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Monday, November 4, 2013

Today's Pointless Crossover: Mass Effect Kryptonians

About 10,000 years ago, a group of Prothean researchers abducted enough Paleolithic humans (a few thousand) to form a breeding population, and took them to the planet Krypton in the Rao (LHS 2520) red dwarf star system, far from a mass relay. From what ancient records left, it appears the Protheans were attempting to develop a breed of biotic super-soldier in the planet’s Element Zero-rich environment. This appears to have been a "black ops" initiative, perhaps carried out by a secret or rogue cabal, as the Prothean Empire appears entirely unaware of this.

The Protheans uplifted the humans and performed various genetic experiments to unlock human biotic potential. The researchers left the humans to their own devices for a few decades at a stretch, returning to Krypton periodically to record the humans’ progress, teach them new biotic techniques, make adjustments to implants, and (of course) mine valuable Element Zero.

When the Reapers appeared and began their harvest, the Prothean researchers were absent. While the Protheans and other species were wiped out, the human inhabitants of Krypton remained secret, records of their existence presumably lost in the ensuing genocide. The Kryptonians picked up where their Prothean masters left off, mastering and further developing Prothean technology and independently developing their biotic powers. And for the past ten millennia, the Kryptonians grew and evolved isolated from the rest of the galaxy. Curiously, the Kryptonians did not develop much in the way of space travel, instead developing technologies to tap their planet's interior for power. The Reapers somehow discovered Krypton during their most recent harvest. They bombarded the planet from orbit, targeting its massive subterranean power stations; as these power plants were embedded deep into Krypton's mantle, the attacks created a chain reaction that caused the planet to break up, utterly destroying it. Whether this was intentional on the part of the Reapers is unknown. Krypton's inhabitants were killed, save those able to escape in spacecraft and to evade the Reapers' beam weapons. Cut off as they were from galactic society, no one knew of Krypton's existence or demise, until ships stumbled upon Kryptonian ships some months after Shephard stopped the Reapers. Now Kryptonian refugees cautiously enter into the galactic community, trying to find purpose and start new lives in the wake of their people's near-genocide.

Kryptonians are technically human, genetically, but with significant differences due to the Protheans' manipulations and divergent evolution. Kryptonians appear human in most respects, though by and large they tend to be more muscular and have more prominent bone structures. However, the high concentration of Element Zero on Krypton, the planet's high gravity (28% greater than earth standard gravity), and the radiation from the red star Kryptonian have caused the Kryptonians to evolve unique adaptations. Kryptonians are all natural biotics, similar to the asari. They are also are stronger and more durable than other humans, with denser muscles and bones; comparatively, they are just short of a krogan in muscle power and ability to withstand trauma. Further, the Protheans' uplifting and genetic modifications further muddy the distinction between Kryptonians being a human subrace and an entirely new species. Culturally, the Kryptonians are more Prothean than human, speaking and writing a Prothean dialect and using technologies adapted from that left by their ancient keepers. They have little in common with their human cousins aside from appearance. It is unknown whether it is possible for Kryptonians to reproduce with standard humans.

All Kryptonians are natural biotics, and they tend to develop a set of common powers. Most is the fact Kryptonians are in a sense "solar powered," able to draw energy from solar radiation to quickly consume and produce blood sugars and recharge their biotics "batteries." They benefit more from the radiation produced by younger stars, in effect becoming stronger in the rays of yellow and blue stars than red stars like Rao. Many Kryptonians can reduce their body mass, and combined with telekinesis this allows flight; this ability is so commonplace that most Kryptonians are expert fliers, able to attain impressive speeds and perform aerial maneuvers like banking and hovering. Those trained to fight can enhance their physical strikes with explosive biotic blasts, allowing them to punch through barriers, shields, and physical objects such as thick walls. Kryptonians also commonly enclose objects in their personal mass effect envelopes, allowing them to lift items far beyond their already impressive normal capabilities. Also popular are personal barriers capable of soaking massive amounts of damage. Other feats include heating objects with molecular agitation, and slowing molecules to near absolute zero.

Kryptonian technology is incredibly advanced, though little of it survived Krypton's destruction -- generally, the only items that exist are the ones refugees were able to carry with them as they fled their doomed planet. Existing items include extremely resilient body suits composed of thin, flexible sheets of polymers and carbon nanotubes; cybernetic eyes with high-energy scanning capabilities (allowing perception of x-rays and gamma); bionic ears able to detect a wide range of sounds and even pick up radio waves; and biotic implants superior anything on the galactic market. Already, various corporations and groups are exploring how to reverse-engineer and duplicate Kryptonian tech. Among them is Cerberus, the shadowy human supremacist society reviled for its role in the Reaper invasion. Others are lobbying for the right to mine the field of Krypton's rubble for eezo.

While very powerful individually, the Kryptonians are political non-entities. The Alliance Council considers them aliens, not humans, and is still trying to determine just how to deal with them. And while beyond normal human capabilities physically, Kryptonians are notably weak against kryptonite -- a naturally-occurring and extremely radioactive polonium-eezoo alloy apparently unique to their planet, and existing in trace amounts in the dead planet's rubble. While the radiation from kryptonite is deleterious to any organism in the long term, exposure is immediately and dramatically harmful to Kryptonians. It interferes with Kryptonian biotic powers, effectively shutting them down. In addition, kryptonite greatly weakens Kryptonians, and even minutes of exposure can be fatal. (One might wonder whether the Protheans built this pronounced weakness into the Kryptonians, as a means to control their would-be slaves.)