By Jonty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 1999
Summary: With deadline approaching, the Daily Planet newsroom is a stress-filled and nerve-wracking place. One employee is even resorting to burning candles and chanting! This funny, well-written story is a must read.
The newsroom was doing its usual hour-before-deadline impression of a disaster site. Before the technological revolution, in the days when reporters still wrote drafts using paper, any person entering the room could easily determine how much time remained before deadline—they could simply survey the room and check out how many trees, disguised as screwed up pieces of paper, lay strewn on the floor. Today, it was a bit harder. Instead of screwing up paper, a reporter could simply hold his finger on the delete key. More efficient, maybe, but not as impressive looking. So reporters had to find more innovative ways of showing their stress. And the Daily Planet, required by custom to be the best paper, and therefore being under more stress than anyone, was more innovative than most.
Jimmy Olsen staggered out of the lift, balancing a box of research material in one hand, and a second box, this one filled with donuts, in the other. He surveyed the room quickly, then grimaced and turned, seeing if he could get back into the lift before the doors shut. No Luck. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the awesome task in front of him— delivering the research material to CK in time for him to finish the story before deadline. Oh yeah, and the added complication—doing it without dying, or angering a stressed reporter even more. Whistling the theme song to Mission: Impossible, he began his trek across the room.
Clark leaned back in his chair, an amused grin on his face. He loved the chaos of the newsroom at this time, everyone frantically tapping out the last few lines of their articles, all the while casting despairing glances towards Perry's office, hoping that he would not open that door and cry 'deadline!' before they had completed that final, perfect sentence. He loved the rush, the adrenaline of those last few moments of competing with the clock before he and his story were judged.
"Never gonna get this done." A whisper of annoyance cut through the standard roar of the newsroom, and Clark turned to the source. Lois Lane ran a hand through her hair, leaving it slightly disheveled, and leaned forward in her chair, glaring at the screen in anger.
"Stressed, Lois?" he asked, getting up and moving to stand behind her, leaning down so he could read over her shoulder.
"Of course I'm stressed. There's half an hour left, and this computer just won't convert my thoughts into anything readable. I should have it overhauled," she complained, moving the mouse to delete yet another sentence.
"Hang on." Clark's hand came to rest on top of hers, stopping her. "That's fine, leave it there. The story reads great, and if it doesn't, well, are you really going to blame the computer for it?" he grinned slightly, then regretted it as she spun in her chair to face him.
"I'll blame anything I want. Or anyone," she said pointedly. Clark took the hint and stepped back slightly. "And another thing, how come you don't look as stressed as the rest of us?" she demanded. "What are you, superhuman?"
Don't even go there, Clark thought to himself. "How would you like me to act, Lois? Like Derek there?" he replied instead, nodding towards one of the other senior reporters.
She had to laugh when she looked in his direction. Derek had moved his computer to one side of his desk, to make room for what looked like a pagan shrine. Several candles burned already, and he lit another one, looking towards Perry's office and muttering as he did so.
"What is he doing?" she whispered, her face beginning to show a hint of amusement.
"Keeping away evil spirits? Trying to stop time?" Clark guessed, watching his partner rather than the sight she was trying to comprehend. "Because, you know, Lois, I'm sure Derek has some candles to spare—"
"Don't even think about it, buster," she replied. "I like my men sane." With that, smiling slightly, she turned back to her computer.
Clark watched her type a few words—without deleting anything, he noticed in relief—and headed back to his own desk. Loaded statement, he thought. Her men? What on earth did she mean by that? He knew what he wanted it to mean, naturally, but how did she intend it?
"CK." He looked up to see Jimmy crossing the last few metres to his desk. "It's a jungle!" Jimmy gasped out. "Do you think I should put in for hazard pay? Or at least a purple heart?" He rubbed his head dramatically.
"What happened?" Clark tried to look concerned, but even he knew that it wasn't his most sincere effort. At least he wasn't laughing out loud.
"Marie." Jimmy replied woefully. "She muttered something about her computer not doing something, then from nowhere, ripped out the mouse and threw it. Man, she's got an arm, though." He smiled slightly.
"You know," Clark commented thoughtfully, "you're lucky you didn't go the other way. Derek was looking for a sacrificial victim, I think."
"God, who employs these nutcases?" Jimmy demanded, dramatically tossing the box of research onto Clark's desk.
"Same guy who employed you," came the quick reply as Clark began going through the box, looking for the one piece of information he needed to finish his story.
"Good point," Jimmy conceded, shaking his head in realisation. "Good point."
"So, Mr Relaxed and Under Control isn't done yet?" Lois leaned over his shoulder, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Am now." He typed the last few words with a flourish and hit the save key. "All done." He grinned up at her.
"Showoff," Lois commented.
He shrugged, smiling slightly. "Guilty."
"Modest, too. Anything you can't do?" she teased him.
"Why don't you find out? Tonight? Dinner?" he offered, keeping his tone light.
"Are you asking me out?"
"On whether you plan on saying yes," he told her, watching her closely. If she said no, he figured he could always blame his offer on stress. People did strange things under pressure. The entire newsroom was proof of that.
Lois opened her mouth to reply, but stopped as a deathly quiet fell over the room. As one, every head in the room turned towards the editor's office.
3 seconds. The only sound to be heard was a quick puff as Derek blew out his candles.
2 seconds. The last few people hit the save key.
1 second. Everyone in the room dived for their computers, pretending to type.
Time. The door opened slowly and Perry White stepped out into the room and surveyed the busy staff in front of him.
"Articles on my desk, now! Kent, get in here!" His door slammed behind him, echoing in the still quiet mood. Clark stood slowly and began to move towards the office.
"Clark!" Lois hissed, and he looked back at her. "Yes," she whispered.