The barrens are, by far, the most anomalous region of space ever encountered by humanity. Beginning almost exactly eight hundred light years from Earth, in both directions along the Orion-Cygnus arm, they encompass the largest recorded area ever explored, stretching over twelve-hundred light years in both direction. Not entirely explored, every Coalition scouting fleet that passed through the region, whose beacons have been found, reports an unnerving lack of any habitable planets, or even useful resources.
Science and humanity has accepted that, while more common than initially thought, garden worlds habitable without terraforming are rare. The barrens have stars that are no different than those in other explored regions. Yet, there have only been three recorded worlds with natural life and liquid water on the surface found. Each system containing them lay outside of the larger clustered stars, at least forty light years away from any other star. Each one bears a thriving, fiercely independent colony, serving as launching points from different regions of the second wave to the rim, where ships dock to refuel and repair before crossing the massive journey.
The stars seem to have had the same rates of formation for useful materials and planets as all others. Yet, the worlds lay dry and barren, massive craters coating their surfaces. Empty seabeds span gaps between scarred continents, and petrified forests lie toppled as if by some massive blast. Strip-mines and broken, hollowed asteroids predominate in the larger star clusters, and everyone who lives in or has heard of this region holds suspicions of it, to the point where many colonies view it with an almost religious light.
Due to constant warfare, very few scientists have been free to pursue their own interests before being co-opted to military programs in every nation. But the few who have lived in the barrens colonies agree that the barrens are the biggest proof of intelligent alien life having existed, though nothing definitive has ever been found save for the undisputable confirmation of the scars on several planets being from dreadnaught-grade kinetic bombardment.