The television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters and materials belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and UPN. The Punisher and all characters related are properties of Marvel Comics, Marvel Enterprises, and Lions Gate Films.
To my readers: Another detour in my continuation of my "Urbs" story. I have already penned most of the next chapter on it. I also have ideas for expanding my "Fighting Spirit" and "Visionary" short stories. If you haven't read those, take an gander and get back to me.
Takes place one year and three months after "Chosen"
"So, got any ideas for this thing?" Buffy asked.
"Nothing so far," Faith replied.
"You know this is a serious issue, Faith. We have to be very careful about this."
"Maybe you do, Buffy, but not me. You're the one who thought of this little 'mission'"
"Faith, if we make a mistake, we won't be take to take it back. This is a delicate operation."
"Okay, I get it," Faith said, relenting. "Are you sure you're ready?"
"Yeah," Buffy replied, taking a deep breath in.
They both stepped into the small boutique. It was a tiny specialty shop filled with potential gifts for men, including imported and domestic cigars, bottles of aged whiskeys, bourbons, and cognacs, and men's cologne. The Scoobies had journeyed to London for a strategy session of sorts. It was going to be an annual thing, to assess their organization's progress, capabilities, and decide on any major changes in focus if it was deemed necessary. The time out on the London streets was one of the few off-times they had and Buffy and Faith decided to head out and get Giles a special gift for his hard work in organizing everything. Underestimating the strength of the aromas though before stepping in, Faith recoiled.
"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "I never knew it was going to be so strong in here. The summer weather isn't making it any easier."
The smells were starting to irritate Faith's nose. It wasn't that they were bad; they was just so overwhelmingly powerful that she had difficulty dealing with them.
"Buffy, can we just get Giles' gift and get going? My nose hairs are tingling."
"Mine too," Buffy said as she scrunched her nose. "How do men deal with all this?"
"Can I help you ladies?" a finely dressed British gentleman asked as he approached them.
The scope was in place, sitting on top of one of the finest sniping rifles ever created by man. A digital recorder sat nearby, ready to record future potential targets. The man setting up the location looked through the laser scope; he had traced some of the financial partners of Howard Saint, the recently-deceased Miami crime boss, to London. It was one of his many destinations in his quest to bring what he called "natural law" to those who did evil. He was Frank Castle… in a previous existence. Everything that was Frank Castle was dead: his family, his relatives, his life. But out of the ashes grew something that no one expected; not Howard Saint, not Frank Castle, and certainly not the multitude of criminals who would soon hear of him: The Punisher. He had vowed to bring his own brand of justice to them. And tonight it was coming for Mickey Dalton, one of London's most notorious crime figures.
"Man, am I glad to be out of there," Faith said, waving her hand in front of her nose.
"Yeah, me too," Buffy replied. "I just hope Giles appreciates what we went through to get him this gift."
They walked down the sidewalk, chatting away not only about the gift and the boutique, but what ideas they had for the groups of Slayers spread around the world. Different areas required different strategies, and the Scoobies wanted to make sure that all needs were addressed. They neared a pub, somewhat ritzier than Faith had seen in Boston, but a pub nonetheless. As they continued walking, both saw a middle-aged man flocked by an entourage of shady-looking men. Out of curiosity, Faith tried to get a better look at the central figure. It was then that she happened upon a red dot at his chest. Turning her head toward the source of the light and back, she realized what it was.
"Where's Henry with that limo?" one of the men said in an aggravated voice.
"Get down!" Faith yelled, running at the middle-aged man. She pushed past his guards and barreled into the man, tackling him. Buffy was stunned. She had no idea what Faith was doing or why… until she saw one of the men in the group go down. She ducked down in haste, knowing that someone was shooting.
Frank was pissed. He had a perfect kill shot on his target, only to be foiled by a bystander with a sharp eye and a heart of gold. Instead of Mickey, he had hit one of his entourage. Wasn't a total loss, he thought. He gathered his things and started to leave. Firing into a crowd of innocents civilians while engaging in his private war wasn't his way. And sticking around too long would make it easier for others to track him; he wasn't going to allow that to happen, not before his war was over.
"Get off of him!" said one of the men in a thick Cockney accent as he grabbed Faith.
Getting up, Faith looked at Buffy; they were both thinking the same thing.
"Hey, who are you two… Derek!" the man said, looking over to his dead companion.
"We need to go, F… Francesca," Buffy said, stopping herself before saying Faith's name. She was still a wanted criminal in the States and if Interpol got wind of her in London, there was no telling what kind of trouble would follow. Running in the opposite direction, Buffy and Faith made their way back home. Arriving at the building where their meetings took place, Faith and Buffy stopped to take a breather.
"I can't believe that just happened," Buffy said, panting.
"Yeah, a hit. I think I'll stay in for the rest of our 'mini-conference'. Probably be safer."
"Good idea," Buffy agreed. "Who do you think it was anyway?"
"I got no clue," Faith replied.
Frank had made it back to his makeshift home without notice. He knew that the BBC would be all over the incident, but that didn't matter much to him. Howard Saint and his cohorts fell before him and so would Mickey and his henchmen. It was only a matter of time. He plugged in the digital recorder, deciding to review the failed mission and spot any potential targets. When he saw up to the girl tackling Mickey, he rewound. He hadn't noticed it before, but the girl had looked in his direction. Pausing, he decided out of curiosity to discover whether or not the girl was in league with Mickey. Digitizing her face, he ran her features against the facial recognition database of the major law enforcement agencies, particularly Interpol and the FBI. He had the benefit of the person being a woman in her 20's, which greatly reduced the search criteria. Minutes later, the software came up with something: a young girl, charged with multiple counts of murder and assault. She confessed, but escaped from a California women's correctional facility with a visitor. The report said her whereabouts were unknown at the present.
Frank looked at the face, taken at the time of her arrest. She had the face of a killer; he had seen it before on many others. And he was determined to wipe it from the face of the earth. Mickey Dalton could wait. Being a bigger fish in the sea came with drawbacks; they weren't as mobile since the nature and scope of their business required them to be available. No, The Punisher had a new target, someone that could move in and out as she pleased. Someone who was a loose cannon and wasn't content to stay in prison. He would hunt this murderess and fugitive. Man, woman; it didn't matter to Frank. He had indirectly 'punished' Livia Saint for ordering the murder of his family. And soon, punishment would find his new target… a woman named Faith.