Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 79

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LXXIX

Though he was holding up reasonably well, Richard couldn’t help but think about how Susan was handling everything. He knew she hadn’t exactly grown up in a normal environment, but it had seemed to be one without any actual threat of death. He supposed the best way to know for sure was to ask. “Hey. How are you doing?”

“Uuuuugh. I’m exhausted.”

“Me too. I actually meant something more. How are you feeling about all this combat training.”

“It’s exhausting,” she grinned slightly at that. “Beyond that, I don’t really know how to feel. I suppose I would feel better if I knew for sure that nobody would try to kill me, but I also feel good knowing that I’d be able to handle myself somewhat if someone did try.”

“Is it okay if I ask some things about when you were at the facility? I don’t want to bring up painful topics but…”

“It’s fine. I hear that talking about things is good. Really, it wasn’t that bad, except my complete lack of freedom to do what I wanted. Well, and not having friends, though I didn’t really know what friends were at the time.”

“Okay. I know they pushed you hard to learn things, but now you’re working hard and still studying… is that okay?”

“Yeah… it’s fine. I don’t have to study now. I want to. More importantly, I can learn what I want… I can learn anything. It was frustrating to have very limited information available to me. They also expected me to be some kind of genius… able to memorize all the information in the world, and do all kinds arithmetic immediately in my head, and more stuff they didn’t give me enough time to learn. Here, the expectation is that I will do my best, not that I’ll fit some kind of specifications they are looking for.” She paused for a few moments. “They made me do exercises like I was supposed to be strong, and were disappointed when I couldn’t do what they wanted. Now, I’m being tempered to be strong, for my own benefit. I suppose I would prefer that it wasn’t because I’d been in a life-and-death situation though.”

“I agree with that one. You know, I never really appreciated having a normal life until it was too late. I quickly went beyond anything I could have expected without realizing it.”

“I never really knew what normal was. I do have to say… even though Aunt Anna is scary, I kind of like the idea of being as strong as her… that way I wouldn’t have to worry about someone controlling my life. Now, though I have to work hard… I know that if I didn’t want to go into class, nobody would make me. Even combat training, if I said I didn’t want to go, I wouldn’t be forced. Even if that made me a burden, nobody would complain… much.”

—–

Richard looked over the records of the training exercises he had done. It listed all the ‘casualties’ from each match. If he won, that would include all of the enemies. However, sometimes it included either Richard or Susan, or both. It also had casualties on their side even if Susan and he had survived, when they were teamed up with other soldiers. After all, they weren’t always outnumbered or given unfair situations. Richard almost wanted to complain when they were given unfair situations, but he realized that if someone was trying to kill them they would try their best for it to not be fair. In such situations, he lost more often than he won. In training, that was fine… but in real life, he would be dead. Sure, he faced off against trained soldiers, but he had come to realize that no matter how much training you had, you died if you got shot. Good armor made it so that you would perhaps not die, and great armor would keep you from dying… against normal weapons, and a limited number of shots.

However, all of this was at the level of people Richard thought of as “normal”. Even though he himself wasn’t particularly normal, he felt he fit in around the level of a normal soldier- on anything like even footing he could theoretically kill his opponent, and he could theoretically get killed by his opponent. With guns that could happen in an instant, or it could be a long, drawn out firefight. Even though Richard felt confident in his body’s ability to recover from most injuries, that required that he not be instantly killed. Enough damage to any major organs or blood loss could still kill him… probably. That wasn’t something he was going to test, nor was he going to test whether he could regrow a limb or a finger, even if he thought he might be able to.

Richard thought about the level he placed above “normal”. This included people like Jot and Hiroshi. Jot was very strong in terms of muscle… and quick. If he wore Xevaronian armor, he could easily fight against most opponents with guns with just his body. Of course, that would require him to actually get such armor, instead of a training suit that simulated the effects against training weapons. Hiroshi was fast, and while he could imagine him dodging bullets, he had no idea if that was actually possible. On the other hand, he could react fast enough to throw down a Null Reflector Field… so if he had those available, that could work. Except, if those outside didn’t have to worry about how long they took, they could just wait for the field to run out of energy. Still, he seemed to be on a tier above normal.

Beyond that were Richard’s parents. His mother had broken into the facility that had Susan, and destroyed it, while apparently leaving unscathed. It made Richard feel better that she wore battle armor of some sort, but Susan couldn’t confirm whether she had actually been hit at all. In matches against her, she moved quickly, and though Richard and Susan had managed to get shots that hit her occasionally, they hadn’t been able to take her down. Richard supposed she could have been cheating, but he didn’t think so. She had great instincts for when to dodge, moved quickly, and aimed accurately. Richard could only take solace in the fact that, in real combat, she would be on his side. He just hoped there was no one equivalent to her on the enemies side. While they might match off against each other, it would be easier for them to pick off the weaker targets on each side, and Richard would be one of those… for some time yet. Richard’s father was a mystery, except the fact that he could take on a squad of time enhanced soldiers, and was apparently capable of striking without being seen. That was the worst type of opponent to face, because you might not even know they were coming, in which case you would be helpless.

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