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|First appearance||WildC.A.T.S. Vol. 1 #21 (July, 1995)|
|Created by||Alan Moore and Travis Charest|
|Alter ego||Tactical Augmented Organism (TAO)|
Has charisma and mind-control through his voice
T.A.O. is a fictional character in the Wildstorm universe.
Fictional character biography
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.
When Savant and Mister Majestic were reforming the WildC.A.Ts, 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 four 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.
This new WildCATS team made an appearance in issue 2 of the 'New Man' comics series.
War on crime
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.
In an attempt to capture him, several of his pursuers were hurt. Fuji was manipulated into a mental loop concerning his own identity, 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. Despite his betrayal, WildC.A.Ts members held a symbolic funeral for TAO.
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 of 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 unrecognisable. He then infiltrated Gen¹³, 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 artefact 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.
Because Lynch was the only person who knew he was a double-agent, Carver was now forced to work within Tao's organisation for real as well as for survival. 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 organisation, 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.
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. The Vigil Carrier 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 the United States. In less than twenty-four hours, the entire nation was under their control. Sensing an opportunity, Lynch convinced the new government to let him establish his own agency, Internal Operations. Its stated goal was to take down Tao and the Syndicate.
Over the next few months, the war between Lynch and Tao raged with Holden right 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 organisation, 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.
Powers and abilities
Tao's abilities are ill-defined, his fellow WildC.A.Ts had no idea how to describe them. First and foremost Tao is superhumanly intelligent, especially when it comes to predicting and manipulating human behaviour. 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. 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 others. Words are his most dangerous weapon, allowing him to subtly apply psychological pressure, he can quickly manipulate people, 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 single handedly taken control of the WildC.A.T.S and Stormwatch as a personal army for a brief time. 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. In an issue of Gen¹³[volume & issue needed], he was described as having the ability to completely control a victim's sense of logic.
Physically Tao doesn't seem to be much of a threat, though he has shown agility and some knowledge of martial arts as when he took out an entire squad of BLACK RAZOR spec ops agents by himself within seconds. 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. 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. Holden Carver subdued Tao by removing his tongue.
- "New Man" #2 (1996)