As Dayton shut the door, I realized I was alone—not completely alone because there were people in the room. Since most of them were heading toward the door or talking quietly, however, and I was basically alone.
Günther waved me over, probably to help him put things away. We’d used rings, poles, and balls in the course of the class. The class had put them into boxes, but the boxes were still sitting on the floor.
Within a minute, he’d waved the other assistants over, and we were carrying boxes into the armory. He wasn’t carrying any.
It didn’t take long to clean up. As I put the last box inside, he walked through the door, and leaned against the wall.
“Done?” He asked.
“Except for my armor,” I said, and took my helmet off. Then I started on the suit’s right arm. Taking the armor off always went more quickly.
Günther stepped away from the wall and came closer, stopping a few feet in front of me. He picked up the helmet. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.”
Then he smirked, and put it back on the floor.
“I don’t really think of you knowing Shakespeare.” I said.
“Yeah?” He asked. “I saw a few of his plays in their first run.”
“Hamlet?” I unplugged the cable on the right arm, and then the whole arm hung loose.
Günther shook his head. “No way of knowing. It was long time ago.”
“Did you ever meet Shakespeare?”
Günther cocked his head. “Depends on what you mean by met. We went to the same pub a few times, but we never talked. Now Christopher Marlowe, I talked to him a few times, but that was business.”
I wasn’t completely sure who Christopher Marlowe was, but I’d heard his name and knew that I should have recognized it.
“But enough namedropping,” Günther continued. “Nice job with not letting St. Louis get turned into rubble.”
“Thanks,” I said, taking off the suit’s left arm. Then I stopped, for the first time realizing that Günther had practically led me to the exact conversation that I’d been planning to have with him.
That led me to wonder if he, an immortal being with thousands of years of experience with humanity, had brought it up deliberately.
I decided I didn’t need to think too hard about that one.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to bring up. It was clearly aliens who provided True Humanity with the designs, but I don’t have any idea which aliens, or even really where to start finding out.”
Günther grinned. “So you’re asking me to help you play interstellar Sherlock Holmes?”
“I… guess so?”
“Great. I just wanted us to be clear on that. If you want me to help, we need to agree on some ground rules. Here’s the first one: if you’re going off-planet, you need to tell me. My deal with your grandfather includes protecting you, and I’m not going to be able to do that from millions of miles away.”
I thought about that for a second, and then I nodded. Having Günther around wasn’t going to be a burden even if it added something unpredictable to the mix.
“My second condition,” he said, “is that you need to listen to me. If we’re up there and I tell you we need to go, we go. Ask me about it later, sure, but we might not have time when we’re there. Got it?”
“Ok,” I said.
He glanced toward the open door and then back to me. “What you need to know is who might want to destroy the human race, and narrow it down who would have the opportunity, and more importantly, the will to do it.”
As he talked, I clicked on certain spots along the suit’s legs. Soon both were unhooked along with my boots.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, but if I didn’t keep taking the armor off, I’d never get to my next class on time.
“Let’s start with who we can eliminate from our list of suspects.” Despite what he’d said about playing Sherlock, Günther seemed to be enjoying himself. “First, the Xiniti. They’re keeping humans here as much as they’re keeping them safe from cultural imperialism, but they owe the Heroes League, and wouldn’t let anyone destroy humanity if they heard about it.
“Second, we can eliminate all the interstellar nations that have grown up among the humans the Abominators modified into soldiers.”
The rest of my armor—breastplate, back piece, and lower body section—came off, and I started putting the pieces back into their boxes.
“Here’s why,” Günther said. “The Abominators gave their soldiers a block against coming to Earth. They wanted to protect the base level breeding stock from contamination. Individuals might be involved, but as groups they’re not capable of coming here because the Abominators found a way of passing the block down.”
I turned away from packing the armor. “I wonder how that works?”
“No idea,” Günther said, “but I’m sure a lot of people would pay well to find out.”
He broke into a smile at that. “Not that I’d sell that secret if I had it. Now here’s where you need to look: Only the very largest spaceships have jump drives, and those ships are too big to cloak. That means all your suspects have to come through the jump gate, and not many do. It won’t take that long to look through a year of traffic.”