Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 80

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LXXX

Richard had gotten past the point where he cared about tact in asking his parents questions. If they didn’t want to answer, they wouldn’t, but he found they usually would. This time, Richard went to find his father. That wasn’t a difficult task, but then they had to move to a room where they could talk alone.

“So, what did you need to talk to me about?” Richard’s father asked, “I imagine it’s not related to Galactic History 201.” Richard’s father was teaching the next history class he was in, and Richard seriously doubted it was a coincidence.

“No. Well, not more than anything else, I guess. I just wanted to ask, were you ever an assassin? Are you an assassin?”

“I am not. I was… wait, I wasn’t, actually.” Richard’s father stroked his chin.

“Were you or won’t you? Was it a grey area or something?”

“No, that’s not it. There was just… a portion of my life where I was an assassin, but that didn’t happen. Something like a dream.” He waved his hand vaguely. “Anyway, I suppose your point is to ask about how I fight. I can’t tell you anything that would be useful to you, but I can satisfy your curiosity. Though I am marginally capable of being stealthy, I mostly just specialize in speed.”

“Huh. I don’t know what I expected. Could I do that?”

“Sure, but not right away. It takes a long time to get to a useful level of specialization in any way, so it’s better to be capable in many areas at the start. I think you’re doing an excellent job of that.”

—–

The tone of the training sessions changed somewhat, after Anna declared that Richard and Susan had reached an adequate enough level to protect themselves. That didn’t mean they were done, but rather that the focus of training shifted.

Richard found himself in the training area, walking along with a laser pistol at his waist. Though this one was not real, he had a license to carry what it actually represented. Richard realized that, at least for the near future, he would be carrying a gun with him everywhere he went. He didn’t like the thought of that, since it meant he might need it. He didn’t even known who might try to kill him, which he supposed was somewhat the point of the current exercise.

Richard walked among various people, yet there was no firefight, nor hiding behind cover. Instead, it was like walking along a normal street. That didn’t mean a firefight couldn’t happen at any moment… but most likely it wouldn’t. Through various iterations of this exercise, Richard realized that there were actually no enemies most of the time. After all, it just simulated a walk down the street. His job here was to recognize enemies and protect himself from them.

He had learned about various ways that people hid weapons, and how to find them, or at least determine how likely it was that someone had a weapon. Smaller weapons were harder to detect, and while they couldn’t penetrate his “normal” armor, he wasn’t likely to walk down the street in combat armor. Even if he had some kind of vest under his clothes, his head would be exposed. Even such small weapons could be lethal if fired at the head. For the purpose of the simulation, he still had armor on his head to prevent damage to his eyes from the mild lasers or low-power slugs from projectile weapons.

Richard had spotted several potential enemies. Two had weapons, though one was merely equipped with a knife. They didn’t seem to be related to each other. One Noglican might have a weapon concealed under their large coat. Then there was one more that had looked at Richard several times, though he didn’t seem to have any weapons. Still, if Richard could learn to fight unarmed others could as well, as he’d learned in previous sessions.

Richard soon noticed he was being followed. It was the Noglican… and he wasn’t subtle at all. He was walking straight toward Richard, though from an angle kind of behind Richard. It wasn’t easy to see with peripheral vision without turning his head far enough to be obviously looking behind. Not that Richard had to, since he could feel his aura. Though tracking everyone that way would make Richard exhausted, once he had noticed a few suspicious targets, it wasn’t too hard to keep an eye on them. As the Noglican approached to within a single step, Richard couldn’t help but tense up slightly. Then, the Noglican’s hand came up with something, and at the same time Richard spun around.

“Have you heard about the-” the Noglican paused slightly as he saw Richard spin around suddenly, then stretched out the flyer in his hand. “Have you heard about the plan to shut down the fusion plant? They plan to replace it with new technology that is mostly untested and with an unknown environmental impact.” He nudged the flyer toward Richard, indicating that Richard should take it. “Here’s everything you need to know. Please read it, for the sake of the city.”

Richard cautiously took it. He was ready to act in case something else happened, but nobody else had paid any real attention when he had been stopped, and the Noglican didn’t seem to have any tricks up their- short- sleeves. The flyer itself seemed fine. Richard idly wondered if there were any poisons that would kill humans but not Noglicans. He felt that they would probably not mix well with paper if they existed… and it felt fine to his senses, with only the slightest hint of radiation from being held by the Noglican.

—–

After that particular exercise, Richard’s mother Anna went over it with him. “You almost attacked that Noglican, didn’t you?”

“Yeah… almost. That coat actually blocked my senses, so I couldn’t be sure what was under there.”

“You didn’t though, which was the correct response. We have to work on training your instincts to be correct… because we don’t want to have you cause any trouble, but we also want you to be safe. Most trouble with the people we expect won’t happen with people around… but we can’t say for sure.”

“Do you know who was behind the actual attack?”

“Not completely, but we’re almost certain. We’ll talk about it when the last bit of information comes in. Before that, though… don’t you have classes to get to?”

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