It’s a classic scenario, according to Frank Castle, the Punisher. He realizes that some might call it cliché, not due to lack of motivation, but through over-exposure. ‘Seen it, been in it, hundreds of times now’ he tells himself as he approaches a large farm, with several buildings and animal pens centered close together. ‘Loomis’ a man in a green jacket calls out. ‘Huh? Oh…hey there Mr Phillips. Uh, what can I do for you?’ Loomis calls out from where he is on the back of a pick-up truck. ‘Uh, what can I do for you?’ Loomis asks. ‘You’ve done quite enough, Loomis…the boss learned of your self-help bonus plan. Sent me to close the account’ Mr Phillips explains, pulling a gun out from his jacket. ‘No! Wait!’ Loomis exclaims as he gets off the back of the pick-up truck. ‘Permanent like’ Mr Phillips announces as he fires the gun at close range, with Loomis only getting his gun ready.
‘For me, it’s business as usual. Business is far too good. I’m compelled to take advantage of every opportunity - even when I find myself playing into a hackneyed situation like this - two top guns in a dusty show down’ the Punisher thinks to himself. Looms lies motionless at Mr Phillips’ feet, while Phillips notices the Punisher standing nearby. ‘What have we here?’ he asks, before realizing who it is: ‘What a pleasant surprise… the Punisher!?’ Mr Phillips remarks. The rugged vigilante stands his ground, reaching for a gun at his side, weapons attached to a pouch around his waist, his large trench coat covering his body, though the infamous skull symbol can be clearly seen.
‘The question is why. There’s the pat answer - vengeance on criminals for leaving me a bitter childless widower… for leaving me alive’ he thinks to himself. But that is only a small piece of the answer, not good to delve too deep, thinking too much can cause confusion, dull the edge… he cannot afford to lose any sharpness. The Punisher knows that this is the Kingpin’s top assassin, a man with style - very fast, over thirty hits to his credit without receiving a scratch. He was sharp, too, always faced his quarry, no long distance shots or hits in the back. He knows that Mr Phillips uses a 9mm auto, so that is what the Punisher is carrying too, and realizes that armor-piercing slugs make his chest Kevlar useless, except as billboard advertising of his ID.
Inside one of the buildings: ‘Daddy, what was that?’ a boy calls out, while his father reaches for a rifle above the fireplace. ‘Stay put’ he tells his son and wife, who asks him to be careful.
Outside, Mr Phillips declares ‘As the challenged, I get to make the first move, eh?’ and boasts that with one shot, he will earn a bonus from the boss big enough to retire on. His hand is just at his gun, when suddenly the man from the building arrives outside, rifle raised.
‘Thank you, Mr Moore!’ Mr Phillips smiles as he fires his weapon, using the distraction, drawing and ducking in one fluid motion. ‘Nice moves’ the Punisher thinks to himself as he starts firing back, while dodging Mr Phillips’ bullets. ‘Help! Everyone come running!’ Mr Moore calls out.
Bullets fly about, and Mr Phillips gets an early retirement as the Punisher shoots him down. He tells himself that most wouldn’t consider this an advantageous situation, but that tracking Kingpin’s current assassin led him to one of the fat man’s major drug processing centers in Mexico. And now, it will be like shooting fish in a barrel - obliterate this operation in one afternoon. Men start emerging from the various buildings on the farm, and a chopper descends from the sky above as bullets are fired towards the Punisher. ‘Dad! Dad!’ the boy calls out to his father, while his mother calls out to her husband, Sean and tells him to come back.
In the chopper, a man in military garb can be seen, while the pilot remarks that something is up down there, and a garbled radio message told him something about a gun fight. ‘I see him. Lone gunman taking on the whole damn ranch, doing pretty good, too, but the looks of things’ the man in the camouflage clothing remarks. The pilot calls him Sniper and asks him how can see that. ‘I can barely tell up from down in this mess’ he points out. ‘My eagle eyes are part of what your boss is paying premium rates for. Now get us down there where the action is’ Sniper instructs the pilot, who replies ‘No way! I’m finding a safe clear area to put this baby down before we get sand-blasted from the sky!’
The pilot adds that his orders were specific - to get Sniper to the ranch to finish his recuperation, adding that he heard the Punisher tore him up. ‘You don’t disobey the boss’ the pilot warns him. Sniper’s scarred face turns and he holds a knife to the pilot’s face, ‘The Kingpin isn’t here now but I am’ he points out. ‘Okay! Alright! You got it - we’re going in’ the pilot responds.
Down below, the Punisher learns that most of the guys here don’t know how to handle a gun, and decides they will probably plug more of each other than he will. ‘Dad!’ the boy calls out to his father. ‘Oh my God’ Sean’s wife utters as the Punisher shoots him down. The boy rushes over to his father. ‘Murderer!’ he shouts, picking up his father’s gun.
The Punisher decides that the situation is no longer under control and that it is time for him to leave. He starts to make his way to where he left his transport, while Sean’s son aims the rifle at the Punisher and fires, the force of the blast sending the boy falling backwards. As the Sniper shoots the Punisher in his shoulder, he calls out in pain, the Kevlar stopped it from penetrating, but it still hurts like hell. ‘Kevin! My God!’ Sean Moore’s wife calls out as she picks her son up. The Punisher makes a run for it past a barn, while the pilot tells Sniper ‘That was #$%&ing amazing!’ Sniper replies that he hit whoever it was, and instructs the pilot to take them down so he can finish him off. Suddenly, the chopper is knocked about by a big gust of wind. ‘Hold on!’ the pilot calls out, as the chopper crashes near some of the surviving criminals.
The crash has given the Punisher a bit of a breather, but he can hear the remaining criminals moving up on both sides of the barn as he stands behind it readying a horse. ‘This is some R & R Spot’ Sniper mutters as he and the pilot exit the chopper. The pilot announces that he doesn’t feel so good, while the Punisher has mounted his horse and starts to speed away. ‘Nail ‘im or we’ll lose ‘im in the storm!’ one of the criminals calls out as bullets are fired toward the Punisher. He manages to escape, and lets the horse loose as he reaches his pick-up truck, while thinking to himself ‘That was stupid. Could’ve taken that place out long distance with the right equipment. Why didn’t I take the time to do it the smart way after what I was up against became clear?’ he wonders, before deciding that he is thinking too much again, just like Microchip’s blabbering makes him do.
He recalls his earlier conversation with his associate, Microchip, who exclaimed ‘Don’t give me that crud, Drank - thinking deep about things doesn’t turn your brain to mush, just the opposite’. ‘Heard it all before, Micro’ Frank told his associate. ‘you’ve been on a major jones to bust up Kingpin’s operations all week. Do you know why?’ Micro pointed out. Stoic, the Punisher told his companion that the Kingpin deserves all the grief he can throw his way, that’s all. ‘Frank, this is the anniversary of Conchita’s death - during our last war with the Kingpin’ Microchip asks Frank if he realizes that, that he must know why he has stepped up his attacks now. ‘Right. I know’ Punisher replied.
Meanwhile, the Kingpin is currently in room exercising with huge weights while playing chess. ‘Queen’s knight to…’ he remarks, when suddenly, a blonde woman dressed in green informs him that there is bad news from south of the border. A few minutes later, the Kingpin has finished his workout and wraps a gown around his large body. ‘King’s bishop takes Queen’s rook’ he calls out, and a computer voice responds ‘I have been checkmated again, sir. Congratulations’. The Kingpin calls the blonde woman Arranger, and asks her what the Punisher is to him. ‘Your greatest expense, Sir?’ Arranger replies. ‘He is that. Between his raids on my drug distribution system, the computer raids and loss of top operatives… the Punisher has cost me thirty million over the past year - much of that over the past week’.
The Kingpin lights a cigar and remarks to Arranger that the Punisher has eluded or killed the best he could find to hunt him down. ‘He is always “on”, always ready, always prepared. Almost inhuman, eh?’ the Kingpin points out. ‘Yes, Sir’ the woman agrees, while the Kingpin states that up until now, nothing seemed capable of shaking the Punisher up enough to make him vulnerable, but that this will now change, as he has devised a way to curb expenses. The Kingpin asks how the recruitment process is going, as he is particularly interested in Damage. ‘Damage is eight-five percent complete, Sir. However… our full goals seem unattainable by the current technology’ Arranger replies as she touches a control that opens a panel to a room where various men are engaged in exercise.
The Kingpin reports that he has discovered an outfit that may be able to supply their needs, and states that through those law enforcement officers under his employ, he was able to learn of a group of high-tech assassins, and track them from New York back to their Australian base. ‘They fought the Punisher to a stalemate in Brooklyn’ Arranger reports. Smiling, the Kingpin declares that they call themselves the Reavers and that they are led by a man called Pierce. ‘They owe the Punisher a lot. He’s cost them millions as well’. Standing at a large computer console, Kingpin suggests that perhaps a mutually advantageous deal can be arranged with Mr Pierce. ‘An excellent idea, Air’ the Arranger replies. ‘Yes, it is’ the Kingpin tells her, before asking what Sniper’s current condition is.
Half a world away, ‘Looking for me, Reese?’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan calls out as he drops down towards the Reaver known as Resse, they begin to battle on a pier. Reese fires his weapon and it strikes Logan in his side, ‘That one’s going to take a while to mend’ Logan thinks to himself while his claws sever a cable on Reese’s body, taking out his communications with the other Reavers before he calls them all down here. ‘No escape, X-Man! We’ve got all of Hong Kong covered!’ Reese declares as he drops down and fires at Logan. He boasts that even Wolverine’s adamantium bones and healing factor won’t be able to bail him out when he blasts his heart into a bloody paste. ‘One shot between the ribs is all it’ll take’.
The Reaver makes his way down some stairs, ‘That call for help from an old friend was all a setup, Wolverine!’ the Reaver explains. ‘Do tell’ Wolverine replies. ‘Pierce knew you’d come - you’re too predictable’ the Reaver points out. ‘Then you should’ve seen this coming’ Logan replies as he uses his claws to slash apart the wooden stairs, and the Reaver falls into the water - right where the propeller blades of a boat are starting up. Logan knows that the blades won’t keep a Reaver out of action for long. He decides that he has to chance sitting tight for a bit, let his side knit itself back together.
Logan takes refuge down an alleyway, and with Reese’s communicator, listens to the other Reavers discussing matters: ‘Bonebreaker, what the hell happened to Reese? I’ve lost all contact’ Pretty Boy can be heard asking. Bonebreaker informs Pretty Boy that Reese is off his radar as well. Then, Pierce tells his team to all converge on Reese’s last coordinates. Logan will be able to smell them before they are within half a mile, but realizes that he is no shape to take on all these high-tech idiots. He continues to listen as Donald Pierce instructs the Reavers to report back to him as soon as they arrive, and adds that he is on another line with someone offering to take care of another costly headache - the Punisher. ‘I wanted to do that boy myself, Pierce’ Bonebreaker announces. Pierce instructs him to take care of current matters first. Taking some clothes hanging on a line down the alleyway, Logan puts them over his uniform, although they do not fit him properly, and holding his wound, ‘Another “friend” in need’ he thinks to himself about the Punisher. He makes his way down a street, ‘Just what I need’ Logan mutters.
In the Australian Outback, Pierce stands in his communication room, wearing his extravagant purple robe, a voice over a communicator says ‘Five million is far too much for what you would be providing’. ‘Nonsense. However, I’m willing to send the technology you need to finish your Damage Project, Kingpin - for free’ Pierce offers, provided the Kingpin can deliver the Punisher’s head to them within ten days. ‘Otherwise the technology will cost you ten million’ Pierce explains. ‘That’s in US dollars’ he adds. The Kingpin frowns and tells Pierce that his price is triple what it should be. ‘But my need is strong, so you have a deal, Pierce.’
The Kingpin adds that curiosity compels him to ask why the Reavers have not seen to the Punisher’s demise. Pierce explains that they have bigger game to hunt, so Kingpin suggests that perhaps he can be of assistance to Pierce in this other matter. Pierce frowns and replies that he sincerely doubts that would be useful, before he ends the transmission. Kingpin turns to Arranger and exclaims ‘The pompous boor has no idea I just manipulated him into giving me millions of dollars of technology. ‘You are not concerned with the deadline, Sir?’ Arranger enquires. ‘Not at all, my dear’ Kingpin tells her.
Three days later at a private New York clinic, Arranger stands in a booth and watches a man down below ‘Very impressive, Dr Daltry’ she tells the elderly man in the booth with her. ‘Now let’s give him a live test’ she smiles. A panel opens, and the Punisher enters the training room. ‘But, how? How did you get the Punisher here?’ Dr Daltry asks, while the man in the training room, whose body is heavily comprised of cybernetics, turns to the new arrival. Arranger calls the man below Damage and explains that he has one overriding motivation - to destroy the man that destroyed his body. ‘PUNISHER!’ Damage calls out. Arranger explains that it was Damage’s determination to kill the Punisher that pulled him through the surgery, all the grafts and the pain. ‘Ya got that right!’ Damage grins.
‘My, you really did beef us his audio sensitivity, didn’t you?’ Arranger comments to Dr Paltry, while Damage exclaims ‘Finally!’ as the Punisher moves closer. The Punisher unleashes fire,, but Damage just laugh as the bullets strike his body. ‘An end to my pain. The beginning of yours!’ he grins The Punisher hurls a grenade towards Damage, ‘Fastball or change up?’ Damage asks. Damage grabs the grenade and throws it behind himself, ‘More like a breaking ball - ha!’ he laughs, before the Punisher pulls the pin off another grenade, and starts the countdown. ‘What now?’ Damage asks. The Punisher throws the grenade at Damage, but it doesn’t harm him. ‘That would’ve hurt if I was still all flesh and blood’ he points out, adding that he will just have to order a spare from the shop.
Punisher turns from Damage and takes out the lights, plunging the room into darkness. ‘Sorry, Punisher - infra-red and light amplification abilities are now standard on this model!’ Damage calls out as he shines a post light at the Punisher who is walking away. ‘Dance for your supper, boy!’ Damage exclaims as he starts firing at the Punisher. ‘Not much rhythm’ Damage mutters, as he fires bullets into both of Punisher’s kneecaps, and the Punisher topples over. Damage goes over to him, ‘You look tired - no energy left? I can fix that’ Damage offers, and although Punisher turns and raises a gun to Damage, the cyborg touches the Punisher and electrocutes him.
Arranger goes down to the training room, ‘You should be happy, not sad’ she remarks to Damage as she inspects the Punisher’s body, his lower legs completely blown off, blood pooling around him. ‘I…I know. But all I ever wanted to do was kill the Punisher…now what?’ Damage asks. ‘You get to do it again’ Arranger smirks. Motioning to the fallen body before her, Arranger informs Damage that this was not the real Punisher, only a worker who disobeyed their employer. ‘What? You tricked me!’ Damage exclaims. Arranger tells Damage to remember that this means the real Punisher is still out there waiting for him. She explains that his fake Punisher was told he would be forgiven if he could defeat Damage, but he didn’t. ‘He would die but his family would receive a pension - if he put up a good fight’.
Arranger tells Damage to decide, ‘Did he put up a good fight?’ she asks. Damage pauses, ‘He was pitiful - but he tried. What the hell!’ he replies, before asking if he can do it again, kill the Punisher again. ‘We’re counting on it. And soon’ Arranger responds, before asking him just how much he hates the Punisher. ‘Totally’ Damage replies. ‘Enough to do anything to destroy him?’ the Arranger asks. ‘Anything!’ Damage assures her. ‘Enough to have one more procedure do to this to you?’ the Arranger asks, holding up an image to Damage, who grins, and tells her ‘Sure - what the hell!’
Meantime, across town and thousands of feet in the air, Logan is on a plane, and reads a newspaper called “the Globe”, the headline stating “Bystanders killed in Punisher shoot-out with drug gang”. He tells himself that this doesn’t sound like the man he met in the heart of Africa or fought side by side with against Blackheart. An announcement comes over the intercom, informing passengers to prepare for arrival at New York’s JFK Airport. Logan makes his way through the airport, smoking a cigar, he has travelled halfway around the world to warn the Punisher about the Reavers’ threat, and find out who it is they are conspiring with. He knows that the Punisher is a dangerous loose cannon, always walking the line, always in danger of going over, traits that Logan can empathize with.
Logan goes over to a kiosk and buys something, while telling himself that if the Punisher is stepping over the line, it may take a kindred soul to show him the way back, or, if needed, to take him down. Logan gets into a cab and decides that he should be able to track the Punisher from his last known location by his scent trail, provided Logan’s senses can cope with the environment, as the city really stinks.
At that moment, the Punisher is in one of his safe houses, and sitting on a couch watches a television report which states that the families of the victims of the Punisher’s crossfire are obviously too distraught to comment, but that in exclusive photos obtained by their cameraman, one can see the grief-stricken relatives of one victim in their home. ‘And what do we know of the man reported to have caused this terrible slaughter? Our file photo gives little away’ the announcer states as a close-up image of the Punisher appears on the television.
Frank switches the television off, realizing that someone is trying real hard to make him look bad, and killing innocents to do it. He wonders who is impersonating him, and why. He decides that he has to disguise himself and pay a visit to the scene of the crime. Shortly, he is in a blue can, ‘This is it’ he thinks to himself as he passes through a police barricade.
But, someone is onto him, and has his van on their radar, target in sight, as the van is full of high-tech ordinance and electronics which gives him away. Someone remarks to themselves ‘Punisher…you’re mine’….