"So, um...why don't you have a gas mask?" I ask.

It's been ten minutes. If it hadn't been for the fact that I could still feel Dad and Danila's echoes moving around, I would've thought Alpha here had sent them to their deaths. As it is, they're taking their time.

Alpha just shrugs. "Don't need one."

Yeah, my diplomatic efforts are working out great. Artyom isn't helping, since he pulled out some ratty old journal and has been writing in it obsessively ever since the Librarians have backed off.

"Yeah, I get that, but why? Are you part Librarian or something?"


Oh. Okay, then.

That makes a scary amount of sense, actually.

"So you lead them? I thought you'd be angrier about the...well, the dead ones."

Alpha shrugs. "Still meat, isn't it? Besides, that's what they get for going after three Rangers. And whatever you are," she says, nodding to Artyom. Artyom just grunts.

Most of the Librarians have dispersed throughout the HQ. The only one left is a particularly huge one, that has sat itself down beside Alpha and done...nothing, since then.

"Is it just you out here?"

"Not always. Some come by."

"Like who?"

"Other Gifted. Sometimes Khan."

"You know Khan?" Artyom asks, suddenly interested.

Figures. The moment anyone mentions that weird old guy, suddenly everyone gets interested. I can't tell if the man is Gifted or just favored by the supernatural- while my Gift could sense him the few times we met, trying to look deeper was like trying to grasp smoke.

"Mrh. He's weird. But the others are okay with him."

"Heh. Maybe we should've just asked him to get the maps for us," I say. Then I pause.

"Dad and Danila are coming back up," I say. Alpha just huffs.

The stairwell door creaks open, and Dad rushes out, Danila covering him. Alpha just gives them a look. "They aren't going to eat you."

"They might not but the damn Lurkers might," Danila says.

Alpha cocks her head, and the Librarian snorts, getting to its feet. "Lurkers?" she asks.

"None here right now, but there's definitely the holes."

"Hmm. Good meat on those. Brutus. Go."

The black Librarian huffs, and shoves past Dad and Danila to head down the stairs. Alpha rises herself, staring down Dad, and I wonder for a moment if she's about to do something crazy. But she just nods. "You're the one in charge of the Rangers."

"I am."

"Hmm. Still strong, even grey-haired. Good. Your men. They come here again, they bring a fresh kill with them, and they'll have safe passage. Khan has told me a lot about your kind. Don't fuck up what good he's told me about you."

"I won't."

"Then go."

We go.