16 – Finale 3

Desperately, Mockingbird leapt towards it…

She dropped her remaining batons, grabbed the railing with her right hand and pivoted up, her combat boot making contact squarely with the center of the canister.

To her utter horror some errant combination of angular momentum and trajectory sent the grenade spinning downwards, towards the table and the bad guys. She went over the railing with it, unable to change direction.

It burst in mid air with a whump, the flash of heat and light making the skin of her bare face tighten and burn. She landed right next to the pool of spreading fire. Some of the figures on the ground, splashed with incendiary, surged up screaming.

In heartbeats all was chaos and flame, barely conscious men scrambling back from the fire the licked at her boots. Mockingbird threw herself backwards, trying not to breathe…

She failed and sucked in a lungful of super heated air and greasy, chemical laden smoke. She hit the ground on her back, winding her, coughing and heaving and then the world went black…

*****

Mockingbird sensed motion before she was fully awake, the sound of a powerful engine purring, the motion of cool air on her face. She was strapped upright into something.

A seatbelt. A car seat. A van.

She pried open her soot crusted eye lashes.

Punisher’s van. She was belted into the passenger seat of his van, a set of zip-strap cuffs on her wrists, over a half-assed bandage job on her slashed palm. 

Weak, pain both dull and searing in every part of her body, she lolled her head to one side. Punisher was driving, intent on the busy New York street outside.

“Don’t try to talk. Smoke inhalation,” he said without looking at her.

“Not…boss…of…me,” she rasped out, every word a fresh hurt.

“Can anyone shut you up?” He said without rancor.

“Steve. Clint,” she whispered.

He barked a laugh at that. “Yeah, I guess I can see that.”

“Warehouse?” She coughed for a full minute after that one, tasting blood and smoke.

“Burned to the ground by now. I got your batons out, they’re in your holsters. Wouldn’t disrespect good weapons to leave’em there like that.”

“Bad…guys?” 

He was silent for a long time, then abruptly pulled the van into an alley. Through the windshield, Mockingbird could see Avengers Tower and the plaza at its base.

“I think they made it out. I wasn’t taking a roll call or anything. I’ll figure out who’s left later, after my hand heals. Thanks for that.”

“Deserved it…asshole, ” she whispered.

“Yeah, I know.”

He turned and looked at her for the first time.  “Nice try, back there, but you made one big mistake right at the beginning.” He reached over and opened the door to his van, then unclipped her seatbelt. A small knife appeared in his hands and he slashed open her cuffs.

Almost gently, he turned her body till her feet were outside and then shoved her out the open door to land on her knees. The half-melted Starktech computer that had started the whole thing landed next to her on the filthy pavement. 

“You should have just shot me.” He pulled the door closed and accelerated away, watching in the rear view mirror to make sure she got up and moving. Satisfied she was as okay as could be expected, Frank Castle slid his van back into traffic, trusting in Microchip’s blinder tech to keep him hidden from Stark and the watchful eyes of any surveillance cameras.

The Punisher roamed the streets, his never-ending work still undone.

End Result: Punisher wins, as much as he ever does.

Want to try another path? Head back to 1

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