#3: Minus Human, Prologue May 12, 2019 7:13:55 GMT -5
Post by HoM on May 12, 2019 7:13:55 GMT -5
Issue Three: "Minus Human; Prologue"
Written by Charles HoM
Cover by Craig Cermak
Edited by Aaron Martel
The ragged claw dug into the old, cracked sand, dragging itself toward the irradiated soil that surrounded Gamma Base.
The ragged claw, pulling a ragged body, a ragged body bred for survival, a ragged body with an order fully in the front of its mind.
The ragged body opened itself up, stretching its gullet open to reveal a sterile pouch of flesh, and tiny clawed hands reached out from inside the chest cavity. The hands scooped up the soil that had been dyed green with the blood of a monster, and then the body sealed up, and the ragged claws began to burrow, and head deep within the Earth, deeper and deeper, tiny black eyes bred exactly for this kind of work, until it reached the massive cavern of its master.
It crawled toward the massive stone throne in the centre of the darkened cavern, pulled itself up the side of the chair, and fell into the green hand of its master.
“Ah, you have returned to me, my pretty little delight.” The master stood, and nearly fell over, but supported himself by holding onto the throne. “Oh, this will mean such more fun. So much more fodder for my experiments.”
“Ssssss,” replied the creature, before keeling over and dying.
“I-idiot.” Bruce Banner gripped the bathroom sink tightly between thin fingers. “Stupid, s-stupid idiot.” He was shaking. He couldn’t control it. “What were you th-thinking?”
He looked up at his reflection, gaunt and thin, but with more life in it than there had been for years. He let the monster loose. He lost all control. Any remote sign of anger, or any emotion at all, could trigger the change, but he had done just that, let the monster loose, and it had rampaged across the desert. How many people could have died? How many did?
He thought back to the entire confrontation- the simple fact that he had faced Ross again, and this time… he didn’t shy away. Though the anger… the anger he felt… and the loss…
He looked down at the sink full of water below him. The loss. His head began to throb.
“No. Nnno.” His grip tightened on the sink, the porcelain began to crack. “Control, Bruce, control…” He released the edge of the sink, gritted his teeth, and then took a breath. “Good. Ok. Good.”
He splashed his face with water. He looked up to his face again, and was met by the face of the monster, the face that tried to contain within his soul. “JESUS!”
He fell backwards, slammed into the wall behind him, banging his head on the plaster.
“Out. Out. Let me out. Let Hulk out.”
His hand began to shake even more so than before. His veins throbbed green. Blood that wasn’t his own began to form. “Calm. A sea. A memory. Pull yourself into a state of tranquility. Remember. Rememberrrrrr.” He pulled himself out of the panic, out of the transformation. “God, oh God.”
“OUT. OUT. LET ME OUT. LET HULK OUT. LET HULK OUT, PUNY BANNER.”
He looked around. Where was that voice coming from? This mocking, incredulous tone? He touched his mouth. The words. The words were coming from him.
“LET HULK OUT TO PLAY, BANNER! LET HULK OUT! LET HULK OUT NOW, BANNER! LET HULK OUT!”
“Nuhno! YES! OUT! OUT!” His hands began to quake, his blood began to boil, his skin began to harden. Muscles began to form where muscles weren’t before, and before he knew what was happening, everything
Everything came into focus with a jolt of electricity. “GAHHH!” He jerked up in the middle of nowhere, torn, baggy trousers around his ankles, the bright sunlight blinding him momentarily. “No, no, NO!”
He stood up, pulling the massively oversized purple jeans up toward his waist. He checked his pockets. Nothing. The motel room contained all his life on the road. What little money he had earned doing odd jobs, from stealing, was probably strewn across the room. And in his bathroom, where there wasn’t before, was most certainly a massive hole in the wall. “JESUS!”
He stood up, shook his fists at the sky like some ham actor, and then looked around. Just within sight was a small trailer, DINER plastered across one side. “Uh.” He looked around again. Weird. He pulled up his trousers, and began to trudge toward it.
The door to the diner wheezed open, the cold air produced by fans attached to the ceiling hitting Bruce’s bare chest and causing him to shiver, even though he had been outside in the sweltering heat moments before. He looked around at the assorted people inside. A shiver crept down his spine. It wasn’t from the cold air. “Eh, hello, is there a pay phone anywhere nearby?”
The woman behind the counter smiled, completely ignoring the fact he was basically naked. “You can use ours, it’s down there.” She motioned to the end of the counter top, and Bruce smiled.
“Thanks.” He went over to the phone, picked up the receiver, and heard only static. “I think your phone’s out.”
“Oh,” she pouted. “It does that sometimes. It’ll kick back in soon. You want something to drink?”
Bruce shuffled his hands inside his pockets, and looked up awkwardly. “Ah, I’m afraid I don’t have any money on me…”
The woman smiled. “Your friends drove you out to the desert and left you? Stag night, looks like.”
“Ha. Yeah, kind of. I have this…friend… he enjoys doing things like this to me.”
“Sounds like a fun friend to have.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
“Well, I suppose the house could cover your expenses if…”
Bruce looked at her quizzically. “If…?”
“… You promise to come back and pay your tab…” She winked at him. He liked that. So many months he’d had no company but himself and his inner demons. Human contact relaxed him. Then terrified him. He was scared the beast would cling onto a stray neural burst, a stray piece of emotion, and erupt out of him.
“I think… I could do that…” He smiled, and looked at the three other people sitting in the diner. One was reading a newspaper, trucker cap pulled over his face, sitting rigid in a booth far away from him in the corner. Another, a brick house of a man, was snoring near the door, and the third man was eating cherry pie and drinking a cup of coffee.
“Br--” He caught himself. “Robert. Nice to meet you.”
“What can I get you?”
Bruce looked around. “Water please, Ann.”
There was something off about this place. This weird niggling feeling in the back of his head. “Run. Run. Run. Run,” the voice in his head whispered behind his eyes. At least his mouth wasn’t being co-opted this time around.
“Robert,” came a voice from behind him, the third man approaching him with a smile on his face. “That is your name, correct?”
“Yes, and you are?”
“Oh, my name is inconsequential, but you can call me Simon,” he winked. Bruce didn’t like that at all. The sense of wrongness was beginning to grow. “I was wondering if you knew where you were.”
“A diner? In the middle of nowhere? Being… interrogated (if you don’t mind me saying) by a curious fellow going by the name of Simon?”
Simon leaned in close. The first man, reading his newspaper, was now standing. The snoring from the second man had ceased. He too was standing. “You’re in the belly of the beast.”
Bruce’s heart wasn’t racing. His blood wasn’t pumping. “Are you threatening me?”
“Do you feel threatened?”
Bruce didn’t. The world was… spinning. Tilting on its axis.
“You don’t, do you?”
“What… have you done… to me?”
“Thank Ann. Mike, if you could?” Bruce was picked up roughly by the largest man, and flung over his shoulder. “We’re immune to each other’s powers, so we’re not feeling as lucid as you are. We’ve been hired by an old friend of yours.”
“RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN.”
“Let me… go… Put me… dowwn. Pleassssse.”
“No, Bruce. Yes, we know your name. We can’t put you down.”
“The monster inside you is chained up. Don’t worry. That won’t last forever. That’s when the fun begins.”
Everything was electric. The air snapped him into cold focus. He looked around, the darkness surrounding him and clawing at his bare skin. He was in the middle of nowhere, nowhere he could name, and in the darkness, he could hear voices. “Who’s there?”
Bruce fell back, the massive body of his alter ego slamming into the ground in front of him, snarling and thrashing about like a caged animal, the darkness playing around on the green-skinned monstrosity’s body like ants.
“…This is impossible.”
Bruce rubbed his eyes.
“This really is impossible.”
“PUNY BANNER GOT HULK TRAPPED. HULK TRAPPED NOW. HULK TRAPPED WITH BANNER.”
“Oh, God, we’re in my head. I’m in my head. I’m unconscious, and- and I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m a scientist, not a psychiatrist!”
He looked about the darkness, the shadows going off in every direction, no end in sight.
“Those… four people… caught me. Caught me completely unaware. Idiot! I’m an idiot.”
“Let me THINK! That’s ALWAYS been your problem! You never let me think! Always with your fists, never with my head, and…” He looked around. “I have no idea what they’re doing to me. We’re trapped here together. It’s all so clear.”
The Hulk rubbed its nose, and looked around. “Trapped.”
Bruce shook his head, desperation hitting him suddenly. “You need to get out of here. You need to get out of here else we’re going to be killed. They’re going to kill us.”
“GO. SAVE US.”
“Mike, you got him?” another voice broke in.
“Yeah, Simon, he’s…” Mike tapped Bruce on the back. Then Bruce was flung over Mike’s shoulder, the big man carrying the smaller scientist as they headed toward the desert. “He’s still out. This wasn’t so hard.”
Ann rolled her eyes. “Not hard for you! I had to regulate the release of the sedative in such a way his body wouldn’t react and compensate to it! For some guy that’s housing a monster inside of him, they sure do share a ridiculously messed up biology…”
“Heavy little bugger too, it’s like he’s put on a hundred pounds since… Oh, God…”
Mike looked at Bruce’s fist as it tripled in size and collided hard with his face. He fell to the floor, and Bruce flipped on to his feet, and continued to grow in stature.
“Try and TRAP Hulk?”
“Jimmy, hit him with your gamma rays! It’ll--” Simon was hit straight in the fact by a ton of desert rock as it was torn up from the ground by the Hulk, who was now completely green, completely ready for battle.
“HULK SMASH!” The green goliath threw himself at the man who was carrying him, who was busy tearing off a layer of what appeared to be flesh from his face, revealing a shining chrome finish underneath.
“Yeah, you think? COME ON THEN!” The Hulk collided with the metal man, who battered his fists down on the emerald flesh of his enemy. The Hulk grabbed the man by his torso and threw him up in the air, before spinning around again, ready to face whatever threat was left for him.
“Not anymore,” came the reply of the man who was burning off the same flesh coloured skin as he began to power up. “Not human.” His hands began to blur as a blast of swarming green energy hit the Hulk square in the chest.
The Hulk gnashed his teeth, spat and swore, and began to push forward, even as the bombardment of radiation burnt away layers of skin and muscle, only for them to be replaced again and again, his body adapting to all the conditions thrown against him.
The man’s eyes widened. “Sister, help?”
“On it, Jimmy!” Ann was suddenly a spinning vortex of gas. She threw up her immaterial hands and a gust of poisonous gas hit the Hulk. “This should put him out like a light--”
The Hulk fell silent, and Simon pulled himself up, his own skin now flaking off like paper, revealing a gold and black body suit underneath. He too joined the bombardment, razor sharp blades of pure mental power joining the fray. “Put him in the ground!”
The Hulk was nearly overwhelmed. The power of these individuals was monumental. Sand kicked up in his face, and yet he soldiered on. He was suddenly standing right in front of the lithest man, who was bombarding him with radioactive energy. A flick to the face put him out like a light. He grabbed the man by his ankle, and turned to the apparent leader of the group.
“Uh, no--!” Simon was hit straight across the face with Jimmy, and they were on the ground in seconds. The Hulk finally turned his attention to Ann, who was still upping the ante with the chemical storm she was releasing into the air.
“Come on! Come on! Fall, dammit!” Ann screamed.
The Hulk shook his head slowly, and then released the lungful of air he had taken in before her attack directly at her, dissipating her completely, scattering her across the desert.
The metal man climbed up next. “Y’think you’re… so damn strong…” He trudged slowly across the desert, fists balled up, heading straight for the Hulk. “… I’ll show you… strong…”
“No need, Ironclad,” came another voice, and the Hulk turned to be confronted by a strange sight. “I’ll sort this problem out.”
The man pulled up a weapon. “Thank General Ross for this, Banner.” The weapon fired, hitting the Hulk square in the chest, and energy wracked about his body, the discharge being absorbed into his every orifice. “The Gamma-Booster-DNA-Extrapolator-Ray-Blaster has so much potential. Not to kill, of course, but it can force the absorption of gamma radiation into subjects, and it can, of course, trigger the change in YOU, Banner.”
Bruce Banner staggered about, suddenly human, suddenly weak.
“Wh-who are you?”
“Who am I, Banner? Who are you” He approached the weakened scientist, and grabbed him by the throat, scrawny fingers clawing at his jugular. “Are you man? Are you monster? Or are you neither? Are you something less than the sum of your parts? Less than human?”
“I am the Leader, Banner. I am your better. Goodnight.” He stabbed him in the neck with a hypodermic needle, and everything
TO BE CONTINUED
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