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Chapter 78 : 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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The squad loaded the EUDF carrier with their exos and railguns. Col. Martin had sent it on the Sunday morning to pick them, and their gear up.

"Did he say what exercise we're doing?" Axelzero asked Vannier.

She shook her head. It was the third time she had been asked this , "I copied you in, he the gear we should bring and that we were going to do an exercise with one of his teams. That was it."

"Are your parents still on this base?" Mace asked Picard as she unloaded her hoverbin into the carrier.

Picard nodded, "I checked on Friday, they'll be there." EUDF soldiers moved around bases, even if they were at a base, her parents could have been elsewhere for a course, exercise or

Barran, Vannier and Daedo were talking to the driver, Technical Sergeant Philips. Unlike civilian vehicles, military vehicles were primarily driven by humans with computer aides or backups.

"The carrier does have an autopilot ," Tech Sergeant Philips replied. He had been sent by Col. Martin to ensure the carrier was loaded properly and nothing went awry with the trip.

"Sorry that you had to come out to babysit us," Vannier apologised.

"No problem cadet," he responded, "I'd only be doing equipment checks in the bay for the fourteenth time this week."

"Mech bay?" Daedo asked, and the Sergeant nodded.

"Everything is stowed," Picard intruded and reported.

"Let's see then," the Sergeant replied before checking each bay to ensure the exos and gear was secured. When he was finished, he asked, "Are we ready to deploy?"

"Yes Sergeant," Picard answered. She was familiar with the terminology they should use and answered before another cadet called him sir. Cadets were to address officers as Sir while sergeants preferred them to use their rank as a title.

"Alright," the Sergeant bawled, "Everyone pile into the cabin." The exos were hooked and hung to the outside of the carrier into bays which slid shut. A cadet or soldier could enter their exo from inside the carrier and then simply jump off once their exo was unhooked. The cabin was in the centre of the carrier with two rows of seating behind the driver's There was a hatch at the rear which doubled as a ramp when it was open.

Two robotic sentry guns sat atop the heavily armoured carrier at either end. Four small reactors drove a pair of large wheels each, giving the beastly vehicle redundancy in case one of the power sources was damaged. It was an older Marais model the MAEC4. Which was an acronym for the Marais Armoured Exo Carrier model four.

Nearly all civilian vehicles were hovercraft, but due to the technology they used, they were confined to roads. The exo carrier ran on eight large wheels with independent steering and drive on each axle. This allowed it to go almost anywhere. The MAEC4 was twelve metres long, almost four high due to the large wheels and it was almost four metres wide. It would have caused on the roads, but civilian vehicles would automatically find the best path to their including routing around traffic hazards.

It was a bumpier ride than what they were used to travelling back and forth from the academy floating on air.

"See how awesome this is," Barran remarked nodding and asking for

"Actually its quite bumpy," Vannier replied her voice jumping with each bump to her point. "I'd rather use the rental hovervan."

"Bah," Barran replied grumpily. The was silence as they bumped along for five minutes.

"How much do I need to make to get one of these?" Barran was not one to admit defeat easily.

"A ," Axelzero replied and received a confused stare from Barran.

"How is that fair!" He The rest of the squad laughed.

"We all need ," Vannier replied in between bouts of laughter.

Barran only looked miserable for a moment before , "It's only because of my strength of character that I can handle you all laughing at me. No one else here could handle it." He stuck his chin up in the air signifying his

It wasn't a short journey to the EUDF base in Loire Valley which was compounded by the slow speed of the carrier. It was only able to get to one hundred and eighty kilometres per hour on the main highway. After an hour the carrier rolled into the base, and the cadets felt like protein shakes.

The carrier pulled up, and the back hatch yawned open. Colonel Martin was waiting for the squad as promised.

"Cadets to EUDF Loire Valley Base," he said warmly. "Leave your gear in the carrier and follow me. We will begin with a tour, and the carrier can take your exos out to the range for the exercise later today."

"What's the exercise?" Kang blurted. Although everyone was , she received for her lack of

Vannier immediately jumped in, "Sir. We, cadets, are all regarding the details of the exercise."

Picard put her arm around Kang and whispered something in her ear. She received a nod from Daedo, she now had Kang duty.

Colonel Martin had never been formal with the squad, but they had never been on his base before and in front of his men. The cadets knew the backwards with the of Kang.

"It's an exercise we call Escape from Alcatraz and rest assured there is no water. This is not an Augmented Reality training exercise like you are used to. It's real. To an extent. The enemy will be in exos, however, they are holding which will paint you. If you acquire four hundred mm square or more of paint, you are toast. You will be armed with railguns and goo pellets. We can test these in your railguns shortly, and if they do not work, you will have to borrow ours. You will need to tag the creatures with one hundred grams of goo to incapacitate them."

" can wait until the exercise, think on it for now," Col. Martin said holding up his palm to dissuade the plethora of

It was immediately apparent that the base was surrounded by a humongous constructofoam wall. It was at least twelve metres tall and looked quite wide as exos were visible running on the top. The carrier was parked on the gravel beside another dozen vehicles.

Looking around while following Colonel Martin all the cadets could see was a wall, grass and bunkers. There were no topside buildings. The multiple bunkers were entrances for people and vehicles to an underground complex. There were a few vehicles staged topside and a half dozen VTOL landing pads. The pads would lower a craft underground, there were no topside hangers.

"There are twenty thousand troops on this base at any given time, it's the largest in the EUDF with Krakow base hosting thirty thousand." Col. Martin began his lecture while walking.

"All these bunkers are entrance points, and they are scattered across the range for purposes," Col. Martin said while indicating a few bunkers.

"Let's go down and look at the fun stuff," he said smiling. Col. Martin led the squad to the main bunker at the end of the gravel driveway for want of a better term. "This is the main personnel entrance, let's get you scanned through security." There was security at the gate, but it must have had orders or to allow the carrier through.

The group went down a "It's a big base, and we can't possibly see it all in a few hours. Everyone here can pilot a mech or an exo, we don't receive any funding for administrative, security or any other roles. We need enough room to store and maintain all the carriers, mechs and exos. Let alone twenty thousand bodies," Col. Martin stated.

The stopped, it had travelled down and across taking the group directly to what looked like a mech bay. "This is mech bay five, its where my brigade's mechs are stored including my own." A brigade historically contained thousands of soldiers before exos and mechs were introduced as the mainstay. to the cadet's military studies, it was likely Col. Martin commanded a thousand exo soldiers and eighty to a hundred mech pilots.

The Mech Bay was massive and had its own elevators to the surface. They were located on the rear wall behind the individual bays for rapid deployment. The Mech Bay itself was at least fifteen metres high, and it was so long the cadets could not see the end properly. It was typical for its purpose, rails down the centre and the individual bays lined two sides. The cadets could only see six-metre mechs, although it was large enough to the twelve-metre variety.

Each individual bay had a with an elevated work on one side and a knuckle boom hanging from the roof. tools and were attached to the with sockets for many more hydraulic, thermal or electric powered tools.

"This is my Mech," Stanley said proudly standing in front of a bay. His six-metre mech had the brigades symbol which looked like a weasel or otter the cadets were not sure.

"You don't have a twelve-metre Sir?" Picard asked.

"No I like to pilot the same model as everyone in the brigade," Col. Martin He summoned a tech sergeant who ran through all the of the bay for the cadets.

"We don't build the mechs here, but we maintain and tune them," the tech sergeant

"Follow cadets, back on the , and we'll head to hanger four," Col. Martin said.

Hangar must have been situated underneath the landing pads. It was so massive that the elevators from all six pads could be seen coming through the roof and continuing on through the floor.

Col. Martin walked towards one the of massive elevators, it was large enough to fit the largest VTOL craft in the hangar. The squad looked around, there seemed to be two types of VTOL and each of varying size.

"The VTOL carriers load into these elevators which deliver them to the surface in an orderly , the elevators can carry ten fully loaded craft at a time and launch one every minute. But you see down the end there?" He asked and received a few nods after the cadets peered down the length of the hangar.

"If rapid deployment is ordered a corridor opens up that connects to the mech and exo bays and another to the surface. It's orderly chaos when we drill, but we are able to launch all loaded carriers within fifteen minutes," Col. Martin replied.

The size of the base was impressive, but Daedo had concerns which were instigated when Col. Martin informed him of the number of on-base personnel.

*Daedo: Myrmidon can you do a search and for me, criteria eighty percent. We can use publicly data.*

*Myrmidon: yes Daedo. I have been cataloguing all the vehicles, equipment and support infrastructure as requested.*

*Daedo: thanks. I want you to investigate something else. What is the GDP of the member countries of the EUDF, what is the total capability of the EUDF in terms of exos, mechs and pilots to operate. Add in any data on the air and space force. I want to know the cost of the military in comparison to the total GDP.*

*Myrmidon: Its listed on the Brussels annual governmental report. We don't need to Do you want me to cross check?*

*Daedo: Its probably right, but cross check anyway. What is the governmental report figure?*

*Myrmidon: GDP of EUDF members are listed elsewhere, but it is nine-teen point seven bitcreds. The tax total is fifteen percent of GDP which is two point nine The cost of the EUDF is eight point one bitcreds. It's less than point three of a percent of tax revenue.*

Daedo let out a yelp. Mace turned to look at him.

*Myrmidon: Daedo. The report also shows that tax credits on private military forces are more than one hundred times the EUDF budget.*

"What's wrong?" She asked. He had a concerned look on his face.

"I'll tell you later," he replied.

Now Mace was worried. That answer never boded well.

The Colonel took the cadets through several VTOL carriers as they expressed great interest in the vehicles. There were exo carriers which held eight, which were fast and nimble to the largest being forty. The mech carriers ranged from two to the mammoth which carried eight six-metre mechs.

"It's time to tour the mess," Col. Martin announced. "During lunch, I can answer your , and after that, we will head out onto the range for the Escape from Alcatraz."

Picard's parents joined them in the mess hall. They had pre-arranged with Col. Martin the time and as there were several like venues on the base.

"Master Sergeant Picard," her Mother introduced herself before the cadets were seated. "I have read all of Odette's reports several times. It's great to finally meet you all." She said sternly, which was probably her of sweet. Her mother was short, but her presence made it seem like she was three metres tall. She was someone who would rival Master Nader when it came to force of will.

Her Father was tall and thin, best described a lanky. "Specialist Picard," he introduced himself. He was quiet and softly spoken.

"Which one of you trained Picard, ahem Odette, in martial combat?" Barran asked genuinely

"We both did, of course, Cadet," Master Sergeant Picard answered as mildly as she could, but it still sounded like a to Barran.

to the academy cafeteria cadets ordered meals which were brought to their by a serving drone a few minutes later. To avoid running into personnel, the drones ran under the floor and popped up through the middle of the table. Utensils and were sent back by simply them on the surface next to the drone entry.

After a few minutes of small talk, the cadets began peppering the adults with regarding the exercise.

"How many enemies will there be?" Axelzero asked.

"Random number. In a real-world , it's likely you would not know even if you knew the numbers in the area. We draw on a pool of five hundred hostiles in the area. There could be ten or five hundred," Col. Martin answered grinning at the concern his words were causing.

"The title is Escape from Alcatraz," Picard began. She had not heard of this , she was familiar with a few as it wasn't something she studied. "Which describes an objective where we must get out. Can you the objective?"

Col. Martin nodded, still smiling evilly. "You are dropped at the centre of the range into a small fake we use for exercises. There are twenty buildings, none above two stories. In the , before the began, you were to defend this But the enemy swept through an hour before you arrived and all the locals were killed. Your carrier was called away on an urgent , and no assets are to lift you out. You need to fight your way to the safe zone which is fifteen kilometres to your South."

"The parameters assume you have been in the for fifteen minutes to these facts," He finished.

"Are we allowed to use drones?" Daedo asked.

"Your kit has been assigned by your CO. It includes eight drones, seven railguns, seven sets of swords and shields. We will supply the melee weapons, they are designed for this exercise," Col. Martin

"No grenades, grenade launchers or traps?" Mace asked.

Col. Martin shook his head, "Your CO is stingy."

The cadets laughed. Even a Colonel could be funny given the opportunity. The laughter and brought a few interested stares from enlisted personnel.

"Are you going to warn them about the enemy?" Specialist Picard asked softly.

"What do you mean Specialist?" Col. Martin asked.

Picard's Father moved in his seat. It was apparent he rarely spoke up and especially in the present company.

"Uhh," he said almost apologetically, "in my experience exo soldiers do not hold Academy brats in the highest esteem. They will not be gentle."

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