Kong Dong Palace, Pyongyang, North Korea, 10:41 PM [KST]
Framed by a group of statues celebrating communism, a North Korean military officer threatens three members of the staff: an elderly butler, a scantily clad young woman and a young boy. One of them, the officer accuses them, is a spy; a female shapeshifter who has infiltrated the home of their Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. And, tonight, that person is going to hang. Should she refuse to step forward, all three of them will die.
The butler protests, pointing out that the soldier mentioned a woman. Surely that should excuse him? Intelligence suggests that the agent can make herself look and sound like anyone, the soldier explains. Why were the three of them singled out, the young woman inquires. Because they were the only servants with access to this study where an extremely sensitive document was recently stolen. What about the soldier himself, the boy asks. Didn’t he have access to the room as well? The man goes for his gun, telling the boy that he will die first. The young woman begs him to wait, claiming she is the impostor. The soldier pistol-whips her, aware that se is trying to protect the boy. He demands that the spy show her true self this instant. A voice from an unexpected quarter agrees. Suddenly, one of the statues comes to life and grabs him: ‘Boo!’
Holding her sickle to his throat, Mystique orders him to release the boy, or he’ll get the sickle instead of the hammer. He complies and she knocks him out. Mystique turns to her true form, complimenting the young woman on her willingness to sacrifice herself for the boy. Unimpressed, the boy shouts for the guards. There’s an intruder! Typical, Mystique mutters and starts fighting, while asking her field handler Shortpack for an exit.
Shortpack telepathically informs her that he’s a telepath, not a Matrix operator. He reminds her that he told her to take the left corridor and meet him on the roof. Not an option anymore, she protests, as more guards keep on coming. Staircase to the right, he tells her. He’ll meet her up there.
Mystique runs up the stairs, only to be expected by a very muscular solder with a very big gun. While the soldier blusters, the diminutive Shortpack jumps down on his head. The man is so surprised that Mystique can easily knock him out. Mystique catches Shortpack (who’s covered in what he hopes is hairgel). Shortpack leads her to a fire escape to the roof with the soldiers in hot pursuit. Behind one of the chimneys, they find one of Forge’s backup backpacks. Mystique wonders what the device is even as she straps it in. Turns out it’s a rocketpack and they fly away.
Mystique’s safehouse, Avenue X, Brooklyn, the next morning.
Mystique steps into the back yard to have Xavier waiting for her. He inquires how Pyongynag was. So is this the real him, Mystique asks, or another telepathic projection? A projection, he explains. The “real” Professor Xavier is presently teaching post-human ethics to a class of teenage mutants. If those brats knew that their pacifist prof has his own underground espionage network, Mystique mocks, what would they think about his ethics then? Maybe she should swing by the school and give a little lecture sometime?
If she ever sets foot within one hundred yards of the institute, she will live just long enough to regret it, Xavier threatens. Changing the subject, he tells her the good news: Forge was able to decipher the encrypted information she’d stolen from Il’s palace. The bad news: the situation is far worse than Xavier had originally anticipated. Apparently, the North Koreans were planning to steal something that translates loosely as “bigpox,” a mutant strain of the smallpox virus. The bioweapon can instantly kill any person who was ever inoculated against the original virus, including countless American soldiers and medical workers. Sounds like a human-on-human crimes, Mystique replies, stressing that her job is to help other mutants.
Xavier points out that humans weren’t the only one who received inoculations against disease. Forge and he were both given smallpox vaccinations as children. He presumes, so was she. Absently, Mystique admits that she actually doesn’t remember. Her childhood is mostly a blur, but her monster of a father probably thought vaccinations were the work of the devil. Her mother on the other hand—
Xavier interrupts her train of thought. If this super-virus were ever released, millions of innocent humans and mutants would die. She gets it, Mystique sighs and asks which hellhole she’ll be heading to next.
Johannesburg, South Africa, 1:03 AM [SAST]
A young man holds up a car with a gun. He orders the woman inside to get out and hand over her keys. In a strange voice, the green-haired woman replies that she is not a woman. She is the host. As she coughs, her eyes start to glow. The young mans screams as something suddenly hits him. He screams that his face is falling off. The woman orders her ’children’ to return to her. She drives away, musing that they will have to find their brethren before someone else does. The would-be-burglar lies on the street, possibly dead.
The hellhole in question is –unsurprisingly – Johannesburg. Considered by many to be the most dangerous city in the world, Xavier explains bleakly. He shows Mystique a hologram of a middle-aged, bearded man: Dr. Harrison Taylor, a genetic engineer who created the mutant smallpox. He would send his X-men to deal with him—
But if the good doctor smells a trap, he might get antsy, pop open a test tube and start the next Black Death, Mystique observes wryly. Xavier agrees, adding that she might have to seduce Taylor before she can neutralize him and retrieve his toxin. And if she runs into any trouble? Mystique asks. The mutant inventor Forge joins them, stating that this is his cue.
As he unpacks his gear, Mystique asks provocatively what Forge does in her brownstone when she’s on a mission. Go through her underwear drawers? Forge snaps back that she shouldn’t flatter herself. His feelings for her vanished the first time she did. Xavier tries to make peace, reminding Mystique that Forge has been dedicating his time to creating the inventions that keep her alive.
Or at least keep her halfway decent looking, Forge quips as he hands her a tub of lipstick, which doubles as a long-range tracking device. He next hands her a watch, which serves as a biometric shield against infectious agents. But the battery is only good for about three minutes, he warns her. Can’t he build anything that will last longer than a Ramones song? Mystique protests. Not without giving her six kinds of cancer, he retorts, before showing her what looks suspiciously like a hairpin. Is she supposed to pick locks with that? she asks. Guess again, he tells her, as he demonstrates the pin’s electric blast that blows up the fountain. Now they’re talking, Mystique exclaims enthusiastically, while Xavier studies the remnants of the fountain with a pained expression.
Xavier reminds Mystique that her flight leaves in two hours and warns her again of the dire consequences should she go AWOL. Exasperated, she asks how many more times she will have to risk her life for them before they start trusting her. Simultaneously, Xavier and Forge shoot her an “as if” look. Amused, she admits that they might be smarter than they look.
JFK International Airport, 1:41 [EST]
A small, elderly man briefly admires a lovely blonde passing by before he enters the restroom. A voice addresses him asking. “Aren’t you in the wrong room… Mystique?” Mystique quickly and capably hits him, before she sees that the man in question is Shepard. He reminds her of their “romantic dinner” in Cuba. They didn’t have anything, she protests as she shifts to her true form. He had asked her to become a double agent and took off before she could refuse. Then why is she still wearing the necklace he gave her, Shepard asks. The one she can use to summon him?
Because it looks expensive she retorts. If she is interested in wealth, he states smoothly, he can promise her riches in addition to her freedom from Xavier. But, as a sign of good faith, he asks her to smuggle him a small sample of that mutant smallpox she’s been asked to acquire. How the hell does he know about this, she asks angrily. ‘All in good time, Raven,’ he tells her. She orders him not to use that name and asks more questions but, once again, he is gone.
Unknown location, thirty seconds later:
Shepard emerges from the gate, complaining that she knocked out his football shoulder. The hooded man on the throne asks in a whisper if he has found Raven. “Of course, beloved,” Shepard replies, adding that the only person Mystique is truly able to hide from is herself. Shepard adds that she’s not sure if she’ll accept the first counter mission. She demands more info, especially about his boss. Next time she asks, the hooded man tells Shepard, he can tell her that he works for the Quiet Man. She’ll know his real name soon enough…