Double Cross: The Infinity Code
The Renegade Virus is a silent global pandemic.
While estimates place the global infection rate somewhere around 80 percent, most people have few to no symptoms of the disease, instead being passive carriers. In a few, the virus becomes suddenly active, pushing their basic urges into overdrive. This has caused a massive upswing in incidents of violent crime, depression, and mental illness worldwide, as well as physical ailments that most closely resemble aggressive forms of cancer. Some of these have only brief bouts of semi-active Renegade, while others are permanently affected—or simply die.
In a very small—but growing—number of cases, the virus “awakens.” This period of hyperactivity causes the virus to permeate the victim’s body and begin rewriting his very DNA. Such individuals immediately gain incredible, supernatural powers—and usually go mad or become horrible monsters just as quickly. Some manage to keep the virus in check through sheer willpower, dumb luck, or a combination of anti-viral drugs. These controlled individuals have become known as “Overeds,” while the less fortunate ones who go mad or succumb to mutation are called “Gjaums.”
Once the virus becomes active it can manifest in a variety of ways. Careful research over the last two decades has categorized the manifestations of the Renegade Virus into twelve broad groupings, referred to as “Syndromes.” Each Syndrome comes with a variety of superhuman powers, as well as the temptation to use them. However, every use of their powers pushes an Overed closer to becoming a Gjaum—closer to losing their humanity.
The few medical professionals in the know categorize the infection level of the Renegade Virus as follows:
- Uninfected: Also called Renegade-negatives, the uninfected are in the minority in the modern world. Indeed, most uninfected people aren’t immune—they’ve simply never been exposed to the Renegade Virus by virtue of living in extremely remote or isolated locales. Abbreviation: R–.
- Dormant: Usually referred to as “Renegade-passive,” this accounts for something like 80 to 85 percent of the infected populace. These individuals are carriers but show no signs of the virus. Only specialized blood tests will reveal the truth. Abbreviation: R0.
- Chronic: Somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the infected begin to suffer recurring symptoms of the Renegade Virus at some point in their lives. This semi-active infection is usually brought on by stress, environmental pollutants, or genetic predisposition. Chronic sufferers experience mood swings, dementia, violence, and increased incidences of cancer. Abbreviation: RX.
- Active: Less than one percent of the infected population goes Renegade-active. Those that enter this stage have their DNA completely rewritten by the virus, usually in days, hours, or even minutes. This saturation of the Renegade Virus grants the infected vast, reality-bending powers, but frequently strips them of their humanity and their sanity. No one knows exactly how many Renegade-active individuals become Gjaums and how many become Overeds, but the Overeds know that they’re outnumbered. Fortunately, most Gjaums are little more than animals with super powers. It’s the few that aren’t that are truly dangerous. Abbreviation: R+.
The UGN (Universal Guardian Network) has done intensive research into the nature of the Renegade Virus, but they are no closer to finding a cure for it than they were at their founding. A great deal has been done to find ways to suppress the disease or make it dormant, and many Overeds have been able to return to society under conditions of extreme secrecy and a regimen of constant medication. Such individuals (called “Illegals” by some) are treated somewhat like a combination of a leper and a sex offender. They are required to submit to regular blood tests, avoid certain professions, live under near-constant surveillance, and have few of the normal rights against search and detainment enjoyed by other first world citizens. On the other hand, some would rather live under restrictions but by their own terms than take the other path available to them: becoming a UGN agent.
The UGN has also done a great deal of work to weaponize the Overed under their aegis, making them effective field agents and operatives, even from a young age. Some newcomers to the agency are surprised to find youths still in high school acting as field agents. The UGN has a brutally practical approach to this moral issue: they ignore it out of necessity. There are already too few Overeds for the amount of work available, and those that go Renegade-active at a young age often seem better able to control the virus than their adult counterparts.
One of the major advances made by the UGN has been in the field of cybernetics. Due to the Black Dog Syndrome’s ability to generate and control electricity, the power supply problem for advanced cybernetics has been effectively solved—as long as the subject of the augmentation has the Black Dog Syndrome. Many Black Dog agents have implants of various sorts in their body; the constant power drain increases the encroachment of the virus, but not as quickly as using the powers of the virus itself.
The strangest manifestation of the Renegade Virus are the so-called “Renegade Beings.” These entities were never human; instead, they are a manifestation of the Renegade Virus itself that has somehow managed to attain true self-awareness and intelligence. These alien entities sometimes choose to take human form, though their natural shapes are inevitably less wholesome. Each Renegade Being has a strong attachment to an object, animal, place, or even a meme (such as a story or legend). Their existence seems to coalesce around such anchors, giving them an affinity for their substance of origin, but they remain creatures of the Renegade Virus. Each seems to be independent of the other, with some even working at cross-purposes. A few have even “defected” to the UGN or other organizations for their own reasons. They remain untrustworthy, and with good reason—they are a literal manifestation of the enemy, and most are quite lethal.