As one of the members of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s senior staff, Officer Kenneth Avery has seen enough action to impress even the most seasoned veteran. Three decades of soldiering has given him a hard edge and a knack for troubleshooting. Today, it is a doubtlessly a day of trouble for Avery’s base, as the computer’s voice shrieks throughout the facility, alerting all soldiers to the urgency of the situation: “Intruders alert on levels three, six, eight, eleven and twelve! This is not a drill! Repeat! This is not a drill! All available personnel proceed to battle stations!” Amidst the commotion, with soldiers heading towards the battle stations, Avery spots one of his inferiors and asks for a report, after the search they conducted in order to detect the intruders. The agent informs him that the other cargo bays are all clear.
Avery is surprised to hear this. He has the sense that something’s definitely not right here. He immediately uses his radio to contact Agent Fisher and asks him what the blazes is going on. He recalls that Fisher said that there’d been a hull breach in the main parking port. Sitting behind a monitor, Fisher insists that he can only go by the data coming in over the sensor array. If Avery is telling him there’s no hull breach, then that means their computer sensors are on the fritz. He asks Avery if there’s any sign of the intruders. Not a peep, Avery replies. His guts are telling him that they’re being suckered by smokes and mirrors.
On level seven, a soldier is on-standby. Suddenly, he hears a screeching sound in the corridor next to him. Puzzled, the agent deduces that it’s probably nothing but with the other levels in such a hubbub, he’d better make sure just to be safe. The man turns around the bend… and the attack he faces is swift and brutal, executed with unnecessary savagery.
The agent’s body plunges lifeless to the ground, having just been slashed by Victor Creed, the homicidal maniac whose genetic make-up and pattern behavior of unrelenting hostility have earned him the name Sabretooth. Next to him, watching his ‘handiwork’ in disgust is the mutant shapeshifter known as Mystique, who warns Sabretooth that the man better not be dead! Sabretooth urges her to calm herself: the man is still breathing. “Just barely!” Mystique notices in disapprobation. She accuses Sabretooth that he really is a sick pup – and a stupid one! The last thing they need is Bridge and his S.H.I.E.L.D. goons on their tail for killing one of their own!
Creed urges her to relax. The poor jerk never saw what him; nobody will even know they were ever here. “Don’t be so sure,” a thoroughly unconvinced Mystique retorts. As she kneels above the senseless man and inspects the key ring he wears around his neck, Raven argues that rigging an enemy’s sensor to emit false readings as a decoy is an old trick… that ruse won’t keep S.H.I.E.L.D. off their backs for long.
As Raven’s hand comes in direct touch with the unconscious agent’s hand, palm to palm, she immediately copies his fingerprints and shapeshifts into the man. Together with Sabretooth, Mystique halts in front some sealed doors, curious to see who they’ve got here. Placing her palm on a bright bar, a small photo of the agent appears on a tiny screen, next to his personal data: Ensign Cameron Bisset, I.D. verification code #267-975-653-689.
Tense moments later, the ensign’s voice verification is confirmed and the sealed doors open. Sabretooth and Mystique enter the morgue of the helicarrier. Sabretooth asks her what stuff they’re looking for. James Hedrickson, Mystique replies. She laments that Interpol identified him as a suspected Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) conspirator. Their job would have been a lot easier if his body hadn’t been handed over to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Finally detecting the drawer that contains the body, Mystique opens the drawer and drags the body out. Sabretooth remarks that the body smells pretty ripe. As Mystique unzips the sack in which the body is contained and the twosome encounters a hideously deformed corpse, Sabretooth exclaims that that’s nasty even by his standards! Whoever killed this man, wasn’t messing around. He asks Raven how she can be so sure that Hedrickson is still carrying what she’s after.
Having difficulty to breathe due to the cadaverous smell, Raven explains why: because her old friend Destiny told her it would be here. “Now cut the chatter and let’s this over with!” she urges him – he knows what to do! “Getting squeamish in your old age, Mystique?” Creed scoffs at her. Mystique urges him to just hurry up and check the man’s belly. As Creed happily proceeds to disembowel the corpse, he asks Mystique what he’s looking for. Mystique assures him he’ll know when he sees it!
Suddenly, they are both shaken by a tremor coming from above. “What was that?” Sabretooth wonders. Mystique explains that it came from the level above them and admonishes Creed to ignore it and keep searching. Sabretooth retorts that there’s no need… he already found what they need! Saying this, he presents Mystique with a tiny capsule, coming right from the dead man’s bowels.
Suddenly, a number of soldiers crash inside from the level above, all of them armed with energy weapons and equipped with gliders that enable them to fly. One of them orders Sabretooth to hand it over: that capsule he’s holding is the property of A.I.M.! He targets Sabretooth with his gun, almost at point-blank range and warns him that any resistance will result in his immediate execution! “Buzz off, jerk!” Sabretooth coarsely replies and responds to the threat by damaging the man’s special mechanical costume with his fangs.
Mystique informs her assaulters that it looks like her partner’s got the right idea. “What d’you say, boys? Ready to play?” she mocks them and then transmogrifies into a sizable monstrous being, complete with horns, claws and wings. Persevering, the agent whose armor was badly damaged by Sabretooth declares that no one makes a fool out of Karl Steiner and fires at Creed! However, due to the damage sustained during Sabretooth’s attack, the weapon misfires, spraying both opponents in a torrent of shrapnel. The capsule falls off Sabretooth and lands on the feet of one of the agents. Mystique approaches him and warns him not to even think it. Still, the agent makes a move towards the capsule, forcing Mystique to grapple him from behind, roaring, “I warned you!” She then takes the capsule for herself.
Nearby, agent Steiner coughs, trying to put himself together while warning Sabretooth to stay away from him. Creed derisively remarks that Steiner is not such a tough guy when the chips are down. He can’t wait to… Mystique interjects and tells Sabretooth to forget him; they’ve got what they came for! Sabretooth grumpily grunts!
With more gunmen appearing, Sabretooth and Mystique decide it’s about time they take leave. “Some party!” Sabretooth quips, narrowly avoiding his assaulters’ fusillade. “I hate to break it to you but we weren’t invited!” Raven shoots back and then flutters upwards and grabs Sabretooth with her. One of the A.I.M. agents orders them to halt and drop their weapons!
Undeterred, Mystique flies higher while urging Sabretooth, whom she carries, to stop struggling; he’s heavy enough as it is! She explains that although it may look she wouldn’t have any trouble carrying him her strength doesn’t change like her appearance does. “I gotta hand it to ya, darlin’… that was pretty smooth!” Creed praises her. He has one thing to ask, though: just who in the heck is she morphed into? Raven explains she’s taken the shape of some Gargoyle fellow who used to hang out with the Defenders. Sabretooth admits he’s heard of him… but he doesn’t remember the old geezer looking like that! Mystique admits that she took certain… liberties. As she flies them through the hole on the roof and out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, thousands of feet on the air, one of the glider pilots orders his men to follow them.
Suddenly, Raven announces she can’t carry Creed much further: he’s too heavy! With a careful and calculated move, she lets go of him and Creed lands atop of poor flying agent Steiner! “Fun’s over!” Creed exclaims and detaches the glider from Steiner, letting him freefall while wearing the glider himself! “Oh… and thanks for the wings!” he banters, watching Steiner’s fall with unconcealed schadenfreude.
Pursued by two airborne agents, Mystique notices that wind currents around here are pretty erratic. She realizes that those gliders won’t be able to maneuver if she gets close enough to the Alps. As she flies straight towards the mountains, with the agents in hot pursuit, she abruptly changes course at the very last moment, resulting in the A.I.M. soldiers crashing on the mountain slopes, before having time to divert.
Raven has no time to triumph, though, as one of her wings is suddenly shot by yet another high-flying agent of A.I.M. Mystique plunges to a mountain. Two agents land down, next to the seemingly unconscious Raven who reverts to her default form. One of the men exclaims that the target’s down. His colleague hopes she still has the…
He never finishes his phrase: Mystique shapeshifts into a Wendigo creature and makes short work of both of them. Idiots, she scornfully contemplates – they left themselves wide open for that!
Sabretooth also lands at the same spot and congratulates Raven on her repertoire; this shindig’s turning into quite the party! Unfortunately, much as she’d like to believe he’s enjoying himself, he didn’t tag along just to provide target practice for a two-bit terrorist outfit like A.I.M.! Mystique tells him to forget about them: A.I.M. was merely an unanticipated distraction. Creed crossly wonders what the blazes is that supposed to mean. A distraction from what? He reminds her she’s got a lot of explaining to do. Whatever mess she’s dragged him into, he wants some answers… and he wants them now! Mystique promises he will get his answers soon. It’ll be worth the wait! “It better be!” Creed bellows.
Mystique teases him that if he’s still carrying a grudge for what Hydra did to him years ago… he won’t be disappointed! “Hydra?!” a flabbergasted Creed can barely mutter at hearing this. “Piqued your interest? Good” Raven quips. She urges him to come along then. She’s got a safehouse nearby where they can talk.
She immediately transforms into the blue-skinned, feather-winged X-Man known as Angel and rises in the air. Sabretooth is perplexed: he thought that nanotechnic inhibitor that was implanted in her neck prevented her from assuming any of the X-Men’s identities for longer than ten seconds. It does, Mystique assures him. However, when Warren Worthington was altered by Apocalypse and transformed into Archangel, the original Angel ceased to exist. Lucky for her, the implant is only encoded with his present genetic make-up. Creed commends her: she doesn’t miss a trick, does she? Mystique admits she tries not to: it’s a matter of survival.
Cardigan Bay, off the coast of Wales, several hours later
In a submarine of A.I.M., a soldier named Ritter reports to his superior, the cybernetically enhanced Commander Cypher, that he was just informed of Steiner’s failure. Ritter admits he’s at loss. It should have been a simple retrieval operation – what went wrong? Pointing at the monitors all around, Cypher suggests he sees for himself: the camera concealed in Steiner’s armor provided them with a front-row seat. She asks Ritter if he knows who the man shown on the monitor is, to which he replies negatively.
Cypher decides to enlighten him: she informs Ritter that he’s an ex-CIA operative called Sabretooth with a dossier thicker than War and Peace. The United States deemed him unfit to roam free in society, so they placed him in the care of X-Factor, their home-grown militia team. She comments that the man is considered uncontrollable… and extremely dangerous. A restraining collar is used to inhibit any hostile actions he may have toward anyone. She goes on to inform Ritter that his real name is Victor Creed and his abilities include hyper-keen senses and incredibly fast-acting healing factor. Aside from being an excellent tracker, the man is a psychopath and a serial killer!
Sounds like fun, Ritter quips and asks about the other one. Cypher informs him that Sabretooth’s companion is a woman called Mystique. She’s a metamorph. Not much is known about her past, except for scattered reports of her brief affiliations with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the now defunct Freedom Force. She remarks that Mystique has got so many aliases that it’s rumored she herself doesn’t even remember what her real name is anymore. Like Creed, she’s the property of X-Factor these days. Ritter admits he doesn’t understand: why is X-Factor is suddenly taking an interest in their affairs? “They’re not,” Cypher retorts. She explains that Mystique and Sabretooth are acting on their own. Apparently, they went AWOL.
Pointing him at an image at the monitor, Cypher explains that these satellite surveillance photos of a crash site just outside the X-Factor’s compound in Fall’s Edge, Virginia, were taken early this morning. Unofficial intelligence reports confirm that Mystique and Sabretooth were aboard the shuttle when it went down in a botched escape attempt. Though still searching for the bodies, the government believes them dead. “Brilliantly executed, wouldn’t you agree?” she remarks.
Is she suggesting they faked their deaths so that they could sneak aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and steal the capsule, Ritter asks her. “But why?” he wonders. They have no allegiance to Hydra that he’s aware of. How could they possibly have known what Hedrickson was carrying? Cypher retorts that’s irrelevant; the damage has already been done. What matters now is that they get the capsule back… before A.I.M.’s greatest coup turns into an abysmal failure. “Do I make myself clear, Ritter?” she hisses. “O-of course, Commander. How do you propose we do that?” he stammers.
She assures him she’s already working on it. By piggy-backing on the signal being transmitted from X-Factor to the restraining collar on Sabretooth’s neck, she should be able to track his whereabouts within the hour. If Mystique stays with him, they’ve got her too. But the transmission signals from her implant aren’t nearly as strong. They could easily lose her. She instructs Ritter that, when she gives the word, he is to release the Technosassins. She wants the capsule in her hands by the end of the day… and that interfering mutant trash dead!
Somewhere on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Under the cover of darkness, CIA operative Victor Creed and Mossad agent, Amichai Benvenisti make their way inside an abandoned mosque, unaware that what was supposed to be a routine rendezvous and reconnaissance job is about to go sour. Victor warns his partner that this reeks of a set-up. What makes Amichai think that precog can be trusted? Amichai assures him he’s worked with her before. She’ll be here…
“Destiny’s here, all right,” Creed suddenly notes with irony, as both he and Amichai spot Irene Adler hanging from the ceiling, gagged and bound. As Amichai approaches Destiny and casts light on her with his glass, Creed warns him not to touch her. She may’ve been… He never finishes his phrase, as he is proven painfully right: it was a trap and they’re both stunned.
Shortly afterwards, Creed finds himself chained up, while being scrutinized by the Hydra agent known as Catalyst. Sporting a sadistic smile, Catalyst admits that Creed is one of the finest specimen he’s seen to date! He dares say Creed may even last the week before he breaks! “Get your jollies while you can, Catalyst!” Victor scornfully replies. He’s going to rip out his heart with his bare hands when he gets free! Catalyst sincerely doubts it: Hydra doesn’t take kindly to trespassers. Catalyst then touches Creed’s solar plexus, causing him to scream.
Writing sensations are still fresh in Sabretooth’s mind, vivid in their excruciating intensity. The ordeal left him with mental and physical scars that he will carry to his grave. Even here, in the relative safety of Mystique’s luxurious Swiss chalet, the mere mention of his torturer’s name sends involuntary chills down his spine. It was Mystique who brought up Catalyst’s name. However, even though Creed hates to disappoint her, he reminds her that Catalyst is old news; Catalyst is dead! He reminds her that her old friend, Destiny, killed him… Creed saw it with his own eyes!
“As did I,” Raven startlingly reveals, while thoroughly examining the capsule by use of a microscope and special glasses. “Or haven’t you realized yet that I was there as well?” she scoffs at him. “You sneaky little witch… so that Mossad agent was you!” Sabretooth realizes in retrospect. Assuming Amichai Benvenisti’s guise to further taunt him, Mystique explains that Benvenisti is one of her seldom-used alter egos. She’s not surprised he never figured it out. Creed rages that he doesn’t want to be made a fool of: that’s twice she’s flaunted one of her false identities right under his nose! Raven advises him not to take it so personally. She can’t help it if she’s good at what she does…
Getting back to the point, Raven – brashly snatching Creed’s bottle of whiskey and having a sip – agrees that Catalyst may be dead but she hasn’t forgotten the horrors they were subjected to while under his ‘care’. She exclaims that the man was a butcher. He should have been made to suffer for what he did to Irene. What he put her through was barbaric. Why does Creed think she brought him along on this caper? He hates Catalyst almost as much as she does! She knows Creed will agree with her that they were cheated out of their vengeance!
“So life ain’t fair. What’s yer point?” Creed asks her as he puffs smoke from his cigar. Mystique explains that the point is that after all these years it’s finally payback time! “What d’you mean?” Sabretooth asks for clarification. Raven explains that, aside from his dabblings in human suffering, Catalyst was one of Hydra’s chief scientific big-wigs. Sequestered away in a hidden bunker, he’d been working on a hush-hush computer program before he was assigned to the mission in Israel where they had their run-in with him and the scumbag met an unexpected death. Codenamed Access, a complete version of the program is capable of unscrambling satellite transmissions by tapping into any global networks existing in cyberspace.
Raven quips that it doesn’t take a genius to see how potentially dangerous such a toy would be in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, when Catalyst was killed, the notes for the program were lost along with the location of his hidden fortress, so the secrets of Access vanished with him. Soon after, they got away from Catalyst’s clutches, Destiny confirmed in her that that her precognitive powers had foreseen that the key to locating Catalyst’s long-long fortress would be found in James Hedrickson’s belly. Looking back, Raven now realizes that Irene must have foreseen her own death, so she made Mystique promise that when the time came, she would seek out Hedrickson’s body, find Catalyst’s Access notes and destroy them.
As Mystique presses on the capsule and a slide presentation with Catalyst’s data appears on the wall, she admits that it’s no compensation but, since the pig’s already dead, they’ll have to settle for ensuring that his life’s work is destroyed. She remarks that, at the very least, she can do that to honor Destiny’s memory.
Sabretooth discerns that this Destiny must have meant a lot to her. He’s never seen Mystique so riled up. He finds her scent is pretty alluring when she’s angry; it’s kind of turning him on! As he places his fingers on her hair, an enraged Mystique turns into a monstrous variation of herself and violently repels him, while warning him that, if he touches her again, she will gouge out his eyes! Sabretooth asks her to relax: he’s just teasing her! Mystique sternly insists they have no time for his perverse innuendos. Whoever ordered Hedrickson’s death must know by now that…
Without warning, the safehouse is suddenly rocked to its foundation as all the windows in the chalet are blown inwards by the concussive force of a powerful sonic blast. The Technosassins dash into the room, armed to the teeth. One of them warns them they’ve got ten seconds to hand over the capsule before they blow their brains out. He begins counting: Ten, nine…