Second multi-chapter fic, first for M:I. This idea started basically as soon as I finished GP. I've only seen the first and GP, so I had to do my best with minor research into the second and third so I don't totally butcher anything. If I did, feel free to tell me, but this is the only chapter that alludes to another of the movies besides GP.
Disclaimer: I do not own Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol or any of the affiliated characters.
Chapter 1 - Déjà Vu (Prologue)
"These things are ridiculous," Benji grumbled, crossing his arms and leaning against the brick wall of the narrow alley.
Carter rolled her eyes, but even standing next to him, the darkness of the late hour prevented her complaining teammate from seeing.
Brandt, on the other side of the alley, cracked a barely noticeable smile as Ethan raised his head, his jaw clenched. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it with a sigh and continued with code entering, finger printing, and retinal scanning.
"In all fairness," Brandt said conversationally, "you're not the one with your face pressed against a manhole."
Benji held up his hands innocently. "Just saying." He would have liked to challenge Brandt, but had found after only a few missions that the agent's deadpan wit often left Benji as the butt of the joke - sometimes literally. That whole "Uranus" thing still bothered him a little.
"Good evening, Mr. Hunt," an automated female voice said from beneath the manhole. Ethan sat back on his knees, hands resting on his thighs, waiting for the next mission.
It didn't come. Each member took a step closer, looking at the sewer cover curiously.
"You have been called to headquarters," it continued. "Flight 137 from Bogota to Virginia leaves in three hours. This message will self-destruct..."
Ethan pulled himself to his feet and began walking out of the alley, eyebrows furrowed. Behind him, his three teammates followed, and even further back, there was a dull thud and the metal cover shook slightly. A glance behind showed him that smoke billowed out of the small center hole, but that could have easily been mistaken for sewer steam.
"Headquarters?" Carter asked warily to no one in particular.
After a moment of silence, Benji shrugged and Brandt replied, "Apparently." But even they were suspicious. Getting called to base could be a good thing, but chances were, it wasn't. Chances were, it was extremely bad.
Their thoughts echoed those of the team leader. Unfortunate memories from the last time he'd been called to base came back to him. He did his best to shake them off and kept strolling along the concrete, vaguely registering the direction he needed to take to reach the airport.
The team's lack of suitcases allowed them to skip over the crowded, chaotic baggage claim and continue outside, where a man wearing a suit, tie, ear piece, and sunglasses waited next to a black Escalade. Ethan sighed, Carter and Benji exchanged unimpressed glances, and Brandt mumbled, "Subtle." Nonetheless, the four filed into the conspicuous car and waited patiently until they reached Langley.
Once inside, the agent led the four to the last in a row of elevators, nodded to them as a group, and left without a word as the doors closed. Ethan ignored the buttons and bent over to let the machine test his finger prints and scan his eye. A moment later, it blinked green and beeped in approval. They watched as the metal below the last row of buttons lifted and slid down to reveal one more. Ethan pushed it without a second thought; they all knew where it led.
Brandt, Carter, and Benji exchanged sideways glances in the elevator. Ethan hadn't said anything since boarding the plane, when he had asked for the aisle seat. He had remained silent throughout the five hour trip, the twenty minutes in the car and the short walk into the CIA building. Now, he leaned against the back of the elevator, looking down, arms and ankles crossed.
"Any idea what this is about?" Benji ventured to ask. Carter didn't bother to answer, as she and Benji had spent most of the flight brainstorming. When they had asked Brandt, he had only shrugged a single shoulder, not even bothering with the effort of raising both because he was that uninterested; as an analyst, he'd learned patience. Again, he offered no thought, staring at the red digital numbers, which increased every few seconds as the elevator descended further underground, into the unknown levels of the CIA.
Benji awkwardly awaited some sort of response. Ethan appeared to not be paying attention, lost in his own world as he stared down at the white tiles in the elevator. But soon, there was a ding as they reached level 36, and the doors opened. Without hands, Ethan pushed himself from his post and exited, saying as he passed Benji, "Let's go find out."
"Sounds like a plan," Brandt said as he followed Ethan. Carter and Benji filed behind them.
The four stood right outside the closed elevator doors, taking in the desks cluttered with blacked out pages and manilla folders labeled TOP SECRET in bold red letters. There were monstrous screens spread over the walls, all displaying multiple satellite images and videos. Phones rang and tracking radars blipped; analysts, technicians, and agents talked, typed furiously on key boards, or hurried to and fro with purpose in their strides. There were some muffled bangs and yells from the weapons testing areas down a hallway to the left.
It wasn't that they were overwhelmed by the chaos before them. They had all started at different times, but this was where each of them had begun every single day of training and testing before they had become full agents. Now, though, they were uncomfortable; being inside the sub-levels of the CIA, the IMF sector, meant there was a problem.
Carter and Ethan didn't move, trying to determine where they were supposed to go. Benji and Brandt, slightly more at home, gave small nods to former technician and analyst coworkers, but also stayed out of the way.
From their right came a tall man with broad shoulders, dressed in a suit. "Agent Hunt." He greeted Ethan first.
The relationship between the two had become strained ever since the last time Ethan had been called into the IMF headquarters. Things had eventually worked themselves out, but that didn't cover the cracks that had been made. They shook hands, and he acknowledged the other three agents, saying it was good to see them again.
Those three nodded in agreement, but it appeared as if nothing was good to the director at the moment. He kept his lips pressed together, looking as anxious as a man trained to be stoic could look. "You're probably wondering why you've been called down," he said. His voice was tired.
Benji replied casually, "Crossed my mind once or twice."
Brassel gave him a thin smile that didn't quite reach his eyes before leading them down the hall to the right. They followed its curve and reached the door at the end. It required an intricate pass code, but the lock clicked and the door opened after a moment, revealing yet another hallway. Brassel stopped at the third door on the left, entered another long pass code, and finally pushed down the handle after retinal, finger print, and voice scanning.
He beckoned for the four to follow him into his personal office. On the right wall was a blank flat screen that spread almost from corner to corner. In front of that wall was a dark wooden desk. Brassel sat in the black rolling chair and indicated for them to sit in the chairs on the other side. Carter, Ethan, and Benji hesitantly sank into the cushions, noticing there were only three seats. Brandt headed over to lean comfortably against the wall.
"Agent Brandt, can I-"
The former analyst held up a hand. "I'm more comfortable this way."
The director couldn't count the number of times Brandt had stood against the wall while he and the Secretary discussed matters. "I know you are." His smile was there, but it was weary.
"Sir, are you all right?" Brandt asked, concerned.
His laugh was humorless. "Not really." He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "This is a global issue, and now it's personal." He spun his chair around to face the screen and turned it on with a remote. A map of the earth came into view as it warmed up. Brassel zoomed in on the Middle East. "Oil."
"Ah," Benji said. "The international economy. Of course."
"What's going on?" Carter asked.
Brassel pulled a manilla folder out of a drawer. "This." He plopped the file on the desk for them to go through. Brandt removed himself from his post and came over to look at the pictures.
"Jean Laurent, Henrich Adler, Aban Nagi," he mumbled, flipping through the photos, noting the word DECEASED stamped on each in red. "These are all international tycoons."
"They're killing them and making it look like accidents. Pushed out windows, fell down stairs," Brassel explained. "It's a ring that would be independent from the main oil companies, but the goal is to exchange cheap oil under the table for automatic weapons and bombs. And this is what happens to anyone that doesn't want a part of it." He gestured to the photos spread across his desk. "They get killed because they know about it."
"Who's threatening?" Brandt asked, the analyst in him looking for a name. "Who's selling?"
Brassel zoomed out on the map. "We've hit a few red flags looking into eastern Europe, though nothing is definitive yet. Action has been limited to Saudi Arabia because of the oil. That's why we sent agents. They were going to identify, and if possible, take down who's behind it."
Benji looked away from the dead men. "What happened?"
"Forty-eight hours ago, three agents departed for Saudi Arabia. Twenty-four hours ago, one made contact with us, hastily communicating that her team had betrayed her. Soon after, we lost contact."
"They betrayed her?" Ethan asked for clarification. He'd dealt with a number of traitorous Americans throughout his career, but this was different. This was two IMF agents double-crossing not only their country, but also their partner.
Brassel heard the dangerous note in Ethan's voice. "I'm going to regret this." A few eyebrows shot up in interest. "Understand that this mission is unauthorized, and not like it's usually unauthorized." He received blank but attentive stares. "The president is currently ruling what actions should be taken."
Benji raised his hand slightly and, wondering if he'd missed something, asked, "By the time the decision is made, won't the agent be dead?"
"Why is there a discussion?"
Brassel sighed. "All they have decided is that the mission is to identify the seller, stop him, and get the agent back. This requires the best. Which would be you."
Ethan suddenly experienced flashbacks, seeing Lindsey in his mind's eye. "Who's the agent?"
Brassel hesitated. "Before I tell you, know that if you accept, you cannot make contact with the IMF until you have carried-"
"Who is the agent?" Ethan repeated slowly, glaring dangerously at the director.
There was a pause as the two battled through a staring contest. When it was over, Brassel loosened the tie around his neck. "Cassandra Hill."
Ethan pounded his fist on the chair arm and used that momentum to raise himself. He paced back and forth; it was Lindsey all over again.
"That's why the president hasn't made a decision yet," Carter said softly. Benji understood now, too, as Brassel nodded.
Brandt easily put the pieces together, though he was unfamiliar with most of what had just happened. Obviously, Ethan was the only choice for a mission like this, and his past with whomever the agent was appeared to be quite the obstacle to pass - so much so that the president was having trouble deciding over it.
He remembered having heard the name Cassandra Hill, throughout his training and even after, both when he was in the field and when he was an analyst. The name had usually been followed by some kind of praise or admiration, even from the Secretary.
Ethan had cooled down, putting his feelings away like he did for any other mission. He saw Brandt's face, and remembered that only Carter and Benji had met Cassandra. "I trained her," he said as he sat back down.
"Your mission," the director began hesitantly, "should you choose to accept it-"
"Hunt, like I said, you-"
"Can't make contact with the IMF. Yeah, I got it."
Brassel looked to the rest of Ethan's team. None of them had any contradicting words - for the moment, at least. That didn't mean Ethan would hear nothing out of them when they were away from the IMF headquarters.
The director pinched the bridge of his nose; he just needed to make sure Hunt knew what he was getting himself into. "We can start you off," he said, giving them a folder. "This has the same list of suspects Cassandra and her team were given. It also has where we believe Cassandra to be. We were in contact just long enough for us to track her. We added your flight time and safe house locations. Weapons and equipment are already there, but we have some things set aside for you." He stood up as Ethan took the file and did the same.
Brassel walked them back out of his office, down the hallways, and into the room where they started. On a small table lay open brief cases filled with gadgets, including a tranquilizer hair pin, a set of bugs and trackers, and a pair of climbing gloves Ethan remembered all too well.
"I'm sorry this is the only help we can give you," Brassel said as each member of the team grabbed a case. "But if anyone finds out and word gets to the President, it'll be all of our asses." He stood before them as they entered the elevator. "You're on your own now," he continued, and just before the doors closed, he added, "Good luck."
"All on our own now," Benji repeated as they rose to ground level, thinking of ways he'd like to tell Ethan off when he got the chance.
Brandt chuckled. "Not like that's ever happened before."
Ethan didn't grin. Instead, he spoke very quietly, his voice low and dangerous. "We take this guy down," he said, "but Cass is the main priority. Understand?" No one argued; no one disputed; no one even spoke. They only nodded.
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