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After a rousing bout of healing the world by knifing people through the brain stem, there's nothing to cap off the festivities like a quiet round at the local bar with your teammates and a basket of hand grenades. Unless your teammates are a bunch of surly grimdark X-Types who would rather be ritually disemboweled by scorpions than enjoy themselves. Case in point on this fine New York evening: X-Forcers, who'll break bread and throw lawn darts with your best pal the little red Deadpool?

"Not I," said Psylocke. "I'll be washing bloodspray out of my hair."

"Not I," said Warren Kenneth Worthington III The Third. "I'll be tapping furiously on my Blackberries while I preen my pinfeathers like the busy and important pigeon I am."

"Not I," said Fantomex. "I will be practicing my eyebrow work in a mirror for the most devastating faux-French effect, mais oui."

Not Wolverine, who didn't even bother with a refusal, since that guy wouldn't know how to have a good time if it shimmied up to him in thirty-one Baskin-Robbins flavors.

"Then I will just have to go dancing with myself and the open-minded ladies of Miss Lola's All-Nite Boom-Boom Room," said Deadpool, who if he had the chance, would indeed ask the world to dance. Even if the world chooses to dump him at prom to go brood in a corner instead. Which is fine! Deadpool chooses to go shed his lonely teardrops over the piles of cold, hard cash he earned from this little trip to meet new people and kill them. Deadpool, meet X-Force. X-Force, meet Deadpool. If you've got the money, honey, he's got the arsenal.

 


Scroll back to the original job offer, and this is kinda how it went down, if you turn your head and squint a little:

"Deadpool! Wade, my main man! It's your old bosom buddy Logan, from Weapon X! Me and Archangel were juuuust chatting about you. We're both big, big fans. You're the handsomest, killingest master killer around, Wade, and we just can't compete against your devilish charms with our adamantium anatomy and millions of dollars. So remember how you've always secretly been an X-Man all along? We've decided to make it official! And we'll give you money for it because we have so much! By the way, don't tell anybody."

Or tilt your head the other way and this is sorta what happened:

"Deadpool, you scum, you maggot, we're too good for you, you're trash, but you're in luck, because we're looking for trash, we're getting our hands dirty and yours are filthy, take our money and we'll let you tag along, we don't really need you, but we'll take what scumbags we can get. By the way, don't tell anybody."

Something along those lines. But averaging them together produces one theme: they want him. And Deadpool wants to be wanted. (Even if only part of the time. While they can keep him in line. Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry.)

So after much fake hemming and hawwing, Deadpool had just one question. Well, one of several questions, including "How much?" and "Is that a salary or a per-hit bounty?" and "Do I get to wear my Phoenix suit?" and "You know, the one with the yellow underwear?", at which point Wolverine (clearly not a businessman) threw up his hands and stalked out.

But the important question was after Archangel was all "Those are horrible things to say blah blah but we still want you" and "Also you can never tell anyone about any of this ever," and Deadpool said: "Why?"

 


For X-Force, the tough part in playing the role of ostensible campus security was having to actually secure the campus. For Deadpool, this meant Thursday nights atop the tallest tree overlooking Charles Xavier's Pretty Mutants With Problems Academy student quad, no matter how much Weasel objected.

"This is the fifth time in a row you've skipped poker night. Outlaw's about to give your spot to some girl she knows from yoga." Weasel's voice was tinny in Deadpool's Bluetooth earpiece.

"You tell Outlaw that she still owes me two undergarments from strip poker, and that yoga-inis are notorious card sharps." Deadpool shifted his feet on the tree branch to relieve a cramp. Technically, security officers were assigned to the security office with the security cameras, but Deadpool preferred his security open-air and hands-on.

He trained his binoculars on movement in a neighboring tree: Ninja? No, squirrel.

"Come on, Wade. We never see you anymore. At least tell us what's going on, or if you're going to get us killed."

"Weasel," Deadpool said, "Weasel Weasel Weasel, I am in deep with something so cool, so huge that your head would explode if I could possibly tell you."

Below, two young women strolled hand in hand across the quad. A stray dog peed on a statue.

"You know they're not going to let you back into the Boy Scouts. You've got, what, how many felony convictions?"

"It's hilarious how wrong you are! Because you are so wrong, this is not the Boy Scouts, and I never stood trial for any of those charges, Weasel. No, we're talking super-ultra hush hush international security here, this kicks Boy Scout ass—"

"Is this like that insect army you went on about?"

"—which is why it's top secret and you just need to trust me on this."

"The insect army you joined but you couldn't talk about it because you swore secrecy to their bug overlords?"

"Oh please, it was a circus, not an army, and I was obviously joking about that."

"I knew it! I knew you were lying, you would never admit it—"

"It doesn't count as lying when it's about a flea circus—"

Weasel hung up. A minute later the phone buzzed with a text message. The obscene ASCII image Weasel had sent was both anatomically impossible and impressively detailed, which was ample incentive to text-forward it to all of X-Force immediately. Meanwhile, the young women on the quad had moved on to more interesting activities.

"LADIEEEES! Yeah, you two! Please continue to grope each other on that park bench! I am here to observe and protect you!"

 

 

The most galling thing (a good word, galling, evokes mauling and exploding gallbladders) is that this is his shot, he's made it! Deadpool's moving out of the minor leagues, ladies and gentlemen, here's his ticket to the Big Show. The Fantastic Four's closed to applications unless you screw/marry/kill your way to an opening. The Avengers you never know when Tin Man and Cap are going to break up and make tearful speeches about democracy until you shoot them and yourself in the face. But the X-Men, man, that's the real crowner. Once you make the X-Miscellany it's the Uncanny Valley of Milk and Honey and Righteous Ass-Kicking all the way down.

Oh sure, some of the company's not so illustrious these days. All the spinoff baby subteams diluting the breed, it's not surprising that some of the weak herd has escaped the cull. Falling membership standards everywhere: Wolverine's a short fat example, Magneto wasn't a high point in the organization history, although extra points there for menacing brand name recognition value alone, unlike much of this crowd; wasn't there a guy who puked electric leeches or something? We're talking a PR nightmare right there once the footage starts showing up on Youtube.

So what, everyone knows the Academy's useless with Dame Judi and Marisa Tomei allotted equal acclaim, it's all a sham. That doesn't mean you don't grab your gold statuette when it swings by and use it to club the gray matter out of the honor-to-be-nominated competition when you have a shot at the prize!

Thus here was Wade, sitting on the best free-drink bragging rights to any spandex bar in the city, and no way to spend his collateral. Ohman, just to see the look on Taskmaster's face would be worth losing about four and a half hands. Look at Mister Professional I'm the Badassest McMerc Ninja Blah Blah, when's the last time he got invited to join anything bigger than a McDonald's line?

Deadpool was grateful to have Taskmaster on speed dial for just such occasions, when the temptation was irresistible to breathe Vader-style into the phone while fantasizing the oh-so-casual conversations in which to float killer details.

Well, howdy, Tasky, old chum, how's it hanging?

ring!

How'd your last run guarding baby seal clubbers go? You got great reviews on Yelp from the Society to Eliminate Adorable Endangered Species.

ring!

Yes, me and my X-Crew—of course, they made me X-Leader—we just got back from an X-jaunt in our X-Jet to the moon, where we planted the X-Flag. Then we X-battled the cosmic evils beyond time and space with our X-Treme nut-punching.

ring!

Oh my, Tasky, is what I hear the sound of your head exploding?

click!

"This is Taskmaster. You've reached the voicemail for my old cellphone. Deadpool, you're not getting the new number until you grow a brain. I know you're the person who keeps calling and hanging up, so stop it or figure out how to hide your damn caller ID. Don't leave a message after the beep, Wilson, I won't get back to you."

Dammit, the devious tech genius was on to him.

 

 

Scrolling back again: it was always about the money. But it was never just about the money.

Never ever ever tell, Archangel said, and Deadpool said, "Why? Why me, why like this? I mean, I see the advantages on your end. You get a hardened killing machine and default comic relief in a dashing discount package. And I'm already rocking a credibility rating in the low single digits. This whole thing is going to come bite you in the ass at the most inconvenient time anyway. Why bother to ask me to lie about it?"

Archangel was silent for an interminable period, exactly the right length needed by someone changing his mind and choosing the right words to say it. Deadpool reflexively checked possible escape routes.

Finally Archangel shook his head (and didn't go for a killshot). "Why we're doing what we're doing, why we're asking you, that's our business. But Logan and I know you want in on this."

"I want a paycheck—"

"You want this so badly you're choking on it. Reasons why, that's your business. But you want in and you want to throw a parade to tell the world."

"I wouldn't throw a parade," Deadpool protested. "At most I was thinking a cocktail party. Tasteful, private, only a few hundred close friends. An ice sculpture of my face, the orchestra playing a jazz version of the X-Force theme song—I'm composing the X-Force theme song in my head right now—around midnight we'll start the trained pigeons dropping fireworks—"

"As I said. You want in," Warren said. "But groups like this, the people must trust one another. You, we don't trust yet. So that's what we're offering, and your price. Will you join us? We'll save the world. We'll trust you to keep your mouth shut."

Deadpool stared at him. "You're a clever, nasty little bird man."

"I take it that's a yes?" Warren smiled, a brilliant charisma-and-quality-orthodontia smile. "Welcome to X-Force, Deadpool. I suspect you may pleasantly surprise us all."

 

 

That was a strange thing to hear. And a warm feeling.

The inevitable reveal that Warren was really a brainwashed puppet for an ancient mutant cosmic evil bent on raining destruction across the universe took the wind out of the compliment sails a bit, but the thought was still nice.

At the time Deadpool was busy being blown to bloody rags by one of cosmic evil's minibosses, so for a while things

got

a

little

distracted.

 

 

"Robo here — found me?" Deadpool rasped. "Thanks for — scrap duty. Next mother — motherboard, my treat."

"I was grateful to help, because I love you," Deathlok informed him. "As I love all of X-Force and the world. I am full of love for you!"

"That is — haunting my. Nightmares. Forever."

Deathlok was still neatly sorting through small piles of flesh by Deadpool's bedside, where he'd hovered in terrifyingly earnest Robonurse mode since Deadpool regained consciousness. Fantomex was lounging against the opposite cot, stretching his eyebrows through displays of incredulous respect (and queasiness).

"You appear remarkably well for a man so recently reduced to shrapnel," Fantomex said. "How do you feel?"

"Starved. How's that — ugh — comin'?"

Deathlok said, "It is my understanding that your digestive system will regenerate to functional capacity within the day. Though I believe it would speed the process along if we were able to identify this remaining tissue as kidney or liver, and place it accordingly."

They all stared at the pink glob of flesh that drooped sadly from Deathlok's proffered forceps. "We could grill it with onions for a sampling," Fantomex said.

"Not — worth it. I'm — gamy and — tough."

"Please don't tell me how you know this."

 

 

(And if certain portions of Wade's anatomy would never be the same after this adventure, it's only because said anatomy was so impressively glorious to begin with that it could stand to trim a little off the top and sides.)

 

 

The best thing about money is how it simplifies life. People think Deadpool's a joke, he's a psycho, he doesn't understand the philosophy of their special sparkly mission? They can whine all they want while they hand over his paycheck. Yay, capitalism! Eff You, Pay Me, is the mantra of the underappreciated blue-collar and wetworker the world over. Why make things complicated?

And yet. And still. A little trust, a little world-saving, that's worth something. Even when it's not clear to whom.

So what the hell. They'll see the error of their ways soon enough to kick him out, so keep the wages coming now. If they don't let him keep the swank white suit, a stack of uncashed paychecks makes as solid a souvenir as any. Deadpool Was Here. He came, he saw, he X-forced for a while. He may not keep the money, but he can keep that secret to himself.