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.”
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.