Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 81

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LXXXI

Getting a license to carry a weapon involved a lot of paperwork, among other things. Among the other things was showing he knew how to use the weapon… and when not to use it. In fact, much of the time was dedicated to showing he knew when not to use it. Richard wasn’t sure if his parents did anything to speed up the process. He thought they didn’t, because it still took a long time. Perhaps it was done a bit more efficiently, but he still went through all the proper procedures. After doing all the initial paperwork and the test, some weeks went by. Then, Richard had a license to carry a sidearm. Susan did too, though hers somehow arrived earlier.

Richard knew that something special must have happened in Susan’s case. At least, he thought the background check required one to have… an actual background. In her case, she had appeared out of seemingly nowhere a year prior. That wasn’t the sort of thing that looked good in a background check.

—–

Carrying a weapon with him at all times was strange. It had a safety switch, so he supposed it wasn’t any more dangerous to him than carrying a sheathed sword or a knife, but it felt that way. On the other hand, nobody carried around swords either. Hiroshi seemed to have a number of weapons on him… somewhere, but besides him and Jessica, Richard didn’t know anybody that carried weapons all the time. He supposed his father and mother might… but they didn’t look like they did. On the other hand, maybe many people carried weapons all the time and just didn’t look like it.

Richard didn’t easily get paranoid, but he couldn’t help but use his training to look over everyone, even those who seemed familiar. After he thought about it, he supposed that was the whole point. He wouldn’t take the presence of those around him for granted. Richard hadn’t even known that Elena carried a gun until they were attacked. He hadn’t thought it strange for her to have a bag with her at all times, and besides her small pistol everything else in it was as expected. Hiroshi and Jessica carried various things strapped to a number of places, yet they weren’t noticeable though their ever so slightly baggy clothing. Jot still didn’t have any weapons at all… but Richard noticed something else. His clothes weren’t made out of what Richard considered normal clothing materials. “How long have you been wearing armored clothing?”

Jot shrugged. “A while. I’ve always worn stuff good enough to stop a knife… from most people. I’ve only more recently switched over to something a bit heavier.” Left unspoken was the timeframe, which was probably shortly after they were attacked. It was just like Jot to not even mention that… nor to appear the slightest bit concerned that such danger might happen again.

Richard actually doubted it was only a bit heavier. That wasn’t how anything Xevaronian worked. Compared to what he was wearing now, which could stop a shot or two from a sidearm, Jot was wearing something that could probably be considered real combat armor, at least by Richard’s standards. It was just quite thin… which meant it would be dense, like everything Xevaronian related. Richard could only imagine how heavy the actual Xevaronian combat armor had been, instead of something like this on the level of thick clothing. Even that would be impossible for Richard to wear comfortably. It would be hard to move his limbs, and he would get very tired after some time of wearing it. Still, he had gotten used to what he currently had, so perhaps he would eventually be able to adapt to something more.

—–

It was time for another Smith family meeting. Richard found that they were very similar to when he was growing up, but instead of deciding the schedule of vacation activities, they were now mostly about life-threatening situations… or the potential for them, since there hadn’t been any for a while. Richard and Susan hadn’t remained entirely on campus for the last six or so months, but mostly. When they went out, both of Richard’s parents were with them, though nothing happened. That was good, but Richard didn’t want to bring his parents with him everywhere he went for the rest of his life… or even for the next few years.

Richard’s mother Anna started off with the core reason they were there. “We’ve pretty conclusively determined who the attackers were.” She paused for a few moments. “Those particular squads were indeed from the organization that cloned Susan. It is unclear whether they knew of her presence here, or of Richard’s relation to myself. Either is possible, and Gilbert being attacked puts more weight on the latter. Internally, the organization goes by the name The Brotherhood of All Knowledge.”

Gilbert interjected, “They probably thought it was a bit less on the nose than We Do Unethical Research.’”

“Better as a name, too. Anyway, externally, they try not to be known at all, or part of what they do is known under the guise of various small research companies. Well, many formerly existing companies anyway. I’ve destroyed a number of their facilities. Legal action was taken against some. That leaves only a few… that we know of. Hopefully, they don’t know we know about those parts.” She projected a screen with a few open files that seemed to be dossiers of some of those groups. “They must have a headquarters, or a few of them, where they compile the various results of their research. However, it is not easy to find. They don’t transmit data between facilities, as a general rule. Otherwise, it would be easy to track them, and this problem would already be solved. As for what forces they have… we’re not sure. At the various facilities I… infiltrated… the quality and number varied wildly. They might not have any more to speak of, or they might have several more squads like the one that attacked you earlier this year. Whether they send anyone at all would depend on the projected value of the information they can get from capture… or death. They might have already chosen to avoid going after you because of the costs, or they might just be looking for another good opportunity. Because of how that event played out, it’s also possible others who have grudges with me or Gilbert might have found out about you. Though Maropa has recently tightened up security some, it is best to remain cautious.”

Gilbert took over as she finished. “With all of that being said, as long as you are careful, you should be fine around the city. We’d ask that you bring along Hiroshi or Jessica, or even Anna or myself, if you can tolerate us.” Gilbert turned to Richard. “Jot is an excellent choice as well. Beyond that, we will also be slightly relaxing the training, since keeping up this pace for much longer could affect your growth.” He smiled, “So, have either of you thought about places you might like to go on vacation after the school year is over? It might be fun to get out and see some other planets.”

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