A Civil Debate

August 08, 2018:

Lex Luthor and Emma Frost meet at a party and discuss his latest newspaper writeup.

Hellfire Club - NYC


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Just another Thursday at the Hellfire Club of New York.

The ultimate destination for vice and indulgence, the converted church is often dismissed as little more than a gentleman's club of discriminating taste. With very few exceptions, one can find nearly anything one desires on the menu. Wine, expensive delicacies, and a wide range of tobaccos of all manner of consumption. Entertainment. And one can find even more off the menu.

It comes alive after five o'clock, when it opens its doors. Tonight, for example, there's a living art exhibit with women standing stock still with gossamer draped artistically over feminine curves in order to bring to life ancient Greek art. Every twenty minutes or so, they're rearranged into a new tableau with new props by the meticulous attentions of their director. The muses. Nymphs. The tale of Athena and Arachne.

It's an interesting backdrop against the cocktail hour that's presently going on in the main hall of the club, anyway, where women and men mill about with their poison of choice in hand and plucking things from passed hors d'oeuvre trays.

And among them, one Emma Frost standing in the corner with her wine glass. Her corset leaves her shoulders bare, cinching in her waist before her satin skirt cascades to the floor below with an artful swagging to it and leaving one leg exposed. Also exposed, the deadly-pointed stiletto mules that - when paired with a platform sole - set her height at an intimidating mark somewhere just past six feet.

Lex Luthor cuts a swathe through even this crowd. Many patrons of the club are wealthy, but perhaps none quite to the same standard set by Lex, easily one of the world's richest and most powerful men. He carries himself with the self-assured grace of his position, fearless and bold as he mingles. He entertains small talk now and then, but mostly dismisses sycophants and beggars of attention. He gets enough of that out in the world without being bombarded with crawlers in private.

He does like that he can be a bit more himself here - his primary indulgence is to take down his publicity-friendly mask, to behave more fully as himself and engage honestly - if ruthlessly - with those around him. He wears a custom-cut suit from a London tailor, breathable cotton under grey wool cut thin enough to not overheat. He regards the art displays with a dispassionate eye and soon finds himself standing in front of Emma Frost.

He recognizes her, of course. He goes nowhere without having a good sense of who the players are, although Emma's more private than most and harder to get a handle on. Which makes her dangerous. Lex smiles broadly, "Miss Frost. You do put on a good show, if I may say so. I'm never bored here."

"Mister Luthor," Emma reciprocates in her contralto with its British affect, smiling secretively over the faceted crystal edge of her wine glass. When the company is such as what gathers here, there is no expense spared in even the oft overlooked catering supplies. "Thank you. Although, I must lamentably admit that it's not all me. I just whisper little ideas from time to time and the club runs with them." She leans in with an imitation of intimacy, although she never really closes in too terribly close.

She stage whispers to overcome the distance. "It's so very nice to be appreciated."

And then she leans back, the pose one uncommitted, really. "And speaking of appreciation… Quite the article in the Planet not too terribly long ago. First I've really heard anyone in Metropolis weigh in seriously on this whole registration issue."

She keeps her tabs, too, and likes to make it well known that she does. The blonde tilts her head, sending cornsilk tresses over one of those bare shoulders as she makes no secret of appraising the man in his quality suit. It is a refreshing change of pace here, the men who know the value of a good thread and have the capacity to pay for it.

Lex Luthor takes a sip of his own glass, a tumbler full of ice water. He drinks very rarely, preferring to keep his faculties sharp. His blue eyes are piercing as he takes in the porcelain vixen who runs this place. "I'm sure you do a great deal more than whisper. But I am sure that even a whisper from you carries more authority than the loud proclamations of lesser folk."
When she mentions the article, he lets a smile flick at the corner of his mouth. "I perhaps give Lois Lane a bit too much leeway in her interviews, but she's a charming thing and good at her job. Nonetheless, I stand by what I said. I have not a bone of prejudice in me, but I also recognize that measures must be taken for the public good."

Emma's smile tugs unevenly at the praise, neither confirming nor denying the business baron's assessment. Not aloud, anyway. He must strike something close to the note of truth, however, if her ambiguous hum is any indication. Swirling her wine contemplatively, the blonde arches an eyebrow. "Do they?" she inquires, her own gaze a velvet-wrapped blade of its own. Softer by appearance, but every bit as sharp.

"For someone with a membership here, I would think that you would prioritize privacy."

Lex Luthor smiles, "Privacy is all well and good. I do, indeed, know its value. There are many things, many aspects of myself, that I choose whether or not I want to share them with the wider world. That said, all of my guns are registered. All of my military applications have patents and blueprints filed with the government. If I were to use my enormous financial might to, say, refurbish a building or demolish another, I would need permits, paperwork, lawyers. But a single superhuman could level the same building with a snap of their fingers. Even if we don't prohibit such powers from existing, and I'm certainly not suggesting that we should, that would be an egregious overreach, but if such powers walk amongst us, don't the unpowered masses, at least, get a sense that someone's keeping track of it all? That superhumans can be held responsible for their unlawful actions? I don't think that's too much to ask."

"There are plenty of things that we don't track that would ostensibly be tracked under what I am presuming to be your proposal," Frost easily retorts, gesturing airily with her wine-bearing hand. "Minors, as a prime example. Your weapons, your buildings. Those are a choice. You choose to have those things. A teenager with an X-gene?" She shrugs, although the lift of both eyebrows serves to emphasize her point.

Lex Luthor smiles, "Well, I didn't precisely choose them all. I confess, I inherited much of my wealth and power, although I have grown both far beyond my father's wildest dreams. It's all well and good to care about the poor teenager who's been accursed with powers beyond mortal reckoning, but excuse me if I suspect that the ordinary people caught in the crossfire of their hormonal disputes might be more deserving of protection. A persecuted minority normally would suffer on the negative side of the imbalance of power, but not so in this case, where young mutants and superhumans can sway the minds and break the bones of those who oppose them with little more than a gesture."

There's a cluck of a tongue. "Ah-ah," the blonde counters, a finger lifting up from the surface of her crystal goblet and pointing a little. "You did not choose to inherit, but you do choose to keep. You choose to expand. It is your right to do both, but it is a choice." The corner of her mouth pulls higher, and her crystalline eyes close as she savors another sip of the sinfully expensive wine that flows freely this evening from the Grecian pitchers carried about by thematically draped women who aren't always perfect in their handling of the exaggerated handles. But their pour is close enough - practiced enough - to not distract too terribly. A plate of bacon-wrapped stuffed figs is carried by.

Frost ignores it as her eyes reopen and resettle on Lex. "You don't think that a public registration effort that includes children has the possibility of backfiring?"

Lex Luthor smiles thinly, "I think choosing to do nothing out of the fear of possible abuse, rather than doing what needs to be done and buttressing that effort with an attempt to give it integrity and value, is a counterproductive measure. This isn't a binary issue. We can attend to the civil rights of mutants and still take measures for public safety. This sort of black and white thinking is what's polluted the gun issue in modern discourse. Let reasonable people try to come up with reasonable solutions. I'm fine with disagreements about policy, but some people act as if even having the discussion is ludicrous."

"I suppose that's more a problem in Metropolis than in New York," Emma says with a laugh. "As we have some of the most stringent gun laws in the country." Closing the distance between herself and her partner in conversation, the woman - despite her scandalous wrappings - betrays more than she intends, maybe, of the cold steel that makes her boardroom reputation. "That we're having the raging debate here, don't you think that perhaps it should be an indication that it is just a little ludicrous?"

Lex Luthor smiles, "I am never ludicrous," he says simply.

"I don't have the passion for the issue that others do. I don't have any 'skin in the game', as they say. I have plenty of security measures to protect my own property and my employees from any threat, human or superhuman. But I also think dismissing calls for registration as simple bigotry oversimplifies an issue. Like it or not, some of their concerns are valid, even if, perhaps, they take their rhetoric over the line on occasion. Those issues still need to be addressed."
"But I'm sure you don't come to club to have civics debates, Miss Frost."

“Well, that depends. Some people enjoy it, and I do like to see people having a good time.” Frost chuckles, her wine glass hovering ever near her lips.

“So, tell me, Mister Luthor,” she implores, her refined cadence tuned to a pleasant and carefully minded melody. “If not debate, where do your pleasures lie?” Her head tilts in a languid sort of consideration that belies how her mind stretches out, soft as an evening breeze, to peruse the man's surface thoughts.

Her expression is a devious and playful thing as she offers more tame options than her demeanor would suggest, “Cigars? Yachts? Dining on the flesh of exotic animals? Hunting endangered ones?”

And so the conversation turns, back to the gentle and easy roll of superficial nothings.

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