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Chapter 51 : 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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The room was quiet, other than the sound of exos and weapons being loaded into hoverbins and one cadet whistling. Barran whistled a happy tune which mirrored the general feeling of the squad.

Authors Note: music was an individual thing. Cadets could listen to music anytime through their helmets and often did. The room would still otherwise be quiet.

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There were no hi-fives, or dancing or laughter. The cadets were pleased with their , but they were not the types to jump around in wild abandon. Perhaps Barran was, but he locked step with his peers.

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M1 Thoth Squad zero, M1TS0, were in the semi-finals of the M3 In term one their first term at Fortescue Military Academy. Up until this point, they had worked hard, focused on improving and what they needed to get done.

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Every year there was a cadet who was ranked one, a cadet ranked two and sometimes from the same squad. But what they achieved had never been done before in the thirty-four-year history of the Academy.

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Messages from their peers filtered through to Vannier, Axelzero, Barran and even Gaumont, Mace and Picard. Daedo received the message.

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*Sideris: well done Daedo. See you on Thursday.*

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It was the squad leader from M3 Shu zero. One of the only people to have his contact which was due to the purchasing of exos. Ironically they would be facing each other in the semi-final. At least one squad with Daedo's exos would be in the final.

As the squad walked back to their quarters Barran announced, "I'm going to have to put on auto-reply again," and then laughed.

Daedo was reading the group two analysis from Master Nader. Her analysis always contained metrics which were not on the Academy's killboard. Until the tournament started, she sporadically sent tables with data on their practice matches. But now the official matches were underway the analysis was set out in a structured manner.

The dashboard showing key stats, with comments about strategy and performance below each match. Not only did she give stats on their performance, but they also had every single squad in the same format, including matches they were not involved in.

This made it easy to highlight weak areas using the comparison to other squads in terms of reflex , , quality of damage and bandwidth. All of which could be trained and improved.

Their last match had no review notes, only an order for a debriefing at 1830. Daedo sent a missive over comms as not everyone was in earshot.

Daedo: squad, we best eat, shower, whatever. Master Nader has scheduled a debriefing for 1830.

Daedo put his exo away and hit the shower. It had been a long day. No one wanted to brave the cafeteria, the squad ate and chatted in their quarters until Master Nader summoned them into her office at 1830. Master Nader was never late.

"Be seated," Master Nader informed the squad. And they sat on one of two bench seats she had prepared in the shape of an L facing her corner desk and

"You must be satisfied with your ; She asked the squad.

It was almost delivered as a rhetorical No one answered for a moment.

"We are satisfied that we have progressed in both ," Daedo answered carefully.

"Your performance, tactics and equipment are all commendable," Master Nader began. "Yes. We can be critical and find issue with many things. But this is why we train. That is why we are here. To learn. But in order to learn correctly, the fundamentals must be in ;

She paused. Her robotic voice conveying neither nor joy. However, it was at showing displeasure, which was not on on this

"I have one major concern. Let us run through a logical ," she issued the challenge, a few should lead the squad to the same as she had already arrived.

"Why does the give more points for the fewer cadets you lose, in order to win a match?" Master Nader asked.

Axelzero answered immediately, the cadets knew it was best not to muck around, "the 0.1 to 0.8 points show the level of disparity between the squads. In the event, if the group stage ends with an equal number of wins the performance of each match separates the tied squads. These points significant in the longer inter-academy league ;

The league predominately had matches every weekend, with a total of twenty-two by the end of the season.

Master Nader stood silently. A strong that the answer was not complete.

Daedo thought he knew, but if he answered everything it did not assist with the squads learning. He folded his arms indicating he wasn't going to answer. It was up to the rest of the squad.

Vannier offered the simple answer, "the fewer cadets you lose, the more points you get. Points are the only reward in a match, therefore, are the only measure of performance."

Master Nader leaned forward.

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"That did not take long. Good," she said in her manner of conveying barely adequate performance.

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For the first nine weeks, Master Nader used her usual and nurturing techniques on the M1TS0 cadets. Daedo had problematic. He saw through a trial for what it was. Trials were set before him by Master Nader for the sole reason to train. On many , his lowered and sometimes nullified the effect. She came to a that direct and open was in order. Not much else worked when Daedo picked it apart with logic.

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"The Squad Leader," she began again, "and his have the reports from the group matches. They will interpret and discuss. I will not be giving you a performance review on the matches. I will give your leaders a performance review on your own internal performance review."

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Master Nader stood and walked out from behind her desk. "There is one message that I wanted to give to you all directly. And I want you to consider very carefully what I say next."

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"From now on," she began and paused dramatically.

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"In every match and every ," she stopped again.

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"Treat every death as real. I want you to ," and she said the work in a manner which conveyed her disgust for the word, "and not lose anyone in any match."

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Daedo bowed his head. The effect this would have on their tactics and was enormous.

After three minutes what she said had sunk into all the cadets. The protests began.

Barran, "but no one else will be like this!"

Gaumont, "we can't. Argh. How?"

Vannier, "Master Nader, this will make for some boring matches are you sure?"

Daedo wondered why Vannier would say that. Surely she knew Master Nader well enough by now. She was always sure. Maybe she held out a small hope.

After everyone protested except Mace and Daedo. Master Nader sat back down.

"None from you two?" She asked.

"What's the point?" Mace answered. Correctly indicating that no protest would but she still didn't like the order.

Everyone turned to Daedo who had assessed Nader's reasoning and her long-term goals.

"We're all dead," he said.

"What, huh, come again?" from numerous squad members.

"Sure we will be with this directive," Gaumont misunderstood where Daedo was coming from.

"At some point today, I sacrificed one or more of us, including myself, in order to win. If this was a real battle we would be dead," he said.

Daedo stood, "Master Nader. You stated that we cannot lose anyone. That doesn't mean they can't leave the field of when damaged and almost dead. Do I understand you correctly?"

"Affirmative," Master Nader answered. The fine print opened up many possibilities. If someone was deactivated by the AR adjudicator, they weren't actually dead. They were incapacitated. Which means they would survive if it was a real battle. As long as the enemy did not finish them off or they bled out before help arrived. Details which matches did not deal with.

"Incapacitated!" Picard shouted.

The cadets nodded. It was not as it first seemed, but still. It was a no other squads had.

"Cadets; Picard, Axelzero, Barran, Mace dismissed," Master Nader ordered.

Puzzled looks towards Gaumont as the four left Nader's office. Nader often talked to Daedo and Vannier alone. Or a cadet alone. Leaving Gaumont in the room with the two leaders had significance.

The door closed behind them.

"Maybe he will get what is coming to him," Barran harked back to an old grudge where Gaumont was not participating as part of the team.

Mace shot him a look. She knew that Daedo always supported Gaumont's , even if it felt like he was pulling against the squad.

"Maybe he's getting a ," she teased Barran. She was rewarded with a shocked look from Barran. Mace found a button and gave Barran a rare smile.

"Oh you," he said Her smile gave it away. He proceeded to mess her hair before copping a kick to the shin.

"Don't touch me," she threatened menacingly.

Barran rushed to divert the angry ;s , "what do you think is going on in there?" He whispered conspiratorily.

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"Sit," Master Nader ordered. The cadets stood when the others left, they couldn't sit again until ordered or granted due to the of the Academy.

"Cadet's we will the same logic game as before," Master Nader began.

"Gaumont. Why is it that you did not fall into line immediately with the squad's and structure?"

"Ah," Gaumont fumbled, the room felt suddenly awkward for all the cadets. If Master Nader was a surgeon, she would not use anaesthesia nor a small

"I ah. I did not," he flummoxed. Master Nader waited patiently.

"Take your time and form your answer properly," she ordered.

Vannier considered sending him a sneaky text, but of all the people on the , she could not imagine getting away with it in front of Master Nader. Or behind.

"I did not agree with the or the structure," Gaumont answered finally. Using the Master's own terminology to good effect.

Master Nader nodded. "But why didn't you agree?"

She Gaumont again.

He began coming up with reasons, excuses, examples and Master Nader waited patiently through it all.

After he concluded Master Nader asked, "Daedo what is your analysis?"

He had not thought about it until she brought up the topic. But he had known it all along.

"Because we are alike," he answered simply.

Master Nader nodded, "but that is not the sum of it," she corrected. Master Nader was telling the cadets that Daedo was partly right, but there was more to it.

"Gaumont. In order to you need to know yourself better. You have demonstrated today that you do not know yourself. This is a problem. Fix it," Master Nader ordered.

It would be nice if she gave him some tips Vannier thought. Then she realised her and Daedo were there for a reason. In her , she her forehead. Master Nader basically delegated to her to help Gaumont, but without saying a word. It was by inference because just like Gaumont, Master Nader understood her as well. Vannier liked to help people. Even when she wasn't invited.

"Because you are incapable. I will tell you. But be warned I expect you to capable very quickly because I will not hand feed you in the future," Master Nader prefaced.

She had given Vannier the very same speech on their first day at the Academy. Almost word for word.

"Cadet Gaumont," she said his name, and it was like throwing a bucket of ice water, bringing him to

"You are a leader. You are a born leader. You hate to follow." She said simply as if to say 'there was that so hard?'

Even Daedo was surprised by this Gaumont was gobsmacked that Master Nader thought that of him. But if she said it, including in front of Daedo and Vannier, it must be true.

"I am informing you of changes next term. These changes have been in my House before term one began. Your throughout the term have only confirmed my initial assessments.," Master Nader apprised.

She continued after that statement sunk in, "in term two you will be squad leader of Thoth Squad one. You will replicate what you have witnessed and learned in squad zero. I should not need to spell out what that is. You will spend the next few days gathering and preparing for this role. Before you are dismissed do you have any ; Master Nader allowed. She didn't usually allow asking as an

"Ah, is this compulsory?" Gaumont asked.

"Affirmative," Master Nader answered. Gaumont really had to get to know Master Nader better. Everything was compulsory unless she stated you had a choice to make.

"Right," Gaumont said standing. "I guess I better…" and before he could finish his sentence 'better get to it.'

"Cadet!" Master Nader boomed. "You have not been dismissed, nor given leave to pontificate."

The sound Gaumont like a sonic shotgun back on to the bench seat. As soon as his ass hit the bench Master Nader spoke again.

"Dismissed," she said as if nothing had happened.

Gaumont left without saying a word.

The pair sat quietly waiting for the Master to dismiss them or bring on the next world exploding directive.

Master Nader made them wait. One minute turned into five.

Vannier looked at Daedo who merely sat thinking about strategies that involved keeping everyone alive first and winning in arena matches.

"Cadet Daedo," Master Nader said finally, "you will prepare a list of specialties and skills needed to continue to develop ordnance and mecha. Then you will assign squad members, excluding Gaumont to this list. You will then submit a report to me with assignments and areas of deficiency."

"Until now you have conducted this with a haphazard approach and my efforts to direct you have been circumvented. Due to your immunity to , current and future will now consist of open , and guidance."

Daedo almost fell off his seat. Master Nader just said she would speak with him from now on because he saw through all her puppetry strings.

"Does that include asking ; Daedo ventured. Risk taking was part of battle strategy.

Master Nader nodded. "Granted, but do not interrupt or…you know the or."

Vannier was about to inquire if it included her. Master Nader must have sensed it, and she swivelled to her head to face Vannier, "No. You have not earned that privilege yet. You the opposite to immunity from ;

Daedo could not help himself, there was a burning above all the unanswered he had.

"Are aliens on their way to invade Earth?" he asked.

Vannier turned to look at Daedo. That was the last thing she expected out of his lips. But she had not been with Chief Albert and Nader when they both let slip something about defending the She had not been part of his with Mace about the spiral and its intent.

"Cadet Daedo. You disappoint me," Master Nader would be smiling if she could. It was as if she had been dying to tell him that for a long time.

"The evidence surrounds you. If you cannot assess the evidence and come to a when it is this I cannot help you," Master Nader did not answer his

So much for open guidance, Daedo thought. But then he began to think about the Academies, the buildup of military forces. These had always been part of his life, but it was not always so. Men used to fight wars against himself. There had been no wars for over thirty years. None. The preceding two hundred years or more were littered with wars.

The world's foremost facilities were all now Military Academies. Some of these used to be of higher learning with no Military aspect. Harvard, Oxford, Berkley, Cambridge just to name a few.

Even without the few dropped words from Master Nader and Chief Albert, it was Master Nader was right. The buildup was not by mech fervour and xenophobia.

"When?" he asked.

"Soon. Get ready," Master Nader answered.

"What happened to open guidance?" Daedo provoked.

"You know more than any cadet in the Academy, and you are still not satisfied?" Master Nader asked rhetorically. "The open , guidance and policy only applies to what you need to know. It's not an open to all my secrets."

"The exact timeframe is unknown. There are estimates that it at five years and others ten. What I do know is that you need to prepare. Prepare for five, like your life and the life of most of the people on this depends on it."

"Why bother with the games?" Daedo began to panic.

"Cadet. The games train you, your squad and the squads you compete against. They are competitive training. Nothing other than real battles will give you better experience. Fight like your life depends on it. That is all you need to do," Master Nader stated calmly.

"Dismissed or I will have to suffer all night," Master Nader finished.

Daedo and Vannier left Master Naders office.

The list of was dramatic. Don't die in , okay, that's a pain. Gaumont is leaving, no word of other than making a list. And, yeah. Aliens are invading in five to ten.

Dismissed.

Mace noticed the look on Daedo's face first. Vannier looked paler than usual, which was probably not possible.

*Mace: what happened?*

*Daedo: you don't want to know.*

*Mace: I can help.*

*Daedo: yes. Please. We need to make a list of skills and specialities required to fully build and innovate mechs. Weapons and the mech itself.*

*Mace: not exos?*

*Daedo: if we can do a mech we can do an exo. We need to prepare for the future.*

*Mace: so what happened really?*

*Daedo: Master Nader has a new policy since I keep seeing through her Brutal honesty.*

*Mace: how brutal.*

*Daedo: look at Vanniers face brutal.*

*Mace: oh shit. I only noticed you. She is catatonic.*

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