Primary Codex Entries
Biotics is the ability of rare individuals to manipulate dark energy and create mass effect fields through the use of electrical impulses from the brain. Intense training and surgically-implanted amplifiers are necessary for a biotic to produce mass effect fields powerful enough for practical use. The relative strength of biotic abilities varies greatly among species and with each individual.
There are three branches of biotics. TELEKINESIS uses mass-lowering fields to levitate or impel objects. Mass-raising KINETIC FIELDS are used to block or pin objects. DISTORTION uses rapidly shifting mass fields to shred objects.
Most organic species are capable of developing biotic abilities, though there are risks involved. Biotics are the result of in-utero exposure to element zero. This usually causes fatal cancers in the victim, but in rare cases it coalesces into nodules within the fetus's developing nervous system.
 Computers: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
An artificial intelligence is a self-aware computing system capable of learning and independent decision making. Creation of conscious AI requires adaptive code, a slow, expensive education, and a specialized quantum computer called a "blue box".
An AI cannot be transmitted across a communication channel or computer network. Without its blue box, an AI is no more than data files. Loading these files into a new blue box will create a new personality, as variations in the quantum hardware and runtime results create unpredictable variations.
The geth serve as a cautionary tale against the dangers of rogue AI, and in Citadel Space they are technically illegal. Advocacy groups argue, however, that an AI is a living, conscious entity deserving the same rights as organics. They argue that continued use of the term "artificial" is institutionalized racism on the part of organic life, the term "synthetic" is considered the politically correct alternative.
 Computers: Haptic Adaptive Interface
Advances in computing have done away with traditional input devices like keyboards. Instead, modern input peripherals are usually holographically displayed in front of the user at a height and angle for ergonomic ease. Machines that use this interface detect a user through a microframe chip in the user's glove that "keys in" to the computer. Once a user is accepted, motion accelerometers in the user's gloves match his hands' location with that of a proportionate but smaller "mirror" set of controls inside the computer itself. As the user presses against the holographic field, force-feedback in the glove kicks in, giving a slight resistance. A person can feel his way though using a touch-screen that isn't actually there. A simple toggle switch on the back of the hands allows the glove to be turned off when not in use.
Haptic interfaces have become so common that some individuals undergo cybernetic enhancement surgery to have the accelerometers implanted in their fingertips. "Going bareskin" is the sign of a committed computer user who no longer has to fuss with putting on gloves or cleaning them with alcohol wipes to get rid of the clammy-hand smell.
 Computers: Virtual Intelligence (VI)
A virtual intelligence is an advanced form of user interface software. VIs use a variety of methods to simulate natural conversation, including an audio interface and an avatar personality to interact with. Although a VI can provide a convincing emulation of sentience, they are not self-aware, nor can they learn of take independent action.
VIs are used as operating systems on commercial and home computers. Menial VI "agents" are also available. Agents are compact and specialized. Some serve as personal secretaries, filtering calls and scheduling meetings based on user-defined priorities. Others are advanced search engines, propagating themselves across the extranet to collate user-requested data.
Commercial VIs in a variety of stock personalities are available at any software retailer. Boutique firms and hobbyists also build unique VIs to personal specification. Although software emulation of living personalities is illegal, reconstructions of famous historical figures are common.
 Element Zero ("Eezo")
When subjected to an electrical current, the rare material dubbed element zero, or "eezo", emits a dark energy field that raises or lowers the mass of all objects within it. This "mass effect" is used in countless ways, from generating artificial gravity to manufacturing high-strength construction materials. It is most prominently used to enable faster-than-light space travel.
Eezo is generated when solid matter, such as a planet, is affected by the energy of a star going supernova. The material is common in the asteroid debris that orbit neutron stars and pulsars. These are dangerous places to mine, requiring extensive use of robotics, telepresence, and shielding to survive the incredible radiation from the dead star. Only a few major corporations can afford the set-up costs required to work these primary sources.
Humanity discovered refined element zero at the Prothean research station on Mars, allowing them to create mass effect fields and develop FTL travel.
 Mass Effect Fields
Element zero can increase or decrease the mass of volume of space-time when subjected to an electrical current. With a positive current, mass is increased. With a negative current, mass is decreased. The stronger the current, the greater the magnitude of the dark energy mass effect.
In space, low-mass fields allow FTL travel and inexpensive surface-to-orbit transit. High-mass fields create artificial gravity and push space debris away from vessels. In manufacturing low-mass fields permit the creation of evenly-blended alloys, while high mass compaction creates dense, sturdy construction materials.
The military makes extensive use of mobility enhancing technologies, with mass effect utilizing fighting vehicles standard front-line issue in most military forces. Mass effect fields are also essential in the creation of kinetic barriers or shields to protect against enemy fire.
 Mass Relays
Mass relays are feats of Prothean engineering advanced far beyond the technology of any living species. They are enormous structures scattered throughout the stars, and can create corridors of virtually mass-free space allowing instantaneous transit between location separated by years or even centuries of travel using conventional FTL drives.
Primary mass relays can propel ships thousands of light years, often from one spiral arm of the galaxy to another. However, they have fixed one-to-one connections: a primary relay connects to one other primary relay, and nowhere else. Secondary relays can only propel ships a few hundred light years, however they are omnidirectional: a secondary relay can send a ship to any other relay within its limited range.
There are many dormant primary relays whose corresponding twins have not yet been located. These are left inactive until their partner is charted, as established civilizations are unwilling to blindly open a passage that might connect them to a hostile species.
Omni-tools are handheld devices that combine a computer microframe, sensor analysis pack, and minifacturing fabricator. Versatile and reliable, an omni-tool can be used to analyze and adjust the functionality of most standard equipment, including weapons and armor, from a distance.
The fabrication module can rapidly assemble small three-dimensional objects from common, reusable industrial plastics, ceramics, and light alloys. This allows for field repairs and modifications to most standard items, as well as the reuse of salvaged equipment.
Omni-tools are standard issue for soldiers and first-in colonists.
 Secondary Codex Entries
 Argus Planet Scan Technology
The Argus provides a qualitative leap in planetary surface imaging. A proprietary technology of the Ayndoid Group, an RRD laboratory reportedly owned by Cerberus, this upgrade for Normandys' sensory array delivers superior long-range topographical scanning resolution and rendering speed.
By deploying an orbital multistatic grid of 100 radar-emitting micro-satellites, the Argus quickly delivers a global Digital Elevation Model (DEM) at 15 meters per pixel (mpp) resolution, vastly outclassing the Normandy's previous scanner peak performance of 27 mpp. Such imaging quality provides superior defense intelligence, and at a speed warranted by the dangers of combat.
At slower scanning and rendering speed, the Argus can resolve down to an astonishing 0.001 - millimeter per pixel - ideal for geological and biological prospecting, archaeological research, and long-term security surveillance. By employing such a massive multistatic grid of nearly-untraceable micro-emitters, the resilient Argus is virtually invulnerable to electronic countermeasures. The spherical geometry of the Argus grid also allows superior cross-sectioning of targets.
 Biotics: Biotic Amps
Biotics manipulate mass effect fields using dozens of element zero nodules within their nervous system that react to electric stimuli from the brain. Amplifiers allow biotics to synchronize the nodules so they can form fields large and strong enough for practical use. Amplifiers can improve a specific discipline or talent.
An implant is surgically-embedded interface port into which amps are "plugged in". On humans, the implant is usually placed at the base of the skull for convenient access, though the user must be careful to keep it free of contaminants.
Implant ports can fit a variety of amps, and there is a growing market for modifications and add-ons. The finest quality implants and amps are manufactured by asari artisans, but the Alliance's L3 implants - first deployed in 2170 - are a significant step forward.
 Biotics: Life as a Biotic
Biotics possess extraordinary abilities, but they must live with minor inconveniences. The most obvious issue is getting adequate nutrition. Creating biotic mass effects takes such a toll on metabolism that active biotics develop ravenous appetites. The standard Alliance combat ration for a soldier is 3000 calories per day; biotics are given 4500, as well as a canteen of potent energy drink for quick refreshment after hard combat.
Another issue is electric charge. Electricity accumulated in starship drive cores must be discharged, and so must the electricity in a biotic user. Biotics are prone to small static discharges when they touch metal.
Unfortunately, human biotics also face suspicion and persecution, beginning with the popular misconception that they can read and control minds. Biotics symbolize the dehumanization of mankind to people philosophically or religiously opposed to gene modification and cybernetics. Militaries are the only organizations that always welcome biotics, offering them huge recruitment incentives.
 Biotics: Training
Biotic implants and amplifiers only provide the potential to create coherent mass effect fields. Whether biotics can actually do so is largely determined by their training.
Biotics must develop conscious control over their nervous systems, sending specific electrical impulses to the element zero nodules embedded in their nerves. They are taught to use their implants and amps with biofeedback devices and physical mnemonics. Specific gestures or muscle movements fire the proper sequence of nerves to activate a certain skill.
Conatix Industries pioneered biotic training with the Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training program. Although BAaT did not achieve the desired results, many techniques taught are still used today.
Many human think tanks are trying to develop some from of biotic super soldier. Most are benign efforts to create more flexible troops. Others, less publicly known, are unapologetic attempts to create Nietzschean supermen.
Real-time communication is possible thanks to networks of expensive mass relay comm buoys that can daisy-chain a transmission via lasers.
Comm buoys are maintained in patterns built outward from each mass relay. The buoys are little more than a cluster of primitive, miniature mass relays. Each individual buoy is connected to a partner on another buoy in the network, forming a corridor of low-mass space. Tightbeam communications lasers are piped through these "tubes" of FTL space, allowing virtually instantaneous communication to anywhere on the network. The networks connect across regions by communications lasers through the mass relays.
With this system, the only delay is the light lag between the source or destination and the closest buoy. So long as all parties remain within half a light-second (150,000 km) of buoys, seamless real time communications are possible. Since buoys are maintained in all traveled areas, most enjoy unlimited instant communications. Ships only suffer communications lag when operating off established deep space routes, around uninhabited outer system gas giants, and other unsettled areas.
During wartime, comm buoy networks are the first target of an attack. Once the network is severed, it can take anywhere from weeks to years to get a message out of a contested system. In systems where a buoy network has not yet been built or has been destroyed, rapid communication means ferrying information through high-speed courier ships and unmanned data drones.
 Communications: Administration
While comm buoys allow rapid transmission, there is finite amount of bandwidth available. Given that trillions of people may be trying to pass a message through a given buoy at any one time, access to the network is parceled out on priority tiers.
The Citadel Council and the Spectres have absolute priority; if they are using all the bandwidth, everyone else must wait. Individual governments and their militaries enjoy the next-highest tier. During wartime, civilian communication can suffer hours or even days of lag. Intelligence agencies study ping time through various systems to predict military buildups.
Below the government and militaries, bandwidth priority is sold to the highest bidder. Media conglomerates, particularly headline news networks, purchase higher priority to provide their viewers with timely information and response capability (for example, financial instructions and investment firms) also invest heavily in priority access. The funds acquired through sales of bandwidth are used to maintain and expand the communications infrastructure.
While everyone with a computer has guaranteed free and unlimited access to the galactic extranet, they are the last in the line for bandwidth and may have to wait for their requests to be processed. Bandwidth resale corporations use investment capital to purchase blocks of high priority access, made available by paid subscription.
 Communications: Methodology
As the population of the galaxy increases and new worlds are settled, timely access for home users and frontier settlements with underdeveloped communications infrastructures is a growing problem. To ameliorate bandwidth issues, a sophisticated array of data caches and virtual intelligence search agent programs are available. When a user submits a query, it is first routed to the data cache, the user's search agent VI collates mountains of locally-stored data to find the desired material. If the information is not available locally, the query is passed along to neighboring systems, and then outward in an expanding network. VI search agents in those systems replicate the search. If the desired information is found, it is compressed into a "burst" file and queued for transmission to the source system. The burst is assigned a priority based on the number of queries for it; the greater the number of queries, the higher the priority.
When a new solar system is first connected to the net, a selection of the most popular data is installed locally. Though storage hardware is cheap, the capacity required to hold all the data produced everyday by trillions of people on hundreds of worlds is not trivial. It's not economical to store local copies of all the data available on obscure topics just in case.
As colonies mature, older and less-popular chunks of data filter into them as a result of queries and are placed in the local archive. Searches for obscure topics are increasingly likely to produce instant results as the archive grows.
 Credits ("Creds")
The standard credit was established by the Citadel's Unified Banking Act as the currency of interstellar trade. The credit has a managed floating exchange rate, calculated in real time by the central bank to maintain the average value of all participating currencies. Some regional currencies are worth more than a credit and some less.
Hard currency can be stolen or counterfeited, so electronic fund transfers are the norm. More importantly physical transactions cannot easily be tracked, making them ideal for tax evasion or the purchase of illegal goods.
When the Alliance joined the Citadel, its various national treasuries were linked into the credit network. A human with a bank account of Mexican pesos, Japanese yen, or Indian rupees can purchase any item priced in credits at fair market value. All economies participate in the credit network are required to price items in both local currency and credits.
 Security Mechs
The death of thousands of security and military personnel in the Battle of the Citadel was a loss felt throughout the galaxy. As large numbers of qualified personnel transferred to the Citadel to replace those that died, short-handed security companies filled out their numbers with large-scale use of unmanned security robots. Commonly referred to as "mechs", the security robots are typically grouped into light and heavy varieties. Light mechs come in a variety of sizes but are easily distinguished by opposable digits that help them in their versatile security roles. Heavy mechs lack digits and are simply weapons platforms intended to keep the peace in high-threat areas. The quadrupedal dog mech has a "face" composed of contraband-dectection sensors, and it too is armed in case a perpetrator reists arrest.
A typical security mech has an extremely limited virtual intelligence. Its duty is straightforward and narrow, usually to guard an area, run a friend-or-foe program to halt unauthorized access, and fire a set of prerecorded voice commands to warn troublemakers away from the area. Light security mechs are equipped with irritant sprays and electroshockers to force compliance, and heavy mechs may be outfitted with flash-bang stunners for similar purposes. When facing an opponent armed with a firearm, any mech will immediately resort to lethal antipersonnel weapons to neutralize the threat. If the situation turns violent rapidly enough, it may not even use its warnings.
Security mechs are frowned upon for actual military duty. Though tough enough to survive most firefights, their VI simply does not have the programming to plan an ambush, rescue a hostage, treat a wound, or any of countless other objectives that a soldier must be able to perform on the fly.
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