In one chain of realities, this world would be known as Earth Bet.

It would be the birthplace of heroes and villains, conspiracies and murderers, endings and beginnings.

It would be a home for something beyond comprehension.

In another chain, another infinity, things are different in the city where it all began.

A quirk in geological formation, a shift in public infrastructure spending, and a subway is built.

International tensions rise, and the subway is built deeper, deep enough to survive the worst. Military spending rises, and with it the benefits. Military bases sprout like mushrooms across the country, and other, more secret places are built in the dark.

A golden man appears in the skies over the Atlantic. He raises his hands, and follows the plans laid out by his counterpart, once they had known of this paranoid and untrusting world.

In order for the experiment to continue, they must be forced to the edge of survival, trained to be unquestioning as they searched for the means to live another day.

Across two countries radar screens scream and alarms blare.

Missiles fly.

The world spins on, mortally wounded, growing colder. Changing, as radiation and countless bioweapons do their work on those creatures who did not or could not flee.

Some in subway systems survive.

Brockton Bay is one such city.

It is the year 2033.

And the Metro is all there is.

My name is Taylor Anne Hebert, Anna to my friends (which, admittedly, I have few of. Thanks, Emma). And my father is being a stubborn bastard.

"You're telling me I can't go? Those bastards killed Dauntless! And you're taking Danila with you, and he's nowhere near as good as I am on the surface."

"We don't know what we will find in the Headquarters, Taylor," Dad growls, face flushed under his beard. "The Librarians alone-"

"Are as vulnerable to my Gift as everything else on the surface. You need me there. You're alright sending Artyom alone across the surface, but think that in a group it's not safe? I'm coming."

Dad's teeth grind for a moment, and he looks away. "I don't want to lose you," he admits. If we hadn't been in the privacy of his office, I know he never would have said that, not where the Rangers could hear.

The Colonel and leader of the Order couldn't be seen being human, after all. That could've implied he could be weakened...and with threats on all sides- the Empire and their obsession with purity, the Republican Guard and their seemingly endless numbers, and the countless mutants and monsters that broke past defenses, prowled empty tunnels...to say nothing of bandit groups like the Roma- weakness could lead to doubt, and doubt was a better weapon than any AR. At least the Archer's Bridge stations and their merchant groups were peaceful enough, and stations like Polis were more than willing to pay and supply Dad and the Spartans, whether in food, medicine, or weaponry.

"You won't," I say. "You know I'm tougher than that."

He sighs. "Fine. Go see Kurt, draw up whatever weapons and ammunition you need, and get ready to come along.

I don't do a fist pump. But the chance to go out on the surface and get the hell away from Polis makes me want to. Sure, Emma, Sophia, and Madison weren't in a position to harm me, not since my Gift had manifested and half the station had been in an uproar once they'd found out who had been responsible...but ever since the crowded places and the half-seen flashes of insight my Gift granted were almost overwhelming. The surface was quiet, at least, the only minds there those of the Stalkers and the primitive thoughts of the mutants, and those scattered far from each other.

And so, I jog to the armory just slowly enough to not be a run.

Kurt is cheerful as always, another Army tech that had kept up with Dad instead of joining the 'Republic' that held most of the southern stations. And his gear is first-class. A Barrett and an MP5 with silencer and laser sight join the revolver and knife I carry at all times. Gas mask, filters, medkits, check. Last is the Ranger armor. It's a bit loose- even with the amount of exercise I get, I'm still stick-thin- but some work with the straps fixes that acceptably. I don't use a helmet- damn things end up interfering with my Gift for some reason- and so a black beanie suffices.

By the time I'm ready, Danila and Dad have arrived at the armory and begun doing the same thing, gearing up. Dad draws up a Hellbreath, the makeshift but still-deadly railgun built by Armory Station tinkers like Colin the Blacksmith and simple enough to need no maintenance. Danila for his part picks out a modified Bastard. Why he's bothering with the cheap SMG I don't know, but he's at least smart enough to pick out one with a stock, heat sink, and laser sight, at least.

Maybe I won't have to save him from Watchmen. Again.

We head for one of the airlocks, nodding to the people on guard there. Polis might not want to send its soldiers to help the Dock stations repel the New Men, but the Spartans aren't Polis, and so the two loyal men open the gate without asking questions.

We walk out into the snow-covered ruins of the Bay.