One

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The agent's screams had long since failed, leaving only a stifling quiet that hovered over the hallway outside the surgery. Nearly an hour passed since a crowd of medical staff wheeled in the injured man, who had moaned and cried the entire way despite their attempts to calm him. There had been a lot of bloodstained gauze and at least two of the medics had been applying pressure to wounds to try and stem the bleeding.  Some blood had fallen onto the immaculate tiled floor in the hall and now it was little more than cold brown gel.

 Officer Rufus Rene stared at it blankly, his minding running through the last hour repeatedly.  It wasn't the first time he had witnessed such scenes. Nor would it be his last. Neither of those two facts made it any easier to bear.

The chair he sat on was made out of cheap plastic, the kind that wobbled and squeaked every time he shifted his weight. It was far from comfortable, yet he resisted the urge to get up and walk around. Instead he leaned forward and clasped his hand between his knees while he waited. 

The man in surgery was Eric Hale. His operative name as an Embassy agent was Dev. Eric hadn't been an Agent for long, but he'd already become known for his easy grin and friendly personality. Eric was also, Rufus remembered fondly, unafraid of playing pranks on anyone that he felt deserved it. Even Rufus himself hadn't escaped the man's mischievous games. Whatever he did, it was impossible to get mad at the man; it was all in good-natured fun and it went a far way to lighten the often tense atmosphere amongst the Agents.  He was one of those rare gems amidst a sea of coal.

 And now, Rufus thought grimly, he might just have crushed that gem into dust.

 The door to the surgery opened. Dr. Gentt stepped out, wiping his hands with a paper towel. He was an older gentlemen in his fifties with kind eyes and a large nose. His hair was still mostly chestnut, giving the impression that he was ten years younger than he actually was. Though today, exhaustion made the lines in his face appear deeper, and with the dark bags beneath his eyes he looked every bit his age.

  Rufus only needed to look at Gentt's face to know. He closed eyes and exhaled softly. 

"He was a good lad," he said quietly.

Gentt said nothing. He only walked over and dropped a hand onto Rufus shoulder. It was heavy, that hand, yet it was warm and gentle. For a while, they remained  where they were in a heavy silence. It wasn't until the staccato sound of a woman's footsteps echoed down the hall that Gentt finally pulled away.

"It's  not your fault," he said gruffly. Then he left, walking down the hall with slow, tired steps.

 Not his fault? Rene scoffed. That was a lie. He was the one who had sent Eric to his death. Even though he had known the risks, he had given the orders and Eric had obeyed them. This young man's blood was upon his hands. 

 It was now the third life he'd ruined in the past ten days. Possibly the fourth, but that remained to be seen.  His eye caught that little brown splotch on the floor. A weight seemed to shift about in his chest. It had been there for a long time, but now it seemed to grow just a bit heavier. I'm sorry, he thought. I'm so sorry.

"Sir?"

 Lifting his gaze, he saw Yessa. She was one of the secretarial staff who worked on the main floor. In her lower twenties, she was one of the youngest amongst the main floor staff, but she was far more mature than her age.

 "What is it, Yessa?" Rufus asked. He rubbed his eyes, taking a brief moment to gather himself together. Then he rose from the chair, wincing as his body both rejoiced and complained at being freed from the plastic prison.

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