Kidnapped From Culver
Bruce investigates the disappearance of Betty. Masters disobeys orders.

Culver University

"Silly undergrads always prank calling the desk. Telling me that they've found me and I should run—"

Rolling grassy hills, large university buildings, and students scattered across the lawn are all indications that classes are in session at Culver University. The classes are oddly empty though. Students have already become distracted from their studies by the changing weather.

Betty's department administrator had little to say about Doctor Ross besides the fact that she mysteriously took a sabbatical starting in October mid-semester. She then proceeded to complain, for nearly forty-five minutes about the hassle it was to get a replacement midway through the semester.

"It's not that I don't like Betty," the elderly woman emphasizes. "It's that it was downright irresponsible to withdraw when she did." She wags a finger haphazardly before finally resuming the seat behind her desk. "Just imagine the level of work we had to do to fix it! One of the grad students had to take the class. So many undergraduate complaints about the shift — never again! No more of that nonsense."

"Yes…" A singular word, typically used for instances of agreement, either inherently truthful or calculatingly sarcastic; from Bruce Banner, a peculiar usage tied to both: his sympathizing as well as a benign impatience that plays off of his appearance, the socially nervous way he shifts his weight, scanning the administrator's rows of shelves with rapid blinks, like a certain absent-mindedness. "That does sound…" Bad. Troublesome. Terrible for you. Like not what I asked about. Socializing slips through his fingers as he folds a few into a front trousers' pocket, lifting the hem of his modest button-down. "Did you say you heard about this sabbatical from— Dr. Ross," using the prop of his glasses, he gestures down in emphasis, "Herself?"

The question causes the older woman's blue eyes, complete with crow's feet, to sharpen. Her hands take to shuffling about some of the papers on her desk, busying herself with the work at hand rather than the direct question. "No," she confesses to the papers rather than Bruce while she sorts through everything. "It was a gentleman who originally called it in." The papers are set down for a few minutes. "He was incredibly polite and kept apologizing for the inconvenience." Her forehead scrunches exposing three pronounced worry lines across its landscape. "He kept asking about the process." She sighs, "After we talked all of the appropriate paperwork came through. Including departmental approval. I really don't know how you get that in the middle of the semester, but Betty had all of the signatures. All the paperwork was copied in triplicate and then filed away."

The phone rings and the administrator holds up a finger to Bruce, indicating it will be but a second. "Hello — " but the administrator's worry lines expose themselves just a little more, "Who is this?" But those worry lines only tighten further as the familiar clicky noise takes over the line. She hands up the phone and lifts her chin to meet Bruce's gaze. "That was odd." And then, perhaps looking for a little bit of camaraderie, or perhaps just a tinge of empathy, she adds, "Silly undergrads always prank calling the desk." Once more her gaze tracks down to the papers, "Telling me that they've found me and I should run — this is my job, some of these students and their imaginations — "

"A gentleman…" faded, doubtful, musing cut off by that finger to which Bruce's lips thin. In waiting, fingers nudge his glasses closed, gliding them into his shirt's breast pocket. He's looking off and away when she expresses "odd", the sentiment turning his head to the timely search of hers for him. Intelligent eyes darken with brooding as his mouth slips open gently to offer a quick, shuddering smile swiftly distracted. "Yes, quite an imagination…" she's lent fleeting sympathy, traveling backwards with him in a step towards the door. Lifting his right hand, fingers point down next to the door, indicating that direction past the mahogany to the corridor behind, "Restroom— ?" Right— or wrong and left— he excuses himself promptly out the door, ears open for any chasing response— so he can immediately go any way but when out of sight.

The administrator nods and issues a fleeting two fingered wave towards the left as Bruce exits the room. Her eyes turn downward, back to her paperwork, but a very different noise begins to echo from the left. The noise of heavy rubber against linoleum actually causes vibrations through the department. But then it stops. The sound ceases. And everything becomes quiet save for the shuffle of papers from the administrator's office.

Right it is. Cutting quickly that way, Bruce strides with conviction past rows of other offices— varying open and closed doors. Name-tags go by in blurs. People— people, all. People who have nothing to do with this. He doesn't like it in this hallway; the walls are too close together. Hitting the end of the hall, he throws open the EXIT door for the backyard staircase there, convincing it immediately closed behind him before he strides to the railing, listening over it for a second before twisting to trot down the first flight.

The noise of a door opening in the stairwell echoes throughout, but which floor it opened from is nearly impossible to tell. Followed by the sound of footfalls darting upwards. Only to stop. And wait in silence. One thing is for certain, they didn't come through the eleventh floor, they would've met Bruce upstairs on the stairs if that had been the case…

Silence met with silence; if the person below him doesn't move, neither will Bruce. He waits… weighing silence for the first noise that will help cover his own.

The wait may be minutes, but to Masters it feels like an hour. Ross had always taught him to be patient, to think himself little more than a predator stalking prey. A single step goes upwards, causing Masters to cringe at the noise. With a deep breath, the ultimate Taskmaster mimics the motions taught to him by his mentor and man-crush. Oddly, if anyone else were to see these quiet (but NOT silent) footfalls, they might mistake the motion for Thaddeus Ross himself. Despite whatever personality flaws he may have, Masters is undoubtedly good at mimicry.

The radio in his ear connects him to the others on Beta team that he'd bothered to gather. And, despite the direct order from Fury, he hadn't bothered sharing his team's intel with Agent Hill. But then, if they catch the Hulk none of that will matter, will it?

A single— possible— step in, what, minutes. Intentions were obvious; now onto actions. His heartbeat thunders loudest of all, but by Bruce's calculations, adrenal levels were still under control. But there was no way he could guarantee they'd continue to be, was there. Stupid— stupid idea, Bruce. Way to go.

He very deliberately inhales, and then exhales. With a quiet lift and touch and shift, he sidles backwards a step towards the eleventh floor door. Trained he is not. Just a career fugitive. Step— step— and then a palm bracing the door as the other twists. He eases it open and himself through, guiding it to a complete close— glancing rapidly over his shoulder to check the corridor. The opposite stairwell holds no real promise; he's not so naive as to think there's just one guy, but maybe this one is slightly less patient.

The hallway here seems clear. With the exception of some professors in their office shuffling papers and murmuring about the merits and drawbacks of graduate students. And then the door behind Bruce cracks open, only to fly open later, exposing the blond, too-eager Anthony Masters, who breaks out into a full sprint after Banner.

Feet pounding on the carpet, a thin mantra begging no one to pop out of their office occupying his mind to try and keep it off of working his heart-rate, Bruce tears down the corridor, feet slam-slam-slamming to a skidding halt at the far door as he hauls it open and himself through— momentum spinning, out of sight, to throw him behind the door. There's footsteps on this stairwell now, too, his rapid concern tells him, but at least they'll pass for his as he waits, measuring— hearing for his pursuer— to open a door… with Bruce braced to catch it as it starts to open, and smack the encroaching figure.


It doesn't take much to hit Masters in the head, prompting a large groan from the man creamed on the floor in front of the stairs. No doubt that will leave a mark. One of Masters' truest talents kicks in, however. Photographic reflexes prompt him to Jackie Chan back to his feet. At least Ross had him constantly studying. No doubt, however, the door to the head will leave a mark.

And there is no doubt that Bruce managed to slow Masters. Sort of. A finger presses to his right ear, "He's in the North stairwell — round him off on either side. Whatever you do, KEEP him in the building!"

A building Bruce desperately attempts to diminish his presence in, pounding steps no longer subtle where he's bolted for the stairwell Masters abandoned, nearly leaping whole flights of stairs at a stretch he's going to feel later— a future he has not the luxury to consider.

From the bottom, tranquilizer darts begin to fly upwards. Evidently someone is desperate to catch Bruce Banner and has taken every precaution they possibly can. Loud footfalls traipse down the staircases as other agents from Beta team try to catch up to Bruce from the rooftop, but he's got a jump on his escape already. Masters, much like Bruce, jumps down full flights of stairs.

As a projectile whizzes past his hand clenched to the railing, Bruce feels a blindly protective surge. No, no, no. How did he let himself get into this?— scuttling backwards up the steps he'd been jumping, he flies for the main floor door, switching stairwells like a human ping-pong ball.

The eighth floor, designed like the others, is a myriad of offices, and it's relatively quiet, but despite all of the commotion, it seems that the building hasn't been cleared out. Professors and graduate students alike linger in the labs and offices contained within. Evidently Beta team hasn't actually infiltrated the floors. Not fully, anyways.

In the staircase at the ninth floor, Masters presses his finger to his ear, "Eighth floor. Get there. Now."

This floor is unusually unique. Instead of the halls behind lined with offices, a large window rests on the east side of the corridor, permitting the entrance of natural light and a larger lab in the centre of the floor.

Harried studying of the surroundings elicits a crackle of anger inside of Bruce for the military team that would pursue a target like him in a building full of people. Adrenaline spurs his blood; he throws a dark look over his shoulder, heatedly consumed with the image of letting these spooks have exactly what they came for— "No…" the mumble is quick, humbling. That's not him and he needs to get out

His stroll entering the lab might be casual, except for its double-time pace, excusing him past Culver civilians, each one a possible guilt-trip keeping him grounded in the sanity of his insanity, boiling the singular notion in his head not made of frustration: get out. Get away from people.

The chair's in his hand mid-stride, scraping gently with its metal parts as he brings it up with the momentum of his arm's swing. Up, even with him, then he's leading with it, grasping with the other hand; an underhanded arc, driven by the pull of his left hand. He's murmuring, "Sorry," as the chair smoothly impacts the window, creating instantaneous spider-webs that explode out in a shimmer of starry glass. Fingers loose and the chair clatters off to his left at the end of the swing.

Bracing a couple of fingers against the frame, arched in-between protruding spikes of glass left clinging to the window's structure, Bruce hefts himself up, loud snaps of window chunks beneath his shoes, and leans into an eight-story view.

Rounding the corner of the lab, the tranq gun is shot several times over, actually managing to hit one of the civilians who didn't quite hide under the lab bench as fast as his peers. Fortunately one of his graduate student colleagues has a cell phone camera, so the young man in question will never live it down. The young man's senses dull and he looks almost stupid as his knees buckle underneath his body. Evidently they work quick.

Masters speeds into the room, just as his tranquilizer gun empties, there's no more ammunition. All he has left is blanks. He just replaces the weapon at his belt. "Doctor Banner — "

Wind whips at the shoulders of his shirt, high from his lean, grasping breezy fingers at his balance; his own fingertips precariously poised between holding and pushing. Swinging, his head turns over his right shoulder, precisely finding Masters amongst the growing lab chaos. Bruce's face carved in stone, a risen wall against the offset of his hateful eyes, pulsating the tip of a wrathful iceberg— relentlessly fiery, burning the agent into a remembrance deeper than memory inside that radiant green color.

Unfathomable rage now knows him. Prey.

A tic of Bruce's mouth splits that second— smirk or grimace, all unreachable. A tiny shift of fingers. Push. The good doctor plummets out of sight off the edge of the window.

One graduate student, from her perch underneath the bench actually makes noise, "Don't jump that's at least eighty — " but it's far too late, causing the twenty-something to curl into herself. So much for helping her fellow man.

A quiet curse escapes Masters' lips. He wasn't counting on this mission going aerial. But then, he always always comes prepared: another thing he learned from Thaddeus Ross. The belt at his hip is flipped open, and the thick repelling cord is anchored around the biggest end of the lab bench. The knot is perfect despite not having done such things in recent memory. But then that's the beauty of photographic symmetry. See it once, muscles learn it forever.

A tug is given on the rope, and then Masters begins repel off the building, one floor at a time. No it doesn't have quite the same speed as Banner's method, but it certainly will keep him from being completely crushed by the force of his own momentum.

As he drops a floor, his finger rises to his ear again, "Beta team, he's outside. Move it — corner him off."

Tumbling out from a neat cluster of trimmed bushes, rolling off his right shoulder towards his left side, arms clutched over his head, impact vibrates through the balls of Bruce's feet and he forces along the sense of relaxation he'd used falling to help not completely crack every bone: I'm alright, I'm alright— I don't need you. It's hard to discern, off the bat, if that's true, but as he scrapes palms on the lawn to push up to his abused feet, a bitter reliance on his adrenaline keeps him breathing— panting; he glances up to see Masters beginning pursuit with his usual soft brown gaze.

Then he's traipsing along the side of the building, keeping to its corners rather off across the quad where the agent could track his position clear as day.

Jumping and/or repelling from buildings in the middle of the day when undergraduate students are everywhere really does garner a crowd, particularly in the information age. Text messages sent. Text messages received. The sheer volume of information passed makes this an event for the campus.

Which actually seems to play to Bruce's favour. While Masters manages to reach the bottom unscathed thanks to his equipment, the crowd of students trying to take his picture and film the entire incident have their effect. "CLEAR OUT OF THE WAY! THIS IS OFFICIAL BUSINESS!" He yells at the crowd. And slowly, somewhat begrudgingly some of the students comply, shuffling out of the way. No doubt, however, the move has slowed Masters.

Unbeknownst to Masters, the rest of his Beta team are no longer on his frequency. Slowly and efficiently, they have each been reassigned and spirited away. Wearing a lab coat and a pair of glasses, Maria Hill suddenly appears in front of Masters and continues to move one way and then the other to make sure he won't get past her. "Am I in your way?" she asks, tone steely and not to be messed with. Then, as if talking to no one, she adds, "Please minimize damage and exposure."

Around the campus, similarly incognito agents who look like police officers arrive. They start to corral the witnesses into a singular area. In the digital age it's impossible to stop whatever texts or videos they've already spread, but they can erase the original files.

That rest of the team start to spread out in an attempt to find Banner and retrieve him.

But the trail of a sprinting madman has run dry; now there's just gatherings of students and observers wondering at the mid-day activities. Each one as mundane as the man in the benign brown jacket, the school-logoed baseball cap that lifts only for glasses that glint with the sunlight to obscure eyes, who decides the proceedings are not to his interest and turns around to walk off of the campus with a slight limp.

2 Hours Earlier

"Evidently he's already on his way to Culver," Fury states flatly with his arms crossed tightly over his chest. His stance indicates he's less than impressed. "And he took your entire team." How Masters managed to do that is anyone's guess. "He's your problem Hill. I put you in charge of the Beta team. FIX THIS."

"Sir," Maria is stunned and ill-prepared for this information. Already, she has requested files on every single member of her team as well as all their missions. However, she hasn't gotten a chance to read more than a few of them. "You gave me the Beta team without consulting me and, worse than that, without any prior knowledge to their inner workings. They're all going to resent me. They already have a hard time following orders."

Not exactly flustered, but annoyed, she adds. "I'll need another team. Only a few. Lend me Coulson and his team, at least." She knows they'll follow orders.

There's no acknowledgement of the situations difficulties or the ways ini which Maria was flung into this impossible situation. General Ross' team was challenging at the best of times, a quality Ross had managed to foster, and even seemed to value. "Fine. Get it done, Hill." The sterness of his expression unrelents. "Bring him in."


"Apparently," comes Masters one word response to Maria's question. "Always maintain the target," he hisses, hands shoving into the pockets of his black SHIELD jacket. Fortunately it doesn't say SHIELD on it. That would only make Fury angrier. Distractedly, the blonde man cranes his neck to try to follow Bruce with his gaze, but its fruitless thanks to the intervention of Agent Hill. "Happy?" he says with a twitch of a smile.

In many respects, Masters looks worse for wear thanks to the chase. Beads of sweat have been absorbed by his hairline, and the lump on his head has begun to purple. His hands are red from the grasp of the rope.

In the sunny glare of the background, Coulson's politely ushering a couple of students off to the side, smiling with crisp congeniality, "No, no. We're not going to ask you to look into the light…"

With eyes narrowing, Maria glares at Masters. "I am maintaining the target." Meaning, Masters. "We'll talk about this in a secure location." The middle of the hallway in Culver is not exactly where these sort of things should be held. In fact, it's not where any sort of rescue or capture should be taking place as far she she knows. "Does it look like I'm happy?" And, with that, she turns on her heel, expecting him to follow.

On the street, the 'officers' are running some sort of device over their phones that automatically set it to the factory reset. The others have combed the area, but have not come up with Banner. It's a bust. Masters certainly will have much to answer for.

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