The war was over. The Skedar was annihilated. Datadyne was now history. Standards of living increased dramatically as contacts with the Maians were established and their technology implemented.

It was a strange time for the Carrington Institute's top agent, Joanna Dark. She had a lot more free time and was only occasionally called to the Institute to test weapons that Foster was developing or to work on different defense projects. For her part, she was happily married to James Bond and was already 4 months pregnant.

One particular day seemed just like another day of work. She was to meet with the Secretary of Defense at the White House to discuss the prospects of cutting defense spending.

"Good evening, Mrs. Dark," the secretary said. "We are forever indebted to you for saving the entire cabinet's lives three years ago in Air Force One.

"Don't mention it, Robert," Joanna replied. "It was my duty to protect the U.S. government. How is it going with the administration? Is all well with the President?"

At this, the secretary of defense frowned.

"I'm afraid he faces a difficult reelection. His opponent, Richard O'Donnell, is a Republican extremist, has condemned the Maians and tried to seek improved relations with the Skedar. He seems to be backed by remnants of Datadyne and currently has a considerable lead in the polls because the economy is in the doldrums."

"I'm sorry to hear that. If he needs any fundraising money, tell him that the Institute fully supports him. Now, about cutting defense spending…" Joanna replied.

"Oh, and there is something else that you and the Institute must know," Robert added. He seemed uncomfortable. Worse, he seemed distressed. He glanced around to make sure there was no one outside listening.

He leaned closer and whispered into Joanna's ear.

"The Skedar are regrouping quickly. They already have a new leader and could become an international threat within several months. There's a storm coming, Mrs. Dark. And you and the Institute better batten down the hatches, because it will hit us all har-"

That was all that Robert could manage before he was shot in the back by an assassin. He fell, severely injured. Joanna instantly managed a defensive stance and thought over her options.

"Well, Mrs. Dark," said an all too familiar voice. "It seems you know too much. We cannot allow you to live.

Joanna turned around and couldn't believe what she saw. "You can't be… Cassandra!" Those were the last words she managed before she felt a sharp pain in the back of her neck and fell to the floor in a heap, unconscious.