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Plenty of Fish


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18th April, Mid Afternoon


The small apartment of Mr Dwayne Dee, Esq was a riot. In that it looked like a riot had stormed through it.

Unwashed clothes, pizza boxes, and microwave meals peppered the floor like an abstract painting. Wires and electronics and computers without any discernible organisation lay on DIY furniture.

These were the friends and loves of Mr Dwayne Dee, Esq.

But right now, Mr Dwayne Dee had found “the one”. And he was most excited about it.

So excited, in fact, he had elected to call his sister about it.

“Sis, sis! I have met someone! On the internet! She really understands me! I think it’s love!”

He paused to wobble off some meaningless computer jargon, his head spinning from the electronics around him.

“You have to come over! HEEELLLLP!” he wailed, lost in this novel situation and equally novel emotions. Dwayne was overcome with excitement and anxiety, to torturous level.

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Having not long moved back to Freedom City after years traveling the world Nicki was in the process of moving into a new apartment. Or at least part of her was.


"You know this is forced labor right?" One of the many Merge's paused from setting up the apartment, she was more sensibly dress than normal her hair tied back with a bow


"You can do this much easier than me, what with being able to lift several tons. Now shush I'm talking to.my brother."


After helping her brother get better she'd been at a lost of what to do, so she'd went away to find her selves. Now she was back to build a new Nicki, and maybe even become a hero. Merge was as much of herself as the rest that lived in her head all the time.


"Look slow down." Her brother obviously forgot to slow down a little when talking


So.it took a few minutes to work out that something was wrong.


"Hold on tight I'm on my way. Come one we've got things to do, the rest of you carry on working."

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About 10 minutes later!


The flat had improved by precisely nothing at all by the time Ms Nikki Dee arrived and opened the door. It continued to reek of disarray. 


"Help! Help! Help!" garbled her brother, tearing his hair and pacing up and down. He was wearing a dirty t shirt with tomato sauce stains, one sneaker, and Y-Fronts that were mercifully cleaner than his T shirt. 


"I've met this girl...woman...girl...on the internet! I know I know I shouldn't talk but she was so cool and she understood me and she knows all about me and we talk and we chat and she is so cool and understands and we talk and we talked about all sorts of stuff like you know big stuff about the world and everything and all the stuff in the world you know like how the government and stuff and area 51 and the virus in Russia you know and hacking the top secret websites, and the illuminati and all that stuff and she knows everything and...."


He paused for breath. This pause was, by necessity, a long one, as he had much breath to catch. 


"And now she wants to meet me! Help! What do I do?!?!?" he asked, pulling at his t shirt and hopping from one foot to another. 



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Since her brother had recovered she was sure that he'd regressed to how he was as a teenager, but geeky Dwayne was better than wanna be gangsta Dwayne. She took off her glasses, they were an affection to fool people something she didn't need to do with her brother. Part of the reason she'd left Merge in the car it was just weird for both of her to be around, especially as he tended to treat the both slightly differently.


"How can someone so computer savvy be so stupid sometimes." She'd never done it herself but she knew a few con artist and knew many of these tricks "Do you have any proof that she exists? Beyond a few easily sourced pictures and some sexy-sexy messages. If this is a 419 scam I swear I'll kill you myself..."


She sat down heavily on his couch, once making sure it was mostly clean.


"Okay show me what she's said, without anything that a sister really doesn't need to see."

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"Sure sure, I mean this girl is superfine, I mean crazysuperfine, ya know, like hot!" he smiled excitedly. 


Computers flickered on, which only really made Dwayne "worse". Everything, both material and cyber, was a complete jumble. 


Lists of disjointed half-saved conversations flipped up and down screens in various mundane and exotic graphic themes. 


"u r s0 sm4rt! b3t u r h4nds0m3 2 lolz!"


Nonsense compliments were the start, and then a picture or several - face shots of an olive skinned beauty with luxury hair and emerald eyes who could have graced any number of magazine covers. 


Only one name; "Jenny X". 


The chat become less text speak and more serious, lists of chats about government conspiracies and hidden agendas, but always flirtatious. 


"See what I mean! She CRAZYsuperfine!" smiled Dwayne happily, but pointing to her last comments, about meeting up for coffee, a little more anxiously. 

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Nicki gave a little sigh as she considered her option, she knew that he’d keep going on about this and on his own he was bound to do something stupid.


Why do we have such an idiot for a brother?


If it wasn’t for him you wouldn’t be about, so I’d cut him a little slack.


Well if you put it that way...


She’d spent a lot of time getting use to her unique situation, and sometimes an extra brain or two helped. And of cause she could be in many places at once, Merge was different looking enough that she often be in plain sight.

“Okay obviously you going to do this. Did she give you a time or place, or do you get to choose.” she knew a few people that owned coffee shops that she could borrow for an hour if possible “Me and Merge will be by your side every step of the way. Now I don’t suppose you’ve got yourself a decent suit?”

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"A suit? A suit?" gasped Dwayne. 


A few minutes later...


Dwayne was dressed in an ill fitting jacket and ill fitting jeans. He now spotted two sneakers and a clean(er) t shirt with a "Hyperquest!" logo, a popular 1970s Science Fiction show. 


"What am I going to say? What I am going to say? We are meeting at...."


Several dozen minutes later, Freedom City Park...


Dwayne squirmed in the Park seat, checking his phone every few seconds, even though he could "Hear" it at any moment with his unusual "gift". The park, whilst not devoid of technology (most particularly, all the mobiles), was relatively calm and soothing for him. 


"What am I going to say? What am I going to say?" he kept mumbling. 


As it happened, his fears were not required today, but more than needed tomorrow. 


A courier; a spotty girl on a bicycle with stick thin limbs and magnificently blonde hair in a totally mediocre pony tail, cycled towards them, dressed in a nice red uniform. 


"Letter for Mr. Dwayne! Letter for Mr. Dwayne!" she announced, and Dwayne spent no time at all pouncing to his feet. 


The letter was neat, polite, and rather swish. 


"Sorry I couldn't come, today. But I have something even better! Come meet me in Barbados!" was the letter. And in it, enclosed, a ticket for a flight tomorrow morning!

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By now Nicki was as much intrigued as irritated, if this was a scam them it was an incredibly elaborate scheme. She’d taken great pains to hide Dwayne’s abilities from the world, but that didn’t mean someone had found out. But why would they need him in person and why the Barbados. She went to sit beside her brother as she waited for Merge to get back, who delay was apparently a large pizza she was working her way through. Nicki literally didn’t know where the food went, and really didn’t want to speculate.


“The girl was just payed to deliver the note, she doesn’t know who or was. It was all done digitally obviously.” Merge was speaking for her brother benefit, Nicki already knew all that had happened and could even taste the pizza Merge was eating. She still helped herself to a slice though.


“Okay it’s you choice brother. If you want we’ll go and see who’s behind this. But you’ll have to get me on the flight as well, all above board this time I’ll give you the details.”

Dwayne’s abilities would be come in very handy here and Merge could helpfully travelling inside Nicki’s head.

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"Oh shall I go? Shall I go? Shall I go? I can't decide....what shall I do?"


He paused, before coming to a decision. 


The next day....BARBADOS!


The sky was blue. The sun was hot. Sunblock was most assuredly advised. 


"Jennie X" was apparently going to meet her electronic lover in "the Royal Buck" which was, it seemed, a five star hotel. And apparently, Dwayne and his sister(s) were being transported there by stretch limo. 


The driver was a rather handsome man with a rather handsome blue suit, who seemed happy, cheerful, and rather keen to look particularly handsome when he saw Nicki. He dropped a few generous compliments about her style, beauty, and wit. Then, he dropped a few more. 


"Charlie Crooks" was his name, but there was nothing criminal about him other than his sparkling white teeth in his sparkling wide smile. 


"What brings you to Barbados, Ma'am?" he asked as Dwayne rubbed his head and muttered about the "beepings". 


"You have a great hotel! The Royal Buck is top of the line! Why, even Amir Misri is staying there!"

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Asad picked up the phone to talk to the front desk.  "Yes?  Hello?  This is Amir al-Misri, I don't care what you have to do, but not more Train on the radio at all.  I swear that if I hear Drops of Jupiter once more, I will buy this hotel, fire everyone, and only give you a severance package if you stand outside and watch the bulldozers turn this place into a parking lot!"  He did not wait to do anything after that, hanging the phone up and glowering.


"Really Amir?" Came the response from the COO of Summit, dressed in a lighter, summery type clothing that was appropriate.  Whereas Amir was dressed in a suit, well a summer suit, light colored with a pale blue and white plaid shirt.  Not that he needed it.  He didn't care about heat, or anything of the sort.  He did try to hide the containment unit he had on under it.  So he never was anything less than full ankles to wrists to neck attire, even if he could play a lot of latitude on that.


"I hate Drops of Jupiter."  He growled it out, and then moved to go stand on the balcony, looking out on the rest of the island.  Well as far as he could.

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She had been certain that her years of travel had burnt off any bad karma she’d earned during her career as a criminal, but apparently the universe had one more surprise for her. She, well Merge, had a complicated history with Asad even when she was trying to help him things had never gone well. But he’d never meet Nicki, she been very careful to keep herself hidden when he was dealing with Merge. Dwayne might be another matter, what with Asad helping to arrange his treatment, but how like was it that the two of them would meet?


“We’re here to meet family from the island, seems they want to meet up with their poor American cousins.” she put on a bubbly accent as she told a half lie, as she had family from Trinidad, as the best lie had a core of truth.

Whether he lived up to his name or now she wasn’t going to trust anyone until she found out what was going on here.

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"Gotta look after them family, huh?" smiled Mr Crooks, pulling up to the impressive hotel. 


The impressive hotel was, indeed, impressive. Splendid architecture of a bygone age, spruced up with glass and lights. It was low, only two stories, but broad, built by the coast which as blisteringly blue. Swimming pools, indoor, and outdoor, conference rooms, three five star restaurants, bars, and an abundance of service staff in spiffy uniforms peppered with sparkling cuffs and buttons of brass. 


The Royal Buck is Proud to Host the 17th International Conference on Electronic Economies read the sign. A number of rooms and conference rooms were hosting the event. 


"Wow! I had no idea she was rich as well as beautiful!" gasped Dwayne, pressing his nose to the window of the limo with such force that one might imagine he could somehow meld through it. 




Edited by Supercape
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“Yeah family’s great sometimes, but they can also be a pain. Part of the fun is choosing how you deal with family, real and chosen.” She slipped on a pair of sunglasses.


She’d chosen her clothes carefully they showed some style and expense, as befitting the hotel, but also rather workmanlike for the local. Her plan, as usual, was to blend into the crowd whilst she keeping an eye on everything going on. This was probably even more important with Asad running about.


“Dwayne go ahead I’ll be nearby, don’t worry we’ve got you back.” she whispered in her brother's ear.

As she exited the car she looked around for a possible place to bring out Merge, just in case as it probably wasn’t a good idea just yet.

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The Royal Buck was a busy place, with many cameras. Perhaps the only place to bring out Merge was in the ladies toilets of the reception lounge. 


What a lounge! Gold, silver, glittering jewels, and sweet sweet air con. Even the bellboys smelled fragrant and looked shiny!


What a lavatory! Sweet aromas, sparkling freshness, scented toilet paper, and a woman in a lovely pink uniform whose sole job it was to hand out perfumed towels, and who was doing a very impressive, and almost successful job of looking enthusiastic about it. 


Dwayne, meanwhile, was almost levitating with excitement, wrestling with having a sane conversation with the extremely polite and patient reception staff, showing them his room reservation and luggage. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

It was a risk to be sure bringing Merge out, especially with Asad about, but she really needed the extra set if eye’s to juggle everything that could go wrong with today. And somehow she felt better with Merge around, even if she knew that they were all the same person and talking to her out in the open was just as good as thinking things through in your own mind. Beside Merge was the part of her that was really good at creating distractions, and if things were as bad as she suspected they could turn out to be she might very well need a good distraction.


Beside today Merge was relatively tame in her choice of dress a smidgen on the side of tacky, which was how she appeared despite efforts to the contrary, but no more than some of the rich folks that tended to stay in these hotels.

With a nod at each other, words weren’t needed at a time like this, the two of them entered back into the hotel lobby. Nicki to meet back up with her brother to see the room, and Merge to keep a discreet eye on anyone looking out for Dwayne.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Amir hated this conference.  This had been true for the last six years.  Before that he had merely disliked it, then he found out it was unavoidable, that he had to attend, and then, then it became entirely intolerable.  It came to the point he avoided this stretch of the world because his distaste grew because of this stupid conference.  He tried to pawn it off on his CFO and other people, but no, the rest of the board insisted he went.  Public appearances and all that.  


Still... International Conference on Electronic Economies, how in the hell did that apply what he did directly?  Still when he deigned to ignore it it ended up causing an annoyance that he had to contend with for months.


It was that fact that informed the glare he shot at Anastasia van Cleef, his COO, and person he had known for longer than he probably wanted to admit.  She was relishing it with a supernal smugness that might sicken him, might if he didn't deserve it.  This was her thing, the Dragon of Summit Transnational throroughly enjoyed these sorts of things, these conferences.  She also enjoyed when Asad squirmed, when he was actually losing his cool.  "I am sure that it is just a bad pop band that is upsetting you.  Of course Amir."  Their relationship was complicated because it was so familiar these fifteen years on, she knew the layered game he played, and wasn't fooled by him any more.  Hell she was in on it because it amused her as well.


"Well, my hatred for these conferences is pretty well known.  And of course our CTO's daughter had to get mono!  Seriously!  I think Barry hates this conference as much as I do!"  He waved a hand with a sort of imperious annoyed air on his face.  He groused and moved to get another drink, not that it mattered really, he liked the taste, and they had a fine scotch.  His eyes narrowed.  "I am going to move to at least have this place somewhere less nice next year.  Taunting me with..."


"You baby."  Ana moved up to him, cigar in hand and she lit it, smirking around it as she puffed to start the thing.  "I am the one with a keynote speech, so shut up.  Be thankful no one from Al-Misri is here.  At least you don't have to contend with one of your family members."  Then she laughed and shook her head, taking a big mouthful of the smoke, and allowing a slow exhale right at Amir.  Neither of them liked to deal with his family, and there was a lot of them.


"Fine.  Fine."  She had a point, he was being petulant.  Not entirely for show.


This conference was more a self-congratulatory ego boost for the companies.  The real innovations happened elsewhere, and generally showed up at tech conferences, not so much here.  Though there was a lot of vendors that tried to pedal their propietary servives or products here.  So it wasn't bad.  In general he came into the place with an acquisition plan firmly in mind.


Summit's goal of infrastructure and logistics as their primary look-ats stuck here.  Hell, their investment in telecom was extensive.  But right now, he wasn't buying for anything here.  No, Summit's presence here was to just push the brand, and any subsidiaries that were here he left alone, micromanaging them never necessarily helped.  Unless they were incompetent.


This conference wasn't meat and potatoes of things like cryptography.  It was discussing trends, and tried to push some economic futurists.  Which was funny as he knew how outmoded systems could be.  But if you are, say, the only company in the world that produces a software or product that attends to a specific need, then you are the only one they'll come to.  It was a mindset he hated, dominating a market so thoroughly meant your product was crap, because it didn't need to be better.  


"I am going to go for a walk.  I am only on the hook for the interviews tomorrow, so I may skip out on the dinner tonight."  Setting his glass down, he glanced to Ana, who was busy attacking the screen of her smartphone with her hand in a claw shape, her preferred method of typing.  With that, he stepped out fully on the balcony, and then jumped from it.


His long term business associate's heart dropped.  Ms. van Cleef was known to be smart, and ruthless, hence the nickname.  It still was hard to reconcile the fact that Amir was so blase about his abilities.  She stepped towards the railing of the balcony, and saw him down on the ground beside the pool, adjusting his suit, shaking her head as she watched him mingle with the surprised people.


Amir waved to Ana and headed back to the hotel proper, to go to the lobby, on his way out.  The goal was to schlep down to the beach for awhile.

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The Royal Buck, Lobby....


There did not seem to be any spying eyes on Dwayne, or for that matter Merge or Nikki. Just tourists and sunburn. Luggage and drinks. Staff and guests. 


A small man in a splendid suit was explaining how he would be most willing to take Dwayne to his pre-paid luxury apartment complete with complementary champagne and caviar. Apparently the most resplendent restaurant did a magnificent lobster dish. 


The man, whose nametag identified him as a certain Mr. Earnest Is Pleased To Help You gave a slightly despairing look to Nikki. "I am pleased to help you, Madam, and Sir...." he paused..."May I show you to your room?" he asked, sweating slightly. 




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The Royal Buck...The Pool, on the way to the Lobby


The normal tune of gasps and cheers and sneers permeated the air as Asad performed his super-theatrics. It was safe to say he had grasped the centre of attention. This of course was not to the palate of some of the rich and powerful guests of the Royal Buck, who quite clearly preferred being the centre of attention. On the other hand, those slightly less rich and slightly less powerful were most keen to gravitate to Asad in order to gain, presumably by the osmosis of social media, some attention by proxy. 


Selfies and Signatures were the order of the day, it seemed. 


One woman stood out. Tall, dark, mysterious, lithe like a panther, full of fluid muscles and with dark sunglasses over dark eyes. She had a fantastic figure and a tiny red bikini. And, without a care, oozing quiet confidence, she followed Asad to the lobby, quickly moving so to cross his path. 


"Amir Al-Misri?" she asked. "I heard you were coming. What brings you to a dull conference on e-banking?"


In front of him, past the dark woman, Asad could spy Dwayne and Nikki and Earnest wrestling with luggage...

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It felt a little weird to be the one front and center whilst Merge stayed in the background, it was telling that she fitted in better than Nicki did herself. She took hold of her brother arm in a manner that could be interpreted in multiple different ways depending on who was watching, from friends to lover. After all he was here to meet his one true love.


And whilst that was all going on Merge was watching to see if anyone was watching them, and hopefully no one was watching her watching them. Luckily Nicki was cautious but she wasn’t the type to get paranoid, different (literal) viewpoints helped in this case.

“Sure Earnest lead the way.”

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Amir was used to it.  The immediate hanger-ons.  He kind of liked it, if he was being honest with himself.  The attention seeking behavior was not entirely an act after all.  He found that turning up his personality traits to eleven helped with this sort of stuff.  So he didn't endure the selfies and autographs, he just let them happen, because it was fun, and if the people were friendly and nice, he didn't see a reason to really fight it. 


Until trouble walked in.


He knew it immediately upon hearing her voice.  She probably knew he knew it.  Of course, he was still technically on the rebound, at least publicly, and he had gone on dates since he and Agnus were not longer together (oh the tabloids loved that), though not serious, and it was more for show.  He knew a lot of people, so him getting a date for an event, premiere, gala, etc., etc. was more than easy.  Hell, he often was ringed up for just that, especially if it was for a bit of a show by his friend's part.


She, however, was not that.  All predatory grace and hungry eyes.  "Oh little old me?  I am here because I need to make a brave face and attempt to understand what they are talking about."


And then he saw Merge over the woman's shoulder, and he did his level best to not let that reaction show.  He shifted a little to get into a position to keep an eye on Merge, without losing site of her, while not rudely looking over the woman's shoulder, "Though you have a slight advantage to me, what is your name?"

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"Sveta" said the dark olive woman, with her dark red bikini and dark red lips. 


There was a hint of a Russian accent. Only a hint, mind. Her English was perfect, fluid, and her accent hard to place. She was eloquent and with good elocution. Her eyes were warm brown and studious. 


"I doubt anyone can understand what they are talking about here. Computers, advanced mathematics. Economic smoke screens" she said almost lazily, and certainly disinterested. 


"I just wondered what a man like you was doing wasting his time with this, when he could be partying?" she asked. It was flecked with the mildest of insinuations, not pushy, just an echo of a suggestion. An echo of a caught eye and the echo of parted lips. She was confident, for sure, but not arrogant. Then again, with her physique, all slick lioness and hourglass skin, she had every right to be confident. 


She tossed her hair to look over her own shoulder, at Merge. Sharp eyes, had Sveta, and she didn't miss a thing. 

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Russian.  Of course. He smiled a bit, as she played something of a hand, and in the back of his mind he knew he shouldn't engage, but he really hated this conference, and there were worse methods for industrial espionage.  "Normally I have a good indolent retort for that sort of comment.  However, I find myself distracted."  He smirked, dropping the innuendo like a gold wrapped brick into the conversation.  The drink he had ordered came up to him via a young man in a crisp white outfit, he took it, and dropped some folded bills on the platter in his hand.  A mimosa always seemed good for this sort of excursion.


Amir sipped at it, making eye contact with her, enough to see when she moved to look away from him, briefly.  "Well, Sveta, no one that uninterested in the thing, or the people involved, would know that much, or approach that way.  So just occupying the area yourself, or tensing up for the inevitable pounce?"  His voice taking that sort of casual aloofness she was using, not quite her calculated indifference.

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"I keep my eyes open. As you do, I am sure" she replied, turning her attention back to Amir. "Don't ask me to explain what is going on with the world of finance. I just like to watch people. Interesting people..."


She paused. 


"And frankly when it comes to bankers and computer programmers, interesting people are in short supply..."


She turned her head back to Dwayne and his sister. 


"Him, for instance, I'm not sure if he is a fool, a lunatic, or a genius, or all three. I guess today this hotel has plenty of them all. As long as they are wealthy..." she sighed, a little cynically. 


Her eyes turned to the guards, all sunglasses, suits, and bulges at the armpit. "And of course, where there is wealth, there is violence" she said, whimsically, pointing at the impassive men. 


"And with you, that is all the more true, is it not? Are you ready to take to the skies or punch out a terrorist? Or will you be dining, wining, and dancing the night away instead? Either would be..."




"interesting!" she finished with a smile. 

Edited by Supercape
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Merge gave a little sigh when she saw that Asad has spotted her, she’d been hoping to avoid all this. But best to get this out of the way and concentrate on the more important. Passing behind a convenient pillar a Merge dressed in the Hotel’s uniform when back to watching whilst the more flamboyantly dressed Merge sashayed over the Asad.


“Darling what a pleasant surprise.” her accent she put on was of a local.


Not wanting to ruin the element of surprise she embraced Asad going to kiss his cheek, as she did she whispered into his ear.


“Me being here has nothing to do with you I promise. I have things to do and I’ll stay out of you way.”


She stepped back and gave the other woman a broad smile.

“I’m an old friend of his from way back, he still calls me Merge after that incident. It an old joke but you know how these things are!”

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Asad blinked, and he looked at the Merge that walked up after the less than subtle insinuation from Sveta.  He shook his head a little, "Hm.  Well I didn't say your name, Merge.  And that is why I like playing poker with you.  Not just for the abundant euphemisms."


"Merge, this is Sveta, who is vamping quite hard and has what I must presume is the surname of a Bond villainess.  Sveta, this Merge, who makes sure to get under my skin in a manner that drives me to drink."   To prove his point he drains the mimosa, and waves at one of the people working to get more booze, as if to prove the point.

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