Vaughn turned around the room, staring at the spaceships. “Wait, I thought you had to go through the jump gates.”
“I guess not,” I said. “I kind of knew that, but I wasn’t sure how far I could trust the information. Basically, jump drives are really big, and they need a big power plant to run them. That means they’re mostly found in the really big spaceships. Capital ships, and some of the larger cargo ships.”
Haley eyed me through her mask. “So a capital ship is a big ship?”
“I think. I may have it wrong, but generally they’ve got the most armor and firepower.”
Vaughn stopped looking around, and looked directly at me. “So how do you know?”
I sighed. “Well, you know how Grandpa and Lee did their best to train me without me realizing that I was being trained? He let me play a series of video games that were space battle simulations. Except now I’m pretty sure they were training games that the jet’s AI generated.”
Haley blinked. “Oh. You think it might have changed it for the games?”
“Well,” I said. “I think they might have simplified it. I didn’t get much of any history out of the games. I just know which ships with which markings generally fight each other.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something interesting about one of the ships. “Look at that,” I said, pointing. “They didn’t include that at all, but I’m pretty sure it’s important.”
Among the pictures of spaceships hanging in space, one could barely be called a ship. It had a spaceship’s underlying structure, but it lacked a hull. It had many floors, held together by girders, and two enclosed sections—the bridge plus a section behind it, and the engines. Hundreds, maybe thousands of small machines swarmed it, some of them flying alongside it at times.
It had to be a transport for members of the machine races.
If I’d known more about their history, I might have recognized which one.
“So…” Vaughn addressed the room. “Which of these ships had a chance to contact anyone from Earth while they were here?”
Most of the ships disappeared, and I recognized all but one of the four ships that were left. The machine’s skeletal ship stayed, and I almost groaned. One of its passengers had contacted Haley and I. The screens showed it happen. A small group of machines flew away from the ship, and scattered. Where the rest went, the screens didn’t show, but one met the League jet in space—briefly—and then the Xiniti blasted it into pieces near the gate.
Two of the ships had the same markings. I didn’t know whether they came from the same alien race’s navy, a pirate fleet, or a big mercenary group. Whatever the case, they were the same class of ship—long, solid looking, rectangles with bays that held hundreds of smaller ships.
Earth’s ships (the UNS Jay and UNS Kay) destroyed one and the other jumped, disappearing into hyperspace—wherever that was—but not before both ships had loosed more than one hundred smaller ships. Like the machines’ ships, they scattered. The screens showed supers in space, both inside and outside ships, hunting the smaller ships down.
“Small” turned out to be relative. Most were several times larger than the League jet. It didn’t stop them from being destroyed. Guardian opened a portal in space, possibly to the sun, and a molten yellowish-red stream caught two ships, turning them into melted hulks. The rest of the ships died as decisively, but some in stranger ways. A dragon ripped one apart. I have no idea where that came from.
I was pretty sure though that we saw a fight with one of the smaller ships when we called Isaac Lim once last fall.
The final capital ship screamed pirate to me—not because the skull and crossbones appeared anywhere on the ship, but because of it’s shoddiness.
You wouldn’t think that spaceship large enough to jump into hyperspace on its own could look shoddy, but you’d be wrong. Most of the ship seemed to be an ovoid section that connected to the block-like engineering section by two cylinders that had to be larger than they looked. The ship had no consistent color. Most of it was gray, but sections of the hull had been painted brown, yellow, red or green.
The sections next to the painted sections showed scoring. Whatever had hit this ship had to have been big.
“So,” Vaughn asked, “which ship do you think the killer used?”