Ariadne eyed the array of weaponry on the counter doubtfully. Some of it she could vaguely recognize from movies. Some of it looked like she'd be able to handle. Some of it she doubted she'd even be able to lift. Was that a rocket launcher? "Is this really necessary?"
"Yes." Arthur's voice was firm, no compromise in sight. "If you're going to go in with us, you have to be able to defend yourself."
"But you all have been saying that Fischer's projections shouldn't be that violent--"
Arthur held up a finger. "True, but projections can still turn on invaders. As you've already seen."
Ariadne winced and rubbed her stomach.
"If you're going to work in the dream world, you need to expect the unexpected. We have three levels to get through, each more unstable than the last. With this many people on the team, we compound the chances of one of us inadvertently drawing attention. Anything can happen." Arthur turned to the counter, selecting one of the handguns. He squinted at her hands for some reason, then put it back and selected another, smaller one. He tilted her a wry look. "Besides, look at it as a trial run, if you ever have to buy a gun in real life."
God forbid, she thought. Ariadne sighed. "All right. So what do I do?"
Arthur smiled. It was his cute "boy next door" smile, but she was learning not to trust that smile. Especially when it was wielded by a man who probably could use every weapon in here. "Right now, try holding guns. None of them are loaded. We're looking for something that can fit comfortably in your hand." He held up the gun in his hand, a short-barreled revolver. "This is a .38 Special." He turned it around, presenting her with the butt. "Try it on for size."
Ariadne sighed again and took it, awkwardly. Even the fact that it wasn't loaded couldn't break the sense that the thing was deadly, heavy, final. As much as her French friends teased her about Americans and guns, she'd never liked them. She really hoped that she'd never have to use it, in a dream or not, but she dutifully accepted Arthur's adjustments as he showed her how to hold it, then gave her a few others to try, then loaded them and asked her about weight, then moved her to the firing range and had her fire each of them in turn. The recoil blasted up her arms on all of them, but she calmed her breathing enough to choose one over the others: a Kel-Tec P3AT 9mm that struck the best balance between something light and something that fit into her hand.
"Good," Arthur said, leaning against the counter. He handed her another clip and nodded in approval as she reloaded the way he'd taught her. "Why don't you practice a bit more, then we'll try some training."
Oh, she didn't like the sound of that. "Training?"
"Yes. We'll move to a different spot and see how you deal with some of my projections."
Ariadne nearly dropped the gun. "You want me to kill your projections?"
She regretted the incredulous tone as Arthur's eyebrow quirked up slightly in the "don't be ridiculous" look he usually reserved for Eames. "That is the whole point. They're not real, remember. But you have to get used to shooting something that looks human. Otherwise you might hesitate at a crucial moment."
Ariadne breathed in deep. "Right." She took up the shooter's stance he'd shown her, aiming at the paper target down the firing lane, trying to imagine that it was a person. "I just...." She couldn't find the words and instead emptied the clip, one bullet after another. About half of them hit the target. One even managed to hit the head, though that was more accident than skill.
"Just?" Arthur asked, when she was done.
Ariadne frowned. "I don't know if I want to be able to pull the trigger on something that looks like a person. I know the projections aren't real, but... I can't help but think it'll make me more able to shoot at a real person, in real life. Doesn't this...desensitize, I think they call it? "
Arthur didn't answer, and Ariadne finally looked over at him. The look on his face was complicated, unreadable. Finally, he said, quietly, reluctantly, as if he wasn't sure he wanted to answer. "Yes. It does."
She almost wished she hadn't asked.