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Chapter 65 : M1 - Term: 2, Round: 1


Attendance at Fortescue Military Academy M1 Y:2142

House Thoth, Squad Leader, Squad Zero

M1 Rank: 1/1275, Tier 3 M-Rank: Null

Term: 2, Round: 1

Daedalus Operating Capital: 130,000 bitcreds




"I've been looking forward to meeting you," the new recruit introduced himself. "Jensen." He held out his hand first, for Daedo, and then Vannier, to shake.

"Daedo," Daedo said to the tall English cadet. He was already in a Thoth bodysuit, with the squad zero on the left, but no of rank. He had light brown hair and a clear, fair He was almost as tall as Barran, probably only a centimetre off.

"Vannier," she stated, "We have breakfast in the main cafeteria at 0730. The squad spends every meal together." Vannier informed Jensen of the schedule and shared the squad with him. It was only 0705 they had time to talk before the squad gathered in the main cafeteria.

"What made you decide to come to FMA?" Vannier asked Jensen as they walked.

"I haven't yet," Jensen replied, "I will take this week to assess. This was arranged with your Master." Jensen paused and then added, "Cambridge think I am taking an extra week with the family."

"What are you assessing? The Academy or us?" Vannier asked.

Jensen shared his slowly and emphatically, "Both to be honest. Master Nader convinced my parents that I would excel here far beyond what I could at Cambridge. I wasn't sure. I wanted to see. So here I am. Looking,"

"Master Nader said you were a chemical engineering and specialist," Daedo and then enquired, "Can you tell us a little about your work?"

Jensen suddenly stiffened. He stopped and began walking again before answering, "I don't like to share what I am working on, but I can validate my ;

Jensen shared with Daedo and Vannier the prizes he had won in the Chemical and general science fields. He had won the medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry based in London.

"Your medal is for ; Daedo asked after looking it up.

"Yes, it's a really interesting field," Jensen replied.

They sat down in the cafeteria without ordering the rest of the squad would arrive at 0730.

"What about polymers and synthetic fluids?" Daedo asked. "Have you done any study or much work into those areas?"

"That's all basic stuff for me," Jensen replied confident in his own knowledge.

"I'd like to make a trade with you Jensen," Daedo proposed. "I am not sure what you are in need of, you just need to ask, but I want you to provide a new hydraulic fluid design or product for our exo. You can examine one after breakfast, and I can send you through the details of the mesh underarmour and micropumps."

"Don't you just use a UHVI fluid?" Jensen asked.

Daedo quickly looked up the acronym, UHVI was Ultra-High Index, in to hydraulic fluids and lubricants. "Yes, but the issue is the size of our aperture. We need smaller particles, less than five microns," Daedo replied.

Jensen scratched his head, "I'll see what I can come up with."

Daedo sent a message to Mace which turned into a full-on

*Daedo: need you to work on something with a deadline. Come up with a to improve our hydraulic fluid this week. Either off the shelf or tweaking a known synthetic compound.*

*Mace: on our way now. I'm guessing this has something to do with our new recruit. Is there something you need to tell me?*

*Daedo: there is something, and I don't want to tell you.*

*Mace: spit it.*

*Daedo: Master Nader didn't get us a metallurgist. She got us a chem eng and expert.*

*Mace: ah that makes sense. Did you think I would be mad that I just did close to one hundred hours study over the break? Only to find Master Nader got a Chem expert and I now need to start studying Metallurgy. Another U1 field.*

*Daedo: yes.*

*Mace: normally I would be livid. But what can you do? It's not your fault, is it?*

*Daedo: let's not change just yet. We have until Friday to assess Jensen. He's from London.*

*Mace: so it's a guy from Cambridge. English?*

*Daedo: yes.*

*Mace: snob?*

*Daedo: unsure at this stage.*

The other cadets were chatting politely with Jensen. Asking about his likes, dislikes and his old Academy.

"So you like rockets, but not fast bikes or VTOLs?" Barran asked Jensen.

"I like VTOLs just fine, but I would rather fuel a drone, and send it, than ride one," Jensen replied.

"So you don't like bikes? This is important," Barran asked and

"No. Didn't I say that already?" Jensen queried.

*Barran: that's a no from me.*

*Daedo: Barran, you don't hold that against anyone else.*

*Barran: good point. But you like bikes right? You just don't have one because you're poor.*

*Daedo: sure. That's the reason.*

While the rest of the squad , and in turn answered from Jensen, Daedo listened. It would be hard to suddenly be thrown into this squad, although they have only been together for three months they were closely knit.

As , the squad went as a group to stretch and work on their core strength during yoga for a before sparring in martial training. Picard was in charge of training the squad in martial. She would review the coursework, edit, tweak and implement during their

During term one, Picard, Mace, Daedo and Axelzero worked together with a bo staff and kendo shinai. This term the entire squad would attend daily martial arts training, which not only included the staves, but several hand to hand combat techniques. It was expected in term three these would count towards physical grades and if it followed the same as the year, there would be martial tournaments during the rounds.

"Really two of martial arts every day?" Jensen asked.

"Yes, although technically that first is working on flexibility and core strength." Picard replied, "We also do the obstacle course in the morning followed by a circuit."

"Not to on weekends we go for long runs," Axelzero added.

"And then there's sparring on weekends too," Picard stated as she engaged Daedo and Axelzero. Jensen was using Augmented Reality and learning forms. Just as Daedo when he first began he was nowhere near ready for sparring.

"You've got to be joking," Jensen queried hopefully. It was met with dead silence other than the sound of bo staves Jensen continued trying to learn one of the basic forms with the kendo shinai while the rest of the squad continued to practice in silence their normal exuberance ominously vacant.

"I guess," Jensen relented after ten minutes of , "You know what you're doing. Master Nader showed me your and the results of the M3 tournament."

Picard nodded and put a hand on his back after watching for a moment. "Keep your feet apart a little more. Bend your knees slightly. That's right. and centre come before everything else."

Daedo monitored Jensen for the rest of the , his initial negativity was not continued throughout the workout with a bad attitude. Jensen worked hard during the entire

After Martial, there was the midday meal where the squad continued to get to know Jensen.

"What was it like at Cambridge?" Vannier asked.

"Cambridge is much more academically focused in M1 than you seem to be at the moment. It has its roots as a University for centuries before a Military Academy in 2110. Even now there are streams of learning that are purely academic outside of the Military structure of exos and mechs." Jensen responded.

"Really, so there are students who are not cadets there as well?" Axelzero asked.

"Yeah, there are business degrees, , philosophy, you name it," Jensen replied.

"It must have more than seven thousand cadets then," Barran

"It's forty thousand when you count every student and cadet," Jensen answered.

A few of the squad whistled at the number.

"What made you come here?" Mace asked.

Jensen moved in his seat , he had this with Daedo and Vannier, but not the whole group. "I haven't yet. I am still deciding," he answered honestly.

"It's a big move," Vannier to the squad, "its understandable that you are taking your time to evaluate."

"And it's a step down from Tier two to Tier three," Barran observed. Daedo could see the wheels turning in Barrans head. And sent him a message.

*Daedo: don't.*

*Barran: don't what?*

Daedo sighed.

*Daedo: don't try and talk him out of it. I could literally see the thought pop into your head.*

*Barran: really? Shit. Is that your AI? Or some other skill you have?*

*Daedo: I have gotten to know you really well. I can predict what you're going to think and say most of the time.*

*Barran: fark that's insane.*

*Daedo: I knew you'd say that.*

*Barran: stop it!*

Daedo: only if you stop trying to talk Jensen out of joining. Let it happen naturally. We get to know him and him, us. The most important thing is not if we like him. Its if he can be a valuable member of squad zero and Daedalus.

"It's free time now," Vannier informed Jensen. "Work on academic tutes, rest or whatever you like. You have the main schedule. The next squad activity is dinner at 1715 and then Arena at 2015. The exo is in your room storage. You should check to see if you can fit into it comfortably and inspect the mesh underneath the as Daedo requested."




*Jensen: this exo is amazing.*

He said over squad comms a few minutes into arena combat drills. Daedo handed him some beginner drills for the libero role after seeing his martial and gunnery skills.

Mace: what rank were you at Cambridge?

Mace was normally quiet, but she had been subtly testing Jensen. Daedo wouldn't push her to leave Jensen alone like he did Barran. If Jensen stayed, she would have to change from chem eng to metallurgy. The change her the most.

J*ensen: In academic, I was rank one, but the overall; fourth.*

*Barran: do they separate out subjects?*

*Jensen: yes, we are given for each subject, and they are not the same as here. Gunnery and Piloting are part of the same subject. There is no Strategy and Reference, but each term has a different subject in the eighth slot. The first term is was Military History. and Third term it is Philosophy. And tactics has its own subject, its practical as well as theoretical.*

*Barran: there are a lot of differences then.*

*Jensen: I can't be the judge of what is better, and I don't think it matters. Capability and matter more in my *




Mace pulled Daedo aside after the arena combat In an hour they had their first gauntlet.

In three months Daedo had seen all his friends frustrated, stressed, sad, tired and angry at different stages. Mace was the most stable of the squad, Daedo couldn't include himself in that judgment, he thought he was always too busy to be any of the negative yet normal states but was sure his fellow squad members would have a different

Mace was tense, to say the least.

"He can't shoot, he can't fight. Who knows how slow he will run. Even if he is a chemical genius is it worth it?" Mace asked.

"All these skills can be learned. Can I remind you that three months ago I couldn't run nor fight and I was hopeless in the exo," Daedo responded.

Mace looked at Daedo's eyes for more than a moment. She shook her head, "Ok. I am going to work on that assignment you gave me," she said before she flicked her hair and strode off down the corridor.

Daedo hoped she didn't exhaust herself trying to outperform the new recruit who had a talent and a lot more experience with chem eng.




Daedo entered the Gauntlet for the first time in term two. Immediately it was noticeable that it was distinctly different from the term one Gauntlets. This was the same Gauntlet as the M3s were running, which had been incrementally increased in difficulty each term for nine terms. For an M1 cadet, it was a massive leap in difficulty.

As the first wave of alien bugs charged him, Daedo wondered how the rest of M1 fared. 'How had Master Nader talked the brass into this?' He wondered. Gone were the benign human enemies from term one that only reacted when they were agroed by proximity or weapons fire.

These bugs hunted him, and when he ran from them, they chased and searched. They never gave up even when they lost track of him. It wasn't long before he had forty, ugly, two-metre tall bugs searching for him.

It was possible that he would need to kill them all to get to the finish. The goal itself was to secure three bases. When all were secured, the Gauntlet would be over. This Gauntlet was for the time it took to secure all three bases.

Daedo cleared out the first base as one of the waves hunting him caught up. He decided to take them out, kiting away from the base towards the next. The short barrel railgun was superb for this type of , one or two headshots took down the mutant bugs.

They looked like giant cockroaches except they ran upright on two legs. Daedo surmised if he got into melee with them they would use their four arms to rip him apart, in augmented reality of course.

Shots to the body were ineffective, grenades were almost useless. Other than headshots it took a massive amount of damage to the body to stop the bugs. AR goo everywhere, and they kept coming. Daedo almost felt sorry for the cadets in slower exos. Almost. If he couldn't kite the bugs, it would have been exponentially harder.

Early ideas for strategically taking down the course began to form. He would have to work out which was the most efficient order to take the bases, which would be the path of least resistance.

There would be some groups which had to be taken down, where others were sufficiently left behind and never cross his path again. Once the base was secured, it stayed that way when he left it, which was a positive. Otherwise, there was a possibility this would never be over.

His usual tactic of researching a Gauntlet would lead Daedo to trial loadouts for effectiveness. A shield would slow him down too much, so he didn't consider it. Getting too close to the bugs was dangerous also. If he couldn't impale them with the while charging he would drop that as a tactic. It would most likely be a pure railgun and headshot run. Keeping his left hand free for grapple while bringing as many hooks as he could carry.

Daedo ran and tactics through his head as he took the base. He wasn't pushing this run, there were still nine more attempts this round after tonight.

Daedo left the and thanked the Gauntlet Gods that it was AR as all the goo disappeared.

One by one the squad finished, with Jensen receiving a DNF due to AR death.

"What the hell was that?" Jensen balled when he exited.

"The Gauntlet," Barran replied smirking. He was just behind Daedo in time. There were no points for bug kills, this gauntlet was purely on time otherwise cadets would farm the hordes of bugs to game the

Barran pulled up the ranking and laughed. "In M1 we hold down the top six I guess the other exos are not up to it," he said.

"Look who is seventh," Vannier laughed. It was Gaumont.

"They will be asking for seven more railguns," Barran "Or has he already?"

They had provided Gaumont with a railgun and eight exos. Everyone shrugged. No one received a request yet.

Daedo shook his head, "No he hasn't messaged. He should probably drop his railgun, or we provide him with seven more. There is no point his squad's armaments like that."

Vannier waited for Daedo to make a holding her palm upward indicating he should just make a call right here and now.

"Ok send the message, and offer him seven railguns. But that's it, they need to start working their butts off. No more handouts," Daedo decided.

"He said he is sending his back," Vannier reported after sending a message and receiving a reply.

Daedo smiled and said, "Good on him."

Jensen still hadn't gotten over the difficulty. "Is this what you had to contend with last term?" he asked impressed.

"No, it was much easier last term. They have us on M3 Gauntlets this term," Vannier answered.

Jensen moaned. He didn't ask why.

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