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Chapter 20 : 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

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Six members of squad zero rose at 0500 packed some food and left for their workshop weekend. They looked like they were going hiking.

Gaumont said he was too busy to attend especially since they would not be working on the heavy, but the light exo. He stayed behind to work on the math and physics problems and would possibly join them later.

The sun would not rise until 0630, so at 0530 it was almost full dark. They closed their helmets and used external low light cameras to see as they ran down towards the industrial centre Nanterre and their mechbay workshop.

They would run north for six kilometres before following The Seine for another thirteen kilometres. It was a long run for Daedo and would take him almost minutes. Barran ran with them for the entire distance before running back to retrieve his bike, he ran thirty-eight kilometres, almost an entire marathon, at the age of thirteen in a time well under three hours.

The team thoroughly inspected the equipment and layout of the workshop the evening, everyone had ideas on how to upgrade, but in reality, they had already spent a lot of bitcred. It was time to improve their light exos, not spend more on , showers and upgrading kitchens. Vannier, Picard and Axelzero were busy cleaning, the was a mess compared to their quarters at the Academy.

The owners had left mountains of junk, or spare parts, behind. The yard and testing bay were overflowing with old equipment.

Barran probably preferred running a marathon to cleaning hence why he was completing the extra distance. When he returned with his bike, he could use it to fetch small things they might need. He could even ride back to Ikaros' workshop if needed. In reality, any small thing could be ordered and delivered by drone. Most parts, materials and equipment were locally in Garenne or Nanterre.

Daedo, Mace and Ikaros began work on the light exo itself.

"The materials order is ready," Ikaros said.

Daedo sent the order to all the cadets of squad zero, it should not be just him and Mace working on the exos, everyone was in squad zero of Thoth for a reason.

"Is it just me or is this a standard alloy?" Mace asked examining the light exo closely.

"You are correct, I expected something military grade at least, not this," Ikaros answered.

"It is designed this way," Daedo said, "I noticed the exos the M3 were using were much better than ours. I realised they have been improving them for two years. Some cadets would assume the M3 cadets are just bigger and stronger, but, their suits had been upgraded. I cannot help but assume the Academy does not tell us everything on purpose and leaves it to our own initiative. It is evident that we are meant to upgrade our exos, and the ones provided to us are substandard on purpose."

"That makes perfect sense, why did Barran not tell us?" Mace asked. Barran's sister was in U1 and must have known this.

Daedo shrugged.

"You can bet that Karinne from Horus would know, she probably has Fortescue techs working on it for her," Mace said.

"I am a Fortescue tech," Ikaros said.

Mace laughed nervously, "but you are on our side," she smiling at Daedo's Father and patting his shoulder in an attempt to cover her faux pas. It was almost out of character for the quiet, diminutive rank three cadet.

"Fortescue does not have many talented engineers, they mostly manufacture from patents," he said. "RnD costs too much and is too hit and miss for them."

Suddenly there was a pained look on Ikaros' face. His wife had died completing RnD for Fortescue, and it had always been high pressure to achieve a commercial Fortescue's attitude towards investing heavily into RnD was poor. And when they did they wanted commercial in the short term, which meant potentially prosperous research was dumped if it did not show early results.

"Fortescue has been beaten so many times by small inventors and larger companies like DaVinci or Svarski that they now specialise in manufacturing They do not focus on RnD at all. So even if this Karine Fortescue has the company backing her, we can easily do better with what we have here. That is my ," Ikaros finished.

"I am surprised they have never asked you to help Father," Daedo said. Even if Fortescue techs helped Karine, they would either have to come to the Academy mech bay, or she would have to ship her exos off to an authorised site, just as they had. Given that her company was Fortescue Group itself, this would be quite possible.

"Who said they haven't?" he answered raising an eyebrow.

Daedo laughed. They probably had, and he knocked them back.

<break>

Vannier, Axelzero and Picard had finished cleaning the kitchen and offices after a couple of hours.

"We can layout out sleeping bags here in the office, it will be like camping," Axelzero said.

"Well we did look like we wandered off for a hiking and camping weekend," Vannier answered, "we may as well the part."

"Can we fix up the gunnery range next?" Picard asked.

"After the loading bay, that is a mess. It would be great if it was organised when we get some deliveries later today," Vannier said.

"We should program a robot to keep this clean, it could work all week while we are at the academy," Axelzero said.

"That's a great idea, but let's get it set up right first," Vannier said.

"A constructor bot could retile this whole , it needs it," Picard said.

"All of which costs creds, we discussed this, we cannot spend until we start earning some creds," Vannier said.

"I know, I know, it is just so messy and run down," Picard said.

"It is a mech manufacturing and repair facility which was not profitable," Vannier said exasperatedly. Picard was the last person she expected to whine. However, she was probably used to living in on a military base.

"We will improve it slowly. Let's get the loading bay tidied up and then head to the range," Axelzero said sympathetically.

The facility was extremely large for just the seven of them. It was not designed to mass manufacture mechs, but it could repair or build a mech as tall as six meters on the main workshop floor. Alternatively, it had enough room on the main workshop floor to repair twenty light exos if they had that many. This did not include the adjoining machining and fabricating rooms.

There was also a foundry for casting metal parts. A robotic weave for winding and threading any type of material. Assuming the heads were changed and the programming

The top floor of the facility only covered half the entire area, it consisted of the offices, kitchen, labs and meeting rooms.

The ground floor had the workshops which were two or three stories high at one end and the loading bay and machining rooms at the other.

Beneath the ground floor was the testing facility and gunnery range, it was tall enough for a four-metre mech to run and wield weapons. It would not be able to complete a jump test, however, that would have to be done outside in the lot.

There was another floor beneath the ground floor, but it had been sealed off and was disused for decades. When the squad opened the sealed door they quickly closed it, there was not cache of ancient weapons to be found, it was just rubble, water, vermin and it smelled horrible.

It was not long before Vannier, Axelzero and Picard had finished cleaning and organizing the loading bay before a drone landed dropping off a crate and it was followed by another.

Axelzero ordered a drone to come and remove the skip full of rubbish before the directed a loader to deliver the crates to Daedo and his team in the workshop.

They followed the loader into the bay.

"What's in the crates?" Axelzero asked Daedo, Mace and Ikaros.

"Aromatic polyamides, aramids, aluminium, graphene, nickel, copper, carbide, boron nitride, tungsten, magnesium, nylon, hydrocarbon monomers and a variety catalyst material," Ikaros answered.

"Uh, okay, um…," Axelzero stuttered.

"We are redesigning the light exo ," Daedo , "we want to reduce the weight, increase the structural integrity, increase mobility and flexibility."

"Is this against the rules?" Picard asked.

"There are no rules on exo armour other than the maximum size and weight which mainly applies to a heavy exo, size of the power core and regarding design. Such as it has to conform to the body shape with less than eighty percent and not utilise wheels, tracks or other methods are in the rules."

"Which means you could put skates on it if they are sized under five percent of total height and weight. They fall under tracks and wheels," Daedo informed them.

"Oh they would be awesome, can we have skates?" Axelzero asked.

"The terrain is always changing and uncertain, but its something we can consider as an ," Daedo answered.

"It's improbable, the Gauntlet and Arena usually have uneven terrain," Vannier added.

"But it is not impossible," Daedo answered.

"There are no on which suits can be launched in a match? Do you need to adhere to a mix of heavies, mediums and lights?" Ikaros asked.

"No, some teams launch eight heavies," Axelzero answered.

"We were about to clean out the gunnery range," Vannier said.

"If you do that now, come back when the polymer and ceramic mixes are done," Daedo said.

"What is your exactly?" Axelzero asked intrigued.

Ikaros loaded the foundry, fabricator, mould and robotic weaver with the base materials.

"We have been the best material and design to use in the light exo all week. At first, I thought we would just armour on the exo, but we are going to rebuild the whole thing from scratch," Daedo said.

"Then why did we cart the light exos here?" Picard asked.

"Because we will not have time to build every part, actuators, sensor interface and the power reactor to name a few. We will repurpose those parts from the existing exos until we can rebuild them as well," Daedo said.

"This is amazing, show us the ," Vannier asked.

Daedo put the up on a wall and talked through them.

"In the ," he began.

"Wait, what Where is the ; Vannier asked.

"Ah, my AI and I wrote the based on data from the net and our experience when we practised each night," Daedo said.

"You did base it on the open source TRIAC simu I suggested?" Ikaros asked.

"Yes, we used the TRIAC simu for and understanding on what was required, but it was not specifically designed for this purpose. Our code is much more streamlined focusing directly on an exo with the ability to continually add input materials. The vast majority of coding was lifted from COMPUMAT. Which is a program designed to evaluate composite, and ceramic material properties. But at this stage it is all theoretical, we will need to improve with testing. It will give us a good starting point," Daedo said.

"Son, I am impressed. I thought you just used the TRIAC simu, I had no idea you the whole thing," Ikaros said.

"As you know very well Father, garbage in, garbage out," Daedo replied.

"Anyway," Daedo continued showing the design on the wall as the machines worked at manufacturing the initial composite materials required. Ikaros monitored them to ensure everything was in order.

"The design we arrived at," he continued before being interrupted again.

"Sorry," Axelzero said, "you we and earlier that your AI assisted. How has your AI progressed so quickly? Mine is barely able to fill in a spreadsheet."

Daedo sighed. He had misstepped in his excitement and pride in Myrmidon's work.

"I put my AI through a rigorous program that I had prepared, and it has a great as you know," he lied, "it is quite capable of analysing code and writing code."

Vannier moved to assist, "let him show us the exo, we can pick his brains on AI another time, we only have nine days before our match with Horus." Master Nader had told her that his bandwidth was without peer. And bandwidth not only applied to his data flow but the flow with his AI and his brain.

Daedo took a deep breath. He looked at his squad members, Mace, Vannier, Picard and Axelzero.

"No more , I promise," Axelzero said apologetically.

He did not respond to the statements and dived right into the , "the on the light exo is deemed to a mesh fibre in every test. The smaller we can refine the mesh threads and weave the better the resistance and mobility In this, we are restricted by our machines, which we can improve over time, and eventually, I would like to produce nano level fibres. This armour will differ to a mesh suit in terms of overall thickness, the design of the weave, the pattern of the weave and the type of fibre constructed. On top of the mesh, we will embed composite ceramic The will be applied in a liquid form and solidify onto the mesh surface. The size and pattern of the are designed with the end result mobility as the first and coverage as the ;

He nodded at the burgeoning , "the composite ceramic is designed to take the initial impact and resist , and electric shock weapons. It has been designed to be an , however, under a barrage, it will break apart. The mesh itself will resist damage to a high level. Whether it is a lance, railgun, frag grenade or even a missile This is why we spray on the ceramic element, allowing it to soak into the outer layer of mesh. This will reduce its brittleness to damage."

"Because it is much lighter than composite or alloy the exo support frame itself has been drastically reduced. This frame only needs to the reactor, jump jets or other equipment like launchers. The hydraulic system has been totally redesigned as well," he said.

"How does that impact the strength and speed capability?" Mace asked studying the design.

"The mesh itself contains hydraulic fluid in the tubes the armour. It is powered by in tube micropumps which are connected to your reactor and controlled by interpreting your suit commands. In the future, I would like to interface the hydraulic with your AI, so the correct amount of force to make a jump or lift a heavy object will be by your AI," he said.

"As to the impact, it has to be an improvement over the standard light exo. It is lighter, stronger with a better delivery system. I would not like to predict the exact improvement, we will need to test and refine this design," he added.

"How the hell did you design all this in a week?" Axelzero asked.

"I didn't. The hydraulic mesh design is very to the mesh exo. I merely modified an existing design, and the micropumps are an off the shelf product," he answered.

"It is very impressive, does it work?" Vannier answered.

"I think it will be far from perfect on our first attempt, but, it will still be a major improvement on the light exos. We can test and take data each practice and refine our design each weekend," he said.

"You really thought ahead," Picard said, "this is why you suggested we all use the same exo, I know you said it at the time but now I see. We focus on refining one design rather than everyone using different exos."

Vannier gave him an rub on the head, Picard punched him on the arm, and Axelzero gave him a big hug ignoring his

Mace merely stood back and watched with a small smirk.

"We will go now and clean up downstairs so its ready to test the first exo off the line. How long will it be?" Vannier asked.

"Twenty hours?" he replied , "I have no idea how quick some of these machines are. My Father would have a better idea."

As if on cue, his father walked in from one of the side rooms which housed the mould. "The weave will have to come after the fibres are created, but I don't think we can have all four suits done before Sunday night. We will know when enough fibre is created for the first suit, but my guess is it will be nine hours for the fibre and another nine on the weave. So the first suit will be off in eighteen hours and then nine hours more per suit."

Vannier, Axelzero and Picard were invigorated. They ran down to the lower level to clean up the gunnery and testing facility.

After they left, Daedo looked at Mace and his father.

"We can keep busy while the fibres and generated. We need to work to design and build an underarm launcher and a shoulder launcher," he said.

"That is good, we need both to see which will work better," Mace said, "where will the be stored?"

"The lower back is where the reactor is housed, so I was thinking the rear of the shoulders, across the top of the back," Daedo said.

"Not under the arms and down the sides?" Mace said.

"That works too, how much do you want to carry?" Daedo asked.

"How strong is the suit? I would prefer to carry enough variety and quantity to take out all eight of the enemy," she answered.

"Every ten kilograms will reduce the mobility bonus ," he said.

"It needs to be able to load a different based on purpose required, so it cannot be a direct load. It needs a feeder with full to the container," she said.

"You are not wrong, what about this," Daedo said, and he drew onto the projected image a container with a feeder which snaked from the hip onto the back above the reactor up to the shoulder over onto the chest and under the arm. This was mimicked on each side.

"That is Will it be heavy?" she asked.

Daedo did a quick "Depending on your , it would weigh almost sixteen kilos for twenty frag grenades including the two launchers, loading and firing mechanisms. We can use hydraulics to both load and fire," he said.

"Would you switch to pneumatic for firing?" Mace asked.

Daedo laughed, "yes, we would not want goo spraying everywhere everytime you fired."

Mace laughed as well, although she was a little embarrassed.

Ikaros watched his son while pretending to be busy monitoring equipment. As a Father, he had never been so happy for his son. Not only was he thriving at the Academy he was making friends easily. He wiped away a tear before anyone could see.

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