Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 73

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LXXIII

Richard wanted to say “You’re late” to his father, but that was basically untrue. Though he had arrived after all of the danger was gone, it had only been a handful of minutes, which was still quite a timely arrival. So, instead of coming up with anything even slightly witty, Richard had just said hi, then stood in silence, marveling at how relatively calm everyone seemed, including himself.

Jot’s expression was stoic as always, and seemed confident. His only sign of nervousness was his eyes sweeping the area. Elena was similarly calm, if not so relaxed in her searching for enemies. Jessica’s expression was almost unreadable, and unlike Jot’s natural Xevaronian tendencies, she probably practiced for it to be that way. Susan was visibly trembling, and yet even that seemed perfectly reasonable to Richard. His own blood was still pumping quickly… which made him glad that he was bandaged up, so that he would bleed more slowly. He supposed he would probably need stitches. Hiroshi himself looked the most visibly nervous, and showed a sheepish grin when the shield went down and Richard’s father appeared.

Gilberts eyes surveyed the scene, seeming to take in every detail, such as the number of bodies and Richard and Hiroshi’s injuries. Then, he smiled. “Hello everyone. Glad none of you are dead.” He looked around again. “I’d ask what happened, but I have a pretty good idea. I suppose now we should wait for the police. We can do them the courtesy of talking to them, since it will save trouble in the long run.”

Richard had no idea what to say, so he said nothing. It didn’t take long for the police to arrive, and based on how well geared they were, Richard thought they would normally have arrived sooner. They arrived in armored cars, and only stepped out after a quick assessment of the situation. As they did so, one officer whose insignia indicated a higher rank stepped forward. He looked around the scene. “Well, damn. I thought everything was going to smoothly lately.” He sighed. “I’m going to regret this, but I have to ask… just what happened here?”

After all was said and done, everyone was interviewed in a tent the officers set up near the scene. Richard told what he knew of the situation, which was really very little, and he assumed everyone else did so as well. No moves were made to arrest them, though they couldn’t leave. Within a few minutes, one officer came back with a report which Richard overheard. “As they said, all of them are students at Maropa University, plus a teacher and father. As for those men,” he indicated the dozen bodies on the ground, “they’re not registered on planet at all, and all avenues so far indicate the same for off world.”

Richard was probably not supposed to hear, but he heard the ranking officer muttering to himself looking at the report. “Unknown assailants… a princess… two registered bodyguards… two civilians… and a Xevaronian Master… even so, the dozen assailants are the ones who died. Yep, I regret coming to work today.”

After that, he moved out of earshot, but after about an hour things were wrapping up- at least on Richard’s end. During that time he’d gotten some real treatment for his stab wound. After all of that, they were escorted back to campus, and asked to stay on campus except in the case of emergencies.

Richard couldn’t think of any problems that couldn’t be solved on campus… and had no intention to leave anytime soon. Because of the incident, the campus was in a lockdown. Though students could still enter and leave as they wished, everyone had to go through security which meant nobody would bother to leave for anything unimportant.

—–

Though he hadn’t done anything wrong, Richard was still glad at how smoothly everything went. An incident like that with deaths wasn’t something minor. He didn’t doubt there would eventually be more questions he couldn’t answer brought to him, but for the moment he was free to do what he wanted.

Mostly, that was nothing except for think. He couldn’t think of any reason they would have been after him, and they were too well equipped for it to have been a random spout of violence related to his curse. People didn’t just go out into the middle of cities to kill people on a whim. However, they had taken the effort to break past Jot, Hiroshi, and Jessica, which meant they had been confident that they would defeat those three, or someone in the middle was the target. Susan… she was a clone, but the facility she was from had been destroyed. Richard wasn’t sure on the details, but he supposed any organization with a secret cloning lab might have more than just one place, and could hire mercenaries or even have their own soldiers. Other than that, they could have been after Elena for a number of reasons, chiefly among them her status as princess. Unfortunately, Richard had no way to know, at least not without more information.

That left Richard worrying about the soldiers themselves. They moved fast and were well armed. He’d seen the guns on the bodies, but fortunately the Null Refractor field had made them useless. Though Richard had thought himself very good at melee combat, he hadn’t really managed to defeat even one alone. They had just been so fast… in a very strange manner. Richard couldn’t really understand it.

Finally there was the matter of Hiroshi. He’d thought they were friends… but he was probably just being nice because he was hired as Richard’s bodyguard and it didn’t hurt to do so. Whether or not that was the case, his mere presence said something. There was no one but Richard’s parents that would have hired him, and because of when he’d shown up, he hadn’t been hired after knowing about the curse. Before that, Richard had only- accidentally- been poisoned by Elena, and then attacked by the Ulph. With only one intentional incident, there wasn’t much reason to hire a guard at that point… but given what he’d learned about his parents, maybe they always had a reason. That brought to mind the possibility that he was attacked to try to get to them for some reason. Richard felt it was about time for another family meeting… to clear the air, if nothing else.

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