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Birth of the Undead – Being Undead 3

Written by kshoo :: [Sunday, 02 January 2022 03:03] Last updated by :: [Monday, 03 January 2022 08:49]

Luke awoke to the sound of pans and plates clinking, the smell of fried bacon wafting into his room from the kitchen space below. It took him quite a while before his mind cleared enough for him to recall that there is another tenant in his house. He sat up, peeked through the closed curtains to catch the early rays of the sun just starting to appear in the sky. Checking the clock, the digital readout showed 7.30am…

Groaning, he flopped back onto his bed, realising that he missed his early morning run today. He knew that he had forgotten to do something when he came back home late last night. Rubbing his tummy, Luke thought ruefully that with how things go, it will take a much longer time than expected before he gets back into shape.

But more importantly… Forcing himself to get up, he put on a pair of three-quarter pants and fresh new shirt, and made he way downstairs, shivering slightly due to the lower temperature this winter morning. The entire downstairs felt warm however, a fact confirmed as he peered into the kitchen, he saw the blonde girl from yesterday cooking bacon on the stove. Dressed in a casual turquois-coloured long-sleeve blouse paired with his pants from yesterday, she seemed to be halfway through preparing breakfast. Despite being slightly thicker than his t-shirt, her top’s opening still showed much of her shoulder and neck, and tight enough to clearly indicate all her youthful bumps and curves in the all right places. No ponytail today; Kara had left her wavy hair flowing naturally down onto her shoulders.

Breakfast for two, it seems, seeing the two plates set out on the counter. Luke could already see the fried eggs already laid out on both of them, and the sound of the running timer indicated that the toast won’t be long too before it’s ready.  

It has been a LOOOONG while since someone last cooked breakfast for him, and his stomach just growled in anticipation. “Do you want to just stare, or do you want to help put on the coffee machine?” Kara’s voice floated through the air, her tone playful as she continued to poke and flip the bacon without looking up. Luke gulped before padding over to the machine, put in some beans from dunno where before pouring water into it and letting the modern miracle do the rest.

<Ding> Both Kara and Luke reacted at the same time and moved towards the toaster, resulting in both of them bumping into each other. Luke blushed slightly as his right arm brushed against Kara’s chest unwittingly, before saying “Let me do it.” Kara merely smirked at his reaction before returning to her previous task at the stove.

In another five minutes, two plates of a complete breakfast together with cups of coffee and glasses of water sat on the countertop. Kara and Luke both sat opposite each other and tucked in.

“There’s still another 23 hours to go you know…”

“Sorry?” Kara was in the middle of attacking her bacon when that comment came out of nowhere.

“More like 22 hours. With change. You told me to leave you alone for 2 nights…”

“Ah, THAT!” Kara poked her eggs with her fork as she thought about her response. “Well, would you have preferred that I go back down the basement until it’s time?” her mouth curved up slightly on the edges.

“No no… that’s not what I meant. Just that, you know, I’m glad. That you decided to wake up earlier today.” Luke quietly admonished himself, as the more he spoke the more incoherent he sounded. And he’s a university professor for god’s sake!

Kara looked up at Luke, and just sighed. “And here I thought it would be nice to spend a bit of time going around the city, looking around and taking in the sights.”

“Oh, yes, yes. The city’s not very big in itself though, but we have quite a number of interesting places to go. Galleries, national parks if you’re up for it. Assuming that you come from another big city, this place is practically a laid-back small town despite its expansive geography.”

“Well, I was hoping that YOU will take me around…” Kara’s left hand moved forward, and gently rubbed on Luke’s right hand. He felt a mild shock from his hand flowing all the way up to his heart and proceeding up to his head. It was all he could do to stay coherent.

“Yes… Yes… I think that makes sense given that you’re new in town. Today is a bit tough as I have classes. BUT tomorrow happens to be Saturday so…”

Kara laughed at Luke’s response. “Tomorrow sounds good. I am sure your students appreciate your dedication.” She paused for a while before continuing. “Say… did they find the bodies?”

“Bodies? Oh..OH!! The ones that..you… we…” Stopping and taking a deep breath, Luke replied. “That’s the funny part. There weren’t any.”

Kara stopped her eating halfway, and squinted her eyes slightly “What do you mean?”

Luke continued “Well, there was an emergency staff meeting after classes late in the afternoon about the incident at St Ann’s. Apparently there was a commotion outside the college not long after we left. Based on the observers’ account, the bodies… disintegrated? Burnt itself out by itself? Seems like it cannot be put out despite their best efforts. Even though many of the students swore that the bodies were still alive when it happ…”

<Crash> The glass crushed in Kara's left hand as the Girl of Steel accidentally closed her hand a tad too strongly. Apologizing quickly, she padded over to the grab a cloth while Luke went quickly to the small cupboard near the door to take out a small broom and dustpan. As both of them cleaned-up, Luke couldn’t help but notice that Kara’s demeanour seemed to have changed slightly.

He didn’t realise that as he was sweeping stuff up there wasn’t even a single drop of blood on the counter.

After the slight commotion, they sat back at their seats, and an awkward silence filled the air before Kara asked “Did they say anything else?”

“Only that the fire department and police don’t even know where to start. No body, no trail. A roll-call went out university-wide earlier, but it’ll be days before anything can be confirmed. At least, not until someone is reported missing… Kara, are you ok?”

“…I’m sorry. I really am…” Luke saw tears starting to well up in Kara’s beautiful blue eyes, and she turned away slightly, shifting unconfortably on her seat. Seems like her appetite just went south on this topic. He quickly held her hand and said “Look, it’s all bad timing, right? Wrong place, wrong time. Just… please don’t be sad.”

Luke was a bit taken aback when she suddenly looked up. Her eyes glowing red slightly before it turned back to its usual bright blue. Even though it was fleeting, Luke couldn’t shake the feeling that the her initial expression was that of a hunter on the trail of a prey, before it reverted back into the facial expression of a young woman akin to a bright sunshine, who seemingly has the world at her feet. A slightly sad, young woman, in this instance though.

“Kara, I don’t really know what happened back there… but I hope that you’ll at least not feel so bad all the time. I know that we just met, but given the circumstances at least I can be a friend should you want to talk about things. You can trust me.”

That last comment hung in the air for a while, before Kara mustered a gentle “Thank you.”

Luke felt slightly relieved with that comment, and he moved his right hand over Kara’s left. “Look, even if you’re somehow involved in this, it would be down to a REAL vampire to do it right?” He was slightly afraid when Kara looked up at him suddenly, her eyes narrowing slightly, the red glare flickering past again in her baby blues. “Uh… what i mean is… well, if the observations are true, if those bodies did burn up on their own, that would have made them vampires right? I mean, only vampires fear the sun…”

“And what makes you so sure that I’m not one of them?” Her tone suddenly took a dangerous turn.

“Well, for one, you’re sitting at my kitchen counter. With me. And as far as I can tell, that’s the sun shining on your back.” Which is true, the sun already risen from the horizon to shine through the kitchen window, partly illuminating both of them. “Vampires can’t handle the heat and the glaring brightness, as far as I know.”

A ironic laugh again, though it sounded lighter than before. “Don’t believe everything that you hear or read, Luke. For there are new things that appear out there, everyday.”

“Yeah Yeah, that’s what my students tell me everyday… despite me being their professor. But in anycase, I subscribe to the thought of being in the present. Since I can’t change the past, the only way to change the future is to be in the now. That way at least I can still have way of shaping the future. Hopefully.”

Kara’s blue eyes opened wide. “Now that’s an interesting quote. Where did you learn that?”

“Oh, it’s something I picked up along the way, learning Buddhism when I went through my own difficult patch in life…”pointing to the bookshelf in the living room “I’ve managed to slip in some readings about Buddhist philosophy and meditation in between my engineering research. Kept some of the good books as well. I find them complimentary to my daily life in so many ways. Maybe if you’re interested, and if you’re staying here for a while, I can take you to that place where I learnt them?”

Kara looked at him thoughtfully. “We’ll see.”

Not an outright rejection, which is good, Luke thought. The last thing he needed was for Kara to throw a fit for misundestanding his suggestion for something complimentary for a religious conversion, which is the last thing on his mind at the moment. They finished breakfast in relative silence after that.

Later as he was about to leave the house today, for some reason Luke felt a bit nostalgic. The conversation that he had with Kara during breakfast reminded him of someone very dear to him. He opened his top chest drawer, took out a photo frame, which showed Luke and another woman side-by-side. He gently moved his fingers around the edges, and then on the front, his mind turning  and combing through his past, before he put it back into the drawer with a sigh.

When he came back down though he didn’t see Kara. Perhaps after their conversation this morning she just wanted a bit of me-time, and the slight illumination coming through the edge of the basement door seems to confirm it.

“Kara, I’m heading out ok? There’s still some food leftover in the fridge, so you make yourself comfortable. And oh, by the way, you look great in that red-and-white of yours” He heard slight chuckle and a mumble coming through the door, and proceeded to let himself out. He mentally reminded himself he needed to get that lock change soon… better to be safe than sorry now that he has a female guest staying in.

Kara looked up from where she was in the basement, the entire house becoming wireframes as she looked-up with her x-ray vision. It was so funny how he tried to compliment her on her blouse WAYYY after she had disappeared from his sight. Maybe it’s true about how STEM people do have a bit of a way to go with interacting with people, though Luke is but a small sample size to make that kind of unscientific conclusion.

Kara had indeed slept fitfully and without much incident after she had come home last evening. In fact she had slept so soundly that she didn’t even feel hungry the slightest despite the day giving way to the night; and somehow her biological clock had adjusted as such that she had woken up slightly before sunrise, her stomach growling slightly demanding for food.

Regular food, in the current case, not her liquid diet. At least not yet.

Despite her limited culinary skills, given what is available within the inside the fridge of this bachelor’s apartment in any case, there seems to be no grumblings whatsoever on the eventual offerings. Barring that small debacle of crushing her glass in her hand, she thought at least she and Luke did click to a certain extent. Which made her a bit curious about her current host and his non-existent life beyond his job.

So what’s that about him looking at that particular photo earlier in his room?

Not really caring about privacy issues (something that Kal had reminded her time and again as part of 'fitting-in'), Kara made her way up and out the basement door, and padded up the stairs into Luke’s room again. She had gone through his dresser and wardrobe nonchalantly yesterday, but today she purposedly flipped through his top drawer yet again.

Not that it was very hard to find. The picture was just laid on towards the side of the drawer. It was a picture of Luke and a slightly shorter, raven-haired girl with strong Asian features. Both of them were in formals – Luke in his tux, while the girl was in a beautiful white evening gown with a plunging neckline, both holding to each of their own champagne flute, seemingly toasting at the person taking the picture.

A picture-perfect shot, for a seemingly perfect couple.

However, as she scanned the room and beyond with her supervision, that seems to be the only picture of the girl in the entire house. In fact, other than that picture, no one would have the slightest idea that this particular girl even existed in Luke Livingston’s life.

So… a respectful, dating couple that wants to keep their relationship low-key? “Maybe everything that he has are in his phone and laptop.” Grinning to herself, Kara thought that this will be an interesting topic for the both of them when he returns later.

Going back downstairs, she skipped going through the clutter around his workbench, and instead focused on the bookcase in the living room instead. As she looked the rather imposing wall-to-wall bookcase, she did note that despite living alone, her host still seemed to be fairely organised. Electronics and engineering-related books and magazines dominated one side of the shelves, while the other side has a more eclectic collection of various topics, including philosophy, religion and even historical events.

“So… an engineer still with a penchant for the paper.” Kara noted the irony of finding so many paper-based books in his home despite the digitalisation and proliferation of electronic-based media.

A small area in the middle at eye-level seemingly set out as a small alter dedicated to his  personal beliefs. Within that space sat a 6 inch bronze Buddha’s statue in a sitting position, flanked on both sides with artificial flowers. A small, electronic LED light and a small bronze cup completed the setup.

Kara took a whiff off the cup, catching the faint smell of insence residue in there. Looking around further, she could seem a small box of round incense kept discreetly towards the side and back of the area. And for whatever reason, a bronze cross lay towards the back of the buddha statue as well.

She did appreaciate the small Buddha statue though. Her own artistic tendencies and her remarkable vision allowed her to observe the intricasies of this particular statue. For what it’s worth, the serene smile on the Buddha statue’s face did convey a certain calmness towards the observer. Be it fate or something else, she had somehow made her acquaintance with Luke Livingston during her darkest times, and that at least their current interactions so far had not taken a bad turn. She made a silent prayer to Rao in front of the Buddha statue, praying for strength and the ability to face the challenges that is to come.

Thumbing through some of the books, she picked through a few that were of interesting notes, but at the moment not really making much sense to her. There were writings about body and mind, and how the latter is always the forebearer of all actions; Some writings about Karma the last of cause and effect, as well as the buddhist concept of rebirth. The last two were of some interest, given that her own Kryptonian religion of Rao is basically obscure or in fact, extinct. But some of the thinking behind Karma did happen to jive well with her own. The rebirth part however… Kara paused a bit as she considered her current predicament. Is this what is meant by “rebirth”, or is there something else at play here?

She did find infrequent scribbling along the edges of some of the books. Elegant enough to indicate that it most probably would have come from a woman’s hand.

A bit more intrigued now, Kara tried to look around for more clues. Again, she was seemingly defeated as again, nothing around the living room has anything indicating a woman’s hand. Even the various decorations (if one could call them that) were more indicative of placement for placement’s sake rather than for beauty and coherence with the overall environment.

Frowning to herself, Kara moved on to the final room, that of the basement. Despite her own abilities, habit dictated that she flipped on the switch to illuminate the area. There are small windows at the top of the far wall which brought in some morning light but definitely not enough for a normal human to see about without additional illumination.

As she observed the basement more thoroughly, it struck her as odd that there would be a larger-sized bed here compared to the single bed in Luke's own room. And despite not being used, there is an old dresser with a mirror, and a rather large wardrobe and multipe old trunks located to the side. Looking through the trunks, they seem to be an archive of Luke’s old stuffs – old mechanical gadgets, books etc.

But once she looked at the wardrobe, her interest peaked multiple-fold when she saw it. Opening the creaking doors, she extracted a large suitcase out and placed it on the dusty floor. A quick flick of her superstrength, and she broke the lock allowing her to open it. She gasped despite herself when she saw its contents, for that suitcase was full of girl clothing.

Well, “girl clothing” is a bit too broad a definition. “Girl Costume” seems closer to the fact.

And not just any costume.

The one that she is staring at, sitting on the very top of the others, is of hers! The <S> rune of the El’s family crest an unmistakable giveaway.

As she gently touched the material, Kara realised that it is just a copy of hers and Kal’s own Kryptonian Red and Blues, the cloth a combination of lycra and cotton, rather than the sheer and stretchable ones that were grown from organic crystals. As she took the blue blouse out, she realised that there are a few other variations of the costumes – there is a set which looked like it was modelled after Kal’s own red-and-blue tights; one style that was essentially a white t-shirt with the <S> on it; and another frilly version of sorts that could only be described as ‘steampunk’.

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And the bottoms included tights, skirts of various colours, and hotpants and tights, all in either Reds or Blues. While the stitching (especially the runes) indicated an amateur at work, all of the clothes have definitely been made with the lots of heart, sweat and tears poured into it.

Laying them out, and then hanging them using some of the hangers which are left in the same wardrobe, Kara realised that this could very well function as a fashion collection specifically for a girl of Kryptonian heritage, for it was indeed an impressive collection. She counted at least five different sets of tops and bottoms.

It was somewhat obvious this person is a serious cos-player, and she didn’t even need to have a second look at the ticket stubs peeking out from the sleeves of the same suitcase.

And she had no doubt that they were for a girl (or at least a young woman), for when she experimentally measured it on her own body in front of the dresser, the cutting was such that it is supposed to bring out the hourglass figure of a female. The length indicated that it was made for someone shorter than Kara Zor-El’s current 5’8’’ frame.  

This was confirmed as she put on the first blouse that she saw, the one that mirrors her usual blue blouse. It extended just below her belly, barely covering it.

The fit also indicated that it was not made to suit her current cup-size as she can feel her twin bosoms pushing the top outwards beyond its normal limits, seemingly stretching out the <S> rune more than for its usual owner. However, the feel of the material DOES feel nice as the lycra helped stretch the material enough to cover her top fully. She did a few front and side poses with it, before shrugging and deciding to just go with it for now.     

Finally, she picked-up and tried on the pleated red-skirt which she had to pull slightly higher, conscious of the fact that this time she will definitely need some undies to still maintain some sort of decency should the wind decide to play a different tune at any time. Or, “that hotpants should help with the job for now…”

“If I do go out and about in this get-up, that is…” Kara frowned a little, before giggling to herself in front of the mirror as that thought extended in her mind.

“…and why not?” Her grin broadened as she considered the options in her superbrain.

_________________________________________________

Port Adelaide lay to the north of the city’s main CBD. A historical maritime precinct that has supported the development of the main city for the past century, it had gone through its own ups and downs before major investments by the government has allowed it to re-emerge once again as a key industrial area within South Australia, home to many companies in bioscience and defence. The wharf has also been modernised and redeveloped, and the surrounding commercial area is now a hit among the locals.

However, the major fire that happened this early afternoon didn’t happen there.

Rather, it happened at an old residential block which was in the process of being torn down and redeveloped. Given that it is the thick of winter and with all the comings and goings of construction workers, you would have thought that someone would have noticed or smelt something burning somewhere and quickly put it out.

No.

It must have started some time during lunch time, when most of the workers are occupied with lunch somewhere else.

 There must also have been multiple fire accelerants that laid around somewhere, as the fire had spread quickly. By the time anyone really noticed, the fire had already consumed about a tenth of the 5-acre area. When the firemen led by Captain Geoff Jones arrived, one quarter has been fully burnt down, while another quarter is still raging. Geoff quickly diverted his men to different areas to try and contain the fire beyond the current development zone.

“Gosh, who knew that a fire can still burn with such intensity despite it being winter?” One of the rookies remarked as he affixed the firehose to the local hydrant. But when he gave the thumbs up and turned the hydrant on, for whatever reason the outcoming pressure was extremely low, and all he earned was an angry shout from Geoff and his team up front.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE SIMS? Find another outlet QUICKLY! Else there won’t be anything to left to save!!”

“On it cap.” As Sims scampered off to find an alternative hydrant, Geoff muttered to himself “with this kind of raging fire, we’ll need a miracle of some sort to contain and put it out quickly.”

Just as he finished that thought, Geoff thought he saw an approaching cloud. However it seems to be moving fairly quickly across the blue sky, too fast in fact to be an ordinary cloud. It seemed to hover above his top for a while when it floated… downwards?

As he saw it continue to fall, his eyes became as large as saucers as he finally realised how WIDE that thing is as it casts a wide shadow over and beyond the area engulfed by the fire. But before he could react, he felt the familar drops of water falling on his head and shoulders, which then slowly increased in intensity to become a major cascade of rainwater onto the better part of the entire area.  While it didn’t last very long, it was enough to douse most parts of the fire, giving Geoff and his team a good enough headstart towards putting it out completely.

“It was as if god had decided to send a large enough raincloud to just help us along this particular afternoon” he later remarked to the news crew who interviewed him later, not realising that in this particular case, help had arrived via a goddess in who just happened to fly by in her new red and blues costume around that time.

Kara had saw the fire and observed the firemen’s struggle to get water going to douse the flames. Instead of coming down to help in person, she instead flew to the nearby reservoir, took a deep breath and blew a gust of superbreath over the surface of the water, freezing a wide area temporarily. Then floating above the reservoir, she used her heat vision to surgically cut away the block of ice, lifted it up and gently carried it across the city back towards the fire area.

Flying close to forty thousand feet, she was high enough to be able keep the block frozen long enough; as she neared the incident area, she came lower until she could judge the drop location better. As she let go of the ice block, she gave gravity a bit of time to pull it into a constant fall rate, and then she used her heat vision again and spread the heat across the block, causing it to melt and fall as rain onto the ground.

She smiled as she saw her little trick had doused most of the fire. Before anyone really noticed a figure floating in the afternoon sky, she flew off.

_____________________________________

“Don’t come any closer Krissy. Just stand back and leave me alone” shouted the young woman standing on the ledge of the apartment roof. And then continued sobbing.

“Come on Missy… you, you don’t want to do that. Please… please think of the people and the family who cares about you…” Beads of sweat flowed down Krissy’s cheeks, partly due to the stress of the situation, and the run that she had done involuntarily to try to reach her friend.

Missy had taken the news of the breakup extremely hard; her boyfriend of five years had suddenly decided to call it quits, and for the past two weeks her life seemed to have gone on a downward spiral. When Missy hadn’t turned up for work at their local startup for three days straight, Krissy had swung by her friend’s low-rise apartment during lunchtime to just check-in on her. She was just in time to see a crowd gathering and pointing upwards at the bottom of the apartment, and Krissy was horrified when she realised who the person was.

Krissy had run up the five flight of stairs to the roof to reach her friend. Racking her brain frantically, but she’s pulling at straws trying to figure out a way to convince Missy to come back up from her dangerous location.

“Missy… why..why don’t you come back up first. Don’t..don’t do this…” all of which just seemed to make Missy even more flustered, and her sobs soon turned into wails.

Suddenly Missy stood up, slightly wobbly. But before she could steady herself, her arms suddenly windmilled and she seemed about to fall. Krissy reacted without thinking and lunged towards her friend to try and grab her arm. While she did succeed, her momentum only succeeded in pushing both of them over the ledge, both women screaming at the top of their lungs as they fell.

<WHOOSH>

<SMACK ! RIP! ! SMACK >

<CRASH>

As Krissy tentatively opened her eyes, she realised that both Missy and herself have fallen on a full cart of vegetables. She could feel the pain racking her body, but at least she’s alive. And so is Missy, her friend’s rapid breathing and sobs a similar positive indication of the same.

It took a while for her to extricate Missy and herself out from the cart with the help of the paramedics who had arrived. As she laid on the ambulance gurney, she thought how lucky they were to have crashed through the few cloth canopies on their way down. But then, she didn’t remember seeing them on the side that they went over from…

Kara had chanced upon the two women on her way back. Without much time to consider, she directed a concentrated burst of superbreath to blow both of them off-course on their falling trajectory, and she used her superspeed to take off her cape to try and cushion their fall downwards to the ground. With an additional burst of speed she nudged them sligthly so that they fall onto the vegetable stalls rather than splatter on the sidewalk, and had quickly flown away before anyone noticed her…

<…and news report just came in about a seven-car pile-up along the Great Ocean Road. An oil slick left along the road had caused cars and lorries to skid along the windy road, resulting in a multi-car pile-up. However just as the drivers were calling emergency services, a sudden gust of wind blew across the entire place, and amazed onlookers had found all the impacted vehicles neatly laid on the side of road…gt;

<…That lady just came down from the sky and helped bring Slinky down to me.” “And Slinky is the name of your cat?” “No silly, it’s the name of my pet python” as the little girl showed off the 10-footer that was gently coiled around her shoulders>

Kara floated in the sky as she observed the continent, contented with what she had done thus far. Despite using her powers in way that is second-nature to her now, she still can’t get over the fact she still gets a thrill in doing doing all those wonderful stuff with her powerful Kryptonian body. Her rebirth had apparently not done anything to her original powers, and it had brought a sort of relief to her in a way.

However, she still couldn’t shake the fact that the darkness is still lurking within. Somewhere, waiting to emerge again with the right triggers. She was then lost in her thoughts for a while as she folder her arms on her chest and under her breasts, as the sky gradually grew darker…

_____________________________________

On the other side of the globe…

Rumbles of an automobile could be heard speeding its way westward along the highway towards its intended destination in the middle of the night. The sleek, custom-made vehicle is actually a prototype all-terrain, all-purpose vehicle for the Defense Department by Wayne Industries. However, since the department had opted for the alternative by LexCorp instead, Bruce had sought out the desginer Dr. Lucious Fox for a personal redesign and had it rebuilt for his own purposes, no expenses spared.

 

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Armed to the teeth with all the latest tecno gadgets and defence mechanisms, the 550bhp vehicle has proven to be a dream to drive. Despite its size and the 5 ton bulk, the design is such that it is still relatively easy to handle for a vehicle of similar build and toughness. After the latest upgrade to its armour plating, the Batman is now taking it for a spin, and he pushed the throttle all the way as he sped towards his destination.

Soon, Bruce brought the Batmobile to a stop outside a seemingly abandoned bungalow just on the outskirts of Midvale and Leesburg. Turning off the engine, he used his vehicle’s motion sensor to do a generic scan of the area. Once confirmed that there is no one else in the vicinity, he made his way onto the compound of the house.

“House” is really an overstatement of the state of the property at the moment, for the current facade looked as if there was a wrecking crew at work on the building just today. The doors were unhinged, most of the walls are cracked, few of the window panes are still intact. He walked about the perimeter trying to get a better feel of the entire place, and as he walked around to the side, he spied a huge chunk of concrete debris, with railings jutting out sitting about 20 feet away from the house, seemingly a piece of wreckage from a wrecking ball hitting the brick-laden building.

He soon came to the dried-out swimming pool at the back of the house. The entire pool has been cracked, but this time it seemed that a huge jackhammer was used, instead of a wrecking ball. Holes on different sides, large cracks still visible even on the floor of the pool despite all the tiles about the place, as Batman jumped into the vast space below and turned on his pocket torch to check out the area more thoroughly.  

Bruce frowned. Some of those cracks just look too irregular and inconsistent with any tools. In fact, as far as he could tell, the splits and cracks are all about the place, but based on some of the position of the deeper holes, they could indicate… “A body? Bodies smashed into the wall?” Lots of charred leaves around the area, despite it being summer and as far as he could tell there didn’t seem to be any friendly barbeque session held here recently.

As he checked the wall linings again more thoroughly despite the limited light from the pensize torch, he could see coloured spots on some of the light-tone tiles. Opening his utility belt, he took out a miniature collection kit, and swabbed a few samples and stored them away.

The analysis later would confirm his suspicions – those spots were dried blood, and it contains non-Terran DNA.

Spending more moments looking around, he finally heaved himself up and out from the shallow end of the dried-out pool and made his way into the house.

Navigating himself carefully around the debris and broken glass, the back door still collapsed when he tried to open it as gently as he could. Stepping inside, Bruce could see clearly the large hole that opened up through the ceiling and upwards through the roof, affording one a clear view of the starry sky during this dry summer night. Plaster, glass, and rooftiles are everywhere.

As the Bat looked around, his torch shone on some dark spots on the wooden floor which was not covered in all the plaster and debris. He squat down to have a better look, and noticed that they seem to be partial footprints… coming towards the middle of the hall. Following the trajectory,it seemed to have started from the fireplace; and again, a slight, burnt smell lingered around he approached it, and a gentle brush of his fingers around the area confirmed fresh soot around the place and around the chimney.

Bruce looked about and pointed his pentorch around the area until it caught a relection of what he was searching for. Stretching both his arms upwards, he sought the metal plaque that was placed on top of the fireplace. Putting his hands on both sides of the plaque, his fingers released a catch which allowed him to remove it with relative ease, revealing a pinhole video-camera which was affixed to the chimney wall. The Batman manipulated the device, removed the SD card from it, and pocketed it.

Checking around the place for another 15 minutes, he left the door through the half-collapsed main door.

<Night-time in Adelaide>

“Hey, did anyone see our first-years?” Luke asked his lab assistant as he was just about leave the lab for the day. Mike Kim and Anita McCall are his latest recruits, both of them have shown interests in his more advanced projects within his engineering program. Despite being first-years, both have proven to have quite the aptitude for engineering and maths.

“No, not since two days ago. Maybe they are still celebrating their completion of your assignment ahead of time?”

Luke frowned on his assistant’s comments. “That doesn’t mean that they can just skip the rest of the semester. We’re still not done, at least not until finals wrap-up in a couple of weeks.” He grumbled as he gathered up his stuff and packed-up for the night. “Anyway, turn off the lights while you’re done, Ash??”

“Sure thing Prof. See you.” He heard the door open and close behind him as he cleared up the workbenches. When he turned around, he suddenly stood face-to-face with Anita McCall, causing him to flinch and jump back involuntarily.

“JEESUS!! ANITA! Where did YOU come from?? Lab was over hours ago. Where the hell were you? And where’s Mike?”

“Ash, listen. I’m… I’m in a bit of a fix. Can… can I crash inside the lab for a few days?”

The lab assistant was instantly suspicious. “What’s this all about? Don’t all of you first-years stay on campus? Why do you need to stay in HERE, among all this mess?” he asked, gesturing about the lab. “Not that we don’t crash here once a while during crunch-time, but…”

“It’s… it’s complicated. Look, I just need a few days alright? I’ll be out before classes start on Monday morning, and then you and Prof. Livingstone can then have it back again! Hey, since i’m crashing in here, I promise I’ll also help with the clean-up!!!”

Ash looked hard at Anita. Despite his reluctance, she has always been a good student. Sighing, he finally relented. “Make sure you get going before 9 on Monday, ok? Don’t want the professor and I to get into trouble over this…”

“Don’t worry! You can trust me, ok?”

“Fine.” Picking up his own backpack, he made his way towards the door. “there’s some blankets and large towels in those storage cabinets. You going to be ok?”

“No problem!” She gave her best smile as the door closed. Giving the lab assistant a 3 minute head-start, her sensitive hearing confirming his footsteps walking further away from the lab, she finally let out a sigh, and quickly ran and open the door again, whispering into the hallway “Coast’s clear! Come on.”

The door next to the lab opened, and Grace came pattering across the hallway towards her friend and roomate. Anita admitted her friend, look around twice before closing the door behind her and locking it.   

“So, now what?” Grace asked pensively.

“Well, given that the lab is in the basement, this at least shields us from the sunlight when we need to rest. And it’s the weekend anyway, so we have a bit of time to think through what else can we do…”

“But… will we be able to control ourselves, if anyone or your professors comes in?” It was a valid question posed by Grace, and one that Anita doesn’t readily have an answer for. “And where IS Mike?”

“I haven’t seen him since we split off last night, but he did say that he will catch-up with us later tonight.”

“Well, i think we tend to do better when we are NOT hungry, so we might need to go out a bit tonight before coming back here,” Anita walked towards the door again, “and Mike told me he had to run some errands first. So maybe he’ll come back here later.” Opening it, she motioned to her friend again “Right now, i think for everyone’s sake, we better feed a little first.”

_____________________________________

Nick Burns and Jay Cho left the local pub near to their homes in Ashburton slightly after 10. Dressed in their leather jackets over their cotton Ts and jeans, both of them were making their way home when suddenly they heard someone call out to them.

“Yo! Guys! Wait up!” Before they could turn around, they found themselves hugged from behind.

“Oooff.. not so tight, man.” Turning around, he broke out in a grin. “Mike, where have you been? It’s been ages!” he then proceeded to give his old classmate a high-five. Mike too turned towards Jay and gave him a punch on his arm.

“Ouch! You really pack a punch now. Seems like you’ve been working out, huh? Not enough that you are much smarter than both of us, now you have to become even more buff than us” Jay had noticed his friend’s slightly muscular features, as Mike’s tight-fit collared shirt revealed the tone muscles and the contours of his washboard abs.

 “Yeah. Well, that and a bit more of other things as well…”

“Mike, really? I thought you don’t do those stuff anymore. Unless… that’s why you’re here, to score some more of those weed that we tried not that long ago…” All three of them laughed at each other.

“Yeah, well, you know how it is. Going to uni, stressed out, and all I could think about is to go and hit the gym to get the daily stress out of my system you know? And guess what…” Mike made a bicep curl, and a softball-sized bicep grew from his left arm “…all that DID work-out for me.”

Relaxing his arm, Mike continued on “Hey, are you guys still going to Stubbs’? Haven’t seen him in ages. Think the entire gang is still there at the warehouse by the south-side highway turnout?”

Nick and Jay paused, before the latter tentatively ventured “Mike, you swore not to even mention that guy’s name in passing since… since… well, ever. And now you’re asking us if we SEE him?”

Nick just raised his hands up in a surrender and said “We barely made it out alive from there, and you know we’ve been clean since then. I, for one, am NOT going back there.”

“Yeah yeah… Listen, since we’ve all met-up, why don’t we go back to your place? Have a bit of a drink before I go back to the uni.”

“I thought you live on campus now? They have curfew, no? Sure you still want to do that?” Nick raised an eyebrow. “After all, YOU were the one that was the first who wanted OUT from our happy times.”

“Hey, it’s end of sem, I’m done with homework, and I do miss some of the fun! Come on, I’m really thirsty, let’s go already!” He then ran ahead of the other two, and then made the right turn into the side lane, the usual shortcut towards their house.

Nick and Jay looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and followed their friend into the side lane. But as they walked along the path, they realised that they couldn’t see their friend anymore.

“Wow, i didn’t know that he could run THAT fast. He must be REALLY thirsty.” Jay commented to Nick before realising too late that a figure had reappeared behind both of them silently, its eyes glowing red. In seconds, Jay found himself pushed violently to the sidewall, his face impacting the wall, cracking his specs. Dazed and confused, he collapsed onto the ground.

As he tried to get his bearings, all Jay could make out with his limited eyesight were two shadows seemingly clapsed and overlapping each other. One of it was definitely Nick’s, and if his shouts and cries are any indication he is being violently attacked by… something? someone? Jay couldn’t tell. As he knelt on the floor and felt around the ground trying to find his broken specs, he realised too late that the cries have fallen silent. His hair stood on end as he realised what’s coming next.

Before he could turn around and get away, he felt his armed pinned to the side, a powerful figure hugging him towards himself. A familiar voice whispered into his ear “Already told you that I’m thirsty. Guess I’ll have a drink here first.” Mike opened his mouth wide, plunged his fangs into his friend’s carotid artery, and as he drank Jay could only open his mouth in a silent scream. 

________________________________

<Cadmus. Morning>

“Uggh… Bright…” it was all that went through his mind as he tried to open his eyes. The piercing white LED lights shone directly into his eyes, and his groggy mind still tried to make sense of things.

“Well well well. My dear Lex. Back from the land of the dead.” A sarcastic voice cut through the steady beeping of the machines. It took a few seconds before he could tell that the voice belonged to Dr. Lillian Hamilton, who has approached his bed. Bending over him and temporarily blocking the light, she started checking him out with her stethoscope and her pen-torch, allowing him to focused better on the scientist.

“…how long… happened…”

“Close to three days. You were out. Completely. And for whatever reason, you seemed to weigh a ton since you collapsed. Mercy and I had to get a few more assistants before we could put you on the bed.” Dr. Hamilton replied in a huff.

“I… where…”

“Down in the lab, where else? Can’t drive you back to your own place like this isn’t it? Not when there isn’t any medical equipment there, and we also don’t want to give people any opportunity to catch a glimpse of you in such a shape? Here…” as Lex attempted to move himself to a sitting position, Lillian offered her hand to try and prop him up against the backboard.

As he moved, Lex thought his body felt different. It feels as if his own bodysize has grown beyond what he was initially used to. Once he’s propped up, Lillian wheeled a fullsize mirror towards him, and his own reflection confirmed his initial suspicions.

While he was out, someone had changed him into something that is more befitting a medical patient while he was out. Designed to be loose-fitting, instead his upper body muscles and size has increased in such that even his firm six-pack is clearly visible through the thin clothing. He had felt his new muscles moving, and they definitely felt flexible and to a certain extent, very comfortable despite the size and bulk they seem to exude.

As he continued staring at his reflection, his eyesight suddenly shifted and instead of looking at the mirror, Lex realised he is now looking THROUGH it. Or at least partially, as he could just about make out the figure of the young, delectablelab assistant Ms Teech, who just happened to be in his line of sight now. She was just bending over a few samples on the far side of the room, and yet Lex’s eyes quickly zoomed-over her youngish figure, he quickly felt a familiar heaviness in his private parts.

Dr. Hamilton saw his rising wood, and remarked “Hmpph. Looks like you ARE an EXCELLENT speciment of the male species now, though it would seem your brain seems to have gone all to mush. Must be too much bed-rest, causing all your cognitive skills to be not responding as well as it should…” she turned around to look at the machines and the drip, before continuing “or, it could just be that we still need a bit of time before the anesthesia wears off.”

She turned back towards Lex, and remarked lightly “Just give it a bit of time, my dear. Once you’re less woozy, we can then move you back to your own lounge and bed in the suite.”

Lex nodded, and as Lillian and her assistant left, the sides of his mouth etched upwards as he raised his hands and arms upwards into a casual bicep flex. The slight tearing of the sleeves of the gown revealed the current extent of his physique, its size reminscent of one who is preparing for a full-blown professional career in body-building.

“Now, let’s see how you compare to me now, SUPERMAN!” He smiled as he thought of the various possibilities.

Outside the lab, Lillian was so deep in thought that she almost missed her assistant’s question.

“Hm? What was that again?”

“Oh, I was wondering if you’ll want to run more tests on Lex given now that he is now fully awake.”

“Let’s give him some time. After all” she paused in front of the elevator, “I am sure that Lex is as curious as we are on his current capabilities now.”

She almost bumped into Mercy Graves when the doors opened. Stepping out, Mercy enquired to both of the Cadmus scientists “How is he?”

“He’s fine. And awake. He should be out and about in an hour, give or take.”

“I see. So he’s… changed?”

“Oh, physically he is now one FINE speciment of the male species, which I believe you will agree wholeheartedly when you see in person. But of which stock… that I am not sure.”

Mercy bit back that question that was in her throat, and instead looked towards the lab. “Well, he’s alive, at the very least. I do think that it was quite foolish of him to go to that extent…”

“Is she back?”

“Who?” Mercy was confused whom Lilian meant.

“The woman who… transformed Lex. Has she turned up?”

“I haven’t seen her since she took off with Lex’ guests. Given their intimacy earlier, I suppose she does need a bit of rest.”

“Does she now. Let me know when she drops by. Perhaps we can all try to figure out EXACTLY what and who she is, and get to the bottom of things…”

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