- Text Size +

Dorian acknowledged it to herself: she was the worst kind of fool. Somewhere along the line, Tobias had ceased being The Experiment, or even an instrument of revenge. She couldn't really blame their sexual relationship for this; she had seen it coming long before that first caress. Since the thrilling moment of his "birth", Tobias had steadily grown from a pathetic joke into a person, while Dorian's feelings grew right along with him.

Her emotional involvement made it increasingly difficult to deny Tobias anything. Now, many an evening she allowed him upstairs, where he sat near her, devouring online education from his padd. With his growing intellect, there might soon come a day when he would turn to her and ask, "Who am I?" There might come a day when he discovered the answer for himself.

Lately he had shown an annoying fascination with philosophy. It had not taken him long to discover men and women whose thinking was in conflict with hers-promoters of "spiritual values" who viewed life very differently, but promised an interior peace that he felt he was lacking.

"Don't believe everything you read," she told him with her typical cynicism in such matters. "This life is all there is. You have to reach out and grab what you want."

Still he persisted, and tonight his questions kept coming as they sat side by side on a sofa.

Looking up from his padd once more, he asked, "Are we married?"

She laughed uneasily. "Of course not."

His pale slanted brows drew together in a frown. "In the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as many other religious faiths, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is considered...a sin."

"What deep thoughts," Dorian said with sarcasm. She rose abruptly. "Enough for now. Time for you to go downstairs."

When he ignored her, she reached out and snatched the padd from his hands.

"I wasn't finished!" he protested.

Dorian looked coolly down at him. Sometimes Tobias reminded her of a moody adolescent, and she in no way encouraged these rebellious flashes of temper. "I said enough," she repeated firmly. "It's late."

She could see the anger smoldering in his steely blue eyes, could see his muscles tighten. Then he was on his feet, with a four inch advantage, reaching for the coveted padd.

"Stop it!" she said through her teeth.

Tobias swiftly snatched the padd away. Though Dorian felt like striking him, she kept her arms at her sides and spoke with deliberate calm. "You're so interested in morality; well, what do your precious religions teach about obedience? Using a padd is a privilege. If you insist on challenging me, you will lose that privilege."

Rather than back down, he cunningly confronted her with her own words. "Did you not say that we should grab what we want? But it seems that such a philosophy promotes conflict."

"Clever brat," she seethed. "Hand it over. Now."   

She watched his lean fingers tighten on the padd until it broke in his viselike grip.

"Very well," she said in a taut voice. "I have no intention of replacing it any time soon, so you've only punished yourself."

At that, he hurled the ruined padd across the room. Glaring at her, he seemed about to speak when his face went blank and a strange spasm passed through his body, dropping him to the floor.

Dorian fell to her knees beside him. "Tobias...Toby! What's wrong?"

His eyes slowly opened. "I...feel weak," he said, but managed to sit up.

She fetched a medical tricorder and passed it over his body. Looking worriedly at the inconclusive readings, she told him, "Better get to bed." And this time there was no argument.

But after Tobias followed her to her bedroom, he went straight to a window. Outside, the night was black. Lately when he concentrated, some of the darkness seemed to dissipate and he could walk with confidence, even down in the basement. Now, taking slow deep breaths, he thought hard about seeing, and something happened inside his head, something wonderful, and the world outside brightened a little for him. He could see the surf foaming over the beach, where a couple was strolling hand in hand.

Dorian had promised to take him out there someday. Always someday.  But in view of his defiance, that was not likely to happen. What if she banished him downstairs forever? Never to feel the sand under his feet, never to touch a wave...  

Expecting to be locked in, he slowly turned and walked through the closet doors, but for once Dorian did not even shut them.

"If you feel sick," she said, "just call me."


Early next morning, Dorian went down to check on Tobias and found his bed neatly made and the basement empty. Quickly she searched the entire house and gardens, twice over. Fighting panic, she cancelled her classes at the university and went racing along the shore in her beach skimmer.  

Tobias was fascinated with the ocean. He might have wandered into the lavender surf, and perhaps deeper water. What if he had drowned?    

Let her explain that to the authorities. Let her explain that to herself.

All through the day she wandered, every clump of sea grass looking like a dead body. When Helex sank into the purple sea, she went back to her house. After conducting one final indoor search for Tobias, she dropped onto the sofa, bone-weary and discouraged.

Tears were welling when the comset at her elbow chimed with a pulsing tone. Its small screen showed the worried round face of the local constable.

"Doctor Wren," he said, obviously relieved to find her at home. "Can you come down to the station?"


Dorian's hands were shaking so badly that Tobias helped her slide the entry card into her front door. Neither of them had spoken a word during the brief trip home from the police station. But now, safely inside the house, Tobias quietly looked at her and asked, "Who is Spock? Why did they call me Spock?"

She had been expecting the question. "I don't know," she easily lied. "The result of your identity tests probably came out very similar to his, that's all."

He frowned. "I kept telling them that my name is Tobias and I live with you-with Dorian-but they wanted more information. They wanted something called surnames. I've seen those in my studies, but I never knew that you had one. Then, when I picked you out of some pictures, they said that you're Dorian Wren. Is that really my surname, too, like you told them? Am I Tobias Wren?"

"Yes, that's right," Dorian replied, her voice soft and convincing. "Come into the kitchen. I haven't eaten all day, and you must be hungry, too."

As they sat at the table finishing their sandwiches, Tobias suddenly said, "If my name is Wren, are we somehow related? Please explain. And also why I...I have no memories."

Annoyed by his persistence, Dorian abruptly stood. "Because you're stupid, that's why! Haven't you caused enough trouble for one day? Now be quiet and go to bed."

They walked together as far as her bedroom, and she went in for a hot bath. Coming out later, Dorian found him fast asleep in her bed, and with a stirring of remorse decided to permit it.  He was home. He was safe. And just now, nothing else really mattered. Climbing in beside him, she lay thinking about the odd stares she drew from the constable, and the probing questions that she sidestepped with studied poise.

"Am I being charged with a crime?" she had asked. "Is Tobias?"

"Well...no," came the slow admission. "But he wouldn't properly identify himself for a patrol officer. His behavior was rather suspicious."

"Do you always harass people strolling along the beach?" she had pressed.

"We often question loitering strangers, Doctor Wren, particularly in the dark of night. Whoever this fellow is, you'd better advise him to quit being so damn evasive with authorities-presuming, as you say, he has nothing to hide."

Tobias had sat through the whole degrading process, never once speaking, eyed focused on the hands in his lap. Dorian had let the fool of a constable draw his own conclusions about Toby's clouded identity. Anything, just to be out of there.

Perhaps the shock was just setting in...for both of them. But warmed by the pleasure of his nearness, she finally relaxed and closed her eyes.


Dorian woke to find daylight peeking through the windows and Tobias sound asleep beside her. Quietly she rose and went into the bathroom to prepare for work. When she came out he had his back to her, one hand tightly gripping the blankets. So he was awake now...and probably pouting about yesterday.

Firmly she said, "After we eat breakfast, you'll get down in that basement and stay there until I come home."

He rolled over and looked at her. "Dorian, I'm not hungry. I...I ache inside."   

Alarmed, she hurried to the bed and felt his flushed cheeks, his burning hands. She thought at once of his strange collapse, but could only hope that it had no connection to this present malady. Forcing a smile, she brushed the fine blond hair from his forehead and said, "Alright, then. Stay put. You must have picked up a virus when you were out." And she brought him something to reduce the fever.

But by the time she got home from the university, he was worse. Dorian scanned him with a medical tricorder and was horrified at the results. This was no infection. A flaw in the duplication process was causing a cascade effect. Every system in his body was starting to shut down.

Sinking into a chair, she covered her face and wept. She had been so bent on having the perfect revenge. How could this have happened? Oh, why had she ever let herself love him?

You must login (register) to review.