In the Public Eye: Part 54

According to “Double V,” the Hangmen were dead people given the chance to live a second time. I didn’t remember the article being clear on why.

I understood how the writer might have missed that detail. The Hangmen didn’t seem particularly talkative. In fact, they didn’t say anything at all as they got off the remains of the table and onto the (now heavily scratched) wooden floor.

Vengeance stood in front of them, knife hanging from his belt, rifle on his back.

“Time to hand him over, kids,” he said. “You did some nice work grabbing him, but this is too big for you.”

Vaughn put down the sandwich he’d been just about to eat, moving his hands behind the counter and out of sight — to Vengeance at least.

Sparks ran across both hands, but not any higher.

“How big is it?” Vaughn asked.

“Hey, it’s Red Lightning, Jr,” Vengeance said. “No hard feelings about the stabbing. I had to make sure. But back to your question, hanging on to that man is like holding dynamite.”

“Not too big for the Rhino and Mindstryke,” Daniel said. “We’re not acting alone.”

Vengeance laughed. “I’ve been on this for weeks now. Trust me, you can’t even imagine how big this is and it’s not going to be solved by beer or mind reading.”

He stepped forward.

Behind him, the Hangmen had spread out. They stood in a line behind Vengeance, each of the three holding a noose. Another couple feet and they would be standing in the kitchen.

“The Rhino’s done a lot more than beer commercials,” I said.

Ignoring me, he said, “Time’s a wasting. Hand him over.”

“What are you going to do with him?” I said.

“He’s going to stab him,” Daniel said. “If it judges the mayor unworthy, the knife will absorb his essence and kill him.”

Next to me, Water said, “He’d deserve it after what he did to us. Don’t look at me like that. He does.”

“He deserves the judicial system,” Daniel said. “Everyone does.”

“So he can hire a lawyer and get off?” Vengeance said. “The law never touches his kind. Best thing you can do is hand them over to a judge that only wants justice.”

Vengeance took another step forward. Behind him, the Hangmen moved a step closer to the entrance of the kitchen.

Now Vengeance stood across the counter from Vaughn, about ten feet in front of where Water, Marcus and I stood next to the refrigerator. Daniel and the still floating mayor were on the other side of the kitchen next to a small table.

It struck me that I couldn’t hear anything happening outside.

He turned toward Daniel. “I’ve heard a lot of crap about the system over the years, but if it worked, we wouldn’t be here. The first League went on and on about helping the system work, but how’d they start? They burned down some mobster’s warehouse and they weren’t nice about it. It was war. They didn’t go soft till they killed one of their own. Fucking fools. If they’d killed him earlier, that would have saved some lives. Me, I’d have opened him up the second I knew.”

Daniel began, “I can’t believe you. If there’s one thing that came out of Red Lightning, it ought to be that we need rules of conduct –”

Vaughn interrupted him. “Vengeance,” Vaughn said. “Hey, dude.”

He pulled his hands out from below the counter. I could barely see hands beneath the electricity arcing between them.

Vengeance began to move, but I couldn’t see where because of the lightning strike. The thunderclap rattled the windows — the ones that hadn’t been shattered anyway.

During the blast, I could only see white, so it took me a moment to realize that Vaughn had missed. The strike had blackened the wall, broken two windows, and stared a fire on the drapes.

As my eyes adjusted to normal light, Vengeance leaped off the floor toward Daniel, landing on him. Daniel fell backwards, hitting the wall and then the floor.

The Hangmen closed the gap with more speed that I would have expected. One jumped over the counter to struggle with Vaughn, both of them falling to the floor while bright arcs of electricity lit that half of the room. Then came a cracking noise and the electricity stopped.

The remaining two Hangmen went for Marcus, Water and I, running toward us, throwing the nooses ahead.

The rope caught Marcus mid-change into a kind of panther. The noose snaked through the air, the rope end growing in length while the noose end caught Marcus, constricting around the neck. He didn’t fight it. He just fell, his limbs unmoving.

The other noose widened, and before I could do anything, it closed around my neck. I couldn’t feel it, of course. It only touched my armor.

In all likelihood, that had to be the reason I could still move.

10 thoughts on “In the Public Eye: Part 54”

  1. rookie mistake vaughn! a blindside doesn’t work if you announce it first!

    I wonder what Water is gonna do… he kinda agrees with both groups a bit.

  2. @Charles: Vaughn’s probably watched more movies than anything else.

    @Eli: I had to think about whether I’d leave people with Nick being caught by the noose or whether I’d leave people with the knowledge that he could actually move afterwards. Leaving people with hope seemed like the better choice…

  3. Jim,

    I can’t remember where, but in one of your earlier episodes, one reader left a comment that this story works great when you read whole chunks of it at a time, but it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as twice-weekly mini-installments.

    This is no criticism, I am an avid fan of LON and I’ve already recommended to a friend of mine (we are both avid Heroes fans so of course this is our kind of thing).

    LON has serious potential, imho, as a serious of young-adult fiction stories like the Twilight books, or Harry Potter, or even those old Goosebumps books from back in the day.

    Or, maybe you could switch to once-weekly posts. What you lose in mumber of posts, you make up for with more significant plot advancement from episode to episode.

    Just some tidbits….

    Oh, and it wasn’t so much Nick is still standing that got me as the fact, he is now outnumbered…..

  4. In my experience in reading webcomics, I always found any comic the most powerful in the initial devouring of the archives. I’m not sure why.

    Probably because you can get deeply into it that way, catch all the references, and see the overall flow of the story in a way you don’t one chunk at a time.

    Whether it’s better to have one long post or two shorter ones, I’m not sure. The good point of two shorter ones is that it gets people’s attention twice a week. In theory, that keeps it a little higher in people’s minds. In practice, I don’t know.

    I’d be interested in other people’s thoughts…

  5. Personally, I agree with Bill. LON reads better in one long stretch, and the (short) episode to episode updates don’t quite cut it.

    But the same can be said for ANY serial based format. Comics, too, like you pointed out.

    I’m okay either way, Jim. I think this is part of the medium, and there’s little you can do about it. And I’ve recognized that, and I’ve worked around it – when I’m stuck offline for an extended period of time I come back knowing there’s this treasure throve of unread LON episodes waiting for me. Happy, happy thought.

  6. We’ll see what I decide on this. We’re coming to the ending of the current arc. After that, I’ll have some time to have a little bit of thought about experimenting with the series.

    One of my major worries is that with a once a week schedule I’d end up writing less because I’d only have one deadline a week.

  7. Just a little continuity thing…When Vengeance came through the roof at the end of the last episode, he was pointing his rifle at them, now it’s on his back. Did he put it away?

  8. Vengeance laughed. “I’ve been on this for weeks now. Trust me, you can’t even imagine how big this is and it’s not going to be solved by beer or mind reading.”

    I’m not sure if he’s going to be around a while or not, but I like his character, even if he seems a wee bit psychopathic.

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