Tears filled Brainiac 5’s eyes as he watched the tragedy unfold once again.
Supergirl, Superman, Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, the new Doctor Light, Wildfire, Jade, and other heroes followed the tragic figure of Pariah as he guided them into the antimatter universe of Qward that housed the Monitor’s evil counterpart, the Anti-Monitor. It was there the heroes would make their stand against his power.
The first assault came when his rocky creatures attacked the heroes, and Kara Zor-El immediately displayed her heroism and leadership skills by bravely shattering one and using her super-breath to scatter the fragments across the weird antimatter universe before it could re-form.
Superman was clearly proud of his cousin, and his own courage was shown when he began an effort to destroy a huge solar collector that their foe was using to reduce the vibration differences between the Earths.
The new Doctor Light watched in concern, having come along since as a scientist, solar energy was her area of expertise. She had courage, too, but she also lacked the inner nobility that so motivated the two Kryptonians. Thus she saw Superman fall to a brutal attack by the Anti-Monitor. His scream attracted Kara’s attention, and she rushed to protect her beloved cousin without thought of her own past fears.
“Oh, my Lord — Kal-El?” Kara said as his scream reached her Kryptonian ears. “H-he needs me.” And she rushed to protect her beloved cousin without thought of her own past fears.
She reached the scene of battle just after Doctor Light had fallen in defeat, when Superman was receiving a savage beating. As she passed by him onto her way to help her cousin, Pariah cried out that there was no hope. “You’re wrong, Pariah,” said Supergirl. “There’s always hope. You can’t give up hoping. Not ever!”
Supergirl blasted her way into the solar collector chamber and immediately struck the armored form of the Anti-Monitor, accusing him of causing all the misery she had seen since the red skies first appeared. “You?!” she shouted. “You’re the one responsible for all this insanity! For all those deaths! How could you care so little for life?”
The Anti-Monitor swept her aside and said in a sepulchral tone, “You humans rush madly into death. I swear, though, it shall come soon enough. First this one… whom you call cousin. Then you and all the others. You shall be together only in the mists of eternity.”
Kara Zor-El fell but continued fighting. “No! You’re not going to kill Superman. I won’t allow it! You hear me?!” she cried as she shattered his armored body. “All my life I’ve considered life the greatest of all gifts. But you’re a blasphemy of life! You don’t deserve to survive.”
She continued to pound away at the weakening foe, while her example inspired Doctor Light to vow to no longer waste her own life with selfishness. For a brief moment while the Anti-Monitor was down, Supergirl implored her to carry Superman to safety, and Doctor Light obeyed, but she soon cried out in horror as she saw Supergirl glow brightly with the lethal energies being released by the Anti-Monitor. “He is killing her!” shouted Doctor Light. “I have to help you!”
Supergirl turned to order the new heroine to escape with her injured cousin while there was still time. “No! Go — go now!” she cried.
The Anti-Monitor rose up and grabbed her in his burning arms. “You turn in battle, girl?” he said. “That is a fatal mistake!”
“KARA!” shouted Superman in wide-eyed disbelief. As Superman screamed in shock and horror, Supergirl received a fatal blast of raw energy from her maddened enemy.
The Anti-Monitor fled and left the heroes to gather around the pitiful scene where Superman gently and tearfully held his dying cousin. “C’mon, Kara… don’t give up. You’ll make it. Pl… please stay with us,” he begged.
“I… I can’t,” she gasped. “B… but it’s OK… I knew what I was doing… I wanted… wanted you to be safe… You mean so much to me… so much to the world.”
“Y-you succeeded in destroying the machines,” said Superman.
“Thank Heaven…” said Supergirl, her voice becoming weaker with each moment. “The worlds… have a chance to live. Y-you’re crying… please don’t. You taught me to be brave… and I was… I… I love you so much for what you are. For how… good you are…”
And Supergirl fell silent as life left her.
Superman was in anguish. “It’s not fair. She shouldn’t have died for me. Where is he? The Anti-Monitor. I… I want to kill him for this!” cried a grief-stricken Man of Steel.
Brainiac 5 stared at the screen as tears streamed down his face. “I was at her memorial service,” he said. “I heard the words of tribute her peers and those she had influenced offered up as a final remembrance. (*) Still, words seemed all too hollow an offering, now that she was gone! Actions were needed. The evil of the Anti-Monitor was defeated. Other sacrifices were made. Other lives were lost. Tears and pain were felt. Still, now, after all is said and done, I am faced with nothing but a sense of loss and so many regrets.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Beyond the Silent Night,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (October, 1985).]
“I have recorded my thoughts via the link to Computo,” he continued. “Perhaps at a later time, when my so-called genius can focus calmly on the data, I will find those answers, but then again, what is the point? What is the point of even going on? Death would be either a last great mystery to solve or a final peace. I would seek either gladly. Still, another option is possible. Time may not be changed. To try to do so leads inevitably to ruin. Still, if I am to die, surely doing so in an attempt to wrest from history itself a loss I can neither comprehend nor withstand would be a notable method of ending life! I shall take the time bubble and try to save her. If I fail, then all I have lost is a life rendered empty and devoid of meaning!”
He turned away from the time-viewer and rushed out of the laboratory past a worried Rond Vidar. “Brainiac 5, are you all right?” asked Rond. Brainiac 5 ignored his friend and entered a time bubble. He adjusted the controls with a desperate intensity, and the machine flickered away into the time-stream itself to leave Rond staring in concern. “I pray he returns,” whispered Rond. “His look was one of pure hopelessness!”
Brainiac 5 set the controls to take him back to the very moment in time before Kara followed Pariah into the Anti-Monitor’s home. “I have no idea if the craft can weather the combined effects of the chronal storms that rage around the time of the Crisis,” he said. “I know it cannot withstand the raw energies of the antimatter universe! I must stop her from entering that dread place. I can’t even speculate if my actions will make things worse in some way. I only know I need to try to save the only woman I’ve ever loved!”
He watched as the time-stream flowed around him. The weird pattern of colors and energies made it vital that he depend upon the controls within the craft. He could certainly not see clearly enough to determine his exact location by any less technological means.
Sparks suddenly began to flicker across the controls. “No! The energies are too much for the engine!” he cried. “The sheer power of the chronal flux is deteriorating the craft’s structural integrity.”
He struggled with the damaged machine and saw a flying woman. “Kara? Can it truly be her?” he gasped. He steered the craft in her wake, as she seemed to beckon him onward.
“Don’t know what era I’m in!” he said. “The control display is blank! I can only follow her and hope that this means I have merely overshot my desired destination, and she has spotted me long before she ever entered the antimatter universe.”
He frowned as she led him out of the stormy section of the time-stream to emerge in a quieter part of the strange zone between times. “That is not Kara! Her costume is all wrong. Strange, but her hair is shorter, too!” he said. “Am I in some alternate universe? Perhaps I’ve entered a divergent timeline.”
Brainiac 5 waited as the blonde woman struggled with the chronal energies that surged around them in waves. “She is in need of help! I must get her inside!” he said, catching her attention as she looked up, and he waved her closer. “I must try to project my force-field around her and thus allow her entrance into my craft!” He acted quickly, and she soon stood before him as they vanished from the time-stream to emerge in 1985.
“You saved me!” she said. “All I knew has been lost! The cities are all gone! I am the only survivor! I fled into the time-stream, but the chronal energies overcame me. I would have been lost forever had you not arrived!”
He looked at her and shook his head. “You are not Supergirl!” he said.
“I am,” she said. “I am the Supergirl of 500,000 years from now — or so I was. (*) My era has been destroyed by the Crisis!”
“You must be a descendant of my Supergirl,” he said. “I suggest you remain here and carry on her legacy. I can see that you have met her. Your expression makes it clear.”
“Call me… Lydia,” she said, wiping away a tear as she thought of loved ones she’d lost in her era. “I have met the Supergirl of this era. (*) Your words have merit. But how can you speak so calmly and so logically of the loss of worlds and entire eras?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis at the Crossroads of Time,” Superman Family #215 (February, 1982) and “Victory is Only 5,000 Centuries Away,” Superman Family #216 (March, 1982).]
“I know that, in any crisis, you must fight to live as long as you can live,” he replied. “You must live that way in order to be able to live with yourself. You must never give up!”
She smiled. “Brave words.”
He recalled the slightly different ghostly female figure that first led him through the storm to where he found and rescued this new Supergirl. “A woman I love told me that. She taught me that… and much more,” he said with a sad smile.
Brainiac 5 led the time bubble to a remote wooded area. “This spot is isolated enough that we should avoid alarming the locals. Would you use your heat-vision to reconnect this severed wire?” he said as he opened up a control panel.
Lydia obeyed his instructions, and he expertly made use of her super-powers to repair the craft in record time. “You certainly are familiar with the use of Kryptonian abilities,” she said. “My own are enhanced by the nature of the sun in this era.”
He nodded. “That is logical. Now, tell me, when you met Kara, what was your opinion of her?”
She hesitated and said, “She was caring. She was valiant. I would like to find a place for myself in this era. She is no longer among the living?”
He shook his head. “No. She perished during the Crisis that created those chronal storms that almost wrecked my craft and left you stranded. I would suggest you seek out her cousin Superman. He will gladly help you adjust to a new era. He will also need your help. I know her loss has hurt him… has hurt us all deeply.”
“She was my ancestor,” she said. “I will follow your suggestions.”
He frowned. “Odd. Kara has never… I spoke of you before as her descendant, and yet surely you are more likely the heir to Superman himself. One such descendant lives in my time and is a student at the Legion Academy.”
“I tell you plainly,” said Lydia. “She is my direct ancestor. I would not err about such matters.”
He nodded. Her era may, in fact, be an alternate one, he thought. Kara could not have had a child. I would not believe that. She and I were too close.
“Lydia, I am Brainiac 5,” he said. “I am a member of a group of youthful champions called the Legion of Super-Heroes from the thirtieth century. Perhaps, when you are more settled here, you would like to journey to our era and join us.”
“I am a solitary person,” said Lydia. “Still, I will consider your offer. I do appreciate your help. You rescued me.” He reached out to take her hand, but she stiffened and drew back. “I am not Kara Zor-El. I realize this is a difficult moment for you, since you clearly cared for her. Still, you must not assume that I am anything like her.”
“Of course not,” he said. “That would be faulty reasoning. I am aware of that. Good luck to you. I wish you well.”
She smiled slightly. “My thanks to you. I will see you again in your era.”
He adjusted the time bubble and returned to his proper era. “Fascinating,” he said. “I tried to rescue Kara, but only managed to save one who is apparently her descendant. I assume it was her career that the historical records I found claimed to be Kara’s own continued after the Crisis. I would never have found her without following what I could only call Kara’s angel. Such things are possible. I will take this result to mean that time must follow its proper course. She is at peace. She directed me to Lydia. She must be blessing her descendant’s desire to follow in her footsteps. I suppose she also was telling me that I should not forget her, but also that I should carry on as she would have wished me to do.”
Brainiac 5 considered the idea aloud. “I will try to learn more about Lydia’s possible ancestry. How in the world could Kara have had a child?”
He greeted Rond Vidar, who rushed up to the time-bubble as Brainiac 5 exited the craft. “Rond, I am well,” he said. “Forgive my earlier conduct. I know you were concerned about my irrational behavior.”
“I am glad to see you safely returned from your abrupt trip,” said Rond. “Did you accomplish what you wanted to do?”
Brainiac 5 smiled slightly. “Let us say that I accomplished what needed to be done.”