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.”