Universe: "Mission: Impossible 1988"

Author notes (again, for the four of you who will read this-all of you are lovely, by the way): This tale was started long ago, then set it to the back of my hard drive. Unlike "Surface" there is actually an end in mind, as well as a fully formed plot... and stuff. Crazy, I say.

This story assumes you are familiar with Mission Impossible 1988, that you are familiar with the characters, and that you've seen at least a few episodes. If you haven't seen a few episodes, though totally excessive on my part, I've included a cheat sheet for you to familiarize yourself with the characters should you be bold enough to venture in without knowing who they are. (I'm seeking help.)

Warnings: playing a little loose and fast with UN protocol... and maybe a few other things.

Disclaimer: I am not profiting from this adventure. No infringement is intended, and so the story goes.

Cheat Sheet

The Team (listed in order of age, near as I can figure them)

Jim Phelps is the mastermind and leader of the team. Coming out of retirement after his protégé (Tom Copperfield) was killed by a professional assassin, he decided to stay on after the killer was caught to lead his new team of young agents.

Nicholas Black is the master of disguise, the team's expert in acting and languages. When he isn't working for the IMF he teaches Drama at either an eastern university or prep-school. The show tells us it is an eastern university, but the visual clips they show to back the statement indicate a prep-school. I solve this dilemma by telling myself Nicholas is an adjunct professor for a small university in a small eastern town where he also teaches a class or two at a local prep school. Or... whatever. Really, not important, but the purposes of this story it's sort of incorporated into the plot that way. There is no other intel on Nicholas's personal life. No family is ever mentioned, nor how he came to work for IMF in the first place. He has a cool head, shows leadership ability, and is dedicated to his team.

Casey Randall was "a top designer on three continents when her fiancé was killed in a terrorist bombing." That's from the show. She helped trap the terrorists responsible and thereafter continued working for IMF. Casey was killed in action while working as an advance operative for her team. Though still struggling with her death, the team completed the mission and caught her killer.

Max Harte fills the role of the muscleman and team bodyguard though his skills extend far beyond this position. His brother was a POW in Vietnam. When he didn't come home, Max, apparently still in his teens, planned and successfully executed a rescue mission. In the series, during one mission set in Australia, Jim refers to him as the Aussie. Nicholas, however, is also Australian. His accent is described as mid-Atlantic, and he could ostensibly be from anywhere, but the actor who portrayed him is Australian (Greek-Australian, born and raised, if you believe what the internet tells you... because it's always right). Max is very much the protector of the team, can be both impulsive and cool-headed, and seems to really enjoy playing his acting roles in the team's missions, especially if he gets to be surly or evil.

Shannon Reed is a former CIA agent who joined the team permanently after Casey was killed. She sang professionally at one point in her life and uses this skill in her IMF work on occasion. Shannon also has a fear of flying in small airplanes, though I'm not sure that always existed in her character, or just came up as a convenient plot device for one of the episodes.

Grant Collier is the son of Jim's former teammate Barney Collier. The show tells us that where Barney left off, his son picked up. "Grant graduated from MIT at 16, where one of his professors called him the greatest inventive mind to come out of MIT in 20 years." The actor playing Grant (Phil Morris) is the real life son of the actor portraying Barney Collier (Greg Morris), and the episodes they are in together are fantastic. Grant, though very cool headed, has a somewhat reckless demeanor at times, and seems to bring out the banter in the team, particularly when paired for a task with one of the other guys.

Shell Game

by aja


The sun stretched solidly across the blank pavement of the closed amusement park. It was early enough that the appearance of heat was only an illusion. Lingering ocean cold moved into Jim's joints as he stepped away from the street sweeper and found the tape behind the control tower to the roller coaster.

He opened the case and pressed play.

Good morning, Jim…

Craig Heming is a reclusive but celebrated philanthropist who has built a wealthy empire through global industrialization. His interest holdings include manufacturing exports from around the world, including Europe, South America, Africa, and several South Asian countries where it has long been suspected that his generosity is being used to cover the fact that his empire has been constructed on bonded child labor and illegal arms manufacturing. These indiscretions were to be questioned at a UN hearing where Aban Chishti, a trade unionist working for the abolishment of bonded labor, was preparing to present evidence against him. Chishti was assassinated before he got the chance, and his evidence disappeared, frightening others within Heming's network who had agreed to testify. One witness in particular has promised to come forward, but only once he feels it is safe to do so.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Straightening from his lean against the back of the couch, Max spoke first. "What's the plan here, Jim? How exactly are we supposed to help a potential witness feel safe to testify when we don't know who it is? And if Heming's influence is as far reaching as we think it is, how can we possibly protect against another assassination if someone does come forward? Especially when it could come from anywhere."

"You're right," said Jim, pacing around to face his team while clicking off the footage of Heming. "Heming controls his empire by being prudently loyal, and viciously consistent in creating fear. He never crosses his associates, and he makes certain they never cross him. Like Aban Chishti, those that try, know the result, and as Max said, they never know where the threat could come from, and it never leads back to Heming."

"His whole network is like a steel-armored ship, not a chink or a leak anywhere," said Nicholas, flipping a page on the file in front of him. Max leaned forward again, reading over his shoulder.

"What are we going to do?" asked Shannon.

Jim smiled. "We create a chink in the armor. If we can create the illusion that Heming is losing control, becoming paranoid or dangerous or just unreliable, his empire will cease to hold the same reign of fear he's held it together with… until now. Shake his fiercest allies' confidence in him, and the empire will begin to crumble, loyalties will be divided and Asher will testify."

"Asher?" asked Grant. "We know the witness's name?"

"Asher was working with Chishti to compile evidence. He's in hiding now, and won't step forward until he knows it's safe. But once he does, we're convinced others will follow," answered Jim. "The complication is that we're on a bit of timetable. The Commission for the UN is in session for the next two weeks, and then won't convene again for eight months. We can't take the chance of the evidence becoming dismissed or compromised in the meantime. And we need to do this in a way that shatters his network. No one can pick up where he leaves off. Heming's reign of terror needs to end now."

"Where do we start, Jim?" asked Nicholas.

Jim cleared his throat. "It's come to our attention that Heming may be brokering a deal for a shipment of illegal semi-automatics, bound for Africa. He always sends the shipments through neutral parties, and has others without his organization handle the deliveries, individuals nearly as discrete as himself. Even so, Heming maintains close control. He rotates contacts, oversees selections and routs, sometimes creating bidding wars between contacts for high risk jobs. One of these contacts is Cade Wesson."

Part One

Nicholas didn't dwell often on the nature of knowing people, or why he was good at it, but sometimes the thoughts crept in. Sometimes it surprised him how easily he could slip into someone else's skin without encountering resistance, how easily the facsimile was accepted by those who should have known the real from the fake.

Craig Heming's skin brought no such surprises.



Ubiquitously distancing.

Nicholas had watched hours of him on tape and seen it over and over again—how Heming's unaffected stare held everyone a little back from knowing him at all, how no one would look him in the eye for more than a second.

Wearing Heming's face through the consulate party crowd, paired with a striped silk tie and an Armani suit, brought the expected courteous half-smiles and the cautious, overly-polite references to Heming's various donations and projects. Nicholas acknowledged the minimalistic attention with fleeting nods, walked with shoulders straight, and barely brushed eyes against the reticent faces he passed, glowering stiffly if anyone attempted to carry a conversation further.

Few did. And those that tried quickly took the hint.

All except Cade Wesson.

When Wesson met him near the champagne table and pressed a cool glass into his hand with flattering eye contact, it was jarring. Nicholas stared back, tipped the accepted drink up with stiff fingers and didn't let his expression change. "Wesson," he greeted.

Wesson smiled with scrutiny, clicking his teeth as he opened his mouth. "I'm so glad you could make it," he said. He hooked a glass off the table for himself and glided it up to his lips without looking away once. His voice was raspy, off, like a cold was setting into his throat.

Nicholas feigned boredom, breathing it out through his nose. "Glad to be here." They tinked glasses, the tiny sound of crystal echoing against marble floors.

Wesson rolled a shoulder toward the swarming mass, darted his eyes out and around, then returned them with intensity.

"Something wrong?" asked Nicholas. The hairs at the base of his skull itched uncomfortably against the trap of his mask.

"Not at all." Wesson blinked back at him, expression steady. "I think," he said, "if you are willing, our chat would be better completed in the den. It's become a little too crowded out here for me." He smoothed a hand down his neck, tiny wrinkled lines folding across his chin.

Nicholas twitched an eyebrow aristocratically, a gesture completely Heming, but the warning coil in his gut was all him. "I don't believe our conversation need be that extensive," he answered. He fought against the urge to glance at Max. He didn't want to give Max away and would if he looked, the way Wesson was watching. "I'm not a man who rehashes details. You, of all people, should know this. A simple yes or no will do. And if you can't," he paused, letting a hint of threat hiss under the words, "there are others who can."

"I can," Wesson insisted. "You know I can. But I think we have more to discuss than our previous arrangements allowed us." His smooth hand arched toward the hallway on their left invitingly. "I have a proposition for you, and I'm quite confident it's not one you'll say no to."

Nicholas set his champagne glass back on the table, jutting his chin up the way Heming would. "The details of our arrangement have already been discussed. I want no part of any other proposition."

Wesson's fingers went back to his neck, rubbing below his ear, like the skin was itching him there. "If you'll just allow me five minutes, I believe you'll be very interested in what I have to say." He lowered his voice and rocked forward and inch. "Concerning one Asher David."

Nicholas blinked.

He kept his expression imperialistic and impassive while his molars rubbed together. The prickling at the back of his neck increased. He moved his eyes smoothly over the crowd, passing them over Max without letting them rest on him, registering the nod Max returned all the same.

"It will be worth your while," Wesson pushed.

"Fine," Nicholas agreed, dipping his chin half a millimeter in concession.

Wesson flashed a smattering of too-polite teeth. "After you," he said, stepping back to open the way. "It won't take long."

"I imagine it won't." Nicholas smiled blandly. "In fact, it would be better for you if it didn't. I don't like wasting my time." He moved, setting his feet stiffly toward the yawning dim of the hallway, one hand crossing to his breast pocket, fingers touching briefly at the communicator folded inside. He threw one last glance toward Max as Wesson stepped to his shoulder.

"Don't worry. I'm well aware of how you work and what's important to you." The words had an edge to them. A wryness. They didn't feel right. Nicholas flicked his eyes sideways, observing warily the smooth planes of Wesson's face. Light from the wide den doors slipped over them, splitting the man's features in half, drawing out the smile, sharpening the nose.

The light cast both their shadows back into the bright party as they walked.

The snap of cold tile rebounded below their shoes.

The sound of a ticking clock ground steadily to their left.

A sharp sting bloomed in Nicholas's neck, sending a spiral of dark through his vision.

Then nothing.