(1921, Kansas City, United States of America)
The city is generally known as the Paris of the Plains, but Mystique calls it a grifter’s dream. She chats to Logan, who is dressed smartly in a striped suit and hat. She informs him that the cops and judges are all on the take, which leaves them to ply their trade unmolested. Downtown, she has Big Pearl and Pete the Pygmy working the trolleys. The way they fleece the fat cats sure is a sight to see. Pearl wears a big dress under which Pete hides. When he gets the opportunity, he pops out from under it and pickpockets the unsuspecting commuters.
In the North End, she adds, Honeypot May is pinching pocketbooks from Johns and biting the diamonds off their tiepins. In the West Bottom, she has Six-Fingered Soapy dealing three card monte and One Eyed Ande running the glim-dropper scam, as well as every other bit of bunko he can imagine being worked. She spent three years putting together her team of swindlers, and he can trust her in that they might look like freaks, but every single one of them is the best there is at what they do. Nearby, Logan sees Six-Fingered Soapy paying cards with two punters. He tells Mystique, or Raven as he calls her, that he doesn’t deal cards, pick pockets or turn tricks. What exactly does she need him for?
“Son of a bitch,” shouts one of the punters, angrily. He grabs Soapy by the right arm and tells his friend that he knew it. He’s a damn cheater. Dirty freak has too many fingers. His companion pulls out a knife and tells his friend to hold him still. He’ll remedy that. Logan intervenes and warns the guys to let Soapy go but they tell him to mind his own business. “I said… let him go!” Logan reiterates.
The knifeman leaps from his feet and tries to stab Logan, but he holds his hand out and the knife slides through the palm and out the other side. The guy lets go of it and Logan looks back at him, unimpressed. He then removes the knife to their astonishment and the knifeman pulls out a gun. “Shoot him, Jeb, ‘fore he kills us both!” says his friend. He shoots Logan point blank, but Logan slices three of his fingers off with the knife, forcing him to drop the weapon.
The guy grabs his hand in agony as Logan orders his friend to collect the guy’s fingers and get outta there. He warns them not to return. “Does that answer your question?” asks Mystique. Soapy thanks Logan before realizing he’s been shot in the gut. Logan asks him not to have a conniption. It ain’t the first time he’s been shot. God knows it won’t be his last.
(present, the Safed Koh Mountains, Afghanistan)
Wolverine is dragged by his feet by two of the gunmen that have just shot him. He’s been shot many times before, but he never gets used to it. It doesn’t matter how tough you might think you are, you don’t ever get used to being shot to hell. The two men toss him down into a ravine.
(ten minutes earlier)
Mystique has successfully framed Logan for the murder of a local woman and her fellow villagers shoot Wolverine, a lot, with their machine guns. He can’t blame them for this after what Mystique did, but it means he has to take his lumps, and concentrate on counting every one of the bullets so he’ll know exactly how much payback Mystique has got coming.
As he lies in the ravine, recovering slowly now his healing factor isn’t what it used to be, he thinks about how, whoever it was that coined the old saying, ‘Whatever don’t kill you, only makes you stronger,’ ain’t never been shot in the face with a double-barreled shotgun. He wakes up feeling like 200 pounds of arthritic hamburger. His nerve endings fire back to life in explosions of tiny needles. Trying to move only makes it worse as he feels bullets grinding against bone. Metal on metal. Gunpowder, blood and bile.
His lungs take time to recover so it’s hard for him to catch his breath as he gets up. It’s times like this that he actually feels his age. He cold just lay there until the healing’s all done, daydreaming about playing linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers or living life as a nameless farmer in Poughkeepsie. But, as usual, he has place to go and people to kill. He has to pick up Mystique’s trail before it grows cold.
(two days later, the Green Zone Café, Baghdad)
Wolverine enters the café, in costume, and finds mostly soldiers dotted around the place. He sniffs the air and walks to the bar, ordering a bottle of the strongest stuff the barman has and two glasses. He then takes them to a table where a nun is seated. “Hiya Raven,” he says, “How ‘bout I buy ya a drink?” Mystique says sure. Why not? Logan takes a seat and pours the drinks
Mystique hopes he isn’t looking to start any trouble. She and the boys were certainly not looking for trouble. Logan sees a group of young boys behind her, seemingly in her care. Mystique asks him what could be more innocent than a nun and her orphans. Logan tells her she is a despicable old wench. She puts the glass to her lips. “Here’s to old friends, Logan.” Wolverine takes a sip. “And to settling old scores.” They both knock back the liquor, and Wolverine coughs up a bullet. He tells Mystique that it’s just one more thing he owes her for.
Mystique tells him that she’s not ashamed of what she’s done. She’d do it all again in a heartbeat, but who the hell is he to judge her anyway? Wolverine replies that she betrayed the X-Men and it’s his job to ensure she pays. She reminds him that it’s not the first time she’s betrayed his precious X-Men. Why did he wait so long until now to start taking it personally? He pours himself another shot and tells her that she knows how it’s going to play. He can’t kill her there and she can’t hide from him. Why don’t they step outside and get this over with? He promises to make it quick for old times’ sake. Mystique snarls that she can keep up this little chase forever. Can he? Don’t the Avengers need help saving the world? Or maybe one of the other half-dozen groups he runs with? Wolverine replies that the world can take care of itself for a spell.
She stands up and finishes her drink, pauses, and then slaps him across the face hard. “How dare you get fresh with me, you filthy beast?” she snaps. She rushes from the café with the children in tow and Wolverine gets up to follow. As he heads for the door, a big guy steps between them and warns him to leave the sister be. Wolverine tells him that he knows it seems like he’s doing the right thing, but can he please tell him he’s a really bad guy at heart? Does he beat his kids, cheat at cards, kick stray dogs? He wants something to work with so he doesn’t feel so bad when he kicks his ass. The guy replies that the only thing he’s hurting are his nostrils. He thought the rag-heads smelled bad. A racial slur is all Logan needs. One second later, the big guy is defenestrated.
Outside, one of the orphans asks ‘Sister Betty’ if she saw that. Mystique wastes no time in smashing the window of a parked truck and climbing into the front seat. She transforms into her normal blue self and offers a piece of advice to her young charges. “It’s a tough world out there. Learn to adapt, and most importantly… never trust anybody.”
(1921, Kansas City)
It’s pouring with rain and forks of lightning rock the city. Logan and Mystique are in an apartment and Mystique tells him that it’s hard to trust people. She knows. They both learned a long time ago to never trust anybody. That was the only way to survive. But, he’s safe there, with her. He replies that there ain’t no such thing as safe. Not in his experience. She says that there is. It’s called safety in numbers. He’s been there two weeks already. Maybe he should start to give them a chance. This could be his family. Her crew toast to another good day’s take as she adds that this could be their family.
Logan pulls away from her touch and tells her he doesn’t think so. Raven says she is offering him a chance to belong to something greater than himself, but he asks how. By swindling nickels and dimes? Mystique grins as she informs him she has something much bigger than that, but she needs him to pull it off. She tries to persuade him that opportunities like this don’t come along very often. They can do great things together. As they embrace, she asks him to trust her on this.
(the present, somewhere along the Iraqi border with Syria)
Senator Brickman rubs his fingers along Mistress Zahira’s thigh. He tells her that he’s been all over the country, and she is the only thing left in the whole godforsaken place that doesn’t turn his stomach. With all the damn meetings they have scheduled for him, did she think he wasn’t coming for her this time? She replies that she was counting on it. Everybody knows he can’t resist paying her a visit when he’s in town.
He stands and removes his red shirt, telling Zahira that he wants to do some more of the crazy positions like last time. She lifts her legs and grabs him by the neck, pulls him down onto the bed, and uses her strength to suffocate him. “Whassamatter, lover?” she smiles. “Was this not what you had in mind?” She then transforms into Mystique and asks if that was good for him. A voice from outside calls for the senator and she transforms into him. The soldier asks if everything’s all right. She straightens her tie and replies that she feels like a million bucks. How about him? He replies that they’re ready to roll out whenever he’s ready. She asks what he could do without them. “You boys are sure a lifesaver.”
(two hours later)
Wolverine follows Mystique’s trail. As soon as he heard about the senator’s visit, he knew what her next move would be. He finds Brickman, dead under the bed, and figures he was a mite too slow. He reckons Mystique thinks she can scare him off by putting a platoon of marines between them, and it’s true that her tricks have saved her so far. But, this time he has a few tricks of his own.
(the next day, the Iraqi Province of Al Anbar)
In the mountains, Wolverine approaches a cave where four men are standing guard. They rush towards him and aim their weapons. Logan places his hands behind his head and informs them that he is there to see Mordad. They can tell him it’s the infidel that saved his ass from the Russians in ’86. “Tell him I’m calling in a favor,” he adds.