In the Public Eye: Part 52

The beam struck the floor in front of us and the carpet caught fire. Water slid forward and became a puddle, smothering it. Then he reverted into human-shaped water.

“Come any closer to me or my family and I’ll blast you,” Bouman said.

“Oh come on,” Daniel said. “This has nothing to do with your family. That has got to be one of the stupidest rationalizations I have ever heard. You’ve been manipulating people for ages and now you’re afraid to face the music. That’s the only reason you’re holding the gun.”

I didn’t know what negotiating tactics police forces taught their members for dealing with armed suspects, but I imagined that throwing the person’s motives in their face wasn’t one of them.

To Daniel’s credit, at least he didn’t move any closer.

Outside I heard a muffled explosion and then weapons’ fire.

The smaller of the two boys started crying. His mother pulled him to herself.

“Manipulating people? I manipulated people into a higher millage for the schools and more money for street repair. I manipulated people into providing food for lower income students. What have you done?”

Mayor Bouman seemed to forget about the gun and it drooped as he talked.

Daniel didn’t say anything. His face wore a blank expression

“Mayor,” Water said, “Give it up, guy. It’s over. You can’t get into our heads, and you’re never going to blow away all three of us.”

Bouman seemed to remember the gun then. He pulled it upwards and pointed it at Daniel.

He failed to pull the trigger.

It’s not that he didn’t try. He did. His finger wouldn’t move. He pulled it away from the trigger, bent it without a problem. He put it back against the trigger of the gun.

Got him, Daniel sent to me. He didn’t realize until just now that I’d passed through his shield. Not that it was much of a shield.

Mayor Bouman dropped the gun, stared at Daniel.

Then he grabbed the taller of his sons’ arm and told his wife, “Sheryl, go!”

A hallway on the right side of the room ran even deeper into the basement.

He pulled the taller boy along while his wife carried the other. She opened the door, fumbled for the light switch, walked through. Mayor Bouman followed her.


Daniel said, “No.”

The mayor froze in place.

Daniel said, “I’m sorry, Alex,” and the boy floated through the door, landing next his mother. It shut behind him.

From behind the door came the boy’s voice, “Mom. Daddy’s back there.”

“Daddy will take care of himself. Come on…”

When their voices faded away, Daniel said, “Well, now what do we do with him?”

“My team always turned them in to the police,” Water said.

“It’s nice when the police are on your side,” I said. “Hey Mystic, didn’t your dad have a plan?”

“Probably,” Daniel said, “but he’s not in range right now. We should just take the guy away, but if I’d like to find out something first…”

I’m going into his head to find out what’s behind all this. It’ll just take a second, Daniel said. Do you want to come along?

I did.

I have never known how to explain entering somebody else’s mind. Maybe it would be easier if I could do it myself, but it’s always been filtered through Daniel so whatever I felt was always his interpretation.

In this case, I felt despair surround me, small voices muttering on the edges of my consciousness… “It’s over. They’ll know everything.”

Daniel sorted through forty years of another man’s memories. I saw flashes of Bouman’s childhood — camping trips, days at the beach, high school valedictorian speech…

He lost his first run to be mayor, ending twenty thousand dollars in debt. That night, he found himself standing alone in the hotel conference room he’d rented for the victory party. He didn’t know the man talking to him, but I did. I’d seen his face in information sent to me by the FBI — Martin Magnus.

Magnus couldn’t have been more than five and half feet tall and looked about thirty even though the government’s documentation said he had to be at least fifty. He wore a blue suit.

“A plague on the fools,” Magnus said. “People want to be ruled. With our help, you could learn to rule them.”

9 thoughts on “In the Public Eye: Part 52”

  1. What gets me about this story is the absolute effectiveness of the dialogue, “Manipulating people?? I’ve manipulated people into higher millage for schools and more money for street repair. I’ve manipulated food for low-income students. What have you done??”

    Line is killer. Also, the way you bring up Bouman’s first defeat and that he was in the hotel room he’d rented for the supposed victory party…somehow that makes him not so much an a-hole as I’d pegged him these last few eps.

  2. I’ve got a bias toward making the antagonist someone who’s chosen to do whatever it is for understandable reasons. If I can I try to avoid having someone do something just because they’re evil/a jerk/insane.

    The cool thing about characters with telepathy is that I can sometimes reveal these things even though I’m telling this in the first person and thus can’t describe anything Nick can’t watch happen.

  3. Your work is awesome and I just caught up. The Legion is great, and I am going to keep on following your work! Thanks very much!

  4. Thanks. I better get back to working on the next update then… I’ve just spent the last hour putting kids to bed and playing Rock Band.

    Note: The above Jim and I aren’t the same person.

  5. Just a quick note: Turn them into the police sounds like “transform them into the police.”

    Should be “turn them in to the police” because you turned them in. Two words, to change the meaning.

  6. A bias towards antagonists having understandable reasons? I remember a certain group of superheros by wildbow being annoyed at the local super villain as she was doing a better job of dealing with stuff than they did.

    And from wildbow’s story of worm I came here

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