“Micro, I’m coming back to base. We need to talk.”
The woman who christened herself Vendetta ran through the streets of Washington, D.C. She was now several blocks from the home of Kurt Marshal, a lobbyist for Alchemax.
Vendetta was a former Gene Doll who upgraded herself and turned to the life of a vigilante. She had assumed the mantle of the Punisher after the death of the previous Punisher, Jake Gallows.
Her assistant Microchip, also a former Gene Doll, had informed Vendetta that the original donor for the genetic material Alchemax used in production of Gene Dolls was still alive and being held against her will. Vendetta bought into it and tried to track down information on the whereabouts of “Zero” as Microchip had called the donor.
When Vendetta invaded the home of Marshal, she prodded him for information. He explained to her that it would make no sense for Alchemax to keep a Gene Doll donor imprisoned for years when they have women always ready and willing to donate their genetic material. It was an idea that had not occurred to the Punisher earlier, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense.
Which meant someone was lying to her. And right now, that someone was looking a lot like Microchip.
“Micro, do you read me?” asked Vendetta. She was getting no response from her transmissions to her associate. “Micro!”
All she received was static.
Vendetta ducked into an alley where what appeared to be a rickety van was parked. She climbed inside and situated herself. The van’s dilapidated appearance served as an effective disguise for what was actually a vehicle equipped with some of the most sophisticated weaponry as well as surveillance and communications technology.
Once inside, Vendetta activated the comm-link. A holographic projection appeared in the central console, the image of Microchip.
“Micro, what the hell is going on?” asked Vendetta. “Were you monitoring the conversation with Marshal?”
“No, why?” asked Microchip. “Couldn’t last without me, V?”
“He gave me a pretty interesting story,” said Vendetta. She started the van and pulled out of the alley, driving down the empty street.
“Oh great, what kind of bullshit did he try to spin?”
“He said it was illogical for Alchemax to keep a donor imprisoned when they have scores of women willing to donate their genetic material.”
“So what? Alchemax weasels will say anything to get out of trouble.”
“Except the thing is I believe him,” said Vendetta. “He’s right, it doesn’t make any sense.”
“C’mon V, he’s a lobbyist. It’s their job to talk their way out of problems. Of course he’s gonna lay down some bullshit story and tell it in a way that makes it impossible to think he’s lying. These guys could get the Virgin Mary to be in a porno. That’s how good they are.”
“Something doesn’t smell right,” said Vendetta. “Where did you get this info from?”
“Because I want to check your source.”
“Don’t start acting all crazy and paranoid.”
“Fine, then tell me your source.”
“Sorry V, can’t do that.”
“Then one of two things is happening,” said Vendetta. “Either your source is full of shit or you are.”
“You heard me, Micro. I want to know what the fuck is going on and I wanna know now.”
“Sorry V, but that’s not gonna happen.”
“Think you can stop me?” asked Vendetta. “You and what army, bitch?”
“Who needs an army when I’ve got a globally-positioned satellite laser and your exact coordinates?”
“You wouldn’t da—”
A powerful blast of plasma energy descended from the heavens. It lit up the night sky and the explosion was heard from miles away.
Alchemax Prototype Satellite Laser, Earth’s orbit
Above the planet in Earth’s orbit sat the Alchemax Prototype Satellite Laser. From the main command center, Microchip sat with her legs perched on a console and viewed the words “TARGET DESTROYED” on the monitor with a smile.
“Oh yes I would dare,” she said. “Bitch.”
For the woman known as Vendetta, the events which followed happened in a daze. She was barely conscious, and whenever she could bring her eyes to open, all she could see were bright lights. First red and blue and then later, white. And they kept whizzing past her field of vision.
She heard the sound of banging every few minutes. She could feel her body moving. There was chatter all around her, but she could not make out a single word. Then came the sound of beeping.
She heard the sound of fabric tearing. She was reminded of her time as a Gene Doll. How Sidwell Wilson would frequently abuse her. His precious little “Polly” as he called her. Have her dress up in all manner of outfits, then he would go to work tearing them to shreds.
When she reprogrammed herself, Vendetta swore she would never be that scared little Polly again. And now, as she felt these foreign hands probing her body, she felt that same sense of victimization.
Her strength was returning. She wouldn’t allow Wilson to violate her again. She thought she had killed him once, but now she realizes she may have been mistaken. This time, she would make sure the bastard stayed dead.
Docs-in-a-Box, Washington D.C.
“Doctor, I’m finding the presence of some foreign substances in her blood.”
“What are they?” asked the trauma surgeon. “And what’s with all this body armor she’s wearing?”
“Cops found her amid some wreckage.”
“Nah, gotta be independent.”
“Hey, does this skull on the front look familiar to any of you?”
“Isn’t the Punisher dead?”
“The Punisher was a big guy, not a skinny little redhead. Must be a groupie or something.”
“…I think I’ve figured out what’s in her blood.”
“Holy… look at her vitals…”
“That’s not possible…”
“She’s got nanotechnology in her bloodstream. And now they’re being really active…”
“…where did she get this technology?”
“Look at this, they’re repairing any damage done to the cells. They’re healing her.”
“…I think she’s awake…”
Vendetta’s arm shot out and her hand wrapped around the trauma surgeon’s throat. She pulled his face close to her own and said, “never again.” The surgeon was thrown up against the overhead lights. His body broke the bulbs and electricity convulsed through him.
Vendetta leapt off the operating table, pulling the I.V.s from her arms. The others in the operating room backed off from her, watching her carefully in fear. Vendetta regarded each of them with suspicion. She looked down at the dead surgeon, and she suddenly realized what had happened.
Grabbing the armor-plated vest with the white skull on the front, she pulled it over her naked torso and ran for the operating room door. She broke through and she was sure the surgeons would notify the authorities of what happened. Vendetta had to move fast before they got there.
The laser must not have been fully charged when Micro fired. It must have been slightly off-target. Those were the only explanations for how Vendetta could still be alive. But now, the van was destroyed. And so was Vendetta’s line of communication with the satellite laser.
There was no doubting it—Vendetta was extremely lucky to be alive. The nanites in her blood had already gone about repairing most of her injuries. Still, she wasn’t quite at full strength. She needed time to regroup and think up a plan of action.
Jake Gallows, her predecessor, had numerous safehouses across the country. When Vendetta took over his legacy, she made note of each of them. There were many Microchip was not aware of. And now, Micro thought she was dead. Right now, those two things worked to Vendetta’s advantage.
The hospital parking garage was practically empty. Mostly doctors and nurses working the graveyard shift. Vendetta hid between the vehicles and saw one nurse walking to her car.
The Punisher leapt into action and grabbed the nurse from behind just as she approached her car. She struck the woman in a pressure point that caused her to fall unconscious. Vendetta took the nurse’s keys and then borrowed her car.
After hitting the nearest safehouse, Vendetta could see about making her pilgrimage to the satellite laser. It would be child’s play to commandeer a scouting vessel to get her to the laser and Microchip. And then, the Punisher would live up to her name.
Alchemax Prototype Satellite Laser, Earth’s orbit
Microchip was hard at work, repositioning the satellite so she could lock on to the target. It was a somewhat arduous task to get the coordinates just right. She had not used the laser to its full effect when she fired on Vendetta. Most of the power had to be conserved for this next strike.
In her strive to focus on preparations for her next strike, Microchip failed to notice the warning light of an unknown craft docking at the satellite. The warning was quickly overrided by an access code.
Vendetta was now onboard the satellite. She carried a pair of handguns and made her way through the corridors of the satellite. Her first stop was a mainframe console, where she tried to disable the security systems. Her access codes were still good, which meant Microchip obviously hadn’t counted on the possibility that Vendetta was still alive.
Once Vendetta got access to the CPU, however, she found that she couldn’t get through to the security system. A notice came up which said that all security access has been disabled, save for the bridge.
Where Microchip likely was.
Whatever the woman was planning, she expected some sort of retaliation for her efforts. That meant it was probably big and probably involved using the satellite laser. It explained why the charge used on Vendetta was not nearly as strong as it could be—Micro was saving up power for something bigger.
That meant time was running short. Vendetta left the terminal and made her way towards the bridge. She was on the docking floor, which meant she had to go up a level to reach the bridge.
When she reached the elevator, two robot sentries guarded the door. They were small, with gun turrets for hands. Immediately, they opened fire and Vendetta leapt to the side, taking cover in a narrow alcove.
The bullets wouldn’t cause any damage to them. She didn’t have a chance to reach the armory, so she didn’t have access to her incendigel gun. She holstered the handguns and reached for the utility belt she wore. She pulled out a small orb and tossed it into the path. As soon as it struck, it exploded.
The resulting field from the chaff grenade disrupted the sentries. Vendetta leapt out and moved quickly to the elevator. The doors closed just as the effect wore off. Vendetta drew her handguns again, prepared for the showdown with her former partner.
The doors opened and Vendetta found herself on the bridge. Sure enough, Microchip was there, back to the Punisher, focused on the readings on the computer. Vendetta slowly approached and placed a single barrel against Micro’s head. The blonde woman immediately froze.
“Hi V,” she said.
“Hi yourself,” said Vendetta.
“I don’t suppose you’d believe me if I told you firing the laser at you was just a cover, huh?” asked Micro.
“No, don’t suppose I would,” said Vendetta. “Now how about you tell me what it is you’re doing here and why you’ve been playing me?”
“I’m doing what’s necessary,” said Micro.
“Necessary for who? And what exactly is it you’re doing?”
Micro swiveled her chair and faced Vendetta, who still kept the gun trained on her.
“Alchemax is going to try and get Gene Dolls legalized on Earth—starting with America,” said Micro.
“Try is the operative word. You know that legislation would never go through. Too much of a public outcry for basically legalizing prostitution and slavery.”
“Think again, V,” said Micro. “Alchemax has very powerful lobbyists working for them, and they’ve been very convincing. Congress votes on it today and it’s not looking good for us.”
“So is that why you made up some bullshit story about Donor Zero?” asked Vendetta.
“I was hoping to set you loose on Alchemax itself, something you’ve been hesitant to do so far.”
Vendetta narrowed her eyes. “In other words, you were using me.”
“I had no choice,” said Microchip. “I’m trying to end oppression here.”
“That’s not what we’re about,” said Vendetta.
“Well, it’s what I’m about. You might be content with killing off a Gene Doll owner here and there, but you’re not so keen on striking at the source. We’ve gotta stop this law from getting through, and we have to send a clear message to Alchemax.”
“Just how do you plan to do that?” asked Vendetta.
“While you were working your way through Alchemax, killing off their employees and disrupting their structure, I was going to take care of Congress. Striking on both fronts would give Alchemax second thoughts before they attempt to get this legislation through and the new Congress wouldn’t be so keen on listening to the lobbyists.”
“What do you mean the new Congress?” asked Vendetta. “Just where is the laser pointed?”
Microchip smiled and pivoted the chair enough so Vendetta could see the screen. The target crosshairs were set on Capitol Hill. Vendetta’s eyes went wide and she looked at Microchip.
“Are you out of your goddamn mind?”
“I’m not the one about to legalize slavery and prostitution in exchange for campaign contributions,” said Microchip. “Things are way too corrupt. We can’t let Alchemax get away with this, V. And either you’re with me or you’re against me.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me about all this from the beginning?” asked Vendetta.
“Because I knew you’d never go for it. So yeah, I used you. You were my weapon against Alchemax. So what?”
“So this.” Vendetta pulled the trigger and put a bullet through Microchip’s head. The woman slumped in her chair and Vendetta pulled her body away from it. “I’m not some toy and I’m sick of being used for the benefit of others.”
Vendetta tossed the gun at Microchip’s body and sat in the chair. She was about to reposition the satellite. But before she did, she saw the words on the screen.
TARGET LOCKED. AWAITING COMMAND TO FIRE.
They kept blinking and blinking. And Vendetta thought about the implications if this legislation was passed. She thought about what a milestone it would be for Alchemax and how it would increase Gene Doll production.
And her finger hovered over two buttons: CANCEL and EXECUTE.