Commander Shepard first heard of the Conduit from audio files Tali retrieved from one of Saren Arterius' geth. After hearing how keenly Saren and Matriarch Benezia were hunting for it, believing it was the key to bringing back an ancient machine race called the Reapers, Captain Anderson assumed the Conduit was some sort of weapon. Liara T'Soni, an expert on the Protheans, had only heard bits and pieces about the Conduit that suggested it was linked to the Prothean extinction. The true nature of the Conduit remained a mystery.
Sovereign that would open the Citadel relay into dark space. However the Conduit's relay corridor only links in one direction, and the researchers were then trapped on the station, presumably, as Vigil sadly suggests, left to slowly starve to death.
However, the damaged VI on Ilos, Vigil, fills in the gaps. The Conduit is a miniature mass relay which the Prothean researchers on Ilos built as a prototype during their experiments into mass relay technology. It is essentially a 'back door' onto the Citadel, which is the hub of the relay network. It has no connection to the rest of the network, making it independent. The 'receiving' relay on the Citadel was mistaken for a piece of Prothean art, the Relay Monument, and was never removed by the Council. It was not completely innocuous - Garrus observes that the keepers never paid much attention to the statue, and Kaidan claims he can hear a low humming noise coming from the 'statue', which makes his teeth tingle - but otherwise the relay was seen as little more than a curiosity by the Citadel races.
Following Saren back to the Citadel, Shepard's team drove the Mako straight into the Conduit, dodging the Geth Colossi left on guard, and reached the relay seconds before it shut down, allowing them to reach the Citadel and launch their counter-attack.
Technically, the Conduit is not simply the miniature prototype relay found on Ilos, but also the Relay Monument itself. The Conduit and the Monument form both ends of a relay system, one relay to send and one to receive.
- As of 2185, the public has become aware of some of the details of the Conduit, as a Presidium Groundskeeper recommends that Shepard look at some demael flowers across from the Conduit on the Presidium.