The Progenitor Virus is an ancient RNA retrovirus capable of trans-species infection and the ability to infect an absolute variety of complex organisms. It parasitizes its host on a cellular level, and is able to reinforce certain characteristics by recombining the host’s genes. Under special circumstances it is also known to cause spontaneous mutation thanks to its ability to mix genetic information. This ability to transfer to spontaneous mutation functioned between whole organisms and individual cells, and each new infectant was influenced by the previous host’s genes ensuring the pathogen was always changing and evolving.
The virus had a high capacity for environmental adaptation and every living thing served as a vector of infection. This improbable trait was only possible because Progenitor itself represented one of the building blocks of life, giving birth to a primitive form of RNA from a primordial soup of proteins. Thanks to Progenitor, these proteins organised into a membrane, then began self-reproduction. Complex life on earth developed and thrived as a direct result.
Progenitor reproduced by transcribing itself into DNA which then inserted itself into a cell’s DNA and reproduced along with the cell and its offspring. The life cycle was completed when the viral DNA in selected offspring cells made an RNA copy that covered itself in a protein coat then left the cell. Retroviruses often destroyed the cells of the DNA they alter, making mortality rates of infectants extremely high, and Progenitor was no exception. Because the virus was so ancient, over time complex life forms lost the genetic adaptability to withstand its effects until eventually all those exposed would suffer intense mutation or die outright. Predominantly because of this, the Progenitor Virus became less prominent as each evolutionary cycle passed until it all but vanished from the natural world.
It was re-discovered by modern man on December 4th 1966 in West Africa and was confirmed by scientists James Marcus and Edward Ashford of being capable of recombining a host’s DNA. Direct infection would result in an uncontrollable mutation of the host’s genetic code resulting in strange protrusions and abnormal growth defects all over the body. This process was isolated as the ‘DNA mutation attribute’ and was hailed as the ultimate characteristic of the Progenitor Virus. In ancient times, it is speculated that Progenitor infected primitive parasitic organisms that grew and developed into the Las Plagas parasites of present day. The bizarre and extreme mutations the parasites are capable of could be a direct result of the DNA mutation attribute found in Progenitor although it is impossible to substantiate this claim with present information available.
Many thousands of years ago, when the virus was discovered in special flowers growing inside the Ndipaya kingdom, it had already manifested itself over millions of years in an isolated system of rare plant life, but its ability to transfer infected and altered genes from one host to another meant that adaptability was low and the virus was extremely poisonous. The mortality rate for infected humans was extremely high. The virus was pathogenic with an extremely short gestation period and only a small handful of humans possessed natural antibodies strong enough to fight off the aggressive Progenitor cells. Those who did survive were so few in number that they were revered as Gods by the Ndipaya elders and seen as a suitable candidate to become their king. Even rarer still were survivors of Progenitor infection that adapted completely to the virus and were bequeathed with special abilities such as increased speed, strength and vitality. Ndipaya legends and folktales even told of a single individual that became king and reigned for hundreds of years. These individuals with such a rare natural genetic resistance later became known as Progenitor Humans.
The process for why these individuals attained superhuman powers remains unclear, but it is thought to be heavily linked to metabolism and blood type. Those with the perfect adaptable genetic make-up would see their hormones and intermediate metabolic enzymes up-regulated, which in turn led to faster healing, muscular growth and heightened energy levels. Umbrella scientists later confirmed that Progenitor supressed telomere shortening, thought to be a key aspect of aging, and therefore negating the function that limited cell division. Each time a cell replicates, it becomes smaller and smaller until it can no longer divide and then it effectively dies. This process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. Key manipulation of Progenitor could supress this process and many, such as Oswell Spencer himself, believed that somewhere in this trait was the key to immortality. Standard humans possessed just enough telomerase enzymes to reduce the rate of cell degradation, but not enough to prevent it altogether. But those compatible with Progenitor produced a lot more telomerase and therefore significantly disrupted cell aging and degeneration. Natural adapters were able to harness this process automatically and achieved the closest thing possible to biological immortality with accelerated healing complementing a rapidly decelerated aging process. In contrast, failure to adapt to the virus would see fatal cellular degradation and tissue rupture on a massive level, resulting in necrosis and inevitably, death.
But as the virus continued to evolve, switching hosts and mutating and adapting cells, it became less adaptable to humans over time and fewer were able to survive infection, with fewer still being left with enhanced abilities. By the time the virus was rediscovered by Oswell Spencer, James Marcus and Edward Ashford, it had lost adaptability with humans completely and carried a 100% mortality rate. The only way to counter this problem was to develop a neutered strain of Progenitor many thousands of times weaker so that more humans could survive its effects, adapt, and enhance themselves. This idea was the fundamental purpose behind the entire t-Virus project at Umbrella. The creation of weaponised viral agents and B.O.W.s was merely a secondary objective to fund the ongoing research to unlock the secrets behind immortality. A virus with the ability to artificially speed up evolution and create perfect meta-humans was always the goal of Spencer. His vision was to create a dystopian paradise of evolved humans which he would rule over as an immortal god. Umbrella and the t-Virus project were the tools to build this kingdom and Progenitor was the key to unlocking it.
The early research of James Marcus demonstrated that when the Progenitor Virus was administered directly into an organism, rapid cellular changes not only destroyed the original tissue, but it became clear that this method was not optimal in regards to the aspect of control as a weapon. In addition, it needed to fuse at the cellular level to enable the organism to grow. Experiments on Progenitor with insects produced only limited results because they have been around since ancient times and almost reached an evolutionary dead end. The only noticeable changes was increased aggressiveness and explosive, high-energy growth. Amphibian experiments were mixed, with Progenitor introduction to a frog leading to an increase in leaping power and abnormal tongue growth. But no change in mental ability was observed and increased appetite resulted in heightened predatory instinct and a tendency to attack anything that moved. With Mammals, application of Progenitor was introduced into the cells of a monkey and its genes were passed onto its fertilised egg. The resulting young exhibited heightened aggressiveness and some intelligence improvements were also recorded. As a side effect, visual power was lost, but this was offset by an improvement in hearing ability. Dr Marcus quickly concluded further development could not be expected without making humans the base organism. He later had more success with annelids and it was leech DNA combined with Progenitor that later resulted in the first successful prototype t-Virus.
Progenitor also possessed the ability to revive dead cells completely. This unique trait is unheard of in science because typically a virus needs living cells to replicate because they lack the molecular machinery to generate their own energy and construct building blocks essential to life. But because of its origins in creating biodiversity, Progenitor is the only natural virus in the world to possess this trait and revitalise dead cells. Although examples exist of bacteria being seemingly reactivated by a virus, even in complex organisms, this is only possible because said bacteria was not dead, just lying in a state of dormancy. In contrast, Progenitor can actually revive completely dead cells where the cell walls have been penetrated and the nucleus destroyed. Within seconds of Progenitor introduction, the flagella or its equivalent begins to move, the cell repairs itself, and multiplication begins. This aspect of the virus was introduced into later t-Virus strains physically capable of reanimating previously uninfected dead corpses and also the G-Virus which possessed the same ability.
Another unique aspect of Progenitor was its manifestation source point. Like filoviruses such as Ebola and Marburg, Progenitor has its origins in Africa, the birthplace of humanity, and thrived in subterranean, dark conditions with a cool yet humid temperature. The Progenitor flower containing the virus was known in Ndipaya legend as The Stairway to the Sun and somewhat remarkably was able to survive underground. But when infected plants were removed from this origin source, attempts to culture the virus proved impossible. This was to be a major problem for Umbrella scientists and it was not until 1988 were they finally able to artificially culture the virus themselves under laboratory conditions. Although Progenitor research was conducted at Umbrella laboratories across the world, the original source in Africa was restricted to Level 10 employees only. In 2007, the Progenitor source was uncovered by Albert Wesker and Tricell Africa, leading to its application in creating the Uroboros Virus. It was also tested on and used to strengthen existing t-type B.O.W.s such as the Licker. Even today Progenitor remains the base template for many differing viral strains and each carries the DNA mutation attribute which is harnessed and manipulated in a variety of different ways.
TYPE A: – An early variant created by a team working under Oswell Spencer with the goal of trying to increase the amount of human hosts able to survive initial infection to the virus. This strain was administered to Jessica Trevor in 1967 but the result was negative and she died soon afterwards. Upon entering her body, rapid cellular activation caused her skin tissue to rupture and the virus failed to establish itself when Type A donated cells were activated.
TYPE B: – A modified version of Type A and administered to Lisa Trevor. Application of Type B donated cells caused the skin tissue to tear during cellular activity but virus establishment was successful and she remained alive. Some positive results were observed in the remodelling of Lisa’s body although prolonged exposure saw her suffer long-term physical damage and her brain cells eroded dramatically.
T-VIRUS: – The first successful Progenitor variant was created in September 1977 when Dr. James Marcus combined the Progenitor Virus with Leech DNA. This relatively simple organism not only survived infection but the resulting mutations exaggerated natural traits found in its DNA including enzymes and genes for hormones that up-regulate metabolic processes. This t-Virus was completed in January 1978 and became the first successful variant of the Progenitor line. All t-Virus strains used Progenitor as a template and were attempts at making the virus less lethal to humans and to develop viable B.O.W.s to be used in warfare.
THE ABYSS VIRUS: – Although no direct link has ever been confirmed, it is thought that the Abyss Virus is a specific descendant of the Progenitor Virus, adapted and evolved to thrive in deep-sea pressure zones and extreme environments usually impossible to sustain regular life, making it a key component in the evolution of deep-sea organisms. When infecting a host, it takes the large fat and water reserves of deep-sea fish and turns them into high-density bone and muscle structures that are not usually found in organisms who live in deep-water habitats. An abundance of marine life exists today thanks to the Abyss Virus.
P30: – Theorised to be a modified ancillary chemical synthesised by the Progenitor Virus whilst inside a host. P30 renders a subject highly resistant to control whilst bestowing them with superhuman abilities thanks to rapid sharpening of the nerves combined with increased muscle tissue. However it also triggers hormonal imbalance within the host, substantially increasing metabolism meaning the benefits of P30 are only temporary and the chemical can be expelled from the circulatory system with almost no aftereffects.