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Positions Available, Part 1


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Silberman's Books. Monday, November 28th, 2016. 10:00 am.


If you worked in retail, the holiday season was always stressful; it had a way of simultaneously bringing out the best and worst in people, and it seemed to go on forever. Since she'd reopened the store in 2014, owner Lynn Epstein had seen business steadily increase each year; their numbers were never going to be amazing, especially given her insistence on paying her employees a decent wage, but the fact that they weren't always operating at a loss made her happy. Of course, considering the large nest egg she'd brought back from Otherworld, she could afford to operate at a modest loss for years if necessary, and she wouldn't even mind; reopening Silberman's was never about making money.


But if she didn't want her employees to rebel and hoist her from the yardarm, she desperately needed to hire some holiday help, and hopefully keep a few of them on permanently. Which wasn't always easy when you ran a store that had a whispered reputation for weird goings on...


Since she'd put the ad up over the weekend, Lynn had already gotten several resumes via email, which she was currently reading over in her office; she had her 'power team' this morning, Lance on bar and Gretchen at the register. It was early yet, so it was mostly the coffee and newspaper crowd of old Jewish men from the neighnorhood, as well as one or two 'hipster beards' sipping their espresso as they checked their email on their  Powerbooks. 


Need any help out there?


No. We're good for now.

Edited by Heritage
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Even after travelling the world, and several world beyond that, Nicki still had enough ill gotten gains to set herself up with a very nice apartment for a very long time. What with her family also sorted for life and her brother now making a future for himself Nicki was at a loss what to do with herself, well Merge really. She'd come to terms with Merge always being there and wanted to start using her gifts to help people, but Merge really needed to be socialized a little more. Her acerbic manner had in past made more that a few put off working alongside her, now she need a chance to build bridges and make new friends.


She was thinking about this as she was enjoying the view over the city trying to catch up on the current events when her eye caught Lynn's advert and she couldn't help but grin. Could it be that simple?


So the next morning the unmistakable form of Merge walked into Silberman's Books dressed as normal quite outrageously in a crop top, emboldened with a three, and pair of cut-off jeans and a pair of almost impossible platform shoes. Her hair was tied up into a pair of pigtails, she wasn't you normal kind of customer but then again Merge couldn't rarely if even be called normal. As she approached the counter she gave Gretchen a friendly smile of recognition.


"Hello I've come to apply for the job!"

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"Uh...okay." Gretchen looked around uncertainly, almost as if she expected a camera crew to jump out of hiding at some point; her interactions with Merge had been relatively brief, but she felt the outlandish duplicator might even be a worse candidate for retail than she was, which was really saying something.


Meanwhile Lance perked right up at the sight of the attractive, colorfully-dressed woman, and gave her a big smile. "Hi, welcome to Silberman's Books! Can I make you anything?"


Once she finally processed that this was indeed happening, the young musician attempted to explain the situation to her partner.


You are never going to guess who showed up and asked about the job.


Uh, okay. Wait, let me try! Joe Biden? JK Rowling? Tony Award winner Neil Patrick Harris?


More shocking than any of those.


Wow, really? I'm stumped, then.


One of the Merges.


'One of the'...oh wow, really? Um....y'know, what, send her back, send her back!


As you wish, m'lady.


Gretchen cleared her throat and indicated the door to Lynn's office with a nod of her head. "You can just go on and knock on her door. She's waiting for you."

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Merge smiled at Lance using only a small portion of her not insignificant charm,whilst a short distance away Nicki gave a sigh.


I can’t help it a girl's got needs.


Some things we really don’t need to share, beside we’re here to get you a job


I could split into two and do both, simple solution.


No powers and remember why we’re here, best behaviour!


Nicki hoped this worked even though Merge was a part of her she was sometimes a bit of a wild card, that really did say something about her really. Still whatever happened today wouldn’t be a total waste, this place made excellent coffee.


“Sorry babe some other time maybe. Thanks Gretchen.”


As she stepped out of view her clothing changing to a much more sensible cut and her hair let itself down, making her look as close to how Nicki normally looked as she could. She knock gently on th door and poked her head around the corner.


“Hi there Lynn it’s me, I’m hear to interview for the job position you have.”

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"Hi, welcome back!" Lynn rose up from behind the desk and smiled; the office looked much the same as Merge recalled it from her first visit, with bookshelves on four walls, the big desk and Lynn's tall leather chair behind it. The changeling leaned over the desk to shake the duplicate's hand; this morning, she wore a sage green sweater, loose cut jeans and comfy walking shoes. As she resumed her seat and motioned for her visitor to sit in one of the leather guest chairs, the shopkeeper cleared her throat in mild embarrassment.


"So I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure how to address you; do I call you Nicki or Merge? And if you are Merge, do you have a legal identity that can go onto tax forms?" She shrugged and looked helpless. "I mean, before we can go any further, I need to know that you exist as a legal entity; sadly, that's the nature of the world we live in."

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When she wasn’t trying to be irritating Merge could be quite charming and she gave a friendly smile as she took Lynn’s hand, before taking a seat. She looked quite demure for a moment like a young twenty something looking to impressive someone for a job, and it was difficult to tell how much was an act.


“That’s a very complicated question, wrapped inside a very simple one.” Merge answer about her name “In a sense I’m part of Nicki, but I’m also my own person. So it’s probably best to just call me Merge for now.”


Lynn’s question about documentation made Merge actually appear a little uncomfortable for a few seconds, and there was a brief pause before she went for the truth.


“There is documentation made out in my name, but I’m afraid it’s probably not the kind of think you really want to see.” she gave a little guilty look before adding “If it help we could probably file thing as if i’m Nicki, to all extent and purposes we’re identical, right down to the DNA I’ve been told. Though obviously i got the better hair!”

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Lynn felt kind of bad for probing, as this was obviously an area of discomfort for Merge, but she honestly felt that if they didn't address these issues now, they would only come back to haunt them later.


"Okay, so basically you're an aspect of Nicki, but still your own person; I got it. Assuming I hire you, you'd be listed as 'Nicki' in all the paperwork with Nicki's IDs and such, but we'd all call you Merge." 


The changeling paused for a few seconds as she considered her next question carefully. "Well, before we go into relevant experience or anything like that, I guess my first question is, why do you want to work here? I know you're a fun and likable person, which does translate well into sales, but it just...seems like an odd fit, is all. Retail, that is; I mean, I like to think we have a very special place here, but it is still a bookstore." She shrugged. "Aren't you afraid you might get...y'know, bored? We do spend a lot of time just standing around."

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Merge was quiet for a few moments as she, and Nicki, considered how to answer that questions. All inside her head it was imperceivable to everyone. Mind’s made up she finally answered the question.


“Well you see sometimes I can be a bit... acerbic, and I’ve been told that I should tone things down a little.” she was trying to be polite, but it was obvious she didn’t quite agree “It has been decided that I should maybe meet more people and try and socialise a little more, try to deal with the more troublesome customers.”


On the boredom front Merge was a lot more certain and actually managed to smile at the thought.


“Well the good thing about being a duplicator is that I can be at two places at once. Good for the shop but also means I can go off fighting crime as well as helping you out here!”

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Lynn had to laugh at Merge's last point. "Well I'm not going to lie; when Gretchen said you were here to apply, visions of unlimited shift coverage were dancing in my head!" Then she looked a bit more thoughtful as she pondered the concept of bringing Merge on; she was certainly an unconventional choice, and even if she dialed her style back a bit, there were probably still going to be a few raised eyebrows. But something about her earnest desire to, in effect, become a better person through retail struck a cord with the changeling. There were many times throughout her life that Lynn (and even more so Grimalkin) was not taken seriously, and she never quite forgot that sting.


There was a scene in one of her favorite Disney movies growing up, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where Quasimodo was strapped to a wheel while the crowd hurled tomatoes at him, a scene that to this day choked her up. That was her, back before she ran away at the ripe old age of fifteen, 'Scary Sheri' the little freak; she remembered the looks, the whispers and rumors, and how it twisted her whole body into bloody knots. She never wanted anyone to feel that way again, if she could help it.


Now, was Merge another Quasimodo? Not exactly, no; no one was going to be throwing any tomatoes at her anytime soon. But she couldn't help but feel a strange kinship with the colorful former criminal (something else they had in common), nor could she forget her help in dealing with the threat of the Duke or rescuing Gretchen from beyond the Mirror of Al-Kazar. If she could help her become a better person, even just a little bit, wouldn't that be worth something? Plus she got the feeling she'd be a lot of fun to have around the store, with her energy, colorful appearance and attitude. Lance certainly seemed to like her; yes, Lynn had taken a peek earlier via her glamour, and no, she didn't comment on Merge changing her outfit, though she certainly appreciated the attempt at professionalism.


After all this thinking, she directed her gaze back to the eager applicant. "Okay, I'm definitely intrigued by the possibilities of bringing you on, and I do think you might be a good fit for the store. But, I need to take a few other things into consideration; do you have a resume, and do you have any prior experience? Forgive me if I'm talking to you like a teenager, but you are an unusual case."

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One advantage that a someone with a shared consciousness was that could, with a little practice, shift their emotions around. And Nicki had spent several months learning such tricks among the monks of Shambhala. So it was Nicki who gave a little sigh of relief that they’d gotten this far, whilst to some extent there was a little bit of Lynn inside Merge they couldn’t be sure how she would react. But there was still a lot of hurdles that needed to be defeated, with a deep breath they pushed onward.


“If it helps I’m only around three years old.” Merge gave a nervous little laugh, at the absurdity of the situation


“Actually we went straight into crime in our teens. It was for a good reason at the time, but I don’t want you feel that should be why you hire me. I will tell you the reason why I exist if you curious,but not right now for this purpose.” it was weird to hear Merge be so serious about anything


“So why I have experience of business it’s not quite what you looking for, but I’m quite prepared to start at the very bottom of things and work my up.”

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"Well, I appreciate your honesty, Merge." Lynn drummed her fingers on her desk, then sighed as she leaned forward. "The fact of the matter is, retail is easy; no part of it really taxes your brain, and as long as you're good with people, every single aspect of it can be taught. There's a reason why it's most people's first job; well, that or flipping burgers. My gut tells me you'll be good at this job, though I have been wrong before." She paused and drummed her fingers again. "Would you excuse me for a moment? I need to consult with my partner." And with that, her eyes went unfocused as she established mental contact with Gretchen.




Hey. How goes it?


It's...it would be her first real job. Outside of crime, that is; no resume, no previous work experience. She wants the job because...basically, she's Pinocchio; she wants to become a real girl, and she feels working in retail, with people, will help her with that. It's just...even for me, this is a leap of faith, y'know?


There was a long, awkward pause that soon became unbearable. 


Please say something.


Sorry. I was doing a Google search on her criminal career...she never killed anyone, mostly targeted banks and businesses with ties to shady people. There are a few reports of her helping people, and working with heroes. We have seen her in action, and she helped rescue me from that awful, endless hotel.




I'm not going to tell you what to do. You've already hired two people with checkered pasts who I never would have hired, and they both turned out to be hard working and very dedicated employees. I know you take doing a 'mitzvah' very seriously-


You read that book I gave you?


Yes, I did. It was interesting, and explained a lot about your behavior and choices. So while my philosophy and attitude towards people is very different than yours, I'm beginning to see why yours works. So listen to your heart and your gut, and I will back your play, whatever it is.


I...thank you, Gretch.


You're welcome. Now go hire a known criminal.


Lynn suddenly burst out laughing, and wiped away tears she didn't realize she was crying. "Ahem! Sorry about that. Okay, we're going to give this a shot." She pulled open a drawer and grabbed the standard paperwork. "What I need for you to do is fill out an application and some tax forms, and to get me Nicki's driver's license or state ID and her Social Security card. On the application, where it asks if you've ever been charged with a felony, you answer 'no' if you've never been caught; if you have, I'll need the name and number of your parole officer." She handed Merge the forms on a clipboard and a pen. "Just fill everything out like you were Nicki, and we'll go from there."

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Whilst conversation between Merge’s were near instantaneous she could understand how the whole process worked and for someone that always seemed to be active she could actually spend quite some time just quietly waiting, she wouldn’t have made a very good thief without having a least a little patience. Whilst it was so tempting to say something pithy or maybe even sappy she settled on a looked that suggested that she understood completely.


“Thank you for this I promise we won’t let you down.” she was actually being sincere, if it meant a lot to Nicki then it mean something to Merge. Words didn’t need to be shared for them to know all this.


Taking the clipboard Merge carefully filled out the form, in a suitably flowery handwriting, something unfortunately that couldn’t easily be done in this small space with multiple Merges. So she had to do this the old fashioned slow way. Luckily Nicki had been careful to keep herself away from Merge’s activities, and Merge had never been caught, so she didn’t have any official criminal record to record on the forms . She also put her old family address,where her parents had chosen to stay despite her offer to set them up with a nicer place, she didn’t want Lynn to think that this was a flight of fancy because she had more than enough to live comfortably for quite a while.

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As Merge filled out the paperwork, Lynn pulled up the scheduling software on her PC. "So the next question is, where do you want to work? We're looking to fill both sales floor and bar positions, but you can always switch between them. If you do sales, you get ten percent of any sales over twenty dollars; if you work bar, you get tips." She put her feet up on her desk. "Either position, you get health and dental and a twenty-five percent in-store discount, plus a free drink and baked good per shift. Starting wage is twelve bucks an hour. I value loyalty very highly, but I like to think I give my employees reason to be loyal; I challege you to find another bookstore in the city with these kinds of perks." 


Meanwhile out on the sales floor, Lance kept craning his neck between customers to see if Merge was coming out yet, much to Gretchen's equal parts disgust and amusement. "So, do you think Boss Lady is going to hire her?"


"I think she already has."


"That's, that's cool. That's cool..."


Gretch just rolled her eyes and signalled for the next customer to step up.

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Nicki might be smiling at Lynn’s words but Merge was slightly less enamored, they’d spent years just relying on each other and no one else. She was the physical embodiment of their independent spirit, but she had promised herself, or Nicki at least, that they’d try to fit into the place. Socialise and all that she was constantly reminded.


“Well if you want I can do both at the same time, you can get twins and just have to pay for one.” she gave a cheeky little grin “Or whatever work best for you really, as you say it’s my first time working... well anywhere really.”


She handed back the filled out forms, done it meticulous details Nicki was that kind of person even if Merge wasn’t.

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Lynn looked everything over and nodded as she filed away 'Nicki's' paperwork. "Okay, great! We cant start your training....mmmm, next Monday, I think...yeah." She typed in a few quick updates on the schedule. "So we'll see you next Monday! Probably shadowing Maddy on the sales floor to start. As far as dress code goes, I'm pretty loose as long as you're not too provocative; I personally wouldn't care, but if it becomes a distraction or a customer complains, than we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."


Then she paused and looked thoughful. "I get the sense, and correct me if I'm wrong, that your copies...are freedom. Which I totally get, by the way, because if I was stuck as me all day-" And here she took on Merge's form, complete with pink highlights in her ponytails and a psychedelic take on the traditional Silberman's apron. "I'd go utterly crazy! Our powers are part of who we are, and to deny you access to them would be wrong. So, if you ever feel the need to multiply-” And here she reverted back to her own form. "Just do it; slip out the back for a walk, chat with whoever's in the back room, whatever. All I ask is that you don't do it on the floor in front of a customer, okay?"


The changeling sighed and smiled. "I think that pretty much covers everything; any questions for me?"

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The one advantage of being a duplicator was that you knew better than to thin you looked and sounded better than you did, after all you saw yourself almost every day and heard you voice from the outside.


“So is there a chance you could do that and maybe cover a shift for me? Purely just for heroing of cause and you get the real back to the flaw experience.” she beamed along with her apparent new employer “This is all new to me so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to know, I’m sure I’ll have lots of questions as we go along.”


Her brow furrowed and she looked a little unhappy for a moment, not a common expression for the duplicator.


“The boss, well my boss, wants a quick word it you could. She out in the cafe enjoying one of you excellent coffee’s.”

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Lynn laughed at Merge's suggestion. "Well, I wouldn't rule it out! I do an amazing Gretchen impression, as you saw the first time we met, which totally drives her crazy. I've threatened to work a shift as her before, but I'd never do it without her permission; I think she's afraid I'd be a better Gretchen than she is, which is..." She didn't finish the thought, because it touched upon her girlfriend's complicated insecurity; like many artistic people (her own self included), Gretch had a bit of the classic 'big ego, low self-esteem' dynamic going on, and sometimes Lynn's inhuman faerie perfection triggered feelings of self-doubt and inferiority in her all-too-human partner.


I wish she could see herself the way I do; I delight in her imperfections and surly nature!


At the mention of Nicki, the changeling frowned slightly, mostly because it seemed to affect Merge somehow; was their unique 'relationship' not entirely smooth. "Um, okay; at least I can get copies of her ID now. Help youself to the candy; I'll be right back."


Leaving Merge to indulge her sweet tooth from the candy bowl (if she so chose), Lynn stepped outside her office and  scanned the store for the duplicator's other self.

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Nicki was sat quietly a coffee in front of her and apparently checking something on her cell, sensibly wrapped up for the weather you needed a really good eye to notice any similarity to Merge. Obviously she knew that Lynn was on her way but took a few seconds before she looked up apparently saw her and gestured her over. It was obviously a well practiced and designed not to show that she knew what Merge knew. She waited for Lynn to sit down before she spoke.


“Thank for all this I know it’s all a little irregular, to say the least” she smiled, she had a more refined charm that her duplicate.


“I just thought I’d give you, well warning probably too strong a word more key you into something that might be important. It’s all very complicated but Merge is in a way my unfettered ego, she’s someone who act’s first and think later. She can keep focused for ages when necessary in was a big help in our... previous activities, but she can a low threshold for idiots who waste her time.” she looked over at Gretchin and gave a little smile


“Though I think you already know how that can work out. I can assure you that she won’t cheat or steal and I’ll mostly be around to keep an eye on her. Probably spend half our earnings on this excellent coffee!”

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"Hey hey." Lynn looked looked a bit concerned and sympathetic as she took a seat at Nicki's table. "So like, will you have to be here anytime she works a shift? That seems awfully unfair to you; at the very least, you should get a free cup of coffee out of it." She sighed and rubbed her face. "I'll be honest, I'm a little nervous about all this; not a lot, just a little. We'll see how things go."


She cast a loving look in Gretchen's direction, which she apparently felt, as she offered one of her half-smiles in return. "She really is sweet, y'know; she just keeps it safe on the inside, so she won't be hurt again." Then she looked back at Nicki and smiled. "I get that some people take a little time to get used to, to understand; it seems like an awful lot of work at first, until you really get to know them, and then you find out just how much they have to offer, and you realize it was more than worth it. So, we'll give it a shot and we'll see how it goes! Hopefully for the best."

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“Well she can operate independently, she’s her own person, but we share memories and it’s not fun to get eight hours of events all at the same time. And I can stay a couple of miles away but if I’m going to stay close I might as well be somewhere comfortable with plenty of good company. Honestly most of the time you’ll probably won’t even know I’m here.”


She followed Lynn’s glaze over to Gretchen and subtly watched her reactions, she was fairly good at reading people and had quickly got a good reading on them.

“You know they’re probably going to clash, there very similar in temperament from what I can see. That could be a problem you know, I’m not going to make you choose sides if it ever came down to things.”

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Lynn shrugged. "Well, Gretch and I don't always see eye to eye; we have our little spats and disagreements. If people get along perfectly, I usually suspect mind control. And to be honest, finding a way to work with people you don't like is character building."


She sighed, and then turned to facr Nicki directly. "Actually, while you're here, can I make a copy of your driver's license? I'll need your Social Security card, too,  but you can get that to me whenever. This way 'Nicki' can be street legal."


Meanwhile, Lance snuck over to the office door and knocked. "Uh, Merge? I've got something for you." He sheepishly entered with a delightful-looking mocha and a big chocolate chip cookie on a plate. "I wasn't sure what you liked, so I kind of played it safe." He placed the two items on the table before her, bowed slighly and smiled awkwardly. "I hope you like chocolate."

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  • 1 month later...


Merge was the emotive person who tended to act in the moment without thinking of the consequences, that was more Nicki’s job. If a pretty guy, or even girl, attracted her attention she tended to flirt or even a little bit more. Nicki might have been looking for Mr Right but Merge was more than happy with Mr Right Now.


“Why thank you very much.”


She beamed him a smile and picked up the mocha, sipping it she looked at him seductively with her big brown eyes.


“If we’re lucky we could be working closely, very closely, together.”

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"I'd like that!" He probably said it a bit louder and faster than he intended, which explained why his cheeks went a little pink. "I'm Lance, by the way. Nice to meet you!" His hand shake was firm and rugged, and just a trifle warm to the touch. "Maybe once you start, I can teach you all the coffee bar stuff; steaming milk, pulling shots, all that jazz." Then he blinked, shook his head and smiled. "Hey, you changed outfits! Do you have powers, too?"


Just then, Lynn came in with Nicki's ID to make copies for her records; it didn't take genius to read the room, which brought a smile to her lips.


"Ah, good, you've met!" She indicated the tall blond with a nod as she placed the ID on the scanner. "Lance is our resident drink master; you could learn a lot from him."

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She could almost hear the disapproval from Nicki for missing that details, well she could actually hear Nicki’s but that was beside the point. Merge had to do something she so rarely did even not, trust somebody.


”I’m a duplicator, I can make many, many copies of myself.” she went for the blunt approach “And don’t get any of those idea’s buster!” it was followed however with a very suggestive look.


Still at least it should make working here a little easier now that she didn’t have to hide her powers from most of those working here. She turned to Lynn as she entered and looked as innocent as she could, which was better than most people would expect.

“Yes I believe that Lance has a lot that he can show me, I look forward to learning under him!”

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Lance just stood there blinking there for several seconds, cheeks bright pink but unable to move; taking pity on her employee, Lynn cleared her throat.


"Why don't you head back out onto the floor, Lance; Merge and I will finish up back here."


"Yes, okay...right." The flustered young man nodded and fled the room as fast as his legs could carry him.


"Be easy on the boy," the changeling said as she handed Nicki's ID back to Merge, then returned to her seat behind her desk. "Mere mortals can't always handle the likes of us, the supremely gifted; you'll ruin normal women for him."


Her tone was not overly-critical, more of a polite request. Lynn knew that many supers had an unfair advantage in the dating scene, and had herself more than once (with some regret) used her allure either selfishly or in the cause of justice, so she was in no position to preach; she merely hoped to keep the workplace civil.

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