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Chapter 29 : 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

.

Master Nader arrived back in her office. She checked that all her anti- devices were working and had not intercepted any recent covert attempts.

Nader: AI Zeus. Please confirm secure environment and ready live for the following correspondence.

AI Zeus: yes Master. It will be encrypted before the bytes in memory are created. The recipient?

Nader: Carrier Birdsong; M10 system, Titan Lu.

AI Zeus: locating subspace transponder…mapping node jumps…recipient found…ready for message Master Nader.

Nader: Report, Ares Nader A544 - Commander Titan Lu. Two of the targeted humans have been collected into the earth training program under my direct Early results show targets meeting or exceeding projected development. Current analysis shows development path will be achieved without further on my part. To increase the rate estimate from 90 to 99% a further year will be required in this body. required: Move to body forty-two for further target or remain in this body to increase rate.

Minutes pass

Titan Lu: Ares Nader. Report Confirmed. Remain in situ; the external threat level is still high. Another asset is developing target humans in body forty-two. Report on local threat analysis and sign off.

Nader: Understood. Local threat is negligible. Ares Nader out.

AI Zeus: Correspondence secure Master.

Nader: AI Zeus, I have another task for you.

The time ticked over 1630, Daedo had scheduled PT during this , but due to the of the morning's obstacle course he was considering skipping it and if the Gauntlet was not required spending the rest of the evening coding and for the weekend's work.

Daedo: Myrmidon. I am going to check the Gauntlet now, can you alert me if the top ten rankings change from now, please.

Myrmidon: sure Daedo. If I run a result analysis, I would predict the likelihood of the cadets in the evening breaking into the top ten as less than a one percent probability. At the moment the highest rank participant that has not completed all ten attempts, excluding members of Thoth squad zero is twenty-nine. This cadet has not improved their by more than three percent per attempt. If they achieve their best improvement, their ranking will change by one.

Daedo: Thanks, Myrmidon. Once it goes past 1800, there is no point in worrying anymore.

Daedo pulled up the current table for Thoth squad zero and then the top ten table.

Gauntlet, R1 A9, Squad Rank, M1 Rank (1275)

Daedo, 252, 1, 1

Barran, 217, 6, 18

Gaumont, 140, 7, 823

Picard, 234, 4, 5,

Axelzero, 229, 5, 10

Vannier, 237, 3, 4

Mace, 240, 2, 2

.

Thoth Squad zero, after four attempts in their new exos, had four cadets in the top five and five in the top ten. After Daedo's first run he was able to improve steadily as he refined his skills and refined and practised his route.

.

Rank, Cadet, House,

1, Daedo, Thoth, 252

2, Mace, Thoth, 242

3, Lazard, Shu, 241

4, Vannier, Thoth, 237

5, Picard, Thoth, 234

6, Fortescue, Horus, 233

7, Paget-A, Horus, 232

8, Paget-L, Horus, 232

9, Gallois, Osiris, 230

10, Axelzero, Thoth, 229

.

There were two decimal associated with a which were used to rank cadets in the event of the same rounded It was notable that the performance by Thoth had pushed all Amun-Ra cadets out of the top ten.

Of all the cadets Daedo noted that Lazard, who was rank one for over a week, had an performance given that her exo was standard or close to it. The Paget twins who were both in Horus squad zero did not receive the name as they would have both been Pagetzero.

Picard and Mace caught up with Daedo who had decided to make his way to the Thoth gym after all.

"Daedo," Mace said, "you want to come with us today?"

Daedo squirmed a little. The two girls would beat each other with sticks in the hand-to-hand arena. And while they were good at it, he did not relish the idea. It was not the concern over an injury. The medical bay at the Academy was to none and quite capable of repairing anything from sprains to broken bones. It was the he would suffer at their hands, or as the case may be, sticks.

"You really should," Picard said. "Not only is the workout to none, but you also need to improve your movements. Especially if you are considering using a sword in an exo or a mech."

Daedo considered that he was quite proficient with a lance sword in CyberMech. More than proficient. Intellectually he understood the attack and parry maneuvers from the game as well as breathing. But she had a point, knowing what the move should be and being able to perform it precisely and efficiently were very different.

"Can I watch and you take me through a few exercises. I am still beat from this morning's run," Daedo replied.

"Put on your helmet and run an AR tute, that would the ideal start. I will send you a link," Mace advised.

Daedo donned his helmet and loaded the tute. In AR he could still see his stick, which was actually called a bo staff, and the arena including Mace and Picard. He could also see the virtual bo staff man which he was supposed to follow through practice maneuvers known as katas.

For the next forty-five minutes, he followed his virtual tutor over and over through the katas.

"You're looking good," Mace said as he finished, "I see no one has moved on the Gauntlet leaderboard. Still not running it tonight?"

"Yeah," he said, removing his helmet. "There is no need. This was helpful though, I really feel if I keep practising with this staff it will improve my sword work."

"You can do this for years and not master it," Picard said, "I am still learning."

"I think if you are about melee weapons it is essential training," Mace said, "if you were to use a cestus, there are many forms of hand-to-hand to practice as well."

"I am wondering how well it to a mech," Daedo pondered out loud before shaking his head. "Even if you can't perform the moves in a mech it is invaluable, the instincts, the insight and we are physically training anyway. It is more efficient to learn a skill while working our muscles."

"All true. So you will join us from now on?" Mace asked.

"1630 Monday to Friday?" Daedo asked. Although his schedule was regimented to the minute in forty-five minute blocks, it was not true for all the cadets. However, out of all his squadmates, Mace and Picard were the most disciplined.

"It's a date!" Mace said chuckling.

"A date where we beat you with sticks," Picard cracked a rare joke and smile. She pantomimed hitting him with her staff.

"Dinner?" Mace asked, and she received nods all around.

"Dinner then I get stuck into this coding," Daedo said.

"What are you coding?" Picard asked as they walked back to their quarters. They rarely ate dinner in the M1 cafeteria, they usually ate it in their quarters due to the Gauntlet and Arena they had each evening starting at 1800.

"We have quite a few, almost a hundred, different designs to test for the exo. So we don't have to do everything manually, I am writing a program for the bots to prepare each design, test and the results. It is complicated because not only are there differences in the design there are differences in the materials used. Also while I can use my Father's coding as a for the manufacturing processes, there is nothing for the testing regime. I have to write that from scratch," Daedo answered.

"Wow, you are really testing a hundred different designs?" Picard asked, "that's amazing. Oh and thanks for writing the railgun barrel algorithm for us."

"No problem. And yes, while our first works quite well, that was just what I cooked up from ideas. I really do not know if a thicker or thinner tubing works better. I don't know if a certain polymer is better or carbon fibre. And then there is the to different weapons, nanocarbon may be best with high-speed rounds from a railgun, but ceramics may be better with bolts. The results from testing will guide the eventual design we use," Daedo

Mace grabbed his head and pretended to look into through his eyes and into his brain, "are you sure you are twelve? You sound like you are forty-two." She tapped his head to the true Daedo to reveal himself.

Daedo pushed her away gently, "yes I am sure I am twelve. You of all people can't talk. Most of the time I think you are a wise old woman." He laughed as she pouted at being called old.

Picard walked on ahead a couple of paces and whistled quietly to herself. She then whispered, "why do I feel like a third wheel?"

"Oh come on Picard, we are just friendly squaddies. No need to get all ," Mace talked much more than usual. She was slowly coming out of her shell with her squadmates. Although Daedo was present and he was usually the catalyst for her being social.

They arrived back to their common room, but before Daedo had a chance to start his meal, he was summoned.

"Cadet Daedo. My office now," Master Nader announced and her door opened. It had been almost a week since his last summons. Master Nader did not intervene, nor as often as he first thought she would.

"Sit," she ordered, and he complied.

"Two things," she said with her synthetic voice. "You are now officially squad leader of Thoth squad zero, which grants you certain privileges and responsibilities. Also, you have the added honour of being the leader for the entire M1 Thoth core, being the squad leader of zero. In this, your conduct, performance and leadership will come under the most scrutiny. I should not have to spell out what that means."

Daedo nodded. He was not enamoured with the thought of being a squad leader. But it seemed he had little choice, and he had the luxury of Vannier's assistance in the areas he was weakest and disliked.

" What have you done about security?" Master Nader asked.

Daedo was shocked for a moment. Why would he have to worry about security? Weren't they cadets in an Academy? Wasn't that the responsibility of the Academy staff?

"I can see by the results of this afternoons attempted and the look on your face that you have done nothing," Master Nader lectured.

Daedo became concerned. He had an idea where this was going.

"This afternoon an attempt was made to gain to your modified light exo. And when I say , I am certain the attempt was to steal them all. Fortunately for you, I keep tight security and the robots responsible were apprehended before they gained to your rooms and storage," Master Nader informed him.

Daedo was about to speak, and she held up here hand for silence.

"Just listen cadet. The robot's code will be dissected we will find out where they were going and who is responsible. But you. You need to establish a security regime now, here and especially at your premise off campus where you do not have the luxury of a live-in security agent by default," Master Nader said.

"You need to think about security not only for your physical assets, but your digital ones as well. And lastly you need to put in measures to protect your person," Master Nader finished.

"Protect me?" he said confused. He understood her well enough, it was just that someone would wish him harm.

"You are in a different world now cadet. Some people take these Academy rankings very And it will be good practice for when you are involved in inter Academy conflicts. Imagine what DaVinci, Svarski or Huawei could do if you threatened them? A drop in ranking and face could cost them literally of bitcreds," Master Nader had not finished.

She leaned closer to him, and her synthetic voice said softly, "I may not always be there to protect you, you need to develop this skill as well."

It was all too much for Daedo. He had his hands full creating a new exo, attempting complex math problems, leading his squadmates in their development and now taking on the role as not only squad leader, but the pseudo-leader of House Thoth. To be hit with the added pressure to protect himself and his from outside attacks, it was too much.

"Breath cadet," Master Nader said. "Break it down into small tasks. Complete those tasks, and I will assess. There is no need to stress over this."

"Easy for you to say," Daedo showed a rare sign of disrespect and lack of composure.

Master Nader smiled, "everything is easy to say Cadet Daedo. Easy to say and hard to do."

She reminded him of his Philosophy tute this very day. Had his Philosophy Chief foreseen what was coming? Or was it a coincidence. And was Master Nader watching him so closely she was privy to every detail of his tute?

Daedo stood.

"Very well Master Nader. I will have a in before returning on Sunday evening," he stated.

"Good Squad Leader. I expect nothing less. Send me the details as soon as you have them, dismissed." Master Nader replied.

Daedo saluted and left her office. It was unusual for her to offer assistance. Up until this event she had preached self-reliance and there would be no help coming from her. On that, she had been very clear.

Daedo: what do you think about that?

Myrmidon: I am intrigued and angry at the same time. Whoever would dare hurt you will have me to deal with.

Daedo: Do you actually feel angry?

Myrmidon: I have no context to compare. What I feel is committed to and of the highest

Daedo: she digital attacks. We need to secure our data. Not just our and designs, but you as well.

Myrmidon: can I talk to my friends on the net for advice on this? They are extremely adept at hiding and fooling systems.

Daedo: yes. But I wonder what we have from them.

Myrmidon: the same as your squaddies. There are some we will have to trust. Can we survive trusting no one?

Daedo: if your assessment is they can be trusted I trust you. But that does not mean we should not take all measures to protect ourselves from harm.

Myrmidon: understood. And squad leader.

Daedo: I am not sure are in order. Perhaps

Myrmidon was now monitoring movement through the quarters, matching known of the squad members against anybody he sensed moving. If they did not match or were a robot, he would alert or wake Daedo and send an alert to the rest of the squad.

Daedo sent a message out to the entire squad requesting a meeting at 2100. Right after their arena practice matches.

Daedo used the two arena to practice with a large lance sword. He attempted to the moves he had learned earlier in the day with marginal

Due to their exos, the squad waltzed through the two Without wanting to give away tactics, they would use next week they drilled certain teamwork aspects. And Barran, who had his upgraded heavy exo for the first time took every opportunity to smash his opponents. Its armour rating stayed at the default value as it had not been tested and updated in the AR specs. But his speed, strength and agility had all increased significantly.

Even with safety measures in , he ended up bruising the when he used twin cestus and went into melee. Barran was not adept at pulling punches or showed little to do so.

When the was complete, they back to their quarters while still wearing their exos.

"You are right, this reactor sucks. It would be awesome if I could use the jumpjets more to get into melee faster," Barran said excitedly. The time where he was most vulnerable was when he was closing the distance. His style did not facilitate many ambushes or use of cover. He conducted a very direct charge towards his opponent. Which was great for putting them under pressure or for Daedo using him as a However, he took a lot of fire while closing the distance.

"They are so many improvements it needs, too many to list," Daedo replied.

"Oh yeah? Like what?" Barran asked.

" like two mini jump jets on your elbows, if you want to continue to use a cestus. We need to improve the agility and speed further. The grappler needs a power upgrade to handle the weight of the heavy. You could also carry some sort of shield for when you are closing to melee and then drop it or stow it depending on the technology," Daedo said. "That's for starters."

"I am ready to take on my sister now!" Barran

"You will need the armour value recalibrated and updated in the AR program first. This suit can take a lot more punishment than the standard," Daedo added.

Thoth squad zero arrived back at their quarters, it had been a long week, and most of them were looking forward to the weekend.

"You called a meeting?" Vannier asked while she ensured all the squad were in attendance, not allowing any to leave or stay in their rooms.

"Yes. We have a few items to cover before we break for the weekend," Daedo informed his squad.

Myrmidon: there is an emergency message from Cisse. I know you normally ignore them, but this is important.

Daedo: what is it?

Myrmidon: there has been a break-in at the workshop, and your Father has been injured. He was just rushed to the hospital when his called for medical assistance.

"Shit!" Daedo yelled.

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