The Vandor are a humanoid race, and in many respects are not dissimilar to humans in most respects. Their internal organs baffle terrestrial biology but their external functions are broadly recognisable. They originate from a desert planet, scarce in many resources we take for granted, and their star was much brighter and emitted much more UV. While the Vandor themselves acknowledge the existence of many different Vandor races, unlike humans, they don't distinguish by skin colour. Most Vandor except for those originating from the polar extremities have extremely dark, almost irridescent skin which absorbs UV harmless. Their skin is very thick, the outer layers being hardened and compressed dead skin. Baby Vandor are pale and grublike, and they have a pupal stage in which their skin hardens.
The Vandor came to Earth in the 1990s. It wasn't our 90s, but it was very similar. The Cold War had come to an end, but History Hadn't Ended. Fukuyama wrote a different book about America's destiny. The USSR still stood, albeit truncated and having dumped a lot of Communist rhetoric. There were two EU type things, the EEC in the West and EMAC in the East. Socialism isn't considered 'failed' as it is in many circles in OTL. In a more split, uncertain and multipolar world, there were more wars in the 1990s. In 1993, the much maligned Cheryl Smith became President of the United States. And in 1996, the Vandor appeared above every major city.
Smith opened a channel with the Vandor with ease. And this was where she discovered the main difference between humanity and the Vandor. They could not be reasoned with, at least not in a way that someone with only human experience of morality and reason can understand. The Vandor demanded the unconditional surrender of Earth, and unilateral annexation of the planet to the Vandor Empire. The consequences of annexation were not elucidated, as irrelevant.
Smith tried to negotiate with the Vandor, but came up repeatedly against a brick wall. In desperation, her advisors convinced her to send film of humans fighting, to demonstrate that mankind would fight and bleed for every inch of Earth's soil. The Vandor showed great interest in the films, demanding more and more, putting off their deadline for surrender. Hope kindled itself in Smith's heart. Films of genocide in the Balkans, of child soldiers in Africa, of dictators in Latin America, of the worst iniquities of every nation of Earth were unveiled to the eyes of the Vandor. They watched as the whole soiled, blood drenched history of humanity of unveiled before them. And they reconsidered. And did something that Smith and her advisors never expected.
The Vandor are a warrior race. Their arid world, scarce in water and and other resources had driven the many nations of the planet into Spartan frugality. The planet had slowly been united under famous conquerors, who had taken the hides and skulls of the defeated and used them to decorate his halls. The grubs of the defeated were exposed to the sun and left to shrivel and die. The Vandor have a very vestigial maternal instinct. In the long period of time as the Vandor industrialised and headed out into space, driven forwards by a desire to appease their warrior gods, and acquire resources. Morality is strength in Vandor society, there are few rules placed on business (where it exists) and the courts tend to consist of juries which decide on the rules of trial by combat. But since the Vandor have begun building their empire, resources have flooded back to their planet. Many Vandor began writing and considering ideas of how society is constructed. The prospect of conscription faded away as the Vandor numbered in the billions, and more utility was found in the farmers on verdant worlds. The leaders of the Empire were becoming concerned that while the Vandor were wealthier and more contented than ever before, the warrior vitality of the Empire was fading, and the defence of the Vandor was decaying. They had conquered many races and enslaved them, and this had postponed the process as a class system of Vandor landlords lorded it over their slave tenants.
And then they found this world, a tiny blue orb. Their plan had been the conquer it and enslave the populace as normal, putting them to work on their pastoral worlds, and opening up Earth to Vandor settlement and for settlement of their slave races. Instead, they found a race like none they had ever encountered. Rather than meekly submit to conquest, or fight fruitlessly, this race had trumpetted their violence, their cruelty, their coldness and detachment. To the Vandor, they had found an invaluable resource. Vandor grubs have a ten year growth period, and then a year in pupal form. They saw the child soldiers of Earth and saw a race whose children were mightier warriors than some of their footsoldiers, years before a Vandor was even capable of truly rational thought. The problem of defending the Empire had seemingly been solved.
Forty years later Earth is now a garrison planet. The privileged status as a 'Martial Race', makes humans the most prestigious race in the Vandor Empire, second only to the Vandor themselves. Retired human soldiers are often slave-owning lords on the pastoral worlds. In recognition of their special status, Earth has been allowed to maintain their Pre-Conquest states to a certain degree, though some areas have been taken for Vandor settlement. Most humans, excepting those exempt for service, are conscripted their natural aggression enhanced by Vandor training and equipment. The education system now more closely resembles the Spartan agora than anything we would recognise. Children from the age of three onwards are hardened into warriors, so that by the time they are ten they are ready to fight. They then 'enjoy' a mandatory twenty-five years service for the glory of the Empire. They are then given a choice of either continuing service (which gives the possibility of earning officer status) of returning to Earth, now having gained the right to participate in public life, or of being given a slice of land to lord it over somewhere in the Empire. In the early years, most chose to return to Earth, where they contributed to a self-perpetuating cycle of making Earth more warrior-focussed. Nowadays, most either choose to continue military service or to take their slice of land. Earth is slowly emptying, and there is a growing movement among the humans descendants disseminated across the Empire to allow their forefather's states to claim sovereignty over them. The Vandor maintain an indulgent attitude, and in areas of significant human settlement and where agreement can be found, Earth states have been allowed to extend their boundaries to off-Earth.
While it may not seem that way to an outside observer, outside the demands of the agora and conscription, human states have considerable autonomy, and the Great Powers on Earth can still push around smaller human states and can exercise a far greater degree of clout to the Vandor than others. There are five what can be considered Great Powers, which I'll go into detail about.
The first is the United States. While some still spit on the name of Cheryl Smith and burn her in effigy, there is also a considerable segment of society who consider her America's greatest gift. If she were still alive, she would probably weep to see what America has become. The groups which dominate American society now have all completed their mandatory terms of service, and the President even achieved the rank of Sub-Ochak, commanding Vandor as inferiors. The Americans are the most aggressive on Earth in pursuing their off-planet rights. The American Agora impress on their graduates that they are fighting not only the Empire, but also for the United States. They are encouraged when they retire to take their strip of land and if possible make it adjacent to other Americans so that the United States can pursue her Manifest Destiny. There is an obsession with the frontier in the United States. The elevation of the warrior-farmer class has also made its way back home as increasing numbers of American voters are located on planets all over the Empire. As America has emptied, land has been gobbled up by powerful men who have fought in the military and the non-conscripts work on the land in a parallel to the Vandor colonial system. The state is small, seeing independence of action as prime, though stringent laws exist which protect the rights of non-conscripts. Socially, America is a lot more conservative. Women are not considered for conscription, homosexuality is sternly frowned upon, and family is elevated as prime. The idea of not only the nuclear family, but the extended family in which three or four or even more generations may all live together is increasingly common and family reunion is something that Americans look forward to after their term of service.
The second of the Great Powers is the European Federation, and perhaps the most reluctant of collaborators with the Vandor. But the Vandor allowed Strasbourg to fight its wars across the continent, absorbing EMAC, crushing rebellion at the continent's fringes and annexing the states of North Africa and the Levant. The Europeans have maintained universal suffrage and rather than conscripting all eligible children, instead use a Tithe in which Vandor quotas are satisfied by a random lottery of registered children. While this increases anguish on the parts of families as their toddlers are taken away to the Agora, Europeans find the brutal, indifferent culture of the Americans distinctly distasteful. A system of compensating families for losing their children also exists. The Federation is fairly loose, with each member state maintaining control over provision of services. Only the Agora is a Federally provided education service. Europeans encourage their soldiers to return home, to provide for the growth of Europe. Europe is highly populated, and defies Vandor demands by having state run projects for funding artists and culture.
The Soviet Union is pretty blatantly fascist these days, and imitates Vandor society by treating non-Great Russians roughly the same as the slave races. However, the Soviets are also very committed to Communism (for Russians) and there are attempts to spread Communism to the stars. Russians are encouraged to stay in the ranks and spread the word to their Vandor fellow-officers, which is very concerning for the Vandor. However, the USSR is suffering as Russians stay in the ranks and don't return home or claim land, and a demographic crisis is approaching. Hence, social issues are also very conservative and medals are distributed to productive mothers. The USSR is being rapidly overtaken by China.
The Chinese are probably the most loyal to the Vandor, seeing their meritocratic, warrior society as closely paralleling their own form of Communism. Service for the Empire is enthusiastically shouted about, and colourful propaganda blares from every wall. The Chinese also try and spread their ideology among the Vandor but aren't nearly as desperate about it as the Soviets. The Chinese try and encourage their offworld citizenry not to participate in the Vandor slave system and instead free their slaves and set up communes. While in many cases freed slaves escape and have to be hunted down by very frustrated Vandor, in cases where it succeeds, it works rather well, and China has a rapidly growing alien citizenry. Whether they are eligible for the Agora has been raised and is in dispute. Like the Europeans and the Soviets, the Chinese try and keep a tight leash on their citizens as opposed to the maximal freedom market-as-battlefield attitude of the Americans.
The last, and least democratic, and least stable of the Great Powers is the Kingdom of Azania. While it is the most loyal state to the Vandor, its populace are the least happy about the situation. The Kingdom was carved out of South Africa by a renegade Vandor Grand Ochak whose son has since spread the Kingdom across most of sub-Saharan Africa. The people are all universally conscripted into the armed forces, and cheap labour either consists of enslaved rebels or imported slaves from across the Empire. A considerable quantity of Vandor troops stay here enjoying the starkly colonial atmosphere. Native Azanian officers can rank highly but unlike any other of the Great Powers, Vandor dominate the high offices of government. It is a brutal violent society, in which the child soldier is elevated to a the apotheosis of virtue. The King does not allow his conscripts to take the slice of land offered to them, employing a service of assassins to take care of any who take the offer, and take the slaves they are provided with back to Azania. Azania's wealth is not only in her colossal armed forces and their enormous contribution to Vandor's Empire, but also in her massive mineral wealth.
The Vandor are now at the height of their powers. Other empires which once sneered at them, now cower as the slender humans march lockstep towards a greater tomorrow. But there are worries in the halls of power. As great towers of marble and crystal are constructed on the homeworld and nearly every Vandor can enjoy a life of relative luxury, there are greater fears. Human soldiers can comprise the majority of the Vandor armed forces, and while the Vandor dominate the officer class, there are increasing numbers of human officers and in situations where human officers listen to human orders, and command human troops, the Vandor feel out of control. Some very wealthy humans, descendants of those who took their slice of land, fought for the Empire and enriched themselves further have visited the home world and have looked upon the great works and dream of more than being the cannon fodder of the decadent alien master. As swathes of planets become American or Chinese, as smaller communities crop up across the galaxy, as Communism spread among the slaves and notions of revolution filter down, the Vandor begin to wonder, how long can they run the Empire before the humans realise who really holds power...