A news channel rolls video footage of Cyclops, flanked by his fellow X-Men, blasting the Hulk with his optic powers. Narrating the images, a news anchor explains that a different kind of spectacle tore up the Las Vegas strip last night… when the “jade juggernaut” known as the Hulk clashed with a group of costumed mutants believed to be the X-Men. As the video switches to images of the tanks and soldiers on foot, the anchor continues that the latest metahuman outrage was cut mercifully short… by the prompt intervention of the Hulkbusters, a military unit tasked to capture the rampaging monster. But the combatants escaped, free to fight again.
Continuing, the anchor explains that the officials who claim that this incident was merely a skirmish between factions in some sort of super-war have been challenged by another tourist video… which seems to show the X-Men in conversation with the Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner. “Mute!” the Leader orders his console of monitors, immediately silencing the anchor as he appears next to the images of Bruce Banner and the X-Men. Declaring him a prattling moron, the Leader sneers that idle speculation is for mental midgets. True intelligence can acquire and process all available data. Nearby, a robot server, binging tray carrying a bottle of beverage with some of its contents already in a flute glass, dutifully agrees. Yes, my Leader.
Though the video is muted, the Leader continues to watch the scene play out and orders his system to zoom enhance. He repeats the order again and the system centers on the mouth of Banner, whose lips the Leader reads. “Xavier,” the Leader repeats. Turning to his robot, the Leader notes that it’s a single word to complete a puzzle… that began with a NASA report of an alien planetoid on a collision course with Earth. Yes, great Leader, the robot promptly agrees.
The planetoid turned back, the Leader continues. At the same moment, a massive psychic pulse united all human consciousness in common purpose. A feat he sensed was achieved by a single mind… sensed by could not prove until the events in Las Vegas. And twenty-two minutes later, at one of Banner’s secret laboratories he had the foresight to keep under surveillance. Then, just three hours later, a burst of gamma energy in Westchester County, New York… at the school of one Charles Xavier. Et voila!
(the Nevada desert, night)
In mid-leap, the incredible Hulk finds himself the target of the latest of the Hulbusters’ Hulk busting strategy: a volley of supersonic stinger missiles with high explosive warheads. Though the explosive fury of the blast does him no harm, the Hulk is thrown off course and falls back to the Earth, still pursued by more rockets, which close in fast. As he has done in the past, the Hulk attempts to catch one to toss back at his attackers, as he’s done in the past. Unfortunately, their new gamma proximity trigger causes the missile to explode in his hand.
Nevertheless, the Hulk is not hampered by strategy. Lifting a multi-ton boulder, he demonstrates his contentment for low tech solutions and tosses the rock the vast distance between him and the missile-firing vehicle. One vehicle explodes on impact, causing soldiers to scatter in all directions. As no more missiles are fired, the Hulk opts not to escalate. The simple truth is that the Hulk just wants peace. To be left alone. With that, he leaps away, into the night.
Back at his mansion in Westchester, Professor Xavier examines electronic components beneath a magnifying glass. Standing behind him, Jean Grey tells the professor that he should be resting, to which Hank McCoy agrees. He was in a coma until a few hours ago. Arms crossed, Cyclops adds that he understands that the professor feels indebted to Doctor Banner but sure this could wait until…
Interrupting without taking his attention away from his work, Xavier replies that he appreciates Scott’s concern, but he witnessed the man’s torment first-hand. It’s a miracle he has managed to control the Hulk until now. Banner controls the Hulk? Angel asks. On some level, yes, Xavier confirm. A logical deduction, the Beast muses. In Las Vegas, they asked Banner for the device, yet it was the Hulk who led them to it. That’s part of it, Xavier replies, still engrossed in his work. When he corresponded with Banner about building a device to treat mental exhaustion… he assumed Banner intended it for general practice.
Hearing this, Jean asks if he means it’s a cure for himself? Without a doubt, Xavier says. Asked by Cyclops why didn’t Banner use it, Xavier explains that he tried… and failed. He also believes the device requires a telepathic component. When the Beast then notes that his choice of words implies a degree of uncertainty, Xavier explains that the device doesn’t contain a power source. Ingeniously, it is designed to be powered by the gamma energy in Banner’s own cells. A residual charge in the machine was sufficient for them to treat him. But that is now spent. There’s only one way to test his theory.
Seeing the professor suddenly show signs of exhaustion, Cyclops again voices that he doesn’t see why this can’t wait. Rubbing his forehead, Xavier replies that the residual charge that cured him carried a psychic imprint. An echo of the spiritual torment Banner endures… He’ll never be able to rest until he’s done all he can to help Banner be free.
(the Nevada desert)
After multiple leaps, the Hulk finally leaps no more. Finally, he is alone. Sitting down on a boulder, the Hulk takes in the silent night sky. And the view… mesmerizing. High above, the sky is full of stars, which the Hulk views through gamma-powered eyes, which gaze into infinity. His mind uncomprehending and lost in wonder, the Hulk reaches out with his massive hand. However, as a sense of calm falls over him, the massive, green hand of the Hulk begins to shrink in size and change to a more human color. Words also come into his head and the heavens are more comprehensible. Orion. Nebula. Beteleuse.
Hours away, though within the desert, Professor X and his X-Men depart their aircraft. Having revisited the site of their previous encounter, Angel notes that there must have been another rockslide after their battle with the Hulk. Climbing up the rock face, Beast announces good news… only the doorway is obstructed. The laboratory is virtually unscathed. Down below, Cyclops orders the rest of the team to take cover behind the ship. However, Havok steps forwards and passes Cyclops. As he summons the energy from within, he informs his brother that this is going to require the big gun. It’s been awhile since he’s had a chance to cut loose… so this won’t take but a minute. With that, Havok lets loose his full fury on the obstructed entrance.
Miles away, Bruce Banner has found a nearly empty RV park and begins sifting through the dumpsters for clothes. He is attempting to put on discarded sneakers when a voice calls out to him, asking if he is okay. Sheepishly, Banner replies that he’s fine and thanks the man for his concern. He’s just passing through. As he tosses a bag into the dumpster, the elderly gentleman retorts that they’re all passing through. But sometimes it’s good to be able to sit for a while. He’s Jeb. Bruce, Bruce replies.
Asked if he would care to join him and the wife for supper, Banner begins to decline. However, Jeb presses, warning him not to be too quick to say no. The nearest diner is more’n ten miles away and he won’t be hitchin’ anywhere t’night. The soldiers’ carpet bombin’ has scared everyone off. Anyways, Jeb continues, rubbing his hand over his expanding mid-section, he’s just gotta look at him to know his lady is one great cook. Seeing the fight gone from his soon-to-be guest, Jeb places his hand on Banner’s shoulder and calls out to his wife, Dorothy, asking her to put an extra plate out. They’ve got company.
In the hidden laboratory, Xavier sits face to face with Marvel Girl, taking in the memories of the X-Men’s fight with the Hulk she is sharing. Incredible, he voices. It defies logic that a being so massive can move with such speed and precision… it’s almost graceful. When she replies that she doubts Hank would agree, the Beast turns to the duo and remarks that his ears are burning. Has Jean’s memories presented him as a bigger fool than he felt? His technique was flawless, Xavier replies, having finished the shared memory. And he would have devastated any other foe… but totally ineffective against the Hulk. Indeed, the Beast smiles. Proof, if such was needed, that brain is superior to brawn.
Expanding on that thought, Xavier announces to the team that he has sharpened Jean’s telepathic focus, so she should be able to physically sedate the Hulk more easily. Hearing this, Cyclops opines that he doesn’t think they can rely on the same strategy working twice… so he’ll take Alex and Bobby – they can avoid combat but they can all strike from a distance if need be – and Warren as scout. To Hank and Lorna, Cyclops orders them to stay there to finalize preparations. With that, the five X-Men depart. However, as their VTOL air craft launches into the night, it is watched by a lizard, whose cybernetically eyes take in the whole sight.
At their table set up outside their RV, Jeb explains to Bruce that they sold up and sunk their savings into their camper van. Taking up the plates, Dorothy adds that they figured they’d spend their twilight years in peace and quiet out there. More pie? Politely declining, Bruce adds that he’s full and that it was a wonderful meal.
Jeb begins to agree, but is interrupted by a series of powerful explosions off in the distance. Dorothy notes that the explosions are closer this time, but Jeb replies that he doesn’t think that’s any trainin’ exercise. The soldiers are chasin’ someone. Behind them, Banner begins to hold his head, the pounding from afar echoing in his head. He tells them that they should go… Now! It’s not safe… They’re coming after him. They’ve got to get out of there… quickly! Concerned over his guest, Jeb tells him to take it easy. He’s safe. No, Banner disagrees, he’s dangerous. They’ve got to get away. He can’t stop it. His hands placed against the side of his head, Banner finally looks up at them through luminescent, gamma-irradiated eyes. Please… he’s begging them. They’ve got to go. Go now
A short distance away in their craft, Cyclops informs the rest of the team that there’s a strong gamma reading dead ahead… but they’ll need to get their bird down before one of those missiles locks on to them. A few moments later, the craft has landed and the team quickly exists. The gamma reading is moving towards them, Havok reports. Fast. Yeah, Iceman agrees. Here comes the big green ugly… only it isn’t the Hulk…
Quickly approaching their position, hotly pursued by over a dozen Hulkbuster missiles, is the gamma-powered monster known as the Abomination.