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Chapter 36 : 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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Karine Fortescue lay in misery for three full as the AR bot spouted system messages with the results of the Arena match. This fight did not count for anything. No points, no rankings, not even grades. But it showed her exactly how far she had to go before being able to fulfil the wishes of her family and company.

The board of directors of the Fortescue Group, the Group company which owned hundreds of smaller entities, had directed her and given the appropriate backing to bring the Academy out of Tier 3.

Twenty years ago it was a Tier 2 Academy and after the departure of her Father. It struggled to stay in Tier 2 until it finally and was demoted. While forty years ago, when the Tier system was introduced, and the mech games began, it was a Tier 1 Academy. It had fallen far where new entities, such as DaVinci, who did not exist forty years ago, had the company started by her ancestors over a hundred and fifty years ago.

The board, with half its constituents her family , had given her this directive. As a lineage family member herself, she was expected to excel. It wasn't until her father had left the Academy over twenty years ago that it fell and he, for one, thought she was capable of bringing it back up.

The honour was great, but the responsibility weighed heavily upon her.

It was only M1, and they had a long way to go. The was to start winning the M categories in M2 or at least challenge, and anything but an inter-Academy win in M3 would be a failure. This in itself would not advance them into Tier 2, but it would give the Upper Academy Cadets every opportunity to do so as the M category attributed forty percent of the points.

The cadets had gathered outside of the arena, her team had not said a word on comms. Only Paget-A had sent a few in text form while Raoult was discussing different loadouts with herself.

Fortescue looked at Daedo for the first time. He was shorter than her, and she wasn't very tall to begin with. He had dark hair closely cropped it was hard to know if it was curly or straight when it grew. His skin was olive or tanned, she wasn't sure. She expected the former, he didn't seem the type to get a lot sun or to colour his skin. She didn't know where he was from, probably the Mediterranean.

He had lost much of the baby fat around his face. She had reviewed all the cadets who tested well, and she recalled he did not look fit. But in only a few weeks at the Academy, he had worked hard physically to improve his ranking, and it showed on his face at least.

She could not make out the colour of his eyes, they were bright, but they weren't green or brown. Probably hazel, she thought.

"Good game," she said to the Thoth squad trying to effect a smile. They all had their helmets off and looked at her expectantly. She wondered what they were thinking, 'did they think she would break down crying or scream at them?'

She would give them no such Karine Fortescue hardened her resolve. She would beat this squad when it mattered. At the week ten tournament. Until then she would reset, and prepare. She may even need to swap out a couple of cadets from her reserves in squad one and two.

As Daedo held out his hand for a shake, she took it and looked him in the eyes. He had surprised her, but he would not do so again. She tried to affect her most steely gaze for him.

"Let me know where to send the 1k creds," she said after they shook. She would be in defeat.

"Axelzero will text you the details," Daedo answered. He didn't look nervous in her presence like most boys did. He acted more like an adult than the average M1 cadet. Most boys were like Gaumont, a quivering mess or Barran all bravado covering very little substance beneath.

"Shall we do this again next week?" Daedo asked her a querying look on his face.

"What?" she said.

"Per the terms of our agreement," Daedo answered.

"Oh," Fortescue answered, "let me think on it. Paget-A will text you." She finished copying him by not deigning to do any contact herself. She sent the agreement to their legal admin for immediate review.

The exchange had been and to her liking until Barran spoke.

"I'd like to do it again next week," he said grinning and winking at the Paget twins.

Fortescue moaned inwardly, privately texting her squad not to react to any baiting. They should know, but she wanted to ensure they understood her views on the matter. The only response possible was to turn on her heel and leave with dignity. Showing her back to Thoth zero.

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"Really, Barran," Picard said disparagingly. "Is everything a joke with you?"

Barran looked confused as he the Probably because he did view everything with his own sense of humour. Eventually, he nodded.

"Yes," he said smiling sweetly at Picard, "yes it is."

"What happened to foxing them?" Mace asked Daedo as they began to walk back to their quarters.

"Good ," he answered. The initial strategy was they were intending to lose this match. They would not show the improvements they had made to the exos. But this went out the window with the Gauntlet results. In fact, it would have been incredibly hard to use the old slow exo, he was not that disciplined let alone convincing everyone else to do it.

In the end, none of it probably mattered, Daedo surmised. Fortescue had thrown their best at them and come up short. How were they going to improve their Heavy exo when it was the best they could do after years of RnD. Where Daedalus was just getting started. Between his squaddies, Cisse, his Father and Myrmidon they would continue to advance their exo and their weapons.

"They could always bring seven PPCs to the week ten tournament," Mace added.

Daedo moaned. The weapon was off the charts. "Let's just hope they are too expensive or there is only one prototype ;

"How can they be too expensive? You realise we are talking about the Fortescue group," Mace replied.

She was correct the group company had of creds worth of assets. A few PPCs was not a problem if Horus squad zero had their backing.

"We need a countermeasure," Daedo said finally.

Mace nodded.

"An ion shield could reduce or nullify a bolt," Daedo was thinking out loud.

"Which would require a massive amount of energy," Mace replied. Ion shields were used on spaceships, and the energy requirement was not astronomical. A Spaceship could have a cold reactor the size of their quarters. But an exo suit reactor was compact and light. It barely had the power to run their jumpjets and hydraulics let alone an shield capable of nullifying a bolt.

"Step one; new reactor. Step two; ion shield. Simple," Daedo said.

Mace did not reply, she just laughed.

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They only had seven weeks before the end of term tournament. He had no time to waste. Daedo called Cisse, a sure sign of his

Daedo: Cisse.

Cisse: Oh what do I owe this pleasure? Everything ok?

Cisse sounded happy at first and then worried.

Daedo: everything is fine. I wanted to discuss bringing you on board at Daedalus as soon as possible and get you to work building new cold reactors for the exos. After that, we can begin on the ZPE prototype.

Cisse: it's not easy dropping everything. Why the urgency?

Daedo: we have a tournament in week ten.

Cisse laughed over the comms.

Cisse: So you want me to leave the company I have been with for fifteen years. Work for a new startup owned by kids and do so immediately because you have a coming up?

Daedo: yes.

There was no point fluffing the truth as Cisse would either do it or not. She knew them and the background behind the company. She had basically asked to join them in the hospital.

Cisse: ok I'm in. But I want those shares you promised.

Daedo: I will get them approved and Axelzero will send the contract over to you tomorrow.

Daedo called a meeting of the Daedalus shareholders. They happened to all reside within twenty meters of his room.

Vannier, Axelzero, Mace and Barran all took seats at the table in their quarters. Picard leaned up against a wall, although she wasn't a shareholder she was still part of the squad and the broader team.

"So what did you want to discuss?" Axelzero said in a friendly manner.

"We need to restructure a little and bring in two employees. I wanted you all aware, and hopefully, we all agree," Daedo said.

"When you say restructure a little what do you mean exactly?" Vannier asked.

"We need to offer the employees shares, not much, but some to come across to us," Daedo said.

"That's easy," Barran replied. "You may think of it as a percentage, but you actually have five thousand five hundred shares, and I have three thousand. Vannier, Axelzero and Mace have five hundred shares each. All you need to do is issue the employee a number of shares. Say you give them ten. The percentages will realign themselves."

"Oh, that's how it works," Daedo said.

"Yeah," Barran said acting all

"You did learn something from your private tutor. I thought you just rode bikes and ," Vannier Barran.

"Hey, I may be pretty, but I am not stupid," Barran retorted.

"People who loudly they aren't stupid usually are," Axelzero teased.

All the girls laughed, but Barran didn't bite.

"What are the ; Mace asked.

"My Father as a general manager of the workshop and Cisse to design and build new reactors," Daedo answered.

The squad looked incredulous. "They are willing to work for us?" Vannier asked finally.

"For Daedalus. They see the opportunity," Daedo said. They probably were doing it just for him, but his squad seemed to think there were massive opportunities with their developments and

"How many shares should we offer?" Vannier asked.

"Two hundred," Axelzero said.

"That's too much," Barran replied.

"What do you think Daedo and what will they want?" Vannier asked.

"I think they will anything from ten. I just want it to be fair. We will need to offer them the same," Daedo replied.

"Then we offer ten," Barran said.

"No," Axelzero said. "They are highly skilled, and we want them to do well. The more they do we all benefit. I think we should offer fifty shares at least."

Vannier nodded. Mace nodded.

"Ok it's agreed, we will offer them fifty shares," Daedo said. "Their is small, we will just pay them what they are getting now."

"What about Picard?" Vannier turned to look at Picard who shook her head vehemently.

"I think we should give her fifty shares for as she is in charge of physical and gunnery training," Daedo added the responsibilities in the hope they would swing her to He did not like having Gaumont , and the fact that Picard did not have shares in Daedalus was a small issue. One which was easily rectified.

"Picard come over here and take a seat," Vannier asked.

Reluctantly Picard took a seat in between Vannier and Axelzero. She had not said yes, but she also had not said no.

"I know you are independent and you don't want charity. But we want everyone to be involved in Daedalus. Even bloody Gaumont. You will earn these shares. So…?" Vannier asked Picard.

"Ok, ok," Picard finally relented. They had been pushing it with her since they started the process of purchasing the workshop.

"They are just shares. Unless Daedalus actually makes a profit, they are probably worthless," Axelzero said.

No one the fact they owned the building and that even if the company did not have a value land was always worth something.

"Ok, what's next?" Barran asked.

"Contracts," Daedo said. "Axelzero can you handle that?"

She nodded, "just send me the details."

"Anything else?" Barran asked after a moment of silence.

"Other than getting back to study, designing exo parts and running a company?" Vannier replied with a

"No," Daedo said standing. "Let's get stuck into it. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time." Especially him.

Daedo went into his room and reviewed his task list. They were now in round two with a new obstacle course and Gauntlet. He would apply strategies to these as he did in round one and continue his physical improvement including melee training with his squad.

He had all his normal tutes to complete, which were not a problem, but they did take time. His had to redesign the exo from the test results and retest. On top of all that he would attempt to solve the Zero Point Energy math problem.

It was week three of a ten-week term. The first two weeks seemed like half a year. But at least now he had a clear He had spent much of the first two weeks finding his way. Daedo was not surprised to receive a message from Master Nader ordering a round one review. He had not the death of the Osiris Master and wondered how he would handle facing Nader with that in the back of his mind.

He took a sonic shower and got back into his bodysuit. Master Nader gave a fifteen-minute notice, enabling Daedo to spend that time preparing.

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Daedo was half expecting Vannier to be invited to the meeting with Master Nader as well, or was that wishful thinking. He was alone.

"Cadet," Master Nader said with her robotic voice. It always sounded stern. "sit." There was a stool in front of her desk. She half sat on a stool, that was probably how she worked.

"I want you to review the Arena match tactics used tonight and send me the report by 2300 tomorrow," Nader ordered.

Daedo just nodded. She could have sent a message to that effect.

"I have reviewed your for your workshop and approve unofficially. I wanted to inform you that there were moves to prevent your continued work offsite. This interference has been prevented by the Commander, and your offsite work can continue. Do not do anything which will cause the Commander to reassess. I would not normally inform you of the behind the scenes bureaucratic politics, but it affects you directly. If an or incident were to you need to know that there will be These will be out of my control."

Daedo just nodded again.

"Is there anything I can assist you with?" Master Nader asked.

This surprised Daedo. She had never offered help before.

"No Master Nader," Daedo replied. He would keep her out of their as much as he could for someone who was their direct and House Master.

"Very well," she replied.

He wondered if that was a test.

"I would like to bring your to the House Rankings. Despite your efforts, House Thoth is ranked third behind Horus and Osiris in M1. This is because the House rankings are based on the results of all cadets in the house. It includes merits and demerits, academic results and it will be greatly influenced by tournament results at the end of the term."

Daedo nodded.

"I would also like to bring your to the fact that these rankings do not matter. The only thing that really matters is that you continue to improve your tech and your combat performance," Master Nader stated.

Daedo was surprised again.

"You mean you don't care about the rankings?" he asked for

"I only care about one thing Cadet. Winning the war," she replied.

"But we aren't at war," he said.

"Aren't we?" she replied

He thought about it. There was no news, no announcements about a war. But the whole world was building up as if it was in one. The military academies, the public and private armies, the push into space.

"To my knowledge, we are not officially at war," he stated. Maybe she would volunteer more

"You have an excellent mindset, and I wanted to support it by telling you something," Master Nader said. She was being again. She acted like she was him.

He sat there expectantly. There was no reason to speak.

"You must think we are at war. It is your to prepare your people and technology. All the games, the tournaments. These are This is what you must think. It is more than merely winning an arena match," Master Nader stated ominously.

Daedo was not sure if she was or merely trying to distract him from the death of Master Ustinov. If he thought that Master Ustinov's death was necessary and in the scheme of the survival of humanity He would not inform on Master Nader.

He decided to test Master Nader for a change. It was usually him being tested by her.

"More than the life of a Master at the Academy?" Daedo asked provocatively.

He was Master Nader could not stare. She always wore her helmet. She was silent a moment, and her reply sent chills up his spine.

"Most certainly," she said.

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