Richard felt safe once he was on the ship… but then he didn’t know why. Couldn’t the ship get attacked too? Richard saw his parents didn’t look worried, but then again they hadn’t looked worried while they were actually under attack, so perhaps that didn’t mean anything. So, he asked. “Is the ship safe?”
His father nodded. “It is. At the very least, we can escape from any threats without taking damage.”
“That’s good.” Richard sighed. “Do you have to deal with this kind of stuff often?”
“Not that often. Unless you fail to put in the effort to stop such things. We’ve already been tracking them down, and this last effort speaks of desperation. They got careless, and left some traces back to a base. Maybe one of their last.”
“Really? I didn’t notice.” Richard thought for a few moments in silence. “How did they avoid things so well?”
“Oh, they were Xrath. That means-”
“Xrath! Oh, I remember them now. They’re the ones who can share senses. That’s why they could dodge things they couldn’t see, unless they didn’t recognize it as a threat, anyway. I suppose they didn’t really dodge any gunshots, but just avoided the trajectories the guns were aimed at.”
“That’s right. I see you’ve learned at least something in your studies.”
“I’ve learned a lot of things. I didn’t actually remember that at a useful time, though.” Richard sat thinking about what had happened. He’d killed someone. At least one person. He thought he should feel bad about that, but mostly he just felt confused. That was just his human part, while his energy part seemed completely indifferent. “I killed someone,” Richard said to no one in particular, but his father was still around.
“You did.” It was merely an acknowledgement, not judging or praising. “How do you feel?”
“Confused. I should feel bad, but I don’t.”
“Why should you feel bad?”
“Because… now there’s less life, and life is precious, I guess.”
“Perhaps. There might be less life now, but more life will always come. It might inherently have value, but even if that is the case, you have to weigh it against other things. For example, if you had not killed them, they would have killed you. You may not agree, but I place the value of your life much above theirs. Even if all sapient lives have equal value of themselves, they were different. They would have gone on to kill others if they lived, merely for the sake of money or power. This makes their actual value a net negative.”
“I guess it could be thought of like that.” That wasn’t what had bothered Richard the most though, “What if they didn’t want to do it? What if they were good people being forced to?”
“People who do evil, even under duress, are not good people. Perhaps they are less evil than they appear, but that does not mean you should be bothered by it. If it helps, they were definitely in control of their own faculties.”
Richard nodded. He felt better already, but that actually made him feel worse. Was it so easy for him to accept killing people?
“Richard. I think I still need to be clear on something. There is nothing wrong with the morality you’ve learned up until now. Murder is still wrong, among other things. Murder is an unjustified killing of someone. This is justified, because it is self defense, but not just that. Most people just never have to experience life or death battles, so what you hear everyday doesn’t cover this. On the other hand, I am glad you take killing seriously. Try not to become like an action movie hero who doesn’t care about those he kills. You can care, should care… but you should not let it stop you from what needs to be done.”
“Yeah.” Richard sighed again. “You make it sound like I’m going to have to do this again. I am, aren’t I?”
“You don’t have to. In a normal case, you could still avoid going any deeper. Even with your special case, your curse, you could avoid it by withdrawing from society. However, that will also prevent you from doing anything good with your life.”
Richard nodded. “I think I need to go take a nap.”
After a few weeks, Richard’s feelings about killing had faded. In fact, he barely felt anything about out, which was really further than he wanted. On the other hand, he couldn’t help it, and forcing himself to feel bad about it would be extremely counterproductive. He just resolved to make sure he still cared.
He wasn’t planning to withdraw from society. He doubted that would actually be better for anyone. It certainly wouldn’t be better for himself, and he thought he could do good for others as well. To do that, well, he didn’t need to continue to go to school, but it was his preferred option. His friends- and family- were around, and he was forming an idea of what he wanted to do with his life. He knew he couldn’t make everything in the world better, even if he was qualified or could become qualified to deal with each individual thing.
So, what could he do? He was rather good at shooting people, but that seemed like a career path that didn’t really align with his goals, even with the caveat that it might be very short. Even working as a bodyguard didn’t interest him, for a more morally upright version of that.
What did interest him was biology. That was his major, and he decided to stick with it. He had a few ideas… but he wasn’t sure what he could actually accomplish. Some of the ideas were quite grandiose, so he thought he’d start at the bottom and work his way up. First in line was raising some plants. This wasn’t a project for a class, but something personal. It might not have any real results, but even that would tell him what he needed to know.