Author's Note: If you have not read the first part of the Nightwing/Robin crossover, please go read Nightwing #9 by Richard Hill first.
Seventy stories. That was the height that Robin looked down upon now. Searching, hoping for some sign that Nightwing survived his fall.* He was near tears. Spoiler was too; if she hadn't been such a hard ass to Dick back at the Cave, maybe he wouldn't have let the Riddler get the upper hand. Tim looked over the building for a minute longer, still seeing nothing. Then in a blur he was racing down the stairway after Nigma.
*Nightwing #9: Part One of the crossover Kelen.
"Robin! Wait!" Spoiler yelled as she chased after him but Tim wasn't there to listen. The elevator door was closing as Robin arrived, prompting him to kick hard at it but to no avail. "Tim, we got to think this through," Spoiler began. "Let's go see if we can find Nightwing! Let him go." Robin looked at her with fire dancing in his eyes.
"No." With that Robin headed for the main stairwell and leaped over the railing. Spoiler watched as the Boy Wonder effortlessly threw a jumpline at the last moment and landed on the floor where Riddler's elevator was heading. Stephanie reluctantly followed. Robin headed for the elevator just as the bell was sounding. The doors opened and it appeared as if Edward Nigma would make good on his escape.
"One down, three to go," he said as he began to exit. "I might even take down that female that the bird is always with." He was promptly met with a boot to his already sore teeth.
"For someone who's supposed to be such a genius, you walked right into that one," Robin said as he readied himself. Riddler laughed as he wiped the blood from his mouth again.
"It looks like I'll get to finish what I set out to do," Riddler grinned. "Kill you." Seconds later his chest was met with 2 more feet, sending him back into the elevator.
"Not on my watch," Spoiler remarked as she landed just ahead of Robin. Wasting little time, the Riddler leaped out of his 'cage' and caught Spoiler right on the chin with a precise kick. She slumped to the floor. Riddler noticed Robin's look of concern.
"Not to worry, boy," he quipped. "She'll only be out for awhile." Robin launched a fury of fists and kicks at Nigma, each easily being deflected by his quicker opponent. "What's wrong, letting your anger blind your true potential?" Robin was taken aback by the words; that was exactly what was happening. Too bad Riddler didn't stop as he caught Tim in the chest with a roundhouse kick. Robin went flying as he crashed into the far wall, his breath knocked out of him. He reached for his bo-staff and gripped it tightly as Riddler approached. "What are you gonna do with that, play fetch?" Robin stood and swept the villain's feet from under him, causing Riddler's head to smack the floor sharply.
"Waiting for an opening," Robin replied as he yanked Nigma up by the collar. "You will pay for what you've done, one way or the other." The fiend smiled through what bloody teeth he had left. He grabbed Robin by the head and flipped him onto his back.
"Never let your guard down, worm!" Riddler yelled as he headed into the building's corridors. "I'm not leaving, Robin; I want you to come find me so that I can kill you!" Robin turned into time to see nothing but the building becoming darker by the moment. One single bulb blazed overhead.
"Great." He slowly brought himself into a sitting position. "Now what do I do?"
"Robin," his communicator buzzed to life with the voice of Batman.
"Nightwing saw this building with a giant 'R' in lights, an invitation for me. He contacted Oracle, Spoiler and I to come assist. By the time Steph and I got here, Dick was about to deliver a fatal blow to the Riddler.."
"I know, I know. But we stopped him from doing that but then Nigma got the upper hand and sent Nightwing over the building. He's dead, I didn't see him..." Robin voice filled with anger by the second.
"Robin, stay calm. Is Riddler still around?"
"Yeah, he said he was somewhere in the building...waiting to kill me."
"Stay where you are. It's obvious Nigma has undergone some changes that you're in no shape to handle. I'm on my way. Batman out." Robin sat and looked down at the floor for a time after that. Then his gaze fell upon the nearby window.
"Like hell I'm staying here. He killed Dick, and he's going down." Robin yanked off his communicator and headed into the abyss that was the unlighted building.
Death. It comes for us all at times. Sometimes when we expect it, other times it's as unpredictable as a Redskins season. What matters is can you look into the eyes of death, and survive.
"What have you gotten yourself into this time, Grayson?" Nightwing asked himself as he came to. He looked about the room, an unused office with no furnishings, the only thing that really stood out was the broken glass strewn about by Dick's entrance. How he managed to smash through a window at the last second was beyond him, all he knew was that he was alive...and there was still a Riddler on the loose. He slowly managed to pull himself into a kneeling position, with everything aching. His left eye was swollen shut, his communicator was gone and it felt like he had bruised the right side of his ribs. "I got to help Robin, got to make sure he doesn't get hurt..." That's when the lights disappeared. He went to switch to his starlight lenses, only to discover they too were broken. With no other choice, Nightwing gripped his escrima sticks and silently slipped back into the main building. His eyes immediately locked upon the single light in the building, which he cautiously made his way to. There he found an unconscious Spoiler and a disregarded communicator.
Robin slowly crept through the hallways, his cape long discarded. Riddler wanted the Boy Wonder to follow, he could tell thanks to the trail of debris and furniture Nigma toppled. 'Still can't see a damn thing, he could be anywhere waiting to swoop down upon me...I need to end this or at least hold up until Batman shows.' Just ahead a single light blazed to life, causing Robin's movement to slow to a crawl. He did mange to slide under the window of the room.
"This is no time to be going soft, Nigma!" Riddler screamed at himself. "You've killed one, now finish the other one, you know he's steps behind you." Robin's heart sank at the thought that Riddler had his position pinpointed. "I will, I will," Riddler answered himself. "As soon as my head stops pounding." Robin's eyes widened at that comment, remembering the sharp fall Nigma had taken earlier. 'He has a concussion! That's why he sounds so confused. I got to make my move...' Without any hesitation, Robin jumped into the room and sent his left foot into the back of Riddler's head. "Ouch!" Riddler screamed as he swung wildly, letting Robin easily grab his arm and send him into the nearest wall where he slumped into a small ball.
"No way," Tim said as he looked at the prone form of Nigma. "That was too easy for someone like you." The words were barely out when Riddler shot his arm out and yanked Robin's ankle. The hero hit the floor with a thud, but managed not to bash his head into the floor.
"Do you want to see what I did to King Snake's ankles child?" Riddler asked as he gripped Robin ankle tighter. Robin's face contorted in pain but not before his fist slammed into Riddler's nose. Nigma jumped back in pain as Robin rolled away. He tried to regain his footing but got no support from his right ankle, sending him back to a knee. Riddler was already back on the offensive, sending two punishing fists into Tim's face and one knee into his ribs. He didn't have a chance at blocking and his good ankle couldn't hold him up, sending him to the cold concrete. "Like I said young one, you will be joining your friend...in death!" He kicked Robin in his side, causing Robin to wince in more pain. Nigma then picked him up by his neck and dangled Tim's prone form a foot off the ground. "But now, it's time the little birdie's neck...my head!" Riddler dropped Robin back to the ground and grabbed the injured part of his skull. The escrima stick bounced off of the near wall and returned to its place in Nightwing's hand.
"Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice..." Nightwing grabbed Riddler by his hood and slammed his knee into his back, sending him to the floor next to Robin. "...I don't get fooled twice." He noticed Robin trying to get to his feet. "Robin, you okay?"
"Just a twisted ankle, I'll get over it," the Boy Wonder replied through clenched teeth. "He's not out though, Nightwing..."
"What do you mean...whoa!" Nightwing shouted as Nigma speared into him, sending both of them tumbling down a short flight of stairs. "You can't keep this up forever Riddler..." he stated as he gasped for air.
"True, but I can keep this up longer than you." Riddler smiled and sent a kick into Dick's mid-section, which he partially blocked. But he left himself wide open for the uppercut that caught his chin a second later. Nightwing toppled over into a few empty boxes and leaped away to get his bearings. "Running already, Nightwing?" Nigma asked. Nightwing leaped behind him and crouched.
"Not quite!" He stood up and sent an elbow into Riddler's back, twisting him awkwardly. Nightwing took advantage and bent Riddler over his knee, sticking an escrima stick into his chest in the process.
"You know you can't win," Riddler said as he struggled under Nightwing's grip. His back felt like it could snap at any moment. "I always have another trick up my sleeve..."
"We need to finish this. Batman's on his way, but we can't keep up this fight," Robin said as he limped upon Nightwing and Riddler.
"Ahh, so the Bat is coming to join you two in death?" Riddler asked. "How nice." Robin started to reach for Nigma but Nightwing used his other stick to keep Robin away.
"We are not crossing that line, Robin," Nightwing said as Riddler started to squirm. "He's beaten." Riddler's fist was connecting with Nightwing's jaw a second later, sending him sprawling. Robin took a few steps away to prepare his ankle as Nightwing gathered himself. "Let's get him."
The two attacked with remarkable precision, scoring hits on numerous occasions. Only problem was Nigma was blocking more of their blows and dishing out his own.
"Boys, when are you gonna learn you can't keep up with me? I made myself to be like this, you can't possibly match me!" Riddler shouted as Nightwing and Robin were tiring visibly. They stopped and backed off, getting ready to form a new plan. Riddler wasn't going to wait that long. He grabbed up a nearby table and flung it at the heroes. Robin got out of the way in time, but Nightwing wasn't so lucky as the table glanced off of his side and sent him head first into a wall. "No more games Robin, your death is near!' He launched himself at Robin, who evaded him at the last second. Robin aimed his staff for Nigma's head but he turned and his staff jammed off of his back instead, sending Riddler down to the tiles. Robin spun his staff around and prepared for another staff shot when Nigma chopped hard on his injured foot.
"Ahhh!" Robin yelped as he crumbled to the floor beside Riddler. Nigma started to stand when a batarang missed his head by 2 inches. Riddler jumped back preparing for battle with the Bat, but instead was greeted by Spoiler.
"You again? This time I'll make sure you don't wake up." Spoiler took the initiative and attacked and it was a very crisp, clean attack. Only problem was the Riddler blocked all her blows and had her by her throat in seconds. "Here here, Robin," Riddler said as Tim managed to achieve a sitting position. "Is this what you're fighting for, for the love of this girl? Are you willing to risk your life to save this one girl, boy?" Riddler taunted. "Or did you really think you had a chance of beating whoever had called you out in lights?" His grip on Spoiler's neck grew tighter; Robin could see her movements lessening.
"Stop! You're killing her!" Robin pleaded. Riddler laughed.
"Stand up and let me kill you like a man, Robin," he offered. "And she lives." Suddenly a lead pipe was sent flying at Riddler from a darkened area. He dropped Steph and looked around. "You can't hide Nightwing, you'll get your turn to die, too." Nightwing dropped behind Riddler and tapped him on his shoulder. Riddler ducked but Nightwing had already planted a knee into his forehead. Dazed, Nightwing yanked him up and sent his fist into his face. Riddler was still standing, however, and it looked like he still had some fight in him. Nightwing readied for another round of bruises when Riddler dropped like a stone to the floor. Behind him Robin wielded the pipe. He handed Nightwing some rope.
"He'll get over it," Robin smirked. His head was pretty sliced up from the fight and aside from his ankle and ribs, he was holding up pretty well. Nightwing was in worse shape, sporting a bruise everywhere possible and bruised ribs. Spoiler had a mild concussion. As Nightwing put the finishing touches on the Riddler's bonds, the villain awoke.
"It's not over yet, you two," Riddler said in a low, raspy voice. "You may have me, but you don't have the bomb that's located within this building. It packs enough explosives to level 4 city blocks and I don't think you want to let that happen." Robin and Nightwing looked at each other.
"Spoiler and I will go look, you stay with him, Robin. How long do we have Nigma?" Nightwing asked as he glared at Riddler.
"Should be about three minutes...good luck you two." Nightwing wanted to beat the hell out of him some more, but knew they had to find those bombs.
"Let's go, Spoiler." The two heroes entered the pitch black.
"And once again Robin, it is just you and I," Riddler began.
"Don't think that our time we spend together doesn't mean a lot to me but shut up," Robin said as he tried to walk on his bad ankle. "You really thought you was gonna win, huh?" Robin asked curiously. He got no response. "Yo, Nigma I'm talking to you..." he turned to find empty ropes.
"Yes, I did Robin," Riddler said as he slammed Robin across his jaw. As Robin, staggered, he kicked him sharply in his bad ankle, sending the Boy Wonder down. "And I still will." He disappeared into the darkness in the opposite direction of Nightwing and Spoiler.
Robin held his ankle as he watched Nigma escape. "Dammit!"
"Robin." The voice chilled Tim to the bone. He rolled over and attempted to stand but almost fell. Luckily, Batman caught him. "I told you to wait...he's long gone now. Is Nightwing all right? Robin nodded.
"Somehow he survived his fall and basically took down Nigma. Then Riddler said there was a bomb and he and Spoiler went to find it. Then he suckered punched me and went for my ankle."
"I know about the bomb, I diffused it on my way in 10 minutes ago." There was a strange look in the Batman's eyes, a look one makes when they know that something has to be done, but they are afraid to take the chance. Robin noticed this. "That means he's still out there, and that means more innocents getting hurt." Robin dropped his head as Batman's gaze fell upon him. "Spoiler, this is Batman. Are you with Nightwing?" Good. I want you both to meet me back in lobby now." Batman spoke into his communicator. "There are words that need to be said, Robin. But first, let's comb the building for Riddler." Robin reluctantly listened and headed downstairs as the lighting blared back to life.
20 minutes later.
The lobby of the Gotham Tower. The Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and the Spoiler are convened here in its uppermost regions.
"There is no excuse for what happened tonight, Robin!' Batman said sharply. "I choose to tell someone your secret and you just stop reporting in to me? Nightwing almost died."
"I wasn't about to let Riddler walk away after what I thought he did to Dick!" Robin fired back.
"I'm saying we could have stopped the Riddler before tonight! On our terms."
"Are you telling me that you've never went after a bad guy because of what they did to someone? What about the Joker after he killed Jason? You were at that edge Bruce, but you held back. I can hold back too! I can handle myself!"
"You sure did a fine job today, didn't you Tim? Riddler almost killed you." His face was full of rage.
"He almost killed me too, you're not alone there," Nightwing piped in.
"And there's no excuse for you Dick; you fell right into his little trap. And from what I'm hearing you're not doing a very good job in Bludhaven, especially with the way the whole Killer Croc thing went down." Robin could tell Batman had struck a nerve.
"Well, look here 'Boss'," Nightwing said as he stood and went for the window. "If I'm so full of mistakes, you just remember those two words: Josh Woodyard." Batman's jaw set as he watched Nightwing begin to go.
"Dick, wait. I have something to say..." Batman said in a low voice
"Hello, Spoiler? Is anyone there?" Oracle asked on Steph's communicator.
"Yeah, but Batman's about to announce something big." Spoiler whispered.
"Tim, from day one you were eager to learn, eager to follow, eager to grow. And over the years I've watched you mature and grow into one fine Robin. But lately, you haven't been as loyal as I'd like for you to be. You haven't been there to work cases when you were available; you've been too busy fighting this war by yourself. You said it yourself Tim, you're not cut out to do this job forever. And I think that you've gotten too big for your job." Batman stated.
"What are you trying to say then?" Robin asked as he leaned against the wall.
"I'm removing you of your duties as Robin and passing the identity to Stephanie. I have a costume waiting for you at the Cave." His gaze fell back to Tim. "As for you...I want you to forget about the Batcave, about us, about everything! Insubordination will not be tolerated, Tim Drake." The other 3 were in shocked silence. Spoiler's hands were covering her mouth, Nightwing's eyes were large with surprise, and Robin's jaw merely was dropped. Oracle summed it all up:
"What the hell happened..."
Next Issue: "Aftershocks." The Bat Family has been rocked by Batman's startling decision, how will Tim handle Stephanie taking his job? And what next for the Riddler?