By Captain Zammo
Prisoner of Transformation Island:** A Wonder Woman adventure
The sputtering torches flickered in the office where Mala sat transcribing prisoner reports. The same capricious zephyr scattered several documents to the marble floor. The pretty, blonde Amazon scowled as she collected the reports, feeling the frustration of her job more and more every day.
"Hades Beard," she muttered. "This job would be difficult enough with merely Amazon prisoners. But the Princess has been sending us women from Mars, Neptune, and Patriarch's world as well. And women such as Lya, Eviless, Priscilla Rich or Byrna Brilyant taint the population of the island. Their ways are hard to fathom, and harder still to change. Thank Hera for the Venus Girdles."
The mirror shimmered behind her. In its hazy glow a face appeared. Or rather TWO faces appeared on one head. Mala turned to see what was happening and her jaw dropped in amazement. She dropped to a knee in obeisance. "My Lord Janus," she said.
The two faced god studied Mala for a moment, then responded, "I see all that has happened and all that is to come. I am a god of the now, when decisions must be made. Behold your past, Mala" The image in the mirror shrank as the images of her past flooded the glass. Mala watched as she won the Kanga races many years ago. She saw herself receiving the laurels from Hippolyta as she was proclaimed champion of the Contest. She watched as she trained the young Princess in combat skills, with the javelin and the lasso.
Janus spoke through the images. "You were the one, Mala. You had been blessed by the gods to be the premiere Amazon. You were to be their champion. But it all changed one day." The mirror showed another Contest. Mala had beaten almost every foe and was faced only with a masked woman. The final challenge was to be Bullets and Bracelets. Before the event, both Amazons refreshed themselves with a sweet nectar. "I don't remember that," thought Mala. "But then there's much from that day to remember."
Mala fired first, sending five rounds from Steve Trevor's pistol hurtling at the unknown Amazon. The young challenger deftly deflected them all, then took up the pistol herself. Mala had never lost this challenge and she prepared herself. Four shots rang out and were deflected by the skilled Champion. But on the fifth shot, Mala's reflexes seemed slower, her timing off. The bullet burrowed into her shoulder and she dropped to the ground in pain. As the crowds cheered their "HOLAS" Mala was carried off by stretcher to the healer's home.
"That's how Princess Diana became Wonder Woman," said Mala to Janus. "And as a consolation, I was sent to Transformation Island, to be the model Amazon and warden for the women here to emulate.
"Does your shoulder still ache?" asked Janus. Mala's hand reached instinctively for the spot where the bullet had buried itself many years ago. "Would you feel the same about your position if you knew the Princess had acquired her own through treachery?"
"Diana? Never!" said Mala.
"Then why have you been exiled from Paradise Island? Why does your 'friend' Diana never visit? Why are you as much a prisoner of Transformation Island as your charges?"
Mala's fist went to her mouth and she shook her head in denial. Tears began welling in her eyes, from fear and from the realization that Janus might be telling the truth. "You lie!" she cried out. "I have honor among my people!"
"Then behold the future, if you dare. See where your loyalties lead you." The mirror shimmered again and Mala saw herself still seated behind the desk on Transformation Island. However, she saw that it was older, less austere then it currently was. And Mala looked older as well. She looked up and saw a young prisoner enter the room, bearing a bundle of scrolls. "The daily records, Mistress." she stated.
"Is there any word from Paradise Island?" asked Mala, with hopefulness in her voice.
"No my lady, the Queen has not responded to your request." Mala took the first of the reports from her trusty and opened it. She was hoping that her sisters would recognize the recent successes from Transformation Island on Paradise. But the first report dealt with prisoner transfers arriving from America, courtesy of Princess Diana. The local Amazon reports also dealt with life on Paradise Island, but nothing at all was mentioned of mailers' work on Transformation Island, he success rate in training young women prisoners to become model Amazons.
"In your own way, you have become more successful with the goddess' message than the Princess herself," said the trusty, whose name the present day Mala could not recall. "It must be difficult to toil in obscurity when others claim honors that should rightfully be yours." Mala looked hard at the woman.
"To do one's duty as the goddess prescribes, that is the true honor," she mouthed, though the words rang hollow.
The present day Mala felt her heart sink, even as she realized that the spoken words had no meaning even now. The mirror shimmered again and Janus' face once again appeared.
"I am the god of the threshold," he declared. "You have a decision to make Mistress Mala. Will you continue in obscurity here on Transformation Island, or will rise to fulfill the destiny for which you were intended?" The god paused, and stared into Mala's deep brown eyes. She shifted uncomfortably before his countenance and glanced down to the floor. Her mind raced. Mala's thoughts turned to the deceit and treachery that had placed her in this situation.
"I should be the Wonder Woman," she thought. "Diana and her mother cheated me out of my heritage. I will have my vengeance. I will be remembered and beloved both." She stepped from behind her desk, going to the cells. Several hours later, Mala led her small army headed to her launch, fury burning in her eyes.
Queen Hippolyta smiled as she strolled through her gardens, at peace with the world. Her daughter's mission in Man's world continued though the threats from Ares and his minions had recently abated. The cool evening breezes swept across Paradise Island and the scent of the dozens of floral varieties lifted her spirits high. Hippolyta loved the gardens, a place of refuge from the cares of governing; and one of the few times she could be alone.
She was surprised, therefore, when she heard light footsteps behind the holly shrubs. Determined to discover the source, she looked behind the bush and felt several pairs of arms grabbing at her.
"Great Hera!" she exclaimed. "Release me!" At once, the arms let her go and Hippolyta looked at a small group of prisoners from Transformation Island. She realized that their Venus Girdles were still intact, and that was why she was free.
"How came you here?" she demanded. "Does Mala know you've escaped?"
She was answered by a very strong arm shoving a heavily scented cloth into her face. "She knows, O Queen."
Queen Hippolyta was strong, and she struggled mightily in Mala's arms. But Mala was almost as strong as either Diana or Hippolyta. Additionally, Mala seized the golden girdle of Aphrodite from Hippolyta's waist and held it aloft. Without the symbol of the goddess' protection, Hippolyta lost strength and fell to the ether soaked cloth. Mala lowered her to the ground, and bound the cloth tightly over her nose. Standing erect, Mala looked at her squad of prisoners.
"Pick the Queen up, and do not let her awaken or be seen. We'll carry her back to the boat."
"Yes Mistress Mala," came the reply. The women lifted the unconscious queen up and carried her to the boat. Unseen, unheard and unsuspected, Mala's coup had begun.
When Hippolyta woke, she felt stiff and sore. The normally soft gowns she wore as Queen had been replaced by coarser material. Looking down, she saw she was dressed in the prison garb of Transformation Island. The black and white striped bra and skirt were her only clothing. She glanced in the mirror and saw her hair had been cut and dyed as well. Instead of her normally long black hair, the queen's reflection now showed her with short blonde hair. She was in a cell, iron bars on the door. Her surroundings looked familiar. "I'm on Transformation Island!" she said in amazement. "What has happened here?"
A guard with another prisoner stepped to the cell with a tray of food. "Here prisoner, eat your breakfast. You'll need it, because Mistress Mala wishes to speak with you."
At the mention of Mala's name, Hippolyta's heart leapt. Mala would be able to sort all of this out, and she would soon be free. She ate the food, surprised at the quality of the fruit and the cheese on the tray. Refreshed, she stood erect, her hands smoothing down the striped prisoner's skirt she wore. When her hands hit the belt around her waist, she stopped, surprised.
"A Venus Girdle?! What in the name of the goddesses was happening here?"
"Are you surprised, O Queen?" said a mocking voice behind her. Hippolyta whirled, surprised that she hadn't heard Mala coming behind her. "I always was the best tracker, your majesty," sneered Mala.
"What have you done?" demanded Hippolyta. "Why are doing this?"
"Silence, prisoner!" said Mala. Hippolyta fell silent, unable to resist the power of the girdle. Mala stepped into the cell and stared into the eyes of her captive. "I am getting what should justly be mine. I should be the Wonder Woman, not Diana. If you hadn't cheated, poisoning the nectar, I would have won."
Hippolyta's eyes widened, realizing the fallacy of Mala's thinking. But under compulsion of the Venus Girdle, she was unable to reply. Mala continued her tirade.
"You have been here overnight. At this moment, a search is continuing on Paradise Island as your advisors and your sisters search for you. But no one has told me; no one has contacted Mala on Transformation Island. I left no clues as to where you had gone. And under the compulsion of the Venus Girdle, I order you to deny your identity as Queen Hippolyta."
"N-nnn" began the Queen. The force of the girdle was overwhelming, and she was unable to speak.
Mala smiled, aware of the controlling power she had over her helpless captive. "On Paradise, they are looking for a queen in diaphanous gowns and regal bearing; one who has long black hair. They will scarcely credit you; a blonde prisoner on Transformation Island. And to insure that they don't, you will answer only to Polly, a name I am certain you will remember."
Mala continued, "It will merely be a matter of time until your daughter is contacted. And I'll be ready for her this time. This time, we'll prove who is the better Amazon."
Mala turned and left the cell. The door clanged shut and Hippolyta felt her heart drop. While most of Mala's anger was misdirected, Hippolyta realized that there was a measure of truth. "The best lies are veiled in a measure of truth," she mused. "I wonder who has been filling Mala's head with these falsehoods."
In the dayroom of Cellblock Three, the women worked on sculptures, paintings, or any special project that they desired. Because of the Venus Girdles, they guards were instructed to let the women work, since the Venus Girdles compelled good behavior. Two prisoners sat across a table from one another studying a chessboard and quietly talking to one another.
"Mala is following our plan perfectly," said Eviless, a ruthless slaver from Saturn. "It was a simple thing for me to develop a skeleton key that would unlock our Venus Girdles. But your deception was nothing less than brilliant."
"I am my father's daughter," responded Lya. "Even now, Mala thinks the altered history I showed her was the truth. Soon, the princess will return to Paradise and discover her mother missing. She will be challenged by Mala, and lose to her. Then we'll make our move after that. Are the swan spaceships still unguarded?"
"They are. And with you taking Wonder Woman's lasso and me wearing Hippolyta's belt we can conquer the Amazons, making them our helpless slaves. Then we use their strength and discipline to return to conquer our own planets, setting ourselves as the rulers." Eviless laughed and moved her rook, cutting off Lya's king. "Checkmate," she said.
"Not quite," said Lya. "Though we're approaching the endgame. And remember, in Amazon chess, it's the Queen you need to defeat. Or in this case, the Princess." She moved her piece and captured Eviless' queen. "Game over," she said.
Diana Prince studied the reports on her desk in Air Force intelligence. Things had been unusually quiet throughout the world, at least as far as governments were concerned. Diana sighed. She recently defeated the Lawbreaker's Protective League and was preparing for an upcoming tour of several cities to promote her children's work. Her mind wandered to Paradise Island, and the idyllic life there.
"Sometimes being a missionary for the Amazon way is difficult," she mused. "Still, I like to think I've done good in the world." She was interrupted in her reverie by a soft chiming sound in her desk. Startled, Diana closed the door to her office, then pulled the Omni Wave receiver from its special drawer. She slipped the headband over her head and gathered her thoughts deeply, wondering what her mother had to say.
She was surprised, therefore, when Paula von Gunther's face appeared in the screen. "HOLA, Paula. This is a surprise!"
"I am afraid I have no good news for you Princess," said Paula. "The news I bear is grim indeed." Diana saw her face was weary, and drawn. Empathetically she drew a concerned look across her own face.
"What is it?" she said.
Paula hesitated, then started. "Your mother has been missing for two days, Princess. The last anyone saw of her she was heading for her gardens. Since then, no word has been received from the Queen, nor has anyone sighted her. The Oracle has been cloistered in prayer with the goddesses, but all she can determine is that Hippolyta has no conscious memory of who she is."
Diana asked, "What about the Magic Sphere? Has it revealed anything?"
Paula shook her head. "No Princess, there seems to be a haze over the sphere. Only you or your mother can operate the device properly. General Philipus has dispatched Amazons across the island. It fell to me to inform you."
"Which you have done Paula. I will be there as soon as Aeolus allows. Inform Philipus of my arrival." She placed the Omni Wave receiver back in its safe location and began twirling. She spun lightly on her feet once, twice. A flash of light blasted through the room and scant seconds later where Diana Prince had once stood the powerful Wonder Woman appeared. Leaping to the window of Diana's office Wonder Woman summoned her invisible plane.
She jumped onto the wing and ran to the cockpit. The powerful Amazonian ramjet fired and Wonder Woman set her course southeast out of Washington. Her plane was swift, still it took almost an hour before she arrived over the Bermuda Triangle and entered the protective mists surrounding Paradise Island. As she broke into the clear skies over the Amazon's home, she smiled at the familiar scattering of the small archipelago. There was the Science Island where Diana developed the healing ray and where Paula kept her labs; Transformation Island lay several miles off to the south and the main island. She landed and taxied her jet stopping in front of the retinue that awaited her.
"HOLA! Sisters," said Wonder Woman as she sprang lightly to the ground. She touched bracelets with Philipus and Paula, then bowed to the Oracle. "What word is there concerning the queen?"
"Sadly, Princess, there has been no word either from the gods or from our sisters searching for the queen," said Philipus. "I am afraid that some ill has become Hippolyta."
"Yet I feel she lives," said the Oracle. "The gods of Olympus have shown that she is neither in Elysium nor in Hades' domain."
"Then she is either unconscious or unaware of who she is," said Diana. "Else the gods would be able to tap into her mind. But who would be able to hold the queen for so long without making themselves known?"
"Perhaps the answer lies in the Magic Sphere?" suggested Paula helpfully. Diana nodded and strode purposefully to the palace. Scripta the scribe greeted her cheerfully and showed her to the Magic Sphere. Diana stood before it and hesitated.
"What have you been asking of it?"
"We have asked it to reveal where Hippolyta is," said Philipus.
"Then we need to ask a different question," said Wonder Woman. "Magic Sphere, reveal to us the fate of Queen Hippolyta, gone these last three days."
The mists of the sphere churned and coalesced. But the image was unclear and shadowy. It showed a solitary figure in the twilight that was attacked and carried off. Then the mists returned and no more was seen.
"It would appear that the queen was kidnapped, and those shadowy figures suggested women," said Diana. "But who would be strong enough to overcome the Queen of the Amazons?"
"Only another Amazon, surely," said Philipus. "But who of us would be bold enough to attack our queen? There have been no undercurrents of treachery or coup among the Amazons."
"How do you know?" asked Paula, innocently.
Philipus' stare withered the German scientist's face. "It's my business to know," was all she said in an icy tone.
"You spoke of the Amazons on Paradise," said Wonder Woman. "But what of the ones that live off the island?"
"How do you mean?" asked Paula.
Philipus took her meaning at once. "We have examined the guards and the warden of Transformation Island as well, Princess. They have no knowledge of the queen's disappearance either."
"Have any prisoners escaped recently?" asked Diana.
"No Princess, and the prison count has been steady as well. No new arrivals since you brought Miss Rich back several weeks ago."
Diana frowned. "I need another mind to help me," she said. "Paula, would you call Mala and tell her I'm on my way to visit. Aside from myself, she's the strongest of the Amazons. If someone captured mother, then I may need the additional strength to overcome them." She strode toward the runway, only to be blocked by Philipus and Scripta.
"What is this?" said Diana.
"Highness, you are hardly dressed for a visit to Transformation Island,
"And with your mother missing, you should scarcely be going off alone," added Philipus. "Despite my best efforts, I have still not determined if someone is trying to eliminate the royal house of the Amazons. You would be a very likely target, Princess. I must insist on a royal bodyguard for you."
" A bodyguard?" Diana was awestruck. She had faced down the very worst that Patriarch's world had to offer and had emerged victorious time and again. Still, she senses that she was likely to lose this battle. She frowned, then looked at Scripta and asked, "And what do you mean 'hardly dressed for a visit to Transformation Island?'"
"Highness, I meant no offense," said Scripta. "But as you are now the regent of the Amazons until such time as Hippolyta returns, then you should forego your usual raiment as Wonder Woman and appear more royal on visits of state."
Diana was about to argue this point when she realized that by giving in to Scripta, she might be able to avoid Philipus and her misguided notions of bodyguards. "Very well, Scripta, I believe you're correct. Paula, alert Transformation Island that I am coming shortly. Instruct Mala that I will require her advice and her hospitality. Philipus, you are to continue with your investigations on behalf of my mother. Send an honor guard to meet me here at the palace in thirty minutes. They will escort me to Transformation Island."
She leaned back with her arms crossed and watched as one by one the three women slipped off to their assigned tasks. "I could get used to being a Princess again," thought Diana. "But first I have other fish to catch." In the quiet of the throne room, Diana began twirling quietly. A flash of light burst through the throne room and at once Wonder Woman had transformed her garments. She wore a soft tunic, made of red silk, with a golden eagle blazoned across her ample chest. Her belt encircled her waist and also held a long flowing blue skirt in place. Around the hem of the skirt were two rows of scarlet, with a ring of white stars orbiting between. A flowing satin cape made of red white and blue draped over her shoulders and fell to the ground.
"I think this attire will do for a "formal visit of state" to an old friend," thought Diana, slipping out into the royal garden and leaping into the air. The winged sandals Hermes had given her lifted her in flight and like a majestic eagle she flew across the channel that separated Paradise from Transformation Island.
Further in the distance, Wonder Woman spotted the Isle of Cadmea, where the ancient tourneys of the Amazons took place. It was always a dangerous time, for the Amazons were most vulnerable during the tournament. "But not one Amazon has been harmed since I became Wonder Woman," thought Diana.
As she soared over Transformation Island, Wonder Woman saw the prisoners engaged in activities throughout the island. Some women were practicing their musical precision in the marching band; others were studying pottery and sculpture. Several were on the far side of the island, engaged in sporting contests. All were under the watchful eyes of the Amazon guards.
She swooped low, near the garden terrace and landed gracefully. A lone prisoner sat at a table, watching her arrival in awe. Diana couldn't place the woman, but let that matter pass. "No doubt there are several here, that I don't know," she mused.
The garden gate parted, and Mala entered, stopped suddenly, then ran quickly to her friend. She remembered Diana's position at the last moment, however, and curtsied graciously before approaching and clasping elbows with the princess.
"Diana, it is so good to see you."
Wonder Woman studied her friend's eyes and saw the warmth within. "I only wish our meeting could be under happier circumstances, Mala," she replied.
"But why have you come? Surely Philipus has told you that none have escaped Transformation Island. Surely you don't think the queen is here do you?"
Diana shook her head. "No Mala, I do not believe that. No one could escape your watchful eye, and the double protection of the Venus Girdles keeps our prisoners content, until they learn the language of love. But I fear that whoever has captured my mother, our queen, will not be easily overcome. Despite Philipus' prowess in battle and Paula's formidable scientific skills, only you are close to being my equal in strength and determination. If the fates had determined otherwise, old friend, you might have been Wonder Woman, not I."
Mala nodded imperceptibly in agreement. "Would you care to discuss strategy under the linden tree? I can have my trusty bring us some excellent nectar." She motioned out the gateway and into a small walled garden, similar to the one Hippolyta cherished so much. Diana remembered it was one thing both the queen and Mala had in common.
"I would like that," she said. Her skirts rustled softly down the flagstones as she moved unhurriedly toward a small bench. Mala followed behind her, after instructing the trusty to bring the nectar. They sat together in the shade of the ancient tree, drinking in the salt air and warm breeze from the tropical sea. A moment later, Mala's trusty reappeared with the tray and chalices. She poured the sweet drinks into silver goblets, then passed them to Mala. Mala handed a beverage to Diana.
"This really brings back memories, doesn't it Princess," said Mala, sipping her nectar delicately.
Diana smiled. "It does indeed. I remember us as younger girls, always trying to out do one another. And do you remember the day we rescued Steve Trevor from the ocean? You were so worried mother was going to have a fit." She tasted her beverage, with pleasure at the fruity taste.
"It was that day when your mother decided the last contest should be held," reminded Mala. "And she didn't want you to participate."
"I remember. I had to wear a mask and a wig to make her think I was some other Amazon. My only regret came when I discovered I had to defeat you in order to win the contest."
"Would you rather I had lost in the earlier rounds?" laughed Mala.
"No, no...it's just....." Diana's voice slurred as she rose shakily to her feet.
"Great...Hera. What have you done to me?" Her body trembled as she fought off waves of nausea and drowsiness.
"I'm merely returning one of your kindnesses Princess." Mala caught the staggering heroine as she lurched forward. Through hazy eyes, Diana noticed that Mala was wearing a very familiar belt.
"You're wearing the queen's girdle? But, but that means..."
"That I know what happened to your mother? Of course it does. And now, I intend to right a wrong done to me many years ago." Mala set the woozy Wonder Woman on her feet and punched her in the stomach
Diana doubled over in pain, clutching her stomach. With a rapid follow-up, Mala slammed the princess in the chin with her knee. Diana flew backward, her azure skirts billowing out like a leaky balloon. As she stumbled backward, Diana gazed into the eyes of Mala's trusty, and recognized the woman, despite her short blonde hair and mouse like demeanor. "Mother?" she queried, just before falling unconscious.
Hippolyta's eyes filled with tears as Lya and Eviless carried her unresisting form back to the cellblock. The sight of her daughter lying prone and helpless had filled her with dread, and as she heard the door closing behind her, she turned and looked pleadingly at the two evil women.
"Don't worry, Polly, Mistress Mala will return shortly, and with the defeated form of your daughter. But Mala doesn't realize that she is a mere catspaw for a far greater scheme," said Lya.
"You may as well get used to the cellblock, Highness," laughed Eviless. "You're never going to regain your throne."
The bright yellow sun burned into Diana's eyes as she lay in the dark brown sand. Her clothing had been changed, and as she woke, the glint of the Amazon steel armor sparkled, dazzling her. She sat up, and realized she was in the obsidian stadium, where she had originally won the right to go to Man's World. Her gorgeous royal outfit had been replaced with an Amazonian athletic costume; a black unitard with a very brief skirt and covered over the top with armor.
"Just like the day you defeated me, Princess," snarled a similarly attired Mala from across the stadium.
"Where is my mother?" demanded Diana.
"She's been returned to her cell on Transformation Island. When I return triumphantly, she will be restored to her throne, but only as a figurehead. I shall be the true power of the Amazons, both as queen and divine protector. Now Diana, prepare for combat."
A door in the wall slid open and Wonder Woman saw a familiar brown form.
"Jumpa!" she said, recognizing her beloved Kanga. She frowned when she noticed Jumpa was wearing battle armor, and when she saw the plain sword and shield adorning her saddle.
Diana scrambled aboard the strange looking kangaroo creature and settled her feet in the stirrups. She slipped her arm in the shield and then grasped the reins. The short sword fairly leaped into her hand as the Kanga turned and faced Mala.
"HOLA!" she cried, in the familiar Amazon greeting. But Mala replied with stony silence, kicking her Kanga forward and into the center of the ring. Her sudden onslaught caught Wonder Woman by surprise, and Diana barely got her shield up to deflect Mala's blow. Her warrior training took over and she launched her own counter attack.
Mala was in better practice, however and managed to deflect Diana's sword strike with ease. The two Kangas hopped around the stadium, their large feet pawing the soft earth beneath, and moving the two adversaries in a maddening dance in and out of weapons ranges. For every assault Diana could muster, Mala was able to deflect or parry. But Mala was finally able to take control of the situation by cutting through the heavy leather straps that held Diana's saddle on the back of her beloved Kanga.
Wonder Woman slid backward as the Kanga dropped; landing hard on her shoulder in the arena. "HOLA!" shouted Mala, leaping from her own saddle to take advantage of her fallen adversary's plight. As she leapt, she grabbed the lasso that swung freely from the Kanga's saddlehorn. Twirling it expertly over her head, Mala threw the lariat at Wonder Woman as she was getting to her feet.
Diana jumped high, skipping gracefully over the rope. "HOLA! You'll need more skill than that to stop me, Mala," she said. "After all, I was always the champion at girl roping." Diana recovered her own rope and snared Mala in quick order. The Amazon jailer merely smiled as the lasso draped over her shoulders and pinned her elbows to her side.
Wonder Woman tugged at the lasso and threw Mala from her feet. She dove onto the squirming woman and grappled with her, attempting to hogtie Mala and win this round of the tournament. Despite having lost the use of her arms, though, Mala still had formidable fighting skills. As Diana attempted to bind her, Mala's long legs reached up and locked around Diana's neck.
"Urrk!" gurgled Wonder Woman, as she was flung across the stadium. Mala was quickly on top of her and the two Amazons continued their wrestling to the quiet stadium.
"Surrender to me Princess, and I'll let you live. I'll make you the warden of Transformation Island," hissed Mala in Diana's ear. She slammed the princess' face into the soil and yanked it back up again by the hair.
Diana was coughing and sputtering, worried as her friend's madness gave her greater strength. "I must win, for the sake of Paradise Island," thought Wonder Woman. "But I must also determine who is behind Mala's malady. And the best way to do that is to..."
"STOP!" The voice held authority and majesty. Both combatants ceased their activities and turned to face the interloper. Diana's jaw dropped, as Mala knelt in front of..."Janus?"
"I HAVE SEEN ALL THAT WAS AND ALL THAT IS TO COME." The god faced Diana and Mala both, interposing his body between them. "PRINCESS, YOU MUST DECIDE WHAT IS RIGHT FOR PARADISE ISLAND. SURRENDER TO THE REAL CHAMPION; WHOM THE FATES DECIDED SHOULD BE THE RIGHTFUL WOMAN OF WONDER TO THE WORLD."
"And if I refuse, believing you to be a false god?" queried Diana.
"BEHOLD!" Janus pointed to the royal box of the stadium. Wonder Woman followed his outstretched hand and glimpsed.. Hippolyta! But she was held in chains, which had been welded, to her bracelets.
"YOU SEE THAT WHICH WAS AND THAT WHICH IS TO BE. THE WAY OF HIPPOLYTA LEADS TO SLAVERY, PRINCESS. MALA IS TO BE THE FORCE FOR CHANGE; FOR A NEW AND BETTER PARADISE ISLAND."
Wonder Woman could only gape at the tableau before her. Mala was still kneeling in obeisance to Janus, while her mother was before her in chains. Yet as she studied the grim face of her mother, Wonder Woman realized that this was no vision, but something that actually was going on. She wheeled and turned to Janus.
"I am Diana, Princess of the Amazons of Themyscira, also known as Paradise. My service has always been to my patron Athena. If you were indeed Janus, then you would know that. But tell me this, when did the Amazons ever revere a god of the hated Romans?"
Mala glanced at Diana in astonishment. "Princess, you really shouldn't ire the gods, you know," she said with a look of fear.
"Mala, its some sort of plot. These beings are no more gods than you or I.
I'm willing to gamble that there is some plot, forged by Deception, to entice us into being enemies, rather than allies. This fake Janus is the real threat to Paradise, not my mother and me. Great Athena, don't you realize when you've been led astray?"
Mala trembled, fearing the words of Wonder Woman were true. Before them, Janus trembled slightly. "MALA, YOU WERE CHOSEN TO DO THE BIDIDNG OF THE GODS...AWP!" Janus tumbled to the arena floor, tackled by Wonder Woman.
"Didn't you see me coming, Two Face?" laughed Diana. Beneath her, Janus squirmed, flailing in anger.
"Diana, what are you doing?" screamed Mala.
"Relax Mala, I'm willing to bet this 'god' is nothing more than an animated phantasm." She turned back to her captive and said, "Isn't that right Lya?" Her captive shivered and the body began to slip back, like the skin of a serpent. Underneath Janus' fearful two-sided visage was revealed a young blonde Martian woman, the daughter of the Duke of Deception.
"You may have stopped me for now princess," snarled Lya, "but the plan is still in motion. Soon my allies will have conquered Paradise Island, enslaving the Amazons and ..." Lya realized she walking too much and promptly shut her mouth. A moment later her body shimmered in a Martian transport ray and she disappeared.
A long silence fell over the obsidian stadium. Finally, Mala looked at Diana and said, "Princess, I am so sorry."
Diana smiled at Mala, "Let's just chalk it up to a sisterly squabble shall we? Right now I could use your help in saving the rest of our sisters."
"Of course, Princess," said Mala.
"Where is the Girdle of Gaia? Or my lasso?"
"I locked them in my office on Transformation Island. Surely they will be safe there."
"Mala, I doubt it. If Lya or her allies could fashion a key that would allow them to unlock the Venus Girdles, then it would child's play to get into your office and vaults. Come, we must hurry." She stepped forward, intending to reach the beach and return to Transformation Island, but Mala blocked her path.
"You can't go into battle looking like that," she said.
"Great Hera, is EVERYONE going to criticize my attire today?" laughed Diana. She looked down at the battle-scarred armor and suit she wore and nodded with Mala, though. "Very well, let me change," she said.
She twirled gracefully in the stadium, concentrating. A flash of light burst from the center of her body and Diana the Amazon was no more. She had been replaced by the Amazon Warrior known to the world as Wonder Woman. In her arms, however, she held another costume. She proffered it to Mala.
"Put this on, it was the battle garb of my Aunt Diana." Mala slipped into the midnight blue tunic and tightened the deep maroon leather skirt around her waist. Wonder Woman then tightened the silver eagle breastplate over Mala's bosom and buckled the white satin cape over her shoulders.
"This is the battle armor of the Amazon's greatest warrior, Mala. Today, by royal decree, that is now you. Honor it and all of the nation."
Mala stood in stunned silence as she received the charge from the Princess. She knelt before Diana and said, "I will never defame the name of the Amazons princess. My sword and my life are yours."
"Good, because we have a rebellion to stop." Diana placed her hand to her temple and scrunched her face in concentration. "Calling robot plane. Fly to Cadmea."
A moment later, the sound of the jet's engines whined overhead as the invisible plane swooped low. Wonder Woman and Mala scrambled aboard and seconds later were leaping into the thick of the fray on Paradise Island.
"Glad to see you, Princess," said Philipus. "We need to have a talk about personal safety afterward, but first, I think we could use you and Mistress Mala on the right flank." Wonder Woman leaped above the battle and landed to the right side of the field. She noticed the women leading the charge for the most part were from Saturn.
"Mala, do you see Eviless?" asked Wonder Woman, but the Amazon champion was already swarming into battle, knocking Saturnian girls left and right. The swath she cut was bearing directly toward a standard with a crest of Saturn upon it.
Wonder Woman looked over the field and noticed the Amazons falling back in a large number. The leader of that assault was a familiar woman, an Amazon well known to all. "Mother? Leading an attack against her own people?" Diana swiftly ran to that side of the battlefield and saw her mother.
Hippolyta's face was covered in tears as she fought against her own people. Behind her, Wonder Woman saw Eviless shouting at the Amazon Queen, forcing her to obey.
"Mother is still being controlled by a Venus Girdle," said Wonder Woman.
With a burst of inspiration, Diana shouted, "Hippolyta, STOP FIGHTING!"
The queen ceased. Eviless' eyes widened, but when she saw Diana, she pointed and said, "Hippolyta, destroy Wonder Woman." The helpless queen turned to fight her daughter.
Wonder Woman replied, "Hippolyta, hear only my voice. Go to sleep." The queen's eyes widened, then with a soft yawn, she dropped to the ground. Wonder Woman advanced on Eviless. "Now evil one, you will pay for the damage you have wrought on those who were trying to help you."
"Allow me, Highness," said Mala, hefting Eviless by the scruff of her neck. "This little schemer and her friend caused me to betray my people and my true friend. She would have used me to enslave the Amazons." Mala's hand tightened around Eviless' neck and the Saturnian slaver's eyes went wide at the prospect of meeting death.
"I could kill you Eviless, but such is not the Amazon way. If there is ANY chance at reclamation, we must make the attempt." Mala looked at Wonder Woman. Diana nodded in agreement.
"But, I CAN do this. You will wear a Venus Girdle of my design, AND be chained constantly for a period of two weeks. During this time, you will be under constant guard and fed by hand. After all, Eviless, if you're going to act childish, we can treat you as a child."
Wonder Woman looked at Mala. "Isn't the punishment a little harsh?"
"No princess. The Venus Girdle drains the evil desires of the wearer. But it's like a medicine. In some cases it takes a while for all the evil to be purged. We haven't ever used this punishment because most earth girls are not as far gone as Lya and Eviless."
Scripta came running up. "We cannot awaken the queen, your Highness."
Diana smiled. "I know, I did that. Carry her to her bedchambers and remove the Venus Girdle from her waist. I'll do the rest.
Hippolyta woke from a dreadful dream. As she looked up into the eyes of her daughter, she seemed a bit out of sorts.
"It appears I have been away for some time," she said. "Tell me, what happened in my absence?"
"Well, mother that is a long story. And I only have a short time before I'm missed in Washington. Why don't you ask Mistress Mala? After all, I'll bet she feels like a prisoner of Transformation Island herself."
Hippolyta smiled, nodding sagely. "Perhaps some rest and relaxation here would do her good. After all, next to you she is the ideal Amazon. A pity I don't seek her advice more. Very well Diana, I'll do it."
An urgent knock fell upon Hippolyta's chamber. "Hades' beard," said Hippolyta. "Now what?"
"Majesty, I would like a word with you and the Princess, please," came the stern voice of Philipus. As the door opened, Philipus stepped in to see the queen sitting at her desk and the curtains of her window billowing slightly.
"Yes, general?" asked Hippolyta. Outside, the sound of a jet engine raced and flew into the azure skies above Themyscira.
"Nothing your Majesty," said Philipus, closing the door behind her.