A note from Skully

Book One is live today. If you have a copy or KU please leave a review they will really help the story get noticed.

Attendance at Fortescue Military Academy M1 Y:2142

Inter-Academy Round 2 Fortescue Points: 193, Rank: 6, PR: 0.4825

Tier 3 Daedo M-Rank: 140

Term: 3, Round: 3

Daedalus Operating Capital: +1,600,000 bitcreds

“If I get one more message asking what’s going on with Daedo I’ll scream,” Vannier said. She was immensely frustrated and anxious at the same time.

Is Daedo dead?
Is Daedo arrested?
Is Daedo a criminal?
When is Daedo coming back?
I knew this would happen.
Daedo was a cheat!

Ping. Vannier screamed.

Barran laughed, “If you can’t handle it make me leader.”

“Over my dead body,” Picard said sharply.

“How are you handling it?” Axel-Zero asked Barran who seemed immune.

“Oh. I put all incoming on mute,” Barran grinned.

Picard grimaced, “That’s probably sending more traffic Vannier’s way. You should share the load.”

“I’m not the leader,” Barran said as he leaned back, put his hands behind his head and smiled widely.

“What are we going to do?” Axel-Zero asked.

“Stop whining like a baby,” Kang growled. “It’s not like you need Daedo to do your coursework and Daedalus stuff. Just do what you normally do.”

Vannier looked concerned but relented. She said, “Kang is right - even though that was a little harsh. We just do what we normally do. He’ll be in contact sooner or later.”

“How long until we have issues with the Inter-Academy and Fortescue?” Axel-Zero asked with a worried look on her face.

“No point in worrying,” Vannier stated.

“That’s my motto for life,” Barran beamed.

Picard sighed wondering how could Barran’s motto be the right strategy before she burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” both Vannier and Barran asked.

“I just concluded that Barran was right and found it funny,” Picard said, and everyone laughed, even Barran.

Although in Barran’s case his bravado was not always representative of what was occurring beneath his exuberant exterior. Which became apparent when his face changed as soon as his sister appeared in the doorway to their common room.

“Err,” Barran began, “You don’t have permission to enter.”

“Okay,” She said chirpily while standing in the threshold, “I will wait here until you to speak to me.”

“Speak to her,” Vannier requested and messaged Barran: **so we can get rid of her.

He stood as if in protest and marched over to her, “Corridor ok with you?” He asked petulantly.

“No,” She said, “We will go for a walk topside. We need to catch up on what has been happening, and as you have everything switched off, I was forced to come here.”

Barran was about to refuse when Morganne stared him down. “Remember what you agreed with Mother.”

His mouth snapped shut, and he nodded glumly.

Picard, Vannier and Axel-Zero exchanged glances.

“Who’s she?” Kang asked.

“Barran’s older sister,” Picard stated.

“Bad news,” Vannier added.

“Can’t be any worse can it?” Kang asked jokingly.

The remaining cadets from Thoth squad zero were questioned by authorities with their new temporary Master present. Master Haddad was managing both House Shu and House Thoth until a replacement could be found for Master Nader.

Apparently, she was never coming back. No one knew what happened except she was on the run from the police, however, the rumours were legion.

The rumours circulating about Daedo were driven by the speculation surrounding Master Nader. All the mongers agreed they were in cahoots in something illegal and dangerous. Not many blamed Mace for anything, although she was rank two, she usually flew under the radar. She was said to be anything from a minor accomplice to being kidnapped and held hostage.

Vannier knew some of the facts, in regards to Daedo and Mace, while she was totally in the dark with what happened to Master Nader. The rest of the team knew less, she had to be careful until the investigators were well and truly gone and until she heard from Daedo and Mace again.

Vannier stood in front of Daedo’s apartment staring at the door, “Come back soon,” she whispered.

“So, brother,” Morganne began when the reached relative safety from his squad eavesdroppings, “It is time to make a move. You should use this opportunity to gain control of Daedalus. You’re the major shareholder, who is not hunted by the authorities, not Vannier.”

“Why? What would the family gain if Daedo is not around?” Barran asked.

“The current Daedalus research and patents are valuable, but that is not the reason. If Daedo is diminished or barred from being a director, you will have control. It puts you in the box seat,” Morganne stated.

Barran scratched his head. “Really Morganne. Why don’t you, father and mother go and run Barran Corp. Build it up. Why care about Daedalus at all? It’s not yours. It never will be.”

“How do you think we build up Barran corp dummy? We acquire assets well below their value, and either realise them, or capitalise on them.”

“But you don’t actually make anything,” Barran observed.

“We,” she replied.

“I thought you were smart? You’re always number one in Thoth in your year,” Barran said. “Why don’t you invent things then patent or manufacture?”

Morganne shrugged, “It’s not as easy as you think.”

Barran looked at her like she was an idiot. He had witnessed first hand how easy it was. “You’re joking, right?” He paced a few steps forward. “Sis, I have seen not only Daedo, but Kang and even Mace come up with innovations, designs and inventions. We made four million bitcreds on preorders for our Mechs. And that will be nothing in comparison if we sell our exos to the EUDF.”

“I know this,” she replied slightly annoyed at being patronised. “These are the reasons we want a stake. A larger stake. Twenty percent isn’t enough. Make it forty and Mother will be satisfied.”

“You’re all idiots. What is forty percent of a broken team compared to twenty percent of the next Svarski?” He paused and glared at her, “Would you be happy with a twenty percent share in Svarski?”

“Of course. But that is never going to happen,” she replied.

“How… the fuck… would you know?” Barran stated. “Listen, sis; Fuckoff. I ain't playing your games. I will do what is in the best interest of the family by keeping my share at twenty percent and keeping the team together. I don’t need your advice. I don’t need your help. You and our parents have no clue.” He tapped the side of her head with his index finger. “No fucking clue.”

“You promised Mother,” she said upset by his words.

“Read my lips. I … don’t …” he articulated and then proceeded to walk off in a huff. When he was fifty metres away, he stopped and called back to her. “And when we are as big as Svarski … you can tell ‘em that I was right, and all you - were wrong.”

“Let’s get in the exos and go visit our neighbours. I’m starving,” Mace stated.

“One sec,” Daedo replied, “The second railgun is almost done.” He was lost in screens managing several tasks at once and updating build and mining queues on mass.

They needed hydrocarbons primarily for the constructofoam, but storage was limited, so Daedo had to compile a juggling act of refining constructofoam, building and digging out areas.

The best miners were also the best excavators, and they couldn’t be in two places at once.

“It’s off,” Mace announced as the last piece for the railgun came off the fabricator. A robot would normally assemble the gun, but Mace cancelled it and was doing it herself. She checked ammo stocks ensuring there was enough for Daedo and her to fight in a small war.

“Ok, let’s go,” she said.

“One sec,” Daedo replied.

“Now,” Mace stated in a manner that brook no argument.

Daedo replied, “Ok done. For now.” As he squeezed into his exo, he asked, “How is our net security looking?”

“We can go online at any time, but only when we have to,” Mace said. “There are people with much more experience than me looking for us.”

“Now we have exos and weapons - your parents should be our first call,” Daedo said.

Mace winced, it was not a call she wanted to make.

“Lunch first,” she replied.

They were running towards the small settlement on the other side of the Richat Structure called Ouadane. Daedo had built them a learning centre with internet when they first acquired the site fifty kilometres away. It was not a run they would attempt without the exo which had cooling and air filters. This model would work underwater or in the hot desert sands of the Sahara.

The life support systems added to the bulk, but it was just as necessary as the armour itself.

“It’s so cool in here, I don’t want to take it off,” Mace said.

“Perhaps we can get away with just the helmets,” Daedo replied.

“That takes away our HUD,” Mace said.

“Myrmidon will keep watch and alert us of anything suspicious,” Daedo responded.

When they arrived at the village, they were welcomed even before their helmets came off. Although they had only visited three times, other visitors were probably rare, especially short ones in high tech gear.

“We had to visit our base unexpectedly, and we don’t have any food. I was wondering if we could buy some,” Daedo asked one of the elders.

“No no. You are our welcome neighbour, we will give you food. Please come,” the old man offered.

They didn’t expect such hospitality, but after the learning centre was built, the people from the village were always very friendly.

As they loaded a large sack full of non-perishables Daedo asked, “Are you sure there is nothing you need? Will this leave you short? It’s easy for us to order in a shipment for you.”

“No son. We grow and trade for this. We have plenty. More than enough,” the elder said smiling.

“If you ever need anything, please, just send a message from the learning centre terminal like I showed you,” Daedo replied. AEMO was under instruction to order supplies or even supply them with water if requested.

“We could use the learning centre to send a message,” Daedo suggested as they were leaving.

“No, it doesn’t have my apps on it. It would lead them straight here,” she replied.

“Ok, once we are back then,” Daedo said thinking that anyone who saw a message coming from here would probably be fooled into thinking that such a remote place was unlikely. But then it dawned on him, as soon as they saw a satellite image of the learning centre and compared to an older one they would know something was amiss.

They ran back, using jumpjets sparingly, carrying a hessian bag of food that would last them a week.

Daedo looked at Mace once the entrance door was down and the dust had settled.

She sighed loudly and opened a VR room which Daedo could view but not be seen.

She pinged and was successful getting through immediately, “Mother,” she said simply.

Her mother appeared in the secure VR room, “Ameline. Dear. What have you done?” Her mother began earnestly. “Your father and I have been beside ourselves. I tried to contact you at least a hundred times since yesterday. I’ve had no sleep. You must come in now before any more damage is done. Do you have the boy? Is that the problem?”

“Mother. Stop,” Mace said firmly.

“Ameline. You have no idea. You will be branded a traitor, and there is nothing your Father or I can do.”

“But we aren’t traitors Mother. If anything it's you and the organisation who are traitors.”

“Ameline…how could you think? We have dedicated our lives to protect this planet above country, above Europe, everything. Even you.” Adele Mace pleaded. “What have they done? Have they been brainwashing you? Messing with your equilibrium somehow?”

“Mother. Please. You need to listen and answer questions, or we will get nowhere. I assume our time is limited,” Mace said attempting calm.

“Can I invite your father in?” Adela Mace asked, and her daughter nodded in reply. Within moments a VR interpretation of her Father appeared.

“I’m listening,” he said sternly. He must have been listening all along.

“Daedo has done nothing wrong. And before you say he can convey that himself during an interview, in my view, he is too valuable to risk giving over to the organisation. I do not know what they will do with him prying for intel on Master Nader. And it’s not something I think Daedalus, the EU or even the planet should risk. We are taking real steps to help, much more than massive companies like Fortescue or even the organisation.”

“So you are protecting him because you don’t trust the organisation?” Her father asked for clarification summarising her viewpoint.

“No Father. It goes beyond trust. He is valuable. If he was a mere M1 cadet who was average I would have handed him over trusting they wouldn’t kill an innocent. But Daedo is far too valuable to risk to an unknown entity. I told you both in my last report that once I completed my mission with Master Nader, it was over. And. It’s over.”

“So you are siding with your crush now?” Her Mother asked scathingly.

Mace winced even in VR, she shook her head clear before answering emotionally, “No I am siding with Daedalus.”

“Ameline. What will you do when they come for you?” Her father asked.

“We will kill them if need be, we have the means,” Mace said harshly.

“You don’t know what you are saying. These are trained professionals with the best equipment. I know you do well in your Academy games, but this is the real thing,” Gabe Mace said. He had taken over the conversation from his wife.

“Then you will have to find a way for us to open discussion with the organisation before it comes to that,” Mace replied.

“You’re taking yourself hostage?” Her father asked. “Commendable. Brave. But in the end naïve Ameline.”

“I will call back tomorrow,” Mace replied. “See what you can do in twenty-four hours.”


Mace cut the line and took them off the net.

She took off her helmet and looked at Daedo shyly.

“That took guts,” was all he said.

“I’m going to rewrite the entire security routine. Any partial work they complete in the next twenty-four hours cracking us will be totally wasted. Tomorrow will be an entirely different encryption and deception method.”

Daedo nodded. Put his helmet back on and got back to work himself.

The base would be surrounded by sentry guns situated underground with the ability to fire through five metres of sand remaining concealed. It was the first time he was using the PPC design from the mystery box. He wanted to release breakthroughs slowly to assuage suspicion, but this was a special case. He had no idea of the firepower that was going to be brought against them.

According to the schematics he memorised this design was twice as deadly as anything available currently. The damage and range were directly proportional to the size of the sentry gun cannon and available power. On a mech or exo, he had restrictions, the main restrictions with the emplacements were build-time and materials.

Daedo began with a hexagonal design with the inner perimeter. Nature had proven this was an effective shape and he wasn’t going to argue. It had served him well in the past. Once the six sentries were in place, he would move to manufacture other defences, but he wanted much more than six in the future. He was just getting started.

He checked off the list of materials he would need for the sentries and what he would be low on when finished.

“Damn,” he breathed. The big guns used more material than a forty-tonne mech. He was thankful the large mining bots had arrived. It would have been impossible without them. He left a solitary digger finishing the base and sent the rest to procure the ores he needed.

AEMO had done a brilliant job prospecting. He had enough data to put in a request for fifty tonnes of titanium, five hundred tonnes of iron ore, another five hundred of copper and AEMO would handle the rest. The specialised AI would work out the most efficient method to mine and retrieve the required materials.

As soon as they came in, they would be refined and manufactured. The storerooms were bulging with ever-changing materials from ore to metal to manufactured part.

“How are you going,” Mace asked interrupting Daedo who realised he had been working for hours.

“Good. It’s like a game,” he replied.

“Of course, it is,” she laughed.

A note from Skully

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Bio: A ten thousand year old disembodied floating skull.

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