And there came a day unlike any other...
'Move, AVENGERS, move!' Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America orders as a large green fist almost slams down on top of them. Thor pulls Cap to safety, while the Vision turns intangible so the fist passes through his form. Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man propels himself to safety, while Carol Danvers a.k.a. Warbird lifts Dr Hank Pym a.k.a. Goliath (or at least someone posing as him) out of harm's way as Jan van Dyne a.k.a. The Wasp flies alongside them, and Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver picks up his sister Wanda the Scarlet Witch and races her far from the fist.
...when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat – on that day, the Avengers were born, to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand. Case in point: Kalkhimithia, Greece, an enter town was turned, for unknown reasons and through only partly-known methods, into creatures like the incredible Hulk. And when the Avengers attempted to deal with the situation... the problem only grew worse – massively worse.
'Everybody get clear! I'll hold him off – for as long as I can!' Iron Man tells his teammates. Thor drops Captain America to the ground, while Warbird calls out 'Nice going there, Goliath! If you hadn't come up with that stupid plan to merge all the Hulks together and shrink them down...' 'Huh? What're you saying, Warbird? You're saying this was my fault!' Goliath snaps. 'It was your plan' Carol reminds him.
'And it was a good plan!' Goliath retorts, adding that it would have worked, too, if that giant green galoot hadn't stomped on his porta-lab. Hank adds that the Hulks were already unstable, so who is to say they wouldn't have merged anyway. 'Even if -' Goliath begins, when suddenly, he lurches forward in agony. 'Goliath!' Carol exclaims, while Jan calls out to him, too. Warbird puts Hank on the ground. 'Hank, what – what is it?' Jan enquires, asking him if he is having those seizures again. 'You should have told me!' Jan exclaims. Carol leaves him and returns to the battle, while Goliath clutches his head and asks 'What for? Just... worry you. We tested and tested... found nothing... don't worry about me. I'll be fine...' Hank utters. 'But, Hank -' Jan begins, when suddenly her communicator signals. 'You're team leader... take the call...'
Jan pauses before tapping the communicator on her wrist. 'Avengers here. What do you have for us?' Agent Litharis from SHIELD introduces himself, and informs her that he is transferring an urgent communique to her – from Dr Leonard Samson. Doc Samson appears in the communications bubble that hovers before the Wasp. Bruce Banner and Angela Lipscombe can be seen behind him. Doc Samson greets the Wasp and tells her that the real Hulk is with him, so he hopes she understands that the Hulk creature that she is facing is not him, and he doesn't have anything to do with it. 'Never mind that now, Leonard. We called you, Jan – because I want to put a stop this as much as you do – maybe more. If I can be of any help, I'll – I'll do whatever I can. Just call on me' Bruce declares. Goliath has been watching the discussion and tells Jan that he has another plan, but they will need Banner in Greece , ASAP. Jan agrees, and tells Bruce that they need a place they can pick him up.
Once that is arranged, the Waps puts a call into the Mansion, but she finds a wide-eyed Jarvis, with flames in the background answering her call. The Wasp tells Jarvis that they need him to reach Silverclaw and get her in a Quinjet – Jarvis interrupts her, and moves from the front of the communication bubble, enabling the Wasp to see the fiery destruction behind him, he tells the Wasp that will not be possible, as Diablo has struck directly across the street from the Mansion, and Silverclaw is there now, trying to contain him. Jarvis adds that he was about to call the Wasp for help himself, as he fears Silverclaw is rather overmatched. 'Perhaps, though, SHIELD could assist you?' he suggests.
The Wasp explains that this is not a job for them, as it involves Bruce Banner, and SHIELD would just arrest him. Jan tells herself that Wonder Man and Triathlon are halfway across the Atlantic by now, and She-Hulk is in Albany for a court case. 'I'll go' Quicksilver announces as he speeds over to the Wasp. 'Pietro?' Goliath asks. The Wasp tells Quicksilver that he cannot get across the Atlantic, not faster than they could send a Quinjet, but Pietro speeds off, announcing that he is faster than he was when last he was on the Avengers roster – much faster. He reaches the shore and doesn't slow down – racing out across the Mediterrannean so fast the water is practically solid underfoot. He cannot use this sort of speed in battle – he needs room to accelerate up to it. But since his powers were fully awakened by the High Evolutionary's Isotope E – he no longer knows the upper limits of his speed!
Iron Man, Thor and Warbird continue to try and stop the massive Hulk creature, while the Wasp tells Hank that he better stay back where it is safe, until they can get him to a medlab. 'What, honey... and miss all the fun?' Hank replies as he increases his form to giant size. 'What now, Wasp?' Iron Man calls out. The Wasp frowns as she tells Iron Man that now they keep that monster occupied as long as possible and try to find a way to help Silverclaw, too.
At that moment, Maria de Gaudalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw is in a monkey form, but she cannot move, cannot even breathe – but she can see beyond the amber capsule that Diablo has trapped her in. The alchemist stands nearby and remarks that Silverclaw was not much trouble, and that he thought his little ploy woud have rid him of all the Avengers for the night, allowing him to work undisturbed. 'Still, it may as well have, hmm?' he jokes. What Silverclaw sees is that smug, preening arrogance – and it gives her the strength, the strength she needs to shift to her puma form, and breaks through the amber capsule. 'FREE!' Silverclaw exclaims. 'Eh -?' Diablo utters. 'Resourceful, child – changing your size where strength could not serve you. But do you really think you can stop me?' Diablo asks, tossing some pebble-like objects towards Silverclaw.
'Dios Mio!' Silverclaw gasps as the pebble-like objects suddenly turn into large, thick vines that surround her. She does not think she can stop Diablo. She has read of him – he has fought the Fantastic Four many times, posed a deadly, threat to some of the best the world has – and she is alone against him. But still, the sneer in his voice – she does not care for it. 'No! Your vines could snare my sloth-form, yes – but I am Silverclaw, daughter of the goddess Peliali – and the power of all the animals of my homeland is mine to call upon!' Silverclaw declares as she switches from the large sloth form into an agile, lithe monkey, escaping the vines, she moves towards Diablo. 'How nice for you, but perhaps you didn't hear me. I am Diablo'
Diablo then scatters a powder in the air which the wind tears towards Silverclaw, tumbling her over, raking her flesh – and it is all she can do to catch the wind and ride it, in a large parrot form. She soars over Diablo and drops down on the other side of him. 'Why did you destroy this building, Diablo? What are you after?' Silverclaw asks.
'So. You react swiftly to changing surroundings – so let us try changing you' Diablo exclaims as he throws a substance over Silverclaw, and she suddenly turns to a salt. 'Can you shape shift your way out of that? No?' Diablo asks. He turns from Silverclaw and tells her that she should have run – she really should have. He turns back to matters of importance and announces that he has penetrated deep below the foundation now, to strata undisturbed for millennia – undisturbed since the primitives here were barely more than apes, when they worshipped unspeakable N'garai gods.
A large explosion clears some of the earth, and Diablo grins as he pulls the Tablet of T'hehly'eh from it, just as he sensed – the power to shatter the barriers between worlds is now his – and nothing can stop him in his mission.
Still turned to salt, no more able to prevent it then a helpless infant, Silverclaw feels the world growing cold and dry around her. Should she have run? Can she shape-shift her way out of this? A spark of life still burns within her – and that spark flares and gives her her answer. 'AAH!' Silverclaw cries out as she bursts free of the salt prison. 'Lupe! Are you all right?' Jarvis calls out as he rushes over to his sponsor-child. Rubbing her head, Silverclaw confirms that she is, and remarks that she is a shapeshifter, and that it seems she cannot be held in one form, even on so alien to her. 'But Diablo...' Silverclaw begins, looking over to where the madman is still holding the Tablet of T'hehly'eh. Jarvis tells Silverclaw to let Diablo go, as the Avengers know he is here and they will deal with him. 'No, Tio Edwin. I won't hide – and I won't let him go! I'm an Avenger – and like you told me – Avengers don't quit!' Silverclaw calls out as she switches to her panther form and leaps towards the surprised Diablo.
Meantime, in Slorenia, inside an installation on the borders of the devastated Baltic nation, where two Avengers assist SHIELD agents in their investigation into the movements of Slorenia's sole inhabitant. Red clouds swirl across the sky and lightning strikes the ground, while, inside the small SHIELD compound, Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight announces that he doesn't like this, as the Bloodwraith has retreated to the interior, deep inside the mists – almost as if he is daring them to come after him – darking them into an ambush. Bonita Juarez a.k.a. Firebird suggests that the Bloodwraith might sense the Black Knight and his former link to the curse that transformed him. 'Maybe, Firebird. But -' Dane begins to reply, when suddenly, an alarm signals, and Dane asks one of the SHIELD agents if it is the Bloodwraith. 'No. But whatever it is – it's enormously powerful' the agent announces, pointing at a map which shows the radius of a sudden upsurge in radiation, so large that even their sensors, trained on Slorenia, picked it up all the way from Siberia. Bonita goes wide-eyed, while Dane remarks that although they are stationed here, they can't just ignore this.
Back in Greece, Thor slams his mighty hammer into the massive Hulk-creature's face and calls out 'Ho, monster! Hear the words of Thor, son of Odin, and know ye this – though shalt not pass!' but for all his might, the Thunder God's blow rocks the behemoth back only a little – and then the behemoth slams his own fist into Thor, knocking him back to the ground. 'If force will not stop you, creature – perhaps temporary blindness -' the Vision suggests as he blasts a beam of intense energy into the creature's eyes. 'We're slowing him!' Wanda calls out as she releases a hex against the green giant. 'But not stopping him, Wanda! And there's a city in his path!' Captain America exclaiming, motioning to the nearby city.
Cap tells Thor that he knows there are innocents inside that beast, but that they are running out of time. He asks Thor if he can use his hammer and create a dimensional rift they can dump it through until they have a solution. Thor tells Cap that he does not know, and explains that the rifts his hammmer creates depends on so many factors – from the cycle of seasons to the alignment of the stars. 'Thou dost ask for a large rift indeed – but I shall try -' Thor then adds, when suddenly, a voice calls out 'NO!' Cap and Thor turn to see Quicksilver has returned, carrying someone on his back, wearing a breathing mask. Quicksilver announces that he has returned with Banner, as requested. 'So make what use of him you need. For my part, I fear – I fear I -' Pietro begins, as he stumbles to the ground. Wanda rushes over to her brother's side, and looks in shock at his bloodied and bruised feet – his boots have been worn away, and Pietro points out that he shall need more durable boots after this.
Banner goes over to Goliath and informs him that he was thinking on the trip over, that perhaps they could revert the creature with his old gamma-electrodes, or a cathexis ray. 'Maybe those would work, Doctor Banner... but we don't have any of the equipment, or the time'. Pym adds that he has another idea, one which will need both Banner and Wanda. Suddenly, Warbird fires another blast of energy at the green giant's face, as Thor slams his hammer into the other side of the creature's face, while Iron Man hovers nearby. Goliath tells those near him that gamma radiation has created a number of creatures over the years, but the mutation is unique to each individual, unpredictable – but here, though, everyone became a Hulk – they have had Banner's transformation imposed on them, which he thinks is the key.
Back in New York, Silverclaw is knocked aside by a large arachnid-creature that grew at Diablo's command – grew from the rubble of the shattered building itself. It moves like wind and smoke, and strikes like thunder, lashing out at Silverclaw again, however the young hero leaps from the most recent attack. Diablo calls the creature the Petrachnus and asks Silverclaw if it is too much for her. 'Blast this, Diablo! I'll get past this thing – and then -!' Silverclaw calls out. 'I hardly think so' Diablo smirks. He tells Silverclaw that she is a plucky girl, but pluck isn't enough.
Suddenly, there is a whistling noise, and Diablo looks upwards – but before he can do anything, a burst of ionic energy slams into him, and knocks him to the ground. 'Hi there! I didn't miss the party, did I?' Wonder Man grins as he stands over Diablo. 'Wonder Man!' the villain exclaims, Jarvis rushes over to Silverclaw. 'And Triathlon!' Triathlon smiles as he leaps from the Quinjet down to the ground. 'Just in case you're not up on your Avengers these days' he adds. Triathlon explains that they were halfway to Greece, but then the Wasp told them to turn around and come back and lend Silverclaw a hand. 'Keeping Diablo pinned down this long, by yourself – that's great work, kid' Wonder Man tells Silverclaw. 'BAH! You'll be no more effective than she was! I'll just -' Diablo begins, reaching inside his cloak for a vial, he finds it missing.
'Going for this?' Triathlon asks, holding the glowing vial. 'WHAT?' Diablo exclaims, turning, he sees Triathlon holding several vials in his hands. 'Or this? This? Or this?' Triathlon jokes. Triathlon then drops the vials and they clatter to the ground as he grabs Diablo and holds him into the air. 'The hand is quicker than the eye, devil-man – waay quicker, in my case' Triathlon boasts, warning Diablo not to try using the positions soaked into his moustache, either. 'Why, you -' Diablo begins, gritting his teeth. 'I read up on you on the way back. And I'm ready for those, too!' Triathlon exclaims, putting Diablo back on the ground, he clenches a fist, ready to strike. 'Traithlon, don't!' Silverclaw exclaims, suddenly lunging forward and slamming her own fist into Diablo's face. 'He called me “plucky” - can you believe it? “Plucky”!' Siverclaw frowns, while Jarvis, Triathlon and Wonder Man smile.
In Greece, the Avengers stand near Banner. They know that he controls his transformations into the Hulk these days, that he can choose to transform into any of several different incarnations including an intelligent, rational Hulk. But few of their number have witnessed it – and foreknowledge makes it no less unsettling – to suddenly have a monster in their midst – and to have him so calm, so centred. 'All right, Avengers – I guess there's no time like the present' Bruce remarks as he transforms into the Hulk. 'Ahh... right. Shall we?' Goliath asks, before Warbird asks Dr Banner if he is ready, and she and Iron Man lift him skyward towards the Hulk-creature that is carrying on towards the city. 'Actually, no. I just agreed to this for the frequent-flier miles' Banner jokes as Warbird and Iron Man let go of him, he falls to the back of the large green giant, who turns, seeing the Hulk out of the corner of its eye.
'Well, this is a new experience. I'm the bug getting swatted' the Hulk jokes as the green giant reaches to grab him. 'Not this time, big fella. Avengers...now!' the Hulk calls out, and down below, the Scarlet Witch concentrates, putting the finishing touches on a hex she has been preparing for the last few minutes. She releases the chaos-magic that is her birthright upwards, it flows from her hands and strikes the Hulk-creature's head, and the true Hulk, linking the gamma-irradiated cells of Bruce Banner's body to those of the others, extending the instability that allowed it to merge with its fellow-Hulks, extending it to Banner. 'It's working! I can feel it! I'm going – going -' the Hulk calls out, as the Avengers watch in shock, as the Hulk melts into the green behemoth's head!
The creature clutches its head, then Banner calls out 'I'm in!' however, he struggles, as there are so many voices – too many thoughts in his head. 'I don't care how many voices there are – I'm the top dog – I'm gonna be in charge -' one of the Hulk persona's declares, before a more savage Hulk takes control: 'No! Get out of Hulk's head, puny voices! Get out! You are not Hulk! Only Hulk is Hulk! Do you hear Hulk, voices?' the savage Hulk exclaims. 'This is it – either it happens, or...' Goliath begins, as energy radiates around the creature, 'Only Hulk is -' the Hulk calls out, when suddenly, the massive creature is torn apart, and the innocent – and very naked – civilians, start to plummet to the ground. 'It worked! He took over the communal mind – and forced the others out! Okay Avengers – go!' Goliath calls out.
'There be too many to catch at once – but the winds shall keep a godly number aloft!' Thor calls out as he spins his hammer, creating a funnel which enables the civilians to fall safely to the ground. Wanda casts some hex-spheres which brings some more of the civilians down to safety, and she instructs Iron Man to use low-level repulsor-waves to do the same. The Avengers rise to the occasion, saving the lives as only they can. Goliath increases his form and collects several of the civilians, while the Vision catches Dr Banner, Quicksilver and Warbird both catch others. 'Got you, ma'am' Warbird smiles. The Vision assures Dr Banner that he has got him, and explains that he has kept his exterior solid while reducing his interior density so that they descend slowly. Banner thanks the Vision, while the Wasp tells Cap that it is over, before her communication badge signals. 'Another call coming in' the Wasp remarks, as Triathlon, Wonder Man, Silverclaw, Jarvis and the captive Diablo appear in the viewing portal. 'Heighdy team! How's it hanging?' Triathlon exclaims, while Wonder Man reports that they have things in hand here, and a few answers for them.
One explanation later, the citizens of Kalkhimithia sit around naked and look at the Avengers. Thor rests on some rocks, while Iron Man fixes his damaged armor. The Scarlet Witch bandages Quicksilver's feet, while Goliath and Warbird check on some of the civilians, and the Vision hands Banner the rest of his clothing. 'You mean – he did this... all of this... as nothing but a diversion?' the Wasp asks. 'A madman. An utter madman' Cap frowns, adding that at least they captured Diablo and he won't be a further threat. Diablo laughs wickedly: 'You think you have captured Diablo? Fools! I am not Diablo!' he calls out, suddenly, his green and purple coloring of his costume fades to a grayish-brown color, and he reveals himself as a mere homunculus, sent to secure the artifact that would free his master from the otherdimensional realm where hhe lies trapped. 'And while I may have failed – Estaban Diablo will never be defeated...' the fascimile of Diablo boasts, before crumbling to dust, and the shocked Wonder Man, Triathlon and Silverclaw are helpless to do anything.
Iron Man sighs and points out that it never ends. 'We fight as hard as we can, and we barely stay in one place, much less stem the tide of the threats out there.... Captain America looks over at the citizens of Kalkhimithia and telsl Iron Man that they try harder than ever. 'Nobody said out new approach would be easy – just that it was worth doing. We put Diablo back up on the threat board, stay alert for signs of his presence – and continue doing what we can'. Banner then asks 'What about me?' and reveals that he is working on a solution, trying to make sure the real Hulk will never be a threat again. 'But I am wanted by the law...' he reminds the Avengers. The Wasp tells him not to worry, and reminds Banner that he was one of the founding Avengers, and that he has certainly lived up to that today, saving countless lives. The Wasp adds that she thinks the world is better served by Banner working on a cure, not being confined in a jail that almost assuredly couldn't hold the Hulk. Jan adds that they should set up regular communications with Banner, in case something should go wrong, and as the Avengers gather around, Banner agrees that that seems fair, while Goliath hangs back from the group.
The heroes are unaware, however, that they are being watched. A man observes them on several monitors and declares that they are weary, at a low ebb. 'And our plans are complete. We should strike...' he suggests, but another man replies 'At last I agree with you, my son. But it matters now how weary they are. Let them be fresh, let them be at their greatest strength – for if we have planned well, and if we are bold, courageous and steadfast, then no forcer in the universe will be able to stand against Kang the Conqueror – and the Scarlet Centurion!'