Home > Disclosure(4)

Author: Michael Crichton

Benedict sipped his coffee. "Is it true you're the only division manager who isn't an engineer?"

Sanders smiled. "That's right. I'm originally from marketing."

"Isn't that pretty unusual?" Benedict said.

"Not really. In marketing, we used to spend a lot of time figuring out what the features of the new products were, and most of us couldn't talk to the engineers. I could. I don't know why. I don't have a technical background, but I could talk to the guys. I knew just enough so they couldn't bullshit me. So pretty soon, I was the one who talked to the engineers. Then eight years ago, Garvin asked me if I'd run a division for him. And here I am."

The call rang through. Sanders glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight in Kuala Lumpur. He hoped Arthur Kahn would still be awake. A moment later there was a click, and a groggy voice said, "Uh. Hello."

"Arthur, it's Tom."

Arthur Kahn gave a gravelly cough. "Oh, Tom. Good." Another cough. "You got my fax?"

"Yes, I got it."

"Then you know. I don't understand what's going on," Kahn said. "And I spent all day on the line. I had to, with Jafar gone."

Mohammed Jafar was the line foreman of the Malaysia plant, a very capable young man. "Jafar is gone? Why?"

There was a crackle of static. "He was cursed."

"I didn't get that."

"Jafar was cursed by his cousin, so he left."


"Yeah, if you can believe that. He says his cousin's sister in Johore hired a sorcerer to cast a spell on him, and he ran off to the Orang Ash witch doctors for a counter-spell. The aborigines run a hospital at Kuala Tingit, in the jungle about three hours outside of KL. It's very famous. A lot of politicians go out there when they get sick. Jafar went out there for a cure."

"How long will that take?"

"Beats me. The other workers tell me it'll probably be a week."

"And what's wrong with the line, Arthur?"

"I don't know," Kahn said. "I'm not sure anything's wrong with the line. But the units coming off are very slow. When we pull units for IP checks, we consistently get seek times above the hundred-millisecond specs. We don't know why they're slow, and we don't know why there's a variation. But the engineers here are guessing that there's a compatibility problem with the controller chip that positions the split optics, and the CD-driver software."

You think the controller chips are bad?" The controller chips were made in Singapore and trucked across the border to the factory in Malaysia.

"Don't know. Either they're bad, or there's a bug in the driver code."

"What about the screen flicker?"

Kahn coughed. "I think it's a design problem, Tom. We just can't build it. The hinge connectors that carry current to the screen are mounted inside the plastic housing. They're supposed to maintain electrical contact no matter how you move the screen. But the current cuts in and out. You move the hinge, and the screen flashes on and off."

Sanders frowned as he listened. "This is a pretty standard design, Arthur. Every damn laptop in the world has the same hinge design. It's been that way for the last ten years."

"I know it," Kahn said. "But ours isn't working. It's making me crazy.

"You better send me some units."

"I already have, DHL. You'll get them late today, tomorrow at the latest."

"Okay," Sanders said. He paused. "What's your best guess, Arthur?"

"About the run? Well, at the moment we can't make our production quotas, and we're turning out a product thirty to fifty percent slower than specs. Not good news. This isn't a hot CD player, Tom. It's only incrementally better than what Toshiba and Sony already have on the market. They're making theirs a lot cheaper. So we have major problems."

"We talking a week, a month, what?"

"A month, if it's not a redesign. If it's a redesign, say four months. If it's a chip, it could be a year."

Sanders sighed. "Great."

"That's the situation. It isn't working, and we don't know why."

Sanders said, "Who else have you told?"

"Nobody. This one's all vours, my friend."

"Thanks a lot."

Kahn coughed. "You going to bury this until after the merger, or what?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure I can."

"Well, I'll be quiet at this end. I can tell you that. Anybody asks me, I don't have a clue. Because I don't."

"Okay. Thanks, Arthur. I'll talk to you later."

Sanders hung up. Twinkle definitely presented a political problem for the impending merger with Conley-White. Sanders wasn't sure how to handle it. But he would have to deal with it soon enough; the ferry whistle blew, and up ahead, he saw the black pilings of Colman Dock and the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle.

DigiCom was located in three different buildings around historic Pioneer Square, in downtown Seattle. Pioneer Square was actually shaped like a triangle, and had at its center a small park, dominated by a wrought-iron pergola, with antique clocks mounted above. Around Pioneer Square were low-rise red-brick buildings built in the early years of the century, with sculpted facades and chiseled dates; these buildings now housed trendy architects, graphic design firms, and a cluster of hightech companies that included Aldus, Advance Holo- and DigiCom. Originally, DigiCom had occupied the Hazzard Building, on the south side of the square. As the company grew, it expanded into three floors of the adjacent Western Building, and later, to the Gorham Tower on James Street. But the executive offices were still on the top three floors of the Hazzard Building, overlooking the square. Sanders's office was on the fourth floor, though he expected later in the week to move up to the fifth.

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