Hazel threw herself after Charlie, as he disappeared into the swirling maelstrom of the void that had opened in Professor Quentin's office.
"Nooooooooooooooooooo," she wailed. The void closed up, and she landed on her face in the dust.
"Charlie ... Charlie!" Hazel screamed, pounding on the floor. Manfred held her in his arms while they rocked back and forth, weeping bitterly.
Charlie was unaware of his parents' distress while he hung onto the platform gear that held him captive.
"Mommie ... Daddie!" he screeched in terror.
The platform spun and weaved, cavorting through time like a bucking bronco spaced out on wacky cacti. The smoke and odour of brimstone dissipated, replaced by other sights and smells which appeared out of the temporal soup. Eventually the platform straightened out, when space and time regained its equilibrium. Charlie fell onto the pile of gear ropes that still held him captive.
The cloying darkness hid his surroundings, making him feel alone and helpless. The disheartened small dragon curled up in a ball and cried, until a rough feline tongue on his face startled him.
“Durga!" Charlie threw his arms around her and hugged her fiercely.
The sabre tooth tiger rubbed her nose against her beloved friend's face.
"You must have jumped on when Mom and Dad jumped off."
Charlie petted her affectionately, and was surprised to find a thick coil of rope in her mouth. The travelling gear was wound tightly around her back, through two strong loops in the platform, then coiled around Charlie.
"Oh Durga, you brave girl. You held the gear ropes in your jaws so I wouldn't fall off the platform. You saved my life," he hugged her head to his chest and kissed the top of her nose.
The oppressive silence and darkness frightened Charlie, so he curled up with Durga for protection. Eventually they slept. Several hours later, Charlie awoke to the tangerine rays of sunlight peeking over the horizon. He could see the familiar stone turrets of the science institute , but it looked a lot bigger. He struggled to untangle himself and Durga from the gear ropes. By the time he had freed himself, the platform had passed over a small city where his village used to be. He then realized that what he saw wasn't his home anymore. The time machine had already taken him far into the future.
Charlie crawled around till he found the two hollows in the bottom of the platform that his parents had used as seating arrangements. He used the attached safety straps to secure himself and Durga to the platform, just in case it started to gyrate out of control again. Daylight soon faded, although dawn had just been a short while earlier. There was nothing they could do except sit tight and wait out the terrifying darkness.
Sleep came to Charlie in bits and pieces that provided little rest. He awoke to find the sky full of dragons, flying over a sprawling city. A dragon flew by with a human on his back, and it was wearing clothing. He gawked in fascination. The humans at home were usually naked. Suddenly a female dragon flew straight through the platform! He screamed in surprise, but she took no notice. Obviously she could neither see, hear, nor feel his presence. He realized he was just an observer, looking through a window in time.
On the way back from Machu Picchu, the trio went through many temporal apertures, witnessing their march backwards in fleeting snippets. In less than a day they returned to their own reality, millions of years before they visited the lost city of the Incas. His Dad explained that each quick glimpse through time could be hundreds, even thousands of years apart. Though they moved through eons, they didn't move much in distance. They returned to the same mountain peaks they left from.
Charlie could see an immediate difference between his recent trip backward in time, and the current trip forward. This time the platform took a lot longer to progress through the years. Time passed in increments of daylight and darkness, as Charlie watched the future of his beloved mountain peaks play out. He slept on and off, mostly in the darkness.
One dreadful dawn, Charlie woke to see smoke and fire all around him. He held his pet and watched in horror at the terrible scene that occurred right in front of them. They were helpless; unable to stop the carnage. Humans were far advanced, and they killed with machinery that threw orbs of fire at the flying dragons. It was a long and horrible day that saw the total destruction of what was left of the entire dragon race. Charlie wept bitterly into Durga's fur, as she leaned up against him and rubbed her head on his sinewy dragon arm. It was the only way she knew how to give comfort.
The platform moved ahead again, as great changes in Charlie's birth place were shown along the way. He saw the city of stone the Incas built, on the peak where the science institute used to be. He witnessed the Incas offer sacrifices in the Sun Temple, to worship the dragons that once lived there. The next stop showed the lost city in ruins.
The platform eventually returned to its first destination at the Sun Temple, where Charlie's parents landed eleven years earlier. When he saw them move about in the beams of their travel beacons, Charlie struggled to get out of his safety straps.
"Mom, I'm here. I'm so glad to see you," he yelled.
He ran over to his mom and tried to hug her, but he passed right through her. Hazel's response was to slide down the side of the sacrificial rock. She could neither hear nor see him, but his presence on the other side resonated in the egg inside her. The egg was Charlie, days before he was laid. He glumly watched them leave the Sun Temple and disappear into the darkness. He returned to the platform and strapped himself in. Long before dawn, they moved on.
The forward leaps were getting shorter, so the next increment was only a hundred years. A massive earthquake had devastated Machu Picchu just before Charlie's arrival. There was little left of the lost city of the Incas. The Sun Temple itself was reduced to a pile of rubble. He watched the care takers sadly cart away piles of ancient stones. At sunset the platform only moved ahead fifty years, to the time that Charlie and his parents landed there. Disappointed in finding no Sun Temple, they left almost immediately, only two hours before Charlie arrived with Durga.
The starving feline yowled to be set free when she smelled food cooking. Charlie released her from her strapping, and followed her. The two travellers had never smelled anything in their flight through time, because they were never part of it. Their final destination had now apparently been reached, so they were as much a part of this location as the tourists gawking at them. The group leader had been rather liberal with the amounts of cactus he steeped in the tea. The local plant was known to produce amazing hallucinations, but as Charlie and Durga got closer, they looked too real to take any chances. Most of the tourists did the smartest thing - they ran.
A few of the braver ones held back long enough to snap pictures. One thoroughly zoned out woman stood at a portable barbecue, blissfully unaware of what was going on around her.
"Where is everybody going?" She shouted, as several people ran past her.
"Oh well, more for me," she giggled as she turned several wieners on the grill.
A loud chuffing sound made her turn around. An enormous dragon and a sabre tooth tiger stood before her. She was confused for a moment, then held out a wiener on the end of a pair of long barbecue tongs.
"Hot dog?" she offered. Durga gobbled it down.
The woman felt no fear. She'd been spicing up the cactus tea with Vodka, and her vision was somewhat impaired in the gathering dusk. When Charlie moved closer to grab several frankfurters off the grill, she got a good look at him. She made a little mewling sound as she made a fast spiral to the ground, where she passed out. They made quick work of the rest of the hot dogs before returning to the platform.
Charlie climbed into the seating hollows of the platform, and strapped both of them in. He was expecting to sleep, but the platform had other plans. Instead of moving forward, it did an about face and headed backwards in time. Without any stops along the way, it zipped right back to the starting point of its journey - Quentin's office. The platform burst through the floor, and came to rest propped up against the professor's huge desk on a sixty degree angle. Charlie hung sideways out of the platform, only held in by the safety straps.
Charlie's parents still clung together in sorrow. He had only been gone an hour in real time.
"Charlie!" they cried in unison.
"Mom, Dad. Help, I'm tied up."
They couldn't get there fast enough to release him and Durga from their bindings.
They covered Charlie with hugs and kisses until he struggled free.
"Dad, I have to tell ..."
"What is it son?"
"When I went through time, I saw ..."
Professor Quentin entered the room.
"Charlie, my boy. I'm so glad to see you've returned safely. Oh, the platform is only half here. Where is the rest of it, I wonder?" he strolled over to it and knelt beside it. Manfred went over to join him.
"What's the matter son?" Manfred asked, surprised at Charlie's urgency.
"When I went through time, I saw thousands of humans with destructive weapons wipe out our entire race. We've got to stop that from happening."
Manfred rubbed his chin solemnly, considering the dilemma seriously. He deliberated awhile, pacing the room in thought.
"Mmmm. There aren't many humans here, yet. We should kill all of them, before they kill all of us."
"Noooooo!" everyone else in the room protested at once.
Before Manfred could comment, he fell through the floor beside the travelling platform. He was too startled to scream. In minutes his head popped back up through a pulsing transparent hole that had formed around the time machine.
Quentin crept near the edge of the hole. "Are you hurt?"
"No, but I've discovered something interesting. There seems to be another world on the underside of your floorboards."
"What sort of world?"
"I don't know. I can only see mountains and trees from here. I'm going to go take a look."
"Can I go?" Charlie piped up, the fate of all humans forgotten for the moment.
"No!" Hazel put a restraining hand on his arm.
"I'll go with him." Quentin told her. He jumped through the transparency to join Manfred. They set off to explore this new discovery.
When they returned several hours later, they had an amazing story to tell.
"We found an alternate universe very similar to this one, except there are no dragons. There are a few humans, but they aren't very advanced. There is pure air, water, and plants. It's very much like here. My theory is that the time machine has opened a tear between dimensions. It appears to be keeping the tear open for now. Manfred and I have discussed the problem about our homicidal humans, and we have come up with a solution."
"What is it, Professor?" Hazel asked.
"There aren't many humans here, yet. We could round them all up and introduce them to that other dragon free universe. They could evolve without fear of us, and we can develop naturally, without fear of them destroying our race."
Quentin organized posses of dragons to go out and collect humans. Hazel and Manfred stayed at the dimensional tear to help relocate them. The first resettlement did not go well. The professor, Charlie and two other dragons entered the office dragging several humans by the arms When they got near the machine, several of their captives escaped, and ran around breaking things.
Manfred picked one up as it tried to bite his leg. He studied it as it struggled and grunted furiously.
"Ugh. This thing is ugly. It's got a face like a sack of clams."
"Ugly or not, we've got to get them over to the new dimension. They're wrecking my office!" the disgruntled professor declared.
Manfred hopped down the aperture and released his human, who ran further into the new dimension.
In a month, all humans had been taken to the other dimension. The platform was carefully removed, and a series of strong incantations put an unbreakable seal on the rift.
Time progressed at its normal pace for Charlie and his family. With no interference from humans, the dragon race grew strong and prospered. Hazel and Manfred watched with pride, as Charlie grew, mated with a lovely female, and had a family of his own. In time, he became a professor.
On one occasion he used the old time machine to visit the mountain peak that was once known as Machu Picchu. In that future with no humans, there had been no Incas to build a stone city. What he found instead was a magnificent thriving city of dragons, happily going about their daily business.
After many years of teaching young dragons, he and his parents became instrumental in turning the outdated science institute into a science museum. Charlie became the first curator. Each weekday morning he led tours, with the final stop being Professor Quentin's travel platform. It was preserved forever in sparkling crystal for future generations of dragons to marvel over.