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Chapter 100 : Japan Tournament 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 to 3, Break

Daedalus Financial : -1,660,000 bitcreds

<break>

"Don't do that again," Daedo said emphatically.

"Why it worked!" Barran argued.

"And what if he defended or dodged?" Daedo said staring down the taller cadet. "You would be lying on the ground prone while your opponent only had to from the they took to avoid your blow. And now, everyone will be alerted to that opening move." Daedo predicted, "That will work in your favour, but only if you use it properly."

"A feint?" Barran said, "I like it." He imagined feinting the initial rush and low leg kick while pulling off another move.

"I want you to fight freely, using your instinct and , but I have to draw the line at moves which put the mech on the ground. It's not built for that," Daedo instructed. "Not without jumpjets."

"Alright! No more cool moves," Barran said smiling. "You gotta admit it was a pretty amazing debut."

"I was impressed. After I overcame the initial," Daedo said with a slight pause before deciding on word , "Shock." It was a better than horror.

Daedo and Ikaros were working keeping three mechs in working order. And when the Kangs' matches began it could be four.

"Kang," Daedo called over the comms, "We're going to need you after the first round please."

"Roger," She called from the ground looking up at Daedo in the elevated working

"Green light for Old Dawg," Ikaros stated loudly lifting his head from a data screen.

"Thanks!" Vannier and Axelzero said enthusiastically.

Daedo watched as Axelzero walked Old Dawg away for their match.

"How does Titan Eos look?" Mace asked Daedo.

"Clean," Daedo said simply. "You will have a green light shortly."

The cadets were not novices when it came to workshop duties, but Daedo was the primary designer, and Ikaros had years of experience. It was left to these two to keep everything running smoothly. Even Mister Kang left Dead Beat in their capable hands.

<break>

Axelzero was extremely nervous, if she lost the first match, Vannier would not get a chance to pilot Old Dawg. She poured pressure onto herself. She had to win, and this self-inflicted pressure was debilitating.

She shook her whole body, which resulted in Old Dawg performing jittery movements. After a short laugh, she calmed down a little. Surely Old Dawg's armour and power delivery systems were much more advanced than their opponents.

Not including Kang, she was always at the bottom of the squad. It was a hard to be. Mace, Vannier and Daedo were way smarter. Picard and Barran were physically She was impressed with herself that she didn't give into despair. Last. Last. Last. It was enough to make her cry. There was no that she was in the legendary Thoth squad zero.

Today she had to win.

Losing was not an

She had prepared by watching all the vids she could on her opponent. Although it was not a pro league mech, did not mean there wasn't a wealth of , from amateur feeds, from the garage circuit. True Lies. She laughed at the name. The owner was probably trying to be edgy.

Old Dawg's range of movements and speed paled compared to the Titans. No one expected him to be one of the four Wildcards. Not Daedo, not Kang, not even Vannier. The worst news was that if they won four matches in a row, they would have to compete and win against Dead Beat to earn a Wildcard.

It was time.

Old Dawg was about to compete in his first official match. That Axelzero knew of; who knew what he had done in his long history?

She walked to the line and stood side on taking a combat stance. Axelzero breathed deeply. Exhaling and expelling all her negative thoughts and insecurities. She closed her eyes for a moment while she focused on breathing.

She loved everyone in the squad, even Barran. She would not let them down. She would work harder and improve. Axelzero was completely cognizant on what she had to do.

Four, three, amber, green and the line in front of her disappeared. Her opponent walked slowly towards her. True Lies was hesitant for some reason.

Axelzero moved slowly as well, she wanted to get into range before launching an assault. The closer; the better. True Lies did not have the same advantages that Old Dawg possessed. He did not have the elements from Daedo's designs or Kang's composite mixtures.

As True Lies closed, Old Dawg began to move quicker with each step. It was what Axelzero had until he heart began to race and her adrenalin began to take over.

All the self-inflicted pressure had been absorbed and was now emerging as a new

Axelzero was losing control of her thoughts, they began to spin and twirl taking on a life of their own. Her heart was beating faster and faster, and before she knew it, she had closed on True Lies.

She wasn't fighting strategically. Her and Old Dawg had manic. Gone were the carefully analysed moves and counter-moves. She was smashing her opponent thoughtlessly with Old Dawg's fists.

Her pent-up had transformed. They were manifesting as Blind Battle Rage. After what seemed an eternity of fury fuelled messages began to appear on Axelzero's HUD.

STOP

DESIST

STOP

DESIST

STOP

The messages were streaming across her HUD, and she only noticed after the third

"He surrendered!" Vannier shouted through the comms, "Stop!"

The battle was over, and the comm channel was now open.

"Can you come back to the Mech Bay?" Vannier asked with concern in her voice.

"Yes," Axelzero replied. She felt quite calm now the battle was over.

Once she walked Old Dawg onto the mag-rail , it cruised to the Daedalus rental Mech Bays.

As soon as Old Dawg arrived into his Mech Bay, Daedo and Ikaros began to pour over the mech, ignoring Axelzero as she disembarked.

"What were you thinking?" Vannier asked her.

"Eh?" Axelzero said in a daze, "I don't really know."

Barran barrelled into the "That was barbarous!" He said enthusiastically thumping Axelzero on the back. "He never knew what hit him. I mean. You just smashed him to hell and then kept going to hades or whatever comes after hell."

"Imagine the repair bill," Kang said with a slightly amused tone. "That mech was ruined."

Vannier looked at Barran, Kang and Picard who was also loitering. Her eyes for a before Picard got the hint, "Come on you two. Let's go watch Mace in Titan Eos."

She grabbed them and pulled them away. Barran protested for a moment but ended up smiling at Picard while ducking her hold. "Okay. If you want to sit next to me that badly. You just have to ask."

Picard let out a but did not reply otherwise.

"She did ask," Kang observed mischievously as the walked off.

After they had left Vannier turned back to Axelzero. She wasn't concerned with Daedo and Ikaros they were in a different world. Their main concern with the damage Axelzero did to Old Dawg.

"Tell me what happened," Vannier worried for Axelzero. The was risky, brutal and massively out of character for her friend.

"I don't really know," Axelzero said. "The match started, and we were closing on each other. My heart started to beat really fast, and I just…," she thought before replying, "Lost control."

"It's like my body took over, and it just went crazy," Axelzero tried to while searching her own for an answer.

"I can't argue that it wasn't effective," Vannier said simply. "But we have a tight schedule." She added looking at Daedo and Ikaros.

As if on cue Daedo turned an approached the pair.

"It's going to take hours to fix, and some of the will need ," Daedo stated. "You'll just have to take the next match with these dints and scratched paintwork."

Vannier crossed her arms and looked at Axelzero. Her eyes communicating that she was not pleased to fight with Old Dawg not looking his best.

Axelzero dipped her head, "Sorry," She said apologetically.

Vannier burst out laughing. "I was kidding!" She before giving Axelzero a hug.

"Vannier," Daedo said somberly. She turned to look at him, and he continued, "You will probably have to chase your next opponent. Unless they forfeit before the match starts."

Both Axelzero and Vannier burst into laughter while holding each. Daedo scratched his head. He didn't recall telling a joke.

<break>

Mace was up first in Titan Eos. Unlike Daedo and Barran, her team had opted to alternate. Each of the teams came up with their own methods and tactics. While Daedalus shared assets and services as a group, Daedo had no say in how Picard and Mace decided to run Titan Eos. It was up to them to or fail. to the Gauntlet at the academy, except instead of being a solo effort they were a duo.

It was an interesting pairing, her and Picard. Both were strong combatants, and it probably came down to the fact that Axelzero and Vannier wanted to pilot Old Dawg. The last four were split with a mix of capabilities.

Mace was extremely happy with her choice of partner and mech. There was only one issue. In order to gain a Wildcard, they would have to beat If they won four matches, they would be up against Barran.

To her benefit, she was in the Nanterre workshop since Term two ended. Other than the trip to the Eye of the Sahara she was able to practice in Titan Eos every day. She already had twice as many hours as Picard and Barran.

Mace walked sedately to the line, standing front on, facing her opponent. As the countdown timer wound down to green, she and worked her initial moves through her mind.

When the green light , she did not walk forward as most mechs did. Eos had superb maneuverability compared to most mechs in the pro league circuit, let alone the contenders for the Wildcard.

Eos began to spin forward. It was like a dance. one foot forward and then turning bringing the other foot around. A maneuver that would be in an exo but it was amazing in a mech.

Mace began to step higher and higher, gaining momentum, and lept with her last. It was not elegant like a ballerina, it was a twenty-tonne mech after all. But it still astounded all who were watching and the who would view the stream snippet later that day. It also bewildered her opponent who had never seen anything like it.

Kick Start didn't come close, while his leg and hub spun his torso remained , otherwise, that mech was slow when it came to movement.

Titan Eos was something new. Mace an outstretched left foot six metres from her opponent and as she brought her right foot around Eos' fist came with it.

It was as if her opponent was mesmerised. It simply stood there as the fist smashed into its centre of gravity cracking open the most heavily armoured of the mech. He went flying, and it was very rare for a twenty-tonne mech to fly at the end of a strike like this one.

Sparks flew, of blue arced from his torso as he lay on his back never to move again. The match was over with one punch.

Titan Eos did almost as much damage as Old Dawg. Except, this time, it was with a single strike instead of thirty.

At the end of the day, three matches from the Wildcard qualifying rounds were trending on the streams. All for very different reasons. One thing they had in common was they were all Daedalus mechs.

"I didn't expect you would have a problem winning, but damn," Picard praised Mace. "You're making it hard for me to look good after that performance."

"We need to decide," Mace said.

"Decide what?" Picard asked.

"If we win four matches it will be two each," Mace stated.

"Oh." The hit Picard, "I was hoping we could leave that as a future problem."

"It's tomorrow," Mace said.

"What do you think?" Picard asked.

"We could use a metric to decide, like who gets the least damaged. Or who wins in the quickest overall times. Or we could just pick randomly," Mace offered a couple of

"Who has the best chance of beating Barran?" Picard asked.

"It's not Barran I'm worried about," Mace replied.

"You think Daedo will try hard to beat us?" Picard asked. "That doesn't seem like him. He will probably be happy whoever gets through."

"That may be true. But he would see it as disrespectful to us if he didn't give it his all," Mace stated.

"Oh. Yeah," Picard said, "That does sound like him."

Later that day, the Daedalus Mechs slowly progressed. Barran, Picard and Vannier winning their matches, in the round of sixty-four respectively.

Daedo and Ikaros were working feverishly to keep them in top They called in Kang for assistance. With her years of experience, she was a valuable asset they couldn't overlook. Each of the three mechs had a match every two to three hours.

<break>

"Axelzero, do you want to take the third match? Are you up to it?" Vannier asked.

"I think you should take this one," she replied softly.

Vannier put a hand on her friend's shoulder in support, "It will be better if you face this and it."

Axelzero nodded slowly, "Next match I promise."

Barran had settled down and was winning his matches easily with the mech. It was a cut above anything in the Wildcard with the of its sister, Titan Eos.

Mace and Picard were alternating piloting duties. Both were showing good performance despite limited experience in mechs. The design based on natural movements and their experience in exos was keeping the learning curve slight. They were outperforming pilots with years of experience, albeit with far equipment.

<break>

Third Match - Titan : Pilot Barran. Round of thirty-two victory

Third Match - Titan Eos: Pilot Mace. Round of thirty-two victory

Third Match – Old Dawg: Pilot Vannier. Round of thirty-two victory

First Match – Dead Beat: Pilot Kang. Round of thirty-two victory

<break>

Dead Beat won his first match with So-Ra Kang at the helm. Her first competitive match despite following her father around for years.

Vannier and Axelzero were prepping for their fourth match in the Mech Bay while Daedo was just finishing putting the last touches on Old Dawg. He was sitting in the elevated work which had several tool attachments. It was basically a knuckle boom which hung from the , and he could move it up, down and around the Mech to any he needed.

"Ok. Do it," Vannier said

Axelzero nodded and was then lifted up into the cockpit by the Mechs remotely controlled hand. Before the cabin closed, Daedo came up to her

"Fancy meeting you here," Axelzero stuttered. She was trying for levity, but her nervousness was showing.

"Don't worry about Old Dawg, he's tough," Daedo stated, "And we can fix him."

Axelzero looked at Daedo searching for his meaning.

"If you need to let loose. If that's your style. Then do it," He said calmly, "We're here for the experience."

"Thanks," She replied, "I don't think that's my style. I just got I think."

"Are you sure? Because … it was inspired," he said softly.

Words of praise from Daedo were always meaningful. He never made up stuff to try and make you feel good. Axelzero was silent she just stared at him processing what he said and her thoughts.

"Don't force it," he added, "But if you feel like going wild again, don't stop yourself either."

Axelzero cracked a small smile, and before she could ask if he was sure because he would have to repair Old Dawg, he spoke again.

"You have our ," he said his arm sweeping to include Ikaros and Kang in his approval. She thought he must have been reading her mind again.

"Okay Daedo," Axelzero said finally. "If the feeling comes over me again I will just go with it."

<break>

Fourth Match - Titan : Pilot Barran. Round of sixteen victory

Fourth Match - Titan Eos: Pilot Picard. Round of sixteen victory

Fourth Match – Old Dawg: Pilot Axelzero. Round of sixteen victory

Match – Dead Beat: Pilot Lee. Round of sixteen victory

<break>

As Old Dawg returned to the Mech Bay, Ikaros gave Daedo a slightly confounded look. Not wanting the other cadets to hear he joined Daedo in the knuckle boom.

"Um Daedo?" Ikaros made his name sound like a

"Yes Father," Daedo replied.

"Of all your friends," he began, "I always thought that Axelzero was the shyest, the softest, and the most kind." He looked down at Old Dawg for a minute and then pulled the damage report up for Daedo. "She won. She was only hit once. But look at this."

"Yes Father I know," Daedo said.

"Is she right in the head?" Ikaros asked genuinely concerned.

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