Mistaken Security
Roleplaying Log: Mistaken Security
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Agent Orange makes his move on Frank Castle. Barbara Gordon is the chosen target.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: September 16, 2019
IC Location: Punisher Keep, Jersey City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 17 Sep 2019 01:12
Rating & Warnings: R
NPC & GM Credits: Frank Castle as Agent Orange and Goons
Associated Plots

Once, Frank told Babs that the ones who hurt you — really hurt you — are the ones who are close enough to do it. It had been in that quiet diner just before Blacksmith's goons struck out at the two after shooting up Barbara's apartment. Now, Barbara gets it. The fight between Babs and Frank had been hard and swift, and neither had really come back from it. There had been quiet tension, and silent regret. Twice, Babs considered reaching out for him, touching his shoulder or arm and reassuring him that she was there. But, he had gone stony and she had gone stubborn. Together, they worked on the mystery of Agent Orange — or William Rawlins as they learned — and Barbara ran into too many dead-ends.

Then, there was the news of Wilson Fisk.

"You don't have to go," Babs told Frank. But, he left.

Now, rain batters the roof of the warehouse while Barbara takes her frustration out on a wooden training dummy. She's in tight athletic pants and a sports bra, her red hair in a high pony tail while she wails away on the dummy with shin-kicks and punches from wrapped knuckles. Her wireless earbuds are in, drowning out the entire warehouse with loud music as she works through her emotions through sheer physical assault on something that can't fight back. It leaves her vulnerable — and worse, unaware.

Most home invasions happen quietly, stealthily. This one, not so much. The first indication that something is wrong is GAARD speaking up quickly, "Alert! Perimeter — " before she can finish the warning, however, glass breaks in two of the windows, and solid objects thump into the fencing hidden behind the dirty glass. The grenades tumble back outside where they start to hiss and spit teargas into the rain. " — breached." Max starts to bark and howl in his corner as boots are applied to the door. The first impact — sharp and heavy — bends the reinforced steel frame, and the second takes the door off the frame entirely. That frame is supposed to hold up under a battering ram. The new opening allows two men and a woman to come in, one moving faster than he should be able to, one with her black tactical gear pierced by narrow spines, and the third appearing perfectly normal — except for the glowing blue eyes that he shares with the others. Behind them, the door is filled by a third form, much bigger than the other two, his clothing strained and torn around bulging muscles. "OnTheGroundRightNow." Even the twitchy one's words are fast, almost blending together. But the gesture of the submachine gun is clear.

Barbara is not an idiot. GAARD's voice immediately interrupts the music blasting in her ears, and she's half-way through a kick before she's pivoting to land in a squat on the half-matted floor. She glances up just in time to see the grenades tumble and roll. She's on the move almost immediately, kicking herself into gear just as the first sound and sign of breech begins. "GAARD, lock — " But before those words can escape her, she's got sight on the three literally kicking in Frank's door. Her chin lowers as she holds up both hands, taking a step back, then another, all toward the rolling tool cabinet that Frank keeps close to the training mat. "You're making a big mistake," Babs breathes harshly. Her stance shifts, feet moving to brace herself. She starts to lower toward her knees, squatting as she does — but this is just so her fingers can slip a bladed throwing razor off the top of the tool chest. She tucks it into her palm as she starts to lower toward one knee.

"Not so much," the spiny woman states. "Your boyfriend Castle's not here." Three submachine gun barrels shift to follow Babs as she moves, and then the fourth meta-ed up merc ducks inside the seven-foot door, turning sideways to fit. He doesn't carry his submachine gun anymore, but by the looks of it, he doesn't really need it. The trio up front spread out into an arc, trying to hem Babs in and cut her off from any escape routes, "ThisDoesn'tHaveToGetNasty," says the twitchy one. "HandsBehindYourHead." It's actually the one who isn't showing any signs of change who approaches her, reaching for an industrial-strength ziptie. Up close, his blazing blue eyes are extremely wide over the top of his balaclava, and his breath comes fast and sharp.

"You think he won't be soon enough?" The heat in Barbara's voice is sharp, almost like the blade in her fingers. She is careful as she palms it even while she puts both hands behind her head. She takes careful gauge of the meta-hyped soldier that approaches her. Her feet shift again, one slipping backwards while she edges closer to the tool drawers. Her eyes lift to meet the blazing blue gaze. He gets closer — two steps, three — and then Barbara is on the move. She lashes out with that blade, aiming to cut across his hand the moment he reaches for her. She ducks low, aiming to get the chest of tools between her at the soldier so she can kick at it, sending it on its wheels at the man. It also gives her something to duck behind as she definitely caught side of the submachine gun.

Big-eyes jerks his hand back, but not quickly enough, the blade scoring across the back of his hand. The spray that comes from the wound is not red, however, but neon blue, and it sizzles on the blade, and on the cement floor when it strikes. He jerks his hand back, "Goddamn it," and then yelps when he touches his own blood, staggering back. Not all mutations are great mutations, like acid blood. The rolling chest strikes him even as he's staggering, and he goes to the ground, sprawled out on the floor. The spike-skinned woman snarls, "Not soon enough to help — " but she cuts off as twitchy fires off a tight burst of three rounds, punching into the tool chest moments after it's knocked down their pained companion. Spiny and Twitchy start forward, even as Spiny snaps at him, "Pick your goddamn shots. He wants her alive."

Max chooses that moment to launch himself toward the behemoth moving to cut Babs off from the back door, snapping and grasping at the back of the man's leg and drawing a pained bellow. Unfortunately, that's immediately followed be a thump and a canine whine of pain as Max his backhanded half a dozen feet away by one heavy swing of an arm. The behemoth is bleeding, and slowed, but definitely not stopped.

The sound of Max's hard whine and the thumping of his body to the floor has Barbara whipping her head toward him. "Max!" She looks back around the chest of tools briefly before she flashes her teeth. She's already knocked one out with the chest, and so she dedicates herself to the next plan of action. She pivots it, shifting it aside just enough so throw her weight into it; she shoves hard, sending it flying across its wheels toward the other two. It gives her the distraction she needs to suddenly sprint across the warehouse toward the computer station. She glances just behind her once.

"Max? Sounds delicious." The behemoth's voice is a low rumble, resonant in its barrel chest. The words, however, cause both Twitchy and Spiny to glance back at him. "EwwDude." "What the hell?" Twitchy lifts his submachine gun, then glances to Spiny, sighs, and blurs into a run, appearing next to the console and looking aside to it, "Really?WhatDoYouWantHere?" Spiny fends off the spinning tool chest, stepping around it, hefts her submachine gun, then shakes her head, taking out a taser instead and advancing on Babs. "I didn't want to do this the hard way, but I will if I have to." Acid-blood groans and starts to sit up.

Babs is sprinting now, trying to close the distance before the meta-jacked Twitchy is suddenly beside the computer. She stops, staggering back two steps before she pivots back toward Spiny. Her breath is tight in her chest while she tries to gauge her chances. Max, still on the ground, catches her eye; then she slowly starts to lift her hands to brace them, fingers weaving together, behind her head. "Frank isn't here." Her eyes cut toward Twitch briefly. "He's gone to Gotham." It's a lie. He's in New York, but she has gotten good at lying.

"I might not be willing to shoot you full of holes, Gordon," Spiny says as she approaches to within taser distance, but stays out of easy melee range. "But I'm happy to tase you. And we saw Castle go across the bridge." Twitchy whips out one of those industrial-strength zipties, slapping it against his thigh, "YouGonnaTrySlashingMeToo?IDon'tMind.FeelSoooooFast.BetICouldEvenDodgeABullet.ButYouWon'tDodgeATaser." Acid-blood scowls up at Babs, his voice harsh with pain, "I say we zap her anyhow. Won't matter to him as long as she's alive to trade." The Behemoth looks down at Max, back to his fellows, then shakes his heavy head, starting to stump over toward Babs, Twitchy, and the computer console.

Barbara's eyes keep twitching back toward Max, waiting for him to get up. But then she's being slowly surrounded by the meta-jacked soldiers. She takes a step back, but then turns toward Twitchy, then a step back that puts her back to Spiny. The Behemoth is what scares her the most — and her fear tightens her spine. She's starting make some good educated guesses who he is. "He will be back," she warns them. "And you've already crossed a line by hurting his dog." Come on, Max. Get up…

Twitchy… well, he twitches back from Babs, blurring back a couple of steps. Max whines again, shifting on the concrete but not getting up yet. Spiny looks over at Twitchy, "Jesus, man. Just cuff her already. Hands behind your back, Gordon." The Behemoth rumbles something inarticulate, his fists clenching hard enough to pop his huge knuckles, and then he actually rumbles words, "Castle don't scare me. Smash him into pulp." Twitchy shakes his head, "Shit,HeScaresMe.ButNotWhenWeHoldAllTheCards." Twitchy starts forward warily, "NowHands.NiceAndEasy."

The whine from Max is reassuring, and she tightens a bit in her shoulders as she holds her hands against her head. She glances toward the other two, darting a gaze between Spiny and the Behemoth. "You're underestimating him," Babs breathes under her breath, and she tightens her hands together behind her head. They want her hands, they are going to need to get closer. Her jaw sets in that stubborn line. Her eyes track between Twitchy and Spiny. She spares them any more warnings. Perhaps by now GAARD has gotten the emergency signal to Frank. He must know that the Keep has been breeched. It's only a matter of time.

Twitchy really doesn't like the idea that he has to get closer to Babs right now, not after she cut poor Acid-Blood like that, but he does it anyone, coming in bare-handed, submachine gun slung on his back, and reaching out to draw down one hand and then the other so that he can try to zip-tie them together behind her back. Spiny watches warily, taser at the ready, and the Behemoth shakes his heavy head, "He just a man." Acid-Blood has recovered enough by now to shake his head, "Dang, Everson. That shit really did a number on you, didn't it? Screwed both of us up real good." The pain in his veins and on his hands is bad enough that he just used the man's name.

Twitchy grabs for Barbara's first wrist, but before he can grab the second —

She throws her elbow at his face, twisting her body as she does. All she wants is just one good hit. She knows she's not getting out of here, not now. But there's anger buried deep in her core, and it burns hot in the pit of her frustration. She's going to inflict some pain now regardless of the consequences to come.

Twitchy twists away from the elbow, and he actually avoids taking the blow to the bridge of the nose — and takes it to the temple instead. He's definitely not used to his speed. He staggers back, yanking on Barbara's wrist instinctively. Spiny hesitates a moment, waiting until she's got a shot, and then fires the taser at Babs's back. Twitchy grabs at his head, blinking and trying to clear his head. "OwOwOw." The Behemoth give a little roar and stomps forward, pausing there though. Even he doesn't want to grab onto someone who's being tased.

The taser hits her back, and Barbara goes down in a crumpled pile just as she reaches for Twitchy. She misses him as she just hits the ground, curling in on herself while her body spasms. She doesn't fight any further despite the anger that is bubbling still just beneath the surface.

Twitchy rolls on the ground, still grabbing at his head. Spiny presses the buzzer again, and then disconnects the wires and sets the taser down, stepping close to try and ziptie Babs herself. "If she moves, break her foot." That seems to be to the Behemoth. "I thought you were supposed to be fast," she snarks at Twitchy. Acid-Blood heads over to Max, gathering up his submachine gun again, but Spiny looks over, shakes her head, "No. I don't think we want to do that." No sense really pissing Castle off.

Another ziptie goes around Babs's wrists, another pair around her feet, and then a blindfold over her eyes, and Everson the Behemoth picks her up and slings her over one huge shoulder. There's a ride in a panel van, a careful search of her person, and then another ride and another carry, this time by two normal-sized people.

When the blindfold is removed, she's in an abandoned building. By the look of it, it's a warehouse. By the length of the two drives, it could be anywhere in a two-hour radius — they could be in Connecticut or Gotham easily enough. There are four perfectly human-looking people watching over her, balaclavas still in place. One woman, three men. One of the men is sitting down, looking a little woozy, and the other has bandages around both hands. There's a voice from behind her, an upper-crust Virginian accent, "I hope you don't mind, Ms. Gordon. We needed a little leverage. That stupid grunt has never been particularly good at doing what he's told."

Barbara is not a willing captive. She at least gives them difficulties with biting remarks and twists away from their touches when anyone tries to grab at her. She loses every time, but she at least reminds them she's not some delicate flower. By the time she's in the van, she's settled into herself with her focus on the road, letting her senses latch onto the sounds and feel of the streets. They didn't find anything on her — she had been in her athletic pants and sports bra when they grabbed her. Any gear she had at Frank's place is still at Frank's place.

When the blindfold is slipped free, she shakes out her red hair — red hair that had been in a high ponytail, but is now a cascading disarray around her pale freckled features. She squints those hard blue eyes at the perfectly human-looking thugs. That's what they are — thugs. She wants them to be soldiers, but they aren't. The balaclavas cut a familiar look of a man hanging by his wrists in a room where Agent Orange ordered his execution. Is this how Frank sees himself in his dreams? Faceless, murderous, and at the command of another person's whims. Her jaw flexes, and her expression is dark and dangerous as she stares at the four.

But then Agent Orange speaks behind her, and her shoulders tighten. Her head twists, eyes darting to the corners to catch sight of the spook in her peripherals. "You're making a mistake. First, by taking me… and second, by thinking Castle is a stupid grunt.' She wrenches through her shoulders, and then flexes her wrist to test the integrity of the zipties.

One ziptie, even the industrial strength sort, might have parted at Barbara's crafty tugging, but there are two there, tightened in opposite directions and one after the other. They hold. Agent Orange stays behind Babs, but his voice sounds smug, "No, I'm really not. You're quite skilled with a computer, Miss Gordon, I'll give you that. A bit of a hellcat too. And your father is important enough that I really don't need you remembering my face. If you do exactly what we say, you might even survive this experience." His steps pace back and forth, calm and at-ease, "Right now, we're leading Castle around by his nose. Once he's far enough away, we're going back, and you're going to unlock Castle's computer for me, so that my technician can destroy all of traces of the files he's gathered on me."

Barbara's jaw tightens at the warnings in his words, and she looks up at the thugs who stay in sight of her. She licks slightly at her lips, tasting the sweat across the slight cracks. Then a little laugh escapes her, and her head ducks a bit as her shoulders give a slight flex. "And what makes you think I'm going to do that at all?" She flicks a glance over her shoulder a moment. "And what makes you think that I haven't set up back-ups and failsafes? You don't want the world to know about you, Rawlins, then perhaps you should have been smarter about hiding all the crap you've done? The soldiers, the drugs… you think that you holding me here, using me as bait for Castle, won't stop that information from getting out?" Her teeth flash. "You willing to bet that you're smarter than me?"

"Than a graduate of Gotham University? I'd be disappointed if I weren't," says the graduate from Harvard and Yale. The quartet of goons glance to one another and shift here and there, but stay on guard. The woman still has her taser out, but the others hold submachine guns. Agent Orange stops his slow pacing, "And I think you're going to do that because you don't want your father to lose his daughter." He pauses, considering, then adds, "You've seen what that's like, havn't you?" His steps resume, "And I think that you're going to remove any back-ups and failsafes in place, because it's more trouble than I'd like to cover up the death of a formerly prominent man."

You don't want your father to lose his daughter. Barbara's eyes close as her chin ducks slightly. She listens to the quiet sound of Rawlins shoes against the ground as he steps pace. She flexes her fingers again in a tight, hard clench. She glances up slightly to look back at the thugs once more. "It won't matter… if I nuke all of it for you… that isn't going to stop Frank Castle from hunting you down and killing you… like he did Schoonover. He knows where you live, knows where you go to dinner every weekend… I can delete every file and back-up file we have on you, but then it just stops being about ruining your public image and just letting Castle kill you, Director Rawlins."

That threat actually causes Agent Orange to make an amused sound, for all the woman with the taser and the bandaged guy glance at each other a little warily. "Oh, Castle isn't going to survive this. He's interfered too much." There's a pause, and then his pale smile can be heard in his words, "Don't worry, I'm sure you can find someone much better than that grunt. Because he really is just a grunt. Oh no, you're quite right, he's become more than that now: he's a grunt and a liability. So he isn't going to survive this, but you might, as long as you do exactly what I tell you to do."

The smile in Agent Orange's words draws Barbara's lips into a thin line. She glares down at the ground with her head still bowed. Slowly, she begins to nod. Orange may take that as a submission to his demands, but for Babs… she's acknowledging what she has to do next.

Orange doesn't gloat any further, stepping away for some time. When he's back, it's to get the blindfold back on, to have his goons bundle the incognito vigilante back up, and to put her into another vehicle. The ride is relatively short this time, less than an hour, and then she finds herself back at Punisher Keep, well away from the weapons racks, her ziptied arms ziptied to a chair, her ziptied ankles looped back to one of the legs by a looser ziptie. When the blindfold is removed, it's the same four goons present, but there are little shows about them, slumped shoulders, quick breath, the tendency to lean, that shows that they're weary. Apparently, Meta takes something out of you. There's a fifth figure in a balaclava, without a weapon, probably a woman by her build, who lingers behind the armed goons.

Agent Orange now stands off to one side, out of line of sight of any webcamera on the monitor — but not out of sight of the various sensors that Babs secreted around the warehouse. There's no sign of Max, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, but Orange doesn't hesitate, "Now then. We shouldn't be interrupted for some time. In fact, we're unlikely to be interrupted at all. But that doesn't mean we should linger about. So," the former Behemoth, Everson, steps forward and cuts her arms free of the arms of the chair, although he keeps her wrists bound together, "please unlock the system so that we can do what we need to do."

So. They took a longer route to get here than they did to get back. Did they think she wouldn't notice? Barbara Gordon starts to guess just where they had been, and that is enough to perk her interest for the time being. It gives her something to busy her mind while they make it back to the Keep. She's secured back in a chair, and she tests her bindings almost immediately as if she wants to know the likelihood of them making an error before she makes a break for it. It's no good… she glances up toward the goons, but it's that fifth on that gets her interest. Her mouth tightens slightly, but her gaze just lingers on the goons for a heartbeat before she's glancing toward the computer console in front of her. Her eyes scan over the screen — it's locked down mode featuring the Punisher skull. It is something Frank hated, but Babs was amused by.

Her arms now cut from the arms of the chair, she at least has some mobility — some. Her lips tighten together, pressed into a thin line. "This is going to get you nowhere." But she's leaning forward with her hands bound to tap her fingers on the keyboard. The screensaver disappears, replaced by what looks to be a standard desktop. She starts to tap away at the keyboard, looking to be putting in a long alphanumeric passcode, but the file directory doesn't open… instead an enormous red window occupies the screen 'ACCESS DENIED.'

"GAARD, I need access to the main directory."

The woman with the submachine gun slung on her back and a taser in her hand hefts the latter when when Babs tests the zipties, "I've got no problem giving you another shock if you give us trouble." The second woman looks awkward, while the three men look more tired than anything. Agent Orange's lips tighten as he looks at the Punisher skull on the screen, and then he shakes his head in disdain. He's got a very good face for disdain, especially with the scar tissue around his milky eye. "You'd better make sure that it gets me exactly what I want." Unfortunately, GAARD doesn't respond verbally, but the red window flashes and the computer makes the very annoying, very definitive 'bonk' buzzer. There will be no easy access to the main directory. Agent Orange looks between the back of the monitor and Barbara, his disdainful look deepening into a scowl, "I thought you knew how to do things like this." He's been very careful not to use her name, here in the Keep.

In the back of Barbara's mind, she starts to keep tally of how much pain she's going to inflict on the woman with the submachine gun — a woman she now knows had all the spines on her back. It's a terrible, vindictive feeling — but, months of chasing Agent Orange compounded with Zane's death and the torment that Blacksmith inflicted on Frank has compounded into tempered anger. She darts a cold look at Agent Orange, only to look back to see the red-flashing window. "Sometimes we don't get what we want," she spits back at Orange. She flexes her fingers, wrists still bound. "You want me to hack the system I actually coded, then I'm going to need both hands." She holds out her wrists to the spook. "Unless you want to risk me making a mistake and the failsafes trigger… pretty sure we got this information, including Frank's video confession, all hooked up to hit all the local papers and news stations."

As the second buzz sounds, Agent Orange reaches into his pocket, pulling out a pair of black leather gloves. He starts to draw them on, wiggling his fingers and tugging at the bases, "In this case, I think I'd better get what I want, or I'm going to overlook that difficulty I mentioned earlier." Her demand to use both hands causes him to shake his head sorrowfully, "No, sorry. Not after what you did before." One gloved finger reaches up to touch the scar tissue around his left eye, "You see, I learned my lesson about letting the inmates anywhere near me. And I don't believe you. Not even Castle would be stupid enough to do that — it would sink him utterly." He isn't the sort of man who understands self-sacrifice, clearly. Agent Orange gestures with one hand, a little, sweeping motion, and the former Behemoth and Twitchy step forward, the latter more than a little wary as they move to drag Barbara's chair out from in front of the computer, out from the view of any normal webcam, so that Rawlins can step forward and snap a right cross at Barbara's left cheek. "Let me know when you're ready to actually get in there and do what I asked."

They're dragging the chair back, scraping across the pavement with a grating sound. She's turning her head toward Agent Orange, not showing the other two any of her attention. "You don't think Frank's willing to sit in a prison cell for the rest of his life if it means getting you the justice you deser — " Then the spook's fist slams into her cheek, and it knocks her head aside with a snap of red hair. She didn't see that coming; she should have. Not many have the nerve to actually hit Barbara Gordon. But, when perhaps she should have a look of fear and pain when she looks at Orange, he instead is staring into the fierce blue eyes of a furious redhead. She shows her teeth as she bites back, "You didn't say 'please.'"

Agent Orange looks surprised when he's faced with furious redhead instead of a cowed young woman. He tilts his head to one side, looking confused for a moment. The unarmed woman steps back quickly and looks over to the goons. The former Behemoth snorts a laugh, while Twitchy flinches back just a little. But Rawlins recovers quickly, shaking his head and swinging his hand back in an almost-casual backhand to her other cheek. "That's almost cute, young lady." Flexing his hand inside his glove, he recovers and aims another punch at her ribs. "No, I didn't say please. But I think that you'll find that when you have the right leverage, you don't have to. You, for instance, don't want to disappoint your father. So you should be thinking very hard about how to get into that computer."

The other cheek stings with the second hit, but it does not quite compare to the flare of actual pain in the first. She looks up toward him just in time for him to drive his knuckles into her ribs, and she chokes on her own breath at the impact. She keeps her head bowed for several moments with her red hair half-covering her features. She looks up at Agent Orange slowly, staring up at him with those burning blue eyes. "If the AI has learned from Frank," she begins, words tight with pain, "then you will need him to get into the computer." She ducks her head a bit as she takes a painful breath as Orange just hit bare ribs thanks to the minimal coverage of her sports bra. She glances at the computer briefly before she glances up to the ceiling. "GAARD, access the central file directory."

The reaction to the blows seems to please Agent Orange, and he begins pacing, even verging on the edge of where he might be picked up as a briefly-there shoulder on a normal webcam. Of course because Babs is not a normal techie, every action he's taken has been on camera, but he doesn't know that. "An AI learning from Castle? That's ridiculous. The only thing that man knows how to do is pull the trigger." Barbara's verbal command is met with another wordless sound that signifies GAARD's disinclination to acquiesce to her request, and a flash of that red box again. Rawlins comes back to her side, one gloved hand reaching for her upper arm to control her arms as he leans close, his other hand grasping for the disheveled mess of her former pony tail, "Enough with the voice commands. Are you ready to get in there and open that thing up for me? Or are you all smoke and mirrors?"

"You don't get it," the redhead hisses back at the pacing Agent Orange. But then he's closing the distance, and the rough grip on her hair lengthens her throat and brings her eyes all too easily to his. She stares fearlessly into that scarred face with its sole milky white eye; her expression is disgust and anger, and her nostrils flare while her jaw tightens her teeth together. "I built GAARD to be Frank Castle's AI," she gets out painfully. "If she's decided to lock me out, it doesn't matter how finessed I am with that keyboard… she's not going to let me in. And if you make me poke too hard at her code, she will enact all of her security protocols." Now she flashes an angry smile at the man. "Maybe you should bully her, because there's nothing I can do."

Agent Orange narrows his sole functioning eye at Barbara's response, turning to look over at the unarmed woman. She hesitates a moment, looking at the monitor, then nodding slightly, "If she coded it, she probably put in a back door so that she could get in no matter the security." She's an expert with computers, but clearly not with AI, not with something that can change its own programming. Orange studies the woman, then nods, looking back to Babs. "I'll take that suggestion under advisement." His words are polite, but his tone is sardonic, cutting. Yanking back on Barbara's hair, he pushes up away from her, "Why don't you open up that backdoor, or maybe I don't need you at all." One gloved hand taps his fingers together, and then he nods, gesturing to the two men again. They haul the chair over in front of the computer once more, and Orange walks a dozen paces away, pulling out his phone, "Cutter Team, report. Do you have the target?"

There's a pause, and then a gravelly voice responds, "Yeah, I got it now." It's not the voice of Cutter Team leader, which causes Rawlins to look down in surprise. No, it's Frank Castle's voice. And he sounds pissed. "Just a little orange shitstain I gotta wipe up."

Again, Barbara Gordon's teeth flash as he pulls harder on her hair. She stares at him, breaking that contact only to glance over toward the voice of the uncertain unarmed woman. Her eyes close as he stands, and she breathes out a harsh breath of pain as the nerves at the roots of her hair screams. She glances up toward the screens that sit with that glaring red warning, unchanged. She's being hauled back in front of the console, and this time she starts to shake her head, ready to bite back another warning that she can't do what he wants. But that's before she hears that gravelly, familiar voice. She glances down at her lap with a hard smile, and then she looks back over toward the goons around her, gauging their reaction.

The six people in the warehouse besides Barbara have very different reactions to the voice on the other end of the call:

Spiny looks surprised, and then her eyes widen above the material of her balaclava. She shifts her feet under her, re-firming her grip on her taser. Definitely nervous, maybe even scared. Probably rightfully.

Twitchy looks confused, frowning between the others, "Hey, that's not…" and then he gets it, and he gives a little hop back, then shakes off the fear reaction and steps decisively forward again, as if to reassure himself and others that he's not backing down.

Acid Blood looks surprised, and then his shoulders slump. He looks over to Twitchy to say something, but the other man gets it, and he merely shakes his head, muttering something under his breath that sounds more tired than anything.

Everson, the once-Behemoth, looks confused as well, but he gets it a moment after Twitchy, and his eyes widen also. That widening, however, isn't surprise, but anticipation, and he grasps the pistol grip of his submachine gun all the tighter.

The unarmed woman looks as confused as the others, but she can read a room, and she takes a step back, looking over to Agent Orange.

For his part, William Rawlins III looks surprised, dismayed, and then… perturbed. Not angry, not worried, just mildly miffed. He has a very good face for bland annoyance. "What's a few more murders for someone like you, yes?"

Frank's voice crackles back, "Just two more assholes gotta die, far as I'm concerned." He doesn't really mean that, but he's definitely not entirely in his right mind. The anger snarls in his voice, "Apparently I got somethin' you want. So what the fuck is it?"

They react in their own ways. For Barbara's part, her reaction is an almost unseen smirk lost beneath the fall of shadows and her red hair. She cuts a glance toward Agent Orange as he settles into that bland annoyance. She starts to flex around her zipties again, trying to strain against their clasps. "Frank!" She has to hope that her voice will get picked up through the radios. "We're at the Keep!"

Agent Orange looks over to Barbara as she calls out, and Everson surges forward, reaching out for Babs. But Rawlins waves the big man off, and merely holds the phone out in Barbara's direction if she chooses to say something again. A look of amused superiority crosses his face, "The Keep? As in Castle's home is his castle? Oh, that's just pitiful." Pulling the phone back, he notes, "You do have something I want. All of your files on me. Oh yes, and you. I think it's time that you and I had a nice, long talk — on my terms, of course."

"I'm comin', Red!" Frank's bellow in response crackles the speaker of the phone, "You lay one finger on her, Rawlins, I'll tear you apart joint by joint you shitbird." There's a loud crash in the background of the call.

Rawlins shakes his head in amusement, "If you come within a hundred meters of this location, Castle, and I put a bullet in her head, you have my word."

"You're pitiful, Rawlins," Barbara bites back. Her eyes dart toward the thugs that are getting, well, nervous around the redhead, the dirty spook, and the Castle on the other end of the line. "Get out of here, Frank. He's not going to hurt me. Run, Frank. GAARD's already locked down the system." She's saying this all very loudly, trying to make sure that Frank hears her. "Get out of there, Frank!"

"I don't know. Has he taken you out for a picnic in the park yet? He wouldn't shut up about doing that with his last wife." Cold fish though Rawlins may be, he does notice things. You don't get to be a spook without being able to do that.

Frank's fury is silent for a moment, and then he snarls, "You want me, you miserable piece of shit? Her for me. Straight up. I see her go, I come to you."

Wariness paints Agent Orange's face, and he looks between the phone and Barbara. "Bullshit." Three of the other five — Spiny, Twitchy, and Acid-Blood — look surprised, even shocked. That's not the Frank Castle that they were expecting, apparently. Everson looks bored, and the hacker looks worried. Definitely not what she signed up for.

"No bullshit. I pick the place. You bring her. You let her go, we wait 'till I hear she's out, I go with you."

Rawlins looks at Barbara long and hard, flexing the leather of his right glove, then nods, "Done. I see anyone else there, I kill her first, Castle. Text me the address." And then he hangs up, staring at the phone for a moment before he puts it back in his pocket and looks to Babs, "What. A. Surprise. This just got much easier." Not even a thought for the fate of Cutter Team.

The moment Frank starts making his offer, Babs tries to interrupt him. "No!" She strains against her ties, trying to get herself out of the chair, but the industrial material just cuts into her skin to leave marks and rough abrasions. "Frank, don't!" But then the deal is done, and Rawlins hangs up the phone. She looks up at Rawlins as he turns his attention back to the bound redhead. Her cheeks are still red, one starting to darken with a bruise where the first hit had landed. Her ribs scream as she takes in a deep breath through her nose. Her anger tightens into a narrow point of focus. She spares him warnings, but this isn't going to end with a handoff. Frank has to know that… he has to.

William Rawlins III smirks sardonically at Babs when she tries to stop the deal. After that, things happen fast. The unarmed woman and Everson are left in Punisher Keep to make sure Castle doesn't come back, which leaves only Spiny, Twitchy, and Acid-Blood to wrangle Babs and to drive, since Agent Orange isn't going to do either of those. But they're careful, tasers at the ready — and submachine guns when they get close to the location Frank texts to them, leaving no opening for Babs to make a play to escape.

They end up at an industrial park a couple miles away, an abandoned one-story office building. It's not the sort of place a sniper can set up for any shot, which is probably why Frank chose it. The meet takes place in an open room about forty feet on a side. It was probably packed with desks not so long ago, but now it's bare carpet and a few wires hanging from the ceiling, light filtering in through the rain from a bank of narrow, high windows along one wall. Frank Castle stands at one end of the room, his hands at his sides. He doesn't wear his Punisher vest, his face shining with rain in the wan light, his pants and the sleeves and collar of his long-sleeved black t-shirt wet as well. Haphazard bandaging wraps his left shoulder, blood on the white cloth. His face and his fingers twitch with restrained anger and worry, and his head snaps up as the other group arrives.

Spiny comes first, submachine gun held carefully close. She scans the bare room, covers Castle, and then steps carefully away from the door to clear the way for first Twitchy and Acid-Blood with Babs, each holding one of her arms and pointing a pistol at her with the other. Rawlins comes last, staying in the doorway and letting the others pass him by.

Rawlins's smirk is met with a hard, cold look from Barbara Gordon. She doesn't break eye contact with him until she is being gathered up, jostled out of her chair and zipties secured again. She doesn't speak again, doesn't fight against her captors. She is too busy in her own head, trying to make sense of where they are, where they are going, and how she can make sure that the handoff doesn't end with her alone and Frank in the hands of Agent Orange's goons.

The moment they are out of the van, Babs is taking stock of where she is and making plans of how to get out. She recognizes the stretches of dirty parking lots and the grime of the abandoned office building. She counts the windows along this side of the building as Twitch and Acid-Blood claim her by her arms. She slows just enough to need a shove to keep her going, and she's half stumbling when they enter the building, and then the room. Her eyes meet Frank's across the distance, and her heart starts pounding. Her bruises have darkened, and the cheek where Rawlins had slapped her is bright red. Her lips press together and she starts to slowly shake her head, trying desperately to tell Frank not to do this.

Castle's dark eyes look over Barbara first, checking her hands, how she holds herself, her face, and then meet her blue gaze, a shudder running down his spine as he strangles the fury in his throat. His fingers flex and curl at his sides, but he just nods slightly to Babs, intended to be reassuring, but probably far from it. Slowly, he turns his head to Rawlins, "Fucking coward."

The words don't seem to phase the CIA agent in the slightest. In fact, he smiles a little flatly, waiting a moment before he speaks up, "There's only one way that you get anything approaching what you want here, Castle. So let's cut out the posturing and get this done with." He gestures to Twitchy, and the two men urge Babs forward two steps, advancing with her. Spiny brings up her submachine gun, still pointed toward the floor, but definitely ready and wary.

Frank takes his own step forward, but it's to Barbara that he looks, his voice tight, trembling with his rage, "My car's right outside, Red." His eyes flicker from her to Rawlins, and then back, his right index finger twitching slightly, "Just drive away. Honk when you hit the end of the block, let your dad know you're okay."

Rawlins speaks up from the doorway, "That's not how this is going to work. Castle, you're going over to her," he gestures to Spiny, who looks surprised, "And once she binds your hands, they'll let Miss Gordon go. If you try anything, she won't survive to run." He almost sounds bored, if it weren't for the undertone of anticipation under his words.

Frank's head nods, and Barbara's lips thin. She's nudged forward two steps, and then she falls into a steady approach toward Frank. His words are met with sober nods, though she casts a furious look beside her to her escort. "Better hope you're faster than you think you are," she hisses out in a quick, quiet breath. Then she's looking back to Frank as they get closer. "I'm coming back for you, Frank." Perhaps that was a wishful thought spoken aloud, but Frank can see the fury and dedication in those sharp blue eyes.

Then Rawlins adjusts the plan, and her jaw tightens. Then she continues to close the distance toward Frank. Her bound wrists reach out, as if she's going to grasp his wrist before he passes her. There, where the zipties cut into her wrists, the skin is raw from frequent testing at her bindings.

Twitchy frowns at the furious look from Babs, backing up just a little. He hasn't forgotten that blow to the head, but he keeps a hold on her upper arm even as he shifts warily. The two escorts tug on Barbara's arms to haul her up short of Frank when Rawlins goes into specifics, leaving her outstretched hand a foot or so from his.

Now it's Frank's turn to shake his head, "No, you ain't. You're gonna get in the car, let me know you're okay, and let your dad know you're okay." Just how she's going to do that with her phone back at the Keep is up for debate, but he emphasizes the words when he says them again. "You're gonna be okay, Red." And then Frank steps forward, stretching out his own hand to take Barbara's fingers in his for a bare moment, the pain of stepping past her unmasked from behind his anger for a heartbeat. He doesn't have the look of a defeated man, it's not quite a goodbye, but there's an aura of acceptance behind him as well. He'll do what he has to do.

Frank's fingers squeeze, and then he's stepping away again, moving over to Spiny and putting his hands out to be bound. She zipties them in front of him with a pair of heavy ties, the two goons with Barbara look to Rawlins, and Agent Orange gives them a nod, so they release Babs, stepping back — rather quickly in both cases.

The touch sends a little waver through her expression, and Babs fights to put that hard mask back up. She squeezes his fingers gently, trying to convey something through that touch. I'm coming for you. Then he's moving past her and she can just look after him over her shoulder while she continues forward toward the opposite end of the room. She turns only when she's at the end of the room, watching as they ziptie Frank's wrists.

She turns her chin just enough to look at Rawlins across the distance. He would not take her threat seriously, so she spares him. Instead, she looks one last time at Frank before she pushes through the doors opposite of the others, disappearing down the hallway. The moment she's out of sight, she books it at a dead sprint despite her bound wrists.

Frank knows she's coming for him. But he needs her to get the last part of that message. He watches her for a pace past her, and then focuses on Spiny, which doesn't do her nerves any good, but that's hidden behind the balaclava. Twitchy and Acid-Blood hold on until Frank is zip-tied, and then step back, Twitchy keeping his pistol on her across the room as Acid-Blood goes to help corral Frank.

Agent Orange's lips thin as Barbara stands at the end of the room, clearly considering whether to just have her shot, but then she's booking it, and he shakes the thought off, "Let's go. We have what we need." Frank looks over his shoulder, but doesn't resist the draw on his arms by Acid-Blood and Spiny. As he passes Rawlins, however, he kicks out almost casually, catching the CIA Agent's shin with one heavy boot and drawing an angry curse. That gets Frank grinning a little to himself, the goons shaking him and then steadying him. The latter is so that Rawlins can draw a syringe from a little case, jab Frank in the back of the neck, and inject him with something. The world goes black for Frank Castle.

The doors to the Punisher Van are locked, but the keys rest on one of the tires, hidden away from casual view. Babs knows that there's a small arsenal in the back of the van, including the prototype suit that she stashed there while she's homeless-ish. But more tellingly, Frank's phone sits on the passenger seat. When she touches it, GAARD's voice speaks up, "Hello, Red." There's a pause as the AI determines that she is indeed alone, and then Frank's voice takes over.

"Red. Don't come after me right away. I know you're gonna, but gimme time. At least a couple'a hours. I'll get the shitstain to confess on camera. If I can't nail him my way, you can damn sure do it your way." There's a pause, and Frank's gravelly voice tightens up even more, "I know what I'm askin', Red. GAARD's set to send the footage here and your storage. Try to resist watchin'. Please." Frank lets out a sigh of breath, and then finishes up, "I love you, Red. We're gonna get him. When the time comes, remember I just cut the hatch in the roof." There's an awkward pause, and then he breathes, "I love you," again, and the recording comes to an end.

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