized that the time machine was no longer in his hand. He searched for it frantically for a few seconds. He found it hanging around his neck from the shoelace, but it was hidden under his shirt.
George opened the machine and looked at it; the screen still read, "TEST MODE - LEVEL 1." He tried typing the date they had originally come from, but nothing at all happened. George told the others, "I think it's stuck in this test mode." George handed the machine to Charlie, who also tried typing on it. He sighed, "It looks like we're stranded in ancient Egypt."
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