Six days after the arrival of Lady Death on Earth, Superman flew into the Fortress of Solitude, not quite prepared for what he was about to see. The memorial that he had erected in his cousin Supergirl’s memory lay smashed by the door, and the woman who was supposedly Kara Zor-El herself sat in the corner behind where it had been. She still wore the Lady Death outfit that had been given to her by Darkseid, even though she had been hiding in the Fortress for nearly a week.
“Temper tantrum?” Superman asked. After so many disappointments with false Supergirls over the past few months, he was guarded in his feelings about this woman calling herself his cousin. He hoped against hope that she was who she said she was, but for all he knew, she could be another villainess posing as Supergirl or yet another clone.
“Sorry, Kal,” Kara replied. “I lost control. Not quite used to being dead, much less seeing myself dead.”
“I still have the old Supergirl uniforms here, including the indestructible one that Supergirl… that you arrived in,” he replied guardedly. “I had intended to give them to Lydia-7, but I suppose they are yours.”
“Where did you find those?” Kara asked.
“I found them in Linda Danvers’ apartment when the superintendent contacted me about the late rent, since Clark Kent was listed as her next of kin.”
“Go ahead and give the costumes to Lydia,” Kara said. “I can’t stand to look at them. I’m fed up with the whole thing. I can’t live my life trying to be Linda Danvers and Supergirl at the same time. As far as the world is concerned, Supergirl is dead, and Linda has been missing for six months, and I’m willing to let it stay that way.”
“So, what?” asked Superman. “You’re going to be this Lady Death character full-time?”
“No,” replied Kara. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, as well as a lot of snooping through the FBI’s computers. It’s amazing how slow those things are and how easily the safety systems can be disabled.”
Superman smiled. Kara had been raised in Argo City, and Earth computers were in comparison child’s play. “What in the world did you want in the FBI’s computers?” he asked her.
“I’ve managed to establish a new identity for myself,” said Kara, “and I’m going to live a normal life for a change. I’m through following in your footsteps. I’m going to live my life and quit meddling in everyone else’s. As far as I’m concerned, I agree with everyone else on Earth — Supergirl is dead.” At that, Kara flew out the door.
“I wonder if the Phantom Stranger was on the level about that girl,” Superman commented as the door closed behind her. “She seems so different from Kara.”
Now standing alone in his Fortress, Superman picked up the pieces of the broken memorial to his cousin. Suddenly, he jerked his hand back involuntarily and looked down at a small cut on his right thumb. He almost smiled.
“I had forgotten that I used the ship that Kara arrived in to make this memorial,” Superman said to himself. “Its Kryptonian alloy can cut me if it’s jagged enough.” He looked down at the broken pieces and shook his head. “Of course, if it can cut me, it can cut her as well.” He began to scan the area with his microscopic vision.
In seconds, he found what he was looking for — a small piece of metal with just a trace of Kryptonian blood on it. He picked it up and took it to one of the labs in the Fortress to begin running tests. “I didn’t believe her when she landed, so I used a piece of that ship to test her blood,” Superman said. “Now I suppose I can do the same with this sample.”
Half an hour later, Superman sat in the same lab with a baffled look on his face. “I’ve run the test twenty times and have come up with the same conclusion. Compared to the blood sample I took from Kara when she landed, there is only a fifteen-percent match. If she isn’t Kara, then who is she? And more importantly, why would the Phantom Stranger lie about it?”
Collecting the two blood samples and his results, he flew toward the door. “I have to have a second opinion, and there’s only one man that can do it,” Superman said.
A month later, as night fell over San Francisco, Karen Sorrell walked into her recently rented apartment building. The Kryptonian blonde had assumed the name by slightly Americanizing Kara Zor-El, and over the last few weeks she had established herself as a mere cipher clerk for the local branch of the FBI.
Her Kryptonian body didn’t need sleep, but it was a luxury that she had been deprived of since her return. Every attempt had been interrupted by the same nightmare, the only real memory that she knew of — hearing two voices screaming, then the realization that one was her own. The second voice stopped as suddenly as they had begun. Days, maybe weeks later, she heard another scream that could have been hers, but her Kryptonian ears were more accurate than a voice print machine, and she recognized the difference. Then there was a fourth scream nearly identical to the rest. The third stopped, then the fourth, leaving her alone. Only then was she vaguely aware that she was on Apokolips. She heard the high-pitched, thoroughly wicked voice of DeSaad in the outer chamber, even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to. Then came the phrase that always frightened her out of her sleep — the deep, booming voice of Darkseid, saying:
“How is my daughter today?”
Karen slumped into a chair and clicked on the television in the corner. The news was blaring more recent escapades of Lydia-7 as Supergirl. A sudden burst of heat-vision, and the TV exploded.
“Supergirl is dead — why can’t they just let her rest in peace?” Karen sobbed as she threw herself onto her bed.
“It has been said that a good person’s deeds live after them,” a voice said from the window as Karen picked up the wreckage that had once been her TV.
Karen turned toward the window and saw a familiar figure. “If I wanted to debate philosophy, I would have stayed in the Fortress.”
The Batman let himself in through the window and said, “Kara was never one to mince words. I see you aren’t, either.”
“You’re too suspicious.”
“It wasn’t me,” Batman said as he walked toward Karen Sorrell. “It was Superman who was suspicious of you. As it turns out, his suspicions were justified.”
“He won’t even take the word of the Phantom Stranger that I am who he says I am?” she asked.
“The Stranger says whatever suits his purpose at the time,” said Batman. “I can’t figure out just why he said you are Kara Zor-El, though. Our tests prove conclusively that you’re not.”
“So you tracked me down to ask me who I am?”
“Wasn’t that hard,” Batman said. “Karen Sorrell? At least Kara was more inventive than that.”
“You’re the world’s greatest detective, Batman,” replied Karen. “Why don’t you tell me who I am?”
“I was hoping you would be able to shed some light on that subject,” Batman said as he turned to leave. “I guess I was wrong.”
Karen started to snap off a retort, but the sound of his cape billowing in the wind told her that Batman was already gone. “I wish I could, Bruce,” Karen muttered, “but the fact is I don’t even know myself.”