Author: scriviner PM
Someone messed with Luthor's mind. Someone was going to pay. A mystery that slowly unveils a terrible secret within the DCU and Lex's response to what he finds. Now complete!Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery - Chapters: 26 - Words: 160,886 - Reviews: 173 - Favs: 279 - Follows: 118 - Updated: 03-06-11 - Published: 11-26-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5536346
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
All rights belong to owners, I make no claim to any of these chars.
Witnesses are bad at actually describing how people look. Aside from broad generalities, they tend to be easily distracted by certain prominent features. Or lack of the same. Without certain distinctive traits that have become associated with a certain face, it's entirely possible for even a very famous one to be completely overlooked.
The man in the dingy grey room was one such. He had a face that had been plastered in households all over the country. Yet here he was, rendered artfully annonymous with nothing more than a wardrobe change and a few accessories. He was dressed in a threadbare, off-the-rack gray suit that had not been particularly stylish even when it had been new. Short, curly blonde hair framed aristocratic features that had a pinched, arrogant quality to them. His eyes were barely visible behind the tinted glasses he wore. He sat at one end of the table, fiddling impatiently with an out of date PDA and a micro-casette recorder. He had the look of someone who'd once been quite well-heeled, but was now rather down on his luck, but not quite willing to accept it yet.
After a few minutes a two men entered the room. One was in the uniform of a security guard. The taser and nightstick were prominently displayed and the patch on his shoulder declared that he worked for the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, his large gut declared his love of donuts and beer. The name patch, badly sewn onto the front of his shirt declared his name to be Earl.
The second man was dressed in gray slacks and a gray button up shirt, his face pale and bloodless. He had a fussy quality one tended to associate with the less social sort of academic and the thin glasses perched precariously on the edge of his nose only served to enhance that image. The man was painfully thin and exhibited the flinchingly tentative behavior the naturally bullied tended to display around natural bullies. Earl was one such natural bully and he could smell the fear pouring off the smaller man. The patch on the patient's shirt identified him as "Crane, J". His face was not quite so well known, but his natural features weren't what most people associated with him. His other face was hidden away in another part of the building and they didn't allow him to have it outside of therapy sessions. The bastards.
Earl nodded to the first man as he manhandled Crane into the other chair and bolted his manacles to the floor. "You sure you're gonna be okay with him, Doc? I mean he's skinny and all, but he gets feisty when he's riled up."
He flashed Earl the guard a quick and insincere smile before replying in a thick and unidentifieable Middle European accent, "Ya, I not rile up Professor Crane. He and I will talk and it will be good, ya?"
The guard shrugged, sufficiently satisfied by the man's near unintelligeble reply. "He gives you any trouble, we'll be watchin'," Earl pointed to the security camera on the ceiling that was aimed at the table. That said, Earl gave a grunt and walked out of the room.
The first man turned his smile onto Crane and extended a hand... then awkwardly withdrew it as he realized that Crane's hands were bolted in such a way as to keep him from raising them to the level of the table. "It is great honor to meet you, Professor Crane."
The academic gave the other man a puzzled glance before replying. "I'm still not certain why you wanted to meet with me, Doctor-- I'm sorry, I don't know how to pronounce your name."
With a cheery laugh he tossed out a business card from one pocket and said, "Is pronounce Oooshel. The other L is silent. Although I know so much of your work, I feel as if we are practically collegues. You may call me Thor, if you do not mind that I call you Jonathan, ya?"
Crane eyed the business card before him. The name was spelled out clearly enough. Beneath that it said, "Psychiatrist and Author".
"I'm still not entirely clear why you wished to speak to me."
"Oh, I thought my secretary explained! You are... how to say... very big man in my native Markovia."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Ya!" Thor continued enthusiastically, tapping his thumb idly on his PDA in a twitchy gesture. "Professor Jonathan Crane of Gotham city! The infamous Scarecrow! Sowing terror and harvesting fear! You have many a fan in my country."
Professor Crane gave a snort of derisive laughter, "You're not serious? There's enough misguided souls idolizing myself and other criminals here in the US, you mean to say I have fans in Europe as well?"
"Ya, ya! Something about Scarecrow image... eh... how to say... resonate with Markovian psyche. You are very, very big. I would like to write your definitive biography for my countrymen! And women!" He added the last with a suggestive eyebrow wiggle.
"Well... I suppose an interview wouldn't be too onerous." Crane preened, a smirk had begun to develop on his face. "You have a very familiar face, though, Doctor Oooshel," he pronounced the name carefully sounding each vowel out.
"Ah, I have one of those faces, Professor Johnathan! And it is Thor, please! Maybe you saw me recently on the Colbert Report promoting my last book, 'Face of Fear'? Is about the Joker--"
Crane leaned back, feeling suddenly defensive. "So this is just a follow up to your Joker book?"
"No, no, no! That one was just because publisher wanted it. Is not a piece that speaks to me, not like you, Professor Johnathan! He is clown. Everyone hates clowns. Easy to be scary. You scare with class!"
The thinner man seemed to be molified, but he still looked as though he was going to be prickly. "I suppose."
"Ya, ya. Is all good. So, you mind if I ask questions? Just a few to start with, then we can maybe make formal arrangements for something more comfortable, ya?"
"I... yes, I believe that could be acceptable... Thor." The thinner man was smiling, becoming more at ease with the wildly enthusiastic European. "What did you wish to know?"
"Ya, ya... I have notes on PDA..." he proceeded to tap on it a few more times, squinting thoughtfully before smiling. "Ya, here. All the basics is matter of public record. The abuse when younger, the incident with the gun in the classroom and all that, ya? Here is question, you were known to be studying fear. That is clear, yes... but we wonder where did fear toxin come from?"
Crane, the Scarecrow, gave the man a puzzled glance. "What do you mean, 'where did it come from'?"
"Exactly that, Professor Jonathan." Thor said, dropping his voice, "Formula for fear toxin has been analyzed many times. Phobiline Hydrochorate is... how say... beautiful piece of bio-chemistry. Bonds with receptors in amygdala, heightens R-complex derived fear responses for specified period before body breaks it down and when used correctly can even be used to scare people to death."
"Indeed, it is." Crane preened once more, a superior smirk begining to develop upon his lips, "As everyone knows it was my invention."
"Ya, that is what everyone knows, what everyone says." The European's voice had lost it's cheerfully manic edge, growing cooler and deeper. "Which is what I find very strange Professor Jonathan. You are a psychiatrist by training, a specialist in the human mind. Not the human brain. You do not have any training in biochemistry, nor neurochemistry? You? You are a bright man, but the one who developed the fear toxin is a genius. It is clearly not you."
Crane's voice became frosty, "I believe this interview is over." He looked over his shoulder and began shouting, "Guard! I want to leave now!"
Thor slammed his free hand against the table, causing Crane to startle. "No." The voice was no longer happy nor thickly accented. The only accent left was a faint bit of upper crust Bostonian, but barely a hint. Just a touch. The voice was cold and whatever warmth had been in the room seemed to have fled. "I need an answer from you, Crane."
"The guards can see and hear us, you idiot." Crane hissed smugly, "They'll be through that door at any moment."
The man gave a hearty laugh. Very different from 'Thor's' earlier boisterous laughter. This was mocking and derisive, telling the Scarecrow exactly what the owner of the laugh thought of his statement. "Arkham Asylum recently upgraded their surveilance systems to a purely digital setup, which while technically more secure, is also much more vulnerable to someone smart enough." He held the PDA up, shaking it idly, "Our conversation for the past couple of minutes was mostly just to give us enough video so that I can loop it. The guards cannot see, nor hear into this room."
"Who are you?!" Crane demanded.
"Come now... surely you've realized it. I practically... heh... spelled it out for you." He pointed at the business card on the table.
The thinner man stared. The card had not changed at all. "Dr. Thor Ulxel." How was that-- then it suddenly struck him.
He wasn't quite into puzzles as some of the other Gotham rogues were, but this was so blatant that it should have been obvious to anyone if they'd paid attention. The shock and surprise were still prominent, but now he was intrugued. The elaborate ruse to get in here with him was somewhat flattering, but now he really had to know what was going on. Crane gave a sharp, barking laugh of self-mockery.
The man flashed a pleasant smile at him as the glasses and other accessories of his diguise were stripped away. He ran a hand over his smooth, bare scalp to wipe away the sweat that had acumulated under the wig. "I still need my question answered, Crane. Where did the fear toxin formula come from?"
"I already told you, that I developed it!" Crane blustered, but it was hollow now. This wasn't some nameless fool posturing. Crane knew who he was speaking with.
"No," the man in the threadbare suit snapped. "Even if I didn't have a lie detector tucked into my shirt pocket, you're just not very convincing, Crane. The facts don't add up. The key ingredient in your fear toxin has always been the phobiline hydrochorate. Every other refinement you've made to it has just been to tweak the secondary effects. The mix of hallucinogens and narcotics that you deliver with it, but not the keystone of your fear toxin. You only know how to make it one way, you have no clue how to modify it further and frankly, you're afraid to." He hissed the last word and slammed his hand down hard on the table once more, forcing the already tightly wound Crane to startle. "Where did you get the formula for phobiline hydrochorate?"
"I came up with it on my own!"
"No, no... that's not the right answer." the man formerly known as Thor said sadly. "You know how I run things, don't you Crane? I'm a firm believer in the carrot and the stick. Those who help me are rewarded, those who do not get punished."
The Scarecrow of a man essayed a mocking laugh. "I'm already in Arkham, good sir, there's not much you can really threaten me with now, is there?"
The look he flashed the Crane exposed his full contempt for a moment, only a moment before his expression smoothed out into an exagerated calm. "Tell me, Crane, did you ever watch James Bond movies?" As he spoke his hand dipped into his pocket, pulling out what appeared to be a lighter.
"Eh? What're you talking--" the sudden shift in the tone and topic caught him off guard.
"I used to love watching them, if only because of Q. Frankly I couldn't've cared less for Bond." The lighter was brought near the micro-casette recorder and with a 'click' was suddenly combined into a single piece. He pulled a pen from his coat pocket and pressed the tip against another portion of that combination, creating a hissing noise which resulted in the pen's incorporation into the object. "Ever watched 'The Man with the Golden Gun'?" he continued conversationally.
"No! I didn't have time for that sort of distraction."
"Well, if you had you might've realized what I was doing." He gave the pen's cap a slight twist, which resulted in it opening up into a two inch wide parabolic dish. The whole construction looked vaguely gun-like, but more in a sci-fi movie prop sort of way. He aimed the tiny parabolic dish at Professor Crane and said, "Last chance, Scarecrow."
"I did it, if you would just lis--" he began to say, but he was interupted by the sudden impulse of high pitched sound, tearing through the air. The agony that slammed through his skinny body was unbearable. One moment he was fine, albeit alarmed, annoyed and more than a little frightened of the man before him. The next, his head was on the table, his ears were ringing and he could feel blood seeping out of his nose. Every nerve was raw and pained. His breath came in ragged gasps as he forced himself to look up at his tormentor.
"This is a sonic pulse disruptor. It has ten intensity settings." The man was smiling cruelly down at him. The very picture of affable gentility. The tone of voice made him sound like he was pitching for an infomercial and that just made him feel worse. "You've just been hit by a level one, Professor sonic energy disrupts your ears and rattles your brain badly enough that your brain has to spread the pain around just so you can deal with it. If I'd kept it on you any longer you'd no doubt be suffering from a concussion."
He glanced down at the little gun-like disruptor and flicked the marked dial which was the casette recorder's volume setting, before continuing in a more conversational tone. "I've never actually hit anyone with it at level ten, but I tried it on a steak once. Vibrated the thing so hard the meat not only cooked to medium rare, but I ended up with quite possibly the most tender cut of beef you could imagine as the connective tissues and bones were practically liquified." A grusomely amused grin crossed the man's face. "I could cut it with a plastic fork. Can you imagine what it would do to a human body?"
"I..." Crane panted, unable to catch his breath around the pain, his vision had gone blurry and his hearing was echoing. "I suppose that must be the stick."
"Indeed. It's also the carrot. Because at level five it pulverises concrete and steel." He pointed the disruptor at the floor, "Below this meeting room is the laundry, which according to Arkham's duty rotation schedules is currently empty. Below that is the sewer line that runs all the way to the city one way... and out to Gotham harbor at the other end."
"They'd catch me in no time. Your carrot is not very appetizing." Crane tried to sneer, but the effort almost made him throw up.
"If you went towards the city. If, on the other hand, you were to head to Gotham Harbor, there is an inflatable life raft with an outboard motor, a change of clothes and ten thousand dollars in small, non-sequential bills placed next to the open drainage pipe that you would be coming out of." He flashed another grin, "Is that more appetizing now?"
"I... yes, actually."
"Good. Now, my question." He inclined his head, waiting for the answer.
Emotionally drained, Crane could only stare at the man, "Why do you want to know?"
He brandished the disruptor threateningly. The genial tone was gone, his voice was cold again. Distant and serenely willing to inflict massive pain. "Did you want a closer inspection of the stick, dear professor?"
"No, it's just... this is clearly important to you. I need to know why you need to know before I can tell you." Crane's gaze firmed. "I will not budge. Kill me if you must, but I need to know why." Despite the pain and wooziness his eyes glittered at the scent of something just at the edge of his perception. "Tell me why this scares you." Crane's own voice dropped, taking on the scraping, raw quality that only rarely came out of his throat when he did not have his face with him.
'Thor' gave an exhasperated sigh. "If you really must know, I believe someone exposed me to fear toxin... or a more refined derivative about twenty five years ago. Then again fifteen years ago and once more a few months ago."
That was clearly not what Crane had expected. "What?"
"Yes, well before your claim to 'inventing' something that you don't have the skills to produce." He sneered.
"Several months ago..." Crane pressed, "You mean when you went crazy on national television and--"
The man glared, "Yes. That incident."
"I'm surprised you didn't claim that to keep yourself from getting impeached." Crane gloated.
"I didn't know at the time. Everyone assumed it was the other drugs that made me act that way." He gave a snort, "We had no reason to check for fear toxin. The impeachment didn't succeed anyway, I simply had to 'retire' for health reasons."
Crane's eyes widened as the implications, "Someone used fear toxin to push you out of the White House."
"On those other days you were exposed, I suspect other key events that shaped you happened as well?" Crane asked pushing, trying to find some sort of advantage for himself.
"Yes." The man answered coolly, face tightly controlled. "Fifteen years ago was when I first heard of Superman. Twenty five years ago was when my parents died."
"Intriguing," Crane murmurred. "But how can you be sure?" Crane asked. The headache still would not receed, but his interest was truly piqued now.
"This is not idle guesswork on my part, Crane. I found the micro-scarring on my amygdala consistent with a massive exposure to fear toxin."
"How did you--"
"It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, I didn't have anything better to do, I was working on a new form of teleportation. One of the offshoots of that research allows me to get microscopically precise scans of anything, even through solid matter."
"So you stumbled upon it by accident while... making a teleporter?"
"A man needs his hobbies." He shrugged.
"The microscarring isn't a completely reliable marker." Crane argues, "Other drugs and conditions result in--"
"Do you think I'm an idiot? I did a biopsy of the scar tissue and found traces of a refined version of phobaline hydrochorate. Slightly different chemical signature. More refined. A long term version rather than the quick and dirty stuff that you produce."
"You... biopsied your own brain?" He stared.
"It's simple if you have the tools. I already had a teleporter handy." He shrugged. "I think I've indulged you enough, though. I want to know who you got your formula from so that I can find out why they exposed me to it. Does that sound clear enough?"
Crane almost looked as though he would laugh, despite the pains in his head. "Oh my, yes. Yes indeed. I can understand why you would be so adamant about finding out about this. You think someone is using a chemical like my fear toxin to steer your life around."
"And that is completely unacceptable," he said grimly. "You don't think it's likely?"
"I only have your word that you found those traces Luthor. If you were anyone else, I'd say you belong in here more than I do." He finally let out a single harsh bark of a laugh then regretted it immediately as his headache redoubled.
"Are you satisfied with this information?" He finally asked the slumped over Crane.
He managed a mutter, "Yes, yes... I suppose so. You must swear to me that no one will know of what I tell you?"
"You still think you're in a position to dictate terms to me?"
"No, but I beg you... I implore you... the fear toxin is... I have made it mine. I cannot stand the thought that people would be thinking that I took it from elsewhere."
"Fine. Where did you get it from?"
"A folder in the deep stacks in Gotham University. It looked like it had been mixed up with several other files, like someone had misplaced it. It was listed as the tenth in a series of twelve folders on psychoactive chemical studies. The date on it was 1941."
"Did you find any of the other folders?"
"No. When I checked the section where one would've expected them to be at, there was nothing there. It's obvious someone took the rest of the files away at some point, but these ones were misfiled and had gotten lost in the shuffle. The file detailed how to produce the fear toxin that I use, but it was obvious there were some further steps, but there were pages missing."
"But you had just enough information to cook your own batch of phobaline hydrochorate, but not the stronger stuff." He gave a snort. "Do you still have the file?"
"I lost it years ago. I already had the formula and production procedures memorized, so I didn't need it anymore."
"This doesn't exactly help me, Crane." He held the disruptor up thoughtfully, "I don't really feel like you're holding up your end of the bargain."
"Tyler!" Crane shouted, trying to bring his hands up to ward off the disruptor, but being pulled up short by his chains. "The folder was stamped 'top secret' by the US Army, but it also had the old logo for Tyler Chemicals!"
"Ah. Now that is useful. Thank you."
"So will you let me go now?" Crane asked hopefully.
The man reached for the wig, pulling it back onto his head and making certain that it was settled properly as he ostentatiously ignored the other man. "I would, but there's another side effect to the disruptor that I probably should have mentioned."
Crane stared in alarm. The headache was becomming blinding now. "Side effect?"
The man pulled the glasses back onto his face and began to disassemble the gun-like device.
"What are you doing?!"
"Preparing to leave." All the parts were slid back into various pockets.
"What side effect?!"
"Ya, well," disguise back in place, he spoke in that ridiculous accent once more, "Exposure to the disruptor at level one, especially if the shooter know what he is doing? Can really mess up your brain's ability to retain short term memories."
"Ya, is interesting. Brain loses a few minutes just before getting hit and can barely remember anything for a few minutes after." He grinned, glancing down at his watch, "Isn't that funny, ya?"
"Isn't what funny?" Crane asked, now agitated and confused. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten here or who the man in the bad suit was. His head hurt and no one would tell him what was happening.
The faux European laughed uproariously and tapped the control on his PDA that cut off the video loop on the surveilance camera. "You are, Professor Johnathan! You are a laugh riot!"
"Why are you laughing at me?! Who are you?! What's going on!"
He called up to the camera, "Guard! I need out! He is... he seems to be having a psychotic break!"
In very little time, the door swung open, with Earl brandishing his taser threateningly at poor, confused Johnathan Crane. "Doc, I tolja he got feisty when he's riled up?"
"It was very strange! One moment we were chatting well, the next he insists he doesn't remember me!"
"I demand to know what's going on?!" Crane shouted, only to have his query turn into a scream as Earl poked him with the taser.
"You behave, Crane!" Earl cried out distracted by the opportunity for a little fun with an unruly patient. "I'm sorry bout this Doc."
"Is fine, is fine. I got enough to start on book, I will see myself out, ya?"
"Sure thing, Doc! One of the other guards'll help you."
Whistling a jaunty tune, sounds of violence happening behind him, 'Thor' let himself out of Arkham Asylum. Signing the papers that needed signing, moving past the guards and doctors and most of all the apologetic Dr. Arkham himself.
At the main entrance, he was met by an attractively statuesque redhead wearing a chauffer's uniform. She opened the back door to the large black sedan beofre she moved around it to slip into the driver's seat with practiced confidence.
"Did you find out what you were looking for, sir?" She asked in a pleasant alto.
He discarded the wig and the glasses on the seat next to him. He closed his eyes for a moment, before he massaged the bridge of his nose. Those glasses pinched. He leaned forward and made himself a highball from the mini-bar. "I've found another possible piece, Mercy. We'll have to see where it leads us."
The woman glanced up, meeting his steady gaze in the rear-view mirror, "Sure thing, Mr. Luthor."