“Alright, I hope you’ve all done your research, because we’re going to discuss some psychology. Now, who can tell me what Psyghast does?” Professor Stone got right to the point.
The class shuffled around collectively. Evidently a lot of people hadn’t done their research. We weren’t the only ones who looked exhausted, to my surprise.
“He makes weird purple fog,” called out someone.
“Exactly right, but that’s not all. If it was, do you think he could have taken on the Wardens of Justice?”
“Can’t he duplicate or something?” Another person from the same area.
“Close, but I’ll give you that one. The reports are vague on that count. With good reason. No, it looks more like illusions and some kind of teleportation within his fog. He can create illusory duplicates of himself or anyone in the fog and swap the original’s place with any of the duplicates.” She pulled up an image from within Psyghast’s cloud of fog. The image was suffused a deep purple, and strange shadows and figures loomed in the fog.
“Oh my god, that makes so much more sense!” Cried someone in the back and the class laughed.
“Experts think there’s a sensory part of his power as well, allowing him to see everything in his fog, even behind him, but that’s a secondary power. He’s considered a trickster type villain for that reason, rarely engaging in actual combat, but using psychological effects and fear. Now, his debut was unusual in a number of ways. Does anyone care to tell me what they are?”
“He was fully prepared,” said a girl from the center of the room. “A lot of capes are totally unprepared for actual combat on their first night, especially back then.”
“Good. That’s right. another?”
“Doesn’t match the profile of a first crime.”
“Excellent! We have a criminologist! Care to explain?”
“Well, he robbed a bank on his first night. That almost never happens. On top of that, he didn’t waste any time on threats, just rolled in with a bank of fog then rolled out with the cash before anyone could respond. Less than 30 seconds. Amateurs almost always stick to the Hollywood style robbery, sticking up the tellers, ’cause they don’t realize the tellers can’t access the vault most of the time.”
“Sounds like you actually did some research!” Professor Stone sounded mildly sarcastic as she praised the student.
“Anyone care to speculate what that could mean?”
“He had a sponsor.”
“Close, but no. Sponsorship wasn’t around yet. He had the pattern of a private individual.”
“He’d done it before,” said someone, and it took me a moment to realize it was me.
“That’s… An interesting theory. What gives you that idea?”
“My, uh…” I hesitated, then realized I couldn’t really back out without arousing suspicion. “My grandfather worked with him for a while. Trained him as a successor.”
“Oh, you would be Mr. Denzien? I’d wondered if there was any relation.”
“Yeah, he was in jail before I was born, but he liked to tell stories whenever we used to visit.”
Damn. Probably everyone in the room’s figured it out now, I thought.
“I’m sure he had some stories to tell. The prevailing theory was that he was a legacy of some kind. It’s, uh, interesting to have that particular theory confirmed. Um. Can I talk to you after class? I have some questions.”
I groaned inwardly. I did not want to let any more of my family history slip.
“Great!” She was obviously very excited. “Where was I? …Right. One thing that is interesting about Psyghast is his motivations. He doesn’t match any of the categories we’ve established. He appears mentally sound, but he also doesn’t seem desperate. He didn’t seem to care if he actually made a profit, often being forced to abandon his stolen goods, but he also didn’t seem to want to fight, as he tended to avoid direct confrontation. At the same time, there was no escalation. He started robbing high-security banks and ended the same way. Often, villains will get addicted to the power and start escalating the scale and risk of their crimes until they slip. Let’s look at another example…”
She continued, but I’d stopped listening, thinking about the Upright Man, or Phenomena. He obviously, wasn’t after profit. He could well be insane, but he seemed far too methodical for that to me. Psychopathic, maybe, but not deranged. And then it clicked. Revenge. He was just wearing us down, physically and emotionally, setting up conflicts between us and the local villains. Thinking about it now, he must have arranged for the Wardens of justice to break up if Labyrinth was working for him. Then the whole deal with Shatterpoint and Masquerade… To get Pyroclasm and Cryoclasm? They would have been in the Wardens of Tomorrow with Phenomena. He was discarding a pair of pawns to capture a pair of rooks, followers who weren’t completely unhinged and didn’t have to be threatened into complacency.
I felt I was on the verge of something, but I couldn’t quite put the pieces together.