The Dark Knight Lives (EIGHT)

Gloria Ramirez was a highschool phenom, or at least that’s what everyone else said she was. She was a star wrestler, martial artist, track star and she was always at the top of all of her classes. Plus, she had the looks too.

She was the whole package, apparently. Many high schoolers wanted to be her friend. A lot of boys were pining to date her. She was many things but she wasn’t a socialist. That led her to have only one friend, a girl who stood only 4 feet-8-inches and was nicknamed Tiny Ties–she always wore a bowtie with her various outfits.

She talked constantly, rattling about nothing in particular. To most, she was kind of annoying but to Gloria Ramirez, she was the friend that she always wanted.

They were heading home from a special assignment at school after 6pm, which on certain days could be a bit sketchy. With the storm raining down on the two girls and the thunder rumbling through the night sky, their usually jovial demeanors were reduced to quiet happiness.

They didn’t live in the best neighborhood. In fact, both of their parents were getting the idea to move out of Gotham as things started getting worse. Gang activity was growing and fear was spreading through the streets. The higher class of Gothamites thought that the city was getting safer but the regulars down at the bottom half of the totem pole knew the truth.

Things were getting worse and with the four bodies being found in the river earlier that day, it was a sign that the dark days were returning.

Gloria and Tiny Ties were walking down the dark street, the rain pattering against their raincoats. Tiny Ties, usually an energetic chatterbox, was unusually mute. Ahead a group of rowdy boys was raucously laughing and goofing around. Gloria immediately recognized them, for they were known to be bullies around their school. Their grades were low and they constantly found ways to get in trouble but for some unknown reason they were always able to get away with their shenanigans.

On a dark rainy night such as this, they were clearly up to no good and she wasn’t very confident in the idea that she and her friend could walk past them without being messed with.

Sure enough, as they approached, the boys started clapping their hands and whistling.

“Well if it isn’t Ramirez,” said the lead boy, tattoos covering every bit of his exposed pale skin except for his face.

She didn’t respond. She nudged Tiny Ties to move faster only for them to be stopped in their tracks by a massive boy who was nearly three-hundred pounds of pure brawn.

“Where you girls going?” the boy asked, grinning at them.

The third and final teenage goon, a stringy fellow with long red hair that framed his face, shoved Tiny Ties into Gloria, laughing all the while.

“Come on girls, don’t you wanna play?”

“Leave us alone,” Gloria said sternly, taking her backpack off and holding it in one hand in case she had to use it as a weapon.

The lead boy smiled when he saw this. “Ooh, are we supposed to be scared of you, Miss Black Belt?”

The red-haired boy grabbed Tiny Ties and as she tried to scream he placed a hand over her mouth. Gloria didn’t hesitate. She slung her backpack at the massive boy, catching him in the face, before kicking him in the groin. He fell to the ground, wheezing.

As she turned the lead boy grabbed hold of her. She struggled in his grasp.

“Not so tough now are you?” he breathed on her neck.

This was when her wrestling techniques came in handy. She grunted, kicking back into his shin as hard as she could and as he released her, howling with pain, she grabbed his arm and bodyslammed him to the ground, knocking the breath from him. Tiny Ties stomped on the boy’s foot who held her before running as fast as she could down the street.

Gloria wasn’t afforded the ability to run as the red-haired boy and the large teenager covered her exits. She quickly lunged out of the way of her nearest attacker and grabbed a stray stick that was lying on the ground. She stood, brandishing the stick, keeping the boys at bay as they neared her, each of them breathing heavily from the pain she had just given them.

The lead bully chuckled nervously, his face still scrunched with pain. “You think that stick is going to do something?”

With an intense expression, she replied, “We’ll see.”

The teenagers charged her at once.

Meanwhile, her friend was frantically calling the police down the block.

“Help, help. Please, help.”

Gloria, however, was still fending off the boys which were proving to be more and more difficult to withstand. She was using her martial arts skills as best as she could but in a rugged no-rules sort of fight, they were barely keeping her out of the bullies’ grasps.

She kept jabbing at them with the stick and kicking them away but before she knew it the massive boy had launched past her defensive barrier and grabbed a hold of her. She struggled in his tightening grasp, still kicking and fighting.

“Let me go!” she screamed.

“You want us to let you go?” the lead boy asked mockingly. “Okay.” He nodded at the boy who had her in his grasp. “Let her go.”

Before Gloria could react the boy holding her shoved her directly into the wall. Her head collided with the brick and she fell to the wet cement, disoriented as the boys stood around her, gazing down at her with wild gleams in their eyes.

“What are we going to do with her?” the red-headed boy asked.

The lead boy grinned and a spike of horror coursed through Gloria.

“I’ve got some ideas,” he said fiendishly.

“Well those ideas will have to wait,” a man’s voice appeared from the darkness.

Gloria looked to see who had spoken and was stunned into shock as she beheld none other than Robin standing in the street with his staff, the falling rain casting an extra layer of mysteriousness to him.

Simply seeing him, the boys went running, but Robin had other plans in mind. He darted forward, using his staff to launch himself forward, before tapping the boys on the back of their heads with the same staff, knocking them to the ground, unconscious.

He turned to look at Gloria who was rising to her knees albeit groggily.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Gloria, with one hand to her head, nodded with a pained wince.

“Yeah, sure,” she said.

He regarded with mild approval. “You did a good job fighting them off.”

“Until I didn’t,” she replied grimly.

She heard her name being called and when she looked Tiny Ties was running back to her at full speed. And then she skidded to a halt as she saw Robin.

“Omg!” she cried. Her mouth was hanging open in unadulterated shock.

“Thanks for saving both of our butts,” Gloria said, hurriedly moving over to her friend who was just a hairsbreadth away from practically exploding and talking Robin to death.

Robin smiled. “It was my pleasure.”

He then contracted the staff, reached into two holsters resting on his back, and pulled out two black batons. As he approached Gloria her eyes widened. In a nonhostile manner, he outstretched his hand, seemingly offering the batons to her. She took them, her mouth gaped.

“If you get in trouble again, use those next time,” he told her.

She couldn’t even speak, instead choosing to nod her thanks. With that, Robin shot a grapple from his wrist which latched to the top of the nearest building and zipped away, his cape flowing behind him like a burst of muted color in the night.

Tiny Ties’ gaped mouth finally closed as she looked at Gloria. “Woah,” was all she could say.

Gloria looked at the batons, then back up to the building where he had disappeared, and realized she needed to find him again. He was the sensei she always wanted, the sensei she knew she needed because at the end of the day, she needed him to teach her how to use these things he had given to her.

“Hey, Gloria?” Tiny Ties said, tapping her shoulder.

Gloria looked down at her friend, startled back to reality.

“Are you okay?”

Gloria nodded. “Yeah. Um…” she walked over, kneeling by her fallen backpack and placing the batons inside its compartment before standing, slinging her bookbag over her shoulder, “Let’s get home.”

With that, she and her friend walked down the street with an even greater purpose but not before Gloria took one last glance back at the roof where he had grappled to. And for a second she thought she saw a flash of red-orange on top of the building.

 

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