My Sister the Hero
by Gary Wilbur
Lucy Lane heaved a loud sigh and put down the newspaper. “It’s really good, Lois. As usual.”
“Why thank you, Sis. I appreciate the appreciation, but you actually sound kind of sad. Is there something wrong?”
“I don’t know, Lois. You’re a great sister and a good roommate and all… but I just sometimes feel I should get a place of my own, you know?”
Lois put down her Diet Soder and turned off the TV. “Well,” she said, “that’s up to you, of course. But why? I thought we were doing just fine this way. I like having you around, Luce. What am I supposed to do if you go? Get a cat?”
“There’s really nothing wrong,” Lucy went on. “It’s just that sometimes I feel so ‘little sister’ next to you. You’ve accomplished so much…”
“And you haven’t? You’ve seen a lot more of the world than I have, and you’re certainly independent enough. You’ve got a good job…”
“As opposed to a career, like you. People really respect you, Lois.”
“All except the ones who count.”
“Oh. Look, I didn’t mean to bring him into this.”
“I know you didn’t, but just look at the facts, Sis. Sam adores you. He couldn’t be prouder of you. I, on the other hand, get treated like three week old liverwurst.”
“That’s not true.”
“Of course it is. Just think about it. ‘Newspaper writing. What kind of work is that for a girl?’ He actually said that, remember?”
“He could barely stand the fact that his firstborn wasn’t a son. And you know as well as I do that I spent most of my time as a kid trying to be that son. I did a pretty damn good job of it, too.”
“And then he discovered, by comparison, how nice it was to have a daughter: you. So now that we’re grown up I’m not girl enough for him. Anything I do that’s true to my nature, true to the way I was raised, is too competitive, too assertive for him.”
“Lois, I’m sorry, but…”
“You don’t have to be. You didn’t do anything wrong. We both did the same thing, really. We each became the kid Sam wanted at the time. You just happened to be the one he still wanted after we grew up.”
“After Dad grew up.”
“Except he didn’t. Ah, the hell with him. It’s all water under the bridge anyway. So, are you serious? Do you really want your own place?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like so much less than you. My sister the Pulitzer recipient, my sister the mystery writer. What have I done?”
“Don’t do this to yourself. We’re not the same person. And, Luce, whether you know it or not, there’s something heroic in you, and someday everyone will know it.”
“Well, I sure don’t see it.”
“That’s okay. I do. So, what are the chances that we’re still roomies, at least for a while?”
“Pretty good, I think. Pretty good.”
It was only a week or so later that she was on a flight returning to Metropolis from Qurac. It was a pleasant flight, perfect weather, and they were actually a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Lucy recognized Mr. Rashad, a Quraci businessman who often traveled back and forth to his homeland. This time he had his family with him. The trays were down and they were eating lunch.
“Hello, Mr. Rashad. Is everything okay?
“Everything is very good. Thank you. But could you assist me? Could you put this,” he handed her his son’s toy plane, “In the overhead compartment for me?”
Lucy opened the compartment above him.
“No,” he said. “It’s the next one over.”
As Lucy started to close the compartment cover, a folder with some papers in it fell out. The passenger in the seat behind Mr. Rashad, also middle eastern, had been watching her carefully, and now was out of his seat as she stooped to pick up the folder.
“I’ll get that,” he said.
He quickly gathered up the folder and some papers that had fallen out of it. Lucy picked up one that had fallen a little out of his reach and held it out to him. He snatched it from her hand and stuffed it hurriedly into the folder. Then, with his eye still on Lucy, he put it back into the compartment under a fat briefcase, closed the compartment cover and sat down again.
Lucy had a quick eye and a good memory, and she was troubled by what she had seen on the paper she had picked up. But she needed help in determining exactly what it meant. So the next time she passed Mr. Rashad’s seat, she handed him a note: “Please come talk with me at the back of the plane.”
A few minutes later, looking as if he was on his way to the rest room, Mr. Rashad was talking in a low voice to the young flight attendant.
“What is it, Miss Lane?”
“Mr. Rashad, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but I wonder if you can tell me what this means.” She showed him the Quraci writing she had copied from memory from the paper she’d picked up.
“Well, if this line were lower, sweeping further back, it would say Jihad. Do you know what that is?” Lucy nodded. “And that word, translated roughly, would mean campaign or foray or attack in English. Where did you get this?”
Lucy thought quickly. “I have a friend who likes to play little jokes on me, tries to scare me. He probably thinks this is pretty funny. Thanks, Mr. Rashad.” She smiled at him. Mr. Rashad looked at her with concern, then decided to smile, too. But his brow wrinkled as he returned to his seat.
Lucy didn’t tell him where she saw it, and she didn’t tell him about the drawing that was unmistakably Lexcorp Tower with a plane crashing into it. She retreated further back, pulled out her cel phone and dialed Lois’ number at the Daily Planet.
“Lois Lane,” her sister answered.
“Lois, it’s Lucy. I’m on a flight back to Metropolis from Qurac. And I think we have a terrorist on board. He hasn’t done anything yet, but I think he’s going to when we approach Metropolis. Can you find Superman? We really need him.”
“Lucy, what makes you think I could find Superman?”
Clark looked up from his computer terminal. Lois’ voice was getting very quiet, so he tuned in with superhearing. It didn’t take long to get the gist of what was happening. He quietly got up and headed for the storage room.
“What’s the flight?” Lois was asking. “Maybe if we make the authorities aware of this…”
“What could they do? I think he plans to crash the plane. How could they prevent that? The most that could happen is they could shoot down the plane before it gets where it could hurt people on the ground.”
“You’re right. Superman is our only hope of saving…” Lois’ voice tightened. “Oh, Lucy.”
“Listen to me,” Lucy responded. We can’t go to pieces, here. Make some kind of noise, publicize this, and maybe Superman will hear it in time. Otherwise, notify the FAA, and maybe they can… you know…”
But Lois was no longer on the phone. She had run to Clark’s desk, and was on his phone calling WGBS. “Listen, I have a story for you that you need to air right now. And I mean right now.”
“Let me transfer you to our broadcast news department,” said the GBS switchboard operator. Then Lois was on hold.
“I’m not kidding. We need to have Superman hear this story right now,” Lois exclaimed. But she was talking to dead air.
“Lois? Lois, are you there?” Lucy had lost contact with her sister, and she could see the Metropolis skyline approaching. The man whose papers had yielded her clue was on his feet and moving toward the cockpit. So were two other men who had been seated in other parts of the plane.
Lucy knew it was all up to her, now, and she rapidly moved forward, wondering as she went just what she was going to do. One of the men was already in the cockpit. Lucy hurried to that door, but was stopped by the other two men. She heard scuffling sounds coming from the cockpit, then the sound of a bottle breaking.
Now several passengers seemed aware that something was up. Lucy realized that the only hope now was to crash land the plane before reaching Metropolis. She hoped everyone had been listening carefully when she had outlined the emergency procedures. One of these guys had a plastic knife and one held her fast. What was it Dad had taught Lois in those self-defense classes? Lois used to practice with her, and she remembered a couple things.
She suddenly stomped on her captor’s instep, stepped to the side, got a foot behind him and flailed her arms outward. The man toppled onto his back as Lucy delivered a kick to the other man’s groin. No one was more amazed than she was that it worked. She kicked the knife down the aisle toward the passengers.
But the first man was on his feet already and grabbed her again, fumbling in his jacket pocket for something. He pulled out a glass bottle and broke it over her head. She slipped, barely conscious, to the floor as the bottle’s contents dripped down her face, blinding her.
The passengers could see through the open cockpit door that one of the hijackers was now piloting the plane, and headed straight for the city. And as the two others leaped to recover the knife, Mr. Rashad ran forward to meet them head-on. Other passengers, now over the initial shock of these incredible events, followed his lead, and the two hijackers were quickly overcome.
But in the next few seconds most of them realized, to their horror, that their fate was sealed. Even if they overcame the terrorist pilot, the plane was going to crash, inevitably, into the building everyone recognized: Lexcorp Tower.
Some screamed. Some clung desperately to their seats. Some prayed. Mr. Rashad embraced his wife and son. Lucy tried to keep consciousness, wondering why her sight was so blurred.
Then the plane made a sharp upward lurch, the nose tilting higher than could normally sustain flight. The passengers who were not in their seats tumbled toward the back of the plane. The plane’s speed had not diminished at all, and they were traveling nearly straight up.
The residents of Metropolis, on the ground and in nearby buildings, cheered as they saw the plane just barely clear the Lexcorp Tower. Some would have sworn it actually scraped the surface of the famous slanted L. And as it cleared, it was easy for all to see the inspiring figure of the man of steel, Metropolis’ own Superman, carrying the plane and gradually leveling it to a normal flight position again. It was plain to everyone that Superman had saved the day, and was now guiding the plane to a smooth landing at Metropolis International Airport.
Airport security was all around the plane as it came to a safe stop. As soon as it was completely stopped, Superman smashed through the window into the cockpit and dragged the swarthy hijacker out. The passengers disembarked with only a few scrapes and bruises, but with the other two terrorists in their custody. The pilot was blinded like Lucy and the co-pilot had a broken arm. They were rushed to the hospital while the hijackers were turned over to the authorities.
The passengers swarmed around Superman, some in tears, all overcome with gratitude, all proclaiming what a hero he was.
“I appreciate your kind words,” he said, “But you are all heroes. I could see and hear what was happening as I caught the plane, and everybody did what they could. I am no more a hero than any of you.”
“Miss Lane, how are you doing?”
“Mr. Rashad. Is that you? Are you all right?”
“Everyone is all right, thanks to you.”
“I’m so glad. Did you read the newspaper story about it? It told what you did, didn’t it?”
“Yes, I read it. It was very nice.”
“Lucy smiled. That’s my sister who wrote it. I’ll bet people are proud of you, aren’t they?”
“Well, yes. Some are.”
“What? You said that as if…”
“Well, I shouldn’t say anything. But when you look Quraci, like me, and some Quracis just did something like this, many people just can’t seem to see that we’re not all…”
“Oh. I think I know what you mean. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t even have mentioned it. How about you, Miss Lane? What do they say about your eyes?”
“They don’t know. Apparently that stuff was part of Qurac’s chemical weapons program, and they haven’t found an antidote or counter-agent yet.”
Sam Lane stepped into the room. “But they will,” he said. “They’ll do everything they need to do, because this little girl is a hero. A bona-fide hero. And in this country we don’t let our heroes down.” Smiling, he stepped to his daughter’s side, then looked at Mr. Rashad with an expression of distrust.
“I’d better stay alert to this,” he muttered just as Lois walked in.
“What were you saying, Kent?"
“I was just thinking what a great story you wrote, Lois. And your sister is a real hero.”
“Thanks, Clark. It’s ironic. Lucy was just mentioning the other day that she felt that she was playing second fiddle to me. I bet she’ll never feel like that again.”
“Your Dad must be proud of both of you.”
“Sam? Ha! He’s super-proud of Lucy. So am I, for that matter.” Lois paused and looked straight at Clark. “But more than anything else, I’m grateful to Superman for saving my little sister’s life. I wish I could tell him how much. Do you think I’ll ever get the chance to tell him how much?”
Clark could see a hint of a tear, and no one ever saw that in the eyes of Lois Lane. He suddenly wanted to hold her in his arms.
“Lois,” he began, wanting to say so much.
He almost said what he’d started to, but thought better of it and ended up saying, “It’s okay, Lois. I’m sure he knows.”