Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 90

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XC

Without the gunfire, Richard had felt relatively safe in the jungle. With the gunfire, if it weren’t for the fact that most of the enemy soldiers were pinned down at any one time, he would probably be filled with a number of extra holes he couldn’t afford to have. Only one enemy within Richard’s sight was down, but Richard could hear the sounds of gunfire further away, so Richard knew there were more enemies- many more- elsewhere nearby. He didn’t have time to think about that, though, as there were more immediate concerns. Richard did a quick sweep of the area, but he needed to find something so it couldn’t be too quick. There. That was it.

Richard aimed and took fire at the same target he had before. As expected, they dove behind cover before he fully had a bead on them. However, even after they were behind cover, he shot twice more. They didn’t hit the target behind cover, but they did hit their intended target… and that was what told Richard what he needed to know. Powder sprayed out into the area from a plant right behind his opponent. The powder covered them before they moved out of the area. That told Richard what he needed to know.

His enemies weren’t omniscient. He hadn’t expected that, but it was good to know. They couldn’t dodge everything. Either there was a limit on the number of things they could focus on, or they could only avoid things they knew about… somehow. Richard looked around, and saw that he had sparked a chain reaction… or at least been part of it. Near one soldier, a nest of hornets had been burst open. That was something they would probably have to deal with, but first the soldier had to. Fortunately for the soldier, his armor covered him from head to toe, which meant he was mostly safe from their stingers… but he was also distracted enough that he came out of cover. Susan shot him, and his armor wasn’t enough to protect against a handful of good shots to the torso… in nearly exactly the same spot. One soldier clutched at his bleeding neck- presumably something caused by Jessica. Meanwhile, Jot grabbed another soldier from behind… and Richard heard the resounding sound of a neck snapping even through the other sounds. Richard even saw the guide shoot one of the soldiers, with a gun that must have been in the large pack he carried with him.

All that happened in a moment, and Richard turned back to the opponent he had covered in toxic powder. He had fallen to the ground, but Richard didn’t think he was dead yet. He shot a few times. It wasn’t a good angle, but at least one of them struck true. Richard was going to let him sit there for a bit, hopefully poisoned or bled to death. He didn’t want to walk up and find they were better off than they looked.

After those furious few moments, there were less enemies to worry about. Still, as long as there was one someone could die. Richard took aim and shot another soldier… and hit him. There was no dodging or special tactics, but merely a few shots that he didn’t even seem to notice at first. Then, he fell. Everyone else was acting as well, and in a few moments the jungle went quiet. It was actually quiet, because any birds were silenced by the commotion. Richard waited, but he saw no more enemies… and then he waited some more. Somewhere along the way the wasps had become a pile of tiny bodies, though Richard didn’t see what caused it. They were just all cut into at least two pieces. He was glad, though, because he wasn’t looking forward to getting stung by hundreds of wasps.

“All clear.” The sound of Gilbert’s voice made Richard relax, and he breathed a sigh of relief as his father stepped out from behind a tree and came into sight. Richard looked around, finally taking in his surroundings. They were much the same as before, but there were some details that were different. The bodies, of course. Richard himself was bleeding in several places, at least one from a graze, and a few from splinters. One tree he had sheltered behind had bullet holes going in a handful of inches, and one of the sides had a good chunk ripped to shreds.

Almost nobody was without some kind of injury, though Richard was most worried about Jot. He’d seen him take some direct hits. “Is everyone alright? Who needs treatment first? Jot?”

Jot shrugged. “I will be fine,” he looked around at the rest, “but it doesn’t appear anyone else is in danger either. I did indeed take several hits.”

Anna took the medical kit they had, and brought it to Jot. First, she cut open his clothing on his lower back. Richard saw the bullets in there… but that was the strange part. They’d obviously hit pretty directly, but they only sunk in to… about the length of the bullet. One of them was even sticking out a bit still. That wasn’t a normal thing. Even Xevaronian bodies weren’t that dense. However, because of that, Anna removed the bullets in a matter of a minute, and stitched up the holes shortly after that.

Richard only really needed treatment for the graze in his side. It was actually worse than it had felt, and he was glad it hadn’t actually hit him, because it probably would have gone all the way through, possibly piercing a vital organ. Susan had actually taken a shot to the thigh, which while extremely unpleasant wasn’t life threatening. She wouldn’t be walking for a while though. Even Hiroshi and Jessica needed some treatment. Richard’s mother… had a few scrapes from where her face scratched against some branches as she was moving about. Richard’s father was the only one entirely untouched. He almost seemed like he hadn’t been in the battle, if Richard hadn’t known better. Plus, he looked in the direction his father had been… and couldn’t help but shiver. They’d had a lot more people sent after them than he thought… and some of them had heavier armor and weaponry. There were a number of craters and even downed trees in that direction… but each of the dozen soldiers in that direction merely had one or two cuts instead of bullet holes. Usually, it was on the neck… a clean line, directly through the armor. Richard would have suspected a mono-blade, but they usually couldn’t hold an edge for so many cuts, and the cuts were actually thicker than that- but still very clean. “What can cut like that?” Richard idly muttered, mostly to himself.

“Magic,” came his father’s reply.

“Oh. Ok. Wait what? Really magic?”

“Eh. It’s like, half magic, half things moving very fast.” He swept his eyes up and down over Richard, then patted him on the head. “I’m glad you’re safe.” Then he sighed, “I guess this means our trip is over. Susan can’t walk… and it was about time to head back anyway. Too bad it had to end on a low note like this.”

Richard shrugged. “Eh. Everyone’s alive.” Only later, when Richard thought about what had happened, did he realize what his father meant.

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