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Chapter One

            The Quimby family returned home late that evening after a long, leisurely meal and was bombarded by the loud ringing of the house phone.

            “General Jenkins, Can I help you?” Scott answered.  He started to frown, beckoning to the others. “Yes, enter the coordinates in the transmitter and they’ll be there shortly.  Yes, I understand. Yes, I have the dive officer here as well and will inform him. Ok, bye.”

            “What’s going on?” Dr. Quimby asked, eyeing his children as Scott opened his laptop.

            “Go get your suits on, kids, you’ve got some work to do.  Vessel gunned down off Baja coast.  Sorry, no sleep for you tonight. Took two guard hostage and was last seen heading into deep water. You know what we need to do.”

            “Rescue and capture.  Gotcha.” Michael said, suppressing an excited grin as he raced up to his room with his sister.  It had been a long time since the two young lieutenants had been sent out on a mission. They were down in minutes, adjusting the suits and headgear. Finally! This is what they were trained for.

            “The coordinates are in your transmitter.  Keep in touch with us.” Scott ordered with a concerned expression.  After a quick goodbye, the two raced down to the dock and dove into black water.  They were met shortly by the young orca, who safely transported the special force team to deep water and away from obstacles.   With Ton's help, they started ranging the cetacean populations to assist with locating the vessel.  Three hours later, they had visual; however, there were no cetaceans in sight.  Even Ton disappeared a few miles back, an event Michael immediately noted as odd.  Sensing nothing unusual from his sister, he remained silent and kept his eyes peeled.  Something was not right and his instincts sent warning flags to keep alert.

            Quietly, the two came up under 17 foot cruiser with double engines and small dive platform.  They edged along the sides, listening for voices.  When nothing was heard, the two silently pulled themselves onto the vessel from opposite sides. One man stood guard with his back to the bow and completely unaware as Michael snuck up behind him like a jungle at, rendering him unconscious with a single blow to the back of the neck with his elbow.  After dragging the body to the side, Michael nodded instructions for Samantha to slip below deck.

            She found the two guards tied together on a bunk and gently woke them, placing her fingers over their mouths to keep silent.  After slicing the rope with her knife, she gestured for them to follow and started up the ladder. The hard barrel of a rifle slammed into the center of her chest.

            “So, what do we have here? Some beautiful mermaid washed upon my ship to pleasure me?” the man asked in Spanish, running the tip of his weapon to trace the outline of her breast.

            “The only pleasure you will have is going to sleep.” Michael answered back in Spanish, throwing his elbow into the base of the man’s neck and stepping out of the way as the assailant collapsed limply to the deck.

            "You really like that elbow thing, partner.  Thanks," Sam grinned, helping the captives out of the hatch.

            “No prob.  How many are others are there?” Michael asked the guards.

            “Four when we started, but we’ve only seen these two.  Who are you?”

            “Introductions later.  Let’s get off this ship, I’m not comfortable being here.  Something seems wrong.” Michael said, shoving them towards the stern of the vessel and looking over his shoulder for his sister.  She was right behind him, grabbing life preservers from the cabin.

            “We can’t jump in the middle of the ocean! How would we ever get to shore?”

            “If the lieutenant says something is wrong, we listen.  Now, get the hell off this boat!” Sam said, shoving them towards the platform and pointing to the water as she tossed the rings in. “Go! NOW! Mike?”

            “Just putting a tracer for pickup.  Ok, clear out.”

            They dove over the side and, after securing the guards in the flotation devices, used their boots to quickly place some distance between them and the boat.  Michael slowed their course once they were able a mile from the boat and paused to check on the condition of the victims.  Mid-sentance, the sound of an explosion reached their ears and a flume of orange flames jumped up from the black waters.

            “Holy shit,” one of the guards muttered, teeth chattering. 

            Sam looked towards her brother, unable to see his expression under the dark overcast sky. She felt his hand find hers and squeeze it gently. “I’m so glad we listened to you,” she whispered. “How did you know?”

            “Why leave two people to guard two hostages and head out to open sea?  This is the maritime version of guerrilla warfare.  Don’t you remember Scott teaching us military history?”

            “It was one of those subjects I tuned out.  Maybe next time I better pay more attention.  One more thing for Scott to rub in our faces, " she forced a laugh.

            "Let him rub.  That story saved our lives. How are they doing?"

            "We need to get these men out of the water; they are getting too cold. And they are scared to death."

            “I already transmitted for called air support so a helo should be on its way.  Are you ok?”

            “Tired, but fine.  It would have been nice, though, if you would have let me knock out one of those jerks. You always get all the fun,” she teased, sensing his return smile. She then swam over to the floating guardsmen. “Are you guys alright?  I know it’s cold. we are hoping that the rescue copter will be here shortly.  I can get you out of the water if you like, it might be more comfortable.”

            “How can you do that? There’s no land in site," one of the men asked, his teeth chattering. "And what about sharks?"

            “You need to trust me.  Don’t panic, everything is safe.  My other partner is coming to help us. I’m Lt. Samantha Quimby and this is Michael, my brother. We are special force officers. Now, keep calm," she ordered softly as Ton approached them, his rigid straight dorsal fin slicing the water with deadly grace.  He circled the four, pressing his pectoral fin against the newcomers.  Images of fish and seals swimming away from a hunt touched her mind.  The men were terrified.

            “I promise, you are safe. He’s going to come under you to lift you up.  I want you to grab his dorsal fin and pull yourself onto his back,” she reassured them, keeping her voice gentle.

            “It’s a fucking killer whale,” one man stuttered.

             Michael braced himself between them. “Just get on the darn thing before you die of hypothermia. And please remember there is a lady present,” he ordered firmly, snapping them out of their panic.  They muttered 'yes, sir' and gasped as the mammoth whale surged from below and raised them out of the water.  A pair of porpoise joined the team, allowing the two Quimby’s to hold their dorsals as they swam behind the orca.  Michael called to halt as the sound of the oncoming helicopter roared towards them.  After hauling the two guards into the hold, the crewmen helped the team inside and handed everyone warm blankets and coffee while corpsmen checked the condition of the victims.

            "A lady present?" Sam questioned, yawning as she leaned against her brother.  He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tightly as he nodded. "You're funny when you get bossy, you know."

            "I'm just grateful you're safe. Try to grab some shut eye."

            "Not tired, "she yawned again, snugging closer for warmth. The sun was in full bloom by the time Michael and Sam finished escorting the victims to the hospital and completing their reports.  They opted to fly back with the helo and disembarked in the open water near their home.  They dragged themselves onto the beach, cold, wet and tired, and headed  straight for the Jacuzzi, leaving their wetsuits and gear in their wake.

            “Man, this feels good. I'm beat,” Michael said, sinking chin deep into the hot water.

            “Mmmm... you must be tired. I can ever remember seeing you leave anything on the floor for any reason." Sam teased.

            “Be nice.  I guess the folks left for work already,” Michael mumbled.

            “That's obvious, Sherlock. You don't see them hanging all over us, do you?  Did you call them to tell them we were on our way home after report?”

            “Not yet. You know it means the third degree and I am so not in the mood,” Michael sighed, dialing HQ via transmitter.

            “Jenkins. Are you alright? How's Sam? What happened?”

            “Hey Scott.  Everything's fine.  We are just tired,”  Michael forced his voice to sound patient, hoping his uncle would catch the hint.

            “Fine? Damn it, Mike, I got the report from the guard commander.  I hear you had a close call.”

            “It wasn't that bad.  Our timing was good," Michael rolled his eyes as he eyed his sister, making a gesture as though he was hanging himself, "Please stop worrying so much. we had some subtle warning from the cetaceans which helped up.  I would like some help processing some tests using live weaponry and the pod's ability to sense it.”

            “What?!” his sister yelled, rising out of the water. 

            Michael held up his hand for her silence. “I’ll explain later, Scott. I'm too tired to think right now.  We need to catch some sleep then we’ll be in.  I’ll see you around 1400."  After saying his good-byes, he turned to his fuming sister. "Now, kiddo, hear me out before you blow a gasket.  You trust me, right?”

            “How could you even think of putting the pod in danger?”

            “I will put the pod in danger before I put you in danger.  However, you need to be quiet and listen.  I need to know if they have a way to detect a live bomb and if they are able to tell when it might go off. Ah, no interruptions- let me finish. I know they don’t have the concept of time like we do, but they are able to determine when a cow is going to calf, almost to the minute. They know when the migrations are to start, despite fluctuations in water temperature or saline levels.”

            “I can’t support this. I will make certain that they know what you are doing and to stay away.”

            “Then you cannot be on this team.” Michael said, leveling his eyes on her.

            Her mouth fell open in shock. “You don’t mean that!”

            “I mean every word. Now get upstairs and grab some sleep.  We’ll talk about this more when we have had some rest and can discuss this more rationally.  You did a good job last night, by the way. Thank you."

            “I ALWAYS do a good job and your noticing it is not going to change my mind!  I don’t want to hear it.  Good night,” she said, stomping away.  Michael chuckled, wiping himself off before heading upstairs.  No reason to push it now, she’ll understand after taking some time to think it through.  He hoped.

***

            Michael glanced at his sister as she sat next to him in his Jag on the way to work.  She had her arms crossed, sunk in the seat and a huge scowl on her face.  He shook his head, turning on the radio.  He barely parked when she stormed out of the car and headed straight to the lab. She ignored the greetings as she flew by, slamming the door to her office and dropping the blinds. Michael entered shortly afterwards, answering the brief questions from his crew about the night before. 

            Frank handed him a cup of coffee. “Looks like you could use this, Mike.  What’s going on with the Siren?”

            “Temper tantrum, like always.  She’s pissed at me.”

            “What did you do?”

            “What makes you think I did anything?  Gee... you know, some support from you gentlemen would be greatly appreciated now and then," Michael grunted.

            "Yes, but you don't scare the shit out of us," Frank grinned.

            "For crying out loud, she's a shrimp! She barely reaches your armpits."

            "But she's a cute shrimps... with sharp pinchers. You know we can't take sides against her."

            "Amazing. One day I will find out how she manages to elicit such loyalty," Michael grunted again, eyeing the rest of the crew who pretending to be working, "I bite too, you know."

            "Yes, sir. But you don't look as good in a bikini," Nick stated from across the room.

            "I see where this is going. Anyway, thanks for the coffee.  Don’t let Scott taste it, he’ll dump it in the toilet. We really need to discover her secret to making this shit palatable. Yet another of her skills....” Michael grinned.  He tapped on the door to his sister’s office and waited.  No answer.  He tried the door and found it locked.  He glanced again at her crew- Frank and Nick both shrugged before turning away.

            Michael settled into his chair to start running his report on a grid.  He glanced at the wall where the two offices shared a window, seeing his sister glowering into her computer.  She had locked their adjoining door to prevent his entry and still looked tired and very cranky.  Chuckling, he quickly finished his report and jotted a note on a piece of paper.  He held it against the window and tapped on the glass.  She looked over and made a face.

            I love you, the note read. He scribbled another one. Want to go for ice cream after work?

            She made another face, turning back to her computer.  Michael smiled, time for the big guns to come out.  He held up another note. We could go shopping.  My treat.

            There, a little smile formed on her lips.  She rolled her eyes, nodding, and then went back to work.  Michael laughed... the shopping bride worked every time! Shortly afterwards, Scott entered the labs, pausing before he ventured up to the offices. He pointed to the drawn shades in his niece’s room.

            “What’s with that?”

            “Don’t know, Sir.  She probably had a tough night and was still out of sorts.  You know how she gets if she hasn’t had her beauty sleep.” Frank smiled.

            “Wicked witch of the west.  Yes, I know very well.  She’s just like me.” Scott commented proudly as he walked up the stairs and tapped on his nephew’s door before entering.  Michael looked up and smiled, standing to hug his uncle.

            “How are you doing this beautiful day?” Scott asked, squeezing Michael tightly.

            “Great, if I could breathe.  You cracked my whole spine with that bear hug.”

            “As intended.  What’s with Little Miss Sunshine?”

            “Tired, cranky and pissed at me.  I’m going to take her shopping after work to cheer her up.”

            “Hmmm, reward for lousy behavior?  I don’t remember doing that for either of you.”  Scott frowned. 

            Michael shrugged, offering him a chair. “Yeah, and now you see what I have to deal with because of your lack of sensitivity.  Coffee? I made it.”

            “No thanks. I would like to keep what I had for lunch in my stomach.  So tell me your idea about the pod and bomb work.”

            Michael explained wanting to investigate the sensory abilities of the cetaceans.  He reported noticing the absence of cetaceans within a mile of the bomb site which, in the case of Sam, was an unheard of occurrence.  He emphasized that his intent was purely detection, not to place any of the animals in harm’s way, and that it would depend on Sam's cooperation and communication abilities, which she had adamantly refused.

            “Let me guess.. that is the reason why Her Highness has locked herself in her tower.  To mope.”

            “Why else?  She not only refused to discuss the idea, but threatened to warn the cetaceans away from helping me.  I actually had to threaten to take her off my team.  That was the final straw in being pissed at me.  She hasn’t spoken to me since.”

            “She’s got a bit of a temper, that one.” Scott clucked, his expression exhibiting pride. 

            Michael threw a piece of paper at him. “Your fault.  Funny how you think her temper is wonder when directed at anyone but you.  Why couldn’t she have inherited the calm, quiet level-headedness of Dad’s side?”

            “But life would be so boring then.  Let’s see how stubborn she’s being.” Scott stood and tapped on the glass.  The girl rolled her eyes, thinking it was her brother again, and ignored it.  Scott tried again, a little louder.  She did not look up.  He then smashed his face to the glass and blew his mouth against it while banging loudly.  She looked over and stared for a moment before breaking into laughter.  She beckoned to him and unlocked her side of the door.

            Scott scooped her into his arms for another big bear hug before putting her into her chair and pulling one up to face her.  She bit her lip; this chair to chair thing usually meant a talking to.

            “How did it go last night?”

            “Fine, no problems.  Where’s Daddy?”

            “Stuck in a meeting.  He’ll be by when he’s done.  So, what’s going on between you and your brother?”

            “I’m mad at him,” Sam answered in a little girl's voice.

            “Why?”

            “You wouldn’t understand.  You’re a physicist and a soldier.”

            “Hmmm, and you’re a biologist and a soldier.  Not much difference.”

            “BIG difference.  You study physics, laws of nature, non-viable entities.  I study life.”

            “I think you two can reach a compromise, don’t you?”

            “He threatened to throw me off the team if I didn’t support him! I'm not going to cave into his bullying me.

            “Yet you threatened to chase away the animals.  And different type of bullying, but bullying all and the same. He is the lab commander.  As his subordinate, it is your responsibility to support him.”

            “As a scientist, it is my responsibility to speak my opinion.  One of which is that he needs to get his head out of his ass.”

            “Samantha, language,”

            “Sorry, but I can’t let him hurt my pod!”

            “Your pod?” Scott questioned, amused. 

            She nodded seriously. “I am a member of that family which makes me a member of the entire cetacean community.  The pod broadcasts images of its members throughout the ocean in a communication system that makes our phone and internet look like walkie talkies.  He can’t hurt one pod without hurting all of them. Just like my human family.  You wouldn’t let anyone hurt any of us, right?” She offered him her big, blue eyes, blinking with innocent appeal.

            Scott sighed. “Honey, you know that Mike has no intention of hurting anyone.  He only wants to find out if they have a way to detect explosives and communicate the time before a detonation.  He mentioned there were no dolphin around you guys last night and that Ton abandoned you before arrival.  Did you notice?”

            “I wasn’t paying much attention.  Don’t you think that if they were able to detect the bomb, they would have found a way to tell me?”

            “Maybe they assumed you already knew?  You told us Ton shared the story of his rescue with his pod up north, so they know you correct things. Mike also said he sensed something was wrong.  Maybe they sent something to him, since he’s a bull. Your terms, might I add,” Scott said gently, eyeing her reaction.

            She grunted, thought about it for a moment, and slowly nodded.   “Bull-headed, you mean.  Perhaps.  I guess it is possible. But that still doesn’t give Mike the right to threaten my participation on a research team.  I draw the line there.”

            “You’re going to have to work that out with him.  My hands are off the lab, remember?  I also hear he is taking you shopping after work.”

            “Change the subject, why don't you? Yes, he’s feeling guilty and trying to make it up to me.”

            Scott chuckled, amused by her conclusion.  He taught the boy the shopping ruse when Sam had gotten older and went from being pretty to beautiful.  It was a great way to meet the ladies, particularly ones that shopped in the nicer stores.  She had never suspected that they used it for their advantage or that they always left the mall with several phone numbers and a couple of dates.

            “I see.  So, what are you going to sucker him into buying you?”

            Last time it was jeans, lingerie and her ‘potions’; resulting in three phone numbers and a Friday night date for her brother.

            “New running shoes and some racing suits for the lab.  He says I need to be more modest. So no fancy clothes stores for him to wait for me in,” Sam said lightly, once again, attempting to appear to be nothing but pure sweetness.  Scott knew better... the stinker was onto them after all!

            “No Victoria Secret? I though you loved that place. You always drag me there.”

            “I beg your pardon?  If I recall, it is you who drags me inside.  Nope, not after you and Daddy came down on me about ‘regulation undergarments’? Thanks, but I’ll stay away from there.  At least for a while.”

            “We like you feeling pretty, go ahead.  Do whatever you need to feel like a girl.  It’s hard being in a house filled with men.  I’m sure Mike won’t complain.”

            “My, my, you certainly are understanding today.  And, no, Mike would never complain because he’ll get a chance to pick up some girls.  I know you.  That’s the only reason you ever take me shopping,” Sam said smartly.

            Scott wrinkled his nose, “Alright, I'll give you this one. Now, my sweet, I would like to conference with you two about this week’s plans.  No fighting, either; especially when Dad comes.  He’s already a wreck about the bomb.”

            “Why should we fight? I refuse to entertain his idea at all and we only fight when we are brainstorming.”

            “Get your butt into the conference room, brat.  And make some decent coffee.  Your brother tried to get me to drink his swill.”

            "You are aware that it is the same brand and measurements that I use, right?"

            "I don't care. Yours has that extra bit of love. It makes it taste better."

            "And you wonder where I learned how to weasel?" Sam asked, kissing Scott's cheek as she stood to make his coffee.

***

            “Samantha, “Michael sighed, looking up at his sister, “glaring at me isn’t going to change my mind. “

            “I wasn’t trying to change your mind; I was trying to read it.  I just couldn’t get past the thick skull.”

            “Stop it and act like an officer instead of a spoiled brat.  This is serious.” Michael ordered. 

            His sister scowled again. “You’re not the boss of me.”

            “Technically, I am.  Now I’m asking you to please cut it out.  I need your input, not your smart ass comments.”

            “Uncle Scott, Michael’s swearing.”

            “You’re going to hear me swearing in a minute if you don’t start behaving yourself better.  Here comes your father, be good!”

            “Hi Daddy!” the girl squealed, throwing her arms around his rock solid waist. 

            Michael joined them in a hug. “Hey Dad.  Come sit down. Can I get you coffee? Sammi made it.”

            “Water is fine, thank you. So bring me up to date.”

            That was when the yelling began.  Dr. Quimby and Scott looked at each other as the volume increased between the two.  More so, they had gone from complete disagreement to ways to conduct the study without risk to the animals.  The older men started laughing loudly, silencing the younger family members.

            “What’s so funny?” Michael asked, snatching his pad from his sister, who was rewriting his notes.

            “You two. I guess she’s back on the team, huh Mike?” Scott asked, nudging the young man. 

            “I never said that.”

            “No, but you just figured a way that resolved both your problems.  You couldn’t do that without her input.”

            “Yeah…….. I guess so.  But, “he looked at his sister, “I’m still in charge.”

            “If believing that makes you feel better, then ok,” she shrugged.

            Michael kicked her under the table. ”You need to be nicer to me.”

            She kicked him back, “Says who?”

            “Says me.  You both are being royal pains.” Dr. Quimby said, moving himself out of the line of fire and the two started trying to kick each other again. “Act your ages. What are you, five? Michael Scott, a gentleman does not kick a lady.”

            “If there was a lady around, I would remember that.  However, you are correct.  I do believe Scott taught me that ladies do not get kicked, they get spanked,” Michael grinned, catching his sister’s foot. “One more time and that will happen, right here and right now.  Care to test me?”

            “You’re no fun,” the girl pouted, pulling her foot away.

            “And you’re a brat. Behave or we won’t go shopping.”

            “We are going to get absolutely nothing done today with these two, Joe.  Let’s call it a day and go to the O-club.”

            “No, it’s a work night.  We will go home after closing and be good examples of how proper adults behave.  Didn’t I say to stop it?” Dr. Quimby gave his daughter the ‘look’ after she accidentally kicked him.

            “Sorry, Daddy.”

            “You will be if you don’t start minding me.  Michael, I apologize, but she’s all yours for the rest of the day.  Good luck,” the man said standing to leave.  He was joined by Scott.

            “Don’t be late getting home.  You need to be in bed at a decent time.” Scott commanded.

            “Scott, I’m 22 years old.  I think it’s passed the point of giving me a bedtime, don’t you?”

            “Ordinarily, yes.  However, I’ve seen you in the morning when you haven’t had enough sleep.  You’re hideous.”

            “You’re no raving beauty, even if you do get enough sleep, so why go there?” Michael retorted.

             Scott wagged his finger at him. “Watch it, teeny bopper; I’m still bigger than you.”

            Michael stood up to face the man directly in the eye, smiling mischievously. “Height, no.  Girth, absolutely.”

            Scott scowled, patting his flat, solid stomach. “You should look this good when you’re my age. Hug me and get out of this place. Make sure you buy her something pretty.”

            Michael laughed, returning the bear hug that left his uncle gasping for air.

            “I think you cracked a rib.  No more weight training for you.” Scott panted, holding his side. 

            Michael wrapped his arm around the man’s neck. “Nah, you’re just old.  Well see you guys tonight.  I’ll call if we are late.  I might take her out to dinner if she’s nice to me.”

            “Have fun.  Love you.” Dr. Quimby said, kissing his daughter's forehead and leaving with Scott complaining about his side hurting.

            “Dinner?  Where?” Sam asked excitedly. 

            Michael sat on the edge of the table, crossing his arms. “Dunno.  Any ideas?”

            “I only have jeans and a t-shirt to change into, so somewhere casual.  Maybe downtown?”

            “Hmmm, I could go for Cajun.”

            “Yum. Can we close now? Please?”

            Michael looked at his watch, nodding. “Go get changed and we’ll get out of here.  Frank?  We’re gonna scoot out a bit early and grab a bite. We haven’t really eaten much since yesterday.  Would you please close up? “

            “Sure thing, Mike.  I still don’t know why you guys don’t just take off the days you get called on assignment.  You both look pooped.”

            “Got things to do.  Plus, the old folks wanted to interrogate.  You know the routine. I might start changing it, though, especially since she’s so cranky when she doesn’t get enough sleep.”

            ”Please do.  She scares us.” Frank grimaced.

            Michael laughed, and then turned to see his sister present herself wearing snug jeans and a cropped shirt showing off her tanned, muscular, but tiny, mid-section and soft curve of her hips.  Both men raised their eyebrows.

            “What’s this, pray tell?” Michael asked, poking her stomach. 

            She giggled. “Don’t do that, it tickles.”

            “We’ll get you something a little more appropriate to wear to dinner. I’ll be back in a minute, I need to change too.”

***

            “I know what I really want to do.  You promised you would buy me anything I wanted, right?” Sam asked, allowing her brother to take her hand and start towards the car.  Michael glanced at her suspiciously.

            “I did. Within reason. What is it?”

            “I would never take advantage of your generosity and you know it. Promise? Anything?”

            “Well/// that is true, you haven't so far. So, yes.”

            “I want to get my belly button pierced.”

            “You’re kidding,” Michael groaned.

            “Nope.  Take me, please?  I’ll let you pick out the ring.”

            Michael shook his head. “What do you think Dad would say to that?”

            “I’ve never asked him.  Probably no. He had a fit when Scott let me get my ears pierced.  It’s not like a tattoo. Plus, I am an adult, you know.”

            “Your age doesn't mean a thing when it comes to him and you know it, Samantha," Michael grunted, calling her by full name to emphasize his point. "Aren’t you supposed to stay out of water and stuff for a couple of weeks to avoid infection?”

            Sam ignored him. “I was going to propose this to you.  If you take me, I’ll let you hook me up and see how the readings react in response to the pod.  I can talk with them about your monitoring ideas. Well?”

            Michael eyed her again, and decided to seize his opportunity for cooperation, “Scott wouldn’t care if you did it…… ok, but no more arguments about the pod, ok?”

            “I promise.  Thanks.  You should get a tattoo.”

            “Not this time, thank you.”

            “Chicken.  I’ve heard about this place downtown that has a good reputation.”

            “First, let's get you something better to wear, then dinner, then the torture.”

 


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