Aitken swallowed and her grim composure cracked for half a second. "The hostile was—"

"My husband was—"

"No, you don't understand. He had to be—"

"Shut up. Shut up!" Basil shrieked, forgetting about staunching the blood flow. It was so cold against the backs of his fingers, the beds of his nails — cold already, too late. He lunged up to wrap clawed fingers, purple as Kalp's blood dried, around Aitken's neck. She dodged back, and the two other soldiers from the corps surged forward and dragged him bodily away from her. Basil kicked out, furious, his face hot and his head burning.

Kalp, God, no, Kalp...

"Gwen! Where are you?" Basil screamed. "Call an ambulance, fuck, someone arrest that crazy woman! She killed Kalp!"

Aitken stepped back, into the kitchen and out of the way. She holstered her gun and lifted her hand to probe around her neck, then the other hand went to her ear-mounted transmitter and clicked it on. She whispered urgently and softly into the microphone, expression twisted into a sneer even though her lips were dead white. Basil saw the words "backup" and "meatwagon" fall like cannonballs from her mouth. Nobody made a move to stop her.

Basil looked around at the faces of his fellow agents in disbelief. Some averted their eyes. The rest just frowned. Behind them, Basil's living room suddenly looked surreal and wrong. A teacup was resting on its side on the coffee table, and beside it, stacked neatly, there was a small bundle of files. They looked like some review work someone had left for half a second, just to nip up to the loo, and meant to return to. On the dining room table sat a torn piece of paper and some strange lump of twisted metal that Basil only half saw but couldn't force his shocky brain to recognize. It all seemed too...domestic for what was lying on the floor.

Basil lunged at Aitken again.

At least, he tried, but a matched set of agonizing grips on the insides of his elbows wrenched him back. A fleeting thought ran across his mind — a complaint about whiplash, pulled muscles, maybe something particularly snippy about manhandling — but Basil couldn't spare the brainpower for his habitual bitchiness just now. He bent his knees, trying to regain forward momentum, trying to pull with his center of gravity.

"Calm down, Dr. Grey!" one of the grunts shouted in his ear, yanking him back so hard something in his shoulder twisted and popped and began to burn.

Basil yelped, feet skidding out from under him in his surprised pain, and they wrestled him towards the front door.

He thrashed from side to side, ignoring — no, reveling in—the biting needles that were broadcasting out of his shoulder socket, concentric circles of throbbing agony and clarity. The pain made everything clearer. It made the truth too true to bear.

He jabbed out with his elbows, but he only succeeded in getting himself all the more tangled in the soldiers' unforgiving grip. The soles of his boots slipped and skidded against the polished hardwood floors, along the white tile of the house entryway. They caught the corner of the dirt-dull shoe carpet, dragging it across the threshold along with the three struggling men, out onto the cement stoop.

But he could not make them stop.

"Kalp! Gwen!" he screamed, and he felt something rip in his throat, the hot burn of anger and grief and pain.

Kalp couldn't, he just...it just...no.

"He's dead, Dr. Grey," the same grunt said, and he didn't even try to say it nicely, didn't even try to soften the blow.

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