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 11:01 am
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Inception fic: The Life Cycle of the Idea, Part Three: Death (R)

Title The Life Cycle of the Idea; Part Three: Death
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: 4,418
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: HI IT'S BEEN A WHILE. Sorry about that. Written as a fill for this prompt at [personal profile] inception_kink. This the third part of what was going to be a three parter, but now it needs a fourth part, which is really going to screw with my title scheme. Thanks to [personal profile] aimlesstravels again for the quick beta!

The Life Cycle of the Idea
Part Three: Death

February 15, 2025, 10:15 am, Sydney, Australia

Getting everyone to Sydney was the hard part; Melvin had to make sure the whole team made it in time, but separately, and in such ways they couldn't be traced to each other, or to him. He and Akiko flew together as a mooning couple of newlyweds—which was strange on so very many levels, not the least of which was Akiko's bright, fake smile—but it was decided the other two should slowly enter the country one at a time.

Hannah went first, of course, as their woman-on-point (she insisted this sounded better than "point woman," and refused to be called a "point man," even though Fred tried to convince her it was even more feministic), to scope the area, the hotels, Fischer himself, and the flight out. Fred entered two nights later, and Melvin and Akiko the day before Fischer's scheduled flight. The hardest part about all of it was Fred's visa, suspended for reasons only God and Fred knew, at least until Hannah had to be the one to see it reinstated, through methods Melvin had no interest in knowing.

Hannah didn't like how things were going, though, and honestly he couldn't blame her.

"It's creepy," she'd said the night before over the disposable cell phones they both had, "there's only five other people besides Fischer on the entire flight, Melvin. One up front in first class with Fischer and four back in economy with us. That's insanity for an airline to do, even one that's doing relatively well."

Melvin agreed, but they still had a job to do.

Even worse, sitting on the flight with Akiko at his side, Melvin could swear he recognized the man sitting in the row across the aisle. Middle-aged, sandy hair, a beard made mostly of scruff than actual hair, but mostly the eyes. The man had glanced briefly up at them as they took their seats, the picture of disinterest, but his eyes were a very intense, piercing blue. He knew those eyes.

Recognition eluded him for the moment, and none of the others seemed familiar at all. There was a chubby man three rows in front of them who had been rifling through the on-board magazines in the back of the seat in front of him when they passed, and he looked Indian, though Melvin couldn't be sure. Two rows behind them, a bored-looking fellow who'd given them a rakish grin, then put his arm around the petite girl who was probably far too young for him but didn't seem to care. And all the way in the back, a man in a three-piece suit, iPod buds in his ears, intent on a laptop in front of him.

Scattered amongst them, Melvin, Akiko, Hannah and Frederick on an otherwise empty airplane.

Hannah was not the only one who didn't like it.

There was no choice, however, except to continue; ahead of them, Fischer sat in the first class section with his single companion, and this would be the only time they could have him alone long enough to pull this off. The job and Browning's money wouldn't wait for them to feel entirely comfortable with the situation.

If only he could figure out who the guy in the opposite row was….

February 15, 2025, 3:45 pm, en route to Los Angeles, CA, U.S. from Sydney, Australia

Dom woke.

He knew because it was an instant jolt from the dark of non-dreaming to the bright aliveness of the world. What he couldn't remember was falling asleep, a thought that sent him straight in his seat to look around the plane.

Eames and Ariadne were out, and Arthur stood from where he'd just woken Yusuf. The point man turned dark, serious eyes to Dom, then nodded to the front of the plane.

DiAngelo and his team were gone.

Son of a bitch.

Dom stood, and moved to help Arthur by shaking Eames' shoulder roughly enough to knock Ariadne off the other. Now was not the time to worry about the young architect's feelings or face being bruised. Both Ariadne and Eames groaned, though the forger woke first, and meanwhile Arthur took the PASIV from its hiding place.

"We've lost more than five hours," said Arthur, clipped and stoic.

Damn it. "Any idea when they left?"

"Never mind that," Eames groaned as he stood, "any idea when they bloody drugged us? Or how they knew we're another team?"

Arthur shook his head, and Dom gave him credit, he didn't growl at Eames as had been his wont lately. "They didn't have to know, it would have looked pretty strange for four people to all get up and head to the front of the plane."

"There's also the fact that we're the only other people on the plane," Ariadne offered, still sounding slightly groggy. "That might have clued them in to something strange."

"It was a risk we had to take. We couldn't have other people on this flight, and we couldn't sit up front with Fischer on the off chance he might recognize us from last time." Arthur spoke with determined detachment as he checked Eames' pulse—also determinedly detached.

"Great, so now they have a few hours head start on us," Ariadne retorted, though not with much heat.

Dom raised his hands to cut off any more fighting, especially because it looked like Eames was getting ready to say something cheeky to Arthur, and God only knew what would happen then. One would think he'd left behind the need to act like a parent when he said good-bye to James and Phillipa in Los Angeles, but apparently that was not the case. "Let's get up there, strap in, and see what the damage is."

Passing through the short hallway to the front flight attendants' area, they found the first class attendant, Rose, unconscious on the floor. That explained how the other team managed to get by her.

In the first class cabin, Saito slumped in his seat separate from the rest—as the only one of them who could conceivably afford first class and have reason to be there, Saito had sat with Fischer, intending to be a buffer between Fischer and the other team, but that, apparently, hadn't worked very well. The other team sat in seat, hooked to their own PASIV device: diAngelo and the Asian woman they'd seen him sit with, a young woman with curly black hair and the dark-skinned bald man who'd been in the front row in coach. It would probably be easier just to shoot the lot of them while they were vulnerable, but it wouldn't help them in Fischer's subconscious.

Dom went to Saito as Arthur began to set up the PASIV. As he gently swatted Saito's face, he heard Ariadne questioning the point man. "Wait, how are we going to do this? Are we going to hook up to them, or what?"

"No, just Fischer. They're already in his subconscious, so once we're there we'll be able to interact with them."

"Oh," Ariadne replied faintly.

"You know what to do?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

Saito woke, blinking around in confusion, Dom told him what had happened to them, and was slightly disappointed when Saito couldn't recall anything unusual other than Rose forgetting to offer him a drink several times. Drugs in the drinks, of course, and Rose belonged to Saito's airline; she wouldn't have wanted to betray them. An idea of what had happened began to form in Dom's mind, of diAngelo or one of the others threatening Rose.

But it didn't matter right now.

"You're staying here," he told Saito. "No arguments. Rose is out, we need someone out here, and besides, you're still just a tourist." Saito smiled wryly, both of them knowing better, but the businessman did not argue. "We'll take them out one by one, you take care of them here when they wake. Drug them, knock them over the head, tie them up, I don't care. Just make sure they're out of commission."

"Understood, Mr. Cobb."

There weren't many seats left, Ariadne took one, as did Yusuf, while Dom, Arthur and Eames took spots on the floor. "All right," he told his team, "we don't have time to play nicely, or be subtle. We go in hard and fast. Ariadne, you're on capture and contain."

The girl nodded, then Dom gave the signal, and as soon as Saito hit the center button, the real world dropped away.

The library burned.

No Time, the Dream Space, Robert Fischer's Subconscious, Outside the Library

Burning the library to the ground would not have been Melvin's first choice, but it was the fastest and the easiest way of doing what they needed, and it would have taken far more time than they had to come up with a plan that wouldn't destroy Fischer's mind.

Melvin stood outside the front door, with Hannah, Fred, and Akiko at other entrances around the perimeter to pick off the projections as they arrived, and to make certain Fischer couldn't leave the building.

Inside, Fischer screamed.

Outside, Melvin lifted his gun to take out an oncoming projection, except he recognized her as the pretty young girl from the plane, and just as he squeezed the trigger anyway, a wall of brick and glass shot up from the ground between them. The bullet struck a pane of glass, and instead of shattering it, the glass absorbed it flawlessly.

"What the fuck?"

The girl shouldn't be able to change the dream space, not in someone else's dream. She must be an architect, and a damn good would if she could just twist the dream to her needs.

"Fred," he called into his communication system, hearing the crackle of static over his ear bud. "Fred? We've got intruders, fucking answer me." Nothing.

The girl stepped through the glass as easily as though it were air, and settled unnervingly old eyes on him. Perhaps it was only the dream, but she seemed a much older soul than her face gave credence to, expression calm and serene. "I expected you to be taller," she said.

Hysterically, Melvin answered. "Like you have room to talk, short stuff."


Her lips quirked in a smile he had to admit was ten kinds of cute, but he didn't see it long because with it came a new growth of walls, again of brick and glass, with wicked DNA swirls of barbed wire across the top. The walls sprouted on either side of him, forming a corridor, and on pure instinct Melvin ran down it to one side, shocked to find it did not dead end, but turned right. He followed the curve, only to find another right turn not far ahead, and worse, another corridor splintering off exactly in the center of the two turns. Only then did he understand what the girl with the old-soul eyes had built: a labyrinth.

No Time, the Dream Space, Robert Fischer's Subconscious, Outside the Library

Dom waited, not very gracefully, as Ariadne twisted the dream space of diAngelo's architect until it reflected her own subconscious. Something he'd learned about Ariadne since meeting her: she always dreamed in labyrinths.

Labyrinths were so much second nature to her that she could build them in anyone's dream, she could take anything built by another dreamer and turn it to a maze of such brilliant architecture and twists as no one else could ever imagine. She built labyrinths as though doing so were her birthright, some ancient talent handed down through generations. He wondered, a bit facetiously, if she had any Greek blood in her lineage.

Red brick, glass and barbed wire grew like shrubbery around the burning library building, and Dom could only be glad they'd thought to infuse a bit of sedative in the mixture percolating through diAngelo's PASIV. He watched the maze creep toward the sky and diAngelo become lost quickly in its twists, and thought this was more like a real dream than he'd had in a very long time, in years. Long before he and Mal were ever married. If he knew anything about the situation, too, things would only get weirder before the end.

"Ready?" he asked Arthur.

The point man didn't bother with words, he only stood, rifle in one hand, pistol in the other. Dom knew him well enough to know there would be other weapons hidden on his person.

The two of them separated then for better vantage points; as they moved, the barely formed landscape smoothed to allow them safer passage. Apparently, diAngelo's architect hadn't bothered to construct anything beyond the space around their building. They'd probably arranged for Fischer to appear inside, and after that there was no reason to construct anything except room for them to sweep for intruders. For Ariadne, accustomed to creating dreamscapes much more detailed than this, raising the maze while also clearing the way for Dom and Arthur should be no trouble.

Dom reached the outer wall of Ariadne's labyrinth, for a moment stalled as he tried to figure out how to get in, until he remembered Paris and her first real foray into dream building. Smirking, Dom raised his hand and pressed it to the glass, shattering it with what seemed no more than a thought, and stepped through. Behind him, shards rose in a tinkle of glass rain, coming back together and mending.

Down the corridor, he heard shots, and took off running. The labyrinth corridors seemed to shift with him as he ran, taking him directly where he wanted to go, and he arrived in time to see Ariadne with her hand extended and splayed, and a spray of bullets fall to the ground.

"Oh come on!" DiAngelo lowered his weapon, scowling at her, and even from his angle off to diAngelo's side, Dom saw the fear in the extractor's eyes, ringed with white. "Matrix shit, really?"

Unperturbed, Ariadne just shrugged. "I like that movie."

"DiAngelo!" Dom barked his name, and the man turned just in time to take a bullet to the forehead. As he dropped, Dom looked at his architect. "You should really consider bringing a gun with you."

"I'm perfectly safe as long as I remember my Matrix-fu, and besides, it won't kill me."

"No, but we need you here to keep changing the other architect's constructs."

"Right." She pulled out a piece of paper, what looked like parchment, really, and studied it carefully. "Thanks for reminding me, looks like he's already trying to bring down my maze in several places."

Dom moved closer to peer down at what she had, and it turned out to be a map of her labyrinth, but quite a remarkable one, showing not only the layout of her creation, but the positions of each person in their team who'd entered the dream world with them. As he watched, a few of the walls disappeared, presumably the other architect's work, but Ariadne was able to return them the instant she saw them vanish. "Why aren't the other team on here?"

"I don't know them as well. I can feel this maze like it's an extension of me, and I can clearly feel all of our people on it because I know you all so well. I have a vague idea of where the other team is, but it's not going to be as accurate."

"Put them on there anyway, it's better than having no idea at all where they are."

Ariadne nodded, and a moment later more dots appeared on the map, fainter, colored in red instead of blue, and without identifying names. The architect reached in her pocket to pull out an identical map and hand it to him. "Here."

"Very imaginative, Ariadne," Dom said, truly impressed. When she flushed, he simply assumed it must be because of the praise. "I'm going to see if I can—"

A gunshot sounded in the distance, and one of the other red dots vanished off the map.

"I'm going inside the building to see if I can help Fischer and stop the fire before it destroys too much. Ariadne, you just concentrate on the maze, keep it up, keep it confusing for them. Whatever you do, stay out of the way."

He barely waited for her assent before heading off down the nearest corridor, one the map told him would lead directly to the front door of the building. Ariadne did good work, he noticed, as the shifting maze passages kept shifting, and each time the other architect tried to bring down her creation she just brought it right back, and every time one of them started toward him or her, the corridors changed, leaving them stranded.

With her help, he reached the door of the building in minutes, opened it, and entered surreality.

No Time, the Dream Space, Robert Fischer's Subconscious, Inside the Library

Inside, Dom found a burning library, books catching and disintegrating in flames in seconds. His throat caught a gasp as he wondered what these books were, what parts of Fischer they were filled with, even as he knew what it must be.

Everything. Every single piece of the man known as Robert Fischer. The team burning his mind to ashes did not have the skill or finesse to convince Fischer to fill these books only with what they wanted to destroy, so they would destroy everything to accomplish their goal. They were young, and they were stupid, and nevertheless he had to wonder at the type of young, stupid people who could be so callous.

"Fischer!" he called. He could hear the wordless screams from somewhere in the library, but he couldn't make out from where. "Robert Fischer! It's Dom Co—it's Mr. Charles! Where are you?"

No response, only continuing screams.

Dom cursed and started running through the aisles of books, starting with those furthest from the fire, hoping Robert had at least enough sense to hide as far from the flames as he could. He turned a corner and immediately tripped over the first step on a staircase that had absolutely no business being where it was. Looking up, Cobb caught his breath when he saw what loomed before him, an impossible tangle of staircases straight out of Escher's Relativity.

The inside of the library is a maze. Shit. No wonder Fischer couldn't get out. Arthur where are you when I need you?

Muffled gunshots, so far away they might as well have been in another dimension, reminded him, and Cobb did the only thing he could, lifted his foot to the stairs and took off at a breakneck pace through horror. Flights through a thousand previous dream worlds could not prepare him for the sheer terrifying vertigo of this experience. Each time a staircase veered off at an unexpected angle, he stumbled, told himself not to look back and tried very desperately not to look up, at least not after the first time when he saw what was supposed to be the floor hanging above his head. And each time, he called Fischer's name but never received anything but screams in return.

Worse, he could turn one corner and up a wall and hear Fischer as though he were only another turn away, go the direction he thought he should, then come out a door on a staircase to hear the man scream from what sounded like a world away.

Once, he came out near a window, the twists of Ariadne's labyrinth sprawling across what should have been the sky, and saw diAngelo's architect put a bullet in Eames' back. Dom shouted, but two seconds later the man fell as Arthur pumped him full of lead, face hard and frightening. Dom watched his point man pass the fallen architect to Eames' side, roll him over, and exchange words with Eames who breathed in heavy, agonized breaths. Arthur touched Eames' face--oh, that explains some things--then stood and hesitated before putting a fresh bullet hole between Eames' eyes. He could be forgiven the hesitation; killing Eames in such a simple dream would only wake him up, but they'd all been wary of killing each other in dreams since the inception.

Dom turned away from Arthur's razor-slim form, away from the window, and toward an indefinable crack of heat that tore his gun from his hand and left a sear of pain across one cheek.

"Cobb the Extractor's Extractor, I presume."

Standing upside down on a staircase in front of him stood the woman with the curly black hair, though here it was braided and twisted around her head to keep it out of her way. She wore military fatigues, carried a machine gun in one hand and what looked like a whip make of the sun's fire in the other. Even upside down, her grin was unpleasant.

"Guess who's got a map of this burning library," she said, "and who doesn't?"

"We'll get caught in the fire if we stay much longer," Dom said, not daring to move from where he stood, even hearing Fischer scream, even hearing the roar of the flames. "Most objectionable way to die I can think of."

"You lack imagination." Her voice cracked with the same force as her sun whip as she flicked it toward him again, too quickly for him to do more than raise an arm to try an insane attempt to stop it. All he received for his trouble was another throbbing burn and the woman's laughter. "How many deaths have you suffered, hmm? What's one more?"

What happened next, Dom lacked the mental capacity to describe, let alone the vocabulary. The woman jumped down, twisted in some manner, and landed somehow on her feet right side up.

He couldn't fight her, he realized. Not here, when she had a map and seemed perfectly at home in the insanity of the staircases, not when she had two weapons and the sadism to use the most painful, and not without his own weapon, which had fallen somewhere he couldn't even see. He had another, a smaller pistol, as well as a knife hidden on his person, but he would never be able to reach even one of them before she could crack her whip or squeeze the trigger.

"Is this really necessary? To burn down everything about a man in order to get rid of one idea?"

She smiled, again unpleasant, enough to send a chill down his spine. "Not at all. You know that. You know at least a dozen ways this could have gone differently, don't you?"

His mouth went dry as he nodded. "This isn't just cruel, it's sloppy."

"Is that supposed to bother me?" Her head tilted to the side. "Not everyone's concerned with being tidy, Cobb. Not everyone is your precious Arthur."

Dom had just enough time for her knowledge of Arthur to zing through him, to be shocked by it, then she surged forward, whip cracking, slicing through his clothes and skin as though neither were there. Below, flames ate away at the building's foundations bit by bit, and here, in the middle of the staircase maze, Dom's skin burned from him a piece at a time. He tried to duck, to dodge, find somewhere to hide, but she was too fast, and the single occasion he managed to put a bookcase between them she cut through it as easily as a single sheet of paper.

After that, he gave up trying to hide, attempted to endure the pain he would feel anyway to get closer to her, but she shot him in the leg. Not the head, not the chest, no where that would kill him immediately, but the leg. He fell, screams joining Fischer's, and she came to stand over him, lips tilted in a smaller version of her unpleasant smile.

"If there were more time, Cobb, I'd show you all sorts of intriguing ways to die. I'd make you scream while I did, and beg me to end it, and maybe I still will some day." She lifted her gun, aiming at his head, and with what she had it wouldn't be a neat shot between the eyes. "But, you're right, fire isn't my favorite death."

Her head exploded in red and gore.

"Had enough of her, Cobb?" asked Arthur, calmly, from his perch in the window.

Dom closed his eyes a second, feeling the throb of every burn she'd given him as he caught his breath. "Took you long enough. You couldn't have shot her before she started monologuing?"

"Such a nice speech. I wanted to hear the end."

"You're fired."

"I'll be sure to make a notation." During their short banter, Arthur unbuckled the harness attached to his heavy duty grappling hook with an ease Dom suspected would be both astonishing and somewhat unnerving to someone not versed in idea extraction.

"I saw Eames go down."

Arthur's dark eyes flickered. "We're the only ones left." He glanced over his shoulder, out the window. "Fischer's projections caught up, they came after me, so I had to go up."

Dom finally pushed himself up, the pain receding just enough to allow him movement. "Upside of this place is the projections will never find us except by chance."

"No." Arthur shook his head. "We end this now. The other team is out, and judging by the fact neither of us is dead yet, they've been neutralized in reality. Fischer's done, Cobb. It's time to go."

Dom never had a chance to argue; the fire below destroyed some key piece of architecture, and the entire building came tumbling down around them.

February 15, 2025, 5:58 pm, en route to Los Angeles, CA, U.S. from Sydney, Australia

Dom woke with the force of a ceiling crushing his head, ripped the line from his arm and rushed to Fischer.

"Fischer!" He couldn't keep the strain from his tone as he shook Robert Fischer's shoulders. "Damn it!" He should have been awake. If the building collapsed, killing them all, Fischer should have woken with the rest of them. "Fischer!"

A hand on his shoulder. "Cobb. Stop. It's over. Everything he was, was in that building, too much of him was destroyed."


Arthur was not the only one to take a step back when he exploded. Everyone did, until Dom had to take a deep breath and kick one of the seats to burn some fury. They'd failed.

They'd failed.

And Fischer was as good as dead.

To be continued....