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Chapter 9 : 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

Term: 1, Round: 1

The scene repeated itself, Master Nader exited her office and called, "Vannier, my office now." Her metallic voice making all the cadets jump out of their skins.

Vannier stood and walked into her office as if walking to her own funeral.

"I still haven't worked out if it's a man or woman," Barran stated as if he was fascinated.

"She's a woman," Daedo supplied.

"How do you…," Barran started and waved his hand, "wait I don't want to know." Before he looked shocked, "you weren't in there very long!"

Axelzero moaned, "Oh please."

Mace asked, "did you scan her?"

Daedo nodded, "this suit is very good."

Axelzero beamed, "you really have a handle on it, how did you process the scan? Did you use your and review the data?"

"Yes, I have the suit linked, and I reviewed the data while sitting here," Daedo lied. What would take a human hours, unless they were an expert in the suit, which he was not, only took Myrmidon a few moments to analyse. Myrmidon had been with the suits features since they got it. It would have a thousand hours of experience in the few days.

Axelzero leaned close down his back before moving to his other side, "you did get everything didn't you," she said touching his suit in different

"Well, I noticed you have a couple not in the store," he replied.

"There are some perks to being the owners of the company. When we get a break, I'll get yours upgraded," she offered.

"What are the mods on yours, I couldn't make them out?" he asked.

She made a funny face at him, "of course you couldn't make them out by looking at them. My brother and I have the next gen sensors, memory for increased local storage of data, an improved system and thermal vanes to assist with an exosuit heat exchange. Too tiny to make a difference to a mech, but it gives the heat of an exosuit a twenty percent boost."

"Vannier, sit," Master Nader indicated the chair which instantly appeared from the floor before she went around the other side of the desk and sat.

Master Nader pretended to look at something on an invisible screen before looking back to Vannier, "I had you pegged as the leader of this group," she began. "Your profile is excellent for your current age, empathy, ego, , all very good."

Master Nader paused allowing the room fall silent. She had no visible eyes to stare Vannier down, but Vannier felt them in any case. "You failed abysmally at your very first test. The boy, your most talented squad member, needed you to believe in him, and you did not. I wanted to ask you, why?"

"Ah," Vannier spluttered, "I … he … it was impossible," she finally finished.

"Yes, I see. So what would have happened if you had lied and shown faith in him and then it turned out he had lied? Hmm, did you think of that? Did you think it through?" Nader drilled into Vannier.

Vannier was almost in tears, she was not stupid, but she only realised it when Nader pointed out how stupid she had been. Even if it was impossible, she could have supported him and even if he was lying, what would have happened? Nothing. She would have just been wrong and at worst gullible. Either way, she would have shown faith in him and built a bridge between them.

"Yes, you see. Now, today is your first day, so I will go easy on you and just tell you it straight. If, and I mean a big if, you end up being squad leader, you need to think things through. And many people say that without knowing what it means. So I will be clear in my ;

"What thinking things through means is you think of the next step after your words are spoken and the next and the next. You think of each and every response, you look at the of that response, whether its verbal or another and you work out your next or reassess your initial words or ," Nader instructed.

"Leadership takes as much effort as a tactician in a battle, especially for one as inexperienced as yourself. After years of experience, you will find history repeating itself, and you will have already mapped your course for many ;

"Now, if you had gotten this right I would have been sure you would be squad leader, but now I am not so sure. We will wait and see how you handle the next couple of weeks and I will make a at the last minute," Master Nader informed her.

"Dismissed," Master Nader said and started to ignore Vannier, turning back to an invisible screen, one which only she could see in her HUD.

Vannier walked out, she was dejected at first, not because of the dressing down but because of the mistake she had made. After a brief self-assessment, she also gave herself a fail. Master Nader had made one mistake, assuming she had a burning desire to be squad leader. She just liked to be liked, and she liked to be helpful.

She walked back to the table and sat down mutely. The body language of her walk, the way she sat and the look on her face conveyed that of one in traumatic shock.

The seven sat in silence for a full thirty before Axelzero asked, "soo…?"

Vannier shook herself as if waking from a dream, "I think it may be best if what happens in Nader's Office stays in Nader's office. Unless of course, the casualty feels the need to share. I have a feeling this may a ;

Silence befell the seven again. The five who had not been summoned began to feel both lucky and apprehensive at the same time. The fear of the unknown started to creep up on them, where Daedo did not seem drastically affected, the look on Vannier spoke volumes.

"We are group zero, we have the house Master camped in our quarters, which implies we have been selected to be the subjects of an intense training program. My assessment is this is just the beginning, and we should prepare for a plethora of moulding and training techniques to be applied to us," Daedo informed the group, grasping the quickly and for the first time sharing with others. Others who weren't his AI

"We should eat," he said standing and approached the kitchen facility, engaging the dashboard to release it from under the floor.

The dashboard was not a physical entity, it was as a local popup through your own using your preferred device. Daedo just asked Myrmidon to raise and configure the kitchen by default. Some people used a hud delivered through one of many types of head devices, or a portable screen, arm pad or a helmet like Master Nader. There was even an old-school touchscreen control panel on the wall.

<break>

Nader was extremely busy, it only took a small of her time to monitoring everything the seven from group zero said and how they reacted to each other and her Nothing surprised her up until Daedo took charge, when he assessed the and informed the squad, then proceeded to destress the entire group by preparing and eating a group meal. She was not only surprised she was impressed.

She had two hundred and fifty-five cadets, who wrongly thought of themselves as students, to into combat engineers, and leaders. She had to utilise the thirty cadets from U1 who had shown unrealised leadership potential. That took her total to two hundred and eighty-five lumps of ore to into a finely pressed titanium

She was monitoring the other thirty groups and sending and taking holo-meetings with her mentor cadets. They were also House Thoth and would split from their charges for , U1 activities and a small amount of free time. Otherwise, they were her proxies. Only group zero did not possess a proxy. She was free to bring one in if she desired and she had the perfect candidate on standby. She would that card at the appropriate time.

Although she was busy she revelled in her task, she was optimistic that some of her ore lumps could the finest mech pilot-engineers in the world. There was not much time left, this batch would be one of the last to reach the sixth year before the foretold events came to pass.

"Twenty-seven," she called through her comms, " that sentiment. You have an opportunity to create common ground in to you. You may even have some fun achieving this end, but do not overdo it, they still have to listen and respect you in the end, and that will not be achieved with fear alone."

She watched and listened carefully to the key , the rest were , and while she could skim threads of ten at once, she wanted to help twenty-seven with growth as well as their group. "Good, except you, did not anticipate the third response, remember what you have been taught, examine all probable , and that one was within ;

The more adept her mentor cadets became, the less micromanagement she would need to conduct. Her was she was missing percent of critical which required her at this point in time. This indicator would reduce as time passed and her mentors increased their proficiency. Within the year she wanted this KPI under one percent.

She flicked back to quickscan of nine plus group zero.

The first day ended with a tour of the academy. Cadets were shown the many underground arenas which made up battlegrounds for their training. They were programmable and adaptable into infinite different Some were set up as bodysuit obstacle courses, and others were four-meter mech augmented reality arenas.

One of the requirements of the bodysuit or suit's was a helmet capable of full augmented reality known as AR. This was significantly different to virtual reality. In an augmented reality training exercise the environment would physically exist, the walls, floors and ceilings could be opaque and unadorned, and the program would add colour and texture to the surroundings. Programmable foam was used on top of the arena grid to add shapes other than squares to the environment. From rock walls to rubble from a fallen building they could all be constructed with the foam which would harden and when released turned back to liquid for removal.

This allowed varied environments to be constructed quickly from the library of thousands on hand. It even allowed cadets, chiefs or masters to design and construct their own environment.

Another feature of an augmented reality battleground or obstacle course was they were able to add any number of holographic citizens, animals or threats. Destructive traps could be added, ones which affected the suited cadet in the , but did nothing in reality.

The same went for weapons. Cadets could carry real railguns, ion pistols, and pilot mechs with particle cannons where the size and weights were all correct, but no live ammo was fired.

What would be fired was handled by the augmented reality as well as the fake damage that was done as a result. Augmented reality had one significant difference over virtual reality training. It's allowed for physical and spatial growth far to virtual combat. A mechs movements, breakdowns and were not programmed they were real. Tuning and building of mechs had a real impact and variability that VR could not replicate.

The only drawback compared to live ammo were the results of weapon fire were programmed, and therefore the armour value and weapon tuning only possessed computed results. And no matter how sophisticated the , reality always threw in curveballs which did not exist in the program.

Daedo: these look amazing, apart from the fact we will have to physically run, jump and climb everywhere ourselves. Next, the mech bays, looking forward to it?

Myrmidon: of course. It will be fun to drive a real mech rather than a pretend one in VR. I am looking at the most common AR software now to ensure our trajectory and damage are perfect. Do you think we will be able to the actual source code?

Daedo: if we are given a chance to program an arena ourselves it may get us close enough. See if you can find out which open source code Fortescue used to write any of its own AR apps. That would be most likely what is used here.

Myrmidon: The says DV6414, that would mean it is a DaVinci being used.

Daedo: ah it's probably standard across all Academies, either that or DaVinci is the best.

The group of seven were surrounded by other members of Thoth and every now and then they ran across another House. Cadets who were friends yesterday at each other today.

Daedo had no friends, he was an observer in this a where the affable Vannier, who was a pro at making friends, had old acquaintances looking daggers at her, especially since she was in group zero of an enemy house. It was most likely to be group zero involved in the inter-house battles.

"Don't they realise that you are the same person, that these are lines segregating you from allies?" Daedo asked Vannier.

"It is fine," she said through clenched teeth, Vannier liked to be liked, and conversely did not like it when former friends started to act like enemies, "I would not have time for them anyway. I have you and our team to worry about as well as ;

"You need not worry about me," Daedo said truthfully.

She laughed easily, and was about to say she didn't mean worry about him like a mother, but as someone to spend time with but caught herself. She would not the word mother in front of Daedo.

"And that attitude is exactly why I will worry about you," she replied. After a few on what was the best response. It would most likely provoke about how he was independent and capable, which she would affirm. But he merely smiled, nodding. her stance. Daedo was not normal. At which she laughed at herself, of course, he wasn't normal, he was in group zero, number one ranked in the house and at a game. She would need to improve her read of him.

"Daedo," she said starting a new topic, "I've been thinking about your directive, about how you can help each member in group zero with something."

He looked intrigued, open to the thought.

"You are talented, far more than I can imagine, so I suggest you do not rush the assistance, wait for the opportunity to do something really special," she advised.

He nodded, "that is good advice."

"There is one more thing," she added, "I do not think one of us should train you physically," she said this loudly enough for all to hear. "It is something you expressed and probably need given the age gap, your current and physique. I think we should all train you. Even Gaumont." She turned around to look at Gaumont, he was to Daedo in many ways, the poor boy was like an copy, and he didn't know it yet. "You first trainer will be Gaumont if we all agree, and your task will be to have in the obstacle course level one, two and three. He won't be your usual trainer, he will be your hare."

Vannier this would push both of them, Gaumont would strive to stay ahead, while Daedo, with his competitive streak, would do his utmost to catch and surpass Gaumont. And the day this happened would not be a bad day for Gaumont, as it would have been if she had not set the challenge with him as the trainer, it would result in him in elevating Daedo to a higher level.

It would be bittersweet for Gaumont. Vannier that Daedo would surpass him in every subject except for physical and when that happened Gaumont would truly feel like a -string Daedo. There was no direct evidence that Daedo would surpass Gaumont in Math and Physics other than his ranking, which indicated he did.

All their rankings were revealed earlier in the day and as expected the members of group zero were ranked one to seven. Gaumont was rank seven, while she was rank two. Ameline Mace with the pure white hair was rank three, Barran was astoundingly rank four. Axelzero was rank five while Picard with the military upbringing was rank six.

"Hey sis," Jules Axel broke into the ranks of group zero. He had a bright white number one on his shoulder.

"Are you group one? Axelzero asked surprised.

He moved his hand and laughed, "no I am group eleven."

She pushed him, "yeah I thought that was way too high given how much effort you put into studying."

"Are they calling you Axelzero?" he asked.

"Yes, why?" she replied back with a

"It seems kinda stupid if next year you get dropped to group two or three will your name change?" he conjectured.

"You are right, the chances of you dropping are high, you should go by Axeljay, or Axelthirty, just in case," she joked back.

"I better get back," he said, "my team are lost without me."

"It's a squad, and I am sure they are not lost without you," Axelzero retorted.

The group arrived at the Mech bays. Usually, they would catch a rail elevator or as they ran horizontally as well as vertically, but they were all locked down forcing the cadets to walk.

The Mech bay was massive and broken up into three This mech bay was for house Thoth, which meant there would be four more just like it. It was no wonder the underground complex ran for kilometres in all as well as hundreds of meters down. The size of the structures was on a grand scale.

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