by Starsky Hutch 76 and Libbylawrence
Donna Troy Long walked up the marble steps to the royal palace of Paradise Island. Two guards parted to let her pass. “Good evening, Your Highness. Your mother has been expecting you.”
“I’m sure she has,” Donna said curtly.
As Donna entered the throne room, she saw that her mother wasn’t on her throne but standing before one of the large windows watching the sunset over the ocean. “I’ve come to talk with you, Mother,” she said sternly.
“I’m sure you have a great deal you want to say to me,” Queen Hippolyta said.
“And I’m sure there’s a great deal that you’ve failed to say to me, too.”
“And what would that be?” Hippolyta said, looking back at her over her shoulder.
“You know what I’m talking about! You’ve made Nubia Diana’s successor! As her sister, it was my right to carry on her legacy!”
“That might have been true if it were her legacy that needed to be filled,” Hippolyta said, turning to face her daughter. As she turned, Donna could see she was holding a bundle in her arms. “But it’s not. It is simply her job.” When she turned the rest of the way, Donna could see that within the bundled blanket was a child — an infant girl child.
It took a few moments for it to sink in before Donna said a word.
“Diana?!” Donna exclaimed in utter shock. “But… I — I thought she was killed in the Crisis!”
“Not killed,” Hippolyta said. “Reverted — reverted back to the clay from which she had been created and from which she was given life. Shortly after this took place, I returned to the spot where it had first happened, and in my grief I beseeched the gods to do so again. The enchantment was still within the clay, so they granted my request.”
“Couldn’t they make her whole again?” Donna asked.
“No,” Hippolyta said. “The original clay from which she was patterned only contained enough for a child, and the gods would do no more than they did before. Even if they could, I would not want them to.”
“What?!” Donna exclaimed.
“I’m tired of my daughters going out into Man’s World and placing themselves in danger. Against my better judgement, I allowed Diana to venture forth when she won the contest. It nearly killed me when I thought she had been slain. I want my daughters to stay home. I want you to come home.”
“I have a life back in America. You want me to give that up?”
“If it means you’ll be safe, then yes,” Hippolyta said, sitting in her throne. “Let Nubia handle the role of Wonder Woman. Her power is equal to that of what Diana’s once was.” She looked down at the infant in her arms. “For all the good it did her, poor child.”
“Leave my husband — my friends behind? I will not! My place is there!”
Hippolyta stood to her feet and said imperiously, “What Amazon gifts you’ve been given can be taken away!”
“So much for motherly concern,” Donna said coldly. “You do what you feel you must. A lack of powers won’t stop me from fulfilling my role in the Titans. It never stopped Robin or Speedy. I’ll simply have to train harder. And of course, the danger will be greater.”
“Go, then,” Hippolyta said, slumping into her throne with a defeated look Donna didn’t care for.
“I suppose that’s for the best,” Donna said. “We’ve both said all that needs to be said. But ask yourself this — in trying to protect us, are you not actually failing us?” With those words, she turned and exited the throne room.
Once she was alone, Hippolyta brought her free hand up to her eyes, and the tears came. As light sobs shook her body, the child cradled in her other arm saw her mother’s sorrow and began to cry as well. “Hush, little one,” Hippolyta said, comforting the child. “Everything will be all right… someday.”
In a dimension slightly removed from the earthly plane rose a hill that resembled nothing quite as much as a pile of human skulls that together formed a ghoulish mosaic of a giant skull. On this odd edifice perched a palace like a vulture luridly gazing down on the carrion of a battlefield. These traits were intentional, and to its owner, the Areogpagus was home.
Mars, god of war, was a massively built male in regal armor with a bushy red beard and cold eyes. He was not one given to sentiment, nor did the slaughter king allow himself to fall victim to human emotions except for hatred, anger, and lust. Still, once every eon or so, even Mars could lose himself in memories of the past. Thus, this night he brooded and recalled events from years before. His concubines tried to soothe his troubled brow, but all they could get from their master was rejection and scorn. Finally, one comely wench dared to speak of the issue troubling Mars.
“Sire, what is it that makes you so restless and full of strife this night?” said Callisto. “The earthly battlezones are as plentiful as ever. Superman, the JLA, and their kind do naught but hold an uneasy peace while war rages anon elsewhere. Look at the Martian who led an attack in league with the Atlantean — they served your cause well.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Between Sea and Sky.]
Mars sighed. “True, yet I find myself recalling past triumphs which were once as fragrant as nectar and now taste like bitter ashes of defeat.”
The blonde maiden said, “Tell me more!”
Mars smiled — a grim spectacle in and of itself — and said, “Once my former lover Aphrodite and her female allies didst endow Hippolyta of the Amazons with two children made of clay. They breathed life within the clay and blessed the twin maidens with birthrights wondrous to behold. Then, I struck. I stole away the darker child and raised her as mine own — steeped in the arts of war. Her name was Nubia.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman,” Wonder Woman #204 (January-February, 1973).]
“And what of the other? Diana?” Callisto said.
“Diana was Wonder Woman — the mortal heroine. I didst place Nubia against her in battle fierce, but all came to naught as they reconciled. Indeed, now my Nubia wears the garb of Wonder Woman and fights for her lost sister’s cause!” he said. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: As first seen in Justice League of America: The Final Chapter, Chapter 4: The New Wonder Woman.]
Callisto purred, “But ’tis said the first Wonder Woman lives still, but as a babe newborn from clay again!”
Mars smiled broadly. “Yes! A chance to relive old sport. ‘Twould be irony, indeed, to raise Diana herself this time as the child of carnage — the warrior princess of Mars! I must steal her from Hippolyta as once I did take Nubia!”
He rushed out into the storm and felt more alive than he had in years. This would not bode well for Earth.
Donna Troy Long had faced many a foe before as Wonder Girl, yet she still hesitated before facing the woman she was now waiting to meet. She was not getting ready to fight some dread foe or champion of evil, although the lovely young woman would gladly have done so. Instead, this adopted daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons was about to have a long-delayed talk with another true daughter of the blonde queen.
Nubia, the lesser-known clay-formed daughter of Hippolyta, had been stolen by Mars when she was an infant. He had given her powers of his own that allowed her to match her sister Diana’s own Olympian-given might. While Nubia had been raised to hate Amazons, the hatred did not come from within. She was a true child of the Amazons, even though she had been among them so very briefly. Thus Mars could only maintain his hold on her mind by means of a magical ring. She wore his ring, and it fueled her anger and rage until she became a living embodiment of all dread Mars represented.
When she reached adulthood, Mars sent her to rule a floating isle named Slaughter Island. She led a group of fierce warriors and attacked the home she had no memory of — she attacked Paradise Island itself. In doing so, she came to be cured of the spell by her sister, Princess Diana of the Amazons, alias Wonder Woman. They did not know each other to be kin, merely parting as warriors who had forged a respect for one another on the field of honor and battle.
This changed, in time, to a friendship and affection as they learned their common origin. Thus, when the events of the Crisis reduced Diana to an infant again, Nubia took the role of Wonder Woman. And now, Donna was about to talk to a true heroine and member of the far-famed Justice League of America.
Donna, who had been adopted and raised by Hippolyta and had served the world as the heroine known as Wonder Girl of the New Titans, now suffered from anxiety as she wondered what she could say to this woman, this near-stranger who wore her beloved Diana’s clothes and used her title. Donna had raged against the other’s impudence, since she felt that she alone was entitled to the role. Yet, time and the advice of husband, friends, and fellow heroes, had made her reconsider some of her rage. Wally West, the new Flash, had fought by Nubia’s side in the JLA, and he swore that she was worthy of the role and meant nothing by claiming it but to honor Diana as well. Donna accepted this statement, but it did little to grant her acceptance of the way things were. She had prepared her own version of the Wonder Woman costume, only to pack it away for now.
The hum of the transporter tube brought her thoughts to an abrupt end as Nubia appeared before her. “Welcome to Washington, D.C.,” said Donna slowly.
Nubia walked with the confidence and certainty of a warrior born. “Well met, Donna Troy,” she said, as if deigning to grant Donna an audience.
Donna said, “I’ve asked you here — where Diana started her own career, and where she ended it — so we could talk about her and her role.”
“It is my role now, and I try with every step and each breath to honor her memory,” said Nubia.
Donna said, “I also had — have — a claim to the role. I was raised on Paradise Island. Diana and I share a mother!”
Nubia frowned. “Your mother by adoption was mine by birth! You are an Amazon by grace, not by right. Your powers are due to a fluke of science — the purple healing ray. Mine came from–”
“Mars! Your powers came from the enemy of all Diana stood for!” said Donna. “You have spent less time with Hippolyta than either Diana or myself. We are family. We love each other!”
“And a child raised by Mars cannot possibly know love? Is that it?” said Nubia.
“No, I don’t mean that,” Donna said. “I just felt like you robbed me of Diana’s role. I guess it seemed like to me you were an outsider stepping into sandals that were rightfully mine to wear.”
The two continued to talk, but they came to no resolution thus yet. Meanwhile, the plans of Mars were continuing to brew.