Within an elaborate base, four hired thugs stood before their mysterious mistress as she questioned them closely. “Did you equip our feline ally as I requested?” she asked in a stern voice.
The first thug replied quickly, keeping his eyes downcast and staring at her silvery boots as he answered. “The information you provided worked perfectly. She pretended to stumble on their base like some drugged nomad. They thought she was just another shapely flake and allowed her into their cult without any suspicion.”
She nodded, but her expression was concealed behind an ornate silver helmet that masked her features but revealed her long, silky black hair as it cascaded out of the back of the helmet and passed her armored shoulders. “Excellent. I am certain she will be able to use her wiles to gain the data she desires,” she replied. “That will, of course, enable her to serve my cause as well as any mortal.”
The man replied but never raised his eyes. “Yeah, she is a real looker,” said the man.
The woman in silver and black shouted, “Had she possessed the face of Aphrodite herself, she would have still been of more use to me because of her criminal mind and her unique talents! Do not judge people by their appearances. One graced by the gods themselves may still carry the taint of corruption within her form.”
The men spoke in unison. “Forgive us! We will not anger you again!”
“Be about your duties,” she said dismissively.
They nodded and departed in relief. There was something frightening about the masked woman. She was clearly brilliant and cunning, but she also had an inhuman manner about her that went beyond her casual ruthlessness.
Across the nation, another ruthless group stood rigidly at attention while their leader lounged upon a throne, wearing a robe. Thick incense filled the air of the otherwise military-styled base. “Great Naga-Naga, all goes as planned,” said one lackey. “The stolen parts have been assembled, and our rocket is poised to launch at the desired date.”
The man called Kobra nodded and spoke in a sibilant manner. “Be cccertain of that, or prepare to sssurrender your very life!” he said, idly caressing a brown-tressed beauty who crouched at his feet. She wore a filmy harem costume and seemed to lull at his feet in a drugged or blissful stupor. He petted her head and said, “Lady Eve, I grow weary. Dismiss my minionsss.”
She stood up and bowed low. “All of you leave now!” she said in a commanding tone. “The master would seek repose.” The others filed out in silent respect to their leader’s demands. “I, too, beg leave,” said Lady Eve.
Kobra nodded imperiously. “Go and refresh yourself,” he said.
She bowed again before exiting the room. But she did not go to the chamber in which Kobra’s brides resided. She merely glanced at her master’s back with a look of disgust. Your weariness will matter little once I use your resources to gain a long-desired goal, she thought, then slipped out of the base by using an inhuman, almost feline agility along with awareness of the base’s security system, which she had gained during her time posing as a mindless follower of the cult leader’s movement. While she pretended to be just another submissive cultist, she concealed secrets and malice all her own.
Around the same time Nubia, the second Wonder Woman, stood proudly before her mother Queen Hippolyta and her tiny sister Diana in a splendid building on the island-nation of the Amazons. “As ever my sword is yours to command, but what was the reason you asked me to come back to Paradise Island so suddenly?” asked Nubia as she gazed up at her blonde mother, who sat regally on her throne, as befitted the queen of the Amazons. “My Justice League allies informed me of your urgent broadcast, and I swiftly used the teleporter to come first to Science Island and then to the palace royal.”
“My daughter, my thanks to your comrades Hawkwoman and Hawkman for their past work in installation of the device on Paula’s Science Isle, ” said Queen Hippolyta, while little Diana watched in interest as a butterfly swooped nearby. “That alien device brought you here as rapidly as Hermes himself might have traveled. In part, it is your means of travel that led me to ask you here.”
“I know you must refer to the invisible plane,” said Nubia. “Has Paula managed to determine just how it vanished so long ago?”
Hippolyta shook her head. “Fair Paula still only knows it left this earth during the days of the Crisis. As you know, it could only have responded to the thoughts of one it had been programmed to obey. The only person who possibly met that condition was Diana’s husband, Steve Trevor. Donna has since determined that he also disappeared around the same time. I think we may surmise that he took it for some reckless but noble purpose. May he find peace. (*) However, we have a surprise for you. We have ordered the creation of an exact duplicate of the missing plane, and it awaits your mental command!”
She smiled and led Nubia outside to where the other Amazons stood at attention along a clear field. “It is made of the exact same Amazilikon as was Diana’s original model. It will obey your mental commands, and it shall be as proof against harm as the storied Achilles himself!” announced the queen as Nubia sensed the mental hum of the sentient plane and heard the voice of the plane within her mind.
“Remarkable!” said a pleased Nubia. “I sense how it responds to my thoughts! Thank you, Mother! Thank you all!”
Queen Hippolyta smiled back in pleasure. She had come to respect Nubia’s fierce resolve to follow in the Princess Diana’s footsteps as the embodiment of Amazon ideals for a benighted Man’s World. She had been reluctant at times to see any of her beloved daughters risk life and limb in the outer world, which was so vulnerable to the evil power of the war god Mars. Still, although the blonde queen looked no older than she had when first she had led her sisters away from their original homeland along the Thermodon River in a city once called Themiscyra eons ago, she had experienced much, and she knew that it would be an injustice to suppress her children or deny them their individual freedoms. She had battled many monsters herself during her youth in the era now dismissed as one of myth by the Western world. She admired Nubia’s fiery desire to bring justice and peace to the world beyond Paradise Island. She also knew that Nubia carried within her certain motivations that Diana had lacked.
She recalled the dark scene shortly after the gods and goddesses of Olympus had breathed life into the two infant statutes of clay she had formed at their command. She had felt the natural maternal yearning for a child that any woman would feel, whether Amazon queen or commoner. The babies had cried with life, and their voices had been like a refreshing clarion trumpet call to Hippolyta, since they had signaled something unheard of on Paradise Isle in eons. The baby girls had embodied new life and a new generation on the island of women warriors where no man had ever set foot, and thus no new child could be born under natural circumstances. Hippolyta shuddered still as she recalled the nightmarish end to the wonderful events.
Her two babies had suddenly been cast into shadow by a looming, massive figure who filled the room with his presence and power as he abducted the darker baby who would one day be Nubia. Mars, the god of war and an implacable foe to the peace-loving Amazons, scowled as he claimed the child and left a shocked Hippolyta and baby Diana behind. The very personal glee he had expressed with his every tone and movement still lingered in her memory. Queen Hippolyta had begged Aphrodite and Athena, the two patronesses of the Amazon nation, for their help, but even they could not learn where dread Mars had taken the baby.
Hippolyta would raise Diana, who in turn received all the blessings of the Olympians, as her sole heir. She would grow to equal the lofty claims the Olympians made on her behalf when she was an infant. She became fleeter than Hermes, stronger than Herakles, and lovelier than Aphrodite herself. Eventually, when the Olympians demanded that one Amazon champion go forth to bring their ideals of peace and love to the outer world and to combat the constant war-mongering of Mars, Diana herself would excel in the contest and earn the right to become the heroine called Wonder Woman.
But Diana had been driven to do so by more than one motive. One of those reasons was her love for Steve Trevor, an American military officer who had crashed his plane on the isle. She had fallen for the handsome hero in record time, finding him irresistible, while a worried Hippolyta had only looked on him as a threat to the happiness she had found with her remaining child. She had never stopped grieving for the lost Nubia and little suspected that one day a grown Nubia would return to the island as a minion of Mars himself.
Eventually, Nubia would be freed from the magic enslavement with which Mars had held her. She would learn of her true origin, and after some difficult years of adjustment, she would embrace Hippolyta and her Amazon heritage while she rejected the hold Mars had placed over her.
Still, when Diana was transformed into an infant by the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Nubia rushed to take her place as Wonder Woman. She had been driven to do so out of a desire to make up for her past deeds when she had served Mars. She had also wanted to prove herself worthy of being the daughter of Queen Hippolyta. This meant being a heroine as well as a warrior. This meant being selfless and not self-centered.
Now, Queen Hippolyta felt pleasure at being able to support and enhance Nubia’s ability to do the job of protecting the outer world as Wonder Woman. Diana’s magical plane had been lost, and now she had been able to provide Nubia with a replacement.
Nubia smiled and raised her arm in salute to the Amazons around them. “Hola, sister! Hola!” she said. The other rows of Amazons answered her salute in kind as she relished their approval and their support. “Mother, I thank you all. It is truly remarkable!” she said.
Queen Hippolyta placed one hand on her shoulder. “You are welcome, my dear,” she said. “Now for the other reason I summoned you here. As bizarre as this may sound in a realm where all live as sisters in harmonious accord, there has been a theft. I also fear that I know who the thief was.”
Nubia frowned. “What has been stolen, and how could any Amazon leave the isle without losing something far more precious than any material item? Remember Aphrodite’s decree that any Amazon who departs these shores, except under special circumstances, will lose her immortality.”
“That threat holds little fear to one who was not an Amazon born,” said Queen Hippolyta. “I fear our thief is Sofia Constantinas, who was born in Man’s World and who must not have embraced our teachings as fully as I had thought. Sofia is missing, as is the item I mentioned.”
“What item is missing?” asked Wonder Woman. “Is it something potent in magical power?”
Queen Hippolyta lowered her voice to whisper, “Indeed, it is something sacred to our people and peculiarly personal to you and Diana. I speak of the Sword of Artemis!“
“I fear my grasp of Amazon history is still incomplete, even after my efforts to become aware of my late-discovered heritage,” said Nubia. “What is this Sword of Artemis? I always thought the goddess favored the bow and arrow.”
“That is a reasonable assumption,” said Queen Hippolyta. “However, the Artemis in question is not the goddess of the hunt and the moon, but rather she was an Amazon named for our patroness. She was, in truth, the first Wonder Woman long before Diana or you assumed the title and role.”
Nubia gasped. “Great Hera! I always thought my sister to have originated the role! When did this other Wonder Woman fight her own crusade?”
“When I became Queen of the Amazons, Artemis won the right to be a champion of Amazon ideals to the other city states of the ancient world when we all still dwelt near the Thermodon River before we left the outer world for this island home,” explained Hippolyta. “She was indeed called Wonder Woman, and we were very close. But strife arose that separated us and led her into corruption by Mars himself. She turned against us as a people and especially against me personally. She defied Athena herself and was destroyed, although her spirit was briefly reanimated by one of Diana’s foes a few years ago. (*) The stolen sword was her weapon of choice. It was magical and also carries much power as a talisman. Some might feel such a weapon would entitle the owner to rule over us all or usurp my very throne.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Dark Challenger,” Wonder Woman #301 (March, 1983) and “Victory,” Wonder Woman #302 (April, 1983).]
“I see your reasons for concern,” said Nubia. “Why would this Sofia take it? I know nothing of her, either. You know much of my time was spent on Mars’ isle, or Slaughter Island or Floating Island, as my former realm was also called. It took much effort on my part to wrest that benighted land from the sway of Mars, and only in recent years have I brought my isle into a gradual acceptance and awareness of the modern world.”
“You moved them far past their prolonged reliance upon the more elemental forms of society and daily life,” said Hippolyta. “You should be proud at how well they have embraced elements of Amazon science to move past their old way of life and actually thrive in what may lead to an industrial development of sorts. But as for Sofia, her tale is one I would have believed to be a success story until her disappearance.
“Sofia Constantinas was a militant Greek nationalist who worked for a true villain named Nikos Aegeus. He gained super-powers from a bitter demigod named Bellerophon. The name Aegeus came from the mighty shield and armor of Zeus. Athena herself appeared to Sofia and led her to turn against Aegeus. (*) She embraced Amazon ideals and came to live and train among us, and she proved most able. She learned our fighting techniques and embraced our philosophy.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thunder on the Wind,” Wonder Woman #297 (November, 1982) and “Catacombs,” Wonder Woman #298 (December, 1982).]
“When the Crisis occurred, Sofia fought bravely by the side of our sisters. She was injured, and her healing process was slow, since Sofia has a rare allergic reaction to our purple healing ray. She wanted to take up Diana’s role as Wonder Woman when she learned Diana could no longer serve as our champion. Needless to say, in light of your own feelings and those of Donna, I refused to allow her to do so. That act created some resentment on her part, and I allowed her to dwell apart from us on the far side of the island. I felt time would heal her pain. Recently, she stopped coming to our side of the island entirely, and when I sent a party to check on her, they found no trace of her. We also learned that the archive had been broken into, and the Sword of Artemis had been taken. Sofia may not be guilty. Perhaps she is a victim of some other intruder. Still, I fear the worst!”
“I will find her and retrieve the Sword of Artemis,” vowed Nubia. “Never fear!”
“Hera preserve you until we meet again,” said Queen Hippolyta.
Nubia climbed into the invisible plane and ordered it skyward. She smiled as she zoomed away from the island, enjoying the power she commanded over the marvelous plane. “The most logical place to search for Sofia is among her former allies,” she said to herself. “Aegeus himself may lead me to her.”