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Chapter 23 : 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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It was late Sunday evening, the squad headed back to the Academy with four new light exos. Although, it was debatable whether they would still be as light. The to mass and strength put them in the medium category. While the speed was closer to mesh.

"You look unhappy," Vannier remarked to Daedo.

He shook his head, "they are nowhere near ready. I can think of a dozen items we need to improve, I just haven't worked out how to do it."

She smiled, "you are a Are they much better than what we were using?" She prompted.

"Yes, yes," he waved his hand, "I know what you are trying to do." She was trying to make him think of the gains, and in the long run, they would improve the exos, which is what her next or statement would lead to. The thing was, he knew all this, but like CyberMech he did not like to enter the until he was ready. But he had no one else to , it was him who initiated the bet with Horus.

Hell, they didn't even need the extra practice time in the exos anymore. They could complete enough maneuvers in the workshop testing floor to inform improvements and practice with the exos. The arena combat would improve teamwork, tactics and would hone their skills. They still needed the arena combat , they just no longer needed fifteen or more per week.

"If you know what I am trying to do why are you so glum? Because you should know my point," she stated with a small amount of chagrin.

He continued to look pensive, "because even if I understand it doesn't mean I have to like it."

Vannier laughed and him on the back, jolting Daedo out of his chair with the shock of the blow. "Oh sorry," she said, rubbing the spot where she hit. "I know why you were in CyberMech. You are so driven. Are you sure you are only twelve years old?" She asked.

"Are you sure you are thirteen?" he asked back

"No, I am thirty, I had surgery to look this young," she answered and giggled. The giggle gave her true age away for a change. To an outsider, it would be hard to believe the pair were twelve and thirteen years old. They were the product of their own environments and were the best in Thoth if not in the Academy M1 intake year altogether.

"Anyway, you should be ecstatic with the progress you have made. The task you have given Picard and me has only just begun, and we are not even close to a prototype, where you have a full working exo ready for testing," she

The shuttle pulled into the Academy vehicle bay, which was a loose gravel area surrounded by grass. It was antique just like everything on the surface of the Academy grounds.

Barran stood by with a hoverbin, ready to carry the exos down into their quarters. Daedo had once he had every single part he could return the old light exos and register the new in the AR. As long as they met the requirements, this was permissible. It would be certain that the top M3 teams from each Academy, especially ones from Svarski, Huawei and DaVinci would not even be using cadet made exos. They would have a company exo designed to rules.

In the meantime, the remnants of the old light exos would stay at the workshop until they were ready to be returned fully

Barran the exos in the bin and closed the lid. He was dramatic regarding the secrecy of the new exos as they looked nothing like the old ones. It was all moot as they would wear them to tomorrows and the night's arena combat practice. Barran's heavy suit would not be ready until the end of the week, and it was nowhere near as customised as the light The heavy merely took on the same hydraulic tubing and with ceramic reflective on top.

It would grant him better mobility and strength; the degree would not be known until more testing. There was also one light exo which was not ready, they would drone it in early in the morning.

"Can this even be called a light exo?" Mace asked Daedo as they walked back to their quarters.

"Does it matter?" he asked.

"I suppose not; I guess the are just for labelling purposes," Mace answered.

"I suppose it impossible to using the Academy standard of mobility, armour and strength enhancement. But given its size and shape, it could be as a medium. Its size is that of a medium and with all the extra , it is heavier than light as well. Most teams field eight heavies, so we are still well undersized compared to everyone else," Daedo replied.

"What do you mean? This exo has almost as much strength as a standard heavy, it is twice as mobile and the armour value will be unknown until we destroy one during testing," Mace said.

Barran turned around, "keep a lid on it Mace, we are in enemy territory."

Which was not true, they were in communal corridors, from Barran's point of view everywhere was enemy territory except their quarters.

Upon arrival at their quarters, Vannier called for a squad meeting which included everyone. She would assume that even Master Nader would witness this meeting closely.

Gaumont came out of his quarters all blurry eyed, she wondered if he had slept at all over the weekend. He groggily sat down at the table and muttered greetings to everyone.

They had not started the meeting officially, so Vannier asked after his wellbeing. "You looked tired Gaumont, have you studied all weekend with no sleep?"

He rubbed his eyes, "yeah, I worked through the night on Saturday and only crashed a couple of hours ago. I want to get ahead on all my best subjects, then I will focus on my weaker ones. I just finished the ten-week math program and have almost finished physics. But I wasn't able to finish any of the math problems. Which is worrying," he informed them.

"Do you expect us to be impressed?" Barran asked disparagingly. "You missed an awesome weekend where you could have been working on a tech part, to help the squad, to do what? Your best subject? That would be like me running and exercising all weekend and being proud that I am good at athletics."

Vannier was mortified, she hadn't meant for this and Barran was certainly not in on her

She looked pleadingly at Daedo to rescue the and sent him an emergency text, 'help!'

Daedo stretched and said, "it's the first week Barran. Let him find his own way. If I had turned left instead of right, I would be right there with Gaumont. An outsider to my own squad."

Gaumont had taken Barran's in his stride, he sat a little , but he hadn't gotten angry or slumped in his chair under the However, when Daedo spoke, he jerked upright, "Why are you labelling me an outsider? Are you threatened by me? You have been against me from the beginning."

Vannier was certainly distressed now, Gaumont was projecting onto Daedo. It was, in fact, the other way around, he was threatened by Daedo and everything he did push him further away instead of turning things around. She thought

"Gaumont!" she shouted. She could think of nothing. She would have to set him straight Master Nader style.

"While you choose to be a loner, we were all working on this," she stood walked across to her room and retrieved a new exo.

"Everyone has a tech project and is contributing except for you. You were invited to attend. I sent you a message on Saturday afternoon which you did not respond to. It is not Daedo labelling you an outsider. You have done this yourself! You will not find one of your squaddies who is satisfied with your to the team," She lectured.

He turned to face her, his face going red, "who said this was a team effort? We all receive individual ranks. And in the end, they choose the best from all the houses to join the Academy event team. A squad is merely a way of grouping cadets and allowing one cadet to at squad leader, just as you are now. The only squad project out of all the subjects is team arena combat. Everything else is individual, and while you assist one another, all you are doing is assisting your ;

Vannier sat, She could think of no strategy to turn such obstinate thinking around.

Barran started to speak, so did Axelzero and Picard all talking over one another casting at Gaumont.

Daedo raised his hand and said nothing. Slowly they all turned to look at the strange and one after another they fell silent.

Daedo lowered his hand, "I respect Gaumont's ," he said dramatically and paused.

"His analysis has merit," he waited again for his words to sink in.

"He is correct there is only one activity which is team-based. Arena combat. No one here chose to be in this squad and to try and force him to cooperate is stupid. I would like to continue to work with everyone," meaning everyone but Gaumont, "and we will push all our up by working together. Far beyond …. if we worked individually. Gaumont can continue to progress as he sees fit, he will only need to follow squad commands during the arena combat match. Agreed Gaumont?"

Gaumont did not see this as support from Daedo, it was backhanded approval and a put down his thinking as poor strategy. "Fuck you," he said. He stood and walked back to his quarters.

As the door closed, Barran asked, "what punishments is a squad leader allowed to dish out?"

Picard smiled enthusiastically, "I will look it up right now."

Vannier waited expectantly for a call from Master Nader which did not come. As time passed without the call, her distress did not lessen it increased. She was certain Master Nader was going to tear strips off her for failing so dismally.

Daedo came and put a hand on her shoulder for a change, "it was only an hour ago you were lecturing me about being stressed at lack of progress on our exos and ordinance. You pointed out that this was the first week and we have three years to improve our exos before moving onto Mechs in U1. I would like to remind you, that this project of yours has a timeline. And you need not rush it. Hell, you could probably do nothing and let the jerk come to a himself."

Vannier , and her eyes widened. "Of course!" She "It has to be his There is no point talking him into cooperating." She stood and hugged Daedo. She whispered in his ear, "you are the right choice for squad leader."

He pushed her back, "don't your promise. You are going to handle all the shit jobs."

They both knew what he meant and laughed.

Daedo wore Picard's weights that morning during the obstacle course and would wear them throughout the rest of the day before taking a rest on Tuesday. His time slowed due to the weights, but not by much, he was just over sixty minutes. He figured given that he was wearing ten kilos weights this was a good time.

Monday was the day they had piloting and gunnery , which were one of the few with a physical Chief present. Daedo, Vannier, Axelzero and Mace all stood out in their new exos. Supposedly refurbished, however, all they had used from the standard lights were a few components.

They received stares from the entire brigade of M1 cadets from house Thoth. The stares turned to whispers until even the Chief took note.

"Sir," one cadet from squad six raised his hand, "are they allowed to bring in exos from the outside?"

The Chief stared at the cadet ominously for half a minute before he started to squirm. "Why are you asking me a that is answered in the Which I remind you are easily to you at all times? I am doubtful you got into the Academy without being able to read or at least a modicum of ability," the Chief answered scathingly without answering directly.

Almost a hundred cadets from house Thoth began to read the regs.

"What! It clearly does not say you can bring in an outside exo," one cadet said very loudly.

Then a smarter cadet said, "but it doesn't say you cannot. All it states are the an exo must adhere to."

Another protested, "why were we not told we could modify or our exos?"

Squad zero ignored the banter and began the exercises set by the chief. They were clearly much faster than any other exo, and only a heavy was stronger. As most cadets heavies, they seemed incredibly lethargic with their twenty percent drop in speed and mobility compared to the cadet's normal movement. Where the Daedo v1 exo mobility factor was quantified by one point six, which was a sixty percent increase from a cadets natural movement.

Barran was still in his old heavy and was incredibly jealous of his squaddies who got to pilot their new exos today. They not only moved a lot differently to the standard exos they looked sleek. The mesh which consisted of tiny tubes, or fibre, could be seen in patches where the moulded reflective did not cover. These patches of mesh were present at joints like the elbows, knees, shoulders and neck. Wherever range of movement was required.

Due to their current ranks and achievements, the exos were mostly with small amounts of white denoting Thoth. On their backs were telltale signs of the umbilicals and cold reactor, due to the vulnerability of these systems they were heavily armoured and in mesh and They were built out in such a they looked like a large backpack extending from the shoulder down to the lower back.

There were sockets which would sustain weapons and other systems with either power or hydraulics. The grappler and grenade launcher had inbuilt power and hydraulic conduits. A mesh tube could be seen extending laterally from the back to underneath the arm. It had enough to allow the full range of movement.

Lastly, their helmet was encased in a protective layer of ceramics and polymer which connected to the chest with a layer of mesh making them look like they had very thick necks.

Mace and Daedo skimmed across the arena at great speeds wielding of swords, lances and lance swords. Testing out the variants to see which they preferred while completing the exercises set out by the chief.

Axeleleven, Pascale's brother Jules came over to ask her about the exos.

"How fast are those things?" he asked his sister. The every member of Thoth wanted to know.

"Oh, they are ok," Axelzero replied, "we still have a long way to go."

"Is that what you were doing all weekend?" he asked wondering how far they would go if this was just the beginning.

"What else should we be doing?" she answered.

"Um, studying or…" he began.

"Or off?" She finished for him laughing before leaving him to complete the next exercise.

There were two hundred and fifty-five cadets in House Thoth. After today's , all thirty-two squads were motivated to improve their exos as much as possible. They were either in awe or extremely jealous and in most cases both, of squad zero.

Before they finished gunnery and piloting for the day, there was grudging respect from squad one members. "There is a reason they are squad zero," Xavier said to his squaddies, "we would do well to follow their example."

"Do you think they could win that bet with Horus?" Fafner asked.

Xavier , "that is a tall order. But I give them a small chance now, yesterday I would have given them none."

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