Eric Landry was overworked.
He'd been overworked for many years, and everyone around him knew it. He'd been putting in his 9 to 5 for twelve years, and was the longest serving 'cubicle drone' (a term he liked to use on his annual reviews just to annoy the young 'bosses' he kept having to deal with.) But with the constant turnover at the office, he was always the one being left to do the lions share of the work. Not that his pay ever reflected all his work and dedication to the company, nor did any of the newer employees give him any respect.
Eric had stopped to get his daily 2 pm coffee. It was the little things that were important, he had read that once somewhere. Probably one of those damned things his wife was always buying for the walls. As he sat down in his rundown chair with the squeaky wheels that he couldn't get maitenance to fix.
It was always something around here. Glancing at his monitor, he saw there was a new email from his corporate email, which was odd. No one ever emailed him on the corporate email.
Leaning forward, Eric went to sip the fresh coffee as the email opened.
He barely noticed when the mug dropped from his hands, and noticed even less when it shattered on the floor. When he glanced away from the email, his face flushed, he noticed that the largest shard of ceramic was the "Best Dad Ever" text.
"Patches was stuck in the tree. I had been calling and calling, but Patches just was too scared. I started crying too. And then the man came and got Patches down."
Lois really didn't do kids. It always took too long to get to the point, and the attention span. But Perry thought this would make for a good photo insert for the all but finished article. Lois almost wished she hadn't ditched Clark at the office.
"What did the man look like, sweetie?" Lois caught the way the girl, young Mandy Wilson, took to Jimmie more than her. For all their annoying habits, kids were fairly observant about adults, Lois had learned.
"He was tall, and nice. He flew up to Patches and brought him right to me. He told me Patches was a very handsome cat." Mandy hugged the purring ball of fur close as Jimmy took several shots of the girl, cat, and the tree in question. Jimmy was finishing the last shots when his head peaked up above his camera and smiled. Lois rolled her eyes as she knew that goofy smile meant that Jimmy's pseudo-big brother had managed to catch up.
Turning to face the quiet shadow she had been stuck with, she arched an eyebrow in his direction.
"Nice of you to join us, Smallville, now that we're all but done." Nodding to the small child, she continued. "Clark, meet Amanda. Aman.."
"Mandy, my name is Mandy." Lois seemed to remember the girl saying something like that before. She sighed, gave her biggest smile she could fake, and continued.
"Right, Mandy, this is my partner, Clark."
Mandy turned to look at Clark while still holding Patches. As Clark approached and bent down to offer his hand to the young girl, a sudden look of shock crossed her face as Patches fell to the ground. The small feline scampered back to the house as Mandy slowly took Clarks hand and shook it, the instant of shock turning to mild confusion. Lois found it odd, since she had always pictured the quiet country boy to be a natural with kids.
"It's nice to meet you, Mandy."
Mandy simply nodded and then looked from Lois to Jimmy, and then back to Clark, as if trying to put a puzzle together with too many peices. Kids, Lois thought to herself, always a waste of time.
"Okay, Jimmy, you good?" The young photog gave Lois the thumbs up, reviewing his shots on his camera and beginning to walk back to the car.
"Well, Ama..Mandy," Lois was using her sweetest voice, ready to finish this up. "It was really nice to meet you. Thank you for talking to us today." For her part, Mandy was still staring at Clark. She finally nodded, looked briefly at Lois, and then ran back to her Mom, who was watching from the girls front porch.
The pair of reporters turned to walk down the sidewalk towards the car parked down the block. Of course Lois had driven over, because Lois couldn't handle someone else's driving. They didn't understand how to drive in the city. You had a destination, and you knew how to get there, and if the other drivers got in your way, you just get around them. Why other people didn't understand that, Lois may never understand.
Approaching her car, she looked around for another car. "Hey Smallville, where's your car at?"
"Oh.. I .. uhh.. took the bus, Lois."
Rolling her eyes, she keyed the fob of her car to unlock the gleaming black car. How someone could stutter over public transportation was beyond her. She was never going to let Perry forget this.
Eric's hands wouldn't stop shaking. He didn't know what to do, but he knew that he had no choice. The Voice seemed to know his every move inside the old building. Wiping his forehead again, Eric approached the large windows of the old Forsyth Building. The Voice had been specific about which window to go to.
Turning the latches on the window he pushed the old glass out, the old hinges creaking loudly. Pulling a chair over, he stepped up and onto the sill, standing up and walking tentatively out onto the ledge of the building. As he escaped the window framing, the wind suddenly hit him, causing him to panic and grab hold of the stone wall outside the sixth floor.
He remembered they always said not to look down, but thinking that made him look down, and he turned to go back in. That's The Voice resurfaced again.
"Eric, if you want your family to live, you need to go out there. No one will be hurt, all you have to do is walk out the corner and wait. That's all you have to do to see your family again." It was an eirie digital voice, inside the ear piece that had been where the email had said it would be. The email with the picture of his family bound and gagged.
Eric breathed out a ragged breath, and slowly began to slide along the ledge down the twenty feet distance to the corner. He thought back to the mug, still broken under his desk.
Best Dad Ever
"He needs a name, Lois. Every great legend needs a name! Bigfoot, Nessie, and the like! And if we're the one to get the name that sticks, he's ours!"
"Great, Chief. What do you want to call him? Mystery Flying Man?"
"Oh for goodness sakes, Lois, that's just horrible!" Shaking his head and dropping into the soft black chair, Perry White flipped through the pictures Jimmy had taken earlier in the day of the young girl on his tablet. While he wasn't crazy about the digital revolution, he wasn't a luddite either. Great men evolved with the times, and Perry was certainly trying to keep up. Besides, making all those prints had been much more expensive than scrolling through a digital album.
"Kemp! You're good with a phrase! What'd you got?" Perry never looked up, trying to decide between two shots of the little girl.
"Ken.. er, well, umm.. I'm sure that he has a name already, Mr. White."
Perry swiveled slowly in his chair, looking at the young reporter in the eye. "Well, gosh, perhaps you should just go ask him then, Kemp!"
Kent pointed at himself and swallowed, as if disturbed by the idea. Perry wasn't certian the kid would ever come around at this point. Perry slowly looked up at Lois, who was giving him the glare that he knew meant that he'd have to listen to her complaining about the newest reporter later. She sighed, looked back to her notebook, which had been laying in her lap. she flipped back to a page, and Perry saw the light go off in her eyes.
That's why she was his best reporter. But he would let her try to claw to the top for a while longer before telling her that. But both of them were disturbed as Kent got up and began to walk to the door suddenly.
"Where's the fire, Smallville?"
"Oh, I.. forgot to send the new draft for the LexCorp article to legal for review."
Clark went through the door and as he left Perry looked at Lois and laughed as she wound up to pounce now that they were alone. He raised his large hand to stop her, and simply shrugged.
"Give him time, Lois. He'll find his way."
"Yeah," Lois rolled her eyes as she turned to leave as well, "right about when I die from the ulcer he'll give me. Thanks, Chief."
Lois sat down at her desk, reviewing the layout for her article. The article went to print tonight, and she still needed the title. The thought that came to her mind in Perry's office was still rolling in her head. Rolling up to her desk, she typed in the words, adjusting the font size, and then rolled back, looking at the last part of the work that she had been consumed with for too long. Hopefully now Perry would let her get back to real stories, with real people, who could be interviewed themselves. This chasing a ghost beat was annoying.
Looking around, she asked out loud "Hey, where's Smallville?" Everyone looked around, and no one answered her. His desk was unmanned, and his computer was off. So much for updating his article. She looked back to her article, and after adding the missing name to the appropriate points, released it for Perry to review.
'Who is Superman?'
As she leaned back in her chair, Jimmy came running along, turning to her as he went. "Lois, there's a guy going to jump from the Forsyth Building!" Lois sprang to action, grabbing her notebook and keys, catching up with the redhead quickly.
"Let's go, Jimmy. I'm driving."
To his credit, Lois never saw Jimmy make the sign of the cross as he followed her into the elevator. The six minute drive took three with Lois driving, and as the car skidded to a stop at the edge of the police line, Jimmy hopped out and began focusing his camera on the crown, and then up towards the building. Slipping between the police cruisers, she walked up to the small huddle of patrolman watching as their supervisors planned out their response as they waited for the response team to arrive. She knew better than to approach the supervisors, who were too busy to give her anything. But young men liked to act like they knew something when a pretty reporter batter her eyes.
Lois Lane, after all, knew how to work her sources.
The crowd had swelled beneath Eric as he had stood at the corner. Despite the cool winds off the ocean, he was still sweating buckets. The police were just now arriving, and had begun to push back the curious masses behind quickly set up barricades. Several of his coworkers were watching from the windows, but none had said anything to him yet.
Above him, the news choppers were beginning to circle about the building, making him more nervous as they got closer. He could see the reporters and the cameramen looking at him. Several had come down to hover level with him for a while, transmitting his scared image across the sprawling city. Eric hoped his family never saw this.
The Voice, which had been quiet for so long, suddenly spoke up. "Ok, Eric, it's almost over. Don't worry, you'll see your family soon."
"Oh god... please... " Eric began to cry, his fear and exhaustion finally catching up with him. As the world began to spin around him, the ledge below him exploded, dropping Eric down towards the crowd below. Eric had during the half hour he'd been out on the ledge thought about what the fall would feel like, but he certainly thought it'd be slower. The world was rushing towards him, and he closed his eyes, pictured his family as he fell.
And then gravity seemed to reverse, as his fall slowed and he was gently floating down. Peeking out of his eyelids, Eric could feel the warm hands holding onto his shoulders as he was slowly floating down to the sidewalk. He looked down to the crowd and police as they watched the pair come down, and then slowly back up to the man who was holding him up. The man was smiling gentlely, and said softly "It's ok now, sir."
Eric suddenly remembered how he had ended up on that ledge, and shook suddenly. "No, you don't understand! My family!" As they set down, Eric collapsed as he began to cry.
The voice spoke up now "Eric, your family will be home when you get there, just like I said." Eric's cries softened as he heard this, and grabbed the mans unnaturally red cape, and said "Thank you, thank you!"
The man had watched as the Voice had spoke, bending down to look Eric in the eyes asked to see the earpiece that was still in Eric's ear. Eric, hands shaking, handed the device over to the man who looked at the device. Unlike Eric, he could hear when the Voice started speaking again. "Well hello, Mr. Mystery Man. " The man slowly looked around towards the surrouding buildings.
The police, who had been standing back gingerly walked up to Eric to begin to assess his condition. As they did, the man looked at him, nodded, and looking towards the sky began to take off, slowly turning to scan the crowd as they watching him, the shield reflecting the dusk light as he paused and then flew up and between the skyscrapers, disappearing in the shadows.
As Lois got over her state of awe, she looked to Jimmy, who had been staring as well.
"Tell me you got that."
Jimmy looked down at his camera, as if suddenly remembering that it was there.
Lois sighed, and looked back towards the sky. She turned, looking to get back to the Planet and write this for tomorrows paper, which would tie in perfectly with her just completed magazine article and spotted Clark writing in his own notebook, interviewing a bystander. Leave him to get here in time to get the human interest story, while Lois went for the meat of it. Maybe they could share the reporting, to flesh out the article.
Maybe Perry had been right, she thought as she approached Clark.
The video of the caped man swooping in and grabbing the falling fat man replayed again on the large screen. There were no other lights in the dark room as the lone man watched the flying man float up, look at the cameras before taking off.
Leaning forward in the large plush chair, he rewound the tape, looking at the frozen image of the brightly dressed man staring at the cameras.
Notes: Thanks to Fondycheesehead for catching a rather annoying error.