Death. It had never crossed my mind until now. I always thought it wouldn't happen to me. I'm the Spoiler, dammit. I'm invincible. I'm not supposed to die. No, check that, I'm Robin now. No one can touch me. Batman or Tim will always swoop in...wait. They're not here to save me. I never paid much attention to that glass display with Jason's old Robin costume. It never occurred to me that this is real and that you can die. I don't want to die...
"Hush, little Stephanie, don't say a word. Daddy's gonna kill you and help rid the world," Cluemaster hissed as he tightened his grip on Robin's throat as he held her high above the Gotham streets. The thugs were gone now, leaving father and daughter in a titanic struggle. One her father was clearly winning. "I gave you a chance, girl, but you wanted to run around with the boy and the Bat. Now you die."
Robin's head was spinning. There was no up or down, just Cluemaster's face slowly fading to black. Can't let it end like this, there's no reason! Her mind struggled to form a rational thought to save herself. One chance and one chance only. If I can just reach it...
In one last desperate attempt, she grasped the "R" emblem off her chest and stabbed blindly.
"Arrgggh!" Cluemaster howled as the emblem embedded itself in his shoulder, his grip immediately releasing her neck. "You little bitch!" he screamed as he watched Robin fall. "See you on the other side!"
Steph was falling fast towards the busy traffic below with her thoughts slowly coming into focus. Too late to shoot off a jumpline, if I can just maneuver a little to the right maybe this won't be so bad. With her last bit of strength she managed a mid-air roll into a neighboring dumpster. She looked up to find her father was gone. "Most likely on his way to finish the job," she grunted as she moved into a sitting position. She pulled a batarang and readied herself. "I'm not going down easy though."
The time it took to travel between Brentwood and Gotham City seemed to take less time these days. Of course he had nothing but time now. Tim Drake drove back into city limits wondering why his father had demanded he come home immediately. It's not making sense. My grades are up, I'm not "disappearing" mysteriously, and things are good. So what could he possibly say to me now? He had made sure to pick his room clean of any evidence of his past life. It couldn't possibly involve that...could it?
"This is Claudia Perez for Gotham Radio News with breaking information. The costumed vigilante Robin, seen most frequently with the Batman and Teen Titans, is battling her way throughout downtown Gotham, apparently trying to apprehend Cluemaster. Cluemaster's intentions are not clear, but it is apparent he wants to kill the Girl Wonder. More updates to come."
Geez, Steph, Tim's mind started to wander again. Looks like you've got bigger worries then me. I just hope you really know what you are getting your self into. With that he took the turn that would lead him to his home, leaving Steph behind and his family worries in front of him.
"Robin!" Cluemaster shouted as he entered the alley below. He looked around for a sign of his daughter, but she was nowhere to be found. "Don't play games with me, dear," Arthur joked as he looked about some more. "All I need is your assistance. You don't even have to die today."
Robin swung out of the shadows and nailed Cluemaster across the chin with her boot, sending him against the other side of the alleyway.
"Now if that isn't the best offer I've ever heard out of your mouth," Robin answered as she crouched for his retaliation.
"Still a mouthy little thing, aren't we?" Cluemaster noted as he wiped the blood from his lip. He launched himself at Steph and slammed her in the mouth with a powerful left. "Ever hear the expression 'the father never loses'?"
Stephanie rolled with the punch and had her nunchucks drawn as she achieved a standing position. She flipped high into the air, landing just behind Arthur, where she jabbed her nunchuck handles into his head.
Cluemaster crumbled to the ground clutching in pain. "Hear me out, Steph, that's all I ask," he managed as he slid away from Robin. Even the best warriors know when to rethink their strategy, he thought. "It's about that First Round match of ours."
Robin looked hard at her father. "How did you know about that?"
"I received a phone call a few days ago, from whom I couldn't tell you," Arthur began.* He said that Robin and I were to engage in combat, which I had planned anyway. If I got you to agree with the terms, you would receive your pay for your efforts. Vice versa for me. If you refused, I would be paid a lump sum for your slaying, daughter or not."
*The Brave and the Bold #14-The Plot Thickens Kelen
"What are the terms?" Steph asked through clenched teeth.
"Ah, I knew you would be interested," Arthur perked up. "It's simple, really. The first combatant to incapacitate the other wins that round's betted money. And trust me, there's a lot of money. If death happens to fit into the battle, the winner's pay will be doubled. So what do you say?"
Robin looked at Cluemaster like he was crazy, but on the inside, she was contemplating his offer. Thoroughly.
Tim entered the house and put his keys on the rack, such an involuntary movement he had to laugh. Some habits just won't die. Like not being able to sleep some nights because you're itching to be fighting the good fight. Itching so bad you could climb walls like that Spiderman in the funny books. He sighed and made his way into the kitchen.
His father sat at the head of the table, a distant look on his face.
"Dad?" Tim asked. "Are you feeling okay? Let me get you some water..." Tim headed towards the sink but was grabbed on his way by.
"Sit down, Tim," Jack Drake spoke. "We have to talk."
Tim could only feel the lump of fear crawling into his throat. He would need the water soon. "What about?" he asked meekly.
"The future, responsibilities, things that need to be said." Jack replied. His look wasn't inviting. Tim slumped in his chair. "What things?"
Robin's eyes were an icy, piercing look as she focused on Cluemaster, all the while debating accepting his offer.
"I don't mean to be rude, honey," He said as he jolted Steph back to reality. "But you can think on it while I continue the mauling!" He kneed Robin in the gut and followed it with a left hand cross, sending the Girl Wonder rolling away. "Either way, it's a win-win for me, because you can't beat me."
Robin managed a sitting position as she tried to regain some lost air. 'How do we get paid for this?" she asked as she stood back up. She rolled at her father and elbowed him in the chest.
"Quite simple," Arthur responded as he blocked a few of her blows. "Each player has a sponsor, and that sponsor always puts money on their player, win or lose. Since the men who place the bets are filthy rich, they can easily pay you and receive their winnings." He finished it with a roundhouse kick that sent Robin back a few steps.
She returned fire with her nunchucks whirling as she dived at Cluemaster. The weapon was quite lethal in the close quarters Steph was using them and it was all Arthur could do to squeal in pain.
He finally gave himself some room when he was able to leap out of trouble after a surprise sweep kick left Robin on her back. "I have had enough! I'll finish you now, girl, answer or no answer!" He launched himself at his daughter who was caught off guard and caught in a bear hug. Cluemaster used his momentum to flip Robin under him, resulting in her taking the brunt of the fall's impact. "Get up from that, brat," he quipped.
Robin was still conscious, but for how much longer was the question. She could tell no bones were broken, but the bruises would be the worst part tomorrow. "I will, you son of a...ahhhh!" she screamed as her attempt at sitting up her painfully back to the ground.
"Aww, did I break the itty bitty birdie?" Arthur joked from above the faltering hero. He slammed his boot into the middle part of her back and made her scream with more pain. "It looks like I've used this one all up. I think I'll go get your mother now," He laughed as he turned for the exit. He really began to laugh until a batarang struck him in the head, sending him tumbling.
Robin was standing again, her will the only thing keeping her up. "No one threatens my family. Not even you." she seethed as she twirled her nunchucks slowly. "Bring it on."
"If you insist," Arthur agreed, as he pulled out a .9 mm pistol and let three slugs fly.
"Do you or have you ever liked attending Brentwood, Tim?" the question boomed out of nowhere, filling an awkward silence with vibrating resonance. "I want the truth."
Tim sat up a bit and answered without hesitation. "No."
"Is that why your grades have been uncharacteristically low ever since you began there?"
"No! I just wasn't learning the material as quickly, but I'm on the right track now." Tim replied.
"And why wasn't you learning the material as quickly as you know you should, Tim?" Jack inquired again.
Tim slumped back in his seat. He knows! He knows I was Robin! I don't know how but he does! I can't reveal all of Bruce's secrets just because...got to answer truthfully. "I was busy," Tim blurted out. Not perfect, but good.
"And what were you busy with, Timothy?" Jack probed.
Tim sat quiet and looked at his father. If he already knows, why is he putting me through all of this? He must want it to come out of my mouth. Tim swallowed hard and closed his eyes. Now came the hard part.
"You were busy with your girlfriend. Son, you don't have to lie to me," Jack said as he chuckled a bit.
"My girlfriend?!" Tim shouted in surprise.
Robin stood frozen in place as the shots rang out from her father's gun. The only thing she could think of was the pain of her previous wounds from a bullet.* Move, Stephanie, move! her mind screamed, but there was no response.
"Oh, so you think you're bulletproof now, daughter?" Arthur chuckled from behind the smoking barrel. "That's as funny as you thinking you could play superhero."
The harsh words shocked Robin back to the present. With a quick movement, she spun her 'chucks and deflected away from her. "And that was as funny as you claiming to be a father!"
Two of the bullets lodged themselves into walls but the third was heading back for Cluemaster. The villain tried to dodge but the bullet still grazed his leg. The pain was enough to send him to his knees.
"No deal, you bastard," Robin growled as she closed in. "I'm putting you away."
"How right you are," Arthur grumbled as he tried to lift himself. "You're such a sorry excuse for a daughter..." his hand grabbed hold of the steel pipe his fall had exposed. "...I don't even know why I claim you!"
His swing caught Steph in the chest, knocking her back. Before she could respond, Cluemaster had nailed her in the side of the head, sending everything spinning.
He dropped the pipe and punched her in the nose, breaking it. "That's it, Stephy, die for daddy," he smiled as Robin crumpled to the ground. "You're no hero."
Steph tried to respond but the cord Arthur wrapped around her throat wouldn't let her.
"You've been sneaking out of Brentwood to see your girlfriend haven't you, son?" Jack accused as Tim looked at him bewildered. "That's why your grades were such a mess until recently."
Tim didn't know what to say. "...yeah."
"But you've shown me responsibility, son. You took hold of your fate and did what you had to do in school for once," Jack continued. "And I'm proud of you. Dana told me about the girlfriend, in case you were wondering."
He can't be serious! was all that was echoing in Tim's mind. He really believes this bull he's feeding me. Can't disappoint. "I'm only trying my best, dad."
"I know you are, son, and I'm glad. But there's a big change coming up, and I want to make sure you're able to handle it."
"You got Dana pregnant? Way to go, dad!" Tim yelled with a fist in the air.
"Not quite," Jack replied quietly. "This change involves you."
"Where's your words now, Robin?!" Cluemaster screamed as he choked the life out of the Girl Wonder. "Where's Batman or the boy now?!"
Robin had no words as her world was growing dark once again as her struggling lessened. She reached for a grip on anything now, since her attempts to loosen the cord had failed.
"See, you do love me. Thanks for helping me get my five hundred grand bonus," he gloated. "Now I'll see to it that the boy and Bat join you."
Robin had had enough, as she stretched her body's limits to grasp her father by the head. With one last burst she pulled downward, flipping Cluemaster onto his back. She took a moment to rub her tender neck. "It ends now," she grunted as he smashed her fist into his nose. "Who gave you those stupid orders?" She kicked him in the ribs, cracking at least three.
"I don't know, but, Stephanie, let your father go. I won't hurt anyone else if you just let me go," Arthur was on his last legs, he couldn't take Robin down like that again. He had to appeal to her emotionally. "Please?"
Robin looked down at her beaten foe, almost letting his words affect her. She instead grabbed him by the shirt and raised him enough to head butt him, knocking him out.
"Screw you," Steph replied harshly. She then tied her father to deliver him into custody.
"What is it?" Tim asked as the worry crept back into his voice.
"I'm moving you back to Gotham with us, Tim. No more Brentwood, you're going back to Gotham Heights. I've already talked to Brentwood. Plus, it will be a lot lighter on my pockets." Jack sat back, satisfied.
"You're serious right?" Tim said excitedly. "I'm moving back?"
"That's right, you can go back to Brentwood to get your stuff today if you want..." Jack began.
"Say no more," Tim interrupted. "You don't have to tell me twice." He stood up and headed for the door.
"Besides I always thought that Ariana girl of yours was cute," Jack commented after him.
"He thinks I'm...geez," Tim said aloud as he went out to his door. "Babs are you there?" Tim spoke into his communicator once inside his vehicle. "I got news."
"Here and waiting Tim. What's up?" Oracle asked.
"Tell them I'm back. Bruce, Dick, Alfred, Canary, Steph. "Tell them I'm moving back to Gotham."
NEXT ISSUE: Stephanie may have survived her father this time, but what happens when she meets up with Spoiler? That's right, Spoiler. And will Tim's itch be fulfilled with the big Gotham City around him? So be here for To The Robin's Go The Spoilers or Tim Saves Spoiler's Tail, Again.