The Mass Relay is a type of FTL technology that features in Mass Effect.
Mass Relays were large structures in space that allowed for faster-than-light capabilities between two points across galactic distances. They were constructed long ago by a race of sentient machines known as the Reapers following their creation. Their origins were traced to an artificial intelligence created by the Leviathans who intended to find a solution to prevent eventual conflicts between organics and synthetics. No solution was discovered and the Intelligence created the Reapers as a measure to save organic civilizations by harvesting them. As a result, a cycle of extinction was created whereby the Reapers harvested the advanced civilizations of the galaxy and wiped any trace of their own existence before hiding in the darkspace beyond the galaxy. Once there, they waited for thousands of years until new life developed whereupon they received the signal to once again harvest known space. To ensure organic civilizations developed according to the path of the Reapers, the massive machines built the Mass Relays and left them for new races to discover. Through the Relays, the civilizations developed their technology based off the large structures and based their entire interstellar travel network on them. As a result, when the time of the harvest began the Reapers could paralyze organic civilizations with ease and bring about their destruction. Such a fate was unknown to most civilizations who were destroyed during the purges of the Reapers and every trace of their society was eliminated by the machines to prevent subsequent generations from ever discovering the truth. Central to the Reapers plans was the Citadel that was built as a massive Mass Relay to bring about the Reapers return to the galaxy from darkspace. During the prior cycle, the dominant species of that era were the Protheans who had united all organic life in their empire to fight the threat posed by synthetics. Unknown to them, the Reapers had awakened and began their system of harvesting the advanced civilizations of this time with the Citadel falling to them. As the Citadel was the seat of government, the Prothean empire fell into disarray whereupon the Reapers engaged in a process of harvesting the races over the course of the century. During this time, Prothean scientists on the planet Ilos had engaged in research into Mass Relay technology with them succeeding in creating a miniature Mass Relay that they called the Conduit. This was independent from the Relay network which the scientists intended to use as a backdoor onto the Citadel and break the cycle of extinction. After the Reapers departed, the scientists used the Conduit to travel to the Citadel where they altered the programming of the Keepers that served as custodians to the station in order to prevent them from activating the signal to the Reapers in the next cycle. However, the scientists remained trapped on the Citadel with no way to return to Ilos as the Conduit was a one way entry with them slowly starving to death.
Around 2000 years ago, Salarian explorers opened a Mass Relay into a previously unknown system leading to an encounter with the Rachni who were a species of space-faring insects that were guided by a hive-minded intelligence. From this encounter, the insectoids studied the technology of the explorers and used it to create their own FTL technology and vessels whereupon they began a period of conquest resulting in the Rachni Wars.
In 2148 CE, Humanity discovered a cache of highly advanced Prothean technology located beneath the surface of Mars. From there, mankind discovered the science behind mass effect fields that led to the discovery of faster-than-light travel allowing for greater exploration of the solar system. Information from the cache pointed to a discovery on Pluto's moon of Charon leading to a mission launched there in 2149 CE. It was discovered that Charon was actually a Mass Relay that had been encased in ice and its activation led to a team of explorers led by Jon Grissom travelling to a relay in the Arcturus system. From there, the explorers learnt of the Mass Relay network that connected the various regions of the galaxy together.
In 2157, explorers of the Systems Alliance opened an inactive Mass Relay designated as Relay 314 that was forbidden under regulations by the Citadel Council. Turian forces at the scene rather than negotiate opened fired with a single human vessel surviving but managed to bring reinforcements who destroyed their attackers resulting in the start of the First Contact War.
In appearance, they consisted of two fifteen kilometer long curved metal arms that surrounded a set of revolving gyroscopic rings five-kilometers across. These rings contained a massive blue glowing core that consisted of element zero. The enormous structures were scattered throughout space in the Milky Way Galaxy where they created a system of corridors of virtually mass-free space that allowed for rapid transit locations that were normally took years to reach through FTL means. Primary Mass Relays propelled vessels across thousands of light-years that could range from one spiral arm to the next. However, they had fixed one-to-one connections with primary relays connecting to another primary relay. Secondary relays could send ships across a few hundred light years in any direction and to any relay within its limited range. The relays were constructed of an unknown material that was incredibly resilient and were protected by a quantum shield making them impervious to damage by locking their structure on a subatomic level. Such was their resilience that they could survive a supernova's wake without an damage. In addition, they were cold objects that emitted no heat or radiation that made them difficult to position should their location change.
The relays shielded themselves to preserve their integrity with this being done on a quantum level. They also maintained self-cleaning cycle though damage or dormancy can cause this cycle to break. These two factors made actual dating of the relays a difficult task.
Interstellar civilizations that used the relays were known to be unwilling to blindly open a passageway that might connect them to a hostile race.
- Alpha Relay : situated in Batarian space, it was believed to be the oldest known relay that resided near the star Bahak. It operated similar to other relays but had a secondary function in that if adjusted it could become powered by an unprecedented amount of dark energy which could send cargo to sixteen other relays and even across great distances.
- Charon Relay :
- Mu Relay :
- Omega 4 Relay :
- Relay 314 :
- Mass Relays were created by BioWare and featured in the setting of the Mass Effect universe.
- Mass Effect:
- Mass Effect II:
- Mass Effect III: