Mystique #3

Issue Date: 
August 2003
Story Title: 
Dead Drop Gorgeous - part 3

Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Jorge Lucas (artist), Virtual Calligraphy & Randy Gentile (letterer), Studio F’s Daniel Perez Sanchez (colorist), Joseph Michael Linsner (cover), Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Mike Raicht (editor), Mike Marts (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Xavier and Forge recruit Mystique against her will to Xavier’s cause. They explain that they will keep the government and her other enemies of her back as long as she works for Xavier. She is to finish the mission Prudence began: find the Russian Sentinel technology in Cuba, destroy it and make it look like an inside job. In Cuba, Mystique’s cover is quickly blown in the customs area, but she manages to escape with the help of her new field handler, Shortpack, a telepathic thumbling. Unfortunately, it turns out that his driver wants to kill Mystique as well, for the bounty on her head…

Full Summary: 

Xavier’s personal stealth jet, 20,000 feet above Washington D.C., 4 :47 AM [EST]
Mystique still cannot believe that it was Charles Xavier, disguised as Magneto, who broke her out of death row. Xavier is a spineless peacenik! Who is he really? Another shapeshifter like Copycat? Or an illusionist like Mastermind?

Xavier coolly assures her that the only master of disguise here is she: Mystique. And, he adds, she is a decidedly difficult woman to find. He’d heard rumors that she was dead. Is this about that terrorist stuff that happened overseas, she asks. Because that wasn’t her. He probably expects her to believe that it was one of those shapeshifters masquerading as her, he states, sardonically. Angrily, she asks him to convince himself by reading her mind. Matching her anger, Xavier points out that, as she full well knows, her power prevents him from doing that. Plus, her mind is not a place he longs to visit. Anyway, he changes the subject, he didn’t break her out to revenge himself on her for the atrocities she committed against his friends and colleagues over the years. He needs her.

Sounds hot, Mystique, getting her self-confidence back, purrs. But if he is looking for a Mary Magdalene to join his band of disciples, he’s going to have to find another bad girl to reform. As far as she is concerned his dream of coexistence between mutants and humans is just that. A dream. If she lives to be a thousand, she wouldn’t be worthy of being an X-Man, he retorts. No, he rescued her from a fate she likely deserved, because he requires a secret agent who cannot be traced back to him, should the mission be compromised. Like his own Charlie’s Angels? she asks.

Actually, another voice states, he likes to think of Charles as the M to her 007. It is the mutant inventor Forge who enters the cockpit. And, since he’s the doddering old gadget guy, he jokes, that would make him her Q.

Mystique is surprised to see him, but when he greets her as “Raven,” she spits that this name is in the past… just like her and Forge. She protests that this whole “intervention” is starting to feel like deja vu all over again, so she is punching out! She proceeds to strike Forge, but he catches her fist with his bionic right hand and twists her arm onto her back. Well, look who picked up a thing or two during their old sparring sessions, she mocks. Maybe he isn’t that doddering after all, he announces. No, just soft in the middle, Mystique retorts and punches her elbow into his stomach. Would Forge like a hand back there? Xavier asks with an annoyed half-smile. This had should be enough, Forge replies angrily: gas emits from his bionic hand, hitting Mystique in the face. Stunned, she falls. The two men look at her unconscious body and contemplate. Actually, this went better than he expected, Charles states. Yeah, Forge agrees. He was positive the two of them would be dead by now.

Avenue X, Brooklyn, New York – 6:18 [EST]:
Mystique regains consciousness to find herself lying on the couch of a lovely bright room. Forge is waiting for her, a weapon trained on her just in case. He tells her to rise and shine. She has work to do. He adds that this is one of Xavier’s safehouses in New York for mutants in trouble. It will be her home for the foreseeable future. She regains her composure and sarcastically guesses that should she set a foot outside the door without permission, the high-tech-doodad Forge implanted within her brain will probably blow her to pieces.

That was his recommendation, Forge agrees, but Charles opted for a less conventional approach. He shows her a little gadget. While the Professor was “liberating” Mystique from homeland security, he stole the device the feds used to find her. Too bad Uncle Sam will have built another one before lunch, she scoffs. Which is why he used the prototype to reverse engineer a machine that cloaks Mystique from their technology, no matter where she is in the world. It’s broadcasting a digital smokescreen from a hidden location somewhere in the tri-state area, but Forge can turn it off at a moment’s notice. If Mystique helps Xavier, they will continue to shield her. If she betrays him, they’ll throw her to the wolves.

Wow, the professor s getting pretty hardcore in his old age, Mystique states mock-hurt. Forge seriously tells her that she can keep smiling, but they both know she was a heart beat away from being smoked salmon. And the US government isn’t the only group to want her dead. She has more enemies than he has patents. Without their protection she is deader than dial-up.
Mystique obviously doesn’t like this truth. She changes the subject, asking who they want her to assassinate.

No one, Xavier announces as he comes down the stairs. As a matter of fact he expressively forbids her from taking another life ever again, human or otherwise. What, no license to kill, Mystique asks. Why bother getting her if you don’t need someone to do his dirty work for… she breaks off. As she tries to touch Xavier, she realizes that he is only a psychic projection. Xavier explains that for security reasons all their future dealings will he be handled telepathically. She thought Xavier’s power didn’t click with hers. He cannot divine her thoughts or whereabouts, he admits, but communication is possible over short distances. Mystique interrupts, telling him she is sick of communication. All his people ever do is talk. She believes in the value of force. So when do they get to the action?

Bayamo, Cuba – 6:24 [CDT]
An army jeep crashes into another one. A general tells the soldiers to get out, announcing that her power has more range than they thought. One of the soldiers shouts scared that their rifles are firing by themselves. The general reminds him that he had told them not to bring anything but revolvers past this point. This mutant can control machines as basic as a semi-automatic.

Another soldier interrupts, announcing that they have her. She’s hiding in the grass. Two other soldiers are training their weapons on the mutant in question. A scared little girl, surrounded by some mechanical toys, is asking them for help. She’s just a child, the soldier who found her realizes. Today’s cub is tomorrow’s tiger, the general retorts. It is a difficult thing they have to do but as a wise man once said: all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. He takes out a syringe…

Back in New York, Xavier tells Mystique that action may be important, but so is forethought. He doesn’t trust her. But he does trust that she is primarily interested in her self-preservation and secondarily in the preservation of her fellow mutants. This mission furthers both of these causes, so he has confidence in her. Telepathically he shows her images of Sentinels and explains: After the tragedy in Chernobyl in1986 the USSR saw a sharp increase in the amount of mutant births across the nation. To deal with the perceived threat the Soviets began building robots programmed to hunt and kill mutant much like the American Sentinels that —

Mystique interrupts. She knows what Sentinels are. Get to the point. Xavier states that after the collapse of the Soviet Union he was able to convince the Russians to destroy most of their anti-mutant weapons. But a few were merely decommissioned, mothballed in case the Cold War heated up again. And, recently, he learned that somebody sold two of these machines on the black market. He shows her an image of the perpetrator: a freelance arms dealer named Steinbeck purchased them from a rogue Russian general. Despite being Homo Superior himself, Steinbeck auctioned the anti-mutant technology to the highest bidder: Cuba.

He continues that Cuba has a small but burgeoning population of mutants And President Castor is torn about what to do with them. His Department of State has convinced him that it would only take on unchecked mutant to overthrow the regime. They persuaded him to purchase Sentinels as a deterrent. But, Forge chimes in, it will only take one overzealous generalissimo to turn “deterrent” into “preemptive strike.” Xavier agrees. His intelligence suggests that such a possibility is a clear and present danger. He has heard disturbing reports of young Cuban mutants being “disappeared,” presumably to be used as test subjects for the Sentinels.

So why doesn’t he send the X-Men in to take care of business, Mystique demands. The Bush administration officially requested Xavier not to interfere, he explains. The last thing they want now is a sequel to the Cuban missile crisis. Mystique spells it out. No matter how enlightened the higher-ups pretend to be, some of them are still happy to turn a blind eye to mutants getting slaughtered. Xavier adds that he has his own reasons for not interfering directly: some day he hopes to open an X-corporation in Cuba. And having his students pull another Bay of Pigs would rather hurt this possibility, Forge adds.

Xavier points out that the mission is two-pronged: Mystique needs to find and destroy the Sentinels but more importantly it has to look like an inside job. She has to make it appear as though the deed was done by a human Cuban. If Castro believes his own people are willing to fight the threat of mutant genocide, he might consider less incendiary alternatives. So much for the prime directive, huh, Mystique mocks. Still, it sounds like fun so he can count her in.

Forge tells her not to get too cocky as he adds, over Xavier’s protests, that one of Charles’ agents already died trying to accomplish the mission. So what happened to 006, Mystique asks. With a sigh, Xavier shows he a telepathic image of Prudence. She was incinerated by Steinbeck, the pyrokinetic arms dealer who spawned this nightmare. He murdered her shortly after she learned which country had purchased the Sentinels. With a name like Prudence, she probably wasn’t an ex-felon, Mystique scoffs. She was a highly moral young woman, Xavier tells her coolly. So why does he want her to replace Prudence? Was she a shapeshifer? Xavier explains that she had the ability to transfer her conscious ness into the bodies of other females to temporarily inhabit and control any woman she laid eyes on. Pretty lame power in a patriarchical society, Mystique scoffs, and, to emphasize her point, shifts into a bulky male form. Behind every great man… Xavier points out. Prudence used her abilities to gain access to the highest levels of government across the globe. Unfortunately she, he almost chokes, was in her own body when she died. Mystique picks up on his hesitation and mocks that somebody got a little too close to the hired help. So that’s why she is here; Xavier can’t stand the thought of losing another innocent. He’s more comfortable with risking the lives of no-good-criminals like her, huh?

Staring at the ground, Xavier tells her she’s wrong. He doesn’t sound sure, she presses. Forge interrupts and asks Raven to knock it off. He apologizes to Charles for bringing the topic up, but he was trying to make the point that Prudence was killed before she could get the original blueprints for the robots from Steinbeck. So they don’t exactly know what makes them tick. But, he continues, if they are anything like their early model Sentinels this gadget will turn them into worthless pieces of modern art.

Mystique looks at the device he hands her. A GameBoy? GamBoy Advance, he corrects her. It houses an electro-magnetic pulse device that should annihilate the remote C.P.U. that runs the things. And if it doesn’t, she asks, ogling the device suspiciously. Then she probably can get a few rounds of Super Mario in before she gets atomized, he replies.

Xavier informs Mystique that her flight leaves first thing tomorrow morning. She’ll be traveling under the guise of a Canadian dance student. Forge will provide her with the proper documents. Inside Cuba her field handler will find her and give everything else she needs, He warns her to be good… or else.

Antonio Maceo Airport, Santiago de Cuba – 1:03 PM [CDT]
Striding across the airport hall in her guise as a young dancer, Mystique gains several admiring looks from the men. At the customs the customs officer also seems enchanted by her. Unfortunately, at that moment he gets relieved by his sour-looking female colleague. She switches to Spanish, asking Mystique why a young woman like her is traveling alone. Mystique tells her her cover story. The rest of her salsa class is already here. She was delayed because of a death in the family.

The customs officer interrupts asking where she is staying. The Sofitel, Mystique replies and displays her registration form as proof. The officer exclaims that the hotel stopped using that registration form more than six months ago. “Perfect,” Mystique mutters exasperated. “The guy’s name’s Forge and he can’t even forge a receipt…” The officer calls for security to detain her. One of the men grabs her. Mystique, in turn, changes into Fidel Castro, ordering the soldier to let him go. The man is shocked for a second and “Fidel” strikes at him shouting “Viva la revolucion!” The officer shouts at the men that this is an impostor and that they have to stop him or her. Mystique tosses the man at her, quipping “I have nothing to declare… but my genius.”

Suddenly, a telepathic voice in her head tells her to stop quoting Oscar Wilde and to start running. Still in the guise of Fidel, Mystique complies, wondering who that was. Xavier? No, her field handler Shortpack, the voice replies and tells her that the policia is on its way. She has to pick a new shape fast. Mystique turns into the shape of the customs officer who started this mess and orders the police into he wrong direction. Following Shortpack’s instructions, she heads outside and to the pink ’57 Chevy. Good thing he isn’t driving anything too conspicuous, she states sarcastically. Relax, the voice tells her. These things are like the Toyota Camry of Cuba.

She enters the car and thanks the driver for the assist. Forget about the “big man” a voice states. The little man is the one who just saved her life. Mystique can’t believe her eyes: standing before her is a man who is just several inches tall. He is her field handler. Was she expecting Wilt Chamberlain, he asks. His name is Shortpack for God’s sake. She figured that was ironic, she defends herself. And who is the other guy? He’s their driver Marcos, Shortpack explains. He and Marcos go way back. He’s good people. That is true, Marco agrees, reaching into his jacket, which is why he hates to do this. He draws out a gun and points it at them. He supports Xavier, but the bounty on this woman’s head would feed his family for a lifetime. He promises to kill her quickly… Yep, if there’s one thing she hates, it’s “good people”, Mystique states.

Characters Involved: 

Professor Xavier
Fieldhandler Shortpack

Marcos (shortpack’s driver)
A Cuban general and several soldiers
Cuban mutant child
Cuban custom officers and security personnel

As Xavier’s projections:

Story Notes: 

That “business overseas” refers to Mystique (or somebody who looked like her) infiltrating and destroying Banshee’s X-Corps in Paris (as told in Uncanny X-Men #401-406.

In April 1986, one of the four reactors of the nuclear power plant near the Ukrainian town Chernobyl exploded and released thirty to forty times the radioactivity of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Bay of Pigs invasion was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kennedy administration in 1961 to overthrow the government of the Cuban premier Fidel Castro by United States-backed Cuban exiles.

Mystique refers to Prudence as 006, as in the Bond movies other 00-agents (apart from Bond) always would either end up turning traitor or – more likely – dying. “M” and “Q” are also characters from that series.

Steinbeck murdered Prudence in #1.

Wilt Chamberlain is a famous Basketball player and as such very tall.

Oscar Wilde was a Victorian era author and playwright whose works include “the Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” When arriving at the New York Custom House at the beginning of his North American tour, Wilde is said to have stated, “I have nothing to declare but my genius.”

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