The tap tap tap of the metal pointer against the holo-board irked Xiu Vervaagde more than she let on. For 5 years it had annoyed her, in fact. Every year she worked in the same cubicle, with the same boss, and the same boring staff meeting every Monday morning at 9:00 am on the dot. They were always the same. "Learn how to maximize your worker performance!" "Evading legal technicalities by utilizing the truth" "Make your time worth it" and so forth. The same old junk the Iron Federation had fed her since she graduated at Oxford University, a peaky Asian genetic genius at her youthful height. Patrishia, her company boss, jabbed the holo-board with the pointer in frustration. The gentle waves of light had shut off for a moment, only to be prodded back to life. The sallow-skinned Arian face twisted into what could have been a smile or a grimace. Xiu sat back in the magna~grav space where the mysterious forces of sub-atomic powers levitated her into a comfortable position a few feet off the ground. Patrishia was droning on about the Iron Federation's limit of power over the European Higher Thought Head Runner something-or-another. A pen rolled against her manicured hand. Tracing its path, she saw tan fingers drumming on the surface of the crystal table. She raised her gaze to meet the intense emerald eyes of William Kent, her co-worker and fellow Oxford graduate. He winked slowly, then nodded towards the pen. She picked it up, and saw something inscribed in glowing letters on the side. "Meet me in Tunnel 8, 1600 hours" Xiu started. The meeting was over and Patrishia had just whacked her on the head with the pointer, apparently for emphasis on some order she just missed. She rubbed her head in contempt, noting the tender spot where she had been struck. William rose from his hover and leaned into her as he passed. "You won't regret it" Something in his smooth tenor voice sent a small chill up her spine.