Warm, soft rays of morning sunlight filtered through the lacy curtains that moved with the gentle breeze blowing in from the
cornfields. Tie Li opened her eyes and looked around the cozy room that was her castle in a strange and wonderful world.
She listened to the new day sounds that drifted with the light and tickled her awakening senses. In the distance a tractor pulled a
spinning, rattling harvester across fields of corn. A rooster sang out good mornings to the hens clucking and scratching in the
barnyard. A family of barn swallows spoke together in low chirps and tweets just outside her window as they sat planning the
day’s activities from their telephone wire perch. Another sound caught her ear. From the direction of the barn came a light
tapping sound, like a hammer forming something from metal.
“Today!” Tie Li sprang from her bed and raced to the window. She looked out across the lawn toward the door that led to Tony’s
workshop. It was open. Inside, she could see her brother moving about, hammering with utmost care on something shiny.
“Today’s the day!”
After slipping into her clothes as quickly as her body could wiggle, Tie Li flew down the stairs and bounded out into the yard,
one shoe on, the other being jerked through the air by a shoestring held tightly in her hand.
Tony saw her coming, put down his hammer, and threw the cover back over his newest invention. Breathlessly, Tie Li entered
the room. “Tony, today you say I get my surprise, remember?”
“That’s right, little sister,” he laughed, hanging the hammer on a hook.
“Well, here I am.” Tie Li hopped on one foot while trying to negotiate her other foot into the loose shoe. “I wait for three weeks.
Now I get my surprise, OK, Tony?”
“First things first,” Tony said firmly, turning off the desk lamp and guiding Tie Li toward the door. “For you to enjoy this
surprise, you must do something very important.” “What? I do anything.”
“Good. Let’s eat breakfast.”
“Eat? Oh, Tony, I don’t eat now. I want my surprise.”
“Now, Tie Li.” Tony tried to look fatherly. “You will need your energy. Besides, if we didn’t come in for breakfast, Mom and
Dad would wonder where we were and maybe spoil the surprise.”
Tie Li reluctantly followed her brother into the house. She was so excited she didn’t think she could possibly eat a thing, but
soon the lively conversation, nourishing home-grown food, and warm love that always waited at the breakfast table claimed her
attention. At least temporarily.
“Tie Li, you amaze me.” John Parks passed the oatmeal dish in the girl’s direction for the third time. “You eat more than any
little kid I’ve ever seen. I’m afraid to get my hands near your mouth.”
“Is that so?” Tie Li tried to negotiate the words past her last spoonful. “I growing girl. Need lots of energy.” Tony and Tie Li
exchanged winks and kept eating.
Mrs. Parks placed two slices of wheat bread in the toaster.
“What is that strange thing out in your workshop, Tony?” she asked, reaching for the butter. “Some new invention?”
Tony shifted nervously in his chair. “Yeah, Mom, it’s just something I’m playing around with.”
“You’ve been spending a lot of time out there lately. Must be really special.”
“It is.” Tony swallowed his last mouthful. “Can I go now? I gotta get back to my workshop.”
“Me too!” Tie Li grabbed a doughnut and crammed it into her pocket. “Can I go too?”
“You’re both excused. Remember that . . .” Her words fell on empty chairs. Looking at her smiling husband, she let out a sigh.
“Who needs TV? We get to watch the Tony and Tie Li Show very day of our lives. And I haven’t seen one rerun yet.”
Tie Li sat on the tall stool by Tony’s workbench, watching as her brother moved behind the curtain draped over the mysterious
object looming in the corner. “It’s almost ready,” he said, reaching for a screwdriver. Just a couple of last-minute adjustments.”
“Oh hurry, Tony,” she said, clapping her hands together. “I want my surprise right now.”
Stepping from behind the cloth and laying his tools on the bench, Tony suddenly became very serious. “Tie Li,” he said, “this
surprise is something I’ve wanted to give you ever since you came to live with us. At first, I wanted to use my invention for
myself. That’s why I was building it. But when you came, I knew that you needed it much more than I ever would.” Tony sat
down beside his sister. “You see, this invention can show you things that nothing else can, nothing else in the whole world.”
Tie Li spoke quietly. “I know that if you make it for me, it is very special.”
Tony continued. “I want you to have something new to dream about, something wonderful. I don’t want you to think about the
war anymore. Do you understand?”
Tie Li looked down at her feet. “I miss my family. Sometimes I dream.”
“I know,” Tony said. “But people aren’t supposed to fight and kill and do terrible things to each other. My machine will teach us,
you and me, about why people do that, and how we can make them stop.”
A tear slid down the girl’s cheek. “I want war to go away everywhere.”
Tony opened a drawer by the desk and pulled out a book. “The answers are in here. I know, I’ve read it. I don’t understand
everything, but I know that this book says that people should not kill each other and have wars with each other. It says people
should love and take care of each other.”
Tie Li took the book from Tony’s hand and slowly thumbed through the pages. “I can’t read, Tony. But I want to know what this
“Then you will, little sister,” he said, placing the book back in its drawer. Tony walked across the room and took hold of the
cloth covering the object. “Tie Li,” he said, “this is my gift to you.”
The cloth slid down onto the floor and lay in wrinkled waves around the base of the object. Tie Li saw a tall wooden box
stretching from the floor to the ceiling. At the four corners of the box were metal cylinders made from four old trash cans, each
attached by steel hinges and sprouting a maze of electrical wires that ran in an orderly fashion from the top of each cylinder into
openings in the box. A jungle of small antennas fanned out from the top of the object like a wind-blown hairdo.
A large door hung open in the front. Tie Li slowly walked toward the machine, timidly touching its rugged contours with her
hand. Stepping inside, she faced a wall of computer screens and colorful charts that encircled a panel crowded with switches and
knobs, each labeled with strange-sounding-names. PHASE SEPARATOR, CAPTIVE SOLAR ACTUATOR, AUTOMATIC
CLOCK SEQUENCER, TIME-SEARCH FUNCTION PROGRAMMER.
A keyboard rested on a shelf that folded down into place under one of the screens. Beside it was another shelf, crammed with
neatly stacked circuit boards, lying upright like slices of bread cut from a large loaf. Tony reached over and swung the shelf up to
its closed position against the inside wall.
Leading Tie Li out of the confines of the box, he slowly closed the door. A word had been painted in bright-red letters across the
wooden boards that formed the face of his invention. Tie Li tried to read it. “Vo . . . Voy . . .”
“Voyager,” Tony said proudly, “like the satellite and the airplane that flew around the world. But this machine doesn’t fly in
space or in the air. It flies through time.”
Tie Li continued to stare at the strange object before her. Finally she spoke. “Tony, I don’t know what to say. This for me?”
Tony walked over to the drawer and took the book out again.
“I’ve programmed Voyager to take us to the places mentioned in this book. We will see what went wrong in this world. And
maybe we will find out how to stop the hate and wars. Do you want to go? Do you want to find out what happened?”
Tie Li stood, unmoving, for a long moment. Slowly she turned and faced her brother. “I go, Tony. I want to know why.” Without
a word, she walked back into the machine. Tony followed and closed the door. Within seconds the box and cylinders began to
glow with a deep blue light. A sound like the rushing of wind through trees filled the workshop as the light became brighter and
Then, in a brilliant flash, Voyager was gone.