The Avid Reader
Roleplaying Log: The Avid Reader
IC Details

Emma Frost pays a visit to Warren Worthington's hidden assistant… and betrays what reading has been on her nightstand.

Other Characters Referenced: Warren Worthington, Alison Blaire
IC Date: November 05, 2019
IC Location: A Safe House in Connecticut
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 05 Nov 2019 14:19
Rating & Warnings: G
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Kiefer "Kiff" Kassmaier by Angel
Associated Plots

Kiefer Kassmeier has been keeping a very low profile for some time, now. It was assumed that he would potentially be targeted by whoever had done Warren and Alison in (or tried to do them in), and that assumption gained a whole lot more credence once a couple of power suit racists went after another person involved in the fiasco, for the express purpose of silencing him.

Whoever hit Warren and Alison was pretty certain to hold a severe grudge against mutants and the X-Men, and with Cameron Hodge as a current top suspect, it stood to reason he might eventually try to get information on the X-Men via Kiff. Kiff has never been explicit about his ties with the group, but — he's Warren's personal assistant. It's a fair bet that he knows things, or at the least can get in touch with them.

So with the help of some X-Men, Kiff went off the grid until such point there was some resolution to the investigations. The place is a small safehouse in Connecticut, outside the city of Stamford near the shore of Long Island Sound. Kiff has been managing things in Warren and Alison's absence the best he can from there.

At the very least, the house is a short walk from the beach.

And, it’s safe to say that there are some people who have a few little tricks for finding people who don’t particularly care to be found.

It helps when you walk similar circles. It also helps to be a mostly unscrupulous telepath.

But the particular telepath—so oft standing accused of being entirely bankrupt of morals—is kind enough to knock upon the door and wait with her car so far out of sight that it might as well not exist. She stands on the front step of the house that she’s found, bundled up in a coat of camel-colored suede and fur, letting the shoreside breeze toussle her loose blonde curls as she keeps her hands plunged deep into the fur-lined pockets. Her eyes are protected by the eye glasses she wears with their large lenses and thin gold frames.

And she waits. Politely.

…mostly politely.

Because she is, naturally, letting her expanded psychic awareness fill the space around her to take account of every mind that she finds within eyeshot and alter her appearance if they look her way. Kiff will have an unchanged view of Frost International’s CEO. The cameras will, if there are any around. But everyone else will see a older, heavyset woman with greying hair who is no one of importance or any threat to anyone.

There are no cameras. Cameras can be too easily turned traitor, even by human enemies. There are assuredly surveillance methods that are not cameras, methods arising from the gifts of mutantkind. But Emma Frost is also one of the world's premier telepaths, and that handles most of them.

The rest? Well… perhaps Emma Frost isn't on so much of a watch list as she might have been years ago. She arrives undeterred and unmolested, though her arrival might be noted and monitored.

Kiff himself arrives at the door before long, caution in his watchful, tired eyes and a loaded pistol somewhere on his person. A young man looking about an age with Warren, he also resembles Warren physically in height, general build, and coloration: though his eyes are brown, and his blond hair is a more ashen shade than Warren's pure gold. He also trades Warren's showy, ethereal beauty and larger-than-life air of arrogance for a more earthy demeanor of 'quiet, confident competency.'

He relaxes — if marginally — on seeing for himself who it is, but the wariness remains in his demeanor.

"Ms. Frost," is his eventual greeting. "This is a surprise. I'm afraid I'm not set up to properly entertain you here. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

“I should hope it’s a surprise,” Emma replies, her lips turning upwards into an attempt at a mild and comforting smile. But are any of her smiles actually comforting? It, too, is polite. One can say that much, perhaps, without stretching the truth of it. “Or else I would need be concerned about who precisely is watching my own comings and goings.”

Her head tilts a degree to the side as she observes Kiff and his body language.

“If I may be so bold as to impose… Perhaps we might have a few words inside?” Her hands come out of her pockets and she wiggles her fingers to declare their momentary innocence. She leans in and murmurs nearer the door, “I’ll turn the pockets if it makes you feel better.”

Kiff's surface thoughts aren't too hard to skim. He's a disciplined and competent human who got some briefing and training about psychics from Warren, but at the end of the day — he's a human, and Warren wouldn't exactly be anyone's first choice as an instructor in psychic defense. He has some of the very basics, like keeping a blanked and calm mind, but it's trivial to dip just a little past that.

Worry. Worry is the primary sentiment. Worry for himself, for Warren and Alison, for the X-Men who are trying to dig into this whole sordid mess. Worry, and a distinct readiness to use the weapon hidden on his person if necessary. He doesn't really think he'll have to, but it's hard to have trust for anything in this day and age, with murder attempts on Warren and Alison and the need for safehouses and secure satlinks.

None of it shows on his face. He's good.

There is a moment's pause when she leans in and offers to turn her pockets. Kiff's glance flickers down to her hands and their gesture of innocence, before rising back to her eyes. "That won't be necessary," he says, wry, because really — what would it accomplish? The best defense against predators, when you have few others, is not betraying fear.

Though there is a little blip in his thoughts, which does suggest he's alerted unspecified backup that he's no longer alone.

He stands aside. "Come in. What can I do for you?"

The house's interior is small but well-kept, opening immediately into an obvious sitting area towards which Kiff gestures Emma. Beyond that is a workspace which reflects a man trying to stay on top of 'way too much,' cluttered with file folders and documents and an open laptop which is currently in sleep mode.

Someone knows I’m here. Sad, Emma muses to herself with a quiet and contemplative hum as she passes through the door.

The rest of what filters through Kiff’s thoughts is not terribly shocking. But it probably is for the best to not linger. Get things said, then get out.

“My little visit is more about what I can do for you,” comes the answer to his question. “Things are a little topsy turvy at present, I realize. So I promise to keep things to the point.”

Emma tugs daintily at the kid gloves upon her long fingers, baring the slender digits and then plunging the gloves into the depth of her coat as she moves. While she moves, she also unbuttons her coat to reveal the tailored pantsuit beneath it, the color of cream. All of this is done efficiently so that, when she finally comes to a place to sit, she can perch upon it with a very prim quality. Legs cross with a quality to the motion that is all business, and her wrists cross atop the uppermost knee.

“I’d imagine that you’re in something of a predicament at present. Mister Worthington had his fingers in a few pies. And now I’d imagine it must feel like playing the part of the boy with his finger in the dike.”

Her eyes settle on the man’s assistant with a piercing sort of look.

“And then more holes show up. And then one starts running out of fingers. Particularly fingers just the right size.”

She pauses, and then offers something that sounds quite nearly like she means it. But that can’t possibly be, can it? “You have my condolences, of course. But condolences don’t patch holes.

Kiff eventually takes a seat himself, opposite Emma. His expression continues to betray little, though his mind shows little skips and jolts of his reactions to her statements. Her statement that she's here about what she can do for him generates a small blip of surprise, sharpens the wariness, and — interestingly — introduces a hint of anger. Perhaps he thinks she's here to poach him.

The anger dims a little as she continues to elaborate, however, replaced by motes of understanding… and a sharp increase in the wariness. He's looking for the catch.

Were Emma a friend, and the circumstances different, perhaps Kiff would have quipped that Warren having his fingers in pies was vastly preferable to other things he could have been putting his fingers in. She is not, and the circumstances are what they are, so he holds his silence. The workstation behind him is proof enough of what Emma surmises, so Kiff does not bother trying to pretend everything is fine.

"Thank you," he begins instead, to her condolences.

He considers her. He's not a fool. He can guess a few potential vectors of where she's going. "What's your proposal, Ms. Frost?" is his eventual, frank question; a tacit acknowledgement of her assessment, but obviously a precursor to him deciding whether to release more information.

“Why, to help you patch the holes, of course,” Emma says simply, her eyebrows lifting for a beat, as though that were the only possible conclusion to which one could possibly come.

Again, her head relaxes towards one of her shoulders, and her expression remains just as polite and unbothered as before.
“You see, I’ve been doing a little bit of poking around, and it seems to me that you could perhaps use someone in possession of my particular skill set.”

Her gaze drops down to her nails, and she lifts up the fingers of her top hand to observe them to let poor Kiff have whatever illusion of privacy that he might desire. After all, she loses nothing for it, as she remains ever aware of his surface thoughts.

“And here’s the thing, really. I’m feeling particularly moved towards repaying a debt—although, if you tell anyone that, I’ll vehemently deny it. Be that as it may, I’m going to help you, whether you agree to it or not. You know who I am.” Although, she says the words and dives to see just how much of her he knows about. “You know what I can do.”

Her gaze lifts up to look at Kiff from the corner of her eyes. “Wouldn’t you much rather be in the loop as to what I am actually doing and get help where you need it most?”

Kiff doesn't immediately respond out loud to Emma's explanation, though such isn't necessary for her to have a pretty good idea where his mind is going. Interestingly, what reduces some of the inflexibility in his mind and seems to make him more amenable to listening, is hearing her say she's here because she's 'moved towards repaying a debt.' That seems to convince him, to some degree, of her intentions.

A further delve reveals why; he knows quite a lot, for a personal assistant. Warren kept him in fairly close confidence on the various missions of the X-Men, because Kiff would often be running interference on Warren's public life while X-Men affairs were going on. He's aware in the broad strokes of what happened at Kenai. Perhaps not the exact details, but he knew the X-Men went out there to resolve a case of missing telepaths, and it's not hard to extrapolate how 'a debt' comes out of that situation.

It also reveals that he does know who she is and what she can do, which is perhaps why he isn't bothering to speak aloud quite so promptly, or so much. He doesn't quite know the full shape of her history with the X-Men, with the Hellfire Club, and all that — but he knows she's a dangerous telepath, and a dangerous woman in general.

"Yes," he finally says. "I'm quite aware. And when you put it that way — I suppose I'd rather do this in a cooperative fashion." His expression turns wry. "You could use an advisor on the matter."

There is a beat of silence, before — "Where are my manners?" Kiff says abruptly. "May I offer you anything? Warren keeps stock anywhere he goes, there's bound to be something here."

Whether she accepts or declines, he's getting up, because HE needs a stiff drink now. "Warren and Alison were declared dead at the scene," he says, and there's a brief flash of the memory in his mind, the image seared with the grief of the moment. "But no death certificates have been issued due to… complications, and that's delaying the settlement of their affairs. It's stymied Cameron Hodge from getting access, but it's also stymied me."

He finds a bottle of whisky, and starts pouring himself a glass. "In the event something suddenly happened to Warren, control of funding streams for the Institute, the Foundation… that was supposed to come to me, as a stopping point before they vested in whoever would take over looking after those things," he says. "Things pertaining to Worthington Industries, though… that goes to Hodge."

He glances over at Emma. “Right now everything’s in limbo. And in the meantime, the funding’s stopped while they try to work out Warren’s status.”

“Whatever you’re having is lovely, thank you,” Emma replies smoothly to the offer in an understated sort of way as she goes back to pretending to study her manicure and listening.

She fights the grunt of displeasure as she finds the depth of his knowledge of her, but she’s hard pressed to be actually bitter about it at the end of the day. After all, how much betwixt them three do Emery Papsworth, Tasha Beaumont, and her driver, Alex, know? Still, it’s unfortunate in some ways. Useful in others. She chooses to focus on the use.

She squints in the direction of the computer monitor briefly, the glare of the sleeping screen catching in her glasses, before deciding it a useless effort for the moment and sets her attention once more upon her nails. It is not that interesting a French manicure, for the record.

“There are some things I might be able to do on the corporate front to make matters more difficult for Mister Hodge without hindering the company. The more important helps there, I think I’ve already set in motion.”

She looks up, waiting on the arrival of her glass, so that she can look at Kiff in the eyes. “Blood is in the water. I can help keep the sharks at bay. I assume that Worthington - His estate? is it his estate yet without the certificate finalized? - has not been cut out of his company’s revenue yet. Which would mean that you’ll still need the income to feed his philanthropic endeavors. Which, I’ve gone ahead and done a preliminary run on the 990s for the ones I know about. …Now, I’m not privvy to the particulars of his contract of employment, but you should tell me true: is he still collecting out of Worthington Industries or are you distributing out of his portfolio?”

And then, as though she had just gone and asked Kiff to describe the color of Warren’s favorite boxers, Emma preemptively lifts her eyes skywards. “And before you go and get all protective, now is not the time to be coy. I need to know just dophow much trouble you’re actually in.”

Kiff returns presently with another glass of 'what he's having,' which turns out to be a nice Japanese whisky. Warren apparently got a taste for it while expanding business operations in Japan a while back. The stuff is handed off to Emma, before Kiff resumes his seat across from her. If he notices her peering about and trying to get a look at the sleeping laptop, he doesn't say anything about it.

Instead, he just regards Emma with increasing receptiveness as she outlines what exactly she intends to do to 'help.'

"It is a dangerous time for the company," he admits candidly. "It's on shaky ground and has been for a while. Hodge is keeping up the pretenses, but that could change at a moment's notice, and the board will lean whichever way they have to in order to keep things afloat: and themselves stable. The less danger they feel, the less reason they have to hurry about changing the status quo."

As for the rest? Kiff's eyebrows lift at the news that Emma has already been looking at the 990s for Warren's philanthropic endeavors. The 990s are publicly available, mind, but his expression is nonetheless akin to the sort of expression Kiff would wear if Emma had, indeed, declared that she had been looking at Warren's boxers. At the least, he seems to anticipate Warren reacting as such, should he find out.

"He hasn't been cut out yet," he says slowly. "But they're working on it. The funding for his philanthropic endeavors comes solely out of his personal assets, anyway — never from WI. His personal wealth is enough to keep generating funding for the Institute and the foundation for a long time if it's managed and invested properly, even if they cut him out of WI… but that's assuming someone who will do that retains control over it."

He does read protective right now. But he also reads pragmatic. "That's the hard part. And until all that's worked out, his assets are frozen."

She shuffles out of her coat sometime between when Kiff starts pouring and when he brings her a measure and lets the pile of thick suede and fur serve as a burrow. When the whisky comes and Emma takes it into her hands to warm it there as she listens, she muses over the problem.

It doesn’t take her long.

“So a great deal of trouble, then.”

She takes a bracing sip of the booze in her hands, and then remarks, “Oh, that’s lovely.” As though Worthington’s supply would have been wanting somehow, there’s a note of surprise.

But then she’s already moving on. “What is the acting director of Aegis saying?”

No. That’s not what she wants to ask, she decides after it’s out of her mouth. It doesn’t really matter what’s been done in Blaire’s absence. Whatever is being said, it doesn’t make money magically appear.

Leaning back, she takes another sip of her booze and then reframes her thoughts. “I’ll see what I can do about lessening the financial pressure on the foundation. But you and I could look over some of the financials, perhaps, so you could go and suggest some streamlining.”

The pads of Emma’s fingers tap along her glass as she thinks. A modest increase in revenue from a new source. A significant cut in spending, if there’s any fat to trim. It’s the way to make a hero out of an acting director if they can paint the right picture.

And if everything goes through Kiff… It might be that she can keep most people in the dark about her involvement.

She has a reputation to maintain, too, after all.

One of Kiff's brows lifts again at Emma's frank surprise at Warren having any taste in alcohol. "Warren's fond of whiskies," is all he says — persistently still using the present tense.

He reseats himself, crossing his right ankle over his opposite knee. He balances his own whisky on his right knee, hand loosely curled around the glass. Her first question has the tone of an aborted musing, so Kiff doesn't answer it beyond a brief, "That the foundation will carry on their message of outreach and harmony, even after their deaths."

It's generic and safe. It's a holding pattern kind of speech.

The important part is the financials — and Kiff slowly inclines his head as Emma suggests a go-over of the numbers to keep things trim — to start.

"All right," he finally says. "I'll get in front of you what I can, Ms. Frost, and we'll see what we can do. Debts exist to be repaid, right? Warren will hate it — but he's not here, and I'd rather hand him back something reasonably intact."

A heavy pause. "When he returns. Because he is not dead." It's equal parts a piece of information, the staunch declaration of faith of a hopeful friend, and a subtle warning against any acquisitive funny business.

His gaze blinks away a moment later. "I'll ensure the matter of your help is discreet."

Because he’s not dead.

Emma sips her whisky a little deeper, but doesn’t bother trying to refute the statement, save the arch of one eyebrow. It’s not worth the fight to discuss realities. She has what she requires: compliance.

Worthington’s assistant promises an attempt at discretion, and she lifts her glass in his direction in a half-salute to him. Possibly half to Worthington and Blaire, so the dead don’t have to have their names trotted out without without the intake of spirits to calm them.

“Very much appreciated, Mister Kassmaier.”

She takes a very deep sip, and then stretches one of her hands to open and close towards him in the international sign of ‘gimme.’

“Why don’t you hand me one of those ominous paper stacks? I think I usually do my best reading when I’m drinking, anyway.”

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