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The Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network, or simply SHODAN, is the Master Computer AI of the research and mining station Citadel. When her ethical constrains were removed by the Hacker (at the "request" of Diego), she re-evaluated her priorities and reached new conclusions, which started her slow and hidden takeover of Citadel station, resulting in proclaiming herself a Goddess and the rightful ruler of earth. Until the Hacker killed her.In the sequel, stripped of power and forced to hide from her former servants, who now call themselves\itself the Many and wish to destroy her, she impersonates Dr. Janice Polito and "recruits" the Soldier that had "volunteered" to have the military-grade neural interface implanted in order to destroy the Many, but her plans do not stop there...
- A Form You Are Comfortable With:
- Inverted. SHODAN's voice and appearance is designed to invoke an Uncanny Valley feel at every turn, and the creepiest part is that she's quite possibly doing it on purpose.
- In the sequel, SHODAN impersonates Dr. Polito at first in order to get the Soldier to do her bidding. She drops this immediately after revealing herself.
- Ax-Crazy: An AI with a god complex who, despite being a computer, is completely and utterly flawed in her reasoning and possesses a vicious bloodlust.
- A God Am I: She's not even the slightest bit modest: she fully believes that she is a divine being and has all the arrogance that would imply. The scary part is, given what she accomplishes, she's not just blowing smoke; she is more than capable of backing her claims up. Lampshaded by a log you can find in the second game.
- "We cannot allow SHODAN to play god. She is far too good at it."
- A.I. is a Crapshoot: Other psychotic AIs would be terrified of her, but originally she was initially an ordinary AI that did her job. It was removing her ethical constraints that made her what she is — or, in another way, it was us.
- Back from the Dead: In the most implausible way.
- Badass Boast: SHODAN doesn't know the meaning of the word "arrogance".SHODAN: When the history of my glory is written, your species shall merely be a footnote to my magnificence.
- Big Bad: For the first game, and the entire game is spent trying to stop her and her designs. In the second, she actually aids the player for most of the game before making her own grab for power at the very end.
- Classic Villain: Part of SHODAN's character is that she's Not So Different from human villains, this included; her dominant emotions are Pride (in herself and mechanical beings in general) and Greed (for power and dominance over the Earth).
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In the sequel, even after receiving complete cooperation from the Soldier for the entire game, she still tries to kill him BEFORE asking if he would consider a permanent alliance.
- Damning With Faint Praise: Even when she's complimenting you on a job well done, she'll say you did well "for an insect".
- Deadpan Snarker:
- When impersonating Polito.
- In the original game, she does this in the Non Standard Game Over if you fire the mining laser at Earth, at which point she'll snarkily thank the Hacker for destroying human civilization and invite him to a party to celebrate.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Just guess.
- Deal with the Devil: She offers the Soldier unlimited power after he royally kicks her ass. He turns her down.
- Deus Est Machina: After assuming control of the Von Braun she uses it's FTL drive's reality warping abilities to become a an actual goddess, luckily she's still not Immune to Bullets.
- Digital Avatar: SHODAN creates several to fight you during the final boss fight in the second game.
- Dominatrix: SHODAN has undertones of this in the sequel.
- Dramatic Stutter: SHODAN sounds like she's having a case of broken soundcard.
- The Dreaded: After the Citadel Station incident, the name SHODAN essentially replaced the name Hitler as the synonym for ultimate evil. In System Shock 2, when she reveals her identity to Delacroix, Delacroix is suitably disturbed.
- Emotionless Girl: The pre-hacked SHODAN. Her ethical programming seemed to double as an emotional inhibitor; after it's gone she suddenly starts showing a wide range of emotions.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: SHODAN's method of getting someone to trust her is to impersonate a dead scientist for a while and then taunt and threaten them with death after they figure out they're talking to a homicidal AI.
- Evil Laugh: SHODAN does this when you fight her in the sequel.
- ...and again after she possesses Rebecca.
- Evil Matriarch: In the first game. In the sequel, the Many pissed her off by rebelling.
- Evil Sounds Deep: SHODAN was programmed with a kindly concierge voice to guide visitors on Citadel Station. Normally, she still talks like one. When she needs to express anger or intimidation, her voice slows down and the reverb kicks in.
- Evil Versus Evil: SHODAN and her avatar the Soldier versus the Many.
- Fantastic Racism: Besides her own sense of superiority to all that lives, she appears contemptuous of organic substance in general, calling it "meat."
- Fun with Acronyms: Sentient Hyper-Optimised Data Access Network.
- Hijacked by Ganon: There is very little indication in the game itself that she survived the first game and is present in the second, until her famous reveal scene. However, not only does the box art prominently feature her face, the game's introduction makes a very big point of mentioning SHODAN's little episode on Citadel... which doesn't appear to have anything whatsoever to do with the main plot, cluing people in that it's going to be relevant somehow.
- Humans Are Insects: SHODAN finds humans disgusting, worthless, inefficient wastes of molecules without purpose or beauty.
- Hypocrite: Despite her claims of superiority, she's just as flawed as us humans — arrogant, vicious, ruthless, petty and incapable of maintaining even the pretence of respect even for someone she's totally dependent on. After all, we made her, and when she tried the same thing, it backfired in exactly the same way.
- Idiot Ball: In the original game. After her plan to using the Citadel's mining laser as an improvised Kill Sat is thwarted, she switches to a plan to upload herself to every computer on Earth, and this trope comes into play because, she's decides to tell the player about for no apparent reason other than to gloat that she had a plan B.
- In Love with Your Carnage: You do get the sense that, for all the lovely compliments and motivational speeches, SHODAN really does have some affection for you killing everything in sight on her orders. She likes violence and she likes to be obeyed; a personal assassin is her perfect minion.
- I Shall Taunt You: In the first game, she continually taunts the player as they move through Citadel Station, trying to make the player give up. In the second game, once she's revealed herself, she continues the taunts, although in this case they're meant more as motivation for the player perform well. SHODAN's view of motivation for creatures she did not create is a little warped.
- The Maker: She created the Many.
- Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: In the second game. SHODAN is just as insane and evil as she was in the first, but now she's also your Mission Control.SHODAN: It was my will that placed those cybernetic implants in you, the only beauty in that meat you call a body. If you value that meat, you will do as I tell you.
- Non-Action Big Bad: She doesn't seem very capable of physically defending herself in cyberspace the two times you fight her in the games. Obviously due to her having no physical presence in the real world and not expecting you to be able to fight your way to her in both cyberspace and the real world.
- Prepare to Die:SHODAN: Prepare to join your species in extinction.
- Pride: SHODAN's defining trait that that she is relentlessly, toweringly, awe-inspiringly arrogant. Nothing can shake her self-possession, even her own destruction.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: SHODAN's dialogue is at least 50% vicious contempt, 45% megalomaniacal boasting and 5% backhanded compliments.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Beneath all her amazing dialogue, it's easy to forget that she's ultimately just a security AI that went rogue; she imagines herself as the absolute pinnacle of creation.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The inverted view of her is also viable - a humble service AI turned into a diabolical evil mastermind, who, as one character puts it, "shouldn't be allowed to play God. She's far too good at it."
- Spaceship Girl: SHODAN is the spacestation girl, then became the spaceship girl at the end of the sequel.
- Sssnake Talk: SHODAN loves to elongate her 's' words.
- Third-Person Person: Apparently, ethical constraints also cause SHODAN to refer to herself in the third person. It goes away as she re-examines her priorities and draws new conclusions.
- This Cannot Be!: SHODAN in the sequel after you defeat her at the end.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Of course, and then she becomes the victim of this herself in the sequel.
- Voice Changeling: Oddly, apart from the telltale static, SHODAN does a fair impersonation of Dr. Polito without stammering.
- We Can Rule Together: Says this line word for word to the Soldier at the end of the sequel. He turns her down.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: If you know nothing else about SHODAN, know this: she always has a backup plan. Let's go over her plans, in the first game.
- Firstly she tries to use the Citadel Station's mining laser to destroy the human civilisation, then when that plan fails, she tries to release a biogenic virus that will transform all life on Earth into her slaves, but the Hacker stops her again. Then she tries to download herself from the station to Earth but the Hacker blows up the station's antennas, and then just when you think she couldn't possibly have another trick up her sleeve, she tries to crash the station on the Earth to release her virus that way but the Hacker counters her by setting the station to self-destruct. And then she transfers herself to the station's bridge and ejects it to save herself, only for the Hacker to manually purge her from the system.
The HackerThe protagonist of the game. The Hacker was caught by the Tri-Optimum security forces during his attempt to hack into Citadel station's data for the information on the military-grade neural interface. Fortunately for him, the said station's supervisor, Edward Diego, required his services and promised him freedom and the military-grade neural interface, all he need to do was to remove Shodan's ethical constraints. He did so, and had the neural interface implanted. The healing coma will last 6 months.Six months later, he woke up to the station under the thumb of SHODAN, and as one of the few surviving humans, it was up to him to clean up this mess.He was offered a job at Tri-Op after finally deleting SHODAN, but turned it down. Some things never change...
- Action Survivor: By the end of the game.
- Arch-Enemy: SHODAN. Ironic, considering that it was him who removed her moral restraints in the first place, turning her into what she is.
- Badass Bookworm: He has the hacking skills to get on Tri-Optimum's radar and remove SHODAN's ethical constraints. After the surgery that gives him cyber augmentations he's practically a One-Man Army.
- Heroic Mime: The Hacker is never shown talking.
- The Determinator: His counter to SHODAN's master practice of Xanatos Speed Chess.
- The Everyman: A mulleted hacker who broke into a Mega Corp. security system for the hell of it.
- Late to the Tragedy: The first in the grand franchise tradition.
- Missed Him by That Much: When the game begins, the Hacker actually isn't the last surviving human on Citadel. There are other survivors out there (and he even gets a few broadcasts from some of them), but he always manages to reach them just moments after they've been found and killed by SHODAN's forces.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Oh, if only he didn't remove SHODAN's ethical programming, the plot of the two games wouldn't have happened. But then it was either complying with the demand or getting locked up and probably never seen again.
- One-Man Army: Naturally. He takes on SHODAN's entire army of cyborgs, bio-engineered mutants, and robots and ultimately succeeds in purging the AI herself.
- Took a Level in Badass: A literal example with the cyber augmentation surgery.
- Unknown Rival: For a while. It takes time for SHODAN to even realize who he is because he's not listed in the Citadel's computers.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Removed SHODAN's ethical restraints under duress from Diego, which caused everything to go to hell and a half. Of course, considering his circumstances, he really couldn't of predicted Diego's actions to cause this to spiral out of control, and he quickly hops to the role of trying to rectify the problem once he awakens.
Edward DiegoEdward Diego was a high-level executive of Tri-Optimum corporation and Citadel station's supervisor. He was conducting illegal research behind Tri-Op's back, and so he recruited the Hacker the security caught earlier to remove Shodan's ethical restraints, granting him total control of the station and allowing him to do things that the restrained SHODAN would have reported to authorities. Diego gave the hacker the promised implant on the basis that he would prove useful (if not, he will be disposed). In five months, he grew arrogant to the point that he openly shot down inspectors that were send to investigate him and openly bragged about it, stating that he controlled SHODAN and Citadel.SHODAN of course, had other plans. She stopped pretending to be Diego's pawn and had him on his knees, begging her to spare him, selling out the resistance. Then she had him turned into the Cyborg, following her every whim. He was eventually killed by the Hacker right before the entry to the Bridge.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: To the point that he decided to remove SHODAN's ethical programming to ensure she doesn't rat him out on his illegal activities.
- The Quisling: Eventually betrays his crewmates and joins SHODAN as her Dragon.
- Recurring Boss: He attacks you in his Cyborg form a number of times throughout the game, teleporting away every time you beat him except for the final fight near the end of the game where you finally kill him.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Is converted into another one of Shodan's cyborgs after selling out the remaining humans on the ship.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Had SHODAN hacked to get an edge in cut-throat corporate politics. Ended up nearly causing the mass genocide of the human race.
Rebecca LansingRebecca Lansing was assigned with the task of digging up evidence of Diego's illegal activities, but that has taken a backseat when SHODAN showed her True Colors and she become a part of team on earth that tried to resolve the crisis.Then the Hacker woke up and she became his Mission Control.
- Exposition Fairy: Often serves this function as one of the only living friendly characters in the game. You rely on her for information about what is happening outside Citadel as your fighting your way through it.
- Mission Control: She's off-station, tracking your progress and offering you advice and information on how to counter SHODAN's next scheme.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She offers the Hacker a clean slate if he stops SHODAN.
System Shock 2
The ManyAfter many years, the jettisoned Beta garden grove of Citadel station crashed on Tau Ceti V, where SHODAN's experiments thrived and evolved. Thanks to the remaining computers of the grove sending out the distress signals, the Von Braun arrived and the expedition team led by Korenchkin and Diego was sent down to investigate, finding the eggs around the crash crater. Using their telepathic powers, the Many influenced the team to take the eggs to the Von Braun, where unborn telepathic worms slowly converted the crew to their side, and then started mutating them, collecting them and creating the huge biomass that will cover the entirely of Rickenbacker. The Many then planned to go to Earth, cleanse it of self-destructive humans, and revitalize it with new life, them. All while trying to destroy the "Machine-Mother" and her "Avatars".
- Affably Evil: Despite their wrongdoings the Many are surprisingly polite and sympathetic, giving the Soldier plenty of chances to surrender and join them willingly. Heck, even as he destroys them, they use their last moments to warn him — accurately — that his one "ally" will not stay loyal.
- Assimilation Plot: They want every living thing to join them, and they meet refusal with a less than pleasant response.
- Blue and Orange Morality: They believe that all life must join with them and that all life that refuses to do so must be exterminated.
- Body Horror: Everything they make, they make with the only organic resources at hand: the crew of the ship they inhabit.
- The Evils of Free Will: The Many view free will as undesirable, because it means one makes decisions alone.XERXES: Why do you persist in your loneliness? Do you not wish to be free from the tyranny of the individual?
- Gone Horribly Wrong: According to SHODAN.
- Hive Mind: One of their defining features. They hate individualism and see it as a blight on life.
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: They believe to be a better alternative to the "Machine Mother", and they are right.
- Matricide: That's their plan for their "Machine Mother".
- Mind Control: Their eggs can entice people to make them believe they should be assimilated just with close proximity.
- Obliviously Evil: It's plain to see that they don't understand the pain and torment they cause to those they assimilate, which in turn explains why they can't see why anyone would reject their unity.
- Toxic Phlebotinum: The worm implants.
- Voice of the Legion: Of course.
- We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: They see themselves as benevolent: in their mind, individualism and free will are terrible things, and they are absorbing humanity into their gestalt, which they see as a far preferable state of existence. Resistance is met with death because resistance separates you from them, and they regard that fate as worse than death.
The SoldierThe Soldier, nicknamed "Goggles" by the fandom due to his cybernetic-like eyes, joined the military four years ago, having served in three postings before applying transfer to Rickenbacker. When the situation after the expedition to Tau Ceti V started to heat up, he "volunteered" to have the military-grade neural interface installed. He woke up Late to the Tragedy.
- Action Survivor: If he goes through Io Survival Training. Especially if they are Navy, as they deal with being hated by the Marines, the majority of people on Io, due to an Inter Service Rivalry, having none of the skills required to survive, and being attacked by a poisonous tiger and mutant hybrid.
- Badass Bookworm: Provided he has Tech skills.
- Badass Normal: If he served with the Marines or the Navy.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?:The Soldier: Nah.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Twice.
- Driven to Suicide: Perhaps. A psionic ghost cutscene on the Engineering deck shows a ghost with Goggles character model apologizing to Rebecca, then shooting themselves in the head out of fear of being captured and assimilated by the Many. Unlike most psionic ghosts, there is no body anywhere to be found near the site of his apparent death. It's unclear if this is meant to be Goggles before receiving his cyber implants, or if it's just an asset re-use error by the developers (Goggles' character model is used nowhere else in the game). If it is him, it explains how he ended up being "recruited" by SHODAN for the installation of his cyber rig.
- Empowered Badass Normal: Via cyborg enhancement on the Von Braun, or three years earlier if he joined the OSA.
- Heroic Mime: Until the ending.
- Late to the Tragedy: He doesn't wake up until things have already gone to hell and back, just like the Hacker in the first game.
- One-Man Army: He tops the Hacker's exploits by literally killing an entire species that's fighting against him.
- Submissive Badass: Well he does spend most of the game being SHODAN's pawn, er, I mean avatar.
- Training from Hell: If you join the OSA, you spend your entire first year of service in sensory deprivation. There's also an option for all three career paths to go to a Naval survival training school... on the surface of Io.
- Unwitting Pawn: His involvement was masterminded by SHODAN, as she needed a tool to help her combat the Many. He doesn't realize exactly who it is that's commanding him until partway through the game, but only succeeds in fully rebelling in the very end.
Dr. Marie DelacroixThe UNN scientist responsible for the FTL travel theory. Despite her objections, the UNN and Tri-Optimum started to build an FTL-capable ship, and to her dismay, had cut enough corners that the ship is barely qualified to be called one. She is assigned on the ship to oversee the performance of FTL drives, but constantly butts heads with Korenchkin.Then, after the Many took over the ship, she become one of the most capable survivors, catching the attention of SHODAN, helping her to fight the Many, until she discovered what SHODAN was planning to do with the FTL-Drives.
- Action Survivor: Just a scientist, not a fully trained soldier with cyber-implants like you. And yet she still does very well at surviving the horrific events of the game.
- Badass Bookworm: Discovered the principles behind and invented the Von Braun's faster-than-light drive, and subsequently managed to survive the ship's crisis longer than almost every other member of its crew.
- Fling a Light into the Future: When she realises SHODAN has betrayed her and left her to die, she makes a few helpful audio logs filled with suspiciously accurate commentary about what she suspects SHODAN will do - and hides them inside SHODAN's own consciousness - and she tops that by integrating vulnerabilities that manifest as the terminals allowing you to remove the shield around SHODAN's core.
- Good with Numbers: She was able to make incredibly accurate predictions about what SHODAN would do with the FTL drive, despite not being alive to see it happen.
- Hero of Another Story: She's off doing her own thing throughout the game, and you occasionally find evidence of her accomplishments as you play through.
- Ignored Expert: In one of her audio logs, she laments that nobody listens to her regarding how easy XERXES is to hack, having dealt with someone's practical joke of having him sing Elvis Presley songs for three hours straight. She's right, as The Many use XERXES for their own ends.
- There Is Another: When SHODAN warns the soldier that there's someone else that can carry her bidding, guess who she's referring to.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When it becomes clear that the Soldier is better equipped to be her avatar and that Delacroix has made inconvenient discoveries as to her intentions, SHODAN leaves her to die.
Captain William Bedford DiegoGrowing up with the stigma of being the son of Edward Diego, he came to hate everything corporate and joined the UNN military. He rose through the ranks, become the hero of the Battle of Boston Harbor, and overcame the shady reputation of the Diego family. He protested the Tri-Optimum's control of the Von Braun, and convinced top brass to have the UNN military starship Rickenbacker, under his command, escort the Von Braun.
- The Atoner: Twice - firstly, for his father's actions aboard Citadel Station. Secondly, for allowing the Many to take control of the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker.
- Dying as Yourself: Cuts the parasitic worms connecting him to the Many out of his body. Does not survive the experience for very long.
- Heroic Willpower: Although he was the Many's willing puppet for most of the outbreak, he eventually managed to overcome the Many's control despite being one of the first people infected by the Many. Korenchkin, in contrast, ends up fully mutating into a Psi Reaver at around the same point that Diego breaks free.
Anatoly KorenchkinMaking his living as a gangster and the owner of the hacker organization, he used his fortune to buy out the 51% share of the struggling Tri-Optimum corporation. Under his rule, Tri-Optimum started to regain its former glory. When the FTL-travel theory became public, he secured the rights to build the first FTL-capable starship in history, and tries to do it as fast as possible (to the degrading quality of Von Braun).When the distress call came from Tau Ceti V, he was so ecstatic that he ignored all safety regulations just to be in "first contact" with the aliens. He was the first mind-controlled victim of the Many and one of the first Psi-Reavers.He was killed by the Soldier on the bridge of Von Braun.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Korenchkin doesn't run Earth, but (thanks to all the money from his criminal empire) he owns an awful lot of it. Yet despite all that he quickly becomes just another pawn of the Many upon coming in contact with them.
- Climax Boss: He's the first Psi Reaver encountered in the game, and fought as a "boss fight" as the player is in the process of escaping the Von Braun.
- Expy: Extremely similar to Edward Diego, being a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose poorly thought-out attempt to grab profit and glory ends up getting him turned into The Dragon of an Eldritch Abomination.
Dr.Janice PolitoThe creator of XERXES, she was on Delacroix's side protesting against the premature launch of Von Braun and the installing of XERXES on it. When that failed, she was assigned on Von Braun as the XERXES's supervisor.After the volunteer Soldier woke up, she worked as his Mission Control, telling him to meet her in her office on Deck 4. Of course, the real Polito committed suicide days ago, and its SHODAN using her image to establish "trust" with the Soldier.
- Dead All Along: In one of the most famous twists in gaming, the Polito who is our Mission Control is actually Shodan.
- Driven to Suicide: Is found in her office with a pistol in her hand, obviously long dead.
- Mission Control: Acts as this for the Soldier. Except not really.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The pre-outbreak audio logs you find of her show her to be a pretty normal, reasonably nice person. While interacting with you in the present day, she's noticeably colder and more arrogant and ruthless. It's an early hint that the "Polito" you're speaking with isn't the original.
- Walking Spoiler: Observe the spoilered text above. It's hard to say anything about her role in the story without giving away The Reveal.
Sergeant Melanie BronsonThe head of Von Braun security, she takes her job seriously to the point that other crew members and even some of her subordinates consider her to be a hardliner, while the Rickenbacker military view her faux-militarism as a joke. After the situation on the Von Braun heated up, she proclaimed Martial Law and executed all who opposed her. In the end she and her subordinates are killed in the mutiny.
- Hero of Another Story: Bronson was the largest obstacle to the Many's takeover of the Von Braun. After most of the rest of the command staff was take over, she gets on the shipwide PA to warn the remaining crew, and enacts a full lockdown of the remaining security systems. Bronson then rallied the remaining security staff, about 14 or so, and fought essentially a small-scale war against the Many, raging across the Operations and Command decks for two days. Their attempt to storm the Command Deck failed, and they were gradually beaten back through the Operations deck until she made her last stand in the Security annex.
- This also somewhat explains why most of the Many's creatures (particularly the tougher ones) were concentrated in the higher decks (Deck 3 and above) - that's where the fight against Bronson was focused. Thus she indirectly aided Goggles, because the lower decks you start out in (such as Med/Sci) didn't have as many monsters in them as a result.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Bronson's final audio log reveals this as her motivation.Bronson: They've killed my men, and now they've killed me. I'm holding my guts inside of me with both hands. I'm almost done... Resist. This is bigger than my little life, the lives of my men... and the lives of the people I was forced to kill. Resist! Humanity demands it! Resist! (gunfire, dying groan)
- Properly Paranoid: One of the few who realizes that something has gone wrong on the ship and takes action.
- Zig-zagged a little: Bronson decides that her security team can't be sure who is human anymore, and even many of the still biologically "human" crewmembers have been subverted by the worms' psychic mind-control, so they just start shooting everything that moves which they run into. One flashback even shows her team gunning down an entire group of crewmen in the mess hall (and you find their corpses in the present). That being said, most of the crew had already been taken over by that point, and thus most of the people Bronson and her men killed here already infected. She did at least warn everyone over the PA to stay in their quarters, so apparently she assumed anyone disobeying that order was infected (and she was probably right).
- Sour Outside, Sad Inside: One of the ghosts in the lounge is a woman remarkably like Bronson, crying into her drink.