Chapter 1

"I'm the most qualified for this!"

Crow's voice reverberated off of the immense window, making the Vanguard Commander's office feel even more cavernous than it was. At night, the edges of Zavala's office were usually dark, but the miasma of Vex energy that swirled in the City below made it more so. Crow sighed and paced in the gloom like a caged animal.

Zavala faced the window and stood, unmoving; a statue carved of larimar, depicting a test of infinite patience. He glanced over at Ikora, her hands gently clasped as she watched Crow with disquieted contemplation.

"We know," she said, after what felt like an eternity, "but your expertise and relationship with the Eliksni aren't the only deciding factors here."

"Exactly how long am I going to be continually tried in a court of public opinion?" Crow asked pointedly. "And when in this trial will I be given a clear understanding of what I'm on trial for?"

Zavala regarded the Awoken's reflection in the window; it reminded him of the near-fatal walk through the gardens not all that long ago. His shoulders sagged.

"Crow," Zavala said as he turned to face him. "This is a delicate situation. The Consensus has come down hard on us for welcoming the Eliksni into the City, and I can't have them using you as another bludgeon."

"So that's all this is: a political maneuver," Crow pushed. "To protect yourselves. No hard feelings? Nothing behind the looks you give me when you don't think I'm watching?" Zavala stiffened, and Crow sensed the conversational temperature in the room change.

"This matter aside, if your past identity became public before we have a plan in place, it could cause considerable harm to you and to the people you care about," Ikora said evenly. "People who have come to care about you," she added.

For a long time, no one spoke—and when Crow did, his voice was small. "Then what? I keep hiding from the shadow of the man I was before? Forever?"

"Not forever," Ikora said firmly, "but for now."

Crow shifted his focus to Ikora and saw the hurt in her eyes. He'd seen it in Amanda's, too, whenever she spoke of the dead.

Without another word, he nodded and left.

Ikora closed her eyes, and the breath she'd been holding slowly left her. "He's going to Osiris," she warned.

"And if Osiris is half the leader he's shown himself to be, he'll tell him the same thing," Zavala said with great fatigue, finally sinking into his chair. In the momentary silence that settled between them, Ikora felt an unspoken reciprocation of their generations-old friendship.

"I don't know how long we can protect him," she confessed.

"Neither do I."