The crowded room fell uncomfortably silent. The Eliksni server placed a metal cup of liquid on the table as though issuing a challenge.
Crow raised the drink and sniffed at it. If it was poisoned, it was mild. He took a swig, grimaced at the bitterness, then took another.
Across the room, the big Eliksni Captain slowly brought his lower arms up to rest on the table, leaving his weapons holstered. He clucked in approval and the tension drained from the room. The Eliksni who brought the drink scuttled back behind the bar, and soon the air filled once again with the series of staccato clicks and thumping that passed for music in the Empty Tank.
Glint flitted out of Crow's hood and scanned the contents of the cup. "It certainly isn't good for you," he said, "but this much won't kill you. What does it taste like?"
Crow took another sip. "Hmm. I'd say engine coolant, paraffin, and a kind of smoky chalk at the end." He stood, smiled, and raised his cup to the Captain. "It's terrible!" he shouted over the noise of the bar.
"Cro-oww!" the Captain barked back, his harsh voice unused to human speech. He pounded a fist against the Spider insignia on his own chestpiece before returning to his drink.
"Surprised he knew my name," Crow said to Glint as he sat back down. "Getting on my good side won't get him on Spider's, but at least I get free drinks."
"Word about your heroics on the Moon traveled quickly," Glint said.
"I would have killed the High Celebrant if Osiris hadn't gotten in the way," Crow grumbled. "Then we'd see some real gratitude. Still…"
He swirled the foul drink in his cup. "I saved Osiris—the Osiris," he said. He seemed pleased with himself. "That ought to count for something with those Guardians in the City. Is he one of their leaders?"
"No," said Glint. "Osiris's relationship with the Vanguard appears to be complicated."
"Why doesn't that surprise me," sighed Crow. "What about that Guardian? Are they anyone important?"
Glint thought for a long moment. The Guardian hadn't said anything yet, but if Crow was going to work alongside them, he would be one errant comment away from learning the truth—and from the worst possible person to tell him.
"They have several notable achievements," Glint said carefully.
"Well, that's something," nodded Crow. "And now they've both heard of Crow."
"You've certainly taken to the name," Glint said. Despite the noise in the bar, he kept his voice soft.
Crow shrugged. "I've been called worse."
"You really have," Glint said. He was silent for a moment. "You never heard the things they said to me while I was reviving you."
Crow saw the single scuffed panel of Glint's shell, bulging with wires, and looked away. He wiped his hands on the rough fabric of the cloak Spider had given him. They had suddenly become sweaty.
"It's just a name," Crow said dismissively. "You told me before you'd had other names."
Glint didn't move; he hung in the air above the table. "Not like this."
Crow leaned forward. "I don't understand," he said. He gave Glint a gentle nudge. "Explain it to me. Please."
Glint tensed in the air, then acquiesced and hovered closer to Crow. His voice was soft and kind.
"I never truly had a name," he said. "There were things people called me, but you named me. So when I hear 'Glint,' I think of you."
Crow nodded, then realized what Glint was about to say next. His face twisted in anguish.
"I didn't get to name you," Glint said. "Baron Spider did."
"Oh, Glint—" Crow blurted, and reached out with both hands as if he could smother the very idea inside the little Ghost. Glint blinked rapidly in confusion.
Crow cupped Glint in his hands and exhaled, long and slow.
"Glint," he said calmly. The Ghost cocked his head.
"Spider picked my name, yes. It's probably a jab at who I used to be, some cruel little joke—maybe I was eaten by crows." Glint started to speak but Crow held up his hand. "I know, you can't tell me. But I don't think he meant it as some grand compliment."
Crow looked down, his voice low. "When you came along, I was dead. Before that, I think I was even worse."
"Then you found me. Chose me. And early on," Crow took an agonizing sip of his drink and was grateful when it made his eyes water, "it was hard. I wouldn't have made it through that without you—and I don't mean because you kept bringing me back to life."
Crow spread his hands wide above the grimy table. "To me, all of this—this place, this cloak, this terrible drink—is because of you. You're the reason I'm here, Glint. I don't need a name to remind me of that."
Glint's eye flashed rapidly as he processed the new information, then glowed steadily. "I understand," he said.
A crash shook the walls of the Empty Tank. The blast doors at the entrance tore loose from their housing and a massive Cabal Centurion stormed into the bar, weapon drawn, severed Eliksni heads hanging from his waist as bounties.
"Where is the Crow?" he bellowed.
"Right here," shouted Glint, and Crow stood, pushing his chair away.
After the smoke cleared, the Eliksni Captain clucked again and waved, making the universal gesture: another drink for him—on me.