In the end, it's actually fairly easy to follow Artyom's tracks. Mostly because of the gunfire, and the vast numbers of dead Watchmen- and even a Demon!- that might as well be pointing an arrow towards the old PRT HQ.

I climb atop the snowy remnants of a city bus, steadying my rifle on my knee as I drop into a crouch. My Gift can sense more Watchmen, a full pack running past and a few stragglers scenting something in the air and peeling off...but no Artyom. Strange.

Wait. Movement. A man in Ranger armor like mine, weapons on his back and a four-barreled shotgun in his hands, moving towards the HQ. But he's blank to my Gift. How is that-

"Taylor?" Dad asked, voice muffled by his gas mask.

I nod. "He's up ahead. Hurry, we've got Watchmen close by and I think a few are hungry enough to-"

I fire, more muscle memory than anything, and a Watchman falls mid-leap as Artyom pivots to face it. The man looks over his shoulder, then runs for cover.

"He's headed towards us," I report as I fire again, tearing another of the canine beasts in half. "Go. I'll provide covering fire."

Howls from the pack echo off abandoned buildings, and Dad and Danila move, weapons up as they make their way through the streets. I pick off two more Watchmen, while Artyom claims one for himself with a blast from his shotgun. Not exactly a pretty weapon but all four barrels firing at once does even more damage than my Barrett.

The sound of Dad's Hellbreath and Danila's Bastard rip through the air as they push towards the HQ and the retreating Artyom, cutting down the Watchmen with ease. The creatures snarl and howl, but as their numbers dwindle they decide that this particular prey is too much for them. I fire the last shot in my clip to bring down a straggler, reload, then sling the heavy weapon over my back, drawing my submachinegun as I clamber down from the bus and jog to join the others.

My Gift, the part of it that hears minds at least, is strongest at relatively short distances. This close, even without looking I can get the impressions of worry and hope from Dad, and disciplined fear from Danila, but Artyom...Artyom remains entirely blank. Sure, some other Gifted, the ones that changed into incorporeal forms like Purity had been able to, might've been a bit difficult to read, but it had never been outright impossible.

What the hell are you?

It's only Dad's shocked expression that makes me realize I've spoken out loud.

Great job, Taylor. Guy travels all the way from the Docks and the Graveyard to find Polis, surviving the worst the Metro and the Bay could throw at him, and you manage to insult him within five seconds of meeting him.

"Gifted, like you," Artyom says. His voice is muffled by his own gas mask, but even so, he sounds young. Younger than me, and I only turned eighteen a month ago. "Most of the strangeness in the Metro, the things the New Men can do, none of it affects me. And I can see other Gifted."

"Yes, that's very nice, now can we please go inside before a Demon flock decides we're lunch as well?" Danila asks, reloading his Bastard.

"Yes, let's," Dad says, leading the way towards the crumbling HQ.

The doors, heavy things that were likely meant to stand against an assault by enemy Gifted- villains, back before the war- need Dad and Danila working together. Artyom and I watch their backs. The boy's switched to an AR, one of the fancy bullpup designs that had just been issued before the war had kicked off. Probably picked it up from a Polis merchant before the Council decided to jam their collective heads up their asses about the New Men and the threat they posed from their home in the Graveyard.

Fuckers. Hunter- his given name might've been Forrest, but everyone called him Hunter ever since he killed a Nosalis Rhino with some Empire Gifted's spear- was dead at the New Men's hands, and they wanted that to go unanswered.

The doors finally are forced open at the same time I feel a flock enter the range of my Gift. Too far to control just yet.

"Demons are coming," I say conversationally as we move into the foyer, weapons up. Dad nods, and begins to force the door closed.

"Artyom, Taylor, start looking while we get this shut."

I nod, and raise my weapon as Artyom does the same.

The interior of the HQ is even worse off than the exterior, with most of the plaster tiles of the roof missing and exposed wiring everywhere. The receptionist's desk is still intact, and a body- probably a Stalker, judging from the jury-rigged gear- is slumped in front of it. The man's face and left arm are gone.

Artyom crouches down and begins stripping the dead man of ammunition and filters, and I sigh internally. Some people...still, better than leaving it.

The Demons are closer, now, but I look deeper for a moment and confirm that they haven't spotted us yet. They're more interested in the moving pack of Watchmen than in a place like the HQ. Can't say I blame them.

The door clangs shut, and I wince at the sound as the minds of the Demon flock are drawn to the noise. I look at Artyom, and motion for him to cover me as I sit, my back to the desk.

I draw on the other part of my Gift, the one that I've kept hidden from all except the Rangers.

The ability to control the minds of the mutants.

It's easy, somewhat. The Alpha is strongest of them all, all muscles and scars and wide, beating wings. I direct his senses back towards the Watchmen, and he shrieks and dives. The rest of his flock follows, talons taking individuals from the pack and pulling them into the sky.

There. Safe. Ish.

"You alright?" Artyom asks, intruding on my field of vision. I nod, getting to my feet.

"I'll be fine. Demons are leaving."

"Good," Dad says as he finishes blocking off the doors. "Now. The information we need is in the archives. Heading down seems our best bet."

The plan's simple. It's been common knowledge that the military had installed a few ballistic missile bases near the Bay, for anti-parahuman duties. Getting to those sites, with the surface the way it is, is impossible, but with the amount of automation, all we'd actually need to do would be to find the control bunker, and that had to be in city limits, just due to how the bunker locations were set up. Nobody knew where that bunker was, but thanks to the PRT and their control over all things parahuman...well, the archives were a better bet than the local library, at least. They'd know where the control bunker was located, and once that was found…

Hunter would be avenged, and the New Men and all their horrific enslaved Gifted would be destroyed.