- Because when the Tactically Augmented Organism looked at life, he saw only chaos and order. And humanity's denial of chaos appalled him. So he would tear it all down and fill the whole world with chaos, if only to watch mankind cling to their illusions as they burned around them...would he destroy the world at the same time? It's certainly a possibility.
- — Tao src
The Tactical Augmented Organism or TAO. Originally an incredibly efficient member of the WildC.A.T.s, but formed his own organization the Syndicate, which made him cross paths with several heroes.
The Tactical Augmented Organism was created by Optigen, a subsidiary of the Halo Corporation, on behalf of International Operations. As a child, he grew at an amazing rate. The scientists working on him thought that he was imprisoned in his test tube, but at nights he would sneak out and use the lab's computers to learn more about the world outside. Through the information of the secret government databases on all matters of human society and culture, TAO acquired an extremely misanthropic persona and overall contempt for mankind due to their disorderly behavior and horrific tendencies.
When Savant and Mister Majestic were reforming the WildC.A.T.s, Savant read the files on TAO. The scientist of Optigen was unwilling to let TAO go until TAO handed him a note with several numbers on it. The scientist immediately agreed to release TAO. When asked what the numbers meant, TAO explained to his new teammates that the top one was the phone number of the scientist's wife, the other five were the phone numbers of the scientist's mistresses. Despite seemingly having no superhuman powers, TAO's intelligence and manipulative nature appeared to be quite an asset to the new WildC.A.Ts. He manipulated Mister Majestic into agreeing to recruit the murderous cyborg Ladytron.
Under TAO's influence the WildC.A.Ts started a true war on crime, but the criminals organized and struck back. The situation worsened when a criminal bombed Clark's, a bar for superheroes, wounding WildC.A.Ts-member Condition Red. Rival superhero team Stormwatch and the WildC.A.Ts formed an alliance against the criminals, but the heroes soon discovered that TAO had been behind the bombing. They returned to base to confront TAO and found out that he was far more dangerous than they had expected, having manipulated the heroes into a post-human gang war that nearly destroyed New York simply because he could. In an attempt to capture him, several of his pursuers were hurt. Fuji was manipulated into a mental loop, which took him some time to recover from. Ladytron's nuclear power source was damaged and Savant, who thought she loved TAO, was tricked into stepping in front of Grifter's bullets. In the end Majestic, after saving Ladytron, disintegrated TAO with his heat-vision. Or so he thought.
Establishment of the Syndicate
Months later, Savant found a letter from TAO and the WildC.A.Ts pieced the disturbing truth together. In the WildC.A.Ts holding cells a shapeshifter called Mr. White had been imprisoned. When TAO tried to escape he had hypnotized White into thinking he was TAO and while the WildC.A.Ts confronted White, TAO managed to escape unseen.
While hiding, TAO learned on the existence of the Secret Monarchy, a loosely affiliated group of secret organizations that manipulated the world behind the scenes. Seeing them as potential peers, TAO infiltrated the organization. He discovered, much to his disappointment, that the Secret Monarchy's members were beset by human weaknesses and flaws, which, in his opinion, made them unworthy of ruling humanity.
At that point, TAO decided to use his vast intellect to destroy the Secret Monarchy from within. To this end, he established a secret organization known as the Syndicate. Unlike other groups, it made a point of using post-humans with low/mid-level powers to carry out the bulk of the operations. Under TAO's leadership, the Syndicate made a series of surgical strikes at seemingly random targets. At the same time, TAO joined the Secret Monarchy, gaining influence and playing its members against each other. Somewhere along the way, TAO started calling himself Tao, disavowing his acronymic name.
As the Syndicate gained strength and momentum, Tao kidnapped John Lynch, implanting him with a set of false memories and cosmetically altering his body to the point where Lynch was completely unrecognizable. He then infiltrated Gen 13, a group Lynch mentored at the time, and took Lynch's place. Tao eventually allowed himself to be discovered. He appeared to have initiated a bizarre plot that would allow him to control the planet's population through their undergarments. He appeared to have been defeated when his subtle manipulations and mindbreaking logical problems were no match for the sheer stupidity of Gen¹³ members Grunge and Freefall. Given Tao's usual modus operandi, one can't help but wonder how much of this plot was actually what it appeared.
Eventually, John Lynch managed to regain his memories and escape Tao's imprisonment. Realizing that Tao was far too dangerous to be allowed to operate unchecked, he used his connections to regain his post as the Director of Operations of I.O. He assigned agent Holden Carver to infiltrate the Syndicate. Holden had been exposed to an alien artifact that endowed him with superhuman powers, while making his mind unreadable to Tao. Carver entered the operation and quickly rose in its ranks. Unfortunately, the US government decided to shut down International Operations. John Lynch joined Department of Paranormal Science Investigations, a fellow intelligence organization.
In 2002, Lynch, with the help of his former comrade, Cole Cash, mounted an aggressive assault on the Syndicate, seeking to extract Holden Carver. In response, Tao manipulated Cole Cash into shooting Lynch. Cash didn't kill Lynch, but put him in a coma. Cash attempted to find and kill Tao, but Tao outwitted Cash, manipulating him into forgetting everything he learned up to that point.
Carver now was forced to work within Tao's organization, because the only person who knew he was a double-agent, was Lynch. When one of Tao's top-ranking officers (called Prodigals) was killed, Tao assigned Carver as his replacement. When Carver's role as a double-agent finally came out, Tao revealed that he had known all the time, but that Carver had nowhere else to go now. Carver rejoined Tao's organization, this time for real.
At the same time, Tao set into motion a plan that would destabilize the US government. With Holden's help, he tricked the US government into obtaining a device that would allow them to enter the Bleed. Unbeknownst to the government, the device was inherently unstable and leading to the near-destruction.
In December 2003, Lynch woke up from his coma. Less than a month later, Tao's plan finally came into fruition, when the American scientists finally launched a probe into the Bleed. It exploded, damaging the Carrier of an ancient extra-dimensional race known as the Vigil crashed into Florida, killing millions of people on impact. Once the Authority learned that the US government launched the flawed probe, they set out to take over United States. In twenty-four hours, the nation was under their control. Sensing an opportunity, Lynch convinced the new government to let him establish his own agency, Internal Operations. It's stated goal was to take down Tao and the Syndicate.
Over the next few months, the war between Lynch and Tao raged with Holden in the middle, manipulated by both sides. Tao claimed that Lynch was his father, not his physical father, but his spiritual father who had ordered the project that created TAO. In the end, Lynch managed to restore Grifter's memory and gave him protection against Tao's mind-control. Grifter attacked Tao's organization, while Carver made his move on Tao himself. Grifter single-handedly wiped out the remains of Tao's syndicate, while Carver captured Tao and removed his tongue. Tao was found by I.O. and imprisoned.
After the events of Sleeper in which Tao was finally caught, there isn't much known about what happened to him. It was assumed that he was still in I.O. custody, but it appears that was not the case. It turned out that he had escaped at some point, regenerated or regrew his tongue, came into possession of the restored Void, and was making rather elaborate plans to continue his work of destroying the world. Tao's first move was to use Void to send various heroes into the future to show them a world that had been destroyed. Heroes from several prominent groups in the Wildstorm Universe saw the future but for whatever reason the actions they took on their return to the present didn't have the results that Tao wanted (or change it like they wanted). That was until Nemesis. When she went into the future and came back she reacted in the way Tao wanted her to and in her efforts to stop the end of the world, actually started it.
In preparation of the Armageddon Tao prepared for the event, possessing an army of SPBs in storage that he'd planned an uprising of another group of SPBs, and it appeared that he had set up a backup body with his personality in it in case anything should happen to him.
After the events of Number of the Beast, Tao set out with Void in order to capture Providence. He had learned about the Orb of Power and wanted to control anyone who had parts of the Orb's essence. He also revealed that using Void's power, he was able to control some of the most powerful heroes on the planet including StormWatch's Jackson King and Majestic. But for some unknown reason he could not control some heroes like John Lynch. However, Tao considered heroes like Lynch too weak to even oppose him and his new power. After Providence was defeated and captured, Tao desired to go after Max Faraday as well, the only other person to have the power of the Orb just like Void and Providence.
Tao was eventually confronted by Lynch and his allies Team-7 and the Wildcats at his center of operations in Salt Lake City, and was able to overpowered both teams, even including Spartan who regained his godly power as Jack Marlowe. The teams were forced to retreat and Tao killed Providence who sacrificed herself to delay him, but proven effortless as Tao was still able to track them in leading him to Faraday. This led Tao and his Syndicate to attack and wreak havoc on Faraday's island refuge, forcing Faraday, Team-7 and the Wildcats to engage the Syndicate in a raging battle. Tao was too powerful to both Faraday and Spartan, and almost close to finishing them until Majestic arrived and effectively subdue him with the Nemesis Swords as the bladed weapons were forged from the Creation Engine. However, Tao's underling Pit Bull took Faraday's wife Susanna hostage and was protected by Tao's remaining powers from Faraday, placing Tao to easily demand Faraday to reveal him the Creation Equation that would fulfill his quest into becoming a god.
Faraday obeyed to Tao's threat, but Ladytron listened to what Faraday revealed to him and recorded and channeled it to his enemies in possessing the same power that matches Tao. Though, Tao teleported his enemies to the Hollow Realm where he separates all the heroes into facing their personal weaknesses in order to keep them occupied, and for him to personally battle Faraday and Spartan. After defeating the two and taking away Spartan's power, Tao was then confronted by both Void and Susanna who tried to make him see his human flaws which still exist despite his new godhood. Spartan further told Tao that the very power of the Creation Equation will eventually "fix" him because his use of it for chaos and destruction go against everything the Creation Equation exists for. Tao still fights it but eventually does relinquished some of his power. But he kept enough to still be more powerful until Grifter takes advantage of Tao's monologuing and shot him in the head. Tao then disappeared and relinquished his powers back to Void, Faraday, and as well disposing from the late Providence. Despite his fatal shot, Tao used barely of what left of his powers to repair what Grifter did to him and now probably reverted back to his pre-godhood state.
Tao's ordeal was not over, in which he had further plans for John Lynch. He secretly tampered Lynch's brain and manipulating him in almost releasing the Warguard before Team-7 discovered Tao's machination.
Powers and Abilities
- Enhanced Intellect: Tao is superhumanly intelligent, especially when it comes to predicting and manipulating human behavior. His mind has been said to have entered a conceptual territory so far above from conventional humans that one might as well attempt explaining quantum physics to an ant. His I.Q. is said to be immeasurable by any human test and was said to have absorbed all of human knowledge by the time he was physically a teenager.
- Mind Control: Tao can quickly manipulate people using his words, forcing them to do what he wants or erasing specific memories. At one point he is shown completely undermining Stormwatch-member Fuji's self-confidence, rendering him nearly catatonic merely by having a short conversation with him. He has singlehandedly taken control of the WildC.A.T.S and Stormwatch as a personal army for a brief while. Upon discovery of this neither the WildC.A.T.S nor Stormwatch were able to stop him due to his exit strategy already in place. His ability to control others is a result of the application of an insidious intellect on flawed human minds. In an issue of Gen¹³, he was described as having the ability to completely control a victim's sense of logic.
- Charisma: Usually Tao manipulates circumstances so that he has no need to fight. Tao's ability to manipulate others not only allows for a personal army to fight for him, but rarely do his enemies find themselves able to lift a finger against him. His inhuman perception allows him to see a persons deepest secrets and flaws after a few glancing moments or a conversation. Scientists working on the TAO project found that even speaking briefly with him was dangerous. Words are his most dangerous weapon, allowing him to subtly apply psychological pressure.
- Martial Arts: Physically Tao doesn't seem to be much of a threat, though he has shown amazing agility and some knowledge of martial arts, especially in matters of pressure points. Though he does not prefer to use such skills.
- Tactical Analysis: Tao's grasp of tactical, strategic thinking has achieved a seemingly transcendent level which utterly surpasses normal human consciousness. More often than not anyone fighting him is stopped by Tao taking advantage of a weakness, or his enemies find it too costly to attack him. He always seems to be a step ahead of everybody else. People are like pawns on a chess board which he moves around with ease, always multiple steps ahead of all others.
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