Less than six hours ago, the shape-shifting Mystique and the homicidal Sabretooth broke into the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and stole a small capsule concealed in the belly of a dead man. Originally the property of a terrorist outfit called Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), the capsule contains the schematics to an abandoned Hydra fortress, where the notes to a computer program capable of usurping the existing world order may be found. Now A.I.M. wants the capsule back and they’ve dispatched the Techno-Sassins with this particular mission.
Having just invaded Mystique’s safe house in Switzerland, the Techno-Sassins give the two mutants a terse ultimatum: hand the capsule over in the next ten seconds or risk getting their heads blown out by them! One of the Techno-Sassins is counting, while his colleagues are aiming at the two mutants with their guns: “Eight… seven… six… five…” “Auf mein zeichen, mach dich rauf so schnell du kannst!” Mystique tells Creed in German. She then produces the capsule, asking them: is this what all the fuss is about? If they want it so bad… they’re going to have to come and get it!
Before she even finishes her phrase, Sabretooth attacks the agents. The Techno-Sassins are momentarily taken off guard by the sheer savagery of Sabretooth’s attack but then begin to retaliate in force. Sabretooth quickly gets hit hard. Badly bleeding from the fresh lacerations, he makes a last ditch lunge to get away from his pursuers and jumps out the broken window. One of the Techno-Sassins proceeds to shoot him, exclaiming that the mutie freak’s still standing! His colleague orders him to follow him; that healing factor of his has got to have its limits.
Inside the safe house, Mystique takes cover behind an overturned table. The squad leader suggests she doesn’t make this any harder: she can’t hide from them! “Back off, you lackeys!” Mystique scorns them and clicks on a button “Fine! Have it your way!” the man responds and orders his Techno-Sassins to riddle her good – which they do, in no time. The leader of the Techno-Sassins then orders one of his men, Garvey, to fetch the capsule. “Sir…? Something’s movin’…” Garvey mutters, only to almost immediately scream: “She’s not dead! Look…”
Too late, however, as Mystique, now metamorphosed into the Thing of the Fantastic Four topples the table over and takes out Garvey. She contemplates that if she gets out of this alive, she’ll have to remember to pat herself on the back, for having the foresight to reinforce every piece of furniture in this place with a layer of nikel-titanium-alloy. She’d have been toast without its protection! She may be able to change appearance but it’s purely cosmetic. Much as she wishes it was otherwise, she doesn’t miraculously gain super-strength or invulnerability when she morphs. Maintaining a form of this size is always a strain, making her far weaker than she looks. She’s counting on these agents not knowing about the limitation of her powers. As long as they don’t call her bluff, she’s got an edge…
“No more stalling!” one of the Techno-Sassins growls and promises to Mystique that it’s the end of the line for her! Blast! So much for my advantage, Mystique ponders, realizing they’re not holding back. She’s got to fly, she thinks and shape-shifts to the X-Men’s Angel. She immediately rises in the air, while the Techno-Sassins’ leader curses his men, telling them to not stand there with their mouths hanging open but shoot her! Flying away with all her strength and speed, Raven desperately thinks she’s not going to make it… and she flutters outside the safe house, just as it blows up. Raven realizes she’s hit and reverts to her true form, as she collapses to the ground.
(The past. Somewhere near Jerusalem)
Mystique groans with pain, her face on the cold marble floor, saliva escaping her lips. Destiny urges her to snap out of it: she’s been drugged! They don’t have time to… “D-Destiny…?!” Raven mumbles, cutting her short. She immediately finds the strength to get back to her feet and embraces her friend. “Irene! It is you!” Raven excitedly remarks. “Thank Heavens you’re all right!” she exclaims and asks her what happened. What did that pig, Catalyst, do to her? When they found her hanging from the rafters of that mosque, she was afraid that…
Irene shushes her and asks her to listen to her. She didn’t know that rendezvous at the mosque was going to be a trap. This sadistic Catalyst character is far more dangerous than any of them ever suspected. He’s not just connected to the Israeli Mafia… he’s deeply entrenched in the affairs of the Hydra. Unbeknownst to Raven, Destiny has had a recent vision which has filled her with great apprehension – for she has caught a glimpse of a nightmarish future, which she fears may not have the strength the endure.
Mystique suffers from massive head spins. She realizes she must take it slow until her morphing ability cleanses her system of whatever garbage her captors shot her up with. She asks Irene where Creed is. Destiny reveals he was taken away for interrogation. Raven promises that at least they have a way out of here. She’s too weak to try shape-shifting just yet but she should be able to get that rusted grate loose once she regains her strength. Destiny touches her shoulder and hesitantly declares that she knows Raven will; she has foreseen what is to come. “What?!” Mystique exclaims in surprise. Destiny grabs her and explains that’s why it’s so important Mystique listens to her… Raven is their ace in the hole! Catalyst doesn’t know who she is… or what she’s capable of. She mustn’t let him find out about…
The cell door suddenly opens and Catalyst tosses the chained Sabretooth on the floor. He declares that his patience is wearing thin. Their friend has been less than cooperative. Studying Destiny, he tells her she looks about ready for another session. “What d’you say?” he scoffs at her. Did she miss his gentle caress?
“Leave her alone, you disgusting piece of filth!” Mystique screams as she startles him from behind, lunging at him. Catalyst mockingly suggests she shouldn’t be in such a rush to be his play-toy… she’ll get her turn soon enough! With his mutant power, controlling the rates of chemical reactions taking place around him with but a thought, Catalyst causes exquisite pain to Mystique. The shape-shifter finds herself on the floor, writhing in agony.
With sadistic pleasure, Catalyst assures her that none of them is getting out of here alive. Kicking her face, he admits that her presence here intrigues him. He was expecting Creed to be accompanied by some fellow from Mossad… Amichai something-or-other. “But don’t fret… you’ll do quite nicely,” he chortles. The only question remaining is how much she’s willing to take before she spills her guts! Figuratively speaking, of course: her death shall be far more imaginative than that. He guarantees she’ll be begging him to kill her before the week is out and that’ll be just the beginning!
Coughing, Mystique manages to spell out that he is a sick and deluded…She then stops, realizing she can’t breathe. Cutting her off with a smile, Catalyst assures her she doesn’t know the half of it! Tending to Raven, Destiny demands that Catalyst leave her alone; he’s making a mistake. Mystique doesn’t know anything… she’s the one he wants! How touching, Catalyst scoffs – the selfless martyr. Destiny bravely defies him: she’s not afraid of him.
“Stupid wench!” Catalyst grunts as he slaps her hard across the face. Just who does she think she’s talking to? As he proceeds to grab her arm, Destiny explains that she has the ability to “see” the future. She knows that her fate is inevitable – as is his. She suggests they get this over with. She can at least take comfort in knowing that hers shall be the last face he sees before his death. Still squirming in agony on the floor, Raven gasps, wondering what Irene is talking about.
Forcibly dragging her outside the cell, Catalyst sarcastically argues that Destiny has it the other way around. Irene retorts he presumes too much. She may be blind, but she’s far from helpless. Catalyst believes they’ll see about that and departs with her, leaving the cell door open. A panting Mystique realizes in surprise he’s letting her go. Realizing what horrible fate may expect Irene, though, she calls out her name, screaming “Nooo!”
A little later, feeling better, Mystique realizes she’d better hurry – Creed’s coming to. Shapeshifting into Angel of the X-Men, she quickly flies upwards and manages to break open a crated window on the ceiling. She then hops down again and carries Sabretooth’s body through the grate trapdoor, realizing in discomfort that he’s heavier than she expected. As she and Victor find themselves on an upper level of the facility, Raven realizes that this took more out of her than it should have. Creed will have to get out of those bonds himself. Her priority is getting them away from here. Destiny goaded Catalyst on purpose to save them and Raven doesn’t intend to waste the opportunity. She immediately changes into her Amichai Benvenisti guise.
On top of a snowy mountain, the three Techno-Sassins are at loss. They don’t get it: their sensors say they should be right on top of… Suddenly, a ferocious Sabretooth springs out of the ground, ambushing them. One of the Techno-Sassins realizes that the creep was burrowed in the snow behind them all along! With unparalleled ease, Sabretooth pummels the three agents and then disposes of them by tossing them over the cliff. Exhilarated by this latest bit of “exercising”, he watches with grim satisfaction as the Techno-Sassins helplessly plummet down the hundred-foot drop.
Walking amidst the snowstorm back to where he left Mystique, he finds her sitting on the ground, visibly drained. With brutal honesty, he informs her she looks like death. Mystique strikes back, advising him to check out a mirror. Referring to the explosion, Creed presumes it was her handiwork. Mystique confirms that: courtesy of an explosive failsafe incorporated into the designs of the chalet for just such an occasion. No self-respecting safe house is complete without it!
Following her lead, Sabretooth advises her not to be glib. He believes she realizes that A.I.M. must be tracking them… Of course, Raven assures him. Sabretooth wonders if she knows how. Mystique can tell it’s not through the capsule – she shut off its tracking beacon as soon as they got their hands on it. Unfortunately, the only other possibility is that they’ve found a way to piggy-back onto the signal being transmitted from the X-Factor compound… to the restraining collar around Sabretooth’s neck. Since she reprogrammed the tracking implant in her neck, it must be him. Grinning diabolically, Sabretooth realizes that if she wants to get A.I.M. their backs, she’s going to have to set him free!
Shortly, at a secret hangar located less than a mile from Mystique’s demolished safe house, Sabretooth and Mystique have embarked on a jet. Raven realizes that although her shape-shifting talents have made it child’s play to bypass the collar’s voice-activated security locks, it still would have been impossible to deactivate if she hadn’t made it her business to acquire those command codes some months ago. Unfortunately, shutting off the collar also shuts off the scrambler she left back at Fall’s Edge that has been keeping their whereabouts hidden from X-Factor. She knows it’s a calculated risk, but she’s counting on them completing this mission before they even get a chance to come after them. It’s keeping Creed under control that may prove a problem, though!
Transformed into Forge, she finally manages to take Creed’s collar off. Sabretooth tells her he’s much obliged; that collar was starting to itch! “Believe me… don’t mention it,” Raven quips as she changes back into her genuine form. Seeing Mystique placing the collar in a case, Sabretooth asks her why she’s bringing it along. Raven suggests he thinks of it as an insurance policy in case he tries to cross her. And before he goes getting ideas, she informs him that the case is rigged to administer a lethal jolt of electricity if anyone but her tries to tamper with it.
Satisfied, Mystique sits on the pilot’s seat… and then Sabretooth grabs her arm. “You’re some piece of work!” he growls in exasperation. He hates to burst her bubble but he suggests they make a few things clear. He’s got personal reasons for seeing this through and none of them have to do with concern for her or what was done to that Destiny dame. When this caper’s over, he isn’t going back to the X-chumps! And if she tries to put that blasted leash on him again… he’ll kill her! In fact, he may decide to do that anyway… for the thrill of it! He suggests she watches her back. He doesn’t take kindly to being threatened. Raven ponders that neither does she. They’ll just have to see who comes out on top!
(Several hours later over the Atlantic Ocean)
Piloting the jet, Raven instructs Sabretooth to stop squirming in his seat… and stop scratching the paneling! She reveals this is the home stretch. They’ve just entered the Labrador Sea. Newfoundland’s about three hundred kilometers to their left. According to the coordinates from the schematics in the capsule, Catalyst’s abandoned bunker should be just about coming up.
“There it is!” she suddenly screams as she sees it, looming in the horizon. As they fly over the island, Creed tells her she’s wrong about the place being abandoned. He asks her if she sees all those small blips on the beach; it looks like a small assault force coming out of the water. Raven affirms she sees them. They’ll touch down on that cove right over the…
Suddenly, their jet is hit. Mystique gasps that’s not the worst of it. They just got zapped by an electromagnetic pulse – all the jet’s electrical systems are shorting out! Sabretooth advises her to strap it… they’re going down!
Shortly after the jet crash-lands in the island’s jungle, Sabretooth and Mystique emerge. After making sure that the case containing Creed’s collar is still intact, Mystique tucks it away in a secure place before her sociopathic companion notices what she’s up to and then proceeds to salvage whatever ordnance she can save from the burning wreckage. Sabretooth hisses that the way things are going on their little jaunt so far, he’s beginning to think they should’ve stayed home. Mystique promises that whoever’s gunning for them is sure going to wish they had.
An arduous trek later, Sabretooth and Mystique, close to the entrance of the citadel now, watch an armed conflict in development. Mystique can’t believe it; there’s at least a full garrison of Hydra personnel coming out of that citadel! Victor stresses that in case she hasn’t noticed, those are A.I.M. troops they’re fighting off. He doesn’t know how they did it but those creeps beat them here to the punch! “So much for our precautions,” Raven grouches and targets the combatants with her weapon. “You don’t hear me complainin’!” Sabretooth smirks.
Undetected by the citadel’s sensors, a lone submarine bides its time less than a mile from shore. The vessel belongs to Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), a group formed during World War II as part of the scientific research division belonging to the terrorist organization known as Hydra. Three decades later, political differences led to A.I.M.’s secession. Dedicated to the acquisition of power and the overthrow of all opposing political bodies by way of technological means, A.I.M.’s continued existence is a testament to its perseverance and that of its commanding officers.
In the submarine, agent Ritter informs Commander Cypher that she was right about the occupants of the jet. Sabretooth and Mystique have been spotted approaching the citadel. Cypher grumps that it is an embarrassment to this organization that their best cadre of Techno-Sassins was unable to exterminate those two loose cannons. She has no tolerance for such incompetence, especially when their sloppiness could still cost them the Access program. Ritter retorts that at least the mission wasn’t a total failure. The Techno-Sassins were able to make a visual recording of the capsule’s holographic projection from their vantage point outside the chalet. If they hadn’t transmitted that info back to them before storming in, they’d never have been able to find this place after Mystique shut off that maniac’s collar.
Cypher advises him not to try and cover up his mistakes and blatant disregard for her orders. Mystique and Sabretooth shouldn’t be here at all… didn’t she tell him she wanted them dead? Ritter insists there were… complications. Quite frankly, they underestimated their opponents. A.I.M should be grateful that their quarrel appears to be with Hydra and not with them. “Grateful?!” Cypher spits out in rage.
Once saddled with feelings of inadequacy from an abusive upbringing, Cypher overcame her troubled past and allied herself with A.I.M., in hopes of giving some purpose to her life. Desperate to prove her worth among her superiors, she embraced their cause with an almost religious fervor, going so far as to request the surgical crafting of state-of-the-art cybernetic enhancements to her person. Expert tactical skills and a ruthless code of ethics has instilled fear in her crew and earned the fanatic Commander their grudging respect.
Now snapping out, Cypher tells Ritter that he’s a pathetic little man. It is he who should be grateful that she’s kind enough to provide him with an expedient death! At this, her horribly disfigured, cybernetic left arm lashes out and slays Ritter. Turning to the helmsman, she orders him to maintain present reading, while she’ll be monitoring their progress from her quarters. “Y-yes, commander,” the helmsman stutters.
Back on the island, Sabretooth and Mystique are using A.I.M.’s interference to cover their own approach to the citadel. Pummeling some agents, a thrilled Victor congratulates Mystique. She sure knows how to show a fella a good time… feels just like the old days. “You wish!” Mystique retorts, while shooting at the soldiers. She argues they’ll have a better chance of at least one of them making it inside if they split up. Victor assures that’s fine with him… she was cramping his style, anyway! Mystique retorts she was thinking the same thing and goes her separate way.
On her own now, she contemplates that she never broke any promises she made to Destiny and she’s not about to start now. With the bunker in full operation, it’s imperative now more than ever that she and Creed get what they came for. Catalyst may be dead but Hydra’s still got a lot to answer for in his stead.
Creed suddenly finds himself attacked far and wide by various Hydra agents, who crawl all over him. Struggling to get them off of him, he jumps off a cliff and into a moat below. Seeing a swarm of piranhas instantaneously rushing to them, Creed moans that he should’ve expected that the blasted moat would be infested with them.
Meanwhile, oblivious to her partner’s plight, Mystique assumes the guise of a Hydra agent and successfully infiltrates the citadel’s outer defenses and makes her way inside. So far, so good, she ponders as she moves cautiously throughout the base. When she memorized the layout of this place, she noticed the most sensitive areas, including the main data brinks, were confined to the upper levels. She bets that’s where she’ll find the notes to Catalyst’s access program.
Climbing through a hatch to the levels above, she is suddenly stopped cold in her tracks. A massive, disfigured, stuttering being with disproportionately larger arms and shoulders introduces himself as Dismember. He introduces an equally misshapen man of petite frame and similar skin tone as his gene brother, Corrosion. He alerts her she has noticed a restricted area; infantry men are forbidden here. He warns her to explain her presence or they shall be forced to take action. Here goes nothing, Mystique ponders and tries to come up with a story. She was searching for reinforcements. Their forces are losing ground to the A.I.M. invaders. They’re needed outside to…
Dismember interjects and whacks her: that’s an improper response! As Mystique struggles to get to her feet, Corrosion reaches out with his acid-oozing hands and touches her face. Screaming and collapsing in agony, Mystique involuntarily morphs back to her true form before drifting into unconsciousness. Dismember remarks that’s most interesting. Corrosion notes that the master will want to check out this new specimen personally.