Shall Inherit the Earth

October 16, 2017:

It's been some time since Obadiah Stane and Emma Frost have been in the same room. Plans do not seem to have suffered for it.

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Loki, Thor

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

How long has it been?

Weeks, certainly. Months.

But how months compress down into feeling like fleeting moments is a mystery of the space-time continuum only known to the wizened old and the chronically overbooked.

Emma Frost most certainly has come into her knowledge for suffering of the latter fate, and she has passed the last few months without so much as a ’How do you do?.

Surely, Obadiah Stane can understand her dilemma as a man also in possession of an overfull agenda. Can’t he?

Still, the request will come by the most proper of channels — between assistants — to confirm a 2:00 appointment on a dreary Thursday afternoon.

Assuming that her request does not return void, the woman is there two minutes early.

With hair tied up in a low coiled bun, Frost commands attention as is her wont, sporting a wide-legged jumpsuit of ivory matte-jersey. A matching bolero jacket hides the shoulders otherwise left bare by the jumpsuit’s surplice bodice that crisscrosses over her torso with an ancient Grecian quality to ultimately tie around her neck. And then there are the shoes: a pair of staggeringly high patent leather platform stilettos with tell-tale red soles that send her height to nearly six feet.


This is different. Usually Obadiah's office is well let, warm and inviting. But right now it's dark and cold, save for the blue light of holograms that surround the man in the center of the room. But Emma would have known things were different before ever stepping into the room. The door does not simply open, but when she places a hand on it a small panel lights up with: Frost, Emma - Authorized.

Once she's inside, she'll see it clear as day - a thermographic image of an airstrike of some sort, perhaps not the sort of thing Obadiah should be engaging in from this building, or in front of Emma, but certainly he must have accounted for all of those things.

He glances to her, hands in his pockets, his look a plea for just a few more moments as he listens to something over his bluetooth, and then he speaks with the kind of cruel efficiency she has only heard when men have guns pointed at him.

"Clean it up."

That done, the rooms brightens a little, the holograms disappear, and Obadiah fixes Emma with a thin smile, waving her over and towards his desk, this time more than happy to have the meeting with all the trappings of the official channel it was booked through. Though, he does address that straight away, his brows knitting as he steps behind that desk and slumps into his chair.

"You know, given the nature of what we're all working on together, you don't really need to make an appointment, Emma. You know I'd clear my schedule for you. Can I get you anything? Wine? Water?"

—-

As the blonde is granted entrance, she drinks in the details of the dim room. She looks over one shoulder at the panel that announces her as she moves past it with an arched eyebrow, but doesn’t even look concerned as she’s asked to wait upon stepping into the room more fully.

She does that, ever so patiently, pulling out her cellphone to shoot off a few messages to her assistant back at the office.

But when the lights come up, blue eyes turn to regard Obadiah anew, her lips turning up into a pale smile of her own as she tucks her phone back away.

“I like appointments. They give the impression that I am unconcerned who knows that I am here, or that I come to see you in particular. Both of which are true, and one less thing to question.” She’s sensitive about the appearances game in some matters. And to the offer of hospitality, she’ll gladly take him up on it. “A glass of water would be lovely,” Emma allows. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

Whatever his previous business had done to sour his mood, Emma's explanation brings a genuine smile to wash away his previous disdain, the wrinkles in his forehead come not from worry but the brightening in his face, and he rises from his chair again when she accepts his offer, moving to the little bar he keeps tucked away behind a panel in the wall. There he has a glass with a wide, flat bottom, and tongs to fish out spheres of ice from a concealed ice box. That done, he opens a bottle of Abecca Springs, something from upstate, and pours out the water to the subtle crackling of ice meeting it's maker.

When he returns he sets sets the glass in front of her and then returns to his seat, sliding a small disc in between them that brings up a flat-to-desc level hologram of the completed gala arrangements. Well, sans whatever finishing touches Emma wants to add. The guest list scrolls along the side, tilted slightly for easy viewing, the names of heroes the world over, wealth donors, and placeholders for those who can win or be gifted tickets. "I thought I might give us a head start. You'll have to forgive me for being out of contact. Besides that bit of unfortunate business with our motorcade, I've had to put some extra attention into or work here, and in fact, some of Tony's… questionable activities." It seems hard for him to speak about it, and his gaze finds the tiny, holographic bridge that runs over the Stark Biodome's recycled spring, fixing on it as if it might be a bridge between good nature and cutting retribution, two sides he has had to put forth over and over, a duality that does not end.

"Sometimes you wake up to a world-ending black hole materializing in your basement, and party planning has to take a back seat. Still.. I found the time. We have a stage, caterers, administrators to arrange for tours of the rest of the Expo, and I've even arranged for a handful of 'makeovers' for those who might not normally attend this sort of thing, all tied to the complimentary tickets we've issued to several organizations. My only concern is that a few of our headliners are out of the country right now." He gestures to one wall where a monitor shows… something. Is he tracking them? Possibly. Or maybe he is just indicating the map of the world. There are dots on it.

"Thor isn't even on the planet as far as I can tell, but maybe that's a good thing given our mutual friend in green. I'd be surprised if he.. or she.. didn't show up in some form or another."

—-

With a smooth step, Emma moves to settle in front of the water glass, crossing her legs in her chair. Then she turns to look at each thing that her host brings to her attention in turn. Each item is given the full weight of her consideration.

The mention of Tony draws an upwards prick of Emma’s flaxen eyebrow, but she can’t immediately decide if Stane is speaking in hyperbole or not. …It should likely draw more concern from her that she’s not entirely sure, but she leaves the matter to lie as Obadiah moves expertly on.

He makes a comment, and she smiles blithely.

“Yes, there is him, isn’t there?” The even tone of her reply is devoid of easily discerned inflection, the subtext intentionally stripped. “I suppose we will consider the distance between baking soda and vinegar a blessing for the time being. Have you heard from him lately? If not, I will see what I can do about rustling him up. Him and his intentions. ‘Tis best if we frame ours to some extent.”

—-

There is a subtle lean to his posture, something that takes the years apparent on his face and seems to stretch them farther, and all in consideration to the disposition of their mutual divine friend. Finally his brows lift and he reaches up to rub at his temples, his eyes zeroing in on Emma's with a look that certainly harbors concern. "I can't say that I have. Honestly, that's the dangerous part for me. Who knows when he'll pop up out of nowhere, or what he's up to when he's not crashing a dinner or a war zone. Still, I won't deny his usefulness. Precious seconds one way or another and we might have both left things to chance back on that road. Something, I hope, you'll accept my apology for. In any case…"

He leans forward again in his seat, and once more he regains some of his more authoritative bearing, and reaches out to gently turn the hologram. "I think you're right. It should be you to reach out. Despite my little toys, you're on a far more level playing field than I'll ever be. As far as framing the narrative goes, hopefully he can understand that we're just trying to make sure the world doesn't spiral out of control. I do think it might be best to invite him to the party, rather than let him find out after the fact. I'd rather not test the boundaries of what a God does when he's slighted over a social function. Honestly Emma, maybe he can even help. I feel for the life of me like I'm forgetting something here. This gala, as much as I pretend it's my proving to you how great an asset I am to the Club, I feel like I'm only showing my age. Should their even be an area for dancing? Do people slow dance anymore?"

His laugh really never forms, a self deprecating thing that comes as a single exhale as his hand sweeps back over the smooth texture of his bald head.

—-

“Provide the floor,” Emma encourages with a smile. “You’ve the stage, yes? I’m certain that you could use the space in between it and the tables for dancing after the dinner.” A hand moves to stretch out across the flat surface nearest her, moving in arcane patterns as she confirms the schedule of events.

“That would put us at the cocktail hour with the meet and greet and the silent auction bids while the chamber orchestra goes, the dinner, the official welcome and thanking of the sponsors by you (yes?), some entertainment show during the meal, some rousing feel-good fluff piece speech by some lovely philanthropic sort, the auction results, and off we go to the jazz band and dancing.”

Picking up the cup of water, the blonde sips lightly and laughs a little. “This is the home stretch, Mister Stane. Just a little further now. You’ve done a lovely job, truly, getting all of the heavy lifting out of the way. Let me do my little part to help. I’ll see to it that the god is placated and that there are a few more corporate sponsors in place, and you should let me know if there are any feathers that need smoothing. We’ll have the giant checks written and the publicity pieces published by this time next month, and it will be a feather in your cap. You shouldn’t sell short the remarkable amount of work you’ve done by sparing me the horror show of a committee.”
“And we’ll forget entirely about the whole matter of our last outing if you can tell me that I needn’t worry about any residual impact.” Eyelashes bat then. “I really don’t like unforeseen complications. I’m certain you understand.”

There's a slow nod when she speaks of the dance floor, and the schedule of events. Certainly, that is her purview. He can make the machine, but probably couldn't get the timing of it's parts just right. Certainly heaven knows he wouldn't get the timing of his feet right if he tried to dance himself, so he won't be on that dance floor. When the conversation turns back to the violent outing that nearly ended them both, he reaches out to wave the hologram away, a motion meant to clean up his desk as much as it might be to sweep the issue from her worry. "It's all taken care of. Those responsible understand the dire consequence of not fully understanding just what they had set in motion that day. In addition, everything I've uncovered tells me that you were an unknown quantity, and remain such after they failed in their objective." His smile is a thin thing, a smokescreen to keep the grisly details to himself. But it also projects the same air he gave out on the field of battle.

He likely dealt with the problem in the same way he dealt with those mercenaries.

"Oh, there was this one other thing. One other detail. I wasn't sure if you'd found yourself a date yet, and given the nature of the event and your need to mingle and have a certain amount of propriety and discretion in your conversations that evening. Plus, you'll need to be able to break away at a moment's notice, and you'll need someone understanding, even expectant." Is Obadiah.. asking her to a dance? That image flashes in his mind again, blond hair, cool eyes. That tilting smile of his daughter, the precursor to those thoughts that ground him in his humanity. Just before the pain of their estrangement catches up to him.

A card slides across the table, clearly a little worn for his carrying it about. "Mr. Abbot was head of my daughter's security detail." There's a pause there, pain leaking from his psyche as the next words spill forth. "Back when Whitney and I were on speaking terms. He has his own firm now, and works state side, right here in New York. I'm certain he would have ended up modeling somewhere in Europe of not for the military scooping him up way back when. In any case, if you need a professional who looks the part, just to make sure the night goes the way it needs to, mention my name and I'm sure he'll clear his schedule."

—-

‘You were an unknown quantity, and remain such.’ It takes every bit of Emma’s formidable self-control to not audibly exhale in relief. She smiles wanly.

Fortunately for her, Obadiah doesn’t linger there. He’s on swiftly to new topics, namely h-her plus one? There’s an upward tick of her eyebrow in surprise at that, but she catches the little glimpses of her host’s thoughts and she settles somewhat.

What he proposes ultimately?

Obadiah earns for himself a rare look from Frost as though she’s genuinely touched by the thought. “Oh, Mister Stane. How very thoughtful!” Her slender fingers stretch out, sliding the card back towards herself and resting it upon the fabric that criss-crosses elegantly over her heart. “If you’re certain it’s no trouble, I would gladly give him a call.”

Her head tucks as she smiles and murmurs, “Thank you.

Because, as far as she’s aware, the Club’s security team certainly doesn’t have any modeling candidates on the books. That’s a helluva perk.

"Oh, well - look. It's no bother on my account. Maybe you don't need any of those things and I'm being presumptuous, I know it isn't your first rodeo. This is how I am when I get nervous, Emma. Mercenaries and a boardroom are just a fine and dandy summer afternoon for me, but throw in planning something like this?" His brows lift and his hands come apart, raising up for a moment before coming to rest on the edge of his desk. "Just goes to show you how easy it is to put someone out of their element. Hopefully it all pays off and everyone has a good time. Just not to good a time - I don't want Tony getting any ideas that I might be starting a party planning service." A beat, then he murmurs, his gaze going distant for a moment. "He'd probably engineer me some sort of floating party venue."

He almost winces and shakes the thought away, finally lifting a finger as if to hold onto a thought. "You now, now that I'm here second guessing everything, I'd arranged for music but, maybe a live performance? I couldn't track down the Great Zatara to make an appearance, in fact I'm not even certain he's still performing, but his little girl is a chip off the old block I'm told. I'd already sent an invitation her way, figuring our guests wouldn't mind seeing a little up close sleight of hand. What do you think about a stage performance? Magic done the way Houdini intended it? Maybe she can summon Captain America to the stage and saw him in half or something."

Emma casts a dubious look in her host’s direction, an eyebrow pricking upwards once more as she sips from her glass. “Nervous?” she asks, only to wave her empty hand dismissively. “It sounds to me that all that’s left is the polishing of the details and the tying of a few bows.”

Well, maybe it’s a little more than that, but still.

“But I think a magic act would be divine as dinner entertainment. For what it’s worth,” the blonde continues encouragingly, “you haven’t seemed out of your element at all. I wouldn’t start a planning party service, but what is a party but a shifting of thought to strategy and detail?”

There’s a pause, and then Emma’s head leans dramatically to one side in an open appraisal of the man before her. “And since I have you alone for the moment…”

Unbothered, unhurried, the woman takes her time before putting her question to Obadiah. “I take it Stark doesn’t know what happened that day?”

There's consideration there on his face, his smile drowned in something devoid of emotion, a certain world-weary drag on his otherwise presentable demeanor. He gives his answer as much space as she did her question, leading into it almost literally as his fingers lace. Maybe some part of him had hoped that destructive scene could fade into the background, along with the brutal way he handled the man who had dared to kill him. Or maybe he just didn't want it to stain the whole of this meeting, which seemed to be set for another purpose. Either way, his mind is very suddenly a steel box, layered in the same darkness Emma once touched so long ago when she pried. This time it might have gone unnoticed, save for the complete lack of stray thoughts that normally ooze from his psyche. His eyes meet her own, and when he speaks it's with the utmost assurance.

"The only people who know about what happened on that road are a Queen, a God, and an old man who's watched the world spin out of control one to many times to lay in the grass and trust someone like Tony Stark to fix it. I love him like he were my own son." The image of Ezekiel Stane flashes in his mind, the guardian to the darker side of his mind, a negative thought so vile it could bruise an intruder, if not crush them. "But he doesn't know about the things I do with the technology he doesn't guard well enough. And very simply, it is because he does not, and cannot protect himself that I do not trust him with my secret, or your secret, or our horned friend's existence. You see, Emma, for me the world is much like the Hellfire Club. You have the propriety of its card carrying, dues paying members. That's Tony. He can join in. Do his part. I'll help him until the day I die, from my little corner of his world."

His lean back is slow, straightening just a little. "But then there's that layer beneath. You mingle with them when they're in the club, they think they know you. They think they are your contemporary, a peer. Someone who they can relax and talk to, where the money won't get in the way, and your concerns are their concerns. But you're being polite, just like I'm polite when I tell Tony i'm too old to do more than track down weapons smugglers and work with the U.N. to make sure they're brought to justice. So no, Tony doesn't know. Not about the attack, not about my personal arsenal, and certainly not about those things I do to gauge who is and who is not a threat."

One hand slides sidelong, and his hand lifts. With it, another hologram that looks like stacked file cards, cards that spread outward as he twists and manipulates them. "For instance, these are all the anti-mutant sentiments circulated from world leaders, prospective laws and actions taken from the United States and abroad, and a red list of people who seem willing to go much farther. The red list is where I keep all of the threats to the world who cannot be influenced by things like a bribe. The list is long. Filled with those who like to call themselves heroes. Those who like to think of themselves villains." His brows lift a little and he inclines his head to emphasize his meaning. "…and those who might harm my friends."

Emma is the very soul of interested, keenly listening and turning her attention in time to the holographic displays so much more advanced than the ones in her own offices. She is, however, until a particular word comes out of Obadiah’s mouth.

To those who know her best, it’s not hard to catch the signs of her rising wariness. The slight narrowing of her eyes in her elder’s direction, and the tightening at their kohl-lined corners. The subtle setting of her jaw. The dimming of her so-polite smile. The shallowing of her breath. She doesn’t confirm anything pertaining to that solitary, powerful, polarizing word: Mutant.

Neither—it is worth noting—does she deny it.

The gap in her otherwise flawless facade only lasts for a moment, as the businesswoman renews her effort to appear unmoved, looking once more to the cards and lists and never-distant-enough threats. She takes another drink once he’s done explaining, and she doesn’t immediately speak once she’s done. Instead, she considers and weighs the words offered her. And then she continues. “Well,” she ventures at last with a slow, soft, and thoughtful measure of words as she turns her piercing gaze back to her host while her head falls with a mismatching languidness to one side, “anti-mutant sentiment is hardly a foreign import, Mister Stane. Or a product of any rarity.”

—-

Something inside of Obadiah's mind slips back towards the ordinary, some hard line in the sand he'd drawn, perhaps based on her reaction. Her words seem to strike a chord, and it shows in the incline of his head, a slow nod that coincides with his memory sweeping backwards to years of grinding through the dust of wars small and large to find himself yet again poised on the edge of another. He lets the mirth back in, just a little, and his smile is not meant to put her at ease but to show a certain terrible resolve.

After all, she has seen him pull a man's head clean off. She has seen the true nature of who he is.

"True, it certainly is not of any rarity. We'll just have to see what we can do about that. After all, the same truth is universal whenever evolution takes it's course. It's going to be your children, or your children's children. Personally I'd rather see the world inherited by the powerful and broad minded, and the rest? They can sit in the embers, along with everyone else who threw in with the wrong side of history. In any case, you can be certain my resources are at your disposal. I know how to treat a friend. It isn’t all just gourmet ice cream."

There’s a smirk, and he defers a small blinking light on his desk to push a call away. He can deal with that later. “Did you have any other concerns, Ms. Frost? Regarding the party, or anything else?”

Emma’s pale eyes slip sideways to the blinking light, and then back up again. Yes, she’d seen him take a head clean off and barely blinked about it. He’d seen her tear at an intruder without lifting a finger to hurt him.

He’s seen more of her than would be her druthers.

She’s yet to see her name smeared all over the business periodicals, and so it stands to reason that her secret remains mostly intact. Chipped, not shattered.

And he speaks of generations. Of evolution. Of a world that may end in fire and blood.

He speaks of the games of survival. And friendship.

Obadiah earns from Emma a smile.

“No, Mister Stane. I do not believe so. But it does dawn on me that there is a meeting that I should arrange. After the gala. I think I’m very much done with being patient.”

The blonde who sits across from Obadiah again lifts her cup. “A man who promises to protect his friends is worth a great deal. And I don’t make a habit of letting valuable things slip through my fingers.”

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