97 M1 - Term: 2 to 3, Break
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 Operating Capital: -1,660,000 bitcreds
"What's the deal with Africa?" Barran asked as soon as they were back in their common room.
"All in due time," Vannier stated. "Wait for everyone to settle in, and we'll hold a proper meeting."
Barran looked downcast, he really wanted to know.
Vannier pulled up a screen showing the three weeks of the holidays with the Svarski Invitational slotted into the timeline.
"I looked up the details regarding the invitational, and there is substantial prize money once we make the tournament proper," Axelzero began. "If we take two mechs we need at least one to make it into the tournament to have a chance of breaking even. I estimate the cost to compete outside of materials for the mech construction to be in the vicinity of ten thousand bitcreds when allowing for transportation, accommodation, workshop fees, licenses etc."
Picard whistled. It was an expensive business especially with travel halfway around the world.
"The possible gains aside from the tournament winnings are increased sales of our latest mech design, which could be in the millions," Axelzero said.
"It's worth the risk," Vannier stated what everyone was thinking.
"You had me at VTOL," Barran added.
"This will be the priority event for the break. Everyone, try and get permission to attend this event. Even if it means you have to spend the rest of the break at home sucking up," Vannier said.
"Which is you and Axelzero?" Picard asked.
"Maybe, we'll see. We need to be better organised next break," Vannier said.
Daedo looked apologetic. "Sorry about that," he said.
"Who's coming back to the workshop now? Other than me?" Daedo asked.
Mace indicated she was.
"I can come on Sunday," Picard said. "I already arranged to travel back and forth due to the practice sessions with Siderus' squad."
"I will go home and come back in time for Japan, and I should be able to stay for the rest of the break after that," Barran said.
"If you can come in time for the drill with M3IAS on Thursday that would be ideal," Daedo asked.
"Kang?" Vannier asked.
"I already arranged to join my Father. I hadn't really thought about Daedalus activities past today. I'll check with him and see what he wants," she replied. It was probably the longest period Kang had been away from her Father, as far as the other cadets knew.
"Africa," Barran declared, "What is happening in Africa?"
"It's confidential," Daedo replied.
"Oh please," Barran said he made a broad sweep around the table. "It's just us!"
Daedo nodded, "But once I talk about it here you have to keep it quiet." He looked around the table and received solemn nods from his fellow cadets.
Daedo brought up a map of Northwest Africa and zoomed in on Mauritania. "This area is rich in the ores we need and is one of the least populated places on the planet. With exceptions like the oceans and Antartica which are not fit for purpose."
"We have prospecting drones searching this area and not only have they found much needed titanium, iron, gold, platinum and kernite, but they have also found an aquifer with one of the largest untapped underground water sources on the planet," Daedo said dramatically.
"Not that water is an issue, we could always build a desal plant and pipe water from the ocean, but the local aquifer will provide a mineral-rich source of water," Daedo said.
Kang raised her had, "Ah, why?"
Daedo lowered his head and looked at the table. Before raising it slowly and looking at his fellow cadets. It was not only Kang who wanted to know why and he could not tell them the truth. How could he? Once he divulged the presence of arkernite in the Richat Structure, he would have to explain how he knew about it. And then explain why he was looking for it. And that would lead to how did he know about this unknown material with phenomenal superconductor properties?
There was only one way to obtain the material without raising flags.
"If and when the aliens invade they will attack centres of population. If we are located here in Paris, we are taking a risk, and we could die in the first wave. Before we have a chance to protect anyone or ascertain the enemy's strengths and weaknesses," Daedo said.
"I have been scouting locations which are in the EU region, which are extremely low population density and have the resources we need. This is the closest I can find," Daedo lied.
"Holy crap," Barran said what everyone was thinking. An alien invasion was not just talk, it was becoming real for them.
"You know its awfully hot there?" Mace observed.
"What if there is no invasion?" Kang asked.
"We won't lose creds by settling here, we have secured mining rights for the entire region surrounding the Richat Structure," Axelzero said.
Vannier was looking it up, "The eye of the Sahara," she said wistfully. "It looks like silica won't be an issue, its surrounded by sand."
"It's not as bad as space, but it's an inhospitable environment, it will be good training for us," Daedo added.
"What do you mean exactly?" Picard asked.
"We will deliver a reactor, foundry, fabricator, machining equipment and a few specialised mining droids. We will then build everything we need from scratch. It will not be unlike starting a colony on another planet," Daedo said.
"That is awesome," Barran said.
"We will soon know what we missed in preparation," Axelzero said.
"Why now? Aren't we busy enough?" Vannier asked concerned.
"I thought about that," Daedo replied. "And I imagined that its possible we will only get busier. Who is to say it won't be worse at the beginning of term one next year? Should we delay?"
"And finally, will an alien invasion holdoff to give us time to prepare because we are busy?" Daedo stated ominously.
He looked around the table. No one said a word.
"I think it's a great initiative. I am behind you," Axelzero said.
"I guess," Kang said hesitantly. "I don't mind."
"It sounds awesome to me. I always wanted my own secret base," Barran said.
"I am with you Daedo," Picard added.
Vannier nodded, "I was never in doubt."
Daedo looked at Mace.
"Just when I think you can't possibly surprise me again. You do," Mace stated. "Sure, why not."
"It's unanimous!" Barran exclaimed, "We are building a secret base in one of the most remote, inhospitable places on the planet. So cool!"
"You know, it's only you who is calling it a secret base, right?" Picard observed looking at Barran.
He panicked and looked at Daedo, "Please tell me it's secret."
"It is for now," Daedo smiled at Barran's enthusiasm and immediately felt guilty. The whole charade was so he could mine arkernite and then pretend it was a new discovery after they dug it up.
After a pause in proceedings, Daedo asked, "Anything else?"
"Licenses, permits and registrations for the VTOL," Axelzero said.
"Can you manage them?" Vannier asked, and Axelzero nodded.
"Where will we park it?" She asked.
"On the roof," Barran suggested enthusiastically.
"I will ask Ikaros, but I think it will be too heavy for the roof. We should rent a spot at the local air transport hub until we have the landing zone constructed and approved. Where is the closest?" Daedo responded.
"I will look it up and book that as well. It will make getting permits in time easier for the Japan meet, and we can lean on Marais' as they will have existing licensing and registrations. Especially if Jeram pilots," Axelzero said.
"Oh no," Barran said. "If Jeram pilots to the eye of the Sahara he will learn about our secret base. We should blindfold him."
Daedo shook his head, but Barran had a point. He would have to come up with a solution to that particular issue.
"Names," Kang said suddenly. "We need Mech names for the Svarski invitational. We should register tonight or tomorrow at the latest."
"Ranky Turtle," Barran said, claiming a name he liked.
"Daedalus could be one," Vannier said.
"Daedalus can be the stated manufacturer," Kang opined. "That way if either performs well the company gets the recognition."
"Excellent point," Vannier said.
"Ranky Turtle," Barran said again.
"Repeating the same name doesn't make it any more appealing," Picard lectured Barran.
"We could name all our new line of mechs after titans," Daedo suggested. "It has synergy with the name Daedalus. They are both from Greek mythology."
"I like that," Picard said, and most of the cadets agreed.
"Boring," Barran said. "But ok I guess." He proceeded to look up names of titans.
"Prometheus," Axelzero said. "The first one should be Prometheus. Champion of mankind."
"I like Eos," Picard said. "The dawn and it's a girl."
"I'll set up a voting system which will end at midnight, otherwise we will be here for hours arguing over names," Vannier said.
"The rankings are in," Barran noticed.
"Pull them up, let's take a look before we pack up," Vannier said.
Rank T2 R5, Cadet, House
1, Daedo, Thoth
2, Mace, Thoth
3, Vannier, Thoth
4, Paget-A , Horus
5, Fortescue, Horus
6, Raoult, Horus
7, Lazard, Shu
8, Picard, Thoth
9, Barran, Thoth
10, Moreau, Horus
11, Almeras, Osiris
12, Axelzero, Thoth
13, Delcroix , Amun-Ra
14, Gallois, Osiris
15, Gaumont, Thoth
99, Kang, Thoth
"Kang!" Picard exclaimed, "You jumped to ninety-nine! Wow."
The squad congratulated Kang who jumped from one-ninety-two in round four to ninety-nine in round five. They were quiet regarding the heavy impact that the tournament had on final results. It was still an amazing effort.
"Bah!" Barran said, "Picard passed me." He sounded a little upset, but nothing compared to what he was like when Lazard or Raoult beat him on the obstacle course.
"I guess you got all your studies done?" Vannier asked Daedo who nodded.
"Since the mech design was finalised last week I have been able to finish them all off," Daedo said.
"Did you do one of the extra credit math problems?" Mace asked.
"I did the easy one," Daedo admitted with a nod.
"There was an easy one?" Picard asked.
"No. There wasn't," Mace said seriously.
"Chief Albert gave up, they were normal problems this term," Daedo said. "And there was one Myrmidon, and I could do in less than an hour. So we did."
"We should sell solutions to math problems next term," Barran offered only to receive stares of derision from his fellow cadets.
"I don't think so," Vannier stated firmly.
"We should pack up," Axelzero said. "My parents will be waiting."
"Were they here today?" Vannier asked.
"Yes, but I told them I was busy," Axelzero said.
The squad went through the motions of an end of term pack up. Daedo and Mace would accompany the exos and gear back to the workshop while the rest went their separate ways.
They said their goodbyes, with hugs and heartfelt farewells until it was just the three cadets who remained.
Vannier gave Daedo and Mace a hug, "See you soon. Before Japan, I hope."
"Thanks, Vannier," Daedo replied. "See you next week."
She smiled and shook her head. "In my dreams. I think Monday week at best."
Before they knew it, Mace and Daedo were alone.
"Your parents are out of town again?" Daedo asked.
"Always," Mace replied.
"Let's go." He said as they hopped into the large hovervan which took them and their gear to the workshop in Nanterre.
Ikaros walked through the holographic structural model of the workshop. "It's not going to be easy, the VTOL weighs over three-hundred tonnes. And that's before you load it."
"Then what about the junkyard?" Daedo asked his Father.
"That will have to do, at least it's on the ground we just have to be careful with point loads and underground structures," Ikaros said. "It will also make loading mechs ten times easier."
"If you get the application started I will order all the robots to start recycling all the spare parts. We can just build parts as needed," Daedo said.
"Wait, let me move the most used parts to lower one, and I will apply for lower three construction and renovation permits at the same time," Ikaros said.
"Ok Father. There's no immediate urgency. Move the parts you want to keep and recycle the rest. It will take weeks to get the permits anyway," Daedo replied.
"Can we build a tunnel from lower three to the practice yard and perhaps even a back door?" Mace enquired.
Ikaros looked at Mace for a moment in contemplation. "I'm not going to ask why we need a backdoor, but the tunnel can be done. We will need a structural engineer to approve the design, especially if we are landing a possible four-hundred-tonne load two levels above. Where would this backdoor exit?"
"Daedo and I will scout around the area," Mace said.
"We can't go under the street or through someone else's property. Legally." Ikaros informed them.
"I know, but we may be able to connect to an existing service tunnel," Mace said.
"We can look at plans or its possible to have one of the prospecting drones to survey the area," Daedo said.
"How long have you been prospecting Africa?" Mace asked.
"A little over a month," Daedo answered sheepishly while looking at the ground.
Mace rubbed his hair. "Some kids just steal their parent's code to the kitchen and make a hundred litres of ice cream. You start international mining operations in your spare time."
"Speaking of parents," Ikaros interjected. "Do we have your company again this break Miss Mace?"
"Father. It's Mace. Just call her Mace," Daedo said.
"But it's her last name, and you're on break," Ikaros argued.
"Mace is fine. I am so used to it now I almost forgot my given name," she said looking at Daedo.
"Um," he was lost in thought.
Daedo: Myrmidon help me!
"Ameline," Daedo said finally.
"Thanks, Myrmidon," Mace said kindly while looking daggers at Daedo.
"He said, 'you're welcome meathead'," Daedo said flatly.
"Did not!" She said loudly pushing Daedo.
"Ahem," Ikaros interrupted. "Parents. Staying. Permission?"
"Sorry Ikaros sir," Mace said respectfully. "My parents are always travelling on business. But they will drop in next week. They messaged me earlier today. I could go home if you wished. But I would be home alone." She said shyly and sadly while looking at the ground.
"No no!" Ikaros exclaimed. "You will stay here with us. I don't want you at home alone. No. I don't want that at all."
Mace smiled and hugged Ikaros. She looked back at Daedo and grinned.
Daedo: oh you're good.
Mace: you have no idea.
Daedo began to ponder the last interactions he had with Mace before realising he needed his AI. He tasked Myrmidon with a high priority search and sort for manipulation techniques enacted on him in the last six months.
Mace laughed at Daedo.
Mace: you're so easy to tease.
Daedo: you should know better! You know I have to deal with Master Nader and Fortescue.
Mace: You can trust me Daedo. But be careful of Master Nader okay?
Daedo: She said the exact same thing.
Mace: She said to trust me?
Daedo: No the other way round.
Mace: That! How dare she!
Daedo: You admitted to trying to hack her every week.
Mace: That's different. That's training.
"Ahem, I'm going back to work," Ikaros stated after being ignored for a few minutes.
"Sorry Ikaros," Mace said. "We were being rude using squad comms."
Daedo was silent for a moment before changing the topic.
"Let's go for a run. I need to clear my head before I plan the mech construction details, mining op logistics, MIAS training, Upper academy scrimmage…
Mace put a finger to his lips silencing him. "I get it," she said.
The pair ran along the river at a leisurely pace before a somewhat familiar voice interrupted their reverie.
"Hey if it ain't da rich kidz," the ruff boy said before jumping down to block their path.
Daedo and Mace stopped, not wanting to run into him or to try and run around.
Mace: let me handle this.
As Mace began to speak two more kids appeared from behind a stack of crates, they were taller than the ruff boy who looked like he was ten or eleven. He was shorter than Daedo with tanned skin and greasy dark hair.
"Do you want to fight me?" Mace asked gently while taking a combat stance.
Daedo: what? I thought you were handling this? This isn't handling.
Mace: trust me.
"Nah. I wantcha to stop runnin through our hood like ya owns it," the kid said. "But if ya wannabe 'avin a fight. I can do dat."
He moved side to side like he was ready to rumble.
Mace laughed at him.
"Stop ya laffin, or I'll shove ya mouth down on ma....
Mace moved forward faster than a snake striking the boy in the throat before he could say his next word. He crumpled to the ground struggling to breathe.
"I was going to be nice, but I couldn't bear to hear you speak like that in front of my friend here," Mace stated. She looked at the two other kids, one was a boy another a girl, "Are you going to help him or do you want him to die?"
"What do I do?" the girl cried in a panic.
Mace: watch them
She bent down and moved the boy onto his side and opened his airway. He began to gasp taking in short breaths.
The boy was struggling to get to his feet. He looked like he wanted to continue to fight if it could be called that.
Mace pushed him back to the ground.
"Stay down, or you'll lose something precious," she stated sternly.
The boy and girl looked to charge, but when one hesitated, they looked at one another, and it was over. They lost the will to fight and ran off.
Daedo: we should take him back to the workshop.
Mace: you must be joking.
Daedo summoned a hovercar and lifted the boy to his feet. As soon as he was on his feet, the boy pulled away from Daedo.
"I want to take you back to my workshop and show you something. Would you like to see something cool?" Daedo asked.
"Fuck off. Ya stupid rich kid," he said scornfully. He began to walk away. "This isn't over bitch." He called back gaining courage the further he moved away.
"Ok. You win that one," Daedo said chuckling.