Power Girl Shrugged

Summary:
September 14, 2014: A meeting of corporate tycoons. An exchange of pleasantries. A battle of really long speeches.

Starrware - CEO Karen Starr's Office

A swank office. Full of snow globes, apparently.


Characters

NPCs

  • Gretchen(?)

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


Being the CEO of Starrware involves paperwork, phonecalls, meetings, constantly trying to organize things and people that fall apart into chaos every few minutes, hiring new talent, weeding out the scammers and the self-important fops who want to use Starrware for their own ends, paying bills, reassuring investors, inspecting and approving/denying products, checking up on R&D progress, and on and on and on. Still, for all the stress of this civilian existence, it's a break from even more stressful endeavors: the life-or-death kind, with potentially entire cities or worlds hanging in the balance. Not all that Power Girl does is on so grand a scale. In fact, most of it is far more low-key. Stopping a toppling building, putting out fires, holding back flood waters, or just halting a good old-fashioned bank robbery. Okay, not all of those are 'low-key', but compared to fighting off alien invasions and the like, they're not as extreme.

Yes, being a super heroine is not all it's cracked up to be. That's why, even sitting her behind her desk, telling someone for the third time she is not interested in a subscription to Horse Fancy and how the hell do they keep getting this number, Karen Starr values her time as Karen. As counter-intuitive as it may be, engaging in all this drudgery is partially what keeps her sane. Or rather, it's what keeps her human — despite being barely more human than a Martian in the first place. Dealing with 'mere mortal' problems prevents her from feeling disconnected from the people around her, from thinking she's above them somehow, or simply feeling that she's alone. And that last feeling she has to fight against a lot.

Refugee from another universe, now destroyed. Even the faces she recognizes belong to different people now. No one remembers her or the decades she spent fighting to protect Earth. That's hard to get over. So maybe throwing herself into her work is an escape of sorts as well.

Maybe that's why she agrees to so many appointments with people hoping to pitch things to her. It keeps her mind off of her personal problems and solidly on her business problems. And as the afternoon light streams in through the wall-length windows behind Karen's desk, she is about to have another such appointment very shortly. As soon as she gets off the phone with Horse Fancy Magazine. "Sorry, you must be calling for Wonderella or something, good day." Click. She's wearing a rose-pink dress-suit, with a white undershirt, her blonde hair up in a bun. Though they can't be seen behind the desk, she also has matching heeled shoes on her feet. She is also frowning down at the monthly earnings report on her desk, thinking about how she's going to have to draw from her secret savings again to keep the business going if they don't start making a profit.

She snorts. Horse Fancy. Really?

->

One of the nice things about being the CEO of Starrware, or of any sufficiently large company, has got to be the help. An entire staff of people whose only job is to make yours a bit easier. And nobody does more to keep a CEO's plate clean than the secretary. Scheduling meetings, screening calls, typing memos, ordering lunch, and all other sorts of important things are done by the secretary, often without the CEO even knowing anything about it. At least, that's how it should work in theory. So why isn't Karen Starr's secretary manning the phones properly, and keeping sales calls for magazine subscriptions from bothering the Very Important things that Karen no doubt would rather be occupying her mind with?

A bit of illumination occurs, as the button for the intercom is accidentally pushed. Most of what is being said would be unintelligible to the average person, but as the other end of the intercom terminates in a Kryptonian's office, it's likely that she can hear everything in stark relief, even if it sounds like the intercom is being muffled by something. Something very sound absorbent.

"… if I just let you walk in I could get fired." A feminine voice, which sounds a bit breathless, and a lot flustered.

"So what? If she fires you I'll just give you a job working for me. You can be in charge of… walking around in lingerie and mixing martinis. Like that chick from Mad Men. The fake redhead." A male voice, this one both less flustered and less breathless. His voice is definitely the quieter of the two, which either means he's talking softly, or he's further away from the intercom.

"Uh… something tells me you've never seen an episode of Mad Men. Because that never happens on the show." The woman again, sounding a bit skeptical, but still flustered.

"Guilty. I meant to check it out, but then I got busy surviving on a desert island and I missed the whole first season…"

Apparently that was the right answer, because there is no more talking for a few more seconds until…

"Oh shit! I'm sitting on it! The intercom is…" *click*

->

Karen's nonplussed expression says it all. It stays as, after that earfull, she clicks the intercom back on from her end and dryly says, "If that's my 3 o' clock, you can send him in. He's expected and doesn't need to try to James Bond his way into my office." She has never actually seen any James Bond movies in all her years on Earth, but gathers he's not just a super-spy but also some kind of international womanizer. Which Bond is. Thus, she is sort of accurate in her comparison. Whenever the doors open and her visitor enters, Karen is leaning on her elbows on her desk, still looking less-than-thrilled, and thinking about the talk she's going to need to have with her secretary. Something about keeping mace in her desk drawer and using it if a situation like this crops up again. Or maybe just showing more discretion in contacting Karen first to notify her if someone is waiting to see her instead of arguing with someone. After all, this guy had an appointment.

Sigh. Either way, as she gazes expectantly at the doors, her eyes widen almost-imperceptibly when she sees who has come to visit, before going back to normal. Taken in by roguish good lucks like her secretary? Nooooooot exactly. "Mister Queen. Good to—meet you." She almost said, 'see you again'. She knows that face. She knows it from before. Is he Green Arrow here too? She's not sure. She has heard there's a Green Arrow, so probably. But calling him out wouldn't be polite.

And under ordinary circumstances, it might reveal her own identity, but it's a matter of time before people start figuring out who Karen really is, even with voice pitching and body language adjustment. She rises from her chair and reaches across the desk, not having to lean very far thanks to her height, as she extends a hand to shake.

->

Fortunately, Karen already knows him, or it's likely that she would have a hard time taking him very seriously. Not just because of the secretary, or because of the fact that it's almost 4 now, or because he's trying to straighten his tie as he walks through the door. To be blunt, he looks more like an unemployed actor than the CEO of a massive corporation that owns other massive corporations.

Longish hair. Six days of stubble. An overall bohemian feel. Sure, he's wearing a ridiculously expensive suit and a power tie, but the suit's a bit wrinkled, the top two buttons of his shirt are undone, and the tie, as we've already covered, is not straight. Whether that has anything to do with the secretary or not is perhaps a mystery that's best not solved.

Despite his appearance, his attitude is close to being almost professional. He takes the offered hand, applies just the right amount of pressure, three firm shakes while maintaining positive eye contact and smiling. If he were an actor, and not an unemployed one, it's likely that he could get a job doing commercials for a local mattress outlet. "Miss Starr. It is 'Miss' isn't it? I had my secretary google you before I came down here, but I forgot most of what she said. She doesn't, like, enunciate very good."

He waits for her to sit before doing so himself. Whether it's simply an acquired habit, an attempt at chivalry, or an attempt at domineering through body language is anyone's guess at this point.

->

Karen has a firm grip of her own as she shakes right back. Almost vice-like, even with holding back. Her smile is polite, even as she says, "Oh-hoh. So you DO have a secretary of your own. It seems you won't be needing mine then." Oh snap. She finally lets go and gestures to the leather padded chair in front of her desk before seating herself and leaning back in her own chair. She crosses one leg over the other and says, "Yes, 'Miss' is correct. I recognized you" «because I knew you in another dimension» "from the news." «where you didn't look quite as much like you spent almost a week staking-out a warehouse and came straight here while barely bothering to change.» It's not mean-spirited inner monologue. More amusement that, like Superman, there are some constants in just about every universe. Oliver Queen is among those.

"What can I do for you?" She looks at the blonde-haired man over the collection of snow globes and calenders and phones and papers and all that useless crap that executives tend to have cluttering their desks. She interlaces her fingers and folds her hands together in her lap. "Would you like coffee? Water?" Just as Ollie is making the attempt to be professional, Karen can try to be a charitable host — sarcastic remarks aside.

->

Oliver Queen is quick to make himself at home, relaxing in the comfortable chair with the posture of someone who has meetings like this two or three times a day. He looks down a bit bashfully when she brings up the poor girl who will likely get fired, but it's clear that he's a completely unrepentant variety of rogue and any bashfulness on his part is merely an act. "Let's skip the coffee for now, but you might want to tell your girl to put a bottle of champagne on ice. You'll know why in a minute." He sounds confident enough, but he's playing idly with his tie while talking. Almost as if he's already bored. Wearing a green power tie to a meeting? Yeah, he's not the Green Arrow at all, nobody look there.

"Speaking of your girl… you know, Gretchen was just telling me all about what a wonderful boss you are. You're a real inspiration to her." The nameplate on the secretary's desk definitely doesn't say 'Gretchen.' "But she never mentioned anything about the kettle bells…"

"My trainer's been after me to start working out with kettle bells actually, but I just don't know. I do a lot more rope training and Pilates and stuff. But kettle bells seem to be working really well from you, if that handshake of yours is any indication."

->

She doesn't mention the fact that she has — to her knowledge — no one named Gretchen working for her. Instead she listens and watches, amusement growing on her face, as though she is taking this meeting increasingly less seriously with every word out of Oliver's mouth. In some ways, it's nice to hear him talking again. Out of the hundreds — actually, more like thousands — of people she knew during the decades of heroing back in her own dimension she has yet to run into more than a tiny fraction of them. Even if they don't know HER here, and as isolating a feeling as that is, sometimes nostalgia overcomes that and she just enjoys being around people she used to know.

The temptation to do something reckless continues to grow. Should she? Nah, it's rude to just say someone's secret identity out loud. Maybe if she introduces herself properly first? Ehhh. She can't assume he'll take it the way the other Ollie would. Some people are different here. There's an 18-year old version of herself in this dimension, after all. Things aren't the same. Still, as Oliver rambles on about kettle bells and champagne, she wavers several times. She's clearly smiling now, and more than just politely, though she attempts to conceal her pink-lipsticked lips behind her hand a couple times as she rests one elbow on the arm of her chair and leans to the side a bit.

"So you're here to discuss exercise equipment?" she asks innocently, though she can't quite banish her smile when she asks. She decides to drag it out a bit longer. Teasing and using her knowledge of the sardonic, round-about, obfuscating manner of speech that she knows Oliver Queen for to keep him talking.

She hasn't had this much entertainment in weeks. She's not quite ready to end it by getting to the point. "I think I have a stress ball around here if you'd like to squeeze it," she offers cheerily.

->

It's painfully obvious from the way that Oliver opens his mouth, and then closes it, that his response was about to be 'Oh, I bet you do…' but as we've already covered, he keeps his trap shut. He's too professional to turn the meeting into a flirtatious exchange. After all, it's his professionalism that put him in charge of his daddy's company, not nepotism, as nearly all of his employees would say if asked.

"No. Not exercise equipment. Well yeah… exercise equipment, but also just, you know, life and stuff. I'm kind of a big picture guy, so I tend to focus really closely on the little details." Not what 'big picture' means. "Which is why I had my secretary google not only you, but every one of your employees, your corporate structure, and your entire product line. The rest I found out with a bit of good, old-fashioned corporate espionage." The tone of Oliver's speech is still incredibly warm and friendly, even as its content starts to veer toward a place that may or may not be somewhat threatening. It's difficult to get a good read on him, between his earnest eye contact, his toothpaste ad smile, and his occasional breaks to fiddle with his tie.

"So my girl got to googlin', and my man went to spyin', and here I am to say that I really like what you've done with the place. In fact, I think I might like what you've done a bit too much." He drops the tie, and when he looks up his green eyes are still somewhat friendly, but his expression is about as steely as you can get without taking lessons from Ben Stiller.

"Which is why you're going to want to break out the champagne, if you've got any on-hand. I'm here to add your company to Queen Consolidated's corporate structure. Congratulations, you're about to be a very wealthy, very retired young lady."

->

Sigh. Entertainment over. As amusing as it might be to keep teasing him, she is experienced enough and mature enough to realize when it's time to take things seriously. And when he stops teasing her back, and starts talking serious business… Well she takes Starrware very seriously. Her smile is no longer particularly friendly, now more a sardonic, lopsided smirk without real mirth in it. She sits up straight in her chair, putting both feet on the floor, and her hands in her lap. "I see. And what if I tell you that I'm not interested, and that I intend to keep Starrware Labs and remain its CEO?" She can guess the answer, or hypothesize a few answers, but she might as well ask. "You see, Starrware isn't about money. Money is just what's needed to keep the place running. I — and those working for me — are trying to change the world, giving people with ideas, talent, and skills that other companies might shun because they're not viewed as profitable or are 'too risky' a place where they can make those dreams a reality and show just how valuable they really are with the right support."

"Working towards the end goal of wealth is a losing proposition. If the proper supports for the future aren't put into place, it becomes a downwards spiral of deteriorating work conditions, crumbling business ethics, and greed at the expense of all else." Karen's voice is as though she is lecturing in class, teaching children or teens in front of the blackboard. She isn't condemning Oliver, nor is she ridiculing him, or similar. She's explaining something that she has lived through and seen through first-hand experience. "In order to maintain that goal for my company, I have to remain where I am, overseeing and administrating and doing the paperwork shuffle, so that all those bright minds can achieve what they hope to in a supportive environment. A profit is nice. It's even necessary to keep things going, as I mentioned. But in order for me to entrust Starrware to someone else, it would take considerably more than an offer of money and mentions of corporate espionage. So…"

The blonde woman stands up from her chair and towers over her visitor, folding her arms behind her back and smiling politely again as she looks down at him. "I hope you can understand, Mister Queen, my disinterest in this consolidation. Not everyone can be a hero by going out on the streets and fighting crime. Some become heroes by building the world where vigilantism is no longer necessary. This company, and those who work here, mean more to me than just their potential for making money."

Wait, heroes? Fighting crime? Vigilantism? What's she talking about? Does she know something about Ollie?

->

Rarely have the two halves of Oliver Queens life been so at odds with each other as they are right now, and the look on his face as she waxes on in an almost Ayn Randian fashion make it painfully obvious that he's experiencing some amount of internal conflict. What he wouldn't do for a domino mask and a hood right now…

The foppish, Scarlet Pimpernel-lite that serves as Oliver Queen's cover is having his advances rejected. The statuesque woman is keeping him from something that he wants, and her refusal could end up hurting his company's bottom line. This is clearly something that he can't accept.

The fat cat-hating Robin Hood that serves as Oliver Queen's counterpart… well… he'll be in his bunk. The only way that speech would have been more custom-fitted for Green Arrow would be if she'd added a few sentences about 'standing up for the little guy' and 'boxing gloves attached to sticks.' He can't help but admire the woman's commitment, and her intensity is enough to make him look back down and fiddle with his tie, this time with a bit of genuine bashfulness.

But even though she's clearly got his attention now, she hasn't won him over quite yet. He listens carefully, but there is definitely a tinge of skepticism behind those green eyes. "Wow. Screw your company, I kind of want to buy you and have you write my speeches. Or… you know what I mean." He leans back again, placing his elbows on the armrest and his steepled fingers in front of his face. "But I get where you're coming from. You started this company yourself. Your name is on the building. It's your baby, I totally get that. Nobody wants to sell their baby. But you've got to stop thinking like a proud parent and start thinking like an entrepreneur."

Slowly, he rises to his feet, and places the tips of his fingers on the edge of her desk. He must have gotten tired of feeling intimidated, but his posture doesn't come across as overly-aggressive. "I know what you're probably thinking right now. I'm some corporate sleazebag who just wants to gut your company to get rid of a little bit of competition. But I like to think I'm waaaay better looking than Michael Douglas, and I've never owned a pair of suspenders in my life. See, I'm as close to being the 'good guy' as you're going to find in the corporate world. I'm coming here with flowers and chocolate, and inviting you to dance. Do you really think the Luthors, Waynes, Starks, and Daytons of the world are going to be so gentlemanly? They're not going to want Starrware out there doing R&D for their competitors. As soon as they think you're a threat, they'll start calling all of your customers, offer the same service for half of what they're paying you, and just wait you out until you can't make your payroll anymore. But hey, you can always file for bankruptcy."

"My advice: You've got to give up your baby. Make sure you find it a good home."

He pulls something out of the inner pocket of his jacket and holds it up in front of his face with two fingers. It's the size of a business card, but it's clearly printed on crude recycled paper. Probably with biodegradable green ink. The hand gets extended, and his smile is suddenly just as genial as ever. "Here's my card. Wait three days, give me a call. I'll take you whitewater rafting on this river that only billionaires know about."

->

Well, Ollie has a bit of a speech of his own. Karen listens, without interrupting. Further, she actually listens to what he says. She can be extremely determined, stubborn even, but she isn't stupid and she has outgrown foolishness (mostly). Something DOES need to change to keep Starrware being successful. She has quite a fortune hidden away, created through her partial knowledge of the future (or A future). She knew what to invest in and when, and instead of pulling out when she knew a stock was going to crash, she has taken the steps to make sure it didn't. She has money, hidden away in secret accounts, and it is accruing interest. But she has had to keep drawing from it to cover the expenses of running Starrware. Getting it set-up, moving from the small office to this big one, hiring all these employees, getting lab equipment, office furniture, building permits, all sorts of other fees and charges, advertisement, and on and on and on. That money won't last forever. She'd just been hoping that once they had produced enough amazing, world-charging stuff, all they money she had poured into the place would wind up coming back many times over, allowing her to keep expanding and reaching more places in the world, more people in need, and giving more dreams a company they can thrive in.

So, what Oliver Queen is offering is… Considered. She WILL think about it. But the reason she is thinking about it at all is explained as she accepts the card. "You're mistaken," she says softly. "I actually know quite a bit about you. More than you might suspect, and more than you know about me. If I thought you were a corporate sleazebag, I wouldn't have bothered giving you the speech. If I thought you weren't looking out for the little guy or gal or whoever, I'd have said 'no' repeatedly until you gave up or I had to have you thrown out of my office." She taps the edge of the card on her desk a few times as she looks Ollie in the eyes unflinchingly. Eventually, she says, "If I've changed my mind in three days, I'll let you know. No promises. Have a good day, Mister Queen." As she sets the card down, and sits herself back down in her chair, she picks up a pen and starts making as though she's working on the papers in front of her.

But her voice continues on briefly, with two last comments. "Nice tie, by the way. Green suits you."


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