Chapter 1: Beginning
The air was filled with tension, there were only 30 seconds left on the Ether Bomb’s countdown, and that damnable scientist was still a few feet away from the library, if that present didn’t arrive in time the fate would be worse than banishment, The Ghost Master and his team would cease to exist completely. Up to this point the Gravenville mission had been going smoothly, sure there were a few close calls here and there, but nothing his team couldn’t handle, but this was different. Failure this time wasn’t a minor setback, it was a matter of continued existence.
Suddenly the energy around Electrospasm changed, he had made it under the ward. Quickly the Ghost Master ordered the Wraith to rebind himself on the Bomb, and then to surge it. There were only ten seconds on the clock, and the Haunting Committee Dispatch Officer who had been assigned the Gravenville case was now counting down.
“10 .. 9 .. 8” The voice bellowed.
Electrospasm was on the bomb now, getting ready to cast.
“7 .. 6 .. 5 ..”
there was a surge of Ectoplasm flowing towards the bomb now, a sign that the room would soon be filled with electricity.
“4 .. 3 .. 2”
Suddenly electricity arced between all the objects in the room, originating from the bomb, and zapping both the generator and the ward generator. The scientist had gotten caught in the arc and was getting the shock of his life. If the Terror readings coming from him were anything to go by, he was getting the scare of his life from the incident. Suddenly the meter blinked, and an X over his name signaled that he was planning to flee the building. The arc stopped and he bolted from the room. The Ether Bomb’s timer was stuck on 00:01. It had taken them till the last possible second to pull out the victory, but they had done it, and the haunting team in gravenville would be safe. The Haunting Committee Dispatch Officer was still talking.
“Congratulations, Ghost Master - the Ghostbreakers bomb has been destroyed, their plans lie in ruins and Gravenville lies in trembling apprehension of the powers of the supernatural. Truly your victory is complete.” A flair of music accompanied those last words. The Dispatch Officer always has had a flair for the dramatic.
Suddenly a bright light opens up in the sky above the abandoned castle the Ghost Master had been using as a base of operations. He sees the members of his haunting team begin to drift towards the light, slowly ascending until they are absorbed within it’s glow. After the last of his team vanished, the Ghost Master felt himself be pulled towards the light.
As he reached the apex, he suddenly found himself in a classical office, lots of dark woods and , a quick look out the windows revealed he was in the astral realm. The Dispatch Officer looked at the Ghost Master over the desk, and beckoned him to sit down.
After a few hours of debriefing, in which the Ghost Master recounted to the most minute detail exactly what had happened during the campaign, the Dispatch Officer finally leaned back into his chair and let out a chuckle, before righting himself and looking at the Ghost Master across from him.
The Ghost Master looked stoically back at the Officer for a moment, before asking the question that had been on his mind since the start.
“What exactly do we do now?”
The Dispatch Officer merely grinned at him, before producing a manilla folder and holding it out to the Ghost Master, who took it and began to leaf through it’s contents.
“The Mortal world is full of cities” the Dispatch Officer began, “Each of them having their own haunted pasts” he continued, with a chuckle. “Your work in Gravenville was impressive, especially considering it was your first campaign. In light of this, the Haunting Committee has decided to give you the Gotham Campaign. It’s been a case we’ve been assembling for a few mortal decades. There are hundreds of spirits who need freeing, and the Haunting Committee has determined you are the Ghoul for the job.”
The Ghost Master inhaled sharply. The entire city of Gravenville had only about 30 spirits for him to lay to rest, and now the Haunting Committee wanted to give him a metropolis, and the responsibility of laying to rest hundreds of souls. It could be worse though, Gotham was founded in the early 1600’s, and he knew there were some Old World Cities that hadn’t been campaigned since the Roman Period. Who knows how many restless spirits resided in some of them. And it wasn’t like he could say no. He looked up at the Dispatch Officer, who was awaiting some form of response.
“It would be an honor, sir.” The Ghost Master responded.
Tim was thoroughly stumped on the case he had been working. Over the last five nights various bats had arrived at scenes of mass hysteria, the victims all reporting hallucinations of ghouls and strange noises. The obvious culprit was Scarecrow, but he was still confined to Arkham Asylum following his failed attempt to pollute the city’s drinking water some months ago … again. It seemed that Dr. Crane had a severe lack of creativity when it came to the distribution of his toxin.
Speaking of the Toxin, that also didn’t line up, none of the victims had anything resembling Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin in their systems. Blood tests had come up negative for any hallucinogenic chemicals across the board.
Tim rubbed his eyes before reading over the facts of the case again. The first attack had happened at the dorms of Gotham U. The inhabitants had almost completely fled the building, save for two extremely distressed women, and one extremely confused man who hadn’t experienced anything out of the ordinary at all. Dick had been the one to respond to the first attack, and treated it as a Fear Toxin attack conducted by Dr. Crane against his former employer. He evacuated the building and reported no odd sightings.
The second attack had occurred at an old apartment building on Park Row, Bruce himself had been there to respond, and reported almost the same events, even the hallucinations matched. Multiple reports of a stout bald man, who would rip his head in half in front of the observer, multiple reports of a giant spider who would crawl along the ceiling. Pretty scarring stuff in Tim’s opinion, but still no clue as to why it was happening.
Five nights, Five events. Whoever was doing this was fast, and seemed to have no plans whatsoever. The only variant in all the nights was the one that Jason responded to. While much of the information had been the same, many victims having already fled, similar hallucinations, etc, Jason himself had commented that he had seen strange figures around the building. He described them as transparent, and green, taking mostly human shapes, and watching him as he went past. Very odd information indeed.
Tim checked the clock on the Bat Computer’s display, 2:56 AM. No event had been reported tonight, and he hoped it would stay that way.
“Master Timothy” a voice called from behind him, Tim hadn’t even noticed Alfred walking up to him, he really was tired.
“Hey Alfred” He called back, returning his attention to the case files, trying to string together some explanation for it all.
“I must insist you get some sleep. Need I remind you that you have a long day tomorrow.”
“I’ll be fine. Besides, B hasn’t come back yet. I need to get a report from him.” Tim responded. He needed to know if another attack happened. He just needed enough information, then the pieces would start falling into place. If only he could predict the location of the attack, then he would be able to investigate this himself.
Alfred was about to open his mouth to say something, when the harsh growl of an engine pulling into the cave cut him off. Bruce was home.
“Master Bruce” Alfred spoke in greeting towards the cloaked figure climbing out of the batmobile. On the other side of the machine, a smaller figure dressed in red and green climbed out and followed behind the hulking figure of Batman.
Tim swiveled in the chair to face Bruce. It was no secret what case he was about to ask about, it had been occupying both of their minds for half the week now. Before he was able to ask, Bruce was already listing off an address.
“886 Cannery Row, There was a disturbance, 7 different hallucinated figures noted. All match descriptions of former hallucinations.”
Tim frowned, the other disturbances had all had at least 8 different hallucinations. 7 was a bit strange.
“Was there anything different about this one?” he asked.
“Yes, there were two deranged people involved in this one.” a voice from beside Bruce piped up.
“Damian, they were under a large deal of emotional stress at the time.”
“That hardly excuses them. One of them thought she could talk to Ghosts, and the other one was almost inhuman.”
“Master Damian” Alfred rebuffed from the corner, silencing the boy with a huff.
Tim sent a look at Bruce, asking him to elaborate on what Damian had said.
“The first subject, a Woman named Pamela Dinwiddie, claimed she had the ability to commune with the dead in our onsite interview. She was shaken and adamantly claimed there were ghosts in the building, and that she had sent a number of them out of the building. The other subject was a woman calling herself Elizabeth Rose. She deliberately lied to me about the nature of the events in the building a number of times, claiming that no one but her was present, even when she was seen on the building’s tapes interacting with others during the event. She acted off as well, her mannerisms being stiff and unnatural. She claimed that no odd events had happened when she was present. After our interview she seemed to have completely disappeared. Security tapes show her walking out of view of one camera, then not showing up again. There was no sign of how she left the building.”
Bruce provided all collected information, but it was just more of the same. Many of the details could’ve been swapped with details from a former report, and nothing would change.
Tim massaged his forehead for a few moments while trying to assimilate the new information. He would need to run background checks on both of the interviewed subjects to ensure their credibility. Bruce had a large amount of information he could use to trackdown Pamela, but it appeared as though much of the information provided by Elizabeth was completely made up. Fake addresses or vague evasive actions. The only thing he had on her was a name and a face. He sighed and turned back towards the monitor bank, hearing Damian and Bruce move to clean up after patrol. Just as he was about to begin running backgrounds on the women, he heard Alfred clear his throat.
“Master Timothy, I would advise you to head to sleep.”
Tim tried to wave him off, but the butler persisted.
“I will remind you that you have a series of meetings tomorrow, and you will want to be awake for them”
Arguing at this point really was no use, even if Tim pointed out that he had worked much later than this before and been fine, Alfred still would’ve sent him off to bed. He grudgingly stood up and made his way up to the manor and into his bed.
Chapter 2: The Escape
The Ghost Master reflects on recent victories, and the Scarecrow enters the game to make everyone's lives more terrifying.
The Ghost Master grinned as he and his team came back from their latest triumph. It hand the quote gone off without a hitch, the medium was a total surprise, and she did manage to take out a few of his haunters, but they pulled through in the end. The thing that really intrigued him was Lady Rose’s interaction with the one mortal who had wandered onto the scene of his haunt. He, or one of a number of likely associates, had appeared at all but the first one of his haunts, and they seemed to have a calming effect on the mortals present. They could be some form of Mortal peacekeeping force, which would mean that the Ghost Master would need to drive them out of Gotham, or drive them mad.
As his team entered the Ghoul Room, a large abandoned mansion on the outskirts of town, he pulled the new recruits aside. There had been two restless spirits at the Cannery Row haunt, both of whom he had gotten out. One of them was what appeared to be the spirit of an old mailman, complete with a mailbox he would use as a club, his file identified him as a Specter, god only knows what he had done in life to earn that as a mailman. The other was a gremlin, and it appeared to be a large octopus. The Ghost Master led them to their briefing chamber to bring the new recruits up to speed with the state of the Astral Realm and the Gotham campaign specifically.
As the recruitment video played, the Ghost Master walked to the map of Gotham to plan his next move. It had been a long week, but they had definitely stirred up trouble. A newspaper had published an article about his mysterious exploits this week, the first of many of the Ghost Master had anything to say about it.
Now he was faced with a choice, his team needed rest, he needed rest, but to rest too early could cause him to lose the fear that had been building in Gotham, a show of force now would be ideal.
Dr. Jonathan Crane leaned back on his cell wall with his eyes closed, to an outside observer he appeared to be sleeping peacefully, hardly a trace of the dangerous lunatic he was known to be. Dr. Crane of course was not sleeping, he rarely did these days, instead he was scheming. Joker had escaped only hours ago, which could provide a new opportunity for his own freedom. Usually a recent escape would make it harder to leave, more guard patrols and less apathy on the part of the staff, but for the Joker it would play out differently. While he was away Arkham would be on high alert, but when he was returned they would amass a large number of guards at the intake facility to keep him from immediately escaping again. This would provide a window of opportunity within the other buildings. Crane could use the moment to escape his cell and make a break for his safe house he had created between the walls. There he could collect his costume and his toxins, before making his way out of the asylum completely.
Crane didn’t have to wait long. The Joker was at large in Gotham for 4 days before being caught by the Batman. If the rumors were anything to go by, and they usually were, he had crashed city hall and was holding the occupants hostage. No one had a clear knowledge of what the clown wanted, but in fairness, the clown himself likely didn’t know. Crane watched as the group of guards passed his cell. This section of Arkham usually had 12 guards assigned, and he counted 8 guards making their way out, that would leave only four to keep the rest of the sector in check. Honestly it was ludicrous how many people they were allocating to the Joker, almost as if they wanted others to escape.
Crane pulled back a brick on the wall just by the door. Arkham had recently upgraded this wing to an electric locking system, they thought it was more secure. As the brick fell back a tight bundle of wires was revealed inside the wall. Crane began to manipulate the wires, unplugging them and moving them about until a few seconds later when he heard the door click unlocked. He chuckled to himself at the ease of his escape, before gently swinging the door open before him. He would need to be stealthy about this, there were still four armed guards present, and they would be authorized to use lethal force when the Joker was being moved.
Silently Crane moved out into the hall, hugging the wall, once he was completely out of his cell he swung the door shut and re-engaged the locking mechanism from the outside, it was simple enough, then he began to quickly, but quietly make his way down the hall, making sure not to be seen by the guards, or by his fellow patients. It wouldn’t do well to have one of the more volatile madmen see him and begin to make a racket.
Two hallways away and down a flight of stairs Crane reached his destination. Not the door before him, but the vent just above him. Most of the vents in the facility were bolted on with heavy duty security bolts, but when the Wayne Enterprises security upgrades happened, this vent had been missed. It wasn’t clear whether it had been forgotten about, or if perhaps they didn’t consider it a problem, but Crane had found it on an early exploratory venture into the facility and had converted it into a small hideout for himself.
He quickly pulled off the duct’s face and climbed into the dark vent system. Crawling only a few feet he found it emptying out into a small overhead chamber, a large fan at the top of the room would distribute air through the numerous ducts along the walls.
Snuggled in the corner of the room was a small pile of clothes, the Scarecrow Costume. Dr. Crane pulled on the hood and immediately felt a change in himself, the presence of the gas mask made him feel more complete, and made him think more like the Scarecrow. The gas mask was all for show of course, his toxin was so advanced that mere skin contact would cause it to absorb through the pores and turn his victim into a gibbering maniac.
Quickly draping on the rest of his outfit, Scarecrow began to scan the ducts in the room, they were all similar, far too similar to tell apart in a rush, unless of course the observer had left some form of a mark.
His eyes settled on a small set of complex scratches above one of the vents. It was “Exit” in Babylonian Cuneiform. Just subtle enough not to tip off any maintenance men who might climb up here. Unless of course they were fluent in multiple dead languages. Scarecrow chuckled at that, climbing into the vent. He doubted anyone else in the complex would be able to recognize that script, except perhaps Nygma, but he wouldn’t be able to climb up here in the first place.
Eventually he emerged into a security room at the western wall of the complex. Normally this room would be full of guards, it would be impossible for anyone to make it through without being caught, but because of the unusual staffing, at the moment there was only one guard, surveying the cameras.
Scarecrow slowly pushed the grate on the end of the vent shaft out of place, then, without dropping the grate, lept to the floor. The guard’s eyes were glued to the monitors, not noticing the danger behind him. On a normal day Scarecrow would dose him with a bit of toxin and leave him to his nightmares, but at the moment he was trying to escape unnoticed. Anyway, he didn’t have much toxin on him, and would rather not use it up if he didn’t have to. That would change when he got back to his lab of course.
Scarecrow had almost reached the door when the first sign of trouble arose. A second guard was approaching the door and would cross through the room to get to the catwalk watching over the cell block. Near the door he was heading towards there was a large locker meant for holding uniforms and weapons when not in use it was just wide enough for a thin person to hide in, though likely uncomfortable. He opened it as swiftly as he could without making a racket and climbed inside. It was mostly empty at the moment, and the metal grating on the face would provide him enough of a view of the room without revealing his presence. As a precaution he checked to make sure he had toxin ready in his aerosolizer. If one of the guards opened the locker they would be getting a nasty surprise.
Suddenly the door swung open and the patrolling guard came in. His voice was hard to make out, sounding a bit tinny through the door, but he was greeting his fellow guard, making small talk, the kind of thing normal people did. Scarecrow began to count the seconds in his head. Any moment someone could pass by his cell and notice his absence, and there was only so long before Joker's transfer would be finished. Once that happened then this room would be crawling with guards, there would be no way out. The guard began to lean on the locker. Scarecrow could probably force the door open and dose both guards with fear toxin, it would take the number of guards in the sector down to two, but it would definitely give away his escape, and he’d rather not have the bat chasing him so soon.
The guard finally started towards the exit, the other guard going back to his intent monitor watching, it really was a wonder he didn’t catch the breakout on the monitors. As the second guard left the room, Scarecrow pushed the locker open and approached the opposite door. It was a heavy security door, and opening it without alerting the other guard to his presence would be challenging, but not impossible. Slowly, ever so slowly, Scarecrow pulled on the handle. The locking mechanism let out a soft thud, but the guard at the desk wasn’t paying enough attention to notice. He really should get a job with lower stakes, Scarecrow thought.
After exiting the guards room, the rest of the escape was simple, a few more halls, then he reached a fire escape. Normally he would need to disarm the alarm, but apparently this door had been damaged, and no one had repaired it yet, so he pushed it open and took a breath of the cool night air. He didn’t stick around to savor the feeling though, he wasn’t in the clear yet, but the rest of his escape was really just running across a field, then he would be able to return to his lab, and to his work.