Paying the Piper
A/N: Don't own, don't get any compensation, just for fun.
Erica Sloane took a deep breath as she stood outside of the Congressional chamber. Ever since it was revealed that it was her man, not Ethan Hunt who was the rouge covert double agent that most of the US intelligence infrastructure, and their allies were chasing, and how wrong she was, even if she hadn't realize it, Slone had been in a tight spot.
She had been, effective immediately, relieved of her duties as Director of the CIA and sequestered in the Georgetown brownstone, under unofficial house arrest, on the directive of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
She spent the last few months in her brownstone, only going out to buy food, given that she was constantly followed by what appeared to be agents from a variety of clandestine government organizations. The time spent by herself, while some might use for self-reflection, Sloane used to plan how to get back at Hunt and the rest of his IMF team for causing her fall from grace. All of her time over the last few months had been spent planning the most dangerous, suicidal mission she could send Hunt on, so that he wasn't her problem anymore, once she was back at the CIA.
A shadow falling over her, Sloane was drawn from her musings. Admiral Gordon Prewett Ret. Navy, advisor to the President, and someone she had thought of as an ally, was standing before her with a dark look on his face. Sloane and the Admiral didn't agree on how business should be run; Prewett thought that too many missions in the world were handled by the CIA, or other more clandestine covert op groups, which should be run by military special forces, which if she was honest with herself, was exactly the argument she had used before the President to get oversight on the IMF before everything went to hell. Before she had even stood up completely to greet the Admiral, he had begun speaking.
"You better be sure about yourself, Erica." Prewett said. Sloane was slightly shocked at the level of foreboding in the Admiral's voice, she had expected this to be at worst a wrist slap, at best a enquiry as to how the CIA and IMF could work together more smoothly to handle the absorption of IMF into the CIA, that she had recently proposed.
Prewett, ever observant, noticed Sloane's shocked expression, and couldn't help but mentally roll his eyes. Sighing, the man explained exactly how much trouble the Director of the CIA was actually in.
"Your man, the man you sent on this mission that you believed to be so important to national security that you imposed black book sanctions on, meaning that there was no oversight on him, has just been shown to be a worldwide terrorist who was planning to contaminate one third of the world's water supply. Causing who knows how much social and political unrest, possible leading to a world war potentially worse than either of the ones that we've have so far. Thank God, Hunt and his team were on hand to stop it." Seeing the involuntary look of hatred on Sloane's face at the mention of Hunt, Prewett exploded.
"Good God, Erica, grow up! Everyone in the intelligence community is aware of your dislike of clandestine, black book groups such as IMF. Something which is now seen as odd and a bit of a red flag after everything that has happened over the last couple of years.
"You'd better be prepared to make your mea culpa if you want any hope of not being renditioned to a black site for enhanced interrogation with people who'd make your traitor of a former agent look like a pussycat!" Having said what he needed to, Prewett turned to walk away, not before throwing one more dig over his shoulder.
"I'd wish you good luck, but given how out of touch you seem to be, I don't know how much worth it would be."
Sloane sat on the bench, all of her plans and prep, seeming to be scattered around her feet. As she stared at the door which lead to her future, for the first time in many years, she felt the icy grip of dread settle on her.
After a while, although if she was asked, she wouldn't be able to say exactly how long had passed, Sloane was brought out of her musings by a voice.
"Ma'am," Erica looked up to be faced with a Senate page.
"They're ready to see you now." The page stated, gesturing to the doors in front of them.
With a nod of acknowledgement, Sloane got up with a great deal less confidence than she sat down with and made her way to meet her fate.
As she walked to the table in front of the chamber, Sloane could feel a number of eyes on her, hardly any with friendly intentions. Indignation burns within her, she was spending all of her time and energy protecting these fat, old politicians and they appear to be ready to throw her to the wolves.
With angry thoughts running around in her head, Sloane sat down at the table in front of the Senate committee. After a few moment, just enough that Slone started to feel like they were purposely making her wait, the lead senator looked up and started speaking.
"We are here today to get to the bottom of what happened at the border of the Middle East and Asia, as well as what if anything is the responsibility of the American Intelligence Community. Although we don't have to tell you Ms. Sloane, just so you're aware of the proceedings that have already gone on, we have talked to the Secretary of the IMF as well as lead agents from both the IMF as well as the British Intelligence Service, more popularly known as MI6. What we have previously learned does not cast a good light on the CIA, or its agents." the senator, began his opening remarks.
While Sloane was pleased to hear that Hunley had made it out alive, the combative part of her had to have it's say.
"Why isn't Hunley or his agents up here to answer for their actions?!" Sloane questioned in what most Senators unfavorable thought of as a demanding tone. Grumbling slightly under his breath, the lead senator answered her.
"Not that it's any of your business Ms. Sloane, but Hunley and his IMF team have already been investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident in question." Was the response she got. This did not sit well with Sloane.
"Hunt is directly responsible for the actions that followed after he failed to acquire the plutonium cores in Berlin!" Sloane nearly screamed in frustration.
"It was decided, by our investigation, that the information that Luther Stickell had in his head was as valuable, if not more than getting the three plutonium cores, as was he and his IMF team's original goal. Now if we could get back to the matter at hand?" The senator asked.
Sloane sat back in her chair with a huff, mentally planning an even worse reprise, not just at Hunt but the rest of his team as well. She even started making plans to put Hunley in his place as well. Her planning was broken by the sound of her name.
"Director Sloane! This is the fourth time this committee has called your name, is there something more important we're keeping you from?" The lead senator asked in a mocking tone.
Slone bit back her initial response and focus her attention back on the senate committee. Seeing that they had her attention, the committee chair looked down at his notes.
"Now if we can start, would you tell us, in your own words, what happened; starting from Berlin, since that seems to be a point of interest to you going forward to when you were suspended." The committee chair requested.
This request brought Sloane up short. While this was something she should have expected, the fact that she hadn't done any planning, instead believing this to be a dog and pony show for the taxpayers. As such, the senator's request caught her on the back foot. Surreptitiously looking around, Sloane almost sighed in relief at the realization that there were no cameras and that the American public wouldn't have seen her breakdown. Looking up and realizing that an answer was expected of her, Sloane did her best to answer the question in a way that would cause the least blowback onto the CIA and the most onto the IMF.
"An IMF team was sent out to Berlin to intercept and acquire three Plutonium cores before they fell into the hands of The Apostles, a group who came together after the IMF didn't do a sufficient clean up after taking down The Syndicate, made of their former members, who would do God knows with them. During the course of the mission, one of the agents there were taken hostage and the lead IMF agent allowed the cores to be taken while he saved his agent and a believed friend." As Sloane took a breath to continue, she was interrupted by one of the members of the panel.
"Are you aware, Ms. Sloane, that Luther Stickell is one of, if not the premier hacker in the world and has, over the last twenty years or more, brought down more rough government, terrorist organizations and groups like the Syndicate/Apostles than any of your black bag operatives put together. Good, God! The damage the information in that man's head alone could do to the world's governments or economies in the wrong hands is the thing of nightmares. Just so you know, especially given the fact that they recovered the cores, Hunt and his team have been given letter of commendation in their files from the President! Now that Hunt and his team's actions in Berlin have been cleared up please continue." The Senator instructed.
Gritting her teeth, Sloane took a deep breath and continued to try to make the Senate panel come to the understanding of the IMF being a rogue, maverick intelligence op that needed more oversight than it currently had.
"Regardless of whether or not Hunt was right in saving Stickell, his actions led to the loss of three Plutonium cores and nothing else to show for it. Since the IMF was original created as an offshoot of the CIA, I decided to bring them to heel by putting Hunt under the eye of one of my top agents." Sloane was about to continue, when she was interrupted again.
"This was August Walker, otherwise known as the terrorist John Lark, the man who created what is referred to as the 'Apocalyptic Manifesto'. A person who almost managed to go from just someone howling in the wind, to actually putting his heinous words into actions, when he attempted to irradiate a third of the world's water supply, which I'm given to understand would have caused a global panic, a world wide famine and most likely a depression that this world had never seen and would take decades if not centuries to climb out of." The Senator was interrupted at this point by one of her fellow members.
"The understanding I've been given, which was done by an outside source, was that we would have been sent into what would have been perilously close to a new Dark Age, if not for the actions of Hunt and his team." The Senator commented. Turning to her fellow members she continued.
"If you haven't read it, its page 237 of the supplemental file we were given to prepare for this inquiry." As her fellow members nodded their heads, some paging through the file, she continued.
"Is there anything you'd like to say in response? From what I understand, the CIA employs a fair number of people to scour the Internet looking for works like this. As well as the fact that I believe you also have programs which monitor writing styles to try to find similar elements to build a pattern. Do you do this for your hires, or is it just done to outside sources. Such as your fellow agencies I'm lead to believe." Picking up a document, roughly the size of a telephone book, in her hand the Senator continued.
"In my hand I have both the preliminary report of agent William Brandt when he was first put on Agent Hunt's team. Agent Brandt, for those of you who are unaware, is currently in a deep cover assignment for the CIA, on loan from the IMF. In it Agent Brant comments on the fact that while Agent Hunt uses methods that could be seen as radical to achieve his objective, he never breaks the parameters of the mission objectives or goes rogue to achieve them. Of all of the information that I've been given to prepare for this enquiry, this is the only time I have read anything of the nature that suggests Hunt could become a radical agent given to causing more damage than he prevents." The Senator looked straight at Sloane.
"Please tell me this one document wasn't what lead to this mess?" The Senator asked of the Director.
Sloane sat as still as a statue, before breaking into action, looking through the papers in front of her for the document referenced. As she began to read the color drained from her face, leaving her ashen, she had been played so easily. Walker had brought the document that the Senator was referencing, however, it would appear that, even though the filing number was what she remember of the document, the actual details were enormously different. Walker apparently had given her information that was edited just enough so that she drew the conclusions that he wanted her to draw. As she was coming to grips with how easily she had been tricked the chairman spoke up.
"I would like to draw this committee's attention to folders SYN 1-10. In folder one you will see the up to date annual psychiatric reports that were on not only, Agents Hunt and Walker but all of the members of Agent Hunt's IMF teams from when he was first promoted to lead team agent to now. Luckily for us, Agent Hunt likes using the same members for his teams by and large, so there aren't as many reports for us to go through as there could be." This statement was answered with a rueful laugh from the Senators in the room.
As Sloane opened the folders mentioned she immediately sought out Ethan Hunt's psychiatric profiles. The more she read, the more shocked, Sloane became.
Ethan Hunt's psychiatric profile read like someone who had just entered clandestine service, perhaps after completing a tour in one of the military's spec ops units. Not the treasonous, battered wreck she'd thought him to be. This was nothing like she expected. As she started to read deeper, the chairman continued.
"As you can see from Agent Hunt's report, he is considered; both by the psychiatrist that he has worked with, as well as the various station heads he has reported to over the last twenty years, as a good, hard working agent, who, while he occasionally works outside of the constraints of the official chain of command and makes choices that seem aberant at the time, every one of his decisions have turned out to be what was needed to complete his mission in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of difficulty.
"He has multiple commendations for presidents stretching back twenty years. Mission Commander Swanback in particular reports that even after he virtually admitted to Hunt that he lied to him to get him to use the former lover of a rogue agent as part of his team for the 'Greek virus' mission, Hunt while angry, conducted the mission with the utmost professionalism.
"Hunt has been responsible for saving the world from global level events no less than three time since his promotion to lead field agent. Something that very few other agents can even claim once.
"Even after this job causing the breakup of his marriage, Hunt has performed at the utmost level that could be expected of him."
Turning to Sloane, the Chairman asked.
"Aside from Operative Walker's report, what information did you use to come to your conclusions about Agent Hunt?" The Chairman asked Sloane.
Sloane sat in her chair, her face ashen. If what she was being told was true; she had spent the last two years hunting an innocent man, while the real villain was right under her nose. As she was thinking back over the years of her association with Walker, Sloane remembered how many times Walker had reported agents he had been sent to work with died due to either actions by the target or their own incompetence, how many of these people had Walker killed over the years.
Like a marionette with its strings cut, Sloane slumped bonelessly in her seat, the weight of reflections of Walker's actions slamming down on her shoulders. As she started to come to Sloane realized that there was only one course of action to take. Straightening up, Sloane addressed the committee.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of this senate panel, while I did not have total knowledge of Operative Walker's activities, I admit that I trusted him too much, to the extent that I nearly led him to causing a new holocaust in Asia, by either my inaction or disbelief when I would be presented with rumors about Walker that I didn't want to listen to. I have no explanation as for my actions, other than I was tricked by Walker and never realized it. I realize that so weak of an explanation, will do me no favors, nor will my behavior towards this panel today. I am willing to accept whatever decision this panel hands down over this issue."
Having said what she needed to Sloane folded her hands before her and sat back, awaiting whatever would come next.
The deliberation went on for roughly 60 hours, something that, while it would have concerned Slone before, now just caused her to say a prayer and hope for the best. Since she couldn't see an outcome that at the least didn't have some form of either permanent or temporary suspension, Sloane called her sister and asked her if she wanted to come out to DC and visit with her husband and children in the summer. Claudia was surprised, not only to hear from her big sister, but that the other woman wanted anything to do with her. Sloane was unsurprised, but disappointed, when Claudia informed her that she would have to get back to her after talking to her husband about Sloane's offer.
The next day, Sloane called her neighborhood priest, who, while surprised to hear from her, agreed to meet with Sloane in a few days' time.
As she was making list of things that she'd never gotten to do, since entering the CIA, Sloane got a call telling her that she was requested back at the Senate chamber.
As she stood in front of the Senate chamber, it was a different Erica Sloane than had been there three days ago. While she still wanted to serve her country, in any way she could, the few days reflection led Sloane to believe that she didn't have to correct mindset or temperament to stay long term in clandestine services. Regardless of what the committee decided, Sloane had a meeting scheduled with the President, to discuss her stepping down from her post.
Feeling like she was gaining some control over her life again, Sloane looked up as the Senate aid walked towards her.
"Ma'am, they're ready for you now." The young man informed Sloane. Nodding her head, Sloane entered the Senate.
As she moved to sit down, Sloane noticed that nobody in the chamber looked friendly towards her. They either wouldn't look at her, or were looking at her with either open hostility/suspicion. After clearing his throat, the Senate chairman leaned forward as he opened his mouth.
"It is the decision of this panel that the recommendation that Director Sloane be terminated as Head of the CIA will be sent to the President for his approval. As the only thing Director Sloane can actually be considered guilty of is being both blind and too loyal to the actions of her people, she is not to be charged with any crimes at the moment. We reserve the right to call her back for questioning if it appears that she has anymore information relevant to the actions that are under investigation. She is free to go." Having said this, the chairman look down at his notes.
Seeing that no one else had anything to say, Sloane slowly got up and exited the Senate chamber. As she walked down the hill, towards where her car was parked, Sloane was struck with the thought that she had no idea what she was going to be doing tomorrow. For all of her life, the only thing she did was serve the country, in some form or another, now that was no longer possible. With this cloud hanging over her head, she had less than a slim to none chance of stay in any form of government service. The thought came to her that she honestly had no idea how to live a 'normal' life.
A chill of fear went down Sloane's back as her driver pulled her car away from the curb and merged into traffic. The bright sunny day seemed to mock her as Slone tried to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
A/N 2 : Please review.