There appears to be a couple of continuity errors in this story line. For example, in this issue we are told on page 10 that the race that controls the Empire is called the Kreel. Yet throughout the rest of the story line they are referred to as the Sangtee!? Also, H’Geln tells Diana and Natasha that the race change sex every century, but again later on we are told that this event actually occurs every millennium!
While Brian Bolland’s covers never failed to dazzle, the interior artwork sometimes left a lot to be desired in my personal opinion. Some fans felt that Paris Cullen’s style simply did not feel right for the book.
The issue opens with Natasha “dictating” a letter in her mind to her daughter Mishka, seeing as she has no access to pen and paper. She describes how the planet they are marooned on is one vast prison, slightly smaller than earth in size with temperatures ranging from 120F in the day to 30F at night. She has named the world “Hope’s End” and notes that it will be a terrible place to die. She still hopes however that one day she might be able to give Mishka a letter in person.
She estimates that they have been here for almost three months now. Diana continues to be an inspiration though. She has used her immense strength to aid others, doing a third of all the work done in the complex. When others falter and fail, she goes on. The others depend on her in fact and would gladly repay her help, but as demoralised and exhausted as they all are, what can any of them do? Life here is almost unendurable. How much longer can they last?
The guards are everywhere and Natasha has never seen a single one of them exhibit any kind of compassion. Ships patrol across the sky every half an hour. This is a planet of slaves whose bonds are too strong to break. And there are always new chains to be found too!
One day she had started to speak to Diana about the movements of the scout ships above them when Diana had quickly silenced her – Diana’s mouth silently forming the words “They can listen to us through our collars“. She was right of course and so they now still communicate as normal but for important things they will scrawl a word or two in the dirt.
Diana seems to be immune in some odd way to the harshness of this place. If any laughter is to be heard it is always hers. The guards are given to random outbursts of rage and brutality and Natasha has more than once seen Diana take blows that were meant for another prisoner. And in the same day the Amazon will then give up her rations to one of the children here. Natasha wonders if Diana realises that such demonstrations of kindness are lost in this place of misery?
Natasha herself is part of a mining detail chosen to dig for ore in the pock marked cliffs. She has to chip at the rock in the darkness and stifling heat for an hour at a time. She has always had a dread of confined spaces and wonders if her captors know that?
But on second thoughts she thinks she gives them too much credit. The guards seem simply set on destroying as many of the prisoners as possible.The mining is almost incidental. Natasha sometimes has nightmares of ending up as meat for the scavenger worms.
Despair and hunger have made the prisoners less than animals. The Khund female Ectreba often prevents others from getting their due rations and hates Diana because the Amazon Princess always stands up to her. One time Diana had intervened as usual but suddenly found herself victim of an ambush. Ectreba’s little gang had given Diana a punishing beating that seemed to go on for hours. At the time Natasha wondered why Diana had not fought back or flown away. But then the cosmonaut had remembered the Daxamite female.
The Daxamite race are even stronger than Superman but yet this female had been captured before the planet Daxam had been destroyed and is now helpless, humiliated and displayed as an object lesson to the others. No matter how powerful she is – the Daxamite is still just one person. And once her captors knew her powers they could neutralise them. Diana understood this only too well which is why she kept the extent of her true abilities hidden. Her only edge is that her captors do not know she can fly. And she has to keep it that way…no matter the cost to her well being.
Natasha and Diana also have begun to learn some of the languages of the various races here and have taken the opportunity to learn about their captors. One Alien in particular, H’Geln has been very helpful to them. She has told them how the Empire is vast, with many warriors and are called the Kreel/Sangtee. Natasha had asked why they only seem to enslave females and why they themselves seem to have no females in their race? H’Geln had explained that the Kreel/Sangtee have only one sex and change as a race each century. When they are male though, they hate and fear all that is female. In a hundred years the Kreel/Sangtee will be women again and next time enslaving men! “Too late for us I’m afraid!” Diana had quipped.
Every night Diana goes hunting. The lizards on the planet are warm blooded and come out at night to feed. Eating these creatures provides the protein that is denied them by the Kreel rations. One night Diana had been confronted by the Khund. Diana had readied herself for yet another fight but this time Ectreba had stared into the eyes of her enemy and seen something of herself. She had taken the freshly captured lizard and Diana let he take it. Ectreba had then run off into the darkness. Perhaps the Khund had seen another hunter in Diana…another leader just trying to feed her people. Whatever it was… from that moment onwards the attacks on Diana stopped.
Another month passes. There is a small rebellion one week, with a few slaves revolting in desperation more than any hope of actual escape. A guard ship had swooped down and using a tractor beam had transported the rioters inside the ship, where they were restrained, sedated and then beamed back down to the surface for punishment. To Natasha this incident had simply demonstrated how futile their situation was -but for Diana it had made her smile broadly. It seems that she never gives in to this place…
One day Natasha sees Diana putting the finishing touches to a stick she has crafted. The Amazon Princess tells the curious cosmonaut that she has fashioned a yoke which the older women can use to carry their heavy loads. Natasha asks if she ever despairs and is told that sometime yes…but when she does she makes herself busy and solves a problem instead. She adds that they are surrounded by the raw stuff of revolution. They just have to channel it somehow.
Another week goes past and a grateful Alien thanks Diana once again for making the yoke for her. But a nearby guard decides that “self improvement” is not allowed and roughly pushes the old woman over. As Diana tries to intervene she is smashed across the face with a rifle butt. Stunned, the helpless Amazon tumbles down the slope towards the deadly sand eels. Natasha desperately tries to reach her and suddenly all hell breaks lose as Prisoners suddenly pounce upon their unsuspecting guards, keeping them busy while others help Natasha to form a human chain so that Diana can haul herself back to safety.
Other prisoners use the distraction to start their own revolt and the fighting quickly spreads until the whole complex is convulsed in battle! But the uprising is fated to end the way all previous ones had as a squadron of ships flies into view. As Diana tries to clear her head she sees Natasha and the others being beamed aboard and realises that if she is to act it must be now.
As the ship turns she uses the element of surprise and launches herself up into the air and onto the hull of the craft. Ripping off the hatchway door off she charges into the vessel taking the guards completely by surprise. She then frees the prisoners and together they quickly take command of the ship. Diana asks Natasha if she can fly the ship and is told that she could – if she could read the Alien dials! But another alien steps forward and offers her services as she has flown similar ships in the past.
Looking at the hole in the hull Natasha remarks that they will not be escaping into space in this vessel any time soon and Diana replies that they will just have to persuade their captors to give them another ship instead! She then orders her crew to keep the ship high and out of range of the signals being sent out to try and activate their discipline collars. They need to find the power station and neutralise it.
A few moments later she spots it and orders them down. The others remind her that it is almost certainly heavily defended and they have no weapons. Sure enough they find themselves under heavy fire but a smiling Diana says that they do have one weapon at their disposal. She instructs them to quickly hover over the station and using the tractor beam they rip the roof off the complex – together with several key systems – causing so much destruction in the process that the now critically damaged installation explodes in a massive fireball. As the power fades the imprisoned Daxamite manages to free herself. They quickly beam her on board and sedate her.
Meanwhile, Diana flies off to find them a more space worthy vessel. As she approaches a scout ship she sees it land and the pilots run off in all directions! It seems that without weapons or someone in charge the Kreel/Sangtee are completely demoralised! The other prisoners then also touch down and Diana orders them onboard the space worthy scout ship. She reminds them that they have disabled one small power station in one small prison camp, in a planet filled with enemies. “We’ve got to get free of this place.” she states.
And so they depart “Hope’s End” and make their new home in the vast places between the stars. There are twenty two of them in total, some maimed, some wounded. And they are now being hunted by the vast Kreel/Sangtee Empire.
Yet when Natasha asks Diana what she intends to do, the Amazon Princess simply replies “The Kreel/Sangtee make their empire out of death, and rapine and chattel slavery….and I mean to stop them!”
And Natasha has no doubt she means every word!