Chapter 12 - An Unexpected Face

Themyscira – The Capital

The Guardswoman Selene walked silently along the streets of Themyscira's capital; behind the Palace sprawled the homes of the Amazons who labored in the capital and its surroundings. She carried her plumed helm under one arm, her red cloak wrapped about her against the first oncoming chill of the evening blowing in from the sea. She ignored the calls of market vendors, the tempting smells of cooked meats from their open-air grills, and the hails from familiar faces; usually when she went off-duty she would visit a tavern and mingle with her sisters, but not tonight. She kept her eyes downcast, her mind sunk deep in thought. She didn't look up until she reached the little dwelling she shared with her longtime companion, Berenike.

Their modest home was neatly and sparsely furnished within, as befitted warriors unaccustomed to luxuries. Several types of weapons hung along the walls, with a few tapestries providing the only color touch of decorative color. A small shrine dedicated to Athena Ergane was set back in one alcove, adorned with flowers and offerings. Oil lamps lit the interior, providing enough light so that Berenike could work her loom. The clackety-clack of the vertical loom stopped for a moment as she welcomed home her partner.

"Selene," she said. "You are back early. Has something happened?"

"I am assigned a new duty," Selene tossed aside her helmet and cloak aside on the couch, shook out her hair. "As the Princess' maidservant."

"Surely it is an honor to serve the Princess?" Berenike raised an eyebrow, noting her partner's tense and unhappy expression. "Why such a face?"

Berenike's arm had never fully healed from the battle in the Borderlands, in spite all of Cyanna's and her healers' skills. Since she could no longer fight, Berenike had resigned from the Bodyguard. Where others might have thrown themselves off Themyscira's high cliffs in shame and despair, Berenike had adopted a philosophical attitude about it, turning her skills instead to weaving, for which she showed a remarkable talent. The clothing and tapestries she produced on her loom were highly prized throughout the island.

"Have you not heard of this man Princess Diana brought here? The Queen has permitted him to live with her in the Palace itself! Since I will attend her, no doubt I will be seeing him daily as well. I never thought such a day would come in my lifetime." She plopped down gloomily in a chair.

"Mmmm," Berenike resumed her weaving. "Yes, this 'Kal-el,' or 'Superman' so he is called. Of course I have heard the news, it is all over marketplace. I have not seen him myself, but I have heard that he is quite handsome, well-mannered, and also," Berenike looked sidelong at her old comrade. "That he is quite well-endowed."

Selene only grunted and poured herself a cup of wine. A large cup.

"So tell me, is the gossip wrong? It usually is!"

"No," muttered Selene. "I have seen and heard this man talk myself. Everything that you have said is quite true, except I know nothing about the 'endowment' part."

Berenike laughed, but Selene continued to look dour. "So what is it then, Selene?"

She gulped the wine. "I simply do not understand! How can the Princess do such a thing? Does she care nothing for our history, our traditions? Why the Queen and the High Council have permitted this is beyond my comprehension."

Berenike worked her wool thoughtfully. "A Guardswoman's duty is not to question but to obey..." she quoted.

"Yes, yes, I know! Still, if the Princess wanted this man with her, why not just put him in the dungeons? At least then both she and the Guard would know where he was at all times..."

"Ah, so is that it? You think this man will betray the Princess and get up to trouble? I'm sure he can cause quite a bit of mischief, with that face."

Selene could tell Berenike was being subtly mocking. "No, that's not it," she said sullenly. "I was in charge of the party that escorted him back from the purification. He was alone with the Trembler and did not molest her...I think. He spoke seemingly. Then, in the audience with the Queen, he agreed to serve her during his stay here."

Berenike shrugged, threaded her wool. "So then, the Queen accepts it. What is your concern?"

Selene poured herself a second cup, and one for her partner. "I...don't know. I feel the same as when we departed for the Borderlands all those years ago. That same...foreboding, only it seems stronger. This is a bad omen."

Berenike stopped weaving and got up, accepted the proferred cup. She gently gripped Selene's hand.

"You are afraid," she murmured. Only Berenike could say such a thing to Selene and not get a fist in the face.

Selene squeezed her lover's hand. "I am not afraid of this 'Superman'," she whispered. "I do not know what it is. Only that I am."

Berenike had no answer. They sipped their wine together in the quiet room, thinking of what this new change portended for them and their Island.


One Month Later...

Wonder Woman (or the Princess Diana, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus Soter, heir to the throne of Themyscira) walked wearily to her suite of chambers in the Palace. She was wearing her ivory-white royal gown, now somewhat disheveled since this morning, when she had risen before dawn to attend with her mother yet another daylong session of hearing petitions from her Amazon subjects. It was part of the 'royal duties' she would one day assume, or so Hippolyta said. A monarch must be accessible to her subjects, and that meant the hearing of petitions: everything from disputes over grazing and horse ownership rights to setting bartering quotas for grain and produce, down to the resolution of niggling conflicts between sisters over even the most trivial matters. But it was the right of any Amazon to bring her problem to her Queen. It bored Diana to tears, but even the slightest hint of balking by her had brought down her mother's rebuke.

"You will be Queen here one day," Hippolyta had scolded her. "It may not be for another thousand years, or it may be tomorrow! You must do your duty without complaint…"

Upon which followed another one of her mother's lectures on 'duty' as if Diana didn't know what that was! Listening to her sisters bicker and complain (even to the point of using their fists) in the audience chamber made her long to be back in the company of her fellow Justice League members, to the point of thinking that even the company of Green Lantern (whom she'd caught ogling her on more than one occasion) would be vastly preferable. At least they would be doing something. Then it made her feel guilty that she would prefer the company of men to her fellow Amazon sisters.

But she was just sitting there beside her mother, who made all the judgments. She hardly even had the opportunity to interject her opinion. Her mother wanted her only to watch and listen, as if she had not done that plenty of times in the past. Then there were her sisters, who either did their best to ignore her presence, or look at her askance, as if she'd done something unmentionable (well, in a way she had). All the memories of when she widely known as 'Clay' seemed to have come back with a vengeance; even though she was older, some of them still acted her as if she were a stripling not yet admitted to the Iron Rite. Plus the news that she was pregnant (now at least two months now, according to Cyanna) made some of them behave around her as if she were the alien, not her husband. And as if all that were not enough, the nausea and fatigue were hitting her much stronger than she'd expected. It was an Amazon's point of pride to ignore the physical discomforts of pregnancy, but Diana was beginning to discover this was easier said than done.

As Diana entered her spacious well-appointed rooms, her maidservant bowed deferentially. Strange, how when she was growing up she'd never thought twice about it, but ever since living in Man's World, it made her feel a little awkward now that someone would bow to her like that. Her husband's egalitarianism rubbing off on her, no doubt.

"Does my lady desire anything?"

The servant was one of her mother's Bodyguard, a warrior named Selene, whom Diana knew had been tested in combat years before she'd even picked up a sword, and once traveled with her mother off the island. She always seemed so serious to Diana, but at least she had never been rude. Still, Diana had no doubt she reported to her mother everything she witnessed between her and Clark!

"Goat's milk and figs," Diana replied. It was what she chiefly craved for, lately...alot.

"At once, my lady."

Diana took her tiara off (even that seemed to feel heavier) and tossed it aside on the kline, a long rectangular couch laden with cushions. She sat down, rubbing her temples, grimacing. She looked down at her bump - she thought it was definitely growing larger, although not so much that it showed prominently under the gown just yet. She wondered just how big she would get...

She smelled him before she saw him. She turned just as Clark's arms enveloped her, and his bristly face roughly scraped her bare neck as he nuzzled her.

"Mmm, you look and smell good!"

Unfortunately, thought Diana, the same can not be said for you! But she knew that it wasn't his fault - that was her mother's doing.

Clark was dressed only in a man's rough woolen chiton, although it was now stained and filthy with grime, just as he was, revealing his long, muscular legs and arms. He had grown his 'fur' back, to Diana's dismay, but at least it had ended the Amazons' salacious marketplace gossip that he was actually a eunuch. Despite his appearance he looked strong and healthy, as if he had spent quality hours in the gymnasium instead of laboring in the muck. Incredibly (to Diana's mind) looked as happy and energetic as she felt glum and tired. His hands traveled up to her shoulders and tried to pull her closer, playfully, but Diana pressed her hands against his chest and pushed him away.

"Oh, Clark, not now! I have a headache."

Clark fell backwards on the couch as Diana scooted away from him, and he wondered (not for the first time) if he'd come in at the wrong time again, when his wife was having one of her "mood swings" (he'd taken care to study up on the symptoms of pregnancy before coming to Themyscira, not quite believing that Diana's demigoddess status would make her immune).

"You never had headaches before," Clark said with concern.

"I've never been pregnant before," Diana grunted, then she took a deep breath, knowing she shouldn't be taking her frustrations out on her husband. She began again."How was your day?"

"Busy! I think your sewerage infrastructure needs some major renovation, they're thousands of years old, after all. At least all the gunk's cleaned out of them! No dead bodies at least, just crocodiles..."

Diana listened with half an ear as Clark described his day. Diana was reminded that, during the past weeks, he had also cleaned out the enormous royal stables, mucked out the granaries, repaired the harbor, and located and fixed various structural cracks and damages in all the major buildings in the capital. These tasks were all assigned by Hippolyta (without Diana's input), but Clark accepted them without complaint. He was thorough in his tasks, as if he were treating this like an assignment for the defunct Daily Planet.

At first, the Amazons reaction to his presence in the capital was one of muted hostility; only kept pacified by their Queen's imperious command, they either ignored Clark or limited themselves to slinging catcalls - and stones - in his general direction whenever he came into sight. Since he took no notice of them (and the rocks just bounced off him anyway), curiosity gradually began to replace their innate dislike. Or rather, it was subsumed enough so that, slowly by ones, twos, and then more, they gathered to watch this strange man bustling away at his work - it was certainly a rare spectacle, anyway, to see a man no matter the circumstances, and this was no ordinary man. As word spread that Diana's man really did have godlike strength (they witnessed him lifting the giant harbor pylons out of the water, plus an trireme that had sprung a leak and sunk centuries ago), the crowds grew yet larger. Some even began bringing hampers of food along so they could comfortably munch on bread and drink while they were entertained by the sight of a man (a handsome man at that) laboring on their behalf; then the food vendors also turned up to take advantage of the crowds. It became almost like a kind of holiday. Inevitably the news reached the palace.

"Outrageous!" General Philippus had proclaimed indignantly. "He is making a spectacle of himself!"

"He is only doing as my mother ordered," Diana interjected, but the old General was adamant.

"My Queen, it is best if he is kept out of sight," she insisted. "He is disrupting business in the capital!"

"It isn't Kal's fault my sisters have nothing better to do than gawk!"

Diana was just irritated as the old general, but before they could argue Hippolyta entered her interjection, apparently unconcerned. "Very well, then we shall find him something else to do."

That 'something else' turned out to be Themyscira's maze of underground sewer tunnels. This had preoccupied him for the past several days, and unfortunately left him smelling rather...aromatic. But it had solved the crowd problem, at least for now.

"I hope you are done with them," Diana muttered. "I could smell you coming before I saw you! I will talk to my mother about-"

Just then Selene appeared with the milk and figs. She saw Clark sitting next to the Princess, stiffened, then set the bowls on the table before Diana and left again, quickly. Clark glanced at the food she brought.

"Wow, those figs look good! I haven't eaten all..."

Before he could move, Diana pounced on them ravenously.

Clark sighed. "Anyway, the work's not that hard. I think your mother's already forgotten that I was raised on a farm! I've been doing chores since I can remember. This is just the same, only a little bigger of course. What about you?"

Diana gulped at the milk, chewing as she talked. "At least you can get out. I'm stuck here in the palace all day. It's like my mother doesn't want me out of her sight."

"I'm sure she's just concerned about the baby, too."

Diana eyed him over the bowls. "Cyanna examines me every day. She says the child grows quickly…it takes much energy from me, so I suppose I tire more easily now."

Clark scooted closer to her. "Are you in any pain? Your breathing and heartbeat seem all right to me..."

Diana finished her food, and pushed herself back from the table, falling back on the bed, her eyes closed. "I'm fine, do not worry. Amazons don't make such a fuss over pregnancy."

That wasn't really an answer, Clark thought. He leaned over her. "Diana, if you're really uncomfortable you'd tell me, wouldn't you?"

"Mmmmm..." Diana murmured. Clark thought it sort of sounded like an affirmative, but before he could quiz her further, she rolled over on her side, her back to him, and promptly fell asleep.

Sighing again, Clark returned to the table and looked hopefully in the bowl, but all the figs were gone, only a few crumbs left. Clark wondered if he could sneak down into the kitchens without having it turn into a four-alarm fire...

Clark looked up and saw that Diana's maidservant had re-entered the room, watching him quietly with the same poker face which apparently was her only expression. He recognized her as one of the guards who had escorted him after the purification retreat...Selene, he remembered the name. Although she was always solicitous of Diana's needs, she never spoke to him and avoided even looking at him whenever possible; she definitely tried not to be in the same room with him when Diana wasn't there. Her eyes now moved slowly from Diana to him, watching him carefully.

Jeez, I wonder if she thinks I strangled her now, Clark thought, but Selene didn't move, just stood there, as if waiting for something. Her silence made him feel a bit awkward.

"Um, Selene, isn't it? Do you think it would be okay if I went down to the kitchens to get something to eat? I won't bother anyone..."

To his surprise, Selene nodded and then actually spoke. "No need for you to go yourself. I shall bring whatever you wish to eat."

"Oh. Well...thank you. Anything's fine, I'm not picky."

Selene didn't move, though, and Clark thought he could hear her heartbeat increase.

"Before I go...may I...ask a question of you...Kal-el?"

Clark's eyes widened. The way she spoke suddenly reminded him of when he was still working for the Planet and trying to interview the residents of the Suicide Slums about their living conditions. At first no one would give a white male reporter the time of day. Then, eventually a few had worked up the courage to speak to him once they thought he was legit. Selene sounded a bit like them. He realized she must have been working up the nerve to finally talk to him. He nodded encouragingly, knowing this had potential.

"Yes, of course."

"What do you think of Themyscira?"

Clark was surprised; it wasn't the question he'd expected, he thought she would ask about his powers.

"Well," he said slowly. "It's very impressive..."

"What I mean is...I have seen how my sisters curse you in the streets. They throw stones at you. Throughout it all, you've never complained or retaliated. You must think very poorly of us."

Clark shook his head. "No. I mean, I don't like being shouted at of course, but I know I'm not welcome by everyone here. I know the reasons for it. I don't hate the Amazons. I hope my behavior will show you that I mean no harm."

"On the contrary," Selene said bluntly. "It frightens me."

Clark stared at her, stunned. "But why? Surely I haven't demonstrated anything to alarm you?"

"Everything I've been taught, all my life, is that a man will not hesitate to avenge his honor if he feels he has been insulted or wronged. That a man will not hesitate to kill or punish those who stand against his will, whatever it may be, even if it may take years. I have seen men before, Kal-el, and know this to be true," Selene looked at him, and Clark thought he saw something like dread in her eyes. "Would it be the same for you?"

Clark felt he had heard this before. He had heard the voices of random humans, and whether it was in some inner-city bar or in the corridors of the Pentagon, they were similar: afraid, uncertain...of Superman. The voices said, What if this Superman turns against us? Yeah sure, he's a good guy now, but what if he changes his mind? What's going to piss him off? It always kept him in mind of how fragile his relationship with humanity could be.

"In...Man's World, people have the same fears about me. I don't know your own experience, Selene, but I'm not that kind of man. My ego isn't so fragile I have to attack people who insult me. I told your Queen I will earn her trust. I will try to do the same with your people. If I can't, I will accept that too."

She stared at him. "Men have said that before."

Clark took a deep breath. "Yes, Diana told me all about your history..."

"It is not just history with us, Kal-el...it is alive for us. I will tell you of my experience - I tell you, you are not the first man I have seen. I have traveled off the island, with the Queen years ago, when the Princess was yet a babe. I saw men who spoke like...like you did. But still, we were attacked."

Clark's curiosity was piqued. "What happened?"

Listening to Selene tell her story, Clark was astonished. Clearly, Themyscira was not some isolated pocket, as he'd thought. What other Amazons might have stories like Selene's? But apparently the end result was the same - distrust and fear of men.

"Selene," Clark said as sincerely as he could when she'd finished. "It may be impossible for me to change your mind about me...but please believe me on this at least. I've only come here because of Diana, not for any other reason. I'm not here to change your world. That's up to you all."

She hesitated, then looked at him intently. Clark couldn't tell if he'd convinced her or not, but at least that slight glimmer of fear in her eyes was gone.

"You must...care for our Princess very much to endure all this." She spoke as if she was surprised at her own realization.

"I love her," Clark said. "I would only fight if she were threatened."

Selene nodded. "As I would."

"See? We do have something in common after all!"

Clark thought he saw the faintest twitch of a smile on Selene's face, but she still kept her strict guard's face up.

"Thank you, Kal-el. I will...keep that in mind."

She began to leave, and then a thought popped into Clark's mind, now that he had Selene talking.

"Can I ask you another question, Selene?"

"Yes?"

There was a question that had been on his mind almost from the beginning of his stay here. He had tentatively tried asking Diana, in a roundabout way, but she would either change or veer away from the subject somehow. Perhaps if he asked Selene...? It couldn't hurt.

"Why are there no male children of the Amazons?"

Selene stared at him, with an expression Clark could not quite interpret, but he pressed on. "I mean, I haven't seen any in the weeks I've been here. I know Amazons can bear children, so surely there must be some..."

"Kal-el, there are certain questions you must not ask while you are here," Selene said quietly but firmly. "That is one of them."

"Is it because..."

She turned away. "Thank you for answering my question, Kal-el," she said sincerely. "I will bring you your food...and some hot water to bathe with."

She hurried off before Clark could say anything else. He crossed his arms, deep in thought. A puzzle here...but he wondered whether he should pursue it. There was no red flag louder for a journalist worth his or her salt than to be told that there was a question they could not ask. Still, he was a guest here and obviously this issue was something of a taboo. Perhaps Vanessa could help him with finding out more...

His back was turned to Diana, so he could not see her lying behind him, her back to him, awake, her eyes open.


The Next Day...

Miss Lois Lane, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily World, the celebrity magazine with over 300 million (online) subscribers worldwide, staggered into the stone barracks, forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other. She felt like she was traipsing through knee-deep mud. She only had to make it her cot (actually a thin pallet on the hard dirt floor), then she could collapse into what she prayed would be blissful unconsciousness, hopefully for a nice, long time. But she doubted it. The sun had already risen above the horizon.

It was her second week on Themyscira.

Lois had done everything she could to prepare for this "groundbreaking, historic trip" (which was how she had sold it to her paper). She quit smoking and went on an intensive heath and exercise regimen. Although already slender, she toned up considerably, put on some muscles, and even ran the Metropolis Marathon, finishing it in respectable time. Her partner Tyresa had been incredibly supportive throughout the entire process. She'd hooked Lois up with her own personal trainer, a Krav Maga black belt and former Israeli commando, who broke Lois down and built her back up again. She did CrossFit. In a short period of time, Lois found she could do hundreds of pushups and situps, even up to ten pull-ups! She also gave a good showing of herself in the gym against other female MMA fighters-in-training.

All this so that Lois could survive a month-long trip to Themyscira, the famous 'Paradise Island' of the Amazons, the homeland of Wonder Woman. Only a few women had ever been admitted to go, part of a "goodwill" exchange instigated by the superheroine herself. She would be the first journalist, and it would be her account that would be published, with an exclusive of course going to the Daily World.

Tyresa was reluctant to see Lois go. "You'd better remember to come back, now, girl," she'd admonished Lois on the evening before departure day, wagging a finger in her face. "I don't want to be reading about how you found yourself a new lady among them Amazons!"

They had both laughed, and said their goodbyes (and said them quite passionately too)! But even though Lois hated to leave her girlfriend, she was tremendously excited to be going on this trip. No other assignment had quite excited her as much.

Leaving was only the beginning of the mystery. Themyscira had no formal embassy anywhere (many nations still refused to believe it existed), and Lois soon discovered that her liaison was none other than the famed 'celebrity' archaeologist Dr. Julia Kapatelis. She was a small, thin woman with in her early fifties who walked with a cane, and was just as blunt-spoken as her TV persona.

"If that's your luggage, you can dump it," She pointed at Lois' carryall. "They won't tolerate anything from Man's World there. I hope you have a good memory, because any notes you plan on taking will be in your head!"

Lois had wondered how exactly she would be traveling to Themyscira but Dr. Kapatelis didn't provide any map; then had led Lois through a narrow series of backstreets in Metropolis, puzzling her.

"Are we going to Themyscira or an afterhours club?"

But the gray-haired woman only smirked. Eventually they arrived at some nondescript office building, gone down a couple of flights to some equally bland office. Kapatelis didn't give a "secret knock" or anything like that, but simply rang the bell. A young, dark-haired woman opened it. Lois stared at her; she had a slight resemblance to Wonder Woman, but more than anything she looked like any ordinary front-desk receptionist, if a touch foreign.

"Hi Donna," Dr. Kapatelis said. "This is Ms. Lane."

"Oh yes," This 'Donna' had replied. Her voice also sounded ordinary, with a hint of an English accent. "I've been expecting you."

Dr. Kapatelis and Donna then led Lois into a sparsely furnished room, furnished only with a computer table and laptop, and decorated with a few old posters of exotic locales on the wall, like it was some bare-bones shady travel agency. Lois was confused.

"What the hell is this?" She exclaimed. "I thought I was going to leave today."

"Miss Lane," Donna said, smiling. "Your journey has just begun!"

Then everything had gone black.

When she regained consciousness she was lying on the dirt-floor inside some crude stone building. Her business attire was gone, and in its place she was wearing only a thin linen garment which she'd later learned was called a peplos. Dr. Kapatelis and Donna was gone as well, and instead she saw three other women, dressed the same as she was, huddled against the other wall, looking around wide-eyed in shock as they also seemed to be just waking up.

Lois sat up, rubbing her face. "What's going on?"

"Hell if I know," one of the others said. "Last thing I remember is..."

Just then, another woman appeared in the doorway of the building, and there was no doubt she was an Amazon. She was tall, her arms and shins encased in armor, and she apparently did not have a single ounce of body fat. Her face resembled that of an angry female U.S. Marine drill instructor, with a voice to match. She barked something at them, which in Lois' beginners' Themysciran was an order for them to get the hell up and get outside.

Lois staggered to her feet and confronted the scowling woman. "Hold on, we're not going anywhere until you tell us where we are, and just who the hell are you?"

Usually the direct confrontation served her very well as a reporter (you couldn't be timid in her line of work). The corners of the Amazon's mouth seem to twitch upward in a ghost of amusement, and to Lois' surprise she replied in rather passable English.

"Welcome to the isle of Themyscira. My name is Amynta. And I am in charge of your worthless hides while you are here!"

With that she punched Lois in the gut, and she'd promptly dropped like a sack of hammers.

That was the first day. The first week was a blur of activity, much of it physical. The Amazons seemed intent on testing their new 'guests' limits of physical and mental endurance, just as if they really were in a boot camp...or maybe some kind of torture camp, judging from the endless exercise, forced marches, and lessons in Amazonian culture, including their somewhat (to Lois' mind) execrable cuisine imposed on them. They appeared to want to try to break them, to prove that they were the "weak and silly" women of Man's World and undeserving of entrance into their great city. They were kept in the stone barracks on the outskirts of the capital, and not allowed to venture further out. To emphasize this point, armed guards were always present with them.

"We have been isolated for thousands of years and we have liked it that way," Amynta told them. She always treated them with the highest disdain, as if she really were a DI. "We know that the women who remained in Man's World are weak, and were even so, before we came to sacred Themyscira. If you wish to live among us you must prove yourselves."

"What is this, 'Survivor: Paradise Island'?"

Lois had objected to Amynta's observation as admittedly she had never journeyed to Man's World herself, and so quite logically she was incapable of making such an overgeneralized observation. Amynta agreed, to a certain extent, and then politely suggested that Lois take another forced march through the jungle, at night. She was very insistent on it. Lois had just returned from that. As she collapsed, she wondered how she could have thought she was really in shape.

The three other women, Captain Alicia Yu, a Marine Corps reserve captain, Maggie Rodriguez, an Air Force supply officer, and Shaniqua Garvey, a professional mixed martial arts competitor, huddled over a pot heated over the firepit in the center of their barracks, which served as their only means for cooking food and boiling water. They were each dressed like Lois was, in the most basic Amazonian gear, in a sleeveless linen tunic that reached past the waist, and leather leggings, with a kind of rope-belt the Amazons called astereia cinched around the waist, which their hosts explained could be unwound and used as a kind of all-purpose tool. As they watched Lois stagger in they looked at each other and smirked. They'd seen Lois Lane on the Daily World show and the frequent appearances she made with her partner, the actress Tyresa Wallis. She was fair game as a "celebrity." Also she was always lagging behind, as the worst in shape of all of them.

"Well, hell-lo Miss Lane!" Captain Yu said in tones of exaggerated jollity. "Nice of you to join us!" She strutted over to where Lois was collapsed on the ground and bent over her. "Can I get you anything? Maybe a smoothie?"

The other women in the room laughed, while all Lois could do was open her eyes and glare. It was a running joke. On their third day here, their Amazon hosts (guards) were sharing a jug of some thick liquid and generously offered a sip to Lois when she asked what it was.

"Come drink with us!" One of the Amazons called out. The others didn't move, but Lois wasn't one to hang behind.

"Don't do it," Yu muttered under her breath, but Lois ignored her and stepped up. She was writing about this experience, after all. She took the jug the woman held out.

"Hey, an Amazon smoothie!" Lois was happy to have anything to drink besides boiled water, and tried it before her companions could stop her. The Amazons laughed uproariously when she gagged. "What the...what the hell is that?"

Amynta smiled. "Yourte. It is fermented mare's milk. You will not become a true Amazon unless you learn to love it!"

Hilarity again, while Lois bent over and retched.

"No smoothies here," Maggie said. "Hell, I bet that shit would give you a good buzz though."

"No thanks," Shaniqua shook her head. "We'll be lucky if we all don't die of e-coli poisoning! Did you see what they gave us to eat last night?"

"Good thing we're not vegans..."

Lois closed her eyes, too tired to even tell Yu to go do something obscene to herself. She just needed a few moments of shuteye...but in the next moment Amynta's voice rang out.

"Lois!" She shouted. Her accent made her name sound like loo-wees. "Get up! You're coming with me."

"What now?" Yu said. "Can't you see she's sleeping?"

Amynta glared at the barely above five-foot tall Chinese-American woman. But probably out of them all, Yu was the least intimidated by the Amazon warrior. She was raised in Long Beach.

"The Queen demands your presence, Lois."

Silence descended upon the others, and Lois' eyes flew open. The whole reason why she was here on Themyscira, to try to get an interview with Queen Hippolyta, here was her chance. Forgetting her tiredness in flash, she was up.

"I'm up. When are we going?"

"Now. Follow me."

Amynta turned on her heels, and Lois hurried after. The other women left in the barracks looked at each other and just shook their heads.

"What's so big about interviewing the Queen?" Shaniqua said. "Why hasn't offered to interview us?"

"I guess the Queen will sell more than you!"

Shaniqua and Maggie looked over at Alicia, who stood in the entranceway, watching.

"What's up?"

"Why do you think the Amazon Queen wants to see Lois and not the rest of us?" Alicia asked, more to herself than her companions.

"'Cause she's famous?"

Shaniqua frowned. "The Queen reads Daily World?"

"Heaven help us if that's where she get's her news about 'Man's World!'"

Lois Lane followed her Amazon guide through a path that only she seemed to see through the forest. Lois could see the city getting nearer, but then Amynta took a parallel track, pointing out what looked like a horse ranch ahead of them. A small stable, horses grazing in their paddocks. Amynta grunted that the Queen was in the barn.

"She wants to see you alone."

Puzzled, Lois went on alone. As she entered the barn her eyes gradually adjusting to the dimmer light. Then she saw her, the Amazon Queen.

Lois realized suddenly she had no idea what Queen Hippolyta looked like; of course there were no photos available anywhere. There was only one other person in the barn, but it was immediately evident that she was Hippolyta. An older woman, who had a very strong resemblance to Wonder Woman, with the same powerful and graceful build. She wore a similar tiara, but other than that she wasn't dressed like a queen, but wore a simple armored skirt and the same sleeveless plain tunic Lois wore. She was brushing one of the horses as it chewed its hay. She didn't look up as Lois entered.

"Ah, Miss Lane. May I call you Lois?"

"Um…of, of course your Majesty."

Lois had interviewed important people before, but never before someone like Queen Hippolyta. Usually when Lois interviewed VIPs, she liked to have the interview conducted so that she could be look her best, in a location convenient to her, but everything was totally out the window here. She was tired, her hair was a mess, and a still a little culture-shocked. She would have to wing it the best she could.

"Tell me Lois, are you familiar with horses?"

"Not much."

In fact, Lois had done dressage for a couple of summers when she was a teenager, but she was sure that was probably not what the Queen had in mind.

"It is said horses are the mirror of the soul - I think that is said in your world also. We Amazons have always valued our horses. We have a word: hippeia. It is our mastery of horses. It has other meanings, but that is most important to us. We were great horsewomen once, when we still lived in Man's World, on the steppes of Europe, before we were decimated, and came here."

For the first time she looked up at Lois and she froze. She had never seen such a predatory look, like a lioness waiting to strike. It occurred to Lois then that this could be a more difficult interview than she'd imagined.

"You look well. I wondered if bringing the women of your world to experience our culture might be too much, but I must admit, most of you have performed better than I expected."

"Well...I'm glad we have. We're not all wimps...your Majesty."

Perhaps if she hadn't been so tired, she wouldn't have spoken so bluntly, but the Queen laughed.

"'Wimps'! What a word! My daughter has taught me much of your slang! Come, take a drink with me."

Uh oh, Lois thought.

"Oh, I'm fine," Lois replied feebly, but Hippolyta practically shoved the cup at her.

"It is not yourte. I'm surprised no one from your world has developed a taste for it! No, this is something to restore your strength. Come, drink, I promise you will like it better."

Reluctantly Lois accepted the cup Hippolyta offered. She tenatively tasted it, and to her surprise it was quite delicious. It was somewhat tangy, like an energy drink, and she thought it might be a touch alcoholic. Perfect! She drained it. Already she felt much more awake.

"What is it? This is great!"

Hippolyta smiled. "An old concoction distilled from our isle's fruits. Come, let us go riding."

Lois wondered what else might be in that drink Hippolyta had offered, since she felt really, really good during the ride; she hadn't ridden a horse for years, but it all came back to her. Soon she and the Amazon Queen were riding and talking as if they were old friends who had met up to go trail riding. Lois thought this the perfect opportunity to get that interview, but somehow found that Hippolyta was asking most of the questions, and many of them were about her.

"Forgive me if I seem personal, Lois, but I understand that you prefer the companionship of women."

Lois blinked. "Ah...well, yes. I have a girlfriend, we've been together for months..."

"Yes, I've read your article. Very well-written. You would do well as a teacher of rhetoric here. So, there has never been men in your life?"

"Well...I dated men for years...of course I work with men all the time. I don't hate men like you Amazons do...ah, I'm sorry, that came out wrong..."

Hippolyta shook her head. "No need to apologize. I was just..curious. Perhaps a man has hurt you?"

Lois looked sidelong at the Queen, but she was looking ahead at the trail, her face impassive. What did she mean by that?

"No, I've never been hurt...well, I've had my heart broken once or twice, or at the time it seemed like it. I have close male friends. My best friend is a man."

Hippolyta looked at her then, and for a moment felt chilled, although she couldn't think why.

"Yes? How is that possible for a woman, and not to be intimate?"

It sounded like an accusation. Lois had to remind herself that the Amazons had a different understanding of opposite-sex relationships.

"I think it can be like that. You see, my friend, Clark, I've known him for years, but we never...were intimate. We've been through some tough times together, even in a warzone once. One time we had to spend the night together in a one-person tent, when it was 40 degrees outside! He never did anything inappropriate."

Hippolyta frowned, but Lois didn't know why. Perhaps that idea was not a welcome one here. Lois was reminded of several lesbians she knew who were adamant that 'real' lesbians ought to never have male friends, an opinion she thought was bullshit.

"What did your 'friend' think of your coming here?"

Lois shifted uncomfortably in her saddle. "Well, I don't know. We had a kind of argument several months ago, and I've haven't seen him since. He doesn't know I'm here. Actually he went off and got married. Knowing him, that was probably a bad idea."

"Oh? Why so?"

"Oh well...I don't know, really. I've never thought him as the marrying type. He's a little too quiet and secretive me for me, anyway! A little passive, too...sometimes I thought he was pining for me, but otherwise..."

Hippolyta laughed, startling Lois and even her horse. "Ah. You desire someone stronger, more assertive! You will only find that here!"

"My girlfriend would hate it if I cheated on her!" Lois said worriedly. Hippolyta shook her head.

"Of course not. Thank you for speaking with me, Lois. I hope to learn much from you."

Lois jumped. "I hope to learn alot from you too, your Majesty. If we could just sit down sometime..."

Hippolyta waved a hand of dismissal. "Yes, your interview. You should be fully rested first, yes? Come by the palace tomorrow, and we will talk some more. You will get to see much more. Let us return."

Really confused, now (and a bit dizzy) Lois wondered what that had all been about. Why was the Queen so curious about her? Perhaps she just wanted to do some digging on the woman who would be interviewing her. It didn't matter, Lois thought, as she rode after the Queen. She would get her scoop, that was all that mattered.


The Day After That...

Diana sat beside her mother in the dusty practice yard, watching some of the Bodyguard go through their paces. The clack-clunk of their wooden practice swords echoed, and it reminded Diana of the long days she had spent within the ring also. She had had to prove herself that she was a true Amazon, and not just the Queen's odd daughter. Her memories were at once both pleasant and painful.

The morning was hot, and two of the Bodyguard stood behind their curule chairs, waving long fans under the awning that gave the Queen and her daughter shade. Diana would rather be in the yard herself working out, but for the moment Hippolyta had commanded her just to sit and watch, just as she had done in the audience chamber. Clark had gone off to fetch some lumber for a construction job in the arena.

"I am thinking of constructing a covered arena," Hippolyta was saying to her daughter.

"You mean you want Kal to build you a covered arena."

Hippolyta shrugged, smiled at her daughter. "Yes, of course! He's very talented! I am sure he will build you a fine house when you return to Man's World."

Diana looked at her mother, but couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic. She was watching the Bodyguard again, and seemed to be waiting for something.

"I don't need a 'fine house.' Wherever I live with Clark will be suitable."

"I hope you will not live in...what is that word...a Gotham City? It seems like a quite dangerous place."

Diana tapped her fingers on her chair. "I wouldn't mind if we do. Then we could do some good." Unlike here.

"Man's cities are no place to bring up a child."

"The people of Man's World do it all the time," Diana sighed. "Or we might live in the country again. Or in the Arctic. Wherever. It will be fine, as long as we are together."

"Of course."

Diana looked again at her mother. "Why are we here today? Are we going to practice or watch?"

"You may do both soon. As you know, we have another contingent of visitors here. They're doing very well. I'd like to see how they fight."

Diana's mood brightened. "Good! I am glad the exchange program is going well."

"Yes," Hippolyta murmured, "Very well indeed."

Outside the arena, Lois's eyes were trying to take in every detail she could, so she could put it accurately in her article. She didn't have to pinch herself to believe this was not a dream - her Amazon minder was doing that well enough, with a wooden sword she now held out to her.

"Here," Amynta said brusquely. "Take it."

It was a good thing she'd done her workouts religiously, Diana thought. Months ago, she'd barely be able to lift the thing. Now she practiced swinging it.

"What am I going to do with this?"

Amynta's eyes narrowed, and Lois could tell she was biting back what she really wanted to tell her. Lois smiled disarmingly.

"The Queen, for some reason, wants you to see how you fight. Try not to run away like the Trembler. It is too hot to chase you all over the sand."

"I thought you Amazons were taught to be fast."

Amynta's lips tightened even more. Lois grinned.

"Okay, I won't run. Promise!"

Lois felt herself in a good mood. She would get that interview soon and then she could add this experience to boast to Tyresa, and wouldn't she be jealous! She stepped out into the arena, warming up.

At the far end, Hippolyta looked up. "Ah, here's one of them."

Diana followed her mother's eyes, and her own widened, and her mouth dropped open. She half-lifted herself up off her chair in dismay. "What...what is she doing here?"

"You know her?"

"That is Lois Lane! She is Clark's friend! Yes, I know her!" Diana sputtered.

"Indeed? Yes, the reporter from Man's World. You seem quite unsettled, daughter."

"She doesn't know Kal...Clark's secret!" Diana glared incredulously at her mother. "I should have known you would try something like this!"

"Like what?" Hippolyta said. "Diana, Lois is here to write some ridiculous, how you call it, 'article' on us. Why should she care if Kal is here?"

Diana leapt from her chair and clenched her fists. "Mother, are you mad? If she sees him here..."

General Philippus strode up to them at that moment, bowed to both of them. "My Queen, Princess," she said. "The visitor is prepared to spar with one of the Guard."

"Since you are already up, Diana, why don't you spar with Lois? It would be an honor for her, and I'm sure the two of you would like to get reacquainted."

Diana glared at her mother and Philippus; she had no doubt they had arranged this! There was an expectant murmur as the other Amazons in the yard saw her stand up.

Furious, Diana whirled about and strode away from them, into the ring. It was either do that or scream out loud.

For a moment, Lois stood nonplussed in the middle of the ring. She was still wearing the tunic and astereia (which she was certain was giving her a rash), and holding the wooden sword. She had no idea how this was supposed to go down; if it was anything like the movies...

From the other side of the ring, another Amazon crossed over the small wooden barrier, and Lois' eyes widened. It was Wonder Woman herself! This was too incredible! Already she was thinking of a double interview, that would sell great. But then she looked at her and thought she looked kind of irritable. She wondered why.

"Lois," Diana said mildly. "I'm surprised to see you here. I didn't know you were one of the chosen."

"I just got here," Lois replied. "This is all so incredible...! I'm speechless..."

"That makes two of us," Diana muttered.

She threw off her chiton, revealing a narrow breast band and loincloth underneath. The muscles of her arms and legs were well-defined, with the kind of tone Lois could only dream about.

"Are you going to spar with me?" Lois asked incredulously. "Hey, I'm not that good-"

One of the Bodyguard tossed Diana a wooden practice sword. "Come on, Lois, this is just a little workout," then it was her turn to smirk. "I promise, I shall go easy!"

Diana suddenly went into a low crouch, her arms out before her. "Be ready!"

Hippolyta and Philippus watched as Diana and Lois traded blows, their wooden swords clacking loudly. As Diana said, she was only going at the barest minimum she was capable off, and it was all quite routine moves she was trying on Lois. Then, Diana made a sudden thrust, which Lois parried it quickly, to the surprise of everyone watching. Small murmurs of approval were made. Diana very slowly began speeding up, and Lois matched her.

"This one is faster than I expected," Philippus remarked.

"Lois Lane may be a woman of many talents," Hippolyta agreed.

Philippus looked sidelong at her queen. "Can these…talents prove of use to us?"

"They already have."

Clark carried the huge beams of timber towards the arena, where he could hear the Amazons working out. Hippolyta had mentioned something about building some kind of half-shell there. Hippolyta and Diana were there, he knew. Well at least he would get to see Diana today, maybe she would be in a better mood now that she was outside. No doubt his offspring would appreciate the warm sun today, even if he or she was still in Diana's belly! It was certainly better than being in the sewers...

Lois felt sweat pouring down her face and body as she sparred with Diana under the hot sun. She was using everything she'd learned from her martial arts training; she was going as fast and hard as she could, and even so she knew that compared to Diana, this just barely qualified as a light morning stretch for her. But she was definitely trying to test her abilities and Lois was damned if she was going to look like a dropout.

Diana suddenly lunged forward and trapped Lois' sword arm, and spun at the waist. Lois gasped with the sudden pain as she was yanked backwards. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Amazons look at each other, nodding. She could see that they thought the bout was over, that it hadn't taken too much of their time. Suddenly Lois was filled with an indignant fury.

I'm not tapping out yet!

Impulsively she pivoted, swung out wildly with her free fist. She yelped in pain as she felt it hit something very, very hard.

Just at the entraceway of the arena, Clark recognized a familiar face. He smiled and called out, "Hey, Vanessa!"

"Hi Superman!" The bubbly young grad student waved at him.

"Where should I put these beams?"

"Just right there is fine. Hey, Wonder Woman is sparring with someone inside! Another visitor from Man's World. You should go watch!"

Sparring? In her condition? Clark knew he shouldn't worry...but he did. Dumping the wooden timbers by the side of the stone corridor, he hurried towards the ring.

Lois pulled her fist back, tucked it under her armpit in pain as Diana released her sword arm and perhaps, actually took a full step backwards, in surprise. The entire arena had gone silent as the other Amazons, Hippolyta and Philippus included, saw it. A woman from Man's World, one of those presumably weak and submissive women, had actually struck their Princess! Right in the face.

Diana looked at Lois.

Oh shit, Lois thought. It's on.

Clark entered the open space the of the practice yard; no one noticed him as all eyes focused on Diana, who was forcing her partner backwards, faster.

"That one really isn't like the Trembler," Clark heard one of the Amazons say. "I am surprised she has lasted this long."

"The Princess' pride is hurt, no doubt."

Clark wondered at what she meant by that. He looked closer at the woman who was just barely fending off Diana.

She wasn't an Amazon, Vanessa was correct in saying. In fact, that woman looked very much like…like...Lois.

No.

Oh…no.

She didn't look just like Lois.

She was Lois.

How the...WHAT the hell...? For a moment, one of the very few in his life, his mind was completely and utterly in shock.

Diana was swinging at her harder and harder, her face set in what Clark recognized as her fighting frenzy, and Lois just barely able to block the blows, but she was desperately falling back, and if Diana pressed just a bit harder...

Instinctively, Clark rushed forward and shouted. "Diana, no!"

Stunned silence gripped the entire arena for a second time. Diana froze.

For a moment, Lois had no idea what was going on, only that Wonder Woman looked shocked. Then she heard...was that actually a man's voice? Here? But that voice sounded...

Lois whirled around at the unexpected, yet strangely familiar voice and her eyes locked solidly on Clark's stunned blue ones, and hers widened until they seemed to bug out.

"Small…Smallville?"

Whap!


AN: Thanks for reading! I hadn't expected this chapter to be so long, but still wanted to introduce more characters and dialogue. I swear I thought I read a comic where Lois Lane did travel to Paradise Island, but not sure what happened there, if she became an Amazon or just made an ass of herself.

It should be evident by now(I hope) that the Amazons (and Diana) have something big to hide but with TWO journalists (won't Lois be irked to realize she wasn't the first now!) on Themyscira that might prove a bit difficult. Like the real world, it might have been better if they had just 'fessed up from the begnning (secrets in a marriage aren't a good ingredient for a happy marriage), but of course it won't happen here either. Also Diana will have some explaining to do when Lois regains consciousness! Clark may have to go into hiding...

Batman-centric episode should be the next one ;) I hadn't gotten around to finishing it just yet, so started on this one. The horror part of the story should really start amping up. Batman learns more about his distant relative, and meets our second major villain, a truly scary character, but one who could help him with his 'Plan B'.