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Chapter 40 : 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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Axelzero flew by, her railgun tracking the opposite lane waiting for an enemy to enter her line of sight. She laid a laser trip on the blind side of the corner and then pinged her squad.

Daedo: good Axelzero. Gaumont, Barran again. You still need to improve your weave. Not too close, not too far.

Barran and Gaumont were drilling weave rushing. A tactic where they would constantly be moving laterally while closing distance, covering themselves with their shields and each other sporadically. The intent was to reduce enemy and opportunity. Thoth squad zero worked hard on damage through movement, use of cover, use of smoke and other traps.

The heavies now drilled with shields. A heavy metal object which would stop most types of weapons. It could also be utilised on a charge. However, the large swords or cesti effected directed and higher damage output. Gaumont now used the single hand Ion shotgun with a shield, while Barran was able to wield a minigun in a single hand. They both could switch out to cesti for a melee

Daedo: Picard your is known to the opponent. Move, move.

Picard would find a new long-range vantage and so would Vannier as they worked as a team within the squad. Daedo was pushing their speed, it was affected by the map and their current , but that did not change the fact that their mobility and ability were the main contributing factors.

The pair would now have multiple vantages and should not have to find one before moving, it should already be and decided. Then it came down to their speed and agility. While making the , they were to keep cover as a over speed.

Daedo and Mace were supervising the drills. They would switch between Vannier and Picard who would supervise their movements.

All squad members had tactical movements which were drilled. Movements which reduced the opportunity of attack were practised until they were completed without thought.

The squad itself was broken up into three smaller teams. Barran and Gaumont, in the heavy variant for close range and vanguard role. The highly versatile and tactical of Mace, Axelzero and Daedo. And the long-range cover and sniper team of Picard and Vannier.

Each team performed together, but there was with the other teams within the squad as well. The vanguard would the enemy focus, the snipers would provide cover fire while the medium range freeform fighters would deliver the killing blow.

If the Vanguard went down the freeform fighting style of the medium range combatants could the enemy's focus, but with movement instead of brute strength and the damage could come from the long-range snipers.

The increased power and efficiency of the railguns improved their damage output and Now five out of seven of the squad were using railguns. Vannier and Picard used them as a long-range heavy impact weapon where they became a single shot high damage weapon for the medium as well. Fire once and move. The damage from the medium range railgun was to any other single shot weapon by a factor of two.

They could not rely on equipment to win battles as many M3 squads would have off the shelf or cadet engineered equipment which easily matched theirs.

Squad Zero made incremental improvement each day. Myrmidon was able to monitor and analyse during the drills informing Daedo who was able to offer comments during training and review in a tactics debriefing after.

Vannier commented on this after the latest debriefing, "it's like you are a tactician and coach. I can't comprehend how you are able to monitor all of us and fight yourself. Was it the experience you gained from CyberMech? " She enquired with just as much as

"Sort of," Daedo replied coyly.

"Hmm?" She pressed for a better response.

Daedo sighed. "Ok, it's my AI. He monitors everything through my suit's sensors and reports findings to me."

"Oh, Vannier said somewhat lost for words. "Oh," she said again thoughtful. "To say it's not you and your AI is not giving yourself credit. You have helped your AI grow well beyond ours. It's just another thing you are great at."

Barran interrupted. His typical hand on Daedo's shoulder which was both friendly and condescending at the same time. "You know, you are beginning to irk me how good you are at everything. If I wasn't brilliant at everything I put my mind to I would be jealous." Barran extolled as if every word were true. Everyone who witnessed the thought he believed every word.

Gaumont just laughed at him, but Barran was

Vannier was lost in thought. If Daedo read her correctly, she was how to ask him to help everyone in the squad with their AI and growth. Vannier was a genuinely nice person. He her line of thinking. She did not want to ask for help because she thought he was already relied upon too much and the rest of the squad should learn to stand on their own two feet.

"Vannier," Daedo said before she could a polite "We should spend some time each week working on AI nurturing. Myrmidon is probably capable of talking directly to your AIs."

"Myrmidon?" Mace asked inquisitively. She knew that was one of his spacebuild shop personas.

"Yes that's his name," Daedo said.

"Mines called Mars," Barran offered, "what you didn't name yours?" He asked looking at Mace's surprised

"I just have trouble thinking of mine as a person. Daedo called it a him and gave it a name. I just call mine AI," Mace responded.

"Pfft," Barran "Even I know an AI is a You name your pets don't you?"

Mace nodded.

"Maybe there is a different feeling you get from Daedo's compared to a DaVinci or Svarski," Vannier opined. "I gave mine a name, but, I still think of it as an it. Not a her."

"What did you call her?" Barran asked.

"Genie," Vannier replied.

"Like a genie in a bottle?" Barran quizzed.

"Sort of. Yes," Vannier said blushing slightly. Neither Barran nor Daedo knew why.

"Oh well," Barran concluded, "I've got to get moving. I want to get in a run before it gets too late."

Barran needed to be outdoors, even with his security duties he made the time to get some topside time each day. Expounding the fact if he spent the whole week indoors he would go crazy.

"Daedo," Mace said quietly as they walked back to their rooms. "Can you spend some time on my AI tonight? I really would appreciate your assessment and input."

"What's your bandwidth rated at now?" Daedo enquired.

"Supposedly very good, I registered 208 in the last assessment. I wish they had a ranking on bandwidth," Mace responded.

"Hmm," Daedo said, his last rating was 502 Tbs, but Chief Cleo always did his tests personally and usually was distressed at how high they were. He needed more data to assess her in to other cadets.

"Vannier," he called ahead. "What's your bandwidth?"

Vannier: 185 last test.

Vannier texted him her answer rather than call it out for everyone to hear. Although bandwidth wasn't the main aspect which indicated good AI nurturing it was the only metric without devising or completing the assessments and exercises put out by the AI nurturing subject.

Daedo himself had completed little of their assessments and exercises. So he had little insight into what the other cadets had done.

After some , Daedo informed Mace, "I will devise some exercises for you and your AI to complete. To be honest, I have not paid much to the subject matter." If he was perfectly honest, he would have said he had paid no to the subject matter.

Mace looked at him sceptically. "Your Myrmidon Tower Defender shop has been around for years," she "I know, I bought some of your blueprints when I was eleven."

Daedo shrugged. All that meant was he liked the name for a long time. In fact, the shop did exist before Myrmidon was birthed. It was his first handle. Chief Cleo had he had birthed his AI before entering the Academy, but he still preferred only the Chief and Master Nader to have this If it wasn't for Master Nader's , he would probably have been in a lot of trouble. Although a scary taskmaster she was proving to be squad zero and his on more than one The only real issue she had was that she probably murdered Master Ustinov. That's all. No big deal.

Daedo sighed. He turned his thoughts away from that line.

Mace misinterpreted his sigh. "You don't have to help me if you don't want to," she said meekly.

Daedo shook his head. "No. It's fine. I began thinking of our Master and that incident again."

"Oh," Mace nodded. It was like a secret she shared with him. No one else seemed to notice, and it was not something they would openly discuss. Master Nader always had them under , it was part of her job.

"Daedo," Mace began reflectively, "I really wasn't looking forward to coming to this Military Academy before the term started." Before she could finish the thought, they arrived at their quarters. And now that she was amongst a few other squad members she became quiet.

Daedo texted her.

Daedo: me either lol.

Mace: I am really happy now though. I was nothing like I expected.

Daedo: Would you believe I expected you all to be rich snobby kids who would give me the shits?

Mace: Well. You aren't far from wrong. You just lucked out with a few good members in this squad like Vannier and Axelzero. Not to its hard to give the ranked one kid too much snobbiness. Jealousy yes. But its almost impossible to look down on someone who kicks your ass.

Daedo and Mace chatted for what seemed like a few minutes before Barran tapped him on the shoulder.

"Hey," Barran He was back from his run. Daedo must have been texting Mace for almost an hour. What was strange for both of them was they weren't discussing technical issues, tactics nor any other academic topic. They were just chatting about their own thoughts and feelings. Past and present.

Daedo removed his opaque helmet. "Hmm?"

"Shu want their exos next week. They are willing to pay an extra five k bitcreds for early delivery." Barran beamed.

Daedo surmised they most likely wanted extra time to practice in the exos before the end of term tournament.

"They will have to take the two point three," Daedo said. It was their fifth He had been upgrading the exos weekly and had started to use decimals for each minor upgrade.

"Sidarus has been watching the streams of our practice and said the current is fine," Barran answered. "He also said good luck. He knows we might be entering the M3 tournament."

"Assuming we get past the other Thoth M3 squads," Daedo said.

Barran laughed. "You must have seen vids of their practices?" He asked enthusiastically, loudly and rhetorically. Barran gave the distinct he thought they sucked balls.

"Well, we could certainly use that five k. It will fund us for an extra couple of months of materials," Daedo cracked a tiny smile.

"Yeah. We are on a winner with these Shu cadets. They are addicted to speed and will spend everything they have on it. Even I would baulk at twenty k bitcreds. I think." Barran what he would spend if the roles were reversed. "Nah, if my share was three k I would deff do it."

Mace stood in a huff. Her pure white hair flying as she whipped off her helmet.

"Do you always have to be so loud Barran. I was studying," she yelled. She then stormed off to her apartment.

Barran stood open-mouthed. Mace never yelled, she rarely spoke.

Daedo was confused. She wasn't studying. She was texting him. He thought about it. Why was she angry?

Barran mouthed to Daedo what seemed to be "Holy Shit." With a look on his face which said where did that come from?

Vannier looked at Daedo and Barran. She stood and walked past Daedo on a trip to the kitchen for a drink. On her way back she bent down and whispered to Daedo. "Are you clueless?" Before sitting back down and resuming her studies.

Now he was definitely confused, and he had no idea what he was clueless about.

Round four flew by. Between the training, studying and workshop squad zero Thoth kept themselves immersed in activity.

The rankings did not change much from round to round. Daedo still ruled the Gauntlet each and every round. He slowly and steadily improved on the obstacle course breaking into the top one fifty students of M1. Coupled with his of academic subjects his as rank one cadet of M1 was never challenged. Along with Mace and Vannier, they held three of the top five rankings with Karine Fortescue as the only other in the top five cadets. The fifth alternating between Lazard of Shu and Paget-A of Horus.

It was round five. The final round of the ten-week term.

Vannier announced to the squad as they met for their morning breakfast, "we have the schedule for the Thoth M3 preliminary bouts."

"What about the M1 qualifiers?" Gaumont asked.

Barran laughed.

Vannier responded, "Master Nader has given us immediate with the other squads competing for the tier one spot."

All squads, from zero to thirty-one competed at the end of term arena tournament. However, it was broken up into eleven tiers. The top tier had two squads from each House which then competed in a round robin group comprising of five squads. The top two squads from each group went on to the semi-finals. The other thirty squads were into ten tiers, three into each.

This meant every squad had at least four tournament matches and if they progressed up to three more. Each House Master was able to rank their squads however they saw fit. Which meant that most squads had several preliminary matches where they could possibly jump tiers if they performed well.

When anomalies happened, like M1 Squad Zero competing in M3, the House Master could load another lower Tier with an extra squad. The squads in that tier group would just have an extra round robin match.

Vannier continued, "Master Nader informed me that if we do not qualify for Tier one in M3, we will not compete in a lower M3 tier."

"That's understandable," Axelzero responded.

"That would be embarrassing," Barran added. Everyone just looked at him.

"What?" He said. "Look. Our Master put us forward. She surely said we would kick ass so… if we don't, we will look like losers." He added, "Am I wrong?" Pointedly at Daedo. They all knew Daedo and Vannier were called into the Meeting of the Masters.

Daedo opened his mouth to answer. Then closed it and shook his head. Master Nader sort of did say they were and should be included.

Barran thumped the table in triumph.

Gaumont his head on the table and mumbled, "I can't take the pressure."

Barran tried to console him, "don't worry, even if you die in the first salvo we will still win."

Vannier looked at Barran as if to say. How is that consoling?!

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