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just a little New Year's present. Let's go next door."

They went into the main lab, and Anna turned on one of the workstation lights, which illuminated a table and various hanging pieces of equipment. They sat on two stools on the same side of the table. The rest of the lab hung around them in shadow. Morden laid his plate of chips on the table, the harsh overhead light creating pools of shadow in his eyes, below his nose, his lips.

"That was the weirdest New Year's Eve party I've ever attended."

"Same here. But it looks like you made out pretty well," she said, indicating his pile of chips.

She realized then that Morden's pile had been the biggest of anyone's at the table. His voice was smooth.

"I'm a pretty good poker player."

"You're not drunk at all, are you?"

"I'm afraid I'm a maudlin drunk. I wouldn't have been any fun at all."

"You like misleading people, don't you?"

The words came out before she could stop them. He folded his hands, careful, noticing the change in Anna.

"Not misleading, no. I don't enjoy that. Except in poker. But I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't enjoy broadcasting my private life to the world. I suppose I did that right after the explosion. I was out of control. And I regret it."

His body settled with a breath.

"But I don't go about my job the same way as Ms. Donne, if that's what you mean. I find I'm much more effective if I go about my job quietly."

"And what is your job?"

"To represent Earthforce interests in any new technology and to cooperate with IPX in as much as it furthers our mutual understanding of the technology. I've never hidden that."

His head tilted as he studied her.

"Is this an interrogation?" Anna smiled.

"I'm sorry. I guess I'm a little jumpy now that we're so close
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