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TAO from WildCATs and Sleeper (Wildstorm Comics)

Tao

(WildC.A.T.s)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Tao (Tactically Augmented Organism) is a Wildstorm comics character. He was introduced in 1995, when the Image Comics founders started hiring competent writers to compensate for the clear weaknesses in much of their early output. In Tao’s case, he was created by Alan Moore.

Tao was a minor hit, playing a critical role in WildC.A.T.s and several other Wildstorm books.


Background

  • Real Name: T.A.O. (for Tactically Augmented Organism)
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: His syndicate, formerly WildCATs II
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile, formerly Halo Inc HQ, NYC
  • Height: 6’0” Weight: 145 lbs
  • Eyes: Black Hair: Brown


Powers and Abilities

With only ordinary physical abilities and no unusual powers or weapons skills, Tao, at first glance, seems entirely unremarkable. But his power resides entirely in his mind. His grasp of tactical and strategic thinking has reached a seemingly transcendent level which surpasses normal human consciousness.

Without any recognized psionic skills such as telepathy or telekinesis, Tao’s mind has entered a new conceptual territory. It is so far above our own that one might as well attempt explaining quantum physics to an ant.

When Tao makes plans, he thinks large and moves quickly. He was able to manipulate his associates in the WildCATs without them even realizing he was doing it most of the time.

When Tao faked his death to escape the WildCATs and begin anew, he went from being a lone fugitive from justice to being a global crime boss with an army of superpowered minions and acting as the top advisor to the Illuminati in less than four years.

More than words

His ability to persuade and fast-talk are on the edge of hypnotism. He can even send another’s mind into a endless self-argumentation loop leading to unconsciousness or madness (in DC Heroes RPG term that’s Hypnotism and Mind Blast).

Even strong-willed people who know precisely what Tao is capable of can be momentarily paralyzed with indecision and then drawn helplessly into Tao’s influence the moment he begins speaking (Shouting).

Tao’s manipulative abilities are such that while he may not be able to get people to do something totally contrary to their nature, but he can get them to do things that most people would assume would fall into that category. He can get someone to do something as extreme as shooting a long-time friend by stoking subconscious resentments, for example.

Tao’s skills at manipulating individuals extend to groups as well. Most of his work revolves around manipulating the politics of various organizations to achieve his goals and he is ridiculously good at it. Even grandmasters of manipulation and deceit such as the heads of the Secret Monarchy have been made into little more than pawns in Tao’s games.


History

Fittingly described as “one smart test tube growth”, Tao was the result of genetic tampering conducted by a eugenics laboratory with funding from Halo Inc.. That’s how Savant found him while she was recruiting for her replacement WildCATs team.

Considered dangerous by his own creators, the head scientist wouldn’t let him go. By passing him a note with five phone numbers, Tao made the scientist turn pale and let him go with Savant. The first phone number belonged to the man’s wife and the other four didn’t…

When Savant made the decision of recruiting the psychopathic Ladytron for the WildCATs, Majestic opposed her. By insinuating that Majestic’s opposition was because Majestic thought he couldn’t locate or handle her, Tao used the Kherubim lord’s strong ego to convince him to go along with Kenesha’s opinion.

He then orchestrated the whole plot to capture Ladytron.

Power behind the C.A.T.

Soon, Tao’s cunning and persuasive talents made him the real decision-maker of the team, even though everybody else thought it was Savant. He designed a virtual reality prison that was then be used to help their captives. This device also had therapeutic capabilities and turned Ladytron from a complete psycho to a crime fighting machine.

Pushing his teammates along the path of the “Gang War”, he also took the initiative in building up the heat. To do so, he suggested that his teammates commit actions against the typical hero/villain code. He pushed Max Cash into killing the villainous cyborg HARM and then planned the arrest of the rest of the Troika at HARM’s funeral.

Along with the rest of the Troika (Attica and Slag), the WildCATs arrested the MERCs. This angered Hellstrike of StormWatch – as he believed that the MERCs were StormWatch’s responsibility.

Tao ultimately dragged the whole Wildstorm hero community into the gang war by paying a retired villain to bomb Clark’s. That was the bar in NYC where all the super heroes went for a drink). The terror attack nearly killed Condition Red.

A full-fledged war erupted between the mob and the WildCATs.

Gang war

All of this was for the ultimate pleasure of Tao. In this way could assuage his thirst for using his tactical talent for real, while still pretending not to be in charge. With the return of the first WildCATs from Khera, he had even more powerful troops. However, most of them soon left to pursue personal missions.

Aside from that, he also seduced Savant, slept with her, and crushed Majestic’s morale in the process.

As the war raged on, a group of supervillains took several hostages in a rail station. This forced the WildCATs to assault the building. It was actually a trap intended to led the WildCATs into battling the cyborg Overtkill. But they came to a truce with the hostage-takers when both groups realized they were being manipulated by the same person.

One of the hostages was the man who bombed Clark’s. Further interrogation revealed Tao’s sponsoring. The WildCATs finally understood that it was he who was orchestrating the whole thing.

Tao exposed

The WildCATs came back to Halo to deal with Tao, but he was not an easy quarry. When Grifter had the opportunity to shoot Tao, his self confidence confused Cole so much that Cole delayed his fire. It was just enough for Savant to teleport mistakenly in the line of fire and take the bullets. Meanwhile, Tao disappeared.

The first person to find Tao was Fuji. Tao talked Fuji into a memory revival loop that nearly made the young Japanese a vegetable. Tao had also released the WildCATs prisoners from their virtual prison. As a result Maul, Warblade, Majestic, Spartan, Grifter and Void had to chase them rather than Tao.

Ladytron guessed he was going to use the MERV shuttle to get away and waited him inside. Unfortunately, she let Tao talk to her enough for him to get close. He had the opportunity to reach her inner nuclear reactor cooling system, sending it in a meltdown sequence.

Majestic was thus occupied by removing the reactor from Ladytron and getting it far enough away from New York City not to cause any harm when it exploded. In the meantime, Tao had fled again, this time into the sewers underneath the Halo building.

A great escape

This time, Spartan played his own mind games and sealed Tao’s most probable exit from the outside by ordering a taxi cab above the escape hatch. The remaining WildCATs thus managed to corner Tao at last. They were ready to kill Tao, considering him too dangerous to leave alive.

However, Tao convinced them he had too much to offer the world to be summarily executed. His examples included a cure for cancer, a cure for AIDS, a way to end world hunger, and even a plan to reunite Grifter with his beloved Zealot.

Majestic returned at that moment and Tao tried to talk his way out again. But Majestic was too furious at Tao for messing with Ladytron’s body. The Kherubim lord fried him on the spot with his heat vision.

At least that’s what everybody thought, until Savant received a letter from Tao. He explained that the shapeshifting Mr. White, released with the other captives, was convinced to take Tao’s role while Tao escaped by another route.

Mob without a name

After faking his death, Tao pursued plans even grander than he had before. He built a global organization of supervillains, keeping the group so secret that it didn’t even have a name. Only a few intelligence operatives even suspected that it existed.

The organization had few rules. The most important ones were to follow the orders of one’s superiors and to not kill a superior without permission.

The leadership of this organization consisted solely of Tao and his three closest aides, called the Prodigals. Below the prodigals were the Torpedoes, lieutenants in the organization who answered to no one except the Prodigals. There were approximately 30 Torpedoes at any given time.

Next down the list were the Blackguards. The Blackguards acted as enforcers and peacekeepers among the rank-and-file of Tao’s organization. Most of the Blackguards had started out as members of the Black Arts, the corrupt masters behind the U.S.’s International Operations (IO) intelligence group.

When IO was disbanded, the Black Arts went underground along with rogue Black Razor groups (the Razors being IO’s soldiers). The rogues first operated independently as the Faction, but were soon incorporated into Tao’s syndicate as the Blackguards.

At the bottom of Tao’s organization were the Quislings, small-time supervillains who did odd jobs as ordered and hoped to move up the food chain.

No, *you’re* the Illuminati!

Tao also infiltrated the secret monarchy of the world, the Illuminati-like group of individuals that ruled the entire world behind the scenes, with each member holding reign over areas as large as a continent. Putting his skills to their uses, Tao became a sort of Merlin to the monarchs, a court adviser that everyone consulted with.

Being far smarted than even the monarchs realized, Tao was surreptitiously using this position to slowly unravel the monarch’s rule.

Over the next four years Tao followed his dreams of spreading chaos, working to shatter the order of the world through his organization’s activities and his manipulation of the secret monarchs.

These activities began to draw the attention of a few very canny intelligence operatives like John Lynch (formerly of IO, now working freelance for numerous US intelligence agencies). Lynch realized there was a well-hidden secret agenda at work in these random attacks and investigated.

Get Carver, part 1

Lynch found a way to infiltrate agent Holden Carver (no relation) into this new organization. He used a recent accident to make it look as if Carver had gone rogue. For the next three and a half years, Carver worked his way up through the syndicate, eventually learning of Tao’s involvement.

John Lynch realized that Carver was in far too deep to rely on their earlier plans for getting Carver out of Tao’s organization. Lynch began hunting down and interrogating suspected members and associates of Tao’s organization to find and extract Holden Carver. Lynch asked his old friend Cole Cash (a.k.a. Grifter) to cover his back while he did this.

Tao found Cash. He then used his hypnotic powers to turn Cash against Lynch by exploiting some of the bad feelings over their shared past. Following Tao’s hypnotic suggestions, Cash shot Lynch in the head at their next rendezvous, mailed the gun with his fingerprints on it to Tao, then lost all memory that he had anything to do with Lynch’s shooting.

Having forgotten that he was just there, Cash went to make the rendezvous with Lynch. Lynch had survived, a recent boost in his powers having augmented his brain to the point of being able to withstand massive trauma. Lynch was still in a coma as a result of the wound and the doctors had no idea as to when he would wake up.

Get Carver, part 2

Cash investigated the Lynch shooting. He encountered Carver, who was dismayed to realize that with Lynch in a coma he had no proof that he was an undercover agent, not a traitor. Cash offered to help Carver prove himself after taking Tao down. Cash then confronted Tao alone, only to be caught in the villain’s hypnotic snare again.

Tao helped restore Cash’s memories of the shooting, including the fact that Cash had mailed evidence of his complicity in Lynch’s assault to Tao. He then exploited Cash’s fear of being blamed for the shooting to place a stronger block on Cash’s memory.

With Lynch and Cash out of the picture, Tao turned his attention to his next project: subverting the secret monarchy of the world. During the next annual meeting of the monarchy, Tao manipulated the monarchs through a series of lies. He then assassinated the most powerful member of the monarchy and his heir in short order. Tao laughingly called the resulting confusion the New World Chaos.

Tao’s latest coup came on a more personal level. Double-agent Holden Carver, who’d become one of Tao’s Prodigals, was captured by U.S. Federal agents on a botched mission.

Carver did not even try to convince his captors that he had been working undercover. He was struggling with the fact that he felt more sympathy towards his current criminal associates than those he used to work with on the side of the law.

Get Carver, part 3

When Tao’s men tried to get him out, Carver escaped his saviors as well and went on the run. Tao tracked Carver down and revealed that he’d known Carver was a secret agent for quite a while. He pointed out that Carver would be killed if he tried going back to the U.S. government and offered Carver the chance to return home to Tao’s organization.

Emotionally and physically exhausted and confused, Carver agreed to rejoin Tao’s syndicate.


Description

Tao doesn’t look like an Olympic athlete. His physical stature is not very impressive. It’s when he starts talking that things go wild.

His thin face is framed by his long shocks of hair. He often has a disturbing grin, as if he’s laughing at a sick joke only he knows.


Personality

As everyone believes he has no great powers, Tao manages to keep them thinking he’s not as dangerous or lethal as superheroes like Zealot. This perception perfectly suits his tactical genius. He is a plotter. He doesn’t want the limelight, he just wants to use his intellectual excellence without anyone noticing he did.

If things don’t go big enough from his side, he goes to the other to hype them up too. Like a chess master playing alone, except he does not like chess — not vivid enough.

Tao’s motivations have grown increasingly more complicated as his manipulations expand (or have simply become clearer to outside observers). He looked at the order and chaos of life and was appalled by what he saw as humanity’s denial of the latter.

Accordingly, he has decided to engineer the breakdown of human society. If for no other reason to be entertained by watching people struggle as they try to hold on to their beliefs and ways of life as the world falls apart.

Holden Carver summed up Tao with the following: “…Tao is clearly insane, if the concept even applies to him. He’s Frankenstein’s Monster in the flesh, wondering why he doesn’t have a soul, and taking it out on the rest of the world.”


Quotes

“I mean, it’s your call, Red. Don’t even think about what your brother might do in a situation like this…”

“(W)hy don’t you put those guns down and let us reason this out together. Why don’t you start by telling me how it felt to shoot your friend in the head ?”

“Peter Grimm is a good strong right hand to me, but I’ve *never* done my thinking with my right hand. It’s usually reserved for another activity.”

“Sometimes you have to burn down a world to make room for a new one. Besides, imagine how much more impressive Nero’s fiddling would’ve been if he’d personally lit the fires that destroyed Rome.”


DC Universe History

Project Cadmus sought to create a clone with tactical leadership ability to command Cadmus’s less-than-brilliant clone soldiers such as the DNAliens. Tao was the ultimate result of that research, escaping during the chaos surrounding Superman’s death.

He joined the troubled Justice League of that period, playing his manipulative games with them for a while. He eventually faked his own death to move on to other things.

Tao has since set up a metahuman criminal organization. He is currently furthering his goal of creating chaos by instigating secret wars with other criminal masterminds such as Kobra, Ra’s al Ghul, and Lex Luthor. He got the attention of the first two by subverting large parts of their organizations, incorporating them into his own.

Tao earned Luthor’s ire by presenting evidence that Luthor only won the presidency of the US due to Tao’s manipulations. The idea that he was nothing more than Tao’s pawn has driven Luthor to a barely-concealed homicidal rage toward the fiendish manipulator.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Tao

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Nihilist
Int: 18 Wil: 16 Min: 10 Occupation: Mastermind
Inf: 09 Aur: 05 Spi: 10 Resources {or Wealth}: 022
Init: 037 HP: 100

Powers:
Hypnotism: 12, Mind Blast: 10, Shouting: 10

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Mind Blast and Hypnotism require a successful Shouting roll first (-1FC)
  • Shouting suffers a +1CS to OV/RV versus persons who are impulsive and thus difficult to intellectually engage — characters with IAs to rash, impatient, or impulsive action, for example (-1FC)
  • As part of the standard rules for Shouting, Tao will often substitute Charisma for EV on Shouting rolls.

Skills:
Acrobatics (Dodging): 04, Charisma: 13, Gadgetry: 09, Martial Artist*: 06, Medicine: 12, Military Sciences (Field Command, Danger Recognition, Cryptography)*: 18, Scientist: 09, Weaponry*: 06

Advantages:
Attractive, Genius, Gift of Gab, Iron Nerves, Lightning Reflexes, Omni-Scholar, Scholar (Organizational Politics), Sharp Eye

Connections:
Secret Monarchy of the World (Very Powerful, High), Tao’s Syndicate(Powerful, High)

Drawbacks:
CIA (Using his tactical skills as much as possible)


Previous Statistics

When Tao worked for the second WildCATs team, he only had Wealth: 09, but also had a Rich Friend (Halo Corp.) and High Connections to the WildCATs and Savant II. Tao had a Dark Secret (his true motivations and activities), the revelation of which forced him to fake his own death and go underground.

By Nicolas Lemaçon and Roy Cowan (for v2.1)

Source of Character: WildCATs volume 1 “Homecoming” and “Gang War” story arcs (issues #21-34), Point Blank mini-series, and Sleeper season one (Wildstorm Universe)

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Phil Dixon, Hartley C. Holmberg, Jackson, Philip John Mason, William E Peterson

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