The chaos started miles outside of New York City. Cars crowded the road like rice in a sieve, jostling and honking at each other in their desperation to flee the city and the strange, glowing blue phenomena that had engulfed Stark tower and captured the entire world's eye. Thankfully the traffic going into Manhattan was non-existent and Bruce had a leisurely ride ahead of him. Leisurely only because his maximum speed was maybe forty miles per hour, and even that was pushing his luck a little.
He was anxious to arrive, not only to help the Avengers combat this otherworldly threat, but also just to get off this damn bike. The padding had long since worn off on the seat and quite frankly his crotch, butt, and the inside of his thighs were killing him. He'd be lucky if he could have kids after this. Not that he entertained the idea anymore. Sure he'd like to have a child or two, but the possibility of passing the 'other guy' onto his offspring was too great a risk for him to knowingly take.
Banner chuckled a bit, adjusting himself painfully as he clutched the violently trembling handlebars. It was funny how invariably when a human was denied something they desired it, a sort of forbidden fruit syndrome. Sophie brought that craving out in him every time she held his hand or laughed or smiled. She was a serious woman, not the kind of woman you fooled around with but the sort that mothered your children, cared for your hurts, and stayed by your side in sickness and in health until death you did part. 'And I,' thought Bruce pensively, "I am a serious man."
And one getting up in years. Truth be told if he hadn't had his accident he'd probably have married Betty and be living in academic and matrimonial bliss, teaching at Culver by day and playing daddy by night after he picked up their kid from day care. The thought seemed so impossibly domestic Bruce had to shake his head, the action causing the bike to swerve. After a moment of panic he righted himself and worked on calming his pulse. It would not be good if the other guy got loose before there was a ready supply of aliens to destroy.
The city of New York unfolded in front of him like an urban pop-up book. Smaller domestic buildings soon obscured his view of the skyline, but his he craned his neck upwards he could still make out the tip of Stark Tower and the spike of blue light piercing the sky like a hypodermic needle. People clogged up the sidewalks and in some places even spilled out into the streets, their necks craned at impossible angles as they stared up into the beyond.
Banner had hardly broken into the outskirts of New York City when a general cry of terror and desolation bubbled up from the crowd, seeping the strength from his arms and legs and making him want to simply curl up in a ball and wait for the carnage to be over. Instead he glanced skyward, scowling at the dark shapes (and glaringly larger worm-like shape) that had begun to pour through what appeared to be a massive gash in the sky. Banner stopped his bike. "Son of a bitch," he muttered to no one in particular, "They opened up a wormhole!"
Part of him wanted to admire the thing for the scientific anomaly that is was (after all how many humans throughout the entire history of humankind could say that they had, in person, seen a wormhole?), but the other part recognized that an alien invasion was taking place and somewhere in the heart of the city people he had come to consider friends were fighting for their lives.
With great effort (and a bit of technical ingenuity on his part) Banner managed to restart the bike and continue on his way. This was harder than previously because the streets had become entirely flooded with people, screaming and running for their lives as incredible alien hovercraft (yes, Banner did if nothing else appreciate their technology) sped soundlessly over head, occasionally letting loose some sort of energy bullet or letting a massive, muscular, humanoid creature drop to the ground and proceed to savage anyone or thing it could get its strangely fingered hands on.
Banner did his best to duck and weave, bobbing his way through the masses of panic-stricken New Yorkers. He was jostled and shoved, but managed to keep his seat, though only just. If a normal man fell he would surely be trampled to death; Banner only had to worry about turning green and killing a million innocent people. Well, as innocent as humans can be. Eventually he broke out into a major road. People had abandoned their cars, making the whole avenue a massive graveyard of silent steel sentinels.
Streets like these were easier to travel by. Banner could zip in between cars with relative ease and was able to cover more ground than he had previously. He let his ears guide him, moving towards the sounds of carnage and screaming. Everywhere around him was death and destruction, but Bruce kept his head down, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible until he found the Avengers. When he eventually started riding around Chitauri corpses rather than burned and bloody human remains he figured he was getting close.
Sure enough, as soon as he skirted an overturned school bus, the burned and mangled tiny figures inside making his heart leap into his throat and burn like it was in a steel vise, he found himself at a rather large and empty intersection. In the middle stood a woman in black leather, the natural red of her hair enhanced by the blood streaked through it. She was flanked by a powerful man clad in red, white and blue and armed with a shield, a man in SHIELD special forces attire with a bow, and a Norse God equipped with his hammer.
Bruce couldn't help but heave a sigh of relief when he did not see Sophie among them. She was probably back on the airship with Fury. He hoped she was back in the airship with Fury. It was at that moment that the engine started to die, as if the bike somehow sensed that its usefulness had come to an end. Bruce's whole body shook as the bike slowly puttered to a stop. When it came to a complete standstill some twenty feet from the group it let out one last dying bang from the exhaust pipe and resigned itself to obsolescence.
Carefully Bruce removed himself from the bike, kicking the kickstand out and gingerly stretching the stiff muscles in his legs. "Sorry I'm late," he called, deciding to try his hand at a joke despite the rather dire circumstances, "Traffic was terrible. The way people behave you'd think aliens were invading." The biggest response he got was a lip twitch on the part of Captain America, so Banner decided to leave the humor to Tony. He was much more suited to it anyway.
"What?" he asked finally, noticing that the entire group refused to meet his gaze, except of course for Rogers, whose blue eyes were molten with sympathy, "What happened?" His brain, both a blessing and at times a curse, assembled pieces of a puzzle he didn't want to solve, but had to. The answer was practically laying in front of him. "Where is Sophie?" he demanded, his voice threatening to break towards the end of her name.
The Avengers eyed him carefully, clearly debating whether or not keeping him informed was worth the potential damage, when Rogers, ever the noble one, stepped forward. Agent Romanoff growled at him, trying to snag Steve's arm, but he brushed her off coming forward and placing a firm, supportive hand on Bruce's shoulder. "I'm sorry Doc," he said gruffly, "But she's no longer with us."
Bruce blinked once, too stunned to process the information, and then slowly as reality began to sink in he found he felt cold. His insides were icy as if some unknown person had jabbed an IV of liquid nitrogen into his veins. She couldn't be dead. Not Sophie. Not his Sophie. "Did I-? Was it-? When I changed…" His voice sounded strange in his own ears, oddly hollow and disconnected, and his tone caused alarm to dance across the features of some of the Avengers, though Captain America remained calm.
"No, Doc, it wasn't you," he assured Banner, his tone as soothing as warm milk to a sleepless child. Bruce's dark gaze fixed itself upon Steve's, though his eyes seemed vacant and far away.
Tony, who had just rounded the corner of a building and landed by the group, answered for Rogers, his voice filled with venom. "Loki," Stark said simply. And it was enough, enough to push Bruce over the edge of self-control and into the dizzying spiral of rage. A fire burst into life in Banner's gut, clawing its way up through his chest and crushing his hear before scorching a path out to his fingers and toes. Anger, grief and pain caused Bruce to fall to the ground screaming with fury, his skin a livid shade of jade shot through with bulging emerald veins. He vaguely heard Stark yell, "He's in the tower," before his pulse became a deafening roar in his ears and he reached up with hands too large to be his own to drown out the noise.
Panic bleached the faces of the Avengers, but for once not brought on by their companion's disturbing change. Behind him the immense flying Chitauri space beast had finally caught up, crashing through the corner of a skyscraper and bearing down on the group as if hungry for lunch. Bruce screamed in pain as his muscled shredded and healed and his bones broke and lengthened again and again. He could feel his heart beat growing more powerful, the consistent thundering thump making his spasming frame shudder with ever beat.
His control began to slip as he watched his forearm distort and grow, his companions becoming smaller and smaller as a dangerous green haze overtook his vision. More bones broke, this time the ribs, and again Banner screamed, this time the sound exiting his viridian lips as a thunderous roar that shattered windows and made people miles away quake in fear. And suddenly he wasn't Banner anymore. Bruce was lost, buried so deeply in a furious rage inspired by sorrow that he couldn't hope to dig himself out and all that was left was a terrifying monster with green skin and muscles that struck fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men. Some would even call it a hulk.
The Hulk took one look at the danger before him, at the hideous creature with razor sharp canines as large as he was and grinned nastily, gnashing his own immense white tombstone teeth.
The poor beast never stood a chance.