A/N: I'm sorry this has taken so long! I'm working diligently, and hopefully will be updating more regularly until I finish. x
"Why?" Robert wanted to know. "Why was Miles interested in the company?"
They were seated in the corner of a restaurant, each nursing a cup of coffee, except for Mal, who had ordered tea.
"Your father knew too much," Cobb told him. "Miles pioneered extraction and taught it to a select few. It's a well-kept secret."
"If that's his logic, then I know too much. Our lawyer knows too much. Katharine Prevatte knew too much, hiring an extractor to find her husband's killer."
"Katharine Prevatte knew about extraction because she was close friends with Miles. And I was the extractor in the Prevatte case," Cobb told him, to his shock. "But, you have to remember—Katharine Prevatte doesn't exist. There was no murder. That was a part of the dream."
"Then why does Miles have a vendetta against my father?" demanded Robert.
Cobb sighed. "I'm afraid that would be partially my fault."
"The first time Miles met with your father, Maurice had a long list of questions about extraction. How it was done, what happened to a person's brain as a result, what the psychological effects were, etcetera."
Robert nodded. "That sounds like my father. Interested in every minute detail."
"The thing is, Miles didn't have an answer. We don't know what long-term psychological effects are caused by extraction, if any. We don't know if this is physically damaging in any way. We obviously didn't know about limbo until Mal and I fell in to it."
Mal, sitting next to him, squeezed his hand.
"Your dad wasn't very pleased with the answer," Cobb went on. "He went through with the training, but kept telling Miles that there should be a research institute. He wanted studies to be done. Your dad was very concerned about—among other things— how the courts would treat theft of an idea, and if it could be considered assault if any damage to the brain or body was done. He voiced all these concerns openly to Miles, and suggested that they partner up for this endeavor."
"He never told me any of this," Robert said, but he hardly sounded shocked.
"Miles explained this whole story to me before sending me to convince your father that extraction was a harmless process. That shared dreaming felt natural to the mind."
"Maurice Fischer was a very persuasive man."
This elicited a small smile from Robert. "To say the least."
"Before meeting your dad, I didn't think twice about the effects of extraction. We had a long chat, during which he voiced a lot of concerns, and I started thinking twice about the whole thing. By the end of the meeting, I asked him to start the research with or without Miles, and offered my assistance."
"Did he get a chance to begin before he died?"
"Your father pledged a billion dollars of the company's money to a team of scientists for a private research facility. But the money hasn't officially transferred hands yet."
"So, if I split up the company, the money would be in other hands, my father's pledge wouldn't be honored, and the facility would never come to fruition."
"Precisely. Now, I'm wondering how he got us all here." Dom turned to Ariadne.
"He had our trust," Ariadne said bitterly. "He said he wanted me to participate in a sleep study. That's how he got me."
"How about you?" He focused on Robert, but Mal spoke instead.
"That was Maurice's one mistake," Mal began. "His weakness; the need to protect his son. Maurice was frightened of the side effects of shared dreaming, but he was even more scared of someone stealing his son's secrets. He wanted to protect Robert. Once my father convinced Maurice that he could teach Robert how to defend himself from extraction—it was all over."
"It was his last wish," Robert said, his voice shaky. "He gave me a business card for Jonah Murray. A date and time were written on the back. He told me to honor the appointment, that it was the most important thing he could do for me."
"And you went." Cobb's voice was level.
Mal answered for him. "He came to the hospital. And we put him to sleep."
"The last thing I remember," Cobb said quietly, staring at Mal, "is dinner with you." He gazed up at Mal, who was on the verge of tears. "I barely even remember you pouring glasses of wine. Mine must have been laced with a sedative."
"I'm sorry," she whispered, her voice shaking. "I'm so sorry, Dom."
"We grew old together. We had children together. But none of it was real."
Tears streamed down her cheeks. "It was real. It was real to me. I still love you."
"What I loved never existed," came Cobb's biting response, and she became quiet.
"What are we going to do?" said Robert, after a moment of awkward silence.
Cobb sighed. "We do to him what he made me do to Robert. Plant an idea."
"No," Mal said flatly. "I am never entering a shared dream again."
"It's the only way." Cobb's voice was sharp. "We plant the idea that extraction and inception are dangerous and need to be left alone until the research is complete."
"It's not the only way," Mal argued.
"What do you propose, then, Mal? We run from him? He'll find us, and he'll break into our minds again."
"Or," Mal said darkly, "he'll kill us. Unless we kill him first."
Cobb stared her down. "Absolutely not. I am not killing anyone."
"Then I will," she declared.
His fist hit the table. "No. You don't—" He sighed. "I know what it's like to run away from murder charges. I won't let any of us get ourselves into that situation." Pain permeated his voice, and Ariadne remembered his relief at completing Saito's job, his joy at going home to his children—
"That was a dream," Mal reminded him gently.
"You weren't there to know what I was going through," Cobb shot back.
She composed herself, curling her fingers tightly around her teacup. "No, you're right. I wasn't there. I was imprisoned in a mental health facility by my father."
"That was your own fault," Cobb spat. "You were the one who trusted him."
"I had two choices," Mal shot back, her eyes filling with tears. "My father told me that you had gone against him by convincing Maurice to research extraction and volunteering your help. He said that I could either put a sedative in your drink so you could fix this problem in a dream, or he would kill you for your betrayal. What would you have done?"
Cobb was silent.
"I tried to tell you. I told you when we woke up from limbo. You wouldn't listen to me. Everything I told you was the truth, Dom, and you didn't believe a word. And after I woke up in the real world, I was ready to tell the whole world the truth; but Ben stopped me. My father had left a contingency plan in case I had a change of heart. So I was locked away."
The waitress appeared with a fresh pot of coffee; conversation halted as she refilled their cups.
"So," Ariadne began, staring into her cup. "You want to plant an idea that planting ideas is dangerous. Doesn't that seem a bit hypocritical?"
"Then what do you propose?" Cobb sat back in his chair, eyebrow raised.
"It won't work," she said levelly, looking him in the eye. "Miles is the one who taught you about all of this. If anyone is going to have defenses, it's going to be him."
"She has a good point," Robert agreed.
Mal gave her assent with a pointed look at Cobb that still read "murder."
"No one's defenses are impenetrable. We're not killing anyone," Cobb decided. "We'll go in."
Ariadne and Robert exchanged glances. Mal silently stirred her tea, then set her spoon down delicately on a napkin. "Dr. Charles Rhodes was my father's mentor," she told Cobb. "My father would listen to anything that man said."
He considered this. "You knew him well?"
Cobb turned to Ariadne. "I'll need an architect."
"What do you need me for? Mal is real. You don't need to worry about that problem any more."
Mal's eyes met Cobb's. "What does she mean?"
"After you committed suicide down there, you began to appear as a projection in Cobb's dreams," Ariadne answered. "A malevolent one. You shot Robert, as a matter of fact, and sent him into limbo."
Her eyes widened; Cobb could not look at her, and she understood why he'd been so vehemently opposed to her killing anyone.
"You're a better architect than I am," Cobb told Ariadne, putting the memories aside for the moment. "If this is going to work, we need the best."
"Fine," Ariadne relented.
Robert looked at Cobb. "Where do I fit in?"
"You don't have to come," Cobb told him.
"I want to." He stopped his eyes from darting in Ariadne's direction. "This situation directly involves me. I want to help bring the issue to a close."
"You need a point man," Ariadne pointed out.
"Arthur was a projection," Cobb murmured, remembering. "All right. You're going to need some training."