Kriegspiel

January 26, 2018:

The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver pay the White Queen a polite visit. Friendships are not made.

Frost International, New York

Characters

NPCs: Tasha Beaumont (Emma’s Assistant), FI Staff

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The past few weeks have not been kind.

Between the power losses, the uncomfortable needlings of an evil AI and all of the things it might mean, the Club's various investments and musings, and the myriad of OTHER concerns that circle her thoughts like vultures… to be back in the office is practically a retreat.

Here, Emma Frost is cared for with all of the attentiveness that comes of having your name emblazoned on the side of the building and floors of employees relying on that name beneath you. The office she occupies is expansive, nearly a sixth of the floor and the ceiling overhead soars upwards in a slope of glass and steel. All of the exterior walls: glass and steel. Her enormous desk is here, and a conference table, and down a few steps is the sitting area where Frost has settled herself in for the afternoon. Every angle and ungodly expensive addition to the office is chosen exclusively for its testament to her power.

She's curled up, presently, with glasses primly on her nose and stiletto heels on the floor beside her place on the couch as she pours over the latest advisories from her army of accountants and managers. There's a tea set on the coffee table in front of her, the tendrils of steam from her poured cup defying the chill of the storm and cold that continues to swirl outside.


To a mind as powerful as Emma's, her building spreads out in a constant, moving web of activity, the buzzing synapses and psychic activity of the countless in her employ.

Even after the many setbacks to befall Manhattan, and amidst the chokehold the storm still presses from outside, their good, hard work remains unimpeded. Carefully selected, and as industrious as they are devoted, her personnel have braved everything as to keep the company standing strong.

Even now is unlike any other time —

— until she can feel it. Distant, floors down, but palpable.

Minds go silent, here and there, like instruments snuffed from a playing symphony: a string here, a brass there, a nervous upswing of the percussion. Anxiety and frustration bleed up through some, though in brief sparks it may seem never to have happened at all: like something hit them so quick as to outrun the speed of thought.

The rest of those minds dim and dull, all at once. Not dead, not disappeared — but simply unresponsive.

The psychic leylines twist with something scarlet.

Almost an instant later, not even time to make a phone call — there is a knock to Emma's door.

"Miss Frost?" calls the familiar voice of one of her assistants. She is a disciplined woman, whose respect for her employer is boundless and immeasurable, and knows her boundaries well. She will wait for minutes, until she is permitted inside, and never dare impose herself otherwise.

She opens the door without invitation, without hesitation. Her eyes are red, distant, sightless, and there's a numbness about her body that makes her hand slip off the door handle, her body swaying on her feet, a marionette on invisible strings. "There's someone here… who wants to…"

The assistant sways aside, and there is a woman at the door.

Clad in red and black, a long dress and an inky shawl bound around her arms, with rings on all her fingers and scarlet moving through her eyes, the Witch has let herself in.


It's the shift in the psychic air first that sets Emma on edge, and her tablet is quietly set down on the table as she slides her feet back into those dizzyingly tall heels. It draws an eyebrow upwards, and the blonde pulls off her glasses and closes her eyes as she begins to sort through the confusion below. The voids.

But then she's interrupted and, a beat behind the sound of her name, a head adorned with a hairstick-crossed bun turns. Miss Beaumont, on a day when she's not being controlled by an external force, knows better than to just walk in.

That's the key point, really. On a day when she's not being controlled.

A slow rise onto her feet and a flattening of Emma's expression is all that follows the entrance. "Oh, joy," she drawls, her voice low and dripping with ice as she lets a hip jut outwards and slender arms cross in the sheath of her expertly-fit white poplin shirt. "A rude person desiring to make a dramatic entrance. That was precisely what today needed."


And, just like that, the White Queen stands off against the Red Witch.

Wanda Maximoff, in the flesh, looks like a living antithesis of Emma Frost: while the CEO stands pale and austere in her untouchable white, the witch is a dusky, shadowy little thing, her loose, gauzy slip of a dress breathing even with her slightest of movements.

To the poor Miss Beaumont, she turns her head a tic, a command flaring through the red in her eyes. The compelled assistant seems to forget herself immediately and completely, turning around, walking her unsteady steps out — down the hall where she will remain, standing, staring into one corner like a child in punishment.

The door remains open at her back, and there the Scarlet Witch remains, her watchful eyes absorbed on Emma, appraising every movement, every placement of her hands. And the Queen's choice words to her intruder.

"One of the perks of our kind," speaks the Witch, her voice dusted with a faraway accent — European, Transian. "At least for those of use who haven't forgotten what we are."

She tilts her head, and a gracious smile unwinds across her mouth — though it doesn't touch her red eyes. "I've been hoping to meet you, Emma Frost. Ever since I sensed you that fateful gala."


"Oh, was that what we were supposed to be doing? Here, I was really not thinking about you much at all. Aside from those rare moments where I must because of all of the hell that you've stirred up." A slender manicured hand extends towards the door. "And do they have barns where you're from?" Emma inquires, even though she answers her own question. "They must, as you leave doors open like you were raised in one."

But Tasha is out of the room at least, so that's something. The poor dear is afforded only more mind manipulation as Emma wordlessly shuts off her auditory cortex and rendering the two mutants unheard.

"To what do I owe the distinct displeasure of your visit today, hm?"


The door in question slams shut. Hard enough its hinges break, and it dangles crookedly in its frame from a top hinge that hangs on by a thread. There is no visible indication why. Only a sharp up-stirring of the air, a whipping wind pulling at the clothes of both women.

"They do have barns where we are from," a male voice says from somewhere behind Miss Frost. "We had to sleep in them, many nights."

That presence disappears from behind her with another ripping disturbance of air. Brief images of a white-haired young man appear periodically around the office, as he slows at certain key areas: looking, touching, judging, hating.

"All to hide from humans constantly trying to kill us. Some directly." Pietro resolves into sight again for half a second, leaning over the tea set curiously. Opulent. So opulent. "Some not so directly. Such as your friends at that gala, for example — "

He whisks away again. When he reappears, he stands sentry just behind his sister's right shoulder, and Wanda has been gifted with her own fresh-poured cup of that tea. It steams neatly in her hands.

"Excuse our poor upbringing. We can't all be raised in wealth and luxury, insulated from reality," he says, sad as a crocodile, leaning in over his sister's shoulder to stir sugar into her cup. "Please… sit, and let's talk. That polite enough for you?"


The SLAM-break of the door at her back answers Miss Frost's question.

Wanda Maximoff does not flicker an eyelash, not even as an unseen, violent force moves her skirts and blows free a wing of her dark hair. Ensconced in every inch of her body is the effortless ease of someone used to it: every day of all of her life.

Enter Pietro Maximoff, suddenly, repeatedly, blurringly, noisily, because where one twin goes, the other is surely to linger close. He cuts in, his speed moving him between eyeblinks all through the broken sanctity of the White Queen's office —

And the Scarlet Witch merely twines together her long fingers and goes silent, and to watch her brother in his element — the twisted, impish smile on her lips finally climbs into her red eyes, and they shine with undisguised pride and affection.

He comes to shadow his sister, his taller body leaning over her shoulder, and before even Wanda knows it, a cup of Emma's tea — and her best china to serve it — steams up from her hands, carefully and lovingly prepared for her by Pietro's quick hands. He stirs her tea, and she lifts a free hand to lay on her twin's cheek, a brief, intimate touch.

"That's all we wish," Wanda concludes pleasantly, with her eyes on the White Queen. "A talk. It's come our job to acquaint ourselves with all the members of our community. You eluded us for some time, Miss Frost."


In. Her. Space.

They are in. her. space.

Invading her fiercely guarded privacy. Touching her things. Helping themselves to her employees for their entrance. To her tea for their comfort. She does not want them comfortable. And certainly, that could not be more true while they are in her office and attempting to intimidate her. Her.

Emma seethes beneath a calm marble-like veneer, rage permeating every cell of her being as she simply pricks one eyebrow upwards and smiles unkindly as she takes a long, subtle inhalation. "So terribly sorry to make it difficult for you. But what, pray tell, could I possibly have to talk to you about?" There's more to say, but the thoughts are locked behind the subtle clenching of Emma's teeth as she stops herself short of giving them sound.

She then demands, "If you want a discussion, get your influence off of my staff. Otherwise, I'm afraid that this is doomed to get ugly in short order."


Pietro's head tilts a little into his sister's touch. His eyes do not blink, nor do they avert from Emma's own.

In their past altercations with others, in their showy displays of violence in public, it was Pietro leading, Pietro talking, Pietro with the rhetoric. But here and now, in this more intimate setting, he seems content to let his sister take the reins. She talks and he does not interrupt. Emma responds, and he does not answer.

He merely stands at his twin's shoulder, a watchful sentry… prepared to defend her the instant any aggressive movement is made. He has relaxed his rein on his powers, letting himself operate nearly at his highest speeds. It makes the encounter agonizingly slow, in his perception, but that is preferable to him not being fast enough to catch any threat aimed at Wanda.

Emma makes a demand for the freedom of her staff, before she will talk. Pietro lifts a brow, but looks to his sister.


Wanda returns her brother's glance in that seamless unison of twins: two beings barely one foot out of each other's heads.

Then her eyes shift back on Emma, appraising both the Queen and her demand. She considers denying her; allowing that many people back their autonomy bring in far too many possibilities. But —

"All right," complies the witch. "Our peace offering to you. None were harmed, I promise. To them, it feels no more than a daydream."

Shifting one hand off her tea, she bears up and flexes her long fingers, red light streaming in strings between them. She finds one, knotted, and flicks one thumb to break the strand. The red light sparks and goes out like a snuffed candle.

That oppressive wall of scarlet retreats from the floors of Frost's building, all save what stands before her on the sixth floor. Wanda, for her part, takes a sip of tea. Pietro made it perfectly.

"I think you have far more common with us than the humans you've surrounded yourself," continues the witch, polite, though with heat in her red eyes. "We've come to discuss you joining the cause. Everything my brother said is correct. We've not had your advantages or your luxuries. It's very rare we see our kind in such a position of power. Is cowardice that lucrative?"


Emma waits until those threads are unwoven from those under her protection, waits until Wanda has spoken her part. And then?

The blonde snorts derisively. Peace offering, indeed. "Has poverty made you dull? Or just desperate?" she asks in kind, her pale eyes glittering with attention and threat. "What cause, precisely, would you have me join, hm?" A hand unfurls in the pair's direction, her eyebrows lifting in challenge. "The one that kicks anthills, regardless of those - our kind - who will be consumed in the stinging mob wrath that follows? That digs deep holes in river beds, indifferent to the silt that will no doubt slip in while you're still digging? You accuse me of cowardice, I say that you've no foresight. No strategy. You're upset and hurting whatever weak thing is closest like tantruming children."


Pietro says nothing when Wanda consents to grant the peace offering of releasing Emma's staff. He only tenses, at an obvious ready for any problems that might ensue, the red light of his sister's hex reflecting in his blue eyes… across his white hair.

"Cowardice is the most lucrative of all stances, sister," Pietro says, his voice derisive. "A coward, overlooked as they hide, may build a corporate empire. A dynasty." A pause, and some deeply personal disappointment and betrayal flickers in his eyes. "A country."

What cause do they mean, precisely, Emma wishes to know. "The cause that is not about hiding in holes, hoping the tenth plague of humanity passes over us all," Pietro retorts. "What long games, exactly, are you playing, which you think will have such payoff, that leaving our our people to suffer in the interim is acceptable?"

He is a taut presence at his twin's shoulder. "How are you helping, Emma Frost?"


"Leaving them to suffer? Please." Emma scoffs audibly, and she bristles visibly as her shoulders square and her feet spread into a wider stance as she recrosses her arms. It's a battle stance fit for the field or the board room, and not very subtle at that. "I've no need to explain myself to you. Where were you until three months ago? I've been trying to sort the world - out of view - in our favor for years. I've trained our kind to embrace their abilities. I've defended them. Protected them. Hidden them from those who would hunt them down. And suffered for it. Out of view. And you - upstarts, rank amateurs - dare to judge me? Pathetic."


That squaring up of Emma's stance doesn't escape Pietro's gaze. Hyperfast as it is, his perception easily takes in every snapshot instant of the way the woman gears up into a posture clearly meant for battle. A scornful look enters his gaze, his blue eyes soaking with the sheer arrogance of a man looking upon an attempt to oppose him with pure derision. In these moments, with his white hair, his startling eyes, the hard lines of his features, he looks a hell of a lot like his father in miniature.

Where were they until recently? "Still mostly in hiding, because your years of efforts clearly hadn't made any kind of a better world yet," he says blandly. "You've all tried 'appeasement' and 'out of view' and 'under the table' for long enough, and here we are right back at the registration table. It was time for measures humans would understand."

The fury in his eyes hints at a personal grievance underpinning his generalized, broadly-applicable rhetoric. "Time for us to take a turn with our way. Continue whatever you're doing if you want, this is no effort to force you to stop." How… gracious. "But you should consider its efficacy if it has yielded nothing after so much time…"


It seems the Maximoff twins are more a machine unit than they are two separate, autonomous individuals: a brother and sister forged by years and ruthless survival to draw on another so deeply that a single personality forges between them.

They do not speak for or over each other, yielding the dominant voice back and forth: when Pietro rises up with his fierce words and brewing fury, Wanda goes quiet, indulging in her stolen cup of tea. Miss Frost has an impeccable taste in leaves; not a bitter after note to be found.

The only bitterness in the room seethes off the White Queen, herself, a lifetime of enduring weighing each and every word she speaks, like a venom from the timbre of her voice. Wanda watches on, listening keenly; she has more patience than her brother, though there is more than enough flint in her blood to spark offence, even indignation, against Emma's insults — when she calls them pathetic.

"We won't deny what you've done, Miss Frost," she begins carefully, "but we've now entered a time when it's no longer enough. The cause needs more like you. You are a leader, and if you took one step farther than what you're doing — be willing to sacrifice… we would be there. My brother and I are not stopping. Yes, we're desperate, and yes, we're escalating. This same fire has burned for too many generations. Our kind fought under false names and masks, and waged their secret wars — and nothing changed. They're now old men caged by their own island kingdoms. We light no new fires that have already been burning, but we will fan them. Hotter than anyone has ever seen. It's the only way we'll all get our change."


"I have sacrificed, and I have nothing to prove to you. I've suffered for what I am, to become what I am." Emma retorts simply, her lip curling up in a sneer. "But you are too blind to see anything beyond what is there plainly presented. Is that the real problem, dears? That you are feeling overlooked? Outshined?" Her voice is mockery.

And the telepath's eyes narrow as she continues on. "Are you jealous of the humans and their petty delusions of power over this world? You should know better than anyone that power doesn't have to be seen to exist."

Oh, but Frost is not done. Oh, no. She's pent this up for three months, and she has lost. She has lost the desire to be silent about it when they are standing right here, on her territory, lecturing to her about what she has failed to do as though they've an inkling.

"Do you actually want the humans to have a reason and face to rally against? Because if so, you're doing a bang up job of it. We're outnumbered. You would have me lead our kind down a road that will lead to nowhere but the last recourse of an island kingdom that I'm helping build and finance as a contingency for what comes of your childish impatience."


"Our problem," Quicksilver says quietly, "is watching our people die in the cold, as humans gloat over their bodies. They do not care. They will be made to."

Do they want the humans to have a reason to rally against them?

"They are already rallied against us," Pietro says acidly. "They have been for a very long time. Ever since they became aware of us, the flatscans have been united in boxing us up as The Other. To be persecuted, to be hunted, to be killed. We've hidden in fear all our lives, my sister and I. Twenty years and more. We are tired of it… especially knowing they are so bold because the face they are rallied against is a conciliatory face, steeped in weakness and fear."

His eyes are cold as ice chipped from a glacier. "Now it is a face that needs to set and shout back, instead."

Pietro glances sidelong at Wanda. Scarlet light flickers in his eyes as he pulls on their mental hex-link, impatient. Sister, there is nothing more we can say to this woman. You spoke kindly to her, and she rejects it!

His attention only veers back on Emma when she speaks of building and financing Genosha. Surprise shows obviously in his eyes — clearly not something he knew — before mingled bitterness and derision flood back into his gaze. "So you are working with him," he says. "Share his beliefs too, I bet. Genosha is a nice idea. But it is a stopgap."


The witch finishes her tea.

A flicker of red disappears the empty cup from her fingers; cleaned, returned to its place, as if never used. Reality listens when her will tells it another lie.

Wanda tilts her head to Pietro's words — the silent, mental ones carried over the permanent hex braiding their minds. You were right, is all she answers.

She draws a step toward and into her twin, her side brushing his arm, one of her hands brushing his closest wrist. "Not jealous, no," she says, far more softly, with her red eyes on Emma. "Only vengeful. We don't covet what they have. We only want what was taken from us."

Wanda breathes in, then out, slow, rueful. Where there is bitterness in the son, the daughter seems only to look sad. "You should listen to my brother, Miss Frost. To hedge our bets on a cage — and that's what it is, an island prison wherein we think we'll be free, but simply herded, segregated, removed — speaks of how little ground we have. If you think this your fortress, Miss Frost, you will die when it falls around you. If you think secrecy is any way for us to truly live, then you are part of that petty delusion — existing on their terms. On their rules. When they take it from you, everything you believe you've built — we may even be there to help. The Brotherhood does not turn its back."


You should listen to my brother.

Of all the insults, that is likely the one that stings the worst. And considering they'd come in calling her a coward, that's likely saying something. "No, I suppose it doesn't," Emma quips, although her voice is little more than an angry hiss now. "Not even when it apparently needs a proper paddling and to be sent to bed."

"You listen to me, you ungrateful whelps. Your plans are fire that will scorch our kind and the humans alike. The humans will always fear us. They will always hate us. But you've given them reason and you've ignited their imaginations. They turn on their own kind and you've cemented us as not just 'other' but as terrorists. You are giving those who hate and revile us everything they'll ever need and you've given it a name. Our kind will be the thing that goes bump in the night, that hides under their children's beds. But you will be why."

And then the CEO in her pristine collared shirt and her pressed white wool slacks begins clapping the polite applause fit for opera houses. "Well done. I'd offer a sarcastic note about how you should be proud… Except that you are actually naive enough to actually be proud of what you've done."


To Pietro's credit, for once, Emma Frost gets to finish speaking before he reacts. But the instant her last word leaves her lips —

— the snap of the sound barrier breaking cracks the glass of the expansive windows all around them. Quicksilver is in her face half a millisecond later, not touching — but in her space. Looks like she finally hit a nerve and broke that infamous temper.

In his wake, the halves of her coffee table slowly slide apart and tip over to the ground, edges smoking, burnt in two by the speed of his passage. The tea set slides sadly off the right half and onto the floor, miraculously without breaking.

"You think they had no reason for their hate until we gave them a reason?" he hisses. "I can assure you, they have always had a reason: WE EXIST. Irrational, isn't it? Have you ever hidden in a filthy alley like a rat, you and your sister hiding under one coat, knowing that if the humans chasing you find you, they'll string you both up and burn you? Children?" His expression curls in a sneer. "No, I don't imagine so. You've sucked a silver spoon since you were born. You've always been safe. You probably even believe what you're saying, about the nice humans only punishing us because we were bad." His expression almost affects pity, at that.

He leans back, and a flicker later is back at his sister's side. "If they will always hate us, then all this conciliation is pointless." His features are cut from steel, eyes lit with fury. "If they will not leave us alone because they respect us, then they will leave us alone because they fear us."

He reaches to lift his sister into his arms. "Sorry to ruin your thing hanging off Tony Stark's arm," he scoffs, before — with another cracking sonic boom — he makes to disappear.


Quicksilver cleaves through the office in an instant.

Glass splinters and webs every expansive window. The wintry skyline of Manhattan fragments to a hundred pieces. Furniture topples, snapped in two, broken edges lit ember-bright with the sheer force of its bisection.

And the Scarlet Witch merely stands back, her hands at her sides, fingers slightly curled, her head bowed, and her eyes a glowing scarlet sunset. As her brother snarls out his furious, violent words, his temper well and truly broken, she holds, she listens, and she waits. The threads of reality shift and curl their broken ends from her fingers, streaming red light, ready on a dime to react if the White Queen turns on her twin.

He gets right into her face.

And he weaves a tale of children alone in the cold, in the dark, alone and hunted, and memory shutters along her face, her hands tightening until her knuckles bleach white. What injects fury into his expression brings pain to hers.

When Pietro leans back, that unearthly glow dims out of Wanda's eyes, back to the half-normalcy of her blood-red irises. When, inside a heartbeat, he is back at her side, she lets the scarlet go from her hands.

She takes his hand instead.

Vehemence steels the brother; clemency courts the sister. In the wake of Pietro's last words, Wanda turns a final look onto Emma, weighing the Queen in her castle. "When you come to us," she calls, archly, politely, "begging forgiveness… we may listen. We'll see you then."

Quicksilver bears the Witch into his arms. With those barbed last words of his — he blurs them away.


It would be to her credit, perhaps, to stand there idly by as the room falls apart, but Emma Frost cannot claim it. No, it's too fast as the expensive damage is done to the very casing of the room that surrounds them. He whips into her space, and there is only the barest and involuntary flinch against the whirlwind and sudden proximity. He speaks, and she listens. Her expression is one unimpressed, however.

Pietro's lack of awareness as to her private situation is a victory so far as she's concerned, and so she lets him prattle on about how she knows nothing of trial. Skeletons are - after all - best when left to moulder in the closets where they belong, politely hidden from view.

The knowledge sees Frost settle, secure enough in her emotional footing, with just an upwards flick of her eyebrows and the tiniest smile in the corner of her mouth. Yeah, that's right. She's smirking at him. And Wanda gets much of the same. No words, but a condescending smirk.

But then the speedster's gone again, and his irritating sister, too. "Well. They're going to be waiting awhile," she says to empty air with a mirthless chuckle, letting her gaze go at last up to the dangerous cracks in the thick panes of glass that surround her. The walls. The ceiling. All compromised with the weather still very much a concern. "Lovely."

Tasha Beaumont comes racing in soon after, panicked and out of sorts. "Miss Frost?!"

A long sigh fills the air. "Just lovely."

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