Primary Codex Entries
The Reaper called Harbinger is believed to be the oldest and largest in the Reaper armada. From the reaches of dark space, Harbinger managed to control the Collectors, a race of human-sized insectoid bipeds, as it sent them on a campaign to kill and gather humans from vulnerable colonies. The Collectors became a terrifying force in the galaxy, responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands. Surviving colonists have described the tone of Harbinger's threats, heard through the Collectors as they attacked, as visceral and terrifying.
A myth common to several cultures in the galaxy, Reapers were once imagined as space monsters that consumed entire stars. Archeologists who searched for the sources of such myths found little besides the themes of all-consuming devils that are common to primitive cultures.
Although accurate information about the Reapers remains scarce, the galaxy now knows that the Reapers are not a myth--they are a real and devastating threat.
Sovereign was the first Reaper encountered by the modern Citadel races. Military leaders initially assumed that Sovereign was a geth or Prothean flagship commanded by Saren Arterius, a rogue Spectre. The truth was far more alarming. The massive ship was itself intelligent, and Saren proved to be under its control.
The attacks by Sovereign against Eden Prime and the Citadel removed any uncertainty about the Reapers' technological superiority. Sovereign's formidable shielding and firepower allowed it to hold off the combined fleets of the Citadel, and its mass effect fields proved powerful enough to let the enormous vessel land on a planet's surface.
Sovereign's mission--to open a mass relay that would transport the other Reapers from dark space--proved its undoing. During the Battle of the Citadel, Sovereign linked its consciousness to Saren's. When Saren's death corrupted the signal and shut down Sovereign's shields, Sovereign's destruction soon followed.
Reaper "indoctrination" is an insidious means of corrupting organic minds, "reprogramming" the brain through physical and psychological conditioning using electromagnetic fields, infrasonic and ultrasonic noise, and other subliminal methods. The Reaper's resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestions.
Organics undergoing indoctrination may complain of headaches and buzzing or ringing in their ears. As time passes, they have feelings of "being watched" and hallucinations of "ghostly" presences. Ultimately, the Reaper gains the ability to use the victim's body to amplify its signals, manifesting as "alien" voices in the mind.
Indoctrination can create perfect deep cover agents. A Reaper's "suggestions" can manipulate victims into betraying friends, trusting enemies, or viewing the Reaper itself with superstitious awe. Should a Reaper subvert a well-placed political or military leader, the resulting chaos can bring down nations.
Long-term physical effects of the manipulation are unsustainable. Higher mental functioning decays, ultimately leaving the victim a gibbering animal. Rapid indoctrination is possible, but causes this decay in days or weeks. Slow, patient indoctrination allows the thrall to last for months or years.
The Citadel races have classified the known variants of Reapers into four types:
* CAPITAL SHIPS are Sovereign-class Reapers two kilometers in length. They typically target the dreadnoughts, defense installations, and industrial cities of organic civilizations. Experts believe the Reapers harvest a single species of organics during each cycle of extinction to create these massive ships. Some capital ships are capable of launching small drones equivalent to fighters.
* DESTROYERS are 160 meters long and, in astounding numbers, make up the bulk of the Reaper fleet. They engage cruisers and other, smaller ships, as well as communications posts and enemy command centers. Research suggests destroyers are created from those species that are not harvested to make capital ships.
* TROOP TRANSPORTS carry husks to unconquered planets and bring victims of the harvest to Reaper processing centers. They vary in length from 200 meters to one kilometer, but, unlike capital ships and destroyers, do not appear to be self-aware. Instead, other Reapers operate troop transports remotely.
* PROCESSORS, also called "slaughter ships," are mobile centers for mass DNA harvesting. Like troop transports, processors appear to be remotely operated by sapient Reapers.
Banshees are the corrupted asari often found leading a Reaper strike force. The Reapers create them specifically from asari with active or latent predispositions to becoming Ardat-Yakshi, a rare neurological condition that enhances the asari's biotic power while causing the immediate death of anyone she mates with.
Lumbering as though in constant pain, the emaciated banshees are surprisingly durable opponents. They are devastating biotics able to hurl lethal balls of energy and create shockwaves as they regenerate. What Alliance military finds most disturbing is the Banshee's ability to spawn her own warp field and seemingly teleport during combat. Although their wails have no apparent physiological effect, the psychological impact is undeniable.
When banshees die, their Ardat-Yakshi genetics twist against them, causing a biotic implosion to ensure they evade capture.
The brute is a hulking amalgamation of turian and krogan victims of the Reapers. Because tissue from dextro-protein species like the turians is incompatible with levo-protein species like the krogan, implants regulate the brute's body chemistry to combat organ rejection.
It is the fusion of turian military skill and krogan blood rage that makes the brute such a formidable enemy, capable of destroying armored vehicles to get to the soldiers inside. Troops are advised to keep their distance, and, whenever possible, not engage a brute alone.
Cannibals are front-line Reaper units created from corrupted batarians. The nickname refers to their propensity to devour the bodies of fallen comrades. This triggers a biochemical process through which the cannibals spontaneously heal themselves and grow new chitinous armor. The transformation also appears to give cannibals a greater awareness of their surroundings, leading to more strategic behavior and careful use of battlefield cover.
The sight of a Reaper Harvester in flight nearby is one of the first indications that a Reaper invasion is underway. Their massive wingspan allows them to quickly cover the distance between them and their prey.
In the Harvester's mouth are two heavy guns that fire in an alternating pattern. The Harvester's most fearsome quality, however, is that its appearance guarantees that Reaper ground troops are not far behind.
Husks are the aggressive, mindless foot soldiers of the Reaper armies. They are created by impaling either living or dead humans on mechanical spikes that rapidly extract water and trace minerals and replace them with cybernetics. These cybernetics reanimate the lifeless flesh and tissue, transforming the bodies into horrifying killing machines.
The Reapers use large groups of husks to overwhelm the enemy. The husks' inability to feel pain, as well as their tendency to attack in groups, makes them particularly deadly adversaries.
Marauders are harvested turians that command and protect other Reaper troops. The lean, armored creatures present a significant threat in and of themselves, but they are especially dangerous when leading a Reaper task force.
Alliance marines have observed marauders fortifying husks and cannibals by enveloping them in a ribbon of energy that forms a scabby shell of armor. For this reason, when Alliance soldiers encounter a marauder alongside husks or cannibals, standing orders are to target the marauder first.
Ravagers are former rachni that the Reapers have transformed into heavy artillery through a process of implantation and genetic modification. As walking organic turrets, they can sustain and inflict considerable damage.
Ravagers bear egg sacs that continuously spawn swarmers. If the sacs are destroyed, either during combat or upon the ravager's death, their entire contents burst forth to charge the enemy and explode on contact. A dead ravager expels a caustic gas and an acidic puddle.
Alliance scientists have theorized that it is easiest for the Reapers to maintain control over units of rachni genetic extraction because of the species' neurological predisposition for hive-mind consensus.
Secondary Codex Entries
Even with all the Reapers' power, harvesting every sapient species in an entire galaxy can take decades or even centuries. The most time-consuming part of the process is gathering DNA from the population. To accelerate the effort, the Reapers follow a consistent procedure.
Victims who cooperate, surrender, or are captured by husks are sorted into camps. It is believed the husks possess receptors that allow them to analyze a victim's DNA through sight, smell, or touch. Victims that meet their standards are herded from the camps into processor ships. Those the husks deem insufficient are either turned into husks themselves or indoctrinated to serve as slave labor. The Reapers use this last option to give their victims false hope--many captives who would otherwise fight back become docile when they see members of their own kind obey and survive.
The processor ships reduce victims to a transportable liquid. Like in a slaughterhouse, the ships' design prevents victims from seeing or hearing what happens elsewhere so that they do not panic. The victims are ushered into locking pods, then rent apart and dissolved into paste that is flushed to storage vats.
The rate of killing is phenomenal. Intelligence estimates suggest there are more than 400 processor ships on Earth, killing approximately 1.86 million humans per day. In combination with battlefield deaths, disease, and famine, this pace will result in the complete depopulation of Earth within a decade. As the husks and indoctrinated slaves build more slaughtering facilities, the kill rate can only increase.
The Reapers are technologically superior to the organic species of the galaxy--but the degree of that superiority is a matter of debate in the intelligence community.
The Reapers' thrusters and FTL drives appear to propel them at more than twice the speed of Citadel ships. Estimates of their location in dark space suggest they can travel nearly 30 light-years in a 24-hour period.
Reaper power sources seem to violate known physical laws. Reapers usually destroy fuel infrastructure rather than attempting to capture it intact, indicating that Reapers do not require organic species' energy supplies. Consequently, the Reapers attack without regard for maintaining supply lines behind them, except to move husks from one planet to another. Unlike Citadel ships, Reapers do not appear to discharge static buildup from their drive cores, although they sometimes appear wreathed in static discharge when they land on planets.
The main gun on a Reaper capital ship dwarfs that of the Alliance's Everest-class dreadnoughts. No dreadnought has yet survived a direct hit from the weapon. Estimates put its destructive power anywhere from 132 to 454 kilotons of TNT. Even if the target is hardened, as in the case of a surface-based missile silo, the gun can instead bury the target beneath molten metal. Precise targeting computers and correctors also give Reaper weapons a longer effective range than organics' dreadnoughts or cruisers.
The kinetic barriers on a Reaper capital ship can shrug off the firepower of a small fleet. Weapons specifically designed to overcome shields, such as the Javelin, GARDIAN lasers, or the Thanix series, can bypass the barriers to some degree. The difficulty is getting close enough to use them--the surface-mounted weaponry on Reaper ships, similar in principle to GARDIAN, presents an effective defense against organic species' fighters.
Although clearly technologically superior to the Citadel forces, the Reapers have experienced casualties in the battles across the galaxy. This indicates that, theoretically, with the right intelligence, weapons, and strategy, the Reapers could be defeated.
Unlike the mass effect relays that they created, Reapers do not have quantum shields. Locking itself down at a quantum level would leave a Reaper unaware of its surroundings until the shielding deactivated. Instead, Reapers rely on kinetic barriers.
In the case of a Reaper capital ship, these kinetic barriers can hold off the firepower of two dreadnoughts simultaneously, but three clearly causes strain, and four typically results in destruction. Weapons designed to maximize heat damage, such as the Thanix series, show better results against the Reapers than pure kinetic impacts.
The barriers of a Reaper destroyer are less formidable than those of a capital ship. It is possible for a single cruiser or many fighters to disable or demolish a destroyer if they can get within range before they are themselves destroyed.
The Reapers' energy sources are not infinite. For example, to land on a planet, a Reaper must substantially reduce its mass. This transfer of power to its mass effect generators leaves the Reaper's kinetic barriers at only partial strength.
Sovereign was destroyed while assuming direct control over Saren. The feedback from Saren's death seemed to entirely overload Sovereign's shields. Current Reapers do not seem to suffer from this design flaw.
Reaper capital ships can turn faster than Citadel dreadnoughts, but to do so, they must lower their mass to a level unacceptable in combat situations. Consequently, it is possible for a dreadnought to emerge from FTL travel behind a capital ship, then bring its guns to bear faster than the Reaper can return fire. This is a poor tactic, however, against Reapers flying in proper formation.