ch. VIII, p.5

. . .

“You’re Doctor Marrus.”

She had been gazing at him from across the room for some time.

“I am.”

“Mind if I join you?”

A hint of a smile played upon his lips and he motioned to the curved, stainless steel seat next to him, stylishly embedded in the wall.

She clicked across the room, her high heeled shoes echoing in the large chamber; empty, other than a bespectacled receptionist. Slipping into the red-cushioned chair, she leaned towards him determinedly and extended her hand, saying, “Maria Arcelli.”

His grip was firm, but forgiving. “I know. Interesting case you’re working on.”

Her heart startled at the response. She had expected that he knew of her work, but his reply was so direct…

“What do you suggest?” She asked calmly.

He didn’t break his simplistic gaze from her eyes. Then he grinned, self-satisfied. “Kill them.”

She was taken aback. “Surely you don’t mean that?” Was he really as eccentric as everyone said?

“Yes, I do. I have something I’ve been working on. It’s a good match for your case, I think you’ll like it.”

Bewildered, she began to reply, but…

“Doctor Marrus?” A voice from nearby. It was the receptionist. “The director is ready to see you now.”

“Thanks,” he said, getting up. And to Maria: “I’ll have my secretary get you up to speed. I look forward to working with you...”

She opened her eyes, staring at what had become of the doctor. A dark, empty shell, sucked of life… There was a time when she had thought he was invulnerable. Maybe the most powerful man alive. And to see someone like that fall from his place on high was… unsettling.

And there were complications. Her feelings about him weren’t simple, having ranged from admiration to intense loathing and back again. But her admiration, once she knew him, was different; genuine. Understanding led her to respect the human, flaws and all, rather than the legend.

‘Scan Complete,’ displayed in her mind, overlaying the rock walls.

She sat up in attention, reading through the details of the medical report. Death by blunt trauma… collapsed spine… Obviously… DNA analysis… She checked and double checked the results. And then checked them again, to make sure.

He was human. He was Frank Marrus.

She swallowed hard, tears filling her eyes. But she was relieved, too. She had nearly convinced herself that he was a replicant, or a clone. But he wasn’t. He was just a man… Which is what got him killed.

She ambled dazedly over to his dead body and knelt, gathering him in her arms. All the feelings of coldness and disgust had vanished, knowing that he really was who she thought. And all that was left was love.

“But I can’t bury you yet, Frank…” she said tenderly. “We still have one more thing left to do.”

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