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The ZMEI Initiative [Into the Cold]

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  • The ZMEI Initiative [Into the Cold]

    The Iron Comrades

    [a open, serpent's eye with a red iris]

    The Soviet Union, 1974, just in the middle of the Cold War. The USSR has experimented with many different conditions, both supernatural and mundane, in an attempt to create new and elite soldiers. Many projects were conducted under the umbrella organization which was named the Committee for Special Researches- from chemical formulas and radioactive transformations to psychic tests and near death experiments. Some of those projects worked. Many failed. The group was active for many years, even when the Union was still young, yet after the fall of the Third Reich and the beginning of the long, passive strife between NATO and the Eastern Block, the arms race has began. The USSR demanded results, and the Committee was desperate to bring them.

    That need for high powered soldiers has ended up with the creation of the ZMEI Initiative- which the spies of the Western Block usually named as the Iron Comrades. Established just as the Cold War began, the Initiative has tried all kinds of methods in order to enhance both the mind and the body of their subjects in attempt to make them into psychic-powered assassins. Many of the early experiments were relayed on drugs, chemicals formulas and radioactive radiation- and all of those methods failed miserably. Eventually, the Initiative has turned into a black hole in the budget of the Committee, and there was some discussion about shutting the project down and invest the money in the more successful Sections. It has all changed when the Initiative got a breakthrough- they managed to capture inhuman creature simply known as "the Zmey", being who held terrible psychic abilities which required the sacrifice of many agents just to capture and restrain.

    After many experiments, the scientists of the Initiative has managed to distill the Zmey's power into a liquid form, maintaining it in a state of permanent comatose in the process. After a bit of trial and error, the group has finally found the right dose of the serum which the human body could handle without mutating into terrible forms and turning into a mindless monster. Those who survived the experiments discovered new and strange powers, mostly abilities which allow energy and body manipulation, although one in a while they managed to preform telepathic powers. After a several months of field testing, the Initiative was ready to be deployed through the world, and the results weren't too late to come.

    Through their course of action, they were sent to target and disable supernatural threats of all kinds. Most of their targets were psychic spies and soldiers of the Union's enemies, but other supernatural monsters were targeted as well, especially those who demonstrated more mental abilities. East Berlin was the first place their agents discovered the beings some name as "great demons", beings who manipulated probability and dimensions while stealing the identities of others. While some were killed on sight, other were neutralized and shipped back to their headquarters, were the scientists tried to hack into their system and use it to improve their spies and assassins.

    While they did managed to gain a number of breakthroughs through their research, they didn't managed to complete it before the Soviet Union fell. During that time, many of the Sections and projects formed by the Committee were shut down- and ZMEI was meant to be one of them. Yet, unlike certain sub-divisions, the Initiative has already became independent enough, and its agents and scientists has started to develop their own agenda. When the secret service agents came to search for the members of ZMEI, they discovered that the agents, the scientists, the equipment and even the Zmey itself have vanished, leaving no trace behind. That act was seen as homeland security level risk, which ended up with sending the agents of the other Sections to search after the rouge Initiative- yet they found nothing. They went into deep darkness, becoming ghosts and specters who, according to their rumors, used their soldiers in exchange for money and weapons.

    Until 2012.

    Out of the blue, the group has decided to walk out to the light- as much as an elite organization of mercenaries and assassins could ever be in a "light". No one is sure what has caused the change, but one thing was sure- for some reason, they were not afraid anymore. While many of the members of the other agencies has expected to get order to hunt the Initiative down, those orders were never given- only to "stay and watch". The group was even willing to cooperate with the other Sections, lending their agents to top secret operations. While individual Sections complained against the use of the Initiative, no one officially protested against the Committee. Some thought that perhaps the Committee was going to re-absorb ZMEI, yet they did not- instead, it looked like the Initiative kept renting their agents to other parties, gaining most of their money from oligarchs who abused their services for personal gain. However, as much as the event has made the different sections feel unease, the new information they got about the subject made them terrified.

    The Zmey was no more. Now, they had Zmei. In plural.

    Status:
    0- you have went through the Red Iron Method and survived the ZMEY serum. You can now spend merit points on the Flooding merit.
    000- you have served the Initiative for long time, gaining their trust and cover to help you in a time of need. You get New Identity for 2 dots.
    00000- you have proved your loyalty again and again, showing your superiors you are truly valuable to the Initiative. Once per Chapter you may call for reinforcements from ZMEI, who would be sent as soon as possible to help you. The Reinforcement is made up from 5 agents with Status (ZMEI) of 4 or bellow and Flooding of 3.

    Endowment: Flooding (0-00000)

    the gift of ZMEI's agents is the distilled power of their captive, who are used to strength themselves beyond human capabilities by "flooding" themselves with the creature's unnatural energy. In order to use the Endowment, roll Flooding+Resolve. Failure means you are unable to control the wild energy and suffer from an Integrity Breaking Point. Dramatic Failure would make you suffer both the Breaking Point and one level of Bashing Damage per dot in the Endowment. Success would allow you to choose a number of Psychic Merits which their dot value is equal or less than your dots in the Endowment, who will be deactivated after one day unless you'll pay a WP point to prolong their use. An Exceptional Success would give you straight access for the Psychic Merits given by the Flooding for one day per dot in the merit without a need to pay WP, before having to pay normally. After manifesting a Psychic Merit for the first time by using Flooding, the character may buy it with experience as a separate and permanent effect. You may also try to "overflow" that mental energy, which would allow you to gain a Merit of higher rating, but you would suffer -1 modifier per dot above the Merit you try to access. In case you preform the Flooding in one of ZMEI's laboratories, you gain +1 to your rolls, +2 for manifesting a Psychokinesis power and +3 if you inject yourself with a ZMEY serum before the Flooding (although doing so would make you suffer -1 for your next Integrity roll)
    Last edited by LostLight; 10-18-2015, 03:15 PM.


    My Homebrew Signature

    "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

    I now blog in here

  • #2
    The Zmey

    The Zmey- a being of tremendous mental capabilities, kept in constant coma and used as a source for the weird serum which allows the members to manifest their own psychic abilities. There are many rumors about where that being came from and how it looks like- some say it a monstrous creature, covered with tentacles and fanged mouths. Others whisper it is a phantom being, something which only partly exist in our world and project its mind and spirit through the cosmos. Even the agents of ZMEI don't know know how the creature looks like- only the scientists who are responsible for the Initiative have seen the being, and all that the hunters of ZMEI know is that they should hunt down and capture any monster who has psychic capabilities.

    While not much is known about the origin the Zmey, its nature gives a number of possible explanation from where it could come from. The easiest explanation is that creature is connected to the God Machine- those touched by the Machine usually manifest all kinds of psychic abilities, and the demons who fall from its service are known to manipulate the fabric of the world in a way which seems tied to psychic powers. According to that origin, the Zmey could be one of those demons (which are one of the main targets of ZMEI, especially during the Cold War), a powerful Cryptid or even a captured angel or an Exile (especially since the God Machine is known to transform the last into horrible forms). The creature could also be a unique creation of the God Machine, made for a very specific Infrastructure- which leaves the question whether ZMEI truly captured it, or that perhaps it was only part of the Machine's plan.

    Another possibility would be a lot less exotic- vampires. After all, they are everywhere. While the common person wouldn't immediately think about them as psychic monsters, if you think about it enough the pieces would fit: after all, vampires can dominate other people with a glance. They could hide their very existence from the minds of others. They can sharpen their senses until they could see beyond the world, or weave your worst nightmares into truth or even enchant dozens of people with a simple smile. Their very blood is addictive, and may transform those who drink from it into ghouls, and you could stake them into coma. In that case, perhaps the very serum is in fact just a refined Vitae. The question is, in that case, what took them so long to capture a number of those bloodsuckers- although maybe the point is not just capturing any vampire, but only the old and powerful ones, those who usually named as Methuselah.

    The third option would make the Zmey into something ancient, a relic from ages past- a mummy. The Undying Ones are known for their ability to break the minds of those who watch them by their very presence, and allow them see visions of the world beyond the world and all that is about to come. They also stay in constant coma for most of the time, and capturing one could easily explain the great sacrifice which was needed to capture it. Also, it may explain the reason the group went out of the shadows during 2012, exactly when Sothis finished its cycle and the Deathless rose from their grave, allowing ZMEI to expand their arsenal and capture new test subject. The only problem is the fact that mummies are literally slave-god-kings-trapped-in-dead-flesh. Capturing one is an feat. Capturing a number of them should be almost impossible.

    While you would expect a Soviet intelligence unit to use code names for almost anything, maybe for the Zmey it was not the case. Instead, maybe the creature was actually a real Zmey- a serpent, a mythological dragon from the Slavic legends.. or at least, that's what it is in the Primordial Dream. After all, a Beast would work fit perfectly the rumors, for it is also a great monster and it exist only partially in our world. Both its Nightmares and Atavisms are psychic abilities, as they connect into the very core of the human fear to draw power, and they are uncommon enough for capturing only one of them for a long time. The question is how did they managed to restrain the creature- which may included jumping into its own Lair- and why it has still didn't created any Heroes among the ranks of ZMEI.

    If you wish to wander to the realms of fandom, one option does seem to shine more than the others: Leviathans. After all, if the Zmey is a serpent, it would work well with being one of those primordial beasts, the children of Tiamat. Plus, the Leviathans are known to be psychic beings, who draw both believers and enemies toward their path by twisting the minds of regular men. Their ability to mutate their body may also explain why the early experimentation ended with the such horrible transformations, and why bio kinetic abilities come so easily through the Flooding. Still, capturing a Leviathan would require much effort, not talking about restraining it. It is not said it could not be done, only that it would require a lot of hard work.

    Finally, there is one last option- that a Zmey is truly a code name, one which the Initiative use for any psychic enhanced being captured by the agents of ZMEI. The exact identity of the original does not matter anymore- be it a vampire, a beast, a mage or even a promethean, the thing has been disfigured ages ago and drained to the last drop of the precious serum. Now, the group captures any psychic they can have their hands on, using the Red Iron Method in order to extract the serum from its mind and use it in order to improve their formula. That would make ZMEI into a lot more resilient organization- and a much more terrifying enemy.

    Stereotypes:
    Task Force: VALKYRIE- "Oh, yes, we know them. They are a real bother, if you ask me- although their guns are nice. I tried to use one, but it didn't worked. Not that I need it, but it could be useful to have something more reliable, you know, in a case of emergency"
    Null Mysteries- "I was sent to watch those guys once, nothing special- just watch and see if they make any useful development. After two months of reports about how they argue on the chemical way ghosts may exist in reality, they finally sent me back. Let me fight american spies every day- but please, don't send me there back again.."
    VASCU- "they are considered a matter of great interest to us, and capturing their agents is our top priority in America. The superiors has gave any of us an order that if any of us would have a chance to capture their Director, we should leave anything we do and go after him. It would have been a lot easier if he were to actually leave his office from time to time.."
    Network 0- "once you go online, you are burned- so stay away from those guys with their smartphones and digital cameras. If they'll manage to upload the video before you'll neutralize them, don't bother anymore. Run as fast as you can, before the superiors would send us after you. However, I did heard a rumor that one of them managed to film the Zmey. I wonder if that video is still out there..."

    Never leave a weapon near a broken man- especially if he can stitch himself up.
    Last edited by LostLight; 10-17-2015, 10:58 AM.


    My Homebrew Signature

    "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

    I now blog in here

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    • #3
      A Beast might work for the Zmei as well (though any tentacles and stuff would only be visible to those affected by the serum). Cool group though.

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      • #4
        psst- Beast is actually one of the options :P


        My Homebrew Signature

        "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

        I now blog in here

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        • #5
          Huh. I skipped straight from mummy to leviathan. Ah well.

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          • #6
            Leviathan is a better option: it adds the possibility of the serum slowly turning the agents into Beloveds and fall into its influence.

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            • #7
              I kind of wonder how they'd fit in a setting that also includes KSI21. The ZMEI Initiative does seem like it could work as a project under their jurisdiction. Or alternatively, it was the brainchild of another section in the Kremlin which dealt in the paranormal.

              That said, wasn't there a summarized write-up on the white wolf forums about the different paranormal-oriented sections of the USSR? I can't seem to find it anywhere online, now.


              "My Homebrew Hub"
              Age of Azar
              The Kingdom of Yamatai

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              • #8
                I wrote them while looking at KSI21's write-up, so I do believe they would work quit well together with them, either as a rouge Section or a sub-project of the group.


                My Homebrew Signature

                "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

                I now blog in here

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                • #9
                  The Superiors

                  The hierarchy of ZMEI is pretty simple- the agents hunt monsters, capture psychics and fulfill the contracts signed with the Initiative. The scientists work behind the scenes, researching the captured test subjects and work on the serum. The Zmei just live in death like state and produce the serum which allow the conspiracy to develop their psychic abilities. The only question is- who manage that project? Who signs the contracts, give the orders and direct the Initiative?

                  Ask one of ZMEI's agents, and you would get a simple answer.

                  The Superiors.

                  The reason for that answer is also pretty simple- that's all the agents of ZMEI know. No one has ever met the Superiors, no one has ever directly talked with them. Not even the scientists, who manage most of the financial side of the conspiracy, have a clue about who they are. Those shadowy figures are legends, ghosts among the ghosts who are ZMEI. No one speak about them, and no one ask questions about them. Every new recruits learns quickly that investigating the subject too much never ends well, especially since everyone in the Initiative show a great loyalty toward them.

                  Just like the Zmey, all that is known about them are pieces of rumors, filled with lies and half truths. The Superiors- or their equivalent- has said to guide the Initiative since it has just started, and even then they kept to themselves, just handing the first scientists of ZMEI enough money to keep with their researches. They are also said to be the ones who decided to go off the grid, detaching themselves from the rest of the Committee and working independently. Eventually, they are also the ones who decided to loan their service back to their nation- and all of that, without ever making direct contact with the rest of the group.

                  While they keep their distance from ZMEI and give the organization enough independents, they do send orders and protocols from time to time- usually, they do so through the scientists, who are the de facto leaders of the conspiracy. Sometimes, they make contact directly with one of the agents, giving her a personal mission. When they do so, they work either by sending a contact to reach toward her, or by sending written messages- either printed, hand written or digital. What ever the medium is, any further investigation ends up with dead end: printed messages sent out of remote hacked devices, hand written letters are tracked to a random person who wrote everything under the threat of another agent. Digital messages come from email address which no longer exist. The most frightening cases are the contacts- for even if they are captured, all you discover is a brainwashed, broken person without a single thought in his head but the messages he was sent to give.

                  Whoever the Superiors are, one thing is sure- they know how to hide. However, the question about their identity is more a subject for discussion among the other spying agencies who carry the Vigil: Valkyrie, VASCU, MI18 and even KSI21 all investigate the subject, yet without success. The members of ZMEI, however, don't care- they are here to fulfill orders, not to question them. That is their place in the hierarchy, and the source of those orders isn't relevant...

                  Well, usually.


                  My Homebrew Signature

                  "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

                  I now blog in here

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                  • #10
                    I can't remember - was KSI21 under the military or the KGB and its predecessors? ZMEI seems more military, so if KSI 21 is the latter, they'd be rivals.

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                    • #11
                      I think KSI21 was connected to the KGB, but you'll have to ask KingsRaven to be sure


                      My Homebrew Signature

                      "And all our knowledge is, Ourselves to know"- An Essay on Man

                      I now blog in here

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