In Bruce Banner’s secret lab in the Nevada Desert, Marvel Girl writhes in pain as gamma energy transforms her body. Her skin having already turned green, she grows larger in size, her lithe form becoming more muscular and ripping free of her costume. Watching all of this in disbelief with the rest of the X-Men, Dr. Bruce Banner informs Charles Xavier that his procedure has channeled the gamma energy of the Hulk into Marvel Girl. Dumbfounded, Xavier asks how this is possible. He warned him this would be dangerous, Banner tells Xavier.
Watching as the immense Jean Grey creates a cyclone of objects around her, Xavier notes that the metamorphosis has massively increased her telekinesis… and it’s still intensifying. To this, Banner notes that gamma mutations are unpredictable. The Abomination is little more than a lizard version of the Hulk, whereas the Leader developed a massive intellect.
Ignoring Banner, Xavier reaches out with his telepathy to what was once Jean Grey. Calling her name, he instructs her to remember the discipline of her training. Concentrate, he tells her. However, before he can press, Xavier finds himself surrounded by the X-Men, who order him to back off. Xavier begins to ask Cyclops a question, but the youth simply states that they don’t need his interference.
Stand down, boys, orders the creature that was once Marvel Girl. It’s not unreasonable for their mentor to have interpreted her appearance and actions as evidence she had evolved into a mindless monster. Her destructive flailing was merely the exploratory flexing of a newborn. With that, the objects which formed the cyclone about her stop spinning and drop to the lab floor. Now pulling at the rags which were once her costume, Jean Grey continues. The obvious physical enhancements are inconsequential to her psychic evolution… She now possesses the ability to manipulate matter on a molecular scale. A rather useful ability for a girl with a major wardrobe malfunction. Yes, she continues, she thinks she’s outgrown the “cute” look in more ways than one. She needs something appropriate to her new status… something regal.
With that, the molecules of Jean’s Marvel Girl costume are rearranged into something new. Though now barefoot, red leggings rising up to her thigh. The rest of her costume is a sort of two-piece bikini, with her face framed by Lorna’s headdress, which she telekinetically claimed as her own. Her body, though, is completely transformed. Now green in color, it is strong and powerful. Her hair, though not green, is a lighter color of red and now extends to the small of her back.
Clapping at the new outfit, Lorna immediately compliments that her headdress looks so much better on Jean. Yes, Lorna, Jean replies. She thought so. Nearby, Iceman, Beast, Cyclops and Angel smile and profess their own compliments. Hhhot… with a capital sizzle, Iceman proclaims. Love the color, Beast opines. A logical choice, Jean tells her teammate, now that green is her flesh tone. To this, Angel interjects that he’s always had a thing for tall women.
While his X-Men gush, Xavier remains worried and telepathically reaches out to Scott and Hank. However, before he can fully ask them if they are under Jean’s control, Jean finishes his thought, and telekinetically lifts Xavier from his wheelchair as she voices it. Resolute, Xavier voices that Jean is behaving out of character. Again finishing his sentence, Jean states that he thinks they should conduct exhaustive tests? To determine the extent of her metamorphosis? Now he thinks she’s broken, she continues, and he wants to fix her. As usual, she tells the professor, he has no doubt that he knows best.
Jean speaks for them all, Cyclops interjects. They’re tired of being used as pawns in his private crusades. To this, Xavier admits that he’s made mistakes, but Jean must realize this degree of transformation needs to be investigated. Now angry, Jean demonstrates a massive, clenched fist and snarls that Xavier couldn’t comprehend what she’s become…
Suddenly, Banner notices something. However, before he can comment, a thunderous KROOM heralds the eruption of the lab’s wall, though which a host of robotic creatures pour. As the X-Men immediately move into position, Beast notes that they don’t look like Sentinels, but they are robotic and out for blood! Attack! Jean orders her X-Men.
As the battle begins, Banner calls out to Xavier, ordering him to stay down. He’ll get him out of there. In short order, Dr. Banner makes his way to Xavier, but the professor tells him he’s okay. He just needs to be helped up. Banner disagrees and begins to pick up the professor, but Xavier protests, ordering Banner to put him down. Resolute, Banner places Xavier in his wheelchair, adding that he’s got to get him to a safe place. Again, Xavier protests, watching his students do battle, led by the transformed Jean, who is already using her newfound powers. He can help. He must…
The argument becomes moot, as Banner begins to roll the professor away from the battle, explaining that he’s still recuperating and far from full strength. Still, even as they depart Xavier attempts to provide telepathic tactical advice, but Banner tells him he’s wasting his time. They won’t listen. They must! Xavier counters. They are outnumbered, in an indefensible position… and he cannot get any sense of a directing intelligen…
Xavier stops in mid-sentence, suddenly realizing something. His telepathic message was exclusively directed to the X-Men… Banner couldn’t possible have heard it unless they are sharing thoughts… With that, Xavier moves one of his legs off of the wheelchair’s footrests. He’s in his mind, he tells Banner as he rises to his feet. A moment later, the wheelchair is gone. Banner? Xavier calls out, now alone on a desert landscape at night. Is this how he contains the Hulk? Xavier asks into the darkness. Distract him with a mental contruct…
An alarm sounds. Aroogaroogaaroohaa… Looking up, Xavier sees a tower, stretching up from a platform in the desert. Four searchlights beam through the night, illuminating the giant gamma warhead atop the tower.
Suddenly, Dr. Bruce Banner races toward Xavier from his nearby parked jeep. He shouldn’t be there, he yells in a panic. It’s too dangerous! Quickly, Banner grabs Xavier and pulls him toward the trench. He has to let him help him, Xavier informs Banner. This mindscape is a waste of time. It’s won’t work on him. Suddenly, Bruce Banner is no longer a doctor, but a child, pulling him into the trench. He thinks he’s strong, the young Banner tells Xavier, but the Hulk is stronger. The Hulk is the strongest one there is.
A moment later, the gamma bomb explodes, catching Xavier from behind and bathing him in gamma energy. Down in the trench, the young Bruce is safe, while Xavier is now transformed. His body now massive and ripped with muscles, Xavier is a mirror to the Hulk, save with Xavier’s facial features and lack of hair. Though his body is transformed, his mind remains. Banner, this is futile, Xavier proclaims. He won’t be deceived into playing a role in this façade. He has navigated many mindscapes. Psychic illusion lacks the substance of reality.
The reply to Xavier’s words is a right-handed uppercut, delivered from behind by the Rhino. That got enough substance for ya? Rhino asks. A moment later, the Rhino is joined by the Abomination, Absorbing Man, Sandman, the Silver Surfer and sword-wielding monsters. Make it easy on himself, Sandman tells him. Just quit, why don’t he, Rhino asks. He’s old and sick, Absorbing Man adds. Joining the fight is the Sub-Mariner, who tells Xavier that they wanted to protect him, but his disruption endangers them all. He must leave. In agreement as they pile on, the other attackers order him to go! GO! GO!
Brought to his knees, Xavier enjoys a brief moment of respite. He needs to understand, he says aloud. He’s a man of intellect. So was he, the Hulk replies, delivered a powerful left hook to Xavier’s jaw, knocking him back with a thunderous WHAM. Knocked onto his back and away in a skid, Xavier eventually comes to a stop, at which point the young Bruce is waiting. Please leave, young Bruce tells him. He isn’t safe there. Calling the youth “Doctor Banner,” Xavier asks why is he doing this. He doesn’t know that he is, Bruce replies. Asked if he means it’s the Hulk, Bruce offers a “perhaps.” Or maybe he has a few demons of his own. Either way, he has bigger problems… much bigger problems!
High above them, like mythical titans as tall as mountains, the lithe body of the adult Dr. Bruce Banner does battle with multiple Hulks of varying hues. When a giant foot slams a short distance from them, shattering the ground beneath it, Xavier explains to the young Bruce that he must know that this is an illusion. Not the struggle, young Bruce replies. The struggle is real.
The landscape around Xavier transforms into a sphere of white, in which he now floats. As the battle of the titans continues outside of the sphere of light, a short distance away within it, the adult Dr. Banner sits, his head in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees. He apologizes to Xavier that this has been so… difficult. By his design, Xavier counters. A defensive reflex, he thinks, Banner replies. It’s not usually this way. His brain is being… supercharged. Considering this, Xavier asks if he means the device. How? It’s powered by the gamma energy that is already in Banner’s cells.
To this, Banner notes that the Hulk’s strength has always increased when it is challenged… so as he resists the Hulk’s attempts to be free, he increases his efforts… which in turn generates more power to support his resistance. So, in a wildly escalating spiral, the stronger the Hulk struggles… the more powerful his mind becomes. He can’t imagine what the limit is… Maybe it’s better he doesn’t find out. There has to be away, Xavier voices. Told there’s no time, Xavier replies that he’s not ready to concede defeat. It’s not his decision, Banner informs him.
As the battle of the titans continues outside of their protective sphere, Banner tells Xavier that he appreciates his efforts to help him… but they’re dealing with a force far beyond their understanding or ability to control. And his students need him. Asked what he means, Banner tells Xavier that he’s not sure. He thinks he may have incorporated external stimuli into his mindscape… Growing worried, Xavier inquires as to what that means. The robot attack was real, Banner answers.
A moment later, Professor Xavier is once again conscious. Looking down, he finds a device resembling an explosive strapped to his chest. Glancing around the room, he spies his students (including the very human Jean Grey), all shackled with devices clearly designed to inhibit their powers. They are all surrounded by dozens of androids standing guard.
Instinctively, Xavier calls out to Scott, but it is not Cyclops who answers. Ah, good, he’s back, the voice proclaims. Turning to his left, Xavier sees the a thin man, skin green in color with a vertically-elongated head on which rests a crown-like mechanism. Behind the man is Dr. Bruce Banner, still strapped to the chair with the gamma device emitting its gamma beam at his head. He is the Leader, the man explains. Pointing to the mechanism on his head, he tells Xavier to be warned. His headband monitors his brain functions. Any deviation from the norm, such as a telepathic probe, will detonate the bomb he is wearing.
Anticipating the Leader’s next statement, Xavier explains that no matter what the Leader threatens, he won’t help him. Ah, the Leader smiles, but he already has. He turned Banner into a gamma battery… and he plans to drain him.