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Chapter 48 : 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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Myrmidon had analysed thousands of M3 battles going back five years through all the tournaments intra and inter-Academy. The AI had analysed and distilled those battles into five hours of condensed tactical and logistical

None of the tactics on show today surprised Daedo. This was exactly what Myrmidon was brilliant at. What would have taken over a thousand hours to complete himself, the pair were able to achieve in five hours. Albeit Daedo had the cliff notes , it was sufficient and much better than watching five hours of the latest finals.

M3 Osiris Squad zero (6) def M3 Amun-Ra Squad Zero

Osiris had one cadet left standing when they defeated Amun-Ra. It was an extremely close battle.

Next, it was M1 Thoth up against Shu (M3 squad one), who had just trounced M1 Horus without losing a single cadet.

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Author's Note: now for something different. A battle from Barran's perspective. Up until now, Barran's inner thoughts have not been divulged except through of his and speech. Where some of the other main cast has had an inner monologue disclosed on

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Barran lined up next to Gaumont. He put on a brave face, it was up to him to instil confidence in the rest of the squad, especially Gaumont. But what he felt on the inside was entirely different. This squad had completely decimated Karine's Horus squad, the squad they barely defeated in a close match.

Since that Monday night, the dark genius and the nerdy girls had upgraded the exo and railgun in Where M1 Horus had been given the best exos, Fortescue could get their hands on and had five of those PPCs.

That sort of equalled it out.

Barran hoped this wasn't going to be insanely embarrassing. He didn't care what his family thought, his sister in Master Nader was the one that put them in this mess, so he didn't care what she thought either.

No.

Babes would be watching this match.

Lots of them.

He had confidence that the dark genius would pull something out of the bag so they wouldn't be too embarrassed at least. He had faith in that. Barran thought of Daedo as a dark genius because of his hair colour and mediterranean In comparison, he had blonde hair and a fair He used to think of Daedo as a short genius, but that was too cliched, and Daedo would surely grow. Maybe.

Orders were filtering through, he had better pay

*Daedo: Vanguard. You are to stick together and proceed to the central map Seeking cover and giving each other cover where possible.*

*Advance past 200m under only.*

*The liberos will stay in touch. Shadowing you.*

*Your direct opponents are fast, in mesh exos, wielding photon and pistols. They will try and kite you or circumvent you. This is where we will have the upperhand. Block their fire and if they get within striking distance. Pounce. Until they are circumvented or dealt with use the cover of the buildings as much as possible. That's the primary way to keep the railguns off you.*

*It's ok if you get pinned. You can still pounce from a pinned *

*Understood?*

The were simple, Daedo was like that. He would not give convoluted He would issue b,c or d in the field and not communicate all the variables beforehand. Too much up front would just confuse them.

At first, Barran thought there was no way this guy should be in zero.

He was wrong, so wrong.

He really looked up to Daedo now, a lot of people were called genius. This kid was the real deal. It was best he didn't let Daedo know this, because this sort of thing could go to his head. Barran saw it as one of his responsibilities to keep the squad leader in a healthy mental state. Ego check, healthy confidence boost and levity where what he provided.

Where Daedo was weak, he was strong. In physical prowess, business acumen and worldliness. Daedo was great at most of the rest. Together they made a great team. Barran could see this partnership going far. As with all things he would take it easy and not pressure either himself or Daedo. He could just be himself, as could the dark genius, and they would

Barran looked at Shu. This was M3 squad one, they were all taller and probably faster than him. But his exo was better, it could take quite a few hits from a photon , how many hits from his cestus could they take in a mesh? Probably just the one, but the hard part would be landing one.

Barran yearned for something with a longer reach than the cestus. He would probably end up shield barging them. Chuckling to himself, the shield had better reach than the cestus. But damn, the cestus did a huge amount of damage. It was concentrated energy of doom. Making use of his melee combat skills and the exo's strength. Punching a hole through a concrete was not an issue.

His current cestus weighed twenty kilograms and was connected to his exo with four hydraulic bars. His striking velocity with or without the cestus was almost the same in the exo. The mass added to the force of his strikes exponentially. If it weren't for the exos strength, his strikes would be considerably slower with the extra mass.

The testing facility set up in their workshop measured his strike power at 14.3kN in an exo with his current cestus. His melee strike, lead hand, without an exo or a cestus, was measured at 848N. Barran smiled at the remembrance, Picard came in with 722N. He smashed them.

The AR countdown timer had started. Barran took a deep breath. It wasn't going to be a -out charge as he had been doing in the M1 matches, but he still had to find good cover 200m in. Without wasting jumpjets, he would be able to cover the 200m in a little over thirty for obstacles and making some use of cover.

Three, amber, green. Go! Barran launched himself down the wide street, heading directly towards the central built-up area. His HUD would warn him if an inbound shot was coming. Daedo's AI was typically the fastest alerting him moments before the round reached him. There would be less time for a railgun round, but Myrmidon was great at anticipating enemy He couldn't wait for the day that Jenkins was that smart.

A ping appeared on his HUD. The red letters, EVADE, were central to his forward view and for only a of a The meaning was clear. Dodge mother fucker dodge.

Barran used his right jumpjet and immediately veered to the left. His momentum carrying him forward and his jumpjet pushing him laterally. Then he dove and rolled to the closest building.

No Railgun round sounded. Most likely he moved before the trigger was pulled. He didn't doubt Daedo and his AI for one

Too fast, he said to himself. He was still a block away from the appointed front line. Barran decided to climb, he could use gravity and small jumpjet to avoid any further snipe attempts. He would save his shield for later. Hitching his shield onto his back, he climbed the six-story building. The AR made it look like an apartment building, but with no , there was never any women showering or doing exercise in skimpy clothing.

When he reached the top he darted forward, there were always storage sheds or different types of poles on tops of buildings to use for cover. There was still no sign of the enemy. They had four melee combatants, and four ranged in this match.

Barran jumped from the building across the street, reaching out to the next and grabbing with one hand. Using the force of his feet and hand against the building he slid down the southern side. The enemy was to the north, and unless they had him, he was out of the line of sight at this

Barran was two hundred metres in, four hundred from the enemy starting , there was zero chance of being at this time. But it would not be long before this was a possibility. Gaumont was closing on his using his shield for cover.

*Daedo: hold that line.*

Which basically meant he was to stay in this area but not stay put and make himself a sitting duck. The way Daedo worked was to drill certain maneuvers, and the cadets worked on their own skills. When in a battle he would give general , however, it was up to the cadet to implement how they saw fit. A simple command charge down left could be implemented a hundred different ways.

Barran liked this style. They worked together, but he still felt free to use his own instincts and skill to pull off a general directive.

Gaumont pulled up beside him, and Barran nodded to the east side of the building, to the right. He would take the left.

There was no need to top the building. With their grapplers and medium exos, the liberos would handle the z-axis.

A ping appeared on his hud. Two mesh, northwest just over 100m. Barran tracked their path but stayed out of all their possible lines of sight. Someone else had an eye on them there was no need to show himself unless they lost track.

A ping came up. The other two mesh on the northeast and going wider. It looked like they were going for a pincer, except the west side was narrow compared to the east.

There was railgun fire. Barran noted it was from his squad and against the western duo. He to the reason, the enemy now knew they had them locked without any damage dealt. It was stupid, so there had to be a reason.

Just then the mesh duo from the northwest headed wide. Instead of continuing their line north, they now headed northwest themselves. They were trying to the vanguard and liberos with their railguns holding down the centre.

Barran waited for an order, he expected Daedo to order him west, or there was a small chance he would hook up with Gaumont and go east to head off that duo.

There were only before Shu got into and he wondered what was taking Daedo so long.

*Daedo: Barran, Gaumont. Charge north. Take down the railguns in melee.*

Charge was a term with a specific meaning. It meant; run like a mother fucker. As opposed to advance, which meant to achieve the

Barran unhooked his shield and attached to his right arm. There would be little time for bouncing from cover to cover.

As soon as it was in , he took the corner and bolted north. He did not know what Daedo had , but his role was simple. The mesh would either be drawn to him or with the liberos and railgunners.

He had split from Gaumont, they were better off using their shields and dividing focus if one lost a shield they would hook up, and the remaining shield bearer could provide cover. The shield was an excellent form of defence versus a railgun. A round could the shield and still damage the cadet. But its speed would be greatly reduced, and the damage to a heavy exo would be negligible. The shield could take dozens of these hits before it started to disintegrate.

Every time Barran heard a sonic boom, it was a few after the warning on his HUD. When he saw the warning, he did all he could to twist and while still covering himself with the shield angle it away from the trajectory. This could deflect the round if he was quick enough and if not lower the damage done to the shield. His most important objectives were to avoid headshots and to close the distance quickly.

So he took a round head-on, it was better than wasting time rolling on the ground.

There was no sign of the mesh's coming after him. No warning. Which meant his role was to take down the railgunners. What he needed to do was to get to close range before they killed him. Figuratively.

For Barran imagined several hot girls watching him run, jump cars, kick walls, deflect rounds and basically be badass as he closed the 300m between him and the railgunners.

They were shooting at him and Gaumont. All their were being tracked now. So unless they could do something to fool Daedo and his AI, those little red dots were his targets.

*Daedo: Faster Vanguard. Less , more speed.*

He must have been talking to Gaumont Barran thought, because there was no way he could go any quicker.

As Barran closed to 50m of the first red dot, he took a hit to his right shoulder. A full railgun round with no from his shield. The railgunners were all still in front. Two groups of two. They couldn't him. He would take the closer group to ensure there were no free shots. Once he was engaged, they took the chance of hitting their own squaddies.

They were atop a building on the next block. A tall one. He could make it with ten of jumpjets. But that would leave him exposed unless he used the building to his right and wall run. That would give purchase, mobility and offer cover from the pair of railgunners to the east.

It only took a of a to decide, engaging both jump jets he went up a few metres and turned on his side. He kept them both engaged while he ran across the vertical building surface. The wall run automatically giving more juice to the lower jet and turning it to face the ground at the correct angle.

Barran ran towards the railgunners and up the building. Swinging his shield back in front. It was catching the wind, but it couldn't be helped. You didn't mess with railguns. Especially good ones like these.

He saw a message on his HUD, Gaumont had gone down before reaching his target. Before negative thoughts or doubt crept in, he imagined a full squad of Amun-Ra hotties cheering him. "Go Barran Go," they screamed in ecstasy at his prowess just like one of those mecha stories.

He screamed as he flew.

"Die you fuckers!"

Barran hit the top of the building he was aiming for, and the two railgunners had already begun to scramble. They would most likely retreat north and allow the other two to him. He would have none of that.

Barran twisted as he flipped his feet touching the building only once. Shu scrambled off the rear of the building while Barran let his jumpjets shutdown, as momentum helped him breach the northern end of the building. Gravity would take over.

There was no time to pull his one-handed minigun which rested on his back, it was stowed as it was unwieldy to run with compared to the cestus.

He would just have to close the last of the distance as the Shu cadets scampered. They were in heavies also. Fairly old school. If they were returning long-range fire, it made the most sense. They weren't used to other heavies being significantly more mobile than theirs. Not at M2 level intra level. And although they were now M3, this was the first term for them as well.

Barran picked a victim, the one on the left. He was taller than Barran, they both were. But not by much, the two years advantage in age was all they had.

The Shu cadet landed and rolled to the side. Barran was still falling. Before the Shu cadet finished his roll, Barran had activated his jumpjets again, he still had a good twenty of juice. He would land on top of the M3 cadet if possible.

The cadet was rolling as well. He couldn't see what Barran was doing before he made that Otherwise, he would have pulled his railgun and began firing. The leap off the building should not be unexpected. It must have been the speed that surprised Shu. Barran still had momentum from his fifty-metre charge when he topped the building, and it didn't wear off entirely until midway through his fall down.

He smashed his boots down onto the Cadet. It was one thing AR couldn't protect you from. This sort of physical attack brought real fear from other cadets as they could get hurt. It was nothing the medical centre couldn't fix, but no one wanted to be kicked or punched with 14kN by a cestus. Luckily for Shuby, it wasn't, in reality, a 14kN hit, because the cestus was an arena But his strength counted towards the damage and the melee hit was still real. It would bruise, crack ribs and punctured lungs. But it wouldn't kill.

Barran's foot smashed into the M3 Shu cadets side causing him to wince and curl up. He was probably winded. Barran had to hit him until the system him incapacitated at least.

One clean crack to the head, and jump, he hoped that was enough because staying would lead to a railgun round in the back.

The message came across his hud. The M3 Shu cadet called Vaughn was down.

Barran spun facing the where the other railgunner was expected to finish his roll. This Shu cadet was kneeling, and he was looking down the barrel of a railgun. Barran brought his shield around and charged. The round hitting him full in the chest moments before his shield was in

The Amun-Ra squad of eight hot girls, which only existed in Barran's , were sure to be in rapture as he bounded heroically, while wounded, across the fifteen-metre gap separating him and the Shu railgunner.

Another kill message scrolled across their HUDs, but neither the Shu cadet nor Barran had time to pay it any One was desperately trying to fire another round in the moments that remained, willing his loading mechanism on, while Barran was getting his shoulder behind his shield.

The Shu cadet would not get away as he had chosen to stand fast and fire. His round loaded into the chamber as Barran hit causing the railgun barrel to swing up towards the sky.

The Shu cadet lay on his back, floored for a moment. And a moment was all Barran needed to torso twist and bring down his cestus onto the opposing cadets face mask. This time he did not jump after hitting his opponent, he was almost on a knee above his quarry.

Another message across the HUD.

Indicating Barran killed Silva with a cestus, and Thoth now had five kills to Shu's three.

As Barran read the messages, two railgun rounds hit him in the chest killing him. He was incapacitated until the match was over. He would just have to lie where he fell.

Shu now had four kills to Thoth's five. Thoth only had seven Cadets to Shu's eight. Which meant there were only three remaining from each team.

As Barran lay there dead, he imagined the Amun-Ra girls one last time. They wept over his heroic demise.

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