Mystique #8

Issue Date: 
January 2004
Story Title: 
Tinker, Tailor, Mutant, Spy - part 2

Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Michael Ryan (penciler), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooton (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Greg Horn (cover), Stephanie Moore & Cory Sedlmeier (Assistant Editors), Teresa Focarile (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

After a brief altercation with a taxi driver at the Johannesburg airport, Mystique rendezvous with her field-handler, Shortpack, who gives her more info on Taylor. Mystique infiltrates the household, taking on the shape of Taylor’s lover. As she tries to face the scientist, though, she finds him dead at the hands of a strange woman. The women fight and the other woman, who has some kind of control over viruses, infects Mystique, momentarily weakening her, and flees with the mutant pox Mystique was to get. In the meantime, Shepard and his employer riddle about Mystique’s motives and wonder if she will help them.

Full Summary: 

Unknown location, now:

Shepard turns to his mystery employer, the Quiet Man, pointing at a huge globe showing a flying jumbo jet. Mystique’s plane’s just entered South African airspace, he informs his boss, and should be landing soon.

The other man whispers that he doesn’t understand. Raven’s not an idiot. She must know that there’s a tracking device in the necklace Shepard gave her. Why hasn’t she tossed it away? Because she wants them at her side, Shepard insists, addressing the other as beloved. She’s not ready to throw them away as an option yet, when they may be her ticket to freedom.. Does she honestly stand a chance of fetching that virus for Xavier, the Quiet Man wonders. He gives her a 60 percent shot, Shep replies. The question is whether she’ll betray that monster Xavier and swipe a sample for them. He’d give anything to be in that woman’s head right now and see the cogs in that vicious engine spin.

Johannesburg International Airport

10.14 PM [SAST]

Mystique has donned the guise of a smart-dressed businesswoman and a cab driver is already taking care of her luggage. He makes some small talk with her and she mentions being from a private security agency. He tells her the can use all the help they need ever since they lost the power. Next thing you know, the bloody suppies are going to be asking for a seat in the parliament. Mystique doesn’t understand until he tells her he means ‘muties’. Unfazed by her sudden coldness, he mentions that he has a mate who says the old guard’s already working on ways of putting down the suppies, should they ever start acting up like the kaffirs – the blacks. When they were stupid enough to let the apartheid end, the city became nothing but carjackings and purse snatchings.

Disgusted, Mystique points out sarcastically that this had probably nothing to do with the disgusting situations the whites had created or the fact that those cops are a bunch of inept thugs, who know more about segregating beaches than fighting. The driver angrily tells her that he used to be a police officer until the kaffirs replaced him. He turns around, only to suddenly find a tall, muscular, young black man standing there, instead of the woman. Panicked, the driver attacks with a wrench, but Mystique easily knocks him out and returns to her true form. “All humans are created equal,” she mouthes cynically; equally worthless.”

Gold Reef City Hotel

11.34 [SAST]

Mystique arrives at the hotel room Shortpack rented. She’s in a foul mood. She sits down on the bed, telling Shortpack that she doesn’t know about Johannesburg being the most dangerous city in the world, but it’s certainly the most depressing. Shortpack protests, pointing out that Johannesburg is the city of hope. He starts raving about the newly-built Nelson Mandela Bridge, which links black and white communities, until an exasperated Mystique interrupts him, asking if there is any town on this planet he doesn’t love.
Pittsburgh, he admits, taken aback. He hates Pittsburgh.

She comes closer to him asking what he is working on on his laptop. He quickly closes it mentioning it’s personal. Somebody’s got a little secret, Raven croons mockingly. Like he’s the only one, the young man shoots back and gives her a sign to get to business. He shows her a picture of her target: Dr Harrison Taylor who has created this mutant smallpox though Shortpack is not sure why. Mystique presumes that he ended up discovering it by accident – sort of like the invention of Penicillin… just evil.

Either way, his home is a veritable fortress, Short pack continues as he shows her the blueprint, but he thinks he has found a weak point: Apparently, Taylor is involved with his live-in nurse. Unfortunately, they haven’t got a visual but, if Mystique finds her, she should impersonate-- Mystique interrupts him: she doesn’t tell him how to do his job.
Shortpack warns her: if this psycho senses anything, he might release the virus…
Mystique tells him not to sweat it and reminds him she’s armed to her teeth with Forge’s gizmos. The guy doesn’t stand a chance, she boasts.

Shortpack tells her he’ll stay in telepathic rapport with her as long as she’s in range. She’ll be back with the guy’s test tubes before breakfast, she tells him. Swell, he’ll tell room service, he jokes. How does she like her eggs? Hardboiled, through and through, Mystique replies with a smirk.

Rosebank, Johannesburg 12.06 Am [SAST]

the good doctor’s heavily guarded mansion.
Two guards outside are trying to phone their colleague who isn’t answering. Mystique who has scaled the building surprises them and takes the first man out with a swift kick.
The other one orders her to put her hand over her head. She complies, pulls out her laser hairpin and takes care of him as well. Gleefully she thinks to Shortpack that she’s in and that there were only two guards instead of three. Must be her lucky night. The third guard lies elsewhere, unconscious or dead with strange boils on his body.

As Mystique walks through the house’s dark hallways, her telepathic contact with Shortpack breaks off. She sees light coming from a door, which is ajar, and, behind it, sits the person she’s looking for: Harrison’s lover at her dressing table. Mystique takes on Harrison’s form and enters silently. After the surprised woman has babbled some words, Mystique has enough info to imitate her voice and speech patterns and takes her out with some ether. She takes on her shape and digs through the woman’s closet, looking for something appropriate for a seduction. “Paydirt” she announces and smirks.

A little later, attired in a skimpy and sexy nurse’s outfit, she enters Taylor’s study, only to face a sight she didn’t expect. Taylor lies dead on the ground, apparently after a fight. There are boils on his body and, beside him, crouches a strange hissing woman with glowing eyes.

As Mystique feigns fear, the woman explains she didn’t want to kill him. She just wanted to visit his beautiful new children, but he tried to stab her. As Mystique comes closer, the woman grabs Taylor’s sword and attacks her. Bad move, Mystique announces, as she drops her disguise. The two women start a violent hand-to-hand battle, until the other gets close enough to Mystique’s face to spit something at her. Mystique notices the effect at once, as she gets weaker. The woman calls the germs back, calling them children. She explains that Mystique should be grateful that she didn’t have time to open the lockbox where the doctor stored the new life he fathered. Had she infected her with that virus, her skin would be melting off and she’d be evacuating her liquefied innards.

Who is she, Mystique asks, as she drops to the ground. Taking the box with the virus, the other woman announces she’s the Host, a freedom fighter for those who are oppressed, hunted and outcast. Mystique wouldn’t understand. As she climbs through the window, Mystique uses her last strength to train the tracking device lipstick on the Host, before she passes out. Shortpack tries to reach her telepathically, warning her that she left her biometric shield watch at the hotel, so she should be extra careful around possible infections. She doesn’t reply.

Characters Involved: 



Harrison Taylor

Taylor’s lover and nurse

Taylor’s guards

Racist taxi driver

The Host


the Quiet Man / Shepard’s mystery employer

Story Notes: 

Apartheid was a system of race segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 that made the black South Africans second-class-citizens.

Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was discovered in 1928 quite by accident, when Alexander Fleming, who was doing tests on staphylococci bacteria, had left the culture plates unwashed for some time. Weeks later, he noticed mold on the plate and that staphylococci were not growing near it.

Issue Information: 
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