Birth of the Undead – Adapting, Chapter 3
Written by kshoo :: [Saturday, 10 September 2022 04:44] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 10 September 2022 09:53]
“Aren’t you afraid of me?” Kara commented to no one in particular, though it was clear she hoped there would be a response. Sitting on the settee, with her legs folded and raised against her torso, she had opened the tall glass windows out and up, and just sat looking up at the stars when the butler entered the room.
“I beg your pardon Ms Linda?” Alfred Pennyworth paused in his steps before responding to her. Given that Bruce was not home tonight and Vampirella wasn’t staying in either, Kara just decided keep to herself in the room and mope. The butler however had other ideas, and when Kara didn’t object after he knocked on the door, he entered the room quietly and left the tray of food with the now customary glass of red liquid on one of the tables in the vast room. He was just in the midst of retreating when Kara spoke up.
“You know what I mean, Alfred. I was a freak before this, some would say. Now given my dietery needs, I’m worse than that now. A freak that needs human blood to survive, with none of the benefits that come with it. An abomination. Aren’t you afraid of me, Alfred?”
A pause, before Alfred replied slowly. “Why should I be afraid of you miss? Are you planning to kill me now? An old man who already has his left foot in a half-step down into his grave?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Are you intending to kill Master Bruce? I would warn you that he will not go down without a fight, and even so he is currently indisposed, the busy man that he is.”
“Of course not, however…”
“Are you planning of destroying the human world and end all mankind as part of your destardedly plans?”
“Come on Alfred, that's…”
“Then what exactly do I have to be afraid about?”
“That I might lose control! That I will be threat to everyone!” Kara almost shouted at the elderly man, who continued to look at her with a mix of curiosity and a little amusement.
A pause. “Then don’t.”
“Don’t lose control then.” Alfred sounded as if it was the easiest answer to the simplest question to the entire world. “You already know the cause, you know the way towards managing and keeping things in check, now it is up to you. Your own attitude, your own discipline, your own determination, to make sure that you don’t become your greatest fear.”
“But what if I fail?” Alfred smiled a little at that, acting as if he was a headmaster trying to console and motivate one of his slower students.
“You won’t. You have too much gumption in you for that to happen. From what I heard, you can be especially stubborn too, especially in the face of adversity. You don’t give up, not without a fight. The most important thing however is that I can see that you love all of us and everyone all around so much that you are desperately trying to not let anyone down. While that might be too much of a burden to bear for just one person, but in this particular case it still means that you have all the necessary motivation for you to succeed.”
“… .Still, I might not succeed. What then?”
“Then try again. No one say that winning is easy, or else there wouldn't be any failures in this world. I guess that's part of being a regular person. Dreams and goals are always there for us to strive for.” Alfred said with a chuckle before opening the door slightly. “Good night, Miss Linda. Do know that I am rooting for you.” With that, he retreated out into the hallway, leaving the Last Daughter of Krypton staring at the empty room.
Moments later, as she moved over and took a sip from the glass, she said a quiet “Thank you.”
The next few days became a blur for Linda Lee aka Kara Zor-El as Bruce and Vampirella tag-teamed to put her through paces of strength training and flexibility training. While it did help in alternating and making things interesting (trying to fold herself into a pretzel a day after lifting weights that are slightly heavier than herself definitely is a dramatic change), it also made her a bit more used to the vigour of putting her body through enough punishment, allowing each and every muscle of hers to be twisted, flexed, exercised and more, as part of the overall training for her to increase her own ultimate baseline.
It seems to be working, albeit a bit too slowly for a young woman of Kara’s own liking. After all, she knows that her Kryptonian heritage coupled with Drakulon DNA should give her a slight advantage on things, a let-up so to speak. So why not on building core strength?
But Bruce Wayne seemed to have other ideas. At least the trainer in him, anyway.
“Lift it, Kara! Come on! Tim, Barbara and even Cassandra could lift those weights at an even younger age. ” Kara only grunted, her emotions boiling as she felt the strain in her arms.
It was only the third strength session with the Bat, and Kara is really feeling the strain, her thin arms held the 10kg dumbbell and just about to finish her last rep of the second last set of exercises. Ever the overachiever, Bruce is trying to egg her on so that she do a couple more if she were to truly achieve her goals faster.
She did lift it, and she puffed out quickly and was about to place it on the floor when Bruce stopped her.
“Come ON, Bruce!” Kara complained, whined a little even.
“One more!” Slightly louder this time.
“We still have the next set coming up…” Kara’s voices raised in tandem as well this time.
“No. ONE. MORE.” Bruce stared into Kara’s eyes. He could see some of the moisture starting to appear in those blue eyes. “Kara, look at your bicep.”
“I know, I’m pathetic.” She ALMOST sniffed, but managed to hold it back.
“No, I mean really look at it. Envision what it would be if it was bigger. Bigger than mine. Bigger than Kal’s. Think about how every sweat and tears that you put into it now will correlate into an exponentially greater powers later. Think about how you will show them, how you will make them regret not taking notice of you even while you were empowered, make them eat their hat for not taking you more seriously than Wally West or even Guy Gardner. Think about that. And then you give ME. ONE. MORE.”
Kara felt it. The anger. The pain. The desire burning deep within her now as she recalled the reason why she is here now, deep within the bowels of Wayne Manor going through this entire thing. Her arm rose again as she willed it to lift the weight. Bruce could see the anguish and pain on her face as she arm reached the apex, and then she brought them down within seconds.
“Alright. Good! One more.”
Kara’s eyes went saucer wide. “What… but…”
“Kara, look at your arms now.” She did. “Notice how it’s larger, even if you don’t really feel it? It’s what bodybuilders call ‘the pump’. It’s a temporary state of enlarged muscle appearance after working out. Similar to when you would engorge in yellow-sun radiation and become slightly larger. Here however, it’s more important. During this state, your body is actually diverting four times as much oxygen as it normally would to your bicep. It’s creating new passageways in the forms of capillaries to feed developing the muscles. This is THE most vital aspect of the training session. Now, if you want to achieve the best pump you can, to lay the strongest foundation for as much growth as possible, you NEED to do it: One. More. Rep.”
Locking eyes with the man they dubbed the Dark Knight, Kara bit her lower lip as she struggled with the task, lifting her arm once again, forcing herself to complete the motion. Finally she achieved her goal and brought her arm back down, dropping the dumbbell unceremoniously on the floor as she felt truly spent.
<After a week>
The development didn’t go unnoticed for both Kara and Bruce. As Bruce demanded his ward to always crank out “one more repetition” for her sets, Kara realised that it did have the intended effect of pushing her body towards a higher threshold. She could feel her strength increasing, evidence from the weights that she is doing now versus when she started, and even her appetite has improved though still far from her fully empowered levels yet. Even so, she didn’t seem to be gaining that much weight. Her form still remain relatively slim, for whatever reason it may be, but there's no mistaking her physical changes.
Kara herself liked the progress, having spent more and more time checking herself out in front of the mirror while getting ready for the day. She had to admit that she looked and felt better by the day. Gone was the slightly crumpled, hot mess of a girl when she started off; instead the person in the sports bra and bottom looking back at her now is pretty close to how she looked when she was on Krypton, hell even closer to how she looked as the fully-empowered female alien. That more confident smile was definitely a reflection on her mood currently.
She could see the smallish, feminine muscles already, the toned look that she was so accustomed to previously, now back on her arms and legs. Her midsection is starting to have the faint outlines of a fourpack, and other bulges have popped up more noticeably here and there all over her body. More importantly, her bust has also firmed up slightly, gently pushing against the sports top which she attributed to the development of her underlying chest muscles from all those hours of presses and pushes.
It was also why that she was also slightly more confident that she wore one of the <S> t-shirts down to breakfast this particular morning, and a teasingly short black pants.
Bruce was even more observant, cooly watching Kara taking a third helping of eggs today at breakfast. His eyes detected more detailed changes beyond Kara’s beginner eyes could from her reflection within the mirror. Her body seemed to have retained its usual glow just like when she was fully empowered; her skin, hair and nails all have regained much of their initial flawless majesty seemingly on its own accord. He knew that the stuff she is using now are just regular skincare products, put on and used as standard upkeep with tips from both Alfred and himself.
Given that he had been giving her massages in the evenings to help her manage the soreness, he could actually feel the increasing firmness all about her body, and he could see and feel those smallish bulges that are slowly becoming more prominent by the day. While her skin is still soft, it was as if they were hiding a small secret underneath that is just biding its time before unleashing itself, to be made known to the world at the right time.
There is no denying it that Linda Lee is gradually becoming attractive by the day; the fact that his heart fluttered slightly when she talked to him or when she walk past him is evident of this.
“This is very good progress” Bruce remarked.
“You know, with regards to building lean muscles, ordinary humans would be fortunate to gain 2 kilos in a month, and that’s for men. Women normally will find it even tougher to do so in the same amount the time. Even though there are certain chemicals or hormones that can expedite the process, but naturally gaining muscle takes much more time. You however…” he paused to check the tablet “… did it in a week.”
Kara paused mid-chewing, and looked at Bruce with a mix of awe, smugness and not a little excitement. “Well, I’m not human remember? Maybe Kryptonians like moi do react differently with the right training!”
“Maybe. At the same time though I am a little disappointed.” Bruce was surprised he was so direct with his own feelings in front of the young woman from the stars.
“But… but why? I thought you’d be happy for me?”
“Well… yes, but normally humans alike WORKED to gain our kind of musculature” He raised his own bicep, whose growth threatened to rip his own shirt. “Once you’ve worked hard for it, the success will come all the more sweeter. For you, it feels as if it’s not… genuine?”
“Well, you DID force me to do all those additional repetitions all the time. ‘Give me one more. Imagine the size it will be… ’ Yada yada yada. Maybe that’s what’s paying off for me at least.”
“True.” Bruce conceded. “still, it’s still quite a distance away from Kal. Or even me, for that matter. You’re going to have to push yourself harder in the coming days for this to happen.” He did break her down during each of the sessions, and she had pushed through and pushed on. So she did earn her strength; just that the process has been expedited due to her own natural heritage.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less. So what’s the plan for today?”
The days flew by quickly as Kara continued adapting to whatever challenges Bruce could throw at her. Even though Vampirella had also taken steps to push the young woman towards more difficult stances the incremental steps by the Batman was WAY more than the vampire, now that he was trying to stretch the limit of how much she could be pushed.
Though he didn’t verbalise it, Bruce had come to realise that despite her depowered form, somehow Kara’s Kryptonian body was progressing at a much faster rate than he anticipated. From the continuous stream of information that was sent back to the their monitoring program, Batman could see that her unique alien cells seem to allow her to invoke hypertrophy more quickly and more effectively than a regular human being. It seems that her body rested more deeply than the normal human, released greater levels of growth hormone, and seemed to recover faster.
All of this when depowered, the nanites’ readings still confirming it was still doing its work.
It made him start to consider how big, how powerful this young woman will become when they finally remove the nanites that are currently inhibiting her cells. How big would she get when the cells start to reabsorb the radiation from the yellow sun? How effective are her cells now compared to before? Would they weaken in efficiency or strengthen? Could it be possible that she might become bigger than himself, bigger than Kal, become a true goddess of which her powers and might have no more bounds? Would Kryptonite still work as effectively against her new form as before?
All these thoughts and more swirled repeatedly in his mind even as he watched the young woman doing her weights that particular afternoon. Kara has been steadily increasing her ceiling. With each passing day she could either lift heavier weights, perform more reps, run for a longer period or at a faster pace, or with all those above combined. All of these combined to make Kara grow in confidence with her regime, and this has fed a virtuous cycle to push her to repeatedly test, and subsequently break, her previous limit. Given that she has nothing else to do anyway with her super abilities fully dampen, she had really thrown herself into the training.
Watching the Last Daughter of Krypton pulling and stretching the resistance bands while dressed in a black sports top with matching long black shorts, pulling with a strength that had earlier been able to allow her to bench more than her current weight. Her arm and leg muscles now very visible, each and every part of her looking a bit fuller, feeling a bit firmer as she followed the instructions to a ‘t’ as beads of sweats rolled down the ridges of her back.
While he was loathe to admit, he found Kara’s current athletic figure alluring and thrilling, and at the same time powerfully arousing.
As she pushed herself more, it was not lost on Alfred and Bruce that Kara was eating more each day, and the nutrition seemed not just used to power her muscular growth. Her blonde locks seemed to become brighter; her skin, nails, teeth all seemed to glisten ever more. Despite the punishing regime, the young woman is always back to having abundance of energy the very next morning.
In fact, some of the repetitions and exercises are almost at his own level, and Bruce has no doubt that in another few days Kara would be able to do those workout routines that might be proportionately even more taxing than his own. Still, the curious nature within him wanted to help her push through those limits; subconsciouly he had regarded Kara now as his pet experiment to really figure out how far he could bring her body towards before it gets injured. He had been surprised that so far she hadn’t hit such a limit as yet, not even an entirely torn muscle or a broken bone. In fact, it felt as if the more he pushed her into the territory that would have injured any other human being, the more rapid the positive results were for her.
This made him slightly fearful, and not a little aroused with that fact.
The fear that if, or when, she regains her powers, she might become a loose cannon. Young, immature sometimes, still relatively inexperienced and brash; hence unpredictable, still prone to outbursts. An attractive and fun one perhaps that could go supernova at any time, even though he had not really seen it. Yet. Unlike Superman, Kara Zor-El had to endure watching her entire race die with the explosion of her own planet. Such a catastrophe would be hard to bear for anyone, what more a teenager. Who knows how stable her entire mind or psyche actually is? From Vampirella’s and his own observations, the woman does seem to have the sort of moral compass that is similar to Kal’s even though the latter was brought up on Earth and educated by adopted parents with sound human moral values. But that doesn’t mean that it might not be just for show. Batman had gone up against enough villains to know that it doesn’t take much for people to snap. Having enough power to destroy planets happens to be one of the good reason in many cases.
Yet, he now has a hand in making her becoming virtually unstoppable. Possibly.
What if this becomes a mistake? If she did become stronger than any other beings and become uncontrollable either due to her blood lust or desire for ultimate power, then it would become another huge crisis of his own making.
It was partially due to this thought that led to a weird sort of growing tension that hung in the air between the two at the moment. While previously Bruce had been using a mix of tough love and inspirational speeches to motivate her, now Kara seemed to have taken everything into stride and had just accepted his request and continued on her motions without much pushback. His requests steadily became demands, his verbal cues curt. And when she trully struggled he raised his voice indiscriminately, almost bordering on abusive.
As Kara moved to performing the hero curls sets, from her current stance she looked more and more like a fitness competitor. Small muscles visible all across her body without any forced flexes or prompting. The sixpacks and the separation between her quadriceps, prominent yet very feminine, now reminding onlookers that this is one, powerful young woman.
“Harder! Come on Kara. How many times must I remind you? You’re barely trying!” Despite already pulling more than her own weight, Kara has yet to push pass this particular ceiling. But the more Bruce called her out, the more angry she got.
Finally she had enough, and stopped midway, letting the weights fall back to their starting position with a loud “CLANG”. Bruce was immediately in her face.
“I never asked you stop! What, are you a quitter now Kara?”
“No Bruce, I just wanted to do THIS!!” Without another word, she adjusted the machine, and before Bruce could say anything she restarted her curls. This time with weights that are DOUBLE of what she was doing minutes ago.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” Bruce practically shouted, more upset than concern at the moment.
“DOING WHAT YOU WANTED, DAMMIT! What’s the matter, BATMAN? Am I still not GOOD ENOUGH for you? LET ME SHOW YOU WHAT. I . CAN . DO.” With that Kara just started pulling, her face a mixture of emotions as she trully struggled to pull the weights, only the anger and frustration helping to fuel her actions as she felt them truly beyond her current strength.
But she wasn’t going to give up now. Once… .Twice… .she didn’t even make it to the third repetition when she heard, and felt the tears on both arms. Crying out in pain and anguish, she let go of the handholds and with both arms collapsing onto her side, she just sat down onto the mat.
Bruce quickly supported her before her entire body hit the mat, though even that simple motion of supporting her back had caused pain.
“Now look what you’ve done! You just tore your bicep and tricep fibres open! This is not good…”
“UGHhh… .No, just… just” Batman however would have none it, and merely swept her up into her arms and carried her towards the small area next to the lab for some medical treatment. With both her arms pretty much lifeless, there wasn’t anything that she could do already.
“So, she’s done? At least for a while?” Vampirella asked curiously. The Batman had turned up suddenly that late evening in a brooding mood, and instead of taking her up to bed, had instead sat down for wine. It was that kind of day where both of them just told the other their shittiest of days. It was then Bruce shared the news about Kara’s injury earlier that afternoon as well as what had transpired, though he kept his concerns about her potential limitless powers to himself still. Under lock and key.
After all, the emerald-eyed staring back at him now could very well be another potential problem in the making, if not handled correctly.
He averted her gaze to look at the landscape painting on the wall for a while before responding. “Do you think I’m being too hard on her?”
“You’re the Batman. You’re too hard on yourself anyway.” She took a sip of the Merlot. “After all, you did say that’s how you’re going to make her stronger. By pushing her beyond her limits, again and again. Very analogue. And effective, I might add. I too have come through a similar path, but that was such a long time ago.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, now I know more about her.” He took a sip from his glass. “More to the point, I was astounded. Normally it would take at least a week, maybe two, for torn muscles to heal enough for one to recommence their exercises. But…”
“Kara’s body is healing much faster than an ordinary human. Yes, she’s not ordinary, and she still has your DNA. That might be part of the reason why her body is able to regenerate all the torn muscle fibres and heal at such a rapid rate. In any sense, based on the readouts she will be all good as new to start again tomorrow. The entire full cycle.”
Silence hung in the air for a while, before Batman continued. “Of course, given that your Drakulon genetics is remarkable on it’s own, it might be that her body had picked up what it needed to complement and fix itself…”
“… and it chose the healing factor to be incorporated into its own genetics. Is that even possible? I mean, is it logical even, for DNAs to pick and choose? That’s the stuff of science fiction.” Vampirella wondered aloud.
“Possibly. Think about it. If this Mandi Olson is talking about able to incorporate genetics of other heritages to make herself even stronger, why not a Kryptonian? They are alien races, both seemingly able to use the sun rays to make themselves a virtual god and goddess on our planet. Given that both Kal and Kara are the last of their race, I doubt that they themselves know much about what their body is able to achieve, what their true potential is. In any case, aren’t you also supposedly a figment of someone’s imagination on what beautiful horror is supposed to be?”
“You mean they can still get more powerful?” Depending on which side of the fence one straddles, that thought might either be exciting, arousing, or downright worrying.
“No way to tell. But I can say for sure that whatever happens in the next weeks, you and I will have front row seats to seeing it. Up close.”
Bruce took another swag and placed his empty glass on the table. “Changing subjects, the infiltration had been a success. You were right. One of the researchers WAS looking at something outside of the regular research on agriculture products, though he was still using the same thinking and hypotheses that led them towards their current cash cow product anyway”. He took out his phone and opened an application, before passing it to Vampirella.
Staring at the screen for a while, her brows furrowed as she tried to decipher what she was seeing. “What am I seeing?”
“The researcher was trying to make serums that can turn ordinary humans into creatures, or at least more than just a regular Terran. He was mixing and matching different genetics from different lineages of vampires, and also took upon himself to try and add-in other creatures into the fold too. Witches and daemons though of with less sample contribution, though I’m not sure how he managed to get so many different samples to try the different concoctions. It was in line with your own postulate – he wanted to test which combinations work best. Of course, the results are very… inconsistent, to say the least. Even though he is a scientist, it must still feel like trial-and-error for him anyway without a reference or guide.”
“Fuchs. It MUST be him. Obviously his own lineage is one of the oldest to walk on Earth, and given his many followers and numourous allies among vampires it wouldn’t take much effort to extract samples that can be used for testing purposes. But for the other creatures… not impossible to acquire, though much tougher. For what ultimate purpose though?”
“Too many possibilities. That is for you to find out, I’m afraid. However, there is one more news.”
“Oh? Good or bad?” Vampirella’s eyebrows raised at that comment. Bruce just shrugged indifferently.
“The good professor has accepted an offer to join LuthorCorp, and will be reporting for work in a few weeks’ time. Given that whatever he did was on the side, I guess it’s not very hard to guess why he decided to change employers at this juncture.”