This is the future. This is the problem:

The world can't take much more of us, and everyone agrees that half of us need to go. Somewhere, somehow, someone invents a machine that decides who stays and who dies. No one knows what set of standards the machine uses to judge the souls of people, but it is always right, and it always kills the lesser person.

The Fate Machine has a few simple rules:

1. Two people go in, only one comes out.

2. Every person on earth must go in once, and only once.

3. Your number will come up randomly at any point in your life, and you must go.

4. You have two options when your number comes up: ask to have an opponent selected randomly, or choose an opponent.

5. Your opponent, if chosen, must agree. If random, your opponent has no choice.

Obviously, this results in some strategy. Chosen opponents are always close calls, as they both believe they can beat the other. Random battles are risky, as you could be pitted against someone who's had less opportunity to be a "bad" person, like a small child.

The system isn't perfect, but it works. People are slightly nicer than before. The rumor is the machine knows when you're just pretending, though.

When Wilson's number comes up, House has a theory.

"Pick me," he says.

Wilson scoffs. "I would slaughter you."

"I'll decline, of course," House says. "It will buy you some time to think of someone better."

Wilson shakes his head. "I don't know anyone who I could beat who would also accept. I'm going to ask for a random selection."

House has already watched Cuddy walk into the machine and never return (random battle: some teenager from India). He's lost Chase to Foreman (it had been close), and Cameron was beaten two years ago (random: an old man from England).

"Random is for suckers," House growls. "Pick me."

"No."

"Pick your brother."

"No!"

"It'll get you another month or two if you pick me," House says. "Enough time to get your patients re-assigned, all your affairs put in order. Than you can randomly die to your heart's content."

It's the jab about the patients that does it; House knew it would.

When House gets the official letter asking for his Yea or Nay, he waits the maximum three days before sending it back. And when Wilson steps into the machine and sees him standing there, he is not pleased.

"Bastard," he says. The machine powers on, and a warm red glow surrounds them.

House grins. "Exactly." And the machine calculates accordingly.