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Chapter 83 : M1: Term: 2, Round: 3

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: 3

Daedalus Operating Capital: 160,000 bitcreds

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Karine Fortescue did not want to meet with her Mother, but to get what she needed it was essential. It was Thursday evening in the first week of round three, and while her had improved, there was still much work to be done. She walked into the Academy office where Commander Mallet one of the top floors. Her Mother, the Commander and her new House Master would be waiting for her.

"Cadet Fortescue," her House Master greeted her in the foyer with a nod. He was from Southeastern Siberia, which was practically in Asia as it was close to both China and Japan. Her Mother recruited him, such was her with Becker who was moved to Osiris to the recently deceased Ustinov. The whole merry-go-round ended with Master Orlov in charge of House Horus.

"Master Orlov," Fortescue said returning the nod. This man was very much her mother's creature and not one with any allegiance to Commander Mallet.

"Do you know what this meeting is about?" Master Orlov asked.

"Yes. I am sure my mother invited you so you would be kept abreast of the Don't worry they won't be expecting anything from you," Fortescue replied. The pair walked through security and into the Commander's meeting room.

"Good," Yasmin greeted the pair. "You're both here on time. Please sit." She said as she stood and brought up a screen on a wall showing the Tier three academic and a series of graph lines.

"Commander," Yasmin continued, "I think we can handle it from here." She stated as she kicked the Commander out of his own meeting room. She watched his back as he left and then changed the screen showing the security levels of the Academy. She then altered the level of their current room from level three to five.

"That should do it," Yasmin opined. The commander had level three security , where Masters and Chiefs were generally level two. Cadets were level one and possessed a pass system, to visitors, for otherwise restricted areas.

"Karine, I have your report, but I would like to discuss it in detail," Yasmin stated as she brought her daughter's report up onto the screen.

"Really Mother? Can't you just give me what I need and allow me to get the job done?" Fortescue said.

"It has only recently apparent how poorly this Academy has been run," Yasmin stated. "My support is more than just funding Karine. You should be leaning on the wisdom that exists in the greater ;

"You mean your wisdom," Fortescue retorted with a snort.

Yasmin merely nodded and smiled.

Fortescue sighed. "If I tell you, you were right, will that make you happy?"

Yasmin smiled and nodded, but was otherwise silent.

Fortescue was quiet for a moment, "Did you watch the of our meeting?"

Her mother nodded.

"Well, you would've seen that I used your strategy and what I am dealing with," Fortescue stated.

Her Mother was still silent. Patiently waiting for her daughter to say more. And after a minute of awkward silence, Karine Fortescue showed a lack of self-control.

"What! What do you want from me?" Fortescue yelled at her Mother. "I did everything you suggested. We met alone, I was humble, I even apologised to the crazy bastard. I used Aline for contact and softening. But he still rejected our offer. It never had a chance, and the crazy kid thinks his research potential is worth more than we can afford!"

After the tirade, Yasmin began to lecture her daughter.

"This technique is known as silence, and it's a way of extracting more out of someone. Especially a young cadet. I will send you a tute on it; the smiling and nodding while someone is talking are part of the technique, and if there is an awkward silence, then you are doing it correctly. It is this awkwardness is what the weaker person to talk to fill the space," Yasmin stated calmly.

"I know this!" Fortescue replied too loudly and She proceeded to delete the tute her mother had sent her.

"You don't just need to know it. You need to practice it, it needs to part of your arsenal. There were three when you should have remained quiet to glean more , but you opened your mouth trying to control the ," Yasmin retorted.

Fortescue considered shutting up for the rest of the meeting just to spite her mother.

"Let's move on. What do you need for the next stage? What's your ask," Yasmin enquired. She had her own thoughts, but she wanted to assess Karine's insight.

"Despite not controlling the IP we have the exos, and Thoth zero have given all their research to the Middle Inter-Academy (M-IA) team. Although I think I should be part of the process they haven't included me in the House Captain meetings, while they have invited Daedo to attend," Fortescue began.

"Our competitor research is showing that our M-IA team should rank in the top third, however, there are major concerns over the Upper Inter-Academy team. They need better equipment as we have fallen further behind the other Academies with each passing year due to neglect and ;

"Fortescue Groups needs to invest heavily in new technology in regards to , armour and weaponry. Our PPCs are well below other Academies who are moving away from assault cannons and opting for PPCs, drones and as many missiles as they can carry," Karine Fortescue finished her ask.

"How much?" Yasmin asked.

"What is the cost of being dropped down to the ; Fortescue asked which garnered a surprised look from the Horus M1 Master who had not said a word all meeting.

Yasmin pulled up a screen on her arm and searched marketing for the latest analysis before replying, "In immediate sales a ten percent drop. But the loss of brand prestige is almost a bitcreds," she looked up. "Then there is the embarrassment, you, I and everyone in our family would have to endure for a decade."

"Only a decade?" Asked Fortescue sarcastically.

"Either put someone capable on it, or give it to me, but we should spend half a bitcreds and not only avoid but aim for The continual underspending on R and D has been killing us slowly but surely. And the crazy kid made one good point if you watched the vid. How can we expect to compete like the top three when we do next to zero research and development, and they are giants in this field?" Karine Fortescue said with all

"Half a ; Yasmin asked incredulously. "Even if I wanted to, no, that amount needs board approval, and I would need to wage a campaign to get them to agree."

"Then we are at risk of dropping before I even get to M2," Fortescue replied.

Yasmin turned to Master Orlov, "Out." She ordered , and she waited for him to exit before turning back to Karine. "Karine. There is the way that DaVinci does things, and there is the way Fortescue achieves its goals. Here's what you will do."

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It was officially the mid-point of the term and Daedalus were completing their Saturday morning PT which was usually a run, but this week it was altered by Picard. She saw a need for change due to the changing nature of each rounds obstacle course.

Mace scaled the side of the warehouse, and onto the roof, where Ikaros' robots had been installing contructofoam designs and features which would deliver an agility, strength, and reflex orientated course.

Covered in pads, bots on wheels zig-zagged randomly across the roof as the cadets dodged and rolled past trying to avoid being knocked into the netting which surrounded the building. After crossing the roof they would drop down the other side.

The junkyard had been transformed into a series of structured junk piles and tunnels which the cadets had to climb, jump and crawl through before ultimately running into a small square where they had to box a bot for thirty Not only was the bot quick, with one-and-a-half metre arms, it also cheated. Each spar it was allowed to break three of the predetermined rules at random.

To finish off a single lap, the cadets then sprinted the block, which was eight hundred and fifty metres in length, unless they jumped a series of fences and took an alley, which was allowed by the course designer aka Picard.

Daedo smiled as Kang finally finished her fifth lap.

"What are you grinning about?" Kang

"Your improvement. The rate you are climbing ranks is impressive, especially when we factor in the cadets you are competing against have a full term under their belt. They didn't when I was rising in the ranks," Daedo stated factually.

"So you stopped climbing ranks in the obstacle course?" Kang asked.

"I am in a band of twenty cadets which frequently swap , its seems rank fifty to seventy is my limit," Daedo replied.

Kang walked up to him and patted him on the head, "It's ok cadet when you grow you'll improve," she said the words dripping with sarcasm and payback.

Daedo adroitly moved his head from under her hand, dipping and stepping back. "Let's go through Dead Beat's design one final time before we start the ," he said.

Not only was Kang instrumental in the design due to her experience and knowledge of composites and components. Her Father insisted she approved of the final design before it was implemented.

"We have almost forty kilometres of mesh adhered to the structure protecting everything except the outer armour." Daedo brought up the mesh design which showed the layers and the redundancy it delivered in terms of hydraulic capacity. "The three outer layers contain no hydraulic fluid, and even then we have a four to one redundancy ;

"This will be great if it delivers the speed and strength you promised," Kang said with a slight hint of scepticism. "I'm a don't believe it until I see it kinda girl."

"Which is a good way to be, the modelling is always out. It is a tool we use to assist, but I have never seen one everything," Daedo replied.

"My new is ready. It's lighter due to all this extra weight you're adding, but it will protect your mesh from most melee attacks," Kang stated.

"Let's start putting this together so it can be ready to test against Old Dawg tomorrow at the old hangar next door," Daedo said.

"Old Dawg's reactor is ready?" Kang asked.

"Cisse finished it yesterday, and Axelzero bought the properties on either side of us this week as well," Daedo stated.

"Doesn't anyone want to have warehouses here anymore?" Kang asked.

"Not since the noisy kids moved in," Ikaros answered, inserting himself into the

Axelzero had offered well over market value for the properties, and the owners simply One of them was a perfect spot for a practice arena; it was large enough for two mechs to spar in melee combat. In area it was bigger than the workshop and yard combined, it was depressed into the earth with a thirty-metre high roof. It had been vacant of tenants so was immediately.

The was behind them, which was , but Axelzero would decline to renew the lease which was expiring in a little over seven months in order for them to use it early next year.

"Is next door ready Father?" Daedo asked.

Ikaros nodded, "We added a door to its side so you can from here without going on to the street and a tonne of constructofoam in order to meet the requirements for a test range."

Daedo used his comms to talk to the whole squad.

*Daedo: Axelzero would you do the honour of moving Old Dawg next door for his launch party? Aside from the tests, he is ready. Dead Beat will be ready by tomorrow for Old Dawgs first spar.*

*Axelzero: Yes! I'd love to! Why me?*

*Daedo: You named him.*

*Vannier: Our very first Mech. And it's a great name Axelzero.*

Axelzero sprinted from the upstairs area where she had been checking on and contracts regarding their existing and new properties. She lept down the twenty stairs in three bounds before turning and skidding to a halt in front of Daedo and Old Dawg.

"That was quick, did you hurt yourself?" Daedo asked.

Axelzero shook her head, "I'm ready," she beamed.

Vannier, Picard, Barran arrived moments before Mace and Cisse.

"That's everyone," Vannier announced.

"Okay Axelzero get in, and we will run the ," Daedo said. While they had walked Old Dawg around for Mr Kang, he wasn't ready, his armour wasn't finished, and his reactor needed tweaking. It was only this week Daedo was happy to launch and initialise. The latest control systems were installed, and they would be tuned to Axelzero.

"I'm so jealous," Picard said smiling.

"Everyone has been working hard," Vannier said, "but Axelzero has been taking on everything thrown at her and more, and I can't recall her , not once."

"She is the heart of the squad," Picard stated truthfully.

Axelzero couldn't hear them she was enclosed in the cockpit and the sensors had not yet activated.

"Bah," Barran said at the mushy emanating from the girls. "She's the most expendable if Old Dawg blows up. That's what Daedo is thinking."

He was rewarded with a thump from Picard. The spot on his shoulder was probably starting to form calluses it happened so often.

Axelzero ran through the steps with Daedo and Ikaros monitoring and adjusting control panels.

"Reactor good, all actuators are receiving power," Daedo announced.

"Interface is solid, she can move now," Ikaros said.

Daedo: Ok, Axelzero. Take him next door.

"We should make today his birthday," Vannier said suddenly.

"May the fourth?" Barran said, "Anyway, isn't he like a hundred years old?"

"More like twenty," Kang said.

"Today is his official launch day with Daedalus, not only is most of him new, his name is new," Vannier said.

Old Dawg slowly walked towards the new warehouse, he could move much faster, but Axelzero was getting used to the controls. As she moved her arms, his arms moved, as she moved her legs, his legs moved. She was standing in the cabin with her bodysuit and helmet interfacing with Old Dawg. Her AI would take on certain as she nurtured, trained and familiarised it with the Mech.

Old Dawg himself was a six-metre model, he looked like an old war veteran compared to the pro league mechs and the Svarski mech on at the Munich expo. The cabin was in the torso which was heavily armoured and contained most of the mech systems and sensors. There was no head, at the top of Old Dawg was a hatch that the pilot climbed into the cabin, it was heavily armoured and when closed was airtight.

All mechs had to be designed with life support, it was one of the Inter-Academy rules although not a rule in the pro league. Daedo had designed Old Dawg so he could be used in both.

The only remaining equipment to go on Old Dawg were jumpjets, Daedo wanted to get a better system before implementing. Old Dawg weighed over fifteen tonnes that required a lot of force to lift him off the ground. Between a PPC and jumpjets, the power requirements on a Mech would make an exos seem minuscule in comparison. If Old Dawg was fitted with an Assualt Cannon, there would be more weight to deal with both the weapon and a tonne of ammo.

They had not painted Old Dawg yet, he was still gunmetal grey except where the mesh was showing at his joints. Being an older structural model his structural design was almost identical to a human minus the head. Including ankle and knee joints, wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. Old Dawg even had hands to grip a variety of weapons, or he could make a heavy fist.

If Old Dawg were to be a melee mech in the pro league, Daedo would upgrade his hands to something more suitable. But it was more likely that he would be a sword and board Mech.

"Can he go faster?" Barran asked worriedly.

"Yeah," Daedo answered, "Axelzero is just getting used to the controls."

"When do I get a turn?" Barran asked.

"Take a number," Picard replied and added, "I have number two, don't you have three Vannier?"

"Yes. Yes, I do," she said, "Daedo has four and doesn't Mace have five?"

"Yes. I have five," Mace replied.

"When the hell were these numbers given out? I didn't know!" Barran

"Just now," Daedo said deadpan.

Daedo: Axelzero you have the rest of today to practice. Tomorrow you will be fighting Dead Beat.

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