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Chapter 25 : 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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Vannier and Axelzero were bombarded with messages shortly after the rankings updated. A few of which they answered. The messages came from close friends, who were suddenly no longer friendly but now all of a sudden friendly again. Mostly they ignored the torrent of and messages. Daedo and Picard who were outsiders were untouched to the direct contact barrage.

Mace did not go out of her way to socialise before attending the academy and like Picard received few messages.

"Are you being bombarded with messages all of a sudden too?" Axelzero asked Barran.

"I have mine on auto-reply. Get fooked," he answered, "I stopped keeping track after the first couple." He was still sore from dropping drastically in his squad ranking although his overall did not change by much. A mere four out of seventeen.

The live stream of their practice with Shu was showing thousands of viewers, where it would normally be between ten to twenty. The squad spoke over comms during the practice.

Barran: oh boy, we sure are now. Do you see the viewer count?

Daedo: this is not a good thing. Is there any way we can opt out of streaming?

Axelzero: I am afraid it is part of the learning process of the Academy, everything is streamed and for current and future cadets to learn from.

Vannier: it is limited to Fortescue Academy, they do not want on tactics and capability leaking outside into the inter Academy league.

Daedo: so we can't even make credits off a stream?

Barran: who makes creds off a stream?

Axelzero: he does. How do you think he afforded the workshop.

Daedo: we need to focus on the assigned drills. We need the telemetry data on the new exo to further improve it.

Barran: so I am free to stuff around since I do not have a new exo?

Daedo: all data is used, but we have enough on you using the minigun now. I would be interested to see how it changes if you change your loadout. Can you swap to melee weapons or a one-handed gun and launcher?

Barran: yeah, I love the minigun. It's so good. But I can try different loadouts in matches that do not matter. Any requests?

Daedo: a melee range loadout and a short-range loadout. The minigun is already close to short range, but I would like to see how you handle a lower rate of fire, higher damage cannon or shotgun.

Barran: cestus and shotty? I can do that.

Daedo: perfect, once you have increased mobility and strength that will increase in effectiveness markedly.

Barran: you mean kick more ass. Speak Daedo properly.

Axelzero: same could be said for you Barran.

Although they did not take winning or losing the match , squad zero beat Shu over and over with their new exos. The difference in mobility had caused a gap in performance where they were almost equal while performing drills during the week. It was mostly Picard and Vannier taking the enemy down from range, whilst never being pinned down themselves. The enemy simply could not catch them.

Daedo: during the next practice I want everyone in a light exo to get into melee range combat and then escape. Everyone needs to use a cestus and a grappler in your offhand. You are to punch the enemy once and then escape to an out of range or out of the line of sight Then repeat.

Picard: oh boy, this will confuse and annoy Thoth squad one.

Barran: like we care.

Daedo was testing the agility of the exo, forcing his squadmates to get into where they would try and dodge or avoid fire. The telemetry data would inform him where weaknesses in the design resided. Whether it was the knees, the torso or waist, or flexibility in any parts. It would also push his squadmates to learn to use the grappler inventively.

Thoth squad zero finished their practice with Shu squad zero and then Thoth squad one, reaping telemetry data and joy in their new exos. They literally ran rings around the standard issue. Xavier from Thoth squad one them when they exited the arena.

"This exo," he said, "it is really impressive. Hats off to you guys." He began to walk away but then turned back.

"I didn't see you in the mech bay during the weekend. Where did you put this all together?" Xavier asked.

"Confidential , sorry," Barran said deadpan and waved him to move along.

Xavier looked disappointed at first before changing his countenance and smiling, "I love mysteries, I guess I will just have to find out. Oh by the way what do you guys think of The Spiral?"

Daedo: The Spiral?

Axelzero: you do live under a rock don't you. It is a massive PPP with the four governments and the top were announced today.

Daedo: whats a PPP?

Axelzero: It's a public-private partnership. Its when the government works with companies on big infrastructure projects.

Daedo: ah. I don't know much about business.

Vannier: from the guy who made over twenty k bitcreds by the age of twelve.

As Vannier laughed over the comms, Barran answered Xavier.

"Exciting isn't it, I can't wait until its completed so I can visit and fly my awesome ship out of here," Barran said enthusiastically.

"You have a ship?" Xavier asked dumbfounded.

"No, but I will by the time it's done in five years! That's a long time to save for one dontcha think?" Barran asked.

Daedo looked up the details of The Spiral.

Daedo: Myrmidon look at this.

The Spiral was not just a super space It possessed an elevator from Earth. Daedo was intrigued because was that an Elevator would extend from the equator, but the showed it was at the North Pole. Not the north pole, the true north pole. There must be a very good reason for this, it had to reach higher in the atmosphere which would come at a greater cost and a more difficult engineering

The spiral itself was named because of its shape. Unlike many space which formed rings, this one was a centric spiral. The large centre was split between the four governments of the security council. The EU, Chinese Asia, NA and Russia. These four governments ruled the world and would rule space as well it seemed. The spiral arms themselves were backed by blocks of companies with three mega-companies leading the way with a spiral arm each. It was no surprise DaVinci, Svarski and Huawei each had a large stake in the space

And it's purpose?

The stated purpose was progress and security. No of of space. The companies would explore space for the sole purpose of finding much-needed minerals with the possibility of finding new exotic materials. Stage two of the massive undertaking would see the establishment of bases on Mars and the Moon.

Up until now, space mining was expensive, and the costs outweighed the benefits. But to the marketing of The Spiral, the elevator and the advancement of robots would change all this. Space would provide all the materials needed to expand with excess coming back to Earth. It had probably taken years to get all the major participants to agree on the cost and ownership of The Spiral.

The Spiral itself was funded by hundreds of shareholders, governments amongst them and it would be a company itself. With costs and profits flowing to and from its shareholders based on their equity.

Even this must have been extremely political, with each of the four main governments owning an equal share of ten percent exactly. Minor governments had purchased shares as well as every wealthy company Daedo had ever heard of and then some.

The big three had an eight percent share each, and even Fortescue had a percent. The list of companies with shareholdings below one percent was vast. But even a small stake in this venture came at a large cost, which was not guaranteed to be returned. The entire project was estimated to be over twenty bitcreds when all the stages were included. Daedo could not even imagine this amount of money, and he wondered why it was so costly, surely if they used robots and mined for the minerals to build stages two and three they should not be so costly. Something did not add up.

The more he thought about it, it must be the way adults did He could purchase a cold reactor for one thousand bitcreds, but if Cisse built one the cost of the materials was under a hundred bitcreds. Yes, they needed a workshop with expensive machinery, foundries, moulding and fabricators to achieve this. Perhaps the adults just valued the end result at its retail value and not its cost to build.

Daedo shook his head, he did not have time to concern himself with such things. Life was complicated and busy enough already.

"It is massive," Mace said to Daedo breaking his reverie. She pulled up a render taking up most of their common area.

They had walked back after their match, leaving the others to chat with Xavier. This was the time that Daedo had allocated to catch up study or to assist his squadmates with their work.

"It could be a city," Daedo said looking at the

"I think that is the point. Manufacturing, personnel, robots, storage, mech bays and spaceship docks. Even then," Mace said.

"There is something they are not telling us," Daedo said, "I am sure of it. The cost, the size and the stated purpose. They don't add up to me."

"If they don't add up to you, then I do not doubt they are hiding something," Mace said, "but what?"

"My guess would be something to do with Aliens, whether friendly or defence against not so friendly," Daedo said.

"Or a way for the rich and powerful to leave Earth quickly," Mace said ominously.

She sent a shiver up Daedo's spine. Surely not. Surely The Spirals intended purpose was not the escape, for the elite of humankind, from Earth.

"I need to get my mind off this Spiral, it is too distracting," Daedo announced. It did not matter what purpose it had, it did not affect him directly and worrying about it would achieve nothing.

Mace turned off the

"What are you up to before bed?" she asked.

"I think I will work on one of those math problems. That will take my mind away from The Spiral," he said.

Mace laughed. "I find them more depressing than conspiracy theories about Earth's impending doom. I will just get stuck into the launcher design," she said.

After a few minutes, she added, "you know I had an idea I wanted to run past you."

Daedo did not break from reading the four remaining math problems. He merely nodded with his helmet on so she knew he was listening.

"What if, instead of launching grenades, we launched small drones. If they could fly themselves, they could be launched from our back or shoulder even. This would leave our arms free for two grapplers," she said.

Daedo stopped what he was doing and opened his helmet.

"That is brilliant. I can see already that four hooks are not enough and we are only scratching the surface with the grapplers, Imagine using one and then another in tandem?" He proposed.

"Wow, I did not think of that, but I saw how effectively you were using the grappler in the Gauntlet, it was one of the reasons you beat my ," Mace replied.

"What sort of drones would we use? What ordnance, what , how are they powered, how do they fly, how much do they weigh and how are they controlled?" Daedo asked.

Mace her head on the table and laid her arms out , "I surrender!"

Daedo laughed. "Ok, too much, I know. Why don't we start with a basic design of one and see where that leads."

Mace smiled, "alright. But this will take time, we won't have anything ready for next week, nothing tried and tested at least."

"That's ok, we can use our current launcher or just use handheld grenades and mines manually for now. Do you know what weapon you will use next week?" he asked.

"If I can have two grapplers, carry a bunch of grenades and mines. I would just use a vibro sword," Mace said.

"That could work, you would be like a combat engineer who distracts and confuses the enemy. It would be the other's role to take them down. Unless of course, you got the drop on them and then you could use your vibro sword. I like it," Daedo said.

Mace nodded. "I will get to work on the first prototype drone."

"Make it manually controlled from our , for now, I can code something later," Daedo said. He could code something, or he and Myrmidon could. But what he was actually was Myrmidon controlling the drones using all his predictive and spatial awareness capability.

"My spatial awareness is not off the charts like yours," she said, "but I will do it. There is so much to work out already. What about power systems? Can your aunty help?"

"I am sure she will. Send her a message. Oh, she will ask regarding size, weight, required output and subsystems immediately," Daedo warned Mace.

"I never thought I would enjoy the Academy this much," Mace said quietly. It was one of the few times she shared and she usually only talked to Daedo. The other cadets were relegated to silence and one word or sentence answers from her.

Daedo her for a moment. Mace had pure white long hair when she allowed it to flow it went well past her shoulders. Her eyes were piercing blue, and she was short, only barely taller than him. Of all his squad members she was by far the most capable across all subjects. Whether it was physical, maths or piloting. She only ranked to him or Barran most of the time.

He looked at her and shared, "neither did I." Before a tiny smile broke on his face.

She reached out to touch his hand.

"Ok you two lovebirds," Barran announced as he barged into the common area. Mace pulled her hand back reflexively.

Barran looked at Mace's hand and then at Daedo blushing and laughed. "I was kidding kiddo," he said thumping Daedo on the back. "Although it is good to see I will have for the ladies. It is usually a chore when they all chase me and makes my friends jealous."

"Oh please," Vannier interrupted, "you wouldn't even know what to do with a lady." She paused and added , "Daedo there is someone here that wants to speak to us, and it really has to be you who has the final say."

Daedo looked at the door, and there was a member from Shu standing at the entrance to their quarters. He was tall, and his uniform possessed more blue patches than an M1 or Shu.

" to enter?" asked the Cadet formally.

"Granted," Vannier replied.

"Daedo is it?" the Cadet asked and received a nod, "I am Cadet Squad Leader of Shu Squad zero in M3, and my name is Sidarus."

"Daedo," Daedo said standing. The Shu M3 cadet was so formal it formed the tone of their

"I know you are busy, Vannier said as much, but I wanted to ask you something. We had been working with a Thoth squad from M3 purchasing upgrades for our exosuits, but after what I witnessed today, I am strongly considering giving you the contract. That is of course if you are interested?" Sidarus asked.

Daedo did not want to give their hard work and away. But on the other hand, they needed creds. Vannier's family were already filing patents for a few of their , but some would most likely not pass. And it would be ages before these patents turned into creds.

"Sure, but the devil is in the detail. We just expanded our manufacturing capability so we can produce more exos in a short , and we will want to maintain control and ownership over our There will be many on use narrowing it down to your arena combat and gauntlet exercises," Daedo said.

"I get it, you want to protect your IP," Sidarus said, "knowing you are open to I just wanted a meeting face to face to make our clear. So you know who I am and I am We can discuss all the details in correspondence, we really need the exo before the end of term tournament. So there is time, but not much."

"Do you mean eight weeks isn't much time?" Vannier asked confused.

"Yes," Sidarus said.

"We did this in a weekend," she said indicating her exo.

"No..." Sidarus said in utter disbelief. "Surely you have been working on this before entering the Academy?"

He received deadpan stares from Thoth squad zero.

"Fark," Sidarus "ok, then eight weeks is tonnes of time."

"You know the reactors alone are a thousand bitcreds," Barran said.

"You are not using standard reactors?" Sidarus asked.

"Nothing is standard," Barran bluffed. He actually did not know all the details, he usually made a point not to know them.

"Increased power efficacy is the of a good exo," Daedo added. "More power means more strength, larger and higher powered weapons and most importantly increased jumpjet runtime."

"Sold," Sidarus replied. Nothing was more important to the Shu squad leader as jump jets. "I will offer a price when I see the specs, and we can have the contract detail worked out by then."

"Exclusive or non-exclusive?" Barran asked.

"Ah…exclusive to M3?" Sidarus replied.

"Ooo, exclusive is so much more expensive," Barran informed the Shu squad leader. "I hope your parents are rich."

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