I do not own any of the DC characters named within, and are only using them for a tale crafted for entertainment purposes only.
Batman: Inverse Theory
Inspired by a challenge from Whitetiger:
"Still up, sir," Alfred drawled as he eyed the back of the young millionaire hunched over the computer in the massive cave beneath Wayne Manor.
Overhead, dozens of bats squeaked and chirped restlessly, but Bruce Wayne, still clad in his distinctive costume he had first donned just a few months ago, paid no heed to them. Or to him, either, it would seem.
"Hmmmm? Oh, Alfred," the young man turned to eye him, only his cowl pulled back, the rest of the admittedly unnerving outfit still covering his lean, muscular frame honed by years of training and preparation for the self-styled crusade the orphan had began not long after his parents had died at the hands of a common thug. "Still up," he asked absently, turning back to the computer that was running some kind of program.
As most of the things that his employer did of late, Alfred could make neither heads nor tails of it.
"Indeed, sir," he remarked blandly. "I thought you would be relaxing for a change, though, as you did bring down that peculiarly garbed gang you were chasing."
"Yes, the Red Hood gang," he nodded. "They were taken into custody earlier tonight."
"Then, might I ask, what is keeping you up?"
"I got careless," Bruce growled without looking up, and Alfred knew what that confession cost him.
"I assume you mean you need a medic again…."
"I'm not sure what I need. Yet."
"One of them almost fell into a vat of waste chemicals. Apparently, the place was a drop for a waste dump from nine other corporations throughout the city. Even they didn't know what was in those vats, or how they might….interact."
"And I assume your concern is….?"
"Aside from the obvious fact they were dumping those chemicals somewhere," Bruce said, learning back in his chair to eye the calculations being played out on the screen before him, "I was directly exposed to them myself."
"My word," Alfred gasped. "Are you sure you shouldn't be….?"
"Alfred," he growled at him over his shoulder. "How could Bruce Wayne go to a doctor, and explain being exposed to a hodgepodge of illegally stored chemicals?"
"I see your point, sir. Still…."
"I'm testing the samples I brought back, and checking for anything suspicious now. So far, I've not noticed any….adverse reactions. I prefer not to take chances, though. So I'm running everything I can think of just now."
"Of course. Perhaps I might suggest the portable MRI? It might give us a better idea if anything…."
"Later. Considering I was only in the vat a few seconds before I escaped, any reaction is bound to be epidermal."
"One hopes for the best, of course," Alfred remarked dryly, knowing his employer's stubborn streak all too well. "Might I ask what happened?"
"One of the gang members almost fell into the tank when he ran. I caught him, and slung him back onto the catwalk, but the grapple dislodged, and….."
"Interesting. A vaguely kinetic reaction to the primary chemical component."
"It means, Alfred, it possesses mutational abilities," he said grimly.
"But… Did you not say you have not noticed anything?"
"No, I haven't. That doesn't mean any changes might be….immediate. I'd better run some more tests, and continue the cellular extrapolations. Just in case."
"I shall go and make tea. I suspect you'll be needing it."
"Make it coffee," Bruce growled. "Black."
"As you will, sir," he sighed, and headed back for the lift to the main house.
Bruce barely noticed his departure as he continued to work on the problems running though his mind. One of them, his eclectic mind insisted, was a new grapple. The hook wasn't working out. He needed something with more stability. More holding power. Something that wouldn't be so easily displaced by sudden, violent activity.
After all, he reasoned, most of what he did was sudden, and violent.
Meanwhile, he had to focus on the problem before him.
Other than a slight stinging he had noted on the way back to the Cave, he really had not noticed anything out of the ordinary. Even when he changed costumes, leaving the sodden one to be cleaned, he had not noticed anything unusual.
What concerned him, though, and what he had not told Alfred, was that he had swallowed at least two or three ounces of the bitter chemical stew. That ingestion was what truly concerned him. So far, it had not even upset his stomach, but he was taking no chances. He was checking, and rechecking everything.
Bruce rolled over, his sleep restless and troubled.
It didn't help that he had stayed up late again, and was finally dragged to bed when he almost fell over working on the computer models.
Alfred had shown up with tea, flavored with lemon and cream just the way he favored it, and informed him they were out of coffee. He barely tasted the bland beverage as he gulped it down, focused on his work for hours afterward.
When he finally dropped into bed, Alfred had not said a word.
Bruce was out cold by the time he hit the bed anyway.
Rolling over, he noted the position of the sun, and knew it was almost noon.
"Good morning, Master Bruce," Alfred drawled, walking into the room with a breakfast tray. "Or should I say good afternoon?" "I didn't know you were a comedian, too, Alfred," he grumbled, and sat up in bed to eye his longtime friend and employee as he set up the tray, uncovered the meal likely kept warm for him all this time, and then smiled at Alfred's dry, and predictable reply.
"Whatever made you think I was joking, sir?"
"It's not that late," he remarked, taking the coffee that Alfred had apparently found since last night.
Then again, knowing his friend, he might have ordered it the moment he noted it was gone, and simply had it delivered this morning.
"It's is half past noon, sir, and you have a two o'clock meeting at Wayne-Tech."
"Right," he groaned, and sagged back in the bed.
"Recall that Bruce Wayne does need to make an occasional appearance, or people might begin to wonder at your absence, sir? After all, it wouldn't do for you to disappear completely when Batman only just started showing up after your return to the city."
"I know. I know," he grumbled. "It's just…. I think I need a manager. Someone I can trust to run Wayne-Tech the way I want it. This rush to meetings every time the board panics over a Wall Street report is going to be a problem the way I see it."
"I wager the shareholders aren't too thrilled, either," Alfred deadpanned.
Bruce merely eyed his friend over his coffee cup as he lifted it to his lips.
"Two o'clock," Alfred echoed. "I suggest you not dawdle, sir," he quipped as he went to Bruce's closet, and began laying out a casual suit. Or one that was casual for Alfred.
"I'll just take a quick shower, and then check the computer…."
"You have just enough time to eat, shower, and make your meeting. The computer, I daresay, can wait."
"If you are finished eating," he asked, arching a brow as Bruce just eyed him from the bed, having only gulped down a piece of the buttered toast.
"Fine," he grumbled. "Someday, we're going to have to work out who really runs this house," he muttered on his way to the bathroom.
"Indeed, sir," Alfred agreed without looking back as he carried the barely touched tray away.
Bruce chortled wryly, then walked over to the mirror, and ran a hand across his chin.
Well, he wouldn't have to shave yet. That was a bonus, he decided as he put it from his mind, and stripped down to climb into the shower. He barely noted the loss of his body hair until he was finishing shampoo from his eyes.
He looked down, frowned, and realized his body was as smooth and bare as a newborn below the neck. Just like his chin.
A reaction from the chemicals? If that was all they had done, he couldn't complain. Still, he wasn't sure if that was all. Some of those chemicals were obviously potent, and he had swallowed a mouthful. Yet, so far, he had yet to notice any other reaction.
Forcing his mind from the unexpected hair loss, he quickly dried, got dressed, and met Alfred downstairs.
"You seem to have finished in record time," Alfred noted as they left the mansion.
"Well, I tried to hurry," he drawled without explanation as he climbed into the back of the smaller limo they used of late since fuel prices were going up. Still, Bruce Wayne had an image to protect, so even the small limo was necessary when on business.
"Indeed," Alfred remarked yet again as he shut the door, and walked around the car.
Bruce sat back, his mind working on the upcoming meeting, and several other projects for his alter-ego at the same time as Alfred drove him toward the city.
Batman limped into the Cave a few nights later, and leaned against a bench as he drew a sigh, and shook his head.
"Something's wrong," he told Alfred as the car cooled down, it's turbines still winding down after he had shut off the powerful engines. "I was off again. Sloppier than usual. It was like….my balance and coordination were completely off."
He paused, grimacing as he knelt over slightly, one hand on his lower belly.
"Just a….twinge," he groaned. "I've been having them lately. I think I need to….take some more blood. Recheck….my earlier tests. Something," he told Alfred, "Is definitely going on."
"I think you'd best sit down if you're feeling that badly," Alfred told him, rushing to drag a chair to him, rather than the other way around. "I'll get the medical kit."
Bruce nodded, breathing hard as he pushed his cowl back, feeling as he had run a marathon. Twice.
He had been lucky tonight. Past lucky.
The last few nights he had been fine. Then, he noted his balance seemed to start slowly shifting of late. He put it down to fatigue, since he was running double shifts on patrol, and at Wayne-Tech lately. He waited for Alfred's return from the clinic in the back of the Cave, and didn't even try to move.
Even he knew that was unusual for him.
He was worn out. Past worn out. He felt as if…..
"I think you'd better get out of the eveningwear, sir," Alfred told him as he opened a box with sealed syringes, and a few vials. "It'll make this easier."
It spoke to his state that Bruce didn't even try to argue.
"I'll run these samples, sir, after I get you into bed," Alfred told him as he drew blood.
"No," Bruce hissed, glaring up at him. "I need to…."
"You need to rest. I'll bring you some hot soup, too. You aren't going to do any good if you collapse down here. So," he said, finishing up his task, "Let's go. No arguments this time, sir. You obviously need a break."
Bruce was just too tired and sore to argue.
As the past few nights, Bruce still found it difficult to rest.
His mind wasn't the problem this time.
His body seemed to be on fire from the inside out. He felt as if even his bones and joints were tormenting him. It made it impossible to lay still, and even harder to sleep. Every time he almost dozed off, he found himself reacting to a pain, or pains, that would abruptly wrack his body.
Near dawn, he climbed out of bed, and padded toward the bathroom, his steps staggering, and uneasy. He paused to look in the mirror, and frowned.
Looking closer, he realized he was looking through dark bangs that now covered his brow. Pushing the dark hair back, he shivered as he realized that movement at his shoulders wasn't just his pajamas.
He spun half around, and realized his hair was a good six inches past his shoulders.
He frowned, and tugged at the hair.
It wasn't coming off. It was his own. And it was real.
Surely all of that discomfort wasn't just hair growth, he mentally checked as he stepped back, and stared down at himself, holding up his fists.
And noted the slightest tenting of his pajama shirt.
His eyes rounded hugely as he tore open the shirt and stared.
It spoke to his own discipline and will that he didn't simply scream.
Shaking his head, he pulled off his pajama pants, and stared at his legs. His altered stance was more obvious this morning. As if his entire pelvis had reset itself.
Only….was that even possible?
He swallowed hard, and pulled down his shorts.
His jaw clenched when he realized that while his penis was still there, it was very much reduced. Very much, and his testicles were missing. Added to that, his scrotum seemed to have pulled up, and was in the process of….splitting. As if…..
He shook his head at the unthinkable, and went to find a robe.
Padding through the house, even Alfred yet to rise, he went straight to the secret entrance that led below, and entered his Cave. He headed to the computer, and booted up the medical extrapolations he had been running.
A quick check found Alfred had already entered the new blood and tissue samples from last night, and the computer had been running them all night.
He already suspected what he would find.
He was right.
It took only a few minutes to confirm the radically elevated levels of new hormones in his system. Female hormones. One might even call them 'super' hormones. Somehow amplified by the bizarre mix of chemicals, the levels of estrogen in his blood had been enhanced by the chemical bath, and were altering his DNA in a way that was transforming him into…..a female.
He stared hard at the results, and for only the second time in his life, had no idea what to do.
To Be Continued…