Chapter 5

Glint checked his coordinates again and entered Spider's subterranean shipping depot.

He bobbed uncertainly through tight towers of stacked crates, beneath hanging coils of gurgling tubing, over piles of crushed Phaseglass, and through a hissing vent of rich lavender smoke that obscured what looked like a quantum opal. (But as private ownership of such an unstable isotope was utterly forbidden, Glint decided it must be a replica.)

He found Spider working a bank of consoles in the nexus of the depot. An intricate series of gravity currents filled the air with gently gliding cargo. Rusty iris gates snapped open and shut as Spider directed his goods to unseen corners of his dominion.

"Tell me about Crow," Spider said without looking up. Glint flew closer and caught sight of himself on a small monitor. He saw a mosaic of security feeds—corridors in the Tangled Shore, a strange workshop, Crow's quarters—before Spider collapsed the images and turned to address him directly. "How has our friend been performing in the field?"

"Quite well," Glint answered. "He's feeling more confident, while—"

"Good," said Spider dismissively. He plucked a cracked chunk of Seraphite from the current of air as it passed, ran his claws over it, then placed it back in the beam. "Has anyone told him?"

Glint didn't have to ask for clarification. "Not outright. He knows he wasn't a good person—he gathered that much from the Guardians who killed him—but he hasn't heard his old name."

Spider gave a phlegmy grunt of contentment. "And there haven't been any indiscretions?"

Glint's eye flickered and he made an almost imperceptible processing noise. Spider leaned forward. "Do you have something to tell me?"

"It's actually a funny story," Glint said. "He ran across a Warlock who recognized him as an Awoken, and she—"

"He was seen?" Spider shouted, striking the side of a passing crate. A chorus of mewling squeaks rose from within. Glint watched as it floated out of sight.

"Not seen," Glint said. "She noticed his skin under his gauntlet. He told me he didn't want to risk further exposure, so he left."

"Then he's lying, Glint. Even to you." The light in Spider's eyes seemed to dull. One of his smaller arms scratched irritably at his side.

"It's only a matter of time," Glint said softly. "People talk behind his back. There are rumors someone named Chalco has been following him. He's heard the Scorn call him 'father.' He'll eventually figure it out."

"I gave him rules for a reason."

"Following rules is counter to his nature," Glint said blithely, then noticed Spider's scowl. "Frustrating, I know. He could ask anything of the next Guardian he sees, and I couldn't stop him."

Spider growled. "You will stop him."

"The thing is," said Glint, "someday he'll realize who he was doesn't matter. What's important is who he is."

"Who he is," Spider hissed, "is my investment. I'm counting on you to remind him of that fact." A damaged crate floated past, loose Glimmer swirling in the gravity beam behind it.

The little Ghost was quiet. He floated unsteadily for a moment, then rose to Spider's eye level.

"Baron Spider," Glint said respectfully, "in his short new life, Crow has faced more than his share of cruelty. He learned what it is to truly suffer."

Glint mistook Spider's contempt for contemplation and continued.

"He isn't afraid of being hurt anymore. If you want him to stay," he said helpfully, "you'll need to offer him more than threats."

Spider looked at the impertinent little orb and rage welled up inside him. But he was old, and he was smart. He let the anger flow over him, around him, floated in its black waters until only his eyes were left peering over the surface.

"Thank you, Glint," he said, his voice calm. "I will call for you again if I need you."

Glint beeped with pride, dipped in the air respectfully, and zipped away through the stacks of contraband.