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Chapter 33 : M1 - Term: 1, Round: 2

Daedalus

Attendance at Fortescue Military Academy M1 Y:2142

House Thoth, Squad Leader, Squad Zero

M1 Rank: 1/1275, Tier 3 M-Rank: Null

Term: 1, Round: 2

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Most of the Thoth squad zero cadets had been adjusting their schedule to attend physical training and meals at the same time as Daedo. Mace, Axelzero and Picard. Their sleep patterns were already due to the timing of the group exercises. Apart from Daedo's afternoon forty-five-minute power nap. Not all the Cadets were able to shut their eyes and switch off as quickly.

Daedo was quite with this routine, as were most of Thoth squad zero. Even Gaumont spared little downtime for , although the others had no idea what he did on weekends.

Only Barran seemed to have activities which were spontaneous and numerous. Barran's schedule was the opposite of Picard's, who was regimented to the minute. He basically worked on what he felt like, and as he learned Daedo's routine, he fit those in with the Academy's scheduled activities. Otherwise, he worked on whatever took his fancy or nothing at all.

Most of the squad used meals and physical training to And although their weekends were busy with their projects, there was still much time for in the testing arena, gunnery range or just socializing. Once the robots had their designs, there was a of time before the finished product was ready for testing.

The cadets adapted games to the testing arena. Games which were not only fun but improved their skills. The favourites were red rover and brandy. Although they were too old for these games, there was a different level of intensity when you them in an exo at full pace. Picard, who had voluntarily taken on the responsibility, was restocking the first aid kit on a weekly basis. The cadets were using so much bruise repair gel that they went through three month's supply in a week.

Thoth squad zero were in the M1 cafeteria, or mess as Picard liked to call it. They rotated between it and their quarters for breakfast.

"You go to the range next right?" Barran asked Daedo.

"Yeah, my mornings are pretty much identical up until 0900," Daedo replied.

"Got it, Obstacle, PT, shower, eat and then range?" Barran said his

"It took you to week three to work this out?" Picard asked Barran.

"mm," he said while taking a mouthful of vegetables. "I didn't need to know. But now I do," he replied.

"Why do you need to know now, all of a sudden?" Picard asked.

"Because I take my responsibilities ," Barran at Picard insinuating that she didn't. Which was because everyone knew she took her responsibilities a little too She asked her squadmates to report any time they used an item from the First Aid kit at the workshop, although the kit had its own inbuilt reporting feature. Her argument was she needed a level of oversight.

"So you are going to shadow Daedo?" Mace asked Barran.

"Yes. His head has all the important , he is our squad leader, and he is the smallest and weakest," Barran

"Why thank you Barran," Daedo responded with a hint of sarcasm. No one liked being called small and weak. Daedo training with his Bo Staff extra hard so he could give Barran some bruises….one day…in the distant future.

A group of Cadets from Thoth squad fourteen presented at squad zero's table. One of the downsides to eating in the cafeteria, which was easily by the excellent cooking, were the Which seemed to be getting more frequent.

"Ah," said one cadet with rank 832 on his chest, "we saw you in the rankings. Um congrats," said the cadet. Another added, "yeah, good luck tonight. We will be cheering for ya."

The first one, rank 832 asked, "where do you guys go every weekend. We never see you around?"

"Confidential dipshit, now piss off. Can't you see we're eating?" Barran answered.

Daedo: tone it down. No need for the put-down. That's not how we operate.

Barran: sorry. I'll try and be nicer.

Daedo directly messaged Barran as to not embarrass him in front of anyone. Face was extremely important to him.

Barran stood and skirted squad fourteen as they had turned to leave. "Look, I'm sorry. We are under a bit of pressure and have been under some attacks. We don't want anyone to know where we go on weekends. Ok." Barran then patted his head like he was a small child, although they were the same age rank 832 wasn't upset by the gesture.

Another two cadets approached their table, they were from Horus squad two. Everyone tensed. It was possible that Horus were behind the break-in, only Mace and Daedo thought they knew otherwise.

The one to speak was the squad leader of Horus two, she was rank eighteen which was an excellent result for someone in a squad. She spoke in a low voice as if she was worried someone would overhear, "ah hi. I just wanted to wish you luck tonight. You'd be doing us all a big favour if you beat those arrogant arseholes. That's it. I won't disturb you further." She turned left with her squadmate.

"She was hot, do any of you know her?" Barran asked the girls in his squad.

"Geez Barran," Picard said, "she is out of your league."

"How could she be? I am in the top league babe," Barran replied with a confident grin.

"I don't think it would go down well if you suddenly got a Horus girlfriend," Vannier added. "Even one who seems to be on our side. You are head of security remember? You cannot be trapped by a honeypot from the enemy."

"Damn. I didn't think of that!" Barran thumping the table with a pained on his face.

All the girls in the squad laughed at Barran. He was so easy to tease if you knew which buttons to press and they were learning. Well, most of them, Picard had no idea.

The continued throughout the rest of the day. Either or to beat Horus. Or both. After Gunnery the squad kept to their quarters. It was the only they could work or eat in peace.

<break>

"So," Fortescue greeted Thoth squad zero. They were half expecting or an egotistical from her. She was by the Paget twins Aline and , who, as they were both in squad zero went by Paget-A and Paget-L. They were equally ranked in the Gauntlet and the obstacle course. However, in the overall rank, Aline was considerably ahead of her sister.

Although twins, they were not identical. They were born at the same time, had the same height, and were sisters. However, Aline had auburn hair, and had very short blonde hair. If Daedo were to guess Aline was intelligent and aggressive, based on their looks, stances and rankings.

Raoult, a tall red-haired girl, appeared to be a female of Barran. She was rank two in the obstacle course, beating Barran by ten full Daedo that she must be well rounded as she ranked in the top ten overall where Barran was twenty-two. Which indicated brains beneath her brawn.

Horus had five girls and two boys, it was almost gender one-sided. Thoth squad zero had four girls and three boys.

Daedo stood facing Karine Fortescue, she was taller than him and wearing a pristine heavy exo. It looked like it just came out of a showroom. He doubted one part was from the original standard model. He also doubted whether her squad developed anything themselves. He did not care, it was not against the rules to purchase or substitute parts. You were supposed to use any means at hand to win. There was no such thing as a cheat in war.

His homemade exo looked rough around the edges in comparison. They had put no effort into looks, he was entirely focused on and performance.

"Thank you for giving us this opportunity," Daedo said. He and Vannier had workshopped a few lines, with possible responses. This line was a test if they came back with an arrogant answer he was ready to serve them.

"Oh, the honour is all ours," Fortescue said with a hint of sarcasm. "I did not realise what we were up against when we made our little bet. But your rankings and our research have shone the light on what will be an interesting test of our skill."

Fortescue sounded confident of the without using arrogant She called a thousand bitcreds a little wager, to Daedo, it was what you could buy a house for. And that did not seem the least to him, not even with his recent earnings. And not when he considered most people he CyberMech against. It was a small fortune.

She also eluded to the fact that they had researched his squad and by it meant they significance on it. Daedo could decipher much by dissecting her words. He did not think he would enjoy Studies, but it, in the end, it was like a strategy game. And those he loved.

"We haven't had time to research you at all. We've been too busy building our own exo," Daedo emphasis on the word own to imply his wasn't handed to him on a silver "I see your name is Fortescue, are you to the people the Academy was named after in any way?"

Fortescue laughed at his joke. He wondered if she would laugh if she knew he didn't know her at all until he was told after their bet.

He had enough verbal jousting with the spoilt rich kid. Barran was funny, but this chick just thought she was better than everyone.

"Shall we begin? We are now in our slot," Daedo stated.

"It will not take long," Fortescue's arrogance came out at last. They had the arena for forty-five minutes, and the was a survival match. Which meant once you were killed in the match you were out. Theoretically, the match could be over in minutes if one squad died quickly. "See you inside Daedalus," she finished her sentence, turned to enter from the B end of the Arena with her squad.

One by one her squad sent a disparaging look towards their opponents before turning to follow their leader. It was no surprise that Fortescue had the House rank one with the S by its side.

"Is it a prerequisite to being an arrogant arsehole to get into Horus squad zero?" Axelzero asked no one in

"I know right," Barran Everyone just looked at him, and he said, "what?" He was clueless to the fact that he was their arrogant arsehole.

Before entering the Arena, Daedo turned around. He could hear quite a bit of noise which was unusual. Behind his squad, with a small amount of space as a buffer, were approximately two hundred cadets from different M1 houses. Most were from Thoth, but others were present as well. They filled the foyer area and the passageway leading to the Arena.

These cadets could view the stream from anywhere, but they had chosen to come to the physical Arena. Did they want to see the ongoings from outside?

Barran and the rest of his squad turned to see what he was looking at.

"Oh, you didn't know we had an audience?" Barran asked.

"I now know what it feels like to be Daedalus," Mace said jokingly.

Daedo shook his head at her and brought his finger to his lips. He had sworn his squad to secrecy regarding his identity within CyberMech.

Mace smiled sadly at him, "they know. Everyone knows." She brought up a post from the FMA Cadet news feed. 'M1 Horus take on Daedalus from CyberMech.'

Vannier: I don't think this was a good time to show him that.

Mace: ack, sorry.

Daedo sensed the private exchange from the body language and the minute flurry of activity on their comms.

"Nevermind," he said, "I think I know who did this and we will just have to show them what Daedalus is made of."

It was not a betrayal. Fortescue had not promised to keep his secret. But he could not help but feel the releasing the was meant to harm him in some way.

Daedo was not angry, he was determined. He would not let his anger get in the way of his strategic thinking, but he would allow it to focus his desire to smash them to a whole nother level.

Daedo: Gaumont lead Barran in same as we drilled. You are his shield. I want him to reach melee with the enemy unharmed. That is your role.

Gaumont: aye.

Although Gaumont never participated in voluntary group activities and kept to his own schedule. He had never shirked his role in the Arena. Daedo was now officially squad leader, and Gaumont did not give him a surly attitude when ordered to throw his life away. Maybe there was hope for him.

Daedo: Mace, Axelzero we will trail the heavies, twenty meters, one block. Parallel running with Axelzero in the centre. Mace left

They had drilled different , and there would be individual use of cover and height. But effectively the three would move forward in a line twenty meters behind Barran, ready to engage once he did. But out of sight until that The field was an urban environment, by running parallel each would have their own street.

Vannier and Picard would be at the rear with their long-range weapons. The strategy was that everyone would be at max range of the enemies vanguard at the same time.

Daedo: Vannier, Picard. Height is might. Pick your spots. Ensure you keep Barran in range at all times.

Daedo and Mace had grenade launchers, they were medium-range weapons. But they also had swords on their backs. Ready to strike at melee if the opportunity arose. Axelzero had dual pistols. The railgun of a shotgun was not ready. If all went to it would be ready for the tournament at the end of the term. Until then and until the grapplers were significantly improved or the drones were ready. Mace and Daedo would use a grenade launcher.

If they used this loadout all term, their opponents would be caught unawares when they switched to the short range, large round, railgun during the end of term tournament.

The orders were sparse. But the squad had drilled against Shu and Thoth squad two repeatedly over the last two weeks. Individually practising their roles and group maneuvres.

Gaumont still used the And he would use its fire and smoke, although it was AR, to obscure the line of their approach. It was hard to see past bright powered The enemy would know their , but not their exact if they strafed slightly.

Gaumont was still wearing the standard heavy. Daedo did not mind, when he dropped quickly, the enemy may be fooled into thinking that Barran would drop under the same amount of damage.

The armour value of a standard heavy was eighty. Barran's heavy was tested in the morning and received a of one hundred and ten. Daedo's one light received a of fifty, which was excellent when compared to the standard light which had an armour value of twenty.

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Exo Stats

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Type, Strength Factor (X), Armour Value, Mobility Factor (X), JumpJet (s)

Standard Mesh, 1.2, 10, 1.5, 45

Standard Light, 1.5, 20, 1.25, 30

Standard Medium, 2, 40, 1, 30

Standard Heavy, 5, 80, 0.8, 30

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Daedo Light v1, 3, 50, 1.6, 45

Barran Heavy v1, 8, 110, 1.2, 45

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The aim of the design for Barran's heavy was to improve its mobility at the expense of strength and armour value. This would allow Barran to engage in melee and maximise his natural speed rather than hamper it. Due to the materials and the inherent nature of the fibre tubing it was still stronger and had better armour value than the standard, but its improvement was not as large as the light in this regard.

Even with Cisse's homemade cold reactor inserted into their exos they still only had forty-five of runtime for every five minutes of That number was a , it actually could not run for forty-five continuously, the capacitors and were not large enough to allow forty-five of running in forty-five

They could run almost ten every minute. The runtime number of forty-five was to how all the exo datasheets were presented. As a number of over five minutes.

Horus squad must have activated the ready signal because when Daedo hit the figurative button the countdown to commencement started immediately.

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Amber, Green.

The seven exos flew out from the starting They immediately panned out with the of Barran and Gaumont who headed directly south. Towards the enemies starting The rest of the squad gained height to survey and the map while the heavies gained ground.

After Daedo reached the top of the closest tall building, he looked across the Arena. As it was the start of round two, it was a new design, and while they had reports from squads who attended the arena during the day as well as streams, this was his first time seeing it firsthand.

Daedo: Heavies, keep cover before the centre square. Do not enter. Aim for the south-west corner of the square. If the enemy has not been sighted, we will circle the western boundary. Mace, go to the western boundary, you will protect and their Axelzero shadow the Heavies, keep one street west of their

Daedo wanted to avoid the Killzone that was the square. It was too open, and if the enemy was stupid enough to enter that area, Vannier and Picard would pick them off before they could find cover. He doubted the enemy was stupid. They would either take the east side or the west side. Just as his squad had.

Barran: contact. They are all on the buildings on the south side of the square. I can see seven. We are in cover. They haven't seen us yet.

Shots began to ring out. Which indicated the heavies had been seen.

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