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Too Good to Be True? Naaaaah. (IC)


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October 11th, 10:30 AM

Ms. van Cleef was a very precise person. She was, in a lot of ways, the Yin to Asad's Yang. She waited, patiently for her employer's newest attempt at... whatever it was he was thinking, honestly she had given up trying to divine his intents. When she took this job she accepted that he was crazy, she had not expected the super powers or anything else, but in fairness, no one expected that, though this meant she was given a bit of extra leeway with the company, which was good, though nominally Asad was a light touch. In the years since she accepted the job, she had to give a small, and grudging respect for him. And that irked her. That he glided so easily through school and now the business world, so effortless. She didn't hate him, she was adult enough to know that it was simply envy. Those wounds were gone, as much as she was his assistant, she also ran this company. She checked her phone, noting the time, the appointment was for eleven, but she had been told to expect Asad's guest early. Quickly checking the European markets as she waited.

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By rights, the email should have ended up in Jay Xavier's Spam folder. Its body contained an offer of employment (an archetypal subject for spam emails); its 'From:' line proclaimed it to have come from the Summit Transnational financial organization (spammers loved to make their messages appear to originate from Very Important Sources); the email claimed it had been written by one 'Amir ibn Jafar ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Misri', the filthy rich CEO of Summit Transnational (spammers loved to make their messages seem to have been sent by Very Important People). So the message should have been routed directly to Xavier's Spam folder.

It wasn't—because the email's headers displayed no indication whatsoever of tampering or forgery.

And there were other aspects of the email which argued against its being spam. For instance, the body of the email employed grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure that were all broadly consistent with those of statements al-Misri was known to have made to the press, not to mention there weren't any errors in spelling nor grammatical errors. So Xavier's email-handling algorithms routed the message to his Not Spam? folder, which he'd set up for 'false positives', emails that just might be genuine in spite of displaying spam-like characteristics…

My dear Mr. Xavier:

   I have an open position which your particular talents render you exquisitely well-suited to fill. And if I may extrapolate from the rate schedule you have provided on your excellent website, I suspect that the compensation I intend to offer will exceed, by a significant margin, the amount you receive from your own contracts. There are many details I have elected not to record in this message; if you should perhaps care to deepen your understanding of my offer, I would be honored to host a personal conference with you, Mr. Xavier, at 10:30 AM on Thursday, 11 October 2012, in room 1527 of the Summit Transnational headquarters. Please let me know if your own calendar of responsibilities allows for such an event at that time and place.

   I remain, in sincere appreciation,

   Amir al-Misri

To reply, or not to reply… Xavier was of course aware of al-Misri's public image: The man was a filthy rich playboy whose nocturnal exploits fueled any number of breathless 'reports' in tabloid 'newspapers'—and a superhero whose powers were apparently based on the absorption and release of energy. An interesting dichotomy, that. Hm… sure doesn't seem like he does the hero thing while he's drunk… Xavier went digging through public data, financial records and press releases; what companies and projects Summit Transnational had invested in since al-Misri took over, which people had accepted what positions in Summit's organizational chart, and so on and so forth.

As Xavier pored over the information he'd acquired, he gradually came to suspect that al-Misri's public image as a feckless fop might be nothing more than a role he played for public consumption. Which made sense; an opponent who believed you were an ineffectual pleasure-hound was an opponent who'd be that much easier for you to triumph over. For all Xavier knew, the man might actually have been a feckless fop before that supercollider incident. Even so, it was hard to make al-Misri fit that profile now.

So okay, the 'playboy' is a mask, Xavier mused. What sort of man is hiding behind the mask? By default, Xavier accepted Balzac's notion that 'behind every great fortune lies a great crime'; however, he regarded this as a tentative presumption, not an unshakable fact. Anyway, he only inherited it, so Amir ain't guilty of whatever crime-or-crimes lie behind behind the al-Misri fortune. Which says nothing about whatever other crimes he may be guilty of…

It seemed likely (albeit not overwhelmingly so) that whatever al-Misri had in mind, it involved Jubatus; among other things, that hypothesis went a long way towards explaining the near-complete absence of detailed information in the man's email. But what does he want? Could be he's thinking 'hero team', fine. Say it's that. Is it a team of heroes who work for the greater public good, or a bunch of bought-and-paid-for flunkies who do what's good for Summit and blow off the rest of humanity? And maybe it's not a hero team he's looking for…

In the end, Xavier wrote and sent a reply:


   You've well and truly piqued my curiosity. 10:30 AM Thursday at SumTrans, fine, I'll be there.


As part of Xavier's preparations before appearing at Summit Transnational, he made damn sure to wear his Vest of Many Things (the primary tool he used in his superheroing), and likewise, he made damn sure the Vest's many pockets were all filled with useful tools and other items. Whatever al-Misri's game was, Xavier couldn't come up with a scenario in which it would be bad to be prepared in case things turned sour…

The feline blurred to a stop before the imposing edifice of Summit's Freedom City HQ. 10:15 AM, good. Let's see how this is gonna work. He walked in through the automatic doors—No evident pressure-sensors. IR, maybe?—and up to the receptionist, who goggled at his approach. Oh, great… hope she's not a fangirl or a human-supremacist freak…

"Hi, there. My name's Jay Xavier, and I'm here for my 10:30 appointment."

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Ms. van Cleef's response was less google-eyed, unlike the front desk receptionist. It was more a flat stare, as she contemplated what horror she would inflict on Amir. To their credit security didn't do more than flinch. With a sigh she strode up towards the desk, and Mr. Xavier. Yes, Amir was going to pay later. She idly considered where she was going to go on vacation, on his personal dime. Fair skinned, and slightly above average height, Anastasia van Cleef had natural platinum blonde hair, and ice blue eyes, she wore a dark blue power suit that complimented her well, but was modest at the same time. And compared to her boss' niceties, she was the iron fist of Summit. The joke around the office was that there was an 11th commandment there, "Thou Shalt Not Cross van Cleef," it was an apt sentiment.

Offering a ghost of a smile as lowered her hand, and in her grip that phone of hers. "Excuse me Candace, Mr. al-Misri is expecting his guest. Mr. Xavier?" She was implacable and unflappable, and without even trying that made her intimidating. Cool, crisp demeanor helped. Though there was no malice or anger behind it. "Will you please come with me?" Of course, she had a hard time gauging the reactions of the feline as well, as she wasn't used to interpreting the moods of someone who looked to be more at home chasing game. "The only thing I must ask is that you turn off any cameras you might have on your person, I am certain you understand." She turned artfully on her heels and gestured towards an elevator.

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Jay Xavier made a point of paying attention to how normal humans reacted to his blatantly non-human self. Okay… the guard-things get twitchy on sight of me, but van Cleef, there, takes it totally in stride. Point for her. Hmm… not exactly a pleasant expression; no wonder the financial press calls her "the Wicked Witch of Summit Transnational", the feline thought to himself. Kind of mixed signals for greeting a scheduled guest, though…

"Excuse me Candace, Mr. al-Misri is expecting his guest. Mr. Xavier?"

"That's me!" he replied, returning her handshake. "It's good to be recognized."

"Will you please come with me? The only thing I must ask is that you turn off any cameras you might have on your person, I am certain you understand."

"I do, and it's not a problem." Let's see what happens when I poke a little, and whether she notices that the poke could also apply to me… "Can't imagine why he'd object to yet another photograph, though. You'd think the guy's used to it by now. Still, his house, his rules, right?"

Once the two were safely enclosed in the elevator, Xavier decided on a separate verbal jab, just to see how she'd respond: "Interesting reaction. Did al-Misri brief you about me, or is your poker face just that good?"

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To her credit, Ms. van Cleef did not react negatively to his handshake, if there was an overt issue with him, she hid it well. "It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Xavier, I apologize for the reactions, occasionally Mr. al Misri likes to be a bit vague on the details so as to encourage us to remain on the toes. Though your reputation does proceed you." And with that her smile widened just a little bit, and before they made it to the elevator, she gave a normal, though weighted look to the security detail.

Not taken aback by his question at all she responded smoothly, in a polite, conversational tone, "Well Mr. Xavier, it is not a matter of his wishes, it is standard best practices, some divisions of the company do handle information that is sensitive to our clients and customers. Also, Federal and State regulations and PCI compliances all require such measures. Which in the age of smartphones is somewhat annoying we know. It is why one of out acquisitions was a manufacturer that makes smartphones without cameras. It was a logical step."

She stood a comfortable distance, close enough to indicate she was not threatened by him, but also far enough to be proper decorum in social situations with a stranger. "Mr. al Misri did not need to brief me on you, Mr. Xavier. I took the liberty of looking into any known quantity in Freedom City, assuming that he would, eventually, engage in interaction with them." Her tone was cool, but she responded to Jay's poking with nothing more than a slight, if genuine, quirk to the corner of her lips. "Also, my poker face is that damned good, Mr. Xavier." She was all business, she also possessed of a similar sense of humor as him.

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"It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Xavier, I apologize for the reactions, occasionally Mr. al Misri likes to be a bit vague on the details so as to encourage us to remain on the toes."

Interesting. There's a fine line between "silence to encourage underlings to do their own research", and the "mushroom" style of management; wonder which side of that line al-Misri falls on?

"Though your reputation does proceed you."

Xavier's immediate response, delivered deadpan: "Well, sure—even I can't run faster than the speed of rumor." Note to self: Ask her about my rep. With any luck, her answer will tell me something about the data-sources she accessed when researching me.

Her explanation of the company policy regarding photograph made sense, but Xavier wondered about the details of how the company enforced it—after all, the old Soviet Union had a Constitution which guaranteed its citizens all kinds of rights. On paper, anyway. In reality, well…

"Mr. al Misri did not need to brief me on you, Mr. Xavier. I took the liberty of looking into any known quantity in Freedom City, assuming that he would, eventually, engage in interaction with them." [pause] "Also, my poker face is that damned good, Mr. Xavier."

Okay, I think I like this one. And that a woman like her holds a position of high-end responsibility at Summit, is a point in al-Misri's favor. "Good to know. If we end up working together, it might be interesting to compare notes." And since she's saying she did the research on her own intiative, I really want to know— "Speaking of notes, what info have you acquired on me? If any bits of it are outdated or just wrong, maybe I can set you straight." Let's if she groks me well enough to realize I will be truthful, even when the truth doesn't reflect well on me.

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She arched an eyebrow artfully as she looked at him more than sidelong. "Vanity Mr. Xavier?" Her tone carefully neutral, but just a hint and a ghost of something else there, something more, though not something negative. She was poking and baiting him as well. "You just commented on my poker face, and one does not reveal their hand until the game is done. If my memory of it isn't clouded. Though... admittedly a quick internet search was able to pull sufficient leads, and then from there public records, and private opinions paint a rather... distinct portrait of you." She looked at him for a long moment, scrutinized him, before she spoke again. "Your criminal issues are fairly straight forward, if open to interpretation, as is your marked anti-social streak. All other data points discussed when the hand is done." Another hint of a smile, as the doors to the elevator opened and she gestured for him to exit. "Mr. al Misri is waiting for you, please go right in."

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Xavier's furry face lacked distinct eyebrows, so in response to van Cleef's 'executive summary' of the dossier she'd collected on him, he merely raised one eyelid in an expression that would hopefully convey the same sentiment. Well, well: The woman gives as good as she gets. He gave her a subtle smile that left his teeth decently concealed, and said, "Okay, I think I've got all the info I need at the present moment. Thanks, Ms. van Cleef. Be seeing you!" And with a decent approximation of a Village-style salute, Xavier entered the hallway.

Fifteenth floor, good. And… hm. 1527's right here, and there's a desk right beside the door. "Signs point to, RECEPTIONIST". Except they're not there right this second. Great timing, whoever you are. The cheetah took the few steps required to bring him before the closed door to (what he presumed to be) al-Misri's office. He took a small rubber-faced mallet from one vest-pocket, and used it to rap on the door…

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She offered him that ghost of a smile, and then pushed the close button on the elevator. The waiting area was exquisitely appointed, but understated, which was a surprising thing for one such as Asad. No rare and exotic wood for the receptionist desk or the door. And he heard something muffled, and then footsteps that grew louder, until the door was opened by Amir al Misri, a phone in one hand, the other leaving the door handle and waving him into the room, as he spoke rapidly in French. He looked slightly rumpled, the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up to his forearms, his slacks black, to match the leather shoes and the suspenders he wore, absently brushing his fingers through his hair. The conversation went on for a few moments before he spoke, "Oui, oui, je dois y aller, j'ai une réunion importante. Toujours pour mardi prochain. Adieu mon ami." Hanging up, he put the phone into his pants pocket and managing a sheepish expression. "I am sorry Mr. Xavier, that was rude, I was not expecting that call, and I had to take it unfortunately. You would be amazed how delicate the egos of successful business men are, or I suppose you wouldn't be. Come, come... I am certain you have questions." And Amir flashed him such an easy, winning smile, it didn't even look practiced, and he ushered him into the well appointed office. There were many fine leather bound books, as well several screens scrolling through the global stock markets, and news channels. In fact that was the biggest thing to notice was just how many sources of information was in this office. The tablets, an actual desk computer, the wall mounted monitors, a couple televisions, the stacks of journals and newspapers. "May I get you an apertif Mr. Xavier? Wait... let me guess, you want to get down to business?" Holding a hand up, a forefinger extended up and a knowing smile on his face as he made his way to his desk. His English was flawless, but then Xavier would know that he was born in New York City, and not abroad. Facing the cheetah, he looked at him expectantly, waiting.

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To Xavier's eyes, the interior decor said yeah, I got mass quantities of money, but I see no point in being blatantly obtrusive about it. He decided he approved.

"Oui, oui, je dois y aller, j'ai une réunion importante. Toujours pour mardi prochain. Adieu mon ami."

"Yes, I gotta go, I have an important meeting. Always next Tuesday. Goodbye my friend." Okay, dude's bilingual at minimum, probably more than two. Gosh, what a surprise. And either he's an infojunkie, or his interior decorator wanted to create that impression.

"I am sorry Mr. Xavier, that was rude, I was not expecting that call, and I had to take it unfortunately. You would be amazed how delicate the egos of successful business men are, or I suppose you wouldn't be. "

Xavier waved it away, saying, "Eh, il ne semble pas comme quelque chose d'important."

"May I get you an apertif Mr. Xavier?"

The cheetah executed his peculiar version of a shrug. "Go for it, if you like." Let's see what he does. I got a high-speed metabolism that burns off alcohol in record time; how does he handle booze?

"Wait... let me guess, you want to get down to business?"

"Okay; that works, too. Let's hear your pitch." Because there's not a chance in Gehenna that he doesn't have a presentation prepped and ready to roll.

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A smile was still on his face as he looked at the cheetah, nodding, and then looking a little confused for a moment, and he lifted his arm to check the time. "Hmmm a little early for most Americans," he chuckled and shook his head a little bit. "Spend enough time in Europe and these sorts of things becomes a bit acceptable. How does a vodka tonic sound?" And he moved to the bar cabinet to the side, getting together two high ball glasses and mixing the drinks. "I thought about doing a slide presentation but that just came across as too... oddly prepared, even for me." Turning back to him he carried the glasses over and offered him one. "There are two explanations for all of this: one, I need a technological adviser who is more of a generalist. Two, I am trying to band together the public ID heroes who are are not possessing any affiliations. Simple proposal, you get a steady job, and a support, which can be useful." Turning a bit and still smiling a little as he looked out the windows of his office. "Now the question as to why you would do this, as you are making good money... Well I offer better than good money, I also has an extensive support system, and you get myself, plus my allies and other heroes I have banded together."

He paused taking a sip of his drink then, and his smile became sly, before he turned back to Jube. "Of course, you have every to be suspicious that maybe, just maybe I am trying add a roster of superpowered people for my own interests. My retort to that is simple, I do not need you to keep my interests going, to keep my profits coming in. Will I use your abilities to be a benefit? Yes, I am not an idiot. And I can recognize the need for help. There is no grand mission statement with this, I was here when the Gorgon arrived, and I knew I could not sit up in my ivory tower if I have the ability to help, allowing my resources to be used to support other heroes is not just a wise decision it is the correct one."

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Jay Xavier accepted the vodka-and-tonic, and from a vest-pocket, he extracted a flexible straw through which to sip it. Xavier didn't drink much; with his enhanced senses of smell and taste, alcohol was more painful than pleasant—and that was before you factored in the intoxicating effects, high-speed metabolism or no. For some reason, he just didn't think 'able to break the sound barrier under your own power' mixed well with degraded reflexes and judgement…

Xavier listened to al-Misri's line of patter. The man appeared utterly sincere—and since the feline could literally smell his emotions and hear the beating of his heart, it was an awfully damned convincing appearance of sincerity. Even Xavier's reflexive, nigh-instinctual cynicism was having a hard time finding any reason—any reason at all, no matter how flimsy—to dismiss al-Misri's words.

"…allowing my resources to be used to support other heroes is not just a wise decision, it is the correct one."

Xavier nodded. "Right. Makes sense. And let's say I buy it all." He looked into his glass, swirled the ice around. "That leaves one big question: Why me?" He looked into al-Misri's eyes. "Okay, I'm a speedster, I got tech skill, fine. But van Cleef's done her homework, so you have to know I'm carrying a hell of a lot of baggage, over and above the fangs-and-fur thing. F'rinstance, I'm an atheist—and I'm pretty sure I don't need to tell a Muslim that there's a lot of people in this country who lose their [bg=black]xxix[/bg] when it comes to non-Christians. And on top of everything else…"

Xavier stared into his glass. "Cheetah lifespan. 14 years, maybe 20, absolute tops. I started out as a mature adult, not a kitten, so chop a few years off of that. And my default tempo is 6 times faster than normal. So… I won't be alive two years from now. Lousy odds of seeing the fur coat's next anniversary." He again met al-Misri's eyes. "Still want me?"

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Setting the glass down and on the corner of his desk he folded his arms across his chest, his brows knitting together as he looked directly into Jube's eyes. "I will answer the religion part first, as I am not going to dignify the baggage part with a response. I am not particularly concerned about people liking me or disliking me because I happen to have a belief structure. I have no interest in proselytizing anyone. A bullet never stops to ask your creed or ideology before it hits you. Ms. van Cleef has gone on record as being a paranoid agnostic, and I have not asked Lady Winter's affiliation in that regard."

He stopped for a moment, his gaze never moving, it was not an unnerving thing as he never tried to be intimidating, but the force of his personality was there, along with a flat look that acknowledge that he saw Jube playing a bit of a coy game. "Shall I paint this in starker terms for you, then, Jay? I think your math is wrong, and even if it is then I am willing to make that gamble, because you are motivated to make a change. If you were not so inclined, I doubt you would do anything but be cashing it in for an easy buck for those two years. I doubt you would be superheroing. Mr. Xavier, despite your presented front I know you actually care about the welfare of others. I am offering you the chance to do that on a greater scale."

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"Mr. Xavier, despite your presented front I know you actually care about the welfare of others. I am offering you the chance to do that on a greater scale."

Jay Xavier had already worked up some plans for what he could do once his personal fortune broke the nine-digit barrier (which was, according to his projections, 75% likely happen somewhere between 9 and 23 months from now, depending on how the global economy performed between now and then). His plans… well, he was willing to bet that al-Misri's scheme bore a non-trivial resemblance to what he, himself had in mind.

And the man was offering him that on a silver platter, here and now, well in advance of his most pessimistic estimate of his inevitable death-date. In an honest and sincere offer with no thought for a hidden agenda. What are you waiting for, Jube? You want this! Say 'yes'! Go for it!

But… he couldn't. His throat was physically unable to generate the required sounds.

Upshift: The normal-speed world, al-Misri included, froze in place like a strangely-lit diorama in a museum. Now Xavier had plenty of time to ponder the situation, figure out why he hadn't already accepted al-Misri's offer. What's the holdup? It's everything you want—an honest employer, a purpose you believe in, solid assurance that your particular talents will be put to good use, more than adequate pay—so the obvious thing to do is say yes, for crying out loud! What the hell is wrong with you, cat!?

The answer flashed into Xavier's mind instantaneously: But it can't be real. It's too damned good to be real.

The whole situation was, of course, completely absurd. Xavier's mental BS detector was supposed to help prevent him from making stupid decisions, but now, like an auto-immune disease, one of the major components of that BS detector was doing its best to prevent him from not making a stupid decision…

Downshift. The internal discussion had only taken a second or three of slow-time. "Okay, al-Misri. I…" He still couldn't bring himself to say 'yes' to the nice man with more money than Crœsus!? Wait, there was actually a valid reason for hesitating: What were the terms of the agreement? "…I like what I'm hearing. Can I see a contract?"

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He didn't seem perturbed by the question, after all why would he?. Instead he turned and picked up a folder, and carried it over to Jubatus, holding it out to him. "Standard fare, quarterly salary terms, full benefits and an incentive scale that is built around the projected values of what you do troubleshooting for. These points as negotiable. Also there is some community service requirements beyond just the hero aspect, as well as an option to officially license your likeness and name. I do the same, though the entirety of the profits are donated, I recommend doing the same, both from an altruistic stand point, and from a fiscal stand point. As I said, it is all negotiable, so please review it." Moving away from Jay then, he picked up his drink and took a sip, then frowned noticing something. "Excuse me a moment..." Moving around to his desk he tapped on a button on the touchscreen panel on his desk, a frown creasing his face. "Security? Are you there? I saw a notice on my monitor, is there something wrong?"

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"Yep, you're security team is way to trusting of disembodied voices,"

The female voice on the line held a sarcastic edge, holding the radio,

"Though I got to say, you have some excellent locks on the utility closet, it's held the brunt of your three grown men ramming it for the last five minutes. Your digital cameras, not as tough, I can't believe how quickly it took for the de-encryption program to run a loop, not that it mattered, you need some new passwords for your individual cameras, seriously, using the camera numbers, you could of at least put it in binary, make it a bit harder."

Anybody with decent hearing some off static from the other phone, and eventually the voice itself which was somewhat disembodied until a female figure appeared clad in black from behind the desk holding the buzzing walkie talkie,

"Also, asked one of the interns to collect lunch orders, you want anything, I'm partial to the Morrocan place down the way myself. What about you Mr. Xavier, there anything local you'd like while you're here?"

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Jay Xavier was only mildly surprised that al-Misri hadn't taken offense when Xavier asked to see a contract—and if it weren't for his reflexive cynicism, Xavier wouldn't have found anything at all unusual about that lack of offense. It was only to be expected that an honest businessman would recognize the importance of contracts, and that he might be okay with transparency in his dealings with other people… Xavier's problem was his ingrained pessimism, which made it inordinately difficult for him to accept that al-Misri actually was an honest businessman… Yeah, well, that's my problem, not his.

Xavier accepted the folder from al-Misri, upshifted, and spent quite a few minutes of fast-time poring over the document's many pages. The feline had no legal training to speak of—but as a freelancer who was literally able to squeeze more than a calendar month's worth of billable hours into 24 clock-hours, he'd read lots of contracts, and had consulted with some excellent business lawyers when he was drawing up his own contracts. So legal training or no, Xavier had a pretty good idea of what made a bad contract a bad contract… and what al-Misri wanted him to sign, just plain wasn't a bad contract. In fact, it was a pretty damned good one.

The financier was playing straight with him.

And if some part of Xavier's brain simply would not accept that conclusion, never mind all the evidence which supported it, and likewise never mind the complete absence of any evidence to the contrary… well, he had plenty of practice not-thinking about unhelpful concepts.

Time to sign on, Xavier thought to himself. He downshifted—ink didn't flow well at any tempo much higher than 2 or 3—just in time to catch the tail end of a remark spoken by someone with an oddly familiar voice:

"—partial to the Morrocan place down the way myself. What about you Mr. Xavier, there anything local you'd like while you're here?"

Now, where have I heard that voice before? Maybe scent will help nail it down? As he put his signature on the contract, he widened his nostrils for an inobtrusive whiff of the woman's scent. Hrrm. Could swear I've smelled this person some time or other, but damned if I can remember where or when. If the costume's any clue, she's Silhouette; operates in the Fens, rep says she's a ninja, in reality she turns herself 2-D to rip hell out of her targets. And al-Misri's recruited her? Interesting… The offer of food was welcome by default. With his accelerated metabolism, Xavier couldn't even remember the last time his hunger had been completely satiated. "Hello, Miss. Silhouette, right? I'll go for steak tartare if that's an option, sushi otherwise."

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Amir al Misri lived by one rule: never let them see you sweat. It was as simple as it was all encompassing. He did it in his professional efforts, and carried it over to his work as his superhero, it was why he came off as nonplussed at Jubatus' attitude. And when the response he got was a voice he didn't immediately recognize, he seemed, expectant perhaps? His hand moving to pull his phone out, and dialed a number. "I do not think we can get steak tartar to go. But we can get sushi." Putting the phone to his ear, he hummed a little to himself. "Hello? Thomas? Yes, get me the usual from the Moroccan place, and the usual from the sushi place, and... get the security team whatever they want. Thank you." Hanging up he slipped the phone back into his shirt pocket. "There. As for some of the security, I cannot really excuse or explain it, however I am certainly going to look at the management of my security now." He moved around his desk and opened a drawer and withdrew a manila envelope from it, before carrying it over to Silhouette and offering it up to her. "Here is what you discussed arrangements are made and you can review them."

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"Ohh, can you make sure they get some Ktefa too?"

She took the envelope and opened it right there, flipping through the papers absently while she spoke,

"Meh, no need to explain it, people get complacent when they don't see much action. I doubt many people actually have the gull to try and rob your building while you're in, I mean a youtube search could confirm anyone's suspicion that you could wipe the floor with any would be thieves. As for the decryption, that can be fixed by a trained professional, like that one right there,"

She absently pointed at Jubatus,

"The whole radio thing, well honestly I'm a hell of a pickpocket, it helps when you need to borrow some keys, which is way faster then trying to pick locks, which by the way,"

She reached into her pocket, pulled out a handfull of keys and put them down on the desk,

"You can go ahead and have those back."

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Jay Xavier listened with attentive ears as Silhouette told al-Misri what-all she'd done to his company's security. The financier's reaction (or, more accurately, relative lack thereof) was informative; it indicated that not only had al-Misri hired Silhouette in the first place, but he also didn't get cranky when he was on the receiving end of bad news. Xavier had worked plenty of contracts for employers who believed in 'killing the messenger'—and each time, he added that employer's name to his list of Employers To Avoid. How nice when you don't need to do that.

"Doing an autopsy on broken security isn't a problem, al-Misri," Xavier said after the not-a-ninja spoke her piece. "I can check the code, and if the problem turns out to be a weak crypto algorithm, you'll have grounds to sue the incompetents who sold it to you and-slash-or the clowns that installed it. But I'm betting it's human error, like, I dunno, maybe someone assigned themselves a crappy password? Say the word, and I'm on it." He performed his version of a shrug. "In the meantime, who else have you invited to our little shindig here?"

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Nodding at what she said, he pulled the phone right back out to text that to Thomas. "Likely both. Silhouette, would you be so kind as to write up that report? And then I will give it to Mr. Jay, here, to additionally peruse it. I would rather cover several bases. We are already shopping around for better security tech for our computers, and Ms. van Cleef will likely be looking at our janitors, as well as other similar personnel, though I make sure that they are all paid in the top one percent in the field, though they are still going to be susceptible to blackmail. Given that we are looking at additional acquisitions in the near future I had been planning on ramping up the security before someone did not watch those YouTube videos." He grinned a little bit. "Look over the contract, that is the terms for the charitable trust we discussed. As you are on the ground more than I am, Silhouette, I would ask for your suggestions for community leaders to network with on the efforts in the Fens." He chuckled a little, and once more put the phone in his pocket, before grabbing his drink and moving to sit down in the chair.

"I can show you what YouTube videos of me show, just you get how precisely I am viewed by the general public. They aren't flattering. You two are taken serious. Me? I am just a billionaire idiot. A handsome one, but still one all the same." Taps on a tablet, as a few of the monitors started play a 'highlight reel' of all the times he had been hit, or knocked about to the Benny Hill theme. "That is not counting the numerous... numerous vlog diatribes."

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"You wouldn't still be a billionaire if you were an idiot."

It couldn't be seen, but it sounded from her voice like Silhouette was rolling her eyes,

"And being taken seriously is overrated."

She grabbed a pen off the desk and started to write absently on the paper, notes and phone numbers mostly. People she knew could recommend,

"If villains think you're a joke you can take them down in half the time, and overall it makes you more approachable, it makes people want to trust you."

Flipping over the paper she didn't look up, or didn't seem to move her head in that directly as her eyes couldn't be seen,

"I'm sure you noticed by now, but people don't like me, and by this point I have stopped making an effort to be liked. I'm only taken seriously in the sense that any criminal wannabe worth his salt will take a shot at me first chance they get, and that is not at all useful."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jay Xavier felt it was something of a waste of time to just hear the pitch and sign the contract. But here and now, what else was there for him to do? Not the autopsy on the security glitch, that needs to wait until I see Silhouette's report… hmm… got it.

"So what are your plans for the YouTube videos? I'm assuming you do have such plans, because YouTube carries a sizeable audience, which means anybody who's at all concerned about PR should know how they're gonna handle it. Me, I'm thinking you should steal a page from Microsoft's book: 'Embrace and extend'. Like, say, you could give $1000 to the maker of any such video you happen to like for whatever reason. Pocket change for you, but a non-trivial windfall for most of them.. Or maybe you could set up a YouTube channel of your own, highlighting the best and worst of the other guys' videos; same general principle, just maybe consuming a little more of your time. For trolls, the jerkwads who do the YouTube thing 'for the lulz', either response from you will be evidence that their videos aren't pissing you off, and that should encourage them to turn their sights on other, more easily provoked, targets. And once the trolls are neutralized, you should be able to subtly nudge that channel towards portraying you in ways you prefer."

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"No a bad idea, not the primary focus though, I have a couple PR firms helping out on that particular. Mostly I was using that as an example of my ability to 'take the piss' out of myself." Leaning forward in his seat and pulling what looked like two tablets from the papers and holding them up. "I am working on building something, these both have flash memory cards in them covering the current design prospects for a... base if you will. Currently they are designed to only interact with the tablets. I figure both of you can look. I had not intended to be talking to both of you right now, but now that I am..." He smiled, just a little as he looked at them both. "I might as well address both of you in this, as I have spoken to Mr. Xavier about, I am recruiting heroes who are out in public. However, I am not restricting myself to is. I have money, a lot of money, and I can use that to help other heroes, besides my occasional catching of missiles with my stunning face."

Pushing his seat back, and smiling, still. "I do have more assignments for you Mr. Xavier, you saw what I willing to pay you and the resources I am willing to front will benefit people like Silhouette here." And then he fished out what looked like a sheet of paper and slapped it down onto the table. "For example a paper thin computer comparable to the more advanced commercially available tablets. Like I said," his attention going to Sil then, "I am interested in helping heroes, and am willing to do quite a bit to do so, even if it is just being a resource for them to use. I know I cannot do this all alone, I know I will be help because we are all in this together. And I intend to change the world for the better."

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She was content to listen to his plan. It sounded like, well a good samaritan act. A CEO funding superheros, it had a lot of potiential to do tons of good for lots of people and open up resources to otherwise broke heroes who might of needed a little help. So naturally she was incredibly suspicious about the entire thing. She had about three million ideas about how this could go bad, what he could be really after, what sort of position having any sort of contract with an established company could and of course the lingering wondering about whether this would result in him trying to blackmail her into doing coperate espionage. The standard really, she was glad her mask concealed her face because it would show her eyeing every camera, counting the exits in the room, and the possibility of freeclimbing down the side of a skyscraper. That however changed when he explained the paper thin computer.

She didn't snatch it off the desk, but she picked it up gingerly and shook it to test how sturdy it was,

"This is a computer, I'm guessing you want me to use this. Can't exactly use tablets through gloves,"

She wiggled her fingers,

"Not to mention, geez, how would you charge this, it's too big to fit in my pockets. Not to mention impact resistance, there is a good chance this is going to catch a bullet, it can't be that sturdy. Even if it is, pricing, that is tiny motherboard."

Turning the it in her hand she found the little circular button on the front, turned it on before turning it over to Jubatus,

"What do you think?"

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