Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
Orana walked into the conference room, and every man snapped to attention until she put them at ease. They waited until she sat down and gestured at the table before they assumed their seats, and they did so with alacrity. Something about their Fuehrer was different; she exuded an edgy energy that they had only heard about from the oldest elders or had, on the rarest occasions, seen in action – though even then, it had been a residual effect of a particularly nasty torture session. And there had only been one noteworthy session in their lifetime.
This energy was subtly different, however. When Orana had Annabelle Chaser in her custody, she had been first thrilled with her conquest and then furious at being outwitted by someone she considered inferior to her both physically as well as intellectually. Their only saving grace had been that she had been in too much agony immediately after Chase's attack and subsequent escape to do more than give cursory orders; otherwise, the lot of them would have been strung up... or worse.
Then she had been angry, but by the time she had healed, she had moved her focus on to other things and had withdrawn into her own world. It had made them relax slightly. But it was obvious from her attitude today, something had happened to bring back the feared Fuehrer who had originally deposed Hitler and built the Nazi regime into the most powerful war machine the world had ever known.
This Fuehrer had purpose and determination, and marked the return of the legendary Black Widow into their midst. Every single man and woman in the room with her sat a little straighter in their chair. They hadn't felt this kind of excitement before and they enjoyed the tingle that ran across their skin from the energy that skittered throughout the room.
Orana let them absorb the new sensation, letting it build into something of a controlled frenzy. She wanted to infuse the feeling into their being so their desire for it ran hot and strong. In that way, she would be able to utilize it to destroy the rebellion. Because once they had the burning, they would do anything to keep it and tightening her grip on the world would be easy.
She had gotten lax since she had brought the world under her iron grip of domination, and except for the episode with the rebel spy, had been little more than a name used to keep both her army and her subjects in line. Now, it was time to take action to assure that she didn't lose her hold on her regime. This was *hers* and she wasn't about to let any threat, real or imagined, take it away from her.
When she cleared her throat to speak, all heads turned her direction... and flinched at the intensity of purpose that burned in her eyes.
" Rumors have reached my ears that the rebellion," said with a sneer in her voice, " is making a big offensive push against the Reich. But I cannot seem to get confirmation on this one way or another. The signs are there, but I need more details. So, what do you have for me?" looking around the room for some sort of response, not pleased with the lack thereof.
" This is not rocket science, people. I have scientists for that if I want to indulge in that sort of speculation. This is military security. Do you mean to tell me not one of you has any idea of any problems going on in your region? No rebels, no discontentment – everything is perfect."
Her voice and demeanor was calm but none of them were stupid enough to miss the clenching of her jaw or the flexing of her fingers. Finally, one small woman, braver than the rest and a personal favorite of Orana's, rose to speak. Orana nodded towards her graciously and motioned for her to speak. The woman bowed her head in acknowledgement and drew breath to speak.
" Mein Fuehrer, we haven't had any clear cut reports of rebel activity in my region, but we did notice some awkward movement by those we suspect might be rebel sympathizers or resistance members a couple months ago. Nothing we could have arrested them for without causing a panic, nothing we would have even noticed as being odd if we hadn't been looking for it. As it stands, it was only unusual... a little out of the ordinary. And it didn't last very long... a few nights, and then everything stopped again, settled back down."
Orana leaned back thoughtfully. " What happened? What was the change in routine?
" It was more of a rumbling, sort of like the atmosphere change. The people seemed to have a new kind of energy. But it only lasted for a few days, and then it was gone like it had never been. We looked around, checked papers more carefully, searched houses and cars and the like, thinking perhaps someone was being smuggled through, but we never found any evidence of it."
" Was anything else done about it? Any arrests made?
" No, mein Fuehrer. We have nothing but suspicions. The people we have been watching aren't even confirmed rebels. We've continued to watch, but otherwise, short of purging entire villages, I...." The woman shrugged.
Orana sat silently, gesturing absently to the woman to resume her seat. Orana waited, wondering if anyone else would be able to gather the courage to speak. When no one else was forthcoming, she leaned forward. " Ladies and gentlemen, let me make a couple of things perfectly clear for you. We are going to meet back here in twenty-four hours, and in that twenty four hours you are going to dig up every bit of information on rebellion and resistance activities in your area of responsibility. Because when we meet back here, I want names and numbers and locations and any other pertinent data you can find. Am I clear?"
They answered as one body, their volume loud enough to rattle the windows. Orana smiled. She doubted they had been as terrified as recruits as they were at this very moment.
" I don't care how you get it done, just do it. Failure is not an option, ladies and gentlemen. Because I assure you, each and every one of you can be replaced, and there are plenty of good little Nazis clambering for your position, eager to take your place."
She rose, and they rushed to stand as well, snapping to attention and hardly daring to breathe while Orana walked around the table, then made her way to the door.
" Oh, by the way," she paused and looked back over her shoulder at them, meeting each and every set of eyes in the room. " Adelia, I like your idea."
" Mein Fuehrer?"
" Each of you choose a village or town in your region... preferably one that has known or heavily suspected rebel activities... and purge it. Completely."
Eyes widened and jaws dropped. " Co... co... completely, mein Fuehrer? Buh... but we have loyalists in those towns as well. What about them?"
Orana shrugged. " What about them? They are obviously not loyal enough or there wouldn't be any rebels there now, would there?" She exchanged glances with each of them again. " Take care of it. I want reports on my desk in the morning detailing your actions in this regard. Am I understood?"
" YES SIR!!!" The words resonated throughout the room and down the hall as Orana exited and made her way down to her office. For the first time in a very long time, she felt alive. She wondered what other chaos and mayhem she could cause, and she turned her attention to her Reich, feeling enthusiasm rush through her in waves.
Chase looked idly around her hut, wishing she had taken up smoking or drinking or tap dancing or any other number of vices that could be considered a nervous habit – anything to expel some of the panicky energy she suddenly found herself full of. She paced back and forth across the length of her hut before taking herself in hand and breathing deeply.
" All right, Chase. You can do this. You are the leader of the rebellion and you have faced down the Fuehrer and lived to tell the tale. It doesn't matter that the courtyard is full of Amazons. It doesn't matter that your mother's twin is out there with them, and it certainly doesn't matter that...." She blew out a shaky breath. " It *does* matter that Diana is here. Goddamnit! I don't need this right now!" She clenched her hands into fists and dropped onto the bed.
" All right, Chase, all right," she repeated to herself again, closing her eyes and focusing on taking deep even breaths. " You can do this. You can put all of this out of your mind." She sat for long minutes and just breathed – in, out, in out. She took every concern that could interfere with the upcoming offensive and put it away in a box in her mind... something she could deal with later. First her mama and the issues she had only just discovered; then Drea and the Amazons that now occupied the entire compound courtyard; and finally Diana.
That one was harder. There were so many variables involved where Diana was concerned. Things Chase hadn't come to terms with completely herself yet, much less discussed with anyone or admitted to Diana. Memories and feelings and desires and needs – anger and friendship, love and lust.
Only when she heard the door to her hut open did she allow her eyes to slowly open and her thoughts to return to the present. She looked up to find Shep glaring at her impatiently.
" Chase, what the hell are you doing? I know Harry came to get you. What the hell are you still doing in here? C'mon. We have guests and they might be able to give us an unexpected edge."
" I'll be there in a minute, Shep."
He backed out hastily and met Ty's eyes. She arched an eyebrow and he shook his head, holding his hands up in the universal 'Beats me' sign then he started back over to where Ty was waiting. He hadn't made it but three steps before being shoved out of the way from behind by Chase. Not hard, but enough to make him stumble, and he ran to catch up.
Meanwhile, Chase had on her game face and she strode confidently over to where Ty waited flanked by Hippolyta and Drea. Diana remained at the head of the Amazon army waiting for the proper time to be acknowledged by her mother as the leader of said force. With luck, it meant that she would in turn be acknowledged by Chase. Anything to break the stalemate and tension that lingered between them.
Ty blew out a breath of relief. She knew Chase was going to be furious by the unexpected arrival of Amazons, but from all indications – mainly the fact that she hadn't yet gone completely ballistic – she was at least going to be cordial, if not accepting of their presence here.
" Chase, I'm glad you could make it. I was afraid you were going to be too busy," Ty's only reproach for the amount of time it took her to arrive after she was summoned. She continued speaking before Chase could reply. " I believe you know Drea," not mentioning the obvious relationship between Chase and Drea. " And have you met Hippolyta?"
Chase extended her hand to Drea, not even a twitch to betray her thoughts. Certainly no one could have guessed the anger and foul words she had thrown at the older woman only the day before. " It's nice to see you again, Drea. And Hippolyta, was it?" she asked withdrawing her hand from the healer's as politely as possible and clasping Hippolyta's briefly. " I don't think I have had the pleasure."
She clapped her hands together. " So what can I do for you ladies? Your arrival here was completely unexpected, so I really can't offer you much – maybe some refreshment?"
Hippolyta exchanged glances with both Ty and Drea. Though they had tried to explain a little of the situation to her on the very brief walk, she had expected... had hoped for a little warmer reception. Though given what Chase's reaction could have been, all things considered, she figured she was ahead of the game with the offer.
Hippolyta nodded and took Chase's arm, ignoring the flinch she could feel shudder under the skin at her touch. She wondered at the cause – if it was her being an Amazon, or the fact that she was Diana's mother, or if there was something more even beyond that.
" Please, Chase. Some refreshment would be most welcome by not only myself, but my warriors. It has been quite a trip here. Besides, it will give us some time to talk about why we have come." Hippolyta halted their progress briefly and turned, signaling to Diana. " I believe you know my daughter and the head of the Amazon army, Diana."
" Yes ma'am, I do," Chase acknowledged with a nod of her head then turned back to Hippolyta. " C'mon. Let's see if we can throw Cookie into a tizzy. I highly doubt he is expecting this large a post-breakfast, pre-lunch crowd for snacks."
Chase and Hippolyta led the way, fully expecting the rest to follow. Ty and Shep did, as did the Amazon council, but Diana and the warriors went to the practice field. No one said a word, but they could see the tension that sang across Diana's shoulders that they were in for quite the workout indeed. They didn't realize that work in the encampment had come to a screeching halt and everyone followed after them, anxious to see what was coming.
It was obvious fairly quickly that Diana and the army had failed to follow them into the mess hall and before they could even begin dialogue, Hans rushed in and slid to a stop in front of Chase. " Chase... you've got to... oh excuse me," he said to the small group of people sitting around the table with her. " But Chase, you need to come to the practice field – quickly."
Chase and Ty exchanged a glance that was the exact replica of the one Hippolyta exchanged with Drea. Then they looked at one another and exclaimed simultaneously, " Diana!"
Chase was out the door before the rest could even get out of their seats, but they were quick to follow. Hans and Shep were the fastest, followed by the council. Ty, Pol, and Drea brought up the rear, not conversing, but simply swapping knowing smiles.
When Chase arrived at the field, she couldn't see anything for all the bodies that blocked her view. However, a simple, deep breath allowed her to project her voice from the depths of her diaphragm and her roar caused everyone and everything to suspend its motion – even the fighters on the field.
" What the HELL is going on here?!? Did someone call an unscheduled break and forget to send me the memo??? Get back to work... NOW!!!!"
The rebels scrambled to get back to their tasks, creating a wide berth around Chase in their haste to return to work. Their exodus slowed the arrival of the others, so they missed the altercation between Chase and Diana.
The army had frozen as soon as Chase started to bellow. It had honestly startled them, having never actually heard that kind of roar from someone so relatively small. Diana had nudged them aside, so by the time Chase finished yelling at the rebels, Diana was out of the circle and waiting for Chase's attention.
Chase wanted to... well, there were any number of things she wanted to do, and the confusion she felt showed in a ripple effect across her communicative face. But she schooled her expression before Diana could express any concern.
" Diana," Chase said, meeting those deep blue eyes but careful not to get too close. " It was unexpected to see you here again. I had hoped you would be on your way home by now." She looked like she wanted to say more before realizing they had an audience that was listening intently. Diana recognized the reason behind her hesitation and motioned to the army to get back to drilling then gestured to Chase, directing her away from the melee.
" Please, let's find somewhere to talk a moment that we won't be interrupted."
Chase considered, then nodded. She knew she had been unfair to Diana because of her own feelings and confusion, and it wasn't fair to continue with that treatment, especially since Diana had obviously returned to help and even brought in reinforcements, though Chase was still a little unclear on exactly how and why the Amazons were here. Besides, Chase had a handle on her feelings for Diana now, right? She had put them away for the duration, and this would be over and Diana would be gone before she actually had to deal with them.
Chase led the way out of the camp and up towards her thinking hill. Everyone knew when she went there, Chase was going for the peace and solitude it afforded her, and only the direst of circumstances would cause them to disrupt whatever bit of peace she was able to find there.
Hippolyta and the rest arrived just as Diana and Chase stepped into the tree line, and Hippolyta made a move to follow when a hand placed on either arm stopped her progress in its tracks. She looked questioningly at Drea and then Ty.
" They are going there for privacy, Pol. We don't intrude on Chase when she goes to the hill. It's the only time she gets a modicum of privacy or peace."
" Besides, Pol," Drea continued. " They are going to have to work everything out for themselves sooner or later. Have a little faith."
Hans and Shep had returned to their duties as soon as Chase had shouted loud enough to be heard in Berlin. The council hadn't been far behind and had watched with great respect at the speed with which everyone moved when Chase commanded it, then with greater amazement at the sparks they could see flying between Chase and Diana as hard as Chase was trying to avoid it.
" Come," Mala said, taking Ty's arm and turning the group back to the compound. " I believe we were going to partake in a bit of refreshment before the late excitement. Do you think Cookie might have had time to prepare a snack by now? I am ravenous." Not really, but it did accomplish what she had set out to, and soon the little troupe was moving back to the mess hall, marveling at the frantic preparations so apparent now that people were working again.
Diana followed Chase, only because the path was narrow and could not accommodate them side by side. Several times, Chase extended a hand to Diana to help her over a rough spot, but immediately released it as soon as she could. Diana held on the last time, just before they crested the hill. Chase tried to pull away again until Diana's low voice stopped her.
" Please, Chase. I'm not going to hurt you. Can't we at least be friends? I thought we were headed in that direction before."
Chase's shoulders slumped in defeat. " We were," she admitted quietly and walked over to the chest to retrieve a blanket before leading Diana to the edge of the hill. Diana accepted two corners and together they placed the blanket on the soft grass, overlooking the water as they had that morning weeks before. Only this time, the awkward history between them was out in the open and sitting like a white elephant, making things even more difficult. Finally, Chase tried to pick up the thread of their earlier conversation.
" Why are you here, Diana? I had expected... I had hoped you would have returned home. It's why I left you the jeep – so you could get to an airfield. You don't have any business here, Diana. This isn't your fight."
Diana's smile was feral, and it sent a chill skittering up Chase's spine. " Oh, this is very much my fight, Chase, for more reasons you could possibly imagine right now. And though I appreciated the thought of the jeep," here her smile became playfully mischievous, " you probably should have taught me how to drive it first."
Chase colored slightly for that oversight. " Oh... sorry. I was mostly focused on getting you out of here," not mentioning Drea or Jasmine, and Diana let it go in the interest of pursuing other avenues of questioning.
" Why?" blunt and to the point.
Chase shrugged her shoulders and shook her head negatively. " It doesn't matter." And she kept her attention on the interesting sparkles the sunlight was creating on the water below.
" It does to me," Diana said softly. When Chase still didn't answer, Diana muttered to herself, " Hard to believe you're the bard here," but it was spoken too low for Chase to understand. Diana took a deep breath and steeled herself for what was coming next. Then she focused her attention on the water as well, and spoke. " Do you want to know why I came here?"
Chase's forehead creased in a frown, and she turned to look at Diana. " I had you brought here... for your safety as well as that of the rebellion."
Diana smiled wistfully. " Yes, but do you want to know why I left Paradise Island and came to man's world? Would you like to know why the fight against Orana is very much my fight? Why I stayed despite everything – even when you made it clear I should leave?"
Chase considered, and Diana let her take her time. Chase knew that with this – this crossing the last barrier of knowledge that lay between them – things would change irrevocably. There would be no way for her to pretend she did not know or understand that there was something between them... even if it was something she didn't want. But having reached the bridge, there was no way to turn back. Things would change between them no matter what decision she made. So she turned her face back to the vista that lay before them, and nodded.
" Do you remember the stories your mother told you growing up... about the Amazons and their origins?" Chase blinked; this had not been at all the tack she had expected Diana to take, though she couldn't have honestly told what she had expected. Diana waited, giving Chase's mind a minute to catch up, knowing she had caught her completely off guard. Chase swallowed and nodded again, more slowly this time.
" Did she ever tell you the Soulmates' stories?" At Chase's blank look she elaborated. " Did Aunt Jasmine," wincing at the not-quite-hidden flinch that title got her. " Sorry, did Jasmine ever tell you the stories about the warrior and the bard who traveled together across most of the ancient world sharing adventures and doing things for the greater good?"
Now Chase smiled unexpectedly and Diana found herself enchanted by the change in expression. She couldn't help but respond to the enthusiasm she could feel pouring from Chase.
" Oh yes," she replied joyfully. " Those were my very favorites. They saw and did so many interesting things together and they seemed... they were so much a part of each other," she said wistfully. " Even before they became lovers... when they were still just two people getting to know one another... there was something between them."
" Yes, there was," Diana agreed quietly.
Chase smiled again, this time a bit wistfully. " Despite the trials and tribulations they faced together, I always wanted them to be real. What they had together was so rare, I wanted them to be real just to be able to see that kind of – I dunno... it was more than love and commitment to each other. It was a bonding, almost."
" It *was* a bond... they were soulmates."
" You mentioned that before, but I've never heard the term. What are soulmates?" wondering how they had gotten so far afield from Diana's reasons for coming to man's world, but enjoying the conversation nevertheless. Ty was the only other person Chase had ever talked to about the stories her mother had told and she found she liked having someone else she could share these things with – especially since Diana obviously had her own handle on those same stories.
Diana blinked at Chase's question. " Your mother never explained soulmates to you?"
Chase shook her head. " No, why would she? It's not like they were real... they were just stories she told to keep me, and sometimes Ty, entertained and out of trouble for five minutes. She never gave me any reason to think they were more than just stories," the last added bitterly and Diana knew she was treading dangerously close to thin ice. She almost missed Chase's whispered comment, " Those stories made me want to be a storyteller when I was a kid - before the war took those dreams."
" Maybe someday, Chase. The war won't last forever, you know. We're going to win... soon. We just... we need to settle things between us first, so I'm not a distraction and neither of us loses our focus at a critical moment." A beat. " Would you like to know what soulmates are?"
Chase nodded, watching Diana's expression in fascination. She had a twinkle in her blue eyes that was lit by an inner fire and just the tiniest hint of a smile graced her lips. Diana indulged herself in long look at Chase, seeing depths and shadows in the green eyes that gazed back at her. She took Chase's hands in her own and squeezed them lightly before settling in to tell Chase the story of soulmates that had been a part of Amazon lore since time began. She was gratified when Chase returned the clasp and held on.
" Soulmates are a caprice of the gods and a rarity in any world. They are two whole parts to a single whole entity." Diana took a deep breath, seeing the confusion in Chase's face.
" Legend says that at one time, human beings had two heads, four arms, four legs, and a single soul between them. When the gods saw how happy they were, it made them angry. So the gods split humans into two beings and separated the halves they had created, leaving human beings whole but at the same time, incomplete. Most people spend their entire lifetime unconsciously searching for something they don't even understand they are looking for, and only very rarely, and only in some lifetimes, do they find that other half. And when those two halves of the same soul find one another again, the two are known as soulmates."
Diana sighed. That had been exhausting and she wasn't even to the hard part yet.
Chase thought about Diana's words. " Wait... are you saying the two women my mother told stories about were more than just stories? That those women really existed... really loved one another?"
" Yes, they did," with absolute conviction.
" You sound so certain."
" I am."
Chase looked at Diana, searching her eyes intently. " Why? How can you be so sure they were real people – real soulmates - and not just the made up figments of some ancient bard's fertile imagination to make people believe in impossibilities?"
Diana returned the look, and she saw the shift in Chase's expression when it happened; felt the gasp as an indrawn breath. But instead of pulling away, Chase tightened her hold and tilted her head in a way that rang a bell of sweet memory in Diana's soul. She smiled gently.
" I know, Chase. I know because I was one of those soulmates."
Chase stopped breathing. She stopped breathing so long Diana became concerned and then alarmed, and she finally blew air in Chase's face, forcing an instinctive inhale out of her. Then Chase sat there simply breathing while her mind wrapped around the ramifications of what Diana had said. At last she shook her head and released Diana's hands so she could stand up and pace.
Diana simply watched. She didn't feel like Chase was trying to pull away from her as much as she was trying to come to terms with what she had been told. Eventually she came back to where Diana still sat, her attention turned back out at the view. Chase squatted to one side in front of her and waited for Diana's eyes to track to her.
" You... you're... how do... um.... Shit!" Chase scratched her head in frustration. Diana took Chase's hands in her own again and chafed them gently. Then she gave Chase a crooked smile that was at once comforting and familiar.
" Chase... take your time, all right? We're not in a rush here."
" Okay... okay." She dropped to her knees from her crouch and let her gaze drop to their conjoined hands. " How do you know you are one of the soulmates written about in the Amazon chronicles?"
" I have some residual memories from that time – not real memories, but a familiarity... a feeling. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's real, Chase. I know it is, even without the goddesses' confirmation."
Chase just blinked. " The goddesses confirmed...?" She cleared her throat. " Nevermind. If you want to believe that you are the soul of a three thousand year dead warrior, then who am I to say you're not? But what does that have to do with me and the here and now?"
Now came the really hard part. It was obvious that Chase didn't quite believe what Diana was saying about herself being part of those ancient soulmates, though she did think Diana believed it. It was equally obvious from her reaction yesterday as well as her reaction to her mother's name earlier that she was still not all that enamored of being an Amazon. Diana wasn't very confident of the response she was going to get from Chase once she related the rest of her story.
" Chase, I never told you I was the warrior half of the pair... how did you know?" Chase blinked rapidly and swallowed. " But you're absolutely positive of that knowledge, aren't you?"
" I... I...."
Diana released on hand and let her free hand comb through Chase's hair that was being blown into her face by the gentle breeze. " Chase, I know you've had a rough time since I arrived... especially the last day or two. But I want you to consider why that is, and why you know in your heart and in your mind and down to the depths of your soul that I am that warrior."
" Chase, I came to man's world for you."
Chase ripped her hands free from Diana's grasp and stood, rapidly moving to the edge of the hill. She stood staring sightlessly at the water that continued shimmer and sparkle as it moved on its way, all unknowing of the turmoil that was occurring in Chase's mind or the hollow ache in her chest only a few feet above its chuckling trickle.
Diana came up behind her more slowly and put her hands lightly on Chase's shoulders. She felt the tension sing through Chase's body as though it was a tautly pulled bowstring. Diana removed her hands when Chase shuddered at the sensation of her touch and Chase stiffened to the point that the rigidity in her body was painful to look at.
" Chase," Diana said softly as her hands fell to her sides. " I did come to man's world for you. I wanted to give us a chance to maybe at least become friends. After all, we can't get to know one another if we aren't in the same world, right? But I also came to settle an old score. I owe Orana, Chase... for what she did to me; for what she did to you; and for what she did to the world. Even if you weren't my soul...." stopping when Chase flinched again at the implication, and feeling the pain of rejection lance through her. " Even if you aren't...." She cleared her throat and dropped that line of thought. " Let's just say I owe Orana and leave it at that, all right?"
" No," flat and unemotional. " No, it's not all right, Diana. You don't get to just to show up here and start making those kinds of claims... not on me and not on the rebellion." Chase turned to face Diana, poking her with great vigor as she protested Diana's claims with passion. " I don't care what you think you do or do not owe Orana or your reasons behind it. She is not your responsibility. She's mine, and I am going to pay her back in full for every ounce of suffering she has caused. This is personal, and I have earned the right! Do you understand me?"
" No, Chase... I don't," Diana said softly, biting her lip so as not to let her tears fall. " I don't understand why you are so willing to die when you know... you KNOW in your heart and soul that what I told you is the truth. You know we are soulmates – the soulmates of legend finally reunited after nearly three millennia of separation! How can you risk that bond so easily? Do you realize how long we have been searching for one another??"
This time green eyes met blue and Diana flinched at the fire and fury she could so clearly read directed at her.
" How. Dare. You." Chase ground the words out from clenched teeth. " How dare you come here and try to put all of this on my shoulders, Diana. I'm not the one who separated those souls in the first place," refusing to acknowledge in her speech at least that she was the soul Diana had spent her lifetime searching for. " You see, Mama told me all the stories... including how and why the warrior died... how and why the bard was left to wander the world alone. It was only a short length of time that she survived before the pain of grief and their separation caused her to...!" Chase took a deep breath, dropping her chin and turning her face away from Diana once more. Then she spoke again in a more rational tone. " So don't you dare come here all self-righteous trying to dictate to me and put the blame for your loneliness on my shoulders! I'm not the one who left you and I am damn sure not the one who took your soul out of the karmic circle. Go talk to your goddesses and leave me alone."
" Excuse me?" turning around to face Diana directly.
" No. I am not going to let you throw away our chance at happiness... our chance for peace! Dammit, Chase! I messed up, and it cost us nearly three thousand years apart from one another! I won't let you throw it away for spite before you even consider the ramifications of what you're doing."
" I know what I'm doing. This isn't your decision, Diana. It isn't your choice. It's mine and I'm not willing to be a part of this. For weeks, I have been plagued by thoughts of you – images and feelings and impressions. I have been driven out of my mind trying to reconcile the person I know myself to be with longings and desires and dreams I didn't understand or want. Now you have the gall to stand here and tell me it's not my choice?!? I don't think so."
Diana took a deep breath. " You don't think we have suffered apart long enough? You're willing to give us up forever? For spite?"
" Not for spite," Chase whispered, the fight having drained out of her. " But yes, I am willing to give us up forever, Diana, if it means I don't have to live with losing you again. I can't invest everything I am into that kind of relationship again. I did that once, and something inside me died when you did. I'm not willing to settle for less than everything from me or from you and it's just not possible anymore. After more than two millennia, I've gotten used to living alone. I can live with the empty ache; at least it is familiar. I wouldn't survive a rejoining with you, only to have it taken away again."
Finally, Diana saw a ray a hope. " What if I promise you that won't happen again? What if I can guarantee it?"
Chase smiled sadly. " You can't promise me that, Diana. If we are the soulmates you claim us to be, then you can't promise me that. I've heard the stories, remember? Even without them, I know your heart. It won't let you stand by when there are lives to save and innocents to protect. And you have no assurances of surviving the fight that is coming."
" I do, Chase. I'm an immortal... and so are you. It's your Amazon birthright." Diana's pronouncement was met with stunned silence. " Chase? Are you all right?"
Chase blinked. " Is there anything else I need to know?" her voice an aching whisper that verged on the edge of hysteria. " Please... I'm not sure how many more revelations I can stand before my brain explodes."
Diana shook her head. " Not as far as I know. I have told you everything I know." More silence. " Please, Chase. All I am asking is a chance for us."
" Do you understand what you're asking of me?"
" Yes, but I have to ask, Chase. I have to. We've been apart for far too long." Diana blew out a frustrated breath. " I know the blame for our original separation is mine, and gods, I am so damn sorry for that. But the fact that we weren't able to find one another again until now isn't my fault. It's time for us to be whole again. We deserve a second chance at happiness together, Chase. We deserve it." Diana waited, but Chase didn't answer, instead keeping her attention on the vista below them. Diana sighed and made one last-ditch effort. " I'm sorry, Chase. Maybe I am asking for too much too soon. Do you think we could maybe at least try to be friends?"
Chase didn't move, didn't reply, and this time Diana let the tears come as the rending seared into her soul. She turned to walk away, having said everything she knew to say....
... then stopped when a warm hand gripped her wrist.
Diana looked down. The hold wasn't painful, but it was firm and it made her turn her attention to the woman who held her in such a solid clasp. Chase was still looking out at the view and Diana relaxed, noting the somewhat tranquil expression on Chase's face. There were still lines and concerns, but there was also a noticeable difference, as though she had come to a decision.
" You're going to have to give me some time, Diana. You're going to have to give me some time to consider everything you have said... time to put that against what I know and what I remember and the stories Mama told me about... us. Can you do that?"
" Do you believe we could be an us again... maybe someday?" Diana asked wistfully.
" Maybe someday," Chase answered honestly, knowing the truth in her heart. She turned her face full towards Diana and gazed into her eyes. " But it won't be today or tomorrow. It's going to take time and we're a little short on that right now."
" Chase, for the chance of recovering us again, you can have all the time you need. You set the pace things go." Diana couldn't help it... she reached up and moved the loose hair that blew across Chase's eyes. Chase's eyes fluttered closed and unconsciously she leaned into the light touch. Diana smiled and let her fingers linger only briefly, gently tracing the soft skin before letting her hand drop back to her side. Chase took the hand in her own and held it.
" I know there is something between us, Diana; there has been since the beginning. As much as I have tried to deny it, as much as I have fought against it, I've been aware of it without understanding what it is. I can't keep fighting against it." Chase sighed deeply. " I'm not strong enough to keep fighting, and it is stronger than I am. If you can give me time, I think we can start with being friends again. After that...." Chase shrugged. " Well, we have to get through this offensive first. And we need to end the war. Once we take care of Orana, we will have plenty of time to talk about us."
" We? Does that mean you are willing to let me and my Amazons be a part of the offensive against
Orana and the Reich?"
" It means I am not stupid, Diana. I've learned how to use all the resources at my disposal and to turn away an army of warriors would make me very stupid indeed. Question is, will they follow me?"
" They will follow me, Chase, and I will follow you."
Chase couldn't stop the smile that crossed her face at Diana's words, any more than she could stop the thought that passed through her mind. Would you be willing to walk beside me Diana and let me walk beside you? But she didn't speak it aloud. She was running on overload and she knew it. Too much had happened in too short a space of time. She would need time to consider everything and the implications therein, as she had told Diana. But for now, it seemed they had a firm foundation for friendship between them. There was honesty and that was a good start.
" All right," she said aloud. " Let's go back down and figure out the best way to incorporate your Amazon army into the offensive plan we have ready to go. It is time to bring this damn war to an end."
" I like the sound of that," Diana replied as she bent and snatched up the blanket. She folded it and moved two steps towards the chest before she found her hand caught and held in Chase's. She grinned so big it rivaled the sun, and she squeezed lightly before they walked to the tree together. Then they headed back down the hill, Chase in the lead, only this time she didn't release the hand she held.
Neither of them could have predicted the news that awaited them when they reached the bottom of the hill.
Ty noticed the joined hands as they stepped from the trees, but she didn't have time to enjoy the moment. She had actually been on her way up the hill when they had reappeared, and now she hurried over to them with the radio code in her hands. Chase saw her coming and she met Diana's gaze reassuringly before Ty reached them.
" Chase, I was just coming to find you," extending the paper she held. " Diana would you excuse us, please?"
Diana nodded and tried to release Chase's hand, only to find her own held tightly. " No, Ty. Diana is the leader of the Amazon army. On those merits alone, if there have been developments, she's entitled to know. On a personal level, I need her to be part of things."
Ty blinked. She had never expected something like that to come from Chase's mouth. But she knew with certainty that Chase trusted Diana and that there was an underlying reason for it.
Diana blinked as well. Given what she knew of Chase, she hadn't expected such a public declaration, especially so soon after the personal war Chase had fought with herself on the hill. Then it occurred to her that Chase was doing her best to keep her promise. By letting Diana into the inner circle, not only on a military level, but a personal one as well, she was offering Diana trust and the opportunity to start building the foundation of friendship they needed to in order to develop anything deeper between then. Her smile grew exponentially.
Chase returned the look briefly and Ty looked away out of respect. Then she cleared her throat and motioned to the paper Chase still held in her hand. " Um, Chase? You may want to look at that report. The rest haven't seen this yet, and it's...." Ty stopped speaking when Chase's attention transferred to the paper she clasped.
She watched as Chase's eyes tracked through the words and then stop and read through them a second time. Chase's jaw dropped just slightly and she look at Ty in complete disbelief. " Are we sure about this? Has it been confirmed?" Ty nodded and Chase crumpled the paper and dropped Diana's hand. " Goddamn," turning and walking away from them several steps.
Diana frowned slightly. The words made no sense to her; it was just so much gibberish. Then she realized that the whole thing was written in some sort of code she didn't have the key to... yet. She looked at Chase for an explanation.
Chase held up her hand, a silent plea for patience and Diana acquiesced with a nod. Chase moved back towards Ty until they were standing in one another's space. " How long? When did this happen?"
Ty blew out a breath and shook her head. " We don't know for certain. The best we can figure is within the last three weeks." Then she waited for the explosion she knew was coming.
" Three weeks?? THREE WEEKS?!? Why in the hell are we just now hearing about this?? Goddamn it, Ty! This changes everything!!"
" I know it does, Chase. We think it took this long for the news to reach us because it took this long for the damage to be done. We're still getting all the reports in. Look, let me call the staff and...." She turned to Diana. " Is there anyone from the Amazons you need as an advisor or confidante?" Diana shook her head.
" No. Having Chase will be all I'll need. Don't worry, Ty. I am well-versed in the school of war."
Ty didn't understand the remark, but nodded her head anyway. " All right then. Let me go call a staff meeting for thirty minutes from now. That will give you time to bring Diana up to speed."
" Sounds good. Are the Amazons settled?" Ty nodded. " Good. Make sure everyone brings their mission notes. We're gonna have to make some adjustments. We'll see you in half an hour," taking Diana's hand and leading the way to her quarters. She knew it was the most privacy they could hope for without returning to the hill, and there just wasn't time for that.
Diana was patient until the door closed, then she turned to Chase. " All right... what happened to drain the color from your face, Chase? Are you okay?"
" Physically, yes," Chase answered with a wan small. " Let's sit," motioning to the bed. Diana seated her, then poured her a glass of water from the pitcher on the small stand, watching in concern when Chase drained it. Chase let her hand fall between her knees and dropped her chin to her chest for a long moment before she met Diana's eyes and patted the space beside her. " Thanks," she said, putting the glass back on the table.
" One reason, the first reason our offensive was delayed was because of that death cocktail Orana and her team developed. Hans spent a very long time working on an antidote, and of course, you were able to give him the impetus he needed to get over that last hump. Another was the new armor piercing rounds we found out about just before we were ready to launch the last time. The mission that landed me on Paradise Island was in fact the one that gave us the specifics on the ammo that caused us to postpone the operation yet again while we tried to find a way to defend ourselves against it."
Diana nodded, figuring there was a reason for the brief history lesson.
" So twice we have postponed this mission – the mission to finally rid the world of Orana – to insure that a majority of the rebellion survives. Makes sense, right? Kind of pointless to defeat the evil if no one is alive to enjoy it... especially if we simply create a vacuum for another evil to slip into its place with no one left to defeat that one, right?"
Diana nodded again, and again silence fell between them. Diana could tell by the evenness of Chase's breathing, she was forcing herself to concentrate so as to maintain her calm. She waited.
" So today... just now... we get the news that sometime within the last three weeks, Orana had a dozen different villages purged. All over the world and apparently randomly, but twelve different towns across the planet are simply empty shells now. Every living thing – man, woman, child... hell, even the animals were brutally massacred. She is going to make an announcement about it tomorrow night. A worldwide address to show the consequences for questionable loyalty."
A long pause, then Diana spoke. " Gods, Chase. That's...."
" Yeah... because of my hesitation, innocents have been murdered!"
" Oh no, Chase... NO! The blame for this falls squarely on Orana's shoulders – not yours and not mine. What you did was make a decision that kept people alive; she went in and destroyed everything, without a single regard for those who were loyal to her. We will avenge them, Chase... all of them, but especially those who were part of the resistance."
Chase sat quietly, examining her hands while she considered Diana's words. Finally she looked up and smiled. " Thank you, Diana."
Diana smile back. " Any time, Chase. That's what friends do for each other, right? They stick together." A beat. " Now come on. I need something to eat. I only got a bite of breakfast before I got called to go to the gate to meet the incoming Amazon army, and I'm starving."
Chase blinked. " Come to think of it, I could do with a cup or six of coffee. Let me get my notes and we'll swing by the mess hall for a snack before we head to the conference room."
" Does the massacre change anything...?" Diana hesitated when Chase's accusing eyes turned her way. " Not personally, Chase. I know it changes things for you personally. It does the same for me, and I don't even have any real ties to any of the people who were killed."
Chase ran a hand through her hair and scratched the back of her neck in awkward embarrassment. " My fault," she said briefly. " I shouldn't be so damn touchy about things... especially with you. I promised you I would work at us being friends, and...."
" Chase," Diana cut in, placing her hand on Chase's arm. " I know it's going to take a while. Real friendship takes time to develop, and we have several issues to get around besides just trying to be friends. If this is going to be too hard for you to do now, it can wait until we win the war. I will be just another member of the staff."
Chase smiled wryly and shook her head. " Much as we'd like to think we had some semblance of control going on here, it just never works like that. Besides, I need to get past this and the only way that's going to happen is with a lot of awkward and embarrassing moments between us for a while. You're right... I've got a lot of baggage, and it would be really nice if we had time to go through it all and have things nicely settled between us before we had to go to work. But we don't have that luxury. We also don't have time for you to coddle me through it. All right? If we're gonna be friends, you're gonna have to learn when to step back and when to give me a swift kick in the ass."
Diana looked at her boots, then in the direction of Chase's ass, then at her boots again before she let her gaze drift back to those green eyes, stopping long enough at her ass again to warrant a smirk and a twinkle. Only supreme self-control kept her from blushing.
" Gotcha. A swift kick in the... <ahem> ass. Would you like me to do so now?"
Chase did a double take to see if she was serious, then caught the mischief in those eyes that was signaling for her attention. " Not literally," she growled, then grabbed Diana's hand and tugged her towards the mess tent. Now she needed more than coffee.
" Back to my question," Diana said as they crossed the threshold. " Does the massacre change any of the logistical planning? Did we lose operatives or launch sites... things of that nature?"
Chase shook her head and took a swallow of the coffee, grimacing at its bitter taste. She glared in Cookie's direction and he held up his hands in apology, then he began assembling a tray of food for them. Chase turned her attention back to Diana who had watched the interplay between her and Cookie without comment. She put the coffee down to add something... anything... to it to make the taste a little more palatable, noting that Diana was still stirring.
" Not that I can tell at first glance. But then the missive Ty gave me was very general in its message. She should have more details for me when we get to the conference room." She paused when Cookie approached. " Thanks, Cookie," accepting the tray he offered her.
" Sorry about the coffee, Chase. You got the bottom of the pot. Um... am I supposed to do anything special about all them women?" Chase and Diana both looked at him dumbly and he hastened on. " I mean, they didn't eat or drink anything while they were in here. Are they gonna need something different from the rest of the troops or...?"
Diana chuckled. " No, Cookie. Like every other warrior you know, they will eat whatever you put in front of them. Unlike Chase here, most of us don't go foraging for food if we don't have to," earning her a hearty laugh from Cookie and another glare from Chase. " Just call them when you're ready to feed them. I guarantee you they'll come and eat."
" I know where you live, ya know," Chase growled. Diana bit her lip to keep from chuckling, but that didn't keep the sparkles out of her eyes. Cookie didn't exercise Diana's control and guffawed loudly, holding his belly. Chase popped him, but that only caused him to laugh louder. " I remember a time when I had a semblance of control here. What happened to that exactly?" she muttered as she made her way to the door, shaking her head and continuing to mumble to herself.
Diana and Cookie exchanged glances and grins, then Diana hurried after Chase's retreating figure.
" We have a problem," Ares said as he orbed into Orana's bedroom. She was busy getting dressed for the worldwide appearance she had scheduled for later that evening.
" Don't you ever knock?"
Ares snorted. " Why should I? Not like I haven't seen it all before."
" That's not the point, Ares. A little respect here wouldn't be out of line, ya know." She shook her head at his dumbfounded look and tucked her shirt in. " Nevermind, Ares. What's the problem? I know this isn't about the purging I did, even though it took longer than I wanted it to. You already expressed your pleasure about that tactic... several times and in a variety of positions."
Ares smiled. " And I look forward to a repeat in the near future. But business first."
" What business, Ares? I purged twelve villages and towns across the planet. I've collected information on the resistance that will enable me to put the fear of... well, *me* into them. I am presenting my ultimatum tonight. Everything is on track, because the rebellion and the resistance won't give up without a fight; you know that as well as I do. What could be more important than that?"
" How about an Amazon Princess?"
Orana froze mid-motion. It took a solid minute before she took a deep breath and only then did she turn her head to meet Ares' eyes. His head was cocked and one eyebrow was raised and he was wearing the infernal smirk she despised so much.
" Excuse me?" she questioned. " What did you just say? Are you telling me...?"
" You remember that lovely bit of Amazon flesh you lusted after for millennia? The Princess who considered you a friend and mentor and nothing more, despite the obvious desire you had for her? The one you stole the title of Wonder Woman from and then proceeded to beat and humiliate within a inch of her life...."
" ENOUGH!!!" Orana roared.
" But I was just getting warmed up," Ares whined. " It gets better."
" Shut up, Ares, and get to the goddamn point!"
" My, my... such language. Which do you want me to do – to shut up or get to the point?"
" Get. To. The. Point." She ground out from between clenched teeth. " What does *she* have to do with anything... especially the coming fight with the rebellion?"
" She's been spotted."
" Spotted? Where... here in man's world?"
" Yes, here in man's world; and even better... here in Berlin."
Orana's eyes glowed, a combination of hatred and lust. The look made Ares shiver in arousal as well as the tiniest kernel of fear. " Where is she? When did you see her?"
" I was reviewing some of the scrying records. You remember we talked about those odd photographs you got with breakfast? I did some looking around – at least at some point in the last three weeks, she's been here."
Orana considered his words carefully. " You think she may be what was causing the stir a few weeks ago... the one Adelia was talking about?"
He stroked his beard thoughtfully. " I think it bears looking into. If she's here, it could complicate things immensely."
" If she's here, I will find her. She won't be able to resist the temptation of trying to defeat me again. And when she tries, she will be mine."
" Orana, don't lose focus here. If Diana is here, the odds are she is part of the resistance or the rebellion. Please don't underestimate her... or them. If you don't take them seriously...."
" I take them seriously enough, Ares. I just plan to thoroughly enjoy my conquest of Diana... *all* my conquest of Diana, as well as the final, humiliating defeat of the resistance here and the rebellion overseas. My overseers have grown lazy. I will put the fear of the Fuehrer into them as well as the rest of the world. And then I will crush them all."
Ares watched Orana with more than a hint of concern in his eyes. She was sounding less and less like the woman he had mentored upon her arrival in man's world, and more like an obsessed madwoman. Then he lost that train of thought when she rubbed up against him like a cat in heat.
" However, tomorrow is soon enough to worry about conquering and destroying. After the announcement is made, Adelia will be coming back here to celebrate with me. Would you like to join us?" A hard, fast kiss was her answer, and Orana pulled away with a laugh. " Then let's not keep the people waiting, war god. We have more important business to take care of tonight."
He reached for her cape and placed it on her shoulders. She pinned it together at the neck with an emblem she had crafted for herself alone – one that showed her Amazon heritage as well as her power as the Nazi Fuehrer. An intriguing image and not one she flaunted about very often.
Ares opened the door and offered his arm. Orana accepted and they walked out and down the hall towards the square where everything had been prepared for Orana's worldwide announcement.
Chase rubbed her eyes. " We can't postpone this again."
" But Chase...."
" NO, Ty. I know the risks. But if we don't go now, it may be impossible. You know and I know that given the facts, the Fuehrer is going to do her damnedest to twist this to make it work for her. We got lucky – she has gotten so sloppy and arrogant, she managed to destroy more of her own loyalists than she did resistance members. But if we don't move now... show them that we mean business about this... WE may be the ones that destroy the rebellion."
" She's right, Ty. It's a show of assurance more than anything. Otherwise, people start to lose faith. Then what?"
Ty looked around. " Diana?"
Diana sat quietly for a long moment, looking around the council room. What she found was reassuring. These people had worked long and hard together; they had a confidence in each other's abilities that had been hard won. They had even expressed confidence in her after seeing the Amazons train with and without her that morning. She understood Ty's concern; regardless of how careful they were or how well they planned, people were going to die. But there would never be a better time than the present. At least implementing the plan and moving towards its completion would give hope. And sometimes, that was the best weapon to have on one's side.
" If we're taking a vote, I say go now. We can improvise as things unfold, but this offensive offers hope. If we're not moving when Orana makes her announcement, we could lose an immeasurable level of confidence. And without that...."
Chase nodded her agreement and waited for any more input. When none was forthcoming, she looked around the room. " All right. Send out the signals for them to make preparations for our arrival. We start leaving in an hour in fifteen minute increments; one of you to each wave."
" What about you, Chase? We only have five waves going including the Amazons. We sent for another cargo plane as soon as they arrived. It should be here with just enough time for us to refuel, flight check it and load," Mitch answered her unspoken question. Chase nodded her approval.
" Good job, Mitch. I'll be flying the Tiger. Hans has made some improvements on it for me. I should be able to leave last and arrive first." That statement got lots of raised eyebrows. " Make sure each of you gets something to eat and meets with your squad leaders. Explain everything in detail. I don't want any screw-ups. We will have a final briefing with everyone in the square just before takeoff. Let's go people. We have a war to win."
" Hey, Chase... you got a minute?" She sighed and turned to find Shep behind her; she stopped walking long enough for him to catch up. Then they resumed their movement towards the lab that had been Chase's original destination. She had sent her staff off with a nod; Diana had understood her unspoken request and had gone off to check on the Amazons. She wondered why Shep hadn't taken the hint. Even Hans had rushed ahead to be sure to have things ready without interfering with her train of thought.
They went about ten steps without Shep speaking and Chase stopped walking and looked at Shep impatiently. " Shep, is there something I can do for you? You have things to take care of before we leave and so do I."
" I just wanted to make sure you were all right. You've been all over the place lately and Jen and I have been more than a little worried about you. Especially since you ordered us to move in broad daylight. Chase, are you sure about this? It's so dangerous."
" Shep, if you can't do this, tell me, and I will find someone who can. I don't have time for your doubts."
He didn't answer immediately and Chase turned to walk away. His hand on her arm stopped her progress and she looked down at his hand before looking at his face. Shep took his hand off her arm slowly and dipped his head.
" Sorry, Chase. It's not doubts... it's concern. I don't know who or what Diana is to you, but something happened to you during that week you were gone. And it only got worse when Diana got here. I just want to know that you're all right... that you're ready for this."
Chase smiled and took Shep's arm, turning them around and walking them back towards the center of the encampment. " Shep, I appreciate your concern and I do understand where it is coming from. What is or isn't between me and Diana is private and has nothing to do with the rebellion or this offensive. We have to leave in the daylight so we get there in the dark. Don't worry, Shep... I have worked the schedule and the flight paths to draw the least attention possible to our departures. But we need to arrive after dark so we can traverse the countryside safely."
He nodded, knowing Chase was absolutely right.
" Trust me, Shep. I've made the adjustments to compensate for the changes, all right?"
" All right, Chase... thanks."
Shep saluted and took off at a fast jog to get back to the hut he shared with Jen. She had promised to pick up lunch for the two of them while he talked to Chase. Chase turned back and made her way to the laboratory, anxious to get this offensive started so they could get it over with.
Hans stuck his head out the door when he heard the footsteps. He wondered what had taken Chase so long to follow him, but a look at the frustration on her face kept his mouth shut until she spoke.
" Hey, Hans. Sorry for the delay. You got the stuff I asked for?"
" Yes. Chase, are you sure about this?"
Chase smiled wryly at Hans, then gave him a brief, reassuring hug before retreating enough to look at the things he had laid out for her perusal. " I'm as sure as I'm gonna get, Hans. No time for doubts and second guessing."
" But Chase, the fuel is untested outside the lab, and we've only tested the tweaks we did on the motor in short flights."
" Have a little faith, Hans. We do good work together. We always have. I'm gonna come back and tell you what a rush it is to fly that fast, and then you're gonna go joy riding... maybe even invite Ty along for a little thrill."
He blushed slightly, but nodded his agreement. " All right, Chase. I'm gonna hold you to it. And I will tell you, if you make me worry like I did the last time you went off... if I have to come over there and save your butt, I will call you Annabelle until the day I die."
Chase mock-shuddered, appreciating the banter for the stress relief it was. She picked up her armor and the few special accoutrements she'd had him add strictly for her. " That's reason enough for me to bring her home without a scratch." A beat. " Thanks, Hans. Hold down the fort for me, will ya? And don't let that Amazon Queen and her council run you ragged."
" They're staying here?!?"
" I guess. Since she handed over the leadership of the army to Diana, I doubt she's gonna be going. I haven't really had a chance to find out. But if they do stay, be nice, but not indulgent."
Hans smiled. " Got it. And you be careful. I want to visit that farm of yours... maybe learn how to milk a cow or sow oats or bake bread or whatever it is you do on a farm."
Chase looked down at her hands and smiled sadly. " All right, Hans. When I get back, we'll see about making a farmer outta you. BUT, you have to ask Ty out, too." She held up her hands before he could protest. " If I have to teach you how to farm, the least you can do is ask the woman to dinner."
Hans chuckled. " Chase, if you both come back, I'll ask her out. I enjoy my laboratories too much to be a real farmer." He opened his arms for a hug and she stepped into the embrace. " Thanks for being my friend, Chase, and thank you for saving my life."
" It was a life worth saving, Hans, and I'm proud to count you as a friend."
Hans kissed both cheeks and released her, and Chase picked up her gear and left without a backwards glance.
Chase crossed the threshold into her hut... and stopped dead. On her desk sat a steaming hot bowl of soup and two thick sandwiches accompanied by a tall glass of what appeared to be iced tea. She blinked at it a minute, fully expecting it to disappear. When it didn't, she looked around for company, but she didn't have that either.
She carefully placed her equipment on the bed, then turned back to the desk. There was a note next to the napkin and she picked it up with a smile. Figured one of us needed to make sure you got a chance to eat. See you shortly. Diana
Chase smiled at Diana's thoughtfulness and thought about cramming a sandwich into her mouth on her way to the showers given how hungry she suddenly found herself to be. She shook her head. Her enjoyment of the meal was warranted given the time and effort Diana had made to insure she had a meal to eat before they left. Instead she covered the soup bowl and snatched up her towel and clean underwear. She would set a world's record for getting clean, and then come back to her hut and enjoy the meal with a rarely felt luxury.
Chase rushed through her ritual bathing, though she was careful to follow every step. She was even completely dry before slipping into her clean clothes, but she moved with greater speed than she normally used. Then she was back in her hut enjoying soup that had cooled to a comfortably warm temperature and eating sandwiches so big she could barely take a bite out of them.
Ty briefly wondered what had happened. She had never seen Chase go in and out of her traditional shower that quickly before, but then the Amazons came back in from the direction of the river obviously scrubbed clean. Ty shook her head, speculating if Chase realized her ritual to be clean before an upcoming mission was based in Amazon tradition. Then she shrugged and decided it didn't matter as long as it worked Chase's normal voodoo magic.
Ty nodded at them on her way back to her hut, needing to go prepare her armor and dress before time ran short. The Amazons filed into the mess hut with single-minded determination. Diana broke apart from them and headed towards Chase's hut.
" Diana?" She sighed and her shoulders dropped, before she turned and face her mother. She waited quietly, unwilling to address Hippolyta as her mother and uneasy about calling her by her name after being put in charge of the army.
Hippolyta was a little disappointed that Diana didn't address her at all, but she was gratified that Diana held her gaze evenly and without rancor. That was something that hadn't happened in over a hundred years, and Hippolyta let herself relish the experience... until Diana's gaze became piercing and one eyebrow arched sharply.
" Oh... my apologies, Diana. I just wanted to ask if it was all right with you if I went along on this mission as well. Not as the queen and not as your mother," she continued before Diana could protest. " I would like to go as an Amazon warrior."
Diana blew out a breath and turned away from Hippolyta. The truth was, she could understand Hippolyta's desire to go. She had been one of their greatest warriors before the Nation had been relocated to Paradise Island. Diana had actually been a little surprised that Hippolyta had handed over leadership of the army for this mission.
" Why did you make me the leader of the army for this operation?" not turning around to look at Hippolyta as she asked the question. " You would have gone as the queen and as a warrior."
" Diana, I have made a mess of everything I have done in the last hundred years where you are concerned, but not about this. This is your fight, Diana. You deserve the right to lead the army against Orana. You, more than anyone, have the right to retribution – not just for what she did to you, but for what she did to your mate as well. I would never stand in the way of that."
" Chase is not my mate," fiercely, turning to look at her mother with a burning look in her eyes.
" Maybe not yet, daughter, but she will be."
The confirmation was unlooked for and it unexpectedly warmed Diana's heart just a little. Hippolyta saw it, but she wisely contained her reaction, not wanting it to disappear on her account. Instead, she answered the plea she could just see hidden at the very back of Diana's eyes.
" I've seen the way she looks at you." Hippolyta took a deep breath. " Diana... daughter... I wouldn't lie to you about this. Despite everything else I have managed to do wrong, I wouldn't lie to you about anything. Trust me, Diana, please." A brief pause. " I know there are some things between us that no amount of time or apologies or regret will ever be able to repair. But you can trust me, Diana... especially about this."
Diana blew out a deep breath and turned back towards Chase's hut. " I won't stop you from joining us on this offensive. You are one of the best warriors the Amazon Nation ever produced, and I am not stupid enough to not utilize every asset at my disposal. I'll leave the decision up to you."
" I would like to go, Diana; I just don't want to make things tough for the army with my presence. Not that I think they would have difficulty following you; you're a natural leader and a greater warrior than even I was. But it is hard to break thousands of years of ingrained protocol and tradition."
Diana remained silent, not wanting to influence Hippolyta's decision, but she did turn to look at her.
" How would you feel if I went as an assistant healer?" Diana didn't answer and Hippolyta realized she wouldn't. Diana really was leaving the decision completely up to her, and somehow, that knowledge made the choice easier.
" I think I will stay here and prepare for the victory party, because you know if we leave the rebels in charge of that we will get...." Here she made a face. " Coffee and fried sugar bread."
Diana smirked. " You mean donuts?"
" I suppose. Now really... where did they come up with such a thing?? No – I will stay here. Amazons *know* how to throw a good party, and no one is better suited for doing that than the queen, right?"
" As you say," Diana agreed without actually committing herself.
" Good! Then it's decided." Diana nodded and started for Chase's hut once more. " Diana...." She stopped walking but didn't turn around. " Thank you for giving me the choice. I appreciate the consideration."
Diana didn't answer except to nod again, then she walked away with a purposeful step. Hippolyta smiled, watching her go, thanking the goddesses for sending Chase to Amazons and Diana to Chase. Already Chase had changed Diana's attitude towards her mother and for the first time in a long, long time, Hippolyta was looking towards the future.
Knock, knock.... " Chase?" Silence. " Chase, it's Diana." Still no answer. Diana bit her bottom lip in contemplation, then opened the door a crack, just to see if Chase was actually in the hut. What she found surprised her.
Chase was sitting at the desk, eyes half closed in meditation. The dishes in front of her were bare of food, including crumbs and the napkin had been neatly refolded and was covering the bowl. Chase didn't move when Diana slipped into the room, and Diana took the opportunity to remove the tray from the desk. When she turned back to Chase, she found bright green eyes focused intently on her.
Chase didn't speak; she simply held out her hand and Diana took it. Chase led her around to sit on the only clear corner of the bed, then released her grip and folded her own hands together. " What can I do for you, Diana? Shouldn't you be getting ready? Have you eaten?"
" Nothing... I just wanted to make sure you ate. I am ready, and yes... Cookie fed me while he was preparing your tray."
" You just wanted to make sure I ate, huh? Well, I did and it was very good. Thank you for thinking of me. I would have just grabbed a couple trail bars to chew on the way out."
Diana smiled and looked around nervously. Chase was exuding a raw energy now, a feral sense of danger that Diana was accustomed to wearing, not seeing in someone else, and Chase didn't even seem aware of the change in her demeanor.
" Diana, are you all right?" wondering why Diana seemed so uncomfortable. The question was full of concern and it made Diana smile. Diana straightened and put her warrior face on, letting her own dark energy rise to the surface. Chase watched the change take place and shivered in pure reaction. Diana turned and gave Chase a feral smile.
" I am fantastic, thank you for asking. I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to this."
Chase grinned. " You don't have to – I know."
Diana motioned to the bed. " Yours is different. And you have more accoutrements."
Chase nodded. " The parameters of my mission are a little more restrictive than everyone else's. I have to prepare for it a little differently."
Diana looked over each piece of Chase's equipment, noting the thicker guards she had added to her thighs and back. She picked up the belt that held half a dozen syringe vials, and understood instantly just exactly what Chase's plan was and just exactly how close to Orana she would need to get. Diana turned and met Chase's eyes squarely.
" You are planning on coming back, right? Because if you're not, I am coming with you."
" Actually, I was planning on you coming with me regardless."
Diana blinked and then scooped Chase into her arms for an exuberant hug. " Thank you, Chase."
Chase smiled and returned the embrace fervently. Whatever doubts she had about herself and about the Amazon situation and even about the upcoming mission, this felt right.
They pulled apart after a long moment and Chase held on to Diana's hands. " Diana, you have proven to be a worthy ally and a very capable warrior. Even if we weren't trying to be friends... even without our souls having a past together or you having a personal reason to extract justice from Orana, I know you are the best choice for a partner to watch my back. All the rest just gives you added incentive."
Diana didn't respond verbally, but the fierce light in her eyes and the feral smile on her lips was an answer all its own. Without warning, she leaned down and brushed her lips over Chase's, feeling Chase freeze before she pulled back.
" Sorry, Chase. I just...."
" Shh...." Chase said, covering Diana's lips with her fingers. " It's all right, Diana. I'm just not... I'm not ready... I'd like to be, but...."
" Shh...." Diana said, returning the favor. " My fault, Chase. I didn't mean to, it's just... that's the first time in forever that someone - that *you* - has looked at me with such trust and confidence and...."
" You're babbling." Diana blushed and Chase chuckled. It was nice to know Diana was as discombobulated as she was about the whole situation between them. " That's okay, Diana. I think it's cute," and got to watch the slow blush travel up Diana's face.
" But I've got to get ready to go and I'm running short on time. Maybe we can finish this when we get back?"
" You bet we can," Diana smiled. " I'll see you in the courtyard?"
" Ten minutes."
Diana pulled away from Chase and left before she could do anything else rash. They had a war to finish and an Amazon to destroy. Then they would have plenty of time to investigate this wonderful, giddy feeling that felt old and new again at the same time. And there was no way on hell she was going to let Orana or anything else on earth stop that from happening.
Then Chase stepped from her hut and a cheer went up from the hundreds of rebels gathered in the square. It was time.
" Damn, it's dark out here," Ty mumbled, walking carefully to keep from stumbling and sliding through the mud. The darkness and rain had been their friend when they had arrived over the continent. It had enabled them to fly beneath the radar perimeter around the capital and drop in closer than they had hoped. Just as well, since the weather was making it very slow going to get into position for the announcement Orana was going to make later that evening. Ty was glad they had fifteen or sixteen hours to work with. She was afraid it would take them that long to get into place, and even with the sleep they had all gotten on the plane, they were going to need some rest to fight effectively tonight.
Chase had been the last to leave the rebel compound, and no one had seen her since. Her plan had been ingenious, though and Ty knew Chase was somewhere ahead of them.
It was an eerie feeling. Ty knew she wasn't alone, but due to the rain and the darkness and the silence surrounding her, she felt isolated. She wiped the rain out of her eyes and blinked rapidly. Then she checked her watch and smiled. With any luck, she and her squadron would reach their safe house within the next few minutes and then they would have the daylight to rest in before darkness fell again and they made the final short journey to the barracks they had been assigned to destroy. Ty only hoped they were as successful as Chase's plan had shown they could be.
Shep and his unit were making their way to the northernmost resistance stronghold. It was slow going in the darkness, but he had peace about this mission. Chase had planned well, and the changes she had made along with the addition of the Amazons had put the odds firmly in their favor. Not just to put an end to this war, but for most of them to survive it to begin a brave new world together.
His biggest concern was that no one except Chase was privy to what Chase's part in the plan was, and no one had seen her since they had departed the compound. He sent a prayer up for her safety, then picked up his pace. Making this work depended on him and his team making it into the stronghold before daylight; it was up to them to coordinate the rest of the world for the attack. In silence they pushed on, keeping to the trees and the bushes so as not to be seen by the dim moonlight that cast its waning light over the land.
Diana was torn between concern and anger. She hadn't been allowed to ride in the plane with Chase; Hans had forbidden it and given his reasoning, Diana had been unable to argue. The modifications they had made to the airplane had been based strictly upon Chase's height and weight specifications. So Diana had ridden across the ocean with some of her Amazons.
That hadn't been bad; it had helped Diana forge a deeper bond between her and the leaders of the Amazon army. To their delight, they found that the warrior princess they remembered had returned to them at last. And they were excited by the prospect of being led by her. Their part in Chase's plan was right up their alley.
But Diana hadn't seen Chase since they had arrived on the continent. They had been the first to leave as they had the farthest to travel on foot; Diana knew that Chase had been the last. They had missed the worst of the weather so far which had helped them make good time towards Berlin. Chase had promised to find her, and Diana believed Chase had meant her words. Yet they had been traveling for several hours on foot and she had seen neither hide nor hair of Chase.
" Do not worry, Princess," one of her captains commented quietly. " She will find you."
Only the warrior stoicism Diana wore kept her startlement from showing in her expression; even her eyes were kept carefully blank. She did turn and look a question at the woman who spoke, recognizing her as a priestess of the temple. The woman nodded when she realized Diana knew who she was.
" I believe, Princess. I have faith in what you are to be together."
" How does that help me in the here and now, Anya?"
" For there to be a future, there must be a foundation of trust. If she breaks her word to you now, how can there be trust between you? Therefore, she will find you." A beat. " I've read the stories, Princess. I know who she is... and who she was... and who she will be once more."
" Does everyone? Is this common knowledge?"
" No, Princess. The only reason I am aware is I helped Mala with the research when you started asking questions about soulmates. I helped her put all the pieces together." Diana nodded, but didn't speak. Anya felt compelled to reassure her further. " Princess, no one within the Nation knows beyond the council and myself, and I would never betray that trust. Besides, this news it not mine to share... it's yours, if and when you feel compelled to do so. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't obvious to me that you were searching for her and that search is taking your attention from our mission."
The rebuke was mild, but Diana felt it sharply. She nodded briskly. " You're right, Anya. Thank you for the reminder. I'll keep my mind focused and trust Chase to keep her word."
Anya might have answered, but suddenly Diana stopped walking and held up her hand. The Amazon army halted and melted into the trees as a Nazi patrol made its was towards them. The soldiers had no time to appreciate the fact that they were dead men walking, as in very short order, they were simply dead men. The Amazons dropped in behind them, snapping their necks and letting the bodies fall silently to the ground. Diana looked at her hands, clean of blood, and wondered how there could be no mark upon her for the life she had just taken. She thought she should feel some sort of guilt or remorse for the death she had caused, and maybe later she would, but for now she only felt relief and gratitude for her skills and being alive.
The flick of her wrist and the Amazons cleared the road, moving the men out of sight and up into the trees where they wouldn't be found. Mankind had lost the ability to think and fight three dimensionally and the Amazons were happy to use that to their advantage. Then they started back towards Berlin at a double time jog. The brief fight and subsequent clean-up had cost them precious time and even with the head start they'd had, they were going to be cutting it close. And since they were infiltrating the capital city itself, they definitely wanted to be in place before the sun came up.
Diana sent a prayer up for Chase's safety, then she picked up the pace, the outline of the buildings coming into sharp focus. Diana felt the fire stir in her blood and smiled. She was looking forward to this.
Chase drew a deep breath. Even though it was dark out, the square in front of the Reichstag was well-lit as though in defiance of the resistance and any rumors of a rebellion uprising. There were a number of workmen trying to accomplish several different tasks. There were some who were scrubbing and cleaning the streets around the square. Others were busy painting the buildings and polishing the brass fixtures. A third group was busy stringing wires and lights in preparation for Orana's announcement that evening.
Chase sat in the bell tower over looking the square. Behind her sat the tower guard, asleep at his post, compliments of Chase's and Hans' efforts in the lab. If it had been later in the day, he would be dead, but she couldn't risk the exposure... yet. Soon it wouldn't matter, but for now, discretion was definitely the better part of valor. Chase had to live long enough to take care of Orana.
Her vantage point gave her an excellent view of everything going on below, which would be extremely useful when the Amazons arrived. Chase looked at her watch, squinting in the waning moonlight, then nodded in satisfaction. She could just make out the beginnings of a lightening of the sky in the east. And only because she was looking for it, and knew exactly what to look for did she see the Amazons enter the city. She wondered if Diana would find her before she could get to Diana.
Chase smiled. Diana had been cute about her frustration in being separated from Chase after Chase had assured her they were going to go against Orana together. Only when Chase promised to find her before she went after Orana did Diana relent and leave with the first wave.
A commotion in the square caught her attention and she looked out to find Orana outside investigating the progress that had been made by the workers. They doubled their speed, not wanting to be punished for lax or shoddy work. Surprisingly, Orana simply looked around, pointing out a few things that remained and then turned and walked back into the Reichstag with studied nonchalance. It was obvious to Chase that she was trying to give an appearance of calm control. She wondered if the woman who was Fuehrer had any idea how truly despised she was or how hated her reign had become.
Chase's eyes continued to watch the preparations being completed at a fairly quick pace while her mind wandered back to the stories that had been passed down through her family for generations – since they had happened a hundred years before when Orana had become the Fuehrer.
When Steve Trevor had returned from Bermuda, rumors followed of a woman who had the strength of ten men, the speed of a moving car and the ability to stop bullets. But before any investigation could be done, their spies reported the same phenomenon taking place in Berlin. Only this woman was taken directly into the heart of the Reichstag to meet with Hitler and his generals, and she never came out.
Instead, she became first Hitler's confidante and enforcer, then, according to rumor, she became his lover and advisor. Eventually, Hitler faded out of the scene completely, dead from causes that didn't bear close examination. It didn't actually matter; by that point, Orana had a firm grasp on the entire Nazi regime, and the generals cowed or they died.
She did lead the Nazis to victory, but victory was not at all what they expected it to be. Things did improve some, but never back to even pre-war standards, and for a people who had expected to be at the top of the world once they won the war, that was quite a blow to morale. They had expected to be living in luxury, but except for a very few, the people toiled hard everyday for the bits they had – just as they had always done for centuries. To have lost sons and daughter to such an outcome made them bitter, but the relaxation of restrictions had made them less than eager to upset the applecart either. It was easier just to live with the known than to step into the unknown again and perhaps have yet another war with less-than-favorable results.
Orana had also signed an agreement with Japan that allowed them regency of the Far East territories for a large chunk of the profits. The Japanese had argued briefly, but Orana had been glad to show them the error of their ways and they had capitulated rather quickly after that, understanding well that part of the pie was better than no pie at all. It was easier to let the Japanese fight and die for the bounty she received. Her advisors had argued against such action, feeling the Nazis deserved all the pie. They had seen the futility of such an idea at the end of a noose. She didn't have the time or the patience to explain it to men too stupid to understand it without being told anyway.
Exterminating the Jews in Europe had robbed the Nazis of many of the minds and skills they had once depended on, and there had been no recovery from that devastation. Thousands had escaped and disappeared, but millions had died. Only because Orana felt it a waste of resources and manpower did any of the race survive – mostly in America. This too caused hard feelings as many felt that the Jews and the blacks and all the rest who failed to fit the Aryan mold should be rounded up, and either completely wiped out or made to serve the regime as all who lived beneath Orana's boot had to.
Most felt the same about those who lived in America; because of their indifference to the plight of the English and the French, no supplies had been given to them and few Americans had joined the fight to keep the Nazis from overrunning the European continent. The Nazi people firmly believed there should be some benefit for them for the supposed prosperity that remained in America despite the war. The Americans had been mostly unwilling to fight and die and instead allowed themselves to become subjugated with only Nazi overseers to keep them in line. This kept the land from being destroyed and the people from dying, because for the most part, the overseers were lenient in executing their responsibilities as long as they got fed and the first choice of companionship in whatever town they happened to be checking on.
Such conditions had allowed the resistance to grow, and the rebellion to flourish. Now the time had finally come to change things, Chase thought grimly.
While her thoughts had been occupied with the past, the present had been turning to daylight around her and now the sky was full of color and light. With a glance at the guard who remained asleep, Chase left the bell tower and headed across the roofs of Berlin in search of an Amazon princess.
Dawn found each of the rebel groups tucked safely away into numerous safe houses scattered across the European continent and into Russia and Great Britain. When darkness fell, they would all be moving again. But for now, the people of Berlin and Paris and London and Moscow went about their daily lives, unaware of the changes brewing just beneath the surface.
Chase walked the roofs above where she had last glimpsed the Amazons, knowing precisely where they were supposed to be and noting with satisfaction that there was no way to find them unless you knew where to look. She found the building and crept in, unnoticed by the guard who stood watch. The Amazons were scattered throughout the old warehouse, hidden in plain sight on the outskirts of the city. They had concealed themselves inside, though Chase had no difficulty finding them and slipping around them without being seen or heard. She realized then that the skills her mother had taught her were Amazon skills and she smiled grimly. That kind of confirmation wasn't something she was looking for, but it allowed her to slip right up to Diana... only to be caught and held by sparkling blue eyes when Chase reached out to touch her. Diana caught her hand and held it lightly.
" I promised you, didn't I?"
Diana smiled and nodded. " You did. I'm glad you made it. Are you all right?" Her words were whispered and she leaned up on one elbow. She could see the exhaustion in Chase's eyes, remembering that while the troops had all had the chance to sleep on the flight over Chase had been going full throttle since early the previous morning. She tugged on the hand she still held lightly clasped in her own and pulled Chase down beside her.
" Diana!" It would have been more of a protest, but it was hard to squeal when you were forced to whisper to keep from waking up the rest of the room.
" Hush!" smiling when Chase glared in her direction, but didn't move away from her. " Chase, you've been working for over twenty-four hours. You need to get some rest before we go after Orana tonight."
" Shh!" Diana commanded. " You're taking care of everyone else... let me take care of you."
Chase smiled, feeling a familiarity at Diana's words. " Isn't that supposed to be my line?"
" Normally, yes... but not this time. You're the warrior leader and I'm the Amazon princess. Something kind of karmically circular about the whole situation, isn't there?"
Chase yawned, their combined body warmth and her exhaustion making her almost too sleepy to comment - *almost*. But she had enough of her bardic ancestor in her to warrant giving Diana an answer.
" Somethin'" she mumbled before allowing her fatigue to assert itself and closing her eyes.
Diana waited until she felt Chase's breathing deepen and even out in sleep; then she shifted, trying to get more comfortable without disturbing Chase. She froze completely and held her breath when Chase snuggled into her, wrapping around her like an earthbound octopus and grounding Diana in a way she hadn't been in more than twenty-six hundred years. She smiled at the bittersweet feeling of familiar intimacy that wash through her being at the feeling of having Chase in her arms. Diana wrapped her arms around Chase, and closed her eyes in sweet contentment.
Anya watched a moment longer, then closed her eyes, sending up a prayer of gratitude to the goddesses, hoping they were watching over the Nation and could see what was happening between Chase and Diana here in man's world.
The other five goddesses watched in disbelief as Aphrodite gyrated and shimmied all over the room. It had been a long time since they had seen her do a happy dance that no one recognized it for what it was. They weren't sure if Aphrodite was happy or in pain, though judging by the look on her face, pain wasn't an issue. Finally Athena couldn't stand the gyrations any longer and took Dite by the shoulders to bring her to a screeching halt. Dite glared at Athena, and blew her blonde curls back out of her eyes.
" Whaddya go and do that for?"
" Are you all right?"
" I am awesome, babe... simply fab. But thanks for asking."
Athena rolled her eyes and prayed for patience. " Aphrodite, why were you wiggling around like that? Did you find an ant bed or something?"
Dite snorted. " As if. Nah, babe. Check the radical scene I scryed across." She pointed to the bowl and Athena changed the focus and threw the image up on the wall for all of them to see. They all gaze at the reflection for a long moment, then the other five goddesses got up and started doing happy dances of their own. Dite just laughed joyfully and joined in.
Darkness had fallen but was not quite complete when Diana woke Chase from her sleep. She had spent a few moments simply looking at her, easily imagining the times they had shared like this before. Unlike her predecessor though, Chase woke with a single touch. She looked at their positions tangled up together and immediately moved out of Diana's arms. Diana felt the cold immediately with Chase's withdrawal, but she plastered a smile on her face.
" Sorry," Chase muttered. " I don't know...."
" Chase, it's okay. Thanks for keeping me warm."
Chase nodded, still a little embarrassed by her clinginess. " All right... what time is it?" Chase looked at her watch and nodded in satisfaction. The Amazons were already up and dressed, eating from the rations they had brought. Shortly, they would be dispatched by Diana to their assignments. Ty and her squad should already be working, eliminating the soldiers in the barracks and assuming their duty stations in the square.
Diana handed Chase some of the rations her mother had brought along from Paradise Island, and Chase smiled at the newly familiar tastes that met her palette.
" Thanks. This is good."
" Anytime. This is an old family recipe and they're a Nation favorite – we actually dry fruit specifically for these."
" Well, whoever came up with them was pretty clever."
" Thanks," Diana said cheekily, then got up before Chase could question her further.
It was unnerving to see her sisters dressed as Nazis, but this group was taking the place of the technicians who were supposed to be running the sound and camera equipment for Orana's big announcement. The rest had already moved out to hide in the shadows; they would help infiltrate the Reichstag and work with Ty to prevent any of the Nazis in the square from leaving. This was not a hit and run mission – they were out to seek and destroy.
" All right, sisters. It's time. Each of you has your assignment. Whatever you do, make sure that this broadcast doesn't go anywhere but to the people in the square. Chase has people infiltrating the control room, but work under the assumption that they won't make it... if we kill it at the source, the rest is moot. It is a fail-safe for us. We want to control what gets broadcast."
" Watch for the signal. When you see us move in, that will be your cue to start recording. We want Orana's downfall broadcast." A brief pause that was so silent heartbeats could be heard. No one had expected Chase to speak since Diana was their princess and defacto leader. " Thank you all," Chase said quietly. " Good luck."
" The goddesses watch over you, sisters," Diana commended. " We would see you all safe and Orana destroyed when this is over."
They couldn't roar; stealth was too important to their mission. But they raised their fists triumphantly, shaking them in unity until, at Diana's signal, they went from darkness to darkness, each of them intent on the fight to come.
Continued in Part 9