This is the future. This is what happens to Wilson and House inside the Machine:

The red glow grows and strengthens, turning brilliant and fiery. Both men have to shut their eyes and cover their eyelids with their hands. When the light fades, only one is left.

He stares at the pile of ashes at his feet.

"No," he says, not angry at first, not surprised. Just sure, absolutely sure that this is not real. "No," he repeats.

A few moments of thought and consideration, and he begins pounding his fists on the metal walls, banging against the smooth belly of the machine.

"You took him?!" he shouts. "You stupid fucking piece of shit!"

He keeps smashing his fists against the cool silver wall. When they bruise and tire, he throws his entire weight against the thing, shoulder and side, grunting like a linebacker.

"You stupid bastard! You were wrong!"

He's losing his strength now, and he crumples to the floor, sitting among the ashes and wishing to dissolve.

The Machine seems to sense this. A click, somewhere deep in its bowels, and a bright green light streams into the chamber.

He raises his eyes to the ceiling, the metallic contraption a maze of tubes and wires. A thin, jointed robotic arm descends, blinking a single camera eye in his face. It glances pointedly at the exit.

"I'm not going," he says defiantly.

It blinks again. The camera whirs in question.

"I'm not going to leave." He clutches at the smooth rivets in the floor. "You can't keep herding people through here if I stay. You'll have to kill me."

The arm twitches slightly to the side before retreating upwards. A calm voice, feminine but not human, flows through a hidden speaker: Rule One. Two must enter, one must leave.

"Yeah, the Thunderdome Rule," he says in distaste. "Don't care. I'm not leaving." He idly runs his hand through the ashes on the floor, grasping handfuls like beach sand.

You are certain?

A nod, a gasping breath.

It is an unusual occurrence. The Machine sounds suspicious.

"We were unusual men," he answers.

The Machine is silent for a long moment. Calculating? Running algorithms and charting the trends that might follow?

It is not detrimental to the Goal, it concludes at last, and the red glow comes back.

He tips his head back, letting the heat warm his face and dry the dampness on his cheeks. He clutches a fistful of ashes to his chest, directly over his heart.

"Thank you," he whispers before the red turns to black.