Ethan Hunt knows that he'll never go down in history like one of the heroes of Greek myth.
There's a thousand reasons for that. For starters, no-one is going to utter the name "Ethan" in the same way they might "Hercules" or "Achilles" or heck, "Bellerophon." Also, the Greek heroes weren't exactly subtle in their deeds – Perseus brought back a severed head that turned people to stone. Daedalus and Icarus flew on wings for the whole world to see before the latter fell to his death Odysseus managed to get his entire crew killed before making it back to Ithaca. And while being the last man standing is a familiar that Ethan is familiar with (it's not a pleasant one), he didn't have the benefit of being a king.
But the key reason, above all else, is that no-one is meant to know about his deeds, and if they did, the secretary of the IMF would disavow any knowledge of his actions. For instance, no-one is supposed to know that Sydney nearly became ground zero for an epidemic that would have killed millions. No-one is meant to know that it was through the actions of a trio of IMF agents that this was averted. ASIS will run its investigation of Biocyte, but no-one, least of all the public, will know how close they came to dying from the flu.
There's a potential third reason, but he's not sure. Can Greek heroes be said to get the girl? Can he call that a trend? Odysseus made it back to his wife, but there were plenty of others who had no such luck. Paris didn't get to stay with Helen. Orpheus looked back and lost Euridice. Oedipus may have got the girl, but only at the cost of incest and later blindness. And Hercules was driven mad and killed his entire family. When it comes to love, it appears that the Greek heroes aren't good role models. Indeed, a lot of the time, "hero" seems generous.
Either way, it's a trifecta of ignominy. Standing on the balcony of his hotel room, he looks out over Sydney, reflecting that if things had unfolded differently the entire city would be dead. He doesn't consider himself a hero, and there's plenty of people in the world who'd hardly describe organizations as the CIA or IMF as being "heroic." He's checked in under the name of Charles Perkins – so soon after an operation, the IMF doesn't want to leave any trail that Ethan Hunt, IMF agent, was operating in Australia. And while he may have got the girl for awhile, that's no longer the case as of this morning. He's actually still holding the note she left him. Two weeks of vacation up and down the east coast, and all he gets is a dear John letter. Holding it in both hands (he has to due to the wind); he re-reads it for the tenth time.
This isn't working. Can't say it hasn't been fun, but I've got the feeling that what you want and what I want isn't quite the same thing. So instead of some tedious drawn out conversation about feelings, I've decided to call it quits. Thanks for clearing my record by the way, though feel free to browse Interpol a few years from now – chances are you might see me there. Maybe you find that disappointing, but I can't change what I am, and I'm guessing you can't change who you are as well.
Do me a favour and don't come looking for me. Your job is to stop monsters like Sean. To be a hero. My job…well, I'm not a hero, but I'm not a monster. Your world, my world, they're light years apart. I'll always remember the last few weeks, for what it's worth, but we've both got to make new memories.
All the best, and stay safe,
He crumples it up and puts it in his pocket. It wouldn't just be a cliché to say that he's heartbroken, it wouldn't even be true. He's been betrayed before, of course, and betrayed in a manner that cut much deeper than this. Jim Phelps. Kittridge. Claire. All part of the same betrayal, but it's three cuts that still remain, as surely as Ambrose cut his cheek with that blade. He actually runs a finger down the scar – it's healing nicely. Probably won't even be permanent.
Your job is to stop the monsters like Sean. To be a hero.
He frowns – he doesn't feel like a hero. Never mind that he won't be remembered as one, he doesn't even feel like one. Sometimes, he doesn't even know why he does this. And most of the time, he doesn't see an end for it. Bellerophon killed Chimera. He killed Chimera. Unlike Bellerophon, he doesn't get to call it a day.
Well, he could. He could, one of these days, choose not to accept a mission. He could call it quits entirely. He's only greatful that he wasn't so head over heels for a thief that he submitted his letter of resignation to the IMF then and there. He-
There's a knock on the door. He checks that the pistol he's got tucked inside his belt is ready. He slowly walks over, and slowly opens it with his left hand, while keeping his right on the firearm.
It's a hotel employee, so chances are he isn't going to need that pistol.
She hands him a package. "Came in for you at reception sir."
"Oh. Thank you."
She smiles. He doesn't smile back. Best thing for her is to forget she ever saw him. Best thing for him is to close the door (which he does) and throw the package into the bin (which he doesn't). What he does do, is tear it open to find a VHS tape inside.
Two weeks, and they couldn't even give him an extra day. His eyes linger at the VHS player under the TV. If this is what he thinks it is, he's going to have to eject it pretty fast before he's billed for damages. He fingers the tape, still toying with not even bothering. Toying with refusing another mission. Toying with just walking away.
Your job is to stop the monsters like Sean. To be a hero.
Damn woman, she's still in his head. Sighing, he puts the VHS tape in and steps back, letting it play. The IMF logo appears on the screen.
Good morning Mister Hunt.
Not really a good morning.
We trust that you're rested and ready for a new assignment.
Go to hell.
He could stop it right now. He could walk away. Instead, he lets the tape play.
He doesn't feel like a hero. But as the tape reminds him, briefing him of a looming anthrax attack in Tokyo, there's no shortage of monsters in the world.
And unlike Bellerophon, he can't stop at one.