Expeditionary Force by Craig Alanson Wiki
Expeditionary Force by Craig Alanson Wiki


The Elders were an ancient race that disappeared from the Milky Way millions of years ago. They were the first intelligent species in the galaxy to develop interstellar space travel. They have developed numerous pieces of incredible technology. They are known to have their own ulterior motives. They were a Tier 0 species, in that their advancement and technology far surpass that of a Tier 1 species like the Rindhalu.

"You make the same mistake most young species do when thinking about the Elders; you consider them to be only mythical, almost god-like beings. They were real people, like any other. At one point, they were as dumb as you monkeys, but they learned and evolved into something wondrous. I remember them as wise, kind, powerful, gentle people. I miss them, and I seek the Collective in order to reconnect with some part of them. But I know they are not gods."


Physical Description

Described as being eight feet tall and heavily muscled. Their heads had a bony crest with backward-pointing spikes, their fingers ended in long claws, and their snouts were long and full of sharp teeth. The snout weren’t real long like a crocodile, more like a dog, but overall the thing was vaguely reptilian. "The Elders kind of looked like what the Kristang might like to evolve into someday". In addition Elders could genetically modify their bodies to suit the individuals needs or wants.[1]

The section(s) below SCHMAYBE includes Spoilers.



The Elders lived for millions of years (approximately 80-130 million years ago) as the only spacefaring civilisation in the galaxy. They reached an extremely advanced level of technological mastery, including the manipulation of Higher Spacetime and the establishment of the Wormhole network. Eventually, the Elders evolved to the point at which they were capable of ascending beyond their physical existence. Fearing that an antagonist from outside of the Milky Way would threaten their existence post-ascension, the Elders repurposed the wormhole network and established systems (such as the Roach Motel) to power a Galactic Shield.

Disagreements about how to prevent species within the Milky Way from interfering with the shield once the Elders had left normal spacetime led to the emergence of two Elder factions. The Security faction believed that the threat of them disrupting the shield was too severe to allow any sentient species to evolve. Their plan was to eradicate any civilisation that developed beyond the most rudimentary level of technology. The Balance faction emerged as a counter to the Security faction, consisting of the parts of the Elder society horrified by the suggestion of carrying out mass genocide on countless future civilisations. They proposed that AIs reveal themselves and explain why the Barrier infrastructure is in place and why it must not be messed with, hoping to appeal to the good sense of future species.

The two factions could not agree on a way forward, and Elder civilisation descended into a vicious Civil War, resulting in a victory for the Security faction. Based on the Security faction's ideology, the Elders established a three-way system of controlling the evolution of future species in the Milky Way. Elder starships would transport Master Control AIs (such as Skippy) around the galaxy. The AIs would identify targets (species evolving beyond the technology threshold) and they would instruct Sentinels to destroy the civilisation. As a failsafe, the three components of the system were interdependent, with Master Control AIs unable to move themselves and Sentinels unable to select their own targets. The systems used to power the Galactic Shield were hidden behind stealth fields and protected by Guardians. Some point after this (roughly 80 million years ago), Skippy believes the Elders ascended and left normal space.


The AIs and Sentinels carried out their instructions for tens of millions of years, including manipulating the orbit of the planet Newark in order to destroy the ancient species that lived there. Approximately 2-3 million years ago, some of the Master Control AIs began to question the morality of the continued genocide. This resulted in the fracturing of the AI Collective and the emergence of The AI War. Most of the Master Control AIs were destroyed or damaged in the war (including Skippy being buried on Paradise). Without direction from the AIs, the Sentinels eventually went into hibernation. As a result of the collapse of the Security faction's plan to inhibit their growth, spacefaring species such as the Rindhalu began to emerge in the Milky Way.

The Elder's Legacy

Beyond the Wormhole network, little physical evidence of the Elder civilisation remains in the Milky Way. It is unknown whether traces of the Elders were intentionally removed by the Elders themselves or destroyed through acts of aggression. Planets such as Barsoom show evidence of sections of the planet having been 'scooped' outside of normal spacetime, with other parts of the planet destroyed with relativistic impactors. There are no planets accessible to spacefaring species with obvious Elder ruins or complexes, although, for an unknown reason, the Elders did leave caches of technology on hidden planets, such as Maris. Other Elder sites were hidden on planets within stealthed Roach Motel systems, such as on Gingerbread.

Various small pieces of Elder Technology such as power taps, communication nodes and the canisters housing Elder AIs have been recovered by species throughout the galaxy, but even Tier 1 species such as the Rindalhu lack the capability to study or exploit the technology, leading the finders to consider them practically worthless - they often end up shelved in storage or put on display in museums.

Both the Rindhalu and the Maxolhx found and stockpiled Elder weapons and their use in the war between the species is believed to have awakened Sentinels, resulting in the near extermination of both species. Both still maintain caches of Elder weapons, but the threat of re-triggering the Sentinels with their use has established a stand-off due to Mutually-Assured Destruction. Both species accuse the other of firing first, and Skippy is unclear as to why the use of the weapons would have awakened Sentinels.[2] When Humans also discover a cache of Elder weapons, it created a three-way stand-off with the senior species.

A crashed Elder spaceship and the corpse of an Elder was discovered by The Merry Band of Pirates on the planet Nowheresville.[3] The Pirates also encountered a lone Sentinel which traps them near the planet Waterloo, [4]and they encountered an Elder Warship housing a Master Control AI which had gone insane. Skippy believes he and the insane AI are not the only AIs to have survived the AI War, and the awakening of other Master Control AIs aligned to the original instructions of the Security faction, poses a significant risk to sentient life in the galaxy.[5] Skippy believes another Master Control AI may have triggered the awakening of Sentinels following the Human plan to crash the Wormhole network.[2]

Elder Plan Summary

  • The Galactic Shield was established to protect the Milky Way (and the ascended Elders) from an unspecified external threat
  • The shield is powered by dedicated power generation facilities stored in Roach Motel systems. There are many of them throughout the galaxy, most of them are hidden in boring systems no one would bother to investigate, and protected by Guardians
  • The Wormhole Network was originally just for travel but the Elders later repurposed it to transfer power to the Shield. They left it running after they ascended
  • The Elders established a mechanism to prevent species from within the Milky Way from disrupting the shield
  • The Sentinels were created to destroy species that achieve too high a level of technological advancement
  • These tools of destruction were controlled by Master Control AIs that were transported by non-sentient warships around the galaxy, looking for signs of advancing species
  • To prevent one AI from controlling the rest they were restricted from having that ability
  • Elder AIs had to convince the non-sentient control AI of their individual ships that the orders they are giving is in line with their mission
  • Communication with species was banned, to prevent empathy from being formed
  • The final checks and balance were that If the ship thought the AI was rogue it would eject the AI and report it to the Collective who would then activate a worm to destroy the AI
The Elders were an ancient race that disappeared from the Milky Way millions of years ago. Skippy the Magnificent believes they ascended to a higher level of existence.
Rindhalu Coallition
Jeraptha Ajackus Vreen
Ruhar Torgalau
Verd-kris Lemoostra
Maxolhx Coalition
Thuranin Bosphuraq Esselgin
Kristang Wurgalan
Humans on Earth, Avalon & Jiayuguan and the Merry Band of Pirates currently have no patrons or clients, but are looking to achieve alliances with many species. The humans on Paradise, though not technically clients of the Ruhar, are under Ruhar control. The Pirates have a clandestine association with the Jeraptha Ethics and Compliance Office.


  1. Renegades
  2. 2.0 2.1 ExFor 13: Fallout
  3. ExFor 7: Renegades
  4. ExFor 4: BlackOps
  5. ExFor 12: Breakaway