Prologue

Flashing lights.

Piercing sirens.

Arthur looked up sharply from the wreckage he was standing in. "Cops?"

"Ambulance," Eames responded wearily.

Relief.

"Good. Flag 'em down. We need to get him out of here before someone sees us."

"Do you think we have enough time," Eames asked. "The building is gonna collapse any second now."

"I think we have time," Arthur said, surveying the damage done to the large foyer they were standing in.

"Yeah, but we don't have much," Ariadne responded, assessing the building with an architect's eye. "The columns that support the ceiling are cracking big time. They aren't going to be able to handle the weight of the rest of the building for much longer."

Yusuf got up from the pile of rubble he was sitting on and ran into the path of the ambulance coming towards them.

The ambulance screeched to a halt and the door was thrown open angrily.

"Hey – you trying to get yourself killed?! What's your problem man?"

Yusuf ran over to the paramedic. "Sorry – but we have someone who really needs your help. He's hurt very badly."

The driver studied Yusuf for a moment before banging on the side of his truck to signal for his coworkers to load up their gear. Anyone who would throw themselves in front of a big, speeding vehicle must be desperate.

"Over there," Yusuf pointed.

Two more paramedics emerged from the truck, gear in tow, and made their way over to where Arthur, Eames and Ariadne were standing.

The driver, identified by the name patch on his uniform as Stefano, froze when he looked behind Arthur.

"Is that -," Stefano stopped talking suddenly.

Eames appeared next to Stefano without warning with a pistol suddenly shoved into his neck.

"Shh… you just load him up quickly and do as we say," Eames instructed in a low voice.

He looked at the other paramedics who had stopped in their tracks at the sight of the Smith and Wesson in Eames' hand.

"The city's in chaos right now. Nobody will miss you. Do as you're told and you won't have to eat a bullet."

"You'll be compensated," Arthur said to alleviate the fear on the men's faces.

"You want us to help this monster," Stefano asked in shock. "He did this. We'd be better off letting him die – it would be the right thing to do. Why should we do anything at all?"

Arthur looked at Stefano and pulled out his own pistol. "The consequences would be worse if you didn't help us. Maybe not right this second, but in the long run, it would be worse."

"Not like you'd be around to see it if you don't get a move on," Eames added, painfully digging the gun further into Stefano's neck.

Stefano eyed Arthur's gun. He knew the men weren't bluffing – especially the big one practically on top of him. He would shoot him in a second. He felt every bit like a coward, but he wasn't ready to die just yet. He finally looked at Arthur and nodded his head.

Eames gave Stefano a shove. "Make it fast."

Several minutes later, the paramedics got back into the vehicle with their patient. Yusuf sat up front with Stefano. Arthur, Ariadne and Eames crowded in the back with the other two paramedics.

"Which hospital are we headed to," Stefano asked Arthur loudly. It was hard to hear over the engine of the truck.

"We aren't going to a hospital. He'll show you where to go," Arthur yelled back, referring to Yusuf.

As soon as the vehicle began to move, the paramedics began their work.

"- Look at this guy, what a mess -"

"- IV's in, he's hooked up, checking vitals -"

"- Barely getting a pulse here -"

"- 2 CCs -"

"- Got him intubated-"

"- He's losing blood fast -"

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

"- WE'RE LOSING HIM – GET THE PADDLES!"

One of the paramedics reached into a small space under where Arthur was sitting and pulled out a defibrillator while the other one removed the remainder of the clothing on the man's torso.

"- Set to 200 joules -"

None of the team members could describe the sound of a defibrillator being made ready to use, but they would never forget it or mistake it for any other sound.

"CLEAR!"

THUMP.

"CLEAR!"

THUMP.

"CLEAR!"

THUMP.

"Ok – set to 260 – CLEAR!"

THUMP.

"CLEAR!"

THUMP.

"SET TO 320."

"NO - THAT'S TOO HIGH, TOO FAST – WE CAN'T DO THAT -"

"- YOU SEE ANY OTHER OPTIONS? He can take it – trust me."

The team watched, captivated, as the paramedics tried to bring the man on the gurney back to life.

"Arthur I still don't understand why we're bothering to save him at all," Eames said. "He said he didn't want to help us. He didn't want to live. Not after her."

"That's not true," Arthur countered, not taking his eyes off the scene in front of him. "He wanted to help. He truly wanted to help us. He just felt like he couldn't. Maybe if he survives this, he'll think of this as a second chance to make the right choice."

"And who gave you permission to decide who gets to live and die," Eames challenged. "Who gave you the right to decide that for him?"

Arthur finally turned and looked at Eames. "If that was you on the gurney, wouldn't you want someone to fight for your life? You can't tell me that if you had a chance to do things over again, you wouldn't take it. I know you're about being a free man, nothing to tie you down, but even you have regrets."

"CLEAR!"

THUMP.

BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP…

The paramedic with the paddles looked up at the team. There was guilt written all over his face.

"He's in very critical condition, but he's here for now. Wherever we're going, we need to get there fast."

BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP…

"He should have died instantly. His will to live is… strong. Very strong."