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Chapter 47 : 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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Stanley Martin was part of the EU Defence Force (EUDF). One part of the five-segment combined earth defence. America, Russia, China and the combined Private forces made up the remainder of the five. America consisted of the mainstay; the North American who merged with and organised their southern neighbours.

China led Asia, other than Japan who folded into the Russian contingent along with the middle east. Africa joined the EU forming one of the strongest contingents with only the combined private sector holding more armaments, technology and manpower.

When it came to defending the , the private sector would follow orders from the grand marshal per the treaty of 2110.

Right now there was no Grand Marshal, one of the defence force marshals would be elevated at a time of war. Currently, the Russian Marshal was selected to take office in the event of an or imminent threat. Out of the five segments, the Russian contingent was the smallest, which suited politically if they took the office of Grand Marshal. Disregarding politics, Stan was quite comfortable with the Russian Marshal, Mikhail Lebedev, known as Misha the master in the corridors.

Amongst the EU, Stanley Martin was a Colonel, O6-Pilot. The ranks from O1 to O8, which were standardised across all the defence forces, served as dedicated mech pilots. Ranks above and below it was not mandatory.

These days there were very few mech pilots who did not come through the Academy system. The main were those who competed in the who decided to serve, whether it was in Private or with a government military

Stanley could have served with a Private, but he didn't. It was his own personal choice. Fortescue, for example, did the bare minimum to earn their tax credits. The gear and funding was substantially worse than the EUDF due to their tightfistedness. Contrarily, private who took their responsibility were the norm and Fortescue the

It was Tuesday, the day of the M3 Tier one group rounds. Stanley could have just come on Friday, but he would miss seeing all the elite cadets from M3. He liked to see the potential of this entire group of cadets.

He made his way up to the boxes. Marais, as usual, was host. They were good people, and although did not have a standing military, they paid their fair share in taxes to support the EUDF. They also generously supported the Academy with no motive other than to support the training of future pilots and engineers who would defend the one day.

Granted EUDF spent annually on Marais Industries equipment, but that -making process had nothing to do with him.

"Sophie, Cillian," Stanley bowed as a way of showing respect. Cillian would salute him, but it was not proper to return the gesture.

"Oh, Stanley. You're here! You made our day," Sophie said enthusiastically.

Cillian shook his hand only to keep hold of it and lead him over to the box window as Stanley mumbled his thanks to Sophie.

"You have to see this," Cillian said excitedly. He proceeded to pull up group two's

M3 Shu Squad one

M1 Horus Squad zero

M3 Osiris Squad zero

M3 Amun-Ra Squad zero

M1 Thoth Squad zero

"What am I looking for?" Stanley asked, "Oh!" He was stunned for a moment. "What's going on? Why are there two M1 squads in the M3 Tier one group?"

"I haven't seen the Horus squad. They are not competing in the M1 tournament, only the M3. But the Thoth squad is competing in both. And they my good friend are something to behold," Cillian finished.

"So it's not some sort of stunt?" Stanley asked. He couldn't imagine an Academy master, let alone the entire group and the Commander allowing such a stunt. But, it was unheard of for one let alone two M1 squads to compete with the M3s.

Cillian shook his head, he was speaking at a hundred miles an hour. "It is possible with the Horus squad, there is something different about them and a reason for the anomaly."

Stanley was not someone to get overexcited. He merely waited for Cillian to

"The Fortescue's daughter, Karine, is in Horus M1," Cillian stated.

"Oh? And is she good? I expect she would be well equipped and well prepared," Stanley offered. Although for him there was little to be gained if Karine Fortescue was a dedicated and talented pilot. It would probably be wasted in Fortescue's military arm, unless, and there was a minuscule chance that the daughter herself changed things for the better. He wouldn't hold his breath.

"She is ranked third in M1 behind two cadets from Thoth," Cillian offered.

"You have me with this Thoth thing. They never feature in the semis, not when I attended and extremely rarely since," Stanley said.

"These cadets are different. The way they trounced the other M1 squads, it was like they were an M3 squad," Cillian added.

"You sound like a fan. Cillian," Stanley paused for a moment after saying his name, "I came here today expecting to see your son in You haven't him once. Is he in group one?"

Cillian nodded, "oh yes. Oh yes. He will be up first. I just had to tell you about the M1 squads."

"I understand, it is extraordinary, and I look forward to seeing them," Stanley replied. In truth, he wasn't that excited. M3 was a long way from , it was as low as he preferred to go in terms of talent. M1 was a good part of a decade away from potential recruits. Cadets usually had one year off after finishing U3. Which made the entire journey seven years.

Group one primarily contained squad ones from the four houses with Shu and Thoth squad zero. Usually the squad zeros were the seeds, but in this case, Thoth was trounced every match. Nothing new.

Their exos were impressive, showing off their engineering and But the Shu squads exos were in terms of mobility. And when it came to piloting, tactics and gunnery, the Thoth cadets were woeful in comparison to the others.

"Your son did well, with his squad making it through to the semis you must be proud," Andre offered. He had been mixing until the battles started and then watched with the pair. Although he let Cillian and Stanley do all the analysis.

Cillian nodded, "yes. Very proud that he made squad one, and an unexpected feat that they made the semis with Shu zero."

"Their piloting and tactics were strong, which led them to only losing the one match. It was well deserved," Stanley opined.

"Horus was not up to par. They would have expected to go through, no?" Andre enquired. Horus was the other M3 squad zero in the group aside from Shu and Thoth.

"Their equipment was slightly below the standard of both Shu and Osiris," Stanley "Did you have a hand in your son's equipment Cillian?"

"Only a token. They like to do it all themselves, and Jeram is quite talented. He probably would have ended up in Thoth if not for his Mother," Cillian stated. Cadets would always be in the same house as their parents originated.

"It was a close thing, the Horus cadets performed well. They missed out by less than three points," Stanley If Horus had beaten Osiris they would have gone through, the first match ended up being the deciding match of the group.

"Thirty minutes until the next group," with that statement Andre took his leave. He would come back and watch with the duo when the time came.

"How is it on the front lines?" Cillian asked Stanley.

Stanley , "hardly front lines. We haven't seen an alien in over forty years. But it won't be long."

"How long?" Cillian asked.

"We don't know for sure, five years, ten or somewhere in between," Stanley

"What's the story behind the spiral?" Cillian asked softly. It was the first time he had seen Stanley since the announcement. Marais Industries, despite their military contracts, were not large enough to get a seat at the table. They were as blind as a normal citizen. Other than the fact he knew everything was not as it seemed.

"We will stay here. All the GDFs will," Stanley prefaced. The acronym he used, GDF was short for the Governmental Defence Force. American, Russian, Chinese and EU.

"So the are going? Going where?" Cillian asked.

"I know as much about their as you do," Stanley answered. The combined private mechanised armies were nearly as large as the combined governmental forces. Which ostensibly meant Earth was splitting its forces in two and even the Colonel didn't know the why.

Cillian knew that if Stanley knew but could not divulge the he would have just said it was He said he did not know. Which is significant in of itself.

After a small amount of chit-chat and somewhat healthy nibblies Andre returned. Group two was about to get underway.

"Who is up first?" Andre enquired.

"M1 Horus and Shu squad one," Cillian answered.

It was apparent to Cillian Horus was using the Inter-Academy equipment. Albeit from last years tournament. With one Four of their squad were carrying PPCs, while the other three had miniguns.

"It's a year for firsts," Cillian They had not assessed Shu's equipment yet, they would have to wait for the match to commence. But what was to him was the Academy equipment.

"What now?" Stanley asked.

"The exos that M1 Horus are using is the Academy tournament from last year," Cillian.

A furrow creased Stanley's head. He was not pleased. How did this progress cadets learning in engineering? How did this allow the more skilful pilots to advance if they were on the opposing squad? What left his lips was a displeased growl.

"I am interested to see what that PPC does though," Andre offered. The fact there were four of them was significant.

"I would suggest the miniguns are to keep close and melee range of the PPC detachment," Stanley said.

Shu squad one loadouts were interesting as well. "Three photon wielders in mesh exos. You don't see that often," Cillian ventured. "They are also carrying an assortment of traps."

"Pistols on their hips," Stanley pointed out. The loadout consisted of light weapons, giving the cadets versatility. It was the sort of loadout he loved, it allowed the cadet to show what they were capable of not only in terms of skill but tactical thinking and awareness.

The remaining five Shu cadets had an assortment of railguns, long and medium barrel.

"Now I am interested," Stanley stated.

"hmm?" Cillian enquired, he had no idea what piqued Stanley's interest all of a sudden.

"Shu's loadout," the Colonel said, "if the cadets are average or poor it is a terrible loadout. These are all weapons which require skill to deal reasonable damage, where weapons like miniguns or missile launchers do not."

The two squads lined up at each end of the arena. The landscape was an urban scene which could be the outskirts of any major city in terms of residential apartments, parks and services. The designer went all out with parked vehicles, robot workers and the odd moving hovervan and delivery drone. This would be on another level compared to what an M1 squad would be used to.

Andre stood slightly behind Stanley and Cillian he not only waited in for the match but also for their input. While the pair were focused entirely on the match his was on them.

Stanley was still in top shape. The military must have a strict regime surrounding exercise. He looked like he could run a marathon and fight hand to hand at the end of it. He was not someone Andre ever wanted to mess with, even outside a Mech, he was most likely deadly. Over 1900mm tall with an athletic build, he was the ideal size for a six or twelve metre Mech. A four-metre would fit him like an oversized heavy exo. His dark hair was suitably close-cropped, and he was cleanly shaven. What was noticeable about Stanley was his posture was always superb. He never hunched and rarely leaned.

Cillian was somewhat shorter 1800mm and in his early forties, still young by today's standards. His hair was short, but messy, although it seemed there was some style to the chaos. Cillian notably wore a bodysuit underneath a white coat. The long white coat was synonymous with his It spoke engineer louder than a sign above his head.

Both of them had gen-three Presumably, Cillian's was military grade while Stanley's certainly was. While they were cadets AI nurturing was at a much lower level than it was now, mainly due to the current advancement of

Andre took his off the pair, he would everything they said and turned it towards the match.

The Shu cadets unsurprisingly moved fluidly, with grace and speed. They were not as fast as their counterparts from squad zero, the squad which were current favourites to reach the final as they were undefeated.

"Their exos are different, but they move well," Stanley offered, and Cillian nodded.

Shu swarmed into two groups, the photon wielders split off from the railgunners who began to chase after a height advantage.

M3 Horus had kept together. The cadets armed with PPCs gained height immediately across three buildings in close proximity where the minigunners patrolled the streets beneath. The minigunners attempted to hide their from Shu, but it would not be hard to deduce they were close to their squadmates in order to provide

One used a parked vehicle for cover. Where the other two kept close to the buildings to their south. They would have to rely on the other cadets to inform when and where Shu approached. They were hidden and in doing so effectively blind themselves.

"Basic tactical arrangement, I see an M1 squad, although talented. Not a practised and experienced M3 squad," Stanley opined.

"Let's see what those PPCs do. I would imagine that Fortescue has put some resources to ensure the daughter puts on a good show." Cillian replied.

"What is she ranked in M1?" Stanley asked. He mainly wanted to know her Gauntlet and Obstacle course rankings.

Before the started Cillian the tables for M1, and it only took Stanley moments to scan the overall, gauntlet and obstacle course top tens.

"I see," he said non-committedly. Despite all the equipment and , Fortescue gave their daughter she was third at best in most disciplines and overall. Nothing to sneeze at, but surely they expected her to be rank one. Especially since she was using tournament grade equipment.

"First engagement," Andre warned.

Horus began firing on Shu with their PPC, but only a few

"Power?" Stanley asked.

"Undoubtedly," Cillian replied. Which meant that while the PPC may deal high damage, it drained the stored power of the exo quickly. A cadet would have to shoot well and wisely. It also meant that power would not be for other systems. The would not know the details, while they could make an based on their knowledge.

"It won't be easy for them to hit Shu," Stanley The Shu cadets were dodging and weaving into , and so far the and of the M1 squad were not good enough to land a hit.

The railguns began to return fire. The sonic booms were audible in the box.

"Mach four," Stanley said, "military grade." He was able to assess the booms and estimate the speed of the round.

"You're on fire today," Cillian praised.

"My AI is using the sensors from my suit. Don't give me any credit," Stanley replied. He was also old school. He used his AI as an assistant but thought of it as a program.

"Military grade railguns versus Fortescue prototype PPC. I told you this was going to be an interesting group. It's not even an inter-Academy match," Cillian offered.

Stanley nodded. He wasn't going to argue with that point.

Shu's close combat cadets held their in cover one hundred metres out. They did not charge or engage, they waited.

The spectators waited in for the first crucial move, or disastrous when the railguns and PPCs began to exchange fire at two and three hundred metres range from cover.

The PPCs disadvantage, a slow rate of fire, was with their ability to destroy cover. Where the railguns pure speed meant that dodging a round was nigh impossible however this was of little use when your target was behind cover.

The three photon -wielding close combat cadets from Shu began to move. One east and one west, the third stayed hidden in a central They were attempting to use width to the and possibly draw and waste PPC fire.

Every time a PPC bolt flew towards the mesh exo wielders, they dove or engaged jump jets.

"That is excellent ," Cillian observed. Their squadmates were warning them of the shot.

"Most likely from the squad leader or spotter AI directly to CC cadet AI," Stanley suggested. By CC he meant close combat. "Verbal comms would be too slow."

"They are well drilled," Andre noted.

Stanley nodded. This squad was excellent for M3 Term 1, he would estimate they were as good as their squad zero counterparts. Shu had some gems this year. Stanley had his AI look up details of the Master of Shu M3 while he continued to watch.

"What do you think the draw is on one of those PPCs?" Stanley asked.

"If I had to guess, 1MW. The average storage in a heavy is about 3MW. The tournament would unlikely have more, it is designed to maximise armour value, strength and speed. Power storage usually gives way in terms of space while using the best technology The most an exo would have is 5MW with the minimum being 1MW. We can the between and by timing the shots across all cadets." Cillian added.

Once the storage was consumed, even partially, the rate of fire was limited by how quickly the inbuilt generator recharged the storage. This would not inform the size of the storage but would give them an estimate of the main of the weapon with extended use.

Suddenly, the stalemate was broken.

"That was bound to happen sooner or later," Stanley said. Two Shu railgunners took down a Horus PPC cadet when they broke cover to fire.

"That PPC may do a lot of damage, but a double headshot with good railguns will take out any exo," Stanley stated. An average exo could not withstand a single headshot from a military grade railgun.

"The damage of the PPC is offset by the speed of its bolt and its The railgun is able to maintain a higher rate of fire, it's harder to dodge due to its speed, and it's more over medium and long ranges. It also doesn't consume all the power from the exo, allowing the cadet to perform other which require power." Stanley gave his assessment of the ranged loadouts after ten minutes of combat.

Horus was being whittled down, they had lost three PPC users and only had one left. Although they were M1, they still only had seven cadets due to being a zero squad.

"This is the endgame now," Stanley offered his insight.

The Shu close combat cadets began to encroach into the Horus inner zone. From three different The minigunners attempted to engage but were either damaged or pinned down by covering fire from the railguns.

The two cadets closed and then retreated. Horus was busy with the three mesh exos with only one PPC wielder remaining who had to split focus from the close combat and railgun cadets while maintaining cover, trying not to be taken down as their were.

The of the close combat Shu cadets ended up being a ruse. To Horus while three of their railgunners took up better to get the minigunners into a crossfire pincer.

" of tactical for the M1 cadets and the Fortescue brat," Stanley said giving his of the Shu cadets movements. It was a chess game where one had little experience in chess.

Cillian looked over his shoulder, to see if anyone other than Andre was listening. He didn't mind Stanley calling the Fortescue progeny a brat, but someone might.

As the battle ended with Shu losing no cadets, Stanley looked at Cillian, "So much for M1s in an M3 ;

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