Prologue- A Villain is Born
The man was completely silent. He sat, motionless, in the old, grimy chair. The chair’s poor maintenance fit perfectly with its surroundings. To call the office and its location seedy was a fast understatement; this was deep in the dark underbelly of the city of Gotham. Not that there was much to distinguish between the underbelly and the rest of Gotham these days, the city was on a one way trip down the toilet of Western civilization. Crime ruled the streets, and corruption seeped through the ranks of the city’s “finest”. And Jack was a part of it all.
His silence could very well have been due to the filthy bandages that covered his entire head. Jack waited patiently for the doctor to return, he had nothing better to do, for all intents and purposes Jack… was dead. Now he was a blank slate, or had been when he arrived at the private clinic just a few hours before. He needed only to wait and see what the doctor had done to help him. The doctor arrived a few minutes later, a short, balding man with an Eastern European accent.
“Now, let’s remove zee bandages,” he said to the muted form, “And see vat we haf now.” He reached over, slowly unwinding the bandages from the top of Jack’s head down. Soon his work was finished, and the doctor stepped back to view his work. His face fell and he paled, his breath leaving him momentarily.
“Mirror,” Jack demanded gruffly.
“Uh, M-Mr. Napier…” the doctor stammered, trying to comprehend what he saw in front of him.
“Mirror,” Jack repeated, sterner this time.
The doctor quickly retrieved one, and handed it over. Jack raised it up to his face, and inspected his reflection.
“I apologize, Mr. Napier, I did the best I could, but the damage from the chemicals vas too great,” insisted the doctor quickly.
Jack groaned, reacting to his appearance. He put his damaged face in his hands, groaning at his own grotesqueness. And then, slowly, there was laughter. Jack began chuckling softly, which gradually became guffaws.
“Mr. Napier, pleese. You- you see vat I haf to work with heer,” the doctor pleaded, gesturing at his array of rusty medical instruments.
Jack was giggling manically now, and brought the handheld mirror down on the arm of the chair, shattering the glass. He stood from the chair, and staggered forward, smashing the single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. He trudged up the stairs out of the clinic, his horrifying laughter piercing the night air.
Part One- The Gas
Two Weeks Later…
Vikki Vale emerged from the offices of the Gotham Gazette, one of Gotham City’s major newspapers. Vikki had been working as a photographer there for a week now, brought to town by reports of a caped vigilante known as The Bat-man. She was intrigued by this bat-man character (even more so after meeting him), and had been hoping to photograph him. She had succeeded momentarily, before the mysterious Bat-man had stolen the film from her. What she didn’t know, however, was the fact that she herself was being photographed at this very moment. She crossed to her car, and unlocked the door, unaware of the telescopic-lensed camera snapping away at her.
Across the street from her, nudged up against a corner of one of Gotham’s many historical buildings, was Bob. He was tough and unshaven, and dressed darkly. Bob continued to take pictures until Vikki drove away, and then he moved off, silently. He had places to be, and photographs to deliver.
A pair of purple gloved hands were quickly snipping away at some pictures, their owner humming a tune to himself.
“Boss, I have those photos you wanted.” Bob walked up to his boss’ side, and placed a small manila folder on the table.
“Ah yes, thank you very much Bob,” the man replied, picking up the folder and opening it. “And please,” he said, looking up from his work, “Call me Joker.”
The chemicals and the surgery had indeed not been kind to Jack. His skin was bleached white, his hair, a brilliant shade of green. But his most prominent feature was the ruby red, rictus grin permanently sketched onto his face. Jack, or rather Joker, reached into the folder and removed the photographs. He shuffled through them, until he found one that he particularly liked.
“Ah yes, here’s a good one,” Joker said, looking at Vikki’s image and licking his lips. “Yes indeed. Bob, I’m getting myself a new girlfriend, whaddya think?” He held up the photo, and Bob glanced at it. He grinned, and Joker chuckled, picking up his pair of scissors and snipping the background away from Vikki’s form. Soon he was finished, and he stood up, not taking his eyes off of the photo. “Have all the preparations been taken care of?”
Bob nodded. “Yes. The system has been locked and loaded into her apartment. All you need to do is press the button.”
“Well, she should be getting home about now, shouldn’t she?” Joker asked, and chuckled. “I vote we go ahead with the plan this evening.”
Bob smiled. “Yes sir. Whenever you’re ready.”
“Go ahead and put the controller on the table Bob, I’ll be out in a minute.” Bob complied, and left. “She’ll be mine soon,” Joker said to himself, kissing the photo, “Dr. Joker’s going to expose her to the healing power of laughter. Heh heh hee!” Joker spun around the room, holding the picture to his heart.
Vikki entered her apartment and switched on the light. She removed her heels at the door, and crossed over to her bed in her stockings. It had been a long day, and Vikki plopped down at the end of her bed, exhausted. Looking over at the phone beside her bed, she decided that it was time to give Bruce a call.
Soon after moving to Gotham, she had been introduced to Bruce Wayne, corporate billionaire. He had invited her to dinner at his mansion just outside of the city, and they… hit it off. One thing led to another, and soon they ended up in bed together. But Vikki couldn’t help but feel that Bruce was hiding something from her, a feeling that intensified when Bruce lied to her about leaving for a business trip. She felt that it was time to confront him about it.
Vikki picked up the receiver, and dialed Bruce’s number. It rang twice, and was answered by Alfred, Bruce’s loyal manservant.
“Hi, Alfred, it’s Vikki. Is Bruce available?”
Twelve floors below, a purplish-black sedan pulled up across the street from Vikki’s apartment building. A window in the back seat was rolled down, and a ghastly white face appeared out of the darkness. The face moved up, its eyes directed at one lit window, twelve floors up.
A gloved hand reached into a purple pocket, and produced a small, black controller. The purple-clothed fingers caressed a large red button on the front of the controller, and pushed it in. Now the man sat, silent, waiting for his cue.
“Vikki, what’s this about?” asked the voice on the other end of the phone line.
“Bruce, I need to talk with you.”
“Vikki, just tell me what’s wrong, and we’ll talk about it,” Bruce Wayne said, concern in his voice.
On the floor across from Vikki’s bed, a small device located in her air conditioning vent activated. A low hiss came from it, as an invisible substance began to issue forth from a small valve on its top. It seeped out of the vent, began to fill the room. Vikki didn’t notice the sound, but she did detect the faint scent of lavender in the air. She looked around the room briefly for the source, but, seeing nothing, decided to ignore it.
“Bruce, no, not on the phone. I wanna meet with you, to discuss…” Vikki paused. She had had a sudden feeling of lightheadedness. She shook her head to be rid of the feeling, thinking that it was merely fatigue.
“Vikki?” Bruce asked after a moment. “Still there?”
“Um, yeah, sorry. What was I saying again?” Vikki asked, feeling disoriented.
“Uh, you said that you wanted to meet, that there was something you wanted to-”
Vikki giggled suddenly, interrupting Bruce in mid-sentence. She stopped the instant she realized it, a look of confusion on her face. Where had that come from?
“Oh, I- I’m sorry Bruce. Yeah, now I remember. See, I just feel that-” Now she was interrupted suddenly, by two more giggles from her own lips. ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ she thought to herself.
“Are you alright, Vik?” came Bruce’s voice again. Vikki shook her head once more, trying to be rid of the woozy feeling that clouded her head. She continued, trying her best to concentrate on her own words.
“Uh, yeah, yeah, I’m alright. I’m just feeling a little… hee hee… f-feeling a… hehehehe,” Vikki stammered. She could feel the laughter welling up inside her, but couldn’t for the life of her figure out the cause. She raised her hand to her mouth, stifling the giggling momentarily.
“Vikki? Have you… have you been drinking?”
Vikki composed herself as best she could. “Uh, yes, I- I think I’ve had a bit too much, and uh, hehe, I think I just nee-hehed to sleep- to sleep it off. So, I’ll- I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? B’bye.”
“Vikki, wait-” But it was too late. Vikki gently placed the phone back into the cradle, before breaking out into another giggle spell. She looked around the room, desperately trying to determine what was so damn funny. Rising from the bed, Vikki tried to stand up. After just a few seconds, she collapsed to her knees, giggling uncontrollably. Covering her mouth with her hand, Vikki slowly rose from the floor, staggering forward. She realized that by covering her mouth and nose, the laughter would subside considerably.
‘It must be coming from somewhere in the apartment,’ she thought to herself, looking all about. Her eyes finally rested on the small air conditioning vent positioned not too far from her bed. She moved over to it, and kneeled down, still covering her mouth and nose, letting very little air in. Vikki grabbed a nail file from the top of her nightstand; and began unscrewing the vent cover with one hand. She soon found this to be a difficult task, and realized that she would have to use both hands. ‘Alright Vikki, you’re gonna have to hold your breath for this one,’ she thought to herself. Building up her resolve, Vikki counted down from three in her head. At zero, she took her hand away from her face and removed the cover as quickly as she could, keeping her mouth firmly shut.
The instant the cover was disturbed; a small sensor activated a defense mechanism in the device. Vikki peered into the dark vent, and was met with a face full of the gas. She recoiled, and began to cough.
“(Cough)! What the- (Cough) - hell was that?” she said aloud, choking on the strong whiff of the scented substance. She waved the remnants away from her face, and looked around the room. She realized that after the burst from the vent, the gas flow had desisted. This thought made her feel happy. So happy, in fact, that Vikki could feel a grin spread across her face. Her whole body felt warm and fuzzy, like being wrapped up in a gigantic blanket. She could also feel something inside her, fighting to get out. Not one to resist, she let them escape, a swarm of giggles flying forth from her lips, flowing through the room as the laughing gas once had.
“Hehehehehehe… I really must find out more about this stuff… hee hee, it’s delicious,” she contemplated aloud, rising from her position on the carpeted floor and moving towards the window. Parting her curtains, she looked out into the Gotham night, feeling drunk and exhilarated. She walked back and forth in front of the window, grinning from ear to ear. There came a knock at the door, and Vikki turned at the sound. “Hee hee… ooh, it must be my lover, come for a visit…” she said to it, teasingly. She tip-toed over to the door, and turned the lock. She pulled it inward, and was met by something unexpected in the doorway.
“You’re not too far off, hun,” said the grinning form of the Joker, chuckling.
Vikki stepped back with a gasp, putting a hand to her face. This initial shock lasted only a second, before she cracked up. Joker looked, a little bemused, at Vikki, who was holding her sides with laughter.
“Well, boys,” Joker said, addressing the two goons standing behind him in the hallway, “She’s got good taste, you’ve gotta giv’er that. Ha ha!” The goons snickered their response, before moving in on Vikki.
Her laughter had subsided a bit, but her face still retained the half-drunk smile from the gas. She looked around at the two men that had taken positions on either side of her. “Hehe, so, hehehe, wha-what’s going on?” she asked them. They did not respond, but rather grabbed a hold of her arms, keeping her perfectly still.
“You, my dear, are going on a little trip,” the Joker explained, moving closer and closer to her.
“Oh, a trip, huh? Hehehehe, where are we going?” Vikki inquired, her voice sounding almost child-like. Joker was close, really close, but not saying a word. “Well, where are you taking me?”
Joker was upon her. “Cloud nine, my sweet,” was all he said. With lightening fast speed, he covered her nose and mouth with a soaked rag. A few seconds later, Vikki’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell limp in the goons’ arms. “Ha-ha! Cloud nine!” Joker laughed at his own joke for a second, before abruptly stopping. “Ha ha… hoh, I coulda done better…” he reflected, regret in his voice. Shrugging, he exited into the hallway, saying. “Come along boys.”
The goons started out of the apartment, leading the unconscious Vikki. One of them noticed Vikki’s discarded heels resting next to the door.
“Hey boss,” he said, getting Joker’s attention. “Should we take her shoes?”
Joker poked his head back into the apartment, looking first at the shoes, then at Vikki’s feet, clad in sheer stockings. He thought for less than a moment, before responding, “No, leave them. She’s not gonna need them where she’s going… HAHAHA!”
The goons glanced at each other, questioning looks on their faces. They both shrugged, and continued to carry Vikki down the hall, their boss’ gleeful laughter ringing through the building.
end part 1