Unfortunately for Arthur, the harness holding him to the building had snapped, leaving him falling roughly twenty-three floors down the spine of the skyscraper until he made quite a sudden introduction with the pavement below – leading ultimately to certain death.
Things were not looking good.
As he flew past Eames and Ariadne, both frozen in disbelief as their colleague fell from his useless harness, he wished he had a moment to talk to them, to say goodbye. But then, gravity doesn't really have any time for exchanging pleasantries. Instead, he hurtled past them, floor by floor, more certain of his fate with every meter that passed. He heard Ariadne yelling his name into the wind, about ten seconds too late, too late to do anything about it.
And then of course the rope snagged.
Squeezing his eyes shut against the fierce wind and the fear that had grabbed his heart with a metal fist, Arthur felt himself slam sideways into the glass pane of one of the windows. Tentatively, he opened his eyes. The harness had indeed broken and was now hanging uselessly against his hips. The rope attached to the harness however, was still in position and, after giving it an assessing tug, seemed stable enough to climb up.
He glanced through the window.
On the other side, wearing an expression of sheer shock and horror, a small boy of around five or six watched him in awe. Smirking slightly, Arthur winked back. Stunned, the boy leapt back from the window and ran out of the room, no doubt in search of his parents.
Arthur glanced down, then immediately wished he hadn't. Despite falling a few stories down, there was still a hell of a long way to go and, now with the tiny, matchbox, yellow taxis and amoeba-like people to wham everything into perspective, he felt a little queasy.
"Shit..." He murmured, feeling his stomach churning as his feet dangled limply beneath him, seemingly huge when compared to the street below. "Shitshitshitshit."
There was nothing else for it. Bracing his feet against the slippery masonry, Arthur pulled himself outwards, almost perpendicular to the building. Slowly, cautiously, with each agonizing step causing havoc in the muscles in his arms and legs, he began to scale the building, his face contorted with the effort.
Arthur pulled and climbed until he thought he might pass out. His fingers were numb, his legs were shaking and his arms felt like they were about to drop off, yet he knew he couldn't let go. Dying would be too easy; it's staying alive that's the hard part.
He glanced up. Two dark shaped were descending towards him, seeming to materialize from the mist.
"Are you ok?"
Eames and Ariadne. Thank Christ.
Ariadne arrived first, he face white with shock and fear.
"What happened? What the hell happened?"
Eames descended next, supporting Arthur under his arms. He grimaced as he felt his own harness creak with the effort of both his weight and Arthur's. It could hold out much longer.
"My harness snapped." Arthur panted, his breath ragged from the effort. He glanced down. He hadn't done badly, actually. He'd managed to climb at least three floors on his own, without a harness or even a helmet.
"We need to get in..." Eames muttered. "It can't hold out for much longer."
"We're not going to make it hauling you up between us; you weigh too much."
"Yeah, alright I get the picture..."
"I'm not saying you're fat, I just think we should be realistic here..."
"Eames!" Ariadne cut in, breaking him off. "You're not helping the situation."
"Ok. Sorry. It's just if Artie here were to lay off the pork pies for a bit, we could all be at the top by now."
"I don't think it had anything to do with me." Arthur murmured, fiddling with his harness. "I think someone tampered with it."
"Who?" Ariadne asked.
"I don't know...but Eames is right we need to get inside and..." He trailed off, watching Ariadne as she aimed her gun at the window and fired three times. Glass cascaded all around them and Eames nearly dropped Arthur in the confusion.
"Jesus Christ!" He yelled. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Getting us inside!" Ariadne yelled. "Move!" Shinning quickly up her own rope, Ariadne climbed headfirst through the jagged hole that had once been a window. Arthur followed suit and, after brushing bits of glass off his shoulders, turned to give Eames a hand.
Ariadne inspected the room that lay out before her. It was a large meeting area, complete with long, oak table and around twenty chairs, all facing inwards. In the far corner of the room, next to the door was a drinks cabinet and a large grandfather clock. It was expensively furnished; the carpet was plush and bouncy under her feet.
"Right..." Eames began, having now climbed through the window, almost visibly bristling with anger. "Now that everyone in the whole entire BLOODY BUILDING knows we're here, we'll only have to wait about five seconds before we're shot through the head..."
"Calm down..." Arthur said, holding his hand up and stepping smartly between Eames and Ariadne.
"No I won't bloody calm down!" Eames snapped, swatting away Arthur's raised hand. "That was a stupid, stupid thing to do!"
"Maybe." Ariadne replied, calmly. "But it was the only option we had. If we didn't move fast, Arthur would have fallen and, as we're not yet dreaming, he would have stayed dead."
They were silent for a minute, Eames immediately regretting his outburst. Finally, Arthur bent down and picked up his rucksack, slinging it over one shoulder.
"C'mon." He said. "If we hang around too long we'll get caught. Someone's going to want to investigate that noise." Ariadne and Eames took the hint and followed suit, lugging their own backpacks onto their backs and following him towards the door.
"Quiet." Carefully, Arthur opened the door, checking both ways before stepping out into the deserted corridor. "We got lucky..." He murmured as they both followed him to the right. "...that might not happen again. We need to find the room."
Three days before, at roughly five-fifteen in the morning, Ariadne had received a phone call.
"Hello?" She had whispered blurrily into the receiver, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"Ariadne. It's Arthur." Ariadne could just picture him now, looking uncrumpled and annoyingly awake in a crisp three piece suit, holding an expensive looking phone to his ear. "I need to speak to you. Eames and Yusuf too. I'll see you at the Warehouse at three. Got to go. See you then." And, without an apology for the early hour, he'd hung up. Bastard.
But then, she'd found it hard to stay angry at him after seeing him, looking as smart and dashing as ever, bent over a collection of documents she suspected were highly confidential and worth at least seven people's lives.
"Hi." She'd said, quietly. He turned, smiling and Ariadne felt like, for the first time in months, that she was where she belonged.
Yusuf and Eames had arrived shortly after and, after the kettle had been put on, Arthur explained to them why they'd been summoned.
"Roughly a month ago, coincidentally the same sort of time we finished Fischer's Inception, I had received this letter." Arthur slid a piece of paper the length of the table towards them.
Ariadne leant forward. It was written in a fancy script, with a red fountain pen.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your successful operation. Inception is by no means an easy feat and is a task that requires a great deal of skill and aptitude – qualities that seem to be abundant in both yourself and your team. It is for these reasons I have studied the progress you have been making over the last few weeks and have decided that I might be able to utilise your skills in a way that would be beneficial to both parties.
I am staying at the Grenway and Barnard's Hotel in New York. The Hotel is heavily guarded. You will need to be imaginative. Room 313. 27-9-10. Be there at eight.
Your friend and admirer,
"I know it sounds dodgy..." Arthur said, running a hand through his hair. "...I just wanted to know what you think."
"How do they know?" Yusuf had gone pale.
"It could be a leak." Eames said, still staring at the letter.
"Then why are you telling us? One of us could be a spy."
"Who else have I got?" They were quiet for a minute. "Look," Arthur said, taking the letter back off Eames as he spoke. "I guess what I'm really asking you is whether or not we should go..."
"Hell yes." Eames said. "I want some answers."
"I was hoping you'd say that..." Arthur smirked. "You in?"
"Absolutely. There's only so many women and champagne one can buy in the world before you start turning to nameless correspondents for entertainment."
Arthur turned to Yusuf.
"What do you say?" Yusuf looked awkward. Ariadne had a feeling she knew what he was going to say before he said it.
"I don't know. WE don't know enough about this Mr X guy. I think I'll stay here this time, sit this one out. Let me know what happens. If you need me, I'll go."
"Okay. That's fine." He turned to Ariadne."What about you? Are you in?" He asked, his tone suddenly unsure. Ariadne thought for a moment.
"I mean..." She began. "...this is unbelievably stupid and reckless..."
"Unbelievably." Arthur agreed.
"...and will probably end up with us in jail..."
"I've seen enough guns to last a lifetime..."
"Fancy seeing some more?" Eames asked.
"God, yeah." She grinned. "I'll get my coat."
And so it was that she had found herself scaling the side of the Grenway & Barnar, watching Arthur nearly fall to his death and smash through a window into a meeting room.
Now, walking quickly behind Arthur with Eames bringing up the rear, she found herself almost trembling with excitement. She hadn't got a job, her degree was going down the pan and her parents were disappointed in her, yet never had she felt more alive. She smiled to herself. Life was good.
The room numbers slid past her.
"I think we're on the right floor..." Arthur murmured. "They all begin with three..."
313. The numbers jumped out at her from the wooden door.
"There!" She exclaimed, cutting across Eames. They stopped.
Checking the corridor was clear, Arthur pulled his gun out from under his jacket. Eames followed suit, retrieving his from his waistband. They both waited while Ariadne reloaded and knocked off the safety then, with a deafening crash, Arthur knocked the door down.
Sitting in the centre of the room, strapped to a chair with the flicker of a sniper laser on his forehead, was Yusuf. He was gagged, his eyes wide with panic.
Strapped to his chest was a note, written in the same red ink as the letter.
Nobody refuses Mr X.
A/N – I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my first ever 'Inception' fanfiction. I do try my best and proofread, spellcheck and all that jazz but I am human (believe it or not) and so I do make mistakes. If you find any, I apologise and will correct them as quick as possible.
Thanks for reading. Reviews are great.