The Galactic Federation is a human institution; it's a collection of about 30 or so star systems that agreed to band together in response to the Kailai invasion. The federal style of government was chosen because they were wise enough to know that a central authority was needed to handle conscription, direction, and financing of the war effort.
The war has lasted 122 years so far, but it's winding down. The Federation is slowly driving the Kailai from their space. However, it's a process that's expensive in terms of materiel and human lives, and it's unlikely that they will be able to launch a counter invasion. It's projected by Federal strategists that the war will eventually become a stalemate, with both sides hunkered down behind their border defenses because the costs would be too high to continue the fighting.
The MECO Suits are anime-style giant robots, although I didn't explain them much in the story. They are vaguely Gundam-ish, but they have more in common with Mobile Armors, rather than Mobile Suits. One of the unstated facts is that they all transform into flight-forms (not airplanes!) as well as humanoid forms.
'MECO' is short for Mechanized Exoskeletal COmbat armor. The pilots call them 'suits' as a nickname. They stand about 18 to 30 feet tall in humanoid form, depending on the combat role they were designed for. MECO are powered by high voltage capacitors, with an operational life of about 30 hours before a recharge is necessary, given average power usage. They fly by means of anti-gravity engines, which use up a lot of power.
That's why they have 'flight-mode' transformations; it's to make them more aerodynamic. The reduced drag helps conserve power. Since anti-gravity drives need to be in a gravity well to work efficiently, when a MECO is taken into space, maneuvering thrusters and reaction mass tanks have to be attached. The capacitors and a-drives have a direct effect on the suit designs. The larger a MECO is, and the more armor or weaponry it carries, the more power is needed to move it. That means that the upper speed limit has to be regulated on a large, heavy MECO, or it'll run out of power quickly.
There are three main varieties of MECO. The Fast Attack MECO (like the Grendal Mark Seven I mention in the story) are small, light, and relatively lightly armed suits used in the cavalry role. They act as scouts, skirmishers, and other roles that call for speed. The Main Battle MECO is more heavily armed and armored, and acts as the primary combat model. The final major version is the Fire Support MECO, which sacrifices armor in favor of long range artillery weapons.
The only energy weapons available to the Ground Forces and Combined Fleet are lasers. To put out the kind of power necessary to burn through armor requires a sizable power plant, so no MECO carries them. They can be found in ground installations and spacecraft, though. MECOs carry cannon of various kinds and missiles, rather like modern-day aircraft, although MECO armament is much heavier than aircraft can carry.
There is an Internal Security service that watches for people who might affect morale on the home front, but the Federation is not a society dominated by the military. There aren't spies on every corner who turn you in for not thinking along party lines. Garth has to worry about how his journal might be interpreted because soldiers are subject to random inspections by IS, but civilians never think about that sort of thing.
There is a high mortality rate in space battles. The losses of men are so horrendous in the long run that it affects all levels of their society.
The Kailai are an alien race that share some characteristics with insects; they have both exoskeletons and endoskeletons of a type of chitin, and breathe through spiracles spaced along the sides of the chest/thorax area. They have six limbs. The upper pair, which are attached to the thorax, function as hands with fine control for delicate tasks. The second pair are attached to the abdomen, and are similar to the feet of an ape; they work either as hands with much stronger gripping strength but less fine control, or as feet. The third pair, which are also attached to the abdomen, are only used as feet.
Kailai heads are elongated into a kind of muzzle shape, with sharp-edged mouths similar to beaks. They have two eyes protected by brow ridges, and two segmented fans of chitin where ears would be on a mammal. The body is divided into two main sections, the thorax and abdomen, by a relatively narrow waist. The abdomen is segmented, and extends into a semi-prehensile tail.
Kailai don't have a vocal language. They communicate through racial telepathy, which only works within their species. They also do not have a written language; records are kept by means of imprinted psychic impressions. Even their long-range communications are by means of amplified telepathy. This lack of a common means of communication with humanity has frustrated attempts at a negotiated resolution to the war.
There are a LOT of Kailai, and they can replace battlefield losses much faster than humanity can. The Kailai weapon technology is at a lower level than the Federation's, but then, it doesn't really have to be equal. A guy with a flintlock rifle can kill you just as dead as a guy with a machinegun, and humans are almost always outnumbered in battle.
The Kailai are withdrawing. Not because of a lack of will to continue fighting, but because they are tired of pouring materiel into the war, which they originally started as a way of getting access to the natural resources in Federal territory. When the returns began to be outweighed by the losses, they decided to begin slowly pulling back into their home space. They are also fortifying their frontier against a counter-invasion.
The Kailai aren't losing the war on the battlefield; they're losing on the home front. They come from farther in towards the center of the galaxy, and have almost exhausted the natural resources in their own territory. They can lose soldiers by the thousand, and it wouldn't matter much, but losing ships, mecha, and the weapons individual soldiers carry is another matter entirely. That's the problem with an invasion; you're on the other guys turf, so he's the one who can pick up the salvage afterward.
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