This issue sees the introduction of a new love interest for Diana.
This issue sees the introduction of a new love interest for Diana.
A NASA space capsule plummets through the atmosphere out of control and Wonder Woman races up to meet it in her invisible plane. Using her lasso, she ensnares it and wonders what has happened to the craft, since Houston Control had not reported anything wrong with the mission?
As she gently lowers it back to Earth, she notices that the craft seems to have been crushed and once they reach the ground, she approaches the capsule’s hatchway to check on the astronaut inside. But as he makes his way out he seems to be babbling incoherently about ‘The Empress of the Silver Snake’.
She decides he needs to get some medical attention and because airspace over the nearby space centre is restricted, she carries him in her arms by foot. Shortly, on the outskirts of the Houston Space Centre the astronaut seems to make a recovery and tells her that he feels all right now. He advises her that it would be better if he went in alone as it will be difficult enough explaining why his mission was a washout without also having to explain how Wonder Woman had appeared on the scene!
Leaving him to it, she races off back to her waiting robot plane and leaps aboard in order to make her appointment which she is already late for. She transforms into her Diana Prince guise and minutes later arrives in front of the NASA Project Management Building.
She is greeted by Mr. Starfield who is with a group of people. General Robert Novack makes a comment to her that timing is very important to those working for NASA and that he hopes being late and out of touch are not habits of hers!
Mr. Starfield then introduces Diana formally to the General as well as two of her fellow trainees, Stacy Macklin and Mike Bailey. As the future astronauts get acquainted with each other Novack and Starfield discuss what could have happened earlier to the aborted NASA mission.
Meanwhile, in another building the astronaut involved is being debriefed. He recounts how he had approached the Skylab when suddenly he saw a huge, silver looking snake floating in space nearby. As he tried to radio back to Earth his communications were cut off. Instead, he heard the voice of a woman asking whether he was the one she was seeking.
As he looked out at the mammoth snake, he then saw a beautiful woman walk out of its mouth along the tongue. She asked him again, saying that she was Astarte, Empress of the Silver Snake. He had been dumbfounded and unable to reply, annoying the woman. She had then told him that he could not hide in his ship and had ordered the snake to wrap its coils around his capsule in order to to crush it and break it open.
He had put on his helmet by reflex, as the hull began to crack and seep air. He then opened the capsule door and the woman realised that he was not the one she was seeking. With that, she ordered the snake to ‘return him to the soil from which he sprang’ and his craft was tossed back into the atmosphere, at which point Wonder Woman had arrived on the scene.
One of the men questioning tells the astronaut that his story is nonsense and that he must have had an oxygen leak. But another man confirms that they had detected another object up there just before they lost contact with the ship. In fact, they still detect it! As the men discuss whether they should abort future missions until they can find out what the UFO is, the astronaut reiterates that the object is Astarte, Empress of the Silver Snake and that she is searching for someone here at NASA!
Meanwhile, the new trainees are being given a tour of the facilities as part of their orientation programme. Starfield explains that they all have at least 1000 hours of flight time, their hearing and sight are excellent and they all have a BA degree in engineering, physical science or mathematics. Their training will now cover everything from the history of space flight to simulated training in spacesuits, the Skylab and the shuttle. By the end of the programme they will be flight ready and able to pilot the shuttle itself. As Starfield begins to outline future missions planned for the craft he is interrupted by a group of people who Diana recognises as the same ones with the Astronaut earlier.
Starfield then apologises that they will have to cut short their orientation for today and advises them to use the next few days to get settled. With that, the three trainees are guided through the last of their first day of processing and step outside. Stacy tells Mike and Diana that she has to leave to prepare her accommodation in Houston and that she will see them next week. As she drives off, Mike offers Diana a lift to wherever she is staying.
She accepts and shortly they are approaching her apartment on the outskirts of Houston. As she steps inside she thanks Mike and says she will see him later. He seems a bit taken aback that she has not invited him in, but says good-bye and leaves. Diana feels bad about having to brush him off like that but she knows there is little time. Having chosen an apartment high on the top floor, she is able to arrive and depart as Wonder Woman unnoticed, and so transforms into her costume and summons her invisible plane for a rendezvous in space…
Hundreds of miles east at Kennedy Space Centre, a 122 foot shuttle lifts off from the pad. Back in Texas, a thousand technicians monitor the craft on their instruments. As the shuttle reaches the upper atmosphere and ejects its booster rockets, Wonder Woman watches from her orbiting plane. She thinks to herself that whatever happened to the astronaut that morning was more than a simple malfunction, especially as the officials were so nervous about this shuttle flight too. She decides to follow it just to make sure nothing happens.
Back on Earth, Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons looks up into the heavens from her palace on Paradise Island. She knows that her daughter is now working for NASA and is traveling in space. She muses to herself that she feared for Diana when she first stepped into Man’s World, but now she fears for her even more. Diana risks the wrath of the Gods since she disobeyed them by leaving Paradise Island when Orana had become Wonder Woman. Away from Earth, their power is strongest and she wonders how long it will be before they exact their anger on her.
Just then an Amazon Sergeant advises Hippolyta that the astronomers have sighted Princess Diana. The two of them walk to the observatory and Malania, the chief astronomer, tells the Queen that they have an image although it is an unclear one. She promptly displays it on the monitor for the queen to see for herself and explains that there is no malfunction – the image is experiencing some sort of outside influence. Hippolyta wonders whether this is the Gods’ punishment – preventing her from being able to see her daughter in times of danger?
Meanwhile back in space, Wonder Woman is finding it hard to keep pace with the speeding shuttle. Suddenly, with blinding speed a metallic apparition weaves into view – the Silver Snake! Astarte’s voice booms out, asking the shuttle pilots whether they are the ones she seeks? When she gets no response she orders her ‘pet’ to coil itself around the craft and open it up.
As they radio back to Houston, urgently requesting assistance, Wonder Woman approaches in her plane and orders the occupant of the snake to stop the attack and face her instead. The snakes massive mouth opens and Astarte walks out, demanding to know who challenges her? Wonder Woman climbs out onto the wing of her own craft wearing her special micro-thin Amazonian spacesuit and reveals herself to Astarte. The Empress’ eyes flash as she recognises her quarry at last and she leaps towards the Amazon Princess. She addresses Wonder Woman as ‘Diana’ and tells her that the Amazon’s evil soul must be burned from her body. With that she unleashes rays from her eyes which strike Wonder Woman, causing her to cry out in pain.
Recovering quickly from the rays that seemed to burn right into her mind, she wonders how Astarte knows her name, but nevertheless wastes no time in sending the Empress flying with a powerful punch. She quickly ensnares the woman in her magic lasso and demands to know who she is. But incredibly, the golden rope has no effect on Astarte who simply removes it, telling she ‘who calls herself Diana’ that she cannot hold her and that her evil soul must be purged.
Wonder Woman cannot believe her eyes, exclaiming that nothing human can resist her lasso. But Astarte replies that she is not human and with that unleashes another powerful ray blast. Wonder Woman takes the full force of the attack which sends her flying through space to land with a hefty thump on the surface of the moon.
Checking to make sure her suit is still intact, she again finds herself under attack, this time from the snake itself. She runs across the moon’s surface as deadly energy blasts explode behind her.
The Amazon Princess wonders why Astarte thinks she is an age old enemy when they have never met before? Her thoughts are cut short as she finds herself face to face with the Empress, who fires her eye blasts directly at the trapped Amazon. She informs Wonder Woman that she knows of her abilities to ride the air currents but that here on the moon there are none – and therefore no escape! She holds Wonder Woman’s face in her hands and fires directly into her eyes again making Wonder Woman scream in pain. She tells the struggling Amazon that even now her plane is being crushed by the Snake while Astarte burns her very soul. Her attacker orders Wonder Woman to surrender because she does not have the right to the name ‘Diana’.
Through the haze of pain, Wonder Woman observes high above that the shuttle has lost power and is diving for the moon out of control while her plane is being crushed by the Silver Snake. She summons all her strength and strikes Astarte, crying out that the shuttlenauts will be killed if she does not help them. As she leaps up, Astarte yells behind her that it is futile. But as she watches Wonder Woman grab the plummeting shuttle, she wonders why this evil Amazon risks everything for others?
Up above, the Amazing Amazon halts the shuttle’s death dive and the thankful Astronauts radio back to Houston that she has saved them. As she gently lowers the craft to the surface of the moon, Astarte realises that Wonder Woman cannot be evil if she saved others’ lives. She approaches Wonder Woman, admitting that the Amazon is human but that she, Astarte, is nothing but a soulless thing of metal. If Diana is really the true Diana, then who is she? She begins to repeat “I am not human” over and over again and energy of unimaginable force crackles silently around Astarte and the Silver Snake until they have become motionless. Wonder Woman touches the static form of the Empress and finds she has turned herself to lead – but who was she?
She loops one end of her lasso around the stricken shuttle and the other around the tail fin of her own plane, pondering on the fact that Astarte was obviously a magical being and that perhaps her mother, the Queen, might know who she was.
As she begins to tow the shuttle back to Earth, she decides that she had better learn all there is to know about the Empress because she has a feeling that Astarte will be back…