The Hulk seemed to dissolve, but Bruce Banner could be glimpsed
briefly inside the falling shape as it dropped into the lake. His
father, victorious, towered above the mountains. He saw on the horizon
a fleet of puny Stealth fighters and jets making their way toward him,
and he laughed and laughed, and his laughter resounded like thunder.
Then he paused, and looked down at his stomach. Swirling energy
radiated into his whole body making it bigger, bigger. He thrashed
about, looking for his son or the Hulk, and began to scowl.
“You!” he shouted to no one. “The reaction—you tricked me! Take it
back! It’s not stopping!”
Nor was it. It spun out of control, the different energies colliding,
his body absorbing everything, the moonlight, the air, the wind, and
when there was nothing else, his body—seeking new energy sources—found
the largest one around: itself. His body literally began to devour
itself, the effect flowing from the middle and surging outward, and as
the father clutched at himself and screamed and howled, a voice
sounded in his head, and it might have been his own, but it sounded
like his son’s. And the words—the parting words from his
offspring—burned into his fevered consciousness.
. . . things fall apart . . . the center cannot hold . . .
David Banner stumbled to the top of the mountain, and this time he
didn’t notice the fighters swiftly approaching from behind.
And in the far, far distance, Thunderbolt Ross looked at his daughter
as he gave the final order. “Gentlemen, release.”
The thermonuclear missile took off from one of the planes, heading
straight for the father who continued to grow and distend in an agony
of energy. Something warned him at the last moment, and he turned and
saw it coming. For a half-second a grin split his face as he
anticipated more energy to absorb, but then he realized, Too much! Too
. . . the center cannot hold. Best wishes from this rough beast . . .
The missile struck him and his center shredded and blew apart, unable
to contain it, as a massive explosion—an explosion evocative of that
which had haunted Bruce and Betty’s dreams for as long as they could
remember—engulfed the sky.