Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Shades of White, Part 3
Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be
-Switchfoot, "Dare You to Move"
"We have a problem."
Jimmy Olsen sat on the corner of Chloe Sullivan's desk, looking at her with serious blue eyes. There had been a time when he'd been desperately in love with Chloe, but she'd been too intense for him, too driven, too much of a workaholic. Besides, she'd had a thing for Clark Kent. Eventually she and Jimmy had decided they were better off just being friends.
"Not now, Jimmy," she said absentmindedly, typing at a frantic pace. "I found proof the guys at GBS set that story up. I have to get this article turned in right away so Perry can get it up on the website."
Jimmy's eyebrows shot up. "They set it up? How?"
"The plane went up just fine, and then there was an explosion that didn't have anything to do with the engines. You do the math."
"My God." Even after years reporting on the news, he had a hard time imagining that anyone could be so purely evil. "You mean they deliberately sabotaged that plane? Why?"
"So they could get footage of Superman saving the day, obviously." Clark Kent spoke grimly from the next desk over. He ducked his head, in a mannerism that Jimmy recognized as one of his own, and started typing whatever he was working on. Clark had learned to "play dork" by watching Jimmy, and Jimmy ought to be annoyed by that, but for some reason he wasn't. He actually thought it was pretty funny.
"Suppose Superman didn't show up? Or couldn't stop the plane in time?"
"Tough luck for the people on the plane, I guess," Chloe answered. "And it would have made a hell of a big hole in Metropolis' skyline, too." Her eyes narrowed. "Those bastards. I've seen people create a news story before, but this-- this is a new low."
"No kidding." Jimmy glanced around and lowered his voice. "Look, I know you guys are busy, but we need to talk."
Chloe didn't look away from the screen. "Can't it wait, Jimmy?"
"No. It can't. This is a big problem. Perry..." Jimmy sighed. "He recognized Clark."
Clark lifted his head, and all of a sudden it wasn't the geeky, shy, bumbling reporter looking at Jimmy, but the authoritative, take-charge guy Jimmy had first met, years ago. "The picture from the plane, you mean?"
"Yeah. It was blurry, but he was pretty sure it was you. I know the Chief well enough to tell."
"Damn." Clark blew out his breath in a sigh. "I was afraid he'd remember me if he got a good look."
"Well, it's not like you could hope to never have anyone take a picture of you," Chloe said briskly, still typing. "We all knew this would happen sooner or later. So the question becomes, what do we do about it?"
"First of all, we don't give anything away," Clark said, and his voice was deep and resonant. Looking at him, Jimmy could practically see a red cape rippling behind him, even though Clark wore his usual dark, too-big, rumpled suit. "If Perry's not sure, we're not going to confirm anything. Let him come to me."
"And then you'll use your powers to make him forget who you are?"
"Right," Chloe said, nodding very seriously. "The Vulcan mind meld. That'd be a great idea... if Clark were a Vulcan."
Clark's mouth twitched, as if he were holding back a smile for fear of hurting Jimmy's feelings. "Unfortunately," he said, "that's not one of my abilities. If Perry knows, then I guess I'm just going to have to talk to him about it and see if I can't get him to keep it quiet."
"He won't do that. You're news, CK. Huge news. The person who breaks the story of Superman's identity is going to get a Pulitzer, and we all know it."
"Well, I'm going to have to--" Clark suddenly lifted his head, as if listening to something only he could hear. He looked back at them apologetically. "I have to get going," he said.
Jimmy watched the big guy as he got to his feet and bumbled his way out of the bullpen. Jimmy knew that the minute Clark got into the hallway, away from prying eyes, he'd change into his brightly colored costume and disappear in the blink of an eye. He'd seen Clark go into superspeed a few times, and no matter how hard he stared, Clark just seemed to vanish into thin air.
Jimmy sighed, a little envious despite himself. It was no wonder Chloe hadn't been able to get past her adoration of Clark, because he was pretty damn amazing. Plain old Jimmy Olsen didn't stand much chance against Superman.
But Clark Kent was such a nice, decent guy that it was impossible for Jimmy to resent him. And it had all turned out okay, because even though Jimmy had lost a girlfriend... he had two really good friends.
He watched Chloe for a second. She'd fallen back into the zone, and she was typing frantically, completely oblivious to his presence.
Story of my life, he thought wryly, and headed back to his own desk.
It was a good story, Perry thought, reading through the article Sullivan had emailed him a few minutes ago. Sullivan's stuff was always good. Hard-hitting, well-written, and properly researched. If he had more reporters like her, he could spend his days out on the golf course.
This was a huge story. Sullivan had turned up evidence that the head of GBS had deliberately sabotaged that plane, presumably just to create a story. The way they'd gone about it, risking everyone on that plane, and Metropolis as well, was so appalling that even Perry, who'd seen a lot of bad crap over the years, was shocked. It was hard to believe that anyone would go to these lengths just to break a story about Superman.
It was a textbook example of why reporters had no business creating the stories they reported on, ever. Because sooner or later they were tempted to create bigger, more spectacular stories. It was a slippery slope that Perry couldn't condone.
He clicked on the other story in his inbox from Sullivan, a brief but stirring description of how Superman had saved the plane. Tomorrow morning, it would run in the Planet with the blurry photo of Superman's face.
It wasn't the first article Sullivan had written on Superman, either. She'd gotten the first exclusive interview with the Man of Tomorrow, and she'd gotten several interviews with him since then.
And no freaking wonder, Perry reflected. Superman is her goddamn boyfriend.
In a way, he thought grimly, Sullivan and Kent were creating news, just as much as the GBS guys were. True, they weren't hurting anyone. They weren't blowing up planes, or endangering cities. But Sullivan was making a career off reporting on her own boyfriend, while holding back the truth of his identity from the world. She was pretending to be a disinterested observer, when in fact she had a very personal interest in Superman. And ethically, that just wasn't right.
He read through the short, vivid description of how Superman had saved the people of Metropolis again, and sighed.
Just then there was a knock on his door. "Enter," he called gruffly.
The door open, and Sullivan and Kent walked in together. They made a nice-looking couple, he thought, despite Kent's overt geekiness. Kent was a big, tall guy, and Sullivan was much smaller, but she had so much presence one didn't really notice her lack of height. Despite the disparity in size, they seemed to fit together somehow.
They walked toward him, shoulder to shoulder, and stood in front of his desk.
"Jimmy said you wanted to see us," Sullivan said, apparently speaking for the two of them by some previous arrangement.
"Yeah. I did." Perry sat for a moment, steepling his fingers as he gathered his thoughts. At last he looked up at them. They were terribly young, their faces shining with the idealism of youth, both excellent writers with a lot of potential, and he hated what he was about to do.
But discomfort with a situation had never stopped Perry "The Pitbull" White from saying what he needed to say.
He drew a deep breath, steeling himself.
"You're both fired," he said.
Read the conclusion, Welcome to the Fallout.