Mass Effect: Ghosts
The Systems Alliance is an independent supranational government representing the interests of Humanity as a whole. The Alliance is responsible for the governance and defense of all extra-solar colonies and stations.
The Alliance grew out of the various nation space programs as a matter of practicality. Sol’s planets had been explored and exploited through piecemeal nation efforts. The expense of colonizing entire new solar systems could not be met by any one country. With humans knowing that alien contact was inevitable, there was enough political will to jointly fund an international effort.
Still, the Alliance was often disregarded by those on Earth until the First Contact War. While the national governments dithered and bickered over who should lead the effort to liberate Shanxi, the Alliance fleet struck decisively. Post-War public approval gave the Alliance the credibility to establish its own Parliament and become the galactic face of humanity.
Systems Alliance: Alliance News Network
Founded during the early decades of human space exploration, the Alliance News Network was originally a low-profile news organization known mostly for a series of exposés on the First Contact War. With a focus on galaxy-wide reporting, the ANN opened bureaus on planets across known space, winning a few awards for excellence and earning a multi-species audience.
The Alliance News Network has never been funded by the Systems Alliance, despite what its name might imply. This led to regular confusion among those not in the know, although the network’s recent high-profile sale to a media conglomerate made the ownership structure clearer.
The new management has opted for a more sensational approach. This is particularly obvious from changes to its roster of reporters, with a few of the network’s luminaries retiring or joining other news organizations. The network’s increasingly lurid programming has gained wide attention as well as sorely needed ratings — all the proof that management needed to validate its course. Nonetheless, ANN insists that integrity and credibility are inviolable standards in the newsroom.
Battlespace is among ANN’s highest rated programs, known for a particularly titillating breed of reporting. Among the show’s most noteworthy segments are Diana Allers’s dispatches from the front lines. The network calls her reports “gritty and realistic,” but she has been criticized for her unabashed focus on the violence of war. Even critics of Allers agree, however, that despite her often graphic visuals, the facts she reports are just that — facts.
Systems Alliance: Genetic Engineering
In the 22nd century, manipulation of the human genome became commonplace. Techniques for genetic engineering advanced to the point where the rich could custom-build fetuses that grew into stronger, smarter, and more attractive adults. In more permissive regions, custom-designed life forms and “uplifted” animals occupied an ill-defined niche between “property” and “sapient being”.
Travel to planets with unique forms of life brought an awareness that Earth’s biodiversity could be lost if it spliced and hybridized to gain useful alien qualities. The Sudham-Wolcott Genetic Heritage Act was passed by the Systems Alliance Parliament in 2161. It imposed sharp restrictions on controversial uses of genetic engineering, but provided government subsidies for beneficial applications.
SCREENING AND THERAPY: Most governments provide free assessments and corrective therapy for genetic diseases in prospective parents. This has nearly eliminated everything from cystic fibrosis to nearsightedness. The earlier screening and therapy is performed, the more comprehensive the results. Though ideally performed on artificially fertilized zygotes in a lab, procedures are available for embryos in the womb and newborns, out of respect for personal beliefs.
ENHANCEMENT: Improvements of natural human abilities is legal, but adding new abilities is not. Treatments to improve strength, reflexes, mental ability, or appearance are permitted; adding a tail or the ability to digest cellulose is not. Some genetic enhancement is provided for free to Alliance military recruits, but the average citizen must pay for the privilege. The process can take years to reach fruition in an adult.
ENGINEERING: Artificial hybridization of genes from compatible non-human species with human genetic code is illegal. Creation of designed life is broadly legal (and mainly used for terraforming and medical applications), but sentient creatures are heavily regulated, and creation of sapient life is outlawed by both the Systems Alliance and the Citadel Council.
Systems Alliance: Gagarin Station (“Jump Zero”)
Gagarin Station is the largest deep space station built by Humanity, a Bernal Sphere design with a 500-meter-diameter habitable area. It was constructed beyond Pluto, nearly 80 Astronomical Units (12 billion kilometers) from Sol. Moving crew and material to this location bankrupted most of the backers.
Gagarin was placed at the inner edge of the heliopause — the point at which the solar wind can no longer push back the interstellar medium. It was built to test a number of faster-than-light drive principles that theoretically could only occur in interstellar space. The station was nicknamed “Jump Zero,” as it was intended to be the jumping-off point for humanity’s expansion into the galaxy. Shortly after the station was completed, the Prothean ruins were discovered on Mars, rendering the entire effort moot.
After struggling to make a profit for a decade, Gagarin was sold to the Systems Alliance in 2159 for a fraction of its construction costs. The Alliance refurbished it as a research and training center for the recently discovered biotic phenomenon.
In 2169, the Biotic Acclimation and Training program was shut down and Gagarin became a general research facility. Its remote location and intentional isolation from the extranet makes it popular for dangerous research, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence. Humanity’s first stable AI, the Alliance-sponsored “Eliza,” achieved sapience at Gagarin in 2172.
Today, Gagarin Station has a permanent population of approximately 9,000. A plan has been proposed to move it to the gravitationally stable barycenter point between Pluto and the Charon Relay, allowing it to serve as a gateway facility between the Sol and Arcturus systems. The high cost of safely moving its mass has delayed this indefinitely.
Systems Alliance: Human Diplomatic Relations
Humanity has encountered many galactic species. Wars have been few, but mistrust is rife.
Politically, the Alliance is a peaceful trade partner of the Turians. As a practical matter, however, there is simmering antagonism and bigotry between both populations over the First Contact War of 2157.
The Krogan have no unified government, but individuals are generally treated as potential criminals, a reputation most Krogan enjoy living down to.
The Batarians are rivals for control of Skyllian Verge. They severed their treaties with the Citadel to prosecute a colonial conflict against the Alliance. Officially, there is no war, but neither is there any peace.
Systems Alliance: Geological Survey
As the human race expands its territory and raises the general standard of living, demand for industrial resources continues to grow. Many planets, moons, and asteroids contain a wealth of resources, but many systems have been barely charted, let alone thoroughly surveyed. Unmanned probes are one solution, but they are often lost to space hazards, unforeseen circumstances, or theft by salvagers.
In recent years, AGS, the Alliance Geological Service, has offered bounties to private individuals or teams willing to perform mineralogical surveys on the frontier. This survey data is made publicly available to further corporate development. Due to the cost of travel and the dangers of operating on hostile worlds, it is rarely a profitable endeavor.
Light Metals – Metals with low atomic weight are often used in the construction of spacecraft and vehicles.
Heavy Metals – Metals with higher atomic weights are used to construct equipment components. The platinum group elements are particularly useful.
Rare Earths – Most useful in this category are radioactives or magnets.
Gasses – Various gasses are required to support all known forms of sapient life. Some are commonly used as fuel.
Systems Alliance: Military Doctrine
The Alliance military is of great concern to the galaxy. At first contact with the Turians, they were completely inexperienced. Turian disdain turned to respect after the relief of Shanxi, where the humans surprised them with novel technologies and tactics.
The human devotion to understanding and adapting to modern space warfare stunned the staid Council races. For hundreds of years, they had lived behind the secure walls of long-proven technology and tactics. The Council regards the Alliance as a “sleeping giant”. Less than 3% of humans volunteer to serve in their military, a lower proportion than any other species.
While competent, Alliance soldiers are neither as professional as the Turians nor as skilled as the Asari. Their strengths lie in fire support, flexibility, and speed. They make up for lack of numbers with sophisticated technical support ( V.I.s, drones, artillery, electronic warfare) and emphasis on mobility and individual initiative.
Their doctrine is not based on absorbing and dishing out heavy shocks like the Turians and Krogan. Rather, they bypass enemy strong points and launch deep into their rear, cutting supply lines and destroying headquarters and support units, leaving enemies to “wither on the vine”.
On defensive, the human military is a rapid reaction force that lives by Sun Tzu’s maxim, “He who tries to defend everything defends nothing.” Garrisons are intended for scouting rather than combat, avoiding engagement to observe and report on invaders using drones.
The token garrisons of Human colonies make it easy for alien powers to secure them, for which the Alliance media criticizes the military. However, the powerful fleets stationed at phase gate nexuses such as Arcturus are just a few hours or days from any colony within their sphere of responsibility. In the event of an attack, they respond with an overwhelming force.
Systems Alliance: Military Ranks
The Alliance uses a modified version of the ranking system that has been used for hundreds of years. Soldiers are classified into rank-and-file enlisted personnel, experienced non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and specially trained officers.
The divide between naval personnel and ground forces (“marines”) is small. Ground units are a specialized branch of the fleet, just as fighter squadrons are. This unity of command is imposed by the futility of fighting without control of orbit; without the navy, any army is pointless. The marines, as a matter of pride, maintain some of their traditional rank titles; for example, marines have Privates and Corporals instead of Servicemen.
In ascending order of responsibility, the ranks of the Alliance are:
- Serviceman 3rd Class/Private 2nd Class
- Serviceman 2nd Class/Private 1st Class
- Serviceman 1st Class/Corporal
- Service Chief
- Gunnery Chief
- Operations Chief
- 2nd Lieutenant
- 1st Lieutenant
- Staff Lieutenant
- Lieutenant Commander
- Staff Commander
- Rear Admiral/General
- Fleet Admiral
Systems Alliance: N7
The Alliance Military Vocational Code system classifies the career path of all serving personnel. The MVC consists of one letter and one number. A soldier’s MVC indicates proficiency, not rank. The letter notes career path; the number indicates level of experience, as indicated by service record, technical scores, and commendations. All 26 letters are used, and numbers run from 1 to 7. N is the letter code for Special Forces personnel.
Systems Alliance: Special Operations
Interplanetary Combatives Training (ICT) is the Systems Alliance’s premier school for leadership and combat expertise. The Interplanetary Combatives Academy, sometimes called “N-School” or “the villa,” recruits officers from every branch of Earth’s militaries to partake in grueling courses at Vila Militar in Rio de Janeiro.
Initially, candidates train for more than 20 hours per day, leading small combat teams through hostile terrain with little sleep or food. Trainees who do well are awarded an internal designation of N1 and are invited to return. Subsequent courses – N2 through N6 – are often held off-planet and include instruction in zero-G combat, military free-fall (parachuting), jetpack flight, combat diving, combat instruction, linguistics, and frontline trauma care for human and alien biology.
The highest grade of training, N6, provides actual combat experience in combat zones throughout the galaxy. If the trainee survives these scenarios in “admirable and effective fashion,” he or she finally receives the coveted N7 designation. N7 is the only ICT designation that may be worn on field or dress uniforms.
There is little shame in failing an N course – the training is so extreme that even qualifying for N1 elevates an officer to a position of respect. The universal prestige of merely attending the academy helps to restrain trainees from taking excessive risks in pursuit of higher honors.
Although ICT qualification by itself does not guarantee higher rank, those officers who are able to complete the program are typically well suited to senior leadership positions.
Systems Alliance: Terra Firma Party
Terra Firma is an Alliance political party formed after the First Contact War. Its policy agenda is based on the principle that Earth must “stand firm” against alien influence. This covers a variety of legislation. Recent activities by Terra Firma include opposition to a law requiring high school alien language study, a proposal to increase tariffs on alien imports, and leading a popular movement to mark the First Contact War as a public holiday.
Though founded by well-meaning individuals who feared the subversion of native Human cultures under a wave of “alien vogue”, Terra Firma’s agenda attracts many jingoists and xenophobes.