Daniel Cooke looked out his window at the city below, the masses passing below unaware of the meaningless nature of their existence, content to pass the day by with no care of anything above or beneath their place. The rain splattered against the windows of the floors below, a simple heat spell evaporating it before it dared to come near his own. He rubbed a hand over the smooth graying beard that he had grown out to hide the wrinkles that marked his aging. It had been a few years since he'd last gotten a revivification done and he didn't see the point in wasting more money on a temporary procedure. Moving away from the glass, he adjusted his tie and took a seat at his desk. Papers were littered over the wood, made of ancient sylvan skin, but he cared little for them. They were unimportant garbage, thrown to him due to the incompetent nature of those below him in the chain. Cooke glanced at the nearest one, a plea from some poor piss-ant requesting a one-week use of magic in order to combat a dragon infestation, an obvious deny. Dragons may be nasty little bastards, but the lives of lesser beings were irrelevant. They had enough children annually to replace the few that died.
"Sir, you have a visitor" A ghostly voice echoed in his ear as he glanced at the gray spectral head of a meek man floating to his right. He sneered at the man who looked almost apologetic as he continued. "Sir, I know you said you wanted no visitors but I'm afraid the security systems were unable to keep him out. He should be on his way now." Cooke made a note to eradicate the security adviser after he finished dealing with this distraction.
"How long do I have until he gets here?" Cooke asked as the meek man blinked behind his thick glasses. "I asked you a question, Ronald. I expect an answer or I'll put a request in for an exorcism." Ronald's only answer was to blink out of existence as the large steel door opened, revealing the interloper.
He was a tall man and skinny to a fault with long limbs that looked as if he was attempting to mimic one of the very sylvans that made up his desk. If it wasn't for the extinction of that species and the stranger's absence of wooden skin, Cooke would almost admit to fear. He was completely hairless, causing his dark green eyes to seemingly pop out of his head. The man wore a suit of varying shades of red, growing darker with each layer. He stood in the doorway, hands shoved deep in his pockets, as he looked around the vast room with a disinterested gaze. Cooke's hands clenched tightly as he rose from his leather-bound chair.
Sit down, Danny boy. The stranger glanced at him as the words echoed inside Cooke's head. Nothing was spoken, at least out loud, but Cooke still heard the words. Eyeing the stranger, who was now casually strolling towards him, warily, Cooke pressed a button on the edge of his desk. Alerting them wouldn't do much, Danny. Your security team is already dead.
"That's impossible!" Cooke snarled as he slammed his hands down on the desk. "Those men are supposed to be the best in their field. They were hand-picked from the elite of the elite. I refuse to believe that some beanpole git in a cheap suit took them out. Even with your weird voice thing." The man simply smiled as he flung his hand out towards Cooke. A force blasted Cooke back, sending him slamming into the leather of the chair. The chair tilted back slightly before coming back down onto the ground, Cooke's shaken body lying limply in it.
Do control your anger, Daniel. I have limited time as it is, and your outbursts would only prove to delay the inevitable. The man reached the desk and snapped his fingers as a rusted steel chair appeared from nowhere. Taking the seat, the man leaned forward. I'd ask you to get some chairs for your guests, but you so rarely have them. You're too busy, after all. The echo of that last sentence in Cooke's head seemed to be laced with arsenic as his stomach convulsed and his mouth felt filled with bile. The man simply grinned a wide grin, revealing sparkling white teeth sharpened to a point.
"Who..who are you?" Cooke said weakly, as he wearily looked at the man, lips trembling as he forced the words out.
You should know who I am. Unless...Hmm, perhaps this is one of those worlds without a mythological history. It's possible, but I doubt it. Tell me, Daniel, does your world have fiction? Nah, you wouldn't know. Fiction would be beneath you. Most things are, after all. The man waved his hand dismissively regarding Cooke's assumed views on fictional work. It was true, but Cooke didn't acknowledge the validity of the man's statement. Something was up here and he was not looking forward to the full revelation of the man's purpose. Very well then. I am what is known as a punisher, name and occupation in one. Don't look at me like that, I didn't choose the name. It proves too troublesome in certain universes. Anyway, people only have so much time in this lovely multiverse of ours and certain characters with traits that are deemed to be loathsome must receive punishment.
Cooke glanced at him skeptically, "That may be, but I have no loathsome traits. I've earned everything I have, never stole, never shed another man's blood with my own hands, never slept with anyone, never partaken in illicit drugs, never...." A hard glare from Punisher stopped Cooke's attempts at clarification.
Your belief that you have no loathsome trait is a loathsome trait in and of itself. Despite what you've may have been told when you were shaped into the sneering ball of arrogance that you are today, pride is still considered a quote-sin-unquote
Cooke snorted, "Seriously? That's what this is about? Because I rightfully deem myself better than the morons who infest this wretched system of a planet, I'm to be punished? Pride goeth before the fall and all that bullshit?
Punisher averted Cooke's gaze and shook his head Common mistake. Pride doesn't go before the fall. Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall. Granted, that's all irrelevant in your case. You have treated your fellow man with disdain simply for not being in the same social position as you. You were born into an age without kings and yet you believe your equals to be mere peasants compared to yourself. Make no mistake, Daniel Cooke, they are your equals, social rank be damned. Punisher's "voice" was cold as Cooke's body trembled involuntarily beneath Punisher's gaze.
Cooke bit his lip, hesitating before speaking again. "If I am to be punished as you so claim, then what is my punishment?"
Ah, now that's the fun part. Tapping one long slender finger against his hairless chin, Punisher glanced upward for what seemed to be hours before speaking again. Alright, that should do it. Snapping his fingers again, reality seemed to mix together. Cooke screamed in agony as his body warped into and out of his office, his desk, his chair, even the imagery outside his window, all mixing together in an unseen blender.
Until it stopped and Cooke was back to normal. He was in a smaller room, walls made of cheap material and sitting at a simple oak desk. His chair was harsh and wooden and the only window he saw was a small rain-splattered one to his left. He still wore a suit, but this one was ill-fitting and scratchy. Punisher stood before him, arms crossed with a smirk on his face. There's your fall, Danny. From the top of the chain to the bottom.
Cooke glared at Punisher as his fists clenched tight. "I can make it back up there. I did it once and I can do it again. This is a poor punishment if this is what you were going for."
A strange warbling sound echoed from Punisher's throat that, after a few seconds, Cooke realized was laughter. We shall see, Daniel. We shall see. He turned to leave.
"Wait, I have to know something" Punisher paused in his departure and glanced back at Cooke. "Why do you decide who is to be punished and who isn't? Isn't what is loathsome subjective? Who...what gives you the right?"
Punisher grinned as he looked into Cooke's eyes. My dear Daniel, it's very simple. I'm better than you.