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Chapter 53 : 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 ;s silence was palpable, it was only a minute, but seemed like forever. Neither the Pagets nor Vannier dared make a sound waiting for Fortescue's response.

Karine suddenly broke down in laughter. She her leg, rolled back on the couch, she laughed so much she snorted which led to sudden embarrassment.

"Do you think I don't know that?" She said caustically, her mood swinging from unbridled mirth to cynical in a moment.

Fortescue continued while Daedo remained silent, "they have been trying to butt in and change everything since we lost our first M3 match. They even held meetings with Master Nader to bring you and a couple of the other across to my squad. You don't need to change my mind, I am in agreement with you on this. I don't want any of you in my squad. We," she indicated the Pagets and ostensibly her squad, "will learn from our mistakes and come back stronger next term. We've only just started. I am not in a panic. Unlike my Mother, the Commander or Master Becker."

"So yes I know that already. I am not worrying what the adults think," she finished.

There was a long pause, and a satisfied vibe emanated from the Horus cadets at Karine's shutdown of Daedo. Putting him in his Paget was smirking.

Daedo shook his head, "no. You misunderstood my meaning." Vannier had an idea what he meant, but the other cadets were clueless.

"Please educate me Daedo," Fortescue said evenly. No hint of sarcasm or cynicism this time. If this cadet had proved anything, it was that he was smart. She would hear him out.

"You and I are on the same side, even though we are in different houses. Even if we were in different Academies, we would still on the same side. The adults think that winning tournaments, gaining or earning wealth is important. And you are caught up in that," he said patiently.

Karine rocked back again, but not in laughter, in thought. She leaned forward and asked, "then why do you try so hard to win if all this is for nothing?" She turned to Paget-L and snickered, "rather Marxist isn't he?"

Vannier bridled, but kept silent, she would not attempt to speak for Daedo now the had taken this turn.

Daedo stood and said off-handedly as he turned to leave, "we aren't trying to win. We are training."

The pair turned their backs to Fortescue and the Pagets and left. The was over.

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"What did he mean by that?" Paget-L said , "was he implying they don't care if they win or lose?"

Fortescue shook her head as Raoult, Girard and Niel arrived and into seats in the

"What happened?" Raoult asked desperately. The was hungry for about the exchange.

"Thoth reckon they haven't been trying to win. That they have just been training. And get this," Paget-L shared, "adults know shit!" With the last, she broke into laughter.

Fortescue turned to her resident thinker, "what do you think?" She asked Paget-A.

Aline Paget was almost identical to her sister in looks apart from the hair colour and style. Even if they had the same colour hair and style it was unlikely friends would mix them up once they spoke. Paget was brash and aggressive, where Aline was intelligent and thoughtful.

They were the Horus equivalent of Barran and Daedo, apart from the fact they were cute twin girls.

Paget-A tapped her finger on her cheek, she was trying to find the right phrasing, it was in her nature to be careful with wording, "I think," she began before her sister cut her off.

"Bah, you think, you think! Just look at their , their are what matters not his words," Paget-L interrupted.

Fortescue stared down Paget-L. The icy cold look was followed with the statement, "I asked Aline what she thought. Do you think I can be allowed to hear it?"

Paget-L sat back on the couch and crossed her arms, suitably chastised.

Fortescue looked back to Paget-A and nodded indicating for her to continue.

"I think," she began again, "if you saw their match today you would see that validate what he just said. It looked to me like it was a drill, they were using different tactics and loadouts."

"Why does he win the Gauntlet each round then?" Fortescue asked Paget-A.

She shrugged, "you must admit he with it most of the time."

"What about this adult thing," Fortescue asked, "what does he mean by that. He said I misunderstood."

"He's referring to aliens." Paget-A continued, "He said that even if we were in different Academies, we would still be on the same team. Which can only mean there is a common enemy which we would side against."

Most of the squad , "we haven't seen Aliens since. Well ever." Girard offered.

"Since 2101," Paget-A nodded with the answer.

Fortescue looked frustrated, "I think…" she started and stopped most of her squad was waiting for her verdict before conforming their to it.

She shook her head, as if casting doubts away, "I think he is a genius but also crazy as a loon." She tapped the table in front of the couch timing her word with the taps. "He probably believes what he says. Which just proves he is crazy."

"What about the rest of them? Mace is , and Vannier is always top five," Raoult said.

"They wouldn't be if it wasn't for that exo. Look at the first round, they were barely in the top ten until their new exo arrived, that's when they passed everyone," Fortescue replied.

"So….," Raoult kicked her foot on the floor sheepishly, "why don't you recruit him?" No one else dared to broach the subject with Fortescue. Their best athlete and fighter was also foolishly brave.

Fortescue stared at Raoult gobsmacked, "Haven't you been paying That's what I have been fighting with Mother and Becker about! Plus…" she flummoxed, "he would never join." She the table emphasising each and. "And he would never follow orders." Thump. "And he is crazy!"

The atmosphere became thick with No one from Horus zero spoke for minutes allowing Karine Fortescue to cool off.

Aline Paget wondered if Daedo was actually crazy. Unlike the rest of her squad who were sold on the idea.

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<break>

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"That went well," Vannier said with a dash of humour as they made their way back.

"What were you expecting?" Daedo asked sincerely.

She thought about it, "to be honest I had no idea what to expect. I just wanted to be in the top dog for a change."

"mmm," Daedo replied thoughtfully, "I don't think Fortescue does lower dog very well."

Vannier laughed, she wasn't sure if Daedo was trying to be funny, but she thought it was

When Daedo and Vannier shared the capture of their meeting, it raised many instead of satiating the squad's thirst for triumph over Fortescue and her lackeys.

"Okay, okay, so.." Barran was trying to decipher the sledging, "what's all this stuff about adults know shit. We are on the same team. Were you messing with her?"

Daedo shook his head.

"They think you are crazy. Look at their faces," Axelzero observed.

Mace watched the entire capture over twice before messaging Daedo.

*Mace: we need to talk.*

*Daedo: okay. Can we have a talk during the break?*

"Let's just watch the mechs," Vannier said trying to calm the squad down. "It's going to start in ten minutes."

"Oh, I can get us into a box," Barran said.

"Which one?" Vannier asked, knowing it may come with strings attached.

"Marais of course, those guys love us," Barran answered.

Vannier looked at Daedo who shrugged as if to say, up to you.

She looked it up and sighed, "alright. We will need to run, it's on the other side. Barran it was your idea, get before we arrive, or we will just take cadet seating on that side."

The Thoth cadets ran, it was a rare time they acted like thirteen-year-olds. They laughed and were excited to get into a box, and not on the back of who their parents were, but who they were themselves.

On the upper deck of the western stadium, they rushed past several adults who only saw kids running in a hallway.

"I thought Thoth were the smart, quiet types?" One said. The cadets rushed past too fast for them to see the zeros and single digits, they only saw their height and the with white insignia.

Barran pulled up to the door first, in his mind, it was a race. He turned back to see Picard and beamed at her, "First!" She just shook her head.

"Only because I didn't trip you when I had the chance," she teased pushing him out of the way.

Daedo was near the rear with Axelzero pushing him by the shoulders. "Come on." She said merrily.

Of all the cadets he had the most trouble finding carefree. "Okay, okay," he said, "stop you'll push me over!"

As Daedo and Axelzero finally arrived Cillian came to the entrance with Jeram in tow.

Jeram Marais nodded and gave a friendly smile.

"Marais UTX. I remember," Daedo announced. Some of the squad's rubbed off on him.

Jeram laughed and beamed, "That was you?!" dawned on him.

Cillian looked as confused as Daedo's squad at the exchange. He waved them in. "Jeram, bring them over to Stanley in the number two booth. I want them to meet him."

<break>

It was the semi-finals for the U1 mechs, Stanley Martin usually stood in the open area with Cillian and watched through the AR with one or two others. However today Sophie moved them into a large booth minutes before the first the match. The high backed chairs faced down onto the arena forming a large u shape. There was enough room for ten people, but at the moment Stanley was alone.

Cillian entered and spoke quickly, "ah sorry about the rush rush. We have some special guests." He and said, "Jeram."

Jeram entered with seven cadets from none other than M1 Thoth squad zero. Stanley the numbering and insignia immediately. Fortunately, they were facing Shu tomorrow and not Jeram's Osiris squad.

Jeram looked to his Father, "Go on," Cillian said and looked back to the group. "Jeram can't leave his squadmates to join us, that wouldn't be polite."

Vannier noted how the family operated. They were made to feel Even organising Jeram to come to the entrance. And rather than pal around with them, he went back to his squad. She gave Daedo a look, and he returned an imperceptible nod.

"Ah Cadets," Cillian began. "This is Stanley Martin. I thought you would like to meet him as he currently serves in the EUDF as a colonel."

Stanley stood, nodded to Cillian and saluted the Cadets. Within a heartbeat, the cadets returned an at salute in unison. It was a misdemeanour that they did not salute first, but they were caught unawares.

"At ease cadets, I am not in uniform," Stanley informed them. Which was not , he wore a leather jacket over his EUDF bodysuit.

Cillian introduced the cadets one by one. He pointed indicating where they take a seat. "It's about to start," a fact which they were all aware.

Upper Academy matches operated with the six-metre mech with a plethora of rules and Defence forces around the used six-meter as the mainstay with twelve-metre mechs as the elite units.

The two competing squads were both zeros, one from Osiris and the other Amun-Ra. The mechs were coloured with of dark green and red which reflected the house colours.

Osiris's mechs lumbered in from the north where over a thousand metres to the south were Amun-Ra. This was a U1 match. If U1 was anything like M1, the mechs would not be retrofitted anywhere near the degree of the U3 mechs. However, U1 had the three years of experience from Middle Academy to draw on. It was doubtful they had done little or no

The mechs main weapons were autocannons, assault cannons and missile launchers. All with the ability to fire the twelve hundred metre range. The only impediment to an all-out was the terrain. Hills and valleys obscure views with a few large masses of trees and a small lake.

Compared to exos, the mechs were quite slow. At best they reached a slow jog. Each squad had two lighter framed mechs with massive jumpjets on their back. These mechs carried a single autocannon.

The assault cannon mechs were weighed down with thousands of rounds of ammo. Where the calibre of the autocannon was heavier, the rate of fire slower. An assault cannon was a mix between a minigun and assault rifle. Capable of massive bursts of fire with the peak damage output.

However, these guns would overheat and run out of ammo at some stage. The group watched as both sides navigated the terrain, keeping the squads fairly tight, while not standing on top of one another.

As soon as Osiris passed the first hill, one of its lighter mechs jumped up into the air. It came back down a few metres to the north.

"," Stanley offered and received nods from the cadets.

Daedo was inspecting the structural elements of the mechs while barely taking notice of the match Their feet were huge with four joints per leg; counting from the foot to the hip. Half of the mechs had a disc below the torso which would allow a full torso twist. Where the other half did not, the hips connected directly into the torso.

Four mechs had one arm and in lieu of the arm had the autocannon embedded. Only one mech held a missile launcher the other four had them shoulder mounted.

The mechs designs for each cadet was It was as if each squad member had their own personal mech and worked on their own personal strategies.

It immediately made Daedo think of Gaumont and his attitude at the beginning of term one.

"They're not squads," Daedo announced louder than he wanted.

A few heads turned his way.

"What do you mean?" Vannier asked the everyone wanted to.

"Look at their mechs. They are all different. Major structural differences, armour types, the torso to the legs is sometimes a disc and others direct connect. Even the autocannons are Mounted, held and with varying calibres," Daedo had more, but that was enough of a list for the reasoning.

"Are they testing different technologies?" Axelzero asked.

"Osiris and Amun-Ra testing in a semi-final?" Daedo asked back. He wasn't sure, maybe they were.

"He's right," Stanley stated, "they are not only competing against rival squads but each other."

Gaumont must have felt like making a that he was not an outcast, but to his credit remained quiet. It was not that long ago Master Nader ordered him to spread Daedo's methods to squad one.

The two squads soon , if it wasn't for the AR it would have been a very costly They soon arms, legs and heads off each other.

Tactics revolved around range, focus fire and use of terrain. Osiris focused all mechs on the most injured or opportune target. If a mech did not have a LOS, it held fire to conserve and reduce heat.

As the battle wore on, mechs fell equally on both sides, they squads were closely matched.

"Why no shields?" Daedo asked no one in If the lead Mech held a shield, it could sustain more damage, slowing down the casualties from their squad.

"No points for taking damage, only for dealing," Stanley answered.

Daedo shook his head. Vannier put a hand on his shoulder, "don't worry, we won't be like this."

"It's not "us" I am worried about," Daedo answered.

Stanley sent Cillian a private message.

Stanley: interesting indeed. He grasps what the educators do not.

Cillian: this is not the way the cadets should be learning?

Cillian was not on the same page as Stanley and Daedo. He was a talented engineer who enjoyed supporting and analysing the Academy tournaments. He had not considered the wider of this strategy.

Stanley: it has its Not all of these cadets will enter the military. And they will come together in the inter-Academy tournaments. But that is only a handful. What the young cadet is talking about is turning a squad into an allied force where they all work together to progress. I daresay the alliance they build now will survive past U3 and the times are such the educators need to change the of all squads to this structure.

Cillian: what I see from my son. It seems times are changing. I am fairly sure his squad works together quite well.

Stanley: that may be. But there is evidence before us, this U1 tournament is a testament to the old way.

Mace leaned into Daedo and whispered, "do they realise we can hear them typing a mile away?"

Daedo: maybe they wanted a private

Mace: yeah. I agree with you. These mechs are crap. I bet we could beat them next term if we wanted.

Daedo: I am hoping Munich will be better than this.

Mace: we should go to the expo as well as the tourney.

Daedo: there's an expo?

Mace: yeah. Companies large and small sell stuff to all the amatuer mech enthusiasts.

Daedo: there's a whole industry around these amatuer tourneys?

Mace: the prize money is insane. It makes CyberMech look like chicken feed.

"Boom," Barran yelled excitedly as an Osiris mech took down the last Amun-Ra.

Daedo and Mace had missed the last of the

Cillian asked, "drinks anyone? There will be a fifteen minutes before the next semi-final."

"We just drink water Sir," Picard answered before Barran could order something stupid.

Cillian nodded, "you take your training indeed."

"Water for me to please Cillian," Stanley prompted.

To which Cillian sighed. "Ok, nine waters it is." In moments a robot arrived and poured nine of chilled water directly from a hose connected to its chest.

"What did you make of that match cadets?" Cillian asked.

In turn, Barran, Picard, Mace, Gaumont and Vannier offered insights into the weapons, movements, tactics and of the two squads.

"Cadet Daedo, you haven't offered an ," Colonel Stanley noticed.

Daedo shifted nervously, "I was disappointed. I stopped watching and started chatting to Mace about going to the Munich Amatuer tourney next week."

Stanley surmised that Daedo had nothing to learn from the U1 cadets and that wasn't arrogance. It was merely a fact.

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