“You are quite aware that we need it, Logan. We've always needed it, and if you aren't going to organize it... someone else has to.” The smell of cigar smoke. It was comfortingly foul, and Wolverine's brand had always been a bit more... aromatic, than others. More pungent. Very appropriate for the man sitting across from him.
A long drag off of that thick, dark stick of seasoned tobacco, and a plume of smoke, before Wolverine spoke. “My problem with it, is your team. I get that we need an X-Force to take care of problems the school won't touch. Flamin' hells, I made the old one. Don't act like I don't understand we've always needed it.”
“What then, pray-tell, is your problem with the dossiers I sent you? They're a perfect, lethal, stealth team. Flawless as an X-Force, far superior to a few of your old teams.”
“The X-Force was never meant to be a team of butchers,” the short man growled. “They were never meant to be murderers. It was a team of mutants who could take care of touchy issues and kill if they had to. This team... no lives are gonna be spared. I don't trust them.”
Snikt. A single claw slowly extended, clipping off the burnt tip of Logan's cigar and toppling it onto the ashtray. The room the two sat in was dark and mostly wood, books lining the shelves. The smell of smoke would never get out of his first editions.
“I don't trust them, and I don't trust you, Hank. You act like you're no different than the other Beast, our Beast. But anyone who knows anythin' about anythin' knows fer damn sure that ain't true. You're not him, you ain't even close to the man he is. I don't know what made you the way you are but I'm not sure I ca--”
Wolverine was suddenly cut off as Dr. Henry McCoy – the Dark Beast – leaned forward in his seat and slammed his fist into the small table beside the short man's recliner. “You do know. Don't pretend you've never been there before. You saw how things were, how everyone was. How you were. The Age of Apocalypse made me the way I am and I don't regret it. I can take care of the problems that your Beast cannot.”
Three silver slivers broke the skin of Logan's knuckles as the dark-furred man grew close to him. Three silver slivers that could grow much longer if he simply willed them too. Like flexing the muscles in his hand. It would be easy – but he had better control than that. Didn't have to fight back, not against this man. For his faults, Hank was trying to help.
“...Alright,” the feral mutant growled quietly. “Alright, I'll give it the okay. You can use the old tower if you need to, and whatever scrap materials you can find there. The school won't be able to afford any new stuff.”
“I was hoping you'd see the light,” Hank let out a breath and settled back into his chair, folding one agile, apelike foot over his opposite knee. “What Arcade's been doing can't continue, and you know as well as I that the X-Men won't do what's necessary – to him, or the people he's... converting. They'll still see human beings, and that can't hold them back.”
“Dammit, Hank, what if they still are human beings? This is why I'm not wild about you and this team – corners can't be cut if they cost human lives.”
“Please, Logan. Don't insult my intelligence. 'The less a man makes declarative statements, the less apt he is to appear foolish in retrospect.' I wouldn't say they weren't human if I hadn't already tested their DNA and the brainwave samples of a captive specimen. Their minds are twisted and deceased, no longer human. That hesitation is why your team would have failed. That's why mine will succeed.”
“...Right.” Logan sighed, and stood from his seat. Not much of a difference, of course – as soon as his feet hit the floor his height became even more apparent. “Don't make me regret this, McCoy. Just remember this; you may act smart like him, you may use quotes like him, you may look like him, you may have his name. But we already have our own Beast. And that means you're always gonna be Dark Beast to me.”
As the short man left his study, a small, sad smile spread across Hank's broad, dark lips. “I know.”
“So, are you gonna be like, my straight-man? Because I work way better with a straight-man.”
“I like to think not. I used to be quite the kidder myself back in the day.” Jubilation Lee tipped her pink sunglasses down over her eyes and settled into a crouch, glancing down from the rooftop that she and Wade occupied. “Besides, Domino will make a far better straight-man, I think. All serious, y'know.”
“Domino? Isn't she too hot to be a straight-man? Also, I looked her up on TvTropes and she definitely counts as a Deadpan Snarker, and they're hard to play off of.”
Jubilee turned her gaze to the gray-and-black clad masked man standing idly beside her, one brow arched. “'Too hot to be a straight-man?' What does that make me?”
“You're asian, and I just don't know how to deal with that.” Deadpool chattered. “Like, how old are you? Are you twelve or are you forty? See! I can never tell. And hitting on kids and old chicks is weird so I'd just really rather stay out of that whole business.”
Dude, Kate Beckinsale is like forty! She's also totally hot! We'd do her for sure!
Yellow thinking box has a point, Wade. Beckinsale actually blossomed when she hit her late thirties.
“Don't refute me! I don't like that. It always reminds me of when I try to play those online trivia game shows and get the answers wrong, and you know how many pizza boxes get thrown across the room when I play online trivia game shows.”
Jubilee shook her head and glanced back down to the New York city streets so far below. “I'm nineteen, you goofball. And a vampire. I'm not gonna age from here.”
“Asian and undead? Jeez girl, how do you expect me to-- waaaaait, did you say nineteen?” Before she could look back at him, Deadpool was on the other side of her, uncomfortably close and holding his fists up under his chin, a crushing expression managing to shine through his mask.
“...” Jubilee said hesitantly.
“...” Deadpool beamed lovingly.
“...Get away from me, creep!”
Deadpool sulked, hanging his head over the side of the roof's short wall and chewing his bottom lip boredly.
She totally wants us.
“I know, she just needs some time to get used to the idea,” Wade chirped confidently. “So, what are we looking for again?”
“A hulking monster of a man, clad all in black, with gigantic piranha teeth.”
“See, you're a great straight-man. I hereby dub thee, 'Wade's straight-man'. But yeah, we're looking for evil Spider-Man right?”
“Not quite,” Jubilee sighed, wondering why in the world she had to be sent on the recruiting mission with Wade, not to mention why Wade was coming, or on the team, in the first place. “His name's Eddie Brock. Some crap about an alien costume attached to his skin. Goes by Venom.”
“Did I meet him in a crossover one time?”
That was a What If.
Aw, I like the crossovers way better. Non-canon stinks.
“He's been elusive since he came back from San Francisco, at least that's what Dr. McCoy says. We're waiting for him to try doing his 'Lethal Protector' thing somewhere nearby, and in this section of the city it's not too unlikely that he'll show up.”
“So what, we just perch at the edge of Crime Alley and wait for something shady to go down? That's a little too “shadowy vigilante” for my taste.”
“Well, we are a stealth team. Better get used to it.” Jubilee rubbed the her fingers gently against her temples, feeling a bit more definition in the veins there than she remembered. “Get ready. I here something.”
“I don't hear anyth--”
“That's because you never shut up. Also, you don't have my heightened senses.”
A brief moment of silence passed, as both of the newly-minted “X-Force” members quietly listened. It wasn't hard before footsteps could be heard, the sound of clumsy high-heels clacking unevenly across the grimy New York street. Seconds later, more footsteps – many more, these ones faster, heavier.
A single shrill scream pierced the cool, humid night air, clearly marking the situation that the two heroes were about to witness. A robbery, or worse. A lone woman. The alley ended in a dead end – who knew what her wrong turn would cost her.
“Hey, Jubestrosity, how far up exactly are we?”
“Three stories. Not much of a drop.” Jubilee looked tense, and not just at Wade's new name for her. This didn't sit well – this part of the plan had not occurred to her. What happened in Brock didn't show up?
“Oh, okay, I can deal with some thugs and a few broken ribs. Bombs away!” Deadpool hopped onto the short stone wall, pushing his hands together and pointing upwards in a diving position.
“Wade, wait! We're supposed to wait for Venom!”
“He's taking way too long. Besides, chicks dig getting rescued.”
Dude, they totally do. We are gonna get so much poon for this.
Wade grinned widely through his mask. “Besides, aren't we supposed to be the good guys? Geronimooooo!”
Jubilee slapped a palm across her face as Deadpool swan-dived off the building, swiftly drawing two long, curved blades and decapitating a man as he hit the ground. The scene was as they assumed, even with the dim illumination – a single woman, clutching to a handbag that appeared to have already been yanked-at, her back pressed against a brick wall. Six men chasing after her, each wearing a black ski-cap marked with a white triangle.
“Shwing! Slicity-slicity-slice! Look at me gooo!” Deadpool cheered wildly, driving his sword dramatically through one of the muggers' chests before casually pirouetting away. “Ooh, that Poison guy's missing ALL the fun, I can see why he does this!”
A small puff of dark smoke heralded Jubilee's accompaniment, delivering a possibly-lethal strike to one man's temple as the remaining three began to draw simple, thuggish weapons – a knife, a tire iron, and one gun.
“Pa-ting!” Wade squeaked as he quickly disarmed the pipe-wielder, another blindingly-quick movement neatly halving the man. “Okay, now I remember why I don't do this, red shirts just go down sooo fast, it's like eating two cheetos and then putting the bag away.”
“Your novelty is quickly wearing off,” Jubilee grumbled, flinging one hand out casually. A bright flash burst forward from her fingertips, dancing and spiraling wildly at the gun-wielder, who quickly dropped to his knees, clutching at his face.
“My eyes! My eyes! I can't see!”
“That's right, you-- Wade, look out!”
Deadpool spun in a quick circle, arms sprawling out. “Wha--?”
The man that had nearly stabbed the merc gurgled quietly, his knife tumbling out of his hands as crawling black ooze began to squirm out of his mouth. A small trickle of blood leaked from each eye before he finally collapsed, revealing his killer... and the man Jubilee and Deadpool had come to find.
“We thank you for the assist, though it was not necessary,” the black-suited beast hissed, his words seeming to echo through a hundred shadowy voices all at once. His long, slime-slick tongue caressed lazily over his piranha-like fangs before returning to simply licking at the air, as if tasting his surroundings.
“Dude... that is sooo... gross.” Deadpool wailed.
Don't tell him it's gross! You want him to eat us? Look at him!
“I am, that's the problem?”
Venom's fanged rictus smile grew a little wider. “You have voices as well. We can relate.”
“Mister... ah, Mr. Brock, sir--” Jubilee began, only to be quickly cut off.
“Not Brock,” the creature hissed. “You address us, you address both of us. Not Brock. Not the symbiote. We... are Venom.”
“I guess it wasn't really all that different from what he's already doing,” Jubilation said. Three hours had passed after Jubilee, Deadpool, and Venom had all packed into Wade's cramped red sedan, and the group was now back at the tower Wolverine had loaned them as a makeshift headquarters. The place was a mess, and while giving Wade an apron had briefly inspired him to do a bit of house-cleaning, it still wasn't exactly a sight for sore eyes.
“Different than one-shot vigilantism? It's quite a bit different, I think.” The other woman was Neena Thurman, the probability-bending mercenary called Domino. She had been the first member Dr. McCoy had recruited, due to tactical education and experience, both on the team and in the field. With the rest of the team already selected, she had also been an obvious choice for second-in-command. Now, Neena sat with her boots propped up on an already-filthy ottoman, sipping from a rocks glass filled with ice, Bombay Sapphire, and Grape Kneehigh, her arched brow creating a perfect arch to the black oval tattoo that encircled her eye.
“Different, yeah, but not that much. He's a bit of a weirdo but he seems to want to try to do the right thing. That's what he said to me, anyway. Hank's debriefing him now.” Jubilee sailed suddenly across the room, grabbing the half-empty bottle of soda Neena had left behind, and taking a quick drink out of it.
“Let's hope he isn't a mistake. I have faith in Hank but he also recruited Wade, and that speaks for itself.”
“He recruited Wade because Wade knows Arcade, and none of us do. He may be able to give us some insight into who, and what we're dealing with,” Jubilee retorted, taking another swig of grape soda. “Plus, he's Wade. He's a little goofy and I feel like stitching his mouth shut sometimes, but he may be the wild card we need when the chips are down.”
“Funny, I was getting the impression Venom was supposed to be our wild card,” Domino sighed. “And hey, since when can you eat human food?”
“I can't,” Jubes chirped, cracking a fanged smile as she took another drink. “But sometimes I can sneak in drinks, especially drinks with sugar. I can't quite fool my body into thinking it's blood, but I can fool it into not rejecting it outright. I'll prob'ly get a little heartburn later.”
Neena shrugged and leaned back into her seat, taking a swig from her own drink before dragging her tongue across the rim. “What's taking them so long?”
“We're heeeere, we made it!” Wade suddenly called out, the door to Beast's study opening and the three missing men piling through. “And don't you even think I missed that subtle author's allusion to Barakapool, that was clever.”
“Yaaay, Deadpool's back,” Domino groaned quietly.
“There there, play nice,” Dr. McCoy said with a sardonic smile, tipping his reading glasses down onto his short nose and lowering his head so that he could gaze up at the rest of the team. Eddie Brock also emerged behind him, taking a seat on an unused stool – oddly, the Venom suit seemed to be off, revealing a heavily-muscled man with short blond hair.
“So... the four of you.” Dark Beast smiled again, though this gesture was more genuine. “I must say, I like the way you all look together. And I'm even more excited to see how you work together.” He tapped one clawed finger gently against his chin. “The X-Force. Feels good to say.”