Book #2 in the Brains In Chains Trilogy
Marion Michelle Morrison, or “M” for short lives two hundred years in the future. Space exploration is all but nonexistent, and this frustrates her. A few ships have been built to poke around in the asteroid belt but nothing more. She wants to go farther. In this post-Artificial-Intelligence world, superhuman intelligences called “the committees” do all the work humanity is no longer willing to do. They are bureaucratic, plodding and seem to exist just to have meeting after meeting - never getting anything done. M is unlike the rest of humanity which, in this timeframe, has degenerated into hedonism, content to passively enjoy the abundant, ultra-high quality entertainment. Anything they need or want can be made using a machine called a Stitcher. Invented by an Artificial Intelligence, it can make anything, even another Stitcher out of raw materials. It can make any kind of food, clothing, and even larger things like vehicles and homes.
The few spaceships that exist use a device called a Charmer which generates a gravitational field to propel the ship. This is sufficient for exploring the solar system but isn’t really suited for going to other stars. M wants the secret of how it’s made, but the Committees are predictably uncooperative. In the meantime, she takes a position with the Asteroid Survey and meets Thomas - the A. I. inside one of the ships. Their Charm drive has somehow malfunctioned and sent them back in time - something thought to be impossible. M and Thomas are stranded in 1985 and M is unconscious. When she wakes, she doesn’t recall how she got there and Thomas is severely damaged. They need to find out what happened to them and how to get back.