"I'm so pleased to meet you at last Director." The Doctor unconsciously ran his hands over his crisp lab coat to smooth it out before he held his hand out to his guest.

"Dr. Cartwright." Eric Harradine took the proffered hand and shook it firmly. "I'm glad I could finally make the time to visit your facility. I've heard such good things."

Harradine smiled reassuringly, the warmth and charm of it spreading even to his deep brown eyes. He was well practiced in the art of comforting people. His eyes roamed over the excited Doctor, noting the slightly tousled hair and light sprouting of stubble on his chin.

"I can't wait to show you the results of all our years hard labour." The good Doctor rubbed his hands together with anticipation; his eyes alight with pride in his work.

Harradine's sharp eye caught the Doctor's slightly skewed and stained tie and he smiled good-naturedly. It was clear Dr. Cartwright had made an effort to be presentable, but Harradine suspected he was far too used to being left alone to his research and not accustomed to associating with people. He took that as a good sign. Harradine would rather a man fully committed to his work, than one obsessed with appearances. Unless their job was all about such shallow facades, which as the public face of a Government organization, was his own fulltime occupation.

"These last few years in fact we've made progress in leaps and bounds. I think you will find that your funds have been well-spent."

Harradine caught the Doctor by the arm, halting their leisurely stride.

"I want to make it clear to you Dr. Cartwright, I am not here to judge if your facility is still worth funding. From all your reports I have already concluded that you have a very worthwhile and cost-effective project running here." He grinned with amusement as he caught his own reflection in the window. The contrast between himself and the stooped scientist tickled his funny bone immensely. He stood tall and proud, in a well-cut suit, his dark hair slicked back. Precise and immaculate even down to his nails. Harradine was a man obsessed with perfection, and he felt that despite their apparent differences, he and the Doctor clearly had much in common.

"This visit is merely to satisfy my own curiosity. I wanted so much to see the process first hand. To read about it on paper is such a cold, inhuman experience. I feel that the reality must be so much more exciting."

Dr. Cartwright blinked at him, unsure of how to react to this news. He had been prepared to fight tooth and nail for the survival of his project.

"So, show me everything, tell me everything! I won't rest til I've seen it all." Harradine grasped Cartwright's elbow and gave him a little nudge to get them walking again.

"Well," The Doctor began hesitantly, "let's start at the beginning then..."

***

"The problems we faced twenty years ago, the limitations, are all but gone. Back then it was hard finding a good supply of surrogate mothers who were in good health, and to keep them in the conditions we needed them." Dr. Cartwright walked among the banks of stasis tubes, pausing every now and then to read the data outputs. Harradine followed behind him, his eyes trying to take in every detail of the vaulted room. Nurses and technicians roamed about, adjusting, analysing, every detail no matter how minute was considered vitally important. Dr. Cartwright continued his long monologue.

"Free from stress, free from outside contaminants. No woman, no matter how much we could pay her was willing to be locked away in a sterile room for nine months." Long worry lines appeared in the aging Doctor's forehead. "It just made things so unpredictable, too many variables. And then of course, there was the human element. Too often we would see these women, wanting to keep the child, even though they had signed a contract stating they agreed fully to hold no ownership over it."

He sighed heavily, shaking his head. He turned to one of the tubes and patted it with affection, a small smile returning to his face as he looked at Harradine. "With the development of these Habitat tubes all those problems were erased. We were truly free to at last to really start pushing boundaries." Dr. Cartwright clenched his fists, pumping them in the air with excitement. Harradine let out a small chuckle; the old man was like a little kid among his toys and gadgets.

Dr. Cartwright beckoned Harradine with a wave of his hand as he hurried along the pristine tiled floor and out of the room. They travelled along a brightly lit corridor, passing many of Dr. Cartwright's staff. It was clear that they all admired and respected him, from the cheerful tones of their greetings, and the genuine warmth in their eyes. He knew everyone of them by name, and would shake hands with everyone, or clap them on the shoulder. Without awkwardness or ceremony he would introduce them all to the Director, none were considered too mediocre in the Doctor's eyes. Harradine found it so refreshing and could see no evidence of any disgruntled staff. It was like being brought home to one big, happy family.

"Eventually as well with proper screening we were able to weed out most of the inferior subjects. In some cases if the original mother was a drug addict, or alcoholic, it could cause adverse reactions once we began the treatments."

"Good morning Dr. Cartwright." Dr. Cartwright's foremost assistant approached them and Harradine could not keep his eyes wandering from her fine features all the way down to her tender legs. "Morning Dr. Harden. Have you met the Director?" Harradine stepped forward, eagerly holding out his hand.

"The pleasure certainly hasn't been mine." Harradine captured her own bespectacled eyes with his as he grasped her hand, firmly but gently, stroking the back of it with his thumb. He produced the exact result he had aimed for as the woman blushed slightly, easily flustered.

"Very nice to meet you Sir." She managed to utter as she found her voice. She bowed her head to avert her eyes from Harradine's as she slid between him and the Doctor on her way to her lab.

"Oh Louise!" She halted and turned to Dr. Cartwright as he hastily stepped after her. "I meant to ask you yesterday, could you please pull up all the data on the K and L series? I want to see if we can isolate the trigger for that albino trait."

"I'll get right on it." They both nodded curtly and Dr. Harden hurried about her business.

Harradine's eyes lingered on her retreating form. "You're one lucky man Dr. Cartwright." The Doctor followed his line of sight.

"You can't imagine what a help she is to me. Brilliant mind you know." Harradine laughed outright at the Doctor's obliviousness to the charms of women and clapped him in the back.

"I believe you were talking about adverse reactions?"

"Right of course." They resumed their tour. "We found that often they couldn't reach their peak of physical performance, or worse they mental deficiencies and most tragic of all, mental disease. Schizophrenia being the most common, and usually appearing late in the program, after we had already invested so much time and effort." They had reached the Doctor's office and he offered himself for a retinal scan, the door sliding open silently. Dr. Cartwright politely stepped aside and motioned Harradine in before him. His office was as Harradine expected, a mess. There had been a hasty attempt to organise it, but it was just too cluttered with reports and files. Textbooks lay open and strewn about the office. Dr. Cartwright took a seat behind his desk as Harradine eased himself into one of the surprisingly comfortable visitors chairs.

"But we've managed to eliminate most of those now in the earliest stages, before we even begin any kind of dose. Of course there will always be the occasional deviant, it's not, unfortunately, a perfect science." Dr. Cartwright leaned back in his chair, pushing the tips of his fingers together as he rest his hands against his nose, caught deep in his own thoughts.

"I spoke to Dr. Warner last week." Harradine began tentatively and he saw Dr. Cartwright scowl. It was the first time his expression had turned sour. "He's been trying hard to convince me that we should be focussing our efforts solely on his filed of research."

"Cloning!" Dr. Cartwright spat venomously. "A waste of time and money when we have a ready supply of agents right here at our fingertips. Societies unwanted become societies enforcers!" Dr. Cartwright slammed his palm down upon his desk, causing files to slide off the edges in a great flurry of paper.

"Does Dr. Warner mention in all his theorising and postulating how he plans to keep a reign on his clones? Does he give any proof that his theories will work in practice?" Harradine tried to suppress a smile as he watched the old man puff up with his professional outrage. "Where is the evidence? Where are his genetically engineered supermen? Years of research and still he has nothing to show for it!" Dr. Cartwright fell back into his chair, his arms crossed tightly over his chest as he quietly ground his teeth together.

"I lied before when I said I came only to satisfy my own curiosity." Harradine spoke gently, slowly raising his eyes to meet the Doctor's. Dr. Cartwright had turned pale, beads of sweat forming on his brow.

"Don't worry Doctor," Harradine smiled reassuringly, "its not what you think. I came to give you your first assignment." Dr. Cartwright's eyes lit up, his mouth hanging open in an expression of sheer joy. "I've read all the reports on your controlled field exercises and I believe it's high time we put your Agents to work. I have a very important job for you."

Dr. Cartwright leaned over to his intercom. "Send M-1 up to my office immediately." He turned serious now as he looked at Harradine. "What is the nature of this assignment, Sir?"

"Senator Bradbury has been making trouble for us. I'm sure you've heard of her, she's everywhere after all." Dr. Cartwright nodded screwing up his nose in distaste as he thought of the obnoxious woman. "She wants to gain access to all our records, take away our funding and she's rapidly gaining support. We've got no way to silence her, no family to threaten, no shady past to haunt her." Harradine ticked all the points off on his fingers. "And she's untouchable by bribery."

"Then there seems only one option left available to you." A predatory gleam had insinuated itself into the Doctor's eyes and Harradine felt a wave of relief knowing that he was a very loyal patriot.

"Time to prove yourself Doctor. Silence the nay-sayers once and for all. If you accomplish this task without incident the future of your facility is guaranteed. You have my word on it." There was a buzz at the door and Dr. Cartwright called for the visitor to enter.

"Director, this is Agent Parkes." Harradine stood from his chair, wide-eyed at the man who stood in the doorway. His stature was imposing as Agent Parkes walked forward into the office. He looked like he could crush Harradine without effort and Harradine could admit without false ego he was himself a very strong and fit man.

"Good morning Director." Harradine felt his knees turn to jelly at the sound of that hollow rasping voice. Two dark and cold eyes locked on him and he found he simply could not will himself to offer his hand to this soulless Agent.

"I know Director his appearance is a bit startling." Harradine gulped nervously, that was an understatement. In the severe dark suit Parkes looked even more pale that he truly was. "The albino trait was a strange side effect to our course of drugs. The new and improved strain of Loyalty has something to do with it I believe but we haven't discovered the trigger yet. It's only a matter of time though." Parkes eyes turned from the Director to stare vacantly to the opposite wall and Harradine found he could breathe a little easier. He was incapable of resuming his seat however. Dr. Cartwright seemed completely at ease with the thing and beamed proudly at it.

"Parkes is our top Agent. He excels in all training exercises, both physical and mental and his loyalty is unquestionable. Tell me Parkes, what is our mission here?"

"To protect the freedoms and constitutional rights of all American citizens." Parkes spoke without hesitation, as though the words were burnt into his mind, into every fibre of his consciousness.

"And how do we accomplish our mission?"

"By eliminating any who would pose a threat to our democratic way of life." Parkes' voice chilled Harradine to his core and he felt even more relieved than before that Dr. Cartwright was on his side.

"Parkes, we have discovered someone who does indeed threaten the peace. I have been tasked by the Director to eliminate this radical. We must obey."

"Obedience is the highest order. I am ready to serve."

"Magnificent, isn't he Director?" Harradine looked from Agent Parkes to the Doctor's eager smile and back to Parkes dead expression again. He couldn't explain it but for some reason he felt fear and doubt, the kind which he had never known before in his life.

***

A similar fear was reflected in Annette Bradbury's eyes as she lay on her bed, her fists beating feebly at the large white hands crushing her throat. She looked into her attackers seemingly bottomless eyes, so devoid of any emotion. Desperately she searched for an understanding, a reason why, what had she done to deserve this? But she could see only herself reflected back. So she watched herself as she finally ceased struggling, as her body gave in from lack of oxygen, as the life seeped out of her.

Agent Parkes stood upright from her limp body. He walked around her neat apartment, methodically opening drawers and pulling out the contents, spilling the items in a hasty fashion. As he had been commanded, he placed whatever money and jewellery he could find into a small black satchel. A tap dripped slowly in the kitchen as he threw the contents of the cupboards onto the floor, shattering plates and cups. Outside the hum of evening traffic could be heard as he looked around the apartment to assess if his work was satisfactory. He strode to the front door, passing by the bedroom on his way. He could see the Senator's body, her legs akimbo, the fear still etched onto her face. He stood in the doorway, regarding her passively. For many moments he stood there staring at her, but he did not think about who she was, or why he had been sent to kill her. That kind of thinking was not his duty. He simply stood and stared as though entranced by something unseen. At long last he blinked and turned away from the stiffening corpse. He wrenched open the front door, listening to the hinges snap and twist and he stepped out into the hallway, leaving the door hanging open. He strode to the end of the hallway and slipped through the window out onto the fire escape.

He reached into his pocket and retrieved his sunglasses, putting them on to shield his eyes from the piercing rays of the setting sun. He looked out over the city, watching as the amber glow turned the sky red, casting crimson waves over the buildings. The future had arrived and the sky turned dim.