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 The Coman Federation was splintering apart. Having long adopted a superior attitude, the transhuman fanatics hadn't been able to solicit the Bright Republic or other neighboring states to assist in its defense.

The Comen had been left on their own to face the brunt of the sandman invasion. No matter how much they trusted their bionic augmentations, implants and artificial limbs hardly made any difference in fighting off the sandmen!

In fact, the sandman devoured the heavily-augmented Comen much more eagerly than normal people!

Engulfing flesh and blood hardly yielded anything useful to the silicon-based lifeforms. They would much rather eat energy sources and valuable metals, something which most bionic augmentations possessed in spades!

Something unexpected happened. The sandmen devoured the Coman Federation with much more fervor than anyone initially expected! Their eagerness to wipe out the Comen led them to attack their star systems with a bit more urgency than normal.

The increased pressure was too much for the Federation. Not only did the increased pressure led to a greater number of desertions and flight, the Comen also lost their star systems at a rapid rate.

Within a month, the Coman Federation as an independent state ceased to exist! All that was left was a collection of splintering star systems which became engulfed in total chaos! Every Coman left behind desperately tried to flee their crumbling homes, but all the starships of the Federation had already left by now!

Countless Comen died from the tides of sand every day. The messages and recordings transmitted by the sobbing civilians flooded the galactic net. It was as if almost every doomed person wanted to leave proof of their existence.

Even if they died, they would not be forgotten! Their names, faces and voices were all included in a virtual memorial that continuously registered an alarming influx of entries!

Due to the rapid collapse of the Coman Federation, the Bright Republic began to experience more than a couple of sporadic sandmen fleets.

The Bright Republic's war against the sandman had commenced in earnest.

During the initial battles, existing rifleman mechs formed the Republic's mainstay. These mechs already existed long before the crisis and their mech pilots spent years to get in tune with the machines.

Only some of the new rifleman mechs saw battle. Nonetheless, their performance during these initial battles already proved that they were sufficient for the job.

Against the sandmen, the quality of the mech did not matter as much. As long as a mech could fly in space and fire out kinetic or ballistic rounds, then they were already useful!

Having learned from the lessons of the states that fell before, the Bright Republic allocated most of its resources into defeating the sandmen in space. While the government still fortified the surfaces of important planets such as Bentheim, it largely gave up on reinforcing the surfaces of lesser planets.

It was just too difficult to defeat the sandman under the various limitations of landbound combat!

Everyone started to put more emphasis on spaceborn mechs that could fight the sandmen at a distance.

Mechs like the Desolate Soldier began to showcase their capabilities during actual combat.

In one corner of the Bright Republic, a half-company of Desolate Soldiers calmly fired at the sandmen in steady, synchronized volleys. The sandman vessel they targeted continually lost significant chunks of sand as the explosive shells blasted them out into space!

However, the scale of the explosions paled in comparison to the mass and volume of a sandman vessel!

Not only that, but there were six of them orbiting an even greater sandman mothership!

The only upside to fighting a standard sandman fleet like this was that their ranged offensive power was very poor. Though the sandman vessels fired powerful lasers, their firing rate left much to be desired.

This gave the twenty-or-so Desolate Soldiers plenty of time to whittle down the advancing sandmen.

"Keep up the fight, men." A mercenary captain shouted over the communication channel. "There's a vulnerable planet behind us! If the sandmen reach the surface, all of the people who are living there will die!"

His words gained more strength due to the collective auras working together to amplify their sense of duty.

Compared to the other units resisting the sandmen that invaded this rural star system, the half-company of Desolate Soldiers immediately distinguished themselves.

The Rescue Particle Generator module placed at their 'hearts' caused them to look especially valiant. While the mechs themselves weren't very impressive, the orange modules released bright red vapor trails that marked their passage in space.

With around twenty trails forming in unison, the half-company of Desolate Soldiers clearly attracted the most attention!

Their performance stood in stark contrast to the other units participating in this battle. Only the small detachment from the Mech Corps fought the sandmen more valiantly than the commercial mechs!

"We are the light in the dark! We shall not let a bunch of commercial mechs upstage our military machines! Fight harder!"

The competition from the Desolate Soldiers spurred the detachment from the Mech Corps to fight even harder!

However, not every unit was doing so well right now.

Even if the other units were made up of more expensive mechs, the fear and stress of battle against an implacable foe such as the sandmen took a significant toll on their courage.

Lasers struck out every couple of minutes. These bright red beams were far stronger than the typical laser beams fired by mechs. They were so powerful in fact that the beams often melted through the torso of a mech, instantly wrecking it and harvesting the life of the mech pilot inside the vaporized cockpit!

"Larry! No!"

"Hang on, Cassie! Keep firing your rifle! Larry wouldn't want you to break down in the middle of a battle!"

Every mech pilot participating in the current battle had to keep their composure. That was getting harder and harder to do as the strain on them increased.

Each bright laser beam that lit up the battlefield promised guaranteed death upon getting hit!

Just as a formation of mercenaries began to grow increasingly more ragged, a couple of Desolate Soldiers arrived.

The reinforcement of a couple of mechs ordinarily wouldn't achieve much of an effect. In fact, adding unfamiliar elements to another outfit was usually a recipe for disaster!

No one liked to fight too close alongside strangers!

Yet this time, the beleaguered mercenaries did not react too negatively at the addition despite their lack of consent.

Why? Because the auras they brought instantly relieved some of the pressure subjected to them! Each and every mercenary suddenly became more resilient.

The pressure subjected to them didn't feel so bad all of a sudden!

"So the rumors are true! Those strange mechs that are on the news all the time really do help in battle!"

"Focus on your mission, men!"

"Yes, sir!"

Soon enough, the sandman vessels were whittled down one by one. Numerous mechs met their end after a giant laser passed through their frames, but even so the survivors never wavered in their discipline.

At the cost of eleven mechs and eight precious mech pilots, the defense force managed to repel the sandman fleet.

By itself, the battle ended up in a massive victory for the humans. The sandman fleet possessed a lot of power, but its poor configuration and battle tactics meant that much of its potential had never been utilized!

Nonetheless, this was just one of many sandman fleets about to batter the Bright Republic. The opening act had just begun, and thousands of sandman fleets would soon arrive to devour every single occupied star system!

With so many battles in store, the attrition would become unimaginably brutal.

Almost no battle ended without at least a couple of casualties! No matter how well the defenders fought off the sandmen, at least a number of mechs and mech pilots lost their lives!

With how immense the sandman civilization measured, the aliens had more than enough sandman fleets to overrun entire states!

"Not bad, but it could be better."

After the battle ended, Ves wiped his hand, clearing away the footage. He leaned back on his chair and placed his boots on his desk.

"It was their first battle." Gavin noted as he fiddled a bit with his data pad.

"The defenders in that recording simply faced a bog-standard sandman fleet!" Ves retorted. "I've seen how easily they succumb when I was assigned to the Vandals!"

Ves did not fail to see that the performance of the mercenaries fell short. As the battle went on, their salvos had grown ragged. Mech pilots fired their rifles too rapidly, causing them to jam, run out too fast or disrupt the rhythm of the coordinated salvos.

"The important thing now is that this is prime footage that shows the value of our Desolate Soldiers! Whether gathered together or dispersed throughout an allied force, their effects have proven pivotal in keeping up morale!"

"I'm glad that my customers are using my products in the ways I intended them to be used." Ves smiled in satisfaction.

He expected that some of his customers would misunderstand or misuse the special qualities of his Desolate Soldiers, but the outfit that employed them in the battle surprised him. They already knew how to best employ them on the battlefield!

"Many battle recordings are already being posted on the galactic net. Many news portals have broadcasted clips on their own platform."

"Let me guess, Benny. The sight of my Desolate Soldiers flying backwards while colorful stripes of vapor are generated from their chests makes for a very striking image, right?"

"Exactly! Your choice of applying this module in this fashion has worked out great! All the news portals and the people watching the footage can't get enough of them! The more Desolate Soldiers in a formation, the grander this sight becomes! It has boosted the demand for our mechs even further!"

The LMC was well on track to sell over 100,000 Desolate Soldiers two months after release! All of the free publicity helped immensely in propagating the use of this brand-new mech model!

The Desolate Soldiers even started to steal the thunder from other mechs designed by well-known Seniors!

Even though their mech designs showcased their own strengths, much of it wasn't really relevant against a stupid foe like the sandmen!

Ves did his best to avoid becoming conceited, though. It was impossible for the established competition to accept the rise of an upstart mech designed by a mere Journeyman.

One of the reasons why he reserved his judgement was that the sandmen fleets had already begun to improve and evolve.

Every sandman admiral started off from a standard template. They were like rookies who had never experienced any combat in their lives.

However, as long as they survived a couple of battles, the stupid sandman admirals would learn a lesson or two. In response to the tactics that their enemies have employed against them, these sandman leaders would form various countermeasures.

These experienced sandman admirals were the biggest threats to the Bright Republic!

Some would split up their sandmen into thousands of smaller globs. Others would merge into one titanic entity. Already, the sandmen had already exhibited a lot of variety.

These mainstays of the sandman invasion force had emerged continuously as they succeeded in overrunning the border states.

Even if a lot of sandman fleets had already been defeated, the addition of these abnormal sandman fleets only increased the danger!

For this reason, better-performing mechs still played an important role. The Desolate Soldier was not the only viable mech by far. It was just that it performed very well against the most common form of sandmen.

Whether the Desolate Soldier would be able to hold up against more complex sandman fleets remained to be seen.

"Keep an eye on how many abnormal fleets show up in the Bright Republic." Ves ordered his assistant. "If there are too much of them, then our Desolate Soldiers might not be enough!"

Gavin nodded. "Will do, boss. I think you should have more faith in your product, though. Everyone fears fighting against a tricky sandman admiral. Having your mechs around would do wonders to stave off panic."

He had a point.

"We'll see."

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