"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"It's wasteland."

Jeremy Kirby glanced at his wife with a mischievous smirk before turning back to the cabin window. "I know, I know; but there's just something beautiful about how plain it is. Like cheese."

Sally laughed. Jeremy always said silly things like that, and she loved it. Sometimes she wasn't even really sure if he was being funny or not. She'd known that he wasn't like most other men when she first laid eyes on him, and she'd known that he was eccentric when she got to know him. And when he had proposed to her during coitus, she had known right then that he was set in his unconventional ways.

The truth was; she liked it. It was a refreshing break from the men who always seemed to require her to put up a facade. With Jeremy, it was different. She didn't have to pretend to have the wit of a bowl of gelatin or laugh at inappropriate jokes. She could be her total self. And that's what she was whenever she was with him—her total self. She had nothing to hide, and neither did he for that matter. And that was why she knew their marriage was going to work; there were no pretenses, no facades. Just them.

Kenny glanced at the giggling couple across the aisle with an air of distaste. They were probably newlyweds from the way they kept glancing at each other with restrained passion. He thought, just give yourselves a few weeks...maybe months; you won't be looking at each other like the way you are now.

With a dry smirk, he turned to the prairies zipping by outside the window. Wasteland. Since civilization had slipped away just minutes after the train's departure, Kenny had only caught glimpses of three or four small towns in a distance.

"Where are we right now, do you think?" Kenny heard the husband ask.

It was a fair question. They had left Sacramento. just thirty minutes ago, but the maglev was said to be fast; already garnering favorable reviews in just its second day of operation. The transit time to Albany was estimated to be just over seven hours. Not quite impressive to folks like Kenny, who knew he could cover the same distance in a plane with two hours to spare, but his boss—chief editor at the New York Star—wanted him to write an article about cheaper, more environmentally friendly modes of transport. Kenny would rather cover the series of bomb threats issued downtown the day before. But his boss yelled. At the end of an argument inside the Star's main office (which was explosive in its own right), Kenny was booking a plane ticket to Sacramento.; he didn't see the point of riding the train there and back.

Kenny's eyes shifted again to the newlyweds as they burst out laughing. He unbuckled his seatbelt and shot a dark glance at them as he got to his feet and started down the aisle. Both sides of the cabin were packed, he noted.

Initial hype or lower fares? Whatever the case, public support for the maglev is still exceptional on its second day; there was not an empty seat on the train.

Or something like that, he would write.

The scenery is is both subtle and stunning. The plain grasslands in the fore and the monstrous peaks shooting up out of the horizon remind you that you aren't soaring at fifty thousand feet above, even if the journey lacks the stops and bumps of typical land travel.

He passed through a windowless corridor and into the next cabin. This section was arranged with small square tables draped in red cloth. Atop them where spotless china and silverware. He noticed that besides a woman at the other end, there was no one else inside.

The food, however, is far less sophisticated than the mechanical marvel that it is served on. Scrambled eggs, bacon, milk and cheddar cheese comprise a very simple menu. Passengers can't help but feel that this is an unacceptable affront to their otherwise first class experience; they ignore the meals altogether.

He smiled at the woman, a blonde, probably in her mid-twenties; she was the type he liked. Her cherry lips curled into a smile that seemed to inviting. But she would have to wait. He was working. He would come back if he had the time when he was finished; how could he not find out where that beautiful cherry smile was going?

He started down the aisle again, in her direction, but not toward her. He stared into her eyes with teasing charm, preparing to walk past her now. But he stumbled and fell.

Red in the face, he fought the embarrassment and got to his feet again, reluctantly setting gaze on the blonde woman with the cherry lips again. He was briefly taken back by her expression, one of pure horror. He glanced around stupidly, half expecting to find something. But nothing was to be seen.

And then, just as he was beginning to wonder just what had gotten into the beautiful woman before him, as though she found a fall so abhorrent, the unthinkable happened. A loud bang echoed and the train rocked violently, so violently that he found himself lifted from his feet. He came crashing through some kind of barrier—the glass—and flung through the air for a moment before landing hard on his back.

Kenny was knocked out cold.