They Call Him...
Roleplaying Log: They Call Him…
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Barbara Gordon's research into Agent Orange pays dividends and she and Frank have a disagreement.

Other Characters Referenced: Max, Micro
IC Date: September 09, 2019
IC Location: Punisher Keep, Jersey City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 11 Sep 2019 17:59
Rating & Warnings: R for language
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

It's just after 3 AM and Barbara Gordon is not in bed. Frank finds cold sheets where the redhead had been curled up; in fact, Max's usual spot is also barren and cool. Downstairs, the woman is sitting at the computer station, the dog sitting beside her with his heavy head in her lap. She's rubbing idly at his ears with one hand while her other casually flicks fingers to make the screen scroll in front of her. Sure, she gave Frank a keyboard and mouse, but she's also put in gesture commands even if he's too analog to use them. She leans in toward the screen as it stops scrolling, and her jaw tightens a moment. "Goddamnit," she says under her breath. With a gesture, she tosses that screen away, and it flicks off the monitor before she taps open a blank screen. "Start again, GAARD… get me as far as we got last time…"

Frank wakes up from his distressingly-usual early-morning nightmare, jolting awake and grimacing. His fingers curl against empty sheets, and he rolls half-out of bed, getting his feet on the floor and rests his head in his hands for a long moment. Eventually, he pulls on his boxer-briefs and pads downstairs. The glow of the screen draws him like a lodestone — or rather the woman in front of it does, and he rests a hand on her shoulder when he approaches, "I never could get a handle on how all that wavin' around did stuff. Never could make a Wii do what I wanted either." His fingers tighten on her shoulder lightly, massaging, "Couldn't sleep." It's not a question, just a statement, "Whatcha got?" Even as he asks, he leans over to give Max a scruff at the back of the neck too.

Max doesn't even look up when Frank steps in behind them, even though his eyes give a little tick toward the Marine. Then he releases a low little whine followed by a couple little licks of his tongue against Babs's leg only to resettle his head back on her lap. She looks down first to the rough fingers that scruff up Max's neck and then behind her toward Frank as he hovers. "I could teach you, but honestly… I figured I would ease you into it." She turns her head into his wrist briefly, eyes half-closed, before she looks back at the computer monitors, pushing her glasses back up her nose. "Couldn't sleep," she confirms quietly. Then she shakes her head slightly. "Nothing yet. GAARD's been running my scripts for the last two hours… but I can't quite seem to get through the right gaps. I'm a mouse, and the CIA is some serious fortress that has done a good job sealing up their holes." She leans back away from the computers, rubbing at the sides of her nose with forefinger and thumb, lifting her glasses up slightly.

"I do fine teaching GAARD by talkin', Red." Frank's hand lifts from Max's shoulders to rub at his eyes, working on waking up. "The whole magic hands thing… yeah, just ain't me." One finger shifts to brush across her cheek as she turns her head into his hand. The touch of her fingers to her classes causes him to smile for a faint moment, enjoying the condescended nerd-cute, then he looks up to the screen, "Hell, Babs, you ain't a mouse. You're a fuckin' mongoose. Just the fact that you're fucking with the CIA shows you're a certified badass." Leaning forward a little, he winks down at her, "I shouldn't have to keep tellin' you this. So you've got a fortress there. But even the best fortress has to get food and water in, and shit out. So what do they have to get in and out?"

Babs chokes on a bit of laughter. "Yes. I've heard how well you've been teaching GAARD. You two are quite a bonded pair now, aren't you?" There's a hint of a smile at the edge of her words. "Sounds like you're not having her use my voice anymore though." She hasn't taken her eyes off the monitor as she speaks, her fingers moving quick across the keyboard despite the exchange between the two. "Certification of Badassery isn't actually getting me anywhere, Castle." The scrolls of code immediately scroll off the screen in a black cascade, and Barbara's head falls backwards against the seat. She makes another dismissive gesture, and the window flies off the screen. She doesn't immediately call it back up, instead her head is tilted back and her eyes are closed. "There's plenty of opened, but protected ports. The CIA isn't working with a closed intranet anymore. Information has to be accessed from all over the globe." She's talking aloud, and then her brows furrow as she opens her eyes to look up at him. "I need to find one of those doorways."

Frank snorts, "She might make a good butterbar one of these days." And he's actually anthropomorphized the AI enough that he turns a brief grin up at the nearest camera. "And yeah, it got a little too weird having your voice talk about you." He goes quiet a moment before he adds, "And it's kinda disappointing to hear your voice and remember that you ain't here." He clears his throat, licking his lips and shaking his head, "Don't read too much into that, alright, Red." Two fingers gesture back up to the screen, "You still got some fortress bustin' to do." He shifts around behind her as she leans her head back, both hands coming up to rub at her temples just above her glasses, "Well, the Company still does a shit-ton of work in the 'Stan. Think you could find a way in from their Kabul offices? Or I don't know, disguise yourself as them?" He's just going for methods that work in real life, rather than cyberspace.

Her smile lifts just for a heartbeat. Frank Castle misses her; there's something endearing in that, but she doesn't say anything more about it, letting Castle have his moment of staunch manliness. She hooks a hand around the back of her neck, bare knee tucked up against her chest. Her eyes open as he rubs at her temples. He offers up some suggestions, and… suddenly she frowns as an idea crosses her mind. "Right… Afghanistan." She sits up suddenly, pulling away from his rubbing fingers. "Right." She says this to herself, fingers hovering over the keys before she starts to type in the blank input screen. "GAARD, trash it. We're going to try a new path." She gets the affirmative from GAARD, and then looks over at Frank. "You said that Agent Orange was there for Cerberus missions, particularly the last one. I bet he used a private plane to get to Afghanistan, and the requisition of funding went through the CIA. Cerberus was running sanctioned missions, and so there was probably a budget allocated to it. I can't get deep enough into the CIA database to pull records, but… accounting?"

When Babs pulls away from his fingers, Frank leans forward a little, studying the screen over her head. He looks down as she glances at him, "Yeah. He was there for most of the missions. And there ain't exactly regular trips back to the States, so it'd have to be a chartered plane or a Company one, right?" He grunts thoughtfully, then flashes a grin down at her. From that angle, in darkness except for the angled light of the screen, he might even look like his own insignia for a moment. "Requisition forms? The Corps floats on paperwork when we ain't borrowin' Navy ships. I bet the Company's the same. Bet he went home in a hurry too, given how fucked up his eye was." His smile is a great deal tighter this time. Whatever may have come before or after, Frank's proud of cold-cocking Agent Orange. "Sudden requisition right after the mission? Probably outta Kabul, straight home to Langley? Or maybe up to Ramstein, Germany. There's a good military hospital up there." He frowns, shaking his head, "No. Langley. He wouldn't let military docs touch him if he could help it."

"We're hoping for a chartered plane. Company planes are going to be a lot harder to track." Babs knows Frank is there, looming over her, but she has become lost to the scrolls of information that fills her screen as GAARD organizes the information as Oracle hacks through it. "Those CIA accountants are meticulous. I know." She doesn't voice the chance that maybe Agent Orange doesn't care about the meticulous accountants, but the best way to avoid someone looking to closely at your illegal drug operation? Dot all the 'I's and cross all the 'T's. "I'm in." She taps several times on the enter key and suddenly file databases start to pop up. "GAARD, I only want travel requisitions out of Kabul for the month of January 2018." Files start disappearing from the database. Barbara crosses her arms, watching the screen, eyes following the movements of the files. "Check all flight plans. Final destination: Langley, Virginia." More files disappear. There is just about three dozen entries. Her brows frown together as she thinks. "Um. Toss out any that had more than one stop." That reduces it down to just about fifteen.

Frank watches Babs work, his brows furrowed as text scrolls past too quickly for him to follow. "Damn, Red." Despite his heavy scowl, there's admiration in his voice. He starts to lose his patience as she works, because he's not patient when there's a target just out of sight, and he shifts his weight back and forth on his feet, his right index finger tapping at the back of the chair behind her. He tries not to interrupt, shifting again, and then she's actually narrowing things down. He grunts and leans forward, his hands shifting from the chair to her shoulders. "Keep goin'… keep goin'…" And then she's got fifteenish, and his fingers tighten, "Can you get me the faces of the people who ordered those fifteen flights?"

Frank's impatient tension is felt more than seen; she's sure that he's waiting for the name and photograph to just pop-up. But, it doesn't. Instead, Barbara opens her forefinger and thumb in a quick gesture that GAARD immediately translates into open all. All the documents cascade open. "I don't know. I don't have access to the CIA personnel files, but…" She puzzles over this for a heartbeat, and then she leans back in her chair again; she pushes up her glasses to perch on the top of her head, and she rubs at the bridge of her nose. "I'm not sure — "

"Oracle, you have an incoming message from an unknown sender." GAARD's voice cuts through easily, swiftly. "The message is clean, but there are six encrypted attachments."

The gesture — and GAARD's reaction to it — causes Frank to blink sharply and draw back a little to look over the cascade of files. "Well shit. Then what are we — " he starts to push back in frustration, but GAARD's interruption causes him to freeze, looking up, "What the hell? Who would even know…" He blinks and looks down to Babs, "I'm way over my head here, Red. Do you know what the heck is goin' on?"

"Frank," Barbara's voice has taken on that patient tone. She is about to say more, but instead is distracted by the message. "Open it." The redhead sits forward as the message opens. She reads the message aloud, "'You're fast. I'm faster. — Micro.'" She ticks a glance up toward Frank now, and then she sucks in a tight breath before she clicks open the attachments. Six photographs open, filling the screen. Of the six, there is one that is familiar.

Frank reads the message over Barbara's shoulder, his frown deepening, "Ass. I bet he's been workin' on this shit for month…" his words trail off as the sextet of images blossom on the screen, and he jolts upright, stabbing out with one finger toward the one-eyed man's picture, "That fucker," he snarls, "That's fuckin' Agent Orange." He shifts around to the side of her chair, leaning close to the image, "That's the shithead that got my men killed, and who had Zane killed." Leather creaks under his hand as he squeezes the back of the chair, "Tell me you got a name to go with the picture, Red."

"He gave us the breadcrumb… he's just making sure we're following through." Barbara doesn't sound annoyed — in fact, she's a bit impressed. "He probably has access to the personnel files, but we had the other missing pieces." It's said quietly, quickly, and almost dismissively. Perhaps because Frank has found him. The Punisher goes for a flare of hot rage; Barbara settles into something cold, but no less deadly. She stares at Agent Orange just as Frank confirms his identity, and she stares into the scarred face of the spook with that single milky eye. With a flick of her hand, GAARD discards the other images and focuses solely on Agent Orange. She takes a breath at Frank's request, and she nods slightly. "Yeah." She taps the keyboard twice, and a file opens up beside Agent Orange's picture. "Director William J. Rawlins III." She skims the file's first half of information. "Shit, Frank… he's the Director of Covert Operations."

"William. J. Rawlins." Frank's recitation of his name is like three gunshots, sharp, hot, and deadly. "The Third." The fourth blazes longer, but no less intense. But there was a title there as well, and Frank considers it, even as his adrenaline keys up, his hands working at his sides as if they wanted to be grasped around Rawlins's throat. "I don't care, Red." He looks aside, his eyes wide with fury as they glance over her features. "I don't care who he is. He's the one behind all this shit. The one behind the heroin and the meta. Goddamn it, Red," In his rage, she's Red again, "he was cuttin' open dead soldiers and using them to smuggle his shit back here." She knows this already, she was there when Henderson told them. "He's the one who had Zane killed, got my men killed, had us kill that guy on the tape for… for fuck all. No, I don't give a shit who the hell he is. All I know is he's a dead man walkin'."

"Hey." The redhead is on her feet, chair pushed back from behind her. She reaches for him, grabbing for a wrist even while the adrenaline and rage pumps through him. Her eyes search his even while they stay fixed on the image of Rawlins. "I know." Her throat is tight, and it tightens more when Frank mentions Zane. "I know." She gives his wrist a quick squeeze before she lets him go. "We're on the right path, Frank. He's there… we know who he is. We just…" She licks at her lips, throat a little dry. "I don't know how we're going to get to him… he knows you're out there, and Frank. He has resources." Unlike Frank who is jazzed up on the rage, Babs is starting to feel the hopes of revenge actually begin to slip away. "This isn't just a dirty spy, Frank…" Is she trying to talk him down?

The squeeze at his wrist has little affect on Frank, as little as her reassurance and her repetition. Her hesitation, however, has Frank turning toward Babs, his jaw tight, lips curled in a much less pleasant expression than the brief smiles she can seemingly conjure up on his lips at a whim. "No. Bullshit, Red, Bullshit." His finger jabs at the picture again, actually tapping the screen this time, sending the image swimming for a moment with the pressure. "He's just another shitbird that needs to be put down. He's no different than any of the Dogs, or the Cartel, or the Irish. He's just gonna be harder to get to, that's all." He leans close, his hot fire abruptly burning cold, his gravelly voice lowering, "You're not gettin' cold feet now, Red. This is just a fuckin' dead man walkin'. That's all he is."

It isn't until Frank turns his rage on her that she actually sparks with her own fire. She advances at his forward lean, stepping almost into him. "I'm not getting cold feet," she snaps back up at him with her own voice low. "I'm being realistic, Frank. He is different, and you have to stop thinking he isn't! We push too hard, we go too fast, and he will just disappear, Frank. Then what?" She challenges him with her own sharp voice, her anger a low fire. "You don't think I want him dead as much as you? You don't think that I know that Zane's blood is on his hands? And that's nothing to say about what he did to you, to Cerberus, to those soldiers… to that cop." Her voice starts to raise, challenging his gravel with her own sharpness. "But you start seeing red now and you make a move too fast, and he won't just rabbit, he will disappear." Now she steps back, throwing both hands out at her sides. "So, back off!" She turns away from him now, and she starts for the stairs.

Her fire meets his own, even as Max backs away from the two, his head down and tail slumped. "We don't push at all, we go to slow, he's just as gone, Red." He throws his own arm out in in the vague direction of the safehouse where he failed to kill Agent Orange last time, "if he didn't run and hide after getting a three-oh-eight round splattered in front of his face, he's not gonna run just 'cause we're still after him." She starts toward the stairs and he follows, leaving GAARD's monitor glowing behind them. "I need to know where he is, Red. I need to know where he is, so I can find a way to get to him. I can't do that, I'm gonna have to make some noise, get him to come after me."

Frank tails after her, pushing her to go to the next step. They have his name. It wouldn't be hard to get more, to find him. She turns toward him as he advances toward her; she takes two steps at him, as if showing she's not fleeing from the rage of Frank Castle. "Is that how you're going to do this? I either tell you were he is so you can go kill him, or you're going to rattle things around until he's got you with the red dot on your forehead." She throws her hand out toward the monitor behind him. "We know who he is, but I'm not going to go digging around until we know what we're even doing next!" Her jaw tightens. "I'm not giving up, Frank… but you're dead wrong if you think I'm just going to give you his home address without having a plan in place."

"Isn't that the point?" Frank stops as she turns on him and advances, and then he too takes a step forward, putting them just within arm's reach of one another. "Find him. Kill him. If we can't — if you can't — " at least he's man enough to admit that he certainly isn't going to be finding the Director of Covert Operations for the CIA, "find him, we've got to make him find me, right?" Not 'her,' not 'us,' he's clearly not planning to use Barbara as bait. He starts to turn away, then snaps his attention back to her, "Isn't what we're doing next you digging around? So we can find where he is, so we can come up with a plan?" He takes a step to the left, stops, turns back to her, takes a step to the right, stops, turns back again, pacing like a tiger in a too-small cage, "I can't make a goddamned plan, we can't make a goddamned plan, until we know where he is, Red."

If you can't… Her whole body tightens at the accusation, and she's almost in his face again. "I told you… I'll do whatever it takes to avenge Zane! Don't start questioning me, Frank Castle." Her teeth almost flash as he keeps on it, and then he's throwing himself out as bait. "No. He'll kill you!" The words are sharp, sudden. Barbara's anger is just a hard mask behind another emotion — fear. It slips briefly across her features as he starts to pace in that short, tight unseen cage. She turns away, rubbing at her face and completely unseating her glasses as she holds them loosely in one hand. She keeps her back to him, and she is thankful that he can't see her face tighten up around her emotions. "I push too hard, too fast, and he will kill you, Frank. He knows to expect you."

"I'm not doubting you, Red." Frank's anger sparks over that as well. "I know you'll do what you gotta do. I just want you to do it." As she tightens up, one of his hands reaches up to his chest, grasping the two charms that hang around his neck, her blank disk and his wedding ring. His voice quiets, raw and tense with his barely-controlled fury, "You need to let me be what I'm meant to be: I'm not the one who dies." He draws in a slow breath, but rather than calming him, it just banks his rage, feeding it and locking it in to be unleashed on its rightful target, "I'm the one who does the killing."

"You don't know that," Babs says in a quick, shaky voice. "You don't know that." She turns briefly back to him, looking over his shoulder at the calm, stern face of William Rawlins with his milky eye and disfiguring scars. Then she shakes her head. "I don't know if I can let you be this… not if it means running into the fire when it is an inferno that can kill you, Frank." She starts up the stairs, and then her stride quickens until she's jogging up them toward the upstairs landing.

Frank gestures to his naked torso in the dim, computer-lit warehouse, "I got a damned good history of it, Red." Which means that no, he doesn't know it. And there have been times over the past year and a half when he's thought he would die — there have been times when he wanted to die — but here he is. She moves quickly up the stairs, and he strides across the room toward the base of them, "It's not up to you what I am." That comes out harsher than he probably intended it. "I know who I am — what I am. And I know what I gotta do. Someone's got to run into that inferno, or else he'll just keep ruining lives and takin' 'em." Shaking his head in annoyed frustration, he calls up the stairs, "It ain't like I'm talkin' about rushin' off without a plan. Even I ain't that dumb. But I gotta know where he is to come up with a plan."

Babs is just three steps away from the landing when he throws those harsh words up at her. Her grip on the railing of the stairs tightens, and she casts a glance over her shoulder to him from her far greater vantage point. "We rushed at the safe house. I shouldn't have let you go alone. But I did, because I was angry." She's still angry, but right now, it appears that Frank is the unfair target of her anger. "And… I thought if I wasn't there, I wouldn't stop you." There's the honesty, and it twists up her stomach — the mere idea that maybe she would have stopped Frank from killing Agent Orange with a simple sniper shot all because he killed Zane. She turns away again, head bowed a bit. "I know who you are," she says quietly, so quiet it might not be heard. Then her hand flexes again on the railing before she takes one step down as if she might retreat back toward him. "One day, Frank… you're going to run in and you're not going to run out." She turns back to the stairs and resumes her climb up, disappearing from sight.

Frank's dark eyes scowl up the stairwell at her, his heavy brows furrowed in the darkness. "Why not? I got into position, took the shot, got out. Only thing wrong is we didn't know anythin' about where the hell he was." He sounds so sure as he stomps up the stairs in the wake of her retreat. It's not easy to stomp in bare feet on metal steps, but he manages it, the soft, ringing sound filling the space in the warehouse. "No shit, Red," he responds to the reminder of his mortality as he turns the corner at the first landing, looking up at her again, "Red." His voice lowers somewhat, "Quit runnin' away." He points down to the glowing screen down below, "That shitbird is fucking up someone's life right now. The longer we wait, the more people he fucks up."

The stomping steps close in behind her, and she only turns toward them when he stops at the first landing. Her fierce blue eyes meet his darker gaze even as she retraces two, or three, steps down so she can stand just a few inches taller than him. "And that was our mistake! We rushed in. We found out where he was, and we rushed in. And now we know why… why Bennett was so safe, why he went to that safe house… why Rawlins was behind bulletproof glass. He's not just some spy, some dirty spook, Frank." There's a half-laugh behind those words — mirthless and a little incredulous. She takes another step down, spreading her hands out almost imploringly. "Maybe we can give all our evidence over to SHIELD or the DOD… maybe you can go on record about what happened. We could put him away, Frank." Her words are softer.

"So get me the — " Frank starts to respond before the incredulous laugh, but her second advance and the words that follow it draw a sharp shake of his head, and the coals of his anger are raked alight again, "And have him sit in some fucking soft-ass super-spook prison for a year or two and then get out for good behavior? That's if he even goes away in the first place. You don't get to be the Director of Covert Ops in the CIA without serious pull." He reaches out with one hand, looking to grab the inside of her forearm, "I want his ass six feet under, not sitting in a cell."

Frank starts to issue a command, and Barbara's face flashes with a warning fire. Anger meets anger when his own flares back up again. The two beat against each other's stubbornness, and then Frank is reaching for her arm and she does not immediately wrench back; but, there is a moment where she looks as if she might twist away from the touch. She fixes her lighter eyes on his darker gaze, and her response to his chosen destination for Agent Orange is met with a long silence. The corners of her jaw flex as her teeth set together. She knows he's right — she knows that there is no guarantee that there is enough power behind the justice system to keep someone like that behind bars. "Okay." Her expression does not change, does not soften. "I'll get you the information." Now, she takes a step back from him.

Frank's fingers tighten on her forearm as her weight shifts and her expression changes, but he doesn't interrupt her silence, although his fingers loosen once more. Her features are set with youthful stubbornness, his with a heavy surety in his own righteousness. The acquiescence would be a win in other circumstances, but not without any change in her expression. She steps back, and he grasps her arm again, "Red." He draws in a breath, his eyes tightening slightly, "Get us the information." There's a pause, "I promised you that you'd be in on it. If you still want it."

"Frank," his name is said in an instinctive repeat when he uses hers. The grip on her arm draws her down one step closer to him; they are now eye-to-eye. Her lips press together again, and then she offers a slow nod — an almost simple dip of her chin. "I'll get you what you need to find him, and kill him." She looks away now, tilting aside her eyes and chin, and with the motion more red hair slips loose from behind her ear. Her brows tighten together briefly, and when she looks back at him, her expression is tight once more. "But, I need to have everything… so I can send it into the FBI and SHIELD. The moment they pin this on you, Frank… you're a wanted man, and that's it. You realize that, right?"

Frank bottles up that anger again as she agrees again, even if she's still looking aside. He looses her arm, actually listening to her, and then he nods, "If I fuck up, yeah. I'll get on the CIA's radar." His brows lift slightly, and he reaches out again, his hand freezing a few inches from that long of hair hanging across her features. After a moment, he moves to finish the gesture of tucking her hair back behind her ear. "If I'm not already. Who knows what shit that asshole has put out there about me." He looks down and away, licking his lips as he thinks, then looks back up to her again, "If you think you can clear me on that, or at least show him for the shitbird he is, I'm not gonna say no."

Barbara looks up at the touch of his blunt fingers along his cheek and back behind his ear, taking the lock of hair with it. She looks across that distance at him. "Sights. Not radar. You'll be in the CIA's sights, Frank." Her lips press together tightly for another long moment, and then she nods. "You need to explain… everything Frank. Everything that happened in Afghanistan, everything that links Rawlins to what happened there and the aftermath. Schoonover, the bodies, the drugs… the Afghani cop." Now she looks away again, this time rubbing at one eye with the heel of her palm. She starts to float down another step, like she's going to go back downstairs to the glowing monitor with Agent Orange's face still looking out into the warehouse.

Frank considers the metaphor, then nods his acceptance, his breath still coming a little quickly in the wake of his anger. "Yeah. I will be. If we screw up." He shifts again, rubbing at his jaw with the hand not still lingering just past her ear. "On a video, yeah? All formal-like?" When she starts to step down to his step, however, his hand moves back down to her shoulder, pressing a little to try and stop her descent, "Babs. We'll do it right. We're gonna do it, but we're gonna do it right." And then he looses her shoulder, shifting aside, "Lemme get some clothes on and I'll come help. Or at least make coffee."

Babs stops at the press to her shoulder, and she searches his dark eyes for moment. "Yeah. On a video." Her smile flashes, but it has no mirth. "As formal as you can be." Then he's shifting aside, and… he doesn't stop her to tell her that it can wait. Her shoulders fall just slightly, but she nods. This — this is what Frank has in his sights now. Her throat tightens briefly. "Yeah. Okay." She steps down another step until she's giving into that motion that has her heading for the first landing. "I'll meet you downstairs." Her eyes close as she descends back to the warehouse floor.

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