Fear (Captured Pt.2)

WARNING: possibly disturbing
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The man was crazy, that she had no doubt about. The room, while supposedly a sort of medical lab with auxiliary facilities, had all the air and visuals of a mad scientist's evil lair, complete with archaic tools that she’d only ever seen in textbooks. And movies.

He was still dressed as a plague doctor, but now that she was close, she could really sense how contorted he was. Somewhere behind that long beaked mask was a being made from hate. His atmosphere ran red, dark like blood spilt on stone, with only the most distant highlights of things she frequented, such as the light reds associated with a temper, the violet of disdain, and of all things, the most distant traces of worry, or even fear, locked away.

The rest… was simply missing. Any spectra of joy, any kind of curiosity or desire, it all blended in to the stony gray background. She had seen those who had lost hope, lived without any love or happiness, it was common now, but even they had traces of it, diluted by the state of the world.

He spoke, asking about her relation to the hero on the rooftop, why she was there, and why she broke cover to engage him. Everything about him, even his laugh, was dry and flat, as if the emotional desert he had inside put real sand on his tongue. She started to feel even without the empathy, she could’ve read him just as easily. If she could get a why, or some background, maybe she could work it to her advantage.

While he trailed on, asking question after question with only the loosest interest in an answer it seemed, she kept her silence, running any approach she could make through her head.

He had his back to her, mostly, then made a comment that shut all planning down. “See, I’ve been developing a new form of toxin,” he said. “One far stronger than my father's.”

Oh. Shit. She knew full well what his father's toxin could do, Luthor employed it at a global scale against those who stood against him, gassing crowds and causing them to keel over in pain, break into irrational fear and panic, or even turn violent, to a point where they didn’t stop even where an unaffected person would have been incapacitated or unconscious. The closest analogue they ever came to was an aerosol of mace, PCP, and a cocktail of hallucinogens and other psychoactive drugs, which was too dangerous to attempt testing for a safe counter, and even then only had half the potency of the real thing.
She was so caught up in reviewing past incidents she had seen, she almost glossed over the most terrifying detail.

This madman was Jonathan Crane's very own son.

He turned, revealing a syringe filled with his volatile new toxin. His questions came and went without answer as he walked forward until finally they’re nose to beak, empty black goggles staring back into her own. His head tilted, as if waiting for an answer, or for her to react, flinch, struggle against the chains, none of which she did. She was terrified, for sure, she was about to get a full dose of an experimental chemical weapon, but what good would it do?

It would break the needle off in her when he finally pushed the needle through the skin, and steadily pushed the fluid still hot from creation into her bloodstream.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” was the last thing she heard before he drew away, and a distant buzz began to fill her ears.

Her breath went ragged, and sweat began to well up all over her as her heart began to pick up pace. She felt like she was burning alive, being baked under a desert sun from all sides. Her muscles clenched in response, jaw tight even as she attempted to force it to loosen and not break her teeth. The son of Scarecrow took a step back, the lab blurring behind his distorted figure.
The distant buzz crept in, low and quiet, but with the same sandy rasp Crane had.

Her muscles caught fire, her eyes burning as hot tears formed and travelled down. She tried to brink them away, but her vision came back murky red. Oh God, a thought ran through her head, its blood. We’re bleeding.

That was the vanguard of swarm of thoughts that fought each other for control, all wild and fearful. No one is coming to rescue you. You’re alone. She felt her heat race. What did he inject you with? It’s going to kill you! Her muscles began to cramp and spasm, and for a moment, she could sworn Crane had multiplied, black empty eyes behind that long beak and hood staring back at her. Staring into her soul.

Then, the Cranes shifted, and there was her squad. They were on their knees, at gunpoint.

You failed us. You let us die. Gunshots rang out, tearing through their kneeling bodies. You killed us. You left us. One was blown literally in half, his legs gone entirely, her ears ringing from artillery fire. Run! We’re going to die! Find cover! She fought to move, she tried to pick up her feet, but she was stuck. She looked down and saw her own legs, standing but shredded by shrapnel down to the bone.

The distant drum of artillery beat again, and the shells shrieked like banshees overhead, with Crane looking less and less a man and more a monster, made of smoke and darkness, seething with rage and hatred. She locked eyes with him just before the shells fell, and screamed as she was torn apart by the concussive forces around her, only to open her eyes and be staring up at that same monstrous mask.

”Who is the masked man?” he asked, his voice dry and empty. Devoid of life. Devoid of soul.
He showed her a scalpel, that shifted and warped into twisted, cruel shapes, just before carving into her arm.

”Who is the masked man?”
She screamed, she cried, she had no clue. She hadn’t the faintest idea who the masked man was. You know. You know. You know! She cried out again. Tell him! Tell him! Tell him!

The apparition of Crane spoke again. ”Why take a risk? Why take a risk and fire at me? Why take a risk?” Behind him, she saw her squad again, their faces bloodied and burnt. You failed. Why did you fail? She felt as though she were suffocating, a darkness falling over them and Crane, crackling with red lightning and whispers, hundreds of voices in fear, everywhere at once yet hidden in entirely within the storm.

Crane in his mask emerged from the shadows, staring into her, red lightning all around him, arcing gold as it approached his figure. Then, behind him, an apparition similar to Crane appeared, looming over him, twisting and churning in the darkness until it had only the vaguest appearance of a man. The voices dimmed, and she was left standing apart from Crane and his apparition.

Why have you failed me? the apparition boomed, his voice a distant thunder. Did I not raise you better? Have I not been a fair and just father?

She had no idea what or who it was supposed to be, just that it was terrifying as hell.

I gave you a world you could thrive in, it thundered, low and threatening, and yet still… you disappoint me. The arcs of lightning began crimson behind the apparition, arcing out around it before crashing down, pale gold against Crane. Voices crept around her, but were no longer for her. She was still in pain, she felt as though she was being burnt alive and carefully dissected, but her heartrate had dropped, her panic fell with the tide of whispers.

What must I do to make you see, the apparition spoke, that everything I do… everything I have done, was for you? Dark arms lifted around her and Crane, the fingers long claws that threatened to shred them both as newspaper. This wasn’t her fear, she realized, she was channeling this. Why do you continue to fail me, child? Are you.. a failure? What must I do… how far must I go… to make you see? His arms closed around both of them, arcs exploding violently between him and Crane until finally there was total darkness, with one final, rational thought racing through.

This was Crane's fear.

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