} What, indeed. Whoever left this scrap of a clue was gone before I
} could say `<ZOT>'. The note itself was forboding. The reference to
} TeX could only mean that I'd be running into Don "the Enforcer" Knuth
} before all this was over. I donned my trench coat and fedora, and
} headed into the grimey wet streets of net.town.
} My favorite informer, `Archie', was at his local hangout: McGill's
} place. I asked him what he knew about Quayle and Conrad. Archie musta
} talked for an hour. Hundreds of false leads, and just maybe one good
} one. I took a minute to get a grep on the situation, and I suddenly
} saw the best lead: some paper's with the goons' names all over them,
} and it bore the TeX signature. Trouble was, the paper was over on EE
} street. Ya don't just cycle over to that part of the net without root
} privaledge, if ya know what I meen. There're guys down there that'd
} hit ya right in the instruction cache with a pipe-line just for laughs.
} I knew how to fit in down there, though. I ditched my get-up for a
} buttodown white shirt, horned-rim glasses and a pocket protector. I
} got by no problem. Sure enough, right off a dingy leaf-node, there it
} was: a dark warehouse that just said "/pub/tex" on the front in
} peeling, faded paint.
} I knocked on the door, and a gravelly voice came out of the dark:
} "Yeah, whadda ya want?"
} "chmod 0777 *", I grumbled. These guys are a sucker for old
} The door creaked open. I could still see no one.
} "I need to get some archives for the boss".
} "Second door on da left".
} A dim light shown under the door. I strolled down as slowly as I
} could, and opened it up. It was a tiny room lit by a bare bulb. The
} walls were lined with filing cabnets, with just enough room for my boot
} straps. Fortunately, the directory system was as old as their password,
} and I found the paper after a few moments. It was a spaghetti of
} backslashes, braces and words containing `box'. TeX, all right. And
} that could only mean that it meant a pretty picture for the Knuth-types
} setting it up.
} I grabbed the file and started making my way back toward the door.
} "Not so fast".
} Knuth. I whirled around, reaching for my escape key. Too late.
} "I'm disappointed. I thought the mighty detective would be much
} harder to capture than this. But now, your just an anonymous entry,
} and no one will ever see the logs to know you were here."
} If the big guy himself was here, these files must be pretty important.
} Time to bluff.
} "I'm on to you. I know what these files are. Not just another
} texbook, are they?"
} A tiny flicker in his eye gave him away. I was dead-on right. There
} could only be one reason he was here, one reason this was so important.
} "This is volume 4. `Combinatorial Algorithms'. And you've got no
} I heard an almost-silent scrape behind me. I pulled out the file, and
} held it over a bit-bucket that I was standing next to.
} "Call off your goons, Knuth, or you'll never see this file again.
} Everyone will think your grand project is forgotten before you can
} reconstruct it."
} He twiched his hand, and I heard steps moving away. I ways almost home
} free. Never breaking eye-contact with Knuth, I bent down for the
} bit-bucket, and started moving for the door.
} "This is all a mistake", he said. "We're all reasonable men here."
} I let out a short, humorless laugh.
} "Yeah, sure. `Reasonable'. It was on account of your `reason' that
} I was trapped for days looking up the references for "circular logic"
} in volume one. If Lisa hadna come to check on me, I mighta been there
} Almost to the door.
} "I'm not gonna let that happen again. Blowing my stack like that cut
} right to my core. But I'm safe, now. You'll never get by my run-time
} checking again."
} I was there. I tossed the file at the goons and the bucket at Knuth,
} and dashed out the door. The following moments of confusion was enough
} to make my escape, and get to a safe node.
} Back in my office, I knew the mystery was only half-solved. Sure, I
} had Knuth's next volume, and I could find all the traps at my leisure.
} Only trouble was, he'd be looking for me. Knuth is not one that's
} quick to forget, but neither am I. Our next meeting is sure to be
} You owe the Oracle a laser printer and a Pascal compiler.