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Chapter 76 : M1 - Term: 2, Round: 2

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: 2, Round: 2

Daedalus Operating Capital: 140,000 bitcreds

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<break>

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As round two progressed, it became apparent that the increased difficulty of the obstacle course and Gauntlet was not an anomaly. The cadets focused on their academics, training and research. The main goal of the early weeks was to get ahead on their academic subjects as this would lighten their load in the last weeks when they could focus on their equipment and the tournament.

Daedo sat with Kang in a VR room working on her AI nurturing. She had the distinct disadvantage of a two week old AI. Although she did have the advantage of the Daedalus AI and the experience from the rest of the squad to draw on.

"One of the is AI to AI ," Daedo began the tute. "When we are in an Arena match its vital that Myrmidon can markers and other on your HUD and he does this by talking to your AI."

"Because he is not allowed direct to my HUD?" Kang asked.

"It's to do with , and it's faster when a cadet has different equipment or HUD. Your AI will design you HUD to your preferences and needs. Text size, , colour, length of , etc.," Daedo said.

"This goes back to the whole purpose of you nurturing your AI. Do you recall the intro tute?" Daedo asked.

"My AI learns from me which attunes it to the way I think," Kang recited.

"That's the overall result, yes. No two AI will be the same because no two people are the same. The way it communicates with you and your needs are unique. Your AI will adept at metallurgy, with knowledge and experience because that is what you spend your time working on. With one attachment on your suit, it could weigh materials and work out the alloy compound just by you picking them up and performing a micro-surface analysis," Daedo

"Really, hmm," Kang said thoughtfully.

"Okay, instruct your AI to come out and talk to Daedalus in this room," Daedo said.

Kang's AI, Darc, popped into existence in the VR room. She looked like a small female armoured from the middle ages. Myrmidon floated nearby, he looked like an ancient Greek

Myrmidon bowed and held out his hand. Darc hesitated, but after from Kang, she took it.

"Okay good, Myrmidon will give Darc certain , but it will be only on networking and , it's up to you and Darc to learn how to manage your HUD," Daedo said.

Daedo had learned with trial and error with the other cadets that it was not wise to have Myrmidon teach another AI a personal skill. Myrmidon was able to sync with Daedo, the methods they had established did not work for others. Everything Myrmidon had taught Genie, Vanniers AI, was useless and had to be overwritten.

"What process are you going to use to teach Darc to manage your HUD?" Daedo asked Kang.

"Hmm, I guess," she paused while thinking. "It's fairly simple, have her read the manual, then imagine one simple change and ask her to do it. Either practice that until we got it right or start a new task and move onto something more complex with each task."

"Great," Daedo said, "You have the basics down."

"Next, Myrmidon will teach Darc about search and sort methods. This is external to your comms so it won't interfere. It's a powerful skill which will help your research efforts," Daedo said.

"That's a good idea, I need a few shortcuts to catch up. Anything else we can cheat with?" Kang asked.

"It's not cheating to use any assets to achieve a goal," Daedo stated.

"In your world, if you were a kick-ass hacker and edited your rankings, that would be ok, because you used any assets to achieve your goal," Kang laughed at Daedo.

Daedo thought about the analogy and smiled. "My goal isn't rankings. But if that was the end goal, I approve of the means." He said the last with a nod.

Kang was unhappy she was unable to ruffle Daedo or pull apart his logic.

"What is your end goal?" She asked finally. Myrmidon was busy teaching Darc, he didn't overwhelm her, but delivered the in bite sized packets.

"Have the technology and power to protect the against unknown invaders," Daedo stated simply.

Kang sat amazed and open-mouthed for a moment. Then she laughed while rocking back in her VR chair before finally subsiding and wiping a pretend tear from her eye. "Good one, you had me for a ;

"Next I will send you some algebra and logic tests for Darc, these will improve her problem-solving skills. In this case, I will send you the tests to run with Darc. It's important that you assist her if she needs help. You should be doing this at every opportunity, with all tasks you are completing," Daedo said in a yet methodical manner.

"Wait," Kang said abruptly ignoring the "Are you joking?"

"Cadet Kang, these tasks are important and my time is limited. Right now you are wasting my time," Daedo said.

"Are you angry with me?" Kang asked.

"Kang I rarely get angry. I certainly wouldn't be upset by anything you said," Daedo replied.

"You are upset!" Kang "You're all tense and formal. I am getting the hang of reading you. So.." she began to think out loud. "What you said you think is true, and you are upset that I laughed about it. But you wouldn't be upset if an laughed about your views so you must.." Kang stopped and laughed. "You care what I think!" She Daedo.

Daedo stood. "That was your last warning. I have a lot of work to do. You have the tutes, and I expect them done by tomorrow. That's an order cadet," Daedo said tersely.

"Are you allowed to order me?" Kang asked.

"If you are uncertain go and ask Master Nader," Daedo said softly.

"Oh, that's a trap. I can smell it a mile off," Kang replied. "I'll check the and Academy manual."

"It's good to see you've learned something," Daedo said, and with a wave, he vanished.

Kang sat there in for a moment, she was happy that she finally ruffled Daedo and basked in her victory. But after a short amount of time, she realised what he said concerned her. Both the detail and that he actually cared what she thought.

<break>

The squad had a meeting after arena practice each night to discuss drills, performance and tactics. It usually lasted fifteen minutes unless there was an in-depth to be had when it would last the allotted forty-five minutes.

"Next we move to the Vanguard drills," Vannier stated.

"Picard," Daedo said, "The metrics of your movements are superb, and your teamwork with Barran is improving. Are you satisfied with the change to the Vanguard?"

Picard nodded slowly, "I understand it is the best for me given my skills." She did not she could not imagine Kang as Vanguard. Picard was the choice to Gaumont.

"Best for you given your skills?" Barran said incredulously. "You are a monster!"

Vannier smiled patiently, "That is a compliment I believe Picard." She received a few chuckles from the squad.

"Barran has a point," Axelzero said, "It to your strengths."

"Barran," Daedo said changing the subject. Vannier had the positive for Picard to embed her mentally in the new "Picard has raised the bar in terms of reflex, movement, melee attack speed and You are now slightly below average in those three areas." Daedo pulled up the results that Myrmidon had on a screen. It was an entry-level of the results of Nader's AI Zeus

"How am I below average when there are only two of us?" Barran asked.

"The Monster is beating you," Vannier said enthusiastically.

"Oh. It's on. It's on." Barran with the filled with more

Vannier nodded smiling, and Daedo could see what she was thinking. It was all her after all. Barran was extremely competitive, where criticising his performance did little, giving him someone to beat was the best in the world. Daedo and Myrmidon could easily tweak results, so it appeared he was slightly behind in an area to keep him motivated. And Picard was an excellent athlete and martial combat expert, tweaking may not be necessary.

"Next week we will start working on drone use and tactics surrounding them," Daedo said. "Axelzero?"

"Ahem," Axelzero said, "We have narrowed it down to six drones, but training will begin with two variants next week. We have selected drones which fit with our combat style and squad tactics. This was informed from the results of testing, field reliability and input from all cadets."

Axelzero continued her report bringing up images of the two drones, "The two drones at the top of the list are both small and fast sensor drones. To achieve this, the first model only carries , sensors and self-destruct ordnance. It weighs three kilos and, each cadet will be able to carry four."

"The model is very in size, sensors and But instead of self-destructing, it carries an expanding goo. Mace has agreed to add an improved goo to her long project list, but the standard goo will work for now. The goo has the potential to stick an exo to the ground or possibly gum up its joints slowing movement. If the drone is able to get away after dropping its goo ordnance, it can still be utilised for purposes."

Daedo added, "The self-destruct drone is to the one that Shu used against us. It is smaller and faster, but with less explosive material on board. These drones can enhance our tactical capability by eighty percent before their is engaged."

"I love the idea of the goo drone," Picard said. "I could send it in front of me if I was charging and the enemy will have to decide between shooting me or it."

Daedo nodded, "These drones, although lower firepower for the weight, will enhance our capability. That will not only give the enemy a lose-lose , it will also add to many opponent ;

Daedo continued, "We have six weeks to sort out our drone tactics and how that affects our loadouts. Axelzero," Daedo nodded to her,"Will modify the drones so they attach to the exo and can simply fly off when ordered by your AI."

"Are you modifying the exo with four drone compartments?" Kang asked.

"Yes, the drones will be able to charge through the exo's power system. It is possible to reload and drone and recharge. At the moment we have four , two on the back and one on each thigh."

"Does this affect armour?" Kang asked.

Daedo brought up the new exo design, "This is on the design All you need to do is look-up the latest model."

Kang had a quick look, while Barran yawned.

"Let's wrap this up," Vannier said.

"We do have one business item to discuss," Daedo said. "You all saw the meeting on Sunday with the M3 House leaders."

The squad nodded and started making remarks about their from the meeting.

Daedo held up a hand for quiet. "St asked if we could lower the price of the exo."

Barran thought about the while the rest of the squad remained quiet. "You know the input costs Daedo, but in a market , we sell a product based on supply and demand. We could lower the price to sell more units, but that will cause a couple of problems. It will upset our existing customers, and if we sell tons of the exos, it would mean more cadets with our great gear."

"We are not concerned with increased While our initial was better gear will help our rankings it is now apparent that it does not help us get selected for the Inter-Academy team when we let any selected cadets in that team use our gear," Daedo said.

"The Academy can select anyone, they don't have to select us," Vannier paraphrased. "So we have to prove we are better using the same gear."

"Why do we want to be on the Inter-Academy team?" Kang asked and then prefaced, "I am not criticising. I just want to know."

"Our ultimate goal is to be the best mech pilots we can be. The best training is in , and the best is the Inter-Academy league," Daedo summarised for Kang.

"We could rent the exos to new customers," Mace said quietly.

"Whumpa!" Barran It was to the noise a VTOL made lifting off and was turned into a colloquialism meaning agreement and "If we rent to new customers we can change the price point without upsetting the initial customers too much."

"If they rent the exos we can offer upgrades as part of the deal, and they cannot sell them as we own them," Axelzero said.

"Barran and Axelzero come up with rental pricing that is affordable and profitable for us," Daedo said.

"Do we allow of existing customers with a refund?" Barran asked.

"I think it's better to have a little pain now. Can we afford it Axelzero?" Daedo asked. He knew they could on face value, but she was in charge of finance and needed to assess the

"I think the fairest method would be all new customers receive a full refund if they want to convert to rental but Shu zero does not. They already received the benefit of the exo last term, and that's what they paid for. It got them rank one cadet in M3 as well as several in the top ten." Axelzero replied.

"Oh, Oh!" Barran He stood and did a little dance in the quarters. "Paget-A just messaged me. They want to buy exos and want to meet with us now."

Barran turned around after his , "Oh damn. They want to meet with just Daedo."

"They can't dictate who goes to a meeting," Vannier stated "Barran tell her Daedo will message her."

*Daedo: hello again*

Daedo opted for the cordial, informal approach even if it was a little out of his comfort zone.

*Paget-A: oh hi. Sorry for contacting Barran and not you. I expected you were busy and he has been doing the sales.*

*Daedo: and yet you asked for just me to come to a meeting.*

Daedo muted his comms and turned to the room, "Come up with the rental cost quickly and send to me. It only costs us two-hundred and -one creds to manufacture an exo from scratch at the moment, including the reactor."

"Send me the breakdown, we can come up with two costs. One with the reactor and one without. That way the poor squads can use the standard reactor to cut costs," Axelzero said.

When Axelzero said, poor squads, it was Compared to Fortescue, the Axel family was poor. And compared to the Axel and Barran family, Vannier and Mace were poor. This dynamic was repeated throughout the Academy. Where some families two thousand creds for an exo was loose change. Others it was a major expense which needed to be justified to parents. For someone like Picard, it was totally out of the

*Paget-A: Sorry that was not my call. Can you come now? It's urgent.*

*Daedo: Why do I have to come alone? Who is at the meeting and why is it urgent?*

*Paget-A: I'm sorry Daedo I am just following orders. The meeting will be Fortescue, myself and you. She may send me away I am not sure. She wants to buy the exos and other equipment from you which is really hard for her to admit. Please be nice to her. She wants to discuss terms, but I don't know the details.*

*Daedo: Paget-A you seem like a reasonable person. But what you said now is not logical. These problems that Fortescue has are not my problems. They are her problems. And by my most of these problems are not external, she has created them herself. Now you asked me to be nice. When am I not nice?*

There was a long time before the next message came through.

*Paget-A: Daedo you are right. But you do not understand the pressure she is under. This is an external factor which causes her to act a certain way. Her name is the name of the Academy. This is not easy. She was expected to be rank one, and now she is not even in the top ten. There is no reason for you to help. I am asking you to help and be nice as a favour to me.*

*Daedo: Ok I will come alone. But I don't like being dictated to, my squad rightly pointed out that you cannot tell someone to come alone to a meeting. Fortescue is not my , and she needs to understand this fact. She is the squad leader of Horus zero. That is all.*

"Message me the cost," Daedo said. "Paget-A sent me the , it's topside again, and I'm going now."

"Do you want a bodyguard?" Barran asked.

"Picard." Daedo said indicating she would be the bodyguard with a nod and then he turned back to Barran, "You need to work out the costings with Axelzero."

"Can I come?" Vannier asked.

Daedo shook his head, "Paget-A asked me to come alone as a favour. Picard can hang back, but bringing you won't work."

Vannier nodded,"Yeah and it won't hurt having Paget-A owe you one."

"Should I bring a weapon?" Picard asked.

"You are the weapon," Daedo replied. Picard was deadly in hand to hand combat. "Let's go."

[[is this a cliff?...don't get close to the edge!]]

[[it's not actually a cliff you just want to know what happens next]]

[[the app suxxors]]

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