From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Of the four subgroups that made up the Malta Operatives SG on the Virtue server during the summer of 2004, Fox Group was the premier element. Composed of superheroes snatched off the streets and brutally experimented upon to make them into elite killing machines, Fox Group was part of a continued series of projects by the Malta Group in the research and development of new methods of controlling, neutralizing, and eradicating metahumans.
Origin: A Dark Pact
The Rikti War and the subsequent proliferation of supernatural entities proved a boon to the Malta Group as inexperienced and vulnerable metahumans came in from around the world to aid in rebuilding the fractured Paragon City and help to protect the lives of its citizens. Presented with a smorgasbord of “heroes” from all around the world – and even a few of interstellar and interdimensional origins – the Malta Group has since established Paragon City as a staging hub for paranormal operations around the world. This move was made with one principle in mind: as superpowered entities become increasingly commonplace, so does it become increasingly easier to make them die or disappear without raising a huge fuss.
In the middle of all this bounty, however, lurked a glowering problem for the Malta Group: the unpredicted and massive swell of supernatural crime in Paragon City. Committed on as low a level as the vandalism of the Hellions and the Skulls or as large and present a scale as the machinations of the Nemesis Army, it remained that this was metahuman action being committed frivolously and – quite often – against those institutions the Malta hold most sacred.
Rather than try for a mutually beneficial agreement with the metahuman assets under its control, the Malta Group decided to take matters into its own hands. The decision was made to generate a small, covert body of operatives enhanced above and beyond human ability and send them into Paragon City to combat the problems at their source before they could grow into potential threats to the Group itself. An internal council found the Malta looking for a powerful entity to help develop these new fighters -- who better or better established in Paragon than Crey Industries, one of the largest corporations in the waking world?
Though the two had already shared previous ties, several favors exchanged between both parties – including a myriad of assassinations and other attempts at gaining advantage in the relationship – generated the first true Malta/Crey enterprise. A joint venture between Crey's scientists and the Malta Group’s top metahuman researchers, the Fox Project was slated to create a team of elite super-soldiers, and so research and development began without a hitch.
Failure and Success
The first trial runs of "baselines" (normal humans) modified through gene therapy and cybernetic implants failed to meet expectations, yielding little more effectiveness than Crey's powered armor suits. Desiring a greater outcome from the project, the Malta requested that Crey scientists up the ante, boosting the number and frequency of alterations made to subjects' genomes and raising their number of cybernetic devices to make them stronger, faster, and more powerful than any other human being. Shortly after achieving results exceeding that of the 5th Column's Ubermenschen project, subjects began to die from massive systematic failures resulting from their bodies' inability to correctly maintain a mesh of their mutated genes, powerful cybernetics, and cocktails of attribute-enhancing drugs.
These complications arose early and persisted without much change. The fighting force that the Malta desired would have to be powerful beyond human capability - on par with low-level metahumans – and technology would fill the rest, as went the usual agreement. The two main approaches to the attainment of this level of aptitude were cybernetics and genetics, neither of which the normal human body could sustain in the amounts they were being administered.
One day, a Crey scientist by the name of Kenneth Markham made the discovery that the very same modifications they had been applying to baselines worked to tremendous effect when applied to the Crey's own Paragon Protectors, who are themselves generated from the genetic templates of living and dead superhumans. Of course, aware of what would certainly result if the Malta became aware that Crey was harnessing supernatural assets for their own use, he made the suggestion to a Crey accountant overseeing the previous, failed specimens and watched as it passed up the line to Malta ears, from which point gears began to turn and Fox Group began to take on its true form. However, despite Markham’s best efforts, word of the Revenant Hero Project eventually leaked to Malta informants and a Crey facility hidden in the Overbrook area was raided and sacked by Malta troops.
Thus began the next chapter in the Fox Project, and the first of many steps the Malta Group would eventually take towards attempting to eradicate the world’s metahumans – or otherwise bring them under its will. Harnessing the rare mutation of a metahuman known as Burning Echo, the Group developed a “metahuman counteragent” to neutralize the effects of superpowers. Rather than waste resources generating body blanks and applying gene therapy and artificial aging to the resultant composite body – and furthermore utilize the highly imperfect and risky para-personality implantation process – the Malta decided to kill two birds with one stone and snatch heroes off the streets for use as guinea pigs in their twisted project.
Fox Group "recruitment" worked along these lines: A metahuman, marked at a Priority Level Four by the Malta Group, was tagged for capture, subdued by Malta Operatives, and then transported to hidden laboratories for extreme and occasionally fatal experimentation (the alarming frequency of the latter gave rise to the Golem Project).
The first round of experimentation was a forced infection with the neutralizing virus developed from Burning Echo’s DNA, which eliminated the subject's powers. Then came invasive surgery, removing any vestigial bits that might have made the superhuman distinct [such as aberrant bone growths, claws, etc]. The third round of experimentation was intended to wipe out subjects' memories, whether by invasive surgery, chemical therapy, or psychological battery. The third and final alterations made to the former heroes were a myriad of experiments aimed at putting each operative on par with superhumans in a different way.
In the end, a total of twenty-six males and seven female agents were developed; furthermore, four who had not survived experimentation had their brains and spinal cords implanted in experimental Golem-class Titan shells. The Fox Group operatives were put to work pulling long vigils in the streets of Paragon, fighting crime up front as well as cleaning up messes left behind by heroes, who they were conditioned to look down on as inferior to their own ‘refined’ methodology and abilities. Of note is that, unusually for such an expensive and long-standing Malta Group project, they were not tasked with handling metahumans (likely to prevent the heroes from planting any ideas in the still-young operatives’ minds) but remained fervent in their belief of the Group’s sentiment towards metahumans.
Operating along the same lines as Paragon’s heroes – licensed under the FBSA as a privately funded and independent operated mercenary group with complimentary H-class licenses and Vigilante permits – it was not unusual for a time to see a member of Fox Group working alongside recognized heroes. For the most part, though, they attempted to avoid exposure at all costs.
Eventually, it was revealed that the Malta Group, after some deliberation, had decided to create a new generation of similarly altered troops, but to even higher specifications than before. Declaring the Fox Project a success, the team and its agents were immediately recalled and a battalion-sized element of Tactical Operations soldiers were assembled, nicknamed ‘Fox Hunters,’ and sent after the Fox Group operatives with a startling array of experimental technologies aimed at crippling, disabling, and killing metahumans of all varieties.
Within one month, all but a handful of its operatives were murdered in the streets by those that they considered their brothers at arms, only the most cunning or those who had befriended powerful metahumans and hidden before the Fox Hunters came after them were spared. The Knives of Artemis attachments were similarly terminated, and the Golem-class Titans created under Fox Project were brought in and deactivated, to lie dormant for an indeterminate period of time.
Of the twenty-six remaining Fox Group operators, only one is known to have survived – one Anthony Caruso, AKA Red Fox Bravo. Another operator, Black Fox Tango, terminated himself detonating a nuclear device to ensure the ‘next Fox Group’ would never be created, but his genetic template and para-personality recording were salvaged under order of Directors 4, 7, and 8 of the Malta Group and used in the generation of the metahuman operative Fox Masters.