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Eleven months ago
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.

Present day
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.
Ended up going out today, so post will come tomorrow, instead.
I've got some plans today but looking to catch up on the IC tonight and tomorrow, and then hopefully post again by Monday evening.

Gotta get more of that Roman review goodness.
Your stuff on Iwaku was worse more extreme.

Fourteen months ago
Camp Dwyer FOB, Garmsir District, Afghanistan

The steel point pierced through its target, embedding deeply inside until the metal was completely enveloped in red. An anguished cry let loose an instant after the impact.

"Fucking Christ!"

Frank Castle whipped around to stare at the source. The smirk playing across his lips hidden by the beer bottle he sipped from.

"What," he said, meeting the gaze of Lance Corporal Ross Conway. "you really doubted me?"

The young man and newest member of the platoon swept his eyes from his senior to the corkboard across the room. Five darts stuck out of the bullseye in such a close grouping the corporal had a hard time believing his eyes. "That's unreal, man..."

A deep voice chortled at that. "When it comes to Frank, there's a lot that seems unreal. Especially that mug of his."

A tall, well-built man stepped up beside the two and reached out to rest a hand on Frank's shoulder. "Every day I marvel at how this guy managed to get married. Now that's hard to believe."

"Come on, John, jealousy doesn't suit you." Frank shrugged off the hand and spun around, swatting the larger man's midsection. "Then again, with a gut like that, not much does suit you."

"Ah, cute. Real cute. Maybe you wanna hop in the ring so I can put another dent in that ugly snout of yours." John shot back, gesturing towards a nose that had visibly taken some hits in the past.

"Oh yeah?" Frank's eyes narrowed, his right fist raised. "Square up, Gunny. I'm good to go."

Gunnery Sergeant John Stewart glanced around at the mostly empty bar, his gaze passing over the younger Conway who seemed unsure and slightly worried at this turn of events, before settling back onto Frank's. "Right then."

John stepped forward, his right arm also outstretched.

The two jarheads clasped arms, huge grins breaking out across their faces as they pulled one another into a hug.

"Damn, Frank, I think the newbie just about shit himself over there," John told his friend as they broke apart and turned to face the corporal.

Laughing, Castle added, "yeah, this one's a little gullible. Should have seen him the other day, the other guys had him convinced platoon tradition meant all fresh blood had to give the CO a special gift. You should have seen his face when he handed the lieutenant a box of chocolate."

John looked over to the younger man who had his eyes cast down sheepishly. "Aw, hey, don't feel too bad about it, Rookie. When Frank here first joined up, one of the boys told him—"

"Woah, I think we've taken up enough of the corporal's time. Isn't that right, son?" Frank cut in, casting a 'not a chance' look towards his best friend.

"Tell you what," he told Ross, "it's getting late, how's about you head on back to the barracks and leave John and I here to catch up."

"Uh, sure. Alright." Conway looked towards John, "but you've definitely gotta tell me some of the stories another time, Sarge. Something tells me they're worth it."

"Over my dead body," Frank laughed again, grabbing a beer and tossing it towards John.

The two migrated over towards the empty lounge chairs as they began discussing events of their respective last few weeks. John, Frank's closest friend in the corps, had just gotten back from leave while Frank had been tasked with overseeing the newest trio of graduates from the scout-sniper school. They both would have preferred swapping positions, truth be told. Frank hadn't seen his family in person in close to five months, and John... Well, it was never easy to bury your mother. He'd have welcomed the chance to distract himself with recruit supervision.

"How're Maria and the kids? Spoke to them this week yet?" John said an hour later.

"They're good. Great even. Lisa just had her dance recital last week and Maria tells me she killed it. And Junior, man, that kid just wrote his full name for the first time. Can you believe that? He's already grown up so fast."

John could hear his friend's voice catch slightly at the sentiment but chose to let it go without mention. "You put in for leave? Doesn't look like we're going to spin up for a while, should have time to spend with them, at least."

Frank scoffed. "I tried. Twice. Brass keeps denying me for some reason. Tells me I'm needed here."

"Hey, you know how it is. I'm sure you'll get cleared sooner than later."

"Right. Until then I'll keep missing all the moments that matter."

The two sipped their beers in silence, letting that thought hang for a moment.

"You know," Frank finally added, "Maria and I were talking last time I was over there. About how in a couple of more years I'll have hit my twenty. About how, maybe, it's about time."

John cast a surprised glance at his fellow marine. A few years ago he never would have expected the man to even hint at such a thing; Frank Castle lived and breathed the marine corps.

"You considering it for real?" John asked.

There was a long pause before Frank finally answered. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so."

"Well shit."

"I miss my family, man. I miss holding my babies. No," he paused for a moment, reflecting. "I already did miss that. They're no longer babies... I just don't want to miss anything else."

"Hey," said John, "you don't gotta justify yourself to me, brother. Twenty years is a long time to serve. Several lifetimes for many of us. There's no shame in retirement. And, if anyone deserves it, it's you, Frank."

The two clinked their bottles together and took another sip. It was getting late, the sun was only a few hours from rising, and they knew it was about time to call it a night. As they stood, however, a gravelly voice called out.

"Staff Sergeant Castle."

"Yeah, what's up?" Frank spun around slowly, careful not to lose his balance. He was partway through lifting the beer back to his lips when his eyes widened.

"Shit," he cursed under his breath soft enough that he hoped the man before him wouldn't hear. Hastily shoving his near-empty bottle toward John, the marine straightened his back and offered a salute.

The man before him wasn't someone Frank recognized, but the polished gold insignia was impossible to mistake.


"At ease, Marine." The officer didn't bother returning the salute, instead, he passed his gaze over the scene and sergeants before him with a critical eye. "Getting an early start to the morning?"

"No, sir. Late night, sir." Frank gestured towards John who by now had also stood and saluted. "The gunny just got back and we were catching up."

The older man, his hair starting to gray, nodded. "Well, I hope you two boys have finished reminiscing. I've got an assignment I need to speak to you about."

"Sir?" John spoke up, confused as to why this couldn't have waited until morning. And why it was being brought up in a bar instead of a proper war room meeting.

"Not you, Gunnery Sergeant." The major focused his gaze, and the slightest of smiles twisted his lips. "I need Castle. Special reassignment."

Present day
Over New York City, USA

"Approaching the AO. ETA two minutes."

Frank Castle gave two clicks over the headset's mic to acknowledge the update, not that his pilot needed it. First Lieutenant Natalie Reed was just about the best damn air jockey Frank had had the pleasure to ride with. She knew the drill as well as he did.

If circumstances were different, he thought he might actually enjoy the ride. Frank had never been a fan of helos in the past, but he also knew that the bird he rode in currently was unlike any other.

The Super Blackhawk, while modeled after several of its famed helicopter predecessors, was the first in a next-generation series of utility and attack aircraft. Featuring twin self-articulating gyroscopic rotors, it was fully VTOL capable. Not that it was unusual for there to exist vertical takeoff and landing craft, they had been around for decades now, but the Blackhawk was unique in its mobility, speed, and range. It could carry a fully loaded complement of twelve assault troopers across the entire continental United States in less than ten hours without the need to refuel.

And it was now Frank's personal transport. Much to the annoyance of many military higher-ups.

Glancing out the viewport, his eye caught what remained of the Empire State Building. He could see even from this distance the recently erected scaffolding that marked what would become the start of the reconstruction process. He touched his chest and the emblem there as he stared at the wreckage. The battle that had ripped the famous monument from the New York skyline was also, in part, responsible for why he was here. And it reminded him of the destruction this city had experienced two decades earlier.

Back then the tragedy had inspired him into action, propelling him into his career as a marine. Now, a similar tragedy was urging him to even greater action. The symmetry would be beautiful if it wasn't born of sadness.

"Thirty seconds from LZ, Captain," Reed informed him over the radio. Ahead of him in the cockpit, she flipped several switches before adding, "we're running silent now."

Captain... Frank didn't know whether or not he should scoff at that title. A year ago he was a staff sergeant and would have had to address Lieutenant Reed as a superior. Now, and purely because of his new role, he was a fully commissioned officer who had skipped several grades straight to captain. That fact had never sat well with him and he wasn't sure he'd ever get used to it.

"Understood, Lieutenant."

Frank moved quickly, undoing his safety harness and standing by the Blackhawk's large, starboard door. His hands running across his suit and checking and re-checking his gear as a habit while his eyes bore into the single light above the doorway. Waiting for it to indicate he was clear to deploy.

The seconds dragged on, seeming to stretch into minutes. The only thing audible from where he stood was his own beating heart. Even the rotors, normally deafening in a regular helo, couldn't be heard due to the silent running protocols.

Frank listened, counting the beats in his chest. As the thirtieth second drew nearer, the beats came faster.

This is it, he thought. All the training. All the expectations. This is the moment.

From beneath his custom helmet, Frank Castle grinned. He hadn't been this excited for a mission in a very long time.

The doorway light flashed from its usual red to a dull yellow then to a bright green. He barely registered Reed's voice confirming they were over the landing zone as he reached out and yanked, sliding the door wide open.

He looked down from where the Blackhawk was hovering over Manhattan, the city streets over eighty meters below. Folding his arms across his chest in a cross, his grin widened. Then, he took a step forward, immediately dropping from the Blackhawk.

"Oorah!" Said the new Captain America as he plummeted to the ground below.
<Snipped quote by Retired>

The perfect job for...Frank Castle?

Well, yeah. If the new Cap kills 1000 guys then the old cap killing one won't seem as bad.

<Snipped quote by Retired>

Atleast I've made it a season before.

At least I know "atleast" isn't a word.
As if either of you will be around midseason.

Someone's gotta fix the reputation of Cap being a murderer.
As if Sep will still be around mid-season.
Batman-lite Arrow, let's go.

Also, I've had my first post completed for a while, but I've been away from my laptop - where it is saved - the past couple days. But I'm aiming to gain access to it sometime tomorrow evening to post it then. I hadn't expected the IC to open immediately, so I hadn't prepared by copying the post somewhere externally before I went away.
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