Issue Date: June 2004
Story Title: Nevermore
Staff: Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Michael Ryan (penciler), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooton (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Cory Sedlmeier (Editor), Mike Marts (consulting editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Mystique is at the carnival in Rio, where she’s supposed to find the stolen hand of a mutant who was able to turn lead to gold. Shortpack informs her that the hand was stolen by a tall woman with a headdress and sequins. Of course, during Carnival, this describes dozens of women. Pretending to be the queen of the carnival, Mystique enlists the help of some men, who find the woman in question. Mystique hits her with a tranq dart, but strangely enough the woman is still able to fight her and to flee. Mystique follows and runs into Shepard, who wants to chat with her about her final mission. Instead, Mystique gives the necklace back. Shortpack finally gives her the right idea: the woman fled into the sewers. Disguised as a worker, Mystique surprises her and finally learns that “she” is actually a pre-operative transsexual, who stole the hand so he’d get money for the operation he needs to finally escape the prison he considers his sex. Taking pity on him, Mystique uses the hand to transform a lead pipe into gold, which should give him enough money for the operation. Shepard returns, telling her he knows why she did this: she can’t harm people when she recognizes a part of herself in them. He returns the necklace and tells her mission is to kill Charles Xavier.
Shepard also secretly contacted Shortpack, stringing him along with the promise of getting Prudence’s murderer. The next morning, Shortpack and Mystique have a talk and Mystique seems to be much happier with herself, even while she points out that she won’t be working for Xavier forever.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6.19 PM [BRST]
Carnival in Rio. Mystique stands in the crowd, looking like James Bond and dressed impeccably in a sharp tux. She is not amused. Telepathically contacting her field handler, Shortpack, she announces that she just landed in this godforsaken tourist trap after a particularly nasty low-altitude parachute jump out of a sonic jet. She is not in the mood for exposition.
In a hotel room, the diminutive Shortpack stands on a notebook and gives her the condensed version of events: someone’s stolen the severed hand of a dead mutant named Alchemist, whose touch could supposedly turn lead to gold. Apparently, the corpse still has some mojo in it. So, if hand fell into the wrong … well hands, the global economy will fold. He doesn’t notice that, behind him, a cat enters through the opened window.
Back in the crowd, Mystique impatiently interrupts him. Can’t he just tell her what the thief looks like? Xavier’s contact said the body part was snatched by a six-foot-tall woman, wearing sequins and some kind of headdress, Shortpack replies. How hard could that be to spot? Behind him, the cat gets ready to pounce on him.
Mystique takes a look at the revelers around her. The crowd is full of tall, scantily clad tall beauties with headdresses. Shortpack, some days I really think, I’d be better off without you, she sighs.
Still in a chipper mood, Shortpack fends off the cat’s attack with a pencil taller than he is. Admittedly, that the robbery took place during Carnival complicates things, he agrees, but all hope is not lost. When Prudence was his agent, she used her powers during the Venice carnival to jump into the body of a woman they were — She thought they’d agreed not to talk about people who died under his watch, Mystique reminds him. He apologizes and gets back to the point. His Intel says the item is stored in a special black velvet pouch with a red handle. That any help?
Maybe, Mystique considers. Bit if she’s going to get anything done in this circus she better ditch the black and whites and turn on the Technicolor. She turns into her standard shape and draws everyone’s attention to her claiming that she is the Queen of the Carnival. She’d like to present them with this year’s challenge. One of her lovely handmaidens has, in her possession, an ebony satchel with a touch of crimson. The first one to find her, shall receive a rewards… a kiss from their beloved queen.
Going wild, the men in the crowd start looking and one guy quickly finds the lady in question.
Beauty, Mystique announces and shoots the woman in the chest. The crowd disperses in panic, to which Mystique just announces if nobody has ever seen a stupid tranquilizer gun before. She heads to the unmoving form of the woman. Suddenly, though, the other woman grabs her arm and kicks her in the face.
Mystique angrily makes a threat but the other woman just hits her again and snarls that she talks too much and her Portuguese is terrible. She runs off and Mystique follows, while telepathically asking Shortpack what she is dealing with here. She hit that chick right in the chest. But the extra strength tranq did jack to her.
Shortpack has, in the meantime, tamed the cat and is petting it. Maybe she’s another mutant or cyborg or something, he suggests. There’s a good pussycat, he tells the purring cat.
Misunderstanding, Mystique threatens, if he just called what she thinks he did, she’s going to tuff him in an envelope and send him to—
She runs into a back alley but there’s nobody there. Looks like our chick learned to fly, she announces wryly. Mystique considers what to do, She can’t have gotten far. Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover anything but the obvious, a voice suddenly announces. It’s Shepard. Leave it to him to pick the one Oscar Wilde quote she hates, Mystique retorts and breaks off contact with Shortpack.
Does he have something to do with that heist, she demands. What heist, he asks. He just wanted to have a quick chat with her about the final counter mission she is to perform for the Quiet Man… the one that will earn her her freedom. It’ll have to wait, she snarls. She is in the middle of something. Well, he didn’t mean to interrupts one of her errand runs for the mighty Charles Xavier, he replies. Maybe she is starting to enjoy her forced conscription to his little army.
This isn’t about Charlie, she retorts. This is about some broad who kicked her in the face and her beating the life out of her. So he better move, or she’ll practice on him. If she doesn’t like their secret rendezvous, why is she still wearing the necklace that allows him to locate her, he asks. Good question, Mystique states, pulls it off and puts it into his hand. So long, handsome, she calls as she leaves. She’s done being his sheep.
She contacts Shortpack again. Does he have anything for her? Maybe, he replies and explains how the Alchemist’s hand was stolen from the compound where it was stored. No traditional entrances were breached. The only access points were an air-conditioning system and a drainage grate. She’s using the sewers, Mystique deducts. She remembers a manhole cover back in the alley. She opens the manhole before her and climbs down.
Unknown location, a few minutes earlier.
Shepard teleports back to the secret location, where the mysterious Quiet Man is waiting for him. Strangely unfazed, he announces that this went about as well as expected. Raven returned the necklace? the Quiet Man asks. Not to worry, Shepard replies. You have to push them away before you can close the deal. Trust me, I know a thing or two about women. Er, as do you, obviously.
The Quiet Man reminds Shepard that they need Mystique if they are going to have their revenge. Without this homing beacon, how are they ever going to find her again? That’s where the real fun begins, Shepard announces with a smirk.
He contacts Shortpack, who’s busy directing Mystique through the sewers via his laptop. Could they do this another time, he asks Shepard. The other man replies that he has their most promising lead ever on Steinbeck. Or has he forgotten the fire-breathing animal that murdered their dear Prudence? Of course not, Shortpack hesitates. Maybe he should pass the situation along to the Professor, Shepard suggests. No, Shortpack becomes more spirited. Shepard had promised him that this was between them. He needs to be the one who brings Steinbeck to justice. But right now he has an agent lost in the sewers underneath the Sambodrome and— Say no more, the other man calms him. He should just keep his charge safe. He’ll be in touch. Turning back to the Quiet Man Shepard gloats that the only people easier to manipulate than the wicked are the righteous.
Mystique impatiently attempts to contact Shortpack, who finally reacts with the apology that there was a priority cal from another agent. Two-timing her again? Mystique jokes. Shortpack gets back to the business at hand by looking at the sewers schematics on his notebook and relaying them to Mystique. He tells her to take the access tunnel on the left but warns her that he’s not sure: Brazil’s sewer systems are incredibly complex. The woman could be anywhere now.
In fact, she is still running when a voice addresses her. It comes from a portly middle-aged man in an orange overall, who is clearly working here. The woman seems relieved and quickly claims that she lost one of her earrings down a grate during the parade and climbed down here to find it. She’s been lost for an hour! She needs to get to the station before sundown. Can he helps her? On one condition, the man says and gives her a lecherous smile. Name is, she replies and touches his shoulder. He hits her with his steel rod. His eyes turn yellow as “he” announces:you admit my Portuguese is flawless.
Mystique turns to her true form and produces a knife out o her body. She tells the woman not to get up, but she throws herself at Mystique with a snarl. Mystique easily steps aside and cuts the strap of her bag. The trinket’s hers now.
Do you have a deathwish, lady? she asks, annoyed. The other woman spits out that she isn’t a lady. Not yet. She’ll need another twenty thousand dollar to finish the job. More probably, as Mystique’s stupid dart put a hole in one of her saline implants. Mystique finally gets it. She’s a man. A woman trapped in the body of one, at least, the other woman corrects her. That’s why she stole the item. A dealer in Sao Paulo said he’d pay for the rest of her operation if she got that trinket for him.
She doesn’t even know what the thing does, does she; Mystique asks. Nor does she care. But she’d rather die than spend another day in this prison.
Mystique silently looks at her, then asks if they still use lead pipes. She takes out the hand and touches one of the pipes with it. It turns to gold. Mystique tears it off and hands it to the woman telling her to go. The other woman can’t believe it, as Mystique just orders her to leave. But leave she does.
Yeah, he saw that coming in the Crying Game too, Shepard wryly comments. How did he find her, Mystique inquires. He doesn’t need enchanted jewelry to find her, he replies. They have a connection. He understandsher.
Oh, spare me, Mystique sighs annoyed. It’s true, he insists, He understands why she showed mercy to that confused young man, frightened by his own body. It’s the same reason she let the Austrian spy get away back in Washington and why she couldn’t shoot that little girl in Cuba. It’s one her two weaknesses. She has a hard time hurting people when she recognizes a piece of herself in them. He comes closer. And what’s her other weakness, Mystique asks. In response, he kisses her.
Mystique pushes him away and snarls that she should gut him for that. But she won’t, he replies. Why not? Does he really think she sees part of herself in him? Maybe not, but she needs him and he and the Quiet Man need her. He dangles the necklace in front of her. To do what, Mystique asks impatiently. What is this final counter-mission all about? Isn’t it obvious, Shepard states. They need her help to kill Charles Xavier. When she’s ready to do the right thing, she should give them a call.
The next morning on a Brazilian train. In a private compartment, Shoprtack is just finishing another conversation via notebook with Shepard. He thanks him for the info on Steinbeck. He plans to hunt that monster—
Suddenly, Mystique enters, asking if he’s talking to Forge. If so, he should tell him his tranq guns still stink. Shortpack quickly breaks the connection, claiming that this was personal business. Is there are problem with her sleeper car? She just wanted to shoot the breeze, she replies. Is that “against protocol?” Relieved, he tells her, of course not. That’s what he’s there for as her handler. Well, he shouldn’t get too comfortable, she points out. She won’t be working for Xavier forever.
That’s what he said when he started, Shortpack states. She’s serious, she insists. The Professor isn’t the first man dumb enough to think he can control her- But a very wise woman once told her that her destiny’s already been written. The script doctors come and go, but they can’t change the way the movie ends.
She’s clearly lost Shortpack. She tells him to forget it and enjoy the view. It’s beautiful, he states. Looking out of the window and not bothered by her reflection, Mystique agrees.
The Quiet Man
Prudence was Shortpack’s first agent, who was killed in #1 by an arms dealer named Steinbeck.
Shortpack was revealed to be working with Shepard in issue #10. The reason for that is only given now.
The Crying Game was a Neil Jordan movie with the plot twist that the woman the protagonist falls in love with is actually a man.
Mystique showed mercy to an inexperienced Austrian spy in #1. She was unable to kill a Cuban mutant girl in #6
Mystique’s remark about a wise woman telling her about her destiny at the end seems to be a thinly-veiled reference to Mystique’s dead lover, the precog Destiny.
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