Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
Dead silence accompanied their entrance into the mess hall until Chase glared around the room. Almost immediately, conversation started up again, though all eyes remained on them. Chase sighed. These were all good people. But they were still human beings and their curiosity, especially for something of this magnitude, was impossible to quell or hide. However, she had no desire to suffer through it today, and when their trays were full, she led Diana out of the mess hall and back to her private quarters.
Despite her misgivings, Ty was a good soldier and she had followed Chase's instructions to the letter. The small table and chairs she used to hold small strategy sessions at had been removed and replaced with a single cot barely long enough to accommodate Diana's tall frame. Ty had left the desk and two chairs and it was there that Chase indicated Diana put her tray down.
Diana did so with alacrity, taking the chair beside the desk while Chase assumed her regular place behind it. Chase motioned Diana to begin eating even as she picked up her own fork.
"I hope you don't mind," Chase commented softly. "I am going to keep you with me for the duration. It will just make things easier... for both of us."
"How?" A simple question with a multitude of answers.
Chase chewed and swallowed while considering her answer. "Well, it's like this – most folks here, myself included, are more than a little curious about you. But that doesn't mean you want to have to talk to everyone or answer the same questions about yourself over and over again. I figure you'll probably be more comfortable and more honest if you only have to deal with me one on one. I know I would be." Chase looked up at Diana for confirmation and Diana nodded her head.
"As for myself," Chase continued, "I don't need... well, let's just say I prefer to hear your story privately without having to give explanations to anyone or answer questions I'm not ready to answer yet."
Diana nodded again, recognizing Chase's feeling all too well. There were a lot of things she still wanted to understand and she really didn't want an audience to do it. Diana appreciated Chase's consideration for both of them. She wondered if Chase sensed something between them. Diana thought maybe she did – it would go a long way towards explaining Chase's attitude towards her. She certainly hoped so. It seemed like she had been searching for Chase her entire life and Diana was ready to stop searching and start living. First though, there were a couple little things that had to be cleared up between them, chief among them a matter of trust. Of course, there was also Orana, and any other number of lesser things, but they would get through them gradually as the trust grew. And that would come as they talked and learned about one another.
They ate the rest of their meal in silence, Chase being true to her word about wanting Diana to rest. She was still mulling over the story Diana had given her so far. It made sense in an outrageous sort of way. Chase had never expected their histories to be so entwined; she wondered if that was why she felt so connected to Diana or if it was something more beyond that. It felt like more, but Chase wasn't really sure what to do with the feelings.
So, Chase pushed them aside and focused on the present dilemma, hoping the rest would take care of itself in due time.
When they were finished eating, Chase took Diana's tray and stacked it with her own just outside the door to the small hut. Then she motioned to the small bunk. "I am taking a real risk here – at least according to my colleagues – but I'm gonna trust my gut. I don't think you're gonna up and try to leave." Diana shook her head vehemently and Chase almost smiled. "But I'm beat and I imagine you're pretty much exhausted, immortal Amazon or not."
Diana nodded, her throat still painfully sore. She couldn't remember ever being as drained as she felt now, not even when she'd been beaten unmercifully by Orana. All she wanted to do right now was close her eyes and sleep for the next twelve to eighteen hours. Maybe by then her throat wouldn't hurt so badly. Diana knew they had so much more to talk about, but she really hoped it would be a little later.
"You all right?" Chase asked with concern on her face, waiting until Diana's attention returned to her. "C'mon," taking Diana's hand and leading her the three steps to the head of her cot. "This is your bunk for the time being... at least until we get everything sorted out. Once I get done debriefing you, if you want to be part of the rebellion, you can find a place you're comfortable with."
"For now though...." Chase eased Diana down to the cot. "I don't have any pajamas to offer you, but I promise not to look if you'd like to make yourself more comfortable."
True to her word, Chase straightened up and turned her back, bending over to untie her bootlaces before stripping out of her boots, socks and trousers. Then she climbed into her own cot and plumped up her pillow, still looking away from Diana.
For her part, Diana undressed, amazed by Chase's complete lack of modesty; that was so unusual in man's world – at least the man's world Diana remembered. She crawled into her cot and dropped her head on the pillow. "Thank you, Chase," she whispered before falling immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Chase turned at the whispered voice, not sure if she had actually heard Diana speak or not. But Diana was asleep by the time Chase was facing her, and she decided to follow her example, closing her eyes and dropping off to sleep.
Diana opened her eyes slowly. She wasn't sure what had awakened her but she closed her eyes wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep. It didn't feel like she had been sleeping for very long at all, and yet.... Diana cracked her eyes opened again, confirming her suspicions that Chase was no longer in the cot across from her. She listened intently, realizing she was hearing a harsh whisper just outside the hut. Diana strained to understand the words that were being spoken, but all she could make out was fierce anger in the raspy tone.
She started to get up from her bed to see what all the commotion was about when Chase's voice rang out clearly. "That's enough, Shep!!" Diana was out the door in nothing but her t-shirt and underwear before another word could be spoken and the conversation came to a dead halt.
Dian reached over and grabbed the man she assumed was Shep by the collar and twisted, pulling him closer until they were breathing the same air. He clutched at her arm to no avail, standing on tiptoe to ease the strain on his neck. She never noticed that the entire encampment was watching the proceedings with great interest. And to be honest, she wouldn't have cared if she had known. Diana had sensed a threat to Chase and was reacting purely on instinct.
Diana didn't say anything to Shep, but she really didn't need to. What she was conveying with her eyes and the set of her body was coming through loud and clear to everyone. It would have been hard to say which of the three of them were more startled by Diana swift actions, but Chase was certainly the first to recover from it.
"Diana? Diana, it's okay. Shep wasn't hurting me, honestly. He was just disagreeing with me... loudly." Chase waited until Diana's eyes tracked to hers before she spoke again. "C'mon... let him go. He was just leaving anyway," with a glare in Shep's direction. "Weren't you, Shep?"
He nodded as much as Diana's hold would allow him to. When she turned to face him, Shep scrambled to get away from her. Her eyes had turned into a fiery silver color and he felt the burn on his skin. "Ye... yeah," he choked out. "I... ack... I was," he managed to croak out.
"Okay, Diana," Chase said, laying a hand on Diana's arm and feeling the strength of the shifting muscles it took to hold Shep up so casually. "Let go of him and let's get you tucked back in to bed, all right? I think you could probably use a little more rest."
Diana looked at Chase for a long moment before nodding her agreement and dropping Shep where he stood. He fell to his knees and clasped his throat, rubbing it where the material had pinched, giving him a bruise. The look he gave Diana bordered on murderous, but Shep was in no condition to make good on it. Fortunately for him, neither Chase nor Diana saw it, being too intent on removing themselves from his presence.
Chase was more than a little disturbed – not about Diana's reaction; that had been an unexpected, but rather pleasant surprise. Shep, though... well, that was completely out of the blue as far as Chase was concerned. She had known her choice to interview Diana privately wasn't popular among the members of her colleagues, but she had honestly had not been prepared for Shep's vehement opposition to it. She would have to keep an eye on him, especially now that Diana had humiliated him in his eyes.
Diana was asleep as soon as she settled into the bed. Chase looked at her for a long moment before getting dressed. Then she stepped out from her hut and signaled to the guards who had been dismissed earlier. They were quick to resume their posts at either corner nearest the door and a look from Chase made them understand clearly what their responsibility was. Then she walked towards the conference room, knowing the rest of her contemporaries would join her shortly.
Chase wasn't disappointed. She had just enough time to fix herself a cup of coffee and take her seat at the head of the table before her crew started filing in one at a time. She smiled grimly; Chase knew she could depend on the camp grapevine to call a meeting. After that it was just a matter waiting for them to make it to her.
They took their seats around the table and looked at Chase. She merely folded her hands and returned their looks, waiting for the explosion. It didn't take long.
"All right, settle down," Chase said quietly. The noise continued as everyone tried to shout over everyone else to be heard. Chase simply waited until they all ran out of steam. Then she leaned back in her chair with her coffee cup in her hand and let her gaze run around the table.
"Is everyone finished?"
Not surprisingly, Shep stood up and rested his palms on the table. "How could you, Chase? How could you side with someone you don't even know... especially someone like her?!?"
Chase cocked her head, vaguely insulted and more than a little angry. But she clamped down on her immediate reaction and asked in a deceptively calm voice, "Like what, exactly, Shep? You don't know anything about her yet, except that she is a strong, beautiful woman who embarrassed the hell out of you this afternoon because she felt you crossed a line."
Shep slapped the table, his face turning an unhealthy shade of red. "That's not fair, Chase! She shouldn't have special privileges – what do you mean by bunking with her, keeping her in your hut?? She should at least be considered a hostile until we know everything about her! She could be an enemy agent for God's sakes! You're risking too much! What the hell has gotten into you??"
Now she stood slowly and placed her cup carefully on the table. Then she leaned on the table and turned her full fury on Shep, though her eyes were the only things that gave any true indication of her real feelings. Everyone else sat back to wait for the fireworks. It wasn't often that Chase blew, but when she did, it was spectacular to watch.
Shep opened his mouth to protest; then he got a good look at her face, and sat down without another word, his mouth snapping shut so fast he bit his tongue.
"*I* am not the one out of line here, Shep. I haven't made any assumptions, except to assume that ya'll would trust me to do my job... to find out who she is and where she came from and why she was in the Reichstag. But apparently you don't trust me anymore; you think I need to make all my decisions by committee now."
"Shut up." Her tone made everyone's jaw drop. She had never been so cold towards them before, but no one had ever questioned her like Shep had. Ty shook her head. She'd tried to warn him to leave it alone. There was something between Chase and Diana – she'd felt it when she'd first seen them together and then experienced Chase's attitude earlier that morning. But he'd been so determined to insure that Chase was doing the right thing, Shep had completely disregarded the fact that his actions would be seen as undermining Chase's authority... or worse – treason.
Now they waited for Chase to explode, knowing regardless of how uncomfortable they had been with her decision to debrief the unknown woman alone, it had been her decision to make. And Shep had totally ignored it in favor of keeping his own council and following his own agenda.
"That's *exactly* what you meant," she growled low in her throat. "I told you I would handle this my way, and yet you took it upon yourself to come to my hut while I was trying to sleep and make an crisis out of things you don't even understand." She held up a hand before he could take a breath to speak. "And then... then you get all bent out of shape when you end up looking like a jackass because of it. DON'T," she said forcefully. "Don't try to deny it, Shep. You forget I learned a long, long time ago to tell if people were being honest with me or not. Please don't make this worse by lying to me about it, all right?"
He swallowed hard and nodded. Suddenly, Shep realized just how misplaced his decision to question her on this matter was. Though she wasn't by any means perfect, Chase did have a knack for leadership, and an intuitiveness for this sort of interrogation thing. His misjudgment of her could cost him dearly. He hated that thought – on many levels. Hers was a friendship he counted on and he wondered bleakly why he had risked it. It had all been so clear, made such perfect sense when he'd decided to do it. Now though....
Chase turned and walked to the window, raising the blackout shade and looking out across the compound. There wasn't a sound behind her; they were all waiting to see what she would do next. Chase was still furious, but she was also resigned to their attitude. Shep had made some good points – she was treating Diana differently than she had any other suspected hostile. But she also knew that Diana wasn't like any other suspected hostile; Diana wasn't a hostile at all.
The silence went on so long, Shep felt compelled to break it. "Chase, I'm sorry. I know I was out of line, but you need to understand...."
Chase sighed, interrupting his little speech. "I do understand, Shep. I understand all too well. However, I am not going to justify my decision to you. I shouldn't have to."
Shep dropped his head. "You're right, Chase... you shouldn't. You've done so much for the rebellion, and we do trust you... we all do. It's just we've never been out of the loop before and I don't understand why we are now."
"Shep, either you trust me or you don't. Which is it?"
"We trust you, Chase," Ty answered immediately, and her response was echoed around the table, especially from Shep.
"Absolutely," he confirmed. "To the point that I think I owe your charge an apology." He blushed when everyone turned and looked at him. "What?!?" he whined. The rest laughed.
"I will share this with you all. Diana is not a Nazi... that I am sure of. The rest, well... we're still working on that."
"Do we know what she was doing at the Reichstag?" from Hans.
"She had gone to assassinate the Fuehrer."
Chase's confident declaration caused a silence to fall over the room.
"Very lofty expectations," Hans said softly. "Do you think she could have succeeded?"
"Given where the resistance members found her, yeah, I do. I'm just glad they caught her in time. It would've been ugly if she had. How's that coming, by the way?"
Hans shook his head. "Still working on it. I have to be missing something, but so far, I haven't figured out what."
Chase nodded. "Keep working. That's the last piece to the puzzle. As soon as we have it, we'll be able to bring this to the end. And since everything else is on track, I think I'll go back and try to take that nap I started a while ago. Someone wake me for dinner, all right?"
"You got it, Chase. Go get some rest. We've got things covered," Mitch said. "We're sending Ty back to bed for a little while too. We kinda dragged her out of bed for this little impromptu meeting. I think she'd appreciate another twenty winks or so." Chuckles went round the room at the expression on Ty's face before her head went face first into the table.
It was on that note that Chase left the conference room and headed back to the peace of her hut.
Diana was sleeping soundly when Chase reentered her hut. Chase was careful to be quiet as she undressed and crawled into her own bed. She was exhausted from the hours she'd been keeping in the past few days and yet her mind was in a turmoil over all the information Diana had shared with her. Over and over she played the events Diana had told her about in her mind. It made so many things make sense, but it also gave her more questions.
Chase let her mind wander, remembering her grandmother and recalling only vaguely the stories she had told Chase about Steve Trevor. More, she remembered her mother reading some of those same stories to her before bed. Chase let her mind drift over the private, family details, realizing that so much of it matched to what Diana had shared with her.
Chase had known in her heart that Diana was telling the truth, but it was nice to have it settled in her mind as well. With a smile, she let her attention drift into more pleasant thoughts. And she never realized when she drifted into a deep, restful sleep.
Diana opened her eyes just a slit as she heard Chase's breathing relax into the evenness of sleep and relaxed. The day had been a good one despite its rocky start, and tomorrow promised to be better. Then she smiled and resumed her own slumber, hoping for good dreams for a change.
Chase didn't remember much about dinner though they had wakened her just like she'd requested. She knew she had gotten up and gone to the mess hall with Ty and Hans; knew that Shep and Jen had joined them. Remembered she'd gone over some reports and issued a couple orders just like she did every night. She just didn't remember specifics – what they had discussed or what she'd seen and signed. It was beginning to frustrate her no end because she remembered *everything*. It did wonders motivating her workout though.
"Chase, take it easy," Hams comforted as best as he knew how. "Your mind is on overload right now. It's going to dismiss the mundane and everyday details to hold on to the important things. Whatever you are learning from... Diana, was it?" Chase nodded and he returned her nod in acknowledgement. "So whatever you are learning from Diana is more important right now than what we had for dinner last night and the casual conversation we shared. I promise it was completely mundane; otherwise, I would be able to remember it too." He gave Chase a silly grin and she had to chuckle. Hans was notorious for only remembering those details that pertained directly to his work... particularly whatever current project he was focused on at the time.
Chase rubbed her eyes and picked up her towel and headed for the shower. "You're probably right, Hans. Do me a favor, will ya, and have a couple trays of breakfast sent to my hut in about half an hour? That should give me time to shower and get back and wake up Diana before they get there."
Hans nodded and headed for his own shower. He needed it after trying to keep up with a frenetic Chase. Working out with her on days when she was trying to work through things that were bothering her was murder, something he already knew, but seemed to have difficulty remembering.
Chase stopped short when she entered the shower tent. Diana was in the farthest stall, and Chase debated leaving the woman to her privacy. Then Diana met her eyes briefly. Chase shrugged and stripped, choosing the stall closest to her and letting the water run over her body.
"God, that feels good," Chase mumbled as the warmth started to loosen her muscles. She closed her eyes and lathered her hair. Diana watched out of the corner of her eye for a long moment before shutting her own water off and drying herself.
"Rough morning?" Diana whispered after she wrapped the towel around her body and stepped closer to Chase's shower stall as she made her way back to the dressing area. Chase opened her eyes briefly and gave Diana a smile.
"Hard workout," she answered as she rinsed off the soap and shut off her own shower. "I have someone bringing us breakfast. I actually didn't expect you to be up yet. You were sleeping pretty hard when I got up this morning. How do you feel? You look better."
Diana didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted, so she let the observation pass without comment. She continued to get dressed and sat down to don her boots. Chase took a seat nearby and began to get dressed. She turned her head to look at Diana when she didn't answer. "You all right?"
Diana nodded and gave Chase a smile without speaking. Chase noticed for the first time that smile made Diana go from stunning to drop dead gorgeous and returned the smile without thought. Then she blinked as the thought registered in her conscious mind. Where did that come from? She shifted her attention back to her clothes and finished dressing.
"C'mon," she said to Diana, who was watching the thoughts and emotions track across Chase's features. "Let's go eat, then you can continue with your story. I still have some questions for you."
Diana reached up and took Chase's hand, drawing her to a halt. "Do I make you nervous, Annabelle?"
Chase didn't even flinch at the moniker. Instead she looked down at their clasped hands before meeting Diana's eyes squarely. "No. I'm a little confused... actually, I'm a lot confused about a number of things, but I'm not nervous. At least I don't think I'm nervous," she continued to babble. She paused. "No, definitely not nervous, just confused." She blew out a breath. "I'm gonna shut up now. Are you um... you coming?"
Diana stood not releasing Chase's hand. She was reassured by Chase's evident discomfiture; it was like they were on a level playing field. Now she knew Chase felt something. It was just a matter of finding out what that feeling was.
They released their hands before they stepped through the doorway by mutual unspoken consent. Neither of them wanted to give anyone else a reason to go off like Shep had the day before. So they walked in companionable silence together side by side until they reached Chase's hut.
Breakfast was waiting for them when the arrived and two stomachs growled in tandem as the scent wafted over to them. They looked at one another and chuckled. Then they sat down to eat in relative silence.
When they were done, Chase leaned back in her chair. "Would you like to talk here or would you prefer to walk and talk?" fairly confident in the answer she was going to get back from Diana.
"Walk and talk, please."
Chase nodded as though she had expected that response, which she had. Then she stood and gestured Diana to walk in front of her. "After you then," she said, holding the door for them both. People were less inclined to stare today and Chase was pleased to see that activity around the compound continued at its normal pace. Once more they headed up the hill to Chase's sanctuary.
"So," Chase said as they sank down onto the blanket that had spread out together. "You had gotten as far as Orana taking your place as Wonder Woman," watching the pain reappear in Diana's blue eyes and wanting to take it away. "Do you know," she continued, "I had decided she was a make-believe character? I always figured Grandpa Trevor was probably a little touched in the head... a result whatever happened to him during that time he was gone – when he was on Paradise Island," gesturing with her hands. "I knew he was telling the truth, but it just sounded so outrageous... so improbable."
Chase laughed. "And then something similar happens to me... what are the odds?"
"Do you believe in fate?" asked so quietly Chase had to read Diana's lips.
"I didn't," Chase answered honestly, her own voice low.
Chase swallowed hard. "I am entertaining... possibilities," she said with a shy smile. "But for now, we have work to do. I'm sorry, Diana. I can see the pain this is causing you, but...." She stopped speaking when Diana put a hand on her arm.
"You have a right to know, and I think I need share it. I haven't talked to anyone about this."
Chase blinked. She knew she had kept her own council about what had happened to her, but somehow it seemed inconceivable that Diana had chosen to do the same thing for more than a century. Then again, given the way Hippolyta had reacted to Diana's deception, Chase couldn't really blame her for not wanting to share. It made her angry to think how Diana had been treated by her people, but especially by her mother. She would have to remember to have a word with Hippolyta when this was all over. Diana deserved better.
"All right, Diana. So what happened once Orana left Paradise Island?"
Diana took a deep breath and started talking, Chase sitting quietly to hear her bare whisper.
They took several breaks, as much to rest Diana's throat as for Chase to get her emotions under control, though she was careful to keep her expression neutral. She didn't want to upset Diana and Chase needed to hear her whole story.
When Diana told about her about her time in Orana's torture chamber, Chase bit her tongue until it bled. It bothered her more than her own memories did and she had a much better understanding on why Diana had been so determined to destroy Orana. But Chase still wondered how Diana knew what had happened to her.
Slowly Diana worked her way through her history, glossing over a good portion of the century she had spent exiled. Chase made a mental note to ask more about that time later and focused her attention on Diana's story. She was getting to the part where their paths crossed and Chase was particularly interested in that. She was anxious to find out what of her memories were real and which part were simply dreams her subconscious had created.
Diana carefully watched Chase's face as she described Chase's time on Paradise Island. It was clear to Diana that Chase didn't remember much, or at least didn't believe what she did remember. And though Chase managed to keep a stoic expression on her face, she couldn't hide the twinkle that lurked in the back of her green eyes, especially as it grew exponentially as Diana confirmed her memories as real and not dreams.
Diana paused as she reached the part where Chase left Paradise Island for several reasons. First off, she desperately needed the break as her throat was burning from the pain and swelling the extended talking had caused. Secondly, she wanted to give Chase time to absorb the truths she had just shared. And finally, she really wasn't looking forward to the last bit. It required half-truths and Diana wasn't comfortable with that. But there were some things she couldn't reveal – things Chase would need to figure out for herself... or not.
That was what made it so hard to give Chase only part of the truth. There was no guarantee she would ever figure out the rest on her own, and Diana wanted her to figure it out. There was a lot at stake... for both of them.
For her part, Chase was happy to let Diana sit and rest. Aside from the obvious pain Diana was in, she had given Chase so much to think about... mainly reconciling her memories to a reality and not the dream she had finally attributed them to.
"We're getting close to what brought you here, aren't we?" Chase asked quietly, unwilling to disturb the sense of peace that surrounded them. Diana looked up and nodded, and Chase wondered why her eyes were so guarded. She's afraid? Then Chase thought about how much Diana had opened herself up, and she reached for Diana's hand, inordinately pleased when her hand was accepted with alacrity.
"C'mon. Let's go get you something for your throat."
They walked back into the compound and Chase never let go of Diana's hand, though Diana noticed that Chase appeared to be completely lost in thought. Instead of going to any of the very few places Diana was acquainted with, Chase took a track that led into the side of the mountain the camp was based at.
Diana looked around, taking in the laboratory Hans had set up. She never would have suspected such advancements given what she knew about the rest of man's world. While not nearly as sophisticated as the lab she shared with Paula, there was definitely progress and developments being made in several areas of science.
Chase released Diana's hands to allow her the opportunity to walk around the chamber. Diana made a slow trek, taking in everything and recognizing some of the things Hans was working on. Several of them she and Paula had worked out years before; some of them she had never seen because they dealt specifically with the design of new weapons.
Hans didn't speak, knowing Chase had a good reason for bringing Diana into the lab. He did move closer to Chase, wanted to observe Diana without getting in her way. He folded his arms across his chest and watched as Diana went to one of the chalkboards he had mounted on the wall.
She slowly read the formulas Hans had cascading from one to another, coming back to stand in front of the middle board shaking her head. Diana reached for the chalk, then though better of it. Instead, she walked to the end, back to the center board, then to the end once more. Then she turned around and looked at Chase before she resumed her place at Chase's side.
"Is there a problem, Diana?" Chase asked softly. When there was no immediate answer, Chase took both of Diana's hands in hers and turned until they were completely facing one another. "Diana," Chase said again, "did you see something wrong?" A pause while she waited, then finally Diana nodded.
Hans grunted. Chase glared at him before she smiled at Diana and seated her on one of the lab stools. "Diana, I brought you in here for a reason. From what you just told me, you should be able to help Hans figure out how to fix this problem."
"WHAT?!? Chase, have you lost your mind?"
"Hans, shut up and listen a minute." Chase patted Diana's hands before she released them and turned to face Hans. She was surprised to find, not a look of anger on his face, but one of hurt confusion. "You've been working on this a while, yes? And you keep hitting the same snag, right?"
"Hans, trust me on this. Diana can help you. She's not gonna take over your project, all right? She's not interested in doing that. If she helps you it would be as a favor to me and not because of any personal gain on her part. So let her help you, please? It'll be good for everyone... especially if you can find a solution. Does it really matter if you need help to find it??"
He blew out a breath, though Chase couldn't tell if it was frustration or anger or defeat behind it. "You're sure about this?"
Chase turned back to Diana who was watching the proceeding with great interest. She did want to help; it was one way she could earn trust and show her worth both to the rebellion as a whole and to Chase in particular. However, she also wanted Hans to want her help, not just resigned to it.
"I am," Chase answered.
Hans looked at her for a moment longer, then nodded. "All right." He crossed to Diana. "Can you show me what you saw wrong?"
Diana slid from the chair and moved back over to the middle chalkboard. She went to an equation about halfway down and erased it completely before rewriting it. Hans looked on with bugged-out eyes and dropped jaw. He moved around Diana and looked at the formula she had written.
"Oh my God. That changes everything. That means...." Hans looked at the rest of his handiwork, then took the eraser to it. "Back to the drawing board." He turned back to Diana. "Can you stay? I think we could probably solve this together in short order if you would be willing to help me."
Diana nodded, then looked at Chase. "Hans, she can't talk right now – not even a whisper. Her voice is gone, all right? So any communication has to be written or visual. I'm gonna send someone over with lunch for ya'll and some ice for Diana."
"Don't worry, Chase. I'll take good care of your girl," Hans said, chuckling silently at the identical startled looks he got from both of them. Funny thing though, he noticed... neither of them made an effort to deny it. Chase just shook her head and started out the opening.
"Hans, who's got duty today? Jen?"
Hans checked his clipboard and nodded. "Yes. She's got the day shift and Mitch has the mid."
"Kay," Chase replied absently, already letting her mind move to other considerations. "If ya'll need something, let the duty officer know, all right? I'll be out of touch for a while."
"Chase...." Hans started, but he was talking to empty air. Chase was gone. He turned to look at Diana and shrugged. "Come on, Diana. Let me show you exactly what I am working on here, though I have a feeling you probably already understand it better than I do."
A twinkle in her blue eyes was his only answer.
"All right... does someone want to like, explain to me just what in the *Hades* Diana's radical little problem is? I've never seen that bitchin' warrior babe be so passive... so submissive. It's just so totally against her whole karma, ya know?"
"Yes, but given her last experience in man's world, I think it is to be expected that she would be unsure of herself and her surroundings for a little while... especially given the manner in which she was introduced to Chase there," Athena answered confidently. "Don't worry, Dite. Once everything is out in the open as far as their history together goes, I think you will see the Diana of old begin to make a reappearance. She just needs to relearn to trust her own judgment and have others believe in her again."
"Ya think?" Dite ask, leaning into Athena's shoulder and wrapping an arm around her waist. She smiled when Athena completed the embrace and added a squeeze for good measure. Athena nodded.
"Yes, I really do. It's been a long time since Diana has believed in anything... even herself. It's just going to take her a little time to remember how."
"I hope you're right, sis. This is one bodacious love match I fer shure wanna see happen. They deserve it so much, especially after what we did."
"Yeah, they do," Athena agreed, brushing a kiss across Dite's temple. "That's why it will."
Chase commandeered a jeep and was driving out of the compound a very short time later. She wanted to be completely alone to think, and there was only one place in the whole world where she could find that sort of solitude. No one, not even her compatriots, would bother her here.
The house was in surprisingly good shape considering it had been deserted for years, but it had an air of neglect and abandonment to it that sent an unexpected wave of despair through Chase's chest. She thought she had dealt with this nostalgia years ago, but occasionally it would rear its head to be dealt with again as though it was fresh and new.
She drove past the house and parked in the small field just behind it. The wildflowers were scattered across the open space and she drew in a deep breath of their fragrance. Slowly, Chase slid out of the jeep, her eyes sweeping over landscape that was at once both familiar and foreign to her.
The fence around what had once been the pig pen was falling down and the wire was missing from the chicken coop. The small garden area just behind the house was overgrown with weeds and Chase found herself idly wishing that the wildflowers would grow out of the meadow and closer to the house if only to choke out the weeds that now grew there.
The barn's paint was peeling, and the one door hung by a single hinge. A few shingles were missing, but the walls and roof seemed to be holding up pretty well otherwise. Chase didn't examine the house too closely. There were still too many painful memories wrapped up in the place, and she didn't want to see the changes time and inattention had wrought on her childhood home.
Instead, she turned her awareness back across the meadow to the lone, large oak that stood in the middle of the field. With a sigh and slow steps, Chase made her way through the tall grasses and wildflowers until she reached the base of the tree.
The oak had always been her haven as a child, its branches providing hours of fun or comfort depending on the need. She knelt down next to the small marker, dusting the leaves from the headstone and pulling a few weeds from in front of it. The she leaned back on her heels and pushed her hair from her face.
"Hello, Mama," she said softly. "It's been a long time."
"I don't really have a good excuse... just the usual. The rebellion... I think we have a real shot at finally winning the war, Mama. We are so close."
"I know, baby girl," from a voice Chase recognized only too well. She closed her eyes and let the warmth of memories envelop her senses. She swore she could feel her mother's fingers riffling her hair, and she let her eyes remain closed even when lips brushed over her forehead. "I've been watching you, Annabelle, and I am so very proud of you."
Chase bit her bottom lip, unwilling to let her tears fall. This was one reason she had gone so long between visits; talking to her mother like this reminded Chase of just how much she missed her mama and how alone in the world she really was.
"You're not alone, baby girl," Mama said, answering Chase's unspoken thoughts. "You never have been. I've always been here with you, even when you couldn't see me."
"I still miss you, Mama."
"I know you do, Annabelle, and I miss you. But it was my time to go, and your time to shine. You're doing such a good job. You're going to succeed, you know. And if you follow your heart, you will find everything you ever wanted."
Chase opened her eyes, not surprised to see her mother sitting beside her, in a manner of speaking. "Mama, right now all I want is for this to be over with. I am so tired of fighting."
"Are you sure that's all you want, baby girl?"
Chase sighed. "I don't know think I know much of anything anymore, Mama. I do want the fighting to be over, and yet it's all I know. It's been my whole life for my whole life. What am I gonna do when this is over?"
Her mother laughed, and the sound made Chase smile. "Baby girl... Annabelle. You're worrying in advance over things you have no control over. Focus on the here and now, and let the future take care of itself in good time. Now, you wanna tell your mama why you really came out here to see me?"
Chase was quiet for a long moment, finally giving into the temptation and resting her head in her mother's lap. Another minute passed, and she felt the corporeal sensation her mother's fingers combing through her hair and scraping her scalp in the soothing manner she had always used on Chase as a child. She smiled as she felt Chase relax into her ministrations.
"Have you seen everything, mama? Do you know everything that has gone on since...?"
"I've seen everything that took place here, baby girl. When you leave this place, well, not here in particular, but...." Chase waved a hand.
"I get what you mean, mama. So you know I was gone for a while, but not where I was or what happened to me then?"
"No, baby girl. That kind of monitoring is far beyond the scope of dead mortals." She waited a beat. "You wanna tell me about it?"
Chase sighed so deeply she stirred the grass. "I wish I could, mama. Despite what Diana said, everything is still just so much confusion in my mind. I know in my heart she is telling the truth, hell, I know in my mind she is telling the truth, but I don't know how to explain it to anyone else so it makes sense."
"Does it make sense to you, Annabelle?"
"Then tell me about this woman, Diana Prince. The rest will fall into place eventually."
"You really think so, mama?"
"I really do, baby girl." There was a long, pregnant pause, before Chase spoke up again quietly.
"Mama, will you tell me about Grandpa Trevor?" Her mama blinked at the abrupt change of subject, but figured there was something behind it. Chase had never been on to shirk her responsibilities or the truth, though she had on more than one occasion postponed telling the truth until she had a clearer understanding of what lay beyond it.
"What would you like to know, Annabelle?"
"Tell me the story from when he was shot down by Nazis in the Bermuda Triangle, and go to the end, please."
Her mother's brow furrowed, but she nodded her acquiescence. Realizing Chase couldn't see her nod, she started speaking in a low, even voice.
"I don't know what Chase has told you," looking up when he caught Diana shaking her head vehemently. Hans had to chuckle at the wry frustration written clearly across Diana's expressive face. "Don't worry about it, Diana. It's nothing personal against you. That's just how Chase is... how Chase has always been, at least since her mother died. She keeps everything pretty close to the vest." Hans looked at Diana and shook his head. "Sorry... I'm not sure why I shared that with you, but...." He turned and looked at her more fully. "Somehow I think you needed to know. It's important you understand that about Chase. God knows we all love her, but she's certainly not the easiest human to be around most days. She's so intense... so focused."
Hans didn't think about what he was saying until he saw the light blush dusting Diana's cheeks and felt an answering one on his own. "Tell me to shut up," he muttered. He could tell by the expression on her face that she was laughing at him, though she didn't make a sound. Her shoulders moved though, and he had to laugh in sympathy.
Fortunately, at that moment, lunch showed up. Hans breathed a sigh of relief. It would give him time to regroup and maybe sort out his thinking. Hans had always been very protective of Chase, but he could tell, even if Chase never admitted it, that she needed someone in her life. Hans could see that Diana was already someone special to Chase and visa versa. So he would help nurture that in any way he could, as long as he didn't betray any confidences or jeopardize the rebellion itself. And for now, that meant he had shared as much personal information about Chase as he could. As private as Chase was, anything more about her would have to come directly from her, but Hans felt at least now Diana would know enough to be able to accept that as well.
Diana took the time to recompose herself also. As much as she wanted to understand, she would prefer Chase to reveal her secrets in her own good time. Now she just needed to convey that to Hans without speaking.
They consumed lunch slowly and in silence and when it was over Hans cleared his throat. "Diana, I probably shouldn't have said all those things about Chase to you. I just want you to know where she's coming from, if and when she does decide to share anything with you. All right?"
Diana nodded in relief. She wasn't about to explain to Hans that she probably knew Chase better than he did.
He breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Diana. Perhaps we should get back to work then." She nodded and together they moved back to the chalkboards. "Okay, as you have already figured out," motioning to her earlier correction, "I've been working on an antidote for the first in a series of diseases the Nazis have developed."
Are they set to be dispersed yet? Diana wrote on the tablet Hans had given her for exactly that purpose.
"Yes and no; that is one reason you were stopped from eliminating the Fuehrer." A cocked eyebrow was a question Hans understood clearly. "One of the things we know about them is that they will be dispersed if any attempt is made on the Fuehrer's life. Since we don't have the antidotes ready yet, we couldn't let that happen. On the other hand, we don't have a release date for a massive scale attack yet; the belief is they are in place for use as a threat more than an offensive weapon. We are hoping to get the antidote finished before that changes."
How did you learn all this? Surely the Nazis have security in place to safeguard these kinds of secrets! Diana scribbled so fast her writing was nearly illegible.
Hans clamped his lips together and shook his head. "They do," he replied, answering the second question. "Just trust that the information is reliable and accurate. We came by it at great cost." Diana nodded, knowing better than Hans exactly what that cost had been as far as Chase was concerned. Hans returned her nod and continued speaking. "So, the real question is, do you think you can help me find the antidotes to the rest of the sequences we have?"
Let's get to work.
"So what can we do to help?" Hippolyta asked as she looked around at a majority of the council. Paula was monitoring the situations in man's world and was doing her best to keep everyone updated on how things were progressing in both cases.
Notwithstanding the loss of Diana on a personal level, Hippolyta was glad to know Diana had found a place with Chase. She hoped Diana would find happiness as a result, because despite their centuries old feud and moreso because of it, Hippolyta sincerely wanted Diana to have happiness. She was just a little frustrated over the lack of action on that front. Things were progressing between Chase and Diana far too slowly as most of the Amazon council was concerned, and Chase's doubts on that front were less than reassuring.
Still, at least they were able to observe bits of Diana's life through Chase's diary. Orana, on the other hand, had gone more quiet than normal. The Nazi press, however, continued to report on things in the regime, and Paula was delving into other, less official, sources of information as well.
It gave them a fuller, clearer picture of life in man's world, but it also made them anxious to be able to do something... to contribute to the end of the conflict. But everyone, especially Hippolyta, knew they couldn't interfere until and unless Diana asked for their help. In the meantime....
"Nubia, I want you to prepare a series of war games for the Nation to participate in. Make them varied and interesting, but ensure that the warriors will receive the training they will need to survive in man's world."
Nubia blinked, then nodded aggressively, understanding the queen's directive as it was meant. "IT will be done, my queen. The warriors will lack for nothing in their training. I would request Paula's assistance in making it as accurate as possible."
Hippolyta nodded and waved her hand. "So be it. Use whatever resources you need to make sure our warriors are successful and return home safely. Make it real for them. We're going to be part of this before it is over, and I want everyone to come home. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go check on Mala and Drea."
Nubia's brow furrowed. "Is there a problem, my queen? Their absence at the meeting was noticeable."
"Everything is fine Nubia, but I thank you for your concern. Drea needed to take care of some personal business and Mala agreed to be available in case she needed help." Hippolyta didn't mention Drea's almost frantic insistence in taking care of whatever it was immediately, nor did she mention the hurt she felt at being left out of whatever it was that was troubling Drea.
"Then I will leave you to get back to them, and Paula and I will begin working up the war games. Do you have a target date you would like to run them, my queen?"
"The sooner the better, Nubia. I want us to be ready to leave at a moment's notice."
"As you wish, my queen," Nubia said with a bow. Then she and Paula left Hippolyta alone the council room, though it didn't tale but a moment for the queen to follow their lead and exit, heading swiftly for her and Drea's suite of rooms. Even though Mala had agreed to monitor Drea's meditation, Hippolyta wanted to see for herself how things were going.
She understood all too well what Drea was going through even if she still didn't know why, and she wanted Drea to feel her support. Hippolyta smiled. It felt good to be the one giving support for a change instead of the one needing it.
Drea sat in the middle of the meditation chamber, letting the music of the water and the gentle scent of wildflowers relax her. It had been a while since she'd needed to communicate this way and she was a little out of practice. It was even harder now that her true sister was dead, but still she let her thoughts follow her sister's spirit to her resting place. And she listened to the conversation between Jasmine and her daughter.
"Hello, Mama. It's been a long time."
Drea felt the moment Hippolyta entered the room, and she absorbed the love and support that surrounded her. Hippolyta didn't speak, but merely sat behind her and entered her own meditative state, focusing on sharing her love and support until Drea felt she could share whatever it was that she was dealing with.
Drea simply focused on the dialogue taking place in what could have been half a world away.
"We never did find out what happened. Technically, I believe your great-grandfather is still listed as missing in action. His body was never recovered and the Nazis have never claimed responsibility for his disappearance or death. The woman he traveled with... the yeoman, Diana Prince, she disappeared as well. Given where they were last seen, it was assumed they were tortured and then put to death as enemies of the Nazi state. Do you think your Diana Prince is related to your great-grandfather's?"
Chase was quiet for a long time, thinking over what her mother had said, debating what answer to give her even as she soaked up her mother's touch. It was something she hadn't felt since.... Her thoughts came to a dead halt so fast her mind nearly suffered whiplash. She stiffened and lifted her head slightly.
"Yes, baby girl?" Chase took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak, then stopped before she could utter a word. Her mother kept up her relaxing stroking, smiling when Chase resumed her semi-sprawled position on her lap. "What is it, Annabelle?" asked tenderly.
"Nothing, Mama, it's just.... When I was gone, I was shot down over the Triangle by Nazis. I was wounded and had to be treated for my injuries there on the island. I just realized how similar the healer's touch was to yours. It was very comforting... made me feel like you were nearby."
The soft touch hesitated briefly at Chase's words. Her mother wondered if it has been merely her touch that had caused Chase to change thought flow mid-stream, or if it was easier for her daughter to focus on something a little more tangible to her at the moment. However, as long as Chase was willing to share....
"I wish I could have been, Annabelle. Are you doing all right now? Would you like to tell me about it?" She resumed her gentle touch, hoping eventually Chase would relax enough to share not only whatever was currently on her mind, but would also answer the question she had posed earlier. Chase was going to need to understand and accept all kinds of possibilities if she was ever to learn the truth... about a great many things.
Chase sighed and was silent for a long moment. "I would. It all ties together and I think you might be able to understand it at least as well as I do, because it's certainly blown my neat, orderly existence all to hell," said with a wry chuckle. "It started several weeks ago when I was the only one available to pick up a package of secret intel...."
Drea listened to the conversation carefully, not even aware of the tears that tracked down her face as several of her suspicions were finally confirmed. It was one thing to believe the veracity of something; it was another thing entirely to be slapped in the face with the undisputed truth. She wondered if perhaps she would be able to speak to her sister when Jasmine was done talking to her daughter. Despite what she had learned through this communication, Drea had so many unanswered questions, and she sincerely wanted to understand everything.
Drea sat still for several moments once the images had faded from her mind. A tentative touch on her shoulder brought a smile to her face, and she opened her eyes to find Hippolyta gazing at her in concern.
"Drea? Sweetheart, are you all right?"
Drea didn't answer verbally at first. Instead, she turned in Hippolyta's arms and absorbed the wordless comfort the queen offered. Hippolyta waited, knowing Drea would speak when she was ready. After a few minutes, Drea looked up to find Hippolyta smiling down on her. She returned the smile and wiped the tears from her eyes.
"All right now?"
"Well, better, anyway," Drea said wryly.
"Do you... would you like to share?" Hippolyta asked hesitantly. She didn't want Drea to think she was prying, but her curiosity was killing her. Whatever the secret was, it must have been of tantamount importance to have caused Drea to drop everything else to attend to it immediately. The fact that dealing with it required meditation gave Hippolyta a good clue as to at least part of what lay behind it.
"I think you deserve to know, Pol. But you need to understand that I don't have all the answers yet. I'll share with you what I have learned. Maybe we can fill in the holes together." Drea stood up and held out a hand to Hippolyta, helping her to her feet and holding her hand as they started out of the meditation room. "Come. Let's take a walk on the beach."
Neither of them saw Mala smile as she exited behind them, heading for the temple.
"When we were in Greece, I had a sister... a twin."
"I remember Jasmine, Drea. She was a good friend... until...."
"... until she moved to Transformation Island after the situation with Diana. Sorry, Pol. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. It's just...."
"I know you didn't, Drea," Hippolyta comforted her and put a hand on the healer's arm. "I figure it must be important if you're bringing up truly ancient history."
Drea nodded. "It is." She blew out a breath. "You never knew that Jasmine and I were linked telepathically... that we could speak to each other without talking. We didn't use it often once the Nation moved to Paradise Island. We didn't need to. We were in no danger here. But once she left here and went to the other island, it was how we kept in touch."
Hippolyta remained quiet, knowing Drea needed time to put her thoughts in order. They walked slowly through the sand, leaving a trail of footprints behind them. They held hands, and it reminded Hippolyta just how much she missed time like this with Drea. So much had happened to them and been allowed to come between them, and Hippolyta made a vow to herself that that would change. In the meantime, though....
"Twenty-five years ago, she came to me, told me that it was our last communication for a while. The goddesses had spoken to her and asked for a favor. I never knew what the favor was. She made it clear she wasn't able to share and I respected her enough not to ask. We spent the night just talking... reminiscing about everything. It was wonderful. I had never felt so connected to her before. When the sun came up, she was gone."
"For twenty-five years, she was silent. I didn't hear from her and I couldn't reach her. It was like she had just disappeared off the face of the earth."
"Yesterday, Mala sent me a message, asking me to come to the temple. No other explanation, just to go to the temple. When I did, I was met by Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite."
"In the flesh? My goodness, that has certainly changed a lot here recently, hasn't it?" Hippolyta commented nervously.
Drea smiled. It was a little unnerving. After more than a century of silence for the gods to simply suddenly resume their presence on the island without so much as a by your leave was a little hard to swallow – especially since they had caused at least part of the original problem, however inadvertently. However, they were trying to correct their error, and in truth, everyone had missed them.
"Yes," Drea answered simply. "They came to tell me that Jasmine would be in touch with me today, and that's all the information they offered me."
"Yes. Since I didn't know where she was contacting me from or when or what about, I figured I would meditate and make it as easy for her as possible." Drea grew thoughtfully silent, and Hippolyta stayed respectfully quiet, though it was hard not to blurt out her questions and urge Drea to finish her story faster. Obviously something profound had happened. Finally, Drea took a deep breath and resumed speaking.
"You have to understand that the link we had cultivated had grown and expanded until we could see what one another saw if we chose to share the pictures. We didn't do it often – we rarely needed to, and it is very exhausting... emotionally draining."
"She chose to share this time?" Hippolyta asked, noting the dark circles under Drea's eyes and the look of fatigue in them. "Oh sweetheart," dragging Drea gently by the hand over to a dune and taking a seat before pulling Drea down to rest against her. "You should have said something."
Drea patted Hippolyta's hands encircling her waist before leaning back into the warm body behind her. "I suggested we walk, remember? But this feels pretty nice too," she added with a smile. "But yes," she said, turning back to the water and watching the waves pound the shore with relentless, repetitive force. "She chose to share. It was... astonishing."
Drea was quiet so long, Hippolyta finally felt the need to prompt her. "What was, Drea?"
She didn't know how long she'd been sitting there, but eventually Drea watched as the darkness transformed into something more substantial. She looked around and felt the breeze blowing the through the wildflowers. Drea took a deep breath and enjoyed the fresh scent, wondering where she was but enjoying the view nonetheless.
"Hello, Drea. Gods, I've missed you. I'm so glad you're here."
"I've missed you, too, Jasmine. I wish I could see you."
"And I you, Drea, but for now this will have to do. We're short on time and there is so much I need to tell you... so much I want to share with you. It is only by special dispensation that we are able to communicate at all now and only because of recent events."
"What? Jasmine, what are you talking about? What happened? Where have you been, and what is going on? I assumed something horrible had happened when you stopped... when I couldn't find you anymore."
Drea felt her sister soothing her soul and she closed her eyes momentarily, absorbing the love she felt flowing from Jasmine to her. It brought tears to her eyes and a smile to her face simultaneously.
"Does being dead count?"
"Shh, Drea. I'll make sure we get more time together later so I can explain everything. Gods, this is so frustrating!! They should have given us more time or a chance to stay in touch once they moved me. I didn't realize how much... though I should have. A part of me has always been lonely, has continued to miss you, even after my baby was born."
Drea was stunned into silence for a long moment. First learning Jasmine was dead, then... "BABY?!? Buh... um... ba... Jas?" The sound of a vehicle droned only slightly louder than the bees that were enjoying the colorful fields Drea could see. She didn't take note, but Jasmine did, knowing she had just run out of time to explain things they way she had hoped to... at least for now.
Jasmine chuckled sadly at Drea's squawking. She knew exactly how her twin felt. "Sorry, Drea. I didn't want to spring this on you like this, at least without having a chance to explain everything first."
"So what's stopping you?"
"My daughter is here."
Drea fell into silence again, and Hippolyta wished she had the ability to see what Drea had seen. She thought about prodding Drea, but the look of sad contentment made her bite her lips instead. She knew eventually Drea would continue her story, so Hippolyta decided that waiting patiently would be a good exercise in patience. She just hoped she didn't have to wait too long.
Eventually, Drea realized she had stopped speaking and she chuckled a little self-consciously and blushed. "Sorry, Pol. I was thinking."
Hippolyta laughed. "I know. Why do you think I didn't disturb you?" Drea glared at her for a long moment before breaking into a sheepish grin. Hippolyta hugged her close. "I'm sorry about Jasmine, Drea. She was a good friend, and a good Amazon." She took a deep breath. "So, you ready to share the rest?"
"There's not much left to tell. I heard footsteps approaching the oak we were standing next to...."
Jasmine was just out of sight of the footsteps and Drea wanted to peek around at the mysterious child. But Jasmine stayed out of sight, waiting for her daughter to perform the ritual she did every time she came to this place. Only when she spoke directly to her mother did Jasmine step out from behind the tree...
... and if Drea hadn't been well-practiced in the art and in complete control of her telepathic powers, she would have been completely expelled from Jasmine's consciousness. Then she focused on the conversation between Jasmine and her daughter, Annabelle Chaser.
"Whoa, whoa, stop... just hang on a minute," Hippolyta said, freeing a hand and clutching her forehead with it. "Let me make sure I've got this straight so far. Your sister Jasmine is dead, but she's apparently been in man's world for a while and had a child. And not just any child, but the child Mala saw as being the key to Diana's salvation."
"That would about sum it up, yes."
"My head hurts now."
Drea laughed. "I know how you feel."
"So what happened next?"
"I blinked, and found myself back in the meditation room. I'm not sure if it was because my time with Jasmine was up or because it was too hard to hold on to the connection with all the revelations. Once their conversation was over, I found myself here again."
"Did you learn anything else? From their conversation, I mean?"
Drea shrugged. "Nothing really tangible, although after finding out Chase was my niece, my mind was in a bit of a muddle." She paused. "I think she's starting to put things together. She was connecting the dots for Jas. She doesn't have the whole picture yet, and she certainly doesn't have a grasp on who Diana is to her, but she is trying."
"Was Diana with her? How is she doing?"
"No, she wasn't, and it didn't come up for discussion."
Hippolyta eased from behind Drea and stood up, then extended her hand down to help Drea stand. "Come. Let's go back to the palace, and I'll tuck you in. Then later we can have a light supper and you can go back to bed and try to recover from this. We can worry about the rest tomorrow."
"You take such good care of me, Pol."
"Not always, and not like I should, but I am going to keep trying until I get it right." Then together they walked slowly back down the beach towards the palace, holding hands and enjoying the peace of being together.
"Okay, that was totally bogus! How did we screw that up?"
Athena shook her head. "Miscalculation on my part. I'm sorry, Dite. I didn't expect Chase to show up quite so quickly, and I certainly didn't expect the connection to sever like it did. I thought they'd have a little more time together."
"No worries, babe. This is all pretty new for us too. We'll figure it out." Aphrodite gave Athena a hug which she reluctantly returned but secretly relished.
Sometimes Athena envied her sister's freedom to express herself so easily. She turned her attention back to the situation. "We have to be careful though, Dite. We don't want to draw Ares' attention to either of them. We're supposed to be fixing the problem we caused... not making things worse."
"As if. Athena, I really don't think that letting those two bodacious babes do their mind thingy is gonna make matters worse. I thought we'd already, ya know, decided they totally deserved this, 'cause the price we made them pay was so radically unfair."
"We did, Dite, and they do. We just need to be sure that through our actions Ares doesn't become aware of Drea and Jasmine or Chase and Diana. The Amazons have been out of his scrying bowl for a very long time. We don't want to remind him of their existence and if we disrupt the flow of things too much, even *he* will sit up and take notice."
For the first time, Artemis spoke up. "Do you really think he has forgotten, Athena? After all, his Fuehrer *IS* an Amazon, though she has long since given up any claim to that title. And he has to be aware of both Chase and Diana, at least on some level. They've both had run-ins with Orana personally since she became the Fuehrer."
Athena rubbed her forehead. "That is exactly my point. It's why we have to be careful. Today was supposed to be a one time thing – a chance to give both Jasmine and Drea a measure of peace about the other, and to get the rest settled so when the time comes, the Amazons will be ready for what is coming." She tapped her fingernails against her teeth nervously before speaking again. "We need to figure out a better way to get Jasmine and Drea together... one that will give them a decent amount of time together but won't alert Ares as well."
"I have a totally gnarly idea."
Two heads turned in tandem to face the blonde goddess and both gave her an identical raised eyebrow stare at her. Then they crossed their arms and waited for Dite to continue. As they listened, their eyes grew wide, and they shook their heads in disbelief.
"Well," Dite asked when she finished laying out her idea. "Whaddya think?"
Athena and Artemis exchanged looks and nodded their heads together. "I think that has got to be the craziest thing I ever heard," Artemis commented gravely, "which is exactly I think it will probably work. No one will expect it. Who's going to be the one to tell them?"
"I will," Dite responded with a serious look on her face. "My idea, so I'll take responsibility for it."
Athena laid a hand on Dite shoulder and smiled at her compassionately. "How about we each take a piece of the puzzle? We'll figure out the details here, and then go to them and get everything taken care of? That way it will get done faster, and maybe we can finally get that happy ending we've been waiting for."
"I so like that plan, Stan. I can totally get behind a righteous happy ending."
Athena grinned broadly, loving Dite's exuberance. "Me, too. Let's get to work."
"I don't like this, Drea. It's dangerous."
"Drea, it is. Artemis said...."
Drea took Hippolyta's hands in hers and led them over to a window in the temple. Mala had summoned them as soon as Artemis had arrived and they had been sitting in the small prayer room in the back listening to Artemis spell out Aphrodite's plan until Hippolyta's outburst. Artemis watched them go with a small smile; it was nice to see the concern between the queen and her consort. Though they had never lost their love for one another, things for them and for the Nation had been stagnant for too long. This rejuvenation was long overdue and a very welcome result of all the tribulation they had already endured.
Drea faced them both towards the window, wrapping Hippolyta up in her arms and resting her chin on Hippolyta's shoulder. For a little while they simply stood there together, absorbing the comfort the other provided. Finally, Drea started talking quietly into Hippolyta's ear.
"This is something I want to do, Pol, but I won't if it bothers you that badly. I don't want you to be upset or worried. But I don't think the goddesses would have offered me the opportunity if they didn't think it was important."
Hippolyta turned in Drea's arms, ignoring everything around them and focusing solely on her partner. "This means that much to you?"
"Yes, it does. But I won't do it if you're that uncomfortable with it."
Hippolyta bit her lip. "I want you to do it, Drea. I think you deserve to know what happened to Jasmine, and what all this has to do with Chase and Diana. I just don't like the fact that you have to...." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Drea, I don't want you to die... even temporarily."
"My queen," Artemis finally found a good opportunity to interrupt. "She won't really be dead; we just need to give her the appearance of death to allow her and Jasmine to be together on the same plane of existence."
"But Jasmine really died," Hippolyta retorted with some heat. Artemis nodded her agreement.
"Yes she did, but she also gave up her immortality voluntarily, knowing what the cost was. We are not asking Drea to do that, and we will be here to monitor her."
"I hate this," Hippolyta hissed in Drea's direction, but she didn't release her hands. Hippolyta turned her attention back to Artemis. "I want to be here. I want to help monitor her throughout the entire process."
Artemis smiled. "I would expect nothing less, my queen. Let me make sure we are ready. The sooner, the better for this conversation, I think." She shimmered out, leaving behind a trail of silver sparkles. The other three watched until she vanished completely, and then Mala gestured to the other two.
"Come. I think we should prepare a comfortable space for Drea to rest during the ritual."
Hippolyta and Drea exchanged glances then followed Mala to her private quarters. They didn't know exactly how long they had and wanted to be prepared for Artemis' return.
"Baby girl?" They were both sitting up, on the opposite side of the tree from the headstone with their backs braced against the trunk.
"I have to go." Jasmine covered Chase's lips before the younger woman could speak. "But I would like to come back and talk some more. And I would definitely like to meet Diana – eventually... once you're comfortable with the idea and have figured out how she fits into your not-so-neat and orderly world," Jasmine finished with a grin and a tug on Chase's short hair. "I love you, Annabelle."
"I love you, mama. I'll be back soon, I promise."
"You better. Otherwise...."
Chase held up her hands and backed up, laughing. "No threats, mama. I promised. I'll be here. A lot depends on how fast things move will the rebellion, but I will come back."
Jasmine noticed that Chase didn't mention Diana, but decided she had pushed enough for one day. Besides, Aphrodite was getting kind of loud in her summoning. She brushed a light kiss across Chase's forehead. "All right, baby girl. See you soon." Then she faded from existence before Chase could respond. She stood a moment longer, then with a sigh turned back towards her vehicle and headed back to the rebel compound.
It was well past dark when Chase pulled back into the compound. The guards, ever alert and aware of Chase's explicit instructions, stopped her at each checkpoint instead of simply waving her through. They had learned this rule the hard way and it was something none of them had forgotten.
Chase smiled bittersweetly, remembering the high cost of the lesson. She was just glad that particular lesson had taken with only one teaching. She parked the jeep in the depot and debated for a minute before turning her steps to the mess hall. She'd missed lunch and her stomach was growling loud enough to be heard in the heart of the Reich.
The mess hall was empty except for a few stragglers like herself. Most of them had been busy working through the dinner hour, but Cookie always kept fixings around for those that didn't make it in time for the scheduled meal. Ostensibly, he did it because Chase had given an order for there to always be food available, but they both knew he did it to keep Chase from rummaging around in his kitchen, That had been a lesson *he* had learned the hard way, much to her delight.
The rebellion had had a lot of time to develop the skills needed to provide for themselves, and fortunately, most of the Nazis overseers just didn't care enough to see what was really going on. They had been in power for more than a century; they didn't expect that to change any time soon. So, while not a five-star dining experience, the soup was warm and the bread not too dry.
Chase was left alone to eat in peace, and she sat silently thinking about her encounter with her mother. While it wasn't at all unusual for Jasmine to show up when Chase visited her grave, something had been off this time. Chase wasn't sure what it had been, but it was clear her mother's ghost was agitated about something, and Chase was laying odds it had something to do with their unexpected Amazon visitor Diana.
Like a compass headed north, her thoughts obediently followed that train. Chase knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Diana was telling her the truth. But to accept that meant she not only had to accept that the things she had convinced herself were merely dreams were in reality... reality... it meant she also had to realigned her perception of the Amazons. And that seemed to be her real stumbling block.
She remembered with startling clarity Orana's cruelty and maliciousness. The woman had taken great pains to make sure Chase knew she was an Amazon. Why? Chase suddenly thought. The idea brought all her motion to a dead stop, and she sat perfectly still for a very long moment as the thought wormed its way into her conscious mind. Why was it so important to her that I knew she was an Amazon? It's not like they are more than a mythical people here in this world... they haven't been more than a myth for twenty-five hundred years. So what is her game?
Her musing might have gone on longer if a touch on her shoulder hadn't brought her back to reality with an unexpected jolt. Inhaling started her movement again, but because of the bread still lodged in her mouth, the action also caused her to choke. The hand moved from her shoulder to her back, and Chase quickly hacked up the bread that had slipped down the wrong way.
She coughed and sputtered for another couple minutes before bringing watery green eyes up to meet concerned blue. Diana didn't speak, but raised an eyebrow in question.
"Are you trying to kill me or am I just lucky like that when you're around?" Chase managed to croak, reaching for her glass. Diana snatched it and slapped it into her hand with a glare. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Chase choked out as water sloshed over the side and into her lap.
Blue eyes glared into green and green glared right back. Finally, knowing Diana shouldn't and really *couldn't* speak and silently acknowledging she might possibly have over-reacted, Chase broke the silence.
"Sorry," she croaked sheepishly. "Rough afternoon." Chase took a deep breath. "Please, have a seat," taking a napkin and trying to sop up the water in her lap. She looked back up at Diana. "Is something wrong? Did something happen with Hans? Wait," she said, holding up her hands when Diana opened her mouth to answer. Chase slid from her seat, wincing when the cold wet hit her warm skin. "I'll be right back."
Diana watched her go, a curious expression on her face. She wondered Chase was up to, but more than that, she wondered what had put the sadness in those green eyes. She propped her chin on her fist and sat back to wait for Chase to return.
Chase went back into the kitchen area, riffling through Cookie's private stock of supplies. He came in halfway through her search, but a look from her stopped his tirade in its tracks. Instead, he offered to help. "Whatcha need, boss?" tacitly acknowledging her leadership.
"Honey. And some lemon juice."
Cookie went directly to the cabinet that housed both and took them out. He set them on his prep table and turned to grab a cup and spoon. "You all right, Chase? You're not getting sick, are ya?"
Chase smiled crookedly as she started mixing the two ingredients together. "No, I'm fine, Cookie. This is for Diana."
"Ah, the notaNazi mystery woman. What's her story anyway?"
"One I'm still working on, Cookie," Chase said warningly. "Let it go."
He held up his hand defensively. "No harm in asking, boss. Everyone's curious."
"I know. They're just gonna have to get over it." She picked up the cup, continuing to stir its contents as she headed out the kitchen door. "Thanks, Cookie," she added, lifting the cup in salute before disappearing from the kitchen. He followed her footsteps until he could look out the small window, watching until she resumed her seat next to the beautiful stranger. Then he shook his head and turned back to his domain, putting things away before going back to his cot to get a little more rest.
Chase set the cup down in front of Diana. "Drink."
Diana raised her eyebrow and raised the cup to her nose to take a deep sniff. She took a tentative taste, then understanding what it was for, swallowed the contents. She closed her eyes as it coated her throat, glad for the respite.
"Much, thank you," Diana whispered, then she slipped the tablet Hans had given her from where she had tucked it in her back pocket. The first two pages were covered in hastily scribbled writing. Chase barely got a look before Diana turned to a fresh sheet. "If you are willing...?"
"Yes, absolutely. Damn," she muttered to herself. "I should have thought about this before." She stood and picked up her half eaten food then motioned to Diana. "C'mon. We'll probably be more comfortable back in my quarters. It's been a very long day... for both of us."
Diana knew how tired she was, having spent the day talking to Chase and working with Hans. But now she took the time to look more carefully at Chase, and she could see the fatigue so clearly apparent in her body language and a sadness in her eyes that was almost hidden. Diana nodded and rose, walking beside Chase for a few steps before retrieving a pitcher of chilled water and a second glass. Then she hurried to catch up, and in silence they retired to Chase's hut.
Chase sidestepped the desk, and went directly to her cot. Now that she had slowed down, her exhaustion was making itself known in her body as well as her soul. With any luck, her mind would get with the program and shut off long enough to let her get some rest. Maybe then her subconscious would work on her current problems and pop up with a resolution.
First, though, she needed to make it through her bit of dinner. And she needed to find out what was on Diana's mind, because the Amazon had to have come looking at her for a reason. She pulled her boots off and slid back against the headboard with a muffled groan. Then she set her plate in her lap and took a bite, chewing briefly before turning to find Diana looking at her with concerned eyes.
"So," she took a deep drink and swallowed before continuing her question. "What's up? Did things go okay with Hans, or...?" At Diana's look of confusion, Chase tried to elaborate. "I figured there was some sort of problem since you came looking for me."
Diana put pen to paper and Chase waited patiently for her to finish her answer. She continued to eat, almost cleaning her plate before Diana passed the tablet over to her. She put a stoic face on, not really knowing what to expect from Diana. She felt her emotions were raw and exposed after the time spent with her mother... especially considering what their discussion had been about.
My time with Hans was fine. We got a lot accomplished I think, and I really enjoyed working with him. He is quite knowledgeable, and he seems to be a good friend of yours... very protective.
Chase looked up at Diana and nodded. "He is. One day I'll have to tell you the story of how we became friends in the first place." Then she turned her attention back to the paper in her hands.
As for the other, I was just concerned. I saw you come in and you seemed a little upset. I wanted to make sure you were all right. I followed you into the mess hall, and found you completely lost in thought. I didn't mean to make you choke. So are you okay?
She got up and put her empty plate on the desk, then reseated herself facing Diana and giving her a thin smile. "I'm fine, Diana... honestly. I just had to take care of some personal business, and that always takes a lot out of me. I'm sorry you were worried," she continued, sliding back into a more comfortable position on the bed.
Diana shrugged, but gave Chase a small smile.
Chase cleared her throat. "How would you like to work with Hans on a more permanent basis?" She chuckled when Diana's eyebrows shot up into her bangs. "Diana, I don't think you're a Nazi, and I do think you could make a significant contribution to making this war end. I don't think making you share anything else is gonna change my opinion of you. A girl's gotta have some secrets, right?"
Diana gave Chase a sheepish smile and shrugged before reluctantly nodding her head. She was caught between relief and disappointment. She really wasn't ready to share her personal reasons for following Chase into man's world, but she really didn't want to have to lie about it either. On the other hand, she got the distinct impression that Chase was pawning her off, putting distance between them. The latter was confirmed when Chase continued speaking.
"Speaking of, though, your quarters should be ready in the morning, so if you want, we'll get you moved in before you start working with Hans in the morning?" She saw the hurt clearly in the blue eyes, but Chase needed the distance right now. Despite the doubts she had about leaving Diana alone in the compound, it was too confusing to have her nearby all the time. There were things she had to work out for herself before they could go any further in their friendship... things Chase had to understand and decide for herself and talking to her mother had brought that sharply into focus.
"I'm not sending you away, Diana. It's not like we won't see one another and you'll make friends much easier with others here if I am not hanging around you all the time. Trust me... a lot of folks here are looking forward to the opportunity to get to know you better. I just thought you might like a bit of privacy... some space to call your own."
"I understand," she whispered, despite the pain in her throat. "I appreciate it." The words had a ring of truth, but it was belied but the expression of betrayal in her eyes. "Goodnight, Chase," Diana whispered. Chase took a breath to answer, but Diana closed her eyes and rolled over to go to sleep.
Chase watched her for a moment before turning of the light. It was a long time before she closed her eyes, and sleep was an even longer time in coming to her.
"All right. I can see way more drastic measures are called for here." Dite turned her head and looked at Athena with an exasperated expression on her face. "What is wrong with those two radical chicks anyway? They are making me totally nuts." She threw her hands into the air and started ranting to herself. Athena just let her go for a few minutes, exchanging smirks with Artemis. Eventually, they bookended the love goddess and took a seat together on the settee, much to the amusement of the other goddesses watching them.
"I hate to say it, but Aphrodite is right. These two... especially Chase... seem to be determined to push one another away." This from Hera.
"Actually, Chase is doing the pushing. Diana is just letting it happen. Can we do something to fix that?"
"I'm gonna do something in a minute," Dite muttered loud enough to be heard. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the gathered goddesses tittered a little bit. "I'm gonna smack those two heads together so hard we'll get a new constellation out of the stars they produce. I'm gonna...."
Artemis grabbed her hands. "Dite, you are going to have to calm down. You know bad things happen when you get worked up like this. You have to have a bit of faith in yourself and them. It will happen."
Dite turned eyes sparkling with tears of frustration towards Artemis. "You totally, rock, babe. You know that? Thanks!"
Demeter cleared her throat. "That still doesn't answer my question though... can we do anything to correct this passive attitude Diana seems to have cultivated?"
"I think we need to see what happens now that Chase has given Diana a bit of latitude. It will be interesting to watch things develop, because knowing these two souls, they will push and pull a little while longer before the finally come together. At least when they finally do, the sparkage will be incredible."
"Don't you mean *if*?" Dite pouted.
"No. They will," Athena said firmly. "They will just give us all gray hair before they do. I think it is a hobby with them." The goddesses all nodded in agreement.
"Now! Now! Now!" Dite said stomping her foot. "I want it to happen now. Just once I'd like for the love biz to totally, you know, go right the first time." She snorted. "As if."
"Keep the faith, sister. They will get there... sooner rather than later."
"They better, or so help me...." As a single entity, they turned back to the scrying bowl to watch the situation progress between Chase and Diana.
Chase was up and out of her hut before the sun had even had a chance to turn the sky gray. She decided a run was in order to try and clear the cobwebs from her mind. Chase ran until the only thing in her thoughts was the rising of the sun and the wind in her hair. She realized she was making things more difficult than they needed to be and she decided to talk to Diana about it. Maybe they could work something out between them. She didn't like the pain and the feeling of betrayal she had seen in Diana's eyes the night before.
She decided to invite Diana to breakfast and made her way back into her hut, only to discover Diana was gone, as was any evidence she had ever been there. Chase looked around blankly, surprised by the pain in her chest that suddenly encompassed her. She placed her empty canteen on the desk with numb hands and dropped heavily into her bunk. This wasn't what she had wanted – she felt like something precious and fragile had just slipped through her fingers and crashed at her feet with no hope of recovery.
Not used to the feeling of having made such a colossal mistake, and not liking the way it felt now, Chase immediately left her hut in search of Diana. What she found made her heart clench for lost opportunities and at the same time smile grimly to herself for her keen insight. Instead of being in her new hut or sitting alone at breakfast, Diana was currently surrounded by Chase's top aides, all doing their best to follow Chase's lead. With Hans' help and because of his enthusiastic outpouring about her aid, they were finding to their delight that Diana was exactly as Chase had promised... someone to be welcomed into their midst.
Ty caught sight of Chase as she stepped into the mess hall and beckoned her over silently with a nod of her head, hoping she would shed some enlightenment on why Diana had been in such a hurry to move out from under Chase's watchful care. In all the years she had known Chase, Ty had never found her to be personally overbearing, even in her intensity, though her focus on work and the rebellion was another matter entirely. She was curious to know what Chase had done to push Diana so firmly away from her... and why.
Chase, however, conveniently ignored the hail, acting as though she hadn't even seen it. Instead, she grabbed a cup of coffee and turned to leave before Ty could repeat her summons verbally. For a brief instant, blue eyes met green, and equal pain was reflected in both of them. Then the shutters went up in Chase's eyes and she left the mess hall without a word to anyone. Ty watched the proceedings very carefully, noting that Diana's eyes closed up as well. No one else was even aware of what had transpired, too excited by Diana's arrival in their circle.
This was not an auspicious start to the day, and from the looks of things, it was only going to get worse.
Meanwhile, Orana was making plans of her own. She had the disturbing feeling that the rebellion was growing stronger. Nothing concrete, mind you... just a hunch. Rumors were making their way to her spies that were causing niggling concerns to gnaw at the back of her subconscious mind and she had determined it was time to take matters into her hands and destroy the rebellion once and for all.
Then there were the photographs. Two days earlier, her breakfast tray had been accompanied by a couple grainy surveillance pictures that had been taken the night of the rally. No one should have been wandering around the Reichstag while she was outside delivering her speech, and yet she held in her hands proof positive that a soldier of the SS, one of her elite guards by the markings she could make out on his uniform, was not only wandering around the building, but had been dangerously close to her own quarters. And she knew for a fact he hadn't been the one instructed to share her bed that night; SS officers were not allowed that privilege. She needed their cunning and their minds, such as they were, in her service. Their bodies didn't figure into the picture at all. Orana couldn't afford to have them distracted fighting over who would share her bed. Besides, it wasn't like men were her first choice of bed partners anyway, no matter how amusing they were. But as long as she shared the wealth around between women and men, no one made mention of the fact that the Fuehrer herself was ignoring cardinal Nazi doctrine.
To top it off, Ares had cautioned her to leave well enough alone. He was busy stirring up tiny civil wars around the globe, and that would effectively keep the rebellion from any serious effort against her or the Nazi regime. Orana chanced to wonder yet again how she had come to mentor Ares, but too much time and too many bottles of alcohol had passed her lips for her to clearly remember. All she knew at the moment was that she was bored and this was something new to worry about for a change.
So this puzzle, along with the rumors, made her antsy, and shook her from the complacency that had maintained its grip over her for far too long. Despite Ares' warnings to the contrary, it was time to shake the dust from her boots and do some hunting. Orana felt her blood warm at the prospect. Things were suddenly looking much better for her.
Continued in Part 7