‘Poor little Punisher. We got you running scared. Could take you out with one pull of the trigger, Frankie…but the fat man has other ideas at the moment’ the Kingpin’s Sniper thinks to himself as he peers through his target on his rifle, having Frank Castle a.k.a. the Punisher in sight.
The Punisher is in disguise as he walks through a police cordon. He knows that someone has been impersonating him and killing innocents - innocents he fights to protect. He decides that a first-hand look at the scene may provide a clue, and thanks to the Police ID that his companion Microchip manufactured, he should be able to get through without a problem. He hasn’t been to this part of town before, and raises his ID badge, ‘Detective Fort’ he introduces himself to an officer, ‘In ya go’ the officer replies, ushering “Detective Fort” through the crowd of civilians that have gathered behind the barrier. The Punisher makes his way into an apartment block, in one room, bullet-holes line the wall, the furniture lies tossed about. He decides that investigators have probably removed any evidence already, but hopes that he will get lucky. He does, as he finds a nine millimeter shell, the same as he uses. Returning to his blue van, he also knows that it is the same as half the hoods in town use. ‘The beginning of his nightmare!’ Sniper thinks to himself as he watches the Punisher drive away.
At the same time, Logan a.k.a. Wolverine, pokes his head out of a cab window, it is tough for him to sort out the trail, so many strong overwhelming scents in town. Suddenly, he finds it, there is no mistaking it, his scent is all over this scene. Logan gets out of the cab and goes over to the police cordon, deciding that the scent seems to fresh for an eighteen hour old crime, and realizes that the street cleaner must have wiped out the trail. Logan looks around and tries to memorize the Punisher’s vehicle scent. But he is better at organic smells than mechanical ones. Logan lights a cigar and decides that he will have to wait for the Punisher to be spotted again, and then pick up the trail. ‘That’d better be soon if he is responsible for this mess’ Logan tells himself.
Meanwhile, uptown, in the Kingpin’s tower, ‘This way, Sniper’ the blonde woman called Arranger leads Sniper towards the Kingpin, who is sitting at a table playing a game of chess with his computer. ‘Yeah, I know’ Sniper replies, before addressing the Kingpin as Mr Fisk and telling him that he is charged up and ready to go. ‘King’s knight takes your pawn’ the Kingpin calls out. Sniper announces that he just found out that it was the Punisher who he was shooting at in that storm down in Mexico, and adds that if he had known, he would have made sure the Punisher was down for the count. ‘My former platoon leader’s left me with a ton of scar tissue’ he adds. ‘Hmmm. Good move’ the Kingpin tells the computer, ignoring Sniper. ‘Thank you, sir’ the computer replies.
Sniper’s scarred face can be seen clearly, as he boasts ‘I know that slippery *#%&# as well as I know myself. I know how he feels - what he thinks. That makes him predictable to me. I’m ready to nail his hide’ Sniper adds. Kingpin reports that Damage has shown great instability at the clinic, and informs Sniper that he is to shadow Damage’s moves and immediately report any unauthorized activity. ‘He’s going to take care of the Punisher’ Kingpin casually reports, before telling the computer that his queen’s rook takes pawn. ‘WHAT?’ Sniper gasps. ‘You can’t mean that! He’s mine! Punisher’s mine! I owe him more than you’ll ever know!’ Sniper complains. Without looking at Sniper, the Kingpin tells him that he will do nothing to the Punisher or Damage without his direct order. ‘I’m going to break the Punisher before I have him put out of his misery’ Kingpin adds. Holding up a gold ring, the Kingpin tosses it to Sniper and tells him that he does not tolerate disobedience. Sniper grabs the ring and frowns, ‘Understand?’ the Kingpin adds.
Later, the Punisher invades another Kingpin-supplied crack den and shoots down everyone inside. He has planned this to the last detail. The legitimate family who lives in the apartment above has gone to Mass up the street this evening time, so no innocents are around. One drug-gang member emerges from behind a wall and opens fire, but the Punisher spins and around, shooting him in the chest. However, outside, watching from a nearby rooftop, someone wearing the same trench coat as the Punisher watches the attack from a safe distance. Inside, another man fires a gun at the Punisher, who think to himself ‘Only the guilty. Only the punished…and those soon to be’ as he guns the man down. Another emerges from where he is hiding in a fireplace, but the Punisher turns and smacks him in the head with his gun. ‘So young and totally unredeemable’ Frank thinks to himself. ‘Unsalvageable. That’s what I tell myself. The evidence favors that conclusion’ he decides, while someone has him in sight.
Blood splatters as the Punisher punches his opponent. He tells himself that the exceptions are so rare to be virtually non-existent, and wonders ‘What if this one would’ve straightened out?’ He realizes that he is starting to think too much. He leaves, making his way back to his blue van, ‘Did they have children who will miss them - like the wise guy in Mexico?’ he wonders, before deciding that they would have been lousy fathers anyway.
A handful of hours later, Frank sit’s a computer desk and watches a news report on the television, where the announcer reports that the top stories on the New York Midnight News is that a transit system strike is averted at the last minute, before showing exclusive footage of the Punisher’s raid last night - a raid that once again left innocent bystanders dead or wounded. He looks shocked, and turns the volume up, as the announcer reports that on an anonymous tip, they sent a camera crew to the scene last night, but were too late to catch most of the action in the downstairs crack den. Frank sees himself on the screen as the announcer stats that they managed to get this exclusive footage of the Punisher gunning down what proved to be an innocent family living on the second floor. The announcer adds that funeral arrangements have been made for the day after tomorrow.
‘This is impossible. Has to be an impostor. Has to be’ Frank thinks to himself. He checks his costume and finds one of the gloves torn, and blood splattered. He wishes that Micro wasn’t off on a buying trip, as he could have used his input. Frank wonders if he has lost it - killing people during blackouts? ‘No. it can’t be’ he tells himself. The announcer continues, stating that the bodies will be laid to rest at King’s Cemetery in Brooklyn after a morning ceremony. He rubs his head, and reminds himself that he protects the innocent, so deduces that it must be someone trying to screw with his mind - but why? How?
Back at the police cordon, Logan examines the surroundings. He is unable to get closer like he would wish, but he decides he should be able to pick up what he needs from where he is. Logan knows that the Punisher was here, his scent is all over the place, but he drove off again, no real trail to follow. He picks up another familiar scent, also from the site of the previous massacre. Logan decides that it is an odd smell. He wonders if it belongs to a detective visiting the crime sites, but maybe not. Following the scent, he comes to a stop, supposing that whoever it was must have been dropped off and picked up in a car, but carries on around the building, just in case he gets any more clues. Logan does not see the Sniper on a building across the road, watching him. Sniper reports in to the Kingpin, ‘It’s a short guy who needs a new barber, boss’ Sniper declares, before transmitting the image.
‘Computer says he’s…Wolverine. What is one of the X-Men doing here?’ Arranger asks as she sits at the computer console and examines the photograph that Sniper transmitted through. The Kingpin replies that Wolverine cannot be allowed to interfere, but that they don’t want to do anything that might bring his teammates into this. The Kingpin goes over to the console and tells Arranger and Sniper, via communicator, that Wolverine has to be taken out of the picture in a way that won’t damage him or leave a trail for his heightened senses to track back to their operation. Sniper informs the Kingpin that it looks like he is walking the perimeter looking for clues, and that he should have a clear shot from the next roof on Wolverine’s way back. ‘You’ll be sent everything you need’ the Kingpin responds.
Soon: ‘What, no tip?’ someone asks after showing the Sniper to the top of a nearby building roof. ‘Got your tip right here’ Sniper responds as he raises a knife, and slices the man’s throat. He falls to the ground, blood pouring from his neck. Sniper readies his weapon and thinks to himself that babysitting and protecting Damage’s backside was not part of the job description. ‘The Punisher should be mine - not some street punk merged with a toaster’. He realizes the wind is starting to gust, meaning a tough competition for such a projectile, and, with Logan’s back turned down the alleyway, Sniper fires - and an instant later, Logan is struck in the back of his right leg. He realizes that he has been injected with drugs, but looking at the projectile, sees that it didn’t hit squarely, only a partial dose got in. But it’s still powerful, and as Logan pulls the projectile out, he drops to the ground, seemingly unconscious.
‘Fat cheapskate! Why’d he send me Old Spice?’ Sniper thinks to himself, before dragging Wolverine into his van, realizing that it makes sense, as it covers his smell with a scent that half the men in the city wear. ‘Little runt is heavier than he looks’ Sniper tells himself as he struggles with Logan’s motionless body, but once inside the van, hooks him up to an IV, constantly dripping the tranquilizer into Logan’s body so that his healing factor won’t have a chance to shake it off. Sniper remarks that this van has been scrubbed clean of any scent that can lead Wolverine to them. ‘I’ll drive you to a deserted warehouse and leave you to finish your nap’ he states.
A few minutes later, ‘After we’ve finished our business, you’ll wake up without a clue to who it was that took you out of the game’ Sniper remarks as he opens the door to the van. ‘Bye!’ he calls out then slams the door, leaving Logan inside the van, inside the warehouse. Logan struggles, and in doing so, pulls the tube out of the IV.
At a warehouse transformed into an indoor shooting range, Punisher sits at a table, ‘Nightmares await whether I’m awake or asleep’ he realizes. He goes to his van and loads some weapons. He knows he will lose it if he sits around here thinking about it - he needs action - to put another dent in Kingpin’s drug network. He arrives at a neighborhood built alongside a toxic disposal plant, and aims a powerful weapon at one of the buildings, firing, an explosion ensues, he knows that it will take out the sentry and the door. He starts firing inside, taking out another drug gang. Windows in the building are shot at, and locals playing a ball game in the street turn their attention to the building. More bullets are fired, this time on the of the drug gang member starts firing into the sheet - so Punisher reloads his weapon and then takes his opponent out at the legs.
He stands over his “victim”, and decides to let him live - that will hurt him for the rest of his miserable life. The drug gang member screams and clutches his wound, but as the Punisher goes outside, he sees a local who has been shot. A woman kneels over him and shouts ‘John! Oh my God! John! He’s dead’, while the Punisher looks down, concerned.
At that moment, Logan is still inside the van, and tries to get into the front seat.
A second van speeds onto the street, and the Punisher thinks to himself ‘Now to do some damage’, shouting at the civilians that have gathered he tells them that no one gets out alive. He then fires at several people, at close range.
In the van, Logan hears a news report, ‘And that’s it for this half hour. We’ll bring you more on our late breaking story involving a shoot-out with the Punisher’ he hears the radio announcer state, before suddenly, he manages to hot wire the van.
‘Got one. That should do the trick - Ivy League boy’ the Punisher - not the Punisher, but Damage in disguise - reports into the Kingpin and Arranger, who asks for the information on his drivers license, as they will use their connections in law enforcement to wipe his record clean. Damage knows that he has to leave before the cops and media show up, as the news hounds will have a field day with this - “Punisher kills upstanding citizen in indiscriminate raid. Victim had no police record”.
Suddenly, Damage feels someone tap on his shoulder. ‘Huh?’ he asks. ‘Okay, bub - your stink’s all over this crime…you ain’t no cop looking for clues and you sure ain’t the Punisher’ Wolverine snarls as he pops his claws. Sniper sees the encounter and thinks that he should call it in - but realizes that if Wolverine delays or kills Damage, the Kingpin will have no choice but ti assign the hit on the Punisher to him. He knows that if the Punisher isn’t dead by tomorrow morning, the Kingpin has to hand over a fortune to the Reavers for Damage’s cyborg technology. ‘Smart man. Bye bye’ Damage replies , but Logan tells him that the answer is no, and takes a swipe.
‘Don’t know who you are, but...I’m always happy to blow away a do-gooder’ Damage declares as he smacks Wolverine in the face. Sniper decides that while Damage and Wolverine “dance” he will look up his old lieutenant, thinking that he knows right where he will be. Logan is slammed into a wire fence, ‘Tough bug, eh?’ Damage remarks, going over to the fallen Logan, he tells him that it will be fun to squash him. Logan looks up, and leaps forward, slicing across Damage’s chest. ‘You *#%*#%!’ he exclaims, before reading another weapon, ‘FRY!’ he shouts, as he activates the flamethrower. Wolverine removes his civilian clothing, his costume underneath as he moves down the alleyway. Flames engulf the alleyway and Damage tells Wolverine ‘Hiding in the dark? There is no dark for me!’ as he activates his infra-red sensor, and sees Logan ahead. ‘Your heat image gives you away…let’s cool you down with some ventilation’ he declares as he starts to fire more bullets towards Wolverine….