"You kept a utility belt?" Dick Grayson asked in amazement. "And he hasn't tracked you down yet?"
"He said return the costumes, and one utility belt won't hurt," Tim replied as Dick let him into his Bludhaven apartment. "As long as he doesn't find out."
Nightwing thought Tim had other motives for keeping the belt, but he wasn't about to voice his opinion now. "Let me see the riddle." Tim pulled the paper from underneath his rain soaked sweatshirt and handed it to him.
"We already figured out the corridor part, he's in some kind of hall," Tim started as he removed his hood. "We don't know what kind of hall though."
"Casually I've Taken Your
Darling love, your mi amour
But if you look in the right corridors
You'll find her and much much more!"
"And he means Stephanie by the darling love part," Dick concluded. He looked at the riddle, but he had other things on his mind. "We'll get back to that in a minute, get out of those clothes."
Tim looked at Dick strangely. "Excuse me?"
"No dummy," Dick replied as he dug through his closet. "They're soaking wet and they'll only slow you down. You need something else." He tossed out a half dozen Nightwing outfits.
"You don't happen to have a Robin one do ya?" Tim hoped.
"Not quite," Nightwing answer as he finally grabbed what he wanted. "But I do have this."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Tim moaned. "What's up with that collar and the chest?"
"Hey! I'll have you know this was high fashion..." Dick replied as he turned the costume over. "...at one time. But it's all you have."
Tim took the original Nightwing costume from his friend and sighed. No time to be fashionable. Steph is in too much trouble. If he hurts her... Tim thought. "Give me a minute to change." He went for the bathroom before turning around. "And thanks."
Dick watched Tim enter the bathroom. "I just hope it helps." He turned to look out at the storm raging outside his window. Helps you not get killed. But you have to do this yourself. Face this now instead of running like I did from Two-Face all those years.
A thin smile crossed Riddler's lips as he watched Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Robin, withering in pain on the tile floor, a victim of a seizure.
"It seems my little concoction of gas had a bad reaction with Stephy's tummy," he teased from above. "As much as I'd hate to see you die from anything but my hand, this is kinda fun!"
Stephanie finally stopped shaking and instead she started mumbling incoherently. "But I'm not listening to that mouth." Nigma walked over to the fallen heroine and slung her over his shoulder. He carried her to the coat closet and put her inside, closing the door behind him. "That's better."
He walked back to a desk and took a seat in the large chair. He spun around a few times before he stopped himself by putting his feet on the expensive cherry wood. "Come on boy, it's not that damn hard. Hurry up so that I can kill you and your girly." He folded his hands as his eyes narrowed and he smiled evilly. "Then Nightwing and the Bat."
"Are you sure you won't change your mind?" Oracle asked again.
Dick ignored her. "I still can't figure out the where the damned hall is..."
"Don't let him go alone!" It was then Tim emerged from the bathroom.
"How do I look?" Tim asked as he took the riddle from Nightwing. Dick couldn't suppress his laughter. "That's what I thought. Any luck?"
"None," Barbara replied. "It's got to be under our nose."
"He has to be in the city," Dick said as he paced around. "He wants you to find him."
Tim looked at Dick, back to the riddle, then back to Dick. "That's it! Look how he capitalized all the letters in the first sentence!"
"Casually I've Taken Your..." Dick asked.
"C-I-T-Y! He's in City Hall!" Oracle shouted. "We've got him!"
"No," Tim stated with authority. "I got him." He checked his belt one more time as he walked to window. "I guess this is it."
"Yeah," Dick answered. There were no words, just an awkward silence. "A silver Acura? That's sure inconspicuous."
"I know, but it's not like I could get the Redbird out of the Cave," Tim joked. "But I got to go now." Nightwing nodded as Tim launched his jumpline and de-celed to his car below.
"I hope you know what you're doing," Oracle said. "Cause I sure as hell don't know what's going through that head of yours."
"Stop laughing!" Robin screamed as her eyes flew open. She looked around but there was no light and her body ached all over. "Where the hell am I?" she asked as her eyes was suddenly filled with light.
"Stop laughing about what?" Riddler asked smiling. "I see you lived through that experience." He saw the puzzled look Robin gave him. "You had a seizure by the way, thanks to my gas. So don't try anything too quick." He yanked Steph off of the floor and put her back in the chair.
"You're not gonna get away with this, just wait until I get free." Robin said. "I'll tear you apart."
"Always the confident little..." Nigma began as looked hard at the girl before his left hand backhanded her. "...bitch. You can try if you want, but you and your boyfriend are dying tonight. And I expect him soon."
Robin said nothing. I can't get these damn handcuffs off! And do I really have a chance against him especially since I just had a seizure? She had never doubted herself as much as she was now. And is Tim really coming to save me?
I got to get to her. The thought repeated through his mind over and over. He wasn't even paying attention to his speed. Glad the rain is keeping the roads clear, I can't let anything slow me down. Why do I feel responsible for this because we had that stupid fight? He entered downtown Gotham, pulling to a stop outside of City Hall. He parked and hopped out of his car when he heard laughing behind him.
"Hey you, nice clothes!" a kid screamed. "Where did you go to, 80's R Us?" He and a few other boys under an overhanging roof erupted again.
Tim rolled his eyes and surveyed the situation. He's expecting me, but there has to be some way for me to take him by surprise. The roof's out, so is the window and doors. His eyes darted back to the street when he saw his way in. He walked into the middle of the street as the rain seemed to beat down on him even harder. He pulled at the manhole cover and managed to lift it after several tries. Funny, this reminds me of when I ran from Lotus and her ninjas*. I guess you can't change a good thing. He sighed and slid into the darkness below.
*Robin #2-I won't let the sewer joke die Kelen.
"So how did you figure out who I was Nigma?" Stephanie asked as she continued to struggle with her restraints, even though her wrists were raw already.
"You really don't understand what money can do for one's knowledge do you? It was quite simple to hire someone to follow you and report your movements to me. It was only a matter of catching you changing costumes. Plus your father is quite the squealer when green is flashed." Riddler explained as Robin grimaced at the mention of Cluemaster. "This city is already mine."
"You don't impress me." She fired back defiantly. Nigma's eyes targeted her as he grabbed her by the throat and lifted her out of the seat.
"I should kill you now, maybe then the boy will lie down and die next to you," he grunted as he squeezed tighter.
"You...don't...have it...in you," Robin managed. She was trying to buy herself some time but it was only bringing her closer to dying. It was then she heard movement in the room behind them. "...cause...we...win."
"You win?" Riddler laughed. "I think not, in fact, I think it's..."
The door behind the two flew open, causing the villain to drop Robin and turn. Standing there, bo-staff in hand, was Tim. "It's what Nigma?" he asked he leaped. Riddler easily dodged and nailed Tim in the back as he passed, sending him on top of Steph.
"Tell me, who picked this loser to replace you?" Riddler cackled. "All she can do is talk." He kicked Robin in her side. "Plus, she doesn't do oral too well so why do you keep her?"
Tim regrouped and swung his staff wildly. "Shut up! You know nothing about her!" he screamed as Riddler easily evaded his weapon before he grabbed it and flipped Tim onto his back.
"Letting your anger get the best of you are we? That's about as smart as your costume." Nigma grabbed Tim by the collar and tossed him a few feet away. "Some things don't change kid, because I'm still better."
Tim pulled himself to a sitting position and looked at Steph. She was in obvious pain but she continued to fight against her bonds. Keep fighting Steph; I'll win this somehow. I just need an opening... He looked Nigma over as he stood with his arms folded. He's not even concerned, and why does he look stronger? Maybe there's another way. He stood up with his hands up.
"You're right. You are better." He said as Robin's eyes widened.
"What are you doing?! Take him down!" she pleaded. Tim shook his head.
"There's no point. I'll lose."
Nigma smiled. "So you finally get it don't you? You know that's not enough though. I still will kill you." He walked closer to the young hero. "Now."
"Not yet!" Tim shouted as he dropped his flash bombs as he covered his eyes. The bright light blinded Riddler and he staggered backwards. Tim dropped two more smoke bombs as he rolled back towards Steph.
"Damn you! You think this will help?" Nigma screamed as he fought his momentary blindness.
Tim picked Robin up and headed for the nearest exit. "Just follow me Riddler, and you might get what you want!" he said as he left the office and entered the darkened halls.
"Tim what are you doing?" Steph asked weakly.
"I'm rusty, he'll kill me in an instant. I need to get in his head like he's done to us." Tim replied as he used his infrared lenses to find City Hall's front door.
"Then where are we going?"
"The Cave." Tim finished as he set Robin in his passenger seat, closed her door then ran around the car to his side where he hopped in. He turned the ignition and sped away, just as Riddler made his way out of the government building.
"Follow you I shall boy," he stated as he ran into an alley. "Until you breathe no more!"
"There," Alfred Pennyworth sighed as he dusted his hands off. "Finished." He looked over the various costumes in the massive chamber, each one displayed and ready for use.
Ranging from the standard Batman attire to underwater survival suits, the amount of variations seemed endless. And Alfred had just finished dusting them all off. He smiled triumphantly and headed for the door when something caught his eye. He walked over to it and examined it thoroughly.
"Ah Master Timothy," Alfred said as he glanced at the rack of Robin costumes last worn by Tim. "I wonder what you've been doing in your free time."
The butler spun on his heel and exited the chamber, making sure to close the door behind him. He made his way to the communicator by the monitors. "I am here. How can I be of assistance?"
"Alfred! Thank God. It's Tim."
"Tim? What's going on?" Alfred asked puzzled.
"It's Riddler, he's following me now in a Jaguar of all things! I'm here to say crime does pay!"
"Never mind that Timothy!" Alfred scolded. "What do you need?"
"Right. I got Steph here but Nigma's put a hurt on her. I need you to call Cassie and then meet us at 'the spot'."
"The spot? Are you sure about this Tim? Do you want me to call Nightwing?" Alfred asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Do not call him. Riddler is mine. I'll be there in 10. Tim out."
Alfred was shocked by Tim's statement. "Starting to sound more like Bruce every day." He concluded as he went to work calling Batgirl.
"Are you nuts?" Robin asked. "He'll know where it is! And you can't go to the Cave, Bruce is there!" She was conscious but barely. She felt like she could blackout at any moment.
"He's not there," Tim said as he checked Riddler in his rear view. "Barbara told me that. Batgirl is on her way to meet us. I've got a plan." He glanced over at her and noticed her rough state for the first time. "Are you okay?"
"While he had me captive, I had a reaction to the gas he drugged me with. I went into a seizure for a few minutes." Stephanie replied. Tim nearly went off the road.
"We need to get you attention as soon as possible Steph, you could have another at any time!"
"No," she waved him off. "I'll be fine. We take Nigma down before all else. And it's got to be..." her voice trailed off as she passed out.
"Steph!" Tim yelled as he kept his eyes on the road the best he could. Riddler was closing in. The last thing I need is an accident. "Wake up Steph! Come on!"
Robin's eyes fluttered open slowly as she responded to her name. "What happened?" she asked.
"Alfred's taking care of you while I finish this."
"But..." Steph started.
"End of discussion. We're almost there." Tim stated bluntly. Robin folded her arms and turned away from him.
"Whatever you say Tim," she said fuming. Tim gave it more gas as Riddler came closer still.
Alfred stood with his arms folded, admiring his work. "Not bad I say." He looked over the Batcave and nodded.
In the upper reaches, Batgirl sat and nodded back to him. Her orders were to take Riddler down and she didn't plan on letting down.
"Okay Timothy," Alfred said as he looked towards the Cave's entrance. "Let's hope your plan works." As if on cue, he heard cars in the distance. He turned and went to take his own position.
The hidden entrance to the Cave opened as Tim and Robin approached. Tim entered, spun the wheel and hit the brakes, bringing his car to a stop. He just had enough time to get Stephanie out of harm's way when Nigma finally caught up. He grabbed Tim on the shoulder and yanked him around.
"You think running to this rinky dink base of yours is gonna save you? Where is the old man anyway?" He took half a swing at Tim but was shocked to see his fist hit air. "It's about time you start fighting!"
Tim continued to sway away from Riddler's half-hearted assaults. "Why don't you stop playing and get real!" he demanded as he kicked his foe in the gut. Nigma staggered and Tim went to follow with a right-hand but had it caught.
"Nice try." Riddler said as he squeezed Tim's fist, bringing him to a knee. He nailed him in the mouth with his free hand then elbowed him in the face. Tim could taste copper in his mouth. "Wanna try again?" he said as he pushed Tim away.
Tim stood up and tried to shake the pain from his hand. Can't get discouraged yet. Have to hold my own. He pulled out his staff and attacked head on, trying his best to put a dent in Riddler's figurative armor. But Riddler would have none of this as all of Tim's attempts failed miserably and Nigma pushed him back with a foot. Before Tim could regroup, Nigma had kicked him in the chest, sending him sprawling.
"Was it this easy last time too?" Riddler joked as he stood over Tim. "Or have I gotten that much better?" Tim was hunched over trying to get his bearings.
Suddenly, he leapt up and smashed Nigma in the face with his fist clenched together. A tooth went flying as the villain's head snapped back. "Enough with the fucking jokes, because I'm not playing!" Tim shouted. His lip was busted and Riddler had already re-aggravated his rib injury he had given him the first time.
Edward Nigma raised his head and looked at Tim. The playfulness was gone from his eyes now. "You want to get real, then let's." he taunted. He closed the distance between the two of them in a matter of seconds and landed repeated blows to Tim's chest and face. Tim had no chance of blocking and he was taking the full brunt of the blows. He's faster than I ever imagined. I don't think I've even seen Bruce go this fast! Riddler finished with a roundhouse kick that sent Tim a good 5 feet into the air where he skidded across the Batcave floor, shredding the upper half of the Nightwing costume. He tried to get back to his feet but Nigma was right on top of him. He picked Tim up and heaved him across the Cave, where he landed with a thud.
Riddler said no words, only made his way to his fallen adversary. Tim lay motionless, his eyes closed. Could it be over? He asked himself.
In answer, Tim's legs shot up and nailed Riddler in the face sending him stumbling. Tim got to his feet and tossed a batarang that struck Nigma in the forehead. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, he raced to Nigma and nailed him with a right and left to the jaw. Riddler rocked on his heels and Tim prepared to catch him in the chest with two fists.
Tim swung and found nothing as Riddler ducked and rounded Tim. Grabbing the teen in a bear hug, he picked him up and slammed him into the concrete.
No! Tim's senses screamed. I can't pass out, got to fight, got to stay awake and put Riddler down. Got to... He went limp as he lost consciousness.
"You wanted to get real," Nigma said as he looked at the beaten boy. "You know what's next." He took Tim's neck in his hands and hoisted him into the air when he was struck from behind. Tim fell to the ground as Riddler turned on his newest attacker.
"Batgirl?" he asked. Batgirl said nothing but kicked him across the face, sending him to the floor. As the two moved away from Tim, Alfred came out and dragged to where he was taking care of Stephanie.
"Is he?" she asked upon seeing the battered figure of Tim Drake. Alfred shook his head.
"Batgirl prevented that. We have to wake him up though, Cassandra will only hold off Nigma for so long, and we need a little more time." Alfred took out the smelling salts.
"Time for what?' the Girl Wonder asked.
Alfred ignored her and waved the salts under Tim nostrils. "And we have to get him out of this costume, it can only be hindering him. There's one on the table near the door there Stephanie. Fetch it for me."
Stephanie reluctantly let her question go as she went to the table and retrieved the spare costume. It wasn't until she brought it back to the light that she could see it fully.
"What's the idea behind this one?" she asked angrily as she pointed to the costume.
She was interrupted when Batgirl was slammed against the machinery concealing them from Riddler. Batgirl rolled to her feet but stood shakily. Nigma took advantage as he backhanded her in the face. Batgirl regained her balance however, and charged Riddler, nailing him in the stomach with her shoulder and pushing the fight away from her allies.
Tim's eyes opened as the salts took effect. He tried to set up but his body refused. "Where's Nigma?"
"Batgirl has him occupied for now, but he dealt you a good one young man," Alfred said. "But we got to get you back on your feet and back out there, because we're not quite ready."
Tim nodded and sat up slowly. He looked over at Stephanie. "How are you feeling?"
"Just peachy." She said sharply.
Alfred took the costume away from her and tossed it to Tim. "I do believe a costume change is in order."
Tim caught the garment and his eyes widened as he looked over a Robin costume. His Robin costume. "Are you sure?" he asked.
Alfred nodded. "Go ahead boy. Fight in style. Plus I think Dick purposely made you wear that." He pointed at the tattered Nightwing costume barely clinging to Tim.
Just then, Batgirl came crashing into their midst. Tim checked for a pulse. "She's alive, but barely." He whispered as he pulled on his costume.
"Where did you go boy? You're not where I left you!" Riddler shouted as he looked around for his prey. Tim pulled on his cape as Stephanie grew angrier by the minute.
"I'm going out there," she said as pulled her mask on.
"No Steph, it's too risky!" Tim called after her, but Robin was gone. She dropped down in front of Nigma.
"Looking for me ugly?" she quipped as she twirled her nunchucks. "Let's try a fair fight this time." She readied herself for attack as she circled Riddler.
Riddler's left arm shot out and grabbed Robin by the shirt, yanking her close. He drew back his right hand to strike, but she wiggled free of his grasp and slammed her elbow into his sternum. She brought her left nunchuck into his ribs while her right was poised for a head shot. Nigma grabbed her 'chucks out of her right hand and gripped her wrist tightly, causing her to drop her other set. He smashed into her face with a right of his own, sending her to the floor.
"Who says anything is fair?" Riddler asked. Steph rolled away and stood up, her stomach doing back flips. Riddler launched himself at her, executing a spin kick that sent Robin back to the floor. He tried to stomp his foot at her head, but she got to her feet seconds before impact. Seeing the opening, she drove her knee into Riddler, bending him over. She followed with an uppercut that knocked him off of his feet and onto the ground.
Riddler immediately scrambled to his feet and Robin charged at him, but Nigma was prepared this time as he grabbed the Girl Wonder and tossed her over his back and onto her back. All the air in her lungs was forced out as the pain erupted in her back. Riddler turned around and looked down just in time to see Steph pull her mask back and puke on his feet.
"Why you little..." he grunted angrily. He yanked Robin up by her cape and quickly twisted her right arm behind her back. "Hear this boy!" he screamed.
Tim couldn't see much from his position, but he didn't like the sound of it.
"Come out now and finish this! Or the girl pays!" He tugged at the vulnerable limb as Steph tried to refocus.
Tim placed his mask on and tried to see what was happening. Got to think fast, before he hurts Steph or worse!
"I'm counting to three! If I don't see you, it ain't gonna be pretty!"
Tim held his breath as he awaited the count to make an appearance before anything did happen.
"Three!" Riddler shouted, taking Tim by surprise. Riddler looked around his surroundings. "Guess he just doesn't care Stephy!" he shouted as he yanked her arm awkwardly.
Stephanie screamed in pain as her arm broke in three different places. Nigma let her go and watched her fall to the ground, unable to brace herself. Her chin hit the floor sharply and she passed out once more.
"Damn you Riddler!" Tim screamed as emerged from hiding. "We end this now!" He leaped between Steph and Nigma. "Let me get her out of the way though. Do you have enough honor to do that?"
Surprisingly, Nigma nodded and took a step back. Tim scooped Stephanie off of the floor and carried her back to the shadows where Alfred was waiting. "How much longer?" Tim whispered as he laid her down.
"Give me ten," Alfred answered as he started working on Steph. Robin returned to where Riddler was waiting.
"Decided to go with the classic look I see," Riddler commented as he tried to throw Tim off some more. "To tell the truth it looks better on you than her boy."
Tim couldn't be riled. "I'm not a boy," he stated as he approached his opponent. "I'm Robin, and after tonight you won't forget again." He stood inches from Riddler, fists clenched.
Riddler lashed out with his fist, but Robin was nowhere near. He had flipped over Nigma and landed behind him. As Riddler turned, Robin drove his fist into his chin, clearly dazing him. He grabbed him by his shirt and head butted him, sending him back even more. Robin then hit him with a kick to his already hurting sternum and watched as Nigma fell to the floor.
"Where did you pull that one from?" he grunted as he picked himself up off of the floor. Before Robin could answer, Riddler slammed his fist into Robin's own chest. "Nevermind." He sneered.
Robin coughed as he tried to get his breath, but Nigma wasn't letting up as he pounded another fist into the Boy Wonder's chest. He went for a side kick but Robin picked his staff up off the floor and blocked, then he spun around and smacked Riddler in the face, busting his nose in the process. "Back off Nigma, it's almost over." Robin taunted him.
"That's what you may think fool!" Riddler screamed as he reached to snag the hero, but he found nothing but air. And he found himself in an office. "What the hell?" he wondered aloud.
"What the hell is this crap Nigma?" a voice shouted. "I told you I wanted results!"
"Don't talk to me like that!" Nigma replied angrily. "Do you know who I am?"
"Don't give me that! Just because you used to be a two-bit hood who writes riddles doesn't scare me! You're fired! Get out of my sight!" the voice boomed.
"I'm not weak anymore! I don't care what you think!" Riddler screamed back. Robin looked at Nigma strangely.
"But we're the only ones here Edward," he said quietly.
"Don't you call me Edward!" Nigma yelled as he swung at the Boy Wonder. Tim easily ducked and planted his left hand across Riddler's face.
Riddler staggered as his vision went red, up his surroundings changed again, this time to arctic conditions. "What kind of games are you playing?" he demanded
"Games?" Robin asked. "What are you talking about?"
"This snow! Where did it come from?" Riddler asked as fear crept into his voice. "It's everywhere!" Robin's boot met with his chin as he said this and Nigma hit the floor with a thump. It was then that he saw the avalanche start to slide. "It's falling on top of me!" he screamed in horror.
Robin smiled as he watched Riddler unravel before him. "There's no snow here, have you lost it?"
Riddler looked around and found himself in the middle of the Batcave again. He shook his head and tried to recollect himself. "No, I'm fine." He prepared to attack when he heard another voice. Only this one truly scares him.
"Give it up Nigma." Batman said coldly. Riddler began to shake from fear but he wouldn't let his voice betray him.
"It's about time you showed up Bats," Nigma said distractedly. "Now the real fun starts."
"Game over." Batman said. With that Robin launched an all out assault on Riddler, as he landed blows left and right. Nigma was in no condition to defend himself as his mind seemed to collapse on itself. Robin batted the villain to the wall before planting a picturesque uppercut that sent Riddler into the wall where he slumped to the floor.
"The drugs, the drugs," Nigma mumbled over and over. Robin knelt down next to him as he curled into a ball.
"What drugs?" he asked.
"The steroids. I've been on them for almost two years now. They're experimental from my company and it seemed to enhance my comprehension and learning skills." Riddler rocked himself as his eyes widened.
"That explains the transformation," Robin noted. "You may have trained your body and mind to perfection, but you can never really escape what scares your mind. Shut it off Alfred." The Batcave vanished and turned into trees and cold rain.
"Sorry it took so long to pinpoint Nigma's fears," Alfred began as he emerged. "But this is only the prototype of Batman's fear training program."
"I'm just glad his mind broke before he broke anything else," he said, nodding at Stephanie who was wrapped in blankets. "How's Cassie?
"She'll be fine, just a few scrapes."
Tim nodded and returned to Riddler. "Looks like you lose after all."
Nigma smiled. "Maybe, but never the war!" With that he rolled to his left and into a nearby pond that was already flood-ravaged.
"Nigma!" Robin screamed. He tossed off his cape and dived in after him. I'm not gonna let death cheat me of putting you away! He could make out little in the murky depths. He rose to the top. "Alfred! Throw me the flashlight!"
Alfred tossed the light into the lake. Tim grabbed it and flicked it on as he dived in again. No sign of Riddler. He couldn't have escaped could he? He resurfaced for air again as the two-minute mark approached. This pond isn't that big, he has to be here! Robin swam in every direction possible, searching for any movement, any sign. But none would come. He resurfaced for air again when he saw someone else had joined the party.
"Robin!" Batman shouted. "Try one last time, then we have to get out of here, the flood's passing right through here!" Robin nodded and dove again. "Get Stephanie and Cassie out of here Alfred. We'll catch up."
Robin's light hit every spot he could find but still no Nigma. Dammit, he's gone again! Just then, something grabbed his ankle then let go. Robin looked down just in time to see Nigma sucking water into his lungs and closing his eyes. Tim grabbed him by the shirt and swam for all he was worth back to the surface. "I've got him!"
"Let's go!" Batman replied as he helped pull Riddler out of the pond. "And let's hope he wasn't under there too long." The two headed for the nearby Batmobile.
"I'm afraid there's bad news," the doctor said to Commissioner Gordon as he emerged from the back. Gordon shot up from his seat anxiously.
"Nigma has suffered brain damage from his stay underwater. Normally he would've had more time but the storm just decreased his chances. He may be crazier than before."
Gordon nodded. "Thank you doctor." As the doctor left the room, Gordon went to the window where Batman and Robin were perched outside. "Brain damage."
"Dammit!" Robin griped.
"It's not your fault, you did your best." Batman said. Tim was shocked to hear something positive come out of Bruce's mouth. "We better get back."
Gordon nodded as he watched the two disappear into the night and the fading storm. "Wait a minute," he said puzzled. "Where's the girl Robin?"
Thirty minutes later back at the Batcave.
"I'm quitting," Stephanie said.
"Quitting?" Tim asked. He, Stephanie and Bruce stood in the real Batcave. "But what about Robin?"
"After the beating I just took," she said as she pointed to her sling. "It's time I rethink my options. I don't know how I'll explain this to mom. The broken nose was hard enough."
"Are you sure?" Bruce asked as Stephanie walked towards the exit. "Don't make any rash decisions."
Stephanie whirled and smiled. "Would I do anything like that?" And with that she was gone.
That left Bruce and Tim alone. With things to discuss.
"It's yours if you want it." Bruce stated, taking Tim aback.
"You mean Robin? Just like that?"
"I may not agree with your methods all the time Tim," Bruce replied as he too began to walk away. "But you get the job done. It's yours if you want it." Tim was still stunned as he watched Bruce go.
Why does he seem so vulnerable all of a sudden? He sighed and looked down at the costume he was wearing. Undecided, he made his way to his car, so he could take his tired body home.
Early the next morning, Tim awoke to his father and Dana at the foot of his bed.
"Son, we need to talk." Jack Drake said flatly.
"About what," Tim managed groggily.
"We saw the tape."
"What tape?" Tim asked baffled.
"Don't play dumb son."
"The one of you at the mall during that fight.*" Dana added,
"What were you doing there?" Jack demanded.
Tim was wide-awake now. I can't say, watching out for Stephanie cause she was Robin, but now I'm Robin again or am I? He couldn't quite form an answer. Until it hit him.
"It was for my journalism project for school." He sighed.
"Journalism! You risked your neck for a project?" Jack said furious. Tim thought he was about to explode but instead Jack stormed out of the room.
"That went well," Tim said as he wiped his eyes sleepily. Dana walked over to the door and locked it. "What is it Dana?" Tim asked cautiously.
"I have one thing to say and then I'm leaving," Dana said her voice a near whisper.
"I know you're Robin." Having said that she turned and left the room, leaving Tim in shocked silence. He fell back on his pillows and pulled one over his mouth. And he screamed.
NEXT ISSUE: That's the big #12, with a cliffhanger I've been bringing along all these months. Dana knows Tim's secret, but does Tim even have a secret? These answers and more in Robin Annual #1, coming soon! I just want to say thanks to everyone for sticking with me for these twelve issues and I'm only getting started!