C A P T A I N A M E R I C A
Eleven months ago
Special training facility, undisclosed location
Special training facility, undisclosed location
Frank Castle grunted as he twisted his body and threw his right arm forward. The large saucer he loosed sailed forward before colliding with a wooden backboard a dozen meters away. The marine grit his teeth and cursed under his breath the moment it struck a solid two meters from his target.
A gravelly voice barked out, "again!"
Frank cast a glance over his shoulder towards the voice's owner. At nearly six foot five inches, Major George Washington Bridge was an imposing figure. Although his dark skin was beginning to show telltale signs of aging and his stomach was more pronounced, straining slightly against his fitted dress uniform, Bridge carried with him an air of intensity. A passerby witnessing the major's actions might ascribe to him the cliched no-nonsense, overly strict stereotype so often played out in Hollywood films. But Frank knew better.
Two months after having met the man, Frank understood that G.W. Bridge was far from the stereotype. Sure, he was gruff and loud. And, yes, Bridge wasn't one to tolerate the blatant ignorance of others. But the major was also a man who appreciated fun. Though, not in the wise-cracking, goofing around sense. No, Bridge found his amusement elsewhere. As was evident by the wolfish grin playing across his lips as he watched Sargeant Castle square his shoulders, recollect himself, and prepare to reattempt the maneuver.
For nearly the five hundredth time that day, Frank regathered and threw the metal saucer at the silhouetted target. And for nearly the ten-thousandth time that week, the saucer went wide and clattered to the ground.
Bridge's grin didn't falter, though. It hadn't disappeared since earlier that day when he first arrived at the facility to observe the progress of the candidates. He had taken the time to watch each of the dozen possible choices, men recruited from the elite of military and federal organizations, the best their country had to offer. Only intending to have stayed on-site for a couple of hours, Bridge had alotted about ten minutes of observation for each candidate. The twelve men were to spend the better part of two months training in how to properly wield and throw a replica shield, testing their accuracy with the object made famous by the former Captain America.
Of them, Bridge had witnessed a handful fail so miserably that he was sure they'd be washed out by the end of the month. Those who did manage to hurl the disc with any degree of skill all inevitably came short of their mark. And like watching a video on repeat, each of those who did wound up lashing out verbally or physically, letting their frustration best them as they tossed the shield away in anger or grew short with their discus instructors. All but one, that is.
Castle was the last on the major's observation list and the only one Bridge found himself partial to. The marine failed, of course, like everyone else. Over and over the man blundered and floundered in his attempts to strike the intended target. And Frank certainly was frustrated, the myriad of choice words the sergeant spewed from his mouth for the last several hours was no small thing. But, as G.W. Bridge was interested to note, Castle's frustrations were directed inwards. Among all of his colorful curses not one was directed at anyone but Frank. And when all other candidates had reached the end of the scheduled training day, Frank alone had stayed behind to continue practicing.
The sheer tenacity of Frank Castle brought G.W. more amusement than he had felt in months. Watching the marine carry on without hesitation, fueled by pure determination, had caused Bridge to stay for several hours past his intent. Of all the candidates he had personally recruited, this was the one the major felt was best suited for the role.
"Again," he called out once more. That wolfish grin continuing as he watched Frank Castle persevere, taking the frustration at both his shortcomings and the major's orders and using it to drive him further.
Willpower, Bridge mused. The man's got it in spades.
New York City, USA
New York City, USA
Castle fell quickly.
It took just four seconds for a man to reach the ground after dropping from a height of eighty meters. Though, from Frank's perspective, it appeared more like the ground was reaching up for him, eagerly pulling him down into a dangerously solid embrace.
In those four seconds, he had more than enough time to doubt whether or not this would work. To consider the possibilities of failure. To pray that this went as well as it had during the field tests - despite those tests having been performed at less than half the drop distance.
But in those four seconds, Frank had just one thought: eight ball, corner pocket.
He landed hard. His knees bent slightly just before boots contacted pavement. The impact that should have broken numerous bones if not outright killed him seemed to have little effect as he pushed forward, using his considerable momentum to rebound forward in a mighty leap. His right arm was already in the process of reaching behind his back. Gloved fingers grasped onto a loop as he pulled a metal saucer free from its hold. Before he had even touched back onto the street, the red and white shield launched forward in a well-rehearsed toss. The spinning disc arced slightly to the left as it made contact with its intended target in the same instant boots once more touched down on the pavement.
The shield clattered to the ground lightly, belying its heavily metallic appearance. It was followed shortly by the now unconscious form of a man in militaristic fatigues and body armor crumpling to the street. The black helmet the man had worn sporting a not insignificant dent along the left temple.
"Damn, Cap. Nice throw." A voice said through Frank's earpiece. "And to think I almost made a bet with Shelly that you'd miss."
Frank ignored the comment. Instead, he flexed and tensed his right arm and fist respectively. The shield twitched slightly on the ground before suddenly flipping over and flying the fifteen meters back to him. The specially designed magnetic strip along his gauntlet recalling the object to him. He effortlessly caught it and slotted the shield back onto the similarly designed magnetic holster situated at his mid-back.
"Hey, tell me, Cap. Were you shitting yourself at all on the way down? C'mon, you can tell me. I'll erase the records, no one else will hear." The voice continued. "You just jumped two hundred and fifty freaking feet without a parachute. Okay, I mean, I guess one could argue you have a parachute of sorts, we all knew the suit would protect you, but still! That would have earned me a change of shorts had I been the one."
"Cut the chatter, Leiberman." Castle finally said. "You're meant to be on overwatch, not providing color commentary."
The suit Leiberman mentioned was, like the strips enabling him to retrieve the shield, one of several improvements made over the previous Captain America's gear. Unlike his predecessor, the jarhead was not boasting near-superhuman abilities. So, to compensate and allow Castle to go toe-to-toe in the field with those who were possessed of such traits, the engineers at DARPA had heavily modified the suit.
Like the shield, it utilized a precious material known as vibranium which is capable of absorbing kinetic energy and either dispersing it harmlessly or redirecting it in beneficial manners. While the shield was a blend of this unique alloy and steel, the suit sported a nano weave of vibranium with traditional kevlar. This, along with joint braces for improved support, provided not only a considerable defensive boost compared to pure kevlar, but also allowed Frank in his new role as Captain America to perform a multitude of incredible feats without any major risk of injury.
Furthermore, any absorbed kinetic energy could be immediately utilized, in the scant seconds before dissipation, to enhance physical performance. The suit was so well designed that even the kinetic energy generated upon the soles of his boots from running or jumping could be redirected, dramatically increasing his speed with nearly zero effort.
All-in-all, the suit was an incredible marvel of engineering. Frank had little doubt that in it he wasn't virtually identical to his predecessor in every physical way.
"Right, right. On it," David Leiberman responded.
There was a brief moment before he chimed back in, "alright, infrared shows you're clear on the outside. Looks like there was just the one guard on lookout. Pretty shitty job of a lookout, though. I've got a bunch of signatures on the first floor. About two dozen of those are huddled in the Northeast corner furthest from the entrance, so their proximity makes it a little difficult to determine exactly how many hostages. Looks to be two more mercenaries guarding them, though."
"You sure about that?" Frank asked as he finished disarming the subdued mercenary, zip-tying their hands together. "The mission briefing showed this crew to be highly skilled and very smart. Posting a single lookout on the outside of the building screams the opposite."
"I'm just telling you what I'm seeing on the scans, Cap. There are no other heat signatures on the immediate outskirts of the premises aside from yourself," Leiberman added. "Definitely not any gun-toting bogies. Bogies? No, wait. I know this. Tangos? Tangos."
Frank sighed internally. Civilians. Putting a civilian contractor in a crucial role for field missions was a disaster waiting to happen as far as he was concerned. Major Bridge, however, had overruled him on the matter.
The captain predicted it wouldn't be the last time Leiberman would get on his nerves.
"Any other targets on the first floor?" Frank asked as he readied himself for entry.
"Negatory, Cap. I do make out four others but they appear to all be in the basement," responded Leiberman. "You're good to go here. Breach... or whatever it is you do."
Castle tuned out the voice in his ear as he focused on the mission at hand. Cautiously, he opened the glass door and stepped into the lobby of the Roxxon Energy Corporation's research facility.