"I am so glad I got away from that freak of nature..."
"Shut it, Ben. We know you didn't like working with him, but guess what? He didn't like working with you either!"
The female went to move on, but paused to listen. Her patience was about to bear fruit...
"What do you mean, he didn't like working with me?"
"You criticized him in the worst way imaginable, Ben! You insulted his heritage!"
"Big deal. Not like he didn't insult me. 'You're not Amar.' WHO THE FUCK CARES?"
The voice that spoke belonged to someone who'd seen the shimmer in Aidan's eyes whenever he spoke about Amar... It was quiet and cut through the conversation like a plasma cutter.
Ben turned to her in disbelief, the others nodding slightly.
"That's insane. He doesn't give a shit about anyone but himself."
"You don't know him, Ben, okay? He's always on the outside looking in and Amar was the only one who saw past that gruff exterior he has to see the lonely man beneath!"
"How do you know that?"
"He's my friend too."
Silence fell. The female moved in closer, now curious as to who they were talking about. Ben shook his head angrily and scowled at the speaker.
"He's not even a man... He's a mongrel!"
Mongrel was a commonly used term to denote someone who was half human, half Elf. The female was now openly curious and moved to within a hairsbreadth of the nearest streetlight.
"He is so a man! Just because his mother was an Elf, it doesn't mean he's any less a person!"
"Don't you ever get tired of blowing his horn for him? It's always the same thing night after night. 'Aidan' this and 'Aidan' that! I am SICK of hearing about Aidan Morris!"
The female was stunned. Garrett's only child was alive and in the city? She was loyal to her master, but she had her limits! She put up the hood of her cloak so it hid her face and stepped out under the light.
"You who see Aidan next, give him this message. 'Blood is thicker than water, but it spills just as easily.' He will understand what it means."
The woman who'd defended Aidan knew what the stranger was trying to say.
"Where is he?"
"Hidden. But he will emerge when he thinks he has the upper hand."
The next question came from Ben and got right to the point.
"Did he kill Amar?"
Okay, Ben may not have liked Aidan, but a life lost was a tragedy! The stranger hesitated only briefly, then answered him.
"Yes. But he does not know Aidan is here. And I would like to keep it that way as long as possible."
"Why are you telling us this?"
"Loyalty is only as good as the person who inspires it."
And with that oblique comment, she was gone. In her place was a single arrow with a white feather on the end. One of them crouched near it and saw the faint shimmer on the tip of the arrowhead.
One of the greatest Elven archers ever to live in Mechanix. Until she'd been subverted by an unknown force and become one of the hunted ones. She'd left the arrow for Aidan as a sign that he had allies. The woman who'd befriended the lonely half Elf picked it up by the shaft and tagged it for delivery to Aidan in a thick plasta-sheet. She affixed a note with WhiteArrow's message, then sent it along the shimmer-lines to Aidan's. It arrived just as he was coming out of the kitchen. He saw it and the coffee cup fell from nerveless fingers. He knew that arrow... Tearing the note off the plasta-sheet, he read it almost desperately. It was a verbatim account of WhiteArrow's dialogue with the off duty Night Patrol! And it made his blood run cold! His own father had murdered Amar... But it didn't give a name or location.
"Damn you to the depths of the Nine Hells... I will find you. And when I do, I will kill you with my bare hands!"
WhiteArrow heard Aidan's heartfelt declaration and smiled faintly. The arrow would give him what he needed to do the deed... Or he would die a hero. She'd see to that! A copy of the dialogue appeared on Emerson's computer terminal with one significant difference: It had the heading "Re: Aidan Morris" and contained his father's picture, which when run through the database would pull up the file for Garrett Morris, not Duncan as Aidan believed. WhiteArrow smiled again, then slipped into the night. Garrett's demise was being carefully orchestrated, with Aidan as the instrument of destruction. When Garrett died, Mechanix would have one less villian to worry about. He wasn't the most notorious, but he was, by far, the most hated.