Dolphin and Will Payton had been dating for several weeks now, and their romance was getting stronger every day. As they sat talking in a park, they saw the rushing form of Superman pass in the sky just above them. “Looks like he’s heading for the MHRA,” said Starman.
“I bet he’s going to see his cousin,” said Dolphin. “I’ve met him before, you know, when I was with the Forgotten Heroes.”
Starman said, “He’s one of my heroes! Can you introduce me?”
Dolphin tossed back her platinum blonde hair and smiled. “Consider it done.”
Meanwhile, inside the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, Captain Comet witnessed an emotional sight as Superman arrived immediately after hearing of Supergirl’s survival.
“Kara! I can’t believe it’s you!” he said tearfully as he embraced the Maid of Steel. “Rick Flag called me and told me the whole story. If I’d dreamt it was possible, I’d have tried anything to save you!”
“I am so happy to see you,” Supergirl replied calmly. “I feared an earlier reunion, since even I was uncertain about what happened. My last memories are so hazy. The Crisis ended without my awareness, and these friends filled me in on so much.” No tears were visible on her face, and that — among other things — disturbed both Captain Comet and Superman.
“Your eyes are brown!” said Superman, in shock.
“What?” she said. “Oh, yes. I guess it’s some weird cosmic fluke from being in that antimatter universe.”
They walked off hand in hand, and she asked him a favor. “May we go off alone to talk? I know a special place I’ve found. I’d love to get you alone there. It’s all I thought about since I returned.”
Dolphin and Starman arrived shortly thereafter, only to be disappointed by the absence of the two Kryptonian heroes. “They left to be alone,” explained Comet.
“So why the long face, darling?” asked Golden Glider as she reclined on the sofa.
“I think something is wrong with Supergirl,” he said. “She’s acting oddly and showing no emotions whatsoever. I can’t read her thoughts, either — not that I would try. I mean I get no — no vibes, if you will, from her. It’s like she’s screened her mind from all outsiders.”
“I wanted to meet Superman, anyway,” said Starman as his costume burst into sight. “Let’s follow them. They’ll understand.”
In an isolated glade far from the city, Supergirl smiled a smile that was seductive. She said, “Now, Man of Steel, stand here in this spot and know all.”
Superman froze as he quickly realized this was not Kara Zor-El at all. “What kind of sadistic trick is this?” he protested, but a wave of magic flared out to entrap him before he could resist.
“Your will is weakened, as any man’s would be after suffering all that has befallen you of late. It is precisely this weakness that allows me to make you the host vessel for my love,” she said with a chilling laugh. “Oh, I know you think me maddened, but I am not. I assure you I know what I am doing. I am in this body merely because no body of Earthly origin could contain my power. Think of it as a container needed, but not of much value in and of itself. In a like manner I hope to use your powerful alien body to host my lover.” As this supposed Supergirl spoke, her dark eyes flashed.
Superman frowned. “You witch! I’ll fight back. No matter what tragedy occurs, I don’t quit.”
“And we fight with you,” said Captain Comet as he rocketed into view, carrying Lisa Snart.
Dolphin, in Starman’s arms, cried out, “Supergirl, fight this magic spell!”
Supergirl laughed an evil laugh that seemed otherworldly in its malice. “I am under no spell, little girl! I am the spell! Trapped formless in the void of the antimatter universe with my lost love, I waited until I saw a chance to return to solid form on Earth. I knew no mortal shell could house my fiery passions, nor those of Tannarak. So I mentally snared Rip Hunter and compelled him to come to me and pull forth the lifeless body of Supergirl. Oh, yes — she had died at the moment I forced the so-called time master to choose. In the empty-yet-superior alien body of the woman called Supergirl, I could reenter your realm, and with her cousin entrapped, I shall place Tannarak in his form. Then we shall rule.”
Comet charged in. “Not if I can stop you!” He shook the blonde and was shocked by magical energy.
“You can’t resist my magic, though I feared all along that you might detect my true nature,” said Supergirl. Comet fell beneath the pulsing bolts of magic.
Golden Glider skated up on the ice her skates created. “You witch! Leave him alone! Why, you’re nothing but a bottle blonde,” she said as she was buffeted away by the raging energy.
“Dolphin, look! She’s changing,” called Starman as his energy blasts failed to harm Supergirl. The Girl of Steel was indeed changing before their eyes.
“Now I can surrender my concentration and let you see me, as my true form dominates the shell that was Supergirl,” said the woman. Her blonde hair became black as ebony, and her face remained beautiful but cold and cruel. Her Supergirl dress changed to a sexy gown of black with high slits and high heels.
“Tala!” said a fighting Superman.
“Yes, Tala all along, poor mortal!” she laughed.
Superman strained against the magic that held him, and in unison with Captain Comet, he managed to burst free. They closed in on Tala but found her gone. She reappeared behind them and shot bolts into their backs. They fell again as Dolphin leaped up to tackle Tala. Icy chills rocked her beautiful body as the witch’s magic repelled her. “I’d love your form, little one, but it is beyond my power to take,” she said. Dolphin rolled hard as the energy knocked her back.
Golden Glider tossed a blade at Tala, but it melted before touching her. She smiled at Lisa. “I sense your conflicting feelings. You would flee and so easily return to crime, but you like the approval of others. You feed on their applause, and doing good gives you such sensations. Poor woman to need anything from others but service and sacrifice.” Lisa frowned and helped Dolphin stop her tumble.
Comet flared with energy and blasted Tala with his mental fury. She ignored him and sent Superman hurtling into Comet. Neither moved after that impact.
Starman had been blasting her steadily for minutes, and she had ignored him. What do I do? The JSA’s Starman wouldn’t fail! Neither can I, he thought, then caught Superman and flew off with him at top speed.
Tala screamed in rage. “Boy, you dare take my prize? Curse you, the time passes! Soon, it will be dawn, and I will lose the power of the darkness.” She rose to chase his speeding form.
“Stop, foul demon!” intoned a shadowy figure who emerged from the darkness. “You dare disrupt the natural order at your own risk. When this world’s order is assailed, then a champion e’er arises to defend it. And now it falls to me to set things right. Men call me the Phantom Stranger.” He appeared just in time, as Tala was gaining on Starman and his precious cargo.
“You! Always you,” she cursed the shadowy man.
“It will always be me. Whenever darkness looms, there comes a light to cast out the children who feed on such moral decay,” he said.
His gesture recalled her. She seemed unable to leave him now. “So be it! If Tannarak be lost to me, then I’ll claim you once and for all,” she hissed. “This body gives me much power,” she said, smiling.
“No! It traps you in a containment of my creation. I drew upon that void in which you waited to make the illusion of this body. You believe it to be Supergirl’s, when in fact it never was. Do you dare dream a defender of the light would fall into your foul hands, even after death? How great is your hubris. Supergirl died, and her body was taken by her cousin for burial. That was and has not changed. I merely let you think you were entering her body, when in fact it was long gone. Time works for good as well as ill. You are residing not in Kara Zor-El’s form but in a cage that closes on you with the coming of dawn and my command,” he said.
“No!” screamed Tala as the truth became clear. The sun rose, and she collapsed, unmoving and lifeless.
The Phantom Stranger took the body and said, “She never possessed Supergirl, and time was not altered. She merely saw what her passions and my will made her believe. This cage in human form will make her easier to control than the formless void I left her in before. Be at peace.” He vanished, as did Tala.
Dolphin and Golden Glider helped Captain Comet up as Starman and a now-fighting-mad Superman returned. “Did you hear?” asked Comet. Superman nodded sorrowfully. “I am so sorry, my friend,” said Adam Blake.
Superman smiled briefly and said, “I appreciate that, Comet. Now, I think I’d better go.” He flew off, and the heroes wandered home sadly.
“So that Supergirl was a fake after all?” asked Arisia, having returned to the MHRA after a visit back to the Green Lantern Citadel in Los Angeles. Captain Comet had quickly filled her in on the truth about the so-called Girl of Steel, since Arisia had expressed interest in staying on with the Rehab Squad for the time being. He had a feeling that she needed a bit of distance from the rest of the Green Lantern Corps, and Green Lantern in particular. “I can’t believe she did that to Superman! That’s so mean!”
“Yes, it was,” agreed Captain Comet, reaching for the doorknob to his office. “I’m sure he’ll recover in time, but with everything that’s been going on in Metropolis, it was a really bad time for this kind of thing to happen.”
Entering the office, Comet gasped to see — Supergirl. “What?!” he cried. Next to him, Arisia found herself speechless at the unexpected sight.
“No, it’s me! Really,” said an attractive blonde woman who was indeed an almost-exact duplicate of Supergirl herself. “I am not Tala, and I’m not the Supergirl who died. I’m the Supergirl of Earth-Prime, and I made my way here, as if drawn by the presence of the fake Girl of Steel. I’m alone and in need of friends. Please, please help me!”
Tears poured down her lovely face, and she sobbed in Comet’s arms. Here we go again, he thought.