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Chapter 79 : 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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Daedo was surrounded by his squad, they had just been dropped off in the small pretend in the centre of the Loire Valley practice range. The practice range itself had many constructafoam buildings replicating different environments as well as natural mountains, trees, valleys, ridges and of

The entire range was massive. Although the object was only fifteen kilometres, the range itself was over twenty kilometres from north to south and forty kilometres east to west.

*Daedo: let's move.*

Myrmidon a waypoint on the entire squad's HUDs. This would allow Picard and Barran to take the lead without having to wait for from Daedo. Both Barran and Picard had a shield equipped and their sword handy to draw. Everyone else had their sword and shield stowed with railguns at the ready. The Military sword was sheathed in the rear of the shield, it was to the their opponents were using in the respect it would paint damage on an opponent based on the strength of a hit.

The squad only had enough goo ammo to kill four hundred wolf-soldiers, as they were called in this exercise. Assuming every pellet hit, it would take three hits to take down an enemy.

The waypoint was south-east as there were mountains directly to the south. The squad sent out four of their eight drones immediately. The drones spread out in a south facing arc from east to west. After running for less than a minute, a fifth was left to trail behind the squad at five hundred metres from the rear. The sixth was sent five hundred metres ahead, towards their current waypoint, and would adjust course every time they moved the waypoint.

This gave Myrmidon, and Daedo visibility in front and behind. An early warning system as the drones could detect enemies within a maximum range of up to eight kilometres. The was hampered by terrain, dampening and the enemy using methods to hide. The drones were far from foolproof with an effective range from a half to one kilometre.

*Mace: oh no.*

The squads HUD started popping with enemies as the drones picked them up and fed back to Myrmidon and subsequent AIs. At first, there were three, then nine, fifteen and as a drone dropped the orange dots kept appearing. Twenty-four and another drone bit the dust, thirty-two before finally stopping at forty before all four advance drones were eliminated.

This meant that there were at least forty wolf-soldiers, with the bulk clustered to the south.

*Daedo: East, full-speed. Kang lead. Barran and Picard rear.*

Daedo adjusted the order, allowing Kang to lead so she wouldn't get left behind.

*Picard: Faster Kang. Run or we all die.*

Daedo sent the last drone ahead to the terrain, the forward and rear drones were still in with no enemies were on their tail, yet.

*Daedo: we didn't pick up any enemy drones on the scans. It appears they are role- some sort of alien that only attacks with weapons and has no tech.*

The squad ran east, further away from their objective, and the forward drone picked up a small group of mountains which would give the squad height advantage. The only issue was they were covered with trees.

Myrmidon updated the waypoint. Trees would nullify any height advantage they gained from the mountain cutting visibility and allowing the wolf-soldiers to close without having their numbers thinned by the squad's railguns.

Daedo was undecided. There was no clear course of other than making a stand at the treeline or to change again and look for a battlefield with a better advantage.

*Daedo: as soon as we hit the treeline the waypoint will move north.*

Daedo was hoping their movement would thin out the enemy, forty in a bunch was way too many to handle.

The cadets ran north at the fastest pace Kang could manage without tired. They were saving their jumpjets, and while they were sure their exos had the advantage of mobility this was lost when the natural speed of soldiers was factored. They were fit adults in their twenties and thirties who were naturally much faster than the young cadets.

Daedo had an idea, he had kept the first set of drones low, trying to use natural cover to hide them from the enemy. He still had four left including the front and rear early warning pair. He sent one drone high up into the sky, pushing it as high as he could before the EUDF system halted its climb. The drone was one kilometre in the air and hopefully out of reach of the enemy. Assuming they had no ranged weapons that could reach one kilometre.

It had already begun to pick up their pursuers but lost them just as quickly due to the terrain. It was they did not possess before, and hopefully, this drone would remain in situ. Daedo sent it to the south as he steered the squad north.

*Vannier: what are you doing?*

*Daedo: they can't shoot it down, but they can see this drone. I am hoping they think we are stupid and have it directly overhead of our They will follow it south while we head north.*

The squad were now heading away from their objective. And their eyes in the sky showed Daedo's was working the orange dots moved to the south, picking up their speed trying to cut off his squad.

*Barran: They're fast!*

All the squad could see the orange dots on their HUD, and the rate at which they moved was apparent. Myrmidon would movement and only drop the dot when he wasn't sure of their The eye in the sky was able to keep track of the wolf-soldiers for half the time unless they went into tree cover which they began to do as they closed in on the drone.

The orange dots began to disappear, while Myrmidon a haze on the most likely of the wolf-soldiers.

*Kang: what the hell?*

The next waypoint was set for Alcatraz as Daedo swung it west after the squad ran north for six minutes.

*Daedo: we are trying to lose them. The last thing they would expect is for us to come back here.*

The eye in the sky continued to move south, and Daedo directed it to head east skirting and pulling their pursuers further away from the squad's

*Daedo: now we head south-west.*

*Daedo informed the squad as he set the new waypoint.*

*Daedo: jumpjet burn: three in ten.*

Their jumpjets would make noise, but the enemy was a long way away now. At least four kilometres. A burn rate of one out of every ten allowed the reactor to easily keep pace with the draw.

*Picard: they could still hear us. Noise can travel far on the range, only the trees and ridges will break it up.*

*Daedo: part of a battle is taking risks. If we can get closer to the objective than the forty wolf-soldiers, we can race ahead of them.*

*Barran: they move fast, that's a big ask.*

*Daedo: we need as big a head start as I can get us. I will try to gain time by kiting them with the drone. But surely they will catch on soon.*

*Daedo: at the moment I have it behaving like a scared stupid cadet. Its now heading north and will catch up with our actual tracks in three minutes.*

When it was the wolf-soldiers had cut off the cadets , Daedo turned the drone degrees and sent it north. He was speeding up the drone incrementally to buy more time, but the wolf-soldiers would catch it eventually or work out it was a ploy when it was travelling too fast.

Kang jumped a log using her jumpjet, the squad was skirting a mountain using the trees at its base for cover and to muffle their noise. Just before she landed, she called through the comms.

*Kang: Pit.*

The wolf-soldiers had laid an environmental trap, this would have been close to their initial The exercise had not allowed grapplers, and even if it had Daedo was not sure he would have brought them given the terrain. Kang fell a couple of metres smashing her chest heavily into the far wall of the pit before she bounced back landing on her arse.

Vannier and Axelzero immediately reached down to pull her out.

*Vannier: are you alright?*

*Kang: I'm fucking fine.*

*Kang: Is this why I am leading?*

She asked as they pulled her out.

*Daedo: No. Picard take the lead with Kang's average pace. Barran stays at the rear. Everyone stay sharp watching for attacks.*

After moments were wasted hauling Kang to her feet and a short the squad got moving. This trap wasn't designed to harm, it was part of a larger network laid in this area, which was probably an initial ambush

V*annier: go go. Kang is good to go.*

Picard picked her way past a couple more rudimentary traps designed to make the enemy hesitate or trip them for a moment. The wolf-soldiers must have spent minutes setting up this , and with such a vast area to choose from, they chose one of the most likely paths that headed to the objective. It showed how well they knew the terrain and the exercise. They had a home ground advantage.

*Daedo: I am changing the waypoint. We are on a predictable path.*

The squad started heading west before changing back to the south-west after two minutes of running.

*Myrmidon: eleven kilometres to objective*

*Kang: shit! We've been running for over forty-five minutes, and we still have eleven kays!*

*Daedo: better than being dead.*

*Barran: we could fight them. It must be part of the exercise.*

Daedo: The is to make the evac Nothing else matters. Divide and conquer, is the least we have achieved with all this running. Their forces were grouped. The extremities are now separated by five kays.

*Kang: are we going to take a break?*

*Daedo: do you need a break?*

*Kang: no I am fucking fine. Run faster.*

*Daedo: okay. Picard pickup speed by ten percent.*

Kang moaned rueing her bravado.

Within moments of her aborted request, new orange dots appeared one kilometre ahead to the south-east. The dots were almost

*Myrmidon: enemy spotted. Change waypoint?*

*Daedo: halt*

Daedo proceeded to drop the drone, attempting to keep it out of sight, it was only six hundred metres from the orange dots.

*Picard: How did they get there? They couldn't have moved that quickly*

*Daedo: take cover. Ready Railguns.*

Daedo and Myrmidon assessed the quickly. There was a ridge and some trees between themselves and the new orange dots. Checking the sky-high , it seemed it was still being chased by a good of the forty exos.

*Daedo: this is a new group.*

As the drone and Myrmidon gathered data, the group was moving slowly, most likely walking in a westerly They would be in visual within a few minutes. Daedo the drone on a tree hiding it from the new wolf-soldiers line of sight.

*Picard: are we going to engage or move?*

If they didn't move right now, they would be engaging. The act of moving would offer the chance of and lose the opportunity for an ambush. It was certain these wolf-soldiers would run them down easily given a chance.

*Daedo: we will ambush. Find good with a line of sight to the red dot.*

The squad spread out kneeling behind trees, rocks or at worst bushes.

*Daedo: we have six orange dots. Myrmidon will call focus with red per usual.*

The first of the wolf-soldiers came over the ridge, and the cadets held fire for a few moments waiting for the red dot to appear. A , third, fourth and as soon as the fifth cleared the ridge, four hundred metres from their the red dot appeared. Due to the range, Myrmidon focused all cadets on the lead wolf.

Picard, Vannier and Axelzero hit. The first wolf went down. Daedo held his fire for a moment waiting for the three hits and fired upon the Myrmidons trajectory assistance with these long-range shots was invaluable. Daedo landed a goo pellet on the wolf.

The wolf-soldiers did not take long to spring into , they were soldiers averaging 1850mm in height in their exos. The only weapon in their were two attached to their exos. It was to the cestus attachment.

They weaved and ran down the slope at what seemed impossible speeds to the cadets. They were using all their power to close the distance, jumpjets included. The cadets were surprised at how fast they could move, and the difference in their physical levels was immediately apparent. The cadets were used to being the fastest exos on the block, their eyes were now opened at how far they had to go. The wolf-soldiers were leaping ten metres at a time down the ridge and using jumpjets to change angles and landing

The cadets kept focus firing at red dots, they expected the wolf-soldiers to close a four hundred metre gap in over a minute, they were going to be on them in thirty

*Daedo: keep firing. Switch to melee on command.*

Myrmidon would put up a command to the cadets HUD to switch, timed with the speed they could stand and unsheathe the sword and shield and based on the wolf-soldiers estimated close time. As the wolf-soldiers closed to one hundred and fifty metres the command popped.

It was much earlier, in terms of distance than in drills or the cadet tournament. By the time the command across their HUDs, they had only taken down three of the six wolf-soldiers.

The erratic movement of their enemy caused a lower than normal , and while railguns were powerful, they had a slow rate of fire with the goo pellets. There was also the factor. The same exercise on the gunnery range a cadet would achieve a seventy percent hit When the heart pumped, and the tiny cadets felt the pressure of the looming giants the dropped to fifty percent.

A brief thought regarding the effectiveness of this being a supposed stress relief activity through Vannier's mind.

Mace stood, drawing her sword and shield and stowing the railgun in one fluid She had kept her nerves achieving eighty percent hit She her feet with her shield in the front waiting the last few moments before the wolf-soldier charging her down came into range.

The wolf-soldier did not try and her, he shoulder barged her shield and sent her flying despite her last-minute twist. She landed hard with her back into a tree and was momentarily stunned.

Daedo was behind the wolf-soldier in a moment his back. Mace was dazed, and she struggled to get to her feet. If it wasn't for the exo armour her back would probably have been broken.

Picard and Kang were not fairing much better. The wolf-soldier kicked Picard's shield, and despite her strength and training, she was pushed back several metres tripping over a rock causing her to lose footing.

Kang screamed and swung wildly with an astonishing lack of at the wolf-soldier. She swept her sword at him with no thought of defence, he grabbed it but took the theoretical paint damage in the process. Pulling it from her grasp, he tossed it backwards over his shoulder.

Kang roared at him, and the soldier laughed at her. She then turned and ran dodging around the trees. He lept after her only to a to his side from the Picard. The wolf-soldier turned on Picard with his left hand, she blocked with her shield before stepping in and ramming her sword into his gut moments before his right could her.

The soldier attacking Picard was deactivated before his blow could land. But it still hurt as he knocked her sideways onto the ground. She had put everything into her stab at the expense of defence and She slowly and groggily got to her feet.

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Barran dove and rolled out of the wolf-soldiers way. Vannier and Axelzero charged his left He turned to face them sweeping with his left catching Vannier's shield and pushing her into Axelzero before launching them both in the air momentarily. They flew and crashed into a heap on the ground. Despite the cadets being in exos, the soldiers were throwing the cadets around like rag dolls.

Barran launched himself at the wolf-soldiers back, but the man was quick, in a of a after dealing with Vannier and Axelzero, he turned back to Barran kicking his shield aside before across Barrans stomach. The wolf-solder used his other arm to block Barran's sword arm.

Barran who was talented, quick and strong was made to look like a baby against this wolf-soldier. In hindsight, this soldier was a cut above the others in his group, and he did not go out of his way to use his strength in an attempt to hurt the cadets.

Barran twisted trying to bring his shield around in between himself and the wolf-soldier who easily kicked it away again throwing Barran off- The wolf-soldier then ended him with another to the torso. This happened so quickly that Vannier and Axelzero were just regaining their feet.

The newly named wolf-soldier hero turned to face the two girls. He didn't say a thing merely taking two steps in their before they spread. Axelzero spun in his her sword in a high to low arc, and the wolf-soldier stepped back allowing the sword to pass before jabbing her in the torso. It was so quick that Vannier's strike came too late. The wolf-soldier hero grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards him. He lifted Vannier up in the air and dumped her onto her back. Knocking the wind from her.

Axelzero attempted a thrust as he lifted Vannier, the wolf-solider hero merely kicked her sword from her grasp voluntarily taking the paint damage to his boot in the process.

With two quick , Vannier was out. Axelzero was pulling her railgun and using her jumpjets to put distance between them. He lept high into the air and came down on top of Axelzero midair pushing her into the ground, pinning her Railgun.

Another tandem of to Axelzero's torso took her out.

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Mace stood and watched as the wolf-soldier swung at Daedo who used his jumpjets to quickly jump back out of the way of the swing. She knew Daedo would have Myrmidon controlling the jets seamlessly while listening to Daedo's thoughts, assessing the and working with practised techniques. She had to spend much more time with Witch to get her anywhere near this level of synergy.

After coming out of her daze with a shake of the head, she flew towards the wolf-soldier, and they had him pincered between them. While Daedo had Myrmidon, she was still very much his when it came to sword combat. If it was a lance, she would have impaled the wolf-soldier using her jumpjets. She had to suffice with a thrust at top speed, keeping her shield handy ready for a retaliatory blow.

The wolf-soldier sensed her charge and attempted to dodge out of the way while Mace anticipated and was ready for his move. She used her jumpjets to change her keeping the wolf-soldier in her sights despite his agile movements.

Mace's sword sliced the wolf-soldiers side, dealing a small amount of damage because he was just able to move enough to avoid the main thrust of her weapon. Now that she was in close quarters he brought his around and was intent, to not only damage her, but send her flying again. Mace brought her shield up as quick as she could attempting to block the

Meanwhile, Daedo closed on what was now the wolf-soldiers rear Thrusting with his sword as fast and hard as he could. If he was able to deal enough damage, it would incapacitate the wolf-soldier. The wolf-soldier desperately tried to deflect the blow, but his focus was split on two fronts. Daedo's sword ran up the wolf-soldiers arm and onto his neck.

Mace in blocking the , but it still knocked her back three paces. The shield wobbled in her grip. She almost dropped it despite the exos strength. She could see Daedo was going to hit the wolf-soldier with his shield to keep the momentum in their favour. Firing her jumpjets again she flew directly behind the wolf-soldier with her sword out in front. If the wolf-soldier did not escape Daedo's shield, she would skewer him, and it should be enough to end the fight.

The wolf-soldier bore the brunt of Daedo's shield , he would have laughed it off if it had not been for the strength of the Daedalus exo. It was enough to him at least. He grabbed the shield and was about to rip it from Daedo's grasp when Mace was suddenly upon him stabbing his side.

The fifth wolf-soldier was down. Only one remained.

Picard and Kang ran to Daedo's , and the four cadets slowly approached the scene where Barran, Vannier and Axelzero had been fighting. They knew they had been taken out although there were no signs of enemy

A lone wolf-soldier leaned against a tree, his arms crossed facing them. He was the first one to speak, "Fancy meeting you here Odette."

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