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 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.
- 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...
- Adorkable: Lord Alamo, representative of the Empire of Texas, has apparently made a habit of shouting "Yeehaw" during council sessions and generally marked himself as the odd one out. When he suddenly starts behaving more in line with how everybody else is, his colleagues begin to worry that he might be coming down with something.
- Alpha Strike: Quarians cornered by Batarians take out their lead ship through Explosive Overclocking of their main cannon, followed by all their remaining missiles.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: The Quarian attack on a Batarian warship.
- 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.
- Of the various groups investigating the dissapearance of Relays, it's the 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.
- First Contact: A very friendly one between Humanity and Thranx.
- Defied with the Citadel Races, which are actively avoided by Humanx.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Geth meanwhile immediately prepare to poke said abomination.
- 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...
- Mythology Gag: The scientists investigating Relays note that they seem to have been created by a species with a mastery of manipulating eezo and absolutely abyssmal skills at programming. Doubles as Take That! to Leviathans and Star Child.
- 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.
- 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 independant 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.
- Properly Paranoid: Considering how destructive is destabilized eezo and how easily it is to set off the reaction, the Humanity invests a lot of resources into technology that can detect even miscroscopic quantities from lightyears 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 explicitely stated to allow instant travel to anywhere in the universe. The author later introduced an In-Universe software range limit of 200,000 lightyears 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.
- Shaped Like Itself: "Batarian faction is Batarian" is the reason Geth believe they'll continue attacking the Quarians.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.