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Mystique #10

Issue Date: March 2004

Story Title: Tinker, Tailor, Mutant, Spy - part 4

Staff: Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Michael Ryan (penciler), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooton (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Joseph Mike Mayhew (cover), Cory Sedlmeier (editor), Mike Marts (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description:
The Host holds Shortpack hostage and orders Mystique to either give up the mutant smallpox virus or watch him die. Mystique obliges and the Host releases the virus, with Mystique seemingly succumbing to it almost immediately. However, when the Host is trying to reabsorb the virus into herself, she realizes that Mystique was faking it and two women begin a bloody battle, which Mystique wins with the help of some gadgets. She then explains to Shortpack that she had synthesized the vial from her body and that the true virus is safe. A little later, she meets Shepard, who wants the virus as promised. Mystique is tempted but refuses to give it up when Shepard won’t give her a straight answer as to what he plans to do with it. Shepard is satisfied with this reaction, as her healthy doubt shows that she isn’t really working for Xavier. He promises that he and his boss will help her, once she’s completed a real mission for them. Back at his master’s side, Shepard announces that they will be able to use her and then gets in contact with their other resource – Shortpack. Back in New York, Mystique is in for a surprise, as Forge, impressed with the way she handled the mission, asks her out for a date.

Full Synopsis:
The mysterious woman known only as the Host holds the diminutive telepathic telepath Shortpack hostage, threatening to let him fall to his death should Mystique refuse to hand over the deadly mutant smallpox virus to her.

Mystique plays it cool, pointing out they are only a few flights up and Shortpack could survive a fall from twice that height. No, he couldn’t, Shortpack blurts out, ruining her bluff. The Host threatens to kill him should ‘the young ones’ not be returned to her within the next ten seconds. Mystique stalls, whereas Shortpack telepathically urges her to use one of Forge’s weapon on the Host. But then he’ll die, Mystique thinks back at him. Shortpack is willing to make the sacrifice, while the Host counts down.

Mystique tells her to stop it and produces a small vial from behind her back. Slowly, she hands it over to the other woman, asking her to let the kid live. The Host thanks her, takes a gun from her pocket and promises to make it quick as she destroys the vial, proudly claiming that she has just emancipated an entire species.

She’s killed them all, Shortpack states horrified. Not really, the Host retorts, pointing out that she is immune to diseases and a boy his age should have nothing to fear. The mutant strain of smallpox only attacks those heartless monsters who refused to let their bodies host the original virus, people who were inoculated against smallpox, in other words. Shortpack rants about all the innocents who will fall victim to the disease when, suddenly, they hear coughing noises.

Mystique angrily states that she guesses her father did inoculate her, after all. Figures the one kind thing he ever did would come back to kill her. With cool fascination, the Host congratulates her, as her virus has chosen Mystique first. Shortpack urges her to use Forge’s biometric shield, but Mystique reminds him that she’d drained the batteries in her last fight with that walking cesspool. Coughing, she states that she is sorry and shouldn’t have tried to play hero.

Shortpack begs the Host to give Mystique the antidote. The Host laughs and explains that this mutated strain has more in common with Ebola than with traditional smallpox. But its rate of amplification within a host body is far more spectacular than any naturally occurring hemorrhagic fever. It begins with nausea, dizziness and frothing at the mouth, she states, as Mystique starts displaying those symptom, followed by rapid swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, a spreading rash, pustules eat away at skin and in the end. Mystique falls, seemingly dying.

Shortpack cries out in denial and the Host tells him that she isn’t dead yet. Merely entering a comatose state, allowing the virus to incubate and further multiply. So begins a process of explosive transmission, she is eager to expedite. She lowers herself to Mystique and kisses her, intending to suck the virus back into herself. She is surprised when she finds nothing and comes to the realization that Mystique was never inoculated against smallpox!

Yeah, a suddenly very alive Mystique agrees. She’s got this thing about needles. She proceeds to head butt the Host. Furiously, the Host threatens that, if Mystique enjoys altering her appearance so much, she’ll rearrange her face. Both women fight brutally with the stronger Host seemingly having the advantage. She states that Mystique should give it up, as she can’t take her in a fair fight. Who said anything about fair, Mystique retorts, taking out her hairpin Forge prepared for her and giving the Host a nasty electric shock, which causes her to pass out.

Shortpack tells her to hurry. They’ll have to quarantine the area before the virus— Mystique tells him to settle down and shows him an undamaged vial. The virus is safe. The test tube that was shot was empty. So she just happens to carry an empty test tube with her, Shortpack asks suspiciously. No, she made it Mystique explains. To demonstrate what she means a pair of spectacles suddenly appears on her nose. Same way she creates those, she states and adds that glass is easier to synthesize than fingernails or zippers. If he were into evil chicks, he’d be so in love right now, Shortpack sighs admiringly.

He didn’t really believe she’d trade the most powerful bio-weapon ever invented for him? she asks amused. No what are they going to do with the bride of Frankenstein? He’s already summoned their mutant cleanser from Germany, Shortpack explains. She’ll be here any second to put the Host in stasis. So she’s not the only woman in his life? Mystique jokes, before adding that she hates awkward introductions, so she’ll take the next flight back to New York. Shortpack asks her to please be careful. God help them if the virus ever really ended up in the wrong hands.

About one hour later at Nelson Mandel Bridge, Mystique awaits the coming of the mysterious Shepard, whom she has contacted with the necklace he had given her. Mystique informs him that she hasn’t signed on to being his double agent yet, not as long as she doesn’t know whom he is working for. Shep gives an evasive answer, proclaiming that it is superior is a mutant who shares her passion for Homo Superior rights and goes by the name The Quiet Man. Like the John Wayne flick, Mystique asks sarcastically. He jokes she should be careful. Her age is showing. Shepard assures her that he is interested in helping to release her from her “contract” to Xavier.

Mystique replies that then she is interested in going him his down payment and produces the vial with the virus from her cleavage. But what are they planning to do with it? Shepard regrets that he can’t tell her. Then they can both roll over and die, she spits back. Strangely, Shepard congratulates her announcing that she has passed the final test. Had she given up the goods that easily, he would have known that she was working for Xavier as a … triple agent? He assures the angry woman that she’ll be rewarded right after she completes a real counter-mission for them. When she demands more information, he tells her to relax. Patience is a virtue. Too bad all she’s got is vice, she says to no one in particular, as Shepard has already left.

A few seconds later, at an unknown location, Shepard arrives “home,” announcing that she’s in. The mysterious Quiet Man asks if she can be trusted. No, Shepard replies, but he does think that she can be used. A computer beeps and Shepard excuses himself. That should be their other resource checking in. A voice comes from the computer, asking if Shepard is making any progress. Absolutely, Shepard assures him. “How about you, Shortpack?”

Mystique’s New York safe house, twelve hours later.
Mystique enters the basement, shouting out if anybody’s around. A voice shouts for her to watch it and, a moment later, the mannequin next to the door explodes. Forge sheepishly apologizes. Apparently, her new “hair dryer” still needs a little tweaking.

Surprised, Mystique asks Forge what he is doing here. Normally, Professor X is here for the post-game. Forge explains that Xavier is indisposed and alludes to some trouble over at the school. Mystique shrugs it off, cynically announcing that whatever end-of-the-world-drama may be going on everything will be back to normal in six months. Real change only ever happens here, behind the scenes.

Forge replies that, speaking of change, Shortpack emailed him his briefing and he is impressed that she was able to complete the mission without taking a single life. Yeah, she’s sure the Avengers are already sending recruiters over, she quips. Forge insists that her recent behavior is almost unbelievable and nervously announces that he is going to regret asking her this, but—

Mystique cuts him off and angrily asks if he is accusing her of running some kind of scam. After she’s finished ranting, he sheepishly explains that actually he was wondering if she’d like to go out for a cup of coffee sometime. Mystique is at a loss for words.

Characters:
Mystique/ Raven Darkholme
Shortpack
Forge

Shepard
The Quiet Man

The Host

Notes:
The Quiet Man: A 1952 movie starring John Wayne and Maureen o’Hara. Kind of an Irish village version of “the Taming of the Shrew”, interestingly enough with an Irish character named Sean. Makes you wonder...

It is unclear to which trouble at Xavier’s Forge is alluding. While this story comes out at around the same time as the “Planet X” storyline over in New X-Men, this story doesn’t only concern Xavier’s School but all of New York. Perhaps he is referring to the events in the “Riot at Xavier’s” storyline.

This Issue has been reprinted in:
Mystique Vol. 2: Tinker, Tailer, Mutant, Spy (Trade Paperback)
Mystique by Brian K. Vaughan Ultimate Collection (Trade Paperback)

Issue Summary written by: Ruth


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