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Cyber.Scam 2000

Kelly, a struggling engineer aided by his partner, Suki, invents high-speed global transit. Powered by gravity, it makes travel from the United States to Japan in just minutes possible. Boris helps the team by investing in their project. However, Boris's motives aren't as altruistic as Kelly's. Boris wants to take advantage of the discord of Y2K and take over communication, transportation, and rule the world. He just might succeed...

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release


Gary Sutton

Gary Sutton, 56, has been CEO of Internet, burglar alarm, aerospace, garbage and printing companies. He's authored two business books, holds several patents and started four businesses.

He claims writing novels adds balance to life, but Nancy, his wife of 35 years and a teacher, debates this point. They have two married children and three grandchildren.

Sutton studied at Iowa State, Harvard and Oxford. His future plans are centered around more novels, plus frequent and ever-longer naps. The Suttons live in La Jolla, California.

Reviews

"Cyber.Scam 2000 is a techno-thriller which explores some outlandishly plausible schemes that could be perpetrated on innocent people. Mr. Sutton's talent for imagination and technology provide a concept which will certainly be a welcome find for hard speculative fiction fans."

"Booty from the other Genres" -- Affaire de Coeur


"A techno-thriller in the classic tradition of Ian Flemming, CYBER.SCAM 2000 is as immediate as the coming Millennium. The plot is clever, the action continuous, and the characters well developed. If you are looking for a book that will whisk you away on a wild ride, one that uses gravity not defies it, then CYBER.SCAM 2000 is definitely the book for you. I enjoyed it completely, think it would make a great movie, and can hardly wait to read Mr. Sutton's next book. Good job, sir. Highly Recommended!"

Under the Covers Book Reviews
Excerpt

Chapter One
GENEVA, 1999

Boris strolled toward his accomplices.

They shifted around the table and watched him emerge from a shadow. Computer monitors faced each. Their screens cast blue light across four faces, two glowed yellow and one flickered green.

Boris halted.

He crossed his arms. "UNITY partners," Boris said, "you meet two naive scientists." He slid into the steel chair, straightening his spine two centimeters from its back. "They will deliver control of the planet to us." Boris reached under the table and flipped a switch. The conference room doors clicked open. "Enter, we now listen."

Kelly stumbled through the archway. He glanced up at Boris and looked back for Suki. She stepped in, paused, took another step and clutched at a folding chair. Suki sat, tucking under her right ankle and draped the orange sari over one knee.

Kelly plugged in the slide projector, crouched next to it and faced the table. "Imagine landing at Los Angeles," he said. "Take a cab to the coliseum. This vehicle sits above a hole in the parking lot."

Their sketch of a windowless fuselage without wings beamed across the screen.

"Step inside. The craft drops into that tunnel. It free-falls. Magnetic repulsion separates you from the walls."

Two listeners edged out of their chairs, tiptoed to the corner and whispered. One snickered. They returned.

"The vehicle breaks the sound barrier in thirty seconds. You arrive in Tokyo sixteen minutes after departure. Gravity accelerates your descent and brakes your ascent."

Boris got up, folded his arms and stared into the ceiling. "Besides outrageous ambitions, it seems unusual start in USA where nobody offer you funding."

Kelly coughed.

Suki rose. "Did you catch that our plan converts the former GM factory in Van Nuys?" she asked. "For a pittance, under 25 grand a month, we get their aluminum smelter. It matches the temperature of the inner earth for our tests. Did we explain that this whacks 60% off expenses?"

"Madame, this helps," Boris said. "Particularly since you ask us to invest in the unbelievable thing, but there are also empty foundries in American Midwest." He slipped down into his chair, tilted back on two legs and gazed into the fluorescents.

"Did you know the earth's crust is 35 miles thick below Chicago?" Suki asked. "But guess what? It's 23 miles thinner under LA. That makes tunneling cheap near the coasts but pricey inland. And take a wild stab at which city sells more international tickets?"

Boris glanced at Suki. He leveled his chair. She flipped up a new slide, showing a network of tunnels through the earth.

"Can you imagine fresh, ripe grapes from Brazil served to Paris bistros in February?" Suki asked. "Canadian school kids might visit the pyramids on an overnight trip. Couldn't semiconductors made before lunch in Vietnam plug into Volvos dashboards that afternoon?"

Boris rolled his eyes. "Suki, Kelly, so nice dreams. Benefits are obvious and it might work if oil companies don't lobby to death, but how construct tunnels?"

"Suki's concept," Kelly replied, "is a breakthrough." He scratched his neck and stood. She sat on her right ankle. "The tunneling machine digs through the earth. Nothing fancy, just a regular dirt mover. When it hits lava it glides through like a submarine. Keeping cool is tough. So this tunneler installs water pipes into that melted rock as it slips past. That chills the lava so it hardens. The tunnel is formed with solid rock walls."

One partner in the green light scribbled a note. Another in yellow smirked.

"It's molten when the nose pushes through, the water pipes are shoved into the lava while it glides alongside the machine. The lava cools and turns into a solid rock wall as it passes the tail. Since there is water in that pipe, it generates steam to keep the walls cool and hard. So clean and free energy is created."

Boris shook his head and looked away.

"It is patentable," Kelly said. "International travel in minutes becomes possible. It generates more energy than it uses. The power is clean. It can work."

"Frankly, you must understood," Boris said, "how challenging this is to believe. World travel in minutes\\a133 requires no power and generates clean energy\\a133 uses low-cost tunnel system through earth\\a133 what do you call in America, comics? It seems laughable. Relying on patents is naive."

Kelly slumped into a chair. Suki sprang up. Her heels clattered against the marble.

"Guys, may we agree that this is a gargantuan stretch? But check out the engineering studies, it flies. And does it offend to suggest that the tunneling method itself is patentable? That, groupies, is what makes\\a133"

Boris waved a hand. "Suki or Miss Suki, there is so much risk in your scheme that patents seem meaningless compared to costs and politics. It is appropriate you step outside. We talk."

Suki darted to the doors and stopped. Boris reached under the table. The doors swung open. Kelly glanced at Boris and stepped outside, Suki clasped Kelly's elbow and whispered. Kelly turned, walked back toward the projector in a half-crouch, picked up her slides, nodded and scurried out.

The doors slammed.

"You have technical report, associates," Boris said. "Best opinions say system works."

"Remember UNITY Partners seizes Internet in July next year. World's MIS managers then distracted by Year 2000 problems. We crash Internet. Save it during that confusion, control Internet forever."

His partners nodded and smiled.

"You just preview world's best transport system. UNITY Partners operate and own it two years later. We shall control earth's best communication network, the Internet. UNITY Partners also runs this, the world's leading transportation by 2002. We then dictate how humans live for one thousand years. These two scientists are dangerous idealists. We rid them soon. Now time to approve. Herr Schmidt?"

"Ja, absolutely!"

"Minako Tanaka?"

"Yes."

"Pablo Aguilar?"

"With gusto."

"Richard B. Kingsley, III?"

"A bit over the top for our appetites, Mr. Boris, so sorry."

Boris folded his hands.

"You understand procedure, Kingsley, and while we trust, must keep secret."

Boris reached under the table, the doors opened, Kingsley folded his briefcase and left. The doors slammed.

"Ragmohan Daudani?"

"Include us, please."

"Michelle Duvalier?"

"But of course."

Boris rose, walked over to the Frenchman, stood behind his left shoulder and leaned over. "Duvalier, English person listens to you. In one month confide to him that we discover problems. Unless we actually find difficulties, in that case tell Kingsley things proceed good."

"Understood, oui."

"One century past, first link in New York's subway system was complete before the railroads or government understood what it did. Otherwise they would have killed. We use stealth here also."

"Oui, certainly."

Boris straightened. "Plan you received requires $5 million each wired to Geneva Wednesday. That $35 million is sufficient to finish research. No late money. "Boris slapped his palm on the table. The six shadows marched out. "Send dreamers back."

Kelly and Suki stood in the open doorway. Boris motioned. They stepped in.

"We can m-make this work," Kelly said.

"Frankly it appears impossible to invest," Boris said.

"What's their hangup?" Suki asked.

Boris looked away. "To say truth, best technical advisors convinced concept cannot overcome shock waves in tunnel among many other problem." He paced with his hands behind his back. "If I take chance and ignore objections, we partners, so need honesty." Boris slipped down into his chair. He cracked his knuckles, reached under the table and the doors closed. "Backgrounds raise question. Kelly drop out of Colorado School of Mines..."

"I had no money," Kelly said.

"You not finish," Boris continued, "which is less problem since grades good but never make promotion anywhere."

Suki leaned toward Boris. "Did you read about Kelly's mine layout in South Africa? Output doubled. Not too shabby, eh, mister?"

"He produced something. Not promoted. Maybe no team player." Boris stood. He turned his back. "And Suki absence."

Kelly stepped alongside Boris. "Suki needed medical leave."

"More than one."

Suki sat, folding her right leg under.

"She got through Aerospace Engineering at Stanford in three years," Kelly said. "Suki designed Northrup's stealth wing from a bed at Cedars Sinai one month ahead of schedule. It flies unchanged today."

Boris turned away, took several steps, stopped and spun around, looking toward the doors.

"So girl expert disappears inside hospitals and boy does good things but nobody advances him. Together design interesting transportation system that investors in your homeland not support. Advisors scream to me never work. You ask $24 million. That it?"

"Why even chat?" Suki asked. "Unless you have a sliver of interest. Wouldn't you admit that Kelly's achievements are special? He just doesn't slip into a five-piece suit so well."

"Design is done anywhere now," Kelly said. "Suki could work from a Bombay prison if she had a PC and phone line. She has that PC and phone line in Van Nuys. Give her funds to hire more help and she'll create a vehicle that Boeing would admire."

Boris inhaled. He held it, exhaled and reached under his table. The doors opened. "Kelly and Suki, it not your bet, it our bet, our risk, our loss and your dreamy idea. Suki, you correct, in truth I continue because cannot stop my admire in you both. Please step to hallway, go downstairs to basement coffee area while I fight reluctant partners and return in forty-five minute."

Boris took the Penthouse elevator, ordered poached salmon on fennel, splashed with capers, white pepper and butter, sipped a warm shot of vodka, one bottle of Perrier, two espressos and a biscotti. He blotted his chin on a linen napkin monogrammed with the UNITY Partners logo, tossed it across the table and sauntered to the elevator while sucking his lower lip. Boris barged back into the conference room and draped his right leg over the table corner. He inserted an earpiece, dialed and rapped his ring on the table while he waited.

"How many Internet servers under our lease this moment?" He listened and clenched both fists. "Not enough, this moving, that reach 1% of capacity by 2000 to execute control. Start daily e-mail report noon Greenwich. If number not better fast you know how unpleasant. We trust but send audit team."

Suki perched on the counter top. She rubbed the Formica with her thumbnail.

Kelly fumbled for change in front of the coffee machine. "Years of work. We get fifteen minutes here."He put a coin in the machine, grabbed the paper cup too soon, it sprayed his hand and he spilled the drink.

"Did we scope out anything about who these bandits are?"Suki asked.

"Nothing. They have billions and are invisible."

"Doesn't that spook you?"

"We have cash for two more payrolls, but not a third. I am ready to talk with anybody. Coffee?" he asked.

"No thanks, my stomach's hosting a fireworks display at this moment. Kelly, should we just hang it up if this group says no?"

He unfolded a gray metal chair. Kelly sat. He pulled up both knees and coiled his arms around them.

"Kelly?"

He gazed into the floor.

"Kelly, if these worldwide weirdos turn us down, then what?"

Kelly shut his eyes.

"Why did you send me back for your slides?" he asked.

"Kelly, partner, I avoid walking in front of strangers. Remember?"

"Oh. Yeah. Sorry."

"Hey, amigo, nothing to apologize for, just an unnecessary distraction. What if we don't get some cash?"

Kelly rocked, coughed, stood, steadied himself with one hand on the counter and wiped coffee off his fingers on his pant leg. He crumpled the paper cup, tossed it at the trash bin, missed, picked it up and leaned against the wall. He dug in his pockets, Suki tossed him a quarter, he jammed it in the machine and punched the button twice.

"Kelly, what if these bozos join that long list of blue suits who have turned us down?"

"Simple. We go back to LA, give our employees severance and pay as many bills as we can. You take a job as the top woman engineer at some firm\\a133"

"No chance, I can't jump through someone else's hoops. Not this kid\\a133"

"You could make more money and worry less. I will help our creditors auction the office equipment and furniture..."

"Nope. No way. Kelly, what else can we do?"

"My choices are limited. I might get freelance work if I call everybody. Get a few weeks here, a project there, maybe some coal work in West Virginia, reinforcing California bridges against earthquakes, mining copper in Montana."

"Listen, Irishman, you conceive cathedrals where others see stones."

Kelly gulped the coffee. "And they hate that," he said.

Suki's lips tightened. She opened her laptop PC and clicked across the keyboard.

"Checking the tunnel pressure?" he asked.

"Yes, I patched together an algorithm that lets us crank up the speeds and moosh around the shapes."

"We should backup that data. It's all we got. You might drop that PC or download a virus or have a disk crash," Kelly said.

"Did you forget the anal retentiveness of your partner? On top of conventional data protection we subscribe to an online backup service. Our numbers shall survive a direct nuclear hit."

"Where is our data stored?"

"In a different area code, buster, with a second copy at an undisclosed location. All encrypted."

Kelly chuckled and shook his head. She punched a key, studied the screen and pressed another button. He watched. Suki hesitated, glanced up, saw him staring, smiled and looked back at her screen. Kelly's head dropped. He shuffled the slides. Kelly looked toward her. She checked the wall clock and noticed him gazing at her again. Suki raised an eyebrow. Kelly turned away, his neck reddened and he cleared his throat. Kelly snapped the briefcase shut, opened it, tucked the slides in, closed it and gulped the coffee.

Boris tapped the microphone switch. "Who is available from Strauss, Gore and Jordan?" He slipped his leg off the table, stood straight with feet planted apart, right hand clutching his hip and the left fist raised up and forward. "Certainly insufficient, we propose $3 million retainer, assume your America attorneys make FAA endorse and convince White House keep National Transportation Board away. Forget other countries, local investors manage those government. Your group chase oil and transport companies, suggest partnerships possible without commit. Just labor, forget partners and assign cheaper associates." Boris squinted at his fingernails and paced around the table. "Perhaps you decide if adequate tomorrow. Not worry, plenty top DC lawyers for $3 million US. I ring off."

He jerked out the earpiece, threw it at the table and ambled into the hallway. Suki folded her notebook when he approached.

"Pardon delay. When hear result you not mind. Hostile committee put me on limb to partly fund you. Big battle. Noisy."

Kelly jumped up. He clasped both hands overhead.

"Thank you, Mr. Boris. We will deliver. You will be pleased. The world will be better. Terrific. This is great."

"Not so rapid, conditions you must understood. If not comfortable then turn down moneys."

Suki beamed. She swayed on the counter top and cocked her head. "What might those strings be?" she asked.

"Three things important," Boris said. "First make vehicle fly on computer, second get machine to dig and third generate power."

"Fly, dig and power," Kelly said. "Fly, dig and power. Yes, yes, oh yes. Hit those three. We will."

"Should we define precisely what fly, dig and power mean?" Suki asked.

"All here described," Boris said. He dropped a sheaf of papers in Suki's lap. "This check for $8 million to computer fly." He pulled a check from his shirt pocket and held it chest high. Suki reached but Boris tucked it back into his pocket. She folded her hands over the papers.

"Two more $8 million checks follow. One for dig after fly. Then final check to generate electricity."

Kelly touched Boris's elbow. Boris sprang back and pointed his index finger at the ceiling. "Advisors shout idea not work." He raised a second finger. "You backgrounds adequate for small things. Put me risk for support you." Boris waved three fingers under Kelly's chin. "FAA, National Transportation Board, airlines, oil companies, other government and utilities try to eliminate you."

Kelly and Suki didn't move.

"Probably I give you first check anyway for $8 million."

"This will work," Kelly said, "and we will..."

"Read papers or words are stupid," Boris said. "If computer flight fails or tunnel not dug or no power created Kelly and Suki can be fired. Honestly not likely since investment is in you two, but is possible. Investors require option to terminate you both. Lawyers insist. Papers require Kelly's Toluca Lake condominium belong to company. Same for Suki's 1997 Mustang convertible, three MacIntosh computers and Merrill Lynch retirement account. All are lost if you fail."

"We accept," Kelly said.

Boris pulled out the check.

"Can you picture us refusing?" Suki asked.

Boris stared into her, studied Kelly and ripped the check in two. Kelly's lips parted but he said nothing. Boris aligned the torn halves and pulled them apart, taking several seconds. Suki's eyes narrowed. Boris stepped toward the trash can. Kelly wheezed. Boris tore one piece again and watched both parts drift down into the trash. Suki bit her wrist. Boris crumpled another piece into a tight ball and flicked it into the container. "Total destruction is important with large checks." He placed a third piece in a half-full cup, poked it under with his finger, swirled it and poured the contents into the garbage. He looked up, stepped in front of Kelly, folded the last piece and slid it under a ballpoint clip on Kelly's shirt pocket and pursed his lips.

"Ignorant to agree now. Take four days, read papers, smarter to sign then. Keep that piece of check to remind you. If think terms good, then I wire money your account."

Their flight cleared Nova Scotia and slanted toward the US border. Suki ran estimates on her laptop PC from seat 38D. Kelly studied Boris's agreement across the aisle, in 38C.

"It's simple," he said. "We fly on the computer or we're fired. We dig the tunnel or we're fired. We generate power or we're fired."

"Should we celebrate or panic?" she asked.

"Neither. We must fly first."

"Why do you suppose Unity wants a claim on my car, my pension and your condo? That hardly covers their monthly lunch bill."

"They use more stick than carrot. Socialists."

"And got my attention," Suki said. "Have you eyeballed this?" She pointed at three curves on her screen. "The blue line shows how air pressure jumps the deeper we go. The white line tracks our speed during descent. See that hairy red line? It charts the shock wave intensity. Faster speed through thicker air and those waves get toxic. Seal it up in our rock tunnel and Kelly, you and I have a gut-wrenching challenge."

Kelly fingered the curved line on her screen.

"That helps," he said.

"Right on, my man. This assumes zero gravity at the center of the earth since the core is surrounded by equal mass in all directions. Right? That cuts the speed just enough to make things possible."

Kelly nodded.

"We don't go that deep," she said. "But guess what? Going part way reduces gravity, so acceleration diminishes. Between that and the denser air, the craft slows to a manageable speed."

Kelly stared at her screen. "Why did you trade seats?" he asked.

"I can tuck my right foot away from the aisle here."

"Oh. I'm sorry. I forget."

"No apology needed. It is nothing, the fact that you don't remember is nice itself. Does my defect ever bother you a little?"

"Thicker air makes the shock waves stronger," he said.

"Kids were so delightfully honest," Suki said. "They nicknamed me 'Clunk' in fourth grade. That was good, got me used to being different."

"Suki I am unaware of it almost all the time."

"Here's the NASA agreement," she said. "We model our flight in NASA's computers at Moffett Field in Mountain View for three hours. That's twice the time needed to prove it. Did you say 'almost all' the time?"

"The contract says October 14 only," he said.

"They book their Crays ahead, we get no flexibility, but the price is bargain basement," Suki said.

"Things just got simpler. It's no longer fly or be fired," Kelly said.

"How so?" she asked.

"It's now fly October 14 or be fired." "Fired, and maybe no car, condo or pension. Here, how does this grab you?" Suki hit three keys and a scallop appeared on her screen.

"This must be the tunnel wall surface," Kelly said.

"Is this dude perceptive? Yes, this should neutralize those shock waves, kind of a star wars muffler."

A wave of red arrows hit the scoop-shaped wall and bounced into each other on Suki's screen, she struck another key and a tighter pattern of blue arrows created a different wave. Suki hit the key again and a solid pattern of black arrows ricocheted off the scallop.

Kelly studied Suki's eyes and lips while her fingers ticked across the keyboard.

They passed Toronto at daybreak, seven miles high, served breakfast over Dubuque, hit turbulence above Denver and landed at 10:22 A.M. in Los Angeles. Suki and Kelly grabbed the last seats in the valley shuttle for $12 each, it dropped a student in Westwood, a silent woman with a slick face and sagging hands on Beverly Glen, a fry cook at Baker's Square in North Hollywood and headed for their Van Nuys plant.

"Was tan stucco invented in the valley or what?" Suki asked. "When that graffiti gets regular, it's like wrought iron at a glance. Home, ugly home."

"91401-1194," Kelly said. "Absurd."

"What?"

"That is our building's zip code."

"What's so strange?"

"There are nine digits in our zip. That says there must be 999,999,999 possible codes. But there are less than 300,000,000 people in the country. So the Post Office created three times as many zip codes as there are people."

Suki rolled her eyes. "Sign these papers Thursday, FedEx Boris, and we could have $8 million big ones by Monday, right?"

"That is what he said. I have written checks against some of it."

"For what?"

"Payroll takes part, we owe Caterpillar $2 million for development of the digger, our rent is a month late and your Moffett supercomputer time requires a half-million dollar deposit. We better fly."

"Kelly, when you said you hardly ever remember my affliction, could that mean you do think about it sometimes, like, just a little?"

"Nope. Never."

"I just wondered. It's no big deal. Really."

Kelly and Suki signed the contracts Thursday and FedEx'd them to Boris. There was no response. Kelly called Boris Tuesday. He was busy. Suki called Boris Wednesday. He was traveling. Kelly and Suki called Boris's secretary Thursday. She promised to investigate and call back. Kelly called Boris's secretary Friday. She was busy.

Kelly's desk lamp flickered and Suki's computer screen glowed inside the building Saturday at 8:35 P.M. She tested the tunnel flight patterns while Kelly took a final pass through their potential investor list and wrote fifty new proposal letters. They agreed to announce the shutdown with the next paycheck, giving each employee two week's severance. Suki finished the flight analysis at 11:40. Kelly signed the fiftieth letter three minutes after midnight.

"Kelly, Kelly, Kelly!" Suki ran to his desk waving a sheet of paper. "Here, in this trembling hand, is this the lifetime fax or what?"

"I cannot read it. Maybe it is time for glasses."

"This was crumpled in my mail. Wells Fargo confirmed receipt of $8 million to our account. We live to fight another day."

Kelly slouched. His face dropped into his hands. Suki twirled and held the message over her head.

"Kelly and Suki and eight million miracles, wouldn't you say?" she asked. "A chance to make a difference, live the dream, go for a big one." Suki's hair flew out as she spun. Her pink muumuu billowed into a cone. She whirled and chanted.

Kelly looked up, his cheeks glistened and fingers shook. Kelly's shoulders dropped while he watched her twirl. "S-Suki?"

"Yes?"

He gasped, shook his head, steadied himself against the wall, weaved toward the door, turned and opened his mouth. "I... this... we..." Kelly squeezed his eyes shut.

Suki giggled.

Kelly looked blank. He swung his arm in a circular wave and disappeared through the doorway.

Suki shrugged. "Same here my partner," she said to the closed door.

to: suki@tunnelworks.com

copy: kelly@tunnelworks.com

from: boris@unity.com

Congratulation and thoughts for good October 14 computer flight. You have UNITY's big support. We arrive for observe simulated flight and uncork a fine magnum before day finishes.

Suki stared at Boris's e-mail. "Kelly, how did boring Boris learn we were testing October 14?"

Kelly looked at his screen, pulled up the message and shrugged. "Beats me. We better make it work."

"So they're sending spies?"

Kelly nodded his head slowly. "We better rehearse."

Kelly paid the landlord, sent a deposit to Moffett and wired Caterpillar another development fee on noon Monday. Suki hired six new engineers in the next month and negotiated a design contract with Bechtel. Kelly found a used office furniture store that delivered twenty repainted desks and chairs. Suki bought Dell desktops for each. A deli on Lankershim delivered lunch and dinner weekdays. On Saturday and Sunday, when Kelly and Suki worked alone, they drove five minutes south to Sherman Oaks for meals.

"This feels like I paid off my student loan and got a raise," Suki said.

"You? A student loan?"

"Sure. Tips and summer jobs paid for my operations. Then I borrowed for school. Can you believe this Sunday noon traffic?"

Kelly turned off Van Nuys Boulevard into the parking lot. "I hate speed bumps." His gray Dodge van bounced across the lot. "They pave so cars can go fast. Then they put in speed bumps so cars cannot go fast. Doesn't make sense."

"Kelly, can you stop expecting logic? Ready to test the flight?"

"Ready."

Suki loaded the atmosphere formula in the PC. She tried it. By 4:25 it worked. Kelly loaded the craft design. He validated it. By 4:50 Kelly finished the speed formulas for the first 200 miles of travel, checked and loaded them. Suki connected the PC to a projector. They pulled the blinds.

"Lines are bad," he said. "Thick lines are worse. If they get too solid, you'll see the tunnel walls crack."

"What tells me there's still a Mustang in my parking spot?"

"The way this is programmed, the sonic wave lines should break into small lines or dashes. That's if the wall scallops absorb them through the first 200 miles."

"Shall we?" Suki asked.

Kelly cleared his throat and nodded. Suki flipped the projector switch. Kelly paced to the corner. Suki pulled up the loaded programs, entered the data and the vehicle illuminated the screen. Kelly crossed his arms and stared at the transport pod. A tunnel cross-section appeared. The words "Launch? Y/N" flashed over the tunnel. Suki glanced at Kelly, hit a key and the tunnel accelerated past the transport pod. In twenty-five seconds two thin v-shaped lines spread from the craft's nose.

"Too soon," Kelly said.

"Mother Nature, baby, what are you doing to us?" Suki asked.

At thirty seconds another set of lines appeared. Each thickened. The tunnel walls started to vibrate.

"The tunnel's going," Kelly said, but at that instant the first lines disappeared and the vibration slowed.

"Voila," Suki said. The other lines dissolved.

Broken lines bounced around the screen, the tunnel steadied, the dashes ricocheted off each other slicing into dots until a throbbing gray pattern remained.

"Go, baby, suck up that shock."

"Perfect, Suki, just perfect."

Kelly reached for Suki's shoulder but his hand stopped an inch short. She stared into the screen, reaching toward it, palms apart. His arm dropped. Kelly jumped up, punched the air and paced around his desk.

Suki blinked to flush tears from her eyes. "Have you ever been so relieved that you went into a trance? This crackpot idea of ours just might make it. Dinner's on me, buddy, if you're up to it."

Suki and Kelly shut down the equipment, locked the office and left. Kelly ran the test again on a notebook PC in her kitchen while she showered. After eight minutes Suki floated through the room in a floor-length peasant dress and wooden bead necklace.

"Is this outfit sufficient for a world-class celebration?"

Kelly looked up and cleared his throat. "I ran the test again and it worked," he said.