Monday, May 29, 2000, midmorning. Third Age Corpation

Lyta Forrester hurried through hallway, trying to clip her ID badge to her lab coat. Late. I hate being late. I hate stupid parties. Hate makes me tired. I'm already tired. I can't win.

She punched her code and waited impatiently for the system to acknowledge her. The light went green and the hydro-door swung slowly open. Lyta slipped inside as soon as it was wide enough.

Her co-workers were already busy about their assigned tasks. Her partner for many projects, Kyle Lee, looked up and grinned, "Hey Ace, late night? The Head Cheese is looking for you. Wants you down in his office as soon as you get in."

"Morning, Kyle, and note the absence of `good.' Is he on the warpath, or is he just lost?"

"Not really sure," Kyle grinned and shrugged," he just called down and said to send you up."

The one day I'm late since I started here, and he wants to see me first thing. Figures. "Thanks, Kyle." Lyta headed for the elevator.

Ten minutes later Mr. Fiello's secretary ushered her into his office. Lyta opened the door and walked inside. Mr. Fiello was sitting at his desk. Across from him stood another man. About 5'9, slim, dressed in a business suit and wearing one black glove. They both turned towards the door. The stranger was wearing sunglasses and smiled a perfect smile.

"Here is my project coordinator now. Out of all my employees she's the one who may be able to do as you wish."

"Thank you Mr. Fiello," the man's voice was smooth, a slight accent, "you may go now."

A smile tugged at the corner of Lyta's mouth. "You may go now?" I've never heard anyone dismiss him like that.

With that Mr. Fiello nodded, gave Lyta an encouraging smile and left his office.

"Ah, Ms. Forrester? Any relation to Kevin Forrester?"

"My father." Lyta extended her hand to him. "You must be in the same line of business; he's not exactly famous outside of it."

The man nodded in a satisfied fashion. "Good. The project is in good hands then. What we need is a box. 4 feet by 4 feet, light, but able to withstand high pressure and strength exertions. Thin enough to allow air particles or have some way of oxygen inside. It should also repel light waves."

He handed her a folder."This is high level classifaction. Need to know basis only. You may have 2 other assistants. Inside the folder is a card. It will get you whatever you need as soon as you need it. No questions asked. High priority. You don't even talk to your pillow about this.

"Can you handle it?"

"Well, probably, depending on the exact specs. Sounds like your basic deluxe shiny box. I'm willing to sign a confidentiality agreement right now, but I have to know something about the application before I can say yes to the project, Mr…?"

"We will be holding a dangerous meta human for transport to corrective facities," he smiled disarmingly and held his hand out," There is no need to sign anything Ms. Forrester, I go on a simple handshake and verbal agreement. Are we agreed that you will provide the box as specified, talk to no one, and take on only 2 other staff members and that this is ultra secret?"

"Under these conditions, no, I can't. For starters, if this is being used to transport a human being, I need to see showing I.D. from the appropriate government agency. I need have documentation about the intent and application of the project. I need evidence that work is in progress with metahuman groups to assure that the subject's civil rights aren't being violated. I'd also have to insist on design changes; for instance, four by four is far too small. That's not for transporting 'dangerous metahumans'; it's a tiger trap."

Fifty-some years ago, there were certain people who would have put a pink triangle on Patrick and taken him to a "facility" with gas showers. That's not going to happen here.

The man gazed at her for few moments and then produced a two sets of ID. "You walk a very dangerous ground Ms. Forrester. I must ask you to forget ever seeing either ID."

Lyta stiffened. Was that a threat?

The first had four letters in the background on top of the flag of Canada and a picture of the man in front of her and a name- F. Contract. The letters - E.D.G.E. The second had the United Nations logo on it, F. Contract's picture and the letters M.I.S.

"I understand your concern. However, the prisoner is a very dangerous meta human, give him more then 4 x 4 room, and he is gone. Without loss of life if we are lucky. He also converts solar engery, which is why we want it dark. We don't want it to transport Metahumans, just this one. I have already told you more than was necessary. Can you do it?"

"Sir, any mechanical engineer can make you the box. It doesn't require aerospace knowledge or technology. I'm sorry, but I have to pass on this project. I enjoy watching The X-Files, but I have no desire to live it." She smiled, hoping the joke would diffuse any tension. This "Mr. Contract" wasn't someone she wanted mad at her.

"We're both professionals. I'm sure we can agree that I came up here just to thank Mr. Fiello for the Gala tickets, and that someone else will be able to help you."

"Thank you for your time Ms. Forestter."

With that the strange man opened the door, ushering Mr. Fiello back in, he gave Lyta a nod, "It good to know where you stand."

Contract waited until Mr. Fiello was sitting down before giving further instructions, "You will fire Ms. Forrester and her entire section."

"What," Mr. Fiello stared at the man in his office in shock.

Contract opened the door and glanced back at the still staring manager of Third Age Corporation," G.A.T.E can not afford to have such insubordinate employees. And I expect to see someone who can do the job in this office in two hours, or you can join them."

Closing time

Lyta picked up her jacket, listening to the usual closing banter and plan making. She looked up as the door opened and Mr. Fiello and Dave Reed from accounting stepped inside.

"May I have your attention. People I have some bad news, " Fiello's eyes never left Lyta's as he continued, "due to sudden budget cuts, this section is closed. I am afraid Third Age can no longer employ any of this section. Mr. Reed has your pink slips, servence pay and recommedations. I am sorry for the suddenness."

Mr. Fiello turned and walked out before the shocked employees could respond. When the response came anger mixed with disbelieve.

As her coworkers mobbed the accountant, demanding severance pay and answers, Lyta pocketed the business cards of her best clients. Thinking better of it, she tucked her whole Rolodex into her bag.

She waited for her turn at the accountant. As she stood, tapping her foot, she listened to her venting coworkers.

"Third Age is slitting their own throats with this," Lyta said when someone took a breath. "Aerospace has always been their most lucrative department. Without us, they're in trouble." Then again, she added to herself, if that "Mr. Contract" is here to stay, I'd guess this company's troubles are just beginning.

Mike handed her an envelope and smiled apolgetically,"Sorry about this Lyta, but it came out of the blue. Usually accounting has some warning," he shrugged.

"Well, it's certainly not your fault. What happened, anyway? Did we just go through a merger or lose our biggest account this morning?"

"I have no idea, "Mike muttered, turning to the next employee.

Lyta called Joe from her desk. "Hey, sweety, my schedule just opened up. Would you like to get together for lunch?"