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Chapter 7 : M1 - Term: 1, Round: 1

Daedalus

Attendance at Fortescue Military Academy M1 Y:2142

House Thoth, Squad Zero

M1 Rank: ?/1275, Tier 3 M-Rank: Null

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Daedo was wearing his polymer--custom Axel bodysuit with a dark grey backpack. His ;s capping was visible at the back of his neck where it was located at the base of his skull. He had dark, close-cropped hair and light olive skin visible above his neckline the rest of his body was covered with his tight-fitting suit. He had a helmet which was capable of VR and AR, that his bodysuit but it was stowed in his backpack.

The suit itself had dozens of tiny apparatus and dark grey seam lines, presumably, the multitude of add-ons were impossible to totally obscure. The white epaulettes on his shoulders almost glowed as did the zero on his upper right chest. He was the shortest of his group, almost the same height as a couple of the female cadets, but not quite. It was most likely they were all thirteen where he had still entered a year early despite taking three years off CyberMech and developing his AI He had only just turned twelve.

A girl, the tallest of the group, took a step forward and spoke, "I am Vannier. I suggest we quickly introduce ourselves and head to our apartments as ordered," she said confidently. Her hair was red, not a natural colour, it did not seem dyed either, Daedo guessed she had it modified to grow this colour. Her skin was light beneath her shoulder-length hair. Her eyebrows were also this intriguing red colour. He raspy voice gave the that she talked herself hoarse.

A girl stepped forward she had dark hair, but Daedo swore it had a dark blue tint when the light hit it at a certain angle, "I am Picard, my family is military and from Marseille. I want you to know now I am here on a and I will not take any shit from you rich kids."

Her eyes gleamed a deep amber as she spoke and Daedo immediately respected her forthrightness, especially since it did not apply to him.

A boy leaned forward, he had light brown hair and was only slightly taller than Daedo, "I am Gaumont. My parents are shareholders and research engineers in Fortescue Composite and Fortescue Mech." The cadets were now volunteering small pieces of background following Picard's

The tallest boy stretched, his strong physical frame was through his tight-fitting suit, he had blonde hair that was cut extremely short, "I am Barran, I'm rich." He then a smile at Picard.

The only person remaining that Daedo did not know introduced herself, "Mace," she said She was striking with her pure white hair and bright blue eyes. There was something different about her bodysuit it had armoured pieces on her shoulders, elbows and knees, almost as if it was made with enhanced impact as a primary feature.

Pascale stepped forward, "I am Axelzero, my family are from Germany, and we make the best suits in the world amongst other things. My brother Jules is also in M1 in another group." Her dark bob bounced as she turned quickly to look at Daedo.

"Daedo," he said nodding towards the of their quarters and started walking.

Gaumont pulled up beside him as they walked through the underground corridors, Daedo was guided by Myrmidon, and the rest followed. He was not sure if they had their own methods for finding their way through the maze.

"Daedo, that's an interesting name. Is it spelt d a e d o?" Gaumont asked him.

"Yes," Daedo answered.

"Do you follow CyberMech?" Gaumont asked.

Daedo stopped and looked at Gaumont. Picard moved past, avoiding a by turning sideways and sidestepping through the gap between the boys. Barran manhandled Daedo towards the wall so he could pass.

"Come on," Vannier with the red hair said. Grabbing one shoulder from each of them and propelling them forward. "I hope you two are not CyberMech junkies, that thing is useless in here," she said knowingly.

"What do you mean?" Daedo asked intrigued. CyberMech had an extremely high development value, there were of and possibilities.

"Well for one, it's far too arcadey," she informed them. "The physics and responses are not realistic at all, if you too much of that game, it could ruin you, and you will have to unlearn everything from it.

"Oh," Daedo said.

"Did you much?" asked Gaumont.

"A little," Daedo lied.

"I got in the top two thousand for the EU ," Gaumont said proudly. Vannier looked disdainful at the number.

"I'll have you know that in the last year with the price drops there are over fourteen in the EU alone, and close to one hundred worldwide. It's open to all ages. Being in the top two thousand puts you in the top zero, point zero one percent," Gaumont said.

"Wow, you must be good," she said genuinely. "Pity, it will ruin your piloting of a proper mech, with the preprogrammed combat manoeuvres and the interface is all wrong as well. In a real mech, the pilot moves their whole body to control the mech, this puts less strain on your sync rate while enabling you to perform precise manoeuvres. That's the main difference but there are others, like the damage done by weapons in that game is not realistic. And mechs jumping off buildings with no boosters would have too much downforce for the structural integrity of legs used in that game. I could go on. I was warned off it by my father," she talked the whole way to their apartments.

"Is your father a mech mechanic?" Daedo asked, surely her father wasn't a mechanic also. They already had one

"No, he owns several blueprints, and he continues to research and develop new mech part designs," she answered.

"Your family makes money from selling mech part designs?" Daedo asked intrigued. He really did not know how the world worked, he was a master of spacebuild, it had not to him he could make real designs and sell them.

Vannier smiled she was proud of her family, "it started with my grandparents. They designed an actuator and an energy delivery system which were used in every mech for ten years. The law changed well before we were born, it used to be when you held a patent no one could use it without your Now, anyone can, there is a treaty preventing anyone from hoarding tech, although people still do. Now to use a design people have to pay the market value. My family primarily designs mech parts, we do not manufacture parts or mechs, but the people who do pay a small amount for each time they use one of our blueprints. I think we have thousands in all, but only thirty or so actually make good bitcreds right now."

"Do you take after your family?" Gaumont asked Vannier remembering their assignment to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Vannier laughed, "hell no. I will never be half the engineer my Father is. I am guessing you are asking to complete the assignment so I will tell you. I am a crack shot, I love to help people, and my cyber bandwidth sucks balls."

Gaumont smiled weakly. She was so forthright she was They had arrived at their living quarters moments ago, "well," he said meekly, "I will return the favour. I have received the silver math medal from the EU academic authority two years in a row. I love mechs, I have watched every vid from Ascaperone , and I love CyberMech. I used to. I I was ranked in the top two thousand, I spent nearly all my free time and following CyberMech. Did you know that Daedalus disappeared a month ago? He was the number one ranked in the world for nearly two years and one day, he just disappears."

"I have heard the name," Vannier replied, "I don't follow CyberMech, so I didn't know."

"It's strange, he never joined a team, no one ever heard his voice or saw his face. He could be anyone. He could be Master Nader for all we know," Gaumont said.

"How do you know it's a he?" asked Daedo.

"I just assumed," Gaumont said, "by the And girls probably would show their image, they make bank from that."

"That is so Neanderthal," Vannier informed Gaumont before she walked off to inspect her room.

Gaumont looked at Daedo helpless, Daedo just shrugged and went to check his room. If this is where he was going to be living for the next year, he was dying to see it.

Each cadet had their own sleeping quarters which included an ultrasonic shower. There was not much room for anything else, no study area, no workshop, barely any storage space. Daedo deduced they were only meant to sleep and clean themselves in here, meals, toilets, study and anything else would be done in communal areas. This was the opposite of what he was used to.

He had been able to shut himself off from the whole world in his own space, he took after his Father in this respect. For some reason the academy did not make use of the technology , almost the entire curriculum could be learned from home, only the actual physical mech combat would need to be completed in person. Even physical training could be completed remotely and monitored. Yet they brought everyone together, even pushed them into teams and then forced them to interact, to work together.

Daedo sighed. He was not looking forward to mixing with the wealthy brats, but, so far they seemed okay, and it was him who had issues.

"I can't believe this,' Barran yelled from the central room. Probably used for meals, study and socialising. Daedo walked out to see what the fuss was.

"I thought my sister was lying," he sat at one of the tables calling out for anyone who wanted to listen, "I thought she was teasing me. But this is like living in communal slums." He stood and swept his arm around in a wide arc now he had four of his team members observing his speech or some would call it a tantrum. "My wing is ten times bigger than this whole area. And this area is for the seven of us!"

"Eight," said Nader standing in the doorway. "Every squad quarters has eight including this one." Master Nader's voice was synthetic. The Master was either hiding something or had been in an and lost their vocal cords. Something that could be regrown if you had the cred.

"Who is our eighth?" asked Axelzero.

"It is Master Nader," Daedo said. There was a larger room at the end of the living quarters. An eighth room. The door was closed, unlike all the cadet rooms. At first, he thought it was another adjacent communal room. Until Master Nader said, there must be eight per team.

All the cadets looked at him like he was crazy.

"We are team zero, which is the top-ranked team. There are two hundred and fifty-five cadets in our year level so the eighth cannot come from this group as they are all assigned. So the eighth either has to be a robot, a cadet from a higher year level or Master Nader. Master Nader is in our house, so she or he qualifies." Daedo deduced. Gaumont, Barran and Axelzero just stared at him open-mouthed like he was crazy.

Master Nader did a single slow , "one personal point for you Daedo. You are correct, I am your eighth."

"That doesn't make sense," Gaumont interjected, "wouldn't it be cheating to have a Master on our team."

"Not if each house is the same. And I would guess if we compete with-in our house Master Nader would not take part, we would be expected to win with seven since we are team zero."

"You're not getting another point Daedo," Master Nader said with a humorous tone through its synthesizer. "I will assist you in the inter-house and mentor you directly. As for the other thirty teams, I will monitor and mentor indirectly through U1 cadets assigned to them. Be sure to achieve top two hundred in leadership at the end of M3, or you will receive this extra assignment in U1 yourselves."

Daedo: could Master Nader be an AI robot?

Myrmidon: no, not unless pulse and breathing are mimicked to fool our sensors.

Daedo: oh thanks, I did not think of that. Can you tell what gender he or she is?

Myrmidon: scans indicate that Master Nader is female.

Daedo: that's a great help for our report. Scan everyone else thoroughly, and if we find anything interesting, we will add to our report for our teamwork assignment.

Myrmidon: may I suggest you read the of teamwork.

Daedo: funny har har.

Master Nader entered her room and her door locked.

"I guess the Master does not want to intrude on our assignment," Vannier announced to the group. She sat down and tapped the table indicating everyone should do the same.

In the short amount of time, they had been together the -redheaded girl had shown leadership without being bossy or causing Daedo any feelings of being pushed around.

The table and chair arrangement formed to their wishes. The entire room was programmable. They could have eight single tables and chairs or one large with two bench seats. Almost all were possible in the grid that made up the communal room. Every wall and ceiling was capable of showing an image or coloured lighting. A three- projector was present which could put a large on the floor or a smaller one onto a table.

Gaumont pulled up a map of the EU which he zoomed in and showed where he lived, "I live here south of Lyon, my family are independently wealthy, but my parents still work because they love it. As I , earlier both of them are engineers with Fortescue. I love Math and CyberMech, achieving top ranks in both. If I have a weakness, it would be physical activities."

Daedo began to wonder if Gaumont was his clone or long lost older brother. They were very in likes, dislikes and attributes.

"You may be wondering why I am in Thoth," Barran began, "well, my sister is in Thoth, and she is a massive nerd. So here I am." Barran did not need to his was adept physically and probably struggled academically. His attitude said it all, he probably wasn't stupid, he just didn't apply himself.

"Do you want to be a Mech pilot?" Vannier asked.

"Ah duh. I was born for this. I am in group zero, or did you miss that fact?" Barran arrogantly Everyone else was in group zero as well. No one challenged him though whether they were intimidated, wanted to form cordial first or just couldn't be bothered.

"I think we should talk about our goals in to our strengths and weaknesses, this will tell us a lot about each other," Vannier added ignoring Barran to an extent.

Picard went next, "I was born into a military family, and as I said when I introduced myself, I received a to come here. It is one afforded by the EU military for family members which means I am not the genius of the entire Academy, just better than other military brats. I love strategy, and while I don't like games, generally I do like strategy games like Towerdefender 2200. I am a hard worker, I study hard, I practice hard, and you can rely on me. My weakness is I haven't had a privileged upbringing with private and the like. I did cyber school and had to pass the entrance exam on my own merits. And where your suits cost over a thousand bitcreds mine is the cheapest that meets the school's criteria."

"Oh cry me a river. You are almost begging for one of us to buy you one," Barran remarked. He received a from Vannier.

"If she punched your face in I would give her one," Axelzero said.

"I'd like to see her try," Barran wouldn't back down, his ego would not allow it.

"Enough," Vannier said, and Mace sounded her agreement, "you go next Mace."

"I am from Paris, my parents stay here or New York or Rome, they move around for business. I am good at logic and strategy games. I am able to tinker with equipment change settings and get more out of it, I see this as a strength," she flicked her long white hair from covering her eye, "I am not great with people. I prefer machines."

"My goal is to build my own mech from the ground up, machining and fabricating tweaked parts or ones of my own design."

Mace was quietly spoken and self-depreciating. Daedo liked her, and he thought that way about very few people. In fact, most of his team were likeable with one

Axelzero talked about her family who made suits and gadgets and to the group about her twin and thus her name. She went on to break new ground with for Daedo, "I have tested in the highest percentile for bandwidth, I like programming, AR games and creating AR environments. I have made a few of my own augmented reality apps and have heavily modded others." She shared, "as for goals, I want to develop an advanced AI."

"You all know me, I have talked to everyone, there is just one person who has told us nothing so far about himself," Vannier stated, and everyone looked at Daedo.

"Ah..," he said. "I am a private person. I have not spent much time with others, especially ones my age. I completed cyberschool at the age of eight, and I opened my own spacebuild shop selling models for Towerdefender 2200."

"Which shop is it one of the top ones that I might know?" Picard asked.

"No, you wouldn't know it," Daedo dodged the

"How are you in group zero?" Barran asked what everyone was thinking. Despite finishing cyberschool at age eight, there was nothing special about him.

"What are your weaknesses?" Gaumont asked.

"What are your goals?" Vannier asked trying to divert the away from Barran and Gaumont.

Daedo was flustered. He was not used to people let alone being peppered with

Myrmidon: breath. Imagine we are in an intense firefight. Now focus. I will handle background info, and you pick targets. Vannier is leaning forward, it means she is friendly and wanting to be positive.

Daedo: okay, I will address her But…what are my goals?

Myrmidon: well we conquered the CyberMech world. Why don't we conquer this one?

Daedo: you don't hold back do you?

Myrmidon: hurry they are waiting. Tell them we will be number one ranked in the school.

Daedo: should I tell them about Daedalus or you?

Myrmidon: from what I have read, you should not tell them about me. We have broken a few laws. We can probably pretend to birth me with in AI and then reveal me later as an AI started here.

"My goal is to be the ranked number one cadet in the Academy," Daedo said matter of factly. It sounded like he was talking about what he had for breakfast or the weather today.

"Is that all?" asked Barran sarcastically and he received another from Vannier. There were twelve hundred and seventy-five talented and hardworking cadets in M1 and Daedo just stated calmly was aiming for number one ranking.

"No actually," Daedo continued, "I would not settle for less than number one ranked in all the schools in our tier and gain to the tier while I am in U1."

Barran spat a cough onto the table. He was not alone, this was too much even for the positive Vannier, the hubris of Daedo made Barran seem meek. Gaumont stared at him as if he were mad. Picard looked at him with distrust, he also to have completed cyberschool at eight, which she doubted. Mace looked at him , she was one who did not react, and Axelzero just her forehead she couldn't believe her ears.

A was heard from behind the cadets, "another personal merit point for Mister Daedo," Master Nader said, "not only is he the current number one ranked in M1 Thoth he has worthwhile goals. I approve."

Perhaps there was something to Daedo. He was the only member of group zero to get any personal merit points from Master Nader, and now he had two.

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