Tim sat in the cramped room, awaiting the start of class. Not because he was so anxious to learn, mostly because he wanted Ariana to shut up.
She had talked non-stop ever since they had entered the room, with Tim occasionally acknowledging her with a 'yeah' or 'uh huh'. What has happened to this girl to make her so...annoying? I'm gonna have to take her aside and really talk to her, that is if she can ever be quiet.
The announcement bell rang, which was odd since the morning announcements had already been said. Principal Hill came across the loud speakers, sounding normal, but not quite right to Tim's ears.
"Students and teachers, we're asking all of you to remain in your classrooms until further notice. Thank you."
The class moaned in unison. "Why are they bringing in the drug dogs again? They just did that the other day...," was the most common cry as the teacher tried to get ahold of her class to no avail.
Something is not right about this, Tim thought as his detective skills kicked in. He was sitting next to the door. If I'm quick enough I can probably slip out in the confusion. He looked over his shoulder at Ari who was caught up in the argument. Wasting no more time, he quickly slipped out his seat and was out the door without a sound.
The hallways were empty and noiseless. Definitely not a drug search. I better head up to the office. He was halfway up the hallway when he heard the classroom door open and shut.
"Tim?" Ariana asked puzzled. "Where are you going?"
"Um..." Tim stammered. "I'm...I'm...going to the bathroom." He wanted to smack himself for such a lame excuse.
"What about the...never mind," she said. "Just don't be too long." With that, she was back in the classroom.
Don't tell me she's put two and two together! Oh well, I have to find out what's going on. He then turned on his heels and raced around the corner.
From his offices in New York City, Thomas Jacobs relaxed, watching a golf tournament while sipping a martini. He smiled contentedly at the outcome of his meeting. Bets are being placed as we speak, metahumans never fail to fight at any given time and here I am profiting from all of it! He stood and walked to his window, where he had a clear view of the city's skyline. And all I have to do is wait for Robin to emerge before the fun really starts. Because the real heroes always emerge, no matter what. His door being opened interrupted his thinking.
"Mr. Jacobs, your 9:00 is here," his assistant said.
Thomas smiled brightly. "Thank you Mr. Anderson," he replied as he took out a cigar. "Send Lex right in."
Anderson nodded his head and exited. A few seconds later, a bald man strode into the room, flanked by two secret service agents.
Inside the offices, two men were in a heated battle of words.
"What do you mean I can't have a diploma?! Don't you see this gun pointed at your face?!" Jeffery Atkins roared. The office had cleared out; only he and Principal Hill remained inside.
"A diploma is not something you demand! You have to earn a diploma and under no circumstances will I just give you one!" the principal retorted, his anger flaring as well. He also knew that he had no diplomas, they were all kept at the city school offices elsewhere. He couldn't give him one if he wanted to.
"Man, you are severely pressing my patience! I'mma tell you this one mo' time, give me a diploma or I'll kill you! What part of that don't you understand muthafucka?" Jeffery screamed. The gun clicked as it became more relevant than before.
"Never," Hill said as he sweated nervously.
"Your choice," Atkins decided as he began to pull the trigger.
Suddenly, the window nearby shattered as someone came flying into the room, landing right in the midst of the two men. He was dressed in an inside-out sweatsuit and a ski mask.
"What the fuck?! You don't think I'll kill you too?" Jeffery asked confidently as he lowered his gun to the newcomer's head.
Not responding with words, instead the man backflipped, kicking the gun out of Jeffery's hand and managing to nail him square in the chin, sending him backwards into some filing cabinets.
Atkins scrambled to his feet and threw a shaky punch at his new adversary. The man grabbed Jeffery's arm and yanked him towards him, then stopping his forward motion with a hard right hook. Atkins' feet hit the ground, but nothing was left working properly for him to maintain a standing position.
As the thug lay unconscious on the ground, Principal Hill stepped forward to thank the man happily. "Thank you so much for protecting my life as well as the students! But that is quite the peculiar outfit, where did you get it?"
Before Tim Drake could explain a different way to say his stepmother had taken the liberty of removing his Robin costume from what he thought was a secret compartment in his backpack, he was hit by what felt like a Mack truck.
A new combatant had entered the fray and busted down the office door. Not stopping for introductions, he hit Tim with enough force to drive both him and the Boy Wonder back through the window that had been broken earlier.
Lucky for both, the school office was a mere two stories above ground. The bad thing was Tim was on the bottom of whoever this guy was and the bushes below didn't make anything feel better. What in the hell is after me now? And how in the hell does it know who I am right now? Finally pulling himself out from under his attacker, he got himself to his feet.
His assailant had been quicker though and he landed a left strong enough to send Tim over the fence and into the busy street. Having no costume meant there was no padding for the road rash and no utility belt meant there was nothing Tim could do catch his bearings anytime soon. As he pushed himself up from the asphalt, he heard the horn of the oncoming car.
He barely had time to leap up on top of the car and use another quick jump to propel himself across the street when got hit again, this time from a shoulder block. His foe had easily crossed over the street over car tops and hit him again. This time Tim crumpled on the sidewalk, his body already giving out from the beating and lack of sleep the night before.
"What do you want from me?" Tim asked as his vision blurred. The other man said nothing and only tried to bring both fists down on top of the teenager. Tim instinctively rolled away and took off running, not knowing quite what to do.
I've got to get some room to move. If he keeps hitting me while I'm maneuvering over everything else, I'll be dead in no time. But why is he attacking me?! He glanced over his shoulder and saw that he was definitely still being followed.
The man wasn't much larger than Tim, actually around Dick's build. Funny thing was, he too was dressed in a sweatsuit and ski mask. Too ironic. As he stopped traffic at yet another street, he saw the opportunity he needed. A small, yet spacious park.
Across town, another confrontation wasn't going as planned.
"Where is Luthor?!" Jacobs demanded as he knocked all the papers off of his desk. "He agreed to this meeting with me himself, now why isn't he here?"
The small, timid man clutched his briefcase tightly. "Mr. Luthor had to attend to important presidential matters..." he stammered.
"Don't give me that bullshit!" Thomas yelled. Luthor's assistant dropped his briefcase and grabbed at his head.
"Ahhh! It's as if my head's going to explode!" he screamed as he sank to his knees.
"And you will you bloody..."
"Thomas Jacobs!" One of the secret service agents stepped forward. "We have no idea what strange power you are capable of, but whatever relationship you do have with President Luthor would be seriously jeopardized if you kill his assistant."
Just as quick as it came, the pain stopped. The assistant wearily got back to his feet. "As I was saying, President Luthor regrets his missing your appointment and hopes to reschedule..."
"Reschedule? Does he not realize..." The agents silenced him.
"...Hopes to reschedule when a time is more convenient for the both of you. Thank you." He picked up his briefcase and left the office with the agents in tow.
Jacobs stood behind his desk, growing angrier by the second. He raised both his fists and the air and brought them down with a tremendous force upon the wooden structure. He felt better as it splintered everywhere across his office.
Meanwhile, Tim Drake was having problems of his own. He wasn't getting pummeled like he was earlier, but the man he was facing kept one step ahead oh him as the two duked it out in the park.
Tim rolled to his right and tried a sweep, but a small jump evaded that move. Tim lunched to his side to avoid a kick but his chop to the midsection proved fruitless. The seemingly endless dance continued on as onlookers dared to gather.
What is it about this guy? Tim wondered as his left foot found nothing but air. Every move I try is avoided, and he can barely land a hand on me. Almost as if we're cut from the same cloth. He caught a glancing blow off of the shoulder, which jolted him back to the fight. Or maybe he's psychic? After catching the man with a strong right, he discarded the idea.
His foe responded by grabbing Tim in a bear hug that he could not avoid. He squirmed as much as possible, but the arms held firm. That's when the squeezing began.
Jacobs stood above the remains of his desk when Anderson came bounding back in.
"You idiot!" Thomas yelled. "How could you not know?"
"More importantly," Anderson interjected. "There's a fight going down in one of the Gotham Heights parks. It's on television."
"Turn it on." Jacobs said as his anger curbed.
The wide-screen television on the wall flickered to life as two men came into view. One was smaller in size, but not lacking heart, while the other one looked to be a grown, well developed adult. And the adult was squeezing the little one to death.
"The bets have been flying in. Only a few have chosen the little one, the other's a huge favorite. Care to wager?" Anderson asked as he smiled.
"I already have," Jacobs responded as his temper flared again. "There's no mistaking it...that little one is Robin! And he's losing my money!"
The outside world was fading in and out now. Tim was losing air and fast. No matter how I twist or turn I can't get away from this guy! He had a minute or less before total darkness sit in.
Have to do...something...can't let it end like this...this one's for you Dana, no matter how low it is...
Underneath his mask, the man was smiling brightly. He could sense his victory was at hand. And as he applied that last bit of pressure, his smile vanished.
"Yarrrrrgh!" he screamed in pain as he let go of Tim and fell to the ground in pain. Tim sucked in deep breaths as he regained his footing. His foe was holding his crotch from the blow Tim had delivered.
Everyone watching locked onto Tim seeing how he would take advantage of the situation. And everyone was just as shocked to see him run as fast as he could carry himself.
The crowd reacted immediately, but he didn't care. A good fighter knows when to stand and fight...or run and live. I'll have to find this guy when I have all my guns ready. He ducked around the nearest corner to get out of his impromptu costume.
"No! Don't run you coward! Stay and fight!" Thomas demanded two inches away from his screen.
"It's too late sir. The fight is officially over. And you stand to lose..." Anderson started.
"If you read me that number, you'll know how it feels to have your heart explode. Twice."
Anderson raised his hands as if to say 'no thanks' and headed back out the office. A stressed out Thomas let his head slam against his TV as it turned off. "You want to play like a pussy, Robin, then I'll treat you like any other alley cat in Gotham. You can stay outside and suffer."
Tim ran across the same streets he was being chased on before back to school. Police had arrived and he saw the end of Jeffery's plight as he was shoved into the back of a cruiser.
"Fuck that! I want to bring up charges on that guy! Who the hell was it? He assaulted me for no reason!" was the last Tim heard as the door slammed shut. He bounded up the steps until he was back in the front doors, where he ran into Ives.
"Where have you been?" he asked. "The principal was being held at gunpoint, then somebody saved him, then somebody attacked that guy!"
"I don't know man. I went outside after I went to the bathroom cause I couldn't stand that classroom and next thing I know I'm buried under glass and bricks!"
"Wow, are you okay?" Ives asked as he brushed some dirt off Tim. You look like you saw your life flash before your eyes.
"You have no idea," Tim responded. "What time is it?" He and Ives had headed back outside to gain a little privacy
"Tim!" Ariana yelled when she saw him. "I thought you was going to the bathroom." Tim opened his mouth to tell his story again but Ari didn't give him time. "They're sending us home early so they can assess the damages. Any chance you can give a girl a ride home?"
Tim looked at Ives who gave him that 'you know you want her look'. "Yeah Ari, the car is around back."
"Car? What happened to the van and the family car?" she asked as the three came around the school building corner. "And which one?"
"Oh, just that shiny red one right there," Ives pointed.
"Omigod Tim look at it! It's great! Where did you get it?" Ariana asked as she rushed up to the car and practically drooled all over it.
"It was a...coming back home gift," Tim lied. "But I forgot...there's no back seats and I already have to take Ives home..." He pushed the button to unlock it.
"Oh no problem," Ari said as she slid in. "I can sit in the middle."
Tim rolled his eyes again as Ives leaned over and whispered, "She's all yours man."
"Shut up, Ives."
Lydia Smith stared at her computer screen, unable to make any rational thought into a sentence. Every time she typed a word or two, it was quickly deleted and the process started all over again.
"Hey Lydia," a fellow reporter said as he went by. "There's some fire's downtown if you want to go cover those."
Lydia shook her head. "No thanks, I can't think straight enough to write anything right now." Her colleague nodded and walked away. Lydia brought her cold coffee to her lips and promptly spit it back in the cup. Throwing it away with disgust, she knew she couldn't sit in the newsroom any longer. "That's it," she declared as she stood and threw on her coat. "I'm out of here."
She walked quickly from her desk and towards the elevator. She was halfway there when her editor, Mike Lowery walked into her path.
"Where do you think you're going like that?" he asked with his arms folded. He knew how Lydia got when she was pissed.
"I'm going home, I can't think and this place is only making it worse right now," she answered. She couldn't even look at him she was so angry. Fucking asshole.
"It's not time for you to get off work yet young lady, and I have no copy from you period," Lowery said, unwavering from his stance. "I want to see some product."
"Product!" Lydia yelled, catching the whole newsroom's eyes. "I had product but you told me it wasn't good enough, it was too late. If I stay here I don't know what I'll do. Now excuse me!" She walked past Mike, giving him a solid push. She hit the elevator button and waited impatiently.
"I expect quality tomorrow, Lydia!" he roared. "I want to see a quality story from you tomorrow or I don't know what I might do!" He stalked away fuming.
As the elevator finally opened and Lydia entered, she watched him slam the door to his office. Fucking asshole.
Tim was beyond tired now. He pulled the Redbird into the garage and was soon finding out carrying is backpack was easier than carrying his battered frame. He finally opened the door into his home and found no one around. After his fight with that crazed nut, driving Ives and Ariana home, and having to listen to Ari hang to his every breath, all he wanted was sleep. Peaceful and plenty of it.
He didn't even make it to his first step when Dana stuck her head around the corner. "How was school? Or should I say how was Ariana?" she asked as she followed Tim up the steps.
"I don't want to talk about it," Tim said through gritted teeth. "I just want to sleep."
"Oh, so you want to sleep?" Dana said as she remained on Tim's heels until they were both in his bedroom. "Maybe if you weren't fighting in the middle of a park during school hours you wouldn't be so tired." She raised an eyebrow.
"It made the news," Tim sighed as he dropped his head. If she recognized me I'm sure Bruce will have little problem doing so. "Dana something came up."
"Something came up? I send you to school this morning and you do the same thing that you do at night? There's got to be separation!" She pushed Tim's door shut.
"Dana there is no separation! If someone's in trouble and I'm in a position to help, I'm going to. That's what I do! I thought you understood!" Tim retorted.
"Damn it, Tim, I understand but I still don't agree! I don't want you out there risking your neck!" She knew there was going to be an argument but she hoped this wouldn't be an everyday process.
"My neck would have been a lot better if you hadn't went through my bag with white gloves! I had nothing to back myself up with out there!" He was getting mad now, but he knew he couldn't lose it with his father somewhere in the house.
"You shouldn't be out there in the first place!" she screamed. But then her anger vanished and that made Tim feel like he had been stabbed. "I just never..." she said as she sat down next to Tim. "...thought it would be this hard."
A knock at the door turned both of their heads. The knock had pushed the door that was slightly ajar open. Upon opening, Jack Drake stood, wondering what the commotion was about. "Never thought what was going to be so hard honey?" he asked.
Thomas sat in his desk-less chair as evening was consuming the room. He had looked at the figures for the fight earlier. Since Robin was his 'franchise player' in the betting, he always had to bet with him or forfeit having Robin as his 'hero'. As a result, he stands to make or lose a substantial amount of money each time Robin is involved in any fight. Needless to say, he just lost a lot of money.
But his demeanor was calm again. His rage had faded with the day as he had begun plotting again. If Luthor wouldn't come to him, he'd go to Luthor, simple as that. And if Robin wanted to run from battles, he'd put him in a position where he couldn't run.
He stood and put on his suit jacket, deciding it was time to go home. "Even the best deserve sleep," he declared as he headed out his office. "Tomorrow is a new day."
Tim thought fast. Reaching beside his bed, he groped, hoping for something to benefit his cause. His fingers came to a book; hopefully it was one that would help.
He yanked it up and presented it to his father. "Calculus!" he yelled. "I found out the requirements it would take for me to pass calculus! Pretty steep." He gave his dad his best honest look.
His dad wasn't biting. "Dana, is this what is going to be so hard?" He knew she wouldn't lie to him.
"Yes, Jack, it's math," she said much to his surprise. "He told me and you know, it's been a really bad day, a bad week..." She looked Jack in his eyes.
"Oh," the older man said as he realized what his wife was saying. "Oh, okay, look why don't you just come with me and I'll fix you up. Tim, sorry son, but that's life." He led his wife out of his son's room and closed the door.
Tim wanted to sleep. But instead he was digging into his closet, knowing studying wasn't gonna help him relax.
She sat alone on her apartment's rooftop, her thin jacket barely keeping the cutting wind from giving her a chill. She came up here a lot, no one else ever did except with the rare appearance of a maintainence worker. It gave her that extra space she needed when she felt cramped and often she did productive work on her laptop.
Now she just reminisced of how she got here, how her assignment to get to the bottom of the girl Robin led her right into the hands of King Snake when he placed an anonymous call saying he had information for her. She had only accepted Sir Edmund's deal to pose as Spoiler to get close enough to Robin to have the story of a lifetime.* She knew she could hold her own thanks to her self-defense and kickboxing classes, where she had advanced rapidly in both. She had never expected for Robin to get the better of her like she had, especially since she had the other girl on the ropes. Still didn't explain who knocked her out after she was thrown out of the mall. Didn't really care. Edmund had gotten her out of jail and she went back to finishing her story. Her whole life had involved that damn story and now for what. For what?
*Robin #10, featuring the famous foursome!-Just Read It KC
She heard fabric blowing in the wind, her mind passing it off for a nearby flag. Lydia didn't register the footsteps behind her, but how could she when they were silent. She thought she alone until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her reaction in Gotham City: she screamed.
"Whoa, lady," Robin said as he jumped back. "I didn't mean to startle you, being quiet comes with the territory. Lydia's eyes widened as she took in the young man. "Any reason you're sitting out here on the roof? I was passing by and seeing someone out here in this city is usually bad news."
It took her awhile to find her words. "Um...uh...ah...no, I...come here to think that's all." She hardly noticed the cold now. "What are you doing out here?" she relied smartly.
Robin smiled at her comeback, thankful for something good to finally happen today. "You're a quick one aren't ya? Look, I think you should really go back inside, ma'am, it's dangerous out here."
Lydia sat back down and shot the hero a look. "Do I look like I can't handle myself?" Her attitude was still carrying from earlier. "I'll be fine."
I'm in no mood to deal with any more women today. He walked towards the roof's edge, ready to launch a jumpline. "You know what, that's fine. You just sit out here then. Gotham's too big for one of us heroes to come through here just to look out for you." He surprised himself with his answer, finding it unusually harsh. He secured his line.
"Wait," Lydia said as she looked up. The Boy Wonder stopped, finding it weird that he was glad she stopped him. "I just had a rough day at work and I come up here to think sometimes."
Robin walked towards the slightly older woman. "Yeah, I can relate. Things didn't go perfect for me either."
"Really?" Lydia asked as the journalist in her took over. "And what could possibly go wrong in a superhero's life? Aren't you all billionaire philanthropists?" Robin shot her a surprised look.
"Where did you hear that?" he asked, slightly worried. Lydia smiled, finding the boy's question honest, and it appealed to her.
The two laughed as the Gotham winds picked up. This is so strange, Tim thought. I'm sitting here with this girl like I'm not even in costume. I don't know why but I feel comfortable. He found himself scared by that same comfort. "Look, I gotta go...you know people to save...the usual." He wanted to stop talking before he sounded like a total idiot.
Lydia nodded but never broke her eye contact with him. "Maybe I'll see you around."
"Maybe." Robin replied as he swung off again. Lydia stood to watch him go as he made his way through the night. And she smiled.
"Hello story of the century..."
Robin was a bundle of nerves now as he swung almost carefree back towards his home. What was that all about? What happened to me back there? I stop to check on her and next thing I know I want to spill my guts to her. Maybe it is true some people are easy to talk to. He had barely left the Gotham Heights area when he had met her, but his body told him the best medicine was rest. I'll track down my good buddy once I get back up to speed. But a little R&R is just what I need.
He landed outside of his window and crawled inside his empty bedroom he had just left. He stripped out of his outfit and took care to put it back away from sight, or at least his dad's. He fell into his bed as every bump and scratch he had received hurt with a passion. Deciding a quick drink would help him sleep better; he hopped up and headed downstairs to the kitchen. He had just gotten his glass full when he realized there were two voices in the living room. Too familiar of voices.
He poked his head around the corner, only to try to pull back, but he had been spotted. In the middle of his living room was his stepmother Dana Drake, and his ex-girlfriend Ariana Dzerchenko. And they were talking about him.
"Tim!" Dana called. "I'm so glad to see you're awake."
NEXT ISSUE: Caught between Dana and Ariana, what's a Boy Wonder to do? Run, Tim, run! And what's Lydia's new plan after her chance run-in with Timothy? Plus: Jacobs sets out to test Robin's testicle fortitude! For The Love Of Money continues!