She washes ashore, tumbling in the sand. Claudia is besides her, waterlogged and confused.

"Where are we?" she asks.

Myka looks around. The beach gives way to crumbling buildings, sinking like sand, insubstantial, careful creations rendered to ugly husks half submerged in the endless ocean around them. "Limbo," Myka replies. "We're in Limbo."

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(She meets H.G for the first time in a crowded airport, spying a flash of dark hair walking away from her. Her heart lurches horribly for an instant, and then she brushes it off, walks over to Pete and Claudia.)

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"Inception" James MacPherson says.

"It won't be easy" Pete replies, as serious as he'll ever be. He shifts, uncomfortable next to Myka, fingers turning his AA chip in his fingers back and forth. Myka thinks about the weighted locket around her neck, but the thought slips away. There is no locket, that belongs to the woman in the photo...

"H.G Wells is the ownerof TIME, a research company in competition to mine. The woman lost her niece several months back," MacPherson explains. "She was one of their foremost scientists—and it appears," MacPherson goes on, "that she was more H.G's daughter than her brother's."

"The woman is half-crazed," Mrs. Frederic picks up, "as such, we must plant in her the idea to halt production for the time being, not because she is in competition with James, but because there are…deficiencies in the research. There are corners being cut," she says. "I want them fixed before anything goes out on the market."

Myka eyes MacPherson, thinks, you might want things fixed—he just wants his competition out of the way.

Pete looks over at her. He is stone-faced, has been eyeing MacPherson with distrust since the man walked in the room. Still, what Mrs. Frederic wants, Mrs. Frederic gets.

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(Pete will impersonate H.G's brother, introduce Myka to H.G. (that's the plan, Artie grumbles, and it better work). Claudia is recruited from (killing Artie, yelling at him, you bastard you think I want to work for you after what you did with Joshua?) a small university in South Dakota, too thin and far too clever for her own good; Artie tasks her with creating their dreamscape. Mrs. Frederic brings in Steve to work with the drugs. He is quiet, Myka has noticed, but he laughs whole-heartedly with Claudia, as tight as thieves with her.

Their plan is solid, it has to be. There can be no mistakes.)

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Claudia is some young college student, a little stupid and reckless, but teaching her is a pleasure. She creates miracles from her fingertips, buildings that don't make sense, Victorian style mansions that never let you leave. She picks up the nuances of their job as easily as breathing; sometimes she leaves Myka breathless with the simplicity in which she approaches their occupation, the ease with which she understands the most difficult concepts. She is the younger sister she would have loved to have, the younger sister she left behind in a sleepy Colorado bookstore.

"Hi," Myka had said that first day, "I'm your teacher." Claudia had looked Myka up and down and snorted.

"Okay, fine" she said, "but don't expect me to be the Anakin to your Obi-Wan, 'cause I know how that shit ends, and it is not cool. I've already dealt with the dark side."

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(Hi, Myka manages to say. Now or never, she thinks, her heart hammering in her chest. She is flushed, uncommonly so. The woman in front of her is breathtaking though, eyeing her curiously.

Yes? She asks. Myka is caught by this woman (again, always)

Um, Myka says. We were in the same cabin— Stupid, she says to herself. Stupid, and so reckless, she can't believe she's doing this—

Oh, yes! The woman smiles suddenly, blinding. Yes, I remember you. She smile grows bigger in increments, a curl of a secret tucked in the corner of her lips. Yes, she says softly, yes, I remember you.)

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"I'm sorry, do I know you?"

The woman's—H.G's—voice is sharp, her accent lilting. She is looking at Myka expectantly, cool as you please.

Myka laughs lowly, "Not quite," she says, "but you will."

Helena laughs at that, "Oh good, I would be remiss if I had managed to forget someone such as you."

The projections never notice a thing, which is just how Artie had planned it.

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(Myka treats H.G—Helena, she'd corrected her—to dinner an age later. They're at Leena's, the cozy restaurant owned by Pete's girlfriend/fiancée/whatever they are, seated in the open air. The new-spring air still carries a bite, but Helena and Myka huddle close together, thin fingers wrapped around cups of coffee. Helena's company is a year closed; they never talk about the plane ride where they must have met.

Helena's hand curls around Myka's after, smiling secretly, says, do you remember how we met?

Myka's mouth opens to respond, to say, of course I do— but doesn't get further than a syllable before a car barrels past a red light into the corner where they are, no, no—

Helena is hit, seconds later Myka is, of course I remember how we met...but the only thing she can grasp is MacPherson behind the wheel, laughing at them. Her hands fly to the locket around her neck, but of course she doesn't have one. Why would she?)

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Claudia stands in front of H.G, eyes cold. She holds a gun aimed squarely at her, but H.G has her small pistol in her hands already, aimed at Myka.

"You will tell me, of course," she says calmly, "what is going on."

Myka swallows. "Yeah. Yeah, just put the gun down." H.G's lips twitch.

"Oh certainly darling, as soon as Claudia here puts her gun down."

Claudia scoffs, as if she would, and H.G's smile grows. "It seems we are at an impasse, then—" Charles Wells holds a gun, aiming carefully. "Oh Charles, late to the party as usual—oh."

Myka exhales sharply, oh. Helena shoots Myka just before she manages to swing her gun over to Claudia—and then Pete shoots H.G squarely in the head. H.G crumples to the floor, a puppet devoid of strings, but then Myka sinks to the ground, oh, oh. "Fuck Pete…" Myka tries to swallow around the blood pooling in her mouth. Fuck. She turns her head to the ruined mess of H.G's lovely head. Fuck, fuck…

Pete shifts into MacPherson, laughs at her while he shoots Claudia in the face.

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(She washes ashore, tumbling in the sand. Helena is besides her, waterlogged and confused.

"Where are we?" she asks.

Myka looks around. The beach gives way to crumbling buildings, sinking like sand, insubstantial, careful creations rendered to ugly husks half submerged in the endless ocean around them. "Limbo," Myka replies. "We're in Limbo.")

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Myka struggles to open her eyes. The world is fuzzy, and her hand aches, a deep, deep ache; the needle inserted into her vein shifts and everything hurts again. There is pressure around her hand, and she turns her head towards the left. Helena is bleary, just waking, feeling the effects of the Somnacin leeching away. She turns her head towards Myka, swallows. The watery light slips past their windows, lighting Helena's hair gold. The ring on her finger glints in the light, and Helena runs a thumb lovingly across the gold metal.

"Welcome back, darling" she says softly. Her hand tightens around Myka's hand.

"Yeah," Myka says. She breathes in. They are in their room in their house. They're home. Her hand wraps around the gold locket around her neck, old-gold, scratched, and when she opens it Helena's face smiles back at her. "Yeah" Myka says again. "It's good to be back."


So. Inception. I hope my intentions came across well enough, since this was confusing enough for me to write. In my defense, I wasn't going to write this (artifact within an artifact within a dream? Whatever, I was going to draw the last scene instead), but then...this took up refuge in my head and wouldn't leave me alone-not even to do homework! Whatever, religion papers are easy. There was a point to this note, but I have no idea where it went.