On Science Island, Nubia, Paula, and Queen Hippolyta sat around the bound and guarded Penthesilea, alias Queen Mourn, and talked over what they had learned. “It amazes me to learn that my poor sister, the original Penthesilea, had a child by Achilles before her death,” said Hippolyta. “To think that this woman is her descendant and a niece to me, in a matter of speaking, is passing strange.”
“The sedative will keep her calm,” said Paula. “The memory reader proves her story is true. Mars raised her after her birth around twenty years ago. She is the heir of your late sister. I could not learn any more about the location at which the Dark Commander lurks.”
“I know you did your best,” said Nubia. “Still, inactivity makes my blood boil!”
“I have placed the Sword of Artemis within our sacred tombs,” said Hippolyta. “It shall never be used again. May the spirit of poor, bitter Artemis, the first Wonder Woman, rest in peace at last.”
A brilliant flash of light filled the room as a beautiful woman with a grim and regal manner appeared before them. They fell to their knees at the sight of their patroness, Hera. The Queen of Olympus said, “Arise, my daughters! I have come to right a great wrong. My errant son Mars stirs once more, and I would combat his schemes. He has dared to take frail mortals as his captives, and he seeks no less than the corruption of the Amazon nation!”
“Great Hera, how may we stop my evil father?” said Hippolyta.
“First, I will remove the madness from this woman and allow you to tend to her, and perhaps lead her into the way of a true Amazon!” said Hera, and she touched the sedated Penthesilea, who groaned and then remained still.
“She is my sister’s heir, and I would do much to cure her!” said Hippolyta, tears brimming in her eyes.
“I have given you the chance to do so now,” said Hera. “What course she will take is known only to the Fates, but I have removed the taint of Mars from her soul.”
At that moment, Myrmidon entered from outside. He was allowed to walk around Science Island, though no male could set foot upon the sands of the main island home of the Amazons. He saw Hera and frowned. “Hera! Chiron spoke of you and of the other Olympians, yet never have I encountered one!”
Hera stared at him, and her own expression became grim. “That can only be because though you were raised near Olympus by Chiron, you were deliberately kept apart and hidden from the sight of any of us! One look is enough to make your identity clear to me!”
Nubia saw Hippolyta stiffen as if in shock or dismay. The blonde turned pale and raised one hand to her face. “B-by Hera, can this be?” she stammered. “Nubia, is this the man called Myrmidon you said you had brought here?”
Nubia nodded. “Yes. He was exploring while we met with you. What is wrong, mother?”
“Though the power of the queen of the Olympians cloaks your memories and concealed this young man’s very existence ’til now,” said Hera, “I sense you feel what is evident to one of my power!”
Hippolyta nodded silently.
“Mother?” said Nubia. “Are you alarmed because he has a definite tie to your old foe, Herakles?”
Hippolyta whispered, “He has a tie to me as well! Hera help me, I think he is my child!” Nubia gasped as her mother continued. “‘Tis true. He has a certain something about him that speaks to my heart!”
“I know nothing of my parentage,” said Myrmidon. “Chiron raised me and trained me in the arts both martial and philosophic. It is also true that we never had any visitors in our hidden glade near Mount Olympus. You say this was not to protect me or the other pupils but to conceal me from others?”
Hippolyta stared at Myrmidon and said, “You are like your father in many ways. Yet while madness sent by Hera had warped his once-fine nature, you still retain the nobility he must once have possessed!”
Myrmidon took her hand and said, “I tell you truly that I know nothing of my parentage. You say Herakles fathered me? You are my mother? How can it be so?”
“That young man’s courage has shamed me into revealing my past sins,” said the wife of Zeus. “Your Amazons have ever served me well, and if a goddess may feel guilt, then I confess so now!”
Hippolyta knelt and looked up at her patroness. “Please, Queen Hera, tell me the meaning of this!”
“You know how long ago I sent madness upon Herakles because he was a hated reminder of the infidelity of Zeus,” began Hera. “I cursed Herakles with madness, and he killed his own family while under my spell. To atone for this sin, he agreed to undertake twelve labors, and one of those missions led him to the home of the Amazons eons ago. There, the object of his quest was to claim the golden girdle Hippolyta wore as a sign of her service to Aphrodite. At first, all went well. Herakles and Hippolyta were drawn to one another. She would have consented to loaning him the precious item.”
Hippolyta nodded. “It is so. He and I enjoyed our time together that night, but by morning he and his men were attacking us, and he enslaved us and carried away my girdle. It was this enslavement that is memorialized by our bracelets of submission to this day! Only Aphrodite’s mercy freed us and gave us a home away from all men on Paradise Island.”
“Or so you thought,” continued Hera. “In truth, my hatred for Herakles was so petty and so powerful that I could not bear to see him triumph easily. Thus, I used my powers to make his men believe your Amazons were attacking them. I made your Amazons believe Herakles and his men were doing the same to you. In short, I manipulated your armies into battle and left you broken in heart and spirit. I sent Herakles on his way, and your history played out as you recall it, except for one detail that I concealed from all of you and the other Olympians.
“Sometime after Aphrodite freed you, and you reached Paradise Isle,” continued Hera, “you gave birth to the son you and Herakles had conceived during your night together. I took the baby away and placed him in a void where he neither aged nor was noticed by anyone. I used the Mists of Nepenthe to erase every memory of this birth from all involved. Eons passed, and my enmity for Herakles faded after he became one of us after his own death. Still, I revealed nothing of my deeds, since I had no wish to anger my husband Zeus or stir up healed wounds.
“Finally, more than thirty years ago, I felt I had to give the baby a chance at life. You were praying for such a child to raise. While we answered your prayers with the creation of the clay infants who would become Diana and Nubia, I also took the baby out of his limbo and gave him to noble Chiron to raise within a hidden glade sacred to me and unseen by even Zeus himself. That baby has grown into this young man, and now I see the Fates had jested with us all by leading him into being a pawn of his own grand sire, Mars! Forgive me for my malicious deeds. I will make amends by drawing upon my own connection to Ares, the one true child Zeus and I had together. I will take you to where my son dwells and end this terrible tragedy at last!”
Hippolyta wept and embraced the handsome man before her. “You are my son! I felt it to be so when I first saw you!” she said.
He kissed her and said, “And yet you are a stranger to me. We must learn to know each other when this is over. I would also have some true name other than Myrmidon, which was ever just a title or epithet!”
“Your name is Hippolytus!” said the Amazon queen. “From this moment on, so shall you be called!”
He smiled and said, “I like that. It was the name of the son of Theseus as well!”
Hippolyta nodded. “He was my sister Antiope’s child. It is fitting that you carry my name after so very long a time.”
“Now I shall take you to the lair of the Dark Commander,” said Hera, “and I warn you that more sorrow awaits you at that dread place!”
“I will come with you,” said Hippolytus. “This fight is personal to me!”
Nubia nodded. “Agreed! You are my brother, as odd as that sounds to me. I would gladly fight by your side!”
“Be careful,” said Queen Hippolyta. “I will not lose a child after so suddenly gaining one!”
The magic of Hera took the pair away as Paula and Hippolyta remained behind. “What now?” asked Paula.
Hippolyta gazed into the open air and said, “We pray.”
With a crash of thunder, Wonder Woman and Hippolytus appeared within the huge complex that housed the Dark Commander. Her army of hired thugs surrounded the pair instantly. Nubia scowled. “Hippolytus, my goals are twofold. I would free three friends held captive by the Dark Commander, and I would batter her senseless as well!”
Hippolytus smiled. He seemed a different man since he had been freed from Penthesilea’s spell. “Chiron trained me well,” he said. “I will deal with these gentleman, while you take care of your own pressing business.”
“Blast him!” cried one uniformed guard.
Hippolytus jumped forward and lifted two men into the air. He slammed them into one another and tossed their stunned bodies into a group of rushing troops. “You fellows get reacquainted while I meet the lady of the house!” he said with a laugh. He fought his way through the troops with ease as the strength of both of his parents enabled him to ignore their best efforts to stop him.
Wonder Woman looped her lasso around a high support beam and swung skyward. From a narrow landing high above, she saw the center of the base and the Dark Commander herself. She smiled grimly and swung down to gracefully land in front of the confident woman in silver armor. “You have stolen quite a march upon us via the power of Hera!” said the woman. “Still, for all of the grand plotting, I welcome a swift and violent battle!”
Nubia noticed her ornate helmet and her flowing dark hair. She seemed vaguely familiar to her in some manner. “I have no time for banter!” she said, tackling the Dark Commander, who raised her legs and kicked her aside with ease. Nubia whirled to grab her leg and drag her closer, even as the other woman lifted her other leg and swung it to connect with Nubia’s chin.
Wonder Woman ignored the blow and grappled with her foe. The Dark Commander clearly lacked Penthesilea’s invulnerability, since some of Nubia’s blows hurt her, but she also fought with far more skill than the red-haired Amazon had displayed. They exchanged blows for minutes until Nubia reached for her golden lasso and whipped it across the air to snag her foe.
“I command you to surrender!” she cried.
The Dark Commander moved slowly forward and rammed her metal helmet into Nubia’s face. “Your pretty rope holds no power over me,” she said. “Father Ares himself has graced me with that immunity!”
“Who are you?” said Nubia. “You serve Mars and act the role of daughter, but I feel as if you are known to me! I was raised by him as well, but you were not there!”
The Dark Commander said, “You should know me. Are we not sisters?” She ripped off her heavy, ornate helmet, revealing the beautiful features of Diana, the former Wonder Woman.
“By Hera! How can this be?” gasped Nubia. “You are on Paradise Island with our mother! You were turned into an infant during the Crisis!”
The other woman laughed bitterly. “Mars did indeed try to abduct Diana, as you know, but he failed, thanks to you and Donna Troy,” she said. (*) “Still, he vowed to merely make his own. He took the magic clay that formed you and Diana, and with the blessings of his allies, he gave me all the gifts I will need to honor him and to conquer you! I may have the face and form of your Diana, but I am totally the daughter of Mars alone!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost.]
Nubia felt the raw hatred of the other woman. Clearly, her lovely features concealed a bitter heart, and she could only imagine what kind of price came along with blessings offered by Mars and his other children, like Deimos and Phobos and other evil beings.
“I startled you,” said the Dark Commander. “You reel with horror at the very idea that one so vile could look like your perfect sister! I welcome such a reaction! My armored guise was designed to conceal my features from the world and myself, since I cannot stand to be reminded of the pure and perfect Diana!”
“You defile her very image!” cried Nubia. “Now, where are my friends?”
“I killed them,” said the Dark Commander. “Perhaps you may see them when I send you to Hades!”
Nubia roared with anger and hurled herself at her enemy, battering her again and again, and with each blow she drew a bit closer to Mars. The war god watched unseen and exulted as his manipulations drove her into a rage.
Meanwhile, Hippolytus vaulted over a railing to face a steel door. He kicked it down and saw the bound forms of Senator Russell Abernathy and the Huckabys. “By Chiron! Let me help you all! You don’t need to be afraid. I’m a friend,” he said as he untied them.
“Thanks!” gasped Etta Huckaby. “Can you get us out of this nightmare?”
Howard Huckaby clutched his wife’s arm, and they helped a weary Senator Abernathy to his feet. “Buck up, honey! We’re gonna be OK,” said Howard.
“I’m Hippolytus,” said their rescuer. “Wonder Woman is my sister.”
Etta eyed the handsome man in amazement, and they followed his lead. He shoved some other troops aside, but they encountered little resistance. “Thank you for rescuing us,” said Etta. “Can you help us find our way out?”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Hippolytus.
Meanwhile, the Dark Commander clawed at Nubia as fires exploded around them. Machines were falling, and the base was being wrecked by their heedless battle. Wonder Woman knocked the Commander through a bank of machines and prepared to pull them down on top of the trapped foe when a red mist rose in front of her eyes.
She felt hatred and was eager to kill her foe, but after a moment it passed at once, as a soft voice echoed within her mind, and she shuddered. “Hera forgive me!” she whispered. “I was like one berserk with bloodlust. This is more of Mars’ foul work.”
Nubia drew away from the fallen Dark Commander and glanced around her. She caught sight of Hippolytus and her friends and sighed with relief.
“Nubia!” cried Etta. “I’m sure glad to see you!”
“And I am equally happy to see you all!” said Wonder Woman. “The Dark Commander has fallen. Let me get you all to safety!” She led them out of the burning building and then turned to rush back inside. There she found the battered Dark Commander and carried her out, even as the roof fell in around them. She gazed down on the face that so resembled Diana’s and shook her head.
“This all goes back to Mars,” said Nubia. “It is part of the mad cycle of hate that he started eons ago. Hear me, Mars, for I know you are watching somewhere! You tried to turn me into one of your blood-crazed maidens, but I will never return to your ways. The very sight of Diana’s face on this poor pawn of yours reminds me of her way. It was her memory and her voice that pulled me back from the emotional pit you had me hovering over! No matter what you try, we will defy you!”
Etta and Howard stared at the Dark Commander. It was disturbing to see their old friend’s face on the woman who had engineered so much danger and fear. Still, it was comforting to see her costume on one who so embodied her virtues and valor as did Nubia. They watched police and fire trucks draw closer, and Hippolytus guarded the captive troops that he had carried or led out of the building. A crisis had been averted, and a new beginning was open to them all.