Summary: Enter: Robin the Boy Wonder!
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[Sat., Mar. 21/2330 EDT]
From a safe distance, Garfield Lynns looked out at his night's handiwork with glowing pride. He watched excitedly as the flames consumed the abandoned buildings overlooking Gotham Harbor in the old Tri-Corner neighborhood. They burned so intensely they could be seen for miles around. Two of the buildings had been sheet-metal factories with very little flammable material left behind. However, the two remaining buildings had been warehouses, which had been abandoned with much of their inventory still in them.
"I like to think of it as urban renewal," Lynns said amused. "Hell…the city outta pay me for this!" He smiled in satisfaction as he watched the old mattress warehouse burn. "People really should pay more attention to those government warning labels and not remove them!"
He laughed, referring to the ubiquitous labels found on all mattresses. There was a reason the government required them: The polyurethane foam (sometimes called solid gasoline), which comprised a mattress, was a highly flammable, highly dangerous component. Lynns felt a thrill at the thought of all those Gothamites, sleeping peacefully on their queen-sized mattresses, never suspecting their danger.
The other building had been a toy warehouse. Most of the inventory had been removed years ago, except for a line of dolls that had been discontinued long before the warehouse was abandoned. Ironically, the line had been discontinued because the celluloid that was used in the dolls' manufacture was (happily for Lynns) highly flammable.
The fire had spread to five additional abandoned buildings before the Gotham City Fire Department had even responded. Currently there were more than one hundred firemen with dozens of fire trucks and support equipment valiantly fighting to keep the flames from spreading any further. Additional fire companies and even the GCFD's old fireboat, the Jerry Robinson, had been called in and were enroute.
The GCPD had cordoned off the surrounding city blocks and were working feverishly to keep curious onlookers away. They were also going building to building, knocking on doors to evacuate residents to safety.
Lynns had been lying low away from Gotham and had only just gotten back to his hometown two nights ago. While away, he'd planned to make a spectacular return, something that made a statement. Apparently, he'd succeeded.
Several months back, Lynn's pal Drury Walker had gotten word to him that Tony Zucco had finally croaked—supposedly from a heart attack. However, Lynns figured that "Fats" Zucco had probably come across the Bat and simply died of fright. It didn't matter. What was important was with Zucco out of the picture, Garfield Lynns—the Firefly—could move into the insurance business.
"Yeah, the fire insurance business," he said aloud. "For a very low weekly premium—to be determined by yours truly—your business can be protected from going up in smoke! And if you can't or won't pay, well…even better!" He laughed. In truth, he'd prefer it if they refused to pay just so he could set the place on fire.
As Lynns watched the growing conflagration, he felt his chest puff out in pride. He'd developed the accelerant that he'd used. It was a new mixture—something he'd concocted in the kitchen of the abandoned farmhouse he'd used as a hideout. His pal and sometime sidekick, Drury Walker, had found the place and stocked it with supplies for him.
Walker, AKA Killer Moth, was probably Gotham's most disrespected villain. However, he had his uses—namely, he'd set himself up as the go-to guy to help underworld figures elude capture. Unfortunately, more often than not his plans tended to go awry. Or, as in Lynns' case, the hideout was worse than the prison cell he was trying to escape.
Lynns, a die-hard city boy, had hated the farmhouse—too remote, too little to do. And, the country had way too much fresh air and clear, starry nights. Give him good ol' Gotham City's polluted air and murky nighttime skies any time.
While in hiding, Lynns had spent his days and nights planning on his comeback and working on his new accelerant. The beauty of the compound was that it had an auto-ignition temperature. In other words, it needed no external ignition to set it off, just reach room temperature, and it would spontaneously combust.
Lynns had kept the compound in a special refrigerated unit until the last minute. Once he'd set all of the firetraps in their optimal places, he had automatically collapsed the outer, cooling container and just stood back and watched the fun.
No more hiding out, he vowed silently. Raising his arms into the sky, he cried out, "Firefly is back!"
At that moment a giant, bat-shaped shadow swooped in from the sky. It banked toward the massive conflagration that was literally lighting up the night and then began a series of passes over the burning buildings.
As Lynns watched horrified, the Batwing began to methodically dump foam retardant on the fires. The Bat was ruining his homecoming—destroying the masterpiece he'd spent months planning.
He waved his fist futilely at the high-performance aircraft as each pass resulted in the flames dying a bit more. If he'd had his Firefly exo-suit, he would've flown and chased down the pompous Bat. But the exo-suit wasn't ready yet. Tonight was supposed to be about making a statement, not an appearance. His debut was days away. Walker was still trying to round up all the components he needed to put the finishing touches to the exo-suit.
"No! You're ruining everything!" he shouted.
"That's the whole point, moron!"
"What?" Lynns whipped around. The voice had come from behind him, but there was no one there. "Who said that? Where are you? Oof—!"
He fell back as something black flew out of nowhere and slammed into him. Lying on his back, he groaned in pain. Aw, man…I should've stayed in the country. Sitting up slowly, he looked around him. A small black shadow, silhouetted by the burning buildings in the background, was crouched a few feet away from him.
Lynns felt for his carryall. It had fallen a couple feet from him. If I can get to it…! Without warning, he dove for the shoulder bag, but before he could reach in for the remaining firetraps, a hard and sharp black thing struck him on the wrist.
"Oww!" he cried. "Son of a b—!"
"Uh-uh-uh!" a very young voice interrupted. "You'd better not say it. You-know-who won't like it!"
"Wha—?" Lynns stood hunched over in pain, holding onto his injured wrist. He looked around the rooftop. Empty. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Why don't you come out, so's I can see you?"
"Okay." Lynns watched as a flash of red, black, and yellow seemingly flew overhead. The shadowy figure landed about 10 feet in front of him; however, this time the flames from the burning buildings clearly illuminated the mysterious figure. Lynns eyes widened at the sight of a small, masked boy (or midget!) wearing a dark red, short-sleeved tunic with an R inside a circle over his left breast, heavy-looking gauntlets, and black tights. A black cape with a subdued yellow lining completed the picture. "You have got to be kidding me! A kid?"
The masked boy crossed his arms in front and glared at Lynns.
"And just what are you supposed to be?" Lynns scoffed.
"I'm Robin, and you're going down!" Robin laughed delightedly. He'd practiced all day on what he'd say by way of introduction. "So…how do you want to do this? The easy way…or the hard way?"
"I don't believe this!" Lynns yelled. First, Batman ruined his homecoming, and now this midget was threatening him? Not bothering to answer, Lynns ran at Robin.
The Boy Wonder giggled in amusement at the clumsy attack. He simply leapt up, somersaulted over the second-rate villain, and kicked him on the back of the neck. Landing easily on the balls of his feet, Robin whipped out his collapsed bō staff, and lengthening it, twirled it expertly.
Lynns' fury had grown at Robin's taunting. "I'm gonna kill you, you little punk!" Looking around, he spotted a heavy piece of pipe that someone had long ago discarded on the roof. Grabbing it, he approached Robin carefully with deliberate steps.
At Lynns' words, Robin had felt something tighten inside him. Those were almost word-for-word what Zucco had said to him. Abruptly, all the fun went out of his debut flight. He recalled Batman's last words before they'd climbed into the Batwing…
"Remember, Robin…this isn't a game. Garfield Lynns may be a second-rate criminal who thinks he's some kind of super-villain—calls himself Firefly—but he's still dangerous. Don't take him lightly. Stay focused. Bring him down and bring him in. Most importantly…" He ran his hand affectionately through Robin's hair. "Come back safe..."
Glaring across the roof at Lynns—the man who had burned down Diaz Instruments—Robin crouched and held the bō staff at the ready. Playtime was over. This was business. Again, he narrowed his eyes at the echo of Zucco's words in his mind.
The next instant, Lynns attacked. He swung the heavy pipe with both hands like a baseball bat. He aimed for Robin's head but swung at empty air. The Boy Wonder had simply ducked; however, before Lynns could recover enough to take another swing, Robin counterattacked. He brought the staff down on Lynns' wrists with bone-bruising force. Lynns dropped the pipe, unable to hold onto it with his suddenly numbed hands. Robin leapt, spun in midair and kicked out with his steel-reinforced boots. This time he connected with Lynns' left temple.
Lynns cried out, collapsing in place. "I'll…kill you…you, punk…" he muttered. "Y'hear me…?" He fell unconscious.
Cautiously, Robin walked up to him. He poked Lynns with his bō staff but received no response. Shrugging, Robin took out a plastic tie-wrap and zip-tied the pyromaniac. Standing and surveying his handiwork, Robin felt rather than saw the black shadow land behind him.
"Done?" the low, raspy voice asked.
"The fire is under control now. Our work's done here."
Robin felt the familiar warm hand on his shoulder. Looking up at his mentor and father, he smiled proudly. "Can I fly us home?"
"Not in this lifetime."
"But it's my birthday."
"Not for the past ten minutes."
Robin checked his watch. Sure enough, it was ten minutes past midnight. He sighed. "Oh." He only half-listened as Batman called in the capture of the perpetrator.
"…On the roof. One package for pick up—Garfield Lynns…We'll be here."
A few minutes later, a graying and bespectacled gentleman in a light brown, trim overcoat stepped out onto the roof. He immediately caught sight of Lynns lying safely trussed up on the rooftop.
Following close behind him, a bull of a man with a perpetual scowl stepped out, service revolver drawn. The big man was also wearing an opened overcoat, but his was ill fitting and shapeless. As the coat was caught in the breeze, it revealed a loud suit jacket, clashing plaid shirt, and a loosened, food-stained tie. A toothpick sticking out of the side of his downward turned mouth completed the picture.
By now, Lynns was beginning to regain consciousness, groaning as he came to. "What happened…?" His eyes snapped open. "That little punk! I'm gonna kill 'im! And the Bat! He ruined my comeback! I'm gonna—!"
"You ain't gonna do nuthin', ya creep! 'Cept maybe go away for a long, long time." The big man looked around the rooftop, and glared in the direction he thought he spotted a dark shadow hidden among the rest of the shadows. "I got this, Cap'n Gordon. I'll wait for you in the squad car."
"Thanks, Bullock." Gordon looked out over the edge of the roof toward the still burning fires as he waited for Bullock to drag Lynns off the roof. "And you, my friend. Thank you, too. Not just for Lynns, but for helping put out the fire."
"Don't thank me for Lynns…I was busy."
"What? But if you didn't—?" Gordon turned, startled to find Batman almost next to him. He glared in annoyance, not bothering to say anything about Batman's ninja stealth. "So…if it wasn't you, then who?" Gordon's eyebrows shot all the way up to his hairline as the Dark Knight opened his cape slightly, revealing a young, masked boy hidden underneath. He looked from the boy to the Batman and back again. He attempted to speak, but knew he must look as ridiculously gobsmacked as he felt. "Who?"
"Hi! I'm Robin! I'm Batman's new partner." Robin grinned widely as he proffered his small, gloved hand. Gordon shook it wordlessly. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. Batman says you're the best cop in Gotham."
"Robin." Batman's quiet voice stopped the boy from running off at the mouth. Smiling, Robin looked up his mentor.
Gordon watched fascinated as Batman's usually stern, hard features softened as he looked down at the boy. His son, Gordon realized. The Dark Knight has a son. I hope you know what you're doing, my friend. He returned the boy's smile. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Robin. Congratulations on your first collar." Robin beamed at the praise—in direct contrast to his much darker mentor. "Will I be seeing more of you?" Gordon looked between the Dark Knight and his squire.
"You bet! And before you know it…" Robin said as he took out his grappler. "Everyone's gonna hear about Robin the Boy Wonder!" He waved happily at Gordon as he shot up to the waiting Batwing.
Batman merely nodded at Gordon before he, too, fired his grappler and disappeared into the night sky. Gordon watched a moment longer, reflecting on the media frenzy when word of Batman and Robin spread in the coming weeks…
On the flight home, Robin grinned widely. "Thanks, Batman."
"For what?" Batman asked, keeping his eyes forward.
"For introducing me to Captain Gordon, and you know…making it official," Robin explained. Dick knew that if the GCPD only had Lynns' word of a boy vigilante, then they probably wouldn't have believed him. But with Gordon knowing of Robin's existence, then when—not if—the media got wind of him, Gordon would be ready to answer any questions. Also, by introducing Robin to him, it showed Batman was taking Gordon into his confidence, and as a result, winning him over before the media storm hit.
"It was your birthday," Batman said simply.
Robin grinned. "So…when do I get to meet Superman?"
"How about some flying lessons on the way home?" Batman offered instead.
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Acknowledgements: Some ideas and dialogue borrowed from Batman: Dark Victory #8; All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #9; Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #100; Gotham City map/points of interest from Batman: Gotham City Secret Files and Origins #1; The Brave and the Bold #28; BTAS: Robin's Reckoning S2E2; The Sandman #1.
A belated thanks to Wikipedia for its endless entries on all things DC-related, to include info on Firefly, Killer Moth, and Jerry Robinson—co-creator of Robin and the Joker.
Additional Notes: A special thanks to my beta Ellen. Her eagle eye for villainous grammar goofs makes Batman's detective skills pale in comparison.
Finally, thanks to everyone who stayed with the story up to the very end. It's hard to say good-bye to something that took over my life for the past month, but all good things must come to an end. I hope you enjoyed "(More) Pressing Matters" as much I've enjoyed writing it.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC, Time Warner, and CN; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.
Copyright: October 2012