He and Harper got there last, as late as Bryan could make it. He wanted to deal with as little social niceties as he could. Everyone – thirty-one Possessed including Hussein and Harper – gathered at the front of the synagogue, just waiting in the street. Everything in a mile radius had been shut down and evaced. The media was having a field day. Bryan had driven through a sea of reporters and cameras that was breaking waves against the police patrol ringing the area. They knew now that there was a “gate” that the demons were coming through, but little more. That didn’t stop them from tossing out theories though. And of course the Office was to blame for not finding it sooner, and for putting the people living in the neighborhood in danger.
Joining the group, Bryan saw all eyes turn to him. At least there were no Spotters, save for Harper. Just Possesseds here, in case everything went tits up and the demons ran around trying to feed. Still, Bryan withered under the scrutiny.
“So what the fuck’s going on?” Skinner asked him.
That made him smile.
Janik clapped him on the back. “Greene and Kressin got in a fistfight over how many demons you fucked up.”
“C’mon guys,” Bryan said weakly.
Alright everyone,” Hussein called, clapping his hands for attention. “We’re all here. Let’s gather around.”
Bryan looked to the west. Houses and trees blocked the sunset, but he guessed there were forty-five minutes to go before dark. He realized he was dreading the sunset, as if something was waiting for the sun to vanish. Only the gate, he told himself.
They all circled around Hussein to hear the story, and Hussein laid it out for them. An Eternal had attacked Ivers. He had beaten it back with the help of his own demon (no mention of being overtaken). He had learned from the gamma during the fight that an Eternal cannot be destroyed (no mention of the conversation on Hussein’s couch, though Hussein didn’t know that part).
Connors had already been told most of the tale, being one of the three that had guarded the Office lobby all day. Still he looked like he would have a heart attack. Everyone else was silent and wide-eyed when Hussein finished. Word of the eternally Possesseds had gone around in gossip since Bryan’s interrogation, but those things had been in some other world beyond the gate, not this world, not this city.
“We don’t know yet if other Eternals are in Chicago. Don’t let your guard down at any time and travel with a partner whenever possible. We will find a way to defeat these things given time, but meanwhile do not engage this Eternal. Wound it if needed and run. I don’t want any dead wannabe heroes.”
Hussein stopped, took a breath, and seemed to debate whether or not to keep speaking. He looked around at all the frightened expressions and continued. “The Eternals on the other side of the gate are strengthening the doorway. Eventually at some point in the future the doorway will stabilize and they can all come through. We have to find a way to stop this or to destroy them.”
Chatter broke out. One of them shouted “But you said they can’t be killed!”
“Shut up!” Hussein ordered. “The last thing that would help right now is for all our Possesseds to panic. Yes, there are some mysteries, but we will find the answers to them. I’m telling you the situation because I know you wouldn’t be here were you not strong and capable. I fear, in fact, that you are too strong and too capable, and will run at these mysteries and get yourselves killed. So I repeat, do not engage this Eternal. Wound and run.”
He looked around again as if asking for questions. But no one said anything. Bryan caught Cam’s eye on the other side of the crowd, and they looked at each other with mutual determination, and a little fear.
“Now about tonight,” Hussein continued.
It would run about the same as when they mass-contained the college building the night Bryan caught the gamma. There would just be a hell of a lot more demons, and they would be pushing against whatever force propelled them out over the city when the gate closed.
“What if a beta comes through the gate?” someone shouted.
“Or a gamma,” someone else muttered. The chattering started up again.
“Then we’re screwed,” Hussein yelled. The chatter stopped. “You want to sit it out then? On the slight chance something other than alphas show up?”
He looked around at them, locking eyes with a few, deliberately Bryan knew. Hussein knew who would need that last staredown.
No one objected any further.
“Okay, let’s go in,” Hussein said, waving them on. Then he motioned to Bryan and Harper as they started walking.
“I know,” Bryan said to him. “I’m just here to watch.”
“Right, no possessing. You neither, Kiyoko.”
Harper’s mouth dropped open. “But sir – ”
“Don’t ‘but sir’ me. You two are the eyes here. Be aware of how things are going and watch our surroundings.”
“That’s more a job for Connors,” Bryan said doubtfully.
“It’s a job for a Spotter and that talkative gamma. Tell it to pull its weight.”
Bryan’s breath caught, but Hussein was already walking away towards the synagogue and didn’t notice.
Harper let her own breath out in a huff. “Great, now I’ve been pulled down to your level. Sitting out work.”
“Fuck off, Harper,” Bryan growled. “I don’t want this either.”
“No fighting,” Connors ordered as he passed, rounding up the tail end of the group.
Bryan and Harper grumbled insults under their breath but set off up the stairs to the doors.