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Xavier once got a shapeshifter named Changeling to assume his identity while he secretly prepared for an alien invasion. When the Changeling died in battle, the X-Men held a funeral for their mentor. [Uncanny X-Men #42]


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Runaways



Mystique #14

Issue Date: July 2004

Story Title: Unnatural - part 1

Staff: Sean McKeever (writer), Manuel Garcia (penciler), Raul Fernandez (inker), Virtual Calligraphy’s Russ Wooton (letterer), Matt Milla (colorist), Mike Mayhew (cover artist), Cory Sedlmeier (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description:
Xavier has another mission for an unwilling Mystique. She is to find out whether the Swedish company, Dermafree, which has developed a miracle cure for Psoriasis, is using mutants as guinea pigs. Disguised as a German mutant-hating investor, Mystique meets up with Dermafree’s CEO, Helena Carlson, and quickly learns that those suspicions are true. As she needs proof, she takes out Carlson and intends to find the proof in Carlson’s office. After taking out a guard, who strangely enough sees through her disguise, she gets to Carlson’s computer and makes a discovery there that scares her. Before she can share that news with Shortpack, though, she is discovered.

Full Synopsis:
Somewhere outside Salzburg, Austria:
It’s dark and a frightened young man, dressed only in a hospital shirt, is running for his life. Armed men with night vision goggles are chasing him. One of them comes at the young man, jumping out of the shrubbery. The young man shouts, “no,” in Czech and touches the other man’s face with his bare hands. Where the fingers make skin contact, the skin seemingly burns. The soldier cries out in pain, allowing the young man the chance to flee.

Salzburg, 8:54 [CET]
Inside an otherwise empty clothes store, the clerk goes over the cash register. Suddenly, the young man from before runs in, anxiously speaking in Czech to her, apparently asking for help. Does she speak English, he asks. Before he can say any more, the armed men kick in the door. Jura, one of them shouts the boy’s name as he looks around the store. Nobody is in sight. They aren’t fooled, though, and eventually force him to come out of hiding. As he does, the man, whose face he hurt before, hits him with the butt of his rifle. The salesgirl remains undiscovered. She stares at the word Jura has etched into the ground with his power: DERMAFREE.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 2:42 PM [EST]
In the shape of a young woman, Mystique sits on a bench, eating an ice-cream cone and enjoying the scenery, the many different often strange-seeming people passing her by. Suddenly, a voice addresses her telepathically, stating so this is where she’s been. Mystique tells Charles Xavier to go away. He is spoiling her fun. Undeterred, his astral form “sits” down beside her. Changing to her true shape, Mystique comments that he can now broadcast his virtual soapbox from halfway around the world? She’s impressed. Forge set up a relay tower in Westchester, he explains. So how is Genosha, she asks. Is he still sifting through the rubble of mutant remains? It’s been quite satisfying, actually, he replies. For the first time in a while, he feels as though he is actually helping mutantkind. Just as she has.

They don’t have to hug now, do they, she mocks. He’s sorry for having interrupted her downtime but, just because he’s running Genosha now, it doesn’t mean their deal is off. He hasn’t forgotten the vicious deeds she committed that put her into this position. They both just want to help other mutants but, to him, she’ll always just be the bad guy, right, she mocks. Bad girl, she amends. She tosses her ice cream cone away and tells him to get it over with. She hates vanilla.

Mystique’s safehouse in Brooklyn. Forge has already made himself comfortable. Mystique reacts tersely to his having entered without her permission. As he points out that she’s being touchy, she involuntarily remembers Shepard, who recently asked her to kill Xavier. She’s had a lot on her mind lately, she states evasively and asks Charles what he wants.

He tells her about Dermafree, the European leader in dermatological treatment and research. They’ve recently unveiled a new revolutionary treatment for the skin condition Psoriasis. Over 95 % of trial patients were cured within six weeks. Dermafree claims that they will soon be able to cure any skin conditions almost exclusively cosmetic in nature. Great, Mystique states. The world could use a few less ugly people. There have been rumors that Dermafree is lab-testing these new treatments on mutants, Xavier continues. If that is true, then many mutants will have suffered and some are sure to have died. Wait, Mystique protests. Mutants are dying so humans can look pretty? No way!

Xavier tells her he has arranged for her travel to Sweden, where she will meet Shortpack. Her mission is to discover if those rumors are true. Then, she is to free those captive mutants and discreetly provide the media with irrefutable proof of any misdeeds. That’s it? she protests. They are treating mutants like lab rats and they are just going to tattletale on them? Exactly, Xavier replies. No killing, he stresses.

Forge chimes in, telling Mystique about the things he has prepared for her. He shows her a PDA. He must have worked night and day on this, she mocks. Whatever happened to cleverly-disguised spygear, she laments. It’s not a PDA, it’s a gun, he tells her. Fires a steel-jacketed dart. The Enter key triggers an electrical charge in the dart, while the direction key changes the voltage. And before she asks, it’s armed with an organic tissue sensor. Non-lethal. He’s never any fun, she pooh-poohs. He also hands her a make-up compact, on which she can download data.

Stockholm , Sweden, 3:18 PM [CET]
So what has he got for her, Mystique asks Shortpack, as she watches his computer presentation. He shows her pictures of Helena Carlson, a busty blonde. Former Miss Austria and swimsuit model and current CEO of Dermafree. Mrowr, Mystique gives her approval. Yeah, he figured, Shortpack comments dryly and, what’s more, she’ll get to meet her. Mystique will take on the identity of Helmut Stein, a heavyweight German investor with some very public thoughts on mutants. Bad thoughts, like Adolf-would-be-proud bad

He shows her Helmut on a video so she can get the voice down. He has set up a meeting between Stein and Carlson tomorrow at Dermafree Headquarters. If Carlson’s going to admit anything to anyone, it’ll be Stein. Works for her, Mystique states. But he shouldn’t blame her, if she tackles Carlson in a fit of uncontrollable passion.

The next day at Dermafree “Helmut Stein” is greeted by Helena Carlson. The two exchange courtesies and Helena asks what he thinks of the place. Taking a look around, “Helmut” replies that he couldn’t properly express what he is thinking right now. The beauty business has done well for her, he sees. Carlson agrees, as she calls an elevator for them. They bring their clients comfort. Everyone wants to be beautiful on the outside. Only a lucky few are born that way. Some would say what’s on the inside is truly desirable, “Stein” points out, that appearance is only a shell. They only say that because they can’t afford her services, Carlson smugly replies.

As they travel upward, “Stein” entices her with the millions he intends to invest in biotech, but she is to sell him on that miracle cure. Carlson starts talking about stem cell research, but “Stein” interrupts her. He has no doubt the cure works, but what intrigues him are the rumors of “unorthodox” testing methods. The rumors that they test on mutants, she asks. She is aware of his feelings towards their kind and she figured this was a factor in his coming here. She assures him that those rumors are true. Most mutants have essentially the same epidermis as humans. Sot they are able to shorten the testing process and assure a higher rate of accuracy. No more costly mess-ups in actual human trials. So the mutant is the new guinea pig, Stein states. Do they suffer? Probably, Carlson replies, but it’s not like they’re human. Does it matter if a guinea pig feels pain?

Mystique grimly informs Shortpack telepathically that she’s changed her mind. Can she please kill her? They enter the conference room while Shortpack reminds that she knows better than that. Though part of him sure wouldn’t mind getting in on the action. Carlson turns her back on Stein/Mystique, as she offers him a drink. Mystique, in the meantime, turns to her true form. As she turns around again, Mystique fires her PDA gun at her, muttering that she wishes this was a real gun.

A short time later, Mystique, now in the guise of Helena Carlson, leaves the conference room. A guard greets her in Swedish. Seeing his nametag, she returns the greeting, calling him Adolphus. She presses her hand against a plate for an ID test. It’s positive. Adolphus asks her how last night’s ballet was. Excruciating, she replies curtly. Hard to believe, he points out, since last night she was in bed. With him. And she never calls him Adolphus. Always Dolph.

She turns around, as he reaches for his gun. Is he tense, she croons, doesn’t he trust her? The same moment, she changes to her true for and jumps at him hitting his nose. He screams in pain and she hits him again and again, while quipping that she is breaking up with him. As he lies motionless on the floor, she tells him it would never have worked out. She takes him into the conference room, where she’s already stored Carlson and finally makes her way to Carlson’s office.

Hiding behind an air vent, Shortpack assures her that security is clueless. Mystique hooks her “compact” up to Carlson’s computer to download data, while complaining to Shortpack that she can’t believe these people. Whenever she thinks she’s found the limit for human depravity, it’s like they go out of their way to prove her wrong. Come on, Shortpack replies. She can’t just pain all of humanity with her big cynical Überbrush. Saying all humans are evil is like… well, saying they are all just one big brotherhood of mutants. She likes him, she wryly comments at his dig. She thinks she’ll keep him.

She finally gets some info from the computer. The mutant trials are taking place at their research development lab in Vienna. ‘What’s this?’ she suddenly announces startled. Vienna, huh? Shortpack asks, isn’t she from Austria? She could have herself a little homecoming, listen to some Falco, eat a little Wiener Schnitzel… ‘My Lord,’ Mystique exclaims. Finally noticing her distress, Shortpack asks what’s the matter. ‘Impossible!’ Mystique shouts.

Shortpack interrupts her and tells her that they know she is here. They’ll meet at the rendezvous point. Mystique replies that she’ll just change to— He interrupts. They know that she is here. He doesn’t know how, but some analysis of her handprint gave her away. Almost like they were expecting her. He’d say she’s got about a minute to get out.

Suddenly, two identical looking strongmen enter the office. Not anymore, she doesn’t, Mystique thinks back.

Characters:
Mystique
Professor Xavier
Forge
Shortpack

Helena Carlson (CEO of Dermafree)
Adolphus (Dermafree security guard)
Security personnel of Dermafree

Jura (Mutant guinea pig)

Clerk

in Mystique’s memories
Shepard

Notes:
Xavier has left the X-Men and is now trying to rebuild Genosha, as can be seen in the new series Excalibur.

Psoriasis is a common immune-mediated chronic skin disease that comes in different forms and varying levels of severity. Most researchers now conclude that it is related to the immune system (psoriasis is often called an "immune-mediated" disorder).

Falco was a famous Austrian singer who even became known in the USA with hits like Amadeus. He tragically died in a car accident.

Shortpack’s dig refers to Mystique being the founder and leader of an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

This Issue has been reprinted in:
Mystique Vol. 3: Unnatural (Trade Paperback)
Mystique by Sean McKever Ultimate Collection (Trade Paperback)

Issue Summary written by: Ruth


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