DISCLAIMER: I do not own Hulk or any related Marvel/Disney characters.
Notes: This takes place in the same universe as my other ZeroBen Marvel fics. It starts a little down the road in Iron Man. The next Iron Man arc was going to be called "Social Collapse" but I changed it. The Hulk origin was originally going to be in that arc, but not now. Which will actually make it ten times easier to write. So, here's the deal... I was going to do Hulk, then I wasn't going to do a solo. But, reviewers have asked, and I recently had an idea on how to approach it. One that I believe has potential and is a fresh take on the character and mythos.
"BioGenesis" Part I
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious... Makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus... And you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it... That unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
Spoken by Mario Savio atop a police car, in front of Berkeley in 1964.
:::A Military Recruitment Center:::
Due to recent cape-activities - as it had been labeled by SHIELD - the United States Government felt there to be a justifyable need to bring back the draft. It hadn't technically been made official yet by anyone. However, there were murmurs that the wheels were already in motion, if they actually had not been for years prior. Many believed that the Government and Military had been wanting to bring the draft back for quite some time, but just never could rightfully provide it the legs it needed to stand on.
That wasn't the case anymore. Not when the villain Whiplash was still out there somewhere. Not when almost half of San Francisco was a wasteland and Earth was recently visited by a so-called God of Thunder that more than proved who he really was.
A new recruitment center had been constructed in Chicago. It was rumored to be in co-operation with SHIELD. The truth to that remained to be seen, but it did seem suspicious. After all, SHIELD had been quite busy as of late. No doubt, they were now scowering every inch of the globe, looking for more Superhumans. Possibly trying to recruit them like they had been with Iron Man.
Yeah, the reason SHIELD deemed Iron Man as Public Enemy Number One was because he didn't want to sign up with their organization. Typical political bullying tactics. Of course, that was the government in a nutshell, right? Do what they want, and you'll be just fine. Otherwise... Cover your ears and wait for the boom.
This recruitment center was known to be ground zero for the draft. In fact, the common assumption was that draft headquarters was built underneath the building. Far away from prying eyes, hiding in plain sight. Some argued that this was a bad idea, and that they were practically publicizing a target for attack. But, if SHIELD really was involved, then there had to be more than a few foolproof safety precautions taken.
Across the street from the recruitment center on this cloudy and chilly afternoon were a group of protestors. They weren't a small gathering, either. Not merely five or six, or even a baker's dozen. No. More like fifty or sixty people of all ages, races, sexes, and nationalities. Some were more vocal than others, but they were all there for the same cause. They were there to stand opposed to the draft. Opposed to more war, more bloodshed. Opposed to having their freedom taken away from them.
Twenty-one year old Bruce Banner was among them, wearing his camouflage blue hoodie and baggy green cargo pants, with old sneakers that were worn and dirty. His hood was down, showing spiked black hair and brown eyes to go along with a pale face and a scar in the shape of a half moon underneath his left eye.
Bruce stood next to a friend only a year younger than he. One wearing similar clothing, but with bright orange hair, a small patch hanging off his chin, and black eyes. His name was Rick Jones. And it was him who had offered Bruce the chance to tag along on this protest of the draft. It was he who was fired up and ready to stand toe to toe with SHIELD, the military, and even the United States Government itself.
Bruce Banner was a young man who wasn't afraid to protest in favor of his beliefs. He was a young man willing to do what he saw as being the right thing. He was a young man who strongly believed in his beliefs, and would go to great lengths to get his point across. Hence, attending this demonstration with his best friend. To Bruce, the draft wasn't the answer to the world's problems. It would only make things worse.
They say... Those young people opposed to the draft are just cowards afraid to stick their own necks out for the freedoms they take for granted.
It's about people having freedom that the soldiers are fighting for. It's about people having the choice of whether or not they want to join the military. It's about having freedom and choice, period. It's not about cowardice, it's not about being unwilling to fight for your country. Hell, right now, there were sixty people standing defiant, fighting for their country, fighting for freedom, fighting for the option of having the right to make their own choices...
Simply put, fighting against the draft because they were fighting for freedom.
It starts with a draft. And it ends with government-appointed clothing and 8pm curfews.
As the volume of the protestors grew louder and louder, finally signs of life came from the other side. A middle-aged man wearing a fine black suit and tie, emerged from inside of the building. He approached the protestors as their voices became more unified, and much louder than before.
He stood atop a parked car, grabbing their full attention, "My name is Phil Coulson. I'm a representative/agent of SHIELD."
So, the rumors were correct. SHIELD was responsible for this new building. Or, at least, teaming with whoever was.
"This is senseless," he explained to a chorus of boos, "The only thing you're accomplishing is giving everyone inside the building headaches."
"Good," Bruce took the initiative, "It's not like you'll listen to us any other way."
"There's nothing to..."
"The world is different," Bruce interrupted, the crowd quieting, somewhat appointing him their voice, "I understand that. You need more soldiers. I understand that, too. The problem is... You're saying that opposing the draft is an act of cowardice... Is an act similar to spitting on the American flag. That we're not willing to fight for freedom. When, actually, what we're doing right now is fighting for freedom. The freedom of choice."
In a way, everything he said made perfect sense. It got to agent Coulson, and gave him an idea, "You all feel the same way?"
Indeed, his fellow protestors all agreed with every word that Bruce had said.
"You," he pointed to Bruce, "Come with me."
"Hell yeah!" Rick cheered, as did everyone else when Bruce followed Phil Coulson across the street and into the new recruitment building, "Now some progress is gonna be made!"
A very special and secretive meeting was taking place between SHIELD Director Nick Fury, General Thaddeus Ross of SHIELD, the United States Secretary of Defense, and a SHIELD scientist by the name of Samuel Sterns. This special meeting was pertaining to the recent addition of yet another batch of Superhumans. Not to mention the disaster taking place in California before that.
"Certain measures need to be taken," General Thaddeus Ross explained his point of view, "We need to be ready for anything that may swim down the pipeline. I believe it's time to test the new Gamma Bomb."
The Secretary of Defense, his name being Stan Ellis, agreed with General Ross, "The overall opinion in the White House is the same. The President wants to be ready. He says the American people deserve to be one-hundred percent prepared for any more cape-activity."
Nick Fury wasn't in love with this idea in the least, "I'm not in favor of it."
"We need to be ready," Secretary Ellis said, "There are honest to goodness Gods of Thunder battling supervillains. There are giant dragons and massive robots. San Francisco is practically a memory, Nick. This is a new world, and we must be ready for its new dangers."
"I agree with being ready," Fury acknowledged, "I'm just not sure that nuclear bomb testing is the right route to take."
"If I may," Samuel Sterns interrupted calmly, nervously, a meek and mild man, the frame of his glasses taped in the middle, holding both sides together, "If concentrated to precise and exact specifications, it is feasible that we could test the gamma bomb without any mess or the general public even being any the wiser."
"It'll leak," Fury was sure of that fact, "These things always do. There'll be protestors and one big mess. If people don't trust us, our job will be ten times harder than it already is."
"Oh, bullshit, Nick," the General scoffed, short-tempered as usual, "Nobody trusts the damn government, anyway. What's public opinion matter? Look at how they're crucifying us for the draft!"
Fury kept calm, composed and clear-minded, "Every single step we take needs to be calculated. And, right now, I'm saying no to the gamma bomb."
Samuel Sterns couldn't help but show a disappointed frown. The SHIELD Gamma Bomb was his baby, the closest thing he would ever have to a child... a son, and the birth was being denied by his employer. He had to deeply wonder if SHIELD's golden son, Henry Pym, would be rejected and casted aside like this if the gamma bomb were his idea instead.
Secretary Ellis stepped in close to Director Fury, "For now, I'll respect your decision. But, know this, the President is in favor of the testing."
With the meeting finished, Secretary Ellis vacated the conference room.
Knowing his continued presence would do no good, Sterns did the same mere moments later. This left General Ross and Director Fury all alone...
"You're gonna end up burning us," the General warned, frustrated by Fury, "Public safety is our number one concern. Not popularity. I do not give a good god damn if they like us or not, it is our job to protect them by any means..."
"We need Iron Man on our side," Fury boldly interrupted the General, "And, I can almost guarantee, performing a secret bomb testing on American soil is a sure fire way to make sure that never happens."
"Project Avenger," General Ross took a breath, "What, let me guess, you wanna recruit Thor now, too?"
"As a matter of fact..."
:::Military Recruitment Center:::
Following the SHIELD representative through the front doors, Bruce suddenly felt the urge to flip his hood up over his head, providing at least a little smidge of a sense of protection. This certainly was an uncomfortable place to be in. It was so sterile and neatly kept. It was more empty than Bruce pictured it would be. Typical of a new building, though, despite what type it was.
"Anything you find, see, hear, touch, in this building cannot be relayed to the public," Agent Coulson explained, "If it is, you will be immediately arrested and taken into SHIELD custody."
"On what charges?" Bruce questioned, now more suspicious of SHIELD than ever.
"Trust me," Coulson said as they entered a small office, "You'd rather not know. Have a seat," he gestured to a free chair.
"I'll stand," Bruce declined the offer.
"Fair enough," Coulson was annoyed, but willing to talk in a mature manner with the young man, "So, are you running the show? Or, was that improvised?"
"I just said what's on everyone's minds," Bruce answered simply.
"Now is not the time for diversity and drawing lines," Coulson explained, "It's the time for unity. There are threats in this world that were science fiction up until months ago."
"You want unity through blind allegiance," Bruce countered, "Not through freedom of choice. You want it to be because we have to... Not because we want to. That's the problem. That's the whole conflict right there."
"I see what you mean," and that was the truth, though he didn't agree with it, "But, still, it's all in the best interest of the American people."
"The American people," Bruce shook his head, "Just saying that means you don't."
"All right now," Coulson crossed his arms, annoyed and irritated at this point, "Enough is enough. You want to know the real reason for the draft? The fact of the matter is soldiers are getting scared out of their minds. The Fin Fang Foom incident was only the tip of the iceberg."
"It's always been dangerous to be in the military," Bruce saw nothing new in that statement, "Whether it's a dragon or mortar rounds."
"Fin Fang Foom. Whiplash. The so-called Wrecking Crew. Not to mention a robot the size of a tower," Coulson ran down the list, "And, like I said, it's only the tip of the iceberg. We all know there's more coming. Escalation. Cops wear bullet proof vests, so the criminals equip armor-piercing rounds. It'll only get worse."
Coulson kept it going, "We need the draft because we're losing men at a faster rate than ever before. We need the draft because everyone's too afraid to enlist. We need the draft and we need to unite as a whole because that's what we need to do."
Bruce took a moment to let everything that agent Coulson said sink in. He made sense. No two ways around it, the man had a legitimate point. But, that did little to nothing to sway Bruce's point of view. As far as he was concerned, the draft was still a bad idea. It was still one step closer to a nation living under one single idea... One single belief... One single thought... One single way of life.
"Listen, Bruce," time to level with him, "You seem like an intelligent kid. You're smart, you're mature. You obviously know how to carry yourself in a tense situation."
Bruce had a hunch where this was going, "I'm not signing up."
Agent Coulson partially smirked, "That's not what I'm getting at. What I mean is this; I realize that this isn't going to strike you as a great idea, but... I want you to go out there and convince those people that protesting the draft is a bad idea."
Bruce was insulted by the request, which felt much more like an order, "No! I'm not doing that!"
"We're trying to get work done here. I mean... Big, world-saving work, and we can't focus on our jobs with a mob of people ready to riot outside of our building."
"We're not backing down," Bruce stood his ground, "The draft is wrong. We're going to keep standing up."
"Then I'll have to call in people, Bruce," Coulson said plainly, "People that won't use their mouths to communicate."
He meant... People with weapons. People like... SHIELD Soldiers.
"Good, then," Bruce nodded, accepting the unintentional challenge, "Call 'em. Tell them that Bruce Banner is waiting for them."
"You don't realize what kind of mistake you're making, Bruce," agent Coulson warned as Bruce turned his back on the man and exited the office without so much as another word.
The door shut behind him, Bruce boldly began making his way out of the building on his own. He received quite a few looks and stares from the employees, but no one said anything. They opted to just give him his space. But, there was one that caught his eye. One that stuck out more than any of the rest. One that was a beautiful young woman who instantly captured him on a level he never expected.
Catching his breath, Bruce lightly pulled his hood over his face some more and resumed his walk...
"Excuse me?" she confronted him, "Who are you?"
"I was... just talking to Coulson," he explained in a quiet, shy, voice.
"Civilians aren't allowed in here without papers," she was stern, but not in a dramatic fashion.
"Oh, let 'em go, Betty," one of the men said from the side, wearing fatigues, "He's tellin' the truth, and he was just leaving."
"No, Glenn," she responded sharply, "Rules are rules. No civilians are allowed in this building without proper documents supporting their presence."
"No," she gestured for him to follow her, "I need to speak with you in private."
"No," he wasn't doing anymore following, "I'm leaving."
"I can have you physically brought with me," she said, "If you'd insist."
Bruce sighed, "Fine."
He followed her into what appeared to be her own personal office. A lot nicer than the room where he and Coulson had their conversation. More personal and detailed. Bruce noticed a framed photograph of she and what he assumed were her parents, on a desk. Then he noticed there were five different computers on, all with different things on their screen. Next, he heard the door lock...
"You have to do what Coulson told you to," her demeanor switched from bossy to kind in an instant, "I'm telling you that it might get ugly if SHIELD arrives and those people are difficult."
"We're not stopping," Bruce replied, "Freedom of speech, and we're not doing it on your property."
"It's still against the law," she enlightened him, much to his surprise, "Exhibiting defiance in the face of SHIELD is considered a prelude to cape-activity and/or a distraction to deal with cape-activity."
Bruce listened closely.
"It's new, but it's still a law. Enforcement is relaxed right now, but persistence in defiance means..."
"Less relaxed," Bruce concluded, "More... In your face SHIELD authority."
"So, what? They throw me in their prison for the night? Slap me on the wrist and make me promise to never do it again?"
"SHIELD already knows who you are, Robert Bruce Banner," she emphasized his name to make sure he knew exactly what she meant, and that she was being honest, "Hold down B on that computer on my desk and you'll find your file."
He didn't believe it. Never thought they'd go that far. Yet, there was the proof as he did what she said. There was a folder filled with information about him. He quickly deleted it, realizing that was more than likely illegal, and that there were probably back-up files as well.
"You're an Activist," she told him information about himself, "Born and raised in Chicago. You graduated from Mark Norton High School. You've organized three major protests in the past two years. Joined in on over two dozen others."
"Stop," what was happening, it felt like his head was spinning like a top, "I need to get out of here."
"You need to get those people out of there," she pressed, "Listen..."
"You don't care about us," he pointed out, quietly, "You just don't want SHIELD to look dirty, rounding up peaceful protestors like a herd of cattle. Don't act like you care."
"You're in a situation right now," she kept going, "I can help you get out of it."
"I'm staying," he left the office, "We're all staying. If they want us to leave... They have to drag us away on the ground."
(to be continued)
And there you have the awaited and anticipated, Hulk story. As you can see, this isn't your garden variety Hulk. It's an entirely new Bruce Banner. I am retconning one thing... In the first arc of Iron Man I have Tony name-drop Bruce and Betty to General Ross. Forget that. I'm going to change that. This is canon now. They don't already know each other, and they're both in their very early twenties as opposed to already being in a relationship and teenagers.
As far as any more reboots... Two more... ZeroBen's Black Panther and ZeroBen's SHIELD. Those will be the last before the eventual ZeroBen's Avengers in the future. Other than one-shots here and there. Or mini series such as ZeroBen's Pym.