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A Meeting

The Proctor entered the bank and walked past the desk of his secretary,
oblivious to her attempts to snap him from his thoughts of a meeting with board
of directors that afternoon. But when he opened the door to his office and
caught sight of the man inside he froze. He finally heard her apologizing
profusely for the man’s intrusion but he waved her away, requesting some tea for
himself and his guest.

The man hadn’t even acknowledged the door had opened. He was sitting in a
nicely finished oak chair with his feet up on the corner of the desk, tipping back
a little and rocking slowly as he leafed through a bundle of papers in his lap.
He puffed on a cigar that appeared to have come from the open humidor on the desk.
His attention finally turned as the Proctor let himself in.

The Proctor met his gaze and walked to his desk with a calm that he didn’t
feel. Of all his charges, this man made him feel uneasy. He took in the sight
of the man as he sat behind his desk. Those cold grey eyes and that ghastly
scar hidden behind a veil of dirty blonde unkempt hair hardly hinted at the
true malice the man was capable of. While this particular agent was good at
what he did even the Proctor felt he went too far. If he had had his way this
particular agent would have been relieved long ago. However there were those on
the council that actually preferred the agent’s methods and the Proctor’s hands
were tied.

The Proctor steeled himself for whatever had brought this one to his office, “So
how is your assignment coming along in-“ He was cut off as the agent reached
under the bundle of papers and presented a newspaper, tossing it in front of
him. The headline read, “City of Atkins
Burns in Tragic Accident”
. The Proctor scanned the article quickly as the
agent returned his attention to the bundle of papers. The article was from a small
newspaper from neighboring South Carolinian town. While few details were known
there had been reports that most of the city’s residents had assembled in the
newly-constructed baseball stadium. A fire had started near there and for reasons
unknown those in attendance hadn’t seemed to be able to escape.

The Proctor sighed. This snapped the agent’s attention and his eyes narrowed on
the man behind the desk. He had no respect for the pencil-pushing Proctor as
the agent sneered, “What? Too far, you think?”

“All of them? You couldn’t get them to see reason?”

The agent bent his knees and planted all four legs of the chair back to the rug,
slipping his feet off of the desk and leaning forward, the pile of papers still
in his lap. He leaned forward and studied the Proctor closely; a pudgy,
middle-aged man who hadn’t seen a hard day’s work in his life. How this man had
become a Proctor was beyond the agent.

His words came coldly, slowly, “I spent two years in that city, making them understand
what threat lay within. When they finally saw what I see every day they took up
arms at first, but one of…” he paused, disgust oozing in his voice, “…them put a stop to it. He convinced them
that they were not a threat.”

The agent finally sat back and shrugged, “So I cleansed the town. The whole lot
of them.”

The Proctor sighed heavily again. The agent had a point. The protocols put in
place by the Council clearly called for a cleansing should a community not see
the dangers within it or find itself unwilling to take the necessary steps purge
itself. And while this man’s success rate was the highest of all the others he
seemed to take a particular delight in the cleansing.

The Proctor tossed the newspaper in the trash, “I look forward to a full
report. As for your next assignment-“

Once again he was cut off as the stack of papers on the agent’s lap landed upon
his desk with a thud. The agent pointed to them, “That’s my next assignment.”

The Proctor frowned, “That’s not how this works and you know it. We give you assignments.
You don’t get to pick and-“ And yet again he was interrupted. The Proctor
leaned back in his chair now, yielding the floor to the agent.

“This town is running rampant with those we crusade against and from what I’ve
seen there’s more than a bit of bad blood between them and the rest. I think it’s
possible to save this town.” He knew that would get the Proctor’s attention.

The Proctor leaned forward and picked up the stack, skimming the pages of data
before him. The minutes of silence were broken once by the secretary bringing
in a tray of tea, setting a cup before the Proctor and offering one to the
agent who waved it away as he puffed at his cigar. She left and several more
minutes went by before the Proctor turned his attention back to the agent.

“There’s not as much research here as I’d like. We prefer scouting locations
and gathering as much information as possible first.”

The agent nodded, pulling the cigar from his lips after a long inhale and
blowing smoke rings before responding, “I came across it quite by accident but
what we need is there, the town is ready to listen. Or it will be.”

The Proctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “It’ll take weeks to create a new cover
for you. Papers and a front company.”

The agent shook his head and smiled, “It’s already started. I reused the cover
from the Hampstead mission a few years ago. Enough time has passed and it shouldn’t
be tracable.”

The Proctor groaned, “I saw movement on that account a week ago and cancelled
any further transactions. We don’t make a habit of reusing old accounts. It’s
sloppy and dangerous.”

The agent stiffened and his eyes blazed with fury. He rose to his feet and
pointed at the proctor with the cigar still in hand, his voice dripping with
venom as it started low and rose in pitch, “Reactivate it now! I’ve already presented
myself to the locals!”

The Proctor had had enough. While this man was one he thought truly dangerous,
even relative to the nature of their cause, he wasn’t one to be pushed around
by underling. His voice bellowed out to drown out the agent’s, “You should have
thought of that before going off on your own! You know damned well that we
choose the targets, not you!”

The agent stared darkly at the Proctor, before relenting and in a cool tone
said, “Then I’ll do it myself. Good day.” And with that he dropped the cigar on
the rug, crushed it out under the heel of his shoe, and exited the office with
a slam of the door.

The Proctor sat back down behind his desk and swiveled in his chair, gazing
absently at a picture on the wall when a barely noticeable knock brought him
back from his thoughts. His secretary’s shaky voice came through the door, “Sir?
Mr. Archon wishes to speak with you.”

The Proctor’s heart dropped and he mumbled, “Out of the frying pan…” Rising
from his desk he gathered the papers and reached into the trash for the
newspaper. He walked quickly from his office and begrudgingly thanked his secretary
before proceeding to one of the lifts. Once inside he withdrew a key from his
pocket and turned a small locking mechanism. He pressed a button with no number
but a strange sigil and the lift began its ascent.

An hour later the agent waited at the docks, tapping his foot as he stewed over
the Proctor’s short-sightedness. He was a fool to doubt the agent’s skills and
intuition on the matter. Deep in thought he decided that while finances would
be tight he could do this on his own. However there was nothing like having the
resources the Council offered.

As the ship he’d been waiting for finally steamed in he felt a tap on his
shoulder. He whirled around quickly, his hand dropping to his sidearm before
realizing it was the Proctor’s secretary. Her eyes were as wide as his in shock
at his reaction and she clutched a large envelop to her chest, stammering
quietly, “I’m sorry sir, but this came down from… upstairs. I was told to give
this to you immediately.”

The agent cracked a smile that made her wince, “Upstairs, you say?” He snatched
the envelope from her grasp and waved her on. She gladly turned on a heel and
darted from the dock. The agent opened the envelope and read the first few
lines. He nearly laughed out loud at a hand-written note that appeared on top
of several new documents.

“Looks like we need a new Proctor,” he said as he stuffed the contents back
into the envelop and made way for the charter ships.

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