Hello again! I'm taking a stab at a multi-chapter story for the fandom in which I am currently still ensconced. I will do my best to update weekly, though once the school year starts they may become more far-between. The title of this story, "Sedona," refers to the song of the same name by Houndmouth; I don't own the song. In fact, I don't own the M:I franchise either. Grrr...
This story takes place about a year after Ghost Protocol, but before Rogue Nation, so only spoilers through the fourth movie. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter One–Fallen Angels
Even after all he had seen, the sky never ceased to amaze him.
Ethan gazed out the window of the jet, drinking in the magnificence of the clouds and land that was growing steadily less detailed beneath him as the plane climbed into the air. Of all the kinds of adrenaline he had experienced– and there were many– the rush that came from being high in the air, of seeing the spectacular blue sky thrown out above him like the ceiling of the gods–
Enough to make him wax poetic. The agent scowled, then chuckled to himself as the relief of being skybound rose with the altitude. Poetic, fine. Let it be not said all agents are crass, unthinking minions of espionage.
Ethan felt a shadow pass over him, his chuckle dying. Not all. But some.
The mission was over. He was going home, away from England, away from Berns and Harvey, the two knuckleheads in the forward compartment with not enough humanity between them to fill a thimble. Ethan wondered for the hundredth time why the Secretary had sent him on this random mission in London with the two others, agents he had never worked or even trained with. And frankly, after this last week's experience he could have lived without doing either. Talk about crass. He'd thought Sean Ambrose was eager to get his gun off. Ethan's old double could've taken a lesson or two about itchy trigger fingers from these characters.
Oh well. They were new, and they would learn. Ethan had already managed to knock some sense into their heads. And he was flying home now, to the people he really wanted to work with: his team.
"Agent Hunt?" Ethan looked up from the window to see the private jet's single flight attendant pushing a drink cart down the aisle. She was new, he noticed, if her stiff posture and flighty eyes, worried about doing something wrong, were anything to go by.
"No, thank you," he replied, smiling. "I'll probably take you up on that offer later, though. I appreciate it." She smiled back nervously and rolled on.
He'd sleep later. Dregs of adrenaline and focus from the op were still working their way out of his system, poking him consistently to stay alert, stay aware. He was exhausted, his face tight with tiredness, but he knew from experience that sleep would not come for a while. For now though, he was content with seeing the British countryside fall away. He settled back at the window.
Benji was British. Maybe his home was somewhere down there. No, wait he was from Manchester, Ethan thought he'd told him once. Farther north. He still sometimes went back on leave to visit his family.
Where was Benji now, or the rest of the team? It had been a week since Ethan left, which, considering some of his missions in the past, was not that long. But a lot could happen in seven days, especially to an agent.
Let's see. When he'd left, Jane had been finishing an intense secondary course on hand-to-hand combat. She was already a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, but after Cobalt she'd wanted grittier streetfighting skills. Like she wasn't already terrifying enough with axe kicks and a serious left hook. Now she could fight dirty.
He'd missed her this mission, her levelheadedness and her no-bullshit attitude. Jane would put the nimrods up forward in their places in about ten seconds flat if she ever got her hands on them.
And aside from wanting to waste every asset they got their hands on as soon as their usefulness ran out, Berns and Harvey couldn't find their way around the tech scene to save their lives. He'd longed for his computer genius when they'd been wasting time wrestling through firewalls and coded letters, stuff that Ethan knew for a fact Benji could breeze through before his first cup of coffee. And he'd missed the Brit's comedian quality, the release he always seemed to provide in a bad situation. Berns and Harvey had little to no sense of humor.
Brandt would've been good to have too. When the Secretary called Ethan it had been barely two days after their last mission. Granted, that particular op had been a short one, but on top of all their day-to-day duties it was stressful enough to have Brandt singing in the shower of the agents' locker room when he thought the others couldn't hear. They'd reached the deep end. Ethan had practically ordered him onto a five-day leave after that before the poor guy completely snapped. Five days…which meant he would've punched the ticket back in a few days ago. Ethan wondered what the Secretary had put him onto. Just because she kept the four of them together on any mission she got the chance, they couldn't stick together all the time no matter how well they operated when they did. Ethan had missed his wingman. He always knew Brandt had his back, noticed the things Ethan didn't. It was hard to become a full leader again, and not have anyone he could really rely on for an entire operation.
But all that was over for now. He was going home.
He pulled away from the window, settling back against the plush seat. It would be a five-hour flight back to the States, and they wouldn't arrive until late. He may as well try to get some sleep now. He closed his eyes.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Ethan blinked, scowled at the obnoxious alarm coming from the cockpit. It was so faint he wasn't worried, any major one would be much louder. And he could hear no tones of worry from the pilots.
He closed his eyes again.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
God, that really was irritating. He turned, trying to cover his ears, too tired to care what it meant.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The hairs on the backs of Ethan's neck prickled. He started upright. That wasn't coming from the cockpit. The beeping was in the back of the plane–
Beep. Beep. Beeeee…
Instinct kicked in. Ethan threw himself forward. "GET DO–"
The explosion from the hidden bomb tore through the rear of the jet with the force of a hurricane. Suddenly all Ethan was aware of were blips of information.
Heat searing his back and neck and hurling him violently toward the cockpit.
The sickening sensation of falling.
Screaming. The pilots, the agents, screaming.
The sky that had welcomed them just moments before had betrayed them.
Ethan stumbled upright. He was in the aisle of the plane, just behind the forward cabin. His back flared with pain, but adrenaline quickly iced it. He could feel the plane's nose starting to tip down, threatening to head into a full nosedive.
"BERNS! HARVEY!" He could hear them still screaming. He fought his way forward against the growing G-force. His fellow agents were locked into their seats, frozen, white-faced and shrieking. There was little he could do about them.
Ethan risked a glance back. The entire rear of the plane was in flames. As he watched, it gave a massive wrench and a huge section of the tail area ripped free.
Air rushed out of the gaping hole. Ethan grabbed onto the backs of the seats to keep from getting sucked back and out of the plane into open air. He struggled forward as the plane kept falling.
He reached the cockpit. The copilot was passed out in his seat, but the pilot was holding onto the controls for dear life, wrestling for steadiness. Ethan felt what was left of his stomach drop as he saw the ocean, capped with white-crested waves, roaring up to meet them. They probably had less than a minute.
Ethan shoved the copilot out of the seat and took his place at the secondary controls. He pulled back with all his strength as he and the pilot fought to bring to plane to bear.
Slowly, he saw the nose rise. His hope lifted. If they could try for a belly landing on the water–
And then the second bomb went off.
It had to be. Jet fuel didn't combust, didn't even burn. It was something else that exploded in the main compartment of the plane, tearing metal, ripping plastic and industrial-strength glass, shooting fire throughout the body of the jet.
And it ended up being the thing that saved Ethan Hunt's life.
A conflagration of heat and power howled through the remains of the aircraft. The fireball incinerated Berns and Harvey, tore apart the fuselage and smashed into Ethan with enough force to send him flying through the cockpit window.
Plexiglass shattered around him, scraping his skin. Ethan felt himself thrown onto the nose of the jet, fresh pain burning through his shoulder and chest– and then he was falling, away from the jet and the fire, into the air.
A second later, they hit the water.
Salty cold slammed into Ethan and pulled him under. Instinct took over again and he kicked, dimly aware that his right arm was no longer working. He broke the surface, gasping for air. He wiped his eyes and looked around.
The plane was nothing but burning wreckage in the waves, much of it quickly sinking. Ethan kicked and half-paddled away, knowing that if there was anything left of the main body, it would create a hole in the water that sucked down anything near enough to get caught. He grabbed onto a floating piece of debris–the burned remnants of a seat cushion–and clung to it, still kicking away from the crash.
Now that the adrenaline of the fall was wearing off, the pain was coming back. His ribs ached and his back and neck felt badly burned. A long slice along his right forearm from when he'd crashed out the window burned from the salt. His right shoulder hurt like hell and didn't move properly. He looked down at it and groaned. Yep, dislocated. He raised it gingerly onto the cushion, the blood from the cut smearing into the material. He'd relocate it later, when he reached somewhere safe.
Talking of which…where was he?
Ethan paused in his kicking. He was probably far enough away to avoid the pulldown. His agent training was still engaged though, and he heard his instructor's voice in his head. What do you do when you find yourself in a tight spot of any kind? Breathe. Observe and assess the danger and rank it in order of immediate concern. Is there a horde of angry terrorists coming your way? Worry about that before you think about the superficial knife wound in your leg that will probably get infected later. Then act on your assessments. Use what you know, Ethan.
Ethan took a deep breath, consciously working to slow his heart rate. He looked around, assessing the situation.
The sea was rough but not violent, not yet. He could stay afloat without too much trouble if the swell stayed this long and spaced-out. When he came up high in the next wave, he caught a glimpse of land. The England shoreline, a few miles distant.
He looked at the sun. He had a couple hours before dark. He turned toward the far-off shoreline, placed the cushion in front of him with his injured arm on top, and began kicking. He had a long way to go, and a lot to think about. Like what the hell had just freaking happened.
It had been a bomb. He'd heard the beeping too late. It had clearly been activated once they were airborne, otherwise he'd have heard it beforehand. And there had been two, one going off a little after the first.
It had either had a timer, or someone had set it off once they were in the air. If the second was true, it narrowed the list of suspects considerably.
It couldn't have been the pilots; the beeping had come from the rear of the plane. It could have been done remotely, but something made Ethan doubt them. They both looked plenty scared when they were plummeting toward their deaths. Berns and Harvey had been up forward. A turncoat agent was always possible, but why do it now, at the end of a mission? They could've easily slipped away when they were in London.
Who else was there? They were the only passengers on–oh.
The flight attendant. She hadn't been stiff because she was new. She was stiff because her life was about to end. And the alarm had only started once she'd left the rear compartment.
Ethan sighed. Kamicazis were always hard to swallow. There was something distinctly wrong with seeing someone alive and breathing and minutes later knowing they had just martyred themselves in order to take other lives. He rubbed a hand, cold and salty with seawater, over his face.
So, a planted bomber who wasn't supposed to come back. Which meant there was someone else pulling the strings behind this. Who? They'd finished the London mission and eliminated all targets and known affiliates. The group they took down would not have had the resources to acquire two bombs and a mole and get them both onto the plane their enemies were flying out on after the events of this week. Someone else had done this, and it had been premeditated. Finding out exactly who had planned it would take time and resources Ethan did not have currently floating in the freaking Celtic Sea.
Which left the next question: why? The pilots were IMF employed, in it for the pension after service. They had nothing to do with on-the-ground ops. Berns and Harvey were fresh out of the academy. In fact, Ethan felt with a sudden pang, this had only been their second mission. And despite their ability to piss off everyone in the room, Ethan didn't think even they could make someone angry enough to blow up an IMF jet. They had been collateral damage here.
Which only left one agent.
He sighed again before scoffing lightly. This had been for him. He'd been the target of the bombing.
"Because I'm sooo popular," he muttered aloud. His voice was lost in the hiss of the cresting waves. He pushed down the guilt. He could feel bad later. Right now he had survival to think about. He was injured, growing steadily colder and it was still a long swim to shore. He kept kicking, resting his chin on the cushion.
It was instinct more than anything else that made Ethan pause a few minutes later. Without the splashes of his kicking there was only his harsh breathing, the sound of the waves and something growing steadily over them, a familiar sound that made Ethan's stomach drop with dread: the whupwhupwhup of chopper blades. He froze, dropping his legs down so as little of his body as possible was on the surface.
Seconds later it appeared, flying low over the waves about a hundred yards to his left. It was coming from the mainland, heading for what was left of the plane.
It was a sleek, black military-issue chopper, but he saw no insignia on it. In fact, there were no identifying marks whatsoever that he could see, not even a registration. Goosebumps that had nothing to do with the cold rose on his arms. He stayed frozen, hoping his black clothing and the dark material of the cushion would help him blend in to the inky ocean.
The chopper circled twice around the area of wreckage. Each time Ethan saw black-clad people peering out of the main bay, scanning the water. He kept still, occasionally kicking backward if the waves brought him a little closer to the crash site.
After the second circle, the chopper started spiraling outward in an ever-widening pattern. Within seconds it was close enough to Ethan for the water kicked up from the rotors to dash him in the face. Another moment and they'd be right on top of him.
Whoever these people were, whoever had come after him, they weren't done with him yet.
There was nothing for it. Ethan gritted his teeth, made a fist with his right hand, and wrenched his shoulder back into place. Swallowing a scream, he pushed the cushion away and swam out. The chopper roared above him.