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a person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one's behaviour.

There was a deep pause as the universe inhaled before a plunge, then I was moving, legs carrying me to where Holt stood in two bounds and half a second. I leaped and barrelled into his chest, knocking him backwards onto the hard stones of the plaza. Without hesitation my fangs were out and I bit into his neck, hard, drawing blood. I felt the venom course through my throat and out, into his.

Holt grunted, then batted me away, rolling me sideways onto my back. He was twice my size and was on top of me immediately, one knee on my stomach, pressing down and pinning me in place, blood pouring from the wound in his neck. He lifted the gun by the barrel and swung it down at my head, but as I winced and covered my face from the impact Marv arrived, reaching out and grasping the swinging weapon with his Earth-built arm, stopping it dead in space.

Marv wrenched it from Holt's grip and flung the weapon away, sending it sailing and skittering across the plaza, far from reach. Holt had already stopped bleeding, though he was evidently in some pain. He dodged backwards and away from Marv.

"I like the new arm," he said, nodding at it appreciatively.

"You're not the only one with upgrades," Marv said, positioning himself between me and Holt. He reached down and helped me back onto my feet.

"See? Even the best parts of you come from us," Holt said. "Anything decent your civilisation has ever managed was because we allowed it." He grimaced. "That's quite a bite you've got on you, sweetheart."

It should have killed him. It definitely should have knocked him out. "How are you still standing?" I asked.

Holt held his arms out wide. "Come on," he said, "my line of work, and you think I haven't taken some precautions against dangerous wildlife?"

"You've got nowhere to go, man," Marv said.

"I've known that for a while," Holt said, looking around at the plaza. A crowd had gathered in a loose, wide circle around us. "And now, neither do you."

There was the characteristic whine-roar noise of Red technology as aerial vehicles arrived overhead. A moment after they were in position above, three canisters dropped down, one landing next to each of us. They burst open and transparent, solid cages formed instantaneously, seemingly out of nothing.

"You have been isolated for your safety and the safety of others," a voice called from the hovering vehicles. "Do not attempt to resist arrest."

I pressed my hands against the transparent material, staring out at Holt with unbridled anger. I wanted to tear the cage down and rip him apart. Then I turned and saw Marv, in his own cage, looking not at Holt but at me, his face a picture of concern. He nodded and mouthed "you okay?" at me. All exterior sound was dulled, other than the pronouncements from the authorities.

One of the vehicles had landed and medics were examining Cal where he lay, prone and bleeding on the ground. Before I could see what was happening, the cages were lifted up into the air and brought into the rear cargo area of one of the larger vehicles. All went dark and I sat on the floor of the cage, rocking from side to side as we flew blindly through the skies of Cord.

After what seemed like forever a door slid open, flooding the compartment with light. The cage dissolved and contracted back into the canister, which sat innocently next to me. Marv was a few feet away, while Holt was nowhere to be seen. Marv walked to me and we hugged. It was a good hug. It didn't change what had happened, but it helped.

We'd landed in a hangar somewhere. A Red policeman ran up the ramp of the vehicle. "Kay, Marv," he said informally, as was the way with a lot of Red's inhabitants, "my name is Carver. I'm here to assist you."

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