The Contingent

Failing Forward
Adventurers in R&D

Willard was on his way back to R&D after being interrupted by an email from Derrick. He had spoken to Samantha about John’s decomposed remains a few days ago. He was distracted by his research and had forgotten. He signed for the delivery then promptly headed back to his lab. He thought about how glad he was that Derrick had started consistently sending emails. The last time in the lab, Derrick entered wearing street clothes and knocked over a beaker. The administrative assistant had ruined one of his experiments over a request to complete a survey for a training class that he’d been signed up for by Dr. Sandoval. He exited the elevator, walked down a hallway through a door, and was back where he belonged. Returned to the quiet confines of his lab area. Willard passed by cold storage on his way to one of the many metal-topped tables in the morgue. This part of R&D was designated for autopsies but was a convenient location for his various projects, and far away from the more explosive research. He claimed the area when he joined Contingent. Jacinta initially had him setup here to work on enzyme analysis on the Promethean arm. Now, the lab was where Willard performed his blood screening test on the ghost ephemera. He’d had success to this point, but the final cross-matching blood panel would determine the fundamental viability of his work.

After the body brought in and adequately stored, Willard went back to his work. No sooner had the doctor mixed samples WB10 and JM04, his and John’s blood samples, that his research was interrupted for a second time this evening. He heard scraping coming from one of the cold storage units. By the sound of it, it was coming from one of the 4-compartment cold storage fridges. Of which one contained the recent addition of the remains of John Miller. Willard imagined the frozen remains of the large man bursting out of the locked refrigerator and choking him to death. He stowed the blood sample in its proper container in front of him, went over to his saddlebag, quickly rifled through his things, and produce the hatchet he’d been carrying since the werewolf attacked in Idaho. Feeling marginally better defended, Willard fought off his internal screams of protest then went over to investigate. Approaching the fridge, he had his fears confirmed by the muffled noise coming from the lower drawer. Having learned his lesson in Idaho, Willard stood to one side before he took out his keys to unlock the drawer. Something lunged out of storage before he could slide the shelf even part-way open.

A large spider sailed past Willard and landed on one of the metal tables. Much too large to have fit into the compartment by itself, let alone with John’s corpse inside with it. The arachnid didn’t look real with large bead-like joints, black obsidian chitin, and an abdomen that looked like clouded glass. Willard staggered back away from the creature bumping up against a desk. The beast stopped to take in the lab instead of going for the Doctor. When It ended its investigation, it turned back towards Willard and spoke. Saying in an oddly pleasant voice, “Necromancer, you are attempting to wrest away secrets from the dead that should stay dead.”

“I’m not a…a necromancer,” the doctor responded dumbly. He backed away and in the process he bumped into his desk, knocking over the flask sitting on his desk. The flask was Scott Forbes’s anchor. Willard had collected it on his first mission for the Contingent and was one of many experiments which related to body parts, blood, and ghosts. Ending the brief reevaluation, he responded, “I can see how you might think that.”

The voice coming from the spider continued as it slowly stalked forward with its long fangs and unnerving nobby spider legs. “That place is not for you, you understand, and I must preserve my secrets.” The spider was distracted again from its pursuit by a loud cracking sound that came from the table to the left of Willard. That appeared to end its attempt at pleasantries because when it looked back, it lowered itself, sprang forward and disappeared into thin air right before impacting with its prey.

Dr. Buss stood frozen in terror for a full two minutes before he could bring himself to do anything. His first action was to grab the flask sitting on the desk and take a swig. He’d hypothesized that maybe adding alcohol to the container would free Scott from the flask but, at some point, Willard concluded Scott’s ghost was destroyed. It’s destruction only coincidentally manifested as being sucked into the container. Right now he didn’t need theories; what he needed was a drink.

He started to clean the mess that was made in the lab when he discovered the source of the cracking sound. The cross-matching test had failed. After only a few minutes the sample for the blood panel and the test tubes containing them had necrotized entirely. It appeared that whatever connection that drew the creature to him had died with his research. He had never been happier to have his research so wholly fail.

The doctor thought about his next steps. He only had a vague notion of what was going on with the spider, but he knew he needed to inform Ms. Miller. Then he would take some time off before he started any new research he thought. He knew Ms. Jones had been interested in learning more about herself, and reading up on Fetches seemed like it might be interesting reading material while he was on vacation.

We Killed Lethe Worms, Anonymous
Hospital Support Group

Meredith had been set up in her hospital room barely a day ago, and she was already about to go insane from the beeping. She held her hands over her ears, trying to muffle the incessant noise, but she couldn’t seem to block it out. She was already on edge without her notebook- and, since she didn’t have anything to write with, she couldn’t ask for headphones or ear plugs.

Part of her was shocked by the fact that she could be focused on something so mundane as an annoying sound right now. After everything that had happened, this was what she was thinking about? Maybe she just couldn’t process the rest of it yet.

Everything that had happened on the plane spun through her mind, too fast to land on any particular detail. What stood out most was that last moment – the last thing she remembered before passing out, when the doors opened up and she could feel the Lethe Worms being ripped out of her. It had seemed noble at the time, to try and go through it with them from inside the hivemind. Now, the memory of it just made her nauseous.

Meredith turned to glare at whatever machine kept beeping at her. Was this some kind of divine punishment for killing all those worms? It had seemed like the right thing to do. As much as Meredith had wanted to let them go peacefully, opening up the underworld was seriously dangerous. And… they had been okay with it. They weren’t afraid of death, not if it would take them home.

That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, though.

Maybe it had been the wrong thing, after all. Maybe, as dangerous as it was, it was worth it to open up the barrier between worlds if it would spare all that pain. Maybe Meredith had lost any reliable sense of right and wrong. If she’d had it to begin with.

So, Lethe Worms: newest addition to the ever expanding list of beings she’d betrayed. Great. She was going to destroy this fucking machine next if it didn’t stop beeping at her.

Before she got the chance, someone knocked on the door to her room. Meredith jumped, then tried to look smooth as Samantha came into the room. She looked about as wrecked as Meredith felt. Meredith waved, offered a weak smile. A similar smile was offered back, as she carefully closed the door behind her.

A pen was produced from her pocket, gesturing to Meredith. “Swiped it from one of the other rooms. Don’t tell.” The attempt at humor seemed to be more for her own sake, as she pulled up a chair.

Meredith grabbed the pen and scooped up a medical paper that didn’t look too important. YOU’RE MY HERO, she wrote in big letters on the blank side of the document. Stupid nurses won’t give me paper. Can’t talk to them.

Sam gestured in response to Meredith, and then asked, “Do you know any sign language? It could come in handy.”

Meredith shook her head. Do you know it?

“A little. I picked up some ASL and Spanish while working with CBP-” Sam halted herself at the confused look she received. “Customs and Border Patrol. I picked them up while I worked customs in Miami and later when I was stationed in El Paso. I’ve been trying to keep up with them since I quit.” Her last statement seemed bitter. “I could show you a bit of ASL some time, perhaps?”

Meredith hesitated. She had never met anyone taken in by Border Patrol, but she’d heard enough horror stories. On the other hand… she was hardly in a position to judge. Still, she couldn’t help feeling suspicious. You quit? she asked in small, uncomfortable letters.

“Yeah, late in 2016. The culture it was developing was different. Not a good different either.” She shifted uncomfortably, taking a defensive posture. “Anyhow, I came to check on you, see how you were doing. I get the feeling our recent flight was more… emotionally straining than anything else.”

Meredith thought for a moment, then nodded. I’d like to learn ASL. & Yeah, it sucked. She looked up at Sam, then back down at the paper. Welcome to the Contingent?

Sam conversed in a hushed tone, not caring to tip off passing nurses that one of the patients riddled with holes was already walking around before she was released. “It was certainly quite the welcome. I wasn’t terribly in the spirit of the Luau when I came seeking answers about John, but… I can see why it was organized.”

Luau was alright. Meredith tried to write in fragments to conserve space. Don’t blame you. She hesitated before adding, Didn’t know John well. He was a good guy. Glad we got him home.

“Is this similar to what he would would deal with on a regular basis? Working with the Contingent? He spoke of it briefly, after they went public with the supernatural. I just… couldn’t believe it?” Sam pursed her lips, attempting to mask her distaste.

Meredith let out a long breath. She had been plenty willing to believe the Contingent’s story, and she couldn’t help but wonder why. But she looked at Sam again, saw the discomfort she was trying not to show. She deserved honesty. Haven’t been here long. But there’s lots of crazy shit. John’s shit was REALLY crazy. But sometimes it’s great. Meredith bit her lip and smiled, thinking of Jem. But the smile disappeared almost immediately. Lots of bad people, but some really good ones.

Sam smiled slightly at the mention of John’s situation being crazy. She felt that was an understatement, but that might be true for pretty much everyone working for the Contingent. She crossed her arms and leaned back into the chair, expelling a sigh. “Some really good people, but after that landing… I don’t particularly feel like one of them.” She looked over Meredith with a bit of intensity, trying to read her feelings on the situation. “Having those things in my mind? That was horrifying, but we just… Was that really okay?“

It was- Meredith stopped, scribbled out whatever she had been about to write. Her fingers clenched around the pen. I don’t know.

Another knock came at the door, then it opened and quickly closed. It wasn’t asking for permission, it was announcing a presence: Kenny, dragging his IV tree, cart, thing? His newer left arm had a tightly-held bundle in what looked like his pillowcase. Kenny saw Sam and Meredith, put his plastic finger up to his lips in a “shh”, then leaned his ear to the door. He was also holding his breath.

A second passed, then he exhaled and his expression brightened a bit. “Looks like I made it clean. And I didn’t come empty handed.” From the pillowcase came a bag of beef jerky, the smell of pepper filling the otherwise sterile recovery room. “The food here sucks.” He checked the sink next to the bathroom and found a few paper cups. “And something to wash it down, if you’re inclined” he said, producing a small bottle of golden-brown liquid.

The clattering of the IV cart faded away, and soon enough the room was filled with just the beeping. “Dammit, you’ve got one too. That thing’s been driving me nuts. So anyway ladies, how are we feeling?”

Meredith scooted up so Kenny could sit on the end of her bed. Shitty. Fuck that thing. How R U? She had to squeeze in the last two words as she ran out of space on her paper, then riffle around for another one with a blank side.

“Not much better, sad to say,” came after a swig of whatever was in that bottle. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t cheap either, having to get it past security and all. “Bitter. Too warm.” Kenny wasn’t sure if he was talking about the rotgut or himself and stared out the window. “And I feel I’m the one who got off easy. Still, we made it out with all of ours.” Kenny looked over to Sam, then looked past her to the beeping machines. “Well, most of ours.”

Silence hung over the room, except for the constant beeping. All three Contingent agents eyed it with murderous intent.

Meredith pulled another piece of paper from the stack on her bedside table. The pilots, she wrote. The sheriff. The Lethe Worms. Three human casualties, plus… an entire species.

Samantha nodded. “Three is too much. Perhaps better than an entire city, but still.” She combed her fingers through her hair in a frustrated manner, punctuating it with a sigh. “I’m not sure it could have been different. Could it?” She eyed Kenny. Hopefully he brought a new perspective with all those snacks. She began pouring her own cup of the mystery liquor.

“I’m honestly not sure Sam. They seemed hellbent on getting home…enough that they were willing to sacrifice us, the plane, and who knows what else to get there.” Kenny also nervously ran his good hand through is hair and down to his neck, wincing when he got there. He hadn’t had a shave since…before leaving New York? And they weren’t letting him/us anywhere near a razor. Something seemed odd about that, but he came back to the topic at hand. “I keep telling myself they were willing to do us in, and that calms me a bit. But it doesn’t last.”

“I mean, we took them home, but clearly misunderstood that. Miles seemed to be doing a lot of the communication. I’m not sure if anyone else could have done it better? They were so alien and strange…” She paused briefly, trying to reign in her thoughts. “Admittedly, I almost regret trying to communicate with them even more.” Sam momentarily popped her eyes wide open, adding “And it seemed they were just as disgusted with us as we were with them.”

Sam looked to Meredith and Kenny with a questioning look. “Did either of you try communicating with them? Or, thinking at? Whatever it was?”

Meredith nodded, tears stinging her eyes. They said they didn’t mind dying, she wrote. But it still hurt. Wouldn’t have done it like that if I’d known. After a moment, she added, But they got home.

Kenny nodded his head, more like a twitch than a nod. “I sure didn’t. I clammed up inside and outside once I knew something was riding my mind. It’s not something I like happening, and I’d like to not repeat it.” He looked at Meredith’s scrap of paper and sighed, then finished his whiskey. “That they did, Meredith. As much as any of us will understand it, anyway.” He topped off the paper cup with more booze, then held it at eye level. “To home.”

Sam followed the gesture, tipping the cup back and finishing its contents. “To home. And difficult choices.”

Meredith filled a cup of her own and tapped it against Kenny’s in silent agreement.

A moment of silence after the toast was broken by another question. “In the future, when we’re out and about, doing whatever madness we get sent off to next, what should our decision process be? If the same thing happens again, do we repeat it? Follow orders, even if it kills another Sheriff? Another Pilot? Tears a family apart?” The remark was tainted with bitterness, but Sam asked in earnest.

“I know one thing, and that’s family comes first. I’ve already lost one family to things I don’t understand, and I’m not going to lose another. Orders be damned if it means one of us doesn’t make it.” Kenny’s eyes were hard, angry, but also wet on the verge of tears.

Kenny’s declaration struck a chord in Sam, resonating with her own struggle. Tears followed, with another prompt for a toast. “To family. And protecting what we have.” She looked to Kenny, and then to Meredith, commiserating with them. Kenny returned the gesture with conviction.

Meredith’s hand shook as she tapped both of their cups, then threw back her drink. She set down her cup and pulled her paper closer. Love you guys, she wrote, then hesitated for a moment. Family first. No more betrayals.

I have something important to tell you.

What's in the Box?-Destiny

I yank open the door to the apartment, slam it quickly and lock it. and leaned against it for support. I didn’t really remember how I had gotten back home. I remember the subway, vaguely. “Holy fuck. What the fuck.” I say through ragged breaths, as disjointed memories from the last hour replayed in my mind.

The smell of blood that permeated the backroom of the Butcher and Brü. I try not to think about how many cows Sam has slaughtered here.

The sound of the knife as it was pulled off the wall. Sam explaining the ritual to me, and what I needed to do. There is a reason why we’re doing the ritual here.

The sting of the blade as it sliced through my palm, blood flowing freely. I trace the runes onto the faces of the cube, and started to chant. The Enochian words feel strange at first, but then it started to become easier. The blood continues to flow into the cube, and the wind picks up. I start chanting louder, to be heard over it. Images began flooding me, projected above my head.

Binding I see the faces of my friends at the Contingent. My comrades in arms.

Uncertainty Whispers about how obsessed I am with the cube. They don’t know what I’ve been through, what I’ve sacrificed. I’m so close.

Void The room explodes in a thousand shards. The scene where I tried to open it, but everything went wrong. The blood eating Julia’s arms and legs. Then there is no blood, and she is gone.

Release The shards fly back together. I can see Sam chanting. I can’t make it out, but I feel his magic. Then under my breath I say ‘I can fix this’.

Binding I see Kourakis from across the stage. He puts his hand on my shoulder, binding my will to his. I feel Sam’s rage.

Uncertainty I see the endless future, all of the possibilities branching out from every decision I could ever make. As soon as they formed, they cracked and shattered, falling into nothingness.

Void I hear Sam’s voice in my head. He is riding a beast made of the void, and the rage is almost overwhelming. Stop trying to fix it, just let it happen. Don’t let the past master you. Ride it into the future.

Release There is only one path forward. I see it clearly now, and it leads through the cube and into my destiny.

The cube dissolves away, revealing a clockwork engine. My blood is swirling around the parts, the iron acting as connectors and fasteners. I try to watch, fascinated, but everything goes dark.

I wake up, and I feel someone holding my hand, applying pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding. Sam looks very strained. He asks if I’m okay.

My head feels foggy and the room spins as I try to sit up. Sam asks again, and I can feel the primal fight or flight response kick in. My vision clears, and his eyes are jet black, and his mouth is impossibly long with far too many teeth.

“Eileen…you should go.”

I stand up grabbing the engine, and stumble towards the door. I move out of the way just in time, as he lunges at me. I hear the crunch of metal as he slams a clawed fit into the steel table with impossible strength. It bends in the middle, it’s ends ripping from the floor.


Sam’s primal scream echoes through my head, and I fall to the ground shaking. I told myself that I knew what Sam was. But I was wrong, I had absolutely no idea.

I heard the bathroom door open, and Amanda appeared, wearing incredibly high heels. “Hey, a bunch of us are going out, do you maybe..holy shit are you okay?”

I almost said, “I’m not really sure. One of my closest friends is a Vampire. I participated in a blood ritual, I don’t know how much blood I lost, but it’s probably a lot, since I passed out. I’m sure it’s super safe to lose a lot of blood two weeks after having major surgery to remove a bullet from your abdomen. But hey good news, I completed the first part of a quest that I’ve been on for eight years now, and now I have this weird clockwork engine. I don’t know how I feel about that yet. Oh, and did I mention MY FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE, WITH TEETH AND CLAWS AND HE JUST TRIED TO KILL ME.”

Instead I replied, “Yeah, no, I’m fine.”

She eyed me critically. “Are you sure? You look really pale. And your hair looks…did you stick a screwdriver in a electrical socket again?”

I patted my head, and remembered the surge of power as the chanting began, and my hair standing up on end. I probably looked like a deranged dandelion. “Low blood sugar.” I muttered, dragging myself off the floor. “And that was one time, I regret telling you that story.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” She seemed skeptical, but didn’t press it. “I think I have some leftovers in the fridge, if you want some.”

I blinked in surprise. Amanda was very protective of her food, so the offer seemed like a huge deal. I must really look like shit. She grabbed her handbag and told me not to wait up.

I scarfed down the tofu curry, and set about rebandaging my hand. The cut wasn’t as deep as I thought it was, for the amount of blood that had come from the wound. As soon as I turned the water off, I heard the mechanical sound of an engine, coming from near the couch.

I gingerly took the clockwork engine that was inside the cube out of my bag and placed it on the counter. There were obviously parts missing, that was preventing it from starting. I examined it more closely, and there were three slots for a mechanism of some kind, and one of the empty slots seemed really familiar.

“No way…” With bated breath, I took my repaired scanner out of my bag, which I dubbed L.I.E.M, Locality Essence Influence Meter, and slid it into the slot. It fit perfectly. There was an audible click, and the engine sounded more complete.

“Holy shit. The supernatural detection devices. I think I may know what to do!”

I jumped, when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. It was a text, from Sam.

Sorry. Truly. Will make it up to ya. Check your door.

After what I had seen tonight, I should have deleted his number, and never go within five blocks of the Butcher and Bru ever again. But I wasn’t going to do that. I had been terrified, sure, but deep down I’m not afraid of him. At least not enough for my self-preservation to override my feelings. Plus, I really did believe he was sorry. Everybody loses control sometimes, I know I have.

I looked through the peephole, but didn’t see anyone. When I opened the door there was a gift basket with artisanal meats and cheeses and a growler of the newest NEIPA from the Butcher and Brü with a note and a small vial with a medicine dropper lid attached to it. The liquid was clear.

I know how much you like your cookies and brownies.
Add a drop of this to your next drink.

I unscrewed the lid and took a whiff. My god was that dank…

30 min later

Hey Kenny, it’s Eileen. I know this is becoming a weird sort of ‘post near death experience’ ritual. Err, except not really a ritual, that involves chanting and knives, at least the ones I’ve experienced anyway. What I’m trying to say is, if you aren’t doing anything, do you want to stop by and hang? I’ve got something for you to try that we can add to your list. And there is food, like, I don’t know what kind of cheese this is, but it’s fucking fantastic. Anyway, text me or something, seriously who actually calls anymore? Okay, later.”

After a few minutes I get a text back from Kenny. Heck yeah! See you in a bit.

I gingerly pick up the engine, the sound and the vibrations of it trying to start have become oddly soothing. I place it into the trunk under my bed, that used to house the cube, and can’t help but smile. I feel perfectly high, but more than that I know the path forward. All the uncertainty and doubt I’ve carried with me all my adult life is gone. Destiny here I come!

So close and yet so far...

Clear your mind.

Breathe in for four seconds.

“Have you ever seen someone you are 75% certain you recognize across a street?”

Retain the breath for four seconds

“So you wave, and they happen to wave back…but you still aren’t sure who they are or if they are even the person you think they are. They are close and far away. “

Exhale for four seconds.

“That’s what it was like when I was behind the burning house, being called towards the Rocky Mount Summit by something…a Fae thing. I think.”

Repeat four times.

“So what did you do, Gabrielle?”

The answer was apparently nothing.

Well, that wasn’t true; she went back to therapy, where there weren’t a whole lot of actionable items beyond “maybe you should take another step back from your actual job”. As far as she was concerned, that wasn’t actionable at all for her. It was June, one of her busiest months, and she needed now, more than ever, to see some of the best of humanity.

Despite all the yelling, running, organizing and consoling she did; she did it for the moment that two people would look at each other. In that moment, they were the only ones in the world. Gabrielle would deal with the long hours, sweltering heat, and blisters for just a five second glimpse of that moment before she had to deal with someone else’s ex trying to barge into the room.

And when she wasn’t being a hell of a wedding planner, or collapsed on her bed exhausted; she was assisting the rest of her fellow Contingent members. First a gift basket for Fina’s cohort, who she had to be assured was not Kenny, he was still…fine. This was for someone different, so she kept the whisky and jerky aspect, but added a lavender candle, some tea, yarn, some classic sci-fi movies and a Harry Potter themed get well soon card. From the brief description of personality of this Eileen character, it felt more appropriate. In return, Fina set up a simple google alert for the Rocky Mount Summit. Gabrielle only wanted to keep an eye on what had waved back. They didn’t need to get any closer for right now.

Second…she had a temporary roommate. Darren had fallen down on his luck, and she decided the last thing he needed was to do was; A) worry about the roof under his own head, and B) spend the time completely alone. As they were stuck in debriefing, she had made the offer, clearly and added;

“You can pay me back when you get on your feet and reign fury onto whoever did this to you.”

Her house rules for him were simple; only smoke on the balcony, keep yourself and the space tidy, and the door always locked. With her odd schedule, she was rarely there beyond sleeping, but occasionally she would offer to share a glass of wine and some leftover wedding cake with him as they talked. They didn’t talk about anything in particular. She didn’t bring up what happened, or how he was dealing with it. There were people who went to schools and had extensive training for that. It wasn’t horrible, just odd having another person in the space. It could have been worse. She could have been alone herself, stewing about the fact there was a Fae she was connected to.

That was for later, they still were so far away…right?

Breathe in for four seconds…

Guns don't kill people, bullets kill people
"The Rockin' Shockin' New Wave Of Horror!"

Right. So. That happened.

Twelve hours of sitting in a police station, shaking, wondering if she’d just manslaughtered somebody, interspersed with insisting that it was self defense and she’d done almost nothing wrong (So the gun wasn’t licensed. And had a silencer.). Only to be shoved out the door with a “hunt your witch, but don’t get caught again.” Um, yeah. And then Morgan tried to drown herself. And stopped herself from drowning herself by impaling herself.

But somehow all of this ended with no dead team members. So, that’s good?

Gabrielle had agreed to help with Operation Sorry I Almost Killed You, putting together a gift basket like Kenny’s in exchange for help in setting a Google Alert. Fina did not point out that there might be better ways to monitor that. She just set up an alert for herself as well.

Then she hauled all her Hawaiian shirts out to Goodwill. Getting a bunch of Eileen’s blood on one had well and truly put that obsession to an end. On the bus ride back she looked for another guilt-gifts. Something she picked out herself. Booze-infused jerky crate? Score! And it came in a cube. Eileen liked cubes.

She should deliver it herself. In the hospital. She should go there. To the hospital. She was totally going to do that. Definitely. As soon as the crate arrived.

Now she just had to figure out how keep herself alive without a gun.

Getting Out of Your Own Head

Sun is shining through the windows and casts beams of light across the room adorned in dark wooden furnishings with deep red adornments. Darren slowly walks over to a soft, cushioned chair with high arms and back. He settles in and picks at the pills of fabric along the edge of one arm for a few moments before taking a deep breath and looking up. Across from Darren sits Dr. Luong, a middle-aged man with greying hair.

“So Darren, it has been a while since you have come to see me. Are things alright” the doctor asked.
“Not alright, but nowadays, it never really is, I guess.” Darren answered.
“Never?” Luong said with a twist of his head.
“Look Dave, you know what is out there. You remember the announcement a year ago now, and your availability since has dropped like a rock, so I can assume you have a lot more people with a lot more things to talk about that concern the things in that announcement. We don’t know what we are truly up against, but I am pretty sure we are fighting uphill and always will be.” Darren stated.
“Sure, sure, but I am talking about you, not all of those things out there. I am asking how things are with you.” he responded.

“Me? Where to start? Most recently was a number of my colleagues deciding to not only use drugs that they acquired from a ghost, but they thought it a good idea to use more of it when the effects started to fade as well as trying to get me to use it as well. And I really wanted to while at the same time being sure that it was a terrible decision to. I haven’t stopped thinking about the stuff for the past month or more. I’ve never done NORMAL cocaine, but what if there is some understanding of them that could be gain by taking in a part of one? I mean, what if it increases your sensitivity to them? What if it might afford me the ability to communicate with them more easily? What if I might be able to call to … “ Darren trailed off.
“This is about that again. Back in South Carolina, when you thought you were spe—” Dr. Luong began before being cut off.
“WAS speaking to my parents’ ghosts. You know they are real and yet you still act like I was hallucinating then.” Darren interjected.
“Okay, back in South Carolina when you spoke to your parents ghosts. Have they spoken to you again?” He asked.
“No. Not really, anyway. The last time I saw anything, it was clearly a hallucination. But in between, a lot happened. I am not even sure what to think, but I know that there are still pieces missing and I am either not looking in the right place or am just blind.” Darren was becoming visibly frustrated with what he was saying. “I just have to keep trying, keep fighting, and keep searching, I guess.”
“Or perhaps you would benefit by accepting that they are gone and that whatever happened to them is not your fault and can’t be undone.” The doctor posited.
“That’s the problem, doc. What I’ve learned is that most things can be undone with the right connections and a little help from the other side.” Darren said as he stood up. “I’ll be back tomorrow. I’ve got you booked every day this week. I have to get my head straight before next weekend.”

Selected Excerpts of Zak Zimmerman Media Coverage
Zak’s 15 Minutes

Selected Excerpts of Zak’s Recent Media Coverage:

“Loser Actor Abandons Son at Hospital” – Headline from BuzzFeed

“Who Is Zak Zimmerman and Why Did He Abandon His Son?” – Segment Header from E!

“Zak Zimmerman: Viral Stunt or Criminal Negligence?” – Headline from CineFever

“Zak Zimmerman’s A New Media Marketing Genius” – Headline from Forbes Online

“Hungry For More Zak Zimmerman and The Deadly Dead” – Headline from Rolling Stone

“Are Zak Zimmerman’s Movies Real? What We Found Will Surprise You!!!” – YouTube video from Eyes On The Inside

“Blurring The Lines: Zak Zimmerman and The Contingent” – Segment Header from DemoncracyNow!

“298: Zak Zimmerman’s Onion Milking Bus Trip” – Episode Title from Podcast Regular Features

“Zak Zimmerman: Real Life Dracula Slayer” – Headline from Nerdist

“AMAZING Pigeon Fail!! Zak Zimmerman, Contingent, New York, Stunts” – Suggested YouTube video from Hands of Blue

“11 Times Zak Zimmerman Saved The World From Venutians” – YouTube video from CultofZ

“Episode 372: The Tragic History of a Cult Favorite” – Episode Title from Podcast Radio Silence

“Welcome to Season 3. This season we investigate Zak Zimmerman, his past, his movies, and The Contingent. We look into his parents Samuel and Dominique Polterghast and the strange arrangement they made with Fred Fulson when Zak was 14. We speak with friends of Nidhi Zimmerman about her relationship and marriage to Zak and her tragic death. Finally, we look at his time with The Contingent and the questions surrounding their claims of the supernatural.” – Podcast description for Distortion: Movies Meet Reality

“Deadly Dead: Hungry 4 More Rumours: Creative Differences, Title Changes, Surprise Buyout” – Headline from CinePlexed UK

“Dinubis The Game: The Best Game Ever” – YouTube video from Cool Ghosts

The Hawiian Shirt Friday Luau
In which Gabrielle attempts to rally the troops

For its budget and being rather last minute, Gabrielle had been rather impressed by what her and her team had been able to accomplish. It wasn’t extravagant, but for most office parties this was a lot better. No plastic palm trees, but instead carefully arranged flora that focused on bright hibiscus scattered around the Commissary. The smell of the centerpieces wafted together with the smell of catered Hawaiian BBQ, and sunscreen. Obviously the food was a hit, being authentic and a bit of a novelty.

The other hit was the tropical mocktail stand run by her favorite mixologist, Kelly. She knew about a 3rd of the party had made their drinks authentic cocktails, but those people and her already had a wordless, mutual understanding. Keep yourself in line, and there wouldn’t be a problem. The only problem had been Derrek who had been led about three times away from the shaved ice stand, and strategically placed in front of the chattier members of Contingent. It was going well, and despite darting around all day in wedges, this had been impressive. Still there was … a funk over the entire room.

This would not do at all, and she realized quickly that no one else would address the issue. She took a moment to stand at the head of the room, and cleared her throat before calling “Excuse me everyone, if I could have your attention”.

Her voice clear, and firm and actually waited for a majority of eyes on her. As Gabrielle promised Fina, she wore a black Hawaiian shirt that let the various shades of vivid pink and red Hibiscus pattern stand out, but fashionably tucked into high waisted black jeans. The bagginess of her shirt hid her Kevlar, which she never entered Contingent without.

“Thank you, is everyone having a great time?”

The energy was barely above bemusement.

“Wonderful, I’m glad you’ve all come, and happier to see those participate. I’d like a big round of applause for Fina, who’s really the one behind all this” She said gesturing to the woman in the brightest shirt of them all. There at least was a polite applause. Fina deserved so much more, and a luau was the least she could do.

“Now, I would like to take a moment to address the elephant in the room.

We have suffered and lost.

There are those of us who have had to make sacrifices no person should have to make. It’s been hard, and I have no doubt it will get harder before it gets any easier.

But we didn’t join this organization because it was easy.

We didn’t join because we would receive fame, glory or even thanks. We joined to protect those who could not protect themselves; our friends, our family and the innocent.

And we stand together.

We stand in front of them, as shields and ambassadors.

The people before me, you; may be smart, strong or courageous, but together as we stand, we are so much more.

When those that go bump in the night come, we will be there to bump back.

As it gets harder, I want each of you to look at your team and know this: We stand together.

If we can do that, if we can stay smart, safe, and together, then we can take back the night.

Because we are Contingent and we stand together.

Thank you”
What's in the Box-Recovery

I know I’m dreaming, because it’s the same dream that I’ve been having for the past month or so, ever since I had the vision. I see the cube, and inside is my father’s head, telling me that it needs more blood. The blood is coming, it’s pooling around my feet, but something is different this time. By the time it reaches my ankles, I realize that the blood is coming from me. I can feel the blood trickling down my legs, and my back is wet. Why is it different this time? It makes no sense…

I wake up screaming, strapped face down to a table. I can’t move and my back feels like it’s on fire.

“Miss Fisher, please calm down.” The voice is coming from somewhere on my right, and it sounds cool and professional.

“Where am I?” I stutter, watching the floor go by underneath me, as I’m being wheeled somewhere. I’m trying hard not to vomit.

“You’re at the hospital, you sustained severe trauma from an animal attack. If you don’t stay still you could make your injuries worse.”

I wanted to tell her it wasn’t an animal, that it was something much much worse, but my vision was going dark, as something was injected into the tube attached to my arm.

I’m standing in a forest, alone, much closer to the ground that I was expecting. I look around, terror flooding through me, as I scan the empty trees. Occasionally I see something poke it’s head out, and as soon as I look in it’s direction, it goes back behind the tree. deciding if I should make a run for it. Except wait, I’m not alone, my dad is there, he promised to teach me how to build a motor with my new toolset. I run over to him, expecting to see his smile, but he’s facing away from me.

His voice is heavy, and I can hear him say “Do you promise it’ll work? Do you promise I can save all of them?”

I want to call out to him, but I’m being shoved to the ground by something much larger than me, and the breath gets knocked out of my lungs. As I struggle to get away,I reach for my screwdriver, but it gets knocked out of my hand, out of reach. I can see Morgan, but she’s too far away to help me, as the creature rips at my flesh.

I wake up, gasping for breath. I slowly start syncing my breathing to the beep of the monitor. “Okay, okay, it was only the bear creature. I can live with that.” But it wasn’t okay. Every time I went to sleep, I expected to see the slenderman, his mark was still on my forehead after all. Or even if it wasn’t him, I expected my imagination to conjure him into my dreams. Because my subconscious is a piece of shit like that.

“Will you please shut up? I’m trying to sleep, and you are always talking” The county hospital was small enough that I was not able to have a private room. Sarah had broken her leg hiking, and I wasn’t sure if she was always this grouchy, or if it was just because she had a cast up to her thigh, and her leg was elevated in a sling.

I glared at her as best I could while laying on my stomach, wincing as I felt the stitches tug as I turned over. “No, I won’t. I’m bored. I need to be working, or something.” Something, anything, to keep my mind off of the cube, or the slenderman. If this continued they would probably need to lock me up along with Michael, which was not a comforting thought.

“What would it take to make you stop complaining?” she asked.

I paused, and seriously considered her question. “I need something to do with my hands. My friends took all my equipment with them. I could be fixing the scanner, but noooo…it could cause equipment malfunction, which is technically true, but that’s not the point…” I got cut off by something round, soft, and slightly squishy hitting me in the face.

I picked up the yarn and knitting needles hesitantly. Hey, what did I have to lose?

“Okay, so it’s knit one, purl two. Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this!” I held up what was supposed to be part of a scarf. “Why is it crooked though?”

“Your first project is always lopsided.” Sarah said, flipping through the channels on the TV. “I thought you said this would get you to shut up.”

“Nope, just stop complaining.” I replied and sighed as she settled on HGTV. “Ugh, not this show again. Those brothers are way too into each other.”

A few minutes went by, and she said, “Oh no, I think you’re right.” She started laughing, which made me dissolve into giggles.

There was a knock at the door, and the doctor came in, opening a chart. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything. Good news, Ms. Fisher, you’re going home tomorrow.”

“Fucking finally!”

“It doesn’t look infected, but some of these are really deep. You’re lucky that you didn’t damage any of the skin grafts.” the doctor said, applying a bandage to my freshly sutured wound. “Honestly, you may want to consider taking a long weekend.” He stripped off his gloves and tossed them in the biohazard bin.

“Yeah, maybe that would be good.” I mumbled, trying not to sound petulant.

I had been at my workstation, finishing up the repairs on my scanner when I suddenly got really lightheaded. I looked at my tool and it was sticky with blood, and I realized I must have scratched my back unconsciously and re-opened one of the cuts. I had barely realized what I had done before I was whisked away to one of the biology labs, and some guy whose name I couldn’t remember was grabbing a suture kit and telling me to take off my shirt. One of the perks of working at the Contingent is that there is always someone around who knows first aid and doesn’t ask questions.

As I’m leaving, I spotted Kenny, sitting by himself in the comisary, looking a little worse for wear. Ever since Eagle Bay, Kenny and I had developed a friendship of sorts. I had heard bits and pieces about what had happened, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet. I headed over and plopped down in the seat across from him.


“Thanks! I just finished it. I’m a Huffleclaw!” I indicated the yellow and black stripes on one side, and the blue and bronze on the other.

“What the hell is a Huffleclaw?” He started to pull his monster list out of his front pocket, and I couldn’t help but giggle.

“It’s, nevermind. How are you doing?”

“Trying to adjust.” He rapped his knuckles against his bicep, and it made a dull thud.

“Yeah, I feel you.” I shifted my bag, so the strap wasn’t lying directly on top of the bandage. “Apparently you don’t recover from having your back ripped open overnight.” There was an extremely awkward pause. I fidgeted with the vape pen in my pocket, and then had an idea.

“Listen, do you want to get out of here?”

Kenny raised an eyebrow.

“Not like that! I mean, do you want to get baked and watch a movie or something. I was headed home anyway, and honestly, could use some company.”

“Um, sure.” He leaned in close. “As long as you’ve got something stronger than what they prescribed me. I think that I may even have some jerky left from the gift basket that Gabrielle got me.”

“Sweet! Snacks are always important. Ooooh, we should totally watch Harry Potter!” As we walked out I realized that I was feeling better than I had since before the mission. Huh, I guess friendship is magic, or some shit. “Hey, do you have Unicorns on your list?”

Bringing floral back
"Who's Hunting the Hunters?"

“If you survive maybe we could bring you back.” No, oh, hell no. She’s worked so hard to get away the first time. She wanted to shoot something. Or run away, farther and faster, because she clearly didn’t do a good enough job the first time.

Kenny came back. Kenny was the reason all of them were alive. Still free, just a little – less traumatized? “Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Fina. He’s fine, he’s great, he totally didn’t just sacrifice his selfhood to save your sorry ass.” She wondered if she should send jerky and booze too. Sorry you lost your arm. And, you know, that other thing.

Fina had a brief mental image of a different set of teammates spewing chunks of muffin and partially-digested human flesh. Maybe not jerky and booze. Sports shit? He seemed like the kind of guy who would be into sports shit. Game play, arm, maybe not. Other guy stuff? Maybe a card. With puppies and rainbows. If you’re going to be a social screw-up, there might as well be puppies and rainbows involved. Kittens? Everybody likes kittens. Unic – no, not unicorns.

She reached in her closet and pulled out one of her brightest Hawaiian shirts. She’d been trying not to wear them because the half-closet full suggested to her that this, like cannibalism, was something she might need to work on overcoming. I can refrain from eating human flesh. I can refrain from non-ironic kitsch. I can’t refrain from eating vampire blood apples. Damn it!

Fuck it. Maybe she should lean in on the whole Hawaiian shirt thing. Maybe a whole fucking Hawaiian luau. That would be a distraction. Her own personal Take Back the Skyscraper. Take that, kitschy murder game! And who better to help than her favorite wedding planner. Things just went better when she was around.

Fina called Gabrielle. "Hey, Gabrielle, I hear you work with HR now. I was wondering…do you think we could have a Hawaiian shirt day? It’s a thing I’ve been really into lately. Like, really into. It’s just a thing I need to explore. And it could be good for morale. I mean it would be a good memory to overwrite the memory of the building trying to kill us. We could have Hawaiian shirts, cheesy Leis, plastic palm trees. It would be fun team bonding. "

“Those are certainly some ideas,” Gabrielle said. Her ideas involved a “slightly more authentic luau.” With much less kitsch.

“Wow, that sounds awesome,” Fina said. “But, with the brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, right? Because I feel like that really needs to be a thing.”

Fina-hawaiian-shirt.jpg“Of course, it wouldn’t be Hawaiian shirt Friday without them,” she said, in a carefully reassuring tone. Okay, so the shirt thing was becoming an issue. But this would be a way to make it a good thing. It would be great.

But if anyone brought any board games she was going full flambé on them. And this time it would work. She changed into a brighter shirt, with bigger flowers. It was festive. Friendly. Comforting.


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