"Computer chips are expensive to reproduce, especially of the size and power necessary to hold the human sentience. BUT! If we were to replicate – and perfect – their techniques, we could create all of the 'computer chips' that we'll ever need with nothing more than a cloning vat, some tissue samples, and time. From there, it is a simple matter of relearning the computer. Not only can we revive the Chthonia Project, sister, we can take it to heights greater than Goremykin could have ever imagined..."
Project Echidna is the name given to a Mecharussian hypersoldier programme devised by the Optimised Transcendence Acceleration Nexus and MinTruSek Mikhail Solstheim to utilise Sidh progenitory technology and cybernetics to flash-clone a colossal army of hypersoldiers. Initially intended to be used as a living dead-hand weapon in preparation for war with the New Frenco Empire, it is eventually 'hijacked' by the Final Thirteen, who – after learning of the Imperium of Sidhae's Avatar Project – intend to use it to revitalise and immortalise the Chthonian brotherhood. It was developed alongside Project Fobos, which was intended to test the mind-transfer procedures that would eventually be implemented into the 'Novaya Chthonians' that would be produced by Echidna as well as the now-termed Original Thirteen.
The realisation of the project did not come without its hurdles, however. One of the biggest issues faced by the Echidna programme was overcoming the extreme mental strain of having one's consciousness torn from the body, compressed into a quantum chip and transferred to a new body. In the early stages of Echidna, the subjects – most frequently Gulag inmates and prisoners-of-war taken for experimentation – would be driven irreversibly insane by the process. This problem was partially solved when Drakolich, one of the programme's key consultants, suggested taking the failed subjects, fusing them to military-grade augmentations and chemical injectors, and deploying them for use as vicious, berserk terror weapons that behaved remarkably like zombies from fiction. These 'cybs' would be kept on guard duty around MAF blacksites in large numbers, with at least one hundred being present at the Mezghorye Research Facility.
Early attempts to resolve the issue of insanity first took shape when OTAN appointed its personal deputy, Timofei Prime, to curate the facility where Chthonic soldiers killed during World War IV and revived by Echidna would reawaken. He would use his psi-power to provide mental treatment for the traumatised hypersoldier until they became accustomed to the mind-transfer. In order to accelerate this procedure, some Chthonians took to committing suicide several times, and Trotskaya even went as far as to make a game out of her multiple deaths for her own surreal personal amusement. By the early 2160s, the quantum chips had become advanced enough for soldiers to undergo transfer without suffering any serious side-effects in regards to mental health, thus rendering the psionic treatment (and the masochistic suicide-games that typically accompanied it) obsolete.
The 'Novaya Chthonians'
The first perfected products of Project Echidna would begin appearing in 2155, one year before the outbreak of World War IV. Rapid augmentation of those who volunteered for hypersoldier status (as opposed to forced into it, like in Project Chthonia) would have 80 warriors ready to deploy on the battlefields by the outbreak of the war. Though it was a fraction of what the Mecharussians had hoped for (they had planned for 100,000 to be ready by their predicted time for the war to break out, which was 2160), these new hypersoldiers would be vital to ensuring the survival of the Mechanocratic International throughout the savage conflict, and go on to play vital roles in future conflicts involving Mechanocratic Russia (such as the Helleon Campaigns).
The so-designated 'Immortal Legion', numbering 100,000 by 2170, is split into four differing categories, each one denoting what function the hypersoldier would adopt. This assigned function is designated by the colour of the winged skull that their identification patches bear.
- Red winged skulls are the hardcore soldiers, trained to fight in large-scale combat scenarios with blade, rifle and tactical acumen.
- Orange winged skulls are orientated toward special operations, such as single-combat and stealth, and serve as elite commandos and black-ops units.
- Yellow winged skulls are trained as strategists, logisticians, engineers and medical officers, lending their formidable abilities to support the advancing army and keep it alive.
- Finally, green winged skulls are the intelligence officers and master infiltrators, using their extremely-advanced augmentations and superhuman abilities to acquire the most classified information.
The ratio of hypersoldiers would be set at 20:12:6:3, there being 50,000 red/soldiers, 30,000 orange/commandos, 15,000 yellow/support units and 5,000 green/infiltrators by 2170.
The term 'Novaya Chthonian' was not used in official documentation at first, the soldiers instead being referred to as 'E-class Hypersoldiers'. The phrase was coined by ordinary Mecharussians who immediately compared the new hypersoldiers to the Chthonians of ideological legend. However, for propaganda purposes - i.e., the Mecharussian government being able to claim that the legendary Chthonians had returned to battle the "combined terrors of Tandi, Nama and the Empress" (to quote the populist Varfolomei Kaffarov), the term stuck and eventually entered official terminology.
- Project Echidna gets its name from Echidna, a demigoddess in Greek mythology who was known for being the 'mother of all monsters'.