A Literary historical science fiction mystery
Table of Chapters
Chapter 0. Problems
Chapter 1. Headaches
Chapter 2. Happy Holidays
Chapter 3. Mr. Nice Guy
Chapter 4. The Brainless One
Chapter 5. A Little Crazy
Chapter 6. Grave Consequences
Chapter 7. Core Directives
Chapter 8. Expect Difficulties
Chapter 9. Caveats
Chapter 10. Mister Machine
Chapter 11. Good News, Bad News, El Cheapo
Chapter 12. New Memories
Chapter 13. Little Problems
Chapter 14. Lasers, Language, and Happiness
Chapter 15. Chatterbots
Chapter 16. Ready Or Not
Chapter 17. Not a Turing Test
Chapter 18. Reality Test
Chapter 19. Chess, Anyone?
Chapter 20. FOM
Chapter 21. Chairman of the Board
Chapter 22. The Usual Suspects ------------------>
Chapter 23. M. God
Chapter 24. Walkabout
Chapter 25. Why
Chapter 26. First Blood
Chapter 27. More Machines?
Chapter 28. POV
Chapter 29. ROI
Chapter 30. Last Blood
Chapter 31. Don’t Want to Talk About It
Chapter 32. Round Table
Chapter 33. A Change of Mind
Chapter 34. Threes
Chapter 35. Knight Moves
Chapter 36. Little Combinations
Chapter 37. Can We Talk?
Chapter 38. Pas de Deux
Chapter 39. The Jig Is Up
Chapter 40. Good, Bad, Ugly Chapter 41. Function Goes On
Maynard Little felt another nap coming on. Damn. …Oh well, why not.
When he awoke, he was in another room: a small bedroom. He was sprawled on the bed. The next thing he noted was that he didn’t have a headache. He tried the door. It was locked. The furnishings appeared to match those in “his” sitting/ kitchen/ dining/ exercise room. There was a dresser; it had his clothes in it. There was a small bookcase with some interesting books. One entitled Midway, and printed by the Naval Institute Press caught his eye because one of its authors was Mitsuo Fuchida, the aviator who had led the first wave of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He had wanted to read that. Did his warders know?
He thought: They’ve gone to the trouble of giving me another room. How long are they planning to keep me prisoner?
Hearing a click, Doc tried the door again. This time it opened on the nicely appointed bathroom, which now had two doors. He wandered in scanning everything as casually as he could so as not to concentrate on any one thing. His listening device was still there. The door to his sitting room was closed, but opened easily enough. He wondered what Mr. Raspy Voice would try next.
On the table he saw documents with the familiar blue backing. Legal papers. He took a close look. There was a Declaration under 37 CFR 1.63 wherein the undersigned declared himself the inventor of the attached application. It only required him to check one box and sign his signature. Hell would freeze over first. He decided not to tear it up. It was pointless without the application and design documents in his safe. A few loose ends remained, but they could be easily tied up unless…
Do my captors know where the designs are? Is the testing done?
It felt weird to be alive in this little box—alive to his hopes and dreams for TM tech and TLC—and not able to do anything but comply with his captors—or not.
“Good morning, Dr. Little.”
“I don’t think so,” the Doctor replied as he looked around to where his captor should have been, but wasn’t.
“Try the drawer,” the voice suggested.
Little thought about it. It was a gambit he could easily accept without harm: Just shut the drawer on the next move. He opened the drawer and found one of his slightly unfinished design documents. It had been in his safe. Now it was here. How…?
He found it very difficult to close the drawer. “That document was on the list you made earlier, Doctor,” offered the raspy voice. “…The list of things you wanted to see done? You can finish it now if you like. We will give you every reasonable assistance.”
Little took a couple of deep breaths. Getting excited would do no good. It would be better to think about this. One thought easily discarded was to turn on the news to see if there had been another robbery attempt at TLC.
These people seem determined to help me, but there must be a catch.
He went over to the armoire to get a juice bottle and a granola bar.
I can’t think what the catch could be.
He continued his think while munching the bar and sipping juice so as to finish both at the same time.
Do they have all of my work—everything in the safe, at least?
I must assume so.
How did they get into it?
Are the police looking for me?
More to the point, who is running TLC? Eddie? Bozworth…?
He looked at the papers again.
If I sign the Declaration, they would still need all unfinished docs. If they can put this unfinished thing in front of me, then they can probably make good on their promise and get me anything else I may need… except what’s in my head.
Looking at the application papers, he mused: If I finish that, I could delay at any other link in the chain of necessary things that have to be done. The Declaration would be the last thing I should sign. But that’s how they cook you: One little decision at a time. …If I cooperate, everything would be in my name. It would still be mine. They would have to forge an Assignment document to transfer my ownership anywhere else, because I’ll never sign it myself.
They could forge an Assignment and then arrange an accident for me, but absolutely no one on the TM team would believe I had transferred ownership willingly. The police would immediately suspect the assignee.
Oh, yes! Here’s a catch: They could alter the documents in order to be able to break the patents later.
He threw the wrapper and empty juice bottle in the trash basket.
…It’s stupid to worry about them altering the patent papers because they’d have to kill me to keep me from complaining. So it would be more productive here to spend time on some other worry.
He returned to the table and fingered the incomplete pages.
Worrying about where I am or who is doing this to me is looking more and more beside the point. The real problem is: What time is it? How long have I been here? I could ask the voice, but how could I believe what he says? I can’t be sure of anything he tells me, or shows me on the tube, or would let me see on any electronic device, because I have no way of verifying it. It could all be faked. One thing I can be sure of:
The window is definitely closing; if something isn’t done, and soon....
He didn’t want to think about it, but it seemed a possibility now:
What about the military? Or the spooks? 
Would they want TM tech for flying drones? No. Drones do well enough already. If they wanted it for drones anyway, why not just ask us? Maybe they have asked and I don’t know about it?
I wonder why we’ve not had inquiries from NASA; that seems like a perfect fit. …Unless the military need to be involved at some level.
This was all too much. Dr. Maynard Little was not the kind of man to waste more time on worries he could do nothing about. He lost interest in those speculations and decided to resume his historical review for clues—about which he could do nothing. It was at about this point in the chain of events where Robey started getting everyone really upset.
 Central Intelligence Agency, for example.