The Eschaton Virus was a biological weapon created by the Vektan ISA to be used as a deterrent against Helghast aggression. The virus is highly contagious, capable of transmitting in varying degrees via air, bodily fluids, contamination of food, water and material surfaces, and causes complete organ shutdown in seconds and leaving the body lifeless.
Development of Project Eschaton began in 2355 by the Experimental Weapons Programme. The project was overseen by Admiral Alex Grey, who proactively supported the virus's creation to serve as a deterrence to possible Helghast aggression. Though some members of the ISA High Command opposed the project.
During the outbreak of the Second Extrasolar War, data on Project Eschaton was stolen by Helghast Colonel Vyktor Kratek and later used to replicate a modified and more lethal version of the virus to be use against the people of Vekta. Kratek conscripted Dr. Mandor Savic to create the virus in which Savic was under the presumption that the virus would be used merely for defense. However, Savic soon learned of Kratek's intentions and installed a plasmid trigger on the virus' RNA codes that rendered it inert and fled with it.
By the time of the ISA's counter-invasion of Helghan, Savic sought to defect to the ISA and he later injected the plasmid trigger into Justus Harkin, son of the Vektan ambassador Sepp Harkin. Instead of protection, Savic was interrogated for the virus's location by Admiral Grey, who wanted to use the bio-weapon to destroy the Helghast. Savic was forced to reveal the location of Facility X01 that held the virus, but did not tell her of the access codes to the vault that contained the bio-weapon. Anders Benoit of the Phantom Talon Corp, under the employment of Grey, also wanted the bio-weapon and selling it on the black market. Fortunately, the mercenary Arran Danner stopped Grey and Kratek from carrying out their genocides, killing Benoit, and ultimately destroyed the last sample of the Eschaton Virus.
During the initial development of the virus under the Helghast, hardened criminals and later "lower segments" of Helghast society were used as test subjects. The virus has the effect of causing subjects to suffer bleeding from eyes, nose and throat, vomiting (including of blood) and gastrointestinal bleeding. These reactions are followed in all cases by rapid disintegration of internal organs and other tissue. However, its relatively low level of contagiousness, combined with its instability through contact with air, limited its potential as a bioweapon. In response to this setback, Colonel Kratek had ordered increased modifications to the virus, allowing a significant increase in subject-to-subject infection.
By August 2359, the modified virus was developed to be able to survive in the atmosphere outside a living host, offering other means of transmission including airborne, infection through body fluids, and ingestion via contaminated food, water or surfaces. In all cases, the pathogen causes death through cellular lysis and disintegration of the internal organs. However, the speed with which this occurs ranges from minutes to hours depending upon the mode of infection. Any slight reduction in the immediate lethality of the pathogen is balanced by the increased chance of transmission from host to host.
The Helghast's projected impact of the virus used on Vekta was apocalyptically devastating. It was estimated that 97% of Vekta City's 10 million population would have perished, with long-term survival only assured for those taking refuge in biologically secure facilities. ISA efforts to maintain order and evacuation would further hasten the spread of infection to other population centers. It was also estimated that within three months 73% of the 40 million population of Vekta would be eradicated. By the time the mortality decline as the pathogen failed to find new living hosts, the Helghast would have taken Vekta that is preceded by scorched earth bombing runs utilizing thermite or cyanogen gas warheads.
Under Admiral Grey's aborted plans, she attempted to have missile warheads modified for delivery of the virus and launch on Pyrrhus after ordering for the evacuation of as many ISA troops as possible, on the pretext that a biological attack is about to be launched by Colonel Kratek. Thereafter, non-weaponized means (contaminated food, water and medical supplies) would then seed transmission to Constantine City and other major population centers. Combined with the flight of refugees from Pyrrhus, the infection would have spread globally and ensuring the decimation of the Helghast population within a month.
- "Eschaton" is a theological term meaning the end time or the end of the world.