A Mighty Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
Why Does the Night Raven Cry?
April 10, 1963
Deep within the unspoiled confines of the American Southwest, far away from any major road or town, lay miles and miles of desert. Hardly touched by man, the rolling rocks and dunes showed the sheer power of nature itself. The serenity and silence of the scene was soon broken by a long string of profanities.
Madame X, formerly known as Comrade X and nearly a dozen other aliases, angrily shouted the blazing sky above her. At her feet lay a dead lizard, its exact species unknown due to the amount of damage inflicted upon it by the many scavengers that plagued the area. "I was the greatest spymaster in all the world, and now I must survive on buzzard leavings?" Kicking the dead creature away, she cursed even louder as she started to walk.
It had taken time, and months of planning, but she had finally managed to escape from prison after her humiliating defeat at the hands of Ant-Man. Of course, her efforts would all be utterly pointless if she were to die alone in this harsh wasteland. "Bah, why am I even trying to return home?" She asked the empty desert around her. She was hardly expecting an answer, but if she didn't say something aloud she feared for her sanity. "I was beaten, and those fools would never let me back home." She felt more anger at the thought. She, who had been able to pass herself as anyone, male or female, was utterly defeated by someone who didn't even come up to her little toe!
"I'll make Ant-Man pay, if it takes me the rest of my life!" She raised her clenched fist to the sky. As she was looking up, she failed to note the slight but steep pit directly before her. She already had one foot over the edge before she realized her error. Cursing Ant-Man some more, she toppled over into the pit and came crashing to a halt.
Dazed, and feeling something warm under her hands, she brushed the sand and hair out of her eyes to see what she had landed on. Once her vision was clear, she gasped and shrank back. Before her was something she had only read about in reports but dismissed as a capitalist trick.
The giant gray Amazon rolled over onto her side and opened her eyes. For what seemed like an eternity, neither of them spoke or moved. Madame X felt rivulets of sweat rolling down her ears and neck, but she dared not move.
"Who are you?" The Hulk's rumbling, yet still feminine voice, shook her from her stance.
"My name is," she panicked. Throwing together two names from her former aliases, she steeled herself before the creature. "Rachel Black. Are you the Hulk?"
"What do you think?" The Hulk smirked as she flexed an arm. Madame X whistled softly as she saw the inhuman amount of muscles flex and twitch before her.
"Perfect! I could use this brute!" She thought to herself. Blinking, and forcing tears to well up in her eyes, she dropped to her knees. "Please, you have to help me!"
The Hulk lowered her arm and looked down at her. "And why should I?"
"Because the fate of the world depends on me! I have to get to San Francisco as soon as possible!"
"Alright," The Hulk shrugged. "But you're going the wrong way. San Fran is that way." She jerked her thumb to the left. "If it is so important, what are you doing out here, messing up my beauty sleep?"
"Time to turn it on." Madame X stood up and cleared her throat. "I'm working for the CIA, deep undercover. I found a plot by the Chinese to start a nuclear exchange between the Russians and us, but I was discovered. I managed to lose them, but I lost my car and all of gear in the process."
"You're breaking my heart." The Hulk yawned. The giant woman sat up and started to walk away. "Why should I help you?"
She blinked. She hadn't expected this kind of response. "Because of all the people who could die? Please, just help me get to California at least!"
"Nah, I never liked the west coast." The Hulk, with one standing jump, cleared the pit and started to walk away. "Let everyone else burn, I can't be hurt. Why should I care?"
"Ok, time for a different approach." Madame X started to sweat. "I can pay you!"
That got the Hulk to stop (as the ground stopped shaking), but she didn't return to the edge of the pit. "With what? Dirt? I have enough of that. Besides, it's not like I can just pop into a store or anything."
Madame X swore to herself. "Ok, you win. I'll just wander around until I die, and when the bombs drop, you can sit through it and soak up the spent uranium. But would history say about you? That you could have been a great hero, but you'd rather sit it out like a coward?"
In a flash, she saw the Hulk's rage filled face looming over the side. "What did you say?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm sorry to have bothered you…" she sighed as she turned around. The next sensation she was aware of was the wind whipping past her face. The Hulk had leapt down, snatched her up, and was presently flying through the air, all in the span of a second. She tried to move around in the Hulk's grip, but the massive monster growled at her.
"Ok smart mouth, you think I'm chicken? I'll take you to where ever you need to go, and I'll smash anything that gets in my way!"
Madame X felt her stomach jerk as they landed and took the air again. As the desert sands quickly gave way to trees and paved roads, she wondered if she did the right thing. She also wondered if she could keep from getting sick as she hung onto the Hulk for dear life.
Major Glen Talbot looked around the office. He still referred to it as "it" and not "his". His tie was loosened, and before him were scores of pictures all dealing with one thing: The Hulk. "What are you?"
Ever since General Ross retired, Glen found himself growing more and more obsessed with the Hulk. "Why did he leave? What kind of hold did you have over him?" The buzzing of the intercom snapped him away from his thoughts. "What is it?"
"Sir, we've picked up some radio reports. The Hulk is moving west sir."
Glen stood up. With his finger still on the button, he issued orders. "Alright, I want the Pentagon notified. Get all available men on standby, and alert every National Guard base from here to Montana. We'll let the Hulk make the first move, but by thunder that'll be the last thing that monster does!"
Finally landing, the Hulk none too gently dropped Rachel. "Well, we're here."
"How can you be sure?" Looking around, all she saw was paved roads and barren hills.
"We just crossed the Nevada line. San Fran is a ways straight ahead. You can find a car or something without my help." The Hulk turned around and started to walk away before Rachel grabbed onto her wrist.
"Wait!" She pleaded. "I could use someone like you." The wheels in her mind spun faster and faster as she spoke. "Look, I'm going to be dealing with some dangerous people. With you by my side, this whole thing can be stopped with no effort."
The Hulk turned and glowered at her. "Yeah, I ain't falling that again. I got you as far as I can go sister. If we go strolling into any major area, I can guarantee some fool with a trigger finger is going to take a shot at me. Then I'd have to smash them, my pardon gets revoked, and basically I end up hip deep in ruined tanks. No thanks lady. Now beat it."
"Please!" Rachel tightened her grip, but as she was dragged along with the Hulk she let go. "Listen to me, the entire world is in danger! I can't risk contacting other agents. These people have moles everywhere, and besides, only someone like you could have any sort of chance of stopping them."
The Hulk none too gently shook her lose. "Alright, you said the Chinese first, but who are 'these people'?" Her eyebrow was raised; Rachel knew she had to act fast. Recalling all the info she had studied and stolen, she started to spin her story.
"Have you ever heard of Yi Yang?"
"No, what's that?" The Hulk didn't look like she was going anywhere, but she did look bored. Rachel knew it was time to amp up the story.
"She is a member of the Tong, the Chinese criminal underworld. She deals in everything and to everyone. She also has in her possession a nuclear bomb, which I know for a fact she plans to sell to the Fang."
"Ok, so what's the Fang?"
"A rouge Chinese general who plans to start World War three. He hates the west, hates everything really, but he also hates the Reds. He stole a Russian sub two years ago and has been in constant movement around the Pacific ever since." She decided not to add that she was the one who helped him steal the sub. She continued with her tale. "He has been trying to track Yi Yang down for years. He claims he's going to arrest her crimes committed in China, but it's really just a cover so he can buy the bomb."
"And with his sub, the US would think it's the Commie's fault" The truth began to dawn on the Hulk. Rachel could tell she was worried about something, but she didn't care to ask. She pressed onward.
"And the US would have no choice but to retaliate, leaving China to move in." Rachel smiled inwardly. True, most of the info was true at some point, but she didn't feel the need to inform her of the Fang's death some years ago. All she needed was the Hulk as her pawn, and Yi Yang would pay her an emperor's ransom. Such a coup would be her ticket back into the good graces of Mother Russia. "Now do you understand?"
"So we head west, smash the Fang and Yang together, right?"
"Maybe not in that exact order, but yes."
"Then what are we waiting for?"
Rick Jones silently ate his lunch. At the counter of the diner he saw several men in black suits, all of them sipping coffee. Two booths in the back were occupied by similarly dressed men. This did not surprise him; in fact he noticed them ever since General Ross retired. "Guess Major Talbot didn't want me to get lonely." Rick joked to himself as he finished his hamburger and fries. Tossing a buck to the waitress and paying his bill, Rick left the diner without incident. As he got on his motorcycle, he saw several of the men get up and follow him outside.
Revving the engine, Rick pulled out onto the main road as a black Cadillac roared to life and started to follow him. This too had been going on for far too long. He knew the routine by now: First he would drive around the back roads, with the car trailing all the way, then he would drive past the garage, at which point the car would swerve and drive off in the other direction.
Much to his shock, however, the car continued to gain speed. Rick gunned the engine, but the car kept on him. "Ok guys, you want to play?" Rick said under his helmet. Breaking hard, he skidded a bit before turning around. He narrowly avoided the car as it roared past him. Giving it more gas, Rick tore off down the highway in the opposite direction. "Man, these guys don't give up!"
He was so intent on looking behind him that he failed to see the black pickup truck that pulled out onto the road. By the time Rick turned his head, he was heading towards the broadside of the truck at 60 miles per hour. Slamming on the breaks, he was rewarded with his bike flipping over. His thoughts were jumbled as he sailed over the handlebars and crashed onto the asphalt, but one thought stood out among the rest. "Who are these guys?"
Madame X looked both ways as she exited the alley. The Hulk, much to her utter amazement, had managed the task of getting her inside the city of San Francisco without incident. Tossing an overcoat she had borrowed off of a clothesline, she glanced over her shoulder. "Put this on and follow me. I have to make contact with one of Yang's subordinates first. If they suspect who you are, it might blow the whole plan."
"Yeah, yeah." The Hulk grumbled as she slipped the garment on. It was almost comically undersized and stretched across her frame. "So what, you whistle or something an I come busting in?"
"Something like that, yes. I have to make contact first. Just hang around here for a bit, and try not to attract any unwanted attention." She whispered as she walked down the street and disappeared into the seedy side alleys of Chinatown.
"The Hulk waits for no one!" The Hulk declared. Digging through trash bins and low hanging lines she cobbled together enough clothes to at least cut down the stares she was bound to get. With her head covered with a low-slung hat and her hands jammed into her pockets, the Hulk, the most powerful creature on Earth, stepped out onto the sidewalk and took in the sites. She had been betrayed before, which naturally served to make her wary of anyone. So why did she accept what that strange woman told her?
The Hulk was lost in thought as she walked past the tourists. Perhaps a part of her wanted to believe; after all, wasn't action better than inaction? The possibility that this whole exercise could be nothing more than an elaborate trap was still a nagging point. A small voice, hidden deep within her, kept bringing up that particular fact and the pardon she earned. Would she throw it all away? She could still walk, or rather leap, away from all of this. Rachel was out of her sight. It would be a simple matter to shuck off the borrowed clothes and take to the sky…
No, she decided. The Hulk didn't run and that was final. True or false, she did have a reason to stay and she would see it through to the end. Under her hat her thoughts grew dark. And if Ms. Black wasn't who she said she was, well, it had been far too long since she had shouted the words "Hulk Smash!"
Madame X was no stranger to fear. Indeed, she considered herself quite the master of it. Standing before the golden silk curtain, however, produced within her terror the likes of which she had never experienced before.
The meeting with the underling had gone off without a hitch. A quick demonstration of her talent was enough to get her escorted down the back alley and into the secret lair of the most wanted figure in the Western world.
A voice, sounding as smooth as silk without any accent, spoke to her from behind the curtain. "So, the infamous Comrade X pays me a call. Tell me, how are things within Mother Russia?" There was a hint of sarcasm, but Madame X knew to hold her tongue, lest it be plucked out.
"Things are well enough, but I come before you humbled Yi Yang, and with a gift."
"A gift of what? Your body, though slightly above standard, would hardly fetch me a decent price."
A flash of anger reddened her checks, but Madame X forced herself to calm down before speaking. "While it would be the highest honor to serve you in any capacity Yi Yang, the gift I speak of is not with me, but rather outside. I speak," she waited a few seconds to build suspense, "of The Hulk!"
She heard an audible gasp from behind the curtain. Seconds later, the silk barrier was raised, leaving her face-to-face with a woman of almost inhuman beauty. Yi Yang, for she could be no other, sat on a throne made of carved jade and gold. The woman was dressed in silks and from her cold thin lips a cigarette holder was clenched tightly between a set of pearly white teeth. Her expression was neutral, but there was something dark and foul within those almond eyes. "You have my attention."
"Yi Yang, I have brought with me, and standing not half a mile from this very spot, the tool that will bring the world's superpowers to your feet." Madame X felt like she was back before her superiors as she plied her trade. "The Hulk is the perfect engine of destruction, and with but a few words from me, I can have that beastly creature at your beck and call."
Yi Yang was silent. After what seemed like an eternity, she spoke. "You have an interesting proposal. The idea is fresh one, I admit." There was a hint of humor in her tone, but Madame X didn't press for an answer. "But tell me, how would one control such a beast? And how much do you want in return?"
"Forgive me, but that must remain my secret for now. As for payment, my needs are fairly simple to one such as you. All I ask is a small of money to reestablish myself."
"From my experience, a small amount can often turn into a large amount rather quickly. Just how much?"
"One million dollars."
"A bargain, assuming you can present your gift."
"Oh I can." Her forehead was drenched in sweat, but Madame X couldn't even bother to blink as Yi Yang turned to a subordinate to spoke quickly in Mandarin. She stood perfectly still as Yi Yang turned back to face her.
"I can offer payment within the hour, but first I need a demonstration. A show of good faith, if you will."
"Of course, what would you have me destroy?"
Yi Yang was silent for a moment. "There are many tempting targets, and I know of one old foe who would, no" She shook her head. "You Westerners have a saying, "seeing is believing", correct? Then bring forth the creature and we shall discuss your payment."
"Very well." Madame X bowed deeply before leaving. As she left, she was unaware of Yi Yang's turn to other subordinate, nor of the words spoken.
"Follow her. If she lies, kill her."
"And if she speaks the truth?"
"Then wait. If we can control this beast, well…" Her thoughts were unsaid, but it was clear what her intent was. The man dared not raise his head as Yang talked, but he knew her goals enough by now, and the kind of punishment she handed out on a whim. He dropped to his knees and touched his forehead to the floor until she ordered him to leave.
The Hulk kept to the shade, but it did strike her as funny if she were to be spotted. The crowds largely ignored her, which by itself was an odd sensation. She was out of Chinatown and well into Nob Hill. The sight of the bay made her stop and just stare at the water. To a passerby, the sight of the giant woman in ill-fitting clothes may have been odd, but the look in her eyes, provided one could look directly in them, was one of wonder. She was silent and still, until she became aware of the stares. Grunting, she slouched down and moved.
All things considered, she might have even made it to water itself if not for the cruel intervention of fate. A strong gust of wind blew by, yanking her hat free just as a police officer took that exact moment to walk around the corner while several local characters took that as a sign to start hassling her.
Officer Jackson Stone was on the tail end of a long beat when he spotted a group of rather suspicious characters. Several members of a biker club surrounded a tall woman, who had her hands over her face. The bikers taunted and poked her. Jackson sighed, wishing he had a radio and several SWAT teams to back him up. Blowing his whistle, he unhooked his truncheon and walked to them. The woman (he was sure she was female judging from the shape under her dirty coat) backed away with her face still covered. He noticed her hands; they were gray. "Probably another hippie or some bag lady who can't afford to wash up." Out loud, he spoke to the group. "Alright, move along people before I run the lot of you in!"
"Oh yeah?" The closest biker sneered. His faded blue jean jacket was covered in various patches and stitches. His mirrored shades obscured his eyes, but Stone could feel the contempt in them. "I'd like to see you try piggy." The strange woman continued to back away, but he was not in the mood to let anyone go.
"Alright!" He bristled as his hand tapped the end of his revolver, "Everyone up against the wall, now!" The bikers bickered and snorted, but most of them stepped back. Shades just crossed his arms while the woman turned around and started walking away. Ignoring the gang, Stone raced (the woman's strides were gigantic! He thought) up to her and gripped her arm, or least he tried to, as his found her bicep to be easily twice as thick as his own. "Hold it right there little lady!" He tried to sound confidant, like the cops on TV, but the woman shrugged him off without even breaking her stride. The bikers had a good laugh at this.
It should be noted that the Hulk, technically, had committed no serious offensive. That fact was utterly ignored by Officer Stone as he heard the laughter and catcalls as he gripped the old ratty coat. "Listen you! When I say stop, I mean stop!" He was dragged partially until the coat ripped apart in his hands. The woman stopped as Stone fell on his back, and when she did, he suddenly wished she had kept on going.
"Alright pal, I stopped, now what?" The Hulk glowered at him.
"M-monster!" Stone panicked. He didn't pay much attention to the national news and had openly dismissed the existence of the creature before him several times in the past. Now that he was faced with one hundred percent proof the Hulk's existence, his mind quickly broke. With trained reflexes, he drew his gun and fired one round directly between the monster's eyes.
The Hulk blinked. She felt a slight stinging on the bridge of her nose. The bullet flattened against her skin and slid down her face without leaving so much as a mark. The shot did affect her though; it made her angry. Her face darkened (no mean feat considering its pigment) as she lifted the terrified man up with one hand. "Alright smart guy, you got me, now what are you going to do now?"
Stone, nearly a full decade veteran of the San Francisco Police, did the only sensible thing: He fainted. The Hulk dropped him with out breaking her stride. Turning to the bikers, most of whom cheered her on, she flexed her muscles. "Not much point in hiding now." Tensing her arms and flexing, she heard the stitches snap as the aged fabric fell away under the task of keeping her covered. The back, already in tatters, ripped completely and both sides slid down her arms and pooled at her feet. The gathering public, which had already started to converge on the scene at the start of the altercation, came to the same conclusion that the currently unconscious Officer Stone did; namely, that the Hulk was in their midst.
"Look out, it's a monster!" Someone shouted as people started to scream and run.
The Hulk rolled her eyes at the panic and leapt back towards Chinatown as police sirens filled the air. "Bah, what should I care about all of this?"
Madame X, sitting beside Yi Yang herself in the back of a Rolls Royce, sweated as they went past alley after alley. "I told the Hulk to wait here." She stammered.
"It would seem that your control was not as strong as advertised." Yi Yang curtly spoke as she took a drag on her cigarette. "If your gift is not found, I assure you, your punishment shall be legendary."
Before Madame X could protest, the driver suddenly slammed on the brakes. Yang, her cool shaken flipped her hair out of her face and pounded on the glass window while uttering a long string of Chinese profanity. The car started shaking, and soon it became clear as to why.
The Hulk strolled by. Yang's cigarette holder fell from her lips and landed at her feet. "You, you spoke the truth."
Madame X quickly got out of the car and ran up to the Hulk. "Why didn't you wait?"
"Got bored." The Hulk stopped walking and stared down at her. "So did you meet with this chick or what?"
"She's in the car." Madame X found her composure quickly fading. "Listen, you have to get off of the street!"
"Why?" The Hulk stared at the confusion and chaos her presence caused. "What could these jokers do?"
"That's not the point!" X felt all her plans unraveling before her. "Look, just leap away, and try to make your way to this address." She thrust a hastily scribbled note into the turkey-sized hand.
The Hulk shrugged and said nothing. Leaping away, she quickly vanished from sight, but the echoes of her landing rung in X's ears. Jumping back into the car, she tried desperately to compose herself before Yi Yang. "See? Total control, as I promised."
Yi Yang picked up her holder and replaced the cigarette in silence as the car raced back through alleyways and avoided the surging crowds and various other emergency vehicles. "I am…impressed with that specimen." She said at length. "Bring it to me, and I shall give you your reward."
Her tone and words did little to comfort X's mind or ease her worries, but she simply nodded in agreement. "She means to take the Hulk for herself. I can't allow that, but how can I convince that brutish thing that Yi Yang must be destroyed?"
The Hulk surfaced in the bay sometime later. She had dived in following her pursuit and had held her breath the entire the time the SFPD searched. She saw the Army helicopters overhead, and the vibrations from the tanks rocked the water around her. "Alright, what do I do? I know I could blast past all of those goofs without any problem, but that would just the hunt over again somewhere else."
Settling down on the muddy bottom, the Hulk crossed her arms and bowed her head in thought. "That Rachel broad, why am I helping her? There's something phony about this whole deal." Her thoughts grew darker as the waters churned around her gray form. "She's just using me I bet, like everyone else!" Exhaling, the Hulk stood up and swam to the surface under a pier. "No body uses the Hulk and gets away with it!"
Carefully keeping to the shadows, the Hulk began to formulate a plan under her heavy brow. "Ok, so Ms. whatever color-her-name-is wants the Hulk to do the dog and pony bit? Ok, not a problem." She grinned as she stepped out into the afternoon sun. "I'll give them a show no one is going to forget."
X nervously rubbed her palm as Yi Yang looked at her. "Tell me" Yang spoke so softly X had to strain to hear, "Once the money is your possession, what is it you intend to do?"
"I intend to reestablish myself."
"I see." Yang's face was stoic as ever. Reaching into a side pocket of her throne, Yang produced two vials of clear liquid. "Can you guess what this are?" X's confusion was evident, as Yang went ahead with her explanation. "Some time ago a pathetic worm tried to stop me. I cursed him with life."
"Cursed, with life?"
Yang smiled, causing X to step back. "Your confusion is understandable. You westerns are all the same; thinking your weapons will save you from the grave." Holding the bottles up to the light, X shivered as Yang's face was distorted through the glass. "Sometime my pretty little bird, life itself can be the worst possible punishment. I've been both fair and patient, but neither of virtues can really be under my command for long. If the Hulk does not appear and submit itself to my absolute command, I shall unleash upon you torments the likes of which can not be said in any spoken tongue."
X meekly nodded her head.
The Hulk, much to her own surprise, had managed to evade the Army and police. While every car and tank was roaming the streets, she went underground. Her instincts said crush and destroy, but she knew she needed to avoid any confrontation. Memorizing the location Rachel had told her to go, the Hulk moved as quickly as she could without damaging the street above. Finding a manhole, she easily knocked it aside and climbed. The concrete moved like water around her as she climbed out into the fresh air. A group of men saw her and hurried over to her, each one speaking rapid fire Chinese.
"Calm down. Take me to your leader, alright?" The Hulk was ushered into the back of an armored van. The back end shifted slightly as she climbed in, but it drove without any problem. "Now why do I get the feeling I'm a couch that's being dumped on someone?"
After nearly an hour, X's hair had almost gone white from the stress. A messenger hurried into the room and hurriedly whispered into Yang's ear. Her smile did little to ease X's nerves. "Good news. The Hulk has been found and is presently awaiting the two of us downstairs."
The Hulk was standing in the center of the room. Surrounding her were two rows of armed men. Madame X and Yi Yang entered via the elevator. The men parted before their leader as Yang stared intently into the eyes of the Hulk. "Magnificent."
"Thanks, I get that a lot." The Hulk shot back. Yi Yang narrowed her eyes.
"I wasn't aware this beast was capable of speech."
"Lady, I'm capable of a whole lot more than just talking." The Hulk clapped her hands. The shockwave knocked down the guards. For extra effect, the Hulk casually stepped on a dropped rifle and ground it to fragments under her heel. "Now I've been cooling my heels for a bit, but the Hulk isn't anyone's patsy."
Guards leaped upon her and attempted to hold her back as she moved towards Yi Yang. She kept walking as if the men weren't even there. "You!" She towered over Yang. "Seem to be the top dog, right?" Ignoring Madame X, she focused entirely on Yi Yang.
"In a manner of speaking." Yang, to her credit, showed nothing but mild annoyance. "I am...unused to being treated in such a manner."
"Well, get used to it."
Yi Yang removed a white flower from her collar and ground the brittle petals up with one hand. Before the Hulk could comment, she quickly blew the powered remains into the Hulk's eyes. The Hulk sputtered and clawed at her face as she tumbled backwards. "Beast, I have controlled armies and kingdoms. You are little more than tool, one I will use quite well."
Madame X stepped forward as the Hulk fell to her knees and roared with pain. "And of my reward?"
"Ah yes, the reward." Yi Yang turned to several of men. "Take this pathetic mortal out of my sight and kill her."
"What? You can't do that!" X struggled as her arms and twisted behind her. A gag was shoved into her mouth as she was carried off. Yi Yang smiled as the Hulk fell to the floor unmoving.
"I can do whatever I want. With this creature by my side, I can do whatever I want. And no one, no army or force, can stop me!" Turning to her men, she snapped her fingers. "Bind that monster and put it in the lower dungeons. I wish to inspect it at length later."
Betty opened her eyes. The first thing she felt was the heavy chain that was draped across her shoulders and feet. The next was a bitter, sour taste in her mouth. Slipping the chain off, she stood up and looked around.
"Ok, I'm inside someplace. I'm still wearing those togs Dr. Banner invented, so that's good. But what has the Hulk been up to?" She was silent as she inspected the walls around her. They were all smooth and aside from heavy iron door (which had no window) she was unaware of just what was outside or even the time of day. A commotion outside brought her to the door. She strained to listen.
"You can't do this! We had a deal!" A feminine voice protested. It was followed by mocking Chinese, rounds of laughter, and a heavy slap. Betty thought about calling for help, but stopped. Who could she call?
"How did I end up here?" Thinking back to her gray skinned alter ego, a flash of anger went through her mind. "The Hulk did something! I could be in prison in some foreign country for all I know!" She grew angrier, but she suddenly stopped. Normally, if the process could in fact be called that, by now she would start to undergo the familiar sensations of her transformation into the Hulk. Here, she felt nothing. "Am I cured?"
The sounds outside snapped her out of her thoughts. Where there had been laughter, she now heard the sound of a man choking. Two large thuds came before the all too familiar chatter of a machine gun. She stepped back from the door as she heard the rattle of keys and the clanging of the locks. As the door swung open, she shielded her eyes from the glare outside and stared in utter shock at the stranger before her.
X wiped her brow. Killing the guards was no mean feat, but she was no stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Around her were the guards of Yi Yang, who would not take her slaying of two of their fellows lightly, and before her was the cell of the Hulk. Hoping her story still held true to the beast, she opened the door and hoped for a miracle.
What she got was a skinny woman she had never seen before. "Who are you?'
Betty never saw the woman in front of her before, but the machine gun in her hands made her consider her answer carefully. "Nobody special."
The other woman glanced around the cell before dragging her out. "Good enough." Betty noticed the woman glaring at her clothes, but said nothing as she followed the woman down the hallway.
X's mind raced. The small female behind her was dressed in the same togs as the Hulk and was in the same cell (of course, she didn't know how many cells there were, but the clothing was still a strong hint), but how did she change? Ignoring that and focusing on how to escape, X tried to come up with a new plan.
Betty kept the pace with the strange woman, but as she ran she felt her heartbeat quickening. "Am I changing again?" Her legs quivered as her skin started to darken. She stumbled and fell as the stranger ignored her panting. Her vision blurred as she dragged herself to her feet.
Feeling her head brush against the ceiling, the Hulk blinked. Her arms and legs stretched out before her as her muscles rippled under her gray skin. Reaching the woman with only a few steps, she grinned as she recognized her. "Hey skinny!"
X turned around and dropped her gun. "Oh."
The Hulk was less eloquent. Gripping her with one hand, she lifted her up as armed guards swarmed the hallway behind them. "I've always wanted to do this." Before X could make a sound, she was thrown through the air like a missile. She struck the first wave of guards and bowled them over like ten pins.
With one slam of her foot, the Hulk knocked the rest of them down. Doing a standing jump, she easily burst through the ceiling and into the next level. The whole building shook as she swatted guards away without any effort on her part.
X groaned with pain. Scrambling to her feet, she snagged a fallen rifle and limped away as the guards began to race around in a desperate attempt to stop the rampaging monster that was destroying their headquarters. Her presence was an afterthought as Yang's henchmen suddenly found themselves having to deal with not only the Hulk, but also the sudden arrival of the United States Army.
Slipping by in the confusion, X made her way to the street. Stumbling towards a waiting paramedic, she dropped her rifle and gripped her head. "Help me, please!" She gasped as she went into a faint. She hid her smile as a particularly strong-armed medic caught her and carried her to the back of a waiting ambulance. There would be other opportunities later. She would have her revenge on Ant-Man, and the Hulk as well. It may take a while, she thought, but she would see both of those freaks crushed before her.
The Hulk walked as carefully as she dared across the marble floor. Her earlier jump had destroyed several support beams, making the floor sag dangerously. A familiar and unwelcome voice made her forget her caution.
"And to think I would not have the pleasure of seeing you again." Yi Yang's words were friendly, but her voice was hard. She seemed indifferent to the damage caused to her building. The sound of gunfire drowned out most of her words.
"I've had enough of talking." The Hulk grabbed a fallen beam. Yi Yang laughed at her posing.
"You are a most delightful creature!" Yang ignored the plaster and dust that fell down like a heavy snow as she stepped closer to the Hulk. "I will have you for my pet."
"Not going to happen lady." With a swing the Sultan of Swat himself would have envied, she caught Yi Yang full force with the beam. Yang's expression never changed as the wooden staff slammed against her chest and sent her smashing through a wall.
"Impressive." Yang said as the ceiling above her started to sag. "You will make a wonderful addition to my forces." Before the Hulk could question, the roof gave way, burying Yang under several stories worth of debris.
Staring at the destruction, the Hulk felt uneasy at the sight. "Crazy." All sense of subtlety gone, she dashed towards the nearest wall and easily broke through it. Coming to the outer wall, she shoved her giant fingers past the wallpaper and plaster and with one tug brought the bricks down.
Below her the army and police gathered the street. She was dimly aware of their shouting. A few shots rang out and she barely felt the bullets bounce off of her skin and strike the ruined furniture around her. "Amateurs." She sneered, as she took to the sky in one mighty leap. With a few jumps, she was already outside of the city.
The Hulk gazed around her surroundings. The city had long since given way to rolling hills and forests, and those gave way to the all too welcome sight of sand and barren dunes. "Home, or least close to it."
The Hulk slowed down her walk. She didn't know what her standing was with the army. It was entirely possible that she was now considered a fugitive. The fact didn't bother her as she looked around the desolate landscape. "Let 'em come! I'm the Hulk, and there's nothing stronger!"
Despite her words, there was the nagging feeling of doubt. The Hulk felt the doubt grow in her as she tried to walk, but she managed only a few steps before she fell to the cracked ground. "No! I won't change back into that weakling!" She swore at the heavens as she felt tremors running throughout her limbs. Her heartbeat slowed as her skin lost the gray tint and slowly faded to a normal color. "No!" She roared as she slammed both fists into the ground. The shockwave shattered several sand dunes. The Hulk's struggles were for naught, as the incredible transformation reached its apex within seconds. Her body shrank down as her muscles lost their tone. Her hair lightened to a plain brown as Betty Ross slumped to her knees inside a crater.
"What happened?" She vaguely remembered the trip, which made her pause. "I don't remember anything the Hulk does, so how?" Looking down at her hands, Betty studied them under the harsh light of the afternoon sun. "Am I having more control over the Hulk?"
Her thoughts, as muddled and conflicting as they were, were put aside as she stood up and dusted herself off. "Ok world, Betty Ross is back, and this time, I'm going to stay!"
Normally this would be the point where I list credits for the story that inspired this tale, but not this time. This particular tale is an entirely original one. Yi Yang was an old foe of Night Raven (who might be making an appearance here sooner or later). Madame X you last saw in Tales to Astonish #2. Don't worry, you'll see her again as well. Now for the comments:
From They call me Bruce (great name by the way)
This was a pretty good shortfic
For the most part, I liked this story. Nice
alternative take on FF 12 vol. 1. However, there was one part I
didn't care all that much for. "Ben sighed as he tried to
talk. 'Look, can't we just talk this out?' He sidestepped a right
hook, but caught a left jab to the gut. The Hulk pressed her
advantage and struck a savage blow across his face. Had he still been
Ben Grimm, test pilot, then that would have been the end of the fight
right there. But then creature going toe to toe with the Hulk was
hardly Ben Grimm anymore. 'I just want to find that Jones kid, that's
all!'" My fave. FFer didn't stop being Ben Grimm just
cause a cosmic ray exposure left him looking like an orange
rock-pile. He may have dubbed himself "The Thing", but I
refuse to believe he lost his humanity that day.
"Ben sighed as he tried to talk. 'Look, can't we just talk this out?' He sidestepped a right hook, but caught a left jab to the gut. The Hulk pressed her advantage and struck a savage blow across his face. Had he still been Ben Grimm, test pilot, then that would have been the end of the fight right there. But then creature going toe to toe with the Hulk was hardly Ben Grimm anymore. 'I just want to find that Jones kid, that's all!'"
My fave. FFer didn't stop being Ben Grimm just cause a cosmic ray exposure left him looking like an orange rock-pile. He may have dubbed himself "The Thing", but I refuse to believe he lost his humanity that day.
I already emailed you my reasons, but I mean that the Thing was no longer Ben Grimm in a physical sense. Good comments though. What did you think of this issue?
From ExcelI've always liked Hulk vs. Thing comics
Glad you do. Any other tangles you want to see the Hulk in?
Great! You really capture those old 60's era Marvels.
Thanks! Sometimes there is not much to say except that.
And finally, no mailbox would be complete without at least one message from the resident mistress, Tiffani!
I agree. Excellent job, Cambot. Thanks for sharing.
And thank you once again for reading.
Be sure to tune in next time when the Hulk fights the strangest foe she's ever encountered, only, she's met him before! Who is…the Madman?
Be on the look out for these other titles, coming soon to a monitor or news rack near you
Amazing Adventures#5- Droom VS Spragg, the Living Hill!
Journey Into Mystery#10- The Day the Thunder was Stolen!
Tales to Astonish#8 – The Voice of Doom!