The Unusual Suspects: Part 7

I thought about that. “I wonder if they can export their information into a format I can use, or if I’ll have to stay up there to look at it?”

I thought about it some more. “Never mind. The League jet’s got to be able to use standard alien file formats.”

Günther laughed. “I can’t say I thought about file formats at all.”

He glanced out the door. “I’ve got to prepare for the next class. Any other questions?”

Pulling the cover over the last box, I set the lock. It clicked as I pulled my hand away. “Well,” I said, “can you think of anyone on Earth that might be involved? I’m thinking that they have to have humans working with them. From what you and Lim are saying, it’s the aliens that don’t look human at all that are likely behind this. They’re going to stick out. It’s not like they’re going to walk into a factory somewhere and not be noticed.”

Günther had walked back to the doorway, and leaned against the wall near it. “Good thought. It might not be true though. Some of them shapeshift. Others are telepaths. Others have the technology to fake a person whether by holograph or simply creating an android.”

An android. That sparked a memory. “The machine races. I went up into space with Haley once, and one of them attached to the ship—“

Günther gave a grin that edged toward a leer. “Heard about that. The time where you were going to make out in space—“

“How did you hear that?” As he opened his mouth to reply, I said, “Never mind. It’s not important. That’s not why we went up there. I’d never flown in space unsupervised and I had to test the jet… Anyway, the machine attached to the ship, and it wanted us to sneak it through the jump gate. Can they create androids? Because that could get really messed up.”

“Some of them,” Günther said. “It all depends on the sophistication of their replication facilities, and on their strengths. Most of them lack the experience to effectively create fake humans, but in this corner of space, they’ve got plenty of reasons to want to. Let’s not rule that out.”

I pushed the boxes next to the wall, and joined Günther by the door.

“Ok. So we can’t rule out the machine races at all, and some alien races have a way to be here even if they aren’t actually here. This isn’t going to be simple at all.”

Günther cocked his head. “You want simple? Here’s simple. It’s pirates, or maybe it’s made to look like pirates. See, here’s how it works in this sector of space. It’s all off limits to civilized, law abiding people because they’re quarantining all the humans here. That means that the only people who will come here are outlaws. In fact, not only is it where outlaws hide, it’s where outlaws recruit. You want to put together a crew of pirates? Come here and you can pick up the Abominators’ former servants. It’s easy to find them because they’re everywhere, and if they want to get out, you’re their only option.”

“Do a lot of pirates come here?”

Nodding, Günther said, “It’s most of what the Defenders fight in space. I’m thinking they’re your best suspects. Figure they’re going for the biggest profit they can, right? In their position, I’d at least think about killing everyone off. Then you could strip the planet without a fight.”

From the gym came voices, I needed to go, but I wasn’t really done. I could probably squeeze in a couple more questions and still make it to class mostly on time.

“Have pirates actually tried to kill everybody off?”

Checking the room again, Günther gave a snort, and said, “A couple different times. Almost worked the first time, but Guardian handled it.”

I hadn’t known about that.

Checking the room myself, I saw three people—all upperclassmen, one of them obviously a troll. I checked my phone’s clock. Ok. I had time for one more question, and then I’d have to run.

“Uh… I asked you about people helping aliens. Who’d do it? Agent Lim said that the Cabal’s people worked with aliens somehow—“

Günther shook his head. “Not likely. They don’t work with just anybody, and the people they do work with aren’t likely to destroy the world. They’d be more likely to try to take over.”

“The Nine?”

He frowned. “Same deal. They’ve got the resources to recognize what the neutron emitters were for.”

“What about Syndicate L? They might still have people working for them who know my name thanks to Ray.”

Günther nodded slowly. “Excellent point. Syndicate L’s ideal. They’ve moved aliens around before. Transportation’s their thing. I’d say definitely look into that if you can, but I wouldn’t worry about them knowing your name.”

I blinked. “No? I know it was a need to know thing for them, but we can’t be sure no one knows.”

“We can,” Günther said. “The guys who went on that operation have been… unlucky.”

My stomach turned queasy. “You killed them?”

He shook his head. “Me? I said they had bad luck. You know, car accidents, food poisoning, a few happened to be too close to a mob hit… Plus, there was that blender incident. Two people died. That was pretty bizarre, but nothing traceable.”

I stared. “You murdered uh…”

“Thirty-seven people,” he said.

“Thirty-seven people who held me captive—“

He held up his hand. “Thirty-one people holding you captive plus six of Syndicate L’s IT guys who’d been snooping in places they shouldn’t.”

I stared again.

“And then I blew up the data center.” He checked the gym. There were eleven people. “Hey, you need to get moving.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Günther snorted. “You’d have said no.”

Raising my voice, I said, “Of course I’d have said no!” The students turned to look, and I continued, more softly, “You killed thirty-seven people. There had to be another way.”

He shook his head. “Not with these guys.”

I began to argue some more, and he held up his hand. “You’re going to be late, and it’s a class with your advisor. That’ll make a bad impression.”

“You have to tell me next time.” I tried to look like I meant it.

Giving the tiniest nod of his head, he said, “Absolutely.”

Not having time to find out if he was lying, I ran to class.

16 thoughts on “The Unusual Suspects: Part 7”

  1. Tsk, tsk. People really need to be more careful with those blenders. Just one of many dangerous items kept around the house. Blenders, coffee makers, toasters, sinks, toilets, TVs. All perfectly useable as weapons. Don’t even get me started on the tool shed.

    I’ve got to say, though, I liked Leslie Vernon’s use of the post hole digger. That was a good one if I do say so myself.

  2. …and here I was last chapter asking if the Immortal hadn’t gotten a little “tame”. Hah!

    Cool guy, but when he talks about ‘the value of human life’ you can be sure it’s in terms of how much he charges for a mission.

    As far as the investigation, there’s another level Nick hasn’t yet considered. The most useful people to investigate are the people who are in a position to try and destroy the earth again. Because if this was a random one-off by some group who sneaked through the gate then there’s not even any use in identifying them.

  3. Matthew, here I disagree. If someone tries to blow the planet and goes unpunished, other someones may find it a nice thing to try.

  4. I’d never flown the in space unsupervised and I had to test the jet.

    the should not be before in here.

    Keep up the great work.

  5. By the way, I’ve been doing a reread of LoN over the past week, and I think I have a better grip on why the Immortal has been so relatively benevolent towards Nick. He outright tells Nick at one point, but it’s in the middle of so much other mind-blowing exposition that it doesn’t make as big an impression as it should have.

    It’s in Arc 3.8, Turning Eighteen. The Immortal explains that he’s had a vision of the future where he’s having the final showndown with his people and an older-looking version of Nick is fighting along his side. He thinks it may be far in the future because of how advanced the technology is and suggest that the “Nick” might be a clone or a time traveler.

    We know from “Rachel in Infinity City” that the technology for immortality isn’t that far in the future. Old-Rocket was able to develop it with Red Lightning, which probably means it’s based off the power elixers in some way. (I don’t see them randomly coming up with immortality any other way, considering they’re not biologists or doctors.) That means that the Nick fighting alongside the Immortal in the vision could very well be a centuries-old Nick.

    So it makes a lot of sense that if Nick is going to be an important future ally, the Immortal wants to make sure Nick survives and thrives. The deal with Joe was nothing but an excuse. We saw the scene where the deal was made, and the language was so vague that the Immortal could easily wriggle out of it if he wanted to. Agent Lim says that the Immortal has done exactly that in the past when faced with deals he doesn’t like.

    Since almost the entire story (and certainly every interaction with the Immortal) comes through Nick’s eyes, he’s giving us a very different perspective on the Immortal then we’d get from anyone else. Remember how Gunther used subtle games to teach Nick combat awareness since he was about six? Compare that to his treatment of Rachel, whom he apparently didn’t bother with until she came to him asking for lessons. With Nick, we see the Immortal from the perspective of possibly the one human being he thinks is a worthwhile long term investment.

    That explains a lot of the disconnect between the Immortal as described by Agent Lim and others (uncaring, willing to kill or turn on anyone including allies, showing respect only for the letter of his deals) and the helpful, friendly Immortal who is willing to patiently answer Nick’s questions about aliens.

    Open questions: So why did he confess to Nick about his vision of the future? And what was with the whole ‘don’t tell Nick and Rachel the deal until Nick turns 18’? There was nothing about that in his deal with Joe. He decided to do that for reasons of his own.

  6. The viewpoint of a character has a huge effect on characterization and the information that you get presented with. It’s hard to remember that at times, though a good reminder is to think of all the steps people on the other side are taking to get where they get, and their knowledge gap as well.

    There’s a lot of the story that is unseen, but most people are used to expecting that while viewing things from the hero’s perspective.

  7. So, it seems that nobody will ever let Nick and Haley forget Space Date. Even the aliens will probably remember. But come on! If you have a spaceship, who wouldn’t want to make out with their girlfriend (or boyfriend, I don’t want to make assumptions) while in orbit.
    Just you, your partner, and the alien robot highjacker. So romantic.

    Also, Gunter once again shows us why having a ruthless mercenary defending you is so very usefull for the more morally strict heroes. Someone to do the things that the good guys can’t do.

  8. “I could probably squeeze in a couple more questions and still make to class mostly on time.” probably either needs an ‘it’ before “to class” or the “to” dropped.

  9. Yep. If there’s ever a LoN/WDiR crossover, you can expect this line:

    “Hey Rocket. How about that time you made out with your girlfriend in space? Did she feel the earth move?”

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