A note from Skully

PS no chapter this time tomorrow. Skully needs some rest. We are well past the monthly goal of 70. I will reset a new goal for October soon.

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: 1 to 2

Daedalus Operating Capital: 140,000 bitcreds

It was the middle of the night, and Daedo was asleep on his bunk in the Academy. The door slid open, and a dark figure crept into his room. After a few moments adjusting for the dark, the figure lay down beside Daedo and stretched an arm over his shoulder. He was sleeping peacefully on his side, with his back to the stranger.

The motion lifted Daedo from stage four deep sleep to stage two, he became aware of the stranger on some level. The stranger’s arm pressed against Daedo and he could feel the stranger pushing into his back.

“You’re so cute when you’re asleep,” the stranger whispered into his ear.

The words registered with Daedo at some level, they floated and eventually found their way into his conscious. The strangers blew on his cheek before its lips caressed him with a soft kiss. Daedo began to panic as the stranger's hand slid down his stomach.

He suddenly woke, sitting bolt upright, leaving stage two sleep for one hundred per cent wide awake. Daedo looked around, panicking, he wasn’t in the Academy, it was the weekend he was in a bunk in the same room with his Father and Barran. There was no one in his bed other than himself. It was a dream. Or a nightmare, depending on your mental disposition on the subject.

“Damn,” he breathed and lay back down. His fast beating heart sounded loudly in his ears.

Daedo: Myrmidon can you investigate monitoring hormone levels?

After slight pause Myrmidon answered

Myrmidon: a quick search indicates that a precise and practical method is blood analysis. With the installation of an additional medical sensor, we can monitor everything from sugar and cholesterol levels to a wide range of hormones.

Daedo: I’m going back to sleep and don’t use the word installation when you are talking about inserting something into my body.

It was Sunday morning, round two of term two was about to start, and the weather was getting incrementally warmer at this time of year. At 0600 predawn natural light was almost at a level where the cadets could run with helmets off, and by the end of the run, they had them strapped to their backs.

Vannier pulled Daedo aside during their morning run. “I’ve been studying work methods in Strategy with a crossover subject in Human studies. It’s not part of the coursework but something I have been investigating for the squad and Daedalus.”

“More efficient methods?” Daedo asked between breaths. He was almost as fast as Vannier, but his improvement had tapered the closer he got to her. Not to mention she improved as well.

“Long-term sustainability they call it,” Vannier replied.

“Oh,” Daedo thought as he ran, “I’m not sure about the physical side, but I could do the academic part indefinitely. I enjoy most of it.”

“I am not worried about you. We could lock you in a room and ask you to solve FTL travel. Then open the door six months later, and you would shout, ‘close the door I am almost there.” Vannier said, and they laughed at her analogy.

Daedo ran and waited for Vannier to explain, there was no point in playing guessing games.

“I am worried about Mace especially, but everyone including Axelzero and even Kang,” Vannier stated. “Barran is immune especially since he doesn’t have a tech project to weigh him down.”

“Okay,” Daedo said, “I see why you separated us from the squad. What is the main issue and what is your solution?”

Vannier took a sharp corner following the lead pack and waited for Daedo to catch up and run alongside her again. “Burnout is the main concern,” Vannier said. “The effort Mace has been putting in shows in her stress levels, and when she finishes one project, she is given an even harder one. She has lowered her sleeping hours, I am concerned that the physical activities and meals are not enough of a break. Especially when she is thinking about chem eng the whole time.”

“I see,” Daedo said, “So the issue is not this week, but if this continues she will burn out. And this same problem will occur for Axelzero, Kang, Picard and even yourself.” They ran for another fifty metres in silence before Daedo asked, “And the solution?”

“It’s not certain, we will have to try different methods and continue to assess,” Vannier said. “One of the methods is to break up the week with another activity, one which we enforce a break from project focus. Otherwise, it won’t work.”

“Like when we played red rover in the exos? Or drone wars with Axelzero?” Daedo thought through activities which reduced stress.

“Yes, activities which are fun are perfect. There are many benefits, not just stress relief, and the brain continues to work subconsciously on problems while we play,” Vannier said. Daedo was always so serious she had prepared a list of benefits to ensure he did not view it as slacking off.

“It’s basically what Barran does naturally,” Daedo responded.

Vannier nodded, “I think he has had his fair share of stressful situations with his family. It’s my deduction based on our last meeting with his sister. Oh!” Vannier suddenly exclaimed.

“When is she coming out to do reports on us?” Vannier asked.

“Master Nader hasn’t mentioned it since that meeting,” Daedo replied.

“Don’t bring it up then,” Vannier said.

Daedo laughed, “That won’t help. Master Nader would not forget.”

“I wasn’t thinking that. I was thinking things through,” Vannier beamed. “If you bring it up Master Nader may take that as a sign you are worrying about or looking forward to the reports. If you act like it does not concern you in the slightest, it may change her view on whether it's needed.”

Daedo nodded. He would not mention that he could probably tell Master Nader that he preferred Colonel Martin to do reports on them and she would acquiesce. He decided to just do it and tell Vannier the good news afterwards.

“Back to the topic at hand, what activities did you have in mind? Can fun activities be structured?” Daedo asked. Part of which made those activities special was the organic way they just happened.

“Even red rover, or drone wars could become tedious, competitive, and lose their beneficial effect, if they became repetitive,” Vannier said. “What I am thinking is we do something different every Sunday, and it should last for half the day. Whether its tour the Military Base with Col. Martin and have an exo scrimmage with the soldiers. Or visit Marais Industries and drive an armoured vehicle around their test track. Or simply go and see a pro league match like we did in Munich. I am sure Axelzero and Barran could come up with several suggestions.”

“Barran was suggesting a food fight last week,” Daedo said.

“He is a natural at this,” Vannier replied with a small chuckle.

“I approve, it will be easy to set up a few activities like the ones you mentioned, and we only need four more for the rest of the term. We will have a problem next term though,” Daedo said.

Vannier nodded, “Assuming we are selected in the Academy squad.”

The Inter-Academy home and away season was conducted each weekend on Saturday. It was possible to travel half-way around the world, have an arena battle or gauntlet run and then travel back. This could take an entire Saturday. The home matches would not be as bad, it would only be a few hours.

“It may be a problem or an opportunity,” Vannier responded smiling.

“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Daedo said happily.

“I will contact Colonel Martin and Mr Marais today and see what we can schedule,” Vannier said. “Then I’ll grab ideas from the squad to fill out the rest of the term. Do you have any?”

Daedo thought for a moment before responding, “I do. I have a few designs for Mechs and its too expensive to build six-metre versions to test, even with our recycling capability. And then there's the space required. I had an idea to build 600mm versions, there would be some compromises but they would be the same for each Mech, and I am testing the overall structural design, not those components.”

He ran for a while without speaking to get his breath back. Vannier slowed slightly and said, “I get it. It will be like drone wars, but with tiny mechs.”

Daedo nodded, “We can build seven competing designs, and everyone could pick one. The control mechanism will be identical, except you won’t be in the Mech but standing nearby or behind.”

“Won’t that ruin your baseline?” Vannier asked. The cadets had varying melee combat skill levels.

Daedo shook his head, “It won’t be the only method of testing, and I can assess how well a Mech performs for the controller based on input and outcome comparisons.”

“They’re getting further ahead, do you want to pick up the pace?” Vannier asked smiling cheekily.

Daedo harrumphed. “Okay.” Was all he said before increasing his speed to three and a half minutes per kilometre.


On Sunday evening the first round rankings were up, and they contained no surprises. Last term Thoth squad zero dominated with three cadets in the top ten ranks and usually two in the top three.

Since round five in term one, they must be causing other squads nightmares and even started chatter such as Lazard was rank one when you removed TS0.

Overall M1 Rank Term: 2, Round: 1

Rank, Cadet, House


1, Daedo, Thoth

2, Mace, Thoth

3, Vannier, Thoth

4, Picard, Thoth

5, Barran, Thoth

6, Lazard, Shu

7, Delcroix, Amun-Ra

8, Gallois, Osiris

9, Almeras, Osiris

10, Moreau, Horus

11, Fortescue, Horus

12, Axelzero, Thoth

13, Paget-A, Horus

14, Raoult, Horus

15, Gaumont, Thoth

1275, Kang, Thoth

Thoth squad zero now held the top five ranks of M1. Poor Kang had not completed enough work in several subjects and was relegated to the last position. And interestingly Moreau from Horus squad two was ranked higher than all of the Horus squad zero and one cadets.

Barran was understandably excited, “Rank five baby,” he called out, with a fist pumping the air. It was the highest rank achieved by him, Picard, Axelzero and Gaumont. All of them had worked their way down steadily towards the top ten, and now a Picard and Barran were in the top five.

“At least we know the ranks aren’t fudged in Fortescue’s favour,” Kang pointed out.

“Don’t worry, next round you will improve dramatically just by getting some coursework completed,” Vannier consoled Kang.

Barran nodded, “Yeah, your Gauntlet and Obstacle course results will sit you around two hundred assuming your academics are at Thoth level.”

“What’s Thoth level?” Kang asked.

“Super Nerd,” Barran beamed.

“You’re in Thoth,” Kang pointed out.

“Sister,” Barran stated pointing downwards as if that explained everything. M1 was on the upper level of the underground barracks. His sister being in U1 would be three levels below.

“Let’s pack up and head back to the Academy,” Daedo interrupted. “I got a message from Siderus he wants me at a meeting in the M3 cafeteria at 20:00.”

When it came to moving from the workshop to the Academy and vice versa squad zero had it down to a routine. They would pack current model exos, railguns and all other arena equipment into hoverbins. These bins would be loaded into a rented van, and then they would push them into their quarters and unpack into the storage in their respective rooms. It was a new process for Kang, she just watched and mimicked what the other cadets did with some help from Vannier or Axelzero.

“Are we all invited?” Barran asked interestedly.

“No sorry. He specifically said M3 zero squad leaders meeting, and they were adding me,” Daedo replied.

“I will escort you and then hang back like a bodyguard,” Barran said enthusiastically.

He nodded, the cafeteria was an open area as long as Barran didn’t intrude on the meeting he could do as he pleased. It gave Daedo a good feeling having Barran watch his back.

Daedo discussed with Vannier and the squad scenarios for the meeting in the van on the way back to the Academy and leading up to the appointed time. It was decided that he would feed back the AV to them and they could send him confidential messages if needed or at least see what was being said.

Barran and Daedo arrived at the M3 cafeteria a few minutes before the meeting time. Siderus immediate saw them and approached.

“It’s good that you could make it,” he said in the way of greeting.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Daedo replied. With a nod to Barran, the tall blond cadet wandered over to a spare table and sat by himself. The cafeteria was identical to the one on M1’s level. There was enough comfortable seating for twelve hundred cadets, a large kitchen attached and numerous efficient robot waiting staff. The room itself was mostly white, with grey tiles and a lowlight ceiling with hundreds of tubes dropping down one to each table to dispense drinks and other liquids.

Siderus led Daedo over to a table with three cadets already seated, there were a few cadets surrounding the table which Daedo assumed were seconds or onlookers who hadn’t been chased away.

Everyone except Daedo was in M3. The three seated Cadets were Amun-Ra, Osiris and Horus. They were all leaders of their respective zero squads.

“Is M3 Thoth coming?” Osiris asked.

Siderus shook his head, “Allow me to introduce everyone. This is Daedo from M1 Thoth squad zero.” He said indicating Daedo.

“Eh, I think we all know who he is,” Osiris replied coolly and stood.

“I am Matthias,” the Osiris squad leader stated. He was tall and lean, taller than most cadets Daedo had met. He had curly blonde hair and looked like he spent a lot of time in the outdoors with his rough looks and tan. His Osiris squad beat Thoth in the group stage of the tournament, but because they lost to Shu one, so just missed out on the semi-finals. He held out his hand for Daedo to shake and after they did, he sat.

Siderus moved to the next leader, “This is St Claire, he is the leader of Horus squad zero. M3 that is.” He said with a chuckle, which brought a scowl to the smooth features of St Claire.

St Claire nodded to Daedo and spoke with a low raspy voice, “It’s good you came.” He was shorter than Matthias, but still much taller than Daedo. He had short dark brown hair and sharp features. His blue eyes were piercing.

Daedo nodded back without saying a word as Siderus took him to the next Squad leader, the only female at the table. “This is Deimos; Amun-Ra squad zero,” Siderus stated.

She stood and shook Daedo’s hand. She looked like she was made for Amun-Ra with her red hair and green eyes. The colour was so perfect Daedo assumed she genetically altered it like Vannier.

“Good to meet you. Again,” she said kindly. It had been a close match with her squad, but ultimately Amun-Ra only beat M1 Horus in the group stage. Everyone beat M1 Horus in the group stage.

Siderus indicated a seat for Daedo and sat down opposite. Daedo was next to Deimos with Siderus, Matthias and St Claire on the opposite side of the table.

“Let’s get this out of the way,” Siderus who was the squad leader of Shu, the squad who won the tournament and rank one in M3 began. “When I told Kalman that Daedo was attending he got in a huff.” Daedo knew that Kalman was the zero squad leader of M3 Thoth.

“He’s been upset ever since you purchased those exos,” Deimos added.

“Yeah, well,” Siderus continued, “I’ll just send you all the message he sent me.” With a wave of his hand, he forwarded Kalman’s missive.

As the other leaders read it, he leaned towards Daedo and said quietly, “He basically thinks we are replacing him with you, as there can really only be one vote per house. Which is a bit premature, because we brought you here today to discuss something else.”


A note from Skully

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Bio: A ten thousand year old disembodied floating skull.

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