X-Force (4th series) #7

Issue Date: 
September 2014
Story Title: 
Quis Custodiet

Simon Spurrier (writer), Rock-He Kim (artist), VC’s Joe Sabino (letterer), Rock-He Kim (cover artist), Xander Jarowey (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), Mike Marts (X-Men group editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)

Brief Description: 

The members of X-Force are in their headquarters, a decommissioned SHIELD heli-carrier in the Pacific Ocean. Psylocke tries to get closer to Cable, who shoots down her attempts at flirting. Meanwhile, Nemesis and Marrow are in a restaurant where Nemesis tells her she has less than a year to live. When she behaves outrageously, he gets pissed off until, improbably, they bond over their mutual love of coffee. Fantomex is in the dumps and MeMe cheers him up by offering him the option of cybersex between them, thanks to the nanites he has in his blood. Cable calls the team together and explains they will preemptively spy on all possible foes of mutants, something Psylocke and MeMe consider immoral. Afterwards, Psylocke appeals to his morals and hints she could use a lover with no strings attached. As Cable gets ready to kill himself (as each clones has to do every day), Fantomex murders him first to keep up his feeling of superiority. Elsewhere, forgotten by Cable, Domino is infiltrating a strange organization. She gets caught eventually and learns that they spy on every mutant and are paid to do so by most of the world’s governments.

Full Summary: 

X-Force HQ, the former SHIELD heli-carrier Pericles, in the Pacific Ocean:
Sitting at the edge of the platform and watching the sharks circling below, Betsy Braddock asks Cable if he ever gets the feeling something awful is circling around. Some dark presence waiting for him to screw up? Does he ever get that?

Ornery looking bastards, Cable says, referring to the sharks. She doesn’t mean them, she protests. Though they are getting bolder. Them and the bloody flies. She shoos the flies away. Predators and pets, that’s them all over. There are more every day.

He wouldn’t know, Cable replies as he returns to target practice. Not the kind of memory he passes on. She looks at him and asks how he does it. He replies that each clone records a thought log during the day. For important notes. All get saved and copied, so the next him wakes up with it in pl—

That’s not what she was asking, Betsy interrupts. He fires another shot. She wants to know how he dies each day, he finally says. He turns to clean his gun. Bullets, pills… Honest answer is he doesn’t know. The fact this place is still standing tells him they are all taking care of themselves before Volga’s self-destruct kicks in… but the thought logs aren’t really detailed. Not gonna help motivate tomorrow’s guy if the first thing he hears is a running commentary of his own suicide, he mutters. Right now his plan is two hits of morphines and a nosedive into the reactor. Clean. No body.

If it weren’t so morbid, she muses, it would be fitting. Fuelling his own HQ. He’s got a lot in common with this place. She means still formidable in spite of the wear and tear? he asks. No, she replies, surprised. She means wrecked, abandoned, stripped of anything useful and trying to keep its guns working while bobbing about outside anyone’s jurisdiction. Sorry.

They head inside. Thanks for going easy on the condemned man, he snorts. Tough love, she replies. Everyone’s worried about him. Well, she is anyway, she amends. She touches his shoulder. She can’t begin to imagine what he goes through every day, but if there’s anything she can do… any comfort she can give… in any way… She’s here for him. She’s his friend.

Cable looks at her coldly and shakes off her hand. He dies every night, he replies. This version of him isn’t the one she spoke to yesterday. Won’t be the same tomorrow. No continuity. No consciousness hopping between bodies. One brain dies. The next one fires up. He’s got no idea if that “comfort” *&%$ was her awkward-ass idea of flirting or just limey speak for wanting to buy him a beer but, for her own sake as much as his, get it into her head: A dead man can’t have friends!

Elsewhere, an old friend and teammate of his, Domino, is running and fighting for her life and trying to reach Cable via comm without reply. He’s not listening, a voice mocks. Nobody is. Nobody to watch over her, except him. How does he know this frequency? she demands. He knows everything, he laughs, calling her Neena. That’s the point. He knows she can’t understand why Cable’s forgotten her. He knows she’s cashed a money trail here on his orders anyway.

Freeze! another voice sounds. Domino finds herself surrounded by armed militants. The first voice continues she’s itching to slink through his ostentatiously retro portal, referring to the barred portal behind her, and she’s wondering if her fuzzy good fortune power is strong enough to open the barrier. He’s seen how she works, he continues condescendingly. Some tacky Mary-Sue get-out. Like… she’ll sneeze and accidentally speaks the unpronounceable alien password. He scoffs. Not this time, Neena. It’s too improbable, even for her. He’s done the math.

Guess a girl can’t get by on luck alone, Dom grins and suddenly runs for cover, having attached an explosive to the bars. The bars explode and the militants are conveniently taken out as well. Domino steps into the mysterious portal.

A nice restaurant with the improbable guests Dr. Nemesis and Marrow (who now dyes her hair blue):
He simply saw red, wouldn’t she? Nemesis narrates an anecdote. The gibbering idiot mistimed the Muon Cascade by half a picosecond and ruined the whole experiment. He had no choice but to design a Gatling laser and shoot him in his stupid face. Nazi cyborg monkeys make the worst assistants! Anyway, that rather brings him to the point. Some of their colleagues are concerned … her biological misadventures… may have put a str—

Some of their colleagues can go jump in lava forever, Marrow shoots back. When’s he gonna stop using big words and admit he brought her here ‘cos he waaaants her? Also, his story sucked.

Nonplussed, he tries to continue. She’s recently endured a suite of science traumas ranging from chromosomal geneborking – that’s a technical term - to the miscarriage of her child. As a result, he’d expect her to be even more of a maladjusted insult to sentience than she was before. Instead, she merely plumbs the depths of hairstyle horror and critiques his anecdotes. Psychology is not his forte – it’s difficult to study minds when you see little evidence of them – but it’s clear that Marrow’s become emotionally dissociative on the grounds that normal society can’t hurt her if she has no investment in it.

That’s stupid! Marrow babbles. She’s so invested in normal society. She shouts at some other patrons, threatening them and calling them mutant-hating, prejudiced bigot &//%$.

Behold the shimmering genius-rage that is truth, Nemesis mutters. She is not a mutant! he shouts. Her powers have been temporarily synthesized by a decomposing metabolic substrate. Within one year, she will die in an orgy of cellular immolation and he will cast overpriced risotto upon the unmourned smear of her corpse! Her incorrect use of cutlery is the shame of the ecosphere, there have been flies hovering around her all evening and, madam, he is leaving!

Unimpressed, she claims he wants to go to bed with her sooo bad.

He prepares to bodyslide. “Practice your bedside manner,” Cable said, he mutters. “Give her the bad news somewhere nice.” He’ll bodyslide his boot right up Cable’s—

Marrow calls for coffee and asks if he wants some. Hearing the magic word he decides to resume his science tantrum following a civilized caffeine hiatus. Is it good coffee? he asks hopefully. Does she think it comes with biscotti?

Very much elsewhere:
A room with a beautiful princess (strangely attached to somewhere with a line) and a speaking owl. She enjoys her enchanted tower when suddenly the owl cries for help. An ugly troll climbs through window, telling her it’s here to help. She’s gonna get them out of here. Let her just disconnect this tether thing and—

The princess’s tether disconnected. They are in reality where the princess is an ugly little creature who demands to be put back into the dream. The troll is really Domino. The Owl is a head attached to the wall. Still in the dream, he calls for the wizard king to help them. The small creature grabs the tether. Surrounded by flies, Domino tells him not to put that back. Idiot! the creature scoffs. It’s an unloved demon spawn with an origin story longer than her life. Poor Sidney’s a reanimated Soviet experiment. Their lives are misery and persecution. They prefer the unreality he offers!

He returns to the dream. Domino / the troll asks who he is. The voice from before asks if she doesn’t recognize him. It breaks his crusty heart to operate incognito. But they must all take consolation in the epoch-defining glory of his new body! Come take his sticky consolation! the creature, whose masked face is part of his torso offers.

X-Force’s HQ:
Fantomex sits on the with crossed legs. MeMe addresses him. He tells her leave to leave him alone. He has a desperate case of superhuman ennui and only by staring at this rusty rivet can he hold back the violent urges which possess him. Also he seems to be attracting flies.

She notes that, apart from the accent, his foreign talk seems to have all gone. He confides Betsy makes fun when he gets the genders in French wrong. But the way MeMe speaks has also been changing. The words are often in the correct order now.

She explains she is gaining control. This transhuman stuff is a lot to get used to. Living without a body is paradise but it is boring here as there is only her. Not interested, he retorts, he has problems of his own. MeMe insists he has a lame self-confidence meltdown and is forgetting what makes him different / stronger /better. For instance? he asks eagerly. For instance there are teeny tiny robots in his bloodstream, she reminds him and takes him into the datascape.

He immediately notices her avatar has red hair. She changes its color and denies it. She’s bored and he’s miserable. She figures there’s one solution. She touches him and he feels ecstasy. Agitated, he protests his heart belongs to another. No heart involved, she laughs, No bodies, no witnesses, no problem. She returns him to his body as the boss wants them in a briefing, but look her up when he’s ready. And bear in mind: there’s no shame in getting lucky.

Elsewhere, Domino somersaults over her mysterious captor and is on the run, followed by the not so skilled guards, her luck power keeping her from being shot. Her captor singsongs her name and shouts the alarm is ringing for her. Won’t she stop running for a moment and consider the facts?

Back at the X-Force HQ, the team gathers. Doc and Marrow are the last holding a very serious and civilized discussion about coffee sorts. Cable orders them to sit and shut up. They beat Volga. Any other team, that would be reason for cheering. But for them it means the bad guy got away. They screwed up. He’s out there. He can build suicide supers built from mutant biology and because they don’t understand the process the way Volga does Cable’s daughter. Is. Still. Broken. If he hears anyone call that a victory he’ll break their arms.

Domino has reached a room full of TV screens depicting scenes from people’s lives. Mutants, her captor explains. He’s got nothing against them. In fact, he loves them but you’ve got to be reasonable. Fighting among themselves. Inexperienced noobs going kaboom. Nobody wants another Phoenix. Is it so wrong to keep a lookout for the bad eggs?

X-Force HQ:
Cable explains Volga is just the first step. They are declaring war on any country that uses mutant derived tech. So they target the potential customers: military, criminals, freedom fighters… They pry, they listen to every damn rumor and watch like hawks.

Domino, a steel tentacle around her neck, shouts this is a &%$&# surveillance set-up. Her captor agrees. Every mutant they can find. Watched 24 hours a day. Just in case. It’s for the best.

Domino shouts that it’s a violation of their basic human---

X-Force HQ:
Psylocke protests, Cable’s talking about crushing the civil liberties of countless people, hoping one trail will lead to his target. MeMe agrees it feels gross and wrong.

Don’t talk to him about human rights, he retorts. Is it a human right to be blown up by an out of control mutant? Or get stuck in the middle when an X-battle rumbles through? Is it a human right to walk among time bombs without anyone to keep an eye out?

X-Force HQ:
Cable insists their species is a gnat’s ass away from extinction. In the face of that, are they really gonna protest about privacy?

Her captor tells Domino that 97 governments are paying him for the mutant intel he provides. The same money trail she followed to find him. You can’t argue with the duly elected. They have their best interests at heart.

X-Force HQ:
He’s got their best interests in mind, Cable assures his team, but he gets it. If it squares with their conscience, this is his call. The buck stops with him.

Her captor tells Domino that all who work there are volunteers but she will see soon enough. He takes another of the tethers from the wall.

X-Force HQ:
He’s just proposing they pay attention to possible-nasties as well as definite nasties, Cable tells his team. Is that so bad?

What real harm is being done here? her captor asks Domino. Here’s the truth:

X-Force HQ:
If you’ve got nothing to hide, Cable states.

…You’ve got nothing to fear, the mystery being states.

As the team leaves, Cable tells them they’ll start tomorrow. Now he has things to do. Dying and suchforth. He notes Betsy staying behind and asks what’s on her mind. She admits she was coming on to him that morning. Subtle as a train wreck. She figured that was more his speed. It occurred to her that perhaps he’d overlooked the silver lining in his dreary little cloud. A lover with one night to live is a lover with no strings attached. That’s someone she could use in her life right now.

When he stammers, she announces she changed her mind. Leave a brain-note to tomorrow’s fanatical fundamentalist, would he? Mission goal: go back to being better than the bad guys. She leaves after giving him a peck on the cheek.

Cable takes off his arm prosthesis and asks Fantomex, who is lingering around the corner, what he wants. He just transmitted his thoughtlog and he’s got fifteen minutes before he goes up like a damn sun. He prefers to be alone if it’s all the same to him.

Domino shouts the slogans that he is spouting are just a lazy lie to keep idiots cheering you on the way to tyranny.

X-Force’s HQ:
Une probleme with the morality of the mission? Fantomex asks and chuckles. His concerns are a little more… existential.

Now connected via the tether, Domino groans Cable will come for her. He won’t stand for this.

X-Force’s HQ:
Fantomex describes that he is unable to accept another’s superiority. Mental programming, cerebral nanobots, blablabla. And yet he follows Cable’s orders. In battle, Cable has saved his life. And just now he saw him kissing with la belle who has rejected Fantomex. He will appreciate the paradox is crippling.

Domino’s captor mocks that Cable has forgotten her. But don’t be too angry with him. He’s not half the man he used to be. See for herself. A screen shows the events currently transpiring between Fantomex and Cable.

X-Force’s HQ:
While Cable isn’t even looking at him and taking up a syringe, Fantomex continues that in dark moments he contemplates murdering the entire team – only to restore his superiority. But he has discovered a solution. It is not perfect, but it allows him to get by. He has pursued it for several days and seen a marked improvement.

He gonna get to the point any time soon? Cable asks, still not turning around. Fantomex aims his gun at him. It’s as Cable said: it is his team. The buck stop with him. Fantomex shoots him in the head and Domino watches horrified.

He’d be amazed at some of their techniques, her captor says as he turns Domino’s face away from the screen.

X-Force’s HQ:
Fantomex drags Cable’s corpse to the edge of the platform and drops him into the ocean. “Same time tomorrow, Mr. Sharky! Mon dieu, what is it with these damn flies?” he mutters.

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Dr. Nemesis, Fantomex, Marrow, Meme, Psylocke (all X-Force)
Domino (former member of X-Force)

Unnamed villain

Demonic Beel
Soviet Sidney

Story Notes: 

The title refers to the Latin quote Quis custodies ipsos custodes by Juvenal, which can be translated into Who watches the Watchmen?

Domino was last seen in the previous incarnation of the team in Cable and X-Force.

A Mary Sue refers to a fanfiction character that serves as a self-insert for the author into the story, becomes the most important person in the story and is super capable at everything (among other things).

The identity of the mystery villain is revealed in issue #12.

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