(Frank Castle and the strange redheaded girl's offer)
December 31st, 1996
Frank threw his last homemade high explosive grenade, it rolled on the ground amongst the goons firing at his team, they panicked; but for five second nothing happened, they began to shoot back in anger because they still thought it was a fake. Frank smiled when he heard the ‘boom’ and the cries of dying people.
“Yo Frank, you used the timed one already!” Alan Yankovic, their assault specialist shouted at him in reprimand.
The soldiers laughed mirthlessly. They were all wearing tactical clothes and protections, but it meant nothing to those guys packing heavy weaponry.
Frank hadn’t thought that it would end up like this, him and his team pinned down in a disused warehouse by an army of goons packing heavy ordnance. His team had thankfully condemned the side entrances and trapped them with explosives. They were making their last stand. This operation had started with so much promise… they had been using the cover of night to take down all those gang leaders, the Diamondbacks, the Diablos, and some of the Maggia's men. One month of preparation going down the drain because they had thought they could trust the District Attorney. The man was supposed to join them and obtain the evidence they had gathered.
It was a mistake as the man was clearly bought; Avery, his friend had been crushed to learn that the man was a turncoat, they had known each other since they joined the army together. The man, Connor Stones, was ex-JAG (Judge Advocate General Corp) from the army. It had been a friendship beyond the ranks, but it seemed that when a man is given power his integrity and morals are tested, a test that Mister Stones had failed as he became corrupt.
Frank used a mirror to look at the angle, some men wielding rifles continued to shoot at the concrete barricade and at the members of his team who reciprocated. He wished they had some more grenades right at this moment.
Frank looked at Avery standing up and raising a hand and blasting a tongue of fire out of his hands. And severely burning some of their foes who were screaming as they were burning alive. It was music to Frank’s ears, but the dead were quickly replaced by more armed goons more determined to end them.
Bang. “Argh!” Avery fell on his ass, holding onto his perforated shoulder.
Frank fired his P90 and shot two people at center mass then went back under cover and crouched next to Avery. “Fuck, hold on Av!”
The bullet had gone straight through Avery’s shoulder and a lot of blood was pooling next to him. Frank cut a strip of Avery’s clothes and tried to slow down the bleeding. The shooting intensified when the goons at the entrance realized that their opposition was in disarray.
When everything was apparently lost, a golden aperture opened in the ceiling and someone passed through it to land before the barricade. Frank chanced a look and saw the silhouette of the back of a redheaded woman in a long light brown furred coat stop all the bullets mid-air. When the goons ammunition ran out, she tilted her head and all the weapons were wrenched from the men's hands, she raised her hand and snapped her fingers; the goons all fell onto the ground as if their strings were cut.
The bullets all fell, clinking onto the ground or rebounding off the dead and burned bodies. The redhead turned to the barricade and Frank gasped as he remembered who this was. Sure, she was taller and looked older, but she was memorable, she had saved his family previously.
Her head turned to Frank who looked at the strange get up she was wearing under her coat, it was a skintight bodysuit in black with a red pattern. The young woman smiled at Frank, "Ah, Mister Castle, just who I wanted to see."
Frank remembered how Jean had helped heal his wife and asked quickly, "Please, could you help my friend? He's bleeding out." He pointed his hand at Avery who was now breathing heavily.
Jean floated up and looked over the barricade and saw Avery fading. "Oh, certainly."
She landed at his side and put her left hand on his wounded shoulder, golden flame surrounded it and as time passed Avery’s face regained more color. He was lucid enough to look at Jean. The other four men at Frank's side stood transfixed as their friend was being healed. They knew all about Avery’s power and how he was immune to flames and could throw fire out of his hands. But seeing a girl fly and heal someone was new.
“Frank, since when do you have your own guardian angel?” Vic, one of Frank's army buddies, asked him.
The man turned to Vic who was in black tactical clothes and had an HK21 in his hands; he was tall and had a ski mask covering the top of his face. “Don’t look at me, she comes and goes as she pleases.”
“Damn right I do, soldier.” They heard Jean’s voice and then turned to her.
She looked at her bloodied hand and the carmine fluid slowly dissolved into it. Frank frowned at that, not knowing what to think of that action. She moved her fingers as if she was doing away with something unclean. Turning to him, Jean looked at Frank and said, “Mister Johnson will live, he will need to eat a lot for the next four days to replenish the blood he lost and to support the regeneration I influenced his body to perform.”
Frank didn't remember when he told her Avery’s name, but he nodded after looking at Avery who stood up by being helped by Jean. “Thank you, I thought that… we were goners.”
Jean smiled at him until she changed expression and showed how disappointed she was. She sighed, “I don't want to rain on your parade but I have to say it. You had a good plan, Mister Castle; but you trusted the wrong person. Connor Stones? Another one to take down.”
Everyone stood still, but no one touched their weapon or pointed it at the girl. Threatening her may have fatal consequences after all and they were not ingrates after what she had done for them. “How do you know-”
Jean raised her chin toward the downed men. “It was easy, I read the minds of all those goons. They work for different organizations that answer directly to the Kingpin.”
Frank cursed inwardly, they had attracted the attention of the big Kahuna himself. “Fuck. This is really getting dangerous.”
She rolled her eyes as he stated the obvious. “Well, yes, Mister Castle. You can trust no one inside most of the state law enforcement agencies to do their jobs and take the Kingpin down. Most of the cops are either bought or blackmailed.”
Avery, Vic and the rest of the men looked lost about what to do; they were fighting an entrenched enemy who was using the authorities to pretty much do everything he wanted. This situation reminded them of their tours in Afghanistan, the locals were fighting them, took potshots and wanted to kill them with prejudice.
New York was another hot spot to them but with different rules. Jean seemed to like that each of these men realized how deep they were in; Marvel had no mercy for anyone from either side of the coin, justice and villainy were concepts and points of view. This world was intent on shitting on everyone.
Jean addressed Frank after a minute of silence. “Remember what I told you about revenge? How you should focus on your wife and kids?”
“I remember.” It was as if they were back in Central Park, the young woman at the time had told him how he should prioritize his family; that they’d need him, but he sent Maria and the kids out of state to her parents for the time being. Maria had begged him to not do it and to let them stay but he hadn’t listened. Frank hoped that he still had a marriage to return to.
Jean shook her head, she still had that disappointed expression on her face. “Then you know you done fucked up, you almost died here.”
Frank didn’t back down, with a growl he said, “I could not stay inactive, they are bleeding this city, I keep having these nightmares about losing my family and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
They glared at each other for a long moment, making the other people present nervous. Then Jean grinned at him and finally said, “I see, then we will do it another way. You want to take down the Kingpin and the Maggia, right?”
Letting his hold on his rifle slacken, Frank narrowed his eyes. “How?”
“I am creating my own Private Military Company and I need skilled people.” Jean looked at everyone in the room, in particular at Avery and Frank. “I have the funds, and you have the expertise, I intend to clean the city.”
“You intend to run mercenary Black OPS?” Avery intervened, his eyebrows raised in disbelief.
Jean turned to him and made a so-so motion with her hand. “No, a legit PMC that will test the new technology I am coming up with… and if we appear to do what is right at the same time?" Jean shrugged with an impish smile.
Frank could see how uncertain Avery and the rest of the guys were. This sounded too good to be true and they doubted that the girl worked alone, but the way she had downed everyone as if they were nothing endeared her to them. And it seemed that they needed protection and resources after the shit they pulled, all of them felt that they needed to take out the man threatening them and their way of life.
Jean took out a device from a hidden pocket in her coat, it looked like nothing Frank and his guys had seen before. It was a flat rectangle that lit up at a touch, it projected some kind of spherical hologram. Frank and the guys looked at it mildly interested.
The redhead said, "I will give you a tour of the facility after this, so don’t decide anything just yet. Anyway, it’s time to take down a corrupt DA. I am going to call someone higher up on the food chain to resolve your problems.”
“We are with you, Ma’am.” Alan Yankovic stood straight.
Deep inside, Frank laughed; for once Alan wasn’t mouthing off to someone. The girl was already working miracles.
“Don’t Ma’am me, sir. Call me Jean.” answered back as she sat on the concrete barricade.
Avery came up to the young woman and looked her in the eyes. “Thanks for the save.”
Some kind of unheard conversation seemed to be going on between them; Frank told himself that they were using telepathy or something. Then suddenly Jean laughed throatily. “Oh, Mister Johnson, we are going to be good friends, you and I.”