(the Nevada desert)
In the final arc of his leap, the Abomination is about the leap in the midst of the X-Men, with a host of gamma-seeking missiles behind him. Even before he lands, though, Cyclops has already formed a plan. Already firing his optic blasts at the trailing rockets, he orders Iceman to take the Abomination, while he Havok stop the missiles. In an instant, as missiles explode above them, Iceman conjures an ice-slide, which uses the Abomination’s downward momentum against him. Repeating the gamma-powered creature’s nom de guerre, Iceman quips that he’s waaay uglier than the Hulk. And way more dangerous, Cyclops adds.
Still blasting missiles, Cyclops orders Jean to take down the Abomination before he recovers. In a moment, she stands over him, gesturing with her left hand at him as her mind reaches out. He’s… different! she voices. Not yet back on his feet, the Abomination reels at the mental probing. In his mind, Marvel Girl sees his recent history. He’s not like the Hulk, she tells the others. He… hates the Hulk .Wants to kill him. They fought earlier. But then the military launched an attack. The ones they saw in Las Vegas. When the missiles started to fall… the Abomination ran.
To this, the Abomination retorts that he is no dumb brute who would allow himself to be the target of a cowardly, long-range attack. All smiles as he continues to erect a solid-ice prison for him, Iceman quips to the Abomination that it seems that’s exactly what he was until they saved his lizard hide! As Cyclops and Havok continue to demolish the incoming ordinance above, Angel studies readouts from them on a handheld device, concluding aloud that they must be targeting with gamma detectors. Somehow the Hulk escaped so they locked onto the nearest gamma signature, same as they did. He’ll need to reconfigure this to ignore the Abomination if they’re going to locate Banner.
Hearing this, despite being fully encased in ice, the Abomination asks that they have a device to find the Hulk? A moment later, the ice in which he was encased shatters and the Abomination reaches for the device, announcing that he wants it. Too startled to flee, Angel finds the goliath’s hand wrapped around his neck, being ordered to show him how to use it. Nearby, Havok and Cyclops continue their missile defense. Havok calls to his brother, but Cyclops orders him to stay focused on the missiles.
At a nearby RV park, retirees Jeb & Dorothy ignore the far-off explosions and instead focus with concern on the pain and anguish of their guest, Bruce. Staggering before them, Banner rebuffs their attempts to get him to sit down, explaining that he’s got to get away. He can’t stop the transformation… When he changes… they’ll be able to target him…
Seeing his luminescent green eyes, Jeb believes he suddenly understands. Stepping away and pulling his wife, Jeb asks Bruce that he’s one… of them! Still writhing in pain, Banner’s lithe arms begin to fill out with muscle, his skin turning from pink to green. They’ve got to… get away from him, he warns. As the transformation continues, with Banner apologizing along the way, Jeb orders Dorothy to run for the van. A few moments later, their RV is on its way, leaving behind the lone figure and growling of the incredible Hulk, who once again walks the Earth.
Further in the desert, the Abomination reiterates his order to Angel, whom he still holds in his grip, to find the Hulk… now. Still firing at the missiles, Cyclops calls out to Marvel Girl via her telepathy and asks her for a target. Brachial plexus, she replies telepathically. It’s deep… hit it hard. In what is only a glance, Cyclops turns his head and fires at the spot in question, hitting the muscle and forcing the Abomination via involuntary reflexes to release Angel. The process having taken but a moment, Cyclops returns this attention to the incoming missiles.
Immediately, Marvel Girl orders Angel behind her. She manages to raise a telekinetic shield just in time to deflect a mighty blow from the Abomination’s fist. Calling her a scrawny witch, he threatens to rip her head off… but is interrupted when the Hulk lands just behind him, grabbing the Abomination by his brow ridge as he lands. Big talk, Hulk announces. Abomination is all big talk. Recovering quickly, Abomination smiles, asking if words are still proving a challenge for his pea-sized brain, eh? Grabbing a giant rock, Abomination uses it as a club against his old foe, announcing that he’ll keep this simple. He’s going down! With that, he brings what part of the rock still remains intact down on the Hulk’s head, ramming it into the ground.
Though he is down, the Hulk is not out. Still on his back, he delivers a powerful left hook. However, it is not enough to stagger the Abomination, who delivers a kick to the Hulk’s jaw, just as he is getting up. Watching all of this through his binoculars from a distance, Major Talbot is informed that the missile batteries are depleted. Are they going in? The major takes a moment to consider and then answers yes. They can’t go back empty-handed again.
Closer to the battle, Cyclops and Havok try to put distance between the two combatants. Havok complains that they shoulda let the missiles get them, but Cyclops is more pragmatic. They have their objective. Stay sharp, he orders the whole team. They need to be ready to get Banner. If there’s anything left of him, Iceman quips.
He is finished, Hulk, the Abomination announces, wumping his foe with a left hook and following it with a back-handed fist. Acknowledge him as the strongest and he will give him a swift death, he offers. Say it. Say he is the strongest. Say it! Again and again, the Abomination swings and connects, but the Hulk does not fall. Rather, the Hulk replies that the Abomination always says who is strongest. Who is the strongest? With that, the Hulk sidesteps a right-cross and slugs the Abomination in the stomach, doubling him over. To this, the Hulk follows up with a devastating left hook, slamming the Abomination head-first into the rocky ground, which explodes on the impact. Answering his own question, the Hulk announces that Hulk is the strongest. Hulk is the strongest one of all! With that, he picks up the Abomination’s unconscious form with one hand.
However, before he can do anything else, he spies the oncoming caravan of military vehicles. A massive flex of muscles later, the Abomination is flung toward the lead tank and crushes its front from the impact. The caravan comes to an immediate halt and by the time Major Talbot emerges from his truck, the soldiers soon have the giant covered from their Hulkbuster weapons. Secure the brute! he orders. Their priority is to place this “Abomination” monster in the maximum security facility. The Hulk will have to wait for another day.
Some distance away, the Hulk no longer feels threatened by the military, and turns his back to them. In doing so, he spies off in another direction a fleeing RV camper. A sense of regret and sadness, overwhelming sadness suddenly comes over the jade giant, immediately detected by the nearby Marvel Girl, who with the rest of the X-Men approaches the Hulk slowly from behind. Cyclops telepathically warns her to be careful, but Marvel Girl replies that she didn’t need to do anything. The Hulk persona is retreating.
Back at Bruce Banner’s secret laboratory, Lorna Dane reports that the medical monitors are all synchronized. But they can’t test the most crucial component, he reminds Lorna, Doctor Banner’s device. It has to work, Xavier interjects. He understands, Beast replies. Doctor Banner’s plight is beyond nightmarish. He can’t imagine any fate worse than being trapped in an inhuman form… but he can’t shake the feeling that this will not end well.
As the three continue their discussion, high above, crawling among the rafters, the cybernetic lizard watches with its giant, electronic eye. Viewing the scene from his own secret location far away, the Leader smiles. At last, Banner, he muses. His mood quickly turns from gloating to intrigue when the lizard’s camera-eye shows the returning X-Men, accompanied by Bruce Banner. Now things will get interesting, the Leader muses aloud.
Shaking the doctor’s hands from his wheelchair, Professor Xavier informs Banner that his treatment for mental exhaustion saved his life. He’s glad it worked, Banner replies. It was unsuccessful in his case. He assumed as much, Xavier informs him. And he believes he understands why. Voicing his appreciation at the professor’s intentions, Banner adds that he has no idea how dangerous the forces involved can be. How dangerous he can be. They have some first-hand knowledge, Beast replies, rubbing his jaw. And they want to help, Marvel Girl adds. It’s what they do, Iceman agrees.
Turning to the reclined chair, Banner assumes aloud that Xavier wants him to sit there. Then what? He hasn’t altered his creation, Xavier informs him. It will operate exactly as before… but he will telepathically direct the matrix. Asked when he wants to start, Xavier replies immediately. There’s no reason to wait. Sheepishly, Banner notes that there’s one big green reason to act promptly. Okay, he says, sitting up on the chair. Let’s do it. Does he need to concentrate or anything? Told just to try to relax, Banner smiles that if he was the type of guy who could relax, none of them would be there.
A moment later, Beast triggers a control on a device at the end of the telescoping arm and announces the machine is activated. As Banner nervously watches with the luminescent energy produced by the device, Xavier sits close to Banner’s side. He can already sense a pattern of resistance, he informs him. When Banner replies that he feels something, Xavier instructs him to let his mind find the shape. It’s growing stronger, Banner announce, wide-eyed. Let it flow, Xavier tells him. Growing… stronger… Banner voices. Xavier instructs Banner not to fight it, but Banner replies that it’s not him… it’s the Hulk. He must remain calm, the professor tells him.
Nearby, as the light from the energy increases, Marvel Girl warns the professor that it’s escalating. Let her help. Xavier begins to tell her no, but Banner’s body suddenly convulses in a flash of green light. Blinded by the light, Xavier calls out to Doctor Banner. Now on the floor, Banner replies that he’s there… but he is no longer the problem.
Much to the shock of the rest of the team, Marvel Girl stands transformed, her gamma-irradiated body stretching her clothes and her mindless, monstrous roar filling them with fear.