Author's Notes –
Time to reply to some reviews.
The poll is just to see what readers think – not what I'm actually going to do. Yes, Ranma/Rogue is done, and ultimately I'm not going in that direction. I do think you'll like where I do go with the ships though.
I don't think the last few chapters were filler, there are some important things going on behind the scenes that are building up to something bigger altogether.
Don't expect Fury to send Ranma back to the past to change the present. Remember, Fury was exiled to the Supreme-verse for his part in the Ultimate Power fiasco – him sending Ranma back to prevent the Ultimatum would still leave Fury in the Supreme-verse. Plus things were set into motion way before Fury was dethroned from Shield.
A deep, calming breath was the only thing that the pigtailed boy needed as he listened to Colonel Fury going over the details of how they were going to take down the Hulk. It wasn't long really. Most of the gathered heroes had already fought the Hulk before, now it was more about testing the new team and having the reserves ready to go in case the starters needed help.
Glancing at the assembled heroes Ranma wondered if the new Ultimates could take on the Hulk. Ms. Marvel, U.S. Agent, War Machine, Nerd Hulk, Wasp, Hawkeye, and the new Black Widow were impressive, but were they better than the original line up of Captain America, Thor, Ironman, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Wasp, and Giant-man?
Well, they did have Ranma on the side. Though from what he heard he wasn't to actually engage the Hulk seeing as he really didn't have any powers. He was just there to observe the new Ultimates and to assess how they could improve their techniques to fight better as a team and as individuals on a team.
Still, he couldn't help but feel a bit – nervous, anxious, apprehensive, proud? – about fighting the incredible incarnation of rage and anger.
"Okay people," Fury shouted as the large doors to the special quin-jet opened, "stick to the plan."
Exiting the jet the superheroes separated as the new Ultimates moved to confront the Incredible Hulk and the others (plus Ranma) moved into supportive positions.
Glancing at Captain America, Ranma shrugged, "You think this'll work?"
Fixing his eyes on the horizon, Cap gave a slight shake of his head, "No."
"Yeah, didn't think so," Ranma stated.
It didn't take them long to get into their respective positions as the two groups closed in on the isolated cabin.
From where the support team was Ranma had a clean line of sight on the cabin as the current roster of the Ultimates circled the cabin. It came as no surprise that the cabin quickly vanished as War Machine vaporized it in hopes of capturing Bruce Banner before he could turn into the Hulk. Of course, that didn't work at all.
Having been ordered to let She-Hulk, Nerd Hulk, Ms. Marvel and US Agent to try their hand at the Hulk first before she intervened, Zarda simply stood to the side as a clearly enraged grey-green Hulk charged at his clone – slamming the smarter emerald green Hulk with a powerful uppercut that sent Robert flying straight into the air.
Things went even worse when She-Hulk kicked US Agent in the ribs, sending her crashing into Ms. Marvel.
"Either she wants him to herself," Ranma started.
"Or she wants to help him," Ironman finished.
The two Hulks collided, rattling even the distant cliff that the secondary team was standing on.
"It could be worse," the pigtailed martial artist stated, "we could have brought Titania and that Weapon X2 girl."
They watched as the two Hulks collided, trading thundering punches until finally Ms. Marvel and US Agent finally rejoined the fray, only to have the Hulk grab Ms. Marvel and stomp her into the ground while She-Hulk threw US Agent into the air, forcing War Machine to fly off after her. With the interlopers dealt with the two Hulks once again raged against each other.
"That's not good," Ironman stated as he watched his friend catch US Agent.
The fact that the pair of heroes collided with a still airborne Nerd Hulk as he descended was bad, very bad, as the trio came crashing down. At least US Agent managed to slow her decent by grabbing onto tree branches and the other two were at least able endure the collision with the ground. Unfortunately things took an even worse turn as the Nerd Hulk regained his feet. Roaring his rage, he picked up War Machine and threw the dazed hero into a tree. A boulder soon followed.
"I think this we should step in," Captain America stated as he ran towards the ledge.
Ironman gave chase, catching the iconic hero several meters after the man had leapt off the cliff.
Ranma pursued them, carelessly yet carefully bounding off the various tree branches as he made his way towards the fighting.
They'd come here to capture one rogue Hulk, but instead appeared to have to deal with three.
Though he was loathed to admit it, Ranma had felt a bit apprehensive about fighting the Hulk. Though he was a world class martial artist (and possibly the best pure martial artist in the world), he was just that – a martial artist. Yes, he was strong enough to toe to toe with Spider-man and Captain America, but against Ironman and Thor or the Incredible Hulk, well, he was sorely lacking in the pure strength department. Hell, even Ryoga wouldn't have been able to go up against the Hulk, though maybe Taro could… but that was Taro.
Still, it was the Hulk, and he did love to fight and prove his worth as a martial artist. Yes, the Hulk would prove to be the ultimate challenge as to what a true world class martial artist was capable of.
"You distract the real Hulk," Captain America pointed to the original grey-green skinned Hulk. "We'll move to assist in recovering the others then regroup."
"You can avoid getting hit, right?" Ironman asked.
Ranma smirked, "Leave him to me."
Going over his options he instantly fell back into his usual routines, "Hey ugly!"
Had Captain America not seen stupider things, or had years of training, he probably would have missed a step.
"Hulk not UGLY!" the Hulk declared as he lifted a giant boulder and promptly threw it at Ranma.
With casual grace Ranma leapt over the giant obstacle, effortlessly stepping on it as he propelled himself up at the incarnation of rage. "Well, it's not like you're not made of muscles that most body builders would die for," he stated as he landed just outside of the Hulk's reach, "but the skin… you seriously need to stop going to that spray tanning place – they make you look like you just got out of a tar pit."
Yes, he definitely had the Hulk's attention. But he also had half of the mountainside being uprooted from under his feet as the beast grabbed a handful of rock and soil in each massive hand. Taking the opportunity to leap over and behind the Hulk, Ranma whistled, catching his opponent's attention. Again he sprang into the air as the Hulk smashed the portion of ground that he'd just ripped up onto the exact spot that Ranma had been standing on.
"So, what's got you so worked up?" Ranma asked, seeing the obvious flaw in his previous attempts to distract the Hulk.
"Hulk want to be left alone!"
Ducking under a punch Ranma decided against trying to hit the titanic creature. While durable, he clearly lacked the endurance to tussle with someone even more durable than Ryoga. Instead, he did what most juvenile teenagers did when they wanted to taunt their opponents – he reached out and grabbed the Hulk's blackish nipple and quickly twisted as he slipped under the towering creature's powerful punch.
The ear-shattering roar rocked the very foundations of the mountain. The sheer force of the air leaving the Hulk's lungs was enough to send Ranma flying.
"Hulk no like bully!"
Yes, clearly the Hulk's alter-ego, one Robert Bruce Banner, had been the object of years of bullying by the jocks of his school. Years of repressed anger quickly consumed the scientist's gamma infused body and mind. His now green, glowing eyes locked onto Ranma.
"Five bucks says we don't find enough of him to put into a zip lock bag," War Machine offered as he pulled himself out from under the rubble.
"Hulk say Bully leave Hulk alone!" the green-grey skinned monster demanded as he lifted his large fists into the air before suddenly slamming them into the ground (where Ranma had been just a fraction of a second ago). The actual earth trembled, knocking even the Hulk off his feet as the ground beneath him gave way. Fortunately Ranma was in the air at the time, though the sound of the impact was enough to throw even him slightly off balance as he landed several meters just outside of the Hulk's reach.
Taking advantage of the situation, Ranma rushed in again. Yes, he might not be able to take a hit from the Hulk, but being close to the monster would at least limit the damage done to the mountain range – hopefully.
"Okay," he said as the Hulk once again wound up to throw another mountain sundering punch, "I admit, you're not ugly."
The Hulk simply wiffed with his punch, slightly startled by his opponent's daring as well as by his admission that he was wrong.
"Bully leave Hulk ALONE!"
"Sorry," Ranma shrugged as he ducked under another punch, "I can't do that."
Being the martial arts master that he was, Ranma could easily read the Hulk's moves. True, he'd never faced someone with the sheer power that the Hulk had, but it was pretty easy to tell just what the Hulk was going to do. Ripping the ground out from underneath him had been slightly unexpected, but something he'd easily avoided. The punches, well, they were very standard. And the kicks, well, they were non-existent.
As a martial artist the fight was boring and even predictable, yet Ranma knew that he couldn't end the fight by trading blows with the Hulk. Hell, he doubted that his greatest and most powerful techniques would do little more than anger the Hulk. Rather than wasting his ki reserves, Ranma opted to simply dodge the incredibly powerful punches.
For all of the Hulk's absurd strength, the guy couldn't fight worth a lick. True, if they were trading punches yes, the Hulk would win. But from a technical standpoint that Ranma was viewing the fight that power was relatively useless. With his unbelievably tough skin and muscles he was close to unstoppable.
Jumping over another punch, Ranma skillfully landed on the Hulk's head. Kicking off he flipped into the air as he avoided an attempt to swat him away.
"Hulk no like bully! Bully leave Hulk alone!"
Clapping his massive hands together, the Hulk sent Ranma flying as the titanic impact sent the air (and anything airborne) away. It also happened to rattle Ranma's ear drums, throwing him just off balance as he attempted to land.
Disoriented Ranma barely avoided a powerful overhead right as he fell onto his backside. Instinctively he rolled onto his back, then sprang under the Hulk's massive legs, capturing the beast's back. Kicking the back of the Hulk's left knee, he sent the Hulk tumbling. The purely defensive attack at the Hulk's joint was just enough to give Ranma the time he needed to recover his balance.
"Puny bully no make fun of Hulk! Hulk smash!"
Ranma ducked as the Hulk renewed his assault of mountain leveling punches.
As the pair fought their way down the mountain side Ranma was suddenly struck with inspiration.
"I think it's time you take a bath!" Ranma declared as he caught the massive wrist of his opponent. Using the Hulk's own strength against himself, the martial artist twisted his hips and turned, flipping the surprised Hulk into the air.
"Hulk no want bath!"
Kicking off of the Hulk's wrist, Ranma slammed his feet into the Hulk's stomach, forcing him to expel a large amount of air. The young martial artist forced ki into his fingers before stabbing them into the Hulk's throat and neck. Kicking the Hulk hard in the face, he didn't give the monster a chance to recover as he flipped around and kicked the Hulk hard in the groin. Even the Hulk had to feel that one.
Cold water kept him from continuing his assault on the Hulk as he suddenly transformed. Hopefully he'd managed to force out enough air of the Hulk's lungs.
As the Norse God of Thunder, Thor had seen much in his relatively long life. He'd fought incredibly powerful trolls and frost giants, immortal monsters that his brother had conjured, and fearsome dragons. Yet watching as this whelp fearlessly fought the Hulk even as the other Ultimates sought to contain and restrain the fake Hulk and the She-Hulk, the blond godling couldn't be more impressed. Having fought the Hulk several times himself Thor knew first hand just how powerful the incarnation of rage was.
But this whelp of a man was clearly more than he appeared. For him to go toe to toe with the Hulk and win, something that even the mighty Thor had not been able to do, that was a feat that was truly remarkable.
True, Hela might object that he turned into a woman, but perhaps that could be used as leverage to convince him to sir her heir. But how to convince Hela?
Captain America couldn't help but wonder about Ranma Saotome. True, he was a great fighter, the best hand to hand fighter that the super soldier had ever seen. But he was still immature with reckless and rash tendencies that made him a liability in battle. He'd fought the remainder of the Ultimates and the X-men and really should have beaten them all but he'd held back.
A seasoned fighter would have ended the fight quickly. A seasoned fighter would have put his opponents down quickly, killed them as he deemed necessary. But Ranma preferred to leave his opponents alive.
That selfless idealism and was useless on the battle field, but Captain America couldn't help but hope that Ranma never lost that innocence.
"Impressive," Fury stated as he watched the now redheaded girl pull an unconscious Robert Bruce Banner out of the cold water, "you defeated the Hulk by yourself."
"And all of you had to subdue just two," Ranma retorted.
Zarda smirked. This boy was good. Of all the Ultimates she was the only who had managed to defeat the Incredible Hulk by herself. But for this boy who was completely normal (aside from being deathly afraid of cats) and was completely human to have defeated the incarnation of rage was truly a feat worthy of her attention. What did it matter that he sometimes turned into a girl?
For his part Ranma ignored the appraising looks that the other Ultimates gave him. He'd already taken their measure, and they clearly had yet to see the true depth of his ability and skill. Besides, dragging the wet and unconscious man was taking much more out of him than he expected. It didn't help that the Hulk had managed to land some nasty shots on him while they were underwater, though the water did help to slow the blows as well as defuse the impact. Still, Ranma felt like he'd gone several rounds with Ryoga, Herb, Lime, Saffron, Taro and Rogue –the other Rogue. It was just as he'd expected – none of the others came even close to being as tough or powerful as the Hulk.
Yet he'd prevailed – proving to himself that he was the best and that no short cuts could overcome years of dedication, insane training, and sacrifice to achieve the level of skill that he had acquired. Yes, martial arts kicked ass and martial artists kicked a lot of ass, well, Ranma Saotome did at least.
Loki was not happy. He'd hoped that the Hulk would provide him with an opening to steal Mjolnir. Even three Hulks were not enough to provide him with that opportunity as he'd warped the other, weaker Hulks so that they attacked their teammates.
Yes, the Ultimates would have been able to handle one, maybe two, but against three… No, it was not that he'd underestimated the Ultimates as they had barely been able to defeat the two weakest Hulks, it was the wild card that he had not expected. That gender cursed boy had single handedly defeated the Hulk – something that none of the Ultimates alone could do.
Yes, the boy had managed to defeat the Defenders, but they were second rate fools compared to the Ultimates, even with the powers that he'd enhanced. No, what he needed was a team of truly ruthless villains to test this boy, but he'd have to do something about the Ultimates to keep them from interfering, but what? The Hulks were defeated for now, the Red Skull was gone along with Richard's Cosmic Cube, Zarda had defeated the Wrecking crew by herself, and the Brotherhood was in hiding, leaving the trickster with no viable options.
Looking down at the now redheaded girl, Loki clenched his fists. 'Jusenkyo!' The cursed woman had once been the sorceress supreme as well as being his daughter. Yes, his daughter had been clever, too clever for her own good really, and it didn't help that she loved to thwart his plans just because he was the most cunning of the gods. Though she'd been dead for over a millennia the fool of a girl was still managing to interfere with his plans.
But how to use his late daughter's chosen champion against the Ultimates? The boy had already fought them and lost, and was now assisting them. And he couldn't use his powers to alter reality on the boy, but what of those around him?
Having already made the man that his half-brother respected fall in love with Valkryie had not been enough as the man's rigorous code of honor could not be compromised Loki knew that there was only so much he could to with love even though he had essentially created Valkryie (and the Defenders). Still, if he could make Thor and Captain America love Valkryie, he could make the others fall in love with Ranma.
Smiling mischievously, the cunning godling looked down at the busty girl. Yes, he would have fun with Jusenkyo's creation and destroy the Ultimates at the same time.
"Ow," Ranma exclaimed as the medic popped his shoulder into place.
"A dislocated shoulder, hyper extended elbow, seven bruised ribs, a sprained neck, bruised thigh and several abrasions," Fury said skeptically as he listed Ranma's injuries. "For a completely 'normal' human you managed to take down the Hulk and came out of it with the least amount of injuries."
With both of his shoulders now in their proper place, Ranma shrugged. "I'm the best for a reason."
"You probably couldn't do it again," Captain America smirked.
Ranma shrugged, "You never know."
"My money's on the Hulk for round two," Ironman chimed in.
Ranma smirked, "Yeah, you would have the money to blow on that bet."
Sitting inside the vibranium laced cell Bruce Banner watched a replay of his alter-ego's fight with the young martial artist.
"You're sure he has no super-powers?" Bruce asked.
"None," the former acting director of Shield smirked. Even though she was wearing her mask, Carol couldn't help but scowl. Even with her new powers the mysterious martial artist had shown the Ultimates and their new members up.
As the former head of Shield Carol Danvers couldn't help but think that there was more to Ranma Saotome than he admitted to. True, he did have a gender/sex changing curse and thus magic affecting him, but it didn't empower him. Yes, he was a master martial artist on a level that, well, no one outside of Japan and China had seen in generations. Still, was that enough to defeat the Hulk?
'Maybe I have been ignoring the training I received in Tibet.'
"You're sure that this is going to be okay?" Ranma asked as he looked down at the pit that was Robert Bruce Banner's cell.
Captain America nodded, "This door is too small for the Hulk to get out of and too high up for Banner to get to."
The raven haired boy nodded as the portal opened. Leaping through the one meter wide hole Ranma twisted and then re-oriented himself so that he landed gracefully on the floor beside a startled Banner.
"Yo," he exclaimed as the brilliant scientist blinked at him. "Name's Ranma Saotome."
"You're the boy that defeated me," the scrawny scientist exclaimed.
"Why are you here?"
"To help you control your rage."
Banner opened his mouth, then promptly shut it as his brilliant mind failed to find the right words. Though he knew it was possible, it had been such a long time since he's been able to control the Hulk. Still, it was possible.
"Why would Shield need the Hulk?" he dared to ask. "They've got two others already."
Ranma nodded, "Yeah, but they suck."
Banner blinked. The boy's bluntness really was refreshing though.
"Nerd boy is, well, a nerd," Ranma stated. "I beat him by flashing him my breasts."
Again Banner blinked. That just didn't sound right.
"I've got a magical curse that turns me into a busty girl," the very masculine boy explained. "I was in my cursed form when I flashed him, and then he kinda froze, allowing me to kick him around. What is it with geeks and breasts that makes them freeze up anyways?"
The scientist simply shook his head, "It's hard to explain."
"I guess being a girl half the time makes me take for granted all the times I've seen girls or guys naked," Ranma shrugged.
"So, you like...?"
"Girls, I like girls."
Bruce nodded. "So what about the She-Hulk?"
The martial artist shrugged, "She's good, and nearly as tough and strong as you, but she's a bit rash and emotional – look at how she rushed in to become a Hulk like you just so that she could try and be closer to you by experiencing some of the things you've endured. That's just crazy."
Again the scientist opened his mouth but found that he really didn't have any words that could dispute what the boy had said.
"I'd be like my late fiancée jumping into a pool of drowned man or boy just to experience what it's like to be cursed and change into the other gender/sex," Ranma added. "Though she might have liked being a guy… I'm pretty sure he old man wouldn't have minded having a son and two daughters instead of three daughters though. Then he might have actually taught her their style of martial arts."
"So you think Betty was rash about turning herself into the She-Hulk?"
"Yeah," the boy nodded. "But it might not have been the wrong thing. I know that sometimes, regardless of how smart you are or good with words you are, you just need to throw down with someone to clear the air with them. Even if you're disappointed with the result of the fight, it clears things up between the fighters.
"And having taken some of your shots, I know that Betty couldn't have thrown down with you so she had to turn into the She-Hulk so that she could survive. Sometimes people do stupid things for good reasons."
Bruce fought the urge to smirk. "Yeah."
"Anyways, I'm here to help you with your anger issues," Ranma stated. "But it looks like you've already had some training.
"The only way for you go get out is through that portal. You're going to have to learn to transform into the Hulk, leap at the portal, then turn back and go through that portal. That or someone's going to have to magic you out of here."
I think I'll just leave things where they're at for now.
Please Read and Review.