|Out of the Zone|
|What: On his way to talk to the zoning commission, Justin Hammer bumps into Lois Lane.|
City Hall on a Tuesday afternoon. There's a multitude of activity ebbing and flowing through the wooden halls as everyone from politicians to average citizens try to conduct business. There's a huge throng of people waiting to get through the security checkpoint and into the building, and the variety of those stuck in the line is staggering. Everything from uniformed officers to well-dressed lawyer types to blue collar workers shuffle forward and through the metal detectors. Among the group of people waiting to gain access to the inner halls of the building is one very disgruntled looking man in a vested suit. If it wasn't for his general attitude, he would likely be mistaken for just another lawyer.
"Seriously? I'm on a first name basis with the mayor. Having to wait through this mess is- it's wasting my time, that's what it is," Justin says as he looks toward his companion, who's likewise in a suit though it's more understated. Jack, his driver, returns the look but simply shrugs in response. There's nothing he can say that will do anything to calm his boss' rant. Likely, it would do exactly the opposite, and no one wants a scene at City Hall. Justin shifts his weight in the lack of conversation, hands in his pants pockets. He can't help but glance around, trying to watch everyone all at once in a somewhat paranoid fashion. He's not carrying his concealed handgun, given that he's visiting city hall, and not having it is leaving him edgier than usual.
Another press conference at City Hall about some new damage done in a battle of heroes and villains? It must be Tuesday. But, if it's anything related to superhumans it's Lois Lane's beat. This latest crisis involves the Upper West Side, a bad guy named Doctor Flame, and a toasted Starbucks. Well, singed. Luckily, there was a superhuman on the scene, which only figures because you can hardly swing a cat in the city these days without whacking a superhuman. Mutants, aliens, metahumans, time travelers... The Big Apple has them all, and they make great news. All things considered, though, it's a pretty small time story. The hero isn't even a 'name', going by the moniker of Freeze Boy. Lois can't help but wonder if all the good names have been taken already. Still, a story is a story, and she can punch up even the smallest of them.
Emerging from the Blue Room, where city mayors have held their press conferences for decades, Lois is talking briefly with a young man with a camera. "You take care of the pictures, I trust you and your judgment. Just get them done quick, we've got to make a deadline." The young man hurries off, and Lois pauses to look around the expansive lobby of the historic building. Wearing brown slacks, a tan button front shirt, and a deep maroon jacket, Lois has a large bag hanging from one shoulder by a strap. Even though there's a tablet in the bag, she still carries a notebook, preferring to make her notes by hand, then type them into a story later. There's nothing like writing it down for remembering details. Her eyes pause on a man that looks like Woody Allen as he walks across the lobby, and following his path she finds Justin Hammer in her sights, looking... disgruntled. She considers her options, go say hello, wait here and see which way he goes, or run the other way. She decides to wait, scribbling more notes on the pad of paper.
Flicking his left wrist to clear his shirt sleeve from his watch, Justin checks the time. With a sigh he crosses his arms over his chest as he continues to wait in the queue, grumbling about wasted time to Jack once again. Just like before, the driver doesn't respond. Finally, the CEO reaches the checkpoint, placing his wallet, phone, a pen and his watch into a tray before passing through the metal detector. He passes the test, collecting his belongings once on the other side of the check point. Jack joins him after a few moments, and once both of the men have stowed their wallets once again, the pair start toward the building commission. It's only by shear chance that Hammer doesn't notice the well-known reporter right away, his mind oddly focused on getting the zoning issue for a potential expansion of his plant taken care of.
Lois' reporter's mind is always assessing situations, and the disgruntled look on Hammer's face hasn't gone unnoticed. While she's technically on the superhuman beat, there may be a story behind this she can send Clark's way. So what's behind an unhappy Justin Hammer at City Hall late on a Tuesday afternoon? Blue eyes follow the CEO and his driver as they pass just a few feet from her, and when they're a few steps past she turns and follows after, close enough to maybe catch a few snippets if they're talking but not so close as to look like she's snooping should either of them turn around.
"If the commission doesn't want to talk, I'm calling the mayor," Justin growls to Jack, who nods in response. The other man is oddly quiet, rarely responding verbally to what's said to him. It's probably a good indication of what it's like to work for Hammer. "I mean, really, that land isn't usable for anything else, why wouldn't they just zone it out? It's not like I'm asking them for the Statue of Liberty or something." The pair keep walking as Justin continues to talk to his silent driver, still oblivious to Lois' presence.
Lois side steps a portly man in an ill fitting suit but stays on the track of Hammer and his companion. Something about zoning? She flips through her mental file, trying to recall if anyone has mentioned anything about Hammer building again. Nothing comes to mind, and she could just pass it off to Clark and not even think about it again, but where's the fun in that? Hammer doesn't seem to be calming much, so maybe there's actually something here. Sure, maybe not. Running through the options while on their trail, Lois takes a few steps closer to the pair.
If Lois is going off of whether or not Hammer is being hot headed as to there being a story, she's got a lot to learn about the CEO. It's more of a story when he's not ranting about something. As the pair of men draw up to the building commission offices, Justin stops, turning to look toward Jack. "Lemme have the file, I want to look it over one more time before I go in there," he says, holding out his hand. The older gentleman quickly hands over a leather portfolio that has several documents bound inside it. Justin opens it with a flick, looking over the papers. Another paranoid glance around, and the reporter is spotted. The CEO might not recognize her, since she does print work not television, save for the fact he has met her before. Straightening up he closes the portfolio again, completely unaware that Lois already has a good idea of why he's here. "Well what do we have here?" he asks, throwing a quick glance toward Jack before looking back toward the reporter. "Why Jack, I do believe that it's Miss Lois Lane, star reporter for the Daily Planet."
Disgruntled in City Hall usually means that something is up, but it's true that Lois has a lot to learn about the Hammer Industries head honcho. He's usually the target of the business department, the guys in wrinkled suits who report on who's getting bailed out on Wall Street this week. She stops when the men do, immediately pulling her bag around to rummage in it. While her attention seems fully on looking for whatever it is she's looking for, she's mostly focused on Hammer and Jack. When Hammer mentions her name, Lois looks up, feigning surprise. "Why Mister Justin Hammer, fancy seeing you here. Jack," the man who's name she just caught gets a nod of greeting before Lois looks back to Justin. "What brings you to City Hall, Mister Hammer?" It's asked conversationally, without a hint that she might be fishing for anything.
Justin puts on of his not-so-winning smiles, his entire demeanor seeming to change in a heartbeat. His tone is friendly but somewhat forced, and a reporter is sure to catch onto his act quickly. "Oh, you know, the usual business type stuff. I'm looking to expand, but I've gotta straighten out the zoning. Looks like there was a little mess up with the way the parcel was zoned, nothing that can't be fixed right up." Before he was fuming over it like it was the end of the world, now it's just a little bump in the road. But if it were really just a small oversight, why is he handling it personally? Doesn't he have people for this? "So what's brought you out today, Lois? Chasing a big story? Is there a superhero running for office or something?"
There's just a slight narrowing of Lois' eyes at Hammer's explanation, and she's much better than some people at seeing through an act. But you get more flies with honey, and if there is something here, she's not going to blow it for whoever might pick up the story. "Bureaucratic red tape, hm? Sorry to hear that, Justin." She falls into using his first name easily, since he's used her own and he's told her before that Justin is just fine. She jerks her pen to point over her shoulder, back the way they came and toward the Blue Room. "Another press conference on the shenanigans of villains. Kind of small potatoes, I'm afraid." She's almost apologetic, as if sorry she doesn't have a more colorful story to tell him.
Hammer chuckles, looking in the indicated direction before focusing on Lois again. "Villain shenanigans? Gosh, that just seems to be a daily occurrence these days. Really, it shouldn't be small potatoes, stuff like that shouldn't happen so readily." He takes on what may pass for a sympathetic tone and expression, but he doesn't wear it well. Handing the portfolio back to Jack (who's still staying silent and stoic) he slips his hands into his pants pockets. "And yeah, red tape I'm afraid. I'm hoping to expand across Chelsea Avenue, to the west of my facility, but so far I'm just banging my head into a wall with the zoning. I don't see why they have to make progress so difficult. I mean, if I may, my expansion of my business is a sign of a strengthening economy. Even with all the government shutdown nonsense."
"Well, at least when it does happen there are superheroes to take care of things," Lois responds, still pleasantly conversational. Her eyes drift over Hammer as his posture changes, trying to get a read on him. Overcompensating. Perhaps a bit of a neat freak? Definitely has a penchant for his three piece suits. He's probably just a bundle of neurosis under all that fabric armor. Her brows lift in genuine interest. "Planning on expanding office space or research facilities?" she inquires.
Justin Hammer overcompensating? No, of course not... The reporter is pretty much right on the dot with her assessment, the CEO has his fair share of little issues under his smarmy exterior. "Superheroes, don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for them, but they just can't be everywhere. That's why we need to be prepared, us normal people that is. That's why we need defense. And you can quote that." He pulls his right hand from his pocket to point toward the reporter to emphasis his last statement. "As for the expansion," He replaces his hand in his pocket and shifts, sticking out his chest slightly and grinning slyly. "Well, the expansion is mostly going to be for research and production. BullShark is going into production, you know."
Lois can't help a bit of a bemused smile at Hammer's words, both on superheroes and the go-ahead to quote him about them. It also sounded almost like a commercial for Hammer Industries. For a moment she wonders how hard it was for him not to add on 'That's why we need Hammer Industries.' "I'll do that, Justin," she says smoothly. As he shifts gears into expansion talk, she lifts one hand, using the pen to flick a strand of long, dark hair off her shoulder. "Bullshark?" she asks, a thoughtful looking coming to her face. "Isn't that the drone that malfunctioned at the Stark Expo?" She may not cover business, but you don't miss a story like that.
There's a slight blip in Hammer's outward expression, but he seems to recover well enough. There's another chuckle, slightly strained and perhaps a bit nervous. "So I see you've heard of it," he offers with a grin, as if it were an attempt at a joke. "And if by 'malfunctioned' you mean demonstrated it's built in safeties to keep it out of enemy hands and from accidental discharge, then yes. By the end of the year the first delivery, a training squadron to a fighter wing based out west, will be made. It's an exciting time." Justin shifts again, his almost constant nervous fidgeting present even here.
There's an easy smile on Lois' lips as she says, "Yes, that's exactly what I meant. I know there were people on both sides of that discussion, it caused quite a few lively debates in the newsroom." Although not many. After his last stunt, most of the news staff were just waiting for something to happen. It would have been a spectacular night for journalists everywhere, if catastrophe hadn't been averted. "It sounds very exciting for you, Justin, congratulations. What's next then?" Surely a man like Hammer won't sit back, he'll be craving the next big thing and chance for publicity for his company.
This time Justin laughs, and it's slightly more natural than it had been previously but perhaps pretentious. "Now, now, Miss Lane," his tone attempts a friendly chiding, "I see what you're doing here. Trying to get a sneak peek at what I'm working on. Now i can't go into details, I'm sure you understand why, of course, but I do have quite a few projects in the works. I can tell you this, I'm working on a cellular network that's going to deliver data speeds that will make Stark and Luthor cry. But please, you didn't hear that from me. Don't want to get the board all up in a knot over leaked information, ya know." He winks in an exaggerated manner at the reporter.
Her lips twitch, but Lois is able to not laugh out loud at Hammer's mannerisms. "You're just too smart for me, Justin, I thought I'd be able to get that past you like a curve ball." Her brows do go up at his assertion about the network. Now that would be an interesting little competition. "Off the record, of course," she agrees, "No one will ever know you told me." But it's something she'll certainly keep an eye on, to let the right people know at the right time that Hammer pickin's are good. As they're talking, the door to the planning commission office opens, a hand reaches out, and a CLOSED sign is hung on the door. Lois looks past Justin's shoulder and frowns. "Is it that late already? It looks like we forgot to mind the time."
Justin turns toward where Lois is looking. His false smile falls in stages as the meaning of what he's seeing sets in. "Oh- oh, no," he mumbles, his shoulder slumping. Looking toward Jack with a sharp look, he hisses, "Get in there and tell them to wait for me, make sure to tell them who's waiting." Jack looks toward his boss, and without much of an expression, turns toward the door now barring them from the building commission. The older gentleman in the black suit rattles the door, then knocks on it. Hammer, on the other hand, turns back toward Lois. He tries to pull that smile back on, but he can't hold it up like he had previously. "Heh, look at that. guess we talked a bit too long. W-well, knowing the mayor has it's advantages. I- I think I'll still be able to have this taken care of." There's a slight stutter to his words now as he tries to cover up his temper.
Lois can almost feel the heat radiating off of Hammer as his temper flares, and she has a fleeting notion of feeling sorry for anyone in his employ. Before Justin returns his attention to her, Lois schools her features into a sympathetic frown. "I'm sorry that I kept you, Justin. I'm sure you'll be able to talk to someone, if not today then tomorrow. You'll get it all worked out." She opens her bag, dropping her notepad and pen inside before closing it again. "It was good to see you again." Her eyes hold a moment before she turns, tucking the information she's gotten into the storage box in her head.
Hammer looks back over his shoulder toward Jack, who is speaking in whispered tones to a woman who is sticking her head out of the door. It's not looking promising. When Lois speaks up again, Justin turns back toward her fully. "Oh, yes, yes, I-I know it'll work out. I-I... I was just hoping to get this taken care of quickly. Ya know. It takes- It takes a lot to try and plan something like this and the red tape just..." He trails off, glancing back again before looking toward the reporter. "Uh, yeah, good talking with you, Miss Lane," he says, trying the grin again. As the woman turns, his expression falls again. "So, uh, when are you gonna run that quote?" he calls after her.
Lois stops, turning back at the question, flashing Justin a smile. "You'll be the first to know, Mr. Hammer, but I'm sure I'll be able to use it soon." Suuuuure. A small wave and she gets on her way again, weaving through the people departing City Hall.