“ Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
Colonel Steve Trevor, top agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations of Director Amanda Waller, was a tough, hardened veteran. But when he recalled Queen Hippolyta's words, and the glare he received when he took her daughter to the world of man, it covered him with goosebumps.
If I screw this up, I'll prove her point, Steve muttered inwardly, fighting his panic and focusing on the task at hand. He stood alone in a dark, tall forest, clutching his taser rifle. The silence was unearthly, and Steve scanned the trees though his night vision goggles, trying to track down his enemy.
Out of nowhere, a golden streak shot past him, snared his right arm and yanked him off his feet. A split second later, a crimson streak shot past him. Its fist would have taken his head off, but at the last split second, he parried the punch with his forearm and smashed his rifle butt into its flank. His blow harmlessly glanced off, and he scolded himself: Keep your head in the game, idiot!
He took full cover, and again, there was only silence. Steve sneaked through the woods, until he reached a small pond. He deliberately stepped onto a big, fat branch. A split second later, his enemy soared through the air and taunted: “I thought you were better than this, Colonel!”
Steve spat out and fired a point blank salvo at his enemy. It effortlessly parried his taser bullets and taunted: “When did that ever work?!”
“Right now,” he retorted, and threw a grenade into the pond. The explosion doused it in water, and the taser bullets discharged all over its wet body. Trusting his insulated battle suit, Steve charged forward, decked his enemy with a right hook and put it into a chokehold. It spewed out gutter Greek, evaded his grip and kicked him so hard in the side that his body armor cracked.
“You keep pulling your punches, Colonel, that will be your downfall!” it taunted, before jumping away. Steve held his aching ribs and groaned: It's so darn quick, and its rope is nothing but a golden blur.
He forced himself to breathe normally, and decided to climb up a tree. He perched himself like a sniper, staring through his night vision goggles. Suddenly, a magic lasso shot straight at his body. With incredible reflexes, he dodged the blow, but couldn't avoid the golden tiara that hit him straight in his head. Steve was knocked silly and fell two stories deep.
“Go limp!” his enemy shouted, and Steve did that. It snatched him in mid air and safely landed him on the ground.
“Oh, Steve, this was exhilarating! Do you want to fight me again?” it beamed, twirling its lasso. Wincing in pain, he looked at a six foot three Amazon warrior with chiseled muscles, crimson armor, jet black hair and steel blue eyes, whose power, beauty and majesty made gods quiver.
Why am I spending Sunday evening getting my butt whipped by Wonder Woman?! Steve scolded himself, clutched his boot shaped mark on his side and mumbled: “Dear Diana, I have to check if my guts are still inside my body.”
On queue, Corporal Etta Candy came out of the woodwork, holding the night vision camera. The motherly redhead beamed: “Woo, woo! That footage of your fight is so impressive! I came to see Steve's butt getting kicked, but stayed for his attempts to defend himself.”
“'His futile attempts', Etta. I wasn't anywhere near beating Diana,” he groaned, nursing his ribs, but his girlfriend smiled: “Steve, you think on your feet, improvise quickly, and have guts. That was very clever, luring me out, dousing me with water and tasering me! But you need to be more proactive, take initiative, and never let it go again.”
“I'll try next time, angel,” he muttered, but she kissed him on the cheek and whispered: “Don't feel bad, I am born and bred a warrior, and have the blessing of the Olympian gods. It's very hard to beat me.”
“How does this blessing work, Diana? You got superpowers, but you weren't born with it?” Etta asked curiously, and she replied: “When I rescued Steve on Themyscira, I won a contest to accompany him back to the world of man. In return, I was granted the power of Zeus, the beauty of Aphrodite, the wisdom of Athena, the skill of Artemis, the mercy of Hera, the strength of Hephaestus, and the speed of Hermes. I trust the Olympians unconditionally, and in return, they will protect me until the end!”
With a huge smile, Diana crossed her wrists over her head, and Etta and Steve stared in awe. Finally, he whispered: “Diana, I want to say how cool it is to train with you. I am an elite soldier, and I have never fought somebody like you. You are so very, very good.”
“You're welcome, Steve. One more go, or are you finished?” Diana smiled, cracking her knuckles. Steve had the deep desire to say no, but then, he quoted: “'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew Said / A little I’m hurt but not yet slain. / I’ll just lie down and bleed a while / And then I’ll rise and fight again.'”
“That is a beautiful poem. What is it?”
“It's an old poem about a Scottish knight. My mother consoled me with it when I lost a big football match. Every time I am hurting, I recite it.”
“Are you hurting? We can stop now, it's already late,” she replied, glancing at her watch. As usual, Steve smiled when he recognized his old army watch on her wrist. He grinned: “No way, angel, you will hurt this time!”
“I'll be feisty prey, darling,” she purred, blew him a kiss and disappeared in the dark. Steve grinned, reloaded his taser rifle, put on his night vision goggles and tried to ignore that he was going to get owned.
To make it short, even Etta cringed when Diana delivered a hard, merciless smackdown. In the end, Etta drove home in her jeep, while Diana flew Steve home to his apartment. He prepared a hot foam bath, staggered inside the tub and nearly passed out with joy when it soothed his aching muscles. Steve hardly noticed when his girlfriend came in, but awoke when she casually took off her Wonder Woman armor. She let him drool at her chiseled, voluptuous body and smiled: “Mind if I join in, Colonel?”
“Not at all, angel,” he beamed as she climbed in. Steve's pain subsided at once, and he eagerly accepted her advances. While he kissed and fondled her soapy body, his brain suddenly recited Queen Hippolyta's final words.
“Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
Steve understood that she didn't consider any man, let alone him, worthy of her daughter. But why did her words haunt him so much? He was sure that Diana regularly returned to Themyscira, why did he get so worked up?
Maybe Queen Hippolyta didn't think he deserved her, but judging from their lovemaking, Diana herself did. She eagerly wrapped her arms around her boyfriend, grateful for the fantastic workout in and out of the forest, and already pitied the next supervillain she would fight against.
“Stop the thief! STOP THE THIEF!
On Monday morning, Angle Man raced through inner city Boston on his rocket powered hover skates. He had slung the loot of his bank robbery over his shoulder, and smirked at the policemen who were firing at him. His Angler Suit glowed, and in defiance of spatial laws, their bullets passed through his body.
“Eat shit, you losers!” the supervillain gloated, charging at top speed through inner city Boston. He knocked over pedestrians, phased through incoming traffic and teleported in short ranges, making it impossible to get a lock on him. When a police car swerved in front of him, his suit nullified their shots. Angle Man switched on his energy suit, electrocuted the policemen, grabbed the driver and threw him into a hot dog stand. It rained hotdogs, sauces and cash, which the thug eagerly snatched out of the air.
“Die, you scum! JUST DIE, YOU F/&§%!!” the vendor swore, and he gloated: “Is that typical Boston slang?”
Out of nowhere, a red blur struck him down and kicked him into the wall with the force of a sledgehammer.
“No, but this is!” Wonder Woman snapped, while he staggered up. She threw her lasso so quickly that it was a mere flash, but it passed right through Angle Man's body.
“Kinetic energy charges me up, kinky boots,” he grinned, and seemingly punched nothing. His fist vanished in mid air, reappeared behind Wonder Woman and smashed into her temple. Diana swore gutter Greek, parried a second blow with her bracelet and tried to snare him. But he dashed away on his rocket powered skates, teleported a few yards anytime she tried to snared him and taunted: “How are going to catch me, kinky boots? Scandalize me with your swimsuit?”
When he vanished into thin air again, Diana paused.
“If I were a loser like you… I would reappear EXACTLY THERE!” she spat out and threw her lasso in a seemingly random direction. Angle Man reappeared, flew directly into her snare and crashed into a bunch of garbage cans.
“That's where you really belong, idiot!” Wonder Woman snapped. He wriggled helplessly in her rope, and under its influence, he confessed: “'Yes, I do, madam.'”
“You didn't even give me a workout, idiot,” she taunted, comparing Steve's valiant efforts and Angle Man's cheap shots. The onlookers applauded Boston's finest hero, and when the police took off Angle Man's suit and arrested him, she uttered: “Thanks you, but I am late for my job!”
Wonder Woman flew in the sky and disappeared high above their heads. She didn't notice that odd security cameras were tracking her.
At the same time, Steve could hardly think, let alone walk. His body felt after being pounded with rocks, and mauled by a lioness afterwards. His groin hurt, but he wore a dazed, silly grin that wouldn't go away.
“You are walking strangely again, Colonel. I assume you continued your 'fisticuffs' with Diana?” Etta chuckled, and when he guiltily nodded, she kissed him on the cheek and pressed a double latte into his hand. He croaked: “Thanks, Etta, you are the best! But where is Diana?”
She helplessly shrugged. The clock read 7:59 AM, but at the last second, a red faced Diana stormed in, clad in her secretary outfit of bowler hat, pulled back hair, birth control classes, and her dark office suit with white blouse, knee length skirt and flat black sandals.
“Sorry, there was a 'disturbance',” she muttered, hastily sitting down next to Etta and Steve, who wearily pointed at his watch. Director Amanda Waller glared at her, while Steve tried to ignore how cute Diana looked. The big boned African-American boss started: “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the monthly staff meeting. I will come straight to the point and present today's agenda...”
Steve was experienced enough to know that today's meeting was going to be pleasantly boring. Knock on wood, but no extraterrestrial threats like Darkseid or Brainiac were active, no global supervillains like the Injustice Gang or the Brotherhood of Evil, or even single threats like Ra's al Ghul, Black Adam or Amazo. Diana and Etta, who took turns writing the minutes, logged a lot of text about corruption, money laundering, racketeering and many more. But then, Director Waller uttered: “...our old enemy Isabel Maru, also known as Dr. Poison, is on the move again. She has formed her own all female bioterrorist squad, Team Poison, and is trying to wrest control from South American drug lords.”
Etta, Diana and Steve looked at each other.
“What is she doing, and should we take action, Director? I don't feel comfortable letter her unchecked,” Steve asked, remembering her role in the Genocide fight.
“Our intel suggests that she is trying to gain a foothold in the local drug market. The more this scum slaughters each other, the better for us. The local army can take care, it frees us up for the real threats.”
Steve was not entirely convinced, but stayed silent. After an hour of brutally uninteresting accounting slides, causing Steve to zone out, Director Waller commented: “… to my annoyance, we are registering strange security breaches. Our network has been compromised.”
“Again?” Steve muttered under his breath, making sure she didn't hear him. She continued: “Dr. Arthur Light, please carry on.”
Dr. Light, a pale scholar so thin that his cola bottle glasses seem to weigh him down, presented a few slides about the 'Cyberwalker' breach, which plagued the DEO networks, and concluded: “...either the Cyberwalker is the most ridiculously skilled hacker I have ever seen, some extremely off the charts AI, or a combination of both. Neither my security staff nor me have an idea, Director.”
“Or you just suck at keeping out hackers,” Steve swore under his breath, sipping his coffee. Director Waller asked: “Do we know its motives?”
“No, because the Cyberwalker just… walks. It crawls our network and collects data, nothing more.”
Steve quipped: “Maybe, we need some external help? I could recruit my old friend 'Moneyspider'.”
“Who is 'Moneyspider', Colonel Trevor?”
“Moneyspider is the pseudonym of a gray hat hacker I have previously worked with. He kind of hates authority, but given some creative freedom, I get along pretty well.”
“I don't think that will be necessary, Colonel.”
For an agency who invades other people's privacy for a living, this sure sounds ironic, Steve muttered inwardly. He loved to protect the world from supervillains, but hated the price he had to pay for it. Finally, the meeting ended, and Diana, Etta and Steve could eat lunch at last. Going Asian this time, he kissed his girlfriend on the cheek and asked: “So, Diana, could you write notes fast enough?”
“I am still struggling what is important, but learning shorthand sure is practical, Steve. I'll never truly master ten finger typing like Etta.”
“You're selling yourself short, Diana. You are doing a great job, especially in accounting. I hate numbers!”
“Numbers come easy to me, our culture loves maths and logic. But sometimes, everything overwhelms me. Steve, why did you already make me a Lieutenant? I have so many duties. Etta is just better than me, and she is only a Corporal.”
“Because Lieutenant is the lowest rank that has clearance to fight supervillains, which she neither has nor wants,” Steve explained. Etta ate her dim sum and confirmed: “Diana, no way I am fighting thugs like that 'Angle Man' you defeated before our meeting!”
“Great Hera, battling a supervillain who defies spatial laws is harrowing. I thought I was fighting drunk,” Diana muttered, sipping her green tea. Steve replied: “Thank you, angel. I was only tense because Director Waller is the last person on earth who tolerates tardiness. You do superhuman stuff every day.”
“Well, I am Wonder Woman,” she smiled, and he kissed her on the cheek. Etta looked approvingly and asked: “Are you still planning to move in together this weekend?”
“Yes, we are!” Diana beamed, and Steve exclaimed: “Diana is packing her stuff, and on Saturday, Sameer, Charlie and Chief promised to come over and help.”
“Normally, I am skeptical if a couple lives together after just half a year. But you literally saved each other's lives multiple times, so I'll give it a pass.”
“Also, we already were together,” Steve remarked. Diana and him exchanged guilty smiles, happy that this sordid chapter had been resolved. Etta asked: “Can I come, too? I am not a great carrier, but smaller stuff is no problem.”
“We would be happy if you came! Our brave helpers get some of Steve Trevor's famous home made pizza.”
“Why did you forbid me to bake my own pizza?” Diana sulked, and he retorted: “Because eating that violates human rights, angel. Pizza is not supposed to bounce like that.”
Etta rolled her eyes and reserved the Saturday for helping her two favorite colleagues.
“So, what was the haul of that idiot Angle Man?”
“Not very much, boss. He got beaten so quickly that we hardly got any readings on Wonder Woman and her lasso.”
“This is very disappointing. I knew I shouldn't have cheaped out on the quality of my footsoldiers!”
“So, what are we doing now, boss? I need more data!”
“I'll take matters in my own hands!”
Saturday morning, Diana and Steve put on tank tops, jeans and sneakers, happily picked up their rented pick up truck and beamed: “We are finally moving in together!”
After getting Etta, they picked up Etta, Sameer, Charlie and Chief. The three men greeted: “Hi, princess, hi Etta, and welcome to your ugly cousin Arm!”
“Hey!” Steve protested, and Diana asked: “Etta, since when do you have relative called 'Arm Candy'?”
“I don't, but our dear Oddfellows nicknamed Steve like that,” she grinned, and Charlie teased: “Whenever Wonder Woman fights, boss just tags along and is your arm candy.”
His colleagues laughed, and Steve just rolled his eyes. He stopped the pick up truck in front of Diana's run down flat, which she inhabited during her sad stint as a pizza delivery girl. They quickly picked up her boxes, painted her shoddy walls white and gave the keys back to the unpleasant hag of a landlady, Ms. Wertham. Finally, they drove back to Steve's apartment and carried her stuff into the living room. That Diana could fly and carry a battleship certainly helped with the heavy lifting. In the end, everything was done, and Diana and Steve gratefully treated their helpers to a several nice, home made pizzas, washed down with beer and lemonade.
“So, how's life at the moment, you two?” Sameer asked, biting into a slice of his pizza.
“Pleasant boredom, I guess. No saving the world, no supervillains, no terrorists, just Diana and me,” Steve smiled, kissing his girlfriend. She eagerly responded and continued: “Apart from the usual superhero stuff, it's not different either. I'm learning how to be a good secretary and help Steve better, and in return, I train him how to fight, so he can help Wonder Woman better.”
“How's he doing?” Chief asked, and Diana smiled: “Steve is making me very happy. He lasts much longer than before.”
When Charlie giggled, she clarified: “Hey, I was referring to our training, not to our s--”
“Thank you, Diana,” Steve interrupted her with a beet red face, and Sameer grinned to Chief: “I can imagine that Steve gained lot of experience in 'fighting'!”
“Quiet, you two,” the Native American cut them off and asked: “Diana, is it correct that Wonder Woman is participating in a big charity auction in Boston tomorrow?”
“Yes, the United Nations are holding a glossy 'dream date' auction, and I agreed to be the 'main prize'. You can bid on me and win a date with Wonder Woman. Steve is there as security, and I hope that you aren't too jealous, dear.”
“Not at all, angel!” he muttered, holding a can of beer. A moment later, Steve crushed it so violently that it drenched him from head to toe.
“Yeah, sure, boss!” Charlie gloated.
“S-Sorry! I s-swear it was an a-accident!” Steve sputtered, quickly getting the mop. Etta, Sameer and even Chief laughed at his misfortune, Diana explained: “It was Bruce Wayne's idea, we want that the Justice League remains accessible.”
“Yes, I heard of these recent PR gigs… Superman encouraging kids to eat their greens, Batman's literacy campaigns, or Hawkgirl's actions for Middle Eastern girls. As long as it's sincere, why not?” Etta smiled, and Diana sighed: “The world of man drools at me 24/7 anyway, I can as well use it do something good.”
“They will drool even more once they see your dress,” Etta retorted, and the men begged: “Oh! Can we see it?”
“Sorry, a woman must keep her secrets”, Diana retorted. Etta high-fived her and grinned: “The charity is going to be broadcast live, but if you see her dress and die from a heart attack, don't say I didn't warn you!”
“I'm going to take that chance,” Sameer grinned, kissed Diana's hand and whispered: “I hope that you will shatter several charity records tomorrow, princess!”
“Thank you,” she smiled. After the nice, cozy pizzas, they all left, and Diana wrapped her arms around Steve and beamed: “We are living together now, I am so happy!”
“Me, too, angel. This apartment is going to be a bit small for two. But my landlord said, as long as we pay, it won't be a problem,” he smiled, and they exchanged a long, passionate kiss. Steve noticed Diana unpacking her Godkiller Sword and stuffing it under her pillow, and he muttered: “Isn't that uncomfortable?”
“I am an Amazon, I slept on a sword since I was six. I would feel naked without it,” she explained, and Steve shrugged. He changed the topic and muttered: “Whoever wins that date tomorrow, will be my enemy for life!”
“Don't make jokes lightly, Steve, I already have many enemies. Ares, Dr. Poison, Giganta, Angle Man, Circe...”
“Angel, who is Circe?”
“Don't you know the Odyssey? Circe is the sorceress who seduced Odysseus, turned his men into pigs and killed them. She is Ares's lover and the sworn enemy of us Amazons.”
“I know zip about beefs in ancient Greece. But it still kills me to see you as the main price of an auction!”
“Lighten up, Steve. Firstly, it's for charity. Secondly, you can date me for free. Thirdly, your dates end a lot happier for us two than the one tomorrow.”
With a huge smile, Diana pressed him on the sofa, crossed her hands behind her head and took off her tank top. Soon, their clothes littered the floor, and on their maiden night of cohabitation, Steve indeed lasted very long.
On Sunday evening, Diana was still humming happily in the “superstar” celebrity makeup room, patiently handling autograph and selfie requests from star struck beauticians. They were doing her hair, her face and her nails, and polished her tiara, her bracelets and her earrings for maximum effect. As a princess, Diana knew representative duties, and it was a welcome break from superheroing.
“You look so beautiful, princess, and that dress!” the beauticians gasped when Diana finally rose, posed in the mirror and giggled when she imagined Steve's reaction.
“Thank you,” she smiled and stepped behind the stage curtain. Moderator Vicki Vale entertained the packed audience: “… thank you, Ms. Kane, for your generous contribution, and enjoy your dream date with Mr. Holloway! Our United Nations Boston fundraiser has already raised nine million dollars for helping those in need, clearing landmines and building shelter in war torn areas! There is no better cause for all our stunning bachelorettes and bachelors, and give them another round of applause!”
After frenzied cheering, Vicki Vale smiled: “But no offense, ladies and gentlemen, we saved the best for last! We now come to the moment you have all been waiting for! Our last winner tonight will have the privilege of a once in a lifetime date with the most extraordinary person I have ever met!” She paused for effect and boomed: “I present Princess Diana of Themyscira, also known as WONDER WOMAN!!”
On queue, Diana stepped on the stage like a supermodel on a catwalk. She wore a figure hugging dress of white Themysciran chiffon, which showed off her voluptuous curves and her chiseled arms. The tiara and the earrings formed a golden halo around her jet black hair, and the slits and her silver high heels highlighted her long, powerful legs. Her outfit would have looked cheap and scandalous on any other woman, but looked majestic and flattering on her.
Diana stood tall, bathing in frenzied applause and the flashlight of awestruck photographers. She grinned when she saw Steve in his tuxedo, with his jaw on the floor, reduced to a pile of drool. Vicki Vale cupped her mike and swooned: “You look absolutely stunning, princess. No swords in the back of your dress this time?”
“I want to spoil my date, not kill him,” she retorted. Vicki Vale chuckled, switched on the mike again and hollered: “The starting bid for Wonder Woman is 250.000 dollars, and let's get it on! 300.000 from the lady in blue! 350.000 from way back! 400.000! Ladies and gentlemen, don't let this unique chance slip by you! Win your dream date with the Amazonian princess herself, a dinner, a movie or maybe even a ride in her invisible jet!”
Wonder Woman hastily whispered something into Vicki Vale's ear, and she ruefully continued: “Ah, I have been informed that there will be no jet setting this time. Anyway, Mr. Bruce Wayne just bid 750.000 dollars! How do your other dates find this, Mr. Big Shot?”
Diana feigned anger when she saw her Justice League team mate, who was already surrounded by supermodels Silver St. Cloud, Jenny Hayden and Jezebel Jet.
“There is still room for one more!” Silver boomed, and Jenny and Jezebel hugged Bruce Wayne in approval.
“One million!” a sharp voice from a neighboring table snapped, and Vicki Vale cheered: “Oh, Mr. Lex Luthor also wants to join the bidding!”
She wisely ignored that his wife Erica looked less than thrilled. Diana proudly put her hands on her hips, as Vicki Vale gasped: “1.5 million! Two million! Three… six… ten… uh, you two, don't you want to slow down?”
Steve glared at the two billionaires. He almost convinced himself that the winner would never steal Diana from him, but he still wanted to break their legs. Badly.
Vicki Vale sputtered: “… twenty-five million dollars from Mr. Lex Luthor! Going once, going twice--”
“Fifty million dollars.”
The entire hall went silent, and everybody stared at the tall, forceful woman who had bid this insane sum.
“That's Veronica Cale!” Steve blurted out, and Diana froze and recalled: Isn't that the billionaire who allegedly masterminded the Genocide project?
“FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS! DONE! Dr. Veronica Cale wins a dream date with Wonder Woman!!” Vicki Vale cheered, pumping her fists in the air. Veronica Cale walked past Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor and gloated: “Better luck next time!”
Steve nervously stared at her. She wore a silver ballroom gown with opera gloves and was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. However, her eyes were cold as ice, and her entire form hissed with danger.
Veronica Cale signed her 50.000.000 dollar cheque the same way Steve bought his daily coffee. He just stared as she walked up to Wonder Woman, grabbed a champagne glass and purred: “Highness, my name is Dr. Veronica Cale. It is such an honor to meet you!”
“Likewise, Ms. Cale. Just call me 'Diana',” she smiled, and her date replied: “In that case, it's 'Veronica'.”
The two women clinked glasses, and Veronica looked deep in Diana's eyes. Meeting her gaze, she confessed: “What do we do next, Veronica? I am not familiar with this. Do we set up a place and a date?”
“I am a very busy woman, Diana. Why not make it tonight and right here? If we postpone it, it will never happen!”
“Works with me, Veronica.”
“I'm starving, let's grab something to eat!” she exclaimed, went to the cold buffet and got lobster rolls, caviar eggs and truffle pastry for them both, and both women sat down at her table. Veronica was greeted by two of the largest dogs Diana had ever seen.
“Diana, meet Bo and Mo. They are a special breed of guard dog, and I trust them unconditionally.”
“I pity anyone that dares to cross their way,” Diana grinned, used to having guard dogs in Themyscira, and Veronica patted their enormous heads and nodded: “A wise person once said that dogs have all the advantages of men, without having their drawbacks, and I full heartedly agree.”
Diana treated herself to her plate and beamed.
“It's delicious!” she exclaimed after tasting the lobster, and in between bites, she asked: “I must confess, Veronica, I am curious about your bid. 50 million dollars is a lot of money for a simple date with me, may I ask why?”
“Maybe I like supporting your work, Diana? Wonder Woman is a beacon of hope in the world of man,” Veronica purred, and she replied: “Thank you, Veronica, and your work is equally fascinating.”
“Oh, you did research on me, Diana? I am flattered. What did you find out?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Diana noticed that Steve had sneaked up. She wanted to scold him for being a jealous jerk, but for some reason, she was almost grateful. She recalled the intel she dug up when she researched the Genocide case: “I discovered that you are one of the most successful businesspeople and intelligent minds on earth, Dr. Veronica Cale. Every penny of your vast wealth is earned, and you use it to support many charities, ranging from social welfare, environmental support, research funds, and countless initiatives for gender and sexual equality.”
Diana found it better to omit that she suspected her to be the mastermind of the Genocide project, and to have two of her worst enemies on her payroll, Cheetah and Dr. Poison.
“Correct, and I am pleased at your interest in me,” Veronica purred, gazing deeply into her eyes. Diana suppressed the urge to whip out her magic lasso, and continued: “However, the center of your being is your daughter Isadore...”
“… who is mentally impaired, don't sugarcoat it.”
“I am sorry, Veronica.”
“Diana, be sorry for the 'father' who was coward enough to leave us. I won't honor him by saying his name,” Veronica snapped, biting into her caviar egg.
“That's a sad story. Being a good father is the one task where a man truly proves that he is one.”
“It taught me a life lesson. I understood that all the money and power are unable to heal Izzie, and even if you gave me all the money and power in the universe, I wouldn't trade it for her.”
“I admire you for that, Veronica,” Diana replied, eaing her pastry, and she smiled: “I admire you, Wonder Woman. For us women, you are a beacon of hope in a man's world.”
“Thank you, but I don't discriminate my friends by gender. If Superman and Colonel Trevor don't help me, no way I survive that ghastly Genocide monster.”
Diana looked Veronica in the eye, but she met her gaze and whispered: “It was a terrible fight, Diana, but luckily you survived. Being a mommy, it would have been too bad if you could never visit your mother on Themyscira again.”
Diana was touched and sighed: “Ah, Themyscira. I love being on Paradise Island with my sisters and my mother.”
“Can we continue our date there, Diana?”
“Sorry, but I don't divulge that info,” Diana sighed, and Veronica chuckled: “It was worth a try. I don't always like the world of man which sees me, billionaire Dr. Veronica Cale, as a trophy to be won and then discarded.”
“Sounds familiar, Veronica,” Wonder Woman groaned, recalling the 24/7 media obsession with her body.
“To us objectified females!” Veronica toasted, and silently apologizing to Steve, Diana clinked her champagne glass and emptied it. Veronica smiled: “I think we both deserve better, Diana. That being said, some of what males say is right. You are strong, powerful, and very beautiful.”
“You look stunning, too, Veronica. The silver of your gown matches the color of your eyes.”
“You make me blush, Diana, and I like it.”
Without breaking her gaze, she softly took her hands. The touch burnt on Diana's skin, but she didn't squirm. Steve just stared in disbelief. He had been expecting Diana being drooled at by a man, but her being intimate with a woman made him do a double take. Am I losing my mind, or is Dr. Cale FLIRTING with Wonder Woman?!
“My dress pales against yours, Diana, it is an absolute show stopper. It highlights your curves and your muscles, making you look strong and confident.”
“Why, thank you, Veronica! Many men are admiring your curves, too.”
Diana suddenly felt Veronica's foot stroking her knee. Strangely incapable of averting her gaze or escaping her grip, she confessed: “You are very attractive, Veronica.”
“Likewise, Diana,” she purred, licked her lips and purred: “Diana, I would like to dance with you.”
“Sounds like fun!”
Everybody stared as Veronica led Diana on the hardwood. Steve's jaw dropped on the floor when hew saw how sure the billionaire did the lead steps and spun Wonder Woman around like Fred Astaire. Of course, Boston was a progressive city, but seeing the richest woman dance with the most powerful one raised eyebrows. You couldn't slide a ruler between those two, and what blew Steve's mind was how openly Veronica was flirting with Wonder Woman. He crushed the grip of his stun baton and smarted: If you make moves on Diana, Dr. Cale, I will rip out your throat!
Suddenly, there was an unearthly scream. It went through everyone's bones and pierced their eardrums. One moment later, the glass front of the auction hall shattered, raining dangerous shards on the guests. All hell broke loose, and a winged banshee in a blinding white costume swooped in and boomed: “There you are, Wonder Woman!”
“Silver Swan!” Diana screamed, deflecting the shards with her bracelets. Shielding Veronica with her body, she snapped: “This is insane, Helena! Why are you attacking a charity event?”
“Because you stole my glory, tramp! I am the most eligible bachelorette in Boston, not you!!” Silver Swan bellowed, grabbed a large window shard and threw it with superhuman strength. Diana deflected the razor sharp javelin with her bracelets, whipped out her magic lasso and snared Silver Swan with a leaping throw.
“'I'll kill you, ugly scarecrow'!” she swore, trying to rip the rope out of her hands, and Diana snapped: “Why is everyone obsessed about my looks?!”
Silver Swan burst into an unearthly song, nearly shattering Wonder Woman's eardrums. She escaped out of the snare, and when Diana wanted to counterattack, Steve held her back and muttered: “MUST… KILL… WONDER WOMAN…!”
“MUST… KILL… WONDER WOMAN…!” uttered Bruce Wayne.
“MUST… KILL… WONDER WOMAN…!” hissed Lex Luthor, and very man did the same. All male eyes were vacant, and Veronica Cale screamed: “What is happening, Wonder Woman?”
Diana blurted out in horror: “Silver Swan's song must have mesmerized the men!”
Wonder Woman froze when Steve drew his gun and shot her from point blank range. She deflected the bullet, crushed his pistol to junk, punched him out and muttered: “Sorry, Steve, I'll explain later!”
All male security guards opened fire, and with superhuman reflexes, she parried everything. Great Hera, one stray bullet, and somebody will get killed!
With uncanny speed, she whipped off her tiara and threw it at Silver Swan. She easily dodged and taunted: “Missed by a mile, ugly freak!”
“Yes, but I didn't aim at you!”
Before Silver Swan could react, the tiara cut the cord of the giant chandelier. It landed on her head and buried her underneath, reducing her to a pile of moaning banshee. All men snapped out of it, and Diana safely bound Silver Swan and hissed: “The next time you disrespect my looks, please use social media like everyone else!”
“'Yes, madam'”, she muttered, while Steve and his mostly male DEO colleagues ignored their migraine, arrested her and put her into an anti-metahuman stasis cell.
“What happened, Wonder Woman? I totally zoned out,” he groaned, holding his head, and she grinned: “I just handled a crazed stalker.”
“My God, that was fantastic! This was the best date ever!” Veronica beamed, wrapped her arms around Wonder Woman and smiled: “Thanks for saving my life, Diana!”
“You're welcome, Veronica. Thank you for a very interesting evening!” she replied, and kissed her on the cheek. Steve glared, but the billionaire licked her lips before leaving with her two enormous dogs. He clenched his jaw, mooched a cigarette and lit it up outside. He was grateful for the rain, it matched his mood.
“Hey, Steve,” a female voice whispered.
“Hello, Diana,” he hissed, blowing off steam in more ways than one. In record time, she had changed back into plain street clothes, and muttered in a low voice: “Steve, you only smoke when you are angry.”
“I hope you had fun flirting with Dr. Cale!”
“At first, I did, but as time went on, it felt so wrong. But I couldn't stop!”
“Yeah, because she is rich, powerful and beautiful.”
“Steve, it was nothing! She paid 50 million dollars to be with me. I love you, no one else!”
“I'll be honest, your flirting just killed me.”
“That's so ironic, Steve! When you were under Silver Swan's influence, you shot at me. I could have been killed!”
Steve went chalk white and stammered: “I shot at you?!”
Diana raised her left bracelet and snapped: “If I hadn't parried your point blank shot, I would be dead!”
Steve's cigarette fell out of his mouth, and in a small, brittle voice, he croaked: “I'm so sorry, Diana.”
“No, I'm so sorry, Steve,” she muttered. They exchanged guilty stares, then flung their arms around each other.
“I'm such a jealous jerk, angel,” he sobbed, and she cried: “I'm such a horrible flirt, Steve. I know you thought that I was going to dump you for her.”
“Yes, and it would have crushed me.”
Suddenly, Diana's mouth twitched, and in a low voice, she confessed: “There is something you need to know about me. I don't discriminate my lovers by gender. If that makes me less desirable, I am very sorry.”
“Actually, Diana, I wasn't concerned about the gender, more about getting dumped,” Steve replied matter-of-factly, but then whispered: “Thanks for telling me the truth, I appreciate your trust.”
“My first love was my fellow Amazon Kasia. We sadly broke it off when I left. I hope she found someone who makes her just as happy as you make me,” she confessed.
“That would be nice,” Steve replied without any malice.
“Steve, if you had been born a Stephanie, my love wouldn't change a bit,” she assured him, and he smiled: “That is a very nice compliment, angel.”
Diana seemed relieved to have gotten it out of her system, and was touched what a non issue it was for him.
“Diana, you looked stunning in that dress. No wonder Dr. Cale was so taken with you.”
“My date with her has ended, what about yours?” she smiled, and they eagerly drove home and quenched their mutual attraction. The tore off each others' clothes, rolled on the bed and engaged in wet, lustful kissing. Great Hera, his hands are all over me, and I would kill him if they weren't, Diana beamed and whispered: “I love you. Saving you from the plane crash was the best idea of my life.”
“Angel, after seeing you carve up that army in No Man's Land, I will always be in love with you, too.”
“I am so happy, Steve,” she beamed, and suddenly, she asked: “Do you want to go to Themyscira with me?”
“Paradise Island? You never asked me before!”
“We weren't close enough yet. But now, I think it is fair to present yourself to my mother as my boyfriend, and ask for her permission to court me.”
“The last time I was there, I crash landed, nearly drowned, and then got shot and interrogated,” Steve muttered, but when he saw her fear, he smiled: “But all is forgiven now, angel, I would be happy to! I always wanted to get my butt kicked by Antiope again.”
“Oh, this will be fun! I am dying to tell my mother what a fantastic man you are, introduce you to all my sisters, and show to Antiope how much you learned with me!”
“Or rather, how little,” he muttered in self derision, but was touched by her trust in him and smiled: “Deal, angel, I would be so honored!”
“I am so glad, Steve. Come here!”
They exchanged wet, greedy kisses, realizing that their mutual attraction would not be satisfied by lip contact alone. But suddenly, Queen Hippolyta's words flashed in Steve's mind: “Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
He cringed how true her last sentence probably was, and swore to do everything to make things right. But suddenly, he noted the first sentences. Why am I getting so worked up over this? Diana visited Themyscira often, it will be fun!
The next moment, Diana started a more carnal form of fun. They eagerly explored how long he would last this time.
Back at the auction hall, an evil mind casually collected several odd security cameras, which had been zooming in on Wonder Woman ever since she took the stage.
On Monday morning, Etta noticed that Diana and Steve were dead tired but adorably lovey-dovey, hardly able to keep their hands off each other. With a knowing smile, she snapped: “Colonel, Lieutenant, if you cannot stop harassing each other, I will send you to the psychiatric ward!”
“Sorry, Corporal,” Steve muttered guiltily, and Diana blushed. Etta pushed two steaming coffee mugs into their hands and grinned: “It seems that your charity was a great success! All the big newspapers like the Daily Planet or the Gotham Enquirer have it on Page 1, and focus on Wonder Woman's sultry dress, her fight versus Silver Swan and Veronica Cale's record bid.”
“Don't remind me. I was ready to rip Dr. Cale's head off, and I admit I am a jealous jerk,” Steve muttered.
“I don't fault you, and it seems a win-win-win situation anyway. The charity got a record sum, Dr. Cale got her date, and you... rewarded each other afterwards.”
“You are really merciless, Etta,” Diana croaked, blushing furiously behind her birth control glasses, but she patted them both and smiled: “You two are adorable!”
“If you say so,” Steve mumbled and asked: “Did we already find out more about Silver Swan?”
“Alex Danvers is already interrogating her. Silver Swan insists that she attacked Wonder Woman because she is madly jealous of her attention.”
“It makes sense, I already fought Ms. Alexandros before. She is a vain, sorry victim,” Diana whispered. She was unable to truly hate the ugly duckling who was tempted by Ares to become the evil Silver Swan.
“She is a vain, sorry culprit. I'll never forgive her for making me shoot Wonder Woman,” Steve blurted out.
“Don't feel bad, Steve. Firstly, Silver Swan does that to all men, and secondly, nothing happened,” Diana smiled and kissed him on the cheek. Etta rolled her eyes, and continued: “In any case, we are conducting a psychiatric evaluation, Dr. Quinzel is already on it.”
“Quinzel? In that case, we'll never find out anything. How did that quack get a job here?” Steve mumbled.
“Because she is a good looking quack,” Etta replied truthfully, changed the topic and asked: “So, Steve, do you still want to talk to your Moneyspider buddy? He just contacted me on his superdupersecret hacker line, and said he will be available at 13:37h.”
“Figures,” Steve grinned reluctantly, “I'll be there.”
“Can I help you, Steve?” Diana asked, but he replied: “No, my contact only wants to talk to me alone. You can file the eyewitness accounts of the Silver Swan attack, Lieutenant, and please start with your friend Wonder Woman!”
“Why did I know that you would say that, Colonel?” Diana sighed and began typing.
At 13:37h sharp, the screen of his quadruple secured terminal flickered: MONEYSPIDER CONNECTION ESTABLISHED. The heavily backlit outline of a young adult appeared, munching takeaway Chinese and greeted: “Hello, Steve!”
“Greetings, Lonnie, how's the weather in Gotham?”
“The sky looks like a TV tuned to a dead channel, and the smell of the WayneTech factories reminds me of ammonia. All in all, a beautiful day for me, the Moneyspider.”
“Suit yourself,” Steve replied, became serious and asked: “Were you able to research the Cyberwalker hack?”
“No, and it is troubling me. Like your creepy colleague Dr. Light assumed, I suspect the base is a hyper reactive, evolving AI, but controlled – or maybe, chaperoned? - by a human entity. I would like to track the Cyberwalker, but it appears and disappears so randomly that even I can't get a fix. I am so desperate that I consider asking my nemesis Oracle. Please don't tell her!”
“I won't. Do you know what the Cyberwalker wants? No normal hacker attacks the DEO networks just for fun.”
“Kind of, but my findings up to now are odd. The Cyberwalker is scanning geodata, more specifically, geological vibration patterns, the kind that pioneers use to find subterranean natural resources,” the hacker replied, stuffing his mouth with noodles.
“That actually makes sense, Lonnie. If someone steals our data to find a gold mine, it's worth it.”
“I also observed two weird spikes in Cyberwalker activity, one last week, one yesterday, maybe I'm on to something. On a different note, I saw you yesterday on TV, guarding that glossy United Nations auction that was gate crashed by Silver Swan. I also got that Veronica Cale did that record bid on Wonder Woman.”
“Don't remind me!”
“Oh, Wondie's your ex, my bad.”
Steve reluctantly smiled. Even a super hacker like Lonnie didn't bust Diana's secret identity yet. He replied truthfully: “I got a nice new girlfriend, and I will be a big Wonder Woman fan for the rest of my life.”
“I'll out myself, I am a fan, too. As a hard core atheist, I dislike Wondie's Greek god shtick, but I love her style. She gets so much flak on social media, I just doxxed one particularly evil troll who wanted to r—ealign her. But beware of Veronica Cale, Steve. Underneath that glossy surface, she's one big slimeball like Lex Luthor.”
“Join the club! Did you find something on her?”
“A few months ago, you asked me to research the money trails of the Genocide case. Your old enemies Cheetah and Dr. Poison were paid by letterbox companies in Qurac, Santa Prisca, Borgonia and other armpits of the world, and after long weeks of retracing, I am 99% sure that they were paid by Veronica Cale. Of course, if anyone says that, they will be sued to oblivion.”
“She is creepy, but why should she harm Wonder Woman? She is a billionaire with a thousand charities, and Wonder Woman saved her life yesterday from Silver Swan!”
“You are the bigshot agent, not me. There is always the assumption that she recruited Silver Swan herself,” the hacker replied, washing his food down with mate tea.
“Silver Swan is a shallow maggot, I fully believe that she attacked Wonder Woman for vanity reasons.”
“Fair enough, I am just covering all the bases. By the way, are you familiar with the name 'Adrianna Anderson'?”
“She was a Cale security engineer who was pretty good in cutting edge AI. At a very basic level, the Cyberwalker resembles her prototypes. I am trying to find out more of her work, but I cannot ask her anymore. Anderson kicked the bucket last year, when she got electrocuted by her own illegal mainframe.”
“Oh, I'm sorry.”
“Don't be, Steve, it is stupid to plug a quantum optical mainframe into non regulated heavy current. The arclight would have vaporized a small city. I may be an anarchist, but I am not an idiot.”
“Lonnie, you did great. How can I say thanks?”
“That generous donation for the Children In Need charity paid for the Veronica Cale stuff. I will do the Cyberwalker thing pro bono, because it's such a challenge. People with 200-plus IQ get bored so easily!”
“Suit yourself, Lonnie, you know that my door is always open. If you hate boredom, the DEO offers 24/7 challenges, exciting supervillain fights, and occasional world savings!”
“I am not a team player, and fighting supervillains only benefits the big, not the small. We couldn't even lunch together, Mr. Steak McBeery, I am a straight edge vegan.”
“Fair enough, but people like you keep us honest. The DEO is full of yes men anyway, we need more feisty people who have a spine and challenge authority.”
“Steve, you are a willing cog of Amanda Waller. She represents a deep state, which rewards the rich and powerful, suppresses the weak and poor, and is willing to compromise human rights to fulfill horrible goals. That being said, you never lied, cheated or betrayed, and I actually trust you. The world needs more guys like you.”
“Thanks, Lonnie! Maybe the world is a bad place, but every day, I do my best it doesn't stay that way. Bottom line is want to help people, we are not too different.”
“You're welcome, Steve, but now, I am going to bust a Markovian money laundering scheme and earn another three million bucks for the women's shelter of my choice. Maybe I'll even score brownie points with Wonder Woman! Hey, Steve, can I bribe her into whipping Bruce Wayne's sorry ass? That smug billionaire playboy deserves it.”
“I'm not protesting. See you, Lonnie,” Steve grinned.
The screen went black, leaving Steve in deep thought.
“So, Cyberwalker, what did we get this time?”
“This was much better, boss. We got a solid lock on Wonder Woman and her lasso, and got valuable information about her weak spots.”
“Very good! This is the result if professionals take matters into their own hands. So, where is Themyscira?”
“Unfortunately, boss, that is still a mystery.”
“What are you talking about? You got the geoprofiles of every physical location on this planet! We just spent a lot of money to lure Wonder Woman herself!”
“This is the problem. Coming from Themyscira, Wonder Woman's armor and lasso should have exactly the same geoprofile as Paradise Island itself, but I cannot find it. I am not sure if Themyscira is physically a part of earth!”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe, Themyscira is in some parallel dimension, like the mystical places of Avalon or Atlantis? Maybe our geoprofile is only half of the truth, and the other half only activates whenever she activates some portal?”
“You may be right, damn it! This means we have to track her down and see for ourselves.”
“Fortunately, we can do it now. I have acquired enough data to pinpoint Wonder Woman whenever she is present. Team Poison is already in position, but strangely, I cannot find Wonder Woman now.”
“That makes sense, she must have some kind of secret identity. But soon, we'll bust that, too. I will beat Wonder Woman, destroy Themyscira, and my revenge will be complete!”
Steve couldn't recall the last time he had flown on Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet. Being a pilot himself, he marveled at its crystal hull, which was light and perfectly balanced, just like the eagle wings, and the sheer speed.
“I have flown a lot of supersonic planes, angel, but nothing compares to this,” Steve gushed, and Diana, clad in her best Wonder Woman armor and her finest cape, smiled: “I would love to give you a go, Steve, but unfortunately, my plane doesn't work that way.”
“Fair enough,” he replied, still trying to understand her cockpit. It consisted of a control stick, but the main feature was the array of floating globes that faintly reminded him of gyroscopes, emitting light waves that focused on Diana's head. He understood it was an advanced mind-machine interface, primed on her thoughts.
“I find it so cool that we are flying to Themyscira again, Diana. To be honest, I am already happy if I set foot on Paradise Island without crashing and almost drowning.”
“I'll try my best, Steve. If everything fails, I would find it almost romantic to save you again,” she purred.
“No thanks, and I would love to see the halls, the cliffs and the beach without being bound by your lasso, and without Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope giving me death stares,” he shuddered.
“Don't feel bad, even Superman felt uneasy around them,” she grinned, and he concluded: “I also want to chat with Menalippe, the priestess. I want to know what all that Olympian god stuff is about, you know, that the power of Apollo, beauty of Athena, strength of Hermes thingie...”
“Steve, when I won that contest, I was granted the power of Zeus, the beauty of Aphrodite, the wisdom of Athena, the skill of Artemis, the mercy of Hera, the strength of Hephaestus, and the speed of Hermes.”
“Ah, I was almost right,” Steve lied, and she quipped: “I don't take these gifts lightly, they are divine. I trust the Olympians unconditionally, and in return, they will protect me until the end!”
Her words were so forceful that Steve remained silent. He wanted to lean back, but for some reason, he recalled Queen Hippolyta's last words: “Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
Steve got goosebumps, but for the first time, he recalled the words and thought of Diana, not of himself. What's wrong with me? Diana visits Themyscira all the time, it will be joy, not sorrow! But everything felt wrong, and he didn't know why.
Steve had long lost any sense of direction, until suddenly, the sky became blood red. Out of nowhere, a dark island with a high, craggy mountain and a giant fortress appeared, burning crimson and black like the pits of hell. They stopped in mid air, hovered over the jagged, razor sharp cliffs and landed.
This is supposed to be Themyscira? Steve thought and just stared. But with a big smile, Diana opened the hatch, sped to the group of Amazons who were approaching them, ran into the arms of a tall woman in wolf pelts and uttered: “Mother, I am so glad to see you again!”
Steve stared at a blood stained barbarian queen. She bore no resemblance to the majestic monarch that had more power in one look than Diana in her entire body.
“Another big W for the small A!”
With a big grin, Lonnie Machin entered his secret lair, took off his cybernetic mask, the scarlet robes with the big encircled A, and discarded his electric staff, his flares, his Molotov cocktails and his cyberjack.
“These drug dealers had it coming. They were preying on the weak and the poor, and I will use their drug money for that children's hospital right around next block”, the vigilante grinned, rubbing his hands.
Lonnie Machin, also known as the Moneyspider hacker, or more recently, as the Anarky vigilante, was a natural loner. The child prodigy, who wasn't old enough to drink, was a committed free spirit, a classic anarchist who believed that people should live with, but not rule over each other – sadly, a common sight in his native Gotham.
“So, Lonnie, let's tackle that stupid Cyberwalker again,” he talked to himself, sat behind his giant Moneyspider mainframe and ate his vegan carrot cake. He started his Cyberwalker surveillance program, which he had finished programming the night before, and began reading read real time data from four monitors at the same time.
Okay, Lonnie, let's approach this rationally. The Cyberwalker is so elusive that a direct pursuit is nearly impossible. Focus on those two odd spikes I registered.
Lonnie read out all data on those two spikes, ranging from abstraction layer, package size, speed, amplitude, voltage and many more. Finally, he read out the geodata, and seemingly found out that one origin was in Russia, the other in New Zealand. But as an elite hacker, he sniffed out the proxies and obfuscators, ran some triangulation heuristics and found that both were located in Boston.
“Wait a second, our hacker is a darn Beantowner?” he grinned, but frowned when he found out that one signal came from a random traffic light, and the other from a heavily secured opera hall. No way a hacker could work from there.
Lonnie looked at the time stamps next, and found out that one spike was a week old, the other one less than 48 hours. He compared it with the local police reports, and muttered: “Great Guns! One spike occurred... exactly when Wonder Woman took out Angle Man, and the next spike happened… exactly when she fought Silver Swan!”
He slapped his forehead and blurted out: “I get it now! Cyberwalker is some kind of AI which targets Wonder Woman! It collects geosignatures worldwide, matches it with her own geosignature, and now they can track her!”
Lonnie peeked into an open transmission channel. The Zeroes and Ones whizzed past him Matrix style, but he read it better than most people understand their native language. He concluded: “Wondie is at some kind of remote location in the… Bermuda Triangle. Wait a second, if stupid Lonnie knows where Wondie is now… that means that--”
He jumped up and hacked into a live satellite feed from the location in question. An unknown aircraft was on supersonic intercept course, and Lonnie blurted out: “It's a Team Poison jet! Steve must know asap!”
He established his personal supersecret comm link and muttered: “Steve, Moneyspider here, it's important! Wonder Woman is is about to be attacked by Team Poison, they can somehow track her armor! Do you read me?”
Steve was stiff as a plank when Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope led Diana and him to a large banquet. The monarch boomed: “Listen to your queen, sisters and friends! Rejoice, my beloved daughter has returned! Feast on the gifts the gods gave given us!”
There was a roar of approval, and on queue, her Amazons dug into the endless rows of roasted boars, exotic fruits, and endless kegs of beer. Wonder Woman eagerly followed, while Steve remained stiff.
“You eat so slowly! Has the world of man diminished your appetite?” Queen Hippolyta grinned. Diana's eyes flickered, and she finally smiled: “No, it's just that I am not used to… your beer anymore.”
Since when did Amazons drink beer? I thought they preferred wine, Steve pondered, struggling with his semi raw turkey leg. Queen Hippolyta boomed: “So, Diana, what news do you bring from the world of man? Have you brought peace to Ares's followers?”
“The world of man is warier of Ares, mother, than we all thought. There are also much more strong, upright women than we expected, like my good friend Etta Candy.”
“That is good to hear, Diana! What can you tell me about the male who you brought with you?”
“Oh, don't you recognize him, mother? It's Steve Trevor, the male who crashed here years ago!”
Come on, majesty, my beard isn't that scruffy, Steve frowned, and Queen Hippolyta's gaze flickered. Then, she smiled: “Ah, of course! Welcome back to Themyscira!”
“Thank you, majesty,” Steve greeted with a forced smile, and General Antiope bear hugged him, looked at his almost untouched turkey leg and taunted: “Are your jaws too weak for some real Amazonian food, male?”
“No, General,” Steve lied and just stared at her. When he crash landed years ago, 16 Amazons gave their lives to save him from Ares's minions. General Antiope had never forgiven him, but instead of blowing up at Steve, she downed her beer keg and burped. Steve was dumbstruck.
“Sorry, Diana, I'll be back in a second,” he muttered, suddenly finding it difficult to breathe. He darted past rows of half naked Amazons, clad in little more than wolf pelts, loudly gorging on roasted meat and beer. Suddenly, one of them grabbed his butt and bellowed: “Want to have some fun with us, male?”
Four Amazons leered at him, and tried to pull him into their circle. Luckily, they were too drunk to follow through, and Steve escaped. His heart was pounding, not because of their vile groping, but because these bullies had no resemblance to the strong, noble Amazons he knew.
Steve stumbled to the beach and ran into a guard, who boomed: “What are you doing here, male?”
Since when do Amazon guards wear nothing more than a wolf pelt bikini with kinky boots? Is this some kind of bad live action role playing game?
“My name is Steve Trevor, I crash landed here years ago. I want to pay my respects to the 16 sisters who lie here, after heroically giving their lives to save mine.”
The guard just sneered: “I know nothing of such a graveyard, male. Go back to the princess, before I decide to share you with my sisters!”
Steve just stared, and hurried away. On his way back, he ran into Wonder Woman, who whispered: “Oh, there you are, Steve! You suddenly left, is everything okay?”
Steve clenched his jaw, looked her directly in the eye and hissed: “Nothing is okay, Diana. Everything is wrong!”
“W-What do you mean?”
“I simply do not recognize the Themyscira I know. The architecture is so dark and menacing, the soil is burnt instead of green, and everything seems so… barbaric.”
“Diana, listen to me. I hardly recognize your mother and your aunt. Neither seems to take notice of me, odd if you consider that my crash ended 3.000 years of Themysciran splendid isolation.”
“Steve, relax, maybe my mother and my aunt simply want to make you comfortable.”
“Maybe, but didn't General Antiope wanted to execute me? Also, the heroes' graveyard for the 16 Amazons who sacrificed their lives for me is nowhere to be found!”
Diana just stared at him, and he implored: “Angel, the Amazons I know don't gorge on fatty boars, half raw turkey legs or gallons of beer, don't dress in fur bikinis or don't jump the first male they see!”
Wonder Woman pressed her hands in front of her mouth, shook her head in horror and stammered: “No, no!”
“Diana, did Superman really come here with you?”
She stared at him wide eyed, unable to remember. Steve trembled when he remembered Queen Hippolyta's parting words: “Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
“Steve, I am afraid! You are right, nothing is like I remember Themyscira. My mother is not a drinker, my aunt is not obsessed with food, and I am ashamed for the lewd behavior of my sisters. Everything is a parody of what I left behind,” she stammered, white to the lips.
Suddenly, Steve looked over her shoulder and muttered: “Diana, you may want to turn around.”
Wonder Woman just stared when she realized both were surrounded by Queen Hippolyta, General Antiope and her honor guard of Artemis, Veldeia, Alcippe and many more.
“Hello, daughter, please return to our feast”, her mother whispered. On the surface, the words sounded friendly, but it made her hair stand on end.
“Everybody is missing you,” her aunt added, cracking her knuckles so hard that Steve's blood froze.
“W-What is the meaning of this, mother? Why did you send your honor guard?” Diana blurted out, and she smiled: “Because we love you, my daughter.”
A split second later, General Antiope and Artemis trapped her in an armbar and wrestled her to the ground. Alcippe overwhelmed Steve, and Veldeia took Diana's lasso.
“Mother!” Wonder Woman screamed in horror, but Queen Hippolyta lifted a hissing keg and beamed: “This Styx water will make you forget all your silly notions.”
“No! NO!!” Diana screamed, while General Antiope pinched her nose, and waited until she opened her mouth to pour the Styx water down her throat.
Steve smashed his elbow into Alcippe's face, kicked Artemis and punched the Styx water keg into General Antiope's face. Queen Hippolyta drew her sword and shouted: “Die, you male traitor!”
Her strike would have decapitated him, but Diana jumped up, parried the blow with her bracelet, kicked Alcippe to the ground and grabbed her lasso. With a terrible gesture, she wrapped it around her wrist and closed her eyes.
Steve would take the next image to his grave.
The entire reality exploded in front of him, as if the canvas of life itself was shredded, revealing the horrible void behind it. He heard himself scream, and being flushed down a giant maelstrom of utter chaos. A split second or an aeon later, he was spat out again.
Diana and him lay on the same desolate island they arrived at. But instead of 'Themyscira', there was nothing, no buildings, no living being, only dark, menacing jungle. Steve blurted out: “Angel, what just happened?”
Diana kneed on the jagged rocks, a look of utter despair in her eyes. In a low, horrible voice, she screamed: “Steve, this is not Theymscira. In all these years… I HAVE NEVER BEEN HOME!! THE GODS BETRAYED ME!!”
If her anguish would have taken a physical form, reality would have been crushed again. It was a horror that no living being deserved.
Suddenly, Steve's secret transponder lit up. He heard Lonnie's urgent voice: “Steve, Moneyspider here, it's important! Wonder Woman is is about to be attacked by Team Poison, they can somehow track her armor! Do you read me? My connection is about to get busted! Please resp--”
The line went dead. Steve clenched his jaw, turned to Diana and uttered: “Dr. Poison and her team tracked us down! Let's hop in your invisible plane and try to--”
The invisible plane was gone. Instead of seeing the most powerful Amazon of Themyscira, he only saw a drooling lunatic who was singing softly: “One and one is three, is seven, is car, is blue...”
“Diana, please snap out of it!” he shouted, shaking her shoulders, but she only grinned idiotically: “Hmm?”
Steve grew numb. In all these years, she had always been the strong one, gratefully bailing him out each time. But this time, it was horribly different. He implored: “Diana, come to your senses! Do you know who I am?”
“Of course! You are Zeus, my first patron!” she smiled. Suddenly, she crushed his wrists and screamed: “You shall not betray me again! I will destroy you!”
She hit him so hard that he spat out blood, and he groaned: “Diana, I am not Zeus! It's me, Steve Trevor!”
“Steve Trevor? The male I rescued?”
She looked the space around him and muttered: “I am so sorry that only four of you are real, and you all are green. I only like Steve Trevors who are blue.”
Steve realized that it was hopeless. Team Poison was coming, and his army instincts kicked in. Steve knew that he could only improvise, adapt and hope to overcome.
I will not fail you, angel. You bailed me out so often, now it's my time to save you, he swore.
So quick and so diligently he could, he collected vines ropes, carved spears with his army knife, built traps, and scanned the jungle for possible ambush sites. Suddenly, he saw that Wonder Woman was wandering.
“Diana, where are you going?”
She idiotically pointed at the supersonic Team Poison jet, where several assassins parachuted out, and blabbered: “Do you think they are going to take us home?”
“No, I don't think so,” he muttered, grabbing her wrist and trying to fight his panic. This is it, Trevor. You got one shot to take them down.
Team Poison paradropped with pinpoint accuracy. It was a seven woman team, equipped with state of the art body armor, gas masks, night vision goggles, and high precision machine guns. Every mercenary was an elite soldier, trained to kill, but all paled compared to their leader.
“We have a fix on the target. Stay together and smoke her out”, Isabel Maru hissed through her facial prosthesis, and adjusted her cybernetic fish eye glasses. Dr. Poison cocked her venom rifle, readied her gas grenades, and her ice cold eyes dissected the jungle with surgical precision.
This is the person who helped Ares almost destroy the world. She also created the Genocide atrocity. Dr. Poison must be stopped, Steve spat out.
“I CONCUR,” a metallic voice suddenly replied. Out of nowhere, a female holographic outline appeared, which reminded Steve of the machine woman in Metropolis.
“Follow Dr. Cyber, ladies! There are Amazons to be captured!” Dr. Poison snapped.
“Copy that, boss,” her assassins complied, and began to comb the jungle. From his hideout, Steve stared at the hologram and thought: What is this thing?
Without taking his eyes off her, Steve saw how sure, focused and disciplined their movements were. Their formation was loose enough to scan a large area, yet close enough to have each others' back.
No easy takedowns here. They are elite soldiers, but I am the best . To be the best , you got to beat the best , Steve snarled, rubbing mud into his face. Instead of fleeing, he sneaked up to them, and grinned when they entered the ambush site he had prepared. Steve hid in a divot beneath a bush, and when an assassin walked past, he jumped her, choked a scream with a thin vine and knocked her out with the butt of her own rifle.
“AMBUSH!” the hologram boomed, and all Team Poison assassins turned around. Steve threw a stone on the rock behind the nearest one, causing a loud crack. She turned around, stepped forward, and triggered a spear trap that impaled her right thigh.
“Oww!” she screamed, but a moment later, Steve knocked her out with a rifle butt to the skull.
“There he is! Suppression fire!” Dr. Poison screamed, opening fire. Steve jumped behind a large rock, and was surrounded by a hailstorm of hot lead. One second later, two gas grenades exploded next to him, but he was prepared. After one minute, Dr. Poison snapped: “Did he move? If not, the gas killed him!”
Her assassins looked carefully and muttered: “He isn't here, boss!”
“MAYBE HE FELL TO HIS DEATH?” the hologram suggested, pointing at the high cliff right behind the rock.
“Maybe, Dr. Cyber, but I don't care. Focus on the task at hand, we have an Amazon to capture!” Dr. Poison hissed.
'Dr. Cyber?' Does she have something to do with the 'Cyberwalker'? Steve pondered, literally cowering beside them in a divot under the rock. He had hollowed out a vine, sealed it with resin and made a makeshift oxygen flask.
“THIS WAY, DOCTOR,” the hologram said, pointing to an opening. Suddenly, they saw a figure in a crimson armor, and Dr. Poison snapped: “There she is!”
Team Poison opened fire and buried her under a barrage of poison bullets, gas grenades, and venom nets. But when they got closer, they froze when it was only a scarecrow wearing the Wonder Woman armor and her lasso.
Suddenly, the ground gave way underneath them. Steve pulled the vine covering the trap, and all assassins except their leader 30 feet deep through the crater into a subterranean lake. Dr. Poison rescued herself with a frantic jump, but got hit by a full barrage of her own venom rifle.
“Gotcha!” Steve grinned from his sniper post, but to his disdain, her body armor was even better than his shot.
“Idiot! Do you think I would brew a poison that I am not immune to?” Dr. Poison slavered, holding her ribs.
“ASSAILANT IDENTIFIED. TREVOR, STEVEN ROCKWELL, COLONEL OF THE DEO,” the hologram uttered. Dr. Poison avoided the Steve's next shots by taking full cover, and screamed: “Dr. Cyber, mark the target, and initiate revival protocols on Sara and Snake!”
“HOLO TARGETING UP. REVIVAL PROTOCOLS INITIATED. 212 MEGACYCLES OF ENERGY EXPENDED,” the hologram replied. To his horror, Steve saw that his outline glowed in neon colors, and that the two assassins he previously knocked out, now staggered back on their feet.
This is not fair, he muttered inwardly, while dodging suppression fire from three sides. He jumped from from his tree and tried to hide in the bushes, but with the holo targeting up, he remained clearly visible.
Out of nowhere, Diana danced in between the two assassins, clad only in underwear and bracelets. They just stared as she dropped on all fours and meowed like a cat.
“Take her down!” they screamed. But she jumped up, parried their bullets with her bracelets, smacked their heads against each other, and sang in a child like voice: “Go away, go away, you night loving ones...”
In the next moment, Dr. Poison shot a venom net that covered Diana like a wet cloth. The drugs immediately immobilized her, and a red laser dot of Dr. Poison's rifle appeared on her forehead. The death doctor snapped: “Surrender, Trevor, or I'll shoot her!”
Steve dropped his rifle, raised his hands in the air and begged: “Don't shoot! I give up, Maru, you win!”
“Come here and kneel down in plain sight, you cuckold,” Dr. Poison hissed. While he complied, she noticed Diana rocking back and forth and singing like a lunatic. Dr. Poison radioed: “Team, this is Maru, target package secure. But what is wrong with her, Dr. Cyber?”
“HIGHER BRAIN ACTIVITY CORRUPTED. DIAGNOSIS UNCLEAR, ASSUMPTION: SHELL SHOCKED?”
That's actually not bad, Steve admitted with his jaws clenched. Dr. Poison aimed her rifle at his forehead and taunted: “Colonel Trevor, so we meet again. Do you still want to seduce me?”
“Thank Wonder Woman that you are still able crack jokes, Maru. She could have crushed you with that tank.”
“But she didn't, Colonel, and our ways part here. Nothing personal, but an assassin does what she is paid to do,” she grinned, cocking her rifle.
“Burn in hell, Maru,” Steve spat out, deliberately keeping his eyes open to savor the last moments. When she pulled her trigger finger, the hologram suddenly flickered.
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!” it screamed, and abruptly changed into a red caped, masked vigilante sporting a giant encircled A who taunted: “Sorry, Adriana, you're mine now.”
A Molotov cocktail shaped arclight shot out its hands and zapped Dr. Poison. Steve just stared, as she dropped down unconscious, and the hologram cackled: “Take that, you Mengele knockoff! Moneyspider wins again!”
“L—Lonnie?!” Steve stammered, recognizing the voice.
“Hey, Steve, it's me! I hacked into that Cyberwalker AI and took it over. To make a long story short, it's a digitized Adrianna Anderson, who somehow survived the mainframe explosion as a memory bank. By the way, you are looking at Anarky, my real life alter ego.”
“You like dressing like a giant red popsicle?”
“Leave the jokes to me, old man!” Suddenly, he did a double take, and muttered: “Hit the floor, Steve, the capitalist pigs are coming!”
Steve took cover, grabbed Diana's wrist, and a split second later, bullets whistled over his head. The assassins who fell into the lake grappled up and shot at him. Gas grenades exploded next to him, and he retched his bowels out. He heard loud bangs, but instead of getting his brains blown out, he saw the Anarky hologram mercilessly take them out with electromagnetic bolts.
“Ha, ha! Take that, you meat eating fascists!” he gloated, shooting chained lightning until they all lay unconscious on the ground. After the dust settled, Steve stood up and beamed: “Lonnie, how can I ever thank you?”
The hologram replied: “Excluding world peace, poverty elimination and a personal DEO quantum mainframe? Get out here as quickly as possible! My sensors are detecting weird paranormal activities, and--”
The Anarky hologram froze in mid sentence, reverting to a comatose Dr. Cyber. Out of nowhere, Veronica Cale appeared, with her two giant dogs Bo and Mo on a leash. Her eyes and hands were hissing with dark magic, and she spat at Dr. Poison and Dr. Cyber and sneered: “Must I do everything myself, you idiots?”
Steve blurted out: “Dr. Veronica Cale, is that you?”
“Ah, Colonel Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman's cuckold!” she taunted, keeping her huge dogs in check, but letting them take swipes at Steve. He stammered: “What is going on, Dr. Cale? Who are you really? WHAT are you really?”
“I'm posing the questions here, cuckold. Where is Wonder Woman?” Veronica Cale snapped. Steve turned around, and froze when neither Diana nor her armor was to be seen. He truthfully replied: “She was here a moment ago! Do you want a second date with her?”
With an icy glare, Veronica Cale stepped forward and simply punched Steve into the ground. He had never been hit so hard, including all sparring sessions with Diana. While he spat blood, she snapped: “I need her, cuckold, and if you don't find her asap, you'll royally screwed!”
“Hey, why should I cooperate? You hit me!”
The billionaire raised her hand, spoke a spell older than time and turned him into a mouse. Steve shrieked in horror when she unleashed Bo and Mo on him. He jumped up a tree and barely evaded their bites, and fled to the highest branch he could find.
“Because you have no other choice, cuckold!” Veronica Cale boomed, and turned him back into a human. Too heavy for the branch, Steve fell head first from the third floor, but with a mere gesture, she stopped his fall and made him land like a sack of potatoes.
“Okay, okay, you win, Dr. Cale!” Steve blurted out, white to the lips. “What can I do for you?”
“I need her to find Themyscira! According to my geodata, it is right in this location, but in a different dimension, just like Glastonbury and Avalon.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, but Diana lost her mind. She couldn't tell you if she wanted.”
Veronica Cale froze, scanned his mind like an x ray cannon and screamed: “She has gone insane? How can we open the gate to Themyscira when our walking portal went nuts? First Genocide fails, then Angle Man, then Silver Swan, and now this?”
“Wait a second, you didn't want to kill Diana with them?” Steve blurted out, and she snapped: “Of course not, you dolt! We wanted to steal her lasso, bind her, and extract the location of Themyscira!”
“B-but why, Dr. C-Cale?” Steve stammered. Bo and Mo barked so loud that he nearly pissed his pants, and she slavered: “I don't think that you are aware of the gravity of the situation, cuckold! Enough of this charade, I will reveal myself to your pathetic eyes!”
Veronica Cale flashed an evil smile. Her eyes and hands hummed with evil magic, and suddenly, she shed her human shell and revealed her true form. Steve saw the most sultry succubus he had ever seen, a tall, curvy seductress with fiery red hair, purple eyes and form fitting dress who could tempt the gods of chastity. But her nails were long and dripped with poison, her entire being was cold and toxic, and he choked at the presence of elemental venom.
“FORGET DR. VERONICA CALE, MY TRUE NAME IS CIRCE!” she boomed, and Steve stared in horror. He blurted out: “Diana told me all about you! You seduced Odysseus, turned his men into pigs, killed them, and you are Ares's lover!”
“CORRECT, AND THESE ARE MY ADOPTIVE SONS, PHOBOS AND DEIMOS!” she slavered, grinning at her huge dogs.
Bo and Mo, Pho-BO-s and Dei-MO-s, they are the twin sons of Ares, who impersonated the shaman called 'Bos-pho Mos-dei' and built the Genocide golem with Dr. Poison. Veronica Cale, alias Circe, alias their foster mother, was their boss. It all makes horrible sense now.
Being ignorant of Olympian gods, Steve didn't know who their real mother was, and for a split second, he wondered why they were in dog form. But this notion was buried under a tsunami of pure horror, when Circe grabbed him by the throat, lifted him up with terrible force and screamed: “FIND WONDER WOMAN, OR I'LL FEED YOU TO MY SONS!”
Why doesn't she do it herself?
Not daring to ask that question, he stumbled through the jungle and tried find Diana – or rather, tried not to. Years ago, the two had fought Ares himself, and the hate in Circe's eyes made the war god look mild. With every step, he was glared at by Bo and Mo – Phobos and Deimos - willing to bite his leg off at the slightest thought of escape. As if stupid Steve Trevor had a chance against three gods, he muttered inwardly and screamed: “Diana! Diana of Themyscira! Where are you?”
Suddenly, a large deer trampled through the bushes, stomped Bo and Mo and took Steve on its huge antlers.
“Aaagghhh!!” he screamed, hanging on for his dear life, as the majestic animal galloped through the jungle with superhuman grace. Spewing gutter Greek, Circe rose high in the air and shot thick death rays at the deer. It dodged them with uncanny precision, and the eyes of the siren grew wide. She swore: “TREASON! THE GODS WILL PUNISH YOU!!”
Steve had no idea what she was talking about, he was too busy not getting thrown off. During the thundering gallop through the thick jungle, he wondered how he would get killed, getting sliced by the antlers, strangled by rubbery vines or smashed by thick branches. Steve had long lost orientation, when the deer suddenly stopped, and he stared at the entrance of a dark, menacing cave. Sulphuric clouds billowed out, hissed with unholy magic, and seemingly led into the deepest pits of hell.
I am 100% sure that this cave didn't exist before, Steve thought, tightly holding a drooling Diana. He looked the miraculous deer in the eyes, and when it met his gaze, he got goosebumps all over his body. It pointed its snout at him, then at the cave, ran off and disappeared.
“Okay, angel, I guess we'll go down there,” Steve muttered, figuring the alternative was getting annihilated by Circe and her sons. He wrapped his shirt around his nostrils, breathing as shallow as possible, and tightly held on to Wonder Woman as they started their descent.
The caves started out narrow, filled with jagged rock formations, prehistoric cave paintings and ageless runes. They were illuminated by strange red crystals, which bathed his path in an unholy light. Also, the rock formations were a single violation of spatial laws. Steve's brain hurt trying to make sense of it, seemingly drawn in multiple perspectives by some sick cubist painter. Soon, Steve had totally lost his orientation.
Gods, spirits or whatever floats in here, I ask for your protection. I don't plead in my name, but in Diana's. Please take care of her, he implored, tightly holding her arm, desperate to see any sign of sanity in her drooling, disheveled features. But she continued dribbling, softly singing: “Good night, sweet roses...”
Steve noticed that the lasso of truth, which dangled form her waist, no longer sparkled golden, but was dead like a broken lamp. What is going on in your brain, Diana?
It is 7 AM in the office.
Colonel Trevor dictates an e-mail to Lieutenant Prince: “People confuse facts, reality and truth, they are all different. You believe in a set of truths, but they have been called into question. Do you know the truth about yourself, Lieutenant?”
“Colonel, I don't know,” Diana confesses, adjusts her birth control glasses and starts typing.
“Corncob! Dinner ken!” Wonder Woman suddenly wailed, as Steve led her down a chasm. She punched herself and scratched thin air, and he tightly wrapped his muscular arms around her shoulders and whispered: “It's okay, angel, everything is going to be alright.”
Please don't make me a liar, Diana, he pleaded.
It is lunch time.
Corporal Candy passes a sandwich to Lieutenant Prince and smiles: “There are several truths about you, and by extension, your identity. What are you, Diana? Wonder Woman, Amazon, Princess, Goddess? A puppet made from clay, a child of two royal bloodlines, or both?”
“Why are you forcing me to choose, Etta?”
“Truth changes with perspective, and perspective is always tied to purpose. What is your purpose, Diana?”
“To bring peace to the world of man… I guess. I think it depends on who you ask.”
“Why should it?”
“That question is even heavier than my lobster roll,” Diana muttered and bit into her sandwich.
“Roll, roll, roll…,” Diana sang in a child like voice, dangerously chewing on her tongue, totally oblivious to her environment. Steve pondered if he should stuff his handkerchief into her mouth, but didn't want to make things worse. Desperate for a sign of sanity, he led her across a treacherous bridge and moved on.
It is a battlefield.
Wonder Woman charges the enemy, and Colonel Steve Trevor snipes them from the flank. While she deflect s bullets with her bracelets, Sameer utters: “Truth makes free, bit it hurts more than any shot, Princess.”
“That's why we lie so easily. I t is the path of least resistance, regardless if you are a guy, a girl or a god,” Charlie nods, s ipping on his booze.
“ But lies have consequences , and that's why you are in agony now, highness,” Chief whisper s .
“I am not in agony!” she retorts , snaring the thugs in her lasso, but he re plie s : “ Reach deep inside you, princess, what is the worst betrayal you still recall?”
"STEVE!!” Wonder Woman screamed, jumping up with an expression of holy rage. She grabbed him by the collar, smashed him against the wall and boomed: “YOU BETRAYED ME! YOU SOLD ME OUT TO AMANDA WALLER!”
“A-Angel, what are you t-talking about?” Steve croaked, while his throat was getting crushed.
“I was your girlfriend, Steve, why did you betray me?” she cried out, and her eyes flickered. The faintest glimmer of sanity returned, and she screamed: “When I met Superman and Batman for the first time, you spied on me. Why? I was so in love with you, and you betrayed my trust!”
“Director Waller ordered me to, and--”
She punched him so hard in the face that he saw stars, and she sobbed: “You lied and broke my heart! I will never forget your betrayal!”
She struck him again, and he spat blood and confessed: “You are right, I lied to you. I was a selfish, jealous jerk, and I understand why you dumped me for Superman.”
Her eyes flared up, and she screamed: “You were such a deplorable liar, what did I do to you to deserve it?”
Instead of ripping his head off, she broke to her knees, went into the fetal position and wept like a child. Steve awkwardly kneed, his face red with shame, and confessed: “Nothing, everything is on me. I regret it from the bottom of my heart, and I will dedicate the rest of my life to make it right again.”
She stared at him, and suddenly, her lasso flickered on and off like a loosely fitted light bulb. Diana jumped up, spun around in her trademark pirouette and exploded in a bright starburst. When Steve could open his eyes again, she fiercely met his gaze, crossed her bracelets so hard that sparks flew all over the place, and grabbed her lasso, which glowed like a shooting star.
“Angel…?” Steve whispered in disbelief, and she flung her arms around him and sobbed: “Thank you, Steve, I am back now. Thank you for telling the truth.”
She kissed him, and both wept happy tears, until she reluctantly let go and whispered: “There is not much time, Steve, we have to push on.”
“What is going on, angel? One moment I think we are going to chill on Themyscira, then we almost get killed by 'Queen Hippolyta'” - he deliberately air quoted that name - “and by Veronica Cale, a. k. a. Circe, you go insane, and now we are in this version of Dante's Inferno.”
“Steve, I'll explain as we go along,” she muttered, stroked his bloody cheek and cringed: “Great Hera, I must have punched your lights out! That must hurt!”
Steve softly whispered in her ear: “'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew Said / A little I’m hurt but not yet slain. / I’ll just lie down and bleed a while / And then I’ll rise and fight again.'”
“You are adorable, but sadly, lying down is not an option,” she smiled and tightly took his hand. As they continued their descent, Steve quickly narrated the fights versus Team Poison, Circe and her sons, and her eyes grew wide in horror. Finally, he muttered: “What is going on, Diana? Can you talk about what made you insane?”
“I found out that I never visited Themyscira since we left years ago. The 'Themyscira' I went to ever since is just a fabrication of the gods I swore to protect. It knocked me silly, and it still hurts.”
“Why would they betray you so cruelly? Did you commit some horrible crime?”
“Not that I know of, but someone is going to pay,” she sneered, cracking her knuckles. Steve muttered: “Diana, when you left Themyscira, your mother uttered words that still haunt me: 'Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!'”
“It begins to make sense,” she muttered, and he whispered: “So, what is the deal with Circe and her sons?”
“Do you know the Odyssey? After being scorned by Odysseus, Circe became Ares's lover, and together, they want to destroy Themyscira and kill all Amazons. We want to bring peace to the world of man, she wants to destroy it.”
“I can see a perverse logic,” he mumbled, and she added: “That's why she needed you. Circe and us are such mortal enemies that I would always instinctively avoid her, even after losing my sanity. How did you escape her?”
“Believe it or not, when Circe forced me to search for you, I was taken away by a majestic deer. It ran so powerful that neither Phobos, Deimos nor her could keep up. It led me to the entrance of the cave, can you fill me in?”
Wonder Woman's eyes grew wide again, and she muttered: “Great Hera, I suspect something bad. If that is the case, then there will be terrible consequences…”
But before she could finish the sentence, Steve grabbed her wrist and uttered: “Can you hear that?”
In the distance, there was a steady, skilled drumbeat. Being a jazz fan, Steve recognized complex syncopations, polyrhythmic shuffles and flourishes, in a speed and precision which made his hair stand on end.
If our DEO big band ever needs a drummer, this guy is hired, he thought, while Diana and him sneaked closer. They saw the flickering light of a fireplace, and the drummer's large shadow. The air suddenly became as sweet as rosewater, and the next thing they knew, a tall, handsome, inhumanely chiseled man stood next to them. His wrists where shackled by enormous golden chains, but they didn't impair his ability to work the drums attached to his massive belt. His eyes were like two endless deep wells, and with a voice that shook the foundations of the universe, he greeted: “Hello, dear visitors, I have expected you. My name is Ares, and welcome to my prison.”
“Ares? You are ARES?!” Wonder Woman screamed, jumping in front of Steve and crossing her bracelets. He nodded and replied in a full, rich baritone: “That's me, highness. You and your friend have nothing to fear from me, Princess Diana of Themyscira.”
Diana snared his wrist with her lasso, yanked him to the ground, planted her boot in his massive chest and screamed: “Liar! Killer! You eradicated all life in No Man's Land, gassed an innocent village, almost killed the man I love and tried to make me as cruel and bloodthirsty as you!”
Instead putting up a fight, which Ares easily could have done, he did nothing. Under the influence of the lasso, he replied: “'Yes, I admit it, and it was cruel. I deserved to get obliterated by you, Diana of Themyscira.'”
“You sure did, brother! You are undoubtedly behind the lies that prevent me from visiting Themyscira!”
“Wrong answer!” Wonder Woman screamed, but bound by her lasso, Ares only replied: “'No, highness.'”
“You are a liar and a killer! Confess!” she bellowed, but Steve tapped her shoulder and muttered: “Diana, I hate to be the guy, but I think that Ares is innocent.”
“It can't be! It's impossible!” Wonder Woman shouted, totally missing that Ares had rolled aside. Instead of breaking her leg or at least unsnaring his wrist, he calmly commented: “'I have committed many crimes, highness, but not that one. Have a flask of my wine, and a big of my honey bread, and I will explain.'”
Steve was starving, but Diana snapped: “We will never accept anything from you, you mass murderer!”
“Would you accept our humble gifts if I, his wife, offered it instead?” a sultry, yet incredible sweet voice asked. Diana and Steve stared at the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. She was nude except for a wreath of flowers around her golden hair, and her curves and cuts were fantasy made flesh. She was so stunning that the cave became strangely airless, and it Diana whispered in awe: “Welcome, Aphrodite.”
Steve's jaw dropped to the floor. He hardly dared to gaze at the love goddess, but she smiled encouragingly.
“I… I guess that would work,” Diana muttered. Aphrodite invited them to sit at simple, but sturdy table, passed around wine and bread and purred: “You're welcome!”
Diana and Steve stiffly sat down, not taking their eyes of the still snared Ares, who returned to beating his drums. It was a pleasant rhythm, making the meal even tastier, and he commented: “These are my old war drums. I used them to cause fear, but I am getting quite good in entertainment.”
Steve reluctantly nodded, but Wonder Woman stayed tense. She noticed how relaxed Ares seemed, despite being shackled and snared, and how happy his beautiful wife and him seemed. Diana squinted her eyes, it just didn't fit that murderous killer they fought years ago.
“'Diana, I owe you an explanation. I am a war god, lusting for power, conquest and domination. That's why I fought my Olympian siblings, foolishly left my wife Aphrodite, and grew strong on the madness of my followers. After you fought and destroyed me, Diana, I entered Hades as a shadow, and was imprisoned in the only place in the universe where I would find no followers: Themyscira, the island of the Amazons. My wife Aphrodite personally shackled me, but instead of punishing me, her love was so great that she gave me a second chance. My madness subsided, and now, I crave… more pleasant things than war.'”
“He lusts for me now, and I only reward him if he behaves,” Aphrodite purred. He sighed: “'I am my wife's prisoner, and I deserve it. I did many things I regret, and I must atone for them. This is why you could never return to Themyscira again, sister.'”
“That makes no sense, Ares! If Themyscira is your prison, why cannot I visit Paradise Island anymore?”
“'Because my siblings decided I was too dangerous. They swore, if I ever got beaten and imprisoned in Themyscira, nobody from outside should ever get the chance to see, let alone free me again. Your mother Hippolyta knew of this, and that's why she tried to remove you from the contest. If you ever followed me to the world of man, you'd never return.'”
With a pounding chest, Steve recalled Queen Hippolyta's last words: “Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!”
“'This is why my siblings created a fake magical Themyscira, to throw you and all your potential enemies off and make it near impossible to find and free me.'”
“It was a lie. It was all a lie,” Diana muttered in a low, horrible voice, “why die they lie to me? Why didn't they trust me? Why didn't they let me decide for myself?”
“'Because some very powerful beings think that it is too dangerous to trust, and better to lie instead.'”
Diana glared at the two gods, until Aphrodite whispered: “As the goddess of love, I am never comfortable with lies. But then, I understand how horrible war is.”
“In that case, Themyscira is a lie, too. It is a prison island, an Olympian version of Alcatraz.”
“'No, Themyscira is paradise, Diana. It is how humanity should look like, because it is the one place in the universe where there is no need of me. Not your chains bind me, your love does',” Ares replied, calmly taking off the lasso and not changing the slightest bit.
Diana and Steve just stared at him, unable to match the bloody mass murderer they fought years ago with this serene hermit who was at peace with himself. He looked like a junkie who had been forced to withdraw cold turkey, and only had become stronger.
“Unfortunately, brother, you are in great danger. Your lover Circe has arrived with your twins Phobos and Deimos. We narrowly avoided capture, but I fear she is tracking us.”
Ares jumped up in his chair, so high that his shackles rang loudly, and muttered: “Yes, they are here, I can feel them. This is very bad!”
“Yes, and I also sense my sons are near!” Aphrodite blurted out, and when Steve drew a blank, Diana explained: “Phobos and Deimos are Aphrodite's sons, Circe is only their adoptive mother. That's why she keeps them on a leash.”
“They think I betrayed them. If they free me, they will either corrupt me again, or kill me,” their father muttered.
“C-can we defend you?” Steve stammered. Five minutes ago, I would have gladly witnessed this guy's demise.
“It doesn't work like that, mortal. To deprive me of most of my power, my prison is located in purgatory, exactly at the crossroads between the world of man and the Olympian world. This means that it can be attacked from these two sides. If you think a god is powerful in the your world, mortal, you do not want to witness them fight in our world.”
“Oh no!” Diana trembled. “This means… that they will open a portal to Themyscira, and slaughter my sisters!”
“This is exactly what is going to happen, Diana, Circe is powerful enough. I am powerless to stop it, lest you want me to become the mad war god again,” Ares whispered, clutching his shackles as if they protected him.
“There must be something we can do!” Wonder Woman cried out, and Aphrodite whispered: “There is, sister, but it requires utmost sacrifices.”
Themyscira stood in flames.
Circe had opened a portal to Paradise Island, and attacked the Amazons with her foster sons Phobos and Deimos. With all their might, Queen Hippolyta and her troops were defending the sealed cave that led into the abyss, the pit of hell in which Ares was imprisoned.
Circe was bombarding the Amazons with celestial, or rather, demonic fire, each blast exploding with the force of a mortar. Every now and then, she picked off a group of Amazons and turned them all into pigs, who ran off squealing in panic. Finally, the siren screeched so loudly that even the hardened warriors cringed, and screamed: “DIE, AMAZONS! THEMYSCIRA MUST BURN!!”
Phobos and Deimos had taken the shape of two gigantic armored chimeras, with fire spewing lion heads, razor sharp talons and the massive body of two mammoth bulls.
The Amazons defended the cave with everything they got. They shot fire arrows at Circe, who was flying high over their heads, valiantly went into melee combat and slashed the twin mammoths with their swords. But their wounds almost instantly closed, and the blood they spilled was so vile that it made the hardened warriors retch.
“Circe and her demon sons have found us, Diana has failed. It's all on us now, majesty,” General Antiope blurted out, dodging Deimos's wrecking ball blow and thrusting her spear one foot deep into his flesh.
“Don't fall back! We must prevail!” Queen Hippolyta yelled, taking full cover behind her shield and nearly getting crushed by Phobos's blow.
“Get away from her, you monster!” General Philippus shouted, and the black warrior smashed her morning star so hard into his side that it rained bloody flesh. Artemis and Veldeia shot fire arrows into Phobos's eyes, and when the monster cried out in pain, the Amazons pushed forward. But only three blows later, the monsters had overpowered them. When Deimos scorched them with his fire breath, Queen Hippolyta jumped in front of Artemis, held her shield in front of her and saved her from instant vaporization. When she tried to strike the monster, her sword broke.
“Have mine, majesty!” General Philippus shouted, passing her own weapon to her. High Priestess Melanippe gasped: “This is a tragedy, majesty! We are getting killed!” “This is Armageddon, and we are losing,” Queen Hippolyta whispered in horror. She clenched her jaw, turned to her broken, battered troops and screamed: “Amazons, listen to your queen! If this is our last stand, make them feel the bite of Amazonian steel!”
The queen charged forward like Athena herself, and with a great war cry, her warriors followed in her wake. General Antiope ran beside her and whispered: “If we don't make it, then I am honored to have died at your side.”
“Next breakfast will be in Hades, and it's on me,” the queen replied with a grim laugh. She charged Deimos, fully prepared to die by his haymakers, his brother's fire, or Circe's skyward fire.
Suddenly, Queen Hippolyta froze. Out of nowhere, a group of patron animals appeared in front of the cave. She saw a majestic falcon, a beautiful dove, a wise owl, a powerful deer, a spectacular peahen, a mighty mouse and a steady tortoise.
Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hera, Hephaestus, and Hermes, she recognized, and without moving their lips, they spoke to Circe, Phobos and Deimos in a language only known to the gods themselves. The three attackers stopped fighting, grinning from ear to ear, and suddenly, the cave entrance began to glow like a star and swung open.
“W-What is happening?” Queen Hippolyta gasped, and High Priestess Melanippe flashed a toothless smile and purred: “Diana has not failed, majesty, she is ready. Pull your troops back, and trust your daughter.”
Queen Hippolyta stared at her, but one second later, sounded her great war horn and ordered retreat. Her warriors just stared when Circe, Phobos and Deimos returned to their human forms, and smugly entered the cave.
When the three attackers descended down the path, they entered the purgatory between the spheres of Olympia and the spheres of humanity. It was nothing but a flickering light without any point of reference, a contradictory state existing outside of any reality.
“We are so close to Ares, I can feel it!” Circe slavered, and the twins grinned: “We sense him, too. We will either make him a war god again, or simply kill him!”
Suddenly, they saw a large portal, guarded by a kneeing Wonder Woman. She held up her lasso in front of her with a big, vacant smile. Circe stepped up to her and triumphed: “Diana, tell me how to reach Ares! You are bound by your own lasso, you must tell us the truth!”
Simply go through the portal, she smiled without moving her lips, and Circe snapped: “I know that, you idiot, but how? Spit it out now, or I will turn you into a maggot!”
Diana showed nothing but a vacant smile. Phobos got in her face and spat out: “I can put unimaginable fears in your brain, Wonder Bitch!”
“Tell us the truth, or I will make you relive horrors that will make you scratch out your eyeballs!” Deimos hissed.
Diana looked at them with her vacant smile, held out her bound hands and beamed: The truth is, I love you.
“No!” Circe snapped, and her twins recoiled, too. The sorceress towered over Diana and spat out: “Talk now, or will make you relive how you were flogged by Genocide, beaten by Cheetah, dumped by Superman, betrayed by Steve Trevor, and exiled from Themyscira! If you thought you were crazy just now, you have not experienced true insanity yet! Tell us the truth, how can we reach Ares?”
Phobos and Deimos sneered at her, bunching their big fists, but Diana flashed her vacant smile and repeated: I love you, it is true, I love you all.
“No! NOO!!” they screamed. They were able to destroy people, titans and gods, but were powerless against her loving submission. Wonder Woman tenderly bound them and smiled.
“'I… I want to see my lover Ares again',” Circe sobbed, bound by the power of the lasso.
“'I want to sleep without fear of nightmares,'” Phobos muttered, and Deimos whispered: “'I want to experience something else than horror.'”
You are loved here. You never need to be afraid anymore, Diana smiled, finishing her binds, and suddenly, the portal opened. Aphrodite and Ares appeared, hugged their estranged family members and whispered words of comfort in their ears. They lovingly shackled them and accepted them as new prisoners… or rather, long lost relatives.
When Aphrodite took them away, bound in the lasso of truth, Diana snapped out of her trance. No longer under the influence of her magic rope, all her suppressed rage billowed up again, and she snapped: “Is it over now?”
“Yes, sister, they are bound now. Now, more permanent arrangements can be made,” Ares replied, stroking his own massive shackles.
“I hope so. I wanted to rip off their heads so, so badly, and suppressing it nearly killed me.”
Ares put her strong hands of her shoulder and whispered: “Nobody will ever forget what you just did, Diana. You had to forget all your hate, all your fear, all the lies the gods inflicted on you on purpose. You sacrificed all your justified pain to save your sisters, and you persevered."
“I will be never capable of doing that again. I feel violated and used, by the gods, by Circe and her kin, by everyone. I am a shiny, worthless pawn. I was used, discarded and forgotten. I feel that I can never trust again. The scales don't even up.”
Her pain made the god of war squirm, and he whispered: “They say that the first casualty of war is the truth, and they are right. That's why I stay here in Themyscira to regret, atone and move on… not for myself, but for all the people I lied to. Also, you have at least one person that lives and dies for you, the pilot.”
“Steve,” Diana uttered. She still felt her pain, but suddenly, it didn't feel so important anymore.
“Treat him well, sister. When we were enemies, I underestimated his mind, his heart and his spine. You don't see people like him often.”
Diana smiled reluctantly, and he continued: “You are missing your lasso of truth, sister. After the chains are forged, I will ask Aphrodite to give it back.”
“I don't want it anymore. The gods gave it to me to spread the truth, and instead of leading by example, they lied to me from the start!”
“Fair enough, sister. If you change your mind, you know where you can find us.”
Wonder Woman clenched her fists, and the war god took her hand and whispered: “You must leave quickly, or the purgatory between the worlds will make you one with the void. I cannot give you little more than my gratitude, but I can offer you one little thing your heart desires.”
He drew a window in the air, and the barriers between the spheres flickered. Diana stared into the abyss of absolute void. Suddenly, the celestial mists subsided, and she saw Themyscira. Diana cramped up, and nearly got a heart attack when she recognized the bruised, battle weary features of her mother. She stared back in disbelief and muttered: “D—Diana? Is that you, m-my princess?”
“Yes, my queen. We defeated Circe and her twins.”
“We have won, but it came at a heavy price,” she whispered, tears running down her cheek, and her daughter sobbed: “I concur.”
Ares watched as Queen Hippolyta and Diana exchanged words full of limitless pride, bottomless pain and unconditional love. Finally, the window flickered, and when it disappeared, Wonder Woman stood there like a statue. He had never seen a person that devastated.
“You must go now,” Ares whispered, his voice full of sympathy, spoke a word of power, and she disappeared.
After a big flash of light, Diana and Steve reappeared on the beach of the forsaken island. When they recognized each other, they fell into each other's arms.
“Come here, Steve, it's all over, they have been defeated,” she cried, tears streaming down her face, and he wept: “Angel, I was so afraid I would never see you again!”
For the next few minutes, they hugged each other tightly, reliving the horrors of having gone to hell and back. Finally, Steve whispered: “Aphrodite told me what you accomplished, we will never forget it. Do you want to talk about it?”
“I am sick of it all! They lied to me, Steve! THEY LIED TO ME!! They stole my family, sacrificed my sisters, and for what?!” Diana screamed, tore out her hair and completely broke down. She cried long, horrible, gut wrenching sobs, coming from the deepest pits of agony. Steve held her awkwardly, fearing she would snap and go insane for good, and she sobbed: “Please don't leave me, Steve. You are the last shred of sanity in my life. If you leave, I'll go crazy forever. Please don't leave, please...”
“I'm not leaving, angel,” he whispered, deeply moved by her words. Steve held on to her in silence, fearing to utter words that would wound her even more, and just let her feel that was there for her. Finally, she blew her nose, doused puffy eyes with sea water, summoned her invisible jet and muttered: “Let's go home, Steve.”
The flight had gone in deathly silence, and Steve had never felt so uncomfortable. When they arrived back home that evening in Boston, Diana asked for some “personal space”, and he slept on the couch.
Steve couldn't sleep a wink, watching her in such nameless agony made his heart ache. He desperately wanted to console her, but didn't know how. When he carefully peeked, his heart stopped when the mattress was empty, but then, he realized she was lying in the corner on bare hardwood. It was as if she had spent the night hugging her knees, rocking back and forth in agony until she cried herself to sleep.
Her sleep was shallow and fitful, and her puffy, tear stained eyes fluttered in pain. Full of heartache, Steve stroked her feverish cheeks and whispered: “I won't lie to you, angel, getting over this will hurt. Betrayal always sticks with you, but you will learn to deal with it. You move on, and you let your real friends be there for you.”
He quietly left, and Diana sobbed: “Thank you.”
In downtown Metropolis, the Justice League was getting its butt kicked by Metallo.
“Ha, ha! The Kryptonite I just stole from STAR Labs makes me invincible!” the cyborg once known as John Corben gloated. The onlookers cried out in horror when he pummeled Superman with his green glowing fists. Finally, Batman snared his ankle with a Batarang and toppled him. Like a red blur, Flash whizzed past and carried Superman to safety, but his attempts to punch the cyborg simply glanced off his metal body.
“What do you want, paperweight? Tickle me to death?” Metallo gloated, changed his Kryptonite color and shot Green Lantern with a yellow ray. It pierced his energy shield and struck his chest so hard that he fell to his knees and retched. Without missing a beat, Metallo jumped three stories high, snatched Hawkgirl in mid air and threw her through a brick wall.
“Just give up, Little Leaguers! I'll send STAR Labs a check once I robbed about seven or eight banks!” Metallo taunted, and the onlookers cried out in horror. Superman gasped: “I can't get near him! He has a Kryptonite heart!”
“I cannot hack him, his encryption is too good,” Batman snapped, and Hawkgirl, Flash, and Green Lantern either shrugged helplessly or groaned in agony.
“Must I do everything myself?!” a celestial voice boomed. Full of holy rage, Wonder Woman flew in and hurled herself at Metallo like an avenging angel.
“Ah, the Wonder Butt! I was wondering where your kinky skirt was,” the cyborg slavered, but his arrogant smile disappeared when she parried his blow with her bracelet and smashed her fist through his elbow. His forearm fell to the ground, and he screamed: “Hey, that hurt!”
“Shut up!” Wonder Woman snapped. Instead of ducking his point blank energy blasts, she parried them with incredible risk and even more incredible skill, picked him up, flew him 1000 feet high and threw him into the ground. He smashed through the street, the subway and several sewer pipes, before Wonder Woman grabbed his neck, flew him back up and used his head as a punching ball.
“'System failure acute! Too much physical abuse!'” his BIOS – or whatever his firmware was – screeched, and while he lay reeling, Diana ripped off a traffic light, swung it like a giant baseball bat and smashed both of his knees. He lay helpless to the ground, and cried out: “Okay, I give up! You are the man!”
Wonder Woman took the traffic light, jumped up in the air and aimed its point at his chest. Metallo gasped: “Hey, wait a sec! You are one of the good guys, you don't strike people after they surrender--”
With a merciless blow, Wonder Woman pierced the Kryptonite heart out of his torso, and the cyborg went limp and entered standby mode. While the onlookers applauded, the Justice League stared at her in discomfort, and Superman awkwardly muttered: “Thank you, Wonder Woman, please bind Metallo with your...”
Superman gasped when he saw her without her lasso. The Justice League was lost for words, and she flew off and snapped: “You know where to find me!”
It was a somber office day at the DEO. After giving Lieutenant Diana Prince an entire week of sick leave, Colonel Steve Trevor sipped coffee in silence. Filling in for her ill colleague, Corporal Etta Candy quietly picked up the slack, and hardly dared to ask questions.
Finally, Steve took Etta's arm, and tersely told her everything that happened. First, she froze with shock, then listened with a pounding chest, and finally nodded gravely.
“Thank you for filling me in, Diana must be in agony. I cannot find words how sorry I feel for her,” Etta mumbled, and Steve shrugged helplessly. But suddenly, she glanced at the muted TV screen, and her eyes widened in shock.
A disheveled looking Veronica Cale was giving a press conference, and the news ticker read: “BILLIONAIRE CEO VERONICA CALE GOES ON SABBATICAL – WANTS TO FOCUS MORE ON FAMILY – WILL LIMIT PUBLIC APPEARANCES.”
“Wait a second, Steve, isn't Veronica Cale supposed to be Circe? I thought she was imprisoned!”
“Does the term 'Life Model Decoy' ring a bell?”
“To make a long story short, a LMD is a very realistic looking robot which serves as a lookalike. My friend Moneyspider found out that the Cyberwalker, programmed by a colleague of Cale's, has taken command of one and is now pretending to be her.”
“Oh my God! This is a nightmare!”
“This is unscrupulous and clever. It seems like a fallback plan to keep the companies going, should Cale be ever knocked out.”
“We should take that Frankenstein robot out!”
“I basically agree, but at this point, that would be risky for many reasons. There are literally trillions of dollars at stake, too many careers, and by extension, too many lives… and I haven't even started on the fact that she left a disabled kid. Rumor is that Dr. Cyber is holding her hostage, threatening to kill her if we make a move on her.”
Etta wanted to say something, but remained silent. Steve only sighed.
The next day, Diana sat reluctantly in the meeting room of the Justice League Watchtower.
“Why did you summon me?” Wonder Woman snapped, and Batman asked: “Diana, what happened to your lasso?”
“That's none of your business!”
Superman muttered: “Diana, we are concerned about you. We want to find out why you are acting so out of character.”
Wonder Woman glared at her Superman and retorted: "Is my anger inappropriate? Is this another law in the world of man, that women always must stay meek? But dealing with me doesn't seem your strong point anyway."
Her ex boyfriend cringed, but Batman explained: “Diana, you are almost never angry. You are only angry if there are very good reasons. We are worried about you, and we want to help."
Wonder Woman stared at her two colleagues, and finally, she hissed: “My lasso has fulfilled its purpose. It revealed painful truths and bound the worst liars of them all.”
“What liars?” Superman asked, but Batman overruled him: “Diana, what truths?”
She remained silent, and finally spat out: “That the Olympian gods, for whom I swore to fight for, betrayed me. They lied to me from the very start.”
“Your gods? I mean, like Zeus, Hera, Artemis and all, they lied to you?” Superman blurted out in shock.
“They had my faith, and they abused it.”
There was so much pain in that one sentence, that neither the Man of Steel nor the Dark Knight dared to meet her gaze. Wonder Woman let the words hang in the air, and finally, Superman whispered: “Can you talk to your gods? They owe you an explanation.”
“Maybe, but it will be difficult.”
Batman crossed his arms and uttered: “In that case, Diana, what are you waiting for?”
The next day, Wonder Woman floated over the sky like an angel of vengeance. Her eyes were full of holy rage, and she lifted her arms and bellowed: “Gods of Olympia, grant me an audience! I have earned that right, I deserve an answer!”
Suddenly, a group of patron animals appeared, filling out the entire horizon. Diana saw a majestic falcon, a beautiful dove, a wise owl, a powerful deer, a spectacular peahen, a mighty mouse and a steady tortoise.
Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hera, Hephaestus, and Hermes, Wonder Woman recognized, and addressed them in a language only known to the gods themselves.
The patrons cocked their heads, listened and replied. Diana frowned, then nodded, and finally even managed a pained, cautious smile. A golden lasso appeared in front of her, and this time, it wasn't offered as a gift, but rather as an atonement. Diana deliberately hesitated, knowing what responsibility it represented, but finally, she took it back and left with a smile.
After work, Steve's heart sank when Diana didn't appear for dinner for the fourth time in a row. He had wisely given her a week of vacation, and desperately hoped that she could somehow overcome her funk. He made himself some microwave pizza and listlessly nibbled, until she suddenly swooped in and uttered: “I did it, Steve. I finally spoke to the Gods of Olympia.”
Steve remained silent, fully aware of the magnitude of that moment. He pleaded with his eyes, and she finally continued: “To put a long story short, they didn't apologize for their lies, but at least acknowledged them. They accepted my anger, respected my hardship, and said that their victory would have been impossible without me. I was the queen they sacrificed to win the match.”
“Angel, what actually happened?”
“I used my lasso to bind Circe, Phobos and Deimos, and they were taken into Aphrodite's prison and joined Ares. Ares was magnanimous enough to reunite with them, and while the twins quickly accepted this arrangement, Circe was mortally afraid of Aphrodite. The sorceress felt that she neither could nor should battle the love goddess for Ares's heart. But Aphrodite calmed her, and suggested that there are fulfilling domestic arrangements with, uh, more than two consenting parties.”
“Oh my God… or rather, oh my gods,” Steve muttered, and Diana matter-of-factly replied: “Aphrodite knew from the start that Circe doesn't discriminate lovers by gender.”
“It was pretty obvious, angel. During that auction, she was drooling at you worse than I do.”
“Thank you for noticing. She non stop hit on me,” Diana remembered, and concluded bitterly: “Everything went well for everybody except me. Is that the justice of the gods?”
Steve chose his words, and finally replied: “From a Machiavellian point of view, their moves were superb. They killed three birds with one stone, and who cares about the stone. That being said, it's disappointing that the gods act no better than the prototypical ruthless monarch.”
“It hurts, and perhaps, I will never fully forgive them. I understand their motives, but I am not like them. I am a warrior of truth, and I swear that I will never betray a friend to achieve my goals.”
Wonder Woman twirled her new lasso in her hands, but her look was somber rather than elated. Steve remained silent, until she whispered: “I now understand what terrible weapons truths and lies are. I have consciously decided to cut out the lies, and this is my surgeon's knife.”
All his life, Steve thought of her lasso as some kind of gleeful deus ex machina, the stuff seen in Saturday morning cartoons. Now he understood what a terrible weapon it was, and what responsibility it meant to Diana.
“Angel, you sound very sad, but also very relieved.”
“Yes. It hurts so much, but slowly, I start to feel that I can finally put everything behind me.”
Diana sat down, but was dejected. Big, fat tears rolled down her cheek, and when Steve put her arm around her, she croaked: “I am sick of crying! But I am so very, very heartbroken. They lied to me, sacrificed me, and took my home away from me. How do you cope with such a betrayal? The gods themselves did this to me, how can I carry on?”
She is mourning, what can I say?
For several minutes, Steve didn't answer. Finally, he mustered the courage to reply: “Angel, I once fell in love with a goddess, and I know she loved me, too. But our relationship grew sour, and she betrayed me with someone stronger, smarter and tougher. I was devastated, but moved on. In time, I discovered that the goddess had been unhappy, too. We reunited, and now our bond is stronger than ever.”
Diana stared at him, and Steve was sure that she was going to rip his head off. But instead, the corners of her mouth twitched, and she muttered: “When you were left by… HER… how did you carry on? You must have been crushed.”
“I was, angel. It terribly hurt, and I wasn't able to laugh, cry or feel anymore. But luckily, I had friends like Etta, Sameer, Charlie and Chief, who were there for me when I needed them the most. They helped me talk it over, accept it, move on, and even become a little wiser.”
“You must have had a terrible opinion of… HER.”
“I had. At first, I only accepted my own truths, but after moving on, I accepted that there were several truths, depending on who you ask. Truth is always tied to perspective, which in turn is tied to purpose. However, I decided for myself that I am the master of my life purpose, and the others may help, but never control it.”
Diana remained silent, recalling the silvers of wisdom of her hallucinations. He continued: “After getting my head around that, I admitted that the goddess grew weary of me and searched for someone stronger, smarter and tougher.”
Diana avoided his gaze, and he concluded: “I became wiser, learned that I am a valuable person regardless of the goddess. Ironically, it made me so much stronger, smarter and tougher, that we are together again.”
Again, the corners of her mouth twitched, and she asked: “With the knowledge and the scars you acquired, what made you trust… HER again?”
“Because she said sorry, and I know she regrets it from the bottom of her heart. Lies suck.”
“You know what, Steve? Do you remember that deer that miraculously saved your life?” Diana suddenly blurted out, and he replied: “Or rather, miraculously didn't end it. It was the worst rodeo ride of my life.”
“That was Athena, my head patron, the deer is her spirit animal. She violated Olympian laws by manifesting herself in the world of man, and faces a harsh punishment.”
“Well, without her we would be chilling in Hades. But why are you telling me this?”
“Because Athena regretted lying to me, too. She said saving your life was the least he could do, and sees her punishment as atonement for hurting her champion.”
“Regret is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, I have seen war gods buckle under it. It frees the soul, and paves the way for the ultimate force, love.”
Wonder Woman let the words take effect, stared at Steve and held his hands. She gazed at him as if he was the only thing in the world that held any meaning for her. Diana wrapped her arms around him and whispered: “You shame with your words, Steve. Everything hurts, but if you are around, I am sure I can prevail.”
Steve whispered: “'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew Said / A little I’m hurt but not yet slain. / I’ll just lie down and bleed a while / And then I’ll rise and fight again.' Lie down and bleed for a while, Diana, and in the end, you will rise and fight again.”
Diana nodded, and for the first time, Steve saw a glimmer of hope in her tear stained eyes.
Every Thursday, Steve joined Sameer, Charlie and Chief for a night of Texas Hold 'Em poker in their favorite pub. This time, Etta also joined the boys, but after being bluffed out by Sameer again, she ditched her cards and hissed: “That's it, I am broke again, you cheat!”
“I don't cheat, Etta, I am just good,” he grinned, but then somberly asked: “How is Diana doing? We haven't seen her in office all week.”
“Ask the big boss, Sameer, I am just a stupid secretary who has no idea how to fight gods and sorcerers.”
Steve shuffled and sighed: “I already told you what happened, and in more ways than one, this was worse than our Ares fight years ago. Diana beat Circe at a terrible price, found out that her gods betrayed her, and conspired that she could never return to Themyscira.”
“The Scottish armpit I come from is a stinking pot of emulsion paint, but it's still home. I cannot imagine what Diana must feel,” Charlie muttered, sipping his gin. Chief added: “My reservation is even worse, but its better than living in exile forever. You cannot replace a home.”
“Diana was utterly crushed, and is still reeling. I'm giving her as much time as she needs, and help where I can help her,” Steve replied, and Etta muttered: “Poor soul, I hope she can recover in this lifetime.”
Suddenly, a tall, sharp looking brunette in tank top, jeans and sneakers walked in and grinned: “Ah, is that the 'team building' you always talk of?”
“D-Diana!” Steve sputtered, hastily discarding his beer bottle. “I d-didn't expect you, is there something wrong?”
Etta, Sameer, Charlie and Chief squirmed, knowing her warrior disdain for booze and gambling, but instead of lecturing them, she smiled: “Can I join?”
Everybody stared, then Steve grinned: “Sure!”
Sameer felt utterly unworthy that Diana sat next to him. But she smiled: “I should have come way earlier.”
“You were always welcome,” Etta beamed, and she replied: “You know, I was quite a card player back then, when I was a young cadet in Themyscira.”
When she uttered that word, everybody cringed, but she only sighed: “It hurts, but I am now just another refugee searching for a place to live. I may have lost my old home, but I have found a new one, and can share it with fantastic friends. Nobody will know, but you all helped me when I was at my absolute lowest,” she smiled, remembering her hallucinations during her time of insanity.
“You are our friend, Diana. It's the least we can do," Sameer smiled. All others nodded, and Diana hugged them and wiped a happy tear off her face. She shuffled the cards, dealt the deck and smiled: “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, Texas Hold 'Em! Sameer has the big blind, Charlie the little blind, and the sky's the limit!”
“Good afternoon, Lieutenant Prince,” Steve smiled at Diana, and kissed her after closing their office door. She adjusted her birth control glasses and politely replied: “Greetings, Colonel Trevor. How was your top secret phone conference with Moneyspider?”
“No details, Diana, but I thanked him for the help in the Wonder Woman / Cyberwalker case and offered him a place in the DEO. Of course, that little anarchist didn't accept, but my door is always open.”
“I would like to thank him personally, too. If he doesn't take out Dr. Cyber, neither of us would be standing here,” Diana sighed, and he replied: “As you know, Dr. Cyber is masquerading as 'Veronica Cale', and he offered to bust her cover for free. But there are rumors that Dr. Cyber would kill Isadore, 'Cale's' mentally disabled daughter, if that happens. I won't risk that.”
“What a despicable person!” Diana snapped, and he muttered: “Moneyspider speculated that too much time online destroys rational thinking, and Dr. Cyber is a purely digital being now. Angel, what's the story behind Isadore? We know her mother, but who is her father?”
“I don't know, Steve, but my gut tells me that Isadore is the result of a… shallow union between Circe and a mortal man, whose name she refuses to disclose.”
“A one night stand,” Steve spat out, and she tactfully continued: “In any case, her father seems mortal. Isadore's disability doesn't seem to have any connection to her mother's heritage, it's just bad luck. But you know what? Circe is a sly, heartless siren, but if she truly were evil, she would have aborted or abandoned Isadore.”
“Yeah, but still, poor kid. I hate it if people are used as pawns,” he muttered, and Diana remained silent. She changed the topic, handed him a confidential file and commented: “Etta just gave me the newest report on the Team Poison case. After your testimonial that they attacked Wonder Woman and you, Director Waller is trying to outlaw them as a rogue mercenary force. However, Maru seems to have good connections to LexCorp and his vast army of lawyers.”
“Ah, lawyers, the love of my life,” he sarcastically muttered, and continued: “What's with Silver Swan?”
“She still maintains that she did it our of jealousy for Wonder Woman, and maybe, it's not even a lie.”
“Fair enough. Do you want to grab a snack, Diana?”
“Sorry, Steve, I got to file this report now, and then I have a secretary meeting with Etta and her colleagues,” she replied in a polite, but firm tone, and he shrugged: “Suit yourself, angel.”
“We both have full schedules today, but can we at least keep our Friday evening sparring? I would hate to miss it.”
“Really?” Steve groaned, not looking forward to getting beat up after an exhausting day, but finally relented: “Okay, angel, I'll be there.”
Diana seemed relieved, and when he went down to the DEO cafeteria to buy himself a sandwich, he reflected on the last weeks. After her sick leave, Diana got her groove back and slowly settled into back her familiar rhythm. Cohabitation also went well, both at the table and in bed. But whenever she smiled, something alien appeared, a lingering sorrow that would never fully disappear again.
When he returned, she was gone. It was the most normal thing in the world, but for some reason, Steve was bothered. It was hard to put in words, but he felt them drifting apart. He felt that Diana was holding back something, and not fully committed to their relationship anymore. Of course, Steve gave her space, but it troubled him.
Something was up. He felt it in his gut, and hoped that his ulcer would subside.
Etta cringed through her night vision camera when Wonder Woman delivered a merciless smackdown on Steve.
“Bad form! What were you thinking, Steve?” she taunted while her boyfriend hung upside down from a tree, snared by her lasso. He blurted out: “'Attacking you from behind seemed to be a good idea at the time, angel!'”
“Not when you give up your cover, and you breathe so loudly that I could shoot you blind”, she retorted, putting her hand on her hips. Steve groaned as she let him down, and muttered: “Enough sparring, let's take a break.”
Steve eagerly skulled his water bottle, but suddenly, Diana stood up, cleared her throat and whispered: “Steve, I have something to tell you.”
It was not the words that made him jump, it was her tone. She whispered: “The last weeks have been hard on me, and I apologize if I caused you discomfort. So many things have changed, and I want us to talk it all over.”
Steve's chest was pounding, as he heard her utter: “Ever since we got together, Steve, you live in great danger. You risk life and limb at my side, with no thought of reward. Each time could be your last, and I cannot bear that thought anymore.”
“A-angel, I suck compared to you, but don't you think I made some progress? A-are you chewing me out because I just sparred so badly?”
“No, Steve, but I realize that you will always have limits. You will always fight my enemies, even if they vastly outgun you, and always put your life over mine.
"Diana, I love you, it's the least I can do...?"
"Steve, every day, you risk getting attacked, injured and nearly killed, with no superpowers to fall back on. You never ask anything from me in return, but I cannot have you like this anymore.”
"W-what do you m-mean?"
"We need to move on, Steve."
Steve jumped up in utter horror.
“Y-You're b-breaking up with me, b-but why? W-What did I do w-wrong?” he stammered, white to the lips. Diana clenched her jaw and snapped: “No, Steve, it's for your own good! You have been my best friend, but we cannot stay like this forever."
“Are you friend zoning me, Diana? Your friendship doesn't satisfy me anymore, I want your love!” Steve cried out in utter despair. Wonder Woman sighed in exasperation, and he sobbed: “Please, angel, give me another chance! We can talk it over, we can still make it work!”
Wonder Woman rolled her eyes in desperation, and his heart broke. With a fierce, determined expression, Diana dropped to one knee, produced a ring and asked: “Steven Rockwell Trevor, do you want to become my husband?”
Steve just stared.
There was not a single sound in the forest, and he became so white that Diana feared he had a stroke. When she feared the worst, he pressed his hands in front of his mouth and cried out from the bottom of his heart: “Of course, angel! Of course I want to marry you!!”
Steve put on her ring, flung her arms around her waist, lifted her high up in the air and kissed her so fiercely that she nearly broke her nose. Diana didn't mind for a second, and if a lighting bolt would have incinerated her now, she would have died as the happiest girl of the universe. Both cried happy tears, and she muttered: “Steve, that was the worst proposal ever. I wanted to show how brave and selfless you are, and instead, you think that I'm going to break up with you!”
“I don't mind, angel, I am so happy,” Steve sobbed, passionately kissed her lips and rejoiced at her eager response. He couldn't stop crying, and he didn't want to.
“Also, I realize that in the world of man, men usually ask women. But I don't want to wait anymore. You proved you live and die for me, and I love you from the bottom of my heart. Please marry me.”
“Diana, these are the sweetest words I ever heard,” Steve choked, and suddenly, Etta crawled out of the bushes. She hugged both of her friends, wiped happy tears off her face, and beamed: “I am so glad for you two, you deserve each other. I got it all on camera, Diana, and if you are not happy forever, I will spank you personally!”
“I will not risk that injury,” Wonder Woman smiled, and Steve giggled: “Oh, that's what your 'secretary meeting' today was all about, wasn't it?”
“Of course, you dolt! Diana and me had it all planned,” Etta grinned. Steve remembered how odd his fiancée had acted in the days before, and suddenly felt very stupid.
I am Wonder Woman's fiancé, he realized, looking at her ring in amazement. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and he whispered: “What is this ring, angel? It feels like a living being.”
Tears welled up in Diana's eyes, and she whispered: “It's my mothers ring. When I talked to her in purgatory, I revealed that I wanted to marry you. She gave me her blessing, and at the very last moment, managed to throw the ring through the portal. Of course, it would have been swallowed up by the void, but guess who caught it for me? Ares.”
“This is the most ironic and heart warming anecdote I'll ever hear,” Steve whispered in awe, and she sobbed: “I wish my mother was here to see us.”
“She is, angel, she is,” he assured her, gently touching the chest area over her heart. Diana smiled awkwardly, wiped away her tears and whispered: “I think I accepted that I lost my old home, but now, I can move on and build a new one. If you give your permission, I would love to have you as its centerpiece.”
“I would be happy to, angel!” he beamed, and she kissed him, wrapped her arms around his shoulders and smiled: “Yes, Steve, that's what I am. I will always be your angel.”
She reluctantly stepped back and beamed: “Thank you for restoring my faith, Steve. When I left Themyscira, I was was granted the power of Zeus, the beauty of Aphrodite, the wisdom of Athena, the skill of Artemis, the mercy of Hera, the strength of Hephaestus, and the speed of Hermes. They Olympians betrayed me, but are making amends. But if they won't protect me, I know you will, and I am so grateful!”
With a huge smile, Wonder Woman crossed her wrists over her head, and her bracelets glowed like fire. Etta and Steve stared in awe, and he hugged her and smiled: “You're welcome, angel. I will be always there for you, from now until the very end.”
“I know, Steve.”
They were in no rush to return home early, and the entire ride home, they grinned and cried happy tears. For once, Steve thought that getting his butt handed over to him by Wonder Woman had fully paid off.
The next week, Steve was walking on air. The DEO office staff congratulated Diana and him, and Sameer, Charlie and Chief jokingly sent him “Game Over”, “Welcome to Jail” and “Highway to Hell” shirts before celebrating them. Etta collected a cent for every time she caught him grinning, and soon was a rich woman. He couldn't stop smiling, and had the feeling he was invincible.
The sweet thing was, he was only the second happiest person in his office. Diana was beaming from every fiber of her soul, and was so radiant that she could have lit up nighttime Boston with a single smile. One day, during the usual filing of the reports, she grabbed pen and paper and started her new secret project. Soon, Diana was absorbed in thought, and jumped in her chair when Etta peeked and grinned: “Already preparing for the next step, aren't you?”
Diana embarrassedly covered up the page, in which she was testing new signatures. Etta read “Diana Trevor”, “Diana Prince-Trevor”, “Diana Trevor-Prince”, “Diana of Themyscira-Trevor” and many more, and her friend admitted: “Yes, I do.”
“You still have time. In our world, there is some time between engagement and marriage,” Etta giggled, but Diana replied in a more serious tone: “Yes, but for the sake of us both, I want to do it quickly. Steve risks life and limb every time he fights at Wonder Woman's side, and I love him too much to deny him his reward.”
“That's sweet and brave. I am crossing all my fingers and toes!” Etta replied, kissed her on the cheek and whispered in a knowing voice: “How's your planning for tonight going?”
“Fine, Steve will never know what hit him. By the way, 'Diana Trevor' has a nice ring to it,” she grinned, and Etta gave her two thumbs up.
Steve hated long business meetings, especially with that billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. He had disliked the Justice League spokesman from the start, and couldn't decide who was worse, that curmudgeon Batman or him.
After this exhausting conference, Steve stumbled up the stairs, unlocked his apartment and muttered: “Diana? Are you there already?”
He stared at a candle light dinner with a cold buffet of lobster rolls, caviar eggs and truffle pastry and two tall glasses of sparkling champagne.
“Hello, handsome,” Diana purred, walking out of the kitchen like a supermodel on a catwalk with a bouquet of roses. Steve's jaw dropped to the floor. She wore a figure hugging dress of white Themysciran chiffon, which showed off her voluptuous curves and her chiseled arms. The tiara and the earrings formed a golden halo around her jet black hair, and the slits and her silver high heels highlighted her long, powerful legs. It was the same design she wore for the charity auction, but Steve nearly got a heart attack when the low lights seemed to turn it transparent. He could see everything, and it was worse than seeing her naked. But it only looked majestic, appropriate and highly flattering.
“You are wearing that dress again!” he blurted out, and she grinned: “Do you like it?”
“Diana, I am trying very hard not to have a stroke,” he stammered, gallantly kissed her hand, then her lips. Her perfume was intoxicating, and her touch nearly unbearable. She gave him her roses, eagerly sat him down and purred: “It is the least I can do for my hard working fiancé. There is no auction tonight, and Wonder Woman gladly wants to give you a dream date.”
“I don't know what to say, angel,” he beamed. He shamelessly drooled at her dress, and she enjoyed every second of it. He took his champagne and smiled: “To my smart, powerful and beautiful fiancée!”
“To my strong, kind and selfless fiancé!” she replied, and clinked her glass and drained it. He eagerly dug into the buffet, gorging on all the expensive finger food, and ruefully grinned in between bites: “I behaved like an idiot that night. I was so afraid that Veronica Cale would make a move on you, and was stung with jealousy.”
“She is Circe. That's what a siren does, try to seduce people and then humiliate them,” she replied, treating herself to the truffle pastry.
“To be fair, it was hard not to slobber all over you. Diana, can you please stand up and show off your dress?” Steve drooled, and she eagerly complied. Diana treated him to an impromptu modeling show, making him stare at her voluptuous curves, her chiseled muscles, her long, powerful legs, and the perfect peach of her buttocks. She looked like Aphrodite herself, and she enjoyed every second of his lust. Finally, he wiped his chin, put on romantic music and asked: “Can I have the next dance, highness?”
“Of course, my future consort!” she beamed. He saw her doing some sleight of hand trick under the table, and when he put his arm around her waist, he felt solid metal.
“Wait a second, you have the Godkiller Sword in the back of your dress?!” he exclaimed, and she chuckled: “You pestered me all the time, I want to shut you up at last.”
It was slightly awkward to dance with a woman who had a literal WMD between her shoulder blades, but it was impossible to pay attention anyway. Steve tried very hard not to fondle her, which both amused and touched Diana, but finally, he muttered: “It's hopeless, angel, I must drool. You can seduce the gods of chastity with that dress.”
“Steve, when I put on that dress, I wanted to impress YOU, nobody else. You always risk life and limb at my side, without asking for any reward. I want to change that."
"You are killing me, Diana. Do you know how filthy my thoughts right now are?"
Steve looked so guiltily that she giggled, looked him into the eyes and whispered: "Maybe, Steve, I like being the center of your fantasies? You fought Ares, Dr. Poison, Genocide, Circe, Phobos, Deimos and countless others at my side. You were always there when I needed you the most, and saved me from insanity. You are strong, kind and clever, rolled together into one disgustingly handsome package."
"Thank you, angel," Steve croaked, deeply moved, and his heart melted. All his life, he had thought that his mortal love for a goddess was one sided. Now, Steve realized that there was only one thing bigger than his love for her, namely her love for him, and it scared and honored him.
“Come here, Steve,” Diana whispered in the most erotic voice, and Steve wrapped his arms around her shoulders and gave her a long, passionate kiss. Soon, they realized that their romantic tension wasn't going to be quenched by lip contact alone, and he eagerly pulled her to the bedroom. However, the woman who punched Darkseid glared at him and purred: “Steve, you are not actually expecting me to walk there, aren't you?”
With a big grin, Steve carried her in his strong arms, physically drooling into her cleavage. After laying her on the mattress, Diana vividly recalled the precious moments with her mother. Across vast distances, she had whispered: “Long time ago, I said that if you choose to leave, you may never return… and sadly, I was right. You filled me with great sorrow, but you are my pride and my joy forever, Diana. The world of man truly deserves you.”
Diana swallowed a lump in her throat, but smiled, knowing that she had the full blessing of her mother. She happily let him peel off her scandalous dress, and in return, he tore off his business suit. She greedily groped his chiseled chest, his bulging biceps and his sculpted six pack, and then, they devoured each other.
Sometimes, lobsters, caviar and truffles are only appetizers for a dream date.
Next Monday morning, Lieutenant Diana Prince was writing an email, and whistled a happy tune. She smiled at her new engagement ring, which had surpassed Steve's army watch as her most prized possession.
Suddenly, a red haired teenager – or maybe, young adult – knocked on the door and entered. Clad in a red hoodie, jeans and sneakers, he was the most unremarkable, vanilla teen she had ever seen. He had average size, average weight, average features and average everything, literally the most generic person ever.
“Hello, Lieutenant Prince, is Colonel Trevor there?” he asked in a bland Mid Atlantic voice, guzzling his vegan smoothie. Diana stared at him through her birth control glasses and asked: “Do you have an appointment, Sir?”
“Oh, appointments,” he replied, as if having no grasp of that basic concept, “sorry, I don't do appointments. Just tell old Stevie boy that Moneyspider is here.”
On queue, Colonel Steve Trevor entered, flashed with a big smile and smiled: “Hello, Lonnie, I am so pleased you came. What can I do for you?”
“I thought about your offer, Steve, and I'm in. You may be creepy black ops, and I am a lone wolf, but in the end, we both just want to help people. I can do anything but remain silent, look away and lie, that's my disclaimer.”
Diana stared at him in wonder, and Steve shook his hand and beamed: “You'll fit in fine, and thank you. We need more feisty people who stay honest and challenge authority. Your mainframe is in the corridor around the corner. There is also a nice vegan café for your nutritional needs.”
“I make my own stuff, but thanks, Steve. So, how can I help you guys here?” Lonnie asked, and Etta hollered: “Honestly, there is this heavy load of paper which needs to be carried to the printer down the stairs! Could you help us, please, Mr...?”
“Machin, it's Lonnie Machin. I can handle that, ma'am,” he replied, grabbed several heavy paper packages and smirked: “I am neither as strong, smart nor good looking as your chum Wonder Woman, but honestly, I just like to help people. I am straight edge, but that's one rush I crave.”
“I think you will fit in just fine, Mr. Machin,” Diana beamed. He would be a handful for sure, but being incapable of lying was one trait Wonder Woman truly adored.
“Etta, Diana, why are we going into the DEO recreation room?” Steve muttered.
“Steve, you must see this!” Etta grinned, sat in front of the KordTech video game console, and booted the Justice League video game, officially endorsed by the notorious cash grabber Bruce Wayne. Steve unenthusiastically watched her scroll through the “Select” screen, featuring the big hitters like Superman (meh), Batman (ugh), Wonder Woman (drool!!), Flash, Lantern, Hawkgirl and many more.
“I already know this, why are you showing me that?” he muttered, but Diana smiled as Etta chose “DLC characters”. Steve just stared when he saw “Steve Trevor”, decked out in his military garb, but wearing flight goggles.
“W-wait a second, I am a video game character now? Who allowed this travesty?!” he yelled, and Etta giggled: “Director Waller, Steve. All DEO members, even the 'Suicide Squad', have contractual clauses that allow their namesake to be used in select commercial video games.”
“This is outrageous! I will sue her!”
“Just wait until you see your next salary check. You have been downloaded 4.6 million times, that means some extra change for the next Red Sox game.”
“Quit complaining and join the club. After a while, with a sense of humor, it's actually pretty cool,” Diana grinned, grabbed a controller and gleefully chose “Steve Trevor”. In return, Steve ripped the second controller out of Etta's hands and chose “Wonder Woman”.
Having grown up with video games, Steve dragon punched, half circled, and charged buttoned his Amazon avatar to execute a methodical mix of sword strikes, lasso throws, and bracelet parries. Diana simply button mashed, randomly making “Steve” walk into “her” punches and “her” snares, but also doing outrageous damage with wild super attacks. Tied 2:2 in a best of 5 match, with one health pixel left, “Steve Trevor” unleashed a Level 3 airplane strike that reduced “Wonder Woman” to a steaming pile of rubble.
“I win, I win!” Diana crowed, and Steve protested: “That attack is way overpowered! You need to nerf that!”
She shut up his protest with a long, passionate kiss, and purred: “Maybe, this is an omen. Next sparring, Steve Trevor will really beat Wonder Woman?”
“Just wait, I'll wipe that smug grin off your face.”
“I am looking forward to it, my dear fiancé.”
You can wait for 1000 years, and it won't happen, Etta giggled, but wisely said nothing. Steve kissed Diana on the cheek, hit “START” and grinned: “Two out of three?”
She eagerly nodded, cracked her knuckles, and Steve beamed. It was nice to know that after all those lies, those heartbreak and those sacrifices, sometimes your biggest problem in life was losing to your fiancée in a video game.
Chapter 7: Author's Zone - Nerd Zone
Again, let's see what nerdy hat tips I tried to shoehorn into this fic…
The quote “Diana, if you choose to leave, you may never return. Once, you were my greatest joy, now you became my greatest sorrow. The world of man does not deserve you!” is a condensed version of Queen Hippolyta's farewell dialogue to Diana in the WW movie (2017).
The introductory Wonder Woman - Steve skirmish is a reference to the skirmish WW had with Manhunter (Kate Spencer) in Kate's eponymous series in 2006 (?).
The poem “'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew Said / A little I’m hurt but not yet slain. / I’ll just lie down and bleed a while / And then I’ll rise and f ight again.'” comes from a Middle Age Scottish (?) ballad of a knight called Sir Andrew Barton and is a personal favorite of mine.
Dr. Arthur Light in the comics is the genius villain Dr. Light, who recently was transformed into more of a tragic character.
The unpleasant landlady, Ms. Wertham, is a reference to the notorious “comic killer” Frederic Wertham, whose polemic “Seduction of the Innocent” (1954) almost wrecked the comic book industry as a whole.
Angle Man is a minor Wonder Woman villain that has been largely forgotten. There are several versions of WW villain Silver Swan, I chose the “ugly ducking” Helena Alexandros.
The names “Ms. Kane” and “Mr. Holloway” are references to Batwoman (Kate Kane) and WW co-inventor Sadie Holloway Marston. Bruce Wayne's lady friends are socialite Silver St. Cloud, model Jenny Hayden (Jade) and African model/villain Jezebel Jet.
In the WW comics by Greg Rucka (2016-7), the all female supervillain squad that teams up versus Wonder Woman is called Godwatch and features Veronica Cale (plus her innocent daughter Isadore), Cheetah, Dr. Poison, Dr. Cyber and Circe, and reluctantly team up with Phobos and Deimos to free a converted Ares on Themyscira. In my version, Cale and Circe are the same, and Phobos and Deimos willingly cooperate.
In the same Rucka run, artist Nicola Scott did a dazzling visualization of Wonder Woman's gods (Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hera, Hephaestus, and Hermes) respectively as a majestic falcon, a beautiful dove, a wise owl, a powerful deer, a spectacular peahen, a mighty mouse and a steady tortoise. I kept this in as a hat tip.
In classical Greek mythology, Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus, and Ares is her lover, and Circe has nothing to do with them. In my version, Aphrodite is married to Ares, Circe was his lover, and Hephaestus is unmentioned. Circe is mainly modeled on her DC incarnations, as a ruthless, sadistic siren, who likes to turn enemies into pigs, and holds a bitter grudge against the Amazons.
The DEO makes reference to Alex Danvers, the foster sister of Kara Danvers (Supergirl), and Harleen Quinzel, who is the antihero Harley Quinn.
Lonnie Machin a.k.a. Moneyspider a.k.a. Anarky is a personal favorite of mine. The child progidy from Gotham is a classical anarchist, who despises corruption and greed, and often acts like a militant Robin Hood. His ruthless, but not heartless MO, his constant question of authority and his reluctance to hurt weaker people IMHO makes him a good foil for this story. I also made him an atheist, straight edge vegan.
Qurac, Santa Prisca, Borgonia are fictional DC countries. Qurac is a generic Middle Eastern country, Santa Prisca is home of Batman villain Bane, and Borgonia is associated with Superboy.
The poker scene between is hommage to the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with Diana uttering most of Picard's lines.