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Chapter 99 : Japan Tournament 1

Daedalus

Attendance at Fortescue Military Academy M1 Y:2142

Daedalus Operating Capital: -1,660,000 bitcreds

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"How did you swindle Old Dawg into the mix?" Barran asked.

"We were able to fit the cost into the budget," Axelzero answered.

Barran loudly with a hint of amusement, "You set the budget!" He then turned to Daedo and asked, "And you approved all this?"

Daedo looked at Barran with a deadpan and asked, "Since when have you been so concerned about budgets and costs?"

Barran flustered trying to think of an instance. His body language admitted defeat, but his mouth had not, "Because that's what is always thrown at me! Axelzero has one rule for her and another one for me!"

Daedo swept his arm wide, indicating the craft they were strapped into. A top of the line Marais VTOL.

Barran looked around and smiled. "Okay. Point taken. I'm happy we finally have a first-rate carrier."

"I'm putting my helmet on before the engines start," Daedo said. He was surrounded by the Daedalus extended family who did the same. Even Cisse and Mister Kang were them on this adventure.

The first stage was the qualifiers. And far as any pro league was concerned three of their mechs possessed no ranks nor points from any The Svarski , which was being held in Japan this year, moved around the where they were based. It had been held in , more often than other cities, but it could be held in any city that the leadership of Svarski negotiated and determined.

The qualifiers had almost one hundred and twenty-eight entries from Japan and around the globe. It was open to all, and even some known pro league mechs who could not make the top twenty-eight seeds were fighting for one of the four wildcard

These known mechs received a seeding in the qualifiers amongst the majority of unseeded. They were expressed through to the round of thirty-two of the qualifiers.

To cut a long story short, Titan , Titan Eos and Old Dawg would have to win five straight qualifying matches in order to gain one of the four wildcard entries. And this was done over two days. If a mech won a match and was damaged, they had to make the next match on time, or they would have to forfeit.

There was no prize money given for winning four matches and losing at the last hurdle. But the entrant still had to pay for logistics and repairs. On top of all the other costs which were incurred when running a pro league level mech.

The Daedalus crew, extended family and Jeram Marais, their pilot, began to talk on voice comms with their helmets donned and noise activated.

"Show us the mech pilot chart please," Vannier asked. The mechs were registered as an entrant, and they could have one or more assigned pilots. Where a mech could have multiple pilots, each pilot was restricted to one mech.

Old Dawg, Pilots; Axelzero, Vannier

Titan , Pilots; Barran, Daedo

Titan Eos, Pilots; Picard, Mace

Dead Beat, Pilots; Kang, Kang

"Dead Beat is straight through to the round of thirty-two of the quals?" Axelzero noticed.

"It's a pity we didn't qualify for the tournament proper," Mister Kang stated. "We only started to perform well recently, so it's understandable. And thank you again for the logistics and support, I would not have been able to attend otherwise."

"It made perfect sense to invite you. It doesn't cost any more to fly with four compared to three mechs. Is this your first Svarski ; Vannier asked.

"No. It's my third. And the first two were many years ago now. We never made it out of the qualifiers. It always cost much more than we gained," Mister Kang said. "Especially since we gained nothing other than experience. Expensive experience." He said the last ruefully.

"And what do you rate your chances this time?" Barran asked

"Good! We only have to win two matches," Mister Kang said happily before pausing and asking his daughter, "I think it is time your friends started calling me Lee. Do you agree So-Ra?"

Kang nodded and added, "Then everyone can call me Kang without ;

"You continue this practice when you're on holidays?" Lee asked.

"Yes Father," Kang said. "Academy cadets are very disciplined. I am enjoying it immensely." She said with a large slice of sarcasm.

Everyone laughed at poor Kang. The free spirit was being quashed by peer discipline.

"How do you feel about being a designated pilot for Old Dawg?" Kang asked Vannier trying to be diplomatic.

"I love Old Dawg," Vannier "Nearly as much as Axelzero."

"Old Dawg is still a good model," Axelzero stated firmly.

"I saw the movements of the new Mechs," Kang said tactfully. There was no the two Titan mechs would smash not only Old Dawg but Dead Beat as well given an equal pilot.

"Think of it this way," Vannier began. "Even if this is the first and last tournament we take Old Dawg to, he deserves at least one. He was lying there neglected for years. We, all of us, built Daedalus and rebuilt Old Dawg. He is our heart, and we love him. Yes, he may be an old design, but he has the mesh underarmour, he has your and Mace's polymers. I will fight with all my heart and mind to win as will Axelzero." Her last words were a heartfelt

"I wouldn't want to face that sort of in the arena," Picard added.

"Old Dawg will give us a good baseline. It will contrast the difference the design is making, otherwise, the results would be skewed. We wouldn't know how much to attribute to mech structural design or what to attribute to the other including the mesh," Daedo stated.

Barran laughed and said, "Typical Daedo. By the way, did you get all the sand out?"

"We stripped them down, gave them an electrolytic bath and rebuilt for this tournament," Daedo said. "We could have just built different models, but I have to go back to first principles for field mechs. Our trip to the Sahara highlighted something for me, and in that, it was a for that experience alone."

"What did it highlight?" Lee asked.

"All our are in controlled settings. They are missing an extremely important factor, and that is the environment itself. If we were to build a military force, it would not be identical to the best arena mech we produced. It needs life support, and it needs to work reliably in all possible it will be exposed to. Not only do I need to improve the ingress to a much higher level, but the design should be able to flush out foreign objects seamlessly from the outer components."

"Such as sand?" Barran asked.

"Sand, dirt or any small material, and then liquids, gases; all possible types of foreign objects," Daedo said. "The design needs to not only be a war machine but environmental for itself and the pilot."

"Fortescue could learn a lot from you son," Ikaros said frankly. He was referring to robot design.

The squad broke out in hysterical laughter.

"What did I say?" Ikaros said genuinely. The squad members of Daedalus did not bother the adults with academy business.

Through tears brought from excessive laughter, Vannier stated, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."

"The teams are set, is everyone happy?" Axelzero said.

"I'm not!" Jeram said through the comm system as he piloted the carrier, "I'm just the pilot. It's torture watching you guys be heroes everywhere we go."

"Everywhere?" Vannier asked. "What happened at the Eye of Sahara?"

Barran tapped Daedo on the shoulder, "My partner would have made you proud Vannier. We were invaded by a thousand blood-thirsty tribesman, and he fought them off with words alone. By the time he was finished he had a peace treaty and all their kids in cyberschool."

"That's not exactly what happened," Daedo corrected.

"Correct," Picard added. "There were a lot of adults lining up to attend cyberschool as well."

"Bah," Daedo said as everyone laughed. "Jeram how long?" He asked.

"Three hours Sir Lawrence," Jeram replied with his tongue in his cheek.

The trip continued with banter back and forth between the cadets. One moment they would be discussing an intricate engineered design, or a risky yet lucrative business venture and the next they would be teasing one another. Cisse was quiet most of the time. She enjoyed and listening to the young adults. Even though they were mostly thirteen, she couldn't think of them as children. It was impossible. Practically, once they passed prep, they were young adults as far as the system was concerned, and as soon as they passed into the Upper Academy, they would be technically treated as adults.

"Who is taking the first match in team ; Vannier asked Barran and Daedo. Each Mech entry was working out their own pilot schedule.

"Barran will take the first five matches," Daedo said.

"Really?" Mace asked sounding concerned. "What if he doesn't make it through?"

"I'm right here," Barran said.

"He will," Daedo said, and his faith in Barran brought a smile to the taller cadets face. The way Daedo spoke made it sound like a certainty.

"And you will take over in the tournament proper?" Mace asked, but before Daedo could answer, she added. "There is a reason you always win the Gauntlet Daedo. It's not just about pilot skill. Your tactical ability enhances your skill beyond that of not only every cadet in M1 but every cadet in M3 as well."

"And that is why I will take over in the main tournament," Daedo stated. "Barran will win through I have no doubt, and our first opponent will study the qualifying vids and data very closely."

"Oh that's evil," Barran said. "I love it. Is there any way we can a bet on ourselves? I just got to some extra investment funds."

"If my Father agrees he can if for you. As long as there is nothing illegal in doing so," Daedo replied.

"Ikaros. The best mechanic in the whole wide world! Can you a bet for me?" Barran called through the comms all too loudly with lavish praise.

"I don't like betting. But if it's your creds I can a small bet for you," Ikaros said.

"Fifty-kay," Barran said beaming. "Ten on outright win and forty on making the round of the main tournament."

"Fifty thousand bitcreds?" Ikaros asked "Where did you get fifty thousand? And that's insane! No!"

"Okay, okay. I'll ask my fund manager to the bet for me," Barran said enthusiastically.

"Wait," Daedo said enthusiastically. "This is probably the best chance we have of receiving long odds due to being an unknown. We will do very well, I know we will. All I need to do is to run some statistics with Mrymidon on the odds and our results. We can determine which odds are high compared to low-risk and bets ," Daedo said.

"Yes! Finally! You see the light," Barran was ecstatic.

"Axelzero, can you run a budget on what funds you deem prudent for this sort of short-term investment? What do we have ; Daedo asked.

"I won't tell mum, don't worry," Jeram added from the cockpit.

"The maximum would be a-hundred-kay bitcreds," Axelzero said. "But do we, as a group, agree with this type of activity."

"It's statistical math Axelzero, it's not unlike any other investment," Daedo said

Barran was quiet, knowing his enthusiastic support would only hurt Daedo's case. He sat still waiting for a reply for the rest of Daedalus expectantly.

"If Daedo thinks he can work it statistically I have no concerns," Vannier said evenly. "Can we do it conservatively? With creds we can afford to lose in case factors unknown to us come into ;

"Agreed," Mace said.

"Alright," Picard said. "As long as it's Daedo's strategy and not boy wonders."

"Ooo," Barran could not remain quiet, "That sounded awfully like a nickname."

"Ack. Sorry!" Picard apologized. "But my point remains."

"And who will be these bets?" Ikaros asked concerned.

"Father, we need you," Daedo said with feeling.

Barran: oh that was good. The old man is a sucker for a heartfelt son in need.

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Barran had clocked a little over forty hours in the cockpit of this mech. This was a handicap that his opponent did not possess, however, there was a mitigating factor to this handicap. All of his martial combat and exo experience fed into his ability to pilot the mech.

was the first name that he and Daedo had agreed on. Prometheus was too wordy for Barran's liking, and all the other cool names were girl Titans. When Daedo suggested , he agreed. was an obscure Titan, unlike Zeus or Apollo, whom everyone had heard of. This fact had synergy with their team, while everyone at Fortescue Military Academy knew their names they were unknowns in this type of

After this match half of the mechs would go home, some with their dreams destroyed, others bankrupt, and some with all of the above.

Barran vowed he would not be one of them. Daedo was relying on him, no expecting him, to win five straight matches. They had an awesome mech so Barran could see no reason why he wouldn't. Old Dawg would struggle, otherwise, they had a very good chance of getting three mechs into the main tournament.

While Dead Beat wasn't strictly a Daedalus mech, he was still part of the team. The new Titan models moved much better than Dead Beat who had been rocketing up the ranks recently in the EU pro league. Lastly, Barran had no doubt that he was a far pilot than Mister Kang. Even with only forty hours in the cockpit.

His opponent walked up to the line.

Barran had run all the tests with Daedo in their temporary workshop, he didn't need to perform any warm-up or test moves. This wasn't a that required theatrics. Nevertheless, he did an impressive standing jump to the line.

There was a smattering of mech fans watching the qualifiers, however, most would review streams from what was trending.

Barran hoped to be trending very soon.

His opponent was called Jekyll the Hyde. Barran his name as soon as he read it. It was immaterial. He was merely an obstacle to

A few nerves entered his chest when the countdown began, but Barran banished them thinking only of the task at hand and subsequent glory.

Daedo's briefing and tactical review showed that taking out an opponents leg was the quickest way to victory. A mech could not fight well, if at all, if it could not move. The last few days they had workshopped moves, tactics and of this mech. But in the end, Daedo did not want to suppress Barran's natural instinct and talent for the unpredictable.

The key learning was the of the Mech. It could not do everything Barran could in martial combat, and he had this fact pounded home by Daedo who saw this as their greatest risk.

After a minute of the clock had wound down; three, amber, green. Go.

With Barran at the helm, launched at his opponent, the sheer speed that he closed the gap surprised his enemy. Jekyll the Hyde had not formed a defence, and by the time ;s leg kicked out, he was stuck midstride unable to avoid the inevitable.

;s one-tonne foot kicked Jekyll the Hyde's knee and the strike was followed closely by a massive crack that reverberated across the arena. The few spectators present were as surprised as Barran's opponent when they covered their ears a too late.

was on his side, with one hand and hip on the ground. Twisting and pushing with both his hands, he got up quickly while watching Jekyll the Hyde closely wary of a counterattack.

His opponent stood still, his knee bent backwards at a forty-five degree angle. walked up to his foe and pushed his chest. Jekyll the Hyde fell onto his back unable to defend himself. It should have been possible to attempt a strike as approached, but the pilot must have been in shock at the fact he had been decimated in less than a few

Barran watched as a signal came across his hud. His opponent had wisely surrendered, and if he hadn't would have been free to deal more costly damage to Jekyll the Hyde.

Barran: that was awesome!

Daedo: I can see our odds changing before my eyes. we got those bets in early.

Barran: Yeah. I was amazed that Ikaros had to take it to the IBA. I've never laid a bet so large that it had to be taken by the betting agency. Their odds are never as good as the smaller guys, but at least they won't send thugs after us. They will just send men in suits.

Daedo: Thugs?

Barran: Oh Daedo, you still have a lot to learn.

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