Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 70


Wonder Woman – Volume 2 – 70

General Info

Issue No:
70 (399)
On Sale Date:
November 1992
Cover Date:
January 1993
Era:
Dark Age
Story Title:
Once I Was A Slave

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Brian Bolland
Writer:
William Messner-Loebs
Penciller:
Paris Cullins
Inker:
Romeo Tanghal, Andre Parks
Letterer:
John Costanza
Colourist:
Matt Hollingsworth
Editor:
Brian Augustyn

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Princess Diana)
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
The Emperor, Lord Antar, Bruct, Chief Advisor A'iir
Olympians:
N/A
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Natasha Teranova, Sakritt, Ectreba, H'Geln, (Julia) The Daxamite
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Comments

The traditional costume finally makes a welcome re-appearance!

Synopsis

Lord Antar appraises the Emperor of the current situation. For weeks afterwards Diana’s visage appears in the skies across the Empire. She has almost single handedly brought an end to the slave trading of the Sangtee and whenever she addresses the prisoners on the planet surfaces below she fills then with hope. The pirates’ attacks on the space ports have gotten bolder and slave trading is down almost 17%. There have been three serious disturbances in the outer prison colonies as the inmates become increasingly restless. And Diana’s =W= symbol has been appearing as graffiti everywhere – even in the back streets of the capital – becoming a short hand for the rebellion. But the worst thing is that Diana is gaining a reputation for clemency and the ship captains are surrendering before they even fire a shot!

The Emperor replies that the Sangtee have been freed of the weakness the female sex brings and that this ‘Wonder Woman’ cannot be allowed to humiliate them. War between the sexes is the natural way of things and for a thousand years the Empire has enslaved women. Any compromise will dishonour their ancestors and and destroy their culture.

One of the Emperor’s aides, Bruct, then demands to know why Antar has failed in bringing Diana to justice. The Lord pleads that it is impossible to locate her and her band of pirates. But just at that moment they hear someone else in the room clear their throat and turn to stare in stunned amazement at Diana, who is nonchalantly leaning against a wall smiling back at them. She smirks as they try to raise the alarm, stating that she feels upset at their response after having made it so much easier for them to find her!

Bruct snarls that she is illegally trespassing but she responds in turn that as slave masters they have no rights. Bruct stands up and hurls a knife at her but is shocked when he sees it sail through her body. The watching Emperor smiles in admiration.” Well, I’ll be damned. A hologram”. Diana continues to warn them that if they do release their slaves and destroy their concentration camps then she will let them live. “Otherwise, you and everything you care for will be destroyed!”.

With that she vanishes into thin air.

Back in their asteroid hideout the pirates laugh out loud that their ruse had worked so well. H’Elgn smiles that the projector had worked perfectly and Sakritt adds that the men had all been fooled by the vision. However, on over eager Ectreba asks if there is a way to kill them at long distance with the hologram. Diana replies that this is just a start and that the only way to really hurt the Empire is to force the Emperor into doing something stupid. He has already ventured into their quadrant – now they need to make him mad!

Just then Advisor A’iir is escorted into the chamber and Diana asks how he is feeling today? Is in turn asks tersely how he should be feeling after her ‘she devils’ had tried to torture him yesterday. She tells him that being enslaved in one of the Sangtee prisons has not helped their manners. She invites him to sit down next to her and says that they need to know more about his culture and more importantly his Emperor. He was the Chief Advisor to the Emperor was he not? he replies that he was the “interface” between his master and the army and the church. However, he would rather diethan betray his Emperor’s terrible secrets to a coven of debased and unclean females.

Undeterred, Diana continues and suggests they start with something simple. She asks who the large man with the Emperor had been and A’iir replies that this was probably Bruct, who had been his deputy but now – in A’iir’s absence – had been promoted to Chief Advisor.

Three later following continued questioning by Diana the group has learned every detail of palace court protocol but absolutely nothing regarding the Emperor as A’iir stays true to his word. “That was worthless” sighs a frustrated Natasha – but Sakritt is not so sure. When Diana asks why the alien replies that A’iir had used the phrase “terrible secrets” about the Emperor – an odd choice of words. She adds that she will explore some of the archive records in more detail.

A short while later she reveals to the group that the Emperor was “cloned” 26 years ago and immediately began training as Emperor. Diana ponders this fact, as she had assumed that every Sangtee was a thousand years old and that were only born when they changed genders. But this appeared not to be the case with the Emperor. From fifteen years old onwards he was proclaimed Emperor and was constantly involved in battling slave rebellions. Diana asks if it was typical for the Emperor to be hidden for the first fifteen years of his life? Sakritt replies that she is unsure, although she does know that while the Emperor is widely popular amongst the masses, he is oddly not so popular within the imperial bureaucracy itself. Diana states that there is more to things than meets the eye here and that they should continue to probe the public records to ascertain if such hidden childhoods are typical of the Sangtee. “The Emperor has a secret and I need to know what it is!”.

Meanwhile at Lord Antar’s residence the court is discussing how Diana has struck like a snake and made them look like idiots. The Emperor calmly replies that perhaps in that case they should invite her here instead. He continues to explain to the bemused group that if they brought something here that she loved – say, some freshly captured prisoners who were then gruesomely executed – Diana would be tempted to make some gesture and come here – either in force or by stealth. And then they will have her!

A week passes and as Sakritt watches Diana practicing her lassoing techniques, the alien explains that it is uncommon for the Sangtee to sequester their young but that it does happen in a sixth of all cases – but never before amongst royalty. The Amazon Princess instructs Natasha to organise a raiding party as the Emperor is gathering hostages and they need to show him that it is not a good idea. As the cosmonaut leaves the room Diana asks Sakritt to stay for a moment. She calmly asks – just between the two of them – when she can expect the mutiny? Sakritt tries to act surprised at the accusation but Diana continues that she knows she and Ectreba are planning to oust her. Diana estimates they have about twenty others prepared to follow them.

Sakritt asks if she plans to execute them and Diana replies that she has not planned to do anything…yet. She then asks Sakritt to explain why they would plan such a thing, as back on Paradise Island she would never have thought of betraying a fellow sister. Sakritt replies that Diana refers to “betrayal” as if it was a bad thing. She adds that like one tests a rope as they climb it, surely a leader who cannot survive a test of leadership is not worthy to rule? Thus, betrayal in her eyes is, in fact, the highest honour.

Diana nods in understanding but replies that she cannot take much more of their testing. In a few hours they will all either live or die…either free all the slaves or find themselves thrown back into the darkness of prison. Turning to face Sakritt she asks for just two more days of loyalty. “After that..well, I’ll take my chances.” She holds out her hand and Sakritt slowly grasps it in acknowledgment. As Diana exits the chamber a worried Ectreba rushes up and asks what the Amazon Princess knows of their plot. Sakritt snaps back “Shut up! I have to think!”..

Sometime later a Sangtee fleet makes its way through the quadrant. On board the lead vessel, the Emperor is informed that all the slaves for the trap have been accumulated and are safely secured in the holding pens. The Emperor nods and examines the artifacts taken from Diana at the time of her original capture…the strange red, blue and gold costume made of material that seems almost invulnerable…the golden rope that appears to be inert and yet…

Suddenly an aide enters and advises that a situation has occurred. Moments later Sakritt is escorted into the chamber by two guards. She tells the Emperor that if they want to capture Diana they need to move swiftly while she is still helpless.

A few minutes later Sakritt leads the Emperor and a troop of guards to the hangar bay. She explains that Diana’s plan was for the attack party to hide within the hollow spaces of the vessel until Sakritt had released them. But the alien adds that she has decided she would prefer to claim the reward on the Amazon’s head instead.

The guards move swiftly to open the vessel’s hull revealing a stunned Diana and her fellow pirates. Sakritt explains that they had intended to use Advisor A’iir as a hostage. As the women find themselves at gun point and are lead away to the holding pens, a seemingly disappointed Diana asks why Sakritt had betrayed them all – and is told simply “It is in my nature”.

A short while later back in the Emperor’s quarters, a worried Bruct tells A’iir that he had not meant to usurp the Advisor’s authority. A’iir replies that they can talk of this more later and then asks the Emperor what will become of the “Wonder Woman” as she had saved the Advisor’s life. The Emperor replies that Diana’s bravery will be tested – perhaps crucifixion on an asteroid of pure plutonium? He then asks what will become of the traitorous Sakritt? The Emperor calmly replies that traitors can never be trusted and that she will be executed very soon.

But suddenly the Emperor stops short and turning to A’iir, asks how the Advisor had known it had been Sakritt who had betrayed them, as he had been a captive at the time?

A’iir’s image begins to waver as he in turn asks the Emperor what would happen if a holographic image was projected around a living being? To the Emperor’s and Bruct’s amazement A’iir vanishes to be replaced by Diana standing there smiling back at them! Baffled, the Emperor asks who had been the “other” Diana they had just arrested…

Down in the bowels of the ship this “other” Diana suddenly slips her captors’ grip and with a crowbar disguised as a flower bouquet, Natasha, disguised as Diana with the aid of a wig, knocks the guards unconscious! She then makes her way to the holding pens to free the other slaves.

At that same moment Julia, the Daxamite suddenly leaps from the now barely guarded vessel in the hanger and lifting it up, hurls it across the open space. As guards try in vain to subdue her, she continues to cause carnage and be as much of a distraction as she possibly can.

As the sounds of explosions begin to reverberate through the ship – the other pirates including Ectreba and Sakritt take their cues and quickly disarm their own Sangtee captors.

Back in the Emperor’s chambers they also hear the sounds of Julia’s handwork and a smiling Diana advises the Emperor and Bruct that her pirates are at this very moment freeing a thousand very angry slaves and that the two of them should perhaps consider running away if she were them! Bruct makes a grab for her arm though and crows that they will not harm them while they have Diana as their hostage. But she effortlessly crushes his hand before flying out of the room, hoping that her plan to make them mad has been successful enough.

Bruct tells the Emperor that they need to get more security to the holding pens at once before the prisoners can make their escape. But as the Emperor contacts the holding pen commander he is informed that Natasha has already disabled the power and that none of the discipline collars around the prisoners’ necks are functioning any more. In short, they cannot hold the rampaging slaves in check now!

Bruct adds that the ships in the hanger have been destroyed and with the slaves now running amok there is no escape. Suddenly he draws his weapon and aiming it at the Emperor says “You can’t be captured. You should have been strangled at birth!”. He snarls that with the Emperor’s death, his cousin who is free of the Emperor’s twisted genes will become the rightful heir. But as he prepares to fire a golden lasso loops over him!

Unable to move he finds himself facing Wonder Woman, who has now reclaimed her costume and proudly wears it again. She smiles that she had hoped he had assumed Diana had left and that he would unawares lead her to her costume and, more importantly, her lasso. Bound in it’s magical coils he is forced to explain to Wonder Woman that the Sangtee were once all male but then females began to be born. For generations the Santee tried everything to eradicate them from the gene pool…drugs, genetic engineering…but still a small percentage of females remained, even in the royal blood line. Wonder Woman nods as her suspicions are confirmed and surmises that these few females were then sent away to have their femininity trained out of them.

The Emperor murmurs that Wonder Woman may now know her secret but that the Amazon princess will never live to tell the tale. She snatches the gun from Bruct and points at Wonder Woman. Diana calmly responds that although the Emperor may well be able to kill her with the weapon, it will not change the fact that her culture is dying…poisoned by its fear and loathing of the female. The Sangtee society has turned to slavery and genocide out of self hatred. To control the part of themselves they could never crush.

The Emperor replies that Wonder Woman cannot change them. Nothing can. The Amazon Princess smiles and replies that she was simply a pirate and adventurer and had fought the Sangtee to free the slaves. “Only an Emperor can change an Empire. But if you don’t start changing your culture from within do you think you can survive?”

The Emperor murmurs “No I don’t ” and drops her weapon on the floor in resignation. And with those few words of wisdom from Diana the years of slavery and battle…the hatred and challenges and danger…all gone. It was over.