Manip by leothelion. Used with permission of the artist.
Chloe, Clark, Gabe, Lionel, Kahn, Grant, Lex
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
"What's that, Daddy?"
Gabe Sullivan paused on the crowded sidewalk and followed his daughter's pointing finger, squinting up into the bright blue sky. "That's the Daily Planet globe," he answered. "Remember that story you wrote for the school newspaper a few weeks ago? Well, the Daily Planet is a newspaper, too. A really big one. One of the best in the world."
He lowered his gaze to find his daughter staring upward, enraptured. "Could I take them my Nessie article?" she demanded.
"Um..." Gabe chuckled. "Maybe not the Nessie article, Chloe. Besides, it's already been published, remember?"
"Okay." She looked stubborn and persistent-- a look he already knew all too well. "I'm working on a Bigfoot article."
He dropped a hand and ruffled her blonde hair. "I don't think the Planet publishes that sort of article, sweetie."
She frowned. "Why?"
"Well..." Gabe struggled for an explanation that wouldn't hurt her feelings. "They publish cold, hard facts. They publish the truth. Truth is important."
"My Nessie article was true."
Gabe could barely suppress a smile at the indignation in her voice. He hastily rephrased. "Well, the people who work there are all grownups, because the Planet publishes stories that matter to grownups. So kids wouldn't be able to work there, because they don't know what grownups like to read. For now, why don't you just keep writing for your school paper? Maybe you can write for the Planet when you're older."
"Okay." She nodded decisively, so that her long blonde hair fell into her face. "I'll work there when I'm older."
"Hey, Chloe." Clark Kent paused, a pitchfork in his hand, and grinned. "I haven't seen that smile all week. What's up?"
Chloe Sullivan couldn't seem to quit smiling. She was so happy she thought she might just float away. "I've got good news," she said simply, walking toward him, across the hay-strewn floor of the Kent barn. "The Daily Planet called... and I got an internship."
He held the pitchfork aside and gave her an enthusiastic, one-armed bear hug. He worked with her at the Torch, and had always understood how much the Planet meant to her. "That's great!" he said, sounding delighted. "You didn't even have to interview!"
She let go of him and beamed. She'd been working toward this day for years now. She'd been the editor of the Torch, the school newspaper, since the day she set foot in Smallville High School, and she'd had two articles published in the local paper, too. She'd had the Planet internship squarely in her sights for the past year. But she'd never quite dared to dream she might actually get it.
She remembered Gabe's words to her a long, long time ago: They publish the truth. Truth is important.
She believed that, with every fiber of her being. She believed in getting the truth to the people. And the best way to do that was to write for the Daily Planet. It called itself Metropolis' Greatest Newspaper, but the fact was that it was one of the greatest newspapers in any city. It was one of the world's great newspapers.
"Yeah," she answered. "They read my article in the Ledger on the kidnapping cop, and I guess my work spoke for itself."
Clark grinned at her. "Congratulations."
She smiled some more, because she just couldn't stop. She was sorry that this meant she wouldn't see Clark for a whole summer-- but working at the Planet was very, very important to her, and she knew that Clark understood that.
"I'm glad you finally decided to accept my offer. You know, you have a very exciting future ahead of you, Miss Sullivan."
Chloe pushed away her misgivings and smiled at Lionel Luthor over the cup of tea he'd offered her. "Well, opportunities like this aren't dropped on your doorstep every day."
And it was true. Lionel, who apparently had some pull with the editor of the Daily Planet, had offered her a column there. She'd been thrilled by the idea, but the price had been snooping around in Clark's past, and she'd thought that price was too high.
But then Clark had fallen for Lana. Angry and jealous, she'd changed her mind. Why should she pass up the opportunity of a lifetime just because of Clark? It wasn't like he cared anything about her, so why should she care about him? Her hand closed on the fine porcelain of the cup, holding it so tightly she was probably lucky it didn't shatter.
"I do wonder, though," Lionel said idly. "Why the sudden change of heart?"
Chloe shrugged, as indifferently as she was able, and put the cup down before she destroyed it. "You were right about Clark. He wasn't who I thought he was." She gave a laugh that was more brittle than she wanted it to be. "I'm surprised I hadn't noticed earlier. So much for my crack journalistic instincts."
"No, no," Lionel said in a kind, fatherly voice. "Love has a way of blinding even the sharpest minds. We don't look because we don't want to see. But once love has been stripped away, then we see the real person clearly. They're revealed to us with all their flaws, their foibles, and their secrets."
Lionel, she thought, was right. Because once her love for Clark had been stripped away, she'd seen her own flaws and foibles clearly, too. She'd realized she wasn't quite as loyal a friend as she'd always thought she was. She'd realized that what she wanted, more than anything, was to write for the Daily Planet.
She'd realized that she'd do anything to achieve that goal.
"Blacklisted before I even graduate... that's got to be some kind of record."
Chloe spoke wryly, trying to disguise her chagrin. She'd thought she wanted to write for the Planet by any means necessary, but when the time had come to betray Clark, she just couldn't do it.
She'd realized a little too late that as important as journalism was, if it wasn't tempered with ethics, it was pretty worthless. And throwing a friend to the lions just so she could have the job she'd always dreamed of wasn't right.
Truth was important, just as her father had told her long ago-- but loyalty and friendship were important, too.
Lionel Luthor, of course, hadn't been thrilled by her realization. He'd tried to blackmail her into compliance with their agreement, and when that had failed, he'd fired her ass and blacklisted her.
Her editor, Max Taylor, sighed. "I don't know who you ticked off around here, but you sure ruffled some feathers."
Chloe gave a humorless smile. "I have enemies in high places."
"Well," Max said, "we're going to miss you."
She was going to miss him too, not to mention the Planet itself. She loved this place an awful lot, loved the bustle and and the controlled chaos and the sense that something very important was being accomplished here, every single day. But she kept her tone light. "Yeah, right. You're just gonna miss the free proofreader."
His secretary stuck her head into his office. "Max, your wife's called three times about dinner..."
"All right," Max answered. "Tell her I'm on my way." He turned back to Chloe. "Seriously, if there's anything I can ever do..."
"Actually..." She handed him a CD. She'd been writing a column for the Planet, but that hadn't stopped her from her first love, which was investigative reporting. "It's just a few stories I've been working on. I would love for you to take a look at them."
"Chloe, I couldn't print your name in the classifieds right now without catching hell."
She frowned a little. She liked seeing her byline in the Planet, but she was beginning to realize that the little ego rush of seeing her name in print wasn't the important thing. The important thing was getting the truth out. And she was willing to do it under another name if she had to.
"What about a pseudonym?" she suggested, scribbling a name on a piece of paper and handing it to Max. "She's my cousin. She won't mind at all. She's not interested in journalism."
Max took the piece of paper and looked at it.
"Lois Lane," he read.
Pauline Kahn, the current Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet, had replaced the unfortunate Max Taylor when he'd been pencilled to death, and she was a seriously intimidating woman. Her expression was so sour that Chloe suspected a smile might do her face permanent injury. She paged through the portfolio of work Chloe had brought her without any apparent interest whatsoever.
"Normally," she said coolly, "I wouldn't waste my time with a college freshman groveling for an internship."
Chloe didn't really appreciate being described as groveling, but she managed to hold back her annoyed response. "Thank you, Miss Kahn," she said instead.
"So," Kahn said, closing the folder and tossing it on the desk. "The internship. You didn't get it."
"What?" The shocked word slipped out before Chloe could stop herself. She held back the rest of her irritation and spoke as evenly as she could. "Well, then, why am I here?"
"Curiosity," Kahn answered. "It's the backbone of any decent reporter. Have you got backbone, Sullivan?"
"I like to think I do."
"You had a column here a couple of years ago, didn't you?"
Chloe frowned, trying to figure out where Kahn was going with this. "When I was in high school."
"Well, that is quite an accomplishment, to have your own byline when you're practically still in diapers. I mean, a lot of reporters -- real reporters -- work for years struggling before they can get that kind of a chance. I just wanted to meet the kid that could pull that off."
That stupid deal with Lionel, Chloe realized, not without bitterness. After all this time, her moronic, angrym reckless actions were still coming back to bite her in the ass. And she was honest enough to admit that they probably should. She'd thrown her ethics aside, if only for a short while. She understood now that ethics were as important to a good reporter as the ability to compose a good lead.
Unfortunately, she'd learned that a little too late.
She kept her face calm and answered politely. "Thanks."
"Oh, well..." Kahn smiled, and it didn't crack her face, but it wasn't a nice expression, either. "Don't thank me. Thank Lionel Luthor. He's the one who arm-twisted the old chief editor into dropping your juvenile pabulum into this paper."
Chloe felt herself bristle. Maybe her writing hadn't been completely polished at that point, but it hadn't been pabulum, either. "I didn't ask Lionel to do that," she answered.
"Well, you didn't say no, either, did you? Then you must have done something to piss Lionel off, because he got you fired. I remember that day." Another unpleasant smile twisted her mouth. "I believe we had cake."
There was a stapler on the desk in front of Chloe, but she managed to restrain herself from tossing it at Kahn's head. Barely. She knew Kahn had a point, but if Kahn didn't have any interest at all in her writing, then why the hell had the woman dragged her all the way out here? An editor-in-chief of a major newspaper didn't have a lot of time to waste.
The obvious answer was that Kahn did have interest in her writing, but wanted to make sure that Chloe had learned her lesson and wouldn't compromise her principles again. Chloe stiffened her spine and spoke in a voice as cool as Kahn's.
"Miss Kahn," she said, very evenly, "I don't expect to be given a column like last time. I'm willing to start from the bottom and work my way up without any help or arm-twisting. All I want is the opportunity to prove myself. Being a part of this world, working at the Daily Planet... it's always been my dream."
It was the most heartfelt, passionate speech she could produce. But Kahn only looked bored. "Well, we all have to wake up sometime, don't we, Sullivan? By the way, we don't validate."
Irritated, Chloe stood up and glared down at the other woman. "You know what, Miss Kahn? I know you may be Editor-in-Chief now, but even you had to start somewhere, and I am not going to give up until I get the same chance."
Kahn leaned back in her chair, eyeing her with a little more interest. "I started by being a damn good reporter."
"I am a damn good reporter," Chloe retorted.
She saw a flicker of amusement in Kahn's eyes. But Kahn spoke coolly and without a trace of humor.
"Fine, Sullivan. You want a break? Bring me a story."
"Hmm," Kahn said.
Chloe lifted her eyebrows. "Is that a good hmm or a bad hmm?"
"No, it's a good hmm," Kahn answered. "Well, it would be, if we printed tabloid nonsense like the Inquisitor does. But we're the Daily Planet, and tall tales about slaying Buffy the Vampire don't make it into the pages of a real newspaper."
Chloe suddenly remembered herself writing a story about Nessie, years ago. She'd read all about it, and gotten as much evidence as she could to support it, but she knew better now how to back up a story, even stories that sounded crazy.
"Miss Kahn," she said patiently, "I didn't make this up. They weren't vampires in the mythical sense. They were victims of an unusual disease. Here." She handed Kahn a thick folder of documents. "That's all the research. Interviews, eyewitness accounts, the CDC report, everything."
Kahn paged through the papers. "Hmm," she said again.
Chloe couldn't help herself. She rolled her eyes. "Was that a good hmm or a bad --"
"Shut up," Kahn said with her customary exquisite courtesy. "Here's the thing. Your writing shows that you're not completely without talent."
Gosh, thanks so much. Aloud, Chloe answered, "Thank you."
"But you're not a real reporter, either -- yet." Kahn frowned down at the sheaf of papers in her hand and seemed to come to a decision. "Well... everyone has to start somewhere. Welcome to the Daily Planet, kid."
Chloe gaped for a long moment. At last she found her voice. "Oh, my God. Thank you so much. Where do I start?"
Kahn smiled evilly. "Same place I did, Sullivan. At the bottom."
The vampire story was never printed, and Chloe started out on the tip line. Within a few weeks, she moved up to pet obituaries, and before long her first article for the Daily Planet was printed. On page seventy-three. At the bottom.
Undaunted, she continued on, doing filing and proofreading and other grunge work. She put in long hours around her classes at Met U, often working long past the time everyone else had gone home. She didn't mind. The Planet had always been her dream job, and she was happy just to be there. And besides, getting the truth out was important, even if her contributions to the truth mostly consisted of filing and proofreading right now.
Six months later, her byline appeared on the Planet's front page for the first time. It was beneath the fold, but it was a front-page headline. That morning, Kahn called her into her office.
"Not bad, kid," she said. "You hit the front page younger than I did."
Chloe tried to look modest. "I got lucky."
"Obviously," Kahn said dryly. "Luck means a lot in our business, Sullivan, and so does talent. But hard work means even more. Keep doing what you're doing, and don't give up. Don't let anyone discourage you, not even me. One of these days... I may actually move you out of the basement."
From Kahn, that was what passed for a wildly enthusiastic compliment. Chloe smiled, and went back to work.
She did less filing and grunge work now, and wrote numerous articles that were assigned to her. Not glamorous articles, not by any means, but they kept her busy. She wrote whatever she was assigned, articles on the dwindling pigeon population in Metropolis, articles on parking meters, articles on City Hall meetings. In between, she continued investigating on her own and turning in articles on subjects she found more interesting. Kahn printed quite a few of her articles, and one more hit the front page.
Eventually, somewhat to Chloe's dismay, Kahn retired, and a very young guy named Grant Gabriel was hired in her place. He didn't like Chloe much, and described her writing as "filler stories sandwiched between sofa ads." He hired her cousin, Lois, who was no longer entirely disinterested in journalism, and talked loudly and exuberantly about Lois' talent, although Chloe noticed he never actually printed anything by her. Eventually she realized they were sleeping together, which might or might not have explained why Lois was hired.
Grant got on her last nerve, although she did manage to publish another front page story while she worked for him, and she was relieved when he left after a few months. But on the heels of his leaving came even worse news. Lex Luthor now owned the Daily Planet.
Chloe was appalled to find herself working for Lex, who'd kidnapped her and her mother and experimented on them both, along with numerous other meteor freaks. She liked him even less when she discovered he was deliberately censoring the news, and killing every story he thought cast himself or LuthorCorp in a bad light. Even so, she couldn't quite bring herself to leave the Planet.
But she didn't have to make that choice. It was made for her.
Chloe gaped in surprise as she found herself being escorted forcibly from the premises of the Daily Planet. She was being fired because Lex thought she'd been concealing a key from him-- a key that Lionel had apparently left in her desk without her knowledge. But she was smart enough to know that Lex had wanted to fire her for a while now, and was just using this incident as an excuse.
She struggled, angry and indignant, against Lex's security people, but a moment later she found herself standing alone on the sidewalk outside the Daily Planet. She stood there, breathing hard, and looked up at the golden globe, shining in the sun. Rage and sorrow tangled together inside her, making her eyes sting.
I guess that's the end of my career at the Daily Planet, she thought glumly.
"You can't just give up," Clark said a week later. "You can't, Chlo. You've wanted to be a journalist forever."
"I can't go back to the Planet," she said simply.
They were in Isis, the Metropolis foundation Lana had created as a cover for spying on her ex-husband. Since Lana was currently catatonic, Chloe was using the computers at Isis, which rivaled the Daily Planet computers, for research.
"The Planet isn't everything," Clark said.
"Bite your tongue."
"No. I'm serious, Chlo. I mean, it's under Lex's thumb. It doesn't run all the news any more, because he kills any story he doesn't agree with. And even before that, Grant was in charge, and he was picking tabloid-type stories over real news, because he thought that kind of stuff would sell papers. Right?"
She sighed. "Right."
"Look, Chlo, I know it was always your dream to work for the Planet-- but the Planet's changed. It's not Metropolis' Greatest Newspaper any more. It belongs to Lex now, and he's just... using it."
"He uses everything," she said, very softly. "And then he destroys it. Sooner or later, he's going to destroy the Planet, Clark."
"I know." His big hand came to rest on her shoulder in a comforting gesture. "I wish there was something we could do to save it. But there isn't. I think... I think you just have to let it go."
She bowed her head in sorrow, because letting go of the Planet hurt just as badly as letting go of Clark, her best friend, would. The Planet had been a part of all her hopes and dreams for a long, long while. It had been woven into her life for years now. And letting it go hurt.
But Clark was right. It wasn't the same newspaper she'd fallen in love with. It wasn't all about getting the truth out any more.
"Fine," she said, very softly. "You're right. The Planet isn't everything."
His hand squeezed her shoulder gently, as if he knew how much that admission had hurt her. "I know you, and I know how you operate. I know perfectly well you have articles you're working on. So find them a home. There are other papers. You're a rising star, Chlo. Any newspaper should be happy to buy your stuff."
"Actually," she admitted, "I've already tried. Every paper I've approached has refused to take a look at my stories, Clark. Even the Smallville Ledger. I'm pretty sure Lex has blacklisted me."
She could feel him bristling angrily, without even having to look up at him. "Damn Lex."
"My sentiments exactly." She sighed. "Maybe eventually things will change. But for now-- I'm done with journalism, Clark. I just don't have any choice."
Late that afternoon, she sat alone at Isis, researching a story that would never be published. It was an interesting story about a Smallville resident whose hands could apparently produce enough acid to eat through metal. Stories about the strange and bizarre were still her first love, and she'd done a lot of solid research on this one, including interviews and a tour of a Metropolis bank where he'd burned his way right through a safe.
Now she was putting the finishing touches on the story by doing a little background research on acids. But eventually her hands fell away from the keyboard, and she heaved another long sigh.
What's the point? she thought tiredly. I can't sell this article. Not to the Planet, and not to anyone else.
She thought of Clark's words: You're a rising star.
But it wasn't true. Her star had set. She was all washed up as a reporter.
Blacklisted after only two years, she thought ironically, recalling her long-ago words to Max Taylor. That's got to be some sort of record.
She looked at the screen again. It was an interesting story, and she thought sadly that Kahn would have loved it. She imagined Kahn smiling her sardonic smile, coolly dissing it as Inquisitor fare and running it in the Planet the next day anyway.
Chloe had other stories too, other things she'd investigated, both Wall of Weird type stories and ordinary City Hall stuff. And perhaps most importantly, she had a fully documented expose of how Lex Luthor was suppressing the news at the Daily Planet.
No one was ever going to print that one. Not in a million years. But it was the truth, and she wanted to get the truth out there for the public to see. It was all she'd ever wanted. She'd even been willing to write under a pseudonym if she had to. But a pseudonym wouldn't help her in this situation. Even if she used another name, no paper in the country was going to touch an expose of Lex Luthor's business practices. The man just had too much damn influence.
She looked at the screen again, and suddenly a thought occurred to her. She remembered Clark's voice again: The Planet isn't everything.
It occurred to her that newspapers in general weren't everything. She tended to think of newspapers as the end-all and be-all, but she realized she was guilty of what Grant Gabriel had called "old-guard thinking." There were other sources of news. There were other ways in which news could be gotten out. She ought to know. After all, she'd maintained a website for the Torch in high school, and more people had read it than had ever read the Torch itself.
She began typing rapidly, and a blogging site came up.
Do you want to create a blog? it inquired politely.
"Yes," she said through her teeth. "I most certainly do."
She typed faster than before. The site asked her to pick a template, then asked for the title of the blog. She thought about that for a long moment, remembering Clark's words.
You're a rising star, Chlo.
She didn't really believe that, because she'd just been an anonymous reporter toiling in the basement, for the most part. But she appreciated the support, and she liked the images it created in her mind.
Clark got his amazing, inhuman powers from Earth's star, the sun. Sunlight made him what he was. But he'd said more than once that her superpower was the power of the press. Admittedly she had another power now, fueled by the meteors-- but it wasn't what made her who she was. It wasn't what had shaped her into the person she was right now.
What she was, deep down, was a journalist. Her meteor power was relatively new, but she'd wanted to be a journalist since she was eight years old. Journalism was her star. With or without the Planet, it was what fueled her. It was what drove her.
It was what she was. What she'd always been.
She looked at the screen asking her for a title, and typed the words The Metropolis Daily Star.
And for the first time in a week, she smiled.
Because as her father had told her a long, long time ago, the truth was important. The truth had to get to the people somehow.
And she was just the reporter to do it.