1) Nanda Parbat.
Dick Grayson climbs a mountain top, looking for the mystical shifting city of Nanda Parbat. He finds it, and along the way to the temple he meets John Constantine who’s upset that he failed trials to receive an object he was looking for. Dick enters the temple and a monk tells him to choose one of three doors. He tries to glean the correct answer from the monk, who tells him there is no correct answer. He then uses a concentration technique to discover all three doors lead to identical dark hallways. He enters and crawls across a tightrope. He then is fired upon with a bow and arrow which misses him because he doesn’t move, choosing to try and catch the arrow instead. This opens a doorway into a stone room where an ancient man levitates near a fire with a potion boiling over it. Dick questions why the trials were so easy and the mystic assures him that he only finds them easy because he is ready to receive what he seeks: clarity for himself and his family. As the mystic pours them both a cup of the liquid he gives him some Buddhist teachings, that suffering is inescapable and all we can do is lessen the suffering of others and accept it within ourselves.
Grayson drinks the potion and finds himself levitating before completely hallucinating. He appears in his actualized form as the hero Nightwing, and stands on an endless tightrope despite knowing he can fly away. He feels the fear of vertigo for the first time since mastering it as a child. He sees the skycrapers of Gotham City rise around him and hears Bruce Wayne shouting at him from a police helicopter telling him to stop running. He shouts back that he’s done running. A madman whose face is covered by long green hair and has light pouring from a hole in his chest runs towards Nightwing and they engage in battle, as ineffectual bullets from the helicopter rain upon them. The hallucination ends Nightwing studies the face of his attacker, a distinct long face he’s never seen before with a broken nose. The hallucination ends as he peers into the hole in this man’s chest and the wound opens and fills his vision with light.
He finds himself waking on a luxury aircraft holding a telegram from Alfred asking him to come home because Tim Drake, the new Robin, is missing. He knows he’s flying to Gotham and he looks inside luggage at his feet and finds a glass jar filled with the potion from the levitating teacher of Nanda Parbat.
2) The Bridge.
Bruce Wayne is wearing a suit in the pitch black of an unknown cave. He finds an opening, which leads to a wooden draw bridge across a deep chasm in mountains with snowfall. On the other side of the mountain Tim Drake, I’m his Robin suit, is chained to the mountainside like the myth of prometheus, worries about approaching birds. As Bruce runs across the bridge to him it becomes a the metal bridge from the Ace Chemicals Plant. He almost reaches Robin when Batman himself lands behind Bruce and shouts at him. As Bruce turns around his vision goes red and the snow becomes a hail of pearls. Batman throws a fist as does Bruce, and as their hands connect the black batsuit melts onto his arm and body as Batman removes a glass red hood from Bruce’s head. As he places this on his own head, The Joker’s face is seen laughing behind the glass. Bruce, who is now Batman, turns around to free Robin but Robin is now a skull in the suit cackling about already being dead.
3) The Chop Shop.
Batman startles awake in the driver’s seat of the batmobile, surround by the red glow of the interior lights. He’s parked outside the shop/residence of Edison Chen, a crooked mechanic whose fingerprints were found on Robin’s abandoned motorcycle. Batman is startled that he fell asleep on the job and leaves the car to stalk the mechanic. He finds him in the backyard and perches unseen on the roof until he casts his shadow across the lawn. He throws a smoke pellet and leaps upon Edison who is terrified and begins to talk. Batman quickly discovers that Edison was tipped off about Robin’s abandoned motorcycle by a homeless junker named Bad Doggy who found it on 36th and South MLK. Batman growls that he’ll be watching Edison and will know if he continues his life of crime. Batman vanishes as quickly as he came.
4) The Clock Tower.
Batgirl is engaged in a deadly fist fight with the vile Count Vertigo for who knows how long. She dodges a sonic blast from a weaponized circular speaker strapped to his chest. She hits him with a knock out gas bomb, and he points a gun at her but is too discombobulated to fire. She leaps back across the room and beats him to the floor, knocking him out after he confesses to the kidnapping of a pop star named Amanda Lucky and many others over the past several days. He said he didn’t know who was buying the victims, but that they were smuggling them in Gotham Light & Power utility vans. She sedates him further and ties him up for the police. She raids his secret hideout inside the clock tower and discovers plans for a massive attack on Star City funded by and the location of a warehouse where his victims were being kept. She races there on her supercharged motorcycle after relaying her findings to Batman.
5) The Batmobile.
Batman finishes his conversation with Batgirl having returned to his parked car after bugging Edison’s chop shop. He dials Black Canary, a hero living in Bludhaven that’s fought Count Vertigo before and can contact Green Arrow who is the vigilante protector of Star City and a current member of the Justice League. In addition to relaying the information he requests her help in Gotham with the search for Tim. She agrees to be there the next night.
6) The Warehouse.
After tipping off the police Batgirl races into the warehouse district on her motorcycle and slides it into one of Vertigo’s goons as she screeches to a halt at her destination. This knocks him out and she lets a second goon run off into the night, her focus is on the victims inside. She finds the warehouse bare except for three large cages of terrified abductees. One cage for women, one for men, one for children, at a glance she realizes that some of these people are from the streets some are from Amanda Lucky’s entourage and the rest from elsewhere. She asks of anyone needs immediate medical assistance and assures them the police are on the way. Returning outside she’s satisfied to hear the sounds of sirens closing in and leaves the scene to go investigate Gotham Light and Power across the river.
Lonnie, the former villain Anarky, plays an illegally gained videogame on his laptop, nestled in the dark of his van with his trusty dog Yap curled up behind him. His van is approached by Ruthie, a homeless woman who tries to sell him a bag of spray paint cans and a batarang. Lonnie inspects the batarang and is surprised that it’s legit. Ruthie says she got it from Bad Doggy. As Lonnie goes to get her money, he realizes his laptop screen has been taken over by a messaging program he designed with some internet friends from Gotham message board years ago. A short message appears.
It tells him not to respond and to write the message down. It’s in a code the group used and Lonnie remembers how to decode it. The first part gives instructions into the woods in the upperclass Kane County. It then says the name “Alfred.” It then says the cross street 34th and South MLK. It then gives a time-stamp for February 13th at 3:25am. It then says, “Tell B TH?GAL. Sorry.” It then starts deleting itself rapidly but stops short of the first few letters. Lonnie turns his computer off and packs it in his backpack.
His mind races. Thinking that the last part of the message might have something to do with Batman or Batgirl, he gives Ruthie $100 to get word out on the street that he wants to talk to them. He also calls a downtown homeless girl he knows named Kelsey and tells her to post at 34th and MLK and call if she sees something weird. He tries to remember who write him in this code and figures it’s either an anonymous hacker that went by the handle dr4c0, or his old friend Jordan Lilliard who went by the handle unknown_challenger. When Ruthie leaves ecstatic out of the back of his van, Lonnie slams the doors shut and keys the ignition, heading north.
8) South MLK.
Batman combs MLK heading south from 36th. He comes to 34th and finds smoke residue and some of his smoke pellets. One empty capsule that has been fired and two remain intact. He notices a street girl watching him, who is Lonnie’s contact Kelsey. She’s terrified as he approaches her. He asks her if she was there the night in question, she says she wasn’t and he know she’s telling the truth. His further investigation turns up no further clues besides drops of the special diesel he uses in his vehicles on the ground. Knowing this is the place of Robin’s abduction he notes the surrounding buildings. A movie theatre. A restaurant with apartments above. A bank.
9) The Door.
Lonnie and Yap hike nearly a mile into the woods surrounding the wealthy mansions of Kane County. He’s following the creek he was instructed to and when he finishes travelling the 4,124 feet the code said, he sees a narrow opening to a cave. He enters with a flashlight in hand and sees old iron torches on the sides of the walls and the natural floor gives way to a paved walkway after a while. The cave leads to a large steel door, the kind you’d see at a nuclear reactor. There’s a square numberless keypad to the side of the door and this genius realizes it’s actually a doorknob, because he sees a circular crease around the buttons. He turns the dial to the left and a small panel opens and a camera and a hand-print analyzing touch-pad pops out towards him. He shines his flashlight into the camera.
10) Intruder Alert.
Batman (still carefully analyzing the sight of the disappearance), Batgirl (who is investigating the Gotham Light & Power Plant), and Dick Grayson (who has just been dropped off at the empty Wayne Manor by Ellen Yin, one of Wayne’s chauffeurs) all receive a three-way distress call from Alfred who tells them there’s an intruder outside the rarely used West Entrance. Both Bats race to the cave as fast as they can. Alfred’s relieved to hear that Dick is home, and tells him to come downstairs. Dick reaches into the grandfather clock in the living room and enters the secret staircase down into the Batcave. He finds Alfred at the computer with a projection of the security cam on the screen, the light and lens flares of Lonnie’s flashlight bathing the batcave in white. Lonnie speaks to the camera asking for “Alfred.” Alfred looks up at Dick at a loss for what to do. Dick presses the speaker button and addresses the stranger through the comm. Lonnie couples this voice with his hunch that this is an entrance to the batcave, is convinced this is the voice of Nightwing seared in his memory from his terrifying childhood battle with the Dark Knights. He gambles and addresses the voice as Nightwing. Dick asks if they should knock him out and Alfred decides to get the door and keep him in the dojo. He pulls his Outsider mask out of the computer drawer and puts it on. Dick suits up.
The West Entrance opens and Lonnie, unmasked, is face to face with The Outsider, Alfred in disguise with a leather jacket, a black goggled ski mask with a voice distortion box over the mouth, a weaponized umbrella and gloves. Alfred interrogates him about why he’s here and he gives truthful answers. He’s lead into the dojo, a large cave completely bare except for a white square canvas on the floor, eight lit torches lit around the cave walls, and a camera up near the ceiling facing down. There is another steel door on the opposite side of the room. Soon Nightwing enters in his full suit and recognizes Lonnie. Yap goes to Nightwing and licks his hand. Lonnie mentions that he thinks the message might have come from a hacker he knows named “Draco.” Batman and Batgirl also enter the dojo in full regalia. Lonnie is able to keep it together and simply reports the facts. They all take a look at the written message and Batgirl takes Batman aside and privately vouches for Lonnie, revealing that she’s been checking up on him as Barbara Gordon since his jailing. Lonnie perceives that she has some reason to trust him. Receiving the first clue that Tim is still alive like this, and the thought that he lead Lonnie here softens the paranoia of having someone find the cave, but the entire situation raises more questions than it answers for all involved. Just as they prepare to talk it all through, an alarm rings in the dojo. The Outsider looks to Batman and exclaims, “The Signal!”
11) To Be Continued!
What new emergency has light their beacon across the Gotham sky? What’s to be done with this former villain who dutifully delivered this message from their missing ally to their secret nest? What exactly are the kidnapping for and what does it have to do with Gotham Light & Power? Who is responsible for the abduction of Tim Drake? If they’re lucky, all these questions will be answered as more arise on March 8th in THE DARK KNIGHTS #2: WAR IN HEAVEN.