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Chapter 44 : M1 - Term: 1, Round: 5

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: 5

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Vannier rushed into squad zero's common room. She was out of breath, she a hand on Daedo's shoulder who was seated. "Next week's schedule is out, and it doesn't look pretty," Vannier informed Daedo.

She could have contacted him through numerous different types of comms. But it was more in line with her nature to be face to face to discuss.

Daedo was still working on the last touches to the exo design before beginning the final manufacture run. The tweaks were incredibly minor at this stage, down to slight differences for each user based on their telemetry data.

Bolder changes chasing larger gains using either an experimental design or improved materials would have to wait for next term where time and reliability were not critical.

"What are you working on?" Vannier asked. Daedo seemed distracted upon receiving the news. Which indicated he was working on something complex, however, next week's schedule trumped all in Vannier's mind, so she continued to interrupt him with taps on the shoulder.

"Last changes to the exo before we start the run. We will be on two-point-six," Daedo answered, "one more moment, I am almost done."

The topic brought something that was bugging Vannier to the fore. "The tubing that contains the hydraulic fluid and acts as under armour," she waited for Daedo to nod, "is that unique or did you get off a design?" Vannier asked.

"It's unique. My research showed that a mesh weave is the most efficient armour for most damage types, but I also wanted more power delivery through hydraulics. Somehow I got the idea to combine the two," Daedo answered.

'Somehow?' Vannier thought out loud, knitting her brow. Daedo was an inspired idea machine.

"I know you aren't finished with the exo by a long shot, but we should patent that concept at least," Vannier added. It was her parents who ran the patent business, and she had a good grasp of the workings.

"Oh," Daedo replied, "I thought you just invented and designed a piece of equipment and you patent that as a blueprint ready for a manufacturer to adopt? Like the AI code, its ready to sell just the way it is." Daedo assumed the system worked to his Spacebuild shop. In fact, the Spacebuild and Tower Defender was a massive of reality.

"It can work that way, but usually it doesn't," Vannier began patiently. "It can be really complicated, and that's why there is an entire called the IPO, the patent office, who registers, tracks and the intellectual property industry."

Daedo nodded slowly but made a sound which indicated she should further.

"Okay," Vannier continued, "so take a product like Barran's bike. The reactor has one patent owner, and even a component of the reactor could have another. Although Cold has long since lost royalty rights for the inventor, there may be an which still royalty. Then you have the wheels, engine, aerodynamics and exotic materials. Its possible the bike has over a hundred different patents all with royalties of each sale going to each respective owner."

"How does the manufacturer of the bike make creds?" Daedo asked. It seemed like a lot of

"Well the IPO decides, based on the manufacturer's , which would be independently audited, a for each patent. It will never add up to more than a hundred percent of the royalty component. And that varies based on a complex set of rules."

"It seems complex. It must keep the IPO busy," Daedo surmised.

"Yes, especially since the annulment of IP exclusivity in 2105. Now anyone can use any patented technology. But they still have to pay the patent owner royalty," Vannier

"That how Fortescue get away with doing very little RnD. They just manufacture and simply use patents," Daedo said.

"Yes. And they probably evaluate the viability of a product before even starting based on royalty costs, material costs, manufacturing costs, market value and demand," Vannier said.

"Geez you know a lot about this," Daedo observed.

"I grew up with it. One side of it is the family business," she replied.

Daedo nodded, "So. To cut a long story short. We should lodge a patent for any component we make that is innovative or entirely new?" Daedo stated.

"Yes. And this reminds me of something important we missed," Vannier said "When we sold those exos to Shu we needed to register and run the components through the IPO and work out any royalties owed for the technologies we used."

"Holy crap!" Daedo "We research stuff all the time and implement it. What about the railguns and grapplers?"

"If we didn't sell them we could argue we are creating prototypes and testing them. Also being in a Military Academy comes with perks as well. But," and it was a big but, "we really need expert advice before we get ourselves into too much trouble," Vannier concluded.

Daedo sighed. "Ok, for something easier to manage. Let's look at the schedule."

The end of week ten was the end of round five and also the end of the Term. During week ten all normal activities involving exo arenas were suspended. Cadets could and would run the Gauntlet and Obstacle course, those venues were open.

Cadets were also expected to have all their coursework completed for all subjects for the Term before leaving on Friday night. Disciplined and organised cadets had already completed most if not all coursework and only had to concern themselves with the Tournament and the last round Gauntlet and Obstacle Course.

Thoth Squad Zero would submit their tech projects on Friday. Otherwise, Daedo had completed all normal coursework by the end of round four. Especially since he was not going to subject a Math For his Physics project, Daedo used the , programming and the testing regime he set up for the exos. It contained enough work to mechanics that it qualified easily.

Monday they had M1 group battles. All four on one day.

Tuesday was the four M3 group battles. It must have been programmed this way due to Master Nader's during the Middle Academy Masters general meeting.

Wednesday was semifinals for M1.

Thursday morning was semifinals for M3 - if they made it that far. And in the afternoon the final for M1.

Lastly, if they made it to the M3 final, it was on the last day. Friday. With only the U3 tournament taking pride of as the last event in the afternoon. This aligned with inter-Academy tournaments, where it would be Mechs and Exos. The Upper cadets were not allowed to compete in Exos. It was the sole domain of Middle Academy cadets.

Daedo perused the group lists. In M1 they had mainly squad ones in their group. It could have been because of seeding or by chance. He had never researched the rules, and he didn't really care anyway. They just needed to win no matter who they faced.

M1 – Tier 1 - Group 1: Thoth Squad zero, Horus Squad two, Shu Squad zero, Osiris Squad one, Amun-Ra Squad one.

The group consisted mainly of zero squads with the of Thoth and Shu. The other anomaly was that Horus Squad one was in the tier.

"Why is Horus squad one in Tier two do you think?" Daedo asked Vannier.

"It's no surprise, the of cadets in that House was heavily Don't you remember that squad leader coming to our table on one wishing us luck before the battle with Fortescue's squad?" Vannier replied.

"I do now," Daedo replied. Myrmidon him back a short vid. It was the girl that Barran said was stunning and that's when the was sidetracked.

"The from M3 squads will be on a whole nother level," Vannier stated nervously.

Daedo nodded and pulled up the M3 Tier 1 group. Thoth M1 Squad zero was in group two for the Tier 1 M3 tournament.

M3 – Tier 1 - Group 2: Thoth M1 Squad zero, Horus M1 Squad zero, Shu M3 Squad one, Osiris M3 Squad zero, Amun-Ra M3 Squad zero.

"What!?!" Daedo , "did you look at this list closely?" he asked Vannier.

She nodded but double checked and then gasped, "oh," and then louder, "Oh!"

Somehow, Horus M1 squad zero, Fortescue's squad, had also made their way into the M3

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Thoth Squad zero, Horus Squad two, Shu Squad zero, Osiris Squad one and Amun-Ra Squad one lined up in the coral of the topside exo arena.

The topside consisted of only two arenas each with stadium seating. Spectators the underground Academy arenas battles digitally. Where the topside allowed for the old- bums on seats audience. This audience could also utilise apps to enhance their spectator experience. Including the Augmented Reality (AR) of the arena which was crucial to the experience.

The larger of the topside arenas, which was one of the premiere structures of the entire Academy, was the mech combat arena. It was massive. Over double the size of the exo arena. If it wasn't for the visual assistance apps, it would be almost impossible to catch all the

These two arenas were used exclusively for the tier one during the intra-Academy tournament. They would also be used for all inter-Academy The arenas below, in the Academy complex proper, were busy with tier two to ten matches.

The spectators for the M1 group battles had a coterie of interested cadets. Out of seven thousand cadets at the Academy, almost five hundred found the time to attend. This number was dwarfed by the adults in attendance. Not only did alumni, Academy supporters and parents spectate but so did VIP clients of the Fortescue group.

This component was a double-edged sword with leakage to competitor Academies, but it was was the same for everyone. The positives of entertaining and informing the companies main supporters offset the intel leaking. Although Intel leaking would with their competitors as well. One tended to the other. Therefore most Academies, other than tier one, who had severe on attendance, benefited from an open door policy from the groups.

From this audience flowed creds into the Academy. Its supporters and sponsors. The wealthiest people on the Although it was only from the wealthiest one percent of the of the , this pool was still close to one hundred citizens. And there was only so much room for top-tier Academies, even counting it down to tier ten, that was only one hundred and twenty.

There were many wealthy individuals and families who supported the Fortescue Military Academy, and they would love to see it gain into the tier. This same group would be devastated if it was demoted down to tier four.

Several announcers were streaming, but none were audible to the cadets in the coral. The five squads waited for the group stage to get underway, at which time three squads would go back to their respective house waiting rooms within the stadium.

The round robin would commence with Thoth Squad Zero (M1TS0) up against Osiris Squad one (M1OS0 pronounced ). Daedo's squad had two of everything and in some cases, three, stored in their house waiting room. There was a chance spare parts would be needed with several matches in a short of time. Although the cadets rarely took damage, other than falling, breakdowns could

The Augmented Reality damage so the exos would stay intact in the main. But it was not for a launcher or grappler to develop a problem with one of its mechanisms. And under strain, the micropumps in the exos could just stop working. One or two would not cause a larger issue, but Daedo wanted them in perfect working order, and several would definitely see a decline in the effectiveness of the exo's

Security for their spare parts was considered and The last thing Squad zero wanted was a sabotage incident. Paranoia was a normal operating for Thoth Squad zero ever since the round two incidents. Spiderbots and a portable foam stasis dispenser were installed. Master Nader volunteered to keep a watch on the room with whatever methods she employed as well. That fact put the cadets at ease.

Osiris squad one. Daedo had done almost no research on them.

Perusing them now they still used mostly standard equipment with six heavy exos and two medium. Their loadouts were sound with a mix of close combat, medium and long range. The two medium exo cadets were using assault rifles with had good range. This would give them much more versatility than if they chose sniper rifles. The arena was only six hundred metres long, there was no need for a dedicated sniper rifle with a slow rate of fire.

Modern assault rifles did an enormous amount of damage to a human being, even one wearing a bulletproof vest. However, exos soaked up a massive amount of damage. It usually took forty or fifty rounds to a M1TS0 medium exo and almost double that for a heavy.

When the battle commenced it became apparent the greatest difference between the two squads was not weaponry, nor armour, it was speed. The M1TS0 medium exo was twice as mobile as it's Osiris counterpart, and that was before the grapplers were engaged.

While Barran, Gaumont and Mace the Osiris heavies, Axelzero snuck behind their lines and attacked from the rear. Her pistols causing havoc as she began to shoot cadet after cadet in the back and sometimes the back of the head.

A couple of the Osiris cadets still standing turned to deal with the new threat, which made their worse. They now had their backs to Barran, Gaumont, Daedo and Mace.

For the most part, Daedo surveilled the arena. Keeping track of his squad, the enemy and directing. Bodysuit and helmet comms allowed him to take feeds off all his squads exos. Both Daedo and Myrmidon were kept busy analysing from the other six cadets and making instant

Picard and Vannier took down the Osiris mediums from range. Their loadout and armour crumbled under the fire of the prototype railguns.

If it were a strategy game Daedo was on easy mode, the difference in equipment was massive. And it was hard to judge if there was any difference in skill due to this fact.

In less than eight minutes, Osiris Squad one were all down with no casualties from Thoth Squad zero.

They exited the arena through the coral and into their house room to the crowd and their

The morning progressed swiftly. With Shu Squad zero and Horus squad two performing well.

Thoth Squad zero (0) def Osiris Squad one (Thoth sustained 0 casualties)

Shu Squad zero (3) def Amun-Ra squad one

Horus Squad two (2) def Osiris Squad one

Thoth squad zero (1) def Amun-Ra squad one

A critical match, based on the performances so far, was about to take Only two squads would progress to the semi-finals and Thoth were favourites for one of those spots. Shu squad one and Horus squad two had both performed well in their first battle. Easily defeating their opponents and showing high levels of skill.

The squad which practised daily with Thoth Squad zero was up against the dark horse from Horus. Moreau who was the squad leader of Horus Squad two was even ranked twelve in M1 at the end of round four. Which was higher than most zero squad cadets.

Axelzero stated, "there must be some bad blood between Moreau and Fortescue for her not to be in Horus squad zero."

"Karine is probably jealous of her looks," Barran joked.

Vannier thought he might not be too far off the mark.

"Either that or she was not someone Fortescue targeted for her personal squad. She just happened to be in Horus, and she just happened to be good," Mace offered a theory.

Daedo and his squaddies watched the match on their helmets while they waited in their house room. Other than the Shu squads whom they competed against every day, it was the most research Daedo had done on his competitors.

Master Nader was present but otherwise silent. She had barely spoken a word to the squad all day. Daedo that she would rather they work everything out themselves. At most, she would review and offer critical advice after the group battles finished.

The timer counted down from ten, and the pivotal match of the group began in earnest.

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