“There are three levels,” Fisher explained, his eyes roving over each of them in turn. His gaze lingered momentarily on Ariadne who met his stare with a defiance Arthur was more than a little proud of her for. “Your objective is to extract something in the third level.”
“And just what are we meant to be extracting?” Cobb asked, scowling at Fisher.
“Something very dear to you. To all of you.” Fisher said, unaffected by the look Cobb was currently directing at him.
“What kind of bullshit answer is that?” Cobb spat, fingers white against their grip on the armrests of the chair he was currently handcuffed too. Arthur tensed, eyes shifting worriedly between Cobb and Fischer, but Fischer merely smiled at him.
“The only one you’re going to get, Mr Cobb, so I suggest you take what I give you and pay attention to the rest.”
Arthur could see the effort it took for Cobb to bite back his immediate response to that answer. They were all on edge, tense with anticipation and trepidation over what was to come. Arthur couldn’t blame Cobb for his frustration, not when he felt the same turmoil of emotions broiling through his own body.
It had been almost fifteen hours since Arthur had found himself tasered into unconsciousness, drugged, and then hauled from one country to the next before being dumped and cuffed unceremoniously atop a lawn chair in the middle of what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse; the high windows grimy and browned with neglect, filtered in only a smidgen of light, which did nothing to disperse the shadows lurking thick and heavy around them.
When Arthur had managed to rouse himself from his drug induced state enough to take in his surroundings, it was to find Eames, Cobb and Ariadne already cuffed to their own chairs, their eyes heavy and half-glazed. When Yusuf and Saito had been brought in a couple of hours later, Arthur had known that the sick feeling currently curdling his stomach wasn’t going to go away any time soon.
And then Robert Fisher had walked into the room, a half-smile on his face and a PASIV case in one hand.
Arthur supposed that seeing Fischer again shouldn’t have been nearly as surprising as it was. He’d been keeping track of the man himself, if only to ensure that the Inception took and that there would be no unfortunate side effects to the job. And whilst he’d since discovered that Fischer knew far more about dream share technology than Arthur’s initial research had revealed, that Fischer had dissolved his father’s empire a scant few weeks after the job and seemed neither the worse for wear after their efforts, Arthur had found nothing to worry about so far as the man was concerned.
He’d been wrong about him. Again.
Fischer had then proceeded to explain that he had a job for them, a job that would serve almost as a payback to what they did to him. How Fischer had found out about the Inception job was anyone’s guess, and Fischer had just smiled serenely when asked and refused to answer. How he’d managed to track down everyone who preformed the Inception on him, especially after Saito had taken care to ensure no records of their ever having been on the same flight as Fischer existed, was a particular cause for concern, but again Fischer had chosen not to answer that line of inquiry either.
Instead he’d presented them with the job, one that they had no choice but to accept.
“You will also be dosed with a sedative,” Fischer continued, “much in likeness to the one you used on me,” he inclined his head towards Yusuf who shifted uncomfortably in his own chair. “So please, for your own sakes, do not try to get yourself out of this prematurely. By the time you complete the third level and the extraction, the sedative should have worn off enough to allow you to leave.”
“Should have?” Arthur asked, speaking before Cobb could.
Fischer shrugged delicately. “According to the chemist I acquired this particular compound from—” again he seemed almost amused as he directed a look towards Yusuf before turning back to Arthur— “but you never know with sedatives, do you?”
“What assurances do we have that you will let us go once we wake up?” it was Saito who spoke this time. Out of all of them, Arthur found the knowledge that Saito had been abducted as easily as the rest of them, the most surprising. It had been hard enough trying to get the man alone for a few hours for the Cobol job, even ignoring for a moment that it had been a set-up all along.
“None,” Fischer said, “you’ll just have to trust that I am a man of my word.”
“What is your word then, Mr Fischer?” Saito asked, “You have yet to promise us anything.”
“If you get out of this alive,” Fischer began, gesturing to the PASIV he’d set up on a low table before them, “then, you get out of this alive.” He finished by gesturing vaguely around the warehouse.
“May we have your word that this will go no further?” Eames spoke up this time. Fischer inclined his head, encouraging Eames to continue.
Say we play your game,” Eames started, “we make it out alive, you let us go home, then what? That’s the end of it? Excuse me if I’m wrong, but this seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through just to get us to do a job.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Fischer agreed. He was still smiling that half-smile of his however and Arthur shifted uncomfortably to see it. “I suppose if I just wanted revenge I could shoot you all right now and be done with it.”
Fischer gestured to two of the five men standing guard behind him and they stepped immediately forward. Every one of them froze, expecting the worst and knowing that there was nothing they could do to stop Fischer from killing them where they sat if he so chose.
Instead, Fischer gestured towards the PASIV and the two men stepped forward, opening the case and reeling out the leads that would connect them all in one dream.
Arthur shared a look of apprehension with Eames who sat to his immediate left and tried not to flinch as his own wrist was roughly grabbed and his shirtsleeve shoved upwards enough to allow the sharp pinch of the needle to sink itself into a vein.
“Thankfully,” Fischer said, “for your sakes I don’t just want revenge. Though you violated my mind with the inception you preformed on me, I find that I cannot quite resent you for the effect it has ultimately had on my life. This presented quite the conundrum you understand, on the one hand I feel that I am a better man for your efforts, but on the other I simply cannot allow something like this to go unpunished.”
Fischer moved towards the only unoccupied lawn-chair and sat himself down on the edge, accepting the last needle and easily inserting it into his arm.
“You’re coming under with us?” Ariadne asked then, surprised. Fischer spared her a softer smile.
“It is the only way to ascertain whether or not you have completed the extraction successfully,” Fischer agreed. “That and someone needs to be the dreamer.”
Ariadne opened her mouth to ask the obvious question but shut it before she could actually speak the words.
Fischer smiled more widely and answered it for her anyway. “Unlike the rest of you, I will not be sedated,” he said. Ariadne frowned at his words but Fischer turned away from her, gesturing towards one of his men.
“Remember, three levels, one extraction, and we’ll never have to mention this inception business again.”
And then Fischer’s man depressed the button in the middle of the PASIV, releasing the Somnacin.
[ Next… ]