The Von Braun wiki last edited by MrSensible on 05/22/15 05:19PM View full history


The Von Braun is a starship that serves as the main setting for System Shock 2. Named after the famous 20th-century rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, she was built by the TriOptimum Corporation as a commercial research vessel and is humanity's first ship capable of faster-than-light speeds, reducing travel times between star systems to a matter of weeks instead of years. Construction began in 2111 shortly after the first successful prototype FTL drive was developed by Dr. Marie Delacroix while working under grant from TriOptimum. The ship is fitted with approximately 1.8 billion flight, scientific and security systems, nearly all of which were developed and manufactured by TriOptimum and its subsidiary holdings. An artificial intelligence construct designated XERXES monitors this complex network of interlinked systems and administers the ship's basic functions such as communications, navigation and life support.

For her maiden exploratory voyage, the Von Braun is captained by TriOptimum CEO Anatoly Korenchkin, an ambitious executive who helped guide his company's gradual return to profitability following the infamous Citadel Station debacle. That incident also gave rise to the United National Nominate, a coalition of Earth's governments with oversight of large corporations like TriOptimum. As such, Korenchkin must co-operate with William Bedford Diego, the highly-decorated captain of the military ship UNN Rickenbacker and son of deceased TriOptimum vice-president Edward Diego, in their joint interstellar venture. To perform its assigned escort, the Rickenbacker must be physically moored to the Von Braun with an intricate series of docking mechanisms, allowing the sub-light-speed Rickenbacker to piggy-back into hyperspace.

Contact with the Von Braun and her escort was lost during her first deep-space mission in 2114 while charting unexplored space near the Tau Ceti system, leaving the starship's ultimate fate a mystery.


Each of the Von Braun's six main decks is assigned a designation based on its primary functions. The decks are connected by two elevator shafts, although the "primary" elevator is only used for access between the Recreation and Command decks during the events of System Shock 2. Once main power is restored, a separate secondary elevator provides access between Decks 1 through 5.

DeckKey AreasKey Personnel
Deck 1 - Engineering
  • Engine Core & Core Control
  • Port & Starboard Nacelles
  • Fluidic Tunnels
  • Engineering Control
  • Engineering Cargo Bays 1 & 2
  • Engineering Shuttle Bay
  • Engineering Command Control
  • Chief Engineer Dr. Marie Delacroix
  • Engineer Constance Sanger
  • Engineer Juan Curtiz
  • Engineer Martin Valdez
Deck 2 - Medical/Science (MedSci)
  • Cryo Suites
  • Science Sector
  • R&D
  • Morgue
  • Pumping Station
  • Biopsy Lab
  • Surgical Lab
  • ICU
  • Radiology
  • Animal Research Lab
  • MedSci Crew Quarters
  • MedSci Sub-Armory
  • MedSci Offices
  • Chief Physician Dr. James Watts
  • Lead Medical Tech Grassi
  • Head Nurse Angela Loesser
  • Nurse Erin Bloome
  • Security Guard Turnbull
  • Science Team Member Dr. Prefontaine
  • Maintenance Tech Taz Amanpour
Deck 3 - Hydroponics
  • Hydroponics Labs
  • Biological Survey
  • Cultivation Pool & Cells
  • Observation Lounge
  • Coolant Tanks
  • Turbine Control
  • Hydroponics Offices
  • Hydroponics Supervisor Dr. Marc Miller
Deck 4 - Operations (Ops)
  • Systems Administration
  • Ops Command Center
  • Ops Crew Quarters
  • Ops Offices
  • Quantum Simulation Units
  • Mess Hall
  • Ops Lounge
  • Power Ops
  • Security Barracks
  • Brig
  • Ops Storage
  • Fluid Ops
  • Senior Systems Analyst Dr. Janice Polito
  • Security Chief Melanie Bronson
  • Crewmember Rebecca Siddons
  • Crewmember Malick
  • Crewmember Wood
  • Crewmember Yount
Deck 5 - Recreation
  • Athletic Gymnasium & Pool
  • Recreation Medical Annex
  • Recreation Crew Quarters
  • Gardens
  • Dining Hall
  • The Galleria Mall
  • Theater
  • Casino
  • Sensual Stimulation Units
  • Primary Elevator Shaft
  • Maintenance Tech Alice Murdoch
  • Crewmember Enrique Cortez
  • Crewmember Rosenberg
Deck 6 - Command
  • Primary Elevator Shaft
  • Tram
  • Command Cargo Bays A & B
  • Command Shuttle Bays A & B
  • Rickenbacker Umbilical
  • Corporate Reception Lobby
  • Officer's Quarters
  • Escape Pods
  • CEO's Quarters
  • Bridge
  • CEO/Captain Anatoly Korenchkin
  • Senior Flight Officer Norris
  • Crewmember McKay

A XERXES kiosk is centrally-located on every deck of the Von Braun to provide all crew members a direct interface with the ship's AI. Each deck is also equipped with its own chemical storeroom containing the various basic elements consumed during research.

Like the rest of the UNN, nanites are the commonly-accepted currency aboard the Von Braun. They can be redeemed at ValuRep replicator vending machines scattered throughout the bulk of the ship, as well as several storefronts and businesses located on the Recreation deck.


Construction on the Von Braun was rushed by TriOptimum management in order to meet her scheduled launch date of 3 February 2114; this was done despite the vocal protests of Dr. Marie Delacroix, the ship's lead engineer and designer of its revolutionary faster-than-light drive. Delacroix pushed for several months of additional testing for her nascent drive technology and for XERXES, who she believed to be buggy and inefficient as a result of an over-emphasis on AI containment protocols at the expense of streamlined logic and adequate security counter-measures. As building costs skyrocketed, further decisions were made to substitute lower-cost materials and components in the Von Braun's construction while forgoing extensive testing on many of the ship's critical systems. Delacroix's warnings of instability are borne out when the Von Braun begins to experience widespread technical issues and system failures on her maiden voyage.

Less-scrupulous tech-savvy members of the crew have been known to use nanites to hack ValuRep kiosks, allowing items to be purchased at a lower price or even granting access to contraband items like ammunition and potent pharmaceuticals. Nanites can also be used to override the Von Braun's various security systems, making hackers effectively invisible to XERXES and granting access to restricted areas. XERXES himself is also eminently vulnerable to attack, as evidenced when crew members under the psychic influence of The Many subvert the AI's primary functionality to enforce their new hive-minded agenda. SHODAN easily insinuates her own program into the ship's systems after she is reactivated by Dr. Polito, eventually assimilating the whole of XERXES' AI core and gaining complete control over the Von Braun.


Four months into her maiden voyage, the Von Braun receives an unidentified distress signal from the Tau Ceti system on 10 June 2114, sixty-seven trillion miles from Earth and far beyond the range of any other starship. Following the signal to its source on the surface of Tau Ceti V, a joint exploration team led by Korenchkin and Diego lands at the site five days later. They discover a large impact crater filled with organic egg-like structures of unknown origin; most of the team quickly falls under the sway of a strong psychic influence emanating from the crash site, which directs them to load the alien eggs onto their shuttle for transport back to the Von Braun. Bayliss, the only exploration team member known to resist the alien influence, recovers the remains of a data storage wafer during the expedition and turns the artifact over to Dr. Polito for analysis.

Both the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker are summarily infested by annelid-like parasitic creatures within a matter of weeks. A rift quickly forms between the annelid-controlled crew members, who now refer to themselves collectively as "The Many", and the remaining human personnel struggling to stay alive and uninfected. Martial law is declared aboard the Von Braun following the wide-scale hacking and reprogramming of XERXES by The Many's agents as they seek to enforce their collective will, causing critical system malfunctions throughout the ship. Security Chief Bronson leads TriOptimum's remaining security personnel in an attempt to retake the Von Braun by force, but she and her men are wiped out by the infected Captain Diego and his superior UNN military unit bolstered with the inhuman strength afforded by their parasites. A meager resistance group is formed between the final few human survivors aboard the Von Braun and manages to construct a makeshift transmitter on the Recreation deck so that Earth may be warned of the alien threat; however, the resistance members are forced to flee from the area before they can activate it.

The player character, a UNN Protectorate soldier serving on the Rickenbacker, awakens from cryo-sleep aboard the Von Braun on 12 July to find the ship derelict and most of the crew dead or mutated beyond recognition. With the remote assistance of Dr. Polito, the cybernetically-enhanced soldier battles his way through the infested decks of the Von Braun only to discover Polito's long-dead corpse in her office on Operations deck. SHODAN, the artificial intelligence responsible for the Citadel Station disaster, had impersonated Polito after being resurrected from the remains of the data wafer found on Tau Ceti V; with no other choice, the soldier forms a tenuous alliance with SHODAN in an effort to destroy The Many and retake both ships.

Although the soldier is successful in weakening XERXES enough for SHODAN to assume control of the Von Braun's systems, it is insufficient to ensure the extermination of The Many. SHODAN directs the soldier to scuttle the ship by transferring her AI to the Rickenbacker before separating it from the Von Braun, but by this time the main biomass of The Many has wrapped itself around both ships to prevent separation. The soldier eventually reaches the Rickenbacker's escape pod and launches himself into the body of the Many in order to destroy it from within, but his victory is cut short when SHODAN informs him of her true intentions: using the Von Braun's FTL drive, she is able to rewrite reality to her own specifications. SHODAN immediately sets a course back to Earth after thanking the soldier for his assistance with her plans to reshape humanity in her own image.

The soldier descends through SHODAN's new localized proto-reality which has manifested as disjointed pieces of Citadel Station connected by cyberspace; fortunately, the deceased Dr. Delacroix managed to insert comment logs into SHODAN's consciousness beforehand detailing her weaknesses. This allows the soldier to destroy the AI's manifested avatar, restoring reality to normal and finally reactivating navigational control from the Rickenbacker's bridge. A transmission is sent to an escape pod containing crew members Suarez and Siddons that had jettisoned earlier from the Command deck, notifying them of the restoration of the Von Braun's systems. After plotting a return course, Suarez is horrified to witness Siddons transform into a shape greatly resembling SHODAN's avatar as she laughs in modulated tones.

The current status and location of the Von Braun and the UNN Rickenbacker are unknown.

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