earth-717: hulk vol 2

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Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2 Chapter 1: Looking Out Her hands in her pockets, Betty walked along the edge of the Toronto waterfront, observing the world around her. There were gulls in the sky, soaring along and mostly minding their own business. There were cars on the road, forming an endless line of people going through here with a need to get somewhere else. There was fog in the air, rolling over the sidewalks and the water, giving a faint hint of mystery to the area. There were numerous people walking about, but Betty did not pay attention to any of them as she continued to walk. Pulling her jacket in tighter as a gust of wind snaked its way along her back, she then turned towards the lake, placing her arms together on the metal railing at the edge of the sidewalk. Running her right index finger through her hair, she stood there as she thought about all of the searching that she had done in the last year. The long hours she had spent scouring through snippets of news and internet rumours. The desperate conversations she had had with her new contacts. The handful of times she had wondered if she was truly not going to find him again. Every once in a while, she had even run into a night when she felt that perhaps her quest was no

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An alternate time. An alternate world. Having lived for too long on the run, Bruce Banner finally found a place he could call home. However, his small hope for peace is soon shattered when a deadly alliance of foes reveal their master plan. Forced out of hiding and headlong into crisis, Banner must learn to do what he has always dreaded: not just control the Hulk, but embrace it.

TRANSCRIPT

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 1: Looking Out

Her hands in her pockets, Betty walked along the edge of the Toronto waterfront, observing the world around her. There were gulls in the sky, soaring along and mostly minding their own business. There were cars on the road, forming an endless line of people going through here with a need to get somewhere else. There was fog in the air, rolling over the sidewalks and the water, giving a faint hint of mystery to the area.

There were numerous people walking about, but Betty did not pay attention to any of them as she continued to walk. Pulling her jacket in tighter as a gust of wind snaked its way along her back, she then turned towards the lake, placing her arms together on the metal railing at the edge of the sidewalk. Running her right index finger through her hair, she stood there as she thought about all of the searching that she had done in the last year.

The long hours she had spent scouring through snippets of news and internet rumours. The desperate conversations she had had with her new contacts. The handful of times she had wondered if she was truly not going to find him again. Every once in a while, she had even run into a night when she felt that perhaps her quest was no longer worth continuing.

Those nights she spent slamming her fist against the shower wall.

Those days she had spent sitting on the couch, gorging herself with greasy food.

Those times she would lay awake in her bed, not knowing if she would ever be able to share it with him again.

Those times that she thought that perhaps she had best move on with her life.

Each time this happened, her mind went back to a conversation she had a year ago with her father, while overlooking a body of water similar to the one she was standing at now.

Are you going to be okay?

Yeah.

Can we make peace?

Soon.

Are you going to look for him?

Betty inhaled before the answer replayed in her mind. She remembered that she had smiled when she had given it.

I'll never stop looking.

It was all she ever needed to hear to reinvigorate her resolve. She knew that no matter what, she could not give up on him. They had been through too much together for it all to have been in vain. She thought back to that terrible day in Santa Fe, when she had been taken hostage by a deranged major in a high-tech armoured suit, and how she was saved at the last second.

It was in that moment, when the Hulk saved her, that she had started to wonder if perhaps the monstrous side of Bruce had a place in this world. Whether or not it did, she owed it to Bruce to try and find out, and that meant having to keep on looking.

Suddenly, her cell phone started vibrating in her jacket pocket. Nudged out of her thoughtful daze by it, she grabbed it and held it to her ear, clicking the call button.

Ross, she said.

Betty, it's me.

Betty recognized the voice right away as feminine. She was speaking to one of her new contacts that she had acquired while searching for Bruce.

Do you have something? asked Betty.

Yeah. I think we've finally got him.

Betty's eyes widened upon hearing the woman's words.

You're sure?

Well, we can't completely be sure, but it's damn promising. Promising enough that the top brass are mobilizing. And Betty, I mean they're mobilizing now. You're gonna have to move fast.

How fast? Where is he?

Northern forests of Ontario, replied the woman. I'm gonna send you the general area, cause we don't have exact co-ordinates yet. Top brass says they have a plan around that. Wish I could give you more, but this . . . .

It's more than enough, said Betty. I know how dangerous this is for you. Thanks for the info.

Just don't take too long to act on it.

I won't.

With that, the woman hung up on Betty, who held her phone out in front of her. A few seconds later, some map data appeared in a text message. Stuffing the phone back in her pocket, she immediately turned towards the street, heading back the way she came. Arriving at an underground parking lot, she found the place where she had left her motorcycle.

Hopping on, she turned on the ignition and checked the pistol that she had concealed under her jacket. Taking a few seconds to breathe, she then drove out of the lot and out onto the street, headed in a northern direction.

* * * *

As the elevator made a dinging noise to indicate that it had arrived at its destination, the steel door opened to reveal the lone occupant standing inside. He was an older man with greying hair, a meticulously square jaw, and a general's uniform. Marching out of the elevator, he held his hat in his left hand as he made his way down the hospital hallway.

He got to a patient room, at which point he looked through the window to see a sickly-looking woman laying on her bed. She had several wrapped bandages around her head, covering the fact that she had no hair. Numerous machines and tubes were connected to her body, sprawled all around her. Her eyes were closed, but the man could see that she was still breathing, if only just.

Her complexion was far paler than the last time he had come to visit. Much of her skin was starting to shrivel and wrinkle due to the loss of body mass underneath. The monitors and machines indicated that she was being kept alive. The man wondered how long she would be able to maintain her fight.

General?

Ryker turned to look to the side as a doctor walked up to him. She was holding a clipboard. Nodding at the doctor, he then turned back to look at the woman in the patient room.

How is she?

Holding on, replied the doctor. Treatments are working, but . . . . we don't know what will burn out first. It's always a gamble.

It's a gamble I'm willing to make.

You can go in to see her, if you like. She responds well when spoken to.

Thank you.

Ryker opened the door to the patient room, and the doctor turned back down the hallway. Closing the door behind him, Ryker then walked up to the medical bed, putting his hat on the bedside table. The table also had a framed photograph of Ryker and a much healthier looking version of the bedridden woman, leaning into each other and vibrantly smiling.

For several minutes, he just stood there, looking down at her. He then finally reached out and caressed the side of her right cheek, causing her to stir. She pressed her cheek against his hand before slowly opening her eyes. Upon seeing him, she put on a generous smile. When she spoke, her voice was gravelly and faint.

Hello there, good-lookin'.

Ryker let out a short laugh.

Hello yourself.

Hmmm. Now . . . . what's a fine young man like yourself doin' . . . . coming to talk to an old girl like me for? Hmmm?

Ryker looked behind him, seeing a chair on the other side of the table. Pulling it over, he sat down, before reaching out and grabbing her nearest hand with his.

Still the best looking girl in the house, he said.

The woman chortled at this. She squeezed Ryker's hand tighter.

Always did know how to turn on the charm, old boy. And you always did look damn good in a uniform. Always got me . . . . excited.

I wanted to look good for you.

You better, seeing how long it's been since you dropped by.

I've been . . . . busy.

I know. Going out there, doin' your country proud. Always tryin' to make things better for the rest of us normal folk.

The woman blinked and smiled again.

My John.

Ryker gave her a half-smile before looking at the floor.

You know I'm proud of you, she said. You know that, right?

Ryker nodded before looking back up at her.

Enough about me. How are you doing?

Me? Oh, doctor's said I'm fit as a champion horse. Should be outta here any day now. Soon enough, I'll be back to bench-pressin' cars and buildin' houses.

Really, Lucy . . . .

I'm good, John. I'm feelin' . . . . feelin' . . . . bet-bet . . . . b-better . . . .

Lucy started coughing violently, using her free hand to cover her mouth. Ryker stood up and reached over, cradling the back of her head with his hand. The lines around his eyes softened as a frown grew on his face. After a full minute of slowed breathing, Lucy finally opened her eyes again and looked over at him.

Lucy . . . . you scared me.

Don't be afraid for me, John. I . . . . I . . . .

Lucy's eyes rolled back as she gestured to the side. Ryker turned his head to see a water dispenser in the corner. Rushing over to it, he poured her a cup of water before holding it to her lips. He served her the entire cup, which she eagerly gulped down. After she swallowed, he sat down again, waiting for her to speak.

I'm old, John. No use denying it.

Don't say that. Don't, don't . . . . there's still . . . .

Now you listen here, old boy. Don't you dare go out there, pitying me, or some other nonsense. I lived a good life. Damn good life, in large part thanks to you. We shared some good times, you and I.

Ryker turned his head to the side, and it was clear that he was fighting back against an inclination to cry. Lucy again reached out and grasped his hand.

But there's no use fightin' what won't be. I ain't scared to die.

Ryker slowly looked back at Lucy.

I've made good in this world, same as you, she continued. We both did what we could to be . . . . to be good people. And that's all I wanted for us. I know I won't be around much longer . . . . but I'm not mad, and I'm not scared. It's okay. Thing ain't beautiful cause it lasts forever. It's beautiful cause . . . . cause we got the time we got. It's the natural way of things.

I . . . .

Ryker took some time to force out his next words.

I can't give up on you. I can't.

I don't think it's about givin' up, John.

Ryker raised an eyebrow as he looked Lucy in the eyes.

I think it's about makin' peace.

For a long time, the two continued to sit there, no longer needing to speak. Once Lucy fell asleep again, Ryker stood up and kissed her forehead. He then turned around, and after grabbing his hat off of the table, he walked out of the room. As he closed the door, he took a moment to look at the name that was plastered next to it.

LUCY RYKER.

Ryker rubbed the ring on his finger for a moment before turning back down the hall. As he approached the elevator, his cell phone went off. Stepping to the side of the room, he pulled it out and held it to his ear.

This is Ryker.

General, we have a situation, said a female voice.

What kind of situation?

The kind that requires your immediate attention. Someone from SHIELD is waiting outside the hospital. We all need to talk.

Ryker looked out the window to see a van parked on the street, with a man in a business suit standing there.

I'm on my way.

Ryker turned off the phone and marched over to the elevator.

* * * *

In the boreal forests of northern Ontario, Canada, a paltry wooden cabin stood by itself, wedged between a tree line and a small lake. Outside of the cabin stood Bruce Banner, who was using an axe to chop some wood, which he then placed in a pile next to him. He was wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans, with brown, messy hair atop his head.

Slicing apart another piece, he didn't notice as a small, circular shaped metallic orb floated up behind him. It had a front section that was a cyan, glass dome, which lit up as it spoke.

Doctor Banner!

Bruce turned to look at ROB.

Hey, ROB. What's the story?

Nothing out of the ordinary of recent, I'm afraid. Or maybe that's a good thing, not sure. Likely due to the increasing number of metahuman incidents, my internet scans indicate that any mobilized forces in search for you haven't made any progress. Any progress I can detect, anyway. You never know with the military.

Yeah, you can say that again.

You never know with the . . . .

That was, that was rhetorical, ROB. You didn't actually have to say it again.

How am I supposed understand human behaviour if you continuously do or say things with the opposite intention? It's utter madness, Doctor Banner!

Bruce put the axe on his shoulder.

Maybe it is. But, then again . . . . that's being human.

Quite right. Come on, I've prepared supper.

Bruce rolled his eyes as he followed ROB towards the cabin.

Chef's surprise again, ROB? You're killing me out here.

By the contrary, I'm doing everything I can to keep you alive. It's been quite a task this past year. I'm amazed I haven't been rendered non-functional!

ROB floated through the open cabin door. Bruce stopped on the porch, taking a moment to look out at the forest beyond. For a long time, he had been isolated here. Since becoming a fugitive, he had never spent this long in any one place. It was even starting to feel like home for him. Scratching the side of his head, he then strolled inside of the cabin, ready for the end of yet another day.

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 2: Gamma Corps

Ryker was lead into the room by a young woman in a SHIELD uniform. Her hair was short and black, and she was wearing lipstick that matched its hue. The room they entered was the central command centre for the SHIELD helicarrier. Standing on the central hub was Nick Fury, the organization's director.

Ryker looked at Fury, who stepped down from the hub and approached him. Fury was flanked by several other SHIELD agents, including a tall woman with glasses and red highlights in her hair, an older man with white hair, and two young scientists, a man and a woman. The woman with black hair and lipstick took her place amongst the group.

Raising an eyebrow, Ryker looked at each member of the group in turn, before turning his attention back to Fury.

What is this, Fury? Putting together your own company baseball team?

Better than that, General, replied Fury. Now that some of the other metahuman situations have been dealt with, I've pulled together a special task force specifically for tracking down the Hulk. I thought you'd approve.

Ryker groaned under his breath as he looked at the three young agents at the end of the line.

Half of them look like they're fresh out of high school.

The female scientist scoffed and put her hands on her hips.

I'll have you know . . . .

Agents Fitz and Simmons are SHIELD's dedicated Science Team, interrupted Fury. Two of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet.

Fury then gestured towards the woman with the black hair and lipstick.

And Agent Thirty-Five, Katherine Waynesboro, just so happens to be amongst the most talented data analysts I've ever seen.

Kate nodded in appreciation at Fury's comment, before standing up as tall as she could. Ryker folded his arms as Fury narrowed his eye.

Just because they're young, doesn't mean they're not worthy. They're on my team, and they're agents of SHIELD for a reason.

We shouldn't have to justify ourselves to you, said the woman with the glasses and red highlights.

You were the woman on the phone, said Ryker.

I was. I'm Agent Three, Victoria Hand. One of the highest ranking and longest serving senior officers of SHIELD. And you should remember that you're not one of us.

Where's Maria Hill? asked Ryker, looking back at Fury again. I thought she was your right hand.

She is, replied Fury. Miss Hill is busy elsewhere, on another mission for me with a handful of other operatives. Right now, this is our team.

Ryker then looked at the older man.

And you are?

Agent Six, answered the man. Felix Blake. I actually have a bit of history with this case. I was at ground zero.

Ground zero?

I was present the day that Bruce Banner underwent his experiment. The one that turned him into the Hulk for the first time. It was, uh . . . . quite the experience.

Ryker took a few minutes to ponder the lineup in front of him before nodding and putting his hands in his pockets.

I would probably say . . . . nice job, Fury. But I've got a team of my own.

Ryker then turned around, looking at the door he had entered through.

Talbot!

Victoria and Blake looked at each other in confusion.

Talbot? they said in unison.

Victoria then turned back to Ryker.

Major Talbot? she asked.

No, said a female voice.

A group of five commandos strolled into the room. They were wearing black and grey armoured tactical combat suits, and had pulse rifles strapped to their backs. All but one had helmets on that covered their faces. Fury noted to himself that the entire group was female. The only one without her helmet on was the one standing at the front of the group.

She had long brown hair and striking green eyes. She also had a beauty mark just above the left side of her upper lip. She was wearing her best contemptuous smirk, and was holding her helmet against her left hip. Her right fist was placed on her right hip. She slanted her weight to the right and whipped her hair around before looking directly at Fury.

Captain Talbot, she said. Captain Carla Talbot.

The entire SHIELD group all regarded Carla with a certain level of scepticism.

Talbot, said Fury. That's a name I thought I'd heard the last of.

You thought wrong, said Carla.

I too have a special task group, said Ryker. They're called the Gamma Corps. All special forces operatives, with advanced training and equipment to deal with threats enhanced by gamma radiation. Namely, the Hulk.

And they're all girls, blurted out Fitz.

Simmons nudged Fitz with her elbow.

Fitz . . . .

Glaring at Fitz, Carla trudged up to him. Using her height to look down at him, Carla watched as Fitz shied away from her, taking great care not to make eye contact.

Women make better soldiers, said Carla, before pulling out a combat knife from a holster on her leg. Would you like me to show you how?

Ryker snapped his fingers.

That's enough, Captain.

Carla scoffed as Fitz trembled. She then flipped her knife through her fingers a few times before stuffing the blade back in its holster. She stepped back in line as Simmons calmed Fitz down.

And what made you sign up for this assignment, Captain Talbot? asked Fury.

The Hulk is a monster and a murderer, replied Carla. He's a dangerous and vile enemy who needs to be caught and crushed. He's existed for far too long, and honestly, he needs to be put out of his misery. But the real problem I have with him is that he killed the only man who I've ever truly respected . . . . my older brother.

Major Glenn Talbot went on a rampage, Captain, said Victoria. He stole a suit of powered armour and massacred over two dozen . . . .

Carla again pulled out her knife, this time pointing it at Victoria's throat.

You shut your whore mouth.

I said that's enough, Captain!

Carla looked over her shoulder with derision at Ryker, but again relented and stepped back in line.

Yes, sir, she said, mockingly.

Everyone took a moment to breathe before continuing.

General, said Fury. We called you in because we have some new intel.

I'm listening, replied Ryker.

Waynesboro, said Fury.

Kate stepped forward.

Right. I have come across some information that may finally give us a chance to track down Doctor Bruce Banner. According to my findings, he is in the forests of northern Ontario. I've marked the specific area on the SHIELD data map.

The map screen appeared as a holographic display over the front window of the helicarrier. The map zoomed in automatically over Ontario, before a small area at the north end was highlighted in yellow.

We're on our way there now, continued Kate. We'll scour the area, and then . . . .

Victoria was looking at her phone when she interrupted Kate.

Director, said Victoria. I have something you need to see.

Victoria tapped a button on her phone, and a video screen appeared over the holographic display. It showed footage of a street from an aerial view. The footage was from a news report, and the street had numerous civilians fleeing in terror as green pulses of energy destroyed multiple vehicles. The sound then filtered in a second later.

. . . . identity unknown at this time, but what we do know is that this man has somehow been able to hold off over a dozen officers of the Toronto Police Service. Blocks all around Bloor Street East have been cordoned off, with the area being evacuated as we speak.

The Hulk? asked Ryker.

No, said Fury. This is something else.

. . . . can confirm that . . . . oh my god!

A large transport truck exploded, causing several chunks of debris to be blasted into the air. As the fireball dissipated, the footage showed a clear view of a man in a red hazmat suit.

Chen Lu, said Victoria. The Radioactive Man.

The hell is he doing there? asked Blake.

I thought you lost him, said Ryker, turning to Fury.

We did. About a month ago. His convoy was hit before he could be transferred to Ravencroft.

Sir, said Simmons. Chen Lu is incredibly powerful. He may not be the Hulk, but we need to deal with this now! The police will be slaughtered!

Fury turned to look at Simmons.

You're right, but . . . . it doesn't make any sense. What does he have to gain from this? There's something else going . . . .

I'll tell you what's going on.

Everyone turned to look at Carla, who had pulled out her pulse rifle.

What's going on is that Gamma Corps just got their first assignment, she said. Call him Radioactive Man? Sounds exactly like our sort of guy.

* * * *

I said stay back!

Chen fired off another radiation blast from his palms, which struck at the closest police squad car. The two officers who were taking cover behind it were blown off their feet, rolling backwards along the pavement. Chen then looked around, scanning both sides of the street. Looking up, he watched as a news helicopter flew overhead, trying to get a good angle on him to secure more footage.

He had been holding the police forces at bay for some time now, having started his assault from inside one of the buildings. Looking up again, he then saw a SHIELD Quinjet soar over the road before hovering a few metres above him.

Finally, he said.

He charged his right fist with radioactive energy as five commandos leaped out of the back of the Quinjet. They all landed on the cracked pavement, brandishing their pulse rifles. Carla had since put on her helmet, and began calmly walking towards Chen.

So this is the force SHIELD sends to capture me, said Chen. They'll have to do better.

We'll do just fine, retorted Carla.

Chen fired his charged radiation blast directly at Carla, who held up her left forearm as if to block the attack. As the blast struck her body, a white, hexagonal-patterned shield materialized over her combat suit, absorbing the blast. She was not even knocked back at all by the attack. Chen's glowing green eyes widened with surprise.

Carla then smirked as she aimed her pulse rifle forward with one hand, firing off a quick shot. A translucent shockwave pulse jettisoned from the rifle and struck Chen in the chest, launching him backwards and into the air. He landed on the windshield of a car, cracking the vehicle in half.

A police officer ran up to the group of commandos standing behind Carla, who was still casually strolling over to to Chen.

What's going on here?! he yelled. Who are you?

Get them out of here, said Carla, not bothering to look behind her.

The commando nearest to the officer pulled out her pulse rifle and fired a blast at the officer's feet, knocking him to his back.

Stay back, said the commando. For your own safety.

Chen pushed himself off of the vehicle's wreckage. He then started fuming at Carla.

Want to try again? she asked.

Roaring with anger, Chen punched his fist against the ground, creating a large shockwave that tore up the pavement around him for several metres. Carla was blasted off her feet, and the other members of the Gamma Corps jumped to avoid the shockwave. As Carla rolled back to her feet, she shook her head.

Gamma Corps! Engage!

The commandos unleashed several rapid-fire pulse blasts from their rifles, which Chen deflected with his radiation shield. He then turned and ran back into the nearby building, with Carla and her commandos giving chase. Breaking through the lobby of the building, Chen smacked a man out of the way, burning a hole through the man's chest with his irradiated palm.

Carla kept sprinting after him, with the other commandos not far behind. Chen fired more radiation blasts as he ran, creating piles of rubble that she was forced to break through. As she continued her pursuit, Fury's voice came in through her intercom.

Captain Talbot! There are civilians and law enforcement in play! What the hell are you doing?!

Stopping the bad guy! Now shut up and lemme do my job!

Chen broke his way through a concrete wall, slipping along the floor as he did so. More office workers who were in the room started screaming and attempting to flee.

Nichole! shouted Carla. Cut him off at the entry point!

Carla slid into the room, firing a pulse blast at the ceiling. Pieces of debris broke off and caved in, landing on Chen and startling him. One of the workers was also hit by debris, breaking her leg. She shrieked as she collapsed to the floor. Chen tried to make his way to the door, but was blocked by the commando named Nichole, who bashed him in the face with the back of her rifle.

Chen swatted at Nichole with an open palm, knocking her gun out of her hands. He then fired a radiation blast at her, sending her crashing against the back wall of the nearby hallway. Before he could move, Carla pounced on him from behind, digging her combat knife into one of the valves on his back. She then threw him behind her.

He rolled on the floor before charging his fist again, trying to punch her with a powered right hook. She quickly kicked his arm away before spinning around and landing another kick to his chest, knocking him out of the window. Chen yelled as he fell away and smashed into the road on his back. He groaned in agony as his limbs went limp.

Carla scowled at him from the open window before jumping down. Landing in a three point pose, she then strolled up to him, seeing that he was having trouble staying conscious. She pulled out her modified energy magnum and aimed it at his face as the SHIELD Quinjet pulled around overhead. Before she could fire, she heard Ryker's voice on her intercom.

Stand down, Captain!

Why?

Because I ordered you to. The job's done. He's stopped.

Not for good.

Your unit is deployed to capture, not to kill. Bring him in alive, Carla.

Carla growled under her breath as she continued to hold her aim. After a few more seconds, she held her pistol up and spun it around her hand before placing it back in her holster. She then turned away as the rest of the Gamma Corps approached her.

Fine, she said. You can have this one. But the Hulk is mine.

* * * *

Having trouble keeping your hound in line, General?

Ryker turned around and looked at Fury with disdain.

Captain Talbot has a long history of success in the field, said Ryker. She also has a long history of . . . . brash behaviour.

Brash?! asked Victoria. She ordered her troops to fire on the police!

To keep them at bay and out of a fight they couldn't win, replied Ryker. She gets the job done, and that's what matters.

Gets the job done, alright, said Fury, folding his arms. With seemingly zero regard for civilian casualties.

Don't give me that crap, Fury. You know as well as I the consequences of what we do.

I can agree with that, General. All I'm saying is . . . . if she lets it go too far, you might have a dangerous situation on your hands. Just make sure you can reign her in when you have to.

I'll worry about my team. You worry about yours.

Fury reluctantly nodded. Victoria then sighed and put her hands in her pockets.

Now, the next matter, she said. What do we do with Chen Lu?

Blake tilted his head to the side.

Last time we caught him, he got out fairly easily, he said.

I can take him, said Ryker. I have operational control of a high security military facility. I can store him there. Wouldn't want him to slip out from under your fingers again, would you, Fury?

Fury narrowed his eye before looking over at Victoria and Blake.

He's right, said Victoria. Probably better off if we let Ryker take him.

I agree with Agent Hand's assessment, said Blake.

Fury stroked his chin, thinking for several seconds. He then looked back up at Ryker.

Okay. He's all yours.

Ryker grinned. Fury then switched the holographic video screen back to Kate's map data.

Now, back to our main objective, he said. We have a general area, but little in the way of actually tracking the Hulk down. We have to narrow the search.

Any ideas on how to do that? asked Victoria.

One, said Fury. I know a guy. Expert tracker. Might be just who we need to end this once and for all.

* * * *

As Chen was loaded into a containment unit and placed on a military helicopter, a lone humanoid figure watched him from a window in a building down the street. The figure seemed to be mostly metallic, with certain sections covered in leather clothing and modular armour. A black, grey and maroon colour scheme dictated most of the figure's appearance.

A torn piece of fabric, similar to a bandana, was wrapped diagonally over three quarters of the face, with only the left eye section visible. However, what was visible was metallic, with a silver skull plate and a red, ocular targeting lens over the eye. The targeting lens zoomed in on Chen, before scanning some of the other personnel on the street.

Deathlok stood still, so as to allow the people watching the event through his lens to get as clear a view as possible. He was transmitting the video feed to a secret location, from which two figures were watching. The first was a man with green skin and an elongated forehead, who was sitting in his chair. The second was a gaseous, green feminine form, with a head, hair, torso and arms all made out a type of radioactive vapour.

Ann was floating around Sterns' chair as they both watched Deathlok's video.

Excellent work, Deathlok, said Sterns. You have done well. Chen Lu's location transponder is activated, and, it appears that no one can detect it but myself. Exactly as I designed. Return to sentry mode and await further instructions.

Deathlok's video shut off. Ann then floated in front of Sterns.

Doctor Chen Lu put up quite the performance, she said.

Indeed, replied Sterns. The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.

So, when do we strike?

Not yet, my dear. There's still one last man who has a part to play . . . .

Sterns pressed a button on the arm of his chair, switching his display screen to a data file on Bruce Banner.

Soon the Hulk will be ours . . . . and after that, the world.

Ann deviously smiled as she listened to him speak.

So says . . . . the Leader.

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 3: Banner in the Woods

Pulling open the door to the bar, Fury stepped inside. He casually walked through the establishment with confidence, not bothering to pay any mind to the various patrons. There was a specific man that he was looking for, and he knew exactly where he would be. Seeing the man from behind, Fury approached him and took a seat at the bar counter next to him.

The man had rugged skin and distinctive hair. His muscular arms bulged from under his layman's clothes, and he carried an air of danger about him. Chugging down his beer, the man slammed the glass down on the counter. He then gestured towards the bartender, who walked over to him.

Reload, the man said.

Fury then held out his hand, getting the bartender's attention.

Let me, said Fury. I'll pick up his tab.

The bartender raised an eyebrow, before shrugging and turning around with the glass, ready to fill it again. The man turned to look at Fury.

Awful kind of you, Nick.

Figured it'd get you to stay long enough to hear me out.

I'm listening.

The bartender placed the glass in front of the man and turned around to deal with another customer.

Got a problem I think you can help me with.

Kinda busy, Nick.

What? Doing construction? You making an honest living all of a sudden?

Maybe.

What I got planned is much more fun.

The man and Fury stared at each other for a moment, each one trying to ascertain the motives of the other.

What kind of fun? asked the man.

You heard of Doctor Bruce Banner?

The man shook his head. He then took a sip of his beer.

What about the Hulk?

The man lowered the beer and raised an eyebrow.

That's what I thought, said Fury. He's close.

Close where?

Close enough. I have a general area, but I need a tracker to hunt him down. If I knew a better one, I wouldn't be here.

Heh.

The man took another sip and then put the glass back on the counter.

Hunting down a monster?

That's it, that's all. You'll be compensated for your time, of course.

One thing.

Hmmm?

I want a crack at him. Alone.

Fury hesitated for a moment before giving his answer.

Done.

The man shook hands with Fury.

Good to be working with you again, Nick.

Same to you, Logan.

* * * *

I just don't think it's a very good idea, sir.

His hands on his hips, Fury turned around to look at Kate. Her face indicated that she was quite flustered, and she was clutching her datapad much harder than she needed to be. For his part, Logan seemed quite amused, leaning his back against the wall and having his arms folded. He was now wearing his trademark yellow and blue combat suit.

Fury looked over at Logan, who chuckled. Fury then turned his eye back to Kate.

We need him.

Kate shook her head.

To find Banner, sure, but after? Sir, I am telling you, we don't need to attack. Banner is only a threat when provoked. If you do it my way, we might be able to bring him in without getting into a fight!

Logan chuckled again. Kate furrowed her brow and scowled at him.

What's your problem?!

Nothing, darlin', replied Logan. Just didn't know Nick started recruiting right outta the girl scouts.

Kate scoffed, making a facial gesture to show her disgust. She then turned back to Fury, who exhaled before speaking again.

We've been over this, Waynesboro. The Hulk's a threat.

The Hulk, yes. But not Banner.

Kate paused, carefully watching Fury's body language as she chose her next words.

You brought me in on this because you trusted me, right?

Fury nodded.

Because you thought I could be valuable.

Yes.

Then listen to me, she said. I'm telling you, this isn't the right call. Bruce Banner was a scientist. Still is. He's been on the run for over half a decade. He's tired. He's distraught. He just wants to be left alone. Now, I know that's not an option, but if we send someone in to talk to him, rather than try to, I dunno, release the Hulk and hope you can win, well . . . . maybe we can earn his trust. Tell him he doesn't have to run anymore.

Fury sighed.

He's still a human being! she cried. That has to be worth something!

Thank you for your assessment, Agent Thirty-Five, but we've got far too much at stake here. It's not just my call. Ryker and the Council both have a say in this, and they would never go for it.

But sir . . . .!

The decision's been made.

Kate sighed.

That will be all, said Fury.

Fury stepped out of the Quinjet's main section and walked back to the cockpit. Logan smirked at Kate, who rolled her eyes and sat down on one of the chairs on the opposite side of the jet. Fury sat down in the passenger seat in the cockpit, and looked over at the pilot, who was an Asian woman. A copy of her SHIELD identification badge was plastered on the side wall of the cockpit.

It had her photograph, and read 'Agent Fourteen Melinda May'.

Approaching target area perimeter, she said.

What's the word on Ryker's team? asked Fury.

They're ready, answered May. Though they heard about your deal with Logan. Talbot's pissed.

Well, that's unavoidable.

Sounds like crazy runs in the family.

What about Banner?

May turned her head to face him.

You agree with Waynesboro? asked Fury.

May sighed, taking several seconds to respond.

He's dangerous. I were you? I wouldn't take any chances.

Fury nodded. Pulling out her phone, Kate opened the specialized and untraceable application that she had designed for messaging and communication.

-NEW MESSAGE TO:-

-ELIZABETH ROSS-

You had better hurry. They're closing in. Sending you data for my tracking co-ordinates. Follow it . . . . and hope you can find a way to get him out of there.

She then put her phone back in her pocket. Logan looked over at her again.

Don't worry, he said. I'll bring him in nice and quiet, heh heh.

* * * *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

Logan shouted as he was tossed backwards, his body smashing through the trunk of a nearby tree hard enough to snap it in half. Landing on the ground, Logan quickly got back to his feet as he snarled at the menacing green creature before him. He had spent the last few hours following any trail he could until he located Banner's cabin, and now the beast known as the Hulk was ready for a fight.

Hulk growled, holding his fists to his sides in a battle ready pose. He then roared again, and Logan retorted with a roar of his own. Unsheathing his adamantium claws, Logan stared down Hulk, whose muscles bulged under his skin as his rage grew.

Let's try that again, said Logan.

Hulk's response was another roar. Logan leaped towards Hulk, both sets of claws pointing forward. Hulk slammed his fists downward, but wasn't fast enough to avoid Logan's pounce. Unleashing a furious combo of slash attacks on Hulk's chest, Logan pushed the monster back, even managing to break open his skin.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

Hulk looked down in dismay as he started to bleed from three parallel gashes on his abdomen. He seemed completely stunned that anything could actually cause him physical harm. Logan smirked as he stepped back, letting Hulk take in the situation. Clenching his teeth, Hulk's neck muscles strained as he glared at Logan with newfound fury.

Puny claw man hurt Hulk! Puny claw man make Hulk bleed! HULK SMASH PUNY CLAW MAN!!!!!!!!

Logan chuckled, ready to continue the battle. Closing his eyes, Hulk started wildly pounding his fists against the ground, trying to crush Logan. However, Logan was too fast, dodging each strike with little effort, leading Hulk towards another large tree. As Hulk crashed into the tree, Logan dashed around his body before jumping at him from behind.

Stabbing both claws into Hulk's back, Logan sneered as Hulk shouted in pain. Logan then started to repeatedly skewer Hulk's back, drawing out more blood. Hulk then attempted to jump backwards and crush Logan with his body weight, but Logan anticipated this move and scrambled out of the way.

Hulk swung his fist backwards as he turned around, crashing against Logan's side. Logan spun around and collapsed to the ground from the force of the attack. Hulk then jumped into the air, intending to land on Logan. Again Logan scrambled across the ground, barely able to avoid the shockwave caused by Hulk's ground pound.

Get back here, puny claw man!

Rolling towards Hulk, Logan leaped upwards and performed an aerial slash, which Hulk blocked with his forearm. Hulk threw a forward jab, but Logan fell under the attack, swiping at Hulk's legs. Hulk then pulled his elbows in, smashing his right one against Logan's back. As he fell to the floor, he could not do anything to counter being seized by Hulk's right hand.

Logan yelled and wildly swung his claws around as Hulk held him up. Roaring into the air, Hulk then threw Logan downwards, slamming him against the grass. Logan shouted in agony as the pain of the savage blow reverberated through his entire body. Hulk looked down at Logan with curiosity as the man started wobbling back to his feet.

You're tough, said Hulk. For a little man.

Bub . . . .

Logan wiped a small bit of blood off of his mouth.

You got no idea.

Logan growled and slashed at Hulk again.

* * * *

Quite the grudge match.

Fury looked over at the display screen that showed Victoria's face. She was on the helicarrier, acting as director in Fury's absence. Fury himself was standing on the Quinjet with May and Kate. The other display screen showed the face of Ryker, who was with the Gamma Corps in a military helicopter that was also hovering just outside the battle zone.

This is how you handle things? asked Ryker. Just grab another freak off your shelf and say 'go at it'?

Don't see how it's any different from sending Captain Talbot in, replied Fury.

Captain Talbot is a member of the military, trained for an operation like this. Who is this guy? What are his credentials?

He and I have a past, said Fury. That's all you need to know.

Hmmph.

I've had enough! shouted Carla.

Ryker turned around to look at her.

I'm going in, she said. Open the door.

Fury exhaled.

Captain . . . .

Your circus freak had his playtime, said Carla. My turn.

One of the Gamma Corps commandos pressed a button on the back of the helicopter, opening the cargo compartment door. Carla stepped to the edge of it.

Gamma Corps! Move out!

Carla and the Gamma Corps all leaped out of the back of the helicopter before the cargo door closed. Fury put a hand on his forehead as May looked up at him with concern. Victoria rolled her eyes. Ryker just folded his arms, internally hoping that Carla was as ready to finish the job as she claimed she was.

* * * *

As Hulk and Logan charged at each other for another bout, both were taken by surprise when a large pulse blast collided with the side of Hulk's ribcage, heaving him cleanly off the ground. The green goliath bellowed with confusion as his body tore through multiple trees, leaving a chaotic mess of wood pieces and torn up grass.

Logan turned his head to where the blast had come from, seeing Carla and the Gamma Corps commandos approaching. Carla pulled a lever on her pulse rifle before holstering it on her back. She then closed her fists and pumped her forearms, causing the armour surrounding them to be charged with green energy.

The hell are you? asked Logan.

Carla grinned with an odd mixture of both amusement and malice that even Logan found perturbing. She did not deviate at all from her slow, methodical pacing. Logan's breathing slowed as he regarded the woman walking towards him. He was not a man who readily felt fear, but he was smart enough to know when to be apprehensive about someone.

His animal instincts that had been honed over his decades of combat experience were promptly flaring at Carla. He could read her body language; the harshness of the lines on her face, the cold confidence in her stride, the aura of menace that seemed to follow her wherever she went. He knew to listen to his senses, and they were telling him that no matter how bad the Hulk was, she was a far more dangerous monster.

As Hulk used his left elbow to push himself off the floor, he looked backwards with a dumbfounded face. He could see the outline of a figure approaching from the distance, moving through the trees that were on the edge of the base of a nearby mountain. Squinting with curiosity, he put so much of his attention on the incoming figure that the sounds and feelings of his surroundings melted away.

Hulk calmed down as the figure finally came into view. He was stunned to see that it was feminine, and one that he knew all too well.

Betty.

Betty made a facial gesture that combined a smile and a gasp upon looking into Hulk's eyes. As Carla walked past Logan, he gestured at her.

What're you doing? Fury said I take him. Solo.

Carla slyly peered at Logan through the corner of her eye.

And you did, she said. You've done quite well. But . . . . I'll take it from here.

Moving far faster than Logan was expecting, Carla drew her energy magnum from its holster and pulled the trigger, shooting him square in the chest. She then fired two more shots, causing him to collapse to the floor.

Ugh!

Carla giggled as she held her magnum up.

Healing factor, right? she asked. You'll be fine. Just stay out of my way.

Captain! yelled Fury through her intercom. The hell are . . . .

Carla groaned as she muted him. She then continued to approach Hulk, who was now standing up and facing away from her. She held her hands out laterally.

Excuse me! she mockingly shouted.

Hulk turned around, looking down at Carla as the other members of the Gamma Corps took positions around him. Hulk focused on Carla, sniffing her at first before snarling.

Who . . . . are you?

Who am I? Why . . . . I'm the girl that's going to kill you.

Carla then pumped her forearms again, charging her fists with more green energy.

NOW!

Two of the commandos fired electric lashes from their rifles, which latched onto Hulk's wrists. Searing his skin with electricity, Hulk fell to his knees and yelled into the air. Betty screamed as she started running towards Hulk. Putting on her best wicked grin, Carla then rushed for Hulk's chest and began relentlessly punching it with her charged gauntlets.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

The other two commandos fired energy blasts at Hulk as Carla continued her physical assault. As she charged up for a powerful seismic blast, Hulk threw his arms forward, heaving the lashes off and causing the two commandos that were holding him to fall off their feet. Carla took a step back as Hulk threw his fist down.

Reacting with almost inhuman speed, Carla performed a backflip to dodge the attack, landing safely on her feet. Hulk snarled at her again. Having healed from Carla's gunshots, Logan stood back up and saw the altercation happening before him, noticing that Betty was fast approaching Hulk from behind.

You're a flippy girl? HULK HATES STUPID FLIPPY GIRLS!

Carla gave him a spiteful smile before firing a double pulse blast from her gauntlets. The blast sent Hulk flying backwards again, right in Betty's path.

NO! shouted Logan.

Betty jumped to the side, landing just out of reach of Hulk's body as it slammed against the ground. Logan ran up to Carla.

You crazy bitch! There's someone over there!

Logan unsheathed his claws, ready to slash at Carla because of her reckless behaviour. Before he could, Carla fired a surprise blast from the side of her gauntlet, blowing Logan off his feet.

I said stay out of my way! shouted Carla.

Betty looked up with fear as Carla then jumped onto Hulk's body. His back was on the ground, and he was writhing in pain. Carla then pulled out her combat knife, pressing a hidden button on the hilt. The blade charged with the same green energy that was in her gauntlet. She yelled as she plunged it down, aiming straight for Hulk's heart.

Everyone there was stunned as they heard a gunshot go off. Carla held her chest in pain as she realized that a bullet had struck her in the ribs. Looking to the side with her mouth agape, Carla saw Betty aiming a pistol at her. Betty then fired two more shots at Carla's chest, knocking her off of Hulk's body.

Hulk turned to look at Betty.

Run, Hulk! she shouted. Run!

Not without you!

The Gamma Corps commandos ran to Carla's side as she heavily breathed. Hulk quickly got up and took Betty in his arms, cradling her before leaping away. Carla stood back up as she pulled one of the bullets out of her armour, which had absorbed the shots. She then watched with disdain as Hulk escaped into the mountains.

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 4: Reunion

As always, Chen's breathing was deepened by the gas mask that he wore, which was an internal one that was placed inside of the domed helmet of his hazmat suit. The mask regulated his breathing and ensured that he constantly received the modified form of oxygen that his perpetually irradiated body required to survive.

He was sitting inside of a transparent containment cube, very similar to the one that he was in a month ago when he was taken into custody after his most recent battle against Tasha Stark. At that time, he had been in the employ of Advanced Idea Mechanics, otherwise known as AIM. However, they were unable to dispatch anyone to rescue him because they were busy fighting off a joint assault from the United States Armed Forces and SHIELD.

His hands on his lap, Chen hunched over as the military helicopter he was in started its descent. He thought back to how similar his current situation was to his capture a month ago, when he was first rescued by Deathlok. He remembered how stunned he was to see such an advanced cybernetic organism; a being that was a fusion of organic and synthetic matter, programmed to be a ruthlessly efficient machine for the purposes of assassination and espionage.

He remembered how he was even more surprised when he learned who Deathlok had been sent by. For a long time, Chen had put little thought into the idea that there could be others who had been affected by radiation in the same way he had been. He was first exposed to radiation over ten years ago, back when he was a researcher for a prestigious university in China.

At the time, he was conducting an experiment involving attempts to make radiation therapy less dangerous for cancer patients. Instead, a malfunction involving the apparatus responsible for distributing the radiation caused the entire machine to explode, dousing Chen with enough energy to kill ten people. He was pronounced dead within seconds.

He woke up four days later, his body completely changed.

Despite now being a marvel of modern science, he was silently expelled from the university by the administrative board out of fear of an investor panic, and even ended up being deported from the country as a way of covering up the incident. After designing a specialized suit to keep himself alive, Chen then started to wander the globe until he was approached by an associate of AIM, quickly accepting a research position within the organization.

Chen chuckled to himself as he remembered how AIM helped him to sneak back into his home country so that he could personally kill all of the members of the administrative board and their families.

Now, however, things were different. He had since met others who had been mutated by radiation, just as he was. Deathlok had introduced him to his master, Samuel Sterns, a fellow scientist who called himself the Leader. He was also joined by Ann Darnell, a woman who had been transformed into a living gaseous form.

Chen was finally jostled out of his drifting thoughts as his containment unit was carted out of the back of the helicopter. He looked around as he saw that he was being led into a military installation built into the side of a desert mountain. Once inside, he was rolled through numerous hallways, until he reached the detention wing.

There were several cells, each one with a green industrial door with a yellow number painted on the front. While most of the cells were uniform, the one in the centre was much larger, and did not have a number on it, instead just having an 'A' as the only marking. There were two gigantic tungsten pistons that held the door in place.

Chen turned to one of the soldiers moving his containment unit.

What's in there?

The soldier looked at him with surprise, taken aback because of how silent Chen had been for the entire trip.

Man, you don't wanna know.

Chen sneered as he looked at the door again. He thought he could hear a faint growling noise coming from behind it. The door was so large that it went from the floor to the ceiling, and Chen couldn't possibly imagine what was so dangerous that it required such a confinement. He figured that it was designed for the Hulk, but obviously there was something else already occupying the room.

Something far worse.

Chen was placed inside of his cell, and was soon left alone. Sighing as he grew accustomed to his new environment, he waited a couple of hours before an internal heads-up display appeared in his helmet. It flashed a few strings of data for a brief moment before dissipating. A second later, Chen started to hear a voice that seemed to come from within his mind.

Suit uplink established, said Sterns. Can you hear me?

Yes.

Excellent. Data feedback is secured and optimized. I will be feeding you status updates regularly.

Is this gambit of yours going to work?

Why, my friend, would you even ask? Of course it will work.

It's just that you saved me from being sent to prison . . . . and then your next ploy involves me getting sent to prison.

You won't be there long, my friend. After all . . . . it's all part of the plan.

* * * *

Logan . . . .

Don't start, Nick.

Logan, who had since changed out of his combat uniform and back into his civilian clothing, walked away from Fury. He went up to his motorcycle that he had parked outside of town, and didn't bother look over at Fury as he got on.

Logan!

Logan sighed and reluctantly turned his head to meet Fury's eye.

I know that . . . .

No, Nick, you don't know. Don't know what you're doing anymore. Met my share of hotheads, sure . . . . hell, even was one for a damn long time. You and me know that.

Fury took in a breath as he listened, knowing what was coming next.

But her . . . . she's no hothead. That there's a fuckin' maniac. Knew it, soon as I laid eyes on her. She's a monster, Nick. One of the worst I've ever seen, and you know I've seen some bad ones.

So have I.

You're working with her.

Fury put his hands in his coat pockets, taking a few seconds to look at the ground before he continued.

My options were limited, he said. There's so much . . . .

You've let yourself go, Nick. I know we did some things we aren't proud of, but there was a line. The guy I knew . . . . the one I served with . . . . the one I bled with . . . . would never work with someone like that. You'd have put her in a cage, where she belongs.

Fury and Logan both went silent for a few moments.

Where are you gonna go? asked Fury.

Don't know. Don't stay in one place too long nowadays. Just sorta . . . . drifting along.

I know that this went south, but . . . . I might have something else for you. It's . . . . a school for mutants. Good place. Had my eye on it for a while now.

Logan raised an eyebrow.

Might be able to do some good there. I'll have Coulson call you about it.

Alright.

Logan.

Fury paused before he asked his next question.

We good?

Logan gulped before he responded.

Nick . . . . you're one of the few people I actually trust. Been on a long, hard road together, and we've seen some shit. You helped me when no one else would . . . . so, yeah. But Nick . . . . as your friend, I'm warning you . . . . get away from her, because I've seen the eyes of killers. Not just people who kill cause they have to. The kind that like it, live for it. And boy, does she have them.

Logan turned on the engine, and drove off along the dirt road out of town, not bothering to look back. Rubbing his forehead for a moment, Fury then turned around, putting his hands back in his coat pockets. He then made his way back to the Quinjet that May had landed in the forest, ready to take him back to the helicarrier.

* * * *

Fighting to regain her breath, Betty watched as Bruce shrunk back down to his human form. She was leaning against a large rock, with a hand on her chest. Her eyes were sullen as they observed him collapse from exhaustion, his bare chest colliding against the muddied ground. The two of them were inside of a cavern that was built into the side of a mountain.

Betty had lost track of how long and far they had fled while Bruce was the Hulk, but she didn't actually care. Seeing him there, in front of her in that moment, was enough to cause all of her inclinations towards pragmatism to melt away. As he sputtered and pushed himself off the floor, she trudged over and got down on her knees beside him.

Gently grasping his closest shoulder, she helped him to get into the same kneeling position that she was. She used her free hand to press against the contours of his chest, swiping off some of the stray mud that had affixed itself to his skin. He barely had time to recapture his own breath before his eyes opened and he looked at her.

His gaze was empty, as if he was unable of recognizing what was happening. She had only seen him like this once before: when the Hulk had ran off with her after his battle with Ruth Bat-Seraph in Santa Fe last year. Like now, she had watched him transition out of his monstrous form, and had been met with the same empty gaze, as if his mind had not fully recovered from being reduced to such a bestial state.

For a couple of minutes, they both just stayed there, relatively motionless and staring into each other's eyes. Then, after swallowing and blinking, sentience seemed to return to Bruce's pupils. Betty noted to herself how beautiful his eyes were once they reverted to their natural state. While she now knew that he could speak, they both silently decided not to, instead choosing to just take a few minutes to appreciate each other's presence.

They had not seen each other in quite some time, and they were both still somewhat in a state of shock at being reunited. Bruce then reached out as if to touch Betty's face, but she stopped him by grabbing his wrist. Without speaking, she then pulled his hand down so that it was placed against her breast, and within seconds they gave in to their urges.

The sexual encounter that followed was not ideal. Their bodies more smashed against each other rather than truly operating in unison. They sloppily tore off their clothes, not caring that they were becoming caked with filth and moisture. As they pressed into each other, they rolled their bodies against the grass and mud, and more than a few times winced in pain when they would lay down against various small rocks that littered the cavern floor.

As their loins crashed together repeatedly, both Bruce and Betty found that what they were doing was far more haphazard than they would have liked. They had both been so overwhelmed with emotion that they hadn't even realized how desperate they appeared to be. This epiphany was something else they silently shared, but it did not stop them from finishing; rather, it spurred them to get it over with as soon as possible.

As Bruce finished inside her, Betty privately sighed with relief upon remembering that she had an extra set of clothes both for herself and Bruce in a satchel that was stashed along with her motorcycle. She then sat up, wrapping her arms around her bent knees. Bruce sidled over to his pants, frowning as he pulled them back on over his legs.

Once they had both put their clothes back on, Betty stood up and walked back over to the large rock. Leaning against it, she ran her fingernails through her hair a few times, ruffling out small specks of dirt and blades of grass. As Bruce stood back up, ROB deactivated his invisibility matrix.

Hello, Doctor Banner!

Betty shrieked as she aimed her pistol at ROB. Bruce threw up his hands.

The hell is that?!

Betty! Betty! Calm down!

Please, Doctor Ross, don't shoot me! Bullet holes might make it more difficult to accomplish my assigned tasks!

Betty blinked a couple times.

What the . . . .

Bruce reached forward and pressed his hand against the one Betty was holding the pistol with.

It's alright, he's with me, said Bruce. Betty, this is ROB. ROB, Betty.

A pleasure to meet you, Doctor Ross. Doctor Banner has done nothing but sing your praises. Well, technically he's done many other things beyond that, actually . . . . but, well, whenever he speaks of you it's always with a positive connotation!

Betty looked back and forth between Bruce and ROB a few times before she finally lowered her pistol.

What is this? Your . . . . personal robot?

Something like that, answered Bruce. It's, it's complicated.

When Doctor Banner transformed into the Hulk, I activated my invisibility matrix, to ensure that I was not detected. Then, I followed you both through the forest and to this cavern. I was going to say something once I arrived, but you seemed to want a bit of privacy, so I stayed invisible until you were done.

Betty shook her head, clearly disturbed.

You were watching . . . .?

Betty, please. ROB has a bit of a . . . . personality. He doesn't mean anything by it. He's . . . . been with me for this whole year, okay? He's helped me. A lot. I trust him.

Trust him? Didn't you build him?

Uh . . . . no. Look, it's, it's a long story, and we should probably get a move on. They'll be looking for us.

They're always looking for you. They just started looking for me.

Bruce nodded in agreement with Betty's statement. She then pulled out her phone. Bruce looked down at her other hand, and blinked upon seeing the pistol again.

Wait . . . . why do you have a gun?

Huh? Oh . . . . uh, I have it for emergencies. Saved your life, actually. There was uh . . . . some commando chick. She was gonna kill you, so . . . . I shot her.

Bruce didn't respond to Betty's story. He took a few moments to think before speaking again.

Where did you learn to use a pistol?

Learned a lot of things over the last year, said Betty as she put her pistol back in its holster. I mean, I've been looking for you. Made a few contacts, got a motorcycle . . . . trained with some weapons. Just in case. Seemed like a good idea. Pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, hand grenades . . . . rocket launchers . . . .

Rocket launchers?!

Betty shrugged.

Pays to be prepared.

Where'd you learn all this?

My father's a general, Bruce. All I had to do was ask.

Right. But, but what about your job? At the university?

Sabbatical.

Bruce scoffed.

Hell of a sabbatical.

Betty looked at her phone again.

Come on. My bike's not far from here. We have to move.

Bruce looked over at ROB.

Coming, ROB?

Of course, Doctor Banner! Always happy to help.

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 5: Freeway Threeway

Arriving at the place where Betty had stashed her motorcycle, both she and Bruce were relieved to find that everything was the same as when she had left it. Betty eagerly opened her satchel to reveal the extra set of clothes she had brought. After changing and discarding their old garments, Betty reached into her satchel again and pulled out a medical injector.

Betty waved the injector in front of Bruce's face. He tilted his head to the side as he looked at it, and ROB did the same.

What is that, Doctor Ross?

This . . . . is a special something I designed just for you.

Just for me?!

Betty rolled her eyes.

No, not for you, ROB, she said. For Bruce.

Oh, said ROB. Yes, yes, that makes sense.

Bruce chuckled at ROB's comment before looking back at the injector. He took in a few breaths before he asked the obvious question.

What's in it?

Betty sighed, before taking the injector and holding it in both hands.

It's . . . . hope.

Bruce blinked as he waited for her to elaborate.

Something I was working on. Went back to the old lab data, and . . . . well, it's a start. A temporary antidote. The serum, once in your bloodstream, should give you a grace period. You'll be safe for twelve hours.

Bruce blinked again, before staring down at the injector with awe. He had never been able to get even a temporary antidote to work over all of the time that he had been on the run. Every serum he had ever attempted had ended up a failure, usually because he could spend so little time in any one location, and never had access to decent laboratory equipment.

Betty sighed again before reaching forward and holding the injector out to Bruce. He wordlessly took it from her hand, before looking down at it, rubbing it with his fingers. He could hardly believe that it actually existed.

It's untested, obviously, said Betty. Don't exactly have many people running around with . . . .

I understand. I . . . . I trust you. Thank you.

Betty smiled. Taking in a deep breath and closing his eyes, he then held the injector up to his neck. Taking almost a full minute to mentally prepare, he then finally jutted it against his skin and pressed the button on the injector. He winced as he felt the serum enter his veins, pulling the injector out once it was finished.

For a few minutes, both Bruce and Betty just stood there and waited. When nothing happened, they shared a smile before warmly embracing. Betty allowed a few tears to fall down her face and onto Bruce's shoulder before the hug ended. She then gestured towards her motorcycle.

Come on.

What about me? asked ROB.

Betty held her satchel up, handing it to Bruce.

You wear this, she said, before pointing at ROB. You, get in there.

ROB turned and looked at the satchel.

Why am I always travelling inside of backpacks and such?

Because it works, ROB, said Bruce. Now shut up and get in.

Very well. At least we get to go on a new adventure! Speaking of which . . . . where are we going, exactly?

ROB floated into the satchel as Bruce slung it over his shoulder. Betty and Bruce then got onto the motorcycle, with Betty driving and Bruce holding onto her from behind.

Yeah, I'd like to know too, said Bruce. Where are we going?

Betty exhaled as she started driving, heading out of the forest and towards a nearby road.

One of my new contacts might be able to help you with something more permanent. Not sure yet, but it's the most promising lead I have. Still, I'd rather not discuss it just yet . . . . you never know who might be listening.

So . . . . a surprise?

You could say that.

Surprises! shouted ROB. How exciting!

As Betty drove down the empty road, Deathlok stepped out from behind one of the trees, zooming in his ocular lens.

* * * *

Sterns folded his hands together as he watched the video feed being sent to him via Deathlok's neural link. Ann floated around Sterns' chair as she also watched the footage.

How interesting, he said. A temporary antidote? We may be able to move up our timetable.

How so? asked Ann.

The only reason we could not acquire Banner as soon as possible is because engaging him would trigger a transformation that we could not overcome. However . . . . if Banner can't transform, then he's just a man. An important man, of course . . . . but just a man, and one that can easily be captured.

Ann made a moaning noise as she then flew over in front of Sterns' field of vision.

But what about the surprise party?

We'll still have it, of course, answered Sterns. But I cannot give away such an ample opportunity. Besides, I'm quite sure Chen will be very happy to be let out earlier than expected.

Ann chuckled, her laugh carrying a hint of hissing that had become inherent to her voice since she had been transformed into her gaseous state. She then sidled back to her position behind Sterns' left shoulder.

Deathlok, said Sterns. Pursue the target. Acquire Banner and bring him to me. As for Doctor Ross and that traitorous little orb . . . . kill them.

* * * *

Aren't you glad you received that antidote now, Doctor Banner?

Shut up, ROB!

Bruce screamed as Betty swerved through two lanes of oncoming traffic before darting back to the right side of the highway, having placed a large truck between them and their pursuer. Bruce desperately clung to Betty's body, his eyes clenched shut and his chest profusely pounding. For his part, ROB was bouncing inside of the satchel, which had the zipper open just enough so that he could see outside, and he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Looking behind them, ROB saw their pursuer, Deathlok, on his own motorcycle. The cycle was heavily modified, with heavy black armour plating placed over all of the internal components, and attachment modules that seemed to latch Deathlok's limbs to the vehicle. There were also twin cannons affixed to the sides of the front wheel.

Weaving between various vehicles as he tried to reestablish a clear line of sight with Betty, Deathlok then fired a blast from the twin cannons, barely missing his target. Scowling, Betty then swerved hard to the left, trying to gain some distance on him. Deathlok responded by boosting past the truck and smashing his way through a passing car so that he was close behind.

Doctor Ross! I believe this man intends to do us harm! It would be most prudent of you to stop him from doing that!

Betty wordlessly pulled out her pistol and aimed behind her, blindly firing off several shots. Only a handful of the bullets hit Deathlok, with most of them bouncing off. The last one struck him in the throat, jostling his entire body and causing him to lose control of his motorcycle for a moment. Betty used this small advantage to speed out of his line of sight.

Who the hell is this guy?! shouted Betty.

Like I know? asked Bruce.

I am not aware of his identity, said ROB. However, I do believe that he does not like us very much!

Betty rolled her eyes.

Your insight's astounding.

Thank you, Doctor Ross!

As Betty continued to speed down the highway, a SHIELD Quinjet rocketed into view overhead. Spinning around, it then doubled back and ended up flying parallel to the highway, matching Betty's speed. Betty and Bruce could then hear May's voice sounding over the loudspeaker.

Stand down, Doctor Ross! This is a direct order from an agent of SHIELD! I repeat, stand down, or we will take you in by force!

Betty didn't bother to respond in any way, focusing instead on maintaining her speed. After a few moments of waiting, the Quinjet then broke off its holding pattern and soared upwards so that it was directly overhead of the highway. May flipped a switch on her command console, and a hatch on the underbelly of the Quinjet opened up.

Go get her, she said.

As the hatch finished opening, a motorcycle dropped out of it, with Carla driving. Landing between two trucks, she immediately burst past them, mentally scanning for the fastest route to navigate through the highway traffic. As she narrowed her eyes and pressed her acceleration, Ryker's voice came in through her intercom.

Take in Banner and eliminate the third party. No mistakes this time, Captain.

I didn't make any mistakes last time. Bitch shot me. She's going down, just like Banner is.

We need Banner, Captain. I know you have feelings about this, but we need him. His physiology may hold the key to . . . .

Spare me the hard sell, General. I meet him, he dies.

Captain . . . .

You can study him when he's a corpse. Isn't that what they have dissections for? Don't worry . . . . I'll bring him back as intact as I can.

Carla put on her best mocking tone, showing a clearly feigned sweetness.

I promise, she said.

Deathlok fired another blast from his twin cannons, tearing apart one of the sedans in his path. Boosting forward, he found that he was nearly parallel with Betty's cycle. She again opened fire with her pistol, but this time Deathlok was prepared, holding up his left forearm and equipping a metal shield that formed out of his wrist.

Her shots deflected by the shield, Betty growled under her breath. Deathlok then switched the module on his left arm, causing it to form a plasma cannon that emerged from his shoulder. As he was about to fire, Carla caught up with him, pulling out her energy blade. Swinging down hard with a slash that targeted his back wheel, Carla cleanly severed off a piece of the armour plating on Deathlok's cycle.

The force of the attack threw him off balance, causing his plasma shot to go off at a poor angle, harmlessly tearing through the air above Betty's head. He then turned to see Carla pointing her energy magnum at his face.

Dodge this, scrap heap.

A large part of Deathlok's face plate was torn apart by Carla's bullet. Despite this, he was still able to swerve hard enough to ram into Carla's cycle on purpose, before throwing out a sideways jab that connected with her right cheek. He then once again swapped the module on his arm, changing his wrist into a cutting laser, which he used to slice off half of Carla's front wheel.

Agh!

Launched off the bike as it was torn asunder, Carla flipped backwards, landing on a transport truck that was behind her. Reaching out, she grabbed the front end of the cargo container, keeping herself from flying further away. She then aimed her magnum again at Deathlok, firing another shot that severed his left arm's connection to the cycle.

Deathlok's body became detached from his vehicle, causing him to smash against the concrete road and spin around. His motorcycle, using its internal direction technology, stayed at a constant speed and was otherwise not affected, driving itself perfectly well without an occupant. As Deathlok slid past Carla's transport truck, he used his right hand to aim a grapple launcher, which snagged the back end of the truck and allowed him to be carried along with it.

As all this was happening, Betty continued to gain further distance from their pursuers. For his part, Bruce was still riddled with anxiety.

Please don't let me die please don't let me die please don't let me die . . . .

You're not gonna die! yelled Betty.

Actually, in all likelihood, we are all going to cease function at some . . . .

SHUT UP, ROB! shouted Bruce and Betty in unison.

Deathlok retracted his grapple cable, hurling himself onto the cargo container of the truck. Carla turned around and snarled at him as she watched his left arm equip an extra hand to replace the one she had shot off. He then charged towards her as she tried to blast him again with her magnum. This time he blocked the shot with his wrist shield before seizing her by the throat.

Equipping his cutting laser, Deathlok moving his arm up forward to try and decapitate her with the weapon. Before he could, Carla threw up her legs and wrapped them around his head. Twisting her thighs, Deathlok was forced to let go of her throat before she slammed his body against the top of the cargo container.

Turning her head to see how far away Betty was getting, Carla scowled as she pumped the gauntlet on her left hand. Throwing her arm up, she caused a seismic rupture to form on the road just ahead of Betty, nearly causing the motorcycle to flip over. Carla then fired a pulse blast that destroyed two cars, with Betty barely dodging it by sliding sideways into another lane of traffic.

Sensing that Deathlok was standing up, Carla spun around and landed a punch on his face. This wasn't enough to stagger him, as he countered with two jabs to her stomach and an uppercut to her jaw. Roaring in frustration, Carla fired a twin pulse blast from her gauntlets, knocking Deathlok off the truck.

Syncing his trajectory data to his motorcycle, the vehicle reoriented itself so that Deathlok would land on it, and he instantly took off again, continuing his pursuit of Betty. Firing more blasts from his twin cannons, Deathlok destroyed another truck on the road to clear a path to Betty's cycle. ROB had a clear view of the approaching cybernetic assassin.

I have had quite enough of you! said ROB, as his blue eye turned red.

ROB then fired a laser blast from his optical centre, connecting directly with Deathlok's torso. The cyborg was jettisoned from his bike as it exploded, and he crashed face first into the pavement before being run over by a sedan. Bruce looked back at ROB with pure shock on his face.

ROB . . . . you . . . .

Always happy to help!

Betty nodded in approval.

Nice work. Now, look in the bag and gimme a grenade!

Still standing on the transport truck, Carla yelled as she fired off more pulse blasts, trying to destroy Betty's cycle to no avail. Reaching out with his retractable appendages, ROB handed Betty a grenade from inside the satchel. Biting off the pin, Betty looked back and tossed it right towards the truck Carla was on.

Carla's eyes grew wide as she saw what was coming towards her.

Oh, fuck . . . .

Carla was cut off by the grenade exploding under the cargo container, blowing the truck into the air and jettisoning her skywards. Wildly flailing all of her limbs, Carla shrieked as she fell off of the highway, landing on top of a passing bus on a lower street. The force of her impact put a huge dent in the roof of the bus.

All of her bones brimming with agony, Carla gritted her teeth as she fought to stay conscious.

I'm gonna kill her . . . . I'm gonna kill her . . . .

Smiling with satisfaction, Betty then swerved to an off ramp, before jumping over the edge and landing on a lower street. May tried to follow her in the Quinjet, but she quickly lost her amidst the concrete jungle. Betty made sure to avoid any further pursuers by taking a zigzag route through the city.

Holy shit, said Bruce, his adrenaline finally draining.

Guess that was the antidote's stress test.

Yeah. Shit.

Riding silently for a few minutes, Bruce then spoke again.

So really . . . . where are we going?

Over the border.

What?! They'll have . . . .

The border covered. I know. That's why we're not crossing the border. We're going around it.

I don't . . . .

I have a boat waiting for us. It'll take us right to where we wanna go.

And where is it we wanna go?

Betty shrugged.

I told you. It's a surprise.

* * * *

Shambling along with broken leg joints, Deathlok trudged to an empty back street in a downtrodden residential area. Having since activated his distress beacon, he then watched as an advanced, black and green stealth craft, in the shape of a V, turned off its invisibility matrix and landed on the street in front of him.

Deathlok clambered over once the loading ramp dropped. Once he was inside, the ramp closed and the stealth craft turned invisible again as it boosted into the clouds.

Earth-717: Hulk Vol 2

Chapter 6: Science Team

Please, remain calm. I am trying to help you, after all.

Carla sighed as she stopped fidgeting. She was sitting on a medical table as Simmons looked her over, taking note of all of the cuts and bruises on her skin. Carla had changed out of her battle armour and was now wearing her civilian clothing. As her fury slowly melted into sullenness, Carla finally let some of the tension in her face fade away.

Simmons pressed her hands along the ridges on Carla's back.

Doesn't seem like anything major's broken. Quite remarkable, really. Your armour must have absorbed all of the shock.

Carla rolled her eyes.

Uh huh.

Too bad it couldn't have absorbed all of your personality.

Carla growled, but otherwise did not respond to Simmons' jab. Simmons then turned to see Fitz walking into the room with several sheets in his hands.

How's she look? asked Simmons.

X-Rays check out, answered Fitz. She's fine. You know, aside from the whole psych . . . . psych bit.

Fitz.

Stop talking. Got it.

Carla scowled at Fitz, who took a nervous step back. He then looked down at the ground as he puts the sheets on a nearby counter, before walking off to the other part of the lab. Simmons looked at Fitz with saddened eyes. Getting a good look at Simmons' back, Carla ran her eyes up and down the woman's figure, with her gaze lingering on Simmons' shoulder blades for a moment.

He's scared of you, said Simmons.

Carla scoffed.

He should be.

Well I'm not, said Simmons, turning around and defiantly putting her hands on her hips. Just because you walk around with a big knife and act like a big bully doesn't mean I have to be afraid of you. I only fear what I can respect, and you certainly don't qualify.

Carla sneered.

What, just cause you can treat me, you think you're better than me?

I try not to place value judgements on people. I'm treating you because it's my job, not because I like you, which I don't. Personally I would prefer not to have to work with someone so unpleasant. Besides, what are you gonna do anyway? Huh? Take out one of your laser blades and cut me up?

Carla raised an eyebrow.

Huh? Slice me to itty bitty ribbons and take a gander at all my innards? You would do that, wouldn't you? But you won't, because you would be in big trouble, with . . . . with . . . .

Carla blinked a couple times as Simmons looked around the lab, seeing that she and Fitz were alone with her. The colour then drained from Simmons' face as she turned back to the woman sitting in front of her.

You know what? Never mind. Afraid of you now. Don't cut me. Please?

Before anyone could say anything else, the door to the lab opened by retracting into the ceiling. Blake walked in, followed by Ryker. Blake gestured towards Carla.

Here you are, General, said Blake.

He then put his hands behind his back, staying near the door. Carla shuffled off the medical table and stood up.

Ah, yes, Mister Ryker, said Simmons, as she beckoned Fitz to come over and stand beside her.

How's my Captain doing? asked Ryker.

Simmons opened her mouth as if to answer Ryker's question, but she was cut off when Carla shoved past her.

I'm fine, said Carla. Just let me out of here.

Fitz folded his arms and pursed his lips.

You're welcome.

Carla turned around with a scowl on her face, but held herself back from actually doing anything. Ryker shifted his eyes from her to the two scientists who were clearly overshadowed by Carla's statuesque figure.

I appreciate what you've done, said Ryker. Even if, you'll have to forgive me . . . . what were your names again?

I'm Fitz. She's Simmons.

He's engineering. I'm biochem.

Which means, I build stuff. She dissects it.

Simmons eyes perked up.

Oh, are we gonna do the thing?

Fitz turned his head to look at his partner.

The thing?

You know, the thing, the thing!

Oh, yeah, the thing! I was hoping we were gonna try that out!

Yes, yes!

Ryker and Carla looked at each other and shrugged. They then both looked at Blake, who also shrugged.

I've got no idea what they're talking about, said Blake.

Fitz and Simmons both struck a pose, with their backs placed against each other. Everything went silent before Simmons spoke up.

You wanted to know who we are?

Fitz and Simmons closed their eyes for a few moments as they allowed the atmosphere to settle in. They then broke into a synchronized routine as Ryker, Carla and Blake all watched in utter confusion.

Masters of our fields, for we know them best, said Fitz.

Each day we put our lab skills to the test, said Simmons.

We strive to be better than all the rest . . . .

To find all the answers is our main quest!

Both Fitz and Simmons sharply turned their faces to look at their audience.

Fitz!

Simmons!

The two scientists then faced their bodies forward and held their arms out in what looked like battle ready poses.

For we are the ones that the world call . . . .

When they need an answer, big or small!

The last segment they spoke in unison.

Goooooooo . . . . SCIENCE TEAM!

Fitz and Simmons held their poses for a full minute as Ryker, Carla and Blake all blinked, seemingly unable to process what they had just witnessed. Ryker then scratched the back of his head.

Right. Okay.

Ryker turned around and walked out of the room, followed by Carla. Fitz and Simmons both gave a pleading look at Blake, who shook his head before also leaving the room. Once the door shut, the two scientists held their arms up in frustration.

Ugh!

They just don't understand!

After all our rehearsal! It's like they don't want it to be a thing!

It'll be a thing, Jemma. We'll make it a thing. Don't worry about that.

It was so well synchronized . . . .

It was, but . . . .

But what?

Told you we should've had the monkey. It needed the monkey.

Ugh, Fitz!

* * * *

His forearms placed together and pressed against the railing, Bruce stared out at the ocean sunset. He was standing on a commercial ferry, which they were using to move between Canada and the United States. There were hundreds of people on the boat, which at first had made Bruce feel a bit uneasy, but Betty assured him that not only had she taken all of the preliminary precautions to secure safe passage, but that her government source had ensured that they would not be followed.

For now, Bruce just focused on sorting his thoughts together. The last twenty four hours had been a whirlwind of action and emotion, with the whole life that he had spent building over the last year ripped out from under him. Grabbing both of his elbows with his opposite hands, he rubbed the skin of his arms as he continued to ponder.

He barely noticed when Betty approached him from behind, taking a spot next to him and assuming the same pose.

Nice night, isn't it?

Bruce blinked before he answered.

Yeah.

Betty looked down as she considered what she was going to say next.

Your, uh . . . . your friend's enjoying the room. Bouncing around in there. He said there's plenty of stuff to scan.

Bruce laughed.

Where did you get that guy?

Bruce licked his lips before answering Betty's question.

Last, um . . . . last year. Last time we saw each other. He and I met, and . . . . I thought I could get a cure. I was led, heh . . . . led. More like misled. Right to someone who said he had the answers. Same guy who built ROB.

Who?

Bruce sighed.

Sterns.

Sterns? Professor Sterns?

Yeah.

Betty blinked and turned her head so she was looking at the ocean for a moment as she considered this new information. She then looked back over at Bruce as he continued.

He was working with your father at the time, but he also had his own . . . . goals. Told me that he had been looking for me, and that ROB was built to find me. Bring me to him. He had a secret lab, middle of nowhere . . . . and he told me the truth.

What truth?

Bruce gulped as he prepared to speak about the thing that had been tormenting him since he had learned it.

That it was his fault, said Bruce. All of it. That he . . . . he knew the experiment would go wrong. From the beginning.

Betty felt her breathing stop as she listened.

Said he saw something in my genes. A mutation. Passed down from my father, who . . . . who did his own gamma experiments on himself. But Sterns wanted to see what would happen, so, he didn't tell anyone. Anyone else was in that room . . . . it wouldn't have worked. But with me . . . . with me . . . . with me, I got . . . . all this.

Betty exhaled as the two of them went silent again. She then reached out and grasped his right hand with her left. Bruce closed his eyes for a few seconds before Betty spoke up.

What happened next?

Sterns said he wanted it out of me. Said he wanted it for himself.

What?

He wanted the power. He'd been doing experiments on his own, even killed Amadeus and used him as a guinea pig.

Betty cringed.

Built a devi