A Marvelous Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
The Monster & The Machine!
September 7, 1962
Rick Jones was no stranger to trouble. The events of the past week, however, made him think that his definition of the word trouble needed to be expanded. After escaping the Circus of Crime, he and the Hulk had made their way back to the hidden lab of Dr. Sterns. By this point, all Rick wanted was to sleep for about a week and never see anything colored gray ever again.
They had landed just outside the cave entrance without alerting any members of the base personal. Rick stumbled off the Hulk's back and looked around before a man's cough made him freeze. "Rick, that wasn't what I meant when I said to lay low." Dr. Sterns spoke as he stepped out from behind an outcropping of rocks.
Rick jumped, and the Hulk turned towards the new arrival with a snarl. Rick had to force himself to remain calm, and the Hulk followed suit. "Doc! What do you think you're doing out here?"
A low glow from the cave entrance illumined the scientist's face and the strange grin that was plastered on it. "Oh, just enjoying the night air." His grin grew wider as he gestured towards the faint light. "Why don't you and Ms. Ross join me inside?"
Silently, Rick and the Hulk followed him down into the cave. The light grew brighter the further down they went until they were standing in the main lab. Rick marveled at the strange device that took up most of the floor in front of him.
Reaching high enough to almost touch the roof of the cave was a smaller version of the Gamma Gun that had been used to drive off the Toad Men. A large sheet of metal covered the floor, with two footprints clearly marked before the turret. "Doc, what is that?"
Sterns smiled as he slipped on a pair of goggles and took a position inside a small booth off to the side. "That, Mr. Jones, is the answer to all our problems. I hope," he added as Rick joined him inside the booth. "This is only a theory mind you, but with this scaled down model I think we can drain off enough gamma radiation to restore Ms. Ross back to normal."
Rick looked at the controls in wild-eyed wonder. "You mean you can make her normal again?" His voice was heavy with emotion as he thought of that word.
Clutching his hands into fists, Rick stepped back as far as he could without bumping into anything. He sucked in his lower lips as Dr. Sterns closed the door and started to prepare the machine. "Rick, if you could order Ms. Ross over to the platform? I marked where she should stand."
Rick was silent for a few seconds before he willed the Hulk, no Betty, he reminded himself, over to the specially marked spot. The Hulk silently moved over to the spot and stood motionless as the ray gun started to hum. The gray beast remained motionless as a blinding bright beam of green energy erupted from the tip and enveloped her. The Hulk continued to stand still as the gun pumped the mysterious gamma rays into her.
Inside the control booth, Sterns gritted his teeth as he continued to adjust the levels of the gun. "Come on, work with me," he hissed as a row of warning lights began to blink. "No!" he shouted. Flipping switches frantically, he shouted to Rick. "How's she doing?"
"Doc, look!" Rick pointed to the Hulk. Sterns, for a spilt second, looked away from the control panel and gasped at what he saw. The Hulk, under the intense bombardment of the gamma rays, was slowly reverting back to normal. The long tangled mess of black hair shortened to Betty Ross's plain brown locks. The muscles, capable of feats barely comprehendible by human standards, started to decrees and loss their definition. Inch by inch, the Hulk's immense frame slowly shrank into the normal body of Betty Ross. Once the startling change had stopped, the now human Betty Ross sank to her knees on the platform.
"Eureka!" Sterns shouted as he killed the power. The gun powered down with a hum. Throwing open the door, he smiled as he stepped out.
"Doc!" Rick shouted, "Shouldn't we have suits on or something?"
Sterns chuckled as he slipped the goggles off and tossed them aside. "Don't worry Rick, I took care of that. The cave is just as safe as it was before." Removing his coat, he tucked it under his arm. "Give me your jacket. I think Ms. Ross would appreciate the extra layers."
Rick blushed as he tossed his jacket to him. Peering through the window, he saw Dr. Sterns wrap Betty up in the coat and help her to her feet. "I can't believe it!" he muttered to himself as he left the booth. "This is amazing!"
Looking at Betty's face, however, made him pause. Her eyes were glazed over, and even Rick could see that she could hardly stand. "Betty?" he asked carefully as he reached out.
"I'm ok Rick" Betty muttered weakly as Sterns helped her walk. "So tired," she said, as she was lead outside to Sterns' waiting jeep.
Once she was safely put in the backseat, Rick led the scientist away. "Doc, what's wrong with her?" Betty was already asleep.
Sterns wiped his brow. "I'm not sure. If I had to guess, I'd say the stress of the transformation. The human body was never meant to undergo that kind of a change you know. I'd like to examine her, but I think we need to swing by the base first." Walking back over to the jeep, Sterns hoped into the driver seat. "Get in. I can explain on the way."
Rick agreed, and was soon sitting in the passenger side with the night breeze going through his hair. Betty was fast asleep. "We need to take her back to her father. General Ross has been ballistic since she left. That little stunt Marks pulled has gotten him kicked out. I'm shocked he didn't have that idiot shot." Sterns laughed a little at his colleague's misfortune as he drove. "But that doesn't let you off the hook Rick, as I'm sure you know. I had to move that gamma gun to the cave just to get some work done!" Rick stayed silent as his gaze was constantly being drawn to the slumbering figure in the backseat. The scientist's words were largely ignored as Betty's frail legs shifted slightly under the borrowed coat.
"Is it over?' Rick asked as they drove past a preoccupied gate sentry and made their way towards the general's bungalow.
Sterns hummed as he brought the jeep to a stop. "I'm not sure; I mean, at least to my notes the excess gamma radiation in Betty's body should have been purged. But uh, let's not worry the general with should, alright?" Sterns whispered as he got out and gently picked Betty up.
Rick stayed silent as Sterns rung the doorbell. He hung back as a bleary eyed Ross opened the door and let out a stream of profanities that made even Rick blush. The scientist and the girl were quickly ushered inside, although before Rick could open his mouth the door was slammed shut in his face. Shrugging his shoulders, Rick climbed back into the jeep, propped his feet up on the dash and went to sleep.
Inside the house, Ross was busy lighting up a fresh cigar as Betty slept on the sofa. "Sterns, I don't know if I should give you a medal or a firing squad." He said in-between puffs.
"I'd prefer neither, thank you." Sterns smiled as he made his way towards the door. "Just the knowledge that I've done my part for the good of mankind is reward enough, thanks."
Ross guffawed. "Nice, but before you go, I have one thing to ask. Did you cure her?" His tone was cold enough to make Sterns shiver. Hovering near his daughter, he eyed her emancipated frame with a critical eye. "Because if she has to live with that curse one more day, I swear Sterns, they will never find your carcass."
Sterns gulped as his fingers touched the doorknob. "Some more tests are going to be needed, but rest assured sir, the Hulk is gone forever." Sterns quickly slipped outside before he could hear Ross's reply.
As the jeep drove away, Ross sighed as he put out his cigar. Betty turned over in her sleep. "It's over" he mouthed as he stared down at his sleeping daughter. Waves of relief washed over him as he looked at Betty's face. Images of his wife flickered through his mind as he saw Betty. "Jenny, it's over," he whispered. Taking a nearby blanket, he draped it over Betty before carefully walking back to his room. "It's all over!"
Rick woke up when the jeep stopped. Shaking himself awake, he climbed out of the jeep and looked around as Dr. Sterns gathered a few things from the back. "Glad to see you're up" Sterns remarked as he quickly stuffed what looked like a stacks of papers into a duffel bag and hauled them out.
Surrounding them was more of the same houses that dotted the base. "I hope you don't mind sleeping on a sofa Rick" spoke the scientist as he dragged the bag to the front door. Fishing around in his pockets, Sterns pulled out a large key ring and fumbled for the right one. "I'll need your help in the morning though. We need to… Rick?"
Turning around, he was greeted with the site of Rick Jones leaning up against the car and sleeping perfectly. "Well, never mind then."
Feet pounding on the hard dirt, the desert whizzing by as the great gray beast took flight…The Hulk soared through the air as a blinding bright beam of light shot out of the sky and surrounding the beast. The Hulk screamed as the light burned the gray flesh away.
Betty woke with a start. The unfamiliar sensations of cloth and warmth surrounded her as she struggled to raise her head. Trying to move her hand resulted in a wave of bone-breaking pain flooding through her arm. Her mouth felt heavy and thick as she spoke. "Dad?" although it came out more slurred than anything. Looking around, she saw the familiar trappings of a hospital room.
Heavy footsteps down the hall followed her cry, and soon she saw her father standing over her. "Betty. Thank God!" Tears filled up in the older man's eyes as he bent over and helped Betty sit up. "You've been asleep for two days. I told the doctors you were in a car accident out in the desert." Betty could tell her father hadn't slept much. Heavy bags were under his eyes as he stood at the foot of the bed. "Sterns did it Betty, he cured you!"
Despite the pain, Betty forced her eyelids to stay open when she heard. "What?" she whispered. Her throat felt like it had been made out of sandpaper. "The Hulk…gone?"
"Yes" Tears were welling up in her father's eyes as he grasped her fingers. "It's finally over."
"I can't believe it." Betty thought. Inside, she did feel different, almost as if something was missing. "I'm free?" The thought of being rid of the Hulk strangely didn't make her as happy as she thought it would. Ever since she had been caught in that bomb blast, she had prayed to be normal but now that the curse had been lifted, she felt strangely sad. A part of her was missing; granted a destructive part, but the Hulk was Betty just as much as Betty was the Hulk.
"I'll let you rest. It's good to have you back." Ross smiled as he wiped away the tears and gently kissed her on her forehead. He smiled warmly as he drew the privacy curtain around her bed and left the room.
The second she heard the door close Betty tried to sit up. Her body screamed in protest as she hauled herself up to a sitting position. "I'm so weak; how did this happen?" Looking down at her hands, Betty gasped at how thin they looked. Normally healthy pink flesh looked thin and drawn tight against brittle bones. The pain had not subsided since she had woken up. It felt like her body was stuck in a vice; it ached her to even breathe. Closing her eyes, she leaned back against her pillow and slipped into a dreamless sleep.
Betty didn't know how long she had been out. Sunlight was streaming in through the half-closed blinds by her bed. Fresh flowers were sitting on her nightstand, but there was one familiar sight in the room that made her smile.
Rick Jones, his clothes unchanged, was sleeping in a nearby chair. Judging by the stubble on his chin he hadn't moved much since he arrived. The sound of her voice roused him from his sleep. "Betty?"
Standing up, (and trying to make himself more presentable) Rick hesitantly walked over to her bed. "Betty, I" he tried to speak as his voice grew thick with emotion "I'm sorry!" he gushed as he fell to his knees.
Betty stared at him without saying anything. Rick had never, to her knowledge, shown any great amount of remorse for his past actions. "Rick, it's ok, and you can stand up now.
"Oh", he said, "sorry", but she had never seen him being so sincere.
"Rick, before I say anything else, let me say this. Thanks."
"Thanks? But why?"
"Because despite all the trouble the Hulk caused, she did do some good. You deserve the credit just as much as the blame."
Rick smiled a little at that. "Thanks Betty."
"Don't mention it Rick, but I'm curious though. What happens now?"
Rick scratched his head. "You know, I honestly hadn't thought it through. I mean, with the Hulk gone, you don't need me around anymore, do you?"
Betty sighed. "Rick, you've stuck by me through all this. You've been a great friend. Why are you saying I won't need you?"
A faint blush took hold of Rick's face. "Um, well, I really wouldn't have a place here, and I'm just a few months away from being 18 you know. I mean, your old man has been cool about letting me hang around, but what am I going to do then? I barely got my GED, and no offense but I can't see your old man accepting me into his army."
Betty's eyes widened. "That's it? Rick, you stood by me when few would. You helped keep the beast inside me from harming anyone. As far as I am concerned, you don't need anything else."
Time passed as it always did. The Hulk's disappearance caused a little stir, but no one questioned it. Betty, however, was still bedridden. Various doctors had been called in, but few could account for her muscles being in the shape they were in. One specialist stated that her body looked like it had been put inside a taffy puller.
The daily throbbing pain soon gave way to a dull numbness that settled into her bones midway through October. By November, Betty was confined to her bed. General Ross had managed to convince the doctors her condition was a result of the 'car crash' she had a few months ago, but Betty didn't care. Dr. Sterns had been unable to say why her body was the way it was, but during the time she was trapped in the bed, an idea came to Betty. An idea guaranteed to offend her father.
She needed the Hulk back, and there was only person she knew who could help her…
Rick still kept in touch. He had been working as a mechanic somewhere off the base, but he still stopped by every once and a while. She knew he wouldn't agree to her plan, not at first, but he could be convinced. It would just take some time.
"No, and I mean, no! This is crazy Betty! You spend all that time wishing to be normal, and then you want to go and become the Hulk again?"
The conversation, and several variations thereof, had been going on almost steadily since the first of the month. Every time she tried to bring it up, Rick had stormed out. Each time he did it, she was convinced that was the last time she'd ever see him. By now she was getting desperate. Rick had silently shown up out of the blue. She could tell he had just come from work, as the grease was still fresh on his overalls.
"Rick" she pleaded, "I am stuck in this bed. The doctors say my muscles are stretched so much they may never heal properly. I could be bedridden for the rest of my life!"
"And turning into a monster is going to solve all that? Betty, I already went through hell when you come out onto that testing ground to save my worthless hide, and I won't go through that again."
"Yeah, well it seems that you still owe me buddy! If it wasn't that little harebrained stunt, I wouldn't even be like this in the first place!"
That had struck a cord with Rick. His fingers clenched so tightly Betty could see blood oozing through his tightened fingers. "How" he managed to say through his rage, "DARE you say that! I've put my life on the line keeping your secret! I've gone days without sleep, just to make sure you didn't die in that cave!" He jumped up from his chair with such force the chair fell over backward and clattered on the floor. "You wanted your life back, well lady, you got it. The Hulk is dead." Moving towards the door, Rick didn't even bother to turn around before he spoke. "I'm sorry Betty, but I can't do this."
"Can't? Or won't? Is Mr. Jones too scared of facing what's out there? You've seen what the Reds can do Rick, hell, we have loonies running here that are just as bad. Who can stand up to them? Ant-Man?" Her tone had lost the venom, but it was replaced with pleading. "The world needs someone like the Hulk."
Rick's hand stopped inches away from the doorknob. He turned back to face Betty. "If I help you with this, what are you going to do? Be the next Captain America or something? You think your old man is just going to forgive me for doing that to you a second time?"
"I can bring daddy around Rick, don't worry about that. I just need you to man the controls." Betty sounded more animated. The act of sitting up sent shockwaves of pain through her, but she could see Rick faltering. That made the pain worth it.
Rick sighed. His palms felt sweaty for some reason. "Alright. I'll take you up to the cave next weekend. But if the equipment isn't there, or if I can't get it working again, then are you just going to let this stuff go and be Betty Ross again?"
Betty gave a brief smile. "Cross my heart."
A week had never moved so slowly as that one. Betty was counting the minutes until the weekend, but the closer Saturday got, the more a little voice in the back of her head spoke.
"Do you really want this?" the inner her spoke.
"Of course I do. The power to become the Hulk would let me do how much good? Not to mention the ability to actually walk to the bathroom under my own power. Why wouldn't I want that?"
The inner voice was silent, but the doubts still remained. What if Rick failed to show up? What if something went wrong?
"And if wishes were horses beggars would be riding" she recalled the old saying. She wasn't going to think about what ifs. She needed this. The exact reasons were unneeded.
The weekend came, and so did Rick. His spiel about taking Betty out for a drive in the desert was met with some resistance by General Ross, but she was thankful she was able to talk her father into it. "It's just a drive Daddy. We'll be home before dark."
"Nightfall Jones, or else I send Uncle Sam's finest out for an S&R, got it?"
The threat remained in Rick's mind as they drove to the cave. Dr. Sterns had been so busy at the base with the various new weapons being built, so they were sure not to be interrupted.
Rick put the jeep in park before shutting off the engine. Betty sat quietly beside him with her wheelchair tucked neatly in the back. "Well" he began as he tried not to look too directly at the cave entrance, "here we are."
Betty nodded as Rick climbed out. Removing the chair from the back, he placed it gently on the ground beside the passenger door and helped Betty into it. They were both silent as he wheeled her down the path.
In the months that had passed, no one had entered the lab. Digging into his pocket, Rick pulled out a flashlight and flicked it on. The small beam of light pierced the darkness. Ahead of them was a generator. Leaving Betty, Rick checked it out.
"Looks like there still some juice left." He called out as he got it running again. The machine kicked to life and the cave was flooded with light. The equipment was mostly left intact. A few marks in the dirt reveled that Sterns had come by, but for the most part all the necessary equipment was still there. "Why shouldn't it be? It's not like anyone would be crazy enough to use it again." Rick thought as he wheeled Betty over to the platform.
A quick once-over reveled that the gamma gun was still in place. Rick silently prayed that the device would fail as he put on a pair of goggles and slipped into the control room. Remembering the order of what Sterns did, Rick began to flip switches. A hum began within the device and it grew louder as the gun's tip began to glow. "So much for divine intervention" he mumbled as the power indicators started to glow and reach higher and higher on the board.
Without warning, sparks began to fly out of the control panel. Rick frantically hit the abort button, but the machine continued to increase in power. "Betty, I can't control it!" shouted Rick as the gun went off.
A beam of blinding bright green light shot forth and struck Betty. Rick, even with the goggles, had to shield his eyes as the light enveloped Betty. She was screaming as he tried to shut the machine down. Sparks gave way to fire as Rick saw the gauges reaching into the critical zone. Desperate, he pulled away the panel and stared to rip wires out. He must have yanked out the right one, because the gamma gun flickered off in an instant.
Not hearing anything, Rick slowly leaned his head out, and hoped that those precautions Sterns had talked about were still working. "Betty?" he asked carefully as he slipped out.
Betty was slumped over in the wheelchair. A panic began to build in Rick's gut as he saw that she wasn't moving. "Betty?" he said again as he stepped closer.
Her fingers twitched. Her eyes fluttered open slowly.
Rick breathed a sigh of relief. Wiping the sweat off his brow, he jumped back when he felt something hit his jaw. Seeing the object on the floor, he bent down to see just what had caused his discomfort.
It was a button.
A button that, little more than an hour ago, had been on Betty's dress.
Rick stopped moving towards Betty as he started to notice that she still hadn't really moved from her wheelchair.
He was also aware of a sound filling the air; a sound that he had not hard in some months: the sound of ripping cloth.
Before him Betty groaned slightly as her breasts started to swell, pushing the thin fabric of her dress to the maximum. The rest of the buttons were following suit as they shot off like artillery shells. Betty's groans increased as her forearms and legs started to expand. Rick idly imagined the effect being similar to a clown filling up a balloon with helium. Betty's eyes flew open, reveling her irises to be a bright glowing green.
Rick started to back away. He cursed himself for removing some many wires from the control panel. He remembered the mental control though, although the thought of going without sleep did little to appease him.
Betty's groans grew louder. Her body continued its' growth, becoming curvier by the second. Her normally tan flesh started to pale as her sleeves burst open, reveling biceps that looked like they could crack solid steel.
Rick gave the control panel a good look, but he could tell he could never get it working again in time. A loud crashing took his attention back to Betty. The wheelchair had been crushed under her weight. Betty, or at least the figure he had hoped was still Betty, shifted in the twisted pile of wooden and metal. Her dress was now little more than tatters covering up the right places. Her legs, formerly gangly and thin, were now each thicker than his torso. Betty grunted as her hair spilled down over her face and turned to a deep black.
At this point Rick had two things on his mind. The first was that despite all the signals he was sending to her, Betty (or the Hulk) was not listening to them as she stood up amidst the crumpled chair and flexed her arms. The second was that it would be more than likely rather bad for his health if he continued to stay there.
Rick turned and ran as fast he could. Behind him he could hear the Hulk growling. "Rick" her deep voice echoed off the cave walls. Rick felt his second wind kick in as he spotted the daylight streaming in from the outside.
"She can't stay that way in daylight" he tried to rationalize as his foot collided with a stray rock, sending him tumbling. Scrambling to his feet, he was aware of the Hulk looming over him.
"Rick" her deep voice sent Rick's heart into overtime. Her shaggy black hair obscured her face, but he could imagine the hateful grimace lurking behind those ebony locks.
"Aw crud" he managed to spit out as the massive hands clamped down on his shoulders. As he was lifted up, Rick thought about trying to fight, but the thought of shattering his feet against that hard chest killed the idea.
"Rick, you big, dumb, wonderful man!" The Hulk threw back her hair back and did something Rick had never thought was possible:
It was a sweet laugh, but deep. "You did it Rick, you did it!" The Hulk praised as she twirled him around like a rag-doll. Gently placing him down, the Hulk casually strolled outside into the daylight. The entire situation was quickly getting to be just a bit too weird for him as he saw the Hulk rummaging through the backseat of the jeep.
"Betty?" he asked, and hoped it was the right thing to call her.
"Yes?" she responded as she pulled out a spare set of overalls from the back. "I just need to change into something more covering if you don't mind."
Rick felt the blood rush to his cheeks as he realized, perhaps for the first time, that the flimsy dress that Betty had worn was not exactly made for someone with the Hulk's figure in mind. Turning around towards the cave, Rick heard the sounds of ripping cloth once again. "Betty" he tired to sound confident, but his voice cracked all the same, "You're still you, right?"
He hoped that did not sound as dumb to her as it did to him.
The Hulk, or Betty, chuckled. "Yes Rick, it's still little old Betty Ross. I've just got a different look, that's all. And you can turn back around silly."
Rick did so, and almost gave a whistle as he did. He had thought against it when he saw the muscles the Hulk was presently flexing. Betty had discarded her tattered dress and slipped on his overalls.
Or, to be more accurate, had tried to; it seems there was a serious lack of tailors in this world who could understand the needs of a nearly seven foot tall gray skinned Amazon. The sleeves had been torn off at the shoulder, while the legs were mostly spilt right up the side. Her torso was covered though, although the way the fabric was hugging her it might have been better if Rick had just doused her in paint.
Seeing the pearly white teeth gleaming back at him though was the weirdest thing about the scene, decided Rick. He had witnessed the Hulk's destructive tendencies first hand, so seeing her primp and preen using the side mirrors on the jeep was perhaps the most laugh inspiring thing Rick had witnessed in quite some time.
Rick kept his mouth shut as he carefully made his way towards the jeep. "Is it still Betty, or is this some form of trick?" Rick wondered as he stared, although he was careful to keep his line of sight focused above the Hulk's shoulders. The old Hulk didn't mind Rick getting an eyeful every once and a while, but Betty was different. Betty with the strength of the Hulk was defiantly another story.
Seemingly satisfied, the Hulk straightened up. "Well" her husky voice was still sounding off to Rick as she turned around to face him. "The mind of Betty Ross and the body of the Hulk. Not a bad deal, wouldn't you say?"
"Um, yeah, real swell Betty" Rick found himself stammering.
Betty walked over, and Rick couldn't help but notice how the material of the overalls hugged her rolling hips. Jerking his head back up, Rick, despite his best efforts, now found himself staring face to chest with the Hulk.
"Say, I've never really thanked you for this, have I Rick?" Betty asked as she rubbed her chin.
"No thanks necessary, really" Rick quickly found himself backing up. A large cactus canceled his plans for escape.
"Oh, but I do want to thank you" she purred as she leaned down and placed her forearms on top of Rick's shoulders. The weight was almost enough to knock Rick over before she realized what she was doing. "Sorry" she apologized as she leaned back.
Rick was torn at the moment. On the one hand, he was a healthy young man with all the usual desires, and here was a rather attractive young woman who seemed to be rather open to exploring these desires with him. On the other hand, the woman in question could also rip steel apart with her bare hands and probably crush his jeep just using her thighs, and did not seem to be able to properly judge her own strength.
Swallowing his pride, Rick prayed for something; an earthquake, rampaging monkeys, anything at this point. Speaking, although not totally sure as to what he was saying, Rick heard the words spilling out of his mouth before he could register just what was being said.
"Hey Betty, what don't we go and take the Hulk out for a test drive?"
Betty smiled at this; reaching down and picking Rick up, she slipped him onto her back and took off running. From his vantage point Rick might have seen the desert scenery zipping by him, and the gleaming lake under him as the Hulk took to the air in one jump, had his eyes not been screwed shut. The air whistled in his ears as he clung tighter to the Hulk's broad back. He was dimly aware of her talking, but chose to concentrate on holding on rather than listening.
He was aware of the Hulk landing with a thud. The impact nearly shook him loose. Opening his eyes, he marveled at the flat desert around them. "Where are we?"
The Hulk grunted. "Don't know; could be Arizona, could be California." Turning to face Rick, she smiled as she spread her arms out. "Look at this! I just jumped farther than any human being could possible go! And I don't feel tired at all! Rick, this is the single most wonderful thing you've ever done!"
Fearful that she might resume her amorous pursuits, Rick inwardly sighed with relief as he spotted a plum of smoke over the horizon. "Look at that, it might be a fire!"
The Hulk (Rick couldn't think of her as being Betty anymore) glanced over. "Amazing! I can smell the burning wood; hear the wood crackling! I had no idea the Hulk had so much power!" Closing her eyes, she frowned as she concentrated. "And there's people inside."
Starting to move, the Hulk stopped and motioned to Rick. "Well hop on! I'd like the Hulk to get some good press for once." Rick, without a word, climbed back up on her back and held tight.
With one standing jump the Hulk landed in a deserted pen. A small cabin, its back section covered in flames was burning as the Hulk spied a car off in the distance. "They might be here to help, but they'll be too late. Rick, stay behind me."
Rick nodded mutely as the Hulk, without breaking her stride, marched over to the house. Squatting (much to the overall's protest), the Hulk reached out and grabbed the burning lumber in both hands. With a grunt, the mighty Amazon jerked the burning portion away from the house and tossed the flaming debris away.
Before the terrified family inside, the Hulk wiped her hands on her thighs. "Well, that's job well done. No need to thank me folks" she said as the housewife let out a strangled scream and threw herself in front of her children.
"Get away from us you monster!" she screamed as Rick had noticed that the car had arrived. Two men, one a farmer and the other a man wearing a uniform of an Arizona state trooper, stepped out of the vehicle.
"Holy spit, its some kind of mutant freak!" the officer yelled as he drew his gun and fired off two successive rounds at the Hulk's back. The shots struck by ricocheted off her gray hide.
"Watch it you nimrod!" the Hulk growled as she stared menacingly at the pair. Rick felt his insides turn to water. He could see the brutish thoughts forming behind her eyes. "Why, I outta" the Hulk began, but Rick could figure out what she was implying. Her fists were clenched tightly as she raised her arms overhead.
"No Hulk!" Rick almost forced himself to shout. His throat felt like sandpaper. The cop fired off another shot that struck the Hulk between the eyes and bounced off harmlessly. Throwing himself in front of her, Rick grabbed her upraised arm. "Please Betty, they don't know" he said softly enough so that the other people wouldn't hear.
The Hulk, or Betty, looked down at him for a second before staring at the two men. The farmer had fallen to his knees and was loudly praying, while the cop had discarded his gun and was busy fumbling with his radio.
"You're right. Let's blow this joint" the Hulk lowered her arms and scoped up Rick. Depositing him on her back, she took to the air in one standing jump and they were soon soaring back towards the cave.
"Can you believe those ingrates?" the Hulk fumed as they flew. "I save those no good bums from burning to death, and how do they thank me? They freaking shot me in the head! I guess that's what being a do-gooder will get for ya, singed hands and a headache."
Rick listened, it was hard not to as he was hanging onto her head, but during the whole trip over he was worried. Betty was acting more like the Hulk with each passing second. Her anger was understandable, but could it be controlled? And more importantly, could anyone control it?
Betty was still complaining as they touched down. The impact almost knocked Rick loose, but Betty caught him in time. Setting him down gently, Betty shook her inky-black hair and snorted. "Bunch of losers." Turning to Rick, she flashed her startlingly bright white teeth at him. "Hey, why don't we listen and see if I made it onto the radio? The old man will flip if he hears!"
"That's what I'm afraid of" Rick thought to himself as they walked back to the cave. The sun was slowly starting to set as they entered the cave. Rick was relieved as they passed his jeep on the way in. "At least something has gone right today" he muttered as they made their way down towards the lab. Remembering the work he did of the control panel, Rick silently prayed to whoever was looking out for him that he could get it working again. "If I can't, then I'm a dead duck."
Momentarily Rick found himself back inside the control booth. Betty was mumbling to herself as she paced back and forth in front of the gamma gun. "Let them look till doomsday, they won't find the Hulk." Turning towards Rick, she tapped her foot in irritation. "Hurry up in there! What's taking so long?"
Rick wiped the sweat from his brow as he stared down at the jury-rigged control circuitry. Using up all the bubble gum and bailing wire he could find, Rick closed the panel and started up the machine. The gamma gun kicked to life with a powerful hum as the ghastly green glow filled the cave. "Here goes nothing…I hope," he muttered under his breath as he began the firing sequence. "Get ready!"
A brilliant beam of energy shot out and struck the Hulk dead center. Betty let out a scream as the radiation was absorbed out of her by the strange and deadly ray. Rick's silent prayers became vocal ones as he glimpsed out through the small observation window and saw the Hulk wobbling.
"That's enough," he thought to himself as he started the shut down sequence. The light vanished in an instant as the generator began to smoke. "The machines can't take anymore!"
Ignoring the smoke, Rick rushed out of the booth and saw the Hulk slowly sinking to her knees. "Betty, we need to go!" Rick coughed as the smoke started to increase.
"Alright" the gray Amazon muttered, although her voice sounded different. Grasping her hand, Rick led the way out. As they walked, Rick became aware that the normally massive paw that enveloped his hand started to feel smoother the closer they got to the surface.
Stopping and turning, despite an inner voice that told him not to, Rick gasped when he saw the Hulk slowly transforming back into Betty Ross. "Betty, it worked! I did it!"
Stumbling out of the cave and into the twilight, Rick was amazed as he saw the massive form shrinking. Muscles receded, hair shortened, and the gray pallor of her skin returned to a healthy pink as Betty Ross walked out of the cave under her own power.
Betty looked down at her now normal sized hands. "I can walk," she whispered. "I can walk!" she shouted as she threw her arms around Rick and squeezed. This time Rick didn't mind. Looking up at the moon, she let out a cry of joy as she broke off the embrace and ran towards the jeep. "I'm back to normal Rick! I don't have to hide anymore! Why, when ever we need the Hulk you can just zap me and turn me back!"
This managed to kill whatever relief was building inside Rick. "Betty, this is a bad idea. What if the machine doesn't work again? It barely held together, and I doubt all that smoking equipment is a good sign."
Betty dismissed his fears. "Then we get Dr. Sterns to fix it" she began before she started to swoon.
"Betty!" Rick shouted as he rushed to her side.
Betty, leaning up against the jeep, held up her hand. "I'm alright, just a little tired from today, that's all. I just need to rest up for a little bit and then I'll be good as new."
Rick, saying nothing this time, silently helped her into the jeep. The ride back to the base was silent as the desert around them. Betty dozed in the back. Surely the Hulk's reappearance would make its way to General Ross. What would they do then? Even though the Hulk talked with Betty's mind, there was still the Hulk's savagery in her voice. Was she really in control, or was the Hulk just stringing him along? If the Hulk ever regained control, there was no telling what she would do. Her rage could not be controlled or contained, and he knew there was no force on Earth capable of stopping her. Thoughts of some of the other heroes that had sprung up came to mind, but he wasn't sure if even Lady Thor herself could stop her.
Rick looked to the heavens for an answer as they drove.
The moon gave him no answers as they drove back to the base. Looking at his sleeping passenger, Rick almost smiled as he spied the slumbering form of Betty Ross. "I got you into this mess Betty, and I am going to stick with you 'til the end. I swear it." He promised himself as they rode on into the dark night.
Whew, what a long strange trip it has been true believers. Despite school, the weather, and the general insanity, here we are back again.
First bit of fan mail from the bouncing bug himself, Lonebeatle
Hey there dude, just read your latest mighty tale that's amazingly told on a truly marvel manner
Your idea was very original with the rocket and mini-space travel and I liked that circus show you did by putting her on display, of course that one would better tame a lion that deal with Her!
I just hope that Rick will be able to survive all the perils his friend puts him through, of course that he feels is his fault, eh?
I'll be waiting eagerly for your next work dude!
Many thanks, like I said before. Yeah, Rick is going to get put through some stuff, but then nobody said being a sidekick was never the most glamorous job.
And here's one from the resident mistress of the Dungeon:
Hi Cambot, Great
work on this story. It really reminds me of when I first Take care,
starting reading comics in the feel and such of the story.
Thanks for sharing. :)
work on this story. It really reminds me of when I first
Well, thanks for reading.
Be sure to be on the look out for all the brand new stories coming soon to a monitor near you!
Journey Into Mystery #5-For the Honor of My Father! See Thrud battle Lady Thor! 'Nuff Said.
Tales to Astonish #3- Trapped by The Protector! Plus, a brand new heroine makes her official debut!
Sensational Comics #5-Beauty and the Beast! See the Hulk fight her strangest foe yet!
Amazing Adventures #1-I am the Fantastic…Reborn! The return of Marvel's FIRST hero, Droom!