A/N: Sorry for disappearing again! It's my final year at school, so the workload has been intense. This is just a little something I've written for extra credit for my fantasy literature course; Inception was in the curriculum. If my professor, S.N., happens to be reading this, greetings from one of the best parts of the Internet (though I'd be pretty horrified if you decide to peruse my other fics). Anyway, this ficlet is just over 6,400 words and counting – I'm thinking of revising parts of the middle and end, so I'll just be uploading it in chunks.
Disclaimer: Inception belongs to Christopher Nolan.
Chapter 1: Failure
"My father was a great man."
Robert Fischer's voice rang strong and true. Eames could practically see the surprise rippling through the room. But what really threw everyone for a loop was the rare smile on Fischer's face. Since when did Robert Fischer think so highly of his father?
Since us, Eames answered the unvoiced question.
"And his legacy," Fischer continued, "is just as great. It always will be."
There were many nods of agreement, particularly from the employees of Fischer Morrow. Some were even beaming. Others just looked politely confused. The reporters from The Sydney Herald leaned forward eagerly, recording devices clutched in their hands.
It was a week after the funeral of Maurice Fischer, and Robert Fischer had finally called a press conference to address the future of the company. During this time, the stock price had stalled at eighty-four dollars per share. Eames was no financial analyst, but he would have gambled all his poker winnings that today would not be a good day to invest in Fischer Morrow.
Eames straightened in his chair and folded his hands, looking very much like the litigation consultant that he was supposed to be. While Cobb was off enjoying his newfound freedom with his children, and while Arthur had followed Ariadne back to Paris to bond over croissants and architecture, Eames was here, back in Sydney, to make sure that there were no loose ends.
To make sure that the job was done.
"He lived a good and successful life, up until the very end. But we weren't on the best of terms, as some of you may know," Fischer declared, tipping his head toward the reporters. There were a few embarrassed titters. "I've tried relentlessly to follow in his footsteps. But where did that take me? An MBA and several acquisitions later, my father was still not satisfied. Actually, he never had been."
The room stilled. Eames held his breath.
"Fischer Morrow was his creation. His empire. Not mine – no matter how much I added to it. I was too ambitious for my own good. All of that ends here. From now on, I will no longer follow in his footsteps. And instead of standing on the shoulders of giants –"
Fischer's smile grew.
"– I have decided that Fischer Morrow will no longer be mine."
A loud and excited buzzing filled the room. Eames felt as though he was missing the punch line. Wasn't this supposed to be the part where the prince snapped his crown in half? Or rather, in twenty-odd pieces?
Fischer gestured behind him, where a pleased-looking Peter Browning had already half-risen from his chair. "We have already discussed this with our board of directors. My godfather, who has been at Maurice Fischer's side for more than thirty years, knows this company inside-out. Together, they have steered it through troubling waters to become the largest energy conglomerate today. I cannot think of anyone else more suited to this position. Therefore, it is my pleasure to announce that we are appointing Mr. Browning as the new CEO of Fischer Morrow."
Eames could not help it. He leapt from his seat as though it was on fire. Fortunately, his outburst went unseen as dozens of others around him did the same, except for entirely different reasons.
"Mr. Fischer! What will you be doing instead?"
"Mr. Fischer! Are you retiring?"
Robert Fischer stared out at the frenzied crowd. The expression on his face could only be described as dazed.
"I will be following my dreams," said Fischer.
Eames slipped out of the conference room under the cover of all the commotion. His phone was already pressed against his ear.
"Arthur, we have a problem."
Arthur was understandably furious. "I thought you were keeping an eye on Browning and Fischer. How could you not know what was going on?"
"Browning's consulting team is only contracted. We aren't allowed to sit in on their meetings. Fischer obviously wanted to keep this a secret among the executives until he could make it public himself!"
"You waited out the week with Fischer when we got back to the first level," Ariadne reminded him. "Did he give any indication that he was going to just give the company away to his godfather?"
"No," Eames said, frustrated. "After the funeral, he must've told Browning that he didn't want Fischer Morrow anymore. Browning must've pounced on that like a cat."
"Saito is not going to be pleased," Arthur muttered.
"How are we going to fix this?"
"We? You came up with the concept. Leave us out of this!"
"Arthur, if Saito expects us to fix this, it'll be on all of us," Ariadne pointed out before Eames could verbally throttle the point man. The twenty-three hour flight to Paris had left him irritated and severely jet-lagged. He was in no mood to deal with Arthur's remarks.
"Okay, okay," Arthur conceded. "But I still maintain that we don't deserve to get dragged back into this."
Eames groaned, pacing back and forth in Ariadne's living room. If Eames had taken the time to study the space, he would have noticed that her apartment was quaint but barely furnished.
"Did you call Cobb yet?" Ariadne asked, her eyes wide with concern.
"I couldn't reach him. I left him a message, though."
"What about Saito? How are we going to deal with him?"
"We can't do much else but wait for him to contact us," Eames replied. He picked up the remote from Ariadne's coffee table and turned on the television. Peter Browning's face was plastered on practically every news channel. "It's been a day already. Actually, I'm surprised that Saito hasn't phoned yet…"
There was a knock at the door. The three of them exchanged stunned glances before Arthur snorted.
"No," Eames agreed.
Ariadne strolled over to the door and peered through the peephole.
"It's Miles," she said, dispelling the tension. She unlocked the door, and greeted Cobb's father-in-law with a curt but relieved, "Professor."
"Ariadne, Arthur," said Miles. "And you must be Eames."
"Pleasure to finally meet you," Eames responded, and they shook hands.
"Why are you here, Professor?" asked Ariadne. "Did Cobb send you to talk to us about Fischer?"
"No," said Miles, looking grave. "But someone else did."
Ten minutes later, they were all crossing the Bir-Hakeim Bridge in silence. The warm spring evening felt suffocating. Or perhaps it was just the way Arthur kept shooting Ariadne worried looks, and the way Ariadne squeezed his hand in response. Eames rolled his eyes.
As it turned out, the reason that Saito had not called was because he preferred to discuss things in person.
"Mr. Eames," said Saito as Miles and the trio descended the polished steps of the professor's lecture hall. "I can't say that it's good to see you again."
"Likewise," Eames retorted.
Saito acknowledged the others. "How fortunate that you are here. I was just speaking with Professor Miles about Cobb's failure to perform the inception properly."
Miles frowned. "And I was just telling him that he should not have involved any of you. He should have gone to the Australian government, or even the World Trade Organization, months ago."
"International anti-trust enforcement does not exist yet. I couldn't afford to wait, and I still can't," Saito insisted.
"Yet you could still afford to buy an airline," Eames heard Ariadne murmur.
"We shouldn't have tried the inception in the first place," Arthur snapped. "Ideas are never that simple. You just can't sabotage a business using emotion, not when other powerful people like Browning are involved. We're just lucky that Browning didn't have Fischer declared incompetent, or we'd have his sanity on our conscience."
"Well, it's out of our hands now," said Eames. "There's no point in trying to get to Fischer again, Saito. He's relinquished all control of Fischer Morrow."
Saito raised an eyebrow. "Who said anything about getting to Fischer?"
"No," Arthur said immediately. "We don't want anything to do with it, whatever it is. You can have your money back, we don't need it."
"Speak for yourself," Eames said, alarmed. He had already spent a good chunk of it paying off his debts.
"What do you have in mind?" Ariadne asked Saito a tad too curiously.
"Extraction, and hopefully some good, old-fashioned blackmail," Saito declared. "It occurred to me that those who defend themselves against extraction might also be using it to their own advantage."
"Speaking from experience now, eh, Saito?"
Saito chose to ignore Eames. "If my theory is correct, then we can use this information to blackmail Fischer Morrow into selling off some its subsidiaries until they are no longer a threat. Or we could go straight to the press with the information and topple their empire that way. Interpol will shut down their operations for sure."
Arthur folded his arms. "So you think just because Fischer had his subconscious trained that he, his father, or even Browning had used extraction before? Not everyone is underhanded like you, Saito."
"You can't deny that it's possible, though," Eames said thoughtfully. "We already know that Browning is power-hungry, but not as much as Maurice was. It's possible that Maurice used the services of an extractor to both teach his son to defend his mind and to help build his company. Extraction can pretty much be used for insider trading and blackmail."
Saito nodded. "The only reason Fischer Morrow is so big today is because of their acquisitions over the last five years. None of them were hostile takeovers. A coincidence? I think not. Perhaps they all had an incentive to be so cooperative."
"Wait a minute," Ariadne cut in. "If all of this is true, then it's likely that Browning had his own subconscious trained as well. How do we deal with something like that? We barely hung in there, facing Fischer's!"
"We?" Arthur repeated helplessly, turning to Ariadne.
"We will be prepared this time," said Eames.
"What about Dom?" said Miles sharply.
Eames shrugged. "Cobb's the best."
"No. We can't take him away from his family now. We leave him out of this. That's my only condition." Arthur looked resigned.
Miles's shoulders slumped in relief. "Thank you, Arthur."
"I've done a few extractions before. So has Eames, of course. We can do it ourselves, just the four of us."
Saito did a head count. "You mean three…"
For the first time that evening, Arthur let a little smirk lift his lips. "No, four. We can't do this without you."
There was a pause.
"I'll have you know that four is an unlucky number," Saito mumbled.
"Then it's a good thing the rest of us aren't superstitious, right?"
"Not at all."