Voyager moved through the centuries like a shadow passing quickly over the face of time. For the children huddled inside the wooden confines of Tony’s machine, the journey was one of vibrations, high-pitched windlike sounds, and swaying sensations.
As usual, Tony’s eyes remained fixed on the flickering screens lining the panel above his head. His hands moved in complex rhythms, entering commands, flipping switches, pressing buttons. The boy’s mind worked in exact harmony with the electronic surges pulsing through the wire and microprocessor-packed brain of Voyager’s internal computer systems. It was as if he and the machine were one intelligent being, slipping through the magnetic and gravitational boundaries that held time in its orderly flow toward the future.
Kim watched in quiet confusion. Nothing in his past related to the fantastic realities he was experiencing. His life was now far removed from the simple existence he’d grown accustomed to at the edge of the jungle. The changes were more than he’d ever imagined possible.
He had met a man, a kind, loving man, who understood the pain of losing and the hidden fear of loneliness. The Nazarene seemed to have the ability to see beyond the surface of a person’s life, He seemed to know the very thoughts of those whom he met.
Kim smiled in the dim-lit atmosphere of Voyager. This Jesus could understand his deepest thoughts. This simple carpenter from Nazareth had the power to do more than any doctor or psychiatrist could ever hope to, because he understood people from the inside out.
The boy glanced down at his sister. Her helmeted head moved back and forth, swaying with the constant motion of Tony’s invention. Kim nodded to himself. Only a good God, only a Being who understood the human heart, could create the love he felt for this little girl. This type of emotion was no accident of nature. Love was a planned by-product of God’s creative power. The man on the shore understood its awesome potential. Those he touched soon learned of it too.
Kim noticed Tony’s movements had become quicker, more aggravated. His brother’s hand would reach for a switch, hesitate, then change course and quickly rotate a knob or enter a command hurriedly on the keyboard.
Kim cleared his throat. “Is everything all right?” he called above the noise.
Tony didn’t answer. His movements became even more sporadic, uncertain, as if he wasn’t sure of what to do.
“Tony? What’s the matter?”
“Look at this,” Tony called out, his finger pointing at the main system screen. Kim saw words glowing there that he’d never seen before. WARNING: TIME FLOW ALTERED–CORRECT IMMEDIATELY! Tony typed furiously. The older boy noticed sweat running down the side of his brother’s face.
WARNING: TIME FLOW ALTERED–CORRECT IMMEDIATELY!
Tony banged his fist on a panel. The screen continued to flash its solemn message. WARNING: TIME FLOW ALTERED–CORRECT IMMEDIATELY!
“I’m trying! I’m trying!” Tony shouted at the persistent screen.
Tie Li looked up at her brothers. “What happening?” she asked, her voice lost in the increasing noise building around the travelers.
“Something’s not right here,” Tony shouted, his voice thin, high.
The screen flashed another message: TIME FLOW OUT OF PHASE–CHECK POLARITY!
“I did! I did!” Tony toggled a series of switches. Nothing changed. Kim noticed fear in his brother’s eyes.
Then . . . SEQUENCE LOST–SEQUENCE LOST–SEQUENCE LOST–PREPARE FOR REBOUND!
“No!” Tony screamed.
REBOUND IN: 5-4 . . .
“Kim, Tie Li, hold on!” Tony’s face was suddenly ashen . . . 3-2 . . .
An alarm sounded somewhere inside Voyager as the countdown continued. . . . 1–REBOUND COMMENCED!
The children slammed hard against one side of Voyager as the machine seemed to turn sharply. Sparks ignited and arched from the crevasses above their heads, showering hot, glowing traces of burning wiring and insulation down on them.
Kim saw the wooden slats by his arm twist and pull apart. Outside, streams of green and yellow light sped by, like flashes from a laser gun. He called out, but his voice sounded like a whisper compared to the piercing sounds pressing against his ears.
Tony held Tie Li tightly against his waist, his eyes closed.
Voyager strained at every nut and bolt, nail and hinge. Tony realized that if the torture continued, the machine would break up completely. The forces coming to bear on the fragile structure seemed bent on destroying it and its contents.
“Tony? What happening? What happening?” Tie Li glanced about wide-eyed as the box lurched from side to side.
“We’ve changed course in time!” Tony shouted. “I don’t believe this.” He pointed again at the screen. “Voyager is accelerating in reverse. We’re not heading into the future. We’re . . . we’re heading into the past! Into . . . prehistory!
“Do something, Tony,” Kim encouraged, his throat tight with fear. “Do something quick!”
“I can’t! We’re out of control. Voyager is doing the best it can with what it knows. We’re in a time-form I haven’t programmed for. Voyager will have to work this one out all by itself. This is beyond me.”
Suddenly Tony shouted, “Wait!” and began typing. “I remember creating a cease command after Simon Gorby tried to get himself killed in this thing last fall. It just might work! ”
“Then do it, Tony. Do it!” Kim’s voice was shaking.
Tony typed as quickly as his frightened fingers would allow.
VOYAGER: 3Q34OUTIMEPASS SYSTEM CEASE–NOW.
The machine answered immediately: CEASE COMMAND REQUESTED–OPERATOR CONFIRM . . . Y/N
Tony pressed the Y key. The screen went blank. Then . . . CEASE SEQUENCE UNDER WAY–PREPARE FOR SHUTDOWN.
“All right!” Tony yelled. “Hold on, you guys. Hold on!”
Voyager tilted hard to the right. The children felt themselves falling, turning, spinning. The noise changed from a high-pitched scream to a low growl. Then, with a sudden jolt, everything was quiet.
No one moved. The only sound was the stabilizing arm slowly spinning down. The screen flashed another message: WARNING–CEASE SEQUENCE COMPLETED–CHECK ALL SYSTEMS BEFORE PROCEEDING–VOYAGER STANDING BY.
Tony let out a long sigh. “You guys 0K?” he asked in a voice not much above a whisper.
Kim nodded. Tie Li drew in a shaky breath. “I OK.”
The younger boy leaned his head against a panel. “I don’t understand. It’s as if someone messed with my internal programming. Voyager shouldn’t have gotten off course like this. It just shouldn’t have happened.”
Kim glanced over at his brother. “The intruder–the one who messed up your workshop–could he have done it? Could he have made this happen?”
Tony nodded slowly. “Yes, if he knew what he was doing, he could have. But no one knows Voyager like I do. No one.”
The three stood in silence. Was this possible? Did someone purposely try to sabotage the machine? Tony shook his head as if to throw off such an awful thought. “Whatever the reason, we’re here, and I’ve got to get us back. You guys hang in there. I’ll see what I can do.”
The computerized conversation between inventor and machine was quick and to the point:
VOYAGER: STATUS CHECK?
SYSTEMS OPERATIONAL–SOME MARGINAL
STANDBY, CHECKING: STABILIZING ARM–25 PERCENT SPIN CAPABLE
POLARITY–NEGATIVE (OPERATOR ALTERED)
CLOCK-MARGINAL POWER RESERVE-5 PERCENT (DRAIN: HIGH)
Tony grimaced. “Now for the important one.” He carefully typed a command on the keyboard.
The screen went blank for what seemed like hours, though it was just a matter of seconds. Then words appeared.
RETURN POSSIBLE–45 PERCENT CHANCE OF SURVIVAL–ENTER INTENTIONS . . .
“Oh, that’s just great,” Tony sighed. “Forty-five percent.”
“But we’ve got to get back. We’ve got to try,” Kim urged.
Tony nodded. “You guys relax. This could take a while.”
Kim reached up to unlatch the door. “We’ll be outside.”
“Wait!” Tony warned. “There’s something I need to tell you. You’re not going to find much out there.”
“Well, we’re not exactly at a time when there was much around.”
“What time is it?”
Tony pointed at a screen above his head. Kim read the words glowing at the bottom left-hand corner: YEAR: 2.35 MILLION B.C.
“Two million years ago!” Kim cried out in astonishment. “We’re 2 million years before Christ!”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Then there’ll be dinosaurs and cavemen and strange creatures out there!”
Tony shrugged. “That’s what some people say. I just wanted to warn you.”
Tie Li grabbed hold of Kim’s leg. “I scared. Take me home to big yellow house right now!”
“I’m working on it,” Tony encouraged. “Voyager can support us here for”–he entered a command on the keyboard and studied the screen–”thirty-seven minutes. If we’re not out by then . . . we live here.”
“What a soothing thought,” Kim groaned. “Come on, Tie Li. We’ve got to let Tony work.”
The older boy unlatched the door. “Whatever’s out there is about to have some visitors,” he announced.