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Fanfic / Incompatible System

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In the mid – 21st Century, after a very brief yet destructive near – World War III, mankind had stumbled upon a method for FTL travel. A most magnificent method. It is fast enough to go to another galaxy in seconds, it is completely harmless to organics, it's precise and safe…

There is only one problem.

You see, someone's been leaving around some kind of material all over the galaxy. Sometimes as dust, sometimes as chunks, sometimes in sixty-thousand-ton lumps embedded in huge devices. And whenever near a human FTL drive, that material blows up hundreds of thousands of times more violently than antimatter (with star-destabilizing gravity waves for larger amounts, too).


Humanity calls it proof that space is filled with insane morons.

The civilizations of the galaxy call it…


Incompatible System is a Mass Effect AU fanfic by mp3.1415player, with elements of Humanx Commonwealth added in. Currently, it's available on Sufficient Velocity, SpaceBatttles and Fanfiction.Net.

Incompatible System provides examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence: Part of what freaks out the Citadel races so much about the missing Relays is that not only are the relays gone, but there's no traces or evidence of who, or what, removed them, or how, and if it wasn't for their records, there'd be no way to tell that the Relays were there in the first place.
    • When Batarian "pirates" start disappearing with little to no trace, the Citadel Council takes notice.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: With humans being the aliens in this case, first for the Thranx, and then the Extranet. Oh, and they have also hacked the Relay Network to track the Citadel ship movements.
  • Absent Aliens: An interesting twist on the topic. Humanity has quickly developed an FTL drive that allows instant travel between two points in space within 200.000 lightyears, with one early explorer visiting the Andromeda Galaxy on a dare. And yet, for as of yet unexplained reasons, the Milky Way is not overflowing with extragalactic explorers...
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  • Alpha Strike: Quarians cornered by Batarians take out their lead ship through Explosive Overclocking of their main cannon, followed by all their remaining missiles.
  • Anti-Mentor: The Reapers to all Citadel races, probably very deliberately. By providing them with planium-based tech very early on, they have permanently locked them out of the much more powerful WIMP tech tree due to the fact that even a few milligrams of planium will explode with city-levelling power if exposed to WIMP flux and there is no way to safely decontaminate most Citadel worlds.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Humanity's opinion of eezo/planium. Sure, it can do cool stuff with gravity and mass, but WIMP theory allows them to do most, if not all of it, without the substance, and its explosive interactions with WIMP emissions means that it's incompatible with much of their technology, with their WIMP-based TBT FTL drive being capable of covering exponentially more distance in just a fraction of the time an eezo-based FTL drive would need, without the drawbacks of either eezo FTL or the relays. Even using it as a power source is risky, and using it as a weapon is more effort than its worth, in part because the reaction is too energetic to scale down that much.
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  • Bilingual Conversation: After only a few years, most humans fully understand Low Thranx just as Thranx understand English. However, due to humans possessing more flexible mouths and Low Thranx requiring gestures involving limbs humans lack, both have a difficult time speaking each other's language. Though a hybrid language is forming among those who work closely together.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: That's how Thranx view the Zex hive. Leyzenzuzex, in particular, sometimes borders on Genki Girl.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel:
    • The Thranx have the "Posigravity Drive", allowing private corporations to operate freighters in between systems and turn a profit.
    • Humanity meanwhile has decided that "multiples of lightspeed" is for losers, and has invented the Blink Drive, which teleports the ship in question across the universe within a moment's notice.
    • Completely averted for Citadel. Several characters even note that if the Relays become non-functional or disappeared, their entire society would collapse.
  • Confirmation Bias: In-Universe. Thanks to their first and very destructive meeting with Planium/Eezo, Humanity outright refuses to even consider, for a large part of the story so far, that Mass Relays could possibly be anything other than enormous weapon arrays of some kind. It's not until they crack the encriptions on Relays' software that they learn otherwise.
  • Crazy Enough to Work:
    • Humanity's solution to the massive ticking bomb in their system that is buried in a moon and cannot be dug out? Drag the entire moon out of the system and detonate it once it's at safe distance.
    • The Quarian attack on a Batarian warship.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Paeluis is a Turian with a lot of crackpot conspiracy theories. And the ones mentioned are all right: The Citadel is run by a powerful AI, the Keepers are working for said AI, and the Relay Monument is a weapon of some sort.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: The WIMP technology and Eezo don't interact well, at all. The resulting explosion is described as making a matter-antimatter reaction look like a firecracker.
  • Divided States of America: After the Quick War, USA had been split into pieces, some annexed by the neighbours, some independent now. The author elaborates on this a couple of times, but is yet to present a map.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Humanx think that it's unlikely that anyone will notice the software update that they use to monitor the Relay Network. Literally the next section is the Geth Collective discussing the aforementioned changes.
    • At many points, various humans or thranx will make a comment in jest that is actually true, without knowing about it.
    • Of the various groups investigating the disappearance of Relays, it's Quarians who have the most data, despite everyone else thinking otherwise.
  • Explosive Overclocking: In chapter 12, the Quarians, when cornered by Batarian ships, overcharge their main gun to the point of slagging it.
  • False Flag Operation: Kind of but not for the usual reasons. Geth decide to hunt down Batarian pirates to protect Creators, while making sure that the Council races cannot identify them as Geth. At the same time, they want to use weapons that were inspired by Humanx gamma laser with hopes of drawing their attention and making contact.
  • First Contact: A very friendly one between Humanity and Thranx.
    • Defied with the Citadel Races, which are actively avoided by Humanx.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Deconstructed. Humanity is noticeably suspicious and mildly unsettled by the existence of the Asari because of this trope. Every other alien they've come across has been humanoid at best but the Asari look like attractive blue women with tendrils for hair, something that's considered ludicrously unlikely.
  • Gunship Rescue: Rael'Zorah's ship, after taking out two Batarian warships, is cornered by the remaining two while defenseless. They radio for help… cue Frickin' Laser Beams out of nowhere slicing the attackers apart.
  • Hidden Depths: Lord Alamo is initially described as "A ten gallon hat with a five gallon man trying to hide in it" and is usually very loud and blustery. However, once aliens are confirmed to exist, he makes several impressive insights regarding them.
  • Hollywood Science: Averted, with one of the scientists conducting the first WIMP experiments complaining loudly there are no flashy devices around.
  • Humanity Is Insane: There is a good share of that (although the Quick War is stated to have tempered it a lot). Interestingly enough, humans view all the Citadel races as insane, for having something as dangerous as eezo everywhere including their own bodies. Not that they realize how dangerous it is...
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: When the Citadel races discover someone had been stealing Mass Relays, they certainly get the feeling the ones responsible must be some Eldritch Abomination.
  • Insectoid Aliens: Thranx appear similar to large blue and purple insects, albeit with eight limbs (four arms and four legs) rather than six.
  • Large Ham: Lord Alamo of the Empire of Texas.
  • Made of Explodium: What humanity thinks of element zero. The first test flight to Mars had caused the Prothean ruins (thankfully, as yet undiscovered and with no humans within a few thousand miles) to vanish a fireball bigger that the one that obliterated the dinosaurs. Apparently, such reactions release more energy than an equivalent amount of antimatter.
  • Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back: Interestingly, averted. While a few of the southern states are now allied with Latin America, Texas is proudly, crazily and loudly independent.
  • Minovsky Particles: Though they are called WIMP in this story, they serve exactly the same role, that being they make the factions that have them better at everything than the factions that don't. Once Humanx started mastering those "Weakly Interacting Massive Particles", they got better hyperdrives, computers, A.I., lasers, artificial gravity, the list goes on...
  • Noodle Incident: The crew of the "Seeker of Interesting Things" apparently are responsible for why there's a series entitled "Things Spaceship Crews Are No Longer Allowed To Do". When their AI, Isaac, is asked about it, all he says is "We didn't do it, no one saw anything, and they can't prove it anyway."
    • They also mention a time when Isaac was thrown out of a bar window, causing him to ask if they mean the time where the window was already open or the other one.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The disappearance of Relays is this from the Council perspective. Not only they have no idea who did this or when, or how, or why. They also have no sign that those Relays had ever been there besides some documents that say so. All of this means that there might have been other Relays that disappeared and they will never know now because they weren't documented.
    • When Batarian "pirates" start disappearing as well, they have a similar, if less extreme, reaction, and start wondering if the two are connected.
  • Occam's Razor: While the Citadel races ponder who is disappearing Mass Relays along with how and why, the Quarians correctly guess that it's someone who lives inside the now inaccessible region and doesn't want anyone to find them. Though they're still stumped on the "how" part.
  • Oh, Crap!: Half the fic is that, one way or another:
    • Humanity, when realizing Charon holds sixty thousand tons of the same substance that leveled half of Mars with a couple hundred kilos.
    • The crew of Rylix, upon realizing their drive is out.
    • The Thranx, after realizing they were about to investigate a system with a star-destabilizing grade bomb in it.
    • The Citadel leaders, once they learned someone had been removing Mass Relays, cutting off a large chunk of space.
  • Older Than They Look: Due to advances in medical technology, both humans and thranx have more than doubled their natural lifespan, now easily living to be over two hundred years old. A station commander is described as being "in the prime of his life" at 120 years old.
  • One World Order: Humanity is headed there, although a few states are still staying out.
    • Though it seems to be showing some cracks / signs of being a forced development. The "Empire of Texas" for example, pushes for independent colonization of space. The current ruling entity of Earth is in a position to outright block them, and presumably others, from doing so AND is denying them the technology they would need to head out on their own.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: An interesting variant. Any biotic, for Humanx, is a walking tactical nuke which the slightest leak in their drive shielding can set off. They've made major advancements in said shielding, but they still exercise extreme caution with even trace amounts of Eezo.
  • Properly Paranoid: Considering how destructive is destabilized eezo and how easy it is to set off the reaction, the Humanity invests a lot of resources into technology that can detect even microscopic quantities from light years away and heavily regulates exploration of unknown systems.
    • Thranx implement similar measures once they learn about eezo.
  • Retcon: Of a sort. The aforementioned FTL drive of humanity was initially (heavily) implied but not explicitly stated to allow instant travel to anywhere in the universe. The author later introduced an In-Universe software range limit of 200,000 light years per blink - which merely allows instant travel to anywhere in the galaxy.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Humanity discover Charon contains a device capable of wrecking the whole Solar System, they assume someone out there might want to destroy them. True, but a bit more complicated than a simple explosive device.
  • Schizo Tech: One of the main reasons humanity initially assumed that the Mass Relay had to be meant as a bomb was that any real research into the properties of planium would inevitably lead to WIMP theory, which would both let you realize how horrifically dangerous planium is and let you do anything planium can do (other than make stupidly big explosions) much more effectively and safely. So the only way a species could end up using planium for non-destructive purposes would be if they were given planium-based tech as a Black Box from some other race, and then never did more than the most cursory research into what it was or how it worked.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Batarian faction is Batarian" is the reason Geth believe they'll continue attacking the Quarians.
    • Even the Asari point out that "Batarians are after all Batarians."
  • Shout-Out: A Krogan once claimed, "Super easy, barely an inconvenience".
  • Take Me to Your Leader: The ship sent to make First Contact with the Thranx is called We Come In Peace. Not that the Thranx are likely to get the reference (although, with their similar thinking, it's not impossible they have an analogue of the expression).
  • Take That!:
    • "The entire thing [concerning Mass Relays] sounded like the plot of one of the less plausible computer games [Leyzenzuzex]’d played as a young child".
    • The scientists investigating Relays note that they seem to have been created by a species with a mastery of manipulating eezo and absolutely abysmal skills at programming. They especially complain about a number of programming bugs including the one that causes the entire network to dump all of its stored energy at the same time.
  • Weaponized Exhaust:
    • While Humanity's FTL drives are only dangerous to someone using Eezo, if spectacularly so, the Thranx' posigravity drive works by essentially creating an artificial black hole in the back of the ship. The former at least is heavily controlled by the government, as the Empire of Texas laments continuously. They've made enough strides in shielding to safely use the drives to transport Eezo if needed, but it's still explosive enough that not even A.I.s want anything but automated and unmanned transports to do so.
    • Among the more problematic bugs in Relays' programming is the one which causes the entire network to simultaneously dump it's entire energy storage into surrounding systems. Though, the Humanx scientists also note that the conditions are so unlikely that one would almost have to try to cause it intentionally.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Humanity, AI and Thranx have no trouble treating each other as equal, contrasting the various attitudes present among the Citadel Races.
  • World War III: In 2034, almost two dozen cities were leveled by some terrorists in a massive attack of unclear purpose. A full scale war was narrowly averted, but it's still half a billion casualties. And then a billion more indirect ones.


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