Weapons in Gotham have gone through some changes since the No Man’s Land. Where once the gang-bangers would have come at her with guns, the group now bearing down on Huntress is equipped with an array of of metal piping, chains and baseball bats with nails hammered through them. Gotham has become low-tech central.
In her mind the voice of Superman continues filling her in on what’s been going on in the outside world. Thank you J’Onn, she thinks, for the JLA telepathic link.
<... believe what you read in the papers. Polls indicated that, after it’s plagues and it’s earthquake, most Americans were willing to write Gotham City off. I choose to believe that they felt so with deep regret...>
Typical Superman, she thinks vaguely, disarming a guy coming at her with a plank of wood. Always looking for the best in people.
<... but it doesn’t change the consequences,> he continued. <Federal aid denied, utilities shut down... the city actually sealed off... and so many refusing to evacuate before the national guard closed all exits.
Those who left and those who stayed - all denied shelter and left homeless. I wish there were more I could do to help.>
<Which is why you’re standing at the edge of the ionosphere,> she says over the link, more coldly than perhaps she should to the leader of the JLA.
<Believe me, Huntress... I know my role. The JLA is doing everything it can for the people of Gotham.>
<Great,> she mutters sarcastically, <I feel much less vulnerable.
By the way, if I drop the link in a second don’t take it personally,> she tells Superman as she takes out another gang member with a flying kick, <I’m a little busy. You do know I’m in Gotham, right? Listen not to sound ungrateful about my membership... and I know I’ve been a little too busy for the meetings lately... but once again I have the feeling I’m on a team I’m not part of.>
<I’m not sure I follow. Huntress, we all have our roles...>
As Helena keeps fighting the gang - Black Maskers she thinks, trying to spread their territory into the Faith sector - Superman recounts to her how two weeks previous, Green Lantern and Orion uncovered an outside plot to infiltrate Gotham, possible proof that the NML legislation had been pushed through by crooked senators.
By the time Superman has finished telling her of the JLA’s efforts to either prove or disprove their theory, Helena has finished with the gang and has taken to the rooftops - what’s left of them anyway.
<Since then,> Superman concludes, <we’ve declared all-out war but made little headway.>
<Said Nero while Rome burned,> she responds, her bitterness seeping through the link.
<You’re not looking at the big picture, Huntress.>
<Big picture?!> she demands angrily. <I’m looking at a devastated city that needs protection!>
<As well we know.>
<Then the JLA should come in!>
<You’re forgetting our presence is illegal.>
<ILLEGAL?!> she shouts at him him down the link. <You’re in a position to really DO something! If I had even half your powers I wouldn’t feel accountable to ANY laws, let alone stupid, dangerous ones!>
<Those powers would only multiply your responsibilities,> he says patiently. <Sometimes being responsible means not doing everything you’re capable of of doing. I learned that lesson harshly recently when I took the law into my own hands and - > he stops abruptly mid sentence. Someting else has caught his attention. <Wait.
Huntress, breaking contact.>
She feels the telepathic link go dead as Superman severs the connection. She doesn’t have tome to dwell on it though as she spots a young boy down on the street below and she jumps down, landing in a crouch next to him.
Like most people left in Gotham, the boy is filthy - you couldn’t tell what color the shirt he is wearing was before; now it’s covered with the filth and grime of a dead city. His face is a mess of dirt streaked with tears.
‘You shouldn’t be out alone,’ she says, firm but gentle, using the same voice she does with her pupils.
The boy, tears still running down his face, looks her over and his eyes wide with recognition.
“Oh! You’re in the JLA right?” You’ve gotta come help!’ he grabs at her hand and starts pulling her down the street. “It’s my dad! This gang showed up to take away our food and my dad’s trying to stop them! There’s like twenty of ‘em!”
“Great. This looks like a job for Superman,” she grumbles, but follows along anyway. What else can she do?
They turn the corner to see a gang beating on one lone man while a woman - presumably the boys’ mother, the mans wife - is being held back by another gang member while she screams at them to leave him alone. Once again the child implores her to stop the gang - the Wreckers this time - from hurting his dad.
“Do you have super-strength?” he asks tearfully, tugging on her cape as she walks towards the gang.
“Are you invulnerable?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Then how are you gonna save him? What are you gonna do?”
She stops walking and turns around to gently remove the boys hand from her cape.
“I’m going to do everything I’m capable of doing,” she tells him, before turning back to the gang and striding towards them.
The first the gang know of Huntress’s presence is a crossbow bolt in the arm of the lead tormentor just seconds before she enters the fray from above, positioning herself between the man and the gang.
In their confusion the gang back off, reforming in a ring around Huntress and their original prey. The screaming woman, sobbing now, and her son break through the ranks and go to the aid of the man. Helena can see he’s already taken a beating and needs needs medical attention for several cuts and what looks like a broken arm.
One of the gang members - the leader it seems as he’s the only one with a gun - seems to recognise her.
“You know you can’t take us all, lady,” he says, examining his gun.
“You gonna fight or are you just gonna talk?”
Her tone is firm and direct, and the gang leader takes it as an affront to his authority. He glares at her as he moves towards the center of the circle and presses the gun against her chin. Huntress doesn’t even flinch.
“You’re sure a confident one, ain’tcha, sweetheart?”
The gang cackles like he’s made the funniest joke they’ve ever heard. It’s all a power play, she realises, making others feel and look small. It reinforces his position as the gang leader. If he looks like he’s loosing control, someone will challenge him. A wild animal mentality.
“I just know what I know,” she says, looking him direct in the eye. He stands at least four inches taller than her and he tries to use his added height to intimidate her. It’s his bad luck that far greater men than he have tried to do the same and failed. After today, this guys won’t be leading any gang ever again.
“For example I know that if you’ve actually managed to barter for a precious bullet or two” - she pushes the gun aside and quickly brings her elbow up to collide with his jaw, sending him flying back - “you probably wouldn’t want to waste them on me.”
The rest of the gang rush her, an unorganised rabble that does half her work for her by getting in each others way.
“I know how many bones I can break without killing you.”
She shoots one man in the arm with a cross bow while using another mans face as spring board to mount a flying kick at a third.
“But most importantly,” she says, taking down the stragglers, those who haven’t yet been knocked down or run away, “I finally know my role.”
Later that evening as the sun begins to set, Huntress climbs up to the top of the Clocktower. It’s one of the few standing buildings left in all of Gotham City and as such gives her a view of quite a bit of the islands.
<Superman, are you there?> she asks, opening JLA telepathic link once more.
<For the moment,> comes the reply. <Right now J’Onn and I are following a Locus trail to Istanbul. It probably won’t pay out any better than the one Steel followed to Nevada, but we have to try... These secret sieges aren’t going to stop anytime soon, meaning we have our work cut out if we’re going to protect your city from outside conquest.>
<Understood. That’s what you meant isn’t it? About each of us having a role in all this?>
<Well when you asked why we didn’t have any JLAers in Gotham I just assumed you realised...
We already do.>