Summary: Batman is forced to choose between Nightwing or Robin

Challenge: I the time of this writing, I had just watched Sophie's Choice, a film whose pivotal scene has a mother forced to choose which one of her two children to send to the Nazi death camps. Either she chose one to die, or both would be sent, and she only had seconds to make her decision. I found myself completely blown away by the moral dilemma. Later, it got me thinking: What if one of the Bat-clan (or any superhero) was forced to make such a choice? Whom would he or she pick to live or die? Here is my take. Anyone else care to try?

Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC and Time/Warner; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.

Copyright: March 2002

Batman's Choice

by Syl Francis

The maniacal laughter rang unceasingly. Through my blurred vision, I could see him standing over Nightwing and Robin. They were both unconscious, each propped up by two of his henchmen. I could see the identical nooses around their necks. I tried struggling against whatever was holding me prisoner, but I felt sluggish, unable to move. Drugged, I surmised.

Two-Face flipped his ever-present coin.

"Two birds for the price of one!" he shouted, tauntingly. "But only one lives." He walked up to where I stood, bound securely to a pole. They'd removed my utility belt, cape, gauntlets and boots. Just about anything where I might have a hidden weapon or something up my sleeve. He hadn't removed my cowl, but then Harvey Dent had never really cared to know who I was under the mask.

Like his own disfigurement, which had transformed him into Two-Face, he supposed that the mask I wore was a true reflection of the man beneath it. And he was right. How often these past few months had I seen more and more often that Bruce Wayne was the mask and Batman the true self?

I glared at him. I had to find a way to escape. To save Dick--my former partner. And my son. I thought suddenly, guiltily of Robin. He was my partner now. Little more than a boy, though--not much older than Dick had been when he'd first fought against Two-Face and was almost killed. I should never have allowed him to don the costume.

When Dick resigned--no when I fired him after the Joker shot him--I should've let Robin remain dead. Instead, I took in Jason, and the Joker killed him. Now, Harvey was about to kill another Robin--no, two Robins. Dick was the first. He was Robin. It was a name his mother had given him. I should never have given it to another--

"Which is it to be, Batman?" Two-Face asked, leaning in closely, leering derisively. "Which of your two soldiers will you sacrifice in order that the other may live? The firstborn son? Or the younger one?"

"Batman--? What--?"

I looked up. Nightwing had come to.

"Ah, the Dark Knight's Foremost Squire. His best and brightest student. What say you, Nightwing? Which of the two of you should your mentor select to live? And which one should die? Only one of you will walk out today."

"What? You're insane, Harvey! Batman, don't listen to him! We'll get out of this, somehow!" As he spoke Dick struggled against his bonds and with the henchmen who'd been holding him up. The rope around his neck limited his movements drastically.

As soon as he started struggling, I tried to do the same. But I already knew that I couldn't break out. Whatever they'd drugged me with basically held me almost catatonic.

Robin was the next to come to. He jerked awake and immediately took in the situation. Although still bound, he and Dick were soon fighting side by side. They maneuvered their bodies so that they were back to back. And with the leverage provided by the other one, first one, then the other kicked out at his captors.

I watched, feeling a strange sense of pride at their natural teamwork.

But it didn't last. As skillful as they were, they were literally fighting with both hands tied behind their backs. Not to mention, that their legs were bound at the ankles, limiting the force behind their powerful kicks. Harvey's henchmen simply stood back and gave them each a wide berth.

"Hold it, boys!" Two-Face called. He was a holding a gun to my head. Mundane, but effective. I had to give him credit. Dick and Robin instantly stopped what they were doing.

"Now, once again, Batman. Which one lives and which one dies?" Two-Face stood menacingly over me. "If you don't choose, I'll let the coin choose for you and then I'll kill them both anyway!"

I stared first at Dick and then at Robin.

"Heads, Nightwing lives!" Two-Face taunted.

I couldn't do this. I couldn't choose between them. How could I? One was my son. The other my partner.

"Tails, Robin!"

"Batman...he's bluffing!" Robin shouted. "He'll kill us both anyway! Don't give him the pleasure of making you choose."

"Time's running out!" Two-Face growled.

"Batman...he's not bluffing," Dick interjected. "Let Robin live. He's just a kid. He deserves a chance--"

"Choose one, damm you!"

"No way, Batman!" Robin cut in. "You can't trust Two-Face!"

"Or I'll choose one for you!" With that Harvey tossed his coin in the air. I watched, mesmerized, as the light glinted off it as it flipped over and over.

"Batman...if anyone is going to die here," Dick said quietly, "I'd rather be the one who goes--"

"Robin!" I cried, the name unwillingly torn from my throat. "I choose Robin!" There was a stunned silence as the coin finished its downward spiral and fell in Harvey's waiting palm. Then, pandemonium!

The platform underneath Dick opened suddenly--

"No!" Robin shouted raggedly.

In my mind, I broke out of my chains and ran underneath the platform in time to catch him. "I have you, son!" I shouted.

--the rope breaking his neck, killing him instantly. Two-Face again broke into his raving laughter.

"Heads!" he shouted. "Nightwing lives!" He stopped and stared at Dick's silently swaying body. "Ah, too bad, Batman. I guess you chose badly. Better luck next time." As he turned to go, he added as an afterthought.

"Oh, the drug will wear off in another few hours. Once it does, I'm sure you'll be able to escape on your own. Until then..." He waved his arm at Dick. "Enjoy the view."

"You'll pay, Harvey! You hear me?!" I raged futilely. "No matter where you go--! I'll find you! Do you hear? I'll make you pay for what you did!"

For what you made me do, I added silently.

Long into the night, I stared at my son. At what I'd done. Unable to bear the guilt I closed my eyes. Finally, when the drug wore off, I tore off my bonds and hurriedly cut him down. Only then, did I free Robin.

I refused to answer his angry questions, nor responded to his scathing words of accusation.

In the Batcave, the boy finally whirled on me. A red and green blur--kicking and punching in a rampage. I blocked him, of course, until he was too spent to continue. Finally, facedown on the mat, he sobbed quietly.

"Will you just tell me why?" he whispered, raggedly. I stood for a long time, again seeing Dick on the platform, his quiet courage and willingness to sacrifice himself for another a steady, reassuring presence.

In my mind, I once more heard him say, 'I'd rather be the one who goes--' With sad pride, I knew he'd said what I would've in his place. Dick was indeed my son. Helping Robin to his feet, I gazed firmly into his eyes.

"Because he told me to."

The End