First contact: the Skarldar
Humanity explored space for more than 400 years without finding any other sentient life forms. The Authority colonized hundreds of planets, and across this great empire only separatists and extremists posed any sort of threat. The Authority’s Security Force, a well trained and equipped police agency, was enough to handle such nuisances.
All of that changed when the Elcano found EL-426.
The exploration vessel Elcano was on a routine run and discovered a planet they dubbed EL-426. The Elcano sent a message that they were plotting a course for an orbital scan of the planet. No further communications were ever received. Exploration ships sometimes disappeared or ran afoul of technical problems--no one paid any particular attention to one more lost ship.
EL-426 was home to the Skraldar, the first non-human intelligences ever encountered. Before the Elcano could send word of their momentous discovery, however, the Skraldar attacked en masse, and the Elcano was brought down. The crew members were captured, and it was only then that they learned what their enemies looked like.
Skraldar were bipedal humanoids, a typical specimen being no taller than an average human, and often shorter. What the Skraldar lacked in height, however, they more than made up for in muscle mass. Broad and burly, the aliens had sharp quills protruding from their backs and forearms in place of hair. Their eyes had no irises, and a pair of enormous fangs protruded from their mouths.
Individually aggressive in the extreme, Skraldar society was riven by constant internecine warfare, and their technological progress had been stunted by the constant feuding. They lacked the ability to navigate the ERB, traveling from planet to planet on slower-than-light ships. With the capture of the Elcano and her crew, however, all that changed. Using knowledge wrung out of the captives and the wreckage of the Elcano, the Skraldar were able to piece together the technology necessary for faster than light travel: the astrogator. A particularly vicious Skraldar by the name of the Agaren Högsta seized control of the situation and was able to leverage the discovery into tremendous power in Skraldar society. Soon the entire race was forged into a fragile union, all Skraldar marching under the Agaren Högsta’s banner.
Fourteen years after the disappearance of the Elcano, the Authority finally made contact with intelligent alien life, as so many had dreamed of. Those dreams quickly became nightmares, however. Without warning, a Skraldar military fleet began attacking and sacking the worlds of the Authority, leaving only havoc and death in its wake. The Authority quickly mobilized an army--the first such force mustered in several centuries. The Authority troops, known as Legionnaires, valiantly fought the Skraldar--and paid for their lack of experience with blood. Through heavy losses across countless systems, the Legionnaires learned the hard lessons of war, and every legion formed was stronger than the last. Slowly humanity stalled the advance of the Skraldar, and in 433, three years after the war began, the Authority counterattacked in earnest. The Authority pushed the Skraldar invaders back. The final battle of the war was fought at Epsilon Eridani, home to a vital orbiting shipyard. Millions sacrificed themselves in the fighting, and the Agaren Högsta was slain.
With their leader killed, the Skraldar forces were thrown into disarray and retreated. Without central leadership, the aliens quickly resumed their old quarrels and feuds with one another. Eventually, the Authority forced an uneasy truce upon the Skraldar--the aliens grudgingly accepted that they would be confined to specific worlds and would not cross into Authority controlled space.
It was a bitter victory for humanity. Entire worlds were devastated or lost to Skraldar occupation, to say nothing of the loss of untold millions of lives. It was a bitter victory, indeed--but a victory nonetheless. Wary of rekindling the fighting, the Authority established a quarantine zone area around Skraldar space, and cut off all contact with the aliens.
Next chapter - The end of the United Authority