Tie Li sat on the edge of her bed, gazing out the window. In the distance she could see Mr. Parks and Tony riding the big farm tractor as it slowly made its way along the rows of dry stalks that used to
be growing and maturing corn. Behind the noisy mechanism the field was left brown and rough as metal disks, like giant fingers, turned the earth and buried the skeletal remains of the summer’s harvest.
A long sigh reflected the sadness in the young girl’s heart. Since returning from her first adventure with Tony and Voyager, she had been strangely quiet and withdrawn, not her energetic, outspoken self
She had seen the world before sin, before hate and evil. Now everything around her was a reminder of what had been lost since Eden. Even the drone of the tractor carried the message that life had
faltered in the fields. Wasn’t a harvest just another way of capturing the result of life before death snatched everything away?
She allowed herself to remember the village of her birth, her loving father, his work-worn hands always busy in the business of survival. She could see him bending in the steamy fields that wrapped
themselves tightly around her grass hut as day after day he planted, cultivated, and harvested rice plants. Somehow the world had grown accustomed to this cycle of life and death. It seemed to be
normal, expected, even welcomed.
“Tie Li, you up there?” Mrs. Parks called from the foot of the stairs.
“Yes, I here.” Tie Li walked to the hallway. “You need me for something?”
“No, I just wanted to know if you were all right. I was thinking about you and wondered how you were doing all alone up there in your room.”
Tie Li sat down on the top step and rested her chin in her hands. “I OK.”
Mrs. Parks smiled up at her adopted daughter. “I’m baking some chocolate chip cookies and have some chips left over. You wouldn’t happen to know of a little girl who could help me dispose of them,
Tie Li’s eyes brightened. “Chocolate chips? I know little girl to help. Me!” In seconds, mother and daughter were busy savoring a handful of chips in the sunny kitchen. For a moment Tie Li forgot the
pain that crowded her heart. For now, the world tasted sweet.
At school the next day Tie Li sat enjoying the cookie version of the previous day’s treat when she heard an all-too-familiar voice behind her.
“Hey, slant eyes, I still haven’t forgotten about that apple.” Simon Gorby stood over her. “Nobody gets away with pulling a stunt like that on me.” Tie Li continued eating her cookie. “You just watch
yourself. I’ve got plans for you and your smarty-pants brother. You’ll be sorry you ever tangled with Simon Gorby.”
The girl stopped chewing and looked up at the boy towering above her. For a fleeting second she almost felt sorry for him. The only way he could command any attention around the school grounds was
to bully himself on everybody. For some reason, he’d chosen her and Tony as prime targets for his daily assaults on humanity. Maybe it was because he realized that she wasn’t afraid of him. After all,
her life had been filled with much more hate and violence than even Simon Gorby would ever experience. But he was a pest, and she didn’t like his constant harassment.
“Go away, Simon,” she said. “I try to eat. You go away.”
In an instant the bully’s hand swept down and flipped the cookie from Tie Li’s grasp. She watched it hit the ground and roll across the grass until it came to rest under the swing set.
“Oh, too bad,” she said, looking up at the boy. “That cookie was for you. Now your cookie all dirty. Too bad.”
Simon’s face grew as red as the tomatoes in Tie Li’s sandwich. He fairly screamed out the words, “You wait, you little pig! I’ll get you for this–you and that know-it-all brother of yours!” He marched
off across the playground, arms stiff by his sides, fists clinched. Watching him go, Tie Li’s forehead creased into a frown. Bullies like Simon Gorby could be dangerous, she thought to herself. In their
own bungling way, they could do a lot of damage. She began to worry just a little.
* * * *
“Hand me the screwdriver, Tie Li.” Tony’s voice came from deep inside one of Voyager’s metal cylinders. “It has a red handle.”
Tie Li found the requested tool and placed it in the hand that waved from under the panel. She watched Tony’s legs move back and forth as he made adjustments in the mass of wiring that ran from the
machine’s base to the many control panels lining the walls of the structure. Tony had even given her a job to do. It was Tie Li’s responsibility to keep each ofVoyager’s four outside solar panels clean,
their glassy surfaces free from dust or dirt. This she did with dedication.
“What do you think, little sister?” Tony slid from under the panels and closed the lid on the cylinder. “You ready for another trip? I’ve made some modifications to Voyager’s automatic sequencing
system. The ride should be a lot smoother this time.”
“I ready, Tony,” she said, reaching into the drawer beside her. “Where we go?” She handed Tony the Book and leaned back against the workbench.
The boy thumbed rapidly through the pages. “I read some more last night. I think we should go back to the same spot we visited before, only it will be a little later in time. Something happened that we
should know about.
“Before we left Eden, you asked me what made the world change from the way it was in the Garden. I think we’ll find out today. You may not like what we’re about to see, Tie Li.”
The girl slipped from her chair and walked toward the waiting machine. “I want to go back. I want to see the perfect world. And I especially want to see the woman. She so kind and beautiful. Come,
Tony, we go now.”
Tie Li took her place in Voyager and waited for Tony to set the many switches. She heard the sound begin to build around them as she watched her brother enter commands on the keyboard at his waist.
Like before, the walls and panels began to glow a deep blue. Tie Li closed her eyes and waited for the trip to begin.
Suddenly the door of Voyager swung open and a loud voice blasted into the confines of the machine. “I told you I’d get you, you little know-it-all. Now you’re all mine!” A hand reached in and grabbed
Tony by the arm and pulled him through the door. Tie Li let out a scream. “Tony, come back! Tony!”
The bully lifted the younger boy off the floor and slammed him against the workbench. “I’ll teach you to make fun of me!” His fists waved in the air as Tony struggled to break free of the big boy’s
grasp. He could seeVoyager beginning to glow white as the sound continued to rise. Within seconds his machine would dematerialize with Tie Li in it. He must get to the controls.
With all the strength he could muster, he brought his elbow down on Simon’s shoulder. The bully’s grip loosened with the shock of the strike. Tony wiggled free and dove toward Voyager’s open door.
Screaming in rage, the bully turned and lumbered across the room. His momentum carried him through the entrance of the machine, flattening Tony between him and a glowing wall. The jolt of the two
bodies smashing against the inside confines of the box swung the door shut with a slam. At that instant Voyager flashed white and was gone.