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In 2249, Black alongside Emma, a fellow ground pounder and his lover, transferred to Earthforce Bio-weapons Division where they volunteered for dangerous and highly illegal cyber experiments. The project, codenamed Tarsier, was intended to enhance the natural abilities of humans through cyberorganic implants. The process was difficult on all of the participants, resulting in sickness, convulsions, body shock and trauma, but they all endured because they were young and career military, and because they believed in what they were doing. Through it all though, Robert had Emma. They had both gone into the program together and promised they'd go out together. Black would later say about her: "She was the kind of person who knew your soul from the first time she looked in your eye."
Emma however didn't survive the program. During an operation to replace her eyes with implants that would give her enhanced night vision and ultraviolet spectrum receptors, - intended to give ground pounders an edge on alien worlds - something went wrong with the operation, and she died. After that, details of the project had begun to leak out and so Tarsier was shut down, its test subjects given hush money and abandoned by Earthgov.
In 2267 Robert and a group of thirty or so fellow test subjects managed to escape captivity and made it away from Earth shortly before the Drakh attack. Six months later they found and set down on Theta 49 in the Orion System, where they established a small colony. Unknown to them, their food supply had intentionally been contaminated with the Drakh plague.