Disclaimer: This is a Wonder Woman/X:WP uberish cross-over. Therefore, any recognizable characters in this tale belong to DC Comics and anyone else who has an investment in Wonder Woman and to cover my 'just in case' bases, to Rob Tapert and Co., RenPics, Studios USA, MCA/Universal and anyone else who has an investment in Xena: Warrior Princess. I am just borrowing them for use in this story. No profit is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended. This is all just for fun and to keep me busy and out of trouble. The other characters and the story belong to me.
Thanks: To Noe and Erin for supplying all the background information on Wonder Woman and the Amazons of Paradise Island and to SueG for pointing me in their direction. Big thanks to Marilyn for picking up all my dropped letters, of which there were many.
Author's Note: This is a stand alone story. The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
Brave New World
The year is 2043. For over one hundred years, the world has been ruled by Nazi tyranny. The Japanese are an acknowledged power within the Reich, but they concede the supreme leadership of the Fuehrer. The United States, because of its choice to remain isolated during the conflict that was World War II, is now an occupied territory of the Nazi regime. It is also home to the Resistance. This is the story of their fight for freedom.
"Goddamnit, Chase! What the hell's wrong with you?!" The man yelling grabbed the blonde woman by the arm and swung her around to face him. She jerked her arm out of his grasp, and the fire in her green eyes prevented him from reaching for her again. She glared at him another long moment before turning and striding back towards the P-40 Curtiss Warhawk Flying Tiger airplane that sat tarped and hidden near the tree line. He ran to catch up.
"Dammit, Annabelle!" flinching when she grabbed his ear and twisted. They stopped walking. "Owowowowow!!! Sorry, Chase. It's just you move really fast when you put it in gear. C'mon now... let go. Please?"
"Hans, you can't go with me. I can't let you go. You're too important to the movement."
Hans snorted. "*I'm* too important to the movement? Chase, you're all that holds us together aside from a bit of spit and some string. I'm just...."
"You're just the only one of us who is German. You're also one of our top scientists with ongoing projects. With Ty and Jen out west, Mitch and Shep still busy up north, I'm the only one left here qualified to go. Don't worry about it." She put a placating hand on his arm. "You know why I have to do this, and you know I'm the most capable to do so. Relax... everyone here knows what to do in the meantime, and I'll be back before you know it."
Chase motioned to number of people who stood around the compound trying desperately to look busy while they strained to hear the obvious confrontation between the two. They were both the best at what they did, but it put them at odds more often than not and provided the entire rebellion with some much needed levity.
"I hope so," Hans answered soberly. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"C'mon, c'mon, dammit!
"C'mon, start, damn you!"
<Cough, sputter, choke>
"C'mon baby! Start for mama!" Chase pleaded quietly, then sighed when the motor finally rolled over and caught. "Thata girl. I knew you wouldn't let me down." She revved the engine, listening to the roar and smiling when it turned to a smooth purr. She looked up when weight landed on her left wing.
"Here," Hans yelled over the rumble of the engine, handing her a package wrapped in oilskin. "It's a long flight. You're gonna need something to eat."
Chase took the parcel and gave Hans a smile. Despite everything, he was one of her dearest friends and she appreciated having him in her life. There were definitely times she wanted to throttle him, but most of the time she was glad he was around. And she was pretty sure he felt the same way about her.
"Thanks, Hans. You're the best."
He looked her directly in the eyes and said with all seriousness, "So are you. So please don't go and do anything stupid, all right? We need you here, and I'd miss having you around to fight and argue with."
Her grin turned rakish and Hans couldn't stop the smile that formed on his own lips. "I'd miss me too," she said patting his hand. "Don't worry. There and back. We need that information or I wouldn't bother. Keep working on...."
"I will! I will!" he broke in, waving his hands to get her to stop talking. "Geez, you think I'm dumb or something?"
"Or something," Chase answered cheekily, shifting in the seat and reaching back to close the canopy. "I should be back in a couple days. Try and stay out of trouble, will ya?"
"You just be careful and get back in one piece. We've got things to do, and we need you here."
"You got it. Wish me luck."
"Always... you know that." He hopped off the wing and returned her wave. Then he watched her taxi down the runway and take off, following her flight until she was a mere speck on the horizon.
"Guess I better get back to work," he said to himself, turning his back on the runway and noting the activity in the compound had resumed. "I'd like to have something to show her when she gets home," determined to think confidently about the outcome of Chase's mission despite the knots in his belly.
"Has she said anything yet?" the queen asked her head healer. Though the Amazons of Paradise Island were immortal, from time to time they still had medical issues arise that required the skills of a trained physician. Usually these occurred after a tournament and a few times because of outrageous weather. But for the most part, Drea's skills were called upon to nurse the soul. Such was the case now.
"No, Majesty. Not a word. She continues to act as though we don't exist. She doesn't speak or respond – not to anyone or anything. She spends her time fighting, practicing, honing her skills to a degree I would not have believed possible were I not witnessing it with my own eyes. The only time she leaves that room is when she takes her runs around the island. The anger within her burns deep and I fear for her sanity if not her very life."
"Perhaps I have let this continue too long. Perhaps it is time to force the issue." The queen commented as she stood, only to hesitate when Drea placed a hand on her arm.
"My queen, please don't do anything rash. I don't think there is anything you or anyone else here on the island can do for her."
"Mala has foreseen. One is coming. One who will, as you say, force the issue. She will either accept her fate or...." The healer trailed off when the queen turned anguished blue eyes in her direction.
"I could lose her for good."
Drea swallowed. Some days she hated her job. "Hippolyta," finally addressing the Queen as the old friend she was. "The Princess is already lost to us. This may be the only chance we have of regaining her. You cannot, *must not* interfere. If she chooses to go, she will need your blessing and support."
"As I should have done years ago," the queen said sadly. "I miss her so much," she said softly, leaning into Drea's body and sighing when the healer's still strong arms wrapped around her in wordless comfort. Her face creased into a smile when she felt lips brush her hair in a ghost-like kiss.
"We all do, my queen. The princess has always been sought out for her favor. It's a wonder the Nation has not fallen ill from the hearts she's broken... even before her self-imposed exile."
Hippolyta tilted her head slightly to look up into Drea's brown eyes. "Thank you, my friend. I'm sorry to put all this on you...."
Drea covered the queen's lips with her fingers. "It is my duty as head physician and my honor as your friend." She bent and brushed Hippolyta's cheek with her lips before releasing her hold and taking the queen's hand in her own. "Come. Let us talk to Mala. With a little luck, she should be able to tell us about this one who is coming. And I think we are due for a little luck at this point."
Hippolyta blew a breath out and her bangs fluffed out in reaction. "I hope so. I would rather lose Diana to the world of men than to whatever inner demons she continues to fight. At least there she would stand a fighting chance."
"DIE, YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!!" Chase screamed even as she banked the plane hard to the right. She'd spotted the Nazi plane a mere second before he'd seen her. Unfortunately, the son of a bitch wasn't flying alone, and now she was out gunned by a ratio of three to one. She'd already eliminated the first.
The second Nazi plane started trailing smoke and flames, and Chase would have pumped her arm victoriously had she not been so preoccupied in trying to avoid being shot down herself. She dove hard, knowing they'd follow her down and hoping she could pull up fast enough while causing them to crash.
What concerned her just as much, though, was the fact that this little dogfight was eating into her fuel – fuel she was going to have difficulty replacing to get home. She was confident enough in her fighting prowess to believe she'd be the sole survivor of this little adventure, but there was nothing those skills could do for her if she ran out of gas.
What the hell were they doing here anyway? We haven't had any recon showing them out this far. Did someone tip them off or did I just get lucky enough to run into a random patrol of the bastards? OW, Shit!! What the fuck??
Searing pain in her right shoulder brought Chase out of her thoughts and she realized she'd been hit by the remaining Nazi aircraft that was currently heading directly for her. Her useless right arm fell away and she grabbed the stick with her left. The plane responded sluggishly, and Chase fought to hold on long enough to take the son of a bitch down with her. If she had to die today, she was damn sure going to take him too.
Closer and closer until she could see the look of terror on the man's face. Then she popped the canopy, feeling the impact as their planes met nose to nose. She jerked the cord of her chute and felt a searing pain cut across the middle of her body and into her left thigh. Then all she knew was merciful blackness.
"My queen," Paula raced into the temple where Hippolyta and Drea sat talking with the Priestess Mala. She bowed her head in respect. "I beg pardon for interrupting, but...."
The queen waved her hands. "Nevermind that, Paula. What news?" Hippolyta knew the island's chief scientist would never disrupt a meeting, especially in the temple, without good cause. Something important had happened, and by the prickling of her skin, the queen was fairly certain this was the event the priestess had foretold.
"My queen, there is activity outside the shield."
The queen's features creased into a frown. "Yes, Paula. There is always activity outside the shield. Humanity continues to exist around us."
The scientist shook her head. "No, my queen. I mean, yes, my queen, I know that. You don't understand. There is violent activity taking place just outside the shielded area, above us. It is very likely we could see some serious fall-out from it."
"How serious?" Drea asked.
"At the very least, we could be discovered by any and all survivors. Worst case? They bring their fight to us and Amazons get hurt."
"How can they bring their fight to us, Paula?" Hippolyta asked. "They cannot see us through the shielding."
"No, my queen, but they appear to be the same fighting air machines we saw so long ago. And you remember the damage those caused. We already saw one break up and fall to pieces in the ocean."
Hippolyta nodded. "Sound the alarm. Make sure all the women are under shelter until the danger has passed." Paula nodded.
"How many were there?" Drea asked again, thinking ahead to the number of facilities she would need if there were injuries. Her assistant Rina would need to prepare everything necessary for the possible extensive damage they could encounter.
"We counted five," Paula was saying. "Four to one odds, it looked like. But the single was not the one shot down because the fighting continued when I left."
"This is the one," Mala said without fanfare. "This is the one we have waited for."
Paula looked confused, but both Hippolyta and Drea nodded at the priestess' words. Drea touched the queen's arm, and Hippolyta nodded her dismissal. The healer squeezed the queen's arm in encouragement, then took Paula by the elbow and led her out without a word.
"You're sure?" Hippolyta asked.
The priestess nodded. "I have foreseen. Have faith, my queen. There is still hope."
Hippolyta nodded and turned her attention out the window, knowing if her daughter kept to her schedule, regardless of the alarm that sounded across the island, she should be passing by on the beach below very soon. And somewhere out there in the heavens above them, Diana's savior was rushing to meet them.
Diana silently moved through the corridors of the palace. She had long ago learned to tune out the existence of everyone and everything around her. She could account for each and every sound indoors and out, and knew there was no danger to her here. The alarm didn't slow her steps. She wasn't changing her routine for some threat, perceived or imagined. She didn't give a shit – at least if something happened, it would be something new to experience.
She stepped out onto the grounds, feeling the guards' eyes on her, but knowing they wouldn't stop her. Many had gotten hurt in the beginning learning this lesson – they knew better now. Diana went down the slope and out onto the beach, running with a freedom she didn't express anywhere else. This was the one place she allowed herself to feel again – just a bit. For a little while every day, things were good and she was happy.
It was a familiar whining hum that brought her out of the meditative trance she had fallen into to block the annoying sound of the alarm. She fell to her knees as she was assaulted by images and memories she could no longer live with yet was unable to purge.
Pain, darkness, betrayal....
The sound was coming ominously closer and her dark head jerked up as a crash reverberated across the sky followed by a thunderous explosion. Blue eyes found the smoking mass easily against the blue and white background. Then her attention was caught by something else.
A single figure emerged from the smoke and flames, wrenched upwards by the billowing parachute. Diana watched as the chute wobbled and whirled out of control and it dawned on her that whoever it was attached to was likely unconscious and unable to control or direct it. She thought briefly of calling for help, then decided against it. She would follow its downward path, and once assured she could locate it again, she would then seek out assistance. For the first time in nearly a century, Diana felt alive again, and she relished the feeling as it coursed across her skin and through her veins.
The figure swayed listlessly in the breeze and Diana watched helplessly as a gust of wind yanked the chute straight up then collapsed it, allowing it and the person attached to it to plummet into the sea with frightening strength and speed.
Without thought, the princess stripped and dove into the water, strong strokes rapidly carrying her to the spot the chute had struck with such force. There was nothing visible and an unreasoning fear gripped Diana's heart. She took a deep breath and dove, blue eyes flinching at the sting of salt. Though she had long since given up worshiping the gods of her birth, she whispered a prayer for the strength and wisdom to find the individual who had fallen into her life, however unintentionally.
Lack of air drove her to the surface, and she gasped, drawing air deep into her lungs before plunging beneath the waves and resuming her search. Almost by accident, her hand brushed against canvas and she curled a fist around it, yanking with adrenaline-enhanced, supernatural strength. As she rose to the surface, she gave a yell and heaved the figure to the surface with her. She wrapped an arm around the woman's... woman? Since when did women fight in the world of men? Had so much changed? Diana put such thoughts out of her mind and pushed the water out of the woman's lungs, careful of the cut across her belly. When the woman coughed weakly, the princess unbuckled the harness and resumed her strokes towards shore. She noted the large crowd gathered there including her mother and the healer and sighed in resignation.
Diana was happy when her feet hit sand and she gathered up her failing strength, forcing herself to stand and cradle to limp body she'd rescued from the sea. She strode forward, willing herself not to stumble and ignoring the minions who rushed into the shallow waves to help her. Diana accepted the towel draped around her shoulders by simply not shrugging it off, but she failed to acknowledge it or the Amazon who draped it over her either. She glared at the woman who reached out towards her trying to look at the wounds that covered the body she carried. She smiled grimly when the hand was removed but the woman continued her visual examination.
As soon as she reached dry land, Drea pushed forward, ignoring the princess's icy stare as she beckoned the minions to bring the stretcher they'd brought with them. The blonde woman had been badly wounded and was still losing blood sluggishly. They needed to move quickly to give her the best chance for survival.
Taking a gamble, she clasped Diana's face in both hands, waiting until the blue eyes focused on her face. Drea didn't even flinch when the expression turned to ice. She simply held on until she was sure Diana's attention was focused on her.
"You did a good thing here, Princess. Thank you. Now you need to let us care for...." A glance down at the lax figure. "Her."
Diana didn't acknowledge the words. When she was sure the blonde was safely supported on the stretcher, she dropped the towel and snatched up her clothes from the sand. The Amazons gathered did their best to give her privacy, though many of them snuck a peek from beneath lowered lashes. Diana ignored them as she always had, slipping into her clothing and walking away from them without either a word or a backwards glance.
Hippolyta watched her daughter make good her escape with a heavy heart. The princess had not acknowledged her presence at all. She wasn't even sure she'd acknowledged Drea, but to her credit, she hadn't hurt the healer either. There had been a time when Drea would have been on the ground in intense pain. Hippolyta was glad Diana no longer had that sort of immediate reaction – she just wished she would get past the indifference as well. Mala came up beside the queen and grasped her hand, squeezing lightly to show her support as they watched Diana disappear around a corner of the island.
"It has begun, my queen."
Hippolyta squeezed the priestess's hand in return, thankful for the unspoken support.
"It certainly has. I can only hope this turns out better than the last."
"Indeed," Mala agreed, knowing she'd seen two distinct futures in her visions... and one was enough to give even the strongest Amazon warrior nightmares. A lot depended on what happened here in the next few days. The priestess just hoped both Diana and their mysterious visitor were ready for the challenges that lay ahead for them. They were going to need each other to survive.
Diana waited until she was positive she was out of sight before dropping into the sand in exhaustion, her mind unable to cope with her physical actions. It had taken every bit of remaining willpower she possessed to continue standing and moving on her own two feet. But there had been no way in the seven levels of Hades itself she was going to let anyone, especially her mother, see weakness.
She was alone now however, and she let her body curl into itself as her muscles clenched in agonizing spasms. They hadn't been used and abused in such applications in more than a century and regular exercise didn't produce the same results. And it would be the only way her body would remember what happened. Her eyes burned harshly for their prolonged exposure to the salt water of the sea, and there wasn't one spot on her person that wasn't screaming for mercy. Even her hair hurt in sympathy for the rest of her parts.
Diana focused on breathing, on simply being, encouraging tight and knotted muscles to relax. Her eyes closed and she felt immediate relief from the action. Without warning tears rolled silently down her cheeks and she let them fall, unable to reach up and wipe them away. It had been so long since she'd allowed herself this kind of release, she wasn't sure what the reason behind them was now. So she let them fall without examining the *why* behind them too closely. If nothing else, her logical mind figured, it was the easiest way to clean out the seawater. Then she put rational thought to one side and let her mind float away into a restful oblivion. She never even realized when she fell asleep.
Pain. Rather intense pain.
These were the first sensations Chase became aware of. She moved her head from side to side slowly, trying to orient herself without causing herself any more pain in the process. A cool hand felt her forehead and she leaned into it slightly, feeling her mother's touch in the contact. A soft voice, not her mother's but not unfamiliar spoke into the quiet of the darkness.
A straw was raised to her lips and Chase did as she was told. If she were in enemy hands, they would need her to be lucid before she could answer questions and she would need to be strong to escape. If not, she had found friends, and that was even better. For now though, she struggled to open her eyes.
"Shh," the voice commanded. "You're safe here, but you need to rest and heal. Sleep now. All will be explained in the morning."
Chase sighed and fell asleep once more, her normal breathing rhythm assuring the healer that stood by her bedside.
"Fetch the queen," Drea said to Rina. "And call together the council. We have some decisions to make."
"She's not an Amazon."
"No, but she is a woman under my care. I cannot allow her health to be jeopardized because of prejudice. We wouldn't even force a man to leave in the shape she is currently in."
Gasps made the rounds. Prejudice was fairly unheard of on Paradise Island though they did understand the concept. The queen held up her hands to stave off the argument she felt coming.
"Ladies! Ladies, please. The question on the table is not whether she can stay. Of course she will stay until Drea releases her from her care. What we need to consider is *why* she is here and *how* we can return her to her home. I hesitate to have one of our Amazons escort her, and yet I highly doubt, given the circumstances that surround her arrival as we know them, that she will wish to remain with us."
"But she can reveal us to the world."
"Not necessarily," Paula spoke up. "It is highly unlikely she knows where she is given the ferocity of the fighting we saw. Besides, there are herbs and drugs to assure that part of her memory is not a problem."
"We can discuss that when the time comes. There is much we need to know first before any sort of decision is made."
It was quiet as everyone contemplated Hippolyta's words. Finally, Drea sighed.
"Well, the first order of business is to get her well. After that, well, the young lady in question may have some ideas about everything else herself."
The queen nodded. "Mala?"
The priestess nodded her agreement. "Let's get her well, then we can talk. I imagine she will wish to have some say in what happens to her and how. And she will be able to answer our questions without all this unnecessary speculation."
Hippolyta looked around at the faces of her council. Rarely had they had to meet for anything more than social issues, and she could see how this issue was going to divide them. There was no help for it now though. Diana had followed her heart when she'd pull the young woman out of the sea, and regardless of the consequences, Hippolyta was happy to witness a return of the daughter she knew. Now it only remained to see how those actions would change things for everyone involved.
Chase held herself very still as she came to the second time, focusing on keeping her breathing deep and regular as she struggled to discern many things in the darkness that surrounded her. She was chiefly aware of the pain, mostly in her left thigh, but also from her belly, her right shoulder and her head.
She heard the soft, odd sounds of machinery, and.... Someone else was in the room – a presence more felt than heard, though she could just barely pick out the sounds of soft, regular breaths.
Musta been one hell of a landing, she thought groggily. She remembered the dogfight and without warning, her breathing sped up exponentially as she started reliving it. Her hands clenched the sheets and she grit her teeth, a fact which didn't go very far towards alleviating the pounding behind her eyes and in her skull.
Warm hands were placed over her clenched fists, coaxing them to relax. Then the coolness of a wet cloth wiped her face, reminding her again of her mother's soothing touch. The same voice from before, the one that sounded like her mother and yet was not, spoke again into the darkness, willing her to listen and obey.
"Come, child. Open your eyes for me. It's all a memory... a bad dream. I need you to open your eyes and let me see how you are really doing. Come on, now. Open your eyes."
Chase's eyes still felt so heavy, but that voice was very compelling and she struggled to obey. Her eyes open but closed again immediately against light they received as too bright. Drea caught the reaction instantly and called out in a quiet voice, "Lights dim."
Though they had only been at half-intensity, the lights fell to half again what they had been and Drea looked around to make sure it was safe for her patient to try again.
"Try again," she asked. "I don't think the light level will be a problem now," though it may drive me crazy. Drea liked being able to see. She figured it had a lot to do with her being a healer, but she just felt more comfortable with the lights turned up. However, she was more concerned with getting the small woman's eyes opened for now. They could work on re-brightening the room later.
Chase blinked rapidly at first, as much to moisturize her eyes as to get them accustomed to the new light level. It was much more manageable now, though still considerably brighter than total darkness had been. She let her eyes look around without moving her head, still afraid that too much movement would cause it to roll right off her shoulders. She hadn't had a headache like this since her first - and only - hangover. It made her stomach roil in sympathy just thinking about it.
The room was... not what she expected. It was austere in its furnishings as she expected a hospital room to be. Yet it was something beyond that as well. The walls and floors seemed to be made from marble – not the linoleum and plaster she'd expected. The machinery tucked discretely behind and to either side of the bed was beyond anything she'd seen before. She didn't appear to be a prisoner – the wires and tubes from the machines were attached to her body and looked as though they were monitoring her body's functions. They in no way hindered her from leaving the bed in the sense that she could remove them. Her arms and feet were not bound.
The most peculiar thing in the room, though, was the woman who spoke in the low, melodic voice. She wasn't dressed like a nurse... or a doctor for that matter. Hell, she wasn't dressed like anyone Chase had ever seen. Her brow furrowed as her puzzle became just that much more convoluted. No medical personnel Chase had ever dealt with wore flowing robes or looked so comfortable. Drea smiled gently, sympathetic to her patient's confusion, but anxious to learn more about the blonde woman as well.
"My name is Drea, and I'm the head healer here." She reached out a hand and smoothed the hair off Chase's forehead. "How do you feel?" Chase shifted again, biting back a groan when she pulled on new stitches. She swallowed, and Drea offered her a cup. "Slowly," the healer cautioned. "You've got a nice cut across your stomach and you don't want to have to throw up because you drank too fast."
Chase accepted the straw and gingerly sipped the cool liquid, noting fuzzily it wasn't just water, but something almost tingly. A few swallows and she turned her away, exhausted by the effort and disgusted by how drained she felt.
Drea set the cup to one side and smiled at Chase. "You'll have to finish it, but we'll go slowly. In the meantime, do you feel up to answering a few questions?"
Chase closed her eyes. She didn't sense any danger but something was making alarm bells ring in her mind – something familiar in her surroundings - which did nothing to help the headache that was pounding behind her eyes. On the other hand, it didn't feel threatening. Whatever else, the pilot didn't think she had fallen into enemy hands.
"Okay," she finally answered. Drea had seen the expressions crossing Chase's face and wondered about the thoughts behind them. The healer didn't even realize she had been holding her breath until she exhaled at the single word. Drea patted her hands comfortingly, then gestured to the side of the wide bed.
"May I?" Chase motioned with her hand, unwilling to risk moving her head until the pounding eased somewhat. "Thank you... um...?"
"For now," the blonde smiled as rakishly as she could manage. "We really don't know each other sufficiently yet for anything else."
Drea smiled. The woman certainly was enchanting; the healer could see how easy it would be for any number of Amazons to be swept away by her charm. She nodded her acceptance of Chase's answer; she could clearly see the wariness and distrust in those green eyes.
"I like it... it suits you somehow," said with a smile. "Now," getting briskly down to business. "Do you remember what happened? What brought you to us?
"Whose side are you on?" Chase answered one question with another. At Drea's look of confusion, she continued. "In the fight against tyranny, whose side are you on?"
Drea shook her head, unwilling to reveal the Amazons and their location to Chase at this point in time. "We, um... I guess we are neutral? We're so far removed from everything and everyone that we really don't have a side. But I'd like to think we'd come down on the side of right if given a choice."
Chase stared hard into the brown eyes looking back at her. She'd learned as a very young child how to gauge when a person was lying to her and that skill had served her well since that time. She saw nothing but honesty and a bit of hesitant fear reflected back to her.
"All right," Chase replied, relaxing back into her pillows with a barely concealed groan. Drea picked up the cup and offered it again, and Chase sipped on it gratefully – both for the wetness it provided her poor throat and because she felt her headache easing off. She had the distinct impression the tingly feeling was behind that.
Drea waited patiently. She had dealt with this kind before and knew that pushing Chase would result in nothing – no answers for them and no trust between them. And Mala had already stressed this woman's importance to Diana... and Diana's importance to the Amazons. No one would be happier to see the fulfillment of Mala's prophecy more than Drea. So she continued to wait.
Chase let her mind wander, even as she processed her impressions of this place. Everything told her she was safe here, and yet there was still something setting off niggling alarms in the back of her mind. She decided it was safe enough to give this woman Drea an abbreviated accounting of what happened. She knew she couldn't get information without giving some, and she needed this woman to help her get well enough to go home.
Hans is gonna kill me.
"Well," Chase started, clearing her throat gently. "I was on my way home when I got spotted by a patrol of Nazis. Though what they were doing out this far...." she mused to herself and grew silent as she pondered that puzzle for a long moment. Chase didn't see the widening of Drea's eyes at the mention of the Nazis. She drew a deep breath and resumed speaking.
"Anyway, they saw me and gave...." Here she smiled sheepishly. "Chase. I started shooting." The pilot turned her attention full on the healer, and Drea was impressed by the presence the small woman focused her way. "Did any of them survive?"
Drea shook her head. "Not to our knowledge. You were the only one we saw escape from your flying machine."
"Hmm... I remember popping the top just before I hit the last man. The explosion was...." She shuddered. "Horrific," finished in a whisper. Chase closed her eyes, willing the images away. She could still visualize the terror on the young man's face, and she wondered as she watched him explode if he was even old enough to shave. That was the worst part of the rebellion. Chase could still see clearly every single person she'd been force to kill, and sometimes that burden got so heavy. But she had decided long ago that living with oppression and tyranny were worse, so she locked that memory away as she had so many others throughout her lifetime, knowing they would only come back to haunt her in the darkest part of her dreams.
Drea sat quietly, not wanting to disturb Chase's thoughts, though it was apparent they were unpleasant. When the green eyes blinked open again, the healer offered her some more water, which Chase gladly accepted. Her headache had eased off to the point of being almost non-existent, and the rest of her body was starting to relax from the pain as well.
"Anyway, I remember the explosion, which was way too close for my tastes, and being hit in the stomach and thigh. And after that.... Did I hit my head on something?"
Drea nodded. "The water, we think. You came down in it pretty hard. You seemed to have caught an updraft that dropped right out from under you while you were still a little way up. We were just glad you were over water and not earth. Gaia is a little less forgiving than Poseidon."
The blood drained out of Chase's face as she understood the implications of what Drea was telling her. The healer realized what her words must have sounded like to the pilot and hastened to reassure her.
"The drop did no residual damage aside from your headache. All your motor functions react normally to stimuli and nothing is broken. All your wounds appear to be from your combat experience." Drea touched Chase's shoulder. "We took a bullet from here, and shredded metal from here," moving her hand to Chase's thigh. "Your stomach had a clean cut across it. The only explanation we could come up with was a piece of one of the exploding airplanes caught you as you ejected."
Chase nodded tentatively, inordinately pleased when her head didn't fall off. "I think you're right. I remember some rather intense pain before I blacked out." She paused. "You say I fell in the water." Drea nodded. "Who pulled me out?"
"Our very reclusive princess."
"Does that mean I won't get to meet her? I mean, I'd at least like to thank the woman who saved my life."
"Probably. She's not inclined to be social very much," Drea said honestly, thinking back to a time when that wasn't true. "But you never know. Stranger things have happened." And her rescuing you would be one of those things. Never thought we'd see that hero again. "But," Drea continuing to speak aloud as she rose from the bed and tucked the cover around Chase. "I want you to get some more rest. When I come back it will be with something to eat."
Chase's belly rumbled in response and she blushed and grinned awkwardly. "I think that sounds like a great idea. I can't remember the last time I ate." Drea grinned in response.
"I'll bring plenty."
Diana woke in the dawn disoriented, her abused body screaming in agony. Her face was pressed into the sand, and her body was curled into a fetal position. She deliberately stretched as far as she could, working through the pain of aching muscles and allowing her thoughts to wander.
Why do I hurt so badly? I'm not in bad shape, thinking of the rigorous exercises she did daily. Why am I on the beach? It appears I spent the night here, but why? And who got close enough to cover me without my noticing? She pushed the thin blanket aside and stood. Already she felt better. Evidently she had remained in one position too long, letting her muscles atrophy after some apparently harsh exertion. But what? And why couldn't she recall anything after heading out for her run?
She shrugged and picked the blanket off the sand, shaking it out and meticulously folding it neatly. Then she moved back towards the palace, determined to discover what had happened the previous day.
Diana noticed a subtle difference in the Amazons' attitudes towards her and her curiosity grew. They were looking at her with eyes full of admiration and awe, something she'd accepted as her due once upon a time, but no more. Not since her mother....
Here her thoughts grew cold and hard, and she ignored the respect they paid her. Diana placed the blanket on a chair just inside the palace, moving with sure, silent steps towards her rooms.
"Diana?" Her mother's voice... a voice she studiously ignored. "Daughter!" seeing the princess stiffen but not slow her steps or acknowledge the queen's presence. "Diana, we need to talk." Hippolyta reached out a hand, and found it caught and held in a nearly painful grip.
Diana didn't speak, simply looked at her mother for a long moment. Then she threw the queen's hand from her and resumed her trek to her room.
Hippolyta stood frozen in the middle of the hallway, torn between anger at her daughter's impudence and despair at what she had seen so clearly in those expressive blue eyes. She started after Diana when she heard her name called from the other end of the hallway. Turning, she saw Rina, and the assistant healer's winded condition caused her immediate concern.
"Rina?" moving towards her.
"My... my queen. Drea... requests your presence... immediately. It seems our... patient spoke to her... this morning."
Hippolyta cast one last glance towards her daughter's room, then strode with Rina out the other end of the hall. Drea wouldn't call her this early if it wasn't a matter of some urgency.
"Do you know what she said?" Hippolyta asked. She never saw Diana glance out of her room nor the princess' shoulders slump when she saw Hippolyta moving away from her. Diana's resolve hardened again, and she refused to allow the tears to fall. Instead she moved to the shower, wanting to rinse away the sand and all the aches and pains she had accumulated... inside and out.
Hippolyta waved the assembled Amazons back to their seats, glad they had been gathered so quickly. She would soon understand that most of them had been working overtime since Chase had been pulled from the water. And in Paula's case, since they'd spotted the aerial dogfight in the skies above them.
"Hello, Ladies," watching with mischievous glee the outraged expressions that turned her way. They were Amazons – first, last and always – and Hippolyta knew that was the surest way to not only get their complete attention, but break up some of the tension in the room as well. "Drea, you have the floor," taking a seat and motioning to her best friend.
"Majesty," accepting with a nod and rising from her chair. "I spoke with our guest just a short while ago. She doesn't trust us... yet anyway. Not that I can blame her after what I found out. For now, she goes by the name of Chase. It's all she would share with me about herself."
"Okay, so...?" Hippolyta asked, knowing there had to be more if Drea summoned the council.
"She also gave me an abbreviated account of what brought her to us... specifically the air fight that took place."
"How do you know it's abbreviated and how can we be sure she gave you accurate information?" asked Nubia. She was one of Hippolyta's most trusted advisors, and she was the biggest skeptic on Paradise Island. She had been after the queen, the healer and the priestess to push Diana out of what she perceived as a childish funk. She was well-respected for her forthrightness, if not well-liked for her harsh outlook and ruthless tongue.
"If you'd let me finish," the healer said pointedly. She and Nubia mixed like oil and water, and there were days – this was shaping up to be one of them – when Drea wanted to send Nubia far, far away. The dark-skinned Amazon nodded her head magnanimously, and gestured for the healer to continue.
"Thank you," turning back towards the queen. "What she told me about... what she said...." Drea rubbed a hand across her face. "It's the Nazis... again. Or still." Gasps around the table, followed by whispers and low chatter. Drea held up her hands for silence before she continued. "Paula started doing research as soon as she realized what was happening yesterday, and I gave her the information Chase gave me immediately. She's been going non-stop on this." The healer turned to the scientist. "She came to me as soon as she gathered enough information to make a preliminary report." Drea sat down and Paula stood, chewing her lip nervously. Sometimes she hated her job. She cleared her throat and began to speak.
"When we noticed the air fight over the island, it was... familiar. And Chase's arrival... it reminded us of... well, it was very similar to what happened when Steve Trevor dropped in on our home." The council as a body held their breaths and eyes turned furtively towards the queen. That had been the turning point in Diana's life and left them with the nearly unrecognizable woman who was now their princess. Paula swallowed and went on.
"We started doing some checking and when Drea came in with her information, it gave us something specific to look for. What we found was... disturbing."
Paula stopped talking and looked at Drea for support. The healer was the only one who knew what they had found out as she had been standing in the research lab when the information came through. Drea nodded and Nubia nearly slapped the table in frustration until she saw the serious expression on Paula's face. Nubia had a soft spot for the scientist and knew without asking that whatever she'd discovered had very bad connotations.
"Paula?" Hippolyta's softly spoken word broke the silence that had fallen.
"I'm sorry, my queen. The next part is, um... hard to tell. I feel like it is partly my lack of vigilance that allowed this to develop like it has."
Hippolyta stood from her seat and moved around the table to take Paula's hands in her own. "Paula, if anyone bears responsibility and guilt here it will be me. You have always faithfully served the Nation. No one here questions your loyalty or vigilance. Now, tell me what you found out."
Paula focused on the queen; it was easier that way.
"Take your time," Hippolyta said, seeing the hesitation and feeling a cold shudder travel down her own spine. Paula nodded, and looked down at their still linked hands for a long moment, drawing strength from the trust she felt flowing from Hippolyta.
"Diana didn't lie to you, my queen. The Nazis apparently won the war they were waging a hundred years ago." She swallowed hard enough for the room to hear it. "And it looks like they had help... Amazon help."
The silence that fell in the room at Paula's pronouncement was so still even the wind stopped blowing. Hippolyta paled at the implication of Paula's words, her hands tightening reflexively on the scientist's.
The sound of a chair scraping across the floor broke the spell and Hippolyta looked around, gratefully noting Drea's presence behind her almost immediately. She leaned back into the healer's embrace while maintaining her grip on Paula's hands.
"You mean, Orana...?"
Paula nodded. "Yes, my queen. Though I cannot say so with one hundred percent certainty, all indicators we have found point to her being the reason for the Nazis' success."
"Oh, my gods," the queen muttered. She never heard the excited chatter – the buzzing in her ears blocked the sound, and then the world went blissfully black.
Diana wondered at the odd silence that seemed to be hovering around the palace. The outside guards were in place, but no one appeared to be inside. In a completely inexplicable change in behavior, the princess was roaming the corridors, seeing what she could see instead of holing up in her room as was her habit.
The palace was more than a home for her and her mother. It also housed several public areas - the library, a music conservatory, the scientific research laboratories, the infirmary and the hothouse gardens. It was also home to several other Amazons aside from the royal family, but their quarters were in a separate wing. Many of the Amazons had their own homes with yards and gardens spread across the island, but all were welcome in the public areas of the palace.
Today, however, no one was about. No one that is except for the small, unknown woman who lay sleeping in the infirmary.
Diana stood in the doorway for a long moment studying her intently. She wondered who the woman was and where she'd come from. There was a familiarity that tickled the edges of her senses though she knew for a certainty that the woman was a stranger to herself and the island. And ever more curious – how she'd come by the injuries she had so obviously sustained. Diana had absolutely no recollection of her own efforts to save Chase, and no one was around to answer her questions or tell her the story. She never saw Rina, who was monitoring Chase from one of the observation rooms and who maintained her distance on strict orders from both the queen and Drea.
The princess walked quickly through the palace and outdoors, realizing immediately where all the Amazons had disappeared to. They all sat in the outdoor theatre next to the palace and the queen was addressing them. She wondered why she had not been summoned, then shrugged. It was obvious to her that the only reason she was part of this society at all anymore was because she had nowhere else to go - either by choice or by design.
So Diana chose not to bother and went to sit in her favorite thinking tree.
Chase felt someone staring, but just couldn't seem to open her eyes. Whatever the healer had given her packed quite a punch and though she felt much better than she had the first time she'd awakened, she was unable to pry her eyes opened. Instead, she floated in a comfortable twilight, aware of sounds and sensations around her, but powerless to do more than listen to them.
She turned her mind back to the Drea's words, and wondered again what she was missing. The healer wasn't being totally open and honest, though Chase couldn't really blame her. The pilot wasn't completely forthcoming with information either.
Chase felt the presence leave as silently as it came, and she wondered if she was going to be some sort of freak sideshow. Though in all fairness to wherever she was, this was the first observer Chase was actually aware of having. Cool your jets, Chase. You don't need to be making snap judgments – especially since you're not in a position to do anything about anything until you're healed a little more.
She wondered at the silence, though. In her brief snippets of conscious and semi-conscious memories, there had always been a soft scuffling of footsteps, the crackle of moving material and the whisper of breathing. Right now, there was nothing, save her own breathing and the whirr of machinery in the room. With a mental shrug, Chase put it out of her mind. She couldn't do anything about it, so she let herself slip out of the twilight state and back into a deep, healing sleep.
"My sister Amazons," the queen began. "Many of you...." She paused, knowing the truth. "All of you are aware that we have a visitor from the outside. A mortal woman who literally fell out of the skies and into our backyard. While I know you are all intensely curious about her and the circumstances surrounding her appearance here on Paradise Island, I am asking for your patience. She was badly injured before she hit the water, and Drea has indicated she will need sufficient time to heal before she can have any visitors. And even when Drea releases her to have visitors, I am asking you all to be kind to the young woman and don't interrogate her. The council and I will endeavor to find out all we can and will pass along any pertinent information, but please – we want her experience to be something she will remember as a beautiful dream."
After Paula's words had sunk in, the council decided not to share the implications with the general Amazon population... at least not yet. There were still too many unknowns, and they felt there was no reason to stir things up any more than Chase's appearance already had until they had more facts. The queen, when she'd regained her senses, had ordered Paula to get some rest while the remainder of the council discussed her findings quietly. It confirmed a good many things that heretofore had made no sense to them. It didn't, however, bring them any closer to a decision.
The only thing they agreed on was the fact that no one wanted to start a panic or a revolt – both of which were possible if the council went off half-cocked. So it was decided that the queen would make an announcement, and the council would proceed from there. There had to be an answer, and it was up to them to find it.
Mala didn't attend the queen's address to the rest of the Amazons. She felt the need for prayer and fasting. This whole situation was becoming much more than she'd initially seen, and she wanted to ask for guidance and wisdom. The priestess wondered if any of the goddesses would answer, though. They had been unusually silent, as of late... ever since the fiasco with Diana, in fact. Mala shrugged. Perhaps they would make an appearance now. Change was in the wind, and any goddess worth her salt was going to want to be in the forefront of that change.
On Olympus, there was a conclave of another kind going on. Hera, Demeter, Hestia, Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite sat at their own round table discussing possibilities. For too long, Ares had held the world in the palm of his hand and used it for his own advancement. The time had come to change that, and opportunity was knocking at their door. The only decision they had to reach was the best way to utilize the chance they had been given. Life was fixing to get very interesting for the lot of them, and they were merely supporting players. They were looking forward to watching events unfold for the others who were now involved in the drama which would eventually determine the fate of the world. Sometimes, it just totally rocked to be a goddess.
"What did you find out?" Hans asked the tall man as he stepped into the room. Shep just cast him a look and took a seat, waiting for the other leaders of the rebellion to file in behind him. Hans had literally accosted him as soon as he and Mitch had returned from up north. It had been bad enough that he and Jen had been separated for the better part of a month while they were being utilized in different areas of the rebellion. But to come home and find that Chase had disappeared... so much depended on her. She was a pain in the ass, but she was *their* pain in the ass. Not only was she a capable leader and an excellent pilot, she also had a knack for bringing people together and a way of making things seem possible. Of course, sometimes that had as much to do with her ability to kick ass and take names as it did with anything else. God knew they'd all gone the rounds with her on more than one occasion. Better than that – she kept Hans from driving the rest of the crew nuts.
So Shep was already in a sour mood, and Hans' nervous energy wasn't helping matters at all. Fortunately, the other rebel leaders were only a pace or two behind him. Ty patted his shoulder as she passed behind him, knowing the scientist tended to rub Shep the wrong way. Jen nudged Ty out of the way with a smile and the two women teasingly elbowed each other like kids for a minute before taking their seats. Mitch and Hans slid into their seats and waited for Shep to speak.
"The news isn't good. She made it to the southern base and picked up the packet. From there things seemed to go downhill."
"What happened?!?" Hans demanded impatiently. Shep glared at him, and Hans folded his on the table and sat back. "Sorry," he muttered.
Shep nodded and cleared his throat. He knew the German man was simply concerned – they all were. But his impatience wasn't going to help what appeared to be a complete calamity.
"It appears she ran into trouble once she took off. Apparently there was an ambush waiting for her. Now," he held up his hands when the mutterings started.
"Damn it, Shep! That means we've got bigger problems than Chase missing."
"I know," the man said quietly. "But can I finish this first?"
"Thank you. Now, as I was saying, we don't know what happened from there – except that all five planes disappeared over the Devil's Triangle." Gasps around the table. "I know, but there is a possibility that Chase is alive."
"So what do we do? Surely we can't just leave her there," from Hans.
"The southern base has a patrol out looking for survivors – Chase or the Nazis. My odds are on Chase having shot them all down and then being drawn into the Triangle." The gasps turned to grins and nods of affirmation. "For now, though, we've got work to do. Not having the packet changes things, so we're gonna have to implement some alternative plans and methods of attack."
They opened their planning books and pulled pencils from the cup at the center of the table. Jen chuckled as she flipped to an empty page and all eyes turned to her.
She returned their gazes evenly, the mirth twinkling out of her brown eyes. "I was just thinking – I know that this is serious, but I'm glad I wasn't the one to bring Chase down in the triangle, and I'm real glad I won't be the one finding her. You *know* she is gonna be spitting mad, especially if she is stuck riding in a life boat out in the Triangle."
Laughter went round the table for a minute, each of them well able to picture the blonde fury tearing through the Nazis and then the Devil's Triangle trying to find a way out.
"So, you think she's alive?"
Jen reached out a hand and patted Hans' arm. "Not only do I think she's alive. I'd put good money on her getting out of the Triangle by herself and coming home to kick our collective asses for leaving her there to find her own way out."
"Guess we'd better get to work then. I don't want to be accused of slacking off when she gets back."
Five sets of eyes widened at Hans' words, then they turned their attention to their planning.
When Chase opened her eyes the next time, the curtains had been opened allowing a minimal amount of light in the room through the slatted shutters. It bothered her eyes though, so she squinted as she looked around the room again. Nothing had changed – it still reminded her of a hospital though there were several pieces of equipment she didn't recognize.
The pilot sat up, wincing as she pulled against the injuries in belly, shoulder and thigh. Chase cursed the aggravation they caused her, but was happy to note her head was much better though it did spin when she changed directions. She looked down, glad to see that this institution didn't have the standard, ass-baring hospital gown.
It was actually... well, she wasn't sure exactly what it was. It would have been a toga in Roman times, she suspected, though the material was silk, not linen. Chase rubbed its softness between her fingers and thumb. It reminded her greatly of the silk scarf passed down from her great-grandfather. It was the last reminder she had of the man who had been a hero to many, but whose efforts had in the end ultimately come up short.
Chase spared a wistful thought for it now, wondering where her clothes were and if the packet was safe. She assumed that whoever now had it in hand had opened it and read it. So her first order of business was going to be to get out of here and find her clothing and the packet. Then she'd need to find a way to escape.
She stood slowly, breathing deliberately to move past the pain and holding onto the rail when the world started to spin unmercifully. Chase bit her lip until it bled and closed her eyes, willing her body to co-operate. She took a step and would have hit the ground had it not been for the warm hands of her arms keeping her upright.
"You shouldn't be out of bed yet," Rina chided. "Come, let me help you back to bed, and I'll get Drea."
"Nono... I need...."
"You need to get back in bed," the healer asserted firmly. "Please, you're bleeding."
Chase allowed the young woman to help her back to bed, moaning when she banged her leg into the rail. "I'm going to get Drea," Rina said, pointing a finger at Chase. "You stay put." She grabbed a glass and pitcher that were sitting on the bedside table and filled the glass nearly to the brim. "Here. Drink this slowly. I'll be right back."
Chase closed her eyes and concentrated on not throwing up.
"Are you sure about this, Paula?" Hippolyta was looking through the reports the scientist had just handed her passing them on to Drea and Nubia as she read them. The three had withdrawn to the Queen's study discuss the development Paula had presented them with about Orana. They were deep in discussion, having reached a consensus on the need to work together when Paula knocked on the door. The look on her face was one of confusion, and the queen bade her enter. Now the trio understood the look – they were bewildered as well by the new information they now held in their hands.
"Yes, my queen. I have run the information three times. It comes up the same every time."
"This makes no sense. Granted, humanity doesn't have the same level of genius available to us here on Paradise Island," with a nod in Paula's direction, "but they should have made some sort of advancements in the past century."
"Thank you, my queen," the scientist responded to the subtle compliment though they all knew who was responsible for most of the innovative progress the Amazons enjoyed, including the sleek, slim-line computers and holography technology apparent even here in the queen's private rooms.
"So in a hundred years, there has been no significant evolution in mankind's development? No scientific advancement – not in medicine or mechanics or technology?" Nubia asked. The thought of such a stagnant society made her mind hurt.
Paula shook her head. "Not in anything, it seems. Their music, clothing, way of life remains the same. Even their standard of living hasn't altered significantly."
"But why?" Drea asked. "It makes no sense. Surely there should be some sort of progress somewhere."
Paula shrugged and scrubbed her hands through her hair, making it stand up on end more than it usually did. "I don't have any answers for you. Every time I start looking for answers, I find something new that just makes more questions."
"So do we know more about our guest? And what about Orana?"
"I am still working on getting things into place to find the facts we need about Orana. I can't believe I missed this... that I let this get by me so easily."
"Paula, don't do this to yourself. We had no reason to suspect...."
"Yes, we did, my queen," the scientist cut in unexpectedly. "You know we did – Diana warned us...."
"Paula!! You overstep your bounds!" Nubia roared, and Paula cringed inwardly though she didn't flinch on the outside.
"Not this time, Nubia," she replied quietly. "How long did Diana and I work together on many of the luxuries the Amazons now enjoy as part of their everyday lives? I got to know the princess better than most of you. I knew she wasn't lying and I should have kept a closer eye on what was going on in man's world."
"Let her be, Nubia," the queen added tiredly. "Just because the truth isn't what we'd like it to be doesn't make it any less the truth. *I* knew Diana wouldn't lie to me, but I was so angry...." She took a deep breath and shook her head. "Ultimately the responsibility for this lies on my head alone and I will be the one to fix it when the time comes."
"What of our guest?" Drea asked, breaking a silence that was becoming unbearable in its strain.
"That was much easier," Paula replied, switching to another screen. "She hasn't gone to the trouble of trying to hide from us, and breaking into that primitive system was child's play."
"Annabelle Chaser – age...." Drea turned her head towards Paula. "Is that accurate? I would have guessed at least five years older given her maturity and bearing."
"Well, that is the age she claims to be, at any rate," causing a small smile to ripple among the immortals. They had long since given up being precise about their ages. No woman wanted to admit to being millennia old, even if she perpetually looked like she was in her mid-twenties. "But her birth date does confirm that to be an accurate number, yes."
"Hmm," Drea mused. "Height, weight, schooling... wow." She turned brown eyes back to Paula who smiled and nodded.
"Yes, she is something of a genius herself."
"Religious affiliation, family backgr...." She closed her eyes. "Oh, please tell me I am reading this wrong."
"What??" Nubia said, reaching for the electronic report. Drea pushed the pad where all of them could read from it. Hippolyta's eyes widened and she glanced at each woman in turn.
"Oh, dear... this complicates things immeasurably. Thoughts on how to proceed?"
"I think we need to let her reveal what she is comfortable revealing in her own time at this point. She's already very wary of us and if she discovers we know all about her, she'd going to trust us even less."
"And how are we going to get her home? Judging from that packet she was carrying, she's pretty important to the rebellion. She's going to want to go back as soon as she's able."
Silence fell – everyone knowing the answer but no one wanting to be the one to say it aloud. Finally Nubia took a deep breath.
"We all know what... or rather *who* the best solution is going to be in this situation."
All eyes turned to the queen. "Now all I have to do is convince a daughter who no longer has any respect for me that she has to be something I denied her a hundred years ago."
The hush that fell the second time was broken when Drea pushed back her chair and stood. "I suppose I'd better...." Her words were cut off when Rina knocked then entered the room without waiting for an invitation.
"Apologies, my queen," she said with a nominal bow in Hippolyta's direction. "I am sorry for intruding, but Drea is needed back at the infirmary immediately."
Rina nodded. "She woke up, then decided to get up without help. She tore the stitches in her leg."
"No, you told me to let you know as soon as she was awake. Besides, I think she trusts you more. It took all she could do to let me help her back to bed."
The two started walking at a hurried pace towards the door. "By your leave, my queen." Drea said as they reached it. Hippolyta gave them a wave of the hand, effectively dismissing them. They were gone before her hand dropped back into her lap.
"You let her get away with too much, my queen," Nubia spoke from her side. Paula wisely moved from the table.
"She has always shown me respect, Nubia, in and out of our private lives. She has never tried to take advantage of what we share in the bedroom in a public manner, so I'm not sure I understand your concern."
"She only asked for your leave when she was gone, majesty. Surely you deserve more consideration...."
"Nubia, I have always counted you as a dear sister and friend as well as my closest advisor. Take care where you go with this. Drea's first responsibility to me and to the Nation involves healing our guest. It is right that she put the young woman's health above niceties and protocol. Honestly, the only reason she felt the need to observe them was because you and Paula were still here."
Nubia looked abashed as the queen quietly and politely dressed her down. "My apologies, my queen. I feel... I'm not sure what my problem is."
"Come," moving away from the conference table and into the comfortable chairs at the fireplace. "Let's talk. Maybe we can figure things out together."
Hippolyta nodded her head at Paula who motioned to the door. Then Hippolyta sat down to help her friend work things out, the scientist's departure unnoticed by both women who were totally engrossed in their conversation.
"Was it worth it?" the soft voice caused Chase to crack her eyes open to see Drea standing beside her bed. She turned back to her assistant. "Rina, I need...."
"I'm on it," the Amazon said on her way out the door.
Drea shook her head and turned back to Chase with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. "I'm not sure how I ever got along without her. She's always right on top of things." Chase didn't comment and Drea became the consummate professional in the blink of an eye.
"Now, let me take a look," noting the blood now staining Chase's gown. Her hands were sure and impersonal, and the pilot eventually relaxed into the touch. It wasn't something she was used to – the rebellion's doctors were good at what they did, but they were rough, almost callous. This was something beyond that; it felt comforting without being invasive.
"Rina, we're going to need a new gown also please," Drea said when the assistant healer returned with a tray full of instruments and supplies. "Thank you," she added when Rina set the tray down and nodded her acquiescence to Drea's request.
"Please," Chase broke in quietly. "Do you suppose I could have a shower first? I feel... grungy."
Drea looked at her seriously for a long moment. "Let me get you re-stitched and then we'll see. I imagine we could manage to arrange something for you."
"Thank you," Chase replied.
"So," Drea resumed speaking when the silence began to drag on uncomfortably. "Why did you get up? Surely you knew it was too soon." She didn't mention the few scars the younger woman's body bore as a testament to her fighting, but it was obvious to Drea that Chase had been in this type of situation before. Besides, she endured the repair process stoically and unflinchingly, only her eyes bearing witness to the pain it cost her.
"I needed... I... look, I appreciate the hospitality and the help. I mean, ya'll have been very kind, and I'll never be able to repay you. But I've got responsibilities I've got to get back to."
Drew nodded. "I can understand that. I have responsibilities of my own, and I take them very seriously. But Chase, you have to show a little sense here. If you're not well, can you really fulfill those responsibilities? You've only been here a couple days. Give yourself a little more time to heal before you start running races, all right? Trust me to let you know as soon as you are able to get around safely?"
Chase gazed into gentle brown eyes for a timeless moment. She was inclined to trust this woman instinctively though her rational mind told her that sort of trust was stupid. Those gut instincts had never let her down, but....
Drea nodded to herself as though she expected the question. "I am a healer. I have sworn an oath to do no harm. That includes allowing you or others to harm you. I don't want to spend my time making you well only to have you hurt yourself because of your impatience. You will get better; it's just going to take a little time." Drea waited until she saw acceptance in those green eyes. "Now, come. We'll get you into the shower and then arrange for you to have some food." She scooped Chase up negligently in her arms, not missing the startled look that crossed the pilot's face.
Chase automatically put her arms around the healer's neck in reflexive response. "You're not an Amazon, are you?"
Drea noticed the dark expression settle on Chase's face, clouding her normally brilliant eyes. She decided discretion was the order of the day. "Why would you ask that? Aren't they a myth?"
Now the eyes grew cold in memory. "No," starkly. "They are very real and brutally evil. They are also incredibly, deceptively strong." Chase bit her lip. "On second thought, I'm sorry. You may be strong, but you don't strike me as evil."
They crossed the threshold into the bathing room and Drea deposited Chase on a seat in a large tiled enclosure. She turned her attention to adjusting the water temperature to the proper setting while the blonde woman struggled to undress. When she was satisfied, she moved back to help Chase disrobe. Her touch was impersonal and detached, and it was that attitude that permitted Chase to allow the healer to help her.
Drea noted almost clinically that Annabelle Chaser was a beautiful young woman - more sculpted than most of the Amazons who resided here, though there was plenty of feminine softness and curves. It was a tribute to the fact that she physically worked her body hard and not simply exercised it. There was only one here who rivaled her musculature, yet Diana's did not show the abuse that Chase had obviously suffered in her fight for freedom. That thought brought the pilot's previous comment back to mind.
"Have you seen enough evil to be able to recognize it?"
Now Chase looked her directly in the eyes, and what Drea saw there scared her. "Oh yes," she said flatly. "I have seen evil face to face and lived to tell the tale."
The healer swallowed hard and nodded. "Perhaps you will share the tale?" She handed Chase the soap and moved around the wall to give the young woman a bit of privacy without having to leave the room.
"No," Chase answered vehemently. "It's not something that should ever see the light of day."
Drea nodded again, sensing that pushing Chase would be the wrong thing to do at this point. She had a gut instinct telling her that the pilot held information that they needed, and there was no reason to anger her – it would make Chase clam up and then they'd get nothing. Instead, she'd work on the trust angle, and hopefully the Amazons would gain allies and the rebels would as well. It had been a long time since the Amazon warriors had seen a good fight.
The sun was setting. Diana languidly stretched from her place in the tree, having reached a level of meditation where she was comfortable in her body and in her mind. Diana was still uncertain about the stranger among them though she believed she should know... something. However, now she simply wanted to be left alone to enjoy the beauty of the colors as the golden light of day became crimson, then violet and finally black. She realized that wish was not to be granted her when she heard the footsteps of the priestess approaching.
Mala didn't say anything for a while, content to sit beneath the tree and take pleasure in the display laid out so grandly before them. Usually she was in prayer at this time of day, as this was the time when the goddesses tended to commune; so sunsets had been a rare treat for her. Even when it seemed like the goddesses had abandoned them to their fate, Mala continued to fast and pray, hoping something would change – hoping they would speak to her again and offer some sort of guidance.
Today, however, she felt the need to watch the sunset, and seeing the form of the princess in the tree soaking in the sunshine and fresh air gave her reason to suspect divine machinations behind her own desire.
Diana noted the priestess' presence but decided to ignore her. It wasn't any different from her normal behavior towards Mala or anyone else, and though there were any number of other places the priestess could have gone to watch the sun set, Diana was content to share as long as no socialization o was required on her part.
Slowly the sun slipped beneath the horizon and the colors Apollo left in his wake were truly spectacular. Diana sighed, knowing the storm that would follow such a breathtaking display would be equally phenomenal. She had long lost her fascination with storms, knowing they kept everyone inside, and that tended to work her nerves as it was usually when her mother made some inane attempt to communicate with her. Right now, though, she had to deal with a priestess who seemed to have made herself comfortable for the duration. And despite Diana's disdain for everything around her, she hesitated to completely disrespect the priestess.
Mala had counted on that facet of Diana's personality to work in her favor. Though the princess rarely gave any indication of attention or response, she was also unfailingly polite to the priestess in that she would not simply walk away from her. Diana didn't show much tolerance for any other Amazon, but Mala had been her mentor and the only one who had stood up to Hippolyta for Diana when the princess had competed for the honor of becoming Wonder Woman. So Diana settled back down for the duration and kept her eyes on the horizon, knowing Mala had something to say. She wasn't disappointed.
"You did a good thing yesterday, Diana. It was nice to see the princess I remember again." Mala felt Diana stiffen at the implication, but more importantly, she caught the look of confusion that flickered across the princess' face at her initial words. Interesting, was her thought, though those weren't the words she spoke aloud.
"The young woman you rescued – her name is Chase. Annabelle Chaser actually, but she has asked to be called Chase. Very nice girl. Extremely bright and from all we have been able to find out about her, she is both strong and stubborn. Though given the world she lives in, I suppose all those qualities are necessary for survival."
Mala paused, allowing the words to sink in. Diana might not speak, but Mala could almost hear the thoughts that were being processed. Obviously, from the bewildered expression that the mention of Chase had cause, Diana had no recollection of her actions. The question was... why? Why would she forget something like that? Mala decided that would need further investigation, but for now....
"Man's world is still at war with itself, and Chase seems to be at the heart of the rebellion. We're going to have to get her home, though gods know she would make an exceptional Amazon."
Diana didn't answer verbally, but for the first time she turned her face and met Mala's eyes directly. The priestess held herself tightly, unwilling to let Diana see her flinch at the pain and lost look those blue eyes held. Mala rose and extended a hand towards the princess, hoping she wouldn't be rebuffed. Diana didn't withdraw or stop the touch, but she twisted her head back to the horizon, unwilling to refuse the comfort and unable to accept it as well.
Mala could feel the tension in the muscles beneath her hand, but she left it, knowing she was being permitted a greater liberty than Diana had allowed in more than a century.
"When you are ready to hear the whole story, come see me, my friend. I have missed you, and I think the time has come for you to return to us. You are meant for more than what you have become, princess."
Mala left her hand in place for several heartbeats longer before patting the strong back and walking back towards the temple. She felt sure that she would be having a visitor sooner rather than later, and she wanted to be ready. With any luck at all, she would be entertaining more than one, and though she relished the idea of the goddesses returning to them, more than anything she looked forward to the return of the princess and friend she had known from her conception.
Diana sat still and unmoving as twilight turned to total darkness. The peace she had achieved only an hour early had evaporated, leaving nothing but confusion and disarray in its wake. She thought she was content with what had become her lot in life and yet the priestess's words had sparked... something in her soul – something she had not allowed herself to feel in a very long time.
Several somethings, in point of fact, and her curiosity was at the forefront of the burning urge that would ultimately push her forward into the world of men.
Chase was much happier after her shower though the effort it took to bathe herself was more draining than she'd imagined it could possibly be. With very little fanfare, Drea helped her dry off and dress before negligently swinging the pilot back into her arms and carrying her back to her bed.
"Let me check your stitches once more," the healer said as she moved to do just that. "Then Rina can bring your breakfast. Then if you're feeling up to it after a bit of a nap, we can get you up and around a little bit," Drea looked directly at Chase and pinned her in place. "But with a little *help* this time."
Chase bit her lip, trying to stop the blush she felt crawling up her skin at the evident scolding. Then she frowned. "Whaddya mean, a nap?? I gave those up when I was two."
Drea eased Chase back onto the bed, fluffing her pillows and tucking her in before motioning to Rina. "Perhaps, but I doubt you were recovering from bullet wounds and surgery when you were two," not missing the shadow that crossed the pilot's face. But Drea continued without missing a beat. "And as your healer, I am authorizing a nap to stimulate your healing. After and only after you rest again will we go out for a while."
Drea motioned to Rina who came in with a loaded tray. "You remind me...." the thought trailed off. Chase took a good look at the tray which contained delicacies she had read about but hadn't seen before. "Where did you get this stuff? I've never seen food that looked or smelled so good. And I'm not sure I know what half of it is."
"Trust me when I tell you that not only is it all good, it is all good for you. Now, eat up. Your body has a lot of rebuilding to do. I want to see your plate clean when I come back in to check on you." The healer turned and took two steps towards the door when Chase spoke again softly.
"Do you treat all prisoners of war so well?" needing to know where she stood with the people who now held her life completely in their hands.
Drea stopped and walked back to Chase's bedside, covering the pilot's capable, well-worked hands with her own softer ones. "Chase, you are not a prisoner here. You are our honored guest. And when you are ready to go home, we will do our best to get you there. I am hoping you will learn to trust us and share what is going on in the world outside, but even if you never reach that stage, we will still do everything in our power to insure you make it back to your world."
"I'm not sure I understand."
Drea smiled and patted the hands she held before she stood up. "I know, but you will eventually. Now, eat before it gets cold. I'll be back shortly."
Chase picked up her fork and gingerly took a bite, letting the flavors burst across her tongue before scooping up more and chewing enthusiastically. Drea moved the hair back out of Chase's eyes and the younger woman smiled as the motion evoked yet another memory of her mother.
The healer smiled in sympathy then left the room and Chase turned her full attention to cleaning her plate.
"Diana! DIANA!!" Hippolyta wasn't fond of yelling to be heard, but her daughter made any other choice impossible. Unfortunately, it drew everyone else's attention as well.
Diana conveniently ignored her mother, just as she had every other time the woman had spoken to her since.... Her mind turned away from the time of her disgrace and humiliation. Instead, she continued on to her rooms, ever mindful of the guards that stood outside her door.
Hippolyta reached out a hand and grabbed Diana by the arm, flinching when the princess whirled on her but unwilling to give up the tenuous hold she had on Diana's attention. Then flinching for an entirely different reason.
Blue eyes blazed with anger, hatred and resentment and burned into eyes equally blue, but filled with regret, despair and pain.
Without a word, Diana lifted her mother's hand from her arm, squeezing until tears ran from Hippolyta's eyes. The guards approached, but were stopped by a hand signal from the queen. Diana threw Hippolyta away from her – not hard enough to make her fall, but with force enough to make her stumble backwards several steps. Diana gave her a look of complete loathing and turned and entered her room.
Now the guards moved forward, ad Hippolyta again waved them away, cradling her damaged hand tenderly before rising on unsteady legs and making her way out of the palace.
Hippolyta was on her knees at the altar when Mala returned to the temple. The priestess hesitated, not wanting to interfere if the queen was in prayer. When Diana had returned to the Amazons changed, Hippolyta had come to the temple to pray for her daughter's soul only to learn that the goddesses were furious with her. Because of that fury, they no longer deigned to appear bodily to any Amazon, though they still extended their protection over all who lived on both Paradise and Transformation Islands. Further evidence of their presence lay in the occasional appearance of a new tribe member. Otherwise, however, they remained silent, and in defiance of what she perceived as their abandonment of the Nation, Hippolyta had refused to bend a knee to them again... until today.
Now the queen lay prostrate before the altar, hard sobs convulsing her body as she cried out her rage, frustration and sorrow. Finally she had been beaten and broken, accepting responsibility for a great many things that until that moment in time she had not acknowledged her role in.
Mala covered the queen in a soft, thick blanket, and brought water for her to wash in and water to drink. Then she moved to an alcove to wait for things to unfold. She could feel the change in the air, and wanted to be witness to what was happening.
Eventually, Hippolyta ran out of tears and she sat up, noting for the first time the items that had been placed out for her needs. The washing water was still warm, and she gently cleaned her face, wincing when it stung and burned. Then she poured a glass of cool water and drank it swiftly, nearly choking in her haste. But it was soothing and she poured a second glass, sipping this one and appreciating the feel of it on her raw throat.
Hippolyta wrapped the blanket more tightly around her, feeling the chill after the rush of emotion just passed. She removed the tiara from her head and studied it intently before she placed it on the altar. Then she stood as though she bore the weight of the world itself on her shoulders and shuffled listlessly towards the backside of the altar.
Mala rose from her spot in the alcove, moving to intercept the queen when she realized her intention, only to be stopped by two invisible hands on her shoulders.
"Let us handle this," Hera said. "We have let this go on too long, and it's time to resolve this and bring unity back to the Nation and peace back to our chosen."
"Yes," replied Demeter. "She has suffered much for too long, and the time has come to make amends."
"And the queen?"
"Watch," Hestia answered, and turned the priestess back towards the altar... offering her a front row seat for the drama that was being revealed.
Hippolyta leaned on the top of the altar and closed her eyes. Then she reached for the hidden drawer - known only to the queen, the priestess and artisan who had crafted the altar itself. Hippolyta opened her eyes and gazed at the ceremonial knives that were housed in the hidden compartment, letting her mind drift back millennia to the time when the Amazons had originally left Greece.
They had been scrambling for days trying to crate as many artifacts and as much of their history as they could find. When the goddesses had come to them, offering to move them to a safe place, free of war and disease and men, Hippolyta had been more than slightly skeptical. After all, for years the deities had been silent while not only the Amazon Nation, but women in general suffered cruel and unspeakable fates. It was quite a stretch for them to accept such sudden interest in their well-being.
However, the Amazons had not survived wars, pestilence, hatred and discrimination without learning a few things. One of those things was when to go with the flow – and they had decided by popular vote that this was one of those times. Even if the goddesses did not come through, it was time for the Amazons to leave Greece and find a new home. The surprising offer had just given the Nation the impetus it needed to take action.
Personal belongings and medical supplies had been packed first so everyone could help with the things that belonged to them as a people. So now they were packing up the temple and the library. There were scrolls numbering in the thousands – scrolls that told their history and folklore; scrolls that gave instruction; scrolls that remembered their greatest warriors and heroes. One entire section of scrolls was dedicated to the writings of one of their most treasured queens – a young bard who had stumbled into the Nation by her willingness to sacrifice herself for a stranger princess. A young woman who with her champion befriended the Amazons and helped them to survive until they could rebuild. The writings of this bardic queen were favorites of everyone, and they were now carefully packed and stored for the move.
While many in the Nation carefully handled the history, Mala pulled Hippolyta aside to deal with something a little more dangerous.
The priestess and the queen walked back to the alcove where their sacred items of worship were secreted when not in use. Mala touched a spot in the wall and a hidden panel slid sideways to reveal a concealed cache of ceremonial weapons, including some of rare pieces that had come into the Nation's possession.
Hippolyta's eyebrows rose. Even as queen, she had been unaware of this collection of arms. She turned questioning eyes to Mala, waiting for an explanation. The expression on her face was clearly indicative that she was completely in the dark about the accumulation of weaponry before her.
"We were asked... we were instructed to keep these things here. They each hold special significance to our history in some way or another."
Hippolyta nodded, recognized a few of the pieces from her studies. "And the dryad bone daggers?"
"They were crafted and hidden here after two feuding, newly-minted goddesses nearly destroyed the village. It was decided it was necessary to defend against gods and goddesses as well as humanity, and our queen's champion went out and got the necessary parts and actually created the knives that were left in the hands of the high priestess."
"Why did they become a well-kept secret?"
Mala shrugged. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "The secret was always passed from high priestess to high priestess. I had assumed it also went from queen to queen until I observed your face when you saw them."
Hippolyta reached out a hand towards them but hesitated before she actually reached the smooth, sharp blades. "And they kill gods?"
Mala nodded. "And immortals. It was documented."
Hippolyta nodded. "Very well. Pack them with the other sacred items... things you alone handle. We will build a new hiding place for them when we reach our new home."
And they had. The goddesses had kept their promises and whisked them to an island of safety Hippolyta had named Paradise. Cleo, their master sculptor, had fashioned the altar complete with the hidden tray. She never saw what went into but she knew of its presence and was the only Amazon outside of the queen and Mala to be aware of it.
Now Hippolyta opened the drawer and removed the dryad bone daggers from their hiding place. Even after millennia of residing in the hidden niche, they remained as razor-sharp as they had been the day they had been crafted. The queen admired them for a long moment before lifting the blade to her eye level. Mala jumped forward, only to be stopped again by the hands on her shoulders. She glared at her captors, only to have her face turned back towards the altar.
Hippolyta had collapsed again, the knife lying clean and untarnished on the floor beside her. She didn't even flinch when she felt gentle hands stroking her loosened hair.
"Why?" Hippolyta whispered. "I am no longer worthy to be queen and I am obviously totally unfit to be a mother." She looked up into compassionate blue eyes. "Especially Diana's mother. She hates me."
"And giving up will help you how?" Hippolyta moved her attention from Aphrodite to Artemis. "Hippolyta, the fight for Diana's soul has just begun."
The queen jerked away from the love goddess' touch and glared in the hunt goddess' direction. "JUST BEGUN?!? We have been fighting for well over a century." She stood up and moved away from the altar where three goddesses now sat in repose. "I realize on the immortal scale that is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. But living it day to day, watching her hate me more and more, seeing her close herself off to everyone and everything and grow distant from the world, the last hundred years has been an eternity."
Athena rose from her spot and moved behind Hippolyta, placing her hands on the queen's shoulders and kneading gently. Hippolyta flinched but Athena held on and gradually the queen began to relax. "It does seem like an eternity, Hippolyta, but things are just now falling into place to make things right again. And it may take a while from a human perspective for balance to be restored, but it will happen."
The queen stood still and unmoving in thought. Finally she pulled away from the goddess' hands and turned to face the three of them. "Why? Why did you let this happen? What is the point of everything that has happened... to us," motioning between herself and them. "To Diana... to man's world? Why didn't you do something to stop it?"
There was no anger, no accusation in her voice; only a world-weariness and heartsoreness that could not be hidden. All six goddesses came forward now and Mala followed, not wanting to miss the story she felt sure was coming.
Continued in Part 2