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Familial Obligation and Diplomacy

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It had been a while since she'd last seen her twin brother. Their lives had taken drastically different turns, despite them technically being in the same field of 'work'. Though she loved him dearly, more than she would ever admit, she'd been mildly suspicious of her invitation to Avalon, a suspicion that was quickly proving to be well-founded. Elizabeth's brows drew into a frown.

"You're bloody Captain Britain, if you're so concerned about the behaviours of Victor Von Doom why don't you take your arse over there and deal with it yourself? I have no interest in the machinations of that metal-faced megalomaniac." Strident might be a good descriptor for her voice at the moment.

"Bets please..." Brian Braddock winced at his sister's entrance. Running a hand down his face, he inadvertently drew her attention to the strain his position was beginning to place on him. There were lines on his face that hadn't even thought of crossing hers, strands of grey were threading through his temples... Noticing all this, Psylocke sighed. She didn't want to do this, but she was going to. He hadn't even had to make a real argument. The fact was he was the only family she had left, and that had to mean something. He wouldn't ask if it wasn't important.

"Everyone says he's reformed, but I know you won't take him at his word, Bets. You'll search for the truth. That's why I'm asking. I know that you'll be utter rubbish as a diplomat... don't even argue it's the bloody truth. You're far too honest by half, and you're blunt to the point of offense, but who else can I trust? We know what he's capable of, but at least he can't brainwash you if it's all a fake-out. I know I'm asking too much, but please? For me?"

She sighed, running a hand through her long purple hair as she considered her options. The two of them had shared a womb, once upon a time, and though they were nowhere near as close as some twins, she could feel his worry, his need... and his guilt. He really was running out of options. She crossed the room, a gentleness in her eyes that few would believe her capable of, and fewer still would ever see.

"I'm not happy, Bri, but I'll do it. For you. Not for Avalon. Not because that bloody tosser can't be trusted." Pursing her lips, she shook her head, debating adding something and discarding it for now. "Of that tyrant is up to anything, I'll ferret it out." Bussing his cheek lightly, she allowed his advisers to usher her out of the room, attempting to instill some kind of diplomatic etiquette into her head as they went.

She didn't pay too much attention, not until they tried to insist she wear a demure, cream-coloured skirt suit. Her shouts echoed through the building, but in the end their wholehearted belief in the fact that her own wardrobe was completely unsuitable won out. She did get them to rescind their insistence on the pearls, though it took some creative threats involving inserting them wholesale somewhere unpleasant before it stuck. The private jet set aside for diplomatic use was lovely, at least, though the turbulence did leave her almost as unsettled as the luggage full of reasonable business wear.

Hours later her plane landed at the Latverian border. Apparently it was still a no-fly zone, despite the official purpose that was her cover for being here. An envoy was slated to meet her and take her the rest of the way by land. She gave the border a sour-faced glower. Once a despot, always a despot, she surmised. Can't have people flying over your turf willy-nilly if you had something to hide, after all. Her mission was simply, suss out the truth about Doom's supposed conversion, all the while keeping him dancing over trade agreements or whatever such nonsense her brother had arranged for her to do that she hadn't listened to.

Whichever ended first would barely be soon enough for Betsy. She wanted to go home, oddly enough. They better at least make a half-decent cuppa tea around here, or she would swiftly become the most unpleasant guest they'd ever entertained. She was determined to hate Latveria and everyone in it. Doom wouldn't be fooling her with his little act. Finally she heard what she could only assume was the envoy approaching her from behind, so she straightened the infernal knee-length skirt and pasted a bright, phony smile on her face. She was British, she could manage manners at least, she reassured herself as she turned to greet whomever had been sent for her.

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Creeping out from around the bend, a set of headlights signaled the appearance of a black Jaguar XF limousine that would be her mode of travel into the country. Coming to a screeching halt roadside, the sounds of locks disengaging and a click proceeded a man emerging from the vehicle. He tipped his hat before stepping over to the other side.

“Afternoon, Lady Braddock. We have been expecting you. I am Sven and I will be your driver today.” He gave a bow, keeping the greeting formal, before he opening the door closest to the driver's cabin in which to insert her luggage. “We do hope that your flight was enjoyable.” He stated, speaking on behalf of the people of Latveria. HE neatly placed her bags into the vehicle before being escorting her to the rear door where she'd be greeted with a spacious interior in which to relax. Once she was situated, he indicated the wooden bar and television that would hopefully be enough to satisfy her for the hours long drive that surely awaited her. "If you need anything, feel free to help yourself. There are a couple of cities on the way if you feel the need to stop for anything."

The sound of thunder rumbling sang overhead as the man looked up at the clouds. “Seems the news was correct, poor weather this week. Let us be off then.” With that, he closed the door and made his way back into the driver's seat. A press of a button lowered the divider between the two, and he adjusted the rear view mirror so that she remained in view. Before hitting the accelerator, the low tune of Sir William Sterndale Bennett would come from the speakers. Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-minor, Op. 1 (1832). Circling around, the vehicle returned from whence it came with Elizabeth in tow, through the mountain paths and into the country of Latveria.

Lady Braddock... It had been so long since anyone had addressed her as such, that Elizabeth had forgotten she did indeed hold the title. Likely it was another factor in her brother's request she take this role. She frowned. Apparently Brian was a better schemer than she had ever given him credit for... and a bit of an actor as well. She'd best be on the lookout for such trickery in the future, and she'd be making it plain that this assistance was a one time deal.

Still, if she was here as Lady Braddock, that was a role she could manage. Her mother had been every inch a British noble, though Betsy herself had still been young when she died. She gracefully entered the vehicle, taking the time to position herself so that the skirt suit didn't ride up her legs to reveal her thighs. The picture of decorum, she smiled at Sven through the lowered divider between driver and passenger.

"The flight was lovely if a tad overlong, I thank you for your inquiry. One hopes that the ride shan't be too long to His Majesty's estate, it has already been a long day." She gave a small smile, holding it until Sven could take note in the mirror. One mustn't sound like they were complaining after all.

So many rules to follow. If she was going to be Lady Braddock, then she'd have to address old Doomy as if he was a reigning monarch... which he technically was she supposed. Still, how infuriating. What he was was a despot and a bounder, but even those could reform in theory, she just didn't trust it. Settling back into the upholstery she watched the burgeoning storm sweep over the Latverian landscape. Inclement weather to match the foul mood brewing within her breast, how appropriate.

Despite the nagging voice of her brother's advisers in her head, she picked at her neatly polished nails as she thought. Subterfuge was never one of her strong points, though she did retain enough of her sacrificed telepathy to cloud the minds of those around her. She couldn't do that with Doomy though. She'd have to curtsy and play the political game, and it was eating her alive on the inside. "Brian what have you gotten me into now..." She murmured to the darkening glass.

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"Is everything alright, Lady Braddock," Sven asked. Catching her changing expression through the rear view during a periodic glance. Unsure on if it was his place to ask, it was still the polite thing to do. His lordship would be quite miffed if the trip for her was unpleasant, enough so that it may put him out of a job. Thus was the way of things here, do the job correctly or someone else will.

The man's voice penetrated her internal debate, derailing her train of thought. She blinked her startlingly violet eyes when she met his gaze in the mirror. She had honestly forgotten about the driver, but she wasn't sure what to say. Everyone in this God-forsaken country was likely a spy for their tyrannical leader, and she wouldn't give him anything if she could help it. "I'm fine... Sven was it? Just tired from the flight. I'm unaccustomed to this much travel, I'm afraid to say." She gave him a politely blank smile, ignoring the alcohol that he seemed to be incessantly attempting to ply her with. She needed her mind at top functionality to take on von Doom.


Reaching over to the console on his left, he pressed a button that would slide open the bar, revealing a set of glasses and a bottle of scotch. A drink might do her well to ease her stress. His hand slid over to the knob which controlled the volume to turn down the music. Bennett may not have been for everyone. Hands back on the wheel, his eyes stayed on the road ahead as he navigated his way towards the major city along their route, Doomton.

"To give a response to your statement, it will take about two hours for us to reach the city of Doomstadt with the stop ahead. With the weather the way it looks, we will only be making the one stop." Conversation, perhaps that would take her mind off of things a bit if the drink did not. Maybe it was her resting bitch face or the oncoming weather, but it was clear that she was none too pleased about what she was doing.

Two hours? Betsy resettled restlessly in her seat. Everything about this assignment was seemingly arranged specifically to irritate her as much as possible. She hated flying. She hated false, polite smiles and diplomacy, she hated being trapped in a vehicle for hours, even one this nice, and she hated small talk. She focused her ability, flinging a thread of it at Sven. Her intention was merely to cloud his mind enough that he lost that urge to keep nattering at her through the entire drive.

 

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She hadn't been sure that influencing the driver would work, but she was relieved it had. Settling back into the seat of the luxury car, Elizabeth tried to compose some sort of plan for dealing with the arrogant ruler of this rather secluded nation. It was hard, she wasn't even sure she had a right to be here in this particular position. She wasn't even a citizen of Avalon, despite her brother's position and the fact that she once carried the name Captain Britain herself.

She didn't trust Doom, and his vaunted charm was likely to fall flat around her, so she had that going for her at least. Betsy almost wished she was willing to risk the fine alcohol provided for the ride, but it always dampened her focus, and thus her abilities, so she'd have to make do watching the storm progress through the windows of the vehicle. She remained where she was during the restock and refuel, and was almost asleep when the divider came down again to announce their imminent arrival.

When the car stopped, she held out a hand so that Sven could assist her from the vehicle. There were very few ways to gracefully exit from a back seat while wearing a skirt, but most of them required a hand to brace oneself with. She graced him with her polite smile, the one that never made it to her violet eyes. "Thank you Sven."

The castle was worth taking a breath to look at, so she did, smoothing out her rumpled suit skirt as she did so. The stonework was excellent, but she'd seen better. Not in England, though known for their castles they were notoriously drafty monstrosities. Victor had done well for himself, that was a certainty.

"I assume I am to meet one of His Majesty's aides to get myself situated, and that they will have answers to some of my questions?" She turned to the driver, resisting the urge to go fetch her luggage out herself. She was here as a /Lady/ after all. The uselessness of that particular role was already grating on her last nerve.

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“Have her bags seen to, Sven. Who knows how long our guest will be staying given the amount she brought.” There were quite a few pieces of luggage, and the man who had just arrived had a good reason to believe that there were more than just beauty products and clothing she was carrying. He was, after all, the suspicious sort himself.

That voice, it was the stuff of stories, most of them unpleasant. Elizabeth stiffened her spine, turning to give Doom a /barely/ civil approximation of a smile. "I was told formality was expected in my current position, I simply took Sven's lead. As you might guess, my diplomatic training has several gaping holes." She tucked her hair back behind one ear, trying to calm herself down. Creating an international incident because her temper got out of hand wouldn't help anyone.

"You'll have to forgive me, it's been a very long time since I traveled as Lady Braddock, I'm out of practice." There, that sounded pleasant, non-confrontational. She could do this. She could be diplomatic, for her brother. Right? She could practically hear Brian's voice in her head, begging her not to aggravate the man more than necessary.

“Of course,” Sven replied, moving to tend to Lady Braddock's things immediately. Victor, for it was Von Doom himself who had entered the scene, took a glance along the car before his gaze settled upon the woman. Adjusting his tie, he gave a slight bow as a greeting. “I hadn't expected them to send you as the liaison for Avalon, nor the formal dress, but it was a nice choice.”

She watched Sven unload the ridiculous amount of luggage that the advisers in Avalon had /insisted/ she would need. Business wear, evening wear, even a cocktail dress in there somewhere, as if she'd be caught dead wearing that for Victor Von Doom. When the driver pulled out her personal bag, a rough looking duffel amidst all the designer suitcases, she stopped him, with a hand on his forearm rather than her powers... which had really become her first instinct in recent years.

William sending his sister as an additional precaution did not escape him. If things were to go south, she was more than capable of handling herself. “You said something about having questions,” he asked. Turning on his heel, he pressed forward and made his way towards the castle. They could talk while making their way to the guest rooms on the second floor.

Betsy's hand tightened on the handle, giving it a small tug as Sven failed to release it. "I'll take this myself, if you don't mind." She did not, of course, wait for confirmation. Even if she wasn't an entitled British Lady, Psylocke had always done things her own way.

Most importantly, regardless of diplomatic necessity, she was not one to obediently follow at anyone's heel like some dumb prized bitch. She watched Doom wheel around and head towards the castle, even let him travel a few steps to satisfy her inner bitch, before calling to his back, not moving an inch from her position.

"I have any number of questions for you, Von Doom, but I've been cautioned to keep my conversation from straying too far away from points such as what pleasantries I can manage and the diplomatic treaties I've been sent to negotiate." She smiled... smirked really, still standing by the car holding her bag.

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The distant sound of her voiced caused him to turn around. Of course, it was to be expected that the woman would not have been behind him. Despite his lack of hostility, there was still a bit of apprehension between him and others. All deserved really.

Elizabeth gave Doom her most charming smile, real delight crinkling the corners of her eyes as she waved from her original position. It was such a small, petty thing, but she was ridiculously pleased with herself. Brian would likely shake his head at her, and his fluttering ninnies wouldn't approve, but she had to make sure Doom understood exactly who he was dealing with.

"I can assure you, we can speak of all in which you wish to in due time, Elizabeth." Doom said in response to her statement. He wasn't sure how she would respond to him addressing her on a first name basis, but it was perhaps the best way to illustrate that she could drop the formalities. She was quite a ways from Avalon, their rules needn't apply here in Latveria.

"I don't remember giving you leave to call me by my first name, von Doom. It's particularly forward of you. How about we stick with Ms. Braddock, or Psylocke if you prefer." Her grin took on a bit of an unpleasant edge, an unspoken dare hidden in the depths of her eyes. "I know I certainly do."

Noticing her hand upon the bag handle, Doom looked at Sven and gave him a brief motion of the hand. Her bag was released and the man went about to deal with the other bags. Sven disappeared down the hall for a moment, returning quickly with a number of small devices to attach to each bag. The amount of luggage was, how do you put it, overwhelming for one man to carry, so he opted to not do so instead. Producing a small pad, inputting a few numbers, her bags were sucked into a circular void.

"Now, if you do not mind, let the man do his job that he is paid to do," Doom stated, folding his arms behind his back. Though he suspected she may be giving his staff a hard time just for the sheer amusement of it. This, he had hoped, was not going to be a theme for her entire stay. It most likely was.

It took everything she had in her not to look surprised or concerned when her bags vanished, instead she settled her face into that disinterested half smile that Logan insisted on referring to as her 'resting bitch face', whatever that meant. It was a neutral expression, as far as she was concerned. "The man can do his job, but this bag is personal and I'm carrying it."

After a brief look at von Doom, Sven turned to Elizabeth. "Your bags shall be inside your room whenever you choose to make your way there." He gave her a bow and entered the car, pulling off soon after.

She gave a small wave as Sven left. He hadn't been an ally, and in her world that made him just another obstacle. The absence of obstacles was not something she would ever mourn, regardless of the fact that it left her relatively alone in the company of the admittedly charming megalomaniac.

"Now, may we proceed inside?"

She bobbed a rather graceful, though shallow curtsy, mockery sweeping back over her face. "Lead on, then. So nice to be properly invited along this time." Oh she was being a wanker, she knew it, he knew it, but no one was going to say anything about it. That, at least, might avail her some entertainment during this intolerable trip. She fell into step beside the supposed 'former' villain. "Will these be formal diplomatic talks, or shall you and I be negotiating trade deals one on one during my stay in Latveria?"

There, after all the needling, a touch of civility. She was genuinely interested in the answer as well, since her diplomatic experience was limited to the few times she'd gone out into the English political field at her mother's side, oh so very long ago.

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Turning heel once more, his eyes narrowed as he looked back at the gates. She was absolutely frustrating, and she delighted in it. A wonder he hadn't done anything. Though she was his guest, and it was his duty to remain a decent host. Even if she was being quite a bitch currently.

"Though our two nations are not hostile, Elizabeth, it may be of some benefit to form stronger relations." Despite her words just moments before, he remained forward. If she wished to entertain herself with such challenges, she should not expect him to roll over so easily. No matter how intimidating of a resting bitch face she had. Taking her past the gates into the main building, he continued to walk and talk as he gave a small tour of the castle leading up to the second floor.

“Though we have a favorable alliance with Symkaria to the south, it would behoove me to strengthen relations with others so that this country can continue to prosper. Even when I am not here.” While inside, they cut a left before the reception hall into a hall where he took note of the study on the other end that held an elevator to be found. Another right and they walked past his art gallery and up a flight of spiraling steps into his museum. He had a passion for the arts and kept some history for display of his country and of himself. Narcissistic. Clearly. Once out of the museum, a finger rose to point out a few more areas.

“The dining room is just beyond these two sets of doors and a ballroom over to the right. The staff here tend to pass the time during the slow hours, singing and dance. If you care for music during your brooding.” It was meant as a suggestion for her to have something to do besides stay cooped up in a room all day. Though odds are she'd enough up going off to explore the castle on her own. Taking another left from the museum, they reached the end of the hall past the dining room and he swung open another pair of doors that lead into a circular room. Four doors, one blocked for construction. Do not ask.

“These are the guest rooms. Feel free to take whichever one you want. We can talk diplomacy once you settle.”

Elizabeth. Just hearing her name rolling off that... that criminal's tongue was enough to start a sizzle of rage in her stomach. How dare he try and sound reasonable, as if he hadn't done the things she knee he had done. Guilty. It didn't matter to her if he had 'turned himself around' for real or it was just another act. Nothing justified letting a criminal walk free.

As if she had never done questionable things before.

The part about all this that grated against her nerves the most was... if his conversion was legitimate, her brother and the others there in Avalon would really enter trade with Latveria. As if it was a legitimate nation, not some hubristic city state built up around the ego of a dangerous man.

"Symkaria. I suppose it makes sense to garner the favours of mercenaries if they rest on your borders, Vicky." She gave that unpleasant little smile again. If he wasn't going to respect her clearly reasonable wishes, then she was going to go out of her way to nudge him. It was, after all, one of her more notable talents. Though tempted to be dismissive, she followed along with the tour, eyes quick to pick out the little details. Perhaps she didn't know how many paintings there were, but she knew how many windows, which way they faced, how many doors, what kind of locks they had, that type of thing. Important things to know.

She carefully examined the rooms, picking the one that would share a wall with the closed off door. There was definitely something she planned to poke her nose into later. When she was done here, Victor von Doom wasn't going to have so much as a secret pet play fetish that she hadn't learned everything there was to know about. She paused in the door, leaning against the lintel.

"You've got a lot of pictures of your face. Why not just go full narcissist and replace them with mirrors? Honestly this much Latverian Pride is enough to make me glad dinner isn't for awhile yet."

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"I'm sure a woman such as yourself would be far more interested in representations of the bloody wars required to seize this country." Was that a note of censure she detected in his voice? An allusion, perhaps, to the violence that tainted her past? She lifted the corner of her lip, more a sneer than a smile, turning so that she gave von Doom nothing more than her back, it was all such commentary deserved in her opinion.

"When we ignore the violences that aided us in attaining our goals, we simply open ourselves up to repeating them, don't you think?" She sniffed dismissively, not really caring what his point was. She'd clearly managed to get under his skin, and she'd be damned if she'd let him get under hers in return. She'd made the choices necessary to save the world, and she'd make them again, no matter the personal cost to her. What good was family or romance if there was no safety?

"Run along Vicky, I'm sure I can entertain myself until dinner is served." Without turning around she reached out and closed the door in his face, finally allowing a real smile to cross her own countenance. She had worried she'd be dancing over eggshells throughout the entire visit, so venting a little spleen certainly put her in a better mood. She moved into the room, placing the bag she'd refused to give up on the bed before inspecting the rest of her goods. She was suspicious by nature, checking for surveillance bugs or tracking chips.

Satisfied that if he was doing any spying it was at a level she couldn't detect, and thus removing any onus on her to prevent it, she changed into a pair of comfortable sweatpants and a tank top, sticking her head out in the hallway to determine if she was alone before stalking towards the blocked off door. Time to explore, and maybe get into a little trouble.