NEVER IN NEVADA (Part 1)

By Kelly Johnson

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Disclaimer: I don't own nor claim any ownership to either The Incredible Hulk or Tremors: The Series. Basic fan fiction plea to not be sued for writing about favorite obsessions.

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Jodi was reading one of the latest magazine articles about Burt's survival school when the bell on the door cut the silence.

"Hello?" She tentatively left the counter as the door slammed shut. There was heavy breathing as she approached the door. "May I help you?" She turned the corner and saw a man leaning against the door, exhausted. He looked frantically out the screen. "Excuse me?" She noticed his shirt was torn to shreds and his shoes were missing. He looked longingly at her with his deep, blue eyes.

"Yes, I need to talk to Burt Gummer." He sank to the floor as Jodi grabbed her talkie and called Burt. By the time she got his attention, the man was out cold. She radioed everyone and Nancy and Tyler ran into the shop and helped carry the man to the back rooms.

When Burt finally arrived, the man was just regaining consciousness. Nancy's care had revived him and he thanked her for her kindness. He looked up at Burt cautiously.

"Thought you could outrun old El Blanco, did ya?"

"Actually, no. I'm not here about the graboid. I need to talk to you."

"Oh, well, go ahead. I'm listening."

"My name is Doctor David Banner." He sat up weakly. "I need your help regarding the government."

"What about it?" Just then Jodi jumped at the sound of a vehicle pulling up and ran to the front of the store. There was shouting when a well- dressed man strutted into the room followed by a very angry Jodi. David looked up in fear at the man, while Burt looked downright enraged.

"Agent Dickson," he flashed his ID as he jockeyed for a commanding position in the room.

"Well, if it isn't the government twerps again." Burt stood right in front of Dickson. "What is it this time?"

"Doctor Brandon here," he flipped his ID at Banner, "has violated an agreement he had when he began his work for us. And we need him back to finish his research." Banner and Gummer glared at him,

"I'm not going back, Dickson. And I made no such agreement, I was forced."
"I'm sorry Doctor Brandon."

"Banner." The agent was surprised by Burt's interruption. "His name is David Banner. What are you trying to cover up here, Agent Dickson?" Burt's nose was practically touching his. Dickson glared back at Gummer, and then changed his attention to David Banner.

"This isn't over."

"I know." David said expressionless. Dickson turned to leave, but just before he was out of the room he turned around.

"You watch yourself out here, Banner." Dickson walked out of the store and sped off while everyone stood still in the room.

"What do you think he meant by that?" Tyler broke the silence.

"I don't know."

"Neither do I, but I would have to guess that twerp will be up to no good." Burt looked at David. "If I were you, I would be careful where you step while you're away from wherever they kept you. These government agents will get you on a technicality if you're not vigilant."

"How do you think they got me in the first place?"

"Well, it looks like you'll survive Mr. Banner." Nancy started to chase everyone out. "And when you get some of your strength back, we'll bring you over to my house so you can relax in a nice, natural atmosphere."

"Thank you. I would like that very much." Nancy smiled and finished shoving Burt out of the room. She spent a little more time making sure that David was set to sleep.

"Oh, by the way, David." She turned before she left. "You're likely to hear something like an earthquake tonight, I don't want you to worry, it's just El Blanco. He doesn't bother us at night; we're too quiet to interest him."

"Thank you, for everything Nancy." He said as she walked out the doorway.

The next morning, David woke up to Twitchell storming into Jodi's store ranting about a government employee. David sat up and grabbed a shirt that had been set on a chair by Nancy, and walked out to the front.

"Hey! David! You're up."

"Good morning." He tried to straighten his peppery hair when he saw the short man in the suit.

"Who are you?" Twitchell said gruffly.

"My name is David Banner." He put out his hand, but Twitchell wouldn't take it.

"Do you know how much heat my superiors are giving me because you came here?!"

"Probably as much as mine were, before I left. I'm sorry they're giving you such a hard time, but they had to be breaking every human rights law where I just came from." Jodi and Twitchell were silenced, until Nancy came in with the sun beaming in her eyes.

"Hey, David. I'm glad that you're up. I see you've met Agent Twitchell. Now that you're awake, let's get you settled over at my house." She grabbed his shirt and rushed into the back before Twitchell could stop them. They went out the back door and ran across the road to her home. The yard was in full bloom with all kinds of desert flowers.

"Your house is very pretty." David commented as he walked into the Zen oriented house.

"Thank you." Nancy ran to the kitchen and pulled out a loaf of fresh banana bread.

"That smells absolutely wonderful."

"Thank you. My daughter Mindy gave me the recipe." She set it down on the table and invited David to sit as well.

"By the way, thank you for getting me out of there."

"No problem. I knew Twitchell was coming today, and those government bigots have lit a fire under his ass, if you'll pardon my language. But if he sees you again, he might take you to his superiors, or have them take you by force. Burt was right when he said that they'd get you on a technicality if they have to. We all know that first hand." She sliced the bread and left David alone to eat some food while she prepared her guestroom. She looked around at the decorations that spoke of a teen that had left home for the big world. She missed Mindy, but knew that her daughter was out doing what was best for her.

"You're welcome to help yourself if you get hungry while you're here. If you want something, just ask and I'll cook." She stepped into the kitchen and found David at the stove stirring a pot that gave off the most wonderful smell she had ever known.

"Sorry, thought that you might like something. It's a surprise for later, desert after dinner if it finishes when I think it will."

"Why, thank you." They heard a car pull up out front and looked out the window. A young woman with black hair got out of an old car and walked up to the house and rang the doorbell.

"Who is it?" David looked from behind the thinning shades.

"Probably another reporter. They've been calling me all week to get an interview about how I put up with the government always intruding on my life." She gave an annoyed look to David before opening the door.

"Hello? May I help you?"

"Hi, my name is Lindsey McGunther, and I'd like to interview you ma'am."

"Well, what are you here about?"

"Your take on how the government is handling this endangered species."

"Okay then, come in." She opened the screen door and the reporter walked in. She took one look at David and turned a pale white.

"Are you okay? You look like you've just seen a ghost." David took a step forward in case she fainted, but she held herself well.

"I'm fine, it's nothing. Just the heat and I wasn't expecting anyone else to be here. You gave me a start."

"I'll go get you a glass of water."

"Thank you." David left to the kitchen.

"Who is he? I didn't know anyone else lived with you."

"No one does, he's in need of a little help right now though, so he's staying with me. By the way, which paper are you from?"

"National Register. We've changed our content and are trying to appeal to the people who like to live like you. I want to know how you feel on this issue because I think it pertains to more than just this valley."

"Well that's a relief. David?" She shouted loudly into the kitchen. "David!"

"Yeah, sorry about that. I couldn't find the glasses." He came out with three cold waters and sat down next to Nancy, smiling at the cute reporter.

"Oh, it's okay David. Now," she turned to Lindsey, "where were we."

After a while, Nancy sent David to the store for some milk. He walked in casually and grabbed a gallon. He set it on the counter in front of Jodi.

"I'll put it on her tab."

"Don't worry about it. I owe it to her." He pulled out a ten and handed it to Jodi. She rang and bagged the milk for him.

"So, you're a scientist?"

"Yeah."

"We've got a former government scientist who lives here. He's kind of a hermit thought. Not too social. Here's your milk." David picked up the bag just as the doorbell rang, a dishelved man walked in.

"Good afternoon, Jodi." He said tiredly, and smiled until he saw David. "My god, it can't be."

"Cletus?" David walked up to the other man. "I thought you were dead."

"Same for you, David." They stared at each other until Burt walked in.

"What's going on here?"

"Nothing, we thought we knew each other." Cletus turned and walked out of the door. David grabbed the milk and walked out after him, leaving his change with Jodi.

"What was that about?"

"I don't know Burt. They knew each other, I know it. They even knew each other's names."

"That's not like Cletus."

"I know."

"Cletus!" David ran after him. "Wait a second!" Cletus stopped but didn't turn around. David stood in front of him.

"David, you know better than I that if we are seen together, one of us will be going back to that facility."

"I know, but it's been so long. We should talk, even if it's only about the weather."

"Your milk's going to spoil." Cletus walked by David who went to Nancy's and found the interview still going.

It ended up that David made dinner while Nancy and Lindsey continued talking. They made sure to include David and he soon became fond of the witty Lindsey. Finally his desert was ready, and he came out with two chocolate mousse tarts smothered in whipped crème and topped with cherries.

"Geeze David. Are you a scientist or a chef?"

"Is there much of a difference? Eat up you two." They cleaned their plates of the rich chocolate and David cleared the table. He came back to the dining room just as El Blanco rumbled by.

"Well, if I were you, I wouldn't plan on going anywhere." Nancy stood up.

"Why?"

"El Blanco's in town, so it's not wise to leave right now. David, do you mind sleeping on the couch?"

"No, not at all."

"It's a pull-out; I'll get you some sheets." They all got ready to sleep and bade each other goodnight. David walked into the living room and sat on the pullout. He dropped his head into his hands wearily while El Blanco crawled by throughout the night.

"Can't sleep either?" Lindsey sat next to David.

"Not here with this thing."

"It scares me too. I didn't have a choice though. I had to do this. Editor's orders."

"Sounds like a nice boss." Lindsey jumped when El Blanco rumbled by again and David found his neck captured by Lindsey's arms. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her.

"I'm sorry." He quickly let her go, but she remained firmly attached. "I'm sorry." He yawned.

"Don't be sorry." She cuddled up to him a little. "You're the first guy I've met who hasn't jumped away from me when I got scared." She planted a small kiss on his cheek and smiled flirtatiously. David's cheeks turned a crimson shade.

"Don't you think this is a bit hasty?"

"Not really." She sat closer and put her head on his shoulder. David's face remained flushed as Lindsey snuggled up to him. Eventually she fell asleep and fell backwards onto the bed, sprawled ingloriously among the sheets.

"You have a rare charisma, David." Nancy surprised him from behind. "It's a gift, but I can tell that you're afraid of hurting someone with it, or getting hurt yourself."

"I already have been. Twice."

"What about her?"

"It's not what it looks like." He stood up nervously.

"I know. You can take the guest room. She didn't even open up the bed." Nancy went back to her room as David covered Lindsey in a sheet. He eventually found sleep, and in the morning Nancy had to drag him out of the bed.

Lindsey left about an hour later, and David joined Nancy in her garden. They tilled the sand until Burt pulled up to her house.

"Hey Burt." Nancy sat up and wiped sweat from her face.

"Hello, Nancy. I'm here for Doctor Banner."

"I'm right here!" David shouted from another part of the garden. He washed his hands in the lawn sprinkler and walked up to Burt's truck, drying them on his pants.

"You wanted to talk to me yesterday."

"Yes, I did." David looked over at Nancy.

"Go ahead David. If anyone can help you, it's Burt." David got into the truck and hung onto the roll bars as he drove to his bunker. Burt opened the door and David stood on the first step, looking in.

"Wow. Very impressive." Burt ignored the comment and pulled two chairs up to a table.

"Sit down, please." Burt and David took a seat across from each other.

"Thank you."

"So, you came to talk to me about the government. What about it?"

"You know that I was a scientist already. But what you don't know is why I left." He shifted in his chair. "They made me become an involuntary member of their research team. With myself as part of the research. I helped develop it, and then they would test it on me. Everyone thinks I'm dead, so I have no rights according to my superiors. I need you to help me get away from these people permanently. I don't care if the operation is exposed; I just want to get out." Burt gaped at David.

"I knew it. Those bastards were up to something, and now I know it's true."

"And Agent Dickson was the head of my security. It's his ass if he can't get me back to the facility." Burt contemplated for a brief moment.

"In that case, you're staying here."

"Why?" David sat up straight.

"Why not? They're out to get you and the safest place for you from them, and El Blanco, is here!" David sat back, defeated.

"Alright, I trust you Burt."

"I'll take care of you, but I want your full cooperation. I don't want you to travel outside of this compound unless I'm with you. You're welcome to go up top whenever you want, just be careful you don't get caught outside with those government twits."

"I understand."

"Good." He went to leave, but stopped. "The radio is by the laptop. You can use it for an emergency by contacting any one of us. The phone is on the wall," he pointed, "and any calls in town are free." Burt left and David listened as his truck pulled away, going the opposite direction of town. He picked up the phone and found Burt's speed dial for Nancy.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Nancy."

"Hey David! Glad to hear you got to Burt's in one piece."

"Thanks."

"By the way, Lindsey called. She wants to know if you'd like to meet at Jodi's."

"Uh, Burt has me confined to the premises of his bunker."

"Oh, well, want her number?"

"Sure."

"It's 596-2359. She said a picnic is okay, and that she likes Budweiser. If I didn't know better, I would say that she's looking for a date David."

"You're telling me." Nancy laughed.

"Oh, Twitchell is here. Talk to you later."

"Okay, later Nancy." The phone hung up, and he was left alone in the dim bunker. Burt had an interesting collection of equipment, but none of it was new enough to pose a challenge to David. He'd had access to faster, more complex equipment in the facility. He shuddered at the thought of his former prison, and picked up the paper he'd written Lindsey's number on. David figured it could wait since they couldn't meet at Jodi's, so he went up to ground level for some fresh air.

The hot air hit with such intensity he thought the desert was on fire. David realized how nice Burt had it in his underground bunker, staying cool all day long. He shielded his eyes and scanned the horizon, spotting the town, and the direction he'd come from when he'd escaped from the facility. He also noticed a convoy making its way up the road towards Burt's bunker. He walked up to the chain link fence and stared at the trucks and hummers until he was certain they were coming for him. David ran down to the bunker and made sure the door was locked.

"Burt? This is David. Are you there?" He stammered into the radio.

"Affirmative David. This is Burt. What is your pleasure, over?"

"The military is on their way, Burt!"

"Did not copy, please repeat, over."

"Agent Dickson and his soldiers are headed straight for your bunker!" He thought for a second. "Over!"

"I copy, stay in the bunker and don't go outside until I tell you that it's alright, over."

"Okay Burt, over."

"Burt over and out." David set the radio down quietly as he heard the rumble of the approaching convoy coming to retrieve him. The bunker rumbled as the convoy circled it, David imagined. Then the sounds stopped, and he heard the fence gate slide over to let in whoever was coming for him. The door shuttered as it was battered from the outside, making David fearful of what they would do to him when he was found. It was then he felt the onset of the metamorphosis. His body convulsed as he fell to the floor, in a fetal position, trying to fight the creature that he was going to become.

David's eyes turned a startling white as his body grew. The pounding on the door became methodic, and constant. His heart pounded to the slow and steady beat as his skin turned green and shirt began to tear. David felt himself slipping slowly away as the bunker became dark and foreboding. The pounding on the door still mimicked his heartbeat when he screamed in pain and terror, losing all control over his reality.

The soldiers heard the bellowing when the door collapsed from the inside of the bunker. The Hulk stepped out into the blazing sun as he realized that there was an entire squadron of men pointing guns at him. He flexed his muscles and growled threateningly when Agent Dickson stepped towards him. The Hulk became enraged and charged Dickson, but found that he had been shot by a sedative dart. It began to slow him down a little, but not enough to prevent him from driving his way through the line of soldiers. The Hulk raced off towards the town and reached it in a few minutes.

"What the hell?" Twitchell stopped his inquisition of Nancy and Tyler when he saw a green man running towards him. The Hulk slowed down when he saw Nancy and walked up to her. He looked curiously at her, tilting his head, as if he was racking his mind for a hidden memory. Just then he raised his arms and bellowed in Nancy's face. She turned pale, until he turned around and she saw the two tranquilizer darts embedded in his back. The Hulk looked towards the shooter who had hurt him, and ran towards the defenseless man, taking him and launching him at the moving graboid sign on Jodi's store. The man hit the wall with a loud thud and the Hulk seemed pleased with his work until he felt a rumbling in the ground. He turned and saw the convoy headed at him. He growled, clenched his fists and started stomping towards them. Nancy, Tyler and Twitchell felt their watches vibrate.

"Stop!" They all yelled. "Graboid!" The convoy stood dead still, but the Hulk kept moving.

"David! Stop!" Dickson yelled and the creature stood still, but it was too late. El Blanco erupted from under the Hulk and held him in its huge maw. The Hulk roared as El Blanco began to crush him.

"No!" Nancy yelled, but the Hulk took El Blanco's jaws and pushed them apart until he could wedge himself out. The Hulk fell to the ground, bruised and bleeding. El Blanco lay on its belly and sent its tentacles after its prey. The soldiers, who had only been bystanders, began stomping and hitting the ground with their guns. El Blanco wrapped his tentacles around the body of the Hulk. He struggled in the graboid's mouth until the soldiers began shooting at the ground near El Blanco. It let the bloody, exhausted Hulk go, and raced off away from the noise and vibrations. The citizens and soldiers slowly approached the injured creature as it struggled to get to its feet. Nancy was the closest and walked slowly up to him.

"David?" She said softly. The Hulk looked up at her pathetically and let his trunk drop to the ground. His breathing was laborious and slow.

"Nancy, be careful." Tyler said as she knelt next to the creature. He moaned in pain, and closed his eyes.

The extreme mass that made up the creature slowly melted away, leaving the shell of a man in the dust. David groaned and tried to pick up his head, but could only manage to turn his face towards Nancy. A couple soldiers ran and took David away from Nancy. They dragged him along the dirt as she chased them.

"Let him go, Dickson." Burt's voice boomed from somewhere nearby.

"Where are you, Burt?"

"I said let him go. I've got you in my crosshairs, and I'm willing to use deadly force."

"He can't shoot me, and besides, he won't." The radio in his hand practically exploded.

"I warned you, Dickson." Echoed off of the few buildings that were in the town. "Now let David Banner go."

"Let him go." Dickson ordered reluctantly. The soldiers dropped David and kept walking. He moaned in pain and turned on his side. Lindsey came running out of the store with Jodi.

"What the hell just happened?"

"I don't know!" Nancy and Lindsey ran up to David's body and cradled him. Nancy saw Burt's hat move on top of Jodi's store as he stood into view.

"Move out, let's go." Dickson surrendered and began returning the squadron back to the facility. "This isn't over, Burt"

"I know." Once the town was clear, Burt climbed off of Jodi's roof and ran to help carry David to Nancy's. David woke up when he was set on her floor and nervously looked around. Burt shoved Lindsey and Jodi out of the house, but Twitchell refused to move.

"David? David!" Burt got into his face. "What did they do to you?!" David moaned and Burt grabbed some smelling salts from Nancy's medicine cabinet and practically shoved them up his nose.

"Not them. Myself." His eyes were white but flecks of blue were beginning to appear. Burt grabbed David's chin and look intently at his face.

"What about you, David?"

"My fault. The creature. Cletus? Where's Cletus?" David slowly regained his senses and eventually sat up against the couch. He looked down at his bare chest and hung his face in his hands, using his knees for support. His hands traveled over his head to the back of his neck, and rested there. Nancy heard him take a deep breath to calm his nerves.

"David? Did they do this to you?"

''No.'' Another deep breath. "No, it was an accident that happened before they knew about me. Gamma ray overdose during an experiment on myself." His deep, blue eyes had returned, but his body still shook from the change. Twitchell, Burt, Nancy and Tyler left David and convened in the kitchen.

"Did I see what I thought I saw?" Tyler adjusted his hat.

"He's a god damn freak!"

"Twitchell! He's a troubled man with an illness. Not a freak." Nancy put her hands on her hips.

"But still, he is a liability. We can't take care of him here alone, and he most certainly can't go back to that facility he came from." They all nodded.

"Well, who's going to help this guy?"

"Cletus, he mentioned Cletus."

"I don't know Nancy."

"Come on, Burt. Who better to help David?"

"It's a valid point, but I think they have a history with each other."

"Oh."

"But we don't have any other options, do we? I'll go find him."

"Where are you going?" David asked as Burt walked by.

"To get you some help, hopefully."

"Burt?" David looked up. "Thank you." Burt walked out the door and sped off to find Cletus.

************

Burt found Cletus rooting around in the dusty savanna.

"So, I take it you're here about David." He didn't even look up from his work. Burt slid his shades down his nose and opened the passenger door.

*************

Dickson entered the facility and made his way past David's lab towards the meeting with his superiors. Getting reprimanded was very unpleasant, he knew from his first and only experience when he had first come to the facility.

He looked at the cold, gray doors and put his hand out to open them; looking at the scars only he could see. He leaned his body against the door marked "Appointments Only". There was an old piece of tape stuck to the door from one mischievous rookie who had thought it would be funny to rename the door. Needless to say, they didn't think labeling the door "Spanish Inquisition" was funny after they were called in for the first time. The door protested to his efforts, but eventually it gave him admission to the dim room.

***************

Cletus walked slowly into Nancy's house and gave her a silent hug. He saw David on the couch, his arm covering his face.

"Is he sleeping?" Burt walked in quietly behind Cletus.

"Yes. But soundly." Cletus stood over David and listened to his slow, methodic breathing.

"Who knows?"

"Only Nancy, Tyler, Twitchell and I." David's lids fluttered and his eyes opened drowsily.

"Cletus? What are you doing here?"

"I heard that an old friend of mine needed my help."

"Thank you, Cletus." Nancy ran the guys out of her house and left Cletus and David in the living room.

"Always running, David."

"Yeah Cletus, always running."

***************

Burt drove back to his bunker with Tyler. When they approached his home, Burt jumped out of his truck and ran through the open gate. Tyler came up from behind.

"Damn, Burt. Those guys broke down your door."

"On the contrary, it was broken from the inside. See how the hinges are stressed?"

"You mean, something broke out, not in?"

"Precisely. No wonder they want David back so bad. With strength of that magnitude, they could exploit it for use in the military. That was a six-inch steel door with reinforced hinges, specifically designed to stand up to explosives and battering rams." Burt walked over the remains of his door.

"Damn." Tyler went into Burt's bunker and saw David's shredded shirt strewn around the room. "I still can't believe that sort of thing could really happen to a guy. I always thought the stories about the Hulk were tabloid fillers." Burt picked up the shards of the flannel shirt and put them into a plastic bag. Tyler followed Burt to his truck and they drove off.

***************

Lindsey walked into the house and saw Cletus talking to David.

"Hey, David. How are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm surviving." He sat up and he and Cletus looked at Lindsey with the same worn look.

"You're Cletus Poffenberger, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am."

"I've heard a lot about you."

"Well, that doesn't surprise me."

"Do you two know each other?"

"You could say that, yes."

"I think I'll need to clear a day to give you an exclusive interview." Cletus looked at David who only shrugged his shoulders. Cletus stood up and walked out of the room into the kitchen.

"Is it just me, or does everyone seem to retreat to the kitchen here?"

"No, it's not just you." They laughed and Lindsey sat down on the couch next to David.

"How are you doing?" She stroked his tangled hair.

"Okay."

"What happened? I heard a lot of noise before Jodi would let me out of her store."

"The government came after me, and nearly caught me, but Burt and Nancy wouldn't let them take me away."

"Thank God."

"What?" David moved himself to a position reminiscent of sitting. Lindsey blushed when she realized what she'd said.

"Sorry. I don't know what I'm saying."

"It's okay, Lindsey." They embraced each other tightly.

"I'm afraid, David."

"What's to be afraid of, other than El Blanco?"

"You." David lay back down on the couch, and studied her face. There were tears in her eyes and he wiped her face clear of them.

"There's nothing for you to fear."

"I don't want to get hurt."

"I won't hurt you. You're a very pretty and very smart woman, Lindsey." He hugged her again.

"I love you, David." She whispered as she kissed his neck and he returned the affection by kissing her cheek and holding her head closer to his. "I don't know what it is about you, but I do." Nancy and Cletus walked into the living room as David kissed Lindsey on her cheek again.

"Lindsey? You gotta go hun. These guys need some time to figure out things."

"Okay. I'll see you later, David." She hung onto his hand until he let go of it and Nancy took her out of the house and down to Jodi's store.

"I can't take this, Cletus. I can't stand to see her heart break. My heart's felt enough grief; I don't want her to have the same experience."

"What's going on David?"

"I think I'm dieing, Cletus. My physical structure is suffering, and I can't keep the creature back for as long as I used to."

"But that doesn't mean you're dieing, David."

"The creature is getting weaker. Neither of us are what we once were. My transformations are becoming unstable. And I don't change every time I get angry anymore. Sometimes, it just happens. I don't want anyone to get hurt, Cletus."

"I know, David." David's eyes drooped and body relaxed, and he fell into a deep, recovering sleep. Lindsey was staring into her Grabachino when everyone walked in.

"Ma'am?" Lindsey looked at Burt. "We have agreed that it would be in your best interest to leave Perfection Valley as soon as possible."

"But why? If I stay, I could help David. I could expose these people, and get him out of whatever trouble he's in."

"She has a point Burt. Lindsey might be David's ticket to freedom." Burt didn't answer; he just walked out of the store mumbling something under his breath. Nancy, Twitchell and Tyler followed.

"Don't worry, Burt's always like that."

"I think I need to get some help, Jodi. Where's your payphone?"

***************

Agent Dickson walked out of the questioning room with a bloody nose and a black eye. The other people in the building paid no attention to him as he walked to his desk.

"Agent Dickson?"

"Yes?"

"We just got confirmation that the subject McGee has been contacted by a line from Perfection."

"What was the nature of this call? His god damn niece happens to be there right now."

"She wants him to come and help her investigate the situation with David and the facility. Our operatives have confirmed that she doesn't know David is the Hulk."

"Yeah, but what will McGee think when he sees that Doctor Banner is alive?"

***************

Jack had long retired from the journalism business, but the chance to expose something big was always a nice opportunity to help his reputation that inexplicably seemed to still be suffering from his days of chasing the Hulk. He lived in Washington D.C., digging up a little dirt on politicians from time to time to fuel election campaigns and various tabloid columns. He was lounging in a chair, reading the latest article by his niece when the phone rang.

"Hello."

"Hey Uncle Jack!"

"Lindsey! It's great to hear from you! I was just reading your latest column, and you're doing great!"

"Thank you."

"So, what makes you call me all the way from the west coast?"

"I need your help in a certain area that you're an expert in, Jack." He knew her tone of voice could only mean one thing.

"Where are you, Lindsey? I'll be there as soon as I can."

"I'm in Perfection Valley, Nevada. It takes a few hours to get here from the nearest airport."

"Perfection Valley? The Graboid town? What are you doing there?"

"Ask my editor. But while I've been down here, there have been some interesting developments that you might want to see."

"What's up?"

"There's a guy down here who's been mistreated by the government, and he wants out, but they won't let him. The people down here are fighting to keep him."

"Why?"

"I don't know, but his name is David Banner..." The rest of her conversation disappeared under the flood of thoughts that swamped McGee's brain. It had to be a coincidence, but it was around the neighboring town of Bixby that he had last had contact with John Doe/The Hulk about 20 years ago. He had talked with him for a while out in the desert, but as always with John's face concealed. They shared stories about how close they had come to conquering the Hulk, and reminisced about the times McGee had nearly caught John. Jack also finally learned that Doctor Banner had been involved with the Hulk, though John wouldn't say how. Then the military came for him and the Hulk was never seen since.

"Jack? Uncle Jack, are you there?"

"Yeah, sorry, just thinking."

"It's alright. Anyways, as I was saying, this guy is really nice and I think you are just the person to help him get out of this mess."

"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Thanks, Uncle Jack."

"Keep safe Lindsey, bye."

"Bye."

***************

Nancy was cleaning up her house when Lindsey walked in.

"Hey Nancy. How's David?"

"Still sleeping."

"Mind if I spend the night here?"

"Lindsey, you can spend as much time as you want here with David. I'm willing to let you stay until this whole fiasco is over and done with, as long as you do your share around here."

"Thank you Nancy."

"For now though, you can stay here until he wakes back up again. In the meanwhile you can stay in Mindy's room." She went to go clean the room and Lindsey sat on the floor.

"David, I got my uncle coming to help us;" she held his hand as he breathed methodically. "You might know about him. He's a real good investigating journalist. You'd like him, he's real sharp. He'll be here in a few hours I think." His eyelids fluttered and then opened groggily.

"Hey."

"Hey, you're awake. Do you feel better now? You've practically slept all day."

"Yeah."

"You want to go for a little picnic at Jodi's? She's got a great Grabachino and her prices aren't half bad, I'll pay for it." She helped David get off of the couch and he leaned on her arm as she brought him to Jodi's store. Rosalita was sitting at the counter, talking to Jodi who was cleaning her display case of Graboid paraphernalia. The bell on the door rang and she heard David and Lindsey talking as they came up to the counter. They sat down to their Grabachinos and Agent Dickson walked in. Jodi's eyes narrowed as he came up behind David. He put his hand on David's shoulder, and waited for him to turn his head.

"Hello David." He punched David in the face and slammed his head into the counter. "You've caused me a lot of grief, Banner." David held his hand in front of his face. A small trickle of blood slipped between his fingers as he stared down Dickson.

"You're more of an idiot than I thought." He took a swing at Dickson, missing and throwing him off balance. Dickson staggered back, but caught himself and looked into David's eyes. They weren't white yet, but his body was showing signs of the change as his hands shook uncontrollably.

"David? Are you alright?" He looked at his hands and clasped them together, trying to stop the shaking.

"What the hell happened to you Dickson?" David finally noticed the bruises on his face. He caught something out of the corner of his eye, but didn't duck in time to avoid the metal can. It hit his head and he fell to the ground.

"That was a cheap shop, you jerk!" Rosalita threw her shoe at Dickson, and chased him out of the store. When she came back, David was still on the floor with Lindsey standing over him.

"David, are you okay? David, what's the matter?"

"I think he's having a seizure. Lay him down on the ground." Jodi jumped over the counter and helped Lindsey try to turn over David. His spasming body wouldn't budge, when he jumped up and ran out of the store.

"David! Adonde vas?" Rosalita hobbled after him, but he disappeared out the door. They heard him yell and then a deeper voice took over where his left off. The three women ran outside and saw the Hulk's body grow from the size of a regular man, to a behemoth.

"Oh my God, he really does exist. Uncle Jack was right." The Hulk turned around and looked at the three people staring at him, and walked up to them. Jodi and Rosalita screamed and ran back into the store and called Burt on the radio. He stood about three feet away and reached out towards Lindsey. She flinched, but let him gently hold a lock of her hair in his green hand.

"John? Where's David Banner?" The Hulk looked at her, confused. He heard the dirt crunch behind him and turned around to face Dickson. He grabbed the agent's upraised hand and threw him to the ground. The Hulk turned back to Lindsey, scooped her up into his arms and ran into the valley.

***************

"Rosalita, Jodi, I want you two to relax, and let me explain."

"Pero estuvó un hombre verde!"

"Relax! Let me explain!" He heard a little struggle as Jodi yanked the radio from Rosalita's hands.

"Go ahead Burt."

***************

"John, where are we going?" The Hulk kept running silently until he reached a safe area of protruding rock from the side of one of the valley walls. He groaned as he set her down gently and sat nearby on the rocks. He looked her over thoroughly, and stood up nervously. El Blanco sent his tentacles silently onto the rocks, scenting out the Hulk. He saw the hissing thing, and stomped on it. The tentacle retracted and El Blanco stuck his head half way out of the ground, and went away. The Hulk sat back down, with his eyes rolling in his head as Lindsey crept closer to him.

"John? Are you okay?" The Hulk moaned as his skin began to pale and body shrank. Finally, a man was sitting in front of her with his hands over his face. The fingers parted and a white eye looked out from behind, and quickly hid itself again.

"Where are we?" Lindsey's eyes opened wide.

"David?"

"Lindsey, I'm so sorry." He let his hands down and held her hands in his. She gazed fearfully into his blue eyes. He held her close, as her tears ran down his bare chest. Her cheek was like down on his body as he noticed the darkness spilling along the sky.

"We've got to go back."

"I know, but we won't make it back before dark, and I don't know where we are. Do you?"

"No, not really. I was too busy being in awe at the man that was carrying me."

"I hope Burt finds us soon. Until then I think we'd better stay put. It's gonna get cold, so we might have to sleep next to each other to stay warm, later on."

"Like Uncle Jack."

"Who?"

"My uncle was saved by a mystery man, and when they were stuck in the woods without a blanket, they slept next to each other to keep warm. It saved his life." The sun died off and David started to feel the chill of the night, as his back began to grow goose bumps. He hugged his legs tightly in an effort to conserve heat. Lindsey hugged his neck, and leaned on his back. He could feel the warmth radiating from her body.

"You're warm." Lindsey smiled and laid David down on the cold rocks. His eyes darted around, looking for an escape.

"I know another way to keep you warm." She smiled slyly, and David lifted her gently off of himself.

"I'm sorry Lindsey. I really am. It's just I don't want to hurt you. I can't chance hurting you. You mean too much to me." She sat back, disappointment crossing her face. She cuddled up to David on the rock and fell asleep in his arms. David watched her body rise and fall, praying for a sound sleep.

***************

At dawn, a rental car pulled up in front of Jodi's store and a worn man stood up stiffly from a long trip. His gray hair gave witness to a day when it was brown and youthful. He wore a new brown suit that spoke of an era when bellbottoms were worn by men. He knocked on the door, and was greeted by a smallish voice from inside.

"I'll be right there!" The door opened up and a Chinese girl stood in front of him.

"Hello, I'm Jack McGee. I'm a freelance reporter, and my niece called me about a developing story going on here."

"You mean you're here to help David?"

"I guess so." He walked in and found everyone from town sitting at the counter, talking quietly. When he came within hearing distance, they all stopped and looked up.

"Hi, I'm Jack McGee. Lindsey called me." He said with more uncertainty than he'd wanted.

"Jack McGee? She called McGee?!" Burt bellowed in Jodi's general direction.

"Well, Burt, if you think about it. This might be a good thing and all..."

"What do you mean?" Jack sat down near them. Burt gave Rosalita and Jodi a dirty look when they opened their mouths to speak.

"Before we get to know each other, I need to inform you that Lindsey and David have gone missing as of yesterday evening."

"Where did they go? We have to find them before that Graboid thing does!"

"But what about the Hulk, Burt." Jodi blurted out. McGee's head spun round as if it were going to come off of his shoulders.

"The Hulk! He's still alive?" Burt looked annoyed but let Tyler talk.

"Look buddy. This guy only wants to be out of the government. They're not treating him right, and Lindsey promised to help him, not make his life harder than it is. None of us knew the Hulk was involved in this until the other day. All we want to do is keep David Banner from being taken back."

"Okay, I'll help. But first let's find my niece."

"Niece?"

"Yeah, she's my niece. Is there a problem with that?"

"No, no problem." Burt scowled and organized a search party to find Lindsey and David.

***************

David woke up to his body covered in frigid dew. Lindsey's arms were still around his waist, but they were cold and shivering.

"Lindsey?" David turned around to her. "Wake up, Lindsey." Her eyes slowly opened and looked at him with a glassy complexion.

"What is it?"

"We have to stay awake in case anyone comes along. And we'll stay warmer awake."

"Alright." They sat up and Lindsey curled herself around David. They sat that way for most of the morning, until they heard the roar of Burt's truck. David stood up and waved to get his attention, until he got closer and saw McGee in the seat beside him.

"What the..."

"You know David; it's quite ironic, that McGee happens to be my uncle." She hugged her knees tightly. David looked at her with disbelief. He turned and started to walk off the rocks, but then thought about all the time he'd spent running, and went over to Lindsey. He stood by her until Burt's truck stopped at the rocks. David picked up Lindsey in his arms, and walked up to the side of the truck.

"Hey Jack." He put Lindsey in the back and sat next to her, right behind McGee. Jack could only stare at David in the side mirror on the way back to town.

***************

"Agent Dickson, sir." The battered man looked wearily at the soldier.

"What is it?"

"Scout, sir. From just outside Perfection."

"Give me that." He yanked the phone out of his hand. "Talk."

"Yes, sir. The civilians found Banner, sir. And McGee is with them, sir."

"Damn it. This whole thing is spiraling out of control." The brigade continued its march in total silence towards the base.

***************

David and Jack sat across the table from each other, turning their coffee cups in their hands.

"So, how long have you been with these guys?"

"Since they captured the Hulk." Jack's eyes opened wide.

"How are they treating John?"

"Not well. That's why I left. I wanted to get out of there, and get him some help at the same time."

"But I can't believe that you've been alive all this time. But what about the when I ran into Mike Cassidy? The resemblance was uncanny."

"That's because he set me up, and that was me. I followed the Hulk around, trying to help him find a cure. He was an accident, and I was determined to fix it."

"But what about the fire at your lab?"

"I don't know how that happened, but I do know that the Hulk wasn't the cause of it. He tried to save Elaina after I had failed to find her in the blaze. After that, the Hulk was tracked by the two of us, making his life harder than it should have been." Jack sat silently as David sipped his coffee. Jodi was taking inventory for the third time in a row when Burt and Cletus walked in.

"Have we figured out any possible solutions so far, gentlemen?"

"Not yet. I'm sorry David but I feel like I'm talking to a ghost here."

"I can't say I blame you. It's been a while McGee."

"I know. How did you meet Lindsey anyways?"

"She came over to interview Nancy. I had just escaped and she was putting me up in her house when Lindsey came over. She didn't know I was tied into the Hulk until last night when we were stranded on those rocks and she decided to do some preliminary questioning."

"She's a good reporter. And a smart young woman. I'm very proud of her. It's hard following an uncle in the same paper with a reputation like mine."

"She's very good. And a lovely young lady." Jack looked at David curiously, but went back to slowly drinking his cool coffee.

"So, what are we going to do here?"

"I think our best course of action would be to talk briefly to this Agent Dickson. If we can't work out an agreement quickly, then we leave and figure out another course of action. He can't complain that we didn't try to reason with him."

"Sounds good to me. I say we try it. It's worth a shot."

"David, I can pretty much guarantee that they will not let you go."

"But it'll get rid of that loop hole. The less we have, the fewer ways they can nab me on a technicality."

"Sounds fair. Where to?"

"The facility."

***************

"Burt, is all this really necessary?" He had lined himself with small arms and his favorite weapon of all time.

"They'll probably have metal detectors at the entrance. I won't go through, but I'll be outside as backup. I'll be in contact with you always." He handed Cletus and David plastic earplugs and pointed to his own, hardly visible in his ear. David inserted his own plug, and gave it a test.

"Okay, Cletus. Let's do this." They hopped out of the truck and walked up to the outer compound defenses. Once they were in, and Burt had seen them enter the building, he drove around to a high point and took out his high- powered binoculars.

***************

Agent Dickson was sitting at his desk when his secretary rushed into the office.

"What is it, Sussie?"

"It's Doctor Banner sir, and a guest." She was visibly shaking and he stood up as David and Cletus walked in.

"You have a lot of nerve, David. And you." He looked at Cletus. "You're that Poffenberger guy who won't shut up. You keep blabbing your big mouth to Gummer, and getting into more trouble than you should with your history."

"I'm just here to help David. Nothing else."

"I suppose you want out then. Well I'm sorry but that can't happen."

"Shame. Come on David, we tried." They turned around and started to walk out of the door. They opened the door and saw the security guards walking towards them.

"Sorry, guys. You two walked in here so willingly, well, I couldn't resist." The bugs hummed in their ears. Someone yelled and then they saw Burt come crashing through the line of guards with his pistols in hand.

"Let's get the hell out of here!" He led them out of the compound and back to his hidden truck. Burt floored the gas and sped through the desert back towards Perfection.

***************

"I can't believe it! I should have known Dickson would anticipate a move like that."

"It's alright Burt. You couldn't have known. We're alright now, thanks to you." Lindsey came up behind David and wrapped her arms around his neck. Jack gave her a look, and she replied by kissing David.

"You're playing a dangerous game, Lindsey. I understand you care for David, but getting emotionally involved will put you at risk too." David blushed, and he looked into his cup to escape McGee's inquiring gaze. Twitchell walked into the store loudly and stood in Gummer's face.

"God damn it Gummer! I was just informed of the little stunt you and your buddies pulled. Do you have any idea what you just started?"

"What's the matter?" David turned to Twitchell.

"They're not sending the National Guard this time. They're sending the whole freaking Army from the post just four miles outside of Bixby!"

"You're kidding." Jack said with his cup half way to his face.

"If you don't believe me, take a look for yourselves." He went up to the nearest window and pointed at the approaching cloud of dust.