2019-10-29 - Human Hagfish


T'Challa and Mari go to visit Pepper to talk about an agreement.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Oct 29 07:19:27 2019
Location: Stark Industries

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Theme Song



It's been a while since Mari has been able to catch up with Pepper in person. They've been exchanging emails and the such about The Disaster Zone and Mutant Town projects but they've finally managed to carve out sometime in their schedules to see each other.

She's been past the security desk on the ground floor and directed to Peppers office upstairs. "Mari McCabe to see Miss Potts. If you could let her know we're here, I'd appreciate it."

The ex-model is dressed impeccably as usual with the extra addition of that bracelet that T'Challa gave her.

While the emails she's been exchanging with Mari have kept them both current on their shared projects, getting to talk in person is usually much more efficient if more difficult to arrange. But, they've managed it. She's set music to playing quietly in her office as a peaceful and pleasant background noise, and her best teapot is waiting with some of her more expensive leaves ready to steep. Seated at her desk, she's rapidly typing out a last quick email before setting herself unavailable, and that's when JARVIS informs her that Mari and T'Challa have arrived.

"Please ask them to come on up, JARVIS, and see if they've eaten lunch." Having a meal brought up is easy enough, after all.

"At once, Miss Potts," the AI replies.

Down in the lobby, the receptionist looks at her computer interface, then smiles to Mari and T'Challa. "Miss Potts is ready to see you now." She directs them to the bank of elevators, where one set of doors slide open at their approach as if waiting for them.

T'Challa is himself quite busy but being who he is it's easy to rearrange his schedule. As such he has accompanied Mari and smiles at the receptionist when she ushers them up.

"Miss Potts, Mister Hammer is on the line again."

Justin has been semi-harassing her all day. The matter at hand is a patent dispute. Stark probably has the right of this one but Justin - and his lawyers - are nothing if not persistent.

"Please tell Miss Potts we haven't eaten yet." The ex-model answers the receptionist and moves up to Peppers office.

Mister Hammer?" Mari murmurs to T'Challa as they make their way into Peppers office. "Hello Pepper. I trust all is well. I've bought some samples to show you and … perhaps you should take that call before get started. I have a bit of time and business is business, after all."

Pepper stands to step away from her desk and smiles a hello as the pair arrive. But then, Justin Hammer happens. Again. She can't help but sigh. "I'm sorry. I'll try to be as quick as possible. Would either of you care for some tea in the meantime?"

Very much intentionally making Hammer wait on hold for an extra moment or three, she fills the teapot and sets the steeping timer before picking up her desk phone.

"This is Potts." She's already dreading what she's about to hear.

"Pepper! Alright we've thought about it and you drive a hard bargain. We'll go twenty percent above our last offer and even hey if you like maybe we can work together on a hostile takeover. Do you like clothes? You seem like someone who likes clothes. I hear McCabe Industries is in trouble these days."

He even SOUNDS obnoxious. T'Challa very quietly takes a seat, leans forward and puts his hand over his mouth to keep himself from giggling aloud. How long has Pepper known this man? And where does she keep him when he's not doing this?

"It's quite ok, Pepper." Mari says as she takes a seat next to T'Challa, eyebrows rising as she catches some of the conversation. The man is LOUD.

"Did you know I was in trouble, T'Challa?" She murmurs with a bemused smile to the Wakandan. She gestures to Pepper with the 'string him along' gesture.

She wants to hear this.

Pepper's mouth opens in indignant surprise at Hammer's words, causing her to wince and hold the phone away from her ear, making the man's voice even easier to make out. She glances over at the pair apologetically, but at Mari's gesture, a shrewd little smirk pulls up one corner of her mouth. She puts the phone on speaker and gently sets the handset back into its cradle.

"I'm still not sold, Justin." Just using the man's first name will be like the sound of a can opener to a cat. "Tell me more about this McCabe place." She glances at the tea timer, then stops it before it can go off and removes the strainer. Cups are filled promptly, and she pulls milk from her mini-fridge to offer alongside a little container of honey.

"Run by some African woman. Does okay I guess in the fashion department. Ex model. But word is she's pissed off her board and that they're looking to offload her. Get enough of their stock and the place could be yours. I mean, she won't see it coming. Models." Pepper can hear Justin scoff. "How smart can they be? Anyway, I might know some people who know some people. I'd be happy to put her out of business. Word is she's been sniffing around looking at entering the tech sector. As if THAT has anything to do with overpriced clothes. I prefer Armani myself. More understated."

As if Justin ever does anything understated.

T'Challa hasn't answered Mari's question. Not yet. He's too busy trying to keep himself from laughing out loud.

The look on Mari's face is comical. She's not sure if she should laugh or be insulted. Admittedly, being treated like airhead has often worked in her favour. "Well then…" she murmurs, reaching to take the tea from Pepper, preparing both cups - T'Challa's just the way he likes it.

She nods to Pepper though and snags a pad and pen from the desk to write You've heard the same. The board is unimpressed. What's in for him, though?

Sipping at her own tea plain, Pepper glances at what Mari has written and nods. "I've heard something similar," she replies to Hammer. "But I do have to wonder, why bother with that business at all? It's no Versace." She makes a comically disgusted face at having intentionally uttered the name of a fashion house that she particularly dislikes. And then she has to put a hand over her mouth to keep from snickering, noticing that T'Challa is already struggling to keep from laughing.

T'Challa takes a sip still trying to prevent himself from snorting and giggling. Justin is just so… transparently awful. And not even especially good at it.

"I hear that she's working on a new kind of wearable tech but is like, putting into scarves and froofy crap like that." Justin says dismissively. "We wrangle this takeover, maybe we can make a joint venture out of developing it. Oh also I get you deciding not to litigate this patent." He'd be paying her for that privilege but still.

T'Challa rolls his eyes. "Those patents are in my name." He mouths. Not that Pepper should say that but clearly Justin hasn't done all of his research.

Mari shudders at the mention of Armani and Versace but she's not struggling to not laugh like the other two. Her brows can't get any higher, she's sure. "Froofy … crap?" she mouths at the two of them. She shakes her head and looks into the tea cup.

Hammer really isn't very clever, she's decides.

Pepper looks over at the pair when the words 'wearable tech' are uttered. And there's what Hammer's after. She nods to T'Challa, then says to Justin, "Wearable tech. Really." She tries to make it sound like that's a surprise to her, but it comes across a bit more sarcastic than she was aiming for. She's not expecting the man to pick up on it, though.

"That does explain a few things. I think I want to put a little research into McCabe and this tech you've mentioned before I agree to anything." She knows he's going to try to talk her out of doing her due diligence, but that's his problem not hers. "And now I have a finance meeting to go to. You know how that is."
She REALLY hopes he gets the hint, or she just might have to hang up on him.

"Oh uh. Alright. Call me, maybe." Justin says apparently unironically as he disconnects. Once he does T'Challa sputters and begins to laugh. Hard. That is by far the funnies thing he has heard in YEARS.

"Froofy Crap." He says trying to catch his breath. JARVIS is silent but then JARVIS isn't really in on jokes like this.

"Well Pepper. Are you considering trying to hostilely take over Mari?"

"Froofy… crap." Mari says quietly, just staring at T'Challa as he laughs. "How smart can models be…" She shakes her head. "Well, Mister Hammer certainly takes the cake." The ex-model says, starting to chuckle a little as she gets over the shock.

"Still, interesting he's after the wearable tech. I'm glad the patents are yours, T'Challa and you're licensing them to me. Pepper, I don't think it would hurt for you to investigate this with him. You might get some good insight into his business."

"I knew it would generate interest. But Hammer?"

"Oh, I have every intention of doing so. If I can gather enough evidence to get the Federal Trade Commission to start a formal inquiry against Hammer and his business practices, it'll be worth having to deal with that human hagfish." Pepper shudders delicately, then takes a deeper drink of her tea.

"I think I need some comfort food after that phone call. How do you two feel about macaroni and cheese?"

"Sounds delightful." T'Challa says as he calms down slightly. He's still snickering and he can't help it. Justin is legitimately funny. It's all the more funny for how serious the guy is. "Please tell me that he's not the CEO of his company?"

Oh wait. Is he? More laughter incoming.

"We do actually have something of a proposal for you though. How would you feel about manufacturing reverbium?"

"Mac and Cheese sounds wonderful. I hope you've got a lot of parmesan to put on top." Mari smiles, leaning against T'Challa so she can nudge him to stop him laughing. "Human … hagfish. I rather like that."

"That is indeed one reason for our visit. We also wanted to show you some of our prototypes and talk about some of the applications that you might find what we're doing. I understand you're in the medical tech business?"

Mari pulls out the sash of fabric that they were testing not too long ago and hands it to T'Challa to do the honours.

Pepper smiles at Mari in a conspiratorial manner. "Would you rather Parmesan, or Grana Padano, Reggianito, or Pecorino?" She pronounces the Italian-sounding words with an accent akin to Barcelona, Spain. "Would either of you like anything else?" She gestures, and a holographic image of the kitchen's menu appears over the table. Interestingly enough, it doesn't list macaroni and cheese.

Then Mari mentions that they have a prototype with them and she immediately looks interested, even as she's reaching to touch items noted on the menu. Salad, baked chicken, and an apple tart with 'LS' next to it. "Yes, it's one of the areas that SI is heavily leaning toward alongside clean energy."

"Reggianito sounds delicious." Just the right kind of cheese. "And a lemonade." Because lemonades are the best. Well. Good lemonades are the best. Bad lemonades are sugar water that happens to be a bit sour.

"Do show her, Mari." It's not that Pepper hasn't seen some impressive tech before. But this he hopes will be somewhat unique before.

"I am working with a SHIELD scientist on the formula for the synthetic vibranium that has been encountered over the last few months. If we can crack it, someone reliable to make it would be a boon. It should, if it can be stabilized, have all manner of applications. Such as what we are about to show you."

Mari lays the strip of fabric out and brushes her fingers along its surface. A 'screen' appears, much like a tablet screen but it's the fabric that looks like it displaying it. "Thanks to T'Challa we've been able to embed synthetic vibranium into the weave of the cloth. It does all the things a tablet does but as you can see, it's worn not carried."

To highlight the functionality further, Mari rolls the fabric up and then opens it again, the display is still working and not broken at all.

"We were thinking this could be adapted to wearable med tech for Stark Industries."

At the mention of synthetic vibranium, Pepper looks at T'Challa sharply. "I believe I've spoken with this same scientist. I've been helping SHIELD try to pin down where that Reverbium is being manufactured."

She looks at the fabric and is immediately entranced. "May I?" she reaches to touch the fabric as the menu holoimage disappears. "I'm imagining ambulance techs with sleeve overlays that they can use to chart a patient's information, track data from various medical devices, and link to a hospital database to get the information transferred while still en route."

"I can design circuitry that looks decorative and can be used in applications like computing and telecommunications. Mari is working on an entire range of 'smart clothing' that will function as cell phone, PDA and tablet while obviating the need to carry any devices. I would be happy to look at implanting the same technology into something more rugged."

The Wakandan prince leans back a little bit and thinks. "You could even design some of it to gather medical data on its own. Put fingers over the man's heart and get his pulse and EKG. That kind of thing. The one catch is that all of this technology depends on having a steady supply of synthetic vibranium to work with which means not only do we have to crack the secret of making it… we have to actually make it."

And hopefully do so cheaply enough that it can be sold to the general market.

"I got the supply of synthentic vibranium entirely by mistake, Miss Potts. When I met T'Challa and spoke to him about what I was thinking, it all came together. The problem is, getting more of the product to make it with." Mari smiles as she hands the fabric to Pepper to look at it. Within the weave, Pepper will see the reverbium strands, expertly blended in.

"As T'Challa says though, medical personnell could use the technology and for your 'at risk' patients have it built into their clothes to monitor them. Fall detectors for the elderly etc."

The applications are endless, though privacy concerns will need to be addressed.

"Do you think, Pepper, that Stark Industries might be interested in becoming a supplier or JV Partner?"

Picking up the fabric to study it more closely, Pepper looks at the strands woven in with clear amazement. "You're right, the applications are nearly endless, but privacy will very much be a serious concern. I would not recommend it for private consumer use immediately. Perhaps instead introduce it in the medical fields, and use the infrastructure already in place there for secure transmission of data to build a similar secure framework for private use, like the at-risk patients." She's picked up Tony's mindset of putting profit margins below usefulness and helpfulness in the priorities of SI's products.

"But you're correct, it all depends on having a reliable source of synthetic vibranium. And tracing the source materials to make this metal is a slow going."

"Fortunately I am something of an expert on the real thing. It was one of my fields of study in university." Which is not a lie, it's just also not the whole truth. There are some things T'Challa cannot let slip. "It is still important to locate the source of this material, but we might be able to crack the formula regardless and if we could, would you be interested in starting production? In partnership with McCabe Enterprises of course." He smiles and adds. "And possibly Frost International."

Ah. Wait. They have Emma Frost involved in this as well? She's got something of a name and reputation in business circles.

Mari is aware that T'Challa hasn't told her everything but she doesn't suspect, not even a little, just how familiar he is with Vibranium. "Frost International has expressed interest in working with us." The ex-model confirms. That's all she can say due to the Non-Disclosures but it's a start.

And a lot of credentials for the pair to bring to Stark Industries.

Perhaps that's why Hammer is sniffing around.

Pepper nods her acceptance of T'Challa's explanation of his expertise with vibranium. She takes his words at face value even as she knows that Tony would very likely prod the man for more details.

The mention Emma Frost's involvement is clearly news to her, but it doesn't seem in entirely a bad way. "We would definitely be interested in starting production, and I think a joint venture would be the best way to work this, especially if Frost Industries is going to be included." But really, she'll let Legal deal with the minutiae. "But before we can do any of that, I need to find out where the current supply is being made, because it's being used for illegal testing on innocent people."

"I know someone who may be able to help. I'll ask him to look in on you. He has some strange ways about him though, I should warn you."

Strange ways. Is he saying he's going to ask the Black Panther to speak to Pepper? Mari might find that either horrifying or amusing, depending.

"Well the paperwork and legal discussions are going to take a while, we should start on those don't you think, Pepper?" Mari smiles and gives T'Challa a look at that 'promise'. Oh she'd love to be a fly on the wall when that happens.

"Now, why don't you tell us how you're going to handle Hammer? Shall I lead him along a little? Let him think I'm a complete ditz?"

This someone will likely learn that while Pepper is by no means immune to fear or intimidation, she's very VERY good at appearing to be unaffected.

"Yes, we definitely need to get the legal discussions started. JARVIS, if you would, please?"

"Legal has been informed, Miss Potts."

"Thank you. And, Hammer. I would really rather not think about him again for at least a few minutes, but, well… honestly, playing the ditz would likely work with him. He's not capable of believing that anyone else on this planet might actually have a scrap of intelligence. If you play it right, he might even voluntarily tell you everything just to brag about it." She's seen him do it before.

"How this man winds up running a company is beyond me…" T'Challa mutters before shaking his head. If Pepper would rather not think about him then they can turn to more pleasant thoughts. Like… lunch. Speaking of which. He thinks he can smell it.

"I'm sure the two of you can play him like a fiddle though."

Mari will work things out with T'Challa later - but inviting Hammer out for a drink might do very well. Or perhaps just running into him at an event would be better. The smile the ex-model gives the pair of them is wide.

"I shall enjoy that. And then seeing his face when he works out he's been outsmarted." beat "Shall we eat then and celebrate the next step in our business partnerships?"

Pepper smiles. "Perhaps that would be a good field test for some of the wearable tech? After all, you can't be caught wearing a wire if the garment is the wire. I think an apparently random meeting at an event would work out better."

Sure enough, the food arrives right about then. Three generous servings of a clearly scratch-made mac & cheese, with the Reggianito in place of parmesan, a glass of truly sublime lemonade along with Pepper's lunch of salad and baked chicken.

"Please, don't feel you need to stand on formalities." She gestures to the food items, inviting the pair to dig in. She fully intends to do so herself.

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