Scarecrow drummed his fingers as the minutes ticked by. Just before the clock has struck 11, his villains had assembled in the sanctum. Scarecrow smiled underneath his mask as he surveyed his team. If ever there was a squad capable of carrying out his mission for worldwide fear, it was this group. He had his basic heavy hitters in Parasite and Rhino. The heavier ones like Doomsday, Mephisto and the Anti-Monitor himself were under his constantly under the control of his mind control device, funded by Lex Luthor. As he turned to face Lex, the megalomaniac looked down with a look of meekness and fear. No matter what Luthor might have said, it was clear who had the true power in this team. Other members included fearsome assassins like Sabretooth, Crossbones, Hank Henshaw and Metallo. And then there was his twisted love...Typhoid Mary. Apart from Luthor, Scarecrow's imperial partners included Dr Doom, Wilson Fisk and Blackheart. A few others had made his ranks, but they were pawns at best in his chess game.
"Fellow Regime members...There is no doubt that contrary to what you've been telling me...There are heroes out there. Emma Frost has confirmed that the one known as "Spider-Man" is not only alive, but has allied himself with 3 individuals formerly of..."More lenient" sets of morals."
Otto Octavius had begun to sweat. Truth be told, he was one of the members who often times questioned allying themselves with a Regime so brutal. Contrary to the public image, there were villains on this team that didn't necessarily want to be here. They were just smart enough to know that nothing would stop Scarecrow. The man killed Batman for Christ's sake. And the next steps of his plan were ingenious in a...Savage sort of way. Knowing that the elimination of Spider-Man was his responsibility, he spoke up.
"Mr. Crane, Spider-Man's...Immaturity means that whatever team he has assembled probably won't be lasting very long, especially a team of former villains. Ignore him, he's just a delusional boy who thinks he can make a difference."
Crossbones rolled his eyes. He had suspected from the beginning that Dr. Octopus didn't belong among the Regime, and his obvious sympathy towards Spider-Man only enforced that idea. "Otto, we're not talking about a kid here. We've managed to kill Batman, Hal Jordan, the Fantastic Four and even ol' Supes himself. Xavier and his "family" of mutants refuse to act out of cowardice. However, the fact that he's alive makes him a threat...And threats like him need a public execution."
Scarecrow laughed sinisterly, clapping to Rumlow's comment. "Right you are Brock. Worse still, it has come to my attention that Grodd, Harley and Ivy aren't the only allies Spider-Man has consoled. My goons have been completely inept the past week, claiming to have been bested by costume wearing vigilantes. Even Doomsday wasn't able to take out Sinestro's new Corps. The solution? Draw them in like any dumb animal...Bait."
Scarecrow handed a green vile to a smiling Lex Luthor, as he walked up to his view of Metropolis. The air was filled with pollution, the unhappy citizens below lowering their head in fear that Scarecrow's spies or drones were watching them, listening to any words even hinting dissent or rebellion. "Luthor here has devised a most ingenious plan to draw in the heroes like flies...Inside this vile is a parasite mutagen. After infecting a highly populated area, the heroes will have no choice but to come out and save their precious city. Try a hospital or something, maybe a school, they're bound to be drawn in."
Scarecrow snapped his fingers as his elite death squad stood up in a uniform pose. These men were known as the Crow's Gallery; a.k.a Crossbones, mind-controlled Doomsday, Metallo and Cyborg Superman.
"The whole business should be done with by tomorrow. Hroo Hraa!!!"
As the various heroes and villains got to know each other, Rorschach remained in a solitary corner eating a small can of beans. Wolfing it down voraciously, he stared blankly at his comrades. As he turned to his side, he saw a short, blonde hero wearing a motorcycle jacket covered in metal spikes. In his right hand he held a beer bottle. This was Johnny Blaze, a.k.a the Ghost Rider. "Nice speech, wish any of the crap that came out of my mouth was that inspirational..." said Johnny as he took a sip of his beer. Rorschach shrugged, laying down the bean can and putting his mask down. "It was the honest truth. This team will survive...But the cancerous weeds must be exterminated first...And you are?"
Johnny extended his hand to Rorschach, smiling slightly. "Johnny Blaze, a.k.a Ghost Rider." Rorschach scratched his chin. "The Ghost Rider..." he grumbled. "Hrrrmmm..And what's your story?"
"Used to be a motorcycle stuntman as a kid, me and my adopted dad were tag teamers." Johnny explained. "Problem was, the old man had cancer. Everyday I'd look at his face in the mourning, and the cancer just ate him away like a parasite. A demon called Mephistioles took advantage of my dad's sickness, and made me sign a deal to be the Ghost Rider, his personal bounty hunter. In return, he promised to save my dad. He later possessed and killed my father, and ever since I've been trying to use my power for good. As the Spirit of Vengeance, I turn into a vengeful demon when the sunsets, and send sinful and evil souls to eternal damnation in hell. It's a curse...But it's a damn thrill too."
Rorschach nodded at Blaze, patting the biker on the back. "Impressive. Not many men I knew could be burdened with such a curse and find away to help people with it...And to punish the cruel...There is something admirable in that. It seems every time I have the opportunity to make a real difference, I can never set things right. I remember about 10 years back I had a case to rescue a little girl. The parents had such faith in me, and I eventually tracked the killer down...All that was left of her were bones and scraps of clothes. I set the building on fire with the murderer in it, and justice was done...But nothing could have brought that girl back."
Spider-Man slowly approached Poison Ivy as she sat in the corner, flora and plant-life growing all around her. As Spider-Man prepared to say something Ivy raised her hand, shouting "Leave me alone!" Parker sighed, his hands on his hips. "Ivy...What's wrong, did I do something?" Ivy pushed the flora away as she grabbed Spider-Man by the collar. "You...Just..." Ivy stuttered. "I...Could we have some space or something?" Parker was about to speak but Ivy shushed him. "Parker...Please? I'm just...Going through a lot of emotions and I just need to be alone...Or at least let me talk to Harls...ALONE, please!" Ivy said in a tone half angry and half pleading. Spider-Man backed away, as Ivy nodded slowly. Eventually, Spidey left the room all together. Ivy motioned to Harley who pranced over to her old friend.
"Harley," Ivy sighed. "can I talk to you about something?"
To be continued in Gotham City 21 United: Chapter 3~Fear Itself