Spooks: The Boy in Cell 25
Life had many mysteries. Most solvable, some inconceivable. In some cases, these mysteries could be solved quite simply.
This was not one of those times.
The boy in cell 25 was a complete mystery to Arkham. It was odd. One day the cell was empty, and the next a scrawny black haired blue eyed teenager laid in the fettle position on the uncomfortable bed, muttering under his breath in some unknown language. Most wouldn't think much of the boy at first glance but then people would stop and stare at the little metal rings that wrapped around his throat, wrists, ankles, and stomach.
To most super powered villains these little rings were the bane of their existence, the inhibitors. They repressed a person's powers to the point of nonexistence, for they were calibrated to keep the person to human level strength. While the inhibitors themselves were a sore sight, what disturbed or intrigued people the most was the sheer number of inhibitors on the tiny teen. Usually, only two around the wrists were enough to depower any villain, three or four for the really powerful ones. However, this child not only had six inhibitors at the time of his arrival, but he also showed signs of his dormant powers even with them on. Not around the guards, of course. Never around the guards. Only when someone hostile got too close for comfort, only then would a villain see a flash of toxic green eyes that would send shivers down the spines of the weak willed.
Or excite the more insane like the Joker and Scarecrow.
Still, the people of Arkham (whether villain, guard, or psychiatrist) all were in the dark over why the kid was there. Only two people, the older warden and the new, pretty red headed psychiatrist, seemed to have any clue what was going on. Both women always looked… sad at seeing the boy, which was extremely odd considering their relentless and ruthless reputations when it came to other villains. It was weird, to say the least.
Most of the time, the boy was unresponsive, any villain who tried to come near him would either get no reaction or a quick flash of warning green that would send any person with enough self-preservation instinct scurrying the other direction. Anyone who'd been in Arkham long enough would know of the incident where one of the more perverted inmates tried to kiss the red headed shrink. Let's just say the boy was not amused and many villains were impressed at the cracks left on the concrete wall of the cafeteria after the boy had thrown the horny prisoner into it.
Needless to say, the boy got a seventh inhibitor around his right bicep that day and was put in solitary confinement for a week.
To the guards and shrinks, however, he was nice to the point of being damn amiable. He would retain eye contact, not in a creepy way, but like he actually respected authority; like he was actually a hero or something of the sort. (Which, of course, the boy couldn't be. He was in Arkham after all.) He never talked back to the guards… unless they gave him pitying looks. One day, Poison Ivy saw one of the younger guards try to take the eighth inhibitor off of the teen's left bicep because he was "just a kid," who didn't deserve to be treated like a criminal, and that he was sure that he would be getting out soon. That ended with a bit of angry outburst from the boy, followed by a complete 180 via a quick stuttering of apologizes to the frightened man.
According the Ivy, the guard simply gulped, nodded, and proceeded on his marry way with only one confused glance at the normally kind child before going back to work.
His cell was a bit weird too. Because of his young age, he was put in a separate holding cell from the others, but because of his good behavior he usually had much more to do to pass the time; in contrast to inmates like the Joker, who couldn't even have a spoon unless under constant surveillance. The place was littered with stacks of drawing paper and piles of (blunted) crayons from every color of rainbow. The walls of the cell were covered floor to ceiling with drawings. How they stayed there no one knew, as there wasn't any tape in the cell.
Each drawing on the wall seemed… random at best. A collage of different colored eyes, a broken PDA and shattered glasses, green blobs splattered on the ground, a flaming black "D" that was crossed out in red and torn slightly through the center, a DNA strip coated in green, a mutant turkey attacking a Christmas tree, and so on and so forth. One of the shorter walls was completely covered in blank pages. Some days, the inmates would see the boy groggily get up, mutter something under his breath, get a crayon, and write something on the blank pages in a symbol-like language before rolling back into bed and staring at the ceiling.
His ceiling was the most impressive art form of all; on it was what seemed like the entire night sky. Day by day, the villains watched the boy meticulously draw on the sketch pad, making marks here and there with his white, purple, black, blue, and yellow crayons. The boy's hands would be smudged with a rainbow of colors as he tried to perfect positioning of the universe from the map inside his head. Over time, the ceiling became filled with the starry night. Secretly, some of the inmates grew nostalgic when seeing the colored stars on his ceiling.
Some people simply liked to watch him draw. Sometimes in the corner of the room, a guard would take a small break from his or her constant vigilance, for that was needed in Arkham and Gotham in general, to watch the usually far-off boy color. It made the guards feel funny. It was as if the boy was a regular teenager instead of in inmate in one of the world's most secure insane asylum. It became disturbingly easy to forget his situation, considering his kind actions, his boyish face, the light in his eyes when he perfected a drawing, the-
Then the guard would turn away, trying to forget the boy and think of him as an inmate instead of the child he truly was. Nothing more, nothing less. Still, as they looked at one of the truly criminal prisoners, their hearts felt heavier from seeing the destruction of innocence in someone so young.
The villains were, of course, intrigued. This was the only time they actually saw the boy have emotions. Real live emotions! Instead of the usual self-guarded or faraway look, they saw him focused and concentrating on a single task. They reveled when he got the perfect shade of sky on the paper, shared his frustration when he crunched up failed constellation, and even felt small twinges in their cold hearts when the boy cried at an unknown picture in his hands.
Even though they didn't know who he was or what he had done to deserve Arkham of all places, the boy was just that, a boy. Probably no older than seventeen. Yet even without any true confrontation, he somehow wiggled the way into the lives of the regulars of the mental asylum. Maybe his youth gave him respect or pity or a maternal sense from the older women. Whatever the case, he was not someone who was truly hated, despite his insistence on being kind to guards and his cold shoulder treatment to the other inmates.
Maybe... maybe it was the night terrors that truly tore at their souls. Well, the screams were music to some individuals. The truly sick in the mind wanted him to stay forever for that reason alone.
For some psychiatric reason (maybe to make them more insane or feel exposed or a silly reason like that), they left cells entirely lit twenty-four hours a day. Of course, the prisoners could tell the passing of days through meals and the so called 'night' when the officers would tell them to be quiet and sleep for eight hours before 'waking up' to a brand new 'day.'
On the first night, the inmates stayed up to simply watch the new boy; communicating silently in their cells their thoughts on the child. Then suddenly there was whimpering. The inmates and guards turned to the new sound, only to find the teenager twisting and turning in his sleep in the most pitiful of ways. The boy yelled out in his dreams, names and phrases and cries of the most desperate proportions.
It was a night no one could forget.
Over and over the names and pleas filled the cells and hallways of Gotham. Sam, Tucker, Mom, Dad, I'm sorry. Some of the villains scoffed at the noise, someone so weak being in Arkham was unheard of and to them it tainted the name of the facility, which in turn tainted their reputations. Others smiled lazily, being lulled by the lullaby of screams. The villains dreamed sweet, bloody dreams of lost children and tearing flesh. Please…
They smiled in their sleep.
Then there were the villains who were unusually sympathetic. I hate you. They shifted uncomfortably at the screams of the teenager. The utter fear and despair for a lost loved one hit closer to home than they expected. Some were just as young as him when they lost the ones closest to them. Why!? They too were sometimes hit with the memories of lost loved ones, and it was these memories that fueled their desire to give pain to others, to make others feel their loss, to make them see the cost of not paying attention, of not giving support to those who most needed it when it mattered most. Sam, Tucker, I'm sorry. I can't…
Unsurprisingly, the next week there was a massive breakout at Arkham.
Tears streamed down the child's face as he gasped and tried to escape the nightmare that kept him from the reality of his little white cell. He fell from the bed with a thunk, but his mind wouldn't release him from his torment. His calloused hands tried to clench the dirty tile, but to no avail. Finally, his hands desperately gripped at the metal of the bed, holding it like a lifeline in his mini reality. His body curled in on itself around the metal bed, and, to the surprise of the inmates, the metal bent under the grip of the scrawny teen.
It didn't take long for the guards to call a shrink for recommendation of the situation. Finally, after nearly an hour after the screaming started, they managed to wake him up with a small shock from one of their Tasers (long range, of course). The boy gasped and suddenly shot up from the ground and into a fighting stance, looking around frantically for a moment, trying to find the threat. He blinked and took in his surrounding, his eyes narrowing at the bars in front of him. Then something seemed to click in the raven's mind, and he slumped into the wall of his cell, seeming to remember his situation.
However, even as the boy tried to hide himself away, the knee jerk reaction to immediate danger was undeniable… as undeniable the haunting green eyes and the unmistakable chill in the air that was permanently stuck in the minds of those in the room.
Everyone watched as the boy's cell was opened. They watched, as he was led away to an isolated room, far away from the other inmates. They watched him and his strange behavior.
The boy was looking down, not meeting the eyes of those around him. However, if one looked closely, they would not see tears rushing down the teen's face or a look of embarrassment. No, they would see anger. Pure unadulterated loathing. They would also see his hands clenched, blunted nails digging so deeply into his flesh that it would surely leave bruises in the morning. However, this anger was not directed towards the shrinks ahead of him. No, the anger was obviously directed towards himself, judging by his sleeping screams and the glare he sent his hands. To have one so young not only go to Arkham but to have so much hate…. Well….
The villains gained a new respect for the boy that night.
The second night, the guards decided to let him scream his lungs out to see if it would end. It didn't end, and many had a sleepless night.
The third night, the shrinks gave the boy a sedative for a dreamless sleep. It worked effectively, and the night terrors were officially gone. The child looked surprised to see the lack of tears on his face the next morning.
The inmates thought that it was the very first time they ever saw one of the Arkham psychiatrists get a hug from one of their patients, even if said patient was restrained the very next moment and sent to spend a day in solitary confinement for 'bad behavior.'
Yes, the boy was a mystery.
No one seemed to know who he truly was. He just appeared one day out of nowhere with no background or any infamous deeds to his name… none that anyone knew of at least. When the outside villains were 'checked in,' they hadn't heard of any new major names popping up, let alone any matching the description of the mysterious kid. When one of the guards questioned the warden about the unknown boy, she gave the man a sad look, and said she thought it would be best if no one knew his identity, "to keep order within the facility," then returned to her office for the rest of the day.
Questions to the warden about the boy in cell 25 became infrequent after that.
And so, since no clues to his identity came about, the villains held a meeting a month after the mysterious teen's initial check in to come up with a new name for him.
The first idea was Icy, considering his eyes were cold blue and attitude was even colder. However, someone pointed out that if word got out of the boy, people might think he was Mr. Freeze's brat, so the name was dropped.
Name after name was thought of. Anything from Pitch because of his black hair (The Riddler thought it was stupidly unoriginal) to Tiny, Scrawny, Chill, Anti-H (short for Anti-Hero, based on his kindness to authority, but that villain was kicked out of the room for such a suggestion), and even just NN for being such a no name.
Eventually, Harley Quinn suggested the name Spooks. When they asked her why, she giggled, and said he scared the living daylights out of most of the non-meta-humans there, and seemed to pop up out of nowhere on occasion. She couldn't help but wink as she said that it would also include that little cold shoulder problem the kid seemed to have, as well as those mysterious green eyes that were hidden under layers of inhibitors.
The villains agreed, finding the name suitable for the teen.
The kid's reaction to the name was interesting to say the least. It was the first time they ever saw him surprised, or even nervous; excluding than the initial night terrors, of course. He jumped when Harley suddenly walked up to him and declared that Spooks was his new name because he was too stubborn to tell them his real one, and to treat it kindly since the crew worked so hard brainstorming one up for him.
Whoever was in the lunch room that day would never forget the look on his face.
The boy looked terrified at Harley's proclamation. His blue eyes went wide, as his body shook like his greatest secret had been discovered. He gulped, his breath in short gasps. Harley looked at him with confusion.
"You alright, Spooks? You look like you've seen a ghost," If possible, the boy's body stiffened even further. The spoon that he held in his hand clattered to his plate, the sound echoing loudly in the oddly quiet room. He gulped again and muttered something. Harley pouted petulantly and crossed her arms over her chest, "Hey kid, I don't have all day. You gonna thank me for your new name or you gonna just stare at me?"
"Why Spooks?" He asked, his voice hissing harshly.
She leaned in towards him, bending forwards slightly. She placed one hand on her knee, the other around her ear and asked dramatically, a fake look of confusion on face, "What? I can't hear you. Speak up will ya?"
The boy was apparently not amused. The startled look from earlier disappeared, but the twinge of fear seemed to remain judging by the slight panic in his voice, "You heard me. Why did you pick Spooks?"
She stood back up and leaned into her side, placing one hand on her hip, "What's with the hostility? We're just trying to be nice and call you something for once. Is this the payment we get for kindness?" She closed her eyes and tsked at him, shaking her head and finger back and forth, "For shame. For shame. There's no need to be so mean," She sighed dramatically and smirked at him, "If you must know you're white as a ghost and you're quiet and as sneaky as one too. While every time you show those neon green eyes, you scare the pants off some of the guys here," She giggled slightly, "But that's not saying much is it?"
He blinked, staring at her like she'd grown another head, "Oh….." He blinked again, as if he couldn't think of any other action but to blinking stupidly at her. After a moment, he found the right words. The fear in his eyes were gone, but the uneasiness still remained, "Thanks then…I guess."
She smiled wildly at him, "You're welcome!" She patted the boy's head and laughed at his hostile expression. Quickly, she ran a safe distance away before he could do anything to harm her other than give his infamous green glare, "Ooo… scary eyes. Now, try to be more social, Spooks. You're a real downer sometimes," Harley then smirked and turned away from the boy, walking back to the ever amused Joker. If she stayed for a moment longer, she would have seen the newly dubbed Spooks stare dumbly at her for a moment before shaking his head and turning back to his meal.
And with that, the name stuck.
Whether it be the ability to actually startle the young boy in some way or the prospect of knowing him by something other than the boy or number 25, it didn't matter. All the villains of Arkham insisted on calling the teenager Spooks. Over the next few months, even the guards starting calling him by his dubbed name. Only the red headed psychiatrist, Dr. Fenton, seemed immune to the trend, insisting that calling him by that name would only lead him to being attached to other villains and Arkham, and then he wouldn't try to get better.
Not like the boy seemed to be trying in the first place, judging by his nonexistent improvement.
Speaking of the red head, the boy had seemed to take a particular liking to the girl. Not in a romantic way (the boy looked horrified when Ivy suggested the idea), but in a more platonic sense. He was always nicer to her, as well as more protective. Maybe it was because of her younger age or maybe she looked like someone he knew before he went to Arkham. When asked, he usually didn't respond as was his Spooks reputation. Only Harley, whom was the only villain who seemed to be able to crack his silent wall, got any sort of answer from him by pestering him non-stop one afternoon.
"Come on, Spooks! You gotta tell us. What's so special about the little lady? Please! I'll promise not to tell!" Harley sat across from Spooks at 'his' table. It became his table after the Seventh Inhibitor Incident, as it had come to be called. Currently, the tables around them were placing bets on the situation. The bets included everything from how long it would take for the boy to crack under Harley's interrogation to how long the cracks would be on the wall when Spooks had enough of this nonsense.
The most popular bets were five more minutes and from floor to ceiling, respectively.
"That's a lie, and you know it."
The woman's eyes' widened for a fraction of a second before being repressed. Instead, she smirked, "He speaks!" Harley's smirk grew as a great amount of grumbles erupted around the room. Spooks arched an eyebrow at the exchange of money and other goods, but didn't comment otherwise. Not like he needed to, Harley had won after all, and her dramatics would be her prize. She leaned forward, testing her already unstable grounds with the kid, "And of course it is, but you gotta tell me! I'm dying here."
His eyes flashed green, but when he realized it had little to no effect on her, he huffed and stared down at his food, "Will you leave me alone?" His voice was quiet. Quiet enough to remind her of the child he truly was. She almost had enough pity to stop her interrogation.
But Harley was an expert on repressing inconvenient emotions.
She shook her head, much to his distain, "Only if I'm satisfied."
He stared at her for a moment. Something flickered in his eyes, not a neon green flash, but some sort of dark secret that only seemed to be known to him. It disappeared as quickly it came, but the deed had been done. Before the woman could ask, Spooks suddenly turned away and got up from his table, holding the tray tightly to his chest. Harley was about to jump after him, but he muttered something in such a broken voice that it left her planted in her seat, "…she…she reminds me of my… late sister…"
With that, he walked off, leaving an unusually startled Harley to process the information she had been given.
No one asked the boy about Dr. Fenton after that.
The months passed and Spooks actually started to interact with the cast of villains, if minimally. The smiles he gave the guards became slightly more genuine, and Dr. Fenton even admitted that he was improving gradually. The odd drawings on his walls became more infrequent. Overall, he looked to be actually healing from whatever he was sick from.
But never ask him to join in a prison break, or even ask why he was there in the first place.
At first, he would only tense, then gain a haunted expression and stop interacting with anything for days, even his precious ceiling of stars. The only thing he would do was huddle in the fettle position in his bed while mumbling occasionally in the strange Spanish sounding language under his breath. Later on, he would occasionally get up to write on his wall of blank papers before laying back in his bed for the next twenty four hours. This reaction became a Spooks standard, so over time, people stopped asking about his mysterious past.
Since everyone stopped asking, they forgot the strangeness of the boy. He just became another standard within Arkham, a forgotten standard by most. Even Batman, when he first saw him, didn't particularly see him, for he was too preoccupied by his other more important investigations at the moment. Spooks became just another number within the system. The resident of cell 25.
And that was just the way he seemed to like it.
However, as everything in his young life, that moment of numb perfection was bittersweet and could only last as long as the world seemed to want to humor him with the inklings of semi-peace.
Case and point, nearly on the one year anniversary after first 'checking into' Arkham, something unusual happened to the boy's regular routine.
He awoke from a dreamless sleep as usual, looking at the constellations on his ceiling. With a small yawn and stretch, he jumped from his bed, picked up an orange crayon, and wrote something on one of blank sheets on his wall. Once he was satisfied with what he wrote, whatever it said, only the boy would know, he carefully placed the crayon back into its container and picked up one of his drawing sheets. He simply stared at it.
"Put down that drawing, Spooks, and come here." The boy suddenly looked up, tense. A middle aged guard stood at the edge of his cell, hand cuffs in pulled out. Two more guards stood behind him. While the one in front looked almost casual as he ran his fingers over the cool metal, the other two were tense, their hands on the butt of their guns. They gave a clear warning, try anything and you'll be shot.
This couldn't be good, but it wasn't like a gun could do much to him anyway.
The boy nodded and placed the paper down, then locked eyes with the older guard, "Yes, sir," The boy's face was blank as he walked towards them. With a slight creak, the metal bars rushed open. Almost immediately they man handled the boy, roughly turning him and cuffing his hands behind his back. The boy grunted but didn't say anything.
The inmates looked on, intrigued.
Once the men were satisfied that the boy was locked in tight, they started moving to their new location. The two trigger happy guards walked behind Spooks, staying close enough to be able to stop him if he tried anything, or so they thought, but not close enough for the boy to be in reaching distance. Where they got the thought that he would actually do anything to escape or to help others escape, or to even harm any of the guards, the boy had no idea.
Guards were weird like that, not that Spooks could particularly blame them.
They directed him through various hallways. The boy lazily memorized the path they took, so if someone were to try to kidnap him, he would have the perfect way back to his cell. Not that he truly thought anyone would want him, no one really wanted him. Well, there were two people, but one person he would never in a million years want to be near, and the other he was near every day.
Life at Arkham wasn't such a bum deal in that aspect.
"Here," The guards behind the teen pushed him harshly forward. It was unneeded, but the boy figured they wanted to be intimidating.
Ha. Intimidation. That was a good one. They didn't know the meaning of intimidation.
The older man was slightly gentler, as he led Spooks through the doorway and into what the boy realized to be an interrogation room. In a fraction of second, he had the room memorized. One desk sat in the center of the room with two chairs pulled up to it. Well, pulled up was relative. Everything in the room seemed to be bolted to the floor with titanium bolts. In fact, everything seemed to be made of titanium, even the door. On the side of the table nearest to them two pairs of shackles were bolted to the desk. They looked to be made of the same material his inhibitors were. Across from him the room was more shadowed, but he could still make out the door that led to who knows where.
The man placed the teen in the chair. Robotically, he pushed the inhibitors up the boy's arm and shackled his wrists in place. The boy watched in fascination as the inhibitors automatically adjusted to his tiny wrists. Yes, the energy drainage felt horrible, but it was still interesting to see how far technology had evolved. The process was repeated with his ankles, attaching him to the chair. Then he took off four rings around the areas the where the shackles were. After checking the inhibitors for what seemed like the twelfth time, the man nodded and walked away from the boy and towards the shadowed door.
Said teen shifted uncomfortably in seat, "Excuse me, sir, not to be rude… but …Uh…Why am I here again? Did the Warden want to talk to me?"
The man barely stopped in his stride when he answered gruffly, "You have a visitor."
The boy started at that, "Wait… a visitor? Who-" But the older guard was already gone, walking toward the doorway on the other side of the room and leaving him alone with the other stony faced jailors. The boy sighed and slumped back in his seat, or at least slumped as much as the table let him. He forced himself to stay still, wondering nervously who was visiting him.
He thought that with his luck, it would be Batman because why not? The teen's luck was always horrible, and Murphy's Law seemed to have a personal vendetta with him. Well, a lot people did, but that was beside the point. The fact was it would be the perfect opportunity for the universe to fuck him over more than it already had. It was practically guaranteed.
"Daniel?" The boy froze, instantly jumping out of his jumbled thoughts. No, it couldn't be. He hadn't heard that voice since-
The teen instantly went defensive, sitting straight in his chair and silently cursing being shackled to the desk, wanting nothing more than to cross his arms in front of him. It was one of the first times he truly felt exposed at Arkham, despite the shrinks' best attempts. The boy glared at the man in the shadows, trying and failing to calm his panicking heart, "What are you doing here?" He growled. He mentally cursed again when he noticed his hands were slightly shaking.
The guards looked uneasy. Spooks always acted to civil to everyone; well, anyone except the villains. Even so, he never acted openly hostile. Something wasn't right.
The mystery man walked forward and into the light of the room. He had snowy white hair, long enough to be tied in a short ponytail behind him. With his crisp suit, red tie, and uptight shoulders, he looked especially professional. Even so, one could see the wrinkles under those blue eyes and the tired quality his voice held. He stared at the boy sadly, slight confusion on his face before speaking up so quietly that the guards had to strain to hear him, "I could ask you the same question…Little Badger."
And so, nearly three years after the disappearance of Amity's ghostly hero, nearly two years after G.I.W. conspiracy, and nearly a year after the boy's first appearance in Arkham, the world's only known halfas met again.
With that, the mystery of the boy in cell 25 started to come to a close.