An Engineer's Guide to the Technology of the Mass Effect Universe:
A/N: I've been piddling about with this document since 2013, with notes even older than that. With all the new tech being shown in TWCD, however, it seemed like a good time to introduce a new segment.
This is a documentation story. That is, there are story snippets, and then documentation things. The timeframe for this just prior to Shepard being woken up.
The bulky, curved mass of Arcturus Station loomed up and around the transport as it slid into the mid-tier docking bay. The heavy thuds of the mag-clamps were accompanied by the soft chiming sound and the comm system kicking on.
"Welcome to Arcturus. For those of you getting ready to ship out for the first time, you'll be here a few hours before embarking on the SCV Glorua Ray, headed to Pinnacle Station for Zero-G acclimation and B accreditation. For the handful of you sticking around, wait in the transit lobby for the liaison officers to pick you up. The rest of you apes from the 405 might as well get some grub, we blew a secondary power relay in the jump and we're not going anywhere for a day or two."
Jason Vathez, newly minted Alliance Lieutenant, tugged nervously at the high collar of his uniform. The transport was filled with two groups of marine infantry - the green as grass Argentinian 664, heading off for basic training, and the feared and dreaded Lion's Roar heavy infantry of Mindoir, deployed on Earth as a reward for outstanding service and now headed back out to the frontier.
Neither group had officers along with them, just a handful of master chiefs, and the other few people on board - mostly techs - were also enlisted. Aside from the pilot, he was the only officer on board. His dress uniform was sharp, but the royal-blue trim on dark black instead of gold on gray showed him up as an officer of Alliance R&D.
At least, he hoped he would be. He watched soldiers slowly file off the ship through the wide cargo bay doors that split open in the back, while he picked up his kitbag and headed out the side hatch to the docking transit lounge, following the little knot of engineers in front of him.
The transit lounge, reached through a long narrow tubeway that showed only the ugly underside of Arcturus Station, was typical Alliance decor - flat black tile floors, plain white walls trimmed in Alliance blue, and a silkscreened Alliance flag hanging on the wall. Hard, unyielding black plastic seats were set in neat rows facing a pair of double doors, while the haptic monitor on the walls displayed the SA-8 comm channel.
Since the engineers were ignoring him - not to mention speaking in thick, Arcturian highlands rasta - he checked his omnitool for messages. More receipts from him selling the suite of rooms in the SoCal arcology, another angry rant from his ex-wife, this one full of threats to do something 'he would regret' - and a handful of confirmations from Alliance command about his posting.
Jason swallowed and deleted the message from his wife. His career - a researcher with the Sirta Foundation, with grants from the Manwell Foundation and Cord-Hislop - had come apart in a blaze of accusations and confusion as most of the work he was doing was found to be linked to the terrorist group Cerberus. He could still remember the Commissiarat investigation, the cool gaze of the black-coated figures as they examined logs, interviewed people in small, cramped rooms - and then shot almost all of his co-workers, his boss, and his uncle.
Summary execution for high treason.
Jason himself was put on observational restricted citizenship, and let go after six months. With no job and a tainted cit-card, finding work was almost impossible, but he scraped by. He did research for a few small biotech companies, boned up on his physics and chemistry by offering to volunteer teach at the inner city schola, and even did hours working in an electronics assembly factory.
His master's degree and patents didn't seem to attract any attention, even while his personal life disintigrated. His mother blamed him for some reason for the death of his uncle, and most of his social circle had been shot by the Commisars. His wife became more and more involved in 'soverign movements' and the nuts in the Earth First party, to the point where they argued constantly over it.
Finally, almost six months ago, he'd been contacted out of the blue by Alliance R&D. They had a curious discovery made on an outlying world and needed someone with heavy biotechnical, chemical and experimental science routines. By undergoing commissioning and working for the Alliance for eight year he would upgrade his citizenship to full class four, be entitled to move into full hab towers instead of merely sidepods, and probably be guaranteed his pick of positions at affiliated firms upon separation if he chose not to re-up.
With almost no cash left, a wife he no longer remembered why he married, and a ruined future, he took the plunge. Six months of heavy exercise, military training, and learning to shoot, wear armor, and the like had chiseled away the fat and softness from his body. He'd been able to send some money to his mother to help out with her bills, which had the effect of calming her down a bit.
Sherra was acting more and more erratic, and he divorced her upon graduation when she threatened to petition the Alliance not to commission him due to their marriage and her needs. The last bits of his old life had fallen away on the trip up here...and now all that awaited him was ... to meet his guide.
The double doors opened, and a strikingly handsome young woman walked through. Gently waved black hair was tied back in the usual savagely prim ponytail Alliance females preferred, the uniform she wore - that of an ensign - was spotless. Her dark grey eyes met his and she smiled gently, her darker features hinting at Indian and perhaps Chinese or Japanese heritage.
Her voice was a smooth contralto. "Lieutenant Vathez - did I say that right? I'm Ensign Courva. The Admiral is awaiting you at RDC Tower. If you'll follow me, I have an air car."
He nodded. "Lead the way. Uh, Ensign." He picked up his kit bag and followed, passing by the gaggle of rough-looking engineers without a word.
The air-car was the stock Alliance model - flat, lumpy and not at all exciting - and the trip there was mostly done in silence. He finally broke it once they were spirialling in for a landing. "So what do you do in R&D, Ms. Courva?"
Her lips curled in a bitter, self-mocking smile. "Secretarial duties for the Admiral. I spent six years in the Solguard, enlisted data transmissions specialist, so they moved me to OCS and put me here to handle the high-security comms stuff Admiral Vandafar needs for her work. Not very exciting, but I wouldn't know the first thing about how to do some kind of research."
He nodded, frowning as they came into an armored courtyard with a visible trooper with a sniper rifle standing on a platform. "This is, uh, some pretty damned high security."
She nodded. "This is the Hot Lab facility - that's why it's right up against the hull. Any failure of containment and they can jettison a lab straight out of the station and right into the sun. High security, high value." She landed the air-car smoothly, and triggered the doors. "The admiral will be in meetings, I expect, until at least two PM. I'd suggest going inside, finding a comfy chair, and reading this."
She handed him a code-locked, redlit optical data chip. "Primer on technology, mostly military related. Don't know if you were a brain surgeon, rocket scientist or eezo hound, so you probably want to read up on this stuff."
He took it gingerly. "Bioethical researcher, with a sideline in cybernetic integration, actually."
She quirked her lips. "Fancy way of saying you made sure we didn't make Frakenstein?"
He laughed weakly at that, and gestured. "Lead the way, ma'am." He followed her inside the building, framed by smoked-dark bulletproof glass windows and heavy armor shutters, and after settling into a leather couch set just inside the wing leading to the Admiral's office, opened up the OSD on his omni-tool.
ALLIANCE R&D BRIEFING MATERIAL
CLASSIFIED NOVA FOUR. EYES ONLY. R&D ONLY.
IF FOUND DO NOT CONTACT THE COMMISSARIAT - NOTIFY SA INTERNAL SECURITY SERVICES OR THE AIS USING EMERGENCY CHANNEL SA-332. COMMISSARS ARE NOT CLEARED FOR THIS MATERIAL.
THIS MATERIAL MAY CONTAIN REFERENCES TO AIS OR NAVAL INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS. THIS IS NOT TO BE SHARED OR DISCUSSSED OUTSIDE OF SECURE ALLIANCE SPACE.
Welcome, to Alliance Research and Development and to the salvation and protection of humanity.
There are four core technologies in use in the galaxy as a whole. Eezo, optronics, HE3 scoop mining, and omnipurpose generators and gels. To a lesser degree, kinetic barrier technology, cybernetic and bionetic enhancement, ion pulse technology, and the FTL comm buoy are also critical. There are of course many other important technologies - where would we be without things like the extranet - but R&D focuses on applications in military use, and these are the primary factors that affect that.
With the exception of eezo all of these technologies were mostly pioneered by a single species. Eezo was explored most heavily by the asari, but they also came up with optronic circuits. We humans revolutionized travel and FTL ranges with the HE3 hyper-scoop. Turians were the first to experiment with kinetic barriers, and the salarian invention of the omni-tool and omni-field was only surpassed by omni-gel. The elcor ion technology is the basis of almost all non-FTL engine drives currently used, and quarians have lead technology in cybernetic augmentation and kinetic barriers for centuries. Even the humble volus played a large role, with the clever invention of the FTL message drone (not to mention their love of missile propulsion technology and fuel efficiency.)
All of these technologies, with many others, combine to form and shape the military, economic and civilian sectors and the roles they play. While the Systems Alliance does not suggest that these technologies are weapons in and of themselves, each one of them has applications to the Alliance in an economic and operational sense and must be considered strategic on some level. Likewise, even non-military applications of these systems can be turned against us by terrorists, both domestic and foreign, or even by unscrupulous companies seeking to derail or blunt humanity's ascent.
As an officer of the Alliance Research and Development Acquisitions office, it is expected that you will have a firm grounding in modern technology. Since RDA does not recruit scientists when we plan to send you into combat or into derelict ruins in some hellhole environment, however, it is expected that any such firm grounding will need to be conveyed to you by your training. You no doubt have critical skills that were important when you were selected (or invited) to commissioned office, but no scientist today can be truly omnidisciplinary.
This guide is the basic oversight for such training. The previous two years have seen a tremendous shift in the application and innovation of military and commercial technology. Our own military has not been immune, as the Geth War has shown us fundamental problems in both our space and ground technologies. Alongside this has been civilian advancements in everything from FTL concepts to new types of energy production, and some of these have potential applications in terms of communications, science, or possibly terrorist uses.
All of these things – a basic understanding of the primary technologies, an overview of military weapons systems and a primer on how these will affect each and every member of the Alliance military, is the overarching goal in this guide. Given that some of this information was obtained by the AIS or other sources, it is considered CLASSIFIED.
Unlike other official SA training material maintained on SA-8, this guide is NOT rated or controlled by the Commissariat, and includes sections involving information that could reveal known actors or methods of Alliance intelligence gathering. As such, this guide is keyed directly to your omni-tool via DNA link and cannot be copied or sent to others. Penalty for the loss or distribution of any part of this guide outside of general commentary is chemical mind-wipe and reassignment to Z1 Restricted Citizenship for low treason.
This guide will cover eezo and mass effect technologies first, along with how these affect weapons systems, armor systems, and personal combat advances. This includes information about FTL and the Mass Effect on a basic level, and an overview of weapons, ammunition, and armor theory.
The second section will cover optronics, haptics, omni-technology and the rapidly evolving world combat engineering and infowar.
The third segment covers cybertechnology and bionetics, including blueware, black-ware, and nanonic implants.
The fourth section covers technologies that are civilian in nature but impact military considerations, such as HE3 mining, and FTL messaging and sensor systems.
Finally, a recap will cover a quick overview of both Alliance and alien primary and secondary weapons systems, armor platforms, battle-suits, mechs, warmechs, and articulated combat frames (ACF).
EEZO AND THE MASS EFFECT
The basis for the vast majority of technology in the current state of development is reliance on the mass effect, provided by energizing a source of eezo. At its most basic level, eezo is a phase-shifted form of degenerate matter. By phase-shifted, that means it is somehow occupying space-time in a difference frame of reference, and at a lower vacuum state than the lowest vacuum state of our own reality.
This guide is a primer, not a college dissertation. The specifics of how eezo was formed, how it works, the strange and mysterious matter of its chemical composition, and the still unexplained aspects of dark energy and dark matter are not covered here. Local library resource, Multiwiki, and the Salarian Common Knowledge Framework Project can offer information on this if you are interested.
Without getting into detailed physics, eezo acts in three fashions. When applied to an unenergized circuit it can act as a power-source. When applied to an energized circuit it creates an area where mass itself becomes lighter or nullified. This not only affects the speed of light but how energy and matter are converted. (the m part of E=MC2). Finally, when incorporated into the nervous system of a living being it allows the use of biotics.
Eezo allows the creation of super-heavy armor and components that are light enough to be mechanically moved. It is the basis of all FTL and mass relay travel, and is critical in the use of biotics. Eezo is mostly found inside the remains of neutron stars and the aftereffects of supernovae. Most eezo mined is on worlds, but the largest known eezo mine is in a cracked asteroid known as Omega.
MASS EFFECT TECHNOLOGY
Mass effect technology tends to fall into four different paths: FTL propagation and mass alteration, mass acceleration and negation, energy generation, and biotic application. For our purposes, we are unconcerned with biotics.
FTL travel is the primary use for almost eighty percent of all mined eezo. While mass relay travel in and of itself does not consume eezo, faster-than-light travel does. A typical military frigate uses between two and six pounds a year, a dreadnought twenty to thirty, and a superhauler might use up to a hundred pounds. (By comparison, during the span of their entire lives an asari will use up half an ounce of eezo in her body, and the entire air-car industry utilizes about a single ton a year across tens of thousands of air cars.)
Eezo is used in mass relay travel to form what is called a 'jump circuit' with the relay. The relay connects (via still unknown methods) two points in space with a hyper-efficient mass effect tunnel that reduces all matter within to what is theoretically zero or possibly negative mass.
From a physics standpoint, the ultimate effect is that it raises the speed of light by an enormous amount – roughly sixty to eighty million times the speed of light. For all intents and purposes relay travel is instantaneous. The eezo in a ship's mass effect core is used solely to stabilize the craft in the middle of this mass tunnel. A malfunctioning core will often cause very slight instability – magnified by the effect of the tunnel however, this is enough to turn a ship into quarks in a billionth of a second.
FASTER THAN LIGHT TECHNOLOGY
FTL travel outside of mass relays uses the eezo core to lighten the mass of the ship and the area around it, much like a mass relay but with less efficiency. The energy differential this creates results in two important military considerations. First, since it compresses light (in terms of light from the affected mass bubble moving 'faster' in Einsteinian terms than light unaffected) it highly blueshifts ships in FTL. This blueshift is accompanied by a spray of high energy x-rays and other particle exotica known as a waketrail, and is easily detected by sensors using accelerated FLT return backscatter scanners. The second effect is a buildup of electrical charge from broken electron bonds, resulting in eventually having to discharge this buildup before it overloads electrical systems.
FTL drives are thus mostly measured by three factors: how much they can alter the mass bubble, which determines their speed; how much charge they build up per light year traveled, which measures their effective range, and how much power is required to move a given ship mass, which determines their stealth. A heavy cargo lifter with a high power, high speed engine is going to light up scanners like a Christmas lights parade.
A few alien races have made modifications to this. The salarian streaming core somehow uses the static electrical discharges to power ships systems, giving them extremely long ranges. Asari cores are vastly more efficient than any other races, producing very fast and powerful drives that can even perform short range 'jumps' like a tiny mass relay. Hanar ships utilize some form of Prothean-derived construction that effectively sublimates their blueshift signature to almost nothing, although range suffers badly.
The main human innovation has been the use of multi-tiered shells of suspended eezo inside magnetically managed arrays. Known as cascade cores, these were pioneered on the SCSA Endeavor and first put into production on the SR1 Normandy. The oversized core allowed for unparalleled agility and mass regulation, at a cost in endurance and eezo consumption.
Eezo is used to form the mass accelerator rail systems that are incorporated into all weapons aside from some used by the elcor. At its very basic level, the mass accelerator is a two-phase operation. One phase accelerates a target (a bit of metal, a particle packet, or what have you) to a very high rate of speed by nullifying its mass. The second phase shifts this mass back to the pellet right at the moment it exits the barrel of the weapon. This is different than the mass accelerator weapons on star-ships, which are large enough to not need to reduce the mass of what they fire.
As a result, within five thousand meters, mass accelerator weapons are the most deadly possible form of firearm. No chemical compound or gyro-jet system can match the sheer acceleration rate for the given space and volume.
Additionally, only very tiny amounts of matter (typically 1mm to 3mm) are required to project a lethal impactor. The basic Avenger rifle fires a kinetic-stabilized dart of nickel-iron with a bore of 1.8 mm that hits as hard as a pre-Iron Era superheavy machine gun. A heavy weapon, like a Sabre rifle or Phase Six Automag, fires a fin-stabilized shaped titanium flek with a bore 2.5mm that can punch through a half-foot of case-hardened steel or blow a limb off with even a glancing hit.
The main advantages of mass accelerator weapons are five-fold. The ammunition used is either sourced from the surrounding air or from large capacity ammo blocks, meaning ammunition is rarely if ever a concern. This is perhaps their largest advantage, as even units deep behind enemy lines with no way of supply can at least fight.
Eezo powers all other components and thus the weapon does not need an external power source or battery. Again, from a logistics viewpoint this is a massive advantage.
With the exception of the shaver/loader/shaper (based on what ammo is used) and the trigger mechanism, there are no moving parts within the assembly itself, cutting down on jams and maintenance. Given the complexity of the weapons, this is equally important, as lack of maintenance derailed the Iron Guard during the Age of Iron more than once due to finicky laser weapons.
The weapon barrel is not a solid piece and this allows the weapons to be compacted and folded into a more easily carried shape. This allows for spies, agents and others to more reliably sneak into enemy areas with concealed weapons.
Finally, these are not combustion weapons – they work underwater, in vacuum, and in inert atmosphere.
The main drawbacks of mass accelerator weapons are threefold. Friction and heat do not go away simply because mass does. The more the weapon is fired, the more heat is built up, and eventually the weapon becomes hot enough to explode or deform the rail. To manage this heat, traditionally a set of internal sodium head sinks were used, with air-cooling on larger weapons. After the Geth War, this has been augmented by the inclusion of disposable droplet heat-sink reservoirs in an ammo-clip like container, but even with no clip all weapons can fire, albeit more slowly.
The second key drawback to mass accelerator weapons is that in order to manage all aspects of the field and firing mechanism, computer technology is required, some weapons even needing an onboard VI. This makes them vulnerable to infowar attacks that can jam, disable or even detonate the weapon and is a constant threat.
The final weakness, and perhaps the most critical from a scientific and R&D point of view, is that they do not scale well, in terms of efficiency or power, either to very large or very small sizes. Past a certain point the technology cannot be miniaturized, and there are very few hold-out designs (or weapons built into cybernetic limbs) that can even penetrate basic armor. Likewise, the damage produced by larger weapons above mech-shoulder mount rail-gun size is certainly devastating, but the heat cost and eezo required to build a rail of that size are simply too expensive to be workable. This is why tanks, very heavy mechs, and heavy gunships utilize non-mass effect weapons more often than not.
MASS ACCELERATOR WEAPONS
Each species typically has their own spin on mass accelerated weapons technology, usually either in the ammunition used or in the method of acceleration. There are six primary classes and three secondary types of weapon you will typically see on the battlefield.
The pistol, heavy pistol, and heavy repeater are functionally the same weapon, each one firing heavier shots than the last. All of them are semi-automatic, laser-sighted, sidearms, designed to penetrate armor at close range and in a pinch act as a makeshift club. They typically have good heat management levels. Pistols generally have poor shield penetration and beyond medium range are inaccurate except in the hands of specialists such as salarians, who are expert pistol shots, and hanar, who can use multiple pistols at once with good accuracy. Asari also favor pistols, as it leaves a hand free for biotics or a warp sword.
The light machine pistol, submachine gun, and pattern gun are, again, variations on the same theme. These are lightweight weapons with a very high rate of fire and some level of recoil, designed to tear down shields at short to medium ranges, usually in conjunction with grenades or a second team member using armor-breaking weapons. SMG's are inaccurate and go through both ammo blocks and heat capacity devices or heat-sink levels very rapidly. Useful in firefights at close range, they are most favored by vorcha, hanar and the occasional eccentric volus who actually picks up a weapon.
Shotguns and warcannnons are close combat weapons systems that typically rely on more than one rail system to deliver a cloud of rounds. The primary difference is the shotgun breaks a blast into small pellets, while a warcannon is functionally a multibarrrel weapon that fires its shots all at once. At close (or melee) range these weapon are devastating, capable of cracking both shields and armor in a single shot and maiming or outright killing a target. Some have burst fire capability. Most weapons of this class perform poorly outside of short range – unless they have the capacity to reform their blasts as a solid slug. Humans have had a love affair with our shotguns for centuries, but krogan, turians and asari also utilize them heavily. Their main drawback aside from range and noise is that they consume ammo-blocks voraciously.
Light rifles, battle rifles, heavy rifles, and combat rifles are four variants of the same weapon, a mid to long range firing platform in semi-automatic or fully automatic fire mostly used by military forces. The Avenger Mark III is the Alliance's basic battle rifle, while the Alenko Light Rifle is used by biotics and engineers. All of these rifles are designed for battle at range, incorporating aiming aids and other features such as underbarrel weapons or omni-bayonets for combat outside the norm. They are considered middle of the road in accuracy, range, heat usage, weight, and damage. Typically speaking the lighter rifles are faster firing and better at stripping shields, while heavier rifles rely more on phasic rounds and are better against armor. Hanar are the only race that rarely if ever uses these weapons.
Marksman rifles, anti-materiel rifles and sniper rifles are the long to extreme range arm of choice. These typically fire curved 'wire snip' shaped pellets or otherwise larger, heavier round than other weapons, but each type has its own specific purpose. Marksman rifles are mostly used by designated marksman to pick off officers and other units of note in a line of battle, or to extend the range of a unit's envelope of fire. Sniper rifles are used by scout/snipers and typically are given target profiles to find proactively instead of reflectively. Anti-materiel rifles are used specifically to destroy equipment and ordinance instead of infantry – this include mechs with armor sufficient to stop infantry weapons as well as light gunships. All rifles of this type have extreme range and accuracy, and are usually not automatic due to the need for accurate fire. Some include built in drone spotting equipment or other features to improve accuracy, but are very bad in terms of heat generation and cannot be used in close combat. Turians and salarians have developed the best and more advanced sniper rifles.
Light machine guns, heavy machine guns, and squad assault weapons form the final tier of primary weapons. Most are composed of either a rotary or multi-stage accelerator rail system to allow extremely high rates of fire, along with mass effect provided stability and shock absorption to keep the weapon on target. LMGs are more tasked for suppressive fire and counter-firing on sniper units, while SAW and HMG weapons are designed to carve apart heavy infantry units or super-heavy units such as krogan infantry or elcor chargers. A machine gun is not a weapon that is accurate or designed for a firefight – in fact, in most cases only those with cybernetic augmentation or advanced biotics can even lift and fire such weapons without the aid of power armor or a weapon mount. While these weapons generate copious amounts of heat, they are large enough to feature equally large heat sinks as well as rammed air cooling devices, meaning they can actually fire almost constantly for long periods of time without overheating.
SECONDARY WEAPON SYSTEMS
Secondary weapons are those designed for a specific target that have poor utility outside of that target grouping.
The most common secondary weapon is the super-heavy weapon. Each race tends to sport its own. The turian lance cannon, which uses a mass effect field to force-compress unstable particles into a rough beam, and the elcor ion bombard, which utilizes compressed plasma fields to generate high energy ion blasts, are the most common super-heavy weapons seen. The Alliance CAIN system fits into this category. The only purpose of the super heavy weapon is to take down heavy mechs, tanks, and other armored vehicles, although against larger mechs it tends to be less effective. They are typically slow firing and bulky, making them something carried by specialist troops.
Missile launchers, flash-pak launchers, and grenade systems (either thrown or propelled) are the second category, most of which rely on plasma or forced matter/antimatter explosions to create damage. Explosive weapons can be used to crack fortifications, take down armored or airborne targets, and penetrate hardened defensive positions using natural terrain. Missile launchers are either single-phase bombs like the KRAKEN matter-antimatter missile, or multi-stage munitions like the HYDRA or the batarian CHAOS launcher. Missile systems are more targetable and have a longer range, a higher payload and more penetration, but are easy to spot and can only be fired, not placed.
Flash-paks are flat and thin mine systems that can be deployed from an underbarrel launcher or placed by hand. Thin sheets of omnifoam and plastic sandwich highly volatile chemicals with an electronic detonator. Flash-paks can be rolled up into small cylinders or even folded without harm, and are very easy to sneak and place. Their weakness is the relative lack of damage they produce, which is still enough to breach doors, kill unarmored or lightly armored targets, and disorient and damage others. The hanar pioneered the flash-pak for use with their drell assassin corps but they are popular with terrorists and commando groups as well.
Grenades have been used by humans since the eight century on Earth, but modern grenades come in a bewildering variety of types. They come in three types – globular types using 'sticky' polymers, flat discs using adhesives, and conventional rounded shapes for throwing or firing. Most grenades use explosive compounds or contained plasma, but salarians have a wide and terrifying array of substances, including but not limited to acids, bases such as lye, bio-weapons, radioactive products, shrapnel, and various chemical compounds. Grenades in Alliance tactics are used to deny movement, destroy cover and prevent charges, but other races use differing methodologies.
RARE WEAPON TYPES
A few other weapons are used by various races. Melee weapons of all types, from simple knives and clubs, to mono-molecular edged swords and whips, to advanced VI-controlled omni-chain swords, eezo whips and biotic warp swords, are all found on the battlefield. The reason for these primitive weapons being used is simple. In space battles, almost every modern weapon will punch through the inner or pressure hull of a ship, causing atmospheric failure, or hitting fuel lines or (worse) heat containment or heat-sink systems. Boarding actions almost always rely on melee weapons to avoid this.
Secondly, all melee attacks completely bypass kinetic barrier technology, regardless of strength. Only advanced practice in biotic shielding can block slow moving melee attacks effectively, and do to so makes the biotic vulnerable to higher-speed impacts. The fact that most melee weapons can be designed to have innate armor piercing properties means that it is often faster to kill a target with a melee weapon than from range, assuming you can get close.
Melee weapons are not the only threat. The Hanar have several strange devices (last seen being used in the First Refusal War) that seem to be some kind of functional, long range compressed particle beam weapon. The Asari have demonstrated missile and even mini-missile systems utilizing the same compressed neutronium tech found in the now defunct KYLE class torpedo. Palavanus engineers recently announced the creation of a new magneto-hydrodynamic weapon called the Thanix Cannon that may make conventional weapons obsolete.
Alliance R&D is constantly searching for additional force-multiplier weapons to enhance the survival rate of our marines, special forces, and colonists. The most promising of these is work on weapons systems abandoned when we discovered the Mars Archives. Laser, particle beam and sheathed neutron beam technology programs are all in the works.
For various reasons, each race tends to use their own type of ammunition. While some concepts overlap, even the volus have taken pains to internalize the ammo production options in their weapons systems.
The reasons why should be obvious – if you rely on an alien race for the core of your weapon functions you are in trouble in times of a blockade or if your relationship sours.
The human method was derived from examples we found in the Mars Archive from one Prothean weapon. An ammo block of reactive metal is pre-stamped with a nanotechnology etched pattern of either darts, flecks, or some other stabilized shape, and a shaver inside the weapon breaks pieces of this ammo block off in the stamped shape as the gun is fired.
This technology is very flexible as the shapes of the impactor can be altered on the fly, and the composition of the ammo block can also affect the damage (such as superheavy metals, reactive or radioactive materials, etc.)
Several other races use this method as well. Thus far, the only solely human innovation came from Oracal Demolitions ODIN shotgun, designed by the martyred Baroness Shepard in her youth and utilizing a mass effect shear field to shape compressed 'wedges' of reactive metal in an innately armor piercing shape. While other species have mimicked the technology in a crude fashion, only the ODIN (now a weapon produced by Shepard Defense Technologies as a Tier II CCW) uses it so effectively.
Turians use a device to cram together unstable particle packets instead of shaped metal. These packets explode upon impact, creating a burst of radiation and heat. They are superior at cracking armor, but less effective against kinetic barriers. A few turian weapons (believed salvaged from Inusannon technology) actually use crude mini-mass effect tunnels to hurl air that is turned into hyperplasma at a fraction of C.
Asari use mass effect fields to compress blobs or sprays of pure deionized plasma, which is famous for causing searing burns and splash damage. Given that asari regenerate from any other kind of damage to their bodies (albeit slowly), this weapon type makes sense. A few more exotic asari weapons actually draw upon the asari's natural biotics to enhance the blast field of the plasma impact. Asari also use powerful rail-guns that rival the impact capacity of some heavy tanks.
Batarians use multi-stage rounds – harpoons, spears, or conical blocks – in special weapons that are much larger bore than most other rounds, to create tangle-fields, spray mono-wire, or splatter area denial chemicals. Most of the rest of their armory uses conventional metal bits like humanity does. (Wild rumors of more powerful, biotechnological weapons have not been confirmed at this time.)
Salarians mostly utilize a mix of grenades, micro-grenades, and saboting versions of conventional metal rounds.
Most hanar weapons use a mix of high-energy plasma 'bolts' and conventional metal bits enhanced with radioactive properties. One weapon, the prism cannon, is a high-efficiency GARDIAN-style laser somehow downsized to a mobile version, that uses mass effect influenced magnetic fields to shape the x-ray blast.
Drell and volus both tend to use conventional metal rounds, although the drell version is longer and needle shaped, and the volus also make VERY heavy use of micro missiles and other explosives and all of their weapons tend to very long range.
Quarians (as usual) tend to break the mold. Almost all quarian weapons are minimal mass acceleration excited plasma-electroshock discharge weapons, either in bolt or conical discharge form. These weapons are very good at cracking shields, taking out mechs (and geth) and are a menace to anything with cybernetics, while retaining awesome killing power against organic materials as well. Their main drawback is a MUCH greater need for maintenance, short range, low heat and ammo tolerance, and the inability to shift ammo types or patterns which limits the op tempo of Quarian marine groups. Their Heavy Marines heavier plasma mortar impact technology obtained from the asari, but this is older tech (almost four centuries behind current spec) and highly modded over the years by quarians.
Krogan weapons were mostly developed (before the Rebellions) by the Ganar Weapon Crush Factory, and these now ancient guns are still working today, using a highly innovative mass effect 'compression' field to actually compress and fire what amounts to air supercompacted into a dagger-like shape. More modern weapons use very thick spikes launched from primitive rail systems and conventional metal rounds with upstaged, over sized mass rails that their heavy frame can support better than any other race.
The elcor use shoulder mounted ion based and EMP based weapons. Generally pacifistic, most of their weapons are only dangerous to cybernetic beings and mechs, but a heavy ion blast will certainly knock out even a strong krogan with a direct hit. They can tune the 'punch' of these weapons to form more solid – and utterly deadly – pure ion beams instead of the diffuse blasts, which will puree armor and kill even heavily protected vehicles in short order.
In the aftermath of the Benezia Incident,large masses of geth weapons were captured. The geth weapons technology was far beyond any of the Council races at the time, utilizing a shaped mass effect field to create and accelerate plasma 'darts'. These darts, despite being pure plasma, had an electrostatic enforced 'shape' that gave them high-energy armor piercing capabilities. All geth weapons are extremely rapid firing, accurate, and lightweight, but cannot be used by normal soldiers – there is no trigger and geth runtimes actually control and fire the weapon.
Much of the geth technology, especially the innovative mass field shaper, has been adapted into modern weapons. The removable heat-sink, sine-wave heat alteration firing pattern and fluidic-mount shock absorbers found in geth weapons are also now standard features in most military hardware. However, geth weapons are still a full factor above any Citadel or Terminus weapons designs, and only elite troops with heavy biotics should expect to engage successfully with geth infantry, much less heavy units.
Alliance R&D had recovered only fragmentary video of the weapons systems used by the enigmatic Collectors, but it appears to be a high-energy, collimated phased particle beam. This is very literally centuries beyond anything any of our races can produce, requiring energy levels that would power a frigate. The power of such a weapon would simply ignore kinetic barriers and tear through even powered ceramic-reinforced layered armor or Silaris banding like it was hardly there.
The weapon employed by the geth flagship, codenamed the NAZARA weapon, is another innovation. Originally believed to be of geth manufacture, Hanar and Citadel experts now agree the design is probably Inusannon or Prothean tech salvaged and adapted by the geth. In any event, this magneto-hydrokinetic impact weapon is utterly lethal, and has not been yet adapted to personnel weapons, but some research firms (including Black Net R&D in the Alliance) are working on models for such weapons.
Much like the similar Thanix ideal, this would invalidate not only conventional weapons technology but most shielding, mech and armor technology and turn space combat on its head. A weapon that can engage at light-minute (or greater) ranges with no delay would invalid missile and torpedo combat, while ground combat would require a complete overhaul of defensive technology or regress to pre-Iron mass wave assault tactics.
AMMO AND RAIL MODIFICATION TECHNOLOGY
Most ammo systems can be modified in various ways, either by external packages that affect the rail and accelerator system, intake packages that affect ammo consumption, or ammo materials and blocks themselves.
The most common mods for kinetic based impactor rounds like the Alliance uses are ammo modifications. These include coring using depleted uranium (sledgehammer mods) to increase striking power and armor penetration; flash-sealed 'spindle' rounds containing reactive chemicals or explosives that detonate upon impact (hi-ex), or corrosive and pyrocorrosive metals that react upon exposure to air (inferno and incendiary rounds).
Most mainline weapon mods for kinetic impactors are friction reduction and air cooling systems to manage heat and reload chambering systems or additional shaping units to increase raw rates of fire. The so-called 'Saracino Device' is another common mod for sniper rifles, tapping into a carried stabilization back to ensure absolute accuracy of sniper fire by using a mass effect field to stabilize unsteady firing positions.
Energetic ammo types – turian APP and asari plasma rounds – have mods built into the weapon or barrel itself, since these typically draw ammo either from a preformed block of raw material that will be converted to energy or the surrounding atmosphere. The most common is the rapid precharger, that compresses and readies plasma bolts for acceleration, and various heat management mods to allow higher temperature or faster shots without damaging the weapon. Some asari can also use biotic invocations such as pull fields to drain ambient heat and air-cool their weapons that way, usually combining this with pulling targets out of cover for a snapshot.
Heavy payload weapons, like krogan and batarian systems, often focus more on launch modding, including higher powered or multi-segment rail systems to turn projectiles into terrifying kinetic impactors moving at supersonic speeds. The most terrifying of these is actually built into the Asari Adept rail cannon, which creates a sonic boom as a series of chained accelerators shoots a slug at nearly spaceship speeds.
ARMOR, KINETICS, AND DEFENSIVE TECHNOLOGY AND THEORY
From ancient times, humanity has attempted to come up with methods to survive the weapons used in war. From material plates of iron worn over leather harnesses to reactive explosive plates on tanks, the balance between armor values and attack values was critical in several stages of human development.
In the modern battlefield, there are three tiers of protective and defensive equipment. For the purposes of this document, 'armor' refers primarily to defensive equipment worn by infantry units, not armored vehicles.
Most armor nowadays incorporates four elements : a basic lining that is designed to environmentally seal the suit and provide rapid heat ablation, an outer lining of super-strong synthetic fibers or carbon-tube mesh to resist splinters and shrapnel, a thickened hardened plate system of ablative ceramics reinforced with plasma or laser force-compressed carbon fiber to absorb shock and impact from kinetic rounds, and finally a surface covering that can be customized for various environments, to allay acidic, corrosive, cold, or other hazardous conditions.
Paired with most armor suits are kinetic barrier generators, that create either a pair of oval shaped shells or a hexagonal pattern of shielding around the user. This protection is not perfect – it has gaps where the generator arrays are located – but is mostly sufficient to block incoming fire. Kinetic barriers have three base 'strengths' – deflective, light, and heavy. Deflective kinetics are specialist shields used by miners and the occasional melee specialist that will only block solid objects above a certain size moving at a certain speed – falling rocks, or incoming blades. These screens cannot stop incoming accelerator fire.
Light kinetic shields are not any weaker that heavy shields, but are only rated to stop small arms fire and the like. Heavy shields are tuned with magnetic projectors to also block (or at least weaken) incoming plasma fire and most radioactive emissions. The difference is mostly in the size of the unit, the cost, and the TeV rating.
All shields are rated to fully block a certain amount of impact damage measured in TeV. Once that has been breached, the shield will collapse and need to spin up again to regain charge. While this is normally a fairly quick process, weapons designed to tear down shields can keep a soldier's shields offline for long periods of time.
Beyond armor and kinetic barriers, omni-generated armor plating and shielding is the final barricade to damage. Omni-projectors can create what is called 'tech armor' – projected flash fields of energy held in a coherent shape, much like the flash-fabbed omni-blades. This projective armor is fully capable of absorbing significant damage, and can be regenerated rapidly or detonated to create a damaging pulse.
Omni-shield technology is much the same but with more powerful projectors, creating a shield-like energy field on an arm to block shots. The biggest difference in omni-fields and kinetic barriers is that most biotics will completely bypass a barrier, but not an omni-field. This is why warp fire and the like is so utterly lethal to unaugmented infantry, as it bypasses their kinetic defenses and has a tendency to melt armor.
All of these defensive technologies have minor variations across the races of the galaxy, but only a few are worth mentioning. The most advanced armor systems are salarian, in terms of segmentation and quality. Salarian laser steel is tough enough to bounce even heavy fire at most ranges while being far lighter and less expensive than the asari Silaris armor.
Hanar warriors rely entirely on kinetic barriers and projected omni-armor, which makes them very vulnerable to impacts and biotics (and is no doubt why they use a private armor of terrifying biotic drell assassins). The hanar kinetic barrier is slightly more advanced than other races, utilizing mysterious Prothean advances that give it a green rather than blue tint and a chance to deflect incoming fire right back at the attackers.
During the Rachni War, krogan armormasters spent a great deal of time and effort creating multi-role environmental combat suits that could withstand crushing ocean pressures, acidic atmospheres, and other environmental dangers common on the rachni hive worlds. These suits have almost all rusted to ruin or been destroyed, but a few extant examples remain in krogan hands to this day and a few clans still produce modern versions. The Alliance pays a small fortune to obtain such mastercrafted survival suits designed to fit the wearer, and such suits have saved the lives of more than one AIS agent.
Given that their very lives depend on the integrity of their suits, quarian armor technology is surprisingly low-tech, mostly relying on segmented internal armor components and strapped on heavier armor plates over the base suit. On the other hand, their kinetic barrier technology is only matched by the finest asari units, and they were the creators of the idea of omni-armor, much to the irritation of the salarians who pioneered omni-fab technology in the first place.
As with weapons technology, the geth surprised the galactic community with their advancements. The geth warframe itself was constructed out of lightweight minerals flash-sealed into an almost organic looking set of armor plates, set over a cunningly armored skeleton protecting their internal components. An innovative mixed heat-management and hydraulics system was augmented by a musculature of myomer bundles, giving them astounding speed and flexibility along with the noted toughness and resistance to damage of myomer. All of this was topped by each geth possessing an oversized kinetic barrier generator that could somehow link up with other nearby geth to create increasingly powerful 'mass shield' fortifications in hexagonal patterns. While some inactive geth warforms were captured at Noveria, research has yet to yield the secrets of how these barriers work.
He arched an eyebrow at the last section, and decided he really needed to do some researching on the geth. He was about to book mark his stopping place and do an extranet search when his omni-tool chimed.
"Please report to Admiral Vandefar's office."
He stood, straightened his uniform, and took a deep breath before stepping off.