The Contingent

Nothing's As It Seems


Dear Alex,
I realize that we really haven’t talked, like, at all, and our single encounter didn’t go off so well, but I’m hoping that you won’t just delete this. You seem to have some …sympathy… towards magic and mages. Or, if not sympathy, understanding and interest. The New York mission …well, it’s got me thinking. Maybe mages aren’t all monsters. At least, not at first. Maybe, they get trained into being the things we fight. Gawd, I’m not making myself seem any better, am I? I’m trying. Trying to understand. Damnit – I was trained to fight weres and vampires. Things that are definitely Other. There’s no philosophy to that. I don’t like this morality thing. This uncertainty. And, now I’m not even making sense. Thing is, I’ve started to question what I’ve always believed. And, if I’m going to be honest, I need some help.

There was an …incident, we’ll say. And, I’m scared to put anything further here, where our very talented associates might be able to dig it out, somehow. I need help in understanding what it could mean. And, of all of the other Hunters I’ve met, you seem to be the most sympathetic. Maybe we can meet and talk things over? I know that I haven’t given you much reason to trust me, but I’m hoping we can start over – that you’ll give me a chance. I need help, and I’m hoping you’ll be able to give me that.


I would have said you needed help before now, but that’s beside the point. I’m sorry for being direct with this, but there is no nice way of saying what I believe I needs to be said. A lot of PEOPLE have died because of the events that have played out in the last few months. Yes, they’re people if that’s what you’re asking me, and it’s what I tried to say that night in Detroit when I was dismissed.

Magical ability, like those we’ve all seen, is something that happens to people who are living perfectly normal lives up until the point where some internal switch flips and they have to deal with an entirely new existence. I’m betting that there are more than we are aware of, simply because they go on living their lives and hide it from everyone around them.

Not all people are monsters, but there are those that choose to do wrong and to use what power they have for their own agenda. Giving a person access to power that humans were never meant to have can understandably drive them in whatever they choose to do.

Based on what you have said here, I would be willing to meet up somewhere in the open, I’m sure you understand my hesitation. I could be available in the next couple weeks. I would also like to talk to you further about the events that played out this month and the school that was mentioned on the frequency. I will be traveling in the next two weeks, and it would be easy to arrange a stop over that would be convenient for both of us.

Alex Lathem

I’m glad to see that your Southern accent doesn’t mean you’re a mouse. I was wrong about you. I was probably wrong about a lot of things, especially that night “you were dismissed,” but like I said before, I wasn’t trained for this kind of thing. I was trained to kill monsters. That’s why the Contingent thought I was useful. I’ve been useful for that, and I didn’t ever expect to have to deal with anything that wasn’t a monster. We get our missions, we go, and I kill what needs killing. Simple. Direct. No questions. At least, that’s how it was. Now? Now, I got questions, and that’s not something I’m real good with. I leave that kind of thing for the brains of our operation – people like you. So, be mad. I can take your mad. And, don’t trust me. I don’t really care. As long as you’re willing to meet with me, that’s all I ask. Let’s meet in a public area. Hell, if it makes you feel better, bring a friend. Bring twenty. I don’t care, as long as they’re trustworthy and aren’t going to kill us for discussing things that other Hunters might get prickly about. You got questions of your own, that’s fine. I’m not sure what all I can tell you about the school, though, other than what you’ve seen on the frequency. We went in, and I got trapped there while … well, we can talk about that in person. Probably better that way. I’m in Wyoming right now, which has all kinds of natural beauty and seclusion and not a damn place I’d suggest for a public meeting, unless you feel like checking out the natural wildlife at the university. Mostly cowboys up for partying, there, but there are a few good C&W joints that aren’t too rowdy. You interested, let’s meet on the 27th, around 10. Should be busy enough to cover our conversation and enough people to make you feel safe.

Starbucks, Cheyenne, WY

Alex wasn’t what she’d expected. That might have been to the good, though. If she wasn’t what she’d expected, then maybe she actually DID have the answers Mac desperately needed. At least, some of them. She was tiny, and Mac could probably break her with one hand, but she sat as if she were sitting on a throne and vaguely disinterested in the go-ons around her. Regal. That was the word for it. Mac stared at her over her coffee, and tried to think of some way to start a conversation.

An hour later, Mac had reached a few conclusions – Alex was to be trusted with the determining of what constituted a monster, at least, and the girl had a hell of a lot more going on than met the eye. That was okay, though, because thinkers like her were supposed to have that. There had been a few bad moments, when Alex had stepped right onto the landmine of Mac’s terror of becoming a Mage, but then she had defused it with some pretty convincing arguments that there was no way that could have happened. Good. Mac had had enough of magic screwing with her head – she preferred things that she could hit, and the thought of her weapons turning into smoke and weird gestures didn’t sit well with her. Alex had also pointed out that “other” didn’t necessarily mean “monster,” and that the Contingent did a lot of intel before sending out their squads, and that people like her were more than capable of figuring out where “other” quit being human and became “needing killing.” Mac wasn’t sure that she quite believed that, but she did believe that Alex was capable of seeing the difference. She decided that she’d trust Alex’s lead in that direction, and see what the future held in it’s hand.

Best Western Hotel, Great Barrington, MA

Mac wasn’t comfortable meeting alone in the hotel. If she had had a Hunting team backing her up, sure, but she was alone, and this reeked of set-up. She wondered what was so damned important about an urn full of brown dirt that she needed to hand deliver it to a nothing city in a half-empty hotel, to a man who was supposed to be dead. She could think of all kinds of nasty surprises, and even if Hector was the one who had sent her on this little mission, that didn’t mean it was safe. She didn’t think that Hector wanted her dead – they seemed to get along just fine – but that didn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t think she wasn’t expendable. She stared at the door in disgust, and finally settled on putting the urn down and rapping sharply on the door.

“If you’re in there, ya got a package. If you’re not, it’s no nevermind to me. Take it or leave it, my job’s done, and I’m out.” Before the last words left her lips, the door silently opened. And standing there, as if this was a completely normal room-service delivery, was a dead man. Instead of walking away, she stood as if held spell-bound. The man reached down, picked up the urn, and closed the door in her face.


barrelv AmeliaKitton

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