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 Ves spent a few days catching up to his paperwork. He also diverted some time to talk with Gavin, Nitaa, Crindon, Commander Cinnabar and his subordinates back home.

Nothing unusual happened during the time he conducted his research, so he didn't hear anything new. His subordinates only passed on routine information to him which he quickly shoved to the back of his mind.

Both the LMC and the fleet were stable. Only the environment experienced some shifts. The escalating sandman invasion kept exerting more and more pressure. The border states bore the brunt of the assaults so far, and were so egregious that the CFA finally came into action!

"Good news, boss!" Gavin announced one day. "The CFA finally got their act together and are done with mobilizing a warfleet!"

"Do you know where the warfleet is heading?"

"They're dispatching their warships straight into the deep frontier! They're going to attack and wipe out all of the core settlements of the sandmen! By the time the warfleet is done with razing all of the sandmen settlements, their civilization will be completely wiped out! The CFA has promised to stamp out the sandman emperor and any other high-caste members of their race!"

A CFA warship was very formidable. Multiple modern battleships and numerous other capital ships formed the nucleus of a huge fleet that was capable of wiping out an entire civilization in a matter of months or years! The number of escort ships that accompanied a typical CFA warfleet numbered in the hundreds!

There was no doubt about the CFA's determination to shatter the sandman civilization. They were no longer willing to tolerate the presence of this hostile alien race along the border of human space!

However, details mattered. Something about Gavin's wording didn't sit straight with Ves.

He narrowed his eyes. "Benny, the CFA is only dispatching a single warfleet, right?"

"Right."

"And they're sending it straight into the frontier in order to uproot the foundation of the sandman empire, right?"

"Uh, right."

"What about the scattered sandman fleets that are crashing into the border states like locusts? Has the CFA sent any reinforcements to bolster the defenses of the states in the war theater?"

"Uhhh..."

"I guess that's a no."

Gavin stopped smiling. "According to the news I've gathered, the CFA left the job of defending interior to the MTA. It's a matter of jurisdiction, you see."

The CFA defended humanity beyond its borders while the MTA defended humanity from within. This summed up the essence of their power-sharing deal.

"What does the MTA have to say?"

"Uhh, I don't know."

"Then find out!"

Gavin quickly activated his comm and browsed the galactic net. After a bit of searching, his face started to fall.

"The MTA's Komodo branch just published out a new statement! You won't like it, boss!"

"Just tell me."

"The MTA say that they are 'unable to commit an organized response to the current alien incursion into human space'. The most they can do is to activate some of the garrison forces they've stationed at the star systems under threat to defend the local planets!"

Ves frowned. "Is that all?"

"Yes! The rest of their statement is filled with a lot of bureaucratic language, but they're essentially telling the states that they're already strong enough to resist the sandman threat on their own! It isn't worth the effort for the MTA to mobilize their Compliance Department on a massive scale to wipe out the sandmen fleets that are wreaking havoc in human space!"

The callousness of this message astounded the both of them. While the CFA at least mobilized an entire warfleet, all the MTA was willing to do was to activate the defense forces that were already stationed in the threatened regions!

"What the hell are they thinking?!" Ves burst out. "The Tomaris Federation and the other border states are practically drowning in sandmen!"

"Maybe.. they really don't have the forces at hand to mop up all of the scattered sandmen fleets that have infiltrated human space."

That was a very realistic possibility. Ves already witnessed numerous instances where the CFA failed to discharge their responsibilities. Their absence was keenly felt by many powers of the Komodo Star Sectors.

Regardless of how many people disparanged the MTA for failing to match the CFA's commitment, the Association didn't budge!

Gavin summed up the reality of the situation. "No one can force the MTA to commit more forces to our star sector's defense. Whatever their reasons, we have no choice but to accept their excuses."

"The only saving grace about the MTA's inaction is that they aren't wrong. So far, the sandmen fleets have opted to scatter and raid many different star systems. If they combined their forces into greater numbers, then they could have easily overrun the core systems of the Tomaris Federation by now!"

The invading sandmen exhibited no coherent strategy. Each individual sandman admiral commanded their retainers by themselves.

This had led to the occurence of lots of smaller battles and skirmishes. The only times when a major battle broke out was if multiple sandmen fleets independently invaded the same star system at the same time.

As long as these kinds of coincidences didn't happen too often, the local mech forces were still able to defeat the sandmen fleets on their own strength.

However, the problem here was that there were way too many star systems under attack, and too few forces to defend them all!

Even if the Tomaris Federation and all the other states had conscripted every local mercenary corps and private outfit to help out in the defense, many small and unimportant rural planets were left without any adequate defenses!

The locals who lived there were left to fend for themselves, and the sandmen were never merciful towards human life. Attracted by the power generators and other energy sources of human settlements, the sandmen descended upon them like a tsunami of sand, devouring everything in their way!

Ves and Gavin both browsed the galactic net and read the analyses of the local publications. The Rimward Star Herald immediately published an article that painted a bleak picture for the near future.

"According to the Herald, the situation will grow worse before it gets better." Ves described as his eyes kept skimming over other articles. "The CFA warfleet will scatter some of its forces once they reach the space occupied by the sandman race. They'll quickly wipe out all the sandman settlements and colonies in the deep frontier, thereby cutting off the flow of invaders pouring into human space."

"I see. So we only have to hold out for a couple of years before the sandmen fleets that are already on route exhaust themselves?"

"Yes. Without their empire, the only sandmen that exist are the ones in space who are led by sandman admirals. These admirals aren't very smart or inventive by human standards. They only know how to follow their instructions, even if they don't make any sense due to new developments."

"So basically we need to weather the storm for a couple of years, is that right?"

"Right." Ves started to frown. "However, the problem is that the current intensity of sandman attacks is very high. It's doubtful whether the Tomaris Federation can hold out for more than a year. If the first line of border states fall, the second line of border states will come under threat. When the second line falls, the third line will face the brunt of the attacks."

"That means the Bright Republic will come under threat." Gavin glowered. "Depending on how you look at it, our state is in the third line or fourth line of defense. If the sandmen fleets punch through the Coman Federation, our star systems will come under assault."

Both of them shared grim looks with each other.

This was because they realized very clearly that the Bright Republic was not in a good shape right now! Almost two years had passed since the Bright Republic concluded their latest war against the Vesia Kingdom. The state was still recovering from the aftermath of this intensive conflict!

Ves wondered if Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester received advanced warning of this invasion.

He shook his head. The sandmen were very distant and hadn't made any major movements during the time of the peace treaty signing.

Ves processed the news he read and put what he learned into context. "The war ended early, but that doesn't mean the damage is light. We can still put up a fight if we have to, but I don't think we'll fare any better than the Tomaris Federation if we face the same intensity of sandmen attacks. For now, it doesn't seem as if the main thrust of the sandman invasion is directed at the Bright Republic, but who knows if this will change."

"It depends on how quickly the CFA can smash the sandman empire." Gavin emphasized. "The faster they cut off the flow of invaders, the fewer sandman fleets we have to deal with. It's pretty crazy when you think about how many sandmen are committed to these attacks. They're probably hollowing out their empire at this very moment! By the time the CFA warfleet reaches sandman territory, I bet they'll only be bombarding a bunch of empty nests!"

If the entire sandman civilization truly migrated their entire race into human space, then the CFA's response was pointed in the wrong direction! They should have sent their warfleet to the border states instead!

"Those goddamn territorial elitists!" Ves cursed.

He knew enough about the CFA that they looked down on space peasants and disdained the impoverished star sectors of the galactic rim.

The MTA was supposed to be different and stand up for the common people because they were far more willing to hire locals. Yet the factional strife within their ranks left the supporters of the galactic rim on the backfoot!

In the end, the supposed protectors of humanity were far too lofty to be relied upon by locals. They had greater concerns to deal with, and were barely willing to direct their attention to threats they considered minor.

It was easy to guess why their responses had been so lackadaisical. The Big Two was so mighty that the sandman race represented a nuisance at best.

Ves believed that the MTA and CFA had long been preoccupied with more important matters. Whether that justified their relative inaction remained to be seen.

He turned to Nitaa, who quietly stood guard all this while. "What do you think about the Big Two's actions?"

She shrugged. "I'm not too familiar with them. It sounds like you know more about them than me, sir. I highly suggest you drop your plans to return to the Bright Republic and relocate somewhere deeper into the interior of the star sector. Visiting your girlfriend's home would be ideal."

"No way!"

"We can't!" Gavin echoed his boss. "The Bright Republic is our home! We have a duty to defend our state!"

That caused Ves to send a questioning glance at his assistant. "If I recall, the Mech Corps drafted me to support the war effort. You on the other hand remained at the LMC. If anyone is about to do their duty, it's me, not you. I've got the medals to prove my worth."

"I am still doing my part by assisting you in doing your work. Don't discount my contribution!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Benny."

Even if the both of them were committed to assisting the Bright Republic in this sudden conflict, neither of them liked it. The recent war had left a lot of scars behind. Even a civilian like Gavin who escaped the brutality of the fighting had been affected by all of the recent suffering.

"You know. Since we're fighting a common enemy this time, is it possible that we'll fight alongside the Vesians?" Ves mused.

Gavin looked scandalized. "They're our archenemies! There's no way a Brighter mech division and a Vesian mech legion will ever tolerate each other's presence! There's too much bad blood between us to keep ourselves in check!"

"I'm not so sure about that. Old hatreds won't last in the face of a greater threat."

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