Steel City

Things did not look good. The day had started out well enough—or at least as well as a day of crime-fighting could start, but now the corner of Main and Exeter Streets looked like a war zone.

The intersection itself was blocked by a three-car pileup, and a van had vaulted up onto the sidewalk and caromed through the newsstand. Papers and pieces of papers had momentarily littered the streets, until they got caught in the impromptu river created by a sedan crashing into the fire hydrant. Paper now clogged the storm drains and the resulting flood was inches deep and rising. Smoke was still billowing out of what was left of the bank's window frames (so much for bulletproof glass), and the force of the explosion had blown the windows out of every other building in sight. The roof of the mini mart had actually collapsed, and the shoe store was on fire. The flames were beginning to spread to the Chinese restaurant, which did not bode well for the tanker truck haphazardly parked inside it.

No, things definitely did not look good. Mas (or was it Menos?) was sprawled atop a pile of debris near the newsstand with his twin frantically babbling in Spanish, trying to wake him up. Bee was in the air, trying to draw Bonny's machine-gun fire away from Aqualad, who was trying to use the spewing hydrant to combat the flames. That left Speedy—who was taking shelter behind the upturned van—to deal with Clyde, who was firing wildly with a Tommy-gun in one hand while the other was desperately trying to load a bazooka.

And Speedy was out of arrows.

Oh yeah, things were so very, very Not Good.

Then suddenly, they got worse.

While Speedy was busy ducking the machine-gun fire Clyde managed to load and then fire the bazooka… straight at Aqualad. Bee screamed, and the Atlantean barely had time to gasp, but a spurt of supercharged water shot up from slimy sidewalk river and managed to knock the RPG off course. It sailed safely past its Titan target...

Straight into the restaurant.

BOO—OOOOOM!!!

The grenade explosion set off the tanker, and all of a sudden the restaurant was a smoking crater. Every adjacent building was engulfed in flames. As the echo slowly faded with the ringing in everyone's ears the world grew strangely still, until the roar of the fires and the blare of car alarms faded back in.

And time resumed.

In a murderous rage Bee flew straight into Bonnie, yellow bolts from her B-stingers clashing with heated lead until—

SMACK!

—and the two rag-dolled across the pavement and began a wrestling match right beside the fire hydrant. They grappled in the wading pool that had been the sidewalk, scraped and bruised and bleeding and soaked straight through the leather and spandex right down to the skin. Any ordinary hot-blooded young man would have been hard-pressed not to stare.

Of course, Roy Harper was far from ordinary, and he far more important things on his mind. Clyde stood holding the smoking bazooka, a look of shocked awe plastered on his sooty face as he dumbly surveyed the devastation he'd caused. The Tommy-gun hung slack at the end of his forgotten left arm.

That was all the advantage Speedy needed.

Only a very small percentage of the population would be able to recognize a Navajo war cry, and so to Clyde it seemed that the archer had given an unintelligible shout when he vaulted himself onto the van. The villain didn't get the chance to think about it though, because a half-second later he dropped the Tommy-gun while the bazooka tumbled off of his shoulder and clattered to the street. He of course wasn't paying attention to them—because he was too busy screaming and clutching at the hand that a moment ago still had a finger on the bazooka's trigger. A hand that now had every last inch of Speedy's utility knife skewering the palm.

Speedy stayed crouched atop the van just long enough to make sure his aim was true before diving forward. He hit the street in a fast-turning somersault and was on his feet again, and before Clyde had even noticed the archer had moved Speedy was suddenly in front of him. In a flurry of motion the knife was ripped from the Clyde's palm, but before he could scream Speedy shifted his grip on the hilt and the villain's world erupted in pain.

SLASH! –his left hand flew to his face—

SLICE! –his bleeding right hand tried to grope his left forearm but—

SNI—SNICK! –his body shuddered and twitched when the blade played both sides of his ribcage like a xylophone in quick succession. He was collapsing to his knees when—

SWIPE! –the knife slid across the back of his thighs.

Clyde tumbled backwards with an abbreviated shout and lay flat of his back, bleeding from six nasty but nonfatal wounds. The archer towered above him, his expression carved in ice, a bloodstained knife still sitting firmly in his grip. Behind an unfeeling mask, jade eyes burned with hate.

"Bee?" shouted through clenched teeth.

"Right here. Are you…" but the reply was short lived. She'd been preoccupied with Bonnie and so hadn't seen this fight. Now she got a good look at the aftermath—at the man lying in the puddle that was the street—at the grenadier who'd shot Aqualad lying in the lazy river that flowed in crimson swirls down towards the stopped drains.

"Mi Dios…"

"Es él muerto?"

Mas and Menos stood off to the side; one looking scared, the other confused.

Then Aqualad—a sooty, stumbling, very much alive Aqualad—hobbled to where his teammates were gathered. "Hey guys, did I miss…" but the question died in his throat at the sight of Speedy standing above the lifeless form of the enemy, bloody knife in hand and far too much red in his costume.

When Clyde finally moaned and half-curled into the fetal position, Speedy heard four distinct sighs of relief echo behind him. His back stiffened as an entirely new breed of anger roiled in the pit of his stomach, and with a cold, clenched bout of stubborn single-minded determination he oh-so-casually stepped over the prone form of the defeated villain. He made a splashing march back towards his motorcycle without once glancing back at his shell-shocked fellow heroes.

"Speedy—" But Aqualad's voice was swallowed by the rev of the engine. He closed his eyes as the wake of Speedy's departure sprayed black rain into the echoing silence.

-fin-