"No one really knows just how badass a Black Guard really is. I've been around plenty, but ain't seen 'em fight anymore than light firefights. Some say they're just glorified mallcops; others say they're more powerful than the best Chthonians or Diomedens. I know one thing for damn sure though...they give me the goddamn creeps."
-Agent Jonathon Rollins, describing his experiences with Black Guards
Project Black (or, The Black Project) is a confidential supersoldier program of the New Frenco Empire, ongoing since about 2099. Black is unique in the fact that, unlike it's now-defunct sister program, The White Project, the subjects of Black are designated as bodyguards, secret policemen, and covert operators. They were never intended to be released onto active warzones. Instead, they protect and carry out the will of the Empire's top elite, such as the Emperor or the Chancellor. This also extends to the Chairman, who relies on the Black Guard to protect the secret of his existence. All Guardsmen are programmed to follow his commands above all.
To the public, the Black Guard are merely an "elite Enforcer unit", populated by the Empire's top police officers. To maintain this ruse, it is known that "less than .5% of trainees" make the cut, and you're only offered the chance to become a trainee after a long, decorated career in the Enforcers, where you will be approached by state officials. Tests are occasionally given to those visibly showing interest, but they're often intentionally made too difficult for Black Guardsmanship. Instead, these officers are typically redirected to the New Roman Urban Cohort; an actual formation of elite police enforcers who patrol New Rome.
They have no clear rank or command structure, and seemed to be coordinated via the Office of Culture, who often makes use of the Guards for secret policing. Ever since Jane Smyth rose to power, they have been utilized more frequently (with Smyth claiming that they aren't doing much good "standing around and looking all edgy and spooky-like"), and have been commanded directly by her into several spec ops raids.
A pet project of the new Emperor Jonathan Stark, Black was an initiative to create the "perfect" bodyguards and policemen, free from emotional or mental restraint and capable of protecting the Empire's very foundations. However, it was decided that to achieve the results necessary, potential guards would have to be trained from an extremely young age, as to make the ideals as natural as possible. It was initially to begin with the abduction of young children aged four-to-six from selected households, replacing them with sickly flash clones that would die several months after the switch. However, with the introduction of the Frenkish Eugenics program, the plan was thrown out immediately, instead utilizing nursery-produced human beings designed for the purpose. The Black subjects were kept at the nursery until they were around two years' old, where they would be handed off to the secretive state "controllers".
From then on, the future Guardsmen would undergo an extremely unforgiving regime of brainwashing, endurance tests, surgical augmentation, mind wipes, and combat trial. Many of the children did not survive, but those that did were eventually assigned an individual "watcher" to take care of them during their training. Almost exclusively women, nearly all watchers were political prisoners, such as Champagne Reds after the Red Revolt, or religious clergy taken from the Outlands by the Zealotry. Black Guards were typically "ready" between ages fourteen to sixteen, but they would have one final test; murdering and even raping) their watcher. This was always done by exploiting their brainwashing, as a final test to determine their instinctive loyalty. Subjects that couldn't be coerced into doing the deed were executed. This often had a profound mental effect on the subjects, and often left their personalities "paralyzed". In one subject, this however left a prolonged and much more malevolent effect on their psyche.
After Hightower discovered just how his new favorite "companions" were being created, he ordered the project shut down in 2120. It would continue in 2124, after several advances in cloning allowed purpose-built synths to fill the same role with equal (if not greater) efficiency.
Abilities, Characteristics and Equipment
After 2124, Black Guards are built with human tissue and the augmentations implanted into the former models by default. Conditioning a newly-produced synth takes about a year, and after that, they are cleared for active duty. Black Guard Synths are produced from a myriad of genetic samples, and can typically be of any sex or race that the nurseries have on-hand. Black Guards are intentionally programmed with the most basic of personalities, and as such, they only live their life to follow orders from their superiors. Since the start of the project, subjects have always been given simplistic first names (Fred, Ralph, Daisy, etc) followed by a seemingly-random two-digit number.
While Black Guards have never proactively been deployed as soldiers, they are known to be extremely formidable combatants, due to their mixture of advanced augmentation, lifelong combat training, and general disregard for their own lives and safety. The mystery on just how powerful they are seems to be a deterrent; partially the reason why they are regulated to bodyguard and covert operations roles. It has been theorized that they are just as powerful as most of the Chthonians the Mechanocracy of Russia has produced, if not more so simply due to their lack of conscience and superior numbers. The only known (ex) Black Guard to engage in open combat is Colonel Fred Harrigan (who now inhabits a much more powerful Orkish body, though his augmentations have been inoperable since his discharge from the Guard) and many consider him to be the most powerful fighter alive, if not at least tied or negligibly inferior to the legendary Elena Trotskaya.
Not many details are known on just how far their augmentation goes, however, it seems that their bodies are equipped with cybernetics capable of absorbing much greater quantities of damage and providing them enhanced agility and strength. They also seem to be equipped with optical scanners, audible enhancers, and less-advanced variants of the Mecharussian prototype precognitive attack predictor. To top this off, it's also theorized that they possess the most elaborate, complete anti-psionic protections ever seen, considering they have been known to survive extreme area-of-effect attacks from the Mastermind. Guardsmen are almost never seen out of their armor, so it's impossible for outside sources to determine just how much of them is built from machine.
Equipment-wise, the Black Guards wear a distinctive black armor (hence the name) with red visorpiece. This armor is of an unknown make, and as such, it's true qualities are unknown. Judging by the appearance, it seems to be a miniaturized power-armor derivative, and incorporating technologies from the advanced N1 Nanosuit. Guardsmen are typically modest in their weapon choice, preferring submachine guns such as the M2105 or K15, or rifles such as the M26. More specialized or heavier weapons, such as sniper rifles or directed energy weapons, have been observed, however.
- Inspirations for the Black Guard include the Imperial Royal Guard (also known as "Red Guard" or "Emperor's Guard") from Star Wars (since they are elite, imposing protectors of their respective state's head), the Unsullied from A Song of Ice and Fire (cruelly trained from birth to be elite, unquestioning soldiers), and the Spartan Program from the Halo franchise (like the Unsullied, but this is where their naming conventions come in).