Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
"Are you ready, Drea?" The healer shifted a bit, laying her head more firmly in Hippolyta's lap, nodding when she felt Hippolyta start rubbing her temples. Mala turned her attention to the queen. "Are you ready, my queen?" adjusting the cushions behind Hippolyta to insure her comfort. None of them were quite sure how long this would take. Athena had spoken to Hades and arranged for a safe haven between life and death for the sisters to meet for as long as it took for Jasmine to tell Drea her story.
"As I'll ever be," Hippolyta answered with a wry smile. "I'm a little nervous."
Artemis stroked a hand through Hippolyta's hair and laid her other hand on Drea's wrist, monitoring her pulse. "Don't worry, my queen. We are going to be keeping an eye on both of you. But it's important to Drea and Jasmine to get some closure. Drea needs to understand, and Jasmine needs to share."
"I know. I'm still nervous." Artemis smiled at Hippolyta's honesty.
"That's a good thing, my queen. Now Drea, I want you to relax and close your eyes. Start your meditation. Listen to the water and the chimes and breathe slowly. Let your mind relax and take you to Jasmine." Whatever else Artemis said was lost on Drea as she slipped into another time and place, not hearing Hippolyta's pleading cries for her to breathe.
"Drea? Drea, wake up and open your eyes."
Drea blinked her eyes open slowly, smiling brightly when her brown eyes met their twin after more than a twenty-five year absence. She reached out and took Jasmine in an embrace that lasted long minutes. When they finally released one another, they sat back and simply looked at each other with tears in their eyes.
"Oh gods, Drea. How I have missed you."
"And I you, Jas. And apparently, so much more," said with a tearful chuckle.
"Oh, yes. Let me start at the beginning, but we'd better get comfortable first. It's a long story."
For the first time, Drea looked around the nothing they were standing in. Then she looked back at Jasmine. "All right. I'm open to suggestions."
Jasmine laughed, a full, throaty sound that Drea had to laugh in sympathy with. Things had always been like this between them. When Drea stopped laughing, she looked around again, amazed at the changes that had been wrought. They were in a meadow, much like the one Drea had seen with Chase in it. This one, however, didn't have a house or barn and it did have a river with a waterfall. Beneath the oak tree were two comfortable chaise lounges, and between them sat a table with refreshments. Drea raised an eyebrow in question. Jasmine just shook her head.
"Sometimes it's best not to question what the gods provide. Come... sit. I have a lot to tell you."
Drea remained silent, wanting Jasmine to tell her story in her own way. Soon, her patience was rewarded, and Jasmine began to speak.
"I was furious at Hippolyta for her treatment of Diana, so I decided to move to Transformation Island. I enjoyed it, for the most part. It was peaceful and quiet, and full of scientific research. I missed you, though. I know why you stayed, and I agreed with your decision, but it didn't make me miss you less."
"I had begun to think about returning home to Paradise Island, when the goddesses approached me. It was somewhat unusual. I wasn't at the temple; nor was I meditating or praying. Instead, Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite approached me while I was working... doing research on gene mutation. Anyway, it was all a little bizarre and totally unexpected."
"Jasmine?" I turned around, wondering who dared disturb me at such a critical point in my work. I was stunned to see three of our patron goddesses in the laboratory with me, and would have knelt had it not been for Athena's firm grip on my arm.
"No, Jasmine. You need not kneel before us this time, for we have come to ask a favor of you."
"Of course. Anything."
The three of them smiled at one another then at me and shook their heads. "No, Jasmine. Hear us out first. What we have to ask of you is difficult and treacherous and will have far reaching consequences."
We moved to my office at Aphrodite's suggestion; they conjured their own chairs, though Athena never actually sat down. It occurred to me then that they were all acting a little stranger than usual. Aphrodite was nervous and biting her nails; Artemis was pensive, bouncing her leg and clasping her hands together rhythmically. Athena was worried and paced back and forth across the small space behind the others.
"You deserve to know the whole story, and this story starts more that twenty-five centuries ago... when Diana was granted life. You see, she needed a soul and we searched far and wide for a soul that was deserving and that could fulfill every potential we offered it. And we found that in a soul that was known to the Nation, both as a Destroyer and as a Champion."
"We wanted to give her a second chance. What we didn't figure was that taking her soul out of the karmic circle was going to disrupt... everything. We chose the warrior's soul because it seemed so perfect for our needs, even with its flaws. You see, she possessed the skills, strength and beauty we sought and had a brilliant mind. Unfortunately, that life did its worst to her, and for years she was lost to us – she was Ares' Chosen.
"Eventually, though, she found her soulmate and everything balanced... she became a force for good and an Amazon champion. For a while, that was enough. But things were never easy with them and they were separated by tragic circumstances, but it was with the knowledge, or at least the belief, that they would find one another again in their next lives."
"So when you removed the warrior's soul from the karmic cycle to make her an immortal Amazon princess...."
"We messed up the balance, and removed the possibility of them finding one another again."
"Okay, so how do I figure in to this scenario?"
Athena smiled. That spunk and initiative was one of the reasons Jasmine had been chosen. "There's more. You see, we didn't immediately realize we had caused a problem. Things were fine for the longest time... or so we thought. It was only when Diana started praying for a mate that Dite started looking, and we discovered our mistake."
"It took longer than we expected to find her soulmate; we had to trace her progress from her origins, and we lost her more than once. However, we finally caught her in Elysia between karmic cycles, and she is currently waiting to be reborn."
"So you're asking me to give birth to Diana's soulmate?"
"Yes," Athena acknowledged. "But it's a little more complicated than just giving birth. You see, Diana's soulmate has a lineage that has to be maintained... in man's world." Jasmine's eyes widened as the implications of Athena's words began to make themselves known in her conscious mind. "And there is every possibility that if you bear this child, you might have to give up your immortality to her in the process because of that. We've never actually had a situation like this before, but we want you to be prepared for all contingencies. We actually won't have any sort of control once you leave here. More than anything, we want you to understand the risks... to go into this with open eyes."
"Did they tell you why you were chosen... aside from spunk and initiative? Jas, I've seen Chase. She doesn't look anything like you."
Jasmine chuckled. "She wasn't supposed to. She carries the looks of Diana's soulmate... the one she's always dreamed of... the one her heart remembers. As to why I was chosen... no, not really. I figured maybe it was because I always wanted a baby."
"Did you really?"
"Yes, I did."
"Wow," Drea commented slowly. "I never knew."
"I never said. I knew it wasn't a possibility so I didn't bring it up. It seemed a bit pointless. But I was thrilled when the goddesses offered me the opportunity, and I decided it would be worth the price to be able to fulfill that desire. And Annabelle was a wonderful child who grew into a wonderful woman." Jasmine laughed. "She was quite a handful growing up though." She lifted an eyebrow at Drea. "A lot like us."
Drea chuckled. "Yes, I got that impression in the brief time I had with her. She is very, very intelligent... a lot like you, as a matter of fact. I cannot believe I didn't see the resemblance before." Her forehead wrinkled in consternation. "I wonder why she didn't recognize me. Gods know we *do* look almost exactly alike."
Jasmine shrugged. "I can only make an educated guess, but she told me she was blind part of the time she was on Paradise Island. I think her mind shut down and took her sight with it. It was the only way she could get through what she perceived as an unbelievable prospect and still retain her sanity. Drea, my Annabelle has been through so much in her short life. I'm sure that shutdown was purely self-preservation on her part."
"Good point, and it makes sense. We couldn't find a physical reason for her blindness." Drea nodded her head, her gaze going inward for a long moment. Then she turned her attention back to Jasmine. "So what happened? Obviously you left here and went into man's world. But then?"
"Once I made my decision, it was easy...well, parts of it were. The goddesses got me to the right place. Then it was a matter of meeting Charlie."
"Annabelle's father, Charles Chaser. He was Steve Trevor's grandson."
"I see. And did Aphrodite do some sort of love potion or something to make sure the two of you fell in love?"
"I don't think so. It felt... real. Not like it was forced or put on. He was a good man, kind and gentle, and we loved one another very much. We had seven years together before he was taken from me. His death broke my heart, but it nearly devastated Annabelle. She was a Daddy's girl, and Charlie doted on her every chance he got."
"How did he die?"
"Same way I did – Nazi raiding party. He was doing reconnaissance and ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time." Tears formed in her eyes. "Annabelle didn't even get to say goodbye. By the time the resistance found him, there wasn't much left. I barely recognized him."
"Oh, Jas. Why didn't you let us know? Why didn't you come home?"
"Drea, I couldn't. I couldn't leave Annabelle, and I couldn't leave the rebellion. I had obligations and responsibilities. It wasn't something I could just walk away from."
"Leave Annabelle?? Jas, you would have been bringing her home. She's an Amazon by birth even if she was born in man's world. You both would have been welcome like the long, lost family you were. Gods, maybe we would all have been spared some of the heartache we have had to endure. Maybe... maybe you'd still be alive."
Jas shook her head. "No, Drea. We couldn't come home. That was part of the original plan. I couldn't bring Annabelle back to Paradise Island until she reached adulthood, and then it was too late."
"What? Jasmine, you're not making any sense."
Jasmine bit her lip in thought, then blew out a frustrated breath. "This seemed so much easier before I had try to explain it," she muttered. "It's like this – Diana was a grown woman... an immortal who had been alive for more than twenty-five hundred years. How fair would it be to either of them for Diana to have to wait for Annabelle grow up or for Annabelle have to suffer through her growing pains while Diana was there to see all the ugly details with an adults perspective? Kids are still kids, Drea, and that sort of pressure can be impossible to get by... especially when there is a connection between them from there first meeting. I know you can't see Annabelle, Drea, but this whole thing with Diana has thrown her completely, and she is a capable, intelligent adult now. What would that have done to her as a child??"
"We decided that it would be in everyone's best interest if Annabelle grew up in man's world until she was old enough to make a decision about Diana for herself. But I was killed before that could happen."
"She doesn't know anything about her heritage? She doesn't know she is an Amazon?!? Jas, she hates us – Chase hates Amazons!! She was tortured and nearly killed by Orana!" Drea stopped speaking, trying to recompose herself. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to take this out on you. It's just...."
"... a lot to take in in a very short amount of time. I know. It was something of a shock for me as well. You see, the goddesses have almost no access to life outside their realm; we didn't know about the war or the rebellion, and once I was in man's world, I was on my own. I had to do the best I could with what I had."
"Why didn't they come to me sooner? Why didn't they tell me what was going on?"
"So you would worry more than you already did? Drea, there was no way to contact you, and no way for you to contact me. Only death allowed me to cross into your mind while I was still in man's world. I will stay here until Chase finds her way. Then my spirit can finally go to rest."
Drea was silent for a long moment, considering everything Jasmine had said. "There are so many things I want to ask you about your time in man's world, Jas. But first.... You lost your immortality, obviously. Did Chase receive it?"
"I don't know," Jasmine answered honestly. "I think so. I felt it slip from my body as she was born. But I don't know if that means it became hers as Athena had warned me about – so she and Diana can be true soulmates once more and forever or if becoming such an integral part of man's society meant I gave up all claim to being an immortal Amazon. I'd like to believe I gave it to Annabelle, but there is really no good way to test that theory and I was never in a hurry to try."
Something about Jasmine's droll, yet matter-of-fact answer made Drea laugh. She knew the tension and stress were part of it, and yet she also knew she had missed Jasmine's wit a great deal. It always came at you from around a corner.
"All right, I can see that. So, tell me about your time in man's world. Tell me about how you and Charlie met and about your wedding and Chase's birth... just tell me everything and don't leave out any of the good details."
Jasmine laughed. She had missed Drea's enthusiasm and sharing details of one another's lives. "Well, I met Charlie almost as soon as I arrived. He actually stopped to offer me some assistance and...."
For several hours, Jasmine talked, relaying everything she could to Drea about her life in man's world. Some of the more private things between her and Charlie she kept to herself, but everything she could share with Drea about Chase, she did. It was important that someone know everything possible so that when the time came, Chase would have someone to turn to.
Eventually, Jasmine's voice wore down, and she took a deep draught of the refreshment they had been provided with. It was cold and sweet and soothing and she smiled as it coated her throat and gave her a bit of relief. Drea suspected there was more on Jasmine's mind, and she waited patiently, helping herself to her own bit of refreshment. Her patience and her intuition was rewarded when Jasmine cleared her throat and looked at her with an odd expression.
"What is it, Jas?" patting her sister's knee in a familiar, comforting gesture. "You can ask or tell me anything. You know that."
"I know, Drea. It's just... this is a little awkward."
Jas laughed. "Gods, I missed hearing that. Okay, look. I need to ask you a really big favor – huge, in fact." Then she stopped speaking, and the silence lingered until Drea felt compelled to break it.
"Um... Jas? Are you going to share with me what this favor entails or would you like me to invoke some sort of divining ritual to figure it out for myself?
Jasmine laughed and then bit her lip pensively. "I need for you to go to man's world, Drea, to Annabelle. I need for you to help me tell my daughter about her heritage. I know she will believe me; I have never lied to her... about anything. I just didn't tell her about the Amazons soon enough. I would simply like you to be there as my physical representative. I believe it would help convince her of the truth... help her to put all the pieces together and accept her destiny. And it would give her some support, someone she could talk to about things.
"I'd like that, Jas. Yes. It will give me an opportunity to get to know my niece... as my niece and not as a patient. She was intriguing when I didn't know we were related."
Jasmine smiled and squeezed Drea's hand. "I told you she was a handful, but she was always a good kid, full of life and ideas and imagination. Experience and the war have tempered that a great deal, but it is still there... still part of the core person she is. Perhaps you will be able to cultivate it."
"Once she gets past her anger, you mean."
Jasmine shrugged. "Well, there is that, of course. But with a little luck, that part won't last too long. Be patient with her, Drea. She has known more sorrow in her short life than we did before we left the Old World for Paradise Island." Drea's eyes raised in astonishment. "I didn't share everything, Dre; some things Annabelle will have to share with you... or not. But it will need to be her choice. Just remember that she knows suffering and loss, and the fate of the rebellion rests on her slim shoulders."
"I will, Jasmine. Trust me to take care of her like she was my own. In a way, she is."
"I know, Drea, and I'm glad she will have you in her life. Now, I think it is time for you to go home so you can get started to Annabelle's world. I need to return to my temporary resting place – that is where Annabelle comes to talk to me. That is where you will need to come to; I'll look for your arrival, and then we will have to wait for Annabelle to seek me out."
"You don't go looking for her? You don't want me to?"
"Not unless you want to explain this on your own. Drea, I don't get to roam freely. My place is where Annabelle placed my body to rest. That is where I belong and where I have to stay. It's not all bad; I do get a small window to keep up with her... what she is doing. I just have to wait for her to come to me. Death tends to make some things more difficult."
Drea nodded. "Yes. I can see where that could be a real problem." She paused. "I love you, Jas."
"I love you too, Drea. See you soon."
Drea felt her eyes grow heavy and she let them fall closed. From a great distance, she heard Hippolyta calling her name and she followed the sound until she could open her eyes. She blinked slowly, not surprised to find Hippolyta cradling her face with only inches separating them. The tears, however, were completely unexpected. Drea wondered what had happened in her absence.
"Pol? Hippolyta, what's wrong?"
"Oh Drea, you stopped breathing. I thought you were dead!"
Drea blinked and turned her head towards Artemis. "I was dead?"
Artemis nodded. "Technically yes, but only for a few seconds - less than a full minute. It is how a mortal can pass into the nothing regions of the underworld."
"But I was gone for hours! I didn't remain dead while I was gone?"
"No," Artemis answered with just a hint of exasperation as though she had already explained this more than once – which she had. "You died – that is to say all bodily functions ceased long enough to create the appearance of death. Once you crossed into the nothing region, your body here entered a state of suspended animation." She looked at Mala. "Didn't we explain all this to them already?"
"Yes, Artemis," the priestess answered dutifully. "But it is a very stressful procedure."
"True." Artemis turned back to Drea. "Please accept my word that at no time were you in any danger, and that everything is perfectly fine now. How do you feel?"
Drea smiled and struggled to sit up, a difficult feat as tightly as Hippolyta was holding on to her. She patted the queen's hands as a measure of comfort. Hippolyta offered her a muttered apology and released her hold, gratified when Drea clasped her hand instead.
"I feel really... good. Thank you Artemis, and Aphrodite and Athena," including the other goddesses as they appeared in the temple. "I greatly appreciate the opportunity you afforded to me and Jasmine. I am glad to know the whole story and to understand what actually happened to her."
"Are you going to honor her request of you?" Athena asked. "She told me she was going to ask; we were not monitoring your conversation. Everything that was said was private between the two of you. You deserved that much courtesy."
"Thank you, Athena," Drea replied, bowing her head. "And yes... I gave Jasmine my word."
"Wait... what request?" from Hippolyta.
The goddesses were silent and looked to Drea to answer. Drea took Hippolyta's hands in hers and looked into her eyes before she spoke. "I promised Jasmine I would go into man's world to look after Chase. Pol, you remember what I told you about how she felt about Amazons?" waiting for the affirmative nod. "Well, she doesn't know she is one. Jas never told Chase what her true heritage is."
Hippolyta was stunned and sat blinking at Drea for a long, disbelieving moment. "You are not serious." Silence. "But why? Was Jasmine that ashamed of being an Amazon?"
"No, Pol, no! She simply died before she felt the time had come to share that information. And she has asked me to go to her... to be there to help break the news to her. Perhaps I will even have the opportunity to keep an eye on Diana as well."
Hippolyta considered all the angles, not really finding a downside except for the separation this would require of the two of them. But given how long Diana's soul had been aching for its other half, she supposed she could manage for the relatively short amount of time required for this.
"How soon do you need to leave?" tacitly giving her blessing to Drea's proposed trip.
"Sooner would be best, my queen," Artemis spoke. "But I think we can allow enough time for your consort to get some food and some rest."
"Perhaps I can share with you what happened between Jasmine and myself while we were together in the nothing realm," Drea added, knowing Hippolyta's curiosity rivaled her own. "First, though, I would like a hot shower."
Artemis smiled. She had a weakness for those herself. "Very well, Drea. Come back to the temple when you are ready to depart. Mala will take care of us here until then. We will be waiting to hear from you."
Drea nodded and slowly rose to her feet. Hippolyta held her steady until she was certain Drea had her bearings, then took the hand she was still holding and together they left the temple and headed to the residence area of the palace. The goddesses and Mala watched them out of sight, then turned their attention to passing a bit of time until Drea was ready to go.
"All right, Diana. This is good. This is really good. This could give us such an edge. What made you think of this?"
Diana shrugged, unwilling to admit that it had developed from something Chase had said in their conversations together. It had been nearly three weeks since she had moved out of Chase's quarters and Chase had done an admirable job of completely avoiding her. Ty had given her the understanding that Chase would eventually approach her. She hadn't but had instead made sure that she was completely unavailable. Diana was hurt and angry, but she had determined she was not going to be the one to break the stalemate between them. She had only been abiding by Chase's wishes when she left.
"Diana? You okay? I think you faded on me there."
"I'm fine, Hans," she said softly. Her voice was returning slowly, but she wasn't inclined to use it loudly or often. "Time for lunch?"
Hans glanced at his watch, just as the mess hall bell rang. "How do you *do* that?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. "Come on. I know Cookie had meatloaf on the menu today and he does a pretty good meatloaf, if I do say so." He smiled, and Diana cocked her head in question. "I gave him the recipe. Trust me... you don't want to miss it."
Diana returned his smile and allowed him to take her arm and lead her out of the laboratory. She'd never experienced meatloaf before and was looking forward to this first opportunity.
Across the compound, Ty was knocking on the door to Chase's quarters. When she didn't get an answer, she simply opened the door and crossed the threshold. Chase looked up at her from the desk with very annoyed eyes. "You think that maybe since I didn't answer your knock, I didn't want to be disturbed by anyone, including you?"
"Give it up, Chase," Ty said with more than a touch of sarcasm. "The reason you didn't answer the damn door is because you thought it might be Diana. What the hell happened between the two of you, Chase? One day you were giving orders that we were all to steer clear of her, and the next she is coming to me at daybreak, before I can even get a cup of coffee, asking which hut is hers. And then... then all of a sudden you don't look at each other, you don't talk to each other. Hell's bells, Chase, you changed your whole damn routine just to avoid her!!"
Chase slammed her hands on the table and half rose. "That's enough!!" she roared. "Just back off, Ty. Back off and leave me the hell alone! I've got work to do," resuming her seat and turning her attention back to her work.
"Chase, c'mon. You can't let things go on like this. It's tearing you up, and that's affecting the rest of us! God... when was the last time you ate a hot meal in the mess hall with everyone? Hmm? When was the last time you held a staff meeting?? Would you like me to tell you? Would you? Because I guarantee you the entire senior staff is well aware there is a problem; they know when it started. Even if Diana won't share, even if you won't... we all know there is something going on between you."
"Ty," Chase's voice was tired when it broke into her cousin's tirade. "Just go, will ya? There's nothing you can do here, all right?"
Ty's shoulder's slumped, knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere with Chase in the mood she was in. "Would you like me to bring you over some lunch? Today is meatloaf day."
"No thanks, Ty, but I appreciate your asking. Go on before you miss out," with a waving motion and a small smile, turning back to her work once more.
Ty nodded and walked out the door, closing it completely before she shook her head at Shep and Hans who were waiting at the entrance to the mess tent. Diana had just gone inside with Jen and Mitch to hold a table for them all. Their shoulders slumped much like hers were and they waited for her to cross the compound to join them. Something was going to have to be done about the two of them soon. With their final offensive against the Nazis beginning in just a few days, Chase and Diana couldn't continue to be at odds with one another.
Shep pulled open the door, gesturing for the other two to walk in ahead of him. Just as he made a motion to follow them in, he saw Chase leave her hut and head toward what they had all dubbed "Chase's thinking hill".
Chase went to the hill, but discovered it wasn't a place she could think anymore... at least not about Diana. The last time she had been there was when she had brought Diana with her, and though it had been platonic – strictly business – she found she couldn't clear her thoughts of that brief time to focus on the here and now.
And Ty had been right about one thing for sure – the rift between Diana and herself was affecting everyone and everything in the rebel base camp. She was going to have to do something to resolve it. The question was... what?
Finally, angry at herself for letting Diana become so important to her that this mattered, and at Diana for causing her dilemma in the first place, Chase went back down the hill and checked out a jeep from the motor pool. She needed to talk to her mama.
It had been quiet at the homestead since Drea's arrival. The goddesses had been kind, providing her with a relatively smooth passage to man's world, and laid in a goodly portion of supplies for her in the cupboards once she had arrived. She had been more than a little surprised that they had provided a method of conventional travel to man's world instead of transporting her directly to what had once been Jasmine's home... and Chase's as well. Or at least she was surprised until Athena had explained to her the likelihood of Ares detecting her movement away from the protection of Paradise Island would be greatly multiplied if they used their godly powers to do so. As it was, he had noticed the dramatic increase in their visits *to* the island, though he put it down to the fact that it was the only place any of them had a power base left. How little he knew.
"We will be watching, Drea, but it is impossible for us to interfere in things that happen there. We do not want to draw attention to Chase or the rebellion, because Ares could and would do great harm to the rebellion if he knew where to look for them. And he would take extreme pleasure in separating Diana and her soulmate for eternity. Together, they always managed to defeat him, and Diana never gave her soul to him... even as his Chosen... because of it."
"You will have to be very careful and very patient as well. There is no way for us to tell how long it will be before Chase comes to visit. Losing her mother was very painful for her; she saw it as being her responsibility... her fault."
"That's nonsense!" Drea broke in. "Jasmine told me what happened and Chase wasn't even there. There was nothing she could have done to prevent it, and if she *had* been there, she would have been tortured and killed as well."
"No, she couldn't have done anything to prevent it, and yes, she might have died as well, but she doesn't see that as a bad thing. It was her intelligence report that they were using when her mother was captured, so she feels like death would have been an appropriate reward for her perceived blunder. The truth was, though she won't believe it, that the markers that had been laid out were changed before they arrived at the depot and Jasmine and her team walked right into a Nazi ambush. But Chase sees it as her own failure."
"Athena, why does Chase take such a responsibility on herself? Surely she acknowledges that her mother was a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions."
"As a member of the rebellion, yes, but as a daughter, no... especially since her father always commissioned her to take care of her mother while he was gone. It was the last thing her said to her before he told her he loved her and then went out and died."
Drea shook her head. "Are we sure she is Diana's soulmate? I mean, it seems as though the odds are stacked against them. They both have so many obstacles to overcome personally that...."
"Yes," Dite spoke for the first time, serious in both speech and manner. "Because they won't overcome those obstacles alone – they can't. They need each other to do it... they always have."
Drea nodded, understanding the veracity of the statement when she realized she was watching history – ancient, Amazon history - come alive again. Only this time, Chase's soul had experienced much more darkness than the warrior soul that belonged to Diana. Then she cleared her throat, needing to know. "Did Chase gain Jasmine's immortality? Will we be able to take her home to Paradise Island to live with Diana forever?"
"Well," Dite drawled. "Yes to the first part. Chase did inherit Jasmine's immortality and *if* she survives the rebellion, and *if* she chooses to make that totally happening place home, yeah... absolutely."
"Waitaminute," Drea said, holding up her hands for a time out. "What do you mean IF?? Immortal is immortal is immortal. It's not a pick and choose sort of deal."
Athena took back over the explanation. "Things work a little differently here in man's world and the rules for the immortality you enjoy on Paradise Island are not the same. For instance, you will age here, though at a very, very minute pace. If you study any of the few pictures Paula found of Orana, you will be able to see a slight difference in her appearance, even with the accouterments she brought from the island to protect her. Nothing too remarkable, but it is there if you know what to look for."
"We do believe that you can die here for the same reason, though we also think that it would take an exceptional amount of time and effort. However, this is still just a theory on our part as we have not had occasion to put it to the test."
"As for Chase, she's a wildcard no matter how you play it. Her immortality is inherited, so what rules apply? She grew up just like a normal human child would have for the first twenty-one years of her life. She has not changed noticeably since them. She survived the most horrible forms of torture without dying, so it obviously takes and incredible amount of power and exertion to kill her, but is killing her even possible or did her will simply kept her alive because of what was at stake? We really don't have any way to know until everything plays out to its logical conclusion. Just keep in mind that we are dealing with an extraordinary amount of variables and unknowns especially where Chase is concerned. And Chase is the biggest among them. Not simply because of the immortality, but because of her hatred of the Amazons and her responsibilities to the rebellion."
Drea rubbed her forehead, feeling a sudden unwelcome and unexpected sensation travel from her temple to the base of her skull as a headache began to make itself felt in her nerve endings. "Well," she muttered, "no one said it would be easy, though I certainly never expected something quite so convoluted." She mixed up a tonic and drank it down without flinching... til her tongue realized what it had just been fed. Then she grimaced, noting that her headache eased almost immediately.
"Okay, that is much better," drinking down another glass of water.
"Now, we must go," Athena said as the image of them flickered against the wall it was hosted on. "We will be watching, but there is nothing we can do to help. Good luck, Drea." Then the image went dark before the healer could formulate a reply.
Drea looked around the small farmhouse, careful not to disturb too much. She didn't want to give Chase any more reason to be angry than she was already going to be once she learned the truth about who she really was. Drea chose Jasmine's room as her own. She figured Jasmine would understand, and Chase probably wouldn't appreciate Drea moving in to what was obviously her space.
What confused Drea was the fact that Chase still clearly considered this her home. The house was filled with treasures and mementoes and Drea had discovered, to her delight, a stack of what appeared to be memory books full of photographs. She couldn't wait to go through them. She hoped Jasmine would come around and share some more insight into her life here, though she didn't understand why they had been left behind.
Drea cherished the opportunity she had to spend time with Jasmine, though it wasn't as often as she wanted it to be. Maintaining a visible form took a lot of energy and Jasmine had to rest and regroup between appearances. But Drea passed a comfortable two weeks at the homestead visiting with Jasmine and learning more about, not only her sister's life in man's world, but also about Chase and her growing up.
After Drea's initial introduction to everything in the farmhouse by Jasmine, they spent most of their time outdoors near the oak tree. Drea enjoyed being outdoors and it was easier for Jasmine to be visible there. She seemed to draw strength from where her body had been laid to rest, and Drea had to admit it was a nice place to pass the time and take pleasure in the fresh air and sunshine and wildflowers that surrounded the area.
On the days Jasmine was unable to visit her, Drea still made sure she went out to the oak tree that Jasmine was buried beneath and spent time just talking about things. She decided once everything was settled, no matter what happened, she would continue to talk to Jasmine like this, even if it was from Paradise Island. She felt it brought her closer to Jasmine and found she had missed that. And she got the feeling Jasmine had too.
Drea was sitting under the shade of the tree next to Jasmine's headstone talking one afternoon when the strangest noise she had ever heard made itself know to both her hearing and her nerve endings. It reminded her of the obnoxious sound the flying machines that had landed on Paradise Island had made. It shattered the stillness of the surrounding countryside and got Drea's attention easily.
She watched Chase's progress as she turned into the lane that led to the house and past it into the meadow where Jasmine's body was interred. Chase wasn't paying very close attention to her surroundings here – nothing ever changed here because no one but her ever came to this place.
She walked with her head down, mulling over her thoughts so she could try to get them into some sort of order. She didn't know that her mother could say or do anything to help her, but Chase knew she'd feel better just sharing things with Jasmine. She always had. However, with any luck, Jasmine would be able to offer her some advice to fix things with Diana. Chase knew she had to do something.
Chase was so focused on her own thoughts that she reached the tree before she realized someone else was there ahead of her. She lifted her eyes and saw....
"No, baby girl," Jasmine answered as her ethereal form emerged from behind Drea before it took solid shape. "This is your Aunt Drea."
"Oh. My. God."
"This better be some sort of sick, fucking joke! DON'T!!" Chase shouted as Drea started to move within touching distance. "You stay right there."
"Chase, if you will just give me a chance...."
"NO! You cannot *possibly* have anything to say that I want to hear! I don't know what is going on here, and I really don't care. I don't need this right now. I've got way too much on my plate to worry about who you really are or why you're here."
Drea stopped moving and looked to Jasmine for guidance. She'd known Chase was going to be angry, but the proportion of her rage was much greater than either Jasmine or Drea had expected it to be. Drea wondered what exactly had brought Chase to them. Perhaps that would explain why her reaction, though well contained, bordered on furious.
"Annabelle," Jasmine said softly, "let me explain...."
"No, mama," with cold, deliberate calm. "There is nothing for you to explain."
"ANNABELLE!! Sit down, please."
"NO!! No, you lied to me!"
"Annabelle, I never once lied to you. Never! I have always been honest with you, baby girl."
Chase turned her back to Jasmine and Drea and walked away from them. "No," she said wearily, her back still facing them. "You didn't tell me the truth, and that's the same as lying." Her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Drea, I'll bring Diana to see you, as I imagine that is the real reason you're here. Then ya'll can make whatever arrangements you need to return to your home." She turned back briefly and gestured towards Jasmine. "Maybe you can take her home with you, since you obviously belong to each other."
Then she walked away without another backward glance.
"Do you want me to follow her?" Drea asked, watching Chase get further and further away them. Jasmine shook her head and sank to the ground her hands covering her face. Drea followed her down, wrapping her arms around her sister and just holding her, wondering how they were going to fix this.
Chase drove back to the rebel encampment at a rapid pace, deliberately keeping her mind carefully blank. She stopped the jeep in front of the laboratory and hopped out, striding into the work area with deliberate steps. Hans and Diana looked up at the interruption, then at each other in disbelief as they saw who the interruption was. Chase had not been back to the lab since she had originally brought Diana in to talk to Hans.
"Diana, do you have a moment, please?"
The request was so unexpected Diana nodded and moved away from Hans before consciously thinking about it. When she got close to Chase, Diana remembered her hurt and asked coolly in her low voice, "Is there something I can do for you?"
Chase was glad for the cold attitude; it made it easier to maintain her detachment. "Yes. Can you spare me a few minutes of your time?"
Diana looked back at Hans who was watching them with interest even though he couldn't hear a word of the conversation between them. They were at a point in their work where she didn't have to be there for them to continue to make progress, and she admitted to needing a break, even if it required being in Chase's presence for a little while to get it. Chase had never given her a reason not to trust her, so she nodded. "Yes. What can I do for you?"
Chase didn't reply, but simply waved Diana towards the jeep. Then she looked back at Hans. "Staff meeting as soon as I return. Pass the word." An order... not a request.
He nodded, only just refraining from saluting. She hadn't been that harsh since her mother was killed, and he wondered what had set her off this time. He didn't think it was Diana, though; Chase's reaction to Diana had been all over the place with Diana herself, but she had never been harsh with the rest of them because of it. Mostly, she had simply withdrawn from them completely, stonewalling their every effort to talk about it. So something new must have happened to return the recklessness Chase had possessed after her mother's death before she had settled down to lead them.
A hand signal from Chase as she left the lab garnered her a distant escort; someone who knew to follow, but not too closely.
Chase didn't speak when she got into the vehicle. She couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't weak or sappy to her ears and she really wasn't in the mood for either. In a way, though, this scenario would work out better for all concerned. Diana would return home where she belonged, Chase would get her focus back on the rebellion where it belonged, and the war would finally be over once and for all. After that, well, it wouldn't really matter, would it? At least this way Diana would be safe.
"Where are we going?" Diana asked as they left the compound. Though she didn't get the feeling Chase meant her actual physical harm, she had the distinct impression she was being set up for something she wasn't going to like. Suddenly, her trusting Chase seemed like a bad idea.
"Not far," Chase answered briefly.
Diana tried to pay more than peripheral attention to their direction and destination, but her mind was torn in three different directions. She was trying to find a way to break the ice without coming across as begging or condescending, but everything she came up with sounded lame and trite to her mind. Why does that always happen when I am around her? she thought. Any other time or with any other human being, I can be a calm, rational adult. But I get close to her and my brain freezes up. Gods, it shouldn't be this hard. We know each other... our souls belong to one another – they always have. So why can't I just tell her that? Why won't she let me mean something to her? Then Chase's words interrupted her train of thought.
"I'm sorry, Diana. I really am. If things had been different, we could have at least been friends, but...." Chase spoke as they turned into the lane. She covertly checked to be sure the other vehicle was still following, then took a deep breath to finish her apology. "For what it's worth, I never meant to push you away. I wanted... I just... I thought.... Well, it doesn't really matter what I thought now. I think she is waiting for you." She turned the jeep off and pointed to the figure on the porch. "I hope you find whatever it really is you came here looking for. Goodbye, Diana." Then Chase jumped from the driver's seat and into the jeep that pulled up right next to her. Then the driver hit the gas, and the vehicle roared back down the lane the way that it had come.
Diana got out and started running, but Amazon or no, she couldn't keep up with a motor vehicle without Wonder Woman's powers, and she was literally left in the dust as Chase disappeared from view.
Great, she thought, what am I going to do now? She turned and headed back to the small farmhouse, wondering what had brought Drea into man's world.
"What do you think you're doing?" Ares leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest. Orana didn't deign to look at him, but dropped her robe and walked into the closet to get dressed. "I asked you a question; I want an answer."
"And I want to go out and destroy the rebellion, once and for all. I don't think I owe you any more of an explanation than that. *I* am the one in charge here, Ares... not you."
"Uh huh," he said, pushing away from the wall and moving further into the bedroom. "And then what? What exactly are you going to do if you destroy the rebellion? Hmm? Are you going to sit around on your ass waiting for something exciting to happen? Hoping I'll come around once in a while to share your bed?" cupping her cheek and stroking his thumb over her lips.
She jerked her head out of his grasp. "Don't flatter yourself, Ares. You're not that good." She tucked her shirt in and snatched up her boots before pushing past him to sit on the bed. He followed her and jerked her chin up til their eyes met.
"Don't push me, Amazon. I am a god, and I own you, remember?" fingering the mark she wore on her neck. "You need me to remind you who is in charge?"
Deciding to change tactics, she stood and ran her hands up his chest. "Ares, I just want to go out and have a little fun. Is that so hard to understand? Come on... we haven't had a really good fight in a long, long time. And I've heard rumors...."
"Oh yeah? What kind of rumors?"
"Well, I'm hearing things about some sort of offensive. My spies haven't been able to pin down anything specific, but there are just too many rumors running around out there for there not to be something behind them. I want to go find a little action."
"Well, baby... you should have said something. You know if you want action, I'm you're man... and I'm *always* ready to go."
She pinched his ass and he jumped, not expecting it. "Wrong kind of action, Ares. I want a fight."
"Well, I've been working on that too. I've got several fights star...."
"No, Ares. I want battles and wars and glory... like it was in the beginning."
Ares scrubbed a hand across his beard and looked intently at Orana. Truth be told, he missed that kind of action as well because it had been so long since they'd had a good fight. But something about the timing of this whole thing wasn't sitting well... not with the goddesses renewed interest in the Amazons of Paradise Island. However.... "You think that's what this is?"
"I don't know yet, but I would like to find out. It's making my fingers prickle."
"All right," he finally agreed. "Just be careful. We don't want this to backfire. We've got a really good thing going here."
She reached up and drew him to her, kissing him hard and passionately on the mouth. "Not a problem. I'm just looking for a little diversion. Now," she said, moving out of his reach and picking up her belt and lasso. "I've got work to do."
"So do I," he agreed. ""But I'll be back." Then he shimmered out of the room, and she walked out, leaving the room in darkness.
"All right – that's it. Countdown starts now. We will commence the operation in forty-eight hours. Everyone's got their assignments. Questions?"
"Yes. Where is Diana and what is her part in all of this?" This from Hans as he was the only one who knew that Diana and Chase had left together earlier and that Chase had returned alone. He hadn't shared that knowledge with anyone, curious to know what had happened between them but anxious to give Chase the benefit of the doubt. She had been his best friend for a long time, and he'd never once know her to act without honor. But he'd never seen her out of sorts like she had been with Diana either.
"There was an emergency in her family, and they came looking for her. She went with them, so I'm guessing she's got some things to take care of that don't involve us or this mission. That's all right – she wasn't really ever a part of this mission to begin with, so we didn't have to make any alterations. Anything else?"
The silence around the room made it seem like there was more that each of them wanted to say... questions they wanted to ask... but they let it go. Chase was focused on the rebellion again, and that is what they needed. As much as they liked Diana, they needed Chase. No one stopped to consider that Diana was what Chase needed.
"All right," Chase nodded, picking up her notes. "Everyone make sure to see Hans before we head out to get their shots and pick up their new armor. No one goes on this operation without both. Move out – we've got a hell of a lot to get done and not much time left to do it in."
She was out the door before any of them could even get up from their seats.
"That is why you're here, Drea? It has nothing to do with me then?"
"No," Drea said, "though of course your mother did ask me to check on you, make sure you were doing all right. She really is concerned." Diana nodded, but made no other attempt to acknowledge acceptance of Drea's words. "Is that how Chase got you here – under the guise of me needing you?"
"Actually she just asked for a few minutes of my time, then she apologized and left me here."
"But she left you a vehicle...."
"... which I cannot drive." Diana bit her lip. "All right, I guess that means I start walking. Would you like to come with me or would you prefer to stay here?"
"Given my choice, I will come with you, of course. Let us have something to eat first."
"Yes, and Aunt Jasmine can explain why she never told Chase about her heritage," glaring at the spirit of the woman who sat in the window seat looking across at the tree beneath which her body lay buried.
Jasmine looked at Diana with eyes that were full of despair, and Diana was inclined towards sympathy for her. But the truth was, she had unwittingly managed to complicate Diana's life immensely and thrown any chance of Chase accepting Diana or her heritage into a tailspin. It made things more complicated, Diana sighed, but not impossible. One more hurdle on the path to being whole again.
"First things first. Jasmine will tell her story for you while we eat, then you and I will head back to the rebel encampment. Do you think you can find it again?"
Diana nodded. Then she took a seat and waited expectantly for Jasmine to begin speaking.
It took Jasmine through their meal and a little longer to finish her telling and Diana listened and ate without interrupting. Drea watched Diana as she listened, noting with interest how she absorbed the details about Chase's life. The sun had almost set by the time that Jasmine finished.
"I didn't keep it from her maliciously, Diana. It just never seemed like a good time to tell her... especially not as a teenaged child... and then it was too late. I ran out of time. I am hoping after she settles down and thinks about it calmly that she will realize that."
"Do you know why she came out here?" Diana asked.
"No. We never got that far." A pause. "I wonder if she suspected the truth or if she came looking for answers about something else." Drea met Diana's eyes. "How are things progressing between the two of you?"
Diana shook her head. "They aren't. She's been avoiding me, but I don't know if it just me or if there is more to it."
"Well, what do you say we go and find out?"
"Drea," Jasmine interrupted before Diana could answer. "Take care of my baby girl, and remind her that I love her – that I never meant to hurt her with any of this."
Drea took Jasmine's hands in her own. "Do not worry, sister. It may take a while to convince your stubborn child of the truth, but we will make Chase understand it eventually. Have a little faith. Diana and I will bring her back here as quickly as we can."
Jasmine leaned forward and brushed a cool kiss across Drea's cheek. "Go with my blessing then."
Then Drea turned to Diana and held out her hand and the two walked out of the house and down the lane, headed back to the rebel encampment.
"Find a way, Nubia. Given what Paula has been able to record in the last few days in man's world, it has become imperative that we get involved. We *have* to do something. We have stood by unknowing in our ignorance, while man's world has suffered and bled and died under the hand of one of our own. Diana and Chase have both suffered so much to get to this point. I think we owe them whatever help we can provide, but it needs to be now."
"As you say, my queen. But without divine intervention, I am not sure we can arrive in man's world in time to make a difference for them. We're still piecing it together, but from all the data we have managed to cull together something big is coming and it's going to happen soon. Within days, if we are understanding the transmissions correctly."
"My queen, we know for certain Orana is out and about again. Now that we know she is involved in this, we have stepped up our surveillance, but it is still all piecemeal. We do not know if she is out looking for something specific or simply trying to relieve her boredom."
"What of the rebellion?"
"Again, just bits. Short of asking the goddesses, it is all guesswork on our part. But there has been a lot more activity over the past month or so. That in and of itself indicates things are happening. Can we ask the goddesses?"
"I already have," Mala finally spoke. "The queen is right. The time has come for the Amazons to take their place again as the warriors they once were. Be ready tomorrow before dawn."
A cheer went up from the council. Then they scrambled to get and get the warriors of the Nation ready to go into man's world. The time had finally come, and the women of the Amazon Nation were spoiling for a fight. Knowing they were going to support their princess and redeem themselves from Orana put a fire in their bellies the Nazis were going to have a very hard time putting out.
"Chase, you got a minute?" Ty asked, sticking her head in the door of Chase's hut. Chase leaned back in the chair and gave Ty her full attention.
"Sure Ty," she said, pushing her papers away from her. "What's up? Problems with your preparations, or...?" extending her hands in inquiry. Ty shook her head.
"No, no. Nothing like that. I want to know what really happened to Diana, Chase. I know how she feels about... things," not wanting to reveal a confidence. "I want to know why you made her leave."
Instead of becoming angry, as Ty half feared she would, Chase sighed sadly and crossed over to the small window that looked out over the compound. Everywhere she looked there was activity; to the untrained eye it appeared much like controlled chaos. But to Chase's knowing gaze, it was the steady, forward progress of war preparation. She didn't sense fear, but instead saw excitement simmering just below the surface of the purposeful commotion.
Ty didn't interrupt Chase's musing, sensing the conflict within her cousin, even though Chase kept her eyes on the hustle and bustle taking place just outside her hut. Ty figured her patience would be rewarded sooner or later if she remained quiet; Chase had been like this before – when her father had died and again when her mother had been killed. Eventually, Chase was going to need to share with someone if only to vent before she drove herself crazy. So Ty waited.
"I didn't make her leave, Ty. Someone who is from Diana's home found me and I took her to them." Truth, mostly, as far as it went, but Ty wasn't buying it. She knew there was more. She waited but Chase didn't speak further, and Ty slapped her legs in frustration.
"Damn it, Chase! What the hell is going on with you?? I know there is more to this story than you are telling me. Now, you wanna start from the beginning and just tell me the truth, or you want me to pick and pry it out of you until I'm satisfied??"
Chase almost had to laugh. Ty would do it too; she had before. One thing Chase knew she could count on her cousin for was absolute honesty and a swift kick in the ass if she needed it. Unconsciously, she rubbed her butt and Ty chuckled, forcing Chase to turn and glare at her before smiling sheepishly.
"Start at the beginning, Chase, and tell me everything. Maybe I can help... at least you might feel better for sharing the burden with someone. C'mon. I know something has been bothering you since you came back from... wherever it was you disappeared a few months ago."
Then Ty waited. She knew of Chase didn't share now, she never would, or at least not for a very long time. By then, with a little luck, the war would be over and Chase wouldn't need the focus she needed now. But it would still eat at her until she had nothing left, and Ty didn't want to lose Chase to madness. And this, Ty feared, would be the final push Chase needed to cross the line.
"Do you remember the stories my mother used to tell, Ty? Stories from the old country, she called them - about ancient cultures and heroes and myths."
"Oh yes," Ty answered enthusiastically. "My favorites were always about the Amazons. I loved...." She broke off when she realized what she was about to say and who she was saying it to. "I'm sorry, Chase. I didn't...."
Chase smiled at her sadly before turning her attention back out the window. "Don't be sorry, Ty. I loved the ones about the two who traveled together the best, but the Amazon stories were some my favorites too. At least until...."
"Anyway, do you remember how real she made those stories seem... like they were real people who lived in real time and had real lives and adventures? Do you remember how much we wanted them to *be* real so we could meet them?"
"Do I? My daddy tanned my backside more than once for going on and on about them when I should have been concentrating on other things. Said the Amazons were nothing more than myths and I needed to focus on the here and now. He said Aunt Jas just made up stories to give us some strong female figures to aspire to."
"For a long time, I figured he was right. Don't get me wrong... I loved Mama's stories, but they couldn't be real, right? Things like that were just make-believe, especially in our world. Then I met Orana, and she made me hate the thought of there being Amazons if they were like her."
"You think differently now." A statement, not a question.
Chase shook her head. "No, Ty. I *know* differently now. Those dreams... you know the ones I had when I first got back from that mission?" looking over her shoulder at Ty and seeing her nod her agreement. "Those weren't dreams, Ty. It really happened. The Amazons, the island... everything."
When she realized that Chase wasn't going to continue, Ty prodded. "How?" Suspecting it had everything to do with Diana.
Chase took a deep breath. "Diana was there. She's an Amazon princess." Her pronouncement was met with silence, and Chase turned to meet Ty's eyes. They were widened and her jaw was slack. Chase smirked just a little and went over to wave her hand in front of Ty's face. It took several passes before Ty blinked and met her gaze. Then she cleared her throat and spoke.
"An Amazon princess?? Oooooookay. Did she tell you this?"
"Ty, trust me when I tell you I know it is true; you know I can sense if a person is lying or not. She told me things she could only have known if they were true and she was there."
"That doesn't make her a princess."
"No, but I have reason to believe that part is true."
"Is that why you made her leave? Because she's an Amazon princess?" Chase shook her head but made no more effort to elaborate. "C'mon, Chase," Ty finally huffed. "You gotta give me something more here. You know I have never been good as guessing games."
Chase walked back over to the window, careful to keep her back to Ty. "No, Ty. I told you the truth about that. An Amazon, the woman who healed me on that island, was at the homestead today when I went to talk to Mama." Ty didn't comment; she knew Chase usually went to back to her old home to talk to Jasmine's grave whenever she needed to talk. It was only very rarely that she would open up to one of them, so as not to appear weak. "Since Diana had made it fairly clear to me that she was here because she had nowhere else to go, I thought it was best to give her the chance to go home when the opportunity arose."
"Uh huh," Ty said dryly. "Did it ever occur to you to *ask* her what she wanted?"
"Ty," Chase finally said with more than a hint of exasperation and asperity in her voice. "She was a distraction for me. I needed her to be gone from here as much as she wanted to be away from me."
"Ty, she left here of her own volition, all right? She walked out of this hut and away from me without a word of explanation. No amount of window dressing is gonna change that little fact. But by taking her back to her family, I did what was best for everyone; the timing just happened to fall into place like it did by sheer coincidence."
Ty stood up and stomped her way over to the window. She grabbed Chase by the shoulder and swung her around so their eyes could meet. "I don't believe you," she swore, throwing her hands up into the air. "You are... argh!" words failing her completely.
Ty held up a finger and glared when Chase opened her mouth to speak, pacing back and forth across the small room, her anger apparent in her attitude as well as her actions. "Did it ever ONCE occur to *you* to talk to Diana? To ask her why she moved out in such a hurry? To find out why she really stayed here? It didn't, did it? You let your feelings get hurt over something you won't even acknowledge, much less try to understand. You pushed her away - making sure you couldn't even be friends... because you were afraid."
Ty turned to look at Chase who hadn't stirred at all, her gaze appearing to be completely riveted on the world going on around her just outside her hut. "Chase, are you even listening to me??" anger coloring her tone.
"Ty, are you done?" never removing her eyes from the window.
"Yes, damn it! I'm done." She blew out a deep breath and spoke more calmly. "I'm finished, yes."
"I hope you will respect that what I shared with you was done so in confidence. I would appreciate if you wouldn't share it with the others."
"Chase, even if you had shared something private like that with me – which you didn't, by the way - I wouldn't go out and share it with the rest. I never have. I treasure your trust in me; I'd hoped you understood that by now and felt the same in return." Her voice was saddened by remorse and her shoulders slumped in an air of utter defeat.
"I do, Ty. You know that. I just... this is awkward for me, and I'm not sure why or...." Her brow furrowed in consternation. "Wait, I did share with you. I told you the dreams were real and not dreams and that Diana is an Amazon princess."
Ty nodded. "Yes, you did, and of course I would never share that with anyone. But you still haven't shared why you sent Diana away. Or why you won't talk to her. Or how you feel about the whole thing. Or...." Ty had to stop speaking when Chase's hand covered her mouth. She met her cousin's green eyes, expecting to find anger or frustration... anything but the amusement she found there.
"All right, Ty. All right – I get the point." Her eyes turned serious. "I appreciate the concern, and if I had anything to share, you know you'd be the first to hear about it. In all honesty, maybe I'll have time to think about it and worry about all that later. But for right now, I have to focus on the here and now – the rebellion and winning this goddamn war once and for all. Once it's all over and everything is taken care of, maybe I can worry about the rest... maybe I can worry about me for a change. But I can't let this distract me now. This is about more than just me, Ty; this is about all of us and is critical to our survival."
Ty clasped Chase's hands in hers. "All right, Chase. I can accept that for now. But you promise me... when this is all over and everything is taken care of... you promise me that you will take care of Chase. I want you to be happy. You deserve it so much. You especially," she said, not letting Chase interrupt her, "because you have done so much for everyone else."
"Okay, Ty. I promise. When we're done, I'll try to take some time for me, and figure out what I need to do to be happy. Then I'll go out and do it."
"You promise me that you'll talk to Diana – give her a chance?"
"Ty, I doubt Diana will be anywhere around, but if she is, I promise that I will talk to her and give her a chance," knowing in her heart that Diana was going to be a very long from anywhere Chase expected to be, assuming she survived the coming battle. Because she knew someone was going to have to be the one to take down Orana, and she had already granted herself that special task. She felt she deserved as much, and she certainly wasn't going to put anyone else in harm's way.
Ty nodded, not liking the vibe she was suddenly getting from Chase, but unable to do more than accept her word. "All right. C'mon," she said, pulling her towards the door. "It's time for dinner, and I know you're hungry. You missed lunch, and I can hear your stomach growling. Don't bother," when Chase tried to pull free. "I'm not taking no for an answer."
Chase chuckled wryly and shook her head, then followed Ty out the door and across the compound to the mess hall where they were greeted with hails and cheers.
"So what are you going to do when we get there?" Drea asked Diana as they walked down the road in the twilight that was swiftly fading to darkness. "Do you have a plan?"
Diana shook her head. "Not yet. Only that I'm not going to throttle Chase when I see her. Because she did leave me a vehicle to use – even if I don't know how to use it. I think she brought me to you because she wanted to keep me safe and out of the way."
"Is that a good thing?"
Diana considered the question, then nodded slowly. "I think so. From what I know of Chase, it is almost the ultimate compliment. She knows I'm not incompetent or stupid and she expects everyone to pull their weight. So either she is protecting me because she cares about me to some degree or getting rid of me because I am a distraction.
"Maybe a little of both?"
Diana sighed and shrugged. "Maybe. I would prefer if she would talk to me, though. I really want...." She stopped speaking with a blush when it occurred to her just who she was talking to. Drea smiled.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Diana. I think it is wonderful that you really want, and even better that you've found the one you really want to with." Drea took Diana's arm as they continued walking down the road. "I've missed this with you. I've missed you." Diana patted the hand that rested on her arm, but she didn't speak. "Your mother misses you too, you know. She has for a long time. She just couldn't seem to find a way to reach you and eventually she stopped trying."
"Drea, I know you mean well, and I know that sooner or later Hippolyta and I will need to come to some sort of an understanding. But not right now. Right now, I have enough to worry about without having to consider any of that. So can we leave it alone... please?"
"I am sorry, Little One. You are entirely correct, of course. You do know that Paula has continued to monitor things here and in the Nazi capital as well as she can. If she has been able to see any of what you say has been going on, Hippolyta will be preparing the warriors to come join the fight." She held up her hand when Diana would have spoken. "It is their fight as well, Diana. We all bear the responsibility for Orana, and no one wants to be left out of providing a solution for dealing with her."
"No, Drea. This is my fight – mine and Chase's. We lost the most to Orana's machinations. I hate to be the one to point this out, Drea, but I doubt very sincerely Chase is going to let anyone but her deal with Orana... especially not an Amazon."
"Does she know... about what happened with your mother?"
Diana nodded. "She knows about everything... except why I followed her here. I couldn't find the words to tell her when we were talking, and then she stopped talking to me. I wonder if I had told her the truth... even part of it... if...."
"If perhaps she might have reacted differently? If something might have already happened between you?" Diana nodded, the motion barely visible in the light of the waning moon. Drea pulled them to a halt and cupped Diana's face in her hands. "Little One, what is the one thing I have tried to teach you, hmm? The one thing you know to be true despite everything."
"Everything happens in its own good time."
"Exactly. Even if we do not understand the reasons, even though we cannot see the big picture, even when we do not agree with what has happened and why," the last bit muttered under her breath, "eventually things do come together of their own time and their own volition." Drea removed her hands from Diana's face and took her arm again, resuming their walk down the road.
"Besides," she continued, "she needs to discover the truth that is the two of you for herself. If Chase had been told the truth about the two of you and then found out she was an Amazon, there is always be a chance she would feel manipulated, and that is never a good foundation for a relationship of any kind – even friendship. At least this way, she knows the truth about her heritage, and the rest will come with time."
"Do you really believe that Drea? Do you think she'll figure it out and accept it for everything it is?"
"Yes, Little One. I really do. Aside from knowing her mother pretty well, and realizing that both her mother and her aunt are brilliant and have impeccable taste, it sounds like she already has feelings for you, daughter. She is not going to pass that up. Her soul won't let her. The down side, and of course you knew there had to be one - knowing her mother and aunt as well as I do, I can safely say she is a fighter, and she's going to fight every step of the way to realization."
Diana chuckled wryly. "Given her original soul, I can believe that. Do you think I am losing my mind over this... maybe being a little impatient with the whole process? I mean Chase and I have really only just met in this lifetime – we've only known one another for a very few weeks when you really think about it... a couple months at most."
"But this is something you have been searching for for a very long time, Diana. And your soul recognized her and your heart knew the truth even before your mind figured it out. Hers is the same way except that she doesn't even realize she has been looking for you through her lifetimes. She just knows there is something about you and for whatever reason, it terrifies her. But she will figure it out. I would be willing to guess that part of her problem is her leadership of the rebellion. Jasmine told me Chase has always been very singularly focused, and it only got worse after the death of each parent and then her incarceration by Orana. She is going to need to learn a new focus."
It was quiet for a long while as they walked along the road while Diana considered Drea's words. She had missed their talks as well as the sage advice Drea always seemed to have well in hand. And with Drea's belief, she felt her own belief reassert itself. She knew Chase felt something. Now it was simply a matter of getting her to see and acknowledge what that something between them really was. But first they had to win this war.
It was just after midnight when they crossed the outer boundary of the rebel encampment. At Diana's request, Ty was called to meet and vouch for them instead of Chase. Ty did a double take when she saw Drea and was introduced to her casually by Diana as 'my other mother.' Instead of asking the questions that dripped off her tongue, Ty reassured the guard with alacrity so the trio was soon crossing the grounds to Diana's small quarters. Diana looked around, easily able to see the preparations that had already been made and were in fact still in progress. She turned questioning blue eyes to Ty and waited for an explanation.
"I'll explain everything in the morning," Ty promised. "But for now, let's just say it's time to wrap up this war and go to bed, all right? Please, Diana. It's been a very long day."
"She's right, Diana," Drea said, placing a hand on Diana's arm. "There will be time for discussion and explanations in the morning."
Diana looked at Drea, noting for the first time an exhaustion she could plainly see written on her face. She nodded her head. "All right," looking back at Ty. "In the morning, then."
But the morning was going to bring even further complication to their lives.
Hippolyta looked around at the homestead in the bare light of the approaching dawn. Though there were obvious signs of neglect, still the place had the look of recent occupation. Despite the repairs that needed to be done, the walk had been swept and the flower beds had been weeded. Hippolyta knocked on the door and waited, then turned to look at her warriors – her warriors – she thought with pride. They stood waiting patiently for her orders and she turned to her advisory council.
"Well, there doesn't appear to be anyone home, though I don't think she's been gone too long." The goddesses had transported them to Chase's homestead figuring to meet up with Drea and going to the rebel encampment together, and to find she was no longer here.... "We will have to figure out where they are and make our way to them. Best guess as to which direction we should go?"
It was only an answer on the wind, but they all heard it as clearly as though Artemis was standing among them when she spoke. East.
So the warriors formed ranks and began a comfortable run east, hopefully towards the rebel compound.
Chase was up before the sun and looking over every aspect of the camp as it continued to make preparations for the final assault. At each place she stopped, listening to concerns and answering questions, helping make things run smoother for everyone. Most of the rebels here, directly under her command, were long veterans of the war against the Nazis. Most of them at one time or another had served on the front line, and all of those that had, had served more than once in the face of death. Those that hadn't were young and scared, and Chase did her best to reassure them as much as possible. And so she slowly made her across and through the camp until she was satisfied that everything that could be done was being done.
Ty, meanwhile, had gotten up as the sun peeked over the horizon of the eastern sky. Given her late night, she felt like she could have slept til noon, but knew that was completely out of the question. She went to the mess tent to pick up some breakfast and then made her way directly to Diana's hut. She had questions she wanted answers to as well.
Ty knocked, but she didn't wait for an invitation before she entered. She didn't want Chase to see her loitering outside Diana's hut, especially with food in her hands. Chase would start asking questions of her own before Ty herself got some answers. Immediately she was met by two blades on opposite sides of her neck until the two Amazons got a good look at their intruder. Drea turned to Diana for advice and Diana simply nodded and removed her own blade from Ty's throat. Drea was only a beat behind her. Ty placed the tray down on the small table.
"We do not rate the courtesy of inviting you in first?" Drea asked in a curt tone. Diana just looked at Ty and waited for her response. She had her own suspicions why Ty had done what she did and was curious to know what sort of explanation she would offer. Ty handed each of them a cup of coffee and a roll before picking up her own and giving Drea a well-thought out answer.
"Under normal circumstances, you would rate that much and much more besides, but we are not under normal circumstances, are we? And I want some answers before Chase discovers you're here. You," looking directly at Diana, "are supposed to be on your way back home to that island. And you," turning back to Drea, "are obviously related to my Aunt Jasmine. So how are you related to Diana and what are you doing here? What are you both doing here?"
"We'll answer you questions, Ty, if you will answer ours."
"Of course, Diana. I told you I would, but please...."
By accident or design, Ty had become her confidante when she couldn't talk to Chase and needed an outlet. Though Diana had only shared small snippets, Ty had proven trustworthy and loyal and able to keep a secret. So Diana told her the whole story, in all its excruciating detail. Everything that was relevant to this situation, anyway – who Drea was and why she had really come and why they had returned to the rebel compound together instead of going home. Ty just covered her eyes as she listened and scrubbed her hands through her hair when the recitation was over.
"Damn sonofabitch!" she cursed, making Drea's eyes widen in surprise. "Is there anything else I need to be aware of?"
"Not to my knowledge," Diana answered honestly. "I have told you everything I know that happened once I left here. I only found out most of this myself yesterday. I knew about Drea and Jasmine being twins, of course, but I didn't know about the rest."
Ty squeezed her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Chase is gonna kill me," she muttered, "just on general principle, much less for knowing things I shouldn't." She sighed. "Well, as long as I am going to have to die because of all this, let me bring you up to date on my side of things." Drea and Diana exchanged glances wondering what they had missed in Diana's narration.
"First and foremost, you have to know that though she didn't always, Chase hates Amazons now because of something that happened to her when she was captured by the Nazis in Berlin some time ago. She never shared with me what happened; only that it was an Amazon who had caused the damage I could see, and obviously the psychological damage I couldn't. Anyway, that's not the important part, though I think ya'll needed to understand – especially you, Diana. It helps explain why she is having problems... um, relating to you."
Diana nodded, understanding far more than Ty was aware of, though her expression gave none of that away.
"You also need to understand that she didn't share with me the fact that she is an Amazon, which means she hasn't come to terms with it. It would probably be in all our best interests if number one, she doesn't know you told me this and number two, you," motioning to Drea, "stay out of sight. Seeing you probably hurts Chase more than she would ever admit to. Aunt Jasmine was her best friend, and her death was agonizing for Chase, especially since Chase still feels a guilty responsibility for it."
"Okay, not to seem cold but what does that have to do with what is going around here now?" This from Drea. "Obviously something big is happening." Diana remained quiet.
"Something big *is* happening. We are preparing for our final offensive against the Reich. This is an all or nothing gamble, and thanks to Diana's and Hans' work, most of us have a huge hope of not only succeeding, but actually coming through this alive."
"You didn't expect to succeed before?"
Ty shook her head. "Oh yes, we always expected to succeed; the actual plan hasn't changed. We just didn't have much chance for survival. Diana's efforts helped change all that. It is one reason we are moving now, and it is one reason Chase took you to Drea, Diana. She cares for you too much to endanger you, though she won't admit that to herself. She claims you are a distraction, which is true enough, though again, she's not analyzing the why behind the distraction."
Diana tilted her head in question. "Do you know something?"
"I know Chase. That's enough," but she didn't say anything else.
"Would you like to share?"
"Nope. I am in enough trouble as it is. Besides, I have enough to worry about with ops prep. I'm not about to get involved in someone else's love life – or lack there of." Ty would have laughed at the way Diana's eyes bugged out of her head if she hadn't been so engrossed in her thoughts. "My big concern right now is how to tell Chase that you are back here. She's not going to be happy."
"Does she need to know?" Drea asked. "If I need to stay out of sight, why can't Diana? I mean if it would make it easier...."
"Drea, even if I wanted to let Chase protect me... which I don't..." with a glare at both of them, "I have a score to settle with Orana as well. For my sake as well as Chase's. I worked hard to make myself a productive part of this rebellion and I am not going to be left out of it because Chase considers me to be a distraction to her for whatever reason." She turned her gaze strictly on Ty and it was all Ty could do not to flinch at the intensity she felt flowing from Diana in waves when she became the sole focus of it suddenly and without warning.
Ty blinked. "Um, Diana?"
" You let me take care of Chase, Ty. I should have before."
" Why didn't you?"
" The million dollar question. Any number of reasons; however, this isn't the time to get into it. I'll talk to Chase and we will work out some sort of compromise." She started to stand when Ty's name was hollered out and the door was jerked open. " Ty, what are you doi... Diana?" Shep stopped short and dropped his head to his chest before blowing out a frustrated breath. " What are you...? Nevermind. This just gets better and better. C'mon, Ty. You don't want to miss this."
Drea stood and Shep finally noticed her presence in the room. His eyes bugged right out of his head. " Holy shit! Jasmine??"
Drea shook her head and extended her hand. " Jasmine was my twin sister. My name is Drea. And you are?"
" Shep. Um, I don't want to seem rude, but Ty, if we don't get out there...."
" Shep, what's wrong?" Ty asked as she took the two steps to the door. " Please excuse us," she said to Drea and Diana. Shep shook his head.
" They should probably come along... at least Diana should." They stepped from the hut as a group and followed Shep swiftly towards the front gate. " There is a woman at the gate who mentioned her by name."
Drea exchanged looks with Diana. " You don't suppose...?"
" One way to find out," Diana said and hastened towards the gate.
Hippolyta couldn't say what made her bring her troops to a silent halt, but without warning she stopped and held up a hand. Immediately, the Amazons stopped running and though they didn't draw their weapons, they were hyper alert to everything around them as they slowly spread out to search the area and find whatever it was that had caused Hippolyta to stop their forward progress.
Erilani saw them first, but only because she literally walked into the outermost guard. He was so well disguised Hippolyta couldn't blame the royal guard for her strangled yelp. Had she been two steps to the left, she herself would have been the one to bump into him.
" State your name and your business," the man commanded as he and several others stepped forward with their weapons drawn and highly evident to block any further advancement. Hippolyta had to remind herself that this was man's world and they had no idea who she or her warriors were. And remembering that these were rebels against the Nazis in a fight for their life, it was no surprise that simple courtesy did not exist for unexpected guests into their encampment.
" My name is Hippolyta. I was looking for a woman named Chase or my daughter, Diana Prince."
" What business do you have with them?" the man asked without batting an eyelash in surprise, though Mala picked up on the slight widening of his eyes at the mention of Diana's name. She wondered what the princess had done to make such an impression so quickly here, though she had always able to captivate people easily before she had become so angry. She hoped to see that charismatic princess again, but first they had to find her.
" I have come as the Queen of the Amazon Nation to offer my warriors to aid the rebellion in the destruction of Nazi tyranny."
This time the man did blink at Hippolyta for several long seconds before he turned his attention to the woman who stood beside him. " Go find Ty or Shep – someone in authority," not wanting to confirm Chase's presence in the camp. " Now!" The woman nodded and ran off, disappearing into the brush with an ease that the Amazons appreciated for the art form it was.
The man turned his attention back to Hippolyta. " You might want to find a place to wait. It might be a little while before anyone gets back here," not mentioning that the gate was just out of sight behind the trees and brush.
Hippolyta smiled. The man was young, but he had strength in his gaze as well as in his bearing, and Hippolyta respected that. She motioned to her warriors, and the Amazons settled down to wait.
The wait wasn't very long, all things considered. Hippolyta rose as soon as she heard the sound of people approaching and the warriors rose behind her as one. The council formed a semi-circle at her back and they waited in silence for the rustling to morph into something more tangible. Shep was in the lead and was the first of the little group to the gate outpost. Directly behind him was Ty, followed by Drea and finally, Diana.
A couple discrete hand signals from Drea kept Hippolyta, and thus everyone else, in place as the quartet stepped closer to the Amazons. Shep stepped forward with his arm outstretched and Hippolyta accepted it with a warrior handshake. He adjusted quickly and introduced himself, then moved aside so Ty could do the same. They had agreed that Ty would take the lead once they had introduced themselves to the Amazons.
" Hello, Queen Hippolyta," she said graciously, bowing her head briefly in respect. " My name is Ty. I believe you know Drea and Diana," motioning to the two women who stood just behind her.
Hippolyta couldn't stop the huge grin that crossed her face. It was good to see both Drea and Diana again. She had missed them greatly for obviously different reasons, but she knew there was business to take care of first. Besides, she had a feeling she was going to like Ty; there was something about her that was refreshing. " I believe you are right, Ty."
" So I understand ya'll want to help us out. Can I ask why you want to help and how you found us?"
" The why is simple – Orana was... is an Amazon, though we've only just recently been made aware of her activities here in man's world. That makes her our responsibility. We'd like to offer whatever assistance we can to help rid the world of her. As for how we found you, well, let's just say we had divine assistance and leave it at that for now. Perhaps when this is all over we can get into the details."
" All right," Ty said. " But Queen Hippolyta, before you commit yourself and your warriors to this fight, there are a few things you need to be aware of. No bullshit now – just honest truth." Hippolyta's eyes widened at Ty's choice of words, but she nodded for her to continue. " First of all, we do not stand on ceremony here. If you join us, you will not be a queen here; you will just be Hippolyta, like I am Ty and your daughter is Diana."
" Next, we have one leader and what she says, goes. We are allowed to voice opinions and ask questions of course, but at the end of the day, when the choice is made, we follow her. If you can't give up both your title of queen and your warriors won't accept orders from another authority, you can't do any good here. You may as well go back to wherever it is that is home for you, because we can't use you here."
Ty waited and finally Hippolyta felt compelled to speak. " Is there anything else?" wondering if Ty knew about Chase's hatred of the Amazons. " I would like to hear all the negatives before I make any comments or decisions."
Ty nodded. She really did like this woman's spunk. If Jasmine had been telling stories about real Amazons – these Amazons – then the woman standing in front of her was nearly three thousand years old. Regardless of the fact that she looked to be a woman of less than middle age, that was a very, very long time to have been alive, and Ty had a sneaking suspicion immortality was not always what it had cracked up to be.
" The last critical thing you should know is that our leader may have issues with the fact that you are Amazons. She was captured and tortured by the Fuehrer... the one you call Orana... and she made it a point to rub her Amazonian heritage in her face. I would like to believe she would be fair and give you the opportunity to prove yourselves, but the fact is there is a lot of hate and a lot of hurt she will have to overcome first to do so."
She noticed Ty was very careful not to mention Chase's name and she applauded her caution, as frustrating as it was not to have her suspicions confirmed, though surely Drea and Diana would not be here if Chase wasn't. Hippolyta turned to her council and gave them a brief word Ty couldn't hear, but whatever it was caused them and the warriors behind them to drop to one knee and bow their heads while waiting for their queen to speak.
" As for the first, I will be happy to be called by you as my consort Drea calls me... Pol. It is much less formal and much easier to say than Hippolyta every time you would like to get my attention. I don't know if the rest of the Nation can remember to call me by anything other than 'my queen' as they have done so for such a very long time, but I give you my word they will try."
" For the second, I had hoped to turn the leadership of the Amazon warriors over to my daughter to lead as she knows each of them and how the skills they possess could best be utilized for the good of the rebellion. But if she has sworn fealty to your leader then we will of course do the same."
" For the last, I have hope that if your leader is the woman I remember her to be, she will remember that we gave her aid in her hour of need and will give us a chance if only for that reason. I believe in her heart she knows the truth. We merely have to guide her to it. So if Chase is willing to let us fight beside you, we will prove ourselves worthy allies indeed."
" Very well, then, Hip... Pol. Let's get you all into the compound and let Chase know we have reinforcements and unexpected allies." The Amazons rose as one before Hippolyta put a restraining hand on Ty's arm.
" Ty, would you mind very much... I would still like to turn over leadership of the warriors to Diana. I believe she will be better suited to, if not lead them into combat, at least give Chase good advice on their placement within your ranks."
Ty looked at Diana whose eyes widened in reaction to her mother's words. It was the only change in her expression. She shrugged her shoulders at Ty who in turn nodded at Hippolyta.
There was no ceremony – no pretty words and flowery speeches. Instead, Hippolyta simply took off her signet ring and slid it onto Diana's finger, then brushed her cheek with the very lightest of kisses before Diana could move out of range. Hippolyta motioned to Ty.
" Well, can we go into the compound now? I am somewhat anxious to see the changes time has wrought in man's world. And I would like a proper introduction to Chase."
Drea took Hippolyta's hand in her own and the council closed ranks around the three women and Shep as they walked the short distance to the front gate. Diana took her place at the head of the Amazon army, and though they didn't make a sound, she could feel the pulsating energy of them cheering behind her. It made her smile.
Harry knocked on the door of her quarters where Chase was finishing up her own last minute preparations. " Come in," she called, checking the status of her armor. Hans had added some extra pieces knowing Chase would be going into the lion's den. She looked up when Harry crossed the threshold and her expression became one of immediate concern.
" Harry? Is there a problem?? Have you gotten news from our outposts overseas??"
" No, ma'am! No, nothing like that. But I think you'd better come outside and see this for yourself."
Chase followed him out of the hut and then stopped dead at the sight that met her gaze. The courtyard was filled with women – Amazon women – and chief among them stood Diana and her mother's twin. She considered her alternatives, and decided a strategic retreat was in order before she said or did something stupid she might regret later. Suddenly, nothing was easy anymore, and this situation was becoming more and more complicated by the minute.
Continued in Part 8