Project: Thunderbolt

     Project Thunderbolt (USA) includes the American super-soldier program, the Primus fast-response “Super-SWAT” teams, and the governments “official” hero teams. Some notable subdivisions include;

     Primus; Basically an anti-supervillian strike force, primus is often given experimental gear and weapons prototypes to test. This isn’t always a good thing. It’s Assault and Iron Guard Agents are reinforced by the Bioenhanced Golden Avenger and Silver Avengers, a couple of the surviving MK IV Nadiya Androids, and several Cyberguards. They’re commonly, and correctly, perceived as right-wing macho super-patriots.

     The Thunderbolts; The official USA Hero Team. They aren’t much for investigations and undercover operations, but they’re great at smashing things up. Current members include Firelord, Fist Of God, Lightning Strike, Invictius, Sergeant Atlas and The Indestructible Man. They usually work with Primus and well-established US hero groups against major threats.

      Executive Sanction; The “investigative” team, and rather lacking in raw combat power. Includes Major Star, Netrunner, Traveller, Foresight, The Gumshoe, Curiass, and Panacea.

     Division 13; A group which dates back to just after the foundation of the treasury department, Division 13 is basically the USAs “Department Of Sorcery”, responsible for the safekeeping of odd occult devices, supernatural investigations, and magical enforcement. It’s never been a large, or particularly public, group.

The American super-soldier program since WW II :

     Mutagenics; The first, easiest, most successful – and perhaps the most disastrous – technique used in the super-soldier program; exposing test subjects to massive doses of radiation, chemical mutagens, energy, or stress. The first round of tests produced several superhumans, but that run of luck – or subtle supernatural interventions – has yet to be duplicated. Project; Sunburst (An attempt combining special armor with exposure to massive doses of radiation) was the last gasp of the mutagenics program; with a survival ratio of nearly half a percent, and with four of those nine gaining superhuman talents, it was also the most successful attempt since the 1940’s. The program was permanently shut down in 1978.

     Robots and Androids; While this approach showed great promise in the 60’s and early 70’s, and even produced some noticable successes under the direction of Professor Arathon Nadiya (While the MK I’s never got past test assemblies and the MK II’s were powerful but unreliable, the Mark III’s and IV’s were quite effective) – but the expense was tremendous. Much worse then that, after Nadiya’s death in 1973 several of his creations went AWOL – and no subsequent engineering team was able to get one of his designs to activate afterwards. The program was discontinued in 1977.

     Martial Arts; While the program produced many highly-skilled combatants, the vast majority hit a performance peak and stopped; only one in many thousands of trainees had the inner “spark” that took them beyond normal limits without wandering off into mysticism. Self-selected groups showed a much better, although still low, success rate. With the conclusion that the program would never lead to a super-army, it was suspended in 1969 – although the government continues to supply free advanced martial arts training for employees and their families and thus gains an occasional superhuman operative.

     Bioenhancement; The early 80’s provided a new option for creating super-soldiers; performance- enhancing drugs, surgeries, and bioimplants. Such procedures are very expensive, but actually work fairly reliably. Sadly, they produce enhanced, but not “super”-humans; increased tissue density and skeletal maturation may allow your subjects to lift cars and resist knives – but they’ll never be able to fly, lift mountians, or bounce explosive shells off their chests. Worse, such enhancement places a terrible strain on the human body; subjects require life-long medical care or they degenerate rapidly. Still, while expensive, this was the program’s first reliable result in forty years; funding was found for a slightly cut-back version of the original Golden Avenger treatment program – producing the Silver Avengers. Thanks to a lack of funds and the ever-increasing medical bills, the Avenger program was suspended in `92.
     Currently the Bioenhancement program has been folded into the Genetic Augmentation program; an approach with less impressive results, but which actually looks like it might be affordable. In a few years the military might actually have their long-sought super-soldier army – or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

     Power Armor; Project Ironworks has been an on and off again affair since WWII. Project; Talos (The “Giant Robot” program) proved impractical – despite the occasional mad-scientist/superheroic success, making them cost effective and reliable requires violating – or at least bending – a few “laws” of nature. Project; Vulcan, the personal- armor program, has enjoyed notable successes, but most have proven either non-reproducible, usable only by those with unique talents, prohibitively expensive, or unstable. Lower-grade suits have, however, been successfully put into modest-scale production.

     Cybrenetics; Advances in computer and implant technology during the 1990’s led to the creation of the Cyberguard program. While effective, such implants proved extraordinarily expensive, and had unfortunate mental side effects on a distressing percentage of the recepients – apparently a side effect of the implants interaction with the nervous system. The program is currently shelved, pending further study.

     The Justifiers; The latest super-soldier. The current approach is gene-grafting, using genetic material from animals with appropriate traits. This has actually been modestly successful, when combined with light combat armor such beings can be a match for low-powered parahumans. Sadly, as usual, a lot of the experiments go badly wrong and produce supervillians, rogues, or lunatics – but the percentage is actually approaching something acceptable.

     Psychic Powers; Unfortunately, most “psychic” abilities are natural talents – and most of them are too sensetive for effective military use. A battlefield swiftly drives telepaths mad. The few attempts which were made at using telepaths, psychics, and/or sensetives, for military purposes were disastrous.
Mysticism; Genuinely potent magical abilities require unusual talent, individualistic studies, travelling to weird locations at strange times and so on. They don’t fit into regimented military settings well – and practitioners only tend to get weirder with time. It’s not uncommon for spies and such to know and use just a bit of magic however.

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