Theo. Mason is a British expat who divides his time between Railroad City, Missouri and France. By 1893 he is an old man of sixty-four years, thin, regal, stuffy and very wealthy. He has been, all of his life, eccentric. After moving to the Rail in 1877, he was immediately caught up in a murder scandal. The locals assumed the execution of lawyer Simeon Tull (Roman dagger cutting the cervical spine) was performed by Mason, who had opened up a den called the ORDER OF THE SUN AND MOON, which studied the ancient world. Mason was found innocent by the heroic members of THE GUILD OF HONOR, and this is how he became their friend.
Knowing them meant finding out about negatrite, the alien element which granted powers (talents) to 10% of all living things in the area. This gave Mason a ringside seat into finding out about the LUNITES, a species of blue warrior women originally from another solar system, the negatrite they had buried under the ground centuries before, etc. This led him to the belief that aliens had influence on Earth.
The JOVIAN invasion clinched it. From 1879-1881, a species of enormous, powerful whalemen from Jupiter crashed into Terran cities. The Guild of Honor and the world's forces lost, lost and lost until the end. It took a treaty with the Native Americans (who had earlier retaken the West with giant suits of black steam armor) to honor their sovereignty and the awakening of deeper talents within the hero SPACEMAN to send the Jovians back home.
In the ruckus, Mason uncovered scraps of Lunite data suggesting the Lunites had had more of a hand in human affairs then they admitted to, as well as the possibility of other aliens having existed on Earth in the past, possibly up to 1893. The prospect fascinated him, even more than the sad takeover of the Rail by the Army and Navy. The US never forgot the Guild refused to fight the native Red Nations (their leader was one of their own, THEODORE THUNDERCHILD, and the Guild felt the lack of the US upholding treaties to be the root of the problem) and planned the invasion right after the Jovian conflict. In 1884, they succeeded, catching the Guild off guard. Spaceman and his bride were on the Moon (and Spaceman unable to come to Earth, though the why of it is left to many theories).
Mason saw the writing on the wall and had his magazine staff secretly ship off orphaned paranormal children around the world. He sent them money, educators, helped them to find out their talents and train in their use.
Over the years, the situation in the US got worse, as the US with its flying cloudcraft took over the Caribbean, Guam, Hawaii, the Phillippines and made them states. Paranormals vanished, were executed, and the nation remained under an 'anarchist alert' since 1884.
It was after a group of masks called the LOST CIRCLE (supposedly villains, but subject to interpretation) began harassing the government that Mason made his move. He recalled his wards around the globe, gave them jobs with Second World, and in the spirit of the Guild, rechristened them as 'subversive explorers'. They were not to fight the law anywhere unless for self defense, but to uncover the hidden truths in the corners of the world. Perhaps one day they might find something to wake the world from its imperial mindset.
An intense lover of birds (every house Mason owns has its own aviary), Mason called his wee group THE AVIARY, and named his people after birds, masks and all.
They are the seekers of What Was, grave robbers of the tombs of Man, and Not Man. Under every the rock, they hope to find the solution to the problems of war, of division, by shining the light of day into the caverns of yesterday.