Descriptions for the major factions and characters in On the Shoulders of Giants.
Warning: The folders below contain a lot of spoilers.
- Big Damn Heroes: They seem to be making something of a habit of it.
- Genre Savvy: Among other things, after the first AIs came into being humanity quickly took steps to guaranteed them full civil rights.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: From the Moon landings to FTL travel in half a century. Admittedly they had help in the form of alien tech but still...
- Relates to the title, which is based on a saying: "If I have seen far, it is only because I stand upon the shoulders of giants." Humanity's progress into space is based on this saying.
- Humans Are Diplomats: One of the founding members of the SAC, and is making overtures towards the members of the CDC. The only races they have had problems with so far are the Iriani (who are one of the most evil races in space) and the Berserkers, who are specifically designed to kill life forms.
- Humanity Is Superior: Of all the living species in the Solar System, humanity is the strongest in terms of population, fleets, and technology. Justified because they rescued the quetzal and the europans, who fell from a much greater height, and that humanity doesn't hold it over the other two races, so it's nice.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Physically speaking, humans are the runts of the SAC (and later the Local Compact), being outsized by every other species. They can also probably safely claim to have kicked the most ass during the first Berserker war. Then again, size doesn't count for much when you have spacecraft and nukes.
- The Hero: Saved the quetzal, probably saved the Edani, aided the tiaunt, and more or less brought the various members of the SAC together. They qualify.
- Alien Popsicle: They survived a Berserker attack that disabled their ship by going into suspended animation on Titan. Three thousand years later, humanity found them and thawed them out just a couple of years before the power ran out.
- Ancient Astronauts: Observed primitive humans and tiaunt, with both human and tiaunt mythology having their share of quetzal-shaped creatures. The mummified remains of two quetzal have been found on Earth, one in Mexico where it was worshipped as the god Quetzalcoatl by the natives, and the other in China where it managed to become the adviser of the Qin Emperor and was known as the Imperial Dragon. Both of them ended up on Earth when their escape pods crash landed.
- Bizarre Alien Biology
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: They're egg-laying r-strategists who only have different genders once every two years.
- Explosive Breeder: A relatively minor version but given that they went from numbering just three hundred and twenty six to almost two million in under fifty years they most definitely count.
- Extreme Omnivore: Their homeworld underwent multiple genesis events and so had multiple biochemistries, with them evolving the means to digest anything even remotely organic. They also like to drink mineral oil.
- I Owe You My Life: Towards humanity due to them saving them from Titan. To quote the wiki, many of them feel that they owe them a debt that can never be repaid.
- No Biochemical Barriers: though they do require arsenic and mercury.
- Racial Remnant: Most of their species was wiped out by the Berserkers three thousand years ago, with the only survivors being three hundred and twenty-six individuals in suspended animation in a damaged colony ship on Titan. Although the species has been saved, only a small part of their species' culture survived with them and due to their children growing up surrounded by human culture there's a good chance that that will also eventually die out.
- Just before contact was made with the Citadel, the story provided hints that there may still be living quetzals, as an AI was discovered still active on an asteroid, revealing that a group of Quetzel escaped before their homeworld was bombed into oblivion by the Berserkers.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Somewhere between subverted and averted. There are a fair few humans who assume the worst of them initially due to the fact that they are decidedly snakey and when they were first discovered there were multiple groups who for one reason or another kept freaking out about the 'evil space serpents' and tried (very unsuccessfully) to stop humanity from rescuing the quetzal on Titan. However, the quetzal themselves avert it, being perfectly nice people who are very friendly towards humans due to gratitude for being saved from extinction, and the vast majority of humans who spend time around them like them.
- The Precursors: To the tiaunt and, to a lesser extent, humans. Averted in that they're still alive.
- It's hinted that the Quetzel may have been this to the Quarians, as Quarian mythology does mention oddly Quetzel-like beings safeguarding them long ago.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Alien Laser Dragons with many eyes with wings that don't work for flight but do work as radiators, multiple brains, and lest we forget, lasers.
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: They have three genders. No information as to how this works has been provided so far.
- Eye Beams: Justified somewhat in that it's a biochemical based laser that was evolutionary for targeting and defense. They can injure and spot wield with them but that comes close to Dangerous Forbidden Technique as it drains them horribly.
- God-Emperor: One of their major religions is headed by one, who is reborn every time he dies. Interestingly, those who are the "God Emperor," do have very similar personalities and can remember "Past Lives."
- And all of them develop a reputation as a troll.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: They're Alien Laser Dragons.
- Our Dragons Are Different: They're definitely dragon shaped, but with Eye Beams instead of breathing fire, eight limbs (four legs, two wings, two arms), wings that are actually radiators, multiple eyes, and a covering of something described as a cross between feathers and hair instead of scales.
- Vertebrate with Extra Limbs
- Beware the Nice Ones: From the wiki: "Despite their appearance, the Edani are actually rather peaceful creatures, bordering into being pacifistic and nurturing. But if you attack them or in some other way make an enemy of one or several, they are the worst enemies one can imagine."
- Bizarre Alien Biology: see the entry The Symbiote below for more information, but they are one of the most viscerally alien races yet encountered in the story.
- Dark Is Not Evil: They look like the stuff of nightmares but are actually fairly laid-back and friendly, bordering on being pacifistic.
- Starfish Aliens
- The Symbiote: They're actually a combination of three different lifeforms more or less stacked on top of each other. All three 'components' are needed for an Edani to be fully sapient.
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: They're big fans of human pop culture, the geekier the better. Though this is mainly because it was the only real form of entertainment they had for thousands of years.
- Aliens Steal Cable
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: On one hand they were space faring a hundred thousand years ago and have technology that includes such things as fusion reactors that can survive orbital drops without parachutes. On the other, they're squid who wear hats and ties just for the sake of it, despite lacking both heads and necks.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: They're basically giant alien squid. Excitable, curious, human-loving, meme-spouting squids.
- Intrigued by Humanity: To the point of them having a species wide case of xenophila towards the human race after having spent decades watching and listening to our TV and radio broadcasts.
- Named After Their Planet: Slightly subverted in that it's not their original homeworld and they just adopted the name after meeting humanity for the sake of convenience.
The SAC AIs:
- Artificial Intelligence: Obviously.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Very much averted, well apart from the one that got nicknamed 'Skynet', but another AI intervened before it could do any actual harm.
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: Almost all the named AIs have demonstrated behaviour that definitely wasn't part of their original programming, ranging from a fondness for HP Lovecraft to having their own ambitions in life (one AI seems to be determined to become the first synthetic billionaire) to setting up charities to running away because they didn't feel that they could live up to people's expectations. Humanity is not only taking this in stride but seems to be actually encouraging it.
- Unfortunately, behaviour that wasn't part of their original programming also includes going round the twist, though only one of them has done so in a fashion that makes them dangerous. Humanity has taken this in stride as well, to the point where the one AI that did attempt to wipe out all life on earth was committed to the electronic equivalent of a secure psychiatric hospital rather than destroyed.
- Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: More or less played straight with Perestroika and Jamie. Averted with the rest of the AIs)
- Word of God is that there's now so many AI algorithms floating around in the Internet that there's been a couple of instances of them getting caught up inside a supercomputer and spontaneously forming an AI.
- Only One Name: Jamie, Ganesha, Turing, Petan, Tirpitz, Atom, Jones, etc. Lady Ada is something of a subversion since she was originally just named Ada but later added the 'Lady' part herself. The sole exception is 'Teddy Roosevelt' and that's only because he's somewhat delusional.
- Recursive Creators: AIs can reproduce. While most of the AIs mentioned by name are 'first generation' ones created by organics, the AIs known as Teddy and Anonymous (aka, Nony) are both the 'children' of another AI, and according to Word of God they're not the only ones.
- Robot Names: Most human AIs mentioned by name are type eight. Jamie and Atom are named from popular culture (the guy from Mythbusters and Tetsuwan Atom respectively), Lady Ada and Turing are named after Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing respectively (given that Turing is a decryption AI, his name is especially appropriate), Tirpitz is named after either a battleship or a German admiral, etc.
- Cats Are Mean: Played with. They stated to be highly competitive and fond of fighting, and are probably behind some of the more hot-headed actions of the CDC when relations between them and the SAC were still being sorted out. However they've more recently worked well with others during joint SAC-CDC operations against common threats and the individual Den'ad who've been mentioned seem reasonably okay.
- Cat Folk: They bear a slightly more then passing resemblance to saber-tooth cats, albeit bipedal, tailless and possessing too many limbs and eyes.
- Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Have two sets of arms and two legs, bringing the total up to six.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Among other things, they have a system resembling hydraulics instead of muscles.
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Have four genders and lay eggs.
- Insectoid Aliens: They resemble giant ants. Unusually for this trope, they're actually very individualistic.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: They resemble 2-meter long raptors with multiple eyes.
- Gunship Rescue: how the SAC and CDC responded to learning that the Kravok were invading the Risachen homeworld.
- Human Popsicle: How the SAC and CDC first encounter members of the Risachen: as prisoners of the Preservers in cold storage pods.
- Plant Aliens: Resemble Baobab ferns, from Madagascar.
- Shout-Out: Their space program is a shout out to the Kerbal Space Program
- Early-Bird Cameo: In canon, the Asari made first contact with the Raloi in between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. In this story, the O'Niel discovered them by accident on the way to the Citadel nearly a hundred and twenty years early, and decide to plant satellites in orbit to watch them grow (they are currently at industrial revolution era technology).
- Big Bad: The main enemy of the Local Compact.
- Killer Robot: Robots? Check. Attempts to murder every organic life form they come across? Check.
- Nuke 'em: Loves using Salted Nuclear Weapons to more efficiently exterminate life and to poison planets for a long time to come.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: And they go out of their way to make it even weirder.
- Intelligent Gerbil: Pretty much literally. Don't let the cute and fuzzy exterior fool you. However, Word of God is that biology doesn't play a role in their "Evil-ness," but rather, the culture does.
- Colony Drop: The asteroid they were living in was destroyed when it was hit by another asteroid.
- Human Popsicle: Their SOP. Their goal is to save as many species as possible... even if the species in question don't want it.
- Enemy Mine: Are forced to work together with the Local Compact in order to fight the Berserkers.
- Foreshadowing: The Kravok appear to use technology and tactics much more in line with Citadel technology, meaning kinetic weapons, no energy weapons, and drive cores that need to be discharged- all hallmarks of Prothean-descended technology, like that used by the Citadel. In addition, they believe that there is a "Great Doom" approaching that will wipe out everything, which seems to imply that the Kravok got their hands on a Prothean Beacon at some point and got the same message that Shepard did in canon.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Their ships rely heavily on Kinetics, as opposed to Compact ships, which have a variety of weapons (missiles, lasers, and kinetics).
- Religion of Evil: Believe that the universe is coming to an end, and that everyone must repent, whether they want to or not. Implied to be the result of a Prothean Beacon, similar to the one found on Mars and the ones on Eden Prime and Virmire that you find in Mass Effect 1.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Due to the abovementioned religion they've made a habit of conquering and enslaving other sapient species and regard anyone who doesn't share their beliefs as 'feral'.
- Action Girl
- Artificial Limbs: Her arm.
- The Ace
- Never Live It Down: She was once overheard jokingly proclaiming herself God-Empress of Mars while drunk, on the grounds that she was the first human actually born on the Red Planet. This came back to haunt her in two ways, one being that it eventually resulted in the Martians deciding to have the God-Emperor of Mars as their head of state when they gained independence (although said position holds no actual political power), with Karen being named as God-Empress. The other was that the tiaunt, who actually have a God-Emperor, somehow got wind of it, and said God-Emperor apparently finds the whole thing highly amusing and keeps pretending to take it seriously and generally teasing her about it, much to Karen's annoyance. It's even heavily implied that he had a hand in the Martians making her status as God-Empress official.
- Artificial Intelligence
- Cool Combat Craft: Even without the badass AI controlling it, his current body qualifies. Given that the only 'crew' is Petan himself, only the bare minimum of space and life support needed for repair crews was included in the design, with the rest of the space being taken up by a total of nineteen solid state pulsed lasers with various power levels, one heavy ion beam cannon, four 1.5m missiles with four reloads each, and an enhanced sensory and electronic warfare suit.
- Failure Knight: Regards the fall of the quetzal homeworld as a personal failure and is now borderline fanatical about protecting those under his command and guard.
- Hack Your Enemy
- Hurting Hero: He's in therapy for it.
- Old Soldier: A very old soldier.
- Ramming Always Works: Did it to a Berserker, wrecking his original 'body'in the process.
- Sapient Ship
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Failing to protect the quetzal homeworld from the Berserkers and spending the next three thousand years or so standing guard over their tomb on his own after his 'siblings' committed suicide has done bad things to his mental health. The disastrous fallout of his first attempt at reproducing can't have helped much either. Fortunately he's getting therapy.
- There Are No Therapists: averted, he's in therapy.
- Undying Loyalty: He spent about three thousand years standing guard over his creators' devastated planet. The other Quetzal AI warships were Driven to Suicide out of grief when the Berserkers wiped out their creators, save for the handful of survivors found by humanity.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. He's not evil but he's definitely... different and potentially Chaotic Neutral.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: He's one of the most popular characters on the Spacebattles thread, with people actively speculating as to what he's up to, or how he's going to affect the greater galaxy once he's had contact with the Citadel Races. The frequent in-story references to 'anonymous sources' and other suspicious computer activity, and the author periodcally dropping hints during the forum discussions probably has a lot to do with it.
- Fan Nickname: 'Nony'
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. He may not be conventionally sane but he's definitely one of the good guys.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's in charge of a colony's police force and is apparently good at his job. He's also utterly convinced that he's the synthetic reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt.
- Make what you will of the fact that every major religion in the Compact has declared that yes, AIs do have souls...