Man vs. Machine

February 16, 2019:

Backdated to just after the Mutant Town Massacre. The Punisher tracks down one of the killer cyborgs, but the hunter becomes the hunted. (Emits by Nate)

An abandoned mill in New Jersey

Rundown, urban decay, rusty machines.


NPCs: Microchip, Frank's tech man and world class hacker.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The last group of killer cyborgs attacking Mutant Town was swift to withdraw when Punisher and Rogue converged on them. The last killer, a tall and powerful man that doesn't much look like a homeless, stood at the entrance of an alleyway, dropping several tear gas grenades as cover while managing to disable Frank's minigun with a lucky shot of a Glock 21. Then he ran into the alleyway, taking a few bullets in his back, and vanished into the sewers.

Fortunately one of those bullets had a tracker, so Frank could try to follow him.

Try being the key word. The cyborg moved to quickly in the darkness of the sewers for even a very fit man like Frank to follow. Then he broke into the subway tunnels and climbed into a train. Frank had to get the battle van to keep track.

All the way to New Jersey, and past the city suburbia. Obviously on foot, yet managing to move at nearly 30 miles per hour through the urban landscape, the cyborg seems to finally slow down when he reaches a dilapidated paper mill. Perhaps the killers hideout.

It was long, and patient work. Luckily, The Punisher could concentrate on tracking the cyborg while Microchip did the driving, "This is a long way from New York, Frank, and I didn't have a chance to pack the hunting equipment with the battle gear." Microchip notes with caution when the paper mill becomes the new target. "That's the beauty of cyborgs, Micro. It might be me one day, if I get old enough." Frank states matter of factly as he's loading his M4A1 with a grenade launcher and a full set of AP grenades and rounds. "Get the drone out and see if you can find anything with a signal coming out of there while I'm hunting." Frank has gotten into his commando outfit and gear; a gas mask with a camo suit and a gear web packed to the brim with weapons and gear. There's even a grapple gun in there.

"Good hunting." Microchip offers over the transceiver, even as the recon drone is launched out the back of the van. The Punisher himself starts to move quickly, but silently, over to the mill, M4 at the ready as he begins to get eyes on the perimeter.

Micro has more to tell Frank, but he will wait until he is back. Radio silence is advised when the enemy out-tech you. And Micro is starting to suspect they are badly out-tech-ed. They got a very good tip about the Mutant Town incident - way too good.

Sentinel Services mid-level managers talking about 'something' that would happen in Mutant Town on an unsecure line. Why did they know? He is running voice identification software in that conversation. And getting a double negative.

The conversation was faked. Someone manipulated them, and the Punisher was in Mutant Town at the right moment to help prevent a massacre. Someone played -him- for a chump, and Micro's hacker pride is now hurt.

While Frank hunts for cyborgs he is debugging his entire system, looking for Trojans and intrusion software. It will be a couple hours offline.

So the Punisher is on his own, but the old mill seems empty. Everything is quiet. How many cyborgs escaped Mutant Town still operative. At least six, maybe as much as twelve. But no one seems to be around. The tracker leads him deeper into the abandoned building, and then down.

Ears open, eyes in the back of the head. The Punisher has survived this long because he's an amazing and masterful tactician with incredible reflexes, and that's what's going to help him to survive now. He even brought along EMP grenades as a last resort; he wants to take one of their computers intact… but that won't matter if he's dead, after all.

Once the perimeter is secure. Going inside the mill is the same story. Securing the corridors and rooms one sweep and clear at a time. That leaves the basement as the next logical path.

If Frank were the grumbling sort, this would be where he'd start. Underground means no recon drones for eyes. Nothing for it. With M4 raised to the shoulder, Frank starts downward.

It is pretty dark here, but the windows are broken, there are holes in the walls, some of the fading sunlight makes it down here. All is dusty, but there are tracks on the floor. A single man wearing combat boots - and the size seems to match the cyborg Frank is tracking.

But only one cyborg, so maybe this is not the killers' hideout.

The tracker is just ahead, the cyborg must be just the other side of the security door that has a lightning symbol. Probably the old electrical control room. But the building is unlikely to have power right now.

Power would just end up creating too much noise anyway. Probably. Still, knowing where to go to get electricity back is good.

This has trap written all over it. A secret entry would have blocked the signal by now, and there's no noise for anyone else. He was led out here. Instead of going through the door, Frank starts to get a detailed look at the building. Vents, structures, boxes, tables. Memorizing the layout and what resources are available in the general vicinity, he's going to turn the tables on it.

Time for the prey to turn back into the predator.

There is some old machinery here. Stuff too heavy or too old to be taken when the mill closed. Rusting for what must have been twenty, maybe thirty years. When Franks begins exploring he can see anything too interesting but some rats that scurry away when he comes closer.

But the rats were sniffing around something in the floor. Blood, and it looks fresh.

Shining the M4A1's side-mounted flashlight on the blood, Frank takes a detailed look at the area and the surrounding floor from a respectable distance. Especially above, to the ceiling.

And that is where the cyborgs was, on the ceiling. Keeping himself still by grabbing naked I beams with his hands. The second Frank looks up, he jumps down. Good thing he didnt closed too much to the blood or he would crushed under 300 lbs. of metal and flesh.

As it is the cyborg can only reach with his hand for the barrel of the M4A1, pulling from it with inhuman force and trying to drag the man into his knee, which could hit the mans ribs with bone-crushing force. "Mister Castle," he drones. Not a greeting. Just acknowledge of a kind.

He wants the M4? He can have it. First though, the grenade trigger is pulled even as the Cyborg tries to reach for it. He's immediately rushing backwards after that, pulling out a desert eagle with specialized AP rounds and using the cover of the grenade explosion to find some sort of cover. His objective? To kneecap the cyborg if he can. "Frank Castle is dead." The Punisher responds.

Can't hit what you can't reach… or so the tactic is.

The grenade flies behind the cyborg, hittin the nearby wall and causing a loud, fring explosion, but if some shrapnel hits the cyborg, he gives no signal of discomfort. Instead he throws away the carabine and rushes forward, drawing a Glock 21 and firing several .45APC rounds aiming at Franks chest. Hit or miss, he reaches with the other hand to grab him.

At least one of Frank bullets hits the cyborg leg. But again he shows no sign of pain. Hard to see if his movement is impaired in the darkness. He is still quite fast. "Negative. Vital signs detected."

Apparently no sense of humor either. Or maybe he just doesn't understand what Frank is trying to say.

There are grunts of pain as the rounds hit his body armor, bouncing to the ground even as he's running for more distance. Frank is in serious pain right now, but he has no time to process it. He needs to make this decisive.

He starts heading down the corridor, grabbing a set of two grenades from his gear web and tossing them at his feet and down the corridor. Thermographic blocking smoke starts to saturate the area, and Frank ducks into one of the side rooms he checked beforehand, hastily setting a proximity detonated AP mine in the entry to greet his new 'friend, before he dives behind some machinery.

There is another pair of powerful explosions that cause a partial crumbling of the roof. Then more sounds of falling masonry. Then things go quieter. For a minute.

The voice of the Cyborg is heard again, unfortunately it comes from the wrong direction. "Mister Castle. This unit designate Aaron Granger. Primary directive protect humankind of the mutant menace. You stand on the way of the primary directive. It has become necessary for you to be eliminated."

He is moving to stand between Frank and the staircase upstairs. And the way out of the mill.

This would be a perfect time to mutter some very colorful curses, except Punisher has no idea how sensitive those sensors are. Still, the time does mean he has more space and ability to set more traps. And so he does.

Two more mines are set properly along the corridor, and Punisher goes down the corridor back to the door the signal was coming from, opening it from the side with a kick, before ducking around a corner. If he can trick the cyborg to come after him, he'll run over the two mines.

Yet the cyborg seem in no hurry to find Frank. The room with the signal is full of rusty, probably useless power switches. An ancient, rotting fuel power generator and some decrepit furniture. On a dusty table on the corner he can find the tracker, on a small bloody puddle.

Apparently the sensors are good enough to detect the small transmissor.

Those mines are not exploding, either. The cyborg must be able to disable or avoid them. Or perhaps he is just waiting for Frank to attempt to leave the mill.

The more time he has to set the area up, the better. Blocking the staircase is the worst thing the cyborg can possibly do with the Punisher.

Power is checked and turned back on, and any machinery that might be useful for traps, explosives, or just delaying are accounted for and turned on.. He has two more smoke grenades, and he can just keep taking pot shots at the cyborg from the corridor…. though if he's being trapped, there's a good chance of reinforcements incoming.

Once he's got everything setup, he pulls out a couple of fragmentation grenades, and goes back down the corridor until he's just barely out of the cyborgs line of sight… before tossing them against a wall so they bounce right in front of -or below- the cyborg, then he backs right back down the corridor, desert eagle ready to fire if it tries to come after him.

There is no power in those old lines, although there is some fuel in the generator, perhaps two or three gallons. But making it work seems quite impossible without several hours of cleaning and maybe replacing a few pieces.

It is also difficult to know where the cyborg is. He keeps himself out of Franks sight, and the grenades, upon exploding, pretty much destroy the staircase out and a good chunk of the room. The whole building creaks and groans, and might collapse in any moment.

And then one of the mines goes off, and the ceiling comes down just outside the power room, sending a cloud of debris and dust all over the area.

An expendable drone baiting Frank into using too much force. Time to make this precise. If the building is coming down anyway… maybe the weight of the whole building can be directed onto it, and level the playing field a bit.

He only has a few frag grenades left, but it should be more than enough. The tables and doorways will be his best hope of survival if this works. Cooking a pair of grenades, he tosses them up into the roof near the stairway, making sure they go off just at the ceiling.

He might not be able to see the cyborg, but he can flush it out.

By the time the grenades go off, he's already under a table near a doorway, desert eagle ready.

More roof collapses, this time bringing down some support beams. Somewhere above and to the left a wall also crumbles, and likely a chunk of the front of the mill. If nothing else so many explosions and now major structural damage is likely to draw attention, even in the urban decay neighborhood above.

Perhaps it is the likely arrival of the New Jersey police what prompts the cyborg to move. There is better lightening now, but on the other hand there dusk is so dense breathing and even seeing is difficult.

But yes, he is coming. Or at least a heavy metal table/impromptu shield is coming. The cyborg likely just behind it.

Down the corridor, he doesn't have a lot of time. The desert eagle starts to fire, trying to bait the cyborg into going over his mine. He sets it to remote detonation instead of proximity, so bypass the shield. The rounds he's firing are specialized for penetrating armor… so they are quite capable of going through the 'shield'. They'll lose some of their power doing so, but he'll still hit the cyborg.

As he fires, the blast of the giant hand cannon is no doubt sounding through the neighborhood now… as is the Punishers primal scream. "RRAAAAAAAGGHHHHHH!" He shouts at the top of his lungs in rage as he unloads with precision, trying to shred the cyborgs legs still.

Definitely losing power due to the table, the cyborg tactical jacket, and then his dermal plating. Not so good at the legs, though.

It obviously knows where the mine is, too. As it tosses the table on it, either causing it to detonate or destroying it. Then rushes forward, firing his own Glock in full auto. He lacks the Punishers almost supernatural accuracy, but the targeting systems are nothing to scoff at.

The 13th and final bullet is fired a fraction of second before he slams against the doorframe, taking a chunk of wall to get to Frank.

It's a shooting gallery in that corridor, with smaller caliber bullets mostly hitting wall… but occasionally bouncing off the Punishers body armor. He's going to be bruised later from this sheer volume of fire he's taking… but he's at least whittling it down.

He sees what the cyborg is doing though, and dives out of the way just a second before the wall is gone through. The desert eagle is dropped… and suddenly, The Punisher has a massively stupid idea.

Pulling his Ka-Bar, he jumps onto the cyborgs back, and uses his forward momentum to drive the combat knife right into the neck, taking the split seconds it takes to find and penetrate through the weak points in the armor; the thing has to be able to move it's neck after all… and the Punisher wants to sever it's spine.

Or at least it's equivalent.

There is actually a number of things the cyborg does with his neck. Including breathing for the fleshy bits. And circulation for the partially organic brain.

The combat knife does cause some serious damage, but unfortunately for Frank it doesnt cause an instantaneous fatality. Just like the bullets hitting his legs and chest have caused serious exsanguination but are not enough to stop the cyborg. He wont go into shock like a normal human fighter. He has batteries to go on for a bit.

It stands up, and slams back, trying to crush Frank against the wall. Unfortunately the wall gives in, sedding both men tumbling down.

A powerful hand shoots back, trying to grab the Punishers shoulder, titanium blades sprouting from the fingertips.

The sheer amount of pained roaring coming from the Punisher at this point could overshadow a football game at this point. Nonetheless, he keeps going for the vitals, slicing and stabbing through the cyborgs neck with that knife for a precious few seconds, before the claws once again dig into his shoulders, and Frank is tossed down onto the debris and rubble. Any normal man would be crawling in pain right now. The Punisher? He's already trying to roll out of the way so he's out of reach of the thing as it continues it's death throes. Eventually, he staggers to his feet, and tries to get out of sight, even as blood spills from his lips from the internal damage he's taken so far. He's going to need one of his underworld doctors after this.

The cyborgs also staggers to his feet, bleeding profusely from the neck. Then falls to one knee, his head leaning to a side. Metal wires visible on his neck, a cheek shredded to the bone (and metal plates). Clumsily, he reaches for his belt and pulls out an ammo clip for his handgun, and struggles to replace it. Fails, tries again.

Falls, he falls forward, face fist and stays still on a growing pool of blood-soaked debris.

Leaning against a wall, The Punisher groans slightly as he starts to move over to the cyborg, and starts to check for any vitals. With the police coming, there's no time to do this quietly. Punisher breaks radio silence, hitting the transceiver, "Got a mostly intact body down here, bring the van to the southwest corner *cough cough* corner and get the winch out. We need to haul this thing out quickly."

With the stairway destroyed, the only way out is up, for both of them.

The damage is so extensive it is possible to climb out of the mill basement. Although given Frank injuries it is a painful endeavor. Micro is not responding to his call. Although it looks the interference is gone.

In the distance the fire department, and maybe the police sirens can be heard.

Hauling those 300 lbs of cyborg out is going to be a nightmare, particularly if short of time.

Punisher only has a few minutes at most… so there's no time to be precise. He'll have to brute force it and hope he manages an intact component. Grunting with the exertion, the Ka-Bar is taken, and suddenly the head is forcibly opened as he works to open the skull by brute force, testing if it's armored enough to take a while, or if he can start to scramble what's left of the brain to get the computer from the inside.

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