Wonder Woman: Time of Change, Chapter 1: Return of the Time Master

by Libbylawrence

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Cassandra Sandsmark was bored. It was true that the pretty blonde sixteen-year-old was standing on a remarkable island known alternately as the Floating Island and Slaughter Island, though its true name was Mars Isle. It was equally true that the island contained a rare mixture of art and architectural relics from multiple eras and cultures unlike anything found elsewhere on the planet. Her mother Dr. Helena Sandsmark, professor of archaeology of Raeburn University, was almost beside herself with scholarly excitement. The mother/daughter duo and several eager graduate students from the college were not alone with the friendly, if slightly cautious natives of the isle. Princess Nubia, the second Wonder Woman, was herself there as both guide and intermediary between the guests and the locals. Her sister the famous New Titan called Artemis, the former Wonder Girl, was also standing nearby. However, Cassie was a typical sixteen-year-old girl, and, as previously stated before, she was bored.

Man! Watching Mom drool over some old spears and bits of broken pottery is not my idea of a way to spend spring break! she thought, kicking a pebble. I could have been with Nessie and Courtney at Virginia Beach, but instead I had to be dragged here like a baby by the world’s most overprotective mother!

Artemis, alias Donna Troy Long, hid a bemused smile as she approached the blonde girl. She understood how Cassie was feeling. While she had always possessed a natural intellectual curiosity, she’d also had the benefit of being raised by Queen Hippolyta and the regal Amazon queen’s subjects on the fabulous Paradise Island. She had an almost inherent love for spectacle, and the epic panorama of ancient history contained familiar, almost familial elements for her. As adopted sister to both the original Wonder Woman Princess Diana and her successor Nubia, Donna had made a name for herself as the heroine Wonder Girl. She had worked well as a member of the super-hero group the New Titans, and as Donna Troy she had fallen in love with and married the mature and caring Terry Long. Now known as Artemis, she was her own woman, but she also had a love for the rich heritage she had been ushered into after losing both her natural mother and more than one set of foster parents as a child.

“I bet you’d like to wring Professor Long’s neck for arranging this trip for your mother and her pupils!” Donna said, tossing her long black hair away from her attractive face as she stepped closer to Cassie. She added, “I can assure you Terry thought he was doing a colleague a favor, since he and Dr. Sandsmark both work at Raeburn University. I met the Longs through mutual friends. His wife is a photographer, and one of my teammates, Starfire, worked with her as a model!”

Cassie stared at her heroine and then said, “Sure. I don’t mean to come across as a spoiled brat. It was really nice of you to bring us here. It is a beautiful place!” She tried to conceal her other thoughts about Artemis. She looks exactly like Donna Long, she mused. I don’t get it. She’s either her twin sister, or she really is Dr. Long’s wife! I can understand why a super-heroine would need a secret identity, but why can’t everyone recognize the resemblance between Donna Long and Artemis? I asked Mom about it, and she insisted the two women look nothing alike! They sure look alike to me!

Nearby, Cassie’s mother Helena, a rather gaunt but still attractive woman, listened attentively as Wonder Woman explained a bit more about the history of the island.

“The island is similar to the Amazonian Paradise Island in that it has certain magical features,” said Nubia. “While that island was shaped by the loving and wise influence of the female Olympians and by my mother Queen Hippolyta’s brave and compassionate ways, this island was a plaything for her father Mars, who indulged his passion for violence and bloodshed by turning the inhabitants into his savage pawns. Over time, the first Wonder Woman was able to liberate the island from his control, and since that time she and I and our fellow Amazons have used Amazon science to guide the inhabitants to great leaps in technological advancement. (*) They are good people, and I am proud to be their ruler.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “War of the Wonder Women,” Wonder Woman #206 (June-July, 1973).]

She did not add that she and the original Wonder Woman, Diana, had been given life by their mother’s patron goddesses at the same moment, though Nubia had been stolen away by the god of war, dread Mars himself. She had been raised and mentally conditioned to act as his fiercest warrior until Wonder Woman had managed to help her break free from his control. As an adult she had met Queen Hippolyta and had come to embrace the Amazonian ways of peace and enlightenment. She now carried those same traits into her role as the second Wonder Woman.

Helena nodded and said, “And the mixture of styles of architecture come from the fact that the Floating Island can literally float from one location to another, and thus has enjoyed the influx of numerous different colonists who brought with them elements of their own homelands!”

Nubia smiled winningly and said, “Correct! You are a remarkable womanI You seem far more willing to accept as fact events and personages most of your countrymen would dismiss as myths.”

Helena Sandsmark gazed at the beautiful woman in the famous star-spangled costume and gleaming bracelets and tiara and said, “You make it easy to believe in the fantastic!”

A handsome black man in a dark shirt and pants came up the slope and announced, “Honored guests, we have a second site, and possibly a discovery of value that might interest you.”

Nubia nodded in approval and said, “Very well, M’botu. Lead us to the site. I am impressed with the work ethic displayed by your young pupils!”

As Dr. Sandsmark glanced back and waved to her daughter, Cassie shrugged and followed Artemis down the slope. “Oh, boy! Another shiny pot!” she said softly but sarcastically.

Artemis laughed and placed one arm around the girl’s shoulders. She was naturally maternal and related well to young people. As Donna Troy Long, she had taken in Terry’s daughter Jennifer, and was thrilled that the young girl had begun to truly bond with her. She brought that same kind of empathy to Cassie. “Some of the local guys are hot. You’ll at least enjoy that!” she said teasingly.

The excited students were gathered around a deep crater in which a strange sphere had been unearthed.

“Look, Dr. Sandsmark! Barbie found it!” said a rugged blond boy.

As the group rushed forward, Artemis gently pulled Nubia aside. “Sister, how are things with J’onn? You have barely mentioned him since we arrived!” she asked in a hushed tone.

Nubia shook her head rather abruptly and then sighed as she collected her thoughts about her romantic relationship with her fellow Justice Leaguer, the Martian Manhunter. “Donna… sister… he is a loving and noble man, but at times he puzzles me. He has become rather distant of late. I fear he is keeping something from me. I know these are not the words of a warrior princess, but rather the feeble mewling of some damsel in distress. In truth, his behavior concerns me. I thought this trip might allow me to give him space, as people say.”

Donna clutched her hand and said, “Don’t worry. Considering our line of work, he’s probably under the spell of Hector Hammond or something!”

Nubia laughed, and the two sisters continued down to the new find. They’d had something of a rough start in terms of finding a sisterly bond, but time had drawn them closer together, as had their common love for their mother and their now-younger sister Diana. The original Wonder Woman, Princess Diana, had been returned to infancy during the cosmic Crisis on Infinite Earths, and as strange as that event had been, it had served to bring the other two women closer out of necessity. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Crisis,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986) and Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost.]

As the group drew closer to the sphere, Donna frowned. “That’s too weird!” she said. “It looks like a time capsule! Surely that concept is a bit too modern for this culture!”

No sooner had Nubia placed one boot down within the crater than a white light erupted from within the sphere, which suddenly unfolded alongside newly appearing seams. As the sphere flattened itself outward until it resembled a glowing platform, two humanoid figures appeared before them.

The man was husky, but his true size was somewhat concealed by his voluminous purple robe. He was bald, but had darkly intelligent eyes and a broad smile. The woman next to him remained slightly behind him, resting both hands on his body. She gazed alternately between the others and her companion, and she smiled with a rather wicked amusement.

Looking at the group, the man smiled rather ruefully as he said, “You do not recognize me? None of you know who I am? I had hoped your esteemed sister Diana would have told you about me. She and I battled once before. By my reckoning that battle occurred around an hour ago, but by your measurements it was years ago. Time means nothing to me, since I am its ruler. While I gave fair Diana the whimsical name of Ty M. Master, you may call me more properly the Time Master! (*) I used this harmless time sphere as a means of journeying from my domain to this place and time!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Fun House of Time,” Wonder Woman #101 (October, 1958).]

As Wonder Woman and Artemis stepped between the others and the newcomers, Nubia said, “Diana did not speak of you, but there can be no doubt that she defeated you. ”

Time Master winked at his female companion and said, “She won the first battle. This is the second one. It starts here and now, if I may use such inaccurate terms for this wonderful isle!”

Casually retrieving a small hourglass from within the confines of his purple robe, he broke it open.

Instantly, Wonder Woman, Artemis, and Cassie Sandsmark, who had ventured a bit too close, vanished from sight.

The trio soon found themselves confronting the Time Master and his silent female companion within a white chamber devoid of any other features.

“Welcome to my home,” he said with a crooked grin. “You won’t be staying long, or will you? Come to think of it, you might just stay for all eternity!”

As Nubia charged forward, Artemis whispered assurances to Cassie. “Stay close. We’ll protect you!”

Cassie nodded. She was a bit scared, but not as much as a typical girl would have been in her situation. Instead, she was suddenly aware of a rather remarkable personal courage that had sustained her during her childhood in which being without a father had been painful at times.

“Villain, I will not be your plaything!” cried Wonder Woman.

The Time Master stared at the amazing Amazon as a sudden flash of light illuminated her nimble form.

Nubia was abruptly transformed in costume if not in demeanor, as she found herself wearing a strikingly different costume. She now wore a brilliant red tunic with matching lace sandals beneath a lightweight breastplate and gauntlets that covered her lower arms. Weapons of various types, including a broadsword, were slung across her back and hung from a belt across her hips. A crown was nestled within her luxurious dark hair. For a moment she was no longer staring at the mocking Time Master within his pale void. She was standing on a burning desert of sand, and alien citadels rose overhead. Dozens of yellow-skinned humanoids were kneeling before her, and their voices rose in unison in a chant of, “Nubia, queen of Mars!”

Drawing her sword, she saluted what were somehow but clearly her beloved subjects on this alien world that was not exactly the Mars her lover came from, but in some other way was equally deserving of the red planet’s name.

Then she blinked and found herself dressed once more as Wonder Woman, and again in front of the purple-robed villain. “Hera help me!” she whispered.

“Were you surprised by the vision I just showed you of what may very well be your future?” he queried. “I do hope you get the chance to experience it. I have no real desire to kill you. You aren’t, after all, the Wonder Woman I needed to slay.”

“Stay behind us, Cassie!” said Artemis as she rushed forward to join Nubia.

Cassie nodded as her wide blue eyes took in the scene of battle and she realized one rather trite truth. “I’m not bored any longer!” she muttered under her breath.

“My poor sister is no longer a combatant,” said Nubia. “You must face me — us — if you wish for warfare!”

“I only tried to kill Diana so she would never be in a position to help you break free from Mars,” said the Time Master. “You see, if you were still under his control, I could merely make a bargain with you and take what I really always wanted in the first place.”

“I will never serve you!” declared Nubia.

“My dear woman, you misunderstood me,” he said. “I have never wanted you or your sister. All I have ever wanted, and still mean to have, is this rather unique piece of real estate!”

Casually slipping her golden lasso from where it hung on one hip, Artemis moved gracefully closer to the villain, who laughed gently as his black eyes caught her before she could react.

As light glowed around her, Artemis found herself as a girl around fifteen years of age. She wore her long hair in a ponytail, and was dressed in a red, gold, and blue costume that resembled the one normally worn by Wonder Woman. She didn’t see the Time Master, but rather she saw herself along with other colorfully clad kids as they faced a garishly dressed man.

The Mad Mod? For a minute there it was as if I was a teen Wonder Girl again! mused Artemis as she rubbed her eyes and then hurled her magic lasso at the Time Master. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Mad Mod, Merchant of Menace,” Teen Titans #7 (January-February, 1967).]

The expertly tossed lasso looped around the Time Master’s shoulders, only to fall harmlessly to the ground, even as Nubia dived at him and crashed through him to the ground.

“I should mention that my delightful companion and I are deliberately out of sync with time as you know it! You can’t touch us!” he explained as the woman by his side laughed disdainfully.

Meanwhile, Cassie had watched the battle helplessly. What can I do? she thought. This is way beyond anything that ever happened at Cheer Camp!

Suddenly, Cassie had a vision of her own. She later assumed it was due to the fact that she was standing directly behind the heroines when Time Master’s radiation struck them, producing their own visions of past and future.

Cassie saw herself wearing a red costume with black high-heeled boots. A row of white stars crossed the outfit from top to hip, and she immediately recognized it as a slightly modified version of the costume Artemis was wearing. She saw herself on what appeared to be a spacecraft along with several other teenagers. She recognized Robin the Teen Wonder, and she also could tell that a blonde girl appeared to be wearing a version of the costume Kid Flash used to wear. She was less certain about a smaller boy who wore a shirt with Superman’s famous insignia, or about a green-skinned girl in a pleated miniskirt.

As she staggered to the left, the vision suddenly changed as she drew closer to the energy that had enveloped Nubia. Now she saw a couple locked in a loving embrace. The woman was clearly a younger Helena Sandsmark, while the man looked like something out of a fantasy film. He wore a tunic and cloak, and had a powerful vitality about him. Somehow she felt that he was some kind of mythic being.

As the visions faded, Cassie tried to make sense of what she had seen. My mom has always loved mythology, but I sure never knew that she’d once known some kind of superhuman, she thought. I felt real emotions when I saw that dream, or memory, or whatever it was! I think it really happened, and that guy was my father! Mom always said he was dead, but she’s never told me anything more! As for that other scene, I was dressed like Artemis, and those other kids were like super-heroes, too!

Then she gasped as the Time Master made a sudden gesture with one arm.

“Even the rightful ruler of all of eternity has a schedule to keep!” he said. “I need this island, because its fabric consists of matter drawn from the cosmic axis itself. This island may not only move through geographic space, it may also move through time itself! Thus it is perfectly suited to be my mobile command center! If I must rid myself of you two to claim it, then so be it!”

The two heroines and Cassie vanished from the white void chamber as their captor drew upon his powers to displace them in time.

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