- 1 Exploration Tools
- 2 Research and Development
- 3 Settling Heleus
- 4 Tech and Biotics
Devices used to survey, investigate, and map a new galaxy.
Planetary surveying, especially for potential settlement involves meticulous scanning. However, there has been little pressure to improve planetary scanners. In its search for a better solution for its Pathfinders, the Andromeda Initiative began with hardware salvaged from geth platforms and software developed by the salarian STG.
With artificial intelligence support, Initiative scientists developed a fast, accurate sampling system codenamed Panoptes. Linking it to the quantum computing power of an AI, which can produce multiple analyses and predictive models in seconds, they created an omni-tool mounted scanner that completes accurate surveys in moments instead of weeks.
For typical scanning, the Panoptes system uses a transmitted accelerator mass spectrometer (TRAMS). This creates a "snapshot" of an object's components, atomic weight, and radioactivity, and allows me to produce a more in-depth analysis. For biological materials, the Panoptes system switches to an electrospray ionization system, so plants or animals can be scanned without causing radiation damage.
With limited cargo space aboard the arks for specialized gear, and facing unknown dangers in Andromeda, the Initiative's philosophy is "adapt to succeed." Colonists are required to have a wide variety of skills. Equipment and weapons are expected to perform multiple functions.
However, this adaptability is fueled by non-renewable resources like ammunition, medi-gel, and power cells. Knowing they would not be readily available in Andromeda, in an emergency, the Initiative's omni-tools can recover and repurpose appropriate resources to serve a similar function. Liquid coolant allows weapon heat sinks to be re-used; organic compounds can be refined into medi-gel, and so on.
When these resources are available, the user is alerted via an interface between the user’s scanner and their HUD.
Once proprietary hardware for turian special forces, Initiative armor comes with jump-jets as standard. These jets allow a user to make extremely high jumps or hover for several seconds. All colonists are trained in their operation to evade predators or environmental hazards, obtain resources, or conduct maintenance in high places safely.
The jump-jet itself consists of a helium-3 microthruster with a tungsten-hafnium carbide casing. A gyroscopic element zero core functions to both keep the user orientated in flight and lower their mass when hovering, keeping fuel expenditure down. Hard-coded safety features prevent continuous operation of jump-jets to avoid injuring the user or melting their equipment.
Technology: Consumable Resources
While Andromeda Initiative gear and weaponry is designed to be as versatile as possible, extraordinary circumstances sometimes arise. Pathfinders and scout forces often turn to less orthodox resources to ensure they survive hostile conditions.
"Adrenaline" is a nickname for a prototype omni-gel/OSD package. When deployed, it bypasses omni-tool safeties to minifacture (small-scale manufacture) new heat sinks and provide a temporary but powerful boost to armor.
A shield capacitor immediately overlocks a user's shields, bringing them to full power and giving them a boost. This boost is unstable, however, and will be lost the next time the shield is breached.
Special ammunition packs apply a variety of effects to weapons fire. Incendiary ammo coats projectiles in thermite paste as they are fired. The paste adheres to and burns through armor. Cryo ammo uses Bose-Einstein condensate to freeze an enemy or slow them. Disrupter ammo projectiles carry an electrical charge that damages enemy hardsuit systems.
The Cobra RPG package uses a volatile solution of omni-gel to minifacture a short-lived but extremely dangerous projectile. Launched from an omni-tool, it hits with the same explosive power as a portable rocket launcher.
Omni-tools are hand-held 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 holographic haptic interface also functions as a communication device.
With sufficient omni-gel or other raw materials—usually converted from salvaged light alloys plastics or ceramics —an omni-tools fabrication module can flash-forge small three-dimensional objects or emergency suit patches. This allows quick repairs or modifications in the field.
The Andromeda Initiative's omni-tools are designed for reliability and efficient recycling of materials. Pathfinder omni-tools take design inspiration from the models used by salarian intelligence services, prioritizing the computer microframe to allow lag-free scanning and AI support.
Research and Development
New designs and advancements in technology.
Crafting new weapons, armor, and equipment requires a variety of materials. Though there are strange new isotopes and ores in Andromeda, our scientists have identified familiar elements.
Many light metals—including silicon, beryllium, magnesium, and aluminum—are resistant to corrosion and invaluable for computer components, heat sinks, and high-conductive electrical wiring, while lithium has both engineering and medical applications.
The Initiative pays well for more hazardous materials. Uranium is used in weaponry and nuclear-powered facilities, while element zero has applications in multiple fields: heavy industry, starship engines, jump-jet components, or even as an ingredient in many advanced medicines, to name but a few.
Technology: Weapon and Armor Mods
Andromeda Initiative equipment is designed to be modular and adaptable to any situation. Weapons and armor, in particular, are built with the understanding that they will be customized multiple times in the field over their operational lifetime.
Gun modifications can be purchased from appropriate locations, or recovered in the field. Each weapon's targeting computer also contains an adaptive integration VI that analyzes a mod on installation, adjusts the weapon's balance, heat sink requirements, and ammunition block accordingly, and sends a list of any additional components to the user's omni-tool for minifacturing. The process typically takes only a few minutes.
While many material components in Andromeda are familiar, we have also discovered rarer and more valuable materials; attributable to exposure to the Scourge, or mysterious alien technology. These "augmentation materials" are used in research and development to craft powerful, specialized items. Augmentations are essential to support weapon or gear combinations that would be impossible to build with conventional materials.
Some augmentations are sold by traders, but the highest quality augmentations require careful research. Once completed, the augmentation's profile is used to recognize additional examples of that augmentation out in the field.
Technology: Research Center
A Research Center is a research and development platform normally assigned to outposts and some select Initiative starships. Advanced minifacturing capability (small-scale manufacture) and information processing allows the Research Center to develop new technology and build it almost on the spot. They are also used to build powerful augmentations that enhance the capability of equipment.
Given the Initiative's current limitations, bandwidth and resource allocation to Research Centers is carefully monitored. The Nexus underlines the importance of new discoveries by rewarding scans and information gathered via a points system. Commonly referred to as Research Data Points (RD), these can be used for access time at Research Centers to discover or create new blueprints.
Technology to build a new home from the ground up.
Technology: Charting Andromeda
Charting the Andromeda Galaxy for habitable planets presents a unique challenge. Observation is limited by light, and given Andromeda's distance, any observations from the Milky Way are 2.5 million years out of date— enough time for a planet to have altered irrevocably.
Initial attempts to identify settlement sites were made by obtaining asari astronomical surveys and running them through predictive models. But Jien Garson was unwilling to risk thousands of colonists without solid information.
Eventually, the Initiative obtained promising data from quarian explorers who claimed to have found a geth array on the fringes of the Perseus Veil. This array was supposedly built from three mass relays, using sensors in the combined relay corridor as a form of FTL "telescope," to observe dark space beyond the galactic rim. Why the geth expended so much effort to study dark space is not known.
Amongst these observations were near-contemporary surveys of Andromeda. When our predictive models confirmed them within an acceptable margin, the Initiative was able to begin identifying "golden worlds."
Communications and QEC
Communications have always been a concern for interstellar colonists. Trade, defense, and political representation depend on reliable lines of communication.
The most sophisticated method is quantum entanglement communication (QEC). This utilizes a pair of particles that are linked on a quantum level: any effect on one particle is mirrored instantaneously by the other, regardless of the distance between. Pathfinder implants use miniaturized QECs to remain in contact with their AI partners.
However, manufacturing these particle pairs is a delicate and difficult process, especially with resources limited in Heleus. Long-term, the Andromeda Initiative plans to establish a comm relay network, transmitting data between buoys linked by mass-free corridors of space. The Scourge has hampered these efforts.
In the meantime. Initiative starships act like maritime mail packets, carrying secure data packages that transmit to approved colony receivers once they're in range. The transmissions are limited by the ship's data storage and the capability of receivers, but improvements are ongoing.
Technology: Forward Stations
Automated forward stations are part of the initial wave of exploration or colonist deployment. They contain valuable resource caches for explorers to resupply, repair stations for vehicles, and ground-penetrating sensors to identify mineral deposits. Their presence improves the chances of a planet being considered viable.
When a planet is seriously considered for settlement or a survey is ongoing, forward stations are seeded into orbit via automated barges. Once summoned to a designated zone, forward stations descend and anchor themselves on the ground, becoming valuable landmarks. Most scout rovers have forward station connectivity, allowing them to be summoned to the stations.
Current resource constraints mean that, in theory, only Pathfinders have official sanction to call down forward stations. In reality, reports show that enterprising colonists or unscrupulous scavengers have been known to hack the signals to raid the stations for supplies.
Without a steady supply of minerals and metallic ores, the Initiative's engineering capabilities grind to a halt. With plans so far off schedule, it’s even more important to gather resources wherever possible. On the ground, Pathfinder scanners and the ground-penetrating radar of forward stations assist in locating resources for immediate harvest, or for colonists beginning their own mining operations.
In space, Initiative starships can pinpoint resources from orbit. Each ship is equipped with probes that contain both a sensor beacon and robotic drones that can harvest at least a percentage of any deposits quickly. The Nexus has relied on asteroid mining for the raw materials to support the construction efforts, which yield heavy metals and platinum.
The Scourge is a rich source of element zero, but the hazardous conditions destroy most robotic telepresence, making it an expensive pursuit. Most prospectors look on nearby planets for jettisoned rock and debris from the Scourge, which often contain eezo deposits.
Terraforming is the science of making planets more viable for life. "Soft" terraforming involves the introduction of bacteria or ocean algae to bind toxic gases or adjust a hostile ecology. "Hard" terraforming is often conducted on arid planets with a thin atmosphere, using the impact of a comet or asteroid to warm the planet before introducing microbial life. This process can take centuries. Terraforming even a barren planet often involves significant financial and ethical hurdles.
The Andromeda Initiative has the capability for terraforming if necessary, but is limited by the timeframes involved. The "golden worlds" surveyed from the Milky Way were intended to support quick colonist deployment, with second-tier candidates identified for potential terraforming later.
Eos Vault Activated
If the Remnant vault on Eos is intended for terraforming, as evidence shows, its function is unprecedented. The ability to effect change on a global scale in such a short time defies our understanding of planetary science.
Aya Vault Examined
The vault on Aya not only confirms that the Remnant builders used their technology to terraform planets, but that the vaults are part of a massive network across the Heleus Cluster with a central control point, dubbed Meridian.
The existence of Meridian places the vaults and their operation in a larger context. A species capable of engineering on a cluster-wide scale would not need to terraform worlds to survive. Though reactivating the vaults results in an environment agreeable to Milky Way species, it is entirely possible that their renewed viability is a means rather than an end.
For many species, early long-range exploration relied on cryogenic stasis. Without modern FTL capability, or long-distance transit methods like mass relays, the distances involved in space travel meant that most crews would die of old age before reaching their destination.
Cryogenic stasis gradually lowers the body's temperature enough to slow its vital functions, but not low enough for damaging ice crystals to form, before the pod generates a mass effect stasis field that suspends both the individual and the interior environment in the pod. Contrary to depictions in popular media, the individual is not conscious of time passing: from most travelers' perspective, they lie down in the pod only to be awoken moments later.
Stasis failure, while regrettably common for early expedition, has been vastly improved over the years. Even in the event of catastrophic system failure, multiple monitoring VIs and fail-safes are in place to initiate an emergency wake-up.
Tech and Biotics
The science behind abilities that seemingly defy the laws of physics.
Technology: Element Zero (Eezo)
Also known as "eezo," the rare material known as element zero generates a field when subjected to an electrical current which raises or lowers the mass of all objects within it. This "mass effect" forms the basis of modern technology, from weapons and manufacturing, to enabling faster-than-light travel.
Element zero 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 orbits neutron stars and pulsars, though mining such regions is extremely hazardous and requires significant investment. Various isotopes of element zero have been identified, though the rarest have only been observed in laboratory conditions.
Surveys of the Heleus Cluster suggested the region is rich in element zero, which was a deciding factor in the Andromeda Initiative's decision to settle there. Without eezo, the Initiative's technology would quickly become obsolete.
Technology: FTL Drive
A starship travels faster than light using an element zero drive core. In special relativity, an object approaching light speed effectively gains in mass, until it would take infinite energy to propel it. But a negative electrical current running through an eezo drive core lowers the starship's mass, allowing it to travel at FTL speeds.
Motive force is provided by the ship's thrusters (chemical rockets, commercial fusion torch, or military antiproton drive), in addition to the FTL drive core. Without thrusters, the ship has no ability to move.
Standard drive cores build up a static charge during operation, and must be discharged periodically. Otherwise the core discharges into the ship itself, with catastrophic results. The Initiative's drive cores, intended for long-term voyages, are designed to recycle or reduce static buildup.
Technology: Mass Effect Fields
Element zero can increase or decrease the mass of a 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.
Technology: Artificial Intelligence
While a virtual intelligence is little more than a sophisticated interactive operating system, an artificial intelligence is a self-aware computing system capable of learning and independent decision making. Creating an AI requires adaptive code, a long education, and a specialized quantum computer known as a "blue box."
In the Milky Way, artificial intelligence is considered a threat to galactic civilization. The geth—synthetic lifeforms who turned on their quarian creators—are often used as an example of the destructive capability of rogue AI, and those who attempt to create AI without strict Citadel Council oversight are subject to sanctions or even arrest.
Alec Ryder's research papers claim that experiential separation is the root of conflict between organic and synthetic life; that an AI sharing the experience of its creator would have no desire to rebel. My connection to your Pathfinder implant and physiology makes me the first iteration of this new approach to AI.
Biotics are rare individuals with the ability to create and manipulate mass effect fields. Given the correct implants and careful training, a biotic can raise defensive barriers, yank opponents off their feet, or shred an enemy apart at the molecular level.
A biotic gains these abilities after exposure to dust-form element zero in utero, or via secondary exposures at a young age. Though this often results in fatal cancer, roughly 10% of those exposed develop element zero nodules along their nervous system. Once activated by the body's electrical impulses, these nodules allow the biotic to create mass effect fields, though most need a neural implant to wield them effectively.