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A note from Skully

If you are coming here for the first time now - 

Chapters 6 to 35 are deleted due to Amazon rules you can read on kindle unlimited and then 36 and up here. (unedited version also available on patreon $1 if you don't have KU and you don't want to pay 5USD for book one)

The Amazon edition has been rewritten and edited with multiple changes.

Amazon book one

Over the course of seven months, Daedalus and Myrmidon improved their combat skills in CyberMech through lower tier competitions.

First, they competed in the Bronze ladder matches under Myrmidon’s account as a duo. Daedalus would pilot with Myrmidon assisting. Even coming up against multiple smurfs, they still wiped the floor with the competition. The strategies and systems they worked out while fighting one another held them in good stead. Some of the tactics they’d devised were common, and some were entirely unique.

Together, they moved Myrmidon up through Bronze, Silver, and all the way up to Gold. And as soon as they stopped winning, they paused playing on the Myrmidon account.

Gold was much more challenging than the previous ranks, and the next step was to level the Daedalus account. The second time round they achieved over a thousand kills with only two deaths on their journey to Gold. It was cheating, in a moral sense. However, it was not breaking the rules. It was merely great preparation.

Once the accounts were the same rank, they purchased in-game items and began to experiment with the new equipment and traits available to them.

Entire setups were contrasted and tested for synergy and effectiveness. Some synergies looked great in theory, but in reality, the weapon or tactic that related to the synergy was poor, therefore it was a false positive. One such example was the flamethrower; opponents merely had to stay out of range, and it was useless against a railgun or energy weapon.

It soon became apparent that the best tactic was to drop the CyberMech preprogramed manoeuvres for direct freeform control. This would not would have been effective without an AI as advanced as Myrmidon with his understanding of the game and his communication effectiveness with Daedalus.

Most players likely never even attempted this, and if they did, their cybernetic sync was probably overwhelmed. While all CyberMech players had purchased cybernetic implants, not all had an AI.

Cybernetic AIs were common in the Private Military organisations, and they were being slowly introduced into the governmental defence forces. However, the players of CyberMech were predominately ubis who barely scrapped together enough bitcreds to play. It was uncommon for a player to possess an AI.

None had an AI like Myrmidon, it was unique in its capability.

Daedalus had a massive advantage not only from his unique approach when learning the game, but from his custom-built AI asset as well. It was like cheating except he had a larger advantage than any cheater could possess. But without question he was playing within the rules.

The developers allowed AI assistants, they did not conceive that one could break the game.

It became a major distinct difference in the way Daedalus and Myrmidon played compared to the competition, and the only reason Daedalus was able to do it was because he had Myrmidon acting as his partner.

Myrmidon took control of manoeuvres and provided prediction calculations on enemy movements and gunfire trajectories, while Daedalus controlled macro tactics, movement, gunnery, and overall strategy.

They often switched certain roles, trying to work out the best combination. Daedalus had some limitations, such as not being able to calculate trajectory like Myrmidon could. A human merely guessed using intuition and recall. Myrmidon calculated flight paths real-time.

The only in game aid they did not dispense with was the minimap. It would be ludicrous to dump the radar that showed friendly and known enemy movements.

They began with their weak account, the Myrmidon account. Its stats were now very good, but they could not compare to Daedalus, who had zero losses and almost zero total deaths in over two hundred matches.

Daedalus: Too slow, too slow. We need to dodge those missiles or at least catch them with our shield.

Myrmidon: We’re still acclimating to this method; our rate of improvement is seven per cent per match.

Daedalus: Let’s keep pushing this account to Master. That’s three full ranks and at least a thousand matches.

Myrmidon: There will be a drop off in improvement. After thirty more matches, I predict our improvement will only be one per cent per match.

Daedalus: That’s fine. I want us to master it before switching back to our prime account.

It took them a month and six hundred matches to reach Master with the Myrmidon account. The competition got tougher with each promotion, but they also improved as well. Their KD ratio was well over twenty. The highest opponent they saw in a match had a KD ratio of nine.

As planned, once Myrmidon was in Master tier, they switched to Daedalus. They breezed through the matches, winning forty on the first full day, with over two hundred kills and zero deaths.

Games Master: Player Daedalus, you are suspected of cheating. You have been suspended until we complete an investigation.

Daedalus: What?!

Myrmidon: What happened?

Daedalus: We’re doing so well they assume we’re cheating and are investigating us.

Myrmidon: Can they not tell there are no cheats running in the background?

Daedalus: They probably can, but, they can’t be sure we don’t have a cheat they cannot detect.

Myrmidon: Could they suspect I am a cheat program?

Daedalus: AIs are not classed as cheating unless you’re pulling restricted information, such as enemy positions. Using an AI is not cheating; using them or a program which accesses server-restricted data is.

Myrmidon: I will read the rules and make certain.


Myrmidon: Daedalus, I see they were within the rules to suspend us for twenty-four hours if they suspect cheating. Even with no proof. These rules appear unjust.

Daedalus: That’s how the world works. Those in power write the rules to their benefit.

Myrmidon: We shall defeat them, Daedalus, I am certain. We are an unstoppable team.

In seven short months, Myrmidon had become Etana’s best and only friend. They worked together on everything. It probably wasn’t healthy, but neither was sleeping half the day and spending the other half playing games and mucking around in Spacebuild.

In Spacebuild, they had improved their Myrmidon and Daedalus shop revenue significantly, growing from about fifteen bitcreds per month to over 120. After purchasing worldwide rights to the two names, Etana had three hundred bitcreds in his account. By the time a full year passed, he would have seven hundred.

At the moment, he had nothing to spend it on, but he was certain he would. It was much too small an amount to help his father with tuition, but they were not far off from entering the professional CyberMech league, and once they did they could earn streaming revenue and prize money based on how well they performed.

Etana was looking forward to seeing how much this would be so he could help his father. He didn’t like seeing Ikaros worrying about money. Especially when it was for something they did not need.

He wondered why he needed to go to a military academy. He could make plenty of money from spacebuild, or whatever came next, and CyberMech would be even better. The thought brought back memories of why.

It had been his mother's dream.

It made no sense, but he felt like he was letting her down if he didn’t go.

The thought left his mind as he plotted his next move in CyberMech.


Eleven months passed, and Etana had both the Myrmidon and Daedalus’ accounts in Challenger Tier.

A person had to be in the top two hundred-ranked players on the server in their region to qualify for Challenger. Those rankings were processed every twenty-four hours. So, if someone missed even a day, their ranking could drop out.

This method spurred them to play both accounts every day.

Daedalus’ account had acquired some deaths by the time he hit Master, and now in Challenger, it was slightly tougher. Not by much though, because he was predominately playing Master-ranked players as well as a few Challengers.

In the European region, which also included the UK, there were four million playing CyberMech.

Three months after release, the price dropped, and after another three, it dropped again to only one bitcred a month.

A player could pay off their cybernetic implant over the course of twenty-four months. This meant that anyone who wanted to play, could. It was well within the standard UBI as long as one didn’t have any other expensive hobbies.

Etana had two accounts in the top two hundred players out of four million, and he was only ten years old.

The Daedalus account kept rising and would be in the top ranking soon. It was often monitored by the GMs, but they never found anything amiss. Because nothing was. They were surprised to find he had turned off assisted manoeuvring until they found out he used an AI to assist. None of that was against the rules.

‘Daedalus’ was invited to be the guest of a North American team for a professional match. He had avoided clans, which was highly unusual, but pickup groups absolutely adored him; they always won when he was on their team. Many players queued solo when they knew he was playing, on the off chance they would be in his group.

All professional teams were organised, and he probably couldn’t play professionally without joining one. Ranked league matches were eight versus eight, so a professional team usually had ten regulars with eight playing on any given day.

His first invitational match was at four in the morning, as he was playing with the Neo-Angels in their region. They were a new pro team that had contacted him a week earlier. It was supposedly a trial, but he would never move to New York, no matter the offer.

After getting rid of Cisse, Etana went back to sleep to prepare for the match.

Myrmidon: She is right. We should do some exercise.

Daedalus: You mean me. You merely ride along in my head.

Myrmidon: All the literature and other informative media sources have a common message that physical activity will improve health, increase your lifespan, and even improve our gameplay in CyberMech.

Daedalus: You’re joking. How can physical exercise improve our gameplay?

Myrmidon: Don’t believe me? Read for yourself.

And with that statement, Myrmidon linked hundreds of articles, medical journals, and white papers stating that physical exercise improved many attributes and functions used to play CyberMech, including motor control, focus, lower stress levels, cognitive processing, and subconscious problem-solving.

Daedalus: I don’t care.

Myrmidon: I suspect there is an illogical reason you do not care.

Daedalus: Correct!

The match between Neo-Angels and the number three ranked North American team, Thresh, started at four a.m. Paris time, which was seven p.m. in Los Angeles – the NA primetime for live streaming professional matches.

Daedalus was invited to play but was also being paid two bitcreds per kill, with one being deducted per death. The match was for the best out of five matches, eight versus eight, and unlike ladder matches, no respawn. This type of match suited him much more. If he could take out an enemy, they would not respawn; they’d be unable to collect in the spawn area and swarm him en masse.

He lined up with his teammates, watching the countdown light go from red to yellow to green, and the buzzer sounded.

The team leader gave him an order, which he followed for thirty seconds before imagining a grim outcome.

Daedalus: Sorry, I cannot follow this pattern.

Leader: Do as instructed, we’re paying you.

Daedalus: Actually. You are paying me for kills. If I don’t make any kills, I don’t get paid.

Leader: Breaking formation will …

Daedalus cut the comms.

Daedalus: Let’s go wide. The terrain is high near the edge of this map; it’ll give us their flank and height advantage.

Myrmidon: This is the most optimal course of action. Thank you for ditching meatheads.

Daedalus had called his teammates ‘meatheads’ once, and Myrmidon had referred to other players as meatheads ever since. It did not go unnoticed that Daedalus was a lone wolf in what was a team game. His only deaths were when his enemy successfully boxed him in and was able to fire from multiple sides. This rarely happened, even with hundreds of matches in Master and Challenger. Daedalus’ KD ratio was still by far the best in all of CyberMech.

On the contrary, he used the fact that players would try and box him in against them. Their movements and positioning became predictable and their deaths, child’s play.

His playstyle and stats caused a massive amount of hate for him in the game forums, where people could text and post audio or video, all of which he ignored.

One of his teammates followed him to the western edge of the map. This was fairly normal; players tended to follow him in ladder matches as well. They made good sacrifices or fodder.

His current mech was tuned for speed, agility, manoeuvrability, and firepower. Armour – which was quite expensive in terms of weight and points – was dumped to the bare minimum. With this extreme tactic, he had to dodge every beam, railgun round, flamethrower, grenade, and – worst of all – missile thrown at him.

He quickly left the friendly mech behind while zigzagging between buildings. If he topped them, he would be seen for long-range, which was something he avoided. The loadout on his configuration-labelled Cheetah was merely a swordlance and a railgun. The two highest-damage weapons if used correctly.

Myrmidon: I predict the professional opponent will come through the centre with two long-range heavy railgun mechs atop the buildings and four close-combat types on the ground with the remaining two hunters roaming, hiding, and scouting. They have two main engagers the team revolves around the long-range Hawkeye and the speedy roamer Rex.

Daedalus: What’s their maximum range on this map?

Myrmidon: Four hundred metres. But only three hundred with high accuracy.

Daedalus: Okay, let’s camp, and if an opportunity arises, we circle behind or take out a roamer.

Normally, a mech wouldn’t have been able to reach this position without being spotted by an enemy roamer. But that was because a normal mech wasn’t able to calculate enemy position and line of sight so accurately that it could almost walk amongst them.

Their senses started picking up movement noises, and the minimap pinged.

Myrmidon: False ping. The enemy is lobbing city structure parts ahead of themselves.

Daedalus: Bricks or broken-off staircases?

Myrmidon: Clusters of bricks.

They would use this against the enemy. The enemy had laid a trap for them by creating a false ping to lure them out. Daedalus doubted many other players could calculate false pings and their origin, mainly due to the fact that they didn’t have a competent AI like Myrmidon.

Myrmidon: Ninety per cent probability the false ping is Rex.

Not surprising, given that he was one of two roamers and one of their engagers. His tactic was probably to lead back either the initial contact or, better yet, the second wave of revenge attack to the main group.

Myrmidon created a hologram overlay showing the optimal path to take to avoid detection and to create a flanking opportunity on Rex for their medium-to-long railgun distance.

Within moments, Rex was in sight standing next to a large pile of bricks, his lance and flamethrower sheathed. The combination of lance and flame was common amongst close-combat mechs. The two weapons possessed the highest burst damage in the game and were short-range.

In Daedalus’ opinion, it was a poor loadout, which only worked well against tactically weak foes.

It took him only moments to line up a shot with Myrmidon’s holographic crosshair and railgun level guide. He didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger; players as good as Rex could instinctively sense danger and move, just from a feeling of being watched.

Daedalus had learned to never pause, never delay. Fire and move.

The round was set at maximum velocity, which gave it the poorest accuracy and the highest damage. The poor accuracy attribute didn’t faze Daedalus and Myrmidon; they easily compensated for it with a perfectly calculated trajectory and motion prediction.

The round entered through the side of Rex’s head, a critical hit to the smallest and most vulnerable target.

The HUD showed the kill to all players.

<Daedalus (image of railgun) Rex (image of a head indicating headshot)>

<First Blood emblem>

‘Daedalus’ had blocked his teammates, so he didn’t hear the congratulations – followed by the yelling – as the enemy engaged them.

What he did see was the scroll of his teammates dying one by one in quick succession until only he and the free roaming rogue remained.


The Pros 

It was not surprising that Hawkeye’s team was ranked third in NA; they had tonnes of experience playing professional matches together, whereas the Neo-Angels were a new professional team. The experience gap and team synergy were miles apart.

While his team, the Neo-Angels, were being decimated, Daedalus had positioned himself behind the enemy. He needed to use the distraction of his teammates’ destruction to thin their numbers. One versus seven were not good odds. Not against professionals. There was the other lone Neo-Angel, but Daedalus discounted him altogether.

Before the decimation was complete, Daedalus was able to get the drop on Hawkeye, who had effectively used cover against the core of the Neo-Angels. He had protection towards the south, east, and west of his position. There was only one issue for him – it was ineffective from the rear where Daedalus was positioned.

Moments later, another headshot ensued, and he’d taken out Thresh’s two best players, the captain and vice-captain.

As soon as Hawkeye went down, his teammates began to swarm and converge on their captain’s last location, searching for Daedalus and revenge. This suited him perfectly, as he had height and line of sight advantage. And due to the fact that it had been a one-shot kill, there was no ping showing his location on their minimap.

Myrmidon: Chance of survival in the current position is seventy per cent. We should be able to kill four with the railgun before they close to medium range.

They hunkered down and used the cover facing north. Due to the earlier team fight, they had pings for all of the enemy mechs. Although these pings were now disappearing, Myrmidon was calculating their most likely pathing choices.

As the enemy approached the location of their now dead captain, they spread out, expecting an ambush. Due to their positioning, it appeared they prepared for an ambush that would come from their flanks. They had been studying vids of him; they knew Daedalus was predispositioned to flank an enemy. His most common tactic was to shadow an enemy, syncing with them in parallel movement while separated by obstacles, before striking with swordlance or railgun.

He waited for two heads to come into his line of sight and range before opening fire in quick succession. In two seconds, the HUD was spammed with the announcement of one, and rapidly two deaths. The second had turned towards his ping but was unable to take cover or dodge in time.

The remaining four now possessed his ping location. They knew exactly where he was.

They would expect him to move. So, he moved. Myrmidon informed him when his ping would have disappeared from their minimap. He then backtracked to his initial position.

Myrmidon’s assistance with pathing predictions, meant they were able to keep out of the line of sight the entire time. The enemy did not know this was possible. They would not have picked this up from the vids and merely put the Challenge league chatter down to non-professional players inexperience or inadequacy.

Daedalus waited for them to approach, using the cover and height advantages from the overwatch position.

The four were medium and heavy all-rounders, giving them versatility based on their strategical needs. Each player had medium-range weapons, medium to heavy armour, and probably a spread of detection and countermeasure equipment.

Daedalus’ noise dampening field was continuously on when he played. He could afford the power drain, and it was essential in minimising his exposure. His location ping disappeared within seconds of his last shot being fired rather than tens of seconds.

Myrmidon: The most likely scenario with us winning has us killing two with the railgun while finishing off the last two with the swordlance.

The enemy had lost their leadership, and the last four would not have comms with the dead players. Their tactics had suddenly become rudimentary as they spread out, attempting to envelop his predicted location based on his heading before his ping disappeared from their HUDs.

Three of them were now in his line of sight (LOS), while he remained unseen. One was heading to his location – not to flush him out but to utilise it.

Daedalus targeted the two who were not headed towards him, picking the one most likely to leave his LOS first when the firing began.

Boom!

One down, and a second later, Daedalus downed another. They were at medium range where his headshots did the most damage.

His location was revealed again, and before he could swing his railgun around onto the third all-rounder, his opponent had moved behind cover. Missiles from both enemies approached his position blindly. They didn’t expect him to stay and get hit; they wanted to flush him out so he would lose the height advantage. That was no problem. He ran directly at them, jumping down with a crash and sending a ping from the noise if it wasn’t already obvious where he was.

He held his railgun loosely by his left side with his swordlance directly out front as he skidded around the first building, using all the speed he had at his disposal.

If he could have sheathed the railgun on his back, he could use his spare hand to grip the building to pull himself around. But mass was everything, and the railgun was embedded into his arm. Every kilogram mattered when it came to speed, agility, and energy consumption.

Daedalus doubted the physics were realistic, it was a game after all, but the game had its own ruleset which mimicked reality to a degree.

As he rounded the third corner, he spied the second to last opponent just where Myrmidon predicted he would be.

Myrmidon was right ninety per cent of the time, even with pro players. Daedalus charged and impaled the Heavy Mech in the side. The player had no time to react; one moment Daedalus rounded the corner, and the next his swordlance was cutting through the enemy’s reactor core. The player had probably been focused on the last ping. He would not have expected Daedalus to arrive so quickly.

<Daedalus (image of swordlance) kills SiReginald>

Minutes ago, the match had been seven versus two with his teammate nowhere to be seen. It was now reversed to two versus one. Daedalus could hardly blame his teammate for being of no assistance; even if he was trying to communicate, ‘Daedalus’ had muted him. Even team waypoints and markers were being filtered by Myrmidon.

The last enemy jumped atop the building he was using for cover and began to target Daedalus directly. But it was too little too late. The enemy should have been more aggressive when there were four of them remaining. If they’d led with a tank, Daedalus would not have been able to one-shot them, and the enemy teammates could have followed directly behind the tank. Even if they sacrificed one or two, they could have closed and at least exchanged fire. Currently, he had not been fired upon except for flushing missiles.

It seemed even the pro team’s tactics were average, or they underestimated him … which, after today, would not happen again. Combat was forever evolving; strategies that he introduced three months ago were being adopted across the entire player base. He would never win so easily as today. He should probably enjoy it while it lasted.

Daedalus launched himself up into the air, kicking up onto the roof and facing his opponent. His opponent had taken 7.6 seconds to reach the roof in his heavy mech. Daedalus had taken 1.9.

His heavy opponent held the heaviest weapon – a particle cannon – in two hands. A totally useless weapon in Daedalus’ opinion. Too slow to fire, too heavy to carry, and its range was poor given its size. A railgun was far superior, but some players didn’t use it; they merely looked at the damage number, range, heat generation, and energy consumption.

Too many players ignored how long it took to turn a gun, to aim and fire, its ignition speed, and most importantly, the velocity of its payload.

This encounter was a perfect example. His opponent did have an audio warning that Daedalus was approaching from the east, but he had only just gained his feet and didn’t have time to turn his weapon in Daedalus’ direction before a foot came up through the roof and kicked him off the building. He fell twenty-five metres to the ground.

Myrmidon: Time for opponent to fall: 1.1 seconds

Myrmidon marked the most likely landing location – with eighty-eight per cent certainty – of their opponent’s head and reactor core.

Daedalus jumped, not waiting for the player’s landing. He could have directed his swordlance to the most likely location of his enemy’s reactor core. However, this was a rare opportunity to crush an opponent’s head with his mech’s heavy alloy boot.

<Daedalus (image of a mech) kills RonaldMcDonald>

<Congratulations, Daedalus MVP with eight kills and zero deaths>


If Daedalus’ team congratulated him and Myrmidon, the two were blissfully unaware. Rightly or wrongly, Daedalus had decided to keep them on mute. He just didn’t feel like dealing with teammates. Let them do their thing and he would do his. People from this region were usually overbearing or pushy, which factored into his decision.

The other main reason was, despite being a genius, playing and beating adults at the age of ten, he was still quite capable of acting childish.

‘Daedalus’ had just earned sixteen bitcreds and it felt good. He had finally gotten competent enough at this game for it to start paying him.

Myrmidon: We should have an agreement that better reflects the impact upon a round.

Daedalus: Do you have a suggestion?

Myrmidon: Yes. It should be one bitcred for the first kill, increasing by one with each kill or major damage contributor to a maximum of eight bitcreds for the eighth kill. With no death penalty, if we were not good they would not hire us.

Daedalus: That’s an excellent suggestion. It rewards greater impact on a round. And if it was an important match, we could factor the rate in relation to the match significance.

Both Myrmidon and Daedalus loved math. This sort of conversation was what they considered fun. They also loved earning bitcreds; it had become a measure by which they judged their achievement. They did not have any needs right now, but there would come a time when these bitcreds came in handy, like the day he had to purchase CyberMech and the worldwide rights to the name ‘Daedalus.’

The last two rounds went by with underdogs Neo-Angels running away three nil winners against the number three ranked team in the region. Although Thresh improved their tactics against Daedalus, it was all within his calculations. Their adapted tactics were still predictable, and he used it against them. After three rounds, he had nineteen kills and zero deaths.

Daedalus: That went well. Better than I expected.

Myrmidon: We will not lose to this level of tactics, control, and coordination. Will the enemy improve?

Daedalus: They’ll always evolve. Even if they just steal ideas from watching us, they will improve.

Myrmidon: What can we do to prevent this?

Daedalus: Nothing. We must improve as well.

Myrmidon: This is sub-optimal. It would be better if they stayed dead after we killed them.

Daedalus: This is a game. If we fought for real, then that would be the case. But we could die also.

Myrmidon: We should back up my core and my data, so it will only be you who dies.

Daedalus: No, you must fight to survive like me. We live together, we die together.

Myrmidon: Very well, friend.

Although the pair spent most of their time playing CyberMech and designing in Spacebuild, Myrmidon was not only growing in those disciplines.

It had become self-aware and thought beyond their finite world. The limits of its experience channelled its development, but it was still able to research and discuss the wider world with Daedalus. An adult would have been scared by its lack of controls and its unchecked growth. But Daedalus was a child and had no fear of his AI. It may have been naivety, or he was simply brilliant and was at ease with its growth.

Daedalus did not train for the Fortescue Military Academy entrance exam in 2040, and he missed 2041 as well. Cisse and Ikaros waited for him to grow out of his CyberMech phase. He would not be the same age as most cadets in M1 until 2043 in any case.

All pressure from his father and Cisse had ceased. There were no reminders to train physically. There were no questions regarding whether he would take the entrance exam in 2042. There was only one event on the calendar which affected him profoundly. An event which would cause him to miss a world championship if it fell on that day.

The anniversary of his mother’s death.

Daedalus and his father would bring flowers to her hilltop, and Daedalus would listen while his father told him a story about his mother. Even if it was a mundane topic like cooking breakfast and how she used to over scramble the eggs until they frothed. They would then throw the flowers as they had thrown the ashes.

In two years, Daedalus had never joined a team in CyberMech. He and Myrmidon were perennial loners, hiring themselves out for competitions. This allowed them to auction off their services and set up their own direct streaming contract.

In those two years, no one doubted who was the best CyberMech player on the planet. Daedalus single-handedly brought championships to whoever paid him.

He had polarised the community between a legion of hardcore fans to innumerable detractors who hated his lack of teamwork and mercenary style with zero loyalty to any team. The latter group usually consisted of fans of the championship favourites who lost to the team that hired him.

In the year 2041, Daedalus and Myrmidon made fourteen hundred bitcreds from Spacebuild schematic shop sales. And that was dwarfed by his CyberMech earnings of over ten thousand bitcreds from all sources. A normal person’s stipend was sixty bitcreds per year in the European Union. The house he and his father lived in was worth approximately one thousand bitcreds.

But CyberMech’s appeal had started to dwindle for Daedalus. He and Myrmidon had already helped teams win two world championships.

And despite concerted efforts by teams to defeat him, and even direct nerfs from the developers, he prevailed using his game theory systems. Daedalus and Myrmidon developed new strategies based on the new paradigm after each nerf.

Nerfs didn’t hurt you when you are the fastest to adapt. They helped you.

The developers learned that one cannot nerf skill and brilliance; nerfs just changed the landscape the players operated in.

No one knew who Daedalus was. He was both the star and an enigma in CyberMech. All requests for public appearances were declined, and if a competition required a live feed of the players, he refused to participate.

Etana was now twelve years old. He stood in front of his mother’s resting place with his father, listening to another story about her. His interest in CyberMech had waned, and he remembered her wish for him. She had wished for him to attend Fortescue Military Academy, and the entrance exam was in a month.

Daedalus: What do I need to do to train for the FMA physical tests?

Myrmidon: I will map out a thirty-day program. Do you wish to excel or pass?

Daedalus: Pass with a contingency factor of 1.2

Myrmidon: The program is in your calendar, Daedalus.

Daedalus: For the next six years, I will be ‘Daedo.’ Daedalus was our CyberMech handle. At the military academy, I will be Daedo.

Myrmidon: Am I still Myrmidon?

Daedo: Always. It’s your handle and your name. We own the rights. No one can take it from you in any game or application.

Myrmidon: Thank you, Daedo. I like my name.

Without any prompting from his father or Cisse, Daedo began training the next day. Myrmidon had laid out a plan for him after analysing the competencies required and the most successful thirty-day training regimes.

On the first day, Daedo was convinced the plan was impossible. He was supposed to run one kilometre then walk one for a total of ten kilometres in under ninety minutes. He discovered while running his first kilometre that his lungs were bursting, and by the end, his legs were dropping off. The one-kilometre walk was a blessing.

Myrmidon: You need to walk faster in order to achieve ninety minutes.

Daedo had barely recovered from his fast walk before he had to run again. For someone with such a sedentary life, this was torture.

Myrmidon: Perhaps we should play some AR games. At least you will be moving, and your muscles will be in better condition.

Daedo: Not helping.

He completed the ten-kilometre run-walk daily. After he recovered, he completed the circuit training Myrmidon set out for him. By the twelfth day, he was able to at least jog the entire ten kilometres.

Myrmidon kept him informed that his progress was enough to pass with a small cushion. And in the final week, they practised in an obstacle course his father had built over the past several days in his spare time. To be accurate, Ikaros had used a few old robots from work to build it. He merely designed the plans for the course and programmed them into the robots.

On the day of Daedo’s entrance exam, Cisse turned up at their house, uninvited. A full three hours early.

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Skully

Bio: A ten thousand year old disembodied floating skull.

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