Sabretooth & Mystique #4

Issue Date: 
March 1997
Story Title: 
Dead Ends

Jorge Gonzales (writer), Ariel Olivetti (pencils), Pier Brito (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft/ KS (letters), Kevin Somers (colors), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

In Catalyst’s secret island fortress, Cypher, the cybernetically enhanced A.I.M. commander who has commandeered the base, proceeds to download Catalyst’s Access program in her data banks. The program will enable her access into any known cyberspace. Meanwhile, after they successfully escape the main control chamber, Sabretooth and Mystique decide to split up: the former is assigned to destroy Catalyst’s program by any means necessary, whereas the latter will pursue Catalyst himself, before he flees the island. In short time, Cypher realizes the program has been rigged by Catalyst, thus making it impossible for her to download. Still, she decides to activate the program anyway, hoping it will plunge the world into chaos to the advantage of A.I.M. Sabretooth intervenes and, after a brief fight, Cypher has a proposition for him: she will allow him to destroy the program, in exchange of allowing her to leave. Sabretooth complies and demolishes the program. Meanwhile, just as Catalyst is about to escape the island, Mystique startles him by appearing before him in the guise of the late Destiny. Terrified to see the face of the woman who almost killed him once, Catalyst falls off the cliff and becomes sustenance for the piranhas in the moat below. Subsequently, Sabretooth and Mystique evacuate the self-destroying bunker. Before Sabretooth can flee, Raven reveals she has poisoned him with an odorless gas. Only she knows the antidote, which she will not reveal unless he puts his restraining collar back on and follows her obediently back to the X-Factor. Much to his chagrin, Creed is forced to comply.

Full Summary: 

A berserk Sabretooth presses the genetically engineered mutate called Corrosion against the doors of their makeshift prison. “Who’s laughing now, acid-face?” Creed snarls. Moments ago the psychopathic Sabretooth and his companion, the mutant metamorph known as Mystique, were locked inside the Hydra bunker’s command center after the calculating A.I.M. commander, Cypher, and her troops stormed the citadel and assumed control over the fortress’ extensive computer networks. To make matters worse, the ruthless Cypher subsequently tapped into the command center’s life support systems and converted the room into a bona fide death trap by releasing cyanogenic gas into it.

Sporting large gargoyle-like wings, hoping they will briefly keep the gas away from them, Mystique advises Sabretooth to not get too carried away. They need Catalyst’s nasty little henchman alive if he’s going to be their ticket out of here. All around them, gas is diffused in the room, almost instantaneously killing every Hydra agent it comes across. Sabretooth retorts she doesn’t have to remind him; he knows what he’s doing! Raven suggests he gets on with it already. They don’t have time to dawdle. Maybe he hasn’t noticed… but if they don’t hurry they’re all going to be deader than the proverbial doornail. That A.I.M. witch wasn’t kidding about the quick-acting nature of the lethal gas being filtered into the room!

“You hear that, pipsqueak?” Sabretooth tells Corrosion as he grabs him by the throat. If he’s got any notions of self-preservation, he’d better get that smelly secretions of his pumping away like mad! Mystique hopes that the acidic properties of that gunk oozing out of Corrosion’s pores are strong enough to dissolve through the doorway before the air in here gets so saturated that it becomes impossible for her to keep the poison gas from reaching them. Sabretooth urges her to put her mind at ease: it’s working! They’re going to make it!

Seconds later, the desperate gamble pays off: Corrosion’s acid corrodes the wall, granting a safe passage to an adjacent corridor. Sabretooth confesses he’s sick of wasting his energy on Catalyst’s two-bit minions. Time to move on to the main event!

The Access Chamber

Standing on top of a towering platform, with her cybernetically enhanced brain tapped into the system, Cypher orders her A.I.M. troops to hurry up and bring in those power generators. She wants the equipment hooked up and the room resealed ASAP so that she can finish processing all this data without further interruptions. “You heard the Commander, boys. Get to work… post haste!” one of the agents urges his colleagues.

Without warning, a secret panel along the wall noiselessly slides open. Catalyst appears and sneers at Cypher, quipping that A.I.M. is just full of surprises these days: his would-be usurper isn’t even fully human! “Catalyst?! You’re alive?!” an astounded Cypher exclaims. “Obviously so,” Catalyst nonchalantly replies. He presumes she must be Commander Cypher. He never realized her much vaunted cybernetics department had become so innovative in their use of the latest interactive hardware. He’s impressed… but even her technological enhancements won’t be enough to crank his databanks’ safeguards.

Cypher implores him to spare her the diatribe. He’s too far away for his powers to have an effect on her. And she’s already bypassed his pathetic security codes, as well as finished her own computations for completing the Access program. Either he’s not the big wig scientific genius he’s made himself out to be… or she’s much smarter than he gives her credit for. She invites him to take his pick. In the meantime, he and his lackeys can consider themselves her prisoners. “Seize them!” she commands her minions.

However, Catalyst’s goon, the misshapen, genetically engineered mutate known as Dismember stutters that no one must harm the master and strikes back at the attacking agents. Next to him, Catalyst holds his ground, using his ability to control the rates of chemical reactions to incapacitate the rushing A.I.M. troops.

Simultaneously, near the Access chamber’s main entranceway, Sabretooth and Mystique make their way rather violently through the masses of A.I.M. soldiers guarding the entrance. “No more games, folks,” Mystique scoffs as she opens fire at them – they’re all being put out of business permanently!

Inside the chamber, Cypher realizes that her troops are being slaughtered, and whatever reinforcements are already on the way won’t make get here in time to do her any good. She realizes she has to hurry and download the Access program into her memory banks!

Entering the chamber together with Mystique, Sabretooth tells Catalyst he’s coming for him and asks him if he knows what they say about “payback!” A terrified Catalyst realizes this changes everything: with those two bloodthirsty psychopaths still running loose, he runs the risk of losing a lot more than just the Access program. He’s overexerted his powers, as it is, fighting off Cypher’s operatives. He’s not sure how to fare against Sabretooth and Mystique while in this weakened condition; he’d rather not find out. Much as he hates abandoning his life’s work, it’s not worth losing his life over. He’s a survivor. As long as he makes it out of here alive, he can always rebuild.

Violently snapping the body of an A.I.M. agent, a berserk Dismember roars that puny men must die for daring to attack his master. Catalyst tells him to come on… they’re leaving! As they both flee through, Catalyst contemplates that a good strategist knows when to cut his losses and retreat. Cypher would be well advised to do the same, he theorizes, though personally he’d much like to see her reap the rewards of the fate she so richly deserves. He’s sure she and X-Factor’s resident killers will get along nicely.

“Blast!” Sabretooth curses as he realizes Catalyst and his lapdog are ducking out of here. “Leave them to me!” Mystique snarls and her gargoyle wings again germinate in her back. “No way, lady! Catalyst is mine!” Sabretooth retorts. “Sorry, Creed… but ‘no’ can do!” Raven rebuffs his assertion and flies off. Creed asks her to wait! Before she vanishes in the passage in pursuit of Catalyst, Raven reminds him that she’s counting on him to destroy the Access program. As she passes through the passage, the panel slides shut behind her.

Meanwhile, Cypher is still processing the data, when she suddenly realizes she’s been assimilating gibberish! She wonders how that can be. Unless… curse him! she ponders as she realizes that Catalyst must have rigged the program so it can’t be downloaded onto other systems! Lost in her reflections and failing to notice that Creed is climbing the platform, she contemplates that at least the original Access program itself wasn’t erased. She may not able to take it with her, but she can still activate it from here and hopefully buy herself enough time to…

Suddenly, Sabretooth lunges at her, uttering a ferocious growl. Tearing apart her cybernetic arm, Victor states that it looks like it’s just the two of them now – and he’s got a mad-on she wouldn’t believe! Addressing him as “freak,” Cypher vows he’ll pay for this. Creed retorts she’s got a lot of nerve to call him a freak, when she’s not even all flesh and blood herself! Of course, that makes no difference to him as long as she’s still got enough parts that do bleed. He hopes she’s ready to play, ‘cause he hasn’t had his quota of enemy blood for the day!

Mechanical tentacles suddenly emerge in lieu of Cypher’s cybernetic arm and constrict Sabretooth’s neck. Creed chokes before he punches at Cypher’s face, causing her tentacles to let go of him. He then presses his thumb in her mouth, hoping to smother her. However, Cypher breaks loose and tells him that he may’ve caught her off-guard, but that mistake will never happen again. Saying this, she pierces right through his stomach! A bleeding Creed falls back as Cypher realizes she has to re-establish her link with Catalyst’s data banks as quickly as possible. With that mutant healing factor of his, she knows Sabretooth won’t be out of commission for very long.

Straining to get on his feet, a staggering Sabretooth tells himself that he’s gone through too much to let a stupid hole in the gut keep him from doing what he’s got to do. Before Cypher has a chance to escape through the passage, Creeds catches up with her: “Guess who’s back, babe!” Cypher demands he stay away from her; he’s too late! “Too late for what?!” Creed wonders. Cypher insists there’s a lot more at stake than he realizes! She’s already activated the Access program and used it to tap into the Norad installation at Cheyenne mountain. From his C.I.A. background, she’s sure he’s familiar with the facility and its control over North America’s defense systems…

Victor asks her to stop pussyfooting around and just give it to him straight! As her artificial tentacles again wring his neck, Cypher explains that, in less than five minutes, the program will finish deciphering the installation’s encryption codes and transmit a signal originating directly from Norad’s computer network, ordering one of the United States’ submarines near the Baltic Sea to launch a thermonuclear strike against Russia. An international incident will ensue. The resulting war will plunge the world into massive economic and social upheaval from which the A.I.M. organization will reap ungodly profits and emerge stronger and more powerful than ever!

Of course, Cypher teases him, if lets her go and concentrate his energies on trying to destroy the chamber, he may yet sever the transmission and put a stop to the cataclysm before it occurs. Clasping her head despite choking from the tentacles coiled around his neck, Sabretooth retorts that what she means to say is that he puts the scare on her, so she’s ready to skip out on her pet project if it’ll save her skin!

Cypher clarifies that she prefers to think of it as a détente. She can’t take the Access program with her… but at least she can ensure that nobody else will get it either. She asks him to think of it as opportunity to prove to himself that there’s still a shred of humanity inside him. That he’s not just a homicidal maniac; a savage killing machine ruled by primal urges beyond his control. And that, for once, he’s willing to put the welfare of others above his own selfish desires. She’s giving him a choice. The countdown to Armageddon has already begun: he can either satisfy his animal bloodlust… or avert World War III and save the lives of millions of people.

For what seems an interminable moment, Sabretooth considers his options… and he finally makes his decision. Pushing Cypher away, he warns her it’s not over – not by a long shot. He vows they’ll meet again. With precious seconds ticking away, Sabretooth takes to the task with a vengeance, just as Cypher flees the room. Since Creed doesn’t even know which flaming piece of equipment is actually responsible for sending out that signal to Norad, he decides he’ll just have to destroy everything on sight! Smashing everything, he calculates that once the power generators catch fire, this whole place is going to kingdom come; his job’s almost done! Indeed, a massive explosion ensues.

In the air ducts, Mystique feels the tremors and realizes that was a monster of an explosion that just went off. From the look of things, she deduces this bunker’s structural stability has been rendered non-existent… which means this whole place is about ready to collapse! She wonders: could it somehow be Creed’s doing? If it is, she’s impressed. Score one for what passes as good guys around this joint, she humorously ponders. Crawling outside the air duct and climbing an external fixed ladder that leads on the roof, she thinks that now if only she could catch up to…

Bingo! she suddenly thinks as she encounters Catalyst and Dismember on the roof, about to pass through a gate. Raven immediately targets them with her gun. “Mas-ter… look out!” Dismember stammers. Without hesitation, Mystique shoots Catalyst, getting his right shoulder. An injured Catalyst groans that Mystique’s continued interference on his affairs can no longer be tolerated! He immediately orders Dismember to dispose of her! Dismember sheepishly verifies it will be his pleasure and lunges at her, just as Catalyst flees through the gate.

Avoiding Dismember’s strikes, Raven is aware she can’t let him get his paws on her. She asks him just how dense that brain of his. Transmogrifying into a hideous, monstrous version of herself, complete with fangs and claws, she invites Dismember to take a look around him: this so-called impregnable fortress of his is coming apart at the seams! Indeed, the bunker beneath and the surrounding mountainside are still shuddering from explosive aftershocks, causing large rocks and boulders to smash down from above onto the battlefield like deadly projectiles.

Mystique asks Dismember if he even cares his wonderful master just left him here to die along with her. Dismember argues that Catalyst gave him life. Without him he would have never been created. It shall be an honor to sacrifice his own life for Catalyst’s! Great. So much for talking my way past the brute, Raven contemplates. She’d better find a way to take him out fast, or Catalyst is going to get away. She decides to start by moving to more uneven ground to help balance the odds. She just has to keep at him and try to set him up so that he puts himself in a precarious position below some of the falling rubble.

Indeed, her plan works and Dismember soon ends up buried under rubble. Good riddance, Mystique thinks. As for Catalyst, the schematics from the capsule indicated that there’s a hidden hangar tucked away on that bluff between here and the satellite dish. Most likely, his escape route leads right up to it. With any luck, she can beat him there by taking a more direct route.

Moments later, at the cleverly camouflaged hangar overlooking the bunker

Even at this height, the face of the mountain is trembling from the increasing explosions that are rocking the burning fortress below. A panting Catalyst emerges from the mountainous passageway and makes to an escape vehicle. Suddenly, a voice behind him warns him that there’s nowhere left to run. His fate was sealed the day he embraced the path of evil. Turning around, Catalyst’s face turns into a mask of horror. “No! It’s not possible…! Destiny?!” he shrieks in terror. ‘Destiny’ scolds him: did she not warn him that hers would be the last face he sees before his death?

The scared Hydra scientist panics and stumbles back, horrified by the sight in front of him. Shaken off-balance by the explosions tearing at the mountainside, he slips and falls off the edge of the cliff. Flying shrapnel sprays Catalyst’s face on the way down, as his unconscious body drops helplessly into the piranha infested moat surrounding the compound. The carnivorous fish feast on his at once.

Observing Catalyst’s death from above, Mystique, still wearing the face of a young Irene Adler, addresses her deceased friend: “Irene? You can rest easy now, my friend”. Morphing into her true appearance, Raven realizes it’s over. This time it’s over for good – just like she promised.

Commandeering one of the escape vehicles from the hangar, Mystique makes her way to the other side of the island and returns to the spot where the wreckage from her mini-jet lies scattered throughout the brush. Looking for a particular item, she is surprised to realize it isn’t here.

Suddenly, Sabretooth waylays her as he jumps on her and brutally smacks her face. Indignant, Mystique asks him if that’s any way to thank her after she went into the trouble of confiscating a transport so they could get off this place. Creed clarifies he didn’t appreciate that stunt back there. “What stunt?” Mystique asks him. Sabretooth insists she knows good and well what he’s talking about. Running out on him so that she could take care of Catalyst on her own was not part of the plan. Raven justifies herself by explaining she saw an opportunity and seized it; he would have done the same. That sucker punch should call them even.

Not quite, Sabretooth disagrees and produces a case, asking her why she was looking for this. “Why do you think?” Mystique retorts. He’s going to put on the restraining collar that’s in that case and then she’s taking him back with her to Fall’s Edge! “Back to X-Factor?” Creed snarls. No way – he told her he’d kill her if she tried to put that leash back on him… and he meant it. Mystique believes he misunderstands. She’s not going to put that collar around his neck. He is going to do it himself.

Sabretooth snickers that she’s got a twisted sense of humor. Why would he ever want to do a thing like that? Mystique swiftly answers: because he’s not blind to what’s been going on. The Onslaught incident only exacerbated the growing anti-mutant hysteria. With each passing day, groups such as Humanity’s Last Stand are gaining momentum and popularity with the masses. Their kind are being hunted down in increasing numbers. As much as he may not like to admit it, he knows it’s in their best mutual interest to remain with X-Factor, at least for the moment.

“No thanks!” Sabretooth retorts and clarifies he’ll take his chances in the outside world. A lethal jolt of electricity – isn’t that what she warned him about if he tried tampering with the case? He’s afraid her insurance policy turned out to be a bust. The way he figures it, the same electromagnetic pulse that downed their plane must’ve also knocked out her trite little boobytrap. “And whadoyouknow… I was right!” he exclaims as he tears open the case and nothing happens.

Raven implores him to wait. Before he destroys that collar, he’s going to want to hear her out. Sabretooth tells her he’s listening but advises her to make it quick! She reveals that the high-voltage shock wasn’t her only failsafe. Knowing that even his healing factor has limits, she rigged the case to emit an odourless gas when tampered with. Sabretooth can’t believe it: she poisoned him?! Mystique confirms that’s right. And unless he returns with her to Fall’s Edge wearing that collar, she won’t tell him where to find the antidote… and he’ll be dead in a few hours. She urges him to hurry up and put it on so they can get it out of here.

Sabretooth retorts she’s bluffing. Raven wonders if he is willing to take that chance. The two mutants remain speechless, exchanging glances of animosity… and a furious Victor finally gives up. Wearing his collar again, he warns Mystique to better stay on her guard, because one of these days she won’t be holding all the aces… and he’s going to be there to make sure she gets her comeuppance! As their jet takes off, Mystique tells him to look on the bright side. Even though he just averted a World War, no one’s ever going to know about it. She advises him to cheer up – at least, his bad boy reputation is still intact!

Characters Involved: 

Mystique, Sabretooth (both X-Factor)


Corrosion, Dismember (Hydra’s associates)

Cypher II

Various Hydra agents

Various A.I.M. agents

Story Notes: 

Last appearances to date of Catalyst and Cypher II.

Issue Information: 
Written By: