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Project Flatline was the first successful test of projection technology run by the Orpheus Group, and was the breakthrough that lead to Orpheus Group’s focus moving from cryonics to projection.
The project had its origins with JDG Cryogenics client Jane Kennedy, a cancer patient who had been frozen until a treatment could be found. Kennedy was successfully revived and treated in 1991; she reported seeing and experiencing strange things while in her freezing pod, acting and experiencing sensations as if she was a ghost. Several other clients who were thawed later made the same claims.
Sensing a potential milestone in science on the brink of discovery, Anne Del Greco and Bob Jackson began to secure funding for a new project: they wanted to cryogenically freeze a human, allow them to leave their body, and then revive them successfully. However, there was no guarantee a subject, once frozen, would project. The solution came from Dr. Amours Katlilian, a botanist who worked for the company. He had stumbled upon a drug derived from the plant Kakos stromithicarum, which would allow a human to temporarily eject their soul from their body and then return with no ill effects to the body itself.
The Experiments at Marion Edit
With a potential operation developing, Del Greco and Jackson needed one thing: humans to freely experiment on. A contact gave them a connection to the National Security Agency, or the NSA. The government, and the NSA in particular, were interested in the potential of the now Orpheus Group’s discovery. The NSA commandeered Marion Federal Penitentiary and gave Orpheus access to death-row inmates. Inmates who participated were offered a reprieve if they survived. Twelve were chosen from the volunteers and testing began.
The inmates were first given a mild version of Dr. Katlilian’s projection drug, Recombinant C, not enough to make them leave their bodies, but enough to get them used to it in preparation for the experiments. All of the inmates suffered from nightmares and hallucinations, though only one, Uriah Bishop, clearly remembered what he saw. Bishop, a clever and charismatic man on death row for poisoning a church group that refused to follow him, saw something more alarming than the dreams or delusions. He saw Spectres around the prison, and, more disturbingly, one that inhabited the body of Dr. Katlilian. Bishop realized the potential for him and somehow made contact with the Spectre, a disciple of Lamachis the Devourer, a Malfean. Bishop proposed that, if these experiments were successful and he were able to gain his freedom, he would serve Lamachis by putting the drug out on the streets for even more souls to devour. The Spectre and Malfean agreed.
Meanwhile, the experiments had begun in earnest. The first two inmates drugged and put into the containment unit had reactions to the other drugs in the cocktail administered and went into catatonic states from which they later recovered. Bishop was up next. He was strapped into the containment unit, given a different mix of the drugs, and, when his heart rate lowered enough, was given a lethal jolt of electricity to stop his heart. He was declared legally dead, injected with fluids to keep his body from decaying, and was frozen cryogenically.
Bishop found himself outside of his body. He quickly realized the degree of freedom he had, but decided now was not the time to escape; he would need assistance, and his fellow test subjects might provide the support he needed. He did experiment with his abilities, lowering the ambient temperature of the testing room, alarming the doctors. The security team were directed to aim their weapons at Bishop’s cradle and destroy it unless he stopped chilling the room. Bishop ceased, and the doctors went about reviving him. He was resuscitated, examined, and pronounced generally healthy. The experiment had succeeded.
The Flatliners Edit
Successive tests over the next few weeks with other inmates, nicknamed Flatliners by Orpheus personnel, also produced successful results. Bolstered by their achievement, Orpheus began making plans to convert the experimental data over to their business and begin the projection agency they had planned. The NSA took the information and planned to start their own projection-related operations.
With all of the triumphs by Orpheus and the NSA, the inmates of Marion felt screwed over since the company and government were reaping the rewards of their suffering. Bishop, who had several followers among the death-row guinea pigs, decided that their time had come. Orpheus and the NSA were now running Project Flatline experiments with all twelve inmates simultaneously to achieve faster results and data. One night, after the inmates were secure in their cradles, Bishop put forth a proposition to the other eleven; he told them that the torture they went through for a possible reprieve was not worth their continued suffering. As they were destined for death no matter what happened, they should leave their bodies behind and venture into the open world. Although not all of the Flatliners agreed with Bishop’s motives and standards, they agreed with this one idea. They left. Five followed Bishop, becoming his lackeys. The other six went their own way, with their own ideas and plans.
Once the Orpheus techs realized the spirits had left the penitentiary, they threatened the inmates, first with torture, and then with permanent death. Techs began to mutilate the inmate’s flesh in a desperate attempt to force the return, but as the inmates were essentially sleepers they had no connection to their bodies, something Orpheus did not realize until much later. It finally occurred to someone that the inmates did not care about their bodies anymore; they weren’t ever coming back.
Some of the ghostly inmates, wandering though the death-row wing on their way out to freedom, saw Orpheus techs gathering flammable materials and setting them aflame. The death-row wing ended up destroyed in a "mysterious" fire. While some of the inmates were evacuated safely, twelve had perished. It was no coincidence those twelve were the shells of the Flatliners. Many believe that the arson, although set by Orpheus personnel, was ordered by the NSA to destroy the evidence.
Orpheus and the NSA mutually decided to seal the incident from public, private, and government knowledge. The details of Project Flatline remained a secret until the Orpheus Group’s destruction at the hands of NextWorld a few year later. Although the NSA hired Death Merchants to destroy the Orpheus mainframes after the raid, the Justice Department found out and was infuriated at the participation of the NSA in creating a secret operations team out of ghosts without consulting them. They used the information gathered in Project Flatline and subsequent experiments from Orpheus to create Operation Black Mercury, their own military ghost force.
Orpheus CEO Bob Jackson, who was directly involved in Project Flatline, died in 1996, shortly after Orpheus Group went public with their projection technology. While he appeared to die of natural causes, there are those who firmly believe he was poisoned with nicotine in an attempt by the NSA to cover up the failed operation.
As for the Flatliners, they continued to create havoc on the living. Bishop lived up to his promise, even after his Spectre ally changed allegiances to the all-powerful Grandmother. He created the Missionary Works of the Holy Ghost with his five Flatliner followers, and took control over several established agencies and organizations to distribute the Spectre's drug, pigment. Another group, the Blasphemers, also distributes pigment, but also plays strongly into the ongoing gang wars. One, Theodore Albert Walters, continued what he did in life: being a serial rapist. Only one, Terrence Green, turned into something of an ally for Orpheus by creating Radio Free Death. He remains independent of the company, but does not hesitate to help the innocents caught up in the massive web of corruption surrounding and connecting the projection firms.
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