D A Novel (George Right) - By George Right

In different places it has different names. Metro. Underground. Tube. Subway.

Some stations look like magnificent palaces. Others more resemble a tile-revetted public toilet. Some, with many platforms and levels, bound by a network of passageways, corridors, staircases and escalators, are a real labyrinth. Others have only one entrance, which is an exit as well. The car designs, fares, personnel uniforms–all these can differ. Only one thing is invariable: the subway grows into the flesh of big cities, the network of its tunnels penetrates them from the center to the most remote blocks, like a blood system–and plays the same role. Any clot that corks a separate blood vessel leads to a paralysis of the whole area. If the subway stops completely, life in a city becomes impossible. And millions of people who daily descend under the earth through the opened mouths of stations in order to become a part of streams flowing through tunnels, got used to it long ago and take it in stride. At least, the majority of them.

Some, however, feel an uprush of fear.

What is the reason of this fear? Claustrophobia? But is a subway car more close and confined than a bus aisle, office space, or an apartment room? Tabloid press rumors about mutant rats, runaway maniacs or monsters hiding in tunnels? But does anyone take such rags seriously? Lastly, the idea that hell lies under ground? But, after all, in our time even the most naive believer knows that heaven is not in the physical sky, and it is impossible to reach paradise by a plane or a rocket–so it is impossible to get to an underworld through a mine or a subway tunnel. So what is the reason for the fear?

Employees of the New York subway, as well as of any another, of course, wave such fears aside with irritation. The subway, they will tell you, is the safest form of transportation. Accidents, especially with those with casualties, are extremely rare here, in contrast to the roads above where cars crash every day. As for the crime level, it is not the 1980s now, thank God, and the subway was put in order long ago. And even if something extreme were to happen, there are detailed schemes and mechanisms for helping and evacuating passengers. And as to ostensibly strange and inexplicable cases–that is a pile of crap, and you should not addle your brain with superstitious bullshit, but familiarize yourself with the real facts.

These facts are presented in the New York Transit Museum at the corner of Schermerhorn Street and Boerum Place, or you can find them yourself on the Internet. The New York subway has 468 stations in operation and 24 routes. The total length of the routes is 842 miles, approximately equal to the distance from New York to Jacksonville, Fla. a whole, it is a rather complex enterprise which can easily confuse a newcomer. The modern subway is the result of unifying three previously independent railway systems, so it operates two different types of trains. Some routes are designated by letters, while others are designated by numbers. Trains of different routes can travel the same lines, while trains of one route can go by different railways, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. On average, the New York subway transports more than four million people daily. So its employees are busy enough doing important work and annoying them with silly questions is a waste of time.

Especially since the absolute majority of those millions of passengers who daily go down under the earth safely comes back to the surface.

The absolute majority, yes.

When Tony Logan descended to the 42nd Street station, it was almost 1 a.m. already. Tony's mood was extremely foul. To have to stay at office till midnight is not too pleasant by itself, and moreover, when it appears to be in vain... The buggy computer destroyed the work of several days (oh yes, all of us learned to make regular backups, and all of us remember it too late), and all attempts to restore information had also failed. Now the project will surely not meet the deadline, and then... "And then it probably won't be necessary to work late any more," Logan thought gloomily. "There simply will be no work."

The weather wasn't pleasing either. Since the September morning sun had been warm, Tony had thoughtlessly left home having put on nothing warmer than a shirt. But the evening dragged clouds in, and by night it became