Had someone other than Robin truly found the final communicator? This was certainly an unexpected turn of events. Detective.. Kudo, Shinichi. The name played back in his mind several times over. Batman was certain he had not heard the name prior to this moment. The question now became; 'Who is Shinichi Kudo?'
His inner thoughts would however be cut off by an all too familiar voice.
"Well, well, well. It would seem everyone is connected. Stage one complete!" Riddler radioed. "I just know you're all so, so anxious for the real challenge to begin, yes?"
When no one responded Riddler laughed. "Speechless with anticipation no doubt," Riddler concluded. "A shared sentiment, if I should say so myself. All will be well once the world opens its eyes to the true, unchallengeable, undisputed, greatest mind on this planet."
"If you're done with the self-gratifying speech of yours, I wouldn't be alone in saying that we would all like to hear the details of this challenge of yours," Flash dispatched from his end.
"Patience, that will come soon enough," Riddler assured. "But first, there's an announcement I need to make to the audience. Stay tuned!"
Those final words brought the end of the transmission.
"What an interesting character, this Riddler," Kaitou Kid remarked.
"Now what?" questioned Kogoro.
Not a moment later a vibration came to Batman's ear, alerting him of an incoming call. This prompted him to stray away from the pair once again.
Seeing this Kogoro crossed his arms across his chest. "And once again our bat friend here chooses to stroll off."
"I'm sure he has his reasons," Kaitou Kid said in response.
Once Batman was a safe distance away from the pair he took the call. "Father, we have a problem," Damian radioed. "I retrieved the outer case but I didn't find the-"
"Robin, listen," Batman said cutting in. "Riddler's final communicator has already been found by someone else."
Damian could believe it. "What?! By whom?!"
"That is unimportant, there is something else I need you to do," Batman responded. "We have until midnight, so listen up. Wherever the Riddler is, I imagine he is somewhere in this city."
"And you want me to try and pin point his location?"
"How can we be sure that he is here?" Damian questioned. "I spoke with Pennyworth a short time ago. I know the Riddler has implemented Gotham into this game of his as well. Who is to say he isn't there?"
"Riddler's main draw is on Detective Mouri, Kaitou Kid, and myself," Batman reminded. "He'll want to be as close to his subjects as possible."
"So, how am I supposed to find him?" Damian questioned. "I've not a clue to where he could be."
"You'll have to try tracking him with the very thing he has provided."
Damian instantly realized what he meant. "We can track him through the broadcasts he's no doubt going to continue to make. There must be a signal I can latch onto."
"Riddler won't make it simple task."
Damian huffed with confidence. "We wouldn't want to make it too easy."
"The Riddler will make his next announcement soon," Batman conveyed. "I have no doubt law enforcement will try to locate the Riddler as well. It's a race against time from here."
"I welcome the pressure."
"Robin, there is something else."
"And what might that be?"
"As leverage and a means of getting detective Mouri to agree to his terms of participating Nigma has taken Ran Mouri hostage, Kogoro's daughter," Batman informed. "Her whereabouts are unknown."
Damian knew exactly where this was going. "And let me guess, you want me to find her?"
"As far as I know Riddler isn't aware you have traveled here as well," Batman stated. "That's one of the few advantages we have."
"Every great player has a hidden trump card," said Damian putting it into perspective. "But even so, how am I supposed to find this girl? I have nothing to go off of."
"I've been building a case since the moment I learned of her disappearance," informed Batman. "I'm forwarding all necessary information to you now. Ran is depending on you. Tokyo and Gotham are depending on you."
"I'll find the girl and have Nigma in a straitjacket behind bars before night's end," Damian declared. "Robin out."
Batman drew focus back to the two on the rooftop along with himself. The question that couldn't be avoided came to mind. Were they ready? Would they be able to handle everything the Riddler is about to throw their way? Knowing Nightwing, his own protégé and the Flash would be assisting them through communication helped to ease uncertainty. Then there was this detective Shinichi Kudo, who was he exactly?
Given the circumstances now was not the time to investigate him. There was one focus, and one focus only, the Riddler.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I return to you with a highly anticipated update!" Riddler's broadcast had begun once again. Kogoro, Kaitou Kid, and Batman listened closely. They knew any word to be spoken could be a hint to something larger. "The final three communicators have been found and activated, which means I won't detonate one of the six explosives that remain. Fortunately for all of you, the trial will proceed without any casualties."
"I'm getting tired of hearing his voice," Kogoro spat.
"You all are probably asking.. Riddler, what is this trial you speak of? Well, that is simple," Riddler said. "All three selected contestants will be given a single timed challenge, assisted by the people who recovered the three additional communicators. Of course if they are unable to complete the given challenges within the required time I will set off an explosion. However if they are to succeed, no such event will occur."
"That certainly sets the stakes," Kaitou Kid said.
"Oh, and did I mention the next explosions to go off will be front and center?!"
Kaitou Kid gulped. "I'm not so sure I like the sound of that."
"Citizens of Gotham and Tokyo, I'm afraid I must clock out once again. But I must ask that you refrain from leaving your seats," Riddler dispensed to all. "For I will return shortly. And with that I will bring play by play coverage for each of our three contestants. Until then.. ladies and gentlemen."
This brought an end to the Riddler's broadcast for a second time.
"What now?" questioned Kaitou Kid.
Batman responded. "We wait."
"Wait for what?! I see no point in sitting around here," Kogoro stated. "Didn't you hear? He plans on setting off more explosives!"
"I won't let that happen."
Kogoro laughed at the given declaration. "Oh yah? And how can you be so sure about that?"
"The Riddler is a lot of things, one is that he is a man of his word," Batman stated. "If we successfully complete Nigma's challenges within his given time frame he won't set off the bombs."
"What about my daughter?" Kogoro asked. There was a bitterness to be heard in his voice. "Will she be released as well?"
All fell to a dead silence. With the games fast approach there was still much left unanswered.
Back in the Midtown Tower
Damian had since returned to the tower where he began the process of attempting to track the Riddler's signal after the second broadcast occurred. "The moment his announcement ended the signal fell completely blank," Damian took note of. "No matter, I have no doubt Riddler will return with another video soon. The man just can't seem to get enough of himself."
Damian directed his attention to center room. Gathered around Jirokichi Suzuki were several security guards. As expected they too were trying to detect the location for where the Riddler was broadcasting from. Either way, Damian wasn't about to leave it to them to get the job done. His mission was set, it was time to deliver.
"Doubtful Nigma is hanging around here somewhere, but it is still a possibility." The thought of it slid through Damian's mind as he scanned the room full of people. "For all we know the live footage that was just played could have been a pre-recording."
Moving from his position in the corner he had been standing most of the evening Damian advanced forward. As he moved along he took eye to all who stood in attendance. It didn't take long for him to conclude that the Riddler was not present. "It's time to widen the search." In that moment Damian decided it was now time to make his exit. "It's unlikely Nigma has stationed himself in this building. I'd be better served looking elsewhere."
The question now became, where? Where was the Riddler now?
Hearing his name called Damian turned just in time to see someone approaching. "It's that girl."
"I thought you left already," Ayumi said after stopping in front of him.
"I departed for a short time, yes. Where is your friend with the glasses, Conan? I saw him leave earlier; he looked to be in a hurry?" Damian was moderately interested in knowing. "As far as I can tell he has yet to return."
"I don't know where he is," replied Ayumi. "One second he was with the rest of us. Then we saw that man with the green suit on the TV, and then Conan just-"
"Left," Damian completed.
Ayumi nodded. "Mmhum."
"I see." Was there something to this? No, there couldn't be. Conan was just a kid. Surely he wasn't onto something?
There was now a worried look to be found on Ayumi's face. "Why did you ask? Do you think something bad happened?"
Damian looked away. "That's not what I was implying."
Both Genta and Mitsuhiko joined the two after spotting them.
"I didn't know you were still here," said Mitsuhiko.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Damian questioned. "As I told you when you first arrived, I'm here on behalf of my father. But in light of what has happened my presence is needed elsewhere."
"You're leaving?" asked Genta.
Damian began walking once again. "For the time being, yes." With that he was on his way.
"Guys, Conan has not come back yet," Ayumi said. "It has been awhile since he left."
"Over ten minutes," said Mitsuhiko who looked down at his watch. "I thought he would have come back already."
"Maybe he's looking at the art in the hall like he was before," Genta said.
Mitsuhiko pulled out his phone. "I'll call him right now." After the number was dialed he raised the phone to his right ear.
Many seconds went by. "Well?" questioned Genta.
Lowering the phone back to his side Mitsuhiko shook his head. "I didn't get an answer," Mitsuhiko reported.
"Do.. do you think something happened to him?" Ayumi fretted.
"I wouldn't worry," said Genta assured. "I bet he'll turn up any time now."
"Maybe so," agreed Mitsuhiko. "Though it does beg the question, where is he?"
Back on the roof
One minute passed, then two. How much longer until Riddler's challenge would begin? Kaitou Kid looked up toward the sky to see a number of helicopters still in search of him. "Relentless as always," Kaitou Kid noted. "Even with the circumstances as they are now they're still attempting to locate me."
"Hmph. Why wouldn't they?" Kogoro questioned. "You're a highly wanted criminal; they won't stop until you're caught."
"Maybe so," Kaitou Kid admitted. "Even still, you would think a man threatening to set off explosives in the city would have completely diverted their attention elsewhere for the time being."
"Who's to say that isn't the case?" Batman stated.
Kaitou Kid looked over at him. "What's that?"
"The Riddler showed to everyone his face," reminded Batman. "It could well be that they are searching for Nigma now."
"You know.. you could be right."
At long last the moment they all had been waiting for finally came. Each of their communicator devices vibrated before hearing his voice. "Are you all excited? You should be," Riddler spoke. "Can't you feel it? That taste of accomplishment.. victory?"
"Gee, the amount this guy self boasts makes a broken record seem like a speechless pineapple in comparison," Kaitou Kid thought to himself.
"Riddler, my daughter," Kogoro began. "If we successfully win this game of yours, will Ran be set free?"
"What is it called when something isn't atop, within, or below a presented subject?" replied Riddler with another riddle to deliver.
"I'm not playing games with you!" Kogoro snapped.
"That answer is the incorrect," conveyed Riddler in return.
"Answer the damn question!" Kogoro fired back
Riddler chuckled. "Oh, but I already have."
Kogoro was now more impatient than ever. "No! All you gave was another one of your twisted ridd-" Kogoro would be cut off before his thoughts could be finished.
"What's not atop, within, or below a presented subject," Batman repeated.
Kogoro looked over at him questioningly. "What of it?"
"Atop, within, and below are all one in the same," Batman explained. "They are the subject, or in other terms object of reference."
"I don't get it," admitted Kogoro. "What are you trying to say?"
"It is simple detective Mouri," replied Batman. "When something isn't part of an object, it is on the outside. Putting that into terms to what you asked the Riddler concerning your daughter, the answer is no. Her fate is not part of this challenge's wager."
"Bingo! The bat knight nails it again!" confirmed Riddler.
Kogoro was now furious. "Then what is the whole point of this game if I can't-"
"Patience, investigator," interjected Riddler. "You will have a chance to determine your daughter's fate. But first, you must prove you are worthy of such a granted opportunity."
Kogoro gritted his teeth. "You disgust me! You hear?!"
Riddler chuckled. "Your words plant a blade to my chest. Never the less, why don't I start off by giving you the rules of the game, yes?"
"Bout time," Kaitou Kid said planting his left fist into his right palm. "Finally, the part we have all been waiting for."
"Rule number one; the person linked to you is the only person you are allowed to collaborate with in between each challenge," Riddler relayed. "Any attempt to seek outside help such as the authorities or any other parties involved will result in destruction! Yes, I will set off one of the explosives."
"Peachy," remarked Nightwing from his end.
"Rule number two; both parties must stay standing throughout the entire challenge."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Flash radioed.
"Simply that I will set off another explosion if both participants are not able to complete a task as a team," Riddler responded.
"So basically if someone taps out," Nightwing figured. "So, what's the third rule?"
"There is no third rule," Riddler replied. "However, there's something additional you all might find to your advantage."
"Can't wait to hear this," said Kaitou Kid.
"We'll call it, your service cards," Riddler described. "Each of you as a pair will have two service cards that you can use at any time during your given challenges."
"What do these service cards do?" questioned Nightwing.
"Let's say mid challenge you find yourselves in a slump, in a place that leaves you feeling blinded on what to do next. That's where the service cards come into play, they grant help to the most primitive of minds," Riddler explained. "The first; a free phone call to anyone of your choosing! Of course there is one exception to that, you may not reach out to anyone else participating in this challenge."
"And service number two?" Kogoro enquired.
"A riddle," Riddler softly laughed. "A hint if you will. A hint that will help you to solve the given puzzle."
It couldn't be this simple. There had to be more to it than that right? "What's the catch?" Kaitou Kid asked.
"I beg your pardon?" replied Riddler.
"You don't take me as someone who would be so generous with the.. services you have mentioned. There must be some kind of catch to all of this," Kaitou Kid assumed.
"Oh, how right you are," confirmed Riddler. "If you are to use service card one, five minutes will be deducted from the time given to you to complete the challenge."
"Sounds simple enough."
"That is only for service card number one. The penalty for using service card number two differs," conveyed Riddler.
"How so?" questioned Kogoro.
"If and when you choose to use service card number two the remaining time left on the clock for you will be cut in half," Riddler explained.
"Meaning if we have twenty minutes remaining, the time would be reduced to ten," Kaitou Kid realized.
"That would be correct thief Kid," Riddler confirmed. "Now here is what is going to happen gentlemen. In approximately five to ten minutes I will be giving you all information for the task you will be taking on. Now before I can do that I have one more announcement to make to the good people who will spectate. So it goes without saying that I must put in my leave for the time being. Until then.. competitors."
The only sound to hear in those following moments was the spin of the propellers above and the traffic that resided in the streets far below. Kaitou Kid shed eye to Kogoro who stood to the left of him. He was in deep thought. There was now a fire to see in his eyes, one Kid had not seen before. He couldn't even begin to imagine what was rolling through his mind in those silent filled moments. Kaitou Kid then turned his head to see Batman had moved to the opposite side of the roof once more.
"There he goes again," Kaitou Kid said.
Now out of range of the others Batman activated the communicator device on his wrist. Raising his hand he spoke. "I have one question I'd like to ask of you, detective," Batman said. "You managed to retrieve Riddler's final communicator, how did you come across it?"
"I'd love to entertain you with the details, but I don't believe now is ideal to discuss that," Shinichi softly replied. "Wouldn't you agree?"
Batman's attempt at learning more about the opposition had been completely shot down. But even then, Batman knew he was right, all focus needed to be directed on the Riddler. "Shinichi, listen," Batman began. "What you're about to face.. what we're about to face, things won't be as simple as they appear."
The spoken had to be questioned. "Care to elaborate?"
"I don't know what the Riddler's challenges will present, nor do I know what his end game is," admitted Batman. "But if there is one thing I am certain of it is that we need to look at the simple as complex and the complex as simple."
Conan was not completely sure what was meant by this, but kept his words in mind none the less. "So this Riddler guy, how much do you know about him?"
"Before he referred to detective Mouri as the investigator, Kid as the wizard, and you as the dark knight," Shinichi said. "Why did he refer to you as a knight? Just who are you anyway?"
"Who I am is unimportant," replied Batman. "I will however answer your question pertaining to the Riddler. If there is anything you should know; it is having an understanding for the way Nigma thinks."
"Knowledge that could prove pivotal," agreed Shinichi. There was no denying that fact. "I'm all ears."
Somewhere on the streets
Since departing from the Midtown Tower the question now became, where to look? Where could the Riddler possibly be hiding? No matter where it was Damian was determined to find him.
"I can't believe someone else found the last communicator device before I had the chance to retrieve it," muttered Damian under his breath. He clinched his fists at the thought of it. "Now I'm regulated to headlining a side mission."
Who could it be? Who was the person to have found the final communicator? It was a question that rested at the back of his mind. Then there was the obvious question. How long had the Riddler been planning all of this?
"It's clear Nigma has put a lot of time and thought into this scheme of his, this certainly wasn't a heart of the moment decision," Damian thought to himself. "If I had to take a guess I'd say he's been planning this for weeks, possibly months."
Even though he would have preferred the former there was no denying the importance of the task that was left to him; finding Ran Mouri, and above all determining the location of Edward Nigma. Damian stopped after coming to the end of the street he walked, peering ahead to the traffic that continued to muster with patrol cars.
"Security is increasing as expected," Damian took note of.
His focus then switched to his phone in hand. On the screen was a picture of the kidnapped, Ran Mouri. Now familiar with her appearance Damian opened the download that had been sent to him from Batman. "This must be the information father spoke of," Damian noted. A moment later the street light above him flickered. Noticing this he looked up as it occurred for a second time. "Now what?"
It didn't come as a surprise to him when Riddler's voice returned, listening as it echoed throughout the area. "The wait is almost over ladies and gentlemen, the show will begin shortly!"
Damian knew it was now time to make his move. "Alright Edward, let's see what door you're hiding that arrogant face behind."
As the Riddler continued to speak, Damian attempted to pin point his location using the device held in hand. "You're all probably enquiring the understandable, why make another announcement? Especially one not stamping the beginning of the game, well I'm going to answer just that."
In that moment the sought was achieved. "I've got it! I'm locked onto his signal." Damian couldn't be any more pleased. However the thrill of success would fade almost as fast as it had come. "What?! The signal.. it's gone."
As the Riddler continued Damian attempted to regain the connection. "Citizens of Tokyo and Gotham, I was doing some thinking. You are all merely spectators right?" Riddler noted. "Why don't we amp up the experience? I now hold my hand out in invitation; you are all welcome to the dance!"
Damian finally regained the signal that had been lost. "The signal is weak," Damian said. "Which means I must be a good distance away from wherever-" He stopped after the connection was lost for a second time. "What?!"
"You now ask, well Mr. Riddler how do I join?" Riddler chuckled. "My answer for now is, stay tuned. Your knowledge on future, present, and past will be the subject of test."
When Damian wasn't able to immediately reconnect he began to walk, testing to see if relocation would help his cause. "There, I've got him." The moment the reconnection was made it faded once again. Damian clutched his fist in growing agitation.
"I must now unfortunately depart once more my dear guests. Keep my words in thought, until then." And with that the Riddler ended yet another one of his broadcasts.
"I don't understand. Why wasn't I able to get a clean lock on his.. wait." Damian attention was diverted by the sound of a police siren. He looked to roadside, watching as two patrol cars zipped past. It was only at that second that the possibility came to mind. "Could it be?" Could that be the reason why I wasn't able to sustain a distinct lock on Nigma's signal?
There was now a look of clarity to display. He had to be right. "The Riddler's not camped out in some classic shielded hideout, no. He's on the move," Damian realized. His eyes narrowed as he watched every passing vehicle that came in sight. Edward Nigma could be in any of them. "The question is, where or what is he broadcasting from? And.. where is he keeping the girl?"
To Be Continued