Sabretooth & Mystique #3

Issue Date: 
February 1997
Story Title: 
Willing Victims

Jorge Gonzalez (story), Ariel Olivetti (art, assist by Pier Brito), RS/ Comicraft/ KS (letters), Kevin Somers (colors), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Several years ago in Israel, the sadistic Hydra commander known as Catalyst subjects his prisoner, Destiny, to unspeakable tortures. When Sabretooth and Mystique show up, determined to confront him, Destiny takes advantage of the momentary distraction and pushes Catalyst into a cauldron of acid, seemingly killing him. In the present, Mystique wakes up, only to discover in shock that Catalyst is alive and well, albeit deformed, and runs his secret island fortress. Catalyst explains he survived the Israel incident thanks to his mutant physiology. More importantly, he has almost completed his Access program, with which he will be able to tap into any existing cyberspace, thus restoring Hydra to greatness! Meanwhile, Sabretooth manages to infiltrate the bunker and also discovers Catalyst is alive. Before he can exact revenge from him, though, Catalyst flees. Sabretooth and Mystique quickly find out that the citadel has now been commandeered by the invading forces of A.I.M., led by the nefarious Cypher. Even worse, they are now locked in a chamber about to be filled with deadly cyanogenic gas!

Full Summary: 

When Sabretooth agreed to accompany Mystique on her quest to infiltrate a supposedly abandoned Hydra fortress tucked away on a secret island on the Labrador Sea, he wasn’t expecting to have to contend with a full garrison of armed Hydra personnel. Nor was he prepared for the school of Caribe lurking in the murky waters of the moat surrounding the bunker.

Now, as the blood in the water incites the voracious piranhas into a feeding frenzy, it would appear that Creed is facing certain death. All around him, Hydra agents thrash about uncontrollably as they are ferociously devoured by the unrelenting predators. Even with his incredible recuperative abilities, it is impossible for Sabretooth to be impervious to the excruciating pain of the piranhas’ persistent nibbling, as they tear viciously at his flesh. Creed realizes that the nasty little critters are everywhere. As the churning waters around him thicken with the blood of his former opponents, Creed’s honed instincts refuse to succumb to the deadly onslaught. He pushes himself to stay calm and find a way to keep the piranhas away from him.

Spotting some Hydra agents frantically swimming to the surface, Sabretooth snatches them both and keeps their heads under the water, distracting the piranhas. Creed mockingly apologizes to them… but they would have never made it out of here alive, anyway! He may as well put them to good use! Here, fishy, fishy, he gleefully ponders, hoping that will buy him some breathing room.

While the agents are eviscerated by the piranhas, Sabretooth tries to lend himself some strength: if he doesn’t panic, there’s a chance of getting out of this alive. Trying not to take notice of the increasing agony, he propels himself toward shore, perpetually kicking and slashing at the ravenous attackers. Sabretooth realizes the blasted fishes are still coming after him. He can feel them gnawing on his legs. If they get to his innards before he reaches shore, he’ll be fish fodder!

Sabretooth finally makes it to the shore. Just barely – but he’s alive! He feels his whole body tingling. His mutant healing powers must be kicking in big time. He’s got to focus on something other than the pain. He can hear the gunfire dying down; the battle must be over. He bets the A.I.M. guys got their butts whopped. Despite his sniffing, he can find no trace of Mystique’s scent anywhere outside the bunker. She must’ve gotten inside already, so there’s no sense in putting off the inevitable. He doesn’t want her hogging all the fun!

Ignoring the waves of pain throbbing throughout his body, Sabretooth begins scaling the citadel’s wall, bloodlust and sheer force of will driving him upwards. He decides he’ll have a better chance of sneaking in through one of the upper levels. And then, when he finds whoever’s running this place, he’s going to make sure they die a gruesome death for what he just went through.

(The past)

Within the dank ventilation system of a Hydra stronghold near Jerusalem, C.I.A. operative Victor Creed finally regains consciousness after the ordeal at the hands of the sadistic Catalyst. Masqueraded as an Israeli man, Amichai Benvenisti, Mystique tells him it’s about time he came to… she was getting tired of dragging his sorry-looking butt! “Good to see you, too, Amichai!” Creed grunts. He asks ‘him’ what the heck happened; where are they; where’s Destiny? Raven informs him they’re in an air vent, not far from their cell.

Sabretooth tears his binds and follows Mystique’s leads. From the look of things, Mystique deduces they’re underground, maybe even right under the mosque where they were bushwhacked. As for Destiny… she stayed behind so that they could escape. She wonders whether Creed can track her. Sabretooth replies it’s hard not to; scent’s strong. Catalyst is with her… Mystique growls that before he goes getting ideas, they’re not leaving this place without Irene!

Creed retorts there’s no need for ‘him’ to get all uppity; he didn’t say they were. Still, he wonders: why the overwhelming concern? These two got a fling going on or what?! “Of course not!” Raven exclaims. Destiny’s precognitive abilities are of great value to ‘his’ associates. If Creed must know… ‘he’ was assigned by his superiors specifically to ensure her safety. Creed quips that Amichai botched things up real good. But that doesn’t matter to him, as long as Amichai stays out of his way and leaves taking care of Catalyst to him! Catalyst is his kill! We’ll see… Raven thinks.

The two mutants continue the tedious process of crawling through the labyrinthine network of interconnecting events. Mystique explains to Creed that Catalyst’s mutant powers make him practically untouchable. He can control chemical reactions occurring in his proximity at will. Sabretooth invites ‘Amichai’ to tell him something he doesn’t know. ‘Amichai’ is not the only one who got a dose of his powers firsthand. He suggests ‘he’ quits ‘his’ yapping and keeps it down – they’re getting close. Catalyst and Destiny are somewhere below them. Raven asks him if they’re alone. Sniffing the air, Sabretooth replies that it depends on what ‘he’ means by that… Mystique catches a stench and wonders what it is. Then, as she peers through the air duct below she can’t help but ponder Oh my God…!

Below, in a claustrophobic torture room, Destiny is shackled on the wall by use of chains, decaying corpses everywhere around, a giant cauldron in the center of the room, an album on the record player. Catalyst hopes she appreciates the ambience he’s provided for their… tryst. The adagietto from Mahler’s fifth symphony was always a favorite of his. A beautiful piece, though drenched in such sadness. Sweeping his glasses with a smile, he explains that the corpses are leftover from experiments of his that… didn’t quite work out the way he wanted. He admits that he transferred them here solely to her benefit. After all, he olfactory senses must be pretty heightened due to her blindness. It’s a common enough phenomenon. And the smell of death is such a fascinating fragrance… doesn’t she agree?

“Time to pay the piper, bub!” Sabretooth growls as he hops down from the air duct. “Who the…?!” Catalyst exclaims in surprise. Seizing the opportunity provided by Catalyst’s momentary distraction, Irene strikes in the direction of her torturer’s voice, pushing him into the acid-containing cauldron. In the split-second before all his synapses are fried and his consciousness surrenders to oblivion, Catalyst stares into the face of Destiny, as the words she spoke to him less than six hours ago foretelling his death flash into his mind with mocking resonance.

Angered, Sabretooth snarls that Catalyst deserved to have suffered more; he should’ve been his! He hands over the key to Raven to free Irene so they can get out of here. Raven unbinds her and asks her if she’s all right. Destiny mumbles that he… he never asked her any questions… Mystique assures her it’s over now. Clinging on her, Destiny retorts that although she’s alive, it’s not over… What…? Mystique wonders what she means. Destiny mutters it was worse than she foresaw – much worse.

(The present. Inside the Hydra citadel)

A Hydra agent informs his commander that the last of the A.I.M. invaders have been rounded up. Standing in the shadows and inspecting his prisoner, Mystique, kept in a containment field, his superior asks him to leave them alone, then – and also deactivate the containment field on his way out. He wants the prisoner taken out of stasis. “But…” the agent protests. His commanders orders him to do as he is told and be quick about it. His two goons – Dismember and Corrosion will stay here with him. “O-of course, as you command, Master, all hail Hydra!” the agent complies.

With the containment field deactivated, Mystique drops to the floor. As the cliché goes, Catalyst welcomes her back to the land of the living. Finally looking at the face of her captor, Mystique gasps: “No!” It can’t be… Catalyst! The now horribly disfigured mutant assures her it most certainly is! “In the flesh… so to speak,” he quips. “But how…?” Mystique is at a loss.

Catalyst suggests she blames it on his innate survival instinct. He underestimated the power of his own mutant physiology. His inherent abilities instinctively regenerated the dead cells in his body when he was “killed,” effectively bringing him back to life. Of course, as the cruel fates are always oh-so-quick to point out, everything in life comes with a price. And the price for his apparent immortality is this hideous unearthly countenance he now has, a body ravaged by the scars of his unique methods of self-preservation.

Though Catalyst believes they have more important matters to discuss, such as his unwavering desire to play a pivotal role in the shaping of the new world order. Mocking him for wanting to be humanity’s savior, Mystique scoffs it’s so altruistic of him. She doubts that even Hydra’s current regime will take kindly to whatever it is he’s scheming on the side! Most assuredly not, Catalyst confirms – in fact, he’s counting on getting their ire. Once the Access computer program is completed…

“You mean you haven’t even completed the program?” Raven interrupts him. In retaliation, Catalyst makes her feel horribly dizzy, warning her to watch her tone… or he’ll do more than simply disrupt her equilibrium. He clarifies that Access is on the verge of completion. Once it is fully operational, those short-sighted morons won’t have any more say in Hydra’s affairs. They’ll be quietly eliminated, made to forcibly relinquish their claims to power. And then Catalyst shall take his rightful place as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker’s rightful heir to the position of Supreme Hydra!

“Strucker?!” Mystique exclaims in surprise. Catalyst asks her if she’s heard of him. Of course, Raven replies. He was a Prussian aristocrat who served as a Wing Commander for Nazi Germany’s infamous Death’s Head Squadron and later as leader of the Blitzkrieg Squad of Commandos. The fascist pig was also responsible for Hydra’s recreation. “Sticks and stone, my dear!” Catalyst sniffs in disapprobation. He won’t warn her again about that attitude of hers…!

He tells her that Strucker was a man of vision. His successors inevitably proved to be disappointingly lacking in character. After his death, the organization was split into factions. Sadly enough, these weak fragments were far inferior to the whole. As she has surmised, there’s no love lost between him and Viper, or any of the others who took charge in Strucker’s stead. Those incompetent, self-serving maggots were too full of themselves to get anything worthwhile accomplished. Their sophomoric endeavors have done nothing but run Hydra into the ground!

With an ironic smile, Mystique guesses that this where he comes in. “Naturally”, he replies – doesn’t she see? With Access, he’ll be able to restore Hydra to greatness! He invites her to think of the power at his disposal once he taps into every existing database in the world. Surely, she can grasp the magnitude of his aspirations. “You mean your delusions of grandeur?” Mystique derides him. She warns him he’s living in the past; plots of world domination are no longer in vogue. He and his motley crew are nothing more than those splinter groups he’s so quick to disparage. Catalyst nonchalantly tells her that if she’s trying to get another rise out of him, she’s wasting her pretty little efforts. He’s growing immune to her puerile attempts at antagonism.

Suddenly, he offers her his belated condolences – lest she thinks him rude. He was deeply saddened to hear of Irene Adler’s death. He had hoped to kill her himself once his ascendance into power was complete. How difficult it has been all these years to resist the temptation to seek her out… “Why wait?” Mystique asks him. Catalyst retorts that surely a woman with her cognitive skills understands the necessity of keeping his existence a secret. Working behind the scenes… staying out of the limelight… it was all crucial to his plans. He couldn’t risk revealing himself. Certainly not for petty revenge – Adler wasn’t worth it. Nor were Mystique and that homicidal maniac she persists in associating herself with.

Mystique asks him who Hedrickson was. Catalyst gripes: that conniving little spy forced him to play his hand prematurely. When he discovered Hedrickson was an A.I.M. sleeper agent carefully placed in Hydra’s ranks to infiltrate Catalyst’s hidden fortress, he had Dismember and Corrosion take care of him. But her presence here confirms Hedrickson found a way to inform outsiders of Catalyst’s whereabouts before his death. Raven tells him he’s wrong. Hedrickson told them from the grave. “Pardon…?” Catalyst exclaims. She explains that Hedrickson swallowed a tiny capsule containing a holographic schematic of Catalyst’s island hideaway before his goons got to him. Not searching the body or disposing it properly was pretty sloppy on their part. Catalyst asks her how she learned about this capsule. Raven states the obvious: Destiny foresaw the capsule’s location in one of her visions. She told Raven where to find it before she died.

Catalyst notes that she seems to be extremely well informed for a rogue operative. It’s a shame they didn’t get better acquainted when they were last here as his guest. After their first encounter, he did a lot of research on Mystique; she intrigues him. Her genetic potential alone raises some interesting possibilities about their compatibility. He dares her to think of what could be created by a union between them. Spitting the floor as a response, Raven tells him that she’s sorry to burst his bubble – but he disgusts her! She’d rather die than willingly participate in what he’s suggesting! Catalyst retorts he’s not the uncivilized pervert she makes him out to be. He can be reasonable when he wants. Nevertheless, if she will not cooperate on her own free will, there are other, far more… unpleasant ways of extracting what he desires. He is merely offering her options.

“A place in the ranks of this Hydra-sponsored butcher shop of yours? No thanks!” Mystique cringes. She snidely wonders if he offered those two – Corrosion and Dismember – any ‘options’ before he subjected them to his demented genetic experiments. Sighing, Catalyst sees that any further discussion is pointless. Maintaining an air of indifference, he casually uses his powers to trigger Mystique’s mutant abilities, causing her to go into agonizing spasms as her body starts morphing uncontrollably. Catalyst orders Dismember to bring over the portable stasis unit and put her in. She can struggle if she wishes so but she should know that any resistance shall be met with immediate retaliation. Smug sicko! Have to… bide my time… an aching Mystique thinks as Catalyst’s goons get her back on her feet.

In a submarine just off the island’s coast, the A.I.M. Commanders known as Cypher continues her vigil with customary cool and reserve, surprisingly unperturbed by her forces’ failure to seize control of Hydra’s bunker. Considering that they were meant to serve as nothing more than distractive cannon fodder, that first detachment of troops performed their duties well. She never anticipated that they would actually do as much damage as they did to the bunker’s outer defenses. Thanks to their sacrificial efforts, Hydra believes that this has been a great debacle for the A.I.M. organization, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. With a sly smile, she commands her helmsman to maintain silent reading and initiate maneuver Delta Three. She wants their presence there kept secrets until she deems otherwise. “Yes, commander,” the helmsman obediently replies.

Cypher is confident that Hydra’s complacency after their brief ‘victory’ shall be their undoing. She intends to take full advantage of this opportunity… and catch them with their pants down! She directs her helmsman to order the second assault force to prepare to move in on her signal… they strike as soon as possible!

Back inside the citadel, Victor Creed’s forced entry has not gone unnoticed by Hydra’s minions. Reveling in his sociopathic tendencies, an unrestrained Sabretooth cuts loose and brutally lashes out at the hapless men barring his way.

Suddenly, Creed stiffens as his hyper-keen senses get a whiff of a familiar, yet unexpected smell. The traces of it are faint but discernible among the many other strange smells wafting through the compound. But even after all these years, the scent is unmistakable – and it’s enough to push the already frenzied Sabretooth over the edge of self-control. Brutally slashing the last agent he was holding by the throat, Creed finally admits to himself he’s here – somehow, Catalyst is alive! And he’s gonna be MINE! he ponders in pure hatred, following the smell.

Simultaneously, A.I.M.’s second wave of invaders makes its move, hitting hard and with a vengeance: the organization attacks with a full array of tanks and other technologically advanced armored vehicles of war, relentlessly blasting at the citadel’s entrance, with a very thin Hydra resistance straining to hold back the imminent invasion. Entering one of A.I.M.’s flying vehicles, Cypher tells her pilot to concentrate the fire on the prearranged target areas and let the ground forces take care of the basement areas; they’re more than capable of mopping up this mess on their own. Their priority is to locate, however, is to locate the data banks that contain Catalyst’s Access program. Once they raid the upper levels and personally commandeer Hydra’s computer system, the battle will be won.

In the bunker’s main command center, one of Catalyst’s agents debriefs him that they’ve lost contact with sub-levels two and three, and both auxiliary hangars have been destroyed. Catalyst orders them to seal off the upper levels from the rest of the bunker. The agent explains it’s too late: they’ve penetrated through Hydra’s defenses; levels seven and eight have already been breached. Judging from their points of attack, Catalyst realizes that A.I.M. must be after his Access program. They knew exactly where to hit them to get to it and what weakness to exploit.

He is about to wonder how they knew about it, when suddenly a noise outside the room interrupts his thoughts. “What the…?” Catalyst exclaims before his sees the lifeless body of one of his agents tossed inside the room, while a roaring voice promises outside “You’re next, Catalyst!” Sabretooth appears. “Remember me?” he scoffs at him. He tells Catalyst that he’s nothing but scum and Sabretooth himself is going to be the death of him once and for all!

As the hordes of Hydra pile on top of Sabretooth in an attempt to keep him from reaching their master, stray fire from their weapons hits the stasis unit keeping Mystique captive and frees her. “Thanks for the assist, ‘partner!’” she congratulates him as she grabs a weapon and opens fire against Hydra. She wonders what happened to him. Strangling a Hydra agent, Sabretooth advises her not to ask – they should just be sure to avoid the moat on their way out of here! The moat…?! Raven is startled.

Observing the battle, a panicked Catalyst realizes this is crazy; everything’s gone wrong! But he won’t let A.I.M. – or anyone else, for that matter – steal his life’s work! He orders his loyal goon, Dismember, to come with him and leave Corrosion and the others here to deal with Sabretooth and Mystique. They’ve got to reach the Access chamber before it’s too late!

Corrosion gleefully secretes his acid on Sabretooth’s leg. Meant only as a diversionary tactic, Corrosion’s attack serves its purpose well. Though Sabretooth is able to toss the mutate away, he is too late to stop Catalyst and Dismember from making their escape through an elevator. An indignant Creed realizes they’re gone… and then suddenly, the lights are out. Creed wonders what happened. Raven tells him this is the least of their worries. Doors are locked… which means they’re trapped in here!

Cypher’s face is suddenly projected on every monitor of the room. Addressing the legions of Hydra, Cypher commands them to lay down their arms or face immediate termination. The fortress is now under the control of Advanced Idea Mechanics! Now addressing solely Sabretooth and Mystique, she bids them greetings. She can’t tell them how much she’s been looking forward to this meeting. She confesses they’ve put her through an awful lot of trouble – but that’s all about to end. Hearing a hissing sound, Sabretooth realizes it’s some sort of gas!

Without warning, a larger-than-life hologram of Cypher suddenly materializes in the center of the room. She introduces herself and announces she’s going to be their executioner for this afternoon. She advises them not to bother trying to find a way out. She’s sealed all the exits and tapped into the life support systems. The cyanogenic gas that’s being filtered through the ventilation ducts into this chamber is extremely lethal – even for the two of them. In fact, cardiac arrest is practically instantaneous upon inhalation. She advises them to cherish these last moments together, because they will soon be quite dead.

Characters Involved: 

Mystique, Sabretooth (both X-Factor)


Corrosion, Dismember (Hydra associates)

Cypher II

Various Hydra agents

Various A.I.M. agents

In flashback:





Story Notes: 

Bob Harras is not credited as “editor in chief.” Instead, the credits in the opening page humorously mention “Eaten Alive by Bob Harras,” probably because in that same page Sabretooth is fighting off the voracious piranhas.

Destiny was killed by Legion in Uncanny X-Men #255.

Issue Information: 
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