Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
"All right... are we sure about this new intel, Harry?"
"Yes ma'am," the radioman replied crisply. "I checked it twice before I brought it to you, ma'am. It's my job to make sure."
Chase nodded. "You did good, Harry. Real good." Harry blushed to the roots of his curly, blond hair and bobbed his head in acknowledgment.
"Thank you, Harry... keep up the good work."
Harry ducked his head in response and was out the door before Chase could say another word. Then she sat down on the bed to reread the report Harry had given her. This was one contingency they hadn't anticipated and they were going to have to move quickly to keep this from having a negative impact on their efforts.
Diana opened her eyes after sleeping away an entire day and night. She felt refreshed and her mind was clearer than it had been for decades, but there was still an underlying of anger and hurt that wasn't going to dissipate anytime soon. It had rankled and festered too long, and knowing the truth didn't change the feelings that she had harbored for years.
She sat up carefully, stretching a bit before she swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her nose wrinkled as she realized she'd been put into the bed after her round with the punching bag. Gods, no wonder I feel like I've been ridden hard and put away wet... I was. A wry smile crossed her face. At least that was something she could take care of immediately. Everything else could wait until after her shower. Her stomach growled. Maybe a banana or two would tide her over until she could get some real breakfast.
Diana slipped from the bed and walked the few steps between her bed and where Mala lay comfortably ensconced. The priestess looked tired, and for the first time in Diana's memory, fragile. The princess wondered just exactly what Mala had done to affect her so badly. She pulled the lightweight blanket further up her body until Mala's shoulders were covered. Then she walked out of the hospice and back down to her own quarters.
Rina followed her movements, then tapped another apprentice to keep and eye on Mala while she went to alert Drea to the newest development.
For her part, Diana enjoyed the treat of a long, hot shower. Having realized she had been put to bed all sweaty made her skin itch and she was luxuriating in the feel of clean skin. Then she stepped from the water and wrapped herself in her favorite, fluffiest towel.
Diana went to her closet and withdrew a bag. It was a brand new travel bag she had crafted for herself after Orana had returned her to Paradise Island with only the clothes on her back. She spared a thought for the first bag, remembering the time she had spent learning to craft it as a child. Then she put those thoughts away and focused on the future. The time had come for her to assume the responsibilities she'd once craved.
First, though, she had to find a way off of Paradise Island.
"Pol?" Drea called softly into the darkened bedroom after Rina left their quarters. "Pol? Wake up. Things are starting to happen." She crossed into the room and sat gingerly on the bed.
Drea hated to wake the queen, given the rough, restless night she'd had. But with Diana awake and moving around, the odds were that she'd be leaving very soon, and Hippolyta couldn't miss that event this time. There was too much at stake for everyone.
Hippolyta's bloodshot, blue eyes blinked up at Drea. "What's happening, Drea?" she asked, pushing up onto her elbows and moving her hair out of her eyes.
"Diana's up and awake. She left the hospice this morning. I expect she will be leaving us shortly."
Hippolyta rubbed a hand over her face in an effort to kick start her brain. "Will you go start the shower for me, please? I need to fire up my remaining brain cells before I try to tackle Diana."
Drea smiled. "Yes, love. And I will see what I can do for breakfast as well."
"Thank you, Drea. Someday I'll figure out what I did to deserve you."
Drea patted Hippolyta's leg as she rose from the bed. "You love me, Pol. That was enough." Then she was out the door before the queen could collect her wits to reply.
Hippolyta heard the water come on and Drea leave their suite and head towards the kitchen before she sat up and got out of the bed. She was already trying to decide what she would say to Diana on this occasion that she felt her daughter would listen to and accept from her. Then she stepped under the spray and let the water wash her thoughts away and she focused on the feelings. With a little luck, she would find the words to reach Diana through the feelings she still had for her.
Diana packed carefully. She knew she wouldn't get a second chance at this. She highly doubted she'd be welcome back on Paradise Island once she left this time, but she knew this was something she needed to do.
Diana went through her things carefully, trying to decide what she could live without. So many things were tied to her heritage and who she was, but did she need them in her new life? She bit her lip as she went through her things, choosing her clothing and then moving over to the scroll she had confiscated from the lot Mala had brought to her room only days previously.
That, more than anything else on Paradise Island, she felt tied her to the Amazons. There was just something so familiar in that story....
So she added that to the small pile of items she wanted to take. When she was satisfied with the choices she had made, Diana began to put each article into the small bag. It was a little more than half full when she finished, but to take more felt... wrong. She nodded in satisfaction. What she had was enough.
Content with her progress, she lifted the bag and moved it out into her living area. Then she headed out to the kitchen area to pick up some food. Even with help getting off the island, she still had several days' worth of travel to get to where she needed to be, and she wanted to be prepared for anything.
The kitchen went silent, but Diana moved around with confidence, knowing they wouldn't lift a finger to stop her. She chose foods that would last for a little bit, ignoring the looks of the staff around her, then prepared a loaf of bread and herbed butter. Without a word, she gathered her parcel and left the kitchen, waiting for whispers that never came.
When she reached her room, Diana was surprised to see a small congregation of people waiting respectfully outside her door. It had been so long since anyone had accorded her simple respect without a hint of fear that she stopped walking and simply looked at them.
Mala, Paula, Nubia and Drea returned her gaze evenly, hoping that their numbers would allow them the chance to show their consolidated support of her this time. Hippolyta kept her eyes firmly on the ground in front of her, not wanting her daughter to read anything into her expression.
For her part, Diana was at something of a loss at how to react to these women as a group. Together, especially with her mother as part of the equation, they had the power to make this a less than pleasant departure. She had hoped to avoid that... and them... with a clean getaway. Obviously, though, that wish had been in vain, and with a mental sigh she girded her loins and moved forward towards her door.
They moved back and waited for an invitation. Diana debated for all of two seconds before she turned and gestured them into her rooms, hoping to get things over with quickly so she could leave.
They stepped in behind her, one at a time, and Mala took the lead, moving over to the couch and taking a seat. The rest followed, though Hippolyta remained standing by the fireplace. Diana continued on to her bag, placing the fruit and other food she had collected into her bag, filling it nicely. Then she turned and faced what she knew was going to be an inquisition.
Drea, not surprisingly, took the lead, walking over to Diana and taking her hands. She examined her with a healer's eyes first and then with the eyes of a mother. She brushed the hair back from Diana's forehead then brushed her lips across it before gently cupping her face.
"How are you doing, Little One?" using the moniker that had been theirs alone during Diana's growing up years. Diana smiled wistfully, but didn't answer. Drea just returned the smile, seeing the difference in Diana's eyes. "I want you to know that you go with my blessing and my prayers behind you, Diana." Diana still didn't answer, except for a squeeze to Drea's hand, but for the healer, that was enough.
Mala approached next, confident in the change that had taken place in Diana's mind. She took Diana's face in her hands and held it before placing a light kiss on either cheek. "I know you haven't forgiven yet, Princess, but at least now you do understand the truth. Think about it while you are away from us. Promise me?"
Diana's answer was well considered, and then it was only a single nod of her head. But Mala understood and took it as the promise it was.
Paula rose from her spot, her hands filled with something she passed to Diana with a smile. Diana gave the scientist her customary raised eyebrow look until she realized what Paula had placed into her grasp. "I thought you would probably want to read up on everything. I mean... not much has changed considering more than a hundred years have passed, but a lot of history has happened in that time. I, um... I included everything I could find about Chase." The last she added at a bare whisper that even Diana had to struggle to make out, but when she did, the words made her smile and leaned forward an placed a chaste kiss on Paula's cheek.
"Thank you," Diana whispered into her ear. Paula flushed in pleasure and backed up towards the small group of watchers.
Nubia stepped forward and took one of Diana's hands in hers. "Good luck, Princess," she said simply, then moved to stand with her compatriots.
Diana had chance to wonder what had happened to cause what seemed to her to be a sudden change of heart. Then Hippolyta stepped forward and a chilled hush fell over the room and over Diana's features. The queen took a deep breath and spoke.
"Leave us, please," she requested of the Amazons. They looked at one another, then Diana, then finally Hippolyta before one after the other, they filed out of the room. Drea was the last to leave, and she touched first Diana's arm, then Hippolyta's before crossing the threshold to wait outside.
Diana looked at her mother with disdain for a very long moment before deliberately turning her back and picking up her travel bag. Then she moved towards the door and out of Hippolyta's life. The queen held out a beseeching hand.
The princess stopped walking but didn't turn to face the queen. The anger she felt coursing through her veins was palpable and it required more self-control than she had imagined it would to keep from acting on those impulses. Hippolyta reached out again, but stopped just short of actually touching Dian. She could easily ready the hairsbreadth of control her daughter was maintaining and had no desire to push her beyond her limits.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
Diana closed her eyes, but otherwise gave no outward that she had heard Hippolyta speak. She would have given anything to have heard those words a hundred years ago... when this all meant something to her. Now... now she simply wanted to leave it behind to begin life again with well, she wasn't exactly sure what or who Chase was or could be to her. But she did know she was anxious to find out.
Hippolyta's shoulders slumped at Diana's lack of reaction to her apology. She had known it was going to be hard, but she hadn't expected it to be impossible. And it looked like Diana was going to make it as near to impossible as she could manage.
"I'm sorry," she whispered again. "I know that what I did to you before was... wrong... and I'm sorry, Diana. I'm sorry, and I know I will never be able to make that up to you. But I want you to know that you have my blessing and my total support in this new fight. It is time for you to resume the title which has always been rightfully yours and the Amazons stand at your disposal if necessary. Please be safe and come home soon, daughter."
Diana never turned or acknowledged Hippolyta's words. Instead, she waited until the queen was finished speaking, then she walked out the door without a backwards glance. Hippolyta sank to the couch and dropped her head into her hands. She had done the best she knew how the rest was up to Diana. And right now, she didn't hold a lot of hope out for that.
When Diana stepped from her room, Drea took up cadence beside her, steering her down to the docks while the rest of the council filed into Diana's quarters to check on their queen. It was something Hippolyta and Drea had discussed, knowing that the odds of Diana accepting Hippolyta's words were nil, yet wanting Diana to understand she had their unwavering support.
"I realize we cannot give you another invisible plane to travel into man's world, but we thought perhaps you would accept passage on the royal yacht instead. A crew stands by awaiting your leisure to depart. They will take you to the nearest inhabited island where you will be dropped off. Paula has already prepared your travel papers and all the credentials you will need. They are in the packet she gave you earlier. By our calculations, even with favorable winds, the journey will take you a couple days. That should give you plenty of time to read and memorize all the information she collected."
Diana nodded. Already her mind was making plans. She knew just from Paula's words that they all expected her to find Chase. But that was not her first goal. As much as her soul would welcome another opportunity to understand who Chase was and what they had been... were... or could be to one another, her heart and mind required vengeance first. Vengeance for the crimes perpetrated against her, vengeance for the evil perpetrated against Chase and vengeance for the betrayal of both the Amazon Nation and mankind. It was an instinct deeply ingrained in her psyche, and she would not... could not... ignore it.
Drea saw the far-off look in Diana's eye and wondered where her mind had drifted in that brief interlude. Something in her expression made the healer think it had not been a pleasant sojourn and she wondered if she should have someone accompany the princess on her travels into man's world. Then her common sense reasserted herself and she realized that adding more pieces to this puzzle would only complicate things immeasurably and this was complicated enough without making that kind of effort.
They reached the dock where the boat rose and fell gently in time with the waves as it stood ready to depart. The captain and her crew stood waiting to welcome their princess with hesitant smiles, and Diana reflected on just how bizarre it was to feel almost like part of the Nation again. She wondered at the sudden change of heart among the women, not realizing they were responding to the changes in her. Changes that she would come to recognize and appreciate more and more in the near future.
In the meantime, though, she nodded to the captain and crew as she set foot on the deck, then turned to Drea who had followed her. Diana allowed the healer to give her a very fleeting embrace before she moved away from her and towards her cabin. Drea and the entire crew watched her disappear below decks before exchanging glances.
"We'll take good care of our princess," the captain reassured Drea with a squeeze to her arm. "The Nation doesn't know everything yet, but we know enough. It is time we show Diana the support she deserves... both as our princess and as our champion. We are glad the queen is allowing us to do so once again."
Drea nodded. She had known the Nation had been deeply disturbed by Hippolyta's decision to make Diana an outcast here, though all had abided by her edict, both due to her position as well as Diana's own behavior towards them. She hoped this would be a new beginning to all of them. It was as important to the Amazon Nation as it was to Diana.
"So am I, Captain. But understand you are only to transport the Princess to the island. No one... no one is to remain behind. This is something Diana has to work out for herself first before the Nation gets involved."
"But we will get the chance, Drea? Will we get a chance to be part of the solution this time?"
Drea thought about it before she nodded. "I think so, Captain. I really do."
"Good," the captain replied firmly. "We'll be off then, and we'll be back in five or six days. Maybe a week if the winds don't change."
"Safe journey, sisters." Then Drea went down the gangplank and the crew prepared to cast off. The healer turned and watched the activity on the ship. Then she offered up a prayer to the goddesses for their safety... and especially for Diana.
Diana went directly to her cabin, absently noting the fact that the crew had made an effort to welcome her. There were fresh sheets and flowers in the cabin and the window had been opened to let in fresh air. Diana pushed her hair back and dropped to the small couch, reaching into her bag and retrieving the information Paula had given her. With any luck, she would find the answers she needed and more besides.
She was totally engrossed in her reading when a knock on the door interrupted her. Diana frowned and looked up, then sighed as she rose and walked to the door. She opened it to find the first mate looking back at her. Diana sighed silently again.
Once upon a time, Nigelia had had an unrequited crush on her and Diana had politely but firmly made her understand that she just wasn't interested. It wasn't like Diana hadn't had to do the same thing with any number of others, but Nigelia had taken it very personally.
"Princess, I was sent to escort you to luncheon." Nigelia smiled at the crease of confusion that crossed Diana's features. "We have been underway for the better part of five hours, Princess." She chuckled when Diana blinked in surprise and realized that Diana had been so absorbed in something that she was completely unaware of the passage of time. "Let me bring you a tray, Princess. I apparently interrupted you."
Diana stood, torn between the need to continue her reading and the desire not to owe anything to Nigelia. Reading Diana's hesitation and guessing at the reason behind it, Nigelia rushed to put Diana at ease.
"Please don't feel obligated to join us, Princess. We know you have a lot to do between now and our arrival at the island. The Captain simply thought you might like an excuse to get out of your cabin for a while. It is a beautiful day and we are dining on deck." She hesitated, then continued. "You don't want to miss my Enora's cooking. No one makes a better peach cobbler than she does."
Diana blinked again, understanding immediately that Nigelia was no longer interested in her. She realized she had missed their joining and it occurred to her to wonder how many other important things she had missed during her self-imposed exile. With a smile, she accepted Nigelia's invitation, and followed the first mate topside.
It was shaping up to be an interesting voyage.
By the time they reached the island, Diana had memorized everything Paula had given her. She found the fact that civilization had stagnated quite fascinating, but it had made the formulation of her plans much easier. Tactics had always been her favorite part of training and she finally had a chance to use them in her own unorthodox way. She wondered what her instructors would think about the decision she had made.
Without effort, her thoughts turned away from her plans and swung back to Chase with the inevitability of a compass to the north. There was something completely mesmerizing about the blonde pilot and Diana couldn't help but wonder why.
She was more than interesting, though she certainly was that. The facts in her dossier made that profusely clear. And it was more than intelligence, though Chase also possessed that in abundance as well. It wasn't even her beauty which Diana had seen clearly despite the injuries Chase had borne when Diana had both rescued and visited her.
No, it was much more than that, though it was all of those things combined as well. It was something intangible... something that spoke to Diana's soul... something her soul cried out for.
She wondered briefly if she were being stupid by ignoring the truth her heart recognized and her soul knew to be true by choosing revenge and retribution over whatever possibilities there might be with Chase. But her mind knew there could be nothing between them until Orana was destroyed. And Diana firmly believed that was her responsibility.
So Diana tucked the information about Chase away until she could use it. Then she gathered her things together to leave the ship.
When she reached the deck, each and every Amazon stood at attention in a two line formation waiting to say goodbye. Diana was a little nonplussed. Though she hadn't made an effort to completely cut herself off from her sisters as she had on Paradise Island, her reading had kept her cloistered for the majority of her voyage. So she was surprised to see them all acting as an honor guard. Then the Captain stepped forward.
"It has been an honor, Princess. If there is anything more we can do...."
Diana didn't say a word, but turned to the Captain and extended her hand. Then she saluted the women who stood looking at her. As one body, they returned the salute and were treated to a rare, full-mouth smile from their reclusive princess. More than one fell back into instant lust, but Diana never noticed. Her heart was already full of Chase and her mind already engaged on her upcoming battle with Orana.
Diana turned and walked down the gangway to the dock without a backwards glance.
The Amazons watched her go, following her progress until she was out of sight. Then they made preparations to get back underway.
"Hey, Captain?" Nigelia asked, coming over to stand beside the Captain as the ship backed out of the port. "You think she'll be all right?"
"I think... I think we've finally gotten our princess back."
Nigelia smiled. "I think the world is in for one Hades of a surprise then."
Laughter accompanied them back out to open ocean.
"Chase, you can't do it. You cannot lead another mission. Have you forgotten what happened that last time you went out??"
Bare silence met the words as everyone waited for Chase's reaction. She wasn't known to tolerate fools lightly and Shep had just crossed a line even Hans hesitated in stepping over. It was one thing to protest her leaving; it was something else again to bring up what she perceived as a failure. Even though everyone else in the rebellion considered it at least a partial success, Chase still counted it as a failure for needing to be rescued from it, and Shep was trying to use that to his advantage.
"I see," calmly, frigidly. "And who died and made you God here?"
Shep swallowed hard. The cold precision of her words cut into him; he knew she was angry beyond description and that scared him. But he also felt he had a point that needed to be made and pressed on.
"You did... when you went out and died or we thought you had. That left me in charge of this place... of this rebellion"
"Uh huh. And so what you think you're still in charge that you can start issuing orders, Shep? Did I miss something here? Are you assuming command?"
"No!" his eyes widening almost comically. "No, that's my whole point, Chase! You went out on a routine mission and even with the odds in your favor, we still almost lost you completely to a chance encounter with the Nazis. Like it or not, you are what holds us all together. No one else can make this rebellion work like you do, Chase. All we were doing was marking time until we found you. God, can't you understand?? This is serious!!"
Chase regarded Shep from beneath scowling brows. "Yeah, Shep, you're right. This is serious. I find it very serious that you think this whole rebellion sits on my shoulders." She slapped her hands on the desk, causing Shep to stumble. The back of his knees hit a chair and he fell into it gracelessly. "How dare you!! How dare you put the whole of this on me and completely discount the efforts of every other person involved in this rebellion. Goddamn it, Shep!! I don't do this on my own!!"
He jumped up, leaning his weight on the desk and leaving only a hairsbreadth between them. "Exactly! Find someone else to lead this mission. We need you here!"
Chase sank back into her seat though her eyes never left Shep's. He stood up straighter, breaking eye contact and looking around the room with a smirk. He hadn't expected her to capitulate so easily. Then he turned his attention back to her and had to physically restrain himself from shivering at the look in her eyes. He got her unspoken message loud and clear and sank slowly into the seat behind him.
"All right, Shep. You think you need me here so badly. Tell me who you're going to send in my place, hmm? Who knows the Reichstag better than I do? WHO IS THE ONLY PERSON TO HAVE SURVIVED THAT GOD-FORSAKEN, FUCKING HELLHOLE AND COME OUT ALIVE?!?"
"NO!!!" She drew a deep breath to center herself before speaking again. "No, Shep, there is no one else! No one knows the horrors I've seen there, and no one else has been able to penetrate it with nearly the success that I had!! And not for lack of trying either - we've lost too many good operatives there because even when I share my knowledge of that place, people still get caught." She ran a hand through her short hair. "Like it or not, this is something I have to do. If I am the leader, then you have to let me lead, Shep. It's the only thing I am good at, aside from making everyone nuts."
Shep smiled ruefully at the partial truth in both statements. Chase was a leader who had earned her right and deserved to lead this crucial mission, and she most definitely drove everyone to distraction. But they were certainly not the only things she was good at though she was determined not to be convinced otherwise... at least until the rebellion was over. He shook his head.
"All right, all right. You're absolutely right, of course, but dammit Chase, we need you here too!"
"Shep, if things work out like they should, then you're not gonna need me here for much longer anyway. You and Jen can get married and settle down raise a family." Chase nearly chuckled watching his eye get very round at her words. "Breathe," she commented softly when she realized he was holding his breath. "Shep, it's gonna be a little while still before we win, but you do need to start wrapping your mind around the fact that we're going to win and when we do, we're all gonna go on to different things different lives apart from one another. I won't be there to lead you then." She motioned to Jen who stood in the back of the room with the rest of the team. "Jen will."
Everyone cracked up over the truth of her pronouncement and the tension in the room eased considerably. "Besides," she said, leaning back in her chair, "with a little luck, recon will take care of this new development before I have to take care of it personally. I only plan to go in for the final offensive, and our timetable for that has not changed."
Shep held up his hands, conceding the point. He recognized he wasn't going to win. "Okay, then. At least you've set my mind at ease about the intruder. I thought...."
"... that I was just going to rush over? C'mon, Shep give me a little credit. We don't know who this person is or what they want. All we know is that someone suspicious is traveling alone in the dark and asking the odd question of our people. We're keeping an eye on it, but I imagine it will be brought here before very much longer certainly before we start our big offensive push."
"Sorry, Chase. It's just... we've lived this way for so long... all our lives, and the thought of it being over of everything changing is... terrifying." He cleared his throat, then lowered his voice. "Besides, I really was worried about you. You've been a little, I dunno... off, since we brought you home."
Chase didn't miss a beat. "You mean you haven't *always* thought I was a bit off, Shep? Tch, tch," she clicked her tongue. "And here I thought for sure I had done a better job than that," garnering the laughter from the room she had been looking for. She picked up a pencil and scooted closer to the desk. "Note to self," she mumbled loudly enough for everyone to hear. "Work harder to insure Shep knows I am more than a little bit off." Everyone tittered.
"Oh Shep, I'm sooooo glad I'm not in your place. It sucks to be you, mac!" Mitch cackled.
"Uh huh. Just remember that whatever I suffer is going to spill over to the rest of you."
Chase grinned evilly. "I dunno, Shep. I'm betting I could keep my focus solely on you." The room exploded into laughter when Shep simply dropped his head into his hands and groaned.
"Oh God, it really does suck to be me!"
For her part, Chase felt better having dodged that particular bullet. There were still things she wanted to work out in her mind, things she hadn't shared with anyone, and likely wouldn't. But before she could worry about Amazons and the possibilities they presented, she had a war to help win, and nothing, NOTHING was going to get in the way of that. They had all worked too hard to be waylaid by something intangible like her mixed-up, totally confusing feelings.
"C'mon. That made me hungry. Let's go see what Cookie fixed up for dinner."
"Chase, it's SOS today, just like it had been every week for the past...." Ty turned around and looked at the group. "What year is this again?" She shook her head. "God, I think the food has finally eaten through my last functioning brain cell."
"Is that your excuse this week?" Hans asked with a wicked grin.
Ty went to make a smart remark before she caught the teasing glint in his eyes. She sauntered up close to him. "Ya know, Hans, I know where you live, and you can't stay awake forever."
He swallowed hard then realized she was teasing back. It made him smile and a little bit reckless. "Last one to the chow hall has to skip dessert." It took him nearly ten seconds to realize he was standing in the room alone, the door swinging eerily. "Hey, wait for me!!" Their laughter floated back to him and his return laughter caught up to them long before he did. The evening suddenly had all sorts of interesting possibilities.
Diana sat in the same outdoor café that the Nazis frequented gathering information. They talked fairly freely here, assuming the natives and few tourists didn't speak their language. Already she had more than enough inside intelligence to get her to Germany safely. After that, it would be a matter of getting into the Reichstag. Paula had given her complete blueprints of the building and she felt confident in her abilities to find Orana once she was inside.
First thought, she had to make arrangements to get to Nazi territory.
It was simple enough, really. Diana was fluent in nearly every written and spoken language in the world, including several dead ones, so with the papers Paula had again so thoughtfully provided, she was able to obtain a tourist visa to travel to the Old World.
To make things easy, Diana's new persona was one she was familiar with Diana Prince. The council had discussed it at length before making the decision to go with the known alias. Though it was a little bit chancy, she could always convince Chase her name was a throwback to an old ancestor if she didn't feel comfortable telling her the truth. Of course, they had no idea she was walking into the lion's den.
However, working in her favor was not only the fact that she was well-acquainted with her persona, but also that there were no real records left from her original pilgrimage into the world of men. Bits and pieces were all that remained of the original Diana Prince, but there was no way to find them unless one knew exactly when and where to look... and of course, one would need a reason to go looking in the first place. There was only one person in the world who might feel the need to go looking, and Diana wasn't going to give Orana the opportunity to know who was coming for her until it was too late.
So she took care to make her looks different from what Orana knew and what the records remembered. It was amazing how a few cosmetic could completely change one's appearance, and she only had to maintain them long enough to get into the Reichstag. After that, it wouldn't matter.
It cost a small fortune, but one she was well able to afford, again thanks to Paula. With her 'new' look in place and her papers in order, Diana Prince was able to purchase a ticket for a flight to the old country the following day.
In an odd way, even knowing the danger she faced, Diana was looking forward to it. Because of the restrictions she was forced to travel under, she would be going to Greece and then making her way into Germany from there. She was finally going to see the home she had only read about.
The trip was long and not particularly comfortable though she wasn't completely miserable either. Still, Diana was glad to see the flight end after a grueling twenty-four hours of travel. Fortunately, enough people traveled between Greece and the islands that a woman traveling alone didn't drew undue attention to herself.
Diana was exhausted when they touched down and she immediately made her way to the nearest hotel, not even able to appreciate the beauty that surrounded her. Then she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep. When she woke, she felt like a new woman, and she made ready to make her way to find Orana. But first....
She didn't have time for much; it was too important to get Orana taken care of and find Chase. But she had determined to visit the Acropolis. It wouldn't take long and more than anything, she wanted to see Athena's temple.
Slowly she walked up the hill and through the Parthenon, taking a long look around. She closed her eyes briefly and was able to imagine what it might have been like. Then she crossed over to the Temple of Athena and simply stood in awe and despair. She spared a thought to wish she could have actually seen it in Athens' heyday.
From Mount Olympus, six goddesses observed Diana, fascinated with her reaction to what truly was her past in another lifetime. They monitored her progress in the Parthenon and watched as she dropped to her knees in the Temple. But she never called out to them or asked for their presence, so they had to be content with observation.
"What about her mothers?"
Athena turned to Aphrodite, who had raised the question. "What about them, Dite? They have prayed for us to watch over her and that's what we are doing. Diana hasn't asked for our help yet."
"But are we going to tell them?"
"Tell them what?? Moreover, we can't," Hera said. "They haven't asked and we don't have the power to interfere here anymore. Ares has seen to that."
"So she's just going to walk into the spider web with nothing? That is just so wrong!" Dite wailed, frustrated to the max.
Athena nodded. "It would be, if it was true, but somehow, I don't think Diana's plans are as well laid as Chase's."
"Huh?" Dite's not-so-brilliant response elicited a round of laughter from her fellow goddesses and broke the tension in the scrying room. Artemis leaned forward and kissed her sometimes ditzy sister on the forehead.
"Don't you ever go changing, Dite. We love you just the way you are."
Dite smiled and held out her arms. "Aww, you guys.... Group hug!!" They grumbled good-naturedly, but everyone complied and strangely, they felt better for the effort. Then Dite looked around expectantly. "So what is so radical about what Chase is doing that makes it way better than Diana? I thought our princess babe, ya know, like, couldn't be beat."
"Normally, no, but Diana is in the world of men now. And she's going to have to learn to play by a new set of rules. Lucky for her, Chase is on her side... or will be eventually."
"Ooo, I love it when a plan comes together... especially a gnarly love match like this one."
"Yeah," Athena agreed casually. "Don't we all?"
Diana felt a sense of purpose envelop her as she knelt in the temple and she savored the peace it brought her. Then she rose and made her way out of the temple, off the Acropolis and out of Greece.
If she had thought her trip to Greece had been bad, it was nothing compared to her journey to Berlin. She had shucked her feminine garb for something much more practical to her needs trousers, a rough workman's shirt and sturdy boots. The men's clothing was less uncomfortable than it was awkward. Still, she wished for the freedom of the less constrictive clothing she was used to. She traveled at night to avoid bringing too much attention to herself, though she knew there were watchers then as well as during the day. But the night watchers never stopped her; they only tracked her progress and she was happy to let them. Diana looked at it as a chance to sharpen her stealth skills. She figured, rightly so, that they were not Nazis since they didn't stop her, and that unless she showed herself to be a Nazi, none of these would bother her. It was on the second point that she miscalculated.
It was slow going at night, especially since the moon wanted to remain hidden by clouds, but Diana had learned to count that as a blessing. If she had difficulty seeing, then everyone else had the same difficulty seeing her. And after a week of solid travel, she was dirty enough that she blended in with everyone around her.
Twice she had had to stop and ask directions. She had been very careful not to approach those marked as soldiers and instead focused her attention on the peasants who worked the land. She'd had to awaken early on those days to reach a farmhouse just before sunset, but she felt that bit of exposure was safer than being shot at for knocking at someone's door after curfew.
The people she had interacted with had looked at her askance when she asked flawlessly in their native tongue, but they treated her with respect, answering her questions and offering her a bit of their own meager supplies before letting her continue on her way. Few were known to travel the road at night, and no one headed to Berlin. Diana had no way of knowing she had chosen resistance fighters who sent notice of her and her activities directly to Chase.
Finally, Berlin came in to view and Diana felt a sense of triumph at being so close to her goal. Nightmare images flashed through her mind of her previous visit to this place, and for a long moment, Diana let them wash over her. She relished the pain and anger that accompanied them because she harnessed that energy and allowed them to make her stronger. Then with strength of purpose, she began her trek into the city itself.
She arrived during the day. Here it was most important to blend in, and no one traveled in the city at night. She looked around with familiar eyes, but it was... different than before. For one thing, the tang of war was less sharp. There were fewer obvious troops about though they were still certainly a presence throughout the area. But Diana found it incredibly easy to skirt them they seemed less vigilant, almost smug and complacent in their achieved superiority.
However, she also noticed the pall that hung over the city, much more prevalent than it had been out in the countryside she had traveled through. There, people had been resigned to their lot in life, but there was also a determined air about them as well. Here, in the heart of the Nazi regime, there was nothing but resignation.
Diana looked around, and saw that the city was... dirty. Oh, nothing obviously filthy or disgusting, but not the pristine condition that she had expected either. Corners had had bits of garbage swept into them and leaves were scattered all over the steps and sidewalks. The few people she saw out and about looked tired, but they went about their business briskly.
Slowly she made her way through the city, mentally noting troop locations and watch stations. The closer Diana got to the Reichstag, the heavier the traffic became, both foot and motorized. As she watched, the Reichstag became a flurry of activity.
A car pulled up in front and a squad of black shirts ran out of the building and down the steps in two lines to form an honor guard. After a moment's hesitation, the doors opened again, and this time, the Fuehrer walked out.
Diana blinked, recognizing Orana immediately. She quelled the urge to rush out from her hiding place. Diana fully intended to destroy Orana and live to find Chase running headlong into a Nazi ambush was not at the top of her list for accomplishing that. She watched as the car drove off, then started to lay her plans.
"Whatcha got for me, Harry?" Chase rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and squinted at the paper the radioman thrust into her hands over his shoulder. He continued to monitor the incoming signal while Chase leaned on his shoulder to share the small reading light on his desk. It was still dark out and the lamp didn't illuminate much but the immediate area under it.
He handed her up a second paper as the first hit the desk. Then she turned and looked at him squarely. "Are you sure about this, Harry?"
"Yes, ma'am. I double checked it, just like I always do. This is the same one who was asking questions."
"All right. Have recon pick them up. I want them brought here immediately."
Harry's eyes widened. "You want...? Ma'am, yes MA'AM!" he barked, reading the seriousness in Chase's eyes. Then he turned backed to his radio unit and began encoding Chase's message.
Diana found a small hiding place near the Reichstag in the attic of an old church. It had been converted into a temple for Ares at some point but now it stood empty and neglected.
So Diana took the opportunity to hide, not wanting to leave the area just to have to track her way back into the city under the cover of night. She had heard of a rally that was to take place that night in front of the Reichstag and knew it would be the easiest way to slip in undetected.
Curled up in the corner, she let her thoughts turn to the woman she knew as Chase. All the information Paula had given her painted an intriguing portrait of the young woman Diana had only just been able to talk to briefly before her departure from Paradise Island. She looked forward to finding out how accurate Paula's information was. She had the feeling that there was much more than met the eye, or the paper, when it came to Annabelle Chaser.
Night fell and with it came the increased sounds of the populace being herded into the square in front of the Reichstag. Waitaminute...being herded?? Diana looked out the slats in the small attic window to the street below. Her ears hadn't deceived her while some of the people seemed genuinely excited about the coming party rally, the remainder of them seemed resigned to it.
Diana wondered what Orana was doing so wrong that even as the victor of the war, the people were still unhappy. Then she turned her attention to getting into the Reichstag. She knew she would need every bit of time she had to get through the crowd and into the building.
She snuck down the stairs and into the street, unaware of the eyes tracking her progress.
Diana had marked her prey carefully. She needed to be someone of significant enough rank to have a bit of freedom inside the building, but low enough not to draw attention to herself. It had taken a bit of doing, but she had found a black-shirt lieutenant who would suit her purposes admirably. He was even the right size.
Slowly she tracked around the perimeter of the gathering, noting that those who were enthusiastic about being here had been interspersed among those who weren't until it gave the impression that they were all glad to be there.
Then Orana stepped out onto the second floor balcony and a cry arose. From where she stood, Diana could tell some were cheers of victory while others were screams of frustration and defeat. But regardless of the reason behind it, there was a raucous cacophony of noise that echoed across the square and out into the stillness of the night. It was a perfect cover for Diana to take out her target and strip him of his uniform.
The watching eyes blinked in astonishment the Nazi had been disabled, stripped and bound in just under two minutes. Of course, it was then that they realized their mysterious visitor was a woman. But they had their orders, and they moved in to carry them out.
The female watcher split from her cohort and snapped the officer's neck first thing. Then he was unbound and his body was carefully hidden. Whatever Diana's personal beliefs in regards to the sanctity of life, the fact was the rebellion had its own code. And that included the annihilation of the enemy at every given opportunity... especially here.
The second watcher continued to follow Diana into the Reichstag, impressed by both the woman's stealth and prowess, and almost regretting the necessity of his next action.
Most of the officers had been moved outdoors for the rally, so getting through the open areas of the Reichstag was a cake walk. Just before Diana could advance past the public areas and make her way into the private domain Orana occupied, she felt a sting to the back of her neck. She slid soundlessly to the floor. The watcher moved to her side swiftly, covering her nose and mouth with a chloroform doused handkerchief to insure that she remained unconscious for some time to come.
By the time the female watcher joined them, Diana had been bound hands and feet. Then the male watched lifted her onto his shoulder in a fireman's carry and the trio made their way swiftly and silently out the same side door they had entered through. The cheers from the rally covered any noise they made and the watchers moved quickly back into the shadows.
"Thank you, Harry," Chase replied as she read the latest transmission. The radioman nodded and saluted.
"Any orders, ma'am?"
"Just keep me posted Harry, though the traffic should settle down once they are underway." She looked at the missive again. "And from the looks of things, that should be very soon." Chased yawned and stretched, and saw Harry struggling not to do the same. "Send them my thanks and congratulations, and then go get some sleep, Harry. You've had a hell of a long day."
"Yes ma'am," Harry replied and took his leave of her.
Chase looked over this dispatch once more. Something was weird about all this something that didn't add up at all. This intruder... this woman she didn't appear to be a Nazi sympathizer, her actions painted quite a different picture. But she was also not part of the resistance or the rebellion... at least not that anyone knew. Chase had checked with each of the small pocket groups once the first cell brought the interloper to her attention. No one knew anything about the woman, and now she was on her way to headquarters.
Chase leaned back in her chair and scratched her head thoughtfully. She wondered where the woman had come from and what her intent had been. It was clear just from the reports that had already come in that the woman had some sort of plan. Her movements had been too precise and deliberate to believe otherwise.
With any luck, Chase would have her answers soon. But until then, she still had work to get done. Her workday wasn't over yet.
Diana woke up with the throbbing headache. She blinked her eyes slowly, trying to figure out where she was. There was a low throbbing hum that ran throughout the length of her body. Diana struggled to move, only to find that her hands and feet were tied. At least, she thought thankfully, her hands were tied in front of her. It could have been much worse. She tilted her head to look around and met the eyes of someone she didn't recognize.
The woman crouched down next to the pallet she was on. Diana watched her carefully, but she didn't move or speak. Despite her bindings, Diana did not get a feeling of menace from the woman, only curiosity.
"Would you like to sit up?" the woman asked in a quiet tone. Diana nodded and the woman grabbed her arm and eased her into a sitting position. "Better?" Diana nodded again. The woman sighed. "My name is Lynn. I, uh... I apologize for the bindings, but those were our orders. Since we don't know anything about you or whose side you're on...." She shrugged. "The commander will have to make the decision on when to remove them." She picked up her canteen. "Water would you like some?"
Diana nodded and Lynn lifted the canteen to her lips. Diana drank deeply, finally pulling away before she choked. "Thanks," she whispered.
Lynn smiled. "Ah, so you do speak. Do you have a name?" Diana nodded but didn't elaborate. Lynn smiled wryly. "You wanna share?"
Diana shook her head.
Lynn nodded. "All right. That's your prerogative. I just thought it might be more pleasant than calling you 'Hey, You', but whatever. Let me tell you a little about what's going on now. For the moment, you are a prisoner of the rebellion, and as we speak, you are on an airplane being flown to headquarters."
Diana remained quiet for a while longer, considering the words carefully. Finally, she raised her head and met Lynn's. "Why?" whispered so low that Lynn would have missed it has she not been watching Diana so closely.
"Why what? Why are you a prisoner or why are you on an airplane headed to headquarters?" At Diana's nod, Lynn smiled and dug into her kit, removing a chocolate bar and offering Diana a piece before taking a bite for herself.
"Well, you're a prisoner because those were our orders you were to be captured unharmed. You are on an airplane headed to headquarters because the commander wants to talk to you and this is the fastest way to get you there." Lynn saw the questions lurking in the back of Diana's eyes, but she shook her head. "No, I'm not gonna tell how we did it and got away. That's on a need to know basis and right now, you don't qualify as need to know."
Diana shrugged then lay back down on the cot, dropping the chocolate onto her chest untasted.
"I'm sorry," Lynn started, but Diana closed her eyes, effectively cutting off the conversation. Lynn waited a while to see if Diana would change her mind, but eventually, she gave up and moved back to her seat which was slightly more comfortable than the floor she had been sitting on.
Diana kept her eyes closed. Her thoughts turned to Chase and how hindsight made her wish she had sought her out first. She had totally messed up the one opportunity she'd had to prove herself a true Amazon Princess to both her mother and the Nation. Then she grabbed her resolve by its ears and resigned herself to wait. She could still do this. Once she knew who and what she was up against, she would be able to figure out a way to fix her current situation. Until then, she might as well get as much rest as she could manage. Only the gods knew when the opportunity would come again.
Chase had fallen asleep at her desk, and Ty just looked at her for a long moment. When she was asleep, Chase looked much younger, closer to her actual age than she appeared when she was awake. The lines of responsibility softened in sleep and Ty smile as memories of their youth together assailed her. If someone had told her when they were kids growing up together that they and particularly Chase would be responsible for the entire rebellion and the resistance fighters, they would have been locked up to sober up.
Then her thoughts turned darker, remembering the person Chase had become after her mother was killed. It hadn't been pretty and if it hadn't been for the fact that the things she did *had* to be done, Ty would have.... Ty shook her head she wasn't sure she could have done anything. Frankly she believed that the rebellion was the only thing that had kept Chase alive at the time. It had given her a sense of purpose that nothing else could.
She thought about their conversation in the shower. Of all of them, she wondered how Chase would survive when the war was finally over and they all went their separate ways, because Chase was the only one who let the rebellion become her whole world. She had nothing else.
Ty shook herself from her musings and crossed the small hut to nudge Chase awake. She found herself looking down the business end of a revolver and took an instinctive step back while raising her hands to show she was unarmed.
It took Chase's brain a moment longer to catch up with her reflexes. "Goddamn it, Ty!" she muttered, dropping the gun on the desk and scrubbing her hands through her hair and over her face. "What the hell's wrong with you? You know better than to wake me up like that."
The sharp retort that rested on her lips died there when she saw the sheer frustration and... something unrecognizable... in Chase's eyes. Something was bothering her something deep. So instead of yelling back, she took a different tack.
"I know, Chase, and I'm sorry. But we got word the plane is about ten minutes out. I figured you might want a few minutes to...." She shrugged. "I dunno pull yourself together? Who knows how long this interrogation will last, and you did say you wanted to lead it."
Chase shook her head and ran her hands through her hair again. "You're right," she yawned. "What time is it?"
Ty yawned and stretched; she hated the midnight watch. "It's just shy of three am. Let me let you wake up I'll go grab us a couple coffees from the mess and then we can set things up."
Chase nodded. "Sounds good, Ty. Have them take her to the conference room, but no funny business none. I don't want any teasing or taunting... or worse. I am convinced she isn't a Nazi her actions... well, it's a gut feeling more than anything. I think she is on our side, but I want to be sure. Two guards in the room and two more at either door. No one else is to be in the room with her until I get there. Understood?"
Ty nodded. When Chase got a gut feeling, it was usually dead-on right. She wasn't going to question it. "You got it boss. Be back in five."
Chase watched Ty leave, then straightened up the papers on her desk. She had been writing in her journal when she fell asleep and now her attention was caught by the words Amazons and Paradise Island. With a frustrated growl, she slammed the book shut and grabbed a towel to go clean up. It was going to be a very long day.
Lynn had untied her legs when they landed to refuel so Diana could walk around and use the facilities. Diana briefly considered fleeing, but to where? She had no idea where she was and so far, except for being bound, she had no real complaint of her treatment. She decided the more prudent course of action would be to talk to this commander. These were obviously not Nazis. Perhaps this leader could be reasoned with.
Now they were preparing to land again. Lynn had not attempted conversation with her again except to explain what would happen to her if she tried to escape. This time, Lynn merely reminded her not to be stupid and then she felt the plane touch down again. When it stopped rolling, Lynn stood and took Diana by the elbow, helping her to stand and move toward the hatch which was being opened by her other two guards. Then she was marched down the short staircase and out into the vast darkness.
The darkness became what appeared to be a small village, though if she hadn't been looking for something, Diana admitted she probably would have missed it. But she didn't have time to admire it her captors took her straight into a large building and seated her at the long table before two new guards took their place. Then silence fell while Diana waited on the outcome of her future.
The door closed again and the dim lighting was turned up to a more normal level of brightness. Diana blinked against the harshness of the glare. When she opened her eyes, all she could do was stare.
Chase looked freshly washed and Diana's anger at being brought to this place melted into something else. Suddenly Diana had the desire for the same. For one thing, she wanted out of the Nazi uniform she was currently wearing and for another, it seemed as though it had been forever since she'd had a decent shower.
Chase sat down across from her, looking through a few reports and sipping from a mug. She glanced up and was glad to see that the prisoner appeared to have been well-treated. She made a note to commend the members of the rebellion on following her instructions to the letter.
The sound of her name whispered from the lips of the woman who currently sat bound before her caused Chase to spew her coffee. She slammed her mug on the table then turned her attention to Diana. Then she hesitated, cocking her head as though listening to an inner voice. Something about that whisper, that inflection was familiar. But that was impossible. She had never seen the woman before and Diana was not a woman easily forgotten.
Chase blinked, pulling her eyes away from the mesmerizing blue that held her own so easily. She stood to her feet and leaned on the table. "Who are you?" asked quietly, "And how do you know who I am?"
Diana stared at her. Why didn't Chase recognize her? Then she noticed that Chase really did have the most amazing green eyes something she had not seen on Paradise Island. Whatever had inhibited Chase's eyesight there was clearly not a problem here in man's world. Those green eyes had gold flecks in them, Diana realized as they drilled into hers waiting impatiently for an answer. She felt a bit of her own ire return.
"Why am I here?" she whispered harshly. "You had no right...."
Chase slapped both hands on the table. "I had every right!! You nearly destroyed YEARS of work with your stupidity and carelessness!! Who the hell do you think you are anyway??"
Diana rose hastily, kicking the chair out from under her and leaning her still tied hands on the table. Her rage clouded her judgment and she spoke without thinking. "*I* am an Amazon Princess," whispered fiercely, but so low only Chase heard her.
A hand signal from Chase kept the guards from reacting, but nothing could stop the blood from draining from her face. Diana's brows contracted; she hadn't expected that sort of reaction. Granted, the Amazons had become more myth and legend than reality as far as the outside world was concerned, but there was nothing.... Then her anger turned to horror when she remembered Chase's history with startling clarity. Did Orana betray her true nationality to Chase? Racking her brains for that information and concluding from Chase's reaction that Orana must have. Oh gods.... suddenly understanding just how big a pile of shit she had stepped in.
Diana started to speak, but Chase turned away, motioning a guard to her. She whispered a few words and the young woman nodded and left. Then Chase reached down to her ankle and pulled out a long blade. Diana felt the first tendril of fear, and it surprised her. She hadn't been afraid at all during her voyage thus far even seeing Orana only inspired hatred and anger. But this... seeing Chase holding knife and turning in her direction she wondered if she had crossed a line that they would never be able to overcome and felt a twinge of despair for lost possibilities.
Then Chase spoke. "Hold out your hands, please."
Diana hesitated; it certainly wasn't what she had expected. Then she extended her hands and watched as Chase carefully slipped the knife between her hands and sliced through her bindings.
"Thank you," barely audible. She rubbed her wrists reflexively.
Chase nodded, looking for signs of rope burn and pleased when there was none. She didn't even turn when the door opened and Ty crossed the threshold. "I want you to go with Ty. She's gonna take you to clean up and get you into something less offensive," gesturing to the SS uniform. "Then you're gonna come back here and we're going to start this conversation over. Please don't try anything stupid; I'd hate to have to order them to shoot you," motioning to the two guards who still stood at the ready.
Diana nodded, accepting that for whatever reason, Chase trusted her on some level despite the seeds of Amazon hatred Orana had planted. Diana knew it was going to take a lot of effort on her part to change Chase's mind, but this would be a good way to start.
"Do as I say, Ty." Chase motioned to the two guards and they took up positions right behind Diana. Ty hesitated a moment longer, then took Diana by the elbow and gently led her out of the conference room. The guards followed behind.
Chase spoke to one of the guards standing outside the door and watched him scurry away. Then she fell heavily back into the chair and scrubbed her hands over her face. Suddenly there was so much more to consider than simply the possibility of ruined plans.
Ty's grip on Diana's arm wasn't painful, but Diana got the distinct impression that it was only due to Chase's specific instructions and not a desire to be nice on Ty's part. So Diana determined not to give the other woman a reason to change that directive.
They walked into the shower tent the male guard took up a position outside the door while the female guard entered and stood just inside the doorway. Ty and Diana continued into the changing area and Diana began stripping out of the clothing she had come to loath. Ty opened a locker and pulled out a towel and a small cake of soap.
"Do I need to come with you or...?"
Diana shook her head and accepted the articles before moving to the first showerhead and turning it on. She was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the water warmed but she made it a point not to linger. She didn't think Ty would appreciate it.
For her part, Ty wondered what had happened to Chase. She could easily see that something major had happened to upset her and knew it had to be linked to the woman now busy scrubbing herself clean. Chase had given strict orders on the treatment and welfare of this prisoner; otherwise Ty would have been exerting significant pressure to find out what she needed to know.
Diana shut off the water and dried off quickly, wrapping her towel around her body and moving back to the dressing area. Ty handed her a clean uniform and pair of socks then waited patiently for Diana to get dressed. Then she motioned for Diana to precede her and they headed back towards the conference room. With a little luck, Chase would have recovered from whatever had upset her so badly and they would be ready to continue with the interrogation.
Chase rubbed her eyes and covered her face. She felt like she'd been bushwhacked by any number sensations and she was at a loss to pinpoint a single one. Things she had convinced her self of... been sure were nothing but wild dreams... were now coming back to haunt her with startling clarity. There were sounds and tastes, a few sights, but mostly conversations and scents. And there was something very familiar about this woman.
Oh God... I am losing my fucking mind.
Chase dropped her hands from her face and folded them together, propping her chin on them. There was all kinds of new information for her to consider now, and first Chase need to separate fact from fiction what was real versus what had only occurred in her mind. And she had the definite idea that this woman could help answer her questions.
Amazon Princess?? Then if what I remember is true, that means....
Chase groaned. Why this? And why now? It had been a lot easier to handle when it had been nothing but oddly questionable dreams.
Her fretting and musing came to a halt when the door opened and the guard returned with two trays of steaming hot food and a carafe of hot coffee. Right behind him was Ty and Diana. The two guards with them took up their posts at either end of the room. Chase motioned Diana to a seat and pushed a tray in front of her. Then she took Ty aside.
"Everything all right?"
Ty nodded. "I was just going to ask you the same thing."
"I'm fine, Ty. I don't think I'm wrong about this one."
Ty sighed. "I don't think you are either. You didn't see her reaction to the uniform when she took it off, nor the way she scrubbed herself. Still, something about her doesn't add up. You want me to stay with you?"
"Nah. Finish your shift and go get some rack time. Go on," Chase urged when Ty hesitated, a pensive expression on her face. "What?" when she stopped with her hand on the doorknob.
Ty shrugged. "I dunno... I'm not sure." She shrugged her shoulders. "I just feel like... I dunno something's changing - probably not enough sleep and too many strategy sessions. Lemme go get back to work. We've still got a lot to do." She looked like she wanted to say more, but instead she patted Chase on the back and walked out of the conference room.
Chase took a deep breath and turned to face the woman who had unexpectedly thrown her orderly, well-organized world into total and utter chaos.
Diana sat quietly, her exceptional hearing able to pick up every nuance and inflection of the conversation between Chase and Ty. She wondered if it was her own nervousness or something she was sensing from Chase that was making Ty uncomfortable with leaving them alone together.
She was so deep in her thoughts that Chase taking a seat across from her was disquieting. She looked up and caught Chase's eye. Chase gave her a half-smile and motioned to the tray of food in front of her. "It's probably not as good as home, but it's decent enough. You wanna eat it while it's hot, though. Eggs kinda lose something when they get cold."
Diana picked up her fork. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the woman who sat across from her. Chase was still pale, but she had obviously recovered her composure from whatever had shaken her so badly before.
Diana took a bite of the food, finding that Chase had told her the truth it wasn't bad, especially considering what she had been eating since the start of her travels from the island but it surely didn't compare to home. Still, it was hot and filling and there was something about it that was also comforting.
She looked up to find Chase seemingly totally engrossed in her meal and the paperwork in front of her. But Diana could see the slight tremor in her hand.
"Thank you," she whispered, wishing not for the first time that she still had a voice. Having not used it in a hundred years, it just wasn't there anymore, and she had no way of knowing if it ever would be again. The slight sound did get Chase's attention, though and she found herself staring into bright green eyes that were much older than the young woman they belonged to.
Chase deliberately put her paperwork aside and focused her attention on the woman who sat across from her. "For?"
Diana cleared her throat, hoping it would help, but her voice remained a mere whisper. She motioned around her with her fork. "This, the shower... everything."
Chase nodded. "I've learned to trust my gut about these things. I don't think you're a Nazi," watching as the blue eyes hardened perceptibly at the term. "Though I'm not sure exactly who or what you are yet, except that you claim to be an Amazon Princess. You wanna expound on that maybe? Share your name?"
Diana nodded, knowing she was going to have to give a little if Chase was ever going to start trusting her. "Diana."
"It's nice to meet you, Diana," Chase said, extending a hand. Diana hesitated, then took it, absorbing the strength Chase demonstrated without hurting her in the process. She idly wondered how Chase managed to maintain such soft hands with all the things she took care of as part of her responsibility in the rebellion.
Chase was making her own mental notes, things she would consider when this conversation was over that would hopefully fit into the puzzle she'd been handed. First, though....
"Now, I want to know what you thought you were going to do in the Reichstag. No bullshit."
Diana was taken about by the harshness of Chase's tone and it put her on the defensive. She straightened up and pulled her hand away. Then she pushed her tray back and folded her hands in front of her on the table, clenching them together.
"I was going to defeat Orana again... I was going to kill her."
"How? How did you expect to defeat her? And how did you expect to get away?" The questions were coolly and logically asked, but infuriating to Diana, nonetheless. "You're not a member of the rebellion or the resistance. I checked. Why would you want to do something like that?"
There was a fire burning in the back of Diana's blue eyes that made Chase sit back reflexively to avoid being singed. "I did it for you, Chase. I did it because of what Orana did to you. She can't be allowed to hurt people like that anymore!"
Now Chase's eyes turned to ice. "Don't. You. Dare!!" she hissed through clenched teeth. "Don't you dare lay the blame for your stupidity on me! You have NO idea what you're talking about." She slammed her fist into the table for emphasis.
Diana never dropped eye contact. "I know everything," she said with a sincerity that though Chase didn't want to believe it, she couldn't doubt. "And what I did was not stupid! If you weren't so busy being self-important here, you'd see that by eliminating Orana from power is the only way to destroy her regime. It is the only way your rebellion can succeed!"
The two guards watching couldn't hear the exchange between the two women, but Chase's fury was unmistakable when she jumped from her chair, knocking it over. They automatically shifted to a more alert position and trained their guns on Diana.
Chase leaned over the table and dropped her voice to the same sibilant whisper Diana was forced to use. "Let me try to explain something in small words even your simple mind can comprehend. What happened to me is none of your goddamned business, though what you know and how you found out is!" She ran a hand through her hair and took a deep breath to calm down. "But we will discuss that later," said with finality. "What you were going to do would not only have destroyed years of work and planning by the rebellion, it would have cost the lives of millions of innocent people. So while I sit over here and be self-important in my outrage, you think about that."
Chase picked up carafe and poured herself another cup of coffee, motioning to the guards to stand down. She was riding an edge at the moment and she didn't want any misunderstandings or unnecessary heroics.
Diana sat quietly processing Chase's words against the knowledge she had been given. Obviously, what had happened to Chase was very private; it would be something she hoped they could eventually talk about between them. But beyond that....
She looked up when Chase poured her a cup of coffee. She wasn't sure she understood the dynamic that was working between them, but she nodded her thanks and picked up the cup. Then she grimaced upon taking a swallow. Chase would have laughed if she still hadn't been so close to anger. She pushed the bit of sugar and cream they had in Diana's direction.
"I know it's not good, but it's all we've got. You may want to doctor it some."
Diana took the suggestion and dumped everything in that she could. She took a second swallow and set the cup down carefully, not sure if she would ever be able to regain a taste for what coffee had become. She hadn't been that fond of it in the first place and this... this was bad.
She looked up to find Chase slumped in her chair drinking her coffee absently and she wondered where her thoughts had led. Nothing here was going the way Diana thought it would and she was questioning her desire... no, her need, to be quite honest... to be in this place with this woman. Her mind told her she was an idiot, but her heart... and her soul... knew better.
"I'm not a Nazi," she whispered.
Slowly, Chase's head swiveled in her direction and she set her cup on the table. Then she leaned forward and folded her hands on the table. "I know," she said meeting Diana's eyes. "Now are you ready to answer my questions?"
"Will you answer mine?"
"You first," Chase countered. "Then maybe we can talk."
Diana nodded and smiled shyly, and Chase smiled in return. The first hurdle had been crossed.
"Whoa, dudes, that was waaaaay too close," Dite said as they took a scrying break. The other goddesses turned and looked at her askance. Hera just shook her head.
Dite gestured to the scrying bowl. "Were you not like, paying attention?? Didn't you watch that radical meltdown those two had?? Hades, any more sparkage from them and we'd need some serious ice baths up here. Whoo!!" she added, fanning herself.
Athena and Artemis both covered their lips to hide the grins they couldn't stop from forming. For all her flightiness, Dite's way of looking at the world was certainly entertaining, and she definitely had her own way of expressing herself. It made for some interesting conversations between them.
"So you're saying this was a good thing?" asked Hestia.
Dite pointed at her. "Virgin, right?" She giggled. "Fer sure it was a majorly good thing, babe. It may take them a while, but they've gotta feel it."
"So their arguments were for show... a bit of foreplay?" Demeter asked. "Humans have not become any easier to understand."
Dite shook her head. "Oh no their arguments are way real. It may turn to foreplay eventually," she added impishly and watched the older goddesses blush, "but for now they are still working on that whole trust thing. What we have working for us is that their minds may not trust each other, but their souls do."
"You sound so sure," Hera said softly.
"I am," Dite confirmed with confidence. "I may not be into that whole nasty war gig, but the rocking love biz I totally understand. This is a primo love match. We may all be black and blue from a radically bumpy ride before it's all over, but I'm telling you guys, we did good."
The goddesses smiled amongst themselves. For the first time in a very long time, they had reason to. They'd done the right thing, and it had given them all the one thing they had been lacking in... hope. That their favored would benefit from their decision was a big plus. They turned their attention back to the scrying bowl, anxious to see how the next bit would play out.
Without warning, Chase stood up and leaned on the table. The guards instantly became more alert, snapping to attention and raising their weapons to a more ready position. Diana forced herself not to react to the guards though it was hard to quell the warrior instincts that had been ingrained in her psyche from birth. Instead she met Chase's eyes squarely, and thought she saw a hint of a twinkle in the back of her green eyes. She felt herself responding and put a lid on it. There would be time enough for that when she knew exactly where she stood. She waited patiently.
"Would you like to go for a walk with me?" Chase invited. Diana blinked at her, unable to believe what she'd heard. Chase smiled charmingly, her whole demeanor changing when the expression. "I don't bite, honestly, and I'll keep the guards back far enough that we can talk privately."
Diana stood and returned the smile with a small grin of her own. "Yes, please. I have been sitting half of forever it seems like." She walked around the table until she and Chase were within arms' length of one another. "Um, can I ask you a question first?"
"Are the guards for your benefit or mine?"
Chase turned until she was facing Diana directly and considered the question for a long moment. "Ya know, that's a really good question." She looked at both of their chaperones then back at Diana. "Tell ya what... as soon I figure it out, I'll let you know unless of course, you figure it out first."
"Well, if that happens, I'll be certain to let you know."
"Good," Chase answered. "Cause I hate being in the dark about stuff. Now let's go watch the sunrise."
Chase took Diana's hand as she doused the lights in the conference room, waiting a moment to allow their eyes to adjust to the darkness before opening the door into the dark gray of the coming dawn. The guards took up positions two steps behind them until Chase turned and glared at them with eyes that literally glowed in the dark. It made them stutter-step to a stop.
"Guys, I appreciate your interest, but back-off a little, all right? Diana's not going anywhere and neither of us is in danger. So please give us some space, okay?"
The pair looked like they wanted to argue they had been given specific directions by Ty and neither of them wanted to be the one to explain to her if something happened to Chase. On the other hand, Chase was the boss, and despite her normally easygoing personality, they had no desire to provoke the side of the woman who had managed to give the rebellion hope because of her passion and focus. Especially since they were beginning to feel that intensity turned their way merely by the look in her eyes.
They exchanged glances and took three giant steps backwards. Chase nodded her thanks before turning to Diana with a raised brow. "Shall we?" crossing the threshold into the approaching daylight and dropping Diana's hand to cram her hands in her pockets. Diana did the same, feeling the cold from the loss of Chase's warmth as much as from the brisk dawn wind.
They walked together in silence for a little while. Diana because she was formulating her what she wanted to say and Chase because she was focused on getting to the small rise where she went to watch the sunrise and think on the days she was awake to see the sun come up.
When they reached the bottom of the hill, Chase motioned to the guards to remain while she and Diana continued up the incline. When they reached the top, Chase asked Diana to wait and moved to a small chest beneath the lone oak that stood to one side of the hill. She pulled a small blanket from the trunk and walked back to where Diana waited, spreading the blanket and dropping down onto it facing the sun.
Then she looked up and Diana and offered her a hand down. Diana accepted the offer and gracefully seated herself cross-legged beside Chase. Chase let go of Diana's hand to point towards the horizon. Diana turned her head just as the sun edged over the horizon and she gasped in pleasant surprise as the blue, purple, red, orange and yellow spread across the sky and reflected in the lake below.
It wasn't home but it was beautiful and Diana felt a peacefulness wash through her that she hadn't felt since leaving Paradise Island. Chase smiled and closed her eyes, relishing the kiss of the sun's warmth on her face. Diana decided to follow her example and closed her eyes, missing the scent of the ocean, but absorbing the smells of freshwater and pine.
Chase felt Diana relax, and once the sun was fully up and the sky was blue, she opened her eyes and turned to Diana. "You ready to talk to me now? No bullshit, no defensiveness just straight talk you answering my questions."
Diana nodded. "Yes. But you have to promise to listen with an open mind." Her hoarse whisper was hard to hear in the midst of the morning sounds around them and Chase realized she was going to have to concentrate on listening to be able to hear the other woman's words. She thought about what Diana had said... could she listen with an open mind? Already her judgment was somewhat tainted, her mind clouded with confusion over what she thought she remembered and half-hoped she'd dreamed.
It was funny, really things she had been so sure of when she'd been shipwrecked on the island Shep had rescued her from had become less clear as time had passed, rapidly acquiring a dreamlike quality and lack of clarity. She looked at Diana, knowing she had never seen the woman before today and yet somehow finding her... familiar. Then she realized by the raised brow and slight smirk that Diana was awaiting her answer.
"I will do my best - that much I can promise, but no guarantees."
"Fair enough," Diana nodded. She knew from her reading that giving her word was a serious commitment for Chase. Diana hoped Chase would be able to keep it if she started getting answers she didn't want to hear, but Diana knew there was no way she was going to lie to this woman. There was too much at stake for both of them to start off with lies between them. They needed a foundation of truth and trust.
"She did WHAT?!?" Hippolyta did her best to modulate her voice but it was difficult to keep from screeching at the news Paula had just presented to her. The queen rubbed her forehead before her fingers pinched the bridge of her nose in an effort to alleviate the headache she could suddenly feel coming on. Hippolyta blew out a breath and sighed another, then moaned when she felt Drea's strong hands kneading the knots in her shoulders.
After a few minutes of silence, Hippolyta raised her head and looked at Paula. "I beg your pardon, Paula. No need to take it out on the messenger. It was just completely unexpected news. Would you be kind enough to repeat that for me one more time? I promise not to yell this time."
Paula smiled and nodded. She had expected the reaction; she had had nearly the same reaction when she'd found out what Diana had done. Of all the foolhardy chances open to her, Diana had definitely chosen the worst one available. But if she was completely honest with herself, in the back of her mind, a part of her was not at all surprised by Diana's choice either not knowing how Diana felt about Orana's betrayal... of everything.
"I decided, when Diana left, to keep a close eye on her activities. I didn't want her to get into trouble again without some sort of backup this time around. I started observing Orana as soon as she was brought back to our attention and I added Chase to that monitoring when she left us. I kept an eye on both locations once Diana left and surprisingly, she first showed up on my screen in Greece."
Drea smiled. "That makes perfect sense when you think about it, Pol. It makes sense that she'd want to see what for her is living history... a true part of who she is and where she comes from."
"I can understand that, Drea, but then why go to confront Orana? Surely being with Chase should have been more important if Chase is the person to Diana we believe her to be."
The heads of queen and council swiveled in the direction of the intruder's voice, then they all knelt when they realized their visitor was a deity. And not just one, but several of them.
"Oh, babes... chill out." When no one moved, Dite threw her hands into the air and looked at the two sisters who had accompanied her. One would think after thousands of years as one of their goddesses, the Amazons would have been able to understand her, but apparently not.
"She means you can get up now."
Dite put her hands on her hips and huffed. "Didn't I like totally say that already?" The room tittered and the Amazon council resumed their seats. Hippolyta motioned around the room.
"Could we offer you... anything?" She was more than a little flummoxed at their appearance. After more than a century of silence, to have them just show up so casually, and here in the council room to the entire council, was entirely disconcerting. Looking around at the faces of her most trusted advisors, Hippolyta knew they were experiencing the same feelings of discombobulation she was.
"Nope. We're fab. We just stopped by to let you know we've been keeping an eye on the radical warrior babe as well. We kinda felt we owed it to her, ya know? Besides, Chase is Diana's soulmate and I absolutely wanna see those two make that love connection again."
Quiet gasps were heard around the room at Dite's casual confirmation of their suspicions. Nubia was the first to recover. "Are you certain, goddess? I mean no disrespect, but they seem so.... I mean they don't.... They are really not...." She finally broke off her confused stammering with a blush.
Instead of being affronted by Nubia's questioning, Dite chuckled. "Fer sure I'm sure, babe. And you're totally right that's what make this whole set-up so radically cool."
Artemis stepped up beside Dite. "Paula, you have done a wonderful job and I want you to continue to monitor both Chase and Diana. The time may come when they need the Amazons' help, but until that time, no one is to interfere."
"And how will we know?"
"There won't be any doubt - they will ask."
Silence met this pronouncement. Not that they wanted to doubt, but for too long Diana had been independent of them, asking for nothing and accepting help from no one. Finally, Hippolyta voiced their concern.
"Goddess, do you really think Diana would allow herself to ask for help from us? She despises us."
Artemis smiled. "No, she doesn't. She does have some mixed feelings, but mostly they involve hurt and anger... not hatred."
"Besides," Athena broke in. "She's got Chase's influence now as well. That will go a long way towards breaking down her barriers."
"You're just gonna have to have a little faith in the power of love those two share. Now we gotta jet. Be cool, babes!" The three disappeared in a shower of sparkles and rose petals. It was going to take the council a little longer to recover their wits.
"So, Diana... do you have a last name?"
Diana nodded and swallowed hard, turning her attention back to the horizon. Given the kind of luck she'd had so far with Chase, she feared answering this question, but she knew instinctively that lying, even if she had been predisposed in that direction, would have been a bad choice in this situation.
"You wanna share it with me?"
"Not really, no."
Chase frowned. It wasn't the answer she'd been expecting. "Oookaaay. Why?"
"Because you're not going to believe me, and if by some small chance you do, you're not going to like it."
"Hmm," Chase replied thoughtfully. "Okay, well, how about you tell me anyway, and let me decide."
Diana was silent for a full minute before she licked her lips and whispered, "Prince. My name in man's world is Diana Prince."
Chase sat quietly absorbing the words like a blow to her gut. Whatever she had been expecting, this had not been a remote possibility. Diana turned her face back toward Chase when didn't move or make a sound. What she saw was heartbreaking.
Chase's face was cold and bleak as though it had been cast in stone. Diana clasped her hands together tightly to keep from reaching out to Chase before Chase was ready for contact. Instead, she gazed back out at the lake unseeingly and waited for Chase to initiate any further conversation.
Diana lost track of how long the silence lasted; she used the time to meditate and center herself. But she felt the change in the air immediately when Chase shifted her way. Diana opened her eyes slowly and waited for Chase to speak. When she did, the coldness of her tone sent shivers up Diana's back.
"I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but we're going to start from the very beginning. You're going to tell me exactly who you are and where you came from, and then we're going to move on to how you knew my name and everything you know about the Amazon Orana. And finally you're going to explain to me just exactly how and what you intended to accomplish. Do you understand me?"
"Chase... Annabelle," watching Chase's head snap back to her so quickly Diana half expected it to go flying off and rolling down the hill. "I will tell you everything, but you have to be willing to listen. You promised to try."
"As long as you tell me the truth," Chase agreed.
"I haven't lied to you, Chase. Not about anything."
"I know. That's what makes it so hard to hear."
Diana cocked her head at Chase's words, wondering how Chase could know with such certainty that she was telling the truth. She didn't have a golden lasso or any superhuman powers that Diana could see and yet she didn't doubt that Chase knew exactly if she was being lied to. She made a mental note to ask Chase more about that particular gift if Chase was still speaking to her when she was done talking.
Chase rubbed her eyes wearily. "Start at the beginning, please. I don't care how much ancient history you have to share, but start with your name and how it and you tie in to Steve Trevor and work your way forward from there."
"I'll have to go a long way back... more than a hundred years. It will take a little time, but when I am done, you will have all the answers to your questions."
Chase held up a hand and Diana stopped talking. Chase took the radio from her hip and barked out a few simple orders, then sat back and waited. Diana wondered, but didn't say anything, glad for the chance to let her throat rest. She had done more talking since her arrival in the rebel encampment than she had in the last century, and her tongue and throat were swollen from the effort.
Diana heard the approaching footsteps several seconds before Chase detected them. Chase got up and exchanged a few words with the guard before taking the knapsack from them. She waited until they were out of sight before turning back to Diana.
Diana let her attention remain on the water beneath them. She was not looking forward to spending the next few hours talking, regardless of the subject matter that just made things harder. Diana wished for some water to drink, then blinked in surprise when a canteen appeared before her eyes.
"I figure as thirsty as I am, you've got to be about to die. I can hear the hoarseness in your whisper."
Diana wondered again at the complexity of the woman Annabelle Chaser was and accepted the water with a smile. "Thank you." She took a long pull, relishing the wet and the chill of the water.
"In nineteen forty-two," Diana began without preamble, "a man named Steve Trevor crash landed in what to him was part of the Bermuda Triangle very close to where you ejected from your plane just a few weeks ago. He, like you, was brought to the Amazon homeland called Paradise Island. What happened then changed the course of history."
Hours passed while Diana talked in her low whisper and Chase sat unmoving to catch every single word. Periodically, Chase would lay a hand on Diana's arm to stop her speech, and Diana accepted every respite offered her. She emptied two canteens and was working on a third when Chase halted her yet again.
"C'mon," she said quietly, standing up and offering Diana her hand. "It's chow time, and with all the water you've been guzzling, I imagine a pee break would be a good idea as well."
Diana nodded, suddenly very aware of just how much water she'd been drinking. She glanced at Chase, grateful for her courtesy. She'd kept Diana supplied with water and given her regular breaks and not once had Chase interrupted or asked a single question. And except for the paleness of her skin, there was nothing to read in her facial expressions.
Diana couldn't stop the yawn that creased her features and made her close her eyes for several long seconds. When she opened her eyes, Chase was looking at her in concern.
"Tell ya what... we'll have a little lunch and then we'll take a break. You look like you could use a nap, and I know I could. After that, well... after that we'll see. We still have quite a bit of ground to cover, and I do have some questions. Once I'm satisfied, if you still want to be part of the rebellion, I'll find a place for you. Otherwise, I'll have someone take you home."
Chase put away the blanket she had been folding up as she spoke, then she waited for Diana to join her. Diana walked over to her slowly, her brow creased in thought. Why was Chase trying to send her away? Couldn't she feel the connection between them? She felt like she was missing a vital clue, knowing her exhaustion was making rational thought difficult. So she simply nodded her head, hoping something would occur to her while she rested.
For her part, Chase was in a turmoil. Diana was telling her the truth; that she was certain of. But her story thus far was so outrageous it was almost impossible to believe. Yet there were parts of it Chase knew there was no way for Diana to be aware of without having actually been there, or being privy to Nazi records. And that brought up so many more problems.
Who was this woman, really? And why did Chase *need* to believe she was just exactly who and what she claimed to be?
It was a very quiet walk back down the hill and through the encampment to the mess hall.
Continued in Part 6