The wild card virus, also known as Xenovirus Takis-A, is an artificially-created organism developed by the Takisian aliens to enhance their own psionic powers. The aliens decided to field-test it on Earth. It was released over New York City in 1946, and changed the course of human history forever. The virus is extremely deadly, killing 90% of the infected. The remaining 10% are transformed in spectacular ways. Most become jokers, hideously deformed monsters. A few lucky survivors become aces, superhumans gifted with amazing powers.
History of the Wild Card
The wild card virus is a genetically engineered bioweapon developed on the distant planet Takis. The Takisians are genetically identical to humans and are ruled over by a patchwork of aristocratic houses. These ruling houses have used selective breeding over the course of millennia in order to develop telepathic abilities. One of those ruling families, House Ilkazam, initiated an experiment with the intent of giving them dominion over all the other Houses. This project took the form of an artificially engineered virus designed to augment their natural telepathic abilities and even create new abilities. The scientists of House Ilkazam spent almost 200 years working on the project. In the later stages of the project, Prince Tisianne was instrumental in perfecting the virus.
However, the engineering project was only partially successful. The virus could create new and amazing powers, but it killed most of those who were exposed to it and left most of the survivors mutated freaks. The Ilkazam did not want to use the virus on themselves and devastate their own ranks. They did not want to use it as a weapon on another house and potentially leave the survivors with god like powers. However, they had put too much work into the virus to simply abandon the project. It was decided that a large scale test was needed in order to fully evaluate the virus. They chose Earth, which they knew contained a genetically identical species, as their testing ground. The plan was to release the virus in the upper atmosphere, exposing the whole planet to it, and then study the results.
When it was decided to release the virus on Earth, Prince Tisianne rebelled, denouncing the experiment. Aboard his own personal starship, he followed the ship with the virus. Arriving on Earth in late 1946, Tisianne and his relatives battled. The ship carrying the virus was critically damaged and crashed in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Tisianne's ship managed to make a controlled landing at White Sands New Mexico where he was detained by a skeptical US military. The alien container carrying the virus was found by men working for the criminal Dr. Tod. Tod used the virus in an attempt to blackmail the US government. The government didn't accept Tod's terms, and the virus was released over New York City in 15 of September, 1946.
In those first days, ten thousand people died from the virus. Another ten thousand due to the chaos and violence that followed. Perhaps even more astounding were the victims of the virus who actually survived infection and were changed. Hundreds of them were physically twisted into monsters. A few dozens actually became superhumans. Due to the unpredictable nature of the alien virus, it was nicknamed the wild card virus (its official name is Xenovirus Takis-A). The freaks and cripples were called "jokers," while the superhumans were the "aces."
Many viral particles were carried by wind on the jet stream, or by ships leaving the New York harbor. The virus is encased by a tough protein coat and can survive most environmental conditions, until coming into contact with a host organism. The following months and years would see new outbreaks occurring in many other cities, including Rio de Janeiro (1947), Mombasa (1948), Port Said (1948), Hong Kong (1949), and Auckland (1950). Eventually, the wild card reached most corners of the globe, though some distant countries like Japan boast only a few wild carders.
In the following years, the number of new great outbreaks gradually diminished, though sometimes a new cache of viral particles is still found. Far more common nowadays is the genetic transmission of the wild card virus. The virus is fully inheritable, and many infected individuals who never develop the disease still carry the genetic code in their DNAs, passing it to their descendants. Consequently, the number of jokers and aces worldwide is constantly growing. New York City is still the mecca of the wild card virus, but most other cities in America and the world boast at least a few aces and jokers, and sometimes entire neighbourhoods for the infected.
The Science of the Virus
The wild card virus works by completely altering the victim's DNA. It's been theorized that the process is guided by the victim's own subconscious, influenced by the person's desires or fears. In this way, the virus works as a modern Aladdin's Lamp. The transformation is extremely individual, no two persons are affected in exactly the same way. In 90% of cases, the victim's body can't assimilate the extreme changes, and the person dies horribly. These cases are called black queens. From the survivors, 9 out of 10 are changed for the worse, becoming monstrous creatures nicknamed jokers. The miraculous 1% of infected are changed for the better and become aces, gifted with superhuman physical or mental capabilities.
It should be noted that not all infected by the wild card manifest the virus right away. In about 30% of cases, the virus stays dormant on the person's DNA. These are the latents; they can live normal lives for years until some physical or emotional trauma triggers the virus. And then they face the same odds as any other wild card, almost always dying or becoming jokers.
The virus is inheritable and follows the same rules as any recessive genetic trait. The latents are the ones most likely to have children, since in many cases they don't even know that they carry the wild card. When a wild carder mates with a normal human, there is a 50% chance their children will be latent carriers, and 50% chance they won't inherit it at all. If a latent has children with another latent (but seemingly normal) human, each offspring has a 25% chance of being born a full wild card, with a strong possibility of manifesting the virus at birth or even before, with the same 90-9-1 odds. There is also a 25% chance of the child being born completely normal. And a 50% chance of the child being born a "carrier." Carriers are unable to manifest the virus themselves, but they can pass the genetic trait to their descendants. When a wild carder mates with a carrier, the chances of wild card offspring are greater. When two wild carders mate, it's assured that all the children will be wild carders too. Even though they're invisible wild carders, it's the latents and carriers that pass the wild card gene to the next generation in even increasing numbers.
A blood test can identify the presence of the wild card virus on a person, even if that person is a latent.
The virus is specially made for human and Takisian DNA. It has absolutely no effect on animals. Other alien species also are unaffected.
- The Wild card virus is mirrored in the Milestone Comics (later bought out by DC Comics) substance Quantum Juice which has similar effects to those of the virus.
- Wild Cards Volume I: Wild Cards - "The Science of the Wild Card Virus" (An appendix explaining in great detail how the alien virus works)