The Eighth Guardian
state house. Maybe someone is selling an evening edition of the newspaper?
    I have no plan. This is awful. If this was another Testing Day challenge, I’d fail.
    I stop in my tracks and gasp. What if this is another Testing Day challenge? Oh my God, why didn’t I think of this before? There’s a Testing Day that’s legendary around Peel’s campus. Testing Day: 1995, also known as the Testing Day That Would Not End.
    There was the twelve-hour written test, followed by the three challenges, followed by the banquet. But then armed guards wearing all black and night vision goggles cut the electricity, stormed the place, captured all the juniors and seniors, and took them to a remote location off-campus for more testing. One kid died. A junior. There was never an official cause of death, but if there was a box for “Testing Day from Hell” on the coroner’s report, you can bet it would have been checked.
    What if this is like 1995 all over again? I’m not done! I haven’t graduated yet. I’m still a student. I have to work my way back to the present, and then Testing Day will finally be over. Holy crap, this could all be a drill!
    Suddenly, the idea of a secret government organization that has the ability to time travel doesn’t sound so far-fetched to me. I mean, you would be surprised at all the stuff the government can do, and I only know about a small sliver of it. I can imagine how shocked I’ll be when I get full clearance.
    Full clearance. I blow out my breath. Time to get serious. What was the plan? Oh, right, newsboys. That is a stupid plan, and not just because there aren’t any newsboys at the state house.
    Focus.
    There’s a shuffling of footsteps behind me, and I turn just as two men wander up to look at the dome. The guy and the girl who are tailing me are half a block away, and the guy leans in to the girl and whispers something in her ear when he sees me looking at him. For a split second I think about waving, but I’m sure that would violate the no-interaction rule. And I’m not about to blow this now.
    So instead I fiddle with my collar and pull out the owl necklace. I press the knob up top by the feather, the way Alpha did, and the lid covering the watch face pops open. The face itself is white, and there are black numbers in a fancy, swirly font I’ve never seen before. ANNUM is stamped below the point where the two hands lie on top of each other. The whole face is enclosed in a brass circle, and there are tiny knobs on the right side of the circle. And I mean tiny . There’s . . . something inscribed on each of the knobs, but I can’t see what it is. I fiddle with the one on the bottom, but it doesn’t budge. Neither does the one in the middle. But the knob on top moves. I spin it to the right. The minute hand moves, too, and—
    Click.
    Click.
    That doesn’t sound good. No, worse than that. That sounds bad. Really bad. As if I’ve just messed with a bunch of wires, and a bomb is about to go off. I turn the knob back two clicks to the left, back to where I started, and hold my breath.
    “Already exceeded two thousand dollars?” a voice next to me yells.
    I don’t want to be obvious, so I make only a little quarter turn and shift my eyes to the side. It’s the two men who walked up before. They’re still looking at the dome.
    I stare back at the watch. I bring it closer to my face and squint, trying to make out the inscriptions on the knobs. They’re letters! The top knob has a Y , the middle an M , and the bottom a D . YMD .
    “If they exceed the budget any further,” the same man says, “they’d better not levy a single tax to pay for it. At the first sight of a tax collector, I’m grabbing the missus and the boy and heading west. We’ll become border ruffians.”
    The other man laughs and claps his friend on the back.
    “Bully for you, Morrison!”
    Man, people sure talk funny back . . . whenever I am. YMD . This seems as if it should be easy, but I’m so tired right

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