Robin's whole perception of what was up and what was down changed in a single instant.
"Silly child," Lotus mocked from across the room. "You should know that you are way over your head here." Robin slowly picked himself off of the cold concrete, flinching when he touched his ribs. 'Bruised,' he thought as he regained his composure.
"Is that all you have Lotus? It's gonna take a lot more than a lucky shot to take me down." Before the Boy Wonder finished his sentence, the lady ninja was upon him. Her fists and feet were connecting at a very alarming rate and it was all Robin could do to leap away.
"I suggest you let your actions speak for your words, boy," Lotus offered, "instead of the other way around." Tim backed away slightly and went to reach for his staff, before remembering that it had been broken by Lotus' katanas. "Reaching for what is not there Robin?" Lotus teased. "I thought you said no weapons." With that Tim launched himself at Lotus, his leg aimed for her head.
"I don't need a weapon to-aaaahhhh!" Robin's smugness turned to terror as he was thrown towards a pile of boxes...across the room.
"How many more flight lessons are you willing to take, Winged Warrior?" Lotus asked, implying boredom. "Before you hold still and let me kill you." Robin picked himself out of the wood and splinters and tossed his cape down.
"Okay, I didn't want to do it. But I think as Superboy would say, it's time I kick your ass!" Lotus let out a throaty laugh as Robin took one of his best stances.
"I can tell by your stance whom one of your teachers was, Robin," she observed as she approached. "And both I and my employer have beaten her ass, as you would say." And even though Lotus didn't notice, Tim swallowed hard at that comment.
'I knew I couldn't trust him,' Stephanie Brown thought as she sat in costume with her cowl off. 'He's cheating on me. I broke his trust, so he goes back to her.' She wanted to cry, but her pride wouldn't let her. 'Why should I cry over Tim? He can't even accept the fact that I know his real name.' "Why do I even care about him?"
"You can't deny your feelings Miss Stephanie," Alfred responded as he approached. "And trust me when I say you're not the first woman who's wondered why they care for a certain member of the 'family'."
"But I saw him with Ariana..."
"If I had a dime for every time one of Master Bruce's girlfriends or Barbara sat in that same chair and pondered..." Alfred mused. "...I'd still be here." Steph laughed but then put her head back in her hands. "Go to him Stephanie."
"No buts," he waved his hand as he cut her off. "This has gone on too long." Steph nodded and turned to leave. "Good luck."
"But I have to answer it Dick. I can't just not do my job, even for a minute."
"But Babs," Dick began as he held her tightly. "We hardly have time to see each other, I'm only gonna be in Gotham for a few days, so just this once, don't answer the communicator."
"But Tim still hasn't checked back in, he might be in..." Dick put a finger to her lips.
"Tim's a big boy Barbara, he can handle himself. Now leave it alone." Barbara sighed and dropped the headset.
"You owe me big time, Bat Boy," she teased as he pulled her close.
"Oh I intend on paying my debts, just don't call me Bat Boy..."
'Great time to not answer the communicator Oracle,' Spoiler thought as she stood atop the Gotham Mint. 'I guess it's up to me. And the Spoiler always gets her man!' With that she leaped off the rooftop into the black void that was nightfall.
Robin landed a roundhouse across Lotus's chin causing her to stagger backwards. 'Finally a break,' he thought as he cart wheeled his way towards her.
"Circus theatrics will get you nowhere, bird," she replied. "I will still defeat you."
"Maybe so," he said as he sprang up and away from the lithe ninja. "But can a clown throw one of these with this much accuracy?" With that a batarang launched from Robin's hand and caught Lotus square across the forehead. She staggered then regained herself infuriated.
"How dare you! Where is your honor, Robin? Didn't the Bat teach you better than that? I really did not expect this from you!" Tim was taken aback by the shock that hung on her words. She really was disappointed.
"Come on Lotus," he answered as he flipped away from her as she tried to get near him. "You'd do the same thing if your back was against the wall." He ducked her fist and found himself to actually be running. "You're trying to kill me!" Lotus stopped and dropped her head.
"I don't want to kill you, Robin," he voice at a level where only he could hear. "But my employer will kill me if I fail. I have no problems with you, like I've said before, I find you rather attractive." She paused and placed her hand on the wall and the Boy Wonder let his defenses down a tad. "But I must do what is best for the 'family'..." she said as she motioned to the other members of the Shaolin Clan. She then drew a katana with her other hand and kicked Robin down. "...by whatever means necessary." She went to bring the blade down on him but he rolled away just in time. He attempted to slam his fist into her jaw but she blocked with the sword's handle and sent her elbow into his arm.
"Yowch!" Tim said as he jumped away. She had connected with the blade wound she had given him before, and his arm felt useless. 'I gotta get that blade away from her.' He stood up and faced her only to slump back down to the floor. Lotus couldn't contain her laughter.
"What's the matter with you hero? Can't handle a little love tap to your wounds? I'm sorry let me make it all better..."
"That's okay, I have a nurse already!" With that Robin threw his cape over her head, momentarily blinding her. He then kicked the sword out of her grasp and latched onto it as it fell. She tossed off the foreign object and stared at the Boy Wonder hard.
"And what are you going to do with that?" Robin looked at the blade and brought it up in his defense. He then tossed it down and kicked it into the shadows.
"Nothing. I'm a man of honor, I just slip up sometimes." And before she attacked him again, he thought he saw a smile cross her lips.
Spoiler finished scouring Gotham Heights for the third time in an hour and still no Tim. She had been tuned into the police broadband and nothing that would even remotely involve Tim came across. She had run into Batman but he only said to check with Oracle. 'Too bad she's not answering...' It was then her communicator finally beeped?
"Spoiler? Are you there?" Oracle asked from the other end.
"Yeah, what took you so long?" she inquired. She could hear giggling and hushed whispers.
"Let's just say SOMEBODY won't let me do my job. Have you heard from Robin?"
"That's what I wanted to ask you."
"I gave him an old skyscraper address in Chinatown, so apparently he must've found what he was looking for."
"Thanks Oracle," Spoiler said as she launched her jumpline. "You can go back to Dick now."
Robin was putting up the best fight he could, but it was clear Lotus had the upper hand. 'Now I know why Dana wants me to sleep so much', he thought as she tossed him like a rag doll into the wall. She bent over to pick him up.
"Fight back, Robin!" she pleaded into his ear. "I don't want to kill you!" She pulled the Boy Wonder to his feet and practically held him up. "If you're like this from me do you have any idea what my employer will do to you?" Tim managed to step back and regain his footing.
"Who's your employer?" he asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
"I can't say," she said as she readied herself again. "But if you do get past me, he'll want to kill you himself. And then the Bat." And something within Robin stirred when she mentioned Bruce. 'No matter what's he done or how I feel about him, I won't let anyone get to Bruce!' And he launched himself at her again, but this time seemed different. "That's it child, figh...oof!"
"I am sick and tired of everyone wanting me dead or Batman dead. We're here and we're not going to allow you free reign. So you can try to kill me, but I'm not going down anymore!" With that he sent his foot into Lotus' midsection doubling her over, which resulted in his knee meeting her forehead viciously. She toppled into the wall her head hitting the concrete sharply. Tim readied himself for another assault as she shakily stood. That was when her intercom buzzed into her ear.
"That will be enough Lotus. I've given you more than enough time to kill him and you have failed. Fall back."
"Fall back," the voice said sharply. Lotus turned to the rest of the ninjas.
"Shaolin," she barked. "Disperse!" The ninjas slowly melted into the shadows. Robin was baffled.
"Lotus, I don't..." She waved her hand.
"It is decided young one, I wish you well." She then leaned in and kissed his cheek and turned to make her own escape.
"Will I ever see you again?" Robin asked. He couldn't believe his own mouth.
"Maybe, Boy Wonder," she replied as she disappeared. "Maybe..." And she was gone.
'What in the world happened there? I'm the good guy, she's the bad guy...'
"Robin!" Spoiler yelled with joy when she saw him.
"Steph? Did Oracle tell you?"
"Yeah, but it looks like I missed the good parts. Did you win?"
"I think..." his words trailed off. She could tell what he was thinking. So she kissed him.
"What..." She cut him off.
"I know you don't like that he told me, and I don't like it either, but I'm sure he had his reasons and I don't..." Tim kissed her.
"I know, I know. I was thinking the same thing. But let's get out of here, my arm is throbbing." He complained as they headed for the exit.
"Aww, do you want Stephy to make it feel better?" she teased.
"On one condition. You have to shut up." She smacked him.
"You have failed me Lotus." The student said in a calm, relaxed way.
"You didn't give me enough time! I had him if you..."
"Silence, pawn. I'm through with your lot. Take your 25 grand and leave."
"We agreed on 2.5 million." The student stood up and glared at the female.
"If you want to live, you will walk with what I give you, cow." Lotus cowered from his gaze, took the cash and made her exit. Alone in his quarters the student stood and walked towards his moonlit window, his expensive suit becoming visible. "Soon Robin, you will meet your death. Since that stupid bitch couldn't do the job, it is time I step in." The moon shone on his face revealing the features that he would not allow to be seen before. "And when the Riddler steps in, young Robin, you will fall. You and your extended family!" He then turned and returned to his desk. "But for now, I must plan..."
NEXT ISSUE: And now it is revealed! Edward Nigma is the student! What fiendish plot is he stirring up? Time will only tell, but now our hero tries to put the pieces of his home life back together and it's gonna be rough. Be here for Robin #4!