Title: Staring At The Sun
Author: Lopaka Tanu
Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of Lois & Clark.
Characters: Jimmy, Clark, Lois, Perry
Fandom: Lois & Clark: New Adventures of Superman
Warnings: Language, Violence, Terrorism, Deaths.
Summary: At what point do fans become fanatics? God help the Heretic.
Author's Note: Contains disturbing themes.
Great things happen at the Official Superman Fan Club!
Have you ever seen someone harmed and wished you could help? Are you tired of the criminals running the streets day and night? How many people from your community have suffered at the hands of thugs? Do you wish there was something you could do to help stop the suffering? Join the Superman Community Watch!
Have no fear, Superman's Friends are here, together we can make a difference.
One person can hold the world in the palm of their hands. One person can change the fate of the entire human race. One person can save a life with the promise of hope for tomorrow. One person can do all this by bringing a smile to the face of a child. Superman wants you to know that all it takes is one person to save the world. Will it be you?
Superman is watching over you and all you love, remember, he cares.
0000(Chicken Little's Acorn)0000
Glancing up as the elevator doors to the news room opened, Lois looked expectantly at the crowd that got off. Not seeing the object of her ire, she faced Clark. Before she could open her mouth to speak, her stomach growled. At the sound, her words were forgotten. Shaking her head, she dismissed the other reporter from her thoughts and went back to her vigil.
A short time later, the elevator dinged. Stepping out before the doors were completely open, Jimmy held the bags aloft in triumph. "I have returned baring burrito!"
Several people crowded in on him at once, including Lois and Clark. When she nearly snatched the younger man's hand off taking her bag, Jimmy frowned. He looked at Clark in confusion.
Clark adjusted his glasses, amusement clearly on his features. "Don't worry about it, Jimmy. Just be glad you got here when you did. She was eyeing the pack of new interns like a herd of Gazelle." He ignored the hand gesture Lois gave him while wiping her mouth. "Another five minutes and you would have been back to running copy for the Metro section."
Shaking his head, Jimmy handed off one of the two final bags to Clark. "You're a brave man, CK. She's killed people for less sarcasm." Patting his friend on the arm, Jimmy deliberately left his hand there. "I got you the colon buster classic, it costs a little more, but the taste is worth it."
Looking up from where Jimmy's hand laid upon his arm to the younger man's face, Clark slowly allowed a smile to form. "Thank you, Jimmy, that's very considerate."
"Any time, CK." Licking his dry lips, Jimmy nodded. "Any time."
"Please, get a room." Taking the last bag from Jimmy, Cat broke them apart by pushing between them. There was already enough testosterone in the office without adding newsboy's lust to the mix. Gently rubbing her fingers down Clark's side as she passed, she smirked at both of them. "Be sure to record it, for posterity."
"It? What it is she talking about?" Frowning at the interrupted moment, Jimmy looked to Clark for understanding. When he got a shrug in response, he sighed. There were days like today that he felt like he was the one from another planet. "Why do I even bother to try, hot women are another species where I'm concerned."
"It's something we all must learn to live with, Jimmy." Hefting his bag up, he jiggled it a little. Clark had seen the way the photographer's eyes followed it longingly. "How about I share some of this?"
"Fine with me." Jimmy's eyebrows raised as he watched Clark turn around and head down the stairs. Taking a shallow breath, he exhaled through his nose to keep from moaning. Now was not the time for that, or the place. Following shortly after Clark, he took the steps two at a time. He was almost to the break room when Clark was intercepted.
Snatching the bag from Clark, Lois shook her head. "I don't think so, boys." Picking up a smaller bag from her desk, she slammed it in to Clark's chest so he would take it. "There isn't enough ventilation in the entire building. You can have this back after work."
Peering in to the bag, Clark shook his head. "Tofu, Lois? You don't expect me to eat this, right? It isn't in any major food group. In fact, I'm not quite sure it is even edible."
"I'm perfectly serious. We have a stake out tonight, end of discussion." She turned to take the bag to the break room for the fridge but found her way blocked. Her eyes narrowed in calculation at Jimmy. "Don't interfere, I'm still mad that you were late. Speaking of which, that makes the seventh time in as many days. Where were you, Olsen?"
Jimmy cocked his head to the side. Was she serious or was this a distraction? Either way, he was going to have to act fast to get out of this one. He took his chance when she raised an eyebrow. Snatching the bag from her grip, he waved. "Bye, Lois!" Then he was off back for the elevators.
"Jimmy, you get back here! Jimmy!" Lois tried to turn and run after him, but Clark was too close and blocked her way. She hit at his shoulder. "Move, Kent, he's getting away."
"Let him go, Lois. You got what you wanted, the offending food is gone." Despite the fact he wanted to chase after Jimmy, Clark let it go. He had something if he felt the need to eat. There were times when the welfare of others was higher than his own need to stuff his face. Smiling, he pushed his glasses up his nose when it looked like Lois was backing down.
"I'm only doing this because these shoes are new. When I get on something more sensible tomorrow, he had better be prepared to run a marathon because I am hunting him down." With a growl, she turned around behind her desk. Her milk shake was melting.
Clark cast a final glance up to the door off from the elevator bank. It was a storage room for a few odds and ends like old newspapers, dead news files, but mainly things no one wanted Perry to notice. At the moment, it was Jimmy's personal office. He would go investigate to see what was keeping the younger man busy, but that would set Lois off. The last thing anyone needed was 'The Wrath of Lois' playing out in the office so he let it be.
At one thirty, Jimmy poked his head out of the file room. Perry always called a staff meeting at one thirty-five for the afternoon edition, anyone who didn't show without a damn good reason was demoted. Having a head hunting Lois after you was not an excuse. A quick peek around the room told him that the major players in the newspaper were all heading towards the briefing room.
Stepping out of the file room, he cautiously held his bag to his chest. Inside were two of his cameras (one digital, one art), extra film, a portable harddrive, a recording device, two note pads, assorted writing instruments, and one very important thing. It was the very last that he kept closest to him. Danger lurked all around him in female form and he could trust no one with it. Finally seeing that Lois wasn't any where near, he released a sigh of relief.
That relief was short lived as the doors to the elevator opened and a hand settled upon his shoulder. Jumping in surprise, he spun away from the person. Catching sight of who it was, Jimmy put a hand to his chest. "Sir, you scared the hell out of me?"
Instead of responding, Perry pushed passed the young man. Lost in his own thoughts, he checked his watch for the time. A quick glance told him all he needed to know and he continued on to the briefing room.
For a moment, Jimmy watched him go in shock. Realizing where the man was going, he jerked himself out of the funk and followed along. He reached the door just as Perry was entering. The set of the man's shoulders and clench of his jaw said nothing good was coming from this meeting.
There were already two dozen people waiting in the briefing room. At their seats, Lois and Clark were deep in an argument. She was close to crossing the space that separated them to smack him and he was grinning maniacally at her. All noise in the room ceased when Perry slammed his palm down on the table.
Taking his seat, Jimmy had seen the slap coming, therefore did not react.
"Listen up, people, and listen good." Perry took a moment to compose himself before he continued. It didn't bode well for him if he took out his anger on them. "I've just come back from a meeting with the sales department, and they had some very interesting things to say. Despite our circulation numbers, our advertisers aren't satisfied with what they are having to pay. It seems those...people, feel that we aren't living up to our potential and the board is in agreement with them. They've made it clear to me that if we don't improve those numbers, there will be cut backs."
While the others sat there stunned, Lois leaned forward in her chair. This was nothing new to her, this kind of thing was threatened every couple of years. It was a ruse on the board's part to curtail spending and improve their profits. "How long did they give us this time, Perry?"
"Two weeks." He knew what was coming before she even spoke.
"Two weeks?" Her outraged shriek caused a few of the gathered staff to wince. "What kind of crap are they trying to pull this time?"
"This is no bull, Lois." He held up a hand at her snort. Perry shook his head when she tried to speak. "It's not a load of anything. I met with the advertisers today myself. They are dead serious about this and the board is playing lap dog. They'll go where the money is, nothing I've said will stop them."
"But two weeks? That's not enough time to get any reliable data. That's why they do quarterly reports. Any improvements would be superficial and then we would get blamed for the failure." Cat met the shocked stares of her colleagues with a level of disbelief. "What? I know about business practices."
"Be that as it may, the board is standing firm." Glad that they hadn't pressed the matter of cutbacks, Perry refocused their attention. "We have two weeks to improve circulation above the already peak numbers we've gotten. What that means is sensational stories, something that will draw in the readers. People, if you have stories you've been sitting on, now is the time to present them."
Pointing to Lois, Perry pinned her with a stare. "Lois, dig up whatever you have to, just make sure it's reliable and we can confirm it." Before she could protest, he switched to another person and realized he was getting good at cutting her out. However, the thing he was about to ask was a level he had never thought to sink to. "Cat, I know I told you no tabloid trash, but we're desperate here. If you have a reliable source, anything you can dig up I'll print."
Wide eyed, Cat nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Jimmy, I want photos. Take thousands of photos every where, canvas the city, go wherever your heart takes you." When the younger man nodded, he clapped his hands together. "Great. Clark, you're off the crime beat. Nicholetti can handle that. I want you to cover Superman. If he so much as breaks wind, I want you to be there taking notes." Perry joined in with the staff as snickers erupted. "Come on, people, be serious. I want this to be the best two weeks the Daily Planet has ever had circulation and story wise."
What he didn't tell them was their jobs would depend upon it.
Closing his office door, Perry drew the blinds and headed straight for his file cabinet. Pulling out the keys from his pocket, he unlocked the top drawer and opened it. He grabbed the first bottle he found and a glass. It was another late night at the office for him today. Filling the glass, he took a swig and winced.
He didn't know how in the hell they were going to reach the twenty-five percent improvement the board wanted. With the few ideas that they had tossed around, the little hope he had held on to sunk. As much as he wanted it to be different, it looked like he was going to lose some of his people in two weeks. They were his team, he had spent most of his career as Chief Editor assembling it. However it ended, it wasn't going to be good.
Perry was about to take another drink when a knock came from his door. He recognized the timid rap immediately. "It had better be important, Jimmy!"
After opening the door, Jimmy stuck in his head and smiled nervously. "Can I have a minute of your time, Chief? I swear to you, this is very important."
"Two minutes, Jimmy." Turning to face the young man, he held up his watch to emphasize the words. "Spill it, son."
Casting a glance behind him back in to the newsroom, Jimmy clutched his bag to his chest. When he was certain no one was watching, he slipped in the office and closed the door. He tried to appear confidant to Perry, but the man's gaze made him swallow. "Chief, sir, I got a story that I think you will be very interested in."
"You've got your assignment, Jimmy." Dismissing the young man, Perry was about to turn back to his drink. He stopped when he heard the boards under Jimmy shift signaling he was moving closer. "Don't you think you should be out taking pictures?"
"I will, sir, but you have to hear me out. This is important, it involves Superman." That got him the response he was looking for. Unbuckling the flap on his bag, Jimmy unzipped it and reached inside for his bundle. Pulling out a metallic case, Jimmy set his bag down in the visitor's chair. "Inside here is everything I have on the story. Photographs, witness statements, police reports, test results, and actual hard cover proofs."
Perry went very still, eyeing the metal case with trepidation. "Just what have you been doing, son?"
"Nothing illegal, at least not technically. The police reports are a little hard to explain away, but I got them in good faith, sir. Most of this stuff can be had just by joining a few clubs, and that is the scary part." Walking around Perry, Jimmy set the case down on his desk and pressed the code sequence on the handle to open it. When he heard the click of the locks, he raised the lid and stood back. "I was waiting until I had more proof for my own article, but since we are desperate. I am willing to share the bi-line with someone else, provided they contribute more. I figure Lois or Clark would have the right resources to help me."
Reaching in to the case, Perry pulled out a manilla folder to examine the contents. It turned out to be test results from Star Laboratories. "I'm intrigued so far. What does all this mean?"
"There's a cult forming. It is centered here in Metropolis, but there are splinter cells all around the world." Picking up a flier, Jimmy set it on top of the pages Perry was examining. "The thing that separates this one from others is that this one is centered around Superman."
For a moment, Perry's heart skipped a beat in excitement, then he caught sight of the flier. Upon skimming it, he looked up at Jimmy, foul mood returning. "Are you serious? Is this some kind of joke? Did Lois put you up to this?"
Frowning, Jimmy stared at the older man. "Chief, this is very important. I knew you would react this way, that's why I waited so long."
"Jimmy, now hold on here." Perry was about to set the papers down and lay in to the photographer, but he was inundated with more fliers.
"Just look at these, sir! Look at the printer's mark, the people behind all these clubs." He tried to raise the papers so Perry would look, but he and they were pushed back to the desk. "They're the same people. It's all connected. We have to investigate..."
"We have to do nothing! Just what in the sam hell are you trying to do, Jimmy? I'm trying to save this paper and you're wanting me to shoot us in the foot." Putting the papers back in the case, he closed it and handed it to Jimmy. "There is nothing going on here, there is no story beyond a fluff piece. Now, you can tell Clark to get Superman's opinion on all these clubs you're involved in, but that's the end of it. Don't let me catch you trying to waste the Planet's dime on this nonsense again."
Before he knew it, Jimmy was holding his bag and the metal case on the other side of Perry's now locked office door. Upon noticing he was the center of attention in the newsroom, he gave a half hearted grin before walking to Clark's desk. There, he put the case back in his bag and waited for Clark to acknowledge him. "CK, the boss man wants you to get Superman's opinion on all these clubs and organizations springing up in his name."
Adjusting his glasses, Clark took in the sight of the younger man. He didn't look too bad, but he wasn't happy either. "All right, but it will have to wait. I'm sure he has other more important things to do."
"Take your time, it's not like it matters to me or anything." Shouldering his bag, Jimmy stalked off to the stairs and elevator banks. "If anybody needs me, I'll be out taking pictures."
Eyes gently sliding closed, Clark felt himself become numb to the world around him. His breathing evened out and a moment later he was out cold. A cracking sound brought him back to the waking world. Eyes wide, he looked towards the source and found his head had cracked the window beside him. Pushing up his glasses, he started to stretch over the backseat.
"Clark, whatever you're doing, cut it out." Grinding her teeth, Lois fought the urge to reach in to her purse for another piece of gum. Already she had a twelve pack stuck between her teeth and could barely close her jaw. Glancing down at her purse, she caught herself reaching for it and stopped. Rolling her eyes, she sat back in the driver's side seat and crossed her arms.
For the past five hours, they had been sitting out side Jimmy Mac's warehouse waiting for the crook to come out so they could follow him. So far, they had watched half a dozen different groups arrive and leave, but nothing with the very noticeable gangster. If not for the tenacity of Lois Lane, Clark would have done gone home to Kansas for his Friday Dinner with his parent by now.
As it was, considering it was Lois' car, Clark raised his arms to hide the very visible crack. "Lois, I've got to use the restroom."
"There's a bottle back there, go in that!" Once again, Lois found her eyes drawn to her purse. The gum wasn't helping.
"Lois, I'm not going to pee in a bottle while you sit there in the front seat. Besides, I have to do more than just pee." Moving towards the door, he started to grab the handle, but the locks engaged. Staring at it for a minute, he sighed. "Real mature, Lois."
"You're not getting out of this car, you will blow our cover." All the while, her eyes kept tracing the tell tale bulge in her purse. It was large, firm, and round. Fingers skimming across the seat, she forced them not to stop on the purse but keep going to the radio. Turning on the news channel, she put the volume to low. "You can hold it a couple more hours, Kent."
Clark did a quick scan of the warehouse with his x-ray vision. The sight of Jimmy Mac's top guy watching them through a peep hole on the second floor made him smirk. He waved at the man with one hand and broke the door handle with the other. Stepping out as Lois finally lost the battle with temptation, he jerked off his tie. It was definitely time to get out of there. "We've been made, Lois, investigation over. I'll see you Monday."
"Voo mhrehfump!" Mouth full of dingdong, Lois hissed chocolate cake crumbs at his back over the driver's seat. She tried swallowing, but the gooey center reached her tongue. Her eyes rolled up in her head as she shivered. She tried to tell herself it was okay, but there was still too much dingdong in her mouth to speak. Instead, she just sat there chewing slowly.
Shaking his head, Clark walked the street until he reached a corner. He put out his hand to wave for a taxi while whistling loudly. The slight over draft blew the papers off the newsstand across the street, but at least the taxi coming towards him stopped. He would take it for a few blocks, find a nice alley, and then he would be on his way to home.
Climbing in to the cab proved to be an adventure into itself. There wasn't a place inside the that wasn't covered in something sticky. He looked to the driver in question but received a bored stare. On second though, he climbed in to the front seat, which strangely, was immaculate. "Take me to the Newton Parke."
"Your dime." And not much more, the driver almost added. Giving Clark a once over, he snorted. Cheap suit, cheap hair cut, ugly glasses, the man was trying too hard. "Who you tryin to kid, buddy? No one is gonna believe that get up."
Clark's head snapped over to the driver. Jaw dropped, he fumbled for words, but he couldn't think. "Hunh?"
"Lemme guess, you're a big shot reporter? Or may be you're a P.I. for some body." Taking in Clark's shoes, he snorted. "Nope, I got it! You're slumming it. Rich kid still living off daddy's money coming down here just to play with the poor folks?" Laughing to himself, the guy shook his head once. "I've seen enough of you trust fund babies to recognize you when I see you. Do me a favor, if you're gonna keep coming back here, stay out of the rough crowd's way and don't be snoopin. We got enough trouble from that flying piggy in the blue suit without the mayor crackin out his Keystone Crowd."
'Piggy,' Clark mouthed, brow furrowing. He tried to discreetly suck in his gut, but he caught the man's attention.
"Oh, now I've upset you. Don't tell me you're one of them blue ballers who bust a nut every time the princess zooms over head." Shaking his head, the Cabby pulled the vehicle over to the curb. "Newton Parke building. All out, five bucks."
Dazed, Clark handed the man the money as he climbed out on to the curb. He was still too stunned to speak by the time the cab shot off back in to traffic. Finally, he sloughed off the criticism with a shrug. There were always going to be people who disliked him no matter how much good he did. He could hear his father now telling him 'you can't please them all, son, just do what you can and learn to accept their limitations'
"Sometimes that's easier said than done." With a sweeping gaze over the streets, Clark headed down the street. There was a back alley that rarely saw a street sweeper, let alone a trash truck behind the building. Coming around the corner, he made a quick sweep with his x-ray vision to confirm there was no one there. Taking off his glasses, he started to unbutton his shirt and headed in to the alley.
A moment later, Superman came rocketing over the three story building in to Metropolis.
Standing on the Metro-Plains bridge, Jimmy wound the film in the camera until it snicked. Bringing it up to his face, he closed one eye so he could peer through the telephoto lense with the other. "Go take some pictures, Jimmy. It's not like you are good for anything else. Oh, wait, you can also scoop out stories? Who knew? Not Perry Figgen White, that's for sure." He sighted the Luthor building across town and snapped a series of shots from the top to the bottom. "If nothing else, I can always sell post cards."
When he finished the skyline around the Luthor building, Jimmy panned west over Metropolis, scanning for anything of interest. A fire was being put out in Suicide Slums, but not fast enough to save any of the buildings already on fire. A few clicks of his camera captured firemen standing around scratching themselves. It would be good for the Crime Desk, either they were paid off, or they were ordered not to save the buildings.
After he finished there, he focused the camera on the Harbor district. After the Smokers had burned it out, Lexcorp Holdings had exercised a permit with the city to allow them to rebuild it. Already, he could see the basements of a two new hotels and a dozen high rises. If nothing else, Lex Luthor was one 'lucky' man. The few shots he took of the construction would probably end up in the metro section for good publicity.
Yawning, Jimmy let his artistic camera slide down his chest to hang around his neck and picked up the digital one. Putting the automatic snap on, he rubbed at his eyes and let the camera pan over the city. They would most likely be out of focus, but the chief wanted thousands of pictures. Let him deal with it.
He became aware the camera had run out of free memory by the incessant beeping. It took him another minute to realize he had been holding the shutter button and released it. Frowning, he turned off the camera and put the cap back on the lense.
Jimmy began to wonder why in the world he was doing up on a bridge taking random pictures. It wasn't like there weren't better things to be doing with his time. He could snap a hundred pictures of a hundred different things just touring the city. Metropolis wasn't so small that he had explored every knook and cranny. Glancing up as the sun sunk started to sink over the tops of the buildings, he set his mind in focus.
Moping, that was what he had been doing. He was upset that Perry had dismissed him and his story out of hand without really giving it a fair hearing. So what? Just because the old man hadn't given him the go ahead didn't mean the story was dead. There were other newspapers out there.
There were other newspapers out there.
It was dangerous thinking, ideas that he had rarely ever even allowed himself to register, let alone acknowledge existed. There were other newspapers out there for him to work with, if he were so inclined. Until now, his loyalty to the Daily Planet had been unquestionable to a fault.
Clenching his fist, Jimmy shook his head slowly. "Some things are too important to be left alone for the sake of loyalty." And the sad thing to him was, there wasn't a shred of self doubt in him over the decision. "He will just have to forgive me."
"Who is that, Jimmy?" Rising up over the visual field the guard rail allowed, Superman floated high enough so that he was face to face with the younger man. "You're not going to do anything that will get you in trouble, are you?"
Cheeks coloring, Jimmy glanced away from the super hero, out over the city. "What are you doing here, Superman?" Ordinarily he would have winced at the emotionless tone of his voice, but he had just come to a serious conclusion. Emotional distress was the last thing he needed to be letting the world know about.
Superman frowned. Ordinarily, the young photographer would be upbeat about doing his job, especially given such a chance to capture his image over the city relief. Crossing his arms, Superman glided up over the railing to land gracefully in front of the younger man. He reached out a hand to lay on Jimmy's shoulder, but was surprised when he stepped back. "Have I done something to upset you?"
"No." Taking a breath, Jimmy released the pent up emotions. The effort became physical as he began to slouch in his posture. After a few false starts, he was finally able to build up the calm needed to deal with the indirect source of his problems.
The concerned look in the other man's gaze sent thoughts spinning in his head. Maybe he could do something without betraying the old man. Jimmy winced. In a way, it would be a betrayal if he did go through with printing his story in another paper. Perry would certainly see it that way.
Stepping forward, he glanced about to make sure no one was watching them. It would have been a futile gesture had they been anywhere else in the city, but the bridge rarely saw foot traffic this late in the day, too early for evening strolls. "I think you can help me, Superman."
He didn't let it show, but Superman relaxed inside. There might be hope yet. Raising his head a little, he smiled. "Anything, Jimmy."
Closing his eyes, Jimmy riffled through his memories for what might prove useful. Eventually, he settled on a more cautious approach. The near fight with Perry had left him stung. "What sort of influence do you think your presence has on humanity?" Okay, but more blunt than he had thought.
Superman considered the question for a moment. In reality, it was something he thought about often, more so than not. His mother had remarked on it just last night. "A positive one, I hope. I try to be an example of goodness and values that I believe everyone can support. Why?"
"To what extent? I mean, how far should we go to follow your example?" Excited, Jimmy put his hand to Superman's arm, letting it rest there. If this worked, he would be free of the burden.
Taking Jimmy's hand in his, Superman smiled at him. He thought he knew what this was about. "I don't believe anyone should do more than they are absolutely comfortable with." He was surprised when the hope that had been radiating in the younger man's features suddenly disappeared.
Taking his hand back, Jimmy stepped away with a shake of his head. "Thanks for nothing." The alien was completely clueless, thus, useless. Hiking the bag that crossed his chest over his right shoulder up, Jimmy stuck his two cameras back inside.
Jaw open, Superman moved to stand in front of the Jimmy. "I'm sorry if I couldn't be of more help. Perhaps if you told me the trouble, I could try again."
Jimmy snorted. "You're not human." And that was the problem in a nut shell. How do you tell a god to stop being one? This was something he was going to have to solve on his own. Still, he was being rude, he realized. Taking in the perplexed, yet hopeful alien's expression, Jimmy acted on impulse and wrapped him in a hug. "I'm sorry."
Awkwardly, Superman patted Jimmy on the back. "It's okay, I've kind of grown attached to being Kryptonian." The joke had the desired effect, relieving both him and Jimmy of their anxiety. When the photographer stepped back, he smiled encouragingly. "I'm serious about being able to help, if I can in anyway, don't hesitate to call on me."
"That's all right, I know what I have to do. It's just the doing part that I'm not sure about." He left it at that. With a short wave of good bye, Jimmy turned and headed back in to the city.
Superman watched the younger man leave until he had disappeared in the crowd that had gathered at the entrance to the bridge. Waving at the people, he kicked off from the walk and flew away. He still had dinner with his parents to get to.