celestine_fics: A scene from the movie Inception with a revolving hallway and characters moving in it (Movies - Inception - Revolving Hallway)
celestine_fics ([personal profile] celestine_fics) wrote2010-09-04 10:59 am
Entry tags:

Inception fic: The Life Cycle of the Idea, Part Two: Life (R)

Title The Life Cycle of the Idea; Part Two: Life
Author: [personal profile] celestineangel
Fandom: Inception
Character(s)/Pairing: The entire Inception team, plus Robert Fischer, Peter Browning, and a group of OCs. Cobb/Robert and Arthur/Eames, eventually.
Rating: R
Word Count: 3,903
Summary: Trying to extract an idea that's been incepted is a delicate, dangerous job. Consequences fill the dream world… and can even spill out into the real world.
Warnings: None at the moment!
Disclaimer: Not my sandbox. I'm just moving sand around. Building some buildings and knocking them down.
Author's Notes: This the second part of what is going to be a three parter, with the second part probably being the longest (though the third part might get fairly long, now that I know where the cutoff points are). Written as a fill for this prompt at [personal profile] inception_kink. I think it's sort of gotten away from me, and it's not entirely like the prompt anymore, but I'm just gonna go with it and hope you still like it. Thanks to [personal profile] aimlesstravels again for the quick beta!

The Life Cycle of the Idea
Part Two: Life

January 3, 2025, 12:58 am, on the road from New York to Washington D.C.

Melvin diAngelo did not like chaos.

The dashboard of his car shone with a fresh coat of cleaner, the floorboards and seats had been recently vacuumed, and there was not a cutesy clip or seat cover to be seen, not even a charm dangling from his rearview mirror. These things did not show character or heighten aesthetics in any way. He did, however, keep a little baggie of knick-knacks in his glove compartment along with a collection of appropriate books and CDs. If he'd thought he would need to drive Peter Browning anywhere, he would have taken these things out and placed them in strategic mess to give the impression he wished, then packed it all up again when the man was gone.

It wasn't chaos if it was planned.

"I'll be home tomorrow," he told the woman waiting on the line. God, he loved Bluetooth. "I'll stay at a hotel tonight and be in late tomorrow evening."

"Fine. I'll have a cocktail waiting for you."

"You know just what I like, baby."

"That's what you pay me for." Then Akiko hung up on him. Quite rudely, in fact. Melvin loathed rudeness as much as he did chaos, and Akiko knew it very well. She knew him as deeply and intimately as he knew her, and despite arguments to the contrary, such an intimate knowledge only made things more interesting.

She'd promised him a cocktail; it wouldn't involve cherries and alcohol. No, one of Akiko's specialized cocktails made the dreaming experience absolutely unique, closer to the state of natural dreaming than the dream-sharing technology was normally capable of creating.

That, you see, was the problem with dream-sharing technology. Not only did it become addictive in its way, but it took all of the dreaming away from dreaming.

Lucid dreaming had its uses, Melvin of all people couldn't and wouldn't deny it, but one shouldn't dream lucidly all the time. It simply wasn't right, wasn't natural. The human mind was not made to dream lucidly, it was made to dreaming in a jumbled mess of impressions, of memories, of fears and half-known desires. Human beings slept to recharge, and they dreamed in order to work out the things in their waking lives they couldn't work out otherwise.

Sometimes, too, Melvin believed natural dreaming gave insights that were completely impossible to receive in the waking state, and in lucid dreaming. It happened to everyone. This instinct, this knowing, déjà vu, things that happen in the real world a person already knew would happen, or remembered seeing before. Mothers who know their child is sick, people who see the apparitions of loved ones at the exact moment the person dies across town. Everyone experiences at least one unexplainable thing in their lifetime, and most people have that instinct, even if they don't know they do. Melvin didn't know if this could be explained as merely using another part of the brain, or if he believed in visions and psychic powers, but he did know that he and all the others hew knew who dreamed by sharing had lost this otherworldly instinct.

At least, they had until Akiko invented her Dreamlight Special.

Melvin sat back in his seat and grinned, thinking about the dreams he would have the next evening.

January 4, 2025, 9:46 pm, Washington D.C.

He'd been home an hour, he'd eaten, and currently had his legs wrapped with Akiko's as they sat nude on the bed, the suitcase beside them. It was already loaded with two doses of Dreamlight Special, they were fighting over how long to go under.

"It's too dangerous." Akiko had a way with words that mostly involved not using many of them. Melvin wondered if she had a limit she had to stay under.

"It's natural, baby," Melvin replied, sliding his hands up her arms. "Eight hours. That's what we're supposed to get." He realized his mistake even as Akiko leveled a superior glare at him and shrugged his hands off. Well, the second of his mistakes. She really hated when he called her 'baby.'

"Sleep has many phases. REM sleep is only one of them. True REM sleep only lasts an hour and a half to two hours."

Goodness, from Akiko that was practically a speech. Melvin sighed, knowing he'd lost the battle, at least for now. Of course, he lost it every time they had it, and if winning the war happened to be cumulative, then he ran at a distinct disadvantage. Then again, he always did when going up against Akiko. He didn't mind, really. It was just one of those things one became used to when dealing with Akiko.

"What about the job?" she asked as he pulled a line from the suitcase.

"Tomorrow, when Fred and Hannah are here."

"Is it good?"

"It's going to be interesting. Difficult. It might even be dangerous, for us and the mark."

Akiko looked up at him, and for the first time the entire evening, she smiled. "Good."

January 5, 2025, 8:30 am, Washington D.C.

His team was quiet as he explained what their client wanted. He didn't bother to tell them who the client was; either they would figure it out, or they wouldn't, but either way, they didn't really need to know. None of them asked, either; they'd worked with Melvin long enough to know better.

Fred, otherwise known as Frederick Hannibal, leaned casually back against the cushions of Melvin and Akiko's sofa, cigarette burning down between two fingers as he listened. The world they shared with Robert Fischer would be of Fred's design and implementation. He didn't always enter the dream with them, in fact Fred could mostly still dream on his own, but this time they would need him in there just for the added bit of security. They needed to know the world wouldn't fall apart on them.

Hannah Jones barely looked up from her laptop, a device Melvin hadn't trusted at first, but if hackers wanted access to Hannah's files, they'd have to break through Hannah's personal network of firewalls and attack programs. All Hannah's research, scenario ideas, information on marks and filed reports on the outcomes of their missions couldn't be safer if it'd been filed in Fort Knox.

Put Fred and Hannah together with Akiko and Melvin, and you had the best extraction team currently working in the world of idea extraction. A few years back there'd been rumors of another team, a team so damn good they stole ideas from CEOs of the world's top companies. There were even rumors that this team had performed an act of inception, but no one took those rumors seriously. Everyone, absolutely everyone, knew inception was impossible, or at least difficult enough to be as close to impossible as it could be. No one even attempted it, ever. No team could be that good.

This team, however, could certainly go in and make sure Robert Fischer forgot he ever wanted to break up his father's empire.

"I want this to be as delicate as possible," he told his team, one arm around Akiko's waist. "Fucking elegant, even. There will be damage, but it needs to be minimal."

"That's more your job than ours." Fred spoke through a cloud of smoke. "You're the one doing the actual extraction, man. I'm just building the world, Hannah's got your back, but you're responsible for what happens to the guy."

"Maybe, but we're all going in there, so we all have a responsibility to how fucked up he is when we get out."

Fred shrugged. "Whatever."

"Stop trying to be the big campus dog," Hannah said from behind her laptop, not bothering to even look up from it to Melvin, or Fred, or whoever she was talking to, which could have been either of them. "We'll go in, we'll get it done, and whatever happens to the mark happens." Hannah was not known for delicacy outside of virtual space, or for being particularly compassionate. "I doubt our client much cares about the outcome as long as Baby Fischer doesn't get to play keep away with Daddy's company."

"I care," Melvin said, and that was that.

February 8, 2025, 12:31 pm, Los Angeles, CA

Dominic Cobb knew the phone call was from one of his former team the moment Miles said, "He's here, but it's Phillipa's birthday."

Dom kept up with his team through various means, of course. Arthur he spoke with directly, and often; Arthur, who seemed more uncertain now than he'd ever been before, and wouldn't tell Dom why. Eames, ever insufferable and eccentric, usually wrote letters, sometimes postcards with a jaunty 'wish you were here!' caption. Sometimes Dom wrote back, but most of the time Eames had already moved on to another location. Ariadne did well in school, Miles assured him, and would soon be ready to graduate. Dom hoped she'd be able to settle for a real job, and that he hadn't ruined her for the rest of her life. Yusuf, as far as Dom knew, was back in Mombasa with his cat, tending to the needs of the every day dream-sharers there.

Saito, of course, had long ago returned to Japan. He sent cards at Christmas, not because he celebrated, but because he knew Dom and his family did, and he also sent gifts for the childrens' birthdays. Phillipa and James never knew their 'Uncle' Saito, but benefitted from his generosity nonetheless.

Dom thought about Robert Fischer often, not only when he read about him in the papers. By now, it was clear the inception stuck, but Dom wondered more than once if the changes to Fischer's character were healthy. He hoped so, he'd tried to keep the experience as positive as possible, but one could never quite be certain what a mark would take from their subconscious experience.

"I don't know what could be so important it's worth interrupting a girl's tenth birthday party," Miles said, and Dom knew he needed to take the call if only to prevent some sort of scene.

"It's all right," he said as he reached to take the receiver away, "I'll take it." Dom nodded to emphasize just how all right it was, and Miles reluctantly handed it over and returned to his grandchildren. "Yes?"

"Bloody hell, mate, with security like that you'll have me thinking you're the bloody queen."

Dom felt his mouth twitch. "Hello, Eames."

"We need to talk, Cobb," Eames said, moving smoothly from off-color greeting to business with the charm of a professional. "All of us, not just you and me. The whole team."

Dom flicked a glance toward his two children and the group of friends Phillipa had over for her party. Amongst them stood Miles, arms crossed, watching Dom with a thin mouth and narrowed eyes. Somewhere nearby lurked Jessamine, he was sure, and her glare of disapproval would melt his skin right off his bones. "There is no team. We're retired."

"You're retired, mate, don't presume to speak for the rest of us. Besides, you need to know this."

Sometimes Dom wished Eames wouldn't be so candid. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and turned his back to Miles. "Where?"

"L.A. will do just fine, I'm already here. Tomorrow, three in the afternoon, there's a Hilton, I know you can find me. I've already taken the liberty of inviting everyone else. Toodles." Then a click and a dial tone met Dom's ear. No wonder Arthur had always taken every opportunity available to shoot Eames between the eyes in the dream world.

January 6, 2025, 3:33 am, Washington D.C.

"No, Fischer doesn't trust Browning that much anymore. If he did, he wouldn't have done all of this behind Browning's back. Besides, we don't have a forger."

"We don't need a forger," Hannah cut in, deigning to give Melvin a glance up from her laptop. "Forgers are shortcuts. Real extractors can get the information without using a forger."

Fred rolled his eyes, and Melvin felt the same. Hannah could bitch all she liked about how real extractors did things, but it wasn't about the reputation, at least not anymore. Melvin didn't care much if some other team went through flaming shit-covered hoops to prove themselves worthy. The "real" reputation, as Hannah would say, came from getting the job done, and Melvin's team got the job done.

Still, they didn't have a forger and didn't have time to track one down. Besides… "This isn't the sort of thing we'll be able to do accomplish the same way as usual. This isn't a secret any more. If we imagine it as a safe, it won't fill with what we need."

"A library, then," Fred offered. He sat back, a bottle of beer in one hand, the other arm draped across the back of the sofa, where he'd been since arriving with the rare expedition to the fridge for more beer. "I can make the dream world into a business library, an archive. If I leave all the books blank, what do you want to bet Fishy'd fill 'em up with everything we want to know."

Melvin considered, and found the idea a good one. "We'll have to test it on someone else, though, someone who doesn't know. See if that's actually what would happen."

"It might or might not." Akiko stood, all grace and sinew. "It would be different for everyone."

"Maybe not," Melvin said, "after all, a safe or jail fills up with secrets no matter whose mind you put them in. No, I think if the library works for one person, it should work with Fischer."

"All right, so we build a library for him to fill with all these ideas and plans. Then what?" Hannah had abandoned her laptop almost entirely in order to give Melvin a challenging glare over the top. "We carry all of the books out and shred them one by one?"

"No. We burn the library to the ground."

February 9, 2025, 3:00 pm, the Hilton, Los Angeles, CA

Dom was the last to arrive, and Eames had a fair few jokes ready and waiting for such an occasion, jokes everyone laughed at despite the concerned curiosity hanging in all their eyes. Apparently, Eames had decided to wait until the entire team could meet together to inform anyone of his news.

To Dom's shock, even Saito was there, just inside the door to the right, his hands in the pockets of his suit, calm and serene.

Yusuf stood not far from Saito. Ariadne smiled and gave Dom a short wave from her perch on the bed, while Eames himself sat in the one chair allotted for the matching desk, tilted back, casual and nonchalant. If Dom had ever seen the forger play at being serious, he couldn't remember it.

"Well?" Arthur leaned against the wall on the far side of the room for the door, impeccable as always and eyes trained out the window. Once a point man, always a point man. "Please, Mr. Eames, do enlighten us as to why you felt it necessary to drag all of us from our lives. What game are you playing?" Bitterness laced his voice, so much that Dom felt his eyebrows shoot upward into his hairline. Last he'd heard, Arthur and Eames were on good terms. What on Earth had happened?

Any trace of a smile fell from Eames' lips at that, and he sat straight in the swivel chair. "It's no game. I thought you all would want to know what's happening with one Robert Fischer."

Dom's eyes snapped from Arthur to Eames, and he felt a weight settle in his stomach.

Ariadne beat him to it, though. "What do you mean? He's starting a new company, isn't he?"

"He will, once he's completed all the sales of his father's company." Eames rattled off the information as though he'd spent the past four years hitched to Fischer's side. "He's broken the whole up into pieces that he's sold separately, but he won't officially release the pieces to their new owners until the last buyer has paid in full. According to my information, the last payment will be made next month."

"All right, so what does any of that have to do with us?" Arthur asked.

Eames did something Dom had never seen him do before. He forger kicked the floor with one foot to swivel his chair in Arthur's direction, and snapped at him. "If you'll shut up for three seconds, darling, I'll tell you."

It had the effect of silencing everyone.

Eames continued the turn to make a pass at the desk before facing Dom again, this time with a folder in hand. "This file contains information, including the transcript of a phone call from Peter Browning to a young man I've identified as extractor Melvin DiAngelo."

"An extractor?" Yusuf took a step closer, Dom saw his shadow move. "What business does Browning have hiring an extractor?"

"What business do you think?" Eames' simple question hit hard.

Dom read the conversation transcripted in black and white. Along with that were detailed descriptions of Browning's meeting with a young man, without a transcript, but with pictures. 'Young' was a good term for Melvin diAngelo; Dom couldn't imagine Browning trusting such an inexperienced-looking man with something so difficult as extraction unless somewhere in this undocumented conversation diAngelo had managed to convince him otherwise.

Also included in the file were reports concerning the details of Fischer's sales of the company, how he'd split it up and to whom he'd sold everything. It was all very interesting, especially one last piece, but Dom couldn't see why it was included.

He looked up just in time to see Yusuf shake his head. "I still don't understand."

Dom sighed, closing the file. "He wants diAngelo to extract the idea we incepted."

"What?" Ariadne, listening through all the conversation, finally spoke up, looking from Dom to Eames, to Arthur and back to Dom. "Is that even possible?"

"If it were any other idea, yes," Eames said quietly, no longer casual. "This is a little different, though, it's more than a simple piece of information, isn't it? We did more than simply hand Fischer information and tell him to have at it. What we did went deeper, you know that, Ariadne. Inception is about a tiny seed that grows bigger, that grows to define that person's very being for the rest of their life. The idea we planted in Fischer is so deep now, it's so much a part of who he is, that trying to extract it will be like trying to extract his skeletal system from under his flesh. Impossible, and I don't like to use that word."

"Worse than impossible," Arthur said, finally moving away from the wall. "Dangerous. They'll have to basically destroy Fischer's mind."

Eames surveyed the room of his shocked associates, and Dom could see the cocky smile before it actually happened.

"Well, I suppose Saito's going to pay us to keep these tossers from destroying everything he paid us to accomplish before?"

January 30, 2025, 9:28 am, Washington D.C.

"Goddammit, Hannah!" Melvin tore the line from his arm. "It was a test run, that's all! Why the hell did you do that?"

Dark eyes with no discernable expression peered up at him. Hannah took her time removing the line, letting it roll itself back to the confines of the suitcase. Melvin had to restrain the urge to hit her; he'd never wanted to hit a woman before, but Hannah could be so infuriatingly Hannah, so sure she knew what was best and so unwilling to share her thoughts before acting on them, and so Goddamned apathetic to the results. Even he, who didn't care much about the comfort of people outside his team, didn't meddle with their minds without good fucking reason.

Hannah had her own reasons.

"It couldn't be a true test run if we didn't test everything," she finally said, voice steady. "So the library worked the way you wanted, we still need to know what's going to happen to Fischer when we burn it down."

"Bitch," Fred breathed from behind Melvin, the snap of his line cracking across the room. "You're fucking crazy."

"But right," offered Akiko. "We need to know."

Melvin scowled at her, and though his rage at Hannah approached murderous, he couldn't bring himself to be more than irritated at Akiko for agreeing with her. It didn't matter much now, the deed was done, but he turned back to Hannah and spoke in as low and steady a voice he could manage. "The next time you do something like this without talking to me about it first, I will shoot you in the stomach and let you die slowly and painfully, and when you wake up you'll be off the team. Do you fucking understand me?"

She didn't smile. "Absolutely."

The worst part was what happened when the test mark's sedative wore off.

February 9, 2025, 3:18 pm, the Hilton, Los Angeles, CA

Saito agreed to pay, but Dom shook his head.

"No, this is something we do on principle," he insisted when Eames and Yusuf tried to argue. "These people are going to willingly, knowingly destroy another man's mind. We're criminals, but we don't do this, and we don't let someone else do it, either."

He looked around the room at his team. Ariadne nodded, young and idealistic and as attached to principle and the idea of justice as all young people are, so long as they also have a streak of goodness in them. Yusuf looked defeated, a good man, and Eames rolled his eyes a little, also a good man no matter how hard he tried to pretend otherwise. Arthur, arms still crossed and peering at Eames with a frown, glanced to Dom and nodded once, showing support.

Beside him, Saito put a hand on his shoulder as his only form of agreement, but it was enough.

"How long do we have, Eames?"

The forger sighed as he tilted his chair back again, steepled his fingers together, and landed an intense gaze on Dom that made him wonder how Arthur could stand having Eames look at him so directly so often. "Not long, unfortunately. There's only one opportunity in the next few weeks for this other team to move on Fischer, and that's approximately one week from today. Little bastards are stealing our number."

"The flight from Sydney to Los Angeles." When Arthur said it, the phrase sounded like a growl.

"Upside being we happen to know the owner of the airline." Eames flashed a brilliant grin in Saito's direction. "Any chance we could be on that flight in a week?"

"I can arrange it," Saito said, simple and direct. Generally, Saito could arrange for anything.

Ariadne, though, rose from the bed for the first time and waved her hands in front of her. "Whoa, wait, stop. So, what's going to happen? One mark, two extraction teams, how is this going to work? Are we just going to shoot them while they're out?" She looked extremely worried about the idea she might be asked to actually shoot someone in real life, and Dom couldn't blame her.

Eames, he noticed, was only too happy to answer her.

"Welcome to your first extraction war, sweetheart."

To be continued…. Continued here.