How to Be a Cub Reporter
by Gary Wilbur
Jimmy was an imaginative and adventurous kid. He liked computers, and he liked to tinker with things and find out how they worked, and he liked to solve mysteries, real and fictional. But nothing had piqued his interest as much as Superman did. Jimmy decided that he wanted to make a difference, too, and being a copy boy just didn't cut it. "I suppose I should be grateful that I'm at least working in the right place. Not a bad part time job for a junior high school student."
He remembered the letter that got him hired. "Dear Mr. White," he had written. "How did you get started with the Daily Planet? I want to be a news photographer or reporter. Right now I have to admit I'd only be able to work after school and Saturdays. The point isn't to make money. The point is to learn the news business. I've never applied anywhere else. I want to work for the Daily Planet because it always prints the truth. Even in school it's easy to see how important that is."
It struck a chord with Perry. He had sent George Taylor just such a letter years ago, and it got him a job selling the Daily Planet on the street corner. He decided that maybe this kid could work out as a copy boy, and hired him.
Copy boy or not, Jimmy always brought his camera with him and always wore a spiffy bow tie. He found he could always count on Miss Lane for an encouraging word or at least a Mom-like smile. And the guy who got hired just a couple months after he did, Mr. Kent seemed nice, too.
"Now," he said to himself, "I need to prove that I can be a reporter."
"Well, I'm off to the press conference." Lois was almost to the door.
"What conference, Miss Lane?"
"It's Luthor's big advertisement for his new Lexcorp building, Jimmy. Every few years he builds a bigger and better one, it seems, and he always makes a big deal about it. The only way to get a real story out of it, though, is to sneak away from the group and snoop around. See ya."
"See ya." Jimmy was pensive as she left. "Hmm. Get a story . . . Sneak away . . . " He looked furtively toward Perry White's office. The boss was reading some copy, puffing away on a huge cigar. Jimmy had the ability to make a decision. He grabbed a notepad and a pencil and he was gone.
At the new Lexcorp building, construction fencing was still up. Although the building was in partial use already, there were still finishing touches going on. Jimmy was outside the fence, wondering just how he was going to get a story without encountering Lois and the press group tour. He was about to go over the fence when the tour group came around the corner of the building. He could see Lois near the back of the group. He quickly ducked down outside the fence, flattening himself against the base of it.
"And to think that it all came from the Lexwing," he heard the PR tour guide saying.
"And to think that it all came from drugs," came a quietly sarcastic voice from the other side of Jimmy's hiding place.
"Hey. Grogan. Watch it." The man took a quick look over the fence, scanning the area. Jimmy lay flat against the base of the fence, scarcely daring to breathe.
"It's okay, nobody heard it."
"Well, just watch it, okay?" He waited a long time, then asked quietly, "So, is that true?"
"About the drugs. I've heard the rumor. But is it true?"
"Oh, yeah. See, when the big L was getting started, I guess he had big dreams, read all these engineering books, had a natural talent. I think he really is a genius. But he needed to make money fast, and he discovered that drugs were the way to do it. Those were the funds that financed the Lexwing and made him a big deal. It's a cash cow for him, no matter what else he does."
"You don't mean he's still involved in it?"
"Listen, I've already said more than you need to know, and you realize we're both dead if it ever gets out, so let's just say that Mr. Luthor is completely legit, okay?"
Jimmy sat slack-jawed on his side of the fence as the two men walked in the direction of the new building. Lex Luthor was a drug dealer! And nobody knew but him. What a scoop! He cautiously peeked over the fence just in time to get a good look at one of the men before he disappeared through the door.
"Drug dealing. Wow! I need to get this story." Jimmy climbed over the fence and hurried toward the building. Once inside, he looked around for the man he'd seen outside. There he was, getting into an elevator with several other people. Jimmy slipped in just before the elevator door closed.
Jimmy and several others got out when the Lexcorp man got out. He started to go with the crowd while his quarry went the opposite direction. But after rounding a corner he dropped back and looked down the hall just in time to see his man close a door behind him. He quickly made his way down the hall and peered through the windowed door as the man began working at a computer monitor.
After a short time the man got up and turned to the door. Jimmy darted away, quietly rounding a corner and watching as his unaware informant disappeared down another hallway. Then the young would-be reporter returned to the vacated room and sat down at the terminal.
"It's a good thing I know a little something about computers," he muttered as he typed, pointed and clicked. In no time he had found his evidence of the just-transacted drug deal with someone in Qurac. They were buying drugs from Qurac! Jimmy found a disk in a drawer, inserted it and saved the crucial transaction on it. Then, just as he withdrew the disk he was startled to hear Lois Lane's voice behind him.
"Jimmy? Jimmy Olsen, what are you doing here?"
"Miss Lane, this is big, big news. Lex Luthor is a drug lord. I heard this guy say so. I saw him transact a deal on this computer. I recorded it on this disk. We've got to publish this, Miss Lane."
"Jimmy. Calm down. First. Put that in your pocket, and follow me. We're getting out of here."
"No, you're not," muttered a security man viewing them on his monitor on another floor. He turned and spoke into a microphone. "Security. Fifth floor, 502. Two intruders."
Lois and Jimmy started down the hall in the direction Lois knew the press group would be when the elevator opened and they saw the security force.
"Run, Jimmy. There are service stairs right down that hall."
"How do you know?"
"That's how I got here."
Jimmy took off while Lois said to the security people, "Officers. Good to see you. I got lost. Can you help me find the press group?"
One of them stayed with her, but the other three were after Jimmy, who had just disappeared behind the doors to the back stairs. They started down the stairs after him, but he had found a fast way, vaulting the stair rail to the next set of stairs, and vaulting that rail to the next. He was almost all the way to the second floor when he heard security coming up from the ground floor.
"Golly," he said. He turned, ran up one half-flight and sped through the door to third floor, knowing that the two security groups would meet each other in less than a minute at that level. He saw a couple people leaving an empty elevator, the door still open, and he darted toward it as the previous passengers rounded a corner out of sight. He could hear security hitting third floor back behind the stairway door. He made it into the elevator, hit 10, and leaped back out to the hallway, scrambling for an office door, barely able to keep his footing as he heard the stairway doors open. He lunged into the office just as he heard security clattering toward the elevator.
"He's heading for the tenth floor," he heard one of them say into a walkie-talkie, as they ran to the next elevator.
Inside the office was a counter, and one lone office worker behind it. He could see that there were other workers in a room beyond her. He put his hand in his jacket pocket, and looked as threatening as he could. "One word, one sound, and I detonate this." He listened carefully, then peeked out the door. The floor was deserted, so he slipped out, leaving a terrified-looking young woman in the office behind him as he returned to the stairway and slipped out of the building.
Lois was being questioned by Lexcorp security agents. They showed her the tape of her meeting Jimmy.
"So how do you explain this, Miss Lane?"
"Explain what? I got lost, I saw this kid who just started working for the Daily Planet, and asked him what he was doing here. He started raving some gibberish about drug lords, so I told him to calm down and follow me out. That's it."
There was a long silence.
"What about that disk?"
"What disk? Oh, is that what he was waving around? What about it?"
There was another long silence.
"He's new," Lois explained.
"My mom would never let me work here if she thought I was in any danger," he had explained to Lois and Clark.
Ironically, though, he was in danger anyway, even without his name revealed in the newspaper. Lex Luthor had already seen the security tape and heard Lois Lane call him by name.
"So where did this Olsen kid come from?" he asked his chief of security.
"Apparently he's just some seventh or eighth-grade kid who works for the Daily Planet part time as a copy boy. Everything Lane said checks out, and we let her go. He just seemed to be snooping around and was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Should we pursue this, sir?"
"If his name had appeared in the paper and something happened to him shortly after that, people might be suspicious. But no one knows about him, and we've already expressed our shock and dismay that someone was running an illicit drug business through our computers. Grogan's taking the fall for it. So it might be a good idea to rid ourselves of young Mr. Olsen."
"Up for a Big Belly Burger, Jimmy? My treat."
"Yeah, sure, Mr. Kent. Gee, thanks."
As they got to the sidewalk, Clark said, "That was a pretty courageous thing you did at Lexcorp, Jimmy. And dangerous."
"Well, yeah, I guess so. But I couldn't just let them get away with buying and selling drugs, could I?"
"No. I guess not. But it might be a little safer, and it would certainly ease your Mom's fears, if you let adults handle this kind of thing."
"Well, gosh, Mr. Kent, I might never get to be a reporter that way."
Clark was considering how to respond when he caught a glimpse of sunlight flashing off a gun barrel on the roof of a building across the street. Focusing his superhearing, he heard the click of the firing mechanism, and quickly pushed Jimmy aside just as a bullet lodged itself in the wall behind them.
"What was that? It sounded like a gunshot."
"Hey, you pushed me."
"I'm sorry. I stumbled, but it was lucky that I did. Look. That bullet just missed you."
"Jimmy, get inside the building and stay there. I'm going to . . . to try to contact Superman."
"Superman? All right!" And Jimmy ducked inside.
Clark slipped down an alley, removing his glasses and opening his shirt as he went. As he changed, his rapid motions shook an unruly curl from his carefully combed hair, giving that final intrepid look to the man who rose above the buildings as Superman. "It looks like just one man," he said as he surveyed the area where the shot came from. "He looks like he's been waiting for someone to come out of the Planet building. He was definitely after Jimmy."
Shining in the sunlight, and fully visible to the admiring people in the street, the caped hero swooped down on the rooftop sniper, who gave a cry and leaped up, ineffectually firing at his attacker. Superman found that he always enjoyed this part. He landed on the roof with a smile, and stood with his hands on his hips as the shots from the panic-stricken gunman bounced off his chest. When the gun began to click empty, his smile grew wider. "So, are you going to throw the gun at me, now?"
The thug didn't answer. With a tiny whimper of fear, he just threw the gun at Superman and turned to run. It was futile, of course. The man of steel simply grabbed him by the back of the collar and flew him down to the street where a police car was already approaching.
Jimmy recognized his chance, and he bounded out of the building to meet his hero. "Superman," he called out. "It's me, Jimmy."
But the meeting was interrupted by a sudden attack from an unexpected adversary. Superman was hit by a blast of incredible force and heat which slammed him against the wall of the building. He got up, slightly dazed, as everyone saw the odd aircraft and heard the amplified voice of Dr. Thaddeus Killgrave, a science professor at the University of Metropolis.
"How do you like that, Superman? Sort of like your superstrength and heat vision combined, isn't it?"
Superman was on his feet and in the air in less time than it takes to tell it. "Jimmy," he called. "Get back inside."
Jimmy started to comply, but suddenly Superman stopped in mid-air, less than halfway to Killgrave's airship. He clutched his head with both hands and fell back to the pavement. Everyone heard Professor Killgrave's maniacal laughter.
"And that attacks your superhearing," he cackled. "Only you can hear that frequency, Superman. Isn't science wonderful?"
Superman was writhing in pain on the sidewalk. The police, there to take the sniper into custody, fired at Killgrave's aircraft, but it maneuvered so fast that they couldn't get a solid aim at it.
"And this approximates your superspeed. I've been very busy, Superman. There's nothing you can do that I, a scientist, can't match."
Jimmy was agonizing for his hero. If Superman could be disabled like this, what hope was there? He looked around for somebody, something, anything to help. And there it was! Less than a block from the Daily Planet, a recording studio. Jimmy made a dash for it.
"What are you doing here?" the sound engineer yelled as Jimmy burst into a mixing session. "Quick," Jimmy panted. "It's Superman. Disabled by a high-frequency wave that no one else can hear. Can you find it? Can you detect the wavelength and frequency and counteract it?"
The soundman's demeanor changed instantly. "Superman?" he said. "Yes, I think so, and he turned to a console and started turning knobs.
Outside, Superman tried several times to get to his feet, but each time he was thrown back with another peal of the madman's laughter.
"Well, this has been fun, Superman. But to really show my superiority, I will have to finish you off for good. What if I unleash heat and force while you're in your present helpless state? Hmm?"
Inside, Jimmy and the audio engineer were working feverishly. "There it is!" they said almost in unison as the wave appeared on the oscilloscope.
Jimmy knew a little about sound from his work on the signal watch. "Now," he said, "Won't the same frequency, out of phase with itself, destroy the sound?"
"If it's exactly 180 degrees out of phase," the engineer said. "You're right." And he set to work to produce the tone that would save the superhero of Metropolis.
On the sidewalk, while citizens watched helplessly, Superman struggled to remain conscious. Then everyone heard Killgrave say, "Time's up. Time for science to triumph." And he aimed the futuristic weapon at the man of tomorrow.
In the same instant that he fired, Superman rolled aside with remarkable speed, stood, shook his head, and leaped with all the splendor of his restored power at Killgrave's aircraft.
"Gotcha, Professor. I thought you said you were fast."
"What happened? Where did my sound wave go?"
"Not sure. But apparently it really is time for science to triumph."
"Thanks, Mr. Kent. But the real thrill was meeting Superman again. Wow! The real Superman. You should have seen him. He was wonderful!"
"Well, I understand he thought you were pretty wonderful, too. You saved his life, Jimmy. You and your recording friend. Fast thinking!"
"Yeah, he was really nice, and he thanked us both like we were the heroes."
"So, Olsen," Perry White interjected. "Looks like you were really in the right place at the right time. Good for you."
"But," Perry continued, "There are consequences to everything. And when you sneaked off the job like that the other day, I made a decision. You're not a copy boy here any longer."
"What? But Mr. White . . . "
"Too late. I've already hired your replacement. You might as well meet her. Alice?"
An overweight girl in a turtleneck came over. "Yes, Mr. White?"
"Alice . . . You know, my wife's name is Alice . . . "
"Well, actually, Mr. White, everyone calls me Allie."
"Okay, then. Olsen, meet Allie, our new copy girl."
"Mr. White, I could still be a copy boy, couldn't I?"
"No you couldn't. Not and be a cub reporter at the same time."
"But Mr. White, this isn't . . . " and then he realized what he'd just heard.
Everyone in the newsroom was smiling, and now Jimmy was, too. "Cub reporter," he said. He stood straighter and his voice deepened. "Jimmy Olsen, reporter for the Daily Planet."
"Don't let it go to your head, Olsen. I expect you to deliver." Perry turned toward his office.
Jimmy suppressed the urge to salute as he gruffly responded, "Right, Chief."
The room went silent as the cigar-chomping editor slowly turned and fixed his new cub reporter with an intimidating glare. "One other thing," he said. "Don't ever . . . ever . . . call me Chief."