Nina Sharp's eyes lit up the moment she caught sight of William Bell in the doorway of her office.
"Good morning, William," she said with a bright smile reserved only for him. "You'll be pleased to hear that we have that contract with Homeland Security signed, sealed and delivered. The products are being manufactured as we speak."
"That's wonderful news."
Nina's smile faded.
"William, is something wrong?"
Bell sighed and moved in front of her desk. He held a blank, white file in his hands.
"I need you to do something for me."
"Anything," said Nina immediately. Unlike many of his other employees, Bell knew she meant it.
"I need you to foster two girls. Olivia and Rachel Dunham."
Nina didn't speak at first. She simply stared at Bell.
"You can't be serious," she said finally.
"Olivia... is a very special little girl," said Bell. "It is imperative that she is well looked after."
The colour drained from Nina's face and she stood up abruptly.
"William, don't be absurd!" she blurted loudly. "I am running your company for you! I couldn't possibly-"
Bell put up a hand to stop her.
"Anything you need will be provided."
But Nina was beyond being placated by his words.
"Why not someone else? Anyone else?" she shouted. "You have hundreds of employees more suited to parenting than I am!"
"You're the only one I trust," said Bell with the same quiet, reassuring tone he employed when speaking to frightened test subjects.
As he intended, this sentence stunned Nina into silence once more. William very rarely expressed any feeling for her.
"You... you haven't given me a reasonable explanation yet," she managed finally. "Since when has the company been involved in foster care?"
"Olivia Dunham is Subject 13 in the Cortexiphan Trails," muttered Bell. "Her mother just died."
"She ran away before the memory modification protocols could be undertaken and soon afterwards there was... an incident with her stepfather."
"He was abusive. Olivia was trying to defend her mother... she found the gun..."
Nina turned, if possible, even paler.
"She shot him?" she whispered.
Nina slumped back into her chair.
"So not only is Olivia Dunham emotionally scarred," she interrupted, letting a hint of anger show. "she's a liability to Massive Dynamic?"
"I don't need to tell you what would happen if it got out that Calvin Genetics experimented on children," said Bell, who suddenly sounded rather patronising. "We can't afford another incident like the one in New Jersey. Will you take them in?"
"Do I have a choice?" asked Nina bitterly.
Bell handed her the file, which was entirely devoted to "Subject 13". Nina glanced at the first few pages and tossed the folder unceremoniously on her desk.
"Is there a Rachel Dunham footnote?" she asked sarcastically.
"Rachel won't accidentally burn your apartment to the ground if she gets frightened."
"I'll stock up on fire extinguishers," she said coldly. "William, if I'm going to foster two girls, there are things I need to know about both of them."
"Rachel is a few years younger, if I remember correctly. I'll have social services send you her records as well."
"You're angry with me."
"How observant of you," snarled Nina.
"Will a week be sufficient to prepare?"
Nina glowered in response. All the time in the world wouldn't prepare her for this.
"William... please leave."
He did as she asked without another word. Nina buried her face in her hands for a moment before reaching for her phone.
"Lana, cancel my appointments for the week... yes, all of them," she muttered to her secretary. "Director Webster will have to reschedule."