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Nicole Horne was once a member of the socret society known as the Inner Circle. Horne left the group at some point prior to 1991, placing her at odds with Alfred Woden and the group's other members.
In 1991, Horne became involved in a secret government research program code-named Project Valhalla. The aim of the project was to create a drug to boost the morale and combat effectiveness of soldiers. Horne's position as CEO of the Aesir Corporation put her in a unique position to aid the project, and despite Alfred Woden's involvement, she joined.
After four years, the results of Project Valhalla proved unsatisfactory and the program was shut down. Undeterred, Horne took control of project facility and Aesir continued development of the drug in secret. Although the hope-for supersoldier drug was never realized, Aesir did manage to create a highly addictive hallucinogen which it began selling on the black market, using organized crime groups as distributors. Nicknamed Valkyr, the drug proved massively popular and by the events of the game the city-wide addiction to it has become something of an epidemic.
Involvement with Max Payne
While working for the District Attorney's office, Max's wife Michelle was accidentaly sent materials relating to Project Valhalla. Fearing that information regarding her involvement in the project would become public, Horne sent three Valkyr test subjects to the Payne home. Michelle and her infant daughter were killed, ultimately leading to Max's decision to leave the NYPD for the DEA.
Over the course of the game, Max slowly learns the truth behind Valkyr and the reason for the death of his wife, culminating in his all-out assault on the Aesir Corporation headquarters. Nicole Horne is ultimately killed as she attempts to flee the building when Max causes the building's broadcast antenna to collapse on her helicopter.