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Hyde set his briefcase down at the end of a row of uncomfortable lounge chairs, unbuttoned his jacket and took a seat in silence. He pushed in a pair of unassuming wireless earbuds and pressed the contextual button on his peek to make them go. He wasn't listening to the music, though he made a show of tapping his feet, and nodding his head to the beat. Instead, he was concentrating on one of the more extraordinary additional senses that his 'condition' afforded him: the certain, infallable ability to detect his own kind.
As he tuned out the noise around him, he began to feel the unmistakable presence of the others as they arrived.
The Frankfurt am Main transit terminus arrivals lounge was a huge, cavernous affair, the noise of foot traffic reverberated up into high, single-span ceilings of brushed composite metals and polycarbonate that tipped nods back through time to the designs of Barlow and Paxton, but simultaneously surpassed their wildest flights of fancy in scale and execution. The place had the air of a Cathedral about it; one dedicated to all the Gods of travel stretching back through the ages. People came and went in their thousands, swelling occasionally to tens of thousands. Some travelled by air - as comparatively uncommon a mode of transport it had become in these later days of the 21st century, it was still by far the fastest - sleek A-pod propelled transports of the Aeon still brought people from the further reaches of the globe; but the vast majority came and went by the mass transit system that from this central point radiated out across Eurasia to the east as far as the Chinese frontier, and under the water to the west towards fortress Britain.
It was from Britain that Hyde had travelled to be here; outwardly at least, for an interview with a prospective new employer. In reality, he was here for a rare meeting with his peers. There would soon be seven of them in the terminus, spread out amongst the unsuspecting travellers. Like Hyde, the others would hide in plain sight whilst they conducted their business. Then they would separate and go their separate ways.
To all intents and purposes they each looked entirely human. Even the genescans and backscatter x-rays that modern travellers were subjected to at every wayport wouldn't have revealed the truth about them.
There would be Svaha, the firestarter. She smelled like burning tyres and incense in his mind. Hyde had not seen her face to face in almost three years. She was Indian, painfully beautiful, but a first class bitch from what he remembered. Flawless olive skin and dark, smoldering eyes. Her hair had always been dyed red. Back then she'd been little more than an initiate into the Society. That was before the Efreet had chosen her, since then she had been a rising star. Besides himself, she was the newest member of the cabal.
Then there was the eldest of their number, Janus. At least that's what everyone called him. His presence was like a lodestone. It had a tangible weight. The Roman god of beginnings - the name fit for a number of reasons - Janus had brought nearly all of them into the fold over the years. He'd probably outlive them all, too. When he'd first met him, Janus had probably been as old as Hyde was now - which was a little more than thirty. Now though, he was past forty and what hair hadn't fallen out was steadily going grey. He was Italian by extraction, short and with a Mediterranean tan. Anyone would be forgiven for making the mistake of thinking that the stocky little man wasn't much of a threat. But as Hyde saw him walk in past the armed guards at the security cordon for the adjacent gate, he didn't need to remind himself that this was probably the deadliest man in the city.
They didn't so much as acknowledge each others existence. There was a practiced art to watching people without letting on that you were doing so.
Next to arrive was Dutch, who despite the name was a bombastic American born Nazaddi. Hyde couldn't see him from where he was sat, but there was the telltale taste of blood at the back of his mouth. It was not unlike the sensation of having a nosebleed running back into your throat from your sinuses. Hyde had always thought of Dutch as insufferable. He was one of those Americans who probably would've given rise to the phrase 'overpaid, oversexed, and over here'.
The fourth was Vespid. A French woman, she'd always looked half-starved, with mousy hair and stick-like limbs. Like the portrait of Cosette Fauchelevant that had decorated every billboard at the entrance to the musical of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables for a little over a hundred years.
She was probably the only one of their group, besides Janus, that all of the others could bear. Janus they might respect, but Vespid they all liked. Her patience and attention to detail appealed to Hyde's sensibilities, and she had an infectious laugh.
Fifth was the leader of the local pack, Hermann. In Hydes mind, he smelled unpleasantly like fish. Despite the name, he was actually Swiss. Hyde had only ever met him once before, on a cargo ship out of Rotterdam. They'd boarded the bulker hunting the same prey, and after the damn thing exploded twenty miles offshore Hyde had to admit it was only thanks to Hermann that he'd made it through the Dagonites and back to dry land.
Sixth was the enigma of the group. Through his conversations with each of the others, he'd come to realise that they all knew him (or her) by different names, and different faces. Svaha and Hermann knew him as Mara, the Hindu demon and the Germanic ghost, though they differed over whether he was Human, Nazzadi, male or female respectively.
Of course Janus knew who he really was, but he wasn't telling - anonymity was a valuable thing. Nothing got past Vespid, but she'd keep the secret just to let her string the others along with a game of 'guess who'. He was a Phantasm, and that meant he could look like who he wanted to. Hyde knew him as Thorn, and hadn't ever seen him in a human shape, so that was that.
Last to arrive was the Turk. He announced his presence with what felt like the precursors to a migraine. He was the most vicious sonofabitch that Hyde had ever met. Every last one of them was a killer, but whereas Hyde did his work with a professional detachment, everyone knew that the Turk did what he did because he and the creature under his skin really enjoyed it.