“He is on the line for you, demanding a rematch. I can tell him you are unavailable if you wish, sir.”
Dmitry’s smirk advertised his enjoyment of the situation. He collected his thoughts and replied, “No, that’s alright, and I’ll speak with him. Are you and Mikhail up for another round in case the stakes are more interesting?”
Konstantin grinned and affirmed, “We’ve won every round so far, but that is to be expected since we built the gamification interface. I can see the challenge from their point of view, but ours will be supremacy in the contest. As they say in America, points is points.”
Dmitry let Konstantin savor the winning streak before he countered, “Yes, but if you will notice you are winning by less and less margin each time. Invented here does not mean they cannot wrestle dominance from us. The Chinese are very adaptable and capable people, so we cannot underestimate them. I recommend that you check your arrogance at the door before our next combat sequence, lest you be overtaken. Understood?”
The subtle but pointed dressing down made Konstantin snap rigidly to attention. “Dmitry, I apologize if I have taken for granted our position in this matter. Mikhail and I will not allow our past successes to cloud our judgement, sir. We will do everything in our power to maintain our leadership position in the games.”
Satisfied that his point had been made, Dmitry affirmed, “You and Mikhail are doing a fine job, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging our dominance. I just want you to realize that the Chinese are formidable adversaries who can be beaten for a while but who learn at accelerated rates. I don’t want them to beat us at our game, even though we invited them in to play.”
Konstantin nodded and firmly replied, “Understood, Dmitry. I will have Evgeniya send the call on through.”
He then marched out of the area to pass the word on to Evgeniya, after which he continued on to take up his position in the data center.
The desk phone rang three times, and Dmitry answered it just before it rolled to voice mail. “Chairman, what a pleasant surprise! My associate indicated that you may be looking for a rematch. Is this true?”
Chairman Chang noted that their conversations usually began with annoying tweaks at each other but almost always ended up with each thoroughly irked at the other. Years of practice in Chinese politics had taught him to mask his irritation and open up with the usual pleasantries, and so he easily responded, “Dmitry, my old friend! Cyber czar of the Russian Ministry and undisputed thug in the sleazy Russian underworld. Ah, but I repeat myself! Yes, I am here to rouse you to another session of our game. I’ve enlisted some trusted gaming enthusiasts that should help even out the odds in our play time. The game rules keep changing with the differing scenarios, and I felt that a little more gaming savvy on my side might help make the, uh, engagement more sporting. What do you say?”
Dmitry now smiled at the backhanded comment from the Chairman and offered, “What, you’re not enjoying the gamesmanship in our playtime? You do understand, we Russians are fabulous gamers! I have but to point to our most favorite game of roulette with one bullet in the revolver to prove my point! Besides, changing the game rules each time keeps the contest fresh and interesting. Wouldn’t you agree?
“Certainly your take in the spoils has not been shabby, and I even had to admonish my team that they should not be complacent in their past wins, because if I know you, you’ll want to play until your team has the upper hand. Am I right?”
Chairman took the comment as the intended compliment and affirmed, “How well you know me, old friend. You know I like to win, and yes, I do enjoy the freshness of the electronic combat. I guess we are both things; the gambler and the gamer in this contest. My two champions, Won and Ton, are almost ready for our next round. Do you have another venue theme in mind, or do you want me to suggest one?”
Dmitry grinned broadly and replied, “No, this is like tennis. So long as my team is winning, we get to serve up the target and the game rules. Let’s plan for next Monday at ten in the evening CET, shall we?”
Chairman responded, “We’ll be ready. Any hints?”
Dmitry struggled to contain his chuckling but answered, “Yes, be prepared to have my team serve again after this next round!
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