Gamma Base, at an undisclosed location, the Life Model Decoy known simply as “Annie” stands near a series of computers and monitors, and via communicator announces that Alpha Flight are in the nutrient baths with electrostimulus, like both She-Hulks. ‘For all the good it may or may not do’ she mutters. Indeed, as Aurora, Snowbird and Sasquatch are held in the stasis tanks, alongside both She-Hulks, the other members of Alpha Flight - Guardian, Shaman and Puck - stand near their teammates, watching over them. Annie reports that the satellite array is showing lots of interesting activity in the area where her companions are. ‘Can you tell me what’s happening?’ Annie calls out over the communicator, but gets no response.
Annie continues, reporting that from her view, all naval traffic is being cut off by abnormal currents and wave formations, and the same thing is happening in the air, with focused category five winds, like a hurricane wall has gone up around Central America. Annie adds that she doesn’t know if she can stall Captain America much longer. ‘He knows you’re deep inside and is waiting on your word’ she reminds her companion. ‘I hope you’re getting this. My signal from Machine Man is below weak. Has something gone wrong? Can you aty least reassure me you’re still alive?’ Annie asks.
But, lying on a slab inside a temple on Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, General Ross a.k.a. the Red Hulk’s half-withered body is motionless, he is unable to respond. The mangled remains of Aaron Stack the Machine Man are scattered on the ground.
Rick Jones a.k.a. A-Bomb finds himself snared by the snake-body of the Mayan God-King, Kukulcan the Mighty. ‘Who would challenge the Mayan court? Now that it is once again under the wing of Kukulcan the Mighty? With this sacrifice, I return!’ he boasts. The other Mayan gods look up at their leader, who rises higher and higher, eyes glowing, energy bursting around him. ‘Hail the feathered serpent!’ one of them gasps. ‘Kukulcan the Great!’ another exclaims. ‘Kukulcan the Infinite!’ the third, Ah Puch calls out. A-Bomb’s body is tossed to the ground, and Red Hulk rushes over to him. But before he can pull him to safety, the forest god, Yum Kaax rises from the ground, and pulls A-Bomb up high with him. ‘He will be entombed in a place of honor, and written into our new codex’ Yum Kaax announces, pointing out that it was he who freed them from their prison and brought back Kukulcan.
‘You think you didn’t like being trapped in a rock?’ Red Hulk asks. ‘Wait until I bury you with it!’ he warns the god, but Machine Man extends an arm to keep Red Hulk at bay. Machine Man tells Red Hulk that they are in a dept that may be insurmountable, given their resources and knowledge at the moment. He adds that upon the chief god’s arrival, the others began moving more orderly, as if they are a completed system. ‘This may be crucial -’ he begins, but Red Hulk pushes on forward, ignoring him. ‘So you’re saying “attack”’ Machine Man mutters.
Kukulcan hisses as Red Hulk leaps up and kicks him in the face. ‘I’m going to make you into boots and stomp your friends with them!’ Red Hulk boasts. Kukulcan tells the “northern god” that he speaks brave. ‘But when Kukulcan speaks…the world burns!’ the Mayan god king howls as flaming energy bursts from his mouth, scorching Red Hulk and knocking him backwards. Tohil, the fire god laughs as Red Hulk falls towards the nearby temple. Machine Man realizes that Kukulcan’s blast was no random one, and extends an arm to grab hold of Red Hulk. ‘Try to stop yourself!’ he calls out. ‘Do not cross the threshold!’ Machine Man exclaims as his arm approaches Red Hulk - only he isn’t able to reach him, and a glowing energy appears as Red Hulk falls into the top of the temple.
However, ‘Grapple - full extension!’ Machine Man shouts, as a grapple projectile is released from the palm of his hand, and latches on to Red Hulk, as half of his body is covered by the glowing green energy. ‘Retracting!’ Machine Man shouts as he pulls back, retracting his arms, and the Red Hulk is sucked from the glowing energy. Kukulcan sees this and is not happy. ‘Brothers of fire! His puppet interferes, come close!’ the god king shouts, as Tohil and Jacawitz, the volcano god, move towards Machine Man. ‘Melt the machine!’ Tohil calls out, but Jacawitz points out that Machine Man is resisting the heat. ‘But all metal melts. From magma it comes. From magma it returns’ Jacawitz adds, as he surrounds Machine Man in molten lava. ‘Uh-oh’ Machine Man utters, as his body begins to melt.
At the side of the temple, Ixchel the Jaguar Goddess appears alongside Kukulcan, who tells her to put Red Hulk back in, as they need all life. Ixchel replies that the Red Hulk is the most powerful yet, before motioning to the temple, where another Mayan god begins to materialize. ‘Even part of his life force was enough to ignite the next god!’ Ixchel exclaims. Kukulcan asks her who returns, and Ixchel announces that it is their brother, Ah-Muzencab, the God of Bees. A swarm of bees accompanies the strange god, and Red Hulk, his form still half-withered, looks up, and mutters ‘Bees…’, before Ah-Muzencab suddenly looks in pain, and falls to the ground. Yum Kaax calls out to him, asking him what is wrong, before surmising that something is wrong with the process. ‘Ah-Muzencab! Go back!’ Yum Kaax calls out, but the God of Bees is unable to move, and an instant later, explodes.
‘Red? Aaron? Is anyone receiving me?’ Annie calls out again over the communicator. ‘Okay. Trying again. Red. Aaron. Can anyone hear me?’ Annie asks. With half his mouth withered closed, Red Hulk finally utters ‘Annie’, but so quietly. ‘Please respond. We’re weighing lots of options here now that the military is being turned back’ she states. Annie adds that she is having a hard time convincing Captain America to not bring everyone with powers in. ‘We want to help, if you’re there and can give any direction, I’ll check back in two hours’ Annie announces. Red Hulk manages to turn his head, ‘Aaron. Why…didn’t you…respond?’ he enquires. ‘Oh’ he utters when he sees Machine Man’s broken body.
As he has been hearing Annie’s voice, Red Hulk knows that Machine Man’s radio still works, so decides there must be something else that he can do. But he is unable to move his body. Suddenly, there is a scratching sound, and from Machine Man’s body a small object that looks like a disc with spider-legs crawls towards him. ‘What…the hell is…’ Red Hulk mutters, before the disc projects a holo-image of Machine Man’s face. ‘It is I’ Machine Man announces. ‘Are you sure?’ Red Hulk asks. Machine Man explains that everything that is essentially him is compressed into a memory stick, but he doesn’t have full processing power nor any of his armament, however, his remaining repair nanos were able to build this form so he can communicate.
‘You are severely compromised’ Machine Man announces. ‘Sharp as ever’ Red Hulk replies, before revealing that turning his head almost made him pass out. ‘How am I even alive?’ he enquires. Machine Man states that the last thing he remembers was stopping Red Hulk from entering the pyramid’s energy field. ‘I assume they threw me into this pit for later study, as if I were but accessory gear of yours’ he adds. ‘You’re not?’ Red Hulk jokes, before Machine Man remarks that the Mayan entities do not acknowledge him as a life form, adding that when he is out of sight, the entities have no awareness of his presence. Machine Man suggests that this could give them an edge. ‘Oh yeah. We’ve clearly got the edge here’ Red Hulk mutters, while the disc-Machine Man extends a tendril, that latches onto Red Hulk’s eye, on his healthy side of the body.
Machine Man remarks that he suspects that is how Annie, also an android, and also invisible to the Mayans, was able to infiltrate the pyramid. The tendril pulls back from Red Hulk’s eye, but a small device remains attached to his eye, and Machine Man explains that this will allow Red Hulk to see what he sees. ‘I will speak to you through the radio still working in my body. This way, we can observe what has transpired’ he points out. The spider-legs of the disc-Machine Man begin to climb up the side of the pit wall. ‘What’s taking so long?’ Red Hulk calls out. Machine Man calls back that the pit was fifty meters deep, before announcing that he is surfacing.
‘Holy hell! It looks like the end of the world out there!’ Red Hulk exclaims as the device enables him to see what the disc-Machine Man looks at. What they see are several large temples, with the Mayan gods atop them. Fireballs are thrown through the air, and civilians are climbing up the temples. Machine Man remarks that there are several more Mayan entities, most from lower hierarchy deities, from what his studies interpret. Machine Man states that he is going to make some more assumptions, to which Red Hulk tells him to go for it. Machine Man suggests that the entities have successfully struck fear into the populace of the region, and many are now falling into line. ‘This is direct tribal worship, some even wear the dress of their Mesoamerican ancestry’ he adds.
‘In a brief time, they have recreated the zenith of their glory days. Built on the bodies of the heroes of today’ Machine Man announces, while Ixchel stands and raises her hands high, ‘Worshippers come forth! Show your reverence!’ she booms. Kukulcan is coiled alongside Ixchel, with bodies crushed around him, he hisses and tells the civilians to offer all they have, or else it shall be taken. Machine Man’s disc-form carries on through the chaos, and he reports that an archivist god is working on a codex, the written history of the Maya. ‘This may provide answers’ he tells Red Hulk. The small form of Machine Man climbs up behind the archivist, and Red Hulk mutters that it looks like a comic book, while asking Machine Man what it says.
Machine Man asks Red Hulk to be patient, as he can’t process as fast in this form. ‘Referencing all of the Mayan history and hieroglyphs I downloaded the other day…’ Machine Man begins as he reports that the history goes back over one thousand years, where a small tribe of Maya were chased by another tribe from their forest home, forced into a region with poor hunting, they found an isolated spring in the mountains. Soon, after drinking from it, the natives began to collapse, and some died, while most lay in a comatose state for several days. Machine Man observes the hieroglyphs and supposes that the spring was connected to a subterranean pocket of Terrigen Crystals, and states that upon recovering, the tribal members found they could speak to each other telepathically, which was assumed to be a gift from the gods.
Machine Man continues, informing the Hulk that the tribe returned to their former home, with an enormous stealth advantage over their enemies, in control of the forest, they began pilgrimages to their secret spring to renew their abilities. However, it soon became clear that the Super-Maya could not breed outside their own. The next generation, like Ixchel, had more focused ability, such as low level mind control. They could see another spectrum of energy, but it is described as one generated by the rending of life. Machine Man assumes that this happens in another dimension, as he is unfamiliar with it, but the third generation of the tribe found they could absorb it. The Super-Maya began to understand the rudimentary physics of the process, and wearing a precise pattern of jade crystal, they could help attract the energy.
Machine Man reveals that by slowing the process, bloodletting, the Super-Mayas allowed it to happen at a speed they could better take it in. The fourth generation began to live much longer, they had found the key to immortality. The fifth and final generation began to develop more abilities - they had their slaves build pyramids over physical power-spots, designed to focus enormous currents of the life-wave. They found that killing off their forebears yielded even more power, as draining that of Alpha Flight and the She-Hulks has. Machine Man declares that the Super-Mayas own myths began to shape them, as each specialised in an area of worship, the Mayans created their own gods. Machine Man reports that at this point, the archivist is still engraving, something about twins who revelled against their fellow deities.
Suddenly, someone - or something - picks up the disc-Machine Man. ‘Stack? You still there? I lost the signal. Come in’ Red Hulk calls out. There is a loud rumbling, and Red Hulk tells Machine Man that something is happening. ‘Can you hear anything from out there?’ Red Hulk asks. The rumbling continues, and Red Hulk decides that it sounds like big machinery, or an earthquake. Dust rushes in over Red Hulk, while, outside, Ah-Puch rises high into the air: ‘Gather our people, come to the lower temple. You will see the ceremony as your ancestors did’ he announces.
Smoke rises and Ah-Puch states that tonight they will deal with those who interfere, as the red god’s life brings them no strength, for it destroyed Ah-Muzencab, the first of the Super-Maya to die in centuries. ‘But our people will see his death and know who it is for’. Ah-Puch removes his cowl, revealing his maggot-covered face. ‘Their gods. Tohil, bring the fire! We demand sacrifice!’ Ah-Puch exclaims, and on cue, fire rushes through the temple, towards Red Hulk’s unmoving body….