~This story takes place one week after the events of Robin #9~
"So I'll see you tonight at the movies right?" Stephanie Brown asked into the receiver. "And you're not going to stand me up?"
"Of course not," Tim Drake replied into his own phone. He was sitting in his own room, finally. No more spending a weekend, but having to go back. He was home. "You're the one who better not stand me up, if you know what I mean."
Steph laughed. "Yeah. It wasn't too hard to tell Bruce, I needed a night off." Especially after the week I've had. I still have bruises from my run-n with daddy.* And I still have to dig into this little superhero betting deal and I have no clue where to start. I would ask Tim but... "...Okay I'll see you tonight then."
*Last two issues-Kelen
"Right. Talk to you later," Tim finished as he hung up his phone. He then fell back onto his bed and breathed in deeply. I never knew home could feel so good. Dad has already gotten all my transcripts sent to Gotham Heights. And I'm set to start back on Monday. Plus I don't have to worry about Robin business. I can leave that to Steph. Man it's good to be back! He sat up and made his way to his stereo, when a knock came at his door.
"Tim, I forgot to tell you. When you ran to the store for me earlier today, Ariana called. She wants to meet you at the mall," Dana said as she stood in his doorway with a basket of laundry. "Don't disappoint her now Mr. Drake."
"For the hundredth time, she's not my girlfriend!" Tim hollered after her as she left.
"Whatever you say Tim, whatever you say."
"No Stephanie," Bruce said sternly as he sat at his chair in the Batcave. "I know these past few weeks have been rough on you, but there's no way I'm letting you take the night off."
"But Bruce, I've already made plans with Tim!" she pleaded.
Bruce face contorted at the mention of his former partner's name. "Well, you'll just have to tell Tim you have responsibilities to stick to." He turned back around and continued reading the information he had just collected.
"One night Bruce, I just want one night," she said again.
"And one night is all it takes for this damned city to go to hell," Bruce replied sharply. "And I will not allow that in MY city."
"Right Bruce," Steph growled, evidently frustrated. "I'll be here." She stormed her way into the "normal" part of Wayne Manor, where she threw herself onto the couch, her rage unconcealed.
"Another problem Miss Stephanie?" Alfred inquired as he passed by.
"It's Bruce; he won't let me see Tim tonight. I mean, I know he has no clue about love and everything, but it's still not fair."
Alfred chuckled at the young woman's comment. "Miss Stephanie, you have not the slightest clue what Master Bruce has gone through with women over the course of his career. From having them killed before him to them being villains, he's seen it all my dear. That's why Bruce can't find it in his heart to give you a break."
Wow. There's always a lot more to this guy then what he lets on, she thought. "Is there anyway I can still get out of it?"
Alfred smiled this time. "Though Master Bruce may understand certain things, one thing one does not do is skip out when he tells you to be somewhere." With that he turned and left.
"Great," Steph said to no one in particular. "That leaves me back at square one dammit. I guess it's time to get back to hunting down this betting ring." She headed back to wards the Cave, determined to get the bottom of this, since Bruce wasn't letting her have any other freedom.
"Ives, I can't," Tim finally answered.
"Geez Tim, you amaze me!" Ives replied. "You tell me you still have feelings for Ariana, but you don't want to go meet her at the mall?! What's wrong with you man? Another woman?"
I can't tell Ives I've been seeing this other girl named Spoiler as Robin, until recently when she found out my real identity and now we're adjusting to dating as Tim and Stephanie. Tim smiled at his old friend. "Nah, just I'm not sure if I want to leap back into the dating game so soon."
"Tim you sound like you're 19. You're almost 17, live your life. Or stay here with me and watch "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"." He grinned triumphantly, knowing Tim wouldn't want to pass up Ari for Kevin Smith.
Fine, I'm going," Tim grunted. "But nothing will happen. Understand?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"That's my boy! Now go get her!" Ives called after him as he closed his front door.
As Tim left Ives' house, there was others watching.
"Headquarters, I'm tracking the boy. Orders?"
"Keep following him. Eventually he'll lead us to our quarry. And then we will strike."
The Gotham International Museum. Where Stanley Whitaker has been working as a security guard for over 30 years. Stanley was rather unique, for since he's seen so many robberies and as many robberies stopped by the local Gotham heroes, he had all their autographs. From Nightwing, to all three Robins, both Batgirls, even the Batmans. The replacement Batmans were easy to get, but the real Batman took forever to sign. Nevertheless, he had them all, even the Spoiler.
He was rather bored now, as he expected to see someone swoop down and stop the latest attempt taking place right before his eyes.
And sure enough, a familiar purple and black clad female dropped down from the air ducts of the museum. No words were spoken as she laid the criminals out within five minutes. Not bothering to rope them up, she picked up the newly arrived baseball size diamond out of their hands.
"Spoiler, great work!" Stanley shouted as he approached her. "I knew one of y'all would show up so I didn't even bother doing anything except flipping the alarm. I just want to say thank you and I'll return the diamond to its place." He extended his hand.
Instead Spoiler gripped his arm, easily flipping him onto his back. Then firing a jumpline she was gone, diamond in tow.
Stanley, still flat on his back, was in shock. "What in the blazes?"
"I don't believe this!" Steph screamed as she slammed her fist into the desk. She had been searching the internet for hours trying to get a lead on the superhero betting, but she had found nothing. "That's it!" She shut off the computer and fell back into her chair. "I'm no good at detective work, I always left that part up to Bruce or Tim. I can't find anything on this thing. Maybe dad was just toying with my mind and made me think there was a betting operation." Her mind kept racing but no logical answer was reached.
"Forget it," Stephanie sighed as she picked up the remote and switched on the television.
"Earlier today, the costumed vigilante Spoiler was caught on film stealing a rare diamond. A witness reported that she stopped two would be robbers, and then took the jewel herself. More to come on these developments, as we receive them."
"What?!" was all Steph could manage. Furious, she threw the remote at the TV then stalked to the Cave's changing rooms.
"I'll assume you've heard the news," Bruce asked.
"Yeah, and I'm on it," came Stephanie's reply from the dressing room.
"I'm coming with you," Bruce stated as he started to pull his cowl on.
"I can handle this," Robin growled as she headed for the exit.
"Robin! Get back here!" Batman called after her. She didn't turn back around. Dammit, always something, he thought as he followed after her anyway.
Across Gotham, Tim was re-discovering the thing he hated most about a mall sometimes. Not having any money, he whined to himself. I need to get a job. All around him the various stores had help wanted signs displayed, but Tim couldn't imagine himself working somewhere like this. Hello, welcome to Burger Donald's, can I take your order? He cracked a smile and leaned against the elevator wall. Now where is Ari?
He gazed around the crowded mall, realizing he recognized a lot more people than he'd like to admit. Louie the Louse. How many times did Bats and I shake him for info? And there's Tommy Hannisal. Former Gotham mob boss. Stress on the word former. He shook his head. Just can't get away can I? Not wanting to know the answer, his eyes fell upon Ariana who was in the center of some of her friends.
She wasn't saying much, just standing and listening to another one of her friends relate the gory details of her car accident...she lost two nails. Ari seemed interested but kept glancing around for Tim. Finally she saw him on the edge of the crowd. "Excuse me," she managed as she pushed her way out. "Hey you. I was hoping you'd show up."
"Yeah, I didn't have anything better to do so I decided to do you a justice," he answered. She punched him playfully.
"So how does it feel to be back?" Ari asked as the two began to walk.
"Great, I never realized how good home could actually be," he replied. "But being here reminds me of the one thing I'm missing in life: money."
Ari laughed as she stopped to sit on a bench motioning for Tim to set next to her. She pointed to his left. "Want to get something to eat?" she asked.
Tim shook his head. "That's okay, you go ahead, I'll be fine." He was suddenly yanked from his seat.
"No, no, I insist Mr. Drake. Besides, we have some catching up to do," she said as she led him by the hand to the food court. "Might as well eat."
Tim sighed and decided to cooperate. "Okay, let's go."
It was then he noticed Glenn Doppler was nowhere in sight.
"Oracle, do you have any clue who this clown impersonating me is?" Robin asked into her communicator. She was angry, that much was in her tone.
"Nothing Steph. I think you just need to calm down and take your time. We don't need you to do anything rash," Oracle responded.
"Look I don't need a lecture, can you get me any info or not?" the Girl Wonder demanded.
Oracle sighed. "I'll keep looking. But try to take it easy okay?"
"Fine," Robin answered as she switched off her com-link. "Stay calm, riiiight. Like she wouldn't of been mad if someone impersonated her when she was Batgirl," she said through gritted teeth. "All I know is someone is in for some pain."
She shot her next jumpline east so she could head towards upper Gotham, determined to bring down her copycat.
Batman followed silently behind her.
Tim listened intently as Ariana filled him on every major happening in her life. Her aunt and uncle had given her a lot more freedom now that she was a bit older, so she was into all types of school-related activities. From cheerleading to volunteering, Ariana had it covered.
Tim was mesmerized, almost hanging onto her every word. Is it me or did she become more beautiful? He sipped his drink and took in the whole scene. Is this surreal or what?
"...and so me and Glenn broke up a few days after I last saw you, and I've been single ever since,"* Ari finished as she polished off her chicken nuggets. "What about you? What's new?"
*Robin #2, the infamous Steph catches Tim hugging another girl and freaks issue.-Kelen
Tim instead stood and tossed away his cup. "Walk with me Ari, we can talk some more while we look around." Ari jumped at the idea.
"Great," she said excitedly. Throwing her remaining nuggets away, she grabbed Tim by the arm and started dragging him again. "I need your help with something."
"Well can we stop off at PC Geeks first? There's some game prices I want to check out," Tim pleaded.
"You'll have plenty of time for that later, I need help now," she demanded.
"Okay, okay, you win, but do you have to keep dragging me by the arm?" he complained. As if in response she let him go.
"Nope, cause we're here," she said looking up.
Tim followed her gaze and almost fainted.
Meanwhile, Robin finally had her woman, as she spied Spoiler swinging across one of Gotham's popular shopping sections.
"It ends here," Robin said to herself as she closed in. Spoiler didn't seem to have an immediate target, but Steph didn't like the way she seemed to be watching the First Gotham Bank. She moved in closer to get a better view.
Dammit, I still can't figure out who this is, must be somebody new, she concluded. I'll just follow her a bit until she reveals her next move, then I'll take her down. She silently followed Spoiler's movements as the imposter made her way down to the rooftops. Dropping behind her, Robin saw Spoiler doing something, but her back was turned to her. Trying to get closer still, Steph accidentally kicked some loose bricks.
Before she could act, Spoiler was behind her. She kicked the Girl Wonder in her lower back, sending her to the rooftop. Robin tried to roll out of the way, but like a cat Spoiler struck again and threw Robin against the nearest wall.
She's quicker than I thought, Steph admitted. But not quick enough. She reached for her nunchucks, but even as she did that she was nailed by another blunt object, that was thrown on a perfect arc by Spoiler.
Feeling more than woozy now, Robin tried to recollect herself as Spoiler closed in.
"Come on, come in with me," Ariana urged. "I want your opinion on some things."
Tim still was looking at the store's name in big, bold letters. "Into Victoria's Secret? I don't know Ari."
"Oh come on, I need an honest opinion and you're as close as I can get to one," she pleaded.
"Why can't you get one of your friend's back there to help out?" Tim asked nervously.
"Because," Ari began as she came within inches of his lips with her own. "I want a man's opinion. Now are you with me?" Her eyes had Tim hooked.
"I-I..." he began. Steph would kill me! But than again, how can I turn HER down. Dammit why do women have to be so confusing?
At that moment, the skylight just behind Tim and Ariana shattered. Tim instinctively pushed Ari out of harm's way and used his own body as a shield.
Robin lay in a pile of shattered glass, groaning out her various pains. Great, crowds. Just what I didn't need. Within seconds, the Spoiler had made the long drop into the heart of her destruction.
Robin rolled from under Spoiler's boot two seconds before impact. She had one of her nunchucks out but was still hurting from that fall. Whoever this is, they're good. Can't give them a second to think. Robin rolled back in front of Spoiler and rose with a high, slashing kick. Except Spoiler wasn't there.
Instead the imposter grabbed Robin's leg and pulled her in. Before Steph could react, Spoiler's right elbow smashed across her chin, dropping her.
Spoiler allowed herself an almost whispered laugh then launched herself at the Girl Wonder. Robin managed to block the blow but the fake's force sent them both to the ground.
The mall was clearing fast as it didn't take much to convince dwellers of Gotham to move. Tim looked at the chaos around him. Whoever that Spoiler is, they're handing Steph her ass! He looked down at Ari, whose eyes showed fear now. Got to get her out of here. He stood up and pulled her up by her arm. "Come on, we got to go!" He led her away from the battle.
Spoiler had her hands around Robin's throat, as Steph couldn't break the hold. She could feel the imposter's hands tightening. She couldn't reach a batarang or her belt. Maybe if I twist a little to my left...She turned and slowly pulled her leg between her and Spoiler. With a little more effort she pushed the fake away and into a vending machine. Sensing her chance, Robin launched a batarang.
Spoiler easily evaded the weapon, but it gave the Girl Wonder enough distraction so she could duck in and plant a left across Spoiler's mouth. Spoiler stumbled and grabbed her mouth. Robin advanced and had begun swinging her nunchucks when she saw Tim and Ariana. Tim?! She swung at Spoiler, who ducked the clumsy attempt, and followed with a brutal clothesline that put Steph on her back.
Tim hardly had time to notice as he and Ari narrowly missed a flying table. Tim looked around and made a beeline for the nearest exit. Once out, he sat Ariana down. "Are you okay?"
Ari nodded. "What in the world was that Tim?"
"Robin and Spoiler, except Spoiler isn't acting like herself," Tim answered.
"No," Ari said firmly. "I mean all that "hero" attitude you was showing in there. I didn't see you blink! Where did that come from?"
Well let's see, up until recently I was the costumed hero Robin, sidekick to the Batman. I've been trained for years to be ready for any and everything. So that was as natural as scratching an itch. "I-I don't know. Adrenaline I guess," he lied.
"That's some adrenaline," she concluded as she stood. "So you want to get out of here and let the police handle this?"
Tim knew she wanted to go somewhere else, but he couldn't with Steph fighting for her life inside. He looked back inside the mall. And saw a familiar figure watching. "Ari, I will call you but I have some other business to take care of," he said. "Sorry." And he took off towards his car.
Ari watched him until he turned the corner. "Yeah, me too."
Back inside, Robin and Spoiler were trading blows. For every knee to the gut or overhand smash Steph managed, the copy was delivering her own punishment. At this rate, neither of us will win out. Deciding to liven up the stakes, Robin back flipped away and disappeared in the now dimly lit mall.
Surprised by this move, Spoiler looked around confused. She took out her frustration on the plate glass display of Sears. And yet she did not speak. Instead she moved out into the open and closed her eyes.
What is she doing now? Robin wondered as she plotted her next move.
In response, Spoiler launched herself in Robin's direction, slamming through the sales cat and into a shocked Stephanie. Their collision sent them both through another display window, but with Robin taking the brunt.
Spoiler was up first and had a piece of glass in her grasp. She lunged at Robin, who missed being cut, but her costume was getting shredded with every swing.
Tim had made his way back to the fight, thanks to the mall's other entrances. He slid behind a pillar and looked up. I can't believe he's just watching this, he growled inwardly as he stared hard at the Batman in the rafters. But the real question is do I step in? No one else is around beside us four, but then again Steph is Robin now. He gave her that title for a reason. Unable to decide, Tim waited. I wonder what made Lotus want to impersonate Spoiler anyway?
Robin jumped back again from the glass, moving herself deeper into the corner. She executed a roll and knocked the glass from Spoiler. She swung with a right, but Spoiler caught the blow and tossed her back out the store.
Spoiler again allowed herself a small laugh, then she walked towards her prey. She flexed her fingers as she approached: she was going for the kill.
Stephanie's mind was racing as she knelt a few feet away. What does it take to put this girl down? She fumbled through her belt, praying for a miracle. Then she was smiling, just as Spoiler went to reach for her. "Surprise!" she shouted as she dropped smokescreen to the ground.
Spoiler swung blindly at the smoke, as she was clearly out of her element. Robin took full advantage of this as she slammed her 'chucks into Spoiler's ribs, following that with a kick to the solar plexus. Spoiler fell back, still unable to see. Robin brought her right across the imposter's jaw, but caught her as she fell. Wrapping some rope around her, Steph began to swing Spoiler around. After several spins, she let the rope go, sending Spoiler flying out one of the mall's ground level windows.
Tim pumped his fist into the air as he watched Robin make her way outside. I'll have to admit, Steph has come a long way since the last time I saw her. Bruce didn't just pick her; she can do her job, and well at that. He began to follow her out when another cloud of smoke showed up outside where Spoiler landed.
Robin and Tim both ran towards the confusion, and they could hear sounds of struggle. Robin slung a batarang through another window so she could get outside faster.
But the fight was over. Spoiler lay unconscious, badly beaten. Robin checked her pulse. "She's alive, but she was definitely over her head," she said.
Tim expected to see Batman present himself at any moment, but instead he saw the Bat exiting the mall from the broken skylight. He's not that fast. But he had more important matters to attend to first. "Hi Steph," he smiled.
"Uh-huh, I'll deal with you later," she stated accusingly as she heard sirens. "We can leave Spunky here for the police." She started to shoot her jumpline.
"Nothing happened!" Tim pleaded. "Come on! Really!" But Robin just launched herself back into the Gotham skyline. "Are we at least still on for dinner?" Getting nothing, Tim rushed back inside the mall to escape police questioning.
On the mall roof, a figure watched Tim go back into the mall and then watched Robin go. "I hope you two are ready," she said as she sheathed her katana blade. Lotus then stood and took her leave.
"It is time. Bring me the girl," a voice boomed out.
"Over and out. The girl will be delivered within 12 hours."
NEXT ISSUE: Robin has to face her greatest challenge yet, hiding in fear! Who is after her? And what part does Tim play in all this? You've stuck around for 10 issues; these next two are the payoff.