A shiver ran down his back. Mortimer Toynbee, the mutant terrorist known only as Toad to the world at large, did not like cold weather. He pulled his arms closer to his body in an effort to keep his body heat in. The hood on his sweatshirt was pulled as far forward as it would go, the kevlar vest that he wore over it offering a little more warmth. Getting up, Mort started hopping from foot to foot, just to get his blood moving. Sometimes Mortimer wondered how close to an amphibian his mutation had really made him. Maybe he really was cold-blooded in addition to having a 12-foot tongue, able to jump tall things in a singe bound and being able to adhere to surfaces.
His teeth chattering a little, Mortimer reached for his thermos. His normally nimble fingers fumbled for a moment with the cap, the bandages that he had wrapped around them causing him endless frustration. "Bloody Storm..." he grumbled, thinking back to that night at Liberty Island when he had been used as a mutant lightning rod by the X-Man. His fingers were still suffering the results of the third-degree burns that had resulted. They were healed for the most part, but the skin was still a little tender. But when one is used to precise control of one's motor skills, even a small hindrance is a source for major annoyance. Finally removing the lid, he had just enough time to get a few swallows of the warm Earl Grey before the soft hum of the Brotherhood's newly acquired helicopter (courtesy of late William Stryker) could be heard across the water.
Looking up at the clear night sky, the silhouette of the chopper slowly came into view. As it landed, the blades of the chopper kicked up a stiff wind and Mort lowered his goggles to keep dust from getting into his slightly oversized eyes. Shifting his weight slightly from one foot to the other, Mortimer couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of jealousy towards two of the four occupants of the aircraft. Not Magneto and Mystique of course, the former was needed on any important mission after all, and the latter had always gone on any mission that was deemed to be one of importance.
It was the other two in the chopper that caused Mortimer's fists to clench, despite the discomfort of the still-raw skin. Sabertooth, that brainless ball of muscle and fur, taken along for no other reason that he was strong and willing to take out anyone in the most direct way possible, and Pyro, the X-Reject with the ability to manipulate flame. Couldn't create it, just control it. Mortimer had to suppress a grin. It would be an interesting day if that kid was caught by Storm during a fight. A drenched Zippo can't be all that effective as a weapon.
As the blades slowly came to a stop, Pyro was the first to exit the chopper. He was followed by Magneto, then Mystique and Sabertooth brought up the rear. Magneto gave Mortimer a nod of acknowledgement as he passed him, and Mortimer fell into step alongside the Master of Magnetism.
"I assume that all preparations have been completed." It was more of a statement than a question. Magneto had confidence in Mortimer's technical ability if nothing else. The younger mutant just nodded in reply. He wasn't a mutant of many words, but Magneto had known Mort long enough to be able to understand his colleague's body language. A slight smile crossed Magneto's lips, a faint sign of approval that spoke volumes to anyone who worked closely with him. In silence the five mutants walked up the path the Brotherhood's headquarters. Looking back over his shoulder, Mortimer couldn't help but shake his head in amazement at how Mystique was able to handle the cold weather in... Well, in nothing. The blue skinned shape shifter was in her template body at the moment; blue skin with 'strategically' located scales.
Bloody hell, he thought before turning his eyes back to the path in front of him, practically freezing out here and she's running around essentially naked.
Behind him Mystique smiled, laughter playing in her yellow eyes. No matter how many times she saw it, Mortimer's constant bewilderment at her ability to cope with extreme tempreatures always amused her.
The procession of mutants went their separate ways once they entered the headquarters. Magneto retired to his private quarters, the events of the night having taken its toll out of his reserves of energy. Sabertooth headed off to the kitchen to find something to eat. Pyro disappeared into the common room, which Mortimer had set up with a television that he had salvaged from a dump. Mortimer turned towards his makeshift workshop, probably planning on working on one of his many salvage projects - a microwave, a toaster, sometimes something as simple as a fan. Mystique waited for a moment, considering her options. She didn't feel much like being alone right now. Contrary to popular belief, even she craved company sometimes.
Sabertooth wasn't even considered, she would have better luck having a peaceful conversation with Wolverine. Pyro wasn't much better. He was in the middle of one teenage funk or another. Probably still pining over Rogue. she thought to herself, her mouth twisting into a slight smirk. And since Magneto was obviously in no mood to talk, Mortimer was the obvious choice.
As she walked towards Mortimer's workshop, she noticed a gradual but obvious increase in temperature. Mystique smiled and shook her head; her colleague really did dislike the cold. Her own brisk gate allowed her to overtake Mortimer's slower shuffling one before he actually reached the sanctuary of his workshop. He gave Mystique a curious look as she tagged him on the shoulder.
"Must be a slow night if you're tagging along with me." He gave her a slight smile, actually glad of her company. Mystique was one of the few people that Mortimer actually felt comfortable talking to. Magneto would, on occasion, converse with him, but while Magneto was highly educated and cultured, Mortimer was not. Mortimer also had no inclination to talk to Sabertooth or Pyro. Those two were just idiots.
Mystique casually draped her arm across Mortimer's shoulders as he stopped to unlock the door to the workshop. "The company's good." she replied in her oddly modulated voice that almost made it sound like each of her possible shapes was talking individually. "Working on anything interesting?" she asked as they entered the workshop.
Mortimer's workshop was in a constant state of flux. The amphibious mutant had an uncanny knack for mechanics despite his lack of any real training in the subject. All around the two of them were Mort's many pet projects. Mortimer walked directly over to what looked to be a laundry machine. Mystique chuckled as he hopped on top of it and started fiddling with whatever was inside. Hearing her, Mort looked up with a grin on his face. "Got tired of hearing Pyro complaining about wearing dirty pants."
"You've been busy." Mystique noted, gesturing to the other projects in various states of completion that littered the workshop.
Mortimer snorted. "Haven't had much else to do."
Nodding slowly, Mystique had to agree. It had taken Mortimer longer than anyone to recover from the events at Liberty Island. He healed quickly, but didn't have Sabertooth's healing factor and he hadn't had the advantage of anything in the way of real medical treatment as Magneto and Mystique had, despite having some of the worst injuries out of any of them. As a result his injuries were still a lingering problem for him. A problem in the sense that it was keeping him from fieldwork and, being a mutant of near limitless pure nervous energy, that was driving him crazy. Had their cause of mutant rights been any less important, then possibly Magneto would have had Mortimer come with them. But as it was, he needed everyone on the field team to be at peak condition. "How are your hands?" she asked quietly.
Sighing, Mortimer looked up from his work and looked down at his hands. Since he wore fingerless gloves, his bandaged fingers were clearly visible. Flexing them gently, Mystique could see his face contort slightly as his hands curled into fists. "Still sore. If I bandage them with only one layer of dressing I don't loose much dexterity, but..." he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders as he quietly went back to work. Mortimer didn't need to finish the sentence. Mystique knew that he felt, well, damaged in a way, and certainly less useful. She could just imagine what it must have been like for him when Magneto had ordered Pyro on the mission rather than Mortimer.
Mystique let herself relax on an old easy chair that Mortimer had salvaged from somewhere. From her position, she regarded her companion. Mortimer continued to work, but she knew that he was aware of her every movement. He always seemed to be aware of the movement of people around him. It was a survival technique that had helped him survive in a world that often considered him as a mistake of nature. It was the same technique she had relied on until she had been able to master her own shape-shifting abilities, and one that still served her well. They were similar in that respect; both had to hide their true forms from the 'normal' population. Maybe that was why she had stopped thinking of Mortimer as 'Toad.' That was who he was to the rest of the world, the world where he couldn't fit it, but when he was in the lair he could finally afford to just be Mortimer. Mystique had to admit to a certain fondness for the shorter mutant. Aside from Magneto, Mortimer was really the only one who she could hold a decent converstation with, and he was probably the only other one in the Brotherhood who held Magneto and their cause in the same regard as her. Overall, Mortimer was soft-spoken, the only time she had ever heard him yelling was in the heat of conflict. The only time she had heard him yell in fustration was just before he had been fried by the X-Man, Storm.
God, that had frightened her. She had thought he was dead for the longest time. It wasn't until after the events at Alkali Lake that Mortimer had been able to get in contact with her and Magneto. When Mortimer finally rejoined them at their old headquarters, he still had most of his body wrapped in bandages. He had been busy, true. The lair had been kept in good condition and in several ways improved. Mortimer had built the new common area, a training room, and even the basics of a medical facility. The latter was probably more to treat himself than anything else.
Mystique had gotten the impression that Mortimer had not been too impressed with Pyro the first time he had seen the tag-along from Xavier's school. Nor was he impressed any of the many times after that. "Are you resentful of Pyro?" she asked suddenly. Mortimer's head jerked up, and he paused for just a moment before hopping off of the laundry machine and seating himself next to Mystique on the arm of the chair.
"What tipped you off?" he asked, a rueful smile playing across his face. "The fact that I can't stand the little prat?"
Mystique slid herself to the other arm of the chair and pulled Mortimer onto the seat before slipping onto his lap. Mortimer tensed under her, and his eyes widened under his goggles. Mystique laughed gently as she moved the goggles onto his forehead. It was so cute how he got all nervous whe she got this close. Despite the odd colored skin and hair, the oversized eyes, and perhensile tongue, Toad really was attractive.
Hell, in the right situations the tongue could be considered a plus.
As Mortimer nervously writhed under Mystique, the shapeshifter smiled as she felt his highly toned muscles moving under his several layers of clothes. Muscled arms, washboard stomach, and legs that could punch holes in walls; yes, had Mortimer not been a mutant, he would have had no problems ever attracting a woman.
But as it was...
Mystique's white teeth contrasted sharply with her deep blue skin in what was almost a preditory grin.
"Mystique..?" Mortimer asked, his voice shaky.
Poor boy, she kept forgetting how unused he was to such close contact. Especially with a woman who was basically naked. Her smile softened and she nestled her head against his shoulder. The gentle action seemed to ease Mortimer a little and after a few moments Mystique felt him relax under her. "Sorry." she murmmured quietly as she settled herself.
Mortimer mubled something that sounded like "'Sokay," and the two of them simply sat there. After a minute or so Mystique felt Mortimer slip his arms around her waist and pull her a little closer. It always took him a while to get used to her being so close, but she could feel how badly he craved contact with another person. Mystique knew that she was the only one who had ever willingly come into this sort of intimate contact with Mortimer, most people were never able to get past his appearance.
Mystique had learned to get past prejudice with her shapeshifting abilities when she wanted intimate contact. It was easy for her to learn what a potential partner wanted to see and even easier to provide it. But it was only a temporary solution. She couldn't keep a shape forever, and her partners would have found out what she really was if she had stuck around. Mystique had shown one lover her real shape, an experiance she always looked back on as a lesson - evidence of the truth of Magneto's belief that humans would never accept mutants. Especially mutants who didn't look human.
Of course being around Mortimer was different. He was in the same boat as she was. He prefered her template form. When she was impersonating Senator Kelly's aid, Mortimer always urged her to return to her natural form as soon as it was safe to do so. She supposed that was what was so endearing about him; he was the only person who had ever called her - her real form - beautiful. Magneto always used words like 'superior' or 'advanced.' Not exactly words to warm a girl's heart.
Mystique and Mortimer had been sitting in silence for quite a while when the blue shapeshifter heard Mortimer sniffing the air. She sat up and looked at Mortimer, who had a concerned expression on his face. "Mortimer? What's wrong?"
"Do you smell that?" he replied, continuing to sniff as he looked around the room. "It smells like something's burning."
Sitting up further, Mystique tried to hone in on what Mortimer was sensing. After a moment, she found it. The smell was like something burning, but not something mechanical. It smelled more like ozone. Turning back towards Mortimer, she saw him nervously looking around. The smell was no doubt bringing back some painful memories, but Mortimer's expression more likely was anxiety about the potential security of his sanctuary.
"Mystique, get out of here." Mortimer's voice was nearly flat, but Mystique heard the worry in his voice. He was worried that something bad was going to happen, and he didn't want her to be here if it did.
"Mortimer..." she started to protest, but Mortimer abruptly stood up, Mystique held in his strong arms.
"Something's wrong, Mystique. This whole room feels wrong." His voice was low as he quickly started towards the door.
He only took two steps.
Before his foot fell for the third time, there was a flash of white and the two mutants fell into space.
"I give up! It's just never going to work!"
Professor Charles Xavier looked up to see Forge storm into his study and flop down in a chair on the opposite side of his desk. The head of the Institute didn't say a word. When Forge was ready to talk, he would.
After a few minutes of silence, Forge looked over at Xavier and sighed. "I really thought I had it this time. I really did."
"What were you working on, Forge?" Xavier asked, putting down his work to focus on the 'young' inventor.
"I was working on time travel." he replied. Noticing the characteristic eyebrow arch that Xavier did when he didn't quite comprehend something, Forge continued. "I was thinking about the machine that we were using to test Kurt's teleportation," Forge sighed, "and I got to thinking that maybe I might be able to tweek it a little so that it could be used for time travel rather than dimentional travel. You know, so maybe I could get back to the time when I got myself trapped in that pocket dimention." Xavier nodded symatheically. Forge was a young man who had lost a great deal of his life due to being trapped in a pocket dimention that extended no further than the local high school. While he had made the adjustment from the 70's to the new millinium with apparent ease, he still harbored hope of someday being able to return to his own time. Forge let out another sigh and slumped further back into the chair. "But it's useless. I gave it a test run and all I got was some dimentional static."
Xavier manuvered his wheelchair out from behind the desk and over to Forge's side. "Forge, I promise you, as long as you need our help we'll be there for you. I know that your situation is..." Suddenly, mid-sentence Xavier paused, as if listening to something.
"Professor?" Forge looked over at Xavier, slightly concerned.
The Professor shook his head. "I... I'm sorry, Forge. I thought I heard something..."
Mystique groaned as she struggled to sit up. The world was spinning around her and she felt faintly nausious. A familiar moan under her let her know that Mortimer was also there. "Bloody hell..." Mortimer swore, shifting his weight, "Landed on my keys."
Holding her forehead in her hands, Mystique let out a week laugh. As Mortimer shifted, she felt something press into the inside of her thigh. "Well, is that a wrench in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" she tried to sound cheerful. Mortimer looked up at her from his position on the ground and somewhat returned the smile.
"Nah, it's my emergancy flare. The wrench is in the other pocket." Then he propped himself up onto his elbows and looked around. "Where are we?"
Both mutants took in their new surroundings. It certainly wasn't the Brotherhood's lair. They were in the middle of a grove of trees and the sun shone brightly overhead. Slowly getting to her feet, Mystique looked around and caught a glimpse of something through the brush. It was a mansion. Not only was it a mansion, it was the mansion. Xavier's mansion. Mortimer pulled himself up and followed Mystique's gaze, then looked back at her face. The shapeshifter was lost in thought, so Mortimer dropped back to a more comfortable position resting on the balls of his feet and waited for Mystique to finish her thought.
"Mortimer..." He looked up at her, and for the first time in a long while he read worry and confusion in her features. "Mortimer, I... I don't think that we're home anymore."
"Thought that was pretty obvious." Mortimer replied. "It's warm here, summer weather. And it's defenitely not the headquarters."
Mystique shook her head. "No, Mortimer, what I ment that I don't think we're in our dimention anymore."
Mortimer cocked his head, not quite comprehending Mystique's words. Pulling him to his feet Mystique gestured towards the mansion and to the scene that was unfolding in front of it. Of course, when he saw what she was pointing at, he still wasn't sure if he wanted to believe what his eyes were showing him. Visible through the foliage were people who looked like the X-Men, but certainly not any X-Men that he knew. There was Cyclops, the visor gave him away; a red-headed girl that he assumed was Jean Grey since she was obviously using telekenisis; Wolverine was there, but dressed in an odd orange and black uniform; he saw Storm *shudder* in the air, calling lighting down from the sky; a blue teleporter kept vanishing and reappearing - Mortimer assumed this to be Kurt Wagner, the son that Mystique had told him about; the Rogue, the distinctive white streaks in her hair setting her apart; and there were a few others. A girl who kept phasing through objects, a large blue beast of a mutant, and one other mutant who kept producing what looked like bone from his body. Mortimer didn't know whether to laugh or not. On the one hand, these apparent X-Men looked like rejects from a fancy dress party. On the other hand, they were kicking the collective arses of the other mutants that he saw.
As much as Mortimer hated to think it, the only thought that ran through his head at the sight of these other mutants was Dear lord, please put them out of their misery.
It would have been a humorous sight except for the fact of who two of the tragically comedic mutants resembled. One, a teenaged boy, was jumping distances that only Mortimer could match. The use of a toad-like tongue only confirmed that sinking feeling. The only adult on the 'Brotherhood' side was a blue-skinned female with shoulder length red hair. She wasn't scaled like his Mystique, she was even wearing clothes. From their position, they could hear this new Mystique howl in fustration as the new Storm flung her back with a gust of wind.
The other three members of this apparent 'Brotherhood' were teenage boys, for the most part looking older than the new Toad. One was huge, looking grossly overweight but showing amazing strength. Another was barely more than a blur, rushing too and fro and landing hits whenever he could before getting clipped by an optic blast. The other boy was standing a little to the side of the conflict, focusing on the ground and causing minor tremors.
The fight was almost painful to watch. It was over in less than five minutes. After the 'Brotherhood' limped off to lick their wounds and the 'X-Men' had done a small victory dance, Mystique leaned back against a tree while Mortimer flopped back onto the moss-covered ground. Finally, Mystique looked over at Mortimer. "That had to be one of the most pathetic things I have ever seen in my life."
Mortimer just nodded. "I'll agree with you there, luv." Mystique crossed her arms and closed her eyes, thinking. Mortimer remained quiet. Outside of repair work and piloting, thinking and planning was always best left to Mystique. After a few moments, she opened her eyes and looked down at Mortimer.
"I think we have some work to do."
Mortimer crossed his leggs as he leaned further back into the corner of the booth of the IHOP where he and Mystique were getting a much needed meal. His eyes darted over the comics as Mystique poured over the front page. He couldn't help but snicker, Oh, Odie, when will you ever learn not to sit on that table edge when Garfield is around? Daily comic strips were one of the few things he liked better about America than England. Mystique looked up from her reading to give Mortimer a quizzical look, only to roll her eyes slightly when she saw what he was reading.
After leaving the grounds of the Xavier Institute, the two mutants had cautiously made their way into the city of Bayville. Taking on one of her more inconspicuous forms, a black haired woman of average hight and wearing simple jeans and a t-shirt, Mystique had found an out of the way ATM. After making sure the coast was clear and that Mortimer had pulled the hood of his sweatshirt securely over his face, Mortimer had 'convinced' the computer in the ATM into putting out a nice withdrawl. From there they had gone to a news stand and Mystique had purchased as many different papers and news magazines as she could get her hands on. Mortimer had lingered around the back of the store, waiting for Mystique to finish. Since then they had been sitting in the IHOP, Mystique absorbing everything from the papers and magazines, and Mortimer trying to resist the temptation to freak out some of the humans in the resturant by using his tongue to eat his Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity meal.
With a sigh, Mystique folded the last paper and reclined in her seat. Mortimer popped a bite of hashbrowns in his mouth as he waited for her verdict. Turning one of the papers around to face Mort, Mystique pointed at the front page. "This is the state of things." she said quietly. Mortimer looked at the picture under the headline of Monsters Among Us?, which showed the 'X-Men' and 'Brotherhood' mutants that they had seen earlier fighting against a huge robot that had been refered to a Sentinel.
"Well, someone's certainly managed to bugger things up nicely." he commented, pulling his hood a little further forward. If there was a rash of anti-mutant hostility, the last thing he needed to do was be obvious. Mystique nodded.
"From what I've been able to tell, those were the X-Men that we saw earlier. And those others were the Brotherhood." Mortimer groaned at the news. Mystique nodded sympathetically. "I'm not to crazy about that other Mystique either. At least this dimention's Toad is young enough that he could still be trained."
"What about Magneto?" Mortimer asked quietly. Mystique's features clouded and her eyes momentarily reverted to their natural gold. "Hmmm, that good, eh?"
"Well, from what has been reported here, Magneto seems to be a rather self-serving mutant supremicist. He also doesn't have any sense of subtlety." Mystique snorted, obviously unimpressed with what she was reading. "He seems to be more interested in personal power than in true mutant advancement."
"So what's the plan?"
Smiling, Mystique leaned over the table, resting on her elbows. "This dimention's Brotherhood, they look like a lost cause..."
"Somehow I think there's a 'but' coming into play here." Mortimer smiled under his hood.
"But, with a little training they could be turned into something effective." Mystique concluded. "I was watching this dimention's Mystique." she added slowly, "She looked like she was in charge, but she wasn't leading. She was fighting her own fight, not paying attention to what was happening to her team until they were nearly lost."
"Then let me guess the plan." Mortimer leaned forward a little. "We get rid of her, and train the kids into a proper Brotherhood."
Mystique nodded. "Exactly, my dear Mortimer. Exactly. Let's go."
"But I haven't finished my Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity breakfast!" Mortimer protested, giving Mystique his best puppy-dog expression from under his hood.
Groaning, Mystique relented. "Okay, okay. Just hurry up."
Mortimer smiled. "Okay, just pass the Very Merry Boysenberry syrup, please."
"Mortimer, you are an insufferable man-child."
"Aye, but that's what you like about me."
"Finish your damn breakfast."
Todd Tolensky quickly ducked behind Freddy Dukes to avoid the book that came flying towards him. The Brotherhood, Todd Tolensky, Toad; Lance Alvers, Avalanche; Freddy Dukes, the Blob; and Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver; were all seated on the couch in the house they all shared. Pietro's sister Wanda, also called the Scarlett Witch, watched the scene unfolding in front of her with mild amusement. She was pretty set in her conviction that most of the Brotherhood was a bunch of losers, and this certainly didn't do anything to eleviate that opinion.
"I can't believe you let those X-Men make such fools out of you!" Mystique practically screamed at the teenage boys, who were all looking quite uncomfortable as the shapeshifter stalked in front of them like a caged tiger. "The mission objectives were simple! All you had to do was to break into the Institute and steal a single folder out of Xavier's office, and you couldn't even manage that!"
"Come on, Mystique, they dog piled us." Todd protested, immediately regreting it as Mystique looked like she would just as soon pound his face in as anything.
"I honestly don't see why I ever bother giving you even the simplest tasks." Mystique growled. "You couldn't even manage to stay in that blasted high school."
"Woah, that wasn't our fault!" Lance shot back, "Kelly set us up. There was no way that he was going to let us get through a whole day back at that place."
Mystique glared at the defiant teen. "And you think that justifies anything?" she hissed. Lance was about to say something when there was a sudden knock on the door. Jerking her head up, she looked over at Wanda, the only one who was not in uniform. "Go see who that is."
With a exasperated look, Wanda got up and walked over to the front door. Opening it a crack, she saw a young woman dressed smartly in a black pants suit standing on the front porch. "Can I help you?" she asked warily.
The young woman smiled. "Hello, my name is Sandra Toliver. I'm looking for a Ms. Raven Darkholme. Is she in?"
"Umm, give me a minute. I'll see if she's avalible." Wanda left the door slightly ajar and walked back into the living room, Mystique and Lance still locked in a glaring battle of wills. "Um, Mystique, there's someone at the door for you."
A hiss escaped Mystique's lips as she quickly shifted into her Raven Darkholme form. Adjusting her glasses, she walked out of the living room into the hall. The Brotherhood let out a collective breath as the tension in the room dropped. "Who's at the door, Wanda?" Lance asked. Wanda just shrugged her shoulders.
Mystique walked to the door and opened it all the way. "May I help you?" she asked tersely. The young woman just smiled.
"No, I seriously doubt that you can."
Behind her glasses, Mystique's eyes momentarily flashed yellow. "Excuse me?"
Again the woman just smiled. "In fact, you're rather an obsticle. But don't worry, this will only hurt for a moment."
In the living room, the Brotherhood's attention was grabbed by the sound of Mystique hitting the floor. They all rushed to the hall in time to see the young woman flexing her fingers, standing over the unconcious form of Mystique.
"What the hell?!" Pietro exclaimed as they gathered at the opposite end of the hall from the stranger.
"Crap! That lady just KOed Mystique, yo!" Todd's eyes widened at the sight. They'd seen Mystique beaten before, but it had always been by a powerful mutant or superhuman - not just from one punch from some lady.
Lance clenched his fists. "I don't know who you are, lady, but no one comes in here and messes with the Brotherhood!"
The woman just smiled at the teens. "Is that so? Well, it just so happens that I have no intention of 'messing' with your Brotherhood." She smiled at the confused looks that fell onto their faces.
"You're not?" Freddy stammered.
The woman gave a gentle laugh. "I'm not. I'm actually here to offer you a deal."
"A deal?" Lance snorted, "Lady, we've heard that a lot lately. What makes you different from any of those other jerks who've tried to use us?"
"I've seen you fight," the woman started, "it was rather... well, let's just say lackluster."
"Did you come here just to insult us? We get enough of that already, yo." Todd hissed from his perch on Freddy's shoulders.
"I'd be insulting you if I said that I thought your performance was entirely your fault." the woman replied. "From what I've seen," her eyes drifted down to Mystique's prone form, "you suffer more from a lack of proper leadership than lack of skill." Looking back up to the teens, she gave them another smile. "Are you interested in listening?"
"Any of you say anything, and I'll skin you alive." Mystique growled, starting to pull herself to her feet. Using the wall for suport, she glared at the other woman. "Who the hell do you think you are?" she spat, glaring at the woman who stood in front of her with a smug smile on her face.
"Why, I'm you." the stranger purred softly. There was a strange sound, something akin to pebbles sliding across one another, and the Brotherhood was faced with the second blue shapeshifter that they had ever seen, abiet with scales across her body. "To be precise," she added in her odd voice, "I am a more efficient, highly trained, and heavily reenforced you."
"Guys... She's nude!" Pietro whispered to the other memebers of the Brotherhood.
"Yeah, and she ain't got any clothes on, either, yo." Todd added.
Wanda, the at the moment the sole voice of reason, was the only one who caught the last bit of this strange, new Mystique's statement. "Umm, guys, what did she mean by 'heavily reenforced'?"
"I don't know, but it's probably the only thing keeping Toad from passing out in adolecent confusion." Pietro snorted.
"Aw man, this is really akward, yo..." Todd wimpered. "I don't know where to look. I think I'll just turn around..." And with that, he hopped off of Freddy's shoulders and huddled against the wall.
The scaled Mystique smiled and laughed lightly. "Isn't that cute? Not only is he bashful, but he hopps! Mortimer, come in here, you have to see this!"
"Wot?" The group's attention was drawn to the newcomer, a green-haired man covered nearly from head to toe who wore a pair of goggles up on his forehead. He paused a moment to take in the scene in front of him. "Aww, bless. It's positively saccharine. You'd better shift yourself into some clothes, luv. I think that little bloke in the corner there is just at 'that' hight."
"Guess that's the reenforcements." Wanda muttered under her breath.
Mystique turned to face the Brotherhood. "One simple task, and we'll forget about this morning. You take care of him, and I'll take care of this second-rate shapeshifter. Got it?"
"Got it, already." Lance grumbled as the rest of the Brotherhood rallied behind him. "Come on guys, let's take down this turkey!"
"Turkey?" Mortimer gave an amused chuckle. Looking over to the side of the door he noticed a mop and plunger that looked like they hadn't been used in quite a while. Grabbing the mop in his left hand and using his foot to flip the plunger into his right, he darted backwards out into the front yard of the property. "Come on, I'll take you all on, no powers!" he taunted as he made his way to the center of the yard.
First out of the house was Pietro, who rushed around to cut Mortimer off. The other three followed quickly, surrounding Mortimer with Pietro to his front, Freddy to his back, Lance to his right and Todd to his left. Pulling himself up to his full hight, Mortimer turned to see all four boys. He rested the plunger on his shoulder as he smiled to himself, forming his plan in his head. Not waiting for Mortimer to finish thinking, Pietro rushed him, landing one blow to Mortimer's chest. The kevlar vest he was wearing absorbed most of the shock, but caused him to take a step back. "Heh, not to tough, are you?" Pietro sneered as he came around for another pass. But this time Mortimer was ready for him. Just before landing a punch, Mortimer dodged to the side and jammed the plunger into the blur that was Pietro's leggs, sending the speedster flying headfirst into the ground.
"Maybe not so tough, but I'm not so stupid either." Mortimer laughed as Pietro came sliding to a halt. Spinning around, he faced the remaining three Brotherhood members. "Next."
The Blob was the next to take a swing at Mortimer, charging with speed that was rather impressive given the shear size of the young mutant. Mortimer dug his foot into the ground, but then thought better of trying to go toe to toe with the raw force that was rushing at him. About ready to make an attempt to grab a tree branch that was just above him, Mortimer suddenly found the ground under him shaking. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Lance, eyes rolled back in his head, focusing his seismic power.
"Oh no you don't..." Mortimer growled, looking back at the Blob. He held his ground for only a second more, just long enough for Freddy to loose his own footing by rushing onto the ground that Lance had started shaking. As Freddy fell, Mortimer jumped over him, using his back as a springboard to launch himself at Lance. Focusing his power, Lance didn't see that Mortimer was in the air, only realizing it when he felt a heavy boot planted on his chest, sending him flying backwards into a tree. Mortimer was about to take another whack at him when his arm was snagged by something that jerked him backwards.
Looking around, Mortimer found that his arm had been snagged by a rather familiar-looking green tongue. Familiar in the fact that he had one just like it. Grinning, Mortimer turned and wrapped the tongue around the mop that he still held in his left hand. Todd, taken aback by the sudden move, reflexively tried to release his tongue. As he did, Mortimer wrenched the mop up and around, binding the tongue securely. With a solid jerk, Mortimer yanked the mop towards him and Todd along with it. With his right hand, Mortimer brought the plunger up and connecting the rubber end solidly with Todd's head.
Back inside the house, Wanda kept to the back of the hall as she watched the face-off between the two Mystiques. The familiar one was glaring at the scaled one, who was in turn grinning. They started circling each other slowly, each sizing the other up. With one quick movement, the Brotherhood's Mystique jumped and spun in the air, executing a perfect flying kick. Bracing for impact, the scaled Mystique took one step back...
... then quickly opened the closet door behind her.
Unable to change her movement, Mystique landed directly in the closet, the scaled Mystique slamming the door behind her. Quickly pulling a hall table in front of the door to prevent her captive from getting out. The scaled Mystique then slowly turned to face Wanda. "Plan on giving me any trouble?"
Wanda shook her head. "Nope. Mystique," she gestured to the closet, "has been running this place into the ground since she's been back. The way I figure it, you can't be any worse than her."
"So there is one with brains amoung you." Mystique cast an approving look at Wanda. "And speaking of which, let's go see how your comrades are faring against Mortimer." Walking out onto the deck of the house with Wanda following close behind, they arrived on the scene just in time to see Todd get introduced, face first, to the ground, and Mortimer starting a rousing chorus of We Are the Champions. Wanda groaned while Mystique laughed. "Ahh, just about as well as I thought they would. Now if you are quite done out there, Mr. Mercury, would you bring those boys inside and let them lick their wounds?"
Turning around to face the porch, Mortimer shot Mystique a grin and gave a bow before rousing the Brotherhood from their stupor. "Come on, blokes, inside. The lady has a few things she wants to talk to you about."