In The Shadows of Eden
The term biotics refers to the ability for some lifeforms to create mass effect fields using Element Zero nodules embedded in body tissues. These powers are accessed and augmented by using bio-amps. Biotic individuals can knock enemies over from a distance, lift them into the air, generate gravitational vortices to tear obstacles or enemies apart, or create protective barriers.
All asari are naturally biotic from birth (see below), though not all choose to develop their abilities. Biotics of other species are individuals who were exposed to dust-form element zero (“eezo”) in utero and subsequently developed eezo nodules throughout their bodies. These nodules can generate mass effect fields when energized by electrical impulses from the nervous system.
Eezo exposure is by no means guaranteed to result in biotic ability. On the contrary, most fetuses that are exposed are not affected at all. Others will develop brain tumors or other horrific physical complications. In humans, only about one in ten eezo-exposed infants will develop biotic talents strong and stable enough to merit training, and these abilities are not always permanent. In extremely rare cases, humans who were exposed in utero but did not manifest biotic talents as children can develop them during young adulthood through additional exposure.
Once a person has been identified as having biotic ability, they may be outfitted with a surgically implanted amplifier, usually installed around the time of puberty, in order to make their talents strong enough to be useful. Some races have experimented with biotic drugs to stimulate power instead, such as Red Sand. They must then develop conscious control over their nervous system, which is a long, slow, difficult ordeal (except for the asari, who possess a degree of control naturally). Biofeedback therapy is commonly used to aid in this process. Once trained, a biotic can generate and control dark energy to move objects, generate protective barriers, or restrain enemies. Biotic abilities are activated using a technique called “physical mnemonics”, in which the biotic uses a physical gesture to cause neurons to fire in a certain sequence, sending an electrical charge through their eezo nodules and creating the desired effect. A biotic may enhance certain aspects of his or her biotic abilities by installing implant upgrades called bio-amps.
Biotic abilities fall into three general categories: Telekinesis, the use of mass-lowering fields to lift or hurl objects; Kinetic Fields, mass-raising fields to immobilize objects (in combat, usually enemy projectiles or enemies themselves); and Spatial Distortion, the creation of shifting mass-effect fields which rip apart any objects caught within them.
After a series of starship accidents in the 2150s which dispersed element zero over populated areas, the first human biotics were born, though their abilities were not recognized right away. By the time these children were teenagers, the Alliance had made contact with the Citadel and learned of the effects of in-utero eezo exposure. A company called Conatix Industries was founded to track down exposed individuals and develop implants for humans. There are rumours that, after the link between eezo and biotics was discovered, some human colonies were deliberately exposed to dust-form element zero to create more biotic children.
In 2160, Conatix established the BAaT (Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training) programme on Jump Zero to train its first generation of biotics. Since the Alliance knew very little about this process, it covertly hired turian mercenaries as instructors, but when one of these instructors, Commander Vyrnnus, was killed in an altercation with a student, BAaT was shut down. Records pertaining to the program still remain classified. The Alliance has had considerably greater success with later training projects. Human biotics currently have some oversight from the Alliance Parliamentary Subcommittee for Transhuman Studies.
Most modern human biotics use the Alliance’s L3 implant, which are not particularly powerful but are safe to use. However, some older biotics are stuck with L2 implants, which allow abilities to spike higher—Kaidan Alenko’s abilities are reportedly comparable to an asari’s—but at a significant cost. L2 implants are notorious for causing severe medical complications such as insanity, mental disability, and crippling pain. It is possible to “upgrade” from an L2 to an L3 implant, but the procedure is rarely performed because it carries a very high risk of brain damage. Many L2s feel the Alliance has not provided them with sufficient medical or financial support and want reparations for their suffering. In some cases, extreme physical or psychological stress can cause even normally stable L2s to experience similar health problems.
Human biotics face widespread prejudice and distrust from the rest of their species, mostly due to misconceptions about their abilities (some people wrongly believe that they can read or control minds). Certain religious and ideological organizations are also opposed to the concept of biotic modification. Some biotics have been known to abuse their abilities – using them to cheat at roulette, for example, or to pull people’s chairs out from beneath them. There have been a few reports of individuals like these being attacked by frightened mobs, and sometimes even killed.
The Alliance military, on the other hand, welcomes biotics with open arms and provides them with massive enlistment incentives. They are now frequently found in the front lines of many ground-based combat units. Because of the massive physical effort required to biologically generate dark energy, biotic soldiers are assigned a large daily calorie ration (4,500 calories per day, compared with the standard soldier’s allotment of 3,000) and provided with energy drinks to help them maintain their blood sugar and electrolyte levels. The electrical fields in their bodies mean they are also prone to small static discharges when they touch metal.
All biotics seeking to wield their abilities on a usable level are fitted with an electronic brain implant during puberty. Once the implant is installed, it can only be replaced or altered through extremely dangerous brain surgery, so most individuals keep the same implant their entire lives. Biotics are classed according to their implant model and the strength of their ability:
- L1 – These biotics can manipulate small objects, but their abilities are not strong enough to be offensively viable, because the L1s were implanted after puberty.
- L2 – The L2 implants were first implemented in 2167. The results vary wildly – some L2s are hardly stronger than an L1, others are strong but unstable, while a few are powerful and stable enough for combat, though they usually suffer some discomfort from their implants. L2s are all around the same age.
- L3 – In 2170, the L3 implant was developed. L3 biotics are consistently stable with moderate ability; while their upper limit is less than an L2, L3s are safe from dangerous side effects. Because of the implementation date, most L3s are 25 or younger. Some are older, having been implanted later in life.
- L3-R – Short for ‘L3-retrofit’, this is an L1 or L2 who has undergone extremely dangerous brain surgery to replace their implant with a newer model.
- L3-X – Implants installed in an unsuitable candidate.
- L4 – A new implant used on the children in the Ascension Project; these implants use biotic amplifiers with built-in VI interfaces to enable external monitoring and enhance the user’s abilities. L4 implants give a 10-15% increase in power over L3s in 90% of subjects with no currently known side effects.
- L5x – In Mass Effect 2, Adepts are outfitted with L5x implants.
- L5n – In Mass Effect 2, Vanguards are outfitted with L5n implants.
Biotic abilities are of varying rarity and status in other species:
- All asari are naturally biotic to some degree, and though not all choose to develop their abilities, those who do pursue training usually display formidable ability. They do not require implants to use biotics effectively, nor do they need to undergo special training to acquire conscious neural control; their reproductive physiology grants them this ability from birth. Biotic ability is mandatory for asari who want to go into military service. The most powerful train as asari commandos.
- Salarian biotics are unusual and highly prized. The salarian military does not risk them in the front lines but instead uses them in intelligence services.
- Turian biotics are also uncommon, and generally not much more powerful than a human L3. They are viewed with suspicion by the general turian infantry and tend to be relegated to special units called “Cabals”, which are employed for key missions.
- The few krogan biotics are extremely powerful and often train to become krogan battlemasters like Skarr or Wrex. Before the genophage, biotic krogan who enlisted in the military would rise quickly through the ranks; the other soldiers were in fear and awe of them, so their superiors recognized they would command great respect as officers and promoted them. The krogan developed a surgical procedure that was able to confer biotic ability, but the operation had a high mortality rate, so it was discontinued following the release of the genophage.
- According to Tali, quarian biotics are very rare. It is speculated that this is due to their life aboard the Migrant Fleet. Element zero is such a rare resource that it is probably too precious to be ‘spent’ on encouraging biotic potential in quarians, and because the quarians live aboard ships, any engine accident severe enough to release dust-form element zero would also be fatal to the crew.
- All Collectors have a latent biotic potential which is activated if the Collector General takes control of their body and mind, transforming them into powerful and dangerous opponents.
- Rachni Brood Warriors appear to have some biotic abilities.
- Bring Down the Sky features batarian biotics who are trained as shock troopers.
- The drell Thane is a biotic. How frequently biotic abilities manifest among drell is not known.
- To date, there has been no mention of the biotic abilities of the hanar, elcor, raloi, volus, vorcha, or yahg or what role (if any) biotics play in their respective societies.