Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 71

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LXXI

When Richard’s senses cleared up, it had only been a few moments. He tried to get a handle on the situation, and what immediately came to mind was a flashbang of some sort. If that were the case, the situation was immediately outside of the realm of possible accident. Looking around, everything looked strange. Richard quickly realized that was because they were being lit from the center of the group, and not from the sky. There was a glow rod on the ground next to a strange black ball. A few meters away from the group of friends, Richard saw the reason for the lack of light. Or rather, he didn’t see it, because it was just a hemisphere of blackness that covered them, as if there was nothing beyond the small hemisphere they were in now. He couldn’t see it, because no light came back toward him.

Richard recognized the hemisphere as a Zero Percent Reflector, also called a Null Reflector. While he didn’t have any personal experience with them, he had seen them in movies. They were a sort of semi-portable barrier, designed to stop laser fire among other things. As a side effect, no light passed through them, creating the eerie black barrier Richard now saw around him. He supposed the strange black ball might be the device that created the barrier, protecting itself with a smaller barrier of its own. The real question was where it had come from, since they weren’t just available to pick up anywhere.

“Is everyone alright?” Hiroshi’s voice brought Richard back to what was currently happening.

“I’m fine.” Richard said. After him, everyone else indicated they were more or less alright, though Richard could see signs of worry from Elena and Susan- the same kind of anxiety he currently felt.

“Right, well, I’m not sure exactly who, but someone is outside and they definitely don’t have good intentions. So, the three of us,” he pointed to Jennifer, himself, and then to Jot, “Are going to kill them if they try to come through the ZPR- this barrier.” Hiroshi spoke as casually as if he was talking about getting breakfast. “The three of you, stay in away from the edge and don’t do anything stupid.”

Richard almost wanted to say he could fight, but he doubted anyone possibly trying to kill them would bother to fight him unarmed and one-on-one. “I- they’re coming. One’s there.” Richard pointed toward the barrier. It blocked all light, and a number of other things, but Richard still had a vague sense of what was going on just outside the barrier. Perhaps whatever type of energy he used was considered safe… or the barrier just couldn’t block everything.

“You’re sure?” Hiroshi asked to confirm Richard’s statement. Meanwhile, Jot headed toward the edge of the barrier where he had pointed. Before he arrived, a figure stepped through. It was strange, seeing them sort of bleed into existence one piece at a time- first an outstretched hand, then an arm following that, and finally a face and body. Though there was a face, it was covered up by a helmet, hiding all features. That further indicated these people were up to no good.

At the same time, Jot dashed forward to grab him. At the same time, the figure swiped the combat knife he held in one hand toward Jot’s throat. Richard thought it seemed to move impossibly fast… but Jot reacted with similarly unbelievable speed. Though the figure never lost their grip on the knife… they soon found it impaled through their sternum, aided by Jot.

Richard was so distracted by the scene he was slow to point out the next people. “Ah- there are more! There, there, and there!” By the time he was pointing it out, they were already coming through. Then time became a blur. The lack of light didn’t help, but either way Richard could barely keep track of what was happening. Though it only took a few moments for the first four to be killed, eight more had appeared. Hiroshi, and Jessica managed to hold off two each, and Jot managed to stop three, but one managed to slip by. Richard wasn’t sure what the best option to respond was, but he saw the last enemy suddenly step to the side… and then saw a laser burn on the side of his ribcage.

Richard hadn’t expected Elena to pull out a laser pistol, but on the other hand expecting a princess from a culture that still had duels to go around completely undefended was rather silly. Elena looked rather perturbed that her shot had not been on target, but Richard didn’t have time to think about that, as the enemy was only a few steps away. Within a moment, he had crossed that distance with a speed that Richard felt was strange.

Though Elena had a gun, her next shots missed entirely, and Richard doubted she was as capable as himself in melee combat. Though Richard hadn’t trained with weapons, he had at least been taught a few things about fighting against them. The first rules was don’t, but since he didn’t have that choice, the second rules summed up to making sure you don’t get hit anywhere important. There wasn’t any clarity in Richard’s thoughts as he moved to dodge a stab and counterattacked with a punch. His left arm successfully grabbed his opponent’s wrist, deflecting the stab as well. However, that was where things started going wrong. Before Richard could react, the arm holding the combat knife twisted out of his grip and launched another attack, faster than should have been possible. Richard’s fist hit his opponent squarely in the chest, but the impact felt dull for some reason. The dagger stabbed into his side… but not into his heart or something immediately fatal, as had likely been intended.

Richard kicked his opponent away as fast as he could… even so, his opponent managed to slice at his leg. The other hand even grabbed onto his pants, but found that Richard’s momentum was greater than expected. Again, Richard felt that the impact was dull somehow, but he had a slight moment to try to think. The dim light reflecting off of the blood on his opponent’s knife and hand didn’t help Richard think clearly, but fortunately he didn’t need to. Elena took the moment Richard was no longer directly next to the enemy to shoot again… and this time he got a burn much closer to his center. He must have had some sort of armor because he was still standing, if a bit shakily. Richard couldn’t say he was much better off, as he held the wound in his side and prepared a stance.

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