Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 74

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LXXIV

Richard didn’t enjoy people trying to kill him, even whether or not he was incidental to the real plan. So far he didn’t know their actual motivations, and he supposed it was possible he would never know for sure. As he thought about it, the thing that bothered him most was not that people were trying to kill him- though he didn’t find that pleasant- but rather that they might succeed. If things had gone slightly worse, maybe they would have. If even one of Jot, Hiroshi, and Jessica hadn’t been around, he didn’t imagine things would have gone so well for him. Of course, without the Null Reflector, that would have also been the case. He could have been filled with bullets or laser holes and he wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.

“Wanna talk?” Jot asked upon noticing Richard’s troubled state. “What’s bothering you?”

“Besides the fact that I almost died? Mostly that I’ve been training to be able to protect myself, and I couldn’t even take on a single person by myself.”

“So? You survived. They came in with larger numbers than us, so using numbers to defeat one of them on our end isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Besides, how long have you been training?”

“Umm… a year. More or less.”

“How long do you think they trained for?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t really get a good look at them.”

Jot shrugged. “I don’t know exactly either, but I’d say a decade, minimum. It could be longer for some.”

“Yet you still held off several of them by yourself.”

Jot raised an eyebrow. “I’m a Xevaronian. Besides, how long do you think I’ve trained for?”

“Umm…” Richard thought about what he knew of Jot, “You’re… thirty eight? Thirty nine. I keep forgetting that. So, maybe twenty years?”

“Close enough.”

“You’re Xevaronian too, so it makes sense, but what about Hiroshi and Jessica? They’re the same age as me.”

“So? How long do you think they’ve trained to fight for?”

“Umm… I don’t know. A few years?”

Jot shook his head. “I’d bet ten easily, but more likely fifteen. Not in any normal way, either. Humans can’t normally get that fast.”

“Hmm. So then, how did those soldiers move that fast anyway?”

Jot shrugged. “Dunno. It seemed kind of strange, actually.”

“Huh. And here I thought you knew everything about combat.”

“Not just yet.”

“Anyway, I suppose all of this talk is pointless if we hadn’t had a Null Reflector to keep us from being pinholed. Thanks to… Hiroshi, I guess.” Richard couldn’t help but frown when he thought about Hiroshi.

“Hmm… something wrong with Hiroshi?”

“I dunno. I thought we were friends, but it’s pretty clear he was just hired as a bodyguard.”

“You can’t be friends with someone hired to keep you alive?” Jot raised an eyebrow.

“I could, but someone just paid to be friendly to me isn’t really a friend.”

Jot shook his head again. “I suppose. However, if there’s one thing I’m certain about with Hiroshi, it’s that he’s truly terrible at lying, unless he’s some kind of genius that is so good he appears bad. Counting on the former, though, you can just ask him. Even if it’s the latter, he has no reason to deny it now.”

Richard frowned. “I suppose… that would work. I’ve been kind of avoiding him lately though, so hopefully I’ll run into him soon. Calling would be awkward.”

—–

As it turned out, Richard didn’t run into Hiroshi, at least not that day. Then, he had other things to think about, such as his mother’s arrival. This time, it wasn’t a surprise. He met her at the spaceport, and she gave him a big hug… though she was careful of his side, which hadn’t healed completely yet. “It’s good to see you Richard.”

“It’s good to see you too, mom.”

Gilbert was there as well, and held his arms open wide. However, Anna just walked past him and toward Susan. “Good to see you.” She nodded, but didn’t hug her. Richard could tell their relationship was still somewhat awkward… but on the other hand they’d actually only seen each other a few times.

Just as Richard’s father started to sigh, Anna jumped on him from the back, with her arms around his neck. She leaned over his shoulder and kissed him on the cheek, laughing. “Hah! Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you or anything. Or at least not very much.” Richard thought he would have toppled over… forward or backward, but his father didn’t seem to have moved at all, nor be worried about being pulled over. He reached his hands up to cover hers… then grabbed her wrist and flipper her around to in front of him. Richard looked away while his parents shared a few moments.

Susan blinked a few times. “I have not seen them like this before.”

Richard shook his head. “This is more normal. I guess last time mom was just in a hurry.”

—–

Richard, Susan, and Richard’s parents all sat down in the living room of Gilbert’s apartment. Nobody wanted to get into the real issues right away, so Anna started with asking about school.

Richard decided to go first, “Pretty good. We’re not that far into the semester yet, but it’s amazing how many species use DNA and not… well… something else. You’d think you’d get something different from every planet of origin.”

Susan nodded. “My semester has been going well too. I learn so many interesting things, in and out of the classroom. Tell me, have you heard about… rabbits?”

Then next quarter of an hour devolved into looking at pictures of cute rabbits, as well as occasionally other cute animals, but eventually they had to get to the core of the family meeting. Richard had no idea how to start, but fortunately his father did. “Well, on the subject of the recent attacks, there has been no concrete evidence on who was behind hit. The only certainty so far is that the attack should be related to our family… Or else I would not have been attacked at the same time by another squad from the same group.” Richard was surprised to hear that, since his father hadn’t said anything… nor had he looked like he had come from a fight when he arrived. “While Anna and I should be fairly safe, we will need to work with the two of you, to make sure you are safe, if nothing else. There are some other explanations you will need as well… so I suppose I should get started.”

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