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Chapter 39 : M1 - Term: 1, Round: 4

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: 4

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It was round four, and Thoth squad zero had increased their stranglehold on the M1 rankings. They now had four cadets in the top ten. Mace had moved from rank three to rank two. Vannier had moved to rank four. This gave the squad three cadets out of the top four, in M1, with only Karine Fortescue breaking in at rank three.

Barran had improved his Gauntlet tremendously when he was able to use the two heavy. He moved up from the overall rank of twenty-two in round one to nine in round three. It was not only the Gauntlet, but he was also inspired to do well in his Academic subjects. His overall rank reflected his high achievements in physical and combat which were not impacted by his academic results due to his improvement in this area.

With Picard at rank eleven, Axelzero at rank fourteen and Gaumont jumping from rank thirty-five down to rank the entire squad were all in the top twenty cadets of M1.

It was 0550, and the squad walked as a group to the obstacle course. Daedo in the lead with Vannier on his shoulder, with her orange hair and height, it would be easy to overlook Daedo. Behind the pair were Mace and Picard, followed by Gaumont and Axelzero with Barran bringing up the rear.

The tallest cadet took his role of security and always took the rear when they walked as a squad.

As always they wore their bodysuits with helmets either donned or attached to their upper back. Daedo's shoulders were all white, due to his rank, the fact he was the squad leader and his A large white zero was on the right side of his chest denoting his squad while a number one was on the left, denoting his rank in House Thoth.

The white contrasted with his olive and dark hair as well as the whites of his clear eyes. Vannier in comparison was pale as if she never got any sun or was well protected if she did.

They were quiet. There was no banter or chatter. It had been a demanding weekend, and the fourth round had just begun. They would begin again on the obstacle course and the Gauntlet. While they took these , this was not their main concern. It was only three weeks before the tournament during the last week of the term. All their efforts were directed at improving their performance in the Arena. Armour, weapons, tactics and individual skills were being improved daily and weekly.

Thoth squad four watched as they passed, their banter turned suddenly silent.

"Don't they send a shiver up your spine," one squad four cadets whispered to another who nodded.

"They act more like U3 cadets than M1, hell if we didn't know I would have guessed they were M3 if not for their height and insignia," the squad leader said.

Their mentor was with them, she was a Thoth U1 cadet, and even she felt a little intimidated. "We are to have them, but in a way, they are making it harder for all of us," she said, and her cadets stared at her

"Everyone viewed Thoth as easy beats. Future engineers and someone they would lean on for equipment But in seven weeks this squad has changed all that, and not only in M1," she informed them.

The Thoth fourth squad leader asked, "how could they change something that has been ingrained for years in seven weeks?"

Their mentor brought up the rankings on her arm It projected up into the air above her forearm and was larger than a standard helmet. "You can't argue with rankings," she said.

As Thoth squad zero disappeared up the corridor, they

Senna who was rank one hundred and twenty-two said, "we are squad four, yet the gap between them and us is huge. Did you know Daedo solved the first Math problem in the first week?"

"I can't even work out what the Math problems are asking, let alone solve them," his squad leader said.

"Do we have to fight them in the tournament?" Senna asked their mentor.

She shook her head, "only if your House Master needs a match to separate two squads in the Tournament tiers. I will eat a giant pickle if Master Nader asks you to compete against squad zero."

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Master Nader sent a message summoning Daedo and Vannier, not to her quarters, but topside at Commander Mallet's offices. When they arrived, she met them outside.

"Follow," Master Nader ordered. She didn't let them know what was happening which was frustrating Vannier, but Daedo took it in his stride. He it was one of her strategies to test their ability to deal with anxiety by purposely them in a in which it would build.

Daedo tapped Vannier's hand, she was extremely tense. Without speaking, he that she take a deep breath. She nodded, smiled at him and followed his advice.

As they entered the foyer on the outside of the Commander's main office Master Nader indicated a couple of chairs, "wait here until called," she ordered, and she proceeded into a large meeting room.

Daedo could see it was filled with Masters from M1, M2 and M3. More arrived walked past the pair and entered the meeting room. There were five houses, Horus, Shu, Amun-Ra, Osiris and Thoth. Each had a Master for M1, M2 and M3. The room total was fifteen House Masters, Commander Mallet and his assistant.

The meeting got underway without much sound escaping the large room Daedo and Vannier were at a loss as to the purpose of the meeting. Let alone the purpose of them sitting in the foyer, they were the only cadets present.

After thirty minutes the noise level rose suddenly. Sounds of protest and surprise escaping the room. They could hear one Master's booming laughter. Another minute passed, and Master Nader left the room. She indicated Daedo and Vannier should enter.

As they entered Daedo could see his squad's results on a large Their in the Gauntlet, obstacle course and even the test results of their exos, which informed the AR , were all

The Commander was standing, where most Masters were sitting around a large oval table.

"Master Nader has proposed entering your squad into the M3 tournament," he announced.

Daedo considered it would have been nice if Master Nader asked first, but he didn't have an issue.

"This is , but there are no rules against it. It is not unheard of for a talented U2 or M2 squads to go up a level and compete. Are you prepared for this?" The Commander asked.

Daedo did not look at Master Nader, he knew that would be a sign of weakness he merely answered in the positive, "yes Sir."

"They will have to prove themselves against Thoth M3 squad zero and one first," the Thoth M3 Master announced. One of the Osiris Masters laughed bringing a frown to the Thoth Master's countenance.

The Commander nodded.

"Why are they even here?" the Horus M2 Master enquired rudely. This was something which could have been decided and Thoth squad zero informed later.

"Because Master Hamile, Master Nader correctly assumed I would want to gauge the cadet's response personally before allowing this ," Commander Mallet replied and gave the Horus Master a cold stare which conveyed his displeasure at the inappropriate

"Very well, the schedule will Thoth squad zero to compete in both the M3 and the M1 tournament," the Commander announced and directed his statement to his assistant. "Dismissed," he directed at Daedo and Vannier.

The pair left and made their way back to their quarters deciding that if Master Nader wanted them to wait she would have sent them

"You didn't even hesitate," Vannier said.

"There was no reason to. We have nothing to lose," Daedo replied.

"But still, M3?" she queried the challenge.

"The only issue I see is the exclusive deal we made with Shu M3," Daedo replied.

"Oh," Vannier said, and then after some thought, she looked up the terms of the deal. "No we are fine, we agreed not to sell or give away exos to other M3 squads. We are M1," she stated the last fact not caring it was redundant

"Good, then we really have nothing to worry about," Daedo responded. "We will need to study our new ," he said before adding, "there are tonnes of streams we can from their battles."

"Why do you think Master Nader did this?" Vannier asked finally.

Daedo shrugged. Perhaps she wanted to challenge them. Or perhaps she meant it when she said they were preparing for war, so why wait, fight the best squads now. "You can ask her, but I doubt you will get a straight answer," Daedo said.

"You are going to tell the others,' Vannier announced suddenly.

Daedo smiled and nodded, "sure." He was the one to agree and knowing Vannier she didn't want to be yelled at for throwing the squad into the deep end.

Vannier called a meeting and gathered all the squad members in their common room by the time the pair arrived back from the Commander's offices topside.

"Where have you two been?" Barran asked.

"Topside," Axelzero answered, she knew they had been summoned by Master Nader she was with Vannier before they left.

"We have some news," Vannier announced and looked to Daedo. Everyone was quiet as the mood in the room became heavier because of Vannier's tone.

"We have been issued a challenge," Daedo began.

Barran thumped their table, "which dares challenge us?"

"Master Nader," Daedo answered

Barran stared. The look on his face was priceless.

Axelzero made a sound of clearing her throat as the silence and spread.

"Master Nader," Daedo continued, "has and was with entering our squad to compete in the M3 tournament. In week nine we have matches with Thoth M3 squad zero and squad one. Depending on the results of those matches we will be competing in the M3 tournament in week ten as well as the M1 tournament."

"Holy," Barran

"Geez," Gaumont said, "um. Is this good or bad?"

Mace smiled, "it's good. We can kick their ass."

"Let's face it," Picard added, "M1 would have been too easy."

Vannier looked at Axelzero, "what do you think?"

"I'm worried, but it's exciting at the same time," Axelzero replied.

"Can we do this Daedo?" Barran asked. Barran was always confident, but the idea of taking on M3 squads daunted him.

Daedo shrugged, "let's find out. We have the exo, and our weapons are coming along. We need to refine our teamwork and tactics. From now on we will have a tactical meeting every night after Arena practice for a full ;

Daedo stood and opened a large , upon it was the loadouts of each cadet. "The loadouts for the medium exos is versatile, Axelzero, Mace and myself are now carrying a mix of the medium range railgun, grappler and melee weapon. If needed one or more can switch over to a launcher, but if we all carry traps this may not be necessary. All of the squad will be equipped with a limited use ion shield."

Daedo showed them the image of a fist-sized object and then activated the shield which surrounded the object in blue light which was projected. "The shield will plug into your exo and will draw power from your reactor. It will compete for power with your jumpjets and other equipment so use it wisely."

"What's the draw?" Mace asked.

"I can be certain until its finished, and the size will affect the draw, but it's in the ballpark of zero point zero five megajoules per ; There were a few faces, "the jump jets draw double that point one megajoule per and our new reactor can generate point one megajoule per We now have a total of three megajoules of storage in the lithium ;

The cadets had been studying power , heat , loads, runtime and the effects of loadouts on their reactor in tech studies. It was the of exo and would also be critical to mech Due to the size and type of reactors in mechs heat was an ongoing issue for a mech pilot on top of the power issue. The software behind the HUD would interpret , storage and concisely into a bar graph, but it was essential the cadets understood what went into this bar graph and why.

Heat was not a factor in exos due to their size, weight and performance. They merely enhanced a soldiers speed, strength and operated a few pieces of equipment. Where a mech had to move around tonnes of metal under its own power. This difference was the difference between the two pieces of equipment generating a small amount of heat which was converted in an exo, to a large amount of excess heat which needed to be managed and dealt with in a mech. It was possible to design a mech which never generated excess heat, but usually, the was to increase its speed, strength, jumping ability and loadout well above these levels.

Daedo had been adding as much lithium as he could to the exo while staying within the rules and it with the impact on hydraulic and armour components. He found as many unused crevices and pockets as possible connected the power conduit and increased the overall storage capacity of the medium and heavy exos. The cold reactor would run equipment directly and charge the storage which would be in a time of peak demand. Anything over point one megajoule a which was the new peak of the cold reactor Cisse built.

"The loadouts of Picard and Vannier are simple, even though their role is not," Daedo continued. No one's role was simple if performed at its peak.

"That leaves us with the heavy loadout, which we have three main to alternate. We need to start rotating these three and practising with them. Barran and Gaumont, create a training for my review today and we will start tonight," Daedo finished.

"When will we start to use the heavy shield?" Gaumont asked.

"Now," Daedo answered, "the AR has a standard you can just carry around the from the mech bay."

"Ok," Barran said, "let me get this straight." He brought up his own with dozens of loadout for his heavy exo.

"The main three are of Gaumont and me using shield, melee weapons, minigun and launcher," Barran continued and highlighted loadouts for himself marked B and Gaumont marked G.

"Why can't I use the minigun and shield combo?" Gaumont asked.

"Run it in the Gauntlet, and you'll see," Barran responded. Barran was much stronger than Gaumont, and while the heavy exo increased their strength, Barran was starting from a much higher base. Carrying a minigun in one hand and a shield in the other was something which would probably overwhelm Gaumont and most other cadets.

"What about the shotgun?" Axelzero asked.

"Not unless we improved it," Barran responded, "the minigun outperforms it in versatility, damage per , range and power drain. It even carries more ammo in terms of space, weight versus damage."

Daedo nodded, "a project for term two or three."

"Before we break up," Daedo said, "you have another task for the tactical meeting. We will have nine opponents and a few contenders for these spots from each House. Axelzero you have Horus, Mace - Osiris, Barran - Shu and Gaumont - Amun-Ra. Each tactical meeting you will research and present on each of these potential opponent's characteristics. I will do Thoth M3 and present tonight," Daedo left Vannier out and himself to a degree. They would all the and Vannier would check everyone's research.

The end of term tournament was a tiered tournament. Every squad would participate. But only the top two squads per house would participate in the main event. A round robin with two groups, each squad competed in a survival match versus the other fours squads in their group before progressing to the semis and then final.

The of the tier one squads was entirely up to the Master in charge of the year level. Which was probably why Master Nader interrupted the scheduling meeting to introduce M1 Squad zero into the M3 This forced the Thoth M3 Master's hand, he was not able to deny them entry without at least a match against his most elite squads.

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