by Martin Maenza
The ball was snapped, and the air was filled with the crunching sound of the two lines slamming into one another. One of the defensive players in blue cut around the line and barreled down upon the quarterback in orange. The man with the ball looked nervously to each side, his protection gone, but he did not have an opening to his receivers to make the good pass. He started to run. After two steps, the defensive man sacked him. The crowd erupted in a cheer. The Sharks had shut down the Bengals’ attempt to score.
The Coast City Stadium was packed with about 75,000 football fans, most of them rooting for the home team. There were a number of pockets of fans for Cincinnati spread throughout, but they were lost in the sea of blue-and-gold-garbed fans of the Sharks.
Two women sat together on the aisle in section twelve about eighteen rows up. One was the dark-haired Diana Prince, dressed in a violet sweater and gray pants. The other was a strikingly beautiful black woman with long, flowing hair dressed a long, dark skirt and a white blouse. The black woman winced as the players clashed together once more. “So, this is considered a sport?” Nubia asked. “It seems rougher than I would have expected.”
“You should see hockey, sister,” Diana replied.
“Back on the Floating Island we have competitions, but every man pits his strength or skill against another directly, and there are clear winners,” said Nubia, who had been kidnapped by the god Mars as a child from Paradise Island and placed in charge of the population of the Floating Island off the coast of Africa, which Mars had named Slaughter Island. Even though she had since been taught Amazon ways, Nubia still acted as the champion of Slaughter Island to this day. “How can you make sense of the chaos on that field, sister? Does this eventually turn into something like an ancient gladiator event, with only one man remaining alive to be the victor, and the rest succumbing to their injuries?”
“It’s not quite like that, Nubia,” Diana tried to explain to her sister. “If you watch carefully, there are clear rules to the game. The object is to get the ball to the other team’s end zone. The players on the defensive side are required to stop that, using their own bodies to tackle the player with the ball. But it’s not as dangerous as it seems.” She pointed to one of the men on the bench. “See, they wear helmets and lots of padding. They only get seriously hurt once in a while.”
“I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of it.”
“Think of it like the competitions on Paradise Island,” Diana explained. “Consider how competitive some of our sisters get during those. This is just a different game with different rules.” She glanced at Nubia but could see her sister was unimpressed.
Diana had briefly considered asking Queen Hippolyta to join her for the game, but that would have been impossible, since she would have lost her immortality if she left Paradise Island. The only way for the Amazon queen to visit Man’s World was if she received a special request from Athena to do so, and even then she would not be allowed to touch the ground of man. Queen Hippolyta had told her that she was saving up that request for a special occasion, but she would not elaborate further when Diana pressed her for more information. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: And Queen Hippolyta would use that special request to visit Donna Troy and Terry Long on the day of their wedding, some years later. See “We Are Gathered Here Today,” Tales of the Teen Titans #50 (February, 1985).]
Although Diana and Nubia had not been raised together as sisters, meeting for the first time as adults, they had made several attempts to get to know each other better. This was one of those attempts. But they were still not as close as Diana had hoped they would be. They simply didn’t see each other often enough.
Diana reached down beneath her feet to retrieve a small cardboard box with items wrapped in wax paper. “Here, Nubia, try one of these,” she said, offering the tray.
Nubia cautiously took one of the wrapped items and opened it. It was a bread-like item holding a long, dark-red-colored meat. There were red and yellow liquid-like substances laced throughout. The champion of the Floating Island took a sniff. It was warm and had an interesting smell to it. Cautiously, she raised it to her mouth and took a bite. Surprisingly, the mix of items yielding a surprising taste thanks to the two tangy sauces. “What are in these… what did you call them… hot dogs?”
“You don’t want to know, sister.” That’s something Steve always said to her, and it made her smile thinking of that. Diana settled into one of her own hot dogs. It wasn’t turkey with stuffing and cranberries, but it sure hit the spot. All things considered, this day wasn’t turning out as bad as she had first thought it might.
All that changed when, just as the Sharks snapped the ball near the fifty-yard line, the turf of the football field started to rumble. In fact, the whole stadium did. The cheers of the fans turned to shouts of surprise and concern.
Nubia grabbed the edge of her seat to steady herself. “Is this one of those earthquakes California is noted for?”
“I’m not sure, sister,” Diana said. But the shaking led way to an eruption of the ground at the center of the field. “This doesn’t seem right! Excuse me, Nubia.”
Nubia watched as her sister rushed up the concrete steps, taking them two at a time. Despite their different upbringings, the two sisters were much alike, and she knew that this sudden turn of events was all Diana needed to spring into action. Nubia disliked being a mere spectator, but here in Man’s World it was Diana who was Wonder Woman, her adopted people’s champion; if they were on Slaughter Island, where Nubia was champion, their roles would be reversed.
Amidst all the chaos, a six-foot-tall figure stepped out of one of the ramps and onto the field. His body suit was green with purple leggings. His mask and upper torso were also covered in purple. A yellow Q insignia was about his chest and on his matching belt buckle. In his hands was a large jackhammer.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” laughed Quakemaster. “Looks like you folks get an added bonus to the halftime show.” He glanced up at the scoreboard. The clock read three minutes and twenty seconds left in the first half. “Oh! I guess I’m early. Or, more likely, this game’s running way too long!” He hoisted his weapon into the air, sending a blast of vibrating energy toward the lighted board. It shattered the display, raining debris and glass down on the fans sitting under that section.
Quakemaster smiled. “This new weapon is very nice,” he said as he pat the side of the device. “Whoever my mysterious benefactor is, he souped it up quite a bit!” He placed the jackhammer’s end to the ground. “So, the least I can do is give these folks the best damn quake they’ve ever felt! Plus, the national media coverage can’t hurt my reputation, neither!”
The weapon came to life, sending waves of energy through the field. A crack opened up across the field. The few players still left scrambling found a deadly chasm yawning toward them. No longer were they players on opposing teams; it was every man for himself. Number five from the Bengals and number seventy-one from the Sharks started to lose their footing near the edge and were about to fall.
“Hold tight!” a strong female voice said. Out of nowhere, a lasso that shimmered in the afternoon sunshine suddenly dropped over the pair and was pulled tightly. Before they could slide into the ever-deepening hole, the two men were pulled back to more solid ground.
At the other end of the rope, they saw a familiar heroine. “Wonder Woman!” cried number five.
“You saved us!” number seventy-one added.
Quakemaster noticed the new arrival and frowned. “She saved you, but who will save her?” He tipped his weapon slightly to form a different angle with the ground, sending large chunks of turf flying through the air toward the super-heroine.
Wonder Woman raised her left arm and blocked the projectiles with the bracelet on her wrist. “I’ve deflected a lot of things over the years with my bracelets,” she said as she retrieved her lasso, “but dirt-clumps are a new one!”
“That’s just the type of guy I am, lady!” the villain sneered. “I like to shake things up! Get it?” His jackhammer weapon created another crack in the ground. This one shot down the field, heading for the seating at the end and thousands of victims. The goal post toppled over as the fast-moving hole bore down upon its target.
“Great Hera!” Wonder Woman exclaimed, breaking into a fast run. Without her invisible jet, she could only soar on wind currents. However, with her powerful legs, she was an exceptional runner. As a super-speedster, she wasn’t in the same league as the Flash or Superman, but she would do whatever she could. After a long sprint, she then launched herself into the air, landing at the edge of the seats.
“Everyone, get to safety outside the stadium!” she ordered. Wonder Woman was about to turn to see where the threat was when her own footing gave way. She tumbled into the opening just as the crack struck the stadium wall.
“Ooof!” Wonder Woman exclaimed as she clawed at the dirt walls with both hands. She was trying her best to stop her descent by locating a hand hold. The shifting earth, however, made that difficult. She then thrust out her legs and wedged herself at a narrower part of the chasm. Some of the dirt fell down past her into the darkness. “Not one of my more shining moments.”
She noticed the outline of a figure near the opening. “Thanks so much, my dear, for making this easier!” Quakemaster said. He thrust his weapon down. “To bury you alive, that is!” The ground began to convulse once more.
Quakemaster stepped back and watched the earth as it closed up. “Ha-ha-ha-ha! That was fun!” Suddenly, something bounced off of the back of the villain’s head. “Hey!” He turned just as a cup full of beer splashed in his face. “Cut that out!”
In the stands, some fans were booing and throwing whatever they could get their hands on at the costumed villain.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Get lost, you creep!”
The villain’s face turned beet red as he got angry. “Who you calling a loser, losers?” He propped up his weapon and shot a blast into the stands. The people who had been attacking with cups and food tried to scramble as the blast blew up a section of the structure. “That’s right, chumps! Run! Run! See if you can get away before I blow you to bits!”
Quakemaster was too caught up to notice the ground behind him shifting. Where Wonder Woman had been buried a few seconds before, the turf convulsed and then flew aside. One hand and then another appeared from below, and together they started to clear a larger opening.
That certainly wasn’t pleasant, the Amazon thought to herself as she pulled her body out of the ground. Time to put an end to this threat!
Before Wonder Woman could approach the villain and catch him off-guard, some of the fleeing fans noticed her and called out. “Yeah! Wonder Woman!”
“Take him out!”
Quakemaster spun around quickly. “You? You should have stayed in the hole, honey!” He hoisted up the end of the weapon and pointed it toward her. “This way is a lot more painful way to die!” The weapon fired full power at the advancing Amazon.
The wave of vibrations hit Wonder Woman square on. Her momentum was deterred, and she actually took a half-step back. Hera! I wasn’t expecting this! she thought, gritting her teeth and facing the assault with her will and determination. I will… not… be… deterred!
Her right foot stepped forward. Then her left.
Quakemaster was surprised by her resistance. “These waves can shatter anything! Brick, bones, it doesn’t matter!” He fumbled with the settings in the handle. “You asked for this!” The weapon kicked back as it projected its strongest blast. The villain had to tighten his grip for fear of losing the weapon. Wonder Woman paused. “Yeah! Now we’re cooking!”
Wonder Woman’s brow furrowed, her gaze narrowed. “I…”
She took another strained step. “…don’t…”
She took another and another. Her momentum was returning as she gave it her all. “…think…”
“Nooo!” Quakemaster exclaimed.
“…so!” Wonder Woman brought her right fist around and smashed it into the jackhammer weapon. The blow wasn’t enough to shatter the device, but she did knock it out of the villain’s hands.
Quakemaster felt a stinging in his hands. “Owww! Owww!”
Free from the debilitating effects of the weapon, she turned to the device now lying on the ground but still projecting its deadly rays. “First, we’ll take care of this!” Wonder Woman grabbed the device by the handle, pointing the end harmlessly into the air while she examined the controls. When it wasn’t obvious where the on-off control was, she improvised. Crunch went the metal as she applied great pressure to the device. In a moment, the mechanism cut out after sustaining too much damage.
Satisfied, Wonder Woman tossed the broken jackhammer to the side. “And now for you!” she said, turning toward Quakemaster.
“Uh… uh… uh…” the villain stammered, realizing the Amazon could do much worse to him than she did to his weapon. “Perhaps we can talk this over?” Quakemaster started to back away quickly, hoping perhaps to out run the woman.
Wonder Woman smiled. “You want to talk?” She reached to her side and undid her lasso. “Fine! Let’s talk!” With quick speed, the lasso was spinning over her head and then sailing through the air.
It wrapped around the fleeing villain with ease. “Ooof!” Quakemaster exhaled as he was pulled through the air in the tightened circle of rope toward the heroine.
Wonder Woman reached out and caught the bound man with one hand, the other still holding the end of the lasso. “OK, Quakemaster,” she said. “Why did you do this? Why tear apart this stadium?”
“I… I…” the villain said. He had a sudden compulsion to speak the truth, one that did not stem from his fear to what the heroine could do to him. It was due to the Amazon’s magic lasso. He quickly spilled his guts. “I got this note, along with the new jackhammer. They showed up in my prison cell one night. The note said in exchange for the gift that I should destroy Coast City. The time and the place was my call, as long as it was done soon and quickly.”
“Who was the note from?” Wonder Woman asked.
“I don’t know,” Quakemaster had to admit. “It was unsigned. No markings or nothing.”
Wonder Woman raised her eyebrow curiously. This had to be the truth. She had no reason to believe the simple criminal would be able to counter the lasso’s spell. Still, she wanted proof. “Do you still have the note?”
“Yeah,” Quakemaster admitted. “Here…” he said, gesturing to his costume, “…in my pocket.”
Wonder Woman retrieved the note and studied it. Sure enough, the man had spoken the truth. His benefactor, whoever it was, was a mystery that would not get solved any time soon.
By this point, the emergency crews and police were on the scene. Wonder Woman turned the costumed troublemaker over to the authorities so he could be returned to jail. As she looked around the stadium, the results of his efforts were obvious. The stadium and the field would require lots of work to get back to their former shape. The crowds were dispersing, and the game was suspended. Who knew what other effects the quake had on the ever-shifting plates beneath the state’s surface?
“There is something to be thankful for,” a familiar voice said. Wonder Woman turned to see Nubia approaching. “Though a number of people had been injured, no one was killed.”
Wonder Woman nodded. “That is something to be thankful for.”
Nubia took her sister’s hand. “It was good to see you in action,” she said. “I am proud to be your sister.”
“Thank you, Nubia,” Wonder Woman replied. Together, the two Amazon women headed for the exit of the stadium.