Bruce Banner is a very, very smart man. In one universe, he was so smart as to be flattered by the military to help them create a way of making super-soldiers. There the experiments backfired, and he was turned into a raging monster. In another universe he managed to separate himself from the Hulk, reverted back as a child without sight, seeing only through the Hulk.
There were a hundred thousand possibilities that Banner could have taken, a hundred thousand paths.
Bruce Banner in this universe remembered something though.
He clung to his little stuffed toy, looking up at his mom with too wide eyes as he shivered and trembled. A splotchy bruise was beginning to form, right across his cheek. His momma looked worse- she was hunched over slightly, face twisted in pain. "Mommy?"
"Oh honey… Can't you pretend?"
He stared at her in confusion, eyes dark and uncomprehending. He was seven, and didn't understand the full intricacies of people, even if he could build a model meant for a fourteen year old. "Pretend what?"
"Pretend you aren't so smart."
Bruce Banner was a very smart man; you'd never guess from his grades. His grades were solid A's and B's, he was not valedictorian, no genius. Nobody bothered giving him an IQ test (even if they did Bruce knew perfectly how to answer falsely) and Bruce didn't let anyone think differently.
All notes that could possibly state otherwise were carefully stashed away where nobody could see them, as he plodded along in his life of dull mediocrity. He was fine. Perfectly fine. (Nobody had to know that sometimes he watched Tony Stark and Reed Richards and wondered how well his brain would go against them)
It wasn't like he wanted to strut (lie) but he knew what would happen if he did (bad things) and even if his mind seemed empty some days, it wasn't anything worth noticing (mixed emotions).
That was why Bruce Banner at the tender age of forty, found himself in Stark Expo, browsing the stalls.
Nobody could resist the Expo, absolutely nobody. So Bruce found himself finishing up research (he knew the answers, and was simply going through the motions, no need for anyone to know what he was researching on the side- or how far ahead he was) in order to get to the expo on time, so that way he could wander the booths.
The highlight of this particular expo, other then Iron Man himself, was the debut of a giant screen- in front of it you could write messages on a tablet and have them projected onto the big screen to flash and show off- previous messages floated around, curling around booths in floating letters at least five years ahead of any other company.
Bruce padded through the stalls, honing in on the radiation theory ones, curiosity growing- There were ones about a new element, ones about gamma radiation. He scoffed quietly at them, and scrawled a note on a piece of paper; slipping it among the other papers- nobody could possibly recognize him from out of such a big crowd.
It was time to be as smart and geeky as he wanted, and look! No bad consequences because nobody could recognize him!
Bruce grinned like a kid set loose in a candy store, or a child genius set loose among a workshop, and practically skipped along the booths, drinking in the sights.
Stark Expo drew scientists from all over the world- only Pym Company didn't register anything, and the leader of the Fantastic Four was one of the few groups that didn't enter in anything- partially because they were currently traveling to who-knows-where.
Bruce shoved the thoughts out of his head to concentrate on the technology before him. It was impressive really- impressive that they hadn't blown themselves up. The equation they were using to calculate the force was all wrong, and it was only by fluke they had managed to make it not so nasty.
He scribbled the correct equation on a slip of paper, slipped it among the paper, and walked off.
There it was- the cream of the Expo- for one day only, Tony Stark was going to talk about the Arc Reactor. It wasn't the personalized one in his chest, but the major one that powered his tower.
Bruce drifted close to one of the speakers, listening carefully to it, scribbling down notes quickly at all of the salient points, nodding every now and then.
"-powered by palladium-"
Bruce frowned, pen pausing. Palladium? Surely not. That was poisonous, wasn't it?
Bruce flipped the paper over, scribbling quickly. The equations he had created to figure out whether an element was poisonous to a human body, and just how poisonous it could be danced across the paper, filling his mind.
First was the element itself, broken down to the very molecules. Each of those molecules were assigned a weight and the ability to move, how well they interacted with other molecules. Then came the skin. The weight. Tony Stark looked roughly near a hundred eighty pounds, so Bruce used that weight.
The weight was penciled in, and radiation penciled in beyond that. A human body could only take up to 500 of that other kind of radiation- Bruce had his own measurements, and sketched them into the corner. Point of reference established, Bruce returned his attention to the complicated equation slowly filling the entire page.
The pen continued scribbling, dancing across the page quietly and quickly, until nearly every square inch of it was covered.
Bruce stared down at the paper, nibbling at the end of his pen- Palladium was poisonous. Worse then poisonous- while the poison would be quick to leave once removed, the person near to it only had about six months to live if it was in constant contact with the Palladium.
He had to get this to Tony Stark. Or someone who could at least tell Tony Stark; he wasn't about to crack his carefully built facade. His eyes scanned the room, looking for something he could use, when his eyes fell on the giant projector.
Tony Stark stepped down from the podium, grinning wildly; now was the time to make his dashing exit out of the door…
His eyes saw it first. The most beautiful thing he had ever seen in a long time, the curves perfect. The smooth form was slick and perfectly proportioned. The numbers were perfectly formed, stacked and organized in a way that made sense to their owner and those smart enough to take it apart.
Tony Stark stopped dead. Stared up at the equation. Felt his heart twist a little as he sparsed out from the information that he was going to die within six months if he didn't change the Pallidam core reactor.
It was a good thing he already had- not that anyone else knew. Still, where was this guy several months ago when he actually needed this information?
"Jarvis, save that equation." He turned to the closest peon he was commanding, "Go find out who wrote that equation."
"Equation saved." Jarvis chimed helpfully as Tony Stark strode out without a backwards look. "What would you like me to do with this?"
"Send it to Richards and Pym. They probably know who it is."
The ride home was completely silent, Tony too distracted to reply as much of anything as Happy drove, casting him worried looks. The second the car pulled up to the Hotel in its glimmering, shimmering beauty, Tony was off and moving for his communicator.
Reed and Pym couldn't possibly ignore this.
He grinned as he entered his room, the communicator beeping shrilly. Oh did he love being right!
"Stark, where did you get this? This isn't your work, you're not nearly so smart on the whole radiation theory!"
"Pym, calm down." Reed looked interested as well, so double score for Stark. "It isn't Tony's work, but it's not anyone's work I've seen."
"Really?" A frown briefly appeared on Tony's face. "You're joking, right? Surely this guy has published stuff before! I mean, I'm no authority on radiation, but-"
"Tony." Reed spoke calmly, matter-of-factly, "I may be the smartest man in the universe, but I don't study radiation either. I study physics. Radiation wise, Pym would be the next closest."
Pym and Stark glowered at each other, eyeing the other like they were about to jump out of the screen to strangle each other. Pym snarled, arms crossing. "I don't know. I keep an eye on radiation due to Pym particles, but that's about it. I am considered the top of radiation theory because of the Pym Particles."
Reed scoffed. "Hank?"
The man turned to glare at him, "What now Reed?"
"I know more about Pym Particles then you do."
Tony howled with laughter as Pym gaped openly at the screen. "Reed? It is on bitch."
"Oooh, you just got told Pym!"
"Shut up Tony. Reed, it is on. I hope that you're ready, because I'm going to invade your tower and drag you down to earth."
"Good luck with that." Reed smirked, before clicking off.
"Stark, don't laugh. Pym company is doing better then Stark company."
The two clicked off, fires burning in their eyes. Tony shook his head- nobody would see either of them for the next five months. So that gave Tony Stark the next five months to invent something to sweep Stark company back to the top, all while tracking down and locating the new genius in radiation theory.
He loved being himself.
With a wild grin, he shut the communicator, and twisted in his seat to look directly at the men that entered, "Well, who put up the paper?"
"Well sir- We don't know."
"Have him- Wait, you don't know him? Why not?"
"We found a paper with the writing, but nothing else." The paper carefully enclosed in a plastic bag was passed over. Tony glowered at the bag.
"I hate puzzles. Puzzles are smashed into little pieces. Especially puzzles like this."
Tony glowered at the piece of paper. "Okay, time for analyzing time. Jarvis, but on your best Sherlock Holmes hat- we're going to go hunting."
If somebody was going to go through all of the trouble of warning him, then he might as well return the favor of hunting down the person, kidnapping them away to Stark Company where they could live the rest of their lives filthy rich and with enough equipment to make their little scientific mind weep in joy.
Several miles away Bruce Banner felt a very cold chill run down his back.