This is what your Superman movie should be like.
"I'm writing an article about a tweet," Lois Lane said, digging her fingers into her temples.
Across from her, over facing desks in a cramped office that used to be a coffee shop called Brew La La, Jenny Olsen looked up from her own work, over a MacBook screen so dense with decals it looked like a reject from the latest MoMa exhibition. Twenty years Lois' junior, Jenny was 24 going on 19, showing hints of auburn roots in black hair with blue and green frosted tips. Each one of her fingernails was painted with a tiny, different symbol. A tiny Jolly Roger rested over the R key as she stopped.
"Nothing," she muttered, returning to work.
Lois being Lois, she had pride of place on the blog's front page. Last night, the President of the United States apparently managed to send a tweet while a staffer was wrestling a phone away. His three in the morning message started off like one of his usual wee hours screeds but ended in a blob of gibberish, and Lois dutifully sat at her desk the next day, making phone calls, trying to drum up a psychiatrist to give her a quote suggesting the commander in chief must be losing his faculties. Six of them hung up on her before she managed to find one in the UK, who was also the author of "Crystal Healing and the Inner Soul".
Her soul could use some crystal healing right about now.
Six months ago, Lois had her pick of headlines... in the fashion section of the Daily Planet. She had a Midtown apartment, a mortgage on a vacation house, was dating a fashion designer who'd just branched out in his own startup, and had just put in an order for a Tesla. Then Lois got the idea that she was hungry. Four years at Emerson, a distinguished career, settling into middle age... she wanted an editorial spot, or she wanted to write real news, something important, something work framing one of her bylines, not a vapid fluff piece about a dress that looked like the designer got high and stared at a supermarket bouquet before sitting down to the drafting table.
So she went to the EIC, Perry White, and pitched herself.
"I'm hungry," she told him, "I need more than this. I don't want to write another story about a purse."
White rocked in his chair and eyed her. Lois felt alive again; it was this kind of spunk that got her the job in the first place. She acted like this a long, long time ago... in an interview with Perry's subordinate, a fashion editor now retired, named Jack Whittaker. She'd talked to Perry White himself maybe five times in her career and three of those were warnings about the sludge in the coffee pot that he didn't seem to acknowledge.
She went on for a few minutes, detailing her qualifications, her interests. She wanted to write something worthy.
So, Perry White said, "Go get me something worthy," and sent her out the door.
When she went back to him a month later, Perry White, Editor in Chief, looked over what she'd written, looked over Lois herself, and closed the manilla folder that held her work.
"You're the one that wanted to write something substantial," he said.
"That's right," she confirmed. "I know it's a risk, but I built my career on-"
"if you built your career on the equivalent of this, I need to call Jack up at his vacation house and ask what he was on when he hired you. You stormed into my office a month ago, I gave you the leeway you needed to write a worthwhile story, and you come back here carrying an article about some crackheads in Gotham City who say they saw a giant bat? What do you think this is, Miss Lane, the National Enquirer?"
It wasn't the disdain for her reporting that made her quit on the spot. She knew it was a risk. She knew she might have to lobby for it, explain how it wasn't really about this Bat-Man, that she didn't believe in anyway, that it was about how the despair and sheer desolation of the once-great industrial city that had collapsed into Crime Alley spawned an ideal of hope in the form of a weird, supernatural avenger of evil.
It was the way he emphasized miss, as if this mistake was a symptom of that unfortunate condition she was born with between her legs, that made her say, "I quit."
Actually, she said "fuck you", but that version sounded better in her head.
In the following six months, Antonio's startup folded after his former employer sued him for rights to designs he created while under a noncompete, she had to put the vacation home on the market, and she got behind on her rent. After moving in with a lovely gay hairdresser in the Village, she coasted on her savings, took a costly emergency bailout from her retirement fund, and moved from the stodgy hidebound Planet to the cutting edge of reporting: The most popular and acclaimed political blog in the United States, The Rotunda.
A fucking tweet.
Gritting her teeth, Lois tapped out the final few sentences of the three paragraph article she'd agonized over, knowing that as soon as she submitted it she'd see five emails from her editor demanding the story be finished already. She sent it off and closed her laptop, knowing even as she stuffed it in her bag that it would come back rejected, riddled with spelling errors.
"We don't publish last week's stories, Lane," the email would say. "These need to be done fast."
When she was hired on, it was a coup for the organization. Now she felt like a third wheel; Olsen was one of the more popular reporters for the blog and she was being scouted by actual newspapers for her hard-hitting reporting on the connections between Lex Luthor, Vladimir Putin, and some shady goings on in the Congo over some kind of rare earth metal.
Lois was beginning to realize she'd dragged her career here as fertilizer for the newborns growing into real journalists.
She waited until she was outside to seethe.
Metropolis, at least, was doing well, but there were more homeless here, and at least once a month one would follow her for a few blocks, often forcing her to duck into a bar or newsstand until he went away. Up the street an SPCA rented out a security robot from Lexcorp to shoo the homeless away from their doors, and Lois got something of a scoop by being the first to get a cell phone picture of it after it "killed itself" by accidentally diving into a fountain. A nice little puff piece ensued and kept her on the job.
More and more she was starting to think she should just quit. She had the money; when the sale on her vacation home closed, she'd be set for life, her mother liked to remind her, if she went back to where she belonged in North Caroline and left this city folk nonsense behind her.
That was certainly appealing: Living as a spinster in a small southern town, sipping mint juleps or whatever the hell they do down there. There was about as much chance of that happening as there was of her learning to fly.
It was getting dark, and Lois didn't feel like walking or catching the monorail. She hated the way Lexcorp was forcing all their tech down everyone's throat, the way the train announced her name in a cutsey voice after reading her face with hits heuristic artificial intelligence technology. It baffled her that people flipped out about government surveillance (for a week, anyway) but willingly kept Lex Luthor duly informed about their whereabouts, eating habits, sleep patterns, relationships, and a dozen other things she couldn't even think of.
As she waited for her Uber, Lois resolved she was going to write a story on that. Just what does Lexcorp do with all that info? The gears were turning in her head as she stepped into the cab.
Samir, who she'd never met before, offered her a sing-song hello, and she responded in kind without thinking. She was already tapping out ideas in Evernote on her phone. Lois Lane is back, baby, she thought to herself.
At this rate, Lois Lane would still be here in the morning. The can was a mistake, her fare would be obscene with all this traffic. The driver made the turn onto seventh, and Lois looked up from her phone, sighing a the daily sight of the archway carrying the monorail track over the broad avenue. It glinted wonderfully in the sun.
Half an hour later she was on Lincoln Avenue, running along the river. The monorail line stretched out over the choppy brown water, gleaming in the sunset. It was almost beautiful. She went back to her notes, only to look up again when her driver craned forward, shadowing his eyes with his hand.
A chill sense of dread flowed down her back. Something was wrong. No one was moving. The cars were all stopped dead. She'd felt this before, a kind of gut instinct, maybe an evolutionary adaptation to living in the city, packed into such a small space with almost twelve million other humans. Her phone almost jolted out of her hand.
Samir was only rolling at maybe three miles an hour in the traffic stoppage, but he slammed on the brakes anyway. It was that she noticed first. Then the flash, and then the shockwave, all in the skin of an instant.
The monorail bridge just exploded.
Lois -and everyone else- stepped out and ran to the sidewalk, to the railing overlooking the warehouses below. One third of the way out from the Metropolis side, the bridge had simply burst, torn apart by the blast. The ends were still streaming sparks and smoke, curled upwards with the tension relieved. Lois pulled out her phone, and started recording.
Then the hairs on the back of her neck lifted. She knew that sound. Screams erupted around her.
A train, going about thirty miles an hour as it rounded the seventh avenue curve, was heading for the breach in the bridge. The driver hit the brakes, but the train was eighteen cars, carrying over four hundred people on the express line from Metropolis to Gotham.
She knew, in sick dread, that it wasn't going to make it, and froze on the spot, holding up her phone as though watching it through the screen would make it all unreal, change it into a diversion to be watched on a flight home. It would just end and a cat video would pop up and she'd look over and see the bridge just fine, the train crossing it.
It's going to go into the river, she thought.
Movement from the corner of her eye dragged her attention away. The train was shrieking, an almost animal sound as the brakes fought, pointlessly, to stop hundreds of souls from plunging into the river. That somehow seemed unimportant. What mattered was the man -a quite ordinary man, dressed in khaki pants, a button down shirt, and sneakers- was standing on the railing, looking at the bridge. It seemed odd to her that he should balance on the round rail so easily, so lightly, like a trapeze artist at rest before an incredible stunt. Or a man on the cusp of a decision. Almost without thinking she tapped the snap button, saving one frame of the video as a photograph.
The train would hit the river in less than thirty seconds. It was not for that Lois Lane screamed, but for the seemingly random man stepping off the railing- to a drop of at least forty feet, and probably death. She followed him with her camera. Then she caught the blur as something leapt, bounding easily from the industrial avenue below, leaping across hundreds of yards in a single bound.
Someone, not her but someone, a lone solitary voice, screamed about a man on the tracks and Lois swung her phone wildly, focusing on the water for a moment as she zoomed it in as far as it would go, before catching the blurry sight of a man running down the monorail track. The questions that formed in her mind felt dull, slow. How does he not fall? It was the man from the railing, she realized, running towards the train.
The monorail had slowed to twenty miles an hour, still too fast, still no hope of stopping. A wave of gasps and screams rolled over Lois as the man running on the track hit the rounded nose of the monorail train and...
Metal screeched. Sparks flew, and the train jolted violently, grinding into the track.
It's not possible, she thought, her mind racing. This is not possible.
The train was coming to a halt. It was almost there. It stopped.
Most of it. The back half was not going to give up its momentum so easily and, four cars back, the cars tore from the tracks, bucked like a raging animal, and lifted. Lois swung around, and realized that when the train car landed on her her phone would be smashed and no one would ever see her final record. Her mom would just hear, a few days from now after frantic calls to Lois' phone and everyone she knew, that her daughter died in a train accident.
She felt oddly peaceful. Without that she wouldn't have recorded the man on the tracks leaping again, a blur hurtling through the air from the front of the train to land on the street, rise again in a jump.
The descending cars stopped, their movement arrested. Lois's finally let the phone drop, only for a moment before snapping it up again. She remembered it could snap photos while recording video, and began taking them wildly.
His back was to her. His hands braced against the folded metal of the train cars. His feet, though planted solidly, stood only on empty air. Lois sucked in a breath, mesmerized, transfixed. This could not be happening.
He rose, and in his hands the train cars rose too, lifting, lifting, screeching as the settled back on the track. The train groaned and lurched, but once it settled the t-shaped rail held it in place.
The man in front of her continued to rise, until he was too far away and she finally hit the stop button on her phone's camera.
Clutching it to her, Lois Lane, the reporter, obeyed her instincts first. She was uploading it to her own Twitter account, and when it uploaded she'd call her boss, have him retweet. Then she looked around, and began recording again.
There were sirens, and eerily, these were the only sounds. She'd never been in such a sizeable city crowd that was so quiet, didn't think it was possible. The sounds were faint, few and muffled by the press of bodies. A few people, she heard, were laughing. A few cried. Most people were silent.
It dawned on her why, and Lois Lane began silently weeping with them.