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The Incredible Hulk #95

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  • Flint
    New Mexico. The Incredible Hulk set down on the desert sands, cradling the charred body of Doctor Leonard Samson in his arms. (1) He looked around at the
    Message 1 of 20 , Dec 6, 2008
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      New Mexico.

      The Incredible Hulk set down on the desert sands, cradling the charred
      body of Doctor Leonard Samson in his arms. (1) He looked around at the
      desert vistas, scanning the horizon for the entrance to the hidden
      military base he knew was around here somewhere. The Hulk was looking
      for Hulkbuster Base. As much as it annoyed him, he knew it was the
      only place with the technology to keep Samson alive.

      The Hulk prepared himself for another distance-devouring leap, when he
      heard the low motion of mechanical devices shifting in the sand. Dark
      green Mandroids emerged from beneath the sands, six in all, emerging
      in a rough circle around the Hulk and his dying cargo.

      "Let us in," the Hulk warned, nodding his head down to the near-dead
      doctor in his arms. The Mandroids aimed their arm-blasters forward at
      him and the Hulk began to snarl. His snarl died out very slowly, and
      neither he nor the Mandroids made any movements for several minutes,
      as Samson breathed gently, his chest barely rising up and down, and
      painfully at that.

      "Do as he says," said a voice from above, and the Hulk looked up in
      the sky the same as the Mandroids. A figure blotted out the sun, his
      large, white-feathered wings extended and flapping gently in the
      breeze. He wore the blue skinsuit of SHIELD, his blond hair long and
      uncombed, his beard the same.

      The Mimic landed between the Hulk and the front three Mandroids, and
      flashed his SHIELD ID at them. Someone coughed, and the Mandroids
      behind the Hulk turned to see a smaller figure dressed in dark green
      behind them, the upper half of his face hidden behind his mask, the
      lower half covered in stubble and a twisted grin.

      "Thanks for your help," Moonraker said, in reference to the Hulk's
      trip to Japan. (1) "It went a lot better than we'd expected."

      "We're SHIELD Super-Soldiers," the Mimic explained to the Mandroids,
      "and on SHIELD authority, we're taking the Hulk into our custody.
      Stand down, and show us inside. It looks like that man needs medical
      attention, now."

      The sand rose up and revealed a large opening, a loading bay, in the
      ground. The Mandroids marched inside, with the Hulk between them,
      Samson in his arms, and the SHIELD Super-Soldiers following after them.


      Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner
      now finds himself transformed into a powerful, dark, and distorted
      reflection of himself. Alternate Marvel Presents: The Incredible Hulk!

      The Incredible Hulk #95
      "Fall of Troy
      Prologue 1"
      September 2007
      ****************************************
      Writer: John Flint
      Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
      ****************************************


      Inside.

      "What's the meaning of this?" Agent Pratt exclaimed, pointing at the
      Hulk as he stomped down the metal halls, "Open fire, you idiots! The
      Hulk is loose in Hulkbuster Base!"

      The Mimic stepped ahead of the group and flashed his badge, and
      Pratt's face immediately transformed from anger to disgust. "Don't
      tell me SHIELD is taking over. This is Hulkbuster Base, and the
      Hulkbusters have authority over all gamma-radiation related--"

      "Hours ago, a top-secret installation in Japan exploded," the Mimic
      explained, "the Hulk is wanted for questioning for his involvement in
      that incident. SHIELD needs him for that case; we'll hand him back
      over to you as soon as we're done."

      "If he doesn't escape you first," Pratt replied, "just like he always
      does. This is intolerable! I--"

      The Hulk walked past him, bumping Pratt into a wall. The Gremlin stood
      further down the hall, along with the other Hulkbusters, waiting for
      the patient in his hands. "Who is that?"

      "Samson." The Hulk handed him over to Aquon, while Gremlin squinted
      trying to recognize the severely burned figure.

      "We saw him only a few days ago," (2) Gremlin said, "I can't even
      recognize him, what happened?"

      "He blew up." The Hulk turned his back to the Hulkbusters and walked
      back towards the Super-Soldiers. "I'm leaving."

      The Mandroids aimed their arm-blasters on him once more, and Mimic
      held up an arm to wait. "You know we can't let you just leave, Doctor
      Banner. I wasn't just making excuses with the Hulkbusters; you are
      under SHIELD arrest. Transform into your human self and we won't have
      to--"

      The Hulk laughed.

      "I think I may need your assistance," the Gremlin interrupted, "Or,
      rather, your scientific side's expertise in regards to gamma
      radiation. Doctor Samson has not long left in this world without the
      proper exposure to such radiation, I believe, and if I am wrong in my
      dosage, in either direction, all this will be for nothing. Surely you
      do not wish to see that happen, comrade?"

      The Hulk slowly shrunk, his back to the Gremlin as Bruce Banner
      returned. "We'll return to this later," he said to the Super-Soldiers,
      his eyes still glowing a bright green for a few seconds before turning
      brown, as his features took on the softer look of the nuclear physicist.

      [Los Angeles.]

      "He's an even greater menace than before," Thunderbolt Ross warned,
      "you can see that, after the way he acted in Canada. (3) He barely
      even remembers you, Betty. Banner has no control over him now,
      whatsoever. He's already killed. Soon..."

      "I know," Betty said, trying to convince herself that it wasn't true.
      In the past, she'd always been able to see some glimmer of her husband
      in the man-monster he so frequently became. Now, it was as though that
      last sparkle of intellect and compassion had fled him; Bruce Banner
      had no hope in him, nor did the Hulk. Both had given up.

      The father-daughter pair stepped inside an old, smelly gym, almost
      entirely empty and darkened. Three figures were in the far ring, two
      watching as the third, a lithe young woman, was throwing punches at
      the air and dancing from foot to foot.

      "Rick!" The two inactive participants turned to see the newcomers, and
      Rick Jones ran over to one of his oldest friends. Ross coughed into
      his hand awkwardly.

      "Betty!" They embraced, and Rick whispered, "How is he?"

      "I... I don't know," Betty lied, "We haven't seen each other much, in
      a long time. It's hard to always stay on the road, the wife of the
      Hulk. I can't keep up."

      "I know what you mean," Rick nodded and then noticed Ross, "General."

      "Not anymore," Thunderbolt said, unable to completely hide his disdain
      for the man whom he had grown to respect but still grated on his
      patience. "Who's the Marvel?"

      "Phyla-Vell," Rick said, "Daughter of Mar-Vell, the original Captain
      Marvel. She's training so she won't wind up in trouble if caught
      without her nega-bands. She's got a long ways to go yet, but she's a
      real fast learner. It's great to get back into this."

      "I can't imagine Marlo approves," Betty said.

      "She doesn't," Rick said, his face turning downwards, and Betty
      realized it was a more serious matter than she'd expected. There was
      an awkward moment of silence, then he turned his eyes up to the
      disgraced former general and asked, "Is it true what they say? That
      the Hulk's a killer now?"

      "Rick," Betty began.

      "He asked me because he knows I won't sugarcoat it for him," Ross
      interjected, "and I think so, yes. He's grown cold. He's still just as
      strong and angry as ever, but now... it isn't a passionate anger. It's
      a bitter anger. I think he's lost the war, boy, the one inside his
      soul. Now, all that's left is..."

      Thunderbolt Ross didn't dare finish that sentence. He didn't want to
      contemplate the danger it meant for the entire world.

      "I need to see him," Rick decided aloud, "I need to talk with him."

      "Good luck finding him," Betty said, arms crossed.

      [Hulkbuster Base.]

      Bruce Banner worked diligently with the Gremlin and Aquon, while
      Invisible Woman, Flux, Agent Pratt, Moonraker, the Mimic, and the six
      Mandroids all watched on. A gamma ray emitter was fixed above Samson's
      body, laid out on a table like a corpse.

      The trio tinkered with the machinery, carefully calibrating every last
      delicate detail of the equipment. Banner double- and triple-checked
      everything after they were done, and then flipped the switch himself
      to begin the potentially lethal bombardment. Everyone else stood
      behind a protective glass barrier, six inches thick and
      radiation-proof, a product of Anthony Stark's genius. Aquon wore a
      radiation suit; the Gremlin and Bruce Banner had no fear of gamma
      radiation.

      "It's working," the Gremlin announced, pointing as a tiny area of
      Samson's arm peeled away, revealing healthy new skin cells beneath the
      dead. "We did it! Gamma radiation can be used as a cure!"

      "We're not out of the woods yet," Banner warned, "it isn't finished.
      Too small a dose, and we just give him cancer. Too great, and he'll
      mutate even more than he already has. And probably not into anything
      we'd want to face down."

      "It's been an honor to work with you, by the way," Gremlin added,
      "your genius alone rivals that of my father, may he rest in peace. I
      once hated you for sending him to the death he sought; now I
      understand that you are both men of science, and both cursed. If you
      ever need my assistance in a similar fashion, do not hesitate to ask."

      "Thanks," Bruce said, awkwardly. They watched as the green-glowing
      figure of Leonard Samson regenerated most of its cells, discarding the
      dead and dying cells like a snake emerging from its old skin.

      "That reminds me," Aquon said to Bruce, "We have another patient here
      that I'd like you to take a look at if you get a chance. We caught him
      a few days ago, with Doc Samson's help..." (2)

      "Maybe," was all Bruce would say as he watched Samson heal.

      [A short time later.]

      Doc Samson would be perfectly healthy and just as strong as ever,
      after about a week's worth of rest. Doctor Robert Bruce Banner
      strolled the halls of Hulkbuster Base, everyone following after him as
      though he were some VIP.

      He said nothing as he walked; he thought about his life, and where he
      would go from here. He had nowhere to go, no one to go to; he couldn't
      ever really return to Betty, not really, until he was free of the
      Hulk, and now he knew he would never be free of the Hulk. It was only
      a matter of time before it would be the Hulk who was free of him, and
      he knew that. He came to the fore less and less. The Hulk had consumed
      all his will, all his desire, and all his passions and drives. He was
      a walking shell of a man, good only for his vast scientific knowledge.

      "Would you like to see our other patient now, Doctor Banner?" The
      Gremlin inquired, having a newfound respect for the man he had once
      hated more than any other, even more than he hated Iron Man, the filth
      who had murdered his brother, the first Gremlin, in cold blood. (4)

      "The Lizard?" Bruce stopped and rubbed at the bridge of his nose, a
      familiar headache coming on. "No, that won't be necessary. He's
      returning, and I can't even slow him down anymore. It's like standing
      in front of a semi; he'll just plow right through me as though I
      weren't even there."

      "Arms ready," Agent Pratt commanded to the Mandroids, who took aim
      once more.

      "Stop," the Mimic commanded, "we have to at least try talking to him!"

      "Um, Mimzy," Moonraker said quietly, "you do remember who we're
      talking about here, right?"

      Bruce Banner dropped to his knees, not in pain, but in defeat. It hurt
      more the more he tried to fight it, so he no longer fought it. The
      wave of nausea washed over him for only a second, and then there was
      darkness as Bruce Banner went away again, unsure if he would ever be
      allowed to return again.

      The Hulk rose to his feet and snorted. The Hulkbusters held their breaths.

      "Show me your pet Lizard," the Hulk said, amused, to the Gremlin,
      "then we'll see what happens."

      [To be continued...]


      FOOTNOTES:
      1. See Giant-Size The Incredible Hulk #1 for details.
      2. See AltMarvel Team-Up #26.
      3. See the "Up North" storyarc.
      4. Way back in the Armor Wars.
    • Flint
      Hulkbuster Base. The Incredible Hulk stood before the cage of the Lizard, with the Hulkbusters and SHIELD Super-Soldiers all around him. The Hulkbusters
      Message 2 of 20 , Dec 8, 2008
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        Hulkbuster Base.

        The Incredible Hulk stood before the cage of the Lizard, with the
        Hulkbusters and SHIELD Super-Soldiers all around him. The Hulkbusters
        included Agent Pratt, Gremlin, Aquon, Invincible Woman, and Flux,
        along with six green-coated Mandroids; the SHIELD Super-Soldiers
        included the Mimic and Moonraker.

        "Yesss?" The Lizard hissed, "thisss isssn't a zoo, you green ape."

        The Hulk smiled, darkly. "Have we met?"

        "Under different ssscircumssstanssscesss, perhapsss" the Lizard
        replied. He leapt up and clawed at the thick, invisible walls of force
        that kept him in his cell. He banged his massive tail against it to no
        avail. "Ssstep inssside and we'll sssee how tough you really are,
        warm-blood."

        The Hulk laughed. The Lizard backed away, haunted by the terrible
        noise of it. "Ssstop that! I'll sssmash my way out and ssslaughter you
        all! The Lizard promisssesss that!"

        "What do you think, Doctor Banner?" The Gremlin asked enthusiastically.

        The Hulk paused, his face turning stone-cold in expression. "I think
        you have me confused with someone else."

        "Hulk," the Mimic said, "I think it's time you came along with us.
        You're still under SHIELD custody, remember."

        Hulk quickly scanned the room. Thirteen adversaries, only two of whom
        might cause him any actual trouble. Still, it would be easier to thin
        the herd a bit. "Fine. Let's go."

        "Thank you," Moonraker found himself saying, glad he didn't have to
        try to brawl with the Hulk. He was still in awe of merely being in the
        presence of Iron Man, (1) let alone this man-monster.

        The Hulk left, with a Super-Soldier on each side. The Hulkbusters
        watched, the Mandroids readying themselves to leap into action at a
        moment's notice. Pratt silently bit his lip, hoping for a confrontation.


        Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner
        now finds himself transformed into a powerful, dark, and distorted
        reflection of himself. Alternate Marvel Presents: The Incredible Hulk!

        The Incredible Hulk #96
        "Fall of Troy
        Prologue 2"
        September 2007
        ****************************************
        Writer: John Flint
        Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
        ****************************************


        The Hulk emerged into the desert sands to find the same lonely
        landscape now clouded over with the immense form of the SHIELD
        Hellicarrier overhead. The Mimic extended his feathery wings outward
        once more and took to the skies. Moonraker remained by the Hulk's
        side, unable to fly under his own power. Before he knew what was
        happening, the Hulk found himself and Moonraker being sent upwards
        towards the immense sky-craft, via tractor beam.

        "I could have jumped," the Hulk said angrily.

        Moonraker shrugged, nervously pointing out, "You could have jumped in
        the other direction, too."

        The Hulk crossed his arms and watched the ground fall farther and
        farther away, until the floor sealed up beneath him and he was
        onboard. He growled and looked around at all the SHIELD agents, who
        had stopped whatever they had been doing and now stared him down.

        "We found someone you might be interested in meeting," the Mimic said
        as he landed beside the Hulk and Moonraker, gently.

        The Hulk looked him in the eyes and said, "Who's that?"

        The Mimic's wings collapsed into his back and he walked towards a far
        doorway. "Follow me," he said as the door slid open upon his nearing
        it and he entered in through it. Moonraker followed after him, and the
        Hulk after him, glancing at the SHIELD agents who were now slowly
        pretending to return to their various work stations.

        They walked down a dimly lit tunnel, and the Hulk could feel the
        computerized laser sensors scanning his body for any disease or device
        that could be hazardous to SHIELD personnel. He carried nothing of the
        sort; he was the most destructive weapon man had ever made. He had
        already brought down one Hellicarrier all by himself. (2)

        They went through another series of hallways until they finally
        stopped inside a medical laboratory. There was a pale man with long,
        jet black hair therein, wearing a lab coat and testing the teenager on
        the table. The teenager, not the doctor, was obviously the one they'd
        wanted the Hulk to meet. He looked like a younger Hulk, his skin jade
        and muscles large. Unlike the Hulk, his skin seemed leathery and his
        hair was blond. For a second, the Hulk wondered if he had fathered a
        child with Jarella, but that was impossible; he would have been told
        in one of his later visits to Ka'i, and certainly such an heir
        wouldn't have been found by SHIELD...

        "You were there," the Hulk suddenly remembered, "Mojo's world. You
        were one of the 'champions.'" (3)

        "Yeah," Hulkling said softly, trying to sound gruffer than he could
        manage in the presence of the Hulk, "the Avengers were going to
        recruit me, but SHIELD came around first."

        "Don't care," the Hulk said, to anyone who wanted to listen. He turned
        his back as a computer beside the doctor dinged.

        "We have the results now," Dr. Michael Morbius announced, reading the
        printout, "and... huh."

        "What is it?" Hulkling asked, desperation in his voice. The Hulk
        stayed in place, curious.

        "Spit it out, Mike," Moonraker advised.

        "The Hulkling has no DNA in common with the Hulk, I'm afraid," Michael
        Morbius announced, "it... it's not like anything I've ever seen
        before. The computers are running it through all our alien and
        parahuman databases, but..."

        "You really thought this runt was mine?" The Hulk asked, looking at
        the Mimic.

        "You have to admit there is the physical similarities," Moonraker
        shrugged.

        "I was adopted," Hulkling spat out, "and nobody knows who my parents
        really are. When my mutant powers first manifested and I transformed,
        I thought that... maybe..."

        "I don't need a side-kick," the Hulk said, and left the room. The
        Mimic followed after him. Moonraker and Morbius stayed with Hulkling
        as the computer dinged and beeped, searching for commonalities between
        strands of DNA.

        "At least now you know," Moonraker said to cut through the silence
        that had fallen over the room, aside from the computer.

        "You're better off," Morbius added, nodding towards the door, "far
        better than being the son of that monstrosity. Believe me, you--"

        Ding. A green light went off, indicating that a genetic match had been
        found.

        [Meanwhile...]

        The Hulk stormed down the halls, his mind having perfectly remembered
        the route back to the entrance bay. He was intrigued for awhile,
        taking a tour of first Hulkbuster Base and now the SHIELD
        Hellicarrier, but he was rapidly growing bored and didn't want to risk
        transforming into Banner again whilst in SHIELD custody. He needed to
        get out while he still could.

        "Hulk, wait!" The Mimic chased after him. The Hulk continued to ignore
        him. "Where do you think you're going?"

        "Out," was all the Hulk replied.

        "You know I can't let you do that," the Mimic said, adding, "we still
        have to get your report on what happened in Japan. (4) After that,
        well... SHIELD may show leniency and let you go as a thank you for
        helping us with that, but in all honesty, you are wanted by the United
        States for the supposed murder of--"

        "'Supposed'?" The Hulk turned and looked the Mimic in the eyes,
        snarled. "Supposed, nothing. I did kill him. With the same fists that
        will kill you if you don't get out of my way."

        "Hulk, think logically for a moment," the Mimic said, his own face
        turning serious, "I possess the powers of the five original X-Men
        permanently, but I can also store several more power sets from any
        Marvels I'm close to, such as, at the present moment, you."

        "Is that supposed to intimidate me?" The Hulk turned, so that his body
        now faced the Mimic. "Am I supposed to be afraid of mutant freak? An
        X-Man turned g-man?"

        "I don't want this to turn ugly," the Mimic said, "it doesn't have to.
        We can still work something out; I'm sure you could be granted a
        pardon, even now, if you were to agree to a few conditions and to work
        for us."

        "I don't work for anyone," the Hulk said. "And I don't intimidate."

        "I should warn you, then," the Mimic said, "that I've already
        duplicated your power set."

        "Good," the Hulk said as he punched the Mimic through a wall, "then
        you'll be able to survive this."

        [Elsewhere...]

        "Did you hear something?" Moonraker asked, as Morbius read the results
        to himself. Hulkling sat on the table, waiting impatiently for the
        results.

        A warning light flashed and the klaxons sounded, and Moonraker cursed
        under his breath, knowing full well what was wrong. The Hulk. "I knew
        this was a bad idea, I just knew it."

        "What is it? What's wrong?" Hulkling said, even though he could guess
        what it was himself. He began to sweat as Dr. Morbius read the
        printout, and wondered if he'd find out the truth about himself before
        he was killed with everyone else aboard the Hellicarrier.

        "I'm afraid I'm of no assistance yet," Dr. Morbius said, pointing to
        the clock on the wall, "it isn't yet nightfall."

        Hulkling didn't know what he meant by that, but leapt off the table,
        his knuckles growing spikier. "I can help."

        "It's your funeral, kid," Moonraker said, as he and Hulkling ran out
        of the room.

        Dr. Morbius did the only thing he could, and continued to study the
        readouts. His eyes grew wide as he read the computer's analytical
        conclusions about Hulkling's racial origins.

        The banging grew louder and louder as Moonraker and Hulkling neared
        the confrontation. Soon enough, they could see it, as the Hulk and the
        Mimic tore the thick metal walls apart in sheets and hurled them at
        one another. The Mimic began to flap his wings with gamma-spawned
        strength, causing such a breeze that even the Hulk had to ground
        himself and cover his eyes with his hands. The Mimic took his
        momentary advantage and fired a sheet of ice, covering the Hulk entirely.

        "Wow," Hulkling said, "you just took down the Hulk in, like, five
        seconds!"

        "Be careful," Moonraker advised, "I think I hear a cracking noi--"

        The Hulk shattered his ice prison, and the Mimic blasted him with
        optic blasts that nearly knocked him off his feet at first. The Hulk
        recovered, and began to advance on the Mimic, at which point Moonraker
        whispered to Hulkling to help out.

        Hulkling leapt into the fray, his beefy arms splitting into six
        thinner ones and molding themselves over the Hulk's upper body. The
        Hulk stumbled back, surprised, as Hulkling began to ooze over him,
        covering him from the waist up and hardening his strange mass.

        "What a weird kid," Moonraker said, scratching at his mask.

        The Mimic stood back, not wanting to hurt Hulkling by attacking the
        Hulk inside him. Suddenly, the entire Hellicarrier shook, knocking
        everyone from their feet. "We're under attack," the Mimic shouted,
        surprised.

        Unknowingly, the Hulk, encased in Hulkling, slid down the hall towards
        an escape pod. Moonraker and the Mimic scrambled to find out who and
        what was attacking the sky-ship, as the barrage continued and the
        Hellicarrier rocked to and fro.

        Hulkling began to ease up, and the Hulk tore away the liqueous mass
        before his eyes and saw the escape pod before him. "That'll do," he
        said, and opened the door, not even bothering to remove Hulkling from
        his person. He could always smash the brat once he was away from SHIELD.

        He pressed the button and the pod released, blasting off away from the
        Hellicarrier. Through the window, the Hulk saw a massive ship that
        easily eclipsed the Hellicarrier, flying over it and blasting the hell
        out of it. It seemed familiar to him somehow, but he could not place
        it and didn't think it important. One of a million super-villains,
        certainly. Let SHIELD deal with them.

        The pod flew high in the sky, its retro-rockets slowing its descent as
        it passed over the earth. The Hulk slammed his fists into the sides of
        the pod, causing it to jerk about in midair. Hulkling fell off,
        slinking away into a large green puddle that struggled with itself,
        unable to return to normal, while the pod bounced against the desert
        floor again and again, jarring Hulkling's concentration and annoying
        the Hulk.

        Finally, the pod came to a stop, and the Hulk tore the pod open, not
        bothering with the door. He looked out, at the distant battle which
        SHIELD was quickly losing. Its enemy wasn't firing as much now, having
        apparently lost interest.

        "Oh, ghuh," Hulkling moaned, semi-solid as he stumbled free from the
        pod. The Hulk stared into the sky, wondering what he was trying to
        remember.

        "We meet again," a deep, gravelly voice said, and the Hulk turned to
        see a very large orange-brown alien in clean blue body armor and a red
        cape. His wrist-mounted laser was aimed at the Hulk's heart, and the
        Hulk remembered how it burned right through him last time, and froze
        in place.

        "You're dead," the Hulk said, "I killed you."

        "You killed my brother," Trauma said, "and my father. Now I've come
        for you, Hulk."

        [To be continued...]


        FOOTNOTES:
        1. See Giant-Size Invincible Iron Man #1.
        2. In issue #3.
        3. See AMU's Contest of Champions #1-4.
        4. See Giant-Size Incredible Hulk #1.
      • Flint
        Tales to Astonish #97 Samantha Smith s husband, Leonard, was a super-hero, the Golden Lion. When he was killed at the hands of the Hulk, Samantha vowed revenge
        Message 3 of 20 , Dec 9, 2008
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          Tales to Astonish #97
          Samantha Smith's husband, Leonard, was a super-hero, the Golden Lion.
          When he was killed at the hands of the Hulk, Samantha vowed revenge on
          the bestial man-monster. Taking up her fallen husband's gold rod, she
          found herself granted the same vast and cosmic powers as he once used
          to protect their county from minor super-villains and assorted
          criminals. Now, she hunts the Hulk as the one and only... Gold Lion!

          The Gold Lion
          "A Deal is Made"
          July 2006
          **************************
          Writer: Black John Flint
          Webchief: Jimmy Swag
          **************************


          "Jerry. Stop. Right now."

          The purple-skinned, ice-covered man turned rigidly back around to face
          his former lover, the Gold Lion. She stood there confidently, golden
          energy blistering around her closed fists, though in truth she was
          terribly frightened. Whatever had happened to Jerry had unhinged his
          mind and granted him a great deal of power, while she was still only
          beginning to recharge her internal energy supplies after losing the
          Rod of Truth and Absolution, that tool of the future which had
          originally empowered her and her late husband.

          "No," Jerry grunted. He didn't remember any longer why he was doing
          what he was doing, but he knew it was of utmost importance to him,
          because it was for her.

          "Jerry," Gold Lion yelled, "Please!"

          The policemen kept the crowds back, and the Gold Lion saw that one of
          them was preparing a rocket launcher, the only such powerful armament
          owned by the city's police department, in case of a
          powerful mutant terrorist strike on the region. It could certainly
          blow Jerry away, and the Gold Lion chased after him as he stomped up
          the many steps to City Hall.

          Though it was illegal now in the city to act openly as a super-hero,
          the police gave the Gold Lion her chance to talk to Jerry and stop him
          from going any further. They had respect for her, built up over the
          last few months as she ended the criminal reigns of terror in the
          county of such minor super-villains as the Quiet Quartet and the
          Lawnmower Man, Jr. The bad guys whom the Avengers couldn't be bothered
          to fly out from New York to stop, and ordinary officers were unable to
          do anything against.

          The Gold Lion tugged on Jerry's arm, but he ignored it and walked on.
          There was a gradual crackling, and then his arm was in the Gold Lion's
          hands, torn free cleanly and without any blood loss. Gold Lion looked
          and saw that replacing blood in the arm was odd, purple crystals. "Oh,
          my..."

          "Now!" The police chief commanded, and the rocket launcher fired
          before Jerry could tear the doors off their hinges. The Gold Lion went
          flying in an orange-yellow explosion, along with the many purple
          fragments of the man who had once been Jerry but no longer was.

          [The lair of the Leader]

          Danny Fortune and Sally Grimwald, S.H.I.E.L.D. field operatives, were
          led through the factory, operated by robots, by their fellow field
          agent, the nocturnal Nightmaster. Sally studied his movements and
          noticed that something wasn't quite right; his walk never varied in
          the least, he never made any extraneous motions...

          Danny was busy looking around at all the robots going about the
          business of building other robots and machinery. He had hoped to find
          something to use for an escape, but so far he had seen nothing he
          could recognize well enough to use, aside from the tools being used by
          the large robots.

          "Through this doorway, please," the Nightmaster said, standing to the
          side of the door and motioning for them to lead the way. It might have
          been a trap, but they had no choice. Not with so many powerful robots
          standing around them.

          "Traitor," Sally spat at the Nightmaster, who gave no reply. Not even
          so much as a blink. He simply stared at her, coldly.

          Sally Grimwald stormed into the room, followed by Danny Fortune. The
          Nightmaster had already relieved them of their guns and their knives.

          "Guh," Danny blurted out, seeing the man responsible for the factory's
          current production. He sat before a row of monitors, watching over the
          facility, hands on his chin. He had his back to the monitors, watching
          the two new arrivals, studying their faces carefully, sizing them up.

          Sally Grimwald recognized him from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files, "Samuel
          Sterns, the Leader."

          The Leader smiled at her, but made no other movement. He continued to
          simply watch the pair, waiting and watching.

          "Aren't you gonna say something?" Danny finally burst out, walking
          towards the Leader, "tell us how we'll never escape or what your
          ultimate scheme is?"

          "I don't think so," the Leader said, shrugging his shoulders. He
          returned to his monitors, his back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Sally
          and Danny looked to each other, both unsure what to do next.

          "L-look," Danny said, pointing to the large tube in the corner of the
          room. Inside, the Nightmaster stood, frozen, staring out with no life
          in his eyes. "He isn't a traitor after all... that other Nightmaster,
          he was a..."

          "And just what the hell is that?" Sally breathed into Danny's ear, and
          he turned to the other corner to see Humanoid-X standing there.

          "Alright," the Leader said, pressing a button on the console before
          him, "now, then. Do stand still, and this will be done very shortly.
          It won't hurt a bit, I promise."

          The Leader rose from his chair and began to walk towards the
          S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives.

          [City Hall]

          The Gold Lion rose to her feet, shaking her groggy head, and peered
          into the smoke all around her. Slowly, it dissipated, and she saw
          chunks of frozen Jerry spread out all over the ground. They were not
          moving, though they were steaming, the ice slowly melting away into
          water and gaseous forms.

          She looked back to the police. She wanted to scream out at them, but
          she knew they had their reason for doing it. Still, Jerry hadn't
          actually killed anyone yet, though she knew that was his intent. The
          Gold Lion limped, her right leg burning with pain. She looked down and
          saw that it was bleeding, a rather large chunk of Jerry imbedded in it.

          "I'm sorry, Ma'am," an officer had walked up to her without her even
          noticing it and was now talking with her, "but I think you should go,
          now. Only thing keepin' us from arresting you right now is on account
          of all the fine work you've done with us up t'now."

          The Gold Lion nodded her head, painfully, and limped away. She wanted
          to rage against it, but she lacked the energy to do so. She couldn't
          even summon up enough power now to make her fists glow.

          The public allowed her to go, saying nothing and filled with shame.

          The mayor, upstairs in his office and watching from the window, with
          shades drawn, rubbed his hands together nervously. He had a feeling
          the public wasn't approving of his latest measure and would remove him
          from office next election to see it overturned. The problem with this
          was that it wasn't a measure he had wanted instituted in the first
          place, but rather one forced upon him by blackmail. Maybe, if he could
          talk the Gold Lion into talking to the Nightmaster, he would
          reconsider and allow the mayor to remove this new item of...

          Moving faster than he'd moved in several decades, the mayor grabbed
          his hat off the rack and ran down the flights of stairs towards the exit.

          [The lair of the Leader]

          The Nightmaster robot was already on his way from the factory, through
          subterranean tunnels, to the distant barn which he exited through to
          go into the city. This passageway was created so that, if anyone
          succeeded on spying on him, they wouldn't catch him going to the
          Leader's factory itself.

          Night would be falling soon, and the Nightmaster robot had more
          business in town tonight. He served his Leader's will.

          In the factory itself, two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents ran in fear, narrowly
          avoiding the clutches of the robots all around them, mechanically
          reaching out to grab them. The Leader chased after them in a slow,
          confident walk. He knew they couldn't escape; it was only a matter of
          time. No sense wasting breath on them.

          Danny punched one robot in the 'face,' and nearly broke the bones in
          his hand for it. No more of that, he decided quickly, and grabbed the
          wrench resting in the toolbox beside the robot and smashed it against
          the robot's skinny neck. The force of the blow was enough; the robot's
          'head' popped off.

          Danny Fortune smiled and laughed in victory, but only for a second.
          The robot's central computer was not located in its head, but in its
          chest. It was still operating. Damn.

          "Come on," Sally Grimwald grabbed Danny and they ran from the
          decapitated robot, swerving out of the way of several other worker
          robots who attempted to reach out for them but made no serious effort
          to block their path.

          "I could use a gun," Sally grumbled under her breath.

          "How about that?" Danny asked, looking at the flame thrower a nearby
          robot was using to heat up the surface of a large tank of chemicals.
          "Think that'd do ya?"

          "Yeah, that'd do," Sally agreed, before they were both grabbed by the
          backs of their necks and lifted up into the air.

          "That will be quite enough of that," the Leader said as Humanoid-X
          held the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gasping for breath in his oversized
          mitts.

          [In town]

          The Gold Lion wasn't sure she could make it back to her house, but she
          struggled forward the best she could. The chunk of iced Jerry that had
          been lodged in her leg had melted enough and fallen free, splattering
          sickeningly against the street.

          Halfway there.

          She gasped for air. Her entire body burned, she couldn't get enough
          air, and the air she did get still didn't taste right. She was
          completely out of energy and felt as though she was about to pass out.

          "Stop! Ms. Lion!"

          She had trouble understanding the words now, but she halted and turned
          her face back around to see the mayor chasing after her, his face red
          and sweatier than she was. It was good to know that she would be
          taking him with her in her death by exhaustion on the road home.

          "I... I need you... huhh... to talk... huhhh... to an... an associate
          of yours..." the mayor huffed, "his name is... Nightmaster... huhhh...
          lives just out... outside of town... barn... huhhh..."

          "You've outlawed my kind here," Gold Lion said slowly, barely able to
          speak at all, "why should I... help you?"

          "He's the one... made the new laws... huhhh... and if not... not
          stopped... I don't... don't know... huhh..." The mayor had to sit
          down, his breathing loud and painful.

          The Gold Lion slumped beside him, and said, "I'll check it out. In
          exchange... you're going to do a few favors for me."

          "Yes, yes... sh... sure," the mayor answered.


          Part Two.

          Samantha Smith's husband, Leonard, was a super-hero, the Golden Lion.
          When he was killed at the hands of the Hulk, Samantha vowed revenge on
          the bestial man-monster. Taking up her fallen husband's
          gold rod, she found herself granted the same vast and cosmic powers as
          he once used to protect their county from minor super-villains and
          assorted criminals. Now, she hunts the Hulk as the one and only...
          Gold Lion!

          The Gold Lion
          "The Leader's Plot"
          January 2007
          **************************
          Writer: Black John Flint
          Webchief: Jimmy Swag
          **************************


          The Nightmaster emerged from the barn just in time to see the dual
          headlights of an oncoming vehicle. He crept behind a corner and
          watched as, surprisingly, the vehicle turned onto the road to the farm
          rather than remaining on the highway and speeding past. Someone was
          onto him. He continued to watch from behind the corner, blending into
          the night darkness.

          The Gold Lion stepped out from the passenger's side and said, "Thanks,
          Mayor." The nocturnal Nightmaster observed that her costume was torn
          and she was bleeding from her right leg and now limped. The
          Nightmaster's superior night vision allowed for him to see that,
          indeed, it was the very same mayor whom he'd blackmailed into
          outlawing vigilantism in his city so very recently who now drove the
          superheroine Gold Lion to his barn. The barn that had a secret
          passageway, leading to the Leader's factory.

          The Nightmaster stepped forward, his goal clear. Though he had many
          minor missions to accomplish in town tonight, not the least of which
          was kidnapping several persons of various ages for the master's
          experimentation, his first objective for the evening would be the
          death of the Gold Lion.

          The Gold Lion saw that there were no lights on within the barn, and so
          she decided to creep along the outside of the building and get an idea
          of the entire area which she inhabited. She saw the slight glimmer of
          the Nightmaster's eyes a moment too late as she rounded the corner,
          and he got the drop on her, pulling her forward by the wrist and
          smashing the other elbow into her face.

          The Nightmaster threw the Gold Lion away from the barn with his
          superhuman strength. He wasn't worried about her defeating him, but he
          wasn't programmed to waste much time bragging to her about it. He
          would soften her up a bit more, enlarging her apparent injuries, and
          then he would finish her off.

          As the Nightmaster stalked forward, the Gold Lion pulled out her
          secret weapon, which she'd borrowed from the Mayor. When the
          Nightmaster was only a few feet ahead of her, the Gold Lion pulled out
          the pistol she'd kept hidden behind her back and opened fire on the
          Nightmaster's masked face and chest.

          Sparks flew, as the bullets burned through fabric and penetrated the
          robot's inner workings. "Skweee!" The Nightmaster cried out as his
          limbs stiffened and he fell back.

          "A... robot?" The Gold Lion asked, tapping the Nightmaster in the head
          to see if he responded. He did not. "What's going on here?"

          [The Leader's lair]

          While Humanoid-X continued to hold onto Sally Grimwald, Danny Fortune
          screamed and banged against the giant tube in which he was contained.
          The Leader sat in a cold, grey, metal chair equidistant from them
          both, his hands at the complex control panel before him.

          "Really, must you make such abhorrent noise?" The Leader asked, "It's
          so very juvenile. I'm really only doing you a favor; the human race
          will be wiped out, whether it be by natural disaster, aliens, war, or
          mutants. You, my secret agent ally, are about to become part of the
          solution. Part of my solution."

          "Oh, no," Sally said, and strained against the Humanoid-X, whose
          strength was meant to rival that of the Incredible Hulk. Suffice it to
          say, she failed to move him.

          "Yes," the Leader said with a grin forming on his face, "Years ago, I
          detonated a gamma bomb on an entire town, population in the thousands,
          only to create five gamma mutates. I believe my technology has
          advanced greatly since then, and I can now perform the procedure one
          at a time with much greater success. But we'll see about that, won't we?"

          A green mist slowly began to drop from the ceiling of the tube, and
          Danny's cries grew louder, more bloodcurdling. "Gamma radiation via
          nanotechnology," the Leader expounded, "it should be just the thing to
          help control the metabolic and genetic changes which occur under the
          exposure of an intense dosage of gamma radiation, thereby keeping
          within bearable limits, transforming him without suffering fatal effects."

          Danny screamed as his skin turned light green, his hair darkened, and
          he began to shiver. He slowly slumped to the floor of the tube,
          coughing. He put a hand to his mouth, and wiped away dark green blood,
          the likes of which were now leaking from his nose as well.

          "Oh, dear," the Leader said as he looked at the information on the
          monitor screens before him, ignoring the living test subject behind
          him, "that didn't work out as well as I'd planned."

          "No! Danny!" Sally screamed, jerking in the Humanoid-X's grasp. Tears
          began to well up in her eye as Danny shivered one final time, then
          moved no more.

          "Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs," the Leader
          shrugged, "or create a race of super-beings without poisoning and
          killing a few thousand people."

          Silently, helplessly, the true, flesh and blood nocturnal Nightmaster
          watched on in horror.

          [Meanwhile.]

          The Gold Lion searched the barn, gun in hand in case of any more
          surprises, but no one else was there. Before long, she had found a
          trapdoor which required a great deal of strength to open, more than
          she could muster. She looked and felt around for some sort of
          mechanism that would unlock and open the door, but nothing provided
          itself to her.

          Frustrated, she began to feel her rage rise up, and noticed the subtle
          golden glow her body was now emanating. Feeling physically stronger,
          she walked over to the trapdoor, no longer limping, her pain gone, and
          grabbed and threw the doors open. They led down into the darkness,
          spiraling staircases into the unknown.

          Her own body acting as a lamplight, the Gold Lion stepped down,
          beginning the long descent into subterranean territories.

          How long would her renewed power last? Gold Lion didn't know, so she
          increased her speed, practically jogging down the steps until it
          shifted and became a long tunnel towards town.

          Still glowing, still angry, still confused, the Gold Lion chased the
          darkness down the tunnels.

          Eventually, she came to a great, thick, blue metal doorway. There was
          a knocker on it, but she resisted the comical idea of using it to tell
          whatever arch-fiend had built the Nightmaster that she had arrived and
          wished to gain entry into his hidden fortress.

          Instead, the Gold Lion punched the door with her small fists, and it
          quickly broke free of its hinges. Still unsure of her fluctuating
          powers, the Gold Lion returned to carrying her pistol, and advanced.

          Immediately, several pink, vaguely human-shaped things came forward.
          Humanoids had spotted her and looked to smother her before she could
          learn more of the lair! The Gold Lion fired her gun, and the bullets
          bounced off their rubbery skin, until the gun click-click-clicked, out
          of bullets.

          The Gold Lion balled her hands into fists as the humanoids charged
          forward.

          [To be continued...]

          WHAT'S GOING ON? As you faithful readers might have noticed, this
          title has been on hiatus for some time as I work through a combination
          of real-world business and severe writer's block. I've begun to return
          to the fold (see recent issues of UNCANNY X-MEN) and thought it would
          be in my best interest to wrap up this little storyline which began as
          a back-up tale in this title, so as to free up the Leader for future
          use if nothing else.

          Next issue will see the end of this plot and the beginning of...
          something else...
        • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
          The Gold Lion struggled against the onslaught of rubbery pink humanoids as well as she could. However hard she hit them, her fists bounced off, harmlessly.
          Message 4 of 20 , Feb 12, 2010
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            The Gold Lion struggled against the onslaught of rubbery pink humanoids as well as she could. However hard she hit them, her fists bounced off, harmlessly. They began to smother her through sheer force of numbers; they didn't bother hitting her, though she expected that they could hurt her a lot more easily than she could hurt them.

            The gun was out of ammunition; she looked around for another weapon she could use. Something sharp, perhaps, to puncture the strange, mute creatures? She couldn't make out any such items in the waves of pink cascading over her vision now. It was too late.

            Frustration boiled over, and she felt a glimmer of solar energy spinning through her chest. She expelled it, sending the humanoids sprawling away from her, bouncing off the walls and each other, chaos erupting through the hall as she fled further down her path towards their master.

            "Got to stop him," she panted, "got to… got to…"

            She stopped dead in her tracks as she found the massive Humanoid X placing Sally Grimwald into the experiment tube, the sinister Leader looking on with glee. No one else would be swooping in to save her; it was up to the Gold Lion, come what may.

            Unable to generate any more solar power, the Gold Lion threw herself bodily at Humanoid X and bounced off, only to strike a wall with her face and be rendered unconscious by the impact.

            Unbeknownst to the unconscious super-heroine, the Leader lifted a single eyebrow in solemn salute to her attempted heroism. "On with the experiment," he said. "So much to do, so much to try, so few test subjects to try it on. Let's see what silly Sally Grimwald gives us."


            Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner now finds himself transformed into Earth's Mightiest Mortal. Seven feet, 1,000 pounds of unfettered fury: The Incredible Hulk!

            The Incredible Hulk #98
            "The Guardian at the Gate"
            February 2010
            ************************
            Writer: John Flint
            Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
            ************************


            [Two weeks later.]

            Doctor Leonard Samson arrived at the secluded barn in the darkness of night. Only the sounds of nature and the occasional distant car passing could be heard. He would have felt far more comfortable in his old skin, his gamma irradiated body that could withstand anything short of a full-scale nuclear weapon. Now, he felt as though he had to skulk around in the shadows like a villain.

            Samson ran a hand through his brown hair. He was no longer a super-human. (1) He could be killed by a single bullet, crushed by a high-speed train. The world was suddenly much more dangerous for him, as though he had regressed back to childhood.

            "Strange that they left that here," Samson said, kicking the remnants of the Nightmaster robot, shattered and lying in pieces about the place. "I guess SHIELD made sure the local authorities didn't bother with it, and then found it of no use to themselves. Still, it could be functional in some minimal way for all we know; it might be recording us even now."

            A large green hand scooped up the head of the robotic Nightmaster and made a fist, shattering it. "Feel safer now?"

            "No," Samson admitted to his muscular friend with the deep voice.

            Entering the barn, the psychiatrist didn't need to tell his lumbering friend where to go to find the secret entrance to the underground lair. They had been over that already on the way over to the farm.

            The green figure stomped on the metallic door, smashing it off its hinges, and Doc Samson shined his flashlight into the darkness beyond, scanning the deep halls before either of them dared to enter into the forbidden laboratories of the gamma-spawned madman.

            [Earlier.]

            "Stop it! Please please please you can't do this you can't you can't!" Sally cried and screamed and hollered and jerked in her restraints as a green fog entered the tube with her. She coughed at first, thinking it a poison gas.

            "Something to take the edge off," the Leader explained, as he mentally broke her down to exhaustion, his gas taking her the rest of the way into unconsciousness.

            "Uhh?" The Gold Lion asked, and saw the scene before her. The Leader was at a computer console like something from a sci-fi movie made in the `60s, Humanoid X was watching her with cold, mechanical eyes, and the SHIELD special agent was trapped in a huge tube, being gassed for unknown reasons and nearly hyperventilating.

            Humanoid X was her obvious target; the Leader wasn't a threat himself, it was his army of mindless humanoids. If she could just deactivate X, everything would be gravy.

            "That's not true, you know," the Leader said. "There are approximately twelve thousand, sixty-eight booby-traps in this lair, for the uninitiated. I can shut them all off with my mind, but you, I believe, do not have such well-developed facilities, else you would have shut off your thoughts to me."

            "I'll kill you for this, you monster," the Gold Lion swore, fists clenched, as solar energy once more began to sparkle in an aura around her.

            "Interesting," the Leader mused to himself, "but more on that later, my dear. Your Leader has work to do."

            The Gold Lion zapped Humanoid X with a burst of heat and light, and the massive humanoid stiffened up as a result, the beam somehow interfering with his own evolved inorganic matter. Humanoid X froze in midstride towards her as though stuck in a block of ice!

            "Ha!" The Gold Lion cheered herself on and rushed forward to save Sally Grimwald!

            She heard a click as she stepped down and suddenly found herself on the receiving end of a thousand volts of electricity.

            "As I said," the Leader said, "twelve thousand, sixty-eight."

            Sally was asleep as the gamma rays bombarded her. "I'll have to remove myself from this location as soon as we are done, Sally Grimwald," he said to himself, "the mayor will testify and SHIELD agents will be swarming the farm by sunrise. That gives me enough time to analyze your transformation and—"

            Sally suddenly awoke, her skin turning leathery and jade, she struggled against her bonds, breaking them easily and shattering the tube before collapsing in a heap on the ground.

            The Leader scowled at the foul-smelling mutate. "Not a pretty one, to say the least, but what can she do?"

            Electronic scanning devices popped out of the walls and analyzed every square inch of what was once Sally Grimwald. She began to have trouble breathing and passed out, turning darker and darker shades of green by the moment.

            "Oh, dear, oh my, we can't have that."

            The Leader snapped his fingers and two humanoid servants entered, carrying Sally away onto a table where they began to deliver CPR.

            "I am not a bringer of death," the Leader declared, "I bring about life! New life! A better life! By the time I am done, my subjects will worship me for the improvements I've made on evolution itself!"

            [Two weeks later.]

            "Nothing," Samson said as he and his partner-in-detection strode the metallic corridors, "There's absolutely nothing here!"

            They kept on until they came to a dark green corpse positioned leaning against a far wall. Doc Samson came up close to it, squatting, shining his light on it. "I'd say she must have been dead for at least four weeks—"

            Suddenly, the corpse's eyes opened and it reached around Samson's neck, strangling him with both shriveled bony hands!

            "Herrk!" Samson choked, trying to cry out, unable to release himself from the dying creature's death-grip. They fell over together, the near-corpse nearly weightless but still stronger than a grown man.

            The big green man rushed over and swatted her off with ease; a casual back-hand resulted in most of her body flying across the empty room, the bony hands still locked around Samson's throat. The green man had to pry them away one at a time, each falling apart in the process, before Samson could breathe again.

            "Is… is she…?"

            "I think she's dead. I think she's been dead for some time now."

            "Yes… I think you might be right," Samson agreed, rubbing at his neck, rejoicing in his freedom to air.

            "L…" the corpse's dry mouth whispered into the still air. "Leeed…"

            To dust.

            The pair of detectives looked to each other, grimly. They knew what it meant.

            "I guess your hunch was right. It was gamma related after all."

            "I had a reasonable suspicion," Samson agreed. "Now, no doubt."

            [Earlier.]

            "She's dead," the Leader said, "but somehow she'll carry over for a while, even another month, perhaps. Interesting. I'll have to conduct further experiments on necrotized tissue with gamma bom—"

            The Gold Lion rose to strike him, but found she could not move forward nor summon another beam of solar energy.

            "Enough of that, child," Leader commanded, "Sit," and she did, against her own will. "I have been reading your mind, and while I applaud your attempts at saving the world, they are terribly short-sighted. I am leading the way on saving the world, by changing it in my own image, making it better than it is now.

            "I see that your greatest motivation of all is to stop and destroy the Hulk. We have that in common, to say the least.

            "Join forces with me, and I'll see to it that you have your chance to destroy the Hulk, while I shall use your intriguing powers for my own research.

            "No? That's a shame; you see, I wasn't actually asking for your permission, I was telling you how it shall be. You have no will now save my own. With great power, you know, often comes great responsibility.

            "I shall use my great power as the Leader of the world. It's a great responsibility, but I'm the only one in the position to do it."

            [To be continued…]


            FOOTNOTES:
            1. See the "Red Dawn" storyline in Daniel Gordon Presents, coming soon!

            NEXT TIME: FRENZY ABOVE FREEHOLD!
          • altmarvel-release-owner@yahoogroups.com
            Two men in parkas trekked through the icy plains of the wilderness of Canada in the dead of winter. One was larger than average, the other of ordinary size.
            Message 5 of 20 , Mar 26, 2010
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              Two men in parkas trekked through the icy plains of the wilderness of Canada in the dead of winter. One was larger than average, the other of ordinary size. The larger man wore glasses that reflected in the sunlight that ricocheted off the snow.

              He was Doctor Leonard Samson, chemist, psychiatrist, former super-hero. His brown hair and musculature which had quickly become chunkier than anything else indicated his change-over into the realm of the ordinary human being for the first time in years. It had been a startling revelation for him, to have to start over, able to be injured by any random item in the world.

              "SHIELD files indicate that it was supposed to be somewhere around here," Samson said, "Do you by any chance—"

              The slimmer fellow in the parka stopped and pointed up ahead. Samson squinted, peering through the snow-hazed winds to see the massive hulking figure standing in the middle of a frozen lake. His bulk was rubbery and green.

              "Some sort of humanoid, I'd wager," Samson said. "One made specifically to take on the Hulk."

              Humanoid X saw them and approached, slowly.

              "If that's what he was made for," the skinnier of the pair said, removing his parka as he began to bulk up, skin turning green, "who am I to disappoint him?"

              The man flexed, veins surging beneath the skin, muscles stretching beyond human capabilities, as the humanoid charged towards them.

              "Here we go," Samson whispered to himself as Humanoid X plowed into his companion.


              Caught in the heart of a gamma bomb explosion, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner now finds himself transformed into Earth's Mightiest Mortal. Seven feet, 1,000 pounds of unfettered fury: The Incredible Hulk!

              The Incredible Hulk #99
              "Frenzy Above Freehold"
              February 2010
              ************************
              Writer: John Flint
              Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
              ************************


              The two green hulks smashed into one another, neither suffering any apparent damage, sliding across the surface of the ice lake. Samson crouched while he pulled out his cell phone to make a call to his superiors in SHIELD.

              "We're going to need back-up on this one," Samson said, as he dialed the number, "they knew someone would come after them; hopefully they weren't expecting us, or he would have planned accordingly and—"

              The phone was dead. Samson looked at it, trying to look at the screen and saw that there was no reception.

              "Sunspot activity," a woman's voice said from behind and above him. He turned in time to see a golden-shining figure, a woman in tattered rags of a costume, burning brightly through the ice and the snow. Light and heat blasted out from her in every direction.

              "The Gold Lion," Samson said, recognizing her as the missing superheroine who had gone after the person responsible for the entire mess. "You're under his control, but I can—"

              The Gold Lion blasted him with a focused beam of heat which he almost completely dodged, his shoulder singed. He cried out in pain, unaccustomed as he was to such searing agony as he now felt.

              "You should not have brought your friend here," the Gold Lion warned, "after he watches me fry you, I'll kill him in the same way. It's been a long enough wait."

              The two hulks were too busy far off, smashing into each other and throwing dead trees at one another, doing no harm, to hear the conversation and inject their own commentary. "What? What do you mean?"

              "I mean that I've been waiting forever to finally kill the Hulk," Gold Lion said, her face turning into a mangy snarl, "and a fat shrink isn't going to stop me!"

              Another beam of energy, and this one struck Samson in the gut, knocking him off his feet and sending him sliding across the ice, steaming and burning and on fire and in intense pain. He tried to pat it down and rolled out of the line of fire in time to avoid a no-doubt deadly blast which ripped through the ice where he had lain a moment earlier.

              "What?" The Gold Lion yelled.

              [Below.]

              In the warm, cozy, controlled environment of a hidden underground city, a man with a bulbous head repeated himself, "I said, that is not the Hulk. Not the one you seek, at least. Not the one you have vowed revenge on. I do not know who he is, but he has no gamma signature.

              "He is not Bruce Banner, therefore; he is not the Hulk."

              `How is that possible?' There was a crackle over the mental link, the result of snowy interference and the confusing rage in Gold Lion's heart.

              "You still have my permission to destroy him, of course; he might make good sport. Practice, even. A surrogate kill to whet your appetite. Have fun with them, my dear. But do go slowly on the good doctor. Go very slowly on him."

              The Leader removed himself from his control chair and stepped down the stairs towards the hall. It was time to prepare himself to meet the newcomers to Freehold, his hidden city of refugees from aboveworld. The radiation freaks, the antisocials, the generally and-or genetically challenged.

              "Blast a hole in the ground, if you like," Leader said, "you're beginning to tire, I can tell. Bring them down here and we'll take care of them until you've caught your second wind."

              `No! I can do this! I can do this for you, for me, for Freehold, for our new world!'

              "I have no doubt that you can, but a man like Leonard Samson deserves to see the face of the new world order before he goes, don't you think? And I would like to see this doppelganger of my most hated foe before his demise."

              `As you wish, my Leader.'

              "Good girl."

              [Above.]

              Samson watched from a distance as the Gold Lion conversed with an invisible partner. Visibility was low; nowhere he could hide but plain sight, no weapons on his person. He had brought his friend as the only weapon he would presumably need.

              Everything began to glow with a blinding light and Samson realized that the Gold Lion was building up for a massive attack. He ran towards the nearest large tree to hide behind and heard the cracking of the ice, felt the tremors begin, and realized that she was burrowing a powerful beam of solar energy straight down through the ice sheet.

              "Oh," Samson said, grabbing his arms around the trunk, "Shee—"

              There was a massive rumble as everything began to fall through the ice. Samson held onto the tree as best he could as he fell, his sight blinded by the tons of ice and debris flying downwards with him. He couldn't see the battling hulks or the Gold Lion, who might or might not be able to fly or hover, he wasn't quite sure.

              Something struck his forehead, hard, and Samson lost his grip on the tree and fell freely.

              When he awoke, his head was raging with pain and he rubbed it, sure that it had left a huge bump. He looked around and saw no debris, only his companion standing on his feet, proud and angry, growling, and against them in a row, the Gold Lion, Humanoid X, and the Leader.

              There were ancient-looking buildings all around them; ancient, or futuristic, Samson was too out of it to tell for sure. Not normal, that was all he could make out. All shapes and colors of people stood around them, at a safe distance, staring curiously at the outsiders. At the intruders. The invaders.

              "You've stumbled upon Freehold, my secret home to the misbegotten of the world," the Leader said, smiling wickedly at Samson. "I apologize for my friends taking you for enemies. One can never be too careful in the modern world, and we recluses are a paranoid lot, you know."

              "What's going on? Why's she with you? What did you do to her?" Samson's companion asked, naively.

              Samson waved him off before the Leader started speaking. "The Gold Lion is here of her own free will, of course. Ask her yourself."

              "You experimented on human beings, killed them! We're taking you in!"

              "No, we're not," Samson said, "We can't prove it and now we've barged in without any sort of official authorization."

              "Exactly; I don't know what experiments you are speaking of, but I would never willfully do anything to hurt another sentient being. Everyone here knows that; it's why I am their beloved Leader. I don't mean to be rude, but I think your friend could use a few more years of school."

              "He's very young," Samson agreed, taking his companion by the arm and directing him away. "Come on."

              "Who is he, by the way? He's a dead-ringer for… ahem, our friend."

              "Sorry, that's top secret," Samson said, "why don't you just pluck it out of my head if you're so worried about it?"

              "I would never do that, it would be a violation of your personal rights. We are very strong on individuals' rights in Freehold. You are free to leave provided that you promise never to attack our home again."

              "Never," Samson promised, his companion gritting his teeth, muscles rippling with rage.

              "X, show them the door," the Leader said, and Humanoid X stomped ahead.

              [The Helicarrier.]

              "Why didn't we fight them?"

              "Besides the fact that it's their home, and they were ready for us," Samson said, "did you look around? Besides the Leader, Lion, and that green-skinned humanoid, it was all civilians. He was hoping we would go berserk in battle, no doubt film it, and prove to the world that SHIELD attacked Freehold unprovoked."

              "Then why did we go at all?"

              "Now we know that he was expecting us," Samson said, "and that proves that he was responsible. And knowing who your enemy is… that's the first step in building up a war strategy, Teddy."

              "Call me Hulkling," Teddy Altman said.

              "Okay, Hulkling," Samson said, as he studied a report. "By the way, where is the Hulk now? You were the last to see him?"

              "He's gone now. Gone to the stars."

              [Freehold.]

              "Remind me again why we didn't destroy them?" Gold Lion asked.

              "If we did that, their superiors would send more foot soldiers in to investigate what happened to them," the Leader said, "it would bring us more trouble than letting them go has. It also gave me an opportunity to get close enough to them to scan their minds; now that Samson is no longer gamma irradiated, I can get into his mind to a limited degree. His friend, however… that mind is harder to access. Alien, I believe; aliens' brains are set up differently from human, makes it more difficult for me to read. Much like any other non-human animals."

              "Did you find out anything?"

              "Don't presume to question your Leader," the Leader said, forcing her to sit down beside him in her energy analyzing chair. "And yes, I believe I did. The Hulk is not going to be a problem for us."

              The Leader smiled.

              {End.}

              NEXT TIME: THE FALL OF TROY!
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